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It doesn’t feel like it’s been three months since Syracuse. It doesn’t feel like it’s been any time at all. Italy is encased in amber, with only the sun filtering through the golden sap to mark the passage of time. Fugo used to think that once he figured himself out it would be all uphill from there, a process of healing that, once started, could not regress. He was wrong.

They’re in a meeting, Fugo and Mista and Giorno. Sheila E stands guard at the door, her presence a comfort in Fugo’s peripheral vision. They understand each other, he thinks, but she doesn’t have the discomfort that he does. Giorno Giovanna told her she was welcome, and so she was. She, as always, takes his word to be that of a god. Fugo isn’t so steadfast in his beliefs. He spent the first month post-mission flinching at sudden noises, keeping his head down and his voice quiet. Mista eventually gave up on needling him, settled into a frozen silence that neither of them seem to know how to break. It’s weird to think that they used to be friends.

Giorno Giovanna is another beast entirely.

The late afternoon light adds to the slow, heavy feeling of the room, streaming in blocks of orange through the window. It falls on Giorno’s hands as he leafs through a financial report. He’s quiet. No words are wasted. He reads in silence, and gives Mista a summary of his approach to the next month’s protection money. Mista writes it down, joking about something, but Giorno makes eye contact with Fugo and smiles.

It throws Fugo off. It always throws him off. It’s not that Giorno acts like nothing strange ever happened in their relationship— like Fugo didn’t leave them, like Giorno didn’t send Fugo on a suicide mission to find himself, like Giorno didn’t hold his hand as he cried. It’s that Giorno seems to be perfectly willing to pick up their relationship right where they left it nine months ago. Fugo still isn’t sure he deserves that.

He sighs and pulls at his collar. Giorno appointing him his chief strategist was another surprise, one he’s determined to live up to. There’s a lull in Mista’s diatribe, and he speaks up. “Here’s the report on Trapani.”

Giorno holds his hand out for it, expectantly but not imperiously, his fingers brushing Fugo’s as the report passes between them. “Thank you. It’s time we do something about Trapani,” he says, already halfway engrossed in the report’s contents. He flips through the pages with a gentle hand, then looks up at Fugo, the full force of his attention re-settling on him. “Did you come across anything strange while preparing this report?”

Fugo crosses his arms, trying not to wilt under Giorno’s gaze. “The team there is well balanced and strong, with a firm grip on the region’s resources. However, Trapani’s drug trade has been growing over the last several months, and every soldato sent to investigate has come back with empty hands. I looked into it, and found several rumors pointing to a member of the team whose stand can manipulate memories, but nothing in the official files confirms that. If it’s true, we have a more systemic problem on our hands than we originally thought.”

“Yeah, I was one of those soldati,” Mista grumbles. “Sheila, too. Not even Voodoo Child came up with anything, and I don’t like it. You got a plan, boss?”

“Of course,” Giorno says absently. “I’m going in person.”

“What?” says Fugo. “That’s a terrible idea.”

Giorno gives Fugo a sharp look, and Mista sits up in his seat. Even Sheila glances over from her post.

“I won’t be going alone,” Giorno says. “Fugo will be joining me.”

Fugo blinks.

“I’ve heard the same rumors,” Giorno says, returning his attention to the report in his hands, “And more. Rumors of dissent, dissatisfaction, doubt. I can’t seem to get a clear answer about what’s going on there, so I don’t see that I have another choice.”

Fugo’d heard those other rumors too, and bites his lip before he says so. “Why me?” he asks.

“You were only recently pardoned. News of your new position hasn't spread far beyond this room. Despite your work with the narcotics team, it's feasible that I would station you far from me, not trusting you to be closer.” Giorno smiles. “I’ll be undercover; you'll be yourself, with a few details tweaked. For all appearances, you and I will be joining the Trapani squad permanently.”

Fugo frowns. “I suppose not many would recognize you outside of Napoli.”

Giorno nods and looks at Mista. “What do you say? You think this is a bad idea.”

“Damn right I do,” Mista says. “It's way too dangerous.”

“I've been in dangerous situations before,” Giorno reminds him. “So has Fugo.”

Mista shifts uncomfortably, looks at Fugo, and frowns.

Fugo looks down at the desk. “I’ll run precautionary scenarios,” he says. “We don’t know what we’re dealing with, but I want to be as prepared as possible.”

“Thank you, Fugo,” Giorno says. He sits back in his seat and looks out the window, the sun’s rays lighting on his curls, his sharp cheekbones, and his eyes, which seem almost blue in the light. “How can I claim to be changing Passione if I secret myself away, hiding from danger the same way Diavolo did? How can I send others to danger in my place and claim that I’m better than him simply because my cause is right? Many of the old Passione’s problems stemmed from the drugs, of course, but not all. There was the disconnect, the detachment. No one knew the boss. No one spoke to him, saw him, worked with him, and there was no respect there because of it. This is an important mission, and it’s time I took it on myself.”

Giorno’s tone implied finality, even said in his careful, gentle way. There would be no arguing about this.

Fugo watches him, in vague awe as always. “Of course,” he says, after a minute. “What do you need from me?”

Giorno looks back at him, shadows passing across his face and turning the blue in his eyes green. “I’ll make the travel arrangements. You learn as much as you can about the Trapani squad and be ready to leave when I call for you.” His expression softens. “And practice your acting skills.”

Fugo raises an eyebrow, nods, and excuses himself. Giorno smiles after him, then looks back at Mista, who's watching him through narrowed eyes. He sits up a little straighter. “What?” he asks, primly.

“I'm onto you,” Mista says.

“I don't know what you mean.”

“It doesn't have to be Fugo. I know you trust him after all the shit that went down in Syracuse, but it doesn't have to be him.”

Giorno purses his lips and shrugs. “I think this will be good for him. It's unlikely Purple Haze will be needed; it'll be good to get him back on the beat of normal missions. Besides, I… I need him to be comfortable with me. I want him to be comfortable with me. A mission together seems like a good way to achieve that.”

Mista raises an eyebrow, but doesn't comment.

“Now, if you're done, will you get in contact with the Trapani Capo and tell him to expect two new recruits?” Giorno allows himself a small, excited smile. “I have preparations to make, in the meantime.”

“Whatever you say, boss,” Mista says, snatching up Fugo’s report from the table and flipping through it. Giorno nods, satisfied, and leaves Mista alone.

Chapter Text

A week later, Fugo’s standing at the port with a briefcase and a bag slung over his shoulder. The wind is strong enough to blow his earrings around, mess up his hair. It’s still early enough in the day that there’s pink in the sky and long shadows on the ground, and he squints into the remnants of sunrise as he scans the boats for Giorno.

“Good morning, Fugo,” Giorno says cheerfully, coming up from behind. He has Sheila E in tow.

“Good morning,” Fugo says, looking at Sheila and frowning. All of his plans only take two people into account. Sheila, as usual, gives him nothing to work with.

“We'll be taking the boat to Marsala, where Sheila will be staying in case we need her,” Giorno explains. “Then a car on to Trapani.”

Fugo nods. “Alright,” he says.

Sheila frowns at him. “You don’t look happy to see me.”

“You would throw off all my plans!”

“As if you even stick to those.”

Fugo grumbles something and shoves his free hand in his pocket. “Which is our boat?”

Giorno lifts his sunglasses to peer at the crowded line of boats in the dock. He's dressed casually, for Giorno Giovanna, in dark jeans and a silk button-up. He doesn't carry a bag, but there's a suspiciously calm bird perched on his shoulder. He takes Fugo's arm and tugs him off down the dock. “This way.”

“Uh,” says Fugo, “Okay?” He glances back at Sheila in consternation, and she rolls her eyes at him.

Giorno stops in front of a mid-sized boat, something sleek and new that looks like it has roughly two settings: fast and faster. The driver, an older woman in a sunhat, waves when she sees him. Giorno waves back and steps confidently onto the deck, not checking to see if Fugo and Sheila are following.

Fugo’s right behind him, glancing around at the boat in vague disinterest as he descends. Sheila immediately starts checking all of the nooks and crannies, her method terrifying in its thoroughness. The driver doesn't blink at the strange behavior, instead bustling about readying the boat to set off.

Giorno settles in the seats at the back of the boat, the bird fluttering down from his shoulder and turning back into a suitcase at his feet. He pats the seat next to him and smiles at Fugo.

Hesitant and stiff, Fugo sits.

If Giorno notices the hesitation, he doesn't comment. “She owes Passione a debt,” Giorno explains, nodding at the driver. “I thought it would be wise if we arrived...relatively modestly, in case whoever’s behind the drug trade is keeping an eye out.”

“Uh,” says Fugo, eloquently. “Yeah. That’s a good idea.”

Giorno nods, looking pleased with himself.

The silence stretches on. Fugo starts to sweat, more from discomfort than any heat. It’s broken by Sheila E returning from her inspection and plopping into the seat next to Fugo, sandwiching him in.

“The ship is up to standard,” she says, “impressively so. I’m glad we have a driver to stay with her, it would be a shame to sink her.”

Fugo gives her a look. “You know,” he says, “you don’t have to sink your getaway vessels.”

Giorno stays quiet, watching the two interact with mild curiosity. They finally undocks while Sheila talks, slowly winding their way out of the harbor.

“But you never know what will happen,” Sheila’s saying.

“Whatever,” Fugo snaps. “Just don’t sink this one. Giogio and I aren’t actually on a suicide mission this time.”

“It might be a good idea to lower the volume on the sinking ships talk before we're thrown overboard,” Giorno says. He doesn't seem upset, at least. He's leaning back, his face tilted up toward the sun and his eyes shut. “We're lucky we caught such nice weather for the trip, but I don't fancy swimming the rest of the way.”

“Ugh,” Fugo says. “Neither do I.”

Sheila obediently lowers her voice. “I won’t sink the ship.”

Fugo hmm s in acceptance, watching Giorno absently. Giorno happens to look over and catch him staring. He smiles and tilts his head. “Penny for your thoughts?”

Fugo starts, flushes, and looks away. “Just thinking about Trapani.”

“Right. Trapani. Are you worried they won't believe us?”

That’s exactly what Fugo had been worrying about. “I’m more worried about their stands.”

Giorno gives him a shrewd look, but nods. “It's wise to be cautious, but not to waste energy worrying. On the surface, at least, the Trapani squad has been nothing but welcoming to the soldati I've sent to investigate. I don't think we need to fear violence or skepticism from them, provided we play our parts right.”

“Forgive me for overstepping my role,” Fugo says, carefully, “but what is your part?”

“That's not overstepping,” Giorno tells him. “I was waiting for you to ask. Giorno Giovanna, as Don of Passione, is considering expanding the Trapani squad. They're at a strategically advantageous location, and they have certainly proven themselves in the past, so the Don is sending two hand-picked recruits to join the squad as a sort of test-- to see how Trapani takes to outsiders and expansion. You were chosen because of reasons we discussed earlier, and I was chosen because I'm a fresh recruit with a head for logistics but not much stomach for fighting.”

Giorno sits back and looks out over the sparkling water. “Of course, if anyone asks you privately, when I'm not around, you suspect I was only sent to keep an eye on you.

Fugo’s quiet for a minute, thinking. It’s a good cover story. It’s completely believable, except— “But what’s your name ?”

“Haruno Shiobana,” Giorno says easily, so confidently that it might as well be his real name.

“Don’t you think that’s a bit close?” Fugo frowns.

Giorno matches Fugo's expression. “I thought it would be easy to remember and quick on my tongue, since it's...well, it is my name.”

“Oh,” says Fugo.

“I changed it,” Giorno explains, frown softening, “A while ago. But Haruno's my birth name. You think it's too close? What if we just changed the last part?”

“I don’t think they’ll actually pick up on it,” Fugo says, “Given that it’s not in Italian. If I intentionally pronounced it with Italian vowels they’d have no idea.”

Giorno raises an eyebrow and smiles. “Good. They say that with lies, you're supposed to stick to the truth as much as possible. Haruno has only been with Passione, say, nine months?’

Fugo nods. “Scouted by Polpo and stationed in Napoli,” he adds.

“But we've never met before this mission. We just missed each other,” Giorno says. “Somehow.”

“Well, I was off playing piano in a bar for six months, so it’s not like that would have been hard,” Fugo says, picking at a thread on his pants.

"Yes, I suppose," Giorno says. After a moment, he asks, suddenly, “Would you play for me sometime?” He then blinks, as if surprised to hear the words tumble out of his mouth.

Fugo blinks at him. “Uh, sure,” he says.

“I've never learned to play any instruments,” Giorno says, looking back out over the water in an attempt to regain his composure. “I wish I did. But I'd love to hear you.”

“Well, if you find a piano, let me know,” Fugo says quietly.

“I'm sure I can get my hands on one,” Giorno says, smiling. “When we're done with this mission, anyway.”

“Would you keep it at your place? I doubt a piano would fit in my apartment.” Fugo asks, smiling back despite himself.

“Of course! And you can come play it whenever you'd like,” Giorno promises. His eyes fall on Fugo's smile and something in his expression shifts, a barely-noticeable widening of the eyes, softening of the smile.

The shift is barely there, and it's nothing to the emotions that swell in Giorno's chest at the sight. Happiness that Fugo has relaxed enough with him to smile. Pride that he's the one to put that expression on Fugo's face. Fear that such a small reaction could have such a significant effect on him. And apprehension-- that this mission alone with Fugo just got a bit more complicated.

Fugo looks off over the sea, his face relaxing slowly into a more pensive expression. “What’s our worst case scenario plan?” he asks, quietly.

“That depends on the scenario, I suppose,” Giorno says, something still slightly dreamy in his eyes in the way he looks at Fugo. “What do you mean?”

“If they catch on, and attack. I think our best option is to plan for you to leave me to take care of it, but if you have another idea that doesn’t end in suicide, I’d like to hear it.”

“It won't come to that. If it does, all we have to do is stall. Sheila will be close, and others that I trust stationed nearby as well. Half an hour, at most, and the problem will be out of our hands.”

“Hm,” says Fugo. “Well, that’s good.”

“I want to keep this as non-violent as possible. I know it may not be entirely possible, but I want us both to go in believing that even if they have turned from Passione, from me, we will be able to bring them back. And if it does get violent...Fugo, you know I'm more than capable of handling myself.”

Fugo gives Giorno a long look, wondering what motivates his mercy and his judgment. “And the drugs?”

Giorno's expression darkens. “Whoever's behind that will be punished. But I won't pass judgment until I know the facts.”

Fugo nods.

Sheila still hasn’t said a word, her gaze fixed on the passing waves.

“I've booked us at a hostel in Marsala tonight, and we'll take the car on to Trapani tomorrow morning,” Giorno says, decisively changing the subject.

“Alright,” says Fugo.

Sheila nods.

“Sheila, you're welcome to enjoy Marsala while we're away. Sightsee, dine out, do whatever you'd like, just make sure you keep your phone on hand. Just in case.”

Sheila blinks. “Of course.”

Giorno smiles at her. Fugo watches him, watches Sheila relax slightly when he smiles, and thinks.

Giorno sits back and pulls his large sunglasses back down over his eyes, soaking in the sun again with a soft smile on his face.

“I’ll take my leave, then,” Fugo says, standing up. “If you have nothing else you want to discuss with me.”

“Wait,” Giorno says, catching his wrist. “Why not just sit here with us?”  

“I….” Fugo starts, his gaze flicking between Giorno’s face and his hand on Fugo’s wrist. “I don’t want to intrude?” he says lamely. He was going to go under the deck. He doesn’t feel right here in the sun.

“You wouldn't be intruding,” Giorno says with a frown. He releases Fugo's wrist. “But I understand if you don't want to sit out here.”

Fugo shrugs. “It’s nice out. I don’t mind, I guess. I mean— uh. I mean, I’m glad I’m not intruding.”

“Of course not. I like having you here,” Giorno says, smiling up at him.

“Ah,” says Fugo, and sits back down. He crosses his arms, uncomfortable.

Giorno bites his lip, figuring he crossed some line. He's not sure where he falls with Fugo. He enjoys Fugo's company, is sure they could be friends given the time and opportunity, but the other boy seems to withdraw whenever possible.

“You're going to have to try not to treat me this way, you know,” Giorno says, keeping his tone light. He nudges Fugo with his shoulder. “Like I'm your boss. You're going to be senior to me, as far as the Trapani squad knows.”

Fugo flinches. “Sorry,” he says. “But we’re not in Trapani yet.”

Giorno frowns. “It's okay,” he says softly, not sure if saying anything more would make it worse.

Fugo isn’t sure how he’s going to do that. He tries to think of Giorno in the same way he did Narancia— it doesn’t work. Maybe if Giorno acted less like a Don.

“You know,” he starts, “it’s rather obvious just from your bearings that you’re more than a soldato.”

Giorno looks at him and waits for him to continue.

Fugo gives him a flat look. “How’s your acting?”

“I fooled all of you when Polpo first recruited me, didn't I?” Giorno asks. He looks away from Fugo, bringing one knee up to his chest and resting his chin on it. “Don't worry about me. I have experience staying quiet and taking up as little space as possible.”

Fugo blinks. It hits him in that moment like a ton of bricks that he really barely knows Giorno at all. “I’m sorry,” he says, for lack of anything else.

“Don't be,” Giorno says, still not looking at him. “It needed to be asked.”

Fugo sighs, kicking himself mentally for not seeing it sooner. He’s not the only one who had a shitty childhood. It’s practically a staple among mafia types.

“I'm going to go ask how far we have to go,” Giorno says, standing and stretching. He slips away toward the front of the boat, where the driver's sitting behind the wheel, and strikes up a conversation with her. Fugo finally relaxes once Giorno’s gone, tipping his head back into the sunlight. He sighs, cursing himself internally.

“He’s not going to eat you,” Sheila says.

Fugo grunts.

“Whatever.”

Chapter Text

The rest of the trip passes amicably, or as amicably as possible among mobsters. Fugo sits and closes his eyes and lets the wind ruffle his hair, relaxing in a way he hasn’t in a while. After an hour or so he pulls out a book and throws his legs over the back of the seat, soon lost to the world.

Sheila falls asleep, her head on the back of Fugo’s seat. Giorno doesn't rejoin them, not until the boat makes a steady turn and the Sicilian coast is rapidly approaching.

“We're here,” he announces, pleasantly, as if he's already forgotten--or forgiven-- the unpleasant turn their earlier conversation took. Fugo looks up, then stashes his book. Sheila doesn’t respond, so he reaches over and shakes her.

She has a knife at his throat in a heartbeat.

“It’s just me,” Fugo says, quietly.

She glares at him. “What do you want?”

“We’re here. Put the knife away.”

She looks around and sees Giorno watching her, then sheathes the knife hastily. Giorno settles back in his old seat. With a thoughtful hum, he unpins the ladybug brooch from his shirt and tucks it away in his bag.

“What are you going to do tonight?” Sheila asks.

Fugo blinks, and looks at Giorno. Giorno shrugs. “It seems a waste of a perfectly good evening not to explore a little.”

“You mean… with us?” Fugo asks.

Giorno tilts his head to the side. “Yes?”

“Oh. Um, sure. Have you been to Marsala before?”

“No. Have either of you?”

Sheila shakes her head.

“No, but I’ve read about it,” Fugo says. “The wine is famous, and there’s a lot of historical sites.”

“Whoever’s behind this rising drug trade is smart, to outmaneuver so many of my soldati, and they likely have eyes in Marsala,” Giorno says. “We should be careful.”

Fugo frowns. “You mean in terms of our interactions.”

“That too,” Giorno says, “But I meant where we choose to spend our evening, and how we present ourselves. No five star restaurants, no luxury accommodations. That would be more fitting for the Don of Passione, his personal guard, and his chief strategist.”

“Right,” Fugo says, thinking of his dark apartment with its peeling walls and leaking pipes. Chief strategist indeed.

“Well,” Giorno begins. He's watching Fugo carefully. “We'll just do something fun.”

“The cathedral is supposed to be beautiful,” Fugo says.

Giorno smiles. “If that's where you'd like to go.”

Fugo flushes. “I mean, there are also several palaces.”

“No, the cathedral sounds lovely,” Giorno says, “Provided we can stop somewhere for dinner first.”

“And try the wine?” Fugo asks, raising an eyebrow.

Giorno’s smile widens. “Yes.”

“That could be nice,” Fugo says.

“I agree.”

Finally, the ship docks in the crowded harbor and the three of them climb out while their driver secures her boat. Giorno thanks her and they part, and Giorno, Fugo, and Sheila take their first steps into Marsala. It’s busy with afternoon traffic from the ports, shipments being unloaded all around them, sailors and merchants calling back and forth. Fugo sets his face into a scowl and walks close behind Giorno.

“I don't know where we're going,” Giorno says, leading the way. He looks around them as they go. He seems to be taking in the sights, but his gaze is sharp and serious, missing nothing. “Maybe we should get directions.”

“Are we just looking for a restaurant?” Fugo asks.

“Near your cathedral, I thought,” Giorno says, looking over his shoulder at Fugo.

Dusk is beginning to fall, and the city is alight with a golden glow. The lights frame Giorno in a perfect halo. Fugo looks away, his heart contracting uncomfortably. “It’s this way,” he says, pointing down a street. “Near the city center.”

“Lead the way,” Giorno says, wondering what he did to upset Fugo this time.

Fugo does, looking up at the architecture surrounding them as they pass. Much of it is from the Renaissance, but Marsala is built on much older settlements, dating back far before the Greeks and Romans. Fugo finds himself telling Giorno and Sheila this as they walk. Unlike Sheila, Giorno listens with interest, far more interested in how Fugo knows all this than in the knowledge itself. Of course he's known Fugo is smart, but he always likes when Fugo reminds him of the fact. It's always at the most unexpected times, in the most unexpected ways. Fugo explaining linguistics, Fugo getting excited about a Sicilian cathedral, Fugo ranting about old buildings.

“Ah,” says Fugo, “restaurants.” He gestures at the main square.

“Looks good to me,” Sheila says.

Smells good to me,” Giorno says, closing his eyes and breathing it in.

They get a table for three and a bottle of wine. Fugo opens it and pours a glass for each of them, then leans back in his chair until the front legs come off the ground. It’s a pleasant evening. They really could be tourists, just here to enjoy the city.

Most of dinner is passed in companionable silence. They all turn to their thoughts-- the day's boat ride and the conversations that passed on it, the upcoming mission, what it might mean and what it might bring, and even the pleasantness of the food or the steady thrum of the evening crowd passing by the veranda they sit under. None of them want to leave by the time they finish off their bottle of wine and the server returns with the paid bill, but Giorno stands first. He stifles a yawn, stretches, and asks, “Shall we?”

Fugo nods, standing and gathering his bags. The wine is making him drowsy and thoughtful. “The cathedral is about two blocks away,” he says.

Giorno slings his bag over his shoulder and nods. He waits for Fugo to lead the way, and follows dutifully, quiet and thoughtful himself.

The cathedral is imposing, looming over the entire square with sand colored stone pillars and arches. Fugo stops when he sees it, momentarily overcome by the sheer presence of it. It’s beautiful, standing out against the deepening blue of the sky.

Giorno stops beside Fugo. “It's strange,” he says. “Beautiful, but not what I expected.”

“Yeah,” Fugo says. He doesn’t say anything more, just walks towards it and studies the imposing façade. The yellow stone is the same as the other buildings around them, but the cathedral’s structure stands out, ornate and square. The door pushes open with a slight creak, and then they’re inside, in the dark and silence. The air hangs heavy here, and speaking doesn't feel appropriate. But the silence is welcoming, and Giorno guides the heavy door shut behind them so it doesn't slam. Incense permeates the air. History flows around them like water, each movement they make sending ripples through the time around them, thousands of years disturbed by their every footstep.

Fugo genuflects before the altar, awkwardly, like he doesn’t want to be seen doing so, like it’s private. He sets his bags down in a pew and shoves his hands in his pockets, staring up at the intricate designs behind the altar. Sheila migrates to one side to look at the votive candles. She never had much use for churches, but she lights a candle for her sister anyway.

Giorno doesn't follow the others far into the cathedral. He stops at the back row of pews and sits hesitantly. He's never felt comfortable in churches, or with religion at all. His stepfather dragged him to mass sometimes, when he was sober enough to remember to go. In Giorno’s experience, religion is never genuine, just another way for the unempathetic to convince themselves they're being good. But he watches Fugo out of the corner of his eye, feeling a little guilty for doing so, and stays silent.

After a few minutes Fugo turns and walks back to Giorno, still deep in thought. He stops by the pew Giorno’s sitting in and looks down at him, then points. “The organ here has 4,318 pipes.”

Giorno blinks at him, startled by the comment, then looks where Fugo’s pointing. “That's a lot of pipes.”

“It’s a lot of fucking pipes,” Fugo agrees.

A smile tugs at the corner of Giorno's lips. “Did you count them all while you were up there?”

Fugo hides a smile. “No, this church is famous for it. The music is supposed to be heavenly. Har har.”

Giorno laughs without quite meaning to. The sound echoes in the empty cathedral and he claps a hand over his mouth.

Fugo grins, hands in his pockets.

Giorno uncovers his mouth. “I'd like to hear the music,” he says, looking at the organ wistfully. “Maybe we can come back when we're done in Trapani.”

“Yeah,” says Fugo. “I’d like that.” He meanders over to his bags, slinging them over one shoulder. “Sheila?”

She turns, still at the candles, and hastily wipes her face. “Coming.”

Giorno looks away, busying himself with his own bag. “I don't think the hostel is far. We can easily walk.”

Fugo nods, waiting for Sheila to catch up before he follows Giorno. She glowers at him.

“What? You’ve seen me cry,” he says. Then, lengthening his strides to catch up to Giorno, asks "Which hostel are we at?"

 

Giorno pauses to fish the hotel information out of his bag. He's kept it in a folder, alongside printed MapQuest directions, and he passes it to Fugo. Fugo squints at it, turning it around until it matches with the streets in front of them. Giorno moves to stand beside Fugo and looks over the paper as well.

 

“I hope we don’t have to share a room,” Fugo grumbles.

“I wouldn't get your hopes too high,” Giorno says. “My instructions to Mista were to secure 'modest accommodations for three.’”

“I meant with other people,” Fugo says. “Some hostel rooms have like, six or twelve beds.”

“Oh,” Giorno says. He takes the folder from Fugo and frowns down at it, as if the answer might make itself known. “I didn't travel much until the-- well, until recently. My mother always left me at home. I've never been to a hostel.”

“They’re pretty common,” Fugo says. “Usually for people under 25 traveling in groups. Uh, I guess we’ll see.” He doesn’t mention that he’s never stayed in one either. All of his traveling with his family was done in relative luxury.

Giorno shrugs. “I guess we will.” With that, he again leads the way.

It’s a standard hostel, tall and plain with a welcome sign in several different languages. A girl a bit older than they are mans the front desk, and smiles at Fugo when he checks in. The other guests seem to be a large group of American students and an older German couple. The Americans push each other and laugh, and Fugo thinks how strange it is that that they’re the same age and in such different worlds. He’s only sixteen. In another life, that could have been him.

He takes the key and leads the way to their room. Thankfully, it’s private. There are four bunks available, but the fourth was never rented.

“This isn't bad,” Giorno says, dropping his bag on one of the further beds. He fishes his phone out of one of its side pockets. “I'm going to call Mista, let him know we got here alright. He wanted me to check in.” He slips into the bathroom, phone already pressed to his ear, and mutters something like “mother hen” under his breath.

