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6:23 a.m.

“Good God,” grumbles Dio, still curled up in the bed with his eyes closed. “Noisy.”

“Oh, sorry,” Jonathan whispers from behind him, but the thumping of his large feet across the room doesn’t cease. Dio can almost hear him going through his mental checklist to make sure he hasn’t missed anything.

“Don’t forget the shaving cream,” Dio tells him. Jonathan always forgets and comes home with a subpar shave, because hotel shaving cream is truly awful, and Dio not only has to look at it, but also has to rub his face against it if he wants to kiss his husband.

“Yes, yes,” says Jonathan, and Dio knows he’s rolling his eyes, “it’s already in my toiletry bag, fusspot.”

“Good.” Dio ignores the jab (he is fastidious, okay, not a fusspot) because he is a benevolent husband. Instead, he yawns and settles in to go back to sleep.

“Dio,” Jonathan blurts out just as Dio’s about to drop off.

“What,” Dio growls, considering throwing a pillow at him.

“I just– are you sure you’ll be okay on your own?” Jonathan asks nervously. “I mean, I don’t have to go away for the weekend, if–”

Dio rolls over in bed and glares at Jonathan, which shuts him up right away. “I am his padre,” Dio reminds Jonathan. “And I, Dio, am excellent at everything I do. The kid’s in good hands.”

“I don’t doubt that,” says Jonathan, a little too gentle for Dio’s liking, eyes wide and soft. “Will you be okay?”

He’s just asking because he’s worried. Dio appreciates it, and it would be so easy to say yes, to ask him to stay, but he can’t rely on Jonathan forever. It’s high time Dio grew up.

“I’ll be fine,” Dio assures him, and chucks a pillow in his face when Jonathan doesn’t look convinced. “Go on, go enjoy your stupid breathing yoga or whatever it is.”

Jonathan splutters and chucks the pillow right back at Dio. “It’s called Hamon!” he tells Dio, laughing, like he thinks Dio cares. “And it’s proven to have healing qualities. You should try it some time!”

Dio snorts. “I’ll pass,” he says, closing his eyes. He’s probably not going to be able to go back to sleep, but he’ll still damn well try.

Jonathan chuckles, and the bed dips as he leans over to kiss Dio’s forehead. “You aren’t him,” he whispers, brushing Dio’s hair off his forehead. “You’re a great father.”

Dio pretends to be asleep, and doesn’t let Jonathan see how much the words mean to him.

He suspects Jonathan knows anyway.

--

7:02 a.m.

Dio isn’t sure when he actually fell asleep again, but the next thing he knows the pitter-patter of little feet are heading right towards him.

“Da!” cries little Giorno, clambering right up onto the bed and vigorously shaking Dio’s half-awake form. “Da!!”

Dio sighs as he sits up. He’d forgotten how much energy Giorno has in the morning– by the time he comes home from work, both Giorno and Jonathan are usually nodding off in front of Teletubbies.

“Daddy’s not going to be around for a couple of days, sweetheart,” Dio says, stroking Giorno’s hair. “It’s just you and Padre today.”

Giorno stares up at him with wide blue eyes– then bursts into tears, wailing at the top of his lungs. “No!” he screams to the ceiling. “Da!!”

Logically, Dio knows that Giorno’s only this attached to Jonathan because he’s the one who usually looks after Giorno, but he can’t help but feel wounded.

“Come now, Gio,” Dio says, awkwardly petting Giorno’s head. The child responds by wrapping his tiny arms around Dio’s torso as best he can and burying his sobbing face in Dio’s chest. Dio hugs back hesitantly, careful not to use too much force.

“Daddy will be back tomorrow, okay?” Dio tells him, trying to sound upbeat and reassuring. “Until then, I, your Padre, am going to take care of you!”

Giorno just wails louder. Dio feels a bit like crying himself.

--

7:42 a.m.

Dio, for the first time, is feeling utterly lost.

Giorno simply won’t stop crying. Dio tried to calm him down, but even his favourite frog plushie was screamed at and thrown on the ground. Eventually, Dio decided to throw in the towel (another unprecedented move for him, Dio) and just try to get through breakfast.

Yeah, not as easy as it sounds.

“No!” bawls Giorno, banging his pudgy little fists on the table. He hasn’t touched the bowl of cereal in front of him. Dio’s tried everything to get him to eat: demonstration, compromise, the big ladybug-themed bowl-and-spoon set that always seems to cheer him up. He’s kneeling next to Giorno’s chair, seriously contemplating force-feeding him when the boy’s fist catches on the rim of the bowl and sends the contents flying.

