“So,” Mista says. “Pissing in your tea. That’s pretty bad, right?”
Giorno raises an eyebrow over a packet of tax papers. Ever since he became Don, with Mista ascending to Underboss by extension, Mista’s approach to organization has been to settle all debts, no matter how small. Giorno can appreciate how thorough he can be. Well, in most cases, anyways.
“I feel no need to address that,” Giorno says. “Abbacchio and I have made progress in understanding each other. I don’t want to do anything that will--”
“Sow discord within the ranks, I know. But you’re the fucking Don now! They shouldn’t get a pass to talk to you like they do just because they’re our friend or whatever. I just think some sort of...display would help make them respect you.” He slams his palm on the desk for emphasis. “Establish your dominance.”
Giorno can’t lie. That is intriguing. “And what would this display consist of?”
“You could put something in their tea right back,” Narancia suggests. “Oh! Make them swallow frog eggs! The real slimy kind! Slimy, slimy!”
Giorno frowns. “That would be highly uncomfortable for them,” they say. “The tadpoles, I mean.”
Fugo thinks. “Swap out their coffee for decaf for a week?”
“I’m concerned that might be fatal for many people.”
“If you’re messing with their drink,” Trish says. “Why don’t you put flower seeds in there? Put some style into it. They could cough up petals like that thing Fugo’s writing.”
Fugo looks over at Trish with death in his eyes. She just shrugs at him. Mista’s and Giorno’s eyebrows both raise.
"I'm sorry," Mista says. "What thing Fugo's writing?"
"Oh!" Narancia says. "I know! That thing with the--the miserable lesbians."
"Les Miserables, Narancia," Trish says, perfectly accented. “But close. Fugo’s been taking up writing as a hobby. Haven’t you, Fugo? ” If looks could kill, Trish would be dead more times over than her father, but she keeps going because she simply does not give a shit. She leans back, arms crossed, amused. “He has a fan work I’ve been proofreading for him. It’s quite good. But you know....making them miserable lesbians would be an objective improvement.”
Fugo spares a look at Giorno, who’s appraising him with a mix of excitement and curiosity. Fugo jerks his head away. Is he blushing? No one can tell.
“Okay, I need to see this. I needed to see this thirty seconds ago.” Mista says.
“I have a copy!” Narancia says. He pulls out a beat up roll of papers.
Fugo’s head snaps up. He jumps out of his seat. “Where the hell did you get that?”
“You left it on the printer, dude. Finders keepers.” He tosses the papers to Mista over Fugo’s head like a football. Fugo tries to catch it and misses. Mista grabs it, hooting in victory. He flips to the first page and starts reading with a relish.
Fugo grabs Narancia’s collar and pulls back his fist. “Find this--”
“What’s it about?” Giorno says. The interest is genuine, and it immediately makes all the fight in Fugo dissolve. He drops Narancia’s collar, cowed and sheepish.
“Well,” Fugo says. He’s definitely blushing now. Every word is forced from him, like Giorno is tempting a feral cat out from under the couch. “This--it’s fanfiction about a musical about a classic novel about social strife during the French Revolution--”
“Oh my god,” Mista says, nose almost smudging the paper. “They’re both virgins. Old man virgins.”
“The--the flower petals,” Fugo stammers. “It’s a trope, uh, a condition, where one character starts coughing up flowers that grow in their lungs-- it’s a metaphor, okay, meant to represent the perils of unrequited love--”
“He’s gonna jump off the fucking bridge!” Mista hollers.
“I know, right?” Trish hollers back.
“And in the metaphor,” Fugo says, trying to be louder than them and failing spectacularly. “The character affected will eventually die of it unless they confess. It’s whatever. It’s--it’s stupid.”
“Oh, okay, the other old virgin jumped in to save him. That was too close, man. Don't do me like that."
Giorno thinks. "I don’t think it’s stupid. Coughing up flowers does have an aesthetic je ne sais quoi to it, doesn't it?"
"That's what I'm saying,” Trish says. “It's beautiful and embarrassing, just like Abbacchio themself.”
“And it’s fucking riveting,” Mista says. “The drama of it all. Kudos to you, Fugo.”
