The Nature of You

As Tsuna grows into his position, his conflicts with Xanxus escalate again and finally break. Drama, I-4, some spoilers

One Hand

Tsuna sat at an oval table with the advisors and lieutenants so newly inherited and tried to feel leader-like. It still wasn’t easy.

"We should erase the members of Gesso now, before they grow too strong again," Savio argued.

Tsuna tried not to sigh as murmurs of agreement ran around the table, and tried again. "They won’t become Gesso, now."

"They’re still dangerous."

Unfortunately, Tsuna couldn’t argue with that. Gokudera eyed him for a moment and turned to the table. "Think about what we are. Most of us, and our allies, are dangerous. If we start a war on that basis, where will it end?"

That finally made everyone pause and Tsuna gave Gokudera a grateful look. It made Gokudera glow just a bit, and that made Tsuna smile, and everything looked a little better.

"Keh!" Xanxus flung himself deeper into his chair, one arm slung over the back, and glared out a window. "Bunch of bullshit. Kill them now and be sure."

The murmurs swung back toward agreement again and this time Tsuna did sigh. And tried to ignore Xanxus’ slight, vicious smile.

He’d known this wasn’t going to be easy.

Other Hand

Tsuna looked up, anxious, as Yamamoto came in. "How is De Vecchi?"

Yamamoto smiled, reassuring. "The doctors say he’ll be fine." The smile faded a little. "It will probably take a month or two, though."

The room exploded into response.

"It’s an insult!"

"…can’t believe they rejected our offer to negotiate, who do they think they are?!"

"…nearly killed our envoy!"

"We can’t let this go!"

"It won’t happen twice." That was Xanxus, and the room fell silent as he stood with a tiny smile. "The Varia will avenge our name."

"Wait." Tsuna folded his hands tightly as Xanxus swung around to glare at him.

"What?!"

"I said wait." Tsuna took a slow breath. "There must be a reason they reacted that way. I don’t want to turn this into some kind of war between us and the Pozzo Nero. Not without at least trying again."

Xanxus snarled. "They’ve already declared where they stand! If we back down now every other Family will think we’re weak and attack us! This has to be answered. Now!"

"No," Tsuna said quietly, and looked up to meet Xanxus’ eyes, which widened.

They held each other for two long breaths as the room stilled around them. A muscle jumped in Xanxus’ jaw.

And then he spun around, slamming his chair out of the way, and stormed out of the room.

"Why that…!" Gokudera started up from his own chair.

Tsuna laid a hand on his arm. "Don’t. It’s all right."

Gokudera frowned. "Tenth."

Tsuna smiled up at him, a little sad, and repeated, "It’s all right. He won’t go."

Gokudera’s look turned thoughtful and he nodded, slowly. "If you say so, boss." He sat down again. Tsuna gathered himself, and turned back to the frowns and sidelong looks of the rest of the Vongola, grateful for Gokudera beside him, and Yamamoto standing behind his shoulder.

"I’ll ask Hibari if he’s willing to see them." Tsuna’s mouth quirked at the suddenly lighter expressions around the room and he tried not to listen to the faint, distant crashes from Xanxus’ wing of the building.

Clapping

Tsuna sat and listened to his people arguing and felt his stomach sinking.

Xanxus was being too quiet.

And it wasn’t the glowering quiet he used when he disagreed and wanted to make damn sure everyone knew he did. Today he just leaned back in his seat, watching everyone else from under half lowered lids.

Tsuna had really hoped it wouldn’t come to this.

Finally he laid his hands flat on the table and leaned forward. "We will not absorb the Scioneri by force," he stated.

"But they’re operating in our territory!" Viotti protested vigorously. "You have to do something, boss! You’ll look weak if you don’t."

"If we have to drive them out, we will," Tsuna said softly, looking down at his hands. "But I will not have anyone forced into my Family who doesn’t choose to be here, with us."

That soothed the murmurs and he could see everyone settling, a few even smiling.

