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Once Bitten, Twice Shy

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Testa knew the noose was tightening around his neck the minute Vincent raised his voice at the family meeting. He’d not been too involved with the family after Luca was born but in prior days the Lagusa patriarch had been an invaluable member. Vincent usually trusted his judgment more than any other, and why shouldn’t he? It was Testa that let him into the family to begin with, Testa who taught him everything he didn’t already know. It was Testa who identified the illness Vincent’s wife suffered from and him too that assisted the human in killing the kinsman responsible. He’d proved his loyalty time and again but this...

He frowned but held his tongue until everything had ended, excused himself, and grew further and further lost in thought. Would the Don really stake him through the heart like this? Over a petty squabble and cast off pride? His fangs dug into his gums when he jaw clenched up.

No, he and Vincent were blood brothers; they’d shared the oath and exchanged cups filled from their veins. The Don wouldn’t harm him, surely. Or at least his family would be spared, his little ones.

Testa arrived home with a paler than normal appearance, shaking slightly. His wife’s warm hands cupped his cheeks gently, gazing up at him with ample concern. “Honey?”

He leaned into her touch and let his glowing eyes slide closed, breathing in her summer-sunlight scent and lulled himself into a dreamy calm with the steady rhythm of her still beating heart. “Pack a bag for you and the boys.”

“Testa, what happened?” Elena’s voice was more serious, alarmed. He looked into her eyes, observing with a pained detachment at the hurricane of emotions hiding behind them. He was one of the last, and even though their children were half-bloods they both displayed exceptional instincts and resilience. Testa wanted to be wrong, but he wouldn’t hedge his bets on being right.

“Go, take them to the beach. I’ll call for you when this whole Galassia situation blows over or... I won’t but at least you’ll all be safe.” His wife stumbled back when he spoke that name. She knew enough about the family and his involvement to take this seriously. Her fingers twitched around her chin, gaze downcast. “I’ll buy the tickets for you, leave once the sun’s set. Angelo’s night vision is superb, he’ll lead you three to the docks safely.”

Elena took a shuddering breath before walking back into his space, hugging his chest tightly and pressing her ear over his heart to count the almost imperceptible beat once every minute. Testa held her tightly, feeling the pain of separation lancing through his sternum already. It would all be worth it if his family could be safe. Such a poor twelfth birthday for Angelo, but it must be done.

Angelo and Luca knew something was up, but Testa only hinted at a secret trip, telling them to be on their best behavior. He’d join them later, once he knew it wouldn’t bring harm to them. Once he was certain that Vincent didn’t intend him ill or else the human who dared break such a powerful oath would be drained dry and killed. The patriarch gathered his thoughts and the ledger Vincent was sure to come after if at all, climbed into the car and drove off to the bank.

Corteo came over shortly thereafter, showing Luca how to snuff a candle barehanded, Angelo watching on in rapt interest. The elder dampyr tapped a matchbox with a smile, observing his friend’s hesitation. It was a twinge of something protective and fearless that had him snuffing the candle when Corteo’s uncertainty had Angelo worried the human would burn himself. At least a dampyr would heal quickly and the other boy’s hands were his living. It seemed unfair. Luca, of course, was beaming happily, asking all sorts of questions in an amazed voice. Corteo had to go home and that did leave a stab of disappointment in Angelo’s heart but Luca didn’t let him dwell on it, distracting the older dampyr with demands for the last slice of cake. His ears picked up the soft chiming of the clock along with Mom finishing the dishes before she would doubtless shuffle them upstairs to get ready. He hardly noticed his mother approaching the only other human until they were nearly done talking. The dampyr walked Corteo out, begrudged to say goodnight.

Angelo saw his father coming back up the drive and with an impish grin, he roped his younger brother into playing an impromptu hide and seek game. He wanted to say goodbye to him once more with laughter before they left the house.

That was when everything went to hell.

Men came in. Men with holy bullets. Men who knew how to kill people like Dad. All he could do was cower in the closet. Angelo couldn’t even stop Luce in time, fingers hooking ineffectual at his brother’s sweater. He struggled to breathe, the stench of blood much too potent. Testa’s, Elena’s, Luce’s coiling together to clog up his throat even as he moved to scamper under the sofa. Angelo swallowed his tears, heartbeat loud in his ears while he cupped a hand over his mouth, willing his father’s ancient heritage to still his life signs and heighten all his senses. It was almost too much to bear, waiting until that shadowy man, the one who smelled like cigars and whiskey and old books, to pass into another room.

Angelo padded out from hiding silently, shoes in hand. He looked upon the devastation and bit hard on his molars until he could taste the sweet cut of his own blood. Testa twitched, as if roused from near death by the same flavor, his eyes glowing dimly. “Ange...lo.” He reached for his son, the boy dropping silently by his side. “Drink... the last of my strength... will go with you...”

“N-no, you have to keep it for yourself, Dad. Get up.” The dampyr shook, suddenly so small and afraid.

“Drink... it...” Testa’s command, though weak, was absolute. Angelo pulled back his father’s shirt collar, tears finally blurring his vision enough that even his heightened senses couldn’t make out the sight before him. The flavor was enough, the desperation his father had to keep his family safe, the deep pit of anger at Vincent’s betrayal, the last lingering spark of hope that at least Angelo would survive. “Live on... my son.” The light fully faded as Testa shuddered his first deep breath since undeath, yielding his battered and stained soul to whatever forces out there would deem him worthy of a destination. Angelo swallowed one final time, rocking back onto his toes while hugging his legs against his chest. Already the taste of his father’s power faded but the order, his command for Angelo to live, wouldn’t dwindle in severity.

Angelo’s mind was drowning in the mourning instincts of a vampire, sinking his fangs into his mother’s neck next and taking only one mouthful before moving onto Luce. His brother’s blood was sweeter than either of his parents with the earthy warmth from Elena. Angelo really had taken after his father more. He stood, wiping his mouth once, smearing blood and tears over his cheek. It was the loud thud from behind him that had his very human self-preservation instincts kicking back in. He had to run! What was he thinking staying here to mourn like this? After what his father had sacrificed to protect him. A vampire’s blood was his life. If Testa had gotten up, had been given time to heal then maybe he could have been fine! But Angelo’s father gave that power to him, to keep him alive. Testa chose to die with his wife.

Angelo shoved his feet into his shoes and ran, ran away from the only home he’d ever known and the still warm bodies of his family. There was a human hot on his heels, stumbling into the snow after him. The dampyr could hear the awful crunching of bone from behind, from the house, feel it in his chest as if the stake had been driven through his own heart. It caused him to stumble, a bullet whizzing over his head, nearly clipping his ear. He laid still for a moment, the world spinning in shades of red and blue until he could stand again. It felt like his body was burning from the inside out despite the cold. Testa’s death releasing all the power into Angelo’s tiny frame all at once. There was only one place he could go. Only one person... Corteo .

The night was too long, he couldn’t sleep, waiting for dawn to peek over the horizon as those solemn words echoed through his ears. “ Angelo, ” his human friend had whispered softly, “ from now on we’re brothers, and we always will be. ” The dampyr left Corteo's house early the next morning, waving him off a proper goodbye and slipping out while the human still slept.

He went back, bundled up in a borrowed hat and jacket. The burnt out remains of his house had gathered a crowd, and the smell of smoke choked out any lingering traces of blood. He hadn’t thought to save even a picture of his family. Maybe that was for the best because Angelo doubted he’d ever be without the soured taste of their blood on his teeth or the image of their bodies, unmoving, lifeless. He ignored the cold clinging to him and didn’t dwell on his heartbeat slowing down. All he felt was an empty, bottomless thirst. The dampyr lowered his gaze to the snow and trudged away, far far away from Lawless where this hunger was born in him. He didn’t know where he’d end up. only that he couldn’t stay here. Angelo had to live.

Chapter Text

 

Years went by in a slow crawl. He was a dead man walking, head bent low under the weight of the three corpses he carried with him, the three still somehow living on within him. Occasionally he could smell them, see glimpses through a crowd of their backs, taste them between his teeth. They weren’t there, he knew it, but every time his heart beat a little faster and the pain would all come flooding back. Angelo’s vampire blood had become a sanctuary in which he felt nothing; he ran to it every chance he got, but there were prices to pay, demands to meet. His hunger never letting him rest for long.

Angelo got used to the flavor of second-hand booze in the veins of those too drunk to run away. He used a pocket knife instead of his teeth. His father’s memories from when he was Angelo’s age sometimes fluttered to the surface of his dreams and he learned from them; from his grandfather beating him-- or really Testa-- senseless whenever he’d done something very wrong. Vampires didn’t exist anymore and that was the way the world must believe, even if it wasn’t true.

He saw his mother’s memories too, though they were less frequent. They offered him the stark contrast of how humans saw this world, offered him a window into how the human mind floundered and stuttered in the presence of a vampire, under the sway of one. He watched his father seduce his mother through her eyes, watched them fall in love, watched with a boundless agony as the alien happiness consumed him only to wake up in a cold sweat, crying joyful tears that quickly turned bitter.

Luce never visited his dreams but sometimes, when everything was still and quiet, when the dusk had just settled or the dawn crept its head out over the horizon, he would feel those tiny arms around his chest, hugging from behind. Angelo’s mouth filled with the sweet flavor and he was warm for a few moments before the cold came rushing back in. That all-consuming spring night when everything went wrong.

The rain matched his mood well today, he mused on his way back home. Angelo had successfully pinched another wallet and managed to get his meal for the day too. There was no pride in his work, merely a brief respite from that need to drink which drove him half to the edge of madness every thirty-six hours or so. His feet and the steps were by far the most interesting part of his walk until-

“-to a Mr. Angelo Lagusa,” the landlady croaked and he turned toward her so fast that when she held a letter out to him the dampyr nearly tore the paper snatching it away. She chastised him while he stalked back up to his room. Angelo snarled at her conversations, the way the gaggle of ragged old hags chattered behind his back. The worst part about it was how true it all was, how it would still be true even if he couldn’t hear it; even if he’d been born human instead, it would still be true.

