Every month, Messina and Loggins were tasked with restocking the pantry on Air Supplena Island. They would take a day to enjoy Venice, get some lunch, then go shopping for groceries. Dried meats and fish were the usual, as well as other non-perishable foods. Flour, sugar, and other baking supplies were to be kneaded into bread and all sorts of foods by the island chef, a young Italian local by the name of Muse.
The two exited the deli, carrying armfuls of meat specifically requested by Muse for a stew he was planning on making, only to have their eyes drawn to an alleyway across the street. The sun was setting, and it was high time they made their way back to the island. However, small, pathetic sounds drew their attention.
“Is that a dog?” Messina asked his partner. They rushed across the street to a basket with a living creature lying inside.
“It’s a child,” Loggins corrected him. He knelt down to see a small, newborn baby curled up in a blanket. The baby had been cleaned, but otherwise was fresh and new into the world. A piece of paper laid beside it. On one side were some official statements, scratched out save for the Italian word for four - Quatro - which had been overlooked. On the other was a handwritten note, all in Italian.
This bastard child was conceived of hatred. It will never see the love of God. Let it take its last breaths here and rot.
“What kind of mother would write that?” Loggins gagged. He looked up at Messina. “We can’t let this child die.”
“Let’s bring him with,” Messina agreed. Loggins gave him the bags he was carrying, then picked up the basket.
“You’re coming with us, Quatro,” Loggins said. He looked at his partner and shrugged. “I don’t know what to call him just yet.”
“That’s understandable. It’s kind of an interesting nickname.” They made their way to the docks and rowed back to Air Supplena Island. All the while, the baby was silent. The only sounds it made were when it turned and made little mumbling noises.
The two men quickly brought the food to the kitchen, then brought the basket up to their quarters. They were stopped by Master Straitzo before they could enter.
“Explain yourselves,” the Master said.
The two looked at each other while Messina held the basket. Loggins spoke up. “Master, we found this infant abandoned on the street. We couldn’t let it die.”
“Really, or did one of you run off with a woman and produce this thing on accident like Elizabeth?” Straitzo questioned. The previous star apprentice and Straitzo’s adopted daughter had recently abandoned her Hamon training due to an unexpected pregnancy. The last Messina and Loggins heard, she had married the love of her life and was raising her son in England.
“No, Master,” Messina confirmed. “We would never do such a thing.”
Straitzo sighed. “Very well. I expect the two of you to find a home for it within the month.” He left, and the two apprentices entered their room.
Messina laid the basket on the floor and Loggins grabbed some blankets, laying them beside the basket. “Let’s figure out what you are,” Loggins said as he peeled back the blanket. The baby shuddered as the cool air hit its skin. Loggins looked up at Messina. “It’s a girl.”
“Wow,” Messina breathed, smiling and admiring the small child. He looked around the room, then opened a drawer. “She needs a place to sleep.” He dug their clothes out of the drawer, then filled it with blankets and pillows.
“Tomorrow we should get her actual supplies,” Loggins said. He wrapped her up in a fresh blanket. “She looks barely a day old.”
“Shall I get her some milk? She must be hungry,” Messina offered.
“Is it safe to give a newborn cow’s milk?”
“I have no idea. It’s worth a try, no?” Messina left the room and dashed down the stairs, leaving Loggins with the baby girl.
Loggins finished preparing the makeshift crib while he waited. The baby girl fell back into slumber, clinging to her blanket. He then picked her up and held her to his chest. As Messina returned, he explained himself. “Babies need to be held. It’s a basic need.”
Messina sat down on the floor next to Loggins with a small cup, affixed with an even smaller funnel to the top. “We need to get a proper bottle,” he said. He carefully tipped the makeshift bottle to her lips, and she began to drink.
“Wow,” Loggins whispered as he witnessed the newborn take her first drink. He felt the heat of Messina’s body pressed against his back, and then Messina’s head rest on his shoulder. He looked at his partner. “How could someone so small drink so much?”
Messina shrugged and put the bottle down, then held out his arms. “May I hold her for a moment?”
“Of course.” He handed off the baby to Messina, who immediately smiled and cooed.
“She’s so small,” he gasped. “What a cute little nose.” As the baby’s eyes opened, he nudged Loggins. “As blue as the sky.”
Loggins laid his head on Messina’s shoulder as they admired the baby. “She needs a name.”
“Agreed.” Their eyes were drawn to a bookshelf. “Something literary?”
