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Death Is Not The End

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 The sun is mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace
Where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees


 

It itches.

Abbacchio wishes the mending process simply hurt because he can handle pain.  He’s been shot at, he’s been stomped on, he’s even felt the sharp pain of dismemberment and the horrible ache of reattachment.  A soldier of Passione learns how to suffer a little pain without complaining; at least, without complaining too much.  Passione, however, sure as hell didn’t teach him how to suffer this deep, persistent itch.

Abbacchio rubs the edges of the wound through the thick layer of gauze, feeling the hard nodules of crystals growing at the edges, but it offers little relief from his discomfort.  He wants to go wild and scratch and scratch until his hands come back bloody, but Erina says he should touch the soul wound as little as possible while it’s healing or else the crystals might grow in wrongly.  Before he goes to bed, he mists the wound with spring water, which alleviates the itch enough to allow him some measure of sleep, but he has to remove the bandages to do that.  It’s a hassle to get them off by himself and even more of a hassle to get them back on, especially since not all of the flowers have fully dissolved into his body yet and he keeps dropping petals.  He could ask Narancia for help, but he doesn’t want to expose him to the grisly sight any more than he has already.

Also, Narancia’s probably busy hitting on that gangly redhead.  Again.  Whatever, he’s a teenager, if he wants to moon over that annoying twit with all the personality of a wet piece of cardboard, that’s none of Abbacchio’s business.  If he can put aside the trauma of his life and death so easily and slide right into a new existence of playing videogames and mooning over boys like a typical kid his age, like he should have been doing all along, then good, Abbacchio’s happy for him!  He led a traumatic life!  If anyone deserves to take it easy, it’s him.  Abbacchio, of course, is a different story, so he has no right feeling the slightest bit of jealousy over other people being happy.

He sets his comic face down on the bed as he rummages through the drawer in his nightstand.  The librarian at his high school scolded him once for marking his place like that, told him it’s bad for the book’s spine, but Abbacchio hates when other people tell him what to do, even when he knows it’s right.  Besides, it’s not a real comic anyway, just something the house provided, so he’s not overly concerned about the state of its spine.  About the worst thing that’s going to happen is that the house won’t give him this particular issue again when it abruptly decides to vary his reading material and he’s not that invested in this series.

“Everything here is real,” Erina explained one day.  “What the house provides is drawn from memories and the imagination, but it functions exactly as it should.”

“Yeah,” he replied, “but it’s just not the same.”

“No.  I suppose it isn’t.”

She can call it real all she likes, but there are things that slip in from the world of the living –either what’s been lost and forgotten or what came with you when you breathed your last- and he doesn’t have to even touch them to know that they’re realer than real, the crystal she planted included.

And speaking of the crystal in his chest-

Abbacchio finds what he was searching for: a pencil.  Leaning back against the wall, he works it past his bandages, rubs at that infernal itch with the dull end of the eraser.  Yes, this absolutely counts as touching the soul wound, but it’s either this or he throws caution to the wind, reaches into his chest cavity, and tears everything out trying to find some relief from the discomfort, so as far as he’s concerned, it’s the lesser of two evils.

The closet door suddenly opens and the little figure that tumbles out bursts static as loud as she possibly can.  Startled, Abbacchio’s hand slips and the eraser jabs into his chest cavity at an odd, painful angle.

“Shit, Moody, stop doing that,” he hisses, tears prickling at the corner of his eyes as he removes the pencil and smoothes down the wound dressings.  So much for that.  On the plus side, it’s easier not to focus on that incessant itching if he has another, newer pain to fixate on.

Leone.  Stop doing that.

She throws herself on the bed next to him, snatches up the comic he was reading before he can tell her to leave it alone, and buzzes happily to herself.  As far as he can tell, she doesn’t know how to read (he tried to teach her awhile back but that was a fiasco) but she likes to look at the pictures.

“Scoot over, you brat,” he says, elbowing her in hopes she’ll move over.  He used to push her off the bed when she’d invade his personal space like this but then she’d pout for hours, beeping in self-pity all the while, especially when he attempted to sleep.  It’s easier to make little compromises with her.  She can ask him to carry her up and down stairs but only if she makes his bed for him.  She can’t cling to him like a baby spider monkey, but she can sit near him.  She can’t sleep in his closet at night, but if his door’s unlocked, she can try on clothes and play inside it all she wants.  She can’t repeat every little secret she hears to everyone else like the snitch she is, but she can repeat anything she wants to herself inside his closet.  She can’t turn into anyone he knows around him, but she can shape shift all she wants inside his closet where he doesn’t have to see her turn into Bruno.

