Jonathan sighed. For a severed head, Dio was very talkative.
“Dio, I just knocked. Give her a moment.”
“She's had several moments. Now either knock again or I will break down the door instead, you cowardly whore!”
“I fail to see how being polite makes me a prostitute, Dio.”
The door swung open, revealing a beautiful woman, dressed to go out. Her eyes wandered over Jonathan’s tall figure and tight tank top several times before she even noticed the familiar face in the fishbowl, at which point she scrubbed at her eyes, effectively ruining her makeup. She stared at Jonathan in confusion, and he could only smile apologetically in response.
“So sorry to bother you at this hour. Are you Ms. Shiobana?”
She snapped out of old memories of the strangest one night stand she'd ever had to face him.
“It's Mrs. Giovanna now. I married before I moved to Italy.” The three of them sat in silence for a moment, one confused, one ashamed, and one absolutely livid.
“Well? Aren't you going to let us in?” She jumped and looked at Dio, surprised to learn that he was not only alive, but could talk. Her mouth hung open, but she gestured for them to come in.
“Dio! Have you forgotten all your manners?” He flashed another apologetic smile and stepped inside. “Again, so sorry for the intrusion.”
The apartment was spacious and mostly untouched, accented by expensive leather furniture. Somewhere, the shower was running. Mrs. Giovanna sank into a chair at the kitchen table and buried her head in her hands. She wasn't crying, but she had the growing feeling that she was falling farther and farther away from reality, and she had no idea what to do about it.
“Do you mind if we speak Japanese?” She nodded, and Jonathan smiled, relieved.
“Thank you. It's not my best language, but I speak it often with my grandson, so I like to think that I'm somewhat fluent, or at least more fluent than I am in Italian.”
Dio grumbled a curse, as he always did at any mention of the Joestar line.
“Your...grandson?” She blinked. He couldn't have been a day over twenty five. He shrugged.
“Technically he's my great-great-grandson, but that's a bit of a mouthful, isn't it?” She closed her mouth again, though he made no sense. She resigned herself to the fact that there would be no logical explanations that night.
“I'm Jonathan Joestar, and this is my brother, Dio Brando.”
“We're not here to make idle conversation, Jojo. Get to the fucking point,” hissed Dio. Jonathan coughed, embarrassed.
“Well, Mrs. Giovanna, this is about your son, Haruno.” She nodded shakily.
“Yes, he's his son, I know that much,” she said, gesturing vaguely at the fishbowl.
“Yes, but Haruno is also my biological son.” His voice trailed off, clearly mortified to be having this conversation.
Mrs. Giovanna stared in confusion. Surely, she rationalized, she would have remembered fucking a man like that. Jonathan took off his comparatively tiny leather satchel and produced a photograph, blushing furiously all the while. She recognized the half-dressed man in the photo as Dio from the strange star tattoo on his shoulder and thick scar.
“From 1985 to 1989, Dio attached his head to my body from the neck down and used it as his own. During your relationship with him, Dio conceived Haruno using genetic material from both of us, without my knowledge.” She stared at them, clearly starting to get pissed. In the silence, Jonathan noticed that the shower had turned off.
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
Not for the first time, Dio lamented the lack of hands to throttle her with.
“It means that I decapitated him, stole his body, and fucked you with it, you thick headed woman! And now that he knows about the bastard child, his worthless ‘gentleman’s honor’ dictates that he must play father to him.”
“Dio!” Jonathan knew he should stop being so scandalized by his brother’s behavior, no matter how it contradicted his own morals, but it was still strange seeing the once charming and duplicitous Dio abandon all manners in the 20th century.
She mulled it over for a moment, and decided to take their words at face value. The situation was already so goddamn weird, the rest of their story almost sounded plausible. She only had one question.
“So… You're saying you stole his body, just so you could have a bigger dick?”
Dio’s resulting screech was at a frequency that caused all dogs within half a kilometer to flatten their ears and growl. Just before he launched into his tirade, Jonathan placed a throw pillow on top of his bowl. It didn't silence Dio, but it did muffle some of his rage. When Jonathan spoke again, he couldn't look her in the eye.
“No, Mrs. Giovanna… I don't think that was why.” She rifled through her purse and produced a cigarette and lighter.
“Could've fooled me. It's a dick worth stealing,” she mumbled around the cigarette.
Jonathan blinked, fighting down the embarrassed flush. It had been three years since his body had been restored, and he still wasn't used to the evolved social etiquette. He suspected this was only due in part to the time difference, the rest a result of his atypical prudishness, even by 19th century standards.
“Pardon?” The question was a reflex, a filler response.
“Nothin’. Keep going.”
“I would like to offer any financial support you require in raising Haruno, and…” This was the difficult part, in Jonathan’s eyes. It was a presumptuous request, but it was the thing he wanted most.
“And in return, you'd like this to stay out of court?”
“No! Well, I'm not exactly sure how me and Dio could go to court, but that's not what I was about to say. I was wondering if we could perhaps work out a visitation schedule?”
She stared, cigarette drooping from her lips. Jonathan backpedaled, trying to do damage control.
“It's understandable if you'd prefer not to. I haven't even been aware of his existence until recently, I have no right-”
“Shit, you can adopt the brat if you want.” Her eyes gleamed with a mean sort of excitement that reminded him of Dio. It was unsettling, to see someone so eager to lose their child.
“Surely, you must be joking.”
“Why would I want him? He's always either crying or staring at people with a dead eyed look, like- Haruno! What are you doing out of your room?” She stood up, and Jonathan turned around. The boy frozen in the kitchen was small, smaller than a healthy seven year old should be. His hair was wet and black as ink, and a purple bruise hung on the edge of his solemn expression. He wore an enormous t shirt that fell down to his calves, a makeshift nightshirt. In the space of a second, it all came together for Jonathan, the rough outline of what Haruno’s life was like. He stared, horrified.
“I was hungry, Mama.”
