The day Cesare meets Micheletto, he puts a prop blade to his throat, scowling. Micheletto doesn’t even blink, as if being pinned to the wall by a rock star in nothing but body-paint is part of the job description.
His chokehold is sloppy as hell, and he’s not placing his weight right. If Micheletto wanted, he could snap a wrist, break a few ribs, take out some kneecaps all in one go.
He does none of those, merely waits until Cesare blows a strand of curly hair out of his dark eyes, grumbling,
‘God, you’re a bore.’
From the other side of the room, Giulia puffs out a perfect smoke ring, mouth a bruised shade of red.
It will be a few years before they bump into each other at MTV music awards. Micheletto shadowing some up-and-coming actress; The Borgias are collecting half a dozen trophies. Cesare is in a suit, with Ursula on his arm, radiant and perfectly coiffed.
Half an hour into the after party, Cesare backs him into one of the cubicles and blows him right there on the bathroom floor. His Ferragamo tie winding tight around Micheletto’s fist, eyes glassy as his breath get shallower---
They are still the same colour of fall, like something that should belong to a woodland creature.
His kisses though, are rougher, conquering, not searching.
They don’t say goodbye.
Giulia thinks they are trapped in a melodramatic silent movie with no subtitle. Cesare thinks she’s full of shit.
The whole thing starts with a death threat, the second one, to be precise, in the form of human ears sent through the post (fake ones, but still). Cesare gives in to Rodrigo’s insistence and agrees to be strapped with a babysitter for the time being. Lucrezia thinks it’s hilarious, but then, she doesn’t seem to grasp the concept that not all attention is good attention.
She’s also the one who suggests that for the latest music video, everyone should dress up as members of the clergy, while engaging in fake orgies.
Sometimes her head is a scary place to be in.
Augustino, his business partner, recommends him for the job, because,
‘Spoiled brats, chopped-up body parts, religious fanatics in every state screaming for the stake. You’d love it, man.’
Micheletto gives him a look.
‘Okay, all I’m saying is, you’re the zen-ist motherfucker I know, you’ll roll like a rolling stone with this bunch.’
Plus, it goes without saying that Violetta is expecting in a few months’ time, and Augustino is a functional nervous wreck.
Vittoria shuffles into the room in her usual biker jacket and boots, all hunched shoulders and fleeting eyes. Giulia almost dislodges Cesare off the armrest as she hastily makes room on the couch.
‘Oh sweetie, it really isn’t so bad to be objectified from time to time.’ She runs her fingers through Vittoria’s short auburn tufts, secretly missing the feel of golden locks against her skin, ‘I find it empowering when people think you’re nothing more than a pretty face. And look at Ces,’ Giulia slaps one leather clad thigh closest to her elbow, ‘thriving under all that attention.’
‘Like a weed, even.’ Juan chirps from the floor, Cesare kicks him in the shoulder, hard.
At that moment Rodrigo storms in with the phone still attached to his ear, Lucrezia tittering behind on lethal heels.
‘Alright, I’ve talked to a few people; this guy is ex-marine, got quite a reputation in the business. Now, before you start objecting,’ he slants a stern look in Cesare’s direction, ‘the choice is between having him here, or cancelling the whole tour.’
Lucrezia peers at the sullen faces over the tortoise rim of her glasses, ‘I have made arrangements with the venues and hotels. He will be given full access to all the locations.’
‘Is he gonna hold my dick while I piss?’ Cesare rolls his eyes; Giulia covers Vittoria’s ears in mock outrage, ‘what’s rock’n’roll without a little death threat?’
‘Your carelessness can potentially put yourself, the band, AND the fans in danger.’
Giulia doesn’t care what everybody else says, a man who can silence Cesare like that is pure management gold.
Within the first hour, Cesare manages to disappear from the set while Micheletto has gone to talk to the security on site. He budges into the bathroom, half expecting the guy to be slumped in a corner with coke up his nose, or a groupie in between his legs; only to find Cesare sneaking a cigarette with Vannozza, the makeup artist.