Angelo slammed the door to his apartment with a bit more gusto than usual, kicking off his shoes and staggering over to the bed. He just wanted to sleep until the moon was high. It felt so unnatural to move around during the day now, even if things were this gloomy out. He licked a bit of missed blood from his knife, wiping it off on his pant leg before cutting the envelope open. The letter inside wasn’t handwriting he recognized but as his eyes skimmed the lines again and again and again just to be sure a smile broke over his face. All those repressed feelings, the deep well of anger and betrayal, drowned the emptiness, the hunger, the pain. He grinned wider, leering in a perverse delight. “Vanetti.” Lightning arched across his window, the dampyr’s eyes burning gold with bloodlust and the core of his vile energy stirred. It made his fangs itch, pushing into his gums, causing them to bleed.

Angelo had a name, he had a scent. He had a start. It was time to go home, to Lawless ...


 

It wasn’t hard to get Corteo to listen, to help albeit without fully knowing why. Admittedly, Angelo’s blood boiled at the sight of that brute smashing his knee into the smaller human’s stomach, even more when he turned the bat on Corteo’s distillery, his livelihood. The dampyr almost killed him, had the wrench been given just a bit more force, his neck would have snapped cleanly.

Still, after that alarming display, Corteo didn’t shrink back from him. The other young man didn’t even take that much convincing, just a repetition of his father’s favorite phrase, a truism on friendship and the value of them followed by a gentle, almost childlike smile and a reminder that they were brothers. Corteo folded immediately. Angelo almost wondered if it was fear that flashed in those dark eyes or perhaps understanding. Did Corteo know he wasn’t human? Did he suspect, was he ever told by anyone?

As the lingering taste of smoke covered the old blood on his tongue, Angelo was sure that his friend- no his brother- wouldn’t run from his side, even if Corteo was afraid. The human was too loyal... too precious. Those old rituals Testa had learned, the oath of brotherhood came to mind. He wanted to do something like that for Corteo but... The last thing Angelo wanted was for this pure human light to be tainted by something as dark as himself. It was inevitable, as he needed Corteo’s skills to give him his opening, but the thought that whatever happened would be his fault still sat tightly in his throat, gagging the dampyr for the whole ride to the Island.

Angelo glanced at the man sitting in the driver's seat of a blue car while they went to the church-turned-speakeasy. His sharp nose twitched at the scent of booze and books. It was a complete smell, but enough to set him on edge. It only got worse once they went inside, that fragmented scent stronger than before. Two men at the bar were talking quietly among themselves but Angelo kept his focus on the bar owner. There was a predictable level of hostility from him, and the dampyr found himself worrying about Corteo’s shaking nervousness. The human needed to be more confident in his abilities. Angelo didn’t even need to taste the moonshine to know it was perfect. That was just the kind of work Corteo put into everything he tried, even if he hated it.

Of course, nothing he ever plans turns out right in the end. But he can’t begrudge fate too much, otherwise, he wouldn’t be here. Testa would have died years even before he’d met Elena. Things either happen for a reason or everything is absurd. Each day Angelo felt inclined to the later more and more. The bar didn’t want to buy it in time for the brown haired one of those two men to step in. His voice sent a coil of anger through Angelo and the dampyr didn’t fully understand why. Maybe it was his earlier twitch acting up or his intuition raising the red flag on this guy. Either way, he didn’t have time to ponder the sensation.

Fango kicked down the front door, a gun slung over his shoulder and a swaggering smile on his face belying his pissed off expression. Things got settled into a tense silence before he spoke. “I’m Fango from the Orco family, nice to meet you. Thing is, I came here to make sure the rules are being enforced,” his grin grew a little more crazed, eyes dancing around the room with a bedeviled expression. Angelo felt the keen urge to place himself bodily between Corteo and this man but remained still, aware that even the slightest movement might set Fango off. The blond went on rambling, “Because, ya see, I just found some booze stolen from us in your parking lot.”

“Good for you,” the barkeep muttered and Angelo grit his teeth and tensed when the man fired off his gun and asked for the old bastard to repeat himself. “Nothing.” It was all Fango got but that seemed to be enough.

Corteo kept his eyes on the ground and in the middle distance, even as Fango called for him vaguely. The dampyr felt his teeth dig into his lower lip. He slipped his hand into the case behind him for his father’s old knife. The fierce and icy wrath boiling under his skin.

Fanbo dropped the gun to Corteo’s chest and murmured in a vaguely inquisitive tone, “You’re Nero, right?”

“N-No, I’m not Nero!” Angelo’s only human friend was doing his best not to shake, his eyes trained on the gun barrel even as Fango turned away.

“Hey,” he drawled, “Any other Neros here?” Silence greeted him and Angelo started moving, sliding his switchblade into his sleeve. “See, it’s gotta be you.” Fango’s attention was still on Corteo and the dampyr nearly roared when the mafioso hefted the gun to take a closer aim. “Bad little boys who steal booze deserve to die.”

Corteo was too afraid to speak, visibly sweating and not hiding his fearful tremors anymore.

“It’s me,” Angelo called out, biting down on his storming rage to move forward, gaining Fango’s attention. “I’m Nero.”

“Oh? Then who’s this?” Fango practically purred, as if expecting that to slow Angelo down. The dampyr only answered with a flat, “Dunno,” watching Corteo like a hawk while he was shoved into the knife-wielding hands of Fango’s goon.

Even when he was staring down the barrel of a gun, all Angelo could see was the red haze. This bastard pointed the rifle at Corteo, he was going to bleed for it. The dampyr willed his eyes to stay human even as the prickling cold consumed his limbs, heart slowing to a nearly imperceptible crawl. When Fango lifted his hat further up, Angelo saw his opportunity, instincts singing in delight when he yanked the barrel up over his shoulder and closed in on Fango’s throat. The blond craned his head back to keep from getting cut, wisely letting go of his rifle. Despite the foul taste it would leave in his mouth, there was a growing lust to sink his teeth into Fango’s exposed neck that he was finding harder and harder to ignore. The man’s heartbeat was a siren song for Angelo’s hunger. It would be fast and easy, he’s already got the knife splitting skin, warm sticky red creeping down the sharp edge.

“Not bad at all,” Fangro growled through his teeth, sounding more like a voice at the end of a long tunnel to Angelo.

Corteo’s scent drifted over his tongue, reminding the dampyr all the more of his rage’s source. “Let. Him. Go.” Angelo snarled a bit through his monotone, baring his teeth in an animalistic sense of aggression.

That just served to piss Fango off, carving a leer onto his face. “Serpente, do it. Slit his throat. This kid can’t kill me.”

Oh, how wrong he was, Angelo nearly lost the ability to control his eyes, pupils thinning into slits though they didn’t glow, shaded by his bangs. The dampyr’s gaze flashed over to Corteo who was well beyond desperate, trying to keep the knife away from his neck while his terrified screams were muffled under on of Serpente’s hands. Angelo almost snarled, Bite him dammit . as if that advice would actually help someone without sharp teeth. His tension on the knife increased, Fango’s blood flowing down over his knuckles and sliding into his sleeve.

“That’s right, go on.“ Fango smirked, teasing and confident, and  --if Angelo’s nose was to be believed-- aroused.

Somehow he kept himself from doing it, Corteo was freed by the bearded brunette when he bee-lined a bottle for Serpente’s head with a loud crack. Angelo lunged for Corteo’s hand, tugging him along to the bar and over the counter even as Fango dove for his gun, firing off round after round while laughing madly. That familiar smell of smoke, whiskey, and old books flooded into the dampyr’s mouth again; something familiar and uneasy to him. Angelo, now Avilio, rode through the firefight taking direction from Corteo while the human mixed up an explosive beneath the counter. He whiffed it over everyone's head and watched with a deep delight as Fango burned. They got the hell out of there with the two men who wanted to buy Corteo’s booze along with the one mad they had watching the car outside. Apparently, he’d been beaten really badly by Fango but escape and fortune were with them all.

It wasn’t until they were in the car driving past the city’s higher end that the apparent presence of his enemy really hit him. The ravenette had been acting without much thought, only concerned with Corteo’s safety, he’d not been considering the words that came out of his mouth, even though Nero Vanetti’s name tasted like poison on his lips.

He’d gathered a moment before their driver removed the false beard that this was Nero. It was the scent, the one he’d nearly forgotten, the one he hunted for. Nero turned in his seat to grin at Angelo, jabbing a thumb into his chest as he happily gave his name. Were Corteo not in the car, more presently in danger if the car crashed, he would have lunged forward to sink his fangs into Nero’s throat. But there must also be a measure of patients in his hunt. Angelo was after more than just one man, he hunted three, and one of them being the Don who’d once shared cups with his father no less than seven years ago, he must be cautious, cunning. Vincent was the one who shot his brother and mother, he’d have to pay most dearly as well.

Angelo took a shallow breath, pressing himself stiffly into the seat with a quiet contemplative stoniness to his face. The urges of his father’s lineage were becoming increasingly difficult to suppress the longer he was in Nero’s presence. He wanted to devour this man alive and maybe then the endless thirst would stop with Testa’s final desires put to bed.

He bowed his head and smiled.

Chapter Text

A graveyard didn’t seem like a thematically appropriate place for revenge, but it was what Vanno wanted. He was going to shoot Serpente in front of his fallen comrade’s tombstone. Angelo watched, eyes glowing gold in the blossoming sunlight as Vanno passed, leading the other man forward with the barrel of his gun pressed into his back. The mafia man looked towards the rising sun after making Serpente kneel, pulling off the gag for the Orco to pray.

