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Twin Human Highway Flares

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It's the summer of 1998, and France has just won the World Cup, and Leone Abbacchio has no idea. He's too busy trying not to kill himself, or the weirdo kid who's latched onto him like a little barnacle, to care about football wins or losses.

It's not that he really has any sort of relationship with Pannacotta Fugo, but he's a kid and Abbacchio is, himself, sort of still a kid, so he feels kind of responsible for him. Also, the kid's got grey-white hair, just like him, and he's tortured in a familiar way, so Abbacchio's finding it hard to just tell him to go fuck himself. He feels weirdly protective of Fugo, like if he's gotta be responsible for this child ghost of himself, then he might as well try not to fuck Fugo up as bad as he fucked himself up. A kind of second chance at everything.

He's aware he's projecting.

Anyway: it's hot and humid and Abbacchio is empty-empty-empty, but he's got this kid to look after, for some reason, so he's trying not to fuck things up.

They'd met because Abbacchio had been waiting, quietly, to die, in an old abandoned building on the edge of town, past the end of the tram line. He hadn't taken anything, or cut anything, but he figured there was only so long you could be so full of hollow before you just collapsed in on yourself, and he was willing to wait. But then this too-skinny kid had stumbled in, running from something-- someone?-- and had half-shrieked at the sight of him, and then said, "Jesus fucking Christ, man, squatter's rights," and then he'd kind of reverse-adopted Abbacchio.

That had been months ago. Now they're still squatting in the building, but they're also pulling off a pretty successful petty thieving routine and Fugo eats real food most days. (Well, Abbacchio does too, but he feels like it doesn't count as real food if it just turns to mud as soon as he touches it. Not literally, but, well. There it is.)

It takes a couple weeks for him to see Fugo's-- ability. Familiar? Personal demon? He's not sure. But he sees it for the first time when they get cornered by a couple other thieves who don't appreciate their encroaching on territory that, apparently, exists, and was not theirs to encroach upon. Abbacchio is strong, and trained in combat, but it's been a couple months since he's exercised regularly, and he's been half-starving in the meantime. And he's got Fugo to worry about, and Fugo's barely fourteen years old.

So he's surprised, to say the least, when Fugo plants a hand on his chest and shoves him back and snarls, "Get away from them-- I got this," and then there's a fucking plague monster, right there. Abbacchio can only watch as the thing gurgles and drools and flings a hand out, and their aggressors just drop to the fucking ground, already rotting.

"Fuck," Abbacchio says. "Where the fuck did you learn to do that?"

Fugo turns to him, and his eyes are hollow in a lurching familiar way. The plague monster fades back into him. "I dunno," he says. "It's just… in me."

Abbacchio swallows. He knows a thing or two about toxic monsters living inside of you. "Well," he says, "As long as we're doing this," and he pulls out Moody Blues. No one's ever seen it before, because he didn't want to get disappeared and vivisected, but he figures Fugo probably won't do that to him.

Fugo squints at it. "What's it do?" he asks.

Abbacchio shrugs. "Records actions. Rewinds. It's not great for combat," he admits.

Fugo purses his lips. "Sounds like you just aren't being creative enough."

 

--

 

He's right. Abbacchio starts working out again, starts recording himself fighting invisible enemies every morning, just in case he needs to replay the moves later. He starts eating more, although he still can't taste anything. He feels like he ought to be able to protect Fugo, if he has to. It's strange and wrong for him to be in charge, and whenever he thinks about it for more than half a second, his stomach starts rebelling. But it's better, he figures, than if Fugo were by himself, or if Fugo were in charge of him, so he just… does his best, and hopes he doesn't fuck up too bad.

On good days he and Fugo actually go out and rough people up, people Abbacchio knows aren't good guys, and that's how they eat for the day. On bad days, when one or both of them isn't really up to it, they go out and sit in the city square and pretend they're homeless brothers. Fugo swipes a harmonica from somewhere, and it turns out he's not actually terrible, so sometimes he busks. It works.

Abbacchio's hair grows back quickly-- it always has. He's in the soft, fluffy, slightly-mullety stage of a grown-out buzz when he and Fugo are cornered on the tram on the way home. The culprit is a young man-- really, more like a kid, maybe Abbacchio's age-- with a pretty face and sleek dark hair, and the stupidest suit Abbacchio thinks he's ever seen.

"I know who you are," Stupid Suit says to him. "Leone Abbacchio."

Abbacchio's stomach lurches-- they found me, oh, God, they found me -- but he just bares his teeth and snarls, "Congratulations, prick, I know my name, too." Fugo is looking between him and Stupid Suit, probably calculating the odds that he could use Purple Haze on him without killing Abbacchio too.

He's a good kid.

"Relax," Stupid Suit says. "I'm not here to kill you, or turn you in, or whatever else you're thinking. I just have questions, and possibly an offer." He looks at Fugo, now, and says, "For you, too, Pannacotta Fugo."

Abbacchio looks down at Fugo, who looks up at him. The tram car has been steadily emptying as they near the end of the line, and now it's just the three of them. Abbacchio looks back at Stupid Suit. "Tell us who you are, and maybe if you're real fuckin' lucky, we'll answer your questions."

Stupid Suit's mouth twitches, like he's amused Abbacchio thinks he has a choice. "My name is Bruno Buccellati," he says, still strangely formal-sounding. He keeps making eye contact with Abbacchio, and Abbacchio hates it. "I hear the two of you have certain abilities. I'm looking for people who can do unusual things. People like me."

Oh, God, he's like them. They haven't come across anyone else.

Fugo wrinkles his nose. "If you're looking to form a band, I can play harmonica okay," he offers sarcastically. Abbacchio feels a choking swell of fondness for this strange, brave kid.

Buccellati looks at him seriously. "My rhythm is terrible. I'm afraid I would be useless in a band," he says. Fugo snorts, but it looks like Buccellati's won a little respect for that. He continues, "No, I mean Stands. Physical manifestations of your spirits, with strange abilities. I hear the two of you have them. I want to see yours."

Abbacchio can't help a grimace. "That's sort of third-date material, isn't it? Give us a reason to trust you."

Buccellati's face crinkles prettily around his nose as he thinks. He looks like he's taking Abbacchio's request seriously, at least. "Well," he seems to decide, "I can show you mine," and then he unzips a line across the pole he's holding onto, then unzips a parallel line about six inches up. He dislodges the newly-cut section with a tug and hands it to Abbacchio to inspect. The edges of both ends of the pole are ephemeral little half-zippers. They're gaudy yellow-gold, the same color as the inexplicably impractical zippers hanging off of Buccellati's ugly suit. Abbacchio wonders, idly, if he put those zippers there himself, or if he just found the suit and bought it because it looked like his weird magic zippers. He tosses the section to Fugo.

"That's pretty cool," Fugo admits, and then, because he's fourteen years old, he asks, "Can you unzip people too?"

Buccellati smirks a little. "I can, but I suspect your companion wouldn't want me to demonstrate."

"You're damn right I don't want you to demonstrate," Abbacchio growls. "Don't you fucking touch him."

Buccellati holds his hands up. "Wasn't planning on it," he says. "Clearly. Wasn't planning on touching you, either, although it's interesting you didn't mention that."

Oh, right. Some people care if they die, Abbacchio genuinely forgot. He doesn't say anything, just glares at Buccellati.

"Anyway," Buccellati says, "I'd like to see your Stands. If they're useful, I have an offer for you."

Fugo tosses the pole section back at him, and Buccellati fumbles to catch it. "No can do," Fugo tells him, sounding bored. "Sorry, zipper guy."

"Why not?" Buccellati asks, sounding sincerely curious.

"We're on a tram," Fugo answers. "Not enough space, we'd all die."

Buccellati leans forward a little, the tram rumbling slowly to a stop. A robotic women's voice informs them it's their stop. "Color me intrigued," he says. "Could you show me in the open?"

Fugo looks at Abbacchio, which makes Abbacchio want to die, but he shrugs. If Buccellati dies by accident, it's not like he'll care. Fugo looks back at Buccellati and says, "Sure. Your fuckin' funeral."

Buccellati is the first out the door when the tram shudders to a stop. He doesn't bother re-attaching the pole segment, just leaves a six-inch hole behind him. Abbacchio and Fugo follow him, exchanging looks like what the fuck.

They don't go to the abandoned building they've been squatting in. Instead, Fugo leads them to a relatively open, sunny space nearby, and pulls out Purple Haze. It stands there, burbling sickly. After a moment, a bird happens to fly into its radius of disease, and it falls to the ground, insides already visible. Buccellati crouches to watch it wriggling and breathes, "That's fascinating."

Fugo takes the compliment (?) with the grace of any other fourteen-year-old, and says, "Uh, okay, you fucking lunatic."

Buccellati turns to Abbacchio. "What does yours do? Can I see?"

Abbacchio is supremely uncomfortable, and he doesn't want this freak seeing what's apparently the 'physical manifestation of his spirit,' but he can't just let Fugo be alone here, so he reluctantly pulls out Moody Blues. He decides, jerkishly, to replay whatever Buccellati himself was doing at 2pm. He doesn't say that's what's happening, though, and it takes a couple seconds of Buccellati's voice talking about recruitment and Passione and abilities for Buccellati's face to go white.

"Make it stop," he orders Abbacchio, and he's so surprised to receive an order that he actually does it. Moody Blues disappears back into him. "What the fuck was that?" Buccellati asks him, examining his face, visibly shaken. "Were you following me?"

