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Panacotta Fragola

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     2:00p.m. One of the busiest hours for Passione café. The little place in the heart of Napoli was buzzing with customers going on dessert dates, having casual meetings, and groups of trendy teens with a sweet tooth at this time of day.


     A colorful dessert case took the spotlight of the room. With tiny cursive font, daisy doilies, and shimmery red ribbons tied neatly around each sweet, the desserts were the reason the café was even in business. They served drinks occasionally, but they were famous especially for their Panacotta Fraggola. It was frequently the talk of the town. Bruno, the manager, was in charge of making most of the desserts. He was a kind and humble man, and one who took his business very seriously. The boys he hired were sometimes sloppy, lazy, and dumb, but he loved them like family and they were dedicated to work for him (more or less).


     One of the teens that worked there, Narancia, is working the cash register today. He has no time to slack off, since the café is crowded with a steady stream of customers.


     “Hello welcome to Passione. What would you like today?” He asks with a smile.


     “Uh lemme get a chocolat pain to go.” The customer replies. Narancia turns around and screams at the top of his lungs over the commotion of the customers:


     “One chocolat pain in a to-go box!!!!!!!!!!” His scrawny teenager voice reverberates against the walls and people in the café. Mista, another teen working who is currently frosting some cupcakes, puts down his piping bag and runs into the back room. He scrambles past ranges and decorating counters, fridges and sinks, and he meets Bruno who is removing some cakes from an oven.


     “Ay Bruno,” The 18-year-old says, “got any chocolat pain?”


     Bruno nods. “Yes, right there on that tray.” He gestures with his head. Mista grabs the tray and swiftly glides back into the main area. He gets a small to-go box and a red ribbon. He labels the box with a “CP” and a heart. Carefully placing a fresh chocolat pain into the box and sealing it with a cute bow, Mista places the finished order on top of the counter to be picked up. He shares a smile with Narancia and continues to retrieve and package orders.

     “Bucellati, does this look alright to you?” A nervous Fugo asks his new boss. With trembling hands, the teen holds a piping bag full of marble pink and blue frosting. He is the newbie keyboardist of Bruno’s teenager band. Bruno wipes his hands on his apron and leans over the boy’s shoulder to check on his work.

     “Fugo, it’s perfect!” He congratulates, patting the boy on his back. “You should be more confident in your skills. I did hire you for a reason.”

     "Well, I just don’t see how baking at home could ever be the same as doing it in a real business. Everything has to look good here.” He says, forcing a soft smile. Bucellati is so kind, he thinks.


     “Looks are part of it. As long as it’s made with love and passion, I’m happy. And the customers are as well.” Bruno preaches. “Once you’re done frosting those cupcakes, take them out to the front counter. Poor Mista has to keep running back here so much.”

Among the sea of customers, Giorno Giovanna walks into the café and takes a place in line. He has on a blue jacket and black capris. He wears a pair of gold stud earrings, a present from his father. He is absolutely starving after a study date with Trish. The café, he had heard, serves excellent sweets. He definitely has a sugar craving from all the hard work he had just done (which was fantasizing over cute guys in the library with Trish).


     He reaches the front of the line. He examines the display case of desserts, and tries not to salivate at the sight of them. His cobalt eyes are called by the Panacotta Fraggola, a petit dessert sitting humbly in the corner of the display.


     “Welcome to Passione. What can I get ya?” Narancia asks.


     Just then Fugo comes out with the finished tray of cupcakes. He has only taken a single step out the door when he lays his eyes on Giorno. They go wider than the circumference of the jumbo black forest cake Mista is busy packaging. He feels his knees go weak as he soaks up the beauty of the golden-haired boy with his gaze. Fugo is enthralled by Giorno’s adorable gaze that is facing Narancia boy behind the counter. He notices how the boy’s lips are a glossy pink, and that makes him go limp even more. He places the tray next to Mista, not taking his eyes off the beauty. He slowly walks next to Narancia, and starts to sweat being so close to the new stranger.


     Giorno doesn’t even look at him when he places his order.

     “Hi, yes I’d like a… Panacotta Fraggola please.” He says, quiet-ish. Fugo dies inside and is resurrected with joy. His body reacts before his mind, he screams out and jumps over the counter. Like a parkour stunter, his feet graze over the counter, and he barely notices the shrieks of the other customers. He keeps his eyes on Giorno, who is now very shocked and afraid. He doesn’t know why he did what he did, but he just felt it was right. Fugo tackles the golden-haired boy to the ground, lying on top of him and stroking his head intensely. Giorno cries, and Fugo is just so happy to be so close to a cutie who had ordered him.


     “WHAT THE FUCK FGUO WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!?!!” a confused Nrancia yodels from behind the counter. He stares at the mess, Fugo tangled to a customer on the floor. He didn’t think Fugo was gay but in this day and age you never know


     “H-Hey, hello? Get… Get off me!!!” Giorno cries, struggling under Fugo. He doesn’t want to be rude, so he only strikes Fugo on the head with the force of a flower.
Fugo does not let go.

     “You ordered me!” He squeals, squeezing Giorno tighter. “I’m a Panacotta!!!!!!!!!!!!” He wanted to lick the pretty boy but before he could Mista pulls him off and draggs him back behind the counter. “NOOOOOOOO HE ORDERED ME AND I NEED TO BE HIS” He screeched, arms stretched out like if he reached a bit further he could grab Giorno again. Why is Mista taking me away? I want to be with him, Fugo thinks.


     Narancia helps Giorno off the floor, and hands him two small boxes wrapped with red ribbons. “Sorry bout him, he’s kind of crazy, he’s also new. Here’s an extra Panacotta Fraggola. Please don’ t call the police” He begs discreetly.


     Giorno takes the boxes. “Thank you… Was that guy’s name really Panacotta?” He puts the boxes down on a nearby table and gets out a piece of paper and pen from his pocket.


     Narancia sighed. “Unfortunately yeah.”


     Giorno writes his phone number on the paper scrap and hands it to Narancia, who looks at it confused. Giorno blushes. “Well he was kind of hot, so give him my number for me. Thanks again for the desserts.” He waves and walks out of the now deserted café.


     Narancia looks at the paper. He throws it out.

Chapter Text

 

        A week after the tragedy, for some reason Bruno still employs Fugo to work at Passione. He’s such a kind man that he feels Fugo is like a little brother to him, and wants to give the new employee a second chance.

     On a regular Tuesday around noon, the café has average business. It’s not quite as packed as 2:00p.m., but there is a hum of the customers’ voices that is not at all quiet. Fugo is working behind the register. He wears a black tee-shirt under his green apron, and coffee-colored pants. He is supposed to be counting the coins, but he found folding tiny origami flowers more fun. He places his creations in a small bowl that rests on the counter. All his flowers are made with golden paper, because he can’t forget the golden-haired boy who walked into the café just last week.

     Fugo feels guilty for his actions. He replays the incident over and over again in his mind, feeling a dread of remorse inside him each time.

     I didn’t want to cause any harm, he thinks to himself, I didn’t mean to make a scene.

     For a week, Fugo has been feeling sluggish and forlorn. He tries to imagine himself in the situation, only doing it right. He pictures himself slipping a sweet note into the box of the Panacotta Fragola the blond stranger had ordered and personally giving it to him instead of just leaving it on the counter. He fantasizes what the rosy cheeks and wide eyes of the customer would have looked like once he opened the box and read the message. 

     Fugo just keeps folding flowers, and pushes the thoughts out of his head. He stops, however, when Narancia comes out from the kitchen with some croissants on a tray. He tries to hide the bowl of flowers behind the mini charity notice display, but Narancia sees him.

     “Oi, Fugo. Whatchu got there?” Narancia questions, walking over and picking up the bowl. A few flowers fall to the ground with the jerkiness that Narancia picks it up with. “What are these?”

     Fugo looks down. “Please… Please don’t tell Bucellati… I was working, I really was, counting the coins and stuff… But I thought since there weren’t so many, I could take my time and have a break. I made all those.” He mutters, looking at the flowers in the bowl.  Narancia puts it down and chuckles.

     “It’s fine, Fugo. You don’t gotta hide nothin’ from me.” He says calmly, ruffling Fugo’s hair before packaging the order of croissants. Fugo picks up the fallen flowers and returns them to their family in the bowl. Narancia talks from the packaging station.

     “You know Fugo, those are really cool. I bet if you made big ones and put ‘em in a bouquet, Bucellati would love to use it as décor for this place,” he says. Fugo looks at him, although he is lost in his own thoughts.

     Would Bucellati really appreciate that? And what colors would I even use in a bouquet for Passione? Pink to match the curtains? Red to match the sealing ribbons? What shape of vase would be the best? Rectangular? Maybe an oval one would look good…

     He doesn’t even notice when Giorno Giovanna walks up to the counter in front of him. Giorno twists his gold earring with his fingers, and tilts his head to the side as he looks at Fugo awkwardly. His cheeks are tinted pink as he remembers how good looking this Panacotta Fugo boy is.

     “Hello?” he says, tapping the cashier on the shoulder. Fugo whips his head from Narancia to Giorno, and his heartbeat immediately quickens. He can’t help but simply stare at Giorno, remembering him as the beautiful customer of last week. He wants to say something back, like an apology for tackling him or even taking his order. But he can’t seem to be able to get the words out.

     Gosh, he sure is pretty. Does he remember me? Oh, of course he does, how could he forget? I almost squeezed him to death. I hope he forgives me. Wow he looks like an angel…

     Giorno was caught off guard with Fugo staring at him. “I’m Giorno Giovanna. You remember me, don’t you?” The question is left to hang in the air.

     Giorno Giovanna… He has an angelic name too. I wonder if he has a girlfriend or boyfriend…

     Fugo then realizes that he’s been staring from the drool that is threatening to leave his mouth. He sits up quickly and wipes his mouth on his arm, just in case any had slipped out. He wants to embrace Giorno again, but he remembers how it turned out last time, and so he internally restrains himself. He finds the words to say, at last.

     “I… I’m very sorry for disturbing you last week,” he says weakly, “I didn’t mean to cause any trouble.”

     Giorno smiles. “Oh, don’t worry about it. It was kind of cute of you.” he flirts. “But, how come you didn’t call me?” He anchors his elbows onto the counter and leans his head in towards Fugo, delicate lashes fluttering up and down.

     It takes Fugo about twenty seconds to process what he had said. “Call you? Me call you?” He scrambles to talk.

     “Yes, didn’t you get my number? I told the other worker to give it to you… That one!” He points to Narancia who is at the plating station, and they both look in his direction.

     The eavesdropping Narancia’s ears turn pink as he quickly looks at them as well. He drops his plate and skirts out of there real fast into the back kitchen.

     “He never, never gave me anything from you.” Fugo answers, feeling disappointed in his friend.

     “Well, that’s okay. Give me your arm.” Giorno demands while reaching for a purple pen in the pen cup.