Honestly, Angelo wished he’d just shoot the blubbering, desperate fool already. The scent of Serpente’s fear was crushing his appetite. All the careful moves had gotten him to this point, all the delicate steps to get Vanno alone. One of three men who would ever feel his inhuman bloodlust. Angelo could practically taste the salt from his skin already. He licked his aching teeth.

Vanno shot three times, once for pain and two more for a quick end. It gave Angelo a similar idea. Instead of just fighting the taller man and beating him to death, he’d send a message to Vincent. Though it would be strange to have a man shot and drained of blood with no remnants in the grass. Vanno’s body would have to disappear. Maybe it was unwise, but there was an animalistic glee to the idea that cemented it in his mind.

Angelo walked patiently from his cover, speaking Vanno’s name in a cool voice, letting it spark with his power, alluringly dark. Nero’s right hand turned to face him, eyes widened as a fourth shot rang over the hillside. Vanno’s gun dropped into the dirt as he pitched forward, still staring in disbelief at Angelo’s eyes. There was pain and fear written so clearly across his features that the dampyr almost purred a laugh in delight. He flashed the human a fanged smile, sunlight reflecting off his golden eyes that made it seem the glow was only a trick of the dawn. Oh, but it wasn’t and Vanno knew. He saw the hellfire blazing in Testa’s gaze when the vampire bared his fangs at Vincent and gave him that scar down his face. Vanno knew exactly what kind of creature now held his bleeding and weakening body so tenderly, one arm caging his ribs and the other running soothing fingers up through his hair.

Angelo smiled as he spelled it all out for Vanno nonverbally, pulling back on the dark slicked locks before dragging his tongue over the skin he ached to pierce. Vanno’s calloused hand seized Angelo’s head, trying to push him away but it was no use. Human strength just wouldn’t cut it, not when the dampyr fully gave in to his hunger.

“You bastard-” The mafioso snarled, Angelo shited his grip to force Vanno’s mouth closed and tilt back his head further. A shudder itched along his spine at the muffled vibrations of the human’s shouting.

His fangs tore into the human’s pale skin easily spurring Vanno to redouble his failing efforts. He drank, taking whole mouthfuls of blood at a time. The flavor was rich and pure. Angelo hadn’t quite expected this clarity of taste; it could almost become addicting after all the tainted blood he’d consumed on necessity. His tongue swiped over the wound when he pulled his teeth out, closing his lips around the man’s throat to suck out Vanno’s life with more enthusiasm. He was great, so filling. Angelo had forgotten what it was like to live without the hunger, for a moment he had that feeling of satisfaction again.

The human’s already feeble struggles grew even weaker. Angelo didn’t stop until Vanno’s heart ceased its pitiful fluttering. He leaned back, licking his teeth again with a contented sigh. Nero’s friend didn’t have a drop left in him, falling limp where the dampyr had set him, shirt collar ripped away for the mark to be more visible, something needed to be done about that. Angelo rubbed the lingering trail of blood from the corners of his mouth and lapped it from his fingers, savoring the spice of vengeance served cold.

He turned his attention to Serpente’s body. That might need to disappear for his plan to deceive Nero to be effective. Angelo glanced towards the sunlight, squinting as the rays needled into his hypersensitive eyes. At the snap of a twig, the dampyr’s head whipped around to the forest, zeroing in on the human hiding in the bushes. There could be no witnesses.

Cerotto gasped, stumbling backward when those glowing eyes fixed on him. Angelo closed the distance faster than he could scramble up to run, slamming Cerotto face first into the ground. The information broker was consumed by panic, heart hammering sharply in his ears as he thrashed to get out from under the other man. Angelo grabbed his shoulder, pressing a knee into his back while seizing a fistful of his hair to yank the human’s head up, exposing his neck.

“No! God, please don’t kill me! I won’t tell anyone, Avilio!” Cerotto had tears in his eyes, the hair on his nape prickling under Angelo’s alarmingly cold breath.

The flat of dampyr’s teeth was pressed into Cerotto’s throat before he fully got hold of his anger. Angelo relaxed his jaw, pulling back to avoid cutting the human beneath him. “Cerotto...” It was almost a question, eyes only now adjusting back to a more human form better suited for the burgeoning morning. His grip on the other’s hair loosened. Angelo frowned to himself, the hunger hazing over his mind again and driving all those feelings back into the secret places of his being. The weight of one less body on his shoulders. How close had he come to killing a friend? He didn’t know Cerotto that well but the man was precious to Corteo, that made his a life worth preserving. Angelo let him go, waiting until he’d shakily stood before pushing him against a tree with a serious look.

“What are you?” Cerotto rasped, swallowing his nerves. He still shook like model-t on a cobbled road.

Angelo took a steadying breath, sliding his hand up over Cerotto’s neck to cup his jaw, holding his cold gaze on the broker’s. “You shouldn’t ask such stupid questions, friend.” He flashed a smile, though it was edged with the sinister snarl he’d been wearing just a few moments prior. “All you need to know is that I have a vendetta, Corteo is my brother in this, and you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Cerotto did his best to nod hastily, swallowing again when Angelo’s fingers pressed into the flesh of his cheeks. “W-what can I do to help?”

Angelo’s smile pulled a bit wider, his fangs glinting in the early morning light. “Vanno needs to be moved, preferably to a slaughterhouse. Also, I’ll need a bit of insurance from you.  Don’t worry, this won’t hurt much.”

“W-what- Urg!” Cerotto’s body jerked when Angelo sunk his teeth his neck, not very deep but enough the enthrallment took hold. He swiped the small trail of blood from Cerotto’s neck, sealing the wound but not drinking from him. The human when limp in his grip, pliable. Angelo called his name, bringing the broker back to attention.

“What did you just do to me?” this time he spoke more boldly, more alarmed and worried than terrified.

“Like I said, insurance.” Angelo let him go fully, taking a half step back out of his space.

“I don’t feel well...” And that much was true, he looked feverish, his body fighting off the venom now pumping through his blood.

Angelo nodded, smiling kindly this time. “That’s normal. It should pass within a few hours.” He hummed, turning his gaze back to the bodies. It was a good thing he’d grabbed one of Fango’s jackets from the botched hotel job, he could make Vanno’s disappearance and subsequent murder more convincing that way. “If there’s an abandoned building nearby, I want you to string Vanno up by his ankles and let him hang for Nero to find.”

“W-what?” Cerotto was shaking like a leaf again, his body following Angelo’s instructions before he’d even realized what was happening to stop himself. The information broker paled, staring down at the lifeless eyes of Vanno. “Why did I-”

“Insurance.” Angelo didn’t want to explain this right now, walking up behind the human to root through Vanno’s coat. Once he found a switchblade, the dampyr snapped it open and jammed it into the puncture wounds on the corpse, wiggling the blade around to thoroughly destroy all traces of his bite. Better safe than sorry, few details to muddle the story and all. He then picked up Vanno’s gun and fired a few more rounds at the trees towards the road and then in the opposite direction, make it look like a firefight involving more people. He handed the empty gun to Cerotto. “Get rid of this after you place the body.” Angelo repeated the process with all of his own bullets before collecting Serpente’s gun from Vanno’s body and pulling out all but two rounds. “Now, I need you to shoot me, in either or my legs from the front and then once in my side from behind.”

Cerotto took the gun mechanically, staring at Angelo with wide, terrified eyes. He fired the first shot without much warning so the dampyr hardly had a chance to steel himself, wincing slightly at the burning sensation. He concentrated on not healing, waiting as the second shot fired into his side and stopped in his lean muscles. Normally, at close range the bullets should have flown right through him, it must have been his father’s blood awakened with the fresh energy.

Angelo pulled off his tie and quickly put his leg in a tunicate. “Good,” he grit his teeth at the concentration it took to keep his body from pushing out the lead, “now put the gun in Serpente’s hand and get to the tasks I gave you. Tell no one.”

“Y-yes, master.” Cerotto choked out, blinking in alarm at his forced obedience. The dampyr rolled Serpente’s body over and carefully laid Fango’s coat over the corpse’s head and chest. From there, Angelo watched a few moments more, waiting until Cerotto got Vanno’s body into the car and he drove off; only then did he let the stoic walls crumble, feeling more human and in a world of pain. Moving, no, even breathing was agony but if he didn’t let it in now his vampire blood would heal him and the pain would be for nothing.

Angelo staggered to the nearest phone booth, dripping a nice long trail of blood and nearly losing consciousness as he reached it. If he could just get one word out, one name into the ear of the Don’s son then this would have been worth it. He held his breath, listening to the phone ring, sliding down the glass back wall of the booth and leaving a pretty red streak along with him. A few early risers had started up the hill, likely roused by the gunfire and even as Angelo’s vision flickered, breath coming short and pained, he knew they would be more afraid than neighborly, keeping their distance from him.

“Hello?” Nero’s voice sent a cold shock of bloodlust through Angelo’s body, enough to rouse him to attention.

“N-Nero, Vanno is-” the dampyr let himself get cut off by the very real gasp of pain arching through his side as he spoke. Sometimes the lack of information is the best tip-off of all.

“Avilio! Is that you? What happened? Where is Vanno?!”

He drank in the panicked tone Nero used with glee, a balm to his soul if not his body. Still, a part to play... “I’m sorry. I couldn’t warn him in time...They got us... Took him...” Every breath made it harder to keep his father’s blood in check, Angelo’s eyes slid closed with the effort and he slumped heavily against the ground, loud enough Nero could probably hear him. The man was shouting obscenities and what he thought was “stay with me, dammit,” but he couldn’t be sure. The ringing in his ears was too loud. Angelo grit out the street name for the phone booth before pulling into himself entirely. It was functionally similar to a human losing consciousness, but unlike actually passing out, Angelo was working overtime to keep his body and mind from falling into a jumbled mess of instincts, reminding himself over and over why he was doing this, who he was hunting, who he was protecting too.

