What’s Love Got to Do With It

The Ninth helps Xanxus find someone he can bear to be. Drama with Angst and Fluff, I-3

It wasn’t that Tsuna didn’t trust the Ninth, because of course he did. And it wasn’t that he didn’t think the Ninth could handle Xanxus, even, or especially, now, because he did, really. It was just… well, his dad had made him solemnly swear he’d make sure the Ninth didn’t overstrain himself.

And that was really the only reason Tsuna kept just happening to pass Xanxus’ rooms or the balcony beyond them to check on them every couple days.

His excuses hadn’t even convinced himself yet, and he doubted he’d convince either of them, so he tip-toed.

"…didn’t you just tell me?" Xanxus’ voice was stifled and he was leaning, hands clenched, on the back of an armchair. "Why’d you let me keep thinking I was your kid, all that time?"

The Ninth sighed. "Because I didn’t think it would matter."

Xanxus shoulders twitched and Tsuna held his breath.

"It seemed obvious you had to have Vongola blood from somewhere, even if it wasn’t mine," the Ninth said, softly. "Your Flame was all the proof anyone needed of that. And who cared how far back it came from? Look at Tsunayoshi, after all!" He was silent for a long moment before adding, "And I wanted another son. I thought… if I raised you, if I loved you, if I was the father you knew… wasn’t that good enough?"

Xanxus didn’t answer and Tsuna had to swallow the tightness in his throat as he slipped away.

"It doesn’t make sense!"

Xanxus was pacing the balcony today, so Tsuna only eased up to the nearest open window.

"How can he be so damn soft and still do something like this to me?!"

The Ninth actually laughed. "Oh, Xanxus. It’s the gentle ones who are most dangerous of all."

Xanxus rounded on his father. "You want to explain that?"

Tsuna caught a glimpse of the Ninth’s smile. "Tsunayoshi is a gentle soul, yes. He cares very much for people. And that," he rapped his cane on the flagstones, "that is the source of his strength. When the things he cares for are threatened, there will be no end to his determination and no bottom to the well of his strength." More softly, "And that is why I chose him, be damned to his bloodline."

"Because he’s stronger," Xanxus said, after a moment.

"Because of the times and the reasons he becomes stronger," the Ninth corrected, gently.

Xanxus grunted, which might be agreement or might be confusion, Tsuna didn’t know. He did know he was blushing as he edged back down the hall.

"It’s gone."

Tsuna stopped short, hearing the granite roughness in Xanxus’ voice.

"You’re still alive and breathing, so I doubt it’s really gone," the Ninth said, voice gentle.

Tsuna slipped up to peek out onto the terrace. Xanxus was hunched over, leaning on the rail and the Ninth stood beside him, one hand on his back.

"I’ve tried," Xanxus growled, raggedly. "I’ve tried over and over and nothing happens!"

The Ninth looked at his son thoughtfully. "Xanxus. Tell me. The people you knew, as a child. How do you feel about them, now?"

Tsuna saw a little of Xanxus’ sudden snarl, even from his angle.

"Those fucking bastards. I hate them. I want to crush them all!" One hand fisted and light flashed between his fingers.

Xanxus jerked upright, and it winked out.

"What the…?"

The Ninth smiled. "I thought so. It isn’t gone, my boy."

Xanxus turned, frowning. "But every time I tried…"

The Ninth snorted into his moustache. "You didn’t try it with a target who truly deserved your anger, did you?" His voice gentled as he patted Xanxus’ shoulder. "Tsunayoshi freed your intuition and showed you the truth, didn’t he? That those people aren’t the whole world. Hard to unknow that, now; of course it affects your Flame."

"Wish he’d minded his own goddamn business," Xanxus grumbled, though it was half-hearted and distracted as he stared at his own hand.

"I don’t." The Ninth smiled up at him. "Because now I have my son back. And he can hear me when I say I love him, this time."

Xanxus looked up at that, a sudden tangle of pain and doubt and hesitant want sweeping over his face.

Tsuna tip-toed away, feeling really hopeful for the first time.

"…and I could have destroyed all of the Family’s enemies." Xanxus was pacing again, restless.

"The boss needs to be powerful, yes, and able to protect the Family." The Ninth sipped from his wineglass and set it down on the balcony’s table, eyes following his son. "But, as you were then, I’m afraid I doubted you would bother to protect instead of simply destroy."

"It’s better to be sure," Xanxus growled. "Better to obliterate your enemies than leave them alive to try again."

"And would even that have made you feel safe?" the Ninth asked, quietly.

Xanxus stopped abruptly and stood still, face turned away.

"A boss’ job is to make all his Family safe." The Ninth looked down at his hands. "In that, I failed you. I’m glad Tsunayoshi retrieved my mistake, but… I can’t blame you if you find it hard to trust."

After a long moment Xanxus said, voice low, "I never really tried it."

Tsuna’s heart cracked at the wryness of the Ninth’s smile and the shadow of hope in it, and at how young Xanxus’ eyes looked when he turned his head and stared at his father.

"What keeps you safe?" he asked, at last.

The Ninth’s smile widened, and he opened his hand, gesturing at the mansion behind them. "Having people who love you near is the safest thing I’ve ever found."

Xanxus frowned. "Huh."

Tsuna firmly stifled an urge to bang his head against the wall with frustration. They’d hear him if he did.

