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To The Baying Of Hounds

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It took approximately three months for the dust to settle before Simone returned to Marcello's Dogman. There was no apology spoken, no acknowledgment of the brutal beating Marcello took at his hands, just Simone, same expression and same clothes. Maybe, if there was anything in Simone's demeanor that had changed, it was that the knocks on the door came less loudly than Simone's usual knocks when they eventually came.

Marcello stood there, like a deer in the headlights, pin upright in the gloom. The sky outside was on the cusp of darkness, a warning of ocean blue and grey clouds that blanketed the small town before the cool oblivion of night. A few moths -the only night-time constants in the summer months- fluttered around the glow of the street lights. Marcello had yet to lower the shutters of his shop, rendering the shadow, seen through the window, unmistakable in its silhouette.

Recently he hadn't been sleeping right. Occasionally he'd almost fall asleep on his feet inside the dog hotel, staying up later with the dogs. He'd listen to the rain drum the roof and his own thoughts; the sentiment of the latter things to listen to, more often than not these days, telling him to pack his bags and leave the town once and for all.

It was an alluring idea, growing stronger the more it was fed into, mused about. But he couldn't leave. He had Alida, his sweet daughter who worried about him, and of course the dogs. The foundation of his business. His home was there, right by this grainy seaside. Even if it had become more hostile towards him behind his back in the interim between jail and release, even if he wasn't as well liked as he had previously informed Simone the night the man had taken everything from Franco anymore. The town still had that appeal after all this time. Who could know exactly why? Perhaps because he had grown up there, alongside the likes of Simone and others who's faces had faded into the background of the town like eyes in a battered old photograph. Perhaps he remained because he understood what his home once was, what his home was still trying to be, and eventually what it would become. A frontier town crumbling to dust, sinking into the ocean. Yes, it still held him fast to where he stood. It was almost as if one day he had woken up to find the buildings had penned him in, and the sea had blocked his escape.

And now, here was Simone, on time. On time to do what, he could not say. He suspected the man intended to pick back up where he started and finish the last of his waning spirits off once and for all.

As he heard the distinctive knock at his door, another thought came to him, a snippet from an old fable. The wolf was at his door. And what had those in that tale done, in the end, to keep the wolf from their door? He had forgotten. He let out a whistling sigh, making his way to the front of the shop slowly. Moving slow was a prerogative of his after Simone had given him a licking that stopped him ticking (for a good few days at least) because the old aches still lingered. As did the little scar over the bridge of nose, still red and raised. Sometimes the sight of himself in the mirror alone could make him miserable. He could no longer keep finding excuses to wear sunglasses for the sake of Alida on rainy days.

When he opened the door, like a lamb going placidly to slaughter, finally accepting of whatever outcome that God intended for him, the first thing he noticed, even in the low light, was that Simone's face was much worse for wear than his own. Was that a dull comfort? He wasn't sure. A myriad of ugly cuts and lacerations painted the broad plane of Simone's own visage, some cuts now turned scabs, others fresh and mean looking, like he had been in back to back brawls for weeks. Knowing Simone, this assumption was probably correct.

"What do you want, Simone." Marcello was beyond the nervous niceties he had previously graced Simone with in the past. He was still nervous, by God he was still nervous, after all, a beating from Simone sure as hell didn't make you bold, but he was past being nice. He'd left that behind him, along with his year in prison. Yet, there was something in Simone's demeanor from where he stood that served to soften him slightly. Simone's hand, the knuckles of it bruised (and how ironic would it be, if they were still bruised from the punches he had landed on Marcello's face, but he knew they weren't, because Simone hurt others too, his face alone wasn't enough to warrant special attention) rested on the window, leaving smudge marks. Inside him, a voice complained about having just polished that window.

"Ciao." Maybe it was the way the street lights hit Simone, but there was a strange, pale quality to the boxer that he'd never noticed before. Marcello was suddenly reminded of an animal that only comes out at dusk. Crepuscular. Or, in Simone's case, cokehead.

"Are you-"
"Let me in." Marcello had only a moment to meet Simone's eyes before Simone pushed the bulk of his frame past him with impatience. Had he been standing out in the cold for long before he had knocked? Marcello tilted his head. No, obviously not. He'd knocked and Marcello had answered. What a strange thing to ask himself.

"What do you want?" Marcello whispered again, half in dismay, half in an odd type of amusement, as a self annihilating part of him had indeed sat perched on the edge of his consciousness; eagerly waiting for Simone to enter his life again, waiting for the next fight, the next thing to ruin him. It had been waiting all this time, and, as if on cue, here he was.