He frowns; Cesare waves the pack of Marlboro in his direction,
‘I don’t smoke.’
‘Of course you don’t.’ Cesare snorts, ‘don’t drink either, I suppose.’
‘What’s the point? You take bullets for other people for a living.’
‘I make sure neither my client nor I have to take a bullet.’
‘But you will, for me, if it comes down to it, right?’
‘That’s fucked up,’ Cesare laughs, ‘the pay can’t be that good.’
Micheletto doesn’t bother to argue; people outside the profession rarely understand anyways.
‘Next time, tell me where you’re going first. Then we can both get on with our lives in one piece.’
Vannozza looks between those two, one finely arched eyebrow climbing to her hairline.
Giulia meets Vee when she’s seventeen and not at all famous. Back then Vittoria has limp blond hair and dirt beneath her bitten nails. Giulia helps her to lift a double bass about the same height as them off the van, and concludes the newcomer is either a very timid boy or a really, really flat-chested girl. Eitehr way, pretty damn cute.
Their friendship revolves around Giulia either coaxing, dragging, or needling Vee into doing things: painting her nails, buying a bra, kissing boys, walking in heels. Things that, by now, Vee has rejected slowly and surely, with the exception of the band.
Sometimes Giulia misses the Vee who, perhaps foolishly, lets herself being led into situations she’s not entirely comfortable with. She likes the Vee who mumbles without meeting people’s eyes more.
But not half as much as she loves the Vee who’s no one’s fool, who has grown to fight and scratch and run away.
Juan is the easiest out of them all, really. But nobody seems to care when there is a guitarist who is bi by admission and a bassist who is bi by definition. The general consensus is that Vittoria is still making her mind up whether to be a girl or a guy, let alone which gender she prefers sleeping with. On the other hand, Juan’s version of self-discovery is to smoke copious amounts of weed and bed as many women as he can. One time he runs off to Spain with some nameless girl, and has to smuggle himself back because he’s lost his passport. Rodrigo very nearly blows a vessel when he finds out.
But of course, the cover story for US weekly is a picture of Micheletto, snapped near Cesare’s house at some late hour. The headline reads: ‘new man in rocker’s life?’ which is just plain awful.
‘Who wrote this?’ Giulia wheezes, sounding like she’s having a fit, ‘that Savonarola dude? Seriously Ces, he has the hots for you. No one invests this much time and energy into someone he supposedly detests.’
Cesare narrows his eyes at the little close-up of Micheletto’s face, staring straight into the hidden camera; pale eyes come out nearly white in the poor lighting.
‘New man in my life? That’s a bit worrying. You looked like you were ready to strangle someone in their sleep.’
Even Vittoria cracks a smile at that, doodling on a piece of napkin without looking up.
‘Not unless I’m paid.’ Micheletto says evenly. There is a moment of stunned silence, then Giulia inhales in great big mouthfuls, feigning panic,
‘You, I like you and all, but has anyone ever said you have a crappy sense of humour?’
The truth is, they’re probably the most irrational, self-centred group of people who happen to be thrown upon one another for support: Rodrigo is always in between lovers, each one younger than the previous; Lucrezia is sleeping with the chauffeur, plus the rumour about her and Cesare having a thing will never go away, despite husband number one and two; Giulia is hiding a previous marriage and an abortion, thanks to a killer publicist; Juan is forever drunk on fame and alcohol and whatever mind-altering drugs money can buy, and nobody wants to touch the situation with the sister-in-law with a ten feet pole.
It’s a miracle how they manage to function at all.
Cesare’s home isn’t a mansion, surprisingly enough. It’s pretty big for one person, and there are more flat screen TVs and Xbox-es than anyone really needs. But it’s nothing compared to Lucrezia’s (well, her husband’s) freaking palace with practically its own power grid. So he really doesn’t know why it’s Lucrezia who always comes over, bringing junk food and DVD box sets whenever she’s had enough of the men in her life.
