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every finger shall have its ring

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Fugo's first death is just before his grandfather erases his name. His grandma dies and something of him dies with her: the little boy part, maybe, little Pannacotta, who thought his actions and decisions and thoughts mattered, who never realized that the world existed outside of his hands. His family being rid of him, the world scrubbed of any record he'd ever existed, was merely a formality. Pannacotta Fugo was already dead.

The second time that he dies is with a thrum of a heartbeat in his throat, thinly-veiled panic in the edges of his voice: and he calls out and no one answers, thinks but it's in circles. Buccellati leaves, and then Narancia — and everything else feels inconsequential after that.

The third time, he rips out his own throat, and Purple Haze's poison is thick and bitter in his mouth. The wound in his torso throbs, just under his ribs; he presses his hand to it — and then the world is black, and everything ends. Epilogue over; book closed.

(Except that it isn't. Except that he wakes up in a hospital just to die again on his knees, in some restaurant he's never heard of with a boy he'd all but forgotten. The press of the tile is cold beneath him but just above him, Giorno radiates warmth; and he is the sun and the stars and he is an ending to a life just as surely as a beginning, and suddenly and certainly as a supernova, Fugo falls in love.)

And so Fugo lives to die a hundred more times. Giorno smiles, and Fugo's heart explodes in his chest. He laughs at a harried joke and Fugo's breath catches. He puts his hand on Fugo's wrist, and all the blood in Fugo's body stands still.

They have lunch, and then dinner. Giorno lays on the floor like he's really just a sixteen year old boy and not the head of an empire and tells him about his day, and Fugo hunches awkwardly on Giorno's desk, feeling wrong for towering over him, and listens.

He does a lot of listening, these days. It is both different than and the same as working for Buccellati: Buccellati saved him by being the same as him, broken in a way that could never be unbroken. But Giorno isn't broken, and they're not the same; he just lights up enough to fill in the spaces between Fugo's shattered edges, less like fixing and more like forgetting. Giorno lets him forget.

Giorno fills in the cracks and it's everything Fugo never let himself wish to have, and he loves him, loves him, loves him.

The words stall somewhere between his throat and his lips, pushing forward at provocation and backward at common sense; they rest in his mouth and eyes and heart. When Giorno speaks to him, asks him questions and watches him with wide eyes, he’s sure he must be able to see them. When Giorno kisses him one day, quick and nervous, nothing more than a peck, he swears he must be able to taste them.

“Was that okay?” Giorno mumbles, face flushed pink. His fingers grip hard into the sleeves of Fugo’s sweater, and every inch of Fugo’s being aches to both lean in closer to him and to run away, touch-starved and gun-shy.

But he doesn’t. “It’s okay,” he whispers, shock-still frozen and yet somehow still pitching forward, like Giorno has a pull and he’s in it. And the question goes unstated: kiss me.

Giorno answers anyway, leaning in again, eyes half-lidded; and Fugo thinks that he would do anything for him, absolutely anything.

So when Giorno says jump, Fugo says how high, and when Giorno says stay, Fugo stays. There’d been — something, he doesn't know what, but something about this last day that had upset him; when Fugo comes to see him tonight, Giorno is standing fully dressed at the doorway to his private bathroom, a freeze in his expression and a smudge of blood at the edge of his cuff.

He looks up, locks eyes. Giorno looks distinctly raw around the edges in a way that Fugo isn't used to; and he doesn't like it, he’s sure that he doesn’t, because Giorno looks like he’s in pain, but he also looks more human, more tangible than all the times Fugo had kissed him.

His heart thrums in his throat. Giorno cocks his head, motions him closer, and Fugo wraps Giorno in his arms.

“Rough day?” he asks to the crown of Giorno’s head as the other boy snakes his arms around Fugo’s waist. He’s always been slow on this, on any form of touch or intimacy, in a way that Fugo couldn't have predicted. He tries not to think too hard on it.

Giorno hums a low, affirmatively noise into Fugo’s neck, fingers clenching and unclenching in the fabric at his back. “Rough day.”

And Fugo wonders if there’s really nothing broken in Giorno after all.

It’s an ending to a life just as surely as a beginning. Years pass; Fugo combs through Giorno’s hair and finds the edges split and damaged, comes to him early in the morning with breakfast and finds him slumped at his desk, a split pen spilling ink across the his fingers. In the winter cold, the backs of Giorno’s hands crack and bleed with wind, not as impervious as they appear despite the power they hold. In the summer sun, Giorno gains first freckles, then sunburns, until the baby pink flush of imperfection covers most of his exposed skin.

And when Fugo wakes up one morning to Giorno curled on the foot of his bed like a cat that hasn't quite decided to stay, he doesn't ask questions, just pulls his fingers through Giorno’s split ends. Giorno wakes with a yelp and a start, the back of a nightmare haunting his expression; and the freckles strewn across his shoulders makes Fugo’s heart hurt.

“Hey,” he greets quietly, inching down the bed to meet Giorno instead of motioning him over. He is aware, suddenly, of his lack of a shirt, his exposed skin, the mess of clothes he’d left over the back of his desk chair.

Giorno watches him with careful, curious, distinctly fond eyes. “Hello.”

For all that Fugo aches to touch him, he doesn't. Instead, he stills his twitching fingers, pulls his knees to his chest, and rests his chin on his hand. “Have I ever told you about when Abbacchio nearly got Buccellati a rabbit for his birthday?”

