lysapadin: pen & ink painting of bamboo against a full moon (Default)
[personal profile] lysapadin
Title: Matchmaker
Characters: Timoteo, Iemitsu, Guardians
Summary: In which the Ninth is almost out of options. But not quite.
Notes: Part of Choice: The Betrothal Arc. Series Index. General audiences. 1630 words.

~~~~~~~~~~


Matchmaker

The last of the mourners—or spectators—had barely pulled away after the funeral before the Ninth called a meeting. Iemitsu had expected as much, really, and expected that the Ninth's guardians had as well. They made a grim circle around the long meeting table. No wonder, that, now that Massimo Vongola was dead, too, and the Vongola were out of heirs.

Timoteo looked old today, and tired, his shoulders bent by this latest installment of the bad luck that had dogged his family for the past seven years. He sat in the high-backed chair at the head of the table, his hands spread flat against the polished wood, expression drawn and distant. The rest of them waited for him, silent and willing to be patient for as long as it took; there were no jokes or wisecracks today, not in the presence of a man who'd just buried the last of his sons.

Well. Not quite the last of them, Iemitsu supposed. But close enough. And God only knew what the Vongola was going to do now.

As if he'd heard Iemitsu think it, Timoteo stirred. "So," he said. "We are running out of options."

"That's one way to put it," Michele said, subdued practically beyond recognition. "I'd just say that we have no options."

"That's not entirely true." Gianni looked across the table at Iemitsu. His eyes were sympathetic, clearly sorry for what he was about to say, but no less determined for it. "How old is Tsunako getting to be?"

He'd known it was going to come to this ever since the word had come about Massimo. Iemitsu found that he was gripping his knees beneath the table anyway. "Thirteen. She's only thirteen."

For all the good that did him. Rafaele took a moment, only a moment, before saying, sober, "That's young. Very young."

Iemitsu was very well aware of that, yes. He glanced to the Ninth, who remained silent and looked back, inscrutable.

"Really young. At that rate..." Paolo drummed his fingers against the table. "The Leone just had a daughter out. And they're pretty fertile, the Leone girls. We could just..." He glanced at the Ninth.

"No." Timoteo was rarely harsh, but he was now. "No, I won't—I can't—my time as a father is over."

They absorbed that in silence, letting the idea go. But then, if anyone had the right to say no to remarrying, it was Timoteo.

Paolo sighed. "All right, let's take stock. Who can we approach—the Ruscitti, maybe? Their younger boy is about seventeen, if I'm remembering correctly."

"Seventeen," Maria said. "And an idiot. He'll take the Vongola over my dead body."

"The Orsini," Michele tried. They all went silent, contemplating that, and he grimaced. "No, I can't see it. All right, don't the Furetto have some spare sons?"

They went down the list of Families slowly, weeding through the ones with younger sons and trying to come up with one or two who might serve as a possible heir-by-marriage. Iemitsu, like Timoteo, left them to it, listening to them dicker over the relative merits of the mafia's scions and thinking about Tsunako and the future they were building for his shy, clumsy little girl, who (by accident or by design) was now the last legitimate heir to the Vongola. The discussion went on, and on, with no satisfaction to be found. There was the Furetto's youngest (now twenty) or perhaps one of the Linardon boys, if their little Family could be coaxed into surrendering one, and that was about it. Paolo had just raised the possibility of Dino Cavallone—"We could ally the Families?"—when Rafaele cleared his throat. "Do we have to pursue a marriage?" He glanced at the Ninth. "We all remember the Eighth, rest her soul." He arched an eyebrow at Iemitsu. "Do you suppose that Tsunako could hold the Vongola herself?"

Iemitsu hated to shake his head, but—"No. I doubt it," he said, thinking of the things Nana said of their daughter. "She's not particularly good with people." Painfully shy was perhaps another way of putting it. "And clumsy." Timid, too, to the point that she always seemed on the verge of bolting whenever business let him tear himself away from the Vongola long enough to visit. "And if she has any Flame to speak of, she's never shown it."

Shoulders sagged around the table. "I say we try for one of the Linardon boys," Gianni said. "What I've seen of them is good. We might have to negotiate some kind of concession to their Family, but..." He shrugged. "It seems like the best option out of a sorry lot."

"You're forgetting something," the Ninth said. "You haven't mentioned Xanxus."