‘8000 square foot and you can’t find a single room to hide in?’
‘I don’t like that much space when my head is,’ she taps on her temple eloquently, ‘your place is cosier.’
By cosier, Cesare guesses she probably doesn’t mean mismatched socks wedged in between sofa cushions, and week-old dirty dishes piled up in the sink. (He throws them all out at regular intervals when the caked on food doesn’t soak off). Besides, she leaves Doritos fingerprints all over Cesare’s rug, so she can’t exactly judge.
‘Hard to forget when you married one.’ Lucrezia pauses, then promptly chokes on her fancy herbal tea, ‘you slept with my ex-husband?!’
‘No!’ Cesare grimaces, ‘god no. Thanks for that mental image.’
‘Then who? Caterina? You hated her though.’
‘Still do, but you know how crazy festivals get. We were high, shit happens.’
Lucrezia narrows her eyes speculatively, ‘so, how was it?’
‘I don’t kiss and tell.’
‘Well, was she, you know, a bit of a screamer?’
Both burst out laughing at that, giggling like those chubby-cheeked, sticky-fingered days all over again.
The thing about touring is that, everyone is itching to go while they’re sitting on their asses doing nothing. Once all four of them get crammed into a van, it suddenly becomes the last place they want to be in. Juan, as usual, stumbles in last minute just as Rodrigo is about to lose it, reeking of smoke and someone else’s perfume.
Augustino comes and lends a helping hand as they get ready to set off. There are too many roadies roaming about for Micheletto to keep track of. So he mans the security cameras as Micheletto dogs Cesare’s every step, keeping each other updated through their ear piece. Until Cesare snaps, grabbing the tiny mic pinned to Micheletto’s lapel.
‘Tell your boyfriend to back the fuck off!’
Micheletto winces slightly at the booming laughter in his right ear. And for some reason, Cesare’s gaze turns shrewd, calculating, before he shrugs and walks away.
Giulia kisses Vee half way through the chorus, just a dry press of lips, nothing more. Because they’re not like that. Vittoria has a boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever, and it’s just, heat of the moment, adrenaline rush, plus the crowd goes wild for it, cheering loud enough to drown out the backing track.
She pulls away, grinning. Vee flashes her a small smile which is part fondness and part surprise; she gets like that sometimes on stage, sinking so deep into her own head she’s barely aware of the surroundings.
To Vittoria, Giulia always tastes a little complicated: lip-gloss, bourbon, cinnamon gum, the cigarettes she’s not supposed to be smoking, the synthetic sweetness of lollipops that distract her from stage frights.
The bass drum throbs from her sneaker-clad toes to the pit of her stomach, and the moment is gone, the swirling sounds pulling her down again.
In Kansas things go out of hand in the blink of an eye. One second Cesare is yelling into Giulia’s mic, the next he’s pulled into the mosh pit by his ankle. Giulia drops down to her knees and shouts for help, even Juan emerges from behind his monster of a drum set, gawping like a landed fish.
Micheletto dives in after him before anyone else unfreezes.
It’s literally a wave of bodies crashing into them from all sides, jostling and grabbing. He seizes Cesare’s waist, pulling him upright while fighting off the flailing arms.
‘Hold on to me!’
It’s a sign of how dazed Cesare is that he complies without questioning, ducking his head as he wraps both arms around Micheletto, who starts shoving and kicking their way towards the emergency exit. Cesare slips and they almost go under again, that’s when the venue staff arrives with a hoseful of icy cold water, forcing the crowd back.
The first gulp of crisp night air has Cesare collapsing against the alley wall, knees buckling. He doesn’t realize he’s bleeding until Micheletto swipes a thumb across his right cheek; the digit comes away tinged crimson.
‘Did you hit your head at all?’
He opens his mouth to answer, but what bubbles up instead is breathless laughter,
‘Oh wow, that was---’ Micheletto puts two fingers to his wrist, brows creased, Cesare is strung too tight to shake him off, ‘death by, rabid fans huh?’