“How many times have I told you not to interrupt when adults are speaking?” She began to advance, her hands raising to waist height. Haruno didn't move, only screwed his eyes shut. Jonathan stepped forward, ready to intervene.
“I heard the door shut. I thought you left. It won't happen again.”
“Like hell it won't-”
The phone rang, and Haruno visibly relaxed.
“It's probably Giovanni, wondering why I'm so fucking late to the club.” She dropped onto the couch and took the call. Cautiously, Jonathan took the pillow off the fishbowl.
“She married a man named Giovanni Giovanna?”
“Dio, please,” chided Jonathan.
Haruno had to tilt his head all the way back to look at him, so Jonathan kneeled down. The boy stared, his wide and nervous eyes a cornflower blue. They were Jonathan's eyes, and the sight gave Dio the dual feelings of rage and nostalgia. He saw nothing of himself in the child. Even in his early years, Dio couldn't recall himself being so helpless, so resigned.
“Who are you?”
“I, Dio, am your father.”
Haruno glanced at the bowl, either unsurprised or hiding it well. He gave Dio a cool stare, utterly unimpressed. Or perhaps he assumed Dio was crazy or a hallucination. After all, a talking head appeared in his kitchen and called himself God.
“I wasn't talking to you.” He turned back to Jonathan, ignoring the stupefied vampire. “Who are you?”
Jonathan froze. He technically was his second father, but there was no point in confusing him like that.
“I… You can call me Jojo.”
“Alright… Jojo,” he said. Jonathan smiled, before remembering why Haruno had entered the kitchen.
“You said you were hungry; would you like me to make you a snack?”
He nodded eagerly. He hadn't eaten in several hours.
“Don't get high expectations. Breakfast foods are the only things I can make without a recipe, so how do you feel about eggs and toast?” Again, Haruno nodded.
Jonathan got to work. He navigated his way around the kitchen as if it were his own. He sung some American song under his breath. Out of habit, he used his stand to help him accomplish multiple things at once. Rose vines extended out of his body, turning on the stove and pulling eggs out of the fridge. Haruno stared at the soft pink blossoms and green tendrils, but Jonathan didn't notice. Dio, however, did.
“Can you see it?” he asked eagerly. If this child was a stand user, awakened or not, then maybe he had a chance to fix the mess he'd been living in for the past four years. If this truly was his child, he would help him defeat Jojo and destroy the rest of the Joestar line.
Dio scoffed. He desperately hoped that he didn't take after Jojo and his sentimentality. It was sentimentality, after all, that had gotten Dio into this mess.
“Those flowers are borderline useless, that's what they are.” Haruno ignored him, having already seen enough of Dio’s personality to know that his father was someone whose words should be taken with a grain of salt.
“Would you like your eggs scrambled or fried?”
Jonathan nodded, but did not continue cooking. Instead, he crouched down once again. His blue eyes were wet and sad, but full of determination.
“Haruno, this may seem like a strange question, but please, answer honestly.”
“Are you… Are you happy? Do your parents care for you? Are you safe?”
Haruno had very little reason to trust Jojo, no matter how oddly familiar he seemed. But he did trust the kind man with the roses and the goldfish bowl, somehow. He saw the questions for what they were: a way out of the fear and loneliness that was his life. He didn't know where the path lead, but he was certain it was somewhere better than the Giovanna household. He tried to calm his expectations, but it was no use. Hope rose in him faster than he could squash it down, and he shook his head.
“They don't want me.”
Jojo looked heartbroken on his behalf, and Haruno felt the odd urge to comfort him, but could not find the words.
“Will you take me with you?”
“If you want us to,” he replied.
With that, Jonathan lost all restraint. His enormous arms enfolded Haruno in a hug. Haruno hesitated only a moment before wrapping his arms around Jojo’s thick neck, tears flowing freely. Dio rolled his eyes. The whole exchange had been sickeningly sweet and disgustingly earnest, no less than what he would expect from Jojo.
“Forget the food, you need to pack,” said Dio.
Haruno pulled back and nodded at his father, drying his tears with a serious expression. Dio smiled, pleased at how easily Haruno was able to sequester his emotions.
Seconds after they left, Dio heard the woman hang up. He was turned away from her, which was humiliating, but he didn't let it deter him.
“We're taking the child.”
“I'm not taking him back when you realize how whiny he is, so you better have this all planned out.”
Dio winced. They hadn't planned for this at all.
“Haruno will not disappoint me. As my son, he is destined for something greater than this, without question.”
She snorted derisively. Dio reeled at the contrast between the woman who had fallen at his feet in awe seven years ago and the one that couldn't pay him the bare minimum of respect.
“Like what? Continuing the family tradition of being decapitated?” Dio’s formidable temper flared. She not only mistreated his heir, but extended that same disrespect to him. She deserved death a hundred times over, but Dio could throw nothing at her but words.
“I should have killed you the moment I finished inside you. You were shallow and deliberately ignorant, completely content to spend your life wallowing in vice. I don't know what I saw in you that made you worthy of bearing my child, but whatever it was is gone now.”
A long silence fell as they awaited Jojo’s return, fuming and marking the insults against themselves.
Haruno’s room was small and tidy, but the walls were water stained and mold grew in one corner of the ceiling. The metal frame of the bed looked like it had been bought secondhand from an infirmary, but its plain white sheets were made, albeit a little clumsily. Three books were stacked neatly by the bed, all from the library. There were no other personal items, unless you counted the clothes in the dresser. Jonathan stepped outside for a moment, and when he returned Haruno was dressed in a sweater, pants, and canvas sneakers. All he had was a backpack and a jacket folded over one arm.
“Is that everything you want to take?”
Haruno looked around.
“Mama can return the books herself later, I think,” was all he said. He left the room without any hesitation, leaving Jonathan alone in the sad little room, the only company his crushing guilt. It seemed that he could never properly protect his family from harm, no matter how hard he tried.
But he was finally there for Haruno, so he had to protect him, at all costs. He left the room with renewed determination and sense of purpose.
