“Oi. Oi. Are you even paying attention, shit-for-brains?”
Fugo prodded at Narancia’s cheek, each poke getting exponentially more forceful. Narancia’s hazy daydream cracked, crumbling away just enough for him to aimlessly swipe at Fugo’s hand.
“Who are you calling shit-for-brains?!” The more Narancia’s manufactured reality crumbled, the more aggressive he became, and the better his aim got. Deciding, quite wisely for a change, to keep the situation from escalating into a slapfight, he brought his elbow down hard on the table.
Fugo, though still agitated, understood. But he wasn’t going to release his bite that easily.
“So.” The pause exuded dread. ” Did you finish your problems?” Fugo loomed over him, a poisonous, yet intoxicating tone dripping off his words. Those experienced with Fugo might understand; this was the taste, the scent, of nitroglycerin. A wretched feeling hung in the air. Anything could cause him to go off. And anyone who knew him, knew that at this point, it was essential to tread carefully. But, even through the years, this was something Narancia never thought about.
Fugo placed a firm hand on Narancia’s shoulder, as if to tell him he couldn’t run. Leaning over Narancia’s shoulder, he glared at the paper. Though a normal person would be tense at a moment like this, caught between a maniac’s face, and his hand, it never seemed to click for Narancia. Perhaps he truly was a shit-for-brains. Or, perhaps, he just found it comfortable.
“I took a damn break, get off my case,” Narancia whinged, leaning away from Fugo’s face.
Surprisingly, seven out of the ten problems were done. Not all of them were correct, but at least the mistakes could border on understandable. The page was covered in tick marks and doodles, while Fugo’s neat handwriting stuck out. Though Narancia’s organizational skills were a mess, if not nonexistent, both boys could understand it perfectly. Of course, they were the only ones.
“Very well,” Fugo sighed, standing up straight. The shadow draped over his eyes dissipated.
“I suppose I won’t make you do all of them. You worked hard.” He walked out of the kitchen, every single step he took seemed different. His gait didn’t change, but his footsteps were louder than usual. He paused underneath the archway when Narancia said something to him.
“Ehhhhh? You’re not gonna get on my case?” Narancia slid out of his seat, confused and cautious.
“Of course I’m not. Do you think I enjoy yelling at you?” Fugo involuntarily let out an wry chuckle.
Narancia choked on air, hesitating greatly to reach his answer. Wordlessly, he gyrated his hands, genuinely speechless. This concept was entirely new to him. The only thing to escape his lips was a weak, nervous laugh.
Fugo’s shoulders dropped.
He made no other sound as he left the room. Not even footsteps.
This week was a special one. They still went on missions, but the location was what changed their behavior.
This mission was in Bruno Buccellati’s hometown on the outskirts of Napoli. And nightly, the place they all laid to rest, was the very home he was so quick to offer.
No one had seen it, as no one had felt comfortable enough to take the offer, after all Buccellati had done for them.
Though it was small, it was still grand in spirit. It was clean, and organized, and had that warm feeling. Even people just seeing it for the first time could experience the memories.
Spectres of a happy child, playing with his mother and father. Rough ticks on a pillar, stretching to the height of a seven year old, were dated and clear-coated, so that nobody could damage them.
It truly was home, even to those who had only been there a day. It relaxed those inside it, brought down their guards, and soothed their hearts.
Buccellati, Abbacchio, and Mista were out. It was a simple preliminary investigation, but a mission nonetheless. The assignment could take a week, perhaps a month. Less, if they died. For a week, they had to live in that house. Not too bad.
Alone at the time, Fugo and Narancia rarely spoke. In this new setting, they were comfortable. So comfortable, they were cautious of getting too comfortable with each other. Bonds on their hearts loosened every second they were in that home. They felt vulnerable. A pulsating core in their throats, raw and glowing was on display to everyone else. And with a simple poke, everything they had kept hidden would come gushing out.
