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Rubber Ring

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We are bound to inherit the sins of our parents and all of the people we pass through.

Now we're down to the last two.

May I have this dance to make it up to you?

 


 

Jotaro, typical as always, didn’t tell anyone that he was in a relationship with Mary-Jane Joplin until they got engaged in 1991.

The details of their relationship were a complete mystery.  Where and how they had met, the details of their courtship -  it all might as well have been a black box, and Jotaro certainly wasn’t going into any sort of details.  Mary-Jane, herself, seemed to be a similarly private sort of person, so regardless of the mysteries that surrounded them, they seemed to be a good pair for each other.

They moved to Florida after they got married, for the sake of Jotaro’s graduate work, and soon thereafter they had a daughter, Jolyne.

Dio absolutely took time out of his schedule to visit, though he waited until Giorno’s summer vacation had begun, since he wanted to see Jotaro as well.

Jolyne was already a few months old, when Dio and Giorno came to call, and she was fussy and wriggly indeed as Giorno tried to hold her in his lap.  Dio watched on with a smile, but turned around when he felt a tap on his shoulder.

It was Jotaro.  “Hey. You mind coming with me?”

“Sure, what for?”

“Just want to talk,” Jotaro replied.

“Of course,” said Dio.

Jotaro led him out of the living room and onto the deck behind the kitchen.  He adjusted his cap, seemingly to keep the sun out of his eyes.

(Or, well, because of his usual tic.)

“So… how have you been, Dio.”

“I’ve been well,” Dio replied.

“Yeah?  Giorno seems like he’s doing good.”

“Indeed he is.”

“Yeah.”

Jotaro adjusted his cap again.

“Something on your mind, Jotaro?” said Dio.

There was a long pause.  The song of cicadas was almost oppressive.

“...I ever thank you for all the… crap you did for me as a kid?” Jotaro finally said.

“Thank me?  For what?” Dio replied.

“Just… y’know, being there for me when my mom was sick,” Jotaro said.  “Looking back… I was a real piece of work. Causing way too much trouble.  And you set me straight.”

Dio smiled a little.  “Not that I’m disagreeing with you - and I’m no psychologist, mind - but you were just worried for your mother, if recall, and unable to do much about her illness,” he said.  “Given that, and your age, it’s no wonder you were acting out as you were.”

“Yeah, but… even before then, I was… getting into fights, stealing - stuff…”  He tripped over the usual urge to swear. “I dunno where I’d be if you hadn’t been around.”

“Well, I’m sure you’d have turned out all right,” Dio said.  “But… a little guidance from myself certainly didn’t hurt.”

There was another small slice of eternity filled with cicada-song.

“What is it you really want to talk to me about, Jotaro?” Dio said, folding his arms across his chest.

Jotaro looked around, once, twice, and he closed his eyes.  “Dio… I’m scared as hell.”

Dio tilted his head with concern.  “What has you scared?” he said.

“I don’t… wanna turn out like my old man, but I’m already…”  He grimaced. “Mary-Jane… probably didn’t tell you, but I… wasn’t there, when Jolyne was born.  Was at a conference.”

“Well… that’s something you probably couldn’t have helped,” said Dio.

“It around her due date and I still… fucking went.  Said I’d probably be back in time, but…”  He clenched his fists. “Off to a great fuckin’ start, aren’t I?”

Dio took a moment to ensure that he chose his words as carefully as possible.  “Not the most… auspicious start, but you’ve got a whole lifetime with Jolyne ahead of you,” he decided.  “It’s a drop in the bucket, ultimately.”

Jotaro looked far from relieved.  In truth, his hands were beginning to tremble.

“Dio…” he said, his voice almost cracking, “I don’t want to fuck this up.  How do I not fuck this up?”

And Dio went to him and put a hand on Jotaro’s shoulder.  “One day at a time,” he said. “And you’re going to need to… forgive yourself, when things go wrong.  Because they will go wrong.”

(Dio hadn’t forgiven himself for a lot of things.)

Jotaro lowered his head.  His eyes were winced shut.  “And what if… even if I try, really try, Jolyne just ends up hating me anyway?  I’d… I don’t want her to ever feel the way I’ve felt, toward my old man.”

“Jotaro.  Easy.” Dio gently stroked Jotaro’s back.  “Your life with your daughter has only just begun.  When she gets older… that’s when you can worry about such things.”

“Yeah, but how old?” Jotaro replied.  “I’ve… more or less resented my old man for as long as I can remember, with him gone and everything, and my work…”

“Jotaro,” said Dio, “I think, no matter how far your work takes you, or how long you’re away from her, so long as Jolyne knows you care, you’ll be fine.  I think that’s what’s most important.”

“And how the hell do I do that? ”  

“You’ll figure that out with time,” said Dio.  “I think… treat her like you wish you’d been treated.  That might be a good place to start.”

“Here’s fuckin’ hoping it’s that simple…”  Jotaro finally opened his eyes. They were a little red around the edges.  “I don’t think I’ve ever… felt so strongly about… anything in my life.  About Jolyne, I mean.  She’s…”

“Your daughter.  And you love her.  It’s okay to say out loud,” said Dio, smiling gently.  

“Damn it, Dio, you and your…”  Jotaro adjusted his cap again.

“Yes, my bluntness, I know, I know,” said Dio.

(Strange, how he could speak so easily and so clearly on behalf of Jotaro’s heart, but when it came to the matter of his own heart…)

Jotaro sighed.  “Well, either way… Thanks for hearing me out, Dio.”

“Any time.  You just let me know next time you’re in need of a good pep talk,” Dio replied.

Jotaro smirked.  But Dio knew he might as well have been laughing.

