“Holy shit, Abbacchio. Jabba the Hut and Leia, two o’clock.”
Officer Leone Abbacchio didn’t consider himself gay, but he wasn’t what you’d call straight either.
Married to the job. That’s what it was. He stepped into the police academy wearing his high school cap and gown, and six months later, he hit the streets in uniform with a Beretta at his hip. He was a young cadet, had a heart full of ideals and no free time whatsoever, so romance was never on the agenda. But if he ever met a young lady who was justice incarnate, well, maybe he’d rethink his position.
And there would be a time for rosy daydreams after the fourth most hectic week in Naples.
It wasn’t a loud affair, not like in Milan, but it offered its own spectacle. The industry picked up its designers and dress forms and arrived by van and truck and plane for a seven-day marathon. Cameras came out and the models shortly after, donning the finest accessories and leatherwork the city and its guests had to offer. Every news station did their obligatory “Who are you wearing tonight?” segments, and wouldn’t you know it; the police were working overtime.
Leone felt damn lucky to be patrolling around the heart of Naples Fashion Week after only one month on the job. He liked fashion, sure, but it’s not a hobby he’d admit to the other officers at his station. Not for any circumstance short of waterboarding. He did, however, wear his police cap chicly askew above a full face of makeup, so his partner made the safe bet and put in the request for them both—Capelli, that sneaky bastard.
In the end, the precinct gave their names when the city asked for extra officers on security, and there they were. Staring at Jabba the Hut and Princess Leia, while Leone questioned his sexuality.
“That must be Polpo,” Capelli said under his breath. “I bet he weighs at least three of me.”
“He’s clearly four of us combined,” Leone replied, talking somewhat out his ass because there was no way his eyes were on Polpo when there was a lovely little raven-haired thing in white standing next to Polpo.
In hindsight, Officer Leone Abbacchio was probably a little bit gay. The probability skyrocketed when the pretty man (it just had to be a man) noticed him staring. He introduced himself as Bruno Buccellati, and Leone’s first thought then was, Of course he’s got the name of a fruity sugar cookie.
“Is Passione gonna be a problem for us today, Buccellati?” he drawled, and his voice betrayed him in a way it hadn’t since his balls first dropped. God damn.
Buccellati laughed in response, his voice like honey and bourbon. It was a hearty laugh, amicable, and absolutely fake. Leone hated it instantly. It didn’t match the elegant visuals of Bruno Buccellati, whose velvety white suit hung gracefully over his broad shoulders, exposed his tan chest, and cinched just right around his tiny waist—who also had the same name as the pastries that Leone’s nonna made every Christmas, and now Leone’s eyes snapped back up to the fucker’s face.
“I’d like to assure you, for the record, that Signor Polpo is simply a patron of fashion,” Buccellati said, as if the name had no affiliations at all with one of the most notorious gangs in southern Italy. “In fact, the work on that stage is the result of his extremely successful artist residency program here in Naples.”
Leone glanced up at the temporary catwalk, clocked the designer, and turned back to Buccellati. “Liar.”
“Am I?” Buccellati raised one perfect eyebrow and smiled. “I suppose you’ll have to keep an eye on me, won’t you, Officer?”
Damn it to hell, but Leone was gay after all.
Officer Leone Abbacchio respected hierarchy, so the first thing he did the next morning was to report his suspicions.
“And finally, Lydia Gigi is a designer from New York City. This is the first time she’s stepped foot in Europe. There’s no way she was a part of Polpo’s residency program.”
“I’m impressed by your quick investigation into the Passione gang,” said the sergeant thoughtfully, “but you should stop.”
Leone opened his mouth and closed it, perplexed.
“You said you met a Bruno Buccellati, right? He’s a nice young man, a friend to the community—a model citizen. Get to know him, Abbacchio. I think you’ll learn a thing or two.”
From a gangster, Leone almost said aloud. For a confusing second, he felt as if the world shifted beneath his feet, but he righted himself with a brisk change of his own perspective and nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“Don’t let it get to you,” said Capelli afterward. He had witnessed the whole exchange from aside, and was doing a terrible job reassuring Leone as they drove back to their post at the theatre house. “Maybe you haven’t noticed, but a lot of policemen are on the Passione payroll.”
Leone tried to make sense of the world he had rushed into right after high school. It wasn't a stretch for the sergeant to have a few corrupt inspectors above him, so it was reasonable of him to ask Leone to be more discreet in apprehending Buccellati. Now, if Leone could pin the man down with some solid evidence, he might actually have a chance to arrest Polpo. And that’d only be the beginning. Capo by capo, Leone would bring Passione to the ground, and there would be one less crime family in Naples.
He told Capelli as much, and Capelli stared at him with a little smile that swung between astonishment and admiration. “A man can dream, Abbacchio,” he said, “but I’ve got your back, if you’re serious about it.”
Leone smiled as a cyclist crashed into their parked cruiser, kicked it with a few pig-related obscenities, and pedaled off before the two could exit the vehicle.
“Y’don’t suppose this is some kind of omen, right?” said Capelli.
Leone’s smile drooped ever so slightly.
Bruno Buccellati was already in the theater. He leaned against the back wall, admiring the dark atmosphere onstage, and looked like powdered sugar on chocolate. Leone approached with caution.
“I didn’t realize the San Carlo could feel so different with the lighting,” Buccellati said softly.
“You should’ve seen when they did Monteverdi’s L'Orfeo last summer,” replied Leone.
Buccellati laughed again, and it was that fake, grating sound. “So, you're a cultured man, Officer. I can see why they assigned you here. I don’t think I got your name last time.”
“I didn’t give it,” said Leone stiffly, taking into account how quickly Buccellati shrank the space between them, until their arms were touching.
“Shall I call you Officer Cucciolo until you do?”
Leone glared. He knew he was a greenhorn, but Buccellati didn’t need to rub it in. “Why are you here?”
“Providing support for our artists,” Buccellati continued the lie breezily, as if Leone hadn’t called him out on it the day before. “Signor Polpo would have liked to be here today, too, but he has health problems, as you can imagine.”
“And what kind of support are we talking about?” Leone went at a different angle, but Buccellati wasn’t the kind of man to slip up.
“We’re working with the Naples Culture Committee, of course. They get to boost the city’s prestige, while helping our local economy. We get recommend our friends in construction, engineering, and design.”
“Ah,” said Leone in disdain. So, city hall had turned a blind eye as well. Or at least, that’s what Buccellati would have him believe. Something was up. There was probably a lot of money being cleaned this week through construction alone. It was too perfect, his explanation: too smooth, too well-rehearsed.
Far too intimate when Buccellati’s voice tickled Leone’s ear, “It’s a wonderful, mutually beneficial operation. Don’t you think, Officer?”
Leone could feel his face grow hot. He glanced down at Buccellati, whose face was uncomfortably close. The two hairclips above his curtain of dark bangs glinted mischievously with the changing lights, and Leone could see the complex braid between them on the crown of Buccellati’s head.
For the first time, Leone could properly appreciate how lovely Bruno Buccellati was up close, and Buccellati took the occasion to scan him for weakness. His eyes were blue as the line between sky and ocean, and intensely austere in a way his mannerisms weren’t. If Leone let himself admire them any more than he already had, Buccellati would drown him in his own folly.
And so, Leone walked away, wordlessly, feeling as if Buccellati had run a finger down his spine.
He had an area to patrol, and it was almost a shame that nothing out of the ordinary happened. Representatives from different houses worked out the parade schedules for each designer with the tech crew. Gofers and interns made coffee runs (though, none for him), and the models completely ignored him on their cigarette breaks. Leone couldn’t complain. It was peaceful, despite the frenetic energy of artistic egos that had barely any food to pad out the caffeine and nicotine. The worst that happened was a clash between two girls over a tube of lipstick, but in their defense, it was an excellent brand. (Leone had one in lavender that he was still saving for a special occasion, whatever it may be.)
No drug deals, no smuggling, none of the usual rackets.
Throughout this time, Buccellati took great pains to remain in Leone’s peripheral, as if to say, “How could I possibly be doing anything illegal right under your nose?”
It was Thursday when Leone put all the pieces together.
“Nice conspiracy board,” Capelli said over the rim of his mug, “but kinda early in your career for one, don’t you think?”
Leone looked at him over his shoulder with dry eyes. “I know what Bruno Buccellati was up to this week, and I’m going to nail him before he carries it out.”
“Hmm.” Capelli examined Leone’s work on the corkboard dutifully, taking his time on each newspaper clipping and on Buccellati’s mugshot from two years back. He hummed his appreciation for the color-coordinated threads that connected everything. “We get it, Abbacchio, you’re gonna make a hell of a detective someday.”
“Listen,” said Leone, tapping the first article in the web. “The only mention of Polpo’s artist residency program was in Il Mattino last August. No word on international designers. Then, Lydia Gigi made her press announcement saying she’d attend Naples Fashion Week as a guest.” He pointed to a New York Times article dated in December. “A guest, not an exhibitor.”
Capelli sipped his coffee with an encouraging nod.
Leone slammed his palm over a glossy brochure. “And yet, here she is in the programming. Friday night, during the most hectic day of Fashion Week. Networking happens. Everyone wines and dines everyone else. Any deal could happen in any restaurant or bar in town. And her assistant spilled on the location. We need to keep tabs on her all night, until Buccellati comes into play.”
“I like this picture of Buccellati,” said Capelli. “He has caring eyes.”
“You’re not gonna think that, once I tell you how he figures into this equation.”
“Hey, you’re the one who wants to nail him.”
“The fuck are you implying?” Leone demanded, taking a vicious bite from the last buccellati cookie on his desk.
Capelli shrugged a neutral shrug that seemed to be anything but neutral. “Look, you know me. I don’t judge. All I know is, if I saw my Marina flirting with hot models all week the way Buccellati has been, I’d be pretty steamed, too.”
“But I’m not dating Buccellati,” said Leone bluntly, and then stupidly, “so I can’t screw him.”
Capelli regarded him with an expression that could only be described as pity and said, “Anyway, you don’t have to convince me. I trust your investigation, and I’ve said it before: I’ll back you. You just have to convince the sergeant.”
“I will,” said Leone, picking up his corkboard of orderly madness, “I’ll show this to him.”
“No,” said Capelli, placing his hand kindly on Leone’s shoulder, “absolutely not.”
In the end, Capelli explained Leone’s plan to the sergeant with the calm, rational demeanor of a man who had gotten a good night’s rest, ate a healthy breakfast, and was not running on office coffee and fig cookies from the bakery across the street. So, the opposite of Leone.
“Tomorrow night, then,” said the sergeant, his face unreadable. “Get some sleep in the meantime, Abbacchio. You look like you’ve gone off the deep end.”
Leone did his best.
“Abbacchio. Keep an eye on Buccellati. I’ll watch the girls."
When Leone and Capelli arrived at the theatre house, Leone silently hoped Buccellati would do him the favor of staying within reach, so he’d be easier to arrest when he made his inevitable blunder.
Buccellati did him one better and pulled him into the back of an all-black Mercedes. Tinted windows, custom leather, the works. He knocked off Leone’s cap and climbed on top, stripping him of his policeman coat in one smooth, impossible motion. (It had been buttoned and secured with a belt and everything.)
He was undoing the tie when Leone cuffed him: “You’re under arrest.”
Buccellati stared at his captured wrist in surprise. “For what?”
“Assaulting a police officer.”
“I thought this was what you wanted all week,” said Buccellati with a frown. Leone felt a twinge of embarrassment—had he been that obvious?—but Buccellati sighed and unlocked the handcuff with a stroke of a finger. Impossible, yet again, but it was done. “I suppose you take cash after all.”
Leone gaped but quickly regained his senses, enough to snap the other cuff around the same wrist. “You’re under arrest!”
“Attempted bribery on top of assaulting an officer.”
Again, Buccellati removed it with such insulting ease that it looked like magic. “You might be new to the police force, so allow me to explain it: this is where we end the song and dance we’ve been doing all week.”
Leone persevered. He grabbed Buccellati, this time with his own hands. The gangster made a token resistance to maintain his elevation, but Leone managed to flip them. He pressed Buccellati face-first into the seat with his hands pinned firmly behind his back.
Buccellati didn’t struggle. He didn’t seem worried. “All right, then. What am I really being charged for?” His voice was even. A little dangerous. Leone kind of liked that.
“I know Passione is trafficking women from the Adriatic,” said Leone. “The frosted lipstick. The one the girls were fighting over. It’s from the Dior Moon Is Unbreakable line. It was a limited run color, very rare. Only a hundred or so were ever released before the diamond glitter’s active ingredient was found to be carcinogenic with long-term use.”
Buccellati twisted his neck just enough to give Leone a look of complete confusion. “How is that relevant?”
“It looks amazing,” Leone continued very seriously, “so damn shiny you can see it from outer space. It’s a new signal that international traffickers are using to mark the victims they’re transporting.”
“The girls put it on themselves. They’re supposed to stand out. It’s a fashion show. You can’t honestly arrest me on such flimsy pretenses—”
“Also, I caught Gigi’s assistant buying cocaine from a Passione dealer backstage. He cracked in the interrogation room and confirmed her involvement. She’s moved hundreds of women on the pretense of modeling gigs.”
Buccellati studied Leone silently before he said, “Officer Cucciolo, you are being severely underutilized on the police force.”
“It’s Abbacchio! Leone Abbacchio.”
“Officer Abbacchio,” repeated Buccellati obediently, and something changed about his demeanor. The fight seemed to go right out of him. Concerned, Leone let him up, and Buccellati didn’t take advantage. He rubbed his wrist, pensive, and turned to Leone. His eyes were grave. “Cocaine. Was it really…? And you’re sure it was a member of Passione?”
Leone snorted, “What? Passione too good for drug dealing now?”
Buccellati glared at him, for the first time. Ah. Leone had to remind himself he didn’t do anything wrong.
They both started at a sharp rap on the window. Lydia Gigi was outside, knocking frantically.
“Buccellati!” she hissed in English, “Buccellati, we have to go! Now!”
He exchanged glances with Leone, and Leone let him climb over to open the door. (Confirm their involvement with each other. Capelli should be close behind.) Behind her were three girls—models she claimed to have brought with her, except they didn’t speak a lick of English. They were still made up from their runway parade but had changed to more conventional streetwear. All three lit up at the sight of Buccellati and gushed in accented Italian: “It’s Bruno! Hi, Bruno!”
“You told me you handled the cops,” said Gigi, and she brandished a gun. Leone recognized it instantly. A Beretta 92F, police issued.
“Capelli! What did you do to him?!” He grabbed her wrist. She shrieked and fired right next to his ear.
He could feel it ringing through his brain as Buccellati shoved him out the car. The women clambered in. Leone couldn’t tell up and down from left and right as columns of legs kneed him freely in the face. He managed to grab a handful of velvety fabric and looked up to see Buccellati staring past him in vexation.
He pressed a finger to Leone’s mouth and said something, but the high screech in Leone’s ear drowned him out.
“What?” Leone shouted.
Buccellati flinched and tried to nudge him out of the car door’s way. He repeated himself, and this time, Leone could hear him faintly over the ringing, “…So let go, and don’t look around. There’s someone here whose attention I don’t want to attract. Just let go. Let me close the door!”
Like hell, Buccellati wasn’t going to escape on Leone’s watch.
But still, Leone followed his gaze down the street. It landed on a man in purple. He had a cloth mask over his eyes and looked as if he had stepped straight out of a bondage porno version of the Carnevale. He swept an indifferent glance across the crowd, but swerved back to them, squinting. And then, his expression changed to delight. At first, Leone assumed he was another model or designer, but there was something off about him.
“Di molto bene! Buccellati!” the man called out, swinging his metal suitcase as he sauntered forward. “What luck! And here I was just passing by, in search of a good woman, and you happen to have four on hand!”
Buccellati quickly spread his arms, trying in vain to hide the women squished behind him in the backseat.
“What are you doing here, Melone,” he said through his teeth. It was more of an accusation than a question. “Do not make a scene.”
“I’m on an assignment,” Melone replied, stepping over Leone and ignoring him completely, opting instead to peer over Buccellati’s shoulder. “Hmmmm, what a fine selection of females. All of breeding age—oh, except for that one.” He laughed. “Trust me, I can tell at a glance.”
Leone cringed. So, he was one of those guys.
“I’m taking these models to a party on Polpo’s yacht,” Buccellati said with a stiff smile. “Unfortunately, you can’t come. Very strict guest list. Don’t follow.”
“Oh, don’t be such a hardass like Prosciutto. I only need one, and I’m short on time. I know you’re a generous man,” Melone pleaded.
“There is a policeman here,” warned Buccellati, nodding over to Leone, who bristled when Melone looked down his nose at him in disdain.
“Then, give me two women, and I’ll get rid of him.”
“Buccellati. Let’s. Go,” Lydia Gigi said, passive-aggressively, and Melone perked up at her tone.
He opened his suitcase to reveal a small portable computer and set it on his knee. “Bella mia, I like your spirit!” He tapped at the keys and said in choppy English, “What’s your sign? Your blood type? Do you drink or smoke?”
She pointed Capelli’s gun at him. “Back away, and close the door.”
“Bene, molto bene, but you are perfect!” Melone sang, and he pressed a button. Leone was in the middle of thinking the suitcase was staring at him when a rubbery pair of arms shot out and grabbed Gigi. She screamed.
“Melone!” roared Buccellati, and he made two things happen at once. Somehow, he did.
Melone’s body pitched into the car, as if he had been sucker-punched in the face by an invisible man. The three other women in the car landed onto Leone in a heap, as if they had been teleported.
“Look after them, Officer—!” Leone caught a glimpse of Melone’s flailing legs and Buccellati’s fierce eyes before the door slammed shut. The Mercedes revved to life and sped off just as Leone rose to his feet. He stared, at a loss, until he heard his name.
“Abbacchio! There you are!”
“Capelli?!” Leone felt a wash of relief. Capelli was alive. His arm was bleeding, but he was alive. He ran toward Leone, and Leone suddenly felt like a failure. “Buccellati…! He got away.”
“But the girls… You saved them?” Capelli asked, looking over to count the dazed women on the ground. “Where’s Gigi?”
“She went… with him.” It was hard to say she got away, too, since it seemed more like she was in danger. Leone frowned. What happened tonight defied expectation. It was too bizarre for words alone.
“Bruno?” One of the girls sat up, looking about in alarm. She was the youngest. Her mascara was running, but her frosted lipstick shined like the gold trimmings on Buccellati’s suit. “Where is Bruno?”
“It’s all right,” said Leone, kneeling down before her. He smiled. “You’re safe now.”
She spat in his face.
After he made sure the women reached the police station, Leone rushed home to take a quick shower and don a clean uniform. He put on a fresh coat of black lipstick and stared apologetically at his exhausted reflection in the mirror. There was still a quiet, high-pitched keening in his ear. He was a wreck. He promised to take better care of himself once he wrapped up the Buccellati case, but it’s a promise he’s made too often before.
The sun had barely crested over the horizon when he entered the building. With early bird Capelli in the hospital sporting a bullet wound, Leone was sure he’d be the first to arrive. But there were already a few other officers idling on his floor. Leone shrugged it off. Probably beat cops finishing the last of their reports from a night shift. They watched him curiously as he passed, which made him wonder if his makeup smudged—until he arrived at his desk.
There, draped neatly over his chair, was a dark police uniform wrapped in plastic. Fresh from the drycleaner’s, it was his coat. The one Buccellati ripped off him only hours before. Leone examined it warily, checking for any sign of tampering. All he found was an extra zipper on the sleeve that didn’t fit his uniform. It was gold and gaudy.
And then, he heard Bruno Buccellati.
Leone practically leapt down the stairs. He saw Buccellati’s slender silhouette in the soft morning light and the girls he brought in earlier. Buccellati was bidding the sergeant a good day.
“No,” Leone snarled, “No, don’t you fucking don’t.”
The girls parted in a scramble as Leone approached. He felt such fury that he was certain he frightened them with his giant frame and black-rimmed eyes, but he didn’t care anymore. He had to get to Buccellati, who merely regarded him with calm and calculation.
“Officer Abbacchio, did you find your coat? I know you’re thinking it’s very hard to find a drycleaner so early in the day, but I—”
Leone almost landed his punch, but felt a soft swish as he missed by a hair. Just barely.
“No! Stop! Don’t hurt Bruno!” The girls shrieked as if they were one, quickly forming a defensive wall between the two men. Leone stared in disbelief. Buccellati blinked in surprise as well and had the audacity to blush.
“You son of a bitch, Buccellati!” Leone growled, and he tried to push the girls apart to get to him, but they wouldn’t budge. “Did you convince them you loved them? Do they even know what you have in store for them?!”
The girls yelled and hissed and scratched at Leone, who backed away, stunned. Buccellati laughed and said, “I like to think of myself as a good Samaritan. It should be a crime to keep these beauties in a dirty jail like common criminals, so I'm here on their behalf.”
“Liar,” Leone said, turning to the women. “He is lying to you. He’s a bad man. He works for Passione.”
Buccellati sighed and looked up at the ceiling, as if in prayer, and then looked to the sergeant. Leone’s superior cleared his throat and made a weary shooing motion to Buccellati, who smiled his thanks and led his group to the entrance. Leone bolted ahead.
“You can’t leave. You can’t take them.” He blocked the door and hoped his height would be enough to intimidate. “For God’s sake, Buccellati, be a fucking decent man. That one is underage!”
Buccellati’s smile faltered, almost imperceptibly, but Leone hoped maybe that was enough to really dig into his conscience and convince him—
“Enough, Abbacchio. Let them pass,” said the sergeant.
Leone’s heart froze. It took every drop of will he had not to quiver in bewildered outrage. “Sir, he’s going to sell these girls,” he said through gritted teeth. “Passione will sell these girls in a heartbeat if you let them walk out!”
“Abbacchio,” the sergeant repeated, and Leone glanced around for support. The other officers in the building had come to watch, some leaning over the banister from upstairs, but none offered their aid.
Leone was met with a wall of apathy.
Buccellati paid them off. He realized this first, and finally, the scope of the situation: including the sergeant, Buccellati had paid them all off.
'Get to know him, Abbacchio. I think you’ll learn a thing or two.’
No wonder he didn’t want Leone to get himself killed for something so futile as stopping Passione.
Buccellati brushed past, and Leone let him. He leaned against the doorframe and watched numbly as the gangster led the girls outside.
What’s the point?
Bruno Buccellati glanced back with those blue, blue eyes, his face serious and so unlike the man that Leone had known for the past week. He hadn’t really met this Buccellati in the dark theatre: the silent one that cast his cautious gaze across everything and, when he caught Leone watching, disappeared beneath the sly one. If Leone had realized this earlier, maybe he would have taken a different approach. Maybe everything would have been different.
It didn’t matter now.
Mother of Christ, did it ever?
At last, Leone couldn’t stomach the sight of him and turned. He walked briskly upstairs to his own desk, where he had been ready to file all the paperwork necessary to help the women. He had been ready to go after Passione. He had been ready to do his job.
He delivered a baleful glower around the room that sent everyone back to minding their own business. How dare they judge him for not taking a bribe? Had they laughed behind his back the whole week while taking Buccellati’s blood money?
“What was the fucking point?” Leone asked himself again, staring down at his corkboard. He still didn’t have an answer.
When he picked up the board, intending to throw it off the roof in the most dramatic fit of defiance, he heard a clatter on the floor. He checked the board, but everything was still pinned neatly. He frowned. Under his desk, he found two golden hairclips that gleamed mischievously in the sunlight.
He chucked those off the roof instead and disturbed a pair of fornicating cats.
(And later, when he put on the coat Buccellati returned, Leone couldn’t find the extra zipper again.)
Leone went through the day in a dissociative state.
He watched himself standing in the briefing room, watched himself get into the police cruiser for solo patrol; he watched himself drive around Naples like nothing had even happened. Like he hadn’t let a terrible man drag a group of young women into the city’s bowels. Like he was a functioning human being who was doing his best, except he wasn’t because he'd let Buccellati go.
He didn’t remember lunch and realized it was because he didn’t eat. He stared blankly at a teen couple graffitiing the sidewalk with their initials in a heart and gave chase only to lose them half a block later.
He stepped in dog shit.
After work, he went to see Capelli at the hospital. Capelli was fine, still hooked up to a blood bag but cheerful enough to reassure Leone, “It’s gonna take more than a bullet to kill me.” Leone laughed woodenly because he recognized a joke, but he laughed a second too late and made things awkward.
But Capelli was a good guy, so it was okay. He insisted on being discharged as soon as the nurse finished changing his bandages, and he dragged Leone into the first pizzeria they saw. Capelli ordered for them both when it became apparent that Leone could not be coaxed into conversation while glaring at the tablecloth in his deep, contemplative silence.
The food arrived. Leone cut his pizza without a word. He winced when it burned the roof of his mouth and downed it with a glass of wine. This was his first proper meal in two days. The mozzarella was delicious, the tomatoes and basil were perfectly fresh, fragrant, and he was starving, filling a pit deep inside himself because, God almighty, he needed this. Or something like this, and this was good enough.
Capelli watched Leone help himself, shakily, to a third glass of wine before he said, “Abbacchio. For what it’s worth, you were in the right. But if what I think happened really did happen, then, well… It’s something every officer’s gotta learn for himself.”
Leone’s eyes stung. He couldn’t taste a thing, and now, he couldn’t swallow.
It was long past dark when Leone got home, only slightly buzzed. He changed, flattened himself on the mattress, and prayed for oblivion.
But he couldn’t sleep. The high-pitched noise in his ear had morphed into a soft, muffled trill, like a phone call that would never be answered. His brain replayed every interaction he had with Bruno Buccellati, ad nauseum, and he wished he had really drowned himself in the wine. He wished he could forget it all. Humiliation didn’t sit well with him, and he knew if he stayed in bed, he would never get out of it again.
He rolled onto the floor and began doing pushups. Then, curl-ups. Then, he was pacing around his apartment, and at that point, he figured he might as well be jogging outside.
It was nearly twelve when Leone returned to his flat for the second time that night. His heart nearly jumped from his chest when he saw Bruno Fuckin’ Buccellati sitting at the counter of his kitchenette like a displeased wife.
“You!” Leone snarled, and all the steam he’d managed to burn off came raining back down with a vengeance. “How’d you know where I live?!”
“Welcome home, Officer—”
“No, shut up—how the fuck did you know where I live?!”
But Leone didn’t actually care. He hurled his keys, and when Buccellati lifted an arm to shield himself, Leone charged him with a knife he always carried. The keys hit the counter with a jingle, and Buccellati disappeared right before his eyes.
Baffled, Leone slammed his fist on the chair Buccellati had been in—still warm!—when he heard the faintest zip at his side. He sent the chair sailing left, but it crashed aimless against the ruddy floorboards. Then, another soft zip, and Buccellati’s honey voice was amused and, more importantly, close:
“You must have passed the physical exam with flying colors at the academy.”
The sheer arrogance of Buccellati to think nothing of giving away his position—Leone couldn’t believe his luck. He hooked one leg back and caught the other man’s knee. Buccellati gave a surprised grunt, and Leone saw him in his peripherals at last. He twisted, connected an uppercut, and sank his knee hard into the other man’s stomach. They tumbled to the floor, Leone on top. His dusty rug broke their impact. Leone swiped both of Buccellati’s wrists in one clean motion and pinned them on the ground above his head. It was like they were continuing their scuffle in the Mercedes, and this time, Leone would win.
For a moment, Buccellati’s fingers twitched. His blue eyes gazed fiercely past Leone to something above them—and then, they met Leone’s.
The moment passed. Buccellati’s hands went limp in Leone’s grasp. He groaned, winded, one leg tangled in Leone’s and the other kicking persistently against Leone’s kidney, more out of resigned spite than in an earnest attempt to escape. Leone allowed himself a simple knife flip to savor his triumph before he pressed the blade against Buccellati’s throat.
“Wait,” Buccellati gasped, “you didn’t return my hairclips.”
Leone played dumb. “Come again?”
“I returned your coat and, ah, lost my hairclips. You should have returned them. There’s an agreeable—no, what's the word?—chivalrous symmetry to it...”
“You think I’d drop everything to play knight and princess? Bullshit. If I found you, I’d have skinned you alive for taking those girls,” Leone said, tapping his knife against Buccellati’s chin as if he were still contemplating the option. He wasn’t, of course. He was an upstanding officer of the law. “Where are they?”
Rather than appearing alarmed, Buccellati looked self-conscious. “Right, fair question. But first, you do understand why I wouldn’t be wrong to assume you ran a lap around the entirety of Naples to find me, instead of just… heading home.”
Leone almost snapped. “You followed me?!”
Buccellati gave him a half-hearted smile that was equally weary and sheepish. “All methods aside—and you weren’t entirely wrong this morning—I came here to offer you the explanation you deserve. I want to make peace.”
Leone growled. There was no catharsis in violence when Buccellati was being so goddamned civil. Not when he was flat on his back in Leone’s empty apartment, his dark hair a mess, breathing hard enough to make his bare chest rise and fall and—was that black lace peeking out from beneath his lapels? Leone fought back a gross urge to cut open Buccellati’s crisp Mandarin collar and peel off that enticing suit to see what else was underneath.
“How? You know I’m the last cop you can count on,” Leone said at last, his throat dry. “There are so many more willing to take a bribe.”
“I can’t buy you,” Buccellati agreed, his eyes as clear as a cloudless noon, “and that’s… unusual. You have my interest.”
“Way to phrase it,” said Leone, and he tried to appear disgusted but merely came across pained. “God, you’re a sociopath.”
“I have no excuses for leading you on. Only that it happened, and I know my part in it.” The crafty Buccellati was gone, leaving only the serious one. He looked Leone in the eye. “But how you handle your attraction to me is on you, Officer Abbacchio.”
Leone swallowed, his face flushed. It was unfair but so very Buccellati to make a profound confession that not only shattered Leone’s dignity, but was utterly useless in a court of law. And it made their current situation more dire, with Buccellati pinned under Leone’s weight and knife, and they both knew this could end in one of two ways. “Who said I wanted to fuck you?”
“Not before the third date,” said Buccellati with such a straight face that Leone nearly missed the joke. “I came to make things right with you. Because I trust I can.” And because he was smart, he suggested the second option, “You should let me up now, before we complicate things in a way you’ll regret.”
Again, what a way to phrase it. Reluctantly, Leone did as he was asked and pocketed his knife. He felt like he missed an incredible opportunity.
(To do what, be a rapist, he almost laughed at himself, not quite the upstanding officer after all, huh?)
Buccellati dusted himself off because Leone had never once vacuumed the rug he unrolled from his family’s attic. With watery eyes, he turned to Leone and coughed, “If you’re willing to give me a chance to explain, I’ll take you to the women.”
Leone rubbed the back of his head warily, sweaty and tired, but said, “You want me in uniform or civies?”
Buccellati eyed his black tank and sweatpants. “That‘s fine.”
Leone scowled. At midnight, he’d look like one of Passione’s goons next to Buccellati in his sleek white suit. And that was probably Buccellati’s intent. God, Leone was an idiot, allowing himself to be used like this.
“Also, my hairclips,” Buccellati remembered as Leone locked up.
Leone shrugged (in spite). “I threw them away.”
“They were Gucci,” said Buccellati quietly.
There was a long history of prostitution in Italy, so it was hardly a wonder that it was legal. Brothels, however, were not looked upon kindly, in that they were completely illegal. Capelli had once waxed poetry about it, “We can have fireflies on the streets, but it’s unkind to trap them in a jar,” and then he threw a streetwalker into the holding cell and called it a day. He was a man of dualities like that.
Anyway, Buccellati led Leone to a brothel.
“You know I have to arrest you for this,” Leone sighed, rubbing his eyes in exhaustion, already anticipating another sexually charged tussle with Bruno Buccellati.
Buccellati ignored him as he and the madame exchanged air kisses. She studied Leone up and down in the same way Buccellati had, although with a keener eye for human value, and said, “Is he armed? He can’t be armed.”
Buccellati gave him a pointed look, and Leone snorted. But he relinquished his knife. Unconvinced, she patted him, felt him up in the process, and came up with two more. The silver lining of the whole ordeal was Buccellati’s barely concealed doubletake when Leone pulled out a very small fourth and set it next to the first three.
“Do you have more,” he said accusingly when the madame left them in the foyer.
“I have a gun,” Leone reminded him, and Buccellati’s mouth quirked upward. It was much more charming than his usual laugh.
One by one, the models Buccellati had collected from the station entered the room. Leone moved forward instantly. “I’m taking them back into police custody.”
“No,” said one, and they shrank back from him, into Buccellati’s arms. “Bruno, I don’t want to go back to jail! It was not good. It was very bad.”
“I can protect you,” said Leone. “You don’t have to be a prostitute here.”
“‘Prostitute?’ What is that? Is he calling me a whore?” she said, hotly, and Leone had a feeling she would have kicked him in the balls, had she not been so comfortable stuck to Buccellati’s side. “I am not a whore! I have a good job. I started today. I sweep. I wash hair at the salon. I will be a hairdresser.”
Buccellati beamed at her. “That’s the most Italian you’ve spoken all week, Kaltrina.”
She smiled back, sweetly. “I learn Italian well, you date me. You promised.”
The other girls suddenly jumped into action: “Wait, Bruno, I am learning, too, I have learned a lot, date me, too!”
“I am first,” said Kaltrina. “Then, you tomorrow, and then you after…”
“Ladies, please consider my reputation,” Buccellati protested. “I can’t take a different beautiful woman out every day—”
“No. Stop. Rewind!” Leone clapped his hands loudly. “You think I’m an idiot? I’m supposed to take you at your word that you’re all working at some salon?”
The girls exchanged looks. “I work at the grocer’s store down one street,” said the youngest, and the last offered, “Bruno got me the job in the tourist center.”
“This house is a tad different from the others. Buccellati brings the ladies here,” the madame said as she returned with a tray of tea. “If they don’t want to work as an escort, I find them a job elsewhere and take a percentage of their wages for room and board.”
“And also a cut for Passione, I bet,” Leone supplied, frowning. “But it's still a bordello. I have to shut this place down.”
Buccellati intervened, “Even if I’m not involved, Passione will recover these women no matter what you do. They’ll be shuffled into another one of our houses, where they absolutely will be forced into prostitution.”
“Buccellati always tries to intercept the girls and get them to me before another member from Passione can claim them,” the madame said affectionately. “Believe me, Officer. He is a very good man.”
“But they’re still here illegally, under duress of deportation, not to mention you’re garnishing their wages,” Leone counted off the infractions on his fingers, “and just how many women are we talking about living here? Are we looking at a fire hazard?”
“This isn’t an ideal situation, it’s true,” Buccellati admitted, “but it’s a way for them to stay in Italy while they work out their immigration status. As long as Passione is in control of Naples, this is the best I can do for them.”
“You could let the police do their work,” said Leone coldly.
Buccellati smiled a wry smile. “So far, you are the only one I’d trust to do just that.”
In the end, Leone had one cup of tea (it was mint), took back his knives, and walked out with Buccellati following a few steps behind.
“What are you thinking, Officer?” said Buccellati in a gentle tone that was unreadable.
Leone frowned. “I’m thinking I’d do more harm in reporting this place than I would in letting it slide.”
Buccellati hummed in agreement. “I knew you weren’t only a good man, but smart as well.”
“Don’t flatter me, it’ll get you nowhere,” said Leone irately. He checked his watch. “Damn. My shift starts in four hours.”
“I’ll hail a cab,” said Buccellati, and while Leone was telling him off, a white taxi came to a screeching halt in front of them. Suspicious, very suspicious, but Buccellati pushed Leone in and said, “This one’s on me.”
Leone stared at him, not sure what to expect. It was too much to hope for Buccellati to climb in and straddle him again. They'd skipped that opportunity in favor of Leone’s dignity. What was left of it anyway.
Buccellati seemed to read his mind. “I won’t be going with you, of course. It’s not good for an honest policeman to be seen with a gangster so early in the morning.”
“No, it’s not,” murmured Leone, feeling vulnerable and young in a way he hated. It was like that first crush he had years back, except this time, he was morally obligated to nip it in the bud because Buccellati was a mafioso. But Leone couldn't help but think that Buccellati, crafty and connected as he was, couldn’t have been that much older than him. They might have even gone to the same schools. If they hadn't been on the opposite sides of justice, Leone truly believed he would've been brave enough to…
Leone got a hold of himself and glanced at the driver. “Wait, is this guy gonna murder me before I get back to my apartment?”
Buccellati chuckled, “I’ve instructed him not to.”
“I’ll fucking haunt you if I die.”
“See you later, Leone.”
When Leone lost sight of the flashy white suit, he sat back and replayed the night in his mind. In the calm quiet of the cab, he heard the buzzing again. God fucking damn it, he wasn’t even twenty, and he was going to have tinnitus. He rubbed the afflicted ear, annoyed. From here on after, he decided, for the sake of his own sanity, he would avoid being involved with Bruno Buccellati.
It didn’t occur to him until much later that Bruno would have the final say on that.
Cucciolo – “Puppy.” Often used as either a term of endearment; also to refer to a rookie in a field.
(di) Molto bene – “(of) Very good.” “Di Molto” isn’t actually correct Italian, but it felt weird not to incorporate it into a scene with Melone, lol.
Fireflies – Italian euphemism for street prostitute (“Lucciole”).
Chapter 2: Soft Hearts Electric Souls
It wasn’t enough that he had to deal with a two-faced Bruno Buccellati; now, two unrelated idiots with the same name were giving him the run around.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
It was his day off. Leone spent his first three waking hours staring at the ceiling, interrupted at last by his partner banging on the door: “Abbacchio, get up! It’s urgent!”
Leone tumbled out of bed in alarm. He was pulling on the pants of his police uniform when he reached the door. “What’s wrong? Something happen at the station—”
“We’re going out to eat, and I only have one hour for lunch.”
Leone wanted to say no because it was too much effort to be a presentable human on his day off, but Capelli had already muscled his way in. “God, man, when are you gonna get some furniture?”
Leone leaned against the door and surveyed his studio flat listlessly. “I have a rug,” he said. He didn’t have it the last time Capelli dropped by.
“The chair’s new, too,” Capelli added, nodding to the one left on its side in the wake of Bruno’s visit. It wasn’t really in the way, not since Leone kicked it against the wall after tripping over it. “All right, get dressed. And not the uniform. It’s your day off.”
Wretchedly, Leone trudged into his closet and shut the door.
He was vain enough to buy clothes that looked good on him but lacked the self-confidence to carry through. The only thing he could wear with pride was his police uniform, but Capelli had forbidden it. He sifted through his remaining options. One day, Leone would wear that black overcoat with laces in front.
But not today, he thought, pushing it aside.
He settled on a broken watch with black leather straps and chose his outfit around it: black trousers and a blue Armani button up. He didn’t actually like the color, but he liked the pattern of tiny A’s woven into the shirt fabric. He was a sucker for clothes with his initials on them. He even had a tacky belt with a big metal A on the buckle, something he thankfully forgot about until he ran out of clean clothes, and then it taunted him from the back of his closet with some combination of you’ll never be brave enough to wear me in public and you’d be a real asshole to wear me in public.
Capelli knocked. “I’m down to half an hour for lunch, Abbacchio.”
Leone rolled up his sleeves carefully. “Let’s go to that one place near the station.”
“I love Libeccio!”
Leone’s flat was about a ten-minute walk to Libeccio. It took fifteen minutes to cook their pizza, and good old Capelli knew he couldn’t take an extra half hour off, not on Leone’s watch. In the end, they split the food in the cruiser and each drove a lap around the neighborhood. Leone cheered up a little behind the wheel, which was probably why Capelli didn’t scold him for working. He did say he was still hungry at the end of Leone’s turn, so Leone parked and reapplied his lipstick.
“Let’s get bruschetta,” he told Capelli. “It’s on me.”
It was truly the least he could do. Ever since they struck an unlikely friendship at the academy, Capelli had taken it upon himself to barge into Leone’s life on the days he had nothing scheduled to make sure he wasn’t rotting in bed. Once, Leone had the opportunity to return the favor, and walked in on Capelli and a co-ed.
(“Fuck yeah, have a good birthday,” Leone had said and set the cake down before he left. Later, Capelli complained that the decorator misspelled his name: “Buon compleanno! Che palle!”)
Inside Libeccio, Leone gave their order and turned around to see Capelli chatting it up with Bruno Buccellati in the middle of the room. In the middle of the very public goddamned room, for Christ’s sake, Capelli, he’s a known gangster.
“What the hell is going on?” Leone demanded, and the two men smiled at him.
“Buccellati was telling me about fishing in Sicily. We should try it when it gets warmer,” said Capelli, and Leone bit the inside of his lip to keep himself from exploding, where the fuck did that conversation come from in the two minutes I stepped away?
He settled for, “What are you doing here, Buccellati?”
“I own this restaurant,” was his reply. When Leone opened his mouth to contest the claim, he amended, “Oh, it was passed down to me. You know how it is. All in the family.”
