Title: For now i see peace to corrupt and fools to waste
Category: Gossip Girl
Pairing/Character(s): William, Nate
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Word Count: 1,194
Spoilers: Season 2
Summary: In the elaborate, decisive methodology often undertaken in rearing an heir, focus is relentlessly placed upon the hardest of lessons learned.
It should be borne in mind that the temper of the multitude is fickle, and that while it is easy to persuade them of a thing, it is hard to fix them in that persuasion. Wherefore, matters should be so ordered that when men no longer believe of their own accord, they may be compelled to believe by force.
~ Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
For all its regard, preference and heralded importance, pedigree does not determine everything.
There are no certainties in the real world, and heredity is a fool’s wager. Invalidated and utterly worthless. Because sometimes genes are inherently inferior, and the dynasty is destined to fall before it even begins. And sometimes, a little later down the line, strike incidents of severe misfortune.
Undesirable, and outright resentful.
Circumstances to inspire within men questions of nature-versus-nurture, survival of the fittest and Galtonian solutions of the extreme variety. Natural selection is a timely, onerous process when left to its own devices, but only fools believe in ethnic cleansing. The real trick of the trade, of getting ahead and fastidiously securing the most advantageous result possible, is via a heavily guarded insurance against all outcomes.
He is the master of his own fortune.
Uncomplicated, unemotional, nothing tentative, and nothing tenuous. Essential and easy, William pulls and tugs at strings and moves pieces across his chequered board like a long lost art form. With wits unfettered, he controls them, each and every one: sons, daughters, grandchildren. And they obey, or learn to, all in the name of self-preservation–
every one of them expendable.
For Vanderbilt is just a name, perfect only on paper. And any value a name entails can be bought, tooth and nail.
Nathaniel is a simple child.
The end result of a fatal marriage of naivety (her, daughter, favourite) and ambition (him, ‘Captain’, useless) that he did not then destroy. Caution proves more fruitful than action, so he plans instead. Watches on as the boy grows older under his mother’s waning attention, and the father’s ever growing, obsessive rivalry.
Underwhelming, unexceptional, and he almost writes the boy off entirely.
And so William muses a little longer, all alone in his grand old manor. Considers the child; this piece of the puzzle and notes its unusual shape, so contrary to those before it. He sighs, tasting fate’s taunt and dismissively pieces it in place.
Patience is a virtue, and opportunity her just reward.
After years of paternal failure and disappointment, the road at last is paved towards salvation. Towards a rewriting of fate and fortune. And Archibald, like any fool, is dealt with accordingly. Thrown to the gutter, like litter drifting on alleyside-rain, and really now he deserved to be vanquished (this is a game of politics and war, after all).
One simple phone call and the boy’s father is eliminated from the picture. The ensuing chaos – daughter’s turmoil, losses and self-imposed exile – is a meagre price paid to right the Captain’s wrongs. The shortcomings exhibited as both a husband, and a father.
So he loads the pistol, takes aim. Is pleased and condescends to smile (mock) and watch, intrigued, as the underwhelming, unexceptional grandson proceeds to pull the trigger. Without reservation, of his own accord, the boy hands his father over to the authorities (for my mother, he would say). And for the first time (in so long a forgotten span), William allows himself to bask in a moment of triumph (pride), looking towards the future with renewed, quiet confidence.
How fitting that Nathaniel should start his life the day his father’s ends.
Throughout the ensuing months, Nathaniel does well. Exceptionally well.
And so William announces in his business voice (the one that even emperors would bow before, crippled – crumpling to their knees) during the annual family reunion that the boy will take up his ordained place in politics. Following a long tradition of distinguished public service synonymous with the name Vanderbilt–
he stops short. Superfluous. The crowd knows his grandiose speeches by heart.
To the young and naïve, destiny and duty are intimidating principles. But even in the face of such notions Nathaniel does not pause. Does not hesitate nor dart towards the enticing security of inaction, but smiles small and humble, glowing with illusions of love and acceptance. Declares his acquiescence to the family line to the tune of adoring applause, like the ideal grandchild now turned. As William embraces him firm, unyielding.
Thinking that maybe this one is near-flawless.
Thinking that maybe he will actually be of some use.
William smirks at the thought, the proverbial cat that caught the canary.
In the elaborate, decisive methodology often undertaken in rearing an heir, focus is relentlessly placed upon the hardest of lessons learned. Others may argue that the principal motivating factor is, in fact, unconditional affection, but William seldom entertains in cases of idealism. Maybe he did, once, long ago, though it is hard to tell after spending the majority of his life worshipping a remorseless law of the jungle.
Nathaniel still has a long way to go, the road neither agreeable nor merciful and William fears the boy may just break before nearing its culmination. But he maintains a hard edge, tempered only by a pleasant tone and friendly tilt of the lips, continuing forth with his designs and forcing him to awake from his coddled packaged, apathetic-sewn cocoon.
He begins simple.
A flick of the wrist, a knight lands and a pawn is taken captive.
Nathaniel’s frown (he could never appreciate the game) is plagued with the knowledge of an inevitable defeat. Inevitable not because of his lack of skill and finesse, but because he is quick to concede. A sign of weakness to be sure, and William inwardly shakes his head as he recites another lesson never taught.
“You act too quickly, my boy. Chess is a game of strategy, after all.”
Of course, the final act of this divina commedia ends unequivocally wrong. Perhaps it was, to his displeasure, meant to.
“If he cares so much about family, why did he destroy mine?!”
Hellfire, resentment rising, and the quiet gasps and murmurs are little to be desired.
Foolish, foolish boy.
Try as he might he cannot claim surprise against this sacrilege, and in the end the apple never does fall far. Muted words and subtle pushes down the desirable road too have their limits, and for that it was almost impossible for the boy not to overreach himself, and thus, invariably fail. Truly, it was beginning to become something of a trademark of his. Fail, fall, and fail again. Utterly useless. Disappointing.
So it really is a pity when his eyes fall on a certain brunette (opportunity) and he decides to strike a blow simply to prove a point–
“There is something you should know.”
It is cruel, it is malicious, it can’t be helped. He relays the truth of yet another betrayal by someone close and watches young Nathaniel burn. Such a pity (the boy is family), and the wounded glint in his eyes is almost enough to move the grandfather in him to weep. But a lesson needs to be learned; that obedience is nurtured through force – a twist here, a pull there – not naturally manufactured. And punishment is, of course, due. In that he may gain some meagre satisfaction against a temporary failing.
And in the meantime he can play Lady Fortune’s hand and smoke absently abandoned cigarettes. All the while dreaming of putting out a father’s – a father’s son’s – eye.