He wasn’t aware of the passage of time in his state, only coming back to himself with a hiss at the pain lancing through his leg. Nero’s scent washed into his mouth, choking Angelo as he forced his blurred vision to focus on those blue eyes. The future Don wore an expression somewhere between fury and worry. “Avilio, you’re alive!”

“Vanno is-” He croaked, not pretending to weaken his voice, Angelo was really that badly off, resting in a pool of his own blood. Only then did it occur to him that Nero’s hand was fisted in his hat, pressing firmly into the wound in his side. Angelo swallowed, stopping himself from asking the exceedingly stupid question as to why Nero was doing this. He was the last person to see Vanno alive after all, it was only natural to want to keep him around.

“Save your strength, Avilio. You’ll need it for later. Vupe is following that blood trail you left us.” Nero’s arms were surprisingly strong, lifting Angelo off the phone booth floor and heaving him into the back seat of his car where Corteo flustered and panicked. The dampyr burned a little with renewed anger that even now Nero was dragging him into this, but maybe Corteo heard he was injured and demanded to come. There was no way of knowing. Angelo’s head rested against Corteo’s thigh, his wounded leg propped against the door to keep it elevated his trusted friend pushing his hat into the hole in his side. The ride to the Vanetti’s home was torture, Angelo biting down on his own gasps and grunts of pain until they dragged him inside.

There, laid out on the kitchen table, a family physician stripped or cut off Angelo’s clothing, doing his best to quickly remove the bullets and stitch the wounds up. With no anesthetic and one such short notice, Nero rolled up his sleeve, stuffed his tie into Angelo’s mouth and held down his shoulders. Corteo, bless him, tried helping too along with another member of Nero’s inner circle by holding onto his legs. It would be a bit of a challenge with how exhausted he was, but Angelo could at least throw Corteo into the ceiling with ease-

His teeth tore into the fabric of Nero’s removed tie as a scream muffled up from his throat. The tweezers pulling and rooting through his side was by far worse than the searing jolt of the round going in. Angelo’s head slammed back into the table as his back and chest tightened, his muscles twitching and spasming outside his control. Nero actually grunted with the effort of holding him down, staring at the dampyr in the eyes. “You’re going to be fine, Avilio. Please bear with it a bit longer.”

Angelo was fighting off not only the burning in his side and leg but also the burning in his eyes. He couldn’t let them glow, not here, not now. Even if his bangs shadowed them, Nero was more than sure to notice. Blood welled up fresh, oozing over his pale skin when the doctor pulled out the first bullet, dropping it onto a plate they had set aside. Angelo relaxed, only wincing when the needle passed through his skin. This much was something he could handle, only letting some of his regenerative powers go to stop the worsened internal hemorrhaging once the physician tied the stitches. They helped him sit up, sweat coated torso leaning heavily on Nero’s bracing shoulder. Angelo panted silently, tightening his grip on the wooden surface when the time came for his leg. The worst of it was over, it had to be. He can handle this without his vampire blood. He can. He must.

The dampyr nodded his ready, preemptively clenching his teeth and sucking in a lungful of Nero’s smokes, whiskey, and old book scent, letting it settle into his gut and steel his resolve. This time, the preparation made it easier to bare mentally. He didn’t scream, closing his eyes as he didn’t trust they wouldn’t shift. Nero was holding him around the middle, pinning his arms to his side even at the muscles in his shoulders strained to bend Angelo forward. At least this wound was easier to finish off, though the stitching was arguably worse the second time. The dampyr let himself go limp once the ordeal was over, head dropping back onto Nero’s shoulder while his leg was wrapped in bandages.

“I’ll get some water,” Corteo suggested, awkwardly shuffling away.

Nero sighed, staying still to support Angelo until they finished his leg and got him into a chair. “Oi, Avilio. You still with us?”

Angelo groaned and gave a weak thumbs up, something tingling up and down his spine and the half-jerking sensation that could have been a laugh the Don’s son suppressed. The dampyr relaxed his jaw too, realized it was still clenched tight, Nero salvaging the remains from his teeth with a perplexed look.

After a tense moment of silence where Corteo came back and gave Angelo some water to drink, having to hold the cup for the ravenette embarrassing the both of them, Nero finally cleared his throat and got to the issue at hand. “You said they took Vanno? How? Who?”

Angelo swallowed one final time to make sure his airway was clear. His voice was coarse and cracked occasionally with the dull throbbing in his mostly healed side. “Vanno wanted to do Serpente in himself so I stood guard. There was a car passing by, I didn’t think too much of it until they were closer and I saw the guns. I shouted to Vanno and turned to run up the path and warm him when they shot at me. Vanno got it in the stomach from Serpente, I guess he untied him to pray. I got it in the leg and tried shooting back, dunno if I got him.” Angelo took a moment to breathe, subtly reading the emotions flickering in Nero’s blue eyes. They were so close it was about all he could see when turned towards the future Don. “Vanno shot at the guys behind us but I couldn’t hold it together. I don’t know what happened from there, only that Vanno was gone when I woke up.” Cerotto’s body slamming into the ground would make a nice disturbance in the dirt for his story to be plausible and with his blood splattered not too far away, everything worked out in his favor.

Gods his side hurt.

Just then Vulpe came back, Fango’s jacket in his hand. “Nero, we found remnants of a scuffle and this laying over Serpente's body. It’s-”

Nero’s fist clenched in the fabric as he stood, Corteo helping Angelo into a chair in the interim. “Yeah, I know whose this is. Fango took Vanno, that Orco family bastard!”

The dampyr hid his smile, keeping it locked up in his chest while wearing a blank, miserable expression. He waited for Nero to calm down, watching from behind his typically lifeless golden stare as Nero rounded on him. The things he wanted to yell at Angelo flashed in his hellacious gaze though nothing seemed to come unstuck from his throat.

“This is my fault,” Angelo said with no prompting, causing Corteo a brief moment of panic. “I accept full responsibility.”

Nero thrust the jacket into Angelo’s face, “Then bring me Fango’s head. And don’t mess it up this time.” The words sent a bristle of rage through the dampyr but he remained cold, letting all the human fade away now that he was less likely to be discovered. The wounds closed up around the stitching and Angelo forced himself to a standing position, one hand braced on the table and a wince painted over his face. Even if he wasn’t injured, he still had to look it. Angelo took the coat and bowed his head.

Vulpe grabbed Nero’s forearm. “Oi, wait a second. This guy is way too damaged to do this job right away! Shouldn’t we send someone else?”

“Doc, how much time will it take Avilio to recover?” Nero’s gaze never left Angelo’s both men staring into the other, though only the dampyr’s stare was probing.

“If he can already stand than the muscle damage was probably less severe than it looked. Still, he should have bed rest for a week, bare minimum. The bullet was lodged in his thigh bone and it needs time to set naturally before he should be walking on it.” The physician pushed Angelo gently back into the chair without resistance.

“Then that’s what we’ll do. Vulpe, you work with him to put a plan into motion. In the meantime, we’ll dig up everything we can on Vanno’s possible whereabouts.” Nero turned back to Angelo, clapping a strong hand on his shoulder with a firm snarl set onto his otherwise handsome face. “You will bring me Fango’s head to redeem yourself by the end of two weeks, Avilio.”

Angelo nodded slowly. Corteo helped him to his feet and, with Nero’s permission, left to bring the dampyr back to his apartment. After today, Angelo felt like he could sleep the whole week away...

Chapter Text

“The whole world has gone mad,” ...

Angelo blinked up at the ceiling of his room, gazing past the peeling white paint and stucco. The scent of Fango’s blood still clung to the roof of his mouth, made all the more prevalent by the listless moonbeams. If he closed his eyes, he could still see the man engaged in a perversion of sexual play with his mistress, lusting after the pain and degradation she shouted with each blow from the impromptu whip. It jarred him enough that he hesitated on the kill, and that woman’s pleading for him not to shoot, even when he could see the glowing of his eyes reflected from hers, it reminded him too much of his mother even with Fango’s unhinged mutterings trying to egg him on. The inhuman instincts waring inside him, the hunger; Vanno falling to his fangs and disappearing from this world.

“We make a pretty good team,”...

He’d get no rest like this.

Night thrummed under his skin and the dampyr curled tighter on the much-too-soft bed. After sleeping on crates for seven years, it was impossible to settle down on something so plush, especially at this hour. Angelo stood, running pale fingers through his pitch colored hair. He pushed himself up and onto the balls of his feet to stretch his whole body upwards before starting to pace silently in the moonlit room. Testa’s blood flowed thickly in his veins filling him with the urge to go somewhere, do something. Two days cooped up inside to “recover” sent a burning thirst searing the back of his throat.

Angelo’s eyes stung, glowing like candles in the dark room. One hand pressed to his neck, the need to drink overpowering. The dampyr clamped a fist in his hair, lifting his wrist up to his lips and biting down. It wouldn’t be nearly enough but he could lessen the pain. Angelo closed his eyes, pondering the flavor sparkling over his tongue. There was more than just him, Testa’s lingering traces, Luca, Elena, and now... Vanno. They all stuck in his blood like footprints in cement. Sharper edges wore down with time, blurring together but still present, obvious. Vanno was the crispest taste, and Angelo wasn’t sure what to make of this. He’d devoured only these four lives with his own fangs, did that make the difference? Could he carry souls with him, letting them draw breath as he did? What did it mean for Vanno to be an existence he could still taste in himself?

