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the language of lions

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The largest threat to the External Advisor’s family is the External Advisor’s Famiglia.

~*~

Sawada Iemitsu is born into a family that is too small. He has a mother and a father and an older brother, but it isn’t enough. He wants more. He looks at the shadows the Sawada family casts through Namimori and thinks, We are larger than we pretend to be.

He tells his brother this, but Ieyoshi gives him a tired look and shakes his head. “We are exactly as we should be, Iemitsu.”

But we’re not, he thinks, indignant. There is something there, something more to be had.

Iemitsu wants it.

He wants it, with his every waking breath.

Ieyoshi, with his too knowing eyes, sighs and ruffles Iemitsu’s fluffy blond hair - blond, blond, blond and foreign and a reminder that there is a world outside of Japan waiting for them if they just looked for it.

“Iemitsu,” Ieyoshi says heavily, as heavy as the hand that drifts to his shoulder and squeezes. “I have to go to work. But when I get back, we’ll have a talk.”

“I’m not changing my mind,” Iemitsu grumbles out. He pins Ieyoshi with a sullen look as he works to sort his hair back out. But Ieyoshi isn’t looking at him. His gaze is cutting back to the living room, and when Iemitsu turns, their father is standing there, frowning. He never likes when Iemitsu talks like this, but he’s just - he’s sick of it! He knows what he wants and he knows what he sees and he knows, he just knows that there’s more, more, more out there. The family can’t hold him back any longer. He’s almost 15 now. Not even Japan can hold him back. “I won’t!” Iemitsu says firmly. “As soon as I’m done with school, I’m out of here! Just you wait and see.”

“I know, Micchan,” Ieyoshi says, looking back at him now. “I know. All that Will… Just wait until I get home, and I’ll tell you where you can aim it.” His big brother gives him a small smile, only a fraction of the grin Iemitsu throws him, but it’s shadowed by the disappointed sigh their father lets out. When Iemitsu turns, glowering, the man is gone. Leaving it to Ieyoshi, like always. Figures.

If the responsibility heaped on him by their small family ever bothers Ieyoshi though, he has never shown it, beyond his perpetually haggard expression. Sawada Ieyoshi, with his darker dyed short hair, fluffy and shaped in the popular preppy style of the last few years, always rose to the occasion of what was expected of him. Even if it was bullshit. But he indulges Iemitsu and his wild restless ways, always seeming to understand him, and for that Iemitsu loves his brother dearly.

But love isn’t enough. Ieyoshi isn’t enough, Father isn’t enough, Mother isn’t enough. But maybe whatever is out there, that bigger family, bigger life that Iemitsu knows is out there - maybe that will be.

~*~

When Iemitsu is almost 15, his older brother Ieyoshi tells him a secret. A family secret. The Family secret, only Iemitsu never realized that italics were meant to be heavily implied before.

It feels like Oh and What and No way.

It feels like Yes and Okay and Finally.

It feels like too much and too little and like the radio is playing a song, one that’s been stuck in his head for months but that he could never find to hear again, and now here it is, playing clear as day.

Finally, finally, Iemitsu knows who he is meant to be, what he is meant to do, where he is meant to be.

He graduates junior high and catches the first flight to Italy with only Ieyoshi’s quiet acceptance and months of savings at his back. He doesn’t know a lick of Italian, and he only knows the area the Vongola keep as territory, and he has no idea what he’s doing, but he knows what he wants.

Iemitsu has always been good about going hard after what he wants.

And mafioso, it turns out, know a good Sky when they see one.

~*~

The radio is playing a song the night Ieyoshi tells him about Vongola and Sawada Ieyasu, which is unfortunate, because for the rest of his life Iemitsu will remember learning about his heritage to the tune of Terao Akira singing Ruby no Yubiwa.

Rubies become his lucky charm after that, though in truth he can’t afford them until years later, when looking at them is as familiar to him as looking at blood. He’s so ready to lie if someone asks about them, ready to say that they’re his birthstone even if they’re not. But nobody ever asks, because nobody cares.

That’s fine. Iemitsu cares enough for all of them. His rubies are his boon and his birthright and his curse. The rushing blood in his veins the day he learned the truth sits in a cufflink on his right arm, reminding him of dutiful Ieyoshi back in Japan, and Father and Mother; the acceptance of Don Timoteo, welcoming him into the Family if he but renounces his claim - an easy concession, all Iemitsu wanted was more, he didn’t want to lead - sits in the matching link on his left arm, closest to his heart. His family and his Family.

