Archimedes’ Lever – Three

Xanxus is finally finding his place in the Family when everything is upset again. Drama, Angst, I-4

When Xanxus finally came out of his rooms the way people looked at him made him twitch. He really wanted to scream at them that it was all over, now, didn’t they know he was a fake anyway? But they wouldn’t have any clue what he meant.

His fa— the old man had explained it, when Squalo had, eventually, let him in.

“Even if we put it around that you’re not mine by blood, half of them won’t believe it,” he’d said quietly. “And the other half… well. If your blood comes from the Second instead of me, it’s still Vongola, and there have been times in our history when legitimacy was… made not to matter.”

“And we have to deal with the situation as it is,” Staffieri had added. “Simply disowning your claim and suppressing this would be no service to the Family. Or to you.”

Part of him was glad they felt goddamn guilty about this, and part of him was uncomfortable about feeling glad, and most of him was pissed off about both parts.

When they got to the Varia, the looks changed, and Xanxus was glad of it. These looks were only assessing, only wondering Are you stronger than me? and he could deal with that a lot easier. He straightened his spine, and listened to Squalo pointing out this or that squad leader and listing out his strengths and weaknesses, and recalled that Squalo had been trained to lead this group.

Eventually Tyr met them, a lean graying man, one handed, who cast a dry glance over the tail of Varia members they’d picked up. “Squalo,” the man said, not sounding loud but clear enough for everyone to hear, “is it true you’re willing to step aside in Xanxus’ favor?”

A low murmur ran around the watching crowd as Squalo raised his chin. “Of course.”

Tyr ran a subtle eye over the watchers and nodded to himself. “All right, then.” He beckoned to Xanxus. “Come show me what you’re made of.”

Xanxus shrugged. He’d expected a trial of some kind.

“The Varia’s standards of training are harsher than most,” Tyr noted, apparently to thin air as he led Xanxus out into open air. “Nothing is forbidden. No blow, no weapon, no technique, as long as you don’t actually kill each other.”

Xanxus considered that. So he couldn’t shoot the man straight on with his Flame, and that was about it. Not bad. “All right.”

Tyr turned fluidly and lunged straight for him, blade suddenly out.

Xanxus bared his teeth as he spun aside. Now this he understood.

Tyr was good. Maybe even a shade better than Squalo, with a sword, and Squalo had come back from his year away able to beat Martelli two out of three. Xanxus didn’t have attention to spare from the fight, but still quick flashes of awareness of the watching Varia came to him: people standing silently, people hidden in the shadows of trees and buildings, the glint of sun on metal, the rising tide of whispers running under the crack and roar of his shots.

When he and Tyr stopped still, the edge of Tyr’s blade against his throat and the barrel of his gun pressed to Tyr’s chest, there was silence.

Tyr’s expression was just as cool and dry as it had been at the start. He nodded and flicked his sword away, stepping back. “You’ll do.”

A low laugh ran through the crowd and the watchers unraveled at once, talking quietly, smiling, hands cutting the air demonstratively. Xanxus caught a few bits of conversation.

“Another year at least…”

“…months, maybe.”

“…right now if it were for real, but…”

Tyr murmured, undervoiced, “The day you can defeat me clearly is the day they will accept you as the Varia’s leader.”

Well all right, that made sense. Xanxus nodded. “Okay.”

“At least,” Tyr added, even dryer than usual, “with the both of you here I can be fairly sure you’ll give your whole attention to it. Squalo has been rather distracted this year.”

Squalo gave the man a dirty look. “Some things come first.” He edged closer to Xanxus.

Xanxus let a breath out. He understood this place. He could deal with it. And Squalo was right here with him. He’d have a place of his own to stand in while he tried to figure out how the hell to deal with his… He hesitated and finished the thought slowly.

His family.

Xanxus pulled out a chair and slouched comfortably down into it. “So? What’s this about?” He noticed Staffieri’s faintly disapproving look and traded him a half-hearted sneer. Getting the old man’s Guardians to frown used to be kind of a fun game, but there wasn’t as much shine to it these days.

