Chapter One: Like a Dream
The lights of the casino flashed brightly in hues of white, red, and gold as the slot machines rang loudly with their inviting music that elicited feelings of anticipation and opportunity. Anyone could be a winner tonight. Anyone could go home rich. Potential weighed in the air as heavily as the thick smoke from the gamblers' cigarettes. Just the atmosphere was enough to get Feliciano's heart pounding as excitement twisted in his belly. He loved places like this!
The hype, however, was soon replaced by a serious and stoic expression Feliciano attempted to force on his face. They weren't here to play, he reminded himself. This was a mission. They had a duty to fulfill. His father, the Don, had assigned a very important task to the young Italian and his older brother, Lovino. There was no time for games and gambling- at least not the kind of gambling where your money was all you had to lose…
"If you're done gaping like an idiot, follow me," Lovino said, raising his hand to adjust the brim of his fedora.
Feliciano didn't reply. He just gave a nod and walked behind his brother, eyes shifting left and right as they ventured through the crowd of unfriendly strangers on the main gambling floor. It wasn't so surprising that many of the people there stopped to look at them. They were, after all, the sons of the most powerful man in the district, and anyone who was anyone knew it.
Lovino didn't acknowledge the stares. His eyes were shifting through the crowd too, ready to detect any threat, but his stride was swift and purposeful. One would think he had no distractions. It wasn't necessarily true- there was plenty of entertainment available with the potential to stray him from his path, but Lovino refused to give in to any temptation. He knew how pissed the old man would be if he did. As if the bastard wasn't surrounded in pretty girls and fine wine himself.
"Stay close," Feliciano heard his brother grumble. It was funny how protective the older Vargas could be. When they were at home, Lovino always acted like he couldn't get rid of him fast enough, complaining about Feliciano and distancing himself more often than seeking him out. When they were out on assignments, however, Lovino rarely let Feliciano out of his reach. If the younger Italian so much as strayed a few feet, Lovino would grab him by the collar and reel him back in. It was annoying at times (especially when Feliciano wanted to flirt), but he knew his brother was only doing it because he cared, and he couldn't help but be grateful for that.
They reached the back door of the casino and went inside. They were supposed to meet the owner here and demand their cut of the profits from the past month. The Vargas family had a contract with this casino that entitled them to a certain percentage of the casino's revenue in exchange for protection and a few other private services. Lovino wasn't even sure what the details were. He just knew that his old man expected him to return with a briefcase full of money in his hand. The Don had sent Feliciano as back-up… "The useless favorite son," Lovino thought bitterly, though in truth, he was glad Feliciano was here. He needed all the support he could get.
Feliciano himself wasn't exactly sure how he felt about being here. Once the excitement of being in such a lively place wore off, the reality of the situation began to sink in in its stead. People were rarely kind when they were asked to pay, especially when it was obvious that they were avoiding doing so. The younger Vargas brother usually left most of the yelling to his brother, but if they were lucky, it wouldn't come to a shouting match or the exchange of threats. He knew there was a reason that their father had sent both of them along. Lovino had the same fire and strength as the Don when it came to intimidation, but Felicano had the power of persuasion. He could sweet talk a hardened criminal into joining a cheer squad. No one knew exactly how he did it, but Feliciano was good at this, as it was one of the few talents he had that were of any use to the family business. Still, he was a coward, and for that reason, he was no good on his own. He needed Lovino's support. Feliciano never went on a single assignment without his big brother beside him, and he secretly hoped that would never change.
"Well, if it isn't the Vargas brothers," a husky voice said from behind the table of the room they came to. "Your papa couldn't be bothered to come talk to me himself? Had to send two whelps in his place?"
"Watch what you say, bastard," Lovino growled. "The Don doesn't have time to waste on assholes like you! We're here to collect…"
"Always so diplomatic with your words, Lovino," the client chuckled. "I'm sure your father knows already that I intend to pay the debt in my own time."
