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like sunshine. ([personal profile] dino) wrote in [community profile] khrminibang2009-09-04 02:01 pm
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the melancholy of fran.
( The Varia is a scary group of badass motherfuckers. Fran has a different opinion. )
AUTHOR: [profile] redmoonmurder

When he was five years old, Fran was disappointed to discover that the Bogeyman wasn't real, nor was the monster under his bed or the one in the closet. Or creatures like werewolves, or vampires, or mermaids, or unicorns. Even Candy Mountain was fake.

When Fran was six, he met someone who could make them real. So he followed him around and learned a thing or several from him. That was about ten years ago. Back then, Fran didn't know what he was getting himself into -- if he did, he probably wouldn't be where he was today. Which would be standing in the rubble of, what used to be: a castle, taken over by the Varia from the enemy called Millefiore, just after that creepy hologram announcement by that Byakuran guy.

The Varia was--still is--an elite group of assassins formed by the Ninth Boss of the Vongola Family. They were a group of feared individuals who did their job so well, they were feared as well as respected by people in the same field of work. The Varia was famous for doing their job so perfectly, even the most impossible mission seemed as easy as pie for them. That was Varia Quality. Fran had always been so in awe of the Varia when he first heard of them. A group of strong individuals, and he would have a chance to work with them. Who would pass up the opportunity, right?

....Wrong. Really, if Fran had had known better, he would have rather been disappointed for the rest of his life than be a replacement for some baby and wear this stupid frog hat all the goddamn time. But for a reason he didn't even know himself, he stayed. The Varia wasn't as awesome as everyone said they were.

Now, his relationship with the other members of the Varia was something you could call strained. It was another thing that baffled him. It was obvious that none of them got along with each other (probably the only exception there would be the Commander and the Boss, but he'd been told that was special and you didn't question their "relationship"), let alone with the Replacement. Hell, Fran hated being called "Mammon's Replacement" or "The Replacement" or "Frog boy" or "Froggie." He really should leave, but even that didn't drive him out. The nicknames he got weren't as bad as what the others had, at least. Frankly, 'okama' was probably the worst he's ever heard, and that's what Belphegor called Lussuria.

Now, while Fran thought the nickname actually did fit Lussuria, he thought the older man (woman?) wasn't so bad. In fact, he was pretty nice. Lussuria would give Fran freshly baked brownies and a glass of milk every time he came down after getting verbally or physically attacked by Belphegor, who somehow hated his guts for replacing Mammon. That, or it was the stupid hat, Fran really couldn't tell. Lussuria said it was just Belphegor's nature to be a pain in the ass.

Fran really liked remembering the first time Lussuria gave him freshly baked brownies, too. It was a dark and stormy night. Okay, so maybe it wasn't. It was a regular dark and non-stormy night. Fran went down to the kitchens to fetch frozen peas for his bruised cheek. He and Bel had an argument again (it really was mostly Bel's fault, Fran was only trying to help), and what was supposed to have been a first aid treatment became a full-on brawl between the two. Fran liked to think he gave Bel as much bruises as his senpai gave him. What Fran didn't expect to see in the kitchen was Lussuria, in a pink apron with white lace and too many frills and ribbons, mixing a bowl of delicious-smelling brown batter.

...Which Lussuria placed on the on the table when he saw Fran looking like a drunk pirate after going through three tavern brawls on shore. "Goodness gracious, what happened to you?" Luss examined the extent of Fran's damage. Which really wasn't anything beyond a couple of bruises and a nasty scratch on his neck. If only because Belphegor played dirty. "Who did this to you, my poor dear?"

Fran blinked at Lussuria, not entirely sure if he was supposed to be shocked or appalled or start crying like a three year old tattling to his mother. But he was Fran, so he did a mix of the three. "Bel-sempai did," he blurted out, pouting and looking down on the floor.

