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Freek'N You

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“Open.” It’s said sweetly: in invitation rather than as an order. Still, Formaggio refuses, trying his best to pout and smirk at the same time. Prosciutto hums. “Not yet?”

Formaggio shakes his head. He’s so adorably smug when he’s the one in charge. And in this, an exercise that only invites satisfaction if it is led by trust, Prosciutto wouldn’t have it any other way. There will be chances enough to take - this is a time for giving. He lowers himself back down onto his thighs, taking care not to rest too much of his weight on Formaggio’s chest, and reaches behind himself to coax a hand through his hair. Even with the window open it’s hot enough to make it wilt against the back of his neck. At least he doesn’t have to be dressed.

“It’s your choice to make.” Prosciutto aches. It is a good, anticipatory, even ache, but it is an ache nonetheless. “If you’ve had a change of heart, I would never press you, my love.”

As soon as Prosciutto withdraws, Formaggio’s face drops - pout and smirk turning to sulk, body yearning up as far as Prosciutto’s pressure will allow. As in control as Formaggio most certainly is, he is also the one pinned down with a leg on each side of his chest. His wonderfully broad chest, shaved smooth and dense with fat and muscle. The mild stretch required of Prosciutto’s thighs to straddle - is more than a little thrilling.

“Oh come on.” As far as Prosciutto’s body will allow turns out to be not very much at all. Not with knees against his shoulders and the risk of crushed lungs should he strain anything but his neck. “Prosciutto, you’re not even going to play along?”

“Not with this type of game.”

Formaggio’s arms curl around Prosciutto’s thighs. Their skin sticks together at the point of contact, the sweet smell of the coconut oil Formaggio massaged onto his body earlier reactivated by sweat. “You never let me be the one to tease you. I want revenge, sweetheart.”

“What I do isn’t teasing.” Formaggio’s mouth is open now, in an affectionate - despite his words, he’s not actually annoyed - little smile. Prosciutto can’t quite resist stroking a finger along the underside of his lower lip. Almost like a thief examining a lock. Almost - because Prosciutto is better than a thief, if he must be a criminal then at least he will be a wanted one. “I would never deny you a thing. All I ask in return is your open…” He applies pressure, just a little, and Formaggio’s mouth allows it. Wants it. “Enthusiastic. Pleasure.”

When Formaggio laughs, Prosciutto’s finger slips in deeper, nail tapping against tooth. Warm and wet and so beautifully inviting. How tempting to continue onwards, stop this so-called ‘game’ in its paces, press that tongue down into its hollow and set a new edge to their atmosphere. Prosciutto smiles at the ridiculous thought and pulls back, smearing saliva over the corner of Formaggio’s mouth.

“Listen, ‘sciutto. It’s not that I doubt your talents.” Prosciutto raises an eyebrow. Good, because he has never given cause for doubt of any kind. “But I don’t think there’s anyone on earth who could make deepthroating as romantic as you’re making it sound.”

“Mmm. Should I take that as a challenge, love?”

Now you feel like playing?” The grip on Prosciutto’s thighs betray Formaggio’s thrill. So does the tongue, trailing over his lips, instinctively following the absent finger. Wanting to suck. “God, whatever, you win. I can’t even pretend I want to drag this out any longer. Fuck my mouth, babe, I need it.”

Prosciutto smiles. “Then open.”

Chapter Text

Johnny has the most beautiful ass Gyro has ever seen. And, not to brag, but he’s seen a lot of asses. Handsome guy like him? Never even has to try. Or, well. Never had to try. Usually the way it goes is - he sees a man with that interesting little something that makes Gyro need to know his story. He’ll tell the guy that, blunt as hell, and he’ll never fail to find it flattering. Maybe they’ll get a drink first, maybe not. Maybe they’ll find a bed, maybe not. Either way, Gyro takes his stranger apart, with his mouth and his fingers, never growing tired, always drawing out more and more and more and too much - before he even thinks about finding his own release.

They always wanna know how Gyro can make his fingers do that, and that, and this and - oh, he’ll never tell his secrets, but he can never resist showing them off.

That’s usually how it goes. Not with Johnny. Took a few weeks for Gyro to see that interesting little something in his companion, which was his own sorry fault, just hadn’t the focus for loving what with the race taking up so much of his imagination. Took a few weeks - and then he found himself watching Johnny as he slept, idly at first, then with more and more of that focus he should have saved right at the start. That hair, those worn fingers, those chipped teeth grinding together in his dreams - that ass.

And then, took a few days to lay the groundwork first, charm and smiles and just enough antagonism to warm the blood, and then - Johnny turned him down. Which could have been the end of it, maybe should have been, considering the two of them were gonna be travelling on together no matter what, but Gyro couldn’t help himself. Couldn’t stop watching, couldn’t stop dreaming, couldn’t stop smiling whenever Johnny looked at him with frustration and fury. In the end - or so Johnny claimed - he kissed Gyro just to stop him staring so damn much.

“Has anyone ever told you how beautiful this fuckin’ thing is?” He has to touch, can’t stop the urge, kneading his hands all over it while Johnny tries to work out where exactly they are on that sorry little map they bought two days ago. Can’t be natural to lose so many of them, but they’re already on their fifth one, and each new map they buy seems to be ever more fractured and strange.

“Mh.” Johnny grunts, in that way he does where he’s not paying attention to Gyro at all. Then: “Come fucking help me with this, asshole, I can’t read it right.”

“Too busy with another asshole.” Johnny grunts again - this time it’s his ‘i’m sort of paying attention but not enough to actually work out what you’re saying’ grunt, and Gyro smiles and presses his mouth down, firmly, on the rise of the left cheek. It’s a blessing that his partner sleeps naked.

Johnny pretends not to notice. He sucks at pretending, though, because he always goes too quiet and still and it’s unnatural - Gyro can’t get the guy to shut up most of the time, but when he really wants to hear his voice he clams up like he doesn’t want to admit he’s capable of having fun. Lucky for both of them, Gyro’s persistent, he’s patient, and he’s too good with his fingers.

He keeps kissing until the sound of the map crinkling under Johnny’s fingers gets louder than his breathing. He keeps kissing, he runs his fingers over that ass, up and down, pressing into soft elastic peachy skin. He keeps kissing - until Johnny groans again, and this time it’s that special kind of groan, the one that’s the hardest to coax out, and Gyro smiles in satisfaction.

Chapter Text

“How is it?”

A simple enough question. That’s the fun of it - so simple, and yet Sorbet is so taciturn he hates even to give name to his pleasure. The fun is doubled if Gelato refuses to continue without an answer.

Sorbet whines and Gelato presses forward, chest against his lover’s back, one hand tilting his chin just enough that when he speaks, he only has to whisper. “That’s not an answer, Sorbetto.”

So close - the straps of Sorbet’s blindfold divide his ear, the smallest freckle on his lobe is clear, Gelato is close enough to bite - and he wants to bite, he wants to hold his lover in his mouth, he wants to do what no other man has done, will do, he wants to feel all that power contained in this body to submit to him. Only him. It’s enough to drive a man wild.

Instead of biting, Gelato sighs, drawing back until they are no longer touching. Sorbet, eager in body if not in words, arches into his absence. If he had permission to reach - permission to do anything else but sit there and take whatever Gelato chose to give him - he would, Gelato is sure, because Sorbet can handle anything except their separation.

Truthfully, Gelato is much the same. Any torture, any misery, any brutality can be survived, if only they are together. He was the one who insisted that they share a bed scant days after they confessed their affection to each other - which Sorbet did first, unable to meet his eye, formal and ashamed until Gelato laughed and took hold and kissed him, everywhere but the mouth, me too, me too, me too.

“How is it,” he asks again, watching the way Sorbet’s back flexes, the tattoos at his waist stretching, distorting, shuddering as Sorbet grinds down, seeking contact that cannot be found from his Gelato in vibrating plastic. “Sorbet. Sorbetto, how is it?”

“Ah.” His mouth flutters open only briefly, snaps shut.

“With your eyes covered, I wonder.” Gelato strokes a hand down his stomach, between his legs, giving to himself what he denies Sorbet. “Does it feel more intense? Are you more full? Do you miss me more? Is it unbearable, my love, my songbird?”

“Oh.” Gelato can see his chest shake with the effort of speaking. “Gelato.”

“Sorbet.” He draws it out, long and delicious, a name he can say all day and never tire of it. Not when he can see how the owner of said name reacts - as if he’s been kissed, as if he’s been touched, as if he could cum just from his name said over and over. An intriguing thought. Not for now, not when all they will do has been discussed earlier, in detail, Sorbet’s eyes huge as he told Gelato that it sounded perfect, Gelato’s heart swelling with adoration for his so-willing, so-eager Sorbet. “Sorbet. How is it?”

“Good.”

It’s a relief to hear, even with the signs of that - good - so clear across his body. “More?”

Sorbet struggles again. Just that one word was so trying for him, Gelato’s so proud, so enchanted by it, he presses his fingers inside himself and longs for that good, that more. Eventually, choking on a gasp as he rolls his hips over the vibrator, he speaks again. “More,” Sorbet echoes.

“Oh, darling. If more you want, more you’ll receive.” Gelato moves forward, hand now un-busied, wet on Sorbet’s waist. Sorbet flinches when he realises where it’s been. Gelato’s legs push around Sorbet, pinning his thighs, breathing at the back of his neck. “Just one thing, my Sorbet, my angel. Do you love me?”

There’s no hesitation. There never is, not with that question, as if every part of his body is in agreement, could never doubt or fight or struggle with such a thing. “Yes. Always, forever.”

Gelato closes his eyes. He runs his hand down Sorbet’s stomach, to the point where the vibrator enters him, and Sorbet cries out at his touch. “You are perfect.”

Chapter Text

“I permit,” Illuso begins, and Formaggio feels his heart beat again. “Only,” he smiles, making Formaggio wait for it, as if he can hear the way his heart trembles in suspense. “Your right hand to enter the mirror.”

Formaggio’s heart sinks. “Come the fuck on,” he says, pathetically whiny and pitchy. “Illuso. Come on.”

Illuso only smiles, reaching out to take Formaggio’s hand as it materialises on the other side. It’s always a weird feeling, this division, even stranger than when he enters Illuso’s world fully. He feels everything - with more clarity than on his own side - and it makes his brain spike with anxiety at the sense of loss. But anxiety isn’t all bad. Not when you have someone who, jerkass as he is, will always be there to kiss it away.

Eventually. Once he’s satisfied himself. When Illuso’s done playing with his target. It’s not much different than how he is on a mission, at least before play turns to pleasure. Illuso laces his fingers between Formaggio’s, like a lover would, but they’re never like that outside this context. It’d feel like a mockery if they didn’t understand each other so well. Illuso raises the stolen hand to his mouth and kisses each finger open, pressing warm palm to his cheek. “Your nails need clipping.”

Formaggio snorts, phantom nerves singing along his arms. “Bite me.”

A flash of teeth - canines too long, sharp - as if he really might. “Your right arm. That’s next.”

Again, that ghostly pull, the touch like-Illuso but not-Illuso, and he’s in up to the shoulder. Illuso sighs and kisses along the length of it, tongue finding every nerve, lips tugging at skin, never hard enough to bruise.

“Please,” Formaggio hears himself say, distantly, like his voice is in the mirror too, out of his control - but yes, accident or not, that’s what he wants to say, and, firmer now, louder even though Illuso can hear every murmur perfectly: “Please. It’s not fair if I can’t touch you back.”

“It’s not fair? But Formaggino.” Illuso reaches the apex of the arm, lays a kiss at the joint, squeezes his fingers together - they’re still holding hands. “I’m doing nothing to stop you. Touch away!”

Tease. Torturer. Formaggio is naked, as requested, but Illuso only stripped down to his underwear, and fuck him, damn him, in the time between this and the last, he’s found himself a pair made of lace, with garters - garters! - to match. Formaggio wants to rip them apart with his teeth. The way the thick muscle of those thighs holds the bands in place, damn him, fuck him! Formaggio steps forward, Illuso glances up, watching him get so close to the mirror it’s like he’s going to try forcing his way through.

Formaggio meets his eyes. Begging won’t do anything - Illuso could listen to Formaggio beg all day, it’ll only encourage him to draw this out - if Formaggio wants more, he has to make Illuso want it too. He reaches forward, touches his fingers to the mirror, as he would a - a lover, yes, just like that, fingers barely making contact, caressing down. Illuso’s eyes flash and his smile falters, but it’s not yet enough.

You want love? Formaggio thinks. You want me to show you how I can love you? He flattens his hips against the mirror and Illuso looks down. Formaggio’s wet enough that he’s leaving a mark. He breathes out a laugh, Illuso’s gaze shifts to his lips. Perfect. That attention only makes things better. Condensation spreads across the mirror by his mouth, the edges of Illuso go blurry, Formaggio grinds himself up against the glass.

When it’s all nice and foggy, when they’re divided from each other by breath, when he feels Illuso’s fingers pressing down on his bicep, tense and frustrated, Formaggio strikes the killer blow. He closes his eyes - like he can’t keep them open, like he would before a lover - and presses his lips to the fogged glass. Softly, sweetly, mouth only open enough to tease. He hears Illuso groan like he’s right beside his ear.

“Man in the Mirror,” he says, and Formaggio opens his eyes just in time to see the room shift, feel his arm reconnect, Illuso’s body replacing the press of the mirror. Illuso tries to pull away, restore some balance, but Formaggio doesn’t let go of his hand. Not now, not when he can finally feel it.

“Hi there,” Formaggio says, charming as he can, grinning like the mouse that’s outwitted the cat.

Illuso sighs but can’t help smiling back. “Tease.”

Chapter Text

“It saves on water.”

Prosciutto doesn’t say anything, nothing at all, because he is not - not - so easily seduced into anything. Not love, nor money, nor fucking his boyfriend in the shower: an overrated fantasy he already knows will be uncomfortable from past experience. But, Formaggio said earlier, arms wrapped around his waist. That wasn’t with me. I guarantee I can make it worth your time.

He hadn’t wanted to argue, not at the time, so he mumbled something about - convince me - and went back to his eggs. Of all the breakfast foods Formaggio’d had him try, eggs were the most palatable, and the pleased look on his boyfriend’s face whenever he actually ate in the morning made the vague discomfort worth it. Years subsiding on only coffee with lemon until past noon forged a habit hard to break but, admittedly, Prosciutto was no longer a young man with energy to compensate for any neglected bodily maintenance. Formaggio sighed against his neck, kissed his cheek, and seemed content.

“It’s good for the environment.”

“We’re environmentalists now?” Prosciutto holds a tie to his chest, visualising how it would look on Formaggio. Neither of them are much inclined to wear them, but Formaggio wanted to make an effort for tonight’s date, and Prosciutto is always willing to assist him in dressing. Any lingering touches at the sides, any hesitation over the chest, any hand that strays unnecessarily close between the thighs - coincidence, of course, and not at all taking advantage of a lover compelled to be still for once in his ridiculous life. Prosciutto throws the tie down on their bed and picks up one in red. “That’s news to me.”

Formaggio, doing his best not to get involved at all in this process, naked aside from his socks, laughs. “Aw, c’mon, babe. We do that recycling shit and everything. This is the same thing.”

“Making love to you in the cramped, awkward little shower, as opposed to our large, soft, built-for-two bed - that’s the same as separating out our plastics?” Prosciutto smiles as Formaggio’s breath stutters. He only pulls out the making love when he wants Formaggio to squirm.

“Babe, trust me. I read all about it on one of those leaflets they were giving out that time.” Prosciutto turns, face asking the question his voice doesn’t need to. “Y’know? That time in Lyon?”

They’d barely had time to dispose of their target, let alone go around picking up leaflets. “You can’t read French.”

“Whatever, I read it, okay? So, y’know. Shouldn’t we be doing our bit for mother nature?”

If Formaggio wants it badly enough to do research - or at least, pretend to - then Prosciutto’s half-way convinced. But he does have standards. “The average person consumes eighty to one hundred gallons of water each day. Wouldn’t you say our work alone does, as you say, our bit?” He drops the red tie. Not the right shade, too slippery on the fingers. Ties are attractive in themselves, but their entertainment lies mostly in their convenience for grabbing.

Navy, perhaps. To compliment the sacramento green of the suit. “Shit, really? Hundred? I’m a better person than I thought. Well...we can always do more?”

Prosciutto clicks his tongue and gestures over his shoulder. Formaggio’s at his side in an instant, obviously hoping that weak little rebuttal was enough. Prosciutto turns and lays the tie flat against his chest. “Thoughts?”

“Uh? Oh. Yeah, sure.”

“No opinion at all?”

“No, I mean. It looks good. Any of them would look hot on me, right?” It’s true. Annoying, but true. “C’mon, ‘sciutto, we gotta get showered or we’ll be late.” Formaggio’s eyes widen. “Hey, come to think of it, doing this could save time as well as water!”

Slightly more compelling. Prosciutto sets the tie aside. “Perhaps. Unfortunately, I know you too well, and I know how long it takes you to…” He meets Formaggio’s eye just long enough to make him wince. “Finish. The water will lose its heat before you do.”

“Pro-ooo. I’ll be quick?” He catches Prosciutto about the waist, resting his chin on his shoulder. “I promise. It’d be fun, I’ll do that thing you like.”

“Mh.”

“You can even make it my gift?”

“Well,” Prosciutto looks down at the spread of clothes on the bed. He covers Formaggio’s hands with his own - their teammates may gossip all they like, he’s not made of stone - and shifts just enough to make Formaggio sigh. “At least then there’ll be no danger of you returning it for store credit.”

“You’re killing me. I keep all the junk you buy! Because it’s from you, my love, my, kitten, my - uh.” There’s a reason Formaggio tends to stick to that old staple, ‘babe’. “Cowboy?”

Prosciutto chokes on his laughter. “Have I ever told you that I find you devastatingly charming, my…” He searches a moment for the corresponding stock figure in Westerns. “My cattle rustler?”

“Ca…” Formaggio presses his lips to the nape of Prosciutto’s neck. “God. I love you.”

And there it is. The most compelling argument of all: love. Besides, they really will be late if Prosciutto toys with him much longer. He makes a show of sighing, leaning back against Formaggio, pretending he hadn’t made his decision long ago. “Alright,” he says, and when he turns his head Formaggio is glowing with excitement. “Happy anniversary, Formaggio.”

Chapter Text

“Oh my god. Oh my god, I knew it, I knew you were a biter, you little bitch!” Hermes shoves Jolyne’s face away but she’s laughing, and a moment later, so is Jolyne, lips red and slick. Hermes laughs in short little bursts, ah-HA-ah-HA-ah-HAH, Jolyne laughs in deep chokes, hhhhHH! hhhhHH! And before they can alert the guards or any other Dolphin Street busybody, they silence each other with their mouths.

The teeth didn’t break the skin, but Hermes imagines she tastes blood on Jolyne’s lips. “Fuck. I knew you were trouble.”

Jolyne smirks and kisses the raise of reddened skin, that tender place between neck and shoulder. “You’re into it.”

“Menace.”

“Admit it.” And Hermes can’t hide it. She is. She’s never been able to resist a girl with that kind of spirit to her. Reminds her of her first love. It’s what drew her to Jolyne, it’s what has her pressed up the wall in that stairway that’s led nowhere since the ‘70s, for what isn’t even close to being the first time.
“You’ll be the death of me.” Jolyne’s eyes narrow with pleasure as she strokes along Hermes’ arms, up to the straps of her tank. “Fuck. Yeah, okay, it’s hot.”

“Damn straight it is. Y’know why?”

Hermes knows what’s coming. “Why?”

“Because I’m hot. I could make you like anything, Hermie.”

Hermie.” She laughs as Jolyne tugs the straps down. “We’re already onto pet names?”

“You have beautiful fucking tits.”

It’s true. Everyone says so - Jolyne especially. Goes right for them with barely any preamble, enthusiastic and rough like she’s never got her hands on a pair before. Which could be the case - Hermes knows about that Romeo, but not if there’s been a corresponding Juliet. She has her complaints about the fact Jolyne never warms up her hands before grabbing, about her nails kept too-long, but on the whole? The attention is flattering. As Jolyne rubs her thumbs over her nipples, Hermes tips her head back against the concrete and wonders whether ‘Jolee’ or ‘yne’ is cutesy enough to match that Hermie, or if she should actually try to exercise some creativity.

“Really, they’re fuckin’.” Jolyne runs her fingers down the side, pressing in, then weighing them under her hands. “Beautiful. I could do this all day.”

“You better not!” Maybe some other time, maybe some other place - but definitely not here. Ghost rooms aside, there’s not such thing as privacy in prison. “If you leave me cold I’ll make you regret it, Dolly.”

“What?” Jolyne stops. “Dolly? Huh?”

“We’re onto pet names, right?”

“Mmmmmmh? Okay, sure, but I don’t get it. Like you saying I’m cute as a little girl’s doll?” She taps her finger down. “Because in my opinion I’m even cuter.”

That finger’s pressing down too hard now. On a nerve or something - sharp. “No, like. Ow - hey!” Hermes pushes Jolyne back - she only snickers and drops her hands down to Hermes’ hips. “The fucking song. By Dolly. Parton. Idiot.”

“Aw, baby! So you’re saying I make you hear music - and I thought I was the romantic one.”

“Wait.” Hermes grabs those hands, keeping them in place. “Wait, wait. Okay, please tell me you know what song I’m talking about.”

It strikes her that this is a really fucking dumb time to ask that. But the thing with Hermes is, she’s usually fine staying out of big things that aren’t any of her business - the little, stupid questions are the ones that stick to her brain. She has to press down hard when Jolyne tries to wiggle her hands free, eyes glued to those breasts she could spend all day playing with.

“I’m gonna have to teach you how dirty talk works, huh?” Jolyne, apparently giving up (at least for now), sighs and shifts her weight to her back foot. “Is it some kind of love song?”

“You’re fucking with me.”

“No, that’s what I want to be doing, Hermie. Song about prison?”

“Not even close.”

“I’m bored.” Jolyne pouts. Hermes finds it hard to look away from her mouth. “Maybe if you sing it to me I’ll get the joke?”

The chances that this is some kind of weirdass game Jolyne’s playing is still pretty high. Since everything that comes out of her mouth sounds like bullshit, it’s impossible to tell when she’s being serious. Hermes gets the feeling things would be that way even if they didn’t have these fucking magical powers. But Jolyne’s not nearly as annoying when she’s horny, biting aside. Hermes considers the odds just for a second. “Jolene.”

“Mm.” Jolyne tugs, testing Hermes’ grip on her hands; Hermes keeps them covered but allows them free movement up her sides. “Yeah?”

“Jolene.” It’s not one of her favourite songs, but she knows the opening at least. “Jolene, Jolene -”

“That’s a song? You’re just saying my name - not that I’m complaining, but I thought I’d have to work a little for it.”

“I’m beggin’ of you please don’t take my man.”

Jolyne glances up, meeting her eyes for the first time in what feels far too long. She smiles and presses her mouth against Hermes, at the shoulder, fingers rising slow as the rhythm of the tune.

“Jolene, Jolene, Jo- FUCK!” Hermes raises her hands to Jolyne’s face but doesn’t push away, not like before. “Your teeth, god. You’re such a freak!”

Jolyne smiles against her shoulder and bites again, a little harder. “Just,” she says, muffled into skin. “Showing my appreciation. Your voice’s pretty good. What, can’t handle a little distraction? Gonna make me stop?”

She bites one more time, lower, and Hermes can’t stop herself from shuddering. “Fuck. Keep going.”

Chapter Text

Diego Brando likes to be praised. Which is actually funny as hell because his whole personality - not that he has much of one - is centred around this ‘I don’t give a fuck what you think of me’ schtick. Turns out if you screw him good enough, it’s a whole different deal.

“Look at him, Johnny.” As if Johnny wasn’t already - impossible not to, considering Diego’s head’s between his legs, all pliant on his back. “Ain’t it cute how he gets when we tell him what a good boy he’s being? You’d think no one’s ever said it before.”

Johnny snickers, hand coming down to stroke Diego’s hair out of his eyes even though he has them closed. Probably thinks he can forget who he’s lying on if he doesn’t look. “Bet you anything no one’s said it and meant it.”

That gets those eyes open. It’d get those hands open too, ready to reach up and throttle, if Gyro wasn’t quicker on the draw. A stroke along the inside of his thigh is enough to have Diego shudder, eyes snapping back shut, pushing himself down into the warm safety of Johnny’s lap. Guy’s so sensitive to touch it can’t be healthy. It’s fascinating, and Gyro can tell he’s not the only one who thinks so: Johnny can play bad all he likes - Gyro sees the way he looks at their little playmate. The way he can’t stop looking. The petty little jabs are just to protect his pride and keep a sense of distance. It’s easier that way, if the Diego that wants to be told he’s good isn’t the same as the Dio without a heart, who’ll do anything it takes to win.

This is the second time it’s happened. The second time it’s been all three of them together, anyway - Gyro’s stopped counting how many times he’s ridden Johnny, and he’s only had Diego to himself just the once. He can feel the bruises left on his thighs, even though it’s been a week since then - and the reminder every time he straddles Valkyrie’s had him wanting more.

“So you’re sayin’ our Diego needs to work harder to get your approval?” Gyro leans down just enough to kiss him - on the hip, not where Diego really wants it - and laughs at how all those gorgeous muscles tense. “Even with him lying here all docile? I don’t remember you being so hard to satisfy.”

Johnny looks up at him. Fuck, those blue eyes. “I don’t screw him for docile.”

Neither did Gyro, not at first. He shifts, grunting as he settles on his stomach on the mess of blankets they’ve pooled together for this, hooking his arms around Diego’s thighs to spread them. “See, that’s what I was thinking before. I’m not denying how attractive all that energy is, once it’s directed the right way, but look at him. We could do anything we wanted and he’d take it, just to please us.”

Christ.” Gyro’s close enough lying down that just his breath’s making Diego’s cock twitch. “Say whatever you like about me, but one of you dosomething!”

When they met him that night, Diego riding up to their campsite with a look on his face like he knew they’d be there, there’d been a tense, desperate note to his voice. That note’s blossomed into a full-on song since, angry and whiny and like he really would do anything if it’d make them touch him the way he needs.

“And you said he was being good.” Johnny pushes a hand through his hair, rough enough for Diego to grimace. “Sounds like the same entitled asshole he’s always been to me.”

“You can always shut him up.” Gyro nods at Johnny’s crotch. He’s hard - his pants are barely hiding it. Gyro chose to forego underwear entirely as soon as Diego made his intentions clear. They’d only get wet, anyway, and who’s he to deprive them of the best view in town?

“Mmh. I guess. Do you think he deserves it, though?”

Please.”

Johnny jolts at that fucking - urgency, that need. Diego’s eyes are open again, staring straight up at him, hands reaching back to Johnny’s waist to touch, to pull. Gyro shifts forward, grinning at the way both of his lovers gasp - Diego because his cock finally made contact, albeit briefly, with Gyro’s cheek, Johnny because the movement pushed Diego’s head right up against his crotch. “Please,” Diego says again, louder.

“I love hearing him beg. Beautiful little thing like him?” Gyro sticks his tongue out, licks just once along his shaft. “Wanna take him apart until he’s no good for anything but taking your dick.”

“Pl-” Diego tries, pride entirely gone, but his mouth snaps shut as Gyro swallows him without warming. He has to use most of his strength to stop Diego’s legs spasming so hard they throw him off. Fucking jockeys.

“Fuck.” When Gyro has Diego settled down enough to look up, Johnny’s red and tugging Diego closer, trying to get his pants down without allowing any kind of separation between their bodies. Diego’s twisted, panting, tonguing through the fabric like he can’t wait. “Yeah - yeah. Let’s do that.”

Chapter Text

If there is one thing better than seeing Prosciutto with his clothes off, it is seeing him with his clothes on. That is to say - with them on, looking perfectly decent apart from the fact that his fly is down, his cock is out, and the look on his face is obscene. Aside from those minor details, Prosciutto could be in a myriad of contexts: his favourite cafe where the owner knows his name and consults him as if he trusts Prosciutto’s judgement over his own, the private gardens of the man who supplies him roses for far less than they’re worth, the hotel inside which they had shared their first kiss, Prosciutto’s hands soft on his face, knee hard between his legs, pressing, pushing…

Risotto’s mind is drifting. As it so often does when his fantasies are indulged. Prosciutto only has so much patience for drift - he clears his throat. “Are you quite done staring?” He waits a beat, to make sure he has his husband’s attention. “It’s only that I do have somewhere to be.”

Risotto, lying naked on his back, is in no position to feign the dignity required to banter with Prosciutto. He leaves that type of play to Formaggio - who has recently begun to join them in bed, after a prolonged period of ever-more-outrageous flirting and then, when their feelings could no longer go unacknowledged, several extended, overly-formal discussions on the security of their marriage, the practicalities of polyamory, and whether this was something all three of them were interested in pursuing (the answer being - yes, yes, yes). It takes all of Risotto’s effort to look up and answer. “You do?”

“I do, yes, Risotto Nero.” Prosciutto beckons; Risotto sits up enough for him to cup his chin. “I expect this will be shocking to you, but you must remain calm when I inform you that I have plans to fuck my husband in the bed he bought me as an anniversary gift, sweetheart that he is, and when I am through with ravishing his body I will lie down in his arms and sleep peacefully knowing that I have satisfied both myself and him, and that his devotion to me has no limits.” He tilts his head to the side. “Unless, of course, said husband of mine, wherever he may be, is busy staring - without even having the decency to touch! - at his own secret, magnificent lover, and the sight alone is enough to render him useless for the rest of the night. Isn’t that an entertaining thought?”

Risotto is smitten. He always has been, always will be, and knows that, no matter how clumsy he is at expressing himself, Prosciutto sees it all. “Will you fuck me?”

“Let me think.” Prosciutto takes hold of himself, stroking just once. “Just be clear, you, Risotto Nero, are propositioning a man you now know to be happily married?” He smiles, just barely parting his lips. “And in his marital bed to boot?”

When Risotto breathes, it’s in a shudder. Prosciutto still has his hand on his jaw, softly caressing with his thumb. “I could be your boyfriend.”

“Ohh, intriguing! I see. You cannot be my husband, Risotto Nero, because I already have one. So your clever little loophole is that you will instead be my boyfriend. Ah…” He strokes again, and despite his even tone, his hips move very slightly with it. “How unfortunate for you that this position, too, has been filled. Aren’t I lucky to be so loved?”

“They’re the lucky ones.”

Prosciutto’s eyes flash with pleasure. He liked that - he loves it when Risotto surprises him, when a compliment given hits the mark. Prosciutto is picky with what affections he will accept: ones about his body often irritate him, though physical adoration of it is acceptable. Ones about work he’ll dismiss due to his own high standards. Of course I did well. Once I set my mind to a task, it is already done! It took some time to figure out what about himself Prosciutto really wanted to be brought to attention - his heart, his impact on others, his sense of humour and the fact that he deserves to be loved, and that his own intense love will not be rejected.

“That they are.” He grips himself at the base of his cock. “We are a lucky three to have found each other. And yet...something about you moves me, Risotto Nero. I wonder if I could find some small space for you in my life already filled with love? Perhaps - if you are very good to me - for just this one night I could take you as my lover. For you see, one husband and boyfriend apiece is plenty, but one can never have enough lovers.”

Risotto reaches out. He wasn’t asked to, and Prosciutto’s eyes follow his hand as it moves to touch his waist. The suit jacket is embroidered, slightly rough, ripe-strawberry red. Risotto hopes he keeps it on. “I would be honoured, Prosciutto Nero.”

This time the smile cracks Prosciutto’s mouth wide open. “Yes, you would. And,” he says, tugging Risotto’s hand down to his cock, sighing at the contact. “Tomorrow, after you make me breakfast, you will pay for my dry cleaning, and you will be honoured about that too.”

Chapter Text

It went like this: a stranger on the street, clutching at his arm to stem the flow of blood. Not an unusual sight - not why the man who saw him stopped to watch. No, what made him pause on his way was his expression. Not pain, not fear, but a satisfied self-pity, as if this is what he deserved. Purple lipstick smeared away with the brutality of his suffering. Then - a curiosity indulged, a good deed for the day, a hotel, a pair of spread legs and the promise of more wounds to find.

