Long delicate fingers traced gently over her lovers tanned naked chest, marvelling at his ripped muscles and fondly trailing the faded scars striking his skin. Dark-red pouty lips slowly turned up into a tender smile as she leaned further up, gently kissing along his strong, stubble-covered jawline. She loved how she just fit perfectly against him; his arms around her waist, her head nestled into the hollow of his neck. Like they were made for each other.
Two pieces of the same puzzle, clicking.
She couldn't deny him even if she wanted to, because honestly, she felt no hint of shame admitting what others would perceive as weakness; waking up in his strong unrelenting arms, her head so often snuggled on his strong warm chest, reassured by his steady heartbeat and protectively tight grip, was the best feeling in the whole fucked-up world. Too often did only this, waking up with him next to her, give her the strength and will to tackle each knew day as it came.
He gave her a reason in life to look forward to tomorrow. To strive for a better future. Their future.
Six years ago, this life she was now living was but a fairy-tale-like dream she had been forced to discard before the idea exceeded the realms of fantasy and entered desire. An unrealistic illusion she desperately used as a means to escape when life got unbearable. To have someone, anyone, who willingly and comfortingly embraced, tenderly caressed and fiercely stood by her … it was an unending torture so heartless but also hope-bearing, she could not help but lean on it in times of prolonged despair.
To mean something to someone.
To … be wanted.
Once delusion. Now reality.
Because to the gorgeous rough man who held her so delightfully possessively even in his sleep, she meant more than the world. Just as he meant more than the world to her.
It was so surreal.
Just contemplating it, she was immediately caught between tears of disbelief and laughter of relief. All her miserable life, she had been told how incredibly worthless, how utterly useless she was.
But … she had found love.
And not only did she love him deeper than she thought herself capable of, he returned her feelings just as passionately.
It was thrilling.
Sawada Tsunayuki learned early on to compartmentalize.
She separated her life into two parts: The Before and The After.
The Before compassed of her life until she turned fifteen and one hateful parent who was supposed to care for her was replaced by one loving guilty-feeling parent who was expected to ignore her; a life controlled through loneliness of deliberate isolation, the cold of absent and deplorable parents, shattered dreams of a future she had apparently been about to be denied and the crushed hope of ever feeling warm and loved. It was an existence of suffering and meaninglessness.
No child should have to fear their parents.
No child should have to question why they had to be born alive.
That she actually did …
It was a dark time. A time she could never forget but did her best to overcome. Riddled with pain, proven with scars. Sometimes, she questioned herself. Questioned why she lived, why she moved forward … but when she did, when the high roof top or the little white pills or even the glinting silver razor hidden in her bedside table looked so damnable enticing … she remembered his face. His smirk. His laugh. His touch. His kisses. His embrace.
Her reason to not stop believing.
She focused on The After. A time that began shortly after her fifteenth birthday and was strained with uncountable difficulties, an unwanted reluctant recovery, the releasing explosion of two issue-plagued teenagers clashing most spectacularly and a tentative but quickly blooming love.
It was a promise spoken earnestly between the lines, the vow of a better life sworn sweetly and sincerely between enthralling kisses.
Family. Love. Choice. Future.
His red eyes seemed to look into her soul and find a kindred spirit; disappointed, misused, abused, neglected and so full of desperate hopelessness, of a different kind of wrath than his own but no less potent in its intensity. His answer was to unleash his wrath in violence, in the generous giving of verbal and physical pain to make others understand, live through what he himself had to endure. Her answer was to distance herself, to let others do as they liked and try to just not care; why care for those that would only hurt her? She used fake carelessness to protect herself and only revealed her wrath in small venomous doses, striking verbally where it hurt the most. He accepted her slowly unravelling masochistic-sadistic nature just as she accepted his so obviously aggressive bloodthirsty personality.
At first, they appeared to be like fire and water, absolute opposite, but in truth they were like burning water and freezing ice; two contradicting states' of the same basic nature.
She made no secret out of the fact that she absolutely adored the After and hated The Before. That she practically worshipped the one who made living worth enduring.
She sincerely preferred her life today.
Her gently caressing fingers stilled as she thought about the fundamental reason why she had hated her often accursed life for the first fifteen years of it. The root of the fucking problem.
Her so-called mother.
Her sickening hateful wrench of an egg-donor.
The source of her torment.
“ Worthless girl! Why couldn't you have died in the womb?!“
“ Your birth ruined everything!“
“ If you hadn't been born your father would still love me! He would still be here! You drove him away, you disgusting freak!“
“ How I hate you! You just can't help but destroy everything, can you? Everywhere you go, you bring nothing but misfortune and dismay.“
“ Why, oh why do you have to exist?!“
“ I should have never had you!“
Her hateful sneering voice still echoed coldly in Tsuna's mind.