"Mou, really, that Bel. He shouldn't be beating you up all the time," Luss replied, pulling away and putting his hand to his cheek, looking very concerned. Or, as concerned as he could be. Fran really couldn't tell since Lussuria always wore those sunglasses, even indoors and at night. He wondered, sometimes, if Lussuria even had eyes. Or if it was a condition like what Scott Summers had. Fran liked to pretend it was the latter, even if the chances of that being actually true were very low. He didn't think anyone could actually fire lasers from their eyes. Unless you were Xanxus, maybe. The man looked like he could.

Next thing Fran knew, he was being ushered to sit on a chair, and Lussuria had a first aid kit. "Don't worry, Frannykins, Mama Luss will take good care of you!" And Lussuria did. Take care of Fran, anyway. It just felt a little weird, having Lussuria touch him to check if he had any broken bones, especially since he'd been warned that Lussuria was something sort of a creeper when it came to bodies. And then he found out it was dead bodies Luss specifically liked, so Fran wondered if Lussuria was actually going to patch up his wounds and bruises or was he planning to kill him and defile his dead body. Perish the thought.

Much to Fran's relief, Lussuria actually did patch him up. "I would have used my darling peacock, but it would have been far more troublesome to have to cut your hair and nails to their proper length again," he (she?) said, explaining why he didn't use his Sun-attribute Box Animal. He (she??) even reached out to pat Fran on the head, saying, "If Bel ever does something nasty to you again, just come to Mama Luss and I'll make it all better!" Except the way Lussuria smiled at Fran right then was too creepy to describe. It sent a chill down Fran's spine, that was for sure.

"O-okay," was all that Fran could say at the time. He stayed on the chair, staring off into space (or the edge of the table, whichever), while Lussuria went back to mixing the delicious-smelling brown batter. While he (she? which should Fran use?) hummed. And instead of staring at nothing in particular, Fran watched Lussuria as he worked, putting cups of white things and nuts in the brown batter and pouring it in a pan.

Lussuria was making brownies. It was kind of surreal.

Fran, the curious kid he was, couldn't just shut up about it, so he asked. "Why're you making brownies?" Not that... he really cared why, he just wanted to know if he could maybe get a slice or three. And then Lussuria grinned that creepy wide grin again. "I'm so glad you asked~" he said, closing the oven door on the two brownie pans he'd just put in. Lussuria talked as he started making more brownie batter (how much brownies was Lussuria going to make, anyway?).

"You see, my dear little Franny, some members of the Varia work late at night, and most of them get hungry at half past two in the morning. The poor little dears don't know how to cook, either, so someone's got to look out for them," Lussuria said. Later on, though, Fran discovered that Lussuria was talking about the Boss, specifically, as well as Squalo. And some Varia grunts, but they really didn't matter. Fran just nodded then, amazed that someone in the Varia actually cared (or pretended to, anyway?) for the group. It was kind of a nice feeling. "Don't worry, if you want brownies or cookies, just tell Mama Luss and she'll whip you up a batch as fast as she can!" Luss waved the wooden spoon, probably in an attempt to maybe be a little more like Martha Stewart. It was pretty hilarious, and at the same time, creepy.

When the first batch of brownies came out of the oven, Lussuria gave Fran a quarter of one pan. "What's this for?" He asked, taking the plate of brownies, as well as a glass of milk. "For you, silly. I've seen you eyeing the batter for a while now, and besides, a little sweet something would make your bruises go away much faster," was the reply. Fran wasn't even able to say thank you before Lussuria ushered him out of the kitchen. "You can eat that in your room," he (Fran decided to stick with the male pronouns, since Lussuria was biologically male, but sometimes he would forget) said. "Just don't make too much of a mess or else maintenance will have your head!"

And that was that. Fran understood why a lot of the other Varia underlings liked Lussuria. Some of them even called her (him?) Big Sister Luss, or whatever variation there was. It was kind of nice, but definitely not Fran's style.