Loggins nodded and pulled a book off of the shelf. He flipped through. “Something Italian.”
They thought for a moment, and then threw out some ideas.
“Concetta?” Messina asked.
“Bianca?” Loggins offered.
“Donnatella?” Messina pondered.
“Giuseppina?” Loggins thought.
“Suzanna!” Messina suggested. “Suzi for short.”
“Perfect,” Loggins replied. “Suzi Quatro.” He sat beside Messina and reached a finger out to stroke the baby’s cheek. “Suzanna Quatro.”
Suzi shuffled a bit, stretching her chubby little arms, then rested against Messina’s chest. She blinked a few times, then shut her eyes. Her first day of life had been a long one.
Loggins looked up at Messina in awe. “She’s precious.”
Suzi slept through the night, barely making any noises. Messina was the first to awaken, and immediately got to work changing the blanket she was wrapped in and feeding her. He woke up Loggins and reminded him they needed to get supplies.
“I’ll stay behind and watch her,” Messina said. “You go out to the city.”
“That’s not fair,” Loggins grumbled. “Why can’t you go?”
Messina looked down at Suzi, then at some loose robes on a table. “We both go. We’ll bring her along. I can carry her.”
“We switch off every so often,” Loggins corrected him. “You… you can hold her first.”
And so they dressed in casual wear, equipping sashes as well. Suzi could lay in the crook of the fabric next to the chest of either Hamon apprentice. They made their way to the commercial district of Venice as Messina held Suzi to his chest in his sash. He supported her body with his arm just to be safe.
“It’s like she doesn’t weigh anything,” he said. They entered a delicatessen and went to the counter. “Do you have anything for a newborn?”
The man at the counter looked at the baby in the sash. “Shouldn’t his mother feed him?”
“She’s orphaned,” Messina explained as Loggins grabbed a basket and went to pick out different foods. “We’ve been feeding her regular milk for the time being, but we’re not sure what else to give her.”
The shopkeeper moved from out behind the counter and ushered Messina to one of the aisles. “We have formula for all ages, though this would be for a newborn,” he said, grabbing some boxes.
The two Hamon apprentices were shown what food and medicine to give the child, and then made their way to another store for supplies, then finally for clothes.
Around midday, they stopped for lunch. Suzi began to stir and whine in Messina’s arms, and Loggins took her from his sash. “You’ve held her for too long anyway,” he grinned. He prepared the formula and began to feed the child.
“Much better than the funnel, eh?” Messina said. He laid his head on the shoulder of his fellow apprentice and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “We can’t give her up.”
“No,” Loggins agreed. “She’s suffered enough of being passed around already.”
“I’m… I’m willing to drop my training if it means Suzi gets a loving childhood.”
“So am I.”
They didn’t have to. After some convincing of Straitzo, they were allowed to keep the infant, so long as her needs didn’t interrupt their training. To compromise, Muse and Straitzo’s second in command, Yutoo, would take turns tending to Suzi. Straitzo would look upon the child in disgust, but Messina and Loggins made sure that she would grow up knowing that she was loved.
Around six months after adoption, a familiar face returned to Air Supplena Island. Straitzo’s daughter and former star apprentice, Elizabeth Joestar, stood at the door to the main building on the island, carrying a suitcase. Neither Messina nor Loggins saw this, as they were busy feeding Suzi her breakfast. They learned of their old peer’s arrival as she walked in the door.
“Hey, Liz,” Messina said absentmindedly as he tried to get Suzi to eat the mashed sweet potato. “C’mon, isn’t this your favorite?”
“Maybe we should give her some peas,” Loggins offered. “I can get the jar.”
Elizabeth strutted over. “Aren’t you two going to ask why I’m here?”
Loggins looked up at her, then shot out of his chair, outstretching his arms. “Liz, you’re back!” He hugged her, patting her on the back. “What about your husband and your kid?”
Elizabeth looked away. “George was murdered, and now I’m in hiding.” She sat down, looking over at the baby in the high chair, and explained what happened. “So, I’d like to go by the name Lisa Lisa now. That’s what Master Straitzo said would be my Hamon master name. It’s a preemptive title, but it’s for my safety.”
“What about your kid?” Messina asked as he wiped Suzi’s face. He smiled at his daughter, who patted her hands on the high chair table. “Joshua, was it?”
“Joseph,” Lisa Lisa corrected him. “He’s with George’s mother and uncle now.” Her voice broke. “They said they’d take care of him for me.”
