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We are bound to inherit the sins of our parents and all of the people we pass through.

Now we're down to the last two.

May I have this dance to make it up to you?

 


 

Jotaro, typical as always, didn’t tell anyone that he was in a relationship with Mary-Jane Joplin until they got engaged in 1991.

The details of their relationship were a complete mystery.  Where and how they had met, the details of their courtship -  it all might as well have been a black box, and Jotaro certainly wasn’t going into any sort of details.  Mary-Jane, herself, seemed to be a similarly private sort of person, so regardless of the mysteries that surrounded them, they seemed to be a good pair for each other.

They moved to Florida after they got married, for the sake of Jotaro’s graduate work, and soon thereafter they had a daughter, Jolyne.

Dio absolutely took time out of his schedule to visit, though he waited until Giorno’s summer vacation had begun, since he wanted to see Jotaro as well.

Jolyne was already a few months old, when Dio and Giorno came to call, and she was fussy and wriggly indeed as Giorno tried to hold her in his lap.  Dio watched on with a smile, but turned around when he felt a tap on his shoulder.

It was Jotaro.  “Hey. You mind coming with me?”

“Sure, what for?”

“Just want to talk,” Jotaro replied.

“Of course,” said Dio.

Jotaro led him out of the living room and onto the deck behind the kitchen.  He adjusted his cap, seemingly to keep the sun out of his eyes.

(Or, well, because of his usual tic.)

“So… how have you been, Dio.”

“I’ve been well,” Dio replied.

“Yeah?  Giorno seems like he’s doing good.”

“Indeed he is.”

“Yeah.”

Jotaro adjusted his cap again.

“Something on your mind, Jotaro?” said Dio.

There was a long pause.  The song of cicadas was almost oppressive.

“...I ever thank you for all the… crap you did for me as a kid?” Jotaro finally said.

“Thank me?  For what?” Dio replied.

“Just… y’know, being there for me when my mom was sick,” Jotaro said.  “Looking back… I was a real piece of work. Causing way too much trouble.  And you set me straight.”

Dio smiled a little.  “Not that I’m disagreeing with you - and I’m no psychologist, mind - but you were just worried for your mother, if recall, and unable to do much about her illness,” he said.  “Given that, and your age, it’s no wonder you were acting out as you were.”

“Yeah, but… even before then, I was… getting into fights, stealing - stuff…”  He tripped over the usual urge to swear. “I dunno where I’d be if you hadn’t been around.”

“Well, I’m sure you’d have turned out all right,” Dio said.  “But… a little guidance from myself certainly didn’t hurt.”

There was another small slice of eternity filled with cicada-song.

“What is it you really want to talk to me about, Jotaro?” Dio said, folding his arms across his chest.

Jotaro looked around, once, twice, and he closed his eyes.  “Dio… I’m scared as hell.”

Dio tilted his head with concern.  “What has you scared?” he said.

“I don’t… wanna turn out like my old man, but I’m already…”  He grimaced. “Mary-Jane… probably didn’t tell you, but I… wasn’t there, when Jolyne was born.  Was at a conference.”

“Well… that’s something you probably couldn’t have helped,” said Dio.

“It around her due date and I still… fucking went.  Said I’d probably be back in time, but…”  He clenched his fists. “Off to a great fuckin’ start, aren’t I?”

Dio took a moment to ensure that he chose his words as carefully as possible.  “Not the most… auspicious start, but you’ve got a whole lifetime with Jolyne ahead of you,” he decided.  “It’s a drop in the bucket, ultimately.”

Jotaro looked far from relieved.  In truth, his hands were beginning to tremble.

“Dio…” he said, his voice almost cracking, “I don’t want to fuck this up.  How do I not fuck this up?”

And Dio went to him and put a hand on Jotaro’s shoulder.  “One day at a time,” he said. “And you’re going to need to… forgive yourself, when things go wrong.  Because they will go wrong.”

(Dio hadn’t forgiven himself for a lot of things.)

Jotaro lowered his head.  His eyes were winced shut.  “And what if… even if I try, really try, Jolyne just ends up hating me anyway?  I’d… I don’t want her to ever feel the way I’ve felt, toward my old man.”

“Jotaro.  Easy.” Dio gently stroked Jotaro’s back.  “Your life with your daughter has only just begun.  When she gets older… that’s when you can worry about such things.”

“Yeah, but how old?” Jotaro replied.  “I’ve… more or less resented my old man for as long as I can remember, with him gone and everything, and my work…”

“Jotaro,” said Dio, “I think, no matter how far your work takes you, or how long you’re away from her, so long as Jolyne knows you care, you’ll be fine.  I think that’s what’s most important.”

“And how the hell do I do that? ”  

“You’ll figure that out with time,” said Dio.  “I think… treat her like you wish you’d been treated.  That might be a good place to start.”

“Here’s fuckin’ hoping it’s that simple…”  Jotaro finally opened his eyes. They were a little red around the edges.  “I don’t think I’ve ever… felt so strongly about… anything in my life.  About Jolyne, I mean.  She’s…”

“Your daughter.  And you love her.  It’s okay to say out loud,” said Dio, smiling gently.  

“Damn it, Dio, you and your…”  Jotaro adjusted his cap again.

“Yes, my bluntness, I know, I know,” said Dio.

(Strange, how he could speak so easily and so clearly on behalf of Jotaro’s heart, but when it came to the matter of his own heart…)

Jotaro sighed.  “Well, either way… Thanks for hearing me out, Dio.”

“Any time.  You just let me know next time you’re in need of a good pep talk,” Dio replied.

Jotaro smirked.  But Dio knew he might as well have been laughing.

 


 

“I wish you were my real dad, Dio…”

Giorno was on his stomach on his bed in their hotel room, resting his head on his arms.

His voice was so young and so lacking in malice, but Dio felt as if he’d been shot in the gut.

Dio folded the book he was reading over a finger.  He wouldn’t let his shock show through, not if he could help it.  He set his expression with gentle steel.

“Pardon?” Dio said.

Giorno shrugged where he lay, rolling over a little bit, a pensive pout on his face.  “I ‘unno… It’s just… that’s all I could think about, when we were visiting Jotaro-niisan and everything.  How lucky little Jolyne is. And just…”

“You think… if I was your father, you’d be happier?”  Dio managed to squeeze a slight air of amusement into his voice.

“I mean… I ‘unno…”  Giorno buried his eyes in his arms, and his voice grew muffled.  “Nevermind…”

A strange mix of bravery and cowardice curdled in Dio’s chest, like lemon juice and milk.

“No, let’s… talk about this, a little,” said Dio.  “It sounds like this has been on your mind for a while.”

Giorno made a fussy little noise.  “I mean… It’s not really worth thinking about…  I don’t really remember much from before I met you, anyway…”

(Giorno had only been in Dio’s custody for 2 years.  This was absolutely a lie.)

“Well, all the same…” Dio said.

He was filled with a poisonous cloud of curiosity.

“Do you remember, at least… that man, Stromboli… That was your… stepfather, right?” he continued, as lightly as he could manage.

“Yeah…”  

“Where was your… actual father, then?” Dio said.  “Do you know?”

Giorno was quiet for a while.  “Mama never really talked about him,” he finally said.  “She called him a good-for-nothing that left before I was born.”

“Ah…”

(...well, it was the truth.  Dio allowed the pain of the words to get their hooks well into him.)

“Probably another guy like my stepdad.  I’m glad I never got to meet him,” Giorno continued.

(Such darkness, in his little voice.  The pain in Dio’s heart bled and bled.)

“So, I mean… that’s sorta why I wish you were my dad, Dio.   You wouldn’t… do something like that.”  Giorno looked up a little, bashfully. 

Dio closed his eyes, lowered his head.

(Did he know?  Was this child looking to punish him, for the neglect that he was responsible for?)

“...Dio, you okay?”  The shyness in Giorno’s eyes was swiftly replaced by worry.  “Did I say something wrong?”

(He couldn’t have known.  He was a child.)

“No, no, you didn’t say anything wrong, Giorno.  I just…” Dio sighed. “It makes me feel… very sad, when I think about what things used to be like for you.  I think… I could have saved you a lot of trouble, if I had found you earlier. Gotten you off to a better start in life.”

(Truth could shine through thick layers of cowardice.)

“I really am sorry I wasn’t there for you, Giorno.”

“But that’s not your fault…!” Giorno said, propping himself up on his elbows, a strange amount of distress on his face.  “You told me… that you were only able to find me after Joseph-san saw Gold Experience in his magic pictures. And… and Gold Experience didn’t show up for me until after I moved to Italy with my Mama, so…”

(No, this was not a comfort to hear.)

(Not when he could have… stayed with Yoko, or…)

“Well, still…” Dio said.  “If I was… if there was a world in which I was your father, I’d have made sure you were cared-for, no matter what.”

Giorno rested his head on his arms again.

(But if he’d been around for Giorno, been there when he was born, who would have rescued Diavolo?  Who would have been there for Jotaro?)

(Would he have even put such things over the well-being of his own…)

(Coward.   Coward. )

Dio put down his book, and he leaned forward, hoping his face looked warm and not worried.  “Giorno… I really do want you to know that I want to do anything and everything I can to make up for that.  For not being able to help earlier.”

(He’d never said such things to Diavolo, to Jotaro.)

Giorno’s eyes darted between the fabric of the bed and Dio.  “Y’don’t… really need to say things like that, Dio…” Giorno said, quietly, more quietly than before.  “S’really not that big a deal…”

I think it’s a big deal,” Dio replied.  “You being happy, I mean. You are very, very precious to me, Giorno."

Giorno buried his head in his arms again.  His ears were turning red.

(Ears that carried that implausible birthmark.)

(Ambiguity was armor.)

(Coward.)

(He couldn’t wear that armor forever.)

“Giorno… would it make you happy if I allowed you to call me ‘father’?”

(He could take off… a little bit of that armor, today.  It had been a strange day.)

Giorno lifted his eyes, ever so slightly, above his arms.  “You’d… let me do that?”

“Of course.  If that would make you happy,” Dio replied.

Dio could see a smile in the boy’s eyes for just a second.

Just a second, and then Giorno had his eyes buried in his arms again.  “Well… I ‘unno… I don’t need to… And it’s kinda dumb, anyway…”

Dio picked his book back up.  “All right. Just… know that I don’t mind.”

“Mm…”

Giorno rolled onto his back and reached for the remote to the TV in their room, and turned it on.  All of the programming was in English, which Giorno barely understood, and Dio knew it. But the silence needed to be filled somehow.

Eventually, the time came for them to turn in for the night.  Dio turned down the lights, just enough so he could continue reading without disturbing Giorno’s sleep.  After the boy had brushed his teeth, he crawled into his bed and flopped over onto his side, his back to Dio.

“Good night, Giorno,” Dio said.

“G’night…”

Then, so quietly.

“...Dad.”

Dio had never before felt such pain and such joy at once, and as soon as Giorno was asleep, he spent a good hour with his head in his hands, marveling at the moment, and everything it could possibly have meant.

Well.

If Giorno wanted Dio to be his father, he would be his father.

That would be enough.

(His chest felt tight, constricted, with his weakness.  One more terrible piece of armor.)

That would be enough, for now.

 

Chapter Text

Too late for the young gun to lead a simple life.

Too late for the young gun…

This is the Year of the Knife.

 


 

It was the summer of 1999.  In the town of Morioh, a Stand user was making people go missing.