Fugo flops on his back onto the bed nearest the door, and Sheila clambers over him to the bunk above him. She drops her stuff off, then perches at the edge of his mattress. He rolls over and raises an eyebrow at her.

“Are you worried?” she asks. “About the mission. You look like you’re worried.”

“Of course I’m worried,” Fugo says. “This has the potential to go so, so badly.”

Sheila hmm s and considers it. “Well,” she says, “At least it’s you with Giorno.”

Fugo frowns at her.

“Makes me worry less,” she says.

“About him,” Fugo asks, “or me?”

Sheila shrugs.

Giorno comes out of the bathroom, then, still on the phone. Even from as far as Fugo and Sheila are, the cadence of Mista's voice can be heard on the line.

“No, it's not bad." Giorno winks at Sheila and Fugo then says, “There are four of us here in the room.”

The sound of Mista's voice gets suddenly much louder. Fugo frowns at Giorno and raises an eyebrow, glancing at the phone.

Giorno snickers and wanders back into the bathroom, leaving the door open this time. “No, I'm only joking. It's just the three of us.” Giorno holds the phone away from his ear as Mista's volume increases again. Voice dripping with sarcasm, he says, “We miss you too, dear. Can you get a nicer hotel for Sheila to stay at when Fugo and I are gone? I don't want her to have to stay here alone. Yes, thanks. I'll text you when I can.”

Giorno hangs up and wanders back into the room. “For a second I thought he was going to fly out, just so there'd be five of us.”

Fugo snorts. “I guess he never really changes, does he.”

He misses Mista like a phantom limb.

“Oh, I don't know,” Giorno says. He gives Fugo a sidelong look, then hesitates beside Fugo and Sheila, as if he might join them on Fugo's bed. But he continues on to his own, sitting and folding his legs gracefully beneath him. “People are constantly growing and changing, moving forward and and past old wounds. Mista's changed a lot, I think, and I'd be willing to bet he'll only change more. His capacity for growth, adaptation, and forgiveness is like none I've seen.” Giorno pauses, and hesitates. “The superstition thing, though, no. I don't know if he's going to get over that any time soon.”

Fugo closes his eyes. “Capacity for forgiveness, huh?”

“Yes,” Giorno says pointedly. “Given a little time.”

Fugo rolls over and turns his back to Giorno.

Giorno bites back a sigh. Giorno likes Fugo, but he’s so volatile. He never knows whether something he says will set the boy off until it’s too late. He brings his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them. The position makes him look smaller, younger. He avoids Sheila's gaze, instead staring off at the wall with a vacant frown.

Sheila rolls off Fugo’s bed and climbs up into her bunk. “Thank you,” she calls to Giorno.

“For what?” he asks, startling out of his spiraling sadness.

“Asking Mista to get me a nicer hotel,” she says.

Giorno waves a hand. “It's nothing. I hope you enjoy it.” Slowly, he unwinds from his tense position.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to come with?” she asks.

Fugo curls a little tighter in the bunk below her.

“I'm sure. We'll be fine,” Giorno says, eyeing Fugo's back like he's not sure it's the truth. He stands. “Do you mind if I turn the light off? I'm exhausted.”

Fugo doesn’t respond. Sheila shrugs.

“Alright,” Giorno sighs. He shuts the light off and climbs into bed, his back to Fugo just as Fugo's back is to him.

Chapter Text

Fugo dreams of a black-haired boy with an infectious laugh and an easy smile. The dream is equal parts nostalgia and nightmare, a body running past him as he’s frozen in stasis. He wakes up in a sweat before the sun rises.

He dreams of Narancia often, these days. He still doesn’t know what happened to him. He couldn’t bring himself to ask. Buccellati, he heard about in bits and pieces, hushed whispers and legends. Not the others.

He gets out of bed and pulls on his clothes, then slips out of the room to sit alone on the deck with a cup of the hostel’s shitty, lukewarm coffee.

 

---

 

Giorno wakes not long after. For a moment, he forgets where he is, why he’s not in the luxurious bed he’s grown surprisingly accustomed to these last few months, but the realization comes when his eyes land on Fugo’s empty bed. He sighs to himself and, instead of going to look for Fugo, grabs a change of clothes and slips into the bathroom. He gets the shower going, lets the warm water smooth away the uncomfortable tension that settled just between his shoulders.

The reasons he’d given for choosing Fugo to accompany him were true, but he’d also hoped they’d be able to come to some sort of understanding, if not friendship, along the way. That won’t be as easy as he’d hoped, he’s beginning to realize. Giorno’s never been good at making friends. He’s not sure why he thought being Don of Passione might suddenly change that.

But it doesn’t matter. He tells himself it doesn’t matter. He’ll never forget what happened the first and last time he’d made friends on a mission.

Catching the thoughts before they could progress any farther, he shakes his head. Like a racehorse with blinders on, he focuses only on the mission ahead. One thing at a time, until the goal was accomplished. They'd handle it quickly, find out what was really happening with the Trapani squad. They'd take care of whoever was to blame for the upsurge in the drug trade, and it would be over. He’d go home, focus on Passione, and forget this foolishness about making friends.

He shuts off the water and quickly dresses, then heads back into the room.

Fugo’s back, a cup of coffee in his hand. He turns from the window when Giorno enters the room and nods to him. “Good morning, Giogio. I would have grabbed you coffee if I’d known you were awake.”

“It’s fine, the shower did just as well,” Giorno says. He retrieves the comb from his bag and begins working it through his wet, sleep-snarled hair.

“When do you want to leave?” Fugo asks. The bags under his eyes are more pronounced than usual.

“I’m not sure they’re expecting us at any particular time.” Giorno glances at Sheila’s half of the bunk. “We can get breakfast, when we’re all awake, and leave after.”

“Sure,” Fugo says, then, after a pause, “how did you sleep?”

Giorno pauses his combing enough to shrug. “Fine. You?”

“Well enough,” Fugo says. It’s obviously a lie. He looks over at Sheila. “She sleeps like the dead.”

Giorno smiles fondly at the Sheila-shaped blanket lump and shakes his head.

“Can I ask you a question?” Fugo asks.

“Of course.”

“Do you consider Sheila a friend of yours?”

Giorno stills, considering the question. “No. I would be happy to, but…” He shrugs.

Fugo frowns. “You’re her boss?”

“I’m not sure how to go about it,” Giorno corrects. “Making friends. I have one, maybe two, and lots of work acquaintances.”

In an unprecedented moment of vulnerability, Fugo sighs. “Yeah. I only have one friend, too.” He jerks his thumb at Sheila’s bunk.

“Well, you’re lucky. She’s a good friend to have,” Giorno says softly.

Fugo nods, studying Giorno. “I think she considers you a friend in her own way,” he says. “She cares about you.”

Giorno nods, considering. “Maybe.” He shuts away his doubts and decides not to voice them.

Fugo shrugs. “I—,” he starts, then closes his mouth and frowns. “Nevermind.”

“Hmm? No, what is it?” Giorno pushes, gently.

“Just a dream I had,” Fugo says, shaking his head. “It’s not important.”

“Dreams are important," Giorno says. "But if you’re sure.”

Fugo sighs. He feels like if he opens his mouth, he won’t be able to stop what comes out. There’s a lot of rotten sludge inside him that wants to escape. “I’m sure,” he says.

Giorno nods, and escapes into the bathroom to blow dry his hair, leaving the door crooked slightly open.

Fugo sits down on his bed and somehow manages to fall asleep again. When Giorno comes back out from the bathroom to find him like this, he smiles, drapes Fugo’s discarded blanket back over him, and settles back in his own bed with the binder of nearby dining options that was in the room when they arrived.

 

Sheila wakes up before Fugo does, this time. When she rolls out of bed she’s already perfectly alert, but her hair is a mess. “Good morning,” she says, and ducks into the bathroom.

“Morning,” Giorno says. He’s trying to sound cheerful, friendly, and entirely un-boss-like, thinking about Fugo’s earlier words.

Sheila stops and blinks at him, pushing her tangled hair out of her face. “How are you?” she asks, after a momentary pause.

“Good,” Giorno says. “You? How’d you sleep?”

“Very well, thanks,” Sheila says, robotically, then looks guilty. “Um,” she tries again, “is Fugo still asleep?”

“He was up for a while, then I guess just...stopped moving long enough that he fell asleep,” Giorno says, resuming his normal tone.

“He does that,” Sheila says. She fidgets like she wants to ask Giorno something.

Giorno raises an eyebrow and decides to make it easy for her. “I thought we’d get breakfast together before we head out. Is there anything you need from me before then, or…?”

“No, I don’t need anything,” Sheila says, then hesitates again. “Can I ask… you something?”

“Of course,” Giorno answers easily. “What is it?”

Sheila frowns, shifting uncomfortably. “How dangerous is this mission really, do you think? I trust your assessment of it.”

Giorno purses his lips, wondering how many times he’s going to have to answer this question from different people. He hates repeating himself. He hates seeing Sheila uneasy, too, though. “I don’t think we’ll be able to avoid violence entirely,” he says. “And I won’t say you won’t be needed, but I’m also not overly concerned.”

“Okay,” she says, relaxing slightly. “Fugo’s been coming up with worst case scenario plans that are really alarming.”

Giorno nods. “I appreciate the thoroughness, and it’s good to know that if the worst does come, he’ll have planned for it. That being said, though, chances are low that his plans will be needed.”

Sheila nods. “Thank you,” she says. “I just wanted to know if I should worry about whether or not he’s going to come back.”

Giorno’s eyebrows shoot up at the honesty of it, and the intensity of the emotions reacting within him. He looks at Fugo, who hasn’t stirred or shown any signs of waking, before saying, “I’ll make sure he does.” He says it, and it becomes fact. He’s so confident, so certain about it that it can’t do anything but. Bad luck, dangerous enemies, none of it stands a chance against Giorno Giovanna’s will. “You don’t have to worry.”

Some large tension goes out of Sheila in a rush, and she smiles. “I won’t,” she says, believing him entirely. “I’m gonna shower now.” The door clicks shut.

Giorno blinks at the door, not sure where his emotions came from, just then. He looks again over at Fugo, wonders if it was in the friendly feelings he knows he has for Fugo, or whether it was from somewhere worse, the place in his heart filled with dark guilt and pools of regret. He shakes his head and looks back down at the binder he’d been flipping through, trying to focus on the words, if it meant they’d keep him from exploring emotions he’s been trying to ignore.

Fugo’s still asleep when Sheila leaves the bathroom, tying off the ends of her braids. She frowns at him, then turns to Giorno. “Where do you want to go for breakfast? I want espresso.”

Giorno pats the bed beside him and scoots over to make room for Sheila. “I was just looking at the places nearby. I found a few that sound good.”

She sits down carefully, keeping a bit of distance between them. “Most of these are seafood, aren’t they?” she asks.

Fugo wakes up, then, but quietly. He watches Giorno and Sheila with sleepy eyes.

“You don't want lobster for breakfast?” Giorno asks, laughing softly. He turns the page. “I think these are mostly cafes and bakeries, plus a few places that seem to do everything.”

Sheila sticks out her tongue. “No,” she says, definitively. “A cafe sounds nice.”

Giorno laughs again “Mmm. I agree. I want something sweet.”

“Giorno Giovanna has a sweet tooth?” Sheila asks, raising her eyebrows.

“Is that surprising? I love sweet things.”

Sheila laughs. “No, it’s cute. It makes you seem more human, somehow.” She frowns. “Was that weird?”

“No,” Giorno says, thoughtful, “Not weird. Do I not seem human?”

Sheila studies him. “You seem infallible. I know in my soul that you’re right. I don’t know if a human can be that.”

Giorno considers this. “Are you implying that liking sweet things makes me fallible?”

“It makes you childish.”

Giorno's mouth falls into a vaguely offended O at that. He's left at a loss for how to respond.

Sheila laughs. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry, that’s just so cute.”

Cute ?” Giorno repeats, utterly bewildered.

“I mean, it kinda is,” Fugo says from the other bunk.

Giorno turns the full force of his bewildered stare on Fugo and waits for an explanation.

“It’s cute,” Fugo says. His eyes are closed and he’s almost entirely cocooned in the blanket.

“Lots of people like sweet things,” Giorno reasons. “I'm sure they're not all cute.”

“It’s the,” Fugo yawns, “the contrast. You’re a scary mafia don, and you like, what, pudding? That’s cute.”

“I do like pudding, in fact,” Giorno says. “Am I scary?”

“Yeah,” says Fugo, and Sheila nods.

“That's good, I suppose,” Giorno says. “I need to be, to some extent, to effectively lead a gang. Are you two scared of me?”

Fugo opens his eyes. “I don’t know,” he says. “I think I might be.”

Sheila shrugs. “I’m not.”

“Hm. Thank you for your honesty,” Giorno says. He looks down at the binder in his lap. “We should decide on somewhere to go for breakfast.”

“Wherever’s closest?” Fugo suggests.

Giorno spends a minute flipping back and forth between the page with the map and the page with the restaurants. “There's one just around the corner.”

“Cool,” Fugo says, swinging his legs out of bed and yawning. He straightens his shirt and pushes his hair back out of his eyes.

Giorno waits for Sheila to stand before climbing out of bed himself. He's got his hair restrained in a low side pony, which is the plainest either Fugo or Sheila have ever seen it, and his clothes are devoid of their usual elegant flair. Still, there's something authoritative about the way he holds himself, something that doesn't seem to stem from any conscious effort on his part.

“Are you ready?” he asks Fugo.  

“As ever,” Fugo says, shrugging. He stands and gathers his things. “Um. Are we coming back here?”

Giorno shrugs. “I don't see that we have to. My bag's light enough to walk with.”

Fugo nods, and they leave.

Outside, the city is already awake, as full of energy and people as it had been the night before. The cafe is crowded when they arrive, but they manage to get their breakfast and secure a small table at the back. By the time they finish, Giorno's got a sort of nervous excitement roiling around in his stomach. He hasn't been on a mission since he took over Passione.

Soon, it's time to say goodbye to Sheila and be on their way.

Sheila nods gravely at them both, reminding them once again that she’s only a phone call away. To Fugo, she says not to do anything stupid. He rolls his eyes and waves, a sinking feeling in his stomach that he doesn’t want to acknowledge. She leaves, and then it’s just him and Giorno and a taxi.

Giorno holds the door open for Fugo and gestures grandly. “Off we go.”

Fugo frowns at him, and gets in.

 

—-

 

The car rolls to a stop outside the Piazza Garibaldi, and Fugo and Giorno are met by a straight-backed soldato who introduces themself as Aloisio Giacalone before turning sharply to lead them to their new squad. They have long blond hair and dark eyes.

Giorno raises his eyebrows at Fugo and smiles, then follows the soldati, keeping a respectful distance. Fugo seems lost in thought, hands in his pockets. Giacalone doesn’t speak, just walks and expects them to follow. Fugo has enough experience by now to do so.

Giorno studies Giacalone. He read their file, of course, but theirs was one of the files whose description was sorely lacking. They certainly don't seem particularly talkative. Giacalone either doesn’t notice or doesn’t comment on Giorno’s gaze. After about ten minutes of walking in silence, they turn to Fugo and Giorno. “Where are you from, again?”

Fugo frowns. “Napoli.”

“Right,” Giacalone says, and keeps walking.

“Are you originally from Trapani?” Giorno asks politely.

“No,” says Giacalone.

“Ah,” Giorno says, and doesn't try to make any more conversation after that.

“Here,” says Giacalone after a while, gesturing at a door in the wall set down a short flight of stairs.

Fugo glances at them, then heads down and opens the door. Giorno follows him into what looks like the back room of a restaurant. He remembers, vividly, being in this same exact position not nine months ago. How different everything was, then. At least this time he's not alone. Fugo is with him.

“Well, if it isn't our new recruits. Come in, let's get a look at you.”

The speaker, a tall man with red hair, a sharp gaze, and a silky voice, stands and beckons Fugo and Giorno forward. “You are young, aren't you? But I suppose, so is our illustrious and enigmatic Don, and so was I, when I was first brought in.” With that, he sweeps into a dramatic bow. “Nicostrato Abelli, at your service. You'll hear the others call me Nico, but until I decide I like you, you're to refer to me only as Capo. And you are?”

“Haruno,” Giorno says, emphasizing the Italian pronunciation. “Shiobana.”

Abelli looks at Fugo and raises an eyebrow. “And that means you must be Pannacotta Fugo. We've all heard so much about you.”

Behind him at the table, a scrawny girl probably only a couple years older than Fugo crosses her arms and glares at him. Fugo frowns back, then directs his attention to the capo. “What have you heard?” he asks.

Mirella ,” the Capo scolds. The girl huffs and looks away, and Nicostrato smiles at Fugo. “That you’ll be a fine addition to our humble little squad.”

Fugo smiles slightly, more an awkward twitch of the lips than anything. “I hope so,” he says. “I’m glad to meet you.” He lets his hands twitch nervously at his sides instead of trying to calm them.

Abelli nods. “I see you’ve both met Aloisio, and the dour one behind me is Mirella Cassiano.”

“Mink,” she corrects, her glare flicking to Fugo, then away again.

“The others are…” Abelli waves a hand. “Out and about somewhere. You’ll meet them eventually.”

Giacalone takes a seat next to Mirella and puts their feet on the table.

“Of course,” Fugo says, restraining himself from rolling his eyes at Mink. He can feel her already getting on his nerves. “I appreciate the introductions. Do you have orders for us?”

“You just got here,” Abelli says, putting his hands up. “Relax. Come, sit. Let’s all get to know each other a bit, hmm?”

Giorno glances at Fugo and moves to sit beside Mink, who eyes him with a little less hostility and a little more curiosity than she’d given Fugo. Carefully, Fugo sits down. He doesn’t respond, just eyes Abelli and waits. Giacalone leans around Mink to stare at Giorno. Giorno stares back, and raises an eyebrow. Giacalone nods, seemingly satisfied, and sits back, much more relaxed than they were previously.

“Oh, I think they like you,” Abelli says. “I've never seen them take to anyone so quickly.”

“It took them a year to even admit I existed,” Mink says, frowning at Giacalone.

“Oh,” Giorno says. “I’m flattered, then.”

Deciding he’s bored with this conversation, Abelli turns to Fugo, resting his chin on his hands and smiling indulgently. “So, Pannacotta-- can I call you Pannacotta?”

Fugo frowns. “Uh, no.”

“Anyway, Pannacotta, what's Giovanna doing sending you so far from Naples?”

Giorno looks at Fugo.

Fugo shrugs and drums his fingers on the table. “Do you want the reason he gave me, or the one I suspect?”

Abelli's grin widens. “Both, if you don't mind.”

Fugo crosses his arms. “In Giog— Giovanna’s words, sending one of his known comrades to Sicily is a perfect opportunity to unite Passione, bringing even the most far-flung squads into the fold. It’s a bid to solidify the structure of the organization.” He sighs. “Privately, I think he doesn’t want me too close.”

“That does sound like a load of bullshit,” Mink says, resting her boots on the table. “Especially with all the people he's sent to--,”

Abelli talks over her, asking Fugo, “But you proved yourself to him, didn't you? That's what I heard.”

Fugo shrugs. “I proved my loyalty to the organization, yes. But I’m still— how to put this. Oh, right, it’s in my file. Volatile and unpredictable .”

Giacalone tilts their head like a bird, watching Fugo. Giorno's expression is similar, his attention entirely on Fugo.

Abelli just laughs. “Oh, that's alright. We can handle volatile and unpredictable here, can't we, Mirella?”

Mink scowls.

Fugo can’t resist. “I think that’s actually part of why I was sent here,” he sighs, not looking at Mink. “Call it rehabilitation if you want. You have a reputation for dealing well with that sort of… person, Capo.”

“Do I?” Abelli purrs. It's unclear whether he's buying it at all, but his smile is still friendly and charming, the edge behind it slowly fading away. “I didn't think Giovanna thought of me at all, except to think badly of me.”

“That makes two of us,” Fugo mutters. “Do you remember Sheila E?” he asks.

Abelli sits back and makes brief eye contact with Giacalone. “Vaguely. She visited, but didn't stay long.”

“I didn’t like her,” Giacalone says.

Fugo shrugs. “She’s another one. Volatile. But she’s obedient as hell, so she’s useful to Giovanna. He sent her out here on a routine check, but also to identify the kind of squad you have. Not for her, but for me. I’m not like Sheila, so I’m less useful. Hence, I’m shunted off to the edges of Sicily to get me out of Giovanna’s hair.” He dregs up his various buried bitternesses from the underside of his heart and injects them into the words. “I dunno. Make of that what you will. This is the last chance for me, I think.”

Abelli studies Fugo for a long moment. Without his smile, he looks a lot sterner, colder. A faint scar coils up one side of his face. “I've never met Giovanna. What do you think of him?”

Fugo looks down at his hands, once again tapping on the tabletop. “He’s cold,” he says, “and ruthless, and a dangerously effective leader. Sometimes I wonder if he’s even human.”

“Hmm. And you, Haruno? What did you think of our youthful leader?”

“I only met him briefly.” Reluctantly, Giorno tears his eyes from Fugo to look at Abelli, “And I haven't been in the gang long. I thought he seemed...spoiled.”

Abelli raises an eyebrow and laughs. “I have heard that.”

“Everything seems so easy for him,” Fugo complains. “Like he’s never had to work a day in his damn life.”

Giorno's gaze settles firmly on the table.

Mink snorts. “That must be nice.”

“Don’t you have to work hard to become Don?” Giacalone asks.

“You’d think so. I wonder just how Giovanna became Don in the first place. You don't know, do you, Pannacotta?”

Fugo shrugs. “No idea. Didn’t even know who the boss was when I joined up.”

Abelli slumps back in his chair, obviously disappointed. “Ah, well. Can't blame me for being curious. If becoming a Don is hard work, I'd imagine being a Don is worse. Since Passione hasn't come crashing down around us yet, Giovanna must be doing a decent job at it.”

Giorno looks up from the table, surprised, and studies his new Capo. According to all reports and records, Nicostrato Abelli was strict and decisive in his dealings with others. Giorno doesn't see much of that yet. He sees cunning, and keen interest, and layered charm used as a defense. Abelli catches Giorno staring, and a small furrow appears between his eyebrows.

“So,” he says, “We all know Pannacotta's story. What's yours?”

“There's not much to it. I was recruited just before the boss revealed himself. The squad I was on fell apart, and we were all...redistributed, I guess. Now I'm here.”

“Fell apart?”

“Not everyone was on board with the new drug policy,” Giorno says, leaving his lies vague.

Abelli nods. “Giovanna's been strict about that.”

Fugo huffs in agreement, thinking about the sound Massimo Volpe made when he died.

“Your stand. What does it do? We already know all about Fugo's,” Abelli says, continuing the interrogation.

Giorno purses his lips. He frowns at Mink and Giacalone, like he doesn't want them to know, to give himself a few extra seconds to think. He decides to go with more half-truths. “It's good in combat, mostly,” he says reluctantly. “It...throws people out of sync with their bodies.”

Abelli looks not entirely displeased with this. He eyes Giorno, then Fugo, weighing their worth. “Well, you two aren't nearly as unbearable as I was expecting.”

Fugo snorts. “What were you expecting?”

The Capo shrugs. “Cookie-cutter recruits. It came as a bit of a shock to find out we were getting two new soldati hoisted off on us; we all just prepared for the worst.”

Fugo frowns. “Dutiful recruits would be worse than me?”

“I'm not convinced,” Mink says.

Abelli ignores her. “Dutiful recruits would take longer to adjust. You're not in Naples anymore.”

“And thank god for that,” Fugo mutters again, then looks around at the group. “So… anything else? Haruno and I still need to find a place to live.” He rolls the r just a bit and leans on the second syllable.

“Adolorata and Silvio apparently have no intention of showing up, so you're free to go. Come back here tomorrow, same time.”

“Thank you, Capo,” Giorno says, polite as ever. “It was very nice meeting you.”

Abelli raises an eyebrow, smiles, and gives a little wave. “Sure, kid.”

“Goodbye,” says Fugo. He picks up his bags and heads out the door without waiting for Giorno to follow.

“It was nice meeting you both as well,” Giorno says to Mink and Aloisio. “I look forward to working with you.”

“Likewise,” Mink says, startled into civility.

With that, Giorno retrieves his own bag and follows Fugo out.

Chapter Text

They walk a few blocks in silence before Fugo turns to Giorno and sighs. “We should probably find a realtor,” he says, carefully. He’s not sure if someone tailed them or not.

“Probably,” Giorno agrees. “We should find somewhere simple.”

“Sure,” Fugo says, glancing at their map. “Looks like the commercial district is this way.”

They walk in silence. Fugo twitches every once in a while. He knows that he sold the part relatively well, but isn’t sure if their new squad bought it. He desperately wants to ask Giorno’s opinion, but something in the way the other boy holds himself tells him that Giorno doesn’t want to talk to him, anyway. Which is fine, he tells himself, it’s fine, he did just spend the entire meeting shittalking him. He didn’t even have to make a lot of it up, which was the worst part, and he’s sure Giorno knows it. So he macerates in his guilt and stays quiet.

Giorno doesn't speak once, except to stop and ask a police officer where they might find a leasing office or realtor for cheap nearby. A little slip of a bribe, and the officer is wonderfully helpful in his directions. Giorno returns to Fugo and relates what the officer told him.

“Perfect,” Fugo says. “Uh, what kind of apartment do we want, anyway?”

Giorno shrugs. “Something pre-furnished. If we can get a two-bedroom, that'd be nice, but I think we should be ready to take whatever we can find.”

Fugo shrugs. “I’m not picky.”

The realtor’s office is another block away, a walk-up on the second floor. They knock and are greeted by a tired-looking associate.

“Hello,” Giorno says pleasantly. “We're looking for a room to rent in the area. Do you know of anything available?”

They're very quickly told that no, they don't have anything available, unless Fugo and Giorno are willing to pay absolutely exorbitant rental fees and wait a month for a tenant to move out. They're redirected to another realtor, outside the populous commercial district, who explains to them-- in much more friendly terms-- that it's the off season and there won't be much available, but they do happen to have a couple furnished studios available for short term rentals.

Giorno looks at Fugo and raises an eyebrow.

Fugo, annoyed and tired, sighs. “Sure. We’ll take whatever you’ve got.”

They're led across the street to an old apartment with a courtyard. Up four flights of stairs, then, because of course there's no elevator, and the realtor stops in front of a battered green door, unlocks it, and gestures for them to go in.

Fugo frowns around at the single room. There’s a nook for a kitchen and a door that presumably leads to a bathroom, and another, smaller door for a closet. He scuffs his feet on the ground and shrugs, then looks at Giorno.

“It’s perfect, thank you,” Giorno says, far more gracious than the apartment deserves. They sign the rental agreement on the spot and pay a month out alongside a hefty deposit.

The minute the realtor’s gone, Fugo sighs and collapses onto the single, shitty couch, leaning his head back against the cushions. “I’m fucking exhausted,” he says.

Giorno hums, drops his bags by the bed, and begins exploring the small kitchen.

Fugo sits in the silence, feeling the tension in the room. It’s more uncomfortable than usual. It’s making him fidgety. And as usual, Giorno seems unaffected by it, at least on the outside. He goes through the various cabinets with a sort of cursory curiosity, letting the silence stretch on.

