Chapter 1: Friends
Disclaimer: I do not own Cantarella, because if I owned Cantarella, I wouldn't have made Cesare fall in love with Chiaro or Chiaro fall in love with Lucrezia, and I would therefore have given the story a happy ending. But apparently Higari Yui, who does own Cantarella, likes depressing shonen-ai stories.
A/N: Chapter 1 takes place only a few weeks after Chiaro started serving Cesare.
FYI: This story is NOT meant to be yaoi or shonen-ai. Unless otherwise stated, any references to love in this story refer to platonic friendship love.
Chiaro woke with a start and sat up in bed, reaching for his sword, before realizing that hearing his father say his name and then seeing him run through was only a nightmare. A nightmare that had really happened, yes, but a nightmare all the same, and one he'd had three times in as many weeks. He sighed, wiping the sweat off his brow. As he recovered from the horror of the nightmare, a wave of loneliness washed over him, and he blinked back tears.
In the other bed, Cesare stirred, and Chiaro winced to see him tossing and turning in his sleep, occasionally giving a small whimper. The devils were flailing around him, probably driving him crazy even in his dreams. And it was all Chiaro's fault. Well, maybe not all; the devils had flocked around him before Chiaro had let them heal him as well, but it was Chiaro's fault that they were now inside him as well as out. He felt a stab of guilt and sighed. He really had messed everything up. If he had killed Cesare when Cesare had asked, not only would his father be free and alive—maybe—but Cesare wouldn't have to be tormented by demons. This latter thing haunted him much more than the former, and he wondered again if Cesare hated him for letting him become like this.
Sighing again, Chiaro silently got to his feet and went to sit on the edge of Cesare's bed. Cesare looked even younger when he slept, even if he sometimes seemed much older than his fifteen years when he was awake. Gently, Chiaro put out a hand to touch his head, wondering if that might bring him some relief.
Immediately, the devils faded from around his head and Cesare stopped flailing. "Mother?" he whispered, eyes still closed.
Chiaro smiled a little. Mother? Hardly. He waited for a few moments. The demons didn't come back. The moth-sorcerer had said something about him being able to chase the devil away, and Chiaro had confidently told him that he could control Cesare's demons, but he hadn't really been sure at the time. Did the demons flee at his touch? How had he, Chiaro, gotten that ability? Did Cesare know? Well, he must. That was probably why he'd wanted Chiaro to stay with him. So perhaps… he could still make up for what he'd done.
Chiaro watched as Cesare's breathing slowed and he fell into a deep sleep. "Sleep well," he whispered, then rose to go back to his bed. A moan from Cesare made him turn around. The demons had come back as soon as he'd gotten up. Quickly, he sat back down and stroked Cesare's hair. What was he going to do? He couldn't sit here all night. He was tired, and he'd end up falling asleep in Cesare's bed. Which… might not be a bad thing for Cesare, now that he thought about it.
Chiaro rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand, thinking it over. Sharing a bed without necessity seemed a little familiar for having only known Cesare for a few weeks. But… well, the worst that could happen would be that Cesare would wake up and get mad at him. Chiaro doubted Cesare would hurt him, since he seemed very keen on having him around.
Hesitantly, Chiaro got in bed beside Cesare who, to his shock, whimpered a little and rolled close to him, nestling his head against Chiaro's shoulder and putting up a hand to clutch his shirt. Chiaro lay frozen for a moment. What was this kid doing? "Cesare?" he whispered, but there was no response. Should he wake Cesare up and tell him to let go? This was too much. Lying next to Cesare was one thing, but Chiaro had no intention of snuggling with him. He put his hand on Cesare's, trying to open it so Cesare would let go. Cesare responded by taking hold of Chiaro's hand instead. And not letting go. Chiaro felt his face grow warm. Why on earth had he thought it would be a good idea to share a bed with Cesare?
