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but i've been anywhere and it's not what i want / i wanna be still with you

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Bruno knows something is wrong the minute Leone walks in the door. It’s broadcast plain as day in the tense, downward slope of his shoulders and the tight line of his mouth. He skips the coat hook by the door in favor of sitting heavily on the couch. His head is in his hands immediately. Bruno stands from his place at the kitchen table, setting aside the tea he was working through in order to sit beside Leone. Gently, he pulls back long silver locks to reveal screwed-shut eyes. Bruno pouts in sympathy. Poor thing. His face is bare of makeup, leaving him, in Bruno’s opinion, beautifully exposed. He suspects Leone doesn’t think the same, but that’s alright. He’ll love him enough for the both of them. Leone takes a long, shuddering breath as Bruno begins to softly massage his scalp.

“My sweet boy,” he mutters into Leone’s hair as Leone turns to embrace him. “What’s wrong today?”

For a moment, he doesn’t think Leone will answer. He can all but see the neurons firing in his head as thoughts fight to become words through the storm in his mind. He pulls back to press his forehead against Bruno’s, letting his hair fall across his shoulders like a curtain to hide them. When he speaks, his voice is as tense as his body. “I failed them.”

Oh. He’s upset about the mission, then. Yes , Bruno thinks, that makes sense. He had heard about the injuries from the mission, nothing that Giorno couldn’t fix in five minutes but probably still stressful for everyone involved. Couple that with the fact that Leone had to forgo makeup and his usual outfit for a high quality suit and tie, which must leave him feeling very exposed, and it’s no wonder he’s so upset. Leone’s head dips again, back into the junction of Bruno’s shoulder and neck. Bruno places a soft kiss on the top of his head. “You did the best you could with the information you had. Everybody lived. You did not fail them. They’re all here, right? All in one piece. All safe.”

Leone gives a soft squeak, the tail end of a sob he couldn’t clamp down on all the way, “Mista could have died.”

“You saved him. You made all the right choices and because of that, Mista is alive,” Bruno assures. Once again, he gathers Leone’s silver hair into a loose ponytail, revealing the tight set of his jaw. His eyes are shut firmly against tears that Bruno can see building. “Come on, let’s get you into more comfortable clothes.”

Leone moves in slow motion. That’s okay, Bruno doesn’t expect him to move any faster. They’re in no rush. Their room is dark, and Bruno’s first instinct is to pull open the curtains to let in some of the golden sunset light. Leone glances uncomfortably out of the open window, checking the beach outside in case someone has decided to wander by. 

“Do you want me to close it while you change?” Bruno asks.

Leone shakes his head. Bruno kisses him tenderly on the lips and pulls out one of Leone’s softest shirts. He guides Leone’s arms out of his overcoat, followed by his suit coat. He hangs the overcoat on the door to take back to the front door later, and slides the suit coat onto a spare hanger. Leone’s tie is next, Bruno’s nimble fingers work diligently to free it from his collar. Once the tie is removed, he kisses the newly exposed hollow of his throat. As more and more of his shirt gets unbuttoned, Bruno catches Leone’s eyes drifting self-consciously to his stomach. He knows better than to let that gaze linger too long. Instead of letting him dwell on the insecurity, he kisses the broad expanse of his chest.

“It’s just muscle,” he assures. “Your body type is perfectly normal. Most men with extra muscle look like you. You’re gorgeous.”

“You have visible abs.”

“I have trouble putting on weight. We have different bodies. You’re absolutely beautiful.”

Leone’s button-down gets shoved quickly onto a hanger, only the top button redone. Leone raises his arms, allowing Bruno to slip his light silk sleeping shirt over his head. Out of sight, out of mind, Bruno figures. He knows it’s not that simple, but he’s committed to reassuring Leone of all the beauty he can’t see in himself whenever he needs the help. 

“Not as beautiful as you,” Leone says softly, like a secret.

“Leone Abbacchio, you are the most beautiful man who’s ever walked this earth, do not sell yourself short in my presence.”

Leone opens his mouth to respond, then shuts it again. Bruno knows it’s a sore spot for him, all compliments tend to be, which is why he tends to lay off them unless he really feels the need to give them. He lets the matter lie, turning his attention to Leone’s dress shoes instead. The knots are easy enough to undo, and he guides Leone’s feet gently out of each shoe when they’re untied. He sets the shoes off to the side by the rest of his outfit. Next up, those uncomfortable looking dress pants. He delicately undoes the button and zipper, careful not to touch too much in case Leone’s not feeling up to it. He doesn’t want to cross a boundary. Leone doesn’t need that right now. He takes the pants to the floor in one smooth motion, bracing Leone’s ankles much like he did with the shoes in order to get him to step out of the legs. The pants are swiftly replaced with silk shorts to match the new shirt. Leone sighs heavily. Bruno can tell that his mind is still overworking itself. He wishes he wouldn’t think so hard all the time, but some things aren’t so easy to change. Bruno returns to Leone’s level and gives him a kiss on the forehead.

