Can you run from your past?
Can you hide so well that it is never able to locate you?
What happens when you are the one who seeks to find it instead?
Does it continue to haunt you or does it give you the closure you so desperately ache for?
Answer to yourself silently, don’t let anyone hear you and then remind yourself you are lying.
Celia had lied to herself a lot those past five years. One lie that was repeated constantly was that she didn’t care that she was going to start fresh and try to leave behind and forget, bury even, the past.
Calling Gabriel had caused so many lies to resurface.
Lies she had told him after she run to him the moment her father had shown her to the door. He had known she had lied but he hadn’t cared. He had given her a place to stay, he let her have his name and her cut from their inheritance which allowed her to act like a nomad for a few years.
During those years, there had been no contact between them. She had never tried, she had never even confessed how painful it was for her to walk the crowded streets of Palermo, how the guilt haunted her and Gabriel was a firm believer that you shouldn’t cage anyone. If they desired to fly away, you gave them wings and hoped that one day they would return to you.
And she had, she had returned to him or would it be more correct to say that he had returned to her?
Gabriel had honour and he believed that nothing in the world mattered more than family, having lost both of his parents at a young age, he clung to whatever he believed was steady enough to keep him afloat.
Gabriel the only family she ever truly had.
He was the only one who cared enough.
One hour had passed since Gabriel’s flight had landed yet he hadn’t appeared, even though punctuality was one of his best traits. Celia was sitting on the hood of her black Impala, waiting patiently for him to show up.
She wasn’t aware at the time, but it would take another forty-five minutes for Gabriel to make his appearance. But when he did end up turning up, he did it in style, as always.
His suited figure was being accompanied out of the side exit of the airport. The man walking next to him was probably a manager of some sort who simply had to see that every need of Gabriel’s had been met. Celia rolled her eyes playfully, never even daring to take them off of him.
It had been too damn long yet he looked exactly the same as to she remembered him. His pale golden eyes of melted amber and Sun shone as a few, trembling rays of the morning star touched them.
The man who even the Sun was terrified to touch.
There had always been something strangely dark about him, even when he had been a kid. He might’ve inherited his mother’s eyes and her dark brown, almost black hair but he had his father’s roman nose and his darkness and that is why he always looked so stern. If one didn’t know him, he’d think that he was incapable of smiling.
He was the best of both worlds.
He slipped between the light and the darkness as if he owned them both, as if he was the only thing that kept them in existence, their oxygen.
He was a pinnacle of perfection and had the mannerisms to match.
His parents would have been proud.
She had been watching him exchange pleasantries with his escorts for so long that she didn’t even realise it when he wrapped his strong arms around her waist. “You’ve grown, Piccola.” Celia realised that the tips of his fingers were trembling, playing an unsteadily rhythm on her clothed skin. The musician inside him could never rest.
“It would have been worrisome if I hadn’t.” She articulated, offering him a loving smile. “Now, why can’t you travel like a normal human being?”
“My safety means more to me than acting like an ape that just learned to speak.” He replied cooly, the humour hiding behind his eyes.
Celia nodded mockingly, as she felt his arms unwrap themselves from her small, curved form. “Of course, cugino. It is a known fact that every human on this planet is after seeing your head on a silver platter.”
“I don’t appreciate your tone. There are men in my line of work who wouldn’t have to think twice, if they had the chance to off me.”
“I know, I’m sorry.” Her hair fell around her face, hiding her and the awful wave of sadness that felt like a monsoon was tearing her insides to pieces. “I have some good news though and you’re the first person I’ve told it them to.”
Morbid curiosity was a common trait in their family, it couldn’t be helped. Taking his palm in hers, she placed it over her stomach. Her heart was frantic, the sound deafening, afraid yet at the same time at peace. “I’m going to be a mom, Gabe.” There was something comical about the way his eyes widened and his mouth hang open. “Before you say anything, I want you to know how much I already love this baby and its father.” His hand remained on her stomach, unmoving. It was odd to see how many similarities the people closer to her shared. Frightening even.