Xanxus’ expression didn’t flicker, and Tsuna’s mouth tightened. He had a bad feeling that, as long as Xanxus stuck to the letter of their agreement and didn’t cross a direct order, the rest of the Vongola would be pleased enough that he’d eliminated a problem to keep Tsuna from doing anything about it. And it would just get worse from there.

He could give a direct order now, and head it off for today, but he had an equally bad feeling that doing so wouldn’t stop the fresh confrontation they were headed for. His hands tightened as he considered what a real resolution might require.

"Gokudera," he murmured as the meeting broke up, "tell everyone. There’s probably going to be a… disturbance, tonight. Don’t come. I’ll handle it myself."

Gokudera looked disapproving. "If there’s something going on, your Family should know about it." Tsuna smiled up at him.

"I know, it’s just…" He sighed. "I need to do this myself. Please."

Gokudera’s shoulders fell a little. "I hate it when you do that," he muttered. He sighed in turn and bent his head. "We won’t interfere."

The unspoken unless something goes wrong hung in the air so loudly Tsuna laughed a little, and felt better.

True to Gokudera’s word, though, there were no bodyguards and no look-outs around as Tsuna paced through the halls that night and out the South doors to wait in the darkness.

When Xanxus came through the door, Squalo and Bel and Levi already with him, Tsuna stepped forward. "Xanxus."

The smile on Xanxus’ face turned instantly to a snarl. "You!"

Holding on to a last shred of hope, Tsuna kept his hands at his sides. "I do not want the Scioneri boss killed."

Xanxus sneered. "Of course you don’t. You’re too soft to do what will keep the Vongola strong."

"The strength of our Family doesn’t come from our guns!"

Xanxus stared at him for a long moment. Finally he spat, deliberately, at Tsuna’s feet. "You’re a disgrace to the Vongola. A disgrace to manhood! Too soft to hold my word or this Family, either one of them! Get out of my way."

"No," Tsuna said, quietly.

His hands were already burning as Xanxus’ dove for his guns.

Xanxus lips were pulled back over his teeth as he fired, and the Flames that seared toward Tsuna burned with hate, ripped apart the air and reached for his blood. He didn’t want to touch them, didn’t dare risk absorbing them, so he wove through them instead, sharpening his awareness of Xanxus and giving aside from each furious blow.

He prayed Gokudera would do as he said and keep everyone away. The Varia who were present had retreated already, knowing full well the risk of being anywhere near Xanxus’ rage.

And pain.

The desperate force that drove Xanxus’ bolts of Flame through the dark made Tsuna’s chest tight. He had made a mistake, years ago, leaving Xanxus like this. Now he had to amend it as best he could. The memory of Xanxus’ expression under his hand, years ago, feral with fear, made him hang back, hesitating. The scream of Xanxus’ Flame through the air was what finally drove him forward; he didn’t want to cause pain, but still less did he want to leave someone slashed and broken and bleeding out.

And not even knowing that was what was happening.

The closer he came, the brighter fear rekindled in Xanxus’ eyes, crowding the rage. Neither could completely hide the pain that had driven Xanxus out the doors tonight, and Tsuna wished he could say something to help.

But that would only come later.

He twisted aside from the last wild shot and ran full into Xanxus, knocking him back against the outer wall, and pressed a burning hand to his chest.

"No!"

The shriek twisted Tsuna’s own heart, but this time he didn’t stop. He closed his Will around Xanxus’ heart and let it burn, purify, melting free the razor edges of regret and want and despair. Xanxus screamed again, spine arched, heart hammering under Tsuna’s palm, and Tsuna clenched his teeth. Need and betrayal and wild rage spun free as he drove his Flame inward, and Xanxus’ voice stripped hoarse and wordless as Tsuna broke his Will until the last of the ice was wrung from his soul and melted into that river of pain.

Tsuna could only think it merciful for both of them when Xanxus slumped into unconsciousness, falling against him.

