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St. Bruno

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Nero hauls Avilio through the door way, pushing it shut with his shoulder and locking the deadbolt. Avilio's scarily limp at his back, Nero can feel the shuddering breaths trembling in his gut.

"Shh," Nero says through clenched teeth. "We can't stay here for long--" He dumps Avilio onto the threadbare couch, it's old and tinted a worn brown.

Avilio hits the cushion a bit less than gentle. His face is bruised in multiple places, a purple splotch making it's way down his temple and blooming on his cheek. His lip is open and bleeding down his chin. Beneath dim eyes are even darker bags, his appearance is sunken and gaunt even.

With those shaded eyes, he gives Nero a venomous look, one that does not understand mercy.

But perhaps he does.

"Why not just let them finish me?" Avilio says, blood splattering from his mouth like spit, he's probably lost a tooth or two.

"The Galassia's think you're just a child," Nero crosses his arms, "A trouble making child," that destroyed my family, led to the death of my father, my brother, my comrades, my brothers. Nero tenses his jaw.

Avilio's eyes are empty, "So? You want to finish me yourself? You can, I have nothing."

At that Nero chuckles bitterly, "We're really in the same boat huh?" Part of him is so immeasurably angry, he could end Avilio right there, he could beat him until he stopped breathing. Until blood stains his knuckles and Avilio's ragged breathes putter out against shit wallpaper. But doing so isn't going to bring his family back, it isn't going to bring his father back.

So they sit in silence. They sit there ruminating in alcohol dipped afternoon, the room dunked in a stagnant heat that lies thick like fog. Until Nero's buries his head in his hands, and his shoulders are racking with sobs.

Until Avilio lies back and passes out from sheer exhaustion. Perhaps safer than he's been in the last 48 hours.

He's woken up by the nudge of cool leather. The bag is a bit large, metal rims the opening edges, a clasp keeps them pressed together, closed.

"First aid," Nero says next to him, he's kneeling on the floor beside him. "I can't have you bleeding all over the car, the car you are still not driving," he frowns, opening the clasp and jutting his hand in.

He pulls out a thick roll of gauze and a bottle of alcohol, there's cotton swabs and some smaller band aids in a zip up plastic package.

"This will have to do," Nero spreads the items out between them both on the edge of the couch.

Avilio, for once, is too lethargic to argue or push him away, his limbs are jelly and everything aches, a dull throb in his skull, his lip, his chest.

What he does feel, however, as sharp as a knife slicing paper thin slices of onion, is the sting of alcohol on the bud of his cheek.

Avilio hisses.

"Relax, won't you?" Nero continues patting away dried blood with a hand towel in one hand, and cleaning his open wounds with the other.

Avilio settles down again with little fight, in the draw if his brows is confusion.

Nero's eyes flick to his, they're soft like dying embers. He laughs, shuts his eyes.

"We can't stay here long," he repeats, he grimaces at the bruises that cover Avilio's stomach, the rest of his shirt bunched up in his free hand. Even whistles at the frank severity of it. "Like I said, the Galassia's will be looking for you now, and me if we're not careful."

"They wanted to absorb me," Avilio murmurs, "take me into their ranks--"

"By beating you to death first?"

"Their first initiation, 'beat the disloyalty out of me,'" he bites his lip as Nero runs his hand down a bruise, he's never had the softest hands, or the most gentle but it's a soothing gesture that still makes Avilio want to vomit.

Nero wipes his forehead with the back of his other hand, "You're still a Vanetti, you're still my right hand." He says quietly, eyes downcast. "I protect my family, until I die myself."

Avilio snorts, "Do you really believe that?

He watches Nero through careful eyes, watches the muscle in Nero's temple work.

Nero sighs in resignation, "As perhaps the last Don of the Vanetti's, I have no choice." The amount of conviction he has makes something heavy drop in Avilio's gut.

"You still consider me a brother?" Avilio snorts, "That's laughable and childish." His lids droop a little, exhaustion is coming back in waves.

"Maybe it is," Nero agrees, he avoids Avilio's eyes in favor of wrapping his shredded wrist in gauze. "But, I too have nothing." It aches to admit it, something inflating in Nero's chest, so much so the discomfort increases and he wants it to stop.

Maybe it's always been there.

"Fio--"

Nero shakes his head, "She doesn't need me anymore, she never has. They'll take care of her. It's me they want dead."

Avilio says in a tone more defeated than Nero's heard from him, "What am I?" He sighs, "I'm not worth whatever this is," his voice hardens, "I'm not worth anything."

Nero presses his lips together, more disappointed than sympathetic. "I want to give you a reason to live." He leans in closer. "They'll forget about us Avilio," even he realizes how incredibly naive that sounds. "We'll leave Chicago--we won't go back to Lawless either,"

"Just leave?" Avilio stares at him in painful disbelief.