“Is he going to recognise the bambino?” He finally managed to place his hand to the position it was always meant to be, guarding his side. Gabriel was disoriented, there hadn’t been many moments in his life where he was reddened speechless but this was certainly one of the precious few.
“I haven’t told him yet. He just lost his best friend, I can’t throw this grenade at him, not now. After everything is done and he is free, I’ll tell him.” She vowed to her baby, not the man with the amber eyes. She gestured towards her car, the shiny black metal finally catching his attention. “We have to go now.”
He made a gesture with his hands, graciously motioning forward. ‘After you’ the movement said. “Well then, please lead the way to the man who knocked up my baby cousin. I’ll be delighted to make his acquaintance.”
A few cars away from them a stranger sat next to a motorbike, watching them intently, watching them as if they could disappear in a second. A stranger to them, anyway.
They weren’t strangers to him.
The stranger’s jacket was adorned with a Symbol which was frighteningly familiar to the residents of the town where he originated from but to the people moving past him in a frenzy it didn’t mean a damn thing. The words on it, for them, were nothing but a cheap joke elicited from the bible. Juda’s Sinners, what a fucking joke.
The man nodded harshly, a reply to someone who couldn’t see him though the screen of his phone. “Yes,” he replied calmly. “I’ll have everything ready by the time she leaves the garage. You can trust me.”
“Yes, I know pops. You had to do it. I know. Just like you have to do this.” If Mick had been sitting somewhere close to the man he would have been snarling at him. That’s the fucking man I raised? That pathetic piece of him is my baby brother?
Chris knew he would have felt hurt by those words but he would never hear them.
No, he’d just read them.
So it didn’t really matter.
It never would have mattered because the sick smile he had on his face as he thought of the future of the woman he was watching, could never be mistaken for something a human was capable of.
Mick had failed, he’d turned out to be exactly like Bruce.
“Play nice.” Celia had warned before strolling out of the room, her car keys dangling from her forefinger, leaving them to talk.
Playing nice wouldn’t exactly be the term anyone would use to describe the atmosphere in Ax’s shop. Perhaps, borderline hostile would be much more appropriate.
Twisted smiles were gracing the faces of both men as they scrutinised one another.
“Who have you been working with?” The Italian asked, cocking a disinterested eyebrow at Ax. It had been a couple of hours since Celia had left to go to Nathan’s class and the animals had done nothing but bicker and compare whose achievements were better, who could be more intimidating.
It would have exhausted her, mostly because she knew what was hiding behind the facade.
“Xavier Cortada. Perhaps, you know him. Future leader of the Bandidos and their best damn trained soldier.”
“I know his father, good man but he’s a kid.” Gabriel replied. “Why did you trust a fucking bambino to take care of something that holds such importance?” A small twitch in his jaw showed that he wasn’t pleased. Good, Ax thought, I’m not here to please anyone. “How do you two know each other, anyway?”
“I think you know the answer to that question. I think you had whatever private investigator you have under your employment to scrutinise my whole fucking life.”
The sharply dressed man smiled. “How do you know that?”
“We have something in common, you and I. We both care about Celia. If I were in your position I would want to know with what kind of a man she’s with.”
A glimmer of respect appeared in his unusual coloured eyes. “And if you deemed him unworthy?”
That was perhaps the easiest answer Ax had given all day. “I’d kill him.” There was no room for further discussion on the matter. They were on the same page. “Now, back to Xavier.”
“I’m telling you again, cugino, you cannot trust someone with no experience on strategical planning.”
There was a problem in that particular discussion, Ax didn’t like being told what to do. He didn’t like arrogant fuckers who thought themselves as Gods, who reeked of power and seemed like great whites in fish tanks. He didn’t like them even if, at least in part, he was exactly like them. “He knows what he is doing and from what I remember you were much younger when you were given your title. You were eighteen when they named you Capo, weren’t you?”
“I see you’ve done some digging of your own.”