He knelt by the wall, breathing hard, arms around Xanxus to keep him from falling to the cold grass. He was shaking, clinging to the knowledge that this was the only way to let that pain flow away even as Xanxus’ scream echoed in his ears. Footsteps rustled behind him and he looked up to see Squalo and Gokudera both approaching, the one with teeth bared in fury and the other very pale.

"Squalo," he murmured, weary. "Take Xanxus back to his rooms. He’ll sleep for a while."

"What did you do to him?" Squalo hissed, apparently too infuriated even to shout.

"What I should have done a long time ago, if I’d had the courage to make both of us bear it." Tsuna’s voice was clipped, and he closed his eyes for a moment. "I’ll come see him soon."

Squalo growled and pulled Xanxus roughly away from him, calling for Levi to help him carry their leader back inside. Tsuna leaned against the smooth, old stone, watching them go and finally released his Will. Exhaustion hit him like a hammer. A warm hand on his shoulder made him start a little.

"Come on, boss," Gokudera said, gently. "Let’s get you inside, too."

Tsuna leaned on him gratefully.

Gokudera glared everyone out of the way as he guided Tsuna up to his own room, pausing only to exchange meaningful nods with Yamamoto who was still busy calming the bodyguards. Tsuna sighed as the door closed behind him, steadying himself on one of the armchairs.

"I didn’t want to."

Gokudera was quiet for a moment. "If you didn’t want to and you did it anyway, that means it was something that really needed to be done," he finally said.

"I know," Tsuna whispered.

It just didn’t help much.

Make a Fist

Squalo stood between Tsuna and the door, glare sharper than his sword, and his voice echoed off the high ceiling. "Like hell I’m letting you at him again! You’re the one who did this to him!"

Tsuna rubbed his eyes with one hand. "Yes, exactly."

Squalo snarled and it was Tsuna’s turn to glare. "He’s part of my Family! That was the choice he made! And if I’m not going to let him slaughter people just for breathing wrong, I’m also not going to leave him like this!"

Squalo’s eyes narrowed, suddenly thoughtful. "What do you think you can do?"

"I don’t know," Tsuna said, quietly. "But it’s my responsibility to do whatever I can."

Squalo’s gaze rested on him for a long moment before he finally stepped aside. Though not very far aside, Tsuna noted wryly. He eased past and tapped on the door.

There was no answer.

The room was dim when Tsuna opened the door, all the curtains drawn and lit from behind with morning sun, and Tsuna’s first thought was Den. The den a wounded animal crawled back to. "Xanxus?" he called, softly.

One of the chairs went over with a clatter as Xanxus surged up out of it, and Tsuna winced at the wildness of his eyes.

"Stay away!"

"I will." Tsuna stood where he was. Even from here he could see Xanxus’ hands shaking.

"What are you doing here?"

Tsuna sighed. "I’m trying to help." The harsh burst of laughter that answered that made his mouth tighten. But he couldn’t let either of them stop here. "You need to let it go," he said, low.

"Let what go?" There was an alarming lilt in Xanxus’ voice, now, and his lips pulled back off his teeth. "My life? My blood? Why not? It’s not Vongola, after all! Not like yours. Happy you’ve proved it on me?"

"That’s not what I’m talking about," Tsuna said, and couldn’t help adding, "And so what, anyway?" He composed himself again as Xanxus stared at him. "I’m talking about the pain. If you freeze it, well maybe you don’t feel it as much, but it stays with you until the end of time. You can’t keep going like this."

"If I don’t feel it, so what?" Xanxus swung around and made for a side table, and a scatter of bottles, most empty. Finding one that wasn’t, he sloshed it into a tumbler and tossed it back in three swallows.

"I said ‘as much’." Tsuna frowned at the array of bottles; he’d been afraid of something like that. "If you really didn’t feel it, you wouldn’t be looking for things to stifle it with."

"What the hell are you babbling about?" Xanxus voice wasn’t slurred at all, and Tsuna wasn’t sure whether that was good or not.

