Two Hands Make A Pair

In which the Vongola Ninth’s Mist and Rain reach an agreement, and establish a pattern that will carry them forward. This is set about ten years before “Blood Will Tell.” Timoteo has been the Ninth for a little under a decade at this point. This is a sidestory for the arc, focusing pretty much entirely on two of the original characters, and is not necessary to the main thrust of A House Divided—but it may make some character motivations make more sense later.Fraught smut

Pairing(s): Rafaele/Gianni

Gianni may have been the Vongola Ninth’s right hand, and his Mist Guardian besides, but he wasn’t too proud to admit it when he was tired. And tonight, he was tired.

Admitting that he was tired to himself and letting it show to anyone else were, however, two entirely separate things. There were miles yet to go this night—metaphorical ones, if not literal ones—and Gianni frankly didn’t have the time to be tired.

He kept his eyes on the wall opposite him as Timoteo stooped over his wife’s bed and murmured his goodnights. Her reply was low, reedy, barely any louder than the machines that surrounded her.

She was getting worse.

A few moments more, and the Ninth joined him in the hall, closing the door after him, gently. The minute it was shut, some of the straightness left his shoulders, and the smile faded from his mouth.

There were times when one could say something, and times when nothing at all could help. Gianni had lived long enough to be able to tell the difference, and waited now until the Ninth had cleared his throat. “Come on, then,” he said, gruff. “We have work to do.”

“Of course, Boss,” Gianni said, catching Rafaele’s eye in passing as he fell in with the Ninth. The Rain looked almost as tired as Gianni felt.

But neither of them were as tired as the Ninth, so Gianni simply shrugged at him in passing. Rafaele hung back to speak briefly with the bodyguards who’d be taking the night watch at the hospital—no doubt to instruct them to telephone the hotel the instant there seemed to be any change for the worse—and then jogged after them to catch up.

Timoteo began talking almost before they were all in the car, bringing up plans for an expansion into the Pozzo Nero’s territory. He had lots to say, and Gianni was glad not to be driving, so that he could devote his full attention to the Ninth’s ideas. They weren’t bad. They were a little sketchy, of course, but that was only to be expected when the Ninth had come up with the idea while keeping vigil at his wife’s bedside.

The Pozzo Nero weren’t going to know what had hit them. If they were at all wise, they wouldn’t try to resist too hard.

“Well, then, get that started for me,” the Ninth said, as their little convoy rolled up to the hotel and the man they had stationed out front signaled an all clear. “I want to move at the end of the week.”

Gianni blinked; the Ninth wanted to move that fast? “The end of the week?” he repeated.

Rafaele broke in. “That’s short notice, Boss.”

“There’s no sense in wasting time,” the Ninth grunted, as one of their men sprang forward to open the door for him.

“Of course not,” Gianni agreed, stepping out into the spring evening after him. “It’s going to take time to get the ball rolling, though. We’re not exactly at home.”

“I could hardly forget that,” Timoteo snapped.

“I don’t think that’s what Gianni meant,” Rafaele said, smooth and calm. He surrendered the car’s keys to another of their men and came around the car to join them. “Boss, have you really thought this through?”

He’d timed it well, asking just as they stepped through the hotel’s front doors. The Ninth couldn’t answer as they passed into the hotel’s lobby and its crowd of rich, laughing patrons, most of whom ignored the knot of black-suited men moving through their midst. By the time they’d reached the elevators, the Ninth’s temper had had the time to flash in his eyes and then subside again. “You’re right,” he said, once they were alone in a car and it had begun its slow ascent to their floor. “I wasn’t thinking.” He ran a hand over his face. “I forget that not everyone has the time to sit and think that I do, these days.”

Gianni avoided Rafaele’s eyes in the mirrored walls of the elevator’s car, and simply shrugged. “I’ll call Maria tonight and have her and Paolo begin assessing things, so that everything will be ready when we get home.”

“Not tonight,” the Ninth said; Gianni watched his shoulders slump further in their reflection. “Tomorrow will be soon enough.”

