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The bottom of a bottle has always awakened mixed feelings within Leone. On one hand, he's finished a whole bottle- He'd never stop midway- and is well on his way to becoming so black-out drunk that he will lose entire hours of memory. On the other hand, it means he has to go get another drink. 

The walk to the bar is longer than it was a bottle ago. In fact, it takes an absolute eon because the floor won't keep still. It seems to have taken quite the fancy to shaking and waving to the cheap tunes of the jukebox, doing a rather impressive routine that Leone might have appreciated if it weren't doing it directly under his feet. The bartender gives him a Look when Leone leans against the counter to support himself while the floor continues to buck, shake, swing, and jive. "I want another." His words were clear enough to him, but apparently the barkeep couldn't understand because he wasn't handing him another. "Ey. Bartender. You listenin'?" 

"I think it's about time you went home, son."

For just a moment, black rage flooded Leone. Went home? Went home? To what? 

He didn't want to think about that anymore, he didn't want to think at all, that was the point. He got out his wallet, pawed at it, narrowing his eyes to see past the blurs that seemed to be floating along his vision. He pulled out what money he had left. It wasn't much. He didn't want to think about that either. "Here." He held out the pathetic handful, barely aware that it was just slightly above double price. "Please." He heard the whimper in his voice, the pathetic pleading, and some separate part of him, the part that bled and hurt, that part hated himself for this. For the drinking. For the begging. For the things he'd done for just one more bottle. He didn't want to think about that anymore.

The bartender relented and Leone slumped in relief. He took the bottle and pried off the top with his teeth, stumbling across the still-partying floor to escape the hot air and the loud jukebox that was so appealing to the ground beneath his feet. Through the numbing haze, he wondered about rent. How was he going to pay to sleep under a roof if he'd just spent the last of his money? Don't think about that. He took a drink of the quickly-emptying bottle, sighing at the familiar hum of warmth it sent through his blood and skin and bones, thawing the ice that grew in his soul. But only for a little while. He had to find more money, fast, otherwise he'd have no more booze, no more heat, the ice would grow and he was starting to be afraid that he would welcome it. He didn't want to sell himself again, but if that's what it took... He found himself on his back, head pillowed by... Something. He watched the stars as they shifted about, wandering across the field of the sky like they were at a gathering and wanted to make sure they caught all their friends. He hoped they all found each other.


The sun was agony. Leone groaned and rolled over, curling up slightly to escape its spears of light. Slowly, squinting and shading his eyes with his hand, he began to adjust himself to the painful intrusion, forcing himself to his feet to examine where Drunk Leone had decided to sleep. A pile of trash apparently. Slightly fearful, he patted the back of his head, sighing in relief when no offensive substance was found in his long white hair. He rubbed at his forehead, shutting his eyes for just a moment as he began the walk back to his apartment. He almost immediately bumped into someone. "Watch it!"

He barked at the man on reflex, not even taking in the offender before the words left his mouth. They locked eyes and Leone had the absurd thought that this man had the single most beautiful blue eyes he'd ever seen. Huh. Maybe there was more alcohol left in him then he'd thought. The man bowed his head a bit, those very blue eyes looking down and away. "I apologize. I wasn't watching my step." Blue, very very blue, they were on him again and Leone was stuck dumb long enough for the man to truly look at him. Worry clouded those eyes and he said, "Are you alright?" 

For some reason that warm concern burned Leone like the fires of Hell he was surely destined for. He couldn't handle it, couldn't look into those eyes, that face, and he found that he had enough booze left in him to summon up a very black kind of rage. "Don't speak to me!" He felt his lips curl up in a snarl, smelt the booze on his own breath, expected disgust or one of its siblings to flicker in those blue eyes, but there was still that clawing softness. That burning warmth. "I don't need your help."

"Okay." 

Leone blinked, his booze-fueled anger dropping as quickly and suddenly as it always seemed to. Was that it? Did he win?

The stranger blinked and Leone found that that warmth was not quite as scorching as he'd thought. "I understand. But if you change your mind- Well, here."

A card. This man was holding out a business card. Of course he'd have the shit luck to bump into some shrink immediately after waking up from a crash. A large part of Leone wanted to smack the card from the pretty man's hand (what? Leone didn't think of him as pretty. Nope. It was the booze). He wanted to tell him right where he could shove that card (He was free to shove something of Leone's up there too. Where was this coming from? Damn booze). But the part of him that bled, the small part, just briefly gained control. He took the card without knowing why. He watched, silent and swaying, as the man smiled softly (Why was everything about him so soft?) before turning away, raven black hair shifting with the movement. Leone narrowed his eyes at the small rectangle in his hand. He wanted to throw it into the road. He put it in his pocket.

He couldn't stop thinking about that man as he walked 'home.'

He walked (stumbled) into his apartment an laid (fell) onto the bed. It was soft (like that man's face) and warm (like that man's eyes) and he fell asleep quickly, dreaming of nothing. He woke God-knows how much later feeling remarkably less pained but still not too great. There was a vague memory, something important, scratching at the back of his head, and he scrambled to catch it like a person might scramble for the bar of soap after they drop it in the tub- That is, futilely, with the object slipping suddenly free just before the moment of triumph. As he struggled mentally in this manner, he struggled physically to make it to the mini fridge and down a mouthful of pickle juice. It went down easy. He'd drunk enough of it over the years to barely taste it anymore, anything to get rid of the hangover so he could go in painless search of the next bottle. He put one hand in his pocket and encountered something pointy. Removing a rather crumpled card, Leone wondered if this was the important thing he'd forgotten. But no. He hadn't forgotten him. Going to the beat up table he ate off of, pushing aside old cartons of Chinese takeout, Leone smoothed out the card which he could now see was a soft pink color. Equally soft letters in a pale green declared that this was the card of a bakery. Sticky Fingers: Pastries and Sweets. A bakery. Some baker had bumped into him on the street. Not a shrink after all. Beneath the shop's name was another name: Bruno Bucciarati. Him. The man with blue eyes. "Bruno." Leone spoke the name, as soft as the colors of the crinkled card. Blue-eyed Bruno.

For one wild moment he had the intense urge to call the number on that card. But it was late, Bruno (It's Bucciarati, don't be so casual) probably wasn't even at the shop, the sun was setting after all and besides, Leone was thirsty. He didn't want to talk, he wanted to drink. And that was when he caught the soap. Er, the memory. He couldn't go get anything to drink because he had no money. 

Not quite frantically, he began to search his apartment, starting with the pockets of his pants. Wallet: Empty. Bedstands: Empty. Drawers: Only a handful of coins. There wasn't enough, wasn't enough, he couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, he couldn't buy anything to drink.

He sat down heavily at the table, looking down dazedly at his hands. They were shaking. Since when was he so unsteady? He wasn't sure how long he sat like that, elbows on his knees, back bowed slightly forward, head ducked below his shoulders, but by the time he snapped out of his (fear) trance his eyes burned from not blinking and his spine protested loudly when he forced it to straighten. He could not buy food. He could not pay rent. He could not buy anything to drink. He glanced at the discarded Chinese boxes, at the dirty dishes long uncleaned in the sink. Was that all the 'food' in the apartment? He glanced at the tap, but the rank water it produced, tasting of rust, would not quench the kind of thirst building in him. It pooled in the pit of his stomach, burning in the place desire once dwelled, and he supposed it was still a kind of desire that drove him. He looked at the card, glaringly pretty on the trashy table.

If you change your mind- Well, here.

Leone needed help. He needed booze. He needed a job again. He did not want to go back to that Last Resort. Maybe Bruno really would help him.

But not now. It was too late now (it was not too late), he didn't even know the shop's hours (they were printed on the card), Bruno (Bucciarati) probably hadn't even meant it, probably just saw it as a minimum-effort gesture to a broken man so later he could feel good about himself that he'd tried but relived that it had come to nothing. Leone flinched at the thought. He didn't know quite why, but something in him refused to accept that those clear blue eyes could ever hide such malice. He would go tomorrow. Yes. Tomorrow. Now he needed sleep again to chase away the last of this headache, the last of this wine-weight making his limbs so heavy and his body so tired. He laid back down on his bedsheets, fully clothed, shoes on. He didn't even bother with getting under the covers before surrendering to the tide of blackness. Again, he dreamed of nothing. He woke up sore and tired and thirsty. He wandered the apartment a bit, threw a few empty take-out containers into the trash, ran some water over those rank dishes in the sink, he even tugged his bedsheets into something close to neat (he most certainly wasn't stalling). Eventually, he found himself in the small half bath, hands braced on the sink, looking into his own bloodshot eyes. He'd been beautiful once. He knows this, though it is a small, inconsequential fact that rarely resurfaced from the depths of his booze-saturated subconsciousness. Not now. Now, he looked like what he was and it was startling to him for some reason.

He ran his tongue over his chapped lips, examined the redness in and around his once-striking eyes, considered the origin of the overwhelming sense of exhaustion about him. He looked like dog shit. He didn't know why that suddenly mattered to him (He knew). For the first time in maybe a week, he took a shower for the sake of getting clean and took the time to truly wash his hair. He stood, naked and dripping, as he attempted to brush the tangles from his long white hair and get it looking something like presentable. It was hardly worth it though, the sheer amount of damage his hair had suffered made it look terrible no matter what he did. He'd have to cut it off. Have to have it short. Like he'd had it then. He doesn't want to think about that, where's a bottle when you need one? Leaving his dirty (very dirty) clothes where he'd thrown them, he went to his bedroom to throw some clothes around in an attempt to find something that could be passed off for clean. How had that Johnny Cash song went? Ah, yes. Fumbled through the closet for my cleanest dirty shirt. Leone was starting to doubt that he had a cleanest dirty shirt.