“My circumstances were different.” There’s bitterness in his words but oddly enough, there’s acceptance too, like he finally has realised that the past can’t change and humans are too weak, no matter how strong they are, to fight with fate. “My father had known what I was, what kind of blood ran through my veins, he knew that I was the only one capable to become Capo after him. He just didn’t expect it to be so soon.”
“But you didn’t stay there to train, you went to the US.”
“Believe me, living with that man Celia is forced to call a father, was enough training. I learned how to keep quiet and wait for the time to strike. I learned how to be a ‘yes man’ when I had to. I learned to strike the moment no one expected me to.”
He had to give it to him, Gabriel Saverino was one intimidating motherfucker but, honestly, he could not truly compare to what he has experienced during his five years in the local prison. He had the whole Al Capone vibe, threatening and obviously dangerous. He was a natural predator but he belonged in rooms with glass chandeliers, marble floorings and red velvet couches whereas Ax belonged to places like his garage, with grease stains on his shirts, droplets of sweat running down his stern brows and hair out of place.
All because he knew how to fight dirty and enjoy it.
Jail had taught him well.
He had been forced to sleep with one eye open wide for all those dreadful years. You see, in prison it doesn’t matter if you are bad, there will always be someone who’s worse. There’s an unspoken rule in jail, all the inmates know it: you either lay low and do not draw attention to yourself or you, are damn sure the others fear you enough to respect you. Ax, of course, had chosen the latter.
On his first day in jail, Mick had visited him, wanting to give him some tips he had gotten from old members of Juda’s Sinners. He kept muttering about bars of soap and underwear which should be worn properly, nothing over the waistline of the trousers was allowed, unless he wanted to be a plaything for someone who hadn’t seen a woman’s ass in years, of course.
Just before he had left, the brown haired man had leaned in closer and had encouraged him to go and hit the first motherfucker who tried to cross him.
Ax had actually chosen to listen to Mick.
Let’s just say that the man who eventually found himself against Ax had been several years older, hardened by the prison life while the mechanic was nothing more than a junkie with symptoms of withdrawal. Ax hadn’t noticed the gleam in his amber eyes when they scrutinised him, he hadn’t understood that they viewed him as a new shiny toy that needed to be broken in.
The only thing wrong the nameless man did was that he brushed his shoulder against Ax’s. The mechanic had been on his way to the common facility, looking for a willing victim. There had never been a more perfect timing in the history of humankind. In mere seconds, the brooding mechanic had grabbed the man by his neck, pushing him to the cold, cement ground. The fact that the stranger had been surprised let the air headed man believe that winning would be easy.
And boy, had he been wrong.
His back was against the hard floor and Ax’s hands where wrapped around his thick throat. It had taken Ax exactly five seconds to fuck things up. He looked around only for a nanosecond but it had been more than enough for the criminal to reverse their positions. In mere seconds he had straddled Ax, his weight nearly crashing the younger man. He knew exactly what he had been trying to do, told him so himself.
He even told him that he would play his game and maybe even let him rough him up a bit if he gave him something in return.
I would hate to hurt your pretty face, he had said, his voice as revolting today as it had been back then.
The realisation of what he had been suggesting had managed to knock the air out of his lungs. It was a silly thing to think but if Mick had been there Ax was certain he would have smiled and congratulated him on his good taste and then he would deliver the first punch. Ax did not joke around.
Adrenaline had rushed though his veins, giving him exactly what he needed to relieve his body of the built up anger that had inhabited it. Somehow, the mechanic had managed to free himself from the man’s hold and to even throw a punch at him, hitting him directly at the spot below his Adam’s apple.
He was in his element, a ravenous animal finally finding his place in the jungle, free to destroy. He didn’t stop hitting him after that. He didn’t even care that the crowd, that had gathered to watch the scene he had initiated, was cheering. As the man below him stopped fighting back he realised he had provided his survival.
It didn’t even matter when the guards came and dragged him back to his cell.