Loggins patted her on the back. “I’m sure you’ll see him again,” he promised. “Just wait a few years until this blows over.”
“Yeah,” she nodded, wiping her face with her hand. She looked at the baby, who was staring at her with bright eyes. “Who is that?”
“Meet Suzanna Quatro,” Messina smiled, squishing Suzi’s cheeks to make her stick her tongue out of her mouth. “She’s our daughter!”
“She was orphaned, left on the streets to die, but we found her and took her in,” Loggins said. “She’s six months old, and she’s a huge sweetheart. She’s already sleeping through the night, and she’s not fussy in the slightest.”
“She’s always cuddled up next to her kitty toy at night,” Messina added. “Clings to that thing like her life depends on it.”
Lisa Lisa smiled softly and reached out. Suzi grabbed Lisa Lisa’s finger in her chubby fist and cooed. “Are you saying hi?” Lisa Lisa asked, tickling the baby. She smiled and leaned in. “You’re such a sweet young girl, Suzanna!”
“We call her Suzi for short,” Loggins said.
“Suzi Q, what a beautiful name,” Lisa Lisa said.
Suzi grew into a rowdy little girl. At the age of three, she would toddle after her fathers onto the battlefield on the island to watch them practice. She would hold her doll to her chest as she watched, wide-eyed, as her fathers stood on the surface of the pond in the courtyard. Rings rippled from the tips of their toes, keeping them above the water.
A family of ducks fluttered onto the surface of the water and began to swim. Suzi’s eyes widened and she dropped her doll. “Duckies!” She ran down the hill to the pond and onto the water.
“Suzi!” Messina and Loggins shouted in sync. Both men lost their breath and fell into the water. Their feet barely scraped the bottom of the pond, and yet…
Suzi was above the surface.
The men resurfaced to see little ripples from her feet on the surface, keeping her from sinking. They looked at each other, and in sync, “She knows Hamon!”
Lisa Lisa helped them to stand on the water once more and watched as the toddler squatted by the family of ducks. “She’s a natural.”
Suzi reached out and scratched one of the ducklings under its chin lightly, giggling as it made soft quacks. She looked back at her fathers. “Papa! Padre! Duckies!” The two dads walked over, and Suzi grabbed Loggins’ leg. “Papa, look!”
“I see the duckies, honey,” Loggins replied. He knelt down, trying to focus on his breathing so as not to fall in the pond. He looked up at his partner. “Hon, you’re down to your ankles in the water.”
“I know,” Messina groaned. He looked at his daughter. “She seems completely dry.”
“She’s a natural,” Lisa Lisa repeated.
“Should we start training her?” Loggins asked. “She could be the most powerful Hamon user in history if she can use it at such a young age without even knowing.”
“Maybe! She’d be a-” Messina started, before he was interrupted.
“No,” Lisa Lisa said. “It’s a miserable lifestyle for a child. That’s why I didn’t stay with Joseph when he was born. Master Straitzo raised me like this. It’s true Hell. Consider yourselves lucky that you both joined when you were thirteen.”
“What’s so bad about it?” Messina asked. “Was it hard for you?”
“Do you not remember your first trial?! Loggins, you nearly drowned!” Lisa Lisa reminded them of their first Hamon test: five minutes underwater. Most humans could only hold their breaths for two minutes, though Hamon apprentices were expected to last five minutes on their first try. Master Yutoo’s record was fifteen minutes, Lisa Lisa and Master Straitzo both maintained upwards of twenty minutes. “My first underwater trial was at the age of five, and I was trained since the day he held me.”
The men both watched as Suzi chased after the ducklings, who eventually flew away. They looked at each other, then gave their answer. “This secret stays with us. If Master Straitzo learns that Suzi can use Hamon…” Messina shuddered, remembering how he and his partner were thrown into the ocean at the crack of dawn for their trials. He exited the water, having sunk down to his calves in the water.
“She deserves more than life on this island,” Loggins agreed. He left the pond as well to sit beside his partner. “I’ve been meaning to ask you if this is worth it. Training together… I mean, we have a daughter now.”
Messina took his hand. “We’ll just be drawn back.” He looked up at Lisa Lisa.
“It’s inevitable,” she agreed. “You’ll come back and it’ll be without her. And it won’t be both of you who returns.”
Squeezing Loggins’ hand, Messina said “We’ll have to work hard, but we can give her the best life possible if we work together.” He pressed his forehead to the others’, though both men were afraid to share a kiss. Lisa Lisa rolled her eyes as she watched the display of affection.