"I want to know, what this was cut with." Cut with? That was cutting to the chase fast. Simone threw the small white packet he had in his pocket onto the floor, eyeing Marcello with wildfire fast ferocity. Marcello was surprised a dope fiend like Simone had kept something back for once instead of snorting it all.

"How should I know?" Marcello frowned. A simple, stupid excuse to confront him again. He was no longer Simone's dealer. As far as he was concerned, their little agreement had been dissolved the moment Simone had laid his hands on him and paraded his bloody face and clothes in front of the spectating body of the town like some sort of victorious caveman. They'd separated, extricated themselves from each other, on Marcello's part, to avoid any further unpredictable acts of violence and humiliation, and on Simone's part, (presumably) because he liked his bike without the dents in it. He'd guessed this was an unspoken resolution for them both after the first few months had gone by without them speaking to one another. Apparently not.

Simone swayed on his feet, kicking the packet across the floor with the toe of his trainer.

"You did something." The man accused. There was a beat, as Marcello blinked at him. He wasn't sure what to say. Simone was looking at him hard, trying to meet his gaze. Ah, paranoia. A psycho's best friend. Marcello's frame tensed slightly, as he realised he had to tread very very carefully here. Here was a dog foaming at the mouth, but it hadn't bitten him yet.

"That's not true, Simone." Marcello assured, still looking at the ground, the place where the packet had skidded across the floor to, underneath one of his seats.

"You're lying." Perplexingly, there was no anger on Simone's face to be seen yet, only a neutrality, as if Simone was thinking about what he was going to say next too. That dead eyed blankness. It made Marcello shiver. Simone closed the gap between them in a single stride, pushing his face close to Marcello's.
"You're lying."

"I couldn't be! I didn't even give you that." Marcello protested, the protest forced out of him when Simone grabbed his wrist. The hand that closed around it threatened force with its uncomfortable pressure on Marcello's wrist. The inside of Simone's hand was hot, the palm radiating a too warm roughness. Together, time seemed to pause as they stood like sculptures, Simone still, so still, so close, until words broke their silence.

"Remember?" Marcello spluttered. "Remember, you haven't talked to me about, I haven't-"

Simone let go of Marcello's hand. There was a sheen of sweat on his neck and jaw, and Simone swiped at it with the same hand he'd used to grab Marcello's. He stepped away from Marcello and let out a subconscious low groan, as if cursing to himself, almost inaudible if Marcello wasn't already on high alert for anything Simone chose to do in his presence, in case, well, it posed a danger. The taller man was doing a funny thing, Marcello noted, as he watched him. He was pulling the collar of his turtleneck up, adjusting it repetitively and irritatedly like he was uncomfortable.

"Simo..." Marcello ventured, with a quick glance around the interior of the store, anywhere he didn't have to meet Simone's eyes. "Is something wrong?"

"You poisoned me, I just want to hear it, admit it." Simone uttered, his voice low and unseemly. He spoke in an unbalanced way that made Marcello scared, and he wasn't even sure for who yet, him or Simone.

"How could I have?" Marcello's eyes were wide, his own voice almost conspiratorial. What had led Simone down this horrible avenue, and how could he stop him from backing further into it?

Simone paced for a moment, before going back to where he stood. The way he held himself, it was like he was hurting, somehow. Not limping but simply… Slumped, his shoulders rounded, an alley cat's posture.

"Are you sick, Simone?" Marcello stepped forward, and Simone stepped back. Marcello suppressed the instinct to reach out for a moment. The man in front of him was at odds with himself, first suspecting and pulling him forward, the next moment unsure and moving backwards. It didn't make any sense. Odd game to be playing so late in the evening.

"Fuck." Simone said, rubbing at his face like he was exhausted. There were dark circles under his eyes, and even his eyes themselves looked like someone had taken a swing at him and blackened them for him. Little studs of dark red, a crescent riding the wave of his cheekbone. Inside the blue and unhealthy fluorescent glow of Marcello's treasured Dogman, a spectator may have had the intrigue of watching two worn down, beaten up men of varying sizes share a strange confrontation indeed, perhaps a form of secret meeting, all amidst the unseen dogs in the back of Marcello's store, who slumbered on in their cages, presumably dreaming of rabbit tails and bones to chew.

"Fuck." Simone repeated.

"Simo, you're sick, aren't you?" To his surprise, Marcello realised he had reverted back to using his friend's childhood nickname. Simone was too busy unzipping his tracksuit jacket off and throwing it over one of Marcello's seats to answer, grumbling.

