The Don sat down at his office. He hadn’t done so in a considerable while.
“I’m the Don,” he said to no one in particular. Mostly because he was talking to History.
His desk, made of fine wood, was large enough for him to lie on, and sometimes he did. It was very rare for the desk to have anything on it, he liked to keep it empty outside of a lamp. No one had ever seen that lamp being used because no one had ever seen him read. He set the pistol on top of it and got a cigar out. He thought better of it and put the cigar down on the table, along with the lighter.
“Don of the Dons…been forever since that happened, see? But I did it. Not Donna, not any o’ them.”
There were nine drawers on the desk, six to each side, three by three. He was aware he was talking to himself, but blast it, he didn’t care. He felt like it. The words had to be said. Outloud. They had to be in the world even if nobody heard them.
“But they’ll be here tomorrow…and I won’t, see? Sure, that’s true enough…”
Inside most of the drawers were books, either about history or biographies of individuals that had been great. Emperors, kings, and Politicians. Explorers, generals and spiritual leaders. But the one he opened was right in the middle. The tenth.
Nobody knew about that one.
He took from it one crummy sheet of paper that had on it hand-written ink. It was a bit wore off but overall in the exact same state as it had been when he had put it away for safe keeping, some years beforehand.
He spread his mother’s will in front of him.
I leave my son nothing, it started. Because first and foremost, he needs nothing. From me or anyone.
He slowly nodded. “That’s right, dammit.”
What he needs, he will get. He will take. Lazaros, I’m sorry to leave you so soon. Please forgive your father, he doesn’t know any better. He’s still your father. Much Love, Maria.
The Don had not forgiven his father. Never. He had grabbed hold of his degenerate drunken face and forced him to look at photos of her while he strangled him to death.
“Bastard…” his hands trembled, wanting to close into fists but stopping so the letter wouldn’t crumple.
Killing him had not made Lazaros feel any better. Nothing ever had.
He looked up at the spot where he had done it.
The office had a cabinet on the left with photos of Maria. That was where his father had taken his last breath. He scanned the rest of the office, seeing the coat closet where that rat Carlo had ambushed him, the carpet he had spent more money on than he should have, getting it cleaned. It was also where Marco had kneeled and begged for his life, and where Protos had accepted to be his Consigliere.
“I turned ‘em all. I turned the twins, bodyguards to a rival family in the cusp of war, I turned ‘em. ‘Cause that’s who I am, see?” He pointed the letter towards the cabinet of photos. “Because you were right abou’ me.”
There was no denying the presence of danger and cruelty throughout most of his life. Since he came out of her womb, ‘till that very moment, they had been a constant: danger and cruelty.
The Don was aware, however, for he was not a man to lie to himself, that he had been the main source of both. All said and done, he had caused more pain to others than his father ever had…but it was different.
He really believed that.
“’m not you. Never been. I’m the Don. The Don o’ Dons, see?”
Something crashed loudly through his front door, one floor below. The Don grabbed the modified pistol, the hand-cannon, and aimed it absent-mindedly at the door.
“Yeah, Donna. You n’ the rest’ll be makin’ it to tomorrow. Bu’ me? Infeperio?”
Protos had wanted him to live, but there was no living after what he did to Igtahlia. He had never considered defeat could actually happen, but now that it had, the very moment he realized it really had, he knew for certain that he couldn’t just leave. He couldn’t cause the death of so many people, so many men and women who had trusted in his victory, implicitly, and then just go and…live with himself.
He would share the fate he forced upon them. He had to, he was the Don.
“Don o’ dons, you bastards. Forever. Come on, beasts! Come n’ geddit!”
The door burst open just as he was growling in challenge, and a beast shoved through.
“Take it!” He pushed the trigger.
The result was far more aggressive than he had ever expected. The hand-cannon pushed back so abruptly his body hit against the chair and turned it over.
He fell back, hearing the gun hitting the wall behind him. Lazaros was acutely aware his shoulder had dislocated. Also, the burst of flaring gun-powder emitted had blinded him.
He cursed further as he scurried to grab the pistol. Working with only one good arm, it took him long grueling seconds to reload it, all while he blinked in an effort to see again properly. Everything was coming out blurry, however.
“Damn Falk, damn you and your stupid arm and your stupid goggles, you didn’t even know how stupid strong this damn gun was, damn you.”
With his left eye sort of working, and the hand-cannon giving off a satisfying click, ready for another show, he stood up.