The dampyr shook his head in frustration, licking the last ruby drop from his pale skin and turning to stare out his bedroom window. With a sigh, he leaned against the shadowed wall, watching the glittering cold-as-ice crystals draped across the night sky. They shone with such indifference, just like that night. His arms slid around his body, not quite crossed, not quite a hug; fingers digging into the bandages until he flinched and had to tug off his shirt to unwind them. The dampyr’s nose twitched at the stale scents lingering on his skin and floating up from the disturbed bandages. It almost masked the fresh tinge of Corteo entering his room. Almost. He’d been too distracted to hear the human come in.

Angelo gazed over his shoulder, looking his best friend dead in the eyes, vaguely aware that his own were still glowing. That distinctly predatory, parasitic urge rolled thickly down his throat, longing for the fresh blood boiling through Corteo’s body. The dampyr could practically see the object of his hunger flowing in his friend’s veins. His own blood simply hadn’t been enough after the stunt he pulled earlier that week.

He didn’t move, watching Corteo rake his eyes down to Angelo’s should-be-wounded side not even sporting a scab, only very thin, silvery scars. He still didn’t move when Corteo took one hesitant step after another, drawing closer of his own volition until he could have reached out and touched the imperfection on Angelo’s corpse-colored skin.

Those dark grey-black eyes flicked up shyly to meet his blazing golden stare. “You always were a fast healer, Angelo,” his whisper was thin with wonderment and entirely untainted by fear.

The dampyr swallowed his silence. “It still hurt, just like it would with anyone.” Angelo’s nape prickled, noting Corteo’s gaze dropping to his lips, or maybe his teeth, before darting back up as if to ask permission. Angelo just blinked, giving one barely perceptible nod.  Corteo looked back to his barely parted lips, one hand raised and shaking. It was like Angelo himself had become the burning wick from those seven years ago with how Corteo shook, a determined look in his coal-colored eyes.

Angelo forced himself to be still, to relax, when that first calloused finger drew down his lower lip; even when the soft gasp of discovery clawed out of Corteo’s chest. He closed his eyes at the feeling of the human’s thumb pad pressing onto the flat of his upper right fang. His nerves were firing wildly with predatory spasms, causing his breathing to hitch slightly.

“They’re really real?” came the almost unbelieving voice Angelo found himself using as an anchor. He didn’t bother answering, just letting his longtime friend manipulate his jaw open to examine the expression of his heritage more closely. “So, your father really was... and so are you...” Corteo hissed in pain, yanking his hand back when he’d pricked himself on Angelo’s fangs.

The dampyr’s eyes snapped open, the burning wave of bloodlust sweeping up and down his back at the scent of the cut, and even more at the lingering taste on his tooth. Corteo took a half step back, doing his best not to cower. Angelo tore his gaze away, back to the window. “Sorry, the hunger gets worse at night. I didn’t mean to show you with such a scary thing.”

“N-No, it’s my own fault by invading your space like that.” Corteo glanced away and swallowed. Angelo was finding it really difficult to drown out the racing of the human’s heart tickling his hunting instincts.

“Any particular reason you came here?” Anything to distract him from that living symphony in Corteo’s chest-

Suddenly, Corteo’s hand lay warm on his bare shoulder, “I was worried about you; even though I’ve had my suspicions for a while now, you seemed to be in a bad state two days ago... I- I thought you might even-” He pulled his hand back, clenching it into a fist at his side.

Angelo turned fully to his oldest friend, gently taking his wrist and lifting Corteo’s wounded finger to his mouth. He was careful, slow, listening intently to the spike in the human’s breathing and pulse; waiting now for it to calm before lapping at the few droplets of Corteo’s blood and encouraging the scrape to heal faster. The flavor was almost indescribable, warming him from head to toe with an earthy sweetness he’d come to realize was pure, human blood, untainted by alcohol. It was intoxicating. Angelo’s grip slacked but the human made no move to pull his hand away. The dampyr briefly wondered if Corteo knew how hard it was to just let go like that, how much harder he was making it with his open trust.

“Do you think I’m a monster, Corteo?”

“I think you’re hurting... and maybe hungry.” There was a bounce of humor in his voice that drew and unbidden sigh of relief from Angelo. At least Corteo didn’t hate him. He pressed the warm hand against his chest, letting in the pain and also the comfort, his normally slow heart thrumming at a pace more human.

Angelo blinked away the tears from his eyes, letting it out in a low, rattling breath. “Thank you... for still being here.”

There was a soft smile gracing Corteo’s face, shifting his hand into a fist pressed over Angelo’s heart. “Hey, we’re family, right? I’ll always be here.”

The dampyr felt the human’s grin hopping over to his own face. The needling sensation of his emotions dulled into a buzz of complacency, the closest to happy he would likely ever come. Angelo fully let go of Corteo’s wrist and moved over to his closet, pulling on a fresh shirt. They fell into a companionable silence, the human fidgeting slightly as he wrote down his thoughts in a pocket diary he always kept.

Finally, Angelo felt he had to speak or the other man would burst. “You have questions.” He turned to look at Corteo from over his shoulder, fingers deftly buttoning up his shirt to keep himself occupied.

The human jumped and then laughed shyly, slapping the book closed. “Ah, well.... a few.” Though before he could continue to actually ask anything, a knock rattled the doorframe. Both men looked towards the hall, neither making any move to answer it.

“Avilio! It’s Vulpe. Can you let me in?”

Angelo glanced at Corteo with an arched brow, silently asking if the door was unlocked. When his friend nodded, the dampyr paced quietly into the sitting room, taking a seat on the long couch and stretching out his ‘wounded’ leg. “It’s open!” he called back, relaxing into the arm while Corteo shuffled into the bedroom doorway.

Vulpe entered, glanced between the two of them, and frowning slightly though he took the whole thing in stride. It wouldn’t be that odd for someone as badly ‘injured’ as Angelo to need some help moving around during recovery. The dampyr leaned forward to his coffee table, picking up a pack of smokes. It was one thing for him to slip up around Corteo, and quite another around Vulpe. The cigarette’s bite would muffle his sense of taste enough, and by extension, his hunger... Hopefully.

Nero’s man walked into the apartment and softly closed the door behind him, making sure it was locked. He removed his hat and jacket, the movements stiff and full of anxious energy. The scent of death hung about Vulpe and Angelo’s eyes narrowed at the handgun sticking out of the mafioso’s belt loop.

“Did something happen?” He was careful to keep his voice down as the human looked like he could start shooting at the slightest loud noise. Corteo shuffled into the sitting room, closing the bedroom door behind him as he went. Vulpe jumped when he heard the click, gaze snapping around to freeze Angelo’s friend in his tracks.

A tense moment passed before Vulpe’s shoulders relaxed and he let out a shaken sigh. “We had a doctor examine Vanno’s body...” He turned to Angelo and pulled out his gun, leveling it at the dampyr’s head. “The monster that killed him did a good job of destroying the bite mark, but the injuries on Vanno aren’t exactly consistent with your story, Avilio.”

Corteo stumbled back from the gun, more alarmed than Angelo. The dampyr was doing his damnedest not to react on instinct. Sure every muscle in his body primed itself for movement but if he so much as twitched, he’d probably be eating blessed lead. He opted to remain silent.

“There was too much blood on you to tell if you’ve been bitten, but the way I figure, wounds like that wouldn’t heal completely in just three days.” Vulpe made a gesture to Angelo’s shirt. “Take it off.”

Angelo clicked his tongue but complied. He shouldn’t have taken the bandages off, dammit! The dampyr didn’t need to look at Vulpe to feel the other man’s gaze raking over him, scrutinizing every detail. He didn’t fully shift off his shirt, leaving the fabric trapped along his sides in a hope that would hide the lack of injury.

Vulpe noticed this, taking a few steps forward until he was practically looming over Angelo and the barrel of his gun almost brushed the dampyr’s inky hair. He could clearly scent the gunpowder and metal even though the cigarette smoke. The bullets weren’t blessed. Which meant that anyone who had actually dealt with his father’s kind hadn’t prepared Vulpe for this encounter, or Angelo wasn’t under suspicion for being the ‘monster’ who attacked Vanno. He resisted the urge to smile.

The hitman’s hands shook, able to see the scars from this angle. “W-What the-?”

“I did that!” Corteo took a half step forward and Vulpe swung the firearm around to him. Angelo’s instincts flared up, eyes glowing angrily, though thankfully Vulpe wasn’t looking at him anymore. “My family has a magical heritage, we’re healers. Avilio is my friend so I had to help him.”

The hitman didn’t seem totally convinced but lowered his gun all the same. Angelo took the time to gain control over himself, tugging his shirt back on. He had to come up with something, fast. “Let me guess. The bullet wounds looked post mortem, right?”

Vulpe’s attention snapped back to Angelo.

He took his time, plucking the smoke from his lips and exhaling the acrid gas along his tongue, shifting around to sit normally on the couch. Angelo gestured for Vulpe to have a seat in the nearby armchair. Corteo nervously hovered around by his left shoulder. Once everyone settled down, Angelo fixed the hitman with an icy stare. “We’re dealing with vampires, right?”

Slowly, Vulpe nodded his head, a serious and jittery look on his face.

“Do you know anything about them?”

“No. The Don and Nero seemed really shaken up by news though.”

Angelo nodded, keeping his business-like tone. “Is it possible that Vanno encountered one before the graveyard incident?” At Vulpe’s confused look, the dampyr almost smiled yet again. “Earlier, when you said I probably wasn’t bitten, I’m guessing you’re at least a little familiar with Vampire stories.”

“You think Vanno was one of those things?” Vulpe glared and Angelo measured his words carefully.