It had burned itself into her memory. A ghost never dispelled, haunting her, taunting her.
From her first moment she could recall onwards, she had only known derision, disgust and desolation from the hate-filled non-care her abusive mother tended to her with.
Home had become such a startling contrast for the little girl.
Everyone liked her happy Kaa-chan. Kaa-chan always smiled, she was such a nice and sincerely happy person, managing a difficult daughter like Tsuna all alone, without a man in the house and still always so presentable and respectable. A charming smile and caring word painted on her lips Sawada Nana charmed her neighbours and friends and easily gained the reputation of an airheaded but kind young woman. Tsuna liked it so much when Kaa-chan smiled and laughed and actually held Tsuna's hand …
… because at home, behind closed doors and drawn curtains …
… kindness was displaced with hate, and lovely smiles with malicious sneers. Tittering words swiftly drifted into derogatory comments, malign reprimands and viciously snarling accusations. Tsuna learned painfully to keep her mouth shut and never ask questions. She learned over the years to lower her eyes and step out of her mother’s way, never using that title when they were alone. Whenever she forgot, her mother’s hand left a disappointed red imprint on her swelling cheek.
Tsuna was not a genius, but she was clever.
After the first time, she never let her mother see her tears again.
Tears only brought more pain ...
“ K-Kaa-chan, please, y-you are hurting me...“
“ I'm hurting you? Me?! I gave life to you, you ungrateful wrench! How dare you?! You can't do anything right! And don't you dare call me Kaa-chan again, haven't you humiliated enough?!“
“ S-sorry ...“
“ Cease your useless stammering and snivelling, Dame-Tsuna. If one of us is hurting than it is me. I have to bear your useless self! The shame of being related to such an utterly worthless thing!“
“ P-please forg-gi-give ...“
„ Why, oh why was I punished with such a useless child?“
She still felt the brutal sting of her mother’s hand, painting her cheek a shameful red.
Tsuna had been six when Nana had discovered that the rush and apparently pleasant fog of alcohol seemed to numb her unending well of sorrows. And she hadn't wasted a second before misusing that discovery.
Where verbal slurs and stinging slaps had been the beginning of Tsuna's life, she had swiftly learned that once the first drop of alcohol entered her mother’s system and the rage would uninhibitedly come out, a torment that had the potential to spell the end of her life followed.
It was the first time she was afraid of dying at her mother’s hand … she refused to give the bitter woman that satisfaction.
Growing up like that, with a bitch of a mother who blamed her for every ill-happening in their lives and loved the dreadful bottle of wine, always so faithfully to be found in her claw, more than she ever cared for her only daughter and a workaholic-father who actually meant well but seemed to care naught for either wife or daughter in the long run, sending generous checks to excuse his continuous absent; was it any wonder that she just didn't dare to hope for a better future?
That sometimes … the desire to disappear becomes just that bit to serious?
Being told how worthless, how useless you are … feeling the uninhibited hate of your own mother diligently delivered … Tsuna grew up knowing she wasn't wanted, and even the few times her father visited them and bestowed love and attention on the neglected child couldn't erase the years of suffering. His visits were like a balsam on her soul, and she soaked it up, but she always knew that sooner rather than later, this little shots of happiness would end, and everything would return to the hell that was her normalcy, just a little bit worse; her mother hating her so much more every time for every second her father spent with Tsuna rather than Nana, taking attention away from the man's jealous wife.
Tsuna was well aware that her upbringing was neither healthy nor right. It didn't change the fact that it happened.
That she was neither athletic nor extraordinarily intelligent or outrageously beautiful didn't help endear her to her mother either. It only made Sawada Nana angrier.
And in her anger, she was cruel.
“ If I had to have a daughter, why couldn't she be pretty? A little princess? More like me? Instead … all I got was you.”
“ Dirty! Again! You never learn! You are such a useless idiot, Dame-Tsuna!”
“ Oh, how nice! Ninety-one percent – from whom did you cheat now? As if you could ever get that kind of grate. Honestly, how ridiculous!”
“ No homework again. Is it so impossible for you to stop being a disappointment? If only your father could see of worthless you really are, he would happily help me get rid of you!”
“ To dumb to even climb down the stairs. Don’t bleed on my floor. It’s freshly wiped.”
“ I should have drowned you at birth, really, it would have saved me the embarrassment of being your mother.”
“ Look in the mirror, you dumb girl. You will see the reason no one can stand you.”
“ You would do the world a huge favour … if just finally died.”