The Stand’s activity had been detected in the usual manner, with Holy’s Stand, Raspberry Beret; Joseph was getting on in years, and his photography wasn’t as accurate as it used to be, so she’d taken over in his duties.  Her results were actually more accurate in general, even compared to what Joseph was able to manage in his prime. Unlike her father, Holy was able to set her focus on “connections” rather than only Stands, and could produce multiple photographs of things related to the Stand, not just the Stand and its user alone.

The recent business in Morioh had produced photographs of a department store, a woman’s hand, a sandwich, a brown paper bag.  The Stand and its user, who were also made manifest in Holy’s Polaroids, were creatures of violet shadows and sharp angles, and utmost care would be required to find them and stop them in their tracks.  

This would be an assignment of great danger and risk.

Giorno was 14 years old, and he absolutely wanted in on it.

“No.”

“But, Dad!”

“Absolutely not, Giorno.”

“But I can help!”

Dio was already packing his bags.  “Giorno, this is a very serious matter.  Maybe if it were something… smaller, you could come along, but not this.”

“But I’ve been getting really good at using Gold Experience!” Giorno whined.

Dio sighed.  “Giorno… while I appreciate your enthusiasm, I just don’t feel comfortable letting you come along.  It’s best if I go for now. You can come with me when we detect the… next Stand user.  All right?”

“Da-ad!  But we have no idea when that’ll be! ” he said.  

“I’m sure the next one will come along soon enough,” Dio replied.  “And I’ll be back from Morioh before you know it.”

Dio left via car that afternoon, and Giorno sulked for the rest of the day.

Holy noticed, of course, and not just because he wasn’t eating his dinner.  “Whatever it is that Dio ends up finding, I’m sure it won’t be that exciting,” she told him, with a sympathetic smile.

“Yeah, right.  It’s probably gonna be awesome ,” Giorno replied.  “And I’m gonna miss all of it.”

To Holy’s surprise, Giorno continued to mope for the better part of the week.  Soft-hearted as she was, she decided that, maybe, she could do something about it.

(And, besides, there had been something on her mind that she’d been otherwise unable to tend to.  Many things on her mind, in fact.)

On Sunday night, at dinner, she asked, “Giorno-kun, how about you and I go for a little… adventure, for a few days?”

“An adventure?”

She nodded with a closed-eye smile.  “Mhm! Just a few days off school.”

“Well, okay, but… what kind of adventure?”  There was a spark of interest in his gloomy eyes.

Holy reached into the pocket of her apron and pulled out a small collection of Polaroids.

“Looking for Stands, of course,” she said.  “I did some more research and found three more Stands that need to be accounted for in Morioh.  Would you like to come with me to check on them?”

Giorno’s face broke into a wide grin.  “You mean it? You really mean it?!”

“It won’t be terribly exciting, but I figured you could use the experience,” Holy replied.  “And it should be fun!’

“Yes!  Yeah, absolutely!”

The next day, they left for Morioh.

(Stands, for whatever reason, seemed to be drawn to other Stands, after all, so it was to be expected that there were a few more in the town where all the disappearances were happening.)

Holy was relieved that Raspberry Beret had uncovered three less-aggressive Stands and users, since Giorno was so young, and her combat ability wasn’t as impressive as, say, Dio’s, or Jotaro’s.  It would be a treat for Giorno, and it would be helping out the Speedwagon Foundation. Two birds with one Stand, as it were!

(A treat for Giorno, yes, but there were other things on Holy’s mind.)

With the help of a map, Holy was able to locate the first Stand in a building labeled “Salon Cinderella.”  Her Polaroids had produced a picture of the building itself, so it didn’t take them very long.

“Hahh… Welcome, welcome, what can I do for you today?”  The proprietress was pale-skinned and golden-haired, and wore a uniform of flowing pink cotton, very much looking the part of a working-class princess.

“Just visiting around!” Holy replied.  “Though, if I might ask you something?”

“Hahh… Of course.”

With a gentle smile and a gentle flourish, Holy brought out Raspberry Beret.  “Do you see anything behind me?”

The woman blinked, a lovely varnish of surprise appearing on her face.  “My my… Hahh… So it seems I’m not alone…”

The woman introduced herself as Aya Tsuji, and her Stand, Cinderella, was a very curious one indeed.

“I can see why she gave you that gift!” Holy said, once Aya explained how she worked.  “Given your profession and all.”

“Hahh…  Yes, I’ll admit, it’s made my dreams of being a ‘fairy godmother’ a lot easier…” Aya replied.  “It’s so wonderful that she lets me make dreams come true. Speaking of,” Aya continued, “would you like me to give either of you a little touch-up?  Since we’re all Stand users, I’ll do it for free…”

“Oh, goodness, no, I’m fine,” said Holy, waving her hand.

“Hmm…”  Aya tilted her head and stroked some of Giorno’s dark hair away from his brow.  “Still… Hahh, young man… You have quite a fortunate aesthetic about you…”

“Ace… tactic?” said Giorno.  His face was growing very pink.

“Hahh…  Yes, indeed.  The structure of your face… It’s a face that catches the attention of the winds of fate, winds of both good and ill fortune…”

“Oh…”

Aya smiled slightly, and tucked Giorno’s hair behind his ear.  “See, these birthmarks, especially. Hahh… Yes, that’s the mark of someone cursed with luck…”

“You can tell all that from just a few birthmarks?” said Holy.  “Amazing!”

“Oh, yes.  Hahh… And if I’m not mistaken… you possess one of your own?” Aya continued, facing Holy.  “I can feel it.”

“Well, it’s probably this!”  Holy lifted her hair away from her neck, exposing the star-shaped birthmark beneath it.

“Ah, yes, yes…  That is a mark of great power…” said Aya, removing her hands from Giorno drawing closer to Holy.  

As she continued on with Holy, Giorno kept his hand cupped over his ear, strange thoughts of luck and resemblance swimming through his mind.

They left Aya’s salon after giving her a business card with contact information for the Speedwagon Foundation, and they went on to their next destination.

Like Cinderella, the next Stand and its user were easy enough to find, with the assistance of a map and a bit of asking around, due to the fact that one of Holy’s Polaroids was an image of a building carrying the name Trattoria Trussardi.   

When they entered the restaurant, a little bell sounded, and a very large Westerner emerged from the kitchen.  “ Benvenuto benvenuto!   Welcome to my humble restaurant.  What can I get for you?”

“Ah!  Is that Italian?” said Holy.

(Knowing full-well what to expect, given her Polaroids.)

Sì, signora! ” the man replied.  “I am originally from Naples.”

“Is that so!” said Holy.  “Giorno here used to live there, actually.”

“Ah, yeah…”

(Not the happiest of memories, but something that needed to be confronted, from time to time.  Usually whenever he and Dio visited Diavolo and his family, which happened pretty much yearly.)

Holy nudged Giorno.  “Would you like to do the honors?”

“Honors…?  Oh!” With an awkward smile, Giorno brought out Gold Experience.  “Sir, are you able to see anything behind me?”

The Italian gasped in delight.  “Oh, how marvelous! What a beautiful creature that is.”

“If you can see it, it means you have one of your own,” Giorno continued.  “Don’t you?”

“Oh, indeed, indeed.”  A moment later, a small swarm of strange, onion-shaped creatures appeared around the man.  “These little fellows help me with my cooking.”

“How so, how so?” said Holy.  “That sounds fascinating.”

“Well,” the man replied, “why don’t I show you?”

The chef - who called himself Tonio - proceeded to diagnose both Giorno and Holy with remarkable precision.

“You are both considerably healthy,” he began, “but, Holy-san, you must surely be suffering from some ill effects of menopause, given your age, and I can certainly help with that.”

Holy turned bright red.  “Oh, well…”

“As for you, Giorno-kun…” he continued.  “There is some scar tissue on your shoulder from an old injury that I can take care of.”

(Giorno had fallen down the stairs when he was five.)

(“Fallen.”)

“And everyone can benefit from healthier skin!  So I shall throw that in as well.” He clapped his hands.  “All right! I shall go get the meal started. Please, have a seat.  I will not take long.”

Simultaneously excited and flustered, Holy and Giorno sat down and waited.

Tonio reappeared some time later with two plates in his hand, which he set down in front of them.  “For you, Holy-san, bucatini, with a red sauce made from heirloom tomatoes. And for you, Giorno, beef shoulder ragu and gnocchi.  Since I am cooking for a woman and child, I only used mild spices. Please, enjoy. I’ll be getting the dessert prepared.”

Holy and Giorno exchanged pensive glances but, eventually, they dug in.

To say that the food was delicious would have been an insult to the word “delicious.”  

In addition, the Stand-enhanced food filled them with warmth as it healed their injuries, gently and without the usual grotesqueries Tonio’s food brought about.  He was cooking for a woman and a child, after all.

Dessert was a delicate panna cotta that left their skin moisturized and soft, and not a speck of the meal was left after Giorno and Holy had finished eating.

“Please, I require no payment,” Tonio said, when Holy reached for her wallet.  “Meeting you both and being able to serve you is enough.”

As usual, they left him with a business card for the Speedwagon Foundation, and continued on toward the third and final Stand from Holy’s Polaroids.

However, they ended up somewhat distracted along the way.

To make sure they were on the right path, Holy used Raspberry Beret to send out a small host of feelers to “connect” to the target, but she felt a “snag” of sorts at a bus stop on the way.  Something related, something in need of investigating. Call it a mother’s intuition.

Well, a little detour wouldn’t hurt.

Following the “snagged” vine, Holy drove to the bus stop and pulled over on the side of the road once she was within a proper distance.

“Is this where the third Stand is?” Giorno asked.

Holy didn’t answer, parting the long grass on the side of the road as she followed the vine.

And then… it just stopped, leading to nothing and nowhere.

“Holy?” said Giorno.

In the grass, there was a strange indentation.  Holy reached into it, and before she could touch the ground, her hand was intercepted by something warm and soft.

“Oh!”  Holy’s hands wandered over the invisible shape a little further, before it moved and let out a cry very much resembling…  “My goodness…! I’ve never come across and Stand user so young!”

“A Stand user…?” said Giorno.

Carefully, Holy bundled the little creature in her arms. “I do think so.  How else do you explain an invisible baby?”

For the sake of urgency, they returned to the hotel and saw to the matter of getting the little thing clothed and diapered.  The third Stand from the Polaroids could wait.

(But Holy was not going to leave Morioh before she found it.)

Holy was slightly distressed to discover that, no matter how hard she concentrated, Raspberry Beret could not find anyone with a “parental” connection to the baby.  No mother, no father.

“Poor thing must be an orphan,” Holy concluded.  “Well, I’m sure we’ll find some way to take care of her…”

“Are you going to take her in, Holy?” Giorno asked.  He was holding her, and the little disembodied pile of clothes was burbling in his arms.

“Hmm… We’ll have to see what your father says, but I think I will,” Holy replied.  “I’m sure he won’t mind. Especially since that little one already has quite a strong connection to you and me, it seems.”

(Connections which Holy may or may not have strengthened, once she discovered the fact that the child didn’t have a mother any more.)

(Giorno was still quite young, but… well, Jolyne was an entire country away, and Holy was so very fond of babies.)

The next day, with the yet-unnamed invisible baby masked with makeup and slung in a carrier over Giorno’s chest, she and Giorno went out to find the third Stand and its user.

Raspberry Beret and the Polaroids led them to the gates of a school.  “You think it’s a teenager?” said Giorno. “Maybe someone my age?” he added, eagerly.

“We’ll have to see!  We should probably wait until classes let out,” Holy replied.  “Seems it’s a bit too early in the day…”

They preoccupied themselves with lunch and window-shopping, and returned to the school in time for the final bell.  