They made a plan to educate her as much as possible. They’d bring back school lesson sheets from the mainland, and teach Suzi at their free times. By the age of seven, she was actively reading, and enjoyed helping Muse out in the kitchen and when cleaning up. She said she felt like Cinderella.
“Does she not realize Cinderella didn’t enjoy her life?” Messina asked after tucking Suzi into bed. The girl was all pooped out from her day of running around in the mud and helping Muse scrub the kitchen down.
“Maybe she does,” Loggins said, ruffling his daughter’s golden hair. “Hell, we live in a tower, and her hair is getting long…”
“That’s Rapunzel, you dumbass. Were you even paying attention to the story?”
“No,” Loggins smirked. He got up and pressed a kiss to his partner’s lips. They both smiled as they felt a burst of Hamon be exchanged between the two of them. “I wonder if Lisa Lisa ever felt this with Jeff.”
“George,” Messina corrected him. “Who knows? Maybe he knew Hamon but didn’t tell.” They left the room to return to their shared bedroom. When Suzi was two, Straitzo allowed her to have a room of her own. It was barely bigger than the storage closets, but it fit all of her clothes, toys, and her bed. She didn’t complain.
Suzi slept into the night, having a mostly dreamless sleep. She was then delved into a vision of the morning dawn over the waters outside, and the sight of fleshy, writhing tubes around her. Her movements were involuntary, and she was being hurt by two large men. She struggled against the slimy tubes, crying out, but a weight on the back of her head prevented her from taking full control.
She woke up in a cold sweat as one of the men from the dream threw a punch to her midsection. Her eyes shot open, and she was bathed in moonlight from the open window. She got up and grabbed her dolly, then trotted out of the bedroom. She desperately needed a drink.
Suzi made her way down the hall, so as not to wake her fathers, or even worse, Mister Zo. He had a longer name, but she could never finish saying it without messing up. When she got to the start of the staircase, she saw a large man exiting one of the bedrooms. He was looking up at the wall, and a single horn protruded from his forehead.
“Are you a unicorn?” Suzi asked. The man jumped and looked at her, then walked closer. In the low light, she discerned a marking on his face. It was almost a box, though left unfinished on the left wall.
The man thought for a moment. Uni + corn. One horn. “Yes,” he said, kneeling down. “I did not expect there to be one as young as you. Why are you awake?”
“I had a bad dream an’ now I want some milk,” she whined. She ran over and hugged his leg. He was cold to the touch and rather tough, as if he was made of stone.
“Would you like me to take you to get some milk?” The man asked. He knelt down and ruffled the girl’s golden hair.
Suzi nodded and reached her hands up. The man picked her up and held her to his chest, then took her to the kitchen. “Are you a new student?” Suzi asked.
“No,” the man answered. He didn’t want to tell her the truth. It would corrupt her. “What was your bad dream about?”
“There was a brain man that hurt me,” Suzi whimpered as she got out of the man’s arms. The man grabbed a carton of milk out of the fridge and poured Suzi a cup. “I was really hot in my dream, an’ he was made of red spaghetti.”
“I’m sorry,” the man replied. He handed the cup of milk to her. “This should calm you down.”
Suzi took the cup and downed it in a few gulps. “Mr Unicorn, why are you here?”
“It’s a secret,” he said, pressing his finger to his lips.
“I can keep a secret!” Suzi promised. She set down her cup and clapped her little hands together. “Please?”
The man ruffled her hair. “I’m your guardian angel,” he lied. “I protect you from your nightmares.”
Suzi’s eyes lit up. “Thank you, Mr Unicorn!” She made a zipping motion across her mouth. “I won’t tell anyone.” She made a throwing motion.
The man smiled. “Now let’s get you back to bed.”
Suzi awoke the next morning to the sound of screaming. She walked out of her bedroom to see a commotion down the hallway, and ran over. “What happened?”
Muse, Messina, and Loggins stood outside Yutoo’s room. Suzi tried slipping past them, but Loggins grabbed his daughter’s arm. “Go back to your room, dear.”
“I wanna see what’s in there, Padre!” Suzi begged.
Loggins swept her up in his arms and carried her back to her room. “You need to get dressed for the day, missy!”
Suzi got dressed and did her duties for the day. She didn’t see Master Yutoo at all, nor the next day, or the day after that.
