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con te partirò

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Leone Abbacchio has been dead for a grand total of thirteen hours when he meets the second person he can call a friend.

So far it’s been — fine, or whatever.  His old partner greeted him, and broke the news to him, and told him how proud he was, and everything.  There may or may not have been tears, but, it’s fine.  Abbacchio is fine, honestly.  Or, not fine.  He can’t really tell, still shell-shocked from reuniting with the person central to his crippling survivor’s guilt and subsequent downward spiral, from this whirlwind of a mission they’ve been on, from — from dying, actually fucking dying.  His chest aches and his head spins when he thinks about it for more than five seconds.  No matter how hard he tries, even amidst everything else, he can’t stop thinking, I didn’t finish the mission.  He hates leaving shit like that incomplete, more than anything.  It feels wrong, and lazy, leaving for others what he should’ve been able to do himself.  A soldier who leaves his orders incomplete isn’t worth anything at all.

Still, there’s a vague sense that he did something at the end, there.  The echo of an impact on his face and hands, the rough texture of stone under his fingers, and a desperation so profound he thought he may drown in it.  Whatever he did, he hopes it helps.

Now, he sits alone by the sea, listening to the soft rush of waves, breathing in the cool, briny air, and… waiting.  For — well.  Even he isn’t quite sure, but what he does know is that for some stupid reason, there’s already a faint sense of loneliness taking root in his chest.  Seeing his old partner was good, even as it hurt, but — as weirdly awful as it makes Abbacchio feel to think it, he wasn’t family.  And as much of a solitary person Abbacchio is, he’s grown used to having people around him over the past few years.  A very specific group of people.  His family, in a sense.  More than anyone else in the world has any right to call themselves.

He’s halfway through a thought of wishing to see them again when he cuts it off, a superstitious horror to rival Mista’s gripping his chest.  No — as much as he wants to see his team again, he doesn’t want to see them here, not anytime soon.  Not them.  He will watch the sea, and he will see his old partner, and maybe he’ll seek out their families, if curiosity ever finds him.  He will feel this loneliness, such a strange and yet unsurprising feeling, and he will wait.  He’ll be content to wait, so long as it means they lived full lives and did everything they wanted to and ended up happy.  He’ll be content to greet them then, and only then.  Shoving down the voice in the back of his head reminding him of the ridiculous difficulty of their mission, of just who they’re going up against, of the unbelievably slim likelihood that he will be the only casualty — he shoves it away, and watches the sea, grasping for peace with all the might he can manage.  It’s not much, but it spreads over him like a balm, and for now, it will do.

Casting his gaze around for something to distract himself, he notices it after a moment: a small boat, bobbing out on the water.  Abbacchio watches it aimlessly, losing focus of his surroundings as he observes.  It’s the only ship out there on the sprawling expanse of sparkling ocean, with a big cobalt sail to match the sea and sky.  That probably makes it a sailboat — Buccellati is the marine expert, not him — and looks to only be big enough for one person. Its body is small and white, with thin, swirling black decals and metal furnishing that might be gold instead of silver, though Abbacchio can’t tell from this distance.  If he squints, he can see there’s no one on the boat.

Weird, he thinks.  Idly, he wonders who owns it, and how they got it.  How things like that even work, up here, in this land beyond the grave.  If Abbacchio wants a boat, does he have to buy it from someone, or just, like, wish it into existence?

There’s a name on the side of the boat.  Abbacchio can’t make it out, but it looks to be only two words.  Bringing a hand up to block the sun, he squints harder, trying to read what it says.

And then the bus pulls up along the street behind him, and the doors creak open.

Abbacchio stands from his bench and whips around, wide-eyed, boat immediately forgotten.  There’s a strange nervousness fluttering around in his chest, the heart-stopping feeling of standing before a cliff, and for a moment, no one emerges from the bus.  He can’t see the doors, anyways, they’re on the other side, and the windows are tinted.  Then, there’s a few, uncertain footsteps, and someone steps off.  When the bus drives away, Abbacchio finally gets a good look at who it is, and his entire body goes cold.

“No,” he manages to say, when he sees a wild mess of black hair, too-skinny arms, an orange skirt, and a wildly confused expression, and recognition hits him like a stone over the head.  “No — fucking hell, god, no—”

Narancia Ghirga whips around, windswept as all fuck, and his eyes widen.  “Abbacchio!” he cries out, racing towards him with no hesitation.

Choking on his words and his fresh shock for too long, Abbacchio only manages to get out, “Nara—” before the spindly teen crashes into him, wrapping wiry limbs around his torso and squeezing the breath out of him.  Well, metaphorically.  They’re dead, aren’t they?  That’s the whole point.

After an agonizing few minutes spent trying to quiet his screaming mind, the horrible shaking of his limbs, why is he here, oh, god, why — he manages to raise his own arms and wrap them around Narancia.  The boy is trembling, loud sobs muffled from where he’s pressed his face into Abbacchio’s chest, and when he pulls back, his face is a mess, all red and tear-streaked and an awful, terrible mix of grief and guilt.

“I’m sorry,” he wails, “I’m sorry, Abbacchio — w-we had to leave you be-behind — we didn’t want to, but we left you all alone and I didn’t — I’m—”

“What?” Abbacchio rasps, numb and confused as hell, before he remembers — he died on that beach, in Sardinia.  The memory is still hazy, turning fuzzy and fading out somewhere in the middle of his rewind.  There’s a vague recollection of children — something with a football? — and then, nothing.  Aside from that faint ghost of an impact in his face and hands, a feeling of stone, and the soul-deep desperation.  Maybe pain, distantly, but nothing concrete, nothing that will haunt him; a blessing, in a way.  As Narancia cries, apologizing over and over into his now-damp chest, Abbacchio thinks, they must’ve had to leave me there.

For a moment, he thinks about what that must have been like for Buccellati.  For Mista, for Narancia — hell, even Giovanna.  The crying mess of a teen in his arms isn’t doing much to convince him it was anything but heartbreaking.

Not as fucking heartbreaking as this, though — Narancia Ghirga, dead.  Abbacchio is no fool; he knew it was all too likely he wouldn’t be the only member of Buccellati’s team to kick the bucket on this particular mission.  He hoped he would be, even as he knew it wasn’t possible.

But — Narancia.  God, he’s only seventeen.  He’s a fucking kid, he still scrunches up his nose when Buccellati tells him to eat his broccoli and giggles at stupid toilet humor with Mista.  Despite all the fucked-up shit that’s happened to Abbacchio personally, and all the shit he’s witnessed happening to others, he likes to believe that there’s still some justice in the world.  But this….

“I’m so sorry,” Narancia chokes, shuddering, “Abbacchio — I didn’t want to — Buccellati said — I’m….”

He dissolves into wordless sobs, burying his face in Abbacchio’s chest once more and holding him tight, like he’ll disappear if Narancia doesn’t hold him as hard as he can.

Mind still spinning, Abbacchio raising a shaking hand and rests it on Narancia’s shoulder.  “Hey, Narancia,” he says quietly, “It’s… it’s fine, I promise.”  Fuck if that isn’t the biggest lie he’s ever told, nothing about anything right now is even remotely fine.  “I don’t really mind or anything, I swear.  Jesus.”