"Good job, Victor Fugo," Trish says.
“Thanks,” Fugo grits out. Somehow, he doesn’t sound very thankful about it.
“This could be a solid basis for a prank,” Giorno says. “But should we be involving this whole romantic trope?”
“I think it’d be clear enough that this would be a response to them tampering with your tea,” Trish says. “But maybe if they were to believe they had a condition similar to what Fugo’s describing, they’d finally buck up and confess to Buccellati.”
Giorno nods. “The ethical implications here are tricky, though. Is it cruel to make them believe it’s on the pain of death? We also don’t want Buccellati to feel obligated to reciprocate.”
“But they do reciprocate,” Trish says dully. “Water is wet. The Pope is Catholic.”
“Everyone knows that,” Mista says.
“God knows that,” Narancia says. “The Pope knows that, cause God told him.”
“And I don’t think anything else other than the threat of death would convince Abbacchio to clear up their emotional constipation at this point,” Trish adds.
“That’s certainly a good point,” Giorno says. He rubs his chin. “We use some sort of harmless microparticle, perhaps? Something grainy that can stick to the roof of their mouth and throat. I’ll use Gold Experience to randomly turn each grain into a different flower until they’ve talked to Buccellati. All we’d have to do is track down a material that fits those requirements and then slip it into their tea bags.”
Mista and Narancia both shoot to standing, the fanfiction forgotten. “Tracking down weird stuff!” Narancia says. “We’re on it!” They high-five and run out of the room.
Trish gets up too. “I’ll start slicing open their tea bags so we can seal them back up in a way they won’t notice.”
Fugo picks up the discarded papers and clutches them to his chest. Stares at his feet. “And I’ll just...I’ll just go, I guess.” He starts to shuffle backwards out of the room.
Fugo pauses. Giorno’s looking at him. “Could I read what you wrote?” he asks.
Fugo does a full-body cringe. “I mean...do you even want to?”
“Yes,” Giorno says. “Very much so.”
It’s not real, Fugo tells himself. The disease he’s writing about isn’t real.
But something blooms in his chest anyways.
Fugo and Trish were deemed the only ones who could keep their cool enough to be in the room when the plan is first enacted, so there they are. Trish drums her french tips against the kitchen table. Fugo shifts in his seat.
“Weather’s been nice, huh?” Trish says.
“Yep,” Fugo says. “Yeah, it’s weather.”
Trish glares at him. Trish did not vote for Fugo being here.
“It’s really weather out,” Fugo amends. It does not help.
Abbacchio’s also glaring at them both, but in less of a suspicious way, and in more of a "how dare you exist near me before breakfast" sort of way. They don't comment on the weather. They just turn another page of the crime report and take another long sip of their Darjeeling. It's oddly sticky this morning, but oh well. It’s tea. Tea is tea. Another page flip. Another long sip.
Then they throw up half a sunflower.
In practice, it's far less romantic than Fugo's vividly purple prose would have it. The real life equivalent is a spotty, spittly affair, coughs and petals and lips all akimbo as a mash of chlorophyll lands on the table with a wet smack.
"Oh shit," Trish says cooly. "Are you okay? Did you just cough up a flower?" She’s so surprised right now. It’s really unbelievable, how surprised she is.
"Oh...oh, whoops," Fugo says, less cooly.
Abbacchio takes some ragged, soggy breaths. "What the fuck," they say. "Was that?" They cough up a tiny jasmine flower. It lands with a splash in their tea, steeping.
Trish claps her hands. "I know what this is," she says. "It's a Stand thing."
Abbacchio looks over at Trish with death in their eyes. "Giorno?"
"What? No way, Giorno's not even here." Giorno did, however, happen to be hiding in the kitchen cupboard, but Trish didn't think they needed to know that. "Completely unrelated. Apparently it's something that can happen to Stand users. We discovered it when you and Buccellati were out on that mission a while back. We never mentioned it because…" She can't stop a little grin from pricking at the sides of her lips. "We didn't think it would ever affect you."
Abbacchio's glaring at them in what is definitely a suspicious way. "Explain."
"Well, when a Stand user loves another Stand user very much--"
Abbacchio interrupts to cough, this time in disgust.