“He says the bruschetta is on him,” Capelli said, unhelpfully. Leone bit his lip again, cursing his luck. All his favorite restaurants were money-laundering fronts.
He had tried so hard not to think about Bruno for the past few days (the candid eyes, the serious voice, the gentle smile that wasn’t quite there, and yet), and yet here he was in the middle of Libeccio: back to being Buccellati the Gangster. Leone would keep the interaction short. And he’d find a new go-to place to eat.
“Say, between you and me,” Capelli turned to Buccellati, ignorant of Leone’s woes, “How much control d’you think Passione has in the judicial system here in town?”
“I don’t know, Officer. How much?” Buccellati asked innocently. Leone rolled his eyes.
“Ahh. Lemme rephrase that.” Capelli scratched his head in thought. “See, I just arrested a kid at the university today. He was like, what—thirteen, fourteen? Must’ve been a prodigy or something. He went apeshit on a professor there—killed the guy. I heard they’re gonna try him as an adult.”
Leone folded his arms over his chest and said, “If he was smart enough to go to uni and kill a man, it’s only justified that he serves the time.”
“He’s a kid, Abbacchio,” Capelli said reproachfully. “You must’ve done stupid shit when you were his age. Try to sympathize a little.”
“Oh, should I?” Leone scoffed. “Maybe you should ask someone who’s actually killed a man or two at thirteen.”
Bruno Buccellati cleared his throat. He held up a neatly-wrapped package. “Gentlemen, your bruschetta.”
“Ah. Thanks.” Capelli accepted it, sheepish. “Anyway, his name is Pannacotta Fugo. I, uh, hope he’ll be okay.”
“I certainly hope so, too,” said Buccellati with his usual diplomatic air. Then, sadly (or thoughtfully), “It’d be a shame for a bright young man like that to disappear into the system.”
Capelli smiled and saluted him. He knocked brusquely into Leone on his way out the door, and Leone sighed, knowing he’d have to apologize for his words later. He turned to Bruno Buccellati and held up two ratty ten-thousands. Giving cash to a criminal enterprise felt bad, but Leone still had to get rid of his lire before they switched over to the Euro. “Here. For the bruschetta.”
Buccellati raised his palms. “Nonsense, Officer. I couldn’t possibly take your money.”
Undeterred, Leone stuffed the bills in his cleavage and left.
Leone was late for briefing the next day. He blamed Buccellati, who had been up bright and early that morning, sweeping the front steps to Libeccio. Sweeping. In his two-million-lire McQueen suit and a new set of Gucci hairclips. Who’d he think he was fooling, the fucking nerve. He waved at Leone, who scowled back hard enough to scare off anyone other than Bruno Buccellati. In the end, Leone crossed the street to avoid him, which added an extra five minutes to his commute when he had to cross back at a traffic light.
Leone thought Buccellati had respected his boundaries, but clearly, he only meant no fucking. Flirting was fine, and he’d torture Leone with flirting. Sociopath.
Sergeant Cavatappi didn’t seem to mind his tardiness. After he dismissed the others, he stopped Leone with a tap on the shoulder. Leone regarded him, carefully.
“Abbacchio, you should know that despite what happened with Buccellati, I think you’re a sharp kid. I want you to keep up that morale. So, I’m giving you a case to work on.”
“Really?” Leone’s heartbeat quickened, and he almost dropped his guard. The sergeant didn’t go around handing newbies cases like candy at Christmas. “You’re really giving this to me?”
“You’ve got passion. We just need to redirect it,” he said and tossed Leone a file. Leone only fumbled it a little. “And I know how much you like that new art stuff, so I picked this one for you.”
You could say Leone liked modern art in that he considered fashion to be art. He didn’t know shit about the rest, but of course he wasn’t going to say that. “Thank you, sir.”
“I expect good work, Abbacchio.”
Leone flipped through the folder and stopped at a name that looked familiar. He couldn’t place his finger on it, especially since it was also too stupid to be real. He looked up at the sergeant.
“The vic’s name, uh… Is this a typo?”
“As you may know, my name is Panna Cotta Disco,” the artist said airily. “You can call me Pudding.”
“I’m not calling you Pudding,” said Leone.
“Panna Cotta, then.” He shrugged and poured Leone some coffee. “I don’t mind which you use.”
Leone frowned tremendously at his options.
This was his first real case: Panna Cotta Disco, Naples' rising young artist, whose latest masterpiece was stolen. Or, partially. Leone was about to ask more questions when the doorbell rang. Disco sat through the first ding-dong, but then the bell sounded again and again, until Disco pardoned himself to answer it. He left Leone to deal with his tinnitus in the quiet sitting room. It sounded like the whirring and punching of a dozen machines today.
It was a different space from his own flat, to put it mildly. Panna Cotta Disco was said to be the latest in a long line of Neapolitan craftsmen—except the line had skipped a few generations and lost its recognizable surname for a moniker that was equally… recognizable. And then, there was the décor. The furniture packed into every room looked antique and distinguished, but upon closer inspection, it was all polyester, plastic, and plywood. A mirror ball hung at the entrance hall where a chandelier would. A Buccellati level of gaudy, Leone decided, now that he was better acquainted with the man.
And that’s when Panna Cotta Disco returned with Bruno Buccellati at his side. Leone choked on his coffee.
“Oh, hello, Officer,” said Buccellati with a wave.
Leone almost dreaded to ask, “What are you doing here?”
“Casing the place for future robbery,” Buccellati deadpanned, and then grinned. “At least, that’s what you expected me to say, isn’t it? No, no. I’m here to conduct business with Signor Disco.”
Leone wanted nothing more than to confirm with Bruno, this guy’s got a stupid name, right? But he was in uniform, and Buccellati was up to no good. He braced himself as Buccellati took a seat next to him, but nothing happened. Disco returned to his place across the coffee table. “All right,” said Leone. “What kind of business are you here for?”
“Do you have to ask?” Buccellati looked at him in surprise. “It’s for Signor Polpo’s artist residency program, of course. Signor Disco is our current star. I’m here to help in any way I can.” Leone could not get over the fact that he kept referring to an actual man as 'Signor Disco' with a straight face.
Disco fidgeted with his cup. “So, umm... Buccellati. Officer Abbacchio has been sent to investigate the stolen piece…”
“Is that why he’s here?” Buccellati laughed and leaned forward, pressing the pads of his fingers together. It was a graceful, terrifying motion. “So, you went to the police. Didn’t I remind you we were capable of settling the matter in-house?”
“Just so you know, we don’t approve of vigilantism in Naples,” Leone offered wearily over his cup.
“Oh no, we’re not going after the thief. The art is insured, so we can afford to repair the damage,” Buccellati explained, smiling at Panna Cotta Disco, who smiled back fearfully. “Anyway, where is little Tira?”
Leone remembered catching a glimpse of a boy between the pillars on the upper floor when he entered. His hands and clothes had been stained blue, green, and orange.
“He’s around somewhere,” Disco replied cagily. “You know how he is. He hates people.”
“Has he returned to school?” asked Buccellati. Leone watched him slowly morph into Bruno as he pressed on, concerned, “Is he making friends? You’ve been feeding him at least three square meals a day, haven’t you?”
“He hates people,” Disco repeated. “And he hates eating. What am I supposed to do?”
“You have responsibilities because he depends on you,” Bruno said firmly, and then he turned cold—back to Buccellati, “so, you can’t stop just because things are difficult. You are the adult.”
“All right, all right,” said Leone, setting his empty cup down on its saucer. He let himself get distracted for a moment, when he promised himself he wouldn’t. Not by Bruno Buccellati. Not today. “I’m here to investigate the stolen art. I don’t intend to get involved with anything else. Panna Cotta, lead the way.”
Disco took him down the hall to an empty room; empty, at least, until he flipped the switch.
A dress lit up before them. Leone felt in his soul a wave crash somewhere on the beach. God, this was a beautiful piece, much more beautiful than Leone could have imagined coming from a man like Disco; blue and green as the ocean with orange coral structures woven into the form and illuminated by electronic baubles, it was stunning. It was its own marine environment. Its own world.
“It’s called Sewn Ocean,” said Buccellati coolly, from the doorframe. “The first and only dress in the collection so far.”
“The collection will be ready for Milan Fashion Week next year,” Disco assured him, agitated, “but I’m new to this kind of art, and I just don’t feel right continuing onto the next dress until this one is complete! The heart at the center has been…” He looked at Buccellati, tearfully, and then back to the dress. “It’s been stolen.”
Leone flipped open his notebook. “Can you describe it? What was the material?”
“Well, it was a stone.”
“No, it was a heart-shaped stone I found in the garden.”
Leone lowered his notebook. “It’s a rock, it’s a fucking rock?” He could hear Buccellati stifling a soft chuckle behind him. God damn it, Leone felt like an idiot. The sergeant was mocking him at worst or trying to keep him out the office at best. He turned his ire at Disco, “You honestly think this a good use of police resources?”
“Please, Officer Abbacchio,” Disco whimpered, his eyes large, “it’s very important. That stone heart is the spiritual center of the collection, it’s—Wait! Come back!”
Leone stormed to the front door, dragging Panna Cotta Disco, who refused to let go of his arm. Buccellati followed them several paces behind with his hands in his pockets, obviously enjoying the show at Leone’s expense. “For God’s sake, man, pull yourself together,” Leone hissed at Disco.
“Officer, please listen to me,” Disco begged, pulling Leone within whispering distance. His eyes were fixed on Buccellati who was still on the other side of the entrance hall. “Please watch out for him.”
Leone frowned. “Oh?”
“Call this number, I’ll tell you everything,” said Disco, pressing a wad of paper into Leone’s hand, and then he stepped back. He spoke at his normal volume, albeit weakly, “And umm, can’t I offer you anything in exchange for your help? Anything?”
Leone looked around, from Disco to Buccellati, and to the boy in the upper wings.
“I’ll think about it,” he said.
Outside, Buccellati regarded him amicably. “I wouldn’t worry about that one,” he told Leone, and he was so, so close, lightly tracing the back of Leone’s hand with a finger. Leone endured the electricity of his touch, stubborn enough to stare back into those unsettling blue eyes. He almost didn’t hear Buccellati say, “I don’t think there’s a reason for you to come back.”
And then, Buccellati walked away, leaving only a faint memory of his Chanel cologne.
When Leone opened his hand, the paper was gone. When he rang the doorbell, no one answered.
“Panna Cotta won’t talk,” Leone said as he watched Capelli finish his paperwork. “He clammed up after Buccellati kept asking him shit about the little kid upstairs. I think Buccellati bugged the house they live in. What if he’s holding the kid hostage, until Disco finishes the collection?”
“So, Polpo really is a big fashion maven,” Capelli said, flipping over a form. “But if this guy signed a contract for the residency, maybe that’s a part of the agreement for the Disco family to live there. You can't do anything if there's a contract.”
“I guess. Yeah, makes sense. If Polpo is funding a virtual no-name in fashion to take on Milan, he’d probably want complete control over his actions. Along with everything he makes. But they must be breaking some law.” Leone frowned when he peered in to the box of pastries to see what Capelli had saved him. He fished out an apricot fig cookie. “Don’t they stop making these after January?”
“You bought so many last time,” Capelli shrugged, “the baker must have a soft spot for you.”
Leone popped it into his mouth. It was too sweet.
The sergeant had assigned Leone to the Panna Cotta Disco case, and Panna Cotta Disco had asked him to keep an eye on Buccellati. Therefore, despite his reservations, it was Leone’s job to stay close to Bruno Buccellati. And he knew where to find him.
“What shall we do for antipasti?”
Leone sighed and tried to put his heart into it. He was back in civies. Black shirt, black pants. He didn’t want to overthink this outfit because nobody was going to be looking at him. Across the table was Buccellati himself, radiant in the candlelight. Leone was having dinner with the most beautiful man in the building, and he felt like an ugly fish on the reel. “It’s your restaurant. You tell me.”
“Variety is nice. Let’s go with the antipasto misto and then the risotto, and perhaps…”
“What’s going on with Panna Cotta Disco?” Leone wasn’t very good at this.
“Patience.” Buccellati’s eyebrows rose only slightly as he scanned the menu. What was he looking at the menu for? Shouldn't he know it by heart? Did he have to make a show out of everything? You can't trust a guy like that. “Let’s get to the second course before we consider dessert, Leone.”
(Leone, Leone. God, but his name sounded good on the man’s lips.)
“Is this like last time?” he asked quietly and leaned forward on his elbows. “Or are you telling me to back off because you’re with Passione? Are you trying protect someone?”
“You, of course,” said Bruno, his eyes flicking up to Leone. He returned to the contorni selection, eyebrows knit.
“Oh.” Leone sat back, and he could have looked away, abashed, but he couldn’t stop staring. Yes, Leone had managed to provoke him, but whatever emotion Bruno felt seemed to fade easily into grace. The gentle light of the candles caught on his hairclips, those stupid Gucci hairclips, and softened the planes of his face into something angelic, like a painting from Raphael’s brush.
Leone didn’t consider himself a romantic. He pushed the thoughts aside, moreso than ever after coming to terms with the object of his attraction. He had no clue what he’d do outside his career in the upcoming decade. Falling in love was too much. Having a candlelit dinner with a gorgeous husband was impossible. But he could live with Bruno Buccellati protecting him for his own, strange, arbitrary reasons, and that was the extent to which Leone would allow himself a romance.
Leone picked at the tablecloth and indulged the conversation, just a little, “Aren’t I in danger already? Just by virtue of having dinner with you in public?”
“If we play our cards right, it can be considered a bribe, which is nothing out of the ordinary.”
“No,” said Leone instinctively. “I don’t take bribes.”
“Tell me, have things changed after I left the station with the women?”
Buccellati nailed it on the head. Things were different now. There was a hush that greeted Leone every time he entered the break room, mockery whenever someone inquired about his case of the missing dress rock, and there was, of course, the simple isolation of being ignored. He wasn’t sure how to answer but suspected his mortified silence was enough. It was frustrating. He didn’t want to give Buccellati information that might be of use to him. Buccellati was capable of using anything to his advantage, including Leone and his stupid, stupid feelings.
“Crooked cops don’t trust honest cops.” Buccellati flipped the page. “In this world, don’t you think a sheep must wear wolf’s clothing to survive?”
“You saying what I think you are?” Leone said, incredulous. “I don’t look the other way for money, so why the fuck would I do that while pretending to take a bribe?”
“Say I’m offering you other services,” said Buccellati shamelessly, “and tell Cavatappi that the Panna Cotta Disco case is closed. No one will question if you continue to ‘investigate’ me after that.”
Leone stared in stupor for a good minute before it sank in. Why was Buccellati making him this offer? Leone must be onto something, if Buccellati wanted to keep him close. He wanted Leone’s attention on him, not the Disco house, and he thought he could control Leone through his dick. God, how insulting. Did everyone think Leone was an idiot? He bristled and said, low and quiet, “You said you had no excuse for leading me on.”
Buccellati smiled over his menu. “I’m not leading you on if we proceed to have a relationship. Who are you to say I’m not interested in you?”
(The man could have been a lawyer. Maybe he was one. Leone didn’t know what Buccellati did for Passione, specifically, or what his position was in the gang, but he could spit out loopholes like the best of them.)
What made Buccellati change his mind, Leone didn’t know, but he did know it was a bad idea in the Mercedes, and he damn well knew it was a bad idea now. Sure, he had his moments, but Leone wasn’t actually stupid. He knew Buccellati could read him, and he’d end up giving away some vital information in one moment of weakness or another. It was like a three-act play. Buccellati would convince Leone that he loved him, and Leone would drop his guard. He’d tell Buccellati something important, and the story would end in tragedy. If Leone were lucky, he'd give useless leads nine times out of ten, but Leone would never forgive himself if he accidentally gave Buccellati even one clue that would let Passione strengthen their foothold in Naples.
Although, Buccellati had a point. Who was Leone to think that he knew more than a man like Buccellati? Who was he to think that Buccellati actually needed Officer Abbacchio’s intel on the force when the whole precinct was eating out of his hand, regardless of what Leone did? And who the hell was he to say Buccellati wasn’t interested in Leone?
(But then again, Buccellati was clearly an incubus from hell that would drag Leone to Dante’s second circle, if he let him.)
“Sir. You have a phone call.”
Buccellati glanced up at the maître d’ and set down his menu. He smiled politely at Leone. “Excuse me.”
Leone waited exactly one minute and twenty-six seconds before poking his nose where it didn’t belong. He was off duty, after all, but it wasn’t as if crime clocked out at seven. Someone saw his black ensemble and asked for the check, so he went with it. He picked up a stack of empty dishes and headed toward the back, wearing the expression of a waiter in the middle of a ten-hour shift. And very angry. The other servers avoided him.
“If we didn’t believe in you, we wouldn’t have put you up to the task.” Leone found Buccellati facing a phone in the manager's office. “Polpo expects the collection finished by the end of the year.”
So, he was talking to Panna Cotta Disco. Leone retreated behind a wall and listened.
“It’s been nearly three months of excuses. You have to complete the first dress by the end of tomorrow. Otherwise, I’ll have nothing to show him, and you don't want to see him mad.”
Leone frowned. Surely, they could take the dress in its current state to Polpo. Even if Disco was a perfectionist, the dress was perfectly presentable as a work in progress.
“We’re beginning production with two hundred dresses a week, not to mention the shoes and purses—” Buccellati paused, listening to what was probably a stream of staccato excuses on the other end. Then, “Those are the numbers you promised. They’re what we invested in. I’m holding you to them.”
Leone did the math in confusion. Two hundred dresses in a week is impossible. That’s both a summer and a winter collection. At that rate, they were looking at over 12,000 dresses by next January. That’s not a designer’s collection. That’s a fucking sweatshop.
“Call me again when you have your priorities straight, or Polpo will be sending 'critics' to your door. I have a dinner to get back to.”
Leone left before he heard the phone click, but Buccellati beat him to the door. Somehow. Christ, there was only one hall.
“What did you hear?” Buccellati’s voice was cold and even again, but Leone knew better than to show fear. He had to get out while his mind was still intact. Before his heart and dick tried to sway him with the lace lingerie that he couldn’t stop noticing now every time he looked at the man. Maybe Buccellati was right about him after all. God damn it, what doesn't Buccellati know?
“You need to take better care of your artists,” Leone said as he made it past. Anything to bluff his way through. One step at a time.
“Leone.” Buccellati was gentler, and Leone nearly turned around. He didn’t. One step at a time. “What about dinner?”
One step at a time.
“I’m not putting out, so don’t waste your efforts.”
He didn’t look back, even though he wanted to. This was it. He made his point. Maybe Buccellati would see it as a sign of his resolve, but in truth, Leone was so, so scared. He didn’t want to see the look of disappointment on Buccellati’s face because it would inevitably turn into apathy. Maybe Buccellati had been interested in him, but now, he would look for another cop with easier morals to sway. And that would be it. It killed Leone to imagine Buccellati turning the attention he had showered him to someone sleazier, but Leone believed in justice above all else, especially his own fleeting pleasures.
But still, as he walked home, he mourned the end of a nonexistent relationship. One step at a time.
He did have his wits around him enough to notice a pickpocket at work. Tired as he was, Leone couldn’t let it happen on his watch. He caught the kid’s wrist as he passed and said, “Hey. Give that back.”
The boy was about half a head shorter, blond as daylight, and wearing the ugliest green suit Leone had ever witnessed in his eighteen years. The kid froze, eyes darting, but he recovered quickly enough to puff up and recite obscure laws in his own defense. God, Leone hated nerd criminals, almost as much as he hated lawyers. (Nerds in jail babbled on about rules, but their lawyers were the ones who successfully did what they threatened.)
“Do I look like I give a shit? Just give the lady back her wallet.”
“Who the fuck are you?” The kid struggled. “The police?”
Leone grinned nastily and flashed his badge. “Yeah. You caught me off duty and in a bad mood. So let go, or I’ll throw your skinny ass in jail.”
The kid glared at him, his eyes brimming with emotions. So many emotions. He really was just a dumb kid.
Leone felt shitty for being mean. He was the grownup. He was the officer of law, meant to serve and protect. What was he doing, bullying a boy who looked like he was still losing the fight against puberty?
And that was Leone’s last charitable thought of the night before the little gremlin smashed his forehead into Leone’s nose. If that fucker thought it was enough to make Leone let go, he was dead wrong. Leone grabbed that mop of blond hair and put him in a headlock. The brat howled and went berserk in his arms.
“YOU THINK I’M FUCKIN’ SCARED OF YOU I’VE KILLED A MAN AND I’LL KILL YOU TOO!”
“Mother of Jesus,” Leone grumbled through his bloody nose. Then, he saw the stolen pocketbook on the ground and let go of the boy. (Okay, he threw him. Revved it up with a spin, too.) The little monster scurried off into the dark, toward the direction of Libeccio. Bringing him in was not worth the effort. Leone yelled after him, “Go home!”
When he approached the woman with her pocketbook, she screamed and called him a hoodlum and beat him with her purse until he threw the damn thing and ran. Definitely not worth the effort. Fuck, he was off duty. He was always getting yelled at by civilians in his police uniform, and the one time he wasn’t, he got mistaken for a criminal. There was no winning for Leone Abbacchio.
He jogged home beneath the flickering street lamps, still bleeding, and laughed at his misfortune.
A few days later, while searching his desk for spare batteries, he found a rolled-up newspaper in one of Capelli’s drawers that pronounced the release of Pannacotta Fugo. The brat who murdered his professor. So, that’s where Leone had remembered the name from. What were the chances of running into two people named after the same pudding? The photo was washed out on newsprint, but Leone recognized the hideous green suit.
“Are you kidding?! That’s the little shit who fucked me up the other night!” He glanced about, but Capelli wasn’t around to complain to, so he flopped back into their shared chair, deflated. He opened his box of fig cookies.
The bakery had begun to anticipate his bi-weekly trips; they always had a box of buccellatis for him, though none were on display. That was so unnecessarily nice of them. And thoughtful. Leone didn’t take it for granted. He just didn’t know what to make of it, and at this point, it felt too awkward to change his order. All he wanted was his mid-day sugar fix anyway.
Eating, he scanned down the columns and learned that the Fugo estate had disowned Pannacotta. This was after hiring a small platoon of lawyers to bail him out. It hardly made sense to turn him loose, after all that investment and time, but it wasn’t like Leone understood how rich people saw the world. His parents were both startlingly average, their entire family squarely middle class. He had two older brothers, both of whom picked a far more lucrative profession than he had, so Leone was allowed to follow his passion. Or so he thought. His brothers accused him of becoming a policeman for the sole purpose of monopolizing their parents’ attention (and worry) last Christmas. Their father had said nothing, their mother changed the subject, and Leone moved out a week later. He didn’t want to live in a household that only saw him as the selfish baby of the family.
(And because his oldest sister-in-law had mentioned wanting to take Nonna’s oriental rug to their new house, Leone went back and stole it out of spite. He was Nonna’s favorite, after all.)
“You can do better on your own, too,” he said to Pannacotta Fugo. He shouldn't have yelled at him to go home. It's going to weigh on him all day. Damn, now he’d have to find the kid again and get him into a stable home. He’d keep his eyes peeled during patrol, and he was sure Capelli was already looking for him.
Leone shook powdered sugar off the copy of Il Mattino and folded it. He was about to toss it back in the drawer when he noticed a small stack of bills at the bottom. He’d never seen them before. He flipped through and noted the lettering: Euros. Come to think of it, Capelli mentioned he had gotten some for a quick romantic holiday to Spain. (Good luck on their schedule.) The notes were vibrant, stamped front and back with watermarks and holograms. The colors stood out the most: blue, green, and orange. Leone could have sworn he’d seen them before.
Then, it hit him like lightning.
The kid's stained hands, the unreasonable quotas, the punching sound of machines that might not have been in his own head. There was a reason Buccellati wanted Leone's attention on him and not the house, and while it didn't add up to a hundred percent, it was good enough for a hunch.
“They’re printing money there,” he realized and bolted for the stairs.
“Buon compleanno! Che palle!” – “Happy birthday! What balls!”
Chapter 3: Do I Look Lonely
Bruno hasn't rescinded his offer, but Leone wasn't one to give in so easily.
Warnings to be aware of in this chapter: Bucci dismantling people with Sticky Fingers. Also, Stand-related sexual coercion.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Leone drove a little more recklessly than he should have. And he should have waited for Capelli to return from his meeting. There were actually a lot of things Leone should have done before he pointed his car toward Panna Cotta Disco’s house, but there was also the chance that he was already too late.
Leone had done his research over the past couple of days. It just hadn’t clicked until now. His mind raced to put the pieces together, anything to formulate a plan for once he arrived. There were a few pieces of evidence that were damning:
The kid’s hands had been stained with ink. Blue, green, orange. They were the same colors as the hundred, fifty, and twenty Euro notes. He must be vital to the operation in some way. No wonder Buccellati had questioned incessantly about him.
Then, there was the noise in the sitting room. If it wasn’t Leone’s screwy ear acting up, then it could be the sound of offset printers running somewhere in the house. He’d heard those kinds of machines before on a field trip to the mint in Rome.
Dresses, shoes, purses. Code words. Leone had read old files with similar patterns, and there was a good chance, he thought—yes, Leone would bet his life on it—that this was a baby counterfeiting scheme. A test run on a brand-new currency. Euros had only been implemented in Spain as of 1999. Passione could print 12,000 bills to work out the system before they scaled up to circulate a million more across Europe.
It had been days since Buccellati’s phone call at the restaurant and not a word from the Disco family. Leone had heard of police informants disappearing and resurfacing months later in various states of decomposition, but the poor sucker hadn’t even gotten a chance to squeal. As much as the man annoyed him, with his stupid rock and his even stupider name, Leone couldn’t deny that he needed Panna Cotta Disco.
All it took was one malcontent to bring down the whole operation. Leone had seen it before. Surely Buccellati anticipated it. Leone just had to reach Disco. Maybe he could get him into police protection before Passione offed him. Leone would have to find another precinct, another superior officer he could report to—anybody who wanted to maintain justice in Italy. But first, he had to get his witness.
And he lost count of how many times he’s rung the bell.
Finally, it opened. A little boy looked up at him. Tira, if Leone remembered correctly. He gawked at Leone’s height. Children did that, especially when they got to his makeup and white hair. Tira, however, met his eyes and quickly looked away. Leone gave him a moment to recover.
But then, Bruno Buccellati appeared behind him. The two men stared over the boy at each other like rival cats who weren’t supposed to meet in the same territory.
Fuck. Leone’s blood ran cold. His brain turned to static. Fuck, fuck, fuck!
“Officer, what brings you here today?” said Buccellati, recovering first. He had completely stopped blinking, watching Leone in... annoyance, anger, fear—caution? Leone couldn’t read it, but he could feel the massive GO AWAY vibes Buccellati was sending him.
“Panna Cotta invited me. Let me in.”
“Do you have a warrant?” Buccellati draped himself across the doorframe as if he were flirting, but he didn’t give a centimeter when Leone moved forward.
“I don’t need one,” said Leone. “I was invited.”
“Signor Disco is out.” Buccellati was one step away from collision, and still he did not move. “I’m here… babysitting. Tiramisu is tired, and I don’t want to invite company and disturb him.”
“You can come in,” said Tira, who had squeezed out from between them. He walked away, back upstairs, mumbling, “He can come in.”
Leone threw Buccellati a smug grin and executed Capelli’s foot-slide-ouch method of entry when Buccellati tried to close the door on him. It was a maneuver that boasted a hundred-percent success rate, but Bruno Buccellati was nothing if not tenacious. Once inside, he blocked Leone, trapping him against the door between his hands.
Leone looked down at him expectantly, daring him to explain himself. At this point, he couldn’t think of a single thing Buccellati could do that would surprise him.
Buccellati, however, seemed at a loss for his own actions. He looked up at Leone blankly, lips parted for an excuse that wouldn’t come. In his rush to stop Leone from following Tira upstairs, he put himself in a compromising situation that Leone was beginning to enjoy. He liked watching Buccellati flounder. It was like finding a flaw in a diamond that belonged to someone else. Leone glanced past him to the staircase, and they both knew that’s where he would head. Buccellati, of course, would deflect and distract.
And he did not disappoint: “This is almost like a scene from a porno, isn’t it?”
Leone almost laughed but reined it in. “Yeah? Cop and babysitter, huh?”
“Maybe.” Buccellati smiled back, visibly pleased at the prospect of having Officer Abbacchio wrapped around his little finger once more, unaware that Leone was about to wreck his day and feel him up in the process.
Leone took Buccellati by the waist, heaved him over his shoulder, and made his way to the staircase. “Great. To the bedroom. And if I see something suspicious, I’ve got probable cause to search the place. You know the drill.”
“There are bedrooms downstairs.”
“Hmm,” said Leone, refusing to take the hint.
Buccellati struggled for maybe half a second more before realizing he’d made a mistake. “Wait,” he backpedaled, “I changed my mind.”
Leone smirked and dropped him without missing a step. The sound of Buccellati landing in a graceless pile on the ground and scrambling back to his feet was music to Leone’s ears. He was already halfway up the stairs when Buccellati grabbed him by the sleeve of his uniform.
“Stop,” he said, his eyes wide. “You don’t want to get involved in this one, Leone. Trust me.”
For all his flouting of law and authority, Leone knew Buccellati was a decent man. Dependable, too. His heart was in the right place. Leone was sure of it, but it didn’t excuse his actions or affiliations. It wasn’t that Leone didn’t trust him.
I do, Leone wanted to say, but said instead, “If there is a crime, then I will bring it to justice.”
Simply put, Buccellati was a criminal, and Leone a police officer. Never give ground to criminals, or they will take advantage of you.
It took a moment for Leone to register, but he definitely saw his own arm fall off his shoulder. "Oh."
Bruno Buccellati held it to his chest and gave Leone a sad look of determination. He looked like a martyred saint. Or a penitent graverobber. Not a gangster, and that’s what made Leone’s indecisive heart ice over in fear.
“I’m sorry,” said Bruno, and with a tap from his free hand, Leone’s other arm fell free.
Leone took stock of his injuries and ran. He lost his left leg about eight steps up and then the right just as he cleared the second floor. Bruno followed shortly after, collecting Leone’s limbs along the way. He reached a point where, standing, he was at eye level with Leone, who stared at him from the cold arabesque tiles.
“What the fuck,” whispered Leone in numb horror.
Bruno tilted his head, studying Leone. “Why did you go upstairs when you could have run back down and out the door?”
Because Leone was stupid, stupid, stupid. It was that simple. He opened his mouth, but his throat was dry. His breaths ran shallow. His brain was fried, and objectively, he knew he was hyperventilating, but he couldn’t make himself stop. Bruno knelt down next to him. He ran his fingers gently through Leone’s hair, and Leone shivered at the touch, as if cold metal had sprouted from his skin.
“Even if I can’t change your mind, I’m going to keep you out of this,” said Bruno.
And Leone’s head came off with a zip.
He watched in morbid fascination as Bruno—and it was Bruno, not Buccellati the Gangster, who—calmly partitioned him and carried the pieces into another room. He smelled nice, though. Deceptively nice. Versace perfume today. (Leone had considered buying a bottle at that one department store down Via Toledo, but it was out of stock, which was fortunate, as it was well outside of his means.)
“Don’t worry, you’re not in physical shock,” Bruno said kindly when he came back for Leone’s head. “It’s not permanent. You haven’t lost any blood or body parts. This isn’t going to kill you.”
“What the fuck,” Leone croaked after finding the strength to be outraged. “What the fuck are you, Buccellati?”
Bruno picked him up and held him, careful and close. Leone could feel his warmth and the heavy beating of his heart. So, Bruno was nervous. Something about that knowledge shifted Leone out of his decapitated daze.
“I knew you had printers,” he said as they walked into the room where Bruno took the rest of him. It was all he could think to say when he saw the machines. At least he had been right. A mild consolation, considering a man was holding his head like a football.
“And I told you not to look,” Bruno admonished flippantly. “You’ll be safer if you don’t see what’s happening.”
If Leone still had arms, he would have motioned to what was left of himself. “You think this looks like plausible deniability for you?”
“Well…” Bruno smiled at him. It was an exasperated smile that crinkled the corners of his eyes a little. “You’re right. I owe you another explanation.”
“Christ, what an understatement.” Leone didn’t know how they could be having a normal conversation like this, but he knew thinking too hard on it would fuck him up.
The room’s door opened and shut. A lock slid into place.
“Buccellati, I got Tiramisu.”
Leone stared at the newcomer. At his blond hair and green suit. The ugly green suit. There were more holes than Leone remembered.
It was Pannacotta Fugo, the brat who killed his professor at the university. Somehow, Bruno Buccellati managed to sink his claws into the kid before Leone or Capelli had been able to find him. God damn it, Leone could just kick himself, but he didn’t even have his legs anymore.
“Buccellati. What’s this gremlin doing here?”
“Pft, do I know you?” said Fugo in a way that made Leone want to punch every teenager in Italy before remembering that he, himself, was also still a teenager. Ah, hell. He’d punch himself, too. Fugo led Tira to Bruno. “Here. I convinced Sorbet and Gelato to let this one go. You have got to explain the situation to them before they kill his brother and go after me.”
“You shouldn’t have told them you were the one they were looking for,” said Bruno. He spoke calmly, but Leone could feel his heart beating through his chest. Bruno was so nervous.
“I didn’t! I just told them my name.” Fugo was indignant. “How was I supposed to know there’s a hit on a guy named Panna Cotta? It’s not exactly common.”
Bruno rubbed the bridge of his nose. “You stay here and watch Tira.”
“No.” Fugo gave Bruno an earnest look, one that said he wanted nothing more than to prove his worth. Leone knew it well. “I’m going with you. There’s two of them, and you might need backup.”
“We can’t use Purple Haze inside.”
“You can still use my brains,” Fugo insisted. “You and I can easily outsmart them.”
“But we’ll be in trouble if Sorbet touches us both.”
“Got it. I run if I see him coming, and I won’t get in your way.”
Bruno frowned reluctantly, almost out of excuses. “But somebody has to watch Tira…”
“Him.” Fugo took Leone out of Bruno’s hands and dropped him in Tira’s. Everyone ignored Leone’s disgruntled protests. “Problem solved. I’m going with you, Buccellati.”
It looked like Bruno wasn’t going to win through reason, so he would have win through authority. “Stay,” he said, shaking his head. “All three of you. Stay here, hidden.”
And with that, he left.
Fugo waited long enough to cast a look of wavering concern to Tira and Leone before running after Bruno.
“Shit!” Leone wiggled desperately and only succeeded in making Tira drop him. “Shit,” he groaned from the floor. No one should know what it feels like to fall on your cervical vertebrae. “Shit, shit, shit.”
“They’re going to kill Panna Cotta?”
Leone could see Tira out of the corner of his eye. The boy was rocking a little, back and forth, and picking at his nails.
“They’re going to kill Panna Cotta,” Tira repeated quietly in a reedy little voice that was anxious and terrified in its certainty.
Leone had known one girl like this in primary school and could not remember how the teacher handled her. Poorly? Yes, he seemed to recall that much. There had been a lot of screaming and crying that year, and Leone was not keen to do repeat that with Tira. Besides, now might be the perfect opportunity to fill some of the gaps in this whole situation.
“Will you tell me why they want to kill him?”
Tira paused in his fidgeting and squatted down next to Leone. He held onto his knees and resumed his rocking, staring off into the distance. “We’re supposed to print a lot of money. They were supposed to look like those new bills, but the colors were never right. There was always something off. Buccellati said it was good enough, but it wasn’t.”
“Okay. Tell me what happened.”
“It was all because Panna Cotta wanted some colors to use for his dress. He didn’t need it. He had other paint, but he said a policeman was coming, and he needed to use the colors we had. I don’t know why...”
So, Leone’s hunch was right about the Euro colors, but he didn’t realized Disco had been trying to flag his attention with the dress itself. He should have been more vigilant, but he’d let his own biases distract him. How embarrassing to realize, especially since it also applied to Bruno Buccellati in every situation.
As Tira spoke, the rest of the story fell into place. When he tried to reconnect the tanks of ink, they spilled. That was the day Leone first visited the mansion, when he had spotted Tira on the second floor. By the time Disco returned upstairs, all the ink was spoiled, and it took five days for the replacement tanks to arrive. It cost them a few more to reconfigure the colors, and by then, Polpo’s patience had worn out.
“Buccellati said we could turn in what we had, but it’s not good,” sniffed Tira, who had begun to cry. “The colors are all wrong. It’s all bad. They saw it, and they’re going to kill Panna Cotta!”
“Who saw it? Who’s going to kill Panna Cotta?”
“Polpo? Polpo. Polpo!” Tira wouldn’t look at him with his red-rimmed eyes. His sentences were punctuated with little sobs, “He sent people to kill Panna Cotta. Panna Cotta is going to die. It’s my fault he’s going to die.”
“Okay, okay. Stop crying,” said Leone, even though he knew children never stopped crying when you told them to. Even so, “I’m serious, stop crying! I’ll save him. But I need your help.”
It was a small linen closet. One could go so far as to call it claustrophobic. Bruno had deposited the rest of Leone in an untidy pile at the bottom.
Leone figured he’d cross this kind of crime scene at some point in his career, most likely while tracking a serial killer, but not with his own dismembered body. The familiarity was uncanny. It made him queasy.
Reassembly was a bitch and a half, especially since Tira could not tell his left from right, and rather than putting Leone together based on anatomical knowledge, the boy seemed to be going off the minutest color fluctuations on the black policeman uniform. If Leone hadn’t been so pressed for time, he would have probably appreciated such an unconventional thought process, but he took over as soon as he had his hands again.
He was never going to forget the awful experience of zipping his skin together and feeling all the bone and muscle realign underneath. Fuck Bruno. Forget any nice thought he ever had about the guy; Leone would stomp his pretty face in next time he saw him. Asshole.
“C’mon,” he said to Tira once he was done. “Come with me. I’ll take you somewhere safe.”
Tira shirked away from his reach. He looked away, silent as a mouse, and began to fidget once more.
Leone grew impatient. “Come on.” He grabbed Tira’s hand, which was a mistake.
“NO!” the boy screamed, and it was a shrill whistle of a scream. Leone dropped him like a hot skillet, alarmed. His classmate had an aversion to touch, too, but not to this extent.
“Shit,” Leone muttered, and he looked to the door. Now, they’ve given their location, and whoever Bruno and Fugo had run off to face would probably pose a real threat to this little boy.
Aside from being an innocent civilian, Leone couldn’t discount the fact that Tira seemed important to their money-printing scheme, making him a vital witness in the case against Polpo and Passione. If Panna Cotta Disco was doomed, then at least Leone could still put Tira in police custody. As corrupt as Cavatappi might be, he wouldn’t reject a child. The optics would be bad, and more importantly, he’d lose favor with Bruno Buccellati. Leone turned back to the boy and grimaced.
Tira wailed as Leone scooped him up and ran down the staircase. They reached the foyer with the mirror ball before Bruno’s voice reached his ears.
And Leone was falling apart again. “Fuck!” he hissed as he hit the floor without his limbs. He had been so close. Tira landed next to him and rolled into a ball, quivering. Leone felt terrible. He really fucked up this time.
Bruno appeared on the stairs with Fugo on his heels. A blond man Leone had never seen before was in hot pursuit. The three of them skidded to a halt before Leone, Bruno in the middle. He grabbed Tira and handed him to Fugo, all the while shielding them from the stranger. Tira didn’t cry. (Leone could only guess that he didn’t mind guys named after panna cotta.)
“What do you think you’re doing, Buccellati?” said the blond, eyeing Leone’s uniform. “Why is there a cop here?”
“He’s…” Bruno paused. “He’s a—”
“Gelato, caro, come back. I think this one is the one we’re supposed to execute after all.”
A black-haired man descended the staircase with a knife held to Panna Cotta Disco’s neck.
“Officer, you figured it out! You’re here to save us… right? Officer?”
Gelato gave them a wry nod. “Ah, whatever, bring him down, Sorbet. Let’s just kill both panna cotta boys and call it a day.”
“As I’ve said, that won’t be necessary,” said Bruno firmly. “The job’s off. I’ll talk to Polpo.”
“We don’t give a damn about Polpo,” Gelato snorted. “We’re here to kill a man and get paid.”
“Then, I’ll pay your fee,” said Bruno. “How much for Panna Cotta Disco’s life?” Irritably, Sorbet told him. Bruno unzipped a pocket on his jacket and presented the cash. “There. Now, leave.”
“The fuck?” Sorbet looked down at the money, a little hurt. “You just whipped that out like it was pocket change.”
“I told you we’re not getting paid enough,” said Gelato icily. He turned to Bruno. “Y’know what? Double that, Buccellati. There are two of us.”
“I don’t have that much on me, but we can go to Libeccio for the rest.”
“Liar. Full price now, or we kill both pudding boys.”