Narancia pulls back and glares at him, gritting his teeth, trying to look angry even as his expression twists in grief.  “No!  It’s not fine!  We had to leave you there, it was — that’s fucking wrong!  Everyone else thought so — Buccellati didn’t want to leave you, even though he didn’t say it.  He said it was h-his fault… it hurt all of us!  So don’t say that it’s fine!”

Oh, god.  Buccellati said…. Abbacchio shakes his head, shoving away the sharp ache in his chest.  He can think about that later, when there will be plenty of time to hurt.

“You’re right, okay?  It’s not fine.  I mean — I get it, Narancia.  You guys didn’t have a choice.  I don’t really care, personally, but I understand why you… anyways.  It’s fine.  And that brat Giovanna must’ve done something to make it a little better.  That’s why I’ve got all this, right?”  Abbacchio gestures to his body, to the scattered golden flowers blooming all over him.  They blossomed after he talked to his old partner, and there’s really only one explanation for their appearance that he can think of.  “So, like I said.  It’s okay.”

Narancia blinks at the flowers, like he’s noticing them for the first time — probably is, little dumbass — and for a moment, awe overtakes the terrible look of misery on his face.  “Oh… yeah, I think I remember that — he did grow some flowers….”

“Fuckin’ thought so.  Little asshole.”

“Still…” Narancia says, shaking his head.  “You… we… I didn’t want to—”

“I know you didn’t.  It’s okay,” Abbacchio repeats.  He’ll say it as many times as he has to, to get it through this kid’s thick skull.

Narancia whimpers.  “Th-that’s what you said last time… you keep telling me it’s okay, but it’s not!

As Narancia scrubs away a fresh bout of tears from the mess on his face, Abbacchio stares at him, a sense of confusion faint in the back of his mind.

What… what is he talking about?  Last time?  And he keeps — apologizing.  I get it, of course I get it, but he hasn’t even said a word about himself yet… for fuck’s sake, between leaving my corpse on a beach and Narancia dying, one of those is worse than the other.  And Narancia is the type to cry for others, obviously, but he’s — Christ, he’s dead.  So why… why isn’t he….

“Narancia,” he says, “what the fuck are you talking about?  What do you mean, last time…?”

The teen doesn’t look up, still shuddering with the force of his sobs, even as they seem to be winding down.

“Narancia.  Kid.”

Finally, Narancia looks up — and his expression flickers to surprise.  “Huh?  Abbacchio?  I’m… I’m still….”

“You’re still — what?  What are you—”

Last time.  Wait.  Narancia died after Abbacchio.  Not long after, clearly, but — still—

“Wait — hold on, Narancia,” Abbacchio says.  There’s a sudden burning in his mind, a question running hot like a fever, and all at once he realizes how fucking stupid he is for not asking it sooner.  “What happened?  After I died — tell me everything.  And how you — why you’re—”

He waves a hand at Narancia, at him being here, not even wanting to say it, not wanting to speak such godawful wrongness, but Narancia is already frowning at the ground, one hand scratching the back of his head.

“Oh… after you died?  Well….”

Quickly, Narancia gives Abbacchio a rundown of what’s happened in the last half a day.  The image of the Boss that Abbacchio left for them in the stone — Abbacchio feels a faint trickle of relief in the back of his mind, hearing about that.  The mysterious man who summoned them to Rome.  The mold that attacked as soon as they landed in the harbor.  The way Narancia fell asleep in the turtle, exhausted from his injuries, and woke up outside, in the Colosseum, in Giorno’s body.  How everyone was in different bodies, at that point.  Then they were trying to get an arrow away from some Stand, and everyone else’s Stands started going nuts, for some reason….

Abbacchio leans forward, heart hammering.  “And then?”

Narancia frowns, his brow furrowing.  “I don’t really remember… we were waiting for the Boss to wake up, I think?  And then, I was here… did I fall asleep again, or something?”

The words are like a knife to the chest; like a fist through the heart.

“What?” Abbacchio says hoarsely, hands falls to his side.

Narancia doesn’t reply for a moment, still looking around with that puzzled expression, and — oh, god.  That’s right, Abbacchio didn’t know he was dead when he first got here, too — didn’t realize… so why would Narancia be any different?  Oh, fucking hell.

“So that means, I’m dreaming…?  That must be it, ‘cause you’re here, and I saw my mom, earlier… feels weird, though, all real and stuff….”

Abbacchio feels his heart seize in his chest.  God, he can’t fucking do this.  Narancia being here is bad enough, but this….

“Hey, Abbacchio, why am I….”

Willing away the all-consuming ache in his chest, Abbacchio looks at Narancia with immense difficulty.  The confused look on Narancia’s face is fading away, leaving a terrible blankness in its place.

“Abbacchio…?”

He flinches.

Narancia looks up at him.  The expression on his face—

“Why am I here?”

He can’t do this — he has to, but — fucking hell.

“W-wait — hold, hold on, Abbacchio — am I—”

“You’re dead, Narancia,” Abbacchio chokes out.  “Fuck.  You’re here because you died.”

He doesn’t look the teen in the face, not as he says it and not after, not in the ringing silence that remains, because Abbacchio is a coward.  Drowning in the dreadful pain in his chest, he wait, because it’s all he can do, now.

“….No.”

God, he wants to die all over again.  Still, Abbacchio doesn’t look up.

“No — no!  What the hell are you — I can’t be—”

Gritting his teeth, Abbacchio drags his head up and meets his gaze.

Narancia is staring at him, wide-eyed, teeth bared, fists clenched before him, and he gives a hard shake of his head as he cries out, “I’m not — what the hell are you talking about, I’m not dead — I’ve gotta protect Trish — I can’t be, I’m gonna go home — I want to go back to Naples, to go back to school — I’m gonna find Fugo, gonna see him again—”

Abbacchio’s heart is fucking breaking.  He thought it happened the moment Narancia stepped off that bus, but this is — fuck.

Shaking his head again, Narancia whips around, desperately searching for something.  “How do I get back?!” he demands, chest heaving as his breathing starts to come faster, panic closing in.  “I have to go back — they’re fighting the Boss, they’re gonna need my radar, and Aerosmith — I have to go help them, Abbacchio—”

“Narancia,” Abbacchio says hoarsely.  “Narancia.  Stop.”  Please.

Narancia freezes, his shoulders rising.  Then, letting out a furious growl, he kicks at a small rock on the ground, sending it bouncing away, and falls to his knees.  The howl he lets out is long, and wordless, and angry, and buries itself deep into Abbacchio’s mind and heart.

Fuck!” he snarls after a minute, slamming his fists on the ground.  “Fucking — shit!  Why the fuck did the Boss have to — what did Trish ever do to him, huh?!  Fucking shitty bastard — what the hell is his problem?!  Why couldn’t he just let her live — and why did we — why’d he have to kill you — and — and me—

Narancia freezes as the words slip out.  Like saying it aloud suddenly makes it real.

Swallowing, Abbacchio finally steps forward, shocked out of his horrified daze.  He doesn’t know what to say.  He doesn’t know what to do.  God, what the hell is he supposed to do?

A shudder goes through Narancia’s body, and he lets out a heartbreaking whimper.

“Shit,” he whispers, and then roars out, “god fucking dammit!!”  His voice breaks on the last word.  With a loud sob, he slumps forward, collapsing in on himself as his tears return.