Abbacchio frowns. He feels like he's being interrogated by a superior officer. "No. It just takes people's histories and imitates them. I think it's pretty fucking rich that you're bothered by the idea of being followed, though."

Buccellati starts a little at that, and then he actually cracks a little smile. "Okay, you got me there," he admits. "Your Stand is very powerful. I was caught off-guard." His honesty is jarring. Abbacchio isn't sure if he likes it or not. Fugo just looks a little disgusted that an adult is admitting to weakness. "I think I'd like to make both of you offers."

He pauses, and after a moment it's clear that he's waiting for permission, which is fucking weird. Abbacchio kind of waves him on.

"Do you want to join a gang?"

Abbacchio's instinct, of course, is to say fuck no, because he's not a fucking moron. Fugo feels the same way. But then it turns out that in addition to being a fucking lunatic, Buccellati is also insultingly good at finding people's weaknesses, and he makes two separate short little tirades, each a convincing argument for why one or the other of them should join the gang, Passione.

"You were a cop," he says to Abbacchio. "You like following orders, it's obvious. Obviously you can't go back to being a cop--" Abbacchio flinches, feeling the truth like he swallowed razor blades, "-- but if you join Passione, you won't have to be in charge anymore. You'll have responsibilities, but you won't be the leader. Right now you're in charge of a child, and you're clearly not enjoying it. Your Stand is suited to investigative work, and you'll be able to use it with us."

To Fugo, he says, "I say this as a fellow minor: you're a child. Worse, you're poor and you have an unusual appearance and you're too friendly to have such a shitty temper. You don't want to be slumming it at fourteen years old. You probably won't ever be able to go to school like a normal kid, but if you join Passione, you'll have people around you who want to keep you alive. We'll give you stuff to do, and you'll be paid. It's your best chance at surviving to twenty, frankly."

Fugo looks insulted at being called a child with weird hair, but he doesn't actually protest. Buccellati looks pleased. He looks back at Abbacchio, and says, "If both of you join at once, I can pull some strings and try to make it so you can stay together. If you want."

Abbacchio looks at Fugo, who looks back at him. "We need to talk about it," he says eventually. Buccellati acquiesces with a nod. And then, because he just has to fucking self-sabotage at whatever chance he gets, Abbacchio adds, "But you don't want me. Whatever the deal is with fuckin'... Pacchiano or whatever, I'd just fuck it up for you. I fuck everything up."

Buccellati looks at him, cocks his head to the side. His hair bobs a little. "I guess we'll see," he says. "But for the record, you don't actually seem to be fucking up with Fugo here. He could be a lot worse. You're both alive and fed, after all. You might not enjoy leading, but you're not terrible at it."

Abbacchio scowls, feeling weirdly raw, and turns away. "Let's go, Fugo. Don't follow us, zipper boy."

Chapter Text

They say yes, of course. It really was the least of many evils for Fugo, and while Abbacchio is more inscrutable, Bruno suspects that he just wanted to avoid being alone. He's unstable enough that Bruno doubts he would survive being on his own nearly so successfully as he survived with a companion. Bruno pulls strings, like he said, but of course that means that Abbacchio and Fugo end up together, with him. He's barely got any authority, and no one else wanted to join a squad led by a seventeen-year-old, so it's just the three of them. Child squad. Well, Abbacchio isn't really a child anymore, at 18, and Bruno isn't really far behind him, but still. Despite his hope for them, it does seem like kind of a disaster waiting to happen.

But disaster keeps not happening. After a supremely awkward first month, during which Abbacchio and Fugo got used to living in an apartment with, like, electricity, and running water, and a refrigerator, and an extra person, things get much easier. It turns out that they actually work really well together, despite having only one true offensive Stand among them. Abbacchio and Fugo understand each other already, and Bruno is smart enough to catch on to their styles relatively quickly. They easily complete the little missions they've been getting: theft, threats, running protection, that kind of thing.

But what Bruno likes almost more than their efficacy as members of a gang is the dynamic they have as a team. He wasn't lying when he said Fugo was too friendly; it's obvious that the kid really just wants to be safe. Now that he's got a real shot at security, he's grabbing it by the fucking throat. He likes good food and going to bed early; he likes playing cards in the evening with Bruno or, more rarely, Abbacchio. He's got a whip temper, sure, but Abbacchio knows what to avoid and Bruno learns quickly.

Abbacchio. Abbacchio is, of course, a mystery. Bruno likes him; he's rude and moody and he clearly hates himself, but he's also weirdly caring with Fugo, in a way that Fugo doesn't really even notice. Once Fugo starts putting on weight from eating on a regular basis, Abbacchio teaches him how to work out without special equipment: how to use correct form, how to structure a workout, how to use different muscle groups. Bruno joins them when he can, because he might as well. There's really only one problem, and the problem is that Abbacchio doesn't seem to like Bruno.

One day he walks in on Fugo sitting crosslegged on Abbacchio's bare back as Abbacchio planks. Neither of them are facing the doorway, so Bruno assumes they don't know he's there. He had been doing paperwork in the living room, and the two of them had been suspiciously quiet for a while, so he'd gone to investigate. It looks like his concern had been unwarranted.

"We just hit the ten-minute mark," Fugo informs the room at large after a moment, looking at his new watch, and Abbacchio collapses with a wheeze. Okay, maybe it was a little warranted.

"Get off my back, y'little gremlin," Abbacchio groans. Fugo complies, 'accidentally' kicking him in the ribs in the process. Abbacchio grabs at him half-heartedly, but he's preoccupied with rolling onto his back to heave in air.

"Oh! Hi, Buccellati," Fugo says, noticing him. "I was making sure Abbacchio was staying in shape."

"... Right," Bruno says, trying not to stare at Abbacchio's chest. He's all… muscular and sweaty and shirtless. "I'm sure you were very helpful."

Abbacchio levers himself upright, and then kind of keeps going, so that he's hunched over with his elbows resting on the floor between his knees. "Fugo, don't call him that," he says, and then he says to Bruno, "Capo. Do you need something?"

Bruno frowns a little. "No," he says. "Just wondering what you two were doing in here."

"Oh," Abbacchio says. "Well. This is what we were doing."

This is what Bruno means. Abbacchio teases Fugo all the time, calls him names and shoves him playfully, but with Bruno he's distant and roughly polite. He only ever calls Bruno capo, never by his last name, and it seems to bother him when Fugo does. He uses Lei instead of tu , as if they don't know each other. On the occasions that they spend time with other Passione people-- sometimes they're asked to work with other little groups like theirs-- he's much more informal and rude with the others. It seems that the problem is, somehow, with Bruno.

He makes a decision. "Actually, I do need something. Abbacchio, could I talk to you?"

Abbacchio looks at Fugo, then back at him, and nods. He stands up fluidly, not a single movement wasted, and follows Bruno out into the kitchen.

"Listen," Bruno says, leaning back against the counter. "I can't just give you the okay to leave the gang, but I can probably get you transferred to another group, if that's what you want."

Abbacchio stares at him, looking baffled. "Why would I want that?"

"You clearly don't like me," Bruno says, and then he adds, "Which is fine, you know, but. You don't have to stay if you don't want to."

Abbacchio's pale eyebrows pull together. Bruno knows he used to draw them on, but he hasn't been bothering with makeup since he was dishonorably discharged. (Or whatever it's called in the police force. Bruno doesn't actually know.) "Why do you think I don't like you?"

Bruno shrugs. Does he really have to spell it out? "You never act like you want to be friends. You always just yes capo, no capo me, you're so formal. With Fugo you're a total jerk, but it's affectionate. How was I supposed to read that?"

Abbacchio widens his eyes. "As respect? You're my superior. It's not my place to be a jerk to you."

"... Oh. Ohhh," Bruno says, going back over months of interactions. Abbacchio looks like he wants to roll his eyes. "Okay. That makes sense."

"Yes," Abbacchio agrees, and it sounds like obviously.

"Okay. So you don't actually hate me." Abbacchio nods. "And you're okay here?"

Abbacchio scowls to himself. "I'm not okay anywhere, but I think I'm better here than I would be anywhere else."

"That's a good start," Bruno says, feeling enormously relieved. "And you really don't have to be so formal with me. I mean, we're small fry, frankly. The actual distance between our positions in the gang is pretty minor. Like, you can call me tu, if you want."

Abbacchio looks uncomfortable. "I don't really want to," he says, and that's weirdly kind of hurtful. But then he corrects himself, "Well. I want to. But I shouldn't get to have what I want," and that hurts in a different way.

There's a lot to unpack there, obviously, but Bruno decides to start with: "Well, if it makes you uncomfortable, you don't have to. But I'm not judging you on how subservient you can be. I can take some teasing, I won't think you're trying to mutiny."

Abbacchio just crinkles his nose, but he says, reluctantly, "I'll keep that in mind."

 

--

 

And he does. He stops addressing Bruno-and-Fugo as loro and starts addressing them as voi. He still calls Bruno by himself Lei most of the time, but sometimes he remembers to call him tu. He starts ribbing Bruno, a little, over things like dishes and poorly-organized paperwork, which Bruno takes happily and returns in full. It's better, a lot better, and the three of them fit more seamlessly together now.

The first time Abbacchio accidentally talks back to Bruno, he slaps his hand over his mouth immediately after the casual fuck you leaves it. He looks like he wants to die.