Then…

“Ah!  There he is!”

Before Giorno could really wonder why Holy immediately knew whom she was looking for, she rushed forward.

The young man in question was very tall, and he had the most impressive pompadour Giorno had ever seen.  Something about his face, as well, seemed so strangely familiar…

“Yeah?  What can I do for you, lady?”

Holy was beaming as she summoned Raspberry Beret.  “This creature behind me. You can see her, can’t you?”

The boy broke into a wide, almost goofy, smile.  “Whoa! And I thought I was the only one! That is so seriously cool!”

“Would you mind coming with me so we can talk further?” Holy continued.

“Oh, yeah, sure!  That seems fine.”

“I’m Holy, by the way,” she said.  “Kujo Holy. And this is Giorno Brando.”

“Ah, nice to meet you!  I’m Higashikata Josuke,” said the boy.

“A fine name,” Holy replied.

Once they were a fair distance away from the school, Josuke brought out his stand, a figure of pink and silver that was both glorious and bizarre to behold.  “He’s called Crazy Diamond,” Josuke explained. “He can fix stuff.”

“Sounds a bit like my Raspberry Beret!  She connects things.”

“And then there’s that baby, huh?  Even babies can have these Stand things, huh?” Josuke continued.  

“Apparently so!” said Holy.

“And what does yours do, bud?” Josuke asked Giorno.

“Gold Experience can turn… non-living things into living things, I guess!  And the other way around,” Giorno replied. “And I think he has the capacity to heal people, but I’m not quite sure how yet…”

“Ah!  So we got similar powers!  That’s awesome,” said Josuke.  “I think you and me are gonna get along just fine.”

(Giorno, despite everything, was still a kid that typically kept to himself, at school.  Call it habit, or reflex, or memory. He didn’t really have any friends.)

(Outside of his home, he really was a child of caution and few words.)

(Oh, how Holy wished the outside world could see the bright, happy young man that only came alive when he was home with her and Dio.)

“Josuke-kun, are your parents aware of Crazy Diamond?” Holy continued.

“Well… my mom can’t see him, so it’s kind of tough to explain…” Josuke said.  “I mean, she knows I have a talent for healing people, but not why .”

“Is it just your mom?”

“Yeah, and my grandpa,” Josuke replied.

“Well, would you mind terribly if you introduced us to them?” Holy said.  “I think if we explain who we are and what we do on behalf of the Speedwagon Foundation for Stand users like you… well, it might get some things cleared up!”

“Sure!  I’m sure my mom would love meeting you two,” said Josuke.

(Holy’s smile was just so slightly uncertain.)

Josuke led them to his home, where he, indeed, introduced them to his mother Tomoko.  “These people got special powers, sorta like mine! Turns out, there’s a whole bunch of us.”

“Wow, seriously?  What a world we live in,” Tomoko remarked.

“Given Josuke’s age, I felt it was only right that you also be told about Stands and such,” said Holy.  “It can be a lot for a young person to manage.”

“I mean, I was doin’ pretty all right so far…” Josuke said, scratching the back of his head.

“Well… there was one other thing that I wanted to bring up to you, Josuke-kun,” said Holy.

“Yeah, what is it?”

Holy closed her eyes for a moment, thinking, recalling.

(Steeling herself.)

“When you were about… four years old, you came down with a sudden illness, did you not?” she said.  “That lasted for a few months.”

“Yeah, how did you know?” said Josuke.  “Your Stand tell you that?”

“Sort of…  You see, I was also very sick, around that time,” Holy said.  “And I know now that you became ill because I became ill. Due to our ‘connection’ to each other.”

“Really, huh…”

“And… You have a birthmark on your shoulder.  Shaped like a star. Don’t you?”

“What the… how did you know that? ” said Josuke.  His hand was clasped on his neck.

“Well… Because, Josuke…” Holy lifted her hair away from her shoulder, exposing her own birthmark.  “I have one of my own.”

“The hell…!”

“Josuke-kun,” Holy continued, “I believe that I’m your half-sister.”

“What?!”

Half- sister?  What do you mean by that?” said Tomoko.  “I mean… you’re older than me, so how can...”

“Does the name Joseph Joestar mean anything to you, Tomoko-san?” Holy said, her voice soft and calm.

A wave of sudden and unmistakable melancholy immediately washed over Tomoko’s face.  “Joseph…?”

“Yes.  He’s my father,” said Holy.

“Oh… Oh, God …”  Tomoko covered her face in her hands.  “God, I’m so sorry, I had no idea… I mean, he didn’t tell me he had a family or anything, but I should have known better, and…”

Holy, to the surprise of everyone else present, put her hand, gently, on Tomoko’s shoulder.  “Please don’t blame yourself,” Holy said. “The only person responsible for my father’s actions is my father.  But… I want to apologize for any sort of unnecessary suffering you and Josuke went through.  I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been, raising your son alone.”

“Oh, well, I had my father to help, but…”  Tomoko’s face was beginning to grow blotchy.  “You really don’t blame me?”

“No, not at all,” said Holy.  

Josuke, meanwhile, was staring at the floor with a half-angry stare.  “Hey, Holy-san… Your Stand, or whatever it is… that’s really the reason I got sick when I was little?” he finally said.  

“Yes, I realize that now, after the fact,” Holy replied.  “Raspberry Beret was very wild, when she first came to me.  Making lots of connections with little regard to the consequences.  She drew a Stand to my own son - why she did that, I haven’t the slightest idea - and she passed on part of my illness to you, as well.  I had no control over it, but I still feel responsible.”

“Okay, but… how do you know that for sure?” said Josuke.

“The… feel of the connection between us is pretty unique.  It was something I couldn’t ignore, when I was sick,” said Holy.  “When I was searching Morioh with my Stand for the Speedwagon Foundation, I felt it again, and wanted to look into it further.  And that’s how I found you.”

“Ah…  I guess I understand?  Even though I don’t… This is all just real sudden, y’know?” said Josuke.

“Yes, I know,” said Holy.  “I’m glad I found you, though, Josuke-kun, Tomoko-san.  So you at least have some power over this… situation we’re in.”

“Are you… does Joseph know?  That you know?” said Tomoko.

“He’s never mentioned anything,” Holy replied.  “As far as I know, I’m the only one aware. I’ll absolutely be talking to him about this, but I won’t tell anyone else if he doesn’t.  And… if he agrees to it, Josuke… would you like to meet him?”

“Hell no.”

A strange, chilly shock filled the room.

“You don’t… want to meet him?” said Holy.

“No way,” said Josuke.  He was still staring at the floor.  “I’ve gone through life without him just fine, for now.  I mean… if he wants to meet me, fine, sure, but I’m not gonna go out of my way to do the same.”

“I see…” said Holy.

Josuke scrambled to remove the anger from his face, hearing the hollow tone of Holy’s words.  “I mean, nothing against you, Holy-san! Not at all! Don’t mean to insult you or nothing, it’s just…”

“No, no, I understand.  It’s a complicated thing,” Holy said, waving her hand.  “Would you perhaps like to meet my son at some point, though?  He’s also a Stand user. I wouldn’t tell him who you are, of course, but-”

“Aw, yeah, now that sounds nice!” said Josuke.  “Hell, I’d love to meet anyone else who has one of these Stand-things.”

“There are certainly a lot of us,” said Holy.

“Like - hey, you, Gio-Gio, was it?”

“Oh, me?”  Giorno blinked a few times.  “It’s… Giorno, actually.”

“Yeah, yeah.  So, when did you get your Stand?  I’ve had Crazy Diamond for pretty much as long as I can remember.”

“Well… I mean…”

The boys continued on in a conversation of rowdy outbursts and meek enthusiasm, while Tomoko tugged on Holy’s sleeve and motioned for her to move into another room.

“Your father, Joseph…” Tomoko finally said, a heavy varnish of shame on her face.  “How is he? Is he well?”

“He is,” Holy said, putting a comforting hand on Tomoko’s shoulder.  “He’s had to start using a cane, lately, and he’s got the most terrible habit of pretending that his mind is going so he can ignore my mother, but that’s business as usual for him.  Always been a mischief-maker.”

A ghost of a laugh tried to escape Tomoko’s throat, but her shoulders were rising.  “Ah, your mother…”

“Don’t worry, Tomoko-san,” Holy said.  “If my father ends up telling my mother about you and Josuke-kun, I’ll do my best to make sure any sort of fallout stays well away from you.  All right? I’d truly like for us to be friends.”

At this, Tomoko actually laughed.  “What are you, some sort of saint? You really mean it?”

“Oh, hardly,” said Holy.  “I just like seeing… families come together, where they can.”

 


 

Holy and Giorno left the Higashikata home with contact information and promises to come visit again, regardless of Joseph’s actions.  Giorno had an awkward warmth about him for a good long while afterward, the result of Josuke’s eager declaration that they should be senpai and kohai from then on.  

(“Since we got similar Stands, man!  We oughtta stick together!” Josuke had explained.)

(Giorno was a bit too rattled to refuse, but was ultimately gladdened by the prospect.)

However, as evening fell and Giorno and Holy ate room service at the hotel, a pensive mood fell over Giorno, a mood that deepened when he volunteered to feed the invisible baby they’d taken in.

The television was on, with some sort of variety show providing ambient laughter to an otherwise silent evening.  Holy waited for a commercial, and turned the volume down before speaking. “Giorno-kun? Is everything all right?”

There was nothing but the muted noise of the commercials and the gentle suckling of the baby, for a while.

“Giorno-kun?”

“...your dad, Joseph-san…  I mean, he’s a good guy, but… why would he abandon Josuke-san like that?” Giorno finally said.  His eyes were lowered and hardened.

“Well… that really depends on the situation, Giorno-kun,” said Holy.  “There’s a very good chance that my father didn’t even know Josuke-kun existed.  Sometimes… things that seem cruel or evil are just due to ignorance.”

“Well, yeah, but…”  

(Holy had never seen Giorno look so troubled before.)

(Connections were strengthening, seeds were taking root.)

“...it just doesn’t seem right.  If he’d… at least stayed in touch with Tomoko-san, he could have helped her take care of Josuke, at least a little…”

Holy’s sigh in return was full of sympathy.  “That would have been nice,” she said. “What’s passed is passed, though.  It’s not good for your heart to dwell on things like that.”

Giorno’s expression remained pinched, almost angry, until the television blared with the bright colors and staccato of a news bulletin.

“We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you this urgent news update,” shout-spoke the anchor, with his oiled hair and cookie-cutter suit.  “A suspect in the Morioh kidnapping epidemic has been apprehended! I repeat, a suspect in the Morioh kidnapping epidemic has been apprehended”

“Oh, goodness… that must be related to the Stand user your father went out in search of…” said Holy.  She turned the volume up.

“The suspect, arrested this evening, is Kira Yoshikage, aged 33.  Kira is suspected as the culprit behind at least five kidnappings within the last month.  He turned himself in voluntarily after presenting to the hospital with heavy wounds, thought to be caused by his last would-be victim.  He is set to appear in court once he is recovered.”

“Heavy wounds… I do hope your father is okay,” said Holy, as the news anchor continued with details on Kira’s background.  “I would imagine that those wounds were caused by him, rather than any sort of victim.”

“Yeah…”  Giorno returned to feeding the baby, the gloomy air about him thicker than ever.

Holy let him have his space for the rest of the evening.

