Author: Ellislash PM
Nick saves Ellis' ass in more ways than one; then things get complicated. AU, NxOC, NxE bromance , coarse language, sexual themes, violence. I don't own anything Valve does.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Angst - Nick & Ellis - Chapters: 22 - Words: 39,265 - Reviews: 23 - Favs: 29 - Follows: 27 - Updated: 07-31-12 - Published: 01-15-12 - id: 7742867
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
At church the next day, singing was entirely beyond him. He knelt in his pew, far to the back, and hoarsely whispered the words everyone else let soar. With his eyes tightly shut and head bowed onto his clasped hands, he begged the Virgin for Her guidance and protection. Not for his own sake, or even Aly's – she was Family, too, and could take care of herself – but for Ellis. If anybody deserved little divine intervention, it was him. His face flickered behind Nick's eyes, expression despairing yet selflessly accepting of the shit life threw at him. The assassin prayed right through communion, asking God for both the strength to finish what he'd started and the luck to get away with it. Eventually he ran out of words, leaving his twisted black heart to ache desperately under his pious facade.
When the priest spoke the final benediction Nick finally rose from his knees. He felt a little light-headed, but forced a smile and went to join his brothers in the vestibule. Alan and Francesco circulated a bit, leaving Nick to accept the greetings and banalities of people he didn't care about. He let autopilot handle them while he kept half an eye on his friends, hiding the impatience that prickled at his neck. Every time someone uttered the word "commandante," in tones both hearty and respectful, he wanted to start breaking bones... and a lot of people were calling him that. He was a star now, and nearly everybody would want to get into his good graces. Nick chuckled darkly to himself – the poor fuckers didn't seem to understand that he didn't have any good graces. Not for them.
One nice thing about the crowd was the gossip. The hitman's keen ears picked out snatches of conversation that were relevant to his current interests, and filed them away for later. Rumor had it that Joseph Patriarca was planning some kind of party... Graham was setting up a smear campaign to discredit his competition in the region... Il capo had his eye on a Family-run chain of oil distributors... Carmine was negotiating a new contract...
Nick blinked into Silvio's broadly grinning face, and narrowed his eyes dangerously.
"If you don't cut that out I'll make you eat your own tongue," he growled, only half-playing at being angry. "Shouldn't you be driving someone to Roxbury or something?"
"Ooh, grouchy today," the Sicilian quipped wryly, not cowed in the slightest. "Franny says you're doing lunch with him and Alan, but would you want to get in a little practice later?"
"Don't call him that to his face," Nick warned, but flashed an amused smile nonetheless. "Sure, why the hell not. I'll see if they want to come, too."
"Fantastico," Silvio laughed, and clapped him on the shoulder. "Give me a call when you're ready, I'll come get you."
"Grazie," the assassin replied absentmindedly, already scoping out the room again as his excitable friend moved off. The others were making their way to his corner, but too slowly for his liking. He deflected the greetings of an initiate with the bare minimum of politeness and caught Alan's eye on his way to the door. The accountant in turn tapped Francesco on the shoulder, and a few minutes later the two of them joined Nick outside.
"No thanks," the bespectacled man declined the cigarette he was offered, but his taller companion accepted one and nodded in gratitude when Nick lit him up.
"Got anywhere in mind?" the hitman asked, stowing his lighter. "And I mean anywhere. My treat."
"Davio's, maybe?" Alan suggested, shrugging. The spy shook his head.
"They don't do lunch on Sundays," he answered dismissively, tipping his chin up to blow a couple of smoke rings. "How about Piattini? It's only a few blocks from here."
Nick grinned – that was going to be his choice if the other two couldn't make up their minds. "Che suona bene per me," he concurred, and took a long drag of his cigarette. "Alan?"
"If you're paying? Sì, certamente!" the accountant laughed.
"Then let's go," the assassin said, grinding out his smoke in a conveniently placed ashtray. "I'm starving."
The three men strolled down Isabella Street to the corner, chatting amiably. Alan did most of the chatting, actually, still bursting with pride over his daughter's latest achievements. Nick let him go on, happy to keep quiet and monitor himself for any signs of suspicious behavior. It was all right to be a little abrasive with his closer friends, but he had to make sure that he didn't seem too out of temper. They might start to worry about him, and that would lead to all kinds of trouble.
A few minutes later they stepped into the restaurant, pleasantly warm in contrast to the pleasantly brisk air outside.
"Three," Nick told the maitre'd.
"Certainly, sir," the prim man said, and beckoned for a distinguished-looking waiter. "Right this way."
They were guided towards the back of the tiny dining room, where a small table in the corner already bore three place settings. Their server distributed menus with a congenial smile, and took up that particular stance that only the most experienced of waiters can get right.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen, my name is Sal and I'll be your waiter today," he recited in a polite, flowing lilt. Nick already hated him. "Would you like to start off with some drinks?"
"Let's see, I think I'll have a glass of white..." Alan murmured thoughtfully, running a finger down the wine list. Nick glanced at his menu, turned the page, and interrupted just as the accountant was about to make his choice.