Honestly, most of their compromises involve usage of his closet.  He used to think her absolute adoration of it was some bullshit analogy the universe threw at him in an attempt to come to terms with himself, but now Abbacchio just thinks she likes the darkness, which is extremely goth of her.

Thankfully, she moves over.

“I was reading that, jackass,” he says, but she doesn’t relinquish the comic.  He probably should enforce a little strictness and take it back from her because he’s just encouraging her to be a little thieving magpie, but fuck it, it’s not worth the hassle.

Bruno.

She points at a character on the page, buzzing happily.

“We’ve been over this, kid.  Not everyone with that haircut is Bruno.”

Amélie Poulain, according to Moody Blues, is most definitely Bruno.  Louise Brooks?  The Bruno of silent movies.  That sailor girl from that Japanese cartoon Narancia started watching?  Baby Bruno.  If Moody decides something or someone is Bruno, nothing will ever change her mind.  Many Brunos exist within her heart.

Bruno.  Bruno, Bruno, Bruno.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s Bruno.  This time, Bruno’s a lesbian and fights crime, but don’t get your hopes up, okay?  She gets one line and then they kill her off.  Here’s your lesson of the day: comics only let you down.”

The high-pitched buzzing lowers down to a deep, grinding noise, one of the sounds she makes when disappointed or when she just wants to annoy him.  Moody Blues struggles to find words to articulate her thoughts, which means that Abbacchio’s become an expert in interpreting her assorted beeps and hums.  She speaks using the words and voices of others and she’s always listening and gathering new material, but Abbacchio still doesn’t know why she chooses to record some words and not others, why she often expresses herself in a roundabout way using sentences and songs that kind of, sort of convey what she really means instead of stringing together more direct sentences, why she’ll pick up phrases from him that aren’t useful in everyday life in the least while still not picking up on basic things such as what eggs and rain are called.  She still likes to wear his teenage face instead of her own form and he doesn’t understand that either; he was an awkward child.

The girl throws the book down on the mattress without regard for where he was at (Moody, a self-centered little devil, does most things in her life without regard for others, much to Abbacchio’s eternal frustration) and smashes her face against his pillow, buzzing all the while.

Comics only let you down.

 “Yeah, you’ve got that right.  Hey, don’t pout.  Our Bruno’s alive.”

Her buzzing doesn’t stop, so he ruffles her hair, which usually annoys her enough to stop buzzing.  This is a risky tactic because she often tries to bite his arm or lick his hand if he attempts this, but he’s in luck today because she only halfheartedly slaps him.

“Hey,” he says, “what of Bruno do you remember?”

Ever since the train, Abbacchio remembers his life on the other side, but even though he often forgets, Moody Blues isn’t actually human and he’s not sure how much she remembers of their life.  There are definitely bits and pieces she remembers: particular phrases that Fugo often uses, random comments from Mista, and once she imitated Bruno so perfectly that he immediately forbade her from ever doing it again around him and locked himself in his room for three days.  But whatever else?  He’s not sure.

The sun gives heat, the sun gives light.

Great, she’s doing this again: talking in circles, no doubt getting frustrated and slappy when he can’t magically guess whatever the hell she means.

“Fantastic.  That’s absolutely clear.”

His stand only seems to understand sarcasm half the time, which means she’s improving.  Today’s a day that she understands his intended tone because she buzzes again and tugs on his hair.

Bruno.  The sun.  Bruno.  The sun.

“Okay, okay, Bruno’s the sun, I get that, cut that out, that hurts.”

She relinquishes her grasp on his hair, though not before tugging on it again.  He’s learned to expect a little pain when dealing with her, though that doesn’t mean he likes it.

Without the sun, without a doubt, there’d be no you and me.

…Well, he can’t deny that, can he?  Leone lost all hope he’d ever claw his way out of the hole he dug for himself and then came Bruno Buccellati to take him out of the rain.  Realistically speaking, following a complete stranger offering him a job in the mafia should end in disaster and maybe it did, but he would do it again, would do it a thousand times, if only for him.  Where Buccellati goes, Abbacchio follows.

And if he never met Buccellati?  Abbacchio has some ideas of how he would have ended up, none of which involve making it to twenty-one, none of which involve him making actual human connections, certainly none of which involve the sense of breathless wonder he felt when Bruno Buccellati showed him that magic is real.  In the end, he still died, violent and so sudden he barely had time to even comprehend his fading existence, but before that nasty business, he lived a little.