Nero swallows before nodding, "There's nothing left for us here."

Probably nothing left of us either.

Avilio goes along with it, only because literally crawling back to the Galassia's would probably end in his death at this point.

He watches Nero take back his spot on the chair angled towards him and pull out a cigarette. Nero stuffs it past his lips before rifling through his pants pocket for a lighter.

Avilio feels a hankering for it the same time Nero lights it. The same time a small puff of smoke escapes his lips in a faint cloud.

"You got a gun?" Avilio asks, all of his were taken from him.

The cigarette dangles from Nero's fingers. He raises an eyebrow, "Wouldn't be without one."

Avilio shrugs, "You mind?" He says through gritted teeth, Nero leans towards him, extends his arm and the cigarette.

Avilio looks him up and down, grimaces before he pulls the cigarette from between Nero's fingers.

The flood of nicotine from his first deep pull rattles his chest, he coughs loudly before it begins to slough down his throat like liquid, soothing him better than Nero and his shit medical practices ever could.

Nero doesn't expect it back and Avilio isn't that adept at sharing either.

"We should leave as soon as possible, before they start closing down roads out of the city," Nero says. "My car is hidden out there, if we could just get to it." He sounds frustrated.

Avilio turns around and ignores him, focuses mainly on the cigarette and the flashes of a neighboring building he can catch through the closed blinds if he shifts his head up and down.

They don't speak much after that, Nero relaying the plan becomes a drone Avilio begins to block out simply because he's tired of listening.

He didn't even know he'd fallen back asleep, when Nero shakes him awake.

With stern eyes he says, "We go now."

And so they do.

Nero's clearly been devising this plan with more depth than Avilio was willing to give him credit for. They navigate both back streets and mainstreets, down alleyways and across rain slicked road bridges. Avilio tries to keep pace but he's limping and thirst is climbing up his throat like sand paper in a rare version of capillary action.

The city begins to thin out within the hour, an ungodly hour might Avilio note. But it's necessary. The night is useful in covering them from the sights of the Galassia's through their tinted windows and hidden pistols.

They're trudging through forest land before long, every loud crunch of twigs beneath their boots feels like a shot in the back, if they're not careful it could be.

Avilio doesn't know why but he feels relief flood through him when Nero grins and hurries up to that militarial green car stuffed between boughs of nearly dead sugar maples.

And so they drive.

They drive until Avilio falls asleep again, until he wakes, until sleeps again, he wakes for the second time and Nero's still driving.

He also nodding off a little too. Avilio hopes that maybe he'll crash the car and this will all be over.

A mercy.

Instead Nero pulls over and sleeps, Avilio has enough mind to know they're out of Illinois at least, in some no name middle America state where the humidity is high and the heat is thick.

Nero wakes up with a sweat stain on the front of his shirt and Avilio staring him down with the gun in his hand.

Nero shakes his head, "You could have ran," It's unspoken but fully understood that Avilio could have run or even shot Nero while he slept and as a result, Avilio simply may not have it in him to do either. "Put the gun down."

But that doesn't stop Avilio's anger.

Avilio chucks the gun at Nero rather hard. Nero catches it with fast hands, it stings his palms.

"You think this is what I want?" Avilio says, teeth bared, his own body curled up against the door like a trapped animal. "what are you planning? Where are you going? What about after?"

Nero presses his lips together at the frank fear he can hear in Avilio's voice. "I don't know--" even he's disappointed in his own answer. Avilio always deserved more. He's deserved more ever since his whole family was destroyed.

Avilio begins to list each shard in this ruined mirror, everything laid bare to swim unwillingly in Nero's head as if it were all his fault.

"Why did you feel the need to rescue me?"

"Why did you make me do what I did?"

Nero's answers are mumbled dismissals and noncommittal grunts. He lets Avilio run dry, once again limp and exhausted in his seat. His cold expression a stark difference to the heat that fills the car despite rolling down the windows. It hurts to be left without much choice in the matter and Nero's sure Avilio fully understands that.

"You don't expect an answer do you?" Nero says solemnly. "I was the Don. It was up to me to straighten everything out and provide everyone with assurance. I'm sure that's the only reason you agreed to carry it out."

Avilio cannot refute him so he breathes deeply and says, "You've never meant anything to me you should know that at least."

"Noted."

They fall into silence. Nero's mumbling obscenities under his breath and Avilio is huffing in irritation.

Truly what now?

Nero drives. He drives to busy himself. He drives to think about how to approach Avilio after all of this.

How can either of them even begin to see eye to eye after all of this?

They could try.