Bruno said nothing, his lips pursed in vexation. Then, he said, softly, “I heard you’re looking into the boss’ identity.”
“Who said that?” Sorbet asked—no, demanded. His voice rattled like a cat’s hiss. The air thickened in tension. “Who fucking accused us of that? Is this a threat? You tryin’a start shit with La Squadra Esecuzioni?”
“I bring it up because I have information,” said Bruno, calm as the summer sea, “if we can agree on a deal, that is.”
Sorbet and Gelato exchanged glances, warily, and Gelato nodded.
“First the info,” said Sorbet, and he rested an arm around Gelato’s shoulders. “We’ll decide if it’s worth their lives.”
Bruno sighed. He hooked a thumb down the front of his black lace bralette and immediately gained the rapt attention of every man in the room. When Bruno let it snap back in place, the sound echoed with a satisfying tingle in Leone’s head.
“It’s from La Perla on Via Toledo. They offer tailoring services as well,” Bruno said as-a-matter-of-factly, as if he hadn’t just teased the entire goddamned room with his lingerie. “I heard the boss likes their tulle designs and that he custom orders pieces from them. Complex, extensive, memorable pieces.”
The assassins looked to each other again, amused.
“I think we could find some use for that,” said Sorbet with a smirk. “What about you, Gelato?”
“We’ll let ‘em go this time,” agreed his partner. He side-eyed Bruno. “Just don’t tell Risotto Nero. Nothing leaves this room.”
“Of course not.” Bruno allowed himself a small smile but nothing softer. He nodded to Fugo. “Take them back to the printers. I’ll convince Polpo to go with the new deadline.”
“Officer, please save us,” Panna Cotta Disco begged as Fugo pushed him upstairs. “I don’t want to do this anymore…! It’s vile!”
“It’s all right,” said Tira with a shrug.
“I’m sorry,” said Bruno, “but we’re seeing this through to the end.”
Leone could only watch them go, helpless on the floor.
Bruno didn’t relax until Fugo and the Discos were well out of sight, and even then, he turned to Sorbet and Gelato with a guarded expression. “Gentlemen. This concludes our business. Shall I see you out?”
Gelato smiled and looked at Leone, who was still an unzipped disaster on the ground. “One more thing.”
Quick on the draw, Bruno stepped between them, but Gelato was faster. He slid past and took Leone’s Beretta from its holster, admiring it—or pretending to.
“I think this officer is a little too involved in our affairs. Don’t you, Buccellati? You’re never this careless.”
“I’m not. He’s one of mine,” said Bruno coolly, as if explaining a much more reasonable faux pas. “He’s here as security.”
“But he shouldn’t have seen this much.” Gelato pointed the gun to Leone’s temple. “Consider replacing him.”
“Hold on,” said Bruno.
“Hold on,” said Sorbet, raising a hand. Gelato followed his gaze down to Leone’s snarl. “Look, caro. Black lipstick.”
"Oh. So, it is," said Gelato, and he laughed. He stood and walked a step back, until he was facing Bruno. His eyes traveled south and stopped at Bruno’s chest. Bruno only blinked in confusion when Gelato asked, “You got something you wanna tell us, Buccellati?”
Sorbet grinned at Gelato’s side, and when Bruno stepped back from their leering, Leone saw it. Oh, God. Leone saw it before Bruno even looked down.
Right above the black lace, in the middle of his chest, was Leone’s lipstick. An accidental kiss mark.
Leone groaned and thumped his forehead against the floor. It must have happened when Bruno was holding his head, and neither of them had noticed. “Fuck.” But of course, Sorbet and Gelato had a front row view of it when Bruno decided to show off his fucking lingerie. And both the panna cotta idiots saw, too. (Oh, no. Oh, no.) Leone could feel the blood rush to his face in embarrassment.
Was it too late to protest, to say it wasn’t what they thought—that Leone wasn’t head over heels for Bruno Buccellati?
Even Leone wouldn’t believe himself.
“I…” Bruno’s voice cracked. Leone saw his face freeze, just like it had at the front door when Leone let himself in. But then, Bruno looked away. Demurely, like a starlet caught in a scandal, he muttered, “I told you to be more careful, Leone.”
Leone blinked. “Hah?”
Bruno got down on his knees next to him, and looked up at Sorbet with his soulful blue eyes, like a penitent before Christ in the paintings. “We both know it won’t last. We’re on opposite sides of the law, after all… But have you ever met a man, and suddenly, everything you didn’t understand about yourself made sense?”
Oh. He was going to play this card.
“Buccellati!” Leone hissed furiously at the shameless pageantry Bruno was performing for lack of a better plan. And Bruno sailed on without a care because he was cunning, efficient, and ruthless.
(But what made Leone truly angry was that he could believe him, that Officer Leone Abbacchio was just some hopeless idiot pining for a two-faced gangster. His grandmother would've been disappointed to know he turned out to be such a useless gay.)
“Leone, it’s all right,” Bruno said, strategically resting a hand across Leone’s mouth. “It’s not as if anyone in your precinct thinks you’re straight anyway. You shouldn't live in hiding, even if we don't stay together.”
Leone growled at that and glared. How dare Bruno Buccellati out him and break up with him in the same breath—when they weren’t even dating in the first place! And yet, Sorbet and Gelato were watching the drama unfold with fists clenched over their hearts as if they could relate.
Holy piss, they could relate.
“It’s tough when you’re young,” said Gelato quietly.
“I remember it well,” Sorbet replied with excessive affection. “It always felt like Romeo and Juliet, didn’t it?”
“Sometimes, it still does,” Gelato sighed. He rested his cheek against Sorbet’s shoulder. “Maybe I’m growing soft in my old age, but I think I won’t put a magazine of bullets in the officer’s head.”
“My Gelato is so gentle,” cooed Sorbet. He moved forward, and Gelato fell back, smirking. Sorbet grinned. “You heard him, Buccellati. You can keep your boy toy. Hell, I think you deserve a big, pretty lug like this after all these years.”
Bruno flinched a little when Sorbet patted him on the shoulder. “Th-thanks?”
“But just to be sure.” Sorbet slid his palm down to Bruno’s chest and pressed his other to Leone’s face. He clapped his hands together and cheerfully declared, “Death of a Bachelor!”
A feeling washed over Leone and left him tingling the same way Bruno’s bralette had. He couldn’t describe it, only that there was an urge to look at Bruno. And Bruno’s face was pale.
“Caro, what’s the magic number this time?” Sorbet asked Gelato sweetly.
“They say good things come in threes.” Gelato shot them a devious smile. “Deadline in an hour?”
“This isn’t funny,” Bruno said, calm and stoic as ever, but Leone could see from his posture that there was something wrong.
“What, you gonna cry to Big Papa Polpo now?” Sorbet jeered, rising to his feet. “How ‘bout you tell him to quit fucking around with our squad.”
“Please understand, Leone is devoutly Catholic, and I want to respect his faith.” So, Bruno was still going for their hearts, shriveled as they may be for assassins. He continued in his straightforward way of lying, without even consulting Leone on the matter, “He’s a virgin. He’s saving it for marriage.”
Leone opened his mouth to object, but Bruno zipped it shut beneath his hand.
The two assassins exchanged amused glances one more time, and Gelato wrinkled his nose with a smirk. “I suppose we can be generous.”
“Oh, you know I am.” Sorbet turned to Bruno, grinning ear to ear. “Hey, Buccellati, why’re you scared? You’re looking at this situation all wrong. See, we’re trying to help you out here.”
“How?” Bruno kept a tight grip on his composure, but it was slipping.
“We’ll give you and choirboy a whole week to get married. Happy honeymoon!” Sorbet cackled and swung an arm around Gelato’s waist. They turned heel and left.
Bruno watched them, bristling, as if prepared to run after them with his fists flying. But he held himself back and looked down, his knuckles white against the floor. Leone could practically hear the gears moving in his head, and he was eager to learn what the fuck was going on this time.
At last, Bruno turned to him and explained, very gravely, “We have to have sex with each other three times in the next seven days, or we’ll both die.”
“Zip me back up,” said Leone, unimpressed.
At the station, Sergeant Cavatappi was not keen on sending men to raid the Disco mansion for evidence. In fact, he gave Leone such a dressing down in front of the whole damn precinct that Leone could feel his soul wither up and fall into some crevice between his guts and his kidneys.
“But sir,” Leone persisted in his exhaustion like a robot, “if we don’t shut down the operation, they’ll flood Europe with counterfeits before half the continent even knows what a real Euro looks like.”
“Then, let them,” replied Cavatappi. “What does it matter to us when we’re in the heart of Passione’s control? We’re fine as we are.”
“You won’t be when that bastard Buccellati starts slipping you useless fake bills,” Leone thought coldly, before he realized he had said it aloud. Shit. “S-sir…”
“Get out.” Cavatappi sat back down at his desk. His voice was quiet and deadly to Leone’s career. “You’re suspended without pay.”
Leone balked at him. “For how long?!”
“Until you make peace with Bruno Buccellati,” said the sergeant, and he swiveled his chair to face the large plaque behind him. It was gold and bore their academy’s motto: ‘L’empio fugge senza che alcuno lo perseguiti, ma il giusto se ne sta sicuro come un leone.’
It was raining.
Leone awoke to the sound of knocking at his door. It wasn’t Capelli’s aggressive style, so he ignored it. Besides, Capelli already dropped by yesterday with food, and that was enough. Leone was indebted to him for life. He’d never ask for more.
The knocking persisted, and Leone went through his mental archives of who it could possibly be when Bruno Buccellati’s voice came through, muffled, “Officer Abbacchio? Leone, are you in?”
Grimly, Leone pulled the covers back over his head. He’d wait Bruno out the way he did monsters back in childhood.
But Bruno Buccellati was a special kind of monster. Leone heard a zip, then footsteps, and suddenly, the covers were gone. Replaced by the soft light outside and Bruno’s beautiful form gazing down at him like an angel in the Sistine Chapel.
“Oh. I didn’t realize you drew in your eyebrows,” Bruno said—not unkindly, but it felt like a kick in the groin anyway.
Leone didn’t care how Bruno got in. He cared even less about what Bruno was capable of after yesterday’s nightmare. Despite his better judgment, Leone had thought long and hard about the zippers, enough to exhaust himself. In the end, he decided he didn’t have the tools to cope with that particular trauma and went to sleep. He’d planned on sleeping the whole day away, too, but then Bruno had to interfere.
Leone closed his eyes and beckoned to the red blanket in Bruno’s hand. “C’mon. Give.”
“Sure.” Bruno threw the covers over his own shoulders like king's mantle and climbed into bed. His warmth was a shock. Leone scrambled out, skinning his knees on the floor.
“What the fuck, Buccellati?!”
Bruno sat on the edge of the bed. “We’re going to have sex.”
“Oh, we are, are we?” Leone sneered, trying to look condescending, but he was sitting on the floor in a tank top and boxer briefs with goosebumps all over his legs.
“Three times in six days—”
“Or we both die,” Leone finished wearily and rubbed his eyes. He hadn’t given it another thought after he left the mansion, but he remembered feeling pissed off, like he was being mocked. He had tried really hard to forget that.
“Right.” Bruno nodded, peering down at him with a serene expression Leone liked very much but couldn’t read, which meant Leone couldn’t deal with it. He was tired of not being able to tell what was going on behind those clear blue eyes. Everything Bruno did and said was a means to an end, and Leone wasn't good at those kinds of games. He just wanted transparency.
“Enough with the bullshit, Buccellati,” he said irritably. “What do you want from me? Cavatappi already shut down the Panna Cotta Disco case, so you’re free to print your fucking money in peace.”
“You weren’t dismissed.” Of course, Bruno already knew.
“But almost. Almost,” Leone snorted and tried not to look as pathetic as he felt. “Apparently, I don’t get along well enough with our local gangsters.”
Bruno dropped the covers and patted his inner thigh. “Two birds with one stone,” he said lightly, like it was a weekend sale at the supermarket. “Or do you require a date to get in the mood?” God, but he tried so hard. His inability to land a joke was charming, but so was the lure of an anglerfish.
Leone groaned and hung his head. He had spent the past day drifting in and out of that easy state of not giving a damn, so it wasn’t fair for Bruno to just barge in and catch him flatfooted in his own apartment. He had been content ignoring his problems and letting his emotions seep away until there was nothing left. And now, Bruno was here, and all of Leone’s feelings came back in a torrential downpour. It was too much at once, and it wasn’t fair.
Leone couldn’t have him. Leone wasn’t supposed to have Bruno. The reasons didn’t feel as compelling today, with Bruno in his bed and willing, but they were there somewhere in the foundations of Leone’s ideals.
Those goddamned ideals.
They were incompatible with reality, with his dream of protecting justice as a policeman, and now he couldn’t even be a policeman, and he wouldn’t be able to afford rent, and he’d have to go back to his parents’ house in shame because his brothers were right, he really was just the stupid baby of the family, now that Nonna wasn’t there to defend him anymore.
“Didn’t you say it wasn’t good for an honest policeman to be seen with a gangster?” Leone asked, stalling, his voice weak, waiting for Bruno to give him all the right answers to his mess of a life.
Bruno took a moment to consider the question. The soft patter of rain filled the silence. Finally, he crossed his legs and rested an elbow on his knee, and he said, “In a world like ours, an honest policeman has no use for a good reputation.”
“Oh,” said Leone. He didn’t know what he had expected, but he surprised himself by crying.
Caro – darling.
‘L’empio fugge senza che alcuno lo perseguiti, ma il giusto se ne sta sicuro come un leone.’ – ‘The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” – Proverbs 21:1
Chapter 4: Like a Loved-Up Bruise
Leone goes clubbing and gets caught in the crossfire between two killer couples. As usual, Bruno is there.
Warnings to be aware of this chapter: Stand-related sexual coercion, drugging.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Leone was already down the fire escape when Bruno returned that evening.
“Abbacchio!” Bruno called from his window, which he unzipped instead of opening like a normal human. “Why are you running away?”
Leone stumbled onto the wet sidewalk, carrying his shoes, really pondering why on earth he was putting up such a goddamn fight. Despite Bruno’s bold declarations at the mansion, Leone had no real attachment to his father’s religion, and he’d lost his virginity a few years back to one of his brothers’ girlfriends (in an experience that had cast the first doubts on his heterosexuality).
He did tell himself that he’d give love a shot, if it ever came calling, but all Leone Abbacchio had was his uniform and badge. If anyone were to dig further, they’d find an empty studio apartment and unworn black clothes. And maybe some takeout in the fridge. His personal life was barren, and he didn’t want others to see it.
But Bruno had seen it. He’d sat through around ten minutes of Leone’s existential weeping before patting him on the shoulder and promising he’d drop by again later. He’d seen Leone’s pathetic entirety, or lack thereof, and once he fucked Leone, he’d realize that was it.
Bruno was the kind of person who tied up his loose ends. His indulgent interactions would become brisk and businesslike with Leone, as it had been with the assassins, and Leone would see Bruno’s back more often than his face.
They’d eventually drift into strangers, and Leone wasn’t ready for that.
“I know it’s your day off, but I need to crash here for a while,” said Leone. “Buccellati knows where I live and keeps trying to have sex with me.”
Capelli swayed blearily at the door and blinked. He looked over Leone’s shoulder, as if basing his reply on whether or not Bruno was standing behind Leone with a gun in one hand and a condom in the other. When no mafioso appeared, Capelli scratched his head and said, “And that’s bad because… Hold on, what happened? Catch me up on the situation.”
Bruno says we’ve been cursed so that we’ll die if we don’t do it three times in the next few days.
Leone bit his lip, shook his head, and turned around, realizing he’d rather die unfucked than spew that nonsense to his partner. “Never mind.”
“Wait, hold on, hold on.” Capelli rubbed his eyes with a hand and motioned for Leone to return with the other. “Look, I know you’re not feeling real hot these days, so there’s this thing I wanted to tell you… Ah, what was it? Sorry, me and Marina had one too many bottles, haha... Shit.”
A woman’s voice came from another room in the flat, “Tell him about the gay club!”
“Right!” said Capelli when Leone shot him a quizzical look. “You remember that nightclub we passed around the Piazza Bellini? The new one...”
“Duo Lips?” asked Leone, and Capelli nodded proudly, as if he'd been the one who remembered.
“Yep, that’s the name. I heard from Farfalle, who heard from Fettucine, who heard from Penne… Y’know what, it doesn’t matter. Anyway, heard it’s run by Passione.”
Leone frowned. “Why are you telling me this? You know I got yelled at by the sergeant for messing with them.” Cappelli had heard Leone crying like a big baby in a bathroom stall yesterday and tossed him a bottle of water. Leone was ashamed to say that he was a mess these days.
“I know you’ll listen to orders for once and not go investigating,” Capelli said sarcastically, “so think of it like this: I’m recommending this place to a friend who suddenly has a lot of downtime on his hands. I think it’s one of those queer ones where everyone’s dressed up in crazy outfits.”
“Undercover cop!” Leone blurted out and then looked away sheepishly. Capelli knew him too well. “I mean, yeah. Guess I’ve never been to a nightclub.”
“Never say never, right?” Capelli paused, thoughtful. “Though, if it’s run by Passione, everyone’s probably going to be wearing crazy outfits anyway.”
“Now, that’s a good cover,” Leone admitted, and they shared a chuckle until Capelli’s girlfriend came to the door to collect him.
“Sergio, tell Abbacchio to fuck off so you can come back to bed.”
“Fuck you, too, Marina,” Leone said with a nasty smile and earned a pleased laugh in return.
Capelli glanced at her affectionately and said to Leone, “When you work things out with Buccellati, we should go on a double date sometime.”
Leone looked him in the eye and said, “I can’t believe you just said something so embarrassing.”
He rummaged through his closet until he found the black coat with the laces.
Today was the day he’d wear it. Still, he couldn’t help but look around self-consciously, in case Bruno jumped out from behind the kitchen counter to point at him and laugh. Obviously, he didn’t. For once, Leone was thankful that the man had too many illegal things on his schedule to wait for Leone at his flat. Leone didn’t plan on staying long either.
He looked back at the coat.
He tried it on with a few button-ups underneath, but they all creased uncomfortably around his shoulders. Maybe he’d wear it with no shirt. It was bold and kind of tacky, but Nonna always said strong, confident men should show off their chests a little more. (She would have loved Bruno.)
He fastened the gold buckles around his wrists, pulled on a pair of black pants, and turned to face himself in the bathroom mirror.
Then, he took a lap around the apartment to recover.
God, that neckline plunged down to his navel. Was he really going to wear it in public? He stared down his reflection and said, “You’re gonna look like a real asshole tonight.”
And he couldn’t stop himself from grinning.
He took care with his foundation and even bothered with bronzer and mascara today. He went heavier on his brows and eyelids with the black pencil, and he broke the seal on the lavender Dior lipstick. He wanted his face looking sharp enough to cut, and he wanted to leave purple marks on anyone he decided to kiss. If he decided to kiss anyone at all. The night was young, and so was he.
When he stepped back from the mirror, his reflection was stunning.
Every day, he rushed through his makeup to achieve some semblance of what he wanted to look like, but tonight, it felt right. Tonight, he felt like a new man.
He searched his closet for the tacky belt with the metal A and walked out with it around his waist.
The line for Duo Lips trailed around the block, but Leone had no problem getting in. He skipped the bouncer and the main entrance altogether and joined two waitresses smoking around the backdoor. They were nearly identical in their uniform: tan, each sporting long sheets of platinum blonde hair, pastel romper suits, and two-toned lipstick.
“Shit, should’ve gone with purple and black today,” Leone said around his own cigarette, and one of the girls fished a tube of black from her pocket.
“I like you,” said Leone, trying to think of the most charming thing he could say, “you got parking tickets you want erased?”
(He decided it wasn’t a bribe in hindsight because, as it turned out, she didn’t drive. No harm, no foul.)
They let him in the nightclub and blew him cheeky kisses when they parted. The place was packed, claustrophobic, and thrumming with bass. Neon lights flashed around them, pink and blue, and above it all was a glittering ceiling of glass panels.
Leone muscled his way through the crowd, toward the bar in the center of the dance floor. The sun-kissed waitstaff flitted back and forth from it with golden glasses, like beautiful blond bees.
Curious, Leone tugged at a waiter’s hair, and it came off, revealing darker locks underneath a wig cap. He looked at Leone in shock. Leone scoured his brain for a witty response but could only come up with, “Mine now.” He let his resting bitch face finish the conversation.
Fortunately, the man bought it. Loved it. He blushed as he hurried away and threw Leone one last intrigued glance over his shoulder, which made Leone bite back a grin. He examined the abandoned wig and put it on. Why the hell not? Might as well commit to the undercover schtick.
He plucked a black headband off a drunk woman en route to the bar. She was too busy making out with her girlfriend to notice it was gone. It was the thin plastic kind, with thorns sticking out like a spiked crown. He slid it behind his ears to secure the wig.
Out of all the employees Leone had seen so far, only the bartender had a different palette. He had wild red hair, instead of the straight platinum cascade, and was wearing a sleeveless navy-blue jumpsuit lined in white pinstripes. He was chatting intimately with a pretty waiter over the counter when Leone sat down.
“Squalo, customer,” said the waiter—another blond.
“What do you want?” The bartender shot Leone a beleaguered look, as if his job was really to flirt with the waitstaff and Leone had gotten in his way. The blond was, hands down, a solid ten. Sultry eyes and a husky baritone. Leone could see why Squalo was reluctant to leave him.
“Martini, please,” said Bruno Buccellati, appearing out of fucking nowhere, as he was wont to do. “As many olives as you can. I haven’t eaten all day.”
Squalo left them alone. Leone stared at Bruno, waiting for him to apologize for butting in like a douchebag. When it became apparent that Bruno was ignoring him, Leone couldn’t help himself from snarking, “How do you forget to eat when you run a restaurant?”
Bruno stared straight ahead—as if weighing the consequences of letting this be the last straw that broke the camel’s back, before deciding that yes, he was hangry enough to start a bar fight—and he turned to Leone, full Buccellati Gangster Mode, “Say, here’s a fun thought exercise. If you saw someone drop a bag of money…” He stopped and squinted in the neon light. “…Abbacchio?”
Bruno’s eyes kept moving down to Leone’s chest, and Leone took great pleasure in smirking and giving him a taste of his own medicine—by ignoring him altogether. “Hey, bartender, where’s our drinks?”
The redhead was, yet again, schmoozing it up with the waiter. They looked over at Leone and Bruno, like housewives at the targets of their gossip. The blond set a little paper umbrella in each drink, phosphorescent and absolutely unnecessary, and Squalo brought them over.
“Buccellati, right?” said Squalo to Bruno. “What brings you here tonight?”
“Business,” Bruno replied. He accepted his drink without even looking at it as he watched Squalo carefully. “I’m looking for someone named Tiziano.”
Squalo regarded him with a sneer. “Why’s that?”
“Business,” Bruno repeated blandly.
Leone watched them snip at each other some more over the rim of his wineglass, until Bruno raised his martini to his lips. And flinched. Leone set down his drink. “What’s wrong, Buccellati?”
Bruno covered his mouth, confused. “Something cut my tongue.”
Squalo glanced at Leone’s glass, but then picked up the umbrella in Bruno’s. “Must’ve been the umbrella. Sorry ‘bout that. Drink’s on the house.” He waved his boyfriend over. “Yo, Tiz!”
The man named Tiziano glided over, smooth like butter on a hot pan. “Squalo. Need me for something?”
“Tiziano, right?” Bruno cut in, “I hear you’re the man to go to, if I have matters to discuss with the boss.”
“Your source is wrong. No one talks to the boss.” Tiziano set a silver tray down on the counter and took a seat next to Bruno. He rested his chin on his knuckles, his eyes sharp like a fox’s.
“It’s regarding my capo,” said Bruno, and Squalo slid over to Bruno’s other side.
“You snitch, you die. I think you’ve been with Passione long enough to know that.” Caught between the older men, Bruno looked like a seal trapped between two sharks. Leone reached for the wineglass, slowly. If he broke it, he’d have an impromptu shiv.
“I can get the boss ten billion lire’s worth of jewels in the process.” Bruno shrugged and sat back, reaching for his glass. “Do you think he’d hear me out now?”
He had a way of getting men’s attention.
Tiziano considered him. He reined Squalo in with a nod and told Bruno, “I’ll hear you out. Follow me.”
Leone stood when Bruno stood, and when they turned to him, he said, very confidently, “I’m Buccellati’s bodyguard.”
“I have never seen this man in my life,” said Bruno, and he blinked as if surprised by his own words.
“You heard him,” Tiziano said to Squalo. “Get rid of the creep.”
And Leone was shown the door.
He would’ve had to wait at the back of the line, too, if Sorbet and Gelato hadn’t rolled up in a tricked-out Fiat Marea. Leone could still read the POLIZIA letters on the side, under a hastily applied coat of paint. Bastards. He banged on the tinted windows.
“Did you fuckers steal a police car?!”
The windows went down, and Leone was greeted by blaring rock, the business end of a shotgun, and Gelato’s voice, “What’s it to you?”
“You’re lucky I’m suspended,” said Leone, who was voted in his graduating class as most likely to get in the last word instead of bothering with self-preservation.
“Oh, shit!” Gelato’s eyes lit up in recognition. He shouted back into the car, “It’s Officer Choirboy—Buccellati’s innamorato!”
Leone grimaced. It wasn’t worth the effort to correct them.
Sorbet leaned over and rested his chin on Gelato’s shoulder. “You two fuck yet?”
Gelato hemmed thoughtfully, “They don’t have a lot of time left, do they?”
They exchanged a quick duet of “no, mm-mm, nope.”
Was sexually harassing the police some kind of running joke for this gang? Leone grit his teeth so hard that he was sure they’d crack. “What are you doing here?”
“We’re Passione,” said Sorbet, blowing on his bright blue nails. “We get in for free.”
“You can be our plus-one if you help us out.” Gelato patted Leone’s cheek. “We went to La Perla, did some snooping. Turns out Buccellati’s right. Somebody important gets a custom job done there. It’s every other month or so, but it’s always a blond dude who picks it up. Way too young to be our boss. Dark skin, long hair with a headband, jumpsuit. We heard someone on staff here fits the description.”
“Yeah, everyone does,” said Leone. “It’s kind of the house look.”
“God damn, sneaky bitch,” said Sorbet. “That means he’s not just the boss’ secretary. If he can meet with people and disappear into the staff afterward, he’s probably one of the gang’s intel officers.”
Gelato tapped his chin thoughtfully. “They also said that sometimes, he comes in with a handsome redhaired man.”
Leone blinked. “Get me inside. I can take you to the redhead.”
“Good boy.” Gelato grinned. “You’re wasted on the police.”
The club was full, maybe more so since Leone left. There was a mirror ball now, reflecting squares of blue and pink and white across the walls. Bodies pressed into him, like packed sardines. He could feel the music through them. Sorbet and Gelato had to keep close, until they escaped the crowd by heading up to the second floor.
There, Leone caught his breath, and there, he saw Tiziano push Bruno down on a sofa. The man climbed on top, his long platinum hair sweeping across Bruno’s face.
Leone’s vision turned red.
“Hey!” he shouted. “Hey, get off him!”
Leone didn’t remember moving, much less running—but next thing he knew, he was at Bruno’s side, and Tiziano was on the banister, watching them with his pale, cunning eyes. Leone pointed the assassins to him.
“That’s him—the blond!”
Tiziano smirked and leapt off just as Sorbet and Gelato reached the bars. The revelers below caught him, and he disappeared into the throng.
“Bastard really does looks like everyone on staff here,” Sorbet growled, searching the crowd. He pulled out his gun. “What d’you think, Gelato? Wreck this place?”
“No, we need to get at least one of ‘em before we fuck shit up,” Gelato admonished him, “or else we might lose both.”
“The bartender in the center of the room—that’s your redhead!” Leone seethed when he saw Tiziano’s lipstick on Bruno’s mouth. He wiped it off with his sleeve, knowing he was irrationally angry, but he couldn’t help it. “You get him, you get the blond, too.”
“Oh. A honeytrap,” said Sorbet. “I like that.”
“Grazie.” Gelato scanned the floor and motioned to Sorbet. “Found our mark. Let’s go.”
And they jumped.
Leone turned back to Bruno, who stared at him in dazed confusion.
“I don’t… I don’t know how he drank me under the table so quickly,” said Bruno. He propped himself up with his elbows. “I can usually handle five, six shots of the stuff, no problem…”
On the table, Leone saw two frosted shot glasses and the half-empty bottle of Phantom Bold vodka. He could hazard a guess as to what happened, but he grabbed Bruno’s glass to be sure.
“You said you didn’t eat all day,” he said, examining the little cup. “Also, he roofied you.”
“Imposs’ble. I picked the cup,” Bruno protested weakly. “Crap, should’ve gone with the one on the right. Dunno why I changed my mind, said ‘left’ at the last second…”
“You should’ve let me come along,” said Leone, lifting him from the couch, but Bruno pushed him off. His face was red, his eyes watery.
“Can take care of myself—” he began, but the glass ceiling shattered to the sound of gunshots and screams.
“Damn, they work fast,” said Leone as Sorbet hollered orders at the crowd. Most of it was around the lines of ‘get lost,’ so everyone ran toward the exits. Leone ducked down. “We’d better lay low for a while…”
Bruno batted his hands away. “I’m fine, I can take care of myself—”
“Wrong,” said Leone gruffly. “You’re like a helicopter over people you’re trying to protect, but you’re fuckin’ suicidal when you’re alone.”
“I don’t.” Bruno glared in disbelief. “No…”
“What, you don’t believe me? Let’s rewind a sec,” said Leone. “You got me kicked out, so you could handle this shit on your own. Now, you’re all fucked up.”
“It’s not… I didn’t mean to say I didn’t... know you.” Bruno wouldn’t look at him. He clung to the sofa for balance. “I just did...? Does that make sense?” What a conveniently vague reply. And infuriating. Leone didn’t want to say Bruno deserved what happened to him, but the petty side of him did.
“Y’know what? I don’t care about your reasons,” said Leone. “I want you to let me in on whatever shady angle it is you’re working tonight.”
“No.” Bruno hugged a pillow. “You’re not involved. Is between Passione and myself.”
“I am an officer of the law. Anything involving the mob is my problem as well,” said Leone stubbornly. Bruno scowled back, equally stubborn.
“You can’t defeat Passione from outside. You have to do it from within. Work your way up.”
Leone stared. “What? Are you trying to take over Passione?”
“Take… take over?” Bruno’s eyes were large and glassy, his pupils blown wide. “Now, that’s suicide. Imposs'ble. At best, I’d work my way up to caporegime, and I’d at least have the boss’ ear. Maybe…” He didn’t notice himself sliding back into the cushions as he spoke, his words slurring. “I just wanna stop the drugs in Naples… I messed up, Papà...”
“Christ,” said Leone. Clearly, he wasn't the only one with family issues.
And they said that he was naïve. The drug trade brought billions into Passione’s coffers every year because the gang had spent the 1990’s thoroughly setting up its trafficking system across Europe. And while it was true that Passione had been at the forefront of the anti-drug crusade during its formation in 1980’s Italy, that was nothing but a smokescreen. For Bruno to have been drawn in by the rhetoric that early, he would have been…
“Hey, Buccellati, how old are you?”
Bruno stirred, facedown. “Eighteen.”
Same age as Leone, less than twelve months apart, and probably younger since Leone's birthday came so early in the year. They had been kids when Passione arrived in Naples and took Bruno as a soldier.
“Fuck,” said Leone as it sank in.
His insides felt cold. All this time, he thought for sure Bruno had been older. Maybe a year or two or four. He seemed smarter, more put together, more grown-up. But he wasn’t.
“Fuck,” hissed Leone again, looking at Bruno, who was young and vulnerable and everything Leone had wanted so desperately to hide about himself under his makeup and the authority of his uniform.
The second floor was empty, save for a few passed out patrons and the ones frozen in fear. They were probably safer on this level, but Leone wanted to get Bruno out of the building.
Leone pulled him to the ground in a crouch and beckoned for him to follow. Bruno did, albeit reluctantly. His addled brain was working so hard to keep up that when they got to the stairs, he didn’t even notice Leone picking him up and carrying him down bridal-style. He did rest his head against Leone’s shoulder, however. Leone missed the last couple of steps and spilled Bruno all over the dirty linoleum. Bruno held on regardless.
“I have to stay, Leone. Find Tiziano… Make sure he does what I asked of him.”
“Hell no,” Leone huffed, hot with Bruno’s arms around his neck. “Who knows what else he’ll do to you in this condition?”
Because Leone had been thinking about it.
Wasn’t that despicable, when only moments before, he had been ready to protect Bruno’s goodness with his life? But it was as if learning Bruno’s age suddenly made him accessible. He wasn’t just a sleek wise guy in a sleeker suit, wheeling and dealing with criminals in the Neapolitan underworld. Bruno Buccellati became more and more Bruno, just as Officer Leone Abbacchio was simply Leone. And Bruno and Leone were two teenagers wearing clothes that adults wore and thinking they were grown up because of it. There was a complicity to it that brought them to the same level.
“Come with me. My bodyguard. Right?” Bruno pulled him close, until Leone’s synthetic hair cascaded around their faces like waves. Until Leone could kiss him and pin him down and keep kissing him, covering him in lavender, even if he resisted, and Leone would convince himself that he’d make it up to Bruno by shielding him and serving him and being his forever, like a perfectly tailored suit.
And it’s not like Bruno would even know.
Leone swallowed. Despite the sharp alcohol, Bruno’s cologne smelled so good tonight. Leone could do anything to him, while he was weak, and only Leone would remember it in the morning. And if Bruno remembered as well—who was he to blame Leone? Was this really so different from him breaking into Leone’s flat to crawl into his bed?
It was, it was. There was no way of reasoning through this mess to get what he wanted, even if the opportunity was there. If Bruno didn’t get bored of Leone in the long-run, then he’d be disgusted with him after this. And if he wasn’t disgusted, then Leone would be disgusted with himself. All he had in their relationship was the moral high ground.
(“You should let me up now, before we complicate things in a way you’ll regret.”)
“Please, Leone,” said Bruno, his eyes lidded, so helpless, so unaware of Leone’s hunger.
“Stop saying my name,” Leone pleaded.
Gunshots thundered. The lights suspended above them shattered, raining them in glass and sparks.
The dark was sobering. Leone shook the debris from his hair and looked around wildly (and gratefully). Bruno groaned beneath him, “What happened?”
At the bar, still lit by bright neon lights, Squalo’s prone form was sprawled over the counter, bleeding. Sorbet prodded him with his gun. Gelato lazily reloaded his assault rifle. “Found you,” he said, and Tiziano appeared from the shadows nearby with his hands in the air.
“Why are you doing this?” Tiziano asked, calm. “What does Risotto Nero want?”
“He doesn't know about this,” Gelato said plainly. “We're here to gain some leverage.”
“And money,” Sorbet added. “We probably get half of what you get paid, and we gotta split it between nine people!”
“Nothing personal. It's just business,” Gelato said and pointed his gun at Tiziano. “Now, be good and—”
“Squalo!” Tiziano shouted, running forward. As if in response, all the bottles in the bar exploded in rapid succession. Alcohol spilled everywhere. “Stay down!” Tiziano commanded and dove for the gun Sorbet dropped.
The two couples separated—Tiziano and Squalo behind the counter and Sorbet and Gelato several meters away, hidden in the dark with their guns raised.
“I almost had him!” Squalo raged, clutching his bloody arm. “We gotta draw ‘em back.”
Tiziano looked up and said, “Or we expand our perimeter.” He promptly shot the pipes along the ceiling. Sparks flew and more glass panels shattered.
“Bitch, you missed!” Gelato yelled from the cover of darkness, just as half the sprinklers went off around the dance hall.
“God damn it,” said Leone, now soaked from head to toe.
The water brought Bruno back to lucidity. He sat up, coughing, “I have to… have to empty my stomach—Sticky Fingers!” His arm went flying off, and he stared at the pocket of air to his right in disappointment. “You missed.”
“Oh, Saint Madonna, fuck,” Leone muttered, crawling carefully over broken glass to retrieve Bruno’s arm. He froze in place when Gelato and Sorbet landed next to him, behind an overturned loveseat, savage and wild-eyed with adrenaline.
Gelato readied his gun and yelled, “Go, go, go!”
“Cover me!” Sorbet whooped as Gelato opened fire on Squalo and Tiziano. He bolted for them, cutting in between, and clapped a hand across both of their faces, knocking them to the ground. “Death of a Bachelor! Fifteen minutes!”
“Shit!” Squalo made a grab, but Sorbet had executed a flawless hit-and-run, distracting them long enough for Gelato to jump over the counter right after him.
He tagged in, tapped them, and declared, “Bad Together!”
“No—!” Tiziano almost managed to get a hold of Gelato—had his hands all over his face—before he and Squalo flew to opposite sides of the room and slammed hard against the walls. They didn’t fall, and they squirmed, pinned by some invisible force.
“What the fuck,” said Leone from behind his loveseat, clutching Bruno’s arm to his chest. “What the fuck is going on here?”
He returned to Bruno, hoping for some explanation, but found him unconscious and partially unzipped everywhere, except his stomach.
Miserably, Leone rolled up his sleeves and began the reassembly process yet again. “What the fuck are you people?”
“All right, you’ve got less than fifteen minutes to get to your boyfriend before you both die,” Sorbet said as he lifted Squalo’s chin with the muzzle of his gun. Squalo bared his teeth.
“And we can tell he’s your boyfriend ‘cause my Stand not only separates people—it pushes them farther away the more they love each other,” said Gelato, from Sorbet’s side. “And it looks like you two would’ve gone for a couple more kilometers if it hadn’t been for those pesky walls. Nice.”
“It is nice when boys find love,” Sorbet cooed, pinching Squalo’s cheek, “so if you tell us who the boss is and answer a few other questions, we’ll let you screw one more time before you die.”
“Get away from him, you black-haired rat!”
They turned around to see Tiziano slowly being drenched by the sprinklers above him. A pitiful sight. His clothes clung to his body, his hair to his face—but his eyes were positively blazing. Not in anger. There was something equally bright and dangerous.
“It’s a shame you don’t get what you need from blondie next to you, but that’s no reason to steal my man.”
Sorbet looked at Tiziano, then Gelato, then Squalo, and then back to Tiziano again, confused. “What? Who? Me?”
Gelato, on the other hand, was more than a little agitated. “You tryin’a say something, huh? Why don’t you say it to my face, you little bitch?”
A heartbeat passed.
“Cornuto,” said Tiziano.
That hit a sore spot. Gelato turned vermillion.
“Shit,” said Sorbet. “Caro, don’t listen to him.”
“Pretty whores like you think they can get away with saying anything,” Gelato laughed, taking long strides toward Tiziano, reloading his gun, “but let’s just see what you can get away with after I pump your face full of lead!”
“Don’t kill him until we get the info,” Sorbet said in exasperation and looked away, embarrassed. “C’mon, don’t make me be the reasonable one here. You know I wouldn’t go for Carrot Top. Gelato? Don’t go over there, it’s wet, you’ll ruin your boots.”
“Love of my life, I’m not going to let him insult your honor,” Gelato explained angrily in front of Tiziano. “I’m just trying to show him how right he is before I let him go unharmed.”
There was a pause, and Sorbet turned back around. “What’d you say?”
Gelato blinked and cleared his throat. “I said what I said! This beautiful man has been preaching nothing but truth…” He stopped and looked at Tiziano, who smiled prettily at him.
Sorbet gave Gelato a look that Leone’s mother would give his father whenever she caught him eyeing inadequately dressed girls on the street. “Oh, I see. You just wanted to torture the pretty one!”
“Yes, you get me!” Gelato yelled across the room, motioning frantically to his captive. “All I wanna do is fuck him!” He clapped a hand over his mouth, his eyes wide.
“This is a really bad time for him to suggest a threesome,” Leone muttered to Bruno, who was still unconscious. “Buccellati, wake up. Damn it.” He heaved Bruno over his shoulders in a fireman carry.
“Everything’s great! Come here, Sorbet!” Gelato yelled, shaking his head and crossing his arms above his head in the time out signal. He gave up and ran back to Sorbet and Squalo, the water splashing beneath his feet. “Come over here!”
“What the hell’s wrong with you?” Sorbet demanded, crossing the room to meet him, and Gelato screamed a shriek of frustration.
This was evidently the best time for Bruno to regain consciousness, which he proceeded to do. He blinked groggily, glared at his fist, and aimed it at his abdomen. “S-Sticky—”
“No, you don’t,” Leone said quickly and grabbed his wrist.
“This is the only way, Abbacchio…!”
Bruno struggled. Leone threw him off and put him in a headlock. He’d be damned if he let Bruno unzip all the hard, traumatizing work he did to put him back together. Plus, with Bruno’s current aim, there was fantastic chance that he’d just punch Leone’s head off instead. “Look, if you need to throw up, just—!”