His enemies he doesn’t wear, not near his throat, not near his wrists, or any other access point, but Iemitsu keeps a false drawer in his CEDEF dormitory’s dresser. Over the years it fills handsomely, like a dragon’s hoard. But it isn’t a dragon that his Famiglia likens him to, despite his asian heritage. Dragons are solitary. Iemitsu is not. He has a Family, and he defends it fiercely.

The Young Lion of Vongola, they call him, with his golden hair and his burning orange eyes. He rises in the ranks of CEDEF and he has never felt so alive, so at home.

~*~

But a lion, no matter how fierce, cannot protect two dens.

~*~

Iemitsu has a family and he keeps them over his right wrist.

Iemitsu has a Family and he keeps them over his left wrist, near his heart.

Iemitsu has a mouth, and somebody asks, and Iemitsu is surprised and delighted and arrogant, because he has wanted someone to ask all this time and here it is. There is certainly nothing else to do as his boss and the Ninth chatter away in the other room, Enrico their only other companion. Iemitsu, Coyote, and Enrico’s Storm Tirrena were told to wait in the sitting room, which was easier to do two hours ago. It doesn’t seem to bother Coyote, but Iemitsu is glad when Tirrena sidles up next to him and breaks both her silence and his boredom.

“They’re my birthstone,” he says delightedly.

“Sawada, you idiot, you were born in June, weren’t you?”

“They should have been my birthstone,” he corrects breezily.

“Why d’you reckon that?”

Iemitsu proudly displays each cufflink. “Blood is important to me. And they’re my blood. So they should be my stone, you see?”

“Oh, of course.” She tilts her head and looks at him from under dark lashes, an approving twist to her ruby red lips. “So you wear them for your Vongola blood.”

Iemitsu has a family and Iemitsu has a Family and Iemitsu has a secret and Iemitsu has a mouth. And eyes that have long been trained to see red and covet.

“Well, not just for Vongola.”

~*~

A lion cannot protect two dens.

And the largest threat to an External Advisor’s family is the External Advisor’s Famiglia. Even if he isn’t at the top yet, Sawada Iemitsu is rising in the ranks and it is no secret whose blood he carries.

The secret was who else carried that blood.

When he wakes months later to an international call of condolence, Iemitsu knows exactly who is at fault. It isn’t the minor famiglia that did the deed. It isn’t Tirrena, as much as he’d like to blame her, or Enrico, protecting his birthright viciously by way of a big fucking mouth.

Iemitsu got greedy, and Iemitsu got cocky, and Iemitsu finally reached too far.

~*~

He puts on his ruby cufflinks and gets ready for the day. There are a few meetings that have to happen before he can fly out to Japan. Over his right wrist, Duty. Over his left wrist, Family.

They’re all he has.

They’re all he needs.

~*~

In Japan, Iemitsu meets a waitress named Nana.

She is everything Tirrena wasn’t, a perfect Yamato Nadeshiko, the kind of girl Ieyoshi would nudge Iemitsu towards when he still thought anything could make Iemitsu stay. Iemitsu puts his family to rest and returns to the restaurant Nana works at, off kilter with grief and thinking maybe, maybe for Ieyoshi, this time he could try.

When he walks in during a shift he knew she’d have, she looks up and smiles at him. Her hair is in a braid, held together by a bright red ribbon. On the old radio in the corner, Ruby no Yubiwa starts to play.

Iemitsu breaks into a broad grin and he covets.

~*~

Within the year, he has a small family again - a perfect wife and a perfect little boy, with hair the color of his mother’s and a name like his late grandfather and uncle’s. He loves them. When he is there, he is Iemitsu and he is relaxed and he can kiss his wife and play with his boy and be the man his father wanted him to be.

But Iemitsu also has a Family, a large one, part of the bigger world his little Namimori family can’t know is out there. He loves them. When he is there, he is the Young Lion of Vongola, rising in the ranks of the CEDEF with rubies over his wrists that stand for Family and Duty.

When he is in Italy, he has no family in Japan any longer. Just graves to mark mistakes. When he is in Japan, he has no Family at all. Just hard work overseas that pays the bills. No Family with family. No family with Family.

Because Iemitsu understands now why his family pulled back from him when they accepted his intentions, and only tired Ieyoshi would ever answer his calls. Rival families destroy one another.

And a lion cannot protect two dens.