Or maybe it went like this: a face seen once or twice before, though hard to be certain of it in such a dark nightclub. Stepping closer, then too close, the crowd pushing two steps where only one was intended. A warm mouth an inch away from his neck, a hand on his chest. A look of apology; then recognition; then lust.

Or maybe neither of those at all. Maybe, instead, this: two men brought together by coincidence one time too many, unknowing collaborators tracing the same foe, struck down minutes and metres apart. The first fell with his heart raw and bleeding from the loss of all he loved - the second with his heart left behind to mourn his too-soon loss. Two men, opening their eyes to the sight of the other, faces seen for the first time in the light. Laughing as they realise their goals were shared all along. Laughing as they remember the club, the street. Laughing with tears now that it’s all over.

They did not love each other. There were others for that - others lost now, though no more unreachable than they’d been before. It had been considered, once, twice, maybe every night of a lonely year. Unnecessary risk, the first decided, when he saw what becomes of lovers made too bold. He would never, the second believed, denying every cautious touch and gentle call that told him otherwise. But love is not all that sustains a man. They recognised in each other more than a familiar mouth that fit too well over broken skin. No human can understand another as deeply as they need - but they saw a reflection of themselves that was enough, that comforted, that permitted.

A bed beside them before they knew it was what they wanted. Black leather stripped from skin not as rough and sun-burned as it had been before. A circle of gore; a hundred tiny wounds that wept. They comforted each other in the way they had before, once, twice.

“Abbacchio.” One of them said, when it became too much. “No - call me Leone.”

The other kissed away the blood on Leone’s mouth. He thought to return with the name he’d struggled under for a decade, but there was no point to that name now. Instead, he spoke the one there was no one left living to know. Leone repeated it, pulled him closer. There was some peace in this.

Chapter Text

At first Jonathan believed Speedwagon thought of him as a saint. With the way he caught him staring - reverent, awestruck, devoted - there could surely be no other explanation. He knew now that he had been naive. The street-brawlers he came to consider his most trusted friends had taught him other words, other intentions: lust, desire, possession. All were there in Speedwagon’s stare, Jonathan learned, plus one more refraction even he wasn’t so innocent to name. Love.

He returned that love one autumn morning, in that place in the fields where he had once carved his heart into a tree. Speedwagon’s eyes drifted to it then, and Jonathan shook his head. “I can love another. She is, you are...the two of you - my world.” And then he kissed his fingers and called him Robert.

Erina loved Speedwagon too. Not in the same way as Jonathan, but she wanted him in their life just as much, and Speedwagon felt the same of her. The day Jonathan and Erina were wed, after the guests had left, smiling and peaceful, he pulled Speedwagon in white to his chest and told him: you too. Erina smiled, watching, later cried, and Jonathan knew this must be right. They were a family; they loved; they wanted.

Speedwagon wanted more than most. More than he would take, those first few months, more than he would admit to. Still, Jonathan caught him staring and wondered why until Erina took his hand and told him: “Robert wants you in body, as well as in soul.” Her eyes did not drop as his flared wide. “As do I.”

She was the one who went to Speedwagon. She was the one who told him to join them tonight, reassured him, touched his arm in the same way she might calm a horse put to flight. Still, he was shaking as they met in Jonathan’s room, and yet he was not the most nervous of them all.

Jonathan may have been a virgin, but he was not ignorant. He’d seen what men and women did in bed; guessed at what men and men did; knew it was not his place to know how women and women loved each other. He found none of it wrong. He thought love in that way could be beautiful, and even so he was afraid of his body as he had never been before. Was he monstrous, perhaps, to be more sure in pulling a man apart than in making love to his wife, his husband?

He wanted them. Of that, he was certain. He waited by the window for their arrival, after dark, a candle burning on each side of his bed.

Erina, confident in admission earlier, was not so sure of herself now. She was bold because she knew she was loved, and because neither her husband nor his would initiate. And yet she was scared of what might become of her if she were to obtain all that her heart desired. To be happy is to risk loss. It was not in her nature to run - if she was frightened of something, that only meant it was more important to face with full strength - but before she entered the bedroom she’d dreamed about for too long, she whispered a prayer.

She nearly whispered it again when she saw Jonathan by the window. Her heart ached with love and longing - he turned to her at the sound of her breath - their eyes met. She went to him and kissed him at the chest, the highest point at which she could reach.

“You are so big.” She turned to Speedwagon, who had entered with her but stayed at the door, eyes soft as he watched. “Who allowed this? He’s unreasonably big! How can he expect us to ride together on a horse, walk along a lovers’ path…” Her eyes dipped into the shadows. “More pressingly, share a bed?”

“Perhaps,” said Speedwagon, startling even himself. “We ought to have him on the floor.”

“Or - we could have him take the floor, and us the bed, since he is so unreasonably large and must be taught a lesson for it!”

Jonathan laughed, interrupting them. “Even so, neither of you seem much to mind.” His eyes shone at how both of them stilled. He removed his jacket, the two of them watching, and made to kneel down to the ground to pull his wife towards him. Her hand at his breast stopped him.

“No.” Her hand pressed down, feeling him. “JoJo. Pick me up, instead. Those muscles are more than decoration.”

And he did; and she was soft against him, legs thick and stomach plump; and he wondered for not nearly the first time what divine feats he’d performed to deserve such a woman. Erina kissed him, properly on the mouth this time, and when they broke apart Speedwagon had turned around, as if this was not for him to see. But if Erina was not his, not in the same way that Jonathan was hers, they were still partners of a sort, neither less than the other.

“Robert,” Jonathan said, holding out his hand, and even when called Speedwagon hesitated.

“I would not intrude…”

“Please.” Erina had twisted, turning back to look. “Robert, he wants you.”

“I do.” It was something Jonathan decided earlier, once the shock of being wanted in turn had faded. “More than want, I need you both.”

It had been months since a life without the two of them beside him had been a bearable reality. No: now he had them both, he would not be without either. Erina shifted in his arms and he held her close, breathed in her pressed-violet scent. A moment - then roses, smoked wood-chips, burned sugar: Speedwagon had approached at last. He tried only to touch Jonathan’s arm, to signal that he was there, but Jonathan had waited too long for this, for them. In a quick gesture, shifting Erina to the crook of one arm, he reached for Speedwagon, lifting him up with the same loving ease as he did only her.

In truth, their combined weight was more than enough to break a sweat. Speedwagon was no slouch when it came to muscles himself - bare forearms and broad chest drawing Jonathan’s attention even at their first meeting - and with Erina so much smaller, the balance was difficult to keep, but the joy of their shocked, excited faces was more than enough to keep him steady.

“JoJo!” Speedwagon’s leg twitched against him, as if trying for an escape, but Jonathan kissed him, calming him.

“You see?” Erina, face pink, curled more firmly against her husband, smiled at them as they stopped to breathe. “Isn’t he unreasonable? I say we test him, seek the limits of this endless strength.”

“Yes.” From her, to Jonathan, Speedwagon’s eyes flicked. “Yes.”

Chapter Text

It’s early. Too early. Risotto has a hangover, his eyes are too dry to put his contacts in so he has to wear those glasses that make him look like an old man, and it’s too early to be advising someone on what underwear they should have on when they go fuck his husband.

“Okay.” Formaggio waits for Risotto’s attention, hands on his hips, looking far too pleased with himself. His voice is slurred because (as Risotto notes with, admittedly, some amusement, which he refuses to allow to show on his face) he has a single black rose clenched between his teeth. He must have taken it from the vase by the window, a gift earlier that week from Gelato. “Gimme your honest opinion, boss.”

This is the sixth pair he’s been asked to judge and, as much as Risotto enjoys looking at either of his partners in a state of undress, it’s only lingerie. It’s all much the same. This new pair are red, lacy, and - “They’re too small.”

“I mean, yeah . That’s the point of undies, you get them a size smaller, so they, y’know.” Formaggio slides his thumb under the waistband, which isn’t so much at his waist as it is barely above his thighs, dipping so low over his crotch Risotto can almost see his piercing. “Encourage that special someone to rip ‘em off you.”

“...And every day, you put up with the discomfort of squeezing into them, just in case you happen to have sex?”

“Every day?” With a little smile, Formaggio turns to the side, admiring himself in the full-length mirror he dragged in that morning, along with the protein bar and espresso he’d decided constituted ‘payment’ for Risotto’s services. “You kidding? Once a week at most , babe! What’m I, a prude?”

“Most people wear them every day.”

Formaggio’s still smiling when he looks back. “I know that doesn’t include you. Those fuckin’ pants of yours, so tight they make a guy wanna - aw, fuck!”

There is a reason people don’t tend to stick display roses in their mouths: unlike the fabric kind, or the sort given in a romantic bundle, these ones have thorns. “ Fuck !” Formaggio says again, spitting the rose out on the carpet and covering his mouth. “Son of a bitch !”

“It cut you?” Risotto stands, despite the morning-dizziness, is at Formaggio’s side, coaxing up his chin. “Let me see.”

“Yes it fucking cut me, god I’m -”

“Stop talking. Let me see.”

Somehow, despite the fact that it was only a thorn, only a rose, when Formaggio opens his mouth it’s swelling with blood. There’s one rip on his lip, one prick on his tongue. A drop rolls out of his mouth but before it can reach his chin, Risotto kisses him.

The way they kiss isn’t yet familiar, the way it is with Prosciutto. Those kisses took years to lose their shock of - this is real, he is here, I am his - and Risotto’s relationship with Formaggio has been formal for only three months now. Formaggio grips at Risotto’s elbows the way he always seems to do, slightly too hard, and Risotto softens in response: lips only nudging Formaggio’s open, licking inside in cautiously. He has never been with someone who needs to be reassured in the way that Formaggio does. Words seem useless, sometimes, far too easy to ignore or distort. Touch is better. Risotto is - not good at touch. But it seems to calm Formaggio down.

When they part, Formaggio’s hands have sunk down to Risotto’s hips, and the bleeding has stopped. By the time their lips are far enough apart to breathe, Formaggio laughs, so warm where Risotto is so cold.

Adorable. You really don’t need an excuse to kiss me like that, boss. I know how that stand of yours works - you coulda fixed me from all the way over in that chair.” He licks his lips like he’s chasing the taste and Risotto wants to kiss him again. “Guess this pair of undies really works.”

Risotto can’t help but glance down. “They look good on you.”

“Fuck yeah.” They stand like that for a moment. It’s an intimate experience. Using Metallica with such precision on another - it requires focus of the type difficult to summon on so little energy. Risotto is starting to feel as if he can return to his chair, to get the rest of this show over with, when Formaggio speaks again. “Hey, uh. Risotto?” After a beat, he goes on. “I know I already asked but, like, are you gonna be okay alone tonight?”

They come back to that all the time. Is it alright, is it okay, do you still want me? At first Risotto thought it was only insecurity, but over time he has come to realise that Formaggio is burdened with kindness to the extent that he must ask this, again and again and again, because as strong as he is, he could never bear to hurt those he loves. It’s why this works - why the three of them work together.

Risotto brushes his thumb against Formaggio’s neck. “The previous pair were better.”

“Ris?”

“The black ones. Silk, with suspenders attached. These red ones look good, but those looked better.” He smiles as much as his mouth will allow. “I will be fine. Take good care of my husband.”

“Silk...yeah. Okay.” Formaggio tugs at Risotto’s hips and, when Risotto doesn’t break his grip, kisses him again.

 


 

The dinner went well, although Formaggio could barely taste the food, and after his second glass of wine Prosciutto had covered his glass with his hand. “I want you to feel everything I do to you later,” he said, as if he were talking about the weather.

The dinner went well - even if Prosciutto refused to split the bill - and then they were at Prosciutto’s apartment, the one he keeps just for himself, and Prosciutto is on his knees, kissing his way down Formaggio’s torso. He is slow, he is decadent, and he pauses frequently to inform his lover how much he appreciates his solid stomach, the curve to his hips, the trail of hair beginning a little beneath his navel.

“Gorgeous. And all for me, if only for tonight.” Prosciutto kisses - and catches Formaggio’s skin between his teeth, tugging gently. Up his hands rise, along the seam of Formaggio’s trousers, and in response Formaggio grips harder at his shoulders. Prosciutto kisses the faint red mark left by his bite and slips his fingers under the waistband preventing his mouth from exploring further.

He stops when he sees silk. Low-riding, like the lace, but not so tight. A bow at the front that Formaggio has considered cutting off before - is it too much? Does it ruin the effect? - but eventually decided was cute. Prosciutto looks up.

Formaggio grins. “Surprise!”

Prosciutto shakes his head, slowly, and is silent for a moment. “Fantastic,” he says, finally, and covers the silk with his mouth.

Chapter Text

Even the touch of fingers along his spine is almost too much. Even the feeling of Prosciutto pulling out. Even - no, the kisses over his thighs, his hips - that’s not almost too much, that’s too much . It’s already over, how can it still be this intense? Is sex always like this? This isn’t Illuso’s first time or anything, but the times before were - not worth thinking about, and oh my god he feels like he’ll never stop shaking.

When Illuso manages, groaning, to roll from his stomach onto his side, Prosciutto isn’t there, and another kind of anxiety overtakes him. “‘Tto,” he tries, and fuck is his throat dry. “‘Sciutto.”

“I’m here.” Prosciutto appears at his back, knee denting the bed, and Illuso has to hold his breath to stop himself from reaching out for him. “I was just getting you a washcloth.”

“Water.”

“I have that too. Do you need me to help you up?”

Illuso twitches his head to the side. He’s coming down now - the muscles of his chest are obeying him, he feels like he’s not going to go blind if he opens his eyes all the way, and most importantly: his cock once again feels like a natural part of his body, as opposed to some awful parasite only there to make him suffer. When he’s able to look, Prosciutto is still kneeling beside him.

Prosciutto’s hair is still down. Somehow, Illuso had half-expected him to have tied it up in some complicated knot during the few seconds he was out of the room. That’s the sort of thing he would have joked with Melone about before... this happened. Prosciutto’s one of those guys who can’t even unwind when a girl’s got her tongue in his ass . Never particularly clever, but it doesn’t seem funny at all anymore. Not when Prosciutto is right there, hair parted the wrong way, without so much as a shirt on. His mascara (and the confirmation that his eyelashes aren’t so naturally voluminous and black means he now, Illuso faintly realises, owes Formaggio a month of cat-sitting) has stuck to the sweat around his eyes.

“Are you with me?” Prosciutto holds out the glass of water he did, as it turns out, actually think to get. It’s a strain to sit, but Illuso does it, tugging the sheets over his lap in a way he hopes isn’t obvious. The water, now he can finally drink it, is perfect . “That seemed to be intense.”

No shit . “It was alright.”

If Prosciutto was waiting for some sort of permission, then something in the dismissive way Illuso said that was enough. He smiles, places his hand on the sheets. There’s a red scratch on his shoulder. “Can I clean you up?”

That sounds great. “No, I got it.”

Prosciutto hands him the washcloth and, as if he knows exactly what to do in every situation, as if the two of them aren’t the same fucking age, he averts his eyes to allow Illuso some dignity. Illuso moves the sheet.

How did this happen? Impulsively, Illuso supposed. Or he’d initiated it impulsively, because he hadn’t expected anything to actually happen, because - Illuso flirts with all of their teammates. Formaggio because that’s just how they are together, Melone because it’s exciting, Ghiaccio because he gets so embarrassed about it - but not Prosciutto, not until tonight.

“Do you mind if I smoke?”

Obviously I do. “Hmm...nah.”

Maybe it was because everyone else was either on a job or taking care of whatever - personal business they have. Illuso doesn’t follow their lives. If they’re out drinking or killing time in the HQ’s lounge, and the conversation goes personal , then Illuso shuts it down. None of them really know each other and that’s for the best. It’s a lesson they’ve all had to learn.

Prosciutto lights up and Illuso throws the dirty washcloth towards the laundry hamper in the corner of the room, because of course Prosciutto’s the type of functional human being who’d have shit like that. It lands short.

“Would you like more water?”

I don’t know what I want .

Anyway, everyone else had their own business to attend to, professional or personal. Except for Illuso, and it was strange to wander the headquarters on the wrong side of the mirror - everything flipped around, doors in their wrong places, the smell of the walls and the noise of his feet on the ground somehow so much less intense. He’s lived with this team for three years and he still spends most of his time alone, in the world where he is the only master, safe (and slightly cold) until it’s suddenly all too much and he’s sure he’ll die unless he sees another human being. Illuso’s never really sure how long he spends in the mirror. He never asks.

Prosciutto’s turned to look back at him and Illuso isn’t sure why until he realises he never answered the question. “No, thanks.”

The cigarette’s only half smoked but Prosciutto puts it out on the ashtray beside the bed. There are bruises along his back. “Illuso, I hadn’t expected you to approach me the way you did, but I don’t regret at all what came of it. I get the feeling that isn’t mutual.”

“You’re asking me if - wait, no, what are you asking me?”

“Well.” The lighter clicks on again, this time only to light a candle. “You’re obviously uncomfortable. I hoped you might express something yourself about why that is, but I understand that might be difficult.” When Prosciutto hunches forward, the indentations of his spine twist, become too clear against his skin. “That is, if the reason is to do with me.”

Illuso had grown bold in those quiet, heavy corridors, opening doors and examining marks on their frame, trying to test if there was an end to the differences between this world and his. He had opened one door too many, and there, without his jacket or shoes, book shut over his hands and eyes on his bedroom window, was Prosciutto. They looked at each other.

“It’s to do with me.”

This time the thing that Illuso realises is that he spoke his thoughts out loud. Prosciutto looks uncertain. Illuso’s never seen him look uncertain before. His hair is still parted the wrong way and Illuso wants to touch it. He wonders if he looks just as much a mess.

“With…” Prosciutto breaks the pause. “You?”

It’s far too much to tell someone. Not when Illuso can’t even think the words in his head. Not when - it had been their casual familiarity with each other, their trust and boldness and the false sense of power - that had been why Sorbet and Gelato died. It wasn’t because they betrayed the boss, no, it was this - this weakness that led his steps along the corridor, allowed him to smile at Prosciutto, made him incapable of refusing the invitation to share a drink - it was this that killed them. 

There are too frequently times when someone cannot share their heart, not at all, being both too weak and too strong to make that move. “I’m scared,” Illuso says, and wishes he hadn’t said even that.

“I am too.” Prosciutto’s lips are bruised and swollen. There won’t be a way of hiding that later. “Can I hold you?”

Illuso lays down and says yes, and Prosciutto is so much warmer than the mirror.

Chapter Text

Abbacchio thought that the first time fucking the love of your life was supposed to be spontaneous, this - I can’t hold myself back anymore, I must have you, I adore you - this inevitable conclusion to meeting the one you never knew you needed until he was laughing at a stupid pun you made over dinner, cheeks flushed with surprise at his own reaction. Abbacchio had seen Buccellati laugh before, but not like that. Not because of him.

There had to be something much more inspired than that. Who should be able to say they fell, so deeply there was no choice but to drown, into love because of an unguarded laugh? Where was Abbacchio’s grand gesture? Where was the confession that remade him, the serendipitous night where everything pointed to this connection being the most important he would ever experience? Why should he feel so uncertain even as he knows he’s in love with Buccellati - because isn’t love, true love, supposed to destroy even the idea of doubt?

Abbacchio was in love with Buccellati, the doubt wasn’t about that. It was about - would we be risking something too great? Would we treat each other right? Is this how we want our lives to go? He had never realised that those questions don’t go away when you fall in love.

The one thing he never asked himself was whether Buccellati loved him back. He’d known when they looked at each other over the table. Buccellati covered his mouth as if he’d only been coughing and no one else seemed to notice what had happened, except for Abbacchio, who knew something had changed.

Buccellati confessed in the way he does everything. Seriously, guardedly, as if it were a problem for him to solve. I think my feelings towards you may have changed. Abbacchio responded as passively as he could. Nothing else needs to change. They revisited the conversation several times: Buccellati gradually expressing more of himself, Abbacchio learning to accept the parts of Buccellati he didn’t understand or like. It wasn’t dramatic. They decided to start a relationship.

Are you my boyfriend now? Bruno - Bruno then, Bruno was how he’d asked to be called, when they were in private - said with a smile.

I feel too old to be someone’s boyfriend.

Manfriend! Bruno said, taking Abbacchio’s hands in his. Or - you could just be my partner. Although, Leone, you’re only nineteen. Don’t grow old so fast.

The topic of sex came up just as seriously as the topic of love. Except this time, Bruno’s head was on Leone’s lap, resting there after a difficult day’s work. Doesn’t partner seem a little formal, Leone? A pause. How do you feel about becoming my lover?

That too, was revisited, boundaries were uncovered, fears displaced, trust navigated. Leone confessed it was his first time. Bruno promised to take care of him. They set a date. With their schedules - even as ridiculous as planning for something like sex felt - they’d needed to. Bruno said that he loved him, even that he desired him, but he could control himself. Of course I can wait , he’d said, slightly confused. Leone tried not to worry about what that meant.

Bruno had a house that no one else knew about. Only a small one, but bigger than the apartment Leone had come to feel safe in. They’d have privacy there. My neighbours understand the importance of respectful distance. Besides - I have very thick curtains. Leone agreed it would be the best place. He visited it twice before the date in order to be sure of it.

Neither of them worked set hours. It was a matter less of what needed to be done each week, more of maintaining a state of permanent availability. Most times there would be others to make rounds or show the presence of Passione on the streets. Bruno was so young, but already he was important enough for that work to be a waste of his time. Leone was...not important. But he was specialised - and that meant he could more or less do as he pleased. There was always going to be a chance that their date would have to be cancelled, and some part of Leone hoped that it would be. It wasn’t.

Bruno met him at the door like he would any other man. It was only inside that he smiled, asked if Leone would mind if they kissed.

“Is it silly for me to ask every time?” Bruno reached out, touched Leone’s hair. “Only, I do so like to hear you say yes.”

When they parted, Bruno asked him if he’d like any tea, or water, and Leone said no because he thought his shaking hands would spill whatever was given. “Something to eat?”

“I’m not sure if I could keep it down.” Leone thought he could make that sound funny. Bruno only looked concerned, his hand pausing next to Leone’s cheek.

“You’re sick?”

“No, I…” A moment, and then he covered Bruno’s hand with his own. Bruno’s eyes sparkled with the permission he’d been given. “I just meant that I’m nervous.”

“Leone, I hope I’ve made this clear already.” Bruno’s thumb was agonisingly soft on Leone’s cheek. “But I want you to know that we never have to do anything that would make you uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter how much time we’ve spent planning something. You can always change your mind, and I will never, ever, be disappointed.”

“I love you.”

Bruno smiled. “I love you too. So much.”

“I want to do this. I’m nervous, but...I want to.”

“I want to as well.” Bruno reached down to take both of Leone’s hands in his. He squeezed, softly, enough to release the tension held there. “Thank you for coming, Leone.”

The first time Leone made love to Bruno Buccellati, the man he had chosen and who had chosen him, who might not be his soulmate but who was, nonetheless, the man who made him feel as if he were alive - the first time they were together, it was carefully planned, cautiously navigated, taken slowly and without desperation. There was mess, there was laughter, and their rhythms weren’t always in sync. Leone reached up to Bruno and pulled him down and they kissed, and for the first time, Leone felt no doubt.

Chapter Text

The first thing Johnny did, when it was all over, was walk - and walking didn’t feel nearly as good as he hoped it would - all the fucking way back to the sad little crumble of dirt he’d left the president in. Took him the better part of a day to get there. The second thing Johnny did was piss on it. That felt just as good as he’d hoped, at least.

As for the third thing, well. The third thing, technically speaking, did him. Diego Brando had survived, after all, and Johnny couldn’t even find it within himself to call it unfair. Gyro was gone. Dio was still here. Johnny was still here. Something wasn’t right about all that but Johnny was tired. 

Diego looked like shit. And Johnny would find that funny if he wasn’t sure he looked even worse. Diego found him still by the grave, wrinkled his nose at the smell, didn’t comment on it. Didn’t comment on his legs working again either. Probably just as tired as Johnny by that point.

They stood there a while, looking at the crack in the earth that no one would ever think to investigate, knowing Valentine would never be found and memorialised, until Johnny couldn’t take the ache and sat down. Fucking stupid to come all the way out here. Fucking stupid to leave Slow Dancer behind, he didn’t even know how he was gonna make it back. Maybe if he had to crawl that’d be a kind of penance.

“He’s really gone?” Diego, finally, acknowledged Johnny’s presence. Shame - Johnny was actually starting to think he was bearable with his trap shut. Almost felt sympathetic for whatever the fuck he’d been through, too, because of the ripped clothes and matted blood. Looked like someone had fucking run him over.

When Diego caught him staring, Johnny held his gaze for a moment, then looked down at the crack. “Yeah. No coming back from that. Corpse gone too. It’s over.”

“And the race?”

“Didn’t win.”

Diego clicked his tongue. “Obviously. Did Zeppeli?”

Johnny didn’t really feel like answering that. So he didn’t, and, after a few minutes, instead of gloating about his defeat or shit-talking Gyro or somehow managing to imply that despite everything, Johnny was still a loser while he remained a winner, Diego crouched down next to him. He rested on the balls of his feet - tense and full of energy, even now - hands clutching at his knees, staring straight ahead. Looked almost human, albeit a fuckin’ freaky one, apart from the cracks on his cheeks, left there like he didn’t have the energy to pull himself back together. Harder to miss them now that his hat was gone.

“Did…” Johnny didn’t know why he bothered asking. Not like either of them had ever really tried to be polite. Weird time to start doing that now. “Hot Pants?”

Diego shook his head. “Gone.”

“Just us, then.”

“Mm.”

Just them, and not much reason to stay. Johnny’d already decided, on the walk over, that he was gonna take Gyro’s body back himself. Hadn’t thought about the afterwards, but maybe he’d just stay there. See if any of those stories Gyro’d told him at night, across the fire, eyes bright and playful, had been true. See what kind of a world had produced a man like that, who could look at a person like Johnny and find something worth loving.

Could make a future for himself there. Despite how he felt, Johnny was still a young man, a strong one too, he could maybe do some good if he tried. It wasn’t much of a plan, but it was something. 

Gyro once asked him, curled against his back in the dark, if Johnny would consider going back to Naples with him. Johnny pretended to be asleep. He regretted that now. Even if he hadn’t been sure, it’d have been better to agree - it might have made Gyro happy.

“JoJo.” Diego had been watching him, and Johnny wasn’t sure for how long. “Do you have water?”

Couple days ago, Johnny would have gestured towards the still-damp patch of piss and told Diego to help himself, and he would have been proud of himself for thinking of it so quickly too. Instead, like an idiot, he passed him the canteen.

Diego didn’t look away as he drank. Water trickled from the cracks in his cheeks, coated his jaw, dripping, dripping onto his knees, and the only thing he could do to get any of it down was to tip his head back. His neck was so long. It moved with every gulp. Blood, dried, now flaked away, disappearing under the shredded collar of his polo. Johnny didn’t look away either.

 


 

 

What would Valentine have hated more? The golden baptism or the fact that John ny got railed on top of his miserable old corpse? Maybe he was okay with men fucking other men. Maybe he was an open-minded kinda fascist, thought that people could love who they wanted so long as they were white. Every knock of Johnny’s head against the earth was a personal fuck you , I’m alive and you’re not, I’m so fucking alive, so fucking alive!

“Your thighs - soft, fuck, JoJo!” Johnny didn’t remember who started this. Hopefully him - for the sake of his pride, he’ll say it was him - him with his arm around Diego’s neck, unbalancing him from that half-feral crouch, kissing him before he hit the ground. Definitely not Diego, reaching down, cupping his cheek like he’d never seen a kiss off-stage before, stopping before their mouths met, breath stinking of blood. “So good. Christ. God.

However it had happened (definitely starting with Johnny, definitely ), he’d ended up on his back, Diego on top, and because they hadn’t anything necessary for the full act and neither of them were clean enough to use their mouths, Diego was fucking his thighs, so fast he must be leaving burns, and Johnny was so fucking turned on he didn’t even care because he was alive and Valentine was dead and Diego was staring at him like he wanted to eat him, and maybe Johnny would be okay with that.

“Harder,” Johnny said, just to see if there was a harder, and Diego blew out between his teeth so fast it sounded like a whistle.

“Yes.” And then he lifted Johnny’s thighs up higher, dragging his whole ass off the ground, fucked against him and Johnny’s head hit the ground so hard he thought he was gonna black out.

Diego did most of the talking. So much that Johnny started hearing it all as nonsense, babble, and maybe it really was like that, chattering on and on until he was finished, while Johnny just lay there and felt it, silent other than when he needed to urge Diego on. Seemed to like that. Taking orders. Took well to them, too, going faster and harder every time it was asked of him, keeping his teeth away whenever they kissed, even holding still when told, panting and dizzy.

When they were done Diego asked if Johnny needed a ride back to the city, and Johnny said yeah, and the crowds of New York were so thick that they were separated within minutes. Johnny stayed one night before getting his ticket to Naples, and though he didn’t stay there, a new path in life opened for him. He never saw Diego again.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, you’re at a party. That’s not the start of some corny metaphor about life and seizing the moment - sometimes you go to a literal party, and when you’re there you see this really hot guy, like, god, is he a model or something? So you wheel your ass over (and if you roll over a few feet on the way you give your apologises with a smirk because, like, what the fuck are they gonna do? Push you out of your chair?) and get to talking and then it turns out the guy really is a model, which is so fucking funny you can’t stop laughing, and models must be as dumb as the rumours say because Mr Model is laughing too, even though all you’ve done is say hi.

Sometimes, you’re at a party, and you meet a model, and you tell him that oh, that’s a funny coincidence, because you’re a photographer, and you don’t mention the fact that you mostly do pet photography because he actually seems interested. You don’t feel bad at all when he asks you if you’ve worked with any famous people and you lie out of your fucking ass.

So the thing is, it’s not just that you haven’t worked with any famous people. You haven’t even worked with any famous dogs, or rats or - what the fuck do people have as pets these days? Birds? Is that a real thing or a joke because you can’t imagine ever being willingly near a bird, like, those things put everything out through one hole and that’s so fucking nasty you don’t even like thinking about it - or anything . Because you’re not just a pet photographer. You’re a failed pet photographer.

Yep! Turns out even animals can tell when you’re mocking them! And, more importantly, since the dogs or whatever aren’t the ones paying you, owners can tell too, and they barely ever find it funny. Especially the ones that wanted to stay in the room because they love their weird little exotic whatever-the-fuck so damn much that they have to supervise you, even if you’re so fucking trustworthy you don’t even steal the cash left by the door for the cleaner when you leave, and then you forget your client’s there while you’re working because he’s quiet and weird and you start doing your usual thing where you talk about how ugly his baby is and then, yeah. Yeah, then you don’t get invited back, and you don’t get the reviews you were counting on to get more work, and there’s only so much fun you can have on your absentee-father’s dime and so thanks very much, Mr. Valentine, I hope your feral little goblin has fucking rabies.

So you lie. And that model, apparently his name’s Gyro (you want to ask if he chose that himself or if his parents hoped he’d be special, that’s the thing with ‘y’ names, right? Alyson and Chrystopyr and Stympy or whatever. You decide it’s safest not to bother), he’s smiling and laughing along with everything you say, and things start to feel real good for you. So fucking good that you make a mistake.

You don’t remember exactly what it was you said. You do remember, unfortunately, the gist: you made Gyro bend down, tugging on his shirt like the jerk you really don’t give a shit about being, and tell him to come over sometime for a “private photoshoot”

It’s just because you were horny. It’s stupid, but that’s all it was, and it’d been like, a fucking minute, if anyone gets what you mean, because you maybe haven’t been out very much lately, in the sense that this is your first party in six months, because whenever you actually show up to one of these things people suddenly remember why they don’t invite you anywhere and then it takes them another six months to forget that you’re a jerk.