Do, not tell. Leone stuck his fingers in Bruno’s mouth and reached for the back of his throat, but nothing happened. Leone pushed further. Bruno didn’t react. Finally, he patted Leone’s arm in a weary way that seemed to say, very gently, “I told you so.”
And because Leone was an idiot, it took a moment more for it to click: “Do… Do you not have a gag reflex?”
Bruno shook his head sadly around Leone’s fingers.
Leone didn’t know what to do with that information. Fortunately, he didn’t have much time to process it.
“Clash!” shouted Squalo.
“Bad Together!” Gelato slammed a hand against Sorbet’s chest and shot him through the ceiling before disappearing in the pool of water they’d been standing in, like he’d been yanked down by some predator of the deep.
“What the hell’s going on, Buccellati?” Leone whispered, as Tiziano and Squalo fell to the ground.
Bruno pushed Leone away and watched the two hurry toward each other, as if calculating the point of intersection. He rose to his feet, shakily. Leone sprang up next to him, but Bruno waved him off. He made an ill-advised run toward the couple and crashed headlong into the loveseat Leone had abandoned.
“What are you doing, Buccellati?” said Leone, but Bruno answered him by unzipping Squalo and Tiziano into halves. The men landed with heavy thuds on the linoleum. They turned to stare at Bruno in horror.
“What the fuck are you doing, Buccellati?!” Squalo screamed at him. “We don’t have time for this! Sorbet hit us with Death of a Bachelor!”
“So, are we agreed, Tiziano?” Bruno asked, appearing to calmly continue a previous conversation as he staggered toward them. “About telling the boss my plan?”
“Fuck you,” began Squalo, but Tiziano hushed him and glared at Bruno with some balance of respect and hatred.
“Yes, we’ll tell him, but don’t expect anything of it.”
“You know I can’t just take your word,” Bruno sighed and sat down. He pulled a cell phone from his pocket and slid it to Tiziano. “Call him and tell him now.”
“Now?” Tiziano’s eyes grew wide. A hint of desperation leaked into his voice, “We don’t have time—”
“Then, hurry,” breathed Bruno. He collapsed against Leone, who had arrived to help but found himself about as useful as a sturdy piece of furniture. “Don’t worry, it’s a burner phone. You can keep it.”
“Sociopath,” Leone muttered into Bruno’s hair, unsure of whether he was feeling impressed, frightened, or turned on.
Bruno gave a hum of approval when Tiziano finally picked up the phone and began dialing.
“Boss?” he said urgently into the receiver, glancing to Bruno, who remained as impassive as a statue. “Oh, consigliere… I need to talk to him. Yes, you can stay as long as he’s listening. Look, it’s about Polpo. Yes, the capo.”
“We’re not gonna fuckin’ forget this, Buccellati,” Squalo hissed from a meter away. Tiziano’s other half pet his hair soothingly.
“Squalo, please, I’m on the phone with the boss,” he shushed. “Yes, so my—erhh, sources tell me the police nabbed one of Polpo’s runners. They’re planning a raid on his place.”
A young man’s voice cried shrilly from the phone, “That’s one of our main operating bases!”
“I know, I know,” Tiziano agreed, “but I'm told Polpo is willing to stop the investigation in its tracks. He'll take the fall for the entire operation—if the boss is amenable to rewarding him.”
Bruno motioned for him to continue.
“And also—ah, Bruno Buccellati has the timeline for it. I’ll fill you in on the details when I get back, and we can take over from there. Yeah, I got him to spill everything with some alcohol and Talking Head. Even something I’m sure Polpo wouldn’t want us to know.” Tiziano glared at Bruno, who nodded agreeably and motioned for him to wrap it up. “Yes, I’ll tell you then. Grazie. Ciao.”
Bruno zipped them back up.
“I didn’t know anything about a raid,” Leone whispered to Bruno as he helped him to his feet. He frowned suspiciously. “Does Polpo know?”
“It’s something I’ve been working on since, I guess February. After I confirmed your story about the cocaine.” Bruno rubbed his face against Leone’s arm like a cat. “I’ll tell you more… when I’m not so fucked up.”
While Leone was sure that Tiziano and Squalo would have loved nothing more than to tear Bruno apart, they ripped off their own clothes and went at each other instead.
“Christ, look at them go,” said Leone, wrinkling his nose. “They’re really taking this Death of a Bachelor thing seriously.”
Bruno squinted at him. “Are you not?”
“I dunno know what weird rituals you follow in Passione, but keep me out of them.”
“Abbacchio.” Bruno grabbed him by the shoulders. “Abbacchio, how are you okay with me summoning zippers out of nowhere, but you don’t believe in someone else having a… a fuck-or-die ability?”
Well, when Bruno put it that way. Leone swallowed. “Wait,” he said weakly, his heart pounding in his ears, “so we really have to…?”
“Good, you get it now,” said Bruno, and he stepped back with his hand over his mouth. “Take me to the men’s room. I think I’m ready to throw up.”
They didn’t make it.
Bruno grudgingly accepted Leone’s offer to carry him to a taxi. They ran into Sorbet on the way. Or rather, Sorbet hurtled past them and nearly knocked Leone flat on his ass.
“Sorbet!” Leone called after him. “Come back! Undo Death of a Bachelor!”
“Fuck off!” Sorbet snarled at the door. “I gotta save Gelato!”
“Dumbass, you can’t fight two of them by yourself!”
“You didn’t leave your boyfriend in there! Why the hell would I leave mine?!”
Leone didn’t have a comeback for that, so he let Sorbet go. With Bruno on his back, Leone stumbled out and found a phone booth. He set Bruno down inside and frowned. A quick search revealed that neither of them had enough change. And Bruno’s phone was inside with Tiziano. Leone couldn’t contact the police.
Then, it dawned on him: shouldn’t the police have arrived by now anyway? Had someone from Passione already called in and told them to stay away? Would they even come if Leone asked for backup? He looked around the empty street, feeling like a lost child.
“What should I do, Buccellati?” said Leone, exhausted.
Bruno closed his eyes. “Take me home.”
In truth, Leone had dreamed about cracking a case undercover since he was in grade school. It was a cinematic daydream full of beautiful people. He’d be both good cop and bad cop, if need be, and in the end, when the lights faded to black, he’d walk out with the most beautiful girl in the building.
The scenery would change as Leone grew older, and so would the woman. She never had a face, and her clothes were always different, but tonight, she looked like Bruno Buccellati in his white suit.
Leone knocked on his bathroom door. “You all right in there?”
He gave Bruno fifteen seconds to respond before he went in. It was unlocked.
Bruno had managed to take off his socks and turn a faucet on the bathtub before passing out on top of the drain. Leone ran over to stop the water from overflowing. It was cold.
Bruno didn’t open his eyes. “Are we friends, Officer?”
Leone blinked at the formal tone, and evidently, that wasn’t enough of an answer for Bruno.
“I know we’re on opposite sides of the law, but outside of that, I think of you as a friend.”
“Really?” Leone tried to laugh it off like someone who wasn’t in love with Bruno Buccellati, but all he could do was say, again, “Really.”
“I like you, Leone. I like you… very much. I would have stayed this morning, but you ignored me for ten minutes no matter what I said or did,” Bruno babbled quietly. “Why don’t you like me? I thought you did, but you don’t.”
“I do like you,” said Leone, and God, that was cathartic. He hedged his bets on Bruno not remembering a word of this conversation come morning and ventured, “I like you very… very much.”
Bruno opened his eyes. He smiled. “Then, we are friends.” And he was so beautiful and soft in this moment that Leone almost convinced himself he’d be happy to be Bruno’s friend and only his friend, if it meant he could stay by this man’s side for the rest of his life. “So, Leone, are we having sex tonight or not?”
Leone backtracked. “Excuse me?”
Bruno frowned. “You always look sad when you think we’re not gonna fuck, but whenever I try, you… You run away. Is this a Catholic thing? I haven’t been to mass in years, but if it is a Catholic thing, I’ll try to understand. But I also refuse to die for it.”
Leone didn’t know where to begin his protest and settled on, “I’m not even Catholic.”
“Half of your swears involve saints and virgins.”
“Fuckin’ hell, you’re really gonna make me explain this—Look, I was raised by a super Catholic father, so it’s only natural I learned how to swear from him—”
“So, this is about religion.”
“Mother of Christ,” Leone groaned, and he silenced Bruno with a finger to the mouth when Bruno smiled at him smugly. He was cute when he was smug, with his hairclips barely clinging onto his perfect bangs. Leone changed the subject. “You’ve been drugged. You’re not in your right mind.”
“Threw most of it up.”
“You can’t even stand by yourself,” Leone argued, running his hands through his hair. He pricked himself on the headband. He was still wearing the wig. He took them both off, and the chill in the bathroom gave him some clarity. He looked at Bruno and tried very hard to keep his heart off his sleeve. “If you were fine, you’d be more careful right now.”
“I should have been more careful tonight. That’s true.” Bruno didn’t avert his gaze, and it took Leone every gram of courage he could muster to hold it with his own. Bruno ran his knuckles down Leone’s cheek, electric to the touch. “But not with you. I trust you, Leone."
"You’re a good man.”
Leone didn’t need that kind of reassurance from a gangster with a heart of gold, but he felt the tension ease from his shoulders all the same, like he had breathed it out. His eyes stung, but he smiled and took Bruno’s hand. It was still warm, despite the cold water, and Leone kissed the calloused palm.
But Bruno had fallen asleep again.
In the morning, Leone woke alone and found two golden hairclips on the pillow next to him. He rolled them in his palm, staring at the cobwebs along the ceiling.
Then, he got out of bed.
Innamorato - male lover; English loanword is actually "inamorato."
Cornuto – Cuck.
Consigliere – “Counselor,” advisor and representative to the don of a mafia, possibly right-hand man. Doppio’s official position in Passione, which is hilarious to me because it's usually supposed to be someone out of the boss' influence but okay.
Chapter 5: Busy Chasing Happiness
Bruno declares them an item and takes Leone on a trip to Capri. But there are stowaways.
Warnings to be aware of this chapter: light mention of implied homophobia.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
That morning, Leone put on his uniform. Then, his black lipstick: two more coats than usual. His lips slicked together.
Leone found Bruno Buccellati sweeping the steps to Libeccio again. The man looked calm, functional, and not at all like he’d been drugged the previous night. There wasn’t a wrinkle on his suit. Maybe he had another in reserve. Maybe his drycleaner truly was a miracle worker.
“Hello, Officer,” he began, but Leone took his hand without a word and kept walking. Bruno left his broom against the wall. “All right, then.”
He followed Leone to the police station, where heads turned as they crossed the dark, hardwood floor.
Every pair of eyes was on them. It was still as death, and the buzzing in Leone’s ear came back like a missed call. But Bruno’s fingers tapped a light melody against the grip of his hand, and his presence gave Leone some peace of mind. A reassuring distraction. Leone squeezed back.
They walked down the hall, past the potted plants, the bust of their Minister of Economy and Finance, and the break room—to Sergeant Cavatappi’s office.
“I’ve made peace with Buccellati, sir,” said Leone, presenting Bruno to the sergeant. “Please reinstate me.”
Cavatappi smirked. “Was that so hard, Abbacchio?”
Leone lowered his gaze, ready at last to play the humble public servant. But within reason. If the man gloated and poked and prodded, then Leone’s temper might get the best of him. He was only a very flawed human after all. “No, sir.”
“I knew you were a smart kid.”
Bruno’s curtain of black hair swished as he glanced between Leone and Cavatappi. Without warning, he hooked his arm around Leone’s waist. “You should know, sergeant—we’re dating. I would like you to give him all the Passione cases.”
“Ah.” Cavatappi was taken aback. He turned to Leone suspiciously, as if expecting him to give in and confess that nothing of the sort was happening, sir, and he would like to return to his desk and file paperwork like a good little cog in the machine who desperately needed his paycheck.
And he wasn’t wrong.
But Leone had also anticipated Bruno’s twist. Some variation of it, at least. Suffice it to say, Leone knew the handsome bastard fairly fucking well by now. Bruno did what worked for him in the past, and that act had been their salvation at the Disco mansion. This time, Leone would lean into it.
He slipped his hand along the back of Bruno’s neck, finding that sliver of bare skin between the man’s collar and hair, and pulled him into a kiss.
Bruno’s initial surprise melted into an amused little hmm, and he opened his mouth. He tasted of coffee. So, he had been prepared to follow through on his claims and make this farce public.
(But they were going to have sex anyway. That’s basically a relationship, right? Leone shouldn’t be thinking about that.)
A chorus of whistles erupted from the door. The precinct was full of nosy assholes, and it was a bigger audience than Leone had expected. Fuck. He tried not to sweat, but he’d never had that level of self-control in the first place. Cavatappi stared, his lower eyelid twitching in discomfort or disgust—probably both—and that was fantastic. That alone was worth the entire can of worms Leone had so boldly opened out of spite.
The kiss, too, had been worth it. It’d been tantalizingly brief, as was so many of his interactions with Bruno, but Leone had worked up the courage to take it. That was a first.
When he walked out the door, Bruno watched him go, his mouth black with Leone’s lipstick. A perfect moment. Leone would burn it into his memory forever.
He knew he crossed a line back there, and he didn’t care.
Bruno had been right. From that night at Libeccio to his monologue at the mansion, Bruno had voiced some incredibly good ideas. It was true that Leone found him attractive, but objectively, so did everyone else. Meanwhile, Bruno liked him enough to call him a friend (with benefits).
But they were on opposite sides of the law. There was no getting around that, just as there was no future for them. That was why they had to enjoy the present. Carpe diem and shit. Leone didn’t need a sparkling reputation; he needed a working one. He knew he’d lost to Bruno in some way by accepting this, but even so, a pretend relationship was, as Bruno had put it many weeks earlier: “a wonderful, mutually beneficial operation.”
Leone had it all figured out.
Dating a cop was usually a reputation-killer for gangsters, but Bruno Buccellati’s particular brand of outlawry was on par with that of Robin Hood. Neighborhoods he claimed as his turf cleaned up and prospered within a year, and word on the street was that he single-handedly cut police brutality rates in Leone’s district by buying off all the cops and culling the worst criminals himself. What a maniac, but Naples adored him for it. They’d forgive him a myriad of infractions that felled less-beloved rogues. Kind, charming, noble Buccellati falling in love with a policeman as straitlaced as Leone Abbacchio would simply be another endearing quirk in their eyes.
To Passione, however, Bruno would no doubt spin it as power play: I told you the police were under my control, look, I’ve corrupted the last honest officer in the city.
As for Leone, the pros outweighed the cons. Yes, there would be whispers behind his back, but he’d long expected the odd comment or two from coworkers who were brave or stupid enough to mess with him. Especially if no one thought he was straight to begin with. But a fake relationship with Bruno Buccellati would do wonders for Leone’s career.
He was a first-year beat cop. It was ridiculous for him to receive any detective work at all, let alone prestige cases involving Passione. They’d be high-profile. Leone would put some of their goons in jail—most likely Bruno’s rivals—and rise a few levels in the chain of command for his efforts. He might even be in Cavatappi’s office by the new millennium. Bruno had said the best way to fight Passione was from the inside. Perhaps it was the same for police reform. Leone couldn’t do anything until he was higher on the ladder, so this was necessary.
He would do this.
He and Bruno would have sex three times, and maybe some more candlelit dinners, before the whole thing fizzled away in favor of the next big opportunity. Before Leone arrested Bruno, that is; aside from that, it’s about what Leone expected from a real first relationship, if his brothers’ romances were any standards to go by.
Except that this wasn’t real. It was a useful outlet for some very real frustrations, but it was a fling at best. Bruno set up the scenario out of necessity and perhaps curiosity. Leone would enjoy it while it lasted and then pretend otherwise. He’d probably refer to it as ‘an indiscretion of youth’ or something equally lame when he hit middle age as a decorated officer with a wife and three kids. And that’s when the new crime lord Buccellati would rope him into a scandalous mid-life crisis affair.
(Leone cut the daydream short. What was he, a bored housewife?)
He just hoped to heaven, hell, and back that Bruno wouldn’t wise up to the extent of his embarrassing feelings.
And he hoped that by the time this charade ran its course, he’d no longer be painfully in love with Bruno Buccellati.
Bruno dropped by the station that evening to steal Leone away for dinner.
He sat them in the middle of Libeccio’s very full dining hall and flirted mercilessly in his awkward, deadpan way, which as fate would have it, worked far too well on Leone. His rebuttals eventually all became some half-hearted variation of, “That’s not what I meant, Buccellati, and you damn well know it.”
And Bruno would nod, polite as ever over his glass of wine, and make a comically inappropriate analogy. What an ass.
They split a dish of ice cream for dessert, which reminded Leone, “We should probably take care of Death of a Bachelor soon...”
“Not tonight. Something came up.” Bruno licked his spoon and deposited it in the empty bowl. “Let’s do it tomorrow, after the wedding.”
Leone choked on his espresso, and Sorbet’s words came back to haunt him. “We’re actually getting married?”
Bruno looked at Leone in surprise as he pushed his chair in. “Did I forget to tell you? We’re attending a wedding in Capri. I’m going in Polpo’s place, and I didn’t want to go alone.”
“But I have work tomorrow.”
“I’ll come collect you.”
And that was that.
Without waiting for Leone’s answer, Bruno gave him a quick peck on both cheeks and departed in a jingle of zippers. Leone watched him go, feeling strangely at a loss. What expediency. Bruno was as efficient as ever.
When Leone left Libeccio that night, he put his hands in his pockets and realized he’d forgotten to return the gold hairclips. They reminded him of the first night he found Bruno in his flat. They’d come a long way since then.
He thought he would be better at handling rejection by now.
Leone walked home in his uniform and felt a little undeserving of it.
Death of a Bachelor, day four. Bruno hadn't broken into his flat last night, and Leone arrived at the police station the next day, frazzled. There was plenty of time left, but they were still over the halfway mark.
The first floor was crowded, thanks to a surprise birthday celebration for one of their lieutenants. Leone’s nerves felt like they would jump out of his body, which, ironically, felt like lead. He hadn’t eaten breakfast either. He joined the chorus of ‘tanti auguri a te’ and nabbed himself a tiny slice of chocolate cake before heading upstairs.
Along the way, he saw a yuppie in a blue Gucci blazer glancing about, as if seeking a specific officer’s assistance. Leone avoided eye contact at all costs. Three months on the job, and he had already grown to hate helping spoiled brats recover their Ferraris after baby’s first bender. You’d think it wouldn’t be that common, but for some reason, hungover idiots preferred him to Capelli whenever they were on the streets.
Speak of the devil.
“Saw you left with Buccellati yesterday,” Capelli said slyly from their desk. “Don’t tell me he kept you up all night, too.”
“Not in the way you think,” Leone replied, dragging over an empty chair. “He ditched me after dinner, and I didn’t have a way to contact him.”
Leone had taken for granted Bruno’s uncanny ability to locate him in any given circumstance. Figures now that they were ‘dating,’ Bruno was nowhere to be found. Did he really have something going on last night, or did he just have second thoughts?
Leone probably said something off-putting during dinner, and that’s why Bruno left. His brothers always said that he ruined conversations by indulging in the worst topics, but he couldn’t help it. Leone Abbacchio could be described as devastatingly competent in a handful of fields—but not small talk. He was so bad at that.
Anyway, that was beside the point. Leone glared at his cup of coffee. It was black and bitter, like his heart. “I think I’m an idiot, Capelli.”
“Hah! You’re in good company with me,” his partner sighed. “Marina’s taking an overnight trip with some friends. What am I supposed to do without her?”
“Sleep,” advised Leone, a bit hypocritically. He scarfed down the cake and decided it was too sweet. It had come from the bakery across the street, so no surprise there. “I hate birthdays. Don’t you fucking tell anyone mine’s coming up, Capelli.”
“And what day would that be?” asked the young man in the blue blazer, who must have followed him upstairs.
Leone eyed him irritably, ready to tell him to get lost, but then he recognized him: “Buccellati? Is that you?”
Bruno blinked back at him like a seagull. “Why wouldn’t it be me?”
His braid was gone, replaced by a half-ponytail. Underneath the blazer was a black chiffon and lace blouse. He wore crisp, pleated gray pants rolled up fashionably at the ankles and plain brown loafers. Somehow, despite his good looks and designer clothes, he no longer stood out in a crowd the way he used to. Not a hint of his usual scents. You wouldn’t even guess that he was a member of Passione.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you out of your suit,” said Leone, steadfastly ignoring all the innuendos that comment could invite.
“It’s in bad taste to wear white to a wedding and outshine the bride,” Bruno replied, and Leone couldn’t tell if he was joking or not.
“Oh, you’re going to a wedding today?” Capelli said easily enough, pretending that he had known it was Bruno all along. He hadn’t. Leone would bet his grandmother’s rug on it.
Bruno took Leone’s arm. “Yes, and I’ll be borrowing Officer Abbacchio.”
Leone didn’t know what kind of expression he was making at Capelli, but Capelli’s clearly said, “Isn’t he moving a little fast for you?”
Yes, but Leone wasn’t going to stop him.
They chatted a bit longer before Capelli left for his beat. Leone should have followed suit, except Bruno gave him a little smile, as if to say, “Shall we?” and Leone couldn’t say no to that. After all, Cavatappi had given him the cases involving Passione, and Bruno Buccellati was at the heart of them all.
“Oh, yeah. You left your hairclips at my place,” Leone remembered and revealed them from his pocket.
Pleased, Bruno took a seat on Leone’s desk and gave the command, “Put them on me.”
Everything had to be a show, and Bruno was selling it. Leone glanced around at the few people watching them, and he said, “Sure.”
He clipped them onto Bruno’s breast pocket, facing inside so that no one could tell they were Gucci.
The two of them swung by Leone’s flat for him to change and pack an overnight bag. Then, it was a straight shot to the Molo Beverello port, where Bruno pushed Leone onto a two-story yacht.
As they made their way to sea, Bruno rested his forearms on the steering wheel and smiled. A captain among men. The sight made Leone’s concerns drift away with Naples, which was but a pretty little scene in the distance.
“It’s not mine. It’s Polpo’s boat,” Bruno explained with no prompting. “He lends it out to his favorite subordinates, so…” Bruno paused, thoughtfully. “Huh, I guess it is mine.”
“I bet you were the teacher’s pet growing up.” Leone leaned against the railing. The southern wind fluttered the loose collar of his blue Armani shirt. Bruno’s choice.
In truth, Leone hadn’t wanted to wear this ensemble, even though it included a pair of charcoal slacks that flattered his height in any situation. He had a theory that no one remembered what pants a man wore as long as the top was different, but he had taken this exact outfit to his oldest brother’s wedding, which didn’t sit right with him. But it wasn’t as if demographics for different weddings mixed.
God, he hoped it didn’t. He would die if a distant relative recognized him wearing the same thing to another wedding. Not that it mattered. Well. To him, it was a matter of principle.
As Leone glared at the floor in consternation, Bruno looked to the distance and changed the subject, “The wedding’s at sunset, and it doesn’t take more than an hour to get to Capri from Naples on this thing. I was thinking we’d sail around a bit beforehand…”
Leone understood. “You want to take care of Death of a Bachelor today.”
“We could get in a round right now,” Bruno said pragmatically. He unzipped an improbable pocket from his jacket and produced an opened envelope. “And in case you were wondering, I’ve been tested. I’m clean.”
Leone accepted the letter and just kind of looked at it. Not how he was expecting to begin this particular excursion, but he could appreciate Bruno’s honesty. And preparation. “I was clean at my last physical,” he said. Then, a little quieter, “I haven’t done anything since.”
“I see.” Bruno merely nodded, as if he were ticking off a mental checklist. “And I hadn’t intended on staying too long into the reception. I have a suite booked for us at the Quisisana.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Leone pocketed his hands and leaned back against the railing. “I’m all yours.”
Bruno smiled and took his arm. He led Leone below deck, past the bathroom and the cushy lounge, to a heavy oak door that swung open to reveal two kids playing cards on the bed.
“Hello, Buccellati,” said Fugo.
Leone turned to Bruno and was relieved to find Bruno equally confused: “What are you doing here? And with Narancia…?”
The blond looked up calmly from his hand and said, “You said you wouldn’t leave me out of your plans anymore.”
“I told you I wouldn’t leave you out of plans that needed your input,” Bruno corrected him sternly, and Fugo threw his cards down.
“And why wouldn’t you need my input on whatever… this is?! You brought the cop! Why don’t you trust me?!”
“Oh, Fugo, I’m afraid you misunderstood the situation,” said Bruno plaintively.
The other boy abandoned his cards and scooted off the bed. As he scuttled to the door, Leone saw his bandaged eye. He grabbed the kid’s arm to get a better look.
“Hey,” he said, and Narancia cowered. Leone tried to be less gruff and was only ten percent successful, “Hey, what happened to your eye? Did he do that to you?”
Narancia followed Leone’s gaze to Fugo, who was still arguing with Bruno, and shook his head fiercely. “N-no. No, he really helped me out. They both did. Anyway, Buccellati said I could wait a day or two before deciding on the surgery, and it didn’t feel right, bumming around at their place while they were gone...”
“Seriously?” said Leone to Bruno. “When did you get another kid?”
“Seriously?!” said Fugo to Bruno. “When did you start dating him?!”
Bruno was unflappable and answered them both, “Yesterday.”
They were close enough to Capri that it made more sense to drop Fugo and Narancia off at the Marina Grande. At first, Leone was happy to abandon them on a dock, but Fugo wouldn’t stop glaring at him with the distrust of a boy meeting his mother’s new boyfriend. And that made Leone self-conscious.
“Buccellati,” he muttered under his breath, “Let’s take them to the hotel. I don’t want them thinking we’re throwing them off the boat to have sex.”
“But that’s exactly what we’re doing either way.” Bruno looked at him, perplexed. “Why does it matter what they think? You have a lot of hang-ups, don’t you?”
Leone scrunched up his face, as if he had eaten an entire lemon.
“Let’s go,” Bruno replied, tossing the anchor overboard. “I forgot the condoms anyway.”
It was a thirteen-minute drive from the marina to Capri’s eponymous town. Narancia called shotgun.
The taxi driver was the chatty sort. Bruno indulged him with polite nothings, and when asked his name, simply replied, “I’m Bruno.”
As the two continued their conversation, Leone and Fugo exchanged glances and a surreptitious nod. They could agree on one fact: Bruno didn’t want to be recognized as a member of Passione. He had no reason to introduce himself as anything other than Buccellati around Naples, after all. That explained his outfit and the fact that he dragged Fugo into a store and made him change clothes, too. The boy’s eyesore of a green suit was memorable, if nothing else. Leone could attest to that.
He could also see Fugo’s big brain working, Buccellati must be here on some sort of undercover mission, but Leone’s first instinct was to doubt himself, what if Bruno actually didn’t want people to know we’re dating?
“Well, I’m here on holiday with my husband and kids,” Bruno said as he gazed serenely at the cliffs passing by outside. The wind carded through his glossy black hair, and he looked very happy. Leone stared.
“Oh,” said the driver, scanning the backseat from his rearview mirror, intrigued. “Beautiful family.”
“Thanks,” said Leone without taking his eyes off Bruno.
“…And that’s the clock tower.”
The Piazetta Umberto was alive and bustling with tourists at the popup farmer’s market. Fugo gave them a quick rundown of the square’s historical significance, ending with the famous clock tower. They acknowledged it, Narancia took a photo with a disposable camera, and they went on about their way. It felt like summer holiday with his parents and brothers, but Leone didn’t let himself enjoy it too much. Things always went awry during an Abbacchio family trip.
Bruno was so much easier to lose in the crowd today. After some nervous neck-craning, Leone finally found him in front of a fruit stall with Narancia and Fugo.
“These look fresh,” Bruno said, examining a basket of oranges. “Taroccos, right?”
“Yes, signor, plucked off a tree in Sicily this morning.” The shopkeeper beamed at him. “Are you by chance Sicilian as well?”
Bruno laughed his fake laugh and said, “I have family there. My father would bring me along on fishing trips to see them. We’ll take a bag.”
Leone watched the pair discuss health benefits of blood oranges like neighbors and wondered if Bruno was lying again. He hoped not because with that kind of a backstory, Bruno looked normal. Like a regular, carefree young man. And Leone liked that, maybe just a bit.
Every time he tried to think about who Bruno was before Passione, he drew a blank. Leone couldn’t see him as a child. He’d never even imagined Bruno wearing something other his white suit before today, let alone at Christmas dinner with family in Sicily. Did Nonna Buccellati also make buccellatis? Was his name really Buccellati?
As he lacked the ability to express his thoughts in a nonconfrontational way, Leone asked, “You’re not gonna make us eat all those oranges, are you?”
He facepalmed, mentally.
“They’re delicious. Everyone gets one,” Bruno insisted and held the bag to Narancia. “Un'arancia per Narancia.”
The boy’s eyes lit up as he accepted a perfectly ripe fruit. “An orange for me,” he repeated, lyrically, holding it as if it were 24-carat gold. “Can I really have this?”
“Yes, as many as you want. Leone has apparently given up his share,” said Bruno, handing Narancia the bag.
Leone tsked at that because the oranges did smell wonderful. Fugo had the same thought and took one for himself. They meandered around the marketplace, and soon, Fugo and Narancia were squabbling over the bag.
In time, Bruno checked the boys into il Grand Hotel Quisisana with a key and all the snacks and drinks they could carry.
“We’re going to explore the town some more. Don’t leave the hotel, you two, no room service, and no fighting,” Bruno instructed before he and Leone exited the lobby.
Personally, Leone questioned that decision. He’d intervened more than once to stop Fugo from putting the other kid’s head through the nearest wall. Blondie gained some real strength from his anger, it was true, but he was still a scrawny bookworm. Leone could hold him up by the arms and let him kick and scream until he was tired, but he suspected Fugo would bring another murder charge to their hands if left alone in a room with Narancia for too long.
Unfortunately for Narancia, Leone was willing to roll the dice on that one; he and Bruno had another pressing matter at hand.
“Should we head back to the boat?” said Leone, but Bruno was already hailing a cab.
The return trip to the marina was quiet. Bruno caught Leone looking at him on multiple occasions and said nothing when Leone turned away embarrassed each time. They squandered a perfectly good opportunity to talk, but if Leone had questions about Bruno’s past, he wasn’t going to bring them up in front of the driver—a different person, but still one who glanced at them curiously from his mirror. Leone didn’t know what two grown men awkwardly sneaking off to fuck would look like to the average person, but he and Bruno were probably it.
At the end of the car ride, Leone said, “We should talk about this.”
Bruno watched the taxi drive off and turned to Leone. “What do you want to be our safe word?”
“What? No, not that. I meant this.” Leone scowled, motioning between them. It didn’t clarify anything, but he suspected Bruno would understand. “You barely know me. Don’t you feel weird jumping into bed with me?”
Bruno squinted at him. “Is this a Catholic thing?”
“I’m not Catholic! We’ve had this conversation!”
“Did we?” Bruno said lightly as he turned to the docks. “Well, I already know you’re a policeman and what kind of person you are. You know enough about what I do for a living. What else is there to know?”
“Are you serious?” Leone followed him, feeling strangely resentful that Bruno was the one making him talk about feelings and shit when those were things Leone was the least qualified to talk about. “Stories from our past? Future plans? Family? What schools did you go to?”
Bruno gave him a pained look, as if Leone were interrogating him under a swinging lightbulb and not simply asking the standard fare of icebreakers. “I didn’t think you were the kind of person who cared about those things.”
“I’m not. I just… care about them with you,” Leone mumbled, annoyed at his own earnestness, wishing he had the talent to talk round. But that was something Bruno was good at, and Leone was beginning to think that maybe he was good at it precisely because he detested talking about himself.
Whenever Bruno spoke to anyone, he took control of the conversation and directed it toward his goal. And now, as Leone watched Bruno gazing down cagily at the cobblestones beneath them, it became apparent that maybe the guy didn’t know how to have a conversation where he wasn’t negotiating, intimidating, or giving orders.
Another piece of the Bruno Buccellati puzzle fell into place. It was a very sad piece, and Leone didn’t know where to begin unpacking that.
So, he decided that he wouldn’t.
“Y’know what, you’re right. It doesn’t matter,” Leone said because it didn’t matter.
It wasn’t like they were going to get married and spend the rest of their lives together. Leone didn’t need to know Bruno’s Top Ten Tragedies because what they had right now, opaqueness and all, worked for their strange and specific situation. Leone wouldn’t be greedy for a future because didn’t want to ruin the present.
“I don’t think we need a safe word, unless you’re into stuff that’s…” Leone shrugged. “Whatever. I’ll go with it.”
“Abbacchio...” Bruno smiled, his shoulders relaxing. He leaned close and whispered in Leone’s ear, “Act casual, don’t follow me to the toilet, make sure no one else follows me inside, and whatever you do, do not make eye contact with the men that are about to pass you.”
Leone should have seen this coming. “Damn you, Buccellati, what are you up to this time?”
But Bruno was already headed toward a nearby public lavatory. Leone watched him nonchalantly take the “closed for cleaning” sign from the women’s side and set it behind him at the entrance of the men’s. Leone rubbed his face, tired, because what was Bruno doing, that sketchy bastard.
“This one’s closed, Ghiacco. I told you to use the toilets at the restaurant.”
“No, you didn’t, you just pointed them out!”
Leone recognized the first voice, and he turned instinctively to face Melone and an unfamiliar man with curly blue hair. It would have been far too suspicious to whirl back around and pretend he hadn’t seen them at this point, but Leone wasn’t doing much better by gawking at them.
“The hell are you lookin’ at?” The blue-haired man pushed a pair of red glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Melone, you know this guy?”
“I never remember men’s faces,” Melone sniffed dismissively, “only dick sizes.”
“See, this is why Nero wants you to keep your mouth shut at tonight’s wedding,” Ghiacco said as they passed Leone, who stood stock-still until they were long gone and Bruno had returned.
“Did they notice me?” Bruno asked, glancing about covertly. “You made eye contact, didn’t you? Did Melone recognize you? No, no, of course not. As long as you never showed him your dick, that is…”
Leone gave him a dirty look. “We didn’t come to Capri for just a wedding, did we?”
“We can multitask.” Bruno frowned. “But I don’t know what the rest of La Squadra Esecuzioni is doing here. I already counted five more in Capri Town.”
“Judging by what those two were saying, it’s possible we’re all going to the same wedding,” said Leone grimly. Christ, let it not be so. Maybe there were two tonight. It was Capri in March; surely there were at least a few going on at any given moment, even if it was a little brisk.
He glanced over his shoulder and down the street to the docks, where a ferry had arrived at the marina. The unsuspecting passengers were disembarking on an island of murderers. And one of them was a brunette that Leone immediately recognized. She saw him, too.
“Abbacchio!” she called out, waving. “What are you doing here?”
What terrible luck. So, this is where Capelli’s girlfriend was spending her day. Her companion was another woman roughly her height. They made their way over to him.
Leone couldn’t come up with a phony response on the fly and fell back on the truth, “I’m going to a wedding.”
“What a coincidence,” Marina gasped, “Is it Marina’s wedding?”
“Huh?” Leone thought he was having a stroke. It was either that, or he would have some very upsetting news for Capelli tomorrow.
“Oh—the bride at the wedding we’re headed to, she’s also named Marina,” she explained, laughing. She pointed to her friend. “And her name is Marina, too. We all met in primary school and have been besties since.”
“Actually, yes, we’re attending the same wedding,” said Bruno, stepping out from behind Leone. “I’m one of Marina Diamante’s clients from La Perla.”
“Of course, she’s a graduate of Polpo’s artist residency program,” Capelli’s Marina exclaimed. “And Buccellati, I almost didn’t recognize you in that getup!”
“Call me Bruno today. I’m off the clock.”
“Wait,” said Leone, glancing between the two, who were now chatting like close friends. Fuckin’ Bruno knew everyone. “You two’ve met?”
“Bucce—pardon, Bruno’s been visiting Leaky-Eye Luca at the prison where I work.” She covered her mouth sheepishly. “I shouldn’t call him that… but he’s a real bastard, so I don’t feel bad.”
“He is,” Bruno agreed. “He’s been rejected by every lawyer I brought in. But I still think his case can be appealed. We need him back on… ah, airport duty.”
Leone listened to the two of them catch up and felt an uneasy knot wind in his stomach. Leone hadn’t given much thought to the wedding itself, but now the guest list included Bruno, Capelli’s girlfriend, and a team of assassins. That was a bad mix.
But Leone could make it work. Maybe he could keep Marina away from the Passione members the entire night—Melone especially—although that would definitely cut into his time alone with Bruno…
“Leone? Leone, is that you?”
Leone felt his heart enter the Gordian Knot in his stomach. He turned to face the newcomer, a tall man who had also stepped off the ferry. He had a shock of white hair that Leone was all too familiar with.
“Tigre,” croaked Leone. “Why are you in Capri?”
“I could say the same for you,” said his oldest brother, fixing him with an appraising look that he had endured since childhood. “I’m here to attend a colleague’s wedding.”
“No kidding,” said Leone, sweating because this was the worst possible scenario.
“Hey, didn’t you wear that exact outfit to my wedding?”
‘Tanti auguri a te’ – another variation of ‘happy birthday.’
Chapter 6: Revolving Your Heart
Leone attends a wedding, and it’s unlike any wedding he’s ever been to. PART ONE.
I saw it was BruAbba week, so I wanted to post this before it ended. :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Although Leone’s brother hadn’t spared a glance at Bruno and the Marinas, Bruno had recognized him.
This wouldn’t have annoyed Leone so much, had Bruno not hidden behind Leone like a shy schoolgirl.
Leone shot him a sour look.
“He’s one of the lawyers I brought to Luca,” Bruno explained as they watched Tigre cross the street. “I hadn’t realized Tigre Abbacchio was related to you. Well, given the names, I should have made the connection.” There was something utterly disingenuous about that statement, especially when Bruno admitted, “He looks just like you. But taller.”
Leone grabbed Bruno’s chin, turning Bruno around to face him. “And twelve years older than us. And married.”
(Inexplicably jealous and angry about it; that was Leone Abbacchio in a nutshell.)
Bruno spared one last glance in Tigre’s direction and looked back at Leone. His eyes gleamed. “So, that’s what you’ll look like in twelve years.”
Whatever that meant.
Leone scowled. Bruno was so weird. Leone could live a hundred years without knowing what to make of him, but he knew Bruno would be pushing his buttons the entire time. It was just like him to point out the similarities between Leone and his brother. It's not like Leone could deny them. He only hoped they wouldn’t make the differences that much more striking.
He needed a drink. He needed to not be alone with Bruno, who was probably going to be thinking about Tigre the entire time anyway. How nauseating. Leone could eat his own fucking heart out right now.
When Bruno tugged on his arm in the direction of their boat, Leone took up the Marinas’ offer to go wine tasting instead.
He also dragged Bruno along.
“Since, y’know, we’re dating,” Leone muttered, well into his fifth tasting of wine, “we should be doing shit like this.”
“We already had plans,” said Bruno. He was more reserved than usual and had been swirling his glass nonstop. It was probably more than a little aerated by now. “Sometimes, I think you don’t like me at all.”
“We’ve had this conversation before, too,” Leone said into his sixth glass, “after Duo Lips.”
“I don’t remember it,” Bruno sighed. He set down his glass and turned to Leone. Leone couldn’t look at him. He wished he hadn't brought Bruno. “We seem to have had many conversations that night... What else did we do?”
“Nothing,” Leone reassured him quickly. “You kept falling asleep in the bathtub, so I changed your clothes. That was it.”
“Then, we didn’t do anything? At all?” Bruno was now within whispering distance. Leone hadn’t had nearly enough alcohol to start feeling warm, but Bruno seemed intent on fixing that, “Not even once? Are you telling me we still have three rounds to go, Abbacchio? How exactly are we going to manage that between the wedding and the kids? Why didn’t you screw me when you had the chance?”
Leone stared down at his empty wineglass, bewildered. Bruno was giving him the ‘I’m disappointed in you’ look that Leone knew he didn’t deserve. He turned back to Bruno. “Well, I wasn’t gonna rape you.”
Bruno's eyebrows rose. He relented, “All right. Obviously, rape is bad, but given our circumstances, I wouldn’t have blamed you.”
Leone wasn't sure he was hearing that right. Bruno spoke so calmly, as if their entire conversation wasn’t weird as fuck. Leone couldn’t remember where it had started from or how it’d gotten here. He just wanted it to end. Rarely did Leone meet someone as bad at conversation as he was, but it seemed that he and Bruno were good match there, if nowhere else.
Fortunately, their words didn’t travel too far beyond them; they were surrounded by elderly English tourists, and their Italian host was well out of earshot. Unfortunately, the Marinas were tasting their wine awkwardly on his left.
“Someone, please change the subject,” Capelli’s Marina begged her 1994 red.
Leone waved his glass in the air and tried to not sound desperate, “We need another bottle.”