"What's with the temperature in here, huh?" Simone glanced around in distaste, (how easily sidetracked he was now!) perhaps searching for radiators cranked on high heat, signs that whatever he was saying was justified.

"Ah," Marcello said uncertainly. He didn't personally think it was hot in the shop, but then, maybe he was used to it, working there day in and day out. The night was cool, however, and the hand that had touched him minutes ago had been hot.

Well, whatever was bothering Simone, he'd certainly made himself apparent. But where was that unnerving concentration, where were his demands for more cocaine and use of Marcello's bathroom? What was the next thing, my God, hopefully not another hollow wall.
Yeah, sure Simo, let's rob the Other shop next door this time. That's a good idea, Simo. Now don't pin me up against the side of that window Simone, let's not be rash here. More jail time? No worry, I'll take the fall for you my friend. After all, what are friends for?

Simone muttered something Marcello couldn't catch, moving towards the door. His words were thick with distraction and exhaustion. He made no move to collect his jacket right there in Marcello's chair, the one he had just put down, only seconds ago.

"Wait." The words came out before Marcello could stop himself. It looked like Simone was about to leave, and for his sanity he couldn't have another one of these strange encounters with Simone, where it was clear Simone ran the show and he was to follow along blindly, confused as always, right until the end, when there was never a satisfying explanation for anything Simone did, apart from the fact that the man was an enigma and he did what he wanted whenever he wanted. He couldn't. Not anymore. Not today.

There were a thousand questions Marcello wanted to ask him still. Why had he come here, so late, to accuse him of tampering with his drugs, only to do nothing and then ultimately try to leave? Even for Simone, this was a little erratic to say the least. If he genuinely believed his paranoid delusion, why hadn't he pushed it into full swing like he usually did, intimidating an answer that satisfied him out from him. He made a nervous, tittering kind of noise. In retrospect, Marcello would've been comforted if Simone had actually done those things. Although unideal for him, at least they would make sense. A sign that the old Simone was there. A doing away with who the hell was this guy was, the wolf at his door in the dead of night.

"Tell me what's going on, Simo."

Simone looked away.


"Do me a favour." Simone said suddenly, with a look of hope. When he addressed Marcello, he didn't face him directly now. Instead he spoke with his head turned, breathing evenly through his nose. Marcello blinked. A favour? No, I couldn't possibly, thank you.

"You're sick." Marcello said with more conviction. It was all he could think, his mind latching onto Simone's pained expression, like a dog that had its leash on too tight. He reached up and touched Simone's face, gently, and it was warm. Simone flinched away, spooked like a wild animal. But all the same he leaned a little closer too, like he wanted the contact, needed it. Domesticated.

"You have a fever." He was worried was all. That's what it was, just simple concern for a friend. There wasn't anything else in that touch. A friendly touch. It was okay. Simone knew it too. Of course he did. Hadn't they always been close? When they'd rough housed as kids, Simone always winning their little scraps with the ease and power of the strong, he'd never had such thoughts as he did now. When they'd gotten older and Simone would sometimes cock his head to the side so the sun fell over his features, appraising Marcello, and without warning, ruffle his hair (longer than it was now) with a big hand, he hadn't even considered… So what had changed? Nothing. He was just, feeling a little crazy right now. Simone was right. The store was hot and he'd been in there too long. It was getting claustrophobic, he needed to get out. Simone would eventually leave, maybe if he supplied him with more coke, coke he'd been assured once more was pure. And Marcello would forget this whole thing.

"I said do me a favour." Simone piped up again, shaking Marcello out of his reverie.

"With what?" Marcello said softly. Even though he knew. He knew with what. But the insinuation... It was enough to warrant another beating. He had to wait for confirmation, for Simone to tell him he was right. Even if all his senses were telling him yes, that was the long and short of it. But he was dealing with a livewire. There was no way of telling what was the appropriate reaction. If Simone was the type to treat the word "omega" as a grave insult, then it was impossible to account for what he would do when Marcello spoke to him with some knowledge on the topic.

Simone looked more confident as he spoke his next words.

"Give me your suppressants." Marcello's fears had been confirmed in one crashing verbal blow. Of course. Of course, a drug addled maniac like Simone would lose the thread of a, well, vital pattern of events eventually. It was bound to happen. A laughably predictable outcome. Hell, he'd probably sold his suppressants for more coke. There was some sad irony in that.

