Fugo sat at the edge of the wall, feeling the soft wind brush against his face, his feet nearly dipping into the shimmering water below. It was a stark difference compared to Naples, with roads and cars near completely replaced by canals and boats. The hustle and bustle that was usually so inescapable was almost void here, unless you sought it out of course. You couldn’t smell much pollution in the air, and the people seemed happier for it. All the Venetians that Passione was yet to interact with had been extremely upbeat in manner, greeting them with nothing but kindness and positivity, constant smiles and good manners.
However... those actions may have been rooted in fear. Pissing off the Mafia was the last thing anybody wanted to do, after all.
Fugo didn’t pay too much mind to the specifics. They were here on a mission, and the group was staying in this canal-side guest house for the night, a cosy venue that contained a bathroom, a kitchen, a living room and two bedrooms. Much too small to properly accommodate all five of them, however it was the best offer available at such short notice.
Bucciarati was busy talking to the owner, and had left Abbacchio in charge of designating places to the three boys, since the two elders had instantly claimed one of the rooms as their own.
Abbacchio was in a foul mood as usual, and told Mista to sleep on a sofa in the living room, while the remaining two shared the other room. The only reason he gave was ‘age differences’, which made little to no sense. The age difference between Fugo and Narancia was the same as between Mista and the latter, so they all assumed that Abbacchio had assigned places at random and didn’t much care either way. Despite this, they all also knew that deviating from what he’d said wouldn’t lead to anything good, so didn’t even think to protest it.
Mista saw no problem, and collapsed very happily onto one of the sofas, but Fugo? Fugo was lightly troubled. Of course, he had no problem with Narancia, and he hoped that Narancia had no problem with him either. Their friendship - if you could even call it that - had been rocky from the start, and they clashed in many places, though always maintained a basic level of respect for each other. There was no problem in sharing a room.
The problem instead lay inside Fugo’s mind, as he thoroughly believed that Mista and Narancia would have been a better room choice. Those two were actually friends, it didn’t take a genius to see that. They were always at ease around each other, laughing and joking away with reckless abandon.
Fugo sometimes got a little bit jealous. He didn’t admit to himself that he did, but he did.
It was no secret that if there was a group loner, it was him. His personality made him inherently introverted, and most of the time, he only engaged in conversation when it was necessary, or asked of him.
He wondered if Narancia felt bummed out right now, made to spend the evening and night with him instead of Mista. There was no way that he’d ask. That was pointless, and he kept telling himself that the insignificant details didn’t matter. He was here to help the mission, and nothing more, so... why did he feel so needlessly guilty?
None of it mattered anyway. Their jobs came first, there was no need to worry about such trivial things. Narancia probably wasn’t worrying about it, so why did it stick at the front of his mind with frustrating stubbornness?
It annoyed him to no end.
After changing into different clothes, and settling into the room, Fugo had come to sit outside, staring at the setting sun reflecting off the canal instead of awkwardly standing around in Narancia’s presence, not knowing what to say or do to put an end to the mutual silence.
Their room had a large double glazed window replacing one wall, which slid open to a small area outside, enclosed within the building yet still open to the water. A perfect spot to sit and think.
Fugo had lost track of time. The sun was rapidly setting, sending orange and pink shooting across the sky in insane patterns, clouds swirling and thinning out, night quickly approaching. It would soon get too cold to sit out here all alone, and as much as he didn’t want to, Fugo began to collect his thoughts and prepare to go back inside, speculate a little about the rest of the night. Would Narancia break the silence, or would they both stay quiet till the next morning? Would any sort of interaction occur at all?
A particularly vigorous lapping of water at the side of the canal shot droplets of water upwards, splashing him, and he shivered, gingerly pulling his legs up to rest on the side instead of below it. Another repetition of that and he’d have to find something else to wear, or have to wander around in his underwear alone until the rest of his clothes dried, which was not a very pleasant thought.
If only this quiet, serene moment would never end...
The sudden noise made him jump, nearly losing his balance and slipping into the canal.
“... Narancia-“ he started, ready to berate his new roommate, but Narancia was sat down beside him before he could, grinning like an idiot.
“Chill out man, you should loosen up sometimes, take a joke ‘n’ all that!”
Fugo bit his lip, trying very hard to not follow up with ‘jokes are supposed to be funny’.
He sighed, brushing his hair out of his eyes. He was so deep in thought that the sound of the door sliding open passed right over him. He made a mental note to stay more alert. A mistake like that carrying through to work hours could be fatal.