With an awkward smile, the Marina who was a stranger to both Leone and Bruno turned to them. She asked what kind of work they had commissioned from her bride friend at La Perla. Leone shrugged and nodded to Bruno, who—deadpan, by the way—unzipped his shirt to reveal his usual lacy number underneath.
For all his seriousness and poise, Bruno never passed up the chance to show off his marvelous chest. The British biddies ogled him. One or two even readjusted their spectacles for a better look, and Leone definitely sneaked a peek while taking a sip from his empty glass. Both Marinas thought the whole thing was hilarious. The mood lifted instantly.
Marina the Stranger agreed that the lace was her friend’s handiwork, no doubt. She spoke fondly of this third Marina, with a warmth in her eyes that reminded Leone of the twinkle in Bruno’s from earlier. Leone watched the two of them talk amicably, and it seemed like Bruno made another friend. Leone couldn’t bring himself to join in.
He felt boxed out.
Capelli’s Marina was asking for recommendations from the host, and Leone didn’t speak much English—not that he wanted to talk to any of the tourists anyway. He glared at the bottom of his glass and then at Bruno, who seemed to have forgotten about him.
Disgusted with himself and the stupid situation he’d gotten into, Leone left without a word and stumbled back onto the street, barely buzzed. He had no idea where he was going, but Capri was an island. Surely, he’d run out of land at some point and fall into the sea, where he could drown in peace.
But he was foiled.
Bruno caught up quickly enough to stop him. He led Leone to a bench and produced an unbelievably large bottle of water from his blazer. Leone heard a zip and could only guess where Bruno had kept it.
“Why are you angry with me?” said Bruno, uncapping the bottle and handing it to Leone. God, what unnecessary kindness. Leone shook his head, feeling as if he were a toddler in time-out for throwing a tantrum. Bruno was insistent, “Drink this.”
“I’m fine,” said Leone, but he accepted bottle before Bruno could tip it into his mouth.
The two of them sat in silence, gazing at the white tent being erected on the beach. Bruno’s favorite seamstress would be married there. It was a short distance away from the restaurant where they’d have the wedding reception. Everything was on schedule. It was all so normal. Leone could hardly believe he was attending a stranger’s wedding, much less as the plus-one of someone he was in some sort of relationship with. Leone had cheated in life and reached an adulthood milestone out of sheer circumstance.
But Leone didn’t feel like an adult.
He fidgeted with the cap for a moment before allowing the alcohol to talk for him, “Am I a substitute for my brother?”
Bruno blinked. “I don’t see how. Until I met you, I hadn’t thought about Tigre Abbacchio in years.”
“That means you’ve known him for years.”
“Yes, he’s one of Polpo’s go-to defense attorneys.”
Bruno’s case with Leaky-Eye Luca wasn’t a one-off deal. That meant Tigre, Leone’s esteemed eldest brother, was a mob lawyer. Leone carefully noted and shelved that fact in the back of his mind. He’d deal with it later. For now, he forced himself to return to the matter at hand, “Just be honest. Am I a substitute for my brother to you?”
“Aside from looks, you’re nothing alike.” Bruno took a seat next to Leone and rested his elbow on the back of the bench. He leaned his head against a palm, eyes on Leone. A thoughtful pose. Leone could’ve taken a photo and had it framed in a museum. “I suppose you’re both dependable,” Bruno corrected himself at last. "You're moodier."
That wasn't an answer. Leone couldn’t tell if Bruno was being obtuse or just plain cruel. He had proven to be observant in many ways, and he could already read Leone better than most. Couldn’t he see that Leone was jealous of his not-boyfriend’s feelings toward his own brother, who was already married?
Maybe it was good that Bruno didn’t get it.
Leone’s family made him feel like an insecure child. Tigre already had everything: a prestigious law degree, a fancy car, a new house… a wife. Leone didn’t want to have anything to do with them, and Tigre certainly didn’t need to take Bruno from him either.
Leone downed a third of the bottle before he realized what it was that he actually wanted to know: “What drew you to me in the first place?”
“At the San Carlo?” Bruno perked up at the simpler question. “Easy. You're handsome, and you seemed interested in me.”
The first reason made Leone scoff, but the second was true. Too true. Leone had been smitten at first sight and, in hindsight, did a piss poor job of hiding it.
“I was only there to lay my claim on Lydia Gigi’s women, so that no one else in Passione could.” Bruno almost smiled at the memory. “I didn’t have much else to do in my spare time that week.”
Just clobber Leone with a baseball bat. What happened at Fashion Week had been a hobby for Bruno. Leone had really overthought everything. He’d put together a goddamned conspiracy board, for Christ’s sake, and Bruno had just been killing time doing his Good Deed of the Week. While Leone made it his personal mission to arrest Bruno since day one, Bruno hadn’t even considered him a threat, no, more like a… quarry of another sort. Leone should have been insulted.
But some simpering side of him was deeply flattered. It was uncommon for someone Leone liked to return his interest, and now, he could feel Bruno’s eyes on him and only him. The knowledge was intoxicating. Leone leaned over his knees, rubbing his eyes. Good thing he skipped the eyeliner today. “Fucking hell.”
“You distracted me and nearly arrested me on actual charges. That’s unusual, Abbacchio. Very unusual.”
“Yeah?” Encouraged, Leone sat up. He took another swig from the bottle. Despite how Fashion Week ended, he was still proud of his work on that one. “How’s it feel to not have every police officer in the precinct eating out of your hand?”
“I’d like to have you in my hand, too.”
God, shut up, Bruno.
Leone's ears grew hot. It was getting harder to remind himself that Bruno Buccellati was first and foremost a gangster. And dangerous. But very attractive when his blue eyes crinkled at the corners and when his voice was perilously close to affectionate.
“I like competence,” said Bruno.
Leone clicked his tongue and turned back to the street. “You don't think I'm competent.”
“I'm better, but you gave it your best,” said Bruno, not meanly, “and I like that about you, too.”
Leone, as it turned out, was dumb on top of horny because that was all it took for Bruno to get him back on the yacht.
They tripped over each other’s feet and took a tumble down the stairs, but they made it to the lounge sofa unscathed. Bruno straddled Leone’s waist, pinning him down with a kiss that was dizzying in its certainty.
They’d have gone all the way—if it hadn’t been for the fucking footsteps on deck.
Bruno sat up, Leone right after him.
“Did you hear that?” said Leone, but Bruno was already on the floor.
They crept to the door, one on each side. Leone silently went through the tactical motions, “I’ll go first, cover me.”
Bruno stared and him and mouthed, “What?”
Leone repeated his hand motions and mouthed the directions along with them. Bruno understood immediately, and Leone could see the expression on his face shift from that of “what a great idea, Leone” to “from now on, I’m going to incorporate these hand motions into all my illicit adventures.”
Leone grimaced. He did the one thing he told himself he wouldn’t do: give Bruno ideas on how to become a better criminal.
“Buccellati,” a voice called from the deck. It was deep and carried an air of authority that came with tremendous experience. “Relax. I’m here alone.”
For a naïve second, Leone thought the man a idiot for revealing such a handicap. Bruno’s face said otherwise; the stranger was more than a match for both of them.
“I know him,” Bruno told Leone. He stood up and called back to the intruder, “What do you want, Risotto Nero?”
Of all the luck in the world, Leone had the worst. He’d heard that name enough times to know they were dealing with the leader of La Squadra Esecuzioni, Passione’s professional team of assassins.
Risotto Nero replied plainly, “Where are Sorbet and Gelato?”
Bruno and Leone exchanged looks of confusion.
“I don’t know,” Bruno replied, frowning. “Were they on a mission?”
“Tell me what you did with them, and I’ll kill you quickly as a mercy.”
“We didn’t do shit with ‘em!” Leone shouted back. Bruno tackled him to the ground and slapped a zipper on his mouth. Leone pushed him off and made to unzip himself, but the thing was jammed. The magical zipper was jammed. Fuckin’ Bruno.
Risotto let the waves rock the boat a bit, as if considering his next move. Then, he said, “Think carefully on your friend's life, Buccellati.”
Bruno sat up, still holding Leone’s arm. He shook his head when Leone began yanking on the zipper and quickly called to Risotto, “You're wrong, if you think we have anything to do with them.”
“Last time they checked in, Sorbet told me he used Death of a Bachelor on you,” Risotto answered. “You have motive to see him dead.”
“No, he doesn’t,” Leone snapped back, his mouth half-open at last. “Buccellati was trying to fuck me, but I wouldn’t put out. Sorbet did him a favor.”
Leone waited for a reply, but none came. He turned to Bruno, who stared at him, slack-jawed. The zipper disappeared.
At last, Risotto Nero responded, very professionally, “Is that true, Buccellati?”
“It…” Bruno turned to the door and then back to Leone. He looked aghast. Leone was thrilled to find that Bruno was capable of being embarrassed. “In so many words, yes. You could say that.” He seemed to regain some of his composure. “In fact, we're working on it right now.”
Leone muffled a laugh.
“I see,” said Risotto, calm as can be. “Then, continue as you were. I need to confirm something.”
And that wiped the smile right off Leone’s face. “What?”
“Have sex right now, or I’ll kill you both.”
Leone stood up and told Bruno, “All right, I’m gonna arrest this creep,” but Bruno jumped to his feet and pushed Leone back down. Leone could have easily overpowered him, if Bruno hadn’t zipped his hands into the wall. Leone knew it was futile to struggle. This was fucking ridiculous, not to mention unfair.
“What the hell, Buccellati,” he whined, dignity be damned. “We might as well have let the kids stay aboard, if you were gonna just let this pervert listen in on us.”
But Bruno was already undoing Leone’s shirt. “What am I looking for?” Bruno asked Risotto. “What are you trying to confirm?”
“Is there anything on you that shouldn’t be there?”
Bruno nearly popped the buttons in his search, but Leone took one look down and instantly discovered a tattoo he hadn’t seen before. “What the hell’s this?!”
“A Roman numeral, right below his navel,” Bruno reported urgently.
“What number?” said Risotto.
“Sorbet is still alive. Three is the number he reported giving you,” said Risotto, and something about the way he said it gave the impression that he genuinely cared about his men. Leone also noticed the lilt of amusement in his otherwise austere tone. It pissed him off immeasurably.
“Yeah, great, thanks,” he all but snarled. “Go pester the fuckers from Duo Lips if you wanna know where your dumbasses went!”
Leone could hear the smirk in Risotto's voice, "Grazie."
Bruno held up a finger to Leone, warningly, and Leone felt the metal teeth of a new zipper bud at the corner of his lips. Leone scowled but held his peace.
They listened with baited breath as Risotto walked across the deck and then onto the dock. When they were sure he was gone, Bruno breathed a sigh of relief and turned back to Leone.
Leone sat against the wall, peeved. “You know he’s gonna tell all his assassin friends that we haven’t even fucked once since Sorbet got us...”
“I’m sorry I trapped you like this.”
Bruno was giving Leone that intense stare of his. His mouth was covered in Leone’s lipstick. It was a sight Leone liked very much and wanted to touch, but now he was acutely aware that he was still zipped into the wall. “Yeah, all right," he said, defeated by Bruno's charms, "I don’t mind that you’re a kinky bastard, but you could loosen these a little.”
“No, not—” Bruno bit down on his lip to keep from laughing. He undid the zippers and smiled fondly at Leone. “It was a split-second decision back at the mansion, but I keep thinking about it. I’m sure I could’ve gotten Sorbet to undo Death of a Bachelor, but I...” He paused, searching for the right words. “I trapped you in this mess for my own selfish desires. For my own assumptions…”
“Which are…?” Leone rubbed his wrists, watching Bruno, and Bruno’s eyes met his.
“I want you, Leone. Abbacchio. I have since the day we met. I guess I thought it was that simple for you, too.”
He looked vulnerable for what he was saying, and Leone couldn't help but fall for it. He'd fall for it a million times more. It didn't change much about their relationship, but finally, a real confession. Absolutely useless in court, but it meant the world to Leone.
“Yeah, I…” He shifted uncomfortably. “God damn, Buccellati. I dunno why I kept playing hard to get. The reasons changed each time. Something’s fucked up about me, all right?” He tried to shrug it off. His shoulders were stiff. “Anyway, you should know what you’re getting yourself into.”
“But you do like me?” Bruno pressed, concerned.
“Isn’t it obvious?”
Bruno smiled and reached out his hands.
Leone pulled him onto his lap.
He kissed him again.
That was the easy part: kissing Bruno, setting him on the floor, and feeling Bruno's warmth beneath his palms; adoring him through touch and taste. If Leone could rein in his fucking cowardice, he’d let Bruno have what he wanted from him as well. At last. It all led up to this.
“How long do you think this will take?” Bruno asked, distracted.
Leone slammed his fist next to Bruno's head. “Are you fuckin' kidding me?”
(That was bad of him. He would've apologized, but Bruno began staring at him with such thinly-veiled lust that Leone thought they should explore where it went.)
Bruno looked at his watch regretfully. “I misjudged the time. The ceremony, it’s starting soon. I promised Marina I would be there.”
Leone didn’t know what to say. He was hard. He was ready to fuck. Bruno was flushed, disheveled, and thoroughly covered in lipstick marks, and yet he was still pointing insistently to his watch.
“I… You…?” Leone rubbed his face with a frustrated growl. His makeup was beyond saving. It’d take twenty minutes to reapply, and Bruno had to make himself decent, too. More time for not fucking. Fantastic. “Didn’t you say the ceremony was at sunset?”
Bruno pushed himself up on the heels of his hands. He wiped his mouth and stared at the lipstick on his fingers. The blue of his eyes were thin circles around the pupils. God, he was gorgeous. Leone wanted nothing more than to push him back down and keep going, consequences by damned. Given their circumstances, Bruno did say he wouldn't blame him...
“The ceremony ends at sunset.”
“What are you saying?” Leone groaned, but he knew what Bruno meant.
He knew they actually, really, truly weren’t going to have sex right now. Once Bruno made up his mind, Leone doubted that even death could stop him. Death of a Bachelor’s tattoo faded out of existence. Bruno zipped his clothes back up and was helping Leone rebutton his shirt, albeit slowly. Leone wondered if the man was just hopeless with anything that wasn’t a zipper.
“They want to exchange vows at sunset,” Bruno explained, giving Leone’s shirt a little pat when he was done. The buttons were off by one.
Leone made a face. “How long is this thing?”
A full ninety minutes.
Leone was horrified to learn just how long he'd have to sit there, pretending to pay attention. He could watch a movie in that time, a full three-act Disney plot. His brothers’ weddings were each half an hour. Ninety minutes was unbearable. Leone was good at zoning out for hours at a time, but only when he was alone, and he couldn’t do that next to Bruno, who was insufferably handsome today. Leone was one mischievous breeze away from an erection, and he was adamant that Bruno fix it.
But Tigre was in the same tent. Leone wondered if he was watching them. Tigre could see that Leone was sitting next to a man. He'd already had suspicions about Leone's sexuality, but he'd never mentioned it. Surely he'd recognize Bruno at some point, though. Leone would have to explain it, wouldn't he? The surge of anxiety that accompanied the thought smothered his sex drive.
Good start. He just had to think about his brother the entire time. Cool, cool, cool.
Marina Diamante slowly made her way to the altar, dressed in white, holding the arm of a young man who wouldn’t have caught Leone’s attention as a passerby on the streets. The priest opened with a prayer, and the assembly settled in for the long haul. Much longer than Leone’s patience. The man talked at a snail’s pace. Leone checked Bruno’s watch, and Bruno tugged his wrist away with the gall to look scandalized.
Leone couldn’t do this. He didn’t know how the fuck Bruno could, but Bruno was an unusual man in many respects.
Leone rose and left as inconspicuously as possible for man his height in the front row. Bruno cast him a worried look, which made Leone feel bad, but not bad enough to stay. He didn’t know the bride nor the groom. He didn’t bring a present. He had no obligations to this wedding.
Outside, he stepped out of view and peeled the plastic off a pack of cigarettes: Bitter Tendency, a foreign brand that had come in with the Marlboros and Camels. He’d bought it around the time he lost Bruno in the marketplace and was grateful for his foresight.
Leone had one cigarette between his teeth before he realized he had nothing to light it with. So much for foresight.
“Fuck,” he muttered, defeated. He couldn’t even wreck his lungs right. If he had been devout in anything, including smoking, surely he would have picked up some more reliable habits, such as buying a lighter with the cigarettes.
But one magically appeared before him, its bright flame dancing.
Leone lit his cigarette and offered his benefactor one in return. The man accepted it with a chuckle. He had silver hair not unlike Leone’s and the most unusual prosthetic limbs. Leone had noticed him in passing, a lone figure sitting in his wheelchair, but once out of sight, out of mind, as the man had chosen a spot in the back.
“Are you with the bride or the groom?” he inquired, revealing a light French accent.
“Bride.” Leone reasoned that it was true in proxy.
“Me, too.” He winked and tapped the sheer patch over his right eye. It was a delicate, violet gossamer. “I take it you are part of the family as well.”
Leone frowned at him, not understanding. He peered into the tent. Not a single person on the bride’s side looked like a blood relative, although they were all unusually dressed. Bruno was still in the front. Melone, Ghiacco, and the rest of their crew took the back rows. Leone spotted Tiziano and Squalo in the middle. Polpo was supposed to be there as well.
Leone turned back around and blew out a steady stream of smoke. He took another drag and returned to the stranger. “So, you’re all Passione. Is this chick the boss’ daughter or something? Does the groom even know he’s marrying into the mob?”
“I can’t even imagine the boss having a daughter,” the man chuckled again. “Marina is a good girl with good taste. Just about everyone in Passione thinks so.”
No wonder the entire gang looked like they’d jumped off an haute couture catwalk to do crimes. Leone looked inside again. “Think your boss is there?”
“No, he’s a deeply private man. Paranoid, too. He’d never go into a place with so many of his subordinates.” The man seemed reassured by his own words.
Leone raised an eyebrow. “Paranoia? Or is there dissent in the group?”
“Who wants to know?” The man shrugged and shot him a sly grin. “You a cop or something?”
“Cops are all corrupt,” Leone replied, gesturing to the bride’s side. “I wouldn’t be surprised if one managed to slip in ‘cause he was fucking a gangster.”
The man laughed and brought his cigarette to his lips. “Let’s say there was some dissent. Who do you think stands the best chance of overthrowing a boss like the one running Passione?”
Leone mulled over his answer carefully. “Someone in either the front or the back,” he said at last.
The Frenchman smirked. “I was thinking that myself.”
And with that, Leone watched the man wheel himself back inside. Leone turned to the ocean. He took another drag on his Bitter, letting the nicotine calm his nerves, and extinguished it. He was glad he’d let Bruno drag him to Capri for this: an unexpected mob wedding, where he’d learned that Passione wasn’t the solid, formidable fortress everyone thought it was. There were members ready to defect, and that information was worth all the lire in Italy. And for Leone to play undercover cop again, that was a nice bonus.
He grinned, about to head back inside when he bumped into his brother.
Tigre looked down his nose at him. “I hope you didn’t sneak out to smoke during my ceremony, Leone.”
There were a few things Leone could have said back, but he decided the most cutting answer was to offer his brother a cigarette. Tigre wrinkled his nose but accepted it. Hypocrisy ran in the family.
“Every Catholic wedding I've been to,” Tigre said, blowing out a puff of smoke, “they always run long, but this is ridiculous.”
“As opposed to what?” Leone asked, even though he knew silence was golden. “What kind of wedding did you have?”
“What do you think? You know Mom. Dad gets to have everything else, but she planned all our weddings.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
Tigre rolled his eyes. “Dad’s Catholic, but Mom’s Jewish.”
“Wait. I’m Jewish?”
“Well, are you Catholic?”
Leone stared. A lot of things from childhood suddenly made sense. “Mom’s fancy candlestick holder is a menorah…”
“Incredible, Leone,” Tigre sighed and took another drag. “Thank God you turned out to be the gay one. I can’t imagine how stupid your kids would have been.”
Leone glared at his brother, knocked out of kilter by literally everything Tigre had said, but he was still aware enough to know when he was being insulted. He could feel anger bubbling in his chest, but it merely pooled into a chip off his shoulder that he’s nursed since childhood: “Well, if anybody had paid any attention to me—or even bothered explaining stuff to me—while I was growing up, maybe I wouldn’t be so goddamned stupid.”
“This again.” Tigre smirked, and Leone hated how much it looked like his own. “The day you grow up is the day you realize you can’t blame every problem you have on your family.”
"I never said..." Leone caught himself and scowled silently at the harbor. They’ve had this conversation a million times before. He might as well let this one wash over him like all the others.
“You never thought to question traditions, did you? Mom and Dad liked that about you, your obedience. I’ve made my peace knowing you’d grow up to be a spineless man, following instead of leading. You're good at it.”
Leone held his tongue by biting it. Tigre was the sharpest in their family, a successful lawyer who could talk circles around anybody. Whatever Leone said in his own defense would just sound like the ignorant protests of a child. Tigre was remorseless. He cut down people like it was nothing.
And Leone respected that. He wished he could do it, too.
“Quit the police force, Leone,” Tigre continued, turning to him with a resigned calm of the oldest brother looking out for the youngest. “Come work for me as a paralegal. I’ll put you through law school and make you a partner before you’re even forty. That way, Mom and Dad won’t have to worry, and I won’t have to worry about you either.”
Leone scoffed and lit another cigarette. “Right,” he mused facetiously, “give up my job taking criminals off the streets to help you defend them in court.”
Tigre clicked his tongue in disgust. “Mine are white-collar. You deal with riff-raff, and by associating with trash, you lower yourself to their level. The man you came here today with—”
“I knew you were gonna bring him up.”
“I wasn’t going to, but it’s Bruno Buccellati. He’s dangerous. I know. I had to defend him in court years ago.”
Leone blinked. He glanced toward the entrance, almost expecting Bruno to come out looking for him, and turned back to his brother. “What do you mean ‘years ago?’ He would’ve been a kid.”
“He killed two men when he was twelve.”
He heard but didn’t comprehend. Something in his brain short-circuited. His mind turned to static. Whatever he had intended to say died on his tongue.
“Oh, it was self-defense,” Tigre explained. “At least, that’s how I argued it. We won, of course, but between you and me, it was premeditated. He hid and waited for them with a knife.” Tigre paused to finish his smoke. “But he was twelve, and those men had been wanted gangsters, almost as bad as Passione’s—but that’s the kicker.”
Leone watched his brother drop what remained of his cigarette and grind it beneath the sole of a Burberry oxford. It might as well have been his heart.
“One of Passione’s caporegimes hired me to defend the kid,” Tigre said and clapped his hands clean. “Rich man, refined tastes. You probably know him by his street name, Polpo.”
“Christ,” said Leone, his head spinning.
“You think Polpo fucks him?” Tigre asked, conversationally, which meant he was trying to get under Leone’s skin. “A man like that taking in a twelve-year-old probably isn’t planning anything wholesome, don’t you think?”
“Fuck you.” Leone had him by the lapels of his jacket in an instant, a storm of rage on his tongue, but Tigre looked down at him scornfully.
Despite Leone’s stubborn pride and ‘eccentricities,’ they both knew he’d never hit Tigre. And Leone couldn’t refute that, even at this age, because he still couldn’t bear the thought of his big brother hating him. He let go when Tigre tapped at his hand.
Leone wished he was made of stronger stuff.
“Join my firm,” Tigre repeated his offer. “Gangsters lead short and unstable lives, and they’ll drag you down with them. If you work for me, at the very least you could keep Buccellati out of prison. I don’t think he’d do too well there because, well, he fraternizes with cops.”
Leone’s blood turned to glass, and that’s how Tigre left him: a fragile mess.
When Leone returned to the front row, he absent-mindedly reached for Bruno’s hand. Bruno dodged him, a little smirk drawing on the corners of his mouth.
“Ten minutes left,” he murmured, lips barely moving. He thought Leone had been trying to check his watch again. If Bruno planned to reprimand him, he’d just revealed that he had already checked, himself. Bruno was funny like that, and Leone liked him a lot.
Maybe he'd tell him one day, when Bruno could remember it.
Stubbornly, he slipped his fingers around Bruno’s hand and felt him tense at his grip. He could feel Tigre’s judgmental eyes on the back of his head from the groom’s side of the room. Bruno’s blue gaze rested on him, too, confused.
But Leone didn’t let go for the rest of the ceremony, not even at the exchange of vows.
Haha, surprise Polnareff!
Also, please check out this Bespoke fanart drawn by WitchBoy: Link.<3 Thank you!
Chapter 7: Dreams Have Changed
Leone attends a mafia wedding, and it’s unlike any wedding he’s ever been to. PART TWO.
Ah, the last JOJO Friday of Vento Aureo! I wanted to get this chapter up today, so thank you for joining me. :)
Warnings for this chapter: family issues, brief domestic violence, and mentions of past sexual assault.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I almost didn’t recognize you wearing that, Buccellati.”
“We agreed not to talk to each other after Fashion Week, Melone.”
Leone couldn’t help eavesdropping. The conversation was a great distraction, especially when Melone dismissed Bruno’s question with a hand flourish and said, “I think it’d be nice to get married someday, don’t you?”
Bruno gave a noncommittal hum and pretended to examine the silverware. “It’s not something I’m capable of, given my… occupation. You, of all people, should know.”
What a stuffy response. Leone could see Bruno was trying to lay low by blending in.
It was equally stuffy in the main dining room; Classical and marbled, with acanthus leaves and ancient Mediterranean motifs all over. Leone wished they could’ve scored a couple of seats in the patio area. The sky was clear, and you could see the stars above the dark ocean. There had to have been at least fifty guests, and none of the bride’s ‘family’ were seated next to the groom’s. Probably intentional.
That meant he and Bruno, unfortunately, found themselves dining at the same table as five other members of Passione.
“I’m not saying get married-married,” Melone prodded, and it was like watching a masked intruder climb over Bruno’s carefully constructed wall of apathy. Although, would even a fashionable burglar wear the translucent purple strip Melone wore over his eyes? Marina must have made it for him. “But having a big, extravagant wedding would be molto bene, no?”
The fine-looking blond sitting on Leone’s other side set down his glass of wine, visibly annoyed. He was an older man who had the same air of elegance as Bruno and wore a dark chiffon collar stylishly around his neck. Probably another piece from Marina.
(Leone had made a game of spotting her custom designs on each member of Passione. Bruno’s was the best by far.)
“What is it, Prosciutto?” Melone goaded him on with a saccharine smile. “Are you, of all people, going to lecture me on the sanctity of marriage now?”
“Not at all,” the blond replied. “I was just thinking that you’re like a child who can only see the superficial aspects of such a grave thing like marriage.”
“Now, hold on, Prosciutto,” Ghiacco said, pointing his fork at him. Leone couldn’t discern Marina’s design from his outfit. Either he came to accompany Melone, or Marina had made him underwear. “The way you’re wording it sounds pretty much exactly like what Melone is accusing you of doing.”
“D-don’t accuse Prosciutto of anything,” stammered the chunky man sitting on the other side of the blond. Leone could not describe him as anything other than ‘carrot-like.’ He probably just came with Prosciutto.
“Everyone, shut up and eat your food,” sighed a large man with red irises and black sclera. (Absurd, Leone thought jealously.) He sat directly across from Leone, and his deep voice was unmistakable: Risotto Nero—an intimidating giant of a figure who also gave the impression that he’d spent the better half of his career corralling quarrelling cats. Marina had made his weird jester cowl, for sure. Now, Leone wanted to commission something ridiculous from her, too.
But he’d sacrifice that opportunity for an early departure from her wedding reception.
“Buccellati,” Leone whispered to Bruno, “why are we still here? I thought we were gonna leave after the ceremony.”
“I told Marina I would stay for her band’s reunion,” Bruno said, looking very much like he regretted his decision. He poked his dish awkwardly. “The veal is delicious, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. Great.” Leone followed suit and kept his head down, hoping dinner would end without any of the assassins attempting to talk to him.
“You. What’s your name?”
Risotto Nero had other plans.
Leone glanced at Bruno, who was clearly performing mental simulations of all the terrible ways Leone could reply incorrectly, and turned to Risotto with what he hoped to be a calm and collected countenance. “Abbacchio.”
“Abbacchio,” Risotto repeated, and thankfully didn't mention the incident on the boat. What a great guy. Leone would hate him less than the others. “You must be related to the lawyer. A brother? Cousin? You work at his firm, too?”
He lost points for that, though.
“No,” Leone said before he could stop himself. That was the wrong answer. It invited curiosity.
“What are you, then?” said Melone, turning his probing gaze to Leone. With six pairs of eyes on him, Leone realized it was last Christmas since he’d been at the center of this much dinner table scrutiny. He'd left early that night.
“I’m a student,” Leone lied at last. His voice cracked. “I’m studying law at the university.”
Why did he say that? Who was he trying to impress? Leone felt bile rising up to his throat, and he reached for his wineglass.
“Following in Tigre’s footsteps, then. Not a bad decision,” Prosciutto said with a smirk that bared his pearly upper teeth. He raised his own glass. “To the gentlemen who keep us on the free side of the bars.”
The table toasted a round of “salute!” and then “cin-cin!”
Leone felt a hole burning into his stomach.
He left the table with some half-assed excuse or another and went to angrily retouch his makeup in the men’s room. Then, he locked himself in a stall, kicked at the walls, and wished he were drunk in his flat right now. He had too much on his mind, especially after his conversation with Tigre, and he was unequipped to juggle it and five assassins making small talk.
He’d hide here until Bruno came looking for him. And if Bruno didn’t, then fuck Bruno. Fuck every single member of Passione who tripped over themselves to kiss Tigre’s expensive oxfords.
And fuck Tigre.
Leone’s tinnitus was just loud enough to be annoying. He wanted to scream, but he didn’t. He sniffled a little. Felt his eyes sting. He couldn’t figure out why, so he kicked at the door some more.
Why was he such a miserable mess? Was it because he saw his brother again? Leone hadn’t seen Tigre or his wife in months, and that’s how he liked it. One fucking conversation shouldn’t have destroyed him like this, especially when all he did was offer Leone a job and tell him that Bruno was a criminal. That wasn’t anything new.
But what if Tigre also knew about—
Leone swallowed and scrubbed his hands helplessly through his hair. His heart sped up as if he’d run a kilometer. He took a deep breath and looked up at the ceiling.
Raffaella wouldn’t have told Tigre, would she? And if she did, that would have been the first thing Tigre confronted Leone about, right?
Leone closed his eyes and replayed their conversation outside the tent, word for word. Clung onto every inflection, every microexpression this time and felt dread creeping up his neck like cold water.
“I hope you didn’t sneak out to smoke during MY ceremony…”
“You can’t blame every problem you have on your family.”
“You all right in there?” the Frenchman asked from the handicapped stall next to him.
Leone’s heart was still pounding in his ears, but the sound of static faded at another person’s voice. Leone opened his eyes and forced himself to be a functioning human being.
“Uh. Yeah. H-here, I’ve still got your lighter,” he said, reaching into his pocket.
“Ah, keep it.” There was laughter in his voice, and that gave Leone some relief. Maybe he didn’t sound as messed up as he felt. “In exchange, maybe you can help me a little.”
“Uhh.” Leone wrinkled his nose, woefully unprepared for further interaction, and said, “Sure?”
“You hear them? I’d stop them myself, but it’s going to take me a little time to get out there, if you know what I mean…” An awkward chuckle.
A man and a woman were arguing in the narrow hall outside the toilets. The man was domineering, expelling a torrent of words, and the woman sounded like she was on the verge of tears.
“Shit,” said Leone, forgetting his own troubles. “Shit,” he said again, running out in time to witness the groom slap the bride. She bumped into the wall and cowered.
“Secco is my cousin! He’s the only family I have!” Marina Diamante cried, holding her cheek. “I didn’t have anyone else to walk me down the aisle, so of course I asked him!”
“How do I know you haven’t been fucking him behind my back?!”
“He’s my cousin!” she repeated and shrieked when he grabbed her by the arm.
“I know you’ve been seeing someone!” the groom hissed. “Your entire side is full of men! You’ve been disappearing every weekend, and I know it’s to see one of them. Or is all of them?!”
“No, it’s our song,” she explained, high-pitched and fast, “Marina and Marina and I were getting the band back together. We’re gonna play at our wedding. Caro, I’m playing our song!”
“Lying bitch!” he accused, raising his other hand.
Leone body checked him and knocked him to the ground.
Marina burst into tears. She picked up her skirts to run to her new husband, but Leone held an arm up between them. He glared at the groom. “You always hit her?”
“I knew you were fucking someone—”
“I’ve never seen him in my life!” Marina wept.
Leone pulled out his badge. “Police. I’m investigating a public disturbance.” He eyed the man in disgust. “And a DV while we’re at it.”
“Fuck you. Do you even know who I am?” demanded the groom as he rose to his feet.
“If you have to ask, then nobody,” Leone snapped back irritably.
At a loss, the groom shot him a baleful look before hightailing it back to the main dining hall.
Leone turned to Marina, who was trembling. He wasn’t sure what he could do to help. He wanted to, but she’d probably just yell at him or something.
“Thanks,” she said instead. She dabbed at her eyes, but her mascara was already running, staining her white evening gloves. She looked at them in dismay. “Fuck, I have to go onstage in like five minutes. Marina and Marina worked so hard for me, and I’ve ruined everything…!”
“No, you… Christ, woman, what are you even doing?” said Leone, exasperated. His own life was complicated, but her choice was mercifully obvious: “Dump him. If the asshole hits you now, he’ll hit you for the rest of your life.”
“It’s either him or… As far as men go… Well, it has to be a man,” Marina said despondently. “My mama wanted me to marry a rich man who’d take care of me. And besides, everyone says he’s handsome and that he’s a real catch." She fidgeted with her gloves. "Everything will be fine.”
“Will it?” said Leone.
Was life ever so simple as that? He didn’t want to get a call to a mansion in the suburbs only to find her as the victim of a brutal spousal homicide.
“Of course,” she said, collecting herself with a resigned determination of a woman who has decided her destiny, even if she didn’t care for it. She walked toward the entrance of the women’s toilets, where she stopped and looked back at him. “But... what would you do if you were me?”
“I guess I’d..." Leone grimaced. "I'd only go through with it for someone I loved."
The words felt weird in his mouth, like they had sprouted from a completely different Leone Abbacchio than the man he had been before Bruno Buccellati. He looked at Marina, who was only a little older than him, closer to Capelli’s age, but she looked so much younger right now. And fearful. Leone hated that he could see himself in her like a reflection. He felt more vulnerable tonight than he had in a long time.
He wanted to hide.
Leone turned on his heel and smacked right into Bruno—and caught him before he fell backwards into a potted plant.
“Sh-Shit, Buccellati! What the fuck?” Leone pulled him upright. “Christ. God. Fuck. Don’t sneak up on me like that.”
“You took too long,” said Bruno, frowning. “I do not appreciate being left alone with...” His eyes softened, and he glanced behind Leone. “Wasn’t that Marina? Is she having second thoughts?”
Leone huffed a feeble laugh and tried to sound normal. “Nothing gets past you. Well, I don’t blame her.”
“He is very overbearing,” Bruno said, stern and thoughtful. A wrinkle formed between his eyebrows. “She’s got a big personality, but it completely disappears next to him.”
“Wouldn’t have guessed. Fucking bastard probably slaps it out of her.”
Bruno’s eyes widened and his voice came out in a hiss, “He hits her?”
Oh, thought Leone, he didn’t know.
Bruno moved past Leone, toward the women’s toilets, and Leone held him back by the arm. “Wait. Give her a second. I doubt she wants you to see her like this anyway.”
Maybe Leone was projecting a little, but Bruno seemed to heed his advice because he stayed, vexed. His hands were fists at his sides.
“I’m… surprised by how calmly you’re handling this,” Bruno muttered to his feet. “Doesn’t it bother you?”
Leone smiled at him weakly, admiring this facet of Bruno. He put his hands in his pockets and glanced to the women’s room, happy to focus on someone else’s misfortunes for a change. “Look, I’ve seen my share of domestic violence on the job. Can’t do shit if the victim defends the abuser and covers for him.”
“Don’t you hate feeling helpless?” Bruno asked. There was a bitterness in his voice that came from the core. “Don’t you hate seeing things unfold, but you can’t do anything to stop it?”
Yes, Leone thought, but he wasn’t going to tell him.
“Well, what are you gonna do about it?” he said instead. “Kill him?”
There was a bite to Leone’s words that he didn’t mean to let slip. He regretted his carelessness when Bruno stared at him—confused, then worried. Did he suspect Leone knew about the two men he had murdered?
Leone could see Bruno raising his walls, this time between them, and said, “Wait, Buccellati…”
“Buccellati,” said Tigre.
They turned to face the silhouette of Leone’s brother in the hall. Leone could see displeasure on his face, clear as a full moon, and his heart pounded beneath his sternum.
“Hello, Tigre,” Bruno greeted him, reticently. Leone felt his throat thicken at his brother’s name on Bruno’s lips. He hated this unbidden surge of emotion, so easily inspired by Bruno, Bruno, Bruno. It was vulnerability on another’s behalf, and Leone didn’t like it.
“What the hell do you want?” he spat.
Tigre scowled and walked past him, turning his attention to Bruno, towering over Bruno. Leone’s Bruno.
“This has gone far enough, Buccellati. It’s in bad taste to drag my family into business.”
“This isn’t business,” said Bruno in his typical candor. “Leone and I are dating—”
“Leone is a good kid,” said Tigre, “and you have no right to use him for fuckin’ Leaky-Eye Luca.”
“Luca has nothing to do with this,” Bruno replied, his shoulders rising indignantly.
“I warned you last time,” said Tigre in the voice he had once used when Leone spilled his expensive cologne, “if you don’t stay away from Leone, I will never take another case from Polpo again, even if he finds himself in jail.”
“Is that a threat?” Bruno said lightly and took a step toward Leone. Then, another and another, until he had Leone’s arm in a cozy embrace. “Or a promise?”
For a terrifying, dizzying moment, Leone thought about kissing Bruno again, just as he had at the police station. What if he tipped Bruno over and laid one on him? How mad would Tigre be?
But Tigre was mad enough already. There was a sneer on his face that, since childhood, reminded Leone of a real tiger, angry in the shadows of the jungle. He stalked past them and leveled Leone with a glare.
“You’re smarter than this,” he said before returning to the main dining room.
Oh, NOW I'm smart, Leone thought vindictively, light-headed from the adrenaline coursing through him. He felt like Bruno had been holding him up while his mind had drifted away to observe the confrontation, and he was grateful that Bruno had done all the talking. Leone exhaled a shaky breath and felt Bruno pull away.
Bruno looked guilty, but before Leone could get a word in, he said firmly, “He’s not wrong in that I am using you, and have been, but it doesn’t change my feelings.”
“I already knew that, Buccellati,” said Leone, looking down at his shoes. “You have your reasons, and it’s good that you’re… efficient about them.”
He felt like an idiot next to Bruno’s nobleness and grace, but Bruno chuckled at his words, and that was enough.
The bridesmaids, the two other Marinas, came looking for Marina Diamante. Bruno bowed out and let them through, accepting that they could do more for her than he could at the moment. Leone followed him back to the dining room.
Leone would bring up the case in which Tigre had defended Bruno, as well as the two men Bruno had killed, but not right now. Bruno had his reasons, just as Leone did, and Leone took comfort in knowing that maybe Bruno would trust him enough to tell him someday.
And it was all right if Bruno didn’t. There were plenty of things Leone didn’t tell him either, and it worked for their strange relationship.
“Buon giorno, Capri! We are the Diamonds!”
On a quaint little stage in the dining room, the Marinas got the band back together. Capelli’s Marina played drums and her fellow bridesmaid played the bass. The bride herself was both the vocalist and guitarist.
And they were pretty damn good.
As they cycled through their greatest hits, it brought back memories from high school. The Diamonds weren’t Leone’s scene, but they’d been a popular indie band in Naples; a Josie and the Pussycats group. They’d almost made it to international stardom but fell apart for mundane reasons. Sometimes, life was strange, but more often than not, it was plain and boring.
The last song was a slow number, love song Marina sang to her bridegroom—their song. Marina on the bass stared down at her strings, frowning, and Capelli’s Marina waved to Leone. The lights dimmed around the stage so that everyone else faded into dark figures on the floor. Leone preferred the anonymity.
“It’s interesting where people end up,” Bruno whispered to Leone. “I went to one of their concerts when I was younger. Been a fan ever since.”
“So, you grew up around Naples,” Leone deduced, and Bruno smiled back at him like a cat. Maybe he was lying, maybe he wasn’t. Either way, he held out a hand to Leone.
“Shall we dance?”
But Bruno dragged him onto the floor anyway. He interweaved his fingers gently behind Leone’s neck, and it was nice how well they fit together to music. A little too nice.