 


 

Holy and Giorno were waiting at home for Dio when he returned from Morioh, as he’d stuck around a few days longer to ensure that Kira was properly detained and wouldn’t be causing any more trouble.

Much as he wanted to tell the story of how he’d managed such a thing, another matter preoccupied him as soon as he’d stepped foot in the door.

“And what is this little creature?” he said, gesturing to the sunglasses-clad bundle in Holy’s arms.

“A very, very tiny Stand user that I’m in the process of adopting,” said Holy.  “I’ve named her Lisa.”

Dio’s eyebrows rose.  “After your grandmother, I presume?”

“Yes!  How did you guess?”

Dio smirked. “The glasses are a bit of a giveaway.”

Giorno, attracted by the noise in the kitchen, rounded the corner.  “Oh, hey, Dad! Welcome home.”

“Thank you,” Dio said.  “Did you miss me?”

“Just a bit,” said Giorno.

“So, Dio, why don’t you tell us how your time in Morioh was?” Holy continued.

“Well, it was… certainly eventful,” said Dio.

“Do tell!” said Holy.

So he told.

(Withholding some of the gorier details, of course.)

Finding Kira was relatively easy, but as soon as Dio confronted him, things got violent.  Dio had gone out of his way to approach Kira in a relatively isolated area, after tailing him for the better part of a day, so it was to be expected that he might react badly to The World appearing behind Dio.

Kira rather quickly resorted to his bomb-abilities - which Dio could avoid handily with stopped time - and once that proved ineffective, he resorted to the ability of his left hand: Sheer Heart Attack.

Dio, quick-witted as ever, managed to evade the little devil by taking shelter indoors and removing the Red Stone of Aja, which significantly lowered his body temperature and kept the sub-Stand from “seeing” him.  

Convinced that Sheer Heart Attack had dispatched Dio, since it returned to Kira after some time, the serial killer continued on his way home, perturbed by the recent encounter.

Unfortunately for Kira, Dio knew where he lived.  And, since Kira had so helpfully announced during their battle, he also knew that Kira’s hands were the source of his Stand’s power.

So, naturally, Dio opted for a technique that would render Kira harmless while allowing him to stay alive and face justice: he chopped Kira’s arms off at the elbow.

Unable to dispatch Sheer Heart Attack, nor to use his thumb to activate his various bombs, Kira was as helpless as a kitten, and wailed in horror and pain as soon as he’d realized what had happened.

(His hands… that most beautiful and sublime part of the body… stolen from him…!)

(The pain of his torn flesh was nothing compared to the spiritual anguish he now felt.)

Dio, of course, made sure that he didn’t bleed out, and dropped him off at the local hospital - a bit literally, really, tossing Kira out of his car and driving away.  There, Kira was treated and, not long after, arrested. Kira still had a woman’s disembodied hand in his jacket pocket, of course. That was highly suspect.

(The hand would later be DNA tested and traced to his final victim, a vital piece of evidence in the prosecution to come, given that Kira left nothing of his victims behind.)

“And that, as they say, is that,” Dio concluded.

“...that is… quite the story!” said Holy.  She was just a little pale with shock.

“Yes, and a bit more violent than I would have liked…” Dio replied.  He crossed his arms. “Aren’t you glad you didn’t come along with me, Giorno?  I told you it would have been far too dangerous for you.”

Giorno shrugged.  “Sure I guess…”

(Yeah, it sounded dangerous, but it would have been cool as hell to witness…)

 


 

Joseph was surprisingly nonchalant when Holy confronted him about Tomoko and Josuke over the phone.

“Ah, yes… I was thinking of adding them to my will…” was his first response.

(Care and neglect, mixing like oil and vinegar into something somewhat palatable.)

“So you’ll be telling Mum about this, then?” Holy said.

“Eh… can’t be helped, I suppose,” Joseph replied.

A rare flame of anger warmed Holy’s ears.  “Is that right, Daddy?”

“Mm.”

As expected, Suzy Q was not at all pleased to hear about Joseph’s long-ignored infidelity, but her anger, blessedly, did not extend to Tomoko.

(Holy may or may not have severed the emotional connection that would have caused her anger to flare more severely.)

But as swiftly than a summer breeze, the matter subsided, and life, as it was wont to do, went on and on.

And little families grew and grew.

Josuke was eager indeed to keep in touch with Holy and Giorno and little Lisa, inviting them to visit and being invited over in equal amounts.  He was especially enthusiastic and relentless when it came to befriending Giorno, roping him into gatherings with his friends Okuyasu and Koichi on the weekends, among other things.

In time, the friendship and its blessing upon Giorno’s life began to bear fruit.  He started showing signs of confidence, pushing past his discomfort with attention and coming to genuinely enjoy being surrounded by such boisterous activity, and laughing more freely than he ever had before.

It was the summer of 1999, and Giorno Brando was finally beginning to bloom.

 

Chapter Text

Just because everything’s changing

Doesn’t mean it’s never been this way before.


 

Jotaro’s cell phone existed for a very singular purpose: to inform him of Very Important Matters, and nothing else.  He typically only received calls from his research and teaching assistants and, occasionally, the Speedwagon Foundation, when strange happenings were reported that he could possibly assist with.

Therefore, Jotaro was just a bit annoyed - just a bit - when he answered a call to his phone and heard, not a Serious Adult, but a child’s voice on the line.

“Kujo, here.”

“Daddy!  Hi!!”

He furrowed his brow.  “...who is this?”

“Da-ad, it’s me!  Jolyne!”

Jotaro’s eyebrow twitched.  He was knee-deep in the waters of the California coastline, with a half-finished page of notes in his other hand.  “Who gave you this number.”

“Mommy!”

Jotaro sighed.  “Put your mom on the phone please, Jolyne.”

“But I wanna talk to you!”

“Jolyne.  Put your mother on the phone.  And don’t call me again.”

Jolyne let out a long and dramatic sigh of her own.  “Fi-ine.” He heard muffled, rustling noises, and Jolyne’s feet across the tiles of the kitchen floor.  “Mo-om! Daddy wants to talk to you.”

Another rustle, and then it was Mary-Jane.  “Hello?”

“Why did you give Jolyne my cell phone number?”

“...hello to you too, Jotaro,” Mary-Jane said, half-grumbling.

“Answer my question, please.”

There was a third sigh, shorter and lighter than her husband’s and daughters.  “She… had a really rough day at school, and I thought it would cheer her up to hear your voice, so…”

“Don’t let her call me again.  You know my phone is for business.  Long distance minutes are expensive,” said Jotaro.  “I can’t waste them for something like Jolyne.”

“Is it really that big of a bother?” said Mary-Jane.

“I’m in the middle of work.”

“Yes, and?”

“...my phone is for business, and I’m busy.  I’ll be back in a week. Don’t let this happen again.”

“Jotaro...”

“Bye.”

“...goodbye, Jotaro.”

Jotaro returned to his sample-collecting without much of a second thought.

...well, until he got back to his hotel room, and found himself calling Dio.

Dio kept odd hours, so it was never a bother for Jotaro to call him.  True, it would be morning in Japan, based on the time in California, but Jotaro wasn’t exactly thinking about that, in that moment.

“Hello?”

“Dio.”

“Jotaro!  Good morning.  Or, well, I suppose it’s evening for you?”

“Mm…”

Dio’s voice lost its bright facade.  “So, what’s wrong, Jotaro?”

Always too damn blunt.

(Though Dio knew, instinctually, that this was what Jotaro, so reluctant and avoidant with his words and emotions, always needed.)

“Remember… when you told me I could always call you if I needed help with something?”

“Often and repeatedly.”

“Right.”  Jotaro sighed.  “...I need you to kick my ass, Dio.   Hard .”

There was a surprised little half-chuckle in Dio’s throat.  “Excuse me?”

“I made… a huge mistake.  And I need someone to… really give it to me.  Kick my ass.” Jotaro groaned. “Tell me what… God damn it, Dio, just tell me I fucked up.”

“Easy, Jotaro.  Take a deep breath.”

Jotaro did so.

“Tell me what happened.”

Jotaro inhaled, exhaled, once again.  “Today… Jolyne called me on my cell phone.  And I got… mad. At her. And her mom, too, I mean, but…  She just wanted to talk to me and the first thing I do is tell her she’s not supposed to.”

“...yes, I can see how you could consider that a mistake,” said Dio.  “Were you in the middle of something?”

“Yeah.  Collecting samples.”

“Mm.  Well… next time this happens, you could perhaps tell her to call you back, or you could call her back?” said Dio.

“Highly fuckin’ doubt there’ll be a next time,” said Jotaro.  “I told her off. God .”

“Well… what time is it in Florida, now?  Seven PM or so?”

“Yeah.”

“Jolyne won’t be in bed just yet, will she?”

“Well… no, but…”

“Why don’t you give her a call, then?  You still have time.”

Jotaro groaned.  “That’s not the point…!”

“Then what is the point, Jotaro?”

Jotaro lowered his head, ground his fist into the bedside table where the phone rested.  “How many times have I done stuff like this without noticing? I mean, it was just… shoved in my face today, because of the phone and all, but…”  He made a painful sound. “ God, I’m the worst.”

Dio allowed a few seconds to pass.  “For someone asking someone else to kick his ass, you’re doing a remarkably good job on your own.”

Jotaro groaned again.

“Let’s see if we can get some perspective on this, shall we?” Dio continued.  “How often do you and Jolyne talk on the phone, in general? When you’re gone for work.”

“Every… other day.  At least.”

“Uh… huh.”  Dio made a thoughtful noise.  “So… this isn’t an issue of you not spending time with her, then?”

“No, and that’s what makes it… fuckin’ worse,” Jotaro said.  “Lately, she’s… even started getting annoyed at me when I call.  Says I’m doing it too much .  So that’s another fuckin’ thing to deal with…”

“...right.”  Dio’s tone grew more confused.  “So, what has you so upset?”

“The one time… the one time she calls me , I’m not only too damn busy, but I tell her off,” said Jotaro.  “I could have made the time.”

“But you’re already making time for her.”

“That’s not the point…!”  Jotaro said, again, and he groaned.  “I gotta be there for her, Dio.  No matter how far away I am.”

“You are there for her,” said Dio.

“Yeah, but not when she wants it…  Mary-Jane even said she’d had a bad day at school and I didn’t even try…” he continued, grumbling.

Dio paused, as if in thought, and then made a very judgmental sort of sound.  “Ah. I see what’s going on here.”

“What?  What is it?” said Jotaro, his voice quickening.  “You see what I’m doing wrong, right?”

“Yes.  Jotaro, you are letting perfect be the enemy of good,” Dio said, matter-of-factly.  “You really ought to relax. One phone call gone wrong isn’t going to make Jolyne hate you for the rest of your life.”

“Yeah, but what if I keep doing shit like that?” Jotaro replied.  

“Then you’ll call me and self-flagellate again as you’re doing now, I expect,” Dio said.  “Jotaro, it’s fine .  The fact that you’re aware you made a little mistake is proof enough of that.”

Jotaro groaned again.  “You’re just saying that.”

“If you continue to have that attitude, I might as well be,” said Dio.

This time, Jotaro made no noise in response.

“Since you’re obviously looking for direct advice of some sort,” Dio continued, “I’d recommend you hang up with me and call your daughter and apologize.  Ease your conscience. And then go for a walk or something, all right?”

Jotaro sighed, but there was a tidal wave of stress that disappeared with the sigh.  “Dunno how much that’ll help, but…”

“It’ll help,” Dio said.  “Trust me. All parents make mistakes, even those that stretch the meaning of the word to its limits, such as myself.”