He strode into the living room and around the couch. Mrs. Giovanna looked up in confusion. Confusion that only grew when he placed his hands on the sides of her head.
“What are you doing…?”
“Making sure this is the right choice.” He activated his stand, and closed his eyes. Emotions and memories washed over him, overwhelming. In that moment, he had complete understanding of the woman before him.
“Turn me around,” hissed Dio at Haruno. He obliged, and they both stared in awe at the sight before them.
The same rose vines from before had snaked around them both, not binding, simply making contact. The flowers that had started off white slowly bled to dark red, just a shade away from black.
The minute the pregnancy test showed up positive, she had been filled with regret. She'd never wanted to be a mother, she'd enjoyed her life as it was. The remorse intensified over eight months, until Haruno was born. Then, that regret turned to disdain. She rarely felt happiness around her son. She was relieved when she left him alone in his dark room and went to enjoy a night of some combination of dancing, sex, and drugs. His fear of the dark and her inability to comfort him made her uncomfortable at first, then annoyed, then furious. She loved her husband, in some manner. They enjoyed the same things, made a hefty combined sum, and didn't mind an open relationship. She hit Haruno sometimes, not nearly as often as her husband. She didn't mind, she thought maybe it would toughen him up.
At best, she was indifferent towards Haruno; at worst, she was disgusted by him. Jonathan wrenched himself away, feeling a little sick.
“I… I think it would be best for everyone if you didn't see Haruno again.”
“What the hell did you just do to me?”
Jonathan didn't answer, focusing on collecting Dio. His legs were wobbling, and tears stained his face. It was Haruno that opened the door for them. As they left, Dio wished he had hands to flip her off.
“Answer me! What the fuck did you just do?”
With that, Haruno left the Giovanna household forever. For years to come, what bothered Mrs. Giovanna was not the departure of her son, or the appearance of a disembodied former lover, but the man that held her face and cried. He had seen everything about her, and had been utterly repulsed. That was greater humiliation than Dio could ever give with words.
After a minute of silence in the empty room, she poured a stiff drink, redid her makeup, and went to the club. She and Giovanni celebrated and never talked to a Joestar again.
“Haruno, do you mind if we walk to the hotel? It's just a few minutes away.”
“It's probably better that way. Taxi drivers always try to scam tourists,” he replied casually.
“Oh.” Silence fell, as Haruno gathered the courage to break it.
“Jojo, what are those roses? The ones that belong to you, I mean.”
“You can see them? Well, I-” he paused in his tracks and held out a hand to Haruno. “Here, take my hand when we cross the street.”
Haruno did so while Jojo looked both ways. Jojo's hand was warm, large, and soft. It was a little sweaty, but Haruno didn't mind. So was his, after all.
“What about the flowers?” Jojo paused, working through the explanation in his head.
“They're a stand, but I guess I should start by explaining what stands are.They're beings created by the energy of your spirit, though they are only visible to other stand users, like your father.”
“Mine is called The World.” Out of Dio came a yellow figure, just as big as Jojo. Its expression was solemn and its muscles were bulging, but Haruno found himself on the verge of laughter. The helmet was ridiculous, and what possible purpose could the hearts on its underwear serve? What did it say about his father that his spirit dressed so horrendously? Haruno resolved to keep his criticisms to himself, and said nothing of it at all.
“What about you, Jojo?” Dio gaped at his son’s apparent lack of interest. His was perhaps the most powerful stand to ever exist, and his son was still more interested in some pathetic clump of vegetation. The World floated behind them like a balloon, dejected. He had the strange feeling that he was losing to Jojo, and it burned. What he was losing, he wasn't entirely sure.
“I named my stand Heartbreak Hotel.”
“Why do you call it that? Is it what makes you cry?”
Jojo smiled again. He did that often, but Haruno had noticed that there was always something undeniably sad about his smiles. This one was no exception.
“In a way, yes, that's why I named my stand. Every stand has a special ability. Your father’s is to stop time for a few seconds.” He waited for Haruno to stare in awe at Dio or burst into a flurry of questions, but he did neither. His eyes remained fixed on Jonathan, wide, curious, and a familiar shade of blue.
“Why does your stand ability make you cry? Does it hurt you?”
“No, nothing like that. My stand allows me to read the memories and emotions of people, places, or things, even the painful experiences.” Jojo's eyes became far away, for just a moment. “Especially those, actually. It doesn't help that I've always been emotional.”
“You can say that again,” muttered Dio.
Haruno realized why Jojo had used his stand on Mama. He'd wanted to know if she really hated him. Haruno had already known the answer long ago, but Jojo experienced her hate firsthand.
In that moment, he understood those sad smiles of Jojo's. Just how many lives worth of heartache had he experienced?
Haruno squeezed his hand as tight as he could.
“I'm sorry your stand hurts you.”
Softly, Jojo squeezed back, and didn't correct him.
That first night at the hotel, Haruno had eyed the light switch nervously. The darkness always made his heart pound, and he could always swear there was something swirling in the shadows of the room, waiting for him to close his eyes. Something about his expression must have told Jojo this, because he walked right by the switch and sat in the chair by the desk. Jojo ordered pizza, and it was fun to see him wolf down four slices and call it ‘the best pizza he'd ever had’. He even let Haruno choose the toppings.
Haruno couldn't sleep, so Jojo told him a story about the Stardust Crusaders. There were six: the master swordsman, the magician that mastered fire, the proud dog, the two scheming students, and the sly old man. Jojo described their abilities and personalities in such detail that Haruno knew they were real. These adventurers fought against countless enemies, but Jojo never explained why they opposed them or where the crusade led, only that the heroes were trying to save a dying woman.
Haruno's favorite part was the epilogue. The swordsman, magician, and the dog continued to travel the world, fighting for justice wherever they were needed. Between them, they had lost two arms, one paw, two fingers, and four toes, but they never stopped fighting. The trio were so in-tune with each other that they were impossible to defeat in battle, no matter the enemy. The students returned to the woman they saved and continued their dreams. One became an artist, painting everything he'd seen and learned on his journey. The other, an explorer of the seas. The old man returned to his wife, and they spent their time visiting and being visited by loved ones.