Blots of darkness filled the other end of his office. In the pain and effort to get the thing reloaded, he hadn’t noticed the noise of roughly four beasts crashing through his wall. Oddly enough, the sight satisfied him. They were waiting.
He smirked at them since they were, visibly, standing in wait. “Heh.” He put down the gun on the desk.
“You know who I am.”
He picked up the cigar.
They didn’t say anything. He made a show of looking down at the fallen beast behind the four. There was a hole in the wall behind the entrance, the gun really worked. Lazaros put the cigar in his mouth, his dislocated arm hanging painfully loose.
“C’mon, you’re always stampeding and now yer just standin’ around? You’re afraid to die, see? You know who I am.”
He picked up the lighter as the air cracked with the weird and foreign echoed sound he was no longer unfamiliar with, speaking the word he wanted to hear.
Lazaros smiled, bringing up the lighter to his cigar.
“Damn right,” but he stopped. He held the lighter in front of his cigar, thumb at the ready, and then glanced up. “You weren’t expectin’ a fight, were ya?”
“There. Is still no. Chance.”
There was always a chance. With the Don, it wasn’t over until his blood was drying on the wall.
“Believe what you want’a. Maybe we lose this whole thing, humans go caput.” He held the lighter there, talking to avoid making the decision. “But it won’t be pretty, see? It won’t be clean. We can kill you, you know that now.”
The beasts, ever so imperceptibly, shifted inches in their stance. He couldn’t see that happen, but the Don knew. He had a feeling about such things.
They paused, shifting slightly, checking with each other, the whole thing was immensely enjoyable.
“No,” one of them said.
Lazaros looked down at the cigar and lightly shook his head, at himself. He wasn’t reacting to the no, obviously it would be a no, he was reacting to a very sudden realization he was having about that cigar.
I could’ve quit whenever I wanted.
He looked up, mad at himself, but mostly, at them.
“I’m Don Lazaros Infeperio! The Don of Dons.” He pushed a thumb on his chest, lighter still grasped and flaming. “All my work, all my life workin’ and strugglin’, and this is where I ended up, see? Killin’ a bunch o’ yas when everybody was givin’ up.”
They showed no reaction.
“The other families, see? They’re done. You’re done when you run. When ya back down. But Infeperio? Pff,” he snarled. He was so angry. He was so angry that he had failed, that he was going to die. He was ravenously angry.
“They’ll be here tomorrow, but one day they won’t be, see? And I’ll still be ‘ere. In people’s minds. In stories. In books!” he waved his hand in a gesture they wouldn’t understand because the books he was pointing out weren’t actually laid out across his desk.
The Don caught sight of the cigar as if suddenly remembering he had a nose, and something inflamed within him. Suddenly, the cigar was a weakness, a weakness he had excused away and never surpassed. He spat it away in a fit of anger.
“I’LL BE ‘ERE FOREVER, SEE?!”
“You…” the voice echoed, almost interrupting him, “will die. With them all.”
Indeed. If the beasts won, he would be forgotten. But because of him, they wouldn’t win. They couldn’t. Not after all he had sacrificed…his people, his country, his land, his life.
“AAAAAhhh!” in a mad howl, he threw the lighter aside and swiped up the gun and aimed.
In response, the beast closest to him sunk its claws into the ground, and arched.
The Don pulled the trigger.
His left arm was dislocated to a thunder of a sound, something he didn’t notice as his body was shoved back, all senses dwarfed by an unbelievable amount of pain.
The Don blinked his eyes open and found himself impaled onto the wall behind his desk by the large claw of the beast. He couldn’t breathe, and his senses were already fizzing out. In the closing darkness, however, he still managed to catch notice that he had shot the beast dead.
“Fuh…pfuh…” he spat on the beast’s hide, then took a breath and tried to yell. Instead, he retched blood onto the spit. “GUUAAH!!”
The Don looked towards the cabinet, which held his mother’s photos. He could do so because the beast was involuntarily propping him up. Keeping him standing.
Tears came to his eyes, arms he couldn’t feel hanging down in defeat, with a heart that was ephemerally reinvigorated by the chance to see her face. At the end.
The Don wanted to say something, but he failed. He couldn’t even think. But the Don did manage to stare down at one of his mother’s photos. When his head wobbled to fall down, he gave a small growl and threw it back at the wall so that it would stay up against it.
‘s yer namesake, mama…
And he stared on.
The Don did not notice death taking him and all his functions, but through sheer strength of will, he made sure it took his vision last.