“Narancia,” Abbacchio says, but it’s quiet and cracks halfway through, and doesn’t end up sounding much like his name at all.  In his entire existence, he’s never felt this utterly useless.

Suddenly, Narancia gasps, and sits up, his body going still for just a moment.  Then, just as Abbacchio opens his mouth, Narancia lets out another sob, and—

And slowly, gently, vines begin to grow on him.  Crawling their way across his shaking body, they curl over his shoulders and brush his damp cheeks, and as their growth comes to a halt, tiny buds begin to form.  After a moment, they bloom, and their petals are white and streaked with soft pink and they are beautiful, just like the flowers on Abbacchio’s own body.

For a second, Abbacchio doesn’t even dare to breathe.  Narancia, too, remains frozen — with the kind of stillness that only comes from paying close attention to something.  Then—

“Oh,” Narancia says, quiet and wobbly, and begins to cry again.

“What?” Abbacchio demands, “what was it?”

Swallowing back a sob, Narancia chokes out, “H-he said — Giorno, I heard him, I could hear him — he said he’s gonna take me home.  He — p-promised—”

Unable to stand there any longer, Abbacchio stumbles forward, drops to his knees, and grabs Narancia in another hug, as tight as he possibly can.

“I j-just wanted to — to go home,” Narancia sobs, grabbing at the back of Abbacchio’s coat.

“I know,” Abbacchio manages.  He has nothing else to say.  “I’m so sorry.”

“I wanna go h-home — Abbacchio—”

A wretched sob tears through his own chest, mangling his breath.  “I know.  God, I know.  Me too, Narancia.”

For a long while, they remain there together: slumped on their knees, wrapped up into each other’s arms, and sobbing onto one another.  They cry for each other, and for themselves.  For their lost lives, snatched away so very quickly, so very young, in an absence of justice Abbacchio won’t ever forgive.

Shit, Abbacchio thinks, when he’s run out of tears and Narancia is shivering in his arms, this is my job, now.  No one else — hopefully, fucking hopefully — will be coming up here for a while.  I’m all Narancia has — at least, the only one from Buccellati’s squad.  I can’t fuck this up.  Buccellati would never forgive me.  It’s bad enough that this kid is here at all, the least I can do is look out for him.  It’s what Buccellati would do; more than that, it’s what he would want me to do.  All of them – Mista and Fugo too, and even Giovanna, probably, but fuck him still – they would want me to take care of him.  I can’t let them down.

Rallying himself, Abbacchio pulls back with effort and puts his hands on Narancia’s shoulders.  The teen drags his eyes up, looking exhausted and strung-out and miserable, eyes red-rimmed and mouth still wobbling.  A fresh stab of pain goes through Abbacchio’s chest.  Nonetheless, he forges on ahead.

“Okay,” Abbacchio says, his voice coming out all raspy and awful.  “Alright, Narancia.  It’s okay.”  Once again, biggest lie he’s told twice, now, but god dammit, he has nothing else.  “You heard Giovanna.  He’s — he’s gonna bring you home.  It wouldn’t kill him to do something right for once, I guess.  And he and Mista and Buccellati, they’re gonna protect Trish, right?  They’re all strong as hell.  They’ll be able to do it, you know they will.”

“Y-yeah,” Narancia sniffs, “and the French turtle guy, too.”

“French–?  Yeah, uh, him too.  And Trish is strong, you know she is.  She defeated that giant disgusting flesh Stand on the airplane, remember?  She can handle herself.”  Abbacchio takes a breath, steadies himself.  “And when they find Fugo, after all this shit is over — because they will find him, you know Mista’s gonna kick his ass — they’ll tell him what happened to you.  What happened to both of us.”

Shaking under his grip, Narancia’s face screws up, and he lets out an awful sob.  Abbacchio’s heart twists.

“God, Narancia.  It fucking sucks, I know.  You should be alive — you should go back to school and eat pizza, bug Fugo about math and mess around with Mista, give Buccellati a headache and listen to music with Trish, and play with frogs with Giovanna.  But they’re still down there, and they’re gonna do what’s right.  They’re gonna make sure we died for something.”  Taking a moment to breathe, Abbacchio tilts his head down a little and meets Narancia’s gaze, fixing his expression into something gentle and sincere.  “You trust Buccellati, right?”

Narancia sniffs again, wiping his nose with the back of his hand.  “Yeah.  ‘course I do.”  Looking at the ground, he adds, quietly, meekly, “He’s my hero.”

Abbacchio huffs a little on the inside, because that’s adorable, of course, and embarrassing, to idolize a twenty-year-old gangster with a haircut and fashion choices like that.  Not to mention sad as hell, because Buccellati is only twenty, for fuck’s sake, he’s still a kid himself — but nonetheless.  “Exactly.  I trust Buccellati too, more than anyone else.  You know he’ll keep everyone else safe.  We’ll see them all again someday, right?”  When Narancia nods, Abbacchio nods back.  “And in the meantime—”

He stops, choking on his words, because — they’re what he should say, and what he hopes to be the truth, but… even so.  They’re too much.  Too promising.  Too — selfish.  Abbacchio can’t bring himself to—

Slowly, gently, Narancia pushes forward and wraps his arms around him, mindful of their flowers.  “Yeah,” the boy says, “I’ve got my mom.  And I’ve got you too.”

Tears well in Abbacchio’s eyes before he can stop them, and he blinks them back as he rasps, “Yeah.”

“And—” Narancia says, trembling, his voice wet, “and you’ve got me, yeah?”

A strangled sob forces its way out of Abbacchio’s throat, and as his tears fall, he buries his face in Narancia’s hair.  “That’s right,” he chokes out, “and I won’t leave you again.  I promise.”

Once again, for a long while, they cry, clinging to each other like it’s all they can do to stop hurting.  They cry until their tears run out, and they manage to let go of each other.  They breathe, and smooth themselves out, and they sit together on the bench by the sea, and they talk.  And they wait, and wait, and wait, and it’s not okay, they are forever going to be seventeen and freshly twenty-one, and it will never be okay.  But for now, neither of them are alone, and they never will be.  Not again.

And so, together, they wait.

Chapter Text

“Why’s there only one boat?”

After a moment, Abbacchio blinks, and hums as he glances up.  He’s been stuck deep in thought for the last twenty minutes, ever since he and Narancia managed to stop gripping each other with all the strength they have and crying all the while.  Now that they’ve exhausted themselves, Abbacchio has resumed his solitary wait on the bench by the sea — though this time, it’s not solitary in the slightest.  Narancia has kept startlingly quiet, considering — well, considering he’s Narancia.  Abbacchio can only assume he’s stuck deep in thought as well.  Or maybe he’s just been admiring the ocean.

Either way, Abbacchio is glad for the silence.  His reunion with Narancia left him feeling… raw, tired and strung-out and stressed, but somehow calmer and cleaner than before, in a cathartic sort of way.  A little more at peace, despite there still being a void in his mind screaming on and on about the unfairness of Narancia fucking being here, how utterly wrong it is.  The sight of him is still like a knife between the ribs, sudden and sharp and painful, snatching away his breath in an instant.

But there’s nothing he can do about it, now.  And so, even as it burns, Abbacchio allows himself to feel just the slightest bit grateful for not being alone.  It’s good to have company, after all, and Narancia is good-natured and sweet, in an obnoxious, dumb sort of way.  Which explains why the first thing he says in twenty minutes is about — hold on, he asked Abbacchio a question, didn’t he?

