After seeing Sofia to the door when they finished their talk, Damiano wandered into the lounge and threw himself onto the couch. Thomas and Victoria continued playing the video game they were pretending to be absorbed in, and Ethan was apparently trying to work out a drum sequence in his head and the air. They acknowledged him, but nothing more than that. For a while Damiano just sat there watching them.
"You are all completely shit at pretending to not be interested," he finally said.
"We were trying to be considerate," Victoria pointed out.
"Well you suck at it," Damiano replied with a grin.
He was nervous, heart beating a mile a minute, but he knew how to cover nerves. At least with other people he did. When Victoria put her controller down, walked over, sat beside him, linked her arm through his and said; "You know you can tell us anything right? We won't judge.", he realised he wasn't doing such a great job.
He took a moment to decide how to tell them, before taking a deep breath.
"Turns out all the extra extra weird shit lately is probably on me," he admitted.
"You might have to be more specific," Thomas said, "because I'm not sure what counts as just weird or extra weird or extra extra weird anymore."
Which was a fair comment.
"The psychic connection stuff with Vic, the blood incident when we first got here, the strangely specific feelings about things, the dreams," he trailed off after the last one.
"You're causing them or just facilitating them?" Victoria asked, seeing right to the core of his hesitancy.
"Facilitating, I think," he replied. "Sofia thinks I might have taken the place where a maker should have been for us, and because of the weirdness that is me, it's a little intense."
"So you're psychic like Sofia and because of all the utter shit that was going on, you're linking us together so we don't have to deal with this on our own?" Ethan asked as if sorting it out in his own head.
"Yeah, I guess," Damiano agreed, although he hadn't thought of it quite like that.
"Okay then," Ethan said with a nod, as if perfectly satisfied now he understood.
"You any good with lottery numbers?" Thomas asked.
Damiano picked up a tangerine and threw it at his friend's head, which made Thomas snort with laughter even as the smug bastard caught it. When he looked over to Victoria, Damiano could also see a twinkle in her eye.
"So, exactly how long had you been hot for the rest of us before all this began?" she asked with an innocent bat of her eyelashes.
"Oh no," he said, "you are so not laying all that on me. I totally admit to being the link, but the rest is all our faults. None of you exactly ran the other way."
"But the whole world knows you're the kinky one, Damià," she said, kneeling up and swinging her leg over to gently settle in his lap, "and you lead the rest of us astray. You lead the whole world astray."
She ground down against him as she spoke.
"We're sweet and innocent," Ethan added and gave him such a pure and adorable look it should have been illegal.
"Is your spidey-sense giving you any hints as to what might be fun for our last afternoon of freedom?" Victoria asked, with just as sweet a smile.
"I might have an inkling," he replied, playing along.
He was really going to miss it when they couldn't just indulge their impulses whenever they felt like it.
The sex had been epic. Frankly the sex was always epic. Damiano couldn't get enough of the others no matter how much he was allowed to touch and be touched. They'd moved upstairs and were all in Ethan's room, mostly because his door had been open and Chili had decided to go that way.
Chili was getting very good at amusing herself when the humans of the group were amusing each other, but she sometimes joined them on the bed when they were just sleeping, or made herself comfortable on the floor.
"Are we ready to label this yet?" Damiano asked as they sprawled comfortably on the bed.
It seemed so long since they had had their first talk about what this was between them. They were comfortable with it and it was familiar now.
"I love you, all of you."
It was Thomas who spoke without the slightest hesitation.
"I want to love you for as long as you'll have me," he added, looking just a little bit nervous at that part.
Victoria leaned over, slid her hand round the back of his neck and dragged him in for a fast, but heartfelt kiss.
"Me too," she said as they broke apart and she looked to Ethan before Damiano found her staring right into his eyes.
"Yeah, I feel the same way," he agreed. "I can't imagine a world where we don't have this, where I don't love you."
"Partners," Ethan said, "more than lovers, more than friends, more than bandmates. Partners."
Ethan held out his hand, and Damiano reached out his to join in without even having to think about it. Victoria's settled over his, and Thomas completed the pile of palms.
"Partners," Damiano agreed.
"Partners," Thomas and Victoria said at the same time.
"But that does not mean I am above kicking certain people out of bed if they stick their cold feet on the back of my legs in the middle of the night," Damiano added, because everything suddenly felt far too serious.
He totally deserved the pelting of pillows he got for that remark.
For various reasons, not the least of which was sleeping alone tended to be disastrous as Ethan and Victoria's nightmares had proved the two ill-advised times they had tried, they were moving into the studio house together straight from the halfway house. Damiano also really did not want to go back to his place, possibly ever. The traumatic associations were still too close. His family had been wonderful about looking after it for him once it was no longer designated an active crime scene, but having his brother bring over some of his stuff for him was as close as he chose to get.