‘Look at me.’ Micheletto cradles his pale face, tilting it up; it’s too dark to check for pupils, he’ll just have to content himself with no sign of a gushing wound. His thumb leaves a dark smudge at the corner of Cesare’s mouth, and a pink tongue darts out, catching the damp stain on its tip.
Micheletto definitely, definitely doesn’t watch the way Cesare mindlessly sucks on his own tongue for a taste, cheeks hollowed just a bit.
In Detroit he puts a man on his back so fast all Cesare notices is a whoosh of air.
Turns out the guy is just fishing in his coat pocket for a pen.
Cesare has a sneaky feeling the conversation that follows will be revisited again in the future.
‘Take a chill pill dude. He just wanted an autograph.’
‘I never assume anything when it comes to my client’s safety.’
‘Have you seen him? Big guy, black outfit, covered in tattoos? Trust me, I recognize those, harmless as a lamb.’
‘Better safe than sorry.’
‘Remember what you told me on the first day?’
‘…from the disorganized pattern of threats, it’s unlikely to be an obsessive fan.’
‘Exactly. I appreciate your concern. But let me handle the ones that are obviously fans, and you can handle the rest.’
‘A wolf can dress up like a dog.’
‘Are you always this paranoid?’
‘You will be too if you’ve seen what I’ve seen.’
‘I’m less and less inclined to ask about your life before this.’
The company is called SD, but not many people know it stands for stray dogs. Because that’s exactly what most of them are; veterans who are a little bit messed up on the inside, who can disassemble and reassemble a firearm in 30 seconds flat, blindfolded, but fumble when it comes to picking out a breakfast cereal. Micheletto still remembers the overwhelming sense of jamais vu when he touches down stateside after completing the fourth tour, having to walk down a busy street with no one to cover his six.
If it’s not for Augustino it could have turned out a whole other way.
wrote this chapter while listening to this, if anyone is interested:
Cesare writes three pages before he notices a shadow moving closer. The guitar squeaks as he drops his hand with an air of exasperation.
‘You’ve checked the bus before and after the gig, there is no need to stay up with me.’
‘You should sleep; I heard it’s good for you.’
Cesare rubs a hand over his bloodshot eyes, ‘yeah, it’s just, this is how I come down from a live. Nothing else works.’
‘Your drummer will beg to differ.’
That startles a laugh out of Cesare, ‘the second joke of the night from you, Should I be worried?’
‘No more than usual.’
‘Aha!’ Cesare grins, triumphant, ‘so you’re not trust-worthy after all.’
‘No one is, not completely anyways.’
‘So you’ll sell me out, if the price is high enough.’ Cesare sounds more curious than outraged.
‘No one can buy your life off me, if that’s what you mean.’
‘My dirty secrets, then?’
‘I wasn’t aware there was any left to sell.’ Micheletto quirks one corner of his mouth wryly, ‘and no, it’s not in my nature to betray for profit.’
Cesare is watching him now; watching as if he’s mentally putting Micheletto into neat little boxes, draw a circle around the bits he’ll pry open later on, ‘what will you betray for?’
Micheletto doesn’t know what he sees, but it’s Cesare who drops his gaze first, seemingly unbothered by Micheletto’s silence.
‘Hey girl.’ Giulia murmurs, crawling up into Vittoria’s bunk, fighting off a yawn. Fatigue is a good look on her, Vee thinks, running mascara and all. It makes her softer, almost fragile, nothing like the smirking, pouting entity on CD jackets and magazine covers.
She cards a hand through Giulia’s wild curls, damp with Louisiana air; air so thick with plant emanation you can drown in it. The strands cling to her fingertips like some shadowy creature from the deepest ocean.
Giulia falls asleep like that, head resting on Vittoria’s belly, the rest of her curled tightly into a ball, snuffling a little whenever the bus sways.