“Of course, Boss,” Gianni murmured, as the elevator chimed for their floor and opened onto the hall.

The Ninth found a smile for them, from somewhere, as they stepped out of the car. “Indeed. Take the rest of the night off, you two. It’s still young.” He flicked his hands at them, and then moved away, flanked by his bodyguards.

Rafaele stopped next to Gianni. “Take the night off, he says.” He turned a wry smile on Gianni. “I think he’s mistaking us for Michele.”

“Perhaps,” Gianni agreed, watching the retreat of the Ninth’s back, until he disappeared into his suite.

“Still, it’s not a bad idea.” Rafaele stretched and knocked his shoulder against Gianni’s. “Come with me. I have a bottle of wine. I could use your opinion on it.”

Gianni glanced at him. “Rafaele, you’ve never in your life needed an opinion on a bottle of wine.”

“I need an opinion for this one,” Rafaele told him, placidly, and gestured. “After you.”

Gianni snorted, but let himself be ushered down the hall towards Rafaele’s suite of rooms.



“Well?” Rafaele said later, when Gianni reached the bottom of his glass. “What do you think?”

“I’m not sure.” Gianni held out his glass. “I’d better have another.”

Rafaele laughed and obliged him, topping off his own glass in the process, and Gianni settled more comfortably into his chair. Hotel rooms were the same the world over, but this one wasn’t too bad. It was comfortable enough for sitting in and sharing a bottle of wine, in any case, he decided, sipping the wine and savoring it, red and round and full on his tongue. “It’s a good bottle,” he said. He leaned his head back and sighed. “You didn’t really need me to tell you that,” he added, from behind closed eyes.

“No, but you needed to stop working,” Rafaele said, dry as bone. “And I wasn’t sure that even a direct order was going to get you to do it.”

“This is hardly the time to be lazy,” Gianni said, still with his eyes closed. “Or careless. Whatever he needs—”

“We should do, yes. But that doesn’t include rushing headlong into a petty war with the Pozzo Nero just because the Boss is too distracted to think straight,” Rafaele said.

Gianni’s eyes popped open, and he sat up to argue the point. “We both know—”

“We both know I’m right. Gianni, think, will you? Be his right hand and think about what it would mean if we went haring off on this.” Rafaele was looking at him, steady and calm. “If nothing else, think of what Maria would say.”

That was… a legitimate point. Gianni leaned back and covered his eyes, imagining what their Cloud would have said if he’d called to tell her they were moving against the Pozzo Nero this week. “God.”

“I suspect even God wouldn’t be able to help you.”

“Perhaps not.” Gianni lowered his hand and reached for his wine. “Just as well that we have you to be sensible, isn’t it?”

“At least when it comes to matters like this one,” Rafaele said, and shrugged.

There was something there that Gianni didn’t quite like the sound of. “Matters like this one?” he echoed.

Rafaele took a drink of his wine, dark eyes steady over the glass, and then set it down. “You’re not entirely rational on matters that touch the Boss directly,” he said, finally, matter-of-fact about it. “Not when it comes to doing the things that you think will make him happy. Or just ease his mind when he’s suffering.”

“That sounds suspiciously like you’re accusing me of failing him as his right hand,” Gianni said, anger rising in his chest, tight and hot.

Rafaele continued to look at him, eyes direct and clear. “I’m not. You’re a good right hand. One of the best, even. But when you look at the Boss and see Timoteo and not the Ninth, your heart gets in the way of your head.”

The knot of anger turned icy and changed into a sick twisting in his gut. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” Gianni said, going cold all over.

Rafaele’s answering smile was infinitely kind, and slid between his ribs like a knife. “Gianni, I know,” he said, gently. “We all do, although I expect the twins try not to think about it too closely. It’s all right.”