So Bruno does the only thing he can, which is fake-punch Abbacchio's shoulder and say, "Uh huh, fuck you too, do your laundry." Abbacchio looks at him gratefully and obeys without further crisis. Which is good, because he really only has like two outfits, and there's only so many times you can wear even dark pants before they start getting noticeably grimy. God, Bruno has got to take them all shopping.

He finally gets his chance, the first time it dips below 15 degrees. Fugo comes back from a grocery run and spends the whole time it takes to put things in the fridge complaining about how cold it is outside.

"It's like, having my face in the fridge right now isn't even fazing me, because it's so fucking cold outside that it's not even that different," he whines.

"It's not that cold," Abbacchio tells him. "You're just a fucking weakling." Fugo sticks his tongue out at him.

"That's easy for you to say," he says. "You have, like, a jacket. All I got's is a bunch of shitty hand-me-down tee shirts."

Abbacchio makes a skeptical sound through his nose, and they both startle when Bruno claps his hands together. "Okay," he announces, "We don't have anything going on today and we have a little spending money. We're going shopping. No buts."

They hit a couple different thrift stores, because they have spending money but like, not that much spending money. It turns out that when they get to choose what they wear, both Fugo and Abbacchio have kind of hilarious senses of style. Fugo seems drawn to bright colors and impractical shapes, things like darted women's jackets or pants with mesh cutouts or whatever. Bruno mostly just lets him get whatever, but he does point out that they're there because Fugo didn't have winter-appropriate clothes. The compromise turns out to be tights in contrasting colors, to be worn underneath the hole-y pants. Ah, fashion.

Abbacchio just compares different long black drapey things, which Bruno thinks is funny until Abbacchio emerges from a dressing room in something with, like, buckles and lace and a corset-style back, and then he just thinks, Fuck. Abbacchio doesn't end up getting it because it's actually just too impractical for their lifestyle, but the knowledge that that style appeals to him is. Interesting.

They get home at the end of the day having spent €90, which is actually pretty good for the amount of clothes they got. Hopefully now Fugo won't just freeze over when it actually gets cold for real.

 

--

 

They make it through winter without anyone dying or losing any fingers, which is good. At some point it comes out that Bruno let his own birthday come and go without making it a big deal; Fugo protests that he's an adult now, it's totally a big deal.

"You can buy hard alcohol now!" Fugo points out. "You can rent cars. You oughta rent a car right now and drive it to a liquor store. It's so cool that one of us is finally an adult."

"Abbacchio's an adult," Bruno points out with amusement. "He's been an adult the whole time you've known him."

"Nah, Abbacchio's emotional maturity stalled out at like age thirteen and his body just kept going without it," Fugo dismisses him.

"It's true," Abbacchio agrees. "Congratulations on surviving to adulthood, capo," he says, which is sort of sweet, until he adds, "We weren't sure you'd make it and now Fugo owes me twenty euros."

Bruno cuffs the top of his head. "Yeah, yeah," he says. "Laugh it up, I'm gonna get you back in two weeks, motherfucker."

"If you force me to celebrate my birthday I'm gonna fuckin' leave," Abbacchio warns. "Any special treatment at all from either of you on the 25th and I tie you both to a radiator and leave you for the rats."

"Your preferences are noted," Bruno tells him graciously. "But also keep in mind that I could escape from this radiator situation before you got out of the apartment."

"I'll come up with something," Abbacchio says darkly.

Chapter Text

In the end, Abbacchio's birthday passes with a blessed lack of pomp. It's not that he minds getting older, or whatever, it's just that he hates the idea of people paying attention to him. Pretending like his presence on Earth is something to be celebrated, instead of tolerated at best. When it's 10pm and Buccellati has not, in fact, made them do any stupid birthday activities, Abbacchio finds himself totally relieved. It was a completely normal day, and Buccellati and Fugo were just as shitty to him as they normally are. (This, he realizes, was in itself a kindness from both of them, but he won't split hairs.)

The three of them have been hanging out in the living room, ostensibly talking about plans for various missions or whatever, but it had devolved into all of them reading silently, like they usually do in the evening. Fugo had turned out to be a huge nerd, so books have been finding their way into the apartment, and sometimes he shoves a book into Abbacchio or Buccellati's chest to read, and sometimes they do.

Abbacchio finishes his chapter, and heaves a sigh. He should probably go to bed; he'd made the stupid decision to just lie on his stomach on the rug, and he keeps catching himself staring blearily into space instead of actually reading. He rolls over to look at the other two, who are sitting on opposite ends of the couch like normal people. They're both absorbed in their books, so he lets himself stare.

Fugo looks worlds better than he did when he first stumbled into the abandoned building and interrupted Abbacchio's solitary waiting for death. He's clean, now, for one thing, and he's gained muscle and fat in a good way. He looks almost like a normal kid, if normal kids were nerds with truly bizarre senses of style. But he also just seems stabler, less feral. Turns out that having a support system is good for a kid, who woulda known.

Buccellati, of course, looks much like he did on the very first day. He's still pretty, baby-faced in a handsome way, with that straight, shiny hair. His lips move a little as he reads. He licks his thumb to turn the pages of the book. It's pretty cute.

Abbacchio likes him; he likes that Buccellati teases him, but when it comes down to the things Abbacchio is serious about, Buccellati takes him seriously in return. He likes the way Buccellati can give orders without being either too polite or too grating. He likes that Buccellati seems to genuinely like and feel protective over Fugo. He likes that Buccellati licks his thumbs when he reads.

He's so, so good, and Abbacchio doesn't deserve to have him in his life. He doesn't deserve Fugo, either, but Fugo's presence is more easily justifiable in Abbacchio's mind; he's here because he has to be. Buccellati had specifically requested that Abbacchio be in his gang, and he seems to be under the impression that Abbacchio is doing him a favor, as if Abbacchio could possibly exist anywhere else.

Abbacchio pushes himself to his feet. He's not particularly good at (or interested in) showing affection, generally, but he lets himself mess up Fugo's hair on his way to his room, and he reaches down to grasp Buccellati's shoulder. Buccellati looks up at him, briefly, and gives him a little private smile, like he knows what Abbacchio is trying to express. Then he turns back to the book, and Abbacchio goes to bed. 

God, he's so fucked.

 

--

 

In May, Fugo shows up at the usual cafe with an extra child. Abbacchio and Buccellati had been waiting, idly, for him to arrive, and they'd speculated jokingly about all the things that could be holding him up-- "Maybe he had to take a shit and he fell in the toilet." "Maybe a bird mistook his red suit for a piece of bloody roadkill and swooped down and flew away with him." -- but Abbacchio's gotta say, he genuinely did not see this one coming.

"This is Narancia Ghirga," Fugo tells them, pushing the kid forward. "He needs help." 

Abbacchio peers at Ghirga, who is spidery and grimy and who has something fucked up going on with one of his eyes. "You should get an eye patch. You would look like a tiny pirate," he says. Ghirga starts, and then gives him a gross gap-toothed grin, like he likes that idea. 

"Abbacchio," Buccellati scolds him mildly, and then he turns to Fugo. "How'd you find him? Is he like us?" 

Abbacchio tunes out whatever the answer is, in favor of silently exchanging increasingly silly faces with Ghirga. Ghirga has no compunctions about sticking his filthy fingers in his nostrils and mouth, which is disgusting and probably explains the eye infection. Abbacchio can respect that, though. 

They're rudely interrupted when Buccellati shoves a plate of food over to Ghirga. "I'm calling an ambulance for you," he informs Ghirga, pulling out a little mobile phone from somewhere. "Eat first, though." 

Ghirga nods enthusiastically, and speaks up for the first time to say, in a creaky little voice, "Thank you Mr Buccellati." Buccellati gives him a little smile. Ghirga starts stuffing his face. 

The ambulance arrives soon, and Ghirga manages to grab a roll for the road. He waves to the three of them as the paramedics try to help him into the back, and Fugo waves back. 

Abbacchio forgets about it after a couple days. Probably it won't come up again.

 

--

 

A month and a half later, in late July, Fugo finally gets the awful cake-fueled celebration he's been waiting for. It's no one's birthday, but it's the one-year anniversary of Buccellati threatening two strangers into joining a gang, thereby making both of their lives immeasurably better. Abbacchio doesn't even remember the exact date, because who the fuck cares about things like that, but Buccellati seems to. Abbacchio comes home one afternoon to find Fugo accosting Buccellati, in what looks like it's supposed to be a hug but is really more of a wrestling move. He's one good squat and lift away from suplexing Buccellati into the fucking ground, so Abbacchio goes over and pries his arms away. 

"Thanks," Buccellati says.

"No problem. What the hell did you do to deserve that?" Abbacchio asks, afraid of the answer. 

Fugo grabs his arm and yanks him over to the kitchen table. "Look," he demands, pointing.

Abbacchio looks, and then he feels a little bit of his soul die. On the table is an ugly little white American-style cake, the words Happy Anniversary! piped on in curly purple icing, and then, below that, in a different (shakier, uglier) hand and a slightly different shade of purple, is written Bruno + Leone + Panacota.

"You spelled his name wrong," Abbacchio says stupidly, because it's easier than facing the whole fact of this cake's existence.

Bruno comes over to stand next to him, looking down at the cake with his hands on his hips. "Yeah," he says. "It wouldn't fit otherwise. See how it's already kind of squished?" He's right. It actually barely even reads as Panacota. "I had to use our first names because it was either two long names and one short name, or two short names and one long name. I figured Fugo can suffer."