Photo shoots must be a special kind of hell, Cesare grimaces, feeling a headache gathering behind his eyes. Seriously, if he has to hear someone yell ‘come on, man, fuck the camera’ one more time, he will not be responsible for his actions.
Micheletto watches him practically scramble away from the group of half-naked models, before collapsing into Lucrezia’s waiting arms with a groan.
‘Once, I’d like it just once, to be photographed with clothes on.’
Lucrezia drops a kiss to his sweaty temple, chuckling, ‘you know how many copies of GQ were sold the last time?’ she pauses for emphasis, ‘shitloads. So, chin up, you ain’t see nothing yet.’
Cesare buries his head in Lucrezia’s shiny (and no doubt wickedly expensive) hair, nuzzling, ‘why do I have to play some sort of horndog every single time?’
‘No, no, no, not that.’ Lucrezia gives him a teasing once-over, ‘a sex god, okay?’
‘A piece of meat served up on a platter, more like.’ Cesare half lifts his head from the masses of blond curls, nose wrinkled. For some obscure reason, his gaze lands on Micheletto, darkening, ‘a dime a dozen.’
He’s miles and miles of golden, oiled up skin. The leather pants moulding perfectly to the strong muscles in his thighs. Eyes lined with kohl to bring out the specks of green and amber, shifting like leaves on an autumn pond.
Micheletto stays still, hands curled into loose fists by his sides. Backing down from a challenge has been trained right out of him from the day he enlisted. It’s pure automatic response: stand your ground, maintain eye contact, wait for the opponent to make the first move.
Time stretches, thick and sticky as tar.
Lucrezia shifts in his arms, uncertain, ‘Ces?’
The tension snaps, Cesare blinks as if he’s just startled awake, mumbling out an apology and steps back.
It’s not until after Cesare is called away by an assistant that Micheletto realizes there are little half-moons dug into the meaty part of his palms.
‘I’ll drive you.’ Cesare says, casual like. Micheletto stares back,
‘I don’t think…’
‘Look,’ Cesare kicks at an imaginary rock, ‘this way you don’t have to drag an extra person in on your day off. Plus, I need to get away from this bunch for a bit.’ He gestures at the bus.
‘Are you sure?’
‘Come on, I won’t crash the car, I promise.’ Cesare pulls the sunglasses down and the jacket collar up, a flash of white teeth.
Micheletto shakes his head inwardly; the paparazzi could probably spot him from space.
This has bad idea written all over it.
Cesare eats three helpings of Mrs Corella’s stew, smirking at Micheletto’s family album. (‘I didn’t know you were into artistic nudes.’ ‘I was three.’)
In almost all of the pictures there is another dark haired boy, grinning alongside Micheletto---from sitting to crawling to playing football, gap toothed to gangly shouldered.
‘That’s Augustino.’ Mrs Corella loads their bowls with ice cream, beaming fondly, ‘I always say I have two boys, not one.’
Micheletto doesn’t look up, concentrating on getting the last bit of graham cracker off his plate.
‘You and Augustino, huh?’
‘We grew up together, went into the army together, got the fuck out together, set up the company together.’
‘So why the hell aren’t you running off to Canada and adopting babies?’
Cesare gives him an unreadable look, but thankfully lets the subject drop.
Of course, the truth is always simpler and more complicated than what they tell.
He grips the steering wheel tighter; it’s just one night, one goddamn night, desperate fumbling in hushed darkness, helping each other out when the need for another human body becomes too much. The stench of death and blood and stale sweat lodges in their throats, overwhelming all other senses.
And yet, and yet---
He remembers the single sound Augustino makes as he jerks in his grip, almost a sob, remembers tasting him on his knuckles after, the way Augustino sags into him, a warm, intimate weight.
Besides him, Cesare dozes, lashes two dark smudges against his cheekbones.
For one brief moment, envy burns white hot on Micheletto’s tongue.
They’re doing bodyshots, out of all things. Giulia has collapsed into a giggling heap after licking salt off Vittoria’s thigh, with Juan cheering and hooting.