"…a very simple young man, really," the Ninth was saying as Tsuna sidled up to the balcony door. "He acts because he cares. Once you know that, it’s easy to predict what he’ll do."

Xanxus snorted, leaning his hips against the rail. "Except for the times he acts on idiot moral outrage, or whatever the hell that was."

"Tsunayoshi would never have set his hand on you if he didn’t believe in his heart that you’re one of his Family, and worthy of his care," the Ninth said quietly.

Tsuna expected the kind of scoffing Xanxus had always met the least such suggestion with, but Xanxus was silent.

"I don’t get how he can," he said at last, staring out over the hills. "I tried to kill him, for fuck’s sake."

The Ninth snorted into his moustache. "So did his Mist Guardian, didn’t he? And look how that’s ended up."

An unwilling grin tugged at Xanxus’ mouth.

"I’ve seen Tsunayoshi arguing with the Vendicare themselves on Rokudou Mukurou’s behalf. He’s done his best to heal the man, and to give him both freedom and a home. It seems," the Ninth glanced up at Xanxus from under bushy brows, "to be a bit of a habit with him."

Xanxus crossed arms tightened and he looked back at the Ninth, eyes dark.

The Ninth smiled. "He protects his people. Remember that, and it will all make sense."

Tsuna slipped away, biting his lip. He felt positive the Ninth was being more generous than he deserved.

"I… I didn’t… when you let me go… why… " Xanxus’ words were soft and stumbling, and Tsuna wondered for a moment if he was drunk or drugged. He’d never heard Xanxus sound like that before.

"I hoped," the Ninth said, just as soft. "It may have been foolish of me, but I hoped that, with my successor named, we could set aside all of that and try again to just be father and son." He sighed. "I suppose that was pretty insensitive of me, all things considered. I’m sorry."

"It… wasn’t your fault."

Peeking out, Tsuna saw that the Ninth had Xanxus’ hands in his and Xanxus wasn’t pulling away, though he looked at a loss over what else he should do.

"You are my son," the Ninth said, firmly. "I have always been here for you. I always will be." More softly, he added, "I couldn’t just leave you like that."

Xanxus looked up at the old man standing in front of him and, slowly, nodded. "Okay." His voice was rough and husky, and even without reaching for the Flame Tsuna could perceive the fear tightening his shoulders. But his hands wrapped around the Ninth’s in turn.

Tsuna edged quickly back down the hall, far enough to drag out his handkerchief and wipe his eyes and blow his nose and walk back toward his office grinning like an idiot.

"You sound like being the boss and being a dad are the same thing, half the time."

The Ninth chuckled. "Well, there’s a reason we call it a Family, after all."

Xanxus blinked as if that had never occurred to him, and, lurking in the hall, Tsuna did too. He certainly never felt like a father, dealing with his Family.

A babysitter, maybe.

From the sardonic twist to his mouth Xanxus might be thinking the same thing. "Might be just as well, then. Never wanted kids."

The Ninth’s eyes twinkled. "You’re sure you want to keep the Varia, then?"

Xanxus shrugged, looking a bit uncomfortable. The Ninth reached over and patted his arm. "Well, I’m sure you’ve gotten used to them by now," he said gently.

Xanxus looked at his hands, frowning, more thoughtful than angry for once. "Maybe."

After weeks of trying very hard not to intrude on Xanxus and the Ninth, or at least trying very hard not to be caught, and of sternly forbidding anyone else to eavesdrop either, Tsuna was extremely startled to find Xanxus waiting for him, in the shadows of his office.

"Xanxus," he greeted the man’s reemergence.

Xanxus watched him silently for a long moment before looking down at his own crossed arms. "Sawada."

Tsuna waited, encouraged by the lack of immediate hostility.

"You haven’t yet, but. If you did send the Varia out." Xanxus paused for a long moment, not looking up. "What kind of people would you aim us for?"

Tsuna was quiet for a long moment. "I can only imagine sending you after someone crazy. Someone I hadn’t been able to talk to. Someone who was killing our people, or-" he remembered the future that hadn’t happened, "-destroying our world. Someone I couldn’t find any other way of stopping." He spread his hands. That was the truth as clearly as he could give it, and he waited to see what Xanxus would do with it.

"Mm. Could probably do that."

Tsuna’s mouth quirked at the grudging tone and then he straightened as he recalled what the Ninth had said to Xanxus about targets that deserved his anger. Was Xanxus actually afraid he couldn’t do the job he’d chosen any longer?

"I’ve been thinking, though," he essayed, by way of testing the idea, "since the Varia are more in the open now, anyway, maybe there’s call for your abilities outside of assassinations."

Xanxus gave him a hard look and Tsuna mentally nodded to himself.

"I mean, I need to get to people before I can talk to them, don’t I?" he added, ingenuously. "And the Varia are the very best at getting to people."

Xanxus snorted. "And then I’ll be right there to kill them when you completely flop," he drawled.

"I’d rather you not, but if it really does have to be done, then yes." Tsuna returned Xanxus’ look evenly and saw a flicker of respect. "Are you staying?" he finished, softly, offering that choice again.

Xanxus stilled for a long moment.

Finally he pushed away from the wall and stood, looking down at Tsuna, eyes dark. Tsuna felt like the entire world held its breath. When Xanxus spoke, his voice was clear and even.