Also you’re like, ‘ a really fucking negative person’ , whatever that means.

You all but dryhump Mr Gyro Model in the middle of the party, and then you go home alone, and you have a hangover already , and you can’t even sleep on your own pull-out-bed-slash-couch because the worst person in the world (and one of only two people who can stand you) has got there first, and Diego Brando never fucking wakes up, you can do practically anything to him and he’ll just roll over.

The thing that really pisses you off? He didn’t even pull out the fucking bed. He’s sleeping on it in its couch mode, the bastard, and you’re sure he did that just because he knows how angry that’d make you. You dream about watching him drown.

And that should be the end of it. You participated in your biannual ‘let’s remind everyone how uncute and annoying Johnny Joestar is’ fiesta, you once again failed to get laid, and Brando is smirking at you like you don’t even have to explain what embarrassing shit you did, and - fuck him, you wouldn’t tell him even if he begged for the details!

He doesn’t beg and by the time you’re done listing off all the celebrities you, the great fucking Johnny Joestar, apparently personally know and work with, he’s laughing his ass off and Hot Pants is up.

HP’s your roomate. They’re probably the coolest person you know, and that’s why they have the bedroom while you have the bed-couch. It has nothing to do with the fact that they pay your rent, which you pleaded with them to do after your father cut you off for the fourth fucking time and things were getting scary. They nod at you, ignore Brando (the gesture is returned), and start cooking breakfast. Oh yeah, they’re the only person you know who can cook - that’s part of why you admire them so much.

It’s just another day. You eat, you don’t work, you write some angry emails, you start to wonder whether you should screw Brando tonight or if you don’t think you can put up with the way he always fucking bites - and then the door rings.

It’s Mr Model. Gyro, you correct yourself, trying not to stare as you invite him in. You don’t know why he’s here. You don’t even remember telling him where you live. You don’t know what the fuck is going on and then you do remember, when you’re leading him into your fucking mess of a living room: you invited him for a private photography session.

It was obvious that you were just being horny, right? That you weren’t actually inviting him to come and do a project with you, because oh my god . The only thing worse than working is paying someone, and if you’re not even going to pay HP back for all the rent and food and hospital trips, and they’re the only person you respect in this whole fucking world, then you’re damn sure not going to pay Gyro to pretend to take pictures of him. Like, look at him! Guy looks rich enough to have a car! He should be paying you !

You don’t say that, though. You haven’t been drinking, so you don’t feel quite as obnoxious as last night. Or quite as confident. “Hey, uh.” You’re not quite as obnoxious - but you still leave a pause before saying his name, like you forgot it. “Gyro, yeah? Wanna drink?”

“Nah, I’m good.” Was he always Italian? You’re not great at accents. Took you six months of knowing Brando to realise he’s British, and not just, uh, someone with a speech impediment. Whatever, so Gyro’s Italian, so what? That might make him hotter, but it doesn’t make him better than you.

“Cool.” You’re very glad Brando left to get some takeaway. You always make him go, and he always retaliates by picking things you hate, and then you retaliate by eating it anyway. The cycle continues. “So. Gyro. Why are you here?”

He’s watching you, smiling the way you’re pretty sure you remember him doing last night, only now you’re much more aware of his teeth. They’re huge, gold, and they totally have his name written on them. Unless Zeppeli means, like, motherfucker or something. You’re not so hot at languages, neither, though you do have a little conversational French via your high-school girlfriend, who actually did live in Canada (which no one, of course, believed) and with whom you were totally in love with for three years and two months before realising that you were definitely gay. She’s probably still heartbroken.

“You invited me. Very insistently too. Kept calling my phone to check I’d given you the right number. And after the third time, I actually did.” You have no idea if he’s joking. “You wanted me to come here for photos. You don’t remember?”

You wish you didn’t. “Right, right…” You clearly are nowhere as good at innuendos as you thought you were, but you try to put on a very ‘clearly that was me propositioning you’ kind of tone. “Private photography.”

“Yes.” Does Gyro ever stop smiling? “And usually, I would turn you down. This isn’t how I work at all. But you’re cute, so I made an exception.”

“Cool.”

Oh god. Gyro thinks he’s cute. That’s flirtatious right? So he’s here for sex. Which would be great if Brando wasn’t on his way back (assuming that he hadn’t decided to take the food and go back to the fucking palace he calls home, which he does sometimes) - although...the thought occurs to you that you’ve never tested the limits of your couch-bed, and with Gyro’s muscles and Brando’s energy, maybe this could be the perfect opportunity...you know. For scientific purposes. 

Unless that’s just how Italians talk and it’s not flirting at all. French guys kiss each other, right? And Germans jerk their friends off - or is that the Italians? Does Gyro want to jerk you off? Would he be offended if you asked? 

You’ve just about decided that, yeah, he probably would be offended, when you look back at Gyro and see that he’s taken his shirt off, and his nipples are pierced.

Well. That’s a thing. By which you mean holy fucking SHIT, his nipples are pierced! And - are you still hungover, or is that like a fucking eight-pack he’s got, is that even possible?

Okay so - he’s here for sex. Definitely.

Unless this is another Italian thing, or a model thing, or just a - a thing thing, like is this how guys are in general? Are you so socially alienated you don’t know what guys do on casual social calls? Should you take your shirt off too?

“Whoa.” Luckily, Brando decided the promise of your exquisite company (and your handjobs) was more tantalising than a night in his own bed, in his own house, reading Harry Potter or whatever the fuck he does when you’re not together. “Who’s the babe, JoJo?”

Just as luckily, Gyro doesn’t seem phased. “Hey. Gyro Zeppeli.”

Brando ruffles your hair on his way to shake Gyro’s hand. “ The Gyro Zeppeli? Diego Brando. Call me Dio.”

“You know my work?”

“Do I look like I’m culturally stunted?” Brando stops. He stops shaking Gyro’s hand, at least, but he doesn’t stop holding it, and he slowly turns around to face you, smile huge and awful. Something terrible is about to happen, you know it. “JoJo. Please tell me that this isn’t the gentleman you told me about last night.” That smile tells you that, despite the please , there’s nothing Brando’d love more than being told just that. “How did you refer to him? Mr. Model?”

Gyro laughs and you wonder whether those six months you spent taking drama in college before you dropped out left you with enough skills to let you fake a convincing heart attack. “That sounds like me! Unless there was another model at the party. Johnny, should I be jealous?” He winks and you think you might not have to fake anything.

“JoJo.” Brando still hasn’t released Gyro’s hand when he reaches out to touch you on the shoulder. “You have got to be fucking kidding me. Gyro Zeppeli was on the cover of Men’s Handsome last month. He had an affair with the president’s son last summer, it was all over the news. He was - he was in that bloody film we went to see last week!”

“You guys saw that? Fuck, don’t tell me what you thought of it. Just let me give you a refund.”

Okay, so. Now you think about it, you realise that the reason you initially approached him at the party last night was that you thought you recognised him, only by the time you got there you’d forgotten everything except the fact there was a handsome man and you were horny. “Oh, yeah.” 

“Oh, no, Gyro.” Brando has finally let go of the both of you, turning around in such an artificial way that you don’t realise what he’s doing until it clicks that he’s showing Gyro his good side. The side where his hair falls so perfectly, where his eyebrows look even, where has a fucking dimple . “I found it very entertaining. Unless you’re open to providing that refund in a...non-monetary way?”

“I invited you here because I want to fuck you!” They look at you. You’re tempted to turn around too, like there’s someone else behind you and they’re the one who said that. How the fuck could you be this embarrassing? Are you like, a little kid? Are you really so insecure that you can’t shut up and let someone who’s actually good at flirting hit on Gyro? Yes, you are. And now you have to deal with the consequences of your actions. At least if you chase Gyro off this way, maybe he won’t want to fuck Brando either, like, embarrassment by association. “I - private photoshoot. I was...hittin’ on you.”

Brando looks both like he wants to laugh and like he wants to push you out of your wheelchair. Gyro looks vaguely confused, and for a second you think you broke him, like his tiny model brain couldn’t handle the idea that someone didn’t want to take pictures of him, and it’s not like you’re opposed to taking pictures of him, but like, maybe just with your cellphone, to show HP later.

Gyro shifts, tucks his thumbs into his belt. “...Why do you think I’m standing here with my shirt off? Didn’t I say I thought you were cute?”

“Cute! Cute’s one way of putting it.” Brando reaches out to ruffle your hair again and you twitch away. “Unfortunately, JoJo and I already have plans tonight. Isn’t that terrible timing?”

Your plans were to eat whatever cold greasy thing Brando bought and then watch porn. You’re about to protest, tell Brando to get the fuck out because if this is being offered, then it’s fucking happening , and no one’s getting between you and Gyro Zeppeli, but then Gyro snickers again. “Well maybe I could join you.”

Brando smirks at you and you realise he basically just invited himself into bed-couch with you and, apparently, a real-ass celebrity, and you would punch him if he wasn’t just that tiniest bit too far away. He doesn’t take his eyes off of yours as he licks his lips. “Oh, yes. Maybe you could, Gyro Zeppeli. Maybe you could.”

Chapter Text

“What do you guys think about when you touch yourself?”

Formaggio isn’t really sure why Melone says shit like that. Personally, his bet is on it all being part of his ‘so shocking you can’t look away’ thing he has going on instead of a personality. Ghiaccio agreed the last time Formaggio brough up his theory, nodding and rambling about how Melone lives to fuck with them all, gets off on freaking people out, he’s just a piece of shit waste of space that doesn’t do near enough work to justify his pay. Prosciutto just thinks Melone has no filter.

When no one answers, Melone looks around the room, expression carefully neutral. “Well? Wasn’t I clear enough? When you jerk off. When you pleasure yourself. Hello? When you masturbate.”

“Are you asking because you’re genuinely curious, or because you just want to be asked that in return?” Illuso is the first to respond. It’s usually either him, Ghiaccio, or Pesci that does it: Ghiaccio (out of the room, thankfully) can’t control his temper enough to realise that snapping is exactly what Melone wants, Pesci is compelled through a combination of nervous curiosity and submission, and Illuso - well, Formaggio isn’t really sure what Illuso gets out of it. He asked, once, and Illuso had replied, grinning, that he loves chaos, but Formaggio knows that’s bullshit. Or at least, not the whole answer. “Pervert.”

“My dear Illuso. You know full well my…” Melone tips his head to the side, hair falling along his shoulder. “Curiosity. Is purely scientific! I don’t get off on this.”

“Oh yeah? Pretty crappy scientific method, perv. I took psychology in high school, I know that’s not how you conduct research.”

Melone seems amused by that. He pushes his toe along the ground, rotating the office chair he’s curled up in, until he’s facing Formaggio. “Oh my, we have an expert with us today. Formaggio. Perhaps you’re familiar enough with your boyfriend’s secret little fantasies that you can provide his data for him. Or perhaps, you’d like to answer for yourself? Unless it’s not him that you think of, late at night, lonely and desperately seeking those lovely endorphins, just enough so you can fall asleep without alcohol for once. Maybe someone else is on your mind those times. How scandalous.”

Formaggio’s going to say that Illuso’s not his boyfriend, but then he’s not not -not his boyfriend either, so he wouldn’t really have an answer if Melone pressed on all - ‘so what are the two of you, then?’ But then Prosciutto, who’s been trying to read a novel in the corner and evidently having decided that this was quite enough, walks over to Melone to up-end his glass of tomato juice over his head, gracelessly shifting the topic from ‘is it appropriate to ask your co-workers blatantly horny questions’ to ‘what is the appropriate method to use when shutting an inappropriately horny conversation down?’

Later, when it’s just the two of them in the Mirror, Illuso on his back with his legs hooked over the arm of the sofa that Sorbet and Gelato always seem to claim before anyone else gets there, Formaggio on the ground, leaning back on his wrists, the question gets brought up again.

Illuso has to twist uncomfortably in order to make eye-contact with Formaggio, which is exactly why Formaggio chose this particular patch of ground to sit on - he likes it when Illuso has to put some effort into it. “What do you think about when you touch yourself?”

“Melone got in your head?” His voice echoes a little in the mirror in a way that Formaggio’s never quite got used to, despite how long he’s been coming here. That’s how the thing (whatever the word might be) between them started - Formaggio needed a place to keep his cats where they wouldn’t end up kidnapped or eaten (by the bigger, scarier cats that even Formaggio’s afraid of - he doesn’t quite think poorly enough of his teammates to think they’d stoop that low), Illuso took bribes, they ended up spending a lot of time alone together...the rest was inevitable.

“Melone wishes . Nah, though, I’m just curious. You don’t like me asking?”

“You can ask.” Formaggio takes the opportunity to lean back harder, locking his shoulders, pushing out his chest. “I might decide to answer.”

“I already asked you, dumbass.”

“Okay, but did you ask me nicely?

Illuso sighs and rolls onto his stomach. He’s so tall that he’s nearly hanging off the sofa, even with his legs over the other edge almost to the knee. “When you jerk off. What are you picturing?” He bats his eyes. “ Please tell me, Formaggio.” 

“Mmh. That’s more like it.” He not so subtly shifts his hips from side to side, waits to see if Illuso’ll look. He doesn’t - playing hard to get this time. Formaggio’ll have to pull out the big guns in order to work him up the way he likes - by which he means, his big guns . As Formaggio starts to slip off his jacket, he makes sure to take his time. “Mmh. Well, I guess I think about you.”

“Me?” Illuso still doesn’t drop his eyes any lower than Formaggio’s face.

“Is that really a surprise?”

“Maybe a little.” He smiles, just enough that his dimples flash. “I don’t blame you. I am fantasy material.”

He has a point. Even before the cat thing, and the point in the friendship where they started taking off their shirts in front of the other, and the point not long after that where Formaggio realised he maybe kind of liked being around Illuso more than most people - even before all that, when Illuso was just the smug dick with the hair, he’d come to mind during some intimate moments. Intimate moments with himself , that is, Formaggio’s not the kind of guy who doesn’t focus on the task at hand when he’s with someone else. What can he say? Smug looks good on a man. Especially one over six feet, like fuck , Formaggio’s got eyes, right? 

“Mmh. Sure are. But, like - lets be fair. Who isn’t a looker in our little circle?”

“Pesci.” 

Formaggio, only realising that he’s gone past ‘teasingly shrugging off his jacket’ into ‘basically stripping in the clumsiest and laziest way possible’ after he’s done it, throws his shoe at Illuso. “Dick!”

 Man In the Mirror catches the shoe, slides one of its long, gloved fingers along the side, and drops it behind the couch. “I’m kidding. Your point?”

“My point. Is that you’re a babe, but that’s not why you’re the only one I think about when I get off.”

“The only one?” Illuso pushes himself up, arching his back. Formaggio eases off his other shoe. “You must really like me.”

“Yeah.” Things don’t usually get this honest between them. Not verbally so, anyway. But it makes Illuso smile. “Want me to show you how much?”

For the first time since Formaggio started stripping and flexing and outright preening for attention, Illuso’s eyes drop down from his waist. “I think I could stand to watch a little show.”

Chapter Text

“Can I buy you a drink?”

That’s how Prosciutto and Bruno Buccellati met, though those weren’t the names that they exchanged with each other.

“Amedeo,” Prosciutto had said, after Bruno had agreed to the drink.

“Luca,” Bruno said, shaking his hand with a smile.

Only a handful more of words were traded between them, that first time. Bruno’s drink of choice (tequila, said with a smile, as if remembering some private joke) - a comment about the limited stock of liqueurs behind the bar - Prosciutto’s admiration of Bruno’s suit. None of it more than a form of foreplay, a feeling out of the other, pleasantries made dirty by hidden intent - the real conversation took place in their eyes.

The bathroom, the first time. That particular bar was clean enough, quiet enough, and neither had any intention of being with the other any longer than it would take to get off. Prosciutto used his hand (Bruno was oddly silent, eyes closed, head tilted back), expecting the same in return, laughing with surprise when Bruno crouched down and licked his lips (“I happened to have a flavoured condom with me, which I’ve been wanting to try out. Apparently it will taste like banana. Do you think they thought that was clever?”). Prosciutto was not quiet. He bit at the back of his hand to muffle himself, breathing hot and heavy, finishing too soon.

The next week, another bar, a coincidence that put surprise and pleasure too visibly on Prosciutto’s face. Bruno smiled enough to acknowledge him then turned back to the man who had his hand, heavy with rings, across his shoulder. Something about that grip made Prosciutto feel like taking a risk. He ordered tequila, took it over, and Bruno smiled again when he saw it.

“Luca,” Prosciutto said. “I was just thinking of you.”

Not the bathroom, not that time. Bruno had dismissed the man with the hand, touched Prosciutto’s pendant. “It’s beautiful.” And then more than a touch, a tug, just enough to be felt on the back of Prosciutto’s throat. Not a bathroom, that time, because they wanted something more than fast and easy. Prosciutto repaid the favour owed from before, with a plain condom (“are you sure? I can’t say I particularly recommend the banana, but I’ve been told the strawberry is almost palatable”), and Bruno sighed once, at the end, a small sound that nonetheless made Prosciutto’s stomach twist in satisfaction.

“I want to try something,” Bruno said, after he recovered. When Prosciutto, smiling at his coy look, agreed, Bruno thanked him with a kiss cut far too short. The something turned out to be working his fingers inside Prosciutto, gently, kissing everywhere except where was needed, and Prosciutto didn’t bite his hand that time.

“You have a nice voice.” They’d paid for an hour, enough to shower when they were done, and Bruno watched Prosciutto dress himself without shame. “I wonder what you’d sound like while you were getting fucked.”

“Do you want to fuck me, Luca?” Prosciutto tied his hair back simply, the effort of his complicated hairstyle not seeming worth it in the afterglow.

Bruno gestured for him to come closer, and Prosciutto did, and Bruno adjusted the collar of his shirt. “What a shame it’s time to check out.”

It became a routine of sorts, with neither of them intending for it to be that way, but over the course of a year they met again and again, straying to each other in the same dark bars, sometimes choosing to go with others but sometimes ordering tequila, smiling the same smile at the same private joke. They had each other in all kinds of ways: fast and slow and hard and soft and once, almost to the point of pain, but never quite there. Bruno enjoyed being in control, Prosciutto enjoyed the sense of being taken care of. They didn’t kiss often, except when they were done, and Bruno would wind Prosciutto down, holding and petting him, telling him that he’d done so well. When Prosciutto could say his name, Bruno rewarded him with a kiss, and then he would pull away. It came to the point where Prosciutto would miss him, the nights where coincidence was not kind.

The last time was not a coincidence. Prosciutto turned too quickly at a tap on his shoulder, a little over a month since the last night they had each other, to see Bruno behind him, tan and pleased with his reaction. Not a bar this time, but a restaurant, where Prosciutto liked to dine alone. Bruno claimed both his glass of wine and a chair from another table, sitting opposite as if they were the type of people used to seeing each other in the light.

“Amedeo,” Bruno said. “It’s been a while.”

It was true that they didn’t usually go so long without encountering each other, one way or another. Things had become too much - Prosciutto thought of Bruno too long, tinted red in his mind, affection growing alongside lust. Better to leave now than to tempt danger. He hadn’t said anything first, of course. They had no way to contact the other. No reason to, either, with the nature of their connection.

“Luca,” Prosciutto said.

“I like the tablecloth here.” Bruno brushed his fingers across the table and Prosciutto watched. “All the way down to the ground. How discreet.” Prosciutto didn’t respond and Bruno smiled, leaning forward on his elbows. “I missed you.”

“Why are you here?”

Bruno paused to drink his stolen wine before answering, licking it off his lips. “Why do you think?”

There was a strange symmetry to being in the bathroom again. Their mouths on each other, their hands on each other, chasing one another through their pleasure and their heat and the strain of the month that parted them. Prosciutto cupped Bruno’s chest, bent to bite at his neck - bolder than he’d ever been before - and Bruno gasped, knocking his head back against the wall. He moaned out Amedeo and Prosciutto wished he’d said another name, so violently and achingly that the shock pushed him back.

Bruno asked him what was wrong, reached out for him, but Prosciutto left without a word.

They met one more time, a year and a lifetime later, on a train of death, and then the name Bruno spoke was Prosciutto, and the one Prosciutto spoke was Buccellati.

Chapter Text

There are only two numbers that will make Squalo pick up his phone while on the job. The first belongs, of course, to Vinegar Doppio, because even at his level Squalo lacks permission to report directly to the Boss, although Doppio hardly ever needs to call, owing to the quality of Squalo’s work. The second is his husband’s, who calls even less, because they are partners in business as well as in love, and Squalo feels incomplete without Tiziano by his side.

The only thing that ever keeps them apart is sickness. Usually, the separation is due to Squalo, who can set his calendar by the times of year he will inevitably catch some kind of chest infection, as well as picking up any cold that so much as looks at him wrong. Even so, Tiziano makes it his personal business to nurse Squalo back to health, causing as much as a fuss as is dignified when there is an interrogation or rendezvous that absolutely cannot be carried out by anyone else, only leaving with the promise of extra pay given by an exasperated Doppio. Tiziano himself is rarely sick - Squalo can only remember three times in their five years together that he’s been weak enough not to be able to work. Once was stand-induced (a film-thin substance coating the wall that Tiziano was unlucky enough to touch without noticing is all Squalo permits himself to remember of that) , another was due to - putting it as modestly as possible - an anniversary gone wrong, and the most recent time was caused by Squalo’s fever-delirious insistence on receiving a get-well kiss.

He’s not really sure why Tiziano is ill this time. He avoided the question when Squalo asked, and since it was too late to be dismissed from the work they’d been assigned (and, unlike Tiziano, Squalo doesn’t have the excuse of lacking offensive power to remove him), he’d had no choice but to drop the topic and leave him behind, surrounded by tissues and orange juice, a pillow wrapped in Squalo’s oldest shirt by his side.

It’s unnerving to be apart, and when Tiziano calls, Squalo immediately expects the worst. It’s late - he’s in the driver’s seat of his rental car, waiting for his target’s schedule to line up with his location - and Tiziano knows not to call for anything less than an emergency, so Squalo’s hand is already shaking a little as he picks up. “Tiz?”

“Squalo.” There’s a pause, a breath taken too close to the speaker, and Squalo’s going through in his mind who he could rely upon to help him. “Come fuck this fever out of me.”

Squalo waits for the words to make sense. Nothing clicks into place. “...Tiz?”

“Baby.” The pet name is always said so fondly, so impossible to be replicated by any imposter, and Squalo relaxes with the knowledge that Tiziano really is the one who called. “I can’t stand this anymore. Where are you? I feel so lonely without your dick.” The phone must be pressed right up against his mouth to produce that crackle. It may be Tiziano on the end of the line, but that doesn’t mean it was his choice to call, or that he’s not in danger. Squalo sees in his mind an image of Tiziano, hands bound behind his back, desperately trying to get a message to him through code while he still has the chance.

“Tiz. Tiz - Tiziano.” Squalo concentrates for the brief moment required to release Clash, risking the chance of being detected by another stand user in order to skim through the light rain in search of anyone who might be watching. Nothing - but there’s always the potential of camouflage Squalo can’t penetrate, so he maintains the patrol. “Tiziano, tell me what’s wrong. Are you hurt?” 

“Hurt,” Tiziano repeats, distantly, before focusing. “Yes, baby, my heart hurts so bad without you here with me. Come here so I can fuck your mouth, Squalo, make me feel good the way you always do. Gonna love me? Gonna be my private doctor?” A hoarse croak of a laugh at a joke Squalo can’t understand - then the sound of the phone dropping to the ground and a snapped curse.

His words were slurred. Squalo can barely understand them, and even when he can work out the shapes the sentences don’t make sense. He calls out his husband’s name, loud as he can risk, nervy and sharp - everything he’s heard is telling him to abandon his post, certain already that, impossible as it is, either his mission or Tiziano’s safety has been compromised. This isn’t how Tiziano operates - he must have been drugged, threatened, something - something!

Squalo’s hands are on the wheel, phone pinned to his shoulder, when Tiziano finally replies. “Squa-lo. Squalo, are you there? Squalo. I’m touching myself thinking of you. Your voice does that to me. Just your voice, baby, so pretty, wanna hear you scream.”

“Tiz?”

“It gets me...hard. Thinking of you. My name, you’re so good at saying my name. No one else can get me like this, Squalo, only you, I’m wild for you.”  A sharp breath, released in a frustrated groan. “Where are you, baby?”

Squalo swallows, glancing out the window. Clash darts past, almost too fast for even him to see. “Tiz? Tiz, are you…?”

It occurs to him only now that there might not be an emergency at all. Squalo is not so naive that he’ll reject the possibility forever. He’s not innocent, neither is he inexperienced - he’s had Tiziano fucking himself over the phone before, pretending to be a stranger seeking entertainment but unable to last the full length of the game, chanting (instead of the false names they’d chosen) Tiziano Tiziano Tiziano as he lost himself in the rhythm of his husband’s gentle laugh, his affectionate teasing as the act was dropped. Do you love me, baby? - More than I thought it was possible to love someone, Tiziano.

If it’s possible to be addicted to a person, then the two of them are addicts bound to each other, and - perhaps it’s only that Tiziano forgot himself in his lust and exhaustion. It’s just that Squalo, like all co-workers he respects (and thus excluding automatically a certain physician and his companion) , maintains a strong work-pleasure separation. While Squalo and Tiziano may be partners in both sides of life, there is a line between those partnerships that has never before been crossed. A touch to steady the other is the limit of their public intimacy - and it’s impossible to wholly shake off the sense of unease, even as Tiziano’s intentions become clear.

“Are you - touching yourself?”

Tiziano laughs, all breathless love. “I told you so already! Squalo, do you take me for a liar?”

“Tiziano...Tiz, I can’t. I’m at work. You know I’m at work, don’t you? Are you alright?”

The sound of a bed creaking so invitingly that Squalo can at least confirm that Tiziano is at home. “I was reading. I woke up and you weren’t there, Squalo, and I was reading. I was so lonely in our big, empty bed. Do you know how absurd it was for me to be there alone? Picture it, Squalo. It’s so big I can’t reach the side from the middle, all these pillows for which I have no use, this - the scent of you, Squalo, just enough to ruin me. How could you leave me so alone, baby?”

“Tiz-”

“I was reading.” Tiziano interrupts, and for all his frustration Squalo goes silent at the new tone sliding into his voice. It’s a familiar one, that Squalo asks for when he wants to give up control entirely, trusting Tiziano in a way he’d thought could never be real, and Tiziano in turn basks in the pleasure of that trust just as much as in the pleasure of their connection, eyes soft with adoration even as he pretends to be cruel. “Reading about what I might do, left all alone, to ease my suffering. Do you know what I discovered?” 

The ghost of a conversation flickers in Squalo’s mind, almost blinding him with its intensity, the - can you take a little more, Squalo? Let me hear your pretty voice. No, don’t look at me like that, speak to me or I’ll stop touching you. Oh. That face. My Squalo. My perfect, obedient Squalo. He licks his lips without meaning to. “What...did you discover?”

A pause that makes Squalo think he’s made a mistake - mind already shifting away from the thought of his target, Clash sluggish and distracted in a puddle underneath the car, both stand and user completely transparent in where their loyalty will always truly lie. The sound of something being knocked to the ground - metal, clattering - makes them twitch, senses shifting into each other. Squalo feels the rain against his dry back. 

“Sex!” Tiziano laughs out the word, all traces of seriousness vanished. “Didn’t I tell you I don’t need all those funny little pills? Oh, I believe in medicine, but I know the only type that will cure me of my sickness is you, Squalo - I need to feel you, I need you to cure me the way only you can do, baby, I’m so hard I’m going to die.”

Squalo’s hard too. He doesn’t know when it happened, but now he feels it so intensely the shock of realisation dispels Clash entirely. “Tiz - I can’t. Even if I left now-” Impossible - as clear a betrayal of the boss as he could make - impossible, but Tiziano has broken so many of Squalo’s impossibles before. “It would take hours.”

“Squaaaaa-lo.” A long groan - Squalo grips himself between the legs. “Tell me you love me.”

“Tiziano, of course I love you. I love you, I love you, I’m so sorry I had to leave you, if I had any choice in it I’d be there with you, touching you, making you feel as good as you need. I love you.”

A laugh, cut off by a cough stifled in something. “Squalo. You’re so bad, aren’t you? Neglecting me like this. Ah, but Squalo, even your voice is enough, didn’t I tell you earlier? I’m close just from the way you call my name. Baby, talk me through it, I want to hear you, Squalo, my Squalo, all mine.”

Squalo looks at his watch. Ten minutes until he has to move. Ten minutes - and if ten minutes are all he has to give his Tiziano, who calls out so sweetly for him, then each one of those minutes will be his. “I’m here, Tiz. I’m yours.”

In the end, he only had to give seven of those minutes, because Tiziano - as he explained later, mortified and begging over and over for forgiveness - hung up while going for the speaker button, and, mind drifting with fever and painkillers, couldn’t work out how to redial Squalo’s number. Before any solution could be found to his dilemma, Tiziano forgot both his plan on how to cure himself and Squalo’s offer of assistance, and fell asleep hard, sheets kicked to the floor in annoyance. Squalo wasn’t in a much more dignified state himself as he confronted the target, and for all his frustration at being worked up and abandoned, their lovemaking the night they were reunited was soft and sweet and full of promises to never be so far apart again.

Tiziano (who went on to credit his ‘fuck out the fever’ method and demand it every time) recovered by the next morning. Squalo, meanwhile, was shocked to find out that the virus had been passed to him. Doppio wasn’t pleased to hear that both of them would now be absent from duty for ‘at least three days, because we mustn’t risk the spread of such an infectious illness’, but he had no choice but to endure it. “Health,” as Tiziano said, stroking the sweaty curls out of Squalo’s face, “must always come first.”

Chapter Text

In public, Prosciutto would swear without hesitation that his loyalty to his capo was entirely due to Risotto’s extreme competence as a leader, his expertise both as an assassin and a businessman, and his overall total absence of flaws. “He has none - none! If he did, we would all be dead, wouldn’t we? I will not tolerate disrespect.”

In private, which to him was a state of being that only existed in his apartment, the apartment he shared with Risotto, and Formaggio’s rooms above their headquarters, he had to admit that his husband had many flaws. The most pressing, currently, was that he had apparently passed out at his desk again , for the second time this month, despite Prosciutto’s constant reminders to allocate time for rest and revitalisation.

He doesn’t blame Formaggio. He’d hoped that their relationship with him would mean that Risotto would be less prone to unhealthy behaviours while Prosciutto was away, but that doesn’t mean it was anyone’s responsibility but Risotto’s to keep himself safe. It would be outrageously unfair to think otherwise, he tells himself, suppressing a grimace.

“Went to check on him and he was asleep. Wasn’t getting up by himself so I nicked him and got him small enough to carry.” Formaggio speaks low and quietly, arms folded tight across his chest. It’s cold enough that he put on a sweatshirt - it makes him look smaller than usual, somehow, the folds baggy and the hem reaching past his hips. Prosciutto isn’t sure if it belongs to him or Risotto. “Didn’t even wake up. The lil’ Metallica guys fixed the scratch quick, maybe he didn’t feel it.”

“Of course he didn’t. He works himself to exhaustion - nothing wakes him up.” He sees Formaggio react to the hash note in his voice, takes effort to push it down. “He claims it’s not unintentional.”

“You, uh, think otherwise?” There’s a guarded look in his eyes now. Prosciutto doesn’t know what feels stronger: his (misguided, he reminds himself) irritation or his desire to take Formaggio’s face between his hands and kiss all the stress away.

Whatever he may be feeling right now, it is important - necessary - to not allow it to affect anyone else. Prosciutto’s bad side is his responsibility alone. Besides, Formaggio did well, given his constraints. He had chosen to take Risotto up to the room he kept directly above his office, for the nights when work would not permit him leave to join Prosciutto in their home, so as not to risk disturbing him on a longer trip. It was a smart decision, allowing Prosciutto to find them quickly, a familiar and safe place. Prosciutto reaches out and touches Formaggio at the shoulder. Beneath the soft fabric, he is tense. “Thank you for being here for him. You made the right decision, Formaggio, to take him here and ensure he rests. I appreciate it very much.”