"I can't do that." Marcello mumbled, feeling almost as if he was in a dream. This couldn't be real. He could scent Simone easy, why couldn't Simone do the damn same? It would save him a lot of trouble. But. Simone's past flirtation and love affair with the art of boxing had most definitely left him with a fair few scars on his face, that was obvious. A broken nose, cut lip, busted hand, they all amounted to the same thing in the end, right? Poor bastard had probably been hit so many times in the head there was no hope of him accurately identifying another person's specific, ah, characteristics again, a common trait of an ex boxer. It was funny how life worked out. Marcello shook his head firmly. Simone had no idea just how he came across at this very moment. Burning up and standing there like that, anyone could tell.

Simone suddenly struck out with a startling viciousness, grabbing Marcello by the front of his shirt and pulling him close so Marcello could feel the heat and desperation of Simone's words.

"I said, give me them." He ground out.

"I can't!" Marcello protested. "I don't have any. I don't need any." Come on, think, big guy. Simone held on, eyes narrowed, yanking Marcello close to him one last time before pushing him away in resignation. He shook all over with the effort of letting go. Weakened by their proximity. He looked as if he wished Marcello would put that cool hand back on him again. It was killing him to be so close and yet not have what he wanted. It was murder. It was probably like seeing his mother tear apart a packet of the good stuff in front of him, waste it all on the floor just out of reach, where he could do nothing about it anymore.

"You don't need them?" He said slowly.

Marcello swallowed.

"Yes." Marcello was venturing into uncharted waters here, but, what the hell. Everything was uncharted with Simone. Nothing ever trike felt right.
"And," he offered up, slowly, "I think eh, you're past needing them now too, Simo, considering-"

"I thought I didn't need them anymore. I stopped getting sick." Simone cut in, as if trying to catalogue the timeline of events in his life to Marcello, in the interim between their separation and reunion. It struck Marcello as mildly funny that Simone had felt the need to make excuses for what was obviously a him problem, not a Marcello problem. Simone gestured to himself.

"Now? Not so much." It was as close as Marcello was going to get to Simone admitting his mistakes, he thought quickly, although Simone didn't appear too cut up by his own manufactured state of events. No, it was obvious he didn't regret a thing, and he'd do it all again if he could. Marcello was just his last ditch attempt to fix things was all. Marcello, the ever-wise, would know what to do. He always did. He could help.

Marcello's mouth was dry when he spoke next, and he feared what Simone was going to say after, cringing away from it in preemptive shock, but he said it anyway.

"Ah, how long has it been like this, Simo?" He scarcely whispered.

"Two days, maybe three." Simone shrugged.

"And you, you, you have someone?"

Simone looked at him for a long time before he shook his head.

"What about that girl, ah, what was her name, you always-"

Simone cut him off with a glare.

"She's old news." He said. That was good for her, Marcello thought quickly. Fortunate. She was the one that got away, and it was probably for the best for her that she had. Once you were in too deep with Simone, he never presented you with an option to escape again.

"What do you expect me to do, Simone." Marcello pleaded with him. He couldn't tolerate this anymore. It was unbearable. It was paining him. He needed a break, just some time, a place to take five away from this beastly circumstance that was plaguing him, making sure every exit he searched for was blockaded.

Simone stopped short, as if taking time to think of how to best persuade Marcello.

"Take me to your place." He had found his confidence again in his command, and again, that sure expression reappeared on his face.

Marcello sucked in a sharp breath. He didn't want Simone to turn on him again, to force him with sandpaper abrasiveness in an instant to make a decision he was only going to come to anyway with time. Simone was going to do something if he refused. What a pathetic excuse for bending to his will. No, he wanted to. The sick thing was he really did.

"Okay, okay. My place." He said quickly, absently. Just like that. He got the strictest impression he'd signed his soul away to the devil with a flourish, an impression he got often during conversations with Simone. But this time around, what he said didn't mean… He was only saying "his place". He wasn't inviting anything. He just couldn't leave Simone in his store, in that state, was all.

"Hurry up and close." Simone instructed. For an omega, Marcello thought with a meanness that surprised him, he certainly liked to call the shots.

Even so, Marcello obediently closed his store under Simone's scrutiny, and was willing enough to walk with him to his place. They walked at an even place, Simone trailing behind and occasionally drifting close enough to Marcello's back to touch him with the front of his tracksuit subconsciously. Marcello looked over his shoulder. He was a sheep being herded into his own home by an incessant and slavering sheepdog, who wasn't exactly nipping at his heels, but was coming close to it. Simone's breath coming out in cold puffs of air against the backdrop of night.