While Lussuria was nice to him at times, it didn't stop the older man (gay, he should use gay) from touching him inappropriately and make creepy remarks whenever they were both on a mission. At least Fran could tolerate Lussuria, though. Unlike Levi. Sure, they were both creepy, but if anyone asked, Fran would tell them that Levi was far more creepy, what with the Boss obsession and all. He bet Levi even had a million pictures of Xanxus plastered all over his bedroom wall and ceiling, and masturbated to all of them when he was alone, the dirty old pervert.

Oh, but it wasn't just that. He really was a pervert, too.

It was when Fran was still new to the upper echelons of the Varia. The frog hat was still a little too big for his head and slipped down a lot, covering his face. He'd just gotten home from a mission with Lussuria and went straight to his room, wanting a bath. Lussuria had touched his shoulder, his arm, his hip and attempted to touch his ass (Lussuria said it wasn't like that, but Fran didn't trust him at the time), and that made Fran feel dirty, hence the need for a bath.

Shutting the door to his room (all private rooms at the Varia HQ had adjacent connecting baths), he began stripping his clothes off. Now, one would usually start with the hat, but lately, Commander Squalo and that fake prince could always tell when he took the hat off and would either yell at him with a voice that all of Italia could hear, or in the case of the idiot prince, throw knives at him until he put the hat back on.

So Fran got used to taking the Varia jacket off first, and then the button-down shirt he wore underneath that, and then the belt, before unzipping his pants and then reaching for the closet door so he could grab a new towel.

At this point, it would be good to mention that somewhere between his shirt and the belt, the frog hat had sunk lower on his head, making his bangs obscure his vision a little. Fran didn't bother to push it back up since he was going to take it off anyway, so he just kept stripping.

That was when Fran took the hat off. To which he realized he should have done so earlier so as to avoid screaming bloody murder and reeling back and away from his open closet and launching seven different illusory attacks resulting in the destruction of his closet, two towels, a pair of pants and a spare frog hat. Oh, and as well as successfully lowering the HP of the enemy to 45%-- if it was a game, that is.

Now, sitting there on the floor with his pants unzipped and staring at the mess the monster in his closet made (of course it was the thing in the closet that made it) made him realize that the tentacles weren't really tentacles (they were umbrellas-- oh, sorry, parabolas), and the fuzzy head was actually just a very weird hairstyle and that god-awful mustache thing Levi had going on. "What the shit are you doing in my closet you perverted thunder geezer?!" Fran screeched as he stood up and pulled his pants back up because who knew what Levi would do if he kept it unzipped? He was probably worse than Lussuria who liked molesting dead bodies.

Levi would have answered immediately if it weren't for the broken pieces of closet that had found their way to his face. The expression on his face was a cross between surprise and anguish. With maybe something like rage or constipation, since that's how Levi always looked like. To Fran, at least. "I can--ptooey!--explain!" Levi said (he couldn't have yelled it, it was like, yelling in a whisper), waving his hands. His eyes were pretty shifty, too. Like he was hiding something? All Fran wanted to know was why he was in there and could he please leave and never do that again? What would Kyle Rayner do in this situation?

"Oh my god you're gayer than Lussuria aren't you?" Fran looked at Levi with wide eyes in disbelief. No wonder he was so obsessed with the Boss. He kept following the boss everywhere, kept saying things about what he should do next to please the boss, Boss this, Boss that-- And now Fran was his target. Oh god oh god oh god--

"IT'S NOT LIKE THAT!!" Levi was waving his hands more frantically now. "I was just--"

"Get out of my closet and my room, you old perverted thunder fart!!" Fran threw the frog hat at Levi (this way, if it got destroyed, Levi would be blamed and not him). He also scooted back behind his bed to hide from Levi. He must have been waiting in his closet for this chance, where he was half-naked, and then he would pounce him! God, thinking about it was grossing him out even further.

Levi stepped out of the closet, nostrils flared. "LISTEN. IT'S NOT WHAT YOU THINK. I WAS LOOKING FOR SOMETHING AND BEL SAID--"

There was a long pause between Fran and Levi. It might have been forever long, or it just seemed that time stopped, with Levi frozen mid-sentence and mid-arm flail, Fran staring at him like he was a madman (which, at the time, he sort of was) from behind the bed. It was a really, really long pause.