(Giorno called him “Dad,” so easily, so happily, but Dio still felt undeserving of the title.)

Finally, something resembling a laugh fell out of Jotaro’s mouth.  “The hell kinda mistakes do you make with Giorno that make you wanna take a walk?”

Dio inhaled deeply.  Maybe a bit too suddenly.

“...that bad?” said Jotaro.

“Well… in hindsight, they’re terribly small things,” Dio said.  “But no less painful.”

(Dio’s circumstances with Giorno were hardly what any ordinary man might call “small.”)

(But he hid his pain well.  Generally.)

“Well, if it works for you, it might work for me,” Jotaro said.  “All right. Hey, speaking of. Say hi to Giorno for me, all right?  I miss that little guy.”

“Of course I will,” Dio replied.  “And call me if you still need emotional support, all right?” he continued, half-playfully.

“All right, all right.  Bye, Dio.”

“Goodbye.”

Jotaro stared at the phone for maybe five minutes, practically memorizing every scratch and imperfection on the plastic buttons, before he picked it up and dialed his home in Florida.

“Hello?”

It was Mary-Jane.  “Hey, it’s me. Can you put Jolyne on the phone?”

“Jotaro!”  She actually sounded happy to hear from him.  Well, that was a good start…  “Sure, I’ll go get her. Jolyne!  It’s Daddy for you!”

“Aww, seriously?  But he called yesterday .”

Damn it, damn it.

“Well, he’s asking for you.  Talk to him for a minute?”

“Oka-ay.”  There was a fumbling noise as the phone was handed over.  “Hi, Daddy.”

There was no enthusiasm in her voice.  Well, at least he’d been expecting it…

“Hey, Jojo.  How you doing?”

“I’m go-od,” said Jolyne.

“Good, good.  Your mom told me you had a rough time at school, today,” Jotaro continued.

“Yeah…”  Her voice darkened, some.  “I fell from the monkey bars.  It really hurt.  And the nurse made me go back to class even though I had scrapes all over.”

“Sounds pretty rough,” said Jotaro.

“Yeah…”

“But you’re doing okay, now?”

“Yeah…!”

Jotaro felt himself smiling, relaxing, but the tension returned with the thoughts of the true matter at hand.  “Hey… I wanted to apologize for getting mad at you earlier.”

“Ohh…  That’s okay, Daddy.”  Jolyne’s voice sounded distant, but unworried.  “Mom told me afterward that your cell phone is real expensive and stuff.  So I can only call in ‘mergencies.”

“Well… I just wanted to let you know that, even though it’s expensive, if you wanna call me, you can call me.  All right?”

“Eh… okay, Daddy, if you say so…” He could practically see her shrugging.  

“I do say so.”

“Oka-ay.”

He still didn’t feel settled.  “Also, Jolyne… do you think I call home too much?”

“We-ell… I ‘unno…”

“It’s all right, Jojo, you can tell me if I call too much.”

“...na-ah, you’re okay, Daddy.”

There was a smile in Jotaro’s eyes, and he chuckled.  “All right. If you say so. Can’t wait to see you again.”

“Yeah!  Yeah, me too!” Jolyne said, suddenly shouting.  There was a wonderful brightness to her voice.

Well, that was what she really wanted to hear, Jotaro had to guess.

“Can you put your mom on the phone, now?”

“Sure!”  Another collection of rustling noises, feet on the kitchen floor.  “Mom! Daddy wants to talk to you now.”

“All right, all right…”  Mary-Jane’s voice went from distant to near.  “Hello?”

“Hey, put Jolyne back on the phone for a sec.”

There was a twist of amused confusion in Mary-Jane’s laugh-reply.  “Okay, okay…”

“What is it, Daddy?”

“Love you, Jojo.”

Jolyne giggled.  “Love you too, Daddy.”

 


 

On the morning before the Christmas Eve of 1999, Dio and Holy were interrupted in their breakfast prep by a most frightful scream from the bathroom.

It sounded like Giorno.

Dio immediately rushed to him, and he found the boy in his pajamas, gripping the edge of the sink, staring at his reflection in horror.

His hair had turned yellow, and was nearly a foot longer than it had been the day before.

“Dad!  My hair!!”  He ran a hand through the golden curls in disbelief.  “It - I don’t know what happened, I just woke up and it was like this!”

“Well, that… certainly is something,” said Dio, blinking rapidly.  “Maybe it’s related to your Stand…?”

“My Stand?” said Giorno.

“I’ve… seen an instance or two where a person’s Stand changes their body, physically,” Dio said.  “So perhaps Gold Experience has something to do with it?”

“It absolutely does.”  Holy, who was a mite slower than Dio, appeared behind him.  “Go on, bring him out, and we’ll see what’s happened.”

Nodding shakily, Giorno did as he was told.  Gold Experience had grown in size along with him, over the years, but it had otherwise remained the same general shape.  “I don’t… think he’s changed…” said Giorno.

Holy, in the meantime, took her kitchen knife out of her apron pocket, and she cut herself on the back of her forearm.

“Holy, what are you…?!” said Dio.

Holy, however, was utterly calm, and held out her bleeding arm to Giorno after putting the knife back in her apron pocket.  “Go on, I think you know what to do,” she said.

With a confused expression and a trembling hand, Giorno and Gold Experience reached out in tandem and touched the wound, and the flesh began to knit together.

“There we go,” said Holy, warmly.  

Giorno gasped with a wide smile.  “Healing! I can do healing now! I knew it!”

Holy chuckled, rubbing the newly-healed skin with her hand.  “I think when Gold Experience grew mature enough to manage this, it ended up reflected on you,” she said.  “At least, that’s the connection I feel.”

“Oh, man, I can’t wait to show Josuke-senpai…!” said Giorno.  “He’s gonna love this!”

“I’m sure he will,” said Dio.

(He’d only met the boy once, but the effect of his friendship on Giorno’s demeanor was all he really needed to know.)

“The hair growth is a bit surprising, though,” Holy continued.  “Would you like me to trim it for you, Giorno?”

Giorno twirled a lock around one finger.  “...y’know, I actually… I kinda like it like this?” he said.  “I dunno, I don’t think I’ll cut it yet .”

“And the color?” said Holy.

“...I’ll, uh, wait until after school break ends…” said Giorno.

(Blond hair of any sort was unlikely to be received well in his very typical Japanese high school.  It stood out too much.)

(Funny, though, how Giorno wasn’t minding the idea of standing out, lately.)

“Fair enough.  Well, I’ll go finish breakfast,” said Holy.  “You take your time getting ready, Giorno.”

“I’ll do the same,” said Dio.

Giorno, fourteen years old and blooming with thoughts of identity and expression, spent a good long while preening in front of the mirror, before tying his newly-long hair into a plait and returning to his room to get dressed.

(He could get used to this.)

This proved to be only the beginning of a very unusual Christmas for the Joestar family and its descendants.

That year, Holy had opted not to plan the usual family gathering at the Joestar estate in England and instead host her own party at her home in Japan.  Her given excuse was that it was so terribly hard for her parents to travel from America to England, at their ages, but the more genuine reason was that she wanted Josuke to have a warm and safe environment where he could meet the rest of his extended family, without the pressure of being near Joseph.

Neither Suzy nor Joseph put up any resistance to this, for whatever reason, Holy-influenced or otherwise.  And Jotaro and Mary-Jane had no objections to visiting Japan instead of England, that particular year, so everything was exceptionally lined-up.

All this taken into account, there was nothing getting in the way of Josuke and his mother and grandfather coming to visit and spending time with the family, Stand users and non-Stand users alike.

Unfortunately, that was about where the complications ended.

For one, it took absolutely no time at all for Josuke to befriend his great-niece, Jolyne, and the pair engaged in a great deal of rowdy playtime until Jotaro pulled on Josuke’s ear and told him off for almost letting Jolyne fall off his shoulders.

No longer able to get up to their desired shenanigans, they took to the next obvious Fun Thing: Talking About Presents.

“So, so!  What do you want for Christmas, Jolyne-chan?” he asked her.

“A Stand!”

Holy, bouncing Lisa on her lap nearby, chuckled.  “I… don’t think Santa makes Stands in his workshop, Jolyne.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Jolyne retorted.  “But maybe he also got an elf to go to Stand Land and ask them to send me one.  I bet Santa can do that.”

“Is that where Stands come from?  Stand Land?” said Josuke.

“Duh!” said Jolyne.

“Oh, yeah!  Totally duh,” Josuke replied.

“Well, even if Santa doesn’t bring you a Stand,” Holy continued, with a very patient tone, “it’s only a matter of time until you get one of your own, since you can already see them.”

“I better get one,” Jolyne pouted.  “Or else I’m gonna get real mad.”

Santa did not bring Jolyne a Stand, the next morning.  

She got one anyways.

This was evidenced very clearly when Jolyne jumped on her parents’ bed barely minutes after sunrise.  “Daddy! Mommy! Look!!”

Within a few seconds, Jolyne had reduced her body to a head resting on a pile of soap-scented strings.

“Oh my God!” Mary-Jane shrieked, rocketing upright and holding her daughter’s strings her hands.  “Jolyne, what are you doing? What happened?!”

Yare yare…”  Jotaro squinted and rubbed his eyes as he sat up.  “She got a Stand.”

“Her name is Stone Free.  And she’s mine,” Jolyne said, very proudly.

“This isn’t… permanent, is it?” said Mary-Jane.  Her face was incredibly pale. “I mean, this isn’t like the one you say you have…”

“Shouldn’t be,” said Jotaro.  “Jolyne, can you put yourself back together?”

“Umm… I think so…” said Jolyne.

“Oh, God,” said Mary-Jane.  

“Come on,” said Jotaro, as gently as he could manage.  “I know you can do it.”

Jolyne screwed up her little face in concentration and, eventually, the strings started coming together and returned to the shape of her body.

“There we go,” said Jotaro.

“Jojo, honey, please don’t do that again…” Mary-Jane pleaded with breathless desperation.

“Oka-ay,” said Jolyne.

Of course she did it again, when showing her Stand off to Josuke at breakfast a few hours later, though she was able to re-ravel herself with little effort that time around.

“Jojo,” Jotaro told her, before they opened presents, “I know you’re excited about your Stand, but you can’t go summoning her for no reason.  All right? No more of that today.”

“Fi-ine…” Jolyne groaned.

(Jotaro, of course, fussed at Dio about this once they’d finished opening presents.  Had he been too harsh with her? Did she think he was mad at her? What if she never wanted to use her Stand again?)

(“Jotaro, it is far too festive a day for you to be worrying about things like this,” said Dio, sighing.  “You can whinge at me about disciplining Jolyne when she misuses her Stand later. Because she’s seven. She will .  Let’s let her have her fun for now, shall we?”)

(“Okay…” Jotaro replied, sounding far too much like his daughter.)

In addition to her strings, Stone Free had turned large swathes of Jolyne’s hair blond, to her utter delight.  “Now I’m like Giorno!” she said.

“Your kid’s a bad influence on my kid,” Jotaro told Dio.  “So I’m blaming you for that.”

Dio put his hand on his chest in mock outrage in response.  “How dare!”

(There was one other aspect of the Stand worth observing, one that only Holy and Dio noticed.)

(“Stone Free looks an awful lot like Grandmother Lisa, doesn’t she?” she told him.)

(Dio, seeing the glasses and the regal bearing of the little Stand, couldn’t help but agree.)

 


 


In the evening quiet of Christmas Day, with everyone scattered and busying themselves as they waited for dinner, Josuke made an interesting observation of his own.

