Content warning: Some light nudity ahead.
It was quiet here. So quiet that, on days like this, the only sounds were the wind in the trees and the birds singing. The prospect of spending all her days like this, quietly, surrounded by nature and with her own thoughts for company, had always been dreadful to Vittoria.
She had grown up learning that silence was bad. Silence meant someone was about to sneak up on you and stab you. It meant that her loud, boisterous kind-of-boyfriend was angry and about to put his hands around her throat.
But the quiet grew on her.
The first few weeks had been torturous. A slow slog through a fog of memories, nightmares that woke her up in the night, and the dreaded silence that was only interrupted when she played music on the radio or sculpted. The sound of the hammer and chisel soothed her, but it was only for so long. She liked sculpting, but it kept her interest for an hour at a time, and then she could feel the smell of blood in her nostrils and see the corpses littered around her, her mother’s eyes stared into her from beyond the grave… Sculpting lost all appeal.
It took her over a month to admit it to Franco, who regularly visited to make sure she had everything she needed. When he first suggested that she pick up a book, she looked at him as if he were mad. She could read, of course, because her mother had thought to teach her that much, but she had never read anything much longer than a newspaper article, let alone a fucking novel. But he brought a few stacks and she tried it out.
She devoured them now. Stayed up late in the evenings when the stars were out, reading on the deck. When she ran out and Franco wasn’t slated to visit, she started going to the library in town and bringing home bags of them. The silence wasn’t so oppressive when it was interrupted by the rustling of a page. They became friends, her and the quiet. Or at least respectful acquaintances.
So much so that today, when there were footsteps on the deck, she spun in annoyance at hearing a sound that wasn’t nature or a book. The posh people who lived in the village tended to stay away from her cabin, but sometimes a salesman would drop by, or someone would get lost and ask for directions. Always when she was at a good point in her book, of course.
She turned her head to ask them to leave, but the words got stuck in her throat.
“Franco said you’d taken up reading,” Carlo said. “But I didn’t believe him.”
Vittoria dropped her book and turned to take in his features. The strong line of his jaw and his shoulders, the fabric of his expensive shirt that stretched over his muscles. There was a sweet, patient smile on his face and from the way he looked at her, she almost thought he still cared for her. She sank something.
“Vittoria?” he said.
She stood up carefully and walked over to him. It took her precious infinities to find her voice.
“I lost the bet,” was all she could say.
He raised an eyebrow and came over to snake his arms around her waist. He caressed her cheek.
“I bet Franco that I’d never see you again.”
A laugh reverberated through his chest. “Come now, did you really think I’d stay away from you forever?”
“It’s been a year.”
She closed her eyes and enjoyed his touch. He said:
“I’ve been a little busy, but I couldn’t stay away forever now, could I?”
Her heart beat so hard, it almost hurt.
“Do you mean that?”
The sound of his laugh was dark and warm. “What do you think? No, wait, don’t tell me – you bet against me, after all.” He pressed a small kiss to her cheek. “How could I stay away?”
“After what I did? I imagined it would be easy. I’m sor-.”
He shut her up with a kiss and her breath stopped. It was a deep, warm kiss that set her entire body on fire and gave her hope like nothing else ever had. He broke the kiss and stroked her hair.
“I know. Let’s not talk about that now – you need to give me the grand tour.”
Easier said than done when he kept touching her like that. Sometimes she had imagined showing him the place and telling him about her new life, but now words escaped her. She motioned to the door that was right next to them.
“Let’s start in there, then.”
Carlo craned his neck to see through the glass door, and then smiled.
“Your bedroom? I think that’ll be a good start.”
He pushed the door open, never taking his eyes off her, and when he started pulling off her jacket and sneaking his hands under her shirt, Vittoria realised that this would be a very short tour.
Carlo stirred awake and was careful not to disturb Vittoria when he reached out to turn on the lamp. The soft light came on and fell over the curves of his wife’s body, lit up her soft features. She slept soundly, in a way he had never seen before. She had always been a light sleeper, ready to spring out of bed at a moment’s notice. She didn’t even stir when he kissed the top of her hair and got out of bed. And he’d thought the reading was the weirdest change about her.