Not that that stopped him from sitting any way he damn well wanted to.

“Tyr said you asked for my squad,” he prompted, crossing his legs.

“I’m not sure it isn’t overkill, but I’d rather be safe this time,” the old man sighed. “More than one of our mainland holdings has been attacked this month.”

Xanxus’ brows rose. “I didn’t hear anything about a new war.”

“All of the attacks were specific hits on the under-bosses in charge there,” Staffieri said quietly, folding his hands. “They were all done by the same man. He alleges to be an independent, but we doubt that very much.”

Xanxus cocked his head. “So you want him taken out, or the people behind him?” He smiled thinly. “Or both?”

Staffieri glanced at the old man, and then across the table at Federico. “That is the subject of some debate.”

Xanxus eyed his bro… Federico with real surprise. “You think we should go for the source?”

Federico gave the old man a rueful smile. “I’m afraid so. Less,” he looked back at Xanxus sharply, “to make a clean sweep of it…”

Xanxus snorted. Yeah, he’d always been the only practical one as far as he could tell.

“…than because I don’t think we can avoid it and we might as well face them on our own terms.”

The old man leaned forward on his elbows and sighed. “Perhaps you’re right, and we can’t avoid it. But I would like to try for a little longer. We’re aware of the threat now, and by answering it this way,” he opened a hand at Xanxus, “we leave the door open for less explosive negotiations.”

Xanxus grunted. “Guess I can wait for later, then.” The old man looked a little pained and he rolled his eyes. “Tell me who I’m after, then. We’ll take care of it.” Staffieri slid a folder down the table to him and he flipped through it. Finally he flipped it closed with another snort. “Piece of cake.”

Federico laughed a little. “Good to see you enjoying your work.” He leaned over and ruffled Xanxus’ hair.

Xanxus swatted at his hand indignantly. “I’m not goddamn twelve anymore, knock that the fuck off!” He would have thought his damn brother got the hint when Xanxus bit him for doing that, when he was fourteen.

Federico leaned his chin on his fist, grinning. “What? I am glad, that’s all.”

“Well yeah, since it doesn’t involve you dying, I bet you are,” Xanxus muttered.

“That too,” Federico agreed.

Xanxus considered, glumly, what kind of boss Federico was likely to be to work for. Maybe, when he was in charge, he could move the Varia headquarters further away from the main house.

The old man was smiling a little.

Xanxus pushed himself up and waved at the lot of them with the folder. “We’ll take care of it. I’ll tell you when we’re done.” He stalked out while he still had some fucking dignity and went to find Squalo. Squalo was good at planning this kind of stuff.

And he made the world feel a little more real after Xanxus had had to deal with his damn family.

“It was the Cetrulli. We caught a few of them who were slow getting away from the ambush.”

Xanxus felt like his brain was buzzing. He could barely make sense of Maria’s words. Or maybe that was because of her voice, flat and toneless.

Federico’s body was laid out laid out under sheets in front of them. The useless doctors had already gone away.

“The Cetrulli,” someone said, and he realized distantly that it was him.

The Cetrulli Family had killed Federico.

They had killed his brother.

He turned his eyes from the body to his father; it felt like his neck muscles creaked, like he’d been frozen there, staring, for years.

“They’re going to die,” he said, as flat as Maria had been. “I’m going to kill them. Every single goddamned one of them.” The more he thought about that, the more he wanted to move, to go, right now. His voice rose. “I’m going to burn their House to the ground.” Nothing he was looking at made sense to him, except Federico’s still body.

And the slicing edge of rage in the old man’s eyes as they rose to meet his. That too.

“Yes. Take who you need and do it.”

Staffieri stirred, looking up. “Timoteo…”

“I will not forgive this,” the old man said, low and harsh. “He was right all along. We should have taken this war to the Cetrulli months ago. I’m done speaking to them.” His voice fell to a whisper. “Let his brother avenge him in the name of our Family.”

Xanxus couldn’t listen to anything else. He felt like he could barely hear anything else. The Ninth said he could go, that was all he needed. He spun away, and Squalo was at his side as he stalked through the halls, snapping orders, calling not just for his own squad of the Varia but all the others too.