It was Fran who broke the silence, after waiting to see if Levi's braincells started working again after the realization that Bel had pulled one on him. Still. Hiding in his closet like that? Not good. Fran narrowed his eyes at Levi and said, "Old. Thunder. Pervert."

It was that night that the nickname first got used, and it stuck permanently. Even after Levi and Fran both found out that Bel, that idiot fake prince, tricked Levi into hiding in Fran's closet. Really, his idea of a prank was so troublesome. Fran wondered why the Boss even kept him, he was annoying.

Really. If Fran was a super hero, he'd be a Green Lantern, and Bel would be Parallax. Or he could be The Flash, Bel's Captain Cold. Or Batman and The Joker. Or Superman and Lex Luthor. Garfield and Odie.

Like that one time, right after a failed mission.

Or, well, it wasn't actually a failed mission. It was actually a success, but Fran considered it to have failed because the stupid prince went on a murderous rampage just because his face connected with Fran's elbow and his nose started bleeding. And now they were both bloody. It was a good thing, though, that most of it wasn't Fran's blood. At least they finished their target off. Along with his bodyguards. And his family. And the household help. And one poor guard dog. Fran buried the dog in their target's backyard, it was the least he could do for the poor thing.

Anyway, the first thing Fran did when they came back to the Varia mansions (after dumping Belphegor's unconscious body in his room) was to let the bathwater run. He was going to spend the rest of the night in the bath, getting rid of the dirt and grime and Bel's blood off his person. Fran didn't really mind the blood. Or well, at least when it hasn't coagulated yet. Dry blood was troublesome and it caked on your skin and when you try peeling it off it hurt. And Belphegor happened to pass out after his mass killing, still bleeding, and Fran had to carry him back, the stupid prince, which lead to this.


When the tub was finally full of hot water, Fran stripped down. He'd only put one foot in the tub when the door to the bathroom burst open. Belphegor had kicked it open; how he managed to regain consciousness or even that much strength after losing so much blood, Fran would never know. He let out an exasperated sigh. Why did Belphegor always have to follow wherever Fran went? It was bad enough that their rooms were almost next to each other, having only the bathroom in between. It also didn't take a genius to figure out that the frown on Bel's lips was directed at him. "What are you doing to the Prince's bath?" Bel demanded, arms crossed, and the towel wrapped around his hips slipping a little lower.

Fran replied by stepping in the tub and submerging himself to the chin in it. "Not your bath," he said flatly, trying to ignore the presence of the craziest bastard on the Varia, who was also the first to see him fully naked as well as manage to get Fran's cheeks to redden. Although, if you asked, he would say it was because the water was hot.

Apparently, Belphegor couldn't take a hint and dropped his towel on the floor (Fran had to look away), marched to the bath and stepped in as well. "Hmph," he huffed, sinking in the tub (which really was only big enough for one). "I guess it can't be helped that frogs are attracted to water." There was a sneer on Belphegor's face that Fran wanted to get rid of. Maybe he should punch Bel-senpai while he grinned, knock some teeth out. That would make him feel so much better. It really took a lot to keep his calm when he was around Bel.

"Aah," Fran sighed, "I guess it can't be helped that some people can't ready a bath on their own, even at the age of 25."

"What did you say, frog brat?!" Bel snapped at him, splashing water on Fran's face. Fran glared at Bel through wet bangs and retaliated in the same fashion, making sure that more water was splashed on Bel's face. And thus, the tub war was started. Belphegor had reached out, his hands going straight for Fran's neck and holding tight. Not wanting to be choked to death in a tub, Fran retaliated by grabbing Bel's hair and pulling him down into the water. Bel could drown for all he cared. Except Belphegor started clawing at Fran's neck and it was really uncomfortable, and they kept struggling, rolling about in the tub in a tangle of limbs and gasping for air. Water splashed everywhere, even on the tiled bathroom floor. Shampoo bottles were also thrown, as well as the bottle for the bubble bath (it was rose scented bubble bath, and it belonged to Bel).