A strange juxtaposition between fearing contact and craving it was soon established.
Fugo laid on the bed, his eyes drifting over pages of a book. No knowledge was absorbed, but it was an adequate distraction. The sunlight through the window, his fingers on the pages, the cool air, made it irrelevant what the book held.
Fugo had learned very differently from Narancia. When his haze was interrupted, it dissolved at a proper pace for him to regulate, instead of crumbling into chunks and throwing him into a rage. Narancia stepped into the room, making only slight noise, but amidst the silence, it could stop a heart.
“Yes?” Fugo shut his book, caught ever so slightly off guard. The word tumbled off his tongue automatically.
“Are you… mad at me?” Narancia made weak gestures toward himself, the oxygen draining from his lungs the longer he carried on his sentence.
Fugo sat up, more attentive, more cautious, even worried, but said nothing.
“Disappointed?” Narancia approached the bed slowly, blindly trying to navigate his way through Fugo’s psyche. Fugo again, said nothing.
As he was navigating blindly, Narancia couldn’t help it. He was going to have to grab, pull, and prod to understand his surroundings.
“I mean, I didn’t finish my work or anything. Doesn’t that make you angry or something? Are you okay? Why aren’t you mad at me?” Firing off questions like that, with such an innocent face, made Fugo crack. He sighed a bit, breath catching in his throat. It sounded almost like a whine.
“No, I’m not mad. Nor am I disappointed.” Fugo swept his legs off the bed, preparing for a regulated explanation as to how much he cared about Narancia’s future, as all professors do.
“I’m actually pretty proud. I honestly don’t like to yell at you.”
He left it like that, hoping Narancia would take the answer and leave, before he had to start gushing. He was afraid he wouldn’t know when to stop.
“Are you sure?” Narancia squeaked cautiously, backing away.
“What the hell do you mean, ‘Am I sure’? Of course I’m fucking sure! I’m always sure!”
It had begun.
“Have you ever known me to not be sure, idiot?!” Fugo leaned over Narancia, brimming with impatience. He didn’t mean to do this. This was the last thing he wanted to do. Narancia hovered his hands over Fugo’s chest, leaning back with a wide, shit eating grin.
“Are you su~ure?” Narancia wheezed, clearing his throat and licking his dry lips as he tried desperately to suppress laughter.
Fugo swept himself back onto the bed behind him, utterly mortified. His face was nearly as red as his suit. Narancia freely broke out into loud, wheezing, cackling, wilting-to-the-ground laughter.
“Narancia, I’m sorry I yelled at you! I really didn’t mean to-”
“No-- No it’s fine--” Narancia belted out between laughs. Breathlessly, he wiped a tear from his eye, gasping for just enough air to let it back out in explosive laughter. He tried to calm himself with deep breathing, but into only exacerbated the problem. He curled up on the ground, absolutely losing his shit, fist pounding against the floor.
“Narancia!” Fugo whined through gritted teeth, having not felt so embarrassed in years.
“No, no, I’m sorry man,” Narancia sighed, finally giving himself a break to breathe. He rolled onto his back, black hair splayed on the floor, tears gleaming in his eyes.
“It’s actually really fuckin’ cute when you apologize like that.”
Fugo stared at him blankly, letting the sentence run through all the processes of his mind. Then again. And again. He mindlessly started feeling around the holes in his suit. It still didn’t make any sense.
The moment he said the word, he understood. A boulder materialized in Fugo’s stomach.
“Wha-What? Ah--! I didn’t say nothin’!” Narancia flipped onto his hands and knees like a cat, stumbling to get on his feet. He looked as feral as he did the day Fugo picked him up off the streets.
“You didn’t hear nothin’!” Narancia rapidly headed out the door, head down, rubbing the spots he had hurt himself in his laughing fit.
In the absence of a proper response, Fugo gradually collapsed down, onto the floor, in Narancia’s place.