“Y’know what, dude?” he told Giorno.  “With your hair like that, you look even more like your dad than before!”

(Dio was in another room entirely, talking to Josuke’s grandfather.)

(Small blessings.)

“My… dad?”

“Yeah!  Like, the spitting image,” said Josuke.

“Um, we…”  Giorno scratched the back of his neck.  “...aren’t biologically related... He’s just my adopted dad…”

“What, seriously?” said Josuke.  “Man, that is just the weirdest thing…  I mean, I just assumed, but…”

“No, no, it’s okay,” said Giorno, waving his hand.  “I mean… I guess I can see why you got confused? Maybe all my time with my dad has made me resemble him!  His… mannerisms, or whatever, I mean…”

“Yeah, yeah!  That’s probably what it is,” said Josuke, and he swiftly changed the topic.

Josuke thought absolutely nothing of his words, after the fact.  It was just a simple mistake, after all.

But for whatever reason, the conversation played and replayed in Giorno’s mind for hours.

(Hours that turned into days.)

(He hadn’t felt such wishful thinking since he was seven years old.)

 

Chapter Text

I don’t get many things right the first time.

In fact, I am told that a lot.

Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls brought me here.

 



Once upon a time, there was a Witch who kidnapped a Prince.

The Witch was a vain, wicked woman, who thought only of herself and how she might live a life of eternal youth and pleasure.  The blood of royalty was an ingredient known to have powerful properties of restoration and life, so as soon as she had heard that a prince had been born in a neighboring kingdom, she swiftly made a plan to take the child for herself.

In secret, she stole into the Prince’s nursery and had carried him far away before anyone even noticed he was gone.

For years, she had her beastly husband cut and bleed the Prince every morning, so she could use the blood in her potions and tinctures.  When he was not being used like this, the Prince was kept locked away in a room as bare as a prison cell, with nothing but dry crusts of bread to eat and rusty water to drink.

The Prince, as he grew up, tried to find happiness where he could.  The only comfort he could return to, time and time again, was the fast-held belief that he had a real family out there, somewhere, and that this family missed him and wanted to see him returned home.  He had never known anything but the Witch and the confines of her house, but something, deep in his heart, told him that this was the truth.

But years passed, and his family never came.  

Eventually, the Prince fell into despair, losing all hope that his family would find him - if they were even looking for him in the first place.

With the light of hope in his heart extinguished, the Prince’s blood lost its power.  Once the Witch noticed what had happened, she regarded him as a useless burden, but kept him around as a servant instead of letting him starve to death.

The Prince, himself, carried on numbly, resigned to his fate.

 


 

Even outside of fairy tales, fates can change.

 


 

“Dio?  Do you have a second?”

Holy’s voice was light and quick in the kitchen, suggesting nothing more than a small favor or a needed errand.

Dio, naturally, thought nothing of it.  “Sure, what do you need?”

“Come with me to the guest room, I need help with something.”

“Of course.”

When they got to the guest room, however, Holy shut the door behind her.  

Dio, still, thought little of it.  “So, what do you need?”

“There’s been… something on my mind, lately,” said Holy.  “A connection I’ve been feeling that’s got me worried.”

“What sort of connection?” said Dio.  “A Stand?”

“No, it’s…”  She closed her eyes, exhaled.  “Are you… aware of the fact that you’re Giorno’s biological father?”

Dio’s face went slack, his breaths shallow in his chest.

(He hadn’t allowed the idea to be fully-formed in his mind, much less be spoken aloud.)

A blizzard of hard, cold thoughts whirled in his mind, words and phrases passing by so quickly that he couldn’t decide which one to choose in response.

Somehow, enough words clustered together to form what he really wanted to say: “...I had some idea, but I hadn’t bothered to… confirm anything.”

“I see…” said Holy.  

“Why… ask me this now?” said Dio.  “And now long have you known?”

“Only a few months,” Holy replied.  “I only really noticed that the connection between you two was both biological and familial when my Stand found Josuke.  He was connected by blood, to me and my father, but not by family.  I’d never noticed the difference before that.”

“Ah…”

“And… it was Josuke that’s got me asking you now,” Holy continued.  “I heard him talking to Giorno, the other day, about how much you looked like each other, and Giorno’s response was…  It almost seemed to make him happy.”

(No, Dio hadn’t heard them, but Holy had.)

“It… did, did it?” said Dio.

(Seven years since he’d told Giorno he had permission to claim him as his father.)

(Seven years since Giorno had wished for something that was already true.)

“Yes, absolutely,” said Holy.

Dio lowered his eyes, a faint smile on his face.  “Not sure how I should feel about that,” he said. “Honored, possibly, but…”

“Are you… going to tell him, you think?” said Holy.

Dio’s smile faded.  He allowed himself to breathe for a good few moments.

“I don’t know,” he finally said, after an agonizing silence.  “I don’t know how he’d take it, to be honest. If it would do more harm than good.”

“...well, actually…” There was a guilty smirk of sorts on Holy’s face.  “I had an… opportunity to broach the subject with him. In a manner of speaking.”

A sudden jolt of panic sent Dio’s heartbeat into his ears.  “How do you mean?”

“When we… discovered Josuke, he was… unusually concerned with my father’s own responsibility toward him,” said Holy.  “He was actually pretty angry until I told him that there was a very good chance my father never even knew Josuke existed.  That any sort of ‘neglect’ at play, here, was more or less due to ignorance rather than malice. I don’t know how much that eased his conscience, but… it at least planted the seed in his mind.”

“Is that so…” said Dio.

“Mm.  And, Dio… I won’t - it’s none of my business, anyway - I won’t ask you anything about your relationship with Giorno’s mother,” Holly continued, all stops and starts.  “That’s your business. And however much you want to disclose with Giorno, well…”

“I…”  Dio’s throat felt thick, almost clotted with words.  “Thank you, Holy. I’ll… I’ll have to think on this, now that I know.”

(He had known for years.)

“Dio… please let me know what I can do to help,” Holy said, with such a terribly earnest look on her face.  “I’ve practically raised this boy with you, it’s the least I can do.”

(Fucking coward, he had truly known for years.)

“Thank you, Holy, but I think…”

(Coward.   Fucking coward.)

“I think I’ll have to sleep on this.”

“I understand, I understand,” Holy replied, with an all-too-unworried wave of the hand.  “I know that it’s your son we’re talking about, but… just know that I’m here. All right?”

(Your son.)

(“Your son.”)

“Thank you, Holy.  I really do appreciate it,” Dio managed, in reply.



Holy’s words and all their implications were enough to occupy Dio’s mind for hours, long after everyone else had gone to sleep.  

There were no good options.  Truly, no good options here.

He could be frank with Giorno, lay bare everything between them - his ignorance, his regret - and face the fallout that would inevitably result.

He could lie, tell Giorno that he truly had no idea that they were related, knowing full-well that the truth still existed and was capable of coming back to life and causing chaos.

He could avoid the issue altogether, and remain a coward with a perpetually-weakened heart, with the truth gnawing even more strongly at him than ever.

He wanted, so badly, to be able to choose the first option, but, time and time again, his thoughts strayed to that hateful third.

All of this was entirely deserved, of course.  The price he had to pay for avoiding the issue for so long, for hoping that it would never be an issue, for pretending that it didn’t exist.  This paralysis and pain was a long-owed debt.

And he still had no idea what to do.

How fitting was it, that fate forced him to make a decision that night?

“Dad?”

Giorno was standing in the hallway just outside the living room, his hair loose and bed-tangled, and his eyes narrowed with sleep.

He had to make a choice.

“Giorno… what are you doing up?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” said Giorno.  He rubbed one of his eyes and joined Dio on the couch.

“Oh?” said Dio.  “Why’s that?”

“Something… on my mind, I guess.”

(It couldn’t be.)

(It had to be.)

“You… need to talk about it?” said Dio.

Giorno shrugged and leaned forward, propping himself up with his arms against his knees, his eyes to the floor.  “I dunno, it’s… kinda silly. I thought I’d get some tea or something to see if it would help me get sleepy, but…”

Dio inhaled, exhaled.  “You know you can talk to me about… anything, Giorno,” he said.

A little storm of conflicting emotions rolled over Giorno’s face.  “I mean… it’s really stupid…”

“I don’t mind,” said Dio.

Giorno inhaled, exhaled.  “Is there… any possibility - like, any at all - that you’re my biological dad?”

Dio opened his mouth to speak.

“I mean, it’s - it’s a stupid thing to think,” Giorno continued, very, very quickly, “and, I mean, the odds of that sort of thing being true are… I mean, it’s just something Josuke said that got me thinking, and-”

“Yes.”

Giorno stopped.  He looked up. He didn’t say anything.

“Yes, Giorno.  I am your biological father.”

Giorno’s breathing grew shaky.  “You’re… you’re honestly…?”

“Yes.”

A wavering expression, almost fearful, appeared on his face.  “This… this isn’t a joke, right?”

“Absolutely not.  I would never… lie about something like this.”

(Not any more.)

“Have - have you… known from the start, that I was your…”

(He wasn’t going to lie any more.)

“From the moment I first saw you, Giorno, I knew you were my son,” said Dio.  “And… seeing who your mother was, that was… the undeniable proof of who you were, to me.”

“My mom…”  The fear and disbelief on Giorno’s face shifted swiftly into anger.  “...when you did you… leave her?  Because you… obviously weren’t there when I was born… Were you even in a relationship with each other in the first place?” Giorno added, with a gentle roar of outrage.

“I was… with your mother for almost two years,” Dio said.  “We separated before I could have possibly known she was pregnant with you.”

There was a poisonous silence.

“Why...?  Why didn’t you stay with her…?” Giorno finally said.

(Dio could see the shame and disgust on Giorno’s face.  He chose to believe it was directed towards himself and not Giorno’s mother.)

“Your mother… we weren’t very good for each other,” Dio said.  “And, eventually, she betrayed my trust in a way that I couldn’t forgive.  So I asked that we separate, and she never contacted me again.”

Giorno scoffed.  “What did she do that was so bad?”

“She took my pendant.  The one that allows me to go out during the day.”

(Giorno knew that his guardian - his father - was immortal, as did all the other living Joestars.  It was just an accepted fact of the family’s bizarre legacy, much like their Stands.)

Giorno’s face loosened and lost some of its flush of anger.  “Oh…”

“Yes.  Obviously, I got it back, but I just couldn’t… trust her after that,” Dio continued.

Giorno lowered his eyes.  “That… I can’t blame you for that,” he said.  “But… if you had… stayed with her, would you…”

Dio closed his eyes, his brow furrowed with frustration at himself.  “I don’t… know how I would have acted, back then,” he said. “I’d like… to tell myself that I would have done the brave thing and helped raise you, but…  I don’t know how I would have reacted. What I would have done.”

(Would he have just run away again, confronted with this tether to another mortal life?)

(Would he have been so willing to care for another human so deeply before he met Diavolo?)

“I wasn’t as strong then as I am now.”

There was a dry, cold silence.

“...but you took me in, anyway,” said Giorno, quietly.  “When you found me.”

“Of course I did.  I had to,” Dio said, shaking his head, his eyes still closed.  “As soon as I knew you existed, that you were living in such… horrible conditions, I knew that I couldn’t stand by.  That I had to take care of you. I couldn’t… live with myself if I didn’t.”

Giorno’s eyes were still downcast.  “You didn’t have to do that. You could have… let me live with Uncle Diavolo, or someone else.”