All over Dio.

Giorno’s screaming immediately quiets to tiny, fearful whimpers and sniffles. Dio suppresses the rage and frustration building up in his chest, and takes a deep breath. He will not shout at his son.

How would Jonathan deal with this?

“Giorno,” says Dio calmly, looking him in the eye. “That is unacceptable behaviour. You are being very rude. Do you understand me?”

A sniffle. Giorno stares at him, guilty and teary, but doesn’t respond.

“Do you understand?” Dio repeats.

It takes a moment, but Giorno nods, hesitantly, just once. Dio doesn’t think he’s ever felt more relieved in his life, but the kid isn’t off the hook yet.

“Are you going to apologise to Padre?” Dio prompts.

Giorno bursts into tears again, nodding furiously. “Pa,” he wails mournfully, reaching for Dio.

Dio lets him throw his little arms around Dio’s neck, hugs him back gently, presses a kiss to his chubby cheek so he knows Dio loves him and isn’t angry. “It’s okay,” he tells Giorno softly, suppressing the urge to squeeze him tight and never let him go. “Padre forgives you.”

Giorno sniffles loudly into Dio’s neck.

--

10:05 a.m.

Dio falls onto the sofa, exhausted.

After the big breakfast debacle, Giorno seemed perfectly fine, happy to show toy after toy after toy to Dio for evaluation. Dio was relieved, if slightly annoyed because he was trying to clean up Giorno’s mess of cereal and milk (the fussy baby wouldn’t let Dio start cleaning until after they ate together).

Giorno went down for his morning nap half an hour ago, no doubt tired from his big temper tantrum. Dio has some work to do, stuff he brought back from the office, but after the hectic morning he thinks he needs a nap too.

He decides to have a cup of coffee instead, and think about what to make for lunch. This, at least, he’s sure he’s better at than Jonathan– the man’s hopeless in the kitchen, capable only of toasting and boiling things. The plebeian uses ready-made sauces on his pasta. If Dio wasn’t so busy with work, he would never allow his family to eat that way.

Dio throws open the pantry doors, only to find it just shy of barren. A little more investigating in the fridge reveals what Dio had been dreading– Jonathan has been feeding his son ready meals.

Dio’s quite proud of the way he handles himself upon this discovery. He takes several deep breaths to calm himself, and when that doesn’t work, he leaves an angry voicemail (or two or three) for Jonathan, which works remarkably well. Yelling at Jonathan always seems to make Dio feel better.

“Pa?” little Giorno’s timid voice comes from around the doorway to the kitchen when Dio hangs up, huffing with anger. His wide eyes look worried, afraid. Dio feels a pang of regret in his chest. Stupid, stupid, he should never have yelled while Giorno was around, of course the poor kid would be scared of him!

“Sorry, sweetheart,” he says, smiling reassuringly at Giorno as he comes close. “Padre isn’t angry with you, okay?”

Giorno nods, but still looks hesitant.

“C’mon,” says Dio, holding out his hand for Giorno to take. “Let’s get you changed. We’re going to make a trip to the supermarket.”

--

10:58 a.m.

“Gio, please,” Dio sighs exasperatedly when Giorno, sitting in the baby seat, tries to put yet another random item into the shopping trolley.

“No!” Giorno tells him happily, and laughs like he thinks it’s the funniest thing ever, kicking his legs.

Dio sighs again, and calmly reshelves the can of baked beans Giorno had decided they needed. All he wants to do is get through his shopping list and get home with his son still in one piece. At least Giorno isn’t crying in the middle of the supermarket like an appalling number of children do.

…He probably shouldn’t jinx it.

Giorno stays relatively well-behaved for a few blessed minutes, but then starts kicking up a fuss and demanding, by way of babbles and pointing, to be let out to walk around. Dio obliges, with strict instructions for Giorno to stay close. Giorno nods furiously, all innocent blue eyes and cherubic features – and then, when Dio looks away for ten seconds to select the best broccoli, the little devil runs off down another aisle, giggling the whole way.