"You're not the one who gets to determine when the money is due, dammit!" Lovino snapped, and Feliciano flinched at the rising volume of his voice. "We're not leaving until you give us what you owe."
"Then you will be here a long time, my young friends. Go ahead, pull up a chair and let me entertain you…"
The man gestured towards the chairs across the table from him. At the same time his right hand moved however, his left was already sliding into the pocket of his jacket. Lovino and Feliciano didn't need to wait until they had seen the gun to react instantly. The older struck the gun out of the man's hand before he even had the chance to pull the trigger. The weapon flew towards the wall and crashed to the floor.
"Feli, it's time to work!" Lovino shouted as the younger brother turned to run. Feliciano didn't get very far, though. All of a sudden, there was a blow to the side of his head, and then, everything went black.
It only lasted for a moment. Feliciano opened his eyes, feeling a bit dizzy, and as soon as his head cleared, he realized where he was. This was a mission. He was ready to do what he had come here for. It was as if the fear had drained out of him, replaced instead by unexplainable aggression. Part of Feliciano knew he was not himself, but it didn't matter. The darker side of him was taking over fast.
"Kill him!" Lovino yelled, and Feliciano felt something burn within him, a strong desire for violence and the chance to show someone what happened when you messed with the Vargas family.
A slow, sadistic smile came over his features. Their client was now pointing a new gun at him. Feliciano just faced the man and laughed.
"Do you know what the Don would do if you murdered one of his sons?" he asked, unfazed by the threat of the weapon. "Do you know how much blood you'd have to pay to make up for mine?"
He approached the table casually, hands in his pockets, before leaning forward fearlessly and placing his palms on its hard surface. "Are you really going to shoot me?"
"No," the man replied, "but I'm going to give you the chance to get your asses out of here before a put a few holes in your fancy suits."
Their client seemed confident despite Feliciano's dramatic change in demeanor, but he was completely caught off-guard when the Italian started laughing loudly again.
"I don't think you understand the situation you're in," Feliciano told him, leaning even closer, as far over the table as he could until the barrel of the gun was inches from his nose. "We're here to collect. You can either give us the money, or-" In an instant, Feliciano's hand when up, knocking the gun out of the man's hand and letting a bullet whiz by his ear. "-we can take it from you."
Feliciano grabbed the man by the collar as Lovino bent down to retrieve the guns. The unlucky client struggled, but he froze when he saw his own weapons pointed against him. Feiciano's grip was firm and merciless as he spoke.
"F-fine!" the man stammered, and Feliciano threw him back down into the seat roughly. The client threw him a dirty look and reached for the phone on his desk. He dialed a number and muttered something hastily into the receiver.
The Italian brothers waited, Lovino's fingers twitching impatiently on the triggers of the two guns he held. Feliciano narrowed his eyes as he heard the door open. He didn't trust the client's men for one second and knew Lovino didn't either. His older brother turned one of the guns on the newcomers, glaring threateningly as two men entered the room with a briefcase in their hands- one each.
"There's your money," the client growled from the table. "Take it and go."
"Wait," Feliciano said, taking the briefcases. "We'll check them first."
He set one down on the table and had only just started to open it when Lovino suddenly shoved him out of the way. There was a boom as something erupted from within the suitcase. The rest was a blur. One moment, Feliciano was standing there- the next, he was hurtling towards the ground. A few more gunshots were all he heard before he blacked out.
Cold! Feliciano jerked awake as a splash of water hit his face. He jumped, startled, and looked around himself wildly. They were in a dark place outside…An alley? It sure smelled like one.
"W-what happened?! Fratello, are you okay?!" he cried, turning to see Lovino beside him, much to his relief. Feliciano was just about to throw himself on his scowling brother, but stopped suddenly when he noticed something strange- Lovino was wearing different clothes from before. Feliciano stared at them, confused. Had he really been unconscious for that long?
"Ve…? Lovi- when did you change your clothes?"
