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Lunga vita al nostro viaggio

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Well done, Niccolò.
Cheers to you, mate. You managed to waste all of your Chistmas holidays studying, when you could have spent them in bed with Martino. I mean, what was even the point of sweating over those books?
You’re too dumb for concepts to actually stick in your brain, clearly. So why bother?

No. No. No. Don’t you dare start crying, now.
That’s not gonna help, it will only add insult to injury. Don’t you feel humiliated enough, already?

Yes, he does.
He looks at the exam paper, where he has only been able to write his name and nothing else. His mind has gone completely blank as soon as he started reading the questions, and soon after he could feel the air getting thicker and cold sweat running down his back.
Dammit! So much for boasting, for saying that he would ace this.

“And if you don’t, who cares? It’s not like anyone’s life is on the line.” Luchino had commented, shrugging. And everyone agreed, even Marti. Because, of course, ‘failure’ is Niccolò’s middle name… Flunking had to be an option.

“Fuck this shit, I’m out.” He mumbles, bowing his head down in shame as he walks over to the teacher’s desk. He should have waited… After barely fifteen minutes, there’s no way he could have written out his answers.
Everyone in the room is definitely aware of that… And they’re gonna know that he’s gonna have to resit this.

He can’t stand the idea of running into them again. It could happen just about anywhere. By the coffee machine. Down the corridors. In another class.

Now, dropping out sounds awesome. That’s the brightest idea he has ever had in his life or something, really. Not just of school, to be honest. More like off the face of the earth.

Lock himself in, throw away the key and then hide under the covers until he can easily pretend Niccolò Fares never existed in the first place.

It might be a bit hard on Martino, and on his parents as well, at first.
In the long run, however, Nico's disappearance would prove to a blessing.
Mom and Dad can stop dreading the sound of their ringtones, as they wouldn't be getting calls from the hospital or the police anymore.

Marti... He's blinded by the fact that Niccolò is his first boyfriend, probably.
He must have never experienced what a healthy relationship is like. What it means to be without a care in the world, at least when you're with the person you love. And when he finds that someone, it is gonna dawn on him that what he had with Nico wasn't that special.

Better start cutting ties straight away, turning off his phone and refusing to acknowledge his mother's relentless knocking on the door.
Why is she even here? Couldn't she take a hint, when they met each other down in the hall and he didn't even say 'hello' to her?
She's got food, she says, because they can't keep on living on pasta and scrambled eggs.
Who's "they"?
There's no "they", here.
There's never gonna be a "they" again.

**************************************************

Ready to celebrate <3 ? (15:08)
Or to drink and forget all about Uni? (18:50)
Ni? Call me back when you read this message, please? Missing you :( (21:30)

After 3 messages go unanswered it’s clear that Nico is currently stuck into a shame spiral, and that nothing Martino says now will get through to him.
Thankfully he didn’t send the ‘I’ve been there too, you know? I once got a 4- in my favourite subject and I was like... If I can’t even do well in what I love, what does it say about me a student?’: making this about him, and sounding so patronising... Not a wise move.

He’s not giving up on trying to reach out to Niccolò, however. Knowing that he’s feeling like shit - spending hours focusing on his supposed uselessness and how everybody will eventually walk away and desert him - and being unable to help him... it’s unbearable.

‘That’s probably how Gio felt last year, when I tried to deal with everything on my own. Man, it sucks.’

No way he’s waiting for his boyfriend to take the first step. It’s not that he doesn’t have the patience for that - he’s surprised himself with how patient and understanding he can be, when it comes to Nico - but he won’t have him thinking that Martino can’t bother to try harder. That he’s not worth the trouble.

He spends the whole night trying to find out a way in which he can make Niccolò understand that he’s here for him, without overstepping any boundaries or belittling his insecurities. He can’t find any.
Involving Anna is out of the question. Martino causing unnecessary friction with his mother is the last thing Nico needs, right now.
Pouring his heart out in a letter could be an option, yeah.... but would Nico even open it?
Probably not.