     “Do you want to order anything?” Fugo asks, unintentionally moving their attentions for a moment. He looks at Giorno quite seriously, but his mind is a meadow of happy flowers.

     “I suppose it would be rude of me to come in and not buy something… So a small pumpkin spice latte, please.” Not letting Fugo go to make his drink, Giorno neatly writes his phone number on Fugo’s left arm.

     “Hey, how did you know purple is the color I like most?” Fugo questions, feeling giggly from the feeling of the pen pressed into his arm.

     “Just coincidence.” Giorno teases. He gently nudges Fugo’s hand with his own.

     Fugo just stares with wide eyes and a goofy smile. Then he heads over to the coffee machine. He pours about half a small cup and then adds the milk and a pinch of sugar. The pumpkin spice mix is in a mason jar on the counter. He takes three spoonfuls and mixes them into the cup. He hands the cup to Giorno, who gives him two euros and seventy-one cents.

     Seeing the money reminds Fugo that he was supposed to be counting the coins in the register, so he shuffles back to his position and pops open the tray. He puts the coins in their correct locations and fixes the numbers on his notepad, scribbling out the old sum and adding the new amount. Giorno takes a step to the side (so he doesn’t block the counter) and watches Fugo work.

     “Who makes dessert here? The Panacotta Fragola I had last week was really delicious!” Giorno praised.

     “Bucellati is the manager. He mostly bakes, and me, Narancia, and Mista take turns packaging and working the register. We each have certain foods that we’re better at making, and so we’re in charge of different foods.” Fugo answers, glancing down briefly at the bowl of tiny golden flowers. They would look pretty in his hair.

     “What kinds of food are you in charge of?” Giorno leans in, smiling. Fugo doesn’t hear him, and speaks his thoughts instead.

     “Although real flowers would look better on you.” He looks up at Giorno, and he blushes and when he realizes that Giorno was trying to talk to him.

     The blond boy giggles. “What do you mean by that?” He looks down at the counter, spying the golden paper flowers. “Origami?”

     “Oh yes,” Fugo stammers, “I made… I made those when I, I was supposed to be counting the coins.” Giorno keeps on staring and smiling sweetly at him, which makes him squirm. “I… I was thinking about them just now.”

     “Also about me as well, I believe.” Giorno teases. “Do you like origami?”

     “Oh yes, I do. I got some new paper patterns and I cut them so they are a fourth of the size that they were. That’s why the flowers are tiny.” He rambles. “Narancia said if I made big ones, Bucellati would want to use them as décor in the café.”

     “They would look lovely, I’m sure! And they wouldn’t need to be watered because they have no contractile vacuoles or real cell walls...” Giorno says, gazing into Fugo’s distracted eyes. He blinks a few times. "Sorry, sometimes I think about my biology lessons a little too much," he says. "anyway, what else can you make?" 

     “Flowers aren’t the only thing I can make, I can also make animals and boxes… and other objects too. Origami and baking are my passion.”

     Giorno leans closer, batting his eyelashes. “When did you start getting into those things?” He asks, eager to hear more of Fugo’s sweet boyish voice.

     “A long… long time ago. I was about seven years old, I think. And I, I just helped my grandma make things and soon I didn’t need her help. She bought me origami books and recipe books. Before I discovered those, I liked to paint,” he pauses before continuing, “well I still do, I think. I… I haven’t painted anything in a long time. I think I’d be bad at it now.”

     “You should pick it up again,” Giorno says, taking a sip of his hot latte, “I think it suits you. All your hobbies suit you.” Giorno says with a rose blush on his cheeks. Fugo just stares back.

     “Bucellati gives me my breaks at 3:00p.m.” He blurts out.

     Giorno blinks twice at him, not being able to respond out of a bit of shock. He doesn’t need to however, his phone rings and from the ringtone he knows who it is. “Sorry Fugo, I should answer it.” He turns away just as Narancia comes back out from hiding in the kitchen.

     Fugo stares Narancia down. The poor 17-year-old can’t help but feel guilty now that Fugo knows the blond stranger wanted him to pass him his number. He hesitantly creeps up to Fugo.

     “Um… I’m sorry about not giving you his number the other day,” he says, recalling how he thought he was trying to save Giorno from the awkward transitioning teen that is Fugo Panacotta.

     “You’re my friend Narancia so I forgive you,” Fugo states with a soft smile.

     Narancia scratches the back of his head. “Yeah, so, how’s it going with him?”

     “With who?”

     “With who? With the blond!” Narancia feels like smacking the boy upside the head.

     “Oh. Well he’s a very nice person. And he’s very pretty,” Fugo says, more to himself.

     “That his number on your arm?” He waggles his eyebrows as he asks.

     “Yes, he wrote it there a few minutes ago.”

     “Well, what are his signs?” Narancia whispers into his ear.

     “Signs?”

     “Yes! He’s obviously interested in you! Has he teased you or touched you? Has he twirled his hair at you? Fluttered his lashes, complimented you?? Does he prolong eye contact with you?” Narancia raises his voice a little.

     Fugo thinks for a few seconds. “I think he touched my hand. And I stare at him a lot.”

     Narancia slaps himself. “Ugh, okay, that’s a start. Fugo you gotta learn to recognize when he’s flirting with you. And then when you do, do it back!”

     “Okay, I’ll try to Narancia.” Fugo says, picturing himself combing Giorno’s long golden hair. It sure looks like he takes good care of it…

     Giorno puts his cellphone away and faces Fugo and Narancia. “Sorry, that was my father, he wants me to run some errands before I go home so I have to go now.”

     Fugo stares. Narancia smacks him upside the head. Giorno lets out a soundless gasp. There’s about to be an awkward silence, but Giorno clears his throat to fill it.

    “Fugo, didn’t you say you have breaks at 3:00? I could come by tomorrow then,” Giorno says with a smile, tilting his head to the side and twirling his braid in his hand.

     “That would mean a lot to me, Giorno,” Fugo says, blushing.

     “Good. Call me later too.” Giorno winks and turns on his heels before exiting the café.

He walks like a cat… A beautiful slender cat… Fugo thinks. Narancia slaps himself.

     “How the whipped buttercream could you not tell he was flirting with you Fugo?” he questions aggressively.

     Fugo looks at Giorno’s phone number on his arm and shrugs. “Just couldn’t.”

     “Well, are you gonna call him later?” Narancia asks, annoyance in his tone.

I wonder if Giorno has a cat. It would suit him. A cat who’s as pretty as he is.

     “Do you think he has a cat?” he replies, his eyes looking far away in a daze. Narancia slaps himself again.

Chapter Text

      The following day, Narancia is at the register with his earbuds in. He doesn’t really feel like working today and business is a bit slow, so he passes time by listening to his playlist on shuffle. His phone lights up when he gets a notification from snapchat, and he checks it. It’s his group chat blowing up. He even sees Mista sending snaps in it, and he’s only about 20 feet away, also at “work” in the back kitchen with Bruno. As Narancia laughs while tapping through peoples’ stories, Fugo is packaging an order of cupcakes nearby. He has set aside a special dessert, a Panacotta Fragola with tiny specs of gold-leaf on top. It is a present for Giorno, if Giorno stops by. The nervous teen is having a hard time focusing on his work, taking frequent glances at the clock on the wall. 2:55p.m.

     Will Giorno really come by at 3:00? He wonders if Narancia was only messing with him when he said that Giorno was flirting. He decides to get some answers.

     “Narancia, hey,” Fugo calls. But the petit boy can’t hear him because of Cardi B rapping into his ears.

     “Narancia?” Fugo tries again, coming close enough to the boy to hear his music through the earbuds. Fugo yanks the cords out of Narancia’s ears.

     Narancia is a sourpuss and snaps at Fugo. “Oi! You interrupted Bartier Cardi you half-eaten Fragola!!” He insults.

     “I-I’m sorry!” Fugo says, tears forming at the creases of his eyes.

     Narancia lets out an exasperated sigh. It lasts for 8 seconds. “It’s fine, Fugo. Now why are you botherin’ me? Don’t you have cupcakes to wrap?”

     “Yes, but I, I was lost in thought…”

     “You’re always lost in thought.”

     “Do you think Giorno will really come to see me today?”

     Narancia blinks. “Well did you call him last night?”

     “Of course I did.”

     “And what happened?”

     “I learned that he doesn’t have a cat, he lives with his father, he prefers a good book over video games, he’s homeschooled, and his favorite pair of earrings is the golden spherical ones that his father gave him as a birthday present one year.”

     “Wait wait wait. He’s homeschooled?”

     As Narancia stands stunned in disbelief, the kitchen door swings open, and Bruno Bucellati appears before the two teens, with a cordial expression. He goes to the counter where the mason jars are located, each housing its respective blend of spices or flavoring. Bruno tenderly lifts the lids of the empty ones to refill them. Just as he does, Narancia eyes the Panacotta Fragola that Fugo has set aside.

     “Fugo, why you hidin’ that over there? Shouldn’t it go in the dessert case?” He asks obtrusively. Fugo looks at him, with harmless, innocent eyes.

     “I made it,” he answers. Narancia breathes out heavily through his nose and rolls his eyes up to heaven.

     “I didn’t ask you that Fugo. I said why is it there?” As he moves to put the Panacotta in its seemingly proper place, Bruno turns around.

     “I told him it was okay. He wanted to make a special dessert for someone who’s coming to meet him,” the boss explains collectedly. Narancia backs off as the café door swings open, ringing the tiny bell located at the top. In walks Giorno, wearing a white romper. His Prada pumps clip-clap on the tile floor as he minces up to the counter.

     “Hello,” Giorno greets Bruno with a smile, “Are you Mr. Bucellati?”

     “I am, welcome to Passione,” He says with his naturally charming smile. “You must be here to meet Fugo.” He gestures to the quaking set of nerves behind him. Fugo’s eyes are fixed on the beautiful blond, and he doesn’t say a word. Narancia waves his hand in front of Fugo’s face, and finally the silver haired boy realizes his habit.

     Wow he sure is beautiful. I hope he likes my Panacotta. He thinks to himself. The anxious teen grabs the plate of Panacotta before he swings open the countertop and wobbles over to Giorno.

     “Hey Fugo,” Giorno greets, “how are you?”

     “I made this for you,” Fugo urges the plate forward, with flushed cheeks and averted eyes. Giorno smiles warmly.

     “Aw, thank you! Let’s sit so we can eat it together,” the blond says as he scans the café. He points to the table for two by the bay window and heads for it. Narancia whispers to Bruno behind the counter.

     “Do you think Fugo will be alright?”

     “I think it’s wonderful for him that he’s getting to know another person,” Bruno answers coolly, “he really needs this.”

 

     Giorno takes a forkful of Panacotta to his lips, and Fugo, unsure of what to do, mirrors his move. For awhile they just enjoy each other’s company as well as the dessert in silence. Eventually Fugo comes up with a conversation starter.