Eventually, after much searching (stalling) he decided that an old black one couldn't show any stains it might have and smelled comparatively flowery when held next to what he'd just had on his body. Jeans went onto his legs, which was the easiest part of this ensemble because pants don't really seem to get dirty. He pulled on his shoes, snatched the baker's (Bruno's) card off the table and hesitated at the door. He didn't know why he wasn't just going already, the quicker he left the quicker he'd get there. The quicker he'd have to beg for a job. The quicker he'd see Bruno. Shaking off that last thought, he forced his hands to move, twisting the knob, pushing open the door that suddenly seemed to be resisting his efforts to escape, like it knew this was his final exit and it desperately didn't want to let go. He left the shoddy building with no other such hinderments. 

He couldn't afford a taxi with the few measly dollars worth of coins in his pockets, couldn't afford to waste the last of his food (beer) money on a drive, besides, he had two good legs and a bit of walking wouldn't hurt him. He was wrong about that, but by the time he realized it, there wasn't really anything he could do. He was going to do this. He was going to get a job. He was going to make money and be productive, dammit, so he could get back to destroying himself in his preferred method of slow-acting suicide. His head was starting to hurt and he had a sneaking suspicion that it was the lack of booze. How could drinking hurt your head when not drinking it was just as bad? His body needed to decide what it wanted already so he could get back to it. 

The bakery where Bruno Bucciarati worked was not very far away, but it seemed to take ages to Leone. He had walked much farther distances for the sake of a barkeep who was more interested in the bills then in his customer's health, but his legs throbbed regardless and he was sweating in the warm late-summer heat. His head was killing him. When he finally caught sight of the building, it's appearance didn't surprise him much. Soft pink. Pale green trim. A pink and green awning over wrought-iron chairs and tables. A very soft looking place. The name was spelled out in smooth curving gold letters over the awning and Leone found that reading them worsened his headache. There were a few teenagers sitting around a table, chattering, and judging by the number of chairs by the surrounding tables, the group had been chair-pillaging. A blond one with his hair done up in odd swoops in front but pulled in a braid at the back paused in his animated talk to stare at him. Leone stared back, suddenly feeling a bit self-conscious. The look in that blond's blue-green eyes was... Intense. 

The blond turned away and Leone didn't like that it made him relived. A brunet boy hopped up from the kids' table after a few muttered words from the blond and shot off towards the bakery proper, disappearing into the front door with the sound of a quiet bell. That same gentle tintinnabulation announced his presence and the first thing he saw was him. That soft face, framed by black hair, and those eyes. The bluest thing Leone had ever seen. Bruno locked eyes with him and joy- genuine joy- filled his face. "You came."

"Ooh." The brunet boy was standing next to Bruno, one hand on his arm. "You were expecting this guy, Pops?"

"Yes, Mista, I know him, tell Giorno not to worry, everything's fine."

Mista nodded once, giving Leone one last look of measured distrust before slipping back out the door, no doubt to relay the message to the blond- Giorno.

Bruno was practically glowing. "I'm so glad you're here, you look so much better, oh come over here, sit down, are you hungry?"

Leone dazedly allowed himself to be drawn into a chair, literally blown into shock by the sheer amount of kindness in this man's beautiful eyes. Bruno continued to chatter on in generally the same manner and he was just so much that Leone almost started to panic. He wasn't used to this, wasn't used to being around someone who was happy for his presence not because of the money in his pockets but just because he himself was wanted. What an odd man this Bruno Bucciarati is (Why couldn't he just call him Bucciarati?). He was already setting some kind of pastry in front of Leone, something fruity by the looks of it, and Leone ate it because he was hungry and it was there. He couldn't really taste it. All his tongue was picking up was the fact that this thing was not, in fact, the required booze. It felt heavy as sin in his stomach and he had the peculiar urge to pay for it, but he didn't have anything, nothing at all, unless he counted his body and he did not want to offer that to Bruno, did not want to know if he was the kind of man to accept. 

Bruno had sat down across from him and Leone, not to stall (yes to stall), took a moment to survey his surroundings. The shop was neat and clean and smelled like sugar and chocolate and fruit. The same soft pinks and greens were everywhere- indeed even Bruno himself was bedecked with the colors, wearing a pink button up with a pale green apron overtop. Every table was set in green and pink glass in a church window fashion, the walls were adorned with soft things, like paintings of flowers or the sunset. Pink and green checkerboard tile floor. Pink painted walls, green trim. Pink and green, pink and green, Leone wondered where the color pallete had come from. Had Bruno chosen it? And softness. Everywhere was so unbearably soft, from the gentle hue of the color, to the way the sunlight reflected off any of the dull surfaces or passed through any of the clear (or colored) glass, everything down to Bruno himself seemed carefully crafted to feel warm, loving, like somewhere you could fall asleep with the sure knowledge that you would wake cared for and well rested with your belongings unmolested.

Bruno was still waiting quietly. Was he waiting for something in particular? Leone shifted, suddenly feeling a bit too warm. "What's with the colors?" Oh God, he hadn't meant to say that, hadn't meant to say it, Bruno was going to think he was rude, oh God, oh no.

But his blue eyes stayed softly affectionate and he even smiled. "The old owner chose them. When he left me the business after his passing, I decided it'd be too much of a hassle to change. Besides, most people seem to like it."

"I like it." What had possessed him to say that? 

"I'm glad." Bruno was still smiling. 

After a moment of silence that Leone was sure Bruno expected him to fill, he was spared having to speak by the door's bell and the rising chatter of four voices. Bruno's expression flickered for just a moment to a deep and true love and Leone suddenly felt very empty inside. No one had ever looked at him like that. Bruno's eyes (blue) flickered back to Leone for just a moment, an apology in their depths. "I'm sorry, could you just give me a moment? The kids..." Instead of elaborating, he stood and walked past Leone and he found himself twisting to watch that man's journey. It was the same group that had been sitting outside. The blond was staring at him again. Apparently having not fully trusted Mista's report, Giorno had led the group inside to watch him. All of the teenagers were crowded around Bruno and he seemed quite fine with it (Leone wouldn't have been able to stand it). Giorno's eyes were still on him and Leone found himself unable to break that connection, almost like to look away was to admit some sort of defeat. Giorno didn't even seem to need to blink and his unnerving stare made Leone feel flayed, like his skin was peeled back and his filthy soul was laid bare beneath the gaze of this child. It was Bruno that broke off their impromptu staring contest, putting a hand to Giorno's arm and asking him a question that Leone didn't catch.

He found he was sweating again when Giorno looked away.

Bruno half-turned and caught Leone looking at him and maybe a bit of his shaken uncertainty showed through because worry clouded those sky-blue eyes and he returned to his seat, the entourage of teenagers following to fan out behind, the ring leader Giorno putting one hand to the back of Bruno's chair. Bruno started to introduce the teens. "This is Pannacotta Fugo." A wiry boy with long blond hair and unusually violet-tinted eyes. He seemed unwilling to look Leone in the eyes for long, but even in the brushes of visual contact Leone felt... Something. He brushed the feeling aside as Bruno continued. "This is Narancia Ghirga." A skinny boy with a mop of wild black hair grinned at him, wide eyes an even more intense violet than Fugo's. "This is Guido Mista." The brunet from before gave a half bow. "And Giorno Giovanna." Giorno. Those eyes, like ancient sea-glass, surely could not belong to a child. They still pierced Leone, stabbing him though his soul, pinning his sins in the painful light, exposed for the world to view. He could not look at those judging eyes any longer. He looked to (pretty) Bruno instead, feeling himself calm, though he still didn't know why Bruno affected him like this.

"Kids?" Bruno twisted to look at each teen in turn. "This is-" Bruno glanced at Leone and he suddenly realized that he had not yet given his name.

"Leone. Leone Abbacchio."

"Abbacchio." God, the way his name sounded in Bruno's mouth almost made his hands stop shaking for a moment. Almost.

Giorno's hateful (no, just truthful) eyes narrowed and Leone was suddenly terrified that all his feelings had been right and that Giorno really did know what he was, knew everything filthy thing he'd ever let himself be subjected to, knew all the things he'd done and taken and thought and wanted. But then he looked away, down at Bruno, and Leone relaxed. Of course he didn't know.

"Abbacchio? May I ask why you came here?" Bruno's deep voice caught his attentions back from his brooding and Leone just kept himself from jumping. God, he was jittery. He needed a drink. "I doubt it was for the pleasure of my company."

Leone swallowed even though his mouth was dry, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth and hindered his words as he stepped off the edge and took the plunge. "I need a job."

Fugo looked quickly away, Narancia's grin took on a sharper edge, Mista straight up burst into laughter, and Giorno just kept staring. But Bruno's expression softened further (how could anything be so painfully gentle) and the first word out of his mouth was "Okay."

"Okay?" Leone was confused. Was that it? His fingers flex, searching for the comforting weight of a bottle and he clenched his hand into a fist to stop it when he saw Giorno's eyes flicker downward. "Is that it?"

"Yes." Bruno's posse of children all seemed startled in varying amounts (Narancia the most intense, Giorno the least) and Leone was prone to agreeing with them (first time for everything). He smiled down at Leone and with the light through the windows touching him so softly (Leone wanted to touch him like that too), he looked like something holy and untouchable. But then he offered his hand and Leone found he was not so untouchable after all. Their hands came together a bit more intensely than Leone had intended. Bruno's hands were warm and calloused, not at all like Leone had expected (why had he been expecting something?). His own hands still shook. He hoped Bruno didn't notice. "Come on. Kids? Stay up here and watch the place, alright? This shouldn't take too long."

Mista swaggered to Giorno's side, leaning against the other boy in a manner that was somehow very sexual. Giorno put his arm around Mista, his hand laying on the bare patch of skin just above Mista's pants. The brunet of the pair spoke (was Giorno mute?). "Yes sir, Pops. Anyone tries to rob us and we jump 'em, right?"

"Sure, Guido." Bruno smiled a bit before his face went to serious. "Alright. Come on, I'll get you a uniform."

"U-Uniform?"