His guns were around his hips. People were boiling out of the house behind him. Squalo was beside him, sword in one hand. So were the old man’s Sun and Storm, and Xanxus remembered that the body laid out beside Federico’s had been Rizzo’s son.

There was road and city and road, and then the climb through the low hills to the Cetrulli main house, and the silence of the Varia spread out around him, the faint rustle of other foot soldiers following after.

And then there was Flame.

There was rage like he hadn’t felt for years, blind, red fury at the whole world. No, not the whole world—just the Cetrulli. They had taken something, stolen it, they had tried to make his world the bleak, filthy scrabble it used to be, and he was going to destroy them for it. The Flame of Wrath rose up out of the core of him, pressed diamond hard and sharper than any steel, and he fed it to his guns and fired it out, away from him.

Walls cracked and burst and he barely noticed them falling around him. Men ran through the burning halls and he shot them down as they crossed his path. There was nothing but the Flame and his rage and the screams and movement of the world fading around him.

“Xanxus. Xanxus! Boss!”

He snapped back into focus, because those were Squalo’s hands on his arms, shaking him. “What?”

Squalo’s mouth twisted. “It’s over.”

Xanxus looked around at the smoking ruins of the Cetrulli house, the litter of rubble and bodies. “Oh.”

Squalo pushed him down on a reasonably flat pile of concrete, hands still firm on his shoulders. “You back with me, now?”

Xanxus had to think about it for a moment. “…yeah.”

Squalo just nodded and sat down beside him and fished out a rag to start cleaning his sword with.

As the shock of coming back lifted, Xanxus leaned forward, elbows on his knees. He hurt. There was no blood of his on him and he hurt anyway. That was not, he decided, fair. He’d destroyed the ones who tried to break his world, shouldn’t he not hurt any more?

Except that the part they’d broken was still gone.

The thought made him suck in a fast breath between his teeth and swallow down a raw sound in his throat. Squalo left his sword and rested a hand on his back without looking up. “Here,” he said quietly.

Yes. What was his was still here.

At least… part of it. Another part, part of his… his family, wasn’t, no matter how much he destroyed. All told, he’d have preferred spending all this effort before that happened; that seemed like a fairer exchange.

Xanxus scrubbed a hand over his face. “Maybe,” he said, very low, “you and Martelli weren’t crazy after all. What he always said about doing things for the Family.”

“Yeah,” Squalo said quietly. “I think he was right.”

Eventually Xanxus stood up again and looked around for his squads to take them back home.

Xanxus slouched in a chair and snorted under his breath as yet another ambassador from another Family danced around trying to tell the old man that he shouldn’t have smashed the whole Cetrulli Family for killing his son.

The Orsini’s man glanced at him nervously. “The destruction of the entire Family…” he started, and Xanxus lost his temper and slapped a hand down on the table. He took some satisfaction in the way the man jumped.

“They touched my Family,” he growled, and ignored the way Staffieri’s brows quirked at his emphasis. Too bad if he didn’t like it; the man wasn’t his right hand, after all. “They should have goddamn well expected it, and so should the rest of you spineless little—”

“Xanxus,” the old man cut in, firmly.

Xanxus snorted and leaned back, still glaring at the Orsini idiot.

“The Cetrulli took it upon themselves to assassinate my heir,” the old man told the ambassador levelly. “The Vongola were well within our rights to return such a mortal blow and insult.”

“Well, perhaps, but the whole House…” the Orsini man dithered.

“Then perhaps,” the old man said quietly, “their allies should take the lesson to heart.”

Xanxus’ lips curled up as the man excused himself, looking spooked.

“Well, this has been enlivening,” the old man’s Outside Advisor said, sounding genuinely cheerful as he and the whole lot of the Ninth’s Guardians stretched or relaxed in their chairs, ranged behind their boss.

Xanxus eyed them. “There aren’t any more idiots come to complain, then?”

“That was the last of them,” Martelli agreed.

“Mm.” He was almost disappointed. The more he could scare the envoys, the less those Families would ever consider touching his again.