Leone did consider that this was another one of Bruno’s schemes. He mapped out every potential exit in the room and clocked each Passione member in the room. No surprises there. As Bruno gazed at Leone like they were the only ones in the building, Leone allowed himself the satisfaction of monopolizing Bruno’s attention, for a moment at least.
“What are you thinking?” Bruno asked while Marina crooned soft, sweet notes of love and loyalty between a man and a woman.
“What should I be thinking?” Leone said, deeply aware that they were the only not straight pair on the dance floor. (Although, now that Leone had gotten a second look, he saw that Tiziano had merely chosen an outfit androgynous enough to let him pass as a woman in Squalo’s arms.)
Tigre glared at Bruno from the bar. Leone stepped between them so that his brother could stare at his back instead. Bruno smiled smugly, and Leone had no doubt that he was peering at Tigre over Leone’s shoulder. Bruno could take care of himself. Leone liked that about him, too.
But he wished they could have been any other couple in the restaurant. He wished they were an elderly aunt and uncle, who had been married so long that they couldn’t remember what it was like to be apart, or even two idiots from La Squadra Esecuzioni bickering in a dark corner because at least they were on the same side through thick and thin.
“Retirement,” Bruno murmured in his ear, drawing Leone back to the here and now. “Have you considered a life outside the police force?”
Leone blinked and stepped back, almost out of Bruno’s clasp, but Bruno held on. “What?”
“You have potential as an investigator, a talent that’s wasted on the police.” Bruno had told Leone this before. Gelato had said so as well. “You should change fields.”
“And then what? Take up Tigre’s offer and become his carbon copy?” Leone scoffed. “You’d like me as your lawyer, wouldn’t you?”
“It’s tempting but not what I was thinking.” Bruno smiled cryptically. “How would you like to work for me?”
Well, that was certainly not what Leone had in mind at all.
The song ended, and in that brief moment of silence, Leone laughed.
“So, you can make jokes.”
Bruno held a finger to his lips and said, “Hold that thought, Leone. I’m going to say good night to Marina. We can have a more in-depth discussion on the boat.”
Leone smirked. Bruno had used his first name again, which meant he was going to try to convince Leone, probably with the reward of sex. It was cute that he was becoming predictable.
“I’ll wait outside.”
On his way to the front entrance, Leone popped another cigarette from its carton. He was about to light it when he saw Risotto Nero and Tiziano blocking his path. They looked like two prize roosters that had just locked eyes in the ring.
Fuck, thought Leone, and he ducked behind a pillar in the hall.
They were talking about Sorbet and Gelato. Risotto had taken Leone’s word and confronted Tiziano at the reception, but Tiziano played oblivious and annoyed, “I haven’t a clue, Risotto, you should keep better track of your men.”
A navy blur passed Leone, and Squalo joined in, casual-menacing with a tumbler of scotch in hand, “Is this guy bothering you, Tiz? Want me to get rid of him?”
“As if you could.”
And now, Prosciutto had arrived with the carrot man. Then, Melone and Ghiacco, and suddenly seven members of La Squadra Esecuzioni had crowded into the hall, surrounding Tiziano and Squalo.
Tiziano was unfazed. “Oh, Carne. There you are.”
A bulky man that was built like a box pushed his way through La Squadra. He toddled silently to Tiziano, who pulled a revolver from his jacket. He cocked it with a click and pointed it at the man’s temple.
(What? Seriously, what the fuck is up with this gang?)
“We can do this the easy way or the hard way,” said Risotto grimly.
“Do you honestly think your little group can challenge L' Unità Speciale?” Tiziano replied, cold as ice.
Shit, Leone thought again, wiggling the cigarette between his teeth. He’d be a moron to stay put, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to sneak out without someone noticing him. He needed a distraction. Anything would work.
Enter Bruno, “What’s going on?”
Anything except that.
There was a moment of stillness as Bruno, once again, drew the attention of every man in the hall. Thank God that time after time today, Bruno had proven himself unidentifiable at first glance without his hairclips and white suit. Tiziano and Squalo stared particularly hard, until a look of recognition lit their eyes.
“Buccellati?” Squalo hissed. “How dare you show your face after what you did to us?!”
“What? I was here the whole time,” said Bruno, puzzled. “I was sitting right in front of you during the wedding—"
Leone took the moment afforded them and bolted forward, grabbing Bruno by the waist. He ran back into the main dining room. L’ Unità followed with La Squadra nipping at their heels.
“Sticky Fingers!” Bruno shouted, and Leone could hear floor tiles unzip behind them.
“Put that away, Formaggio, it can’t do shit right now!”
Leone switched to holding Bruno bridal-style, an irony not lost on him, and Bruno wasted no time unzipping furniture and guests before them and rezipping them behind.
The dining room turned into a warzone. The bride’s guests divided. On one side was Risotto Nero with La Squadra Esecuzioni: “Where are Sorbet and Gelato?”
On the other, Tiziano, Squalo, and Carne: “Fuck off. We don’t know what you’re talking about.”
And there was no third side, merely a free-for-all to the rest. The Frenchman was right. Passione was fractured.
Collateral damage littered the restaurant. Tables were flipped, glasses shattered; water, wine, and God knows what splattered across the walls and ceiling. There was a sheen of frost on the floor—huh?—and did somebody throw a fucking fishing lure at Leone?
(The groom’s family huddled in the corners and wherever they could find shelter. The bride ran for cover with one of her bridesmaids.)
Leone slipped on the ice and skidded behind an upended table, where Marina’s cousin Secco lie writhing on the ground with a butter knife in his chest.
“Sir, calm down, no—do not remove the knife,” said Leone on reflex, crawling over to stop him. “Listen to me, I’m a police officer.”
“I need a doctor, you fool!” Secco howled back.
“Abbacchio,” Bruno called to Leone, ignoring the injured man as he peered out from behind the table, “There’s no clear shot to the entrance. We need to find another exit.”
“I have to get Marina out of here,” said Leone at once.
“You’re right,” Bruno agreed, although he likely meant his own Marina. “Let’s separate. We’ll evacuate whoever we can. If this place is built anything like Libeccio, we can get out through the kitchen. I’ve already called paramedics.” He zipped away a brand-new cell phone. It was remarkable how fast he worked.
“Thinking like a first responder.” Leone grinned. “See you on the other side—”
Bruno caught him by the back of his neck and pulled him into a kiss. When they separated, a breath apart, Bruno commanded, his lips tinged with Leone’s lipstick, “And don’t even think about dying before I see you again. Is that clear?”
Leone nodded dumbly, and Bruno left.
“I can’t die here either!” Secco screeched, “I’m an Olympic hopeful!”
Leone couldn’t find Marina, but he managed to get every member of the waitstaff out through the kitchen when he heard a familiar voice:
“Psst! Cop man! Abbacchio!”
A hundred kilos might as well have slammed down on his shoulders.
It couldn’t be.
He hurried toward one of the few unflipped tables and ducked beneath the white cloth drapery.
“Heyyy,” Narancia greeted him sheepishly, hugging his knees.
Fugo sat on his heels, hands on his lap, looking very much like he knew they weren’t supposed to be here. “Yeah, ‘sup.”
Leone had never been so thankful to have two hands because it meant he could grab both of them by their scrawny little necks. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
“We were hungry!” Narancia squawked, slapping at his arm.
Leone shook him. “There were restaurants in town! There’s literally one in the hotel, you little shit! Why did you have to come here?!”
Fugo bit him, the feral little fucker, and Leone smacked him in return. It was a light slap across the face, but Fugo acted like Leone had called him eight different slurs and then committed a hate crime.
“Owww.” His eyes were huge in disbelief. Goddamned spoiled rich kids.
“I hit you now, I’ll hit you for the rest of your life,” Leone threatened.
“Fuck you, you’re not my dad!” Fugo roared and lunged at Leone. What moxie. This kid had potential for a lot of greatness, Leone decided. Pity about the rest of his personality. Leone sat on him and turned to Narancia.
“Anyway, I want you two to get your asses out of this restaurant and back to the hotel—”
“Oh, my God. Abbacchio, is that you down there?”
Christ, could Leone ever catch a break?
Wait, actually—yes. This was exactly the break Leone was hoping for.
The tablecloth lifted and there was Capelli’s Marina, holding a glass filled to the brim with red wine. She giggled and crawled in, splashing Leone, who would have been peeved any other night except this one. “What’s going on? Is this a secret meeting?”
A man slammed into the table above them with a yelp and bounced off. He took the dishes and tablecloth with him, exposing everyone underneath. It was hard to tell who was groaning in the pile of linens, but it sounded like Melone.
“Marina—!” Leone turned to Marina urgently, but she had fixated on Narancia.
“Who’s child is this?” she gasped. “He’s so cute? Can we keep him?”
“Yeah, sure, ask Buccellati,” Leone said impatiently as Narancia blushed. “I need you all to do as I say and follow me.”
Fugo dedicated one last burst of energy to escape before he went limp beneath Leone. “Okay,” he said, defeated. “Let’s go.”
Outside, a single police car had arrived on the scene.
When Leone told the officers it was Passione, they drove off as quickly as they had come.
Leone hailed a cab by jumping in front of it. The driver yelled at him, but shut up when Leone shoved his police badge in his face. By now, Leone knew he had strayed far from the acceptable situations in which to flash his badge, but he told himself that tonight was a special case.
He handed Fugo a small wad of cash and said, “Here. Take my friend back to the hotel.” Leone nodded to Marina, who swayed where she stood. It was safe to say she’d hit her limit. He confiscated her wineglass, but not before she tried to down half of it in one gulp.
“Wait,” said Fugo. “We came because we wanted to help Buccellati.”
“What can you do for him?” Leone sighed, trying to hold up Marina with one arm while she seemed determined to test just how strong that arm was. “Hell, what can I do for him? This is completely out of our league, kid. You’re just a burden if you stay.”
“And what about you?” Fugo countered, resentfully.
“As far as I know, whatever’s happening in there doesn’t involve Buccellati directly,” said Leone, turning to face the restaurant.
Someone threw the carrot man out the window. Leone thought he was dead for a second, but the guy got up and hurried back inside.
Fugo and Leone exchanged troubled looks. Despite the friction between them, Leone could appreciate that they were oddly on the same wavelength. He shot the kid a grin. “I’ll extract him from this mess, so you guys make yourselves scarce, all right?”
It seemed like all Fugo needed to hear was that an adult was handling the situation because he nodded dumbly. The kid was only fourteen after all. It was kind of endearing, the way he deflated, but then he looked at the money in his fist and puffed himself back up, “Is this supposed to cover a taxi? Because it doesn’t. Dumbass.”
Leone temporarily forgot the goodwill between them: “Listen, you little shit, we both know I can pick you up and throw you in the harbor, so God give me the strength not to disappoint Buccellati by carrying through with just that. I know he gave you money, so use that big brain of yours to do some basic math.”
Fugo nodded, miffed. Narancia was cackling; he had a quick recovery from trauma and good sense of schadenfreude. Leone liked that. Maybe they’d keep that one instead.
But Marina seemed pretty keen on adopting Narancia herself. “My child now,” she cooed, hugging him. Narancia blushed again. Little pervert.
“Yeah, take that up with Capelli, not me,” Leone said as the boys lifted her into the cab.
“You don’t understand,” said Marina. “I have to have kids as soon as possible. Have to make up for the ones Marina and Marina probably won’t have. I dunno. I’d have to ask them how that’d work out.”
Leone barely humored her as he shut the door, “You’re drunk, Marina. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Marina and Marina,” said Marina. “They eloped with the help of that nice Frenchman, and they all drove off with the priest in the honeymoon limo.”
“Oh,” said Leone, more than a little surprised. Good to know she'd taken his advice.
Marina smiled dreamily as a cool breeze floated through the window and ruffled her hair. She waved goodbye, and the taxi carried her, Fugo, and Narancia down the dimly-lit street.
Alone, Leone watched them go. He downed the rest of Marina’s wine and smashed the glass on the ground.
“Mazel tov,” he said and headed back inside.
“Don’t kill their meat shield!” Risotto yelled to his men, who were being drenched as Tiziano and Sqaulo lobbed drinks at them from behind Carne. “We don’t know what his Stand does!”
“But we’re sitting ducks!” a man with far too many pigtails shouted back from their makeshift barricade of chairs. He jabbed a finger at a mirror hanging from the wall. “Can you move that for me?!”
“No, mirrors are backed with aluminium, not iron—Ghiacco, stop kicking Pesci and freeze the water around us!”
“Please don’t, you’ll freeze my nose off!” cried Pesci, shivering on the ground.
Prosciutto shook him irritably and called back to Risotto, “Wait, stop him—Grateful Dead doesn’t work if it’s subzero!”
“Little Feet!” shouted a man with a shaven head.
“Put that away, Formaggio!” his entire squad shouted back.
“Nice teamwork, Risotto Nero,” Squalo jeered. “I can see why you always send them on solo missions!”
Leone couldn’t figure out what was going on, and that was all he managed to witness before Tigre grabbed him and dragged him behind a tiled mosaic of Neptune.
“Leone, you idiot!” his brother accused. “Why did you come back?!”
Being almost tipsy afforded Leone a rare surge of confidence, and he grabbed Tigre by his shoulders. “I’m the idiot?! What the fuck are you still doing here?!”
“I’m not leaving you here to deal with these lunatics!”
“I’m the police,” Leone reminded him. “It’s my job.”
Tigre’s lips formed into a tight line, and wordlessly, he tried to drag Leone to the door. Leone was stronger and better prepared for any combative situation, but Tigre was determined and prideful. It wasn’t long before they were scuffling around like fools, and soon they’d be noticed by the bickering assassins in the dining room.
Leone could only think of one thing that would make his brother mad enough to leave, to get out of danger, to find someone else to yell at:
“I had sex with Raffaella.”
Tigre’s mouth dropped open in shock, and that wasn’t so bad. Leone didn’t know why he’d been dreading this the entire night—except then, his brother’s entire face darkened like a storm cloud.
“Raffaella, my wife.”
(Why did Tigre even marry her anyway? They always fought. Afterward, he’d leave to hide out at his office, and she’d spend the rest of her day at home, hunting for someone to bully.)
When Leone said, “She wasn’t your wife then,” he purposely left out the part where she had cornered him in the shower.
(He should have pushed her off, but he was afraid to hurt her. She was Tigre’s girlfriend, therefore an extension of Tigre himself.)
In trying to sound resolute, he just came off bratty. His face burned at the crackle in his own voice. No wonder Tigre never took him seriously. His heart pounded behind his eyes. God, he was useless. He didn’t know what to say next. How do you stab someone in the back and not even know how to twist the knife?
Don’t apologize, don’t apologize.
(She had said sorry to Leone later, praised his prowess, and even told him he could throw their tryst in Tigre’s face when the jerk deserved it. They shared a laugh over that, never expecting him to have the guts to do it.)
“I know I fucked up,” Leone began, “but I…”
"Stop it." Tigre slapped his palms over Leone’s eyes and pushed him against the wall. “Don’t look at me like that, Leone.”
(The house began to feel more and more cramped as the months passed. He felt stupid for locking the door to his room every night in his own home. And then, he moved into the police academy, and his studio flat after that, and everything had been fine.)
But it wasn’t.
“It wasn’t your fault,” said Tigre, through his teeth.
It took a moment for Leone to register the apology in the dark. At least, that was as close to an apology as would ever come from Tigre Abbacchio.
“Yes, I know. I mean... Raffaella already told me. Last year, when I forgot our anniversary, she told me everything. I’m mad—of course, I’m mad, you fucked my wife—but she…” Tigre paused. “She shouldn’t have done that to you.”
Leone should have expected this. Tigre hated being in the wrong. He was never wrong, after all.
“It was my fault,” Tigre said insincerely, and Leone knew why. It wasn't his fault, not technically. What could Tigre have done as the unknowing instigator? The real takeaway was that he felt bad about it, and he'd control it by claiming responsibility. He was a victim after all, the poor husband and brother, and he could afford to take responsibility. “Go back to Mom and Dad. Raffaella and I have moved out, completely. We grabbed the last of our stuff in February. Take the job I’m offering you. She never visits the office. Leone, please.”
There it was.
Mechanically, methodically, but always, Tigre fixed everything: Leone’s childhood toys, his high school grades, court cases in Naples, and now, Leone’s future. The uncertainty was gone, and Leone—stray lamb, black sheep of the family—would owe him the rest of his life. A law degree and a job after graduation, huh? What a gracious shepherd. He’d lead Leone around the brick wall that was justice in this city.
All because Leone had sex with his wife.
“Shit. No,” Leone said, shaking his head, batting Tigre’s hands away. “I don’t want it. I can’t take it.”
“Of course, you can.” Tigre clapped his hands to Leone’s cheeks, as if he could force him to accept. Leone could see him at last, and he looked so… desperate. Not at all like the Tigre he had grown up with.
“I don’t deserve it.”
“You’re my baby brother, Leone,” Tigre insisted angrily. “Let me do this for you.”
And it was really that simple, wasn’t it? A matter of nepotism and connections. That’s how everyone got anywhere in this world. Hell, Leone was career-climbing on Bruno’s influence anyway. Might as well take up his own brother’s offer, if only to assuage Tigre’s conscience.
Except Leone couldn’t. He swallowed a lump in his throat that was suddenly, inconveniently there. The plan worked on paper, but everything about it felt bad because guilt was powerful. It would eat Leone alive.
Tigre, on the other hand, could bear it. Let him stew in it. He hadn’t divorced Raffaella after he found out, and he hadn’t saved Bruno from Polpo six years ago either.
Or maybe Bruno had refused whatever offer Tigre had made him then. Whether or not it was true, Leone liked the idea of Bruno choosing his own path, even if it had been down the most twisted roads in Naples. Leone wanted to be his own man, too.
“Leave,” he said. “No questions. Leave right now.”
He would hold firm on that. He wouldn’t change his demand.
And Tigre frowned at Leone with eyes that looked like his own. Out of the Abbacchios, Leone took after Tigre the most. He used to stand so proud when people told him he looked like his brother, before Tigre's words had weighed and cut him down over the years.
“Go,” Leone repeated.
Tigre’s eyes turned hard and shiny like flint. He looked as if he had swallowed something bitter.
“Fine,” he said at last. “I’ll go.”
And he left.
Just like that, Leone’s brother had come back into his life like a gale and gone in a hurricane. Leone had surely been that same storm to him. He let the back of his head fall against the wall, and he sighed.
A weight was off him. He could breathe at last.
He wished he’d had more to drink because he would damn well remember this in the morning. How content he would have been to lie there, dead to the world, and never wake up again.
But Bruno had forbidden him that luxury, and he wanted Bruno.
The two Passione groups had continued their fracas without noticing the Abbacchio family drama unfold a room away. Leone lit another Bitter and leaned back, listening as they tore into themselves on the other side of the wall.
In the end, Bruno arrived with a brutal solution.
He walked into the room, between La Squadra and L' Unità, dragging the groom behind him, all zippered up in a bundle. “Good evening,” Bruno greeted them. “I’d like to suggest a truce for now.”
Leone watched the scene unfold from his spot by the mosaic, feeling oddly detached. The Leone Abbacchio from a month ago would have surely tried to intervene, but it had been a long night. Leone was tired, and he hurt both inside and out. He didn’t know what Bruno was planning. Nobody did.
Leone guessed he would stop them if they tried to kill the man.
“Do you know who I am?!” the jilted groom shouted as soon as Bruno unzipped his mouth. “I’m the son of the Pane don!”
Well, maybe Leone wouldn’t do shit after all. It had been a mob wedding, through and through, so not only was Leone out of his depth, he'd probably just get fired for trying to interfere.
“Pane? Pane, Pane…” Melone tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Who are they again?”
“Some gang from the 80s,” Prosciutto sneered. “They haven’t been relevant since Kocaqi’s Narcotics Team took over their drug routes.”
“Oh, fuck you! The Pane family is still going strong!” the groom protested. “I swear to God, I’m going to have some fucking words with Marina about her psycho family—”
“He hits her,” said Bruno.
“He hits her?” said Tiziano in surprise.
“He hits her,” said La Squadra Esecuzioni in unison.
Tiziano and Risotto gave each other the same looks that Leone and Fugo had been exchanging all day, so Leone knew a silent compromise had been reached.
“Truce?” Tiziano suggested.
“For now,” said Risotto, cracking his knuckles.
“Passione’s a happy family, after all,” Bruno approved scathingly, and the groom paled at the name.
“Wait, so you’re all…?”
“Arrivederci,” said Bruno, and he strolled away as two of Passione’s most ruthless officers descended upon the hapless Pane heir.
Bruno found Leone standing by Neptune. “Good, you’re alive.”
“Don’t underestimate me, Buccellati.” Leone offered him the last cigarette in his carton, and Bruno took it with a sigh.
“You know, it’s not healthy to smoke an entire pack a day,” he said, tilting Leone’s head toward his own to light his Bitter with Leone’s. They watched the two points meet, smoldering like a lazy kiss. Time might as well have stopped for Leone to admire Bruno’s thick, dark lashes. Au naturel. He envied Bruno his easy beauty.
“I shared the pack,” Leone said at last, exhaling a warm haze of smoke. The acrid taste was growing on him. Bruno smiled a tired smile and didn’t contest his claim.
Instead, he whispered, “I couldn’t find Marina.”
After everything, Bruno was still worried about the bride. It broke Leone’s heart because he knew what it was like to have this, this masochistic sense of responsibility. He just didn’t know if he could hold on to his anymore. Bruno could have it. He was by far the better man.
“She got out,” Leone reassured him, tapping ash onto the floor. “A friend helped.”
“Thank God,” Bruno sighed around his cigarette. “I haven’t been to mass in years, but thank God.”
I know, Leone wanted to say, but he held it back behind a smile, content to just watch Bruno smoke.
Bruno was perceptive, though. “I already told you that, didn’t I?”
Bruno looked down, past the Bitter in his fingers, and licked his lips thoughtfully. “What else did I tell you that night?”
“You trust me, you like me,” Leone recounted with a smirk, and Bruno shrugged as if those were a given. He took a drag, held it in.
“You already knew that.” His eyelashes fluttered as he looked to Leone and then to his cigarette again. “So,” he breathed, drawing it out, “what did you tell me?”
Leone thought about it, rolling his used filter between a thumb and index finger. He dropped it and crushed it beneath a heel, and he turned to Bruno.
“I like you, too.”
Bruno blinked. He coughed into his free hand, and Leone was concerned until he realized Bruno was laughing. It was a different laugh from the one Leone hated. It wasn’t forced, condescending, or even sly.
It was genuine, and Leone loved it.
“I already knew that.” Bruno grinned.
And much to Leone’s chagrin, because Leone knew so much about Bruno Buccellati, Leone loved him.
They shared the last cigarette in front of the tile pattern of Neptune, listening to the heir of a rival family beg for mercy at the hands of Passione.
All in all, great wedding.
For the curious, Marina Diamante’s other custom designs for the Passione members mentioned in this chapter: underwear for both Pesci and Ghiacco, Formaggio’s mesh shirt, Illuso’s quilted vest, Squalo and Tiziano’s matching headbands, and Carne’s jumpsuit.
Chapter 8: Every Time I Close My Eyes
Bruno schemes, Leone hesitates, and all the while, time is slipping away.
I wanted to get this chapter up in time for the Vento Aureo finale! :) Also, sorry for the reuploads. I kept messing up the dates.
Warnings for this chapter: sexual tension, so much sexual tension, god just fuck already.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Leone woke up, warm and cozy, with a sunbeam in his eye.
His face felt weird, and instantly, he regretted sleeping in his makeup. It was the second time that week, God damn it. Leone was usually more careful, but he'd blame the lapse in self-care on Bruno this time and last.
Speak of the devil; Leone found Bruno snoring lightly against his shoulder. If there had been a betting pool on whether Bruno Buccellati was a cuddler or not, Leone would've lost good money. The night after Duo Lips was a blur, and Bruno had left while Leone slept. But in the light of day, it was clear: the man clung on like a barnacle. It was a shame that Leone’s arm was falling asleep. He shifted, careful not to wake Bruno, but the snoring stopped all the same.
Leone waited a beat and said, “Guess we’re both up.”
Bruno dragged his wrist to his face, checked the time, and mumbled, “Don’t have to be.”
“Yeah…” Leone rubbed his thumb along Bruno’s arm, absentmindedly, and Bruno traced the little A’s on Leone’s shirt. Leone liked this. It was comfortable, safe. Peaceful. The gentle currents rocked the boat in a soothing rhythm, and Bruno's steady heartbeat felt good against his chest, a metronome of calm and comfort.
Where do they even go from here?
They’d abandoned the Pane-Passione incident after the last cigarette and clambered onto the yacht sometime around three o’clock. There was talk of sex, Leone remembered, and sloppy kisses as they made their way toward the bed.
And then, what?
Leone must have fallen asleep the moment he hit the mattress, and judging by the state of their clothes—intact and not zippered—so had Bruno.
“We really suck at this,” Leone sighed and sat up. He scratched his head. “I’m gonna take a shower. You figure out what we’re doing when I come back.”
Leone heard a faint zip as Bruno pulled the covers over his head and sealed himself away from the world. Or something like that. Leone didn’t blame him for the grumpiness. Bruno had planned a fantastic trip for them yesterday, and it had been derailed from the beginning.
It was in the shower that Leone realized maybe Bruno had wanted to have sex right there on the bed. “Ahh,” he sighed and covered his face. He wasn’t a fucking mind reader.
He was almost done with his makeup when Bruno knocked and entered without waiting for an answer. Bruno was in his white suit again, with his hairclips in place.
Leone raised an eyebrow. “I could’ve been naked.”
“You weren’t,” said Bruno, frowning. “You’re already wearing your uniform.”
“Duty calls,” Leone said as he uncapped his lipstick. It was the Dior lavender. Bruno recognized it and watched him put it on, staring with his usual intensity. Did it mean trouble, or was it his come-hither look? Bruno kind of exuded the same aura for both intentions, Leone noted. Well, he’d figure it out soon enough if he let Bruno make the first move. “I’ve left Capelli on his own long enough as is. I'm taking the ferry back.”
“No, you aren't.”
So, it was trouble. Something was off about Bruno. Leone could pinpoint it to the certainty of his tone. So certain, in fact, to the point of commanding: “We need to take care of Death of a Bachelor.”
“We’ve got two more days. Come find me when you get back to Naples.” Leone calmly put his makeup away, waiting for Bruno to react, control, to manipulate.
But Bruno’s shoulders only sank a little. He rested his shoulder against the door frame and turned to their reflection, where he caught sight of Leone's lipstick on his face. It was from last night. Things had ended well then. Bruno rubbed the color from his mouth and saw he wasn't getting anywhere with it. He moved to the sink to wash his face properly.
“Let’s go pick up Fugo and Narancia,” Bruno said, pulling toothpaste and toothbrush from his pocket. (Leone had so many questions.) “And I want to take a bath at the hotel.”
Leone was so taken aback when he realized he was witnessing a part of Bruno’s morning routine that he momentarily forgot that he was taking the ferry home and thus didn't have to accompany Bruno back to town. Watching Bruno do something so utterly mundane as brushing his teeth made his mind blank. It made sense, of course; Bruno didn’t start every day unzipping himself out of a box, a mint condition gangster Ken doll. Like the cuddling thing, Leone hadn't really thought about it before.
“Uhh—” Leone faltered, thinking. Setting aside the fact that Bruno just tried to bulldoze over Leone's plans by pretending they were a part of his own, it seemed that Bruno really wanted Leone with him today. “Enough with the subterfuge. Is there something you’re not telling me, Buccellati?”
Bruno’s gaze flicked to him and then back to the mirror. Either was he thorough about his dental hygiene, or he was stalling. Knowing Bruno, stalling was most likely in this scenario. Leone would wait. Eventually, Bruno spit, rinsed, and washed his toothbrush while Leone’s reflection frowned at him. And after that, he said, “Trust me, Abbacchio” as if that were enough.
“Be honest with me,” Leone pressed. “What the hell’s wrong with you?”
Bruno set his toothbrush loudly on the counter and turned to him.
“The raid on Polpo’s was last night.”
The words came out sharp, and it took a moment for them to sink in.
And once they did, Leone was furious. He stared at Bruno, and Bruno held his gaze, uneasily. Leone didn’t want to connect the dots, didn’t want to cast aside his trust, his feelings, and all the complications of his relationship with Bruno. But he had to, and so he did. He reined back his anger, kept his voice even, “That's why you brought me along.”
“I knew if you were in Naples, you’d join the raid,” Bruno explained, coolly, “and I didn’t want that.”
Leone ground his teeth. God, he was ready to strangle Bruno for his icy arrogance, but Bruno stood his ground as he always did, and that just made Leone angrier. “That’s my call to make, not yours.”
“There will be other opportunities.”
Leone couldn’t stop himself and exploded, “And why not Polpo?! Why couldn’t you let me bring him in?! I’ve been trying since January. You were there—you know! Don’t pretend you don’t. You know everything.”
“I didn’t know if my plan would work,” said Bruno, setting his jaw stubbornly. “I don’t even know now, to be honest. Haven’t gotten the call. Tiziano and Squalo weren’t supposed to be here, so I don’t know who Cavatappi was communicating with on the mission—”
“Cavatappi?!” Leone was on the verge of tears. “You gave Polpo to fucking Cavatappi over me?”
“—And even if Polpo lands behind bars,” Bruno continued briskly, his voice rising, “I don’t know if the police officers who put him there will be safe.”
“What?” Leone opened his fists and closed them.
“I knew at least one or two of La Squadra Esecuzioni would be at the wedding, and I wanted them to see you here in Capri, so they knew you couldn’t have been at the raid on Polpo’s mansion.” Bruno took a breath. His calm voice was laced with nerves. He bit his lip, then started again, “A precaution, in case Polpo sends those assassins to hunt down the Neapolitan police officers involved.”
“Would he do that?” said Leone, lost. “To send a fucking message?”
“If he does, what matters is that they'll know you weren’t there because you were at the wedding. With me."
Bruno broke eye contact, finally, and that was a relief. Freed from the intensity of his gaze, Leone ran a sweaty hand through his own, damp hair. His heartbeat was heavy in his chest, his eyes, his ears. His voice came out thick, “What about Capelli?”
Bruno swallowed. “I told him not to get involved. He’ll be fine.”
“Yeah. Right. Yeah… He’ll be fine, he’ll be fine,” Leone repeated it to reassure himself. His insides felt like jelly. He steadied himself with the counter. “He listens to you.”
“Unlike you,” Bruno said weakly.
Leone recognized it, another attempt at one of Bruno's terrible jokes, and he laughed, despite himself. He couldn’t even be mad. Or rather, he could, but what was the point?
Bruno ran, with or without caution, and Leone chased. That’s how it’s always been between them. It was only recently that Bruno let Leone catch up, with his hand extended like he wanted Leone at his side. But he would still prioritize his own plans. Leone could respect that. He should expect it and do the same.
“Guess I should’ve introduced myself as Officer Abbacchio at the dinner.”
“That one’s on me, for not telling you what I was planning. And no, it was probably for the best, considering everyone involved was in a gang.” Bruno sank to the ground and leaned back against the cabinets. He sighed. “I’ll take care of it.”
I’ll protect you, it went unspoken.
Leone took a seat next to him, suddenly drained. The stupid, weak part of him wanted to hold Bruno, to bury his face in Bruno’s neck and close his eyes against the warmth of Bruno’s skin. He wanted to remind himself that Bruno wasn't always cold because, in truth, he cared. Bruno cared, and he showed it in his own, weird way—like telling Leone the truth, frustrating as it was, because he knew it meant a lot to him.
But at the same time, Leone wished Bruno hadn't sprung that conversation on him right off the bat. Couldn’t he have just lied like usual, or at least waited? They were having a good morning, and the shock had been bitter and ached down to Leone’s bones.
“I want to go back to bed,” he said, staring at the floor between his legs.
“Well.” Bruno smiled wryly at Leone. “The one in the hotel is comfier.”
The next ferry was delayed, so Leone figured he might as well kill some time in Capri Town anyway (and maybe try out that bed after all). It took some time for Bruno to convince him to leave his uniform jacket and tie on the boat. Then, they ran into trouble finding a taxi. It was almost nine when they stepped foot for the first time in their Quisisana suite.
“Huh,” said Leone because it was really nice.
Pristine white walls, high ceiling, and a king-sized bed clouded with cream-colored covers. It was like a breath of fresh air. Leone followed the glossy, patterned tiles on the floor to the large windows at the end of the sitting room. There, he found a balcony overlooking the Piazetta they’d walked around yesterday. The morning breeze wafted in from the sea, cool and briny.
And to think, he and Bruno could have had this all to themselves last night.
No, he decided, no, he wasn’t going to think about it. The what-could-have-been smarted too much. Besides, he was mad at Bruno, and he had feelings to sort out about Bruno, who always seemed to mean well, even if his actions ran counter to what Leone wanted.
Bruno, Bruno, Bruno.
Bruno was bad for his sanity. Leone shouldn’t have gotten involved. He should have asked for a reassignment to Milan right after Fashion Week, and he could have gone on doing what he had been doing. No Tigre or Raffaella, no Bruno Buccellati. Leone wouldn’t have had to confront half of the things he had these past few months.
But it was good he had, wasn't it?
He heard Bruno release a sigh that sounded somewhere between exasperated and amused and looked back inside.
Leone had stepped over an upset coffee table and several cushions on his way out, so he didn’t need to be a detective to see that Fugo and Narancia had fought over who got to sleep on the sofa that night. Evidently, they decided to share it. Leone’s eyes finally located the two of them, fast asleep and curled up with Narancia as the little spoon.
“Pft, gay,” he said, as if he hadn’t just traveled a quarter of an hour to have sex with Bruno in a fancy hotel.
(Why lie to himself? How else was he going to test the bed?)
But Bruno was smiling at the kids with such unbridled affection that they might as well have been his actual children, and Leone knew the mood was shot. He was surprised to feel so relieved and walked back to the bed, where he took a seat, thinking. A bud of regret sprouted in knowing they wouldn't get to fuck inside this nice hotel room.
Make up your mind, he told himself, annoyed that his indecisive heart hadn't magically figured everything out yet. God, he'd been ready to absolutely nail Bruno yesterday, and now he was Mother Theresa because Bruno had cheated him out of the one arrest he'd promised to get?
Yes, holy shit, fuck Bruno. Leone was still mad.
Someone stirred next to him, and Leone remembered Marina.
“Bed’s taken,” he said, pulling the covers just enough to reveal the woman sleeping peacefully underneath. Capelli once told him Marina was a morning person, up and out of bed by sunrise, but Leone supposed a hangover would knock even the earliest birds off their usual schedule.
“What about in here?” Bruno asked, heading to the bathroom. “Oh, a big bathtub.”
“Gonna pass on bathroom sex,” said Leone, thinking of Bruno drugged and unconscious in his tub. And Raffaella. He glared down at his knees.
“Suit yourself,” Bruno replied, closing the door behind him.
Leone heard the patter of water on ceramic. He fell back on the bed and flexed his hands, frustrated, determined to get to the bottom of his messy feelings right here and now. It wasn't just Polpo's arrest. Bruno had stonewalled Leone's career goals before, and Leone had gotten over it, hadn't he?
Rejections had been easy to dish out when their relationship was professional: Leone was a policeman, and Bruno was a criminal. The muscle memory was still there, for lack of better words.
Now, they were ‘dating.’ They’d agreed to have sex. There was a catch because wasn't there always? Yes, they'd reach a point where Leone would have to explain his ‘hang-ups,’ as Bruno referred to them. And that was bullshit. Leone didn’t need Bruno’s opinion or, God forbid, his involvement. He’d rather die than let Bruno into his family matters.
(Bruno had his own problems, too, which Leone was happy to stay out of, especially if they involved his father. Although, he did want to investigate the murders in due time, but that was another matter. Leone would put it on the backburner.)
Leone had made good progress on his issues, all by himself. Sex was fine. He'd had women and men, older and younger. His lovers had liked him in bed but considered him inattentive out of it. And that was fair. For a while, he pleased people to prove to himself that Leone Abbacchio was a stud, not a boyfriend, and that he was the kind of guy who’d steal his brother’s woman and not think anything of it.
Obviously, that hadn’t worked out. Leone wasn't a boyfriend or a stud. He was a loner.
Then, he had his annual health checkup. He took the optional STI tests, thought it’d be nice to complete one fucking thing in his life, even if it was just a physical. They came back negative, and as he stared at the paper in his hand, it dawned on him that he’d been lucky. What had he been trying to prove—having forgettable sex with minimal protection, and with people he hadn’t been really interested in either?
He didn’t learn a damn thing about the person or himself from any of those relationships. The sex had just kind of blurred together when he thought back to that period in his life. He might as well have fast-forwarded through all of it. He didn't want to fuck like that again. A part of his brain shut down even thinking about it, and every advance someone made on him since then had just irritated the hell out of him.
In hindsight, that meant Leone had never dated anyone.
It was his own fault. Leone tried to be approachable when it came to his public persona, but between his sexual history, his daily cosmetic mask, and general standoffish scowl, perhaps he’d accidentally cultivated a vibe that screamed, “Yeah, I’m queer and kind of a misanthrope, you got a problem with it, fight me or fuck me." That attracted oddballs. It explained why rich young assholes, still high on ecstasy, kept trying to pick him up with their “Officer, please help me find my car” spiel. And it also explained why Bruno, with his capricious savior complex, saw Leone and thought, target acquired.
To be fair, Bruno’s Gangster Prince façade was what drew Leone to him in the first place, so at least it had been a mutual attraction of sorts. Leone was already a sucker for a nice suit silhouette, and here was Bruno, sleeker than silk, all the while spitting secrets and lies. Leone had fallen hard before he realized he’d tripped. God, he was such a blundering dumbass. Here he was, trying to prove to himself that Leone Abbachio wasn't even capable of falling in love, and Bruno had ruined it by existing.
But Bruno was different from the others. Leone didn’t have to think about why. Despite everything, he knew he wanted Bruno, and that want burned through him faster than any crush ever had. The more time he spent with Bruno, and the more he learned about him, the more that want twisted and turned into something that was becoming harder for Leone to pin down with his limited emotional intelligence.
Leone had actually gained seven kilograms since January from those goddamned fig cookies. Seven.
Capelli had suggested the weight gain was muscle growth on their last trip to the gym, but Leone had started the year off with fifteen percent body fat, and this wasn't it anymore. He'd redoubled his efforts to fitness between work and sleep (and Bruno's nonsense), and Capelli actually had the nerve to ask if he was working out for Bruno Buccellati. Leone kicked his ass around the sparring ring for that. It just happened to be that Leone didn't want anyone that wasn’t Bruno Buccellati, and he couldn’t have Bruno for reasons, so a hundred more pushups it was. Leone had clung on stubbornly to that logic like a lifeline for the weeks before their fateful encounter at the Disco mansion.
And now, they were dating.
Bruno said he’d made his decision to pursue Leone based on initial attraction, so if it was that simple for him, it could be that simple for Leone. God knows he thought about Bruno endlessly and was dying to confirm a few fantasies. Leone could, should, and would waltz right into that bathroom, ignoring every wrong Bruno Buccellati had done him because he had done a lot of good for Leone as well. And yes, Leone came with baggage. That was okay because Bruno did, too. Leone wanted a level playing field, and they were pretty well-matched there. They were also both jerks, but Bruno was actually much nicer than Leone when he wasn’t being a complete asshole. Leone would concede that to him.
They were dating.
Leone sat up and stared at the bathroom door, conclusion reached.
How could he have been so willfully blind? This was the most effort Leone had ever put into a relationship. If that didn't define how real it was, then what did? And if Bruno reciprocated even a fraction of what Leone felt for him, that was good enough for Leone to go all in.
He knew Bruno cared about him. Bruno could trick Leone, dance circles around him, but he cared. Maybe it would end horribly, or in a lackluster fizzle, and maybe Bruno would lose interest, but that was fine. If it was only Leone's heart being broken, then so be it. He'd been through enough to be strong enough to handle it.
Plus, they would die if they didn’t have sex soon, so Leone couldn’t argue with the facts there.
Again, something about the logic of that didn’t quite line up, but Leone wasn’t a lawyer, so he could let it go.
He got to his feet, went into the bathroom, and closed the door behind him. The steam melted against his foundation, and he felt warm. Bruno opened his eyes and looked at Leone sleepily from the bathtub, rosy-cheeked and beautiful with his hairclips still on.
This was already a monumentally better start than that night after Duo Lips, but Leone’s hackles rose all the same because Bruno was going to ask him why he changed his mind, and Leone couldn’t even remember what train of thought had led him here because Bruno was naked.
Obviously, Bruno was naked. He was taking a bath. And it’s not that Leone was surprised, but he was somehow still unprepared for the reality of Bruno Buccellati being fuckin’ naked right there in front of him, and that struggle was slowly manifesting on Leone’s face. He fought back a primal urge to retreat before he embarrassed himself.
“Abbacchio,” said Bruno.
“What, you have no right to complain, you literally did this to me earlier today,” Leone said, way too defensively, and embarrassed himself.