The enormity of that simple statement was too much to grasp all at once; as precious seconds ticked by, Gianni knew that he ought to be denying the accusation, or pretending that he didn’t follow Rafaele’s meaning—doing something that would defuse the situation. But he couldn’t quite marshal the wits to do it with, and sat, staring like some lackwit as Rafaele watched him, patiently. “You…”

“Not everyone would be able to see it,” Rafaele continued, still with that gentle, relentless look on his face. “You hide it very well. But we’re your Family. We know you better than anyone else does. When we’re united in one purpose, you can’t exactly hide your heart from us.”

“Why are you telling me this now?” Gianni demanded, taking refuge in harshness against the probability that he was about to lose—everything.

“It’s never presented a problem till now.” Rafaele lifted a shoulder, shrugging. He reached for his wine again and drained the glass. “And I don’t think it needs to be a problem. What you need is someone to watch your back for you.”

Gianni couldn’t help sneering. “I suppose you’re offering?”

“Of course I am. I’m your friend. And your Family.” Rafaele raised an eyebrow at him. “What else would I do?”

Gianni could feel his mouth twist at all the ugly possibilities. “I can think of half a dozen things. None of them involve watching my back.”

“We’re Vongola,” Rafaele reminded him. “That’s not our way. Not with our own.” He seemed to consider it, and reached over to close his hands around Gianni’s, his grip warm and reassuring. “Gianni. I will guard you. I will help you. You have my word on this—my word and my oath.”

“Rafaele…” Gianni took a breath and steadied himself against the strength of Rafaele’s hands around his and the solemn weight in his gaze. Now was no time for pride, not when the Family itself was at stake. “Someone to… oversee me in this would… be most welcome.” He looked away. “My weaknesses must not be allowed to affect the Family.”

“Here, now.” Rafaele gave his hands a shake; when Gianni looked back, he was frowning. “None of that. Love is not a weakness. You’re not weak, either.”

“Don’t try to flatter me,” Gianni said, not quite able to stop the way his mouth twisted on the words. “We both know what this is.” It was kind of Rafaele to try to spare his pride, of course, but the man ought to have been calling for him to resign—from his position as the Ninth’s right hand, if nothing else.

“No,” Rafaele said, slowly, watching him. “No, I’m beginning to think that we don’t.” He frowned again, eyes going thoughtful. “I think you’ve been carrying this alone for too long.”

“It’s not the sort of thing you share,” Gianni told him. “Not really.”

“No?” Rafaele’s smile was quick, sudden—one of his I’ve just had an idea smiles. “I wonder about that.”

“Rafaele,” Gianni began, although trying to forestall the Rain when he’d decided to meddle was nearly always a lost cause. “It’s—”

It’s all right, he’d been meaning to say, or perhaps, It’s nothing I’m not used to. Rafaele didn’t let him do it. He let go of Gianni’s hands and came out of his chair to lean over Gianni’s. “You shouldn’t think yourself alone,” he said, quietly, and curved a hand around Gianni’s jaw.

“What in God’s name do you think you’re doing?” Gianni asked, low and harsh.

“Kissing you,” Rafaele said, with an easy smile. “We’ll see about the rest in a bit, I think.”

Rafaele had him caged in well enough that he couldn’t really recoil when Rafaele leaned closer and pressed their mouths together, kissing him, slow and hot and competent. If he felt any qualms about kissing another man, he gave no sign of it. He kissed Gianni insistently, mouth moving against Gianni’s until Gianni answered it, grudgingly, and kissed back, feeling Rafaele’s pleased rumble more than hearing it when he did. “What are you doing?” he asked again, when Rafaele finally drew back, just a bit. “I don’t want your pity. I don’t need that.”

“It’s not pity, you stubborn bastard.” Rafaele smiled at him, wry and exasperated. He rubbed his thumb against the corner of Gianni’s jaw. “It’s friendship.”

Gianni leaned into the touch, to his own disgust. “You’re not—like I am,” he said. “Friendship doesn’t go this far.”

Rafaele’s mouth crooked. “There’s a man by the name of Kinsey who I think you ought to read up on,” he said, obliquely, and then leaned in to kiss Gianni again, slow and sure. “You let me decide just how far my friendship goes,” he added, against Gianni’s mouth. “Trust me to know what I’m doing.”