"Your position," he said, quietly. "Leader of the Family. Leader of the Varia. Did you really think enough voices calling you ‘Tenth’ would drown out the old ones calling you trash?"

He didn’t move as the tumbler shattered against the wall behind his head.

"Voices that are only afraid of you aren’t the ones you need. They’ll only make the old voices louder in the end."

"What the hell do you know about it?" Xanxus had his back to Tsuna, and his voice was ragged.

"Even with our intuition, we can’t see ourselves very well, can we?" Tsuna murmured. "We have to do that for each other."

"Get out!"

Tsuna bowed his head with a sigh and slipped out.

As he closed the door behind him a bared sword winked from where Squalo leaned against the wall. Tsuna’s lips twitched; Xanxus didn’t really have far to go to find the kind of voice he did need, if he’d only listen. "I think," he said calmly, "I’m going to need heavier guns for this. See if you can keep him from drinking quite so much while I get them." He turned away down the hall.

Yamamoto emerged from the shadow of the other wall to fall in beside him, hand sliding away from his own sword, and nodded amiably at Squalo, who growled back at him. "So? How did it go?"

"I think I need to call home."

Yamamoto smiled down at him, confident and comfortable. "Knew you’d be able to fix it."

Tsuna snorted, rueful. "Well, kind of."

Yamamoto didn’t leave his side until he’d seen Tsuna into his rooms, and then he only leaned against the wall beside the door. His Family’s support was the only reason he could deal with this job at all, Tsuna swore, dialing.

"Tsuna?" His dad yawned hugely and Tsuna held the phone away from his ear with a wry grin. "What’s up?"

"I need to speak to the Ninth." Tsuna waited out the resulting silence.

"I’m not going to let him stress himself too much," his dad finally said, quiet. "He’s getting… fragile."

"I understand."

There was some rustling and his dad’s muffled shout of, "It’s for you!"

"Yes?"

Tsuna bit his lip at the raspiness of the Ninth’s voice. "Sir. I… I’m afraid I need to ask a favor."

A chuckle. "Well, I’m retired of course…"

Tsuna laughed a little. "It isn’t like that. It’s… Well, it’s for Xanxus."

Another long moment of silence.

"Tell me."

Open Palm

"I really hate these contraptions," the Ninth grumbled.

"Dad made me promise," Tsuna said firmly, steering the wheelchair carefully down the hall.

"Yes, yes, I’m sure he did." The Ninth was quiet for a moment and finally sighed. "You’re a wiser man than I am." He snorted softly. "And stronger, too, which probably helps."

"Not always," Tsuna murmured.

"Mm." The Ninth lifted a hand to pat Tsuna’s. "I understand."

Tsuna stopped them by Xanxus’ door and helped the Ninth to stand. Once again, his knock got no answer at all and he sighed.

The Ninth made an amused sound. "He never answers. Even when he’s in a good mood. You just have to take your chances." He stepped forward, cane thumping heavily, and pushed open the door.

"What the hell do—"

Lingering as unobtrusively as he could manage, in the doorway, Tsuna saw Xanxus freeze, eyes widening.

"You."

The room smelled strongly of alcohol and was littered with broken glass. Tsuna assumed this was the aftermath of Squalo following his advice and made a mental note to thank him. The Ninth shook his head, gaze never leaving Xanxus.

"Oh, my boy," he sighed. "You stepped right in it this time, didn’t you?"

Xanxus jerked in his chair and pulled in a breath through bared teeth, only to be cut short as the Ninth thumped his way across the room and closed an arm around Xanxus’ shoulders.

"And so what? You’re my son," he stated firmly. "Whatever mess you’ve made of your life, and you’ve made a damn great mess, doesn’t change that." Under the moustache his mouth twitched into a grin. "In fact, I think helping untangle damn great messes is one of the things fathers are for."

Tsuna saw a shudder ripple through Xanxus, and saw the Ninth’s gnarled hand tighten on his shoulder, and smiled.

He tiptoed out and closed the door very, very quietly.

End