Formaggio doesn’t move Prosciutto’s hand away, but he doesn’t ease himself into it either, the way he usually does, soaking up affection. “You want me to leave, Prosciutto?”

“That’s not what I said.” Formaggio doesn’t look away. “...That’s not what I meant.”

“You made it sound like I was doing you guys a favour. I’m not gonna contest that you two have something I’m not a part of, you’re married and that’s special, but I’m not just your friend either.” Formaggio reaches up to cover Prosciutto’s hand. “You don’t need to thank me for looking after someone I love.”

Prosciutto has a bad habit - well, frankly, he has many bad habits, but since most of them only have consequences for himself, he finds them less frustrating than this - where he tends to assume that he is unreadable to those around him. With each of his thoughts he makes a conscious decision whether to share or to hide, more often than not landing on hide. Risotto, of course, knows him well enough to perceive the shape of his thoughts, and their relationship is such that he trusts Prosciutto to share whatever is bothering him when he is ready. With the time he’s spent around Formaggio, in moments of tenderness and vulnerability, it’s natural that he, too, should perceive him so well.

Which makes it unfair not to explain at least a little of his conflicted thoughts. “I don’t want you to leave. I didn’t want to say it, but I’m frustrated that he would do this. He doesn’t mean to make me worry, and I understand the pressure on him to overexert, for all our sakes, but it upsets me and makes me feel guilty for leaving him.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“I know - I know, Formaggio. I don’t blame him and I certainly - I do want to make this clear, I certainly am not angry at you - but I hate to see him this way.” Prosciutto would touch Risotto, stroke back his hair, if he could guarantee it would not wake him. “I feel responsible.”

Formaggio releases his hand, and Prosciutto turns, expecting him to leave, but instead he curls himself around his back, arms coming around to cross his waist. Formaggio is only a few centimetres shorter - a difference small enough to permit him to rest his chin on Prosciutto’s shoulder.

“You worry so much because you’re good. Big fuckin’ heart that tries to keep all of us safe. I get it. ‘S why I love you. Seeing how you look out for everyone, I wanna be the one to look after you too.” He kisses the back of Prosciutto’s neck, lips dry and rough against the beginning spread of sweat, uncomfortable and comforting all at once. “Thanks for explaining.”

Prosciutto closes his eyes and slides his hands over Formaggio’s arms, cupping them at the wrist. “Thank you for being patient with me. I love you too.”

There is no reason to watch all night, as if at a hospital bedside, and everything Risotto might need is already there. It’s only exhaustion - blankets, water and aspirin are all that might lend help. After checking and checking again that nothing is missing, Prosciutto allows Formaggio to lead him out of Risotto’s bedroom, across the hall to his own set of rooms, and takes a much-needed shower. Formaggio catches him from behind again as he exits the bathroom, sneaking his hands under his robe, and Prosciutto surprises himself with a laugh - which Formaggio opportunistically smothers with his mouth, guiding him to the bed and sinking between his thighs - finding a better use for that mouth, that tongue. Prosciutto uncoils around him, muscles forced to relax, brain forced to settle only on the man in front of him. He’s brought to the edge over and over until the last of the tension stifling his moans drains out of his pores, shuddering and asking for even more, love-greedy and delirious.

After he finishes, before he has the strength to attend to Formaggio’s own need (“you don’t have to”/”Formaggio, I would not do it if I thought I had to”), Risotto finds them. He’s not had enough rest, clearly, but it would be impossible for them to turn him away, and so - he, face cautious and ashamed, they, unravelled but wanting him - they reach out towards him, and he welcomes Prosciutto home.

Chapter Text

Risotto Nero is...

Hm.

How to describe Risotto Nero?

Risotto Nero is...intimidating as all fuck. Huge as all hell. Quiet and strong and surprisingly, for the way he looks and the work he does, sensitive. He’s thoughtful and gentle and affectionate and he treats cats like they’re babies (which, for some reason, they seem entirely fine with, which is totally unfair because half the time when Formaggio picks them up - and they’re his cats, he’s the one who found them - they attack his face).

Risotto Nero is a lot of unexpected things, most of them private, reserved only for those who have worked hard to deserve his trust. One thing that shocks absolutely no one, however, no matter how small a glance they get of him, is the fact that he is ridiculously heavy. He’s a giant made of solid muscle, and that’s hot and all (like, it’s extremely fucking sexy of him, for real, and Risotto seems surprised every time Formaggio says that which only really encourages him to say it more) , but in bed, it’s a little...

A little…

Crushing. Only when they’re using the bed for actual sleeping , mind (Risotto is a restrained, attentive lover, and that’s really fucking hot too) because if he grabs hold of Formaggio in the night, there’s no real way of escaping until he wakes up, one way or another. Well, that’s not strictly true - Little Feet is practically made for escape artistry - but in an emotional sense there’s no real way. Risotto only ever seems to relax when he’s unconscious and the risk of disturbing that much-needed rest weighs more heavily on Formaggio’s conscience than his lover on his back.

“If I’m hurting you, I want you to wake me up,” Risotto had said once, when Formaggio thought he could pass his sleep habits off as a cute story. “Am I really that heavy?”

“Riz, look at me.” Which was a little unnecessary, considering they were facing each other across Formaggio’s tiny, half-broken breakfast table. It was only really kept upright through Metallica’s scaffolding. “Do I look like the kinda guy who can’t handle a little pressure?”

Maybe it wasn’t the best time to ask that. His hair had grown out and he hadn’t the chance to visit his barber yet, there wasn’t a clean shirt in the clothes nest (hangers and wardrobes are a fools game) so he’d gone without, and since he forgot to wipe his mascara off before bed last night, it had streaked across his eyelids. Risotto didn’t seem convinced, but he didn’t pursue the conversation further.

It was probably a mistake not to even try working out a contingency plan. Sure, the idea of getting squashed to death by your boyfriend because he’s too much of a cuddler sounds ridiculous, but if said boyfriend also happens to be a literal assassin built like a fucking truck, there’s no such thing as being too cautious.

Formaggio thinks about that as he lies in bed, one of Risotto’s arms crossing his shoulder and the other bracketed over his head, one leg over his hips and the other wedged between Formaggio’s thighs, torso doing some incomprehensible sort-of-on sort-of-off thing, and it’s maybe slightly difficult to get a full breath. The positioning forces his head so much against the pillow that he has to breathe out the corner of his mouth, he can’t move one of his arms at all, and the idea of using Feet to get small enough to wiggle out doesn’t seem nearly as ridiculous as it did before.

He’s at the point of just going for it - like, the warm, minty breath on his neck is nice, the muscles are...more than nice, but this really isn’t worth it - when Risotto shifts, pressing up against his ass, and Formaggio realises he’s hard.

This poses a new dilemma. Obviously - obviously - he’s not gonna do anything inappropriate to Risotto when he’s asleep, hes not a fucking monster, but there’s something real bone-deep satisfying about just lying there, feeling what you’ve done to your boyfriend in his sleep, knowing that even an unconscious man finds you irresistibly sexy.

So Formaggio lies there, smug and warm, forgetting about all the - ‘ow my body, I can’t breathe’ - all that, and Risotto makes it too easy to forget, and he’s just about ready to fall back asleep...but then he hears a pop.

It’s not serious. After the pop, the shock of pain, the yell that wakes up not only Risotto but also three of their cats, they find out it’s not serious. They don’t know what the fuck actually popped, but the pain’s due to a pulled muscle. Ice helps a little. Not being crushed by Risotto helps a lot.

“Why didn’t you move,” Risotto asks, holding the ice against Formaggio’s back. And Formaggio doesn’t know what to say so he shrugs, and then he remembers why Risotto told him to stay still. Ouch. “Formaggio, use your words.”

“Quit trying to sound like Prosciutto.”

Risotto switches the ice-pack between hands, moving more directly behind Formaggio to adjust for the angle. As his legs shift and come to settle along each of his sides, Formaggio once again appreciates the fact that his boyfriend sleeps naked, which doesn’t do anything to ease the pain in his back but is at least psychologically healing. Formaggio himself favours a loose pair of boxers. Other than when he wants to put on something racy, it’s basically the only time he wears underwear, because his ass gets cold at night.

“Why didn’t you move.” Risotto asks again.

“Well, firstly, I didn’t think my back was going to break in two.” He wonders if he can shift closer without raising suspicion that, despite all odds, he’s kinda getting horny.

“It didn’t break in two. You pulled a muscle.”

“Mmm-hmm.” Formaggio presses back, just a little, and Risotto’s thighs tighten around him to keep him still. “Well I didn’t think that was gonna happen either. And, y’know, you just felt kinda nice. All cuddly and warm. Like a big kitty-cat.”

Risotto doesn’t seem particularly flattered by what Formaggio thought was an adorable and apt comparison. They sit there like that for a while, Formaggio risking the pain of movement to get more bodily contact, Risotto resisting, Formaggio sliding his hand up along Risotto’s thigh, Risotto not reacting, Formaggio trying his very best to telepathically communicate his growing cock-hungriness through imagining all the different things they could be doing with this time, instead of waiting for ice to melt and pain to fade - Risotto either not seeing the kamasutra slideshow of lazy fucking or not finding it a particularly convincing argument for stopping. 

Eventually Risotto sighs and pulls the ice pack away. “I’m going to give you a massage.”

The tone doesn’t particularly imply that it’s gonna be a sexy-slash-reward massage, but Formaggio will take whatever he can get. Even though this is apparently so not a sexy massage that Risotto actually puts on more clothes - and not even shorts, which can be kinda hot in a teasing way, like ‘there’s more leg where this came from’ , but full-on pants. Formaggio tries his best not to pout.

“Okay, okay, sir.”

“Don’t call me that.” 

With some encouragement (not that Risotto ever really needs to persuade Formaggio to move, being, as previously stated, one giant muscle with a pretty face on top), Risotto manages to get Formaggio to spread out on his stomach. He tries to raise his hips a little before remembering the whole ouch thing and settling down properly. As soon as Risotto confirms that he’s actually going to stay still, he straddles his hips, and oh, that already feels so good that Formaggio groans.

Risotto steadies his hand against his side. “Are you okay?”

“Mmh.” Formaggio shifts his head to the side. “Yeah. Warm the oil first.”

They do this a lot, though it’s usually the other way around: as if to balance the cruel strength and versatility of Metallica, any use of it burns through Risotto’s blood and leaves him distant and foggy. The oil, skin-hot in Formaggio’s hands, does a lot to bring him back. He took a class in it, even - just 3 sessions, nothing crazy, but Risotto smiled so softly when he found out that it was worth it.

Risotto isn’t quite as knowledgeable as Formaggio about which parts of the body to go wild on and which parts to avoid (“the spine,” Formaggio had said, helpfully, after his first lesson. “Just don’t lean on my spine and we’ll be good”), but he has good instincts and better focus. He works over Formaggio’s back in a way that almost, but not quite distracts him from the feel of that body, those legs, those torturous two layers of clothing that separate them, and it’s almost without realising that he starts to raise his hips again.

“You have to stay still.” Risotto’s hand slides down to his hip, just enough pressure to keep Formaggio from shifting higher.

“Rissss. You’re making me horny.”

“I can’t do anything about that. If you move it could hurt your back more.”

“Who says I gotta move?” Formaggio tries to look back without moving anything below the shoulders. “This’s your responsibility, Ris. I can get off right here if you fuck me good enough.”

Risotto hasn’t quite put enough distance between their bodies that Formaggio can’t feel him twitch. “...That’ll be too much for you.” His other hand joins its match at the hip, thumb resting at the waistband of Formaggio’s boxers.

“Won’t know unless you try, boss.”

“Don’t call me that either.” 

Risotto sounded annoyed, but he doesn’t resist when Formaggio pushes his hips up again. “You’re hard. Getting all excited with your hands all over me? Babe, am I really that irresistible?”

“Mh.”

“Riiii-ssss. Use your words.”

That makes him chuckle, at least. “You’re very handsome.”

“You want to fuck me, right? You’re just holding back because you wanna be…” Formaggio spreads his legs as much as he can, pressing up against Risotto’s thighs. “Ris-ponsible.”

“You’re funny, too.”

“Ris, listen.” Formaggio pushes himself up on his elbow, only shaking a little, so he can look back. “I’m not gonna put myself out of commission just for a fuck, okay? If you do all the work and I just go loose, maybe it’ll even relax me a little.”

Risotto hums. “Endorphins do help with pain relief.”

“See! C’mon. Let yourself have what you want, Ris. We can always stop if things don’t work out.”

Maybe it’s the words, maybe it’s the blood leaving his brain to pool between his legs, but Risotto is convinced. In the end, it kinda was too much, and Formaggio spent the rest of the night waking up every time he so much as twitched, but it was still fucking worth it.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, you go to a party, and you make a complete ass of yourself, and you - you, who have mastered the art of being happy being miserable - meet someone who makes you want to change your life.

Hot Pants meets you at the least obnoxiously-decorated cafe in the nice-ish-est part of the city you can go without people staring at you (you have a reputation. You do not want to go into what that reputation is or what you might have done to earn it right now), because what kind of sane person goes somewhere where the cups are mason jars and the seats are wooden shipping crates? You of course, bring your own chair wherever you go, but you have principles. Laughable ones, maybe, but at least you have any at all (you make a note to put a dollar in your self-deprecation jar). HP doesn’t get why you’re so personally offended by tacky decor, but they do agree, admitting in a low voice that they’d rather go to Starbucks, where they have actual cushions and mugs, than an indie place with a theme. God, you love them so much.

You don’t see as much of HP anymore. Not since they moved out, what, three months ago? Has it been three months already? It was six months ago that you met Gyro, five months ago that he told you he was going to be working a lot more in the city and he’d like to keep seeing you when he’s there, four months ago that you snapped at Brando and he - for some reason you still don’t understand - paid up your rent for the next year without saying a word, so...yeah. Three months. They said they’d miss you, but they seemed relieved to have a new place where they’d be much less likely to walk in on you sucking dick or destroying their crockery by accidentally setting the microwave timer to half an hour (which only happened like four times), so you pretty much assumed they wouldn’t stay in contact. But they did. You’re not, to put it mildly, the most active friend. You refuse to do social media (people call you paranoid, but at least you’re making the FBI work for your personal info) and you routinely ignore both texts and calls. Despite that, HP makes sure to meet you at least once a week, usually more, and they don’t actually seem to be doing it out of obligation.

You guess the two of you are...friends? That sort of makes you happy to think about. Sometimes they show up with baked goods. That makes you happy too.

“Johnny,” they say, effortlessly cool in a violet...what’s it called, a romper? The shorts that don’t stop at your waist and go up to your shoulders. Being (friends? Fuckbuddies? Some third type of relationship with another human that might be possible to have?) with a model doesn’t magically make you know a single thing about fashion. They’re in one of those things, with a yellow mesh shirt underneath, and shoes that look like they’d shatter bones if HP stepped on someone - which is to say, they look cool as fuck. “So what you’re saying is you don’t know what role you want Gyro to play in your life?”

“No, I’m saying…” You mess with the whipped cream on top of your hot chocolate. There was a time when you tried the black coffee thing, like ‘drink to match the personality’ (there goes another dollar into that jar) but, like. Yuck. “I don’t know what he wants me to be? I mean, whatever he wants is fine, I just don’t know what that is so I don’t know how to like, match him.”

They nod. They drink black coffee, because they seem to actually like it, and god. They’re just so fucking cool. You love your cool lesbian friend. “I’m not sure what you mean by matching him, but have you tried asking him about this?”

Nope.

You’re not dumb enough that the idea didn’t occur to you. And it’s not like it’s hard to talk to the guy, like, frankly? He speaks better english than you do, and maybe he doesn’t always explain himself or pick up on what you’re stressed about, but he tries, and if you ask him something he’ll always do his best to answer. It’s just that you’ve never had to have a conversation like that before, especially with someone you actually kinda like, and it’s freaking you out to imagine all the different ways Gyro might hate you for what you say, so you were hoping someone else could...make the problem go away. Chicken soup (or maybe mint hot chocolate) for the Romantic Disaster’s Soul.

You agree with HP that there’s really no other option, thank them for their advice, and they cover the bill. Probably out of pity, but hey, more dollars to save for the inexhaustible void of the jar. They tell you that communication is always a good thing, and to try your best to be honest and open, and you lie through your teeth about how that definitely sounds like something you’re capable of at all.

That’s their lunch break over - they call a cab, you wave goodbye, and then there’s nothing to do but go back to your empty apartment. Well, obviously not empty , you have furniture and shit - including a new couch-bed via the bank of Gyro, which is nice of him because he wasn’t the only one involved in breaking the old one - and you’re pretty sure there’s at least one ghost, but it feels a little weird being the only thing breathing in there.

So, instead of learning to cope with spending time alone, or adopting a fucking cat or something (okay, not a cat, they always look like they’re about to call you out on your bullshit), you text Brando. And luckily for both of you, he’s free. You don’t actually know what his job is, but he doesn’t seem to do much of it - he disappears for a couple weekends each month and comes back wired and horny, and it’s 50/50 whether he’ll fuck you or pass out before he has a chance.

You’re making out with him on your bed - it still doesn’t feel like yours, way too big and comfortable - with his hands groping at your ass and his breath disgustingly warm, when you realise that maybe he’d actually have something to say about the Gyro situation.

“Do whatever you want,” he says, unhelpfully and obviously annoyed at being made to stop. He palms you through your sweats and you frown but don’t push him away. “What? That’s what you always do.”

“Yeah, but...I don’t know what I want to do.”

“You know, it’s generally considered a faux pas to ask someone who’s trying to fuck you whether you should be asking the other guy you’re fucking to be your boyfriend.”

You actually do push his hand away now. He rolls his eyes but moves it down to your thigh. “That’s not what this is about. You know I don’t date.”

“Spoken like a prime example of your spoiled little generation - twenty-whatever and still trying to find himself. It’s okay, JoJo, don’t be scaaaared. Having feelings you don’t understand is just a part of growing up!”

“You fuckin’ know I’m twenty-four, asshole. And there’s nothing immature with liking being single!”

“So if you want to be single, what’s the problem? Just tell him that. Even if he wants something more, he’s a tough guy. You won’t break his heart. Why are you obsessing like this? You’re never like this with me.”

You’ve asked yourself that and you didn’t really come up with an answer. You know you like being with Gyro. You know that things have got a lot better for you since he came by for that ‘photo session’ (yes, you’re still completely humiliated by that, and yes, neither Brando nor Gyro allow you to forget). You know that Brando’s been smiling more too since then, even staying the night sometimes, and when you try to go off on what a piece of shit you are, he doesn’t join in anymore. The self-deprecation jar was actually his idea.

Obviously you can’t feel his hand on your leg. He knows that, you know that. But he’s not just groping you there, his hand’s slowly like...almost stroking you, even if there’s no point to it. You don’t know how to feel about that any more than you know how to feel about Gyro. “Whatever,” you say, feeling way less comfortable than you’d hoped to be feeling by now. “We gonna fuck or what?”

 


 

Brando rides your strap like a fucking champ, grinning creepily wide at you the whole time, and it’s so fucking good you want to go a second time but he claims to be too tired. You’re not, so you try to get up, but he grabs you and pins you down, legs wrapping around your waist and hand on your chest. He looks far too smug about it for a man who’s apparently not even brave enough to ask to cuddle after sex, because this is absolutely what is happening right now, but since it’s not unbearably awful you let him press his face up against your neck and close your eyes. Although you may not feel tired, you are chronically sleep-deprived, so you fall asleep anyway.

When you wake up, you think he’s left (you absolutely don’t feel any kind of disappointment about that), but it turns out he’s making you breakfast. “I’ve been watching a lot of cooking videos recently,” he says, as if that explains anything. You wonder if he’s going to poison you but decide that’s a problem for future-Johnny.

Without anything else to do, you lean back and check your phone. You still use one of those models with a hinge, though one of the little connectors has been cracked for a while and you’re pretty sure it’s going to completely fall apart soon. The first thing you notice is that it’s 3am, which is horrifying, and you have no idea why either of you are awake but it’s definitely an omen of doom. The second thing you notice is that Gyro texted. You may be the kind of guy who doesn’t respond when other people try to get in contact with you, but you’ll at least find out what they want first before ignoring them.

The message is simple. “Free today? Want to grab breakfast?” Sent ten minutes ago - weird fucking coincidence that makes you wonder if everyone gets up at 3am for eggs these days. Could be the new ‘meme’ or something. You’re pretty sure you’re using that word right.

“Diego?” He turns away from whatever he’s making. You assumed omelette or something because of the egg box next to him, but you actually have no idea what’s happening. “You enemies with Gyro yet?”

“I’ll have you know I’m on perfectly fine terms with your Mr Model. I saw him last week. Not everyone becomes my enemy.”

“Just basically everyone.”

“I like Zeppeli. Why do you ask?”

“Texted me. Wants breakfast. Should I invite him?” Brando shrugs. “Thanks for the help, as always.”

Maybe because every other decision you’ve had to make recently has been either crazy fucking stressful or so tedious that you’d rather fry the back of your hands in hot oil (no dad, you don’t know or care what a credit card is which means you’re fine without one), but this one turns out to be easy. “D cooking at mjne bring orange juice and i;ll let youin”. Perfect. Wait. “no pulp”. Now it’s perfect.

Since Gyro actually does like people, and being around people, and being nice to people, he texts back within the minute. Not that you were timing it. “Diego and Johnny - with me in the middle, that sounds like a perfect breakfast sandwich. Be there in half an hour.”

Brando’s looking at you when you put your phone away. “Gyro says if you’re still here when he comes over he’s going to pepper spray you up your dick.”

Gyro actually takes thirty-four minutes (again, it’s not like you were timing it) to get there, and by then Brando’s managed to make some kinda delicious-smelling, healthy- looking mess of eggs and veggies, which means he must have brought groceries over yesterday, because you know you’ve never bought lemons OR mushrooms in your life. It’s a little surprising that Gyro gets in without you needing to go to the door (you briefly panic that you gave him a spare key at some point, which would have been intensely unchill of you), but as it turns out, you just left it unlocked. Your complete lack of reaction to hearing that you could have been robbed or murdered or home invaded at any time last night has Brando snickering in the corner, and Gyro chiding you with some fondness.

The food is good. Okay, you’re fucking lying, it’s just as delicious as it smells , and the only thing preventing you from picking up the plate and letting the whole everything slide right down into your gullet is your dedication to refusing to give Brando any extra ammunition. You can hear him already - aw, JoJo, you like my cooking? Maybe I should do it again for you someday - fucking unbearable and completely loaded with malice, even if no one else would be able to tell.

“It’s good,” you say, when you finish. You’d meant to leave a couple bites on the plate, just to show off that you could, but...well, you couldn’t. Hot Pockets and canned hot dogs just don’t fill you up the way they used to. Brando, directly opposite you on the other end of the table, rests his chin on his hand and smirks. “...Thanks,” you manage to add.

“Isn’t it great, ah?” Gyro finished before you and is openly reaching across to Brando’s plate to steal what he has left. “Every time I try his cooking it makes me wonder if we’re really taking the same classes.”

Classes? “I thought you said you’d been watching youtubes?” You’re pretty sure you don’t sound accusatory. Brando shrugs, letting Gyro take what he wants.

“Didn’t Diego tell you? We’ve been going to a class together.” Satisfied Brando’s plate isn’t getting cleaner, Gyro gathers up the dishes without anyone needing to ask, and takes them over to the sink. “It’s fun! Shame you didn’t want to come with.”

You stare at Brando and he grins. “I’ve also been watching ‘youtubes’.”

You have absolutely no idea why this makes you want to flip the table over. You didn’t even realise the two of them were spending time together until Brando mentioned it today. It’s none of your business - so the reason you’re pissed off must be because of - because of the assumption everyone apparently made without even asking you that you wouldn’t want to go learn to cook too! Which, okay, that sounds boring and irritating and you absolutely do not want to be the sort of person who cooks, but they should have asked you.

That sounds dumb even to you. That’s probably not really why you’re mad. While Gyro washes up (taking care of the rest of the shit you left on the side over the last few days too, without even complaining!), Brando continues to stare at you, while you pretend you don’t care. Gyro’s just finishing up when Brando turns to him.

“JoJo had something he wanted to talk to you about, Zeppeli.” 

“Oh yeah?” There’s nothing for Gyro to dry his hands on, so he uses his jeans. “What’s up?”

You decide you hate Diego Brando. “He’s lyin’.”

“JoJo’s just being shy.” He stands, hand sliding up to his hip. “He wants to know how you feel about him but he’s concerned about looking soft. It’s irritating, so please deal with it while I go and check my emails.”

He’s outside your throwing-down zone before you get over the shock of what he just said. Hate is far too mild a word for this. You don’t know what word’s stronger than hate (there must be some - you’ll yahoo them later) so you mostly just think through all the curses you know. The one satisfaction is that you were fucking right about Brando being up to something, he must have planned all this - the 3am, the breakfast text, putting all this feelings shit in your mind to begin with - he must have, and this is gonna be the last straw, you don’t fucking care how good of a lay he is.

Gyro slides into the seat Brando just vacated. “You want to know how I feel about you?”

You wanna say no, but somehow that sounds more pathetic than telling the truth right now, assuming your face looks the way it feels. “I guess.”

He nods, like wanting to know something like that is normal. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise. I think I might have been making assumptions about you.”

“Yeah. Maybe you have.”

“I probably should have asked you if you wanted to talk about this. How long have we known each other?”

“...Six months, maybe.” Six months exactly, next wednesday.

“And we’ve been sleeping together for…?” 

He smiles, and you smile back, just a little. “Six months.”

“Yeah. Seems like maybe a good point to talk about stuff.” Gyro leans back in the chair. He’s heavier than Brando, so it creaks under him. “I guess I just assumed that since you like Diego, you just wanted things to be casual between us.”

“Ex cuse me?”

When Brando told Gyro that you wanted to talk, he looked surprised, but only a little bit. Like some part of him knew it was coming. Now, he looks shocked. Shocked? Why shocked? You suddenly get the feeling that you’ve been missing something important. “Shit.”

“What?” He looks at the door. “Gyro, what?”

“I thought…” He looks back at you. “Don’t you want to date Diego?”

“No!” You want to date G - no, you don’t, you don’t want to date anyone! Brando? Brando? The Diego Brando who hates your guts so much that he’d scheme all this up just to make you uncomfortable? The Diego Brando who puts more effort into fucking up your life than doing anything else with his existence, just because he thrives on suffering - that Diego Brando? 

“Oh. Wait, I...I thought…”

What did you thought?” Think - shit. You’re too freaked out to correct yourself.

“Look, I uh. Oh boy.” Gyro looks just as freaked. “Okay, I know I said I’d been making assumptions, but I, uh. Okay, I’ll just say it. I thought I was setting the two of you up.”

“WhAT?”  

“I thought - the two of you were into each other, and you were just needing someone to make you realise that, so the - cooking classes, I suggested...and the - your friend, who used to live with you? They walked in on us once?”

Twice. HP walked in on you twice. You nod, numbly.

“Yeah, I - we talked about it, I - we thought that if they gave you the place to yourself, then things - and when Diego with the rent…”

Your head’s spinning. The thought occurs to you that maybe the food really was poisoned. Fuck past Johnny for making this your problem.

“Anyway. I mean - I like the two of you, I’d want to - if I hadn’t thought you were already, and you’re okay with things being casual but I didn’t want to assume it was the same when romance was involved - and I feel stupid now that that’s the one assumption I didn’t want to make.”

“Diego hates me.” You say it because you don’t know what else to say, and then you wonder why you picked that, instead of - no, I hate Diego, I’d never want to date him, he makes me miserable.

Gyro seems cut off from whatever thought process was leading him along his babble. “What? No, he’s into you.”

“No, he’s not. He hates me. He told me.”

“Well he told me-” Gyro looks like he’s about to slap himself. “Oh.”

“What?”

“No, I shouldn’t…”

“I’m about to start throwing shit if you don’t finish that fucking sentence, what?”

“Johnny, calm down.”

“What were you gonna say?”

The door opens and Brando comes back, staring at his phone. He stops when he realises neither of you are saying anything and looks between you.

Gyro glances at you, alarmed. His lipstick had pretty much survived the food intact, but the conversation’s left it streaky. You stare back. You realise you don’t know if Gyro ever answered the question Brando asked for you. You realise that you really fucking wish he had. You realise that maybe you should be asking the same question to yourself, for real this time, because whatever you’re feeling right now? You don’t understand it at all.

“...What is it?” Brando’s the one who speaks first. He genuinely seems unsure of what just happened, which doesn’t make sense because this was all his...all his - it feels stupid to say scheme again. 

You do not feel nearly as comfortable as you should be with your two - let’s just pretend none of that got said and call them your fuck buddies - your fuck buddies in the same room with you, with a perfectly soft and huge and comfortable bed mere metres away. So you say the only thing you can think of to make all the awkwardness disappear. “Do you two wanna go fuck?”

The answer is, thankfully, a very relieved yes.

Chapter Text

Prosciutto has never particularly liked Illuso. He wouldn’t say he disliked him - he certainly respected him as an integral part of their team, and had no complaints about the way they worked together. But that was all a matter of business. When it came to the personal, there simply wasn’t enough of Illuso shown for Prosciutto to form an opinion on. Illuso gives very little of himself away - Prosciutto’s seen him drunk, hanging off Formaggio or Ghaiccio’s arm, heard all sorts of secrets belonging to other people be traded away with a wink and a grin - but of Illuso himself...Prosciutto doesn’t even know how old he is.

The first solid piece of information Prosciutto gained regarding Illuso, the man, rather than Illuso, the mirror, was on a warm evening after a successful hunt. They had a few hours until their flight back to Italy, and Illuso had been in a playful, self-satisfied mood, stolen one of Prosciutto’s cigarettes. And then, as most people who dare to do so did, he choked on it.

Fuck, what’s in here? Fax paper? Disgusting. ” Prosciutto has many rules about how he works, and one of the most important is: no relaxing on the job. Until they step back inside the base and complete the safety protocol, they’re on the job . But he very nearly smiled at that.

“Close. Sandpaper. To punish cocky little thieves like you.” He expected Illuso to toss it over the railing but, grimacing, he instead took another go at it. “It’s what my mentor smoked back when I was in university. I enjoy the sentimentality. Plus, it teaches people to go steal from Formaggio instead.”

Illuso coughed a little, but was doing remarkably well considering how rarely Prosciutto saw him with a cigarette. “Huh. Never went to uni.”

And there it was. Prosciutto didn’t notice until later, small detail that it was, but that was the first personal thing Illuso had ever voluntarily shared about himself.

The second thing Illuso told Prosciutto was that he was scared and Prosciutto had wanted so badly to kiss him for it. It was like - something wholly new had happened, a rare glimpse into another human's soul, and yet by the next morning what had happened had become unspeakable. Illuso returned to the mirror. They didn’t see each other for another week and they didn’t talk, after that, for another month.

He meant what he said when he didn’t regret it. It had just been - unexpected. For both of them, clearly, judging by the shocked look on Illuso’s face when he opened the door. They had only been able to stare at each other for a moment, all the usual framework of their interactions (work, the other members of their group, food and wine) gone, and Prosciutto didn’t know what else to do but offer him a drink.

An even bigger surprise than the appearance at the door was the fact that Illuso accepted. Since his room only had one chair, Prosciutto stayed on his bed and offered it to Illuso. One thing, somehow, led to another, and then they were kissing. Neither of them had drunk enough for their decision-making to be affected, Illuso seemed to be having fun, and Prosciutto had always found him handsome, in a slightly intense way. The first sign of anything being wrong only came afterwards. During the act itself, Illuso was enthusiastic, arching his back, scratching and biting in a way that, while bracing, wasn’t unwelcome. Each time Prosciutto pressed close and asked if he wanted it, Illuso said yes, more - but as soon as they were finished, he grew cold.