“How else do you explain injuries appearing as if he was already dead? Or even the wound on his neck? If he’d been turned certainly whatever did it wouldn’t want anyone finding out-”

“That’s an awful lot of assumptions, Avilio.” The hitman’s gaze dropped to his gun briefly then he sighed. “But, it’s what the Don thought might’ve happened.”

Now, this got his attention, Angelo leaning forward in interest. It didn’t take long for Vulpe to understand what he wanted.

“Don Vinetti- He and a couple of others in the family had some dealings with vampires in the past. I’ve only heard a few stories; they don’t like talking about it. Apparently, his wife almost got turned into a thrall, whatever that means.”

Angelo lowered his gaze to the smoke between his fingers, leaning forward to put it out in the ashtray. He remembered all the lessons from his father’s bloodline, including those about how to create a thrall and how to kill them. Even the memories of Testa hunting others of his kin, whether from a personal vendetta or when they were younger as practice. Though the latter was usually other family members or tracking other younglings. He wondered how much the Vanettis knew about his ancestors, what Testa could have told them.

“He thinks the family is cursed, that the curse is taking him too, or making his sickness incurably bad.” Vulpe’s tremulous voice cut through his thoughts.

“The Don is ill?” Angelo’s throat tightened in a kind of sudden cold washed through him. Any of the human comforts he’d drawn from Corteo’s presence froze as his heart stuttered to a full halt. Something it had never done before. For a moment, if only a brief moment, the dampyr felt the full weight of his father’s powers raging through his body followed by a flash of existential fear that he wouldn’t be able to contain the pressure.

Vulpe didn’t seem to notice his alarm, or if he did, the man had no clue its true source. “Yes, that’s why things are so tense between Nero and his younger brother... and why the Vanno situation has everyone on edge.”

“I’m assuming Nero still wants me to bring him Fango’s head?”

Vulpe sighed, placing his gun down on the coffee table and fully relaxing now that he felt somewhat more assured. “Nero, yes... The Don? No. Those Chicago bastards have been worming their way into the family for a while now, trying to get Lawless under their thumb, and a war with the Orco family isn’t advantageous for them. Don Vanetti agrees.”

Angelo quirked a smile. “It’s a good thing I’m not officially part of the family yet.”

“You’re still going after Fango, even without our support?”

“I’ve survived this long for a reason.”

Vulpe scoffed a laugh, expression hard to parse, though Angelo thought there was a ‘you’re a crazy bastard’ kind of admiration in his eyes. “If you come back alive and Fango pushing up daisies I’ll have to buy you a drink; so you can tell me the story, of course.”

“Of course,” Angelo hummed, leaning back into the couch, waiting. He could sense that Vulpe wanted to say something else but hesitated.

After a solid minute of staring at each other, the man finally spoke his mind. “Listen,” he shifted to lean forward in the armchair, “if things go south and Nero has to flee the city... You’re an unknown to the families in Chicago and Lawless, no one will be looking for you-”

“Are you telling me to run?”

“No.” Vulpe stared him dead in the eye, burning holes into Angelo’s skull from the intensity of the gaze. “Nero needs someone to watch his back, it’ll be you, I got a gut feeling about it. So if push comes to shove, you better lay down your fucking life for Nero in my place, got it?”

Ah, of course , He mused, Vulpe is loyal to Nero, not the family, not the Don, no one but Nero... Nero... The prospect of being alone with another of his targets tantalized him, placating the wrath that boiled in his blood a little bit. It was unfortunate he didn’t quite cover his tracks well enough though. Now his plan had to take a bit of a longer stretch. He couldn’t just kill Nero like he wanted to, he had to work his way up to it.

Fun.

Vulpe left shortly after that and Angelo’s self-control finally slipped enough to smile like a mad man. He cupped a hand over his face, shaking in a mix of excitement and abject terror. There was a man he had to see now, and it could go very poorly. So poorly... he didn’t want to bring Corteo with him. For a human, that devil’s nest was the open mouth of Hell.

“An-Angelo?” His human friend came up next to him, bent over slightly with a nervous sweat clinging to his brow. He could see the reflection of his golden stare in Corteo’s glasses.

“Sorry, it’s just... an opportunity I wasn’t expecting. There’s an old family friend I need to visit and you can’t come with me.”

“But-”

Angelo stood up, silencing Corteo as the human jumped in alarm. “He’s not exactly human, so it’s too dangerous for you.”

“You’re half human too, right? Wouldn’t it be dangerous for you as well?”

It was a bit endearing just how much Corteo cared but he wasn’t worried about his own health, or at least not to the extent that his friend was. Honestly, Angelo didn’t know if Orco would welcome him with open arms or spit in his face; everything depended on the relationship his father had with the man beforehand. The dampyr cupped Corteo’s face with both hands. “I might be only a half-blood, but that’s all I need to protect me. I can’t do that if you come with me. Go back to your kitchen, Corteo, I’ll come to you as soon as I’m done my business.”

“Well... Okay.” His friend grabbed the back of one of his hands. They broke the contact after that, Angelo retreating into his bedroom to get himself ready for the meeting and Corteo quietly leaving. The human didn’t notice the car sitting across the street with Vulpe in the passenger seat and Nero behind the wheel.

“The two are really close, hm?” Nero leaned back on the seat, watching him disappear onto a trolley car a half-block up the street.

Vulpe struck a lighter, lifting it up to the unlit smoke hanging from Nero’s teeth. “As far as I can tell. That guy claims to be a healer, which would explain his genius with brewing. Avilio is already healed enough to be on his feet.”

Nero raised a brow, looking only half convinced. “I’d have to see the wounds for myself. Go back to the house, I’ll follow him myself.”

“But, Nero-”

The Don’s son shrugged him off with a sour expression. “I don’t think he’ll go after Fango today; a guy that crazy needs a chase before he gets pinned to a wall.”

Vulpe frowned, grunted, and climbed out of the car, jogging over to the trolly stop for the next streetcar. Nero watched him go before switching his attention back to the house. He was there for about an hour and a half when Avilio poked his head out, cap low and jacket pulled tight around his shoulders. Nero caught the shine of his shoes and what looked like the bottom of his Sunday-best slacks. “Are you really going on a date, Avilio?” He had a hint of mirth in his voice, watching as the man rounded the corner, walking into the city.

Nero started the car, driving as much as he could behind Avilio without the other young man noticing him. The further along he went, the more his nape prickled in a deadly concern. He felt his heart sink when the ravenette passed through the threshold of Orco’s dinner.

Angelo blinked at the sharp lights, squinting to give his semi-nocturnal eyes a moment to adjust back into a more human sensitivity. The voices of Don Orco and his upper brass drifted in from the dining room while one very nervous attendant had been trying to shoo Angelo. The dampyr only just now noticed him.

He went to take a step past the flustered man when he got grabbed by the forearm. The attendant had a hand in his pocket like there was a gun; not a bad idea to try scaring someone off, but Angelo could scent the lack of gunpowder. Besides, the grip was too weak on his arm, and the hand too soft for someone practiced in fighting or firearms.

Angelo smirked, eyes flashing yellow, patting the man on the cheek. The attendant slowly let go, ashy and pale from a sudden choking terror. He only shook free of his fear when Angelo started walking away, scrabbling ahead of him to whisper in Orco’s ear.

“What the hell are you on about, idiot! Get up, get up. I won’t tolerate my meal being disturbed!” Orco bombasted, slamming his hands down onto the table, a fat cigar smoking in the corner of his mouth. Though there was a gap Angelo thought a long, curved tusk might jut out from his lower lip.

“Would you make an exception for a family friend?” Angelo spoke as smoothly as he could, pulling off his hat and doing his damndest to maintain his smirk. Maybe the others could sense the miasmic pressure rolling of Orco from how quietly terrified they were, but for Angelo, he’d never experienced something like this from the outside before; dreams and memories sure, but this was real. Sweat clung to the back of his neck. I’m in danger .

“Ha? Who the hell are you, brat?” Orco leaned back, one hand still roughly on the table, but there was a glimmer of intrigue in the old man’s eyes. Angelo swallowed, his smirk breaking into a full nervous smile, flashing his fangs at the Don. In that moment there was something like recognition in his eyes. “Wait... No, it’s not possible. Boy, come closer! I need a better look at you.”

Angelo strode forward until he was with arm’s reach of the family officer immediately on Orco’s left. “Does this suit you better, Don?” His ability to maintain arrogance this close to an older and more powerful supernatural being was wearing thin, though at least from here, Angelo could tell he was right about the Orco family. They were ogres. All the officers and the Don himself. It was... beneficial then that he hadn’t come in without some amount of possible leverage.

Orco rose from his chair, not quite as tall as Angelo with how his human disguise compressed him. There was anguish, awe, and maybe a little fear flitting quickly over his face. “You’re his spitting image, boy. What is your name, which of them are you?”

“Angelo,” the dampyr supplied, nodding his head and relaxing into his father’s power. He’d be safe as his true self here, maybe. His heart came to the full stop again, the color went from his face so extremely that his lips were an ashy blue, judging from his reflection in one of the officer’s heavy glasses. “I’ve come to ask for a favor. You must’ve heard what happened to my father.”

“Yes, we thought his whole bloodline wiped out.” Orco silent murmuring had Angelo more on edge than the ogre's boisterous shouting. Of course, he oscillated right back into it, shouting at the office Angelo stood by. “Don’t just sit there gawking! Get this boy a chair!”

“Ah, that won’t be necessary, Don. But thank you for considering me in such kindness.” Angelo placed his words very carefully. “There’s a man in your service, a human named Fango. I would like your blessing to take him.”

The Don paused, blinking at Angelo before barking a short laugh. “The son of that Night Demon wants a pig like that? Fine, take him. He’s been causing more problems than he’s worth, trying to start a war with those other humans-- but aren’t all mortals like that?”

