The paper target had been shot to pieces. With the slightest flutters, more scraps fell from the paper body until it was unrecognizable. How easily this thing in the shape of a person had come undone.
Guido Mista stared with some surprise at the man next to him, whose handiwork this had been. In truth, he thought he’d been some arrogant tryhard. That self-assured walk into the range, and that ridiculous gun-spinning just to shoot at a target. But this man clearly had skill. With a cool turn of his gaze, he briefly returned the look. Mista could still feel himself in the corner of his eyes.
Averting his own eyes, Mista returned them to the target in front of him. Adopting his typical shooting calmness, he reloaded his revolver, making a show of slowly and carefully aiming it. The first shot had barely reached the target’s gun-pointing hand before the next reached its head—then its heart, its stomach, and the rest of its vital points. Shots so easy for Mista to make that he didn’t need to put any effort into aiming at all.
An approving, somewhat impressed, grunt drew his attention back to that man. “I’ve gotta say, I don’t see many other people using revolvers nowadays. Name’s Ocelot, by the way.”
“Mista,” he returned.
Ocelot nodded. “Why do you use a revolver? You get only six shots, and there’s a lot of recoil—most can’t handle that.”
Mista shrugged. “It was the first type of gun I ever used. I ended up in a fight with some… unsavory characters, and ended up having to shoot them with one of their own guns. I never really felt the need for any other type of gun. The revolver suited me just fine.” He thought for a bit, eyeing Ocelot. “You look like you’ve been using those guns for a while. Do you stick to them out of habit?”
Ocelot shook his head. “Someone I admire suggested that I use a revolver. Said it suited my technique best. He was right.” He took a breath, looking at Mista as if trying to search him for something. “Have you ever known someone you can’t help but respect? Well… respect’s not quite the word. Too impersonal… I mean, someone you’d go anywhere, do anything for?”
“Someone whose dream becomes your dream?” Mista was curious about this Ocelot now, wondering about the man he might be thinking of.
“Yeah. The type of person you live for.”
“Or would die for.”
Ocelot nodded solemnly. “That can happen far too easily.” Mista could tell from the tremble—well-contained, but still there—in his voice that this was something he knew all too well.
“Yeah.” Mista sighed, remembering the friends he’d lost all too soon. He loaded his revolver again, taking another few shots just to take his mind off of things. If he lost Giorno… his hand trembled, nearly dropping the gun. Goddamn still targets. They weren’t even a challenge for him.
There was an unexpected softness in Ocelot’s voice when he spoke again. “Hey. You want to go through that challenge course together? The one with the moving targets. I’d like to really see your skill.”
Mista smiled. That certainly sounded better for him than just standing there. “Let’s do it.” They moved through the course, shooting everything that moved, one shooting while the other reloaded. No matter how fast the targets rushed by, they didn’t survive. They were wood here, sturdier than the flimsy paper of the straight range, but still nothing against the men’s bullets. How easily, how quickly, how thoroughly they were blown apart, turned to nothing more than splinters. Gone in a moment, no longer useful to this range.
At least wood could be replaced.
A target sprung out behind them. Giorno turned his head, shooting over his shoulder. The bullet went true, as always. Catching it in his periphery, Ocelot smiled approvingly, continuing to shoot the targets in front.
The two emerged from the course victorious, each looking at the other with respect for a fellow skilled gunman.
“Thanks for shooting while I had to reload,” Mista said.
“Likewise.” Ocelot nodded. “It’s much easier when you’re not fighting on your own, isn’t it?”
“Easier… and less frightening, too.” Mista smiled, remembering Giorno’s help and reassurance when he had shot that helicopter. “Even if it’s still just as dangerous. There are some people who make the danger lighter to bear. And worth bearing.”
“Heh. You remind me a lot of myself. I… know someone like that.” Ocelot’s eyes searched the distance for something they couldn’t find. “Anyways. What model do you use?” he asked, gesturing to Mista’s gun.
“I don’t really know.” Mista stared down at its worn wood and metal. If there were any markings on it, they’d faded away.
“Let me see,” Ocelot requested, holding out his gun in exchange. They switched guns, Ocelot twirling Mista’s around on his finger as they returned to the straight range before casually shooting a target in the head. He looked at the gun with an amused smile. “Where’d you get it?”