In the doorway of his home, he finally met Simone's eyes. He wanted to help Simone. Especially if he felt as bad as he looked, but there was this hesitation inside him, something that made him pull back. What he was doing, it was an escalation. It must've been Simone's scent, percolating in the air and making him have these rash ideas. He tried to will the temptation away, knowing what Simone had in mind but being unable to yield to it. This would change things, and he wasn't sure if he was prepared for that. This indecisiveness was the devil. No wonder Simone always took advantage of him. Who knew how Simone would act later, when they… Would he be around Marcello more often? Expect them to be together? He couldn't have that. He had a daughter who visited him regularly. It didn't bode well thinking about it.

"We shouldn't." Marcello warned.
"Do what?" Simone asked, evidently proud of himself, having got this far already with Marcello. He thought he was being smart. Marcello shook his head. Simone stepped past him.

Shades of night fell as Simone rounded on him and began with a light but insistent tugging of Marcello's shirt, like he was just playing. Oh, it was innocent enough. He may as well have been whistling too. Sure, he was burning up enough inside that it must've been close to impossible to have some restraint when it came to Marcello's closeness, but maybe, he was just trying to gauge his old friend's reaction. Wasn't all forgiven? Weren't they friends?

"Ah, this is bad, Simo." Marcello said with a low quietness.

"What is?" He was irritating when he thought he was getting his way, Marcello thought, even if Simone's change of mood was not unpleasant. Marcello couldn't help wonder if the only reason Simone had arrived cloaked with such uncertain aggression was because he'd been, deep down, scared his old friend was going to reject him perhaps. He needed an excuse to show up, something strong enough to hide his need for Marcello behind, like an accusation. A driving force. And then, later, an inn. A way for Marcello to realise his intentions, that were there right from the very start.

Simone let himself smile, because the worst part, it seemed, was over. He guessed he had Marcello now. And it hadn't taken much work, it hadn't been bad at all. He felt the same kind of singing high spirits he'd felt when he'd robbed Franco, when he'd coaxed (or threatened, but did it matter?) that yes from Marcello. Originally, he'd been a bit irked when Marcello wouldn't give him the keys for a moment (didn't he realise they were in the money now?), but then when he'd touched that hollow wall for the second time the feeling had gone away, and left with it a sense that he was ahead of the game, that he was winning.

It hadn't ended so great for Marcello, that night, and looking back, Simone felt a piece of the blame was on him, but that was life, was it not? Sometimes things didn't work out. And anyway. This time things would work out, he was sure of it. Marcello would get something out of it too, because weren't they close where it counted? There would be no unwelcome want for repaying, no petty squabble between them. Only, only,
He kissed Marcello. That felt good. Mouth on his, like that. He leaned into Marcello, stopping a little so he could find a better angle.

"Simo," Marcello interrupted their kiss, pulling back, and Simone was suddenly grabbing air, confused. His sure expression faltered.

"You don't know what you're doing." Marcello protested. He'd felt the heat on Simone, that burning glow of fever that radiated from him so strongly, and he'd felt that terrible doubt nagging at him. That eagerness from Simone, could it not all just be his outside influence making him like that? He'd been in a sorry state when he'd shown his face. He was desperate. He'd do anything. Even try to get a handle on an old friend, old enemy, anyone. A dog would jump anything, just give it half a chance.

"C'mon," Simone groaned impatiently, pausing to kiss Marcello on the side of his face, right where the lady dressed as an angel at the club had ran her tongue over him, yeah, he remembered that, that shit was so fucking erotic, he'd played it over in his mind a thousand times, "C'mon."

"This is crazy."

"Uh huh." Simone agreed mindlessly, going after Marcello with renewed vigour, his hand on the back of his neck, like the ghost of previous times, this time with less threat. He was trying to be gentle, he was trying, but Marcello was so squirrelly. Slipping his grasp and looking at him with those moon calf eyes, like he was stupid, like he was a moron-

"Help me here." It was too hot in Marcello's place too, and he would beg, he would, because Marcello was viable, liable to listen to him. Because Marcello had to know it was eating at him, right? It had been impossible to avoid, everywhere he went it went too, following him down streets and into clubs where no one dared make an advance. It followed him home, and when he lay in bed alone, listening to the sound of cars going by on the road outside, hearing the sounds of the night just beyond him, he tried his best to ignore it and go to sleep. But it followed him into his dreams, too. It was like he was dying. But it felt good, in a way. Passing out into Marcello's back, the soothing rumble of the bike. Knowing whatever happened Marcello had him. Good old Marcello.