Blinking, she was surprised to feel a single tear escape her eyes.
… even after six years, it still hurt.
The memories of The Before … useless crap.
Tsuna smiled bitterly, remembering just how deeply her mother’s malicious words had cut. The woman had been perfidious, spreading her tale of woe to the neighbours who gossiped until the whole town was aware just how much terrible misery kind Mrs. Sawada was forced to bear, having such a girl in her perfect home. Always rude and clumsy, no good in anything, late to school, wasting her lunch and not doing her homework, that pathetic tomboy. A nightmare of a child. Indeed, kind Mrs. Sawada had the undivided sympathy and recognition of Namimori's inhabitants, to put up with such an obviously mentally deficient daughter.
Teachers' had their opinions, children listened to their parents words. They ripped her homework when her mother hadn't already done so, hit and kicked her until she could barely move. Adults didn't say anything, no reprimand, no help, they watch or commented on how that girl had it coming. The children, when they weren't the ones sending her to the ground with scratches and bruises, stood there and laughed; always done so covertly that their demon prefect, Hibari-san, wouldn't see and stop their fun.
And when she came home with bruises and ripped clothes, scratches still dripping blood? Her mother's cruel glazed eyes greeted her, again blaming her for being such a failure, such a worthless excuse as a human being. She had long since learned to keep silent.
She always kept silent.
Tsuna remembered when she started … expressing her pain differently. Unhealthily.. Just as her mother had found alcohol to drown her misery in, Tsuna found the enticing song of the silver blade, the salty-metallic taint of red liquid escaping the numerous cuts on her arms.
A kind of getaway … it took her lover years to break that disastrous habit. Nowadays, she could handle pain differently, but back then …
Back then it made her life bearable.
Especially once her mother started drinking heavier beverages, the year Tsuna turned fourteen. It was the year any kind of hidden dream and useless hope was shattered and she lost all trust and strength to believe in a better tomorrow, in a world worth living for. Day for day, she was assaulted, with words of malice and the belt on her back. Day for day, she cut just that bit deeper, stretched the cut that part of an inch longer.
And then, then the highly improbable happened …
… her father arrived.
Into his personal hell.
“ Iemitsu, Anata, what are you doing here?”
“ … Nana, what …?”
“ Anata? Whatever is the matter? Oh, do you mean … that? Don't worry, I'm just teaching the girl.”
“ Teaching …?”
“ She's so useless. Really, good for nothing, that little brat. It's only a little punishment for being mouthy. Can you imagine that she actually called me her mother? Me? As if I want to be reminded that I birthed something like that! Such a shame she-”
“ Shut your trap.”
“ A-anata …?”
“ Don't come near, you fucking bitch. Everything – everything you told me, it was lies! Is that your idea of taking care of our child, of my princess?!”
“ You princess! Again! It's always your fucking princess – I'm your wife! I should come first! Not that worthless mistake!”
“ My daughter is not a mistake. The only mistake I made was trusting you with her.”
“ W-what are you doing? Anata? Iemitsu? Wha-?”
“ I'm taking my child home.”
“ You can't! I'm your wife! You love me! Me!”
“ … I love my child. I don’t even know who you are anymore ...”
“ … Nana … expect the divorce papers.”
He had saved her, taken her away.
Battered and bruised, her back a mass of bloody lashes and her arms slashed into a bloody mess.
Barely conscious, eyes misted by blood and floating between reality and nightmarish dreams, he had bundled her up and taken her to Italy, not only nursing her back to health but taking sole custody for her fifteen year old ungrateful self … well, she found herself ungrateful in retrospect, her psychiatrist called it traumatized. Oh, she hadn't taken well at all to her absentee father suddenly strolling back into her life after six years of not seeing him even once, giving him the cold shoulder and sabotaging his admittedly admirable efforts for reconciliation. She had continued mutilating herself, to numb the memories plaguing her mind and to escape a man who suddenly seemed to care …
… and the fear that froze her because of that. Would he abandon her, too? Hurt her? Just … just like her mother?
It was a strenuous time for all involved.
She needed so long to recover, and still, today, remnants of her childhood ailed her soul and mind. But slowly, ever so slowly, her father had managed to worm his way into her heart and made her depend on him. Made her care and love him.
He … he had stayed. Had given her a home.
He cared for and protected her like she meant something. Everything.
Sawada Iemitsu … acted like the father he was.
And she loved him fiercely for it.
… after she got her head out of her arse.
Tsuna's father wasn't the only one to aid her recovery.
His boss, who treated her like a favoured grandchild, and his three oldest sons as well as their … guardians doted on her.