Somewhere along the way, Bel kicked at Fran at the same time Fran shoved at Bel, which, thanks to slippery tub, ended... in a Rather Awkward Position. Nothing could have ever described Fran's horrified face when he realized he was lying on top of Bel, in between his legs, with his hand on the blonde's thigh. Fran couldn't read the grin on Bel's face either.

Or, well, he didn't know what it meant until they were both yelling and trying to drown each other, and both Lussuria and Squalo had to come in the bathroom and pull them apart. Lussuria even had the gall to tell Fran while she (he? Fran should stick to one goddamn pronoun already!) dried his hair that they were both louder than Squalo. And he was supposed to be on Fran's side! Lussuria dared to laugh when he said that.

Seriously, if Fran ever wanted to be compared with Commander Squalo, it would be on the basis of skill, and not on the volume of his voice. That would be embarrassing. Actually, Fran thought the Commander would make a good role model, if it wasn't for the fact that one, he was loud, two, he was obsessed with the boss (but not as creepy-obsessed like Levi), three, he really wasn't the role-model type of guy.

It didn't change the fact that Squalo was a pretty awesome guy when it came to the battlefield. And by battlefield, Fran meant an actual sword match, and maybe a little box weapon here and there, but an actual sword fight with cool moves they had to shout before actually doing them. It was pretty cool to watch, like reading a battle manga or watching a samurai anime. Except it was live action. Really live action.

There was one time that Squalo invited Fran to come with him to some sword fighting match. He was supposed to film the whole thing, too. Originally it was Lussuria who was supposed to do it, but he was away in Japan with that extreme boxer person from the Vongola on a mission, so Squalo made Fran do it.

"Why can't Bel-sempai do it?" Fran had asked. It seemed like a good question at the time.

Squalo just snorted and sneered. "Like hell that stuck up brat's useful when it comes to things like this," was the reply, and he really couldn't agree more. Afterwards, they flew off to somewhere south of Italy. It was a beautiful countryside with a nameless town (okay, it wasn't nameless, but it was a place so remote, it could have been), untouched by recent technology (okay, that was a lie too, there was a Ferrari parked in front of one house and everyone had a cellphone). Squalo took him to a coliseum of sorts. There were a few people gathered, old men and grandfathers, men who knew the way of the sword, just like Squalo.

A man, younger than everyone else in the small group but still probably older than the commander, stepped up. "I'm glad you came. I look forward to our match," he told Squalo, grinning. He had his hand extended for Squalo to take as well, but Fran's commander wasn't a handshake type of person. In fact, Squalo had one hand on his hip and pointed at the man with his other.

"VOOIII! Don't get too cocky, brat! Let's just get this over and done with!" Squalo had said voice raised to his usual volume [<- this instead of: in his really loud voice?]. Fran had to wonder if the commander had to take special lozenges to keep his throat in top shape, or something. He'd lose his voice and make his throat all hurty if he tried speaking in the same volume Squalo did. Oh, but Fran figured that he should probably start up the video now. All the other men were moving off to the sides, fully intending to watch the match.

Fran wrote, on a sheet of white paper Squalo had told him to bring along, "Path of the Sword Emperor, the 73rd person. VS Motte Branci." And he had to write it in Japanese, too. Apparently, Squalo was going to send it to the Rain Guardian of the Tenth Vongola to show off (or teach him a thing or two, or so Lussuria said). Which really was weird, since he had heard (and knew) that the Varia did not and would never in this lifetime support and acknowledge the Tenth Vongola and his group. Really, what was up with that? Lussuria was also BFFs (or whatever that meant) with that boxer person from the Vongola, and it didn't help that they were both Sun attributes. Come to think of it, the Commander was also a Rain attribute...

One thing was for sure, Fran didn't particularly care. Why bother with them when the Varia had their own problems to deal with? What were they, an elite assassin group or a bunch of high school guidance counselors? Seriously.