Then Giulia turns her liquid eyes to Cesare, zeroing in on him like a hawk,
‘I dare you, Ces.’ She points a finger in Micheletto’s direction, eyebrows doing a merry little dance.
Micheletto maps out all possible exits from the bus before Cesare pins him with a sidelong glance, one corner of his mouth twitching up and up.
There is a tinny voice in his head shouting ‘back up, back up!’ like a broken record. But it fades into nothingness as Cesare staggers up, gathering salt, lime and a shot glass in both hands, and saunters over.
‘Stay still, don’t want to spill any do we?’ Cesare says matter-of-factly as he tugs on Micheletto’s belt, wedges the glass between his fly and belly. The words just a bit more rounded, the deliberateness of a drunk trying very hard to sound sober.
‘Hand.’ He rasps, Micheletto is holding up a palm without a second thought. His conscience stirs, uneasy, before turning onto its belly, already snoring. A laugh rumbles deep in Cesare’s chest as he tips salt onto the base of Micheletto’s thumb, brows creased in concentration.
The inside of the bus is a blur of noises and colours on the edge of Micheletto’s consciousness, hovering in and out of focus.
Lips first, softer than any men’s have the right to be, brush across where the salt is sticking to skin, almost nuzzling. Soon followed by a tongue, little cat like licks, chasing after the taste. Micheletto watches, breathing in careful, controlled puffs. All the while Cesare holds his gaze, even as he licks up Micheletto’s wrist, slow and steady, for good measure.
He leans closer, pointy little nose resting in the hollow of Micheletto’s throat before he starts the downward journey, folding gracefully to his knees, hands interlocked in the small of his back. Body swaying ever so slightly.
The smile he gives Micheletto just before he cocks his head to the side gleams like the deadliest blade.
Cesare works the glass loose, lips wrap around the rim, sucking it into his mouth and slowly tilts his head back, throat bobbing.
Someone lets out a low whistle. Micheletto can hear clapping, clapping for god’s sake, while Cesare bites leisurely into the slice of lime, upper and lower lashes touching.
Later, Micheletto shoves him into the side of the bus, fingers gripping tight,
‘you little shit,’ he growls, banging Cesare’s head against the metal once, ‘you fucking tease. Pushing, always pushing.’
‘Who said I was teasing?’ Cesare wheezes, breathless, one thigh nudging against the bulge at the front of Micheletto’s pants.
Micheletto watches the curls falling messily into his dark, dark eyes; the gleam of sweat on bronzed skin and thinks, Christ, he does have a type.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The interviewer is quite a looker, but,
‘The giggling, man,’ Juan groans into the bottom of his glass, ‘it was giving me performance anxiety.’
Cesare and Lucrezia have an entire conversation with just their eyes while Giulia snorts under her breath.
Their break officially starts today, before the second leg of the tour kicks off. And everyone is in that weird state of half exhaustion half exhilaration, moving like the world is all soft and fuzzy around the edges. Giulia’s top is soaked through with the drink she’s spilled over herself earlier, drawing colourful looks from the rest of the bar.
Cesare doesn’t blame them, she’s got fantastic tits.
Juan glances over, ‘Of course, you’re used to a little giggling by now.’
All four turn to look at Vittoria in unison, who is slumped over Giulia’s knee, grinning at thin air. Their bassist is a happy drunk, once the dreamy smiles start to creep up every 30 seconds, you know it’s time to swap the shots for water.
‘Alright punks,’ Lucrezia leans over to give Giulia a peck on the cheek, ‘some of us still have work tomorrow. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.’
Cesare chooses that moment to bodily pick her up by the waist, swinging them both over the booth amidst much flailing and whooping. They almost land on the floor in a tangle if not for Micheletto’s quick reflexes.
The chaos doesn’t last long: Cesare stumbling around with Lucrezia yelping in childish delight; and Micheletto ends up with an armful of Cesare, warm and solid.