"Yes." Bruno motioned to himself. "This." Leone was extremely uncertain about playing matchies with this glorious human being, like mirroring him would be, somehow, mocking his purity. Bruno must have seen Leone's uncertainty on his face, but he misunderstood it. "Don't worry, I'm sure I've got your size. And you'll look good in pastels."

Bruno did, in fact, have Leone's size and before he was entirely sure what was happening, he found himself being herded up a set of stairs and ushered into what was very clearly a living room. "What...?"

Bruno continued onward, leading the way further into the building. "I live on the second floor. Come on, you can change back here and then I'll tell you some things about your job."

"I'm starting now?"

"Do you have somewhere else to be?" The question was genuine, neither teasing nor sardonic.

Leone didn't have an answer to that. He followed Bruno, let himself be ushered into a restroom, and looked around the second the door clicked shut. The first thing he noticed was the vast difference between here and the shop half of the building. From what he'd seen, Leone could tell that Bruno truly preferred black and white over the pink and green he'd decided to keep. It could have come off as sterile in some places, Leone supposed, but here it just seemed... Nice. He changed quickly after he realized he was spacing out, shucking his sweaty clothes and pulling on the clean ones. It was actually strange to be dressed in something truly clean and that was when it really hit Leone. How far he'd fallen into a pit of his own making, a tunnel to Hell carved out with his own bare hands. That wounded part of him was getting louder by the minute and it was getting harder and harder to repress his deep hatred of himself and the life he'd chosen. He needed a drink. Dammit it all, he needed a drink.

He stepped out of the bathroom to find Bruno was still standing there patiently. Those blue eyes were glowing. "You look wonderful."

"Thank you..." He put his hands in the pockets of his new pants to hide the shaking. He started to speak, but stopped himself, a question almost managing to jump free in a moment of carelessness. But Bruno was looking at him, had seen it start, and even with a bit of (a lot of) alcohol lingering in his blood, Leone could see that Bruno wasn't going to just let it go. He shifted a bit, self-conscious. "Why? Why are you doing this? You don't know me. I could be a rapist or a killer."

"You're not."

"You don't know that." Why was he arguing this?

"I do." Bruno turned his back to him, began to lead the way back through him home. Leone followed, unwilling to let the issue go.

"You can't just let strangers into your home, Bru- Bucciarati. You'll get hurt." 

"You sound like Giorno."

Oh God no, not like him. Leone still wanted to argue, but his head was hurting worse with every word and why did it matter to him anyway? It didn't. He was here for one reason and one reason only: To make drinking money. That was it. Period. So what if it was a habit of Bruno's to let strange men into his home? It meant nothing to Leone (lies).

Bruno stopped so abruptly just at the door that Leone almost bumped him. Bruno's (warm) hand was on the doorknob, but he wasn't moving and Leone was, for some reason, unable to break the silence that had turned heavy. Turning his head just slightly, almost looking at Leone, Bruno said quietly, "I'll tell you now, Abbacchio, if you come into this place drunk I'll chase you out myself, got it? I won't tolerate it, not for my customers, or myself, or my kids. One time and you're gone."

Apparently, Bruno was not made of light and foolish kindness. Leone had no doubt that he would do exactly as he said he would. He got a mental image of that pretty man kicking him out of his ass that was powerful enough to send phantom pains through his tailbone. Rubbing his lower back, biting his lip, that wounded Leone screaming in his head that he was going to ruin this because he was weak, Leone managed to say, "Okay. That's fair, I get it."

They were halfway down the stairs when the phrase my kids actually hit him. "You have kids?" The question fell out before he could stop it and he wondered exactly how much booze was left in him.

"Yes? You just met them."

Holy shit. "How old are you?!"

"Twenty four?"

Holy shit. Leone may had started to short-circuit somewhere around here. "But- What- I don't- How?"

Opening the door at the end of the staircase, holding it for Leone, Bruno said, "They're not really mine. I just... They've got no one else." For just a moment, Leone thought he heard a lost kind of pain in Bruno's voice, but when he turned back to see him, Bruno's face still held that same look of soft affection and gentle contentment that seemed to just be his natural state. Leone decided that he'd imagined the tone. "Now come on. I'll show you how the register works."


Leone walked home, his dirty clothes once again on his body and he was beginning to find them to be increasingly disgusting and itchy. What Bruno had given him was held in a plastic bag over his shoulder. He was supposed to come back again tomorrow too. Because he had a job now. Bruno had helped him. He'd meant it. 

One hand was in his pocket, pushing and turning the handful of coins that was his entire finances. It might be enough for a beer. A greasy shiver worked its way up his spine. It would also be enough to get his clothes cleaned at the coin laundry. He bit his lip till it bled, torn. He wanted to be clean. He wanted to be Clean, too. He wanted Bruno to look at him and see something whole. Someone. Whole.

He juggled the coins in his pocket.

He didn't like the way he stank or the way his whole body itched against the filthy assault of his clothes. But he was so thirsty... Bruno said he couldn't get drunk. He'd never have anything to do with him again if he got drunk. That didn't matter (it did), Bruno wasn't why he was doing this (wasn't he?), this was for One Reason. Besides, one drink wouldn't get him drunk, and he'd be fine by morning. Perfectly fine. He was thirsty. One drink wouldn't hurt, just something to make it easier to sleep.

He shifted his course from the path to his apartment. One drink wouldn't hurt. 

 

Chapter Text

The bottle was still in his hand when he woke and there was a suspicious wetness in his pants. Groaning, letting the empty glass slip free of his fingers, he ran one hand over his face and sat up. Had he seriously pissed himself? He felt oddly ashamed even though there was no one to see him here, at his absolute worst, in his nest of trash and filth. Kicking off his pants and boxers, he started to just walk off but paused to actually look at his bedroom. Takeout boxes. Piles of clothes. Empty cans and bottles. And dirt, lots of dirt. Even the light that came through the single window seemed dirty because of the grime built up on the glass. He flinched and shuffled off, heading for the shower. 

The water was hot. He wished he could build up the courage to crank it up enough to scald so maybe it could sear away the reek of himself he lived in. In the end he had to settle for warm water and shampoo. It didn't feel like it did the job. He turned off the water, ran his hands over his body to get off what water he could. If there was a towel in this place somewhere, he didn't trust it on his bare skin. Drip drying now, brushing his hair and trying not to look too closely at his reflection, Leone tried to think of some place he'd have clean clothes. He could wear his uniform from the start, sure, but... He didn't want it to get too dirty and it was hot outside and the walk was long. He'd have to settle for something marginally less dirty than most of what he had. 

It felt strange to be clean for two days in a row, but not a bad strange. He was used to bad strange. It was a surprisingly pleasant change. He wandered his apartment, picking up various articles of clothing from various places. It was disgusting. Eventually, he started throwing the worst ones in the trash, shifting about in nothing but less-than-clean shorts with a trash bag in his hand. How, he thought, did I get to doing this? He hadn't bothered to clean in months, so why start? He'd never get finished. Even as he tried to talk himself into stopping, Leone found himself shoveling trash off of his table and his counters, filling two bags with trash and hardly making a dent in the piles before realizing he had to go to work. To Bruno. He still didn't know what to wear.

Eventually, running low on time, Leone made the only decision he could think of- He walked out into the morning shirtless, wearing his work pants and his only pair of boots that were in one piece, his shirt and apron thrown over his arm. He got many once-overs as he walked, the sun just bearably warm on his bare chest. He knew he had a good body. Alcohol-saturated as he was, he hadn't yet managed to get far enough along for his body to deteriorate and he was all hard, lean muscle. For a brief moment, he was thankful for that. But then the thought of that last bottle of beer interrupted any other musings and he swallowed reflexively. Just get to work, he told himself. Just get to work and you'll get your drinks.

He couldn't wait for his first paycheck.

Rent was, of course, priority. He had to get enough to pay for another month, he couldn't afford to live on the streets. But after that there was nothing else he needed (lies) but beer, wine, vodka, alcohol. 

The walk hurt his legs and he was starting to worry about sunburn when the pink building came into view. Bruno's kids were out front again and Mista- laid up in Giorno's lap- wolf whistled him. Leone gave him a look of distaste and even though he didn't particularly want to talk to these children, he felt a peculiar need to explain himself. "I live a bit away. It's hot and I have to walk, I didn't want my shirt dirty."

"Sure, Abbacchio." Narancia waggled his eyebrows. "Pops is inside. Put your other clothes over your shoulder instead of your arm before you go in, it's sexier."

Leone almost choked on the implication that his intention was to be attractive for Bruno. Narancia's words had sparked some kind of argument between the group and Leone didn't care enough to listen. He put his shirt and apron over his shoulder so it would be easier to pull the door open and stepped gratefully into the coolness of the air conditioned space.

"Oh dear."

Bruno, attention drawn by the sound of the bell above the door, was looking at him with wide eyes, gaze flicking between his bare chest and his face. Leone felt the blood rush to his cheeks and glanced around, relived to find that the few customers present seemed to be paying him little attention. Shrugging on his shirt and starting to button it, Leone made his way to Bruno, wondering if the other man liked what he saw. He didn't bother with trying to figure out why he cared. Bruno was still looking at him with a half-startled expression as he shifted back to let Leone back behind the front counter so he could join him in the work place.

After a few moment of less-than-comfortable silence, Bruno spoke just as Leone finished buttoning his shirt (his hands wouldn't stop shaking) and was tying on his apron. "Why weren't you already dressed?"

Ah, here it was. The moment Bruno figured out how deep in his own hole he was. Leone figured Bruno would have found out eventually, that Giorno lad probably would have found out somehow and ratted on him, but he really wished that this didn't have to be happening on the second day. "I, ah, I didn't have any other clean clothes. And I don't have enough money for a taxi and I don't have a license anymore. I had to walk and I didn't want it to get dirty." He pulled lightly on his shirt as he talked, keeping his gaze fixed firmly on the cash register. So now he knew. It wouldn't be too hard for Bruno to figure out how truly pathetic Leone was from what he'd just been told.

"Can't afford a taxi? Do you live far away?"