Prosciutto was no stranger to casual sex, both with known and unknown agents (Formaggio is particularly entertaining in bed, and the fact that he is very much a giver doesn’t go unappreciated), and had no expectation of intimacy beyond climax. If they were strangers, he would have accepted that nothing more was wanted, and left. But Illuso wasn’t a stranger, little it was that they knew of each other, and so Prosciutto was concerned. More to the point - he felt responsible, as he did for each member of his team.

“I’m scared too,” he said, the fear fluttering into the confession he felt was unfair not to share. Prosciutto had always maintained an admiration for those who would allow themselves to be vulnerable. Illuso let him hold him that night, at least until Prosciutto fell asleep, earlier than intended in the little room he rarely used, expecting to wake alone and disappointed when that expectation was confirmed.

A vision of a night gone better, the correct things said and a boundary shattered rather than cracked - Illuso in his arms all night, coffee shared while the building still belonged only to them (what would be his opinion on Prosciutto’s coffee? He cooks it almost to a char, bitter and slightly thick - imagining Illuso’s horrified reaction made him smile, just a little), a sense of understanding, even if that specific intimacy was never to be repeated.

Instead, a week unseen (not spent entirely inside the mirror - there was work for Illuso, Risotto had said, knowing enough of Prosciutto’s idiosyncrasies not to ask why he was curious), and then a month, and then a night where once again the building would stand empty.

As if anticipating the possibility of being sought, Illuso was hidden. Not working, and he had no property elsewhere, as most members of their team did, and so - the mirror. Undoubtedly, the mirror. Prosciutto had decided that the most promising scenario would lead with Illuso out, allowing himself to be approached, perhaps even doing the approaching himself, as before, but that the most likely one would be this. And as always, he had a plan to deal with it, should he decide to make it his business ( ‘You say that as if there’s any chance you won’t stick your nose in,’ Formaggio had said fondly, running his hand over Prosciutto’s stomach. ‘’Luso’s a big boy, he can decide for himself what he wants, but I won’t tell you not to do it. You’re cute when you have a project.’ ) - which of course, he did.

The plan was simple. Each of them had a private room to do with what they wished, and Illuso’s was primarily his bedroom. Prosciutto knocks on the door, both anticipating and receiving no answer, then enters. It’s…

Dusty, is the first word that comes to mind. Cluttered, dark, windows completely obscured and fabric draped across the mirrors that lay on every surface, leant against every wall. A path was cleared to the bed, curtains pulled around it, and to what was by far the largest and most permanent mirror in the room - taller even than Risotto, securely attached to the wall, uncovered and polished clean. Prosciutto approaches it, and, after a pause, knocks again.

He’s never been inside the Mirror World. As far as he’s aware, the only ones who have - and survived the experience - are Formaggio (they work together too often to avoid it) and Risotto. Neither of them speak much of what it’s like, either out of disinterest or respect for Illuso’s privacy, and so most of what Prosciutto has to work with is based on his own speculation. First, it seems clear that, although nothing can be seen from this side of the mirror (unless decided otherwise by its master), visibility from the other side must be unrestricted save for the availability of reflective surfaces. Thus, if Illuso were to be sharing this space on the other side, he must have a perfect view of Prosciutto. Second (and this is only likely, not certain), Illuso must have some other sensory awareness of this world while in his own in order to allow him to track his targets, as he so often does, throughout their routine, even where there is no mirror to spy through. And so - if Illuso is not here now, there is a chance that he will still hear Prosciutto, follow the sound through curiosity, and answer, were the impulse to strike. Illuso is rude, dismissive, even cruel, but Prosciutto is certain that he won’t ignore him completely.

Nothing happens at first. Prosciutto knocks once more, then drops his hand, because he will not stoop so low as to harass. A pause to allow for response, then he steps away, politely, turns his head to look across the wall that should show windows. The same retro, heavy fabrics that cover the mirrors also hide the windows. Almost vampiric. Or, more mundanely, the effect is similar to a neglected antique store, the kind people inclinded to nostalgia peruse to satisfy their sense of being charitable, doing their part to stop the spread of chain stores and malls and the quirkless anonymity of modern life. It doesn’t make for a particularly homey living space. Worse, the dust is starting to irritate Prosciutto’s nose - either dust is one of the things that must be permitted access through the mirror, or else Illuso isn’t bothered by it. He’s starting to wonder whether Illuso would allow him to clean in here, if not for his sake but for his own peace of mind, when he feels the air shift behind him. 

Prosciutto turns. He turns, and the air grows thin, still and cold, disorientating in a way that makes it feel as if he was spinning, rather than simply looking over his shoulder, that makes his stomach drop and his ankle slip, but he’s caught before he can do more than stagger.

It’s Illuso, of course. For all that the warning mechanisms in his head keeping him paranoid and sharp say otherwise, he is unmistakable, hair loose and tight sweatsuit soft and warm, smelling of nothing. He keeps his hands on Prosciutto only long enough to steady him, then releases, turning with a flick of his hair and striding over to the bed.

The bed, which now has all of its curtains drawn back - and the windows to the side, too, are uncovered, the night sky outside tinted slightly pink, obstacles on the floor either pushed aside or disappeared entirely. There is no dust.

“Did you pull me inside?” That is not how Prosciutto would phrase the question were he to have control over his still-spinning mind, but it’s good enough. Illuso settles himself down over his violet sheets, arching his back enough to reveal the faintest slash of skin at his waist, and smiles like he was the one who did the seeking-out.

In eerie reflection of its master, Man in the Mirror flickers into existence behind him, legs spread in the same way, back arched in the same way, leaning slightly to the side - but the side unfavoured by Illuso, two stuck pages pulled apart by a careful hand. “Isn’t that what you wanted me to do, Prosciutto?”

Man in the Mirror traces Illuso’s every shift, mouthpiece opening silently as Illuso laughs. Prosciutto wonders whether that’s reflex or for show. “I wanted to talk.”

“Can’t we talk in here?”

“I wanted…” The plan. There was a plan, and Prosciutto’s mind isn’t coming into focus fast enough to find it. It’s cold here. His chest is far too exposed. Illuso sighs and Prosciutto can focus on that, at least, the hook that steadies his head the way those hands had steadied his body. “To talk.”

Illuso keeps smiling. Man in the Mirror’s manifestation flickers like a broken image - and when it stops, it leans forward against its master, hand coming around to cup at his chest, thigh overlapping thigh. “You could have slipped a note under my door if you only wanted to talk. Or is that too impersonal for what it is you really came here for? I think you wanted to fuck me again, Prosciutto. Isn’t that why you waited until we were alone?”

The plan. Yes - he remembers now. It slots together in Prosciutto’s mind, the importance of changing track, from diverting away from this guarded intimacy. “I missed you.” That’s what he came here to say. No - that wasn’t all. “I've thought about you since our night together. I wanted to tell you that you were sweet. I was sorry to see you had left in the night, though I understand why you would do such a thing. It caused me to realise that--” No, Prosciutto stops himself again, this is what he had planned, but it wasn’t right for the mood. “I’d like to know you better, Illuso.”

Throughout that speech, Illuso had shifted forward, resting his arms on his knees. He doesn’t particularly seem convinced. Not at all like the man who had grabbed Prosciutto so hard he bruised, as if terrified that he might leave, all but whimpering whenever he was told how pretty he looked being fucked out. Man in the Mirror flickers, resets, once more a reflection. “That’s bold of you.”

“It’s not as if I’m asking you out.” Man in the Mirror’s mouthpiece drops open again, almost obscenely wide. “You have no obligation to me.”

“How kind of you to say!” Illuso cups his chin in his hand. “And how insincere, Prosciutto. Since we’re teammates, I can forgive you, but it’s really a little pathetic for you to think you can lie to me in here. Do you know that I can feel how your heart sped up when you said that? That small amount of perspiration, too - strange, isn’t it, when the Mirror is so cold? Even if I wasn’t in perfect control of this world, I could see through you, Prosciutto.” Man in the Mirror flickers more violently than before, reappears with its arms possessively around Illuso’s shoulders. “You pity me. I will not subject myself to being your little project.”

Prosciutto has no idea whether that’s true - if he’s sweating, if his pulse increased - or if it’s a tactic intended to throw him off. “I don’t know you well enough to pity you. I’d like to have the chance.”

“Funny. Look, Prosciutto. If you just want to fuck me, that’s fine. You’re not bad in bed. Any of that other stuff?” He gestures, slashing his hand through the air. “Tell me one thing you’d get out of that? That wouldn’t be completely tedious for me, I mean.”

The plan - Prosciutto wonders whether it had been too artificial, patronising in the way Illuso was accusing him of being - was to evoke what Illuso himself had brought up the last time they were together. Fear. Prosciutto knew what he meant as soon as he said that he was scared. Their funerals had taken place only four months ago, and those they left behind had all been affected in different ways by Risotto’s order.

Prosciutto was a loyal man, but his priority was not his work, no matter what people thought of him. The order, rather, went from his loved ones, to his code of morality, his own wellbeing, and only then Passione. The execution of Sorbet and Gelato had hurt him in a way he didn’t think would be possible. Being told to forget them - even more so. Prosciutto’s bold enough to think he understands why Risotto would order that, but he will never agree with the reasoning, because it would be an insult to both the living and the dead. He left the funeral with anger sweating out of him, swearing never to forget their faces, nor their cruel end, or - most importantly - the way they had been when alive: self-obsessed, greedy, cheerful, vicious, kind. So, painfully, unexpectedly kind to him when he had first been recruited, naively believing he could handle whatever might come of his embroilment in organised crime by the strength of his own will. 

It had been harder to spend time in his apartment. He lives alone - who might notice were the punishment not yet satisfied? If he were to pay for his own complicity in treachery? He had known what those two were planning. Would his failure to sell out his kin over impulses that might yet never be pursued beyond discontented grumbling, idle threats to satisfy frustration - would that constitute betrayal in its own right? Prosciutto cares very deeply about his privacy, but privacy no longer seems as protective as it once was. He thought if he were able to put that fear into words, then Illuso might want to know more of him, too. Is that impulse to care pity? If so, Prosciutto has that same pity for himself - but things may not be understood so clearly by another.

Perhaps there was a simpler way. “I’d like to make you coffee.”

“Coffee?”

“Every time I’ve made someone my coffee, they’ve tried to spare my feelings. I can tell. You and I, we’re both inclined to observe others, aren’t we? You once told me my cigarettes were disgusting. I have a feeling you would spare me nothing.”

“I don’t drink coffee. I drink tea.” Illuso shrugs: his stand loosens its grip but doesn’t let go.

“And I don’t drink tea. I never knew that about you. Why don’t we get a cup of our respective tendencies together?”

Illuso taps at Man in the Mirror’s arm. It inspires curiosity in Prosciutto - there’s no such need for direct communication, as would be the case with a person. An instruction is obeyed as soon as it is thought. He himself only touches The Grateful Dead when absolutely necessary, and only allows it to manifest in times of danger. Illuso seems wholly comfortable with his stand, and when he touches it, it disappears. 

“I thought,” Illuso says, spreading back into the new space open to him. “It wasn’t considered good manners to ask someone out on a date before fucking him silly first.” He slides his hand down his stomach, squeezing himself between the thighs. “So you’re not here to play games? Why don’t you prove it, Prosciutto.”

Man in the Mirror reappears, a flash across space, ghost-fiddle moan vibrating through Prosciutto’s head. It’s his shoulders its arms wrap around this time. They’re colder than the room, broader than he’d expected, cupping him at the throat to coax his head back. It’s tall. Taller even than Illuso, and it whines out that sound again without letting the air so much as stir. When Prosciutto breathes out he can see it fog along the goggles the stand has in place of eyes. It allows him the opportunity to break away, and, when Prosciutto chooses to stay held in place, the hand not at his throat begins its own mirrored slide along the open triangle of his chest. Hair stands on edge around those chilled, there-but-not-there fingers, moving slowly as if a stand could savour a touch. Perhaps this too is a reflection of Illuso’s own excitement - but the restraint, gentle as it may be, is enough to prevent him from angling his head to see the state of the stand’s master.

When Man in the Mirror reaches the edge of this stretch of skin, at long last, it pauses. Its mouthpiece opens, but the sound Prosciutto hears doesn’t emanate from that. It’s from Illuso, torturously out of his line of sight. The stand clicks its mouth shut and thumbs the first suit button open. There are only three - and Man in the Mirror doesn’t allow him to adjust between each. At the second, his jacket is loose enough to display his chest in its entirety - the shirt underneath has no buttons at all, held in place by the stiffness of its collar - and at the third, Man in the Mirror tilts Prosciutto’s jaw up high enough to bump their foreheads together. Is that a gesture of pleasure, Prosciutto wonders? Gratitude? Affection?

“I think it likes you, Prosciutto.” The bed creaks, teasingly. “Would you like to let it show you how much?”

The reflection is not complete. Illuso’s hand was lower - Man in the Mirror’s still rests upon Prosciutto’s stomach, above the line of his trousers. It’s clearly waiting. The other hand, the one at his throat, loosens its grip. It would not be hard to step away. Prosciutto allows himself to smile. This, whether Illuso recognises it or not, is personal. It is vulnerable - soul-deep longing personified, asking for comfort Prosciutto is too happy to provide. He touches the hand at his stomach, encourages it down firmly enough that Man in the Mirror and Illuso both make noise: a satisfied sigh, a spring water wail too easy to read into. It cups him between the legs like the two of them have touched before, and the urge to find a mouth to kiss blooms within Prosciutto’s chest. “Yes,” he says, committed to the importance of verbal consent. “I think I like it too.”

Chapter Text

There are no idle moments with Jolyne - that’s something Hermes caught onto pretty quick. Every moment that there is no work to do, no danger to contend with, no ally to soothe, Jolyne is still active. Even when she’s standing perfectly still.

They were waiting for Weather Report. He’d left a note with that other one (what the fuck was his name? God, who even cares, all Hermes needs to know about him is that she doesn’t trust his pink ass one bit) about a bathroom in the men’s section of the prison where, the story goes, a hand sticks out of the toilet of a certain stall at a certain time and requests a favour in exchange for a secret. Hermes is pretty sure that’s just literally a cheesy ghost story, not a stand, but either way they have to kill time until he comes back.

So, they’re hanging out in Jolyne’s cell. Hermes can think of a few good ways to murder the fuck out that time, but instead of doing any of them, she’s watching Jolyne slowly unravel her hands. And okay, yeah, there are better things, but Hermes has to admit it’s kind of hypnotising to watch. Fucking around with Kiss is mostly too explosively violent to lose herself in (though they did once find one of those disk-powered creeps that way, after the user had come in to complain about the sound she shouldn’t have been able to hear if she was just a normie, so that was fun), but Stone Free has this, like...mesmerising quality. When they wind out out Jolyne’s fingers, the string doesn’t look like yarn or flesh, but instead this kinda shimmery, reflective, crazy-rainbowed tangle that’s hard to look at directly. It’s also hard to look away.

“Hey,” Jolyne says, and Hermes realises she doesn’t know how much time has passed since she started watching. “How much of me do you think I could do this to?”

It’s an interesting question. Would too much kill her, or only render her immobile? Or - would Jolyne be able to keep moving, slithering along the ground like a snake, metres of woman thin enough to slip through the drains? “How much have you done before?”

“Up to…” Jolyne lifts up her hands and another inch of her spools out, dripping to the floor like a melted slinky. “I’ve done my arms, I think. Do you think I could do it all?”

“You might not be able to come back together if you did that.”

A quick unravel - to the wrists. When she does this, the inside of her body doesn’t look fleshy either, just black with flickering shocks of colour. A void anyone with a heart could get lost in way too easy. “That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“What, being a piece of string?”

“Yeah, I mean.” Jolyne looks at her. “Can’t be much harder than being a woman. Y’know...gender.”

Hermes does know. Gender hard. “You don’t have to be a woman if you don’t want to, but I think I’m probably more attracted to you as a person than as some floss.”

“Aw, babe. That’s so romantic! You think I’m attractive?” Another inch menacingly drops to the floor. Stone Free dips their fingers in the spiral of Jolyne, spreading the strings on the ground out in a sunburst.

“You’re my girlfriend, idiot.”

Jolyne grins. “What about beautiful? Do you think I’m beautiful?”

Hermes rolls her eyes. “Yeah.”

“Adorable?”

“As adorable as you are annoying.”

“Handsome?”

“Mhhm.”

“What about…” Stone tugs at the strings. Hermes wonders if they find this as entertaining as Jolyne seems to. Can stands even have fun? Should she be tossing a tennis ball to Kiss every so often? “Sexy?”

Hermes glances up into her eyes. She recognises that look. Jolyne has an idea. Probably a terrible one, but - as with all her plans - one worth riding along with anyway. “...What are you thinking.”

“Babe. Tell me if this sounds gross, okay? But do you think this stuff could…” Jolyne raises her arms and the string bounces. “Do you think it’d be hot if I tied you up with this?”

“Oh my god.”

The image is shocking and disgusting enough that Hermes loses it completely, nearly falling out of Gwess’s bunk. When she recovers, she throws the pillows down at Jolyne and, with her arms all over the floor, her girlfriend has no way to defend herself from both of them hitting her right in the face.

It could be just another of the little things that pops into Jolyne’s mind throughout the day - awful and amazing and part of what makes her so fucking irresistable. They could forget all about it and go find someone to pick on, or make out somewhere private-ish, or they could baby Emporio with treats and stories (which he says he hates, but he always smiles so damn big when they do it) - but for some reason, the image gets stuck in Hermes’ mind.

Would it feel rough? Would it be soft, pliant, the way Jolyne is against her when they kiss? Would it feel like nothing at all that should exist in this world? Would the sensation of Jolyne all fucking over her, tangled around and around, taut and loose and everywhere - would the sheer overstimulation of that kill her?

Hermes can’t stop thinking about it. So, after hashing things out in her mind (it’s a fucking pain to be the one suggesting anything remotely kinky, because most of the time, Jolyne’s the one pushing for stuff, and she’s so smug when Hermes wants to try something because to her mind it proves they’re just as bad as each other, and why the fuck does that have to be a competition at all?), she decides to just go for it. And, just as she’d expected, Jolyne’s pleased as hell. She looks so damn triumphant it almost makes Hermes want to push her over. Before she can decide if getting into a fight would be worth the prize of wiping that grin off her face, Joylne pulls Hermes close, grabbing her roughly around the waist. “Filthy - I’m totally fucking in.”

They ask Emporio for access to one of the ghost rooms, make him swear to not come in until they’re done (“Seriously, kid - don’t. I’ll get you a cookie if you’re good, okay?”), and, for safety’s sake make Gwess, who’s been playing nice lately, keep watch. Both for the purpose of keeping any busy-bodies out, and in case they end up getting stuck, which would be the opposite of sexy. Wouldn’t be anything weirder than that girl’d seen before anyway.

The string feels…

It feels...warm. Not a dead thing at all, but alive, ever moving without seeming to have any rational method of propulsion, the feeling of it shifting over her skin almost horrifying. Almost, just almost, because Hermes is way too distracted by the effect it’s having on Jolyne to want it to stop.

“Oh…” Jolyne’s undone to her shoulders, straddling her lap, torso-to-torso and Hermes hasn’t had her so close, so still before. All she’s doing is twitching, when something feels particularly intense, and other than that Stone’s the one doing all the work. The string’s worked all around Hermes’s body, most of the way around Jolyne’s too, looping over itself and tangling in bunches and gathering and almost grabbing sometimes. “Oh, fuck.”

“Is it…” It’s way too obvious a question to ask, but Hermes doesn’t know how else to get talking. “Does it feel good?”

“Feels…”

Hermes waits for her to go on, but she doesn’t. She tightens her grip around Jolyne’s waist and notes with shock that she’s starting to unravel there too. In response, the string grasps her around the wrists and trickles down to between their legs. Oh. “Feels?”

“God. Babe, I fuckin’ feel you like...all over, jesus. It’s crazy. And it keeps going, I keep feeling you, I don’t get a chance to adjust. It’s like...I don’t know, it’s like all’ve me that’s touching you is nipples.”

“Nipples?” Hermes isn’t sure she’s heard her right, but this is Jolyne she’s talking to.

“Yee...ahhh.” Jolyne, for the first time since they started doing this, manages to look down, opening her eyes just a little. “Nipples. Sensitive. Not’s much as a clit, but all over. Fuuu-uck. Hermes, I wanna fuck you so bad.”

Nipples. Nipples. Hermes realises, in a distant sort of way, that she should be laughing. But she’s not, because she can’t break away from the image of taking some of the spool into her mouth, seeing if that would get Jolyne moving. “This was a really good idea,” Hermes says, her disbelief clear as anything.

Jolyne focuses enough to grin, twitch forward into her lap. “Babe. Baby. Hermie. When will you learn? All of my fuckin’ ideas are good.”

Chapter Text

With Formaggio on his back, legs tense - but not tight - around Prosciutto’s waist, hips encouraged to a tilt with the pillow securely underneath - with him like that, it’s easy for Prosciutto to push inside him. Slow, smooth, familiar.

 


 

“Penetration?” Prosciutto had smiled at him fondly earlier, folded into the corner of their couch. Formaggio was stuck to the other end, occasionally stretching his foot out to touch against Prosciutto’s.

“My turn. Yeah. Only my ass though.”

Prosciutto nodded, nudged his foot back. “That sounds good.”

 


 

It feels good. Formaggio lies back and allows himself to focus only on what is happening to him, all through his body, no need to think or to act. Everything is perfectly controlled. That’s how Prosciutto is in bed - steady, regular, no unpleasant jerks and stops. Just one long breath of a fuck that only ends when he’s as far in as possible. Perfect. As close as they ever could be - the happiness of that thought forces a laugh out of his mouth, and Prosciutto bends down to nuzzle against his face. Hello. Hi. Formaggio can drape his arms around Prosciutto’s shoulders and pull him even further down - oh, the way they fit together. Formaggio was hungry for this.

 


 

“Should I avoid your front altogether?”

Formaggio tilted his head to the side, looking up. Good, Prosciutto thought. He was taking this negotiation much more seriously than he had the first time. “Nah, you can touch me if you like. Just nothing inside.”

“Is that what you want?” 

Formaggio met his eye. Considered the wording. “Yeah. I want you to touch me.”

 


 

Prosciutto doesn’t kiss him on the mouth just yet. Formaggio has a thing for kissing. More than just finding it pleasant or affectionate, he will lose himself in it, given the chance, enthusiastic and hazy and often sloppy. Prosciutto asked him what it was he liked about it once, and his response, after some consideration (“come here so I can refresh my memory, ‘sciutto”), was that he likes the attention. Maybe the closeness too, the sense of having someone fully, like there’s no one else they could be thinking about but you. Just feels good, he’d shrugged.

Handy way to keep you quiet, Prosciutto had said, crawling forward into his lap and proving the utility of a kiss, while Formaggio in turn had proved that not even a mouth full of tongue could make him shut up.

Formaggio wants to be kissed now, Prosciutto can tell, the way his mouth’s moving against his cheek, open enough to feel teeth . Not yet. No - Prosciutto kisses him everywhere else first, savouring it, taking his time. Jaw, throat, cheekbones, eyelids, the fuzzy edges of his hair. It’s a way of allowing himself the chance to adjust to the feeling of being inside his lover, which, no matter how many times it’s happened, continues to overwhelm his senses. He couldn’t handle moving yet. That’s what he tells Formaggio when he protests, accusing him of getting off on this torture - and Formaggio tightens all around him in response, breathing out sharp as it’s explained to him just what an effect he has on Prosciutto.

Don’t worry. Prosciutto kisses him between the eyebrows next. The skin wrinkles funny there, folding around a scar Prosciutto doesn’t yet know the history of. Sometimes, in the afterglow of sex, Formaggio tells him about the marks on his body, oddly proud of how many there are, revelling in Prosciutto’s responses to his stories. Gotta keep you interested somehow , was how he’d put it, and even though he was clearly joking Prosciutto had reminded him that the purpose of their relationship was not to entertain. Any part of himself that Formaggio was willing to share would be treasured, but that he must do so at his own pace, when it feels right. Not for me, he’d insisted, and Formaggio had smiled and looked away.

Prosciutto kisses him again, lower, on the flat of his nose. Don’t worry. I have ways of keeping you occupied until I’m ready to move.

Formaggio, for all he wants, needs to be kissed, throws his head back when Prosciutto reaches down between their bodies, even though he doesn’t yet go straight for the still-sensitive parts. He skirts around instead, feeling how softly his hair curls, how wet Formaggio still is with Prosciutto’s spit.

 


 

“How do you feel about me using my mouth on you?”

“Hmmm.” The sound was drawn out, insincere. Formaggio could feign contemplation all he liked - his favourite place to be kissed was on his mouth, slow and reassuring, but he enjoyed Prosciutto’s lips in any place they might fit. “I guess I could tolerate that.”

Prosciutto needed things to be explicitly stated, consciously and soberly agreed upon in detail in order to feel secure. This type of play tended to pluck at the edges of his comfort, but the way Formaggio said it - with a huge grin, sparkling eyes, drawn out comedic oh-yes-please tone - made it acceptable. Still, he raised his eyebrow and removed his feet from kicking distance.

“Okay, okay, I’ll quit fucking around. I’d like that. You’re good at it. Are you okay going down on me?”

It was gratifying to have the question reflected back. Prosciutto smiled. “I’d enjoy it very much, Formaggio.” And he would enjoy it. Formaggio favours mouth against mouth - but Prosciutto’s favourite place to kiss would always be between two warm, trembling thighs.

 


 

Up, down, petting the untrimmed, wild fur, from where it starts - just below Formaggio’s navel - to as far down as Prosciutto can work his fingers. With Formaggio twisted back, Prosciutto can’t kiss his face, so he contents himself with his neck, his chest, his shoulders. The smell of fresh sweat is satisfying. It shows he’s putting them both to work, just as they wanted. 

Between the heavy (fat, muscles - perfection, ridiculously arousing no matter how many times he sees it, the perfect pillow in the night, shaved bare to prevent any hair from scratching up his face) swell of Formaggio’s chest and the stretch of his broad shoulders, there is a scar Prosciutto does know the story of. It’s one of the least visible, and he wonders if that was why Formaggio had selected it to be the first he explained. A puncture-mark - aimed at the lungs, mercifully redirected, ancient even by the time they became teammates. There’s something startling about it, not in the way it looks, but in how young Formaggio must have been when he received it. Prosciutto always takes care to kiss it whenever he can.

Please move. So impatient - Prosciutto smiles, kisses again, and shifts his hips. Yes, oh, it’s sensitive and tight, but he’s just as ready as Formaggio. Even if he can’t last (although he can, he will) , he’s ready - he waits for their position to settle, then swipes his thumb across Formaggio’s dick.

 


 

“How many times d’ya think you’re gonna make me cum?” Formaggio shifted down the sofa, just enough to get back in kicking range. Prosciutto’s feet were bare - while his were covered in socks too thick for the season, itchy and warm.

“Is that your idea of a challenge?”

“Well, are you up to it?”

“I see.” Prosciutto draped both of his feet over Formaggio’s, teasingly pinning them down. “You’re appealing to my competitive side in order to hide the fact that all you have interest in doing is lying there, lazy and comfortable, while I do the work to get you off. And you think you’re being clever with this attempt to fool me?”

Formaggio nodded, wiggled his toes.

“Well consider me fooled.  But, to at least give the illusion of fairness, you must honestly keep count - out loud - of each time I successfully bring you to climax.” His voice dropped. “How does that sound?”

“Mmh. Yeah, good. Yeah, I like it. Makes me want to get started right now.”

“Patience.”

 


 

Two, Formaggio manages to say, before devolving into curses. Prosciutto moves his hand away immediately, petting down Formaggio’s sides to soothe him through the aftershocks. The challenge is exciting, of course, and Prosciutto will always love hearing how thoroughly he pleases whoever might share his bed, but what pleases him most is that this little game encourages Formaggio to be vocal about when he needs more, when he needs less. As Prosciutto lays him out on the bed for a respite, Formaggio lets one arm fall down - presumably meaning to stretch it across the sheets, or perhaps to wipe sweat away - but instead somehow managing to smack himself in the face.

It’s ridiculous, the way he briefly looks offended, in a confused sort of way, as if he wasn’t the one who just did that, face animating freely in his post-orgasm exhaustion. He spits out a fuck - and Prosciutto nearly laughs, despite his concern. It’s almost funny.

No, it is, it is funny, Formaggio assures him. God, you’re ruining me. Prosciutto settles himself down onto his forearms and kisses Formaggio, this time on the mouth, suffusing the action with as much affection as he can muster. He loves him. He loves him. He loves his goofiness, his adaptability, his sweet bluntness and he loves, loves , how warm and soft he is, how tight around him. I love you, Prosciutto says out loud as they part, and Formaggio laughs at how making an idiot of himself could inspire love of all things. Maybe I should do it more often. He curls his other, non-hitting-in-the-face hand up from Prosciutto’s shoulders to pet at his hair. It’s tied, but only in a ponytail, simple enough for the purpose of keeping it out of his face. Formaggio tugs out a few strands - Prosciutto laughs himself when gravity plays its little trick and, by virtue of their heads being so kissing-close, the hair ends up in Formaggio’s face instead.

I love you, he says again, and when he goes to kiss away that annoyed little sulk, his hips shift forward enough that Formaggio gasps. It was unintentional - but before he can pull back, Formaggio grips him by the shoulders again, squeezing his thighs up and against Prosciutto.

That felt good. More.

 


 

“Okay, okay. That’s basically all of it, right?” Formaggio had given up on the foot play, perhaps sensing that it was getting to the point that, say, a quick-witted boyfriend of his might make some sort of quip about fixations and their ties to stand names, which would of course be beneath said boyfriend, but the risk was there all the same. “We’ve gone through all my yes’s and no’s. Oh, and no biting, okay?”

Prosciutto, who had never bitten anyone in his life (“not even as a baby?” - “what sort of babies have you been around?”), smiled. “Yes.”

“Cool. Glad we got that sorted before I had to go get a muzzle.” 

“Kinky.”

Formaggio choked out a laugh at the tone Prosciutto used - “kinky!” - and Prosciutto relished in the sound. Hearing Formaggio laugh was a common occurrence, but being the cause of said laughter always felt special.

“Okay - god, okay. Right. Hey, though. This has all been about me, yeah?” Formaggio glanced away. “Well, I’m grateful for that. It’s embarrassing to say all that stuff in detail, but...yeah. I like that you take care of me.”

“Of course I do. I want you to feel secure.”

“Yeah! And I do. But I wanna...fuck, why does this feel even more embarrassing?” He scratched at his head. “Is there anything you...want? Like, either for me to do or to not do. Is that cool to ask?”

Prosciutto had always been the guide of these conversations, sketching out boundaries and moods, whether he would be topping or not. It took some work for Formaggio to get used to it, unfamiliar, at first, with putting his desires into more complex words than ‘wanna fuck?’ But it was important to Prosciutto so it became important to Formaggio. Still, Prosciutto hadn’t expected that, and it took a moment to adjust to being asked, rather than volunteering of his own accord.

It was touching. He’d already proposed a few things, a few strains of pleasure, but - perhaps one expression of vulnerability deserved another. “I think I might like...you to ride me.”

Formaggio sat up, pulling his legs towards himself. “Oh. Yes, yeah, that sounds hot.”

 


 

There is no set pattern to the ways they come together. Hence the need for discussion - both of them are willing to try a myriad of things in the easy safety of each others’ arms. This, too, is not new to them, but the fact that Prosciutto asked for it makes it strangely restraining. He pulls out, when Formaggio is ready for it, and, already complaining about the strain on his stomach muscles, Formaggio mounts him. There’s a clear excitement in his face as he reaches behind himself to grip at Prosciutto, angling him the way he needs. 

Prosciutto does not like to give up control. That is as close to an invariable fact about him as his height, his hair, the gap between his teeth. Control of his world is a protection charm hung over the handle of a door: ultimately resulting in little change, but imbuing the wielder with a sense of safety, rational or not. Formaggio respects that, even enjoys his directness - and that is precisely why Prosciutto wants to be laid down by him, wants to experience security in a different way. To express that a thing is desired, then to have that desire joyfully met, is only another charm on the metaphorical door. It feels good. It feels safe, and Formaggio tells him his smile is beautiful as he, fully seated on his dick, wipes those loose strands out of his eyes.