“How do you think it went?” Fugo finally asks.

Giorno shuts a cabinet and turns to face him. “Well, I think. I’m not quite sure what to make of them all, yet.”

“Neither am I. Especially Abelli.” Fugo scowls.

“He’s hiding something,” Giorno said. “Which could just be his natural state. But it could be a problem.”

“He feels like… a predator,” Fugo says. “Like a shark. I don’t know. He puts me on edge.”

“He did seem interested in you,” Giorno says absently. He opens the door to the bathroom, then makes a face and shuts it again.

“Everyone wants an executioner, I guess,” Fugo sighs.

Giorno rests his forehead against the bathroom door and shuts his eyes, his back to Fugo.

“Giogio?” Fugo asks, frowning.

“Hm?” Giorno asks, turning around. He leans against the door, which gives a creak. “Sorry, I was...I’m just tired, too.” He’s not sure he can voice the sadness welling up in him, or say that he wishes everyone would see the value of Fugo beyond Purple Haze.

Fugo pulls his legs up to his chest and wraps his arms around them, watching Giorno. He sighs. “Um,” he starts, then stops, and waits.

“Yes?” Giorno asks, not unkindly.

“I’m sorry,” Fugo says.

“You don’t have to be. I don’t want you to be,” Giorno says.

“I said a lot of terrible shit about you, so I’m going to be,” Fugo snaps.

Giorno blinks at Fugo, surprised at his sudden anger. “Go ahead then,” he says. “Do what you like.” He crosses to the bed and drops onto it, fishing his phone out of his bag and no longer looking Fugo’s way.

Fugo groans and buries his face in his hands.

“That was clever, what you said about why I sent Sheila,” Giorno says, at length. He’s turned halfway away from Fugo, now, staring out the narrow window. It only overlooks an alley, but he seems transfixed. “I think that convinced Abelli more than anything else either of us said.” He sighs. “I don’t want to keep fighting with you, Fugo. I’d hoped this mission might bring us closer, not make the rift deeper. I don’t know how you feel about me. You’ve got no reason to think well of me, or to believe anything but those things you said. I’m not sure I’ve a right to ask it, but I hope you’ll give me a chance.”

Fugo stares at him.

Giorno doesn’t look at him, but with the weight of Fugo’s gaze on him, he sits up a little straighter. “I know I can be cold and ruthless. I wouldn’t get anywhere as Don if I wasn’t, and I won’t apologize for it. I have a dream and I intend to see it through, no matter what that takes. But don’t think that’s all there is to me. I am human, whether I seem like it sometimes or not.”

Fugo’s on the bed next to him before he even really thinks thinks it through, scrambling to face him. He tucks a leg under himself. “Giogio,” he says, earnestly. “I don’t believe any of what I said about you. It’s you who has to give me a chance,” he says. “I didn’t think you would, I didn’t— I didn’t want to— I’m sorry.”

Giorno looks away. “You didn’t think I would what?”

“Actually want to be friends with me,” Fugo says, watching him.

Giorno’s lips pull into a slight pout. “Well, I do.”

“I do, too,” Fugo says.

Giorno’s expression goes from sad to ecstatic in a beat as he smiles at Fugo. “Good. I’m glad.”

Fugo blinks, slightly dazzled. “So… we’re good?”

Giorno’s smile softens, and he nods. “We’re good.”

“Ugh, good,” Fugo sighs, slumping forward. He drops his forehead onto Giorno’s shoulder. “I don’t think you’re cold.”

“I’m glad,” Giorno says, barely blinking at the sudden contact. He pets Fugo’s hair, threading his fingers lightly through the surprisingly soft locks, in a motion he somehow manages to make comforting and almost platonic. “I don’t think I want to be cold.”

“You’ve always been really nice to me,” Fugo says. He sighs.

Giorno hums and continues petting Fugo’s hair, not sure how to respond. There’s a nervous sort of fluttering happening in the pit of his stomach. He knows he should be more careful with this.

Fugo sighs and pulls back. “This is probably the shittiest apartment I’ve ever lived in,” he says. “Wanna go find dinner?”

“Please. I’m so hungry.”

Fugo smiles. A real one, not one of the awkward facial twitches he’d been giving Abelli all day. He stands all at once and holds a hand out to Giorno. Giorno smiles back, brighter than the sun, and takes it.

Fugo finds himself blushing as they head out the door.

They don’t bother looking for anything fancy, or even particularly nice, instead unanimously choosing the first halfway-decent place they stumbled across. It was a quick and greasy little place tucked between a convenience store and a bar. The food is good, though, and the conversation is pleasant. Whatever tension had been between Giorno and Fugo seems to have receded, at least for now, and they’re able to just enjoy each other’s company.

When they’re done, they walk back together, close enough that their arms brush with every other step.

“I haven’t eaten like that in months,” Giorno says. “I think I can feel my arteries clogging.”

Fugo laughs. “Not exactly gourmet,” he says, easily.

“But delicious, all the same,” Giorno says with a smile.

“Ah, commoner food,” Fugo says with an affected air of pretension.

Giorno laughs suddenly, and it comes out as a sort of snort. He stops immediately, eyes going wide at the sound. Fugo cackles. “Oh my god,” he says. “Do that again.”

No,” Giorno says, mortified.

“It was cute!” Fugo laughs.

Giorno claps a hand over his mouth and shakes his head. “It was not,” he says, the words muffled.

“It was,” Fugo says, smirking. He looks around at the city. “Have you ever been to Trapani before?”

“No,” Giorno says, glad for the subject change. He’s sure he’s blushing, but he’s not sure if it’s because of the snort or the casual use of the word cute. “Have you?”

“Once, a long time ago,” Fugo says. “My, um, my father tried to take me on a business trip when I was a child.”

Giorno looks at him, studying him under the city lights. “Did you get to see much of it, then?”

“Nah,” Fugo says, frowning. “I had homework.”

Giorno tries not to smile. “That’s a bummer.”

“I guess I can enjoy it better now, anyway,” he says.

“Yes, you can,” Giorno says, taking Fugo’s hand before he can think too hard about it.

Fugo flushes. “Uh, yeah. Um.” He can’t think, all of a sudden. “Shit. I have no idea what I was talking about.”

“Ah, so my diversion worked,” Giorno says smugly, swinging their hands for emphasis.

“I guess so,” Fugo says, looking down. “Not even sure what you were trying to divert me from.”

Giorno shrugs. “I’m definitely going to remember this trick in the future.”

Fugo snorts. “Alright. I’m happy for you and your trick. I hope you have a long and fruitful life together.”

“Are you implying that you want me to hold your hand more often?” Giorno asks, smirking.

“What? N— wait— you—,” Fugo stutters, turning red.

Giorno keeps on smirking at him and swings their hands again.

Fugo looks away. He’s uncomfortably aware of Giorno’s hand in his, the heat in his face and the pace of his heartbeat. He’s probably dying. That has to be it. Giorno just takes the fact that Fugo hasn’t pulled away as a good sign and holds his hand all the way back to their apartment.

The sun has set by the time they get back, the streetlights flickering on as they ascend all four flights of stairs. Fugo yawns as he pushes the door open. “You think it’s an acceptable time to sleep yet?” he asks.

“Any time is acceptable if your will to sleep is strong enough,” Giorno says sagely, Fugo's yawn making him yawn as well.

“Wise words,” Fugo says, kicking off his shoes. He surveys the room, sleepily. “I’ll take the couch.”

Giorno eyes the couch doubtfully. “Are you sure? The bed’s probably big enough to share.”

Fugo’s face heats up again. Giorno has to be trying to kill him. “Uh, no, it’s fine, I don’t mind,” he says, flopping down on the furniture in question. He has to get up again almost immediately to find a blanket.

Giorno tosses him one of the pillows from the bed, at least, and disappears into the bathroom to change.

Fugo gets up again to put his own pajamas on quickly, while Giorno’s in the other room. Two nights of sleeping in his clothes isn’t particularly great, and he feels kind of gross. He stretches out on the couch only to find that it’s too short for him. He pulls his knees up closer to his chest to make himself fit, but that drives a spring right into his hip. The entire sofa creaks when he adjusts, and he resigns himself to a really long night.

Giorno emerges from the bathroom just in time to hear the sofa creak. “That can’t be comfortable,” he says, standing there in silk pajamas.

Fugo sighs. “It’s fine,” he says, adjusting again. There’s another spring stabbing him in the back. “It’s, you know, I’ll just sleep on the floor.”

Giorno rolls his eyes and climbs into bed, sprawling back and sighing pointedly. “Oh, wow. This bed is so comfortable. I’m going to sleep so well in it.”

“That does not look big enough for two people.”

Giorno scoots over to one end and pats the open space. “Sure it does.”

Fugo sighs and stands, dragging the blanket over to the mattress. He sits gingerly on the edge of it.

Giorno, still sprawled out on the edge of the bed, his hair haloing around him, smiles up at Fugo. “That was easier than I thought it would be.”

“There was a spring sticking into my back,” Fugo grumbles.

Giorno wiggles, testing the mattress. “Well, I can assure you there are no intrusive springs here.”

Fugo looks down at him and laughs. “Thanks,” he says. “That makes me feel better.”

“Glad I could help,” Giorno says. “I have to confess, though, I did exaggerate how comfortable it is to get you over here.”

Fugo snorts and scoots down the mattress until he can lay next to Giorno, leaving space between them. “Yeah, I can tell.”

Giorno rolls to face him. “This isn't so bad. You just have to think about it like it's a...what's it called. A slumber party.”

“I’ve never really been to one,” Fugo says, “unless you count sharing hotel rooms with Narancia.”

“I don't think that counts. I haven't, either, though.”

Fugo hums in vague agreement, relaxing into the pillow.

Giorno yawns. “We should sleep,” he says, stating the obvious. "Big day tomorrow, with the new squad."

Fugo doesn’t respond - he's already asleep. Giorno smiles, studying Fugo's face in the deepening shadows. The light from the alley outside gives him just enough to see by, and he can tell how much softer Fugo looks when he's asleep, how much younger.

He hums and moves a little closer to Fugo without the actual conscious thought to do so, and soon, he's asleep as well.

Chapter Text

When the light through the window wakes Fugo in the morning, he opens his eyes to a cloud of golden hair. Giorno’s still asleep on the pillow next to him, looking for all the world like some sort of renaissance masterpiece in oil on canvas. Fugo’s pretty sure he’s seen this exact composition in a museum somewhere.

He shakes his head and sits up, then heads to the tiny bathroom to shower. He turns the water up as hot as he can stand it and sighs, leaning his forehead against the cracked tile on the wall. After a night’s sleep everything from yesterday seems much clearer, and he needs a moment to process it. It’s a lot.

For starters, he’s getting the feeling that this mission is going to be much harder and much more dangerous than even he’d originally expected. He’s not sure how long he can keep up this charade before he snaps— he’s, unfortunately, never been particularly good at being anyone but himself. It’s only a matter of time until someone pokes a hole in his or Giorno’s story and they find themselves faced with a fight and a failure.

He forgot to bring his soap into the bathroom. There’s only a bar of hand soap on the counter, so he grabs it and makes do, scrubbing harder than strictly necessary. He feels gross.

Abelli’s stand wasn’t in his file. That puts him on edge. He doesn’t like unknown variables. And Mirella— Mink— could be trouble.

And then there’s Giorno. Fugo closes his eyes and lets the water run down over his face. They’re friends now, he figures, but it feels off somehow, not quite right. He’s not sure why. He doesn’t have a lot to compare it to— just a lot of dead bodies and broken bridges he doesn’t want to think about. He’s scared of fucking it up.

The water starts to run cold, and he steps out.

 

Giorno is awake when Fugo gets out of the bathroom, flipping through a Trapani guidebook he lifted from a souvenir shop the day before.

Fugo tugs his shirt on, eyeing the book as he pulls it down. “What’s that?”

Giorno glances up just as Fugo starts putting the shirt on, then looks quickly away. “Hm? Oh. Welcome to Trapani,” Giorno says, holding the cover up so Fugo can see.

Fugo frowns at it. “Anything interesting in there?”

“A few tourist spots to check out, some restaurants the author insists we must go to before we leave Trapani, that sort of thing,” Giorno says.

“Must, huh.” Fugo raises an eyebrow. “Well, how much time do we have before we have to meet our new capo?”

Giorno smiles. “Enough time.”

“Let’s get food, then,” Fugo says. “I’m starving.”

Giorno looks back down at the guidebook. “Let's go to the Tavernetta Ai Lumi. I don't think it's too far a walk-- it's in historic Trapani, apparently has a cool aesthetic going.”

“Sure.” Fugo shrugs on his coat. “Wow, it’s like we’re on vacation.”

“Give me a minute,” Giorno says. He slips into the bathroom with a change of clothes and comes back a few minutes later, dressed and with his hair braided. “Let's go.”

Fugo smiles and holds the door open for him.

It's a longer walk than they expected, made to feel longer by the cold rain that bites right through their clothes down to the skin, but they eventually make it to the Tavernetta Ai Lumi, a cozy little place full of warm colors and exposed brick.

“It's apparently converted from an eighteenth century stable block,” Giorno tells Fugo smugly while they're shown to their seats. “According to the guidebook.”

Fugo shivers. “Huh,” he says. “Stylish. God, I’m fucking cold.”

“At least it's warm in here,” Giorno says, slipping out of his coat.

“Yeah,” Fugo says, and orders coffee when the waitress comes around. He watches Giorno order and then frowns. “I don’t actually know what kind of coffee you like.”

Giorno shrugs. “Cappuccinos, mostly. I'm not picky.”

Fugo nods. “I just like espresso.”

“That fits you,” Giorno says. “I'm not sure why.”

“Because it’s bitter?”

Giorno laughs. “No. Maybe because it's a great drink brewed under high pressure. And it's very….concentrated.”

Fugo snorts. “Concentrated.” He’s blushing a little again. This is starting to become a problem. “Well, I’ll take it, because cappuccinos are just like y—“

“Oh, you! I know you!” a voice interrupts, and a small figure flops down at the table’s extra seat. “You’re ours!”

“Excuse me,” Fugo stutters.

The girl leans forward. She has long, loose black hair, large sunglasses, and an earnest energy about her. “You’re Pannacotta Fugo,” she says intently, then turns to Giorno, “Which makes you Haruno Shiobana. I saw your pictures in the files yesterday. I never forget a face, you know.”

Giorno tilts his head to one side, studying her. “You're on Abelli's squad,” he guesses. “What was your name?”

“Adolorata Lombardo, at your service,” she chirps, smiling. “You’re so cute.”

Fugo raises an eyebrow.

Giorno laughs, soft and musical. “Thank you. So are you.”

She clasps her hands together and leans her cheek into them, grinning. “Aw. And we’re the same age! Perfect! I’m so used to being the youngest on this squad, they’re all so stuffy and they get so boring and serious and— well, it’ll be nice to have someone new and fun around!”

Giorno hides his smile behind his hand. “I thought they seemed friendly enough.”

“They’re not,” she says, then gasps. “Oh, I gotta go. I’ll see you around, bye!” With that, she whirls off as fast as she came.

“What the fuck just happened,” Fugo says.

Giorno stares at him, wide eyed, and shakes his head. “I'm not entirely sure. I wonder if she was really here by chance.”

Fugo frowns. “So that’s… four of them we’ve met, then?”

Giorno nods. “Silvio Randazzo is the only one we haven’t met.”

“Huh.”

Their food comes, and they spend a while in companionable silence. Giorno keeps an eye on his watch while they eat, making sure they’re not late for their second meeting with their new squad. They have to hurry to pay the bill, when they’re done, and then Giorno is pulling Fugo out the door by the hand, setting a brisk pace. Fugo matches him, and it turns into a race relatively quickly, both boys pelting down the Trapani streets in the rain.

Giorno would never admit to cheating, but a suspiciously persistent stray cat slips between Fugo’s legs, tripping him up, only to disappear seemingly into thin air moments later. Giorno takes the lead, then, and makes it to the door from yesterday just seconds before Fugo.

“Asshole!” Fugo pants, laughing. “I know that was your— oh, hello, Capo.”

Nicostrato Abelli stands under a bright umbrella smoking a cigarette. He wrinkles his nose at the two of them. “Not that I don’t appreciate the enthusiasm, but where’s the rush, boys?”

Fugo straightens up. “Uh, just for fun,” he says, weakly.

Abelli looks from Fugo to Giorno and back again. “Right.” He nods at the door. “Get on, then. No sense standing out here in the rain.”

Giorno laughs nervously and gives a little bow, grabbing Fugo’s sleeve and tugging him down toward the door. Fugo follows, glancing back at Abelli. He steels his face into an appropriate scowl as they enter the room.

Adolorata and Giacalone are already there, talking in hushed whispers about something they both seem to find hilarious. Mirella is there with them, her boots on the table again. When Fugo and Giorno walk in, she looks up, her eyes falling on Giorno’s hand on Fugo’s sleeve, and snorts.

Fugo scowls at her and jerks his arm out of Giorno’s grip.

“Ah, the cute one!” Adolorata exclaims.

“Hello, Haruno,” Giacalone says quietly.

Both of them give Fugo a wary look.

“Hello, Aloisio,” Giorno says pleasantly. “Mink, Adolorata.”

Mirella smiles at the use of her nickname. The expression softens her features. “Why are you both out of breath?”

“We underestimated the size of Trapani,” Giorno explains, wringing some of the rainwater out of his braid.

“We live a bit further than we thought we did,” Fugo adds.

“Oh, do you rent together?” Adolorata says.

“Neither of us really have money for anything else,” Giorno says.

“Aw, I would love to have a roommate,” she says. “Maybe one day.”

“We explained this to you already, Dora,” Giacalone says quietly.

Mirella coughs, and it sounds suspiciously like a laugh.

“I’m sure you could get a roommate, if you wanted,” Giorno says, joining them at the table.

“Oh, yes, but maybe not one I liked. Plus, I don’t need a roommate. It’s fine!”

Giacalone sighs.

“If you get a roommate and end up not liking them, just put their stuff on the roof and change the locks so they can’t get in,” Mink says. "That's what I'd do."

“That’s rude!” Adolorata says.

“No, it's not,” Mink insists. “They were the bad roommate first; you're just getting even. Bet you two get along real well, though, huh?” Mink asks Giorno.

He blinks at her. “Hard to say. We've lived together for half a day.”

Fugo scowls. “What are you implying?”

Instead of answering, Mink says, “Did you frown too much as a kid or something? Seems like your face's stuck like that.”

“I’m allergic to assholes.”

“Must be hard,” Mink says, “Being allergic to yourself.”

“Wow, original,” Fugo says, rolling his eyes. “Give her an award.”

“Yours wasn't terribly original, either,” Giorno points out. “Just to be fair.”

Mink laughs.

“You’re supposed to be on my side!” Fugo snaps.

“I am! I'm on his side,” Giorno tells Mink seriously. “To be clear.”

“That's fine. I figured,” Mink says.

Fugo groans and falls into a chair, still glowering at Mink. Giacalone covers their mouth with a hand and laughs quietly.

The door opens, then, and Abelli's voice drifts down to them, along with a second, lower voice, followed by footsteps on the stairs down. Fugo sits up, turning to watch. The man who follows Abelli into the room is tall and neat, with dark hair pushed back behind his ears. He nods to the group.

“Silviooo!” Adolorata calls. “Hello! Welcome!”

Mink throws a wave over her shoulder, but doesn't look back at him. Giorno looks at Fugo, to see how he'll greet the newcomer.

Fugo nods at him.

Silvio raises an eyebrow. “The new recruits, I take it,” he says to Abelli.

“Pannacotta,” Abelli says, pointing to Fugo, then Giorno, “And Haruno.”

“A pleasure,” he says, and sits down.

“Likewise,” Giorno says.

“Don't let the crusty exterior fool you,” Abelli says, “He's loads of fun.”

“I’m here to do my job, not to have fun,” Silvio counters.

“What’s on the agenda for today?” Adolorata asks.

“Why, we're going to give our new recruits the grand tour, of course,” Abelli says with his too-wide, too-white grin. “Aloisio and I will show Pannacotta around, the rest of you, Haruno. Take him around to some of the local shops, you know. Whatever you think he'll need to fit in here in Trapani.”

“Oooh, fun!” Adolorata gasps. “I love that!” She turns to Giorno. “You’re with me! It’ll be a really good time.”

Giacalone frowns and looks between Abelli and Fugo. “Why me?” they ask.

Fugo, meanwhile, tries not to look at Giorno.

“Are you questioning me, Aloisio?” Abelli asks. His tone is light as ever, but his smile no longer reaches his eyes.

They shake their head and drop their gaze to the table.

“Well, here’s the thing,” Abelli continues pleasantly, not acknowledging Giacalone’s reaction, “If I bring Fugo and Silvio along, we’re not going to have any fun. If I bring Mirella, it’ll be worse. And Dora’s already too fond of Haruno for me to dare separating them.”

Fugo feels something cold drop into the pit of his stomach. He feels like he’s being hunted.

“Aw, Nico, you’re so sweet,” Adolorata sighs. “Always thinking of me like that. Haruno, we’ll have a really good time, I promise!”

Giorno fights past his worry for Fugo and makes himself smile. He knows Fugo can more than take care of himself.

Silvio looks Giorno over coolly, then references his notes. “You’re new to the organization,” he says.

“Yes,” Giorno says, “Not brand new, but yes.”

“In Napoli, what were your duties?”

Giorno shrugs. “I was the newest member of a disorganized squad. I just did all the work no one else wanted to do. Mostly errands for the Capo.”

“I see,” Silvio says. He makes a note. “We’ll have you on protection money, then. Adolorata, Mirella? We’re going to the wharf.”

While Silvio is looking down, Giorno risks a glance at Fugo. Fugo purses his lips, looking at Giorno out of the corner of his eye, but doesn’t otherwise respond.

“Don’t worry, they'll take good care of him,” Abelli says, clapping a hand on Giorno’s shoulder and making him jump.

“Um,” says Fugo. “I wasn’t worried.”

“Real charmer you’ve got,” he says to Giorno.

“I’ve got?” Giorno asks.

Adolorata blinks. “Oh,” she says. “So that’s what you meant.”

“Obviously,” says Giacalone, sighing.

“What?” asks Fugo.

“You can drop it,” Abelli says, grip on Giorno's tightening. Giorno tenses and frowns up at him. “I know your secret."

"Our...secret," Giorno repeats. His gaze flicks around the room, to the various members of the group, calculating. There are five of them, most of their stands unknown. Purple Haze would be able to take them out easily, especially in such a cramped space, but that would mean-

Abelli continues, abruptly halting Giorno's train of thought. "I don’t know how things work in Naples, but we don’t have any issues with in-squad dating.”

Fugo blinks.

“In squad what?” Giorno asks, his voice coming out as little more than a squeak.

Mink meshes her fingers together in demonstration.

“We— we’re not dating,” Fugo stutters, his face heating up.

Giacalone rolls their eyes.

“It’s nothing personal,” Abelli begins in his usual way, so friendly that it ends up seeming slightly menacing, “But we did have Mirella tail you last night. Just a little, to make sure nothing suspicious was going on. Mirella, would you care to recount what you saw?”

“Not really,” Mink says, making a face.

“Moving in together, dining out together, hand holding in the street,” Abelli cooes. He clasps a hand to his heart. “Ah, to be young and in love.”

Giorno covers his face with his hands. The tips of his ears are bright red.

Fugo’s sure his face looks like a tomato, too. “Ah,” he says. “Um.” Suddenly, several things click into place, and he relaxes and looks at Giorno. “Good. Um, yeah, it was sort of frowned upon in Napoli."

Giorno looks up at him, eyes wide.

“It’s fine,” Fugo says to him. “It’ll be fine.”

“Right,” Giorno says, collecting himself. "Right."

“As long as it doesn’t cause a problem,” Silvio says.

“It won’t,” Giorno promises. "Thank you."

“Did you know,” Abelli begins, his hand still on Giorno’s shoulder, despite Giorno leaning slightly away from it, “That the ancient Greeks actually encouraged relationships between soldiers? That way, they thought, the soldiers would fight harder to protect each other.”

“I did know that, yeah,” Fugo says, looking at Abelli’s hand on Giorno’s shoulder. He doesn’t like seeing it there. He finds himself itching to reach over and slap it off.

“Aren’t you bright,” Abelli says. He catches Fugo’s gaze, smirks, and pats Giorno’s shoulder once more before moving to drop into the last open seat.

Giorno purses his lips.

Back in Napoli, that expression would have underlings scrambling to correct their wrongs, falling to their knees and offering up profuse apologies. Here, it does nothing. He finds it frustrating, being back at square one.

Fugo looks at him with open concern on his face, then sighs and slumps back into his seat.

“Anyway,” says Silvio, “Back to business. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss before we break, Nico?”

“You’re such a romantic, Silvio,” Abelli says.  “I can tell how much forbidden romance and young love moves you. No, I’m finished.”

“Then I’ll take my leave. Mirella, Adolorata, Haruno.” Silvio stands.

Giorno smiles at Fugo, soft and reassuring, before following the others out.

Fugo watches him go, brow furrowed, and then turns his attention back to Abelli. Abelli is watching him closely. Without the rest of the squad around, he’s dropped his usual smile. “We’ve got a bit of a tough mission today. I thought you’d be useful. But first, I want to show you something.”

Fugo nods. “Alright,” he says. “Where to?”

Abelli looks over at Giacalone and nods back at the door, getting up and expecting them both to follow.

They do, Giacalone close behind Fugo. As they proceed down the street, Fugo can’t help but feel like he’s being herded somewhere, led to the slaughter like a sacrificial ram. He tells himself he’s just being dramatic, but something about Giacalone’s silent presence unnerves him. They turn down an alley to a lower part of the city, and then—

— and then, Fugo’s standing over a smaller figure, cold certainty in his heart and Purple Haze looming behind him. Nicostrato Abelli nods at him from the side of the road and Fugo strikes, the figure in front of him screaming as the virus hits. He steps back, watching them writhe and decay, and sends Purple Haze back whence he came, into the dark depths of Fugo’s soul.

Chapter Text

“Was that all?” Fugo asks Abelli, coolly. He doesn’t feel anything at all. 

Abelli’s eyes are on what little remains of Purple Haze’s victim, and his expression is hungry. “That wasn’t even the beginning,” he says. “But for now, yes.” 

Fugo shoves his hands in his pockets, the final sounds of the dying soldati still in his ears. He needs to take a shower. “Your orders, then?”

“Go back home to your boyfriend,” Abelli says, with his smooth smile. His hungry gaze has shifted to Fugo, now. “Let him know how much I look forward to working with both of you.”

Fugo nods, and leaves.

He gets lost on the way back, still unsure of the city’s layout. His heart beats along with his footsteps and the sound fills up his brain as he walks, and walks, and walks. It’s at least an hour later when he starts to recognize where he is— close to Abelli’s usual meeting place, instead of his temporary home. He doesn’t wonder what that means.

The rain has started up again. He didn’t notice while he was walking, but now he’s cold, shivering all over. When he sees a familiar shock of golden hair waiting on the stoop of the next building over, he stops. 

 

It doesn’t take Giorno long to spot Fugo standing there, in the pouring rain, and when he does, he rushes out to meet him, cringing at the sudden onslaught of cold. “There you are,” he says, relief evident in his voice. “I had no idea how long you’d be gone. You have the apartment key, so I-- are you alright?”

