Over, Under or Around

Mari decides that something has to be done to make Fedele comfortable in the Family again. Drama, I-2

The study was quiet; Mother hadn’t come in yet and Mari had sent Mamoru out with Uncle Gokudera to talk to the Cometti. In fact, the study was a little too quiet. Mari dropped the latest report on the Leone and gave up trying to concentrate. "Father, we have to do something about Fedele."

Her father looked up from his chair across the room, smile wry and unsurprised. "For that to work, he has to be willing for something to be done." At Mari’s frown he sighed and leaned back. "Do you know how hard it was to get him to accept a place as one of your mother’s bodyguards? And nothing I said stopped him from stepping down after—" He broke off, mouth tightening. "Well, there were some… remarks made."

Mari remembered her moment of insight and crossed her arms. "Are there really people in this Family who still think he betrayed Federico?" she asked, low.

"Fedele lived when Federico didn’t."

"Because he was left for dead! I’ve read those reports!" Mari glared. "What, couldn’t the people who doubt just ask Uncle Xanxus about it directly? It’s not like he wouldn’t tell them the truth."

Father burst out laughing, and Mari waited impatiently for him to get a grip again. "Mari," he said, finally, "you have a bit of a unique relationship with Xanxus, you know."

"Yes, I’ve read those reports, too. I know he used to be kind of crazy. But you managed him just fine, and he’s not running around blowing people away at random any more, is he?"

Father sighed. "No, he isn’t. But Mari," he met her eyes, suddenly serious, "have you ever thought that might be part of the problem, for Fedele? The man who killed his boss is still a part of this Family."

Mari felt a bit like she’d run into a wall. "Oh." She bit her lip. "And he can’t challenge Xanxus, can he? Because you don’t want that happening inside the Family." All right, this was a drawback to her father’s policy she hadn’t foreseen.

"That’s why I’ve tried to let him find his own distance," he admitted.

Mari stared down at her crossed arms, thinking. Fedele was loyal to the Vongola, she had absolutely no doubt of that. But maybe, and this was the new thought, maybe he didn’t feel much like the Vongola were loyal back to him. What, short of letting him try to kill Xanxus which could only end badly, would make him feel a proper, valued part of the Family?

What did she do for anyone who was part of her Family?

Finally she looked up. "I think," she said, slowly, "that I want to try something different."

Fedele looked a bit surprised when he answered the door to find Mari standing there. "Mario left earlier; did you miss him?"

"Oh no, he’s up at the mansion now." Mari breezed in and made for the kitchen. "No, I wanted to visit you today." She’d been here often enough to know where the cups were and swiftly set out coffee and a tray for the pastries she’d brought along, fruits of a long conference with her mother’s pastry chef.

Her mother usually used tea for this purpose, but Mari had grown up with coffee and so had her target, after all.

"You’re never up at the mansion, so you miss Lucia’s baking," she informed her host and victim, light and social. "Mother’s cook Lucia, that is, my Lucia burns water. Mother’s Lucia said you might like the ones with honey." She pointed those out helpfully as she set the plate and two cups of coffee on the table and seated herself with a cheerful smile.

Fedele opened his mouth, closed it again, and gave her a long look. "I see." He pulled out the chair across from hers and sat, taking up his cup for a sip. "Sometimes a single person’s company only emphasizes solitude," he murmured.

Fedele had been chosen as a prospective boss’ right hand, after all, and had well over twice her lifetime’s experience to boot, Mari reflected ruefully. He wasn’t going to be an easy job. That was all right, though; they could start with small steps, like coffee. "The quality of the company has to be taken into account, doesn’t it?" she sallied back. Of all people, Fedele should know that the heir trailed the weight of position and Family wherever she went, alone or not.

"You won’t do yourself any favors by this, Mari," he said, almost gently. "Or me, for that matter."

"The idiots who have their heads up their asses will be suspicious of you whether I’m here or not." Mari took a bite of an almond cookie to start the eating off. "And if they prove it in my hearing it’s no trouble at all for me to yank their heads out, I assure you."

His mouth twitched at that, and Mari hid a tiny smile in her coffee. Small steps.

"Father is probably a bit hampered by feeling guilty for being the one who bound Xanxus properly into the Family," she pointed out. "But I’m not. And I inherited all of his stubbornness, just ask any of my Uncles and Aunts."

Fedele made a faintly exasperated sound. "I never really doubted that." He absently picked up a pastry.

"Good!" Mari leaned her chin in her hand and smiled brightly. "So, are Tuesdays good for you?"

He paused, perhaps becoming aware of his mouthful of pastry, and eyed her for a long moment. "I suspect," he said, swallowing, "that it won’t matter in the end whether it is or not."

"Oh, no," Mari protested. "If another day is better I’m sure I can change my schedule."

"Yes, that’s what I meant," he said dryly.

She returned his gaze, letting the brightness slip away for a moment, quiet but immovable. "It isn’t right. This is your Family. You have never failed us. If we’ve failed you, then something must be done."

He twitched back in his chair at that, rueful amusement wiped away to show the shadows plainly again. Mari didn’t look aside and at last he bent his head over his cup. "Blood of Vongola," he murmured. "I’d forgotten, a little." He took a slow breath and finally said, "Actually, Tuesdays would be fine."

"Good," Mari said softly.

Step by small step.