This fucking brat- He came into Nero's world, sold him alcohol, saved his life, killed his best friend, lied to him, earned his trust, betrayed him, killed so many people, and then turned around and said he felt nothing? That it was all for nothing? He got his damn revenge and then said it was meaningless?
He stood abruptly and grabbed the shorter man, (kid, he's just a kid with blood in his eyes and death in his heart.) yanked him to his feet by his collar and shoved him against a tree.
"What the hell do you mean you feel nothing?!" He punched him. "My father, my brother, my friends!"
He began listing off their names. People he cared about. Some, he would have even died for. With each name, he delivered a blow. Angelo didn't fight back. Didn't even flinch. His eyes were lifeless.
Nero had seen that when they'd first met. He'd seen a kid as quick with his mind as he was with a knife but with the eyes of a dead man… at first, he just thought he'd save the kid's ass. Moxy like that was hard to come by. Then the kid had helped them find Vanno's killer (Shit. That was a lie. A setup. Angelo had killed him too. It was all him.) Then Angelo had saved his life. Then he'd done it again. And damn it, Nero had started to like the kid. Nerves of steel, smart as hell, and always ready with a plan. (Every single plan led to this.) But for all his potential, his eyes were empty. He had no reason to live.
Nero had wanted to give him a reason. A purpose. He let him earn his trust because he wanted to trust him. He called him brother and welcomed him into the family. He damned them all. Because he was wrong. Angelo had a purpose and Nero had played right into his hands.
He delivered a final blow.
"All those deaths and for what?!"
Finally, Angelo focused on him. His eyes narrowed. Despite his swollen and bruised face, it was like looking into hell. Into condemnation. Nero didn't know whether to be relieved or scared.
"You really think you gotta leg t' stand on? Your whole damned family, your friends," he spat blood. "the lot a yous was murderers y'selves. And you woulda kept murdering innocents like my family, that much was clear when you ordered that guy's wife and daughter taken out. All them innocent lives, and f' what? A name? A legacy?"
He smiled an empty smile, full of blood stained teeth. Nero wanted to punch him again. He was finally getting an honest answer and he hated it.
"Gimme a break. I ain't no good. All that killin was for revenge, and that ain't no righteous reason, but don't pretend them sons a bitches I killed was victims. My little brother was a victim. My mother was a victim… Corteo." His voice cracked and his eyes became haunted and unfocused. "It was his choice, but he did it for me. He–he was a good kid, and you made me shoot him." He refocused on Nero, his eyes desperate, questioning, and accusing. "To prove what? That I'm a heartless bastard who'll kill his own friend, his brother, to get ahead? Huh? Was that worth it?"
Nero's body stiffened. Horror creeped up his spine and he barely repressed a shiver. His grip on the kid's collar loosened, but he held on. It was the only thing grounding him.
Angelo looked down, breaking away from the eye contact as though it had drained him.
"So yeah." He said, his voice quieter and subdued. "Them deaths was worth it. So no more people like women, children, and decent guys like Corteo are blown away for the likes o' yous greedy quests for power."
Angelo was the one who got beat to a pulp, yet Nero found himself feeling like he'd been punched in the gut. His head felt weightless and the world spun. He let Angelo go, stumbled away and collapsed to his knees. Angelo, back still against the tree, slid to the ground as well.
Dazed, Nero looked at his hands. They were shaking and bloody. He'd hit the kid so hard, it'd reopened a cut he'd got that night from some broken glass... or something. He couldn't remember.
He tried to rub the blood away, but only succeeded in smearing it's color further. He rubbed and rubbed, knowing it would only make his hands redder, that it would only aggravate the wounds and cause more bleeding, but he couldn't help himself. Faster and faster, till his hands were numb and slick. It was no use. The blood would never come off.
His voice quivered, "We didn't choose this. We was just kids when we started." It was a truth Nero had never let himself think, let alone confess out loud. It made him feel weak. Admitting his life was never his own.
Angelo sighed and leaned his head back against the tree, eyes closed. "I know." He said in his usual deadpan tone; stating the facts without emotion attached. Niro wondered if he would have been like that, so emotionally stunted, if he'd gotten to grow up normal. If his family had never died. Probably not. He used to think the kid's problem was he didn't care, but the truth was Angelo cared too much. He cared most about his family, and losing them drove him to care about one thing. Made it possible for him to unflinchingly take down some of the most dangerous, invincible people Nero knew.
Angelo opened his eyes. "We're set on a path as soon as we're born." His gaze settled on the night's sky. "But...after following through with my revenge, I realize I coulda quit any time. It's not a sin t' follow the path laid out for you. It's a sin t' keep going once you realize you can stop... should stop. But you don't. You won't." He let out a shaky breath. "We was all innocent once… but now… heh. 'Those who live by the sword,' indeed." The corner of his mouth quirked upward, "We ain't gotta leg t' stand on."
Nero chuckled, but his face twitched, and his eyes stung.
"No." He breathed and blinked back tears. "No we don't."