She remained as unmoving as ever, even as he pulled the blanket back over her. She looked so quiet and happy, he almost got back in bed to hold her and listen to her soft breathing. But he needed to clear his head.
It was a chance for him to see the house as well, so he did just that, taking careful steps down the stairs and looking around.
The cabin was cosy, but with more of a modern feel than he cared for in his own house – still, it suited her, and that was all that mattered. The most remarkable part of the interior was a tall bookcase, crammed full of anything under the sun: trashy romance novels mixed with biographies and science fiction and so much more. An eclectic mix, created by a mind that cared more for quantity than quality.
He sank into one of the soft, white sofas and leaned back in the pillows. It was the first time in a while that he had really relaxed. He’d already adjusted to life without her before she moved here, but the year following had been turbulent.
Though the remains he had buried weren’t hers, he had still said goodbye to all hopes of his marriage returning to what it once was. The consensus among his men seemed to be good riddance – they sympathised with his loss, but all the same, she was a traitor and traitors had to pay, and Carlo had to grieve while still outwardly agreeing. On top of everything, he was alone with three kids, one of whom still woke up with nightmares, crying about blood and her dead father.
Carlo took a deep, steadying breath and reminded himself that he wasn’t entirely alone. His brother helped him. He was taking care of them all right now with Simona, and he thought he would have gone mad if not for that help. It let him focus on other things and right now, all he needed to do was think of Vittoria.
As if summoned by his thoughts, she came down the staircase. Her form stood out in the dark, draped as it was in a white over-sized shirt. When she saw him sitting there, she let out a sigh that sounded like one of relief and came over to him.
“I thought you’d left.”
He made room for her and made her sit next to him. “You know I’d never leave like that.”
But he could tell from her downcast face now that she didn’t. Some things never changed, and even when she slept soundly and sweetly, she still had dark dreams.
“If I was going to just leave you like that, I wouldn’t have come,” he said. “I considered doing that and leaving well enough alone, but in the end I couldn’t stay away.”
She made an attempt at a sweet smile, that came out strained, and said: “To think, I could have won my bet.” The smile dropped and she added: “Thank you for being honest, at least.”
Carlo sank past he lump in his throat and reached out a hand to touch hers.
“I’m not going to lie and say it didn’t hurt, or that I don’t mourn my marriage and the way it was. But I can work past it, I want to move past it. I’m sorry for the way I barged in.”
“What do you mean?”
He pulled a hand through his hair. “I mean… I came to make sure you were okay and happy. I actually wanted to talk to you before hopping back into bed, but then I saw you and…” he let out a shaky breath. “That’s the effect you have on me.”
“You have the same effect on me, you know.”
She looked at him through strands of brown hair, and Carlo realised with shame that he did know that, but he still doubted her. Vittoria saw straight through it.
“I don’t blame you for wondering if I really love you, but I do.”
“So we love each other and doubt each other.”
Carlo reached over and pulled her head to his, giving her a long, forceful kiss, as if to make his brain understand. He loved her. She loved him. They loved each other. When he broke it, he rested his forehead against hers and her fingertips grazed the skin of his chest.
“We’ll make it work,” he said, feeling her breath hot against his lips. “I don’t want to lose you again.”
“Are you saying you’ll come see me again after this?”
He pulled her over onto his lap.
“I am. As often as I can get away. I’ll bring the kids once they’re old enough to not talk about it.”
Her eyes softened. “I’d like that.”
Carlo brushed his lips with hers. “One day,” he said. “I’ll move here.”
Vittoria raised an eyebrow. “You can’t. The gang…”
“Hear me out, darling. I’m not going to be young forever, you know. One day, I’ll want to retire and I might as well retire to here. In fact, I have a successor in mind.” At the question in her eyes, he said: “A certain young lady who eats everything she can get her hands on and who has, in the past few months, led several successful raids on the kitchen with her accomplice.”
Vittoria laughed. “Regina?”
“The very same.”
His daughter was still young, but already now he saw a spark in her eye, one that reminded him of himself. If he wasn’t much mistaken, she would fit right in, and if she didn’t object, he’d show her the ways. Vittoria nodded at what he told her.