If he’s momentarily distracted by the smelling of fresh sweat and subtle, expensive cologne, nobody has to know.
Vittoria is a skinny kid and a skinnier teenager. Throughout high school she spends a lot of time with both arms crossed in front of her, clutching the sketchbook like a shield. The few girls who would talk to her always moan about how lucky she is, how she never seems to put on a pound. Which makes her feel even more like a freak.
Giulia has normal proportions and no real friends. Not that she cares, strutting through locker room with her head held high. The whispers that follow her round would make Vittoria blanch with anger. She just shrugs it off with a lazy flick of her hand.
‘Why should I bother? They’re either jealous, or plain stupid.’ She tugs Vittoria closer, passing a funny looking cigarette over (‘a joint, honey, it’s called a joint.’)
The first clumsy inhale makes Vee wheeze until she’s red in the face. She looks up through the haze of tears to see Giulia smiling down at her, rubbing a comforting hand across her back.
‘Okay, okay, let’s do it another way.’
Giulia scoots closer, free hand sliding along the back of Vee’s neck, thumb tucked under her jaw, tilting her head back.
‘Open your mouth.’
Vee blinks, and does exactly that, feeling mildly ridiculous until Giulia’s face looms closer still; today her smile is Ruby Red rather than Passion Pink, the sweep of her lashes clouding most of Vee’s vision.
‘Breathe in when I breathe out.’
The corner of Giulia’s mouth is a bit chapped, that’s the first thought that floats to the front of Vee’s mind. The sting of smoke on her tongue barely registering. She tries to breathe and talk at the same time, ends up spluttering into Giulia’s face. Which, for some reason, makes her grin even harder.
Vee blushes to the roots of her hair while Giulia wordlessly takes another drag, a teasing glint swimming in her half-lidded eyes.
They manage to do it right the second time, bitter warmth slithering down the back of Vee’s throat, the full effect slams in almost immediately after.
It’s a peculiar feeling, weightless and leaden at the same time. Heat rushes to the tips of her fingers and toes before popping like champagne bubbles, leaving behind a tingling sensation.
She opens her mouth (a gasp, a giggle) and Giulia is there already, those lips back on hers, pressing hot and tight.
Sometimes Vee muses what life will be like if she’s never met Giulia: a lot safer maybe.
And unbearably, mind-numbingly boring.
A dude with spiky hair comes to pick Vittoria up. It takes three of them to help her climb onto the back of his motorbike, eyes already sliding shut. Giulia strokes Vee’s flushed cheek in lieu of goodbye, her own companion of the night waiting impatiently around the corner.
Juan has long disappeared to god knows where.
Cesare yawns, ‘where to, bright eyes?’
Micheletto just about manages to hide his shock---he’s mostly decided that one time in the parking lot was exactly that: a one-off drunken mistake. Even though the week after Cesare keeps mindlessly fingering the bruises Micheletto has left on his wrists.
Seriously, Micheletto should start requesting extra hazard pay, on the ground of his mental wellbeing.
‘I could ask your place or mine, but I’d rather not travel half way across the country just to have you naked on a bed.’
Put it like that, it’s hardly a choice.
The thing most people don’t know about Cesare is that he’s ticklish, just beneath his ribcage. He also snores in bed from time to time. Fails at any culinary challenge more complicated than making toasts.
Plus, he is, hands down, one of the dirtiest lays Micheletto has ever had. The rock and roll life obviously has its perks; that mouth should be illegal in all fifty states. Certainly doesn’t mind a bit of rough handling. He also seems to know the perfect way to tease his tongue inside Micheletto’s ass, clever guitarist’s fingers skilled in torture, among other things. One time Micheletto fucks him with a vibrating toy and watches, petting him with pretty words breathed into the shell of his ear. Words like gorgeous, taking it so well baby, wish you could see yourself. Cesare comes without a hand on him, shaking and bowing.
There are many sides to Cesare, Micheletto has discovered that a while back: the flirt; the performer; bleary eyed with mussed hair; putting away fries at an alarming speed; irritable and monosyllabic when his latest composition is going nowhere.