It had been a nasty shock to hear that the convoluted reason her father had left her and her mother back in Namimori was not because of disinterest or another family waiting for him in Europe, but because of his desire to protect them from his occupation and their bloodline: He was the Advisor of a Mafia Boss, one who actually headed not just any Mafia Family, but the mightiest one in the world, the Vongola Famiglia; a crime syndicate whose founder was actually her father’s, and as such her own, direct Italian ancestor. A delusional vigilante.
She … had not been impressed.
And for the first few weeks, she had blamed him, just as her mother had always blamed her. But … once she understood what she did, she stopped; the fear of changing into the woman she hated more than anything quite enough to make her start working through her anger instead of taking it out on others. Still, the only real release she had was when she let her blood flow down bony pale arms. It was pure relief; even as guilt ate her, imaging her father's desperation at discovering another cut, another scar.
She didn't want to hurt him anymore, she really tried going forward, but the urge to cut was so overwhelming, and her own justifications just passable enough.
On one of those occasions, she met the man who gave her the world as she needed it.
Home. Family. Love. Acceptance. Freedom.
In the bed next to her own hospital bed after she awoke having blacked out from cutting to deep, laid a young dark-haired man. Lightly tanned skin marred by angry red scars, his gorgeous red eyes looked disparagingly at her bandaged wrists. And then he opened his mouth, and spoke in such a rich low voice that it sends shivers of pleasure down her back.
“ You're fucking weak, woman, if you let your bitch of a mother get to you like this.”
That was the first time that Sawada Tsunayuki tried to strangle Xanxus di Vongola.
The first, but certainly not the last.
Sadly, even just unfrozen from his punishment after the Cradle Incident, Timoteo di Vongola's fourth and youngest son, adopted as he may be, only smirked bemused at her tries to strangle him with her bony weak arms - at least, until she drove her just as bony elbow sharply into his solar plexus and he started gasping for air while it was her turn to smile smugly.
It was the perfectly insane beginning for the crazy pair of them.
The memory still amused her greatly.
It was just so … them
A large tanned hand reached forward and cupped the back of her head carefully.
Tsuna's eyes closed on their own accord as a brilliantly gentle smile blossomed on her face and he pulled her down to sensually capture her lips.
Their kiss was tender. It was possessive. It was sensually.
Like and addict, she drowned in the feeling of his lips upon hers.
Reluctantly, they separated, coming up for air, and Tsuna gave a little sigh as she felt him kiss away the tear still clinging stubbornly to her cheek. His hand slid down, resting in a loving caress against her cheek as she slowly opened her caramel-coloured eyes, looking directly into the most enchanting orbs she had ever seen, such an mesmerizing shade of red that it captured her completely.
This … was the reason why she found the strength to wake and get up in the mornings.
This tender loving gaze, normally so cold and calculating, focused solely on her, communicating more than just the mere words he so seldom would speak. It wasn't necessary. Not for them.
They knew even without continuous sappy declarations of undying love and eternal devotion just how much the other meant to them.
A man used his whole life, love abused as a notion to keep confined and shackled.
A woman who cherished love, burned at a young age by the one misusing a child's unconditional love.
But they had each other.
And it was enough.
“ Bella”, he grumbled tiredly, an unspoken demand in his sleep-addled harsh voice.
Tsuna shook her head lightly and gave a gentle kiss to his brow, cuddling closer to him. His strong arms which were again holding her tightened and she nearly sighed again in comfort.
“ Just memories, Amore”, she whispered, answering his unvoiced question.
Grunting, he reached to up caress her cheek, making her pouty lips lift up even more at the contradiction between his gruff demeanour and tender touch.
But that was just how Xanxus was, and she loved it. Gruff, harsh, demanding, sometimes cold and often bloodthirsty. A terrifying mind to go with the gorgeous body and a heart stroked with rivers of gold for those who managed to crack their way through the adamantium it was built from.
… as a child, Tsuna had not dared to hope that someone could like her. As a teenager, she was resigned to never experienced another's gentle touch. As an adult, she could still scarcely believe that the fierce love she felt for her man, one which was freely returned to her just as possessively, was actually real. She knew that not that many approved of their match, which they thought the shattered girl and wrathful boy would burn each other into cinders until both were broken beyond repair. They thought she was his plaything and he her unwilling saviour. That the love between them was a product of their screwed-up pasts.
Sawada Tsunayoshi deeply loved Xanxus di Vongola.
And Xanxus di Vongola returned her love just as passionately.
It was the honest to god truth of the matter … she couldn't imagine her life going on without him.
And, well … Tsuna wouldn't have it any other way.
~ The End. Companion to 'Guile'.~