It all started on a perfectly ordinary late-May afternoon at the playground by their apartment complex, where a bunch of seemingly ordinary children were chasing each other round and round the swings and the sandbox as their parents watched from the sidelines. Leone Abbacchio rested on one of the benches by the jungle gym, his attention drifting with the warm floral breeze, when an all too familiar cry of distress struck him like thunder – Narancia bawling on the ground as the others surrounded him with their fingers pointed.
“liar, liar!!” “narancia’s a liar!!”
“am not a liar! you’re all dumb!!” the victim choked out, too blurry-eyed to move, much less escape, but Leone cut a path through that circle of agitated children and snatched up his three-year-old before they might have gotten rough.
“That’s enough!” he drew himself to an impressive height and stared them down, startling them into retreat towards their parents, who shot Leone concerned and angry looks but otherwise said nothing. Leone continued to glare in their general direction and stroked his little boy’s hair as the crowd dispersed in clusters, until only the two of them remained and Narancia’s sobs thinned out into ragged breathing and the occasional hiccup.
“Narancia… Can you tell me what happened?” Leone nudged him higher up his shoulder, bouncing him until Narancia lifted his head and rubbed a grimy little hand over his wet face, leaving dark streaks every which way. Leone let it slide for now.
“i, sh-showed th-them, m-my plane, annnd th-they, m-made f-fun of m-meee..!” Narancia bonked his head against his father's shoulder and blubbered on, drenching Leone’s corseted top in tears and saliva.
“What are you talking about it? You don’t have a plane,” Leone thumped him on the back as the hiccups returned. “Narancia… Were you playing pretend again? What did I tell you about that?”
Narancia whipped his head back, his eyes widening in betrayal so acute it cured his hiccups in an instant.
“i wasn’t pertending! i do got a plane, it’s not pertend!! abbakkun’s a dummy!!”
“Oi… And am I? Where is your plane, then? Show it to me, come on. I’m warning you though,” Leone looked his visibly shaking toddler in the eye, “if you lied, I’m gonna be pissed.”
“i’m, not, lying!!” Narancia howled at the top of his tiny lungs and threw his hands above his head, nearly smacking Leone in the face and causing his jaw to drop all the same as light flared around Narancia’s hands and a small red biplane materialized out of thin air. It took fledgling flight and managed a lopsided circle above their heads before it landed on Narancia’s open palms, where it kept flexing its jointed wings and spinning its propeller in defiance.
“see? i’m not lying! but i showed them and they said it wasn’t there!” Narancia looked to his father for validation, but Leone beheld his hands with a haunted expression on his face.
“Oh, God no…”
“abbakkun..?” mumbled Narancia. Leone’s face scrunched up.
“Not you too…” he hugged Narancia closer and buried his face in his little boy’s hair.
“you don’t see it..?” Narancia was on the verge of tears again. As he deflated, the biplane flickered and vanished. “you can’t see it at all..?”
“I saw it alright,” Leone bonked their foreheads together in defeat. “It’s a red plane with a big propeller and two wings, one on each side, right?”
As much as he resented the idea of his son being burdened by a Stand, reassuring him was worth it to see Narancia gasp in triumph and flush a happy pink beneath the dust and grime. Leone sighed.
“Does your plane have a name?”
“i think,” Narancia furrowed his brow and clenched his tiny fists in concentration, “it's… arrows miss.”
“Arrow Smith… or is it Aerosmith..?” mused Leone. "Well, it doesn’t matter. Come on,” he set his son down and took his hand, “we’re going home. You gotta take a bath, and after that, I will show you something.”
“A friend, for Aerosmith. His name is Moody Blues.”
Three days later, Narancia brought out his Stand at the local daycare, where after another argument with the other children and a failed stunt meant to impress them, Aerosmith crashed into the window hard enough to knock Narancia backwards on impact and frighten his daycare teacher even more than his talk of invisible planes had baffled and exasperated her.
“Aw, man, that’s a big lump,” Leone gathered his sobbing toddler in his arms when he finally arrived from work to pick him up, careful not to touch the bandage plastered over Narancia’s forehead as he ruffled his locks and pressed his lips to the nearest unhurt spot. “Sheesh… I guess you’ll stay at home until it goes down. Come on…” he rubbed circles over his son’s back as Narancia broke into a pitiful whimper, “you’ll sleep for two nights and then you’ll be back again, good as new.”
“I don’t think you should bring him back here,” the daycare teacher interrupted him in a lifeless tone that sent chills down Leone’s spine. “I will tell you why. The window was completely intact before Narancia started talking about this plane or whatever it was, and after he suddenly fell down and his forehead started bleeding, we found a large round crack on the inner pane. The other teacher watched the children while I stayed with Narancia in the infirmary, and nobody went near the window afterwards. If your son really did cause both of these things to happen, then he’s a danger to himself and to the other children. I’m sorry, Mr. Abbacchio, but I cannot allow him to return.”
As her meaning sank in, all color drained from Leone’s face.
“What..?” he instinctively pulled his son closer as if his arms could shield him from her words. “You can’t just kick him out! He loves this place! And he’s just a kid! He won’t do it again, alright? We promise he won’t do it again!”
“Sir,” the teacher’s lips quivered, “if you don’t listen to me, I will have no choice but to take this matter to the director, and that would only make things worse for you and Narancia in the future.” She paused and added, no longer looking him in the eye, “Please understand that this is for the best, for everyone. I’m sorry.”
The look of grief and terror on her face drove Narancia into hysterics again, but Leone barely heard him over the ringing of that hollow voice in his ears.
Two weeks later…
It’s too early for this shit…
“I’m busy,” Leone took another sip of his espresso at the kitchen table and opened his email app to check for updates on the job applications he had submitted through the course of the last two weeks. “And call me Dad or Papa! Either is fine!”