I love you, Formaggio says, before he leans back, muscles tense and shining, to position himself more securely. I didn’t say that yet. I need to before I lose my fucking mind up here. Fuck. I love you.

Prosciutto doesn’t know if he’ll ever stop smiling. I love you. And then Formaggio begins to move.

Chapter Text

“Is this your lipstick?”

Well. It’s in Risotto’s bedroom - the only room he ever really uses in the floor of the headquarters he claimed for his own, mostly for convenience’s sake - in the drawer where he keeps the rest of his possessions that defy easy categorisation, such as batteries and the myriad of cat toys that somehow keep ending up in his pockets. There’s not really anyone else it could belong to. Yet the way Illuso’s looking at him makes it clear that the question isn’t rhetorical.

“Yeah,” Risotto says. “It is.”

“Oh.” Illuso looks down at the tube he picked up without asking permission to do so, after going through the drawers (that he also didn’t ask permission to rummage through, which is a far less charming character trait than he thinks it is), then twists the cap off. “It’s black.”

He looks back up at Risotto, and Risotto wonders what he’s expected to say about that. Yes, it’s black. What do you want from me? “I like black.”

“I didn’t know you wore lipstick.”

“Well. I don’t.” Illuso tips his head to the side, staring. “I used to.”

“You don’t anymore?”

He must be aware that he’s doing this. Yes, Risotto has a tendency to be a little quiet, sometimes giving stilted answers and sometimes not responding at all. There’s no issue with that in a work setting, but in private...it’s reasonable to find it irritating. Clearly he’s not paying Illuso enough attention - but there’s no trace of frustration or humour on his face, nothing to suggest he’s being affected like this in the way Risotto is. Just blank innocence. The perfect visage of a man who simply wants to know a little more about his partner. Risotto knows Illuso too well to be deceived, but there’s no room to do more than answer or ignore.

“No.”

“Why not?”

Risotto looks back to his computer. Work-life separation is not a concept that applies to him. His office is only two floors below, but it makes him feel more secure to have the ability to work where he sleeps. 

“Why not?” Illuso says again, tone the same as before but the volume increased, as if he thinks Risotto might not have heard him.

Risotto wonders whether another source of Illuso’s implied irritation with him is because of the computer. He understands that, vaguely, as being a problem, but he’d made it clear earlier that he intended to spend the evening, and much of the night, working. He wouldn’t send Illuso away - he has free reign of the entire floor, and presenting that intimacy as a privilege that could be confiscated would set a bad standard for their relationship. They’ve been together a long time, but each move closer has been taken so slowly, so cautiously, that they’re still negotiating boundaries.

“It makes a mess.”

“A mess?” Illuso replaces the cap, then pulls it off again, the suction pop just suggestive enough that Risotto wants to look back over. “Such as when you’re eating?”

No, that wasn’t the problem. Risotto has always been a careful eater. “It transfers too easily.”

“You’re talking about kissing.” For the first time, there’s an edge to Illuso’s voice. Triumph?

“Amongst other things.”

“Y’know, that’s almost cute of you?” The popping noise stops. “The fact that you’re embarrassed about someone working out that we’re together.”

So that was the problem. There’s annoyance and relief both in the revelation of what all this is about. Relief, because a problem known is a problem one step closer to being fixed. Annoyance because - why couldn’t Illuso just say that he was feeling insecure.

“They know.”

“They know,” Illuso mimics back. “Obviously they all know. You live above our workplace. I don’t even bother to go inside the mirror when I come up here. I wore your shirt in front of them once.”

“My shirt? Which one?” Risotto looks back at him without meaning to. He can’t remember seeing Illuso in one of his shirts. He’d have liked to. Did everyone get to see it but him?

Illuso’s smiling, closed-lipped and tight. “One of the ones you sleep in. I didn’t realise I’d picked up the wrong shirt, not after the night we had together.”

“One of the…”

“The black ones. You like black, remember? It’s got a band on it, one of those with the logos I can’t read.”

Risotto’s been missing his Finntroll shirt for about two months. It did occur to him that someone might have taken it, but, disappointing as the loss was, protesting would surely only make it less likely to be returned. His team are like cats: make them think you don’t care about something and they’ll leave it alone eventually.

“Did you give it back?”

“I will give it back. If you ask for it.” Illuso shrugs, turns to glance at himself in the mirror over the drawers. His stand shimmers there for a second. “I’ve been sleeping in it at home. It still smells like you.”

That’s unexpected. It’s...a compelling image. When Illuso stays the night, he typically wears nothing. Risotto has no complaints about that. He often joins him, enjoying the press of skin against skin, of stroking his hands over long, muscular sides in the moments he wakes, the press of something else, often, and the sleepy morning love-making that leads to. It smells like him? Illuso likes the way he smells? The shirt had been one of Risotto’s favourites, but perhaps this fate for it was not so terrible. 

Illuso snaps his fingers. “My point is! It’s not important that they know. What matters is that you haven’t told them.”

The image of Illuso, in the shirt slightly too large for him, fades far too quickly for Risotto’s liking. “Why would I tell them if they already know?”

“Because! Because that is what you do when--” Illuso stops himself, lowers his voice, wiping away his agitation so easily. “People tell their friends things like that. Because humans, Risotto, bond through sharing the happy moments of their lives, having their loved ones congratulate them and support them. Unless, of course, it is not a happy moment after all, but one that is shameful. Then they don’t tell their friends.”

Risotto wonders whether pointing out that the other members of La Squadra are their teammates, not their friends, would count as avoiding the issue. “Point taken.”

“Point taken?” Illuso looks down at his hand, still holding the tube of matte black lipstick. “Well. So long as we are on the same level. Listen --” He holds it up, as if Risotto hadn’t already seen it, as if they hadn’t been having a whole conversation about it. “I’m going to put this lipstick on. And then I am going to kiss you everywhere I like - if you are good, maybe I’ll kiss you somewhere you like too - and you are going to walk downstairs, greet our friends as if nothing at all is unusual, and you are going to prove to me that you’re not embarrassed about us dating.”

It’s a little difficult for Risotto to understand. He values his privacy very much. He feels secure with only the knowledge that Illuso loves and wants him, and doesn’t feel the need for anyone else to approve of that. The idea of flaunting any aspect of his life, romantic or not, makes him feel uncomfortable, even if only around their team. He is happy with the way things are.

But Illuso is not happy. He needs more reassurance than Risotto, who understands that sometimes he is not forthcoming about his feelings, and he can’t pretend not to have known about that being a problem. This matters to Illuso.

Risotto tips his head to the side, looking Illuso over. He seems tense. As if anticipating rejection. “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay.” Risotto manages a smile. “I think you’d look good in black. Do you need my help applying it?”

Illuso turns around just slowly enough that Risotto doesn’t miss the way he goes very slightly pink. “Of course not! I know how makeup works!” He glances towards the door. “I’m going to do it in the bathroom. Don’t move.”

It occurs to Risotto, after he is alone, that he’s never seen his partner wear any kind of makeup before. Many members of his team do, some more obviously than others: Melone and Pesci lay it on wild and dramatic, while Sorbet, Prosciutto and Formaggio stick to mascara and highlighters. Back when he entered Passione, Risotto wore thick black lipstick, eyeliner, and heavy white foundation. He saw it as a kind of mask - like the makeup worn in kabuki. It allowed him to become someone he wasn’t. Over time, who he was and who he had to be became blurred, and the effort of applying it each morning (although, admittedly, there were times when he simply didn’t remove it the night before, figuring the weathered look added to the ‘character’) seemed increasingly tedious, so he stopped. Gelato had been amazed to see he actually had cheekbones and hadn’t just been drawing them on.

Illuso doesn’t wear makeup. It’s clear, too, other than his ridiculously thick eyelashes - for all Illuso does to distort the world around him, he’s strangely upfront when it comes to some things. Even all this, in a twisted sort of way, was far more confrontational than Risotto could bring himself to be. It’s admirable, he thinks, as he switches the computer off.

And then he thinks - am I just private, or am I really trying to hide our relationship?

The mirror glints. Risotto twitches away, standing before he can order his legs to move, already starting to draw Metallica to his surface - the computer cracks from the tension.

“Wait!” Illuso bursts out of it, hands waving, Man in the Mirror behind him gesturing just as frantically, glass-harp whine echoing with agitation. “Sorry! I - god, I forgot you’re like this. No I mean - ah.” He presses his hand to his face while his stand steps forward, slumped in cautious apology. “I went into your bathroom mirror. I thought coming out of this one would be...I don’t know.”

Metallica stays coated over Risotto’s skin until he can feel his shock fade back inside him. Then it disperses - back into the computer, back into his bloodstream, a few instances drifting forward, off his closest hand, to touch at Man in the Mirror’s knuckles. He didn’t tell them to do that. Illuso and his stand both flinch when they feel it.

He knows he looks irritated when he allows himself to be seen again. It’s not entirely fair - this was, clearly, an impulse poorly calculated, not a deliberate attack - but it drains him to activate Metallica, and he was already so tired to begin with. “Illuso.”

“I said sorry! Just - fuck. Sorry. Are you okay?”

“You changed your clothes.”

“What?”

That...wasn’t what Risotto intended to say. The instances of Metallica on Man in the Mirror are dismissed, and Man in the Mirror quickly follows. “You…”

“Oh! Yeah, I. Did.” Risotto’s not sure when Illuso started keeping clothes in his apartment. It’s not a bad thing. Domestic, in a way he didn’t expect to enjoy. There’s a lot of things about this relationship that Risotto didn’t think he’d enjoy. “Since I was just in my sweats before.”

In the few minutes that he was out of the room, Illuso had switched from what he tends to call his ‘comfy clothes’ into what he once - and then looked so embarrassed about it that neither of them has ever brought it up again - called his ‘boyfriend look’: a garishly pink and red shirt that he’d cut short above his stomach (that legend says, he stole from an ex of his that he refuses to tell anyone about), with his hair tied back properly in a single band and ‘leather’ pants, which are actually made of stretchy synthetic material that kind of sags at the ass. They do a good job at showing off his thighs, though, which is why both of them like it when he puts them on.

Illuso’s also wearing the lipstick. He went outside the borders of his lips, and the lines aren’t smooth, which tends to show up more prominently in black. There’s some flushed skin beneath his mouth - presumably where he had to scrub away a mistake. It’s…

None of that should work. Especially not with the defensive-embarrassed look Illuso’s failing to hide. It’s the very definition of tacky. Which means a lot coming from Risotto, who takes a sort of pride in looking ridiculous, because no one would ever dare to tell him so. It should look awful.

It doesn’t.

Risotto allows his back to click, moving his shoulders back to ease any tension left from the shock, and then he walks to the bed. Illuso stares at him as he positions himself, pulling off his own shirt and leaning back on his arms.

“Didn’t you have something you intended to do?” Risotto says, allowing his spine to curve just a little, as if without the intention to provoke.

It takes a second for Illuso to get it. Then his body visibly relaxes - head tipped back, self-assured smile on his face (and the lipstick suits that, too), hand on his hip. “Eager all of a sudden, hm?”

“I don’t see the point of wasting time.”

Illuso clicks his tongue. “Always so professional, Risotto.” He turns to look at his reflection, pursing his lips. He seems to approve of the effect - and then he turns and follows Risotto to the bed, straddling his lap and cupping his face between his hands.

Risotto grunts as his head’s turned from side to side. “What are you doing?”

“Just admiring my canvas.” Illuso pulls Risotto’s hat off and (not very gently) tosses it to the edge of the bed. “Aren’t you pretty?”

“Thank you.”

The first place Illuso kisses him is directly on the forehead. He leans back to check it out, frowns, and then moves along to the space under Risotto’s left eye. He applies more pressure this time, lingers, trying to get as full a print as possible, and when he pulls back he looks much more satisfied. He continues in that pattern - around the face, methodical and careful, and the effect is surprisingly teasing. Risotto does feel like a canvas, like something kissed not for the pleasure of it, but for some other purpose, as if he plays no part in the activity. Just an object with no feelings of its own. Not being able to kiss back is both frustrating and...something else. Something curling in his stomach, a hook in his bloodstream tugging his focus down, fingers growing tense against the sheets. 

Illuso steadies his head again, wipes off a smudge on his nose, and lowers himself to kiss at Risotto’s neck.

If the groan startles Illuso - or the hand, suddenly at his back, pushing him closer - he doesn’t show it. He continues to kiss, with more pressure here than on the face, leaving marks in pink below the black, aggressive in his focus. At one point Risotto feels teeth - but then they’re withdrawn, a small lick the only apology, and he’s moving down again, following the tense line of his throat down to the collarbone.

“Illuso.”

“Hm?” Illuso moves sideways, just as slow and careful as before, along the muscle of his shoulder, and Risotto forgets what he was going to say. Before he reaches the arm, Illuso stops, pulling back, and Risotto follows him instinctively. “Aww, you having fun? Don’t worry, I’m just reapplying.”

The lines are even more sloppy without a ready mirror, but that’s somehow even more arousing. Risotto’s hard by the time that Illuso shifts forward again to get back to work - and that he does have a reaction to. A slow, wicked smile, a roll of the hips, returning close to the face, but not close enough to kiss, just enough to feel the puffs of Risotto’s breath. 

“Risotto.” His eyes are wide, and so is his smile, enough to show his dimples. “You didn’t answer me. Are you having fun?”

Risotto wants to taste him. He wants a lot of things. “I could be having more.”

“Ohhh? That’s surprising. Here I thought you were having a good time.” Illuso drops his hand along Risotto’s chest, pushing him back enough to thumb at his belt buckle. “Do you want me to stop?”

“I want…” Not stop - not that, certainly. Risotto’s mind flashes with where Illuso could be working his mouth. But with the way Illuso’s grinning at him, he can tell that asking (no matter how nicely) will only spur him further to tease, and he dreads to think of how long this could be drawn out for. “Let me show them you’re mine.”

Illuso’s eyes widen even further. He dips a finger beneath Risotto’s waistband, feeling along the muscle there. “I thought you didn’t like making a mess?

“Illuso.”

“Calm down, I didn’t say no.” Illuso pulls his hand back up, cups Risotto’s face again. “Well, I can’t say I wasn’t curious about how you looked in this.”

The lipstick feels as thick as Risotto remembers, smeared across his mouth, heavy, slightly oily, and Illuso is just as thorough kissing him there as he’s been everywhere else - coaxing Risotto’s mouth to open so he can decorate every curve and crevice, dipping his tongue in to taste just before he pulls away, still too much of a tease to let Risotto enjoy it. He sighs as he admires his work. “You’re so pretty.”

Risotto presses his mouth against the crook of Illuso’s shoulder before he can take control again, and feels nails start to work through his hair, encouraging him, pressing closer, and he’s not sure how much more of this he can take before he becomes so turned on that it hurts.

 


 

“What the fuck?” Ghiaccio is the first person to notice. Not the first person Risotto’s seen - Prosciutto was working on something (or at least, swearing and throwing something around, which usually indicates work) in the living room, but he didn’t even look up as Risotto passed. “What happened to you?”

Risotto debates that in his mind, briefly. “Illuso wanted people to know we belong to each other.”

“Jesus. That how he put it?” Ghiaccio looks legitimately horrified.

“Wait.” Formaggio, in the middle of eating some kind of bran flake (upon which he’s loaded spoonfuls of sugar), stares at them. “Wait, you’n ‘luso’re fucking?”

“Formaggio, do you live under a fucking rock?” Ghiaccio snaps. “They’ve been fucking since before Melone even joined!”

“For real?”

Risotto turns, thumbs at the mark underneath his jaw, and smiles as Ghiaccio begins to berate Formaggio loud enough to attract Pesci into the kitchen, who agrees that their capo’s relationship is difficult to miss. The volume only increases until Risotto decides to slip away, back to bed, back to where his lover is resting, marked in black all over.

Chapter Text

There was someone in Risotto’s office. Whoever it was wasn’t making a sound, was, in fact, masking their presence remarkably well, but as good as they were, Risotto was better. He took only a moment to establish a plan.

The door, made by himself of course, was tailored to his stand power. A lock without a key, needing to be coaxed, reshaped, to open. Clearly not an issue for the intruder, but that was hardly a surprise. Risotto had only expected to keep out the most mundane of ‘guests’. They’d likely be expecting him to pass through there at any moment, and it wouldn’t make a difference how fast he moved - whoever was waiting would be faster. Still, other than coming through the wall or calling someone (Formaggio perhaps. No, Prosciutto, safety in range - though it didn’t matter anyway, since if Risotto couldn’t take care of a problem like this alone, they’d be better off without him), there were no other options.

He decided that he would act as if he had no idea someone was there. Open the door as normal, looking away absently, but in actuality with deadly focus - ready to strike in the moment of satisfaction felt by the intruder when they saw him unguarded. 

Risotto breathed, filling his lungs, and reached for the handle that manifested to his touch.

As almost imperceptible as the intruder had been on the outside, inside the room they were making no effort to disguise themselves at all. They were at his desk - no, on his desk, sitting with their legs crossed over the edge, completely in the dark yet running their finger over the sheath of paper left out: Risotto had only been gone for half an hour, hadn’t expected the need to file it away.

Before Metallica had done more than draw itself up underneath Risotto’s fingernails (stinging - yet more precise if the iron came from himself), the figure shifted, not fully turning, but as if in casual acknowledgement. “Capo.”

Risotto knew that voice. Fury almost drove him to attack, despite that, but he forced himself to hold back. Instead, he closed the door and flicked on the lights.

Illuso continued lazily poking through the papers as if nothing had changed. As if he was not explicitly told the chain of command on his first day assigned to the hitman team, as if this was not a flagrant, insulting disregard for Risotto’s authority, easily deserving of punishment that Risotto would be free to design himself.

After a moment, Illuso shifted again, until he was fully facing Risotto, and he sighed, bracing his arms back against the table. He looked over Risotto slowly, from his shoes to his eyes, which were openly broadcasting hostility. Risotto would not tolerate this from the most senior members of his team, let alone the newest: tomorrow would mark his third week of membership, and though his performance so far had been without complaint or error, the trial period was far from over.

Illuso regarded him for a moment and something about his expression made Risotto keep Metallica active, ready. “Has anyone ever told you,” Illuso said, mouth curling into a smile. “What fucking gorgeous eyes you have?”

Risotto flinched - Illuso’s eyes narrowed slightly, but he didn’t remark on that. “I just came by to deliver my paperwork.” He patted his hand down on the pile - which Risotto now noticed had grown larger in his absence. “Don’t mind me, boss. I’ll just get out of your hair for now.”

It was as if he glinted, for just a moment, a flat shine running over his length, and then Illuso was gone. Behind him - blocked from Risotto’s view until now - was a hand-mirror, a bow wrapped around the handle. 

A gift, it seemed. Risotto threw it in the trash and got back to work.

 


 

Wisely having anticipated Risotto’s lack of amusement at what seemed to have been some kind of power play, Illuso did not make himself known for a fortnight. Apparently he had work - had left that very night with Prosciutto, according to Sorbet. Unluckily for him, Risotto had a talent for holding grudges. But, it seemed, that too was something Illuso had anticipated. Prosciutto alone came to confirm their success, explaining (Risotto was gratified to see he too was irritated) that Illuso had insisted on leaving as soon as they arrived at the airport, and short of restraining him there was little Prosciutto could have done.

“This is not how we work.” Prosciutto had already lit his cigarette, despite his own code regarding indoor smoking. They were, at least, beside a window. “It’s your responsibility to make him understand that. We have a protocol. We check in. Talk to him.”

Risotto didn’t answer. He opened the window a little wider - Prosciutto shifted closer to it with a muttered apology. Prosciutto knew better than to think Risotto hadn’t already planned to do just that - but then, Prosciutto also knew he could get away with most things around Risotto. He coughed and offered Risotto a cigarette - Risotto declined, and, having received all the information he needed, left Prosciutto to decompress.

 


 

The next time he saw Illuso was two days after his conversation with Prosciutto, and therefore, two days past due check-in. The rules in place for their group security were clear - do not work alone, return to headquarters immediately after ensuring the absence of anyone trailing you, and code names - always code names, no matter the context. There were others, but those were key, and to have violated one so soon was serious.

Two days. Just one would have been enough to have Risotto send someone to his apartment - and so he made Ghiaccio go. He came back with the news that the apartment was empty, but that Illuso had left a note, which turned out to have been written on the front of that day’s paper: ‘Busy - tell R. back within 48 hours.”

Ghiaccio seemed even more irritated than Prosciutto had been, though he didn’t bother to tell Risotto that he had to do something about it. He mostly just cursed.

In the end Illuso had only needed twenty-two of those 48 hours he’d so generously granted himself. Just as before, Risotto had felt the presence of someone inside his office, and, despite his near-certainty that this intruder was the same as the last one, he entered in the same guarded way.

“Capo!” Illuso was behind the desk this time, sounding remarkably chipper for someone who had to know he was in trouble. He had his knees up on the chair, leaning something flat against them - from the look of it, more paperwork - and he didn’t look up, hand moving along the something. Writing, perhaps?

The rage was still there. Oh, it was very much still there, cold and hard, but there was also something pleasant. Some - well, of course there was relief that Illuso was alive. Their profession, by nature, came with a highly fatal turnover rate, and Risotto didn’t particularly want anyone who worked under him to die. There was something else though, a satisfaction at, what? Predicting correctly his intrusion? Finally getting a chance to reprimand their newest member? There was something.  

“Are you comfortable?”

Illuso nodded and dropped his knees, letting his feet fall to the ground carelessly. The mirror, Risotto noticed, was on his desk again. Or perhaps Illuso had decided going through Risotto’s trash was too much a breach of privacy even for his standards, and had simply brought an identical twin along with him. 

“Good.” Risotto locked the door behind him and stayed standing, watching. “Illuso, what is our policy regarding what follows the completion of a successful job?”

“Check in.” There was some amusement to his tone.

“Then why did you fail to do so two days ago?”

“Didn’t Prosciutto tell you? I had business.”

Anger flared in him, but Risotto stood still. “What business?”

Illuso looked up for the first time. “I had something left unresolved with my previous team. I needed to take care of it, so I did so as quickly as efficiently as possible, so as not to disrupt my work. I believe I made the right decision.” Before Risotto could respond, he sighed and leaned forward, against the desk. “I really can’t stop thinking about those eyes of yours.”

Risotto thought he was a little more prepared for that this time. “What was left unresolved?”

“Mm. You remember, I was in smuggling?” Of course Risotto did. “Lets just say I didn’t leave on the best terms. There was a reason I was so willing to transfer, even to a specialisation such as yours. No offence.” Whatever he was working on lay abandoned in his lap as he watched Risotto. “Don’t you think we’re similar?”

“Excuse me?”

“Our eyes. Red.” Illuso smiled. “Don’t see that around much. Yours are really something.”

Frankly, Risotto had nothing to say to that.

Illuso stood, kicking away the chair as if it were his own, stretching himself out and dropping the thing he’d been working on face-down on the desk, next to the mirror. “I’m taking up too much of your time. I won’t fail to follow your protocol next time, capo.”

He was gone. Risotto didn’t bother to try calling him back.

As it turned out, Illuso had been working on paperwork. Just not his own. Nothing important, luckily, but Ghiaccio’s budgetary report now had a sketch of Risotto himself over the front of it, peering around the charted numbers with a look of some concern. It wasn’t bad.

Risotto put it in the trash along with the mirror.

 


 

For a while, at least, Illuso played good. Prosciutto, just as irritated as before, reported that he’d taken to his responsibilities well, had competency with his stand, and possessed good intuition. “Full of himself,” he added, “but that’s hardly worth complaining about. Annoying we can handle - just make sure someone else gets sent out with him.”

“I was thinking of working with him soon.”

“What? Why?”

Risotto stared at him until he looked away.

“Well...fine. Good. Like I said, he’s a fine worker.”

 


 

“You go out on hits too, Risotto?”

“That’s capo to you, brat.” Risotto’s opinion was that Ghiaccio enjoyed no longer being the newest member of their group a little too much.

“Mmm, of course he does.” Gelato, miraculously without his better half ( “worse half, Gelato, love, you are the better of us by far”) today, was taking up as much space on the couch as he could. His boots were still on, propped against the armrest. Hence Sorbet being the better half. “Our brilliant leader loves an intimate kill.”

Risotto didn’t rise to the provocation.

And so Gelato continued. “Have you seen his stand in action yet, Illuso?”

“No.”

“Ohh, you’re in for a treat!” Gelato stared, upside-down, at Risotto. “You will take care of our little Illuso, won’t you, capo?”

Illuso was watching Risotto as he turned to look in his direction. “I think he can take care of himself.”

Illuso’s eyes glinted.

 


 

One target, an estimated two days needed to track and eliminate him, the groundwork laid securely in place. As simple as work ever could be. Risotto only thought about it briefly before informing Illuso that he was going to do the actual killing, while Illuso focused only on capture - and, as Prosciutto had reported, Illuso took to his task with precise skill, only turning to gloat once the target was securely inside the mirror. He fell quiet again when Risotto’s performance began.

Illuso had seen Metallica before. Once initiated into their team, stands were demonstrated, tested, matched and combined. They were more effective that way - and, as Formaggio had said, holding a (composed, yet quiet) miniscule Illuso in his palm, it meant that “none of us can turn on the others, because we all have the same dirt. Mutually assured destruction, right Ris?”

He had seen Metallica before, felt its burn, just briefly, but he had not seen the way it could take apart a body. To his credit, he did not look away.

They left the body in the mirror. Illuso’s stand lacked strength and adaptability, but made up for it with endless range: once inside, only his conscious permission would allow someone out. Risotto told him that he had done well (no more, no less - praise from him was always simple), Illuso had tossed his hair back with pride, and they had returned to the base together. Apparently, Illuso had no pressing ‘business’ this time, though Risotto half expected him to disappear just to show that he could - but no, he stuck to his side, providing commentary on the route back but saying nothing of true importance.

They performed the check-in, Gelato and Formaggio there to confirm their identities, and then Risotto moved to his office, to process the results formally. He knew Illuso was following him - and Illuso knew that he knew, of course - but he didn’t comment on it until he was behind the desk, sitting in the place Illuso had taken for himself the last time they met here, looking up at his companion with neutrality.

Illuso stayed standing this time, on the other side of the desk, hands on his hips and posture far too confident for a man who knew he was not allowed to be here. 

The anger was still there. Yes, the anger, and the other things, and the easy curiosity that came after victory, too, the relief of his work bringing some sensation of generosity to Risotto. Some - sense that it might be more interesting to go along with this play, than to shut it down as he had before. Risotto had the door make sound as it locked.

Illuso only smiled. “You didn’t keep my present.”

The hand-mirror. “Why did you give it to me?”

“I thought you might like to see me.” So bold. “I noticed you didn’t have any mirrors in here. If you did, then I could drop in whenever you liked, and no one would have to know.”

“The lack of mirrors didn’t stop you before.”

“Well, I do have my ways, capo. I admit that keeping it here would make things easier for me, though. Plus, you could summon me to your heart’s content! Doesn’t that sound fun?”

“Summon you?”

“Mm!” Illuso came to the edge of the desk, placed his hands across it and leaned forward. “I can hear you while I’m on the other side. You could knock for me.”

“Would you come?”

Illuso’s eyes flashed open at the tone of that. “I would come, capo, entirely at your pleasure.”

Well. This was more interesting than a simple power play. Risotto had wondered, the first time, what the goal of it had been, and the second time he’d started to suspect that it wasn’t, at least entirely, about showcasing his abilities, demonstrating threat in a way that those with non-combative stands tended towards. It was both satisfying and irritating to have come to the point of the game. So cocky.

“Tell me what you want, Illuso.” 

Illuso didn’t seem put-off by Risotto’s directness. His smile didn’t waver as he pulled himself up onto the desk, stretching to show his stomach, his muscles, with no bashfulness at all, before lowering himself onto all fours. “I want you to fuck me, capo.”

Risotto had already come to a decision about how to deal with all this. He was relaxed, he was pleased with how the job had gone, and he had enjoyed how Illuso had showcased his body, the small hint of submission now coming into his movements. He looked Illuso over and Illuso was, sensible at last, patient and still, going no further forward. Pretty. Handsome, strong, broad chest and thick hair, a litheness to the way he carried himself that had not gone unnoticed. 

Risotto made him wait. Then he tilted his head up, just a little. “Don’t call me capo in here.”

As it turned out, Illuso was just as loud and mouthy getting screwed as he was in any other context, only falling silent when Risotto made him cum, which he took a lot of pleasure in doing.

 


 

“Ah! Ris - ssssotto, oh, ah, yes!”

Even bent over the desk, Risotto’s hand on his shoulder, chest allowed precious little space to breathe, Illuso was loud.

“Yes - please, I like it, it’s so good, oh!”

Some part of that was starting to feel performative. Risotto hooked his arms under Illuso’s torso, lifted him up, settled back onto his chair. If he wasn’t doing a good enough job to knock the performance out of him, then Illuso could have control for a while.

“Risotto, it’s rude to stop so quickly. I was just starting to feel…” Illuso arched his back, reached down to feel the base of Risotto’s cock. “Mmm. Oh, it was getting so good. Did you tire yourself out?”

Risotto ran his fingers along Illuso’s stomach, urging him to lean against him, and stroked at that broad, defined chest of his. “I thought you would appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate your skills.”

Illuso rested his back against Risotto without complaint, bringing his arms up to circle around his neck, tensing and sighing. “How thoughtful of you. Okay! You want me to fuck myself on you?” His neck was flushed, despite the confidence with which he spoke. “I’ll fuck myself just the way I like to, Risotto.”

 


 

After that, Risotto kept the mirror, and Illuso kept out of his office unless he was invited. They developed a routine. Illuso was good with his mouth - Risotto showed that he was better. The pleasure was mutual, frequent, and no trace of it left that room. Illuso paid him no more attention than he did any other of his teammates outside, flaunting the fact that he far preferred his own company in his private world more than he did any of theirs. The others seemed to tolerate him, then they seemed to grow to like him in their own ways: Prosciutto’s complaints became fond, Ghiaccio discovered a mutual enjoyment of word puzzles that the two of them would complete together on quiet nights, Formaggio took up the challenge of countering Illuso’s insults with enthusiasm. Sorbet and Gelato, for their part, were relieved to have someone who could share the burden of research and investigation, which meant that they went as far as to consider Illuso a friend.

Illuso, in turn, said that this team was far better than his last, when Risotto asked for his opinion. “But what do you think of me, Risotto?”

“I would have to see more of you in order to form a complete opinion.” Illuso snickered at that, hands coming up to unbutton his shirt, and Risotto watched openly. “But so far, I have no complaints.

Things continued in that way. Physical intimacy, nothing more, with Illuso leaving as soon as he was satiated. Risotto would knock on the mirror in his office, kept otherwise in a drawer, on the evenings when there was little work to be done and he felt restless, and Illuso would usually appear, sometimes already prepared as if he had been waiting. Things continued - until they didn’t.

Only two members of his team knew about Risotto’s bad days. Sorbet, who had known him from the start, seen him at his worst, and Prosciutto, who had discovered it by chance, one night, when things had gone wrong and Risotto’s blood was itching and his mind was aching and he couldn’t stop thinking until - until…

Those days were less frequent now. When they happened, Risotto made sure that either Prosciutto or Sorbet knew, and then he would be alone until it passed. It had been made clear several times that he did not have to be alone, but this was what he preferred. The cold ache of this being his punishment for failing, so many times, was better than the pain of being seen and, worse, being comforted.

The times when things were bad were less frequent, but no less consuming, and sometimes they did not last just a day. Sometimes they lasted much longer.

Risotto was on the fourth day of a very bad week when he instructed Prosciutto to clear the base so that he might access his office without being disturbed. Work, sometimes, was what pushed him out of it. If he had a focus, it might displace the bone-deep ache of his self-loathing. The building was, as Prosciutto assured him, empty, peaceful without the noise of laughter or fighting. It was empty, but when Risotto reached his office, he knew that there was someone inside.