The laugh that bursts out of Giorno’s mouth is two thirds surprise, one delight; there have been few stories over the last several years that Fugo has been willing to tell that have not yet been told. “You definitely haven’t,” he prompts, hand covering his smile neatly, “but I’d love to hear it.”

Fugo isn’t, he doesn't think, a very good storyteller: he either gets distracted or too focused, mind running ten thousand miles a minute in every direction or one. He jumps forward, skips things, jumps back, specifies details that detract from the story because he wants the person he’s speaking to to be there with him in that moment, then gets frustrated at himself for the dilly-dally. And when he’s focused, he’s worse: stormy and intent and overbearing, unwilling to let the conversation lie.

It seems to be the case that in Giorno’s presence, he gains the added bonus of being nervous, tongue dry and foot in his mouth. Marvelous.

If Giorno minds his stilted words and long explanations, he doesn't mention it. The two of them sit there, then lie there, backs to the bed, watching the long shadows of Fugo’s gesticulating hands dance across the ceiling. And by the time Fugo gets to the part of the story where the pet shop owner graciously explained that he didn't have giant iguanas, he glances over to find Giorno fast asleep.

He isn't perfect, Fugo thinks: there’s a smudge of drool at the edge of his mouth and his skin is peeling on his forearm where the sunburn hit good and healed bad, pajamas crumpled and bent at strange angles. And he’s beautiful.

Fugo flips onto his belly and shuffles toward Giorno on his elbows. “I love you,” he promises quietly, desperately, “more than the world, more than — ” He pauses, rakes a hand through his bangs. “God, more than anything. And even if you don’t love me the same, you came looking for me; there must be something — ”

Giorno shifts on the bed, eyelashes fluttering, before he sighs and settles back down. His breath stays even, deep and slow with sleep; and for all that Fugo feels the earth stand still, it keeps moving. He lets out a long breath.

“There has to be something that you feel for me,” he continues, whisper-low and velvet-soft. “Even if you don’t love me the same way, just — love me a little, okay?” Brushing his knuckles across Giorno’s cheek and lips, he closes his eyes. “Love me a little.”

The world keeps moving, and Giorno doesn't wake up. Fugo watches him another minute before restlessness and mortification start to pick at him and he reluctantly yanks himself out of bed.

An hour later and Giorno finds him at his desk. “You didn't wake me up,” he accuses, sliding his arms casually around Fugo’s shoulders, resting his chin on the top of Fugo’s head. Sleep colors his voice in gravely overtones, colors the way that his fingers twist absently into the fabric of Fugo’s shirt collar. “You could have woken me up.”

“I know,” Fugo answers, turning his head to try and catch a glimpse of Giorno’s face. Giorno’s breath brushes the edge of Fugo’s ear, and he’s blinking slow, eyes half lidded — and he really must have just woken up. He didn't hear anything.

Maybe it’s relief that flutters in Fugo’s chest — maybe something else, too. “I tried,” he says haltingly, “waking you. You wouldn’t.”

There’s a teasing light in Giorno’s eyes when he smiles, “How easily you give up,” and Fugo thinks that he would do anything for him, absolutely anything.

He settles his jittering feet back on the floor, spins his chair to face Giorno. When he takes the other boy’s hands, his hands don’t shake; when he turns his face up, Giorno is blushing.

And if a flush spreads across his own face, neither of them comment on it. “If you’d seen yourself this morning,” he tells Giorno, chin tilting up, head to the side, “I think you would have given up, too.”

There is a pause before Giorno settles onto Fugo’s lap. “I think you underestimate me.”

Fugo laughs and kisses just under Giorno’s jaw, “I always do,” and he loves him, loves him, loves him.

That night over dinner with some politician Fugo can’t remember the name of, and Giorno’s ankle bonks light against Fugo’s like a hello. Fugo catches his eye across the table, risks public incident to steal Giorno’s glass and take a long sip of his wine. And Giorno bites his lip to hide a smile, eyes darting away to pretend to pay attention — and it doesn't feel like dying at all.

“I think Mancini may have seen us kiss in the car,” Fugo says casually, shrugging off his coat, then his suit jacket.

Giorno steps up to help him with his tie, shoes still on, scarf left on Fugo's desk. “How lucky for him,” he answers dryly, fingers deft and practiced at Fugo’s neck. “I wouldn't worry about it, dear. He’s a politician, not a journalist.”

Fugo deposits his tie on the nightstand, then shuffles Giorno backward until the backs of Giorno’s knees bump the bed. He sits down obediently as Fugo drops to his knees to undo the buckles of Giorno’s shoes.

“I was rather under the impression that politicians own a few journalists,” he replies absently; the short heel of Giorno’s shoe clicks against the floor as Fugo slides them off. “But if you're not worried, then I won’t be, either.”

When Fugo lifts his head, Giorno presses a soft kiss to his cheek, “I’m not worried,” and they go to bed. Lights off; story over.

(Except that it isn’t. Except that Fugo wakes up in the middle of the night and Giorno is wrapped in his arms, bathed in freckles and starlight; and his heart stutters, stops, paralyzed by the weight of the love it carries. He closes his eyes, hand at the back of Giorno’s neck; words are caught in his throat, at the tip of his tongue and Fugo doesn't know if he could do it all again but he knows that he would if it was for him. He’d do anything for him.

Fugo doesn't know if it’s possible to fall in love again when he’s already so deeply, desperately in love, but he does.)

And Fugo lives to die a hundred more times.