On the Fifth Day of Christmas, my Favorite Authors Gave to Me: FIVE BURNING SOULS.
Well, she couldn't quite say. She knew she was dead. She could feel her 'self' disconnect from her body and she wasn't in pain any more. But the actual intricacies she couldn't quite grasp with her understanding once she looked back at these moments.
Here, there, in that moment she understood what a human mind could not even begin to comprehend.
It was normal as she was in that moment, she felt no fear, no dread and her awareness slipped and faded before she could even measure the length of time that has passed.
It wasn't even when she opened her eyes again that she realized exactly what had happened, in fact it was a couple years after a certain event before her mind grasped the enormity of her situation.
This situation of hers, not including her death, began with a scream.
Hers, in fact.
There was a babble of voices, in lilting, emphatic tones in a language it took her a moment to realize was Italian. Three months of French a couple years ago did not qualify one to understand a similar language.
Other than a couple repeating words she remembered, such as: piccolo, tesoro and fia along with a truly impressive string of curse words in- wait, was that German?
She felt herself perk up in delight. German was the best language for curse words, right alongside Russian and Mandalorian. Clearly, whatever was going on, someone knew how to express themselves in style.
German quickly flowed into Italian and she felt herself frown because French was hard enough, and while Italian was easier, assigning a gender to everything was a bit much. Honestly, why did a chair have to be feminine? Also she was kinda curious on what it would mean if you called a feminine inanimate object with masculine word…
Maybe it was rude?
Her body was lifted, instantly gaining her attention as she could feel two giant hands holding her. As in, her entire body. She let out a startled shriek before she was deposited into someone's arm and engulfed in warmth. A warmth that filled her entire body and made her breath hitch.
She couldn't remember the last time she could say with absolute certainty that she was warm. While she couldn't exactly remember being cold, this was so much more.
When she managed to open her eyes and peer through the blurriness, she blinked as she realized she was staring into the face of a gorgeous woman. The way that woman was looking at her, with love and adoration, as if she hung the moon and stars, was overwhelming.
She blinked again, trying to lift her arm, her hand to reach for the woman's long black hair, as it hung down loosely in front of her. Brown eyes tinting towards a golden-orange crinkled in happiness against lightly tanned skin. She was beautiful.
A moment passed while her thoughts tumbled over one another. The woman laughed breathlessly, staring down at her in exhausted exhilaration.
She had to scrunch her face in confusion as she watched those golden-orange eyes change in an instant, shifting from the golden-orange to shining amber fire.
The woman had actual Flames in her eyes. It had swallowed the brown in her iris, gleaming and shifting like a living thing, mesmerizing in its movements.
"Look at her," someone whispered in awe, strange, lilting words meaningless despite their beauty, "Already her flames are so pure! Her eyes are even as orange as yours," a distinctly masculine voice rumbled nearby.
"Look what we made, Lucien," the woman said, entirely delighted, her joy audible in her tone.
She grinned widely, beaming down at her baby with awe, triumph written across her face. With gentle, tender movements, the woman lifted her tiny body up and bent down to hold her close and whisper in her ear.
"Athena della Vongola. Long may you reign. Once you Activate your Flames, my beautiful daughter, your brilliance will be terrifying to your enemies and inspiring to your allies."
It's not that she really understands what this is. There's a disconnect between something, but Athena Vongola didn't realize exactly where and who she was until she reached the proud age of two and a half.
She understood that she was no longer dead, that she was alive again. She knew she was a baby, born to a beautiful woman and a strong father, whose favorite past time seemed to be when he was holding her. Sometimes he hummed and sang quietly under his breath, other times he was content to watch her in silence. She understood that.
But she didn't quite understand how it related to who she used to be, once upon a time. Not until now. Not until everything clicked into place and she came to understand the startling information that she was Athena Vongola.
The only daughter of Daniela, Vongola Ottovia.
She sat there utterly dumbstruck, safely contained in a playpen on the plush carpet floor of her mother's office, while her father, a tall, blond man who mostly spoke French, usually lingering within her view.
"Mon trésor, that is a serious face to be making."
Athena startled and looked up into the mildly amused face of her father, who her mother called 'Lucien'. She blinked rapidly before glancing down to his hands that were folded across his chest. A ring sat on the third finger of his left hand. It looked remarkably familiar.
A dark silver-y metal and a symbol that looked significantly like floating clouds against a shield.