"--but that love hasn't been properly or healthily expressed, then their Stand ability will make flowers start to grow in their lungs. Happened to me with Sheila."
Trish kicks Fugo under the table. "Uh, yeah," he says. "Happened to me too with-- you know, the details aren't really important."
"Oh no, we're talking about these details later," Trish says. "But basically, we had to do a lot of research, because it turns out it can end up being harmful if you let it go on for long enough. It gets dangerous. We found an article about it. Didn’t we, Fugo?”
“Yep,” Fugo says, voice cracking. “Yeah, we sure did.”
So later that day, a sheath of papers is shoved under Abbacchio’s door. Once they’ve finished puking up a gardenia, making it look like someone’s wedding decor met its horrible end on their bedsheets, they get up to take a look.
It's an article from the Speedwagon Journal of Medicinal Science and Medicine, the title helpfully wreathed with clip-art of hypodermic needles and little ghosts that look like Stands. It describes, as Trish mentioned, a condition where a Stand user in love with another Stand user develops flower growths in their lungs as a result of the intensity of their feelings. The technical name for it is Hanahaki disease, but it's also known in the Stand community as A Heart Full of Love, which sounds familiar in a way Abbacchio can’t quite put their finger on.
The included case study, however, is decidedly not medicinal or scientific, instead a beautiful and heart-wrenching retelling of the first known appearance of the disease. The tale takes Abbacchio back to the France of the 1700s, where a formerly criminal rogue with a golden soul and a penchant for adopting children steals the heart of a police officer struggling with morality. It’s a good thing Abbacchio can’t relate to that at all, they think, because it would emotionally destroy them if they did.
So it's a completely normal amount of tears they wipe from their eyes as the police officer starts to have irises bloom in his throat, a consequence of a love too powerful for his body to contain. They read as the cop almost perishes from the thorns, taking breath after bloody breath so near the end, until his golden criminal appears before him. The two of them reconcile. The cop admits how important he is to him. They go off into the sunset together. Alive.
Because the disease is fatal otherwise.
They read the article again. Again. They think about Buccellati as person. Then they think about themself as a person. Then they drop the article on their chest and lay back on the bed to stare at the ceiling.
“Well,” they say, out loud, to the empty room. “Guess I’ll die.”
"Abbacchio," Giorno says. "I've called you in to discuss some disturbing reports I've received about your behavior."
"Have you, now." It's not a question.
"Yes," Giorno says, answering like it's a question anyway. "You've been declining mission offers. You've been packing up your things. You've been more withdrawn than usual. Narancia also found this copy of…" He hands a sheet of paper to them. "What looks like to be your will?"
Abbacchio just shrugs. According to the text, they aim to bequeath Giorno their used makeup sponges and Q-tips. It's incredibly touching to be included.
"I...have a condition," they admit.
"A condition," Giorno says. "I've heard reports of that as well. Coughing up flower petals like the Stand disease we discovered?"
Abbacchio looks perfectly happy to just sit there and not answer, but their throat tickles and they shoot out a little puff of dandelion seeds out of their mouth. Their cheeks turn pink.
"It doesn't hurt, does it?"
“Actually, no,” Abbacchio says. Giorno’s shoulders drop in relief. “Although it is doing surprising things to my digestive system. Surprising, but not unwelcome.”
“Well, that’s...that’s good.” Giorno says. A result of the two of them “reaching an understanding” has meant that Abbacchio has been more willing to talk to him, but almost exclusively about things they think will embarrass Giorno. “But you’re aware of the risk of fatality.”
“I am,” they say. “And I’m prepared for it.”
Giorno blinks very slowly. “But...you’re also aware of how you can fix it.”
“I am,” they say.
“Dying’s not that bad,” they say. “I’ve already done it once.”
Giorno reaches up to massage his temples. A headache is developing. "Alright," he says. "Hypothetically speaking, who is it that you would need to confess to in order to cure this?"
He asks with the same tone as asking a completely rhetorical question. Is water wet? Is the Pope Catholic? They both stare at each other.
"I would literally rather die than inconvenience them even slightly," Abbacchio says.