“What are you out here for then? It’s getting late, and cold.” Narancia asked, gazing out at the water, much like Fugo had been doing until that moment.
Fugo couldn’t think of anything else to do other than shrug. He didn’t know what he was doing out there. Just, thinking, but that answer would be lacklustre and had no context.
Cawing of birds echoed back and fourth off the canal sides, fading out of the air till there was nothing but splashing water again.
“... do you want an apple?”
“An apple. There’s a fruit bowl in the kitchen and Bucciarati said I could help myself as long as I didn’t eat the whole lot. Want one?”
Narancia tossed one his way and he caught it in the palm of his hand, making a hearty slap at contact point.
“No problem... you didn’t answer my question, but I guess you probably don’t wanna talk about it.”
The familiar twinges of irritation fired off in Fugo’s thoughts. Why... why oh why... would he assume that he didn’t want to talk about it? Was it not just as likely that he was still thinking of what to reply with?
If one thing really got to him, it was dumb assumptions. Dumb assumptions that did nothing but slow conversation and make it harder to keep talking.
Fugo clenched his fists around the apple, teeth tightening up in equal time, then relaxed.
These emotions were irrational.
“... it’s, not that. I just don’t know what to say to you. I’m not out here for any particular reason.”
He looked satisfied with that answer.
“Oh, right, I get that. Sorta like staring into the distance and zoning out.”
“... something along those lines.”
Narancia took as big of a bite as he could from the fruit in his hand, savouring the slightly sour sweetness spreading across his tongue.
“Mmmmmh, these are good. There was only two left in there. I was gonna offer Mista one, but he’s already snoring face down on one of the sofas, so lucky you, right?” he said, looking over.
Lucky? Lucky for being harshly reminded of his worries from only a few minutes ago? Those two were genuine close buddies. They’d managed to strike up a meaningful connection, even when faced with a constantly dangerous and hostile work environment. Bucciarati and Abbacchio were adamant that their relationship strayed no further than coworkers, however their many evenings spent next to a fire with a glass of wine in hand - talking about anything that came to mind - certainly pointed towards something a bit less formal. Fugo didn’t have a person to confide in like that. Fugo didn’t feel lucky.
Anyway, why was he making small talk out of nowhere? Maybe Narancia felt just as awkward at the uncomfortable silence and found starting a chat easier than he did, and even now that a conversation was happening, Fugo had nothing to say. That made him feel guilty. Guiltier than earlier.
“... jeez Fugo, you’re way more talkative when everyone else is around.”
“... that’s because we need to talk about group strategies.” he replied, a clear edge showing up in his tone.
“I know I know! I just didn’t expect you to be so quiet I guess.”
Was he asking to be punched, or shoved into the canal?
No, that was ridiculous. He didn’t mean any harm with that. He meant no harm. Fugo knew that, nothing he’d said strayed into anything worthy of so much anger, but, god it was hard to keep all the frustrations inside. Despite the stupidity of it all, having his own emotions invaded so violently by what felt like a malevolent angry force, it hurt a lot. The worst part was that the fury felt... justified, sometimes.
Fugo willed for Narancia to let it go and go back inside.
“Back when I was on the streets, I had a friend who didn’t talk much. Didn’t speak unless spoken to, really serious type, ya know?”
“... Mmh hmm...”
“His face was always stuck one way, a bit blank, never smiled, apart from once. Usually, when someone smiles, it’s really average and normal. But, when one day he finally let one loose, it was like... ugh I can’t think of a good comparison... like a baby smiling for the first time! It’s like you’ve succeeded at something.”
“Where are you going with this?”
Narancia finished his mouthful of apple before continuing.
“I’m saying I wanna find out how to make you smile. I’ve never seen you do it.”
“Hah, good luck with that. I don’t have anything to smile about.”
That sounded needlessly somber.
“You don’t always need a reason to smile.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. Nobody just smiles for the hell of it.”
“God I didn’t mean it like that! I’m not good with words ok? I meant that sometimes you just feel like smiling for no reason. Because you’re happy.”
“That’s a reason then.”
Narancia rolled his eyes, smiling in a half sarcastic manner.
“You’re so nitpicky, are you like this with everyone?”
Fugo finally turned to face him, fighting off a scowl.
“Why are you talking to me?”
“... huh? Why not?”
“You’re just criticising everything I say and do. Just go back inside.”
Narancia returned a dissatisfied look, furrowing his eyebrows.
“Hey, Fugo, you were doin’ the same to me, you can’t say shit.”