“No.  I wanted… to be a part of your life. To ensure - truly ensure - that you got the childhood you deserved,” Dio said.  “It was the very least I owed to you. It’s my fault you had such a… terrible start.  Entirely my fault. And I’m still truly sorry about that.”

“You… wanted to be in my life?” said Giorno.

“Absolutely.”

“Even though… you don’t think you would have stuck around, if you’d stayed with my mom?”

Dio took a deep breath in.  His eyes were still closed. “I really don’t know how to answer that question, Giorno.  I’m sorry.”

Another dry silence, though this one was warmer.

“...y’know, when I was a kid… I used to play pretend that, one day, my real dad would come back for me, and take me away from my mom,” Giorno said.  His voice was soft. “I’d make up stories about him - you. What kind of a man you were, what you did for work…” He sighed. “But it was always just pretend.  My real dad left me before I was even born, after all.”

(Each word was like a knife to his heart.  And Dio allowed them to sink as deeply as they could.)

“But then… you actually showed up.”

Dio opened his eyes.  Giorno was still leaning against his knees, an ambiguous expression on his lips.

“That sort of thing… just doesn’t happen in real life,” Giorno continued.  “Especially not to kids like me. But… somehow, you found me, and you took me away from that place.  You gave me a home. And you stayed.”

Giorno looked up.

“Did you know, even after you took me in, I still used to have that… stupid daydream?” he said.  “That my life was some sort of fairy tale, and I’d been rescued by my real father? That I was… way more special than I actually was?  I don’t know why. Maybe I was just… waiting for some other shoe to drop. For me to wake up from this… dream I was having, where someone… actually wanted me around, and…”  His voice caught on the beginnings of tears, and he inhaled, exhaled, quickly.  “This sort of thing just doesn’t happen, you know?  I’m not supposed to be here.  I’m not supposed to have this.  I've done nothing to deserve this, and…!”

Giorno buried his head in his hands, and tears devoured the rest of his words.

Dio put his hand on his son’s back.

“You deserve this,” he said.  “You've always deserved to have me here. And, now that I'm here... I’m not going anywhere.  I will always be here for you.”

(There was no pain.)

“You're my son, Giorno.  And I love you.”  

(Dio hadn't taken off his makeup yet, that day.  It was going to be ruined.  He didn't care.)

In between the hiccups and sobs, Giorno was laughing.

“I know,” he said.  “I love you too, Dad.”

(And the word finally felt deserving of the weight.)



Once upon a time, there was a Witch who kidnapped a Prince.

After years of using the Prince for the power of his blood, the boy had grown weak, and his blood had lost its royal luster, so the Witch made him into her serving-boy, and had him attend to her every whim.

One day, a traveling Merchant came by the Witch’s house, and he captivated her eye with many beautiful combs and mirrors for sale.  As she looked over his wares, the Prince meekly approached her to ask her a question about what to prepare for supper that evening.

“Idiot brat!  Do not interrupt me!” cried the Witch, pushing him away.  “I apologize for my servant, kind merchant. I know not why I keep him around…”

“If I may, lady, I have been in search of an apprentice to carry on my business,” said the merchant.  “Perhaps I might take him off your hands?”

“You need not ask me twice!” the Witch replied.

The Merchant took the Prince into his caravan and dressed him in proper clothes, and fed him a proper meal.  

“I shall be looking after you, from now on,” the Merchant told the boy.

Once they had made it into town, they stopped at an inn, where the Merchant bathed the Prince and saw to the wounds and scars of the Witch’s harsh treatment.  To the Prince’s surprise, he found that his hair was not black, but brilliant gold; it had been dyed with ink, by the Witch, and caked with soot besides.

The Prince, who had never known a moment’s kindness in his young life, received this care with confusion.  What made him worthy of such treatment? However, given his fear of retaliation for questioning even the slightest thing of the Witch or her husband, he did not say a word.

In the years that followed, the Merchant cared for the Prince with warmth and patience, teaching the boy everything about his trade and wares.  Over time, the Prince began to regard the Merchant as something like a father, and the light of hope in his heart was slowly rekindled.

One day, however, as he was searching through the Merchant’s caravan for something or another, the Prince came across a most curious object: a golden crown, set with diamonds and emeralds.  He had never seen anything so fine nor so precious in his life, and he asked the Merchant about it that evening as they ate supper.

Strangely, the Merchant responded with a reluctant sort of melancholy on his face as he went to retrieve the crown and set it on the table between them.  “That is my crown. I am, in truth, the king of this land.”

“The king!” the Prince gasped.  “But why do you travel the world as a merchant?”

“Many, many years ago, my son, the Prince, was taken from me,” the King replied.  “I swore that I would not rest until I found him. I disguised myself to travel inconspicuously, so that whomever had taken my son would not suspect me, should I come across them.”

“That is terrible, Your Majesty!” said the Prince.  “Please, if there is anything I can do to help you learn where your son has gone, tell me.  That is the least I can do in exchange for your kindness towards me.”

The King smiled a sad smile indeed.  “That will not be necessary. I have already found my son.”

“Where is he?  Are we going to rescue him soon?” said the Prince.

“No,” said the King.  “My boy… you are my son.  You are the Prince I lost so long ago.”

“How is that possible?” said the Prince, understandably shocked.  “How do you know I am your son? How can you be so certain?”

“It was your golden hair,” said the King.  “When the ink washed out of it, I recognized it.  You always had such lovely hair, even as an infant.”

“How did you know where to find me?” said the Prince.

“I followed the trail of a rumor, a rumor of a witch that used royal blood in her potions.  That is how I found you, after years of searching,” said the King. “I did not give up on you for a single day.”

“Why did you not tell me who I was, when we first met?” said the Prince.

“I could tell that your heart was broken, my son, when I found you again.  That you had no reason to trust me, or believe me if I told you,” said the King.  “And once your heart had healed, I was still terribly ashamed of the fact that it had taken me so long to find you.  Please forgive me.”

The Prince’s eyes filled with tears.  “There is nothing to forgive, Father. You searched for me, and you found me, and you raised me with kindness and love.  I will be forever grateful.”

Reunited and finally aware of the truth, the father and son returned to the golden castle that was their home.  The missing Prince was welcomed home by the people of his kingdom with joy and fanfare, and he took his place at his father’s side, ruling over the kingdom with grace and wisdom.

And they lived happily ever after.

 

Chapter Text

There’s not a word yet

For old friends who’ve just met.
 


 
Giorno Brando finally met Bruno Buccellati in the summer of 2001.

He was out shopping with Trish, at the time; he and his father had arrived the day before for their yearly vacation in Italy, hosted by Diavolo and his family, and it was the first thing he’d insisted on doing after they’d gotten settled in.

(In the aftermath of his hair turning blond the year or so before, Giorno had grown very bold and enthusiastic indeed, when it came to fashion and self-expression.)

(Trish, herself an aficionado of haute couture, couldn’t have been more delighted by this development.)

They were leaving a boutique when Trish gasped and began waving enthusiastically at something Giorno couldn’t see.

“Buccellati!  What are you doing here?”

Giorno had little choice but to follow her as she ran across the street.

There were three young men sitting at an outdoor cafe table with a pot of tea and slices of cake spread out between them.  One of them - apparently Buccellati - stood up as Trish approached.

“Trish!  Fancy meeting you here,” he said.  “I’m treating Narancia and Fugo to a bit of cake.”

“Oh, hello!”  Trish waved at the other two boys present.  “It’s been a while!”

“Certainly has,” said one of the boys; he had pale hair, and carefully-crafted holes in his green blazer.

“What’s the occasion?” Trish continued.  “That cake looks amazing, it can’t have been cheap.”

The other boy, dark-haired, with more delicate features, grinned widely.  He was wearing a school uniform.

“We’re celebrating Narancia getting a 100 on his latest math test,” said Buccellati.  His own smile was one of unmistakable pride.

“Oh, Narancia, good for you!” said Trish.  “You must have studied so hard for that.”

“Yeah, I studied my ass off!” said Narancia.

“And he wouldn’t have gotten that grade,” said Fugo, folding his arms, “if I hadn’t kicked his ass into gear in the first place.”

Narancia snickered.  “Yeah, pretty much.”

“Uh… Trish, mind introducing me…?” said Giorno, raising his hand.

“Oh!  God, I’m sorry,” said Trish.  “Giorno, this is Bruno Buccellati, he’s more or less my dad’s right-hand man.”

“You flatter me, Trish,” said Buccellati, laughing a little.  

“And that’s Narancia, and that’s Fugo,” Trish continued.  “They’re, how do I put this…”

“Buccellati basically adopted us off the street,” Fugo said, with a smirk.  “He couldn’t help himself.”

“Hardly!” said Buccellati.  “Besides, Fugo, you were the one that brought Narancia to me, if I recall correctly.”

“Yeah, but you were the one that got him to the hospital and stuff,” Fugo said, crossing his arms and looking away.

Giorno chuckled.  “It sounds like you’re fighting over who took in a stray cat or something.”

“Narancia and Fugo were both aid cases with Passione that Buccellati took in, actually,” said Trish.

“Yeah!  And I’m gonna work for Passione once I’m done with school!” Narancia added.  “Buccellati already brings us along on stuff, though, so we pretty much have jobs there already…”

“Yeah, same with me,” said Fugo.  “I’m already done with school, so as soon as I got over some… stuff, I started working for Buccellati.”

“Wow, that’s pretty great!” said Giorno.  “Well, my name’s-”

“This kid bothering you, young lady?”

A uniformed man with silver hair and a sour face had approached the group, and he loomed over Giorno.

Trish smiled, but it was warm smile, rather than nervous.  “Abbacchio! What a surprise!” she said. “No, I’m just fine here.  Why do you ask?”

“This one’s got a sketchy face,” Abbacchio said, gesturing to Giorno and narrowing his eyes.  “Giving me a bad feeling.”

“You have nothing to worry about with Giorno, Abbacchio,” said Trish.  “He’s a very old family friend.”

Abbacchio made a dismissive noise.  “I’m still keeping my eye on you, kid.  Don’t think I won’t.”

“I’ll… try not to cause trouble… I guess…?” said Giorno.

Abbacchio did not reply.

(Why did this feel like deja vu…?)

“What brings you here, Abbacchio?” Trish continued.

“Buccellati invited me over,” he replied.  “I was told there would be cake.”

“And indeed there is,” said Buccellati, gesturing to a chair.  “Help yourself, Leone.”

“Thanks.” Abbacchio sat down and began serving himself.

“Abbacchio’s also an employee of Passione,” Trish said, leaning toward Giorno.  “He’s a police liaison of ours that helps with cold cases and such with his Stand.”

Giorno blinked.  “...Stand?”

“Ah!  I should have mentioned,” said Trish.  “Buccellati specifically looks after people with Stands that get help from Passione.”

“Giorno knows about Stands?” said Buccellati.

(Trish, of course, knew about them, having always been able to see her father’s Stand and receiving Spice Girl only two years prior.)

“I have one of my own, actually,” Giorno replied.  “Really, though, all of you have one?”

“I’m not showing you mine, before you ask,” said Abbachio, afterward taking a sip of tea.

“I wasn’t… going to, but…” said Giorno.  “Well, I suppose it makes sense that Passione has a subdivision for helping Stand users, now…  Do you work with the Speedwagon Foundation, Mr. Buccellati?”

“Indeed I do,” Buccellati replied.  “I report to them regularly about these little troublemakers,” he added, with a smirk.

“Hey, hey, you’re only three years older than me, y’know!” said Narancia.  “Stop talkin’ about me like I’m some sort of kid.”

