Chapter 6: Losing Touch

Toni's worried. Feliciano is worried with him, but he's also dizzy, because Toni keeps moving.

"Ve, please stop; you're making me dizzy."

"Hmm? Oh, sorry." Toni smiles and goes still, only to start fidgeting instead. Feli sighs and gives up. "I just... It's not like they've never been out this late, but..."

"It's scary," Feli concludes, frowning. "But you still let them out?"

"Well, not like this. They're in serious trouble when they get home!" Toni's grin falters quickly, though. "But... well I could never keep them in anyway. Have you met them? They're worse than Lovi–"

He cuts himself off after saying that name, which makes Feli blink in confusion. He looks pained. Why? Okay, maybe they don't know where Lovino is, but that's no reason to act like he never existed; there's no guarantee anything bad happened to him and until there is–

Then Feliciano's thoughts are cut off too, because suddenly he hears the girl's voice again. "Let go of me! I'm not injured!" She seems to be striding in, and Feliciano grins in relief, but when he gets a better look at her she seems... shaky. Like something happened to her. Oh no.

The boys enter behind, carrying their picnic stuff and both looking worried and tired. Feli frowns. What happened?

Toni gives him a small look, before he turns to his charges. "And where do you think you've all been?" he asks, hands on hips. Mel's bossy act immediately falters, as she starts stumbling over an explanation.

"W-we just–"

"A Mafia guy attacked Mel!"

Feli gasps at Peter's proclamation. No! Not Mel! ...He's not really surprised, that one of them would attack a child – it happens all the time – but it still seems unfair. Ano is death-glaring the other boy. "Well, that was smart," he mutters, getting a confused look from Peter.

Toni looks stricken, and Mel avoids his eye. "Mel? What happened?"

A pause. Then Mel straightens her spine, gives an affected sigh. "Attacked is overstating it," she says. "He just... grabbed me. He let me go like a minute later!"

Toni doesn't look reassured. "For what? What did he do to you, Mel? Why did he need to grab you?"

Mel looks away again, and Feli leans forward. What is going on?

"Tell him, Mel," whispers Peter, who gets whacked in the ribs by Ano for his trouble. "Oww."

Toni's eyes briefly flicker to Peter, before they come back to Mel. She reluctantly faces him again. "...He gave me a note, okay?"

She pushes a scrunched up piece of paper at him, looking glad to be rid of the thing. "He told me to give it to you, and that I wasn't allowed to look at it myself, okay? So if it turns out to be some kind of creepy death threat, don't go blaming me."

Antonio frowns and unfolds it as quick as he can. He skims it, and as he does he only looks more and more worried. Feliciano stands up and moves towards him.

"Ve? Toni, what is it?"

"Huh? Oh, nothing!" Toni pushes the note behind himself way too quickly, and plasters on a fake grin. Feli frowns. He's hiding something.

"Can I see?" Maybe it's none of his business, but he is going to be the one paying the Mafia for him, so he has a right to know what's going on doesn't he? Besides. He's worried.

"Feliciano..." says Toni as Feli comes closer. "...I really don't think you wanna read this..."

"It's okay Toni, I can handle..." I watched my dad be stabbed to death when I was eight years old; I can handle a scary note. He holds out his hand for Toni to give it to him, but Toni doesn't. Feli sighs and looks at Mel, but she just shrugs.

"I told you, I don't know what's in it."

Toni looks like he's backed into a corner (though they're standing in the middle of the room). "Feli – can you just trust me? Look, I know you won't want to read that and–"

Antonio starts gesturing in the middle of his sentence and Feliciano takes advantage to yank the paper out of his hand. "Feliciano!"

He quickly starts reading.

We know Feli's in town, and he's giving you the money to pay them. They don't care, but we don't want you to know they don't care. My boss wants to make sure you're cowed, scared of us. Keep Feli's money secret or there'll be trouble.

Lovino

"Feliciano!" Antonio steals the note back, but it's too late. Feli looks up at him, shell-shocked. He feels like he's about to cry.

"...You said you hadn't heard from him recently," he says. "Or is this him getting back in touch after awhile?"

"I–" Toni doesn't answer fully, and it looks like he's about to cry too.

"Toni, give that back to me?"

Slowly, Toni hands over the piece of paper. Feliciano gulps and scans it.

"...We. He says we. Is he...?"

Antonio winces. "Yes."

"Did you know? Before this?"

"Of course."

"...Why didn't you tell me that?" he asks. "Did you think I wouldn't care?"

"No, of course not, I just–"

"How could you let him in the first place? You were meant to be taking care of him!"

Toni balks. "He – He didn't exactly ask me for permission, Feli! He turned eighteen and he left! What was I meant to do?"

"You could have stopped him! He would have listened to you, ve."

"When did Lovi ever listen to anyone?" He has a point there. "Look... Feli. I didn't know, okay?"

"You just said–"

"I only found out a few months ago. When – when they decided they'd left me alone too long. And he... I don't know."

Silence. Feliciano sniffles, but resists the urge to cry, because he's doing the confrontation thing here. He hears Ano ask Peter what's going on, but Peter shushes him.

"So why didn't you tell me?"

"Huh?"

"He's my brother! I had a right to know!" Feliciano's attempts to not cry aren't working very well by this point, but nevermind. "How could you just not tell me that?"