“Hm?  What?”  Squinting out at the sea, he spots the boat, blue and white and still alone and unmanned out there, and remembers.  “Oh.  Well, I don’t know, honestly.  I was wondering about that earlier, too.”

Narancia hums, and glances up at him.  “Think somebody owns it?” he asks, a very telling look of mischief already rising on his face.

“We’re not stealing a boat in heaven, Narancia,” Abbacchio says irritably, just barely refraining from cuffing him upside the head.  “For fuck’s sake.”

“Aw, man, you’re no fun.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m the worst,” Abbacchio sighs, only somewhat sarcastically.  “Sue me for not wanting us to get kicked out of heaven.”

Narancia is silent for a few seconds.  Then, he asks, “We can get kicked out?  Is that possible?  Like, is that how it works?”

“Hell if I know.  I don’t want to test it, anyways, seeing as I still have no idea how either of us ended up here.”  It feels inappropriately pessimistic to say it, but, well, it’s something Abbacchio is genuinely wondering, if only distantly.  He’s not going to actively pursue an answer, feeling they should just be grateful, but — they killed people, after all.  None of them in the gang have clean hands, not in any metaphorical sense.  Not literally, either, in Mista’s case.

“Well, we died,” is Narancia’s informed response.

“I meant in heaven, idiot.  Instead of hell, or purgatory, or whatever.”

“Oh.”  Narancia ponders this for a moment.  “Well, it’s probably because I’m super cool and stuff!  And they probably, like, took pity on you or something.”

Solemnly, Abbacchio leans over and noogies Narancia, ignoring the teen’s squawks of protest and flailing limbs as he grinds his knuckles into his scalp and musses up his hair as much as physically possible.

“Ugh, get off—”  Finally managing to squirm his way out of the headlock, Narancia takes a moment to rub his head and attempt to bring some vague level of order to his hair before giving up unceremoniously.  Then, he suddenly gasps, and shoves his face into his hands, groaning, “Ah, shit….”

“Huh?  What’s wrong?” Abbacchio asks, leaning over a little to get down to Narancia’s level.  “Did I shake up a thought or two in there?  Did it give you a headache, having to think for once?”

“Shut up,” Narancia whines.  “It’s just… I just remembered: that new Tupac album came out, like, a week ago, and I bought it, obviously, but I never got a chance to listen to it… and if he comes out with any more music, I’m never gonna hear it, either!  Shit….”

Oh.  For a moment, Abbacchio’s heart aches, both in sympathy and at the reminder that they’re never going home.  Then, he swallows it back, and places a hand on Narancia’s back.  The teen turns a little to peer at him, looking generally bummed out.

“Don’t worry,” Abbacchio says, slowly, awkwardly.  He’s still new at this, but dammit, he’s trying his best.  “We can… I don’t know, haunt Mista and make him listen to your bad garbage rap music, or something.”

“It’s not bad, you just have shitty taste!” Narancia argues, glaring at him.  He looks less sad, though, so Abbacchio counts it as a win, even if Narancia has no fucking ground to stand on when it comes to calling other people’s taste in anything shitty.

Abbacchio tells him this, and gets a smack on the arm for his efforts.  Then, Narancia pauses, and after a moment of thinking, asks, “Wait, so… do you think we can haunt people?”

Abbacchio considers it.  “I’m not sure,” he admits.  “Probably not, I would think, but who knows.  This shit all feels pretty final.”  Not to mention his old partner called this… what was it again?  The final stop?  And he mentioned not being able to go back, too, that’s right.  It makes sense, but it’s still… well.  It is what it is.

Narancia blinks, and casts his gaze downwards, and shit, he looks sad again.  Frowning, Abbacchio quickly adds, “But — see the boat?  I bet you can get stuff like that by wishing for it.  I mean, this is heaven, after all, we should be able to get whatever we want.”

“Like my Tupac album?” Narancia asks, wide-eyed and hopeful.

“…Sure, like your Tupac album.  Or, y’know, a boat.  Or a house, or something.”

“Hmm… what about food?”

“Probably,” Abbacchio says with a shrug.  “I was eating food just after I arrived here — don’t even remember how I got it, actually.  I must’ve wished for it, I guess?  Unless someone cooked it, or something….  Anyways–”

“I bet I could get a really nice knife!” Narancia gasps suddenly, perking up in an instant.  “Or — or a gun!  You gotta let me use one now, Abbacchio.  After all, I can’t really hurt myself, ‘cause we’re already dead, right?”

“Uh.”  Fuck.  “Ah — well.  I mean—”

“Oh — wait….”

Abbacchio blinks as Narancia suddenly stands up, his face slack and eyes narrowed in concentration.

“Huh?  What’s wrong, Narancia?”

“There’s….”  Narancia squints, bringing a hand up to block the sunlight.  “Shit, hold on… I think — there’s someone on the boat?”

Abbacchio glances over, and feels a vague sense of surprise when he sees that there is, indeed, a person aboard the boat, all of a sudden.

“Huh,” he hums, frowning at the figure.  It’s a guy, he’s fairly sure, and he’s wearing, most noticeably, a wide-brimmed sunhat.  Plus a short-sleeve white shirt with some kind of faint pattern… it’s all Abbacchio can see from this distance.  The fact that the man has his back to them doesn’t help, either.  Silently, he wonders where the man came from; if he was already dead, or if he’s only just arrived.  If that’s the case, though, why not come on the bus, the way Abbacchio and Narancia did?  Frowning, Abbacchio continues to watch the man, who seems to be doing something on the boat, now.  Just who is he…?

Then, something clicks in his mind.  Something about the way he moves — Abbacchio doesn’t know what it is.  But all of a sudden, a feeling that’s dark and cold and sharp with many, many teeth grips his chest.  He knows the way — he know — those movements.  The smoothness, the calm surety.  And the silhouette, now that he looks more closely, is familiar, but — no.  God, please, no.

Beside him, Narancia jumps a little, and gasps, “Wait — is that—”

Don’t say it, Abbacchio thinks, already edged with hysteria, as he rises to his feet, too.  Don’t — don’t.  Please.  Not him, too.

Cupping his hands around his mouth, Narancia takes a deep breath, and hollers, “BUCCELLATI!!”

Abbacchio’s breath catches in his throat, and when the man stands up straight, turns around — when he sees straight-cut black hair, and a face he knows as well as his own — something inside of him breaks.

Narancia yells… something, loudly, and goes on and on, and Abbacchio can’t hear him.  There’s only the rush of blood in his ears, humming to the beat of his heart, picking up faster, fear driving a stake deeper and deeper into his ribs, because — maybe, he was wrong.  Maybe he lied, fucking again, and this isn’t heaven at all.

That would make sense, Abbacchio thinks, the words cold and stark against the screaming heat of horror in his brain, if this is hell.  That makes sense, with Narancia showing up, and now Buccellati.  Maybe they’re not actually here.  Maybe this is just to fucking — torment me—

A hand grabs his arm, and he jerks out of his thoughts as Narancia tugs at him, still shouting, and begins to drag him down towards the docks.  As he stumbles along, agony burns his heart numb, because — no.  This is real.  He’s dead, he died, he’s in heaven, and so is Narancia, and so is—

“—Buccellati!  I can’t believe it, we get to see Buccellati!” Narancia crows, happily.  Abbacchio stares at him, barely comprehending what he’s saying.  “How come he gets a boat, huh?  Hey, Buccel—!”

