Note: First of all, I'm so, SO sorry for taking so long. I don't have an excuse besides the University and the thesis. I've been writing in Spanish - because it is easier for me – and I kicked this story to my holidays, I needed time to concentrate in this. I've been writing this for more than two months (I think... what a lazy person...) so I hope you enjoy it.
And as usual I have to thank to Blood Dark Sun for helping me editing this, and for her wonderful stories.
And of course all my loving to July, my lil Argentinean sis. Martín is cool, 'cause you are cool gurl!
I am the passenger
And I ride and I ride
I ride through the city's backsides
I see the stars come out of the sky
Yeah, they're bright in a hollow sky
You know it looks so good tonight
("The Passenger" by Iggy Pop and Ricky Gardine)
Capitolo de gli incontri e la soluzioni
Manuel was tired of watching his lighter while he played with it. The club was busy, but the clients didn't seem very willing to buy his merchandise. If he was Martín, he would approach some boys or girls, he would talk and joke around with them and then he would ask, very casually; "Hey, would you like some dope? I know this guy who could get us some..." And people would agree, 'cause nobody ever denied a thing when he was smiling and exaggerating his accent to be even more charming. But he was not that idiot. He wasn't sociable, or nice; so he stood there waiting for the people to recognize him as a dealer and buy some shit.
He got angry with himself, and then got angrier with the Argentinean faggot for disappearing and leaving all the work to him. It had been a week now! Where the hell was he anyway? Maybe he was just on some party-road-trip. Surely he was looking for Arthur... come on! Manuel forced himself to not think about the faggot anymore, drank a Cuba libre – Ron-cola as he called it – and then walked to a table occupied with a bunch of students. They surely would want to buy something.
Lovino was in his office when he heard the door being opened. He was no longer running to see who it was, 'cause he knew that it wasn't Martín telling him he'd found Arthur. He would rather to think the worst. Arthur must be dead; maybe his body was already buried somewhere in the US or sent to England. And that certainty came to his mind because now Arthur was to him like a ghost. A presence that always followed him, tormented him. He hardly could do anything without the memory of the English coming into his mind. Lovino thought that was his penance for doing what he did: selling drugs, killing, lying, being inappropriate and – what was worst – not regretting. Because if he could do everything again he would choose to sell drugs, to meet Arthur and be with him again. Maybe he would change the end of the story. Would God let him do that?
The Italian 'capo' was distracted by the sound of what seemed to be his brother whining. He sighed, wondering what 'tragedy' could possibly have happened to that cowardly and sensitive bastard to make him cry for the billionth time.
"What the fuck now?" Lovino asked.
"Veee~ vee~ they robbed me, fratello, they took everything, my brushes, spatulas, my paintings... my sketches were in that bag too, vee~"
The older brother hid his concern and asked, roughly, "And who was it? It was a Cuban guy? Someone from the neighborhood? A white guy? It was just a pair or a gang?... It wasn't a girl's gang, right?"
"No, no, there were three, and they were black, and very tall, they yelled at me, they pushed me and I was so scared... veee~"
"Black, you said?" Lovino tried to stay calm, but he knew who was to blame and why they did it. They weren't interested in the money; they just wanted to mess with his people, with him. "And did they hurt you?" he asked again.
"No," Feliciano denied - "They just pushed me and surrounded me, they were so big, fratello, vee~"
Lovino wanted to smack him for being such a girl. But instead he just put an arm around him to calm him down. Since Arthur had left he wasn't the same. "Hush, ok... at least nothing happened to you... it'll be alright."
"But they stole my drawings... and my painting supplies."
"We'll get you new things, ok? Now shut up!"
The younger brother whined a bit more and then went to his room to call his boyfriend. Lovino knew he would, and that was when he got the idea. He waited until he knew his brother was not talking with the macho potato and then called him. Ludwig seemed surprised to hear him and even more when the Italian ordered:
"Let's lunch together tomorrow at the Kimberly hotel, I have something important to talk to you about." They both knew the German didn't want to meet him, but he agreed anyway, promising to be there at 1pm.