But that was in the past. And now Marcello remained limp in his arms, yet to reciprocate anything, and, a paranoid part of Simone's thoughts concluded, maybe this was his revenge. After he'd beaten the little guy up they hadn't talked for a while, and when he'd returned to his lurking grounds by Marcello's side he hadn't been thinking straight, he'd only convinced himself Marcello could help him. A sharp, stuttering intake of breath. Maybe he couldn't, after all. Maybe he wouldn't. Because of their fight. Did Marcello have it in him to just leave him like that? A quick appraisal and then, nothing? He'd kill him. He'd kill him. He needed… He needed... Cold panic gripped Simone as he held Marcello's arms, fingernails digging in.

"Need you." He managed to say with a grimace. He gritted his teeth. Sadistic bastard. He wouldn't try anymore after this. If Marcello wanted to see him suffer, then, even though he didn't deserve it, not even a little bit, (cause the only reason they'd had a fight was because Marcello had hit his bike, and if that didn't warrant a beating he didn't know what did), he wouldn't press the issue. Even though it made him want to beat Marcello up all over again, for taking his predicament too lightly and leading him to reach a conclusion Marcello didn't intend on reaching himself, he would go. He would find someone else on this dark night, maybe try and call by his girl's place on the outskirts of town, even though she'd thrown a bottle at him the last time he'd dropped by. He'd...

Marcello gave him a pitying look and kissed him back. Simone relaxed.

Marcello wasn't a cruel man, and seeing Simone hurt didn't make him any gladder about what had happened in the past. Sometimes he thought it should've, what with the humiliation, the ten thousand he'd been left without, the time in prison; but when Simone held him like that, as vulnerable as a guy like him could be and in great, surging want for a friend in his corner just this once, he could pretend at least that Simone was sorry for it all.

Simone let out a shuddering groan of relief, finally letting his shoulders drop. So it turned out Marcello wasn't holding any grudges. He wasn't holding any grudges on account of the fact that he was a good guy, who probably didn't even think about the things Simone brooded about on the regular, on days when there was nothing else to think about but what the score was this time, who he needed to hurt, and what he had to break next to get what was his. It was so easy to think like that he forgot there were people who didn't.

People like Marcello, who'd saved him once before, and it seemed he wasn't discouraged from doing it again, either. Fuck. Marcello was so good to him sometimes… He was the best. Better than coke and naked ladies and winning big, better than anything.

After all, one had to consider that many men would be discouraged, under the circumstances. Cowards. Pricks with no motivation. History proved he would have been partial to beating compliance into them at one point, punching loyalty and fear into their guts until they wouldn't think twice about defying him. Although, in retrospect, it never worked out quite like how he wanted though, did it?

Of course he got the momentary rush of satisfaction, of brilliant crimson and adrenaline thrill that made him feel, just for a second, that everything was right with the world, in fact, more than right. But then, later, the feeling would fade, ebbing away into some grey and intangible nothingness that made his clench his jaw and itch with impatience. It always faded. Nothing stuck. After that, the only thing he could do was go to the streets and look for the next thing, the better and cheaper thrill, the second confrontation, the fifth brawl in a long series of provocation and pain. That would buy him a few days, but the restlessness never went away, not even for a second.

In the end, all it served to do was make those he knew afraid of him, (even his girl was afraid of him, in a way he could only speculate at) rendering the people he searched out in the dark less likely to be in his company at all. They would resent him instead of the opposite, the cool and safe opposite he was forever groping blindly for amidst the fog of frustration. Yet, yet, here was Marcello with the dogs, with the funny way he had about him and the kid he was always hearing about, who had stuck around. Fucking Marcello!

Marcello had his hand up his shirt. He's laughing. He thinks he's laughing anyway. It sounds far away, and Marcello is taking his hand and leading him somewhere. It's all going too quickly. Time be damned! He had to, he had to...

He had no way of telling Marcello what he wanted to tell him. These foreign feelings bubbling up to the surface, concepts that made him almost want to scoff and turn his head, brush them off. You're talking to the wrong man here. It was impossible to express how he felt in that moment, but when Marcello touched him, leading him to his bed, he thought the other man understood the general sentiment anyway. He stumbled after him, suddenly dumb on his feet. Marcello observed him in the dark, lit only by the moon filtering through cracks in the curtain, and for a second he got the sense he was being evaluated. Like some kind of risk assessment. Marcello glanced at something else nervously when Simone finally returned his gaze with his own flat, unreadable one.