“Narancia,” Abbacchio chokes out.  He feels — gut-punched.  Like he’s been shoved off a cliff, and it’s a long, long way down.  “Fuck.  He’s here.”

Abruptly, Narancia stops.  Abbacchio stumbles to a halt just after, and turns just in time to see the smile sliding off his face.  Watching comprehension dawn across his face is unbearable, but at this point, it’s a drop of water in the pond.  Abbacchio lets him tighten the grip on his arm, watches the heartbreak dawn across his face, and says nothing as Narancia turns and continues to drag him towards the sea, now in a silent, unsteady march, all liveliness and excitement laid to rest.

By the time they get to the edge of the dock, Buccellati’s ship is pulling up, and Narancia’s eyes are full of tears.  As the ship bobs and settles next to them, Abbacchio notices the name written on its side, the two words he couldn’t quite make out earlier: Sticky Fingers.  Another fist to the ribs; another moment in which he can’t breathe.  It feels like the entire universe is playing one big fucking joke on him, in killing Buccellati.  He cares about his old partner, for sure, and he cares about his squad — Giovanna, not so much — but Buccellati is… he’s the only one he’s ever….

And — wait.  This ship was here before Abbacchio was.  So was the deep blue sail, and the familiar black dot pattern, and the gold furnishing — all modeled after Buccellati, and after his Stand, he realizes.  And the name on the side, that was there, too.  Before Abbacchio; before Narancia.

Just what the hell is going on, here…?

There’s the sound of shoes on wood, and he looks up to see Buccellati stepping off his ship.  Kneeling down, he takes a moment to tie it up, wrapping ropes around metal things nailed to the dock.  Abbacchio watches the movements of his hands, numbly staring at the effortless way his fingers fashion the right knots, make the perfect loops.  At his side, Narancia is trembling — in anticipation or sheer emotions, Abbacchio can’t tell.  He can’t even tell if he’s trembling, himself.

As Buccellati finishes, he stands up smoothly, wiping his hands on his pants.  They’re khaki shorts, as opposed to his usual perfectly-tailored pants.  His whole outfit — casual open-toed shoes, the loose short-sleeve shirt with his dot pattern on it, and the sunhat — it’s a soft, comfortable look.  More relaxed than anything Abbacchio can remember seeing him wear.

All other thoughts disappear, however, as Buccellati looks up at them at last, tipping back the wide brim of his hat.  And when he smiles, it’s soft, and sad, and pierces Abbacchio straight through the heart.

Letting out a strangled noise, Narancia takes the remaining two steps between them and throws himself onto Buccellati, wrapping his arms and legs around him as tight as he can.  Buccellati stumbles back, his hat falling onto the dock with a soft sound.  After taking a small step back to steady himself, he blinks, and raises his arms to put them around Narancia.

“Buccellati,” Narancia cries, shaking, “why are you — why—

“Narancia,” Buccellati says softly.  His expression twists, for a second, before he smooths it out into something quiet and sad.  “Narancia, I….”

Unable to move, Abbacchio watches them, caught somewhere between heartbreak and horror and a grief so profound it feels as though he may collapse under the weight of it.  He watches Narancia cry, clinging tight to Buccellati, as if it’s all he knows to do, as if he didn’t just cry himself out less than an hour before in Abbacchio’s arms, and Buccellati looking so lost it hurts.

Then, something shakes loose inside of him, and Abbacchio steps forward, saying, “Buccellati,” with a broken voice.

Buccellati holds up a hand and meets Abbacchio’s gaze.  “Leone, wait,” he says, quiet and clear.

Abbacchio stops sharply, half from receiving an order and half from the weird shock that runs through him, like a spark of static electricity, at hearing his first name, from Buccellati.  Dazedly, he stares at the ground, seeing Buccellati gently untangle himself from Narancia and set the teen down out of the corner of his eye.

“Before anything else,” Buccellati says, settling a hand on Narancia’s shoulder.  “Before you say any more.  Let me do this.”

Abbacchio looks up.  Narancia makes a small sound of confusion.

Taking a deep breath, Buccellati closes his eyes.  When they open, his face is full of endless remorse.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

Abbacchio’s breath catches in his throat.  Narancia takes a step forward, but Buccellati shakes his head and speaks before either of them can get a chance to.

“I’m sorry,” he repeats.  “I’m so sorry, to both of you.  It’s my fault you two died — on a mission driven by my own ambitions and morals, working towards a goal that I chose despite the dangers I knew waited ahead.  Neither of you had anything to do with it, and though you decided to accompany me by boarding the boat in Venezia, I never should have given you the option.  That was selfish of me, and for my mistake, my failings, you’re now both….”

Briefly, he closes his eyes and turns away, his mouth closed in a thin line, with grief, and guilt, accentuated in every line of his figure.  At his side, his hands shake.

Feeling as though he’s drowning, Abbacchio takes a small, unsteady step forward.  Narancia makes an awful sound and says, “Buccellati—

“And even before,” Buccellati continues hoarsely, “even before this mission — I’m the reason either of you joined the gang in the first place.  Abbacchio — I never should have offered it to you.  Doing so when you were in such a state, when you had nowhere else to turn… that was wrong of me.  I should have helped you in some other way, should have found a place for you to recover without bringing you into the gang.  And Narancia….”

He looks at Narancia like it hurts to behold him.  Trembling, Narancia lets out a small whimper.

“I never… I didn’t want you to join the gang at all.  Fugo and I helped you, and then you went home, and that was supposed to be it.  But you went to Polpo on your own, and I… I should have done a better job, dissuading you from joining.  You had a home to return to; you had a school you could attend.  And you threw it away and I didn’t… I should have—”

Shut up!!

Buccellati recoils, and Abbacchio jumps, shock piercing the haze in his mind.

There’s a fierce look in Narancia’s eyes and in the snarl of his bared teeth as he snaps, “Don’t apologize for that!  I chose to join the gang because that’s what I wanted to do.  I wanted to follow you, even though I knew it might get me killed someday.  That was my choice, and I don’t regret it, so don’t — don’t apologize for it!  Fuck — it sucks that we’re dead, but don’t make it sound like we died because you made some kind of mistake!  We bit it because of the choices we made on our own, and none of that is your fault!  You told me not to join the gang, you told me not to get on the boat — but I wanted to work with you, and I wanted to protect Trish, so that’s what I did.  And I don’t….”  He trails away, grimacing.  “I don’t have anywhere to return to, Buccellati, I never did.  I fucking hated school, and my dad hated me, so just… I know that we died, but don’t act like me getting to be with people who actually care about me for the first time ever is a bad thing!”

Buccellati stares at him, shell-shocked.  “Narancia….”

“He… he’s right,” Abbacchio rasps, throat aching as he finally speaks up.  “You’re the reason I survived this long in the first place.  When you found me, I was already waiting to die.  I don’t know what would’ve killed me first – the drinking, or… if I….”

Gritting his teeth, he stares down at his hands, and lets his unspoken words hang in the air, heavy and raw and sharp.  Narancia makes a gut-punched sound.  When Abbacchio looks up once more, there’s a terrible look on Buccellati’s face.