"Hm. You know how you offered to get me transferred to a different group," Abbacchio asks, still staring at the cake. Buccellati makes an affirmative noise.

"You said no then. Are you thinking about how glad you are that you turned that offer down?" Buccellati asks him, glee dancing in his eyes.

"No, I changed my fucking mind, let me out of this disaster squad," Abbacchio tells him flatly. He crosses his arms over his chest.

Buccellati's face falls dramatically. "You don't really mean that," he says, "Right?"

Abbacchio holds his gaze for a moment, and then he sighs noisily and, bravely, slings an arm around Buccellati's shoulders. "No, jackoff," he says. "I'm embarrassed to know you, but you're stuck with me forever." When Buccellati laughs at that, he can feel it all up and down his side and through his arm. Oh, God, this was a mistake, he thinks, but he leaves his arm there. He looks back down at the cake. "This really is an ugly fucking cake, though," he says. 

Buccellati sighs and tips his head into Abbacchio's shoulder. Abbacchio tries not to just burst into flames. "Yeah," Buccellati agres. "There's a reason I'm in a gang and not a bakery."

"It's edible, though, right?" Fugo asks, poking a finger into the side of it. "I vote we eat it. Right now. Get rid of the evidence."

Buccellati ducks out from under Abbacchio's arm, finally, to go get cake-eating tools. Abbacchio feels colder already. "As your leader, I feel the need to say we should eat real food first," he says, pulling down three chipped ceramic plates from the cabinet. He hands them to Abbacchio, and continues, "But as the one responsible for that ugly mess, I think Fugo's got the right idea." Abbacchio snorts, and accepts a victorious high-five from Fugo.

They end up sitting on the floor in the kitchen, because eating a whole cake-- even a small one-- for dinner at the table seems a little blasphemous, even for them. They don't really say anything of substance, just crack jokes and make faces at each other, but it's good. Abbacchio is suddenly viciously, selfishly glad that he gets to have this, even if he doesn't deserve it. He thinks, I love you I love you I love you at both of them, albeit with different meanings, and he hopes they get the message somehow.

Chapter Text

In October, they're on a trip for a mission, and they're all stuck in the hotel room for the night with nothing to do. They couldn't manage to swing even two rooms, but they got one with one queen bed and one double, which is better than it could be. Really, the worst part is that they'd all gotten used to reading before bed, but the trip was announced so suddenly that none of them brought books; they just stuffed clothes into their bags and left.

It's only 9pm on the second day, and Bruno is ready to go out of his mind with boredom. There's only so many times you can play solitaire in a row before you want to die, after all, even if you're playing with people you like. After Fugo wins for the third time in a row, Bruno groans and lets himself fall to the side. He'd been sitting with his back to the queen bed, so now he's staring at the space under the double. "I'm so bored," he whines, feeling stupid and childish. After a moment someone pats his hair sympathetically. He shuffles onto his back to see who; Abbacchio is looking down at him looking amused. The lamplight from the bedside table is throwing dark shadows across his face from his long white eyelashes.

A thought occurs to Bruno. "You used to wear makeup," he remarks.

"Really?" Fugo asks.

Abbacchio raises his eyebrows at both of them. "Yes."

"Why'd you stop? Or I guess, why haven't you picked it up again?"

Abbacchio looks away. "I wanted to look approachable as a policeman. People are more likely to trust you when you don't look like a fucking alien, so I made my eyebrows and eyelashes darker. The lipstick was just 'cause I liked it." He purses his lips. "I did it to look nice and approachable, but then it turned out that I'm not nice and people shouldn't approach me, so I stopped."

Bruno looks up at him. He doesn't really know what to say to that.

Fugo rescues both of them when he says, "Good thing we like you anyway, alien man," and Abbacchio barks out a laugh.

After a moment, Bruno asks him, "Can I try something? With makeup. On you."

Abbacchio looks at him consideringly. "Sure," he says eventually. "As long as you don't draw any dicks on my face."

"No dicks," Bruno promises. Fugo makes a farting sound with his mouth, clearly disappointed.

"I guess it's just me and my Walkman," he sighs as Abbacchio pulls Bruno to his feet. "It's a lonely life we lead."

They go to the tiny little hotel bathroom to set up. "Okay, you should sit on the toilet," Bruno instructs him, digging through his makeup bag for what he wants. "Otherwise you're just gonna be too tall." Abbacchio snorts, but complies.

"Close your eyes," he says, and Abbacchio does.

Putting makeup on someone else is very different from putting makeup on yourself, it turns out, but Bruno manages okay. It's not like he minds having to hold Abbacchio's face in his hands, having to angle his head to get the perfect wing. Abbacchio's legs are long enough that Bruno has to kneel in the vee of them, and he tries to ignore how warm they are. Tries to ignore the soft, warm puffs of breath on his face.

He does Abbacchio's eyebrows first, because he might as well start at the top and go down. When Abbacchio drew his eyebrows on before, he used a light brown only a couple shades darker than his normal hair color and drew gentle arches in; Bruno uses a brown-black and makes them severe, flat, and angular. Next he does the eyeliner, a barely-there line all the way around Abbacchio's eyes with a tiny little wing.

"Open your eyes and look up," he instructs quietly, uncapping mascara. Abbacchio does so, accidentally catching Bruno's gaze for a split second before staring resolutely at the ceiling. He's blushing, a tiny, tiny bit. Bruno swallows, but ignores it as best he can. He has to rest his hand against Abbacchio's cheekbones for maximum steadiness as he pulls the mascara brush through his eyelashes, and tries not to think about how much Abbacchio must trust him.

He does lipstick last, because it seems like it's the most important. He only has one shade of black lipstick, and it's almost definitely not whatever Abbacchio had used, but it's what he's got. He cups Abbacchio's chin in his left hand and applies the lipstick with his right, his attention torn between the pulse fluttering in Abbacchio's throat and the soft resistance of his lips on the lipstick.

He finishes, and he tries to say "Okay," but then he has to clear his throat. He tries again: "Okay," and it comes out normally, so he continues, "You're done. You can look now." Abbacchio opens his eyes obediently, but Bruno forgot to lean back because he's a fucking idiot, so they just stare at each other from six inches away for a hot second. Abbacchio's pupils are blown, and there's still a little color high in his cheeks.

"You gonna let me go look, or what," Abbacchio says in a low voice. Bruno thinks, immediately, no, and then he realizes what Abbacchio means and scrambles back. Abbacchio quirks a newly-dark eyebrow at him and stands up, then reaches a hand down for Bruno. He accepts it, but drops it as soon as he's upright, so he doesn't do something stupid like keep holding onto it.

Abbacchio turns to look at himself in the mirror over the sink, and says, "Whoa."

The makeup makes him look somehow both more severe and more human. His eyes are huge and bright in his face; he kind of looks like a model. He turns his head back and forth, checking himself out in the mirror. "This is different," he says. "I look so... harsh. I like having visible eyebrows again, though."

"This way you get to be expressive, but still look hot and scary," Bruno agrees. Looking at both of them in the mirror, Bruno realizes for the first time that Abbacchio is, visually, sort of a nega-Bruno: he has medium-length white hair and black clothing, where Bruno has medium-length black hair and white clothing. They look kind of intimidating together, actually. He likes it.

Abbacchio meets his eyes in the mirror. "You think I'm hot and scary?" he teases.

"I have eyes," Bruno says, feeling defensive.

"Ah, capo," Abbacchio sighs dramatically, "I didn't know you noticed." He's joking, obviously, but there's a note of interested sincerity in his voice.

"Of course I noticed," Bruno says quietly, before he can stop himself. The humor abruptly falls away from Abbacchio's face, leaving him looking vulnerable. He turns to face Bruno.

"Buccellati," he says quietly.

"Abbacchio," Bruno answers, just as quietly. He takes a breath, and says, "If I ask you to do something right now. And I swear it's not an order, and that you can say no, and it would be fine. Would you take me seriously?"

Abbacchio watches him with those bright eyes, and says, "Yes," with the same low voice that he had said are you gonna let me go look or what earlier. 

Bruno takes a step towards him. He's worried about making Abbacchio feel cornered, but he doesn't seem to mind, just keeps watching Bruno quietly. He stops when their shoes are almost touching, and takes Abbacchio's hands carefully. "You can say no," he forces himself to say again. Abbacchio nods jerkily. Bruno tilts his face up towards him, and asks quietly, "Can I kiss you?"

Abbacchio's eyes are so wide. His pupils are huge, just thin rings of purple-blue visible around them. He breathes, "Yes."

Bruno leans up the rest of the way and presses their mouths carefully together. Abbacchio makes a sound in his chest, and reaches up to grip Bruno's waist with both hands and pull him closer. He's so warm. Bruno shifts so he can get his hands in Abbacchio's hair, and Abbacchio rewards him with a low moan. He takes advantage of that, opening his own mouth to deepen the kiss, and he feels Abbacchio's eyelashes flutter against his face. He tastes faintly of after-dinner coffee. Bruno feels like his chest is about to split open.

So of course that's when Fugo throws something-- a shoe, maybe?-- at the bathroom door and calls, "Are you guys done giving each other makeovers in there? I gotta take a piss."