Throughout, Dio kept up a running commentary of disdain, insulting both heroes and villains. He even told a few stories about the crusaders Jojo hadn't known, such as that of their encounters with the Oingo Boingo brothers and the buffoonish Hol Horse. Eventually, Haruno fell asleep with the lights on. In the morning, Jojo was on the floor, and Dio was in the closet and out of the sun. It was then that Jojo remembered to mention the vampirism. That cleared up the confusion about how his father was alive without a heart or lungs.
That also set the precedent for Haruno's new life. Miraculous things were revealed piece by piece, not because they were intentionally hidden, but because they were lost in the overwhelming strangeness.
In the coming days, Jojo decided to stay in Naples for Haruno's sake. A week later, he'd bought a storefront with an apartment over it. It took him a month to fix up the place completely and open his antiques shop. Apparently, he'd amassed quite the collection of authentic vintage pieces, items with incredible stories attached to them he'd learned through his stand, and various artifacts from the late nineteenth century to the early eighties from all over the world. Over the register hung a broadsword, inexplicable and out of place. The shop was the setting for many of Haruno's best memories: crowded, cozy, warm. It was around that time Haruno learned that both Jojo and his father were over a century old. That, and Jojo had a degree in archaeology. The business fared far better than it had any right to, always making a comfortable profit, though it never had more than five customers inside at a time.
Jojo's attire quickly changed. The tank tops, Haruno came to learn, were reserved for traveling. Work clothes consisted of rolled up shirtsleeves, waistcoats, and bow ties, all struggling to contain his musculature. Haruno realized later that this was perhaps the reason why the same customers would appear twice a week to talk to Jojo.
Haruno talked to Dio in the hours between dusk and sleep, and whenever he wasn't sleeping in the back room of the shop. In the beginning weeks, Haruno avoided addressing him by name or title, unsure as he was. The first time Haruno called him Padre, it took all his willpower to keep his composure and hide his delight. Sometimes, the three of them took nocturnal trips to beaches or other secluded areas.
His father's over the top nature was at turns amusing and alarmingly violent, but he seemed to care about his son’s life. He often gave advice, albeit cruel and horribly inappropriate. His father, Haruno learned, was a man that devoted his life to arguing. Jojo said he used to be a lawyer, before he was a vampire. Haruno often wondered what his father had once been, as a powerful vampire with a body and no Jojo to keep him in check. He found he did not like the possible answers to his questions, so he didn't ask.
Three months after his adoption, Jojo found a gold streak in Haruno's hair. Though initially surprised, the boy took it in stride. His father was delighted, and Jojo was fascinated by the change. Haruno supposed it was probably impossible to shock either of them. Not only that, but his hair started growing at an exponential rate, spilling over his shoulders. Where his hair had always been black and straight, it became wavy, curling about his forehead.
Jojo was the first to suggest cutting it, but he relented quickly at Haruno's discomfort. He agreed to leave it long, on the condition that Haruno brush twice a day and clean it well. Jojo learned to braid his hair and did so almost daily, either upstairs or behind the register. It was during one of these sessions that Haruno found his real name, the one he'd been looking for all his life.
Jojo had been kneeling behind Haruno, brushing his hair. He was proud of how he'd learned to brush from top to bottom to avoid pulling on knots too much. When he first started braiding his hair, he'd caused some unnecessary pain.
Haruno counted that as one of the several great things about Jojo. He was always adjusting his behavior to be more accommodating, more understanding, better.
It was what Haruno aspired to: to protect, to constantly be pushing forward to create a better world for the sake of others. It wasn't until several years later he decided how to do that on a larger scale. Perhaps, in some strange way, it was Jojo that sent him on the path to organized crime.
“Your hair’s so shiny and gold, it's like watching a miniature sunrise every time you walk in a room,” Jojo murmured. “How do you say ‘sunrise’ in Italian again?”
“Giorno,” he replied. He still didn't know how to respond to the alien compliments and praise, so he decided to quietly enjoy the strange, warm feeling in his chest instead.
“Little Giorno, look in a mirror, see if my work’s alright.” The warmth in Haruno's chest intensified. His next words were quiet, terrified of crossing some boundary.
“I like it when you call me that,” he said, facing his reflection in the vanity.
“What, Giorno?” He nodded once.
“Could you… Could you call me that instead?”
Jojo looked surprised, but only for a moment.
“Of course, Giorno. It's a fitting name for a child with a shining future ahead of him.”
They easily slipped into using the name, like it was always meant for him.
Small amounts of bullying followed him throughout elementary school. Some of the street cred from the gangster he saved carried over into his new life, but not everyone knew. The target of ridicule was typically his appearance. Specifically, his hair. Giorno could see how his long hair, braided with a ribbon, was atypical for a boy. But he could not imagine his hair any other way, so he ignored them, and kept his hair soft and untangled.
The real trouble started when he was ten, and the other boys learned the word ‘faggot’. Everything about him came under scrutiny. His long hair, his soft voice, his short stature. In a way, Giorno was grateful for the renewed torment, for that was how he discovered his powers.
He'd been walking home from school one day, passing the bakery with its big glass windows. A group of boys shouted at him from across the street, but he immediately forgot what they said when one threw a rock at his head. It missed by a mile, smashing the bakery window instead. It shattered on impact, glass spraying inside the bakery and onto the sidewalk. Giorno saw it in slow motion, eyes wide and waiting for the glass to hit him, but something entirely different happened.
Before his eyes, the shards became something recognizable from his encyclopedias. Glasswing butterflies, swarming around him, beautiful and almost translucent in the light. Giorno had only seconds to be confused before he saw a golden figure next to him, and knew exactly what it was.
The stand was no bigger than Giorno, but its feet didn't seem to touch the ground. When it took his hand, it was solid and pleasantly warm, like stone that had sat out in the sun. Its expression was neutral, but Giorno thought he saw the barest suggestion of a smile on its face.