“I don’t know,” Abbacchio continues, quietly.  “What I do know is that you’re the reason I was alive for so long after I… after all that happened.  Not just by giving me a place to live, and food to eat, and keeping an eye on me, and giving me a purpose again.  I needed something to follow, I needed orders to carry out, and you brought me to a place that provided that.  If you’d brought me elsewhere, I would’ve had nothing.  I still would have wasted away, just as I was set to before.”

Even as Buccellati looks like a drowning man reaching for a rope, he shakes his head a little, eyes full of pain as he stares at Abbacchio.  “I… even if you’re right, I still shouldn’t have—”

“Maybe not.  Maybe you should have done something else, helped us in a way that didn’t involve the gang,” Abbacchio interrupts.  He feels hot and cold and half out of his body, and he has to say this.  He has to say it.  “It doesn’t matter, now.  We made our choices, and this is where it got us.  You don’t control us.  You didn’t make any decisions for us.  It wasn’t your fault, and I don’t blame you.”

“Me neither,” Narancia states firmly, crossing his arms and nodding once, hard and sure.

Buccellati stares at them.  There’s a crack in his expression, now, the slightest glimpse of overpowering grief peeking through.  “You guys… I’m….”

Fuck,” Narancia cries, and throws himself forward again, wrapping his arms tight around Buccellati.  This time, he wilts where he stands, letting the teen hold him, letting himself be held.  After a moment, Abbacchio steps forward, placing a hand on Buccellati’s shoulder.

“I don’t regret it,” he says, soft and hoarse.  “I know it got me killed, but I’m glad I joined the gang, because I got to meet you, Buccellati.  You’re the reason I lived for so long, but not just because of what I said.  You’re… fuck, you’re good, Buccellati.  You’re so good, being around you made me better, if only a little.”

You’re the best person I’ve ever met, and I love you, and you died, he doesn’t say.  Instead, he stands there, feet on the ground and hand on Buccellati’s shoulder, sun-warmed, but somehow he feels as though he’s falling, between one second and the next—

—until the realization hits him like a bolt of lightning, and he freezes.  Oh, god.

“Buccellati,” he says, strangled.

Under his hand, he feels Buccellati go still, and turn to look at him.  “Abbacchio?”

“You….”  Fuck, he can’t do this again, he fucking can’t.  “We’re dead.  And you… do you know.  That you’re….”

In his peripheral, Abbacchio sees Narancia freeze, and scramble off of Buccellati, hissing, “Shit, fuck, I didn’t — Buccellati — do you—?”

But Abbacchio only has eyes for Buccellati.  And when Buccellati smiles reassuringly, and nods, and says, “I know, Abbacchio.  I know that I’m dead, you don’t have to worry.  I’ve been dead for a long while, now,” that’s when Abbacchio feels his heart stop.

“What,” he croaks out.

“Buccellati…?” Narancia says, quiet and confused.

Sighing, Buccellati drops his head a little.  “It… it happened a few days ago.  When I fought the boss in Venezia, he killed me.  Giorno found me, and healed me right as I died.  The only thing that kept me going is the life energy I received when Gold Experience fixed my wounds.  That’s what let me cling to my body as a soul.  Living on borrowed time, I suppose.”

“Oh, fuck…”  Narancia stares at him, eyes wide and heartbroken, “Buccellati, I’m….”  Then, he stops.  “Wait.  Is that — why you got a boat?  It was here before you showed up… what’s up with that?”

Buccellati hums, glancing over at the ship.  “I think so… I think it’s a marker for me, of sorts.  It’s been waiting for me to get here, since I already died.  Like a reserved seat at a concert.”

“Whoa….”  Narancia leans around Buccellati, staring at the boat with a newfound look of awe on his face.

Abbacchio doesn’t look.  Abbacchio is staring at Buccellati, and everything else is falling away, those words echoing in his ears—

I’ve been dead for a long while, now — it happened a few days ago — he killed me — living on borrowed time—

Buccellati died before him.  Abbacchio had to live and breathe in a world where Bruno Buccellati walked around as a corpse, lived in rotting flesh, existed without a heartbeat, and he didn’t even know it.  Abbacchio didn’t even know.

“Buccellati,” he manages to say, somehow, when there’s no air in his lungs, nothing, nothing but emptiness and shock and cold.

This isn’t how it was supposed to go.  Abbacchio did his replay — Abbacchio fucking died, he died so that they could figure out the Boss’s identity, and find him, and kill him, so that no one else would have to die.  And now — Narancia being here is bad enough, Narancia being here is a fucking tragedy, but Buccellati is — he’s — Abbacchio did this for him.  In so many ways, it was all for Buccellati.  At the very least, he lived and died believing it would all be for a world where Buccellati is still breathing.  He didn’t even think about it.  That was supposed to be a given.

Mista lost Narancia and Buccellati, he thinks, dazed.  Fugo lost them — even fucking Giovanna did.  And they lost me, too.

He’s doesn’t feel like falling, not anymore — he’s landed, by now, not on solid ground but something much worse, hitting the hardest possible truth of this world: Bruno Buccellati is dead.  Bruno Buccellati died at twenty, and he died before any of them did, and he lived as a corpse.  The kindest soul he’s ever met spent his last days of existence as a fucking zombie, and nobody knew it.  He’s dead.  He’s dead.  He’s dead.

Abbacchio falls to his knees.

There’s a shout, and a gasp, and his knees sting, and it all fades.  It doesn’t matter.  Everything felt wrong when Narancia got here, when he saw the bright soul of his young friend, far too early, but with Buccellati — it’s wrong for either of them, but for him — for him, it’s—

“Abbacchio.”

He jerks back — Buccellati kneels before him, leaning close, expression soft with sorrow and concern.  Abbacchio stares at him.  His hands rise — his face is hot, and his eyes burn, and as he takes Buccellati’s face in his hands, hesitant and shaking, his chest cracks right down the middle, and he lets out a whimper, an awful, choked sound of anguish.

Buccellati leans into his touch, ever so slightly, and Abbacchio shakes his head.  There’s nothing left inside of him, anymore, just this terrible pain, and everything in him screaming at fate, desperately—

“Why did it have to be you?” Abbacchio sobs, holding Buccellati’s face with whatever strength he has left.  Buccellati just — watches him, with eyes of immeasurable sadness.  Abbacchio feels as though he’s falling apart, as if his grief and misery will shake and tear him to pieces.  “God, Buccellati — why the hell did it have to be you?

“I’m sorry,” Buccellati whispers.  He brings his hands up, placing them over Abbacchio’s with immeasurable gentleness.  “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.”

Still standing before them, Narancia sniffs before he drops down and wraps his skinny arms around both of them all in one movement, shoving the three of them together into one shaking, weeping mess.  Abbacchio’s hands move, one arm going around Buccellati and the other around Narancia, and as he feels two of the dearest people in his life tremble along with him, all Abbacchio can think is that it isn’t fair.  They can’t do anything about it, not anymore, but — they died.  He already cried with Narancia, for the teen and for himself, but even if Buccellati is here barely an hour after, it’s not as if they can just not do the same for him.  He’s dead — he’s been dead, and there’s nothing they can do about it.  It’s not right, and it’s not fair, and it hurts more than there are words for it.