Leone flinched. "No."

"Ah." Another silence. Leone glanced at Bruno, fully expecting to see him regretting allowing Leone into his life so easily, but there was nothing of the sort. Just that same gently killing compassion that so confused Leone. And then he smiled. "If you bring some of your clothes tomorrow I'll wash them for you." Then he turned and walked away. Just like that. Disappearing through the door that led to the kitchen.

"Did he check you out?"

Leone jumped, his head snapping around so his eyes could lock onto the unusual amethyst eyes of Narancia. The boy was grinning widely, his dirt smudged face practically glowing. "Cuz' you're just his type, you know. Big. He likes big men and you're huge."

"Is he bothering you?" Giorno walked up behind Narancia and Leone wondered how he'd manage to get in without setting off the bell. Or maybe he did send it ringing and he had just been too distracted to notice. Those sea-glass eyes looking him over intensely, Giorno put a hand to Narancia's head and gently ruffled his already heavily-mussed up hair. "He doesn't mean it, whatever he said. He has no filter."

"Mmhmm." Leone glanced between them, wondering what the point of all this way. Why tell him he was Bruno's type? He didn't care (lies). Why talk to him at all? 

What did Giorno want from this?

Leone wasn't entirely sure where the thought came from, but suddenly he was sure that this had been Giorno's idea. He'd told Narancia to say that and had strolled up just in time to closer gauge his reactions. Devious little bastard was testing him. Wasn't it a bit early for all this? Leone suddenly felt very, very tired. He didn't want to work. He didn't want to haul a bag of clothes all this way to mooch off Bruno's kindness. He didn't want to be pushed and poked by some kid trying to figure out if he'd make a proper partner for his dad. Well guess what shito, I don't want your Pops, I just want a drink. When Leone looked up again Giorno and Narancia were gone. How long had he been spacing out...? He suddenly hated his tendency to 'clock out' sometimes. He felt like Giorno had won. When had he started doing this anyway? He used to have perfect reflexes and perfect focus, he never would have lost track of himself like that before- Before. Just... Before.

He wanted a drink. He hated that he wanted a drink. His hands shook.

The first true day of the first job he'd had in a long time passed surprisingly quickly. He only had to ask Bruno for help four times. The customers were nice to him and at the end of the day Bruno took the bills from the tip box and handed them to him. He didn't say anything about it. No allusions to the fact that Leone could not pay a perhaps ten dollar taxi fare. He just gave him the money and a smile before saying goodbye. It kind of made Leone feel like shit. But, somehow, it also made him feel deeply and painfully human. He wasn't quite sure why that was a feeling, hadn't known 'human' as an emotion before this moment, but that was what it was. He was human. He was a human being. He supposed that after a while of trying to die he'd forgotten that fact. He wanted to forget it again.

He had money in his pocket. There was a bar just a few minutes out of the way. Just one drink wouldn't hurt. Just one.

When he woke up on his back in front of his apartment's door he knew exactly what he'd done and for once it was no comfort. Standing up, shaking, he stumbled into his place of residence and fumbled for the light switch, flinching at the assault. He sought out the clock on the shitty oven in the kitchen. Two forty six in the morning. He had time. Hands quaking almost too hard for him to manage, he unbuttoned his shirt and shrugged it off, looking over the new marks of beer spills and God knows what else spread across the front. Dammit. Dammit, not this soon. He shuffled towards the bathroom (Why were there so many dishes in the sink?) and held the poor shirt under the faucet, cranking up the hot water and desperately scrubbing at it, rubbing a soap bar stolen from a hotel across the worst of the spots and praying- praying- that this would come clean. It did.

Leone couldn't seem to stop his body from starting to shake and the tears that welled in his eyes were scalding. 

Why? Why did this matter so much to him? There were other places, other people, other ways of paying his way to Hell's Gates, so why? Why did the thought of those blue eyes looking at him with nothing but a deep disappointment hurt him like a punch through the chest?

Of course, Leone knew the answer. He knew himself well enough to be able to say, if he wanted, why this affected him so intensely. But he didn't want to acknowledge it, could't acknowledge it, because if he did then that meant that all of this, all this drinking, all this pain, everything he'd ever done After was the wrong choice. Was pointless. Was nothing more than a terrible intermission that did nothing but hurt. No. This was what he wanted. This was fine. He just needed drinking money.

He turned off the water when he realized it was scalding his hands.

He wrung the shirt out and gently hung it over the shower head. He ran his hands over his face then looked down at them, burned pink. It didn't matter, he would't be able to feel it in a little while. He stumbled back into the main room, stepping over some trash and shuffling on through some. His head hurt. He wanted a drink. He wanted to sleep.

He managed to get to his bed before collapsing. For the first time in a while he dreamed. He didn't like it. He woke up shaking, his mouth dry with fear, and it was almost painful to hold back a scream. Legs weak, he just managed to push himself up, his head pounding like a war drum. Going a full day sober had been a terrible idea.

Everything was hurting by the time he made it to the kitchen and he whined when he saw the clock. Time to leave? He forced himself to pick up his feet as he walked, making his weary way to the small bathroom. His shirt was still damp, but he shrugged it on, shivering. Maybe the sun would have it dried by the time he got there...? He didn't know, couldn't force enough brain processes to figure it out with that war drum thum thum thuming against the inside of his skull and the core of his eyes. He had to look for his apron and eventually found it after he'd given up and left the apartment, just remembering to grab a handful of clothes from one pile or another and tuck it under his arm. His apron was discarded in the hall. Apparently, Drunk Leone had decided that the apron was a bit too much clothes. He picked it up and held it in his hands for a moment, so overcome with shame that tears flooded his eyes once more. He wasn't even entirely sure why he was ashamed. 

Cradling the pale green fabric, Leone left the building and began his walk to work, occasionally bursting into a fit of shivers, goosebumps raising the hairs on his arms and legs and across the nape of his neck. He felt so sick. How much had he drank?

It seemed an eternity before that pink bakery came into his view again and he felt such an intense emotional relief that another round of shivers worked through him. You're okay, he told himself. You're just fine. Just fake it till your head stops hurting and he'll never know.

He pushed through the front door, sighing in relief at the air conditioning, a spark of fear working its way to his heart as his eyes swept the shop for Bruno. But he wasn't there. In his place behind the counter was Mista, dressed in pink and green with a customer service smile. "Hi, how can- Oh, it's you, Abbacchio. Holy shit, are you okay?"

So much for looking normal. "No." Why had he answered? He let his shoulders slump after checking that there were no customers and shuffled over to stand behind the counter, an unexpected pang striking his heart when Mista shuffled a step away. "Where's Bruno?"

"It's his day off. He's upstairs. He said if you needed him then you could go up, but..." Mista looked him over once. "I think it'd be better if I took those up to him." Mista motioned to the clothes Leone had forgotten he had before leaning forward to take them. Leone let him. "Listen, just... Go sit in the kitchen, okay? I'll be right back." Something in his voice sounded like was trying to cajole a particularly unruly child into obedience and part of Leone was infuriated by it. The wounded part of him just nodded and turned around to shuffle out of public eye. When Mista returned there was a gun in his hands.

"Not for you! Not for you!" Mista frantically sat the gun down and jumped away upon seeing the terror on Leone's face. "Bruno just gave it back to me. It goes under the front desk in case we get robbed." The boy still seemed to be trying to speak in a calming manner, but there was an odd note to it, like he was unsure if he should be worried that Leone would charge or burst into tears. He went to the sink, got a glass of water. "Here." Leone found the glass being pushed into his hands. "Drink it. It'll make your headache feel better."

"Bruno?" It was all Leone could get his tongue to say before he started to drink. Did water always taste this good?

"Told him you were overheated and needed some water, but otherwise okay."

Leone held the glass out to Mista, half pleading. Mista refilled it. After downing it again, Leone managed to muster up another word. "Why?"

Mista shrugged. "It wasn't for you. Pops... He's got this real bad habit of picking up broken people and trying to put them back together. He did pretty good with me, I like to think. But sometimes it starts sliding south and he knows he's gotta let go, but he always leaves hunks of himself behind and we can all see how badly he's bleeding." His dark eyes were suddenly very, very intense. "None of us want to see that happen again. Eventually there won't be anything left of him. So stop being a disappointment before we all gang up to beat you to death and tell Pops you skipped town." 

Leone blinked, thinking of each of Bruno's half-wild 'kids'. He had no doubt they would do exactly as Mista had just threatened. He kind of agreed with him. His headache was fading and he stood up, testing his balance. "I won't do it again." He hadn't realized the words were coming till they spilled past his lips. Could he hold true to them?

"You'd better not. Drink some more water then wash your face and come out. I'm gonna need help when dinner comes around." Mista spun on his heel and trotted briskly away, leaving Leone no room to argue.

He decided to just do as he was told. By the time he emerged from the quiet reprieve of the kitchen he looked almost fine and his head was barely hurting. However, he was immediately met by a rather... Unprofessional sight. Mista was leaned over the counter so far that he feet had actually left the ground and (Heaven help him) the boy's hands were lost in the front of Giorno Giovanna's shirt, holding the blond almost desperately close as they kissed rather passionately. Giorno's face was nearly impassive, but his eyes were closed and he gripped Mista with the same amount of loving intensity, while Mista's entire body wriggled and shuffled with barely contained Gay Delight. He was practically glowing. Leone didn't know why he was so compelled to stare and he didn't understand the sudden bolt of envy that went through his entire system. "Is that allowed?"

The two boys jumped apart, Mista looking very guilty. Leone decided that it was not, in fact, allowed.

"Leone." Giorno seemed just as cold to him as he had since Moment One (though Leone couldn't blame him for it). He didn't seem very embarrassed to have been caught. Just vaguely annoyed. "Can we help you?"

"Yeah. You can be relentlessly gay somewhere else."

The blond's eyes narrowed (damn those eyes) and he said levelly, "So the problem is that we're both men?"