The boys stared from across the street before crossing, shouts of angry confusion replacing the jeers. Fear rose in Giorno, but only for a second. In that moment, Giorno decided to test his abilities.
The second he thought it, the butterflies left Giorno and crowded overhead his pursuers. Another thought, and insects returned to glass. Giorno was glad to see that the hail didn't result in anything more serious than a few scrapes, but managed to scare the boys away. All they left behind was the mess of broken glass on the pavement. One more thought, and the glass was gone, the butterflies floating away.
Once home, he demonstrated his ability multiple times. Jojo pointed out insects and plants out of encyclopedias, watching Giorno recreate them out of buttons and ribbons. Jojo called his power beautiful, joyfully let snakes and stag beetles crawl up his arms. They went into the back room to show his father, who had a strange look on his face.
“Your stand may not have abnormal strength or speed, but its unique ability has great potential. With training, perhaps you could create larger animals, such as crocodiles or large mammals. Imagine! An army of readily available carnivores under your control. Even if there is a size limit, most of the entire biodiversity of the planet is at your disposal. Poison dart frogs, cobras, even something as small as a bullet ant could disable an opponent. This is far more powerful than I expected,” he muttered.
Giorno felt uncomfortable, his father seemed to be both staring at and through him. His mouth was open in a wide enough grin that the unnatural sharpness of his teeth could be seen. Jojo had noticed as well, if the nervous look on his face was any indication.
“Jojo, what's for dinner?”
He thought for a minute.
“Oh, I forgot about that. How does omelettes sound? We can use whatever we have in the kitchen as filling.”
“Can we go eat now?”
Jojo had nodded, allowing Giorno to make his escape.
Jojo's apprehension didn't lessen as they went upstairs. He kept looking at Giorno, chewing his lip. It made Giorno upset to see him like that, and he knew it was his father’s fault. After Jojo stared into the open fridge for two whole minutes without moving, he decided to address it.
“What's wrong, Jojo?” It took a long moment before Jojo decided his response was good enough.
“I… Giorno, I don't want you to think badly of your father, he's been good to you. Still, I think I should warn you. Your father has always had a single minded devotion to his dreams, no matter what. That's not necessarily always a bad thing, but he also doesn't care who gets hurt in the process.”
“Is he going to hurt us?”
“No, he's not going to hurt you.” Giorno noticed the careful rewording, and felt his stomach drop.
“But he may ask you to join him, help him in his dreams, one day. In case that day ever comes, I need to ask you to do two important things.”
“Of course,” he said.
“The first: always try to do more good than bad.” He looked at Giorno for confirmation. He nodded, eyes wide and determined.
“Secondly, and this is even more important: always, no matter where you are or what you do, remember that I'm proud of you and I love you.”
The hug, like any other hug from Jojo, was warm and secure, if a little bit tighter than usual. Giorno would've been utterly content, if it weren't for his father. He had a million questions, but he held his tongue. Jojo didn't like talking about the past, that much was clear. More specifically, Dio’s past.
They ate at the table, and his father joined them, once he was carried up the stairs.
Once a week, Giorno’s father was fed a plastic pouch of Jojo's blood. No straw, he just punctured it with his teeth. Occasionally, it dripped down his chin, just out of reach of his waving tongue. More than once, Jojo had chided him on his awful table manners.
Giorno had more or less become desensitized to the gory spectacle, but that night it made him uneasy. How many people had he killed for food before Jojo could subdue him? How deeply did Dio’s crimes go? What exactly were his dreams?
Giorno was quieter than usual that night, but Jojo didn't press for details. It had been an eventful day, after all.
Inside Giorno’s head, he was planning. Too long, he had let questions go unanswered. He could no longer ignore the dark nature of his father’s past. His reasons for the change in attitude were anger and fear. The very thought of his father manipulating him for personal gain made him indignant, but the concept of his father turning against Jojo was far more terrifying.
Jojo had a schedule, every night. He cleaned the kitchen, brushed his teeth, and sat Giorno's father in front of the tv with the remote within his stand’s reach. After years of living with a human or two, he had mostly become diurnal, but occasionally had difficulty sleeping at night. After sending Giorno to bed around nine, he curled up with a book (he was on a sci-fi kick at the time), and wouldn't put it down until he finished, usually about midnight.
Once he was out, though, he slept like a rock. It was agony, waiting those three hours, but Giorno was determined. In darkness, he crept out of his room and into the kitchen. The occasional soft snore from Jojo's room was reassuring in more than one way.
He took a bread knife from the kitchen and tucked it into his pajama pants, the metal cool against his hip. The tv was off, his father was asleep.
He walked carefully with the fishbowl in his arms, trying to keep his gait smooth and even. Though he was successful on flat surfaces, the stairs were a bit trickier.
That was why he was unsurprised to see his father's eyes already open when Giorno placed him on the back counter in the shop. Giorno steeled his nerves. This was no place to be showing anxiety. His father, like large dogs and math teachers, could smell fear.
“Good evening, Padre. We need to talk.”
“About what? Be specific, Giorno.” His lazy smile was more disconcerting than any scowl, but Giorno couldn't say why. He took a deep breath, and recited the lines he'd been practicing in his head since dinner.
“Give me a detailed account of your crimes, Padre. Every murder, every theft, every act of cruelty and needless destruction.”
“Why should I? It's not like I benefit from satisfying your morbid curiosity.” Giorno schooled his expression to be perfectly blank.
“If you don't, I'll cut off your ears and nose. I'll gouge out your eyes, and carve off your skin in chunks. You've just been fed, so it'll regenerate easily. As soon as it does, I'll start all over again. I'll repeat the process as many times as I need to, until you talk.” Even to himself, Giorno's voice sounded cold and unnaturally even, serious as a heart attack.
Dio stared at him for a long moment, scrutinizing every aspect of his body language and tone. His lazy smirk grew, and he huffed out a pleased laugh. In response, Giorno tightened his grip on the knife.