The German doctor watches his clock, indicating that it is almost time. As the 'businessman' he is, Lovino gets there on time and walks towards his table. The atmosphere is tense, but they greet each other in a formal and pacific way. Ludwig is curious. He is almost sure that this has nothing to do with the wounded leg. Lovino seems almost completely healed as he walks, no hobbling at all. Maybe he has another wounded man. Maybe he wants to hire him as the family doctor. The blond scraps the idea immediately; Lovino wouldn't want to have anything to do with a... "potato bastard" as he liked to call the German people.
Lovino looks in his mind for an easy way to say what he wants to say, but then decides it is not necessary.
"Feliciano is in danger," he started, almost causing a heart attack for Ludwig, who stared at him in disbelief, trying to get more information. Lovino lowered his voice as he explained, "The other gang is trying to get a little revenge for a thing that I've done and they sent a bunch of robbers to scare him and to scare me."
"He told me he was assaulted yesterday, but I didn't think it was because of you. I thought this kind of things happened a lot in your neighborhood."
"And they happen... but I know every fucking thief in Brooklyn, all of them Latins, and these guys are not from here. They were from the North side," the Italian mumbled.
"Afroamericans live everywhere," argued Ludwig, trying to be reasonable.
"Yeah, I know, dammit, but, a group of three huge black men attacking a little Italian boy just to rob his painting supplies? Come on..."
"Well, if you put it that way, you might be right."
"Fuck, of course I am."
The waitress approached to them to take their order. Ludwig asked for a plate of mashed potatoes with pork meat, which disgusted the Italian, who just asked for a plate of Lasagna.
"So...why are you telling me this?" the German asked, almost guessing where this was going.
"I want you to take my brother out of the city...Go to Paris with him," Lovino answered lightly as he drank a bit of water.
"What? Paris? Why Paris?"
"Because my stupid assistant bought the tickets and she liked the idea of Feli going to Paris," Lovino answered, wondering himself why he hadn't fired Elizabeta yet. "And because we have to make him believe that this is just a random vacation I want to give him."
"So, it is not just temporary," Ludwig said, trying to get a confirmation.
"I wouldn't want to see him back here. It is too dangerous...besides, he can continue his studies there. Paris has good art schools."
Ludwig nods, understanding.
"You don't want us to come back, do you?"
"No...you can't. It is better if you stay away from all this. So you better find a job in a hospital or whatever you doctors do for a living." The waitress finally came to serve the food. For minutes, the only sound at the table was the sound produced by the friction of the cutlery on the plates. At some point Lovino got tired of the silence and added, "The only reason I am talking like this to you is because I don't want my fratello to be alone in Europe; and he feels for you, so you better take good care of him or..."
"I understand. I will take care of him."
After that the only thing left was telling Feliciano, and Lovino did it during dinner that night. He felt a bit miserable, like he was trying to fool a little kid, as he said to him:
"Remember you wanted to go to Paris to paint and to see the Louvre? Well, next week you'll go with your stupid boyfriend. Take it as a gift for being such a good boy."
The younger of the Vargas brothers almost choked on a piece of meat. Antonio, by his side, patted his back to help him and smiled nervously at his friend. He was implying with that gesture the phrase 'Are you finally insane?'
"Really?... Lovi, really?"
"Do I look like I'm fucking lying? Of course it's true... so start deciding what are you taking with you, and once there you can buy your painting shit again"
Feliciano jumped from the seat to hug his brother, saying really fast, "ThankyouThankyou!Youarethebest!"
"So this is what are we going to do," Lovino said to his subordinates Manuel, Antonio, and Elizabeta. "We're going to blow Akil's cellar with all his merchandise and we are going to get out of here."
"Really? So you decided? And what about the others?" Antonio asked.
"Akil doesn't know about the other sellers. He knows about the three of you and the sissy bastard." Lovino tried to forget the reason why Martín wasn't in the 'meeting.' "The next time he calls, say to him that I demand him to come back, so we can start our operation... I have decided to go to Europe, and Tonio is coming too, but I don't know about your plans."
"I don't wanna go out of the US," Manuel protested "I like being here."
"I like this city too," Eliza argued, trying to look fierce. "I wanted to move to Manhattan... having an apartment next to the theatres and..."
"Well you won't, because it's too fucking dangerous, and believe it or not, you are a woman, and those bastards could attack you and do horrible things to you, so no, missy!" Lovino shouted at her, trying to appear menacing.