     “If you’re homeschooled, do you have any friends?” He asks abruptly. It sounded great in his head. Giorno frowns however, to Fugo’s surprise.

     “Yeah, I do actually,” the semi-offended blond retorts. Fugo sweats but remembers that he must press on.

     “I used to go to school but I stopped.”

     Giorno softens his demeanor. “What do you mean?”

     “I used to go to school with Narancia and Mista, but I made one of our teachers quit, and then I got expelled,” Fugo rambles,

     Giorno lets out a quick laugh before covering his mouth with his palm. “No! What did you do?”

     Fugo rubs the back of his neck and looks down at his empty plate, shying away from Giorno’s prettiness. “Our teacher, the one who left ‘cause of me, she was our chemistry teacher. In the lab one day, I had a dumb lab partner. He mixed the wrong beakers, and I, I tried to tell him it was wrong, but he didn’t listen,” Fugo breaks, wondering how much Giorno wants to hear of his story. Giorno is leaning in and looking right at him. After a second of silence Giorno leans closer.

     “So what happened?”

     Fugo flashes an awkward smile. “I, I got mad, and then the solution bubbled over and then exploded. It got all on me and my partner, and it was gross and it was dangerous. It also got, got on my teacher, and then my lab partner said I mixed the beakers incorrectly, not him…” Fugo nervously looks at Giorno’s eyes. “I, I lost my temper and ended up knocking over a lot of beakers to the floor, and spilling more solution. I also, also when the teacher got mad, I also threw a shard of a beaker at her.” He looks away when he feels himself blush. Giorno’s really a friendly and nice person… I wonder if he liked the Panacotta?

     Giorno arches his eyebrows, frightened. “Th-that’s a… interesting story.”

     Fugo glazes his eyes over Giorno’s smooth cheeks before he hangs his eyes on Giorno’s eyelashes. He works his mouth before deciding how to ask his question. He settles on: “Did you like it?” which confuses a bewildered Giorno.

     “Excuse me?” he leans back, away from Fugo. Fugo sweats and glances down at their empty plates.

     “I said, I said did you like it...?” he repeats. Narancia, who hasn’t left his post at the register, whines loudly from behind the counter.

     “Porca miseria, Fugo! You can’t just switch topics without makin’ it clear first!” He hops over the counter and plods toward the pair, causing the slightest tremble in the floor and furniture around. “He’s askin’ if you liked the Panacotta.”

     Giorno brightens up like the sun. “Oh! It was excellent!” Fugo gives a goofy smile. Narancia rolls his eyes.

     “Anyway, to finish the story, the teach’ started screamin’ at him ‘bout how she couldn’t deal with his ‘unhinged’ behavior anymore, and she called poor Fugo a psychopath.” Narancia picks up their finished dishes and takes them away, his stomach feeling sick of watching them. Fugo looks at Giorno sheepishly and Giorno slowly regains a comfortable posture.

     Fugo decides it would be best to let Giorno do the talking for their conversation, since his attempts didn’t go as well as he thought they would. So he plays with his hands in his lap as he asks Giorno questions, like what his dream vacation would be (à Paris) or what he would do with unlimited money (donate and start a brand). Giorno eventually breaks the stream of Fugo’s questions with one of his own.

     “Do you want to go to the bookstore across the street? I know they get their new arrivals once a month and I’ve been wanting this one by a new author for a while… Do we have enough time? What time do you have to get back to work?” Giorno babbles.

     “Um, I think we, we have enough time. Let me go tell them I’m stepping out first,” Fugo says before he heads to the kitchen. His mind goes wild with thoughts. What if it turns out we read the same books? I wonder if he knows the manager there. Bruno does. Maybe Mista and Narancia can give me advice on how to flirt.

     He takes off his apron and hangs it on the apron hook in the break room. He notices Mista sitting in a chair with his legs kicked up on the table, laughing at something on his phone.

     “Mista, me and Giorno are going across the street to the bookstore,” he states instead of asks.

     “Ooh, that’s hella romantic,” Mista says, not taking his eyes off his phone.

     “Do you have any advice for me?”

     Mista looks up at him, only able to understand what he means from being so close with the dependent teen. “Just be yourself, man, but a better version of yourself.”

     Fugo stares at his friend’s eyes. The air is dense. “Mista, I, I don’t even know what that means.”

     Just then Bruno opens the door and steps in, letting out a sigh.

     “Why is no one working out there? I finally get my croissants in the oven to find Narancia blowing bubbles in the back, and now, Mista, you’re here doing God knows what…” The said teen scrambles up and gives a quick apology as he skirts and returns to the front of the café. Even though this was the most Bruno has ever come to yelling, Fugo still trembles in his shoes.

     “I’m on break, Bucellati.”

     “I know you are, Fugo.”

     “Me and Giorno are going to go across the street to the book store.”

     Bruno’s eyes flicker. “Alright. Have fun, and be back by 3:30,” the boss says. Fugo does nothing to show that he understands, exits the break room, and walks through the kitchen to the office where Narancia is leaning back in the reclining chair. Narancia holds a bubble wand to his lips and blows a few more bubbles before he acknowledges Fugo’s presence.

     “What are you doin’ back here? What happened to the blond?” Narancia asks, eyeing the biggest bubble float above his head, only to pop on the ceiling.

     “Me and Giorno are going to the book store across the street.”

     “Good for you.”

     Fugo takes a deep breath. “Do you have any advice for me?”

     “About what?”

     Fugo searches for the right words. “Advice… help me get with Giorno?”

     Narancia understands. He flashes a smirk up at Fugo and stands up on the chair (which is a swivel chair).

     “Compliment him! Compliment him like it keeps the earth revolving! And hold his hand! And don’t be weird about conversation! And try to be interested in what he’s interested in! And, and, if he lets you, kiss him!!” Narancia points a finger to the ceiling as he commands inspiringly. Fugo looks up at his friend on the chair.

     That would be fun… Giorno’s lips must be so soft. And probably he tastes sweet, like a lollipop, or like marshmallows, or, or like honey… Fugo thinks, practically drooling at the thought of kissing Giorno. Narancia makes the mistake of jumping on the chair, which rolls away from underneath him, and he falls and hits the floor with a thud. He laughs, stands up, and waves a hand in front of Fugo’s eyes that are staring into something Narancia can’t see.

     “You probably shouldn’t keep him waiting, Fugo,” Narancia points out.

     “You’re right. Thank you for the advice,” Fugo says slowly. He leaves the office and heads to the front of the café, still thinking about the creamy pink lips of his crush. Mista is out there at the register, and Giorno has gone over to him. Fugo sees Giorno stop saying something to Mista when they notice him, though.

     What if they were talking about me? What if its bad things about me? No, Giorno wouldn’t be mean like that. And Mista would definitely tell me later if he said anything mean. What if Giorno was saying good things too… Fugo jumbles around these thoughts in his mind as he walks up to Giorno, who gives him a soft smile.

     “Are you ready to go?” he asks. But Fugo can’t say anything back at all; all he can do is stare at Giorno’s plump, glossy lips. Mista taps him on the shoulder.

     “Well, are you ready to go to the bookstore with Giorno, Fugo?”

     Fugo blinks three times before nodding.

     “Great! Let’s go then!” Giorno says all too cheerfully. As they begin to head out together, Fugo decides to try Narancia’s advice, and he takes Giorno’s lone hand into his own. If Giorno gives him any response, Fugo doesn’t catch it, for being too focused on his heartbeat pounding in his ears.

     I wonder if Giorno can hear it too.

Chapter Text

The bookstore appears small on the outside, but it is large on the inside, with many signs to label the genre of each isle hanging from the walls. Music softly floats in through speakers on the ceiling.

        “It’s strange, this bookstore doesn’t have a café inside,” Giorno points out when they walk through the big windowed doors.

        “But that would be bad for Bucellati’s business,” Fugo says, still gently gripping Giorno’s hand. “Bucellati and the manager here support each other’s businesses, in a way.”

        “You’re right, who wouldn’t want a cup of coffee after picking up a new find?” Giorno smiles at Fugo as he leads them to the new arrival table. Many books are displayed in a hierarchy style, with the best selling ones at the top. Giorno scans the display and picks one out: The Dangerous Art of Blending In.

        “Good choice,” A voice behind the pair speaks. “a powerful and uplifting novel by aspiring new writer, Angelo Surmelis.”

        “Hello Mr. Abbacchio,” Fugo says, letting go of Giorno’s hand and turning to face the man with silver hair.

        “Good afternoon, Fugo. Who is your friend?” he looks at Giorno.

        “This is, this is Giorno.”

        “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Giorno. Are you looking for anything in particular? I can see you’ve already found a gem in our new arrivals.”

        Giorno beams. “Oh! Yes, I’ve been wanting this book for a while…”

        Fugo looks at Giorno, thinking about what his friend Mista said about the bookstore being a romantic place. As hard as he tries, he can’t understand exactly how that can be. The chatting voices of Giorno and Abbacchio fly by his head, and an aching feeling suddenly emerges in his chest as he glances at his blond friend.

        Whats wrong with you? He searches inside himself for the answer. Look deep. Whats making your heart be sad?

        The hurting calms a bit as he realizes what he wants.

        No, you cant kiss him yet. You have to wait until Mr. Abbacchio leaves and maybe until were in an aisle. No, not even after that. First you have to get to know him better, because otherwise he wont even want to kiss you.

         Fugo clenches his fists, wishing Abbacchio would hurry up and leave. He liked the manager of this bookstore a lot, but all he can think about now is being alone with Giorno.

        To Fugo’s relief, Giorno and Abbacchio finish chatting and Giorno leads him into the adult fiction aisle. He scans the shelves and picks one out, flipping to the inside cover for its synopsis. Fugo does the same, to imitate him, to relate to him. He paces his breathing the same as Giorno’s too.

        “Hm… I think I’ll get this book for my dad. He’s into stuff like this. It’s about a lawyer who is supposed to defend a guy charged with misconduct. But as he delves deeper into his case, he learns it actually wasn’t misconduct at all,” Giorno skims his eyes as he explains to Fugo the book in his hands. Fugo simply stares back, copying what he imagines his friend Narancia would say in this social situation.

        “What was it then?” He asks, congratulating himself internally on not stuttering.

        Giorno smirks. “Murder! The guy planned to have someone offed the whole time!” Giorno lets out a quick laugh of triumph, as if he’s the lawyer who has just proved his case to the court. “The attorney still must go along with the justice system though, which can be difficult to do when you know the real truth.” Fugo is convinced Giorno actually is the attorney that this book is written about. As if apologizing for his seemingly inappropriate behavior, Giorno covers his mouth to prevent any more giggles from escaping. He eyes the book in Fugo’s hands. “What book do you have there?”