"God, no that's not-" Leone pinched the bridge of his nose, huffing out a breath of annoyance. "Just make out with each other far away from me. No one wants to see that. Does Bucciarati even let you be romancy on the job, Mista?"

"Um... I mean, not exactly but. Um. You owe me?" Mista grinned at him and Leone sighed.

Giorno was still giving him The Look and Leone mentally kicked himself. Great. He'd given one of his boss's kids yet another reason to hate him. How long would it take to change Giorno's mind from this issue? Not even taking into the account all the others... Leone had no problem with either of the boys being attracted to each other. On some level, he was glad they'd managed to find someone who just loved them. He himself liked men. Loved them, actually. Men were absolutely wonderful (especially when they had blue eyes like the sky and the blackest hair he'd ever seen). But damn, it was hard to look at a pair of boys who felt free enough to kiss each other in public when he could never even work up the courage to come out. Well, he'd told one man, but he was- No. Nope. Not thinking about that, not thinking about it.

It was getting harder to block out memories with the alcohol level of his blood slowly dropping. He put his hands in his pockets and sighed. In his spacey absence, Mista and Giorno had gotten up on the counter and were muttering softly to each other, ignoring Leone entirely.

That was about when he realized there was something in his pocket. He pulled it out and found a small bunch of bills held together by... The sticky part of a Post-It note? He was almost painfully assaulted by a memory, of slapping this sad little piece later with the distinct though of Sober me is going to need this later. He gently eased the money back into his pocket. He hadn't done it after all. He'd held back. He hadn't spent everything he had on a wild binge to drink as much as possible as fast as possible. He still had money.

He wanted to laugh and cry and scream all at once, but Giorno was watching him again (what was he looking for now?) He didn't return the glare. Instead he smiled and for the first time in a very long time it was not a lie that seared his face.

An elderly woman entered the shop and Mista and Giorno both hopped down from the counter, separated once more. Leone sighed and gently touched Mista's arm to get his attention, not missing the way Giorno tensed. "Show me how to work all this one last time and go uh, wash dishes in the kitchen, okay?" Mista's face started to screw up with confusion, so Leone continued with, "Giovanna should probably help you. There's quite a bit of work to do back there after all."

Mista grinned, so genuinely and purely happy that Leone could hardly look at him. "Yeah! Alright! Come on, look." Mista quickly and distractedly showed Leone what he was supposed to do again, constantly looking up at Giorno. The second he was done, he muttered a "Thank you," that Leone wasn't entirely sure he was supposed to hear and bolted off towards the kitchen. Giorno looked at him for a long moment before following. That little old lady finally got to shuffle up to the counter and Leone managed an apologetic look. "Apologies ma'am. What would you like?"


Bruno never did come downstairs to check up on his shop. Mista had gone up with Giorno and returned alone with a plastic bag full of mercifully clean clothes. Part of Leone was grateful for Bruno's absence. He knew that one look was all Bruno would need to know, just like it had been for Mista, that Leone was a very, very weak man. But another part of him was disappointed that he hadn't gotten to see Bruno or hear him speak. 

He didn't want to linger on that thought because it was dangerously close to the Truth that he did not want to allow himself to know, and yet... And yet, when he thought about Bruno the memories had enough strength to just hold back his desire for alcohol, to just keep him from shifting course just a bit more westward. The bright memory of the joy that had been on Bruno's face when he walked through that bakery's door for the first time was enough. It would be his salvation. Bruno would be his salvation. He would not drink tonight.

He would not. 

Chapter Text

Leone woke up in pain. It was a strange pain, one he was not used to and had not felt. His whole body shook, his arms were too weak to push himself up, and he was sweating even though he was freezing.

What's wrong with me?

His stomach rolled and he threw up weakly, nothing coming up but bile.

What's happening?

He tried to get up, couldn't quite make it, fell to the floor and laid there, panting, for how long he didn't know, but after a painful eternity the fit eased and he managed to stand up. He stumbled to the bathroom (drinkdrinkdrinkdrink) and turned on the shower (boozebeerwine) stepping in and leaning against the wall as the not-yet-hot water ran over his body. He couldn't summon up the energy to wash his hair (gogetbeer) but he managed to not collapse. Shuffling about his apartment, panting and shivering, leaning on furniture (needboozeneed) and hoping his legs would hold out. Between hot flashes and painful shivers, Leone managed to pull on some of the clothes Bruno (nonononneedbooze) had cleaned for him. 

He managed to get out of the front door and down the hall, ignoring the looks of anyone in the building he happened to pass until he could stagger into the open. He turned and started to walk (yesyesyesyes) without entirely knowing where he was headed. That was a lie. He did know. He just didn't want to admit it.

The door of the bar opened easily. It was mostly empty at this time, too early for true drinkers, but Leone needed it, needed it, and by God he was going to get it. He didn't recall talking to the barkeep or making a purchase or leaving the building, but he must have done so because his next conscious memory was of walking back down the sidewalk, a large bottle of wine in each hand, both open and half emptied. He raised one bottle to his lips, humming in deep pleasure at the familiar taste, the feel of it sliding down his throat, pooling in that warm place in his stomach where desire dwelled now for alcohol alone. It was heavy as sin and he welcomed it.

By the time he arrived at his apartment once more, both bottles were empty and his blood was pleasantly hot in his veins. His body was no longer trying to destroy him, shake him apart, freeze him out, burn him to death. They were friends again and he dropped down onto some pile of something with a noise of happiness (happiness? No), letting one bottle fall free of his grip, but holding the other carefully, lovingly. He hummed and looked down at himself. He was pretty~ But not pretty like Bruno, Bruno was every kind of pretty, so soft and sweet. Leone wanted to take a~ll his clothes off, see how much prettier he was laid bare, wanted to bite that pretty neck, wanted to hear what kind of pretty noises he'd make. Maybe. Maybe... Bottom? Leone didn't mind that either, having Bruno on top of him doing whatever he wanted to do- That sounded equally wonderful. Whatever Bruno wanted, so long as it made him happy, Leone would do it.

Then Leone frowned, something pushing up through his haze of alcohol. Bruno... Bruno wouldn't like this. He didn't like alcohol. Leone couldn't be drunk if he wanted Bruno to smile at him (God, he wanted that). Oh no. He dropped the other bottle like it'd burned him, sitting up and looking around. Bruno wouldn't like this. Leone shoved the bottles under some pile of trash like that would erase what he'd done. But... But, he'd been hurting. Bruno would understand, right? He was so good, so kind, his soul was so pretty, surely he would understand that it had just been to stop all the hurting. 

Right?

Leone whined, running one hand through his hair and biting his lip so hard it bled. He couldn't go to work today, not today, Bruno would see it and then Leone would never see him again. He couldn't bear that. He would be fine if Bruno never wanted to have sex with him. He would be fine if Bruno just wanted to be friends. He would be fine if Bruno just wanted to be his boss. But he would not survive being cut off from him entirely, could not live if Bruno left him too. Why did he feel like this? He barely knew this man. Had he really been this lonely? This desperate for kindness? For love? It was pathetic and he knew it, but... But those eyes. They were so warm. No one, in these years of self-destruction, not a single person had looked at Leone with warmth. With compassion. With joy. It was always disgust, hate, pity, or (worst) fear. Except for Bruno. Blue-Eyed Bruno. Bruno cared. Bruno loved him even though no one did. Leone hadn't known how much he had craved that until it bumped into him on a street corner and the thought of losing it was enough to send hot tears running down his cheeks.

He wanted to talk to Bruno. Bruno... He'd said not to come into his store if he was drunk but... But he'd never said not to call. Besides, he couldn't just not show up for work, that wasn't right, he had to tell Bruno why he had to stay home. He got up, wobbled for a moment, regained his balance, and staggered onward to the single wall phone. He picked it up and... And what was Bruno's number? He couldn't remember... Where had he put Bruno's card? Wanting desperately to just hear him, growing more frantic with each passing moment, Leone started to comb over his apartment (trash heap). But it was too dirty, he didn't remember where he last had it, didn't remember the neatly-printed digits that would let him through to Bruno. Panicking now, he just managed to claw a trash bag from a drawer in the kitchen and started to frantically shove things in it, cleaning up garbage in a wild attempt at clearing the space. Where was it? Where? Where?  Why was it hiding? He filled one bag, two, three, threw them all outside his home into the hallway beyond before going back to it. Where? Where?

It took three more bags of trash (why was it so dirty?) before Leone found it, in the pocket of a pair of dirty pants thrown into the corner of his bedroom. He started crying again when he had it, cradling it like it was something sacred as he stumbled back to the phone. He had to squint to make out the tiny numbers through the blurs that kept wanting to block his vision, but eventually he had it all and he pressed the button and it started to ring. And ring. Leone started to worry if he pressed a wrong number. It rang. He started to get scared. It rang. What if it wasn't Bruno? It rang. Maybe he should just hang up now, stop this before some stranger answered, just go and- "Sticky Fingers Pastries and Sweets, this is Bruno Bucciarati speaking. How may I help you?"

Leone broke down. He didn't know why.

"What? Abbacchio, is that you?"

"I-I'm s-sorry, sorry Bruno, I'm sorry."

"It's okay, it's okay, Leone, what's wrong?"

Leone held the phone to his head so hard that it dug into the cartilage of his ear sending sharp pains through his head. He took a shaky breath, trying to stop himself from falling further into hysteria. "I didn't want to, Bruno, I don't want it anymore, I don't, but it hurt, Bruno. I had to. Bruno. Bruno." He had such a pretty name, Leone couldn't stop it from falling past his lips, he hoped Bruno didn't mind him using his first name. That's about when it hit him that Bruno had used his first name too.

Leone, what's wrong?

Shaking, eyes shut tight like the darkness would help, he waited for a moment but the silence was too much and he found that the words that were climbing up his throat and pushing at his mouth were too strong to hold back and they flooded free in a rush, a cascade of admittance. "I woke up and it hurt so much, everything, and I threw up and I couldn't stop shaking, all over, I was so cold but I was burning up, I had to stop it, Bruno, Bruno, you understand don't you? Please don't leave. It hurt so much, Bruno."