"May I remind you that you send me to sell your shit by myself. I can deal with danger." Elizabeta was starting to sound like a street fighter and Antonio was just about to say something to her to calm her down.
"Really? 'Cause I remember sending you to the most exclusive clubs in Manhattan, so I don't think you faced a real danger."
"Don't you dare speak me like that, Vargas!" The woman raised her voice and Lovino was about to yell a bunch of atrocities. But the words stuck, trapped in his mouth, as he saw the man standing in the doorframe of his office.
It was Martín, and by his side, looking embarrassed, was Arthur. The Italian was petrified; he thought it was another of his hallucinations; one so strong that it was projected out of his head for everybody to see it.
"Eh bueno... let's go outside," Antonio suggested, pushing Elizabeta out, who insisted on 'wanting to see the reconciliation.'
Once everyone else was out Arthur finally dared to look at the man in front of him. Their eyes met just like the time they saw each other for the first time. It was like another shot of adrenalin right to the English heart. And Lovino felt it too. He walked towards him, slowly, fearing that if he moved too fast this hallucination would disappear. Arthur didn't say a word. He thought it wasn't his time to talk. He needed to hear an apology, an explanation, anything that could prove Lovino had missed him and he had not committed a folly returning to New York.
The Italian is really close to him and suddenly is hugging him, very tight, very strongly; then is caressing his face carefully and kissing both of his cheeks, saying "Caro mio," and he doesn't know if the English understood what he meant by that, but anyway, Arthur put his arms around his neck to kiss him and, with that contact, Lovino knows this is not a ghost; this is the real Arthur with his pierced tongue, his playful sensuality and that scent so his; Lovino missed that scent so much.
"Anything else you wanted to say?" The blond asked with a low voice, still rubbing Lovino's lips.
"Please, forgive me; I was such a fool, I didn't know... fuck! I just... I love you, dammit."
And that flustered confession worked as a miracle. 'Cause Arthur was smiling at him. Like he was always there. Like his long absence had just been a nightmare.
The Argentinian was very full of himself in almost every aspect. He knew he was handsome, charming, competent and astute. So he was sure when he left Connecticut and the other cities he passed by, that if he hadn't found the Brit there, it was because he wasn't there. At the time he arrived in Boston it had been almost a month of searching. He knew, somehow, that Arthur wasn't dead; Manuel told him the last time they spoke that it was stupid to have faith, but he was optimistic because it was part of his character. So Martín searched for libraries or book stores asking for Arthur Kirkland; he tried to put on that ridiculous accent and everything to pretend he was a brother, cousin or any relative.
A man – after almost two hours calling to different places – finally told him, "I don't have any British workers, but in the book store across the street there is one..."
When Martín arrived he paid attention to the people who entered; students, some hippies. The guy at the counter wasn't Arthur, but a silly young man with glasses, blue eyes and a strange curl rising from his golden hair. He thought maybe this was the Brit until he heard him speaking with the Yankee-est accent he ever heard. The Argentinean thought he would wait a little and see if there was another employee. After twenty minutes, in which he pretended to read several old books, hidden behind a bookshelf, somebody else came in.
"Artie! You came earlier!"
The Argentinean almost dropped the text he was holding and looked through the gap between the books.
"I had nothing better to do..." The newcomer had a strong British accent; the voice was just as he remembered. He only could see the back of the blond man standing with a long grey coat, but as he took it off, and showed his "Pink Floyd" t-shirt, there was no doubt.
"Me neither, so look! I'm reading what you told me!" the American said happily, showing him.
"Oh... I see."
Martín rolled his eyes, begging to the Lord this idiot wasn't Arthur's new boyfriend. Well, if he was, the poor guy would have an accident. The Latin smiled at his own wickedness, remembering how often Manuel lectured him for being "such a gangster."
"And? What do you think?"
"Well, it's longer than I expected... but in a good way."
"The three laws of robotics came from that novel, and lots of the movies you like so much came from Asimov's books...When you finish this one you should go for..." The Brit walked to one of the shelves, not paying attention to the Argentinean standing a few a meters away. "This one, Bradbury."
"'The Martian Chronicles?'... It's about aliens?"
"Yes... and no... you should read it and find out."