They pull away from each other with a start, making frenzied eye contact. Abbacchio looks… pretty thoroughly debauched, in an extremely satisfying way. His lipstick is smeared and his hair is a mess, and he's flushed all the way down his neck. Bruno wants to keep kissing him, kick Fugo out of the room, but of course that isn't an option. He clears his throat, and calls back through the door, "Uh, just a sec."

He turns back to Abbacchio, and is horrified to see that in addition to looking debauched, he's also starting to look like he's freaking the fuck out. "Abbacchio," Bruno starts, worried, "Are you--"

"I have to go," Abbacchio blurts, sounding strangled. "I can't-- Sorry--" He dodges Bruno's reach and slips out of the bathroom, and then he's out of sight, but Bruno hears the hotel room door slam behind him. And then Bruno's standing alone in the bathroom with a hardon and no clue what just happened.

He takes a deep breath, willing his erection to go away, and then he steps out of the bathroom and is immediately the subject of Fugo's interested gaze. "What the hell was that?" Fugo asks, and then he narrows his eyes and says, "Nice lipstick." Fuck, of course now he's got lipstick on his mouth, too. Bruno wonders if he looks as bad as Abbacchio does. He probably does.

"Uh," he says, rubbing his mouth with the back of his hand.

"Were you in there making out?" Fugo asks, accusatory.

"Not… the whole time?" Bruno tries.

Fugo slides off the bed and rolls his eyes. "Finally. You idiots have been dancing around each other for months."

"I think we might be still dancing around each other," Bruno admits. He should go look for Abbacchio and make sure he's okay.

"You'll figure it out," Fugo dismisses him. He pushes past Bruno into the bathroom, but turns back to make eye contact. "But also, if you hurt him in any way, remember that you're my superior and I respect you but you don't stand a fucking chance against Purple Haze."

Bruno swallows and nods. This kid. "Noted," he says. "I'm going to go. Find him, now."

"You do that," Fugo tells him, closing the door behind him.

He does.

Abbacchio isn't in the hotel. He isn't anywhere near the hotel, actually; an hour after he leaves, Bruno finds him alone in a tram car, idly riding around the city. (Don't ask how he found him. Bruno has connections, is all.) Bruno sits down gingerly across from him, and says, "Hi."

Abbacchio isn't looking at him. He's pulled his short hair back into a spiky ponytail at the back of his head, which is kind of absurdly cute, but otherwise he looks… hot and scary, as per usual. His lipstick is still smudged, but everything else looks okay. He waves a hand, belatedly, because even when he's freaking out he still can't bring himself to ignore Bruno.

"What happened back there?" Bruno asks. He feels closed in, here, with the loud humming of the lights in the ceiling, the rumbling rhythm of the tram, the black void of the outside world.

Abbacchio leans against the divider he's sitting next to. He's still avoiding eye contact. He stares at Bruno's shoes for a while, and then he says, "I'm a black hole."

Bruno waits for him to elaborate, and eventually he does.

"You don't want to be with me. I'd destroy you," he says, his voice flat. "I'm not a real person. I'm all hollow on the inside. The only thing I'm good at is fucking things up."

Bruno tilts his head, considering this. "I don't know about that," he says slowly. "We've been working together for a full year and you haven't fucked anything up yet. I think you're being hard on yourself."

"I'm fucking this up," Abbacchio points out, waving between the two of them. The train begins shuddering to a stop. "I'm hurting you right now."

"No," Bruno says, "You're not. You're trying to protect me." Abbacchio doesn't say anything, which Bruno takes as his conceding the point. "I'm not made of glass, Abbacchio, a little rejection isn't going to kill me. I trust you to do what you think is right. Do you trust me?"

Abbacchio nods, and then he says, "Yes," quietly.

"Do you trust me to tell you if you're fucking up?" he asks.

Abbacchio says, "Yes," again.

"Okay," Bruno says. "I don't think you're fucking anything up." He pauses, so Abbacchio knows he's being serious, and then he continues, "I like you. I want you, in whatever way you'll have me, but I trust your judgment. If you don't want to start anything with me, then that's okay."

Abbacchio finally looks up and makes eye contact with him. He looks wrecked. "You're too good to me," he says finally.

Bruno smiles at him a little. "We'll just have to agree to disagree."

They get off at the next stop, and walk back to the hotel together. They walk in silence for a while, and then Abbacchio says, "I appreciate the pep talk. But I still don't think I can do this."

Bruno watches him, and says, "That's okay. I mean, it sucks, but it's okay. Let me know if you change your mind."

Abbacchio nods, and bumps their shoulders together, and Bruno bumps him back, and they spend the rest of the walk back bumping each other and giggling intermittently.

Chapter Text

In November, Buccellati gets a message that their little squad is being assigned a new member, and then Narancia Ghirga shows up on their doorstep. Buccellati opens the door, and sees Ghirga, and slams the door in his face.

"I told you to go back to school!" he yells through the door. Abbacchio raises his eyebrows. Buccellati almost never yells.

"I did go back to school! It sucked and I got made fun of!" Ghirga shouts back. "I'm part of Passione now, I'm your new teammate, open the fuck up!"

Buccellati pinches the bridge of his nose and exhales loudly. Abbacchio slips past him to open the door a little. He peers down at Ghirga, who looks 100% less infectiony and 100% more determined than he did last time.

"Ah!" Ghirga exclaims. "Goofy face man! You have eyebrows now. You'll let me in, right?"

Abbacchio frowns at him. "Not until capo says so. If you're gonna be part of his team, you can't tell him what to do, you impertinent little goblin."

Ghirga's face falls. "Sorry," he says. "I just wanna be part of the team. Polpo said I could."

"Ugh," Abbacchio says, and he pulls back into the apartment, closing the door in Ghirga's face again. "Buccellati, I think he's serious."

"He's serious," Buccellati confirms, and he turns and calls, "Fugo! Get over here, this is your fault."

Fugo emerges from his room, looking unrepentant. "Sorry, capo," he says, not sounding sorry at all. "From what I've heard, it sounds like it's really your fault, for being too perfect. You terrible angel, you."

"Speaking from personal experience," Abbacchio says as Fugo opens the door, "I'm gonna say he's probably right."

"Oh, we're joking about that, now?" Buccellati asks him. Abbacchio shrugs, and Buccellati smiles at him, a little private smile. Abbacchio's stomach flips. "Good to know."

"Pannacotta!" Ghirga crows. God, Abbacchio wonders what the hell kind of parent looks at their sweet little newborn baby and names it after a fucking pudding. He blesses every minute of his life that he's able to forget that that's Fugo's name.

"Narancia!" Fugo greets him, accepting a spidery hug. "Welcome to the team, man. Don't ever fuckin' call me by my first name again, though."

"Okay," Ghirga agrees cheerfully. "You guys can call me Narancia though. I don't mind."

Fugo laughs at him a little, and says, "Okay, man, whatever," and that's that.

They end up staying in the same apartment, even though now there's one too few rooms. They just buy a new mattress and stick it in Fugo's room, because they're closest in age and also, it really is Fugo's fault.

Buccellati takes Narancia shopping when it comes out that he really only has the clothes on his back, and they come back with new clothes, a new Walkman, and a new understanding between the two of them. Abbacchio hates to admit it, but Narancia actually does add something to the group that they were missing before. Buccellati, Abbacchio, and Fugo are all funny in a shitty way, but Narancia is actually kind of joyful. He balances them out and keeps them from getting too mean. He's got his own baggage, obviously, but he's even more naturally good-natured than Buccellati is. (Even if it can get kind of obnoxious.)

In the meantime, nothing new has happened between Abbacchio and Buccellati, because Abbacchio won't let it. He's fucking losing it over how much he adores Buccellati, but he can't let himself do anything about it. He just watches, and lets himself be watched. This is already so much, so good. He doesn't deserve to get any more.

 

--

 

They've never really done Christmas. Well, Fugo goes to midnight Mass, but that's it. Abbacchio and Buccellati aren't religious and aren't really into gift-giving, so it hasn't been a thing. But it turns out that Narancia gets fucking hype about Christmas, and he's an orphan, so the three of them silently agree to do something fun for him. The little schmuck has already wormed his way under their skin. So Buccellati takes them all into town, on the pretext that everything's on sale right now (also true); the hope is that between the three of them, probably one of them can find something fun for Narancia.

"Divide and conquer," Buccellati whispers over Narancia's head. Abbacchio rolls his eyes. He's not sure how he feels about all four of them wandering off in different directions, but it's the fucking holidays. He can stand not to ruin the fun.

Fugo splits first, intrigued by a secondhand bookshop. Abbacchio stage-whispers to Narancia, "Bet you didn't know he's a fucking nerd," and Narancia laughs.

Abbacchio leaves to 'investigate a wine store.' Really it's mostly just a cover so he can loop around and go into the video game store unseen by Narancia or Fugo, but he does actually spend a minute in the wine store, looking at labels and thinking about the merits of pink Moscato versus Prosecco. As long as the kids are going to be demanding glasses-- and they will-- they might as well enjoy it, he figures.

He decides on the Moscato, because it's cuter. Let no one ever accuse him of not being child-friendly.

Next he heads to the video game store, where he finds himself face-to-face with a zitty sixteen-year-old employee who seems to have the exact same sense of style as him. He hates himself, but he lets her tell him about whatever the new Pokemon game is, and then he buys it, and a fucking GameBoy (??), and then he leaves before anyone he knows can happen to walk in.