Giorno presses his temples harder, like he's trying to get in there and dig the headache out with his fingers. "Okay. Alright. First of all, that's--that's horrible, Abbacchio. I keep therapists on retainer for a reason. Second of all, it is absolutely unacceptable that I run the chance of losing one of my trusted soldatos over something so silly. Yes, bare your teeth at me all you'd like, I said it and I'm going to say it. This is silly."
Abbacchio's still baring their teeth at him all they'd like. "Couldn't you just use Gold Experience to fix me then, boss? If it matters so much to you." Their eyebrows furrow. "Couldn't you just have used Gold Experience to begin with?"
"I...could," Giorno says. "And I still can, but now it's becoming a different matter entirely. We're getting to the principle of things. The principle is that you're an emotionally stunted individual and that the tension between you and Buccellati has been threatening to suffocate this entire house for years. Frankly, I’m tired of it.”
“So here’s what I’ll offer you, Abbacchio. You either have a serious conversation with Buccellati about your relationship and cure the disease yourself, or I use Gold Experience to cure it and then make one of several volunteers have that conversation on your behalf."
Abbacchio straightens in their chair. Their eyes go wide. "You wouldn't."
"I would and you know it,” Giorno says. “In fact, I already am. All of your dear friends are hard at work right now coming up with the most artistic way possible to reveal your feelings. Buccellati gets back from their hometown tomorrow, correct?”
“Take care of it yourself by tomorrow night,” Giorno says. “And then I won’t have to.”
One day more.
Abbacchio is still hoping to just die in peace when the brigadiers of bullshit bust into their room.
"We're in charge of wooing if you won't," Mista says. He gets out his gun and cocks it, making several people in the room wince, but all that comes out as he pulls the trigger is a shower of heart-shaped confetti. "Check it.”
"I coated some of your puke-flowers in resin and made a bracelet out of it," Trish says, holding up her wrist. Glossy petals dangle from a chain. "Oh, and I made you something, too. It’s a comprehensive dictionary of matching outfits for you two for every occasion.” She flips open a binder with pages of pasted cut-outs from magazines, like a series of high-fashion ransom notes. There’s outfits for all seasons and each color of the rainbow. The pages for “wedding of person you hate”, “funeral of person you hate”, and “blending in with teens at skate park” are particularly inventive.
"Uh, I wrote a...sort of alternate universe where the two of you share a body,” Fugo says. “Which sounds way weird to be telling you about? Actually, you know what, forget I said anything.”
"Fuck that, fuck you, and fuck off," Narancia says. "I made a mixtape and it's way better!"
He puts a CD into his boombox. The opening notes of Wonderwall play. He fastforwards through Freek'n You, No Scrubs, and One Week until he ends up at Canzoni Preferite. Vocal percussion on a whole ‘nother level, coming from my mind! Vocal percussion on a whole ‘nother level, coming from my mind! I want-- A scratchy, deadpan recording of Narancia’s voice cuts in. “Love and affection,” it says.
“I will die,” Abbacchio says to all of them. “Right now.”
“No!” Narancia cries. The song keeps playing. It’s like a b--”beautiful day with you, Buccellati.”
"Hey, hey, hey, no dying," Mista says. "That's what we're all trying to avoid. And I haven't even gotten the chance to show you my dance routine. It's like the YMCA, but sexier."
Fugo stares at him. "Is the regular YMCA sexy to you?"
Mista stares right back with equal bewilderment. "Is it not sexy to you?"
"Get out," Abbacchio says. "All of you."
Mista looks deeply offended, almost entirely for sexual group dance related reasons. “Alright, fine. We’ll leave. But know this, Abbacchio. Since you didn’t humor any of our options, if you end up wimping out tomorrow we’re going to do them all.”
“At the same time.”
Fine. They go. Abbacchio is left alone.
It’s fine, actually.
Dying is fine.
Buccellati comes back smelling of salt and brings the sun home with them. Abbacchio, well adjusted individual that they are, only manages to say hello before needing to excuse themself to try and stop blushing.
They duck into the kitchen to find it absolutely chock-full of turtles.