Buccellati chuckled, but stopped when the sound of a cell phone filled the air.  “Oh, excuse me…”

He produced a phone out of a zippered pocket on his suit, and flipped it open.  

“Hello, Buccellati here.  Ah, Boss! What’s going on?”  He nodded a few times. “Ah, I see!  Well, I’m out with Narancia and Fugo right now, would it be okay if you bring him to me?  I’m at that cafe with the strawberry meringue cake. You know the one, right?” Another few seconds.  “Wonderful. Trish is here too, actually, we just ran into each other.” Whatever the caller said made Buccellati laugh.  “I’m sure she’ll be happy to see you, too. All right. I’ll see you soon, Boss. Goodbye.”

“Was that my father?” said Trish.

Buccellati nodded.  “He said he just picked up a newly-discovered Stand user and wanted to introduce him to me,” he said.  “Might as well introduce him to the rest of you too, hm?”

“Oh, that sounds lovely,” said Trish.  “Well, Giorno and I might as well stick around and wait for him.  I’ll go order some more cake!”

“Hey, get chocolate, get chocolate!” said Narancia.  “OW!”

Fugo had stabbed his hand with a fork.  “You already got strawberry for yourself!  You have no right telling Trish what to order.”

“That doesn’t mean you had to stab me!”

“Fugo…” Buccellati waved a finger at him.  “Temper.”

Fugo sighed, looking quite ashamed.  “Sorry, Narancia. Shouldn’t have done that.”

Narancia rubbed his sore hand.  “Yeah, well, I’ll get you back somehow…”

“I’ll get chocolate, Narancia, don’t worry,” said Trish, with a warm giggle.

Narancia’s mood immediately lifted.  “Yeah! You’re the best, Trish!”

Abbacchio, seemingly unaffected by all of this, continued to sip his tea.

(Another stirring of deja vu.)

(Why was Giorno so convinced that he’d witnessed this all before, somehow?)

Diavolo arrived with the Stand user perhaps a half hour later, long after the second cake had been acquired and shared between them.

Trish waved him down as soon as she saw him.  “Papa! Over here!”

“Hello, sweetheart!”  Diavolo crossed the street with a young man in tow, whose shoulders were slumped and uneasy.  “How nice is it that we’re all able to meet like this?”

“I’m glad you could make the time, Boss,” said Buccellati, standing.  “Is that him?”

“Mm.  Buccellati, this is Guido Mista.  Guido, this is Bruno Buccellati,” said Diavolo.  “He’s here to help you from now on.”

The young man’s shoulders tensed further.  “I told you, it’s Mista, just Mista, okay?  Jesus.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Mista,” said Buccellati.  

“Gui… Mista got himself into a little bit of trouble, thanks to his Stand, the other day,” Diavolo continued.  “Luckily, I was able to clear some things up with the police, so he’s home free. For now.”

“Oo-hoo, what happened, what happened?” said Narancia.  There were crumbs of chocolate cake around his mouth.

A little smirk appeared on Mista’s face.  “Dodged some bullets. Literally.”

“Whoa-ah, so, what, your Stand give you super-speed or something?” said Narancia.

“Eh… No, uh… Jeez, how do I explain how these little guys work?” Mista said, scratching his head.

“You could always show us, it’s all right,” said Buccellati.  “It’s not like anyone else will be able to see.”

Mista shrugged, and six little golden figures appeared around his shoulders, giggling and cackling.

“Aw, they’re so cute!” said Trish.  “What are they called?”

Mista very suddenly turned pink.  “Uh… They’re, um… sespisdols…” he mumbled.

“What was that?” said Trish.  One of the little Stands had floated through the air to her, and was sitting on her hand much like a bird or some other small critter.

“They’re, uh, called… S-Sex… Pistols…”

Narancia started laughing.  “Sex Pistols? Your Stand is seriously called Sex Pistols?!” he said.  “That’s the dumbest name I’ve ever heard.”

“What, you think I had a say in that?” said Mista.  “I don’t even know what the heck these little dudes are!  I just know they… mess around with bullets? They showed up for me and kept me from getting shot.  Man, the past few days have been weird…”

“Well, the good news is you’re not alone, any more,” said Buccellati.  

“Yeah, whether you like it or not,” said Fugo, with a chuckle.  “We’re more or less your family now.”

“Not until Buccellati feeds him spaghetti,” said Narancia.

“Heh, true,” said Fugo.  “That’s almost a rite of passage now, isn’t it?”

Mista’s Sex Pistols faded away as he narrowed his eyes with confusion.  “The hell have I just gotten into…?” he said. “I feel like I’m being inducted into a cult.  Do I really have to hang out with these guys from now on?”

“Not unless you want to go back to jail,” said Diavolo, cheerfully.

For reasons he couldn’t quite understand, Giorno started laughing.

“Was what I said really that funny…?” said Diavolo.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s gotten into me,” he said, wiping his eyes.

(Were these… tears?)

“I just can’t help but feel that… I know I’ve only just met you all, but I feel like I’ve known you for a long time already,” said Giorno.  “I don’t know why.”

“Y’know, I’ve been feeling some major deja vu today, come to think of it…” said Narancia.  

“I have to say, I feel the same,” said Buccellati.  “It’s been an odd sort of day.”

“Maybe something to do with our Stands?” said Giorno.  “My foster mom, Holy - she says that Stand users tend to be drawn to each other over time, so…”

“It’s a fair hypothesis,” said Fugo.

“Well, whatever the reason, you’re always welcome to spend time with us, whenever you’re in Italy, Giorno,” said Buccellati.  “People like us need to stick together, after all.”

Giorno, his heart already open for friendship, nodded with a smile.  “Yeah!”



“Pardon me, sir, but do you have a moment to talk about Heaven?”

Dio had drifted away from his son while they were out shopping with Trish, and was busying himself at an antique book shop when the priest approached him.

(The priest was speaking fine, American English - a mite strange, considering he was in Italy - but for whatever reason, Dio didn’t think much of the fact.)

A bit of a pitying smile set itself upon Dio’s face.  “I’m afraid I’m not terribly religious, Father, so I’m not sure how much good that would do you.”

The priest waved his hand apologetically.  “Oh, this isn’t so much about the afterlife, sir.  This is about the here and now. I may be a man of the cloth, but that doesn’t mean I’m not concerned about mortal happiness.”

“Is that so?”  The priest’s voice was warm and almost compelling.  Dio put down the book he was holding. “Consider me intrigued.  How do you mean?”

“Well, people often say they’re in Heaven - hypothetically speaking, of course - when they’re happy and content with their lives and circumstances,” said the priest.  “I’m of the belief that a mortal person might be able to ‘attain Heaven’ while still living, and am dedicated to making this happen with my flock.”

“‘Attaining Heaven…’  Well, Father, that’s a fascinating concept,” said Dio.  “Do tell me more.”

“Let’s start by examining your own life, shall we?” said the priest.  “Say... your job, or… occupation. Would you say it’s fulfilling work?  That you feel you’re making a difference?”

Dio’s work with Stand users had given so many people purpose and kept so many dangerous souls from doing more harm.  It had extended charity and goodwill to many around the world who would otherwise had suffered.

(It had brought the son he never knew into his life.)

“Yes, I’d say my work is absolutely fulfilling,” he said.  “I’ve helped a great deal of people.”

The priest smiled warmly.  “How wonderful to hear,” he said.  “And what of your family? Close friends?  Do they bring joy to your life?”

Not just Giorno, but also the Joestars, from his beloved brother Jonathan to the youngest heir, Jolyne, and the strange, wonderful additions of little Lisa and Josuke and the rest.  

“I have a large and loving family,” said Dio.  “And… a son. My son.”

(How wonderful, that those words now filled his heart with warmth instead of dread.)

“Ah, how truly lovely,” said the priest.  “A strong family is a blessing that few can truly claim.  And you sound truly very proud of your son.”

Dio smiled, in spite of himself.  “I am.”

“But beyond family is legacy,” the priest continued.  “Were you to die today, how would others remember you?  How would they carry on your will?”

For such a dark question, a question almost impossible to apply to Dio’s own life, it gave him thoughtful pause, and a strange peace to his heart.

He thought of Diavolo, foster son, father of his goddaughter, whose dreams and enthusiasm had caused such wonderful changes and reversals of unfortunate fates in those who had once been like him.  He saw his will continued through Diavolo into his young successor, Buccellati, whom Diavolo spoke so happily about, and who seemed to gather surrogate sons to him as easily and eagerly as Dio once had.  Diavolo, who had taught him how to open his heart to true, unconditional love.

He thought of Jotaro, surrogate son, who had once struggled with anger and now struggled with love, and wearing his hard heart down into a necessarily vulnerable state.  Jotaro, blood heir to the Joestar family, who imparted discipline and pride into his daughter, Jolyne, discipline he’d have never gained, pride he’d have felt too hardened to express, without Dio’s careful hand.

And… Giorno.  His actual son.  The culmination of everything he had experienced, whom he was now brave enough to love and claim as his own.  Whose future was beautiful, golden and limitless.

“My… legacy is assured,” said Dio.  “I have… touched many lives. And I’m sure I will touch many more, in my time.”

“I see, I see,” said the priest.  “Sir, I truly believe that Heaven is not something that can be defined with riches or power or strength, but with love and happiness.  It seems you might well be already there.”

“Well, when you put it that way…”  Dio laughed, gently, once. “Yes, I would say I’m living in your definition of ‘Heaven.’”

“I’m so happy for you,” said the priest, with a strange, thrilled joy in his voice.  “I’m so happy that this is the Heaven you were finally able to attain…”

(The strangeness of the English hadn’t come across as unusual to Dio, but this word…)

“‘Finally…?’” Dio said.

The priest, dusky-skinned, silver-haired, simply smiled.  “All that I have sacrificed was not in vain. I’m so glad...!  My beloved lord Dio... may you live on in peace and happiness.”

“Wait, how do you know-”

“Dad!  Hey!”

Giorno’s voice pulled at his eyes, distracting him only for a moment, but the strange priest was gone as soon as he was able to look back.

(Who was that man…?)

Giorno was accompanied not only by Trish, but Diavolo as well, and a motley assortment of young men besides.

“Ah, Giorno!  And Diavolo, what a surprise,” said Dio, as they approached.  “Are you all done with shopping?”

“More or less.  We were thinking of going out for dinner together, actually,” said Giorno.  “I figured you wouldn’t have moved from this shop, so…”

“Excellent deduction, my son,” said Dio.  “And who are your new friends, here?”

“Oh, Dio!  This is Buccellati, I’d been meaning to introduce you,” said Diavolo, ushering the young man in white forward very eagerly.  “I’ve talked to you about him before.”

“Ah!  So you have,” said Dio.  He extended a hand for a handshake.  “Your boss speaks most glowingly of you.”

“Glad to hear it,” said Buccellati, returning the handshake.

“So, will you be joining us for dinner?” Diavolo continued.

“Don’t see why not.  I’ll follow your lead.”

The little group continued onward down the street, but Dio lagged behind, his thoughts still somewhere else.

Who was that strange man, who spoke of Heaven?

(And why did his words carry such a heavy weight of truth?)

“Dad, hey!  Catch up!”

Giorno was waving at him from up the street.  The late afternoon light transformed his hair into a soft halo of curls, and for a moment, with his smile and the light behind him, he looked almost angelic.

Heaven, huh?

He supposed the priest, whoever he was, had a point.

And so Dio carried on ahead, following his son into the future, and all the uncertain wonders it held.