“Giorno!” Dio snaps, biting back a curse, shoving the broccoli into his trolley and chasing after his son. Giorno is unfazed, sticking his arms out and flapping as he runs down the aisles, making whooshing noises with his mouth. Apparently, he takes Dio’s chasing him down as some sort of game, because he claps in delight when he notices his padre running towards him, and promptly disappears behind a display shelf to hide. When Dio draws near, the boy shrieks with laughter and sets off again down a different aisle.

This goes on for a good ten minutes. Dio is starting to feel helpless and like the worst father in the world. He rounds a corner, expecting to see Giorno sticking his tongue out at him from the other end of the aisle, but instead finds his son hiding behind a rather thick calf, snickering as he peeps at his father with a mischievous grin.

“Jotaro,” pants Dio, because he recognises that calf. It must be a hereditary thing, being abnormally large for one’s age, because Jotaro is only fourteen and already he’s almost Dio’s height and breadth. Just like Jonathan was, at that age, if Dio remembers those childhood photographs correctly.

Jotaro, strangely, doesn’t respond. He’s just standing there, frowning so hard at the cherries they might spontaneously combust. Giorno giggles and latches onto that huge calf. He’s always been fond of Jotaro.

“Jotaro,” Dio repeats, louder and more annoyed. “Jotaro!”

The last near-shout is what jolts Jotaro out of his stupor. “What do you want?” he grumbles, shoving his hands in his pockets.

Dio raises an eyebrow. “My son,” he replies dryly, nodding at the tiny blond child clinging to Jotaro’s leg.

Jotaro blinks down at him like he’s only just realising he’s there, then lifts his leg effortlessly and offers him to Dio. Dio panics at the sight– what if Giorno accidentally falls off?!– but Giorno is obviously having the time of his life hanging from Jotaro’s leg. Dio hates to ruin his fun, but safety comes first, so he swiftly catches Giorno around the middle and detaches him from Jotaro, who just goes back to frowning holes in the cherries.

“Thanks,” says Dio slowly, but Jotaro is already caught up in his own world.

What a strange kid, Dio thinks, as he sits Giorno into the baby seat of his trolley. “No,” he tells Giorno firmly when he starts to squirm. “You’re not going to run off again!”

Giorno pouts at him, but doesn’t cry. Dio counts it as a win.

--

1:22 p.m.

After a minimal-fuss lunch of carbonara (with sauce made from scratch, thank you very much), Dio lays down the tarp and brings out the fingerpaints, figuring it would keep Giorno occupied long enough for Dio to do some work.

It works reasonably well; while he’s interrupted every so often by Giorno coming over to show off his new painting, Dio manages to work through a good portion before Giorno drags him over by the hand to paint together.

It’s… surprisingly fun. For someone who doesn’t usually like mess of any sort, Dio has a great time getting his fingers dirty with paint. He works on a (bad) portrait of Giorno, then does a Jonathan to match. (He doesn’t attempt to paint himself; fingerpaints and mediocre talent cannot truly capture his flawless essence.)

Thankfully, Giorno seems to notice the incomplete family portrait set and solemnly hands a piece of paper to Dio ten minutes later. “Pa,” he explains. It looks like a mass of yellow noodles on top of a rather terrifying smiling face, but it makes Dio smile when he looks at it, and fills his heart with warmth.

“Thank you,” he tells Giorno sincerely. “It’s very good.”

Giorno nods. He pushes at Dio’s forearms until he lays the painting down next to Dio’s paintings of Giorno and Jonathan, then beams up at Dio and gives him a hug.

Dio hugs back tightly, and refuses to understand why his eyes are wet.

--

5:14 p.m.

Dio thinks he’s getting the hang of this parenting thing. Giorno’s been no fuss all afternoon, cleaning up after fingerpainting, going down for his nap, having his fruits and biscuits for tea time, then playing with his blocks by himself. It’s been nice, taking care of Giorno. Dio’s decided, he has to make more time in his busy schedule for his son. Plus, after today, he’s sure Jonathan needs the help around the house. Another pair of hands would have been brilliant today.

It’s a nice day, so Dio straps Giorno into his stroller and they head for the park. They go every weekend they can; the neighbourhood kids always play there, so it’s a good chance for Giorno to socialise. Dio, for his part, likes to sit with their moms and catch up on the gossip he’s missed during the week while at work. It’s a win-win.

Today, there aren’t very many kids at the park. Dio vaguely remembers something about a bake sale the neighbourhood moms were preparing for– they’d invited Dio to come along, but he’d been too busy with work. Giorno’s best friend Mista is around, though; Giorno greets him with a strange four-fingered wave, the sight of which prompts little Mista to burst into tears. Giorno just giggles. He really is Dio’s son.