After a long while, after what feels like an eternity of stumbled breaths and stinging eyes and the calm lapping of waves on the dock underneath them, Buccellati takes a shaking breath and pulls back.  Abbacchio and Narancia follow suit, and as he wipes off his face, Narancia perks up and glances over at Buccellati.

“Hey, so… what happened with the Boss, and all that?  Did he get the arrow, or what?  Are the others okay?”

Ice jolts through Abbacchio, and his still-blurry gaze snaps to Buccellati, a sudden fresh desperation in his heart, please, don’t tell me we’ll have to greet another.

Buccellati smiles, and relief flows like a warm rain over Abbacchio as he says, “They’re fine.  When I… departed, they were okay.  I made sure to leave the arrow in Giorno’s possession, so I don’t think we have anything else to worry about.”

“Good,” Abbacchio mutters, swiping at his eyes.  Fuck if he knows what any of that means, about the arrow and Giovanna getting it, but to know they won’t be getting any more company — good.  If he has to greet another member of his family today, he’s going to go insane.

“Actually,” Buccellati starts, and then turns away, a shadow of uncertainty passing over his face.

“Hm?”  Narancia leans sideways, eyes wide.  “What’s up, Buccellati?”

“Well…” Buccellati says hesitantly.  He frowns at the dock, not quite meeting their eyes.  “I was wondering.  Have either of you… met anyone else, here?”

“Huh?  Oh — yeah, I saw my mom when I first got here!” Narancia exclaims, grinning widely.  “She was super mad ‘cause I joined a gang and stuff, but then we got to hug for a while.  It was really nice.”

“Yeah, I met someone too,” Abbacchio mutters, not bothering to go into details.  He doesn’t want to talk about it.  Glancing up, he regards Buccellati for a moment before he speaks again.  “There’s someone you want to see, isn’t there?”

Buccellati smiles a little, sad and soft.  “My dad,” he admits, finally bringing his head up to meet Abbacchio’s gaze.

The words stall for a moment in Abbacchio’s head, caught up in the shards of grief and shock still scattered about his mind, but when he comprehends it, his broken heart aches.  One more thing he’s learned about Buccellati, now, and it’s something as tragic as this.

“Oh….”  Narancia looks appropriately crestfallen, similarly appreciating the sadness of this, before he perks up.  “Well, that’s okay!  We can go find him now!”

“I — I guess we can,” Buccellati answers, blinking.

Grinning, Narancia hops to his feet and gives Buccellati a hand in getting to his.  Still not fully back in the moment, it takes Abbacchio a second to realize Buccellati’s hand is outstretched towards him.  Taking a deep breath, Abbacchio takes his hand, and stands.  As they walk, Narancia immediately begins to talk.

“So, what happened to your dad?  Did he die a while ago, like my mom?”

“Well….”

They make their way back up the hill towards town to the tune of Narancia’s chatter and Buccellati’s even tone.  Abbacchio is grateful they’re talking amongst themselves and not trying to rope him into the conversation, because it gives Abbacchio a chance to pull himself together, after — after all that.  God.  Narancia showing up broke his heart, but Buccellati’s arrival broke his mind.  His chest still aches, as if it split open under the weight of all that grief, all that endless shock and horror at the sheer cruelty of the universe, letting Buccellati die before his time.

He takes another deep breath, letting it out slowly, with a steadiness he barely feels.  He’s got to get it together if Buccellati’s going to be here, from now on.  There’s no way he can fall to pieces again, not with him around.

A hand touches his shoulder, and Abbacchio starts.  Glancing around, he realizes they’re back at the top of the hill, just next to the bench he’s been frequenting so often in the past day.  At Buccellati’s slight smile and tilted head, he takes a seat next to him as Narancia bounces back and forth before them.

“Oh yeah, that reminds me!” he says excitedly, in response to… whatever Buccellati said.  Abbacchio wasn’t listening.  “I totally bet my mom is gonna love you guys!  Here — hold on, I’m gonna go find her!  I’ll see if I can find your dad too, Buccellati!”

With a skip in his step, Narancia bounds around them and dashes off into the city.  Abbacchio twists and settles his arm on the back of the bench, watching the teen run for a few moments before the bad feeling in his chest solidifies into something palpable.

“Shit — we shouldn’t let him wander off too far,” Abbacchio mutters, starting to rise as well, until—

“Hold on a minute, Leone.”

Abbacchio freezes, and sinks back down.  At his side, Buccellati takes a deep, long breath.  “Hold on,” he says again, gently.  “Narancia will be fine.  Let’s give him a moment.  I want to watch the ocean for a little, anyways.”

“I, uh — okay.”  Abbacchio settles back, still a little shaken from — well, from everything, but mostly from — that.  From Leone, again.

Humming softly, Buccellati turns and faces the sea, a look of calm spreading over his expression.  Abbacchio watches him for a moment, eyes trailing over his face — his smooth, dark hair, the clear blue of his eyes, the soft curve of his lips, the line of his jaw — before looking away.  There’s a wrinkle of something like nervousness in the slight frown on his face that makes Abbacchio understand a little more clearly why, exactly, he wanted to stay here for a moment.  Seeing his father again, after so long… of course he’ll need time to gather himself.

Abbacchio can’t say he doesn’t feel the same way, though certainly not from any reason involving parents.  No, he just needs time to get his mind in order, once again.  This time regarding the way his first name sounded coming out of Buccellati’s mouth, not once but twice.  Even though it’s — it’s nothing.  It probably doesn’t mean anything, and he should forget about it.

But he can’t.  His brain won’t let it go.  Narancia and Buccellati’s deaths are a question with an answer, over and done with, and there’s nothing he can do about it except pretend that someday, he’ll be okay with them dying so young.  But this — this, he doesn’t understand.  And despite his fear, despite his apprehension, he has to know the truth.  Has to know why.

Finally, Buccellati sighs quietly, and rocks back for a moment before standing smoothly.

“Alright.  Let’s get going, then.  We don’t want to keep Narancia waiting.”

Abbacchio stands too, unsteadily and too quickly, and before he can think about it for any longer, his mouth opens, and he calls out—

“Wait.”

Buccellati turns back, his expression open, and before Abbacchio can back down, he shoves out the words, from where they’re rattling around in his brain.

“Why — why do you keep calling me Leone.”

Buccellati’s face falls, just a bit, and he takes a step back towards Abbacchio as he says, “I should have called you that when we were alive.  Now that we’re dead… I don’t want any more regrets.”

He takes one step closer.  Reaching out, he takes Abbacchio’s hand in his own.

“Buccellati,” Abbacchio says in a choked voice.  This is — it’s too much.  It can’t be what he thinks it is.  On top of everything, it’s….

Once more, Buccellati looks sad.  “No.  We’re not in the gang anymore, Leone.  Call me Bruno.”

“I — I don’t—”

“Leone.”

“Buccellati, I can’t—”

Leone.”

Abbacchio freezes under his gaze and turns away.  He wants to, but… his face burns.  His whole body feels hot.

“I… Bruno,” he manages.  It comes out strangled and doesn’t sound quite right, but it’s there.

Buccellati takes another step.  Their arms touch.  “Leone,” he says softly, and he sounds happier.  More peaceful, somehow.