Martín finally got sick of the conversation between the two Anglophones and showed up from behind the shelves. Arthur paled as he saw the Latin in front of him.
"We have to talk," Martín said, trying to sound authoritarian, like his boss had taught him.
"I... we... no, we don't have anything to talk about."
"Is something wrong, Artie?" asked the other guy, looking at them, worried. Martín put his hands in one of the pockets of his jacket, just to suggest he was carrying a gun. The Brit understood and tried to keep calm.
"No, no, Alfred, give us a minute." Arthur made a signal to the Latin to make him go outside. Once there he snorted, "Ok, be quick."
"Why the rush, inglesito?, No, no, we are going to the coffee shop around the corner and you are going to hear everything I have to say."
Arthur sighed, tired, as he followed the blond, who was monopolizing the conversation, as usual.
"Well, I don't like this place so much. They don't have yerba mate here, and it looks too poor and intellectual... you know? I hate those kind of things." Arthur felt the indirect insult, and showed his anger as best he could with his face. Martín ignored his discomfort and sat near the window. "Anyway... I'm not here for me, but for the boss."
At that mention, Arthur jumped and tried to remain calm. "I can try to return you the money, I can ask for a loan from a friend, but please, don't cause me any trouble."
Martín looked at him in disbelief. "Do you really think I came all the way here just for the paltry amount of money you could get from the dope you stole from us?"
"Yes, I think so, and if it is not that, I don't know what to think."
"He thought you were dead," Martín said expecting to be clear without betraying his boss that much.
"Oh...I get it, so he felt guilty, like the good Christian he is, so he sent you to find me. Well, tell him I'm alive, that in fact I have no intention of bloody killing myself because of him."
"God! You are exhausting!" At that, Arthur felt more offended so he stood up to go. "No," the Argentinean growled, and then said seductively to the waitress, "You, two lattes, please... and you, don't you dare to go before we finish." Arthur dropped himself into the chair, reluctantly.
"Good." Martín looked for the right words to say. If this was Manuel, he would say without a problem what he feels; he wasn't a man who feared or was ashamed of his feelings. But Lovino was, and he respected him, he cared for him, so he would not expose his boss like that. The English bastard, on the other hand, was not being cooperative; he was distrustful and hurt. He had the right to be, and yet Martín needed to drive home his point. There was no way to be subtle, then. "He misses you," Martín started, just when the waitress came with the beverages. She placed them on the table and went quickly, surely thinking this was a gay lovers' spat. "It's you he wants back, not the money, you might believe it or not... and I think you want him back just as much, so..."
Arthur looked nervous now. He took the cup, just to do something, and took a sip of the latte. A disgusted grimace settled on his face and Martín asked.
"Come on! You can't be that rancorous!"
"It's not Lovino! It's the sodding coffee! Blast! I hate coffee."
A silence settled between both men. Martín drank the whole cup, quickly, before asking, "So, you are not mad at him..."
"Of course I am! He bloody betrayed me! What would you do if you were me? You can't not blame me for running away and not wanting to see him."
"Ok, I can't... I would have gone nuts, I would probably have shot the guy who dared to cheat on me." Arthur blinked in surprise. For a moment, both men looked at each other's eyes and they could reach a state of understanding, a very brief one, before the Latin continued, "but really, if I were you, I would prefer to follow what makes me happy, because pride is the worst thing that can happen to a man."
"Pride is a character feature, not something that happens."
"I know, but terrible things happen because of a man's pride."
Arthur looked to the rest of his beverage, like he was debating whether he would drink the rest, knowing it might be unpleasant. Or should he just let it go to waste? His whole life has been about waste. Wasting his time, wasting his intelligence, his money; being wasted... He didn't have a lot now, but he didn't want to waste it like it didn't matter. Like he didn't matter.
"Do you know how difficult was for me to find a job here? A place to live? To buy the few things I have..." He should add 'keeping myself clean,' but they both knew that, so it remained in the air, like so many other things they didn't speak of right then.
"Ché, look, inglesito. You know I can't stand you. You are too weak and too insignificant for my boss, but he loves you, in fact, he does it so much that he is driving himself crazy so... you can come back with me by fair means or we can do it the hard way, me dragging your white ass all the way back to New York."
"You are unfair," the English complained.
