Chapter 1: I.
Barbero is seventeen and lankier than the other boys. He rarely has an appetite these days, even when Nero invites him to have dinner. Especially when Nero invites him to have dinner. It's nothing unusual, really. Vanno would be there. And Frate… if Frate decides to venture out of his room when he isn't having a teenage crisis. Usually all attempts at communication end with a slam of a door, and Fio shakes her head, "That age…"
But Fio is not much older, and Barbero and Nero and Vanno are not much older still. But when they all have dinner and Nero talks about the girls he's been with, sometimes Barbero forgets that they are still teenagers themselves. He looks at his own skinny legs, all bones and no warmth. Unlike the girls who drip like honey and softness that Nero likes so much.
"Come out to town with us," Nero smiles as he slings an arm around Barbero's shoulders. "You're missing all the fun!"
But Barbero's heart clenches, so he shakes his head, "I have things to do."
Nero pouts, "You always have things to do, and you never have anything to show for it. What is it? Are you busy thinking about someone while no one else is home?" He says with a wink.
Barbero blushes furiously, hoping that his pounding heart does not give him away.
It is midnight and Nero and Vanno would be returning in two hours. They always do. So Barbero finally finds the right time to put out the lights in his room.
It isn't so hard to start. Undressing carefully, he lets his clothes fall to the ground. He stares into the dark room, Nero would be sitting on the bed, looking at him with hunger. He would hold out his hand, and Barbero would reach out and take it, allowing himself to be pulled into Nero's warm embrace.
Barbero walks quietly to the bed. It's easier when his glasses are off, and his lack of vision is another defense against reality, coupled with the darkness. A pointy knee sinks softly into the mattress. When he is sure he didn't make too much noise, he climbs on totally. His frame hovers over the sheets, where Nero would be looking up at him. His knees are feeling uncomfortable, but that's okay. He brings a hand to one of his nipples and brushes it gently. He arches his back, a soft sigh escaping his lips. As he toys with his nipple, a tongue peeks through his lips. He closes his eyes, despite it being so dark, to see Nero's mouth reaching up towards his own. Barbero would meet him halfway down.
He trails his hand down, reaching his belly button. The soft trails of hair are mere wisps in comparison to Nero's. The image is enough to send a jolt through his being, and Barbero let's out the barest whisper of Nero's name.
Barbero's mind allows him to be taken by Nero's ghost hands. Although it is hard to mimic the sensation of Nero's calloused, large hands with his own slim and fresh ones, it is all Barbero has in the darkness.
You're all I need, Barbero.
Barbero is not sure what Nero would say, but he knows what he needs to hear.
Only you can make me come undone, Barbero.
Maybe Nero wouldn't even talk.
His pace quickens as he has Nero kiss his neck in the form of Barbero's own fingers ghosting along his skin with his right hand, and Barbero lets his hips dip down, using the friction of the sheets to aid him along. His right elbow is going numb from keeping his body up while he spills himself onto the sheets with his other hand.
He shudders from the release, wasting no time in getting up, getting dressed, and going to his bathroom to rinse the sheets off so they do not stain.
Chapter 2: II.
Barbero turns eighteen with a cake from Fio, a badly wrapped present from Vanno, a nod from Frate, and an invitation from Nero to go on a trip to the beach. Birthdays are strange to Barbero - it is a marker of time; a reminder that things have not changed within him, despite things changing outside him.
Nero has brought in two new men. Vincent decided it was time for the next Don to build his own group. They seemed okay enough - certainly nothing to raise Barbero's suspicions. They even gave him hastily bought presents from town for his birthday.
"Nero told us it was your birthday, so… here."
"Thank you." He takes the two objects, which turns out to be a set of marbles and a deck of cards. He had seen them in Sal's shop last time he went around there.
Barbero is in his room when Nero comes knocking.
Nero frowns, his hand clutching his heart, "For what? He asks, for our date, of course!"
Barbero's own heart is actually about to burst, but he makes no show of it like Nero. "Oh. To the beach."
"Yes, to the beach! The car is ready. We leave," he checks his watch, "now." He moves into the room and grabs some things from the drawers and takes a hold of Barbero's wrist. If Nero notices his pulse quicken, he doesn't let on.
Nero is a good driver. Barbero notices he is the most carefree behind the wheel. Nero is humming California Here I Come, and Barbero absentmindedly taps his fingers along.
"Are you having a good birthday?" Nero asks suddenly, which causes Barbero to jump slightly.
"Yes, thank you."
"Come on, don't be so stiff!"
Nero pouts, and Barbero sighs, making a small decision. "It's nice, now that I'm here." He peers over at Nero, who smiles so radiantly Barbero almost pulls turns away.
"I'm glad." He puts his arm around the back of Barbero's seat and Barbero tries to stop himself from reading into the what-if's.
The beach is empty, but the weather is good. There are billowing clouds, and a steady crash of waves. Barbero wants to go in, but remembers he has nothing to wear. Almost as if he read his mind, Nero tosses him some undergarments.
"They were the first things I grabbed."
Barbero opens up the clothes, "You could have waited for me to bring something."
"It's not as romantic otherwise."
Barbero almost drops what he is holding, but when he looks over at Nero, he is simply setting up a blanket, as if he said nothing at all. Barbero is shaken, but in a good way. Or not. Maybe he misheard. Maybe Nero is just being his best friend and joking around. Maybe.
Barbero comes back from the changing shack to find Nero already in his own swim gear.
"Where did you change?"
"Right here." He is smiling again, but a mischievous look is there now.
"They should arrest you for indecency." Barbero places his folded clothes onto the blanket Nero laid out.
"I'm just giving the world what they want!"
Too bad I missed it, is all Barbero thinks.
Nero takes Barbero's wrist again, and Barbero is beginning to think of his wrist as sacred.
"Race ya to the water!" But somehow, Nero forgets to let go of Barbero, so the two of them are running through the sand, and Barbero's heart is soaring in the sky.
Drying off is the worst part. The sand is in the most unmentionable places, and any bit of exposed skin (and otherwise) is stiff from the salt. Barbero is uncomfortable as he and Nero trek back with their stuff. He is also tired. Nero sometimes forgets some people cannot keep up with his more athletic self, and Barbero was bent over wheezing at times. But Nero's hand on his back while checking on him was enough to shock him back to health.
Nero places their bags into the backseat, and pulls out a box. "Happy birthday."
Barbero takes the box, staring dumbly at it.
"It's a present… for you."
"You looked kind of lost."
"You already took me out here."
"I kind of thought this was the present."
"I can't get you two things? 'Sides… ain't you supposed to spend money on the ones you love."
Nero was smiling, but this one looks private. He looks at Barbero, "Open it!"
Barbero does, and inside the box is a set of cufflinks.
"I just thought, you know, since we're going to be made men and everything… might as well look the part."
Barbero is staring at Nero, and if the sun wasn't setting behind him, he would swear Nero is blushing.
"Anyway… I hope you had a good time today, Barbero."
"I did… I really did, Nero."
The drive back is quiet, Nero does not whistle. But he does keep his arm around the back of Barbero's seat the whole time.