"Oh, Leone."

The gentleness in Bruno's voice set Leone to tears again. He wasn't going to leave, was he? That wasn't a goodbye in his voice?

"Leone, listen to me, I need you to tell me something, okay?"

"Okay." Anything. Anything if it kept him here, talking.

"How long have you been drinking?"

"Uh, um... I-I don't know." (Lies)

"Think, Leone."

"Three years."

"Oh, Leone... How long did you go without it before today?"

"A-All day... I went the whole day." Why was Bruno asking him this? He didn't want to talk about himself, about his problem.

"Dammit... Leone, did you try to quit cold turkey?"

"Turkey?"

"Did you try and stop all at once?"

"Y-Yes. I didn't want you to go. Don't go, Bruno."

"I won't, I won't, calm down, take a deep breath, don't hyperventilate." Leone tried to obey. He hadn't realized he'd been breathing so harshly. "Good, good job, there you go... Leone, are you listening? You went into withdrawal. You can't live without alcohol anymore, your body won't let you."

"I hate it," Leone muttered. He leaned heavily against the wall. "I hate my body. It's cruel."

"Don't, don't say... Look, just stay in today, alright? Come here tomorrow and I... I'll fix this. I have to go, but I'll see you, okay?"

"Okay. Okay, tomorrow. Tomorrow, thank you Bruno. Blue eyes Bruno." He clamped his mouth shut before he could spill anything else.

Bruno was silent for a moment. Then, "You're welcome, Leone... Dawn eyes Leone." Bruno hung up then and for a moment Leone felt hollowed out, scraped raw. But slowly, so slowly, a kind of warmth that had nothing to do with the wine started to build. Bruno had noticed his eyes were yellow and violet. Bruno had really looked at him and had remembered the details.

And he wasn't going to leave.

Smiling but crying, shivers rippling through his overheated body, Leone staggered through his apartment, his frantic cleaning earlier making it far easier to get across the floor without tripping. He crawled onto his bed and curled into as tight a ball as his spine would allow, pulling the blankets close about himself and closing his eyes. He wanted today to be done. He wanted his bones to stop aching. He wanted to see Bruno.

He dreamed that night.

It was worse than the first time. Clearer. He could still smell the blood when he jolted awake, hazy and quaking, back aching. Groaning, he rolled onto his back and stretched out, popping and cracking. "What the hell did I do to deserve this?" He spoke the words as a question. As if he didn't already know. As sleep faded, pain rose, and he groaned a second time in pain as the pounding increased to a steady thrum. "Oh, God..." If God was real, Leone knew he would receive no help from Him. He was not worthy of His help. 

Dimly, he remembered a phone call last night. He'd called someone... But who? And why? Damn wine. Heading to the bathroom for a shower, he figured he'd just let the memories come back naturally. If they were gone, they were gone, and no amount of scrabbling was going to get them back. He'd had to learn that the hard way. He was mid shampoo when it hit him like a bitch slap. Bruno Bucciarati. That's who he'd called. And dear God, he'd burst into tears twice. Damn that wine. But... But he supposed Drunk Leone had been right in a way, all things considered. He wasn't fired, Bruno hadn't been mad, and... And he was going back to work to see him. But it was still stupid of him to let himself get like that. Why hadn't he thought of withdrawal? He'd been drunk for a solid three years, why the hell had he thought he could just... Go back? Something like this didn't disappear overnight. 

Even more embarrassing than the tears, Leone remembered his intense thoughts of ripping off Bruno's clothes so vividly that it brought a blush to his cheeks. What the hell had that been about? Sure, Bruno was a truly beautiful man and Leone would be lying if he said he didn't feel some physical attraction, but... To want that? So badly? He was overstepping a line and he knew it. Better to not think about it.

Again standing naked and dripping as he fought with his hair, Leone thought that he should probably go get at least one towel sometime soon. He was getting tired of shaking off like a dog and waiting. Bored and with nothing else to do, Leone started to shuffle through his bathroom drawers, idly fiddling with things he didn't remember owning. Eventually, he came to a small tube of  lipstick. He remembered this, vaguely. Remembered the way his partner (Don't Think Of That) had teased him about the color. Leone had worn it anyway. He twisted it up, confusedly relieved to see that it hadn't melted or gotten dirty. Curious to see if he still knew how to put makeup on right, he leaned towards the just-unfogged mirror and carefully put on a coat of the deep black lipstick. He liked it. Headache fading, body drying, he looked around a bit more and found some of his other beauty things. Much of it was useless, damaged or aged beyond use, but he found enough for his face to cover up the tired marks around his eyes and the blotchy look of alcohol in his cheeks. He looked a lot better. Almost like he was okay. (He wondered if Bruno would like it.)

Dry, he went to dress himself, careful not to let his shirt hit his face, and draped his work shirt and apron over his shoulder. 

As he walked, he found he had the time and presence of mind to just... Think. Normally, he didn't like being able to Just Think, would do anything possible to rid himself of this ability, but now... Now he was almost glad. Almost. He wondered about how he could feel this shitty and yet be so certain that he hadn't felt better in weeks, months, years. His joints thrummed a dull protest with every movement, his head pulsed to the same beat, and his chest was still weighed down by the agony he had been striving so hard to drown for three whole years. And yet. And yet beneath the pain and the gnawing, biting guilt was something else. Something warm. Hope? He wasn't sure. Whatever it was, it got stronger when he was near Bruno, almost drowning out the wailing of that wounded part of him. Next to Bruno, he realized, Leone felt just about okay. Like he could do this. Like it was okay for him to live. 

The soft sound of the bakery's bell was sweet to Leone's ears and he couldn't help but smile when Bruno looked up at him from behind the counter. He couldn't remember the last time he'd smiled. There were customers in line, people Bruno had to deal with, so Leone went to the kitchen to change into his work clothes so he could help. Neither of them spoke to each other as they worked, giving attention only to the customers, getting them out of line and moving onto the next as fast and efficiently as possible. Leone scanned the building as he worked, looked through the large front windows with narrowed eyes at the world beyond, and he had the vague sense that something wasn't right. It took him longer than he'd like to admit that the thing that was missing was Bruno's kids. They'd been around without fail for the last several days, Leone had just assumed they were always here...

"Mista, could-" Bruno broke off and blinked, thrown. Leone supposed he wasn't the only one used to the teenagers' presence. "Sorry." Shaking his head gently, passing off change to the last customer, Bruno glanced at Leone. "I always forget when they're not here."

"Where are they?"

"Who knows?" Bruno shrugged. "They get up to all sorts of trouble. I'm sure they'll be fine."

Leone got the feeling that Bruno was more worried than he let on, but he dropped it anyway, unwilling to stress Bruno out any further.

Bruno turned to him fully then, finally free from a worker's obligations. He blinked and Leone saw him look him over. "You look good, Abbacchio." Leone almost flinched at the use of his last name instead of his first. But why...? "I'm glad." Leone snapped back into focus to hear Bruno speak. The other man's expression was very gentle. "You sounded so panicked last night, I thought... I wondered if... Nothing. Never mind. I'm glad you're feeling better... But I'd like to speak to you when Mista gets here. Upstairs."

Upstairs. In Bruno's home. His personal home. Leone suddenly felt quite nervous. "Alright. If you're sure." He didn't know how he managed to keep his voice from shaking. "But..." He really should just stop talking now. "Bucciarati, are you really alright with me being in your home?"

"Of course." Bruno didn't seem to get why he shouldn't be letting near strangers with problems into his house, where his personal things were. Leone was shaken to silence by this gentle intimacy. It was almost like Bruno saw him as one of his kids. 

No. God, no, please, anything but that. Please, don't let that be true.

He's got this real bad habit of picking up broken people and trying to put them back together.

Leone was just about assaulted by the intense memory of Mista's words. And hadn't Bruno himself said that the kids followed him so devotedly because he was all they had? Because he'd fixed them. Leone felt something he hadn't realized he had shatter inside. Bruno loved him. He would never be in love with him. Because to Bruno, Leone was just another broken thing that he couldn't stop himself from trying to put back together.

"Abbacchio?" Worry clouded Bruno's gaze (like a mother) and he started to raise his hand to touch Leone's arm, but stopped. "Are you alright? What happened?"

Leone didn't know why this hurt so much (he did). He didn't want to be here anymore (lies). He wanted a drink (truth). "Why?" He couldn't stop himself from asking, he had to know. "Why do want to help me so badly? What am I to you?" He shivered, the backs of his eyes pricking, and he prayed that he wouldn't start to cry. "Why can't you just let me die?"

Bruno glanced away from Leone, at his shop, and Leone felt guilty for doing this here. What if he'd been just the tiniest bit drunk and his voice had begun to raise? He'd have made a horrible ruckus in Bruno's sweet little shop, he didn't want to do that, even bleeding from a wound with Bruno's name, Leone did not want anything to hurt him. 

Bruno sighed. "Come on. The store will just have to wait until Mista gets here." Beckoning him to follow, Bruno lead the way to the staircase set back from the main room, holding the door to let Leone in after him. He did his best to look at his shoes and not Bruno's ass as they went upward. When they arrived at the top, Bruno again held the door for him, and Leone followed quietly after him as he went to the couches. He motioned to the biggest one. "Sit. I'll be right back." Leone did as he was told, waiting with his hands in his lap (they were shaking again) and staring at the doorway Bruno had disappeared through. There were a few soft noises, muffled by distance, and Bruno returned with a glass of a wonderfully amber liquid. "Here. Drink." Leone did not have to be told twice. He knocked back the brandy with practiced ease, his throat relaxing on reflex to let it drain straight to his stomach without any need to waste time swallowing. 

When it was done, he felt suddenly shameful. His skill at drinking was something he did not want Bruno to see. He did not want those pretty blue eyes to see the culmination of his efforts, the trademark of his trade. He set the glass down on the coffee table in front of him and returned his hands to his lap. "Why?"