“You're not bluffing, I can tell. You're not sweating, your hands don't shake, you don't look away from my face. You really would do all that to your own father.”
“I would.” That brought another dark chuckle from his father.
“We're really very similar, with that same single-minded determination of ours. If you're willing to go to such lengths, then I think you're mature enough to understand the full story, start to finish.”
Giorno had the same stony expression as before, unaffected by his father's heavy handed flattery. Dio ignored his unresponsive audience.
“I don't know how many people I've killed, just as you cannot say how many loaves of bread you've eaten, or glasses of water you've drunk in your life. It could be hundreds, could be thousands.”
“I could also turn all your teeth into worms, Padre.”
His father's eyes widened, just a fraction, and Giorno felt immense satisfaction at the crack in his father's composure.
If Dio still had a stomach, it would have turned. The title of respect he'd relished originally had twisted in meaning, taken on a mocking tone. Dio was furious, but but the feeling was surprisingly accompanied by a swell of pride.
“Very well. I'll give you the highlights, the ones that were most satisfying.”
“The first man I ever killed was my father, if you can call him a man. He was violent, drank away whatever money I earned. You would've killed him too, in my situation. It was hardly difficult, but the experience taught me how to use poison effectively.” His eyes narrowed.
“But you're not interested in that, are you? You want to know how I've wronged your precious Jojo,” he said with a sneer. “He's always been your favorite, since the day we met.”
“Yes, he is.” Giorno didn't see the point in lying to spare his father's feelings. Which he'd hurt badly, judging by the expression on his face. He recovered, finally abandoning the smile for a sulky expression.
Ever since Giorno crawled out of bed, he'd been painfully aware of the massive flaw in his plan. His father could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be called a reliable narrator. He could easily twist the story to make himself sound better, and Giorno had no way of knowing.
He needn't have worried. From burning Jojo's dog alive to literal mind control via alien spores, the entire story was objectively horrifying, and not at all flattering.
Yet, his father's tone was consistently that of a man fondly remembering his youth even as he described atrocities.
Giorno saw the truth of his father's nature, and knew that Jojo was wrong in his summary of Dio's character. His father was not a man that merely disregarded human life in his pursuit of power, but a sadist that thrived on the suffering of others, went out of his way to create it.
“Giorno, I can understand why you don't appreciate my vision. You're a child, after all. But at least try to imagine it. Becoming the highest life form on the face of the Earth, ascending to an entirely different plane of existence from humanity. Everything has simply been done to reach that goal. Why should I care if a few short lived and useless mortals are crushed underfoot?”
“Maybe so. It was worth it, coming so close to heaven.” His triumphant look turned sour. “If the strings of fate had not bound me to the one man that could match my conviction, I could've gone so much further.”
Giorno didn't know what to say. The strangest revelation of the night was that his father held some strange but deep respect for Jojo. A respect that not even his subordinates or Jotaro Kujo had. Quietly, Giorno suspected that it was more than just fate that continually drew his father to Jojo.
“You'll understand when you're older.”
Giorno pointedly ignored that comment.
“Why are you still alive? Why didn't Jotaro kill you?”
“Oh, he wanted to. If he had his way, he would've nailed my skull to a post at dawn. This is all Jojo's doing. He begged to keep me alive and in his care, said something about his responsibility as my brother. Bullshit. He keeps me here because he knows that to be trapped by him, in this form, is the greatest humiliation I could receive. This is a slow torture, that could continue for centuries, and he enjoys it.”
That last part was a lie, and they both knew it.
“Padre, this is hardly torture. Regular meals, entertainment, conversation, even going outside… It's far better than you deserve.” His father stared him in the eyes.
“Maybe so. But it's a mistake I intend to exploit.”
“Jojo is trusting, but not a fool. Him and the Speedwagon Foundation, they must have some fail safe that keeps you here.”
His upper lip curled in disgust at the mention of Speedwagon.
“Explosives and tracking devices, rigged all over my skull and embedded in my brain. Jojo holds a detonator, but there are at least six more worldwide, in case I destroy the one in Italy.”
Giorno nodded, considering.
“It's reassuring, knowing that I could protect Jojo from you.”
“Really? I doubt Jojo would just trust you with the detonator. I'm not even sure that he would use it, if the need arose.”
“I don't need a detonator to destroy your brain.”
His father's eyes widened in understanding. After all, it was he that pointed out the capabilities of Giorno's stand.
“Leaf cutter ant colonies can strip a tree down to its branches in a matter of hours with their jaws. Bullet ants deliver one of the most painful bites in the world. Imagine a puffer fish expanding inside your brain. Do you see my point?”
His father scowled. All hopes of recruiting his son in an escape attempt had been smashed. Instead, it seemed that he'd simply gained another jailer, this one far less lenient than Jojo.
“Is this how it is now? Am I your enemy, Giorno?”
Giorno thought it over, considering whether he could live peacefully in the same household as the Antichrist.
“Padre, I have always known deep down that you are evil, but I have also lived with you for three years, and you haven't hurt me yet. Despite being a terrible little gremlin that lives in a fishbowl, I do feel an odd warmth for you. So… As long as the world is safe from you, I consider you my father.”
“That's almost the same fucking thing Jojo said,” he muttered, and wished he had hands to bury his face in.
Giorno smiled, pleased by that response.
“Would you like me to take you back to the couch, Padre?”
“No, just leave me in the linen closet,” he sighed.
Giorno set his father down in a basket of winter comforters and shut the door.
As Giorno slipped into bed, he thought over the new information. His father's status as a super villain on permanent house arrest… made a lot of sense, actually. So he slept soundly, with a renewed resolve to disappoint his father. He would become better than his father.
Even then, the inklings of a plan, or rather, a dream, began to form. Giorno had seen firsthand the power that the gangs held in Naples. If that power could be directed to a worthy cause...
Sitting in darkness and his surroundings muffled by cotton, Dio thought about what he had become. His escape plan, if it could even be called that, had remained the same for six years.