"Get me the dinner menu."
"I'm terribly sorry, sir, but we don't begin serving dinner until five," Sal replied, unfazed. The assassin immediately made it a personal mission to faze him.
"That's nice," he growled, the tone of his voice causing his friends to close their eyes in resignation. "Bring it anyway, and not only will I refrain from making your life hell, but I'll give you two hundred bucks on top of a twenty percent tip."
Sal's perfect manners faltered, leaving him to stare bewildered at the black-haired man across the table. "I... but... sir, the kitchens..."
Nick put on his favorite grin, the one that in any sensible world would get him arrested."You got a family, Sal?"
"Nicolas," Alan hissed as the waiter went pale as a ghost. "Isn't this supposed to be a fun, celebration kind of meal?"
"I am having fun," Nick muttered back, then raised his voice again. "Three dinner menus, and rendono veloce."
"Y-yes sir," the terrified man squeaked, and scurried away.
"Oh, Crisci..." Francesco sighed, shaking his head almost sadly. "Whatever are we going to do with you?"
"Just keep me from killing anyone today, that'll be enough," the hitman answered, not joking in the slightest. "Speaking of which, I'm going to the range with Silvio later. Either of you want to come?"
"Sure," the spy accepted with a smile. "God knows I could use the practice."
"Sorry," the accountant said regretfully, adjusting his glasses to watch their waiter return. "I promised the ladies that we'd go hiking this afternoon. Maybe some other time?"
"You're no fun."
Having successfully bullied Sal into fetching the dinner menu, Nick then proceeded to order half of it. His friends maintained an air of resigned amusement as he did so, but did not comment on the server's petrified reaction – the man might as well have been invisible. The assassin toyed lovingly with his knife as the others made their choices, unaware of the dangerous sparkle in his eye that reflected the sheen of polished silver. Once Sal was gone again, Francesco broke the brief silence with a sip of water and a knowing glance.
"All right, Crisci, what's eating you?"
Nick looked up sharply, startled out of his thoughts by the question. His companion chuckled humorlessly, casting a look over at Alan before leaning comfortably back in his chair.
"Is it the new house? Rumor has it you're finally moving up in the world."
The assassin rolled his eyes, a little exasperated at how fast news could spread, but not surprised in the slightest. He sighed, lazily raised his knife, and violently swung it down, stopping a centimeter short of actually plunging it into the table.
"You know how it goes. I'll be obliged to host a function once we're settled in," he said icily, and delicately replaced the utensil by his plate. "It's enough to make a guy never want to unpack."
The accountant laughed gently. "Only you would get so upset about a housewarming, Nicolas," he said, shaking his head in slow amusement. "Really, how bad could it be?"
While it was true that he was not looking forward to the all-but-mandatory event, it was also the only plausible reason Nick could give for being in such a bad temper. That was a lot of anger to lay at the feet of such a trivial thing, and his friends had noticed. He gave himself a mental shake.
"Non lo so," he muttered. "First the high-pressure job, then the promotion, now this... It's just been one thing after another lately."
"You should take off for a week or two," Francesco suggested. "God knows, you could go anywhere you wanted. Roma, Venezia... Your wife's family is from Firenze, right?"
"Yeah, three generations back," Nick scoffed. "But there's more to the world than Italia, amico."
"How about Tibet?" offered Alan. "If you're after some peace and quiet, those monks practically invented it."
"They also invented yaks, as far as I can tell," the hitman retorted. "And as much as I want to, I can't just catch the next flight out of Logan. Carmine's got a new job lined up for me."
"Ooh, davvero?" the accountant asked, leaning forward eagerly. "Who's the unlucky guy?"
"Don't know yet," Nick answered with a congenial smirk. "I just overheard Gabrielle at church before we left. Papa's been letting her into too much business these days."
"Maybe there's another wedding in our future, eh?" The spy's mischievous smile glittered in his hazel eyes, and he raised his water glass in a mock toast. "After all, it's been how long since Carolina died? The man has a right to companionship."
"Fifteen years, come December eighth," the assassin muttered. "He still wears the ring, though. I don't think he's interested in getting remarried."
"Maybe," Alan said thoughtfully, glancing towards the kitchen. "Ten to one he gets rid of that ring on January first."
"I'll take that," Francesco accepted, pulling out his wallet. "Five hundred says it's within a week of the eighth."
"Deal." The men shook on it.
"You two are ridiculous," Nick sighed as the money changed hands. He caught a flurry of movement from the corner of his eye, and perked up considerably as he saw their waiter approach with appetizers. "Attento."
"That smells incredible," Alan groaned as the plates were arranged before them.
"Fantastico," the hitman agreed, already digging into his bruschetta. Francesco saw his enthusiasm, and laughed.
"That's your problem, Crisci. Low blood sugar."
Nick barely bothered to swallow, and only looked up briefly to cast a condescending glance at his friend.
"What? I told you I was starving."