"I follow what I believe is fair...and what... Are you going to tell me you prefer this? Staying here? Don't you miss him? Don't you want to see him again?"
Arthur bit his lip in a vacillating gesture. This wanker was right and he hated it. In fact, when he saw him in the book store, a pathetic part of him wanted Martín to tell him what he did. He wished so deeply for Lovino to appear in Boston, chasing him and telling him he was sorry. This was not Lovino, he was somehow disappointed in that, but, he gave a second thought to it. Martín wasn't here for his own reasons. Lovino had to send him. And Arthur wanted to go back to New York so badly that he felt he was a traitor to himself. On the other hand, Martín was such a rude cunt. He just came here and expected him to follow his orders like he was a member of that sodding mafia. Just because of that, for his pride, he wanted to decline the offer and face any consequence; but, as usual, his pride was always left aside when it came to Lovino. Always Lovino, the stumbling block.
Maybe he was a stumbling block for the Italian too.
"So...when do we leave?"
And almost two days have passed and now he was there, in Brooklyn, in the Vargas residence, in the office, with the man who owned every single one of his thoughts.
Lovino is not a name, but a spell. He had written that, and it was so right.
"I love you..." Lovino said, so grave, like he was dying just for letting that drop out of his mouth. Luckily, Arthur was hugging him, strongly, to prevent him from falling.
"I love you, too," the Englishman answered, and he felt the weakness too. He felt how, saying those three words, a part of him was ragged and exposed so crudely. His raw guts offered to the beast. And he was not a trusting soul, but he needed so hard to trust Lovino that he simply decided to surrender to what was to come. At least he knew that he would not survive to live the agony of a second hit. That was his consolation.
"So...what did you do with the heroin you stole from me? I was thinking all this time you were aiming to kill yourself with it."
"Well, that was the original idea, indeed."
"Such a dramatic fucker."
"Shut up!" Arthur laughed while caressing the Italian's cheeks. "That was the idea, but then I remembered you, and the promise I made of not doing more heroin...So I sold the shit to afford my trip."
"You might think it is absurd, but even when I felt betrayed by you, I still had the need to honor my promise... words are important to me; if you have my word I'll respect it, because if I don't honor my own sayings, who will?"
"I would if you let me." Arthur looked at him, confused. Lovino coughed, trying to get some courage. "I know I screwed it up. I betrayed you... it felt like cheating to me at least."
"Because of the adventurous feeling?"
"No, dammit! Because of the guilt!.. and fuck! Let me finish." Arthur took a step away and remained in front of him. "What I'm trying to say is that now, I'm ready to give you my word... when I thought you were dead... just to imagine that... I thought I was going insane."
Arthur leaned back and sat on the corner of the desk looking at the Italian with a rare mix of worry and amusement on his face.
"This is a love declaration? Because if it is, you are terrible at it." Lovino felt his heart sink at that. Arthur noticed, enjoying his little revenge, and added, "But I don't care how awful are you with words, as long as you are mine."
Lovino wanted to say he was. But, as the Brit said, he was bad with words, so he tried a gesture. He ran his finger over his face to kiss him gently. Arthur smiled in understanding, even when he couldn't guess all the plans going in his lover's head. The Italian took his hand to guide him to the bedroom.
Once there he turned on the lights and regulated the intensity. In the half-light, Arthur looked golden, handsome, as an apparition. Arthur began to unbutton his jacket but the brunet stopped him "Let me," he asked, carefully pulling out the garment, smiling at the sight of the t-shirt. "You bought another one."
"It's my favorite band," Arthur answered, smiling. The shirt was out too and Lovino had space to kiss his stomach, going under. The English fell on the bed, surrendering to the sensations. The Italian unbuttoned the trousers, pulled them down and stayed there, fascinated with the hardness marked in the fabric of the last piece of clothing. Arthur froze. He didn't expect the next move. Lovino never was a fan of the male anatomy. He always avoided that special zone of his. So, when he felt the warm humidity of Lovino's tongue around him he had to refrain himself from screaming. It was pretty awkward at first. Arthur didn't want to boss him this time telling him how to do it. Instead he just moaned more or less according to how good the stimulus was. The Italian wasn't an expert in that maneuver, but he certainly knew how to read the reactions of a lover, especially Arthur's.