Kill Jojo, use The World to perform brain surgery on himself, escape into the night.
A terrible plan, with, many, many holes, but they were not the reason why Dio never seriously thought of escaping. Two years in, Dio had admitted it to himself. He'd given in to Jojo. He'd accepted his prison, maybe even found contentment in it.
For over a hundred years, Dio thought their entwined fates had already come to an end on the burning ship. With one imprisoned at the bottom of the ocean and the other a lifeless head that refused to rot, that had to be the end of their destiny. Twice, Dio re-evaluated his fate. Upon resurfacing, he took that as divine permission to take over the world. Then, when defeated, he realized his and Jojo's fate didn't end in fire, or when Jotaro defeated him. It continued on, into an antique store in Naples, raising a child with Jojo's eyes and Dio’s hair.
It was like a cruel joke, being trapped in domestic life with his worst enemy, but it took a frighteningly short time to get used to it. He was in deep, and there was no reversing it.
Though Giorno had every right to worry, he and Jojo were safe. The same could not be said of the rest of humanity. The weekly feedings dulled the sharp edge of hunger, but it still cut deep. Dio had swapped escape plans and world domination for fantasies of digging his teeth into the skull of the first person he met on the street, luring women closer with smirks and suggestive comments, or even simply taking his weekly share of blood directly from Jojo's veins. Even if he didn't drain him of everything, the thought of warm blood across his tongue made his mouth water.
Still, they were only fantasies.
When Giorno was twelve, the Speedwagon Foundation made a very ill-advised invention. Its namesake was probably writhing in his grave.
A prosthetic for his father, the first of its kind. It was a metal body (very shiny, very chrome) as large as Jojo. Jutting straight up from the neck were rows of glittering needles, something the Speedwagon doctor that came to help install the prosthetic called “neural connectors”.
Of course, it was all Jojo's idea. He said something about how having some autonomy would be good for him, allow more productivity, et cetera.
Of course, there were conditions. He couldn't use it unsupervised, it was loaded with even more tracking devices, explosives, and could be remotely disabled.
Of course, Giorno thought it was a terrible idea, but was unwilling to crush Jojo's trust in his father. He resolved to keep a closer eye on his self-appointed responsibility, and remained quiet.
When the doctor slid his father's head into place, the vampire did not laugh maniacally or snap the doctor’s neck, merely winced at the needles and shut his eyes. Giorno waited anxiously, and so did Jojo, albeit much less subtly.
He opened them a second later, chuckling breathlessly.
“Jojo, you know how much I hate to say this, but… thank you.”
“Everything working alright, then?” The doctor was almost giddy with excitement over his invention. Giorno assumed he was not fully informed of the risks involved. That, or he was an idiot.
His father stood, stretching his synthetic muscles and tendons. They bid the doctor farewell shortly after, and stood in the living room.
“So… what would you like to do first? We could go for a run or go to the beach tonight.”
His father's returning grin was downright wolffish, but not quite mean-spirited.
“I never found the time to dance in the twentieth century,” he replied, with an effortless charm Giorno had never seen from him. Suddenly, Jojo averted his eyes.
“Dio, I'm not quite comfortable with modern dancing clubs…”
“I don't mean that ridiculous dry humping! I'm talking about proper dancing, the way we learned.”
Just like that, Giorno's father returned to the indignant, dramatic personality he'd always known. Jojo looked relieved. Unlike Giorno's mother, Jojo avoided parties and clubs like the plague.
“I don't understand where you'll find a partner, though-” He was cut off by Dio giving an exaggerated bow and extending his hand.
“With brains like that, you're lucky you're pretty,” he replied with a smirk.
Red-faced, Jojo hesitantly took his hand.
“If you remember those lessons correctly, I was terrible. A fact that you pointed out several times,” he added.
“Only because they were always trying to teach you how to lead.”
With that, Dio pulled Jojo in with a sharp jerk of his arm, wrapping his hand around his waist and correcting his footing.
Giorno watched in awe as they began to waltz. In the beginning, his father sharply counted out the steps, but soon stopped, leaving them in silence. What began as a few simple motions developed into a series of spins and movements that swept across the living room, ending in a surprisingly elegant dip for two hulking men. Apprehensive but delighted, Giorno clapped. The mechanical body was unexpectedly graceful, its movements only slightly stiff and jerky.
“I'm surprised you can hold my weight,” mused Jojo.
“I think some idiot at the foundation gave this body superhuman strength, for some reason.” His grin widened as inspiration struck, and Jojo blanched at that expression.
“Dio, what-” he yelped as Dio lifted him bodily off the ground.
Dio cackled with amusement, though it didn't seem as though he intended to do anything more sinister than that.
“You play the part of the blushing bride well, Jojo,” he teased. True to form, Jojo sputtered and covered his face. Giorno was far less good-natured about the incident.
“Padre, put him down, or I'm turning all your new limbs into snakes.”
“As you wish,” he declared smugly as he unceremoniously dumped Jojo on the couch, which creaked and groaned under his weight. Jojo was red-faced and laughing, Dio had not attempted to murder anyone, and Giorno was cautiously optimistic.
Giorno spent all of his secondary school years learning how to multitask. He helped out at the antique shop, studied daily, kept a close eye on his father, trained his stand, and most importantly, worked towards his dream.
Early on, Giorno realized he must control Passione from the inside. Therefore, he must work his way up from the bottom. He had to build up a reputation, and did so by committing various crimes.
He started with pickpocketing, by hand and with the aid of Gold Experience. Once, he was careless enough that the mark noticed him, but Giorno's escape was quick and efficient. He was never arrested. Change raising, or swapping bills during a transaction to confuse and cheat the mark, was slightly more of a challenge. The sleight of hand was easy in comparison to the psychological aspect. The scam required the projection of serene confidence and authority that kept the mark from questioning his trustworthiness. Soon enough, he mastered the art of being infuriatingly calm in every situation.