        “Oh, this, I just pulled it out because I liked the color of the cover,” Fugo admits, rubbing his fingers along the title of the purple covered book. He suddenly remembers that he must try to relate to his crush, and so he opens the book and reads the synopsis. He summarizes it to Giorno as best as he can:

        “It’s about this girl, named Elana? And she meets this guy, named David, and they, they start a club together for spending time with kids…” he recognizes the next word all too well. “…who have Asperger's.”

        Giorno beams. “That sounds like a great book! Probably has a happy ending. You should buy it.”

        Fugo glares intensely at the cover of the book, as if trying to read it without it being open. “And, and because I like this color too.”

 

        They walk along more aisles, discussing books they’ve read, and Giorno is interested in Fugo’s school days. So Fugo tells him.

        “Narancia and Mista are my closest friends, I never made friends with anyone else. Well, there was a time when I thought I had a friend group, but it turned out they were using me. Narancia and Mista told me so because I didn’t know.”

        Giorno frowns, concerned for Fugo’s story, and discreetly laces his fingers with Fugo’s as they walk among the sea of books. “What do you mean they used you?”

        Fugo stops his rambling and stares down at their connecting hands. It takes him about a minute to process Giorno’s question. “Uh, they, they stole my homework and my class notes sometimes. I don’t know why they did, but, Mista said it was ‘cause they were copying from me instead of doing it themselves.” Fugo stares at Giorno’s curious eyes. Hes really, really, pretty I wonder what he thinks of me. Does he think the same thoughts I do?

        Fugo continues on. “And one time, one time after school, there was a girl with them who normally isn’t, and so I didn’t understand why she was with them, and I stared at her,” he explains.

        “Makes sense,” Giorno says.

        “Well, when the group saw I was staring at her they started saying things. They were making fun of me, I could tell, because it sounded like teasing only they were smirking and laughing, and Mista had told me that means they’re laughing at me, not with me. They were saying ‘look at Fugo, he’s got hots for her!’ I don’t remember her name, but they were not telling the truth.”

        Giorno focuses on Fugo’s story, gazing into his innocent eyes. He can’t help but feel a bit of sympathy for this boy, as he can’t help the way he finds the engaging stories and averted eyes of Fugo’s completely adorable. “Oh no! What happened after that?”

        “The girl, she, she came up to me and started… feeling me up? That’s how Narancia would describe it,” Fugo shutters as he remembers the feeling of the girl’s hands. “I was very uncomfortable, and I didn’t understand why she was doing that, so I tried to back away. But when she grabbed me then, I was scared. So I pushed her away from me. She started screaming, like I had punched her instead, and then, and then the group of guys who I thought were my friends, they started grabbing me and they beat me up. And that was that.”

        Giorno blinks. “How can you say ‘that was that’? Didn’t they get in trouble?”

        “No, it was, it was after school and no one ever talked about it again. Except for me when I told Narancia and Mista. They told me to stop hanging around that group, so I listened to them.”

        Giorno squeezes Fugo’s hand. “Oh Fugo, I’m glad you listened to your real friends. That’s awful that you had to be caught up with those nasty people.”

        Fugo smiles. “Now, Giorno, tell me a story about you.”

        Giorno blushes. “Oh, I don’t know, I’m not that interesting, really.”

        “But you read.”

        “I read to escape my boring life.”

        “How can, how can life be boring?”

        Giorno tries to form a compelling answer. “Actually, ever since I met you, ever since that day you launched over the counter and tackled me onto the floor, life has been less boring,” Giorno speaks, straight from his heart. “because I’ve been thinking about you.”

        Fugo stares. Does that mean he likes me like I like him? Does he really think about me a lot? Is he actually an angel in disguise? Maybe thats what he was telling Mista when I saw them talking. Maybe he really does like me, like Narancia said so. Every thought burns through his head, but from his mouth escapes: “You’re really pretty.” Fugo claps his mouth shut with his hand, certain that Giorno can see the blood rushing to his cheeks.

        Giorno blushes and laughs, sweet and genuine, and then hugs Fugo tightly. “Fugo,” he speaks into the other boy’s chest, “don’t ever change.”

 

        Realizing that it was almost 3:30, Fugo and Giorno pay for their books, say goodbye to Abbacchio and head back across the street to the café. Since Fugo must go back to work, Giorno leaves, but not without first promising to text him later. And so, Fugo is behind the register, his origami flowers caressed in his hands. He imagines the flowers as Giorno’s hands, recalling their tenderness when he held them earlier.

        His focus goes back to taking customers’ orders after a while, and Narancia passes him with his bag.

        “See ya Fugo,” the boy says as he walks beyond the counter.

        “Why are, why are you leaving early Narancia?” Fugo questions.

        “I don’t feel so hot, or at least that’s what I told Bruno. Wait, how did it go with the blond? Did you take him on your date?”

        Fugo stands up straight. “Yes, we went to the bookstore. He left at 3:30.”

        Narancia leans close to Fugo across the counter. “Sooo? What happened?”

        “We each bought books. He told me a bit about his dad, and I told him about the mean guys. Remember the mean guys? From school?”

        “Yeah, I ‘member. You haven’t talked to them since have you?”

        “I, I haven’t.”

        “Anyway is that it?” Y’all just talked?”

        Fugo stares into his friend’s eyes, expressionless. “Yes. It was, it was very nice. I almost was gonna kiss him,” Fugo says, brows furrowed.

        “Aw, man! Why didn’t you?”

        Fugo thinks for a moment. “I, I wasn’t sure if I could, I thought I had to get to know him better before I can kiss him, because, because he probably doesn’t want to kiss me.”

        “Well that’s alright. You got a good point.”

        Fugo smiles. “He’s very beautiful, and he has a beautiful laugh. And he hugged me!!”

        Narancia smirks. “You think he’s beautiful? Damn Fugo, if you told him that he definitely would have wanted to make out with you.”

        “M-Maybe next time,” Fugo sputters, imagining kissing Giorno in the isolated aisle of the bookstore.

        “Aight, I’m gonna take off now.” Narancia turns away as he pats Fugo’s shoulder. Fugo says nothing, only going back to playing with his flowers.

        As Narancia is heading out, he bumps shoulders with a guy. With his lopsided platinum blond hair and ridiculous lopsided croptop, he glares at Narancia through a mask that appears to be part of some costume.

        “Watch where you’re going, Narancia. Bump the wrong person and it could end ugly for you,” the smooth faced blindfolded guy threatens quietly so only Narancia can hear. Narancia turns around, offended.

        “Oi! Fuck you, Melone! You tryna pick a fight? This ain’t your turf, so you better skirt, ‘fore I get Mista!” Narancia throws, fury in his eyes.

        Melone chuckles. “Relax, I only start beef when we’re on our territory. But how noble of you to threaten me with Mista! You know he wouldn’t come out to fight me today, he’d be all like ‘noooo it’s the fourth chapter of this story, that means I’ll lose the fight if she writes one in!’ so no fight for us, unfortunately.” Melone walks on, but is caught by Narancia’s hand. The angry teen whispers into his adversary’s ear:

        “I don’t care about your cocky façade, Melone. Since I’m ‘bout to head out, you should consider yourself lucky you ain’t gotta deal with me today. But look, get your coffee and get out, alright? Don’t talk to Fugo. You can’t influence him anymore,” Narancia explains, pushing off Melone’s shoulder and then proceeding to leave.

        “Actually, it’s more of a green tea kind of day,” Melone snarks to himself, swaggering up to the counter where Fugo is. Fugo, the helpless teen lost in a daze, staring at an image only he can see so far away in his imagination, golden paper flowers in his hands.

        “Fugo! Long time no see. How’s homeschool?” Melone greets, putting on an amused smile at Fugo’s grimace.

        “I, I’m not supposed to talk to you,” Fugo defends as he begins to shake.

        “It’s rude not to answer a question, Fugo.” He taunts.

        Fugo sweats, conflicted. “Well, I’m not homeschooled, not really. I don’t learn anymore.

        “Ah, I see. Is that how you have so much free time to work here?”

        “Yes, I spend a lot of time here.”

        Melone’s eyelids flicker. “Made any new friends since you left us?”

        With an invitation to conversation, Fugo brightens up immediately. “Oh, yes! I met a boy named Giorno, he’s very kind, and, and we both like to read, and he, he likes the Panacotta I made him, and he’s really, really, pretty. And I think he probably tastes like honey, but I haven’t kissed him yet.”

        “Molto Bene! I’m so happy for you Fugo. But tell me, why haven’t you kissed this boy, Giorno, yet?”

        “Because, because I think he doesn’t want to kiss me yet.”

        “Well, mio amico, I believe I can help you with your little dilemma,” Melone tempts, “if you’ll let me, that is.”

        “I, I don’t know… I’m not, not supposed to be talking to you anymore.”

        “But don’t you want to kiss Giorno?”

        Fugo mentally weighs his options. “How can I kiss Giorno quicker?”

        “Well,” Melone begins, “you said you think he’s pretty? Then tell him he’s ugly. Tell him you find him hideous. Tell him reading is for losers, and that he’s a nerd. What else can you tell me about this boy?”

        “He’s homeschooled, but he didn’t get expelled like me. He’s always been homeschooled. He usually wears these cute rompers, and cute earrings too. And he has beautiful golden hair, he usually wears it in a braid. He likes flowers and ladybugs.”

        “Molto bene, Fugo! Tell him teens our age who are homeschooled are babies. Tell him you his rompers are gaudy and when you get the chance…” Melone charms, “pull his hair!”

“Is that really all it takes to get him to want me to kiss him?” Fugo asks, imagining what it would be like to yank Giorno’s golden braid. The thought of it makes his chest ache with happiness. Anything to get Giorno to understand his intentions.

“Absolutely. Trust me, buddy, you follow my advice, he’ll be wanting to sleep with you for sure!”

        Fugo wonders what on earth Melone could possibly mean. “he likes taking naps?”

        “Oh yes. From all the details about him you told me, I can confidently conclude that he looooves taking naps.”

        “Ah, that makes sense. Thank you Melone! I’m sorry I always thought you were kind of mean. How can, how can I pay you back for helping me?”

        Melone smirks. “Free of charge, Fugo. Playing cupid is a bit of a hobby of mine, and of course I just couldn’t not help out an old friend. Lemme get a green tea to go, by the way.”

        Fugo makes the tea, and Melone is on his way. He feels giddiness bubbling up inside him.

        Next time I see Giorno in person, I’ll use the techniques Melone told me. Maybe we can even go to his house and take a nap together, because Melone said that’s what Giorno would want.

         Fugo hears Bruno calling his name, and so he runs into the back to help his boss, replaying the conversation with Melone over and over in his head so he won’t forget a single thing.