Then he caught sight of the Cesare's face. He looked so very young and fragile. Like a little boy snuggling into his big brother to hide from the monsters under the bed. Except Cesare's monsters were real. Chiaro sighed and relaxed just a little. What did it matter? He could be Cesare's big brother tonight. Still feeling a little awkward, Chiaro managed to transfer Cesare's hand back to his shirt so he could put his arms around him. He watched the last of the demons dissipate at his touch. Cesare gave a long, soft sigh and nestled a little closer, looking completely at peace for the first time since Chiaro had met him. He could make Cesare look like that just by holding him?
Chiaro continued to hold Cesare, feeling less awkward as the minutes passed and Cesare showed no intention of moving. Did Cesare actually know he was here? Chiaro couldn't imagine that he did—Cesare normally seemed to be nervous about being touched, like he wasn't used to it. Should Chiaro stay the night? Wouldn't Cesare feel strange waking up in the morning in the arms of someone who was practically a stranger? But then… Chiaro almost always woke up before Cesare, so he would leave before Cesare woke up.
Chiaro smiled a little, and closed his eyes. Yes, this was still awkward, but it was also kind of nice being so close to someone, especially in the cold of the night. Besides, he liked Cesare. He felt his loneliness getting swept away somehow by Cesare's presence as he fell asleep.
The next morning, Chiaro woke up before Cesare and was relieved to find that Cesare was no longer clinging to his shirt. Very carefully, he released Cesare and dislodged himself. Cesare stirred a little, but didn't wake as Chiaro silently got to his feet and went to dress. It wasn't until nearly fifteen minutes later that Cesare stirred again and sat up. He looked a little confused. "Chiaro?"
"Yes. Good morning."
Cesare looked over at him, still seeming a little groggy. "Was someone… here?"
Cesare smiled a little. "I had a good dream. That hasn't happened in a while." He looked at Chiaro again and looked a little confused for a moment. He shook his head a little, like he was dismissing something.
"What was the dream about?"
Cesare was quiet for a moment. "An angel held me and kept the demons at bay." He looked at Chiaro again, and Chiaro tried not to blush. Cesare looked away and smiled. "I should go to school." Did he know? Had that been a request to do it again? Chiaro sighed, looking away himself and unconsciously rubbing his head. Well, maybe he wouldn't mind doing it again. He was starting to feel real affection for this kid who'd come into his life by accident, and he was glad again (though he still felt guilty about it) that he hadn't let Cesare die. It was selfish and horrible, but maybe Chiaro could make it up to him by holding him when he had nightmares.
"You're very quiet," Cesare said, making him jump.
Chiaro turned to him. "Hey," he said, "I was… wondering."
"Wondering?" Cesare asked, pulling on his clothes.
"Um… do you hate me?"
"Why would I hate you?"
"You said you'd never forgive me."
"I meant I'd never forgive your debt. You have to stay with me. But I don't hate you."
Chiaro paused. "Then…." He stopped.
"Then?" Cesare prompted, with a somewhat irritated "get to your point" tone to his voice.
"Then… could we be friends?"
Cesare turned to him, looking confused. "Friends?"
"Well, since we'll be together anyway… it would be nice to be friends, right?"
Cesare's cheeks went a little pink, and he looked away. "Stupid. You want to be friends with a monster who's made you his prisoner?"
"You're not a monster. Not yet, anyway, and I don't intend to let you become one. Also, I'm not your prisoner; I want to stay with you."
Cesare looked back at him with raised eyebrows. "Then you're even more stupid. And yes, you are my prisoner, because you don't get to leave whether or not you want to stay. But fine, if you want to be friends, I don't have a problem with it." He looked away.
Chiaro smiled, not really minding the insults. He didn't sense any malice from Cesare, only confusion. And Cesare really was just a kid, after all. He even seemed to have forgotten that Chiaro was perfectly capable of taking his freedom by force and simply chose not to. "Thanks."
Cesare looked back at him, his expression still a bit bemused but otherwise impossible to read. Then he shrugged and tightened his laces. "I'll see you later. Be careful." With that, he left.