Moving on, after writing what Squalo had told him to, Fran started the digital camera. He took a full ten seconds just shooting the title page thing, whatever it was, and then began to capture Squalo's 73rd fight. Somehow, Fran felt kind of like a film director behind the camera, but he knew he was no Quentin Tarantino or John Woo. And there was no script to follow.

The scene began like every duel. The hero (in this case, Squalo) on one side fixing the sword onto his fake hand, and across him some distance away, was the rival (in this case, Signor Branci), holding his longsword in a stance. At the slightest semblance of a salute, Squalo charged. Caught slightly off guard, Branci defended. Squalo shifted- "Excellent defense! But you're not going to win that way!" Branci parried and defended (and being awfully quiet about it, unlike Squalo), and as far as Fran knew, kept to a single style. What caught Fran's attention the most wasn't the fact that Branci wasn't letting a single sword strike through. It was like watching the two of them, pardon the cliche, dancing on the battlefield. Squalo was the one leading, attacking, slicing, slashing, and Branci was reacting with his parries and ripostes. Then again, what did he know about sword battles?

"VOOOOOIIII!! Stop dodging and attack me, you fucking bastard!!" Squalo yelled, his blade arcing through the air. Branci caught the blade on his own almost casually, slapping it to one side. He kept his pace, though, which irritated Squalo even more. "I said, COME FUCKING ATTACK ME!! Or is that all you fucking got?" At this, the other man shifted his weight, almost imperceptibly. Gripping the longsword with both hands, he swung for Squalo's head. There was a slight ring of metal, and sparks flew as Squalo blocked, caught off guard by the sudden attack. Branci kept up the pressure, his blade singing as it sliced through the air, ringing every time Squalo tried to block.

Enraged, Squalo tried to shift the momentum, bringing his blade down suddenly in a surprise attack, Branci smirked slightly; this was the opening he was working towards. Whirling under the other man's guard, he quickly sidestepped and brought his blade across in one deft motion, slicing Squalo's stomach, blood trailing from his blade as it drew back for another strike.

Squalo grunted in pain, bringing his boot up to the other man's chin, buying him precious space. Fran almost dropped the camera and came running, but he valued his life more. Squalo, the Boss Candidate of the Varia, injured. No one injured Squalo and lived to tell the tale. Most of the time. (The only exception to the rule was Xanxus, really.) Beside him, Fran could hear the older men who were with Branci earlier.

"Amazing. The 'Twisting Turn' counter-attack!" One of the men said in awe. "Yes, Branci's skills have improved. He truly is the master of the Lord of Lancaster Sword Style!"

"Che," Fran muttered, his voice low enough so the camera's mic wouldn't be able to pick it up. "Cheap combo breaker." Still, he did his best to keep a firm hold on the camera and capture the scene properly. He was on the edge of his seat. And the fight was just getting started.

Squalo smirked despite himself, his hand held to his wound. "VOOOIIIIIII!! I bet you think you're hot stuff, catching me like that. But if you think this is going to stop me, I have to warn you. A wound like this? It's only a flesh wound!"

Branci smiled in response. "And what do you think you could do in that condition? Bleed on me?"

At this, the silver-haired man threw back his head and laughed. "Stupid tricks." For a moment, Squalo looked through the crowd, looking for Fran and his camera. When he'd found the younger Varia, he shouted, "VOOII!! Pay attention, you brat! I'm only gonna do this once!" And then he got ready.

One step. Another. All of a sudden, Squalo rushed forward in an all-out run, his blade poised to strike. Branci parried the lunge, and brought his longsword across in a counter-attack; The other man responded in kind with his elbow meeting the taller man's chest, cutting him off in mid-attack. Branci caught his footing, then flipped backwards just in time to avoid Squalo's blade driving into the ground where he had been standing.

Squalo quickly gave chase, his blade thrusting forwards towards Branci's chest. Branci parried, and brought his own blade up to bear towards Squalo's throat- only to realize that Squalo already had him by the neck.