Mista’s babysitter, Buccellati, offers to watch Giorno for a bit. Dio trusts him– Buccellati’s a good kid– so he accepts. “Listen to Buccellati,” Dio tells Giorno firmly, squatting down to look him in the eye, because the kid can be a little imp sometimes. “And you stay close to him, okay?”

Giorno nods impatiently and hugs Dio briefly, then runs off to play with Mista.

Satisfied that his son is being well looked after, Dio decides to sit on a nearby bench and take a breather.

“Long day?” a familiar voice calls from somewhere to his left. Dio turns to see Jonathan’s friend Speedwagon coming towards him, wearing a friendly smile. There was a time Dio would have been disgusted by the gentle affection Speedwagon affords everyone, but years of life with Jonathan has softened him.

“Well,” Dio grunts as Speedwagon sits down next to him. “Nothing that I, Dio, can’t handle.”

“That’s good to hear,” Speedwagon says pleasantly, watching Giorno hop down a slide with a happy burble. “Jonathan was worried about you, you know.”

Dio snorts. Had Jonathan gone blabbing about his insecurities to the entire town? “For no reason,” he sniffs haughtily. “Obviously I, Dio, am just as good at childrearing as I am at everything else.”

Speedwagon laughs, but it’s a gentle thing. Laughing with Dio rather than at him; it had taken Dio a long time to tell the difference. “You and Jonathan really are perfect for each other,” he chuckles. “Both so proud, so afraid to admit that you don’t know, or ask for help from others.”

Denying it right now would just prove Speedwagon’s point, so Dio opts for silence instead.

“The truth is,” Speedwagon continues, “nobody really knows the right way to raise a kid. I’ll tell you what I told Jonathan: the best thing you can do for Giorno is love him, and make sure he knows it. The rest will fall into place.”

Dio turns to look at him then, honestly impressed at how wise his advice sounded. He’d always thought Speedwagon was the weak link of the Jonathan-Zeppeli-Speedwagon trio, but maybe this was why they kept him around.

Dio opens his mouth to say– something, he isn’t sure what–

A deafening screech pierces the air. Dio’s attention snaps to the playground–

His heart stops. There, on the edge of the playground, a large man in a cowboy hat has Giorno in his grasp, one arm tight around Giorno’s tiny waist and the other clamped over Giorno’s mouth. Giorno’s wriggling and struggling to break free, but nothing works. The man is already fleeing the park, Giorno in tow!

Rage, fear, and worry flood Dio’s body all at once, but before he can tear across the playground and give the cowboy the beating of a lifetime, Giorno bites down, hard, on the cowboy’s hand.

“Shit!” yelps the cowboy, dropping Giorno in his shock. Giorno lands on his feet, but stumbles and falls to his knees. Distantly, Dio registers that Mista has started crying loudly, but all he can see is the cowboy reaching for Giorno with a vicious snarl. “You little bastard,” he spits at Dio’s baby. “How dare you do this to Hol Hor–”

“UWRYYYYYY!!” screams Giorno, causing the cowboy– Hol Hor?– to stumble backwards with his hands over his ears. “My Padre is gonna kill you!!” It’s the first time he’s said real words, let alone a real, grammatical sentence, but Dio’s too busy vaulting over the see-saw to make a big deal of it right now.

“The fuck are you saying?!” snarls Hol Hor, reaching for what looks like a gun at his hip, but Dio, standing behind him, catches his whole puny head in one hand before he can draw his weapon.

“What,” Dio demands menacingly, yanking the man’s head back towards him so he can see his face. “did you just say in front of my son?”

Hol Hor’s face pales.

Dio breaks his nose with a well-aimed punch, and just like that, the wimp of a would-be kidnapper is down on the floor, writhing in pain, clutching his bloody nose.

“Watch your language,” Dio tells Hol Hor, who can only groan in response. “Speedwagon, call the police and make sure he doesn’t escape before they get here.”

“They’re on their way,” says Speedwagon, voice colder than Dio’s ever heard it. He tucks his phone into his pocket and promptly sits his huge, muscular body on the cowboy wimp.

That settled, Dio turns his attention to the most important thing of all: his son. “Are you okay?” he asks, tender and worried, falling to his knees and pulling Giorno in for a relieved hug. Giorno goes easily, fists his hands in Dio’s hair, sniffles into his ear once, and then bursts into tears.