He didn't want Arthur to come yet, so he stopped at the right moment. The Brit growled in frustration. The surprises weren't over yet. Lovino looked in his nightstand drawer and handed the condom to the blond. He started to undress himself and Arthur looked confused. Lovino lay by his side, kissed him and settled under the blonde's body, trying to imply what he wanted.
"Are you sure?" Arthur asked, to make sure he wasn't hallucinating.
"Yes... I want you... this way..."
"I don't need you to do this to prove anything."
"I know...but I need it."
And Lovino didn't regret it. Arthur was an incredibly thoughtful lover. He prepared him properly, kissing him, setting a nice pace for both of them, touching the right spots to make everything perfect. And Lovino knew then that this wasn't a mistake. This couldn't be wrong. And if it was, then the world and God were crazy.
The next morning, when Arthur stood up and went to the kitchen to make some tea, he found the gang arguing again. Lovino was saying instructions to his four friends. When Arthur enter to the kitchen they shut up all of a sudden, making everything so obvious.
"So...this is how the mafia plans a revenge... fascinating." The Brit's comments were as mild as if he were talking about the weather. Manuel snorted a laugh and asked the Brit for a cup of tea. "Don't mind me here, pretend that I'm invisible," Arthur added while measuring the leaves to add to the teapot. Lovino, at the sight of his lover, was reminded of last night and a red shadow spread over his face like a plague. Antonio smirked at Martín, who made a vulgar gesture that imitated a penetration. Eliza smiled so much that it was scary and Lovino had to go on with the instructions; just to change the current subject of attention.
"Manuel is going first to see what is going on, then when he gives a signal, we go to install the bomb. I know how to do it, so..."
"I don't wanna be waiting in the car," Elizabeta whined. "It's too boring, please let me go, and Antonio can wait for us..."
"You'll stay in the fucking car 'cause I fucking say it, dammit!" Lovino shouted to the woman, who looked to the other men in the room trying to get some support. Nobody wanted to contradict Lovino, so she had to stay calm and quiet.
"I know I said you could ignore me... but, what in the bleeding hell are you planning? Suicide?" Everybody looked at Arthur now while the kettle was starting to get hot.
"It's not suicidal, we've always been stronger than them," Lovino assured him.
"That's true... but they've always played dirtier," Antonio reminded him.
Nobody said a word at that. Lovino seemed like a little kid being lectured by his teacher. The kettle boiled finally and the English added the water to the teapot. He sat by his lover's side and took his hand.
"Look, this revenge is not necessary... you don't have to get your hands dirty with their blood to prove yourself you are a man."
"But they messed with the family," Martín explained. Everybody else nodded at that.
They understood the concept. "Family." It was a buried word for Arthur, filled with bittersweet memories about his mother, his childhood, his father...Now, thanks to Lovino it was reborn as a new – non-blood relative – term. He tried to understand it anyway and said: "Well then...if they mess with you and your family then it's my problem too. I want to participate."
The Italian didn't want Arthur to get involved in this, but somehow he was right. He was part of the family now.
With Arthur there, they cooled down and decided just to blow the cellar with the dope. It was violent, but as the English assured them, it wasn't a crime because nobody had to die, it was an ultimate attack to the enemy and the drugs. A way to clean their consciences before they left.
That day, Elizabeta stayed in the car. Martín and Arthur stayed on two different corners watching the surroundings; Arthur was nervous, feeling the adrenaline of the adventure with a gun burning inside his jacket. Manuel went to look near the cellar and Lovino with Antonio went behind him to install the bomb while making sure nobody was in the place. There were at least four guys and, as a distraction, Manuel threw a noise bomb to distract them.
Gliding through the darkness, Lovino and his gang took advantage of the scandal to run into the car and activate the explosive. From the back window of the black Audi, Arthur could see how the cellar of the enemy gang flew into pieces. He knew it was foolish to expect that there were no injured from that attack; he hoped there was nobody dead . However, the fate of the other gang was unimportant to him. Now the only thing they had to worry about was to get to the heliport before midnight. A new life was waiting for them in Sicily.
Ps: The end? This is a good ending point, so let's say it is. I will try (really) to write the happy epilogue, I want to give a proper closure to every character, so stay tuned.