An Offer You Can’t Refuse

There comes a time in every young man’s life when he must seek his fortune. Sawada Iemitsu is off to seek his. Occurs not too long before “Blood Will Tell“. Teen+; some implicit, mostly-offscreen violence.

Sawada Iemitsu couldn’t remember a time when he hadn’t known that he was—or could have been, if he’d wanted to be—the heir to a great mafia empire. It was the family legend, the story that his mother sang him to sleep by and the reason his father made him enroll in Italian lessons after school. That Iemitsu’s great-great-grandfather had chosen to leave his Italian empire behind was their family’s great regret, and their scapegoat any time something went wrong. They held to it like a talisman, promising each other that if only the First hadn’t left Italy so long ago, none of this—a refrigerator that was elderly and had to be coaxed into working regularly, the fact that Tousan’s boss wouldn’t give him a promotion, Iemitsu’s dismissal from the basketball team—would have happened, and life would have been infinitely better.

Iemitsu’s teachers didn’t get around to logic until late in middle school, but when they finally did, he was able to put his finger on the thing that had always troubled him about their family legend. They wouldn’t have been there at all, had the First never left Italy, since they were descended from the son Giotto Vongola had fathered when he took a new wife in Japan.

Such was the power of legend that his family didn’t question such things. There was power in having a secret identity that could not be discounted. Iemitsu found it deeply comforting to know that, if he had just wanted to, he could leave all the petty bullshit of his day-to-day life behind, and never have to deal with the demands of cram school again.

And then, the year Iemitsu turned seventeen, a thought occurred to him: Why not?

He did not tell his parents what he intended, since he’d seen with an adolescent’s eyes what he hadn’t as a child. It was a family talisman to say, “If we were still Vongola, none of this would be happening,” but neither his father nor his mother really believed it.

They didn’t want to, either. It was better to daydream than to reach out for more.

Iemitsu rejected that with all the scorn a teenager could muster. He pawned some things—his bike, his watch, his stereo system—and hit up all his friends for money that he promised himself he’d repay, and started working his way towards Italy.

The only thing he took with him from home was a copy of his family register.



It took him months to actually reach Italy, and Iemitsu saw parts of the world he’d never imagined he would: ports, mostly, that were filled with shipping containers and the smell of the ocean and grease and the stink of the harbor, plus men who shouted in at least twenty different languages. He saw the sun rise over Dar es Salaam and learned to dance from a woman in Cape Town. He picked up bits of Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro and a social disease in a whorehouse in Havana. Iemitsu decided that the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen was the aurora borealis against Reykjav√≠k’s night sky, when the sky had been filled with stars so close that he might have reached out a hand and cut himself on them.

Had he been another person, in another life, he might have kept going, because the work and the travel both suited him. The months of labor packed muscle onto his frame and coarsened his hands and his voice. He’d liked the places he’d seen and the people he’d met, mostly, and wouldn’t have minded more. But he was Sawada Iemitsu, and he had a goal, one that let him walk out of Messina’s harbor with a duffel carried over a shoulder and his head held high, thinking himself a man.



The first person Iemitsu asked about the Vongola and where to find them made a sign that Iemitsu didn’t understand before backing away hurriedly. The second person he asked, a lovely young lady who’d been very friendly right up until then, slapped him. Then she hit him with a barrage of Italian so fast that he couldn’t even follow it and left him while he was still reeling.

Iemitsu persisted, undeterred, working his way south along Sicily’s eastern coast (family tradition and a thousand gangster movies having informed him that this was the place to begin). The reactions were the same wherever he went. Either the name Vongola inspired fear in whomever he asked, or it inspired anger. Sometimes, it did both.

He was reflecting on that curious mixture as he stood in the square of a town whose name he’d neglected to learn, rubbing his cheek and wondering why it should be so, when someone asked, behind him, “And who are you to be asking after the Vongola so freely?”

The voice was light and smooth enough that Iemitsu wasn’t sure whether it was male or female. What he was much more certain of was the solid pressure against his ribs, snub-nosed and blunt. “Well, now, why don’t we talk about that?” he suggested, with all the confidence eight months of working on freighters and getting in and out of sticky situations could give him.

“You’re going to talk, yes,” the voice said, and the pressure increased against his ribs. “Walk forward, now. Back to your room. I wouldn’t advise trying to get any ideas.”

“Who, me?” Iemitsu stepped forward; the gun stayed snug against his ribs.