"You probably think you're good with that thing- but they don't call me the Sword Emperor for nothing. It's not the length of your weapon, it's how you use it." Squalo smirked.

"You'd be surprised what I could do with this length." The other man laughed. "I use two hands for a reason. You've yet to see my other 'stupid tricks' as you call them"

Squalo laughed again, despite the blade nicking his throat and drawing blood as he did. "Oooh-- I'm all shivery now. I can't wait to see the expression on your face when you realize how insignificant you are compared to me." Both men began circling, their footsteps echoing in the silent coliseum. Both men kept their eyes on the other, unwilling to give an inch. Waiting for the other to make the first move.

The silence in the air made it seem like the world held its breath. No one dared make a single noise. (Except Fran, who was breathing like he needed an inhaler.)

A shift in the air-- unsurprisingly, Squalo made the first move. He spun under Branci's longsword, his own weapon whistling through the air, missing narrowly as Branci dodged backwards. Caught slightly off guard, Branci struggled to dodge the second blow. As Branci looked up, however, Squalo seemed to over exert himself, wincing in pain from his earlier wound. Seeing his chance, Branci gripped his longsword tightly, and swung--


Fran could see it as if it were in slow motion: Branci, with his sword angled low, swinging upwards; Squalo, his feigned wince being replaced with an almost manic smile as his sword sliced through the air, arcing towards Branci's face. Branci dodged, but just barely; the tip of Squalo's sword caught him on the cheek, drawing blood. This was the end for sure.

For a whole second, all Branci could see was red. It took a second for him to realize that the screaming he heard came from him, and all the blood flying through the air was his. Squalo slashed mercilessly across his chest, ripping whole chunks of flesh off his body, grinning like a madman all the while. A sudden stab of pain, searing hot, followed by the icy cold of steel plunged through his stomach. Squalo leaned in closse, his skin flecked with blood. His grin almost going from ear to ear. "Fucking trash..." Another stab of pain, as Squalo twisted his weapon. "...That's all you are." Squalo kicked him off the end of his blade, sending Branci flying through the air, staining the ground with his blood as he hit. He coughed, trying to get back to his feet- all of a sudden, Squalo had him pinned to the ground with his boot.

Squalo looked up and smirked at his horrified audience. They could only watch, wordless, as Squalo drove his blade into Branci's back, twisting hard. Blood spurted through the air, red contrasted against the white doves flying away startled in the background. Or, at least, that's how Fran imagined it to be. There were no actual white doves, he just wanted to be just like John Woo.

Besides, it all looked better first hand, anyway. The video Fran took didn't really do it justice. (Maybe he should edit in the doves, that would look much better. And maybe add BGM too. And extra sound effects, and an explosion or two. Oh, and a narrator with a deep, sexy voice.) Which was probably why Squalo got mad at him for not taking the good shots. Squalo yelled at Fran for a good half hour for that. At least, nothing flew at him. No swords, video cameras, boots, whiskey glasses or wine bottles. Which was really good, since, well, if it was the Boss, then Fran might not even had his life. Granted, he'd only seen Xanxus get mad and throw things, not kill people. Not yet anyway.

And the only time Fran has ever seen Xanxus fight was when Xanxus offed that fake prince's fake brother. It was GLORIOUS. Better than any movie with special effects. Xanxus does live up to his reputation of being a badass motherfucker. Not that he would appreciate being called a badass motherfucker (if you asked Fran, it should be considered an honor). Actually, now that he thought about it, Xanxus didn't seem to appreciate a lot of things. Except maybe meat, and a couple of other things (because Fran knew that Xanxus couldn't be a hundred percent heartless bastard) like...

Like Lussuria's brownies. And no, that wasn't a euphemism for something. He really did like those brownies. When Fran discovered this, it was more surreal than watching Lussuria bake them. It felt like Fran was trapped in the Twilight Zone.