Fugo blinks. He looks down at his hands, wondering if there’s blood on them. He doesn’t see any, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, I’m just— I’m just cold. Um. How long have you been waiting?”

“A while,” Giorno admits. “Let’s get home. We can warm up there.”

Fugo frowns at him. “What time is it?” he asks. 

“Late,” Giorno says, raising an eyebrow at him.

“Weird,” says Fugo, and turns towards their apartment. “The day went by really fast, I guess.” 

“Lucky you,” Giorno says, falling into step beside him. He stays close, for warmth. “Silvio Randazzo was... very thorough about showing me the ropes. Pedantic, even.”

Fugo snorts. “He seems like the type. What did you all do?”

“We went to the wharfs, collected protection money, and don’t look now, but I think someone’s following us,” Giorno says, his tone staying even the entire time. He takes Fugo’s hand. “I think it’s Mink.”

“Great,” Fugo sighs. He grips Giorno’s hand like a lifeline. “Well, that sounds pretty standard.” 

“Mm,” Giorno agrees. He continues, a little more quietly, “I kept a close eye out the whole time, but didn’t see anything strange. What about you?”

This time, though, Mink doesn’t follow quietly. She cuts them off, yelling, “Hey! You two, hold up!”

Fugo turns and raises an eyebrow at her. “What?” 

“I wanted to make something clear to you,” Mink says, getting in Fugo’s face. She completely ignores Giorno. “Before you try getting too comfortable. Nico wants you here because of your stand, but he’s the only one.”

“Mink,” Giorno warns, coming dangerously close to crossing the line between Shiobana Haruno and Giorno Giovanna.

Mink continues to ignore him. “None of the rest of us trust you, or like you. We heard about what you did to your last squad, and we won’t make the same mistake Bruno Buccellati did.”

Fugo turns. “Good. Don’t, then.” 

Mink scowls at him. Maybe she followed them specifically looking to fight - Giorno sees in her the same restless anger he saw in Abbacchio. A need to fight, to be acknowledged, to feel something. Or maybe she'd really come to give a warning, and Fugo’s brush off pushed her over the edge. Either way, she continues. “Giovanna’s a fool if he thinks you can be trusted,” she says quietly, “And now my squad’s going to suffer for it.”

Fugo whirls on her. “Fuck off,” he says. He lets go of Giorno’s hand and clenches his fists at his sides. “You think I want to be here with you fucking idiots?”

“Fugo, just ignore her,” Giorno attempts, weakly.

We’re the idiots? For being cautious around someone like you?” Mink hisses, talking over Giorno. “I’ll tell you who the idiots are.” She holds up one finger. “Giorno Giovanna.” Two. “Bruno Buccellati.” Three. “Anyone else who’s ever thought you were worth anything. I see it in your eyes-- anger, bitterness, hopelessness. It’s all there.”

Fugo lunges at her with his bare hands, shimmering slightly like a piece of his soul is trying to escape. Mink yelps and jumps back.

Fugo !” Giorno snaps, quickly stepping between them. Mink catches his arm, though, and pulls him back to her, and the next second, a cold knife is pressed to his throat. Giorno goes still. “Don’t you dare bring your stand out,” Mink says to Fugo. “You hurt me, you hurt him, now. Isn’t that how it works?”

Fugo sees red, and stops thinking. Purple Haze appears behind him, looming and drooling. “Don’t fucking underestimate me,” he hisses. “You have no idea what I’m capable of. I’ll happily kill both of us if you don’t get your fucking hands off of him!” 

“Fugo,” Giorno says carefully, “Stop it.”

Fugo doesn’t listen. He advances on Mink, seeing nothing but her and the knife pressed against Giorno’s throat. 

“Haruno,” Mink says, more cowering behind Giorno now than anything. The knife is still pressed steadily to his throat, though. “Get him to stop.”

“Let go of me, and I will,” Giorno hisses.

Purple Haze roars. Fugo’s no longer really seeing anything. 

Mink lifts the knife away from Giorno’s neck, only an inch, and that’s as much as she’ll relent. “I let you go now, and he’ll kill me for sure.”

Giorno sighs. He doesn’t want to see Mink hurt, and he doesn’t think she wants to see him hurt. Grabbing him was a protective measure, which he can understand, annoying as it is. His fingers close around Mink’s wrist, slowly, and she doesn’t stop him. “Fugo, please. Breathe, think. You’re more than Purple Haze, and you’re more than your anger. You don’t have to stoop to her level.” 

Fugo doesn’t hear him. He lunges forward, Purple Haze looking around at the street behind him. Giorno twists Mink’s arm away from him, spinning out of the way of both of them before he can get caught up in the fight. He barely registers Fugo throwing a punch at Mink.

Mink swears and stumbles back, nose already gushing blood, and swipes blindly at Fugo with her knife.

Fugo hisses and rears back to punch her again, ignoring the deep gash that just opened along his side and arm. He’s stopped by Giorno’s hand catching his arm, the boy’s grip surprisingly strong for his size. He pulls Fugo back to him, turning Fugo to face him, and immediately lays a hand on the wound.

“That’s enough,” he says, and it's a command.

Fugo blinks, and sags, and all of the fight goes out of him at once. It’s replaced by pain and heat as Gold Experience starts to work, and he bites through his lip to keep from crying out. 

Mink holds her nose, which is still bleeding. “I’b sorry,” she says. “I didn’t bean to actually fight like that." 

“It’s a shallow cut,” Giorno lies-- though it’s not a lie, anymore. It is shallow, now that he’s finished healing it. “He’ll be fine.”

“No offense,” Fugo gasps, standing up. “But what the fuck did you mean?” Purple Haze shimmers where it’s busy cleaning off its legs and disappears back into Fugo’s body like a mirage.

Mink glares at him. “I just don’t want by squad getting hurt,” she says. “Shit’s been happening here, and with your rep, I thought you were here to...to..I dunno.”

“Kill you?” Fugo asks. 

Mink nods.

“I never killed any of my squadmates,” Fugo says. 

“But Syracuse,” Mink says.

“Was an assassination mission,” Fugo says. 

“Yeah,” Mink agrees, pointedly.

“With a squad,” Fugo continues, rolling his eyes, “None of whom were killed by me.”

Mink crosses her arms and scowls, the effect of it slightly lessened by the way the rain soaking through her hair and clothes made her look very, very small, and the blood streaking down her face, mixing with the rainwater. “I wanted to make sure this time wasn’t different,” she snaps, then cringes at the pain.

“I didn’t walk up to the narcotics team and try to join them,” Fugo snaps. 

“How the hell do I know what you did or didn’t do?"

“How do I know what you know? You said you heard about Syracuse!”

“Yeah, Giovanna sent it out in his weekly newsletter. Explained every single little detail,” Mink sneers.

Fugo throws his hands in the air in frustration, then doubles over. “Ow, fuck,” he spits. He completely forgot about the gash in his side. 

“As riveting as this conversation is,” Giorno begins dryly, “I’m taking Fugo home now. He needs to get bandaged up, and you need to get your nose seen to.”

Mink nods. “If you’re not here to…” she sighs. “If you're not here to repeat Syracuse, are we good, then, or what?”

“Sure,” says Fugo. “Whatever.”

“Fine,”  Mink says. “Whatever.”

Giorno huffs, fed up with this, and grabs Fugo’s uninjured arm, dragging him away. 

Fugo stumbles after him. His legs are going numb in the cold and the pain in his side, though significantly lessened, is annoying. His mouth tastes like blood. 

“If I heal you the rest of the way, can you pretend to still be injured tomorrow?” Giorno asks without looking at him.

“Just leave it,” Fugo says. 

“Fine, but I’m stopping to get a first aid kit when we get closer to the apartment.”

“Okay,” Fugo says. 

Giorno looks back at Fugo, then, not bothering to hide his concern. He drops his hand to Fugo’s own, holding it once more. Fugo looks down at it without much reaction, and closes his eyes. 

When they reach the street their apartment is on, Giorno has Fugo wait under the overhang of the small corner store while he slips inside. He returns a few minutes later with several bags-- certainly more than just a first aid kit. “I got food,” he explains, still watching Fugo with that same quietly concerned expression. “I figured we wouldn’t want to leave again when we got back. I grabbed some wine, too.”

“Okay,” Fugo says, again. 

Giorno nods and leads them up to the apartment. The first thing he does is guide Fugo toward the bathroom. “Go change into something dry,” he orders.

Fugo doesn’t. Instead, he turns on the shower and collapses in a heap at the bottom, letting the hot water run over him. 

 

While Fugo's in the bathroom, Giorno changes and puts the food away. He waits for Fugo to get out, then starts dinner, then waits longer. Eventually, he gives in and knocks on the bathroom door. “Fugo? Are you alright?”

Fugo blinks. The water’s gone cold while he was sitting there, and he didn’t notice. He shuts it off and sighs. “Yeah,” he calls. “Sorry.” 

He pulls on a dry sweater and pants and looks at himself in the mirror. I see it in your eyes, Mink said. Abbacchio said the same thing about him, once. The rot that he’s so full of wells up behind his irises until anyone can see it. 

He sighs and pushes the door open. 

“Oh! You’re out,” Giorno says, clearly being careful to keep his voice light. He approaches hesitantly, like he’s not sure if he’s allowed, like he's trying not to startle Fugo, and leads him over to the bed, forces him to sit, then wraps the blanket around his shoulders. “I’m making dinner. It’s almost done.”

“You don’t have to,” Fugo mutters. 

“I’m happy to,” Giorno says, giving Fugo’s arm a reassuring pat before heading back over to the kitchen.

Fugo sighs and pulls his knees up to his chest. It tugs uncomfortably at the cut in his side, which is still oozing occasionally. He’d tried to clean it up a bit in the shower, but gave up.

Giorno pops something in the old microwave and makes his way back over to Fugo. “Now, let me see your side.”

Fugo unfolds and pulls up his sweater. The wound is long and jagged, but looks mostly healed. “Oh,” he says, “Thank you. For healing it.”

“I wish I could do more, but Mirella...she’d know something was strange,” Giorno says, studying the wound. He gets up and retrieves the small first aid kit he bought. “I just want to clean it a bit. I don’t think it needs more than that.”

“Thank you,” Fugo says again. He waits and doesn’t move. 

Giorno starts cleaning the wound. He bites his lip as he works, occasionally glancing at Fugo’s expression, wanting to say something but not sure how to begin. Fugo flinches when he touches the cut, but otherwise doesn’t react. His lip is bruised and scabby where he bit it. 

Giorno sighs and clears his throat. “I see potential,” he says, at last, not looking at Fugo. “And devotion.”

“What?” Fugo says, frowning. 

“In your eyes,” Giorno says, finally looking up at him.

Fugo’s eyes widen, and his face scrunches up like he’s going to cry. He sighs, a bitter rush of air. “I’ve been told that before.” 

“Whoever told you that was smart,” Giorno says, with a small smile. He goes back to cleaning Fugo’s cut. “Smarter than Mink. All she sees is bitterness because she wants to believe everyone is like her.”

“Abbacchio said it too,” Fugo says, “And Volpe. We’re alike. They could all tell.” 

A small furrow appears between Giorno’s brows as he frowns. “Everyone has some darkness in them. I see parts of myself in Abelli. I hear I have a lot in common with my father, who no one should ever want to be like. Volpe had given into the darkness. It had swallowed him whole. Abbacchio, too...I looked at him and saw a man completely without hope. He’d forgotten the good. You haven’t,” Giorno says. “You’re balanced, though I’m sure it doesn’t feel like it right now. Sometimes the scales tip one way or the other, but what matters is that you always come back.”

Fugo sighs. “Can I ask you something?”

Giorno frowns. “Yes, of course.”

“Did I lie to Mirella? Am I actually here for an execution? Is that— is that how this is all going to end up?”

“I told you at the beginning that I wanted to avoid violence at all costs,” Giorno says carefully, “And that’s true. It may still come to it, depending on how deep the squad’s secrets run, but you won’t be executing anyone; I give you my word on that.”

Fugo sighs. “I already did.”

Giorno frowns again. “On this mission?”

“Yes. For Abelli. Today.” 

What ?” Giorno asks.

“Why do you think he wanted me to go with him?” Fugo asks, softly. 

“I knew that was why he was so interested in you, but I didn’t think he’d do something like this so soon.”

“Well, he did. It’s my job. I just don’t want to… it’s not like killing for Buccellati, or for you.” He closes his eyes. 

Giorno studies Fugo’s face. “You don’t want to what?”

“Do that for him. It makes my skin crawl.”

“Who did you--?” Giorno starts, then stops. “What reason did he give you?”

“For?” 

“Killing today. Did he tell you why?”

“Yes, he was—,” Fugo stops, and blinks. “He— I know he told me, I know he had a reason, but— I don’t remember.” He turns a confused look on Giorno. 

Giorno frowns at Fugo, then jumps at the sudden screeching beep of the microwave timer. “I’ll be right back.” He returns a minute later balancing two microwave trays of food and plastic cups filled with wine. “What do you mean you don’t remember?” Giorno asks, kneeling on the bed. “That doesn’t seem like something you’d forget.”

“It’s not,” Fugo says. “I just can’t remember! I don’t— the entire morning, it’s just. Poof. Fucking gone.” 

“Where did you go after we split up?” Giorno asks.

“I don’t know,” Fugo says, eyes wide. 

Giorno’s expression is grim as he passes one of the microwave trays to Fugo. “No one else I sent here remembered anything strange happening.”

Fugo just looks at him. 

“No one remembered. It must be Abelli,” Giorno continues. “Or Aloisio. We don’t know enough about either of their stands.”

Fugo looks down at his food, frantically trying to comb back through his memories and identify if anything else is missing. Of course, it doesn’t work— memories don’t work like that, and neither do human brains. “Fuck,” he says. 

“It’s just...missing?” Giorno asks, biting his lip. Voicing Fugo’s thoughts, he says, “We’ve been together the rest of the time. Could we both be missing more? No. We would have noticed. It would have come out, the way this is now.” 

“Right,” Fugo says, his eyes still wide. “Yeah. We would know.”

“Still, we should get in the habit of...recounting our days,” Giorno says. “Especially if we’re separated and Abelli or Aloisio are around. We have to tell the other everything we did.”

Fugo just stares at him again. 

“What?” Giorno asks.

“I have to— I have to go outside,” Fugo says. “Sorry.” He stands up in a rush and trips out the door, down four flights of stairs. He’s out in the street before he feels like he can breathe again, barefoot in the rain. At least he managed to leave the blanket behind. 

Giorno stares after him, shocked. His heart twists, and he's half out of the bed before he stops to think. After a moment's debate, he decides not to follow.

 

It’s ten minutes later or so when Fugo comes back, knocking on the apartment door before letting himself in. 

“Feelling better?” Giorno asks. He glances down at Fugo's bare feet and cringes.

“Sorry,” he says. 

“It’s fine,” Giorno says. He’s put his own dinner away and is now working on his wine. “Please come get under the blanket, though. You’re making me cold just looking at you.” 

Fugo sighs and sits down, wrapping himself in the covers. He pulls the food towards him and picks at it, apparently feeling better. 

“What was it? The memories?” Giorno asks, watching Fugo closely. “I want to know so I can be more careful in the future.”

“It’s not you, it’s—,” Fugo sighs. “The memories? I just felt— really trapped. In here.” 

Giorno frowns. He's feeling uncomfortable, upset. It wasn't even his memories that were tampered with, but...He feels distressed. He has ever since he found Fugo in the rain, earlier, and he doesn't know why.

Fugo frowns back. “What?” 

“I don't like feeling useless.”

“You’re not,” Fugo says. 

“It feels like it, sometimes. Like right now. You're hurt, and I can't...I don't like not being able to fix problems, even if they're other people's.”

Fugo frowns. “You don’t have to fix everyone. Sometimes people have to fix themselves.” 

"I still don't like seeing you hurting,” Giorno says, without thinking. He pauses to think, then, and decides he would do just about anything to ease Fugo's pain, even a little. He's not sure where this is coming from, and it worries him. "I want to fix it."

“Oh,” says Fugo. “Um.” 

"I mean,” Giorno says, backtracking. He worries that he made Fugo uncomfortable again and he closes his eyes, trying to think through what he's feeling. "I don't know."

Fugo just looks at him. “Sorry,” he says. He feels compelled to apologize, because he has no idea what’s going on. 

“You don't have to apologize,” Giorno says, again. It's something he's repeated many times - too many times - to Fugo, but he knows he'll gladly keep repeating it until Fugo gets it. And that's when he figures it out.

“I just— uh— I just don’t understand what you’re trying to say.”

"Don't worry about it," Giorno says quickly. "I don't think I do, either."

But that's not entirely true, anymore. He hadn't understood why he'd been so angry during the fight with Mink - it wasn't for himself, but entirely for Fugo. He hadn't understood why seeing Fugo like that afterward twisted his heart in such excruciating ways. He hadn't understood where he'd been leading that whole conversation until he got there-- until he got here. To the realization that somewhere along the way, he developed feelings for Pannacotta Fugo.

Fugo sighs. “I guess I sort of— I don’t know. I freaked out about having my memories tampered with.”

“That's fair,” Giorno manages to choke out, past the unfamiliar haze of emotion clouding his thoughts.

“A lot of shit happened today and it just… sort of exploded, I guess,” he continues, entirely oblivious to Giorno’s plight. 

“It certainly did,” Giorno says.

Fugo sighs and gets up to put his trash away. Giorno sits back on his hands and watches him. He's not sure he likes this realization that he had - that somehow, so quickly, Fugo has become one of the most important people in his life. He'd wanted so badly to keep everyone at a distance, especially after...

“Fugo?” Giorno calls after him.

“Yeah?” Fugo replies, turning. 

“Did you mean what you said to Mink?” Giorno asks. “About...happily killing yourself for me?”

Fugo shrugs. “Maybe not happily, but I’d do it.”

“I'd rather you didn't do it at all,” Giorno says quietly.

Fugo frowns. “Isn’t it sort of in the job description?” 

No,” Giorno snaps. “It is not.”

Fugo turns and frowns. “So you’d rather your underlings weren’t loyal unto death?”

Giorno passes a hand across his face. “Maybe. Sometimes.”

“You’re the Don,” Fugo says quietly. “Of course I’d die for you if I had to.” 

“Stop,” Giorno says, his hand still covering his face.

Fugo goes silent, eyes wide. 

Giorno peeks at Fugo through his fingers. “I'm sorry.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“Say that you won't die for me, but you'll live for me. I'd rather have that.”

“I can’t promise that,” Fugo says, quietly. “But you know I do— I do live for you.”

“I know,” Giorno says, just as quiet.

Fugo sighs and walks back to the bed, sitting down next to Giorno. Giorno leans into him without thinking about it. “I thought you were going to do it, for a second. Kill her and take yourself down with her, just to save me. You know I could've easily gotten free.”

“I wasn’t really thinking,” Fugo says. 

Giorno turns his head, rests his forehead against Fugo's shoulder. “It scared me,” he admits, voice barely above a whisper.

“I was scared too,” Fugo says. “I was so fucking mad when she— I didn’t want to lose you, too. Not you.”

'So you know how I feel,” Giorno says, looking up at him. “That's why I can't listen to you saying you'll die for me. I just can't.”

Fugo sighs. “I’ll try not to die, okay? I don’t exactly plan on it.” 

Giorno almost manages a smile. ”Thank you.”

Fugo hums and leans his cheek against the top of Giorno’s head. “I don’t like this squad,” he says. 

“Me neither,” Giorno says. “Hopefully we won't have to be with them much longer. Then we can go home.”

“Yeah,” Fugo says. Home doesn’t have much for him, though, just peeling walls and empty rooms. He finds himself missing the shitty apartment Buccellati lived in, where he stayed when he was younger. 

“I'll get you that piano,” Giorno continues softly, petting Fugo's arm, “As thanks for putting up with me this whole mission.”

Fugo laughs. “You don’t have to thank me for that.” 

“Well, then, I'll do it just to make you happy.”

Fugo chokes. “You can’t just say that kind of thing.”

“I just did,” Giorno points out.

Fugo covers his face with his hands. 

“Why aren't I allowed to make you happy?” Giorno asks, looking up at Fugo. He doesn't actually notice the layered meaning until the words are out, and he hopes Fugo doesn't pick up on it.

“You can’t,” Fugo says. He still has his hands over his face. “I don’t— you just can’t!” His voice catches and breaks on the last word. 

Giorno sits up, pushing away from Fugo, and stares at him with wide eyes. 

Fugo’s crying. 

“Fugo, I-- I'm sorry,” Giorno says, lamely. He has no idea what he did.

“Don’t apologize,” Fugo sobs. “You’re— you’re too nice to me. I don’t deserve it.” 

Giorno thinks his heart is going to break on the spot. “Yes, you do,” he says. He puts a finger under Fugo's chin and makes Fugo look at him. “You do.”

Fugo cries harder, imploding in on himself. He wraps his arms around his chest and closes his eyes. 

“Fugo,” Giorno croons, “The past is done. You don't have to forget it, but you can move on from it. What you do or don't deserve isn't defined by who you were, but who you are. And who you are deserves happiness.”

Fugo falls forward into Giorno’s shoulder and shakes. A wet spot starts spreading on Giorno’s shirt. Giorno winds one arm around Fugo in an embrace, the other petting Fugo's hair.

“I know,” he says. “I know it's hard.”

“I miss them so much,” Fugo sobs. “Every day.”

The hand in Fugo's hair slows. “I can't imagine it,” he breathes. “I miss them. I can't imagine how it is for you.”

“I don’t even— I don’t even know what happened to them,” Fugo continues. He balls his hands up in Giorno’s shirt. 

“Would you feel any better if you did?” Giorno asks softly.

“I don’t know,” Fugo says. He turns his head to lean against Giorno’s shoulder instead of trying to burrow into it. “Maybe eventually.”

“I could tell you,” Giorno says, then corrects himself. “I could try, but I…” He trails off, not knowing how to end the sentence.

Fugo sighs. “You don’t have to. It’s a fucking lot.” He pulls himself closer to Giorno. “It’s all a fucking lot.” 

“It is, but I want to if you want me to,” Giorno says, leaning into Fugo's warmth. “I want to tell you.”

“Tell me,” Fugo says quietly. 

Giorno nods against Fugo's hair and takes a moment to gather his thoughts, reaching back to memories he's avoided poking at for nearly a year. Then, he tells Fugo. He tells Fugo everything. About Abbacchio, about Buccellati, about everything that happened after they left Fugo behind. 

Narancia is the hardest to talk about. It's still the hardest for him to process, and he hasn't really made himself try, beyond using the grief to fuel his drive. He thinks Narancia's death is at the core of the guilt that's been growing like weeds inside of him, and when he's done telling Fugo about it, he has to stop the story and just breathe.

Fugo stares into the dimly lit middle distance as Giorno finishes, tears dripping steadily down his face. At some point he wound an arm around Giorno’s waist. 

Giorno buries his face in Fugo's hair when he's done and goes still as a statue, both his arms wrapped tightly around Fugo, now. He feels Fugo's heart beating. It's comforting, especially because when he closes his eyes, all he sees are flowers blooming around Narancia's body. “I'm sorry,” he says. “I'm sorry.”

Fugo pulls him closer and whispers: “Thank you.” 

Giorno shudders and nods into Fugo’s hair. Fugo stays quiet with tears dripping down his chin, and lets himself feel. 

“I haven't let myself think about it,” Giorno breathes. There's a waver to his voice. “Let alone talk about it.”

Fugo pauses. “For nine months?” 

Giorno nods, his hands gripping Fugo's shirt tighter.

“Giogio?” Fugo asks, pulling back slightly so he can see Giorno’s face. 

Giorno's crying, too-- not nearly as much as Fugo, but there are definite tears running down his cheeks. He keeps his gaze on one of Fugo's earrings, rather than look him in the eye. “Hm?”

Fugo looks at him and carefully, cautiously raises a hand to his cheek, catching some of the tears on his thumb. He pulls Giorno back in, closer and tighter this time, holding onto him like a drowning man holds a life preserver. At this, Giorno makes a quiet noise and clings to Fugo just as tightly. Fugo closes his eyes and presses his face into Giorno’s shoulder. 

Giorno cries quietly, but his entire body shakes with it, like it doesn't know how to handle all of the emotions pouring out of him. It probably doesn't. When his tears eventually subside, he laughs, self-conscious. “I haven't cried this much in my entire life.”

Fugo snorts. “This is pretty normal for me,” he says. 

Giorno hides his face in Fugo's neck. 

“I’m glad you told me,” Fugo says. 

“I think I am, too,” Giorno says, idly tracing patterns into Fugo's shoulder. 

“I—,” Fugo starts, and then takes a shaky breath. “Thank you. For looking after Narancia.”

Giorno's fingers stop their tracing. “I wish I-- I should have done more.”

“You did more than anyone else could,” Fugo says, his voice breaking again. “I— for the last nine months, I’ve been telling myself that, too, I— I should have done more, I should have been there, I should have died with them—,” he sobs, “But you, you did. You were there.”

“I was there, but I didn't die with them,” Giorno says. He thought he was out of tears, but they're threatening to come again. “They died for the mission, for me and my plans, for the chance to get rid of Diavalo, and I-- I can't help but feel that I'm partially to blame.”

Fugo sighs. “I’ve never once blamed you,” he says.

Giorno sags against Fugo like a puppet with its strings cut, all of the strength sapping out of him all at once. He's exhausted, suddenly, but with it comes relief, and gratitude, and a tender sort of affection Giorno wouldn't let himself think about right now. “Thank you,” he mumbles into Fugo's skin.

Fugo hums against Giorno’s shoulder. “Anytime,” he says, and means it wholeheartedly. 

Giorno sighs, a weight off his shoulders he hadn't known was there till it was gone. He continues his light tracing of patterns against Fugo's shoulder.

Fugo leans into Giorno, exhausted from his outburst. His face is sore and swollen, but Giorno is warm and solid and comforting in his arms. He feels like he could say anything, tell Giorno anything, open himself up and expose all of the rot and mold and sickness and Giorno wouldn’t turn away from it. He’s never really felt like that before. 

Giorno's breathing evens out, the steady gusts of it warm against Fugo's neck, and his grip loosens in Fugo's shirt. Soon, he's slumped against Fugo, fast asleep.

Too tired himself to think much of it, Fugo lowers them both down to the bed and pulls the blanket over them. A minute later he follows Giorno into sleep. 

Chapter Text

Giorno wakes some time later groggy, disoriented, and warm . He doesn't know how long he's been asleep, but pale, early morning sunlight streams in through the apartment's tiny window and his body is stiff from lying too still for too long. He's also entirely entangled with Fugo, his face pressed to Fugo's collar bone and Fugo's arm wound around his waist. This startles Giorno awake enough that he quickly tries to extricate himself, accidentally slamming his head up into Fugo's jaw in the process.

Fugo jerks back, shrieking something incomprehensible, and hits the back of his head against the wall with his arms outstretched, holding Giorno away from him. 

“Sorry!” Giorno says, trying really, really hard not to laugh. “Oh, Fugo, shush , I'm sorry!” 

He fails entirely at not laughing.

“What th— What? Ow,” Fugo groans. His eyes are still heavy with sleep, and he scowls absently at Giorno. 