 


 

“I wish you were my real dad, Dio…”

Giorno was on his stomach on his bed in their hotel room, resting his head on his arms.

His voice was so young and so lacking in malice, but Dio felt as if he’d been shot in the gut.

Dio folded the book he was reading over a finger.  He wouldn’t let his shock show through, not if he could help it.  He set his expression with gentle steel.

“Pardon?” Dio said.

Giorno shrugged where he lay, rolling over a little bit, a pensive pout on his face.  “I ‘unno… It’s just… that’s all I could think about, when we were visiting Jotaro-niisan and everything.  How lucky little Jolyne is. And just…”

“You think… if I was your father, you’d be happier?”  Dio managed to squeeze a slight air of amusement into his voice.

“I mean… I ‘unno…”  Giorno buried his eyes in his arms, and his voice grew muffled.  “Nevermind…”

A strange mix of bravery and cowardice curdled in Dio’s chest, like lemon juice and milk.

“No, let’s… talk about this, a little,” said Dio.  “It sounds like this has been on your mind for a while.”

Giorno made a fussy little noise.  “I mean… It’s not really worth thinking about…  I don’t really remember much from before I met you, anyway…”

(Giorno had only been in Dio’s custody for 2 years.  This was absolutely a lie.)

“Well, all the same…” Dio said.

He was filled with a poisonous cloud of curiosity.

“Do you remember, at least… that man, Stromboli… That was your… stepfather, right?” he continued, as lightly as he could manage.

“Yeah…”  

“Where was your… actual father, then?” Dio said.  “Do you know?”

Giorno was quiet for a while.  “Mama never really talked about him,” he finally said.  “She called him a good-for-nothing that left before I was born.”

“Ah…”

(...well, it was the truth.  Dio allowed the pain of the words to get their hooks well into him.)

“Probably another guy like my stepdad.  I’m glad I never got to meet him,” Giorno continued.

(Such darkness, in his little voice.  The pain in Dio’s heart bled and bled.)

“So, I mean… that’s sorta why I wish you were my dad, Dio.   You wouldn’t… do something like that.”  Giorno looked up a little, bashfully. 

Dio closed his eyes, lowered his head.

(Did he know?  Was this child looking to punish him, for the neglect that he was responsible for?)

“...Dio, you okay?”  The shyness in Giorno’s eyes was swiftly replaced by worry.  “Did I say something wrong?”

(He couldn’t have known.  He was a child.)

“No, no, you didn’t say anything wrong, Giorno.  I just…” Dio sighed. “It makes me feel… very sad, when I think about what things used to be like for you.  I think… I could have saved you a lot of trouble, if I had found you earlier. Gotten you off to a better start in life.”

(Truth could shine through thick layers of cowardice.)

“I really am sorry I wasn’t there for you, Giorno.”

“But that’s not your fault…!” Giorno said, propping himself up on his elbows, a strange amount of distress on his face.  “You told me… that you were only able to find me after Joseph-san saw Gold Experience in his magic pictures. And… and Gold Experience didn’t show up for me until after I moved to Italy with my Mama, so…”

(No, this was not a comfort to hear.)

(Not when he could have… stayed with Yoko, or…)

“Well, still…” Dio said.  “If I was… if there was a world in which I was your father, I’d have made sure you were cared-for, no matter what.”

Giorno rested his head on his arms again.

(But if he’d been around for Giorno, been there when he was born, who would have rescued Diavolo?  Who would have been there for Jotaro?)

(Would he have even put such things over the well-being of his own…)

(Coward.   Coward. )

Dio put down his book, and he leaned forward, hoping his face looked warm and not worried.  “Giorno… I really do want you to know that I want to do anything and everything I can to make up for that.  For not being able to help earlier.”

(He’d never said such things to Diavolo, to Jotaro.)

Giorno’s eyes darted between the fabric of the bed and Dio.  “Y’don’t… really need to say things like that, Dio…” Giorno said, quietly, more quietly than before.  “S’really not that big a deal…”

I think it’s a big deal,” Dio replied.  “You being happy, I mean. You are very, very precious to me, Giorno."

Giorno buried his head in his arms again.  His ears were turning red.

(Ears that carried that implausible birthmark.)

(Ambiguity was armor.)

(Coward.)

(He couldn’t wear that armor forever.)

“Giorno… would it make you happy if I allowed you to call me ‘father’?”

(He could take off… a little bit of that armor, today.  It had been a strange day.)

Giorno lifted his eyes, ever so slightly, above his arms.  “You’d… let me do that?”

“Of course.  If that would make you happy,” Dio replied.

Dio could see a smile in the boy’s eyes for just a second.

Just a second, and then Giorno had his eyes buried in his arms again.  “Well… I ‘unno… I don’t need to… And it’s kinda dumb, anyway…”

Dio picked his book back up.  “All right. Just… know that I don’t mind.”

“Mm…”

Giorno rolled onto his back and reached for the remote to the TV in their room, and turned it on.  All of the programming was in English, which Giorno barely understood, and Dio knew it. But the silence needed to be filled somehow.

Eventually, the time came for them to turn in for the night.  Dio turned down the lights, just enough so he could continue reading without disturbing Giorno’s sleep.  After the boy had brushed his teeth, he crawled into his bed and flopped over onto his side, his back to Dio.

“Good night, Giorno,” Dio said.

“G’night…”

Then, so quietly.

“...Dad.”

Dio had never before felt such pain and such joy at once, and as soon as Giorno was asleep, he spent a good hour with his head in his hands, marveling at the moment, and everything it could possibly have meant.

Well.

If Giorno wanted Dio to be his father, he would be his father.

That would be enough.

(His chest felt tight, constricted, with his weakness.  One more terrible piece of armor.)

That would be enough, for now.