He opened his mouth for a rebuttal, then closed it slowly. He was right.
Fugo stared at the untouched apple in his hands. Narancia’s confidence was audibly damaged, and though he could not see, he could hear the rustle of his clothes as he almost, retracted on himself. Getting smaller without losing any mass.
“... I just thought since we haven’t talked much, this would be a chance to get to know you or somethin’. Whatever. I’ll go back inside and leave you alone.”
He got up to leave, and as much as Fugo wanted to let him go - say nothing as he walked back inside and closed the sliding door, leaving them more distant than they were before - something irresistible grabbed at him, and he found himself speaking.
“W-Wait, Narancia, I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry. You’re right. I’m too harsh and, pedantic.”
There was quiet for a few seconds, and then a small chuckle as Narancia sat back down.
“I don’t even know what pedantic means, but I’m sorry too. I’ll still go inside if you want.”
“You don’t need to do that.”
“So, what *does* pedantic mean?”
“... well... uhm... I guess it’s just another word for... nitpicky.”
The sunset was reaching its later stages. Deep oranges scattered across the sky, cheerful beams of light bouncing off windows and water alike.
Narancia finished off the flesh of the apple, and to Fugo’s equal horror and awe, he began crunching down on the core, seeds and all.
“- what the fuck? You eat the whole apple?”
“Why wouldn’t I? It’d be a waste otherwise.” he giggled, looking at the tiny stem between his fingers as if he was considering eating it as well.
“Apple seeds produce a small amount of cyanide when digested.” Fugo stated, even though he knew that fact probably wouldn’t stop him.
“They do?! I didn’t know that, well... oh well, I’ve been eating them like that for ages, if they were gonna kill me they would have killed me already.”
“That’s fair. You’d need to eat a few hundred of them in one sitting to be in any danger.”
Narancia flicked the stem into the canal water below, settling back down on the ledge beside Fugo. He could have sworn he was somewhat closer than before... though, maybe not.
“... are apples your favourite then?”
“Hmm? Oh no! They’re good but, my favourite is probably... I... I never really thought about it.”
Fugo raised an eyebrow, and bit the side of his cheek to prevent a tiny smirk from appearing.
“... so not oranges?”
“Why would it be oranges?”
“Oh, you know. Your name.”
Narancia stared at him for a few moments, blank eyed at what he’d just said, until it hit him all of a sudden and he jokingly hit himself on the head.
“Ahh ahh! Na-ran-ci-a, *arancia*, yeah... means orange.”
“... do you not like that?”
“It’s not that, I don’t mind it, I just... I... aha, I haven’t thought much about it. I... don’t think about a lot of things I guess.”
“... I think too much sometimes.”
“... you know, I overthink. I end up creating all these... imaginary scenarios in my head. D... don’t worry about it. Your name suits you, I think.”
“It’s strange... everyone refers to you by your first name while we all call everyone else by their last. Following the pattern, we’d all call you Ghirga, but we don’t. It feels wrong saying that at this point. ” he continued talking, desperately steering away from what he’d subconsciously placed down.
Why was he suddenly talking so much?
“... I... you’re right. But... Mista told me that the reason everyone calls you Fugo is because you hate your first name?” Narancia asked.
Fugo clenched and unclenched his hands.
“... I don’t hate it. It’s... embarrassing.”
“Hmm hmm, means pudding doesn’t it.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“It’s not a *bad* thing, Pannacotta is delicious!”
“Sorry sorry- it just slipped out!”
Fugo wondered if they were keeping anybody else awake with their chat, whether that be Mista or Bruno or Abbacchio, or anyone in the neighbouring houses. Strangely, in that moment, he couldn’t care less. It was an odd feeling. Much lighter and more pleasant than anything else he’d been feeling recently.
“Pannacotta is still pretty long though. Pa-na-co-tta. It takes up a big chunk of the sentence.” Narancia pondered out loud, staring up at the sky as if he was calculating the word length in his head.
“Same amount of syllables as yours though.”
“Oh? ... oh, yeah, you’re right. Is my name annoyingly long?”
“No, it’s fine.”
“... you can shorten it if you want.”
“Narancia, I said it was fine. I don’t find long names annoying anyway.”
There was that familiar sharpness to his tone, and he could tell it instantly put the other boy on edge.
He tried to relax his shoulders and look as unthreatening as he could.
“... which end of your name would you shorten it to.”
“Which end, start or finish. Nara or Cia.”
“I uh... I... I don’t mind, you, you said you didn’t mind so-“
“... Nara is nice.”