The next two days pass in much of the same silence. Nero drives aimlessly across the continental United States, Avilio guesses they'll have to stop if it means driving straight into the ocean on the other side. The atmosphere inside the car is much like that of the ocean, they're smothered beneath the weight of their own decisions, the blue of Nero's eyes is too hard to ignore.

They've stopped at a diner upon heading west. Nero says they're close to a city upstart called young Las Vegas, he says it will grow to be something akin to a landmark in the next few decades.

Nero pours over a cheap map he'd purchased while Avilio pours copious amounts of syrup over his pancakes in a bid to rid his mouth of it's perpetual dry taste.

He's still miserable, even the pancakes don't taste that good, he knows better than to blame the cook in this situation.

"...So, should we switch cars?" Nero murmurs, before taking a sip of his coffee. It's quiet enough Avilio could have misheard him, or even not have noticed at all.

Avilio pushes each piece of syrup soaked cake around the plate, watches its structural integrity disintegrate with each push through maple the pond that his plate has become. "Why? If they followed us this far, we would be dead already. If we just don't show our faces back there maybe we'll be fine." he answers just as quietly.

And just like that the conversation is over. They haven't spoken at length for days now.

The extent of Avilio's consideration goes as far as handing Nero keys he'd pick pocketed off some older man that had insulted him for not having manners when they walked in. Avilio gestures to the car with a subtle nod of his head.

Nero smiles before they quickly gather their sole bag from the initial car, throw it into the back seat of the new car and head off as inconspicuously as possible.

Nero looks out of place among the plush of the suede car seat in his worn navy suit. Maybe in another life, his life as Don that existed only a few days ago, the luxury would look good on him.

Avilio smirks next to him, they're both criminals as it is, car theft is nothing.

The southern most tip of California tastes like salty sea brine. The ocean itself appears almost like an abyss in the peak of night. A never ending expanse of churning black that Nero would happily let swallow him if he were alone.

Perhaps that's why he didn't want to be so bad.

Nero runs a hand through his hair before exiting the vehicle, the thud of the door closing is jarring against the ever present silence.

He's pulled the car onto a secluded gravel packed lot hidden behind an enclave of man placed boulders used to defend against high tide.

Avilio watches him go, apparently this is it. They've reached an ocean that Avilio's only seen in the newspapers. An ocean that signifies everything and anything between them like a rushing current that leads items to either be thrashed up against the rocks or out to open sea.

Thrashed against water sharpened stones sounds more appealing than it should.

Avilio levers his own door open, he stands as he watches Nero pull off his shoes and more or less toss them angrily into the sand.

Avilio rolls his eyes before trudging forward. The lone streetlight on the road above them casts the sand in a honey yellow, makes the ocean look like it's algae ridden, a dying bulb beneath the surface.

"You're right Avilio!" Nero throws up his hands, "what now?" His laugh his bitter and staggering. "What do we do? Do we part ways? Do you kill me here?" He rounds on Avilio. Abruptly enough, Avilio's almost surprised into stepping back, he resists the urge.

"You've taken everything from me." Nero says, defeated.

"I could say the same," Avilio's expression is one of disgust. "The Vanetti's have destroyed my life." He says stepping forward. "But you're right, what now? Do we part ways, or do you shoot me?" He repeats back to him.

Nero's eyes widen, the blue of them lit up with dim yellow, the same way Avilio's look like they're glowing in the dark.

"You can do it." Avilio crosses his arms, "I was honest when I said I had nothing. I am nothing." He says with a confidence that begs Nero to actually consider it.

"How can you be so willing to have me shoot you?" Nero's enraged, with a fist that appears to have been honed with who knows how many bar fights, Avilio's hit against the rise of his injured cheek, the one Nero had stitched back together.

Avilio hits the sand. Nero climbing on top of him to continue the onslaught. Nero feels a sick liberation in each punch. One: his family is dead and there's nothing he can do. Two: he himself is nothing but a hollow husk, but maybe he could do something about that. Three: Avilio is so much like him, Nero wouldn't be surprised if Avilio felt the same thrill surging through him.

Most of Avilio's bruises have fully healed, save for the new bruises blooming across the now opened scar on his cheek. Other than that, he's almost back to his smooth and round self again.

"Because I've been willing to do it since this started," Avilio spits. He doesn't fight back. Instead digs his hands into the sand on either side of him, like he's trying to stop.

Nero sits up, hands and bruised knuckles grasping onto his own pant leg. His lower lip trembles.

"How is it I feel no forgiveness yet I feel no resent?" Nero hits the sand with his fist. His forehead hovering over Avilio's chest. With white knuckled hands, Nero digs his fingers into the front of Avilio's shirt.

Avilio lies there and tries to feel nothing. "I do not regret what I did." His voice is a murmur easily swallowed by the waves crashing against the shore. The waves that recede and surge forward at the depth of Nero's shallow breaths.