Giorno covers his mouth and laughs harder, trying desperately to stay quiet-- with what he's heard from the neighbors’ apartments so far, it's clear the walls here aren't very thick. “Sorry,” he repeats, reaching to touch Fugo's jaw before thinking better of it. “Are you really hurt?”

Fugo makes a face and rubs his head. “Vaguely bruised, maybe, but no.” 

“I'm sorry for laughing,” Giorno says, still snickering, “But what was that sound you made?”

Fugo looks away and mutters something. 

“It was funny,” Giorno says. “It was cute.”

“I thought you were an enemy stand,” Fugo mutters slightly louder. 

Giorno hides his smile again. “And your reaction was to...screech and hold onto me?”

“Well I was going to push you away, but then I hit my head again!”

Giorno laughs. “Poor thing. Need me to kiss it better?” 

Fugo goes bright red and scrambles backwards. “Wh—what— No!” he stutters. 

Giorno snorts and reaches for Fugo. “I'm teasing . You're going to hurt yourself again.”

Fugo lets Giorno reach without scooting away more, but stays bright red in the face. He pouts. 

“Don't make that face at me,” Giorno laughs.

“You’re a cruel one, Giogio,” Fugo sighs dramatically. “Making fun of me when I just fuckin’ woke up.”

“After I wounded you so grievously, too,” Giorno says, ruefully. “You're not even going to ask how my head is? I'm a victim here, too.”

“Oh,” Fugo says, blinking. “Was that your head ?” He frowns at Giorno. “Are you okay?”

“I'm fine,” Giorno says, feeling for a bump. “Apparently, I'm hard-headed.”

Fugo laughs. “Why was your head so close to my jaw anyway?” 

Giorno's ears are the first to turn bright red, and then the rest of his face follows. “What?” he asks, a little too innocently. “Oh, I don't...I don't know.”

Fugo leans forward and squints at him. 

“Well, what was your arm doing around my waist?” Giorno asks defensively.

“What?” Fugo yelps, blushing. 

“I just woke up, and we were…and you were…”

“Oh,” Fugo says. “Uh. Um. That makes sense, I guess.”

“It does?”

“Why your face was so close,” Fugo says. 

“Right,” Giorno says. He's still blushing, he's sure. “It’s a shame I ruined it. You were warm.”

Fugo shivers. “Yeah, it’s fucking cold. I’m gonna get dressed.” He tries to climb over Giorno and trips on the blanket. Giorno yelps as Fugo falls to flop across him, and reflexively tries to squirm out from under him. Fugo accidentally elbows him in the gut. 

“Agh! I’m sorry!”

Giorno makes an oof sound as all the air leaves him on impact. “If you wanted to cuddle more, you could've just said,” he says, breathless.

Fugo stops struggling and flops limply on top of Giorno. Giorno’s warm and comfortable underneath him. He groans. “This bed is too small.” 

“It's cozy ,” Giorno purrs. He yawns, carefully stretching beneath Fugo. 

Fugo rolls off of him and hits the floor with a thump. He picks himself up without making eye contact with Giorno, suspiciously red in the face, and ducks into the bathroom. 

Giorno huffs a laugh and burrows deep under the covers, waiting for Fugo to get out so he could shower. “Don't use all the hot water,” he calls.

Fugo’s quick, and is back in the room in a cloud of steam in only ten or so minutes. 

Giorno, who'd half-fallen back asleep in the time he was gone, flops out of bed and brings all the blankets with him, wrapped around him like a giant cocoon. He drops onto the ground and he starts sifting through his bag. “I don't like Haruno clothes,” he complains.

Fugo raises an eyebrow. “Why?”

“They're plain. I've grown accustomed to living in style ,” he says, dramatically flipping his hair over his shoulder.

Fugo snorts. “Show up looking like Don Giovanna, then, and see what happens,” he says. 

“Hm,” Giorno says, doubtful. He rises primly with his change of clothes and disappears into the bathroom.

Fugo laughs. He feels a lot lighter, somehow, this morning. When Giorno’s done with the shower he has his coat on and is ready to go, smiling slightly. Then he remembers the events from yesterday all at once and his face falls.


The whole squad is there waiting when Fugo and Giorno arrive. This time, Fugo doesn’t drop Giorno’s hand immediately— he gives it a reassuring squeeze as he greets the group. 

“Good morning, Capo,” Giorno says, just as Abelli is opening his mouth to say something to Fugo.

“Good morning, Haruno,” Abelli says pleasantly-- pleasantly, at least, in his usual sickly-sweet way. “Pannacotta.”

“Morning,” Fugo says, keeping his voice light. 

Adolorata waves her fingers at them. Mink, who wears a bandage across her nose, nods. Fugo only drops Giorno’s hand when they sit down.

“Seems like you came out on top yesterday, Pannacotta,” Abelli says, nodding at Mink's nose.

Fugo grimaces. “She gave as good as she got,” he says, pressing a hand over his side. 

“Haruno, I've got to thank you for de-escalating,” Abelli says, leaning across the table toward Giorno. “Mirella told me all about it. I would've hated to have had two of my soldati seriously harm each other.”

Giorno frowns, and nods. “It was nothing.”

Abelli just keeps smiling at Giorno. “Mirella?”

“Sorry for holding a knife to you,” Mink says, like the apology is physically painful to get out.

“And?”

“Sorry for picking a fight with you, Fugo.”

Fugo shrugs. “Happens,” he says. 

“Not in my squad, it doesn't,” Abelli says, going cold. “If I hear about any more fights, there'll be problems for everyone involved, do you all understand?”

“Yes, sir,” Mink says, sitting up straighter. 

“Yes sir,” says Fugo, a beat later. 

Giorno frowns. Fugo glances at him. 

Silvio clears his throat. “To business, then.” 

“Always the killjoy, Silvio,” Abelli says. “Very well, to business. You have some reports you wanted to go over with us?”

“Yes,” Silvio says, and without further ado, launches into talk of business.

Fugo lets his face go slack, like he’s completely zoning out, but he listens carefully for anything out of place. Adolorata yawns loudly, and Mink cleans out the underside of her nails with a dull knife.

Giorno asks questions here and there, questions that seem like polite clarifications made in an attempt to learn the ropes but have the added benefit of poking into potential inconsistencies.

Silvio repeats himself as many times as Giorno asks, and shows no weaknesses. It frustrates Giorno.

Halfway through the report, when even Giorno seems to be getting bored, Abelli's phone goes off. 

“Excuse me,” he says, sounding relieved at the interruption. “Please, Silvio, feel free to carry on without me.”

Silvio nods and returns to his documents, but with Abelli gone, the spell is broken. Adolorata starts whispering to Giacalone under her breath, and Giacalone smiles. Mink rests her boots up on the table, invading Fugo's space, at the table beside her. Fugo makes a face and gingerly shoves her feet away. 

Abelli comes back in, expression grim. “Silvio, Aloisio, with me. Something's come up.”

Giacalone’s face freezes, but they stand carefully and follow without a word. Silvio walks behind them, putting his papers away. He throws a glance that looks like a warning over his shoulder as he leaves.  Then, it's just Giorno, Fugo, Mink, and Adolorata.

“Guess we have the rest of the day off,” Mink says.

“Huh,” says Fugo.

“Oh, we can show you around!” Adolorata says. “The fun kind of show you around, this time.”

Giorno balks at another day trying to keep up with Adolorata, but it would be foolish to let an opportunity like this go by. “Sure,” he says, “We'd love that.”

“Oh, yay!” Adolorata chirps. “Let’s go, let’s go! Oh, you look terrible,” she says to Fugo. “Mirella really got you!” 

“I always look like this,” Fugo says, scowling. 

Mink laughs. “I couldn't have come up with a better burn if I'd tried.”

Fugo sticks his tongue out at her. Mink sticks hers out back, and Giorno watches them both, exasperated.

“So, where are we going?” Fugo asks, once they’re all outside. 

“Oh, we can show you where we usually work,” Adolorata says. 

“Are you sure they're not coming back?” Giorno asks.

“Yep,” says Adolorata, picking a direction and starting off. “They do this all the time.” 

Fugo hums and follows her, falling into step with Giorno. Giorno takes Fugo's hand, because he can, and because it's easy and grounding and Fugo doesn’t mind. 

Fugo feels more present when Giorno’s holding onto him, like he actually exists in some physical realm. He can feel the breeze on his face and the cobblestones beneath his feet, and he feels slightly more at peace. 

Adolorata points down a set of stairs. “That goes to the wharf,” she says. “We do protection money there.” 

Giorno nods. He saw that much yesterday. 

“Silvio handles all the logistic stuff,” Mink says. “He tells us what to get from who and when to do it. I don't like how he does it, sometimes. I think it could be easier, but he won't ever let me give him any suggestions. He likes his system and doesn't want us messing with it.”

Fugo hums. “I get it,” he says. 

“Really? ‘Cuz I don’t,” Adolorata replies. 

“I get it, but not when his system is as inefficient as it is,” Mink huffs.

Giorno raises an eyebrow at Fugo.

“Inefficient for you, maybe,” Fugo says, thinking back to his own organization system. “It looks different from the top down.” 

“Who cares?” says Adolorata. 

Mink looks like she's going to start arguing with Fugo again, so Giorno asks, “What else is there to see?”

“Could show you the gambling!” Adolorata chirps.

Mink grins. “Now, that's my area of expertise. It sure is easy to rig things when you can get anywhere without being noticed.”

“Mirella is so good at it,” Adolorata says. 

Fugo raises an eyebrow. “Cool,” he says. “I’m up for whatever.” 

“Let’s make the usual rounds, then!” Adolorata says, and heads off towards the shops. Mink shrugs at the other two and follows.

They whirl through the daily motions of the Trapani soldati, knocking on the back doors of bars and checking on ship captains. It’s quiet, this time of year, and they don’t run into any trouble, so Fugo and Giorno take the time to pry into the squad’s daily affairs, subtly teasing information out of Mirella and Adolorata. They find out that Silvio and Nicostrato are closer than most, that Aloisio won’t tell anyone their past, that meetings of those three have been happening more and more often lately. Silvio is secretive about his stand but insufferably transparent about the squad’s budget. 

They had a death in the squad a year ago that Aloisio hasn’t managed to get over, but Adolorata doesn’t remember witnessing. Adolorata has memory problems relatively frequently— she says it’s all the knocks to her head. 

They’ve made it about halfway through their rounds before Adolorata starts asking about Giorno Giovanna. 

“You’ve met him, haven’t you?” she asks Fugo and Haruno. “I want to know what he’s like! Is he really only sixteen?” 

“Yeah,” Fugo says, raising an eyebrow. “And he’s, like, tiny.” 

“Oh, cute,” Adolorata sighs. “Do you really hate him that much? Nico said you hated him.” 

“Um,” says Fugo. “I dunno if hate is the right word.” 

Giorno puffs up a little at the word tiny and shoots Fugo an annoyed look. Fugo raises an eyebrow at Giorno. 

“I wonder if I would like him,” Adolorata says. “Have you met him, Haruno? What do you think?” 

“I've only met him briefly,” Giorno says, trying to think about how he probably comes across on first meetings. “I don't know. He just seems quiet and confident and probably pretty lonely.”

“Oh,” says Adolorata.

“Oh,” says Fugo.

Giorno shrugs. Fugo takes his hand, almost absent-mindedly. Giorno gives it a light squeeze.

“I’m sure he'd like you both,” Giorno says to Mink and Adolorata. “From, ah, what I've seen of him.”

Adolorata laughs. “Sure, ‘cause you know him so well.” 

Giorno shrugs and shares a secret smile with Fugo. “I'm a good judge of character.”

Mink happens to glance back at them in time to see the smile. Misinterpreting it, she pretends to gag. “We get it, you're cute.”

Fugo blushes. “Fuck off,” he says. 

“Oh my god,” says Adolorata, “that reminds me! Please please tell me how you two got together!”

Giorno looks at Fugo with wide eyes. “It's...not that exciting of a story.”

“Go on, tell them,” Fugo says, his mouth twitching like he’s trying to hide a smile. 

Giorno purses his lips. Then suddenly, he smiles sweetly, a glint in his eye that should have Fugo very scared. 

Fugo’s eyes widen.

“We'd been friends for a little while, at the time,” Giorno begins. “Well, I say friends , but poor Pannacotta could barely look at me without clamming up.” He smiles adoringly at Fugo, for effect. “He was so obvious. He'd go all red, trip over his words whenever he tried to talk to me. I thought he was weird, at first, but I soon realized he was just shy.”

Mink snickers. Fugo glares at Giorno, blushing, of course. “You’re cruel,” he says. 

“Anyways,” Giorno continues happily, “I started dropping hints that I liked him, to make it easier for him to talk to me. You know, flirting, paying him compliments, arranging for us to be alone together, even holding his hand. I wasn't very subtle at all, but poor Fugo was as oblivious as he was oblivious. I was sure I'd have to spell it out for him. Isn't that right, love?”

Fugo blinks, gears turning in his mind. “Uh, yeah,” he says, too distracted to freak out appropriately at the use of the word love

“He figured it out eventually,” Giorno continues, not noticing Fugo's distant reaction, “And asked me out. Well, he tried. He managed to get out the words 'us’ and 'date’ before shoving a bouquet of roses at me, tears streaming down his face the whole time,” Giorno finishes with a playful smirk at Fugo.

“Shut up, I don’t cry that easily,” Fugo says. 

Mink is cracking up, at this point.

“Well, fine, but you were shaking like a leaf.  I thought you might drop dead of a heart attack before you even got the question out,” Giorno says. He eyes Fugo a moment, then deciding to seize the opportunity while he has it, leans over and kisses Fugo’s cheek. “I’m so glad you let me tell the story, tesoro . I do love telling it.”

“You’re a monster. That is not how it happened,” Fugo says, going beet red. Oh, boy. Oh no. He can feel a spot of heat on his cheek where Giorno’s lips just were, and an uncomfortable certainty in his heart. Giorno Giovanna has a crush on him. Giorno Giovanna has a crush. On him

Adolorata laughs. “That’s adorable,” she says. “Aw, Pannacotta, I didn’t know you could be cute.” 

“He has moments,” Giorno says, watching Fugo. He frowns, trying to read Fugo’s expression.

Fugo sticks his tongue out at him. 

Giorno laughs. “That wasn’t one of them.”

Fugo’s a bit distracted to tease back. Giorno Giovanna has a crush on him. 

“We were lucky we got sent here together,” Giorno continues, swinging their hands. 

“Oh, I dunno,” Adolorata says. “Maybe Giorno Giovanna knew, and did it on purpose!” 

Fugo chokes, and disguises it hastily as a sneeze. 

“Maybe,” Giorno says uncertainly, studying Fugo. “You're not getting sick, are you?”

“I dunno,” he says. “I was out in the rain a lot yesterday.” He’s definitely red in the face. 

“Well,” says Adolorata, “if I was in charge, and I found out my subordinates were dating? I’d totally use that against them. Like Nico is.” 

Fugo’s eyes snap to her. Giorno frowns.

Dora ,” Mink snaps. “Don't say that.”

“What?” she pouts. “I mean, it’s obvious.” 

“Who fucking cares if it’s obvious; you shouldn’t say it ,” Mink says.

“I just mean that I would do the same thing,” she sighs. “Wouldn’t you?” 

“Uh,” says Fugo. He can’t entirely restrain himself from stepping slightly in front of Giorno. 

“See?” Adolorata says, gesturing at them. 

“I would,” Giorno says quietly. “Or at least, I’d keep it in mind.”

“Right!” Adolorata says. “It’s just normal.” 

“It’s fucked up,” Mink says. She frowns at Fugo and Giorno. “You guys might wanna cool it down in front of him. For your sake.”

“It’s too late for that,” Fugo says. 

“I thought yesterday you wanted to protect him,” Giorno says.

“Nico? Never. It’s the others I was worried about,” Mink says darkly.

Giorno looks thoughtful.

“Pretend to break up?” Mink suggests.

Fugo scoffs. 

“No, he’s too smart for that,” Adolorata agrees. “Just, like, try not to die, maybe?” 

Giorno raises an eyebrow. “Is that something you suspect we should be wary of?”

Adolorata shrugs. “I dunno. I guess not.” 

“I’m not worried about it,” Fugo says. He squeezes Giorno’s hand. 

“I hope you don’t mind me asking,” Giorno begins, “But you all seem...wary of the Capo. Can I ask why?”

Mink frowns and looks at Adolorata.

“We respect him,” Adolorata says. “I mean, he’s the Capo, right? Also, he can be really scary.” She glances at Mink.

“Yeah,” Mink agrees carefully. 

“I guess. It just isn’t always--,” Giorno stops, reconsiders the sentence. “It wasn’t like this in my old squad.”

“Welcome to Trapani,” Adolorata says. 

Giorno sighs and looks at Fugo. Fugo pulls their joined hands up to his mouth and kisses the back of Giorno’s knuckles lightly. “Don’t worry too much about it,” he says, then freezes. Why did he do that? 

Giorno smiles at him, amused, his eyes tracking the movement. “I wasn't.”

Fugo blushes and pats his hand a bit. “Good. Uh, what else were we doing today?” 

Mink shrugs. “Unless you wanna head out of town and see the windmills, there’s not much more to show you.”

“Windmills?” Giorno asks, for appearances.

“We make money off them,” Mink says, waving a hand. “Somehow. Nico and Silvio handle it, mostly.” 

“I didn’t know that,” Giorno lies. “Do you think that’s what they’re off doing now?”

“Who knows,” Mink says, looking at Adolorata.

“I got the feeling Giacalone wasn’t psyched to go with them,” Fugo says, pushing where he can. He kicks a rock along the ground. 

Adolorata snorts. “They’re not psyched about anything .” 

“But they seemed unhappy about this,” Giorno prods.

“Well, in case you hadn't noticed, Silvio's not the most fun to hang out with and Nico's...Nico,” Mink says.

“Yeah,” Adolorata says. “No one likes hanging out with them.” 

“That's fair,” Giorno says. “Does that mean you guys are strictly business, then? You don't all hang out outside of work?”

Adolorata shrugs. “Sometimes me and Aloisio go get comic books?” 

“This isn't a book club,” Mink snaps. “It's the mafia.”

Giorno raises his hands in acquiescence and backs off. He's not sure how much more they'll be able to wring out of these two without arousing suspicion.

Fugo yawns, his hand feeling suspiciously empty now that Giorno’s let go of it. “I guess we’ll head home, then,” he says. 

Giorno drops Fugo's hand. He's not looking at Fugo, nor does he even seem to have heard what Fugo said. He's gone as still as a marble statue and just as cold, his gaze fixed on something across the street, where in a nearly-hidden corner of a dark alley, two shadowy figures seemed to be having some sort of exchange. 

Fugo follows his gaze and frowns. 

Adolorata waves at them. “Hello? What’s with those faces?”

“Are you going to do anything about that?” Giorno asks.

Mink follows his gaze, turning her head in the direction of the alley, but her eyes seem to skim over it, as if it isn’t there. “Why would we?” she asks glumly.

“Because-,” Giorno starts, then stops. His jaw works as he thinks of an answer, despite how hard he tries not to let his frustration show. “Because you’re supposed to.”

“Says who?”

“Says your Don .”

“I don’t know Giorno Giovanna for shit. I know Nico , and he’s told us to leave that sort of thing for him to handle,” Mink says.

“And does he?” Giorno asks, looking at both Mink and Adolorata, now. “Handle it?”

Adolorata shrugs. “I’d assume so,” she says, but sounds unsure. 

“I can tell you’re both uncomfortable with this. Why let it stand?”

“No, you--,” Mink begins, but Giorno cuts her off. 

“You won’t look at them,” he says. “ Look at them, Mink. One of them can’t be any older than me and Adolorata.” 

When neither of them respond, Giorno continues. “This isn’t an isolated incident, it isn’t a free choice made between individuals. It isn’t something you can ignore. There’s a reason Giorno Giovanna has been fighting so hard to end things like this-- people are pushed to drugs by suffering, and the more they take, the less choice they have. Then their suffering spreads. It affects everyone . Their families, their friends, the innocents around them. All of Trapani is affected by this, and all of Trapani will continue to suffer until it’s stopped . Whoever’s behind this is insulting Trapani and everyone in it. They’re insulting humanity, insulting dignity, insulting the future, insulting life itself. This can’t be allowed to continue.”

Adolorata blinks. “You really believe in him, don’t you,” she says. 

“I do, yes,” Giorno says.

Adolorata looks sort of sad for a minute. “I used to,” she says. “Anyway. Um. What do you want us to do about it?”

Giorno frowns at Adoralata’s “ used to ”; so does Mink. “I want you to want to do something about it,” Giorno says. “And maybe not now, but when-- if-- the time comes, I want you to fight for your city.” 

Adolorata blinks. “Hmm,” she says, then glances down the alley at the two figured concluding their deal. “Alright.” She turns and starts walking towards them. Her body shimmers as she does, as if her soul was escaping, and an intangible shadow hovers behind her, not yet fully formed. 

“Damn it,” Mink says, watching her go. “ Damn it . You two-- you-- how did you-- ugh !” And with that, Mink storms after Adolorata, her knife appearing in her hand and her body taking on the same shimmering form as her squadmate's.

“Don't go after them,” Giorno tells Fugo when he starts to move, and he's not Giogio anymore. He's Don Giovanna, now. “Let them do this on their own.”

Fugo nods and hangs back, pulling back into himself until only the role of Don Giovanna’s chief strategist shows. He crosses his arms. 

Adolorata comes back first, wiping a spray of blood off of her face. “Gross,” she says,”then peers at Giorno and Fugo. “Did you see?” 

“Nope,” says Fugo, closing his eyes. 

“Good. Stands are a secret,” she says prissily. 

“Nico's going to kill us,” Mink mutters.

“No, he won't,” Giorno says. “You did the right thing.”

Mink stares at Giorno a moment, incredulous, then starts laughing. “You are so fucking weird, Shiobana.”

Giorno tenses. The way she'd pronounced his name sounded a little too close to the real thing. “So I've been told.”

Fugo frowns. “Are we done here?” 

Mink throws her hands up. “Yeah, I guess, unless you want to flip some more of our lives upside down.”

“Tempting,” Giorno says with a wry smile.

Fugo frowns at her, then at Giorno. “Well, okay,” he says, and turns. “See you tomorrow, then.”

Adolorata frowns at him. “Yeah. Bye.”

Chapter Text

“Come on.” Giorno leads Fugo away, holding his arm. He's still not moved past that whole incident, and it shows in the way he holds himself. Fugo lets himself be tugged, watching Giorno carefully. 

“We have to get to the bottom of this,” Giorno says, when they're far enough from Mirella and Adolorata. “No more games.”

Fugo nods. “Of course.” 

“We'll start from the drugs and try to trace our way back to the source,” Giorno says, thinking. “It'll be more efficient than what we've been doing.”

“I can set up surveillance on possible supply routes,” Fugo muses. 

“Yes,” Giorno says. “Do that. Do you think we should bring Sheila in to help?”

Fugo considers this. “Only if we can ensure she has no contact with Abelli or his memory manipulation,” he says. “Her stand is only good so long as she remembers what she heard.” 

“We still don't know if it's Abelli doing that,” Giorno says. “But I agree.” 

“He’s clearly in charge of it either way,” Fugo says. “He needs to be watched.”

“Do you have a plan in mind?” Giorno asks.

Fugo hums. “Other than leaning into his interest in my stand, no, but it might not hurt to keep tabs on him after he splits off from the group. That would be easier if we didn’t have to explain why to the rest of them— either by taking on solo tasks or by securing their trust, I think, or a combination of such.” 

Giorno frowns. “Every day we draw this out is another day that the people of Trapani suffer.”

Fugo scuffs his foot against the ground. “This is inherently a long game,” he says to Giorno. “Rushing in will make it dangerous.” 

“Dangerous to us, Fugo. It's already dangerous to others,” Giorno admonishes. “I'm going to end this, sooner rather than later.”

Fugo frowns. “All right,” he says. “I’ll follow you in whatever you choose.” 

“Thank you,” Giorno says, giving Fugo's arm a gentle squeeze. “I won't give them the chance to mess with our memories again.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I thought that might be obvious,” Giorno says.

“Huh?”

“I'm going to kill whoever’s behind this,” Giorno explains, “The second I find them.”

Fugo studies him carefully for a second. “Okay,” he says, and shrugs. “I’m yours, however you need me.” 

Giorno raises an eyebrow, some of the tension finally eeking out of him.

Fugo blushes. “Oh, you know what I mean,” he sighs. 

“Yes, I do,” Giorno says, but his smirk doesn't go away.

Fugo rolls his eyes, but he’s still red in the face. 

“Come on, let's go home,” Giorno says. “We can talk more about how to approach this there. I did appoint you my strategist for a reason.”

Fugo snorts. “Alright. Lead the way.” 

Giorno does. He doesn't take Fugo's hand this time, on the walk, and seems lost in thought most of the way.

Fugo sticks his hands in his pockets, just as quiet as Giorno. A particular line of Giorno’s sticks in his head— no more games . Is that what this has been, then, and now things are going back to normal? Fugo curses himself internally for getting used to it. Of course that’s what it was. He’s an idiot for thinking otherwise. 

He’s annoyed to find that he’s disappointed. 

They get up to their little apartment, and Giorno immediately slips into the bathroom to change. He stares at himself in the mirror and sees the cold anger there, and he sighs. It's no wonder Sheila and Fugo and so many others think him inhuman sometimes, when he gets like this. 

Fugo is probably right. Handling this cautiously is probably better than rushing in, and Giorno knows his emotions are clouding his judgment. Seeing that exchange today reminded him not only of how blatantly his wishes are being ignored here in Trapani, but also brought him back to the time before all this began.

Before he met Bruno Buccellati, he'd felt powerless to stop it. He'd known where he wanted to be, but not how to get there. There'd been nothing he could do, and he really hates feeling useless. 

It's supposed to be different now. He's supposed to have the power to change things. Nicostrato Abelli, or whoever it is smuggling the drugs, is getting in his way and it's making him angry.

There's also the way Abelli treats Fugo, making things worse. It makes Giorno feel even more useless than the drug thing does, because he's right there , but he can't help, not as Haruno. Haruno has no power. He hates seeing Fugo so uncomfortable, and it's making him want to wrap up this mission quickly, if only so Abelli can never say another word to Fugo again. 

Giorno sighs and heads back into the room.

Fugo looks up from a stack of papers on the table, his elegant handwriting slanting every which way across it. “I drew up a few plans,” he says, “but I don’t think I have anything particularly solid yet.” 

Giorno wanders over, stands behind him, and reads over his shoulder. “This is a good start. Thank you.”

“Of course,” Fugo says. “I’ll call Sheila and see what she thinks about coming here and laying low.” 

“Sure,” Giorno says, unable to stop himself from reaching out and playing with a lock of Fugo's hair. 

He wants this mission over with, wants the drug trade here to be destroyed completely, but there’s a part of him that wishes he and Fugo could go on living like this, together, cozy, close. A part of him that wishes they were actually dating, so he could hug Fugo and have Fugo hold him in return, so he could unload his insecurities and frustrations. That same part of him wishes he could content himself with Fugo's friendship, because that's already more than he ever thought he'd get.

Fugo turns and looks up at him, questioning. Giorno’s hand is gentle in his hair. Giorno only smiles at him, trying not to let it be as sad as he feels. He's not sure he succeeds.

“What’s wrong?” Fugo asks, soft. 