He graduated onto other practical skills, such as lock picking. He practiced at home, then tested his skills by breaking into the teachers’ lounge, a disappointingly mundane caper. He made coffee, decided that hot cocoa was a vastly superior drink, and left a note for the teaching staff. It read, in deliberately altered handwriting:
“The bottle of half-and-half has spoiled and needs to be disposed of before it becomes a health hazard. At this point, it is more solid than liquid, and beginning to attract flies.”
The faculty never found out who the author was, but did follow the anonymous instructions.
At twelve, Giorno learned to drive. Not from any sort of instructor, and certainly not from either of his caretakers. His father hated cars, because they caused traffic, and hated traffic because it was noisy and useless. Jojo freely admitted he never quite learned how to drive, and was slightly uncomfortable whenever two tons of steel wrapped around a flawed human operator passed him on the street at speeds rendering it capable of destroying everything in its path. He did like to read the memories of parked cars, smiling at how attached people became to their vehicles.
No, Giorno was self-taught, and his first lesson was how to steal a car to practice in. Specifically, a cherry red 1990 Mazda Miata.
For the next three years, Giorno considered himself a competent driver, capable of tricky maneuvers. Later in life, friends would call his driving “fucking insane” and “like some action movie bullshit”.
These were the skills Giorno employed in the next section of his life. A section with a beginning clearly marked by the start of scuola superiore. The beginning of his career as a gangster.
Giorno had expected Jojo to object to the idea of him going to boarding school. He did not anticipate his father's reaction.
“You think you can get rid of me that easily? You hate your father that much, to move across town?”
He was even crying, a display all three of them knew was artificial and purely for dramatic effect.
Giorno gave his father a pained look, and continued in his appeal to Jojo.
“Yes, I partially chose this school because I wanted the chance to live on my own.” That, and because of its proximity to the international airport, full of wealthy and gullible tourists.
“I don't know…”
“I was also hoping to meet some new classmates,” Giorno lied, and knew that he had won Jojo over. He'd always been worried about Giorno's bullies, and knew that he had trouble making friends with boys his age, despite how easily girls were drawn to him. From there, it took very little to for them to decide in Giorno's favor.
Though Giorno would never admit it, he was good at reading and manipulating people, including Jojo.
At the first opportunity, Dio interrogated his son. They were in Giorno's room while Jojo was making celebratory pudding downstairs. Dio sat on his bed, holding his hand up as if he were examining his fingertips for chipped or uneven nails. Since his hands were metal, and thus had no fingernails, the performative gesture was a ridiculous and useless habit of Dio’s he used when feigning disinterest.
“You want to go to boarding school because you're planning something. Something big.”
“No, you had it right earlier. I just want to be farther away from you,” he replied with only a glance over the shoulder, then resumed packing to move into the dorm.
A lie. Giorno was very concerned about leaving Jojo to deal with his high maintenance father alone, and did not want to leave Dio without the safeguard of Gold Experience.
“You wound me,” Dio said sarcastically to hide that he was, in fact, deeply wounded.
“Come on, Giorno. Tell me what your grand scheme is. I bet it isn't more interesting than discovering how to induce vampirism.”
“Since there is no grand scheme, I have nothing to tell you.”
Dio snorted and crossed his arms sulkily.
“Fine. Be that way. But first, let me offer some fatherly wisdom.”
Giorno sighed and sank into his desk chair, already familiar with his father's brand of advice.
“First of all, you must maintain your grades,” he said, and Giorno paused at the surprisingly mundane request.
“Either by studying hard or through extortion, I don't care which,” he continued, waving a hand dismissively. Giorno sighed; that was much more characteristic of his father.
“Secondly, you must be friendly and form connections with those around you. Collect favors, gather followers. Though it is often better to do things yourself, a few pawns may come in handy.”
Jojo and his father had both told Giorno to make friends, but for entirely different reasons, mused Giorno. He sat up when he heard his father step over to the chair. Dio rested his heavy metal hands on Giorno's shoulders. When he spoke again, his voice was ever so slightly warmer.
“Most importantly, Giorno, you must remember that you are my son. You are destined for greatness. As long as you have the resolve to find your way, you will succeed.”
Though Giorno was certain his father wouldn't approve of his dream of shutting down the international drug trade, he accepted the encouragement. He patted his father's hand, a gesture the vampire could barely feel through his synthetic nerves.
Moving day came and went with Jojo only crying twice. Then, Giorno began the task of reinventing himself.
He changed his name in the school database to ‘Giorno Giovanna’, using the most basic of hacking methods. He did this partially because of the alliteration, and partially to maintain the impenetrable shell of mystery around teachers and students.
Friendliness didn't come easy to him. He was polite, but not particularly social. Like any other awkward teenager, he was unsure of how to approach others. Luckily, his classmates had no such qualms when it came to him.
Giorno's popularity first began when he was taking notes in class. The boy next to him watched in fascination as Giorno absentmindedly stuffed his left ear into his head as casually as one might chew their lip or fidget with their hair. An exclamation of surprise led to intrigue, which led into curious questions from multiple sources. He answered them cautiously as they were asked throughout his classes, avoiding some, but not trying to construct lies.
No, he wasn't born in Italy. Yes, he would help them with the trigonometry assignment. No, he couldn't go to the cafe with them. Yes, his hair was naturally blonde. So on and so forth.
Giorno never became close to any acquaintances, yet remained popular because he was handsome, intriguing, and probably a criminal. A strange twist for a boy used to being mocked or feared by his contemporaries.
And so, school continued as usual, until one day in March of 2001. Giorno skipped school, met a very strange Japanese tourist with a foul mouthed stand, and murdered a gangster with a shovel. Technically, Leaky-Eye Luca killed himself, but Giorno didn't see how it mattered either way. Accident or not, Luca was dead because of Giorno, and Passione sent an interrogator after him.
In the following days, Giorno was so distracted that he genuinely forgot that he had two parental figures waiting patiently for his scheduled dinner at their apartment on Sunday. A mistake that would soon catch up with him.