"I just – I knew how you'd react, and how much it'd hurt you, and I thought–"

"You thought I wouldn't give you money? If I was angry because you let my brother join the fucking Mafia?"

"Feliciano!" And for a second it feels like Toni will admonish him for swearing. "Don't – don't be paranoid! That doesn't even make sense! I didn't want to hurt you, that's all; believe me I'm as hurt as you are by–"

"Stop! Stop it Toni!" He's sobbing wildly now, shaking his head. "I – I have to go! Goodbye!"

He storms away, making Mel jump when he rushes past her. Toni tries to call out to him, but he doesn't stop.


Antonio retreats to his room after that, and they all decide it's a good idea to just leave him alone. Mel thinks she hears crying, though the other two don't seem to notice it.

"...So what was that all about?" asks Ano.

She has to shrug. She has no idea what it's about, other than there's some guy called Lovi who is apparently Feliciano's brother, and he used to live here, and apparently he was the one who grabbed her. Maybe she should be more kind about it all, but she's still shook up.

"It's about Lovino," mumbles Peter.

Ano blinks. "Great. Now we know what that's short for," he says. "Who is he?"

Peter rolls his eyes. "He used to live here. He was really mean; I avoided him when I could. I'm not that surprised he'd join the Mafia," he says, and Ano furrows his brow. "I don't remember him that well, though. He left when I was seven!"

"That wasn't so long ago. It's been less than half of your life!" Ano points out.

Peter glares at him. "'Less than half my life' isn't really short, you know."

"Can we not with the pointless bickering? We'll – or I'll – just have to get Toni to sort it out, which may not be such a good plan tonight."

They both seem appropriately cowed. Peter shakes his head. "Look, I need to go to the bathroom, okay?" And he charges off.

"...Do you think we annoyed him?" Ano asks.

"You always annoy him. You both annoy each other. And me. I think if this changed the world might collapse," she says, leaning against the doorframe. "So, Toni's involved with some Mafia guy? This isn't going to end well, is it?"

"Nope," says Ano. "Hey, why do you think this Lovi guy is writing letters to Toni anyway?"

Mel shrugs. "I dunno. Guess he has nostalgic feelings for the old place? I mean, it is Toni. It'd be pretty hard to hurt him, even for the Mafia, right? He's like a puppy."

Ano frowns. "It seems stupid. If I was in the Mafia, I wouldn't risk it all for – I mean, would you?"

Mel scoffs. "Us in the Mafia; that is a terrifying image. We'd spend too much time yelling at each other and our hostages would run away."

"I'm going to join them one day, you know."

She's not sure how to react for a few seconds. Then she laughs.

"I'm not sure they'd let you in, Ano; you'd come in attacking their decision then hide under the table when..." she trails off at the look on his face. "...Oh god you're serious."

Silence. Then she snaps.

"Are you out of your mind? They're the Mafia; that is not a good career option. One – they kill people. Two – everything else they do is illegal too! 3 – You're still scared of thunderstorms. 4 – like ninety percent of them end up dead!"

"As opposed to the ninety-five percent of the rest of us," he stares. "Oh, and given what the police around here are like I don't think the legality thing matters too much, if you're worried about me getting caught. And I am not scared of thunderstorms!"

"I've heard you whimpering, you so are." Pause. "But that's not the point! Jesus, Ano, why would you even want to do that?"

"Well what are you gonna do?"

"Huh?"

"You heard me." She heard him, but that doesn't mean the question makes any goddamn sense. "I mean, when we're adults and have to make money and stuff. What are you going to do?"

"Um, get a job? Marry someone? Literally anything but join the Mafia?"

"Okay. Where will you work? Or your husband? They control all the businesses."

"That's not true–"

"It is, or close enough. You can't escape them, Mel. We're all gonna wind up serving them, so I'm gonna get as high in the ranks as I can."

...He has a point. He has a deranged sociopathic point, but a point nonetheless, based purely on survival factor. But: "Peter would freak."

Ano scoffs and crosses his arms over his chest. "See how I care?"

"Hey – I know you two fight a lot but–"

"Mel. Peter's an idiot, okay? He's an idealist. He thinks if he keeps doing the right thing, he can get through life somehow. Hint: he's wrong."

And as if on call, Peter reappears, whistling cheerfully. Mel steps away from Ano like she was doing something wrong, which is stupid because Ano's the one who's gone weird. Peter seems to notice this, though. "I'm baaack – Hey, what's wrong?"

"Nothing, stupid!" she snaps, making him roll his eyes at her. "We were just talking!"

Ano sighs. "What she said, but without all the yelling."

Peter chuckles, and Mel glares at him. "Okay then. So, do you wanna play cards? We have to do something fun; this day's been awful!"

"I'll totally beat you," says Ano.

"You wish! Just let me get the cards!" Peter races, and Ano goes after him with a cackle. Mel thinks.

She shakes her head.

Ano's always saying stupid dramatic stuff. He's said he was running away to join the circus a few times – despite the circus having never come to town, which kinda made that less believable. Ano wants to be smarter than them, one step ahead of the game, which usually ends up with him being whiny instead. So yeah, Ano's just being stupid.

Her boys always are.