Micheletto likes him best when he’s all sated and soft in their bed (a hotel bed, he reminds himself, not that he can mistake the king-size for his own Spartan cot), hogging the pillow. Cesare doesn’t become angelic in sleep, but it does take years off him.
They sleep in until noon, then go out and eat a million sticky donuts, or just lounge in the sun for hours. The nights are often spent cruising from one smoky, anonymous bar to another, inhaling Southern food and bourbon.
Sometime after midnight, Cesare always walks, albeit a little unsteadily, back to where Micheletto is nursing a beer. Half a dozen phone numbers in one hand, the other crawling up Micheletto’s thigh under the cover of the table.
It’s hard to be annoyed with Cesare’s sense of entitlement when he’s tasting that Cheshire grin from behind Cesare’s teeth.
Things are never quite the same after that.
There is the tour, sweeping everyone up again, always marching forward, forward at a punishing pace.
Then there is The Borgias’ adoring crowd, camping outside live houses, lurking around hotels for a glimpse, cameras at ready.
They hardly get a moment alone.
Cesare throws the last few picks into the pit; there is a flurry of limbs dashing towards where they land. Giulia steals Juan’s broken drumstick and is banging merrily away on one of the cymbals. Vee sits leaning against the amp, beaming dazedly.
They are all dragging their feet towards the dressing room when a roadie passes Cesare’s phone over.
Cesare catches it in mid-air, groaning.
‘I’m sore and tired and dying for a smoke right now, can this wait?’
Micheletto watches his eyes narrow in resigned irritation, and follows soundlessly when Cesare starts shoving his way through the crowd into the bathroom.
The building has been swept beforehand, so he waits by the door, trying hard to block out the words filtering through.
‘I don’t give a flying fuck what the tabloids say.’
‘What’s different this time? Everyone knows I sleep with guys too.’
Silence, followed by a dark laugh, ‘It’s a bit late to be coming across all paternal now.’
A muffled bang
‘I won’t choose, and you can’t make me.’
The door flies open a second later, and out storms Cesare. His face shadowed, taut, a whole tangle of emotions chasing one another in quick succession when their eyes meet---so fast it’s making Micheletto’s head spin.
For one breathless moment, Micheletto thinks he can feel Cesare’s body swaying closer, curling towards him as if for comfort.
Then he is straightening up, shoulders squared, his smile young and fearless.
It’s almost anticlimactic when they do catch the culprit behind the threats. Just a regular guy with an overzealous moral compass.
Micheletto signs the non-disclosure agreement the second time, and walks away.
He tells himself he’s too busy to seek Cesare out. New cases coming in, new clients knocking on his door.
The same goes for Cesare, he supposes.
The two phone calls he’s ignored will soon be forgotten.
Except that somewhere towards the end, there is a little sliver of time, impossible to say how much, that rests against Micheletto’s ribs like a prickly feather.
Cesare is sitting in a pool of sunlight by the bus, long legs folded in front of himself, an old acoustic in his lap, plucking away at the strings. The chord he comes back to again and again could be the start of a new song or sheer whimsy. He gets bored soon enough and follows it by a fanciful flight up and down the finger-board.
He is talented, Micheletto can tell that much at least. Something that’s perhaps frequently overshadowed by his model good looks, the fascination over his private life.
Cesare’s head rests against Micheletto’s left knee, the weight getting heavier and heavier as his eyes flutter shut, fingers automatically fall into an old folk tune, smiling a little.
Neither says a thing.
Micheletto watches him from the corner of his eye, the jut of his wrist bone, and is grabbed by the strangest urge to press his mouth to the hollow bit underneath. Not even a kiss, not the type that will lead to feverish exploration anyways.
They lean against each other, lost in the moment of silence, before the real world eventually catches up with them.
I thought about giving them a more of a finale, explosions, dragons, etc. but decided against it in the end XD