Summary: After Fredo's death, Michael thinks he's alone. Tom Hagen/Michael Corleone subtext or gen friendship, varies with goggle usage.
AN: I'm currently in the midst of a Godfather spree (all three movies, plus special features, plus the books), and when I discovered there was little to no fic for it despite all the opportunities, I had to write some to stay sane. Bit nervous considering the quality of the source material, so hopefully it's somewhat decent!
He never thought it would come down to this.
Remembering the "good old days" was all too easy; all he had to do was close his eyes and memories from his childhood played against his eyelids like an old silent film, stripped of sound and colour by time but still thrumming with life. He cherished those memories, and the happiness that seemed to suffuse them all with a constant, background glow. The Family united, cheerful and celebrating, confident in their cause and future. He closed his eyes and saw the procession of children lining up to visit his father on his birthday, small handmade gifts clutched in each pair of tiny hands, big eyes glowing and smiles wide at the chance to make their godfather happy.
What made that time so different from now? The Family had still been a criminal group, had still faced the same problems; if anything, their position had been even less secure as just one among many Families, and with an aging Don as well. And yet, they had never felt insecure. No fear, no uncertainty. Under his own guidance, they had only become more secure since. He wanted the same things as his father, worked towards the same goals; so why, then, did it seem like everything was falling apart? Why was he doing so much worse? Why couldn't he get it right?
He felt like he was juggling, every day, every second. Too many demands on his time, too many threats to watch out for, charades to maintain, strings to hold taut. He didn't have the gift for juggling that his father had. He dropped balls. And his family, the people he loved more than anything else in this world, slipped through his fingers like so many grains of elusive sand.
- he had never wanted this life -
A shot rang out across the lake, but he didn't flinch. He kept staring at the calm water, cold and steady. Any lingering urge to change his mind wilted and died with the settling of history.
It was done. It was over.
He was alone.
He didn't turn, or give any acknowledgement that he'd heard. There was only one person who dared use that name, these days, and he didn't care for another argument about his methods. Not now. He did what he must, for the Family, because no harm could come to them. He knew this was the truth, because if it wasn't then the last strings that were holding him together would snap.
Footsteps came closer, growing muffled as they crossed the carpeting of the room. He stopped hoping that Tom would take the hint and leave him alone, but still maintained his silence. At the very least, he wouldn't start this argument.
"…Michael?" said the familiar voice again, and he heard the distinctive lilt of budding concern. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a hand approach his shoulder and pause, hovering. His heart sunk a little more at the proof that even Tom, of all people, feared to touch him, even as he felt a vindictive flash of satisfaction for the very same reason. The hand retreated.
"Michael, you all right?"
Small waves now disturbed the surface of the lake, like tiny aftershocks to the tragedy that had just occurred. He wasn't sure how he felt about the fact that he was apparently still readable to at least one other person.
"Fredo's dead." Explanations weren't necessary, and he didn't offer any. Tom could draw his own conclusions well enough.
Michael expected silence. Questions, resentment, arguments, even accusations would also have been unsurprising. He did not expect to hear Mikey repeated in a much softer, sorrowful voice, or for the hand to return and finally settle on his shoulder. He did turn then, in disbelief, and in the next moment he was being drawn into a hug and it never occurred to him to resist.
He couldn't remember the last time someone else had initiated a hug with him, the last time anyone had dared. The position of Don came with a lot of human contact, but everyone understood that it was his prerogative to initiate and control it, and that they were merely to reciprocate any gestures he made. He understood and respected the tradition, but it made the whole practice seem artificial. It was just business.
This was different. Tom's arms closed around him much tighter than any deal-making embrace, and Michael had the irrational sense that he wouldn't be able to escape even if he wanted to. He had never been fond of his height, especially after becoming Don, and embracing others had only ever served to underline this fact for him. But this time, as Tom's chin came to rest comfortably on top of his head, he found he didn't mind so much. His own hands crept up Tom's back, coming to rest on his shoulder blades and crumpling the sleek suit with their grip.
"I'm sorry," Tom whispered, and he heard what hadn't been said: I'm sorry you felt it was necessary; I'm sorry you had to murder your own brother. He sighed – a tiny, defeated sound – and let his head fall against Tom's shoulder.
He knew his consigliere didn't agree with all his decisions – most of them, probably. Tom probably didn't agree with this one. But even so, Tom understood. He understood that Michael did what he thought was necessary, that he would never have ordered the hit if it were otherwise. Tom understood what that decision was doing to him now. And somehow, miraculously, Tom didn't blame him for it.
"I promise…" Tom broke off for a moment, and he felt a kiss being pressed to the top of his head, "Mikey, I promise, you'll never have to do this again."
At first he didn't understand what Tom meant. And then his own words came back to him in a flash: you're my brother, Tom. He remembered how touched his consigliere had been, how his voice had even choked up a bit: I always wanted to be considered a real brother by you, Mikey. He remembered thinking absently at the time that it was sad that Tom hadn't already known, that he had to be told.
You're my brother. He had a brother. He still had a brother.
His grip tightened even more and he suspected his eyes were getting wet, but Tom didn't seem to mind; in fact, his arms just curled closer in response. In any other situation Michael would have felt suffocated at this point, but right now he couldn't hold on to this last lifeline tightly enough.
The old family was dead; his parents, Sonny, Fredo. Connie might well be lost to him too, once she found out about Fredo. He'd thought he was the only one left, alone at last. But he'd been wrong. They were two. The last two.
"I promise," Tom said again, his voice shaky now with grief, as if repetition would make it more true, would make them both believe it. But Michael understood too; this promise didn't need belief to come true. He pressed a soft kiss to the fabric over Tom's shoulder and held his brother tight.
"I know, Tom. I know."