"Idiot!" Lovino growled, looking like he was trying really hard not to hit the other. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"Your clothes are different! And the client! What happened to him? Did we get the money for Papa? Are we going home?"
He was talking really fast right now, and Lovino was staring at him as if he had grown two heads and his hair was made of pasta.
"You should have seen me, Fratello! I was so cool! I wasn't even scared! It was just like- Just like-"
"A dream," Lovino snapped. "Your dreams are the only place where you can be anything but a useless moron."
"Oh…" Feliciano said quietly, looking a bit hurt and disappointed.
"You know our old man is gone," his older brother murmured quietly, looking down at the ground.
Feliciano bit his lip and nodded slowly, tears welling up in his eyes. Now that he was fully awake, reality was starting to hit him again. The Don had disappeared over a week ago, leaving the entire Family in the hands of his underboss, Sadiq Annan. Lovino hated Sadiq, and Feliciano was terrified of him. He made the brothers take on dangerous missions the Don would have never allowed, and his interest in using the two young men, who had yet to be "made" as full-fledged Mafiosi, for such tasks was very unsettling. Did he mean to kill them before the Don returned? Lovino had already told Feliciano that he didn't think their father was coming back. The man had too many enemies, too much power that others were hungry for- and he had made some questionable choices. Sadiq wasn't even Italian, but he had been allowed into the Family based on his merits and a network of connections too important for the Don to ignore. The fact that he had been promoted to underboss was a sign of how much the Don had trusted him, but the sudden disappearance of his father made Feliciano wonder if this trusted "ally" had something to do with it.
Feliciano wiped at his eyes hastily. He couldn't let himself think about it too much right now. He had been horribly depressed since his father vanished, but he had still managed to stay hopeful that he would return, no matter what anyone else said. He had to keep his head together if he was going to stay alive until then. Lovino frowned at him for a moment, and finally, sighing, he reached out to clap his hand over his brother's shoulder in a rare gesture of comfort.
"Look…you're not completely useless, okay? There's a reason you and I always work together."
He gripped Feliciano's shoulder tighter and finally let his hand fall. It wasn't like Lovino to be anything close to kind, but his brother was one of the few people he really cared about, and he couldn't let him go long believing any differently.
"Really?" Feliciano replied with a smile. "So…you really do like having me around?"
"Yeah, sure, whatever," Lovino mumbled, embarrassed. "Let's just get to the assignment already."
The older Italian briefed his brother as they went, explaining the mission again because apparently Feliciano was "too lost in dreamland to remember anything." They had a deal to seal with the owner of a new resort that had just opened in town. The man was a fellow Italian, a former acquaintance of the Don. Sadiq was offering him business in exchange for some information on the foreign guests staying at the hotel. The Vargas Family had a huge network of people, which meant a lot of money coming in to wherever Sadiq chose to put them up.
Lovino led his brother out from the alleyways and towards the bright lights of the flashy new resort. Feliciano felt the same excitement from his dream return, a burst of childish awe and fascination. Lovino had to drag him along to keep him from gawking in one spot for too long. The older Italian hated the noisiness of these places, Feliciano knew. No doubt his brother would want to get out of here as soon as possible.
But some things about this new place seemed to change Lovino's mood. This resort was a classy place, and it attracted classy people…Ladies in particular. Feliciano caught sight of the slight smirk that crossed Lovino's features as a group of rather scantily clad women passed them. It was so small, anyone else wouldn't have noticed, but Feliciano knew his brother. If there was one thing that could make the grumpy Italian happy, it was a pretty face.
"Don't get distracted on the job, Fratello," Feliciano teased, guessing easily where Lovino's mind lingered as the two continued walking.
"Hah! That's some advice coming from you, dickhead," Lovino grumbled as he went on, not even looking at his brother.
"They'll still be here after the job's over!" the younger Italian sang a little too loudly, earning himself a good smack.
"Shut up!" Lovino snapped, not looking the least bit remorseful. "Just once in your life, try to stay focused!"