He knew that presence well enough by now that there was no doubt as to who it was. The fury, the sickening rage at being intruded on reappeared in Risotto’s mind, pushing aside his misery for just a moment. Then it was gone again, warped into I’m a failure of a leader if I couldn’t even make them follow an order like this. Perhaps work would not be the solution this time.

Risotto would have left were it not for his certainty that Illuso was just as aware of him as he was of Illuso. Turning away would present an unacceptable weakness. Still, he hesitated, visualising the disappointment Illuso would have in a leader who was afraid of his own team, before opening the door.

Illuso was on the correct side of the desk this time, sitting in a chair he’d pulled from the side of the room, back to the door. When the door locked, he turned around, but didn’t say anything.

In fact, he looked like he didn’t know what to say. He looked uncertain. His hair was down, around his shoulders in the way Risotto had once mentioned he liked, his hands were together, and he looked strangely small. He only met Risotto’s eyes once before glancing away. Was he embarrassed? Was he disgusted?

Risotto didn’t want to say anything. He wanted to stand there until Illuso left him alone, and then he wanted to work until he was too tired to go home, and then he wanted to pretend that nothing had happened at all.

“I,” Illuso began, then stopped. “I - capo. I wanted…” He turned back around, faced the desk. “I missed you.”

Risotto felt very tired. “You’re not supposed to be here.”

“Are you sending me away?”

Risotto didn’t feel as if he had the right to make any kind of order at all, so he said nothing.

“I wanted to see you.”

Risotto didn’t say anything to that, either.

“Can I be with you?”

“I’m not going to fuck you.”

“No, I - I...I didn’t. God, I feel like such a fucking idiot. I’m such a fucking idiot, I’m - fuck. Shit. Ris, I - I didn’t come here for that, I didn’t, I came here because I fucked up so fucking bad, you’re going to hate me so much. I didn’t know what else to do.”

Some part of Risotto realised that this might not be about him. “What do you mean?”

Illuso made some kind of groaning sound, bending over to hold his head in his hands. “Fuck.”

“Illuso.” Illuso didn’t turn around even when Risotto said his name, so Risotto left his space by the door, moving until he was in front of him, up against the desk. “What happened?”

“I shouldn’t be telling you this.”

“Illuso?”

“God. Okay. Okay - remember my last team?”

The business he had to take care of. Of course Risotto had looked into that himself. He was always cautious when it came to new members of his team, always suspicious that the boss might send someone to keep an eye on him, and so he’d heard of what had happened - the disagreements, Illuso’s risk-taking, his pride and his alienation from his teammates, apparently believing he was better than all of them and therefore had no need to follow orders. It had ended in violence and, for Illuso, humiliation. Formaggio reported that it seemed like Illuso had just gone to rub his status (for all that the hitman team were outsiders within Passione, there was a great deal of respect paid towards them) in their faces, and how it proved his natural superiority over them.

He had prepared for consequences. Months had passed, and none came, and Risotto assumed the matter was dead. “Yes.”

“Well! They don’t like me. I sound so stupid and petty saying it that way. They didn’t like me, they never did, and I didn’t like them right back. And I couldn’t just let things drop when I was transferred, I couldn’t move on because - shit. They made me so angry.” He looked up at Risotto, startlingly fast. “The way they talked about me. All the time, the things they said, I couldn’t forget them, and I thought I could at least make them fear me. They were never scared of me before. They didn’t think I could do anything.” He reached out, touched at the edge of Risotto’s jacket. “But that was because they didn’t know I could pull them in. They thought it was just me. They never knew. They never knew I could pull them in, that I could leave them there, and that they would never see something living again. I just wanted them to respect me.”

“Illuso, what did you do?”

“What the fuck do you think I did?” The grip on the jacket tightened, then released fully. “No - fuck, sorry, sorry, I’m so...I just can’t believe I did that.”

“Did you bring them into the mirror?”

Illuso dropped his hands back down to his thighs. “Just the worst one.” He laughed, once, sounding utterly defeated. “I hated him so much. He - he was the one who recruited me, back then. I thought he was my friend. I wanted the money. I didn’t know what it would be like, but he kept saying all this stuff about how I could be strong - and then I did become strong and he hated me for it and I didn’t know why. He made everything so hard and everything became about trying to be better than him, all of them, and I thought - if I scared him, then it would prove that I was.”

Risotto didn’t know when he’d started leaning closer. He was at the very edge of the desk now, barely settled, and it still didn’t feel close enough. “Did you leave him in there?”

“For...a day. A few days. When I was away with Prosciutto. I didn’t know we’d be gone for so long, so I couldn’t wait before going back to get him.”

“Did you kill him?”

“No. He was alive. I almost didn’t let him out because I didn’t want anyone to know what I’d done, but I knew it’d be worse to leave him. I hadn’t exactly been subtle. If I’d planned it properly, then maybe I could have left him in there, but I didn’t think about killing him so I was trapped.”

No corpse. That was better than what he’d thought, with the way the story had been going. They could work with this. Of course, if Illuso had planned things better, had murdered that man in a discreet, controlled way, things would have been better. Not perfect, but Risotto had never been in a position to judge the act of revenge. Still, without a murder, then there were things they could do about it, and - this was it. This was what he’d wanted to find in his paperwork, the distraction, the dragging of his mind outside his body, focused on something other than himself, on a problem that could actually be solved. This was by no means a good situation, but some part of Risotto felt so much lighter than it had been before he walked in.

“What happened next?”

“I took him out, and I told him…” Illuso hung his head even lower and laughed. “It was a warning, I said. I hoped he would - but of course he didn’t. It just made things worse.”

“He wanted revenge?”

“Yeah. Obviously. Even if I hadn’t left him in there so long, he’d have done something, I really don’t have any excuse at all. It’s all my fault. He blackmailed me. Predictable, right? Just blackmail. For money. Well, money at first, and that was okay, but then he wanted me to find out stuff for him.” At the sound Risotto made - just a breath, but loud when he was always so silent - Illuso’s head snapped up. “Not about any of us! About people he didn’t like. Even I wouldn’t...it was petty, anyway. But then he wanted me to get someone for him. Take him into the mirror, like I did him, so he could do...I don’t know. I don’t know what he wanted to do, but that was too much, so I told him I wouldn’t do it. Which went great! Because you know how blackmail is, right? If you’re getting blackmailed, all you have to do is put up with it for a few months, play good, and then very nicely tell the guy who’s got you fucking helpless, dangling there, doing whatever he wants you to do, you just tell him you’d had enough, thank you, and that things were over. Wanna know how well that went?”

Risotto didn’t like rhetorical questions. He found them agitating, confusing, but this wasn’t the time to say so. Instead, he placed his hand on Illuso’s shoulder.

“You don’t have to…” Illuso cut himself off. “Ugh. He - said something about, I don’t remember what he said exactly. But he said it wouldn’t be just me who got fucked, so I, even though I wanted to deal with it all myself, I knew I couldn’t. I’m pathetic, but I’m not that pathetic. I’m not gonna put you at risk more than I already have.”

That was pretty much what Risotto had expected. The logical conclusion, something Illuso should have seen coming from the start, and probably did, on some level, without having the strength to confront it. It still wasn’t good. The deception, especially so: Illuso had been hiding this almost from the day he’d joined his team, and that was significant. Most other leaders within their organisation wouldn’t hesitate in enforcing punishment, but for Risotto, once he’d accepted a member into his team, they fell under his protection - even the idea of having that sort of power over them made him feel uncomfortable.

Especially with Illuso. Especially with what they’d been doing together. Especially when he was almost at the brink of tears. This was a problem, yes, but Risotto was good at solving problems. He shifted forward, off the desk entirely, and lowered himself to his knees. “Illuso.”

Illuso didn’t - couldn’t, perhaps - look at him.  “I’m sorry.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

“Risotto.”

Risotto touched Illuso’s face, turning it enough to look into his eyes. They were dull, resigned, averted out of shame. “It’s going to be okay.”

“You don’t need to say that.”

“Trust in me.”

Illuso shuddered. He met Risotto’s stare, looked away again, and then folded forward, sliding off the chair and against him, and Risotto allowed it, pulling him down, taking both of their weight on his knees. Illuso’s face pressed against his neck and Risotto held him. He held him, and he felt his own heart settle, this sense of purpose twisting it out of the torment he inflicted on himself, and the relief was almost intense enough to thank Illuso.

“Trust in me,” he said again, for the sake of both of them, and he felt Illuso nod his head against him.

Chapter Text

“We need a bigger bathtub.”

Risotto (who, despite the constraints of said bathtub affecting him far more than they did Prosciutto, was managing to quite peacefully fall asleep), makes an automatic hum of agreement. 

Prosciutto, who was at the other end of the bathtub (which would be perfectly serviceable were it not for his particular fondness of sharing his baths with his husband), Risotto’s legs curving into his sides in a not especially comfortable way, unfortunately knows too much about his husband’s ‘not really listening’ noises to let him get away with them. He slides forward one of his own legs, which until then had been pulled up to the knee, until he can knock it gently against Risotto’s inner thigh. “Hey.”

“Mh?” Prosciutto taps again, and Risotto blinks at him, slowly, trying to process what he’d been saying. “Bathtub.”

“Yes. Bathtub.” A pointed look - an embarrassed acknowledgement from Risotto confirming that he wasn’t really paying attention - and then Prosciutto sighs, unfurling completely. His feet hook over Risotto’s thighs, his back reclines against the curve of the tub, and his arms drape along the edges. “We really need a bigger bathtub.”

“Mh,” Risotto says, more thoughtfully this time. “Do we?”

“Look at us. Well, perhaps, considering you were dozing off, look at me.” Prosciutto gestures over himself and Risotto follows the movement, eyes pausing (in a way Prosciutto notes with some pride) on the intersection of his open thighs. “This is not comfortable. There’s barely any space for the water. I practically have to sit on top of you to fit. Baths can be enjoyed in all kinds of ways, but the basic requirement each of those ways has in common is for them to be relaxing, and I, Risotto, am not relaxed.”

Risotto thinks about that for a moment. A moment slightly too long - Prosciutto was just starting to wonder whether he was falling asleep again when he speaks. “I’m sorry to hear that. We could take separate baths so you could have more room?”

“That is the opposite of a solution. Baths are relaxing because I can share them with my gorgeous husband. There’d be no point at all,” he says, shifting forward enough to press his feet up against Risotto’s hips. “In taking them alone.”

Risotto thinks, then tries again. “We could take showers.” They’d done that before. Not many times, but there was always a proud satisfaction to be found in taking the entire weight of his partner in his arms, rocking into him, feeling the heat of the water and the steam all around them - and the clean-up was easier, too.

“Uncomfortable. Stressful. Hard on my back. We’d have to rush to get it over with - I could go on. No. I like baths. I want to take my time with you.”

“Take your time doing what?”

“What indeed?” Prosciutto smiles as he reaches off aside to the stool where he’d left his glass of wine. He always has one - just one - drink when they have time together. Like a little celebration. It helps him relax. “Wouldn’t it be nice to find out? If only we had a bathtub big enough for me to demonstrate.”

Risotto is completely awake now. It had been a difficult day, with people somehow paying even less attention to him than normal - the best that could be said about Ghiaccio was that he had eventually stopped screaming, and Melone should not even be mentioned at all - and all he’d wanted to do was relax in the bath with Prosciutto, listen to the radio together as they dried, and fall asleep in the same bed. Anything more active was something not on his mind at all, other than in that vague undercurrent of thought that picked up whenever Prosciutto was near, but that was more instinctive than it was a sign of genuine interest. Besides, surely everyone felt that way around Prosciutto.

Maybe he has more energy than he’d thought. Risotto touches one of the feet on his hip, stroking his thumb along the arch. “We could always do what you suggested.”

“What I suggested? What did I suggest, Risotto?” Prosciutto lifts his foot up enough to allow Risotto to take it in hand, press his thumb in more firmly. “I don’t remember making a suggestion.”

“You could make yourself fit better by sitting on me.”

“Hm! So you were listening. At least, to that part. I’m not entirely sure whether that counts as a suggestion I was making, more of a rhetorical device to prove my point, but I see why you’d pick up on it.” He sighs and shifts further forward into the foot massage, painted toes curling. “Oh, you are good at that.”

“You could stretch out more if you sat on me.”

“Hm. That I could. Ah, but your hands feel so nice that I’m not sure I have it in me to move.” Prosciutto smiles as he sinks down enough that the water picks up his hair, floating it around in gentle, playful curls. “And I fear I’m starting to adjust to this position. I may need some more convincing, Risotto.”

“I could…” There was one very obvious benefit, but obvious was not what Prosciutto was looking for right now. “I can only reach your feet from here. If you were closer, I could make more of you feel good.”

“What would you do?”

“I’d massage your hands. Your neck - your arms. Until you were relaxed all over.”

“I do carry tension there.” Prosciutto lets his calf flex. “Harder, please.”

Still not enough. Risotto uses both thumbs to dig into the muscle, stroking long and forceful, until Prosciutto sighs and returns his glass to the stool. “I’m softer than the porcelain.”

“Porcelain? Darling, do you think we’re fancy?” He taps his fingernails - not painted, he only does the toes, because the others would, in his words, make ‘such a fuss’ about it if he showed up all buffed and embellished - along the side. “Plastic. So small, and so plastic. Really, what’s the point of living if not to live deliciously?”

“Either way, I’m more comfortable.”

“I suppose.” His tone, as well as the continued tap-tapping, now to a rhythm Risotto recognises but can’t quite identify, suggests Prosciutto’s attention is flagging, and with the constant threat of cooled water and skin wrinkling, there isn’t much time left to win him over. The previous arguments were far too easy to refute: Risotto has to try something new in order to get what he wants.

So he drops Prosciutto’s foot, slides his hands under his calves, and uses that leverage under the knees (very grateful that his husband put his wine down first - Risotto’s passionate but he isn’t a brute) to tug him forward, past the mid-point of the bath and away from the idle lean of the back wall. 

Prosciutto catches himself along the sides before his head can be submerged and his eyes widen - attentive now, though that attention could easily turn sour. 

“A bigger bathtub,” Risotto starts, quickly, before Prosciutto can decide whether this move was insulting or romantic. “Has many advantages. I see that, and if you want it, I will make sure you have it. Before you decide, however, I want to show you one advantage this one has. I’m better with action than with words. You know that.”

The look in Prosciutto’s eyes could indicate many things. Curiosity, agitation, arousal - Risotto very much hopes the latter. He pushes himself up, until his shoulders clear the water, and he withdraws his legs against his chest. For a moment, he watches Risotto, gaze dipping down to between his legs in an exaggerated echo of Risotto’s own earlier stare, and then he reaches for his glass. He holds it up to the soft light of the candles around them, then slowly, deliberately, finishes it without pause, licking his lips when he finishes and puts it aside. “Actions. Yes. I dare say you have a talent for those.” Prosciutto turns his head from side to side, stretching himself out in what must be intended as a display, one very much appreciated by Risotto, and then he makes a small, contented hum. “Very well. You can make your argument.”

And so Risotto does. After pulling Prosciutto against him - back to his front, Prosciutto’s legs folded within his own - he shows him exactly what the benefit of a small bath is: intimacy. When the size makes it so there is no way to relax without touching up against your partner, they never have the chance to leave your mind: they occupy it, lazily at first, but demanding a bigger piece of your consciousness every minute, until it’s only them that you see, only them that you want, even after a difficult day that leaves you exhausted and old beyond your years. Risotto shows Prosciutto what this intimacy has done to him, how it’s left him hard and hot, feels that Prosciutto, despite his coyness, was never far behind, and when they’re finished their mutual exploration of each other the water is cool and any ache that was previously relieved by the heat has returned twicefold, due to the faucet against Risotto’s back and the press of the walls, now far too close to ignore.

“Of course,” Prosciutto says, Risotto’s thigh still between his legs. “We could do that just as well, perhaps with even more comfort, in a bigger bath.”

Risotto sees what he means. “I’ll look into it tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

There was very little in the world that could make Bruno Buccellati let down his guard. It was a fact both by nature and by choice: he would not have survived even into adulthood without the vigilance he had carried with him long before he received his stand. As his responsibilities grew, so did his need to have perfect control over himself and his environment - it had almost ruined him to see one family torn apart. He would not let anything happen to the one he had built himself.

This, of course, had some repercussions. He may have been young, strong, and far better equipped to handle extreme stress than most, but Bruno continued, despite his best efforts, to be human. Stress meant exhaustion, it meant getting sick, it meant - slip ups, mistakes that Bruno couldn’t justify, couldn’t risk. 

There were ways to correct for his overzealous tendencies. Most of them were impossible, of course (there seemed no limit to Bruno’s lows, but he would not partake of the trade that had destroyed his life, as little point to the gesture as there seemed to be), or impractical (meditation - nothing caused his terror to spike like introspection and stillness), or...or perhaps…

“Sex?” If Abbacchio was going to look even half as mortified as he sounded, then Bruno was going to draw out the pouring of the wine for as long as possible. Unfortunately, Abbacchio’s glass was just about full, so, in order to not look completely ridiculous, he passed it over before taking his seat at the other end of the table, focusing again of the filling of his own glass. The small, polite glance he’d taken of Abbacchio’s face had suggested shock more than anything. More than horror, at least. That was something. 

“Did you say...sex, Buccellati?”

Was there a chance he could pretend to have said otherwise? No, Leone, if I may call you that, you misheard me. Would you kindly down your cabernet and leave? Awful. No, Bruno had made up his mind, and if he was going to change it, it would be done honestly. Abbacchio was chosen because he was a man that Bruno could trust with this. 

He finished filling his glass and placed the decanter between them. “I did. I’ve heard that it helps you relax, facilitates sleep.” Bruno hated how formal he sounded. It must have been so obvious how little experience he had with - all this. “I have to stress that you must decline my request if any part of you feels uncomfortable at all with it, I…” He tried, at least, to sound genuine, not so stilted with the most important part. “The last thing I want to do is to use my authority to influence you into anything like this.”

The speech was given with his eyes averted - some gesture of submission and shame that Bruno found to be less terrifying than fully owning up to his idea. But that may just as easily signify disrespect as it did those other feelings, and so Bruno forced himself to look up, to meet Abbacchio’s eyes, properly this time, not to look away until a decision was made and, one way or another, this discussion could be left behind.

Abbacchio still looked shocked. His posture had relaxed a little, and he looked away as soon as Bruno looked up, hand shifting to cover his mouth. Bruno wondered whether his lipstick transferred. Would his palm be marked purple? Would - Bruno be marked purple? Were things to proceed? Shame pulsed along the inside of his skull for thinking such a thing. 

“You’re…” Abbacchio began to speak with his hand still covering his mouth, before settling it back down on the table. If there was a stain, Bruno couldn’t see it. “Having difficulty sleeping, Buccellati?”

Bruno tried not to grimace. “I think, considering the circumstances, I would be more comfortable for you to use my given name, at least in here.”

“Oh. Yeah - uh. Okay, yeah. And - Leone, too.” He covered his mouth again, briefly. “God. Sorry, I’m just, uh, processing this.”

“Don’t apologise.” A pause. “Leone. Please take your time. As much as you need.”

“Yeah.”

Bruno picked up his glass. He very much did not feel like drinking right now, but it might help settle him, and besides, he didn’t want to appear as tense as he felt. 

How did he seem, right now? Did he come off as shameful, embarrassed, vulnerable, shy? Or - exploitative, cowardly, presumptive - oh, god, he didn’t even ask if Abba - if Leone was interested in men. Of course, Bruno knew that he was, there wasn’t much he missed about people, but it would have been polite, it would have been dignified. Should he ask now? Should he volunteer that same information about himself, or would he only look ridiculous doing so? His hand nearly shook around the glass as he lost control of his thoughts - and it actually did shake, just briefly, when he saw how Leone was staring.

Bruno put his glass down. “Sorry? Did you say something?”

“I said, uh, yeah. I said yeah.” Abbacchio’s forehead crumpled, fine wrinkles forming, embarrassment showing through his foundation.

“Oh, I…” He’d heard him say that. Bruno folded his hands over his lap as he realised - Leone hadn’t just been saying ‘yes’ in the sense that he would take his time deciding. He’d…”You - yes? You’re…”

“Yeah. I - fuck. I can’t say it a third time, uh.” He glanced down. “Bruno. Yeah, I’m up for it. Fucking you. If that’s what you want.”

“No, I - Leone, I, please. Do you want to - is what’s important right now. If there’s any doubt or if you’d only do this to make me happy, then, Leone, I’d be much happier if you denied me this, I truly don’t want to make you feel as if you have to.”

“God.” Bruno felt miserable. This was so uncomfortable. This was a ridiculous, stupid, awful idea, and he felt absolutely wretched for being the sort of man who would even conceive of such a thing. “Fuck - you’re gonna make me say that too? No, fuck, I get it, I’m just - ugh.”

As Leone paused to take a breath, Bruno imagined zipping himself away in the floor like a child. From now on he could send instructions to Leone via Fugo, hiding from him until something even more embarrassing happened and this could be forgiven. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah, I’m. Bruno, I’m trying to work out a fucking way to put into words that I said yes because I want to fuck you so fucking bad right now. Okay. Okay, there.” Leone’s chest deflated, and he clutched at his drink like he’d collapse without the support of it. “I really, really wanna fuck you.”

“Oh.”

That was all Bruno could say. Did he really not consider this a possibility? For all the times he’d rehearsed the lines he would give to Leone, trying to be as delicate and responsible as possible, had he not accounted for the option that he might accept?

He didn’t realise that Leone had looked up from his (now empty) glass until he heard him laughing. Bruno looked up too - quick, alarmed - and Leone covered his mouth again to hold back another chuckle. “Sorry. Your face. You looked so surprised. I’m not sure I’ve seen you surprised before, Bruno.”

“I...I am surprised. I think.”

“Why? About me wanting to? You’re fucking gorgeous, of course I want to fuck you.”

Fuck is...not the term Bruno had been expecting, but it suited Leone, the casual, confident way he spoke, his crudeness. But then, what term had he been expecting? Make love? Bed? Did the fact that he’d only thought of it in terms of ‘having sex’ show how little of his own confidence he had in this subject? “Are you certain?”

“Bruno.” Bruno looked at him. “Bruno, I wanna screw you right now, at this table. I was just so fucking shocked that you’d say something like that - god, I thought I’d passed out or something. Yeah. Yeah, I want to. When works for you?”

“Um.” The attentive look in Leone’s eyes was - stirring, perhaps, was the word. Something about Bruno’s chest felt different, tighter. It was almost humiliating - oh, he’d been looked upon with lust before, and he’d felt intense dislike for all those who had done so, because they had felt entitled, there was no respect accompanying it in those eyes. Bruno had thought as far as - sex, exhaustion, like a work-out but more efficient for his purposes, physical stimulation and not much more. Almost clinical. His mind scrambled over the idea that this, too, may have been something he’d assumed too much about in his planning. “Right - right now, sounds, um, good?”

“Now? It’s only eight. This is for helping you sleep, yeah?”

“Doesn’t it...take a while?”

Leone’s eyes widened, and Bruno knew that he’d made a mistake. That was not - something that he’d intended to reveal. Something that was not relevant, really, he knew all the mechanisms and the - and the such, and the so-on. And wasn’t that all that really mattered? Not the happenstance that no, he’d never done more than, well, one time he touched another man through the pants, but only briefly, and he was drunk.

“Bruno. Are you a virgin?”

This was so much worse than being told no. “I wouldn’t use that word.”

“But - are you?”

“I’m not sure why it really matters.” More wine sounded like a fantastic idea, as well as an extremely immature one. “This would be my - first, however.”

“Fuck.” Bruno risked a glance - was that a good fuck or a bad fuck? “I didn’t, uh. Were you waiting?”

He might as well have said saving himself. “No.”

“No?”

“No, I’d just never found the time before, or the person.”

“Okay. Okay, that’s fine. I was just surprised, because you’re --”

“Gorgeous?” 

Leone looked stunned. And then he started laughing again, loud and unrestrained, tension slipping from his shoulders and reaching for - instead of the decanter, for Bruno’s glass, and finishing what was left within it. “Yeah! You really fucking are, Bruno.”

 


 

Now turned out to not be such a great time for Leone. He had a thing, he explained (waving his hand when Bruno apologised for not anticipating that he might be busy), but that it wasn’t important. He just needed a few minutes to cancel it.

“You don’t need to--” Bruno had started, anxious about what the ‘thing’ might have been.

“No, I wanna. Believe me, this is so much the better option.”

True to his word, it had only taken a few minutes. Bruno resisted the urge to eavesdrop on the phone-call, forcing himself to stay seated, examining the wine glasses that Leone had emptied. Should he wash them now? Would Leone want more? There was just the faintest smear of purple along the edges that Bruno found unreasonably fascinating.

When Leone came back, he seemed brighter, more relaxed - he even smiled as he saw Bruno comparing the two glasses, and then he’d been the one to suggest they move to the bedroom.

“Unless you were really into the thing with the table. But I wouldn’t recommend that for your first time.”

Bruno had washed the glasses right then, taking his time to ensure the pink had faded from his cheeks. And then they went to the bedroom.

Despite thinking that Leone would decline, Bruno had ensured that he’d been prepared. He had been for weeks. Overprepared, if anything, judging by the look Leone gave him as he picked through the four distinct types of condoms - and then the five kinds of lubricant.

“They all had different words on them.”

“One of those words is ‘strawberry’, Bruno.”

Well. At least it was reassuring to see Leone so relaxed, even if there was a direct correlation between his happiness and Bruno’s humiliation. “I like strawberries.”

Leone had selected one of each that he decided (by some metric Bruno couldn’t bring himself to ask about) and left them on the bed, putting the rest of them (as well as the other things - ‘restraints, Bruno?’) away, and then he asked Bruno what he wanted to do.

“Can’t you, um.”

“Decide? I could.” Leone shrugged. “I’d rather you thought about what you wanted. I can go a lot of ways. You’re the one who’s new to all this.”

They came to the conclusion that penetration wasn’t on the cards tonight. Leone pushed for it more than Bruno, who agreed that oral sounded - like quite enough, for now (‘for now?’) , and went to put away the lube before Leone stopped him. “But it’s strawberry.”

Bruno felt agonised over his decision to ever buy it.

“So, I’ll go shower, you’ll get ready, and then we’ll touch each other until you feel up to me going down on you. Sound okay?” As casually as he said that, even Leone seemed embarrassed by putting it so bluntly into words.

Bruno could only nod, fidgeting with the condoms.

“Okay.” Leone nodded back, hands on his hips, and looked towards the bathroom. “Uh, okay. Just one more thing?”

It was difficult to imagine what there was left to talk about. “Yes?”

“Can I, uh. Kiss you?”

Somehow, despite all the planning, despite all the discussion and the ever-pressing reality that this was going to happen, that they were going to have sex, Bruno hadn’t considered the possibility of kissing. “Yes,” he said, mind not fully present. “Okay.”

Leone nodded to himself a few more times, facing slightly away from Bruno. “Okay,” he repeated, and then - turning so quickly it shocked Bruno into opening his mouth - he kissed him. 

It was a little awkward, frankly, with Bruno’s mouth open like that. They readjusted. They tried again. It was better. They forgot about the shower.

 


 

That night, Bruno fell asleep easier than he had in months, and when he woke up, Leone was making him breakfast. “Can we do that again?” He asked, sleep-drunk and almost light-headed from lack of exhaustion.

“What, right now?”

Bruno hadn’t meant that, but he found himself smiling. “Yes, please .”

Chapter Text

Ghiaccio was bad at touch. That’s - that’s fine, because frankly, Illuso wasn’t always so hot on it either. If it happened suddenly it freaked him out. Made him jump, almost, which was really fucking embarrassing to do as an adult but it’s - well, that’s why he spent most of his time in the mirror. So he didn't have to go through that.

When Ghiaccio told him he didn't like to be touched, right after they started (dating, they’re dating - just fucking say the word, it’s fine!) spending more time together, he said it like it was something shameful. Like he was already getting himself pissed off in preparation for being laughed at or something, which really made Illuso feel like shit because he hated the idea of coming across as the sort of guy who’d do something so cruel to his first (boyfriend) uh, close - friend. Fuck.

Ghiaccio may be bad at touch, but Illuso was bad at everything involved in having a relationship. He didn’t have no experience, but it was close enough that it might as well be the case, and if Ghiaccio thought it was important enough to say that he couldn’t handle touch, then maybe Illuso should say something like - that’s totally fine, I can’t handle any of this, I don’t know what I’m doing at all and I just want to make you as happy as I can and fuck, god, why was he like this?

Illuso didn’t want any of this to happen. Well, no, that’s not quite right, he did want this to happen, that’s why it happened, because he couldn’t restrain himself from flirting in increasingly obnoxious and obvious ways until Ghiaccio finally confronted him and - and, well.

“I gotta ask you something.” He’d said it in such an even tone that Illuso had thought it was about work, so he didn’t run. “Don’t fucking laugh because I’m being serious here. Are you like this because you hate me or are you into me?”

And of course, Illuso hadn’t seen that coming, at all, which was so fucking stupid of him because they weren’t children - or at least, Ghiaccio wasn’t. “I don’t hate you,” he’d said, not thinking at all about what he was saying, when he could have been disappearing away into the mirror and, okay, no, no, that would have been worse.

Ghiaccio had stared at him for so long that Illuso was starting to wonder whether he’d actually said anything at all, or if I don’t hate you had simply been a fantasy sculpted by his panicked, reeling mind, but then he’d huffed, turning to the side. “Okay. Do you want to get coffee?”

“What?”

“Or tea, whatever. I don’t care. Milkshakes.”

“What?”

“I’m asking you out.” He barely moved his mouth as he spoke, teeth welded together in a grimace, like he hated this conversation more than anything, and before he knew it - mostly due to not wanting to piss Ghiaccio off any more than he already had - Illuso was agreeing, and they set a time and a place, and that...that was how it happened.

Illuso was happy. For all this frustration and anxiety - he really was happy. Even before all this, the person he felt the most comfortable around had always been Ghiaccio. They fought a lot, sure, but it was a reassuring kind of fighting, predictable and forgotten as soon as it was over. Neither of them had ever had much to call a personal life - hobbies didn’t count if they were related to work, and besides, what kind of person could describe exercise as a hobby? - and so by their respective natures, they’d often ended up spending time together without the intention to do so. They were the only ones willing to jog in the morning (Gelato and Formaggio were the other members of the group more athletically inclined, and they’d positively cackled when Ghiaccio suggested that change in routine - Illuso would have joined in with them were it not for his nocturnal habits meaning a 6am jog would be the perfect ‘evening’ wind-down), they frequently found each other on the same couch, watching the same monotonous tv shows that annoyed them in the same ways, and neither cared to go outside more than they needed to. Illuso typically covered for his hermit-like instincts by retreating into the mirror intermittently but when it was just Ghiaccio around, well...they had some kind of mutual understanding. 

Touch was hard. They both agreed upon that. Other people - they were hard too. Noise - hard. Outside. Hard. Too much of anything, frankly, was hard.

They went for coffee. Or, Illuso did, Ghiaccio had water. It had gone well? Illuso had felt intensely nervous throughout the whole thing, constantly fussing over his clothes and ripping up all the little packets of sugar he’d taken into fine strips, but - even though Ghiaccio had snapped at him, telling him to sit still, it had gone well enough to be asked out again, and then again, and - again, until it was official. Everyone seemed happy for them, Sorbet and Gelato especially, who had immediately asked them to come out together sometime to celebrate. Someone (Illuso had his ideas, but since he hadn’t actually caught whoever it was in the act, he had no choice but to let it go) slipped a sheath of condoms into his pocket - which, which was humiliating, especially when they fell out of said pocket later, right in front of Ghiaccio, who had looked hurt, for just a moment, before putting it together himself.

“Melone,” he said, unconsciously chilling the air around him. 

Illuso nodded. Probably, yeah. “Well, they’re not mine.”