Fugo could tell that his face lit up without even looking.
“... you think? I’ve never had a nickname before! It’s uhm... it’s nice. I like it.”
“Do you want me to call you that from now on?”
“... oh fuck no! Mista would tease me for the rest of my life! I’d never hear the end of it, and he wouldn’t say anything but I bet Abbacchio would laugh behind my back as well!”
“- but, uhm... if you want to call me that when it’s just us... that’s fine. It’s up to you.”
Fugo pulled his head up and around, wincing slightly as it ached a little. Spending any period of time slumped over was terrible posture that took a while to wear off for him.
As the twinges of pain subsided, what Narancia had said to him properly sunk in.
For the first time, he had a little something with him that Mista didn’t. He felt... selfish for thinking like that. He wasn’t one-upping the guy, this was just one little thing... he wasn’t jealous...
... or was he?
It felt gross. He felt gross. What was there to be jealous of? Narancia’s friendship? Narancia’s attention? Jealousy never lead to anything good. It was awkward, and uncomfortable.
Maybe he should’ve let Narancia go back inside after all.
“So... if you have a name for me, it’s only fair if I can call you something different as well.” Narancia sighed, shuffling around into different sitting positions to get comfy.
“... what was that?” Fugo blinked, snapping back into reality.
“I saaaaaid, since you have a name for me, I want one for you.”
A nickname for him? He hadn’t considered the conversation heading this direction.
“Is anything wrong?”
“What? No, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?”
He wanted to get in his face and scream at him. He wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him and tell him to get the fuck out of his face, to go back inside and never talk to him again... for his own good... or... did he want that?
No, no he didn’t. He was just asking if he was ok. That was a nice thing, that shouldn’t have made him angry.
A lot of different emotions were collapsing in on each other at once, conflicting ones most of all. He wasn’t ok. Narancia was right to distrust his answer.
This was all happening so suddenly. Out of the blue, they were talking and sitting next to each other without anybody else around. Fugo didn’t know how the two of them stood before, and certainly didn’t now, were they friends, or still acquaintances, or something wavering between the two labels? Did he still feel the same guilt from earlier, or was it all replaced with horrible waves of jealousy and confusion? Too many questions.
The whole situation was making him feel irrationally anxious, and it wasn’t the regular tight feeling he got on the daily, it was deep in his chest and tight around his windpipe at the same time, squeezing as if to choke him.
He hated it.
Every second of it.
Though... maybe, just maybe, he was overthinking things. Just as he’d said earlier.
Maybe it was time to just let things flow.
Nicknames. Narancia was still talking about nicknames.
“... hmm, Fu sounds weird, Go sounds stupid, isn’t that English for *andare*? I think so anyway... I mean... Cotta? Panna?”
Unlike Narancia, Fugo had one in the past. Only the person he trusted and loved most in the entire world used it, and when she died, that was it. He’d just been Fugo ever since.
... maybe it was time to change that.
“Aghhhh I don’t know... Pan? That means bread in other languages, I can’t go around calling you bread... unless you don’t want anything to do with your first name... Fugoooo, I really don’t kn-“
Narancia trailed off, leaving the setting in near silence.
“... my... my nana used to call me that. You can call me that too. If you want.”
He didn’t make eye contact. Family matters were rarely brought up within the team. Each and every one of them was painful, and usually brought on a period of tenseness between anybody in earshot, though somehow Narancia managed to brush it all away instantly.
“... I like it, I think it’s cute.”
“You don’t believe me? I mean it you know.”
“It sounds childish.”
“So whaaaaat? So does Nara. We can be childish together.”
Fugo flinched a little when Narancia shuffled a little closer to him, and tried to relax as much as he could.
“... I... I’m gonna go back inside in a sec. I dunno how you’re still out here and not freezing to death, but... I wanna say something before I go back in.”
The tone of his voice completely changed. One second talking about silly nicknames in a reasonably happy manner, now this, much more somber and sincere.
“Sure thing, what’s bothering you?”
“Nothin’. I’m not bothered at all. I just... I’d probably be dead now if it wasn’t for you, you know, pulling me away from that alley and taking me to Bucciarati.”
Fugo blinked, trying to think of how to reply.
“Goodness me, that came out of nowhere.”
“No it didn’t, I’ve been thinking about it for months and I’ve never got a good time to say anythin’! It came out of my head, not from nowhere.”
“I don’t know, seems close enough.”
“Heyyyy! That’s mean! Wooow, you can make jokes after all huh?”