Still, Abbacchio feels like he’s gonna die all over again, except this time not from emotional agony, but severe confusion and the sensation of Buccellati’s hand in his own.

“I don’t… I… why?” he asks hoarsely, and it’s pathetic, but he has to know.

Buccellati consider it all the same, tilting his head just a bit.  “You called me good, Leone,” he says at last, “and so you should know I think the same of you.  I could never say it, not while we were in the gang — not when we could die at any moment, not when it would distract us from the severity of our jobs — but… I think you’re truly amazing.  After everything that’s happened to you, you still strive to find the truth.  You still wish for justice, deep in your heart; I can see it.  You were the first to board the boat, after all.  And you’re kind, in ways I don’t even think you’re aware of.  And I think… I think you feel the same, about me.  Do you—”

“I love you,” Abbacchio chokes out, through the tears in his eyes and the knot in his chest, through the golden haze of wonder and shock and hope and joy at Buccellati’s words, at — this.  At the way something so good and filled with love could come out of a day so awful and bloody and rotten with death.  “God.  I — I love you, Bruno.  I’m so sorry.”

Reaching out, Buccellati gathers him in a hug.  Abbacchio drops his head onto his shoulder, and shudders as he falls apart once more.  Collapsing is easy, at this point, when he has fallen to pieces so many times in one day, and found himself less and less capable of putting himself back together at the end of each instance.  He’s so tired and raw and full of pain and happiness, and he feels as though he may pass out any second from the throbbing noise it all makes in his head.

“It’s okay,” Buccellati murmurs, pressing him ever closer.  “I promise, it’s okay.”

“It’s not,” Abbacchio chokes out.  “Fuck, Bruno, you died.  That’s never gonna be okay.  So did Narancia… god, he’s just a kid.  He didn’t even realize he was dead when he first got here.  I had to tell him.  I’m… I can’t….”

Even as it feels like a weight is lifted off his chest at speaking that awful scene out, Abbacchio’s heart aches when he feels Buccellati go still.

“I’m so sorry.  That sounds….”  His hand tightens where it grips the back of Abbacchio’s jacket.  “I’m sorry.  But you should know — he really does seem to be okay, now.  I think that’s mostly thanks to you.”

Abbacchio frowns and buries his face deeper in Buccellati’s shoulder.  “I’m… if you say so.”

“I do.  That’s what I believe.  And, Abbacchio….”  Buccellati pulls back, and fixes him with a serious look.  “Don’t ever apologize for loving me.  Not ever again.”

Abbacchio nods a little, wilting where he stands.  He doesn’t have the energy to argue anymore.  Besides, how could he apologize for something that lives so deep in his heart?  “Okay,” he whispers.

Placing a hand on his jaw, Buccellati guides his head up so he’ll meet his gaze.  “You know I love you too, right?”

“I—”  Abbacchio blinks once, twice.  “Yeah — I — I’m—”

It’s — too much.  He can’t wrap his mind around it.  The idea of it sinks in, through several layers of cotton and blank shock, and stays there, waiting for him to regain some semblance of comprehension abilities.  The idea of accepting that Buccellati cares for him — in the same way he cares for him, even — it’s too much to ask, that he could grasp it, after everything that’s happened today.

Buccellati reaches back out and hugs Abbacchio gently.  Tension leaks from Abbacchio’s body, and with a quiet sigh, he relaxes.

“I understand,” Buccellati continues, after a moment.  “It’s going to be okay.  It may not be okay now, but it will be.  I’m here.  You have me, and you have Narancia.  We won’t leave you.  I promise.”

A snort escapes Abbacchio, before he can stop it.  How ironic, to need the same words repeated back to himself that he told Narancia not so long ago.  Still.  Even if he knew it to be true, hearing it spoken aloud that he won’t be alone is, at the very least, a comfort he can accept and indulge in.

“Alright,” he says, his voice husky.  At long last, he raises his arms, and returns Buccellati’s hug.  “Alright.  Okay.”

They stand there for a timeless stretch, holding each other close, their hearts soothed by a sort of peace neither of them have felt in far too long.  Slowly, they break apart, and step back to settle onto the bench once more.  Hand in hand, they admire the water together, and the vibrant array of colors cast across its surface as dusk finally draws near.

As the setting sun begins to darken, Abbacchio finally speaks.  “How… how long do you think we have, up here?” he asks, casting his gaze to the side to see Buccellati’s reaction.

The other man’s face is pensive as he mulls over the question.  “I don’t know,” he says truthfully.  “I’ve heard in myths from other countries that you only live on in the afterlife so long as there are people alive to remember you.  But, well, who knows?”

“Well, in that case, nobody else better die,” Abbacchio mutters aggressively.  “If I see Fugo or Mista — or even Trish — up here anytime soon, I’m going to lose my mind.”

“What about Giorno?”

Abbacchio shrugs.  Just for today, he doesn’t feel in the mood for admittedly-petty hatred.  “Whatever.  I don’t want to see him, of course, so I guess… yeah.”

The small smile on Buccellati’s face tells Abbacchio that he seems to understand that’s the best he’s gonna get, regarding Giorno.  “Me too.  I don’t think we have anything to worry about, honestly.  I believe in them.”

“It’s all we can do, now,” Abbacchio answers.  Somehow, it does not seem as damning of a sentence as it once did.  Not with Buccellati at his side.

“And besides,” Buccellati adds, knitting his fingers between Abbacchio’s, “no matter how much time we have left, I want to spend it well.”

A peaceful warmth swells in Abbacchio’s chest, the first thing since Narancia arrived to make him feel less broken, and a smile rises on his face as he squeezes Buccellati’s hand.

Now, with that question of how long they have left taken into consideration, Abbacchio feels… different, in a way he’s not quite sure what to do with.  It feels as though they’re in free-fall, waiting to hit the ground, but not in a detached way, like before.  Not in a way that makes him feel as though the ending shock could destroy him.  More than anything, it leaves him with that quiet, humanistic adrenaline rush, provoked when faced with uncertainty: without knowing how much time they have left, what do they have to lose?  What reason do they have for not taking advantage of every moment possible?

“Oi, Buccellati!  Abbacchio!”

Both of them startle at the sound of Narancia’s far-off shout.  Together, they turn to see, their hands falling apart from each other.  From the edge of the city, Narancia waves at them both, a wide grin on his face.  At his side, there’s a woman barely taller than Narancia, with the same dark hair and stature, who has an arm around the teen’s shoulders.  On his other side is a tall man with dark hair, and an awkward sort of posture—

“Father,” Buccellati whispers, his shoulders sagging.

Slowly, hesitantly, Abbacchio reaches out and puts a hand on Buccellati’s shoulder.

“Um, B-Bruno,” he stutters, when Buccellati glances over to him, looking lost.  It’ll take getting used to, but Abbacchio has time, if nothing else.  “Let’s — I mean.  Are you ready?”

“I’m….”  Buccellati looks down, and shakes his head sharply, as if to forcibly clear his thoughts.  When he looks back up, his eyes are hard steel and determination, and a yearning that makes Abbacchio ache.  “I’m ready.  Let’s go.”

Together, they rise, and join hands once more as they step towards their family; towards their future.  Their feet are on solid ground, and their hearts are full of grief and love.  In time, the grief with fade.  The love, however, will not.

And so, together, they continue on.