Despite the incredible embarrassment of looking like whatever edgy 16-year-olds think is fashionable these days, he considers the whole thing to be a success. He pulls out his little flip phone to call Buccellati, so he doesn't feel obligated to keep looking.

The phone rings until it goes to voicemail.

He tries not to worry about it. He hangs up and tries again, and he gets voicemail again, so he hangs up and calls Narancia. It rings twice, and then Narancia's perky voice says, <<Hello?>>

"Narancia, it's me," he says. "Are you still with Buccellati?"

<<No,>> Narancia says. <<We split up like ten minutes ago. Do you need him?>>

Yes, and it's awful, Abbacchio thinks, but he just says, "Yeah. He's not picking up. Any idea where he was headed?"

Narancia hums into the phone. <<I think he was going to get something for you, actually,>> he says. <<He said it was an old joke, or something. He kept snickering.>>

What the hell? "... Okay," Abbacchio says. "Listen, let's meet in the center piazza by the fountain in half an hour. If I don't show up by then, come find me." He pauses, and then corrects himself: "Actually, try to find Buccellati first."

<<Okay,>> Narancia says, sounding concerned. <<Call me again if you need backup,>> and isn't it fucked up that a fifteen-year-old is offering him backup?

Abbacchio agrees, hangs up, and calls Fugo. They have basically the same conversation, and it's even worse because Fugo is actually younger than Narancia and he gives the same offer. God, it's the fucking holidays. Abbacchio calls Buccellati again-- still nothing.

He takes a deep breath and thinks: If I were Buccellati and I were tickled over a gift I was getting Abbacchio, and if it were an 'old joke' of some sort, what would it be?

It comes to him in a second, and he feels stupid for not realizing when Narancia said it. He heads to the bakery.

He gets there in only a couple minutes, because he runs, and he ends up being glad he did. The bakery is on a cliff right over the ocean, and that's where Abbacchio finds Buccellati and his apparent assaulters. There are three of them-- it looks like there were four of them, but one is lying unzipped on the sidewalk a ways away-- and it looks like they've caught on to Buccellati's whole deal, because they're staying out of arm's reach. Buccellati is bleeding from a cut somewhere on his scalp, and his goofy white suit is all scuffed up like he's been taking punches. All four of them have their Stands out.

Abbacchio calls Fugo. "We're at the bakery by the water, the one from the ugly anniversary cake. Come right the fuck now and be ready to fight." He hangs up without waiting for a response, and then he calls Narancia and gives him the same instructions but with slightly more description re: the location.

Then he sets down his bags, ties his hair back, and joins the fight.

He's coming from behind them, so none of the enemies notice his approach. Buccellati does. He cuts his eyes at the one to the far left: him first. Abbacchio obeys, of course, slipping his little pocket knife out of his sleeve and reaching around to slice neatly across the guy's jugular before he knows what hits him. The guy tenses immediately, clutching at his neck and gurgling sickly. Abbacchio steps away and lets him drop, swings a leg around to catch the next guy in the stomach. It connects with a satisfying ouf, and then someone's Stand does something, and his limbs are suddenly jelly.

"What the fuck," he tries to say, but it doesn't really work, because actually everything is jelly. He watches the ground rushing up to meet him, and hopes he doesn't land on his jaw and bite his tongue off. Pro: he doesn't! Con: he lands on his nose instead, and he feels it crunch jarringly. He's still conscious, though, so it can't be too bad. No bone shards in his brain or anything. He hears the unmistakable fwump-jingle of Buccellati hitting the ground, too, and he wishes he were not literally flat on his face so he could see if Buccellati is okay.

He pulls Moody Blues out, and instructs it to replay the throat-slice-roundhouse on loop, just in case it can actually hit anyone, but that's the extent of his ability to help. He hopes, desperately, that Fugo and Narancia arrive soon. The two remaining goons are shouting about maybe they called backup (they did!) and we oughta kill them before anyone else comes (you really oughtn't!). There's a frenzied scuffling, and then the sound of a foot colliding with someone's stomach, and an immediate wheezing gasp that sounds like Buccellati. Abbacchio feels cold all over. Buccellati's going to die, and Abbacchio can't do anything about it, and he's going to hear it happen.

There's another kicking sound, and then a splash, and Abbacchio wonders hysterically if a person really can just die of terror. Just up and die.

There's a couple of congratulatory remarks from the goons, and one of them says, "No way he'll survive that."

Then there's the sound of tiny, rapid gunfire, such as from a toy-sized helicopter, and the awful oozy creaking of Purple Haze, and also two teenagers yelling their fucking heads off. Abbacchio is unceremoniously rolled over by a pair of rough hands, and then he's blinking into Fugo's face as Fugo gasps, "Oh, God, you're alive, thank God," and then there's the telltale gurgling shriek of a victory by Purple Haze, and Abbacchio's limbs come back into his control.

He wrenches himself up and pinches his nose painfully, coughs, "Is Narancia looking for Buccellati?"

"No," Fugo says, looking worried. "He's taking care of the other guy, we didn't see Buccellati. Where is he?"

"Fuck," Abbacchio gasps, "Fuck," and then he pushes himself up and shakes out his legs, and when he's pretty sure he'll be able to swim okay, he strides to the ocean and dives in.

"Hey!" Fugo shouts after him, but he only catches part of it. He surfaces a couple meters away-- God, the tide is strong, and the waves just crash into the concrete wall of the raised quay-- and looks around wildly. His heart is in his throat. He hears another storm of tiny gunshots, and then Aerosmith zips overhead and circles above something maybe twenty meters out. Abbacchio squints: a barely-visible scrap of white. He plunges after it, arm over arm, trying not to think about how long it takes for people to go brain dead after drowning. Seconds later-- or years?-- he reaches out and grabs onto the fabric of Buccellati's jacket, and yanks him to him. Buccellati is unconscious, his face pale. He treads water as well as he can for a moment, just so he can get Buccellati's face out of the water, and then he heads back to shore. It's harder than it was going out, but he gets there. He's able to brace himself against the concrete ledge of the quay, and he flings Buccellati up onto it, and then he pulls himself out as well. The tide had pulled them laterally along the shore, so they're a couple hundred meters east from where they started.

He glances back west, and is relieved to see that Fugo and Narancia seem to be fine. Both of them are running down the quay towards them. He turns back to Buccellati, and when slapping his face doesn't wake him up, he takes a deep breath and moves Buccellati so that he's laid out flat on the ground. Then he starts pushing on Buccellati's chest, deep compressions.

Thirty chest compressions, he hears the volunteer EMT telling his class in the police academy. Then you check the airway, and administer two rescue breaths if necessary. Then another thirty compressions.

He lets his training take over. He gets through fifteen compressions before Fugo and Narancia skid to his side, and another ten before Buccellati heaves a gasp and coughs water into his face.

"Jesus fuck," Abbacchio says, sitting back up. He's shaking, or maybe Buccellati is shaking, or maybe they both are. He wipes his face with his sleeve, and then he realizes that his sleeve is wet too, and touching his nose sends spikes of pain through his face anyway. "Jesus fucking Christ."

Buccellati is still coughing, but his eyes are open and he's trying to sit up, and water stops coming out of him after the first dozen coughs, which is probably a good sign. He manages to sit up, but he starts to tilt, so he grabs onto Abbacchio's arm and leans into him for support. Abbacchio lets it happen, and says to the boys, "One of you get a car."

"But we're not eighteen--" Narancia starts.

"Get a fucking car," Abbacchio snaps, "It doesn't have to be legal, he's not taking the fucking tram like this."

"Okay," Narancia squeaks, and scurries off. Abbacchio feels bad about snapping at him, but for fuck's sake, they're in a gang. They don't have to be concerned about the age restrictions of renting cars.

"Is he okay?" Fugo asks quietly, crouching down to look at both of them. The coughing has stopped, but Buccellati is still wheezing, and now that Abbacchio isn't made of 100% adrenalin he can see that, yes, both of them are shaking, almost violently so. Also, it's December, and they're soaked through. He has many regrets.

"'m okay," Buccellati slurs. "I c'n take the fuckin' tram."

Abbacchio looks down at him and says, "Bullshit," and it comes out shaky. "We're taking a--"

A car horn honks, interrupting him. It turns out to be Narancia, hanging over the shoulder of some poor taxi driver. He waves at them through the windshield, and Fugo stands up. He leans back down to give both Abbacchio and Buccellati a hand, and then he ducks under Buccellati's far shoulder and helps them both walk.

The three of them tumble into the back of the taxi, and Abbacchio bundles Buccellati against his chest. Fugo gives directions, but Abbacchio tunes them out so he can focus on feeling Buccellati's stuttered breathing. His head is tucked under Abbacchio's chin, and his hair is full of blood and saltwater, and Abbacchio loves him so much he can barely breathe. Although that might just be the broken nose.

 

--

 

They get back to the apartment no problem, and Narancia pays the cab driver as Fugo helps Abbacchio and Buccellati into the elevator to their floor. They stand there silently as the elevator ding - ding - ding s its way up, and then they're on their floor and Narancia bursts out of the stairwell and they all spill into the apartment.

"We're taking a shower," Abbacchio announces, even though the last thing he wants right now is to deal with more water. No one questions his word choice, although Buccellati tips his head into his shoulder.

"I feel like I've had enough water for the day," he mumbles, pinching his nose. "Don't really see the appeal of a shower."