In the end, it’s Luchino who provides him with the perfect solution. Something so over the top, so out of character for Marti that Nico’s curiosity will definitely be piqued...

"Guys, we should have a farewell party before we get our report cards... Because my mom is so gonna kill me when she’ll read mine. I’ve tried telling her that the system is rigged, that they’re not taking into account my dedication to learning, which I proved by showing up every day and my integrity... I mean, I would have all 8s and 9s if I cheated... And how is this outstanding honesty rewarded? It isn’t, and that’s so unfair. They have this grading bullshit all wrong..." And while Gio and Elia smiled, amused by their friend’s logic and the lenghts he would go to further his own cause, Martino found himself nodding along.

Luchì did have a point.
Now if he could make Niccolò see that as well...

‘A totally UNBIASED and truthful report about Niccolò Fares.’ He scribbles on the envelope, smiling as he pictured how Nico would shake his head but then proceed to open it and read its contents.

‘These grades do reflect the value of Niccolò Fares as a person, unlike others, as they come from the most reliable source on the matter.’ He writes at the top of the first page, before he fills in the report card.

Kindness: 10 - Niccolò is a gentle and considerate soul, much harder on himself than on anyone else.
Creativity: 10 - Prepare to be blown away... And you know what I mean ;)
Romanticism: 10 - Off the charts. He is never going to take you for granted. He will make sure you know that you are loved and valued, every day.
Dorkness: 10 - It’s impossible to stop smiling whenever you’re near him.
Charm: 10 - Have you tried to say no to Niccolò? Not to follow him to a dingy old building where you will most likely meet your death?
Smoothness: 6 - Don’t let his looks fool you, he’s not half as suave as you pictured him to be... And you’re gonna love him even more for it.
Self-awareness: 8 - He has indeed a deep knowledge of his own character, motives, and desires... But he holds himself to impossible standards: there sure is room from improvement on this front.
Sexiness: N.A. - It’s over 9000.

Additional notes: I personally consider myself lucky to have this man in my life and to be loved back by him. I am confident he can do great in Uni, and that he won’t let a bad day persuade him that he is not cut for it. Still, his well-being comes first so I will support any decision Niccolò may take regarding his future. It’s the least I can do. Fuck everything else.

He slips it under the locked door of Niccolò’s room, and then sends a message to the Contrabbandieri’s groupchat. They’ve all seen how tired and helpless he looked in the morning, so they don’t question his request.
They even bring food and drinks, and pretend that they actually care about winning an improvised FIFA tournament.
Nobody mentions Nico, not even once. Even Luchino steers away from the topic... Ending up sharing way too much information about his sex life.
He has to fake a phone call from Niccolò to get away before he hears details that would make it impossible for him to ever look Silvia in the eyes again.

And that’s when, with an impeccable timing, he receives the text he had been waiting for what seem like ages.

‘You’re unbelievable, Marti. U N B E L I E V A B L E. How can you even be real? I miss you too, btw. So much. I’m not really presentable at the moment and I KNOW you don’t care about that but I DO, so... See you tomorrow?’

‘I am not sure I can wait that long :( ...'

‘Who’s being hard to please, now ;) ? Focus on the fact that your patience will be THOROUGHLY rewarded.’

‘That doesn’t make it ANY easier, Ni!'

‘I am known to like to make things harder, am I not, Marti ;)?’

‘I suppose so... See you tomorrow, then <3.’

“Well, I guess it’s time for us to go...” Giovanni comments, as soon he steps back in the living room.

“Nah, you can stay. I guess I can tolerate your presence for a bit longer.” He slaps his best friends knee, and grins when Elia rolls his eyes.

“How magnanimous of you. Ready to be beaten so many times you’re gonna lose any will to play this game ever again, Rametta?”

“Bring it on, Santini.”