Feliciano frowned indignantly, but decided to stop his teasing for now. After all, work was more important. He was sure Lovino would be less grumpy once their assignment was taken care of. The two came across a large set of doors that seemed to lead to a private area in the back of the resort. Lovino took Feliciano aside and set him by the door, putting two hands on his shoulders as if this would help keep him in place.
"Don't move from this spot, understand? I'm going to go ask where our client is. It'll look less invasive if you stay here till I come for you, so don't. Fucking. Go. Anywhere. Got it?"
Feliciano nodded before stopping and cocking his head worriedly.
"But…what about you, Fratello? What if you get in trouble and need help?"
"You'll be more helpful if you just stay out of the way. This isn't a dangerous assignment, dammit. I'll be back in no time, so just relax for a bit, alright? And no flirting!"
With that, he was gone. Feliciano stood still for a total of three minutes before he started bouncing on the balls of his feet. No flirting? Well Lovino had never said he couldn't look.
Feliciano was eying one of the ladies dealing cards when suddenly, a silky, feminine voice spoke on the other side of him.
"Don't you win more money by gambling than you do by staring?"
The Italian turned to see a tall, slender woman in a green dress standing next to him. She was very beautiful, with light brown hair and alluring green eyes. In her hair, she wore a pink flower. Feliciano forgot all the other women in the room instantly.
"Oh, I- I wasn't really gambling! I came here with my brother. I'm just waiting for him right now!"
"Oh? Where is he?" the stranger asked curiously, tilting her head a bit.
Feliciano was too captivated to consider his family's secrecy as he blurted out an answer.
"He went to go talk to someone! He should be back soon, though! You're very pretty, miss. Would you tell me your name?"
Before he knew it, Feliciano found himself doing what he knew best- showering the lovely lady with compliments and flirting like a true Italian. The lady seemed flattered by the attention, but she wouldn't tell him who she was. The mystery only fueled Feliciano's curiosity. He joked and teased her, doing his best to win her over with his charm, the way he was convinced always worked with the ladies he had known. If Lovino had been there, he would have slapped his brother upside the head for acting so foolish, but Feliciano knew his older brother's habits weren't much different. Finally, the mystery woman made to leave.
"It's been nice talking to you, Curly," she said sweetly. Feliciano laughed a bit at the silly nickname, loving the touch of familiarity. He had playfully told his new acquaintance that he would not give his name until he had learned hers. The lady smiled at him and caressed the side of the Italian's face. "I would love to get to know you better, but it seems I'm out of time. I was wondering, though…Could I possibly trouble you for one small favor?"
"O-of course! No problem at all!" Feliciano responded eagerly, before even hearing what the request was.
"I left my bag in my room, and it's terribly heavy. Would you be a dear and help me carry it down to the lobby?"
The thought of leaving his post finally made Feliciano reconsider for a moment.
"I- Well, my brother will be back soon, and he'll be looking for me. I should probably stay here…"
"Oh, it won't take long," the lady insisted. "You'll be back here right away! Of course, if you're that worried about it…"
"Ah, it's okay! I'll do it quick, and he won't even notice! Let's go."
And with that, Feliciano hurried away behind the woman, following her to the elevator that went up to the fancy suites of the resort. Feliciano was still nervous about Lovino discovering him gone, but he couldn't abandon a lady in need of his help. Surely his brother would understand.
The elevator dinged, and the two exited on the fifteenth floor. The woman led Feliciano to her door and unlocked it. As it swung open, Feliciano noticed it was completely dark inside. He followed the woman into the room, hearing the door shut behind him. He waited for the lights to come on, but they never did. Instead there was a clang of metal and a sudden pain at the back of his head that seemed to make the sound echo to some faraway place. The Italian fell to the ground never knowing what hit him. The darkness of the room remained even as his consciousness slipped away.
A/N: Welcome, everyone who's joining me for this ride into a Mafia AU. This fic will focus mostly on brotherly relationships, but expect some Spamano and GerIta down the line. Let me know what you think!