“Eh. It was just what the old boss gave me when I joined him. It worked fine for me, and I was just glad for something , so I didn’t see the need to ask for anything else.” He shrugged. “Being honest, I didn’t know much about guns yet. I wasn’t particularly experienced, just… talented.”
Ocelot chuckled. “So that’s how it is.” He gestured to his own gun, which Mista held and inspected in his hands. “Try that one out.” Mista held the gun in shooting position, cocked it, aimed, fired. The gun’s actions were smooth and sure, piercing right through the target’s heart.
“It’s a good gun,” he said, handing it back and taking his own.
“Colt Single Action Army Revolver. Best gun ever made, certainly better than whatever cheap thing you were given. You ought to have something better, a weapon that suits your caliber.”
“You may be right.”
“Mista. Another question, if I may.” Ocelot spoke with the most gentleness he could muster. “Are you in love?”
“I–” Mista stood, unsure how to respond to a question like that.
“It’s okay. I am too. Only, that way you talked about someone earlier—well, I know someone with a similar situation when I see them.” He gave a sad smile, patting Mista on the shoulder. “You two… do you get to see each other often?”
Mista nodded. “I’m his right hand man. I’m lucky to stay by his side.”
“That’s good. Not everyone can enjoy that. And even when they do, it’s not always for long.” Ocelot became lost in thought, then shook his head. “Your boss—what’s his name?”
“Giorno,” Mista replied fondly, mind dwelling on that beautiful and noble face. To think that he was allowed to work for this man, let alone see him—there was a gratitude he would carry to his grave.
“My Big Boss is called Snake,” Ocelot said, casually firing off another round of shots. “This Giorno… you said his dream has become your dream, right?”
“Yeah. I would do anything to follow him and carry on his will.”
Ocelot chuckled. “It’s the same for me with Snake’s dream. I’ll build it, whatever it takes. Hey—does he know that you love him?”
Mista shook his head. “If he doesn’t feel the same way… I couldn’t stand it. Why would he feel that way about me, anyways?”
“Well,” Ocelot shrugged. “You never know. I don’t think he’ll hate you either way. With how you speak of him, it’s clear you both care about each other deeply. Surely there are moments, touches, you can’t get out of your head. Don’t you ever lay awake at night, wondering just what something meant?”
“I do.” Mista remembered many such moments, whispered words and gentle hands on his skin that he hoped meant something more.
“Yeah. I did that a lot. Ever since our first meeting, even, and–” he hesitated, shied away specifics, a practice Mista knew well. People like him had to keep a lot of secrets– “the unusual kindness he showed me. Anyways. It does you no good to keep dwelling. Some time will come when it’s too late to say, and you’ll wish you had. Those times come too easily, for men like us.”
Mista was silent for a while, simply thinking. “Do you really think so?”
A grunt, bitter but not angry. “Believe me, I know. We both live violent lives, I can tell—us and those we love. It’s far too easy to meet a violent end, much earlier than you ought. I’m sure you and your boss know that, too.”
Mista nodded. He glanced at his target, closing his eyes and firing a perfect round of shots. “Even when you don’t expect it.”
“Perhaps especially when you don’t. And even then—even when you’re alive, love is a very fragile, precious thing, even more fleeting than our own lives. When you find it, you need to treasure it for all you can. Who knows what can happen? Even when you’re both alive, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to see each other. So while you know you still can…” he trailed off.
“You may be right.” Mista sighed. “But it’s so terrifying… I know it will hurt if I tell him my feelings, and he can’t reciprocate them.”
“I know. I thought that way, too. But when something separates you—death or anything else—it will hurt a lot more knowing you could have said something, could have held love in your hands, the both of you, and instead let that opportunity slip through your fingers.” There was a guarded emotion in Ocelot’s voice which told of something he wouldn’t say in words. “Even then, he might feel the same way, but himself be too scared to say something, or perhaps not even know it himself. I’m sure when you first fell in love with him, you too denied that this was true, right?” He looked over with a knowing smile.
“So there it is. You have so much to gain by telling him, and so much to lose if you don’t.”
Mista nodded. He couldn’t deny that. “Thanks. I’ve got to go now, to be with him, but… thank you. Really.”
“Sure thing.” Ocelot nodded farewell. “Go tell him, and good luck. And get yourself a damn Colt.”