Cesare frowned, stopping just outside the lecture hall. He really didn't feel like going to class today. Maybe he'd skip. He already knew what the professor was going to talk about anyway. He sighed a little, sitting down. Chiaro had somehow lodged himself very firmly into Cesare's mind this morning, and it wasn't just because he'd woken up feeling like he'd been free of the demons the entire night. He had woken feeling warm and safe, and for some reason he'd expected Chiaro to be holding him, before he woke up all the way and realized that the idea was absurd. No, what was confusing Cesare the most was what Chiaro had said.
Chiaro was the strangest person Cesare had ever met. Had he really thought Cesare hated him? Chiaro was an idiot for not killing him, but it had been a foolish act of misguided mercy, not one of malice. He wasn't sure it was possible for someone like Chiaro to feel malice. By the same token, he wasn't sure it was possible to hate someone like Chiaro. Besides, Chiaro had been taking care of him ever since, being so kind it was almost painful, giving him precious smiles and gentle words, even lightly teasing him on occasion. He hadn't shown any resentment. If anything, he acted grateful.
Cesare sighed again, thinking that God should have put more thought into this. Sending someone as pure and good as Chiaro to someone as twisted as Cesare was absurd. More than absurd, it was stupid. Did God think Cesare wouldn't use Chiaro to accomplish his goals? That Cesare would come to cherish him and change his ways as a result? Cesare fully intended to turn Chiaro into his assassin, regardless of the implications to Chiaro's soul. He'd told Chiaro he would. What was God thinking, sending a demoniac an angel of death to do with as he pleased?
And Chiaro himself was supremely stupid. Why on earth did he want to be friends? It wasn't as if Cesare could actually love him, although he was sure that in another life he would have found it impossible not to. He'd forgotten how to love when Marrone had betrayed him, and he doubted he could relearn now that he was a monster. Maybe he could like Chiaro. Maybe. Did Chiaro wanting to be friends mean that Chiaro liked him?
Something throbbed in Cesare's chest, interrupting his thoughts. He put his hand to his heart, surprised. Apparently some part of his soul still ached to be loved. Did that mean he was still human after all? At least partly human? He considered. He didn't want this part of him to die. But did he really want to entrust it to Chiaro, who all things considered was practically a stranger? He'd already been betrayed once. But then again… Chiaro had just lost his father, and was probably lonely. As long as Cesare kept him from being too close to anyone else, the only person he would have would be Cesare. He would naturally cling to Cesare for friendship. He was, after all, a friendly person. Besides… it wasn't as though Cesare had anyone else.
No one had ever asked to be his friend before. Now that he thought about it… that was really very nice. He'd thought Chiaro would be upset having to stay by his side. He was a demoniac, after all, and Chiaro was an angel. Ironic. Ridiculous. Impossible, really, that Chiaro would actually want to be friends with someone like him. Impossible that Chiaro liked him. Did he just want to be friends out of pity? Cesare sighed. Did it really matter? He was lonely too. He'd take what he could get. And maybe Chiaro was crazy enough to like him. He'd been ridiculously devoted to his insane father, after all.
Most importantly, Cesare wanted Chiaro with him. He was terrified of the demons that had saved his life by entering his body, and what scared him the most was that he seemed to no longer have any intrinsic sense of right and wrong. He had no idea how to act toward Chiaro, or how to guarantee his loyalty. So, he would let Chiaro decide. He rather liked Chiaro's decision.
"I have a friend," he said out quietly, trying the words on his tongue. They felt good. "I have a friend," he said again. "His name is Chiaro, my angel of light." He smiled. He didn't really trust Chiaro, but maybe he could enjoy his company. It had been a long time since he'd had company of any kind, other than Tagio della Volpe, who Cesare had been avoiding like the plague ever since his encouragement had led Cesare to find out the truth about his father. And Chiaro was actually his age, or close to it. Having him as a friend might be entertaining, if nothing else.
"I have a friend," Cesare said for the third time, smiling again. He glanced toward the entrance to the lecture hall. "And I think I'd rather be with him than in class today." Come to think of it, why not have Chiaro come to school with him? Surely he could pull a few strings, and he certainly had the money. It would be nice to have a companion at school. Still smiling, Cesare headed back to suggest the idea to his new… friend.