Chapter Text

The next day on Fugo’s break, he sits in the break room and texts Giorno:

 

Giorno can you come by today or tomorrow? I wanna see you again soon

 

He puts his phone down after a few minutes with no reply. Pulling out a sandwich from a lunch bag, Fugo begins to eat. The peanut butter takes him a while to chew, and he looks around. Save for two tables pushed together and a few folding chairs, the break room is very empty. He’s alone, but not lonely.

         He practically jumps when his phone buzzes in his lap. A text from Giorno.

        

Giorno: I can come tomorrow, today I’m busy. Sorry!

 

Fugo: What are you doing today?

 

Giorno: I’m going running with my dad.

 

Fugo: Like on a track?

 

Giorno: On a route, yes. A trail I guess you’d call it.

 

Fugo: Tell me more about this trail

 

Giorno: It’s the one near the high school. Your old school I believe. The cross country team uses it. My dad and I go running together sometimes when it’s not being used of course. We just run and talk to each other. We usually stay out for an hour.

 

Fugo: Do you like running?

 

Giorno: Yeah! it feels great.

 

Fugo: I used to do cross country

 

Fugo takes another bite of his sandwich. He never did cross country. He would run next to Narancia when Narancia was at cross country practice, however.

         “You never miss a practice and you’re not even on the team. Why don’t you just try out?” Narancia had asked one practice while they ran.

         “I am on a team. I’m on your team, Narancia.”

And therefore he considered himself on the cross country team. Giorno responds:

 

If I went to a real school, I’d love to do a sport. It would make me feel like a normal kid, being part of something bigger than myself.

 

         Fugo throws out his paper lunch bag when it’s 3:30. He goes to the kitchen where Bruno is writing something down on a piece of paper.

         “Hi Bucellati.” Fugo stands close to him to see what he’s jotting down. It’s an inventory list.

         “Hello, Fugo. Why don’t you go help Mista out front?” Bruno insists. Fugo nods and shuffles out of the kitchen, bumping into the door before it swings open to let him through.

         Mista is at the register talking on the phone. Something that Bruno has told them multiple times not to do.

         “Hi Mista, is there, is there anything I can help with?” Fugo asks, putting on a worker apron.

         Mista glances at Fugo. “I’ll call you back, man.” He puts his phone down. “S’up Fugo! Um, let’s see… Yeah, just take care of people’s orders when they come.”

         So Fugo follows Mista’s orders, making drinks and handing people pastries with a smile. He likes the routine of it, being given an order from Mista then fetching the fresh coffee grounds or flowers for the tea.

         When there’s a quiet moment, and there are only four customers in the café, and Mista is sweating and looking around, nervously, at them, Fugo gets an idea for conversation.

         “Mista, what were you and your friend talking about on the phone?” Mista glances at him, then returns his gaze to one of the tables.

         “Uh, we were talkin’ about prom that’s coming up in, like, two months or something. You know, junior and senior prom.”

         He did, in fact, know. “I was, I was planning on going before I got expelled.”

         “Hey, you know, I’m sure Narancia and I could sneak you in if you still want to go.”

         Fugo gives him a happy yet perplexed look. “I would be alone, wouldn’t I?”

         “Nah, dude. Don’t know ‘bout Narancia but I’m not planning on taking anyone. It’s just gonna be a night with the guys. Which includes you. Just think about it. If you want one of us to take you let us know.”

         Fugo smiles. “Thank you, I will consider it.”

         “Maybe you could even bring Giorno? Y’know, if you guys get that far.”

         His heart flutters at the thought. All Fugo can do is nod, since his throat feels like it’s tied in a knot. Him and Giorno at prom, that would be amazing. It’s all he can focus on for the rest of his day.

 

         The next day, Fugo anxiously waits for Giorno to arrive, and he is faster than the clock with his thoughts of how his break time can go. The image of him using Melone’s wonderful techniques that he taught him seems so genuine, Fugo is sure that he will get Giorno to like him.

         When Giorno does finally arrive, the first thing Fugo notices is his hair. Instead of its usual braid, it’s in a high ponytail. How could he even look more adorable than he already is?

         “Hey, wanna grab a seat?” Giorno asks, skipping over a formal greeting. Fugo nods and walks around the counter to him.

         At their table, Fugo is nervous. He doesn’t want to mess anything up so he replays the conversation he had with Melone as he looks at Mista and Narancia who are still behind the counter working. Seeing them helps him remember Melone’s face and words.

         “Hey, Giorno. I’m happy you came. Do you know the book Animal Farm?”

         “Of course. It’s by George Orwell, the pen name of Eric Blair, about the Russian Revolution, right? My father had me read it for school.”

         “Yes. I was thinking about the horse, Mollie. Remember Mollie?

         Giorno chuckles and rests his chin in his palm. “I do remember Mollie.”

         “Well, she always used to wear ribbons before the animals drove the farmer off the farm, right? I always, always imagine her mane as being in a braid. Kind of like the braid you usually wear.” Fugo unintentionally makes a non-creepy amount of eye contact, which has Giorno blushing. “And today, now your hair is different. I noticed it.”

         “Wow, um, th-that’s an odd connection, but, thank you,” Giorno softly responds, petting his hair and twirling the ends of it between his fingers. “thanks for noticing… Ha ha.” He cringes at himself for the added monotone laugh.

         Fugo almost tells him he’s pretty. But then when he looks to Mista and Narancia, who are having an apparently intense discussion about whether or not drinking sprite makes people lose their eye sight, Fugo remembers Melone. And Melone’s instructions.

         “But Giorno, you look very ugly today,” Fugo says, which is the opposite of the truth.

         Giorno is stunned for a moment. “Umm, what?” His eyebrows turn up and he nervously laughs, hoping Fugo was kidding.

         “Your hair. It’s hideous. Also,” Fugo continues, “you’re, you’re a nerd. I never even had to read Animal Farm. And homeschool is for babies. Why can’t you just go to a normal school like normal kids, cause you are a normal kid.” More opposites of the truth. “Also, you dress very…” What’s the word Melone used? “…gaudy.” Fugo practically spits the word out. He nods in satisfaction with himself. Surely Giorno wants to take a nap with him now.

         But Fugo starts to sweat when he sees Giorno in distress. Why is he reacting the opposite of how he’s supposed to? A frown replaces his proud smile.

         “F-Fugo, I hope you’re just messing around, right?” Suddenly Fugo is not so cute to Giorno anymore. On the other side of the counter, Narancia and Mista are watching their conversation, with their eyes bulging in disbelief, as if they’re staring at a tower crumbling right in front of them.

         “No,” Narancia mumbles, “No no no no no no no, no– gah! Fugo!” He races over and pulls Fugo aside. “What has gotten into you!?”

         Meanwhile Mista pulls a whimpering Giorno away as well. “Okay, okay, Giorno, listen… No no no, don’t start cryin’, please, I can explain all this… Please!” So Mista’s words aren’t helping, and he’s starting to freak out. How the hell can I explain this!? He screams in his head. “Please calm down so I can explain, Giorno?” He begs, in a puppy-dog voice.

         Giorno stops trembling, and focuses his attention on Mista. “w-what?”

         “Okay, listen,” Mista takes a deep breath, “in case you haven’t noticed, Fugo, he’s… he’s on the spectrum, and something he does is take words from other people and uses them as his own.”

         A bewildered expression stares Mista in the face.

         “Okay, okay, um, he definitely did not come up with those insults himself, I know that for a fact. He’s just repeating words that he’s heard from someone else. Please, trust me, he’s crazy about you.”

         The color returns to Giorno’s face, but the puzzlement is still present “I don’t understand. Why would he say those things if they aren’t his thoughts?”

         “That’s just… that’s just how he is.” Mista gives him a frown.

         Just then Narancia comes over, leaving a sullen Fugo. “Melone was in here yesterday,” he whispers to them. “he definitely talked to Fugo. Fugo was definitely parroting what Melone told him to say.”

         “But why would someone tell Fugo to say those, those hurtful things?” Giorno questions, a realization showing in his eyes.

         “Sabotage.” Mista looks back.

         “Giorno, we promise he didn’t mean any of that,” Narancia gestures to the mess of sobs behind him, “and he’s definitely sorry.”

         Giorno walks over to Fugo, who is in a ball on the floor, rocking back and forth. He crouches down to hear what the boy is whispering.

         “I’m stupid, I’m stupid, I’m stupid.” Like it’s a witch’s chant. Fugo looks up, dourly, when he notices Giorno. Narancia and Mista stand a few feet away, watching for the crumbled tower to be rebuilt.

         “Hey, don’t say that, you’re not stupid, Fugo.”

         “But I am! Melone was tricking me, and I, I didn’t know!” He covers his eyes in shame.

         Giorno yanks his arms away from his face. “You’re not stupid, Melone was manipulating you, it wasn’t your fault.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry-” He’s like a sorry machine.

         Giorno almost giggles at the sight. “I can tell you’re sorry, and I forgive you. No questions about it.”

         “I’m stupid, I’m stupid, I’m autistic, I’m stupid.”

         Fugo is parroting again. From who or from when, Giorno cannot tell. “Don’t ever say that, you’re not stupid.” He sits in front of him on the floor.

         “I’m autistic.” Fugo sniffles.

         “Yes, you are, you’re a brilliant, amazing, kind, passionate, autistic boy. Being autistic is not a flaw. It’s part of who you are,” he points a finger at Fugo, who looks down at it, “and I like who you are. I like you a lot.”

         Fugo has no words to say.

         “It’s a bad thing when you hurt yourself for being autistic. It’s a bad thing when you don’t realize how wonderful you are.”

         Narancia and Mista are moved to tears at the adorable scene below them, so they leave and go into the kitchen to cry in private. Bruno wonders what the hell is going on. Giorno traces little butterfly shapes with his finger onto Fugo’s arm.

         “Now, how do you feel?”

         Fugo searches for words, something to describe the new fluttering sensation he’s never felt before inside of him. “I feel empowered. Because of you.” He meets Giorno’s gaze. “I’ve never, never heard anyone say those things about me before.”

         Giorno can’t help but look away. “Well I meant every one of them. You, Fugo, have a heart of gold.”

Chapter Text

The next week brings good weather. It’s almost the end of May and the sun is bright and vibrant. Bruno’s café is growing busier every day, with more people on lunch breaks out to enjoy the weather, and many college students finding more time as their year comes to a close.

         This also means prom season is coming, and Fugo hasn’t forgotten that his school’s prom would be right around the corner soon. Although Mista did mention to him that he could find a way to get him in, Fugo isn’t sure how it would work. Surely the principal would make sure he is on the ex-invitees list, right?

         Maybe I am over thinking. That’s what Mista would say. I wish I could be more chill like him.

         So, sitting across from Giorno at their favorite table next to the sunny window, with French flashcards spread out and organized by category, and seeing Giorno’s soft look of a genuine love of learning, Fugo makes up his mind. He will ask Giorno to prom.

         “I would like to ask you something,” he starts, staring into Giorno’s eyes, unblinking.

         Giorno looks up from a Nourriture flashcard. “What is it?”