“You’re a good man.”

Leone bites his lip, clearly mulling over something, “What if I’m neither good, nor a man?”

That’s what he was worried about? Oh, Leone. Doesn’t he know that Bruno would love him even if he caused the apocalypse? “You will always be good to me. Nothing you could do will ever make me think of you as bad. The other stuff is irrelevant. I love you all the same, no matter what. Should I change anything about the way I address you?”

A noncommittal shrug from Leone. “I’m still figuring it out.” 

“Alright. I’ll be happy to adjust when you come to a decision. Even if you decide you want nothing to change. Even if you decide you want everything to change.”

Leone looks significantly less burdened with that confession off his chest. He still looks so tense, and Bruno’s just itching to get his hands on him, to massage out all that tension, to work out all those knots. He carefully urges Leone to the bed, sitting beside him and getting to work on those knots. He knows Leone likes it when he digs deep, really forces all that tension to unravel, so he does. His shoulders feel like they’re made of stone, poor thing. It must be so uncomfortable. Leone all but melts into his touch. Bruno knows he’s upset about more than simply the mission going wrong, things are rarely that simple. He knows the kind of sharp, stabbing ache that comes from overwhelming emotion, has felt it all too recently when he realized that one day he will officially be older than his father. Leone had held him through that, and so now he will hold Leone in kind. He will remind him that he has value as a human being. He will remind him that he is loved, and the past doesn’t define him. He drops another kiss into silver hair.

“You could tell him field work is hard for you. You’ve done your time and more.”

Leone scoffs, “And let the brat know that he’s right? No thanks. I’d rather die.”

“Don’t say that,” Bruno chides. “Besides, you won’t even be admitting anything. Giorno never claimed you couldn’t do field work, he just offered you an alternative path. There’s nothing wrong with laying low, especially if it benefits your health. No one is winning right now.”

“He’ll get a big ego.” Bruno fixes him with a glare, and finally he relents. “Fine. I’ll tell him on one condition, you go to that eye doctor appointment you’ve been putting off.”

Ah. That’s the catch. He’s right, Bruno has been dragging his feet about that appointment. Not intentionally, but other things keep coming up and it’s really not a huge deal. But fine. He can manage a ten minute appointment if it’ll make Leone’s life a little better. “Okay.”

“I love you, Bruno.”

“I love you too.” He can’t resist, he places another gentle kiss against the crease of Leone’s brows.

Leone responds by pressing his forehead into Bruno’s so their noses are even. Bruno doesn’t move, just lets him hold the position for as long as he needs. He heaves out a weary sigh and then slowly  pulls away. He’s evidently not feeling much better yet, and that’s okay, but at least he isn’t crying anymore. All improvements are welcome, no matter how minor they may seem.

“Do you want me to make you some tea?” Bruno asks. “I was drinking some earlier, but it’s probably gone cold by now.”

A shrug. “That’s fine.”

“Would you rather do something else?”

“Mm,” Leone glances out into the living room, towards the kitchen. “Can we pop some popcorn? With butter and chocolate? I just want to sit down.”

That’s manageable. Leone takes the lead and heads into the kitchen to start preparing his snack. Once the popcorn is successfully popped and butter successfully melted, both ingredients are added to a bowl with some broken up chocolate bars. Leone brings his combination over to the couch, where Bruno has pulled down the decorative blanket for them to share. He turns on some random home improvement show, something mindless and light. Leone drops his head into the space in the junction of Bruno’s shoulder. They’re comfortably quiet. The television drones on in the background as Leone begins to make a substantial dent in the popcorn bowl.

During an ad break, Leone fixes him with his sad eyes again, “I’m definitely not a woman. But sometimes I put on clothes that make me feel like a man, and I want to cry.  I don’t feel like I’m a man, but I don’t know what that means.”

Bruno listens, he could listen to Leone all day if he asked. His heart aches in his chest as Leone vents out feeling after feeling.

“My dad caught me playing with my mother’s makeup once when I was younger. He screamed at me for an hour about how real men don’t do that, then screamed at me more when I started crying. I couldn’t have been any older than seven. And I see the way the men of Passione interact with the world around them and I think, that’s what a man is. I don’t think I’m a man. But then, I wonder, if I had a different father or if I had never found Passione, would I still feel like this?” The edge of his sentence is frayed with the telltale signs of panic.

Bruno knows well enough to stop this before it starts, to ease the worst of Leone’s fears. “The important part is that you do feel like this. There’s nothing wrong with that. Whether you’re a man or not, I still love you. The kids will still love you.”

Leone cuddles up closer in lieu of responding verbally. Bruno wraps an arm around him, letting him sink further into the loose embrace. Eventually, Leone finishes the popcorn and the television lineup starts to get worse as it edges toward late-night programming. The pair retire to bed once the blue of the night reaches its darkest point. Leone clings to Bruno all night long, safe and warm and protected and so, so, so loved.