"You're all cut up and the ocean is filthy," Abbacchio points out. "You're taking a fucking shower."

"Ugh," Buccellati says, but he lets Abbacchio pull him towards the bathroom.

It gets a little awkward when it turns out both of them are still too shaky to deal with actually peeling out of their clothes, and Buccellati has to just unzip everything with Sticky Fingers. Abbacchio keeps catching him staring, and Buccellati says, "Sorry, I'm not. Super lucid right now, I'm trying not to," but Abbacchio just shrugs and says, "I don't mind," and that's that. Abbacchio pulls his hair out of its messy ponytail, and then he helps Buccellati with his little central braid thing. There's blood caked into it. Abbacchio tries not to think about it.

They climb into the big ugly tub/shower, Abbacchio behind Buccellati, and sit crosslegged, both facing the faucet. Buccellati turns the water on, and Abbacchio reaches up past him for the handheld showerhead. He presses a kiss to Buccellati's shoulder on a whim, and Buccellati shivers. Abbacchio aims the showerhead at the wall of the tub until the water heats up, and then he passes it over Buccellati's shoulders, his chest, his knees.

They decide without speaking that Buccellati can handle the soap if Abbaccio does his hair. He tips Buccellati's head back, and it feels a little like how he had grabbed the first guy by the throat before he killed him, only this time it's gentle instead of, you know, murderous. He presses the showerhead against Buccellati's scalp and watches old blood run down his back, cards through his hair with his other hand until the water runs clean.

"Hold this for a sec," he mumbles, reaching back around to hand Buccellati the showerhead. Buccellati takes it and rinses off the soap suds, and Abbacchio reaches over and grabs Buccellati's fancy shampoo. He squirts some into his hands and lathers it up, and then he pushes his hands into Buccellati's hair and works it in. Buccellati shivers again. The foam is turning pink. He takes the showerhead back and rinses it out until the water runs clear again. Conditioner, frankly, is a problem for another time.

"Your turn," Buccellati tells him over his shoulder. They scoot around so that Abbacchio's back is to him, and do basically the same routine. Buccellati's hands in his hair are possibly the best thing he's ever experienced. It's not even a sex thing, really, it's almost even more physically-good-on-a-basic-level than that.

He doesn't have any blood in his hair to scrub out, so shampooing takes less time. Then Buccellati is shutting the water off and pushing himself out of the tub, and Abbacchio follows him, because Abbacchio always follows him. They towel off a little bit, and then they wrap the towels around their waists and go to their separate rooms. Abbacchio only goes to his so he can shove pajamas onto his shitty body, though, and then he goes to Buccellati's room. He receives no catcalling or wolf-whistling on the way, so it looks like Fugo and Narancia must be in their own room.

He knocks once at Buccellati's door, and Buccellati makes some sort of affirmative sound, so he comes in. Buccellatti is in pajamas too, and he's curled up in bed even though it's only 3pm. He waves Abbacchio over, and pulls his wrist when he's within arm's reach to make him climb onto the bed. Abbacchio goes, and he ends up half curled around Buccellati and half just kind of on top of him. Buccellati hums contentedly and nuzzles into his shoulder. He must still be not quite lucid.

"I changed my mind," Abbacchio says eventually, even though it must be obvious by now. "I want this."

Buccellati blinks up at him, and then he seems to get it, because he leans up to press a little kiss to Abbacchio's mouth and says, simply, "Okay. I want this too," before snuggling back into Abbacchio's chest.

They fall asleep in minutes.

 

--

 

Christmas ends up not sucking after all, although Abbacchio deeply mourns the loss of the Moscato (and the games-- that shit's not cheap). Someone had probably grabbed the bags not half an hour after he'd put them down, and now they're gone forever. But Buccellati had, in fact, managed to order an ugly cake for them before he got jumped, and he and Fugo go to pick it up on Christmas Day. Abbacchio is certain-certain that he requested the ugliness on purpose: no self-respecting bakery would ever voluntarily ice a cake in a flat brick-red and then pipe details in neon orange. It's hideous. Buccellati keeps looking at it and snickering.

The piping says, WELCOME TO HELL NARANCIA. Narancia is thrilled.

He's even more thrilled when they cut into the cake and it's revealed to be bright green on the inside. "It's beautiful," he tells them.

"Jesus, Buccellati," Abbacchio says. "What the hell is wrong with you."

"I gotta have fun somehow," Buccellati says.

"Don't take the Lord's name in vain on His birthday," Fugo admonishes Abbacchio. "Have some respect."

"I've never respected anyone in my life, you twerp, don't accuse me of that," Abbacchio complains.

"Right," Buccellati says, "We had a whole conversation about that when you were too buddy-buddy with me in the beginning, right?"

"That's exactly how it happened," Abbacchio agrees. "Back off, Abbacchio, we're not friends," he says in a goofy falsetto. Buccellati swats at him.

"That's not what my voice sounds like, jackass," he laughs.

"But I totally got the quote right, though," Abbacchio says.

"Oh, definitely. You just came on so strong."

Narancia makes a face. "Ugh, please let's not talk about Abbacchio coming on you, capo, I was planning on eating today."

Abbacchio chokes. "I swear to God I'm gonna piss on everything you love," he says, strangled.

"Narancia, that was inappropriate," Buccellati says seriously. "Eat your cake. Abbacchio, I won't stop you, but you'll be responsible for laundry."

Abbacchio loves him so much.

Chapter Text

In March of 2000, Bruno comes home and says, "I have a surprise," and Abbacchio says, immediately, "If it's a birthday present I'm getting a fucking divorce."

"It's not a birthday present," Bruno reassures him, toeing his shoes off at the door. "Also, you can't divorce me, we're not married."

"Whatever," Abbacchio says. He hasn't looked up from whatever book he's reading.

Narancia tears his gaze away from the GameBoy that they did eventually get for him. He's sitting on the couch with his legs across Fugo's lap. "What is it?"

"Well," Bruno says. "It's more of a 'who.'"

Guido Mista peeks over his shoulder into the apartment. "Nice place," he remarks. "I like the burn stains on the ceiling. Very grunge."

Abbacchio looks up, finally, and makes eye contact with Bruno. "Really," he says.

"Yes," Bruno says. "We talked about this. He was going to go to prison, he would last three days tops."

"Hey," Mista protests, "I'm tough! I'd last five days." Abbacchio snorts.

"Uh huh," Bruno says, "Keep telling yourself that. Narancia, Fugo, you have a new teammate."

Narancia springs up and dashes over to yank Mista into the apartment for inspection. "How old are you?" he demands.

"Seventeen," Mista says.

"Damn, you're older than me," Narancia complains. "You got a Stand?" When Mista nods, Narancia punches the air and asks, "Is it cool?"

"Yeah, it's a gun, it's the coolest," Mista says, pulling it off and showing Narancia. Narancia's eyes go huge.

"That's so fucking cool," he agrees, and then he pulls out Aerosmith to show him. "Finally someone else who's got a not-people-shaped Stand."

"Whoa," Mista says admiringly. Fugo wanders over to meet him.

Bruno lets them bond, and goes into the kitchen to make himself lunch. Abbacchio joins him a moment later. "You keep acquiring new children," he remarks. "Is this going to be a thing? Collecting weird little strays."

Bruno hands him half a loaf of bread to slice up. "It's not something I was planning on," he sighs, "but it does seem to keep happening."

"You're too nice," Abbacchio tells him.

"You keep saying that," Bruno says. "But it's worked out pretty well for me so far."

"Hm," Abbacchio says.

 

--

 

It keeps working out. Mista is a good addition to the group; he and Narancia are thick as thieves within days, and he gets along well with the others too. He confesses that he's just happy to be the fifth member: "I don't know how you survived so long with just four of you." And his Stand really is powerful; between the five of them, there's not a lot they can't handle.

They have to shuffle around who sleeps where, since they still only have the three bedrooms. Fugo doesn't want to share a room with two people, so he sleeps on the couch for a couple nights, until one night at 3am Abbacchio finally gives up and makes Fugo take his room. Bruno finds out about it when Abbacchio crawls into his bed and mumbles something about not wanting to tiptoe through the living room to the bathroom at night. Bruno kisses his hair and goes back to sleep.

Abbacchio keeps coming back, and his drapey all-black wardrobe moves in next to Bruno's tailored white suits, and his books start showing up next to Bruno's in the little bookcase next to the bed. Bruno wakes up to long white hair in his face now, or to an arm thrown over his chest, or to warm hands spread over his stomach. Abbacchio still seems shocked and skeptical that Bruno wants him, but he eventually seems to half-accept it. "There's no accounting for taste, I guess," he'd muttered, and Bruno had kissed him again.

"So are you guys dating or something?" Mista asks him one day.

"Or something," Bruno agrees, because he's not sure it counts as dating if they don't actually go out on dates. It probably does?

"Cool," Mista says. "So Fugo gets to keep his room?"

Bruno just laughs. Yes, Fugo gets to keep his room.

 

--

 

The most fun thing about Mista joining them is that he brings with him a passion for doing things. He pesters them into going to see movies with him, and he likes carnivals and flea markets, and he has a talent for finding out about concerts. Abbacchio usually begs off the group outings, saying that he hates fun, but Bruno and the others let themselves get pulled along more often than not. (The real reason Abbacchio doesn't like going to Mista's activities is that tight, loud crowds make him anxious now, but Bruno isn't going to call him on it.)