         But Fugo realizes he didn’t think this through. He’s got no game plan, and a small blush creeps onto his face. He keeps on staring.

         “Fugo? What is it?” Giorno has gotten used to the unending stares.

         “Maybe another time.”

         “Okay,” He giggles. Fugo shakes his head, hopefully Giorno will forget about his awkward attempt at prompting a question he hasn’t even prepared for. He picks up a flashcard from the La Famille pile.

         “Okay Giorno,” he reads the question with a French accent, “Qui est le pere de mon cousin?”

         Giorno thinks for a second, piecing together the given information. “Mon oncle?”

“Correct. Now,” he takes a card from the Nourriture pile, “What is le lait?”

“Milk.”

         “How many, how many of these cards did you make? There’s gotta be a million here.”

         Giorno giggles and takes a sip of his raspberry tea. “I’ve made throughout the last month. I just collected them all for my test tomorrow. And look at you, you read that flashcard so well!”

         Fugo bends the card back and forth. “Thank you.”

         “Did you used to take French at school?”

         “Yes. I liked it a lot.” He looks at Giorno’s eyes, which seem to sparkle when the sun hits them at just the right angle. Fugo can’t get enough. He imagines different things the same blue color as Giorno’s eyes, like a cerulean flower, or the sky. Those things are nice things, which means Giorno is nice too.

         As Giorno studies more flashcards to himself, Fugo can’t help but picture his own face. His messy, silver hair and red eyes he never thought of as ugly, but he never really thought they were anything beautiful either. Red eyes that no characters from all the books he’s ever read seem to have. He makes a list of things that match the color of his eyes, like he did for Giorno’s:

         Strawberries. Definitely strawberries. I like strawberries. They’re sweet and have little seeds.

         Finding that he can’t think of any other red things for his list, he decides to save it for another time. He searches his brain for a conversation starter and as his eyes wander around the table he finds one.

         “Is this, is this your first time learning French?” He asks, trying not to sound rude.

         “Yeah, bet you could tell huh? I need lots more practice on pronunciation.” Giorno smiles up at him. “How many years did you take French?”

         Fugo counts on his fingers. “Five and a half years.” He counts the first half of his junior year, before he got expelled.

         “That’s amazing! All these words must be super easy for you then.”

         “Yes. They are.” He bends another card. “Why don’t we practice your pronunciation?”

         “Alright. How should we do that?”

         Fugo takes out his notebook and begins to scribble something down. Giorno leans over to see what it says, but it’s in French.

         “Wow, you write it fast. I’m totally envious.”

         “If you practice,” Fugo’s hand takes a break for a moment before continuing on, “you will get better and better and better, Giorno.” He turns the notebook toward him. “Read this, read this out loud. It is fine if you don’t know what some of it means. I tried, I tried to use lots of words that you might have learned already. All present tense.”

         Giorno tilts his head and twists his earring as a faint blush grows on his cheeks. If he hadn’t gotten a crush on Fugo before, he definitely would have right now. Everything he does, in Giorno’s eyes, is adorable and amazing. “Okay. Let’s see… J’ai fait une con… con-nai-ssance,” he pauses after the long word, “Il est trés beau et joli. Il a les cheveux d’or et les yeux bleus. Il habite avec son père. Il ne va pas à l’école. Il apprend à sa…” He looks to Fugo in confusion for the next word.

         “Maison. May-zone.”

         “Il apprend à sa maison. Il aime lire comme moi. Je… J’espère? J’espère qu’il peut être mon petit ami.”

         Fugo sweats as Giorno finishes. Maybe he went a little overboard with writing to him that he wants to be his boyfriend. Anxiety starts to take him over, and he darts his eyes all around the room, anywhere but on Giorno. What if Giorno is creeped out? What if Giorno doesn’t feel the same way? What if Giorno wants to stop hanging out with me?

         He stares at those pretty blue eyes to soothe himself. It only half works.

         “Huh. Even with you using vocab I should know, I still have no idea what half of that says,” Giorno laughs, knocking his foot into Fugo’s under the table.

         Fugo turns red like a strawberry. Although he’s thankful that Giorno could not understand what he just read, he still feels anxious about what could have happened. He wants to let Giorno know that he’s relieved he didn’t find him weird and leave. But he can’t seem to express any words so he mistakenly just points to the door and says the opposite of what he wants: “I think you should leave.”

         Giorno looks at his phone. “Oh, you’re right. Your break is over now isn’t it?” From being with Fugo so long, Giorno is starting to finally get a handle on his way of talking. Like Mista had mentioned to him, one has to look beyond just his words alone to find their true meaning.

He packs away his flashcards. “See you later.” He rustles Fugo’s silver hair before he exits. As Giorno leaves, Fugo looks at his watch in disbelief and goes back to work behind the counter.

 

The next day, Fugo wakes up feeling hot and tired. He takes his temperature: 105.3 degrees. No way he’s going into work today.

In his room, he calls Bruno. There’s no answer so he leaves a message, saying he won’t be coming in because of his 105.3 degree fever that attacked him when he woke up.

He’s home alone now at 7:30 when his grandma leaves to go to work. The house is silent. Boredom sinks down on him like fog in his room. He spends some time playing with his action figures and periodically taking rests in his bed. He pulls his blanket over his head and rereads a conversation he had with Giorno yesterday. It was about the book Giorno had been reading.

Suddenly he gets an idea. Why not use this sick day to make a present for Giorno?

He quickly gets up and goes to his art bin next to his bookshelf to see what he has: tons of crayons, multicolored paper, glue, hundreds of colored pencils, rulers, paints, dozens of tiny rolls of washi tape. The best idea pops into his head.

He rummages around and takes out a box of 64 crayons, some large sheets of sturdy paper, and some glue as well. All his materials are spread out on his floor. He turns his speaker on and connects his phone to it, and at once All Time Low is playing loud enough to wake up the whole sleepy neighborhood. With his atmosphere set, he begins to work.

Because he sorted his crayons by color, finding the right color he needs is simple. He starts coloring the first character from Giorno’s book that he draws, which is Maggie. She has brown hair and brown eyes, like Mista and Narancia. After Maggie is Sloane, the other main character. Sloane has blonde hair and blue eyes, like Giorno.

But as he’s scribbling blonde over paper Sloane’s hair outline, he remembers his list of red things from the other day in the café, and he looks down at his paper people. None of them look like me. I don’t look like any of them. Suddenly Fugo feels very ashamed of his features. He twirls his long bangs in between his fingers as he goes over to his mirror. The boy staring back at him looks nothing like a hero. All he sees is a boy who’s different, a boy who doesn’t belong anywhere.

Strawberries are red. I’ve already concluded that. No other things are red. He scrunches his eyes shut, as if doing so helps him think of more red things. I can’t think of any more because red is a dumb color! He sinks to the floor. Curling up in a ball, he rocks back and forth and clears his head of all thought. He puts washi tape over his reflection to cover his eyes. He just listens to his music and thinks of nothing.

But after a half hour or so, he feels slightly better. When he stands back up he’s careful not to let himself make eye contact with the boy in the mirror. Putting his project on pause, he picks up his phone to see a text form Mista:

 

dude hope you feel better. bruno just texted us saying you won’t be there later

 

Fugo reponds:

My eyes are red and red is dumb. That’s why not a lot of things are red.

 

After a few seconds, he’s hit with: roses are red And before he can reply Mista sends more texts:

 

roses are red

violets are blue

Fugo’s eyes are perfect

and his heart is too

 

         How could Mista be so sappy? Well anyway, it doesn’t matter because Fugo’s mood instantly brightens as he imagines his friend reciting the small poem in person. It makes him laugh out loud. Even if it’s just a little bit, he feels better knowing nature made another red thing besides strawberries. He responds with: Thank you for the personal poem. It helped make me feel better.

         So he decides to add another detail to the drawings. He puts roses in Maggie and Sloane’s hands. He removes the washi tape from his mirror and stares into his reflection. It will take time, but I will be able to love myself for who I am. That’s what Giorno would say.

         Eventually he falls asleep again on the floor, surrounded by his crayons and pop up story book pages for Giorno that took him all day to make.

Chapter Text

“I have something for you,” Fugo says to Giorno, reaching under the table for the pop-up book that he had made for him. The café is somewhat busy but Fugo is on break, so the customers don’t matter to him. The only thing that matters right now, is Giorno. 

“What is it? Oh!” He picks up the book and examines it with fascination. “It’s Lucid! This is so cool!” 

Fugo watches as Giorno’s eye light up. They seem to grow bigger with every turn of the pages. “That’s, that’s Sloane and Maggie, as you know. That’s a rose in her hand. Roses are red.” I think he likes my art project, Fugo thinks. 

Every page holds a carefully colored scene and neatly structured paper pop-ups of the characters. It tells a short version of the story, Lucid, where Maggie and Sloane have the same soul and live each other’s lives when they fall asleep.  

“Oh, and here’s Andrew…” Giorno gazes whimsically down at the gift. “This is so sweet. It’s so well made, it’s wonderful Fugo! Thank you so much!” Giorno rests the book on their table, and to Fugo’s surprise, he stands up and goes over to give him a kiss on the cheek. The gentlest thing Fugo has ever felt makes his heart beat faster than ever. A rosy blush makes its way to his cheeks and ears, and he fidgets with his fingers as Giorno returns to his seat. How Giorno can be so calm after giving him a kiss is a mystery. He’s not even squirming like me! 

“G-Giorno, I would, would like to ask, to ask you something,” his voice cracks subtly as he stutters out the words. But if he doesn’t ask Giorno to prom now, he might never have a better chance. Giorno is so happy because of me… because of my gift to him. And he kissed me. That means he likes me! If I don’t do it now, I never will. His foot bounces up and down on the café floor. 

“What is it?” The last time, Fugo said “maybe another time” after getting this far, as Giorno can remember. 

“Do, do you w-wanna be my, my, my date to the prom?” The simple question is flies from its cage. 

“You’re going to prom?” Giorno asks in amazement as he tries to hide the excitement in his voice. 

“Y-yes.” 

“Then, yes! Yes, I’ll go with you!” He “accidentally” kicks his foot against Fugo’s under the table. Fugo can hardly believe his ears. He’s going to prom, with Giorno. 

“Now, Giorno. I must tell you something important.” 

“Yes? What is it?” He smiles up at him, clearly very giddy. CuuuuteFugo almost forgets all his words, but he shakes himself out of it before he can. 

“You know, you know I don’t go to school?” 

“Mhm.” 

“Well that means Mista and Narancia are going to come up with a plan. So that we can enjoy prom together. Because I’m illegal at school.” Giorno laughs into his coffee cup. 

“I understand. That’s sweet of them to help you out.” 

“They are, they are my very best friends. But we also gotta be careful. Remember the mean guys?” 

Giorno frowns. “They’re awful. I do remember them.” 