While Marcello was busy thinking over things only God knew about, Simone sat down on his bed. It dipped slightly, the springs in the mattress protesting with soft creaks. The bed probably wasn't used to anything that wasn't Marcello's scrawny self lying on it, he supposed. When he dared turn his head, he found that being in the room was having a certain effect on him. The scene had an unfortunate habit of turning hazy on him, and sometimes he felt sure of Marcello's presence, other times he felt like he was entirely alone. He rubbed at his face tiredly, suddenly remembering what his mom had said, because his phone was ringing.

His mom (why the hell was he thinking about her, why couldn't he just think of somebody else, where was his phone, Jesus where is it) had always, since the very beginning, warned him about the dangers of not finding a girl (wife? And then, later, kids? The joy would kill her) of his own to guide him through these spells of heat, she'd called it "being in season" (he felt like a dog) and she'd forever been on his ass about the whole thing. He'd usually grumbled and assured her that he was fine by himself, he didn't need to be told twice. He had a girl already. She just hadn't met her. But he guessed he had needed to be told, because it had gotten worse for him the more he tried to deal with it on his own. Yeah. Alone, or rarely, if the girl he spoke of in question (who wasn't even his and neither was he hers) was feeling particularly benevolent; in her cheap perfumed arms.

How long had it been, since his last jaunt down to her place? He touched the section on his face where he had been cut sharpish with shards of the broken bottle in her hands but found he couldn't remember. All he knew was that he ached all over, he hurt, and getting shot seemed like a cakewalk in comparison to this fever Marcello was attempting to tend to.

He sighed when Marcello lifted his shirt above his head. His instinct was to push him away. No one touched him like that, not ever, and the feeling made him almost senseless. The tenderness Marcello showed threatened to overwhelm him, and a man could only be so tongue tied. He guessed the heat was making him stupid, judging by the way he felt uncomfortable when Marcello wasn't putting his hands on him, and the way he grabbed the bed clothes and bunched them in his fist, clenching and unclenching, the world turning before his eyes. Even before, during the days where he was a regular face in the ring, he'd never felt like this.

"Take this off, hm?" Marcello motioned to the rest of his clothes. The words brought him back to the present, and he found himself looking at Marcello evenly, not sure what he was saying before the words finally registered. He began fumbling with his belt, having some trouble in his fevered haste to be efficient with its removal. Marcello did the same, but it was, Simone saw, better executed. There was something captivating about observing the smaller man, the way he was so proper with everything he ever did. He never threw his shirt across the room, didn't collapse into bed backwards like some tired animal at the end of the day. No. Simone imagined he folded his shirt neatly, ready for the laundry, and tucked himself neatly under bed covers like a sedate girl at a boarding school. Christ, who was he? He'd grown up with Marcello, but he certainly didn't know him. That was for sure. Marcello's dog was barking somewhere. He better have locked that thing in another room or else Jack the dog would be in for a hell of a surprise. Simone chuckled, prompting a questioning look from Marcello. It made him laugh a little harder.

Simone had all but gone mute when he had been ushered into Marcello's room, Marcello noted; as if he wasn't prepared to speak at all. Then, he'd burst into sudden laughter. His phone was still ringing, Marcello heard it clearly. It was probably Simone's mom. Ever since they'd been kids Simone had had a strange relationship with his mother. She loved him fiercely but despised him. She worried for him intensely but Marcello got the sense sometimes she wished her son was, well. Away. So she didn't have to worry anymore. And here she was calling again. But Simone wouldn't answer it. He had his hands in his lap, his expression still plain, except for the hint of vacancy in it, (images of an injured animal by the side of the road occured to Marcello) and because of that he felt unfair to deny his old friend of what he needed any longer. A twinge of embarassment as the phone rang out. Marcello couldn't help smiling slightly. Simone seemed so trusting of him. He would probably do anything he said, if he asked. If he asked Simone to run over to the arcade and kill the proprietor and Franco for him he would. There was a kind of power to that, he thought, marvelling now instead of regretting that Simone had come to him. But then again. Simone didn't seem to have anyone else. For Simone, it was only him. There weren't any others now. Maybe it had always only been him.

He leant into Simone, pushing him back, so he'd lie flat, easy, easy.

"Relax, Simo." He scolded as he felt how tightly wound the man was under his touch. Simone reacted, huffing slightly when Marcello began to palm him through his boxers, but still said nothing, until it got too much, but by then he could only say one thing.

"Marcello." He rasped, trying to get as close to him as their positions would permit him. The people in those bad pornos alway stressed the importance of scent, but to Simone, Marcello smelt like nothing, and as a result he was none the wiser about what exactly had affected him so profoundly when it came to Marcello's proximity. Slick was making his boxers cling to him, and it wasn't helping the way the other man kept looking him over, big eyed like he was still getting over some shock. "Marcello." He shifted uneasily.