At the short distance between them, especially since the man shifted and extended his arms to reach down and pick her up, she could clearly make out the details and etchings on the ring and the symbol. It was very familiar.
She looked up at her father. At the sharp, tailored suit he wore, the dark purple silk shirt and the shoulder holsters he wore over it. He was smiling softly at her, pale skin and green eyes and her own blonde hair.
She wasn't sure why it had taken her so long to put it together. But looking at that familiar-sealed- ring on his finger etched with a cloud, and his shirt, the way he never went anywhere without weapons...that disconnect in her head suddenly jolted.
As in...the Eighth Generation Cloud Guardian?
As in, Giotto Vongola? As in Sawada Tsunayoshi, Vongola Decimo Vongola?
As in the Ninth Boss, Timoteo, the son of Daniela Vongola?
Who was not here. Who would probably never be here. Who was now Athena Vongola the daughter of Daniela Vongola. And her Cloud Guardian, it appeared.
She sucked in a sharp breath, her mind rushing through her new understanding of her situation.
It takes her only a moment, a single instant, to decide she would not follow some script for a character. She was her own person, and she would not, could not, make some of the mistakes she remembered the once Timoteo making. Not if her life played in that direction.
Iemitsu wouldn't be allowed to abandon his family, Xanxus wouldn't be allowed to grow up insecure in her love, she would be a splendid fath-
-well. Already things were different. Still, she firmed her resolve.
Let the cards fall where they may, if she met certain people again, she could call it the hand of fate. If not, she had her own path to forge even with the knowledge of what could be.
As a fantastic mafia boss. With a side of vigilantism.
She was eternally grateful for the fact that she was reborn in an actual child's body. That she grew up mostly herself, if constantly low-key confused. Growing with a mafia famiglia- the mafia famiglia-meant her entire family was full of very shrewd, observant, cunning, paranoid people. Granted it wasn't really paranoia, since people were really out to get them- but the point stood.
(She doesn't think about the failed assassination attempts that she's been well shielded from.)
She never would have been able to hide her more mature mindset if she had suddenly woke up in a toddler body. Knowing what she knew, about where she was, and the Famiglia she was born into?
A Mist would love to get their hands into a young Vongola Sky, and suddenly shifting from 'actual toddler' to 'a young woman stuck in a child's body' definitely would have screamed Mist Flame to her family. This way, she had been born with her too mature mind, with parts of herself shining through even if she had not been entirely aware of her situation at the time. This way, none of the 'red flags' were set off, and none of Vongola's own Mists were set on her toddler self in an attempt to figure out what happened. This way her mother's Intuition didn't scream at her, and cause problems.
That would have been a mess.
(She made a note into looking for ways to protect her mind. She had read Harry Potter before she died, like most of the people of her time. Perhaps she could protect her mind in that way?)
Her education was so far beyond what it had been in her first life.
Granted, she had learned Japanese for fun (because anime), Mandalorian (she was a nerd, shut up.) a few others, as well as the basics of several more (French, Mandarin, Spanish, Russian and German-did curse words count?), but now she was actively encouraged to learn as many languages as she could. That was on top of etiquette lessons, dancing, both ballroom and ballet, along with reading, writing, maths and history.
Of course, as she was born April 17, 1945, roughy five months before World War II even ended, the history she learned was not one she was familiar with.
As she was currently of Italian nationality, and the daughter of a Mafia Donna as opposed to an American girl born to a somewhat normal couple... Actually, come to think of it, she was pretty sure when the military had sent her father to Sicily a Mafia Don had discovered his talents in automotive repair and ended up offering him his daughter in marriage to stay…?
There was something about befriending an Italian hitman in there somewhere?
There were some things her father glossed over, which she could understand as she was the man's only daughter… or rather, had been. Athena felt tears welling up in her eyes as she thought of her Before!Father.
Not that Lucien wasn't a good dad, because he was, it was just that she had a very close relationship with her first father.
He was the one who taught her all the tricks on driving, on defending herself and on how to shoot a gun.
He was her Daddy. And he was gone. Or rather, it was her who was gone and he was probably still alive somewhere, after burying her.
Her soft crying turned into pained sobs because oh. Daddy buried her.
She hadn't understood exactly that it wasn't everyone else who left, she was the one that was gone.
She pressed her chubby hands into her eyes and tried to stop before she disturbed anyone with her late night emotional upheavals, but barely thirty seconds later, warm hands encircled her body and cuddled her close.