“Probably not,” he concedes.  If he doubts there would have been another version of himself who made it without Buccellati, then he knows that there certainly wouldn’t have been a Moody Blues.  He’s been in the game long enough to know that Passione doesn’t have the monopoly on stand users it pretends it has, learned that sometimes people are born with stands or else they develop on their own as a culmination of their skills, but Abbacchio’s neither born lucky nor particularly talented.  Buccellati drew forth something in his soul and it manifested as a little hellion who likes to bite him when she thinks he’s not paying enough attention to her, so in a weird way, does that make him her other parent?  Maybe.

As far as Abbacchio’s concerned, Polpo, Black Sabbath, and the arrow that drew her out of him barely even enter the picture.  They don’t matter.  Buccellati matters.  Bruno matters. 

The sun is far away.

“About 93,000,000 miles away.  Or a good fall; humans are fragile.  But let’s just hope not, okay?”

And even when it’s out of sight, the sun shines night and day.

“Yeah.  Yeah, he does.”

Shit.  Shit.  Honestly, Bruno’s all he wants to talk about because god only knows that he himself is not that interesting (he wakes up, he reads whatever the house provides him, he looks at the television without really watching it, he helps with chores around the house, he plays with Moody so she’s too occupied to get into trouble, he makes sure Narancia doesn’t jump out of a tree and break his neck, he helps with cooking, he sits in the dark, he thinks about Bruno, he thinks about Buccellati, he sleeps, and he dreams; that’s his life now, certainly not as full of adrenaline as his days in the gang but he doesn’t really want it to be), but whenever he tries to talk about Bruno, the distance overwhelms him.  This place is okay but without him, he’s lost.

Time to change the subject.

“Hey, Moody,” he says, picking up the fallen book, “I call you a girl but do you even know what being a girl is?  Are you?  A girl, that is.”

Why did he decide to move on from the uncomfortable subject of Bruno Buccellati and the unfathomable distance between them to the uncomfortable subject of gender?  One overpowers him with longing; the other makes him want to run away and hide until people stop talking about it.  He’s fine with the concept in the abstract.  He’s fine with the concept with other people.  It’s just that even if she’s her own extremely annoying person right now, his soul gave birth to Moody Blues (he’s still not sure if he sees himself as her parent or as her older sibling; he wonders sometimes if this is what Buccellati felt when he first took Fugo in), so if she’s a girl, what does that mean for him?

A dick!  Moody Blues…a good girl.  A good girl, Moody Blues.

She reaches out to pull his hair but he intercepts her in time.

“Cut that shit out,” he says.  “Okay, you’re a girl.  I got it.  You don’t need to pull my hair to accentuate your points.  I just wanted to clear up if that’s what you actually are instead of something I imposed on you.  I always thought of you as a girl.”

A good girl.  Girls just wanna have fun.  Girls just wanna have…fighting.  Girls just wanna have…running.  Girls just wanna have…KILLER QUEEN.  Girls just wanna have…pie.  Pie.  Leone.  Pie.

“Moody.”

A good girl.  A good pie.  Pie.  Moody Blues.

Moody.”

Leone.  Kitchen.  Pie.

“Moody, Mr. Speedwagon did not go through all the trouble of baking a pie just so you can take a bite, spit it out, and throw the rest on the ground.  You hate eating.  You think food feels bad in your mouth.  Why the hell do you keep trying to do it if you don't like it, huh?”

Pie.

He winds up carrying her downstairs anyway even though he already knows how this is going to end.  He cuts her a tiny piece of apple pie.  She demands more but he refuses since she’s not going to eat it and is just going to get offended that she doesn’t like it.  She takes a bite.  She sits there a moment with pie in her mouth, not chewing, not actually eating, then she makes a face and spits it out on the plate, appalled that she hates food even though they've both known that awhile.  There has never been anything edible that Moody Blues has enjoyed putting in her mouth.  Grass, yes.  Marbles, much to his consternation as the one who has to fish them out of her mouth before she chokes.  He’s even caught her nibbling on the ends of spoons.  But actual food?  She hates the taste.  She hates the texture.  He takes the rest of the pie away before she can throw it on the floor and she huffs, demanding he brings it back.  He doesn’t. 

Moody Blues pouts the rest of the day and says curse words in his closet, occasionally peeking her head out to make sure he can hear how displeased she is.

 


 We need its light, we need its heat, we need its energy
Without the sun, without a doubt, there'd be no you and me