He seemed to have become invisible; the square was full of people, but their eyes slid past him as if he were no longer there. That was the first point at which Iemitsu began to wonder whether coming to Italy had been a good idea after all.

The voice had advised him not to try anything, but that was clearly out of the question. Iemitsu bided his time until they had climbed the rickety set of stairs up to the little room he was renting, and then whirled around.

His plan had been to disarm the voice and then compel its owner to tell him about the Vongola. It didn’t work as smoothly in execution as he’d hoped it would. Instead of letting him twist the gun away, the voice simply sighed, sounding irritated about it. The next thing Iemitsu knew, the world had spun around him, and he was getting splinters in his chin from the rough wooden floor as a knee ground against his kidney. “I told you not to get any ideas,” the voice told him, calm and cool, and twisted Iemitsu’s arm behind his back until Iemitsu grunted and his eyes watered. “Now, tell me. Who are you to be using our Family’s name so easily?”

It was amazing, how he could hear the capital letters when the voice said Family like that, Iemitsu thought, to distract himself from the thought that he was, quite possibly, in a lot of trouble. “Sawada Iemitsu.”

“And who might you be when you’re at home, Mr. Iemitsu?” the voice inquired.

“The great-great grandson of Giotto Vongola,” Iemitsu announced, as calmly as he could manage, given the circumstances.

The pressure on his arm and his kidney increased sharply, till Iemitsu cried out. “That is not a claim you want to make lightly,” the voice informed him, gone sharper. “Let’s try this again. Who are you? And what do you want with the Vongola?”

“My name is Sawada Iemitsu,” he said again, unsteadily, with the uneasy sense that perhaps he could count out his lifespan in minutes, now, rather than years. “I’m the direct descendant of Giotto Vongola. You want my whole family tree?”

The voice twisted his arm tighter still, until Iemitsu was arched taut and panting with the agony of it. “One more time,” it said. “And then I’ll have to become unpleasant. Who are you?”

“I’m not lying, damn it!” Iemitsu yelped, and took refuge in the only thing he knew. “At the end of his reign, the Vongola’s First retired and came to Japan, the home of his Rain. He started a new family there, and—”

“I did tell you,” the voice said, sounding faintly regretful about it, and broke his arm.



It was later, though the only way Iemitsu really knew it was through an application of logic. His every nerve throbbed with pain. That had to have taken time to accomplish: hence, it was later. The process had driven most of the pride out of him, till he didn’t even mind the hoarse sounds coming from his own throat, or the fact that he had curled in on himself like a child.

Somewhere outside his immediate sight, the voice was speaking to someone on the phone. The short, abrupt exchange of words, one-sided, formed so much background noise for the thrum of blood in Iemitsu’s ears. He could make no sense of it, nor did he care to. At length, the voice stopped speaking. Iemitsu got his first glimpse of its physical incarnation when a pair of gleaming leather shoes came to stand in front of his face.

“You’re lucky,” the voice told him, as its owner crouched next to him. “The Ninth wants a look at you himself.”

The words filtered through the buzzing pain, slowly, and resolved into some kind of sense. Iemitsu would have liked to have said something—what?—to them, but could only grunt as a hand wound itself in his hair, lifting his head, and let him get a look at the voice’s face.

The last thought Iemitsu had before something rapped against his temple and sent him down into darkness was disbelief that the voice belonged to a pre-pubescent kid.



There was still pain when he came swimming back to consciousness, now with the added layer of a headache that threatened to split his skull open. He was tied to a chair in a room that he didn’t recognize and whose fittings were much fancier than the one he’d been renting, and there was a man sitting across from him. He was older, perhaps Tousan’s age or a bit more, with streaks of gray running through his mustache and wild eyebrows that shadowed sharp eyes. He was watching Iemitsu. “So,” he said, as Iemitsu blinked at him, slow and stupid with the pain. “You’re Ietsuna and Yoshinobu’s boy.”

The pain had burnt out most of his pride, but not all of it; Iemitsu had enough left to be ashamed that the gratitude of finally being believed made his eyes prickle. “Yes, sir,” he rasped. “I am.”

The man—the Ninth, Iemitsu thought, a dim memory surfacing—overlooked the reaction, which was unspeakably kind of him. “What did you go and do a damn fool thing like coming to Italy for?” he asked instead, gently enough. “If you’d just stayed in Japan, we wouldn’t have had to take notice of you.”