Weeks passed, and the child soon forgot about the Hamon teacher, and the unicorn man…
Suzi met a girl named Calpurnia Antonella Zeppeli at the age of sixteen. Lisa Lisa, having taken over Yutoo’s place, introduced Calpurnia as the newest recruit. The girl was rather tall and had noticeable muscles, and had golden-blonde hair. Triangle-shaped birthmarks sat on each cheek.
“Her grandfather was William Zeppeli,” Lisa Lisa said. “She’s a natural at using Hamon. Suzi, help her with her things.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Suzi replied. She grabbed Calpurnia’s suitcases. “Right this way!”
“I can carry them myself,” Calpurnia said. She had an androgynous voice with a thick Italian accent.
“It’s fine!” Suzi promised. She showed Calpurnia to the spare bedroom. “So, what made you want to learn Hamon?”
Calpurnia started unpacking. “It’s my birthright. My father knew it, and his father before him. I’ve been using it for years and not knowing, until an old family friend found me and told me what these powers were.” She turned and looked at Suzi. “And you?”
“I don’t know Hamon. I’m just the maid,” she said. “My fathers are teachers here. Messina and Loggins.”
“Fathers? Two of them?”
“I’m adopted,” Suzi smiled. “I’ve been here on this island my whole life!”
“You’ve never been to the mainland?”
Suzi giggled. “Of course I have, Cal! Can I call you Cal?”
Calpurnia’s cheeks flushed red and she nodded.
“Okay, Cal! Yeah, I’ve been to the mainland a ton of times. It’s just that I’ve lived here on the island since I was a baby,” Suzi explained. She fitted sheets over Calpurnia’s bed. “So, um… do you have a boyfriend?”
“I’m actually- No, no I don’t.” Calpurnia looked away.
“You’re actually what?”
Calpurnia bit her lip. “I’m- I like girls,” she said.
“Oh! So, do you have a girlfriend?” Suzi asked.
“You don’t think I’m weird for liking girls?”
“Why would I? You love who you love,” Suzi said.
Calpurnia smiled and outstretched her arms. “Thank you.” She hugged Suzi.
“You’re welcome, I guess?” Suzi hugged Calpurnia back. “I dunno what the big deal is.”
“People don’t… look kindly upon those who like the same gender as they are,” Calpurnia explained. “Or those whose bits don’t match their mind.”
“Like women who have a man’s member, or a man who has a woman’s entrance,” Calpurnia said. “Their mind has a disconnect from their body. They were supposed to be born as the opposite gender, but it didn’t happen.”
“Why would people hate those types of people? Wouldn’t they want to help?” Suzi asked.
“People hate those who are different from them. It’s shallow. It’s pathetic,” Calpurnia spat. “Especially if it’s family ostracizing each other because of these differences.”
“Then they’re not family,” Suzi said.
Calpurnia looked up at her.
“Family is those who love you. Messina and Loggins are my family, as well as Lisa Lisa and Straitzo,” Suzi said. She took Calpurnia’s hands. “You’ll find your family someday.”
Suzi and Calpurnia grew closer as the weeks went by. Suzi would watch as Calpurnia practiced alongside the others, improving her technique by the day. It was unreal to see the progress.
Calpurnia took Suzi aside one day after practice. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
“Is everything okay?” Suzi asked. She inspected her friend for any cuts or bruising. “I’ve heard that Master Straitzo can be really demanding.”
“No, nothing like that. I just- Remember when we first met? And- Look, I want to be a man.”
A weight was lifted off of the heavy air.
“I’m a man in my heart, Suzi. And I want to be called Caesar. I want to go to the mainland to get new clothes, but I don’t want to go alone. Can we go together?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Suzi replied. She was unfazed by the news. “You want to be called what now?”
“Caesar, like the old Roman emperor,” he said. “It’s fitting, because one of his wives was Calpurnia.”
“Caesar Zeppeli…” Suzi said. She took Caesar’s hands. “I like it!”
Caesar smiled and grabbed Suzi in a bear hug. “Thank you. Thank you so much,” he said as his voice caught in his throat.
“Don’t cry,” Suzi said. She pulled back to look up at Caesar’s jade eyes. She stroked his cheeks, then leaned up and gave him a kiss on the lips. “Don’t cry, Shiza.”
A few years later, Suzi found herself staring out over a balcony to the docks, where a boat just landed. Lisa Lisa and Caesar got off of the boat, followed by a large young man in a trailing striped scarf. Suzi turned and went to run down the stairs to greet the new apprentice, excited to meet another friend...