"I'm right here." They moved at an even pace, though half the time Marcello was often trying to decipher whether Simone was even conscious, the way he stayed so passive, (pliant, was the term, he supposed), all the while worrying about the state of his friend while chasing his own pleasure too. He finally worked up the courage to grasp Simone's thighs, provoking a twitch from the man. He mouthed at the place near Simone's neck, between the crook of it and his shoulder, that sensitive spot. Dogs mated that way too.

"Ah, fuck, do it." Simone pleaded, sounding ground down and desperate, and that was exactly the sound of approval Marcello needed to go ahead.

"Turn over." Marcello whispered. Simone moved clumsily. His back was pale and muscled, like the shoulders of a bull. He was so tall, so put together. Marcello sometimes envied him. But if being in Simone's shoes meant suffering whatever sickness he had in his head, then Marcello would always balk at the compromise.

While preparing Simone he noticed an old scar under Simone's rib that seemed to highlight itself against the rest of his skin, and he felt tempted to ask about it, but Simone was in no position to answer, now panting and trying to supress groans without much success. It looked like a knife had done it. Another story for Simone to make Marcello tell back to him. A crazy ex girlfriend. A fight with sharp objects as impromptu weapons. He'd fallen into a glass table. Simone was shaking, half crazy, and Marcello felt sorry for him.

Simone's heat, a long despised foe, (but now not entirely unwelcome), planted itself in the pit of his stomach as Simone searched for more contact, touch, so he could remember what it felt like, not to be alone and drunk through his heat, not to be pained in any way. The absence of inflictions, of violence and vitriol. He was loud. He knew he was being too loud. People would hear him. He didn't care. In the next room, Jack was going wild. Dumb dog.

It felt too good to have Marcello by him, who was praising him gently while thrusting into him, and maybe the sounds of praise reminded him distantly of how Marcello spoke to the dogs, but he accepted the words anyway. They soothed him, balming over the raw parts inside of him. Even if a part of him would've rathered he kept those raw parts raw, as a reminder of who he was, so he could keep his edge, because the fresh and stinging wounds approximated somewhere inside of him at times seemed so numerous and common to him they had became a point of pride for him. A point… Of pride. He wasn't one who sacrificed that pride easily, but when Marcello knotted him he felt parts of that old structure, the designs his temper had on him (and what was pride but fear) fall away, come undone, just like he did. Marcello was guiding him onto his back again, and Simone was holding him, feeling the kind of warmth that didn't make him sweat and pace for once.

Marcello wriggled his hips, unsure if Simone could really take getting knotted in the first place. He imagined their union to be much more violent when Simone had grabbed him, but now Simone was looking at him, eyes half lidded, satisfied, and Marcello wished it could always be this way. Maybe all Simone needed was help. Just somebody who was there when the nights got too bad to think straight. Someone who was there to take the bullet out of him and look on in worry every time he almost died. He could be cured, maybe, if he had that. Cured of what he didn't know. Even then, he was unsure if he could ever stand up to the task at all, of fixing him. Sometimes the only surefire thing he thought that would fix Simone was a lobotomy.

After it was done, Marcello stroked his face, telling him he was sorry Simone had sold his pills (how the hell did he know that, Simone distantly wondered) but he was glad he had come to him. Simone could only rest his head against his pillow, the night having sapped most of the energy out of him, hand on his arm. When he'd gotten shot he'd slept for twelve hours straight. Sleep seemed an incredibly seductive thing, but then he remembered what he'd made up his mind to tell Marcello, before he forgot, before he couldn't say it anymore. Tomorrow would be another day and the opportunity would be gone. Tomorrow Marcello would leave open his humble shop again and he would go and nobody would know a single thing.

"Marcello," he interrupted whatever Marcello was saying, but it didn't feel important anyway. Marcello looked back in silence at him. He couldn't stop himself from saying it, like the words were making a mad dash to the front of his mouth, falling over themselves to get out, "You gotta know I meant it. When I said that I liked you. You hear me? I meant it."

Marcello blinked. When had Simone said he liked him? Could it have been at the club? At the arcade… In his store?

"Okay, Simo." He mumbled, looking surprised. He hadn't expected that admission from Simone. Simone didn't seem the type for sentiment. But he was unpredictable like that, wasn't he? Marcello let himself smile fondly.

"That's okay, with me." He said quietly when Simone had fallen asleep.