"It's important you learn that and whether or not you get past it is not my problem." Avilio shuts his eyes. The breeze smacks them both in the face, crisp and cold.

Avilio shivers.

Nero looks up at him, eyes red and narrowed. "You underestimate me bastard," his tone does not convey the hostility that runs through the rigidity of his hands.

"You said you could give me a reason to live." Avilio says, turning his head towards the shoreline. "I don't believe you."

Nero's hands slacken, his right can feel Avilio's heartbeat, empirical evidence for a man that in any other circumstance could be perceived as not having one at all.

"We have time." Is all Nero says.

Morning is only beginning to rise when Nero wakes up from his cramped position in the back seat of the car, perhaps Avilio could have fit better.

Avilio is folded up in the passenger's seat, both feet up on the cushion. Arms around his knees.

Nero's foot slips off the narrow seat and hits the floor with a thump. Avilio stirs awake.

Nero can see the morning reflecting in Avilio's eyes like warm honey.

His face isn't looking too good in the morning light relief, his cheek is a little swollen, a splotch of purple curving down the length of his temple to his jaw.

Nero smiles slightly.

They have time.

Avilio's lids are still half closed, his expression sleep cloudy and a little lethargic.

"Morning," Nero says barely audible, he raises a hand and brushes his thumb down the rise of Avilio's cheek.

Avilio doesn't pull away. Nero leans in closer, rests their foreheads together. The air between them is both thick and raw. It's because of that raw open wound that is them both that leads Nero to shift his face forward, close the space between their lips.

Avilio doesn't flinch away then either. His lips are slow and hesitant. A new facet of Avilio Nero had yet to experience.

Nero's afraid words will ruin this tender balance they'd built in a matter of seconds. So he pulls away to lean back in the seat, one of his hands around Avilio's upper arm to guide him back there with him.

Avilio follows along, some semblance of shock in his eyes. He straddles Nero in the back seat of this stolen car and for once feels something he's never given the time of day for.

So Nero keeps kissing him and Avilio keeps reciprocating.

They kiss until Nero's slightly dizzy and Avilio's shifted his head back to bare his throat.

The first sound Avilio makes is a whimper, a whimper that catches the air and lights Nero's skin on fire.

"Avilio," Nero's murmurs against Avilio's collar. The heat of his own skin permeating Avilio's like a transfusion. He's shivering, his chest rattling with each hitched breath.

In Nero's touch is a brittle comfort, something not quite whole or complete that maybe Avilio could provide the other half of.

In the back of Nero's mind, he regrets not speaking to Avilio sooner about everything and not rolling down the windows a little to prevent fogging up the windows.

Nero can feel that loneliness that lies up top each rib, as thin as the skin. He tries to dispel it with his mouth, his tongue.

Avilio's digging his fingers into Nero's shoulders, his breathing heaving this brittle satisfaction.

"Avilio, Avilio," Nero says with broken breath, his hands shedding Avilio of his shirt then unbuttoning his pants. "I've never done this before Avilio," he says.

That doesn't stop either of them. It doesn't prompt Avilio to tell him the feeling's mutual either.

So they continue, Nero lies Avilio down across the back of the narrow seat, his skin is reddened and bitten, his stomach is alight in sparks.

His body is pale and even toned, no freckles to be seen. The light hair leading down his belly is soft and barely there. Nero kisses down that belly, his hands pulling at Avilio's pants.

His cock is hard, reddened at the tip and leaking.

Not for once did Nero believe they were moving too fast, this is just perhaps what was always going to happen.

Avilio's clutching his face, kissing his lips, stroking his cock, actually doing something, a contrast to his lack of fight in their most recent circumstances. It looks like Avilio wants this as much as anything.

Nero begins to spread him with spit slicked fingers, the additive of lube or oil hasn't even begun to occur to his inexperienced head.

He groans against the tender skin of Avilio's thighs.

Even when he sinks in prematurely, Avilio's lungs fill to breaking point, one of his hands, steady on Nero's chest keeping him from going too fast. Avilio's drawing blood from his own palm and Nero's shoulder at the stretch of it.

"I'm sorry," Nero says, kissing his eyelids, "I'm sorry, Angelo," he says perhaps as a placation for more than just this insufficient sex. Sorry that things turned out the way they did, sorry that he couldn't do more when his own father shot his best friend in cold blood.

Avilio opens his eyes at the name. He licks his lips and sucks in a sharp breath.

"Nero," Avilio answers, begins to mumble it over and over again as Nero finds a rhythm.

Avilio repeats it until he comes, drops of milky white across his belly and Nero's.

Nero kisses him again.

They have all the time in the world.