Gianni let out a breath that was shaky, and not just because of the thought of what it might mean to be able to trust Rafaele with this part of himself. “You really think you know what you’re doing here?”

“Been studying on it for a while, so I figure I do,” Rafaele said, still with that relaxed smile.

“Do you?” Gianni asked, low and harsh, resenting the easiness of the offer. “You’re ready to let me bend you over and fuck you? And to suck my cock? And to know it’s not even you I’ll be thinking about?”

Rafaele’s eyes and smile stayed steady. “Yes.” He seemed to stop, and reconsider. “But if you’re thinking about someone else the whole time, then that’s a sign I’m doing something wrong. Don’t you think?” he asked, letting his hand fall away from Gianni’s jaw. It dropped into Gianni’s lap, curving over the front of Gianni’s slacks and palming his cock through them, kneading the half-hard length of it. Softly, he added, “I don’t think your mind has even wandered all that far.”

Damn him for a smug bastard. “You should know what you’re getting into,” Gianni told him, half-gasping the words, hips lifting into the pressure of Rafaele’s palm—God, it had been too long since he’d done anything like this, and it showed all too clearly in how he was responding, especially when Rafaele smiled and pressed harder. “Rafaele—”

“Enough,” Rafaele told him. “I know what I’m doing.” He kissed Gianni again, slowly, purposefully, until Gianni arched against him and caught his hand on one of Rafaele’s solid shoulders, gripping it. “Unless you have other objections?” he murmured against Gianni’s mouth, fingers undoing his slacks and sliding inside.

There were plenty, only Gianni couldn’t quite manage to lay hands on them, not with Rafaele’s fingers wrapping around him, stroking over him, sure and unhesitating. He suspected that Rafaele knew it, from the way Rafaele smiled at the incoherent sound he made when Rafaele’s thumb dragged over his head. “Bastard,” Gianni said, low, managing that much, at least.

“Yes, when I need to be,” Rafaele agreed, and kissed him again, deep and hot, mouth moving against Gianni’s, coaxing, until Gianni surrendered to the slowness of it and to the heat twining through him, and let his hips rock into the grip of Rafaele’s fist. It took an embarrassingly short time after that for the heat to draw him out of himself, pleasure rushing down every nerve, sweeping him along with it.

When he could begin to think again, Rafaele had pressed himself close, fitting himself against Gianni as best as the chair would let him, and had an arm around him, supporting him. “Yes,” he was saying against Gianni’s ear, voice pitched low and intimate. “I have you. It’s all right, I have you.”

That sent a shudder of something down Gianni’s spine, slow and convulsive, and he rested his forehead against Rafaele’s shoulder. “Fuck,” he rasped, when he could manage to speak again.

“If you like.” Rafaele’s lips moved against the side of his through, shaping the words against his skin. “I’ve got you.”

“You’re absolutely insane,” Gianni told him, since it was the purest truth. Rafaele’s shoulder shook under his forehead—laughter, low and warm. “You are,” he insisted, and reached between them to prove it. “As much as I appreciate the—” He stopped short as his fingers encountered the unmistakable lines of Rafaele’s cock straining against the confines of his slacks.

Rafaele’s laughter husked against his ear. “Mmm,” he said, “you were saying?”

Gianni lifted his head and eyed him. Rafaele’s smile was sleek and satisfied, though his eyes were hungry. “I cannot believe you.”

Rafaele arched an eyebrow at him. “What is there to believe?”

Gianni declined to answer that; something about the way Rafaele looked at him suggested that he already knew. “We should move,” he said, instead, and watched Rafaele’s eyes go dark. “To the bed.”

“I like that idea,” Rafaele murmured, and collected another kiss from him before drawing back, straightening up and turning towards the bedroom.

Gianni followed after him, watching the easy, unselfconscious way Rafaele stripped out of his shirt and draped it over a chair, and shed his slacks with the same careless ease before finally stepping out of his underwear and then stretching out on the turned-down sheets.