Iemitsu wet his lips, tasting the blood on them, and didn’t bother saying why. He’d told the voice half a dozen times, anyway. “Can’t go back, can I?”

“No.” The Ninth shook his head, regret shadowing his eyes. “Too many people know of you now, thanks to your complete lack of subtlety.”

Iemitsu hung his head as humiliation superseded pain—some of it, anyway. “Dumb of me,” he said, slowly.

“Yes, rather.” The Ninth’s voice was rich with kindness, and no less implacable for it.

Iemitsu raised his head after a moment, determined to meet the Ninth’s eyes and see it through. “What happens now?” He had a dizzy, sick suspicion that he already knew.

“I already have an heir,” the Ninth told him. “I don’t need another. And he doesn’t need a war for the succession, or for any of the other Families to get their hands on you.”

“Guess that’s fair.” Iemitsu was proud of how steady he’d managed to keep his voice. “Doesn’t leave you many choices, does it?”

“No,” the Ninth agreed, calmly, watching him.

Yeah, he’d figured. Iemitsu lifted his chin a fraction higher. “May I ask a favor?”

The Ninth’s mouth quirked under his mustache. “Asking is free.”

Iemitsu sucked in a breath and grimaced as his ribs creaked in protest. “Let me—” no, not send, that presumed too much “—leave a message for my parents?” Not that he knew what he could say to them, exactly. That he was sorry, perhaps, or that he wished they’d never told him who his great-great grandfather had been.

Something that might have been respect showed in the Ninth’s eyes. “You’re taking this very calmly.”

Maybe he’d expected Iemitsu to beg for his life. “I’d like to piss myself, actually,” he confessed. “But that’s not going to do me any good.” And he had just enough pride left in him not to beg.

The Ninth laughed at that, threw his head back and roared, open and amused. “You’re a rare one,” he said, when he’d stopped again, and that was definitely respect on his face now. “Seems a waste.”

“You should see it from my seat,” Iemitsu replied.

That earned him another snort of laughter. “Definitely a waste,” the Ninth repeated, studying him. Whatever he saw must have satisfied him, because he nodded, apparently reaching some conclusion. “You have two options,” he announced. “One is for me to have you shot, because, as you are now, you are a threat to my Family’s stability and its future.”

“What’s behind door number two?” Iemitsu asked, trying not to let himself hope too very hard.

“You’ve entered our world,” the Ninth told him. There was no trace of laughter in his voice now. “You can’t leave it again, so we must find a way for you to exist within it. There is only one way for that to happen that I am willing to permit.”

“What is it?”

The Ninth raised an eyebrow. “Not going to agree immediately?”

“Doesn’t seem like a good idea.” Iemitsu would have liked to have shrugged, but suspected that the pain of doing so wouldn’t have made the gesture worth it. “There could be worse things than getting shot.”

“Mm. Shooting you would definitely be a waste.” The Ninth spread a hand; a massive ring winked at Iemitsu from his finger. “There is an organization. It is of the mafia world. It is separate from the Vongola, though it serves us. Were you to become a member, you would renounce your own right to the Vongola ring forever. You would be bound to our service all your life.” He paused, and added, “We are not kind masters. We strive to be good ones, but we are not kind. It is not an easy life, or a safe one. You will be lucky to see your fortieth birthday if you choose it.”

“I won’t see my next birthday if I don’t.” Iemitsu felt his lip split again as he offered the Ninth a grin that he didn’t quite feel. “It would be you that I’d be serving, then?” he asked, studying the man.

“Yes.” The Ninth inclined his head. “And my son after me.”

Iemitsu studied him, this man who’d wanted to speak with him and had been willing to offer a stupid boy a second chance. “That,” he said, finally, “seems like something I could live with.”

The Ninth’s smile was faint but unmistakable. “I think I should like to see that,” he said, and then called for someone to treat Iemitsu’s injuries.



Later, after giving his vows, first to the CEDEF and then to the Ninth, forswearing his claim to the position of the Vongola’s boss and promising fealty to the Vongola for the rest of his days, Iemitsu made a third vow, this one private.

The First had retired to Japan for a reason. He had sought out obscurity after his reign, and it had been foolishness of his descendants to keep the dream of lost Vongola glory alive.

If someday he himself had a family, Iemitsu decided, bending to kiss the Ninth’s ring as stiff muscles protested the action, he would not tell them of the mafia at all. The First’s Japanese legacy could die with him, as he suspected Giotto Vongola had wanted in the first place.

And surely any family he might have would be happier for it.