“abbakkun!!” Narancia tugged on his pajama leg. Leone heaved a sigh.
“i wanna go to daycare!”
“You can’t go to daycare anymore, I told you that,” Leone averted his eyes from the disappointed frown clouding his toddler’s face. “They won’t take you back anymore, so from now on you’re staying home with me.”
“but i wanna play!”
“Then go play with your toys, they’re in the living room.”
“i wanna play with you!” Narancia stomped an angry little foot.
“You can’t, I’m busy.”
“then i wanna play with moody boos!!” Narancia glared him down. Leone pressed a weary hand to his face.
“It’s Moody Blues. Not boo, blue. You know, like the color.”
“but it’s not blue at all! it’s pink!”
“It’s light purple, and I’m busy.”
“busy with what?!” Narancia tugged away at his trouser leg and wrenched the fabric.
“I’m looking for a new job.”
“So I can stay at home and raise you.”
“Because no daycare will take a kid with a Stand.”
“Oh no, I'm not doing this again.”
“Moody Blues!” Leone smacked the table with his fist, calling out his Stand. He squinted at his son and set the timer to yesterday evening, at which point Moody Blues morphed into a pajama-clad Narancia and started running around the apartment.
“There, knock yourself out,” Leone shot a sour look at his starry-eyed toddler, who turned around to chase after his playmate. “Sheesh,” Leone returned to his phone and sorted through his emails. Junk mail, junk mail, drugstore coupons for stuff he didn’t need, rejection email, junk mail, rejection email, and the customary alumni newsletter from his old high school. Leone skimmed it out of boredom, intending to delete it right after, but paused as the last section caught his eye.
Passione Academy is still accepting applications to its new daycare for children with special abilities between the ages of 1 to 4. To enroll your child at our new daycare facility, fill out the application form here.
We are currently expanding our staff as well. If you have experience in special abilities and caregiving, apply here to become a member of our daycare staff. Alumni with experience in special abilities will be given preference.
Leone turned to stare at his toddler, who had since let out Aerosmith and was now making it fly circles around his unresponsive doppelganger. Only when his chest became too tight did Leone realize he had been holding his breath.
They went back to the playground once and only once since that first incident and Narancia’s unfortunate mishap at his former daycare, and his son’s attempt to rejoin the other children ended just like before, so at least for now, they stopped going there altogether. Not that Narancia held any grudges. Even after the others pushed him down and threw sand in his eyes, he would have gone back to his “friends,” but Leone didn’t let him.
Children with special abilities, huh…
He clicked the first link and filled out the application form within minutes. In the Description of Special Ability section, he put “small remotely controlled biplane” and checked “low” for Level of Risk, internally marveling at the criteria explanations in the footnotes. Whoever composed the application form had to have extensive knowledge of Stands, either as a user or the acquaintance (perhaps the parent) of one.
After a few more questions, he perused the completed form for typos and clicked Save and Submit, then returned to his emails.
If you have experience in special abilities and caregiving, apply here to become a member of our daycare staff. Alumni with experience in special abilities will be given preference.
Leone wanted to laugh, but couldn’t. Back when he had acquired his powers, nobody gave him preference at Passione Academy, and had Moody Blues been a dangerous Stand, his formal education would have ended then and there. By laying low, Leone managed to graduate from high school, and even finished police training in the hopes of being useful to his community… except for all he was capable of, Moody Blues’ ability to reenact the events of any crime scene was never accepted as evidence, and his insistence on using the ability soon got Leone demoted to a walking parking meter. What a fucking joke. So much for setting an example for his son and becoming something to aspire to. When he thought about it, his stomach twisted into knots; to this day he still hadn’t told Narancia of his demotion to preserve his child’s illusion that his father was protecting the peace of the city instead of writing tickets to unsuspecting victims.
But now, times seemed to be changing, if not for worthless scum like him, then at least for people like his son. Although…
Apply here to become a member of our daycare staff.
At this rate, anything was better than issuing parking fines to rich assholes who ripped them up laughing and poor folks who paid them crying.
Alumni with experience in special abilities will be given preference.
And this in particular was closer to the heart than Leone ever cared to admit.
“Oi, Narancia! Come here!” he tapped the kitchen table for emphasis, and when his son didn’t stir from his playmat in the living room, he had Moody Blues revert to its original form and grab Narancia’s wrist to drag him over.
“whaaat,” Narancia puffed his cheeks at him for interrupting his play time. Leone clicked his tongue.
“Don’t give me that, you brat! That's my line. Now cheer up. I found you a new daycare.”
“a new daycare?” Narancia echoed in disbelief, unconsciously shifting from one foot to another.
“You heard me. About two months from now, you’re gonna play with kids who will be able to see your plane.”
“they’ll see my plane..?” Narancia’s eyes went wider than plates and his nervous shuffling intensified.
“That’s right. They’re gonna be able to see Aerosmith because they’ll be Stand users just like you, and if you ask them nicely, they’re probably gonna show you their own Stands, too.”
“will they play with me?” Narancia clenched his hands.
“They’ll play with you.”
“they won’t leave me out, and not talk to me?” two tiny fists flailed in excitement as Narancia kept rumbling in place.
“They won’t, because I’m also going to go there, and if they don’t play nice, I’ll make them for you,” Leone cracked a dry smile, waiting patiently until the good news sank in and Narancia erupted in joyful shrieks.
“ABBAKKUN, ABBAKKUN!!” he pounced his father’s leg in a scratching, kicking tackle-hug. “I LOVE YOU, ABBAKKUN!!”
“Then stop screaming and mangling me, oi!” Leone tried to pry him off to no avail. “And you’re not in Japan anymore, so call me Dad or Papa, dammit!”