“Keeping it in the family. I like that. And I like you staying with me. Some day.”
She bit her lip and pulled him down for a kiss, and Carlo ran his hands along her body, over the smooth, expensive fabric of her shirt…
No, not her shirt. He stopped and pulled away.
“What?” she asked.
“This is my shirt. My good shirt.”
Vittoria burst out laughing. “You didn’t notice? I took it around the time I did you-know-what and I’ve been wearing it all the time.”
“Well, that won’t do…”
He grasped one of the buttons and started to undo it, but she squealed and pushed herself out of his arms to her feet.
“It’s mine now. Just consider yourself lucky I didn’t take your stupid parasol.”
“My stupid parasol?” He sprang up, grabbed her around the waist, and lifted her from the ground before she could run off. “It never occurred to you that you shouldn’t steal my things at all?”
“I’m a criminal, it’s what we do.”
“Oh, no, no, Ms. Mancini. Criminals have a code of honour: You don’t steal a man’s fucking shirt. Especially not the good one.”
She wrapped her legs around his middle and smiled seductively.
“You wouldn’t even let me have something to remember you by?” she said, and then her mouth found his again.
When she pulled back, he was out of breath.
“Fine, you can keep the shirt, but it comes off right now.”
He set her down and this time she didn’t stop him from undoing the buttons. She started making progress on his shirt, the one he was actually wearing, her fingertips lovingly caressing skin before moving to the stubble on his jaw. Carlo moaned, pulling her close. He lived for these moments with her, when her mouth was hot on his skin and her body pressed up against his. He chuckled under his breath when she whispered in his ear that maybe she would steal this shirt of his as well.
There were issues, he conceded. Hurts to be mended and trust to be restored. But right now, he lowered his wife to the floor and held her and made love to her, secure in the knowledge that with her, he could move past the pain.
Feeling lost? If you’ve forgotten previous chapters and need a recap you can find my recap page here. Be aware that it contains spoilers for the story.
To learn some about my thoughts on this generation, the characters, and so on, head on over and read my Reflections on Generation 1.
There are also a few bonus pictures for this chapter on my Tumblr.
Author’s note: Aaah, this is so weird! It’s all over and I’m kind of emotional about it. On the one hand, I really, really wanted to finish this and I’m so pleased with having it done, but on the other, I’ll really miss these two. Especially since their lives promise to be nothing but bliss (well, it’s a little weird and they’re going to live apart most of the time – but still, bliss) from now on. Imagine all the cute cuddly-kissy stuff I could be writing… But alas, it’s time to say goodbye.
A huuuuuge thanks to everyone who’s been reading this generation, speculating, commenting, laughing, sighing, raging, wondering just what the hell I was thinking with that four year time skip… all of that meant so much 🙂 I try and write stories that I want to read, otherwise I can’t get through them, but it doesn’t hurt that I write the story and get all giddy with excitement, thinking what my WordPress friends will say. You guys are stars and gems and other sparkly things!
I’m leaving Monte Vista for now, though soon I’ll be returning with Regina’s generation on the 9th. I’m hoping to have a sneak peek of some kind ready for you guys for next Saturday before it all starts. Until then, I have a post scheduled with extra stuff, facts, and reflections for tomorrow, so I hope you guys’ll return for a big old ramble fest and some cut images tomorrow (and there are A LOT of stuff I cut, y’all)!
Before I leave off entirely, a few site updates. There’re are some (tentative) chapter titles on the first five chapters of generation 2 now. I’m also posting little preview tidbits on my tumblr – mainly all the pictures of Regina that I don’t want to fill up the chapters with – because trust me, I could easily fill up the entire generation solely with close-ups of her pretty face. I need it out of my system, so you can go look at her face there.
Another, less relevant update: it recently came to my attention that the old character pics in my CoM character profiles were bad, so I took new ones. Relevant? No. Do I just want people to see them? Yes. Yes, I do.
Anywaayyyyyy, this was a lot of rambling, and there’ll be more tomorrow so I’ll see you then, and I hope you’re all having a wonderful time. Thank you for reading ALLLLL OF THIS STORY (shit you guys are so awesome wtf) and thanks for your lovely support.
All the love,