Angelo was expecting that to be more difficult. “Thank you, Don. My father informed you of how to contact our kind should you need anything, yes?”

“It’s a free pass, my boy.” Orco waved him off, though his eyes did turn a sickly glowing green as the failure of a human chief was dragged out. “Actually, you’re looking a bit thin for a man your age. This one’s failed me a few too many times with his trashy lasagna. But sit awhile with us, drink, partake in these old mortal desires and let’s hear how you’ve managed to escape the end, hmm?”

The dampyr clenched his teeth, nodding graciously. He knew this wasn’t an option, and he was very thirsty. “I’m grateful for your fatherly concern, Uncle Orco.” Admittedly he was testing his luck with that, careful and observant of the subtle changes in the Don’s demeanor. Seeing that this was a welcome, or at least not unwelcome, name Angelo continued. “I hope you don’t mind me making some of a mess. I’ve sworn my fangs to avenging my father, mother, and brother. Until I’ve tasted the lives of my enemies and slaked Testa’s dying wrath, I will not bite a mortal in order to draw blood.” He pulled out his father’s knife, flicking it open casually.

“Then we’ll all enjoy him together! Vampire venom always makes the meat taste wrong anyway.” Orco then did the one thing Angelo was afraid of; he tossed the human panicking attendant aside and ripped out of his human disguise. Angelo was right out his tusks, they were rather impressive, though one was badly broken from a long-ago fight and capped in gold. The others also changed, tearing off the mortal skins they wore like one might eagerly strip out of a suit at the end of the day.

Angelo turned to the terrified cook with sympathy in his eyes. “Go with God, human.” It was the only prayer he’d ever utter for this poor soul. But, better to have his throat slit quickly than to live through the horror as an ogre’s meal. He grabbed the man by the back of his smock, dragging him halfway down the table to slaughter him over the punchbowl.

He didn’t see Nero gasp from an ally window behind him, didn’t notice those blue eyes watch him serve Orco the first taste of the blood punch, nor did Angelo realize that Nero saw him hesitate before taking a drink himself. The Vanetti heir wanted to run from that window but found himself unable to move, taking in the grizzly scene of literal monsters ripping a man apart to serve for dinner while the alluring and aloof Avilio politely sipped on the spiked drink, touching nothing else. It was concerning that he was with the Orco family alone; it was more concerning that the young man didn’t so much as blink at the feast going on around him.

Nero finally slid down the wall to sit on the crate he’d stood on, gazing a thousand yards through the other wall. What was he going to tell his father? Should he even tell his father? Hell, his old man and Orco used to be close, did he already know that Orco was a monster just like how he knew Lagusa was? The heir folded his hands together, analyzing what he believed. Vampires weren’t really real to him until he’d seen the hellish, unholy rage in Lagusa’s eyes. When he was a kid, his mother had gotten ill with puncture wounds on her inner thigh. He remembered Testa Lagusa knocking on their door, waiting even after he’d opened it and stood aside. His father came up behind him, murmuring a soft, “ You have to invite him in .”

Lagusa was already an odd man and something that showed up in Nero’s occasional nightmares but now there was Orco. The big burly bastard was unsettling and loud sure, but this? Another monster in Lawless. How many of these things were there? Was Avilio one of these things too, and his friend Corteo? Nero focused on the ground under his feet, an epiphany or a seed of doubt taking hold in his mind, he didn’t know which yet. But, if Avolio was one of those monsters, that could be his connection to Orco and how he survived a rain of bullets which should have killed him. It also might explain why the injuries weren’t nearly as bad as the could have been and how the guy walked all the way to a pay phone on a shot leg.

Nero heard Orco laugh before grousing, “If you have to leave, kid, then go! Find that pig you want to slaughter so badly.” The Vanetti heir jumped, slipping quickly out into the street then ducking into the car. Avilio came out a few moments later, licking what looked like blood off a pocket knife before tucking it back into his pocket. The young man didn’t head back towards his home, rather turning into the wind and pausing. Nero watched in awe as Avilio took a few deep breaths then started off in a direction. While a great part of him wanted to follow, something screamed that it was too dangerous. Nero relented, turning around the manor with the promise to himself that he wouldn’t think too hard about it if and only if Avilio came back with Fango’s head as he ordered. Realistically, and disregarding the monstrous feast he just witnessed, Avilio went to Orco to prevent a war from happening. That, or he was a double agent and Nero didn’t like that idea.

Chapter Text

Fango had been expecting him, ever since he’d seen those glowing golden eyes. There was a kind of mortal terror in it that made him harder than any brutal play with his girl could deliver. If he was totally honest with himself, Fango would admit to wanting that creature to bite him, hard and deep. It was the kind of danger that a belt-whipping alone couldn’t provide. His boots up on the desk as he waited. These creatures were attracted by the smell of blood, right? So all he had to do was bleed a little. Lacrima was more than happy to help with that, using one of his own knives to carve a shallow cross into his shoulder blade. After she whipped him, of course. As much as she liked the thrill of it too, his woman wasn’t that keen on getting hurt, only doing the hurting. That was all well and good for their normal arrangement, but this was the man that gave him chills to the core. Fango wanted-- no needed to know what kind of monster lived behind those glowing eyes.

Third time’s the charm; a third time he might get what he really wanted from this Avilio guy. Fango leaned further back in the chair, balancing dangerously on the back two legs while Lacrima got some insurance ready: a fully loaded pistol, a hunting knife, garlic, bandages for Fango’s shoulder just in case their new friend didn’t show. He was getting impatient the longer he had to wait. “Y’know, sow, I don’t think we ever got to finish that dance the little boy interrupted.” His voice dropped into a rasping growl, digging his fingers into the cut on his shoulder to keep it bleeding.

“Again? Aren’t you just the most sinful swine I’ve ever met.” Lacrima laughed, watching the way the lights in Fango’s eyes burned and danced. “Should I choke you this time?”

Fango shuddered, breathing heavier already. “Ah, you know just how to threaten me.” Though his smile dropped slightly and he grit his teeth. “It’s not enough... Those eyes will haunt my sleep until I pluck them out!” He rocked forward, slamming all four chair legs into the floor before standing. Fango bent over the desk oscillating between furiously outraged and giddy. “I need to pay him back. He’s working for the Vanetti’s, I can feel it.” Fango began pacing, stalking back and forth while Lacrima watched him from the vanity, one hand around the handle of the knife just in case. She trusted he wouldn’t do anything awful to her because Fango likes using her, but she’d never seen him like this before. After getting almost assassinated, he’d changed.

“Would you want that thing under you, or on top of you?” It was a slow question, one she’d been curious about.

Fango paused next to the window, stopped in his tracks, smiling again. “Why not both?” He started laughing in that unhinged way of his. “You saw his teeth, right?! What do they feel like, I wonder. Needles? Knives? Do they grow back if you rip them out?” The man hugged himself around the shoulders and shivered in anticipation.

Lacrima smiled at the idea of pinning that alabaster skinned creature down and plucking out its teeth. It might have the shape and voice of a man, but would the screams be the same? “If it wasn’t trying to kill us,” she hummed ruefully, “I would love to experience it too.”

Fango barked a laugh, only to cut off at the sudden chill in the room. He whipped around, yanking open the balcony door and looked down into the street. From the mouth of an alleyway directly across from his room, two glowing golden eyes pierced the darkness. Around them was the shadow of a man and Fango felt his heart stammer in fear. His whole body shook, hands strangling the balcony railing and fire rushed through his limbs. “He’s here.”

“What?” Lacrima broke from her musing, paling and picked up the knife. Before she caught a look at the creature there was a knock on the door. Fango scanned the street, half-turning to the apartment entrance. When she finally got to peer over the railing there was no one there. Her heart leaped up into her throat as the knock sounded again, three soft blows against the solid oak. She closed the balcony door and locked it, nervous even as Fango moved towards the sound.

“Boyo!” he called, picking up the gun from her vanity as he passed, “did you finally learn how to knock?!” Fango ripped the door open and stared at the empty hallway. Or almost empty. He saw the foot and the bottom of a leg vanish around a corner and laughed. “A chase is it? Okay~ then.”

“F-Fango?” Lacrima moved to the door as he rushed out, watching in stunned disbelief as he ran down the hall. “Fango, wait! What about the plan?!” But it was no use, he was already gone and she, standing in the doorway in only a slip and feeling much too terrified to leave her room, didn’t follow. She closed the door, shakily, turning around only to scream. There it was, hat low, blood splattered along his jacket and suit cuffs, eyes burning holes into her body. Her back fell against the door, knife trembling in her grip. What was it? How could she hope to fight something that perfect?

“Are you afraid?”

Lacrima paused, staring into those luminous eyes. It was like taking a few too many shots of moonshine, only... softer. She realized that she wasn’t afraid of this person. The longer she stared at those golden, deep eyes, the less fear she felt. Her whole body relaxed, knife dropping to the floor. Slowly, she blinked, struggling feebly to look anywhere else, but... she didn’t want to. The last part of her mind that remembered the bloodlust and fear dissolved into pillowy sweet thoughts about touching his pale skin and feeling how cold he must be. Hazily, and dreamily, Lacrima hummed, “No, I’m not afraid... You’re so beautiful.” Tears slowly poured down her face, awe taking her every breath. She would gladly die for this person, even more if he would cut her open and hold her close until the end. What a kind thing that would be for him to do. Even sweeter than the tenderest love.

He knelt in front of her and she reached to cup his face instinctively. Time seemed slow, her heartbeat gradually following suit until the dream-like euphoria was all she could feel. His hair was soft like rabbit’s fur, her fingers searching after the contact and the slight divots of his skull. She could almost kiss--

“Sow! Open the damn door!” Fango shouted, making her jump and snap her head around to the jiggling handle. All the warmth and comfort drained out of her like a bullet-ridden bathtub. She screamed again, realizing how close it was to her and kicked as violently as she could, before diving to the side to grab up her knife.