Piero chuckled. “Don’t worry. You’ll get to intimidate more of them at the next social gathering, I’m sure.”

Xanxus paused in the act of slouching a little more. “The next what?” He scowled at his father. Hadn’t everyone figured out years ago that he didn’t mix with all those damn parties where he was supposed to smile and not shoot anyone?

“I wasn’t going to mention that quite yet,” the old man murmured, and Piero looked abashed.

“Um. Oops?”

“You are not making me go back to parties again,” Xanxus stated.

“I’m afraid it’s likely you’ll have to,” the old man said, and it didn’t help at all that he sounded apologetic. “If you’re going to be the new heir.”

Xanxus stared at him. “That’s not possible,” he finally managed. “I’m not really…”

The old man held up a hand. “I said, years ago, there have been times in our past when legitimacy was made to not matter. And, in fact, there is no actual evidence that you are not legitimate.”

Xanxus opened his mouth and closed it again, totally at a loss. “But… my…” His mother. The son of a whore was pretty damn illegitimate, wasn’t he?

The old man stood and came around to the chair beside him, lying a hand on the rigid line of his arm. “Your mother was married. The license was among her papers. I don’t know why or exactly when the man left; we don’t know for sure that he’s still alive. But they were married.”

“But she said…” Xanxus felt like something important was upside down somewhere.

“She said you were my child, too, and she and I never met.” The old man shrugged. "As for your earlier lineage… well, you do favor the Second. He had a handful of children outside his marriage, to be sure, but there was also a legitimate child who married out of the mafia, and her children are not well documented in our records.”

“And more importantly than that,” Martelli said, quietly, “you have taken this Family as your own and proven you will defend it.”

“You’re definitely the strongest of Timoteo’s sons,” Piero put in.

“And while you will be a bit of a change in leadership style,” Staffieri observed dryly, “you have demonstrated leadership among the Varia. With more flair, it must be said, than either Enrico or Massimo.”

Xanxus stared at them. “You agree with this?!”

“You’re not the barbarian brat you used to be,” Maria said bluntly. “You haven’t even shot any of these idiot envoys, over the past few months. We agree.”

Xanxus looked over at Sawada, who was looking back steadily at him. “The Family comes first, among the Vongola,” the man said quietly. “You, among all the Ninth’s sons now living, will do the best job of protecting the Family.” He smiled suddenly, showing his teeth. “At least you will now.” Sobering again, he added, “You might think of it as fulfilling the wishes of your brother Federico.”

Xanxus almost flinched.

The old man patted his arm. “So I’m afraid there are parties in your future,” he concluded with a tiny smile. “If it helps, you have my permission to continue intimidating the Cetrulli allies all you like.”

Xanxus was quiet for a few moments. “Give me some time, okay?” he finally said. Time to actually make this make sense, which it wasn’t quite doing yet.

His father smiled, a little sadly. “As much as you need, my boy. I think we all need a little time for this.”

That, Xanxus decided as he rose, was an understatement. But he didn’t suppose any of them had a lot of choice, now.


Last Modified: Feb 10, 12
Posted: Dec 24, 09
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    There was nothing but the Flame and his rage and the screams and movement of the world fading around him.

    This one was a really beautiful one, I could imagine his fury very well since you described it vividly.
    If I’d known someone like him probably I’d be fascinated by him the same way Squalo is, it’s like a free river that breaks its dike…it’s rough and violent and merciless, but I find it to be also really beautiful.

      1. branchandroot Post author

        Thank you! I have to admit, one of the biggest reasons I wrote this particular AU branch was to give Squalo’s fascination somewhere productive to go. The dead-end they have in canon is all angstily beautiful but not very fulfilling! Making Xanxus sane enough to accept that kind of appreciation really appealed to me.

        And a very Happy Holidays to you, too!

  2. tiny_turtle

    And he made the world feel a little more real after Xanxus had had to deal with his damn family.

    Heh. The inside of Xanxus’ head is not quite the same as the world around him! It’s a good thing Squalo has learned to translate.