“I…” Giorno starts, not sure how to continue. “Would you consider, when we get back--,”

He's interrupted by an insistent knock on their door. He starts, eyes wide, and looks from the door to Fugo. Fugo frowns at him, then gets up to answer it. He barely has it open a sliver before none other than Nicostrato Abelli is shoving his way inside, eyes wide and grin sharp. 

“Well, this is cozy,” he says brightly, looking around. When his back is turned, Giorno quickly turns Fugo's plans into a bouquet of flowers and gathers them all up.

Nico turns, then raises an eyebrow at the flowers. 

“Fugo got them for me,” Giorno explains, backing up to the kitchen. “To liven the place up. I was about to find a vase.”

Fugo shrugs, and nods. “Can I help you?” he asks Abelli. 

“Thought I'd come and apologize for having to leave you all so suddenly this morning. What did you all do after we left?” he asks.

Giorno watches him closely. Abelli seems more on edge than usual, but he can't tell if there's anything behind the question but genuine curiosity. 

“Adolorata and Mirella showed us their usual rounds,” Fugo says. “The shops, the gambling, the wharfs. Standard.” He crosses his arms. 

“Is that so?” Abelli asks, rounding on Fugo, getting too close for comfort. His voice is casual, even when everything else about him is not. “How generous of them.”

Fugo backs up slightly until he hits the door, which is still open. “Uh, yeah. It was.” 

“There was a murder near the wharf,” Abelli says, starting unblinkingly at Fugo, “Just this afternoon. Looked like it was done by a stand user. Did you see anything strange while you were down there?”

“No,” Fugo says, frowning. “Was it one of our people?”

“No,” Abelli says easily, “Just some scum. Still, don't want an unchecked stand user running around our turf, do we? When I find who's responsible, the punishment will be…horrific,” Abelli finishes with a smile.

Fugo has a sinking feeling in his gut. “I don’t know who it was, but am I correct in assuming I may be part of the punishment?” 

“You really are a clever one, aren't you?”

“Nico,” Giorno says, coldly. Abelli turns to look at him, surprised, as if he'd forgotten Giorno was there. Giorno hadn’t actually meant to speak up, so he thinks quickly. “Fugo's stand isn't the only one good for painful deaths. Don't underestimate mine.”

Abelli grins like a delighted child. “Haruno, are you threatening me?”

Giorno blinks. “No, of course not,” he says, innocently. He sounds so earnest . “I’m only saying that I could be of use to you, too, and I'd like the chance to prove myself. Fugo's already gotten his, after all.”

Fugo glances at Giorno and worries his lip. “It’s fine, Haruno,” he says. “It’s my job.” 

“If the kid wants to prove himself, who am I to stop him?” Abelli asks, barely glancing at Fugo. “What was it you said your stand does, Haruno? Puts people's bodies out of sync?”

Giorno nods. 

“Interesting. I fail to see how painful a death that could cause, but I guess you'll just have to demonstrate.”

“I would be happy to,” Giorno says, expression carefully blank.

“He's way more enthusiastic about it than you,” Abelli says to Fugo. “I appreciate that in an employee. Careful, or he might become my new favorite.”

Fugo glances at Giorno, then frowns. “How much more enthusiastic do you need me to be?” he mutters. He doesn’t want Giorno anywhere near this man. 

Abelli laughs. “Ooh, a challenge between lovers, competing to be the Capo’s new favorite,” he says gleefully. He seems to have completely forgotten about the murdered dealer in light of this new game. “I think you’re upsetting your little boyfriend, Fugo. Keep it up and maybe he’ll find a new favorite, too.”

Fugo scowls. “Whatever,” he says. “Is that all you wanted?” 

“It was, but wants change,” Abelli says, still smiling at Giorno.

Fugo follows his gaze. He wonders if his anxiety is obvious on his face. “Oh?” he asks. 

“You can do better,” Abelli says, wandering deeper into the small room. “Than this apartment, I mean.”

“It was all we could find available on short notice,” Giorno says. He doesn’t seem at all fazed by Abelli approaching, and doesn’t move back the way Fugo did.

“Let me poke around for you, see if I can find better,” Abelli offers.

“We’re fine here,” Fugo says. He keeps the door open. 

“Are you?” Abelli asks.

“For now,” Giorno says, “But thank you, Capo.”

“Thank you both,” Abelli says with a flourish. “I will find whoever was behind today's death. Then, Haruno, I look forward to seeing what you can do.”

Fugo watches Abelli with wide eyes. 

“Well, I'll leave you to it. Let me know if you change your mind,” Abelli says, backing toward the door, “About the apartment.”

Giorno nods. “I will.”

Fugo scoots back out of the way as Abelli approaches him. 

Abelli just smirks at the movement and gives Fugo a playful little wave. “See you tomorrow,” he says, and then he's gone.

Fugo closes the door and locks it, then turns and leans against it, his hair obscuring his face.

Giorno sighs and promptly turns the flowers in his hands back into reports. “He's such a pain.”

“He freaks me out,” Fugo says. “I don’t like how he looks at you.”

Giorno shrugs. “He likes being challenged. It's just a game, and you're letting him win. He does it on purpose.”

Fugo scowls at him. “I know. That doesn’t mean I like it.” 

“Why does it bother you so much,” Giorno begins, watching Fugo curiously, “The way he looks at me?

“Lots of reasons,” Fugo says. 

“Tell them to me,” Giorno says.

“He looks at you like he’s trying to figure out how to take you apart and use the pieces,” Fugo says, “and I don’t like that he thinks he can fucking do that.” 

“He can't, though,” Giorno says. “So what does it matter what he thinks?”

“He might try!” Fugo says.

“That doesn't mean he would succeed.”

“That doesn’t matter!”

Giorno frowns. “Why not?”

“Because I care about you, and I don’t— I don’t— I just— agh,” Fugo says, brushing his hair out of his face in frustration. 

Giorno's eyebrows draw further together, but he doesn't say anything.

“Why shouldn’t it bother me?” Fugo asks, desperately. 

“I just thought,” Giorno begins, then shakes his head. “I'm not in any actual danger, so I wasn't sure why it would.”

Fugo sighs. “I know he’s just trying to rile me up. But it’s working .” 

“I don't know how to help you with that,” Giorno says, sighing as well. 

Fugo groans and slides his back down the door until he’s sitting in a slump on the floor. 

“It might help if I understood why it was working,” Giorno says, pushing a little further. There’s something knowing in his expression, something patient. Like he’s guiding Fugo to the answer, not asking for it. “You only repeated that it bothers you. You never told me why .”

“I did tell you,” Fugo says. “I care about you. I don’t like thinking of him near you, not with his intentions.” 

Giorno sighs, puts his hands on his hips. “His intentions? Fugo, he's threatening me because he thinks we’re dating and it’ll upset you, but we're not dating . So tell me why his plan is working so well.”

Fugo blinks at him. 

Oh. 

Oh

Oh, no. 

Giorno raises an eyebrow.

“It’s,” Fugo says, then stops. He sighs. “I’m sorry. It’s not my place, I’m overstepping.” 

“What?” Giorno asks, nose wrinkling in confusion.

“You’re the Don. Of course you can take care of yourself. I’m sorry for treating you otherwise.” 

Theoretically, Fugo is aware that he could tell Giorno the truth, and Giorno would, probably, most likely, not turn him away. But it’s too fresh in his mind and he can’t think for all the emotions in his head, so he freezes up. 

Giorno sighs. “I don’t need protection from the scary capo, or the seventeen year old girl with a knife, or whatever other dangers we happen across on this mission. I understand being concerned. I’m concerned about Abelli’s interest in you, too, but I also know that you’re strong and you can handle it, if worse comes to worst. I wish you’d feel the same way about me.”

“I know,” says Fugo. “I know you can take care of yourself.” He drops his forehead onto his knees. 

“Then treat me like it.”

“Okay,” Fugo says. 

“Fugo,” Giorno says gently, moving to sit beside him on the floor. “I do appreciate your concern, really. And I appreciate that you care. It’s not really something I’ve seen a lot of.”

Fugo turns and looks at him out of the corner of his eye. 

“It's nice,” Giorno says with an encouraging smile. “It feels nice, having someone care so much, so thank you. I shouldn't complain.”

“Do you not have anyone else?” Fugo asks. 

Giorno considers this. “Not really. I never have.” Giorno considers this. “Unless you’d count an old gangster who was kind to me because I saved his life. I still don't know his name.”

Fugo looks at him in shock, then buries his face in his hands. 

“So you wouldn’t count it, then?” Giorno asks mildly..

“How do you not have anyone else?” Fugo asks. There’s a hitch in his voice, and he keeps his face covered. 

“I don't,” Giorno begins, watching Fugo with open concern. “I don't know. I mean, I've got...distant family, now, that I don't really know, and work...friends. I guess. Are you okay?”

Fugo’s silent for a minute, then sits up and rubs at his eyes. “Even I had more than that,” he says quietly. “I feel like you deserve more than just me.” 

“I'm fine, really. I'm used to being alone.” 

“You shouldn’t have to be, though,” Fugo says, looking at Giorno. “I’m not good at— at emotions, or keeping friends, or being… there for people when they need it,” he says, “but I want to be, for you, and I want you to have more than that. Even if you’re okay alone. You should be happy, not just okay.” 

“I am happy,” Giorno says. “My expectations aren't high-- not because of you, more because of the life I've led-- and you've surpassed them again and again. You don't have to be anything other than yourself for me to-- to be happy.”

Fugo watches him for a minute. “I’m glad,” he says. “I’m really glad.” He sits in silence for few seconds, thinking and tapping his fingers on his knees. “It’s not that I think you need protection,” he says. “I just think you shouldn’t have to deal with unpleasant shit. Like Abelli.” 

“Funny, I feel the same about you,” Giorno says. “I'd rather him target me than keep going after you.”

Fugo blinks at him. “I— oh. That— oh, I see.” 

Giorno raises an eyebrow. “Did you not before?”

Fugo shakes his head. 

“What did you think I was doing, earlier? I wanted him to stop bugging you.”

“I wasn’t thinking,” Fugo says. 

“Pannacotta, for the smartest person I know,” Giorno begins fondly, “You really can miss huge things, sometimes.”

“I know,” Fugo says, blushing. 

“At least you get there eventually,” Giorno says, still giving Fugo that fond smile.

Fugo snorts. “Yeah, I guess.” He rests his cheek on his knees and watches Giorno carefully. 

“But about...dealing with unpleasantness,” Giorno says, “You can't save me from it entirely, and I can't save you from it, either. It's just a part of life. What you can do is help make good moments that outshine the unpleasant ones. I know I don't have the most experience, but that's what friends are for, I think.”

“Does being friends with me really make you happy?” 

“Yes,” Giorno says, smiling. “Very.”

Fugo smiles back. He finds that he very much wants to kiss Giorno. The idea of it sends a thrill of fear into his stomach, and he freezes up again. 

Giorno regards Fugo curiously, head tilting to one side. “What, do I have something on my face?” he teases.

Fugo laughs. “No,” he says. He reaches out and runs a hand along Giorno’s cheek, brushing his hair back. His eyes track the way the curls move under his fingers. 

Giorno's breath catches at the touch, or maybe it's the sound of Fugo's laughter. His eyes widen.

Then, Fugo leans in and kisses him.

Chapter Text

Fugo leans in and kisses him. Giorno stills for a moment, then all at once, melts against Fugo. He kisses back, his fingers reaching up to hesitantly trace along Fugo's jaw. Fugo winds a hand into his hair and kisses Giorno again, a trace of desperation bleeding in his movements, and it makes Giorno's breath catch in his throat. He feels warm, happy. He cups Fugo’s cheeks more firmly in his hands; his skin is soft beneath Giorno's fingers.

Fugo sighs. “Giogio,” he says. 

Giorno pulls back just enough to study Fugo's face. “Yes?”

Fugo leans into him. “I really like you.” 

A smile breaks through Giorno's uncertain expression. “I really like you, too.”

Fugo kisses him again. “And I think you’re beautiful,” he says dreamily. 

Giorno laughs and threads his fingers through Fugo's hair. “Thank you. I think you're beautiful, too.”

Another kiss. “And,” Fugo continues, “I’m really glad you’re not mad at me for doing this.” 

“No, I'm really glad you're doing this,” Giorno breathes. “But how do you feel about moving this off the floor? I don't want to think too much about the last time it was probably cleaned.”

Fugo watches him with that dreamy look still in his eyes. “Sure,” he says. “Whatever you want.” 

Giorno smiles at Fugo-- can't seem to stop smiling at him, actually-- and pulls him to his feet. Rather than move them any further, he presses Fugo against the door and kisses him again. Fugo squeaks, surprised, and tips his head for a different angle, his hands resting lightly on Giorno’s shoulders. 

Giorno laughs at the noise Fugo made before pulling back. His hands tangle in Fugo's shirt and stay there, holding on tight. 

“Giogio,” Fugo sighs, running his hands down Giorno’s back. 

Giorno hums. “I love that you call me that.”

“Giogio,” Fugo says again, almost reverently. His touch is light and still hesitant, and he rests his hands on Giorno’s waist. 

“Stop hesitating. I’m not going to break, or push you away, or whatever it is you’re afraid of,” Giorno says, bringing one of Fugo’s hands to his lips and kissing it. 

Fugo pauses. “I’m not— ,” he says. “I’m not sure what I’m allowed to do.” 

“We can figure it out together. You are allowed to do this ,” Giorno says, returning Fugo’s hand to his waist. Fugo pulls back just a bit, just enough to wrap his arms around Giorno and tuck his face into Giorno’s shoulder. Giorno laughs and runs his fingers through Fugo’s hair, kissing his cheek where he can reach.

Fugo hums and closes his eyes. Giorno smells like something soft and floral, maybe his soap, and it’s comforting and clean. He could stay like this forever, he thinks. Giorno closes his eyes and goes on idly petting Fugo’s hair. 

Fugo tightens his grip and hums. “Hey,” he says. 

“Hm?” Giorno asks.

“What were you going to ask me before Abelli came in?” 

“Oh, um,” Giorno says, blushing. “I was going to ask you on a date.”

Fugo cracks up. 

“Is that funny?” Giorno asks, staring at him with wide eyes.

“In hindsight? Yeah, a bit,” Fugo says, still laughing. “I would love to go on a date with you, Giogio.” 

“Oh. Well, good,” Giorno says, still blushing. “I’m glad.”

“After all this is over,” Fugo says softly. “That’ll be nice.” 

Giorno nods.

“Did you want to,” Fugo starts, and then kisses Giorno again quickly, “did you want to go over any more plans?”

“Hmm,” Giorno says, resting his forehead against Fugo’s and letting his eyes fall shut. “We probably should.”

“I don’t want to move,” Fugo grumbles. 

“We could move somewhere more comfortable,” Giorno purrs, “And go over plans there.”

Fugo blushes, eyes wide. “Okay,” he says, slightly breathless. 

Giorno looks up at Fugo through his eyelashes and smiles, then takes Fugo's hand and pulls him over to the bed, pausing only to grab the plans on the table, now turned from flowers back into paper. Fugo trips after him and they tumble into the bed, laughing, a tangle of limbs and hair and papers.  Giorno immediately latches onto Fugo's side, winding his arms around his waist and burying his face in Fugo's neck. “Now tell me about your plans,” he says.

“Uh,” says Fugo. Giorno’s breath is warm on his collarbone and his hair is tickling his face and his arms are strong and solid around his waist and Fugo can’t fucking think . He settles a hand in Giorno’s hair and plays with it absently, carding his fingers through the long golden strands. 

Giorno sits up and smiles at Fugo. “Eloquently put,” he says, his eyes dancing with laughter.

Fugo pouts. “I can’t think with you all over me like this.” 

“Oh no,” Giorno says, draping himself further across Fugo. “What can we do about that?”

“Not strategize, apparently,” Fugo breathes. He runs the backs of his fingers down the side of Giorno’s face. 

“Tomorrow morning, over breakfast, then,” Giorno compromises, leaning into the touch.

“Sure,” says Fugo.

“Patience is a virtue, after all. We'll have a better plan if we take our time and don't act impulsively.”

Fugo hums. “A longer game, then,” he says, running his thumb over Giorno’s cheekbone. 

Giorno nods and scoots up to kiss Fugo. Fugo kisses him back, soft and sweet, trying to move his mouth in a natural way without thinking too hard about it. 

Giorno hums and pulls away again. “Have you ever done this before?”

“No,” says Fugo. 

Giorno relaxes at this, and resettles against Fugo's side. “Me neither.”

“Am I bad at it?” Fugo asks. 

“No!” Giorno says. “Not at all. Just...hesitant.”

Fugo sighs, a short huff of breath against Giorno’s hair. “I’m sort of scared.”

“Don't be,” Giorno says. “I'm as new to this as you are, and there's nothing you can do to scare me away.”

Fugo thinks about this, closing his eyes. “Yeah,” he says. “I think I believe you.” 

Giorno beams at him. “Good.”

“I am,” Fugo says, “really happy.” 

Giorno laughs, the sound bubbly and completely unbefitting the Don of the mafia. “ Good .”

Giorno runs his fingers lightly over Fugo's lips, then up along his cheekbone, and down over his jaw. He holds Fugo's face in his hands and kisses every part of it he can reach. Fugo gasps slightly and leans up into it. 

“Giogio,” he says. It’s almost a question. He feels like he has too many emotions in him to hold and they’re going to come spilling out of him if Giorno keeps this up. 

“Yes,” Giorno breathes. It's almost an answer.

“Giogio, I—,” Fugo starts, and his breath catches. Every kiss Giorno leaves on his skin burns. 

“Yes?” Giorno says again, against Fugo’s skin.

Fugo closes his eyes tightly. He can already feel tears pricking at the backs of them. Giorno sits back to study him, brows furrowing.

“Fugo?” Giorno asks. His touch turns tender in an instant, and he cups Fugo’s cheeks. “Is this okay?”

“Yes,” Fugo sobs. “I— yes, it’s okay, I’m just— I don’t know.” 

“Don’t know what?” Giorno prods gently.

“It’s— I don’t know. I don’t know.” Something hot and wet tracks down his cheek. 

“Oh, Fugo,” Giorno says, worried now. He wipes away Fugo’s tears. “Don’t cry. Is this too much?”

“Yes,” Fugo says, then, “No.” He drops his head back against the pillow, tears leaking from the corners of his eyes and making tracks back into his hair. 

“Talk to me,” Giorno urges.

“I’m just really happy,” Fugo says, “and confused, and— overwhelmed. But it’s good. It’s good.”

“Oh, good,” Giorno sighs. “Good.” He bites back the three words that had found their way unbidden to the tip of his tongue. He won't overwhelm Fugo further, not yet.

Fugo pulls Giorno close again and tucks his head under his own chin, pressing a kiss to his crown. Giorno curls into Fugo and kisses his collarbone in return, smiling to himself.  It’s silent for a minute, Fugo laying with his eyes closed and carding his fingers through Giorno’s hair. It's calming.

“Did you already know I liked you when you kissed me?” Giorno asks, tracing light patterns into Fugo's shirt. “Or was it a calculated risk?”

“I did,” Fugo says, “but it was a risk all the same.”

Giorno laughs, the sound soft and breathy. “Which of my subtle hints finally clued you in?” 

“The one where you pointed out that the rest weren’t actually subtle.” 

Giorno laughs again, louder this time. “I didn't actually mean to say that,” he says. “I got all caught up in the web of my own hubris. By which I mean that absolutely ridiculous story.”

Fugo snorts. “It was too close.” 

“Well, I regret nothing. I figured it out when you started telling me about the organ pipes, if you were wondering.”

“Huh?”

“'It's a lot of fucking pipes’,” Giorno quotes. “At the cathedral. That's when I realized how much I liked you-- well, no. That's not true. It's when I realized that I liked you. I didn't realize how much until later.”

Fugo looks at him with wide eyes. 

“It was cute,” Giorno says defensively. “You'd barely ever joked around with me before.”

“If only I’d known sooner that being a dweeb was the way to your heart,” Fugo says, dryly. 

Giorno clutches his heart. “It makes me weak.”

Fugo laughs. “So what did I do that made you realize how much you liked me, then?” he asks, half sarcastically. “Put my shirt on inside out?”

“No,” Giorno says, no longer playful. “It was when you left the apartment the other day. When it was raining, and we talked after.”

Fugo blinks. “When I was panicking?” 

“Yes,” Giorno says.

“Why?” 

“I don’t know,” Giorno says, “But I felt it then, in my heart.”

Fugo looks at him with a soft expression.  “Did you know that I liked you, before I kissed you?” Fugo asks.

“Suspected,” Giorno says, “Because of the way you look at me sometimes. But I didn't know if you'd do anything about it, and I wouldn't have until I was sure.”

“I actually, uh,” Fugo starts, flushing. “Nevermind.” 

“Don't 'nevermind’ me,” Giorno says, sitting up enough that he can look down at Fugo. “You what?”

Fugo looks away, embarrassed. “I didn’t, uh, figure it out until today, actually.”

“And what did it?” Giorno asks, curious.

“Abelli,” Fugo says, even more embarrassed. 

“Just now?” Giorno asks, eyebrows drawing together. He frowns. “But you're...you're sure, right? This wasn't just...impulse?”

Fugo sits up, too, and takes Giorno’s hands in his. “I’m certain,” he says. “I’ve felt this way for a long time, I just hadn’t put a name to it.”

“Oh,” Giorno says, smiling again. “Good. I love you.”

Fugo freezes, squeezing Giorno’s hands. “You— you what?” 

“I love you,” Giorno repeats, a little more cautiously.

“Are you sure?” Fugo asks, faintly. 

“Completely.”

Fugo pinches himself. “Ow.”

Giorno snorts. “And did that help?”

Fugo leans in and takes Giorno’s face in his hands, kissing him desperately. Giorno laughs into the kiss, surprised, before kissing back. He barely has time to adjust to it before Fugo sits up and pulls Giorno closer, wrapping an arm around his waist and pulling him into his lap. Giorno twists, easily, so he’s straddling Fugo, as close as he can get, and winds his arms around Fugo’s shoulders.

Fugo leans up and kisses him and kisses him and kisses him and hopes that his emotions come through without the words, because he doesn’t think he can speak right now. Giorno just holds on and lets Fugo kiss him, lets him express himself however he needs. After a minute Fugo fists his hands in the back of Giorno’s shirt and pulls back to lean their foreheads together. He closes his eyes. 

“I—,” he starts, then freezes. 

Giorno traces his fingers lightly down Fugo’s cheeks, then his neck. “You…?”

“I,” Fugo tries again, and lapses back into silence. 

Giorno hums and kisses Fugo. “Take your time.”

Fugo sighs and shakes his head, cheeks burning. “Fuck. You know what I mean, though, right?”

“I’m not sure,” Giorno says, innocently. “Maybe not.”

Fugo groans. “Me too,” he says, with some effort. “I mean, I feel the same way.” 

“Maybe if you act it out,” Giorno says, expression entirely serious, except for his eyes. “We can play a game of charades.”

“Shut the fuck up, Giorno Giovanna,” Fugo says, glaring at him. 

Giorno’s eyes widen, and then he laughs. “How come you didn’t have any trouble saying that ?”

“You are infuriating,” Fugo sniffs, “but I love you.” 

Giorno snickers and kisses Fugo. "Thank you for saying it."

Fugo’s bright red, but he kisses Giorno back. 

Giorno pouts and pushes Fugo's cheeks together. “You're so cute.”

“Wh—,” Fugo stutters. “Shtop, I’m not!”

“Are you calling me , Giorno Giovanna, a liar?” Giorno teases, still holding Fugo's cheeks.

“Yesh.” 

Giorno fake gasps, then releases Fugo's cheeks to tangle his hands in his hair instead, pulling him close. “As Don of Passione, I won't stand for this kind of libel within my ranks.”

“Slander,” Fugo corrects. “Libel has to be written.” 

Giorno's smirk falls, his expression quickly turning petulant.

Fugo smirks. 

“Nerd,” Giorno says. The effect of the insult is slightly lessened by the way he kisses Fugo right after.

Fugo laughs, gasping slightly under Giorno’s attentions. “Oh, should I assume you’re into nerds as well as dweebs?” 

“I'm kissing you, aren't I?” Giorno asks between kisses. He trails them down to Fugo's jaw.

Fugo gasps. “I guess I don’t have anything to say to that,” he says. 

“Hmm,” Giorno says. His hands tighten in Fugo's hair, tipping his head back. “You don't have anything else to correct me on?”

Fugo swallows, going red. “N-no,” he says. 

Giorno hums and deliberately, thoughtfully sucks a mark into Fugo's skin, just above his collarbone. Fugo bites his lip with a sharp intake of breath.  Giorno grins into Fugo's skin and kisses his way back up, focusing his attention on the sensitive spot just below Fugo's earlobe. Fugo’s breath catches, and he tips his head back further. 

Giorno pushes him back down onto the bed and follows him down, kissing him lightly and laughing. Fugo kisses him back, his eyes half lidded and face flushed. 

Giorno sits up, takes Fugo's hands, and pins them on either side of his head before kissing him again, light and teasing. Fugo’s eyes get wide, really wide, and he watches Giorno carefully. Giorno hovers above Fugo, hair all pulled over one shoulder and brushing against Fugo's neck, and smiles down at him. The expression is fond and playful and smug all at once. Fugo feels like he’s being hunted. 

“Are you alright?” Giorno asks, sounding entirely unaffected. “You're a bit red.”

Fugo sighs and closes his eyes. “You’re going to kill me.” 

“Don't be silly,” Giorno says. “I'll just torture you a bit, until you concede defeat.”

“Defeat in what?” Fugo asks. He tests Giorno’s grip on his arms. 

"Oh, that's a broad question." Giorno smirks and tightens his grip. “How about this: I'm going to call you cute again, and you're going to agree with me.”

Fugo scoffs.

“You're cute,” Giorno says, and kisses Fugo.

Fugo hums and kisses him back. 

“You’re cute, and I love you,” Giorno says.

“I would not,” Fugo says, “call this torture.”

“I guess I’ll have to try harder,” Giorno says, grinning down at Fugo.

Fugo frowns at him. 

Giorno collapses against Fugo and winds his arms around him in a tight hug. “Later, though,” he says. “I just want to hold you, now.”

Fugo hums and relaxes, shifting until he can rest his head on Giorno’s shoulder. “I’m okay with that.” 

“Good,” Giorno says, the word muffled. He rolls off Fugo, onto his side, and cuddles closer.

“You’re warm,” Fugo hums. 

“Yeah,” Giorno says, “Living things tend to produce heat.”

Fugo snorts. “Explains why I’m always cold, then.” 

Giorno smiles into Fugo's shoulder and slips his hand under Fugo's shirt, trailing it up until it's resting over Fugo's heart. It's still beating quickly. “Hm, no, that's not it. Doesn't matter; I'll be here to warm you up, from now on.”

Giorno’s hand is warm and solid on his chest. Fugo relaxes, smiling at Giorno even as he blushes again. “I can live with that,” he says. 

Giorno kisses Fugo's shoulder in reply.

“I love you,” Fugo says, quietly. 

Giorno smiles, starts tracing soothing circles into Fugo's chest with his thumb, andFugo hums and cards his fingers through Giorno’s hair. Fugo sighs and pulls the blanket up over them both. 

“This is nice,” Giorno sighs, eyes still closed. “I'm very happy.”

“I am too,” Fugo replies. He twirls a lock of Giorno’s hair around his finger. 