Fango kicked the door in, laying eyes on the creature. Angelo’s teeth bared in a snarl and a scuff along his chest where Lacrima slammed her foot into his sternum. When they locked eyes, Fango’s pulse jumped. Something about them was hypnotizing and he had the good sense to look away, or at least not directly at them. Fango leveled the revolver at him and leered, walking a few steps into the room to close the door. “Hello, boy.”

“Fango,” Angelo growled, slowly rising to his feet, only pausing at the click of the hammer drawing back. “You think that would really hurt me?”

“Dunno, let’s try.” The blonde leered. He fired and laughed, Angelo ducked under the shot and slammed Fango back into the door, one hand on his throat and the other wrestling Fango for control of the gun. Just as Angelo grabbed Fango’s cheeks to hold his head still Lacrima rose to her feet and stabbed the knife as hard as she could between his ribs, screaming profanities the whole time.

The dampyr let go of Fango’s head to backhand her hard across the face. Any goodwill he had to this woman evaporated when she buried the steel into his chest. Fango took the opportunity to headbutt him and grabbed up the belt, getting it around Angelo’s throat while he was unbalanced. He grinned, hoisting up as hard as he could to choke the dampyr. Angelo’s heart pulled to a near total halt and he seized the knife in his side. Without needing to breathe, the only thing he had to worry about was loss of circulation, and that wasn’t something a wide, gapped piece of leather can do at this man’s strength levels.

Angelo rose to his feet, maintaining his balance despite the pull, walking forward as Fango suddenly backpedaled into the door. The dampyr pressed the blade, coated in his own blood, against Fango’s throat. “You know why I’m here?”

“To kill me?”

Angelo smiled, pulling the blade back onto to bring the butt of it down on Fango’s head, immediately knocking the man unconscious. Lacrima held onto her face and cowered. He turned to her and held up a finger to hush her while tugging the belt off his throat. She whimpered and nodded, holding her hands over her mouth. It was a simple task to strip a sheet off the bed and wrap Fango’s unconscious body. The normal lackey that hung around him left the moment he heard the man lost Orco’s favor. Now, where to put him? “Do you have a car?”

Lacrima nodded, pointing out the keys but otherwise staying silent and shaking. Angelo smiled sickeningly sweet, lapping his blood of the knife before stabbing it into the door and collecting the keys. Even with the light bruising already on his throat, a gaping hole closing in his side was more than enough to be horribly painful. Angelo grit his fangs, tossing Fango’s limp body into the back seat and starting the engine. His place, Angelo decided, would be the best. He could tie Fango to a chair and get changed, then call Nero to collect his token of good favor.  With Vanno strung up, the young Vanetti’s were ready to tear into the Orco family at the earliest convenience, and Fango was the perfect sacrificial lamb; one that wouldn’t stir the old ogre but still slake the bloodlust and bad feelings his killing Vanno caused. A measured step.

Angelo walked up to his door with Fango over one shoulder, unlocking it quickly and tossing the man onto the couch. He groaned back to consciousness as Angelo locked the door. When he tried to get up and make some smartass remark about dinner first, the dampyr kicked him hard, knocking the wind out of him. The human hardly resisted when he grabbed a fistful of that blonde hair, staring enthrallingly into his eyes. Fango gasped, shuddered and moaned. He melted, unable to resist after taking a blow to the head. The mafia enforcer just sat, dreamily and seemingly intoxicated on the armchair Angelo put him in. He left the door to his room open so he could keep an eye on Fango while cleaning his wound and redressing. Thankfully, the woman knew enough about direct blows the knife wound hadn’t torn when he pulled it out. She had a pretty strong will to hold out as long as she did... Didn’t smell half bad either, probably tasted even better.

He left the top few buttons of his shirt undone so he didn’t risk staining the white fabric red. Angelo lit himself a cigarette, leaning against his door to observe Fango’s lolling head and drool-heavy rambling. What kind of nightmares was he seeing that made him so... receptive . The dampyr sneered finding some length of rope to secure his hands and wrists, then he plucked the half-burned through smoke in his mouth, jamming it between Fango’s lips to stop the drool. It seemed to work.

Angelo sat on the couch and dialed for the Vanetti residence. It was late, so he wasn’t surprised at the ringing. Tigre answered. “Who’s this?”

“Avilio. Is Nero there?”

“Yeah, one minute.” There was a tap of the set being placed down and Angelo waited, keeping his eyes on Fango as the man slowly came out of his stupor. Nero’s voice gruffed at him. If Angelo weren’t busy glaring down a madman, he’d pay more attention to the shake in his timbre. “Avilio. What is it?”

“I have Fango’s head... and his torso, arms, legs, and well...” Angelo picked up the phone and shoved the table into Fango’s leg sharply, earning a loud, suddenly much more alert shout of pain. “I thought it might be better to deliver him alive. Vanno was your close friend, right?”

There was a beat of silence before Nero growled, “Where are you?” The anger was back in the man’s voice and Angelo felt something stir in his chest, almost like a beast purring in delight at the sound. Odd, but he didn’t dwell too much on it.

“My place. Though I could bring him to you and the family if you want.”

Nero sucked in a breath as if to say yes immediately but stopped. “No, I’ll be there shortly.”

Angelo frowned at the oddity of the situation and hung up the phone, turning his full attention to Fango. The blonde’s nose was broken from the kick, really starting to bleed because he kept pressing his fingers into it. Angelo blinked at him, slowly. Was he trying to excite some kind of predatory instinct from the sight of blood?

“You’re no fun, boy!” Fango finally groused, shivering a bit as he realized he was still shirtless, and probably not feeling very well after losing all that blood to draw Angelo in. “It’s Avilio, right? What’s Nero’s little lap dog doing anyway?! Orco will kill you for taking me.”

“We both know that’s a lie.” Angelo calmly leaned back into his chair, crossing his legs and lighting another smoke for himself. “Don Orco and I made an arrangement. I get rid of trash for him, like you, and he won’t start a war with the Vanetti family... Until I ask him to.” It was mostly a bluff but the look of shock and then excitement on Fango’s face told Angelo everything he needed to know about the man, honestly glad he’d not taken any of Fango’s blood.

“Ho~?” Fango struggled at his wrist restraints a bit, looking slightly red in the face with pent up desire. “You’re one irritating bastard, y’know? Such a young thing and such a goddamn tease.” Fango leaned forward in the chair, practically vibrating in excitement. “How did you do it? Huh?! Did you suck the old man off until he was singing your praises? I bet you’re good at that... Heheha.”

Angelo rolled his eyes. “I supposed I could tell you since you probably won’t survive to the morning.” His gaze half-lidded as he watched Fango’s face light up, too easy to read. But like hell he was going to give the actual method. Just enough truth that it was believable. “You still might think it’s bull shit though. Orco is an ogre, and ogre’s love to eat. All I had to do was give him something worth eating.”

Fango seemed to chew on this information for a moment, mind still too far in the gutter to formulate something that would be plausible. “Orge, huh? He was always a pig...” An idea clicked in his head and he shouted, “LASAGNA! You made him Lasagna from somebody?”

Now there’s an idea, but... Angelo laughed, eyes glowing in the darkness of his home, as he’d not bothered turning on any lights. He didn’t have time to keep toying with Fango as there was a knock on his door. Angelo blinked, calling “Who is it?” His eyes no longer glowed, a soft golden-brown as his one hand reached for a gun tucked under a couch cushion and the other to a lamp nearby.

“Nero.”

He huffed, tucking the gun into his belt so Fango wouldn’t get any ideas about diving for it while he stood to turn on some more lights. “There’s a key under the mat.” Deciding it would look better if he had the weapon trained on Fango instead of this relaxed situation, he pulled out the gun, cocked the hammer and leveled it at the blonde’s head. Nero walked in with his own weapon drawn as well as Tigre, Vulpe, and Barbero.

They took stock of the situation quickly and any weapons not put away were trained on Fango instead. Barbero was in shock, as was Tigre, both looking at the state Fango was in and the apparent unharmed, unflinching reserve on Angelo’s face. Nero sat down on the couch, leaning forward with a smirk on his face. “You delivered, Avilio, faster than I was expecting.”

The dampyr pulled the hammer back again, releasing its tension and placed the gun down next to Nero. “Corteo is a miracle worker. Would any of you like something to drink?” Barbero was regarding him with undisguised suspicion and Vulpe seemed a bit skittish but otherwise, the air was light for such a solemn occasion.

“Sure,” Nero called, a slight dimpling of sweat building up on his forehead. “Mind telling me why he’s like that,” the Vanetti gestured to his blood-crusted skin and bruises, including the fairly clear handprint around his throat.

Angelo smirked. “Men are creatures of habits. Some more perverse and consistent than others.” He came back with a handful of cups and a bottle of Corteo’s moonshine. “Fango was with Lacrima again. I was waiting for them to split up. He took the bait.”

“Cheeky bastard,” Fango growled, spitting the spent cigarette onto the floor and snuffing it with his bare foot, smiling all the while. “I was halfway out of the building after you when I heard her scream. How did you get behind me so fast?! Huh?” Whatever goading he was trying, it wouldn’t work on Angelo tonight. He was too pleased with himself.

They took Fango with them when they left and while there might be the worry of him spilling details, that little hypnotism trick had been more than enough time for a false memory or two to slip in. Angelo was in the family and his first true steps towards revenge began. To keep up the appearances, he’d asked Don Orco to be aggressive on the matter insofar as the Galassias asking. So long as there was a common threat, he could keep playing both families to his tune. Angelo laid back on the sofa, a low hum in his throat as he stared up at the ceiling. Now, he could finally get some sleep.