It was not like this before. Abbacchio would even go so far to stay that it wasn’t supposed to be like this now. Unless, somehow, Polnareff snuck out on a love cruise behind all their backs and had brought his new family here to get out of paying child support. A dozen red-ear sliders alternate between napping and wiggling on top of the dining room table. Two enormous leopard tortoises sit on the kitchen counter, seemingly contented with how huge they are.
Polnareff’s progeny or not, the kitchen’s state of disrepair is unacceptable. Buccellati is home. Buccellati.
If they were fishing, then they’ll need the counter to put their stuff down. Abbacchio dashes for that first, picking up the giant tortoises by their shells, their scaly feet wriggling in the air in protest. Gotta clean this up quick. Where to hide them? Where to hide? Closet? Cupboard? Bathroom? Giorno’s bed?
“Oh, there you are!”
Abbacchio freezes. They’ve been caught turtle-handed. Buccellati’s voice makes them feel instant shame, both for the reptile wreckage and for daring to scheme up a trick for Giorno in their presence. They turn around, as ready to accept their fate as they’ve been ready to die all week.
Buccellati stands in the doorway, cheeks bronzed by the sun, hair tousled by the wind. It’s such a natural look on them, this seaside-ness, that it’s almost a tragedy to see them back on land. The same tragic feeling as going to a zoo and remembering how far away the exhibits are from their natural habitats. The urge to fix it hits Abbacchio like they’ve been called in to a medical emergency. 30 ccs of surf and sand, stat. But other than all that, Buccellati’s surveying the room and looks...pleasantly surprised?
“Did you do all this?” they ask.
Abbacchio opens their mouth to say something along the lines of “God, no, it’s not what it looks like, please don’t let Polnareff foist his parental duties off on me,” but that’s when they realize all the turtles in the room have vanished. In place of the table’s cold-blooded clutter, there’s now an array of beautiful dining decor: romantic candles, the good silver, napkins folded into delicate origami frogs. It’s been set out for the clear intent of a fancy lunch for two, even if the placement’s been shifted a bit from all the sliders sliding. They look down at the tortoises they were holding. They’ve been transformed into copper cloche trays, and whatever’s inside them smells divine.
So it was Giorno doing the tricking instead. Well, at least Abbacchio can die knowing that their final thoughts being of how to best to jeopardize Giorno’s room were somewhat justified.
Shit, Buccellati asked a question.
“I didn’t do this,” they say. And then, because their brain hates them, they keep talking. “It was...it was the turtles.”
Buccellati looks concerned, but ultimately supportive. “As long as they washed their hands, I suppose. It smells delicious. Could we eat? I’m starving. Long drive.”
Alright, that's Abbacchio's cue to stop being useless, even though every one of their muscles is clenching around it being 'could we eat'. It's a we lunch, a we, they looked at all this finery worth more than Abbacchio's liver and thought we. They bumble over to set down and uncover the tray; the meal is a gourmet-plated stuffed mushroom and eggplant mix that’s just luxuriating in its vegan-ness. Little cardamom tea cakes are stacked on side plates. The accompanying oolong smells freshly brewed. Abbacchio’s sure they’re getting laughed at somewhere right now, but at least they’re getting some good food out of it.
They sit down, clear their throat, and pick up a fork. "So...how was it?"
Buccellati smiles, and another ray of sun casts itself into the room. "Great," they say. "Got to see everyone. Nothing really changes back home. The fishing-- it’s work, don’t get me wrong, but it when I’m able to help someone out it doesn’t suck as much. How were things around here?”
“Boring.” That’s a lie. “Lonely.” That’s...not so much.
“Well,” Buccellati says. “You’ll just have to come with me next time, then.” Then they wink.
The wink makes Abbacchio explode, but instead of the ear-wracking special effects in movies, the explosion sounds like this: “I’ve had feelings for you for years.”
Buccellati drops their fork in their stuffed eggplant. Abbacchio rambles on, staring at their hands. “I never told you--never wanted to tell you because I didn’t want to put you in a position where you’d have to reject me while still being my boss. I tried really hard to just get it over with, to be neutral, to make sure I was someone that you could rely on no matter what, but it...it wouldn’t go away. And then all this shit happened, then we died, and then you semi-retired and I got to learn so much more about you, and--fuck, fuck, it’s bad. I have it bad, alright? I really like you. And it would suck if...if something were to happen and I never got to tell you that. Okay?”