“Padre,” he sobs, his little chest heaving, “I’m sorry!”

“Shh, it’s okay,” Dio whispers. “Sorry for what?”

“Y-You told me n-not to go f-far from Bu but I- I- I was chasing a b-butterfly and–”

“Shh, no, don’t worry about that, sweetheart,” Dio tells him, kissing Giorno’s head. “All I care about is that you’re safe. I love you, I love you so much.”

“Love Padre too,” says Giorno, but he’s still sobbing, still shivering in Dio’s arms.

It’s all Dio can do to rub soothing circles into Giorno’s small back, to hold him close and whisper reassurances. His heart is hurting at the sight of his baby so distraught, and he’s sure that if he wasn’t holding Gio right now, that damn Hol Hor would be dead by now.

They stay there in the park, clinging to each other and refusing to let go, until the police show up ten minutes later and take their statements. Hol Hor has his rights read to him and is shoved into the back of a police car, handcuffs tight around his wrists. He’s pleading, begging for forgiveness, maybe for a lighter sentence, but Dio just stares at him coldly and keeps Giorno’s face in his neck so the child doesn’t have to look at the disgusting man.

It’s only when the police car is long gone, taking Hol Hor away with it, that Dio whispers to his son, “Let’s go home.”

Giorno nods.

--

7:16 p.m.

Giorno had stopped crying by the time they reached home, but he was obviously still shaken. Dio tried to take his mind off it with bath time fun– copius amounts of bubble bath, lathering Giorno’s hair into strange shapes, the little frog bath toys Giorno seemed to fond of– but he wasn’t responding to any of it. Eventually Dio gave up and settled for lots of reassurance and as many hugs as possible. Hopefully by this time in a few years the whole day would be a distant, rarely dusted-off memory of Giorno’s.

“Dio!” cries Jonathan into the phone when Dio finally calls him, while Giorno is having his dinner. (The thought of almost losing his son has put off Dio’s appetite.) “I heard what happened from Speedwagon, are you two okay?!”

“Yeah, we’re fine,” Dio says automatically, then sighs. “We’ll manage,” he corrects. “You’re coming home tomorrow, aren’t you?”

“No, I’m coming home right now,” Jonathan says incredulously. “Someone tried to kidnap our only son, Dio! Of course I’m coming home!”

“I told you, we’re fine now,” Dio says. “Go enjoy the rest of your breathing yoga–”

“I’m not going to enjoy anything if I’m so worried about you two,” Jonathan retorts. He’s obviously not taking no for answer. “It’s only a few hours’ drive; wait up for me!”

“But–”

Before Dio can finish his sentence, the line goes dead. He sighs. His husband is obstinate, which he loves, but also finds… challenging, at times.

“Good news,” Dio says, trying to sound cheerful, when he sits down next to Giorno at the dining table. “Daddy’s coming home tonight.”

Dio expects cheering and relief, but is met only with a tilted head. “Okay,” says Giorno, “but me and Padre will be okay if he doesn’t.”

Dio’s heart feels warm, and he can’t help the smile that stays on his face for the rest of dinner.

--

10:05 p.m.

Dio isn’t sure when he fell asleep. He and Giorno had sat down to watch reruns of Teletubbies while waiting for Jonathan to come home. One moment he was setting Giorno in his lap, and the next he’s in a princess carry by his husband. Giorno is a warm bundle on his stomach; trust Jonathan Joestar to able to carry his huge husband and his baby son at the same time without killing either of them.

“Hey,” murmurs Dio, still half-asleep. “Welcome home.”

“Hey,” Jonathan says back, smiling soft and gentle. “Best thing to come home to, my two boys cuddling on the sofa.”

Dio wants to argue, on principle, that they weren’t cuddling, but he’s tired and Jonathan is carrying them all to their bed and all he wants to do is cuddle up with his family and go to sleep. “Love you,” he mumbles instead, settling his head against Jonathan’s chest to go back to sleep.

His eyes are closed, but he knows Jonathan’s smiling anyway. “Love you too,” he says warmly, laying Dio down on their bed gently so as not to jostle Giorno. “Get some sleep.”

Dio hums, warm and comfortable, and does just that.

--

(Later, Jonathan learns that Giorno’s first real words were “uwryyy” and “My Padre is gonna kill you”, and isn’t sure whether he wants to laugh or cry.)