That night was actually dark and stormy, and Fran woke up feeling hungry. Remembering that Lussuria had the habit to make brownies for anyone who woke up or was still working in the middle of the night, Fran went down to the kitchen (in his pajamas). It was dark. There was probably a power outage because it usually wasn't really dark in the stairwell or the hallways or the kitchen, but it was freaking dark now and Fran could barely see (he could make out outlines and vague shapes, and the lightning could only illuminate a room with windows, but only for a split second) but he managed to make his way to the kitchen knocking over only one lamp and bumping his knee on a corner table.

In the kitchen, when his eyes had adjusted to the darkness, Fran looked for that plate of brownies that would be left on the counter. He couldn't find it, so he opened the fridge to see if it was there. It wasn't, so he claimed a carton of milk for himself. He shut the fridge again and started looking for the brownies. Thunder struck nearby, and lightning brightened up the room for a full second, and there, at the opposite end of the kitchen table, Fran saw it. The largest, scariest, most terrifying figure he'd ever laid eyes on, looming over a plate of brownies, angry red eyes looking down on Fran like he was about to grab him with those big hands, snap his neck and eat him like a pastry. It lasted only for a second, but the image was imprinted in his mind forever.

Fran dropped the milk carton, heart pounding fast, trying to leap out of his chest because he'd failed his spot check. He tried to breathe calmly but it wasn't working. And then he heard it. The voice.

"What in the fucking hell are you doing fucking standing there like you've seen a fucking ghost, runt?"

It was Xanxus, and he'd turned on the lights in the kitchen (oh, so it wasn't a power outage after all). Fran wished that he was wearing his frog hat instead of just his pajamas (which happened to have frog print because Squalo and Belphegor had such good taste in giving Christmas presents) because he'd almost wet himself in front of the Boss. It was that scary. Not so scary now that he was looking at Xanxus, who, while still looking menacing standing near those brownies, had crumbs on his shirt, and at the corner of his mouth.

"I, uh, I wanted to get milk. Sir. Boss. Sir," Fran faltered, really wanting the hat right now. And then he remembered he dropped the carton of milk, and when he looked down, it was all over the floor and on his bedroom slippers. Damn.

"Clean up that fucking mess," Xanxus said. Apparently, he saw it too. "And turn the goddamn lights out when you leave the fucking room."

"Y-yes sir!" Fran even saluted at Xanxus, who had his back turned and was leaving the kitchen now. When he was out of sight, Fran let out a big sigh of relief and leaned against the fridge. He'd really never been so scared in his life before. If Xanxus was that scary even in passing conversation, Fran wanted to know what he was like when facing an enemy or a target.

When he picked up the carton of milk, now empty, it's contents on the floor, there was something missing on the kitchen table. He wondered what it was when he went to get a mop so he could clean the kitchen floor up. When he was done, Fran realized what it was. Xanxus had taken the plate of brownies with him.

"Wow," he said to no one in particular (since, he was alone in the kitchen). "I never knew the Boss liked brownies."

It really was hard to guess that Xanxus actually ate brownies. Fran looked at his boss, just sitting on his chair (he swore it already had Xanxus's figure imprinted on it) while the rest of the Varia (or, well, just him, Levi and Lussuria; Squalo had disappeared somewhere and Bel was being a lazy fucktard nearby) moved rubble and debris to look for other survivors of the 32-man team that infiltrated the Millefiore base. Fran thought Xanxus looked like a proper Mafia boss, a badass motherfucker who could care less about what happened to the world just as long as the Famiglia stayed on the top of things. Hell, even that creepy broadcast by that Byakuran guy didn't faze him. Xanxus was just that kind of guy.

There was a lot of things in life that left Fran disappointed. The Bogeyman, Candy Mountain, Vampires, the Banana King, Space Ninja Pirate Robot Cowboys, Final Crisis #7, Spiderman: Reign, the Hitman movie, Bel's inability to clean up after himself, the list could go on. He could easily drop everything and leave. He could have, from the start. But he didn't. And he did not regret that decision. If he did leave, he would have missed some of the best moments in his life. And some of the worst, but they were really all worth it in the end.

Oh, and Lussuria's brownies. Still not a euphemism, by the way.