“Good,” Giorno says, snuggling into Fugo's shoulder. “I like when you're happy.”

“You’re responsible for most of it,” Fugo hums. 

Giorno laughs. “I like that, too.” He frowns. “Is that selfish?”

Fugo smiles. “Dunno, don’t care.” 

Giorno laughs again, into Fugo’s shoulder. “Ah, good. I’ll take your word for it.”

Fugo hums softly in agreement, his breathing slowing. Giorno watches him through half-lidded eyes, fighting back a yawn himself. He wraps an arm around Fugo's waist and curls into him, as close as he can. Fugo moves closer to him almost subconsciously, mostly entirely asleep. 

“Goodnight, Pannacotta,” Giorno mumbles, not really expecting a response. He's asleep a moment later, anyway, still glued to Fugo's side. Fugo’s hand is slack in his hair and the two of them are quiet for the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

Giorno wakes slowly, too comfortable to come quickly and fully to consciousness. He snuggles closer to the warmth beside him, belatedly realizing that it's Fugo, belatedly remembering the night before.

He eventually has to disentangle himself to go to the bathroom, and wh en he comes back, Fugo’s peering at him blearily over the top of the blanket. “Morning,” he says. 

Giorno laughs at the sight of him. “Good morning,” he says.

“‘S cold,” Fugo mutters. He tucks his head under the blanket entirely. 

Giorno laughs again and slips into the bed beside him.

“Oof,” says Fugo. He stays under the blanket. “You’re like a personal heater.”

Your personal heater,” Giorno purrs, weaving his way under the blanket and gluing himself to Fugo's side.

“Mm,” Fugo hums. “I like that.” 

“I knew it,” Giorno says, “You're only interested in me for my warmth.”

“Got it in one,” Fugo says sleepily. He’s at high risk of falling back asleep. 

“That's because I'm very clever," Giorno says, kissing his cheek.

Fugo hums, eyes closed. “I should call Sheila,” he sighs. 

“Yeah,” Giorno says, making no move to get off Fugo.  Fugo sighs and reaches around him for his phone, which is, thankfully, right next to the bed.

Sheila picks up on the first ring. “Hello? Is everything okay? What happe-“

“Sheila, calm down,” Fugo snaps. “Good morning. Nothing happened.”

“Then why are you calling?” Sheila sounds confused. 

Fugo sighs. “We want you to come do reconnaissance.” 

Giorno hums and kisses Fugo's neck.

Fugo’s breath catches. “Um,” he continues, “you’re going to need to look around the wharves while we're with the gang,” he says, face reddening. 

“Sure,” she says. “But I thought you didn’t want me because they already know me.” 

Giorno smirks into Fugo's neck and scoots up to kiss that sensitive spot just under his ear again.  Fugo lets out a hiss of breath. 

“Fugo?” Sheila asks. “Are you okay?”

“Fuck,” Fugo says. “Uh. I’m— I’m fine! No, you have to make sure they don’t see you.”

“Uh-huh,” Sheila says. “I can do that.” 

Giorno snickers this time, just before biting, lightly.

Fugo drops the phone, turning to stare at Giorno with wide eyes. “Excuse me,” he says, but he’s blushing too hard to be at all intimidating. 

“Hello? Fugo?” Sheila’s tinny voice comes from the phone. 

Giorno looks innocently up at him, through his eyelashes. “You're excused,” he says.

“Giogio,” Fugo starts, picking up the phone, only to be interrupted by Sheila. 

“Oh, is Giorno there?” she asks. “Put me on speaker!”

Fugo does, still glaring at Giorno. 

“Hello, Sheila,” Giorno says smugly, his voice perfectly even, unlike Fugo's.

“Hello,” says Sheila. “I’ll be there in half an hour.”

“That's perfect, thank you,” Giorno says, sitting up and tracing his fingers lightly over Fugo's chest, never breaking eye contact.  Fugo glares at him and takes his hands in his own. 

“Should I bring anything?” Sheila asks. 

In a split second Fugo sits up, pulling Giorno’s hands for leverage. He gives Giorno another glare, then hides his face in Giorno's neck and starts laying chaste kisses there.

Giorno lets out a surprised breath and leans into it. He blinks, trying to process Sheila's question. “Just your stand,” he says. “And-- and all of your things, I guess. You probably won't be returning to Trapani.” He tugs on Fugo's hair. “I mean. Marsala.”

“Okay,” Sheila says, drawing the word out. “Sure. Anything else?”

Fugo snickers, and Giorno tugs sharply at his hair in retaliation. “No,” he says, then clears his throat. “No, that's it. Fugo, did you have any other instructions for Sheila?”

“Nope,” Fugo says, popping his lips on the p

“Okay,” says Sheila. “Bye, then.” Click. 

Giorno laughs once she's hung up.  “I wasn't expecting a counterattack.”

“Your mistake,” Fugo says.

“One case where I'll gladly be wrong,” Giorno breathes. He runs a soft hand through Fugo's hair, apologetic. "Sorry I pulled. Did I hurt you?"

"No," Fugo says, and leans in to kiss him.

Giorno kisses back with a content sigh. "Good," he says.

Fugo gives him a dopey smile. It’s probably one of the biggest smiles he’s ever had. It melts Giorno's heart. He'd give everything he has to see Fugo smile like this more often, and the thought terrifies him. He curls into Fugo's side, shutting his eyes and letting himself just enjoy this. For the first time, there's no loneliness lurking at the back of his mind, and he wants to bask in that while he can.

They stay like this for a while, cuddled together on the bed, and Fugo's breathing evens out after a while. Giorno pulls back to look at him, half-hovering over him with the way he'd sat up, and sighs.  

“Something on your mind?” Fugo asks without opening his eyes.

“Just you,” Giorno answers.

Fugo flushes. “Oh,” he says. He opens his eyes to look and Giorno, then. “Um. Anything… in particular?”

Giorno hums and kisses him. “How much I love your smile,” he says. “And just you, in general,” he adds, between kisses. “And how cute you are when you blush.”

“You’re gonna be the death of me,” Fugo grumbles, tightening his hold on Giorno’s waist. 

“Nah,” Giorno says, kissing the tip of Fugo's nose.

Fugo crosses his eyes to look at it. 

Giorno laughs at him and kisses his forehead instead. 

Giorno snickers and closes his eyes, letting Fugo kiss him. He does, and he doesn’t stop, and then the door opens without a knock and they’re still in bed. 

Porca vacca,” says Sheila. 

Giorno doesn't react, except to reach for Fugo's phone and check the time. He doesn't get off Fugo. “Has it been half an hour already?”

Fugo drops his head back onto the pillow and covers his face with his hands. 

“Twenty-four minutes,” Sheila says. “Did you plan this?” she asks Giorno. 

“Which part?” Giorno asks innocently. “You walking in on us without knocking? No, I can't say that I did.”

“No,” says Sheila. “Nevermind.” She squints at them both. 

“Hi,” says Fugo. 

“Hello, Sheila,” echoes Giorno. He's smiling, and still hasn't climbed off Fugo.

Sheila shakes her head. “So is this, like, a thing now?”

“Yes,” Giorno says, without hesitation.

“Yes,” Fugo echoes, faintly. 

“Alright. Do I need to worry about this?” Sheila asks, frowning. 

Giorno gives Fugo a thoughtful look. “No.”

Fugo looks at Sheila, still flushed red in the face. “No,” he says quietly. 

“Good, okay,” Sheila says, and plops down on the couch. She pulls her knees up to her chest. “So fill me in.” 

“Well, it all started when Fugo let me hold his hand,” Giorno says, the slight quirk of his lips the only sign that he's joking.

Sheila rolls her eyes. “I meant about the mission.”

Giorno gets serious all at once, and drums his fingers against Fugo's chest, thinking about where to begin. “Our second day here, Fugo went out with the Capo and one of the soldati. We later realized there were bits of the day he couldn't remember, confirming the rumors about someone tampering with memories." He pauses a moment to let that sink in. "All signs currently point to the Capo being behind the drug influx here, but we don't know how or why, and our progress from within the squad has been slow. We thought it might be wise to start from the other end, investigating where the drugs are being sold and tracing them back to the source while Fugo and I continue to distract the Trapani squad from the inside.”

“They can’t see you,” Fugo adds. “Be careful.” 

Sheila nods seriously. 

“Report to one of us every half hour, even if it's just a quick text,” Giorno says. “That way, if your memories do get tampered with, you'll have shared what you found.”

She nods again. “Start at the wharves?” 

“Yeah,” Fugo says. “A dealer died there yesterday. You might be able to find something good.” 

“Be very careful,” Giorno warns her. “Nicostrata was very insistent about finding whoever was responsible for the dealer’s death, so he's sure to have eyes on the wharfs. Sheila, your own safety is to be your top priority. Understood?”

She nods slowly. “I’ll be careful.” 

Giorno nods back, not quite believing her. “Good. Call one of us if you need any help.”

She nods, and leaves. 

Fugo sighs. 

Giorno frowns at him. “What are you thinking?”

“You’d scold me for it.” 

This makes Giorno's frown deepen. “I won't. Just tell me.”

“I was thinking,” Fugo starts, looking up at the ceiling, “that this raises the stakes significantly.”

Giorno continues to frown at Fugo a moment, then he nods, expression clearing to one of understanding. “Because now it's not just anyone who could get hurt; it's Sheila ,” he guesses.

Fugo nods. 

“The stakes are high,” is all Giorno says. “Higher than I think we realize, given how upset Abelli was last night.”

Fugo hums. “We have to be careful,” he says. 

“Yeah,” Giorno says. “Very careful.”

 

---

 

When they get to the usual meeting place, it’s just Nico, Silvio, and Giacalone waiting for them. 

“Good morning, boys,” Nico sing-songs at them. He’s vastly different from the tightly-coiled predator he’d been the night before, lounging in the farthest chair with his boots resting up on the table. Everything about him seems relaxed, except for his eyes, which track Giorno and Fugo’s movements carefully.

“Good morning, Capo,” Giorno says demurely, as if the unnerving encounter the night before hadn’t happened.

“Morning,” Fugo says. He shoves his hands in his pockets. 

Giacalone nods at them. Silvio is too busy writing something in one of his files. 

“And how was your evening?” Nico purrs. 

“Relatively uneventful,” Fugo answers, “but pleasant. Yours?” 

Nico waved a hand, flippantly. “Oh, you know. Busy. How are you with words?”

“Huh?”

Nico raises an eyebrow and looks at Giorno. “I hope you’re better.”

Fugo frowns. “I’m just not sure what you mean.”

“Politics, diplomatics, schmoozing, you know. Right now, I’m the only one on the squad who’s any good at it, and it gets so tiring to have to do it all myself.”

“Ah. You’re in luck; that’s my area of expertise,” Giorno says with a wry smile.

Nico grins.

Fugo frowns. 

“We’ll be making calls on several key politicians today,” Silvio says without looking up from his files. “They’re expecting us. Giacalone, Fugo, you’re on guard. Leave the talking to Nico and Shiobana.”

“Understood,” Giorno says.

“Giacalone, go bring the car around, will you?” Nico asks.

Giacalone nods and stands, slouching away. Fugo watches them go. 

“Is there an objective behind these calls?” Giorno asks, hands on his hips. He manages to look intent, indifferent, put-upon, and thoughtful all at once. “Or is it just to say hello?”

“There's an objective,” Nico says with a wolfish grin, not offering any more information.

Fugo sighs. “Shouldn’t we know beforehand so we can help talk them around?” 

“Didn’t Silvio  say that you’re going to be on guard? The we is Haruno and I. Not you.”

Fugo looks away. 

“One of the politicians we're going to see is already under my thumb, I'd just like him more so. The other,  I've been trying to win over for weeks. He calls me slimy . Me, of all people! As if he's not the politician. I could extort or blackmail him into doing what I want, of course, but it's so much easier if he think it's his idea,” Nico says, mostly to Giorno. “We'll see if you have  better luck. You're young, earnest, serious, and-," Nico pauses and frowns, looking thoughtful for a moment.

“Capo?” Giorno prompts.

Nico narrows his eyes at him a moment, then laughs to himself and shakes his head. “Anyway, you said you wanted to prove yourself, so here's your big chance.”

Giacalone reappears then, swinging a pair of keys from one finger.  Silvio stands. “Off we go, then,” he says. 

Giorno catches Fugo's eye and shrugs. As per usual for Giorno Giovanna, his face is mostly carefully expressionless, but a subtle quirk of his eyebrow and a small smirk give the message, “Could be worse.”

Nico doesn't notice, pushing past the boys to join Giacalone at the door.  Fugo takes Giorno’s hand and quietly follows. He’s still on edge, and he knows Nico can tell— he just hopes he thinks it’s because of their conversation last night and not for another reason. 

Giacalone leads them to the car, and they pile in. It's an uncomfortable ride over. Nico turns the radio on and sings loudly along. He has a nice voice, surprisingly, but knows only a third or so of the words and makes the rest up.  Trapani whirls past, and after about ten minutes in the car, Giorno leans forward. “May I ask who we're meeting with? Or at least what their positions are?”

Nico doesn't stop singing, just shrugs and looks at Silvio in the rearview mirror.

Silvio takes out a file and passes it to Giorno. “Calogero Messina and Felice La Rosa,” he says. “Messina is an adviser to the local member of the Sicilian Regional Assembly, and La Rosa is in charge of Trapani’s budget.” 

“La Rosa is the one I was talking about earlier,” Nico says, looking like he smells something sour. “He’s fond of polite manners and pretty faces, which is why you, Haruno, might be able to win him over better than I did.”

Giorno purses his lips and reviews the file Silvio gave him, not deigning Nico’s comment with a response.  Fugo frowns, actively stopping himself from shifting closer to Giorno. 

“I don’t like him,” Giacalone says quietly. 

“You don't like a lot of people,” Nico dismisses.

“La Rosa?” Giorno asks, from the back. “Why not?”

Giacalone shrugs. “He hides too much.”

“He’s a politician,” Silvio says testily. “Of course he does.” 

I don't like him because he's a dick,” Nico says, sagely.

Fugo snorts. 

“I suppose that's a good enough reason,” Giorno says. Nico meets Giorno's eyes in the rearview mirror; the Capo's wearing that same thoughtful frown from before, and it only deepens when Giorno asks, “You mentioned extortion earlier. do you have anything useful on him? With difficult cases, a layered hint can go a long way.”

“His son has a history of hastily covered up scandal,” Silvio says. “We have a file on him.”

“Is he close with his son? What does he care about?” Giorno asks.

“He cares much more about his mistress than his son,” Nico says, watching Giorno carefully.

Giorno nods and passes the file back to Silvio. “I can work with that.”

Fugo glances between them. He’s never been good at diplomacy— he’s too temperamental and no one knows when he’ll snap. Buccellati was the one people liked and trusted, and he’d been content to let him do the talking. This is actually the first mission like this he’s ever been on.  Giorno catches his eye and smiles, completely at ease, even crammed into a car with Nicostrato Abelli and Silvio Randazzo. 

In the front seat, Nico laughs, suddenly.

Fugo frowns at him, raising an eyebrow. 

“I think you've got something on your neck there, Pannacotta,” he says.

Fugo blinks. “Wh—,” he starts, then flushes and claps his hand over the mark Giorno left the night before. He scowls. 

Nico cracks up. 

“Oh. Sorry,” Giorno whispers to Fugo.

Fugo glares at him, blushing furiously. Giorno's lips quirk into a smile.

“Ah, to be young and enthusiastic,” Nico says, wiping a pretend tear. “Do you ever miss those days, Silvio?”

“No,” Silvio says, “and don’t pretend you’re somehow less… enthusiastic for being older, Nicostrato.” 

Nico winks at him in the rearview mirror.

Silvio rolls his eyes. 

“You're no fun,” Nico tells him. He asks Giacalone, “How much further until we're there?”

"It's on this block," Giacalone says.

Nico nods. To Fugo and Giorno, he explains, “We're meeting with Messina in his office, first, and then getting lunch with La Rosa after.”

Not long after, Giacalone pulls the car up onto the sidewalk with a screech and parks. They all pile out of the car, Nicostrata confidently leading the way. Someone greets him, and he ignores them, marching up the stone steps of a grand old building and into an elegant foyer.

The security guards posted near the doors nod at Nico and Silvio, and regard Giorno and Fugo curiously, but they don't make any attempts to stop and search the group. 

“Messina's office is upstairs,” Nico says, mostly to Giorno. He glances back at them, expecting them to be gawking at the regal, expensive building interior, but Giorno looks calm and completely at home and Fugo hangs by his side, seemingly disinterested. Certainly not a reaction he'd expect from two of Passione's lowest ranking members.

Fugo hunches up his shoulders, staring straight back at Nico. 

“Don't sulk,” Nico snaps at him. “Not here.”

Deliberately, Fugo relaxes and stands straighter, schooling his expression until he looks like he actually is the son of an aristocrat. He raises an eyebrow. 

Abelli huffs and turns back around, and beside Fugo, Giorno passes a hand across his mouth to hide a smile. Fugo keeps his mouth shut and holds up the back of the group as they file into Messina’s office. The door shuts behind them, and Giacalone leans nonchalantly against it, looking for all the world at ease. 

A portly man with thinning hair and a fancy suit-- not as fancy as even a third of Giorno's, of course-- rises to greet them, his expression revealing neither pleasure nor distaste. There are two seats across from his desk; Silvio takes one, but Nico makes no move to take the other, instead standing over Messina's desk with a confident, languorous stance, so Giorno sits.

There's not much political discussion that happens in the meeting. At least, it would seem that way to anyone unfamiliar with how these sort of talks went. The politics slip in between the small talk, subtle and implied, almost entirely between the lines. Messina is tense, to start, but Giorno somehow gets him talking about his love of horticulture, and from then on, Messina talks to Giorno like he may as well have been family.

Nico watches the entire exchange carefully.

So does Fugo, his gaze flicking between Abelli and Messina. Giacalone next to him may as well be asleep for all they’re paying attention. They eventually wrapped up the meeting with Messina without seeming to actually come to any understandings, yet Nico left the room with a decidedly smug air, Giorno with a much more quietly smug one. 

“That went well,” Nico said, just as cheerful as he'd been all morning. It was such a contrast from the way he'd been the night before.

Silvio hums. “La Rosa won’t be so easy,” he says, and leads the way back to the car. No one’s touched it, of course, despite the extremely illegal parking job. 

“We'll see if Haruno can work his weird little magic on him, too,” Nico says. “Pannacotta, did you know your sweetheart was such a charmer?” 

“Yeah,” Fugo says. 

“Funny, I hadn't expected such a new recruit to be a talented diplomat,” Nico says.

“My father was...charming. You could even say enthralling,” Giorno says, slowly. “I suppose he passed it on to me.”

Silvio says, “We don’t need your family history if you can just keep that up.” 

Nico gives Silvio a sour look and pats Giorno's head like one would a pet. “I thought it was very interesting.”

Giorno blushes and frowns, looking about two seconds away from batting Nico's arm away or turning his stupid flashy watch into a cottonmouth.  Fugo’s eyes widen and he opens his mouth like he’s about to tell Abelli off, but closes it and looks away quickly. 

Abelli doesn't miss the reaction, his eyes flicking between Giorno and Fugo curiously. “Well,” he announces, checking his watch. This requires taking his arm back, and Giorno visibly relaxes. “We'd better get going.”

Giacalone starts the car, and they all pile back in. 

They head to a fairly crowded restaurant nearby, in a part of town Fugo and Giorno haven't gotten much of a chance to explore yet. Giorno checks his phone in the car, leaning into Fugo, away from Silvio, to do so. It's just a burner, so he's not particularly worried about Silvio seeing anything dangerous, but he does have a check-in text from Sheila waiting. It's as succinct and blunt as he'd come to expect from her, and he smiles to himself.

Fugo turns just enough to press his cheek into Giorno’s hair, watching him go through his phone. He’s glad Sheila’s checking in, though it doesn’t look like she’s found anything yet.

Silvio glances at them and back at his files, clearly disinterested. Giacalone watches them in the rearview mirror. They’re hard to read, Fugo muses, and he can’t entirely tell where they stand in all of this. He makes eye contact with them briefly, and they look away. 

Their parking job at the restaurant isn’t much better, but again, no one comments on it. Silvio announces the group to the host and they’re led to a private room in the back. 

“Fucking asshole isn't here yet,” Nico says, checking his watch. “ We were supposed to be the fashionably late ones.”

“We’re early,” Silvio says. “Messina took less time than expected, so we’re ahead of schedule.” 

“Damn it,” Nico says. He scowls at Giacalone. “You couldn't have driven around the square a few times or something?”

“I don’t have a watch,” Giacalone says. 

“There’s one on the car’s dash,” Nico says.

Giacalone frowns. 

“A clock can’t predict him being late,” Fugo says. 

“And I’m sure Giorno Giovanna didn’t predict you being such a brat here,” Nico snaps. “Isn’t this supposed to be your last chance?”

Fugo starts, looking at Abelli with wide eyes for a second before looking away. “Sorry,” he mutters.

“It’ll be more intimidating for him to arrive and find us all waiting,” Giorno says smoothly. “It works better this way.”

“Fine,” Abelli says, “I guess you're right. We can lean into that; everyone sit, try to look particularly gangster-like when he comes in.”

Fugo takes a seat next to Giorno. Giacalone slumps into a chair on his other side. Underneath the table, Giorno rests his hand on Fugo's knee. Fugo glances at him out of the corner of his eye. 

Giorno doesn't look his way. Nico is explaining something about La Rosa to them, and Giorno looks for all the world like he's listening, but his lips are quirked up into the barest hint of a smirk, and slowly, his thumb starts rubbing soothing circles into Fugo's leg . Fugo laces their fingers together, then tries to pay attention to what’s going on at the table. Giorno’s thumb keeps rubbing circles into his thigh.

It’s then that La Rosa arrives. He’s practically the opposite of Messina, tall and lean, and he looks down at the assembled gang down his sharp nose, his eyebrows drawn together. Nico, who’d been lounging at the table, stands and holds a hand out. La Rosa shakes it, his lips pursing distastefully.

Giorno studies La Rosa. The man is horribly familiar, he realizes with a pang of anxiety; Giorno knows he’s seen him somewhere before, met him somewhere, but can’t remember where. He just hopes La Rosa doesn’t know him. When their eyes meet, La Rosa’s brows furrow further, like he’s also trying to place Giorno, but he doesn’t say anything.

La Rosa sits, but when the waiter comes, orders nothing but a glass of wine, saying he can’t stay long.

It takes much longer to win him over than it did Messina. Until La Rosa reaches the bottom of his glass, in fact. Nico, Giorno, and the others work together this time, pressing here, flattering there, and making grand assurances about the capability of Passione between every line. By the end, La Rosa at least believes them enough to agree to schedule a more formal meeting, and Nico beams.

“You said that would be difficult ,” Abelli tells Silvio when La Rosa's gone.

Silvio hums, watching Giorno carefully. “I’m afraid I may have underestimated our new recruit.” 

“I barely did anything,” Giorno says. “Maybe it’s the Capo that you’re underestimating, sir.”

Nico doesn’t puff up at the compliment like he usually would; he barely seems to hear it. He’s studying Giorno, too, then jumps when his phone rings. He jumps at the sudden vibration, and answers it with a sharp, “What? Ah, Mirella.” He covers the receiver with his hand and says to the group, “Excuse me a moment.”

Silvio nods and continues making notes in his files. 

Fugo leans into Giorno slightly, sighing. Giorno kisses his forehead, quickly, while Silvio's looking at his notes and Giacalone isn't paying attention. Fugo closes his eyes and  Giorno checks his phone, under the table. There was another check in from Sheila just ten minutes ago, right on time. 

On Fugo’s other side, Giacalone’s chair creaks as they tip it back onto two legs and balance. 

When Abelli returns, there's something wild around his eyes. His mood changes faster than the weather, and it's taken a turn for the stormy again. “We're done here, right?” he asks. “No one's waiting for dessert, or anything? Let's go.”

Giacalone knocks over their chair standing up to join him. Silvio raises an eyebrow, seemingly unconcerned, and follows. Fugo glances at Giorno. Giorno takes Fugo's hand before following, and Nico's eyes stay fixed on them as he ushers the group out of the restaurant. 

“Should I start the car?” Giacalone asks. 

“Go ahead,” Nico says, hanging back, just ahead of Fugo and Giorno. Giacalone at least managed to park on the side street behind the restaurant this time, and there's no one around. Suddenly, Nico whirls and slams Giorno into the alley wall, arm braced just below Giorno's neck, across his chest. His face only inches from Giorno's, he hisses, “I'm curious, Shiobana , where did you learn so much about horticulture?”

Fugo stumbled backwards as Abelli pushed past them, Giorno’s hand ripped out of his. He whirls around and freezes, watching them. 

Giorno, to his credit, doesn't break character for an instant, just gasps when his back hits the cold stone and tangles a hand in Abelli's sleeve. “What are you talking about?” he asks, looking back at Silvio and Giacalone for help. He doesn't look at Fugo. “Biology class, last term. Right before I dropped out. It was just-- it's beginner stuff.”

“And you expect me to believe you got that good at politics because of genetics ?”

Giorno just looks confused. “Yes?” he says, tugging at Abelli's arm.

“Capo,” Fugo says, catching Abelli’s arm and trying to tug it away from Giorno. “What are you doing ?”

“Stay out of this,” Abelli snaps.

“You know he won't,” Giorno says, far too calmly for someone who's currently pressed against a wall, one man's whim away from potentially getting strangled. 

A muscle in Abelli's jaw jumps as he stares Giorno down. There's still something wild in his eyes, and whatever it is, it's clear that there's an edge of fear to it.  Fugo pulls his arm back with an unprecedented amount of strength and shoves him. Abelli falls back with a hiss, his gaze landing on Fugo. 

“Pannacotta,” Giorno says softly, his hand landing on Fugo's arm. It's a warning.

Fugo barely notices it, staring wide-eyed at Abelli. He’s breathing hard. It makes him look feral and wild. 

Abelli doesn't look much better off, but at the sight of Fugo, he seems to snap back into himself all at once. He backs away from them both, to the safety of where Silvio stands, near the car. Silvio’s looking between Abelli and Giorno with more uncertainty on his face than any of them have ever seen. Giacalone lets the car idle and looks the other way.

“You two can find a cab home, I assume,” Abelli says, slightly out of breath. “Silvio, Aloisio, and I have something to take care of. Mirella found our wharf killer.” 

Giorno's hand on Fugo's arm tightens.

Fugo blinks, comes back to himself, and realizes what Abelli must mean. By the time the realization comes, Silvio and Nico are in the car, the doors shut, and Giacalone is backing out of the cramped street.

“Fuck,” says Fugo, already pulling out his phone to call Sheila. Giorno stops him, covering Fugo's phone with his hand until the van with the others is well and truly out of sight. The minute they’re no longer visible Fugo shakes Giorno’s hand off and dials Sheila’s number. 

It rings and rings until it clicks off with no answer. It’s a burner, so she doesn’t have a voicemail set up. Fugo looks at Giorno in a panic. 

“It's possible she's just busy,” Giorno says uncertainly.

“Mink’s stand,” Fugo says. “What if— She saw us, on the first day, and I know she wasn’t tailing us— do you think—,” he stops, taking a breath, and can’t start up again. 