“Come here,” Bruno beckoned softly, and Leone was done for.
Begrudgingly, Leone made his way over to the tub and took a knee next to it, like a knight at his king’s throne. How did it ever come to this? There were no bubbles in the water, and Leone tried to not be super obvious peering in.
Bruno drew his knees to his chest (damn), and said, “Are you still angry with me?”
“It doesn’t matter whether or not I’m mad at you, Buccellati,” said Leone, glaring at Bruno’s stupid hairclips because he was, in fact, still mad. “If we don’t fuck, we die.”
“So, you are angry.”
Leone splashed him. “All right, stop with this coy shit. How long are you going to lead me around in the dark like this? You said you trust me. Can’t you trust me enough to tell me what you’re planning?”
“I will, if you quit the police force.”
This again. Add that to the ever-growing pile of frustrations he had with Bruno. “Come closer," said Leone.
Bruno leaned forward, and Leone dunked him underwater.
“I’m not joining your stupid gang,” he said when Bruno resurfaced.
“I don’t want you to join Passione.” Bruno stared at him crossly from beneath his dripping fringe, finally at the end of his patience. “But if you were to become a private investigator, I’d hire you in a heartbeat.”
Leone thought about noir films with their hazy nights and scruffy detectives. “PI’s don’t exactly lead glamorous lives,” he said, and it was a throwaway comment, but Bruno took it seriously.
“I could make it glamorous,” said Bruno, who could saunter into a grimy office like the homme fatale he was, bright metal on his white suit glittering, and turn Leone Abbacchio’s whole world upside down.
Hadn’t he already?
“Shut up,” Leone replied uneasily. This wasn’t the conversation he wanted to have with Bruno right now. He didn’t come in for a job interview or for Bruno’s particular brand of life coaching. He didn’t want to be convinced of anything because he had entered with his mind made up by himself. “Let’s just fuck.”
Bruno closed his mouth, but the look he gave Leone told him he was shelving the conversation for later. That was fine. Leone would deflect then, too.
“Weren’t you against bathroom sex?” Bruno murmured, resting his arms on the edge of the tub. His tan had darkened since their arrival to sunny Capri. Dripping wet with gold clips in his hair, Bruno was exactly how Leone imagined mermaids looked. Leone let himself be drawn in by that siren song.
“Changed my mind,” he said hoarsely as Bruno pulled him in with a fingertip to his jaw. “Don’t ask so many questions.”
“Leo,” Bruno whispered against his lips, and that went straight to Leone’s cock.
Unfair. God, that was unfair.
No one had ever called him Leo before, and now that part of Leone belonged to Bruno alone because of course it would. Of fucking course Bruno would find another way to burrow deeper into Leone and drive him mad. Leone wanted to eat him alive.
He was halfway out of his shirt, with a hand underwater, when they heard the door creak open. They looked to the entrance and saw Narancia staring back in horror.
“W-what are you doing here?” the boy whispered, his good eye as big as a tangerine.
“I paid for the room,” Bruno hissed, not unkindly but very distracted by Leone’s hand. “Do you need something?”
“I have to pee…”
“Piss off the balcony,” Leone snapped at him.
“No. Don’t. Give me a minute to get dressed, Narancia,” said Bruno, gripping the rim of the bathtub. He shot Leone a pleading look, and Leone scowled but let go of his dick.
“Hey kid, can't you go find a flowerpot or something?” Leone said irritably, drying his arm on one of the big, fluffy towels.
“I also have to go… the other one,” said Narancia, who sounded utterly traumatized as he retreated back outside. The door was all but closed, save for the tiniest of cracks.
“Guess you’ll shit yourself.”
“No,” said Bruno, climbing out of the tub. “Abbacchio, you are the worst.”
Leone wrapped the towel around him in a bear hug and lifted him clean off his feet. When he set Bruno onto a dry spot on the floor, Leone pressed a kiss to the side of his neck. “You are the worst, Buccellati,” he growled and left him for the door.
(He smirked when he heard Bruno fumble with the towel behind him.)
“Seriously, why do you want to go back to Naples so early?” Fugo asked as he plucked a croissant from Narancia’s plate. “We haven’t even seen La Grotta Azzurra yet.”
Leone poured himself another cup of tea and said, “I don’t have to explain myself to a twelve-year-old.”
(The truth was, he was tired of being cockblocked by every single one of Bruno's acquaintances because, apparently, they were all here on Capri.)
Fugo gripped his fork ominously. “I’m fourteen.”
“Buccellati, he took my bread!”
“Narancia, this is a buffet. Just go get another one.” Bruno set his espresso down on its saucer. “And Fugo is right, Abbacchio. You might as well take the rest of the day off.”
“The rest of the—Buccellati, the day has barely begun,” said Leone, mildly outraged. “Some of us live and work by regular hours.”
“One of us.” Fugo bit into Narancia’s croissant. “You’re the odd one out, Abbacchio.”
Leone dropped his napkin over the crumbs on his plate and raised his hands in mock defeat. “Gotta go with the ten-year-old on this one.”
“You gangsters enjoy your holiday. I’m taking the next ferry back to Naples.”
“But Leone,” Bruno sighed, “I booked our room with a late checkout.”
Tempting, but Leone played dumb, waving as he walked away. “I don’t know what that means.”
Fugo, however, smart kid that he was, did, and he groaned when he connected it to Bruno’s switch from ‘Abbacchio’ to ‘Leone.’
“All right,” said Fugo, sounding as if he’d aged twenty years, thanks to their conversation, “when’d you guys get hit with Death of a Bachelor again?”
“About five days ago?” said Bruno, surprised by the question. “Sorbet gave us a week.”
“So, that’s why you’re ‘dating,’” Fugo snorted. “You guys realize that when Sorbet says 'a week,' he means a business week, right?”
Leone stopped at the door and speedwalked back to their table. “What the fuck did you say?”
Fugo licked the butter off his thumb and said, “Business week. Like, Monday through Friday—that’s five days. Not seven. Sorbet told me back at the mansion while Buccellati was vivisecting you.”
“But most people wouldn’t assume a business week, right?” Bruno interjected. He sounded genuinely interested in a long conversation about semantics, which was worrying because Leone went back through his mental timeline regarding Death of a Bachelor. It was five days ago that they’d been affected, a little after noon.
Narancia took this moment to return with his new croissant. “You guys better grab what you can. They’re putting away all the food.”
“The breakfast buffet ends at ten-thirty,” Leone said quietly. Bruno saw the look of concentration on his face and made the same calculations:
“That means our time actually runs out in an hour and a half.”
“Oh, shit. Better get going,” Fugo said blandly and made grab at Narancia’s plate.
“Buccellati, did you see that?!” Narancia squealed, rescuing his croissant, but Bruno and Leone were already sprinting down the hall back to their suite.
Marina was looking for her shoes when they arrived at the room.
“I’ll find them,” Bruno volunteered, and Leone escorted Marina to the door as Bruno frantically unzipped the furniture. Kind of overkill, but Leone wasn’t going to stop and argue.
“…Anyway, thank you guys so much for letting me crash here last night,” Marina said in the hall, sheepishly. “I can barely remember what happened last night after Marina and Marina left, but I bet you saved me from a world of trouble.”
“You can owe me one,” said Leone, tossing a glance over his shoulder. Bruno stood in the middle of the room, looking around the mess he made like a goddamned maniac. Leone turned back to Marina. “And let’s get this straight, we’re not gonna hang out for the rest of the day or anything.”
“Oh no, no.” She smiled a little too knowingly for Leone’s comfort. “I can see you and Buccellati have plans.”
Leone’s first instinct was to deny and bluster maybe even make his voice go down an octave, but he let it go. He was going to be an adult and let it go. He breathed in and out and said, “Just don’t tell Capelli.”
“Nooo, it’s better if you tell him in person,” she agreed as Bruno walked out calmly with her shoes and clutch in his hands. “Oh my God, thank you. I completely forgot about my purse.”
“Yes, always good to see you, Marina,” he said with a polite smile, unaware that one of his hairclips had slipped a few centimeters down his bangs. Leone nudged him back into the room.
“Now, fuck off and have a nice day,” he told her.
“Oh, one more thing,” Marina added slyly, just as Leone was about to close the door, “I take it you two are on for that double date with me and Sergio, right?”
“Yeah, sure, whatever,” Leone said and slammed the door in her face.
He whirled around and found the room in near pristine condition, a little neater than how they’d left it for breakfast. He gave Bruno a bewildered look. “How the hell did you do that?”
Bruno shrugged, unzipping his suit down the front and shedding it like a second skin. “Do you really care?”
Leone stared as Bruno walked to the bed. The underwear matched the bralette: black and lacy. Bruno definitely hadn’t been wearing those on the night they met at Duo Lips, but he'd been anticipating this development today.
Bruno put these on for him.
Leone swallowed before he started drooling like a hungry dog. “I think I like you in nothing but lace.”
“I’d like you in nothing at all,” Bruno said frankly. He took a seat on the bed and pulled off his shoes and socks. Leone stared, mesmerized, until Bruno snapped his fingers and beckoned him over, “Come here.”
Leone grinned and locked the door.
Glad I got to use the lyrics to this song for the chapter title. :)
In case you were wondering and as a reminder (since I don't expect it to come up again until canon, technically), Bucci also took this trip as an opportunity/excuse to hide Polpo's treasure in Chapter 5.
Also, I got fanart! :D Check out this wonderful illustration WitchBoy did for Chapter 6!
Chapter 9: What Must I Say What Must I Do
As far as euphemisms go, they fit together like two halves of a zipper.
Warnings for this chapter: Begins with a SEX SCENE. To skip the sex scene, word search “Sorbet’s Death of a Bachelor”. There will be still be mentions of sex scattered throughout afterward.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Leone crossed the ceramic tiles, that persistent want in his heart rumbling again, a ravenous growl. Bruno watched him undo his shirt, from bottom to top, his eyes trained on Leone’s hands, calculating how he wanted them on him.
Roughly, Leone hoped.
He shoved Bruno down on the mattress and climbed on top, letting Bruno run his palms along his chest, now bare and flushed. Bruno squeezed every damn thing he could get his hands on, from pecs to ass, the bastard. He’d been thinking about this moment as long as Leone had.
That was good to know.
Leone mouthed a lavender trail along Bruno’s jaw, starting from the mark he’d left on Bruno’s neck (how cute that Bruno had kept it hidden beneath his collar), to those lips that tasted of coffee again.
He knew Bruno lost his patience with his belt when the zippers came out and felt like an unwrapped present by the time Bruno was done with his clothes. He sat back and tossed off what cloth remained, shredded by Bruno’s stupid powers.
“Christ, Buccellati,” he complained to Bruno, who leaned back against the padded headboard, legs artfully crossed, satisfied with his own handiwork. “Am I supposed to go outside buck naked after this?”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Bruno, smiling as Leone crawled over to him. “I can always zip you up inside me.”
“What? Was that supposed to be reassuring, why are you so goddamn weird,” Leone muttered, still horny but really annoyed now. “Jesus Christ. I’m gonna fuck the weird out of you.”
Bruno’s eyes widened, and he actually cracked up at the threat. Leone couldn’t stop himself from laughing, too. Laughter was good. Better laughing than terrified and dreading the whole thing. Leone’s heart was still racing, but his hands were steady.
He ran his fingers lightly along the Roman numeral that had resurfaced on Bruno’s pelvis above a neat little patch of hair. Same lines on Leone. Death of a Bachelor.
“Three times,” Bruno said quietly. He checked his watch. “We have a little more than an hour left before noon.”
“Three times,” Leone repeated and kissed him again. Bruno’s long eyelashes tickled his cheek. He was warm against Leone, his heartbeat a comfort, and the gentle slide of his legs along Leone’s was more encouragement that Leone deserved.
It was happening.
All jokes aside, they were really going through with it. Leone wasn’t even nervous. He was ready, impatient, and so was Bruno, whose eyes were clear and focused.
Leone pulled away a little. “Hey. Close your eyes when we kiss.”
“No,” said Bruno, who pulled him back in for another.
Leone grinned. The affection he felt for this strange man was overwhelming, more so than Leone could express through words, so he gave Bruno’s bralette a light snap instead, and Bruno jumped at that. God, that was cute. Bruno was cute. Even his most infuriating memories of Bruno were rose-tinted, which was absurd to Leone. He’d never liked anyone enough to the point of thinking their flaws were charms at the prospect of sex. So, that’s what love did to Leone Abbacchio, huh?
To think they could have dated properly. Their first kiss could have been softer and not for show in front the sergeant. Leone could have kissed Bruno more over the week, too. Leone liked kissing him, and when Bruno broke their kiss, thin trail ghosting between them, Leone was so distracted by how shiny Bruno’s lips were that he almost missed him saying, “That’s enough. I’m going to suck your cock now.”
Leone blinked. He blinked again.
And then, he had to look away as all the blood in his body rushed to his dick. Why did he even let himself get all schmaltzy like that when Bruno was just Bruno? He put a hand on Bruno’s face and said, “God, you’re shameless.”
“This is no time to be embarrassed,” Bruno replied indignantly through Leone’s fingers. He tugged on Leone’s arms. “I’m telling you what I want from you, and I expect you to do the same.”
Leone groaned at the mini lecture and let Bruno pull him up to his knees. He braced his forearms against the headboard, looking down at Bruno’s neat braid, feeling more self-conscious than he’d like with the most vulnerable fucking part of his body in Bruno’s face. Erect.
It absolutely did not help that Bruno just kind of stared at it.
Well, a cock was a cock. What the fuck did the man expect? It wasn’t the same as his, obviously. Leone was cut. He hoped it didn’t make a difference. Did it make a difference? If Bruno didn’t start sucking soon, it was going to wilt, and that was definitely going to make a difference.
Bruno licked his lips. “You’re much bigger than I thought.”
“Oh,” Leone said in a strangled voice, and he smacked his head into the headboard when Bruno took him into his mouth. “Christ, Buccellati, not so fast—you’re gonna kill me!”
Bruno replied with a pleased hum, which Leone felt up and down his spine. It tingled across his shoulder blades, and he shuddered. Bruno’s clever tongue worked around the head of his cock, sliding forward as Leone sank deeper into his heat and softness; and when Bruno looked up at him with his calm blue eyes, inquiringly, impossibly dear, Leone bit his lower lip and nodded.
By all means, continue.
The world faded around him, and it was all he could do to fucking breathe as Bruno swallowed more of him. His throat was so tight, so hot, and when Leone rolled his hips, Bruno took it without so much as a hitch in breath. No gag reflex, Leone remembered belatedly as his brain floated away. What a blessing.
He liked how tightly Bruno held him in place as he sucked him off. He’d have bruises with Bruno’s fingerprints afterward. A nice little souvenir from Capri.
Leone gasped as Bruno brought him over the edge so goddamn quickly that he bucked into him.
“Shit,” he said, eyes squeezed shut, reaching for Bruno to make sure he was okay.
But Bruno was fine. He swallowed, eased himself off gently, and licked his lips again, looking very satisfied with himself.
“There,” Bruno breathed, sliding a thumb over Leone’s belly. Death of a Bachelor’s tattoo. One of the lines faded before their very eyes, dropping the III to a II. “Good, I thought oral sex might count,” he continued pleasantly, as if he hadn’t nearly sucked Leone’s soul out through his dick. Leone was a little envious of that confidence.
He stared at Bruno, dazed, and for the umpteenth time that week, he wondered what he’d gotten himself into. In love or not, this was a lot for him. He took a seat on Bruno’s lap, hands still on the headboard, and Bruno rested his cheek against Leone’s arm with a smirk.
God almighty, Leone was screwed. Even if they managed to thwart Death of a Bachelor, he didn’t know if he’d survive the hour at this pace. He looked down and saw that Bruno’s tattoo was still a III.
“Hold on, I think you have to come, too,” Leone said, thankful for the distraction. He pulled down the delicate waistband of Bruno’s underwear, and Bruno’s cock sprang up, red and hard, its tip wet with precum.
Leone paused, intimidated.
When was the last time he’d given someone a blowjob? There was no fucking way he’d be able to blow Bruno nearly as well as Bruno had him. Damn it, Leone thought. He should’ve gone first.
Bruno waited patiently (or politely) and said, “I want you to finger me and then fuck me.”
Leone was thrilled to let him take the lead.
“I’ll do whatever you want,” he said, voice husky, and pushed Bruno back down onto the mattress.
He was learning a lot about Bruno Buccellati this weekend, and Bruno’s inclination toward mind-meltingly deep kisses was a happy surprise. He couldn’t keep his hands off Leone’s body. Flattering. His perfect ass had been everything Leone hoped for, it was true, and Leone had been beyond impressed to find he could fingerfuck Bruno to orgasm without even touching his cock.
“Christ. You’re amazing,” he said, still staring in shock as Bruno’s III faded into a II.
“Good to know Sorbet is generous with his definition of sex,” Bruno huffed, his cheeks red, pupils blown wide, cum across his black lace, and his tan legs spread open. Leone had left the lingerie on. It was easy to stretch and twist, and Leone lived for the sound it made when snapped against Bruno’s olive skin.
Bruno was delicious. Leone’s purple lipstick had claimed every surface of his lips, and Leone wanted more. He wanted to hold Bruno down. Fuck him. Make him scream his name. He wanted Bruno claw at his back and pull on his hair. God, he’d take Bruno for everything he had and return it a thousand-fold.
But the condoms were too small.
There was always something darling about Bruno’s ‘I’m thinking’ face, but even that didn’t make up for Leone’s string of bad luck, all culminating to this moment. Motherfucking Mary. After Leone winced at their fourth attempt to get one on, Bruno tossed the condom aside with a grunt, exasperated.
“Of course, this had to go wrong, too,” Leone groaned into Bruno’s hair.
“I underestimated you again, Leone Abbacchio,” Bruno said in the way one would express surprise at losing a pair of sunglasses. “You’ll have to raw me.”
Leone laughed. He couldn’t stop himself. They’d just gone over the fact that Sorbet had left them several options at their disposal, but no, Bruno was adamant: Leone, you’ll have to raw me.
“All right.” Leone seized Bruno by the thighs and yanked him onto his back. “Whatever you say,” he murmured and pushed himself in.
Bruno’s ass squeezed down on Leone in ways his throat hadn’t, and he hissed when Leone nipped his neck. What a weak point. No wonder he always wore a high collar. The sound trailed off into a needy whine as Leone gently sucked another bruise to the surface.
He drank in Bruno’s sweet little hums each time he brushed a sensitive spot inside, so hot, so tight, and tasted the salt and lipstick on Bruno’s skin. Bruno opened his mouth for Leone’s as Leone pressed deeper into him, slowly, excruciatingly, slowly.
“Leone,” Bruno murmured when they parted for breath, “do you… remember that night? After Fashion Week?”
“What? The night you snuck in?” Leone kissed him again. “Should’ve fucked you right then and there. Would’ve saved us a goddamned hassle…”
Bruno twitched around him. “How would you have done it?”
Leone paused and stared at Bruno, who looked back at him expectantly.
“Oh,” said Leone. He knew where this was headed. “I think I had you like this at one point.” He took Bruno’s wrists and pinned them above his head.
“What a good memory,” Bruno praised him.
“And I had a knife on you that night, too,” Leone recalled, setting his hand on the mattress, next to Bruno’s head, pressing his thumb against his cheek. “You were in trouble. Managed to talk your way out of that one, didn’t you, Buccellati?”
“I would’ve counted it as a victory either way,” Bruno’s his eyes were longing, his lips parted, and—shameless as ever—he added, “Officer.”
“Fucking hell.” Leone couldn’t stop himself. He pushed deeper into Bruno, drawing a gasp, and whispered in his ear, “You like that I can hold you down.”
Bruno nodded weakly against Leone’s hand. “Mm.”
“You like that I’m stronger than you. You like that I can overpower you—”
Another nod, and then a broken moan, as Bruno’s body yielded to Leone’s at last, and Leone slid in to the hilt. It was all he could do to hold still, to let Bruno adjust to his full size.
“Do you have any idea how fucking hot you are?” Leone groaned, breathlessly, and Bruno closed his eyes and shuddered.
Leone paused, but Bruno wouldn’t have it any other way:
Leone obeyed. All his words escaped him. Just the image of Bruno under him—his lover, unrepentant thorn in his side, his—was enough for Leone. Being inside Bruno was simply icing on the cake. God help Leone, he’d used up all his luck in this lifetime, the good and the bad, and it’d been worth it.
Bruno was beautiful, so beautiful, as he gazed up at Leone with flushed cheeks, his pupils dilated, lips red under the lavender. Leone pushed keening little breaths out of Bruno with each thrust, and Bruno moved with him. It was sweet but made it harder to really nail that perfect spot inside Bruno from that perfect angle Leone had found with his fingers.
He slid his free hand from Bruno’s cheek to his hip, holding him in place. Bruno looked up at him through lidded eyes, confused until the head of Leone’s cock found his prostate. Leone felt Bruno’s muscles around him tighten in anticipation, and he grinned, “Brace yourself.”
Bruno cried out at the first thrust. His arms strained against Leone’s hand, but Leone held him down, watching him pant as pleasure washed over him. Gorgeous. Bruno Buccellati coming undone beneath him—how had Leone ever lived without witnessing such a sight?
Bruno bit his lower lip and whimpered, and that went straight to Leone’s dick, which must have made a difference inside because Bruno’s breathing hitched, “Hahh—Leo...” He swallowed and nodded. “Again.”
Leone didn’t need to be told twice this time. He pounded into Bruno, mercilessly, feasting on the look of need on Bruno’s face, his wails, the way his cock bounced as Leone fucked him, and the feeling of Bruno’s calves knocking against his shoulders—perfect.
“You feel amazing,” Leone gasped over the slicked sounds of their skin colliding. “You’re so fucking good, Buccellati—”
At some point, Leone must have released his grip on Bruno’s wrists—had both hands sweaty on Bruno’s hips instead—because Bruno’s fingers were interlocked behind Leone’s neck once more, like they’d been while they were dancing, and he was pulling Leone down so that their foreheads touched, their breaths mingling.
“Call me Bruno.”
“Bu-Bruno,” Leone whispered, “I fucking adore you, Bruno,” and Bruno came with a sob.
Leone hissed as Bruno squeezed down on him, pulled on his hair, bit his shoulder. Leone’s hips stuttered, vision went white, and he came before he could pull out.
And then, it was just Bruno and him.
Nothing else in the universe.
The sound of his own breathing centered him. The rest of the room returned. Slowly, by centimeters, as they lay there, gasping, riding the last thrill of their orgasms, Leone’s senses came back.
Soft, warm bed. Sunlight on the floor lighting up the tiles in fat, warped rectangles, revealing the particles of dust in air. And Bruno had wrapped himself around Leone.
Jesus Christ, that did things to Leone’s heart.
He pushed himself up and looked down at Bruno, whose arms slid off Leone’s back and onto the bed, his chest heaving, eyes refocusing. The look of a well-fucked man, Leone thought smugly, uncoiling Bruno’s legs from his waist. Then, he said, “I think that little green troll lied to us.”
Bruno had to process that a couple of times before he gave up and said, “What?”
“I think Fugo lied,” Leone clarified, checking Bruno’s abdomen to make sure Death of a Bachelor’s tattoo had taken their last endeavor into account. It had, and Leone’s, too, had dropped down to I. Good. “Why the fuck would anybody be talking about a business week when they say ‘a week?’”
“Maybe Sorbet is just very professional,” said Bruno, blinking contentedly like a cat in a sunbeam. “No, that’s not it. You’re right. Fugo lied to us.”
“Why would he do that?” said Leone. “Did you tell him to?”
“Why do you always think I’m behind everything?” Leone stared at him in disbelief. Bruno looked up at the ceiling, resolute in his innocence, “Not this time.” He sighed and stretched his arms above his head. “I suppose that’s Fugo’s way of being sweet.”
“Lying isn’t sweet,” Leone argued. “Also, what he said made no sense. A business week is literally Monday through Friday, isn’t it? Weekends don’t count. It was Tuesday when we were at the Disco mansion, and today is Saturday. So, technically, we’d have until Monday, which would actually be the full week we thought we had.” Leone paused. “Which means nothing he said was wrong, I guess… Tch, that little shit’s too smart for his own good.”
Bruno covered his eyes with an arm. “Why are you even bringing this up, Abbacchio?”
Leone sat up and checked his own watch, but it was broken. God damn, he only had two watches, and he’d grabbed the broken one to match his outfit. He took a hold of Bruno’s wrist instead because although Bruno was also vain—no man looked like that without a little vanity—at least he was smart enough to wear functioning timepieces.
“It’s past noon, Buccellati. If today’s the day our deadline ends, then we’re gonna die any minute now.”
“Are you saying you can’t come more than twice in one hour?” Bruno looked a little disappointed. He flexed a little around Leone’s cock, as if trying to test his theory. Fucking rude.
“Of course, I can!” Leone snapped, even though he’d never tried to before and felt very attacked by that question. “It’s just—I think we have more time than we thought. At least until Monday.”
“Noted,” said Bruno, sitting up in Leone’s lap, a heavenly vision covered in lipstick and sex. His hairclips were askew and his lace crooked, leaving nothing to the imagination, which was honestly how Leone liked it. Bruno arched his back and looked down, as if judging just how long he’d let Leone stay inside him. God, Leone wanted lick a line up that taut belly and sink his teeth into Bruno’s throat. “I understand what you’re saying, but I prefer not to leave it to chance.”
“Uh huh,” said Leone dumbly, still staring at his Adam’s apple.
“I’ll take over from here.”
Leone briefly realized he was hard again as Bruno pushed him onto his back and straddled his hips. Leone helped Bruno ease himself into the angle he wanted. Bruno grabbed his pecs in return. Christ.
Thank God Bruno knew what he was doing after flooding his brain twice with serotonin because Leone sure as hell didn’t.
“If we survive this,” Bruno mused, teasing his thumbs across Leone’s nipples until Leone squirmed, “I should commission Marina to make a bra for these as well…”
And then, Bruno fucking vibrated.
“Holy shit, what can’t you do?” Leone said stupidly.
Reddening, Bruno unzipped his belly and rummaged around inside (please don’t give me some weird fetish, Leone thought) until he located his cell phone. He checked the screen and looked to Leone in surprise.
“It’s your police station. It must be Cavatappi,” he said, bringing it to his ear.
Leone groaned. Cockblocked by his own boss.
Bruno listened to the voice on the other end, expression like stone, and then covered the mouthpiece. “It’s Polpo,” he said, as if that made it better.
It didn’t, of course. It was worse.
“That’s worse,” said Leone, and Bruno pressed a finger to his lips. Leone felt a vicious pang of jealousy. They were fucking right now, and there was no goddamn way he’d let Bruno ignore him for business call, much less for Polpo. Spitefully, he gripped Bruno’s thighs and bucked into him, earning a surprised little yelp for his efforts.
Bruno clapped a hand over his mouth in mortification and shot a warning glare at Leone, who was absolutely going to repeat this maneuver because he was petty; he was so goddamn petty, thinking back on Tigre’s insinuations and taking it out on Bruno.
Bruno, Bruno, Bruno.
Bruno looked so good like this; covered in a sheen of sweat, his hairclips dangling haphazardly from his bangs, moving his ass just so against Leone’s cock, and sliding his free hand down to work his own to Leone’s rhythm.
Hot, so fucking hot, Bruno Buccellati.
“It was nothing, it’s just—I’m on the road. It’s bumpy,” he was telling Polpo through clenched teeth, his eyes closed, grinding down on Leone. “Let me handle the police, don’t worry, I’ll come soon.”
“Yeah, you will,” Leone said wickedly, snapping his hips up.
Bruno clamped his hand back over his mouth and rode Leone like a fucking champ, squeezing down tight as a vice—hot and wet and maddening—all but ignoring the rest of what Polpo had to say on the other end of the phone.
Leone grabbed Bruno’s dick and picked up where he left off. He’d make sure Bruno came first this time, and Bruno looked down at him gratefully.
“Great, leave it to me, ciao,” he said at last and hung up. He dropped the phone on the bed.
“Guess we’ll be going back to Naples soon,” said Leone lightly.
“Abbacchio. Get me off right now,” Bruno ordered, but it was hard to take him seriously when he was flushed from cheeks to chest, tears in his eyes, panting and holding on to Leone’s tits for dear life.
“Easy on that grip, Buccellati,” Leone winced.
“Now, Leone, Leo…”
Leone pumped Bruno hard, until Bruno squeezed down on him one last time with a low moan and spilled all over Leone’s hand. He shivered when Leone filled him again, his back arching.
Leone caught him before he fell and held him up as they blearily checked for Death of a Bachelor’s marks. They watched both dissolve completely before Leone let Bruno collapse onto his chest.
They did it.
[ Sorbet’s Death of a Bachelor – Status: DEFEATED. ]
Leone clutched Bruno with one hand and raised the other in a fist of victory. It was over. Three times in an hour and a half. Thank God, it was over.
“What were you trying to do, Abbacchio?” Bruno’s voice was muffled between Leone’s pecs. “Make me come to Polpo’s voice? Do you really hate me that much?”
“Hah?” A satisfying little thrill went up Leone’s spine. “You saying you never fucked Polpo?”
Bruno looked at him with sleepy curiosity. “Does that get you off?”
Leone barked an outraged laugh that jolted Bruno awake. “That’s like asking if I wanted to see Jabba the Hut fuck Leia.”
It took Bruno a moment to get it, “I’m Leia?” He seemed amused by the attribution and rolled off Leone, taking the spot next to him on the bed. “You think I’m Leia,” he chuckled fondly.
Leone watched him close his eyes and breathe in, deep and content. The magic wore off at noon, like a reverse Cinderella, but Bruno was still so beautiful, his bronze skin and dark hair lit by gentle sunlight reflected from the floor tiles. And those blue eyes, when he opened them again to look at Leone—breathtaking.
“There’s a new Star Wars movie coming out in a couple of months,” he deadpanned. “It’s a prequel. We should go see it.”
“Oh,” Leone replied, unsure of what he’d been expecting in what was clearly romantic moment, but it wasn’t fucking Star Wars. He snorted, and it turned into a laugh, which confused Bruno, who was bad at jokes but good at being unintentionally hilarious.
Fuck it, Leone loved him as he was.
“If we’re still dating in a couple of months, then yeah, let’s go see it.”
“Why wouldn’t we be dating?” asked Bruno, concerned.
“Oh, c’mon. You’re gonna get bored of me,” Leone yawned, staring up the ceiling, surprisingly undevastated by the thought. That after sex glow was something all right. Or maybe he was kind of relieved to finally divulge these fears to Bruno. He rubbed his eyes. “Maybe you’ll do something I can’t overlook, and I’m gonna arrest you. Then, you’ll hate me.”
“I see.” Bruno frowned, shifting his legs uncomfortably. “I think we should’ve used those condoms after all.”
Leone laughed again. “Focus, Buccellati.” He ran his fingers affectionately along Bruno’s thigh. “What’s our endgame?”
“Bruno.” He draped himself over Leone. “Call me Bruno.”
“Bruno,” Leone corrected himself, heart still fluttering a little after everything because maybe Bruno won’t get bored of him. “What do we do when we break up?”
(But maybe they won’t break up.)
“We’ll see Star Wars, no matter what happens,” Bruno decided, sitting up. He patted Leone’s chest, as if he thought that were comforting. “Even if I’m in prison.”
“And how would we watch it there while it’s still in theaters?” Leone humored him.
“I’m sure Polpo will hook us up,” Bruno said before he disappeared into the bathroom. “You’d be surprised at the speed and quality of Passione’s bootleg division.”
Leone sighed and called after him, “Gonna pretend I didn’t hear that.”
A week later, Bruno sent Fugo to pick up Narancia’s photos. They spread them out on their usual table at Libeccio and found that most were unsalvageable—covered by a finger, blurred beyond recognition, accidental shots of feet. A moment of sordid silence passed, and Fugo said, “I hereby take over photo duties from now on.”
“What’d you expect?” Narancia elbowed him in the ribs. “I’ve only got one eye.”
As the boys grappled, Leone watched Bruno approach the photos over his coffee cup. Bruno scanned the table quietly and selected four:
The scenic view of the white cliffs against the sea was a given. An adorable shot of Fugo and Narancia grinning awkwardly in front of La Grotta Azzurra made the cut as well. A black-tailed gull. An elderly cat napping next to a fisherman’s catch.
Bruno paused at a twilight candid that Narancia took of the boat. It was blurred and terribly backlit, but it was clearly Bruno watching the sunset in the distance and Leone watching him.
Bruno kept that one, too.
Leone’s birthday fell on one of his days off, and he spent it in bed with his wrists zipped to the headboard and Bruno’s dick up his ass. He was about to come for the second time that day when Capelli, good man that he was, banged on the door.
“Abbacchio, you better not still be in bed on your birthday—holy shit, it’s Buccellati,” he said when Bruno answered the door in one of Leone’s larger T-shirts.
After a brief exchange of politeness, Bruno accepted a box from him, and closed the door, perplexed. “You didn’t tell me it was your birthday.”
Leone stared at the ceiling in horror. “I forgot to tell Capelli about us.”
Bruno studied the box. “Isn’t this bakery across the street from your station?”
Leone lifted his head to get a better look, aghast. “He bought me a cake?”
“They misspelled your name,” Bruno said, setting the box on the floor next to the bed. “but I guess it’s accurate.”
“Ohh.” Leone grinned. “What’s it say?”
“Buon compleanno A-bocchino.”
Leone chuckled and then stopped, confused. “Wait, why’d you say it was accurate?”
“You’re getting a birthday blowjob.”
Narancia’s eye surgery came and went, and then he was gone. Returned to school and his father’s house.
Fugo moped in Bruno’s office, said he was doublechecking the books, but he spent half the time glancing over at the framed picture on Bruno’s desk of him and Narancia smiling back from Capri.
“It’s fine. Fugo is better at math than I am,” Bruno admitted into his cappuccino. Leone shrugged.
So much for office sex.
“There’s a trio of pickpockets that’s been giving us trouble: JoJo, DeDe, and Cici,” Sergeant Cavatappi briefed them. “We caught the last two—good work, Officers Fiori and Ziti—but the one that goes by JoJo is still at large. The other two have confirmed he’s half-Japanese, so keep an eye out for an adolescent with short black hair.”
April passed, and no one could catch this guy.
“Well, that sucked,” said Leone as they exited the midnight screening of The Phantom Menace.
“I thought it was good,” said Bruno.
“I thought we were gonna make out in the back.”
“Give it a rest,” Fugo muttered, trashing his empty bag of Skittles. “You guys have been screwing nonstop since we got back from Capri,”
“What? Huh? Whaaat?” Narancia babbled, “I didn’t hear that, I didn’t need to hear that!”
Bruno changed the subject abruptly, “Well, it was good of you to join us this late, Narancia. Abbacchio will take you back before your father gets worried.”
“I’m doing what now?”
“Nah, it’s fine.” Narancia stared at his shoes shyly. “I know the streets pretty well, and besides, my old man doesn’t give a shit anyway. But maybe I could stay the night with you guys again, since it’s late and all…”
Leone caught the pleading look Fugo threw Bruno, but Bruno ignored it. “You should go home,” said Bruno. “We work odd hours. We're up when everyone else is asleep. Keeping a normal schedule is good for keeping up in school.”
“I’ll help him with schoolwork,” Fugo volunteered, and it was kind of pathetic how badly this kid needed a friend.
Leone figured that a genius like Fugo was tired of adults by now. He’d likely been homeschooled by the finest tutors in Italy, and once he entered uni, he’d been surrounded by old professors as well as students that were the same age as Bruno and Leone. Narancia was probably the first friend Fugo made that was his age.
“I can’t use the police cruiser to drop the kid home,” said Leone. “I’ve got to get it back to the station in time for the next officer’s patrol.”
“But you could park it here for a two-hour movie,” Bruno pointed out, unimpressed with his lie.
“I was on duty.” Leone gestured to his uniform. He’d actually driven directly to the theater from work. Cavatappi was killing him with these new hours. “Scouring the theater for pickpockets.”
“Ohh, you still haven’t caught that guy JoJo, huh?” Narancia beamed. “I’ve only heard about his getaways, but he was a real legend back when I was still hustling.”
“He was working with a team, wasn’t he?” said Fugo. “Wonder what happened.”
“We got the other two is what happened,” Leone said snidely, and Fugo and Narancia exchanged wicked little smirks at that.
“What kinda racket do you think those three pulled while they were all at large, huh?” Narancia asked, getting into Leone’s face with his big violet eyes and even bigger grin. Leone took a step back and bumped into Fugo.
“The Sandwich is a given,” said Fugo, revealing Leone’s wallet. Leone snatched it back.
“We called that the Distract and Dip,” Narancia chirped.
“Don’t give it a dumb name when it’s already got one,” Fugo chided. Narancia boxed his shoulders in outrage, and they began fighting again.
“Cut it out,” said Bruno, exasperated, and Leone had to push the two kids apart.
“So, what’d you guys call that maneuver?” Fugo asked Narancia, smirking.
“Trick the Police.”
“Oh, for fuck’s—which one of you little bastards have it?” Leone growled, picking them up by the fronts of their shirts.
They gave him identical shit eating grins and looked over to Bruno, who sheepishly held up Leone’s wallet.
Leone dropped the brats. “You know what? Keep it. There’s nothing in there anyway.”
Bruno checked inside because he was bad at boundaries. “Do you need money?”
Leone scoffed at that. How could he ever take Bruno’s money when he’d made such a big deal of not taking bribes? Besides, Leone had a job, and payday was coming.
Speaking of, an actual fistfight had broken out right outside the theater, and Leone was the only policeman around.
“Take the kids home. The school year’s almost over anyway,” he told Bruno.
“Yeah, and I’ll help him with exams,” said Fugo.
“If you’re taking responsibility, don’t take it lightly,” said Bruno, as if he were giving him a mission.
Leone heard the kids cheer behind him as he made his way over to the fight.
Two of the brawlers saw Leone approach in his uniform and ran off, leaving the third. He was a man of average height and a wiry build underneath the baggy clothes. He spat a bloody glob at their retreat and shouted, “Yeah! Run away! You think you can shit talk Ewan McGregor and get away with it?!”
Leone squatted down next to him and said, with his usual amount of judgment, “That’s what you idiots were fighting over?”
The man sat up and took a good, hard gander at Leone with a pair of dark eyes before picking up his hat from the ground. “It’s about principles,” he said.
He was young, probably younger than Leone. His lower lip and right eye were beginning to discolor and swell, but Leone could tell he was mixed, probably with some East Asian blood in him. He had short black hair, too.
“What’s your name?” said Leone.
“What?” The man sniffed and rubbed at his bloody nose. “Why aren’t you going after them?”
“I saw you throw the first punch,” said Leone. “What’s your name?”
“Ah. Crap,” said the guy. He looked as Leone, as if about to give him an alias, but shrugged. “I’m Mista. Guido Mista.”
Leone had to check, though. “Does the name JoJo ring a bell?”
“I’m gonna need you to come with me.”
“Ah, crap,” said Guido Mista again.
It was quiet at the station, so Mista’s voice was particularly loud that night.
“So, like I said, you’ve got the wrong man,” he said through a mouthful of fig cookie. “Not all Asians are Japanese. Kinda racist that you even brought me in on that.”
Somehow, he’d made himself at home on the opposite side of Leone’s desk. Nothing about the guy gave off the vibe of a particularly accomplished criminal. If Leone handed him a gun, he’d probably shoot himself in the foot or something.
“And I don’t pickpocket,” Mista continued. “If I wanted some jerk’s money, I’d beat ‘em up and take it.”
“That’s assault and robbery,” Leone sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “That’s worse than pickpocketing.”
“Yeah, but I only do it if they talk smack about celebs I like. Famous people, they’ve got a lot on their plate, y’know?” said Mista, helping himself to another buccellati from Leone’s box. It was halfway full. At this point, Leone was buying them to see when the baker would throw down his apron and tell him, ‘Okay, joke’s over, you have to buy focaccia now.’
Leone could go for some focaccia, actually. Bruno had forgotten one in his fridge the other day, the savory kind with rosemary, sage, and a sprinkling of those mushrooms Bruno liked. Leone would go home and eat it. Maybe Bruno was there, too. Leone had never formally given him a key or anything, but it’s not like Bruno needed one.
“Well, I’m done taking your statement now, so feel free to leave,” he said as he grabbed Mista by the arm and led him to the stairs.
“Don’t waste any time, do you?” Mista laughed. He took no offense. “Word of advice, my friend—and we’re friends now—”
“We’re not friends,” said Leone.
“Never accept things that come in four. That’s an unlucky number in Chinese ‘cause it’s a homonym for the word ‘death.’” Leone was genuinely shocked that the guy knew what a homonym was. Mista interpreted his expression as interest and continued, “I had this friend, right? Got a kitten. Cute thing. Scratched his eye clean out. I was there, and that kitten came from a litter of four. Can’t argue with the facts.”