They're at some weird indie cult film showing of the first Godzilla movie when Bruno gets a call. They're all out, for once, even Abbacchio, so he's not at all worried when he picks up. Everyone he cares about is right here, after all. It's probably some higher-up from Passione with information about a new assignment, or something. Maybe a wrong number.

He ducks out of the theatre to take the call; he hopes it only takes a couple minutes. The movie only has maybe fifteen minutes left to the end.

"Hello?" he says into the phone.

It's not a wrong number.

Abbacchio comes to find him when he doesn't come back in two minutes. He sees Bruno sitting with his back against the building, and strides over to crouch in front of him and listen in on the conversation.

"Okay," Bruno is saying to the caller. "I'll be there tomorrow." He sucks in a breath, and makes eye contact with Abbacchio. "Thank you for calling me. Can you-- I'm going to…"

He doesn't know how to end that sentence, so he just hands the phone to Abbacchio. Abbacchio says, "Who the hell is this," and then he listens blankly for a minute, and then he hangs up.

"The funeral's in three days," Bruno says unnecessarily. He's not really a crying person, but he might be crying now.

"Do you need someone to go with you," Abbacchio asks, sounding awkward. "I'm sure the infants could survive on their own for a couple days." He's taken to calling the other three babies or infants or zygotes at every possible opportunity, ever since Mista pointed out that himself and Bruno were actually only barely two years apart.

Bruno shakes his head a little. "No," he says, "It'll be me and a bunch of rich middle-aged socialites, you'd scare them into like three more funerals." Abbacchio snorts. "I'll be fine by myself," Bruno says, wiping his eyes.

"Hm," Abbacchio says, shifting so he can sit next to him. They sit there silently until the movie ends and people start spilling out of the theatre.

"Hi guys," Narancia chirps, when he locates them. Fugo and Mista are behind him, seemingly locked in an enthusiastic discussion of the science involved in Godzilla. "You missed a pretty smash-tastic finale."

"I don't know how I'll survive," Bruno says on autopilot. He and Abbacchio stand up. He feels like he just aged ten years.

Fugo takes a break from explaining something about gravity (?) to peer at Bruno's face. "You look like shit, capo," he says. "Are you okay?"

Abbacchio rescues him by slinging one arm around his shoulders and the other around Fugo's. Fugo grimaces at him. "Capo always looks like shit," Abbacchio says cheerfully. "He has to go do stuff for the next couple days, though, so take a good long look at his shitty face to tide you over."

"Whatever, weirdo," Fugo says. "Feel better, Buccellati."

 

--

 

He goes to the city where his mother lives (lived) three days before the funeral, because apparently he needs to help tie up loose ends. It turns out to be a lot of paperwork and signing things and tracking down the things he's supposed to inherit from her, which is exhausting and upsetting. He's almost glad when the day of the funeral arrives, because it means his part in the whole thing is almost over.

He ended up having to borrow one of Abbacchio's less mall-goth-y suits, because he doesn't actually own any black clothing himself, and he has to pin the hems up on the arms and legs. He still swims in it, but it smells a little like Abbacchio, and that's the only redeeming factor of the whole trip.

The funeral sucks. He gives a stilted one-minute speech over the casket, and listens to other people's stilted speeches, and it's just kind of awful the whole time. He'd visited his mother a couple times, but he doesn't know any of her weird rich friends, and they know him as his mother's cold, estranged son, so everyone either avoids him or gives him shit about it.

He hasn't cried at all since the first couple tears outside of the movie theatre. He wonders, idly, if there's something wrong with him, that he's at his own mother's funeral and he can't find it in himself to feel much more than tired and uncomfortable and irritated. He just wants to go back home to Naples.

Fortunately, he'd predicted this outcome, so he's booked to fly home that evening. The flight is short and uneventful, and he takes a fifteen-minute cab back to the apartment. When he finally, finally opens the door, it's almost eleven in the evening.

He finds the others almost immediately. Abbacchio, Mista, Narancia, and Fugo are all sitting in their pajamas on the floor of the kitchen, a tin half-full of fancy cookies on the floor between their legs. Only Fugo has the grace to look at all embarrassed at being walked in on like this.

"Abbacchio is an irresponsible dad," Narancia says, as if that explains anything.

Bruno stares at them, and then he stares at the cookies, and then he kicks the door closed, drops his luggage, and goes to join them. He slides down against a cabinet so he can sit next to Abbacchio. Abbacchio hands him a cookie wordlessly.

He's reminded, suddenly, of sitting on this same kitchen floor eating cake, almost two and a half years ago, with Abbacchio and Fugo, back when it was just the three of them, and he suddenly feels all of the gasping lonely heartbreak over his mother that he'd been waiting to feel, and the only thing he can do is take the stupid fancy cookie and slump against Abbacchio's side. He lets Narancia chatter at him, and then he lets Mista and Fugo update him re: the physics in the Godzilla movie and whether or not the inaccuracy is worth the coolness. Abbacchio shifts next to him, and then Bruno feels his hands in his hair, carefully undoing the central braid. It only takes a minute or two, and then Abbacchio just kind of pets his hair.

He doesn't mean to fall asleep, but apparently he does. He wakes up when Abbacchio trips over something in the dark and dumps him on the bed unceremoniously, whisper-shrieking curses. "Mother fucker," Abbacchio hisses, sitting down heavily on the bed, and Bruno just kind of collapses into sleepy laughter.

Abbacchio flips him off and flops over, swinging his long legs onto the bed. Bruno fumbles with his clothes until he's just in his underwear, and then he curls into Abbacchio and heaves a sigh. Abbacchio presses a hesitant kiss to his forehead and says, "I take it the funeral sucked. Anyone's ass need kicking? I can kick some ass."

Bruno huffs out a tired laugh. "No, no ass kicking. I just want to fucking… sleep for the next month. God."

Abbacchio tilts his head consideringly. "You probably can't do the next month. But you can probably swing the next twelve hours. I can hold the kids off 'til noon, probably."

"Fuck," Bruno mumbles, already half asleep. "Yes. That. God, I love you."

He only barely registers Abbacchio's quiet, "Oh," and then he's completely out.

 

--

 

Abbacchio does indeed hold the kids off until noon, with the help of Moody Blues and a threatening note, so Bruno wakes up at 12:01pm on the dot when Narancia bursts through the door. He flings himself on the bed next to Bruno, and Fugo and Mista follow with the coffee pot. Abbacchio looks like he's been awake for a couple hours; he's sat up in bed with a book on his lap, and Bruno has his arm around his waist as if he's been there for a while. Bruno releases him and sits up, and gestures for the coffee.

"I like your jammies, capo," Narancia says pointedly. Oh, right, he's just in his underwear. "Very fashionable."

"I'm a trendsetter," Bruno agrees sleepily, peering into the coffee pot. It was nice of them to bring it, but it's cold and they didn't think to bring either mugs or sugar. He considers this, shrugs, and drinks straight from the the pot.

"That's disgusting," Abbacchio tells him. Bruno agrees. "Pass it over."

They take turns drinking cold black coffee right from the pot, and Fugo deals everyone a hand of cards so they can play President. Bruno still feels like a glass full of water, like if someone tips him even a little he's just going to spill tears all over everything. Grief over his mother fights, belatedly, with affection for this strange little group of people he's managed to stick together, and it's really all just a recipe for emotional disaster.

So when Fugo looks at him at the end of a round, and asks very seriously, "Capo, are you okay?" he is horrified but unsurprised to feel the tears finally start to bubble out.

"Oh, God," he mutters, swiping a hand across his eyes. "I'm okay, Fugo, I'm just. It's been a shitty couple days." Someone hands him a tissue box, and he takes it. He blows his nose and explains, "My mother died. That's where I was."

"Oh, shit," Narancia says, and Bruno remembers, abruptly, about Narancia's own mother. "That sucks, Buccellati. I'm sorry."

"I'll be fine," he says, clearing his throat. "I'm almost twenty. I'm okay. I don't need-- it's okay if I don't have any family, it's fine."

Fugo frowns at him. "Not to be fucking disgusting," he says, "But you kinda do, capo. We got your back."

"Yeah," Narancia agrees, and Mista nods solemnly, and Abbacchio rolls his eyes, but he nods, too.

"We're not going anywhere," Abbacchio confirms. "I'm afraid you're stuck with us forever."

"Oh, jeez," Bruno chokes, and then Narancia grabs him around the chest in a bear hug, and Abbacchio ruffles his hair awkwardly, and Mista and Fugo both kind of pat his hands. He thinks Narancia might be crying a little too, actually.

"No one can ever know I participated in this," Abbacchio warns them, and Bruno laughs.

"I'm gonna call all the papers in town and buy an ad saying LEONE ABBACCHIO VOLUNTARILY SHOWED AFFECTION FOR SOMEONE," Mista says, because he's a jerk. Bruno laughs more, and Abbacchio cuffs both of them upside the head.

"The things I put up with," he grumbles.

"Uh huh," Bruno says. "We love you too."

"I've never loved anyone a day in my life," Abbacchio says.

"This conversation feels familiar, somehow," Bruno teases him.

"Get a room," Fugo tells them, as if they are not literally sitting in Abbacchio and Bruno's room right now.

It is the autumn of 2000, and Michael Schumacher just won the Italian Grand Prix, and Bruno loves this collection of misfits that call themselves his family so, so much, and he can't wait to see where the future takes them.