The sharp scent of wine and faint scent of her new mother's perfume paired with a white, billowy shirt identified the person as Lucien, her new father.
Or, as he encourages her to call him, Père.
Her mother is Madre.
There are several men and women whom she is learning to recognize and they are all called 'zio' or 'zia'.
However, there is a man who is 'padrino' and a woman who is 'madrina'.
Her godmother she meets first and Athena is in awe at the woman who smiled prettily down at her. Athena could make out bright blue eyes, a sleek mane of brown hair and pearls at her throat.
She's a badass.
Père is fond of her. Père who is her father, Père whose features she's inherited. Père who loves her and holds her and looks concerned as the quiet, heartbroken sobs she's not having any success in muffling.
His new father, this one who is different from her first one, holds her and soothes her and when she falls asleep, it is to his voice murmuring his love into her hair.
That settles something in her, even as a piece of her heart quietly breaks.
In the morning, when she wakes, it will be in the bed her mother and father share. They'll fuss over her and keep her close and eventually, the way she calls, madre, pere, will be easier as time passes.
Maybe one day, she'll be able to acknowledge what she has now compared to what she had before without that stabbing pain of grief. Maybe one day, but for now, she allows herself to mourn.
Athena is homeschooled, of course.
Or rather...fortress schooled? Because the Iron Fortress is absolutely a nuclear bunker fortified with magic and things she doesn't even want to know.
(That's a lie, she really wants to know.)
Language lessons start from infancy, but the more detailed ones begin when she is five. She gets a teacher, one who isn't related to her, one who isn't a zio, zia, padrino, madrina, or even a cousin. Oh, it's an older man, with snow white hair and stern, but pleasant features, very polite and on the approval list to see her. But he's absolutely not harmless. An assassin or a spy or something, honestly she doesn't know, but she knows.
(Her Before!Memories whisper excitedly 'He's an ALFRED' and she tries not to scream)
Anyway. When they ask her what language she wants to learn, she leans closer, letting stars fill her eyes and reverently whispers, all of them.
They settled for three.
(Spanish, French, English)
(she's not sure how to tell them she already knows the basics of two and is entirely fluent in the third)
Today's language lesson was French. Specifically it was colors, often paired with flowers, which shouldn't be too hard, as Père liked to point out the local plant life, name them and what color they were in French. So when her French linguistic teacher pointed to a sunflower and asked, "Qu'est-ce que c'est?"
What she said was not 'tournesol' but 'himawari'.
Athena blinked. Her teacher blinked.
"Shit," Athena said in English, "I meant girasole."
The man blinked, slowly and deliberately, as opposed to in surprise and Athena squeezed her eyes shut, ignoring the blush that heated her cheeks.
"In French, if you please, Miss Vongola," her teacher admonished pointedly in the aforementioned language.
Athena opened her eyes and looked up helplessly.
Athena liked her unconventional lessons best. Oh, she knew they would go on to save her life later, that these were vital life skills she needed to imprint into instinct and muscle memory, but that didn't mean they weren't fun.
She had to be a bit 'older' to move on to these in earnest, but at seven she allowed her first practical lesson on Escape. It was not her first or last unconventional lesson, not even close to the only subject covered, but she remembered this one best.
They gave her a practical lesson with an Escape Room.
She'd been walked through the 'do and do not' of Kidnapping 101 as soon as she was old enough to understand what she was being told (not that they SAID it was for kidnapping, but Athena wasn't stupid.) and she'd had hands on experience getting out of knots, trying knots, handling duct tape, and various other situations-
But the first time she is allowed an actual practical, with no adult hovering to see if she was doing something wrong, with no careful instruction to handle a set situation, she is set into a Mist Room and told to get out of it.
And sure the Escape Room in question is geared towards Mafia raised, over any civilian based room experience she had from before, and she has the chance of getting hurt a bit if she messes up, but the challenge is fun.
She gets to use her Flames, her Intuition, and anything she can get her grubby little creative hands on. Knowledge from a past life? Check. Experience from that escape room level: 'difficult' she did and passed on the first try with one literal second on the clock? Check. Meta on Mist Flames read on tumblr at 2 a.m.? Check.
Her parents cackle when they watch the recordings later, and the rest of the Guardians are a little bit in awe. So smart, so clever!
Athena does not think inside the box, as they will come to discover. Athena will burn the box and scatter the ashes in her garden because she has no use for boxes other than to set them on fire.
And she cheats.
They're so proud.