“You got me there,” Leone agreed halfheartedly, “but I’m not Chinese.”
“Good thing you know me, or you would’ve gone through life smacking into all those fours,” said Mista, and Leone gave him a patronizing pat on the back.
“Just stay out of trouble.”
“Whatever you say. Officer…?”
Leone looked down the stairs. Sergeant Cavatappi was waiting for them at the bottom. Leone greeted him cautiously, “Sir.”
“I heard you caught JoJo. Good work.”
Mista shot Leone a look that visibly pleaded, ‘Dude, please clear this up.’
“He’s not JoJo, sir,” sighed Leone. “Just your average idiot.”
“You caught JoJo,” Cavatappi repeated slowly, in a way Leone didn’t like. “Now, we can wrap up this pickpocket case and save a little face for once. Move on to more pressing cases. Don’t you think?”
Leone glanced at Mista, who was beginning to sweat bullets, and then lowered his chin. “I understand, sir. Of course, you’re right.”
“What, no! C’mon! I thought we were friends. Why would I pick a street name with four letters?!” Mista protested as Leone dragged him past the sergeant and down the hall toward the holding cells. “Hoh, wait, no, no—not the fourth one, man!”
Sunlight was beginning to peek in through the window blinds. Leone hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep. Tired, he paused in the middle of the lobby with Mista struggling at his side. He turned back to Cavatappi. “By the way, you said JoJo is Japanese, right?”
“I got it wrong, then,” said Leone, releasing Mista from his death grip. “This guy’s Chinese. Guess I’ll turn him loose.”
Mista looked at him with his big, dumb eyes. Leone glared at him, get lost.
He nodded and bolted out the entrance.
Leone waited for the sergeant to speak. He heard the front doors close behind Mista. The fluttering of pigeons on the streets. Traffic was picking up outside.
“Abbacchio,” Cavatappi said at last.
“I’ll get JoJo, sir.”
“Abbacchio,” Cavatappi said in a voice Leone had grown accustomed to over the past few weeks, ever since Bruno had declared Leone his. “You’re a promising officer, but don’t get ahead of yourself.”
“I’ll get the real one, sir,” Leone said quietly through his teeth, but he could already hear Cavatappi’s footsteps echo down the hall. The conversation was over.
Leone hated that little pickpocket.
“Buon compleanno A-bocchino.” – “Happy birthday A-blowjob.”
Be sure to check out this Bespoke fanart drawn by WitchBoy for this chapter: Link. <3 Thank you!
Chapter 10: Think You're So Criminal
Mista’s on trial, and Leone gets him the only lawyer he knows. Also, Bruno starts wearing the black suit.
I was going to post this on Friday, but I'm traveling this weekend, so you get this chapter early!
Warnings for this chapter: sex, battery mentioned.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Leone found that dating Bruno Buccellati, actually dating him, didn’t change much between them.
Their cat-and-mouse game continued as it had before, just dialed up a notch. There was another layer now, an aftermath in which they’d reconvene in Leone’s flat as civilians, not cop and criminal, and it was affecting Leone’s work.
He was beginning to clock out and go home on time.
“Polpo is under house arrest while prosecution investigates the manor,” said Bruno, resetting the fire alarm after another botched attempt at dinner. Leone could not fathom how someone could burn pasta every time, but Bruno had a real talent for it. “Apply for guard duty.”
“Hell no.” Leone drained the pot. “I can’t think of anything I wanna do less than standing at Polpo’s door listening to him eat.”
“The police search me every time I go in and out of the place. You could feel me up.”
“I feel you up all the time.”
Bruno leaned back against the kitchenette counter, arms crossed, shoulders rigid. “You're being evasive. Why?”
“I’m not,” Leone lied. “I’m distracted.” That part was true.
Bruno’s slim silhouette was sharp, like shimmering obsidian. The latest Alexander Mcqueen S/S collection put out a black version of Bruno’s favorite white suit, and it was a stunner. Leone couldn’t keep his hands to himself when Bruno walked into the police station that day, brushing his knuckles along the small of Bruno’s back, his elbow, tugging lightly on the hem of his sleeve…
That suit was going to stay on during sex tonight.
Wait. No. Damn it.
Leone forgot he was still mad. He had wanted desperately to be a part of the investigation, in spite of Bruno’s warnings, but the prosecutor had a longstanding grudge against Tigre. As far as that man was concerned, all Abbacchios were the same, and while the situation wasn’t exactly Bruno’s fault, it did remind Leone that Bruno was the one who cut him out of Polpo’s arrest in the first place.
And the last thing Leone wanted to do was to spend his working hours with Bruno.
Leone glared at the spaghetti. The top looked all right, but he could smell burned noodles from the water he poured out. Bruno tried one and grimaced at the taste.
Look at that. Their relationship in a nutshell.
Everything seemed fine on the surface, but there was corruption underneath. If he were to ever catch Bruno, Leone would no doubt let him go. And on purpose, too. Meanwhile, Bruno would keep trying to convince Leone to quit the police force. It didn’t feel even. It wasn’t fair.
“I think we’re seeing too much of each other anyway.”
“Mm?” Bruno turned to him, noodle still dangling from his mouth.
“Think about it,” said Leone. “We’re having dinner now. You’ll probably spend the night. Then, in the morning, you go do illegal stuff, and I pretend to be a policeman.” Leone dumped the rest of the pasta in the trash.
“You are a policeman, Leone.”
“Not a trustworthy one. Not anymore.”
Leone scowled into the pot, as if trying to scry the remaining mess inside. No amount of polishing his badge would return its luster. His career and motivations fell on the caprices of a strange mafioso who could toy with his heart and leave him for dead. And Leone was at peace with that. In a way, these days were better than back when Leone was nothing more than a warm mannequin outside his uniform.
Was he a coward in not wanting to return to that, or had he spent his life being a coward up until now?
He hated the feelings of uncertainty that came with the uniform when Bruno Buccellati was asleep in his bed, true, but it was better than the days of lying there alone and not feeling at all—of sleeping away his boredom, ignoring the growing emptiness inside because at least he was an officer of the law.
And what a meaningless title it was in the end.
Through Leone’s silence, Bruno nibbled pensively on his noodle. He finished it and said, “I think I understand. You’re worried that I’m taking advantage of you because you’re more lenient with me as your lover.” Caught off guard, Leone flushed at the word. “And you’re right. I won’t hesitate to play that card. In exchange, my resources are yours.”
“Hmm.” Warily, Leone set the empty pot in the sink. “And what's that mean?”
“There are crimes in Naples that I want to stop,” said Bruno, “namely the ones I’m not involved in.”
“We have been seeing a resurgence of smaller gangs,” Leone admitted, and Bruno smiled. He tapped the tips of his index fingers together.
“Our goals connect,” he said. “I talked it over with Fugo, and he made some good points. I always need a legitimate way to get rid of my competition, Leone, and any criminals you take off the streets is a positive on your end. It makes sense for you to stay in the police force. For now.”
“Fine. I see where you’re coming from. The problem then becomes whether or not these criminals stay behind bars,” said Leone because Bruno’s proposal was too good to be true. Leone had personally witnessed bribes pass between palms as easily as handshakes. Officers, judges, lawyers. People like Polpo lived comfortably while waiting for their trials. It was the poor suckers like Narancia who fell through cracks in the system.
“We’ll work on that,” said Bruno, as-a-matter-of-factly. “Together.”
And that was reassuring, Bruno meeting him halfway.
Leone liked it. It eased some of the anxieties tying up his heart. He smiled a half-smile and said, “Let’s just go to Libeccio tonight.”
They could keep doing this. For a little longer, at least.
No, Leone decided, dating Bruno wasn’t the big disruption in his life that he thought it would be.
It was Guido Fuckin’ Mista.
Leone and Capelli were at the end of their beat, stopped at a red light, when Leone saw Mista across the intersection.
“Look, it’s that dumbass I was telling you about,” Leone was saying when Mista yanked open a car parked by the curb. The fool, this idiot teenager, pulled out a man and kneed him in the gut. A couple more thugs climbed out just as the man shoved Mista off and drew a gun. Leone fumbled with his seatbelt. “Jesus Christ, Capelli—”
The man missed all his shots. The other two began shooting. Through the barrage of bullets, none hit Mista as he picked up one of their discarded guns, reloaded, and aimed.
Leone rushed down the crosswalk. “No, no, don’t!”
Four gunshots. Three men fell dead.
And Mista just stood there like the dumb fuck he was, smoking gun in his hand, transfixed for a moment by what he had done.
Then, he ran.
And Leone caught him.
“Look, there was a chick in the car—he was beating the shit outta her!” Mista gripped the bars in desperation. “You saw that, right?!”
Leone glared at him from the other side of the holding cell. “I’m gonna remind you one last time to keep your trap shut until your attorney comes.”
“I can’t afford a lawyer!” cried Mista. “Please. C’mon. You’re a cool guy, you understand what—”
Leone grabbed Mista’s face, covering his mouth. “I told you to shut the fuck up if you know what’s good for you.”
“This is police brutality,” Mista mumbled into Leone’s palm. Leone shook him.
“I’ll show you brutality. I let you go last time, and this is how you repay me? By murdering three people?” Leone yanked back, knocking Mista into the bars, and Mista crumpled to the floor, groaning. Leone paced in front of him. “Now, my ass is on the line, you ungrateful little shit!”
“I wasn’t the guy you were looking for anyway,” Mista rejoined defiantly, staring up at him with his coal black eyes. Then, they softened a little, and he teared up. Leone hated that. Mista sniffed, “And… yeah, look. I’m sorry, man, I wasn’t thinking ‘bout you at all when I did it—”
“Shut up. Don’t say that,” said Leone, rubbing his forehead with his knuckles. “Don’t say another word until you get a lawyer.”
“What am I supposed to do until…” Mista pawed at his face and ran his fingers through his hair, as if the situation finally caught up with him. “Shit. Shit, shit, shit. This can’t be happening…”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” Leone squatted down before him, across the bars. He tried to keep his voice steady and gentle. Quiet enough to not be overheard, “You killed three men, Mista. You know that, right? That’s fifteen years minimum. What the hell were you thinking?”
“I wasn’t,” Mista wept into his sleeves. “If I’d been thinking, I wouldn’t’ve have fired four shots.”
Bruno was sitting on Leone's desk and talking to Capelli when Leone returned upstairs.
“You were late for dinner,” said Bruno. “I left Marina with a bottle of wine at the usual table.”
"Right. The double date," Capelli sighed. “How mad was she?”
“Drunk,” was all Bruno needed to say. Capelli took that as his cue to hurry out the door. Leone looked over his paperwork. Thank God he had a partner with good handwriting.
The woman Mista mentioned had given her statement and claimed to have been unconscious at the time of the gunfire. Mista could have been defending her, but he’d reloaded an empty gun. True, he’d been under fire, but there was calm calculation in that action. Leone couldn’t forget the remarkable tranquility Mista had displayed in those wrought moments. A prosecutor could argue premeditation.
So, was it murder or self-defense? The trial could shake out either way, depending on the judges and lawyers.
“You’ve got to know a good defense attorney,” Leone said to Bruno. “Any of them need a pro bono case?”
“You know the best,” Bruno replied, raising an eyebrow. “And he’s more likely to do a favor for you than for me.”
Leone walked into the law offices of Abbacchio & Lampascioni with his cap in hand.
The middle-aged secretary glanced up at his uniform, apprehensive until she saw his face. “Oh, you must be Leone,” she said. “You’re the spitting image of—”
“My brother, Tigre,” Leone finished for her, already exhausted by what he’d come here to do. “Is he in today?”
She smiled affectionately. "Third door to the left.”
Leone thanked her and made his way to his brother’s office. The secretary watched him go, leaning out of her chair, and he could feel her eyes roaming all over his backside as he walked down the hall.
He found Tigre playing golf on a little strip of fake green rolled out between his desk and the door.
“Leone,” he said without a glance up in his direction. “Have you come to take my offer?”
So blunt. Fine, Leone would get straight to the point as well: “I need you to defend someone in a criminal trial.”
“No,” said Leone through his teeth, suddenly annoyed. “It’s someone I met. He’s in a tricky situation. Can’t afford a lawyer.”
“I’m not running a charity here.” Tigre gave his ball a light tap, and the Abbacchio brothers tracked its journey in silence, until Leone nudged it off course with his toe. Tigre looked at him with the same irritated expression Leone was giving him. “And I’m a busy man.”
“You owe me,” said Leone, quietly.
Tigre scowled, his lips a tight line. He hefted his golf club onto his desk and gestured to the guest chair in front. Leone took a seat, but Tigre didn’t move to sit in his own cushy chair. Instead, he leaned back against his desk with his arms folded across his chest.
Leone felt like a child about to be scolded.
“So,” said Tigre, in the same tone he used for scolding Leone. “You’re using up your favors on someone you met, word choice implying you don’t even know this person very well. Stupid, very stupid, Leone.”
“You gonna take the case or not?” said Leone gruffly.
“Let’s make a deal.” Tigre pocketed his hands and looked around his fancy office, pretending to come up with some terms on the spot. Leone knew better. “Say I take your case and win it for your… friend.”
“God, what is wrong with you." Tigre rolled his eyes. "Listen, if I win, you have to quit the police force and take my job offer.”
“And what do I get if you lose?”
Tigre laughed and grabbed Leone by the chin. “Absolutely nothing, my dear little brother, because I’m doing you the favor. But really, you think I’d lose?”
Leone pulled himself free and told Tigre the story.
Mista was delighted to meet him.
“He’s like a taller version of you without the lipstick!” he declared, shaking Tigre’s hand heartily. “And what the fuck, his name is Tigre? You guys have a brother named Orsino, too?”
Leone did a doubletake from his position at the door. “How the hell do you know about Orsino?”
“‘Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my?’” said Mista. Leone stared dumbly, and he tried again, “Like, the Wizard of Oz? Babe named Dorothy lands in a magical place called Oz and throws a house on a witch?”
“That’s what the Wizard of Oz is about?” Leone turned to Tigre in shock. “Is that where our names came from?”
Tigre refused to look at him, staring dead ahead like he was the one being tried for murder.
But Leone wouldn’t let it go, “Dad’s name is Oswaldo, and Mom’s name is Dorotea… Are you telling me we’re named after shit from a movie you never let me watch as a kid?”
“Life is better when you don’t know,” said Tigre.
“‘Lions, and tiger, and bears’—wait, why aren’t you Leone?” Leone was beside himself. “Why aren’t I Orsino?”
Tigre waved to Capelli on the other side of the glass. “We’re going to need a different guard in here. This one’s having an identity crisis.”
“No, I’m fine. Just do your lawyer thing,” Leone snapped, standing back at ease. Tigre and Mista settled into their seats.
Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my.
“Hey, you don’t happen to have a copy of the Wizard of Oz lying around, do you?” Leone asked a few days later as he joined Bruno and Fugo at their table in Libeccio.
Bruno thought for a moment before unzipping Fugo’s back and pulling out a VHS tape. The boy froze with a toast full of strawberry jam halfway to his mouth. His eyes widened in horror.
Then, Bruno reached over to Leone and unzipped a whole VCR from his chest. Leone fell out of his seat and began hyperventilating.
“Why was the Wizard of Oz inside me?!” Fugo shrieked, jumping to his feet.
“How the hell did you get a VCR inside me?!”
Bruno held up both the VHS and the VCR and blinked at Leone, as if he had done nothing wrong, and said, “Ah. Narancia has the TV.”
Leone and Fugo finished their breakfasts together at the opposite end of the table and accepted Bruno’s unapologetic apology for turning them into human purses. Sociopath.
Then, the maître d’ brought Leone an envelope with documents summoning him to court.
“Oh. You’ve been served?” said Bruno over his coffee.
Leone scanned the paperwork and tossed it onto the table, peeved. “Great. Mista’s up against Gulli Eyelash.”
“That guy’s pure evil,” said Fugo. “He was the prosecutor in my trial.”
Bruno stared blankly at Leone’s letter and said, “Mine, too.”
Prosecutor Guglielmo Ciglio had an unfortunate surname because he had extremely long lower lashes on only one of his eyes. Leone thought it was a fashion statement when he first met the man, a sort of Clockwork Orange look, but Ciglio seemed taken aback by this observation, and a little offended as well.
“You’re going to give me just as much trouble as your brother, aren’t you, Officer?” he had said, scathingly, and Leone decided he didn’t like this man after all.
Ciglio’s heroes were the late magistrati Falcone and Borsellino, and thus, it was no surprise that he began his career as pubblico ministero in the 90s by declaring war on all organized crime in Naples. It was his dream to be assassinated by La Squadra Esecuzioni. Needless to say, the reason he and Tigre Abbacchio did not get along was due to their constant butting of heads in court.
“Here comes the pretentious bastard now,” Tigre said to Leone as they rounded a corner in the courthouse.
“And here is the mob’s whore,” Ciglio proclaimed loudly in return.
Neither men slowed down, like two ships passing in the dark and firing cannons the entire time. Leone staggered after his brother, looking back and forth between them in shock, but Ciglio disappeared behind his office door, and Tigre ushered Leone into a waiting room.
Tigre set his leather portfolio on a desk and opened it. “I filed to get you in as my witness before Ciglio did, so we’re going to go over all his interrogation methods right now. I do not want him to catch you off-guard on the stand, Leone.”
“I figured I’d be subpoenaed as the arresting officer, but hell... This case got moved up pretty fucking fast, didn’t it?” Leone glanced around the empty room and found a chair to sit in.
“Ciglio wrapped up his last case early. That one should’ve taken years, but—” Tigre looked so annoyed. “I don’t know how he did it, but he got Polpo to confess in exchange for a plea deal.” He snorted in disgust. “So, I suppose the prison will be his mansion now, and Ciglio’s back in my business again. I swear to God, he took over Mista’s case and railroaded it to this week as soon as he found out I was on defense.”
“Son of a bitch.” It all went down just as Bruno predicted. Leone sat back and linked his fingers behind his head. He watched his brother sift through his documents and said, “Hey, how come you didn’t take Polpo’s case?”
Tigre looked up from his papers. “I distinctly made my point to both you and Buccellati at the wedding.”
“And that’s the hill you chose die on?”
Tigre sighed and gave him a withering look. “I know it's hard to tell because you're fucking him, you absolute moron, but Buccellati is a bad guy. He’s going to be the death of you.”
Leone sulked, balancing his chair on its two back legs, studying the wooden panel work on the ceiling. Tigre wasn’t wrong when he said gangsters died early. He’s been in the business for nearly a decade, so he should know. Leone knew, too, after less than a year on the job.
“He has kind eyes,” Leone said at last, “and I want to protect him.”
Tigre looked at Leone, exhausted, and said, “All right, on the night in question, when you first saw Guido Mista…”
And it was fine to end the conversation there because Leone didn’t have anything else to say.
He answered Tigre’s questions, and then he learned to answer them correctly, wondering the whole time if Bruno was waiting for him at home, at the station, or if he was even waiting for Leone at all.
He was at the station.
And Cavatappi was waiting for Leone, too.
“Abbacchio,” he said when Leone entered his office with a tentative knock. Bruno was in his black suit, sitting on a burgundy leather sofa next to a bookshelf of awards and boats in bottles. He shot Leone a warning look when Cavatappi continued, “As you know, my efforts to put Polpo in prison were a success.”
“Well done, sir,” Leone mumbled through his teeth.
“But I haven’t forgotten you. You are, after all, our Passione specialist.” Cavatappi beamed. Bruno tapped his fingers idly.
Leone breathed in and asked, “What would you like me to do, sir?”
“I want you to infiltrate Passione.”
Leone blinked. “As an undercover cop…?”
Bruno interjected, “And I suggest he undergo the initiation process for Signor Pericolo’s team. With my recommendation, he’s a guaranteed in.”
“Usually, I’m with you, Buccellati, but I believe we have the opportunity to not only get a man inside but to also really see how Passione soldiers operate when their caporegime is under our surveillance,” replied Cavatappi. Bruno turned to him sharply, as if they'd agreed on something else right before Leone stepped in, and Cavatappi reassured him, “It’s nothing malicious. An idea I had. I just want a better understanding in order to improve our... functioning relationship. Unless you think Abbacchio isn’t fit for the responsibilities after all…?”
Bruno frowned because he was the one who put Leone in this situation. Perhaps he’d overplayed his hand by hiding Passione’s recent crimes behind a single officer—Leone—and now Cavatappi was getting back at both him and Leone in one fell swoop. “And why not Pericolo?” said Bruno.
Leone understood. “Because the sergeant wants me to get in through Polpo.”
“You always catch on quickly, don’t you, Abbacchio?” Cavatappi smirked. “Yes, I want you to report on Polpo's special initiation process. Your success in this operation will determine how we proceed regarding further interactions with Passione.”
“I determine your interactions with Passione,” Bruno said curtly.
“Do you, though, when your capo is in our prison?” Cavatappi asked. “I’ve been in discussions with the warden, and it seemed to him that Polpo will need extra security. I could have a word with him to make sure you always get in when you need to, of course.”
And the opposite could happen as well.
When Cavatappi said ‘Passione soldiers,’ he was throwing Bruno Buccellati into their ranks.
Bruno blanched. For all his planning and politics, he never once expected Cavatappi to turn around and hold Polpo hostage once the police had him in custody. Leone marveled silently at the reversal in power dynamics. They had both underestimated Sergeant Cavatappi to a dangerous degree.
Everything worked right now, this delicate balance in Naples and in their lives, only because Bruno controlled the police—because Bruno appeared to control them. To change it now meant…
Leone swallowed his anger and nodded. “I’ll do it, sir.”
“That’s a good boy, Abbacchio.”
Leone managed to while away half a week before Cavatappi ordered him to go to the prison.
He drove just under the speed limit in hopes that a bank robbery would pop up and eat into the rest of his day, but they still arrived by ten in the morning. Leone parked outside the prison and said, “What are you thinking?”
Bruno sat in the passenger seat, cold and silent in his fury. He exited the car without a word and slammed the door shut.
Leone sighed and rubbed his eyes. His ear buzzed.
Honestly, he didn’t know what to expect. He was a little nervous. It’s been a while since he’s seen Buccellati the Gangster in his full glory, but never this angry, this unreadable. And Bruno had said he wasn’t angry. He just wanted to be more cautious with his words after Cavatappi pulled the rug out from beneath him. But Bruno also knew Leone wasn’t wearing a wire and that he wouldn’t bug his own patrol cruiser, so why mince words?
Because Bruno was angry, and Leone was walking on eggshells after him into the prison.
The guards recognized Bruno and seemed a little surprised to see a policeman accompanying him to see Polpo.
“Oh, it’s fine. Abbacchio’s always following Buccellati around,” said the sole female guard as she patted him down. “Although, I’m betting Cavatappi put you up to this, didn’t he?”
“Nailed it, Marina,” said Leone, and that was all she was getting from him.
She stepped back, unfazed by his reticence. She was used to it. He was no Capelli after all. “Well, you know the rules. Nothing goes in, nothing comes out.”
Leone nodded as another guard okayed Bruno for entry.
The gates slid open, and the two of them walked down the dark corridor. The air was damp, and their footsteps echoed. Bruno had given him a crash course on what to say to Polpo, and it was what Leone expected: be respectful, full of conviction, and above all else, do not mention his weight. That last part was tough because Polpo had grown to roughly the size of a large bed since Leone saw him at Fashion Week.
“Buccellati.” Polpo towered over them. “What do you think of my new abode?”
“I will make sure it’s properly furnished as soon as possible,” Bruno replied with his usual Buccellati charm. Polpo laughed.
“This is why I let you handle things,” he said and turned to Leone. “And why have you brought me this policeman today?”
“Cavatappi wants to stick a spy in Passione,” said Bruno. “I figured we might as well use one of my guys and have ourselves a double agent.”
“Oh,” said Polpo, impressed. “Clever, Buccellati. And what’s his name?”
“I can speak for myself. I’m Leone Abbacchio.”
“Abbacchio,” Polpo repeated, rolling the name in his mouth as if he were tasting it, and it was sour on his tongue. “I could’ve sworn I used to have a lawyer by that name.”
“There was a conflict of interest,” Bruno explained quickly. “Remember? They wouldn’t let us keep Tigre Abbacchio on retainer.”
Polpo frowned, pursing his lips. “And yet, I have a hard time believing that the Eyelash would let a case such as mine go down without having Abbacchio as his adversary…”
“This isn’t about my brother,” Leone snapped. “Are you going to let me in Passione or not?”
“Leone,” Bruno whispered from behind, and Leone could feel his fingers digging into his shoulders. Another warning.
And Polpo noticed. His mouth curled into a knowing smile that Leone was getting a little tired of receiving by now. “I see why you trust this man, Buccellati,” he said, “but would you bet your life on him? He is, after all, still a policeman, and if he betrays us, you will be held accountable.”
“I’d bet my life,” Bruno said without hesitation, and he wrapped his arms around Leone, his palms laid flat against Leone’s chest.
Leone tried not to look surprised because he was damned surprised, holy shit, Bruno.
“And that leads us to my second concern,” Polpo continued, amused by Bruno’s theatrics, “which is... well, I wouldn’t want you to be sad if he were to fail.”
“Do not underestimate Leone Abbacchio,” said Bruno, his breath tickling Leone’s ear, his words tickling Leone’s heart. “I know he’ll succeed.”
Polpo pulled out a lighter and clicked it on. He set it in the window separating his cell from the hall and said, “We’ll see, won’t we?”
“Really?” said Marina, looking about as fed up as she ever had with Leone’s bullshit. “I tell you not to bring stuff in or out, and you’re gonna try and leave here with a lit lighter?”
Bruno had the decency to look apologetic. “It’s a special case.”
Leone shrugged and said, “You owe us for Capri.”
Marina opened and closed her mouth in outrage, but she pulled a few strings and personally escorted them outside. Before she shut the door, she said, “Abbacchio, be careful. I’ve seen guys come in to take the lighter initiation test, but I’ve never seen one come back.”
“It can be done,” said Bruno.
“Oh, shit, Cavatappi’s trying to kill me,” Leone realized.
The worst part of today was the fact that Leone had to undergo Polpo’s initiation while taking part in Mista’s trial. There was no way Leone was taking a seat on the witness stand with a goddamned lighter flickering in his hand, but Polpo said if the flame went out within the next twenty-four hours, then Leone was out.
Bruno offered to safeguard the lighter for Leone, and just as Leone was giving it to Bruno, Tigre Abbacchio stormed out of the courthouse to find them on the steps.
“There you are, Leone,” said Tigre. “You’re late… And what the hell is this?”
“I’m—" began Leone, but Tigre blew out the lighter and took it.
“Stop messing around. This is no time to be smoking. You get this back when the trial is over.”
As Leone was being dragged inside, he turned to Bruno. “What the fuck do I do now?”
But Bruno was too stunned to even close his mouth as the double doors closed between them.
Leone rightfully had about a million distractions on his mind, but he managed to answer Tigre’s questions to his brother’s satisfaction in front of the panel of judges.
The problems began when Prosecutor Ciglio began his cross-examination.
“Leone Abbacchio,” he addressed Leone. “Brother to Tigre Abbacchio. Interesting that both of you are on this case—”
“Obiezione,” Tigre objected wearily. “That’s irrelevant. The judges know we’re related.”
Ciglio scowled at Tigre and directed his attention back at Leone. “Officer Abbacchio, are you familiar with Steel Ball guns?”
“Uhh. All I know is Steel Ball is an American firearms company,” Leone said, glancing to Tigre. Tigre nodded warily just as Ciglio stepped in between them, cutting him out of sight.
“And you are aware, of course, that the defendant killed three men—”
“Obiezione!” Tigre’s voice rang out in the courtroom. “Wording is prejudicial!”
Ciglio sighed as he was reprimanded. He rephrased, “You are aware that the defendant was in possession of a Steel Ball gun when you apprehended him during the crime in question.”
“I found out afterward,” said Leone. “My partner and I made sure to collect all of the evidence at the scene.”
“And are you aware that Steel Ball guns are well-known vanity guns?”
Leone blinked. “Like the ones that are bedazzled with diamonds and shit?”
“It’s relevant, Abbacchio,” Ciglio snapped. He walked over to the table where they set the evidence displayed from earlier in the trial and picked up the gun. It looked like a normal revolver, perhaps one that belonged in a spaghetti western, but it wasn’t especially conspicuous. He hefted it between his hands to demonstrate the distribution of its weight.
“And are you aware that Steel Ball revolvers are designed for appearances and showmanship,” said Ciglio, spinning it around his index finger, “and that they are designed with such advanced safety features that they’re notoriously difficult to reload and shoot?”
Leone glanced at Mista, who shrugged like that was news to him, and he turned back to Ciglio. “No.”
“And as far as you know, this was the first time the defendant had ever handled one of these, right?” asked Ciglio.
“Right,” said Leone, frowning.
“And while he was being fired upon by three men, you would have us believe that the defendant chose to bend down, pick up, and reload a gun that is exceptionally difficult to reload—one that he had never held in his life, mind you—and fire back at his assailants? It made sense to you that he shot them, instead of taking any other option he had at his disposal.”
"Obiezione, leading the witness," Tigre objected, but Leone barely heard him.
Leone opened his mouth, and nothing came out. He looked to Mista, who seemed dumbstruck at the idea that he had other options at the time.
“Like running away?” Ciglio suggested.
Leone rubbed his ear. The low buzzing he’d been ignoring since this morning was gaining volume. “What was the question?”
“Don’t you think any regular person would have run away in that situation, instead of standing there, picking up a weapon, and…”
Leone grimaced. “I don’t…”
“I said, don’t you think—”
“Obiezione!” Tigre shouted. “We get the point, Gulli, so stop harassing the witness!”
“Counselor,” the judge warned, tapping his gavel irately until Tigre backed down and called his next witness.
Leone stepped down from the stand with a headache. Maybe the men’s room was empty, and he could hide out there in peace and quiet for the rest of the trial. And there, he'd think about how he’d royally screwed up. Whatever. Tigre would fix it. They’d already discussed the legal strategies for when Ciglio called Mista’s self-defense into question, and she was here.
It was the woman from inside the car.
It was the woman Mista saved.
Mista perked up at the sight of her, apprehensive and hopeful, because his entire case rode on not only on self-defense, but also on his defense of her.
The woman looked past Tigre, pointed to Mista, and said, “That man saved my life.”
And there was a vulnerable sort of fear and earnestness in the tremble of her voice. She was telling the truth, and everyone could see it.
Mista bit his lip and blinked back tears. His hands were clasped so tightly on the desk that his knuckles were white. He was shaking. The truth was there for everyone to see, to witness, to hear.
But that didn’t really matter because despite that, despite Tigre’s defense and everything they did, Guido Mista was convicted on three counts of murder.
He had used excessive force far too quickly, and ‘I didn’t think, I just acted’ didn’t cut it for the judges in la corte d'assise.
Mista was a murderer.
He killed three men, so he was a murderer.
“Thanks for everything, guys,” he told the Abbacchios with a grateful smile, but he cried when the bailiff took him away.
“Excessive force will get you every time,” Tigre said as he packed up his papers. “Remember that, Leone, especially since you’re a police officer.” He paused, remembering their agreement, and said, “And it looks like you’ll continue to be one. So, I suppose you have a small victory there.”
“Tigre,” said Leone, at a loss for words. “It’s not…”
“I can take care of a thing or two for Mista before he’s locked up, but from here on out, there’s nothing else I can actually do for him, short of appealing the case.”
“Could you? Since, y’know, it’d suck for him to rot in jail for being a good Samaritan and all,” Leone mumbled, and Tigre snorted.
“Even if he saved his own life and someone else’s, he did also kill three men.”
They were mobsters, Leone thought but felt uneasy saying because Bruno was also a mobster. Bruno had also killed two men and Tigre had gotten him off the hook back then, but the facts in Mista’s case just didn’t stack as favorably for him as they had for Bruno.
But both Mista and Bruno were good people.
Leone frowned. He set Mista aside for a moment and looked to his brother. “I just don’t know if any way is right anymore. Mine or yours.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Do you ever feel like it’s hard to see justice in this system?” Leone rubbed his ear. “From any side?”
“Justice is arbitrary.” Tigre smiled wryly and tossed him Polpo’s lighter. “That’s why it’s important to look out for your own by any means necessary, Leone.”
“...I’m not joining your firm.”
Tigre flicked him on the nose. “Just don’t get yourself killed out there.”
Leone watched him leave and looked down at the lighter. Before he could click it on, Bruno’s hand reached out and covered it. Leone looked up and saw those beautiful blue eyes, and there was something unsettling about the way Bruno looked at him.
“What,” Leone began, but Bruno shook his head.
That night, he fucked Leone good and hard.
They’d made love before, but this was the most intense, most tender, loving, and the greediest Bruno had ever been for him. Leone could only gasp for breath as the cracks in his ceiling came back into focus. He’d lost count of how many times he’d come.
I’m going to die, he thought as Bruno pinned him with a kiss, and it was a slow, seeping realization, this is Bruno saying goodbye.
And Bruno was relentless about it.
The next morning, he took Leone to an empty lot. The sunlight was a golden orange, and the only shadows around were their own. Solemnly, he handed Leone a carton of Bitter Tendency and said, “Use Polpo’s lighter.”
“Motherfucker.” Leone clicked his tongue. It was too goddamn early in the morning for this. He shoved Bruno away. “Is this my last smoke before my execution? I’m not gonna let you, of all people, kill me. You know that right? I love you, but I’ll kick your ass.”
“You…” Bruno looked at Leone stoically from where he stood, and swallowed. “You love me.”
Leone’s face grew hot.
That was careless. Needlessly so. How like Leone to end up in a situation where he confessed his love only to die immediately afterward. No, this was too humiliating a way to die. Leone wouldn’t have it.
“I’m not gonna let you kill me,” he repeated, digging his heels in. Bruno had the upper hand with his magic powers and shit, but Leone was ready. Leone could wreck him if he tried.
“Stop,” said Bruno. He took a step back, alarmed, his hands up. “That’s not what we’re doing.”
“Damn right, we’re not.” Leone studied Bruno. He would've avoided the face. Bruno had a great face. “What’s Polpo gonna do to us from jail anyway? I’m not scared.”
(Mostly not scared.)
“No.” Bruno shook his head, frustrated. He looked around and then back to Leone. “You know how a caterpillar turns into a cocoon before it turns into a butterfly? It completely melts before it can become a butterfly. It’s not a butterfly until it rearranges itself. You could say it dies first before it becomes a butterfly.”
“Stop saying ‘butterfly,’” said Leone, confused. “Bruno, this is not the time for one of your stupid analogies. Just tell me what’s going on right now.”
“Like me, Polpo has special powers,” said Bruno, his eyes on the lighter, “but his powers are to give other people powers.”
Leone followed him to the lighter in his hand. “So, if I click it on, I’ll also get zipper powers?”
“No, that one’s mine,” Bruno said a little defensively. “You’ll get something else, or you’ll die a horrible death.”
“That sucks,” said Leone. “What are my odds?”
Leone looked to the sky and walked around in a large circle before resigning himself to his fate and coming back to face Bruno. “In your opinion,” he rephrased, “how fucked am I?”
Bruno took him by the shoulders and turned him to face his shadow. A pause. Then, Bruno turned him back around so they were facing each other again.
“Is it better for you to be facing it head on?” Bruno muttered, more so to himself than to Leone. “Or is it better for you to be looking at me when it happens?”
“Jesus Fucking Christ,” said Leone.
“You won’t be able to see it until it happens,” Bruno explained, and Leone’s shoulders just sank because there was no goddamned logic to anything Bruno was telling him. He felt a moment of helpless peace because there were two things he knew for certain:
One: Bruno was just beautiful with the morning light behind him and golden clouds above.
And two: Leone was so, so fucked.
“Don’t tell him I said this,” Leone muttered, staring down at Bruno’s chest to avoid his eyes, “but with your connections, is there anything you can do for Mista?”
Bruno inhaled and said, “That’s what you’re thinking about? At a time like this?”
“Can’t leave this life with regrets. You understand.”
Bruno snorted and lifted Leone’s chin so that they were gazing eye-to-eye. “If I say yes, does that mean you’re going to go down without a fight?”
Bruno smiled as sweetly as he was capable of smiling. “Then, with my connections, I’ll see what I can do for Mista.”
“All right, then,” said Leone, rolling his shoulders. “I want to be facing you when it happens. Because even when I can’t figure out what I want to do with myself, being with you makes me feel better.” He breathed in and out, and he nodded. “And if I die despite giving it my all, I want to be at peace.”
Bruno smiled ruefully. “I thought you said you’d haunt me if you died.”
Leone grinned and flicked the lighter on. “Well, if you insist.”
And then, there was a golden arrow sticking out of Leone’s chest.
“Leone,” whispered Bruno. “Don’t move.”
But the world began spinning. Pain rushed in from Leone’s core and splintered him. He was falling, and Bruno grabbed him, shouting. A huge shadow fell upon them, like the Grim Reaper coming for his soul.
A flash of blue and silver and gold rushed out of Bruno. The morning darkened, and Leone could hear the sounds of zippers, screeching, and the trill of an unanswered phone began to ring in Leone’s bad ear, growing louder and louder until it hurt too much to bear.
And it ripped itself from Leone’s head.
[ MOODY BLUES. ]
Marina stared at the hole in Leone’s shirt.
“You look like hell, Abbacchio,” she said as Leone lifted his arms to let her inspect him.
“Well, fuck you, too, Marina,” Leone muttered. “Just get it over with.”
“Where’s Polpo’s lighter?”
“Buccellati broke it.”
“And where’s Buccellati?”
“He said it’d look better to Polpo if I came in by myself.”
Marina frowned at him, worried. “Does this mean you’re going to tell Sergio that you’re in a gang now?”
Leone thought about it, and he looked at Marina sternly. “I don’t think either of us should tell him.”
She nodded and buzzed him through.
Leone held up the lighter.
After a moment of silence, Polpo said, “That’s not mine.”
“Yeah, I broke it. That’s my bad,” said Leone, clicking the Frenchman’s lighter on. He set it in the window. “I’m giving you mine. See, it works great. I think it might even be an antique.”
“The point of the mission is to test whether or not you’re worthy of joining Buccellati’s guard team,” said Polpo taking the lighter with a frown. He looked it over and seemed not entirely displeased with the quality. “Saying you allowed the item you were guarding to be broken is… not good, Abbacchio. Not good at all.”
“I realized there were two ways to pass the test,” said Leone. He stepped back and gazed up at Polpo. “If I kept the lighter lit the entire time, then you’d know I was reliable and trustworthy as a bodyguard. On the other hand, if I let it go out and relit it—”
Moody Blues appeared beside him, sizzling like Nonna’s old black-and-white TV when it had been on for too long.
“—I’d get a Stand.”
Purple, holographic, latex, and noise. She looked like sex and felt like nostalgia. She was Leone’s restless mind, flipping back and forth between what-had-been and what-could-be’s. Leone smiled at her and turned back to Polpo.
“And I figured that was more valuable to you.”
Polpo eyed her, bemused. “What does it do?”
“She can replay any event that happened in any location,” Leone explained, and Moody Blues buzzed enthusiastically.
“Seems a little limited," said Polpo.
Leone gave a faux humble shrug. “You wanted me as a double agent. I don’t think you’ll get a better ability than that in a spy. Moody Blues, Rewind,” he commanded, and she took on the form of Bruno from yesterday. She clicked, she trilled like a phone, and Bruno’s voice from the past answered from the other end.
‘Do not underestimate Leone Abbacchio.’
Moody Blues whirred in agreement, and Polpo gave a chortle of laughter. He pulled out a bottle of merlot and two wineglasses.
“Congratulations, Leone Abbacchio,” he said, popping the cork, “and welcome to Passione.”
Leone watched Polpo set the glasses in the window between them and said, “Thanks. Guess the mob owns my soul now, huh?”
“That’s what happens when you follow Buccellati down the rabbit hole.” Polpo smiled indulgently and poured Leone a glass. Leone could feel Polpo sizing him up as he reached for it. “He truly has the most exquisite taste. But that is why he’s my favorite subordinate.”
Leone swirled his wine and considered letting that comment go, so he could get the hell out of dodge, but he couldn’t, and he said, “Just so we’re clear: Buccellati might work for you, but he is mine.”
Polpo sneered down at him and said, “I can tell already that you’ll fit right into Passione.” He lifted his glass in a toast. “To Buccellati, my favorite.”
Leone raised his glass and said, “To Bruno.”
Magistrati – “magistrates.” A term for judicial officers, including judges and prosecutors. Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were friends and both magistrati who were assassinated by the Sicillian mob in 1992.
Pubblico ministero – A term for prosecutor.
La corte d'assise – an Italian court composed of eight judges that tries the most serious crimes, including murder.
“Obiezione!” – “Objection!”
What if the world of JJBA and Ace Attorney were, in fact, one and the same? Haha, jk... Unless. 👀