Giorno stares at the ground and frowns, deep in thought. “Her stand can't be all knowing,” he mused, “Or they would have found out who we are immediately. But it's possible...it's possible that Mink saw her.”

“Fuck,” Fugo says. “Fuck!” His grip on the phone is crushing, and the plastic starts to crack. 

“If you break it and she tries to call, then what?” Giorno points out, covering Fugo's hand with his own. “We should get back to the apartment. Sheila left her bags there; we can use something of hers to track her.”

Fugo stares at Giorno, frozen, then nods once and shoves his phone back in his pocket. “Let’s go,” he says. 

They call a cab, not sure they can find the way back on their own. It's a tense, quiet ride over, but eventually, they pull up alongside their dull old apartment building. Sheila's check in time comes and goes without a word from her on the ride. When the car comes to a stop, Fugo lurches out like a zombie and tears up to the apartment. It’s locked, and the inside hasn’t been touched. He feels like he’s going to explode. 

He makes it to the toilet before he pukes. 

Giorno follows more calmly up the stairs, and arrives in the room to find Fugo already shut in the bathroom. He opens Sheila's bag and picks up the first thing at the top, an old black t-shirt he remembers her wearing as pajamas when they'd stayed in that hostel. 

In his hands, it sprouts feathers and changes shape, and then the cry of a northern goshawk is ringing through the apartment. The bird perches on Giorno's shoulder, the pattern on its breast almost matching Sheila's shirt. 

Giorno stuffs a few other things of Sheila's in his pocket. The goshawk is large enough that they'll be able to follow it, with a wing shape that'll be perfect for maneuvering in a city like Trapani, but they can be fast, and Giorno won't risk losing it.

The bathroom door opens and Fugo exits, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. He looks at the goshawk on Giorno’s shoulder and nods.

Giorno holds a hand out to him. 

Fugo takes it. 

“Nicostrato Abelli likes being in control, but he's more cautious than he seems, and he's no fool. He won't hurt her until he gets to the bottom of this all. We have time. We'll get to her in time," Giorno assures him.

Fugo nods. 

“Let's go,” Giorno's says, tugging Fugo toward the door.

Fugo follows him, and the second they get outside, the hawk takes off.

Chapter Text

They have to run to keep up with the goshawk. It’ll fly a block ahead and then perch and wait for them as they pelt after it, looking at them with beady disdain. It leads them far from their apartment, in the opposite direction of Abelli’s meeting place, and keeps them running until they can see the sea. 

Fugo doesn’t think he has any breath left in his body by the time they reach the row of dingy warehouses. He’s hot and sweaty and he lost his coat some half an hour into their mad dash across Trapani, but he doesn’t feel the cold. The wind is stronger here, and he has to keep pushing his hair out of his face, so he almost misses the goshawk drop through an open window the roof of one warehouse further down the line. 

“There,” he says, pointing. “That’s the one.” 

Giorno nods, struggling to catch his breath. “We have to be smart about how we approach this,” he says.

Fugo stares at him. “What do you want to do?”

Giorno looks up at the windows, purses his lips, then approaches the warehouse wall and presses both hands to the stone. Vines begin to sprout from the stones his hands touch, and climb up toward the window, weaving into a sort of stepping-stone pattern. “I'll go look,” Giorno says. “You wait here.”

Fugo nods, watching him go. 

Giorno isn’t yet all the way up before Fugo hears a noise. He turns and sees Silvio Randazzo round the corner with his nose in his files. 

Giorno’s still too high up for Fugo to call to him without Silvio hearing. Silvio absolutely cannot see them, of that Fugo is certain. He still doesn’t know what Silvio’s stand is, and he can’t risk him alerting Abelli to their presence. So he does the only thing he can think of, which is: run to the corner and punch Silvio straight in the face. 

Silvio makes a sound like a violent exhale and goes flying backwards, papers spilling every which way. Fugo stands above him, panting. 

“What the fuck,” says Silvio, and his body starts to shimmer, so Fugo punches him again before he can get his stand out. 

Unfortunately, this puts both of them in full view of the warehouse’s back door. 

Inside, Sheila starts screaming.

Before he can think twice about it, Fugo’s through the door and inside the warehouse, leaving Silvio behind him. His eyes take a second to adjust to the darkness inside. 

“Ah, Pannacotta,” a familiar sickly-sweet voice croons from the darkness. “Looking for your friend? She's right here.”

As if on cue, Sheila begins to scream again.

“Let her go!” Fugo says, feeling a foreboding sense of deja vu. He’s back at Syracuse again, and he’s facing Massimo Volpe again, and he can’t trust his stand again and he’s fighting for his life again and— 

But that’s not true. Nicostrato Abelli is no Volpe, not even with the full force of his team behind him. And Fugo isn’t here to kill, and he isn’t here alone. 

He steps forward into the darkness. 

There's Sheila, tied to a chair, and Nico stands behind her, face turned toward Fugo. Behind him, there's another shadow, tall as the man himself, even slightly hunched over. Nico flicks on the light, revealing the hollow eyes and red hues of his stand, but worse than that is the sight of Sheila, drenched in blood and barely conscious. 

Fugo blinks in the bright light, holding up a hand against it. “If she’s dead,” he says, “I’m going to fucking kill you.” 

“She's not dead,” Nico says. He twists one hand in her hair and pulls, making Sheila cry out in pain. “See?”

“Stop!” Fugo yells. He summons Purple Haze and— 

— and nothing. 

Nico grins, the expression slightly manic, and behind him, his stand tilts its head to the side, the white stripe across the lower half of his face making it seem like it is matching his expression. “Not in here, you don’t,” Nico says, softly. He snaps his fingers, and his stand shifts.

Fugo jumps back, but it’s too late. He’s hit by a wave of searing heat that surges across his skin and through his bones. He can see his flesh bubble and melt and drip off his limbs and smell the acrid stench of burning meat. All he can do is falter and scream, and scream, and scream, and then wonder how he’s still screaming when all of his bones have turned to dust, but then he’s looking at his hand and it’s not on fire, it’s being pricked by thousands of needles driving in and drawing blood, and through the pain he thinks: wait , wait. 

A door slams behind him, but it sounds far away, like a ripple echoing through water to reach him. There's a third scream, then, and it sounds like Giorno's voice. 

“No!” Fugo screams back, over and over and over, but needles are piercing his tongue and slipping down his throat. He can still hear Giorno’s voice echoing in his ears and no, no, this is the worst possible outcome, and it’s all his fault, he knows it is. 

“Fugo!” Giorno yells, strong and clear, the sound layered over that of his own screams. 

Abelli's smile wavers, and the pain briefly recedes.

Fugo blinks, suddenly aware of another sensation— cold concrete against his cheek. He’s standing up, but he can feel it pressed against the length of his body, and suddenly the world reorients itself and he wakes with a gasp. 

Sheila's screams cut out as well, with an equally surprised gasp, and Giorno's stop completely. A shrill cry comes from above as a blur of brown and white swoops down and attacks the hand Abelli has resting on Sheila's shoulder. 

Abelli cries out in alarm and falls back, and the next second, Giorno is kneeling at Fugo's side. Fugo squints up at him. 

“Are you okay?” he rasps. 

Giorno cups Fugo's cheeks in his hand, his expression bewildered. “I'm perfectly fine,” he says, “Are you okay? You were screaming.”

Fugo tries to pull himself up, but his body gives out entirely as he does and he collapses back on the floor. “He— it’s his stand,” he says. “Illusion.” 

Something in Giorno's expression shifts, darkens, and he looks up at Abelli. “Illusion or not,” he says, his voice colder than Fugo's ever heard it, “I'll kill him for hurting you.”

Fugo manages to sit up, then, using Giorno as leverage. “Sheila,” he says, looking around for her. His eyes find her still tied to a chair, but whole and unhurt and staring right back at him. 

“Shiobana,” comes a voice from the doorway. It’s Silvio, holding his nose where blood drips from it. It gives Fugo a savage joy to see how much there is. 

“Step away from Nico,” Silvio says. 

With another sharp cry, the goshawk flaps its wings, and disappears back into the rafters. Giorno stands, but he doesn't look at Silvio, his eyes still fixed on Abelli. 

Shiobana ,” Abelli sneers. He's covered in scratches from Sheila's shirt, but has otherwise recovered from the shock. “It sounds so similar. I can't believe it took me so long to notice.”

Giorno inclines his head, but says nothing.

“Notice what?” Silvio asks. It comes out slightly strangled by his broken nose. 

Giovanna ,” Abelli hisses through gritted teeth.

Silvio looks at Giorno. “Fuck,” he says. 

“Nicostrato Abelli,” Giorno says, raising his voice so that it echoes in the hollow warehouse, “Are you the one who's been smuggling drugs into Trapani?”

Abelli's too stunned to answer for a moment, his eyes wide, and then he starts laughing. “What the fuck is your deal with drugs, kid? No one's making you touch them yourself, we're just making a bit of extra cash off them.”

Giorno's expression sours. “That’s a yes, then. I would have killed you even if it hadn't been for that, Abelli. You're a cruel man, a cruel leader, and you're not suited to have a position of power in my Passione.”

Fugo glances up at Giorno, then stands, still feeling phantom pains in his limbs. He glares at Abelli. 

Silvio looks between Abelli and Giorno. The whites of his eyes are showing, and he doesn’t make a move. 

“Fugo, will you take care of him? Give him the chance to surrender,” Giorno says, gesturing vaguely back at Silvio. He then takes a slow step toward Abelli, his form shimmering. “I, Giorno Giovanna, have worked hard to create a Passione that is just. I will not let you ruin that.” 

Abelli falls back a step, and one of his hands slips behind his back.

Fugo sighs and turns to Silvio. “Surrender,” he says. 

Silvio looks at him, then turns and runs. 

“I guess that’s a no,” Fugo mutters. He takes off after him. 

Once Fugo and Silvio are both gone, Giorno and Abelli begin circling each other. Giorno eyes the stand hovering behind Abelli, wondering how it works and why Abelli isn't striking. He keeps his distance, and when Abelli tries to shrink the circle, Giorno widens it. 

“You really had me fooled,” Nico says, casually. “Everyone else, too. I've never seen Silvio so expressive in my life. I thought Mink was going to have a panic attack when I told her my suspicions about you.”

“What gave me away?” Giorno asks quietly.

“Oh, a number of things,” Nico says with a flippant wave. “Fugo's attitude, your stupid, annoying, quiet confidence, horticulture, her .” He points at Sheila. 

Giorno glances at Sheila, not long enough to let Abelli close the distance between them, even though he tries. His stand must have a limited range. 

“It's a shame,” Nico says, smile growing wider and wilder with each lap they take around the warehouse. “You both would've fit in so well here.”

“Were they all complicit in aiding the drug trade?” Giorno asks, changing the subject. “Or just you? Who's been altering my soldatis’ memories?”

Abelli shrugs and laughs, one of his hands still held behind his back.

There’s a crash from outside, and Fugo comes back in, wiping his hands on his pants. “Ugh,” he says. “What a fucking pain.”

At that moment, Abelli withdraws a gun from behind his back and aims it at Fugo. Giorno stops moving.

“Stand users, always so confident that their stands are all they need,” Abelli says, never for an instant losing that grin of his. “I know mine's faults. I'm cautious enough for that, at least. Silvio always said I wasn't cautious.”

“Don't,” Giorno warns.

Abelli shoots. 

Fugo stumbles and claps a hand over his side. His shirt is turning red already, and far too quickly. 

“No!” Giorno yells, starting toward Abelli, but Abelli's attention is fixed entirely on him, even with the gun still in his hand, and Giorno just moved within range.

Giorno falls to his knees with a cry, agony coursing through his body. With each beat of his heart, fire and needles are carried and spread throughout his body, burning, destroying, but he manages to turn his head and see Fugo, whose body is decaying at the whim of Abelli's illusion, and the fire coursing through Giorno changes to a fire of a different kind. It's an illusion , he tells himself, even unable to hold back the screams. Pain or not, he's still in control.

“Do you like Blood/Water, Giorno?” Abelli croons. “I never thought I'd get to use it on you. I dreamed about it, but never thought it would come true.”

Somewhere above, the goshawk cries again. It distracts Abelli, for only a moment. It’s just what Giorno needs. At the waver in Abelli’s focus, the pain recedes enough for him to stop screaming, enough for him to remember the feel of his body. And with the waver in Abelli's focus, Gold Experience is able to surge forward. It strikes Abelli across the face, and with that, the illusion shatters.

Gold Experience strikes Nicostrata Abelli again, and again, and again, all while giving its classic, repetitive cry. All of Giorno's fear and rage and distress pours out through Gold Experience, and Giorno relishes in every bit of pain Abelli must be feeling. None of it shows on Giorno's face; he pushes himself to his feet and stands over Nico, staring down at him with distaste and disdain.

Gold Experience stops when Nico finally stops moving, his heart stops beating, and Giorno stumbles over to Fugo. He’s not moving, his hands slack over the wound. There’s a lot of blood. 

With Nico gone, Sheila kicks her way out of her bonds and drags herself over to Giorno. It was more his stand keeping her there than anything. 

“Is he dead?” she asks. 

Giorno doesn't answer, just passes his hands over Fugo's chest, then changes the bullet in Fugo's body to living flesh. He can only heal the physical wound. There's nothing he can do for the blood loss. He cups Fugo's cheeks in his hands. “Fugo?”

“Giogio,” Fugo says. “Hey.” He blinks. 

Giorno laughs-- it sounds more like a sob-- and kisses Fugo. 

Fugo hums into his mouth and closes his eyes. He kisses back, but barely. Giorno pulls away, but stays close. “Can you sit up? Sheila, will you help me sit him up?”

She nods, watching with wide eyes. There’s still blood all over Fugo’s shirt, and it gets on her hands. It’s slick and still warm, and she hates it. She props Fugo up while Giorno pulls him close, and then the three of them collapse into each other on the floor of the warehouse. 

“Is it over?” Fugo asks. 

“For now,” Giorno says, pressing a kiss to Fugo's forehead. “We'll deal with the rest of the squad tomorrow. Sheila, will you call Mista? Have him send a cleanup crew to-- mio Dio , I have no clue where we are.” 

“I think we’re in the northern part of the port,” Sheila says. 

“Either of you have a map?” Fugo mumbles. He apparently also thinks this is really funny, and starts giggling to himself. 

Giorno blinks at him, then slips out of his coat and helps Fugo into it, buttoning it up. “For the chills,” he explains, then, with a quirk of his lips, “And so passersby don't call the cops the second they get a look at you.” The sleeves are far too short, but otherwise, it fits well enough. 

Fugo buries his face in it and breathes deeply.

“We should go,” Sheila says. “Find out where we are and get somewhere safer.” 

“Agreed,” Giorno says. Together, Sheila and Giorno work to get Fugo on his feet, but he can only stand with one of them on each side, supporting his weight. Giorno frowns. “This isn't going to work.”

Sheila frowns, then gives Giorno a once-over. “No,” she says, then squats with her back to Fugo. “Can you get him on my back?” 

Giorno looks at Fugo. “Will you be able to hold on without falling?”

Fugo nods. “Yeah. Sorry.” 

Giorno gives him a quick kiss, right on the tip of his nose, while Sheila's not looking. “Don't apologize.” He helps Fugo onto Sheila's back, then hides his smile behind his hand, fondness swelling in his heart at the sight even despite the graveness of the situation. 

Sheila straightens up and Fugo flops like a ragdoll across her back, wrapping his arms around her shoulders. 

“Porca miseria, you need to eat more,” Sheila grumbles, then adjusts her grip and heads for the door. 

“Oh,” says Fugo. “Are you okay?”

“Huh?” Sheila asks. 

“Abelli’s stand. He used it on you?”

“Yeah,” Sheila says, “but I’ve had worse. I’m okay.” 

Fugo sighs and drops his head on her shoulder. “Good.” 

Giorno follows behind them, hovering, like Fugo might fall. He doesn't once look back at Abelli's discarded body.

It’s raining out in the street. They make it about a block before Sheila figures out where they are, but since her hands are busy, Fugo has to dial the number for her. Mista picks up on the first ring. 

“Sheila?” comes Mista's voice, agitated and relieved. “Where the hell've you been?”

“No, it’s Fugo,” Fugo says. “Sheila’s here but she’s— her hands are busy.” 

“Oh,” Mista says. There's a beat, and then, “What's up, man? Everything okay over there?”

“Yeah,” says Fugo. He blinks, the silence stretching a bit longer than is comfortable. “I mean, it is now. We need a, uh, a cleanup crew. At… Sheila, where are we again?” 

Sheila rattles off an address. Stumbling over the words, Fugo repeats it. 

There comes another pause, and the scratching of a pen. “Got it,” Mista says. “Does that mean everything's all sorted? Is Giorno with you?”

“Yeah,” Fugo says. 

Mista snorts. “Yeah to the first thing? Yeah to both?”

“Um… yes.” 

Giorno shoots Fugo a curious look.

“Since I guess that's all you can say now, am I like, the coolest guy you've ever met, or what?”

“Fuck off,” Fugo says, without malice. 

“Fuck you,” Mista says, just as pleasantly as before. “So that's one cleanup crew. Anything else?”

“Uh…. I don’t know,” Fugo says, looking to Giorno for help. 

“What?” Giorno asks, with a fond smile. “I don't have super hearing, you know. I can't hear Mista on the line.”

Fugo holds the phone out to him. Giorno laughs and takes it.

“Hello?”

“Oh, hey, boss,” Mista says. “Fugo got bored of talking to me, huh?”

Giorno hides a smile. “He's had a long day.”

“Is he alright?”

“Just suffering from a little blood loss,” Giorno says, hurrying on, before Mista can continue, “Nothing serious; he'll be alright, once he gets some rest. Before you ask, Sheila and I are fine, too.”

Mista huffs. “So it's all wrapped up? When are you gonna be back? I'm drowning in work over here, boss. I wasn't cut out for this sorta thing--,”

“Two days,” Giorno says, cutting him off before he can get started, “Maybe three. We have some loose ends to tie up, and it'll take some time to deconstruct the drug trade that's started building here, but we can be back in three days.”

Mista breathes a relieved sigh. “Good. Anything else you needed, besides the cleanup?”

“Can you call a cab as well?” Giorno asks. “It's cold here, and due to unfortunate circumstances, Fugo and I have one coat between us.”

“Uh,” Mista says, puzzling over that last bit. “Okay. Same address?”

Giorno gives him an address up ahead, instead, well away from the abandoned wharfs. They're moving into more populated areas, now-- populated enough, at least, that requesting a cab pickup here wouldn't be quite as strange. It’s evening, and there are people around them on all sides, heading home from work and dinner and errands. They don’t attract too much attention. 

Fugo leans his head on Sheila’s shoulder and closes his eyes. He’s exhausted to his core and aches all over.

Giorno stands close to them, his expression distant. He blinks heavily, like it's hard to keep his eyes open, and stifles a yawn or two, but lets no weakness show beyond that. 

Eventually, their cab rolls up, and Giorno gets the door for Fugo and Sheila before climbing into the passenger seat, himself. Fugo sleeps the whole ride back to their apartment, and Sheila wakes him with a gentle shake when they arrive. With some maneuvering, Sheila and Giorno manage to get Fugo up two flights of stairs without carrying him, but he falls halfway up the third flight and Sheila ends up hoisting him over her shoulder in a fireman’s carry until they reach the door. 

“Gentle,” Giorno says, as Sheila sets Fugo in the bed. He feels Fugo's forehead with the back of his hand and hums, the motion changing into a gentle caress. Absently, without even looking at Sheila, he says, “You'll have to sleep on the couch, I'm afraid. If that's alright with you.”

She shrugs. “I don’t mind.”

Fugo reaches up and grabs onto Giorno’s sleeve. Giorno perches on the edge of the bed, beside him, and gently brushes his hair away from his face. Fugo holds onto his arm and closes his eyes. 

Behind them, Sheila rummages through her things until she finds a shirt that isn’t covered in blood. 

“Fugo,” Giorno says, “Don't fall asleep, yet. You need to drink some water. Replenish your fluids.”

Fugo groans. Sheila presses a glass of water into his hand. 

“Thank you,” Giorno says to Sheila, then sits and watches like a hawk to make sure Fugo drinks it. And that reminds him-- he looks back at Sheila. “Sorry about your shirt.”

“Huh?” Sheila frowns. “Oh. It’s fine.” She fiddles with the hem of the blanket. “I’m sorry. I failed.” 

Giorno shakes his head. “It's my fault. We knew one of their stands had something to do with advanced espionage, and I completely failed to warn you. Fugo and I were caught by the stand, too, our first day here, and it was mere luck that it didn't blow the operation immediately.”

Sheila nods. She slips a hand behind Fugo’s back and props him up as he starts to slump. 

“How did he figure it out?” Fugo asks, his voice still hoarse. 

“A number of small things, taken together. Abelli was just clever,” Giorno says. 

“Fucker,” Fugo says. 

“I’m gonna get you more water,” Sheila says, taking the glass from him. Fugo leans into Giorno as Sheila’s support disappears. 

“Well, now he's a dead fucker,” Giorno says pleasantly, shifting his grip on Fugo into more of an embrace. Fugo hums and curls close into him. One of his hands finds Giorno’s shirt and twists into it. 

Giorno sighs into the kiss, and his arms tighten around Fugo. “I'm so glad you're alright,” he breathes.

Fugo doesn’t respond, but he closes his eyes and sighs, then rests his head on Giorno’s chest. Giorno kisses the top of his head, still holding on to Fugo like he's afraid Fugo might disappear.

Sheila returns with the water, then, and hands it to Fugo before retreating to the couch and pulling her coat up over her. 

“Don’t you want a blanket?” Fugo asks. 

She shrugs. 

Giorno pushes away from Fugo just long enough to untangle one of the extra blankets from the bed and toss it to her, and then he's pressing close to Fugo again, same as before. Sheila curls up under the blanket and rolls over, seemingly unbothered by the springs in the couch. 

“Good night,” she says. 

“‘Night,” says Fugo, his head resting again on Giorno’s breast. 

“Good night, Sheila,” Giorno says. He starts stroking Fugo's hair, weaving his fingers into the blond locks.

The two of them sit in silence for a while, Fugo breathing more normally with every passing minute. He finds that he likes being doted on by Giorno, held close and kept safe and warm. He hasn’t had anyone take care of him like this for a long time, not since he was young and his grandmother watched over him while he was sick. 

“What do you want to do when we get back to Napoli?” Fugo asks quietly. 

Giorno hums. “Well, first and foremost, you owe me a date.”

Fugo smiles. “I do. What do you want to do on this date?”

“I can think of a million things I'd like to do with you,” Giorno says. “What do you want? You can take me anywhere; where would you like to go?”

Fugo hums. “Have you been to Il Museo Cappella Sansevero?” 

Giorno can't help but smile; that answer is so very Fugo . “You know, I can't say I have.”

“It’s beautiful,” Fugo murmurs. “We should go. I want to show you the art. Or show the art you, maybe it could learn something.” 

A laugh startles out of Giorno, and he covers his mouth with a hand, afraid of waking Sheila. “ Fugo ,” he says when he's recovered, though he's blushing bright red, “That was smooth .”

Fugo smiles at him, sleepily, and laughs. 

“You should be flirtatious more often,” Giorno tells him. “I really like it.”

Fugo snickers to himself. “I suppose I can try,” he says. “Write you some poetry, maybe.” 

Giorno's eyes widen at that. “You could do that?”

Fugo blinks at him. “Would you like me to?”

“Yes,” Giorno breathes.

Fugo smiles. “I’ll write you a song instead,” he says. “For that piano you’re going to get.” 

Giorno's answering smile is like the sun, and he kisses Fugo, hard.  Fugo gasps and wraps his arms around Giorno’s shoulders, kissing back. He’s dizzy, and he’s not sure if it’s because of the blood loss or Giorno’s smile.  Giorno gently guides Fugo back onto the bed and drapes himself over him, never once breaking the kiss. It’s Fugo who pulls back first, a minute later, his head swimming. 

Giorno smiles down at him, lightly runs his thumb over Fugo's lower lip. “You should sleep.”

Fugo glances down at his blood-soaked shirt. “I should probably clean up first.” 

Giorno follows Fugo's gaze, and his eyes widen. “Oh,” he says, “Right.” He sits up and tugs on Fugo's shirt, which turns into a lizard under his touch. It shimmies out from underneath Fugo, turns back into a shirt, and Giorno tosses it onto the floor. “Or I could clean you up,” he says.

“Oh,” says Fugo. “Uh.” He’s sure that what little blood is left in his body has all gone to his face. 

Giorno raises an eyebrow at him. "Don't go getting any ideas,” he teases. He climbs out of bed. “You’ve lost way too much blood for anything too exciting. Stay put.”

Fugo does, laying back and covering his face with his hands. There’s blood on them still, dried and flaking. 

Giorno leaves and returns a minute later with a wet washcloth and a bowl of water. He climbs back onto the bed, straddles Fugo's hips, and begins wiping down Fugo's chest. Fugo sighs and doesn’t look at Giorno.  Giorno peels away the bandages from the knife wound Mink had given Fugo, and the skin underneath is completely healed. Where the washcloth cleans, the fingers of Giorno's free hand trail after, gently exploring. 

It feels nice, both the water and Giorno’s hands on him. Fugo’s surprised that the bullet didn’t even leave a scar, but that’s Gold Experience for you, he supposes. He relaxes and closes his eyes, letting his hands fall to his sides. 

Giorno takes one of those hands, holding it while wiping away the caked blood. He tries not to think about how close he came to losing Fugo. Whenever he fails, whenever his thoughts wander in that direction, he just looks down at Fugo, watching his steady breathing, getting even steadier the more he relaxes. 

Fugo catches his eye and sighs again. “I think at this point,” he says, guessing at Giorno’s thoughts, “it’s safe to say that I’m pretty hard to kill.” 

“Good,” Giorno says, firmly. He leans down to press a kiss to Fugo's freshly-cleaned chest, just above his heart. Then, Giorno presses an ear to it and listens to it's beating, washrag forgotten in the bowl on the bedside table. Fugo wraps his clean hand into Giorno’s hair and holds him there. 

“I love you,” Giorno whispers.

“I love you too,” Fugo murmurs. “I was— I thought he might have got to you, right when you came in. I was so fucking scared.” 

“Shh,” Giorno says, turning his head to kiss Fugo's warm skin again. He sits up, smiles down at Fugo. “I’m okay. It's done now, at least. Neither of us have to deal with Nicostrata Abelli again.” He retrieves the washcloth, which is a dusky pink by now, from the bowl and starts on Fugo's other hand.

Fugo hums and lets him, keeping his clean hand in Giorno’s hair. Finally finished, Giorno drops the washcloth back in the bowl and leaves it for tomorrow, settling back down against Fugo, tucking his head under Fugo's chin. Fugo pulls him close and kisses the crown of his head. He feels more lucid, now, and weary to his bones.

“Sleep,” Giorno tells him, as if guessing his thoughts. He hums, kisses Fugo's neck. “Dream of me.”

Fugo does.

Once he's fully asleep, Giorno shifts and reaches back for one of the extra pillows. At his touch, it grows and changes into a large black and brown dog. The beauceron sniffs Giorno's hand curiously, then settles at the edge of the bed, keeping careful watch.

Three members of the Trapani squad are still out there, and Giorno has no idea how involved they were in Nico and Silvio's plans. They'll be a problem for tomorrow.