"Because I don't want to see you die. You have to have it, Abbacchio." Bruno sat next to him and Leone shifted to angle towards him, but his head still hung and his eyes still watched his own shaking hands. "Abbacchio." Leone looked up. Bruno looked so sad. Leone wished he hadn't looked up. "You asked me why I'm doing this?" Leone nodded. Bruno bit his lip and looked a bit away and Leone wanted to hold him so badly. "I don't really know, if I'm being honest with you. I just... When I looked into your eyes when I bumped into you I felt like you were begging for someone to realize that you were human too and you wanted to live just as much as the rest of us."

You're wrong, Leone thought. I don't want to live, death would be a mercy. But the old thoughts rang hollow and he couldn't seem to make his mouth set them free.

Maybe Bruno was right. He was probably right. Why else would Leone have kept the card? Had followed the directions? Had so quickly become this attached to the one who promised him life? He sighed, half in defeat and half because he couldn't seem to make his lungs exhale any other way.

"Abbacchio, you need... You're going to need to go to therapy." Leone scoffed at the suggestion, though he couldn't have said why. Bruno half raised his hand towards Leone for the second time and Leone wanted to say It's fine, it's okay, I won't shatter if you touch me but he kept silent because he wasn't entirely sure that the words were true. Bruno was worrying at his lip again. Leone was scared he would break his own skin. "I mean it, Leone. Whatever happened to you, whatever pushed you this far... Someone will have to hear it. And I get the feeling that you wouldn't want to tell me." Blue eyes searched Leone's expression when he turned his head to look at Bruno. How had he known? The suggestion alone had sent agonizingly powerful fear through his unsettled guts. Tell Bruno what he'd done? Tell him all his sins? No. No, he could not bear that, could not survive the inevitable darkening of disquiet in those pretty eyes, could not take seeing the moment Bruno understood that Leone deserved everything he had brought on himself.

"Abbacchio?"

Dammit, he'd blanked out again. "Sorry, I... I black out sometimes, I guess." He shifted uncomfortably, glancing at the glass on the table, wondering how much he'd hate himself later if he asked Bruno to refill it. "Were you saying something?"

"No, just... Will you at least think about it? I know someone who runs a group. Maybe hearing them talk would help you say yours?" 

"I will." Of course he would, of course, because Bruno had asked him and because something like a plan was growing in the back of Leone's thoughts. But there was still one more barrier he had to break for himself before he could fully realize the actions that would save him. He took a breath to steady himself for something he couldn't yet say, knit his fingers together in his lap, sat up straight, and looked- truly looked- at Bruno's soft face. And he was in love. That was it. The thing he could not tell himself. He loved this man so painfully, so fully, so powerfully, that it had ripped through everything else and dragged into the light a will to live he had not known he had. He loved this man so much that he was willing to rip himself open, to claw his own throat apart and pull his soul from the wound. For the first time since the Incident that had destroyed him, Leone loved. 

And it hurt.

And he held it dearly.

Bruno was still looking at him with worry. Maybe he saw something in Leone's face, maybe he just felt it in the way he'd felt that Leone wasn't ready to die yet (he had been very ready until Bruno).

"You mean it?" Bruno shifted closer. "Truly?"

"Truly. I'll go."

Bruno's breath shuddered out of him and he ran both hands over his face. "Thank God..." He stood and picked up the glass on the table and Leone's stomach jumped in hope that was instantly flooded by shame. "I'll be right back."

He watched Bruno walk away. Good, pure, gentle Bruno who could never love him back. Because he was broken. And Bruno could not help but shelter broken things, like a mother dragon with her clutch. A mother does not fall for her chick, even if the child was from another nest. Even if he was a year older, not a child at all. Bruno would always see his cracks and try to kiss them better, but it would not be what Leone wanted.

And then The Plan bloomed.

Bruno could not love him unless... Unless he was not broken. Unless he was a full man. Unless he was no longer covered in bleeding wounds that Bruno was so certain he had to fix. Unless he was no longer a man that sought forgiveness in his own self-inflicted Hell. 

So Leone would fix himself. He would do as Bruno asked. He would go to therapy, he would drink in moderation- a feat he had never yet managed- until he no longer needed the bottle, he would remake himself from the ground up, he would- by God- he would learn to love himself.

And then maybe, just maybe, he could convince Bruno to love him too.

Bruno returned then, a bottle of something in his hand (he knew what it was), and Leone tried not to stare. "Here." Bruno offered him the bottle (brandy) and Leone took it, refusing to look at it as his hands began to shake.

"Why?"

"Because you have to have something. I'll give you the money from the tip box and you can buy what you like- Well, what you don't like would be better... Anyway, just something so you don't go into shock and..." Bruno made a helpless hand motion. 

"You told me not to come in if I was drunk."

Bruno gave him a scorching look and Leone flinched. "You can drink without getting drunk, Leone."

Oh. Oh yeah. Holy shit, he had genuinely forgotten that. He lowered his head further, almost bowing to Bruno. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay, it's... Here." Bruno offered a card. Leone took it with a strange sense of deja vu. There was a number on it and a name. Noriaki Kakyoin-Kujo. "He's Japanese," Bruno said rather unnecessarily. "He came here with his husband-" His husband? "- a while ago, something about Giorno's biological father. Anyway, they talked to me about talking to Giorno and we just kind of became friends. They don't live here, but they're in town for a while right now, so... Yeah." Bruno smiled and Leone tried to reciprocate (it didn't go well).

"Pops?"

Both he and Bruno turned as the door opened and Mista crept in, gun in hand. Bruno stiffened. "What is it Guido? Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm good. Giorno wanted me to bring this up just in case though." Mista's eyes flicked to Leone and he didn't have to guess at what Giorno had meant. Take the gun just in case Abbacchio has hurt Bruno. It hurt. Maybe not as much as acknowledging that Giorno was right to be cautious, but still... Ouch.

"Well, that's just ridiculous." Bruno stood and walked quickly to Mista, taking the gun and kissing the boy lightly on the head. Leone's heart ached. "I'm perfectly fine. It's just Abbacchio up here. Abbacchio?" He turned and Leone took in as much detail of that beautiful face as he could. He'd need the memory of him if he was to resist the pull he already felt to the bottle in his hand. 

"Yes?"

"Leave that and come work. You can come get it before you leave. Go on, Guido, quit staring."

Mista finally looked away and vanished beyond the doorway, his enthusiastic tackling of the steps echoing back into the room. Bruno chuckled, soft and deep, at his boy's actions, following after and leaving Leone to place the bottle on the table (so hard to let go) and trail after. He was still a bit unsteady. His head still hurt a bit under everything. His right leg seemed to want to give out every few steps. But he was fine. He could do this. He let go of the bottle. With Kakyoin-Kujo's card in his pocket, Leone went to work.

Chapter Text

Leone cussed himself out and bit his own knuckles till they bled to keep his hands off the bottles. A six pack of the cheapest things he could get, stuffed into the tiny fridge that had come with the apartment. Not even that good. But oh, they sang to him like all the angles of Heaven, like a warm body offering love might once have, offered to fill the gaping hole in his stomach. He was shaking. He managed to force himself into the shower without touching them, managed to clean himself, dress himself even though he was still wet. He dried his face on his shirt. He put on makeup (he didn't like his face). He went to the fridge. He jammed his fist into his mouth, sank his canine into raw flesh, and grabbed a single bottle, gripping it so hard that the rippled edge of the cap had surely drawn blood, another wound to his fingers. He kicked the fridge closed, staggered away from it like it was going to attack him, and went to the phone. He needed to leave this place, get out before the scent of old booze drove him crazy, but there was one last thing he had to do. 

He looked at the small card Bruno had given him. He dialed the numbers. He tried so, so hard to ignore the seductive cold of that bottle in his blood-hot hand.

"Kakyoin-Kujo household. Business?"

Leone didn't know what he'd been expecting, but that harsh, deep voice was not it. "Uh- Um- Noriaki?"

"He's my husband." The rough voice softened somewhat at the words. Leone wondered if it was love that did it. "What do you want with him?"

"I- I just- Bruno Bucciarati gave me your number and-"

"Please hold."

Leone's mouth shut so hard his teeth hit each other with an audible clack. It was a few minutes (drink the beer drink the beer) before the phone on the other side was picked up again. This man's voice was noticeably softer, tempered with patience and compassion. "Noriaki speaking. Jojo said that Bruno sent you?" Jojo seemed like far too sweet a name for the husband. Leone decided not to voice this thought aloud.

"He did. He... Found me. Made it his job to put me back together. I'd hate to have all his efforts go to waste, you know?"

"Of course." Noriaki sounded soothing. "Did you want to join my group? It's rather small, but... Well, I should warn you that it's intense. They've all been through some things that no human should ever go through and most of them have started sharing the... Details... Of what those things were for them."

"That's fine." Leone raised the bottle he held and pressed its cold surface to his overheated head. "I just really need help."

"Well, admitting that is a good step forward." The end of Noriaki's sentence trailed off awkwardly and Leone realized he hadn't told the man his name.

"Leone. My name is Leone Abbacchio."

"It's a good step, Abbacchio-kun. We're all getting together again in two days, if you'd like to join us." Noriaki gave an address and Leone immediately forgot it.

"W-Wait, let me- To write it down. Hold on."

"Of course."

Leone carried the phone to the kitchen and managed to find a pen. He ripped a side off of one of the remaining takeout boxes (he needed to clean up more) and said, "What was it?" The Japanese man gave it again, as well as a time, and Leone wrote them both down. "Okay. I got it."

"Then I'll see you there?"

"Yes... Yes, you will."

"I'm glad. I look forward to meeting you, Abbacchio-kun."

Leone mumbled something like a "You too," then Noriaki hung up and Leone stared at the phone for a moment. He looked at the address on the hunk of takeout box. He put the makeshift note on the kitchen counter and the phone back in its cradle before making his way out the door, his work clothes in his arms. He did not dare open the bottle in his hand until he was far enough from his apartment that he could not talk himself into going back.