It didn’t matter because as he was thrown into the room two piecing forest green eyes welcomed him with respect and acceptance.
“Anyone else?” Gabriel prompted, looking as much the King as he was.
“Salvatore Velasco.” That managed to get a reaction out of the man made of granite. His eyebrows furrowed ever so slightly but it had been enough of a reaction to elicit a wolfish smirk from Ax even though, technically, Ax had lied. Salvo had told him that he couldn’t be involved and that was the only reason why he begrudgingly accepted Celia’s proposition.
He didn’t trust strangers.
“Impossible, he’s in jail.” Was Gabe’s quick reply.
Guess he was keeping tabs on everyone.
Only the important ones, his mind instantly rectified.
“Just got out. He came by the house yesterday.” Ax contradicted, feeling incredibly smug. “He agreed to help, if I needed his assistance.” That wasn’t a lie, not really, Salvo had agreed to offer some assistance if Bruce turned out to be a much more important threat than what they considered him to be. He just didn’t know that he had agreed to it yet.
“Let me tell you something, Gabriel. I don’t need you here. I’m only doing this for her, if it had been up to me, your stuck up Italian ass would have never left Palermo.” Smirking like the arrogant God he was, he managed to steal a small, brief crooked smile from the other man but he didn’t care, he was in his element.
The God complex was back, strong as ever.
Gabriel sat up gracefully, his every movement calculated, his fingers tracing one of the black buttons of his suit’s jacket. He let his fingers wonder for a while before pulling it through the hole on the opposite side, buttoning the jacket just to give his hands something to do. Standing up, he closed the already small between them. His handmade Italian loafers, made no sound as they hit they ground, yet his every step radiated power.
“I’m glad.” He said simply, not more words were needed. He outstreched his left hand and offered it to the mechanic. At first, Ax cocked an eyebrow at him but he was met with a stern, accepting amber gaze. “I will help you, not because I like you, or because I admire your drive but because she doesn’t want to lose you.” They shook hands and a burning sensation passed through them.
That’s how making a deal with the Devil must feel like, Ax observed.
“I also like to see what vendetta does to those who lose. Getting revenge has to be the sweetest feeling in the world.”
No, Ax argued but kept the thought to himself, fucking your cousin is the sweetest feeling in the world. Nothing can compete with that.
“Is that what you did?” Surprise flew from the other man’s melting amber eyes as fast as it could, giving room for indifference to reappear.
His cold, pale eyes hardened and Ax immediately recognised the mistake he had made. That was not a man who had accepted his fate, that was a predator waiting for the moment to strike. The black-haired man could almost see the Hell the man hid inside of him. It was worse than his own, he realised because even though his own Inferno was full of Devils, he, at least, had someone to guide him out of the darkness and the eternal flames.
Gabriel appeared to have no one. He had been thrown into the fire and there was not exit.
“My revenge hasn’t ended, it hasn’t even truly begun. I’ve killed the man responsible for the death of my parents but the man who is morally responsible, the man who hired him is still breathing. Vendetta can’t bring back the dead, cugino, and death does not offer peace on a silver platter. I wish it could, but it is simply not possible, all it can offer to you is peace.” Not even, Vito Corleone had been that fucking dramatic in The Godfather.
“Are you in peace, now?” Ax inched closer, whispering the words as if they were discussing a conspiracy.
“Some days.” The man confessed, his voice nothing but a calm, collected whisper. “Other days I remember. You will remember too, there is no way out of the guilt and the pain.” There was something in his voice that reminded Ax of his best friend.
It hurt like Hell.
“Are you really at peace, Gabriel? Even those days you claim to be, are you in peace?” He didn’t know why he repeated the question, perhaps, he had sensed the lie.
The other man shook his head, a small smile playing at the corners of his lips. “No. Not yet.”
It had been hours since Celia had left to go to her philosophy class. Any other day she would have been home by now or at the very least she would have called Ax to tell him that she was running late and he shouldn’t worry, however, this wasn’t like any other day.
This time Celia did not manage to reach her class.