Buccellati doesn’t say anything. Okay, Abbacchio thinks. Well.
Then they cough up what feels like an entire bouquet of roses.
Abbacchio looks down at the mess they made of lunch in horror. But that’s supposed to stop it. It’s supposed to be over. Buccellati’s staring at it. At them.
“Did...you just cough up flowers like the thing Fugo’s writing?” they ask, slowly.
“Sorry, hang on,” Abbacchio says, wiping drool from their chin. “What thing Fugo’s writing?”
“It...was something he was having me proofread,” Buccellati says. They talk like they’ve been doing handstands for hours. “Which, you know, I’m not the best reader, but I was trying to encourage him. I think it was some fanwork about a cop and an ex-criminal and...they were French lesbians? Oh--no. No. Not lesbians. Huh. A shame, really, when you think about it.”
“But it’s fiction.”
“Fugo was writing about non-lesbian French people coughing up flowers for fictional purposes.”
“I mean--God, I hope so.”
“Alright,” Abbacchio says, standing up. They mechanically push in their chair. “Alright.”
“Are you--are you leaving?”
From somewhere deep in the house, there’s a faint call to ‘scatter!’ Abbacchio cracks their knuckles. “There’s a score I need to settle. See you, Buccellati.”
Buccellati is left alone with an empty chair, an empty table, and a lot to think about.
Abbacchio, predictably, barges into to Giorno’s office. Giorno, predictably, is sitting at his desk. “You think you could play me for a fucking fool and get away with it?”
Giorno raises a single finger. “No one played you for a fool, Abbacchio,” he says. “You did that quite admirably all on your own.”
Abbacchio pulls back their fist to punch Giorno in the face, but a bloomful of hydrangeas spray out of their mouth instead. They double over, hacking.
“I admit that it was a cruel joke to play,” Giorno says. “But so is hazing me with your bodily fluids. And doesn’t it feel better to have gotten that off your chest? To actually have told Buccellati how you feel?”
“No,” they heave. “Feels horrible, actually. Now they’re gonna have to reject me and they think I’m an idiot. Thanks a lot.”
Giorno tilts his head. “How do you know that?”
They look up to squint at him. “Because...that’s what’s going to happen.”
“That’s what you think will happen, not what you know will happen.”
“Could it be, perhaps, that you don’t know what will happen because instead of talking it out with them, you ran here to try to punch me in the face immediately?”
“Could it be that they followed you into the kitchen to seek out your company after being away, that they were having a wonderful lunch with you, and then you up and left them? Left them cold and alone?”
Abbacchio grips their forehead. “Fuck!” They turn on their heel to power-walk out the door. “I fucking hate it when you’re right!”
“I know,” Giorno calls after them. “That’s why you hate me all the time.”
They don’t have to go far. Buccellati’s right outside the door, and Abbacchio runs smack into them and burps a hibiscus up onto their chest.
“Okay, that’s really the last one,” Giorno says. “Promise.”
Buccellati doesn’t look disturbed by that at all. Instead they delicately pinch the stem, bringing it to their nose. The flower is shiny and refined and beautiful, just like them. It’s also covered in spit. Not like them. They press a delicate kiss to one of the petals, keeping eye contact with Abbacchio the whole time.
Alright, they may actually still die. “I threw that up. That’s...that’s disgusting,” Abbacchio splutters.
“I can do far more disgusting things with my mouth,” they say. “I promise.”
Alright, they might pass out and die in their sleep instead. Both of their eyebrows try to leave the stratosphere. “Oh?”
“...in my hallway?” Giorno says. “Really?”
“Well, why should I wait?” Buccellati says to both of them. “I’ve had feelings for you for years.”
Then it stops being a conversation and starts becoming a serious of very loud, very wet kissing noises. Giorno sits back in his chair, rubbing his temples, getting another headache. He puts on the musical CD Fugo gave him to try and drown it out. It doesn’t work.
When you go out for revenge, Giorno thinks, you should really just dig two graves.