“Who said I was joking?”
“Awh shut up asshole, do you wanna listen to me or not?”
“Alright alright, I’m sorry, go on.”
Narancia started spiralling a piece of his hair between his fingers, nervously pouting his lips.
“... you saved my life back there. I dunno why you did it, but, I, I’m really really grateful. I owe everything to you, and if there’s ever anythin’ I can do to make it up to you, you’d better tell me.”
“You don’t need to owe me anything-“
“- yes I do! I’ve been way too nervous to talk to you for ages and ages because I’ve felt like I don’t have the right to or somethin’! I made myself come out here to talk to you this time, but it took so long to convince myself to. I hope it hasn’t seemed like I’ve been... ignoring you. I haven’t been. I really haven’t.”
What a cliché. Both of them had completely misinterpreted the other’s behaviour.
“... Naranc-... Nara... I mean it. You don’t owe me anything.”
“You sure? Like... totally sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
At last, the sun dipped behind the buildings of the city, leaving a few lasting colours to fade out into eventual darkness. A new type of cold set in, sudden and jarring, not much alike the soft shivering before.
“... why did you take me in?” Narancia asked.
“I... I just-“
“There are tonnes of homeless kids in Naples. You’ve probably passed hundreds of them sitting there or diggin’ through trash.”
“... there was something different about you. I could tell.”
“I dunno, I’m not all that special, am I?”
“I could see it in your eyes. There was something about you that grabbed my attention... I couldn’t just leave you there. I’m glad I didn’t.”
“... thank you.”
Narancia’s voice went very soft when he said the two words. Not even a hint of dishonesty, it came straight from his heart and Fugo could hear that.
As suddenly as he’d turned somber, he was back to being carefree and excitable as if nothing had happened. He let out a loud yawn, rolling his shoulders to get some feeling back into them.
“I need to go back inside, my feet will bloody fall off if I stay out here, and I need to go straight to sleep as well. Promise you won’t stay out for much longer? I don’t want you to get frostbite or something, we need to work tomorrow and you can’t work if your fingers fall off tonight.”
“I know I know, I’ll be back inside in a bit.”
“Alright, I’ll drag you in myself if I have to.”
“No need for that.”
Narancia pulled himself away from the canal side and stood up, stretching his legs and groaning.
“Yeahhhh, I *really* need to get back inside.”
He said that, but, then just stood there awkwardly. Was he wanting to say something, or, waiting for Fugo to say something?
“... w-well, it... it was nice talking to you. We should do it more.”
“We should, we should...”
The silence ensued, and - unable to contain curiosity - Fugo let the question slip.
“... are you waiting for something?”
He gave him a somewhat sad look, and tilted his head like a puppy.
“I didn’t figure out how to make you smile.”
Oh. That again.
“Oh well, it’s not like that’ll be my last chance right?” Narancia grinned, finally turning away and walking to the sliding glass door, pulling it open and stepping inside.
He looked back, making sure to make clear eye contact, and his face lit up like usual.
“... G’night, Panni.”
The door closed behind him, and Fugo stared for a second. It... it really wasn’t that surprising, but... did he really just say that?
He turned away, feeling an increasing thundering in his chest. What was it?
It felt warm and cosy and familiar, yet was nothing he’d ever experienced before. The freezing temperatures disappeared for those few seconds of internal heat, like a summers day, or a warm blanket and a hot water bottle on a cold night. It reminded him of his beloved grandmother but, this time it was totally different. A whole other kind of safety and security.
Fugo looked at the apple he’d been clutching for a while now, and checked it’s skin for any bruises or impurities, and when he was fully reassured, took a bite. It was good. Perfectly balanced between the realms of sweet and sour, crunchy but not unripe. Debatably a perfect piece of fruit.
What a weird evening. How long had they been talking? Twenty minutes? Half an hour? Really not that long, though so much had happened in that time. They were... friends. Proper friends, or, Fugo at least hoped that. It seemed that way.
Feelings were complicated.
The guilt was all gone.
... you see, Narancia hadn’t been totally correct in his final assumption.
As he finished off the apple and chucked the core into the canal, Fugo let his face relax a little. The forced neutral look faded away, revealing what had been hidden underneath for a good while now.
Hiding his emotions had been a necessary precaution for years, to prevent people from taking advantage of them, or misinterpreting them, however... maybe it was time to open up a little bit.
It happened little by little. It started with the corners of his mouth, spreading across to his eyes and his brows and his cheeks in record time.
Pannacotta Fugo was smiling.