When the conversation happened, before, after their second date, it had been awkward, but it’d also been a relief to talk about it, because it was such an expected thing that they kind of had to, and Illuso didn’t know how go about it at all. Ghiaccio looked mortified to be the one bringing it up, but at least he had the guts to, and Illuso wasn’t prepared for how hard his affection would hit him until he saw just how seriously Ghiaccio was taking things.

“It’s just not something I want.” Ghiaccio said it steadily, pale and tense, eyes focused and hands gripping at each other. “I’ve never wanted it.”

Sex. They were talking about sex, and Illuso was so embarrassed he could die, but he couldn’t do that until he’d made sure Ghiaccio was okay because, god, Illuso knew well how difficult that sort of thing was to talk about. “I - for me it’s not so much that I don’t, it’s more that I can’t. I think.” Ghiaccio looked confused and Illuso couldn’t bear the idea of him asking for more information, so he gave it himself, anxiously pushing his keys back and forth across the table. “I don’t know if I want that or if I’d like it. It doesn’t make sense in my head. Maybe one day I would, but now it’s, uh. I think I couldn’t handle it. I’ve thought about it, and it makes me feel ill, and I wasn’t sure if it was that way for everyone, but...I’m just trying to say I - don’t expect that from you. You don’t have to worry.”

“I was never worried.” Ghiaccio’s tone was flippant but his face, when Illuso looked up, was soft, the colour coming back into his cheeks. “I wouldn’t have asked you out if I was. Thanks, though. I - thank you.”

They discussed it further, the conversation staying embarrassing but, as the minutes passed, more tolerable. They both wanted to try kissing, but not yet. Casual touching - it might take a while for that not to inspire shock in Illuso, but yes, absolutely. Holding hands...they agreed that was a good start. And so Illuso placed his hand on the table, and Ghiaccio covered it with his own, and they sat in silence until even that was too much.

Things became easier over time. They were kept apart by work unbearably long sometimes, and other times they were kept too close together - caged inside their small world until they screamed at each other and Illuso sealed himself in the mirror while Ghiaccio threw himself into work, losing his temper whenever anyone came too close. Most of the time, things were fine. They learned how to reassure each other. They learned to spot when things were too much, or too little, and though Illuso’s teasing never stopped entirely, it grew increasingly affectionate and caring.

Not long after Pesci joined, they decided to live together. Informally - like Sorbet and Gelato, they would keep separate places for cover and privacy - but nonetheless, with the same seriousness with which they had approached every aspect of their relationship. They still had separate rooms but, more often than not, one of them found their way into the other’s bed, kissing tentatively and pulling close.

The first time Illuso told Ghiaccio he loved him was on a night like that. Illuso had knocked on his door, been invited in, and curled up next to Ghiaccio, tight and compact. Ghiaccio’s hands were cold but Illuso welcomed them on his face, twisting through his hair, and he bent to press his head against his equally-cold chest. Something had been bothering his mind that night. He wasn’t sure what - an undefined feeling of unease, that something was about to go wrong, and while he wasn’t ready to talk about that, he needed the comfort that Ghiaccio was happy to give him.

Illuso had been on the verge of falling back into sleep when he said it. “I love you.” If everything else about how they were together was unconventional, awkward, then at least that came out clearly, with no pretense or confusion.

Ghiaccio was so still that Illuso could tell he was still awake, and he waited to see how he’d respond, mind drifting quietly and untroubled. “I love you too,” he eventually said, quiet, the words more air than sound.

Chapter Text

They had been young, the first time, although neither of them realised quite how young until much later. Violence stunted their childhood, made them men before their time, but need could not be denied forever. They were young, they were strong, they were vulnerable.

They were eighteen, perhaps, or maybe nineteen, or maybe one was eighteen and the other was nineteen: Giacomo had been born a little over a week before Rocco, and their first time could have taken place in that brief gap when their ages fell out of synch. Either way, it was after the thing that really ruined Giacomo’s life, so long after he thought it could never be ruined more, and Rocco didn’t know how to make it better so he didn’t even try. 

He invited him out drinking. That was how they’d met, back in the day, and though going out with the guys had remained a steady habit for Rocco, Giacomo had found that whatever dangerous romance alcohol represented, the thrill in it had died as soon as it became legal. He’d moved on - to what, Rocco didn’t consider it his business to know, but then he hadn’t been the only one to move on. What had once been a childish kind of game to him - associating with, if not real gangsters, then people who knew real gangsters - had at some point turned lucrative. Solid notes in his pockets represented much more solid a future than the hazy promise of struggling another decade through school for what might never make him happy. So, he dropped out. Must have been maybe a year since he joined up with the big dogs on the rise. Hadn’t told Giacomo, of course. Well, hadn’t meant to. They were good enough friends that Rocco didn’t want to hurt him, bad enough friends that he didn’t trust him not to do something stupid.

But he’d been drinking more than he usually did, for Giacomo’s sake, because, truthfully? It wasn’t his business to know, Rocco didn’t want to know, but he had found out anyway because he was the kind of guy people told rumours to, and he knew that Giacomo had finally killed the fucker who ran down his cousin. They didn’t talk about it, but this was a final tribute to the kid Rocco only ever got to meet once all those years ago, and he wasn’t the kind of guy to half-ass something that mattered. He drank, kept drinking, and at some point - was it before or after they fucked? The memory had folded together over time, all out of order and out of sense - he mentioned the name Passione, and Giacomo was staring.

“Rocco,” he’d said, and Rocco knew he’d fucked up. “What did you say about Passione?”

Rocco tried to laugh it off, pushed his hand through the furls of long grey (no - black, that was before he stopped dying it) hair dripping into Giacomo’s face, trying to buy himself time to remember what he’d been saying. “Hmm?”

Giacomo caught his hand. It was only later that he learned how to keep his face still, no matter what he was feeling - at eighteen (nineteen?) he looked excited, angry, on the precipice of violence, all that at once. Were there others around to see them? Were they alone, by then, on sheets Rocco had forgotten to wash, not expecting company, not expecting Giacomo of all people to kiss back. Those days, Rocco had a tendency towards loneliness, had a rough year of pushing too hard against anyone that had a nice smile, and though Giacomo didn’t smile at all that night, he hadn’t moved when Rocco sat too close, he hadn’t objected when Rocco stole his drink, he hadn’t pulled away when Rocco kissed him.

“Rocco,” he’d said again, and Rocco liked hearing his name (the one that was real, not given by the state or the gang) so much that he’d told him what he knew, wondering if Giacomo would hate him for it, whether his boss would find out. Neither of those options troubled him at the time, not in the way they should have, because he was young, and the bed was warm with company.

Almost before he’d finished telling Giacomo everything (he remembered this moment most clearly when they were called traitors, a horrible part of him wondering if he’d ever been loyal to begin with), he was kissing him again, the heat in his stomach demanding more, while Giacomo sat still, letting him do it, until Rocco called his name and he was kissing back again, pushing Rocco down, and Rocco chanted Mino, Mino, Giacomino until he was satisfied, wondering why they’d never done this before.

It must have happened after they’d fucked, then.

 


 

Three years later, Giacomo had become Risotto Nero, caporegime of la squadra esecuzione, and requested the transfer of Rocco, who had become Formaggio, into his team. They hadn’t seen each other since the night they had gone to bed together, and although ‘the man who could kill anyone’ had gathered a certain amount of infamy within Passione, Formaggio didn’t realise that title belonged to his friend until the man himself was introducing him to his co-workers, formally, without any mention of the two having met before.

“Sorbet,” the one with the uneven smile and the pin-prick stare said, without offering his hand.

“Ghiaccio,” the one who looked like a child, intense and with eyes too big for his head - he shook Formaggio’s hand, tight and loose at the same time, and Formaggio nearly jerked back with how cold his touch was.

More than anything, more than the anticipation or fear of joining a team constructed around murder, more than the pressure of his new stand buzzing at the back of his head, a double-consciousness he never quite got used to - more than anything, what Formaggio felt was the relief that they all had those weirdass code names, and it wasn’t just some nasty joke he’d been saddled with. He smiled, big and fake as he could. “Formaggio,” he said, and then he met Risotto’s eye. “Nice to meet you.”

 


 

Ghiaccio, it turned out, actually was a child. The other one was a few years older than him, never revealed anything more specific, but Ghiaccio was fourteen. Formaggio wished he could have found some way to feel outraged about that. Someone ought to say it wasn’t right. But that someone wasn’t him.

There wasn’t a chance to be alone with Risotto until a few weeks after their reunion. Four hitmen weren’t nearly enough to cover the workload supplied by the Boss - which explained why Formaggio, with a stand so unaligned with the taking apart of people, was recruited at all. Sure, he was inventive, quick, had any squeamishness long since beaten out of him, but mafia assassin - that came with a certain image. 

Risotto Nero fit that image perfectly. Formaggio cornered him, finally, on the balcony on the second floor of their little base. The balcony faced a windowless wall of residential buildings, was narrow enough not to be seen from the street, and so Formaggio had no reservations when reaching up to brush the hair out of Risotto’s face.

It was shorter in the back now, his natural silver, but still lengthy enough to cover his eyes and just as soft as ever.

“Y’know, capo, it’s been a hard decision to make, been agonising about it way too long, but I think I have to call the cops on you.” He left a beat, to see if Risotto would react. Nothing. “Because you just stole my heart.”

When Risotto laughed, he looked just as surprised about it as Formaggio did. It was the laugh of a man who hadn’t been able to see the humour in anything for years, and so good that Formaggio couldn’t help himself but kiss him. Just like before, Risotto didn’t push him away.

 


 

Rough - hard - against a wall, hip aching as Formaggio struggled to keep his leg up, panting into Risotto’s mouth, clinging to his shoulders - his broad fucking shoulders - Risotto had been big the whole time they’d known each other, but fuck - with one hand, using the other to stroke himself, pitching up into an orgasm - god, ahhh - not so much passion as familiarity, not so much pleasure-seeking as working towards a common goal - the wall grinding up against his back - and --

 


 

Prosciutto joined not too long after Formaggio. Cautious, serious, new to the mafia but already a murderer. Formaggio asked him about that, because no one seemed to object much to him carrying on the way he always had, loud and boisterous and willing to play the jerk. Prosciutto eyed Formaggio’s open shirt with distaste, accepted his offer of a cigarette, and informed him, bluntly, that the men he’d killed didn’t deserve to die, but that wasn’t why he did it. Formaggio asked him why, then, if it wasn’t out of revenge, and Prosciutto had said oh, it was, it was revenge, but they had deserved far worse than death, and Formaggio nodded and asked him if he wanted to get a drink.

 


 

Prosciutto’s hands down his pants, fingering him too slow for the setting, because if you’re going to fuck someone in an alley you gotta be quick, hard, dirty, but saying that didn’t make Prosciutto go any quicker, and he tasted like vodka when Formaggio kissed him, his own hand steadily jerking Prosciutto off, and he wondered whether he was always going to get fucked against a wall from now on, and if it was weird that it felt so good when Prosciutto bit at his neck.

 


 

“What do you think of Prosciutto?” Risotto asked, whatever relief he’d found in sex already faded even before Formaggio could finish pulling his boxers up. They hadn’t used the wall that time - it was the bed, or maybe the couch - was that the time they did it on the floor? Either way, Risotto, still naked, was intense in the way he always was when they’d finished, whether they pulled apart immediately or indulged in the human need to hold and be held.

Took a second for Formaggio to realise he meant the guy, not the food. “Didn’t you recruit him? Why’d you care what I think?”

Risotto watched him, until Formaggio was dressed and there wasn’t anything left to fiddle with because he’d left his cigarettes somewhere, and it was too awkward to pretend he wasn’t being stared at to keep quiet. “I guess he seems okay.”

“Do you trust him?”

“Ris, I just met him. Do you trust him?”

“I recruited him.”

If Formaggio wasn’t so fucked out, he’d take issue with that kinda reply. I recruited him. There was a point where stoicity became passive aggression. “Are you asking because you trust me?”

“Yes.”

Huh. The sheets, or the cushions, or the blanket they’d thrown on the floor shifted beneath Formaggio as he rolled onto his stomach. Huh. Somehow he hadn’t expected that.

 


 

Five members was better than four, and Prosciutto quickly proved his competence - and more than that, the way he worked drew a competitiveness out of Ghiaccio, a need to prove himself. Formaggio had never been that comfortable with kids, but between Prosciutto and Sorbet, the little guy almost had something resembling a role model.

Even after seeing who’d asked for him, Formaggio had been uneasy thinking about becoming a hitman. Not like he’d never killed before, and with Little Feet he was more equipped to do so than ever, but that kind of specialisation ostracised you. Couldn’t exactly keep your old friends around if you were paying for their drinks with cash you earned through being a serial killer with fewer convictions. Well, you could, but it’d be kind of a downer. Plus, Formaggio was worth something now, had people looking out for the kind of weak spot civilian connections presented - it made sense to start keeping his social life in-group.

That wasn’t the only reason he kept fucking Risotto. Made things convenient, though, and Risotto was always up for it, and it wasn’t like he was getting special privileges or something - frankly, he just wanted to be treated the same as any of the other guys, putting in the work and getting only what he deserved.

First few months, Formaggio lived in the base - didn’t need too much room to himself, preferred to spend his money on (yeah, it’s a cliche, so what?) experiences rather than possessions, and just like fucking Risotto, it was convenient. Still, Prosciutto fussed over him as much as he did anyone else in their team, and if it was convenient for Formaggio to pass out one floor above where they met, it was just as convenient for Prosciutto to follow and criticise him for it. 

He thought about giving Risotto a key to his new place. But, he decided, that’d make this too much of a thing, and besides, Risotto didn’t use keys anymore.

 


 

Restraints came up at some point. When Formaggio winced at the idea, Risotto clarified that he was only interested in them being used on himself, and Formaggio didn’t get that at all so he asked what the appeal was of cuffs he could melt or ropes he could cut without even trying, and - that wasn’t the point of them, Risotto said, not even for people who couldn’t do what they could, because restraints weren’t about truly losing control, they provided the scaffolding upon which could be built an illusion of powerlessness.

You getting tired of being in charge of us, boss?

Don’t call me that.

They talked about it, but Formaggio decided it wouldn’t work, he couldn’t move past the instinctive discomfort of doing that to anyone - but if it was all about the illusion, then there were other things they could try, and Risotto said yes and - he was on his knees, hands behind his back, mouth around Formaggio’s strap-on, Formaggio’s hand in his hair, laughing every time Risotto glanced up at him for approval - do you like it? You’re doing good. Look so fucking hot sucking me off, just keep sitting there, all you have to think about is taking what you’re given, and you’re so good at that, aren’t you?

Risotto came only when he was able to ask for it, and as Formaggio supported him afterwards, watching how he breathed, how he let himself be seen like this, he thought that maybe his leader was a little beautiful.

 


 

“Gelato?” Formaggio was half-hungover when the next one introduced himself, wasn’t sure he heard right, found himself made slightly dizzy by the particular ragged blond of his hair, worn down to his shoulders then, and the smile that didn’t relax no matter what was said to him - which Formaggio, in this case, took as affirmation. “Well shit. You match.”

“With who?”

Formaggio didn’t tell him. He thought it’d be funny, thought they’d clash, didn’t want to miss out on a fight. Didn’t expect them to be drawn together, the way they were, matching in a far deeper way than anyone had a right to. Made him wonder if he’d ever meet someone who did that to him.

It wasn’t that he disliked anyone in their group. Most of them he’d even consider friends at that point, and why not? Formaggio was a man who’d found pride in his ability to forge shallow friendships, in how he could make himself belong to any context, earn smiles from any stranger - even without knowing his teammate’s names, they weren’t any more distant than the friends he’d had before them. It shouldn’t have bothered him. It shouldn’t have made him feel like he was missing something.

Risotto watched Gelato and Sorbet too. More than he did the others, and Formaggio thought he knew him well enough by then to tell that there was something more than curiosity in his face.

On impulse, the next time they were in bed - and it was a bed that time, the memories clearer the older they got - Formaggio stroked his thumb over Risotto’s collarbone, looking down at him so he couldn’t move. “You know it’s okay to want things, right?”

If Risotto knew what he meant, he didn’t say anything.

 


 

They got used to the coded names over time, their edible connecting theme, to the point where it stopped being worth the effort of the puns and the jokes, but it was never comfortable to call them out in bed. Capo (if he was feeling like riling Risotto up) - sexy (if he was feeling playful) - babe (if he was feeling lazy) - but nothing more personal than that during the actual act.

Do you remember our first time, Ris?

Mh?

Y’know, I didn’t expect you to go along with it. Wasn’t sure if I was gonna see you again, so I took my shot while I could. Why’d you come back with me?

Risotto, stretched out on the mattress (the bedframe had collapsed, took half a year for Formaggio to bother finding a new one), looked up at him, sleepily, more relaxed than he should be. I wanted you.

 


 

They turned twenty-four, and Illuso joined, and the first thing Formaggio did was make fun of his name, and the first thing Illuso did was trap Little Feet in the mirror, which was a mistake because, big as the newbie was, Formaggio was used to taking down people who didn’t expect much out of him, and Sorbet had to drag him away with blood between his teeth.

“We do not use our stands on each other, unless given explicit orders to.” Ghiaccio had grown a lot in those two years, become less sharp, less guarded, and he took some obvious pleasure in talking Illuso down. Someone had got him glasses, someone else had taught him not to be afraid of anyone, and Formaggio was really starting to respect the kid.

Illuso hadn’t looked happy (sure, he was smiling, but it wasn’t a happy smile) when he apologised to Formaggio, and Formaggio had laughed it off, told him he was lucky he was the one he picked to try out his spooky fucking power on, because none of the others were nearly as quick to forgive as Formaggio. By the end of the day, the edgy navigation of each other had brightened into the type of flirtatious banter that reminded Formaggio of his early days - Illuso spoke like his childhood, made him want to laugh for real, made him realise just how distant from himself he’d been feeling.

He caught Risotto watching, that night, with the same look he had whenever he saw Gelato slide into Sorbet’s arms, but he looked away and Formaggio didn’t ask why.

 


 

Do you still remember my name?

Formaggio.

No, not that one.

Sweat - humid - skin sticking together, clothes not pulled off fast enough, ice-cube kisses - leaning back to let Risotto answer, thigh against hip, terrifyingly slow.

Yes.

You don’t have to say it. I just wanted to know.

 


 

Melone. A flash of purple, neon heat within their group, a broken eye, long fingers and thin lips. Reminded Formaggio of those bugs with the bright markings that warned their predators that they’d fight them with every slide down their throat. Melone smelled like cleaning supplies. Formaggio stayed away.

 


 

Do you remember mine?

Formaggio didn’t have to ask what he meant. Yeah. Always thought it was cute.

That’s why I didn’t like it. I didn’t like you, either, when we met.

Lazy, just using their hands, the bed replaced and the heater up against their feet.

Harsh! I liked you.

I grew to appreciate you over time.

 


 

Pesci. What could be said about Pesci? Ghiaccio enjoyed being older than someone, even if by just a day, and since Prosciutto had been so good for him, Risotto requested that he be the one to introduce the final member of their team to his new role. Pesci was the only one that had never killed before, and that, Formaggio thought, was why fear held him so tightly. If he got it over with, then he’d feel much better. Wasn’t his place to force that, though.

“Where’d you even find him, capo?” Illuso dismissed Pesci right away, harsh in a way only an insecure man could be, though at least he’d waited until the him in question had left the briefing.

Risotto looked up from his computer. Barely seemed to do that those days. “I didn’t. Gelato did.”

“Gelato? What, is the new guy part of their…” And even Illuso had the good sense not to finish that sentence, because it didn’t have to be said to be known that some things were beyond discussion, no matter how any of them felt about it.

 


 

I think I might…

What?

No, never mind.

 


 

There never comes a point at which there is no new pain to suffer. Punishment. They had misunderstood their place. All of them - this punishment was for all of them to bear, because all of them were complicit in their pride, and they had always known what happened to traitors. 

Formaggio wished someone else had gone to Gelato’s apartment. He shouldn’t, because no one deserved to find him that way, and at least his bindings were stripped away before anyone else could bear witness to his agony. Formaggio owed him that dignity. He wished he didn’t have to learn how much Gelato had meant to him, and with Sorbet it was even worse.

The night of the funeral, Formaggio asked Risotto to come home with him, something he’d never done before. Their relationship was a tangle of routine, understanding, guesswork and impulsivity. They didn’t say how they felt so directly. They didn’t want so openly. 

He didn’t want to know what would happen if Risotto denied him. But he didn’t, and they held each other in a way that hurt, and Formaggio pressed as close as he could before he spoke. 

“Giacomo.”

Giacomo shook. “Rocco.”

 


 

Do you regret joining, Rocco?

Nah. Can’t picture things going any other way - hard to regret something if you’ve spent half your life doing it. You?

Yes.

 


 

They had been young, the last time, though they would never get any older. Giacomo was twenty-eight, Rocco was twenty-seven. Their bodies moved naturally together, at times stopping entirely just to kiss, just to be close, and the pleasure was as much in that closeness as it was in the sex itself. Giacomo kept his eyes open as Rocco shuddered above him, sensitive as he denied himself climax, full and smiling. Their hands found each other, Giacomo turned, and in the gentle freshness of spring he lowered himself down, over Rocco’s body, to taste him somewhere new.

There had been good news. Two years of agony, and finally a chance at revenge. Rocco hooked his legs over Giacomo’s shoulders and pressed up against his mouth, laughing, knowing victory was close, wanting it for himself, for them, for the family they had built when no one else would have them.

 


 

Risotto Nero looked down upon Formaggio’s body and knew then that a heart could break for as many times as it was allowed to love, and he knew that he would not survive this.

Chapter Text

Sorbet has a perfect memory. That is not a boast - he does not boast - but a statement of fact. Yes! He is proud. Should he not be? It has always been an asset, not only to himself but also to his loved ones. He takes pride in his ability to protect them, to take everything that matters and commit it to perfect detail, locked inside his mind, nothing escaping his --

Though it isn’t photographic. No, it’s nothing at all like a photograph, not an image to be freely viewed, but a list of separate, albeit interconnected details, all strung together through the network of his senses, bright and wonderful and only for him to understand - he doesn’t even know what a photographic memory is, or if it is real. Perhaps it was invented for science fiction, perhaps it was a speculative concept, perhaps pop-psychology overly simplified and repeated through so many minds that it is, itself, only a memory of its origins.

“Gelato, dear, do you happen to know what a photographic memory is?” He asks, after a moment of contemplation, without fully coming back to his senses - and by luck, Gelato happens to be there, as he so often is, to Sorbet’s pleasure.

Gelato has his hands at Sorbet’s throat, and Sorbet looks down, wondering what he could be doing - could his Gelato be attacking him? He would let him. Gelato would not do that, but Sorbet would let him if he was so inclined - and sees that he’s only adjusting the tie he finds himself to be wearing. No - a cravat. A cravat? Was that what they decided on? It’s black, a lighter - no, shinier, laced with grey - shade than the material of his shirt. He looks ghoulish, but black is his colour, and his Gelato does so love it on him, under him, around him --

“Sorbet,” Gelato says, when and only when he is finished with the cravat, though he will likely fuss at it again later. “Is this really the time for that?”

Sorbet thinks about that question carefully. Is there ever a wrong time to lose oneself in one’s thoughts so thoroughly? Is there ever a wrong time to indulge curiosity, to exercise the mind, to examine the self?

Yes, he decides. There are many wrong times to do that, and this is certainly one of them. Gelato is now in front of the mirror, touching at his own tie (not a cravat, Sorbet notes), patterned in white and gold, at his flushed-pink throat, blinking to see if his eye-paint needs fixing. He looks wonderful. Gelato always looks wonderful, it’s a marvel, really, almost supernatural, but today he has taken extra care with his appearance so Sorbet refrains from stepping in behind him, taking hold, ruining all that he has worked for in order to satiate his desire, his longing, his want, for his lover, his Gelato.

Gelato confirms that he looks perfect and turns back to Sorbet and Sorbet knows he is expected to answer. “No, it is not the time.”

It pleases Gelato to hear that. Sorbet can tell, with the way his eyes narrow and he looks as if he might bite, but perhaps that’s only Sorbet seeing what he wants to see, because he is still, despite his restraint, imagining Gelato debauched on top of him. “Are you ready?”

Yes, he wants to say, but this is important, so he checks. He must look fine, or Gelato would be fussing again, and he must feel fine, because there is an easy peace within him, allowing his mind to wander in any direction it pleases, and the time must be fine because they are the only ones here, their family is waiting.

“Yes,” Sorbet says, and Gelato takes his arm, and they walk out into the garden, painted white with snow, even as the sun is warm and there are no clouds to be seen, and everyone turns in their chairs to see them, except their dear Risotto Nero, who is standing, waiting, in the middle of the aisle. 

 


 

The ceremony is short, for Ghiaccino’s sake if no one else’s, because it puts such a strain on the kid to sustain snow, which is a shame because everyone loves snow, and it’s not fair that they can’t have it every day, but they love him like a son (he hates it when they say that! Which is what makes it impossible to stop) and he gave them this day, and that’s enough, it’s the most perfect present, even though every present they received was wonderful there’s just something special about snow. It’s clean. It makes everything feel clean.

Gelato enjoys every minute the snow lasts, because it doesn’t last long, though Ghiaccino tries his best. He isn't sure if he’s ever been happier.

Risotto allows him his moments to enjoy the snow, standing still amidst it and holding Sorbetto, before starting along the script they had agreed upon. Short. A few lines about how important they are to him, how he loves them, how each of the others love them too - short, because Gelato is uncomfortable with too many words, they make him anxious, they make him impatient, and because anything Risotto could tell them he has already shown them through his actions. Sorbetto stands next to him the whole time and Gelato knows that he loves him - he knows it, he knows it so well! - and he knows that this was meant to happen. They love each other. They love each other!

When the words finish, Risotto gives them their gifts, the ones he made for them, and they’re not a surprise because they were the ones who asked for this: one ring each, forged from the iron of the other’s blood, and Gelato imagines he can feel it warm on his finger even though that isn’t how this works. Risotto invites them to kiss and they do and Gelato doesn’t even care that Sorbetto’s making a mess of his makeup because he’s too happy and the snow is gone but there will always be more snow and beauty, Sorbetto says, is only beautiful because it is temporary, and that is why they love snow.

 


 

They are surrounded by their family, each of their darlings, and Sorbet knows that this moment is perfect, that there could never be another moment like this, and the memory will live on in nine separate minds forever, protected and loved and treated with the care and importance with which it deserves. They are surrounded by their family and their family is watching them kiss, and only one of them makes an attention-seeking sound (hoot? Cheer? The sort of sound made in a theatre audience? Appreciative, surely), and he is quickly silenced by another. He must be making a mess of his Gelato, Sorbet is sure, but if his Gelato is permitting it then he must be happy, which makes Sorbet happy, and today is about being happy.

They part and Sorbet is still happy, and everyone has stood, applauding them (indeed, like a theatre audience), and Sorbet makes sure that he will remember every detail of this forever.

 


 

It won’t be long until they can be alone. Gelato likes to be alone with Sorbetto more than anything, and he hates to be alone without Sorbetto more than anything, and he holds tight to his hand as they walk through the flowers that are suddenly all around them, on the melted snow: white, not so white as the snow but white enough to resemble it, and Gelato is grateful that Pesci thought of such a thing, such a charming idea, and he smiles at Pesci to show that he is grateful.

 


 

Food - that was the plan. The dressing, the ceremony, the vow and the kiss, then the food. Sorbet allows Gelato to lead the way, as does everyone else because they all, their family, understand his Gelato and his need for things to be precise, and the melted snow is beautiful, Sorbet thinks, because it was so perfect and now it is gone, and he will always remember it fondly. He touches everyone as he passes - Pesci accepts a hug, their Ghiaccio only a hand on his shoulder (he looks so pale! He always does after snow, and Sorbet always worries, and he hopes he will eat enough as they all sit down) - and it makes him happy to know they are all there, and safe, and that they love him.

The food is Formaggio’s gift. He wanted to give them something more, something permanent, but they reassured him that this was what they wanted, and he called them weirdos (“I love you guys like family, I’d rob a museum for you weirdos, but okay! You’re paying for the ingredients, right?”) - but Sorbet could tell that he was pleased to have his cooking so treasured, and deservedly so! Alongside Sorbet, their Formaggio was the best cook within their family, and he knows just what they like, and his gift, as expected, as known, is wonderful.

 


 

To his right, of course, is Sorbetto, but to his left is Prosciutto. Gelato likes Prosciutto. He respects him. Prosciutto’s gift for them was their clothes. Gelato told him what he wanted and Prosciutto did it, just as he asked for, and he stayed with them until Gelato could finish the rest of the dressing by himself.

Prosciutto has a talent for clothes. He says it’s not like that, but Gelato disagrees - it’s not just colours and cuts, but fabrics and combinations and accessories and impact, and Gelato thinks all of those things are very important, because it is the first moment where you are seen that controls an interaction. People decide how they feel about you immediately. They might not realise that, but they do. He is sure that Prosciutto has never lost control of how he is perceived and he knows that he is also a kind man, who would do whatever they asked of him, and so Gelato smiles at him when they sit together and Prosciutto smiles back.

 


 

Their Illuso’s present is the only surprise. He enjoys doing that, Sorbet thinks. He likes it when people don’t anticipate him, when they form one impression of him (“the moment in which you are perceived, and are judged entirely”, his Gelato said) and then he shatters that impression, hammer to glass, because he is a man who does not want to be known.

Gelato believes a first impression dictates everything afterwards, but Sorbet disagrees. It is important, yes, vital, yes, but it is still only the first impression, and there will be so many after that are just as important. When Sorbet met Illuso, he decided he didn’t like him, because of the face that he made and the way he flitted too close before pulling away, as if he was trying not to be liked, and so, perhaps, in some way, their Illuso enjoyed the fact that Sorbet did not like him. That was their first impression. Over time, it has been overlaid by thousands more impressions, of shyness and fear and compassion, of joy when seeing Sorbet hold Gelato’s hand and knowing they were the same, and Sorbet quickly decided that he loved Illuso, and that he deserved that love.

It turns out to be a portrait. Illuso reveals it with pride and confidence when the food is gone and Gelato is resting his head against Sorbet’s shoulder, and it is a deserved pride because it is beautiful work: it is them, it is simply them, together, the way they meant to be, and it is not the first work of art Illuso has gifted them with but it is the finest yet, and the effort touches Sorbet’s heart.

 


 

They leave soon after. Gelato is happy about that. He loves them, but he wants to be with Sorbetto, and he is tired from all the work that a wedding involves.

Wedding. It is the first time Gelato has allowed himself to think that word today. He savours it. Wedding. They are married, in the only way that could possibly count, surrounded by their family. He is happy. He is so happy.

Sorbetto drives. It might, perhaps, have been easier to host, even though their home would not be so accommodating, and have the others leave at the end, but Melone’s gift was his summer home, and they accepted because they have always loved the way it felt, and how there are trees and bushes that protect from anyone who might watch, although Melone claims to have no neighbours. Every time they go there from now, they will be reminded of this day. Their wedding.

 


 

“I have been waiting for this moment all day,” Sorbet says, and then he reconsiders. “No. All my life.”

His Gelato, on the bed, fully clothed but just as fully ready to be unclothed, smiles at him, and Sorbet knows he is happy. “Waiting for what, Sorbet?”

Sorbet smiles, wants to clamber on top and forget any words that he might say, but he truly has been waiting for this. “You are my husband.”

His Gelato’s eyes gleam. “You are mine.”

“You are my husband, will always be my husband, and I love you more than I have ever loved anything before, and I promise to love you more with every day that I live.” Short - Gelato likes it when he is direct, firm. He finds it soothing.

“I love you,” Gelato says. “You are my husband and this is our marital bed.”

Sorbet knows he will remember every single detail of this day for the rest of eternity, and even though only two minds will remember this particular part, that those two minds will cherish the memory more than a hundred ever could, and they will be immortal in their minds, in their love.