“We must, we must avoid them at all costs. Because they would make everything worse for us. And I don’t want them to hurt you.” His simple sentence sounds like liquid candy to Giorno’s ears.  

At that moment Narancia comes out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on his pants. He goes over to where Mista is at the register. 

“Dude, guess what,” he says, making sure Fugo can also hear him. 

“What?” 

“Part five is confirmed.” 

“Wait really?” 

“Yes! Bruno just told me.” 

“That’s, that’s my favorite part,” Fugo chimes in. 

Narancia nods his head and leans his back against the counter. “Yep. It’s gonna be so awesome.” 

Fugo stares at his friends, hoping they will understand what he wants to tell them. I successfully asked Giorno to prom. 

 “’Sup Fugo?” Mista says when he notices him staring.   

“I did it.” 

“Did what?” But Fugo just looks at Giorno, who smiles sheepishly. “Oh! Hell yeah, I’m proud of you, man!” Mista leaps over the counter and slaps Fugo on the back, as bros do. 

“What? Did Fugo ask him out??” Now Narancia hops over the counter and wraps his arms around Fugo’s neck. “Congrats dude!” 

“Th-thanks. But you better get back behind the counter. Bruno will get mad.” He struggles as Narancia almost chokes him with his grip.  

“Actually,” Narancia unties his apron quickly and tosses it at Fugo. “Look at the time! Means you gotta start workin’ again!” He speeds away before anyone can say anything. 

“Okay Giorno,” Fugo says, “I will call you later then.” 

“Okay! I’ll be waiting for it.” Fugo wishes badly that Giorno would kiss him again, and somehow it works. Giorno plants another seedling on his cheek before waving and heading out. Energized by this, Fugo soars rapidly over the counter, faster than he’s ever done before. 

 

Later that evening, Fugo stays behind late with his friends at work to help them clean up and talk about their favorite anime that’s coming out. Even Mr. Abbacchio from across the street comes over to join the party. 

“They better make me look super fuckin’ rad,” Narancia complains as he rolls around the café floor in a mop bucket. The chairs are all put upside down on the table, so his chances of crashing are less.  

“Yeah Narancia, you finally get to stand up from sitting everywhere,” Mista mocks, counting the tips from the tip jar. Bruno and Abbacchio are at a nearby table, chatting and sipping tea. “Hey, by the way, Fugo. We figured out how we gonna get you into prom. Fugo?”  

“Yes.” Fugo isn’t quite listening, as he is focused on some moving shadows out in the street. The veil of night covers their faces, but Fugo can see them stirring around. 

“So same sex couples are allowed at school, and we can bring anyone who doesn’t go to our school. So Narancia is gonna take Giorno as his “date” and you’re gonna be my “date”. And then you two can be wild together.”  

“Sound like a plan?” Narancia speaks up. Fugo doesn’t answer. He’s focused on the people outside, which he can see with more clarity now that they’ve moved under a street light. It’s a woman and a man. The man is harassing her furiously, as he seems like he’s trying to take her purse with him. This causes Fugo to feel a seething rage. It’s not right for him to be acting that way. Fugo’s fist clenches as his thoughts run in all directions. The most dominant thought being: What if he tries to hurt her? 

Suddenly Fugo can’t feel his feet anymore. They’ve carried him outside, as if he’s running on an autopilot. The man and woman both look at him, clearly startled as they thought they were alone. He lunges for the man and tackles him to the ground. Then it’s blow after blow, showing no mercy. Fugo punches him in the face again and again. The man tries to scream but barely has time to even breathe. 

“You should not have done that!” Fugo hollers, crushing the man’s arm underneath his feet. “You should be very, very, sorry!” Fugo is blinded by tears that cause his eyes to swell. He can’t feel his body anymore. He isn’t aware that the man has grabbed him back, and he isn’t aware when the man twists his arm and forces him to the ground. No! I can’t let him get away!  

“What are you doing? Fugo!” Bruno and Abbacchio run outside. While Bruno helps him sit up on the ground, Abbacchio grabs the man before he can run away. “Fugo why would you assault someone like that!? Do you know how much trouble you just caused!?” 

“No! This young man was saving me from him!” The woman intervenes. “He was harassing me!” 

Bruno looks between her and Fugo’s twisted arm. He kneels down to meet Fugo’s eye level. “Go back inside.” And Fugo does what he is told. 

Fugo rubs his eyes as the light of the café burns them. Mista and Narancia are too eager to ask him questions. 

“What’s going on? Was he really harassing her? Why did Bruno send you back inside?” They talk over each other. Fugo shrugs. 

“Oh god, what happened to your arm?” Narancia asks when he sees it. 

“The man, the man twisted it. But I think it isn’t broken.” 

“Dude, you were so badass, throwin’ all those punches. You really were a hero!” A hero? No, Fugo isn’t a hero. Fugo doesn’t look like a hero. How could he of all people be one?  

“No Mista. Bruno, Bruno told me to go back inside while he talks to the lady to find out what happened. I’m not a hero.” 

“Yes you are. You’re her hero.” 

“You saved her!” 

Fugo considers this as Bruno walks back inside. 

“She wanted me to thank you for her.” Bruno puts a hand on Fugo’s shoulder. “I apologize for being stern with you.” 

“It’s okay Bruno. You were, you were just trying to help.” 

“Thank goodness this didn’t happen while we were still open.” Bruno goes back outside. 

“You are right.” Fugo knows he doesn’t look like a hero. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be one. “I am a hero.” 

“Did you hear our plan for prom, Fugo? You might have been distracted,” Mista says. Narancia goes into the back room. 

“I was distracted yes.” 

“So, Giorno is gonna be Narancia’s ‘date’.”Mista raises his hands to quote date so Fugo understands. But he still doesn’t understand.  

“Giorno isn’t going with me??” 

“No no, he is. But you got expelled. So Giorno will be his ‘date’ and You’re gonna be my ‘date’. Just so you both can get in. And if anyone has a problem with it, or with you bein’ there, they can answer to us.” He cracks his knuckles. 

“Oh, I understand. But you aren’t bringing a date for yourself?” 

“Nah. Narancia and me will be hangin’ out with our friends. Y’know, Matt and Brian and all of them. Remember them?” 

“I do remember them.” 

“So it’s all good.” 

“It’s all good,” Fugo repeats. Gosh, prom with Giorno. He’s never been to prom, but he imagines it like it is in movies; everything about it is magical.   

Narancia comes back then with sodas. He tosses sprite to Mista, then pepsi to Fugo, who almost misses the catch due to his arm.  

“Oh shoot, we should bring you to the hospital, dude.”  

“But I don’t want, I don’t want them to know I beat someone up.” Fugo frowns. “It doesn’t even hurt badly.” 

“That’s cause it’s probably numb. Come on, we’ll go.” Mista says, chugging his sprite. He’s the only one of them who can drive. Which leads Fugo to another thought as they head outside to tell Bruno where they’re going. 

“Mista, this is, this is your last prom, isn’t it?” Fugo says. 

“Yeah it is. I’ll be done with school soon, hallelujah.” They get into his car. 

“I’ll miss you at school.” 

“You don’t go to school, Fugo.” Narancia says flicking the back of his head. 

“I mean I’ll miss him at work then.” Fugo looks down, at his hands folded in his lap. They both laugh. What could they find funny? “Why are you laughing?” 

“Nothing Fugo. It’s just I’ll still be working at Bruno’s café. We’ll still be friends, man. I’m saving up money before I enroll for college.” 

“Oh. Good. I like being friends with you, Mista.” And that’s the truth. It’s nice to hear out loud sometimes, Fugo thinks. A good friend drives you to the hospital, and that’s what Mista is doing.  

As they drive, his thoughts wander back to prom with Giorno. How wonderful it will be to dance with him. He needs to ask his grandma to bring him to the store so he can buy a suit. Maybe his friends will help pick one out with him. That’s another thing good friends do, Fugo thinks. They help make decisions with you. I wonder what Giorno will wear. Maybe we can match colors. Would he like blue? Or red? Or green, or orange... He’s got some planning to do. 

Chapter Text

          After getting permission from his grandma, Fugo asks Mista to drive him to the mall in their city. It’s only a few blocks from Passione café. They’re here to buy suits to wear to prom.

          “So what colors you into?” Mista asks, skimming carefully through a rack of jackets in the men’s section. Fugo is wearing two dress shoes on his hands so he can inspect the comfyness of their insides.

          “You mean there’s different colors for suits?”

          “Yeah, look. Right here, there’s this deep blue, this green one, this is maroon… Although I think most people just choose black and then have a colored tie.”

          Fugo walks over, shoes still on his hands. “Hey, this one, this one is purple!” He admires the violet suit jacket.

          “Woah make sure you don’t let the bottoms of those shoes touch it. You like the purple one?”

          “Yes, purple is my favorite color.”

          “What color is Giorno gonna wear?” Mista waits a few seconds while Fugo doesn’t respond. “Cause you know, you should coordinate colors with him an’ stuff.”

          “Why?”

          “Because,” Mista pauses while he forms an answer that will please Fugo. “For the pictures… you know, and matching looks good.”

          “I don’t, I don’t know what Giorno is going to wear.” Fugo puts the shoes down and takes out his phone. He dials Giorno’s number. “I can call him and ask.”

          “Good idea.”

          After two rings Giorno answers. “Hey, Fugo. What’s up?”

          “I want to ask you something.” Three seconds of silence. Mista raises his eyebrows at him and gestures his hand as if to give him permission to ask. “What color are you wearing to prom?”

          “Well I found this dress that I really like… It’s silky and it fits so perfectly. Oh, you asked about color, didn’t you? It’s golden. I also found this pair of Zanotti’s that match it, they’re golden too. They’re a little expensive but my Papa is getting them for me. They’ve got beautiful diamonds all along the front, and there are little leaves… they’re just so pretty! I can’t wait to show them to you!” Fugo can almost hear the smile on Giorno’s lips as he talks fondly about his outfit.

          “Your dress is gold?”

          “Oh, yes. Did I forget to mention that?”

          “No. Just making sure. I’m shopping with Mista right now, so I will call you again later.”

          “Alright, bye Fugo!” And Fugo taps the button to hang up.

          “His dress, his dress is gold. And he’s got gold Zanotti’s, whatever that means.”

          “Pretty sure those are shoes. Damn those are expensive.”

          “He said his Papa is getting them for him.” Fugo answers matter-of-factly. “So does this mean I have to buy a gold suit?”

          “Well, not really. You could do a gold tie.” Mista picks out a few different black suit jackets and a few white ones. Fugo takes the violet one as well. “Go try these on, see how you like the black and white.”

          “And the purple.”

          “And the purple.” Mista points to one of the mirrors on the wall close to them. Fugo brings the pile of jackets and stacks them on a small stool nearby.