There was a heartbeat of frozen silence before the table erupted in protests. "He tried to kill you!" Michele howled, while Gianni nearly flailed over the fact that Xanxus wasn't even legitimate.

The Ninth waited them out, till they'd mostly exhausted themselves. "He wanted to be the Tenth." A ghost of something that might have been called a smile touched his lips. "If we release him and offer him that, I doubt he'll bother with trying for another coup. Not if we keep him busy learning how to actually run the Vongola." The almost-smile faded. "And it seems that we need strength in our heir very badly, if he's to have any hope of surviving long enough to take the ring."

"But—Xanxus." Gianni looked pained—they all looked pained. Probably they were remembering the same things Iemitsu did, Xanxus' arrogance and furies and sheer self-centeredness. If only the boy could have been happy with the Varia, which had suited his skills and his temperament. "He's not legitimate, Boss."

"He descends from the Second on his mother's side," Timoteo said, calmly. "You know we've traced that. His blood comes from the Vongola, even if his mother wasn't married."

"But think of the talk!" Gianni was beginning to sound desperate. "Timoteo, the other Families will never stand for it."

"They'll have to," Timoteo said.

Iemitsu slumped in his seat, because when the Ninth took that tone, it was all over except for the shouting. He contemplated the job ahead of them—thawing Xanxus out and turning that teenaged hellion into actual Tenth material was going to be an uphill battle, he could feel it in his bones—and barely kept himself from grimacing.

Then the Ninth looked down the table at him and added, "If it's legitimacy that he needs, then he and Tsunako are very nearly of an age."

Iemitsu came to his feet without consciously deciding to do so. "You can't be serious!" he protested. Timoteo looked back, perfectly calm. Grimly calm, perhaps. "Boss, no, please, you can't do that to my daughter!" It was bad enough that he'd always suspected that Tsunako would end up a political pawn for the Vongola, but this...! "Boss, he's an animal, and you know it!"

"Animals can be tamed," Timoteo said. "Iemitsu. Please. Will you deny the Vongola what it needs to save itself?" His voice turned harder. "Will you tell me that your child cannot serve the Vongola in this?"

Iemitsu found his hands curling into fists and had to make an effort to uncurl them when Piero leaned back in his seat to settle a hand on the pommel of one of his knives. He drew a breath, unsteady and harsh in his throat. "That's a low blow, Timoteo," he said, softly. "A very low blow."

Timoteo didn't even flinch. "Do you think that there is anything I wouldn't stoop to in order to serve my Family?"

Iemitsu closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. "You're not going to give my daughter to Xanxus like some kind of sacrifice," he said when he'd managed to get a grip on himself. "I want people to teach her to defend herself." Maybe it was hopeless—the thought of his baby girl trying to defend herself against Xanxus was risible—but God help him if he was going to let her go into this without at least a prayer of a chance.

"Done," Timoteo said. "She'll need bodyguards as well, in case the other Families decide to make a clean sweep of it. I'll send the Poison Scorpion and Reborn. I trust you can't think of anyone who might do better?"

Iemitsu took another breath. Reborn and the Poison Scorpion. At least the Ninth was taking him seriously. "Yeah, that'll work." If anyone could help his daughter learn to protect herself against Xanxus, they'd be the ones. "I want time off. You're not springing this on her without warning. I'll tell her myself."

Timoteo nodded. "Take as much time as you need." His voice softened. "Iemitsu. Thank you."

"Don't." He had to force it out from between gritted teeth. "Don't you dare thank me for this. Never for this."

Timoteo held his eyes for a moment before inclining his head, acknowledging the point. "If you prefer." He sighed. "Make your arrangements. And someone, send word to the Varia. When they've finished with the Cetrulli job, I must speak with Squalo." He smiled, thin. "I'm sure he's already imagined the possibilities ahead. We'll need to encourage him not to get creative. Or proactive."

Someone murmured an acknowledgment; Iemitsu wasn't paying attention any more. He dropped himself into his seat and passed a hand over his face, thinking of what he'd agreed to surrender his daughter to.

It was, he reflected, a damn good thing he'd never deluded himself into imagining that he was a good father. The best he could hope for at this point was to do a better job than Timoteo. And that—that was something he was pretty sure he could do.

end

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