It made him wonder if Rafaele actually knew how beautiful he was.

“Well, are you just going to stand there?” Rafaele asked him, after a moment, smiling like he was satisfied with the way Gianni had been staring.

“No,” Gianni said, coming away from the doorway and shedding his own clothes before joining him. “I wasn’t planning on it,” he added, leaning over Rafaele and kissing him.

Rafaele arched against him with a pleased sound, hands finding Gianni’s back and stroking down it. “Mm, glad to hear it,” he said, with a fearless smile. “What do you—”

Gianni stopped him, laying two fingers against his lips. “Enough,” he said, quietly. “Let me.”

“Of course,” Rafaele said, when Gianni took his fingers away. “Anything you like.”

The wonder of it was that he meant it, too.

“I know,” Gianni told him, and kissed him again.

Rafaele hummed against his mouth as he did, arching into Gianni’s hands as they followed the shape of him, moving over Rafaele’s solid shoulders and chest and stroking down over his stomach and thighs. He spread his legs against the sheets, willingly, and broke away from Gianni’s mouth long enough to say, “In the drawer on this side.”

Gianni couldn’t make himself be surprised when the reach over to the bedside table turned up a bottle of oil. “You’ve been planning for this,” he said, turning the discreet little bottle in his fingers.

“Of course.” Rafaele smiled at him, lazily. “It seemed like the prudent thing to do.”

“I see.” Gianni set the bottle down and shifted down the bed. Rafaele made an interrogative noise that turned into a gasp as Gianni knelt between his legs and bent his head to stroke his mouth over Rafaele’s cock.

Rafaele moaned his name, low and open, and again as Gianni ran his tongue over him, slow and deliberate, taking him in and savoring the heavy weight of him on his tongue. Gianni watched Rafaele as he moved his mouth over Rafaele’s cock, watching the pleasure chasing itself over Rafaele’s face and the way Rafaele arched and shifted under his hands, lean and unselfconscious, until he finally drew taut, shuddering apart on a low cry.

Rafaele turned against him when Gianni settled at his side, afterwards. “Mm,” he said, sounding distinctly satisfied, “I should have done that a while ago, I think.”

“I can’t believe you’ve been so desperate for a bed partner that you’ve been considering me for it,” Gianni returned, lightly.

Rafaele opened his half-closed eyes, the look in them going sharp. “Who said I was the desperate one?” He reached out and touched the place between Gianni’s eyebrows. “You’re the one who looks like ten years just came off him.”

“Was it that bad?” Gianni asked, rather than deny it.

Rafaele’s eyes softened. “Yes. Every time you look at the Ninth these days, it gets a little worse.”

Gianni rolled onto his back and covered his eyes with his arm. “I can’t do anything,” he said, admitting it out loud, finally. “This is tearing him apart, and there isn’t a fucking think I can do for him, and—”

Rafaele’s arm slid around him, and Rafaele himself was warm against his side. “I know,” he said. “Believe me, I know.”

“Not like I do,” Gianni told him. “And now I can’t even trust myself because of it—”

Rafaele’s arm tightened around him as his voice broke. “But you can trust me,” he said, low and serious. “You’re not doing this alone. You have me.”

Funny, that it should be the assurance of that offer which finally broke him, but it did. Gianni turned and pressed himself against Rafaele, tucking his face into the curve of Rafaele’s throat. “Promise me that you won’t let me fuck up because of this,” he said, hoarse.

Rafaele’s arms slid around him, securely. “I promise,” he said.

Gianni closed his eyes, accepting that. “I’m so tired,” he admitted, after a moment.

That didn’t begin to encompass it all, but Rafaele seemed to understand anyway. “I know,” he said, gently, and set a hand in Gianni’s hair, stroking it. “But you can rest with me.”

Gianni exhaled, slow and stuttering; when he finally began to relax against that promise, Rafaele took his weight without a murmur of protest. “Thank you.”

“Any time,” Rafaele told him, and held him until he fell asleep.

– end –