          He takes a black one first. It’s light but looks heavy. He takes a step back to see himself in the mirror. And the truth is, he finds it makes him look incredibly handsome. He almost can’t peel his eyes away from the sight; Fugo’s never worn anything like a suit before.

          It looks even better when Mista helps him button it. Who is that handsome boy in the mirror? He thinks to himself. Certainly not Fugo. He imagines himself on a red carpet, showing off and posing for thousands of fans and paparazzi. A chuckle of delight leaves his mouth at the silly thought.

          “You look like you really like that one,” Mista comments, also gazing up and down at Fugo in the mirror. “Don’t forget you have more to try on.”

          Yes, Fugo does have more to try. He tries them all on, savoring the small and unfamiliar adrenaline rush they all give him. Despite liking them all, Fugo can’t help but feel none of them really seem to be the one.

          Fugo looks around the store at the other racks. He can try anything he wants. Which one do I like? His eyes land on a beautiful silver suit that a mannequin is wearing a few feet away from them. “Mista? Can I try that jacket?”

          “Sure, I’ll get it for you.” He slinks it off the model and hands it to Fugo. This one feels different in his hands than the rest, Fugo decides. He unbuttons the violet jacket and puts on the silver one.

          At once he can tell that it feels different from the rest. He feels handsome, and empowered. Right away the similarity between the jacket and his hair catch his attention; Silver and silver. He takes notice of his eyes, which seem to be more piercing red than usual. But that’s a wonderful thing. My eyes are eyes of a hero. Yes, he quite likes how the grey contrasts with them.

          “Damn.” Mista does too.

          “Mista what if I wore this one? It isn’t gold, but…” Fugo imagines Giorno in a stunning golden gown next to him. “…we could still match. Silver and gold.”

          His friend grins at the imagery. “That would… look really good. Totally go with the silver suit then.”

          Fugo looks at the price tag and his heart sinks like a stone. “I can’t, can’t afford it.”

          “No. I’ll pay for it. You deserve to have it, Fugo. Prom is special. You shouldn’t have to worry about how much stuff costs.” Mista casually walks towards the registers, and Fugo follows behind, stepping with one foot directly in front of the other. He dodges the crisscrossing lines of the tiles on the floor.

          How can Mista pay for it for me but I can’t? He ponders. Doesn’t Bruno pay us the same? Mista shouldn’t have to spend money on me. That would make me a burden. His breathing quickens as they get closer to the check out. He wants to let Mista know that he should pay for the suit himself, so he asks: “But you make the same money as me?”

          “You deserve to be treated once in a while. If I didn’t have enough money for somethin’ I wanted, I know you’d do the same for me, man.” By now Mista has handed his card to the cashier. They finish paying and Mista hands the bag to Fugo. They walk out of the store and into the mall together.

          “I will pay you back later.”

          “Nah, I don’t want your cash.”

          Fugo looks into the bag at the box of the suit. The red H&M logo covers the top of the box’s lid. Inside is the perfect suit for Fugo. Mista really is a good friend. Next time I have to buy something for him, that way he knows I think he’s a good friend.

          “Wanna get dinner?”

          “Yes. I want sushi.” Fugo’s favorite place to eat in the mall is the Japanese sushi bar. Maybe I can convince Mista to let me pay for our dinner.

          “I knew you’d say that. You always want sushi.” Mista chuckles.

 

 

          The next day, Fugo spends his 3:00 break time at the book store across the street from the café. He browses through the children’s section, finding all the purple books he can and putting them together at one end of the long bookshelf against the corner of the wall.

          “What are you doing?” A little boy in a Batman shirt asks Fugo. He looks up at him with his curious, innocent eyes, eyes that are not unlike Fugo’s.

          “I’m rearranging some books. Specifically, the purple books.” He gestures to his collection of purple children’s books on the shelf. They’re noticeably out of place. The boy’s mother stands a few feet away from them, and she smiles at her son to tell him it’s okay to talk to the friendly teen.

          “Why only purple books?”

          “Because purple is my favorite color,” Fugo answers, reaching for another purple book and adding to his stash.

          “Purple is a girl’s color.” The little boy says, to which Fugo is caught off guard.

          “Yes, and a boy’s color. It can be anyone’s color.” Talking to the kid makes Fugo feel happy. He’s never been a babysitter and he never had any siblings. Spending time with kids, on the rare occasions he does, makes him feel needed and important.

          The kid seems to accept that purple is, in fact, anyone’s color. “Do you work here?” he asks.

          “No. My work place is across the street. I work in a café. It’s called Passione.” Fugo sits on the ground with his legs folded to be closer to the boy. The boy mirrors his action.

          “How old are you?”

          “I am 16. How old are you?”

          “I’m 5. So you’re a big kid?”

          “I suppose I am.”

          The kid leans closer to Fugo. “You go to high school?”

          “I got kicked out of high school. But I used to go to high school.” Fugo scratches his face, and the boy does the same.

          “Did you know my favorite book is this one?” The little boy pulls a book off the shelf: Frog and Toad. “My mom reads it to me before bedtime.”

          “That’s really cool. I wish my mom could read me stories too.”

          “Is it because you’re big now?”

          “No. I don’t know my mom.”

          “Well she should call you. Mama calls me and daddy before she comes home from work. That’s how she lets us know when she’s coming home.”

          Fugo smiles. “Do you like origami?”

          “What’s o-ree-gah-mee?” The kid asks.

          “It’s paper folding. You can make different objects or animals.” Fugo reaches into his pocket and pulls out an origami flower, similar to the ones he keeps in the bowl on the counter at the café. The golden ones, golden for Giorno.

          “Woah! You made that?? That looks hard.”

          “No, it’s easy. I practiced a lot before I could make it right.”

          “Do all big kids make o-ree-gah-mee? What else do big kids do?”

          “It’s origami. And no, I don’t, I don’t know anyone else who makes origami. Other big kids get jobs or play sports or instruments, I think. Or they hang out with friends.”

          “Do you have friends?” The boy holds the origami flower in his hand, careful not to crush the fragile petals.

          “I do have friends. Their names are Mista and Narancia, and my boss Bruno is sometimes my friend. I also have Giorno. He’s my boyfriend.” Saying this fact to the boy feels good to Fugo. He feels pride in saying it out loud.

          “You mean your girlfriend,” the boy states, unfolding the flower and re-folding it again.

          “No, he’s my boyfriend.” At that point the boy’s mother has come closer, and she stares in shock down at Fugo.

          “What!? That doesn’t make sense! A girl has a boyfriend! A boy can’t have a boyfriend!” The boy announces with a voice a little too loud for a bookstore.

          “Yes, he can. I do.” Fugo hugs his knees up to his chest. The boy tries to explain to his mom how wrong Fugo is as she pulls him away. The last thing Fugo sees of them is the mother’s piercing glare.

          I guess they had to go. What a nice kid. Fugo thinks as he continues his search for all the purple children’s books. He won’t be satisfied until the whole shelf row is screaming with purple spines.

          A few minutes later someone taps his shoulder. He turns to see Ghiaccio, red glasses and curly hair, just like he remembers him from school. His expression turns stormy as he attempts to size up the mean boy.

          “What are you doing here Ghiaccio?” Fugo lowers his voice, to give it a more threatening sound. It doesn’t work, and Ghiaccio snorts out a laugh.

          “Dude, Fugo, how you doin’? Long time no see!” Ghiaccio avoids his question entirely. “What’re you up to these days?”

          “I’m not supposed to talk to you.” Fugo really is scared, especially remembering how badly things went with Melone last time they met. What is Ghiaccio planning to do to him?

          “Aw man, it’s okay. I ain’t gonna hurt you. Melone told me how you and him had some good conversation last time you met. Somethin’ ‘bout some guy you like, yeah?”

          Fugo doesn’t answer.

          “Is it true I just heard you tell that little boy that you gotta boyfriend? Is that the guy Melone helped you get? You know he’s a literal cupid. Did you ever thank him for helping you get laid?” Ghiaccio snorts as some of Fugo’s veins pop.

          “Melone, Melone gave me shit advice. He almost made me lose Giorno.”

          “So Giorno’s his name, huh? Do you think he’s cute?”

          Fugo looks down. “Yes, he’s cute. He’s got beautiful hair. He always wears cute outfits. He likes to read and he likes strawberry Pannacotta that I make-” Fugo pauses, remembering that he’s not supposed to be talking to his former bully. “Now, don’t you have somewhere to be?” If I ignore him he might go away, Fugo thinks, as he goes back to arranging his masterpiece of a shelf.

          “You tryna get rid of me? Not cool, man.” Ghiaccio grabs Fugo’s hair and jerks his head. “After I came and nicely started talkin’ to you? You just try to ignore me!? You think just cause we don’t see you at school means we won’t try to fuck you up, you fuckin’ faggot!?” He’s almost screaming and Fugo is unbelievably scared. Ghiaccio has been known to beat up kids at school, and he’s even almost beaten Fugo up before.

Before he has time to think to dodge, Fugo’s jaw is hit by Ghiaccio’s fist. His neck strains with whiplash from the impact, as Ghiaccio is yanking his head by his hair. If he gets any more angry, Fugo won’t know what to do.

What if Mr. Abbacchio comes too? That will mean it’s both our faults. That’s the last thing Fugo wants right now, so he grabs Ghiaccio back and punches him square in the jaw. After teetering and falling backwards, Ghiaccio scurries off, his fire extinguished. Fugo huffs out shaky breaths and holds his aching knuckles. He wipes his jaw where there is some blood. A few drops of blood stain the floor.

 

Back at the café, Fugo returns to work with Narancia. He’s at the register while Narancia is brewing coffee and tea for people’s orders. The paper flowers in the bowl soak up his attention, despite there being customers ready to order. Although his jaw stopped bleeding, he hasn’t yet cleaned all the blood from his face and mouth. His mind races as he replays what happened in the bookstore. It’s like a continuous film reel in his head. Ghiaccio was tormenting him, he gets frsterated. Ghiaccio grabs him by the hair, he gets angry and throws a punch. He punched Ghiaccio. How could he do something like that? What if he runs into him again, only with the rest of the mean guys too? What if Fugo can’t fight them all?

“Fugo, you gotta take their orders,” Narancia whispers to him upon seeing the coiling line of customers.

“N-Narancia I can’t do this.” Fugo hides his eyes as he gets off his stool. “Please cover for me.”

“Huh? Okay. You alright, Fugo? What’s up with your chin?” But Fugo is already running to the back to find Mista, who’s in the break room. He sits relaxed, with his feet up on the table, but immediately snaps to alertness as he sees a crying Fugo come in.

“What happened? Fugo? What’s wrong?” Mista never sounds scared, Fugo thinks. He’s always calm and confident. He always knows what to do.

With no words coming out, Fugo just pulls up a chair and clutches his friend tightly. Tears spill onto his shirt, but Mista just pats his back and repeats “Everything will be okay.”

Fugo hopes he is right.