Stepping through the door of their shared space felt more like coming home than he was sure his own place would ever feel like again. Looking out the windows into the back yard, he noticed two things immediately.
"Where did that come from?" he asked, dumping the bag he was carrying and walking towards the French windows.
The pool now had what looked like a very expensive roof over it in a darkened, semi-transparent material. It was open at the sides, but the water was semi-shaded from the direct glare of the sun. There were also several of the hi-tech umbrella-recliner combos in the garden as well.
"Well I was wondering when we'd be able to use the pool," Victoria said as they trailed outside. "Looks like someone else thought of that too."
"Did we pay for that?" Damiano asked, because he definitely didn't remember any talk of remodeling anything.
"Probably part of the compensation," Thomas said, coming up beside him.
"Compensation?" he asked.
"You really need to finish reading that packet of information we were given right at the beginning," Victoria told him with a laugh and a shake of her head.
Damiano gave her a sheepish smile. He had read some of it, but hadn't gone back once he'd started delving in the archive, he had just assumed that all the information he needed would have been in both.
"The community takes responsibility if someone is remade against their will by one of the members," Ethan was actually helpful and explained. "Victims are given care and compensation to make sure they can start their new lives without having to worry about any changes. Everything we need is taken care of 'until such time as assistance is no longer required'."
That last part was definitely a direct quote, Damiano could tell.
"Just didn't expect that to include a sunshade on a swimming pool," Victoria commented. "I was resigned to night swimming. This is much better."
"Thomas, don't even think it," Domiano said when he saw their guitarist eyeing the water. "We have just enough time to put our stuff away and get to where we need to be. We can use the pool later."
Just occasionally he could be the mature one. Thomas looked disappointed, but did follow the rest of them back inside. They'd packed up most of their things in the halfway-house and they would be arriving later, but they had some personal items with them and they all headed upstairs to put things back in place.
Damiano found another change when he wandered into the kitchen to get a drink of water before they left for their first appointment. One of the lower kitchen cabinets appeared to have vanished, leaving only smooth panelling where it had been. There was, however, a small sticker on it that simply said push with an arrow pointing up under the edge of the counter top. He felt around where the arrow was indicating and discovered a small recessed button. He pushed it, and a hidden door popped open to reveal a familiar looking small refrigerator.
That answered the question as to how guests in vampire homes didn't suddenly find themselves looking at a fridge full of blood.
Closing everything up again, he removed the sticker, grabbed a bottle of water from the main fridge and headed back into the other room.
"I found the blood supply," he announced.
"Great," Victoria replied, "but we need to move or we're going to be late."
Their first interview had a huge fashion photoshoot to go with it and they managed to turn up a few minutes early. That was where they had their first unexpected encounter of the day.
Damiano climbed out of the SUV they were being driven around in today, designer shades clamped firmly on his nose and mask on, only to see a very familiar shock of hair coming towards him. He'd never seen Sofia in a mask before, since it wasn't necessary when only vampires were involved, and she was also wearing sunglasses, but there was no doubt who it was.
"This is a surprise," he said as she stopped in front of them.
"We go where we are led," she said and he could tell she was smiling. "I am officially your new assistant."
"For how long?" Victoria asked.
"As long as I am needed," Sofia replied. "The community would have made sure you had someone here to help until you are fully adjusted back to your lives, but I usurped the position. If you need anything, just ask."
"Can you get us out of standing still and looking pretty for an hour?" Thomas asked in his best petulant tone.
"'Fraid not," Sofia replied with a small laugh.
"Come on whiny," Victoria said, also laughing, "this is the part we signed on for, remember?"
"Oh yeah," Thomas replied as if that hadn't occurred to him yet, but the following giggle gave him away.
They were all excited to be getting back into the flow of work, even if it did involve a full magazine photoshoot and all the waiting around that entailed. They were Måneskin and they were about to remind the world why they were rock stars. It was going to be different, but they were all determined it was going to be good.
Having Sofia there settled the little voice of worry at the back of Damiano's brain. He had trusted her from the moment he met her, and he trusted her to have their backs as they jumped back into their career. Violence had changed their lives forever, but they were ready to take them back.
When, a day later, a huge crystal ball surrounded by a ridiculous number of unpolished crystals showed up on the bedside table in his official room at the studio house (personal spaces were becoming something of a fluid concept between them all), he knew everything was going to be okay.
"I hate you all," he called out only to hear his partners sniggering on the other side of the door.
When they opened it, he gave them the appropriate one finger salute and their sniggering became full-on laughing.
Later, when he was clearing the joke gifts away, one of the crystals vibrated in his hand as he picked it up. It felt warm for a moment and he caught a spark in the very centre of the crystal ball from the corner of his eye. He slipped the small crystal in his pocket and put the polished ball on a shelf.
Maybe not so much of a joke after all. Only the future would tell.