Just take the one, just the one, you can drink without getting drunk, just calm the shakes, Leone.

The bottle was empty far too fast. He dropped it in the first trashcan he came across, trying his best to not look back, shoving away the thought that there might have been another drop in there. It doesn't matter. Right leg, left leg, right leg, keep walking. Just get to Bruno. Bruno, beautiful Bruno, keep walking and you'll be able to see him, just go.

Leone blanked out again and maybe it was for the best because his memory clicked straight to standing in front of Bruno's bakery. He opened the door and almost slammed directly into Giorno Giovanna. The boy did not move. Did not flinch. Did not even seem startled. Bastard had been waiting. "Abbacchio." Giorno spoke- actually spoke- and Leone jumped a bit. Sea-glass eyes, cold as the deepest depths of the ocean that had surely formed them, went over his body once. Leone waited. He couldn't pass the boy without pushing him and he already knew how that would play out with Bruno. Then, "That color suits you." Giorno turned away. Walked off. Sat with his 'siblings'.

Was that it?

Pressing his black-painted lips together, Leone continued to the counter and went behind, half raising a hand to Mista who responded by waving wildly. Apparently giving him and Giorno a minute of peace had put him in the brunet's good graces. "Mornin' Abbacchio! How ya holding up?" His eyes went to Leone's hands, a bit of a double-take really, and his expression fell a bit. "Woah. You alright there?"

"Don't worry about it. I've had worse. Where's Bruno?" Leone put his hands behind his back and tried to sound casual when he said Bruno's name. He wondered if he'd succeeded.

Mista shrugged. "Dunno. He got a letter and kinda shot upstairs. He'll probably be back soon though. In the meantime, we gotta get your hands wrapped up. They look bad." Before Leone could protest Mista had himself boosted onto the counter and yelled out, "Yo, Fugo?! Get over here ugly!"

The blond that had yet to speak to Leone stood and said something to Narancia before obeying Mista's command. He still wouldn't look directly at Leone. "Yes? What's wrong?"

"Abbacchio's got his hands all torn up. Could you wrap them?"

Fugo was silent, glancing at Leone out of the corner of his eyes and Leone turned his head to look at the wall.

"Alright. Let's go to the kitchen. You need to wash them first."

Fugo walked past Leone, leading the way, and he was content to follow, though Fugo's strange behavior was definitely something to inquire about later. Maybe Bruno would know the cause. Following Fugo's instructions and with the help of a first aid kit on the wall, Leone had his hands cleaned and disinfected and was just sitting to allow Fugo to wrap the wounds when Bruno walked in. "Abbacchio?" Blue eyes swept the space, perhaps a habit seeing as Leone was not easy to miss, before centering on him. "Mista said your hands were hurt."

"It's nothing." The burn in his lower stomach (beerbeerbeer) calmed slightly at Bruno's appearance, but he still shook slightly. 

"It isn't nothing. Let me see." Bruno went to him, got down on one knee to be on Leone's current level and gently inspected one hand while Fugo expertly wrapped the other. After a moment he whispered, "Abbacchio, what did you do?"

"It was all I could do." He didn't particularly like the way his voice went to a near whiny pitch. "I... I bit them. Pain helps me focus."

"Damn..." Fugo's voice was just loud enough to hear. He finished Leone's hand and motioned for Bruno to give him the other, his head never raising to look at Leone's face. Leone wondered if the kid had something against eye contact. Did it make him uncomfortable? Was it just a strange phobia?

He's scared of what you'll see.

His old intuition spoke to him, clearer than it had been in years, and Leone didn't doubt it for a second. He'd trusted that voice, a long time ago, and he felt it spoke true here. Fugo was hiding something, from his friends and from Bruno, and he was certain that if he looked into Leone's eyes for long enough then Leone would see it. But what could it be? And why was he so terrified of it coming out? Hazily, Leone got the feeling that he had seen something, back on their first meeting, when he'd caught brief glimpses of his violet eyes. It made him uneasy. He decided to let it go. He had his own problems to fix. When Fugo fixed his other hand up Leone said, "Fugo? Can I talk to Bruno alone for a bit?" The blond nodded once, tersely, and walked quickly out of the kitchen without ever looking up.

"What is it?" Bruno was still on one knee and it hurt Leone's heart so deeply that he stood and offered Bruno a wounded hand, anything to make him stand. He accepted the help.

Leone didn't want to let Bruno's hand go, but he did. "Noriaki said that he's got a meeting in two days."

Bruno's face lit up, his blue eyes wide and glowing, and it made everything worth it. "You called him."

"I promised you, didn't I?" Leone didn't know what this feeling in his chest was (he knew) but it softened the aching ferocity of his love into something bearable. Something okay. He felt okay with Bruno. He tried to smile and made it work. "I keep my promises, Bucciarati."

"I'm glad." Bruno looked down and motioned to Leone's hand. "Did... Did it work?"

"It did." He flexed his fingers in the tight bindings of the bandages. "I only drank one." But he couldn't keep doing it. He couldn't gnaw his hands off. He needed his hands. Eventually he'd have to just be able to do it. His hands started to shake a bit at the reminder of those five bottles in the fridge, of the brandy just beneath. Don't. He looked at Bruno, not quite sure what he was looking for. 

"You can't keep doing that, Leone..."

His first name. It sent a jolt through the hot pool of want in his body, that burned for alcohol, and Leone had no idea what that meant. Bruno used first names sometimes, it was fine, it only meant he was worried.

"I know." He shook them out and went to pluck his work clothes off the nearest counter that he'd dumped them on. "I'm going to get changed, all right? I just wanted to let you know that I did it. That I meant what I said."

"Yes, all right, of course. Thank you, Abbacchio. I'll be just outside."

Bruno left and Leone sighed, carefully pulling his shirt over his head and shrugging on the pale pink button up. He tied on his apron. Hold on for two days and you'll have someone else to help you. He brushed his shaking hands down his front trying to smooth out the wrinkles. Drink for two days, why not? You can just say you couldn't do it alone. He flinched, shivering from the force of the thought, the seductive burn of it. God, he could already feel the way it would light his blood on fire and wipe away all those memories and- Don't. Don't think about that. That will kill you. Go find Bruno.

Leone pushed open the kitchen's door as little as possible before slipping through, doing his best to close it silently. His eyes went immediately to Bruno (how could they not?) and he hesitated at the odd sight he'd arrived to. Was that going to be a pattern now? Walk out of the kitchen and get weirded out? The odd thing this time was, of course, part Giorno's fault. He was standing in front of Bruno, both hands on the older man's neck, holding their foreheads together and shifting gently from foot to foot like he and Bruno were dancing but had gotten too lost of each other to focus on the music. What the genuine hell were they doing? Giorno muttered something and Bruno reached a hand up to touch the blond's arm. "What the devil are you two doing?"

Giorno pulled away enough to glare at him, but Bruno just gave him a smile. "Apologies. I've just been a bit stressed out. Giorno's trying to help, that's all." Letting his arms drop, Giorno looked rather pointedly at Leone's bound hands before exiting the work area, going back to the table where his friends sat. Bruno watched him go with obvious affection. "Don't worry about him. He'll come around eventually, I'm sure, he's just worried about me. With you showing up on top of everything else that's been going on, he just..." Bruno shook his head. "You don't have to worry about this. It's personal things. Just don't hold this against him later, all right?"

Oh, how he wanted to run his hands through that soft-looking hair, to kiss the wrinkles that had begun to form between Bruno's brows, to hold him as Giorno had and hear everything Bruno needed to say. Perhaps it was selfish of him, to want everything of Bruno while being so reluctant to share anything of himself. Bruno turned away then and Leone blinked, wondering nervously just how long he'd been staring at his boss. "I-I'll work the register."

"Thank you, Abbacchio."

"Yes, sir..."


Leone almost tripped on the third trip he'd made past the building he lived in. He needed to go in. He needed to get changed, go to bed, be ready to go to work tomorrow morning, and yet... And yet. Five bottles of beer and one of brandy in the fridge and the smell of alcohol everywhere, his bed, his carpet, his clothes. Everything smelt of it (or vomit, depending). He could no longer stand it. He passed the building a forth time. He still did not know what to do. Fifth. Sixth. He had to go to bed, he was so tired, shaking even, and his head was hurting again. He needed to go to bed.

He stumbled into the building and half shuffled to his room, fumbling with the room key and jabbing at the well-scarred knob until he managed to get it into the keyhole. Holding his breath, he entered his home and didn't bother to lock the door behind himself. He wished he couldn't think quite so clearly. That he was tired enough to not think (there's another option). He wished he could just talk to Bruno, he'd make it easier. Nothing pushy or romantic, Leone didn't want to make Bruno uncomfortable, no, all he imagined was sitting up late with a phone in his hand and asking stupid questions like what his favorite color was, or if he liked pesto sauce, or maybe- Leone blinked back to cognizance just as his fingers closed around the neck of the bottle. Flinching back, slamming the mini fridge's door shut, he held his hands close to his chest, shaking. What the hell was that? Had he... Had he blanked out and auto-piloted himself to the beer? Really?

He was in his bedroom before he realized he had not released his grip when he flinched back and away. The bottle was still held tightly in his fist, just starting to frost over with condensation, small beads of water growing and rolling down the glass. How long had he been standing here? How had he not felt the bottle's weight? He half raised his arm, swallowing on reflex, unable to shift his eyes from that brown-glassed bottle. He raised it further (don't) and put it to his lips (do it, quick), opened his mouth and pressed his tongue against the cap (don't do it, don't). He took hold of it, his tongue now pressed so harshly to those raised edges of the cap that it would surely leave some kind of sore spot later (hurry go now do it), and with a harsh twist of his wrist and a jerk of his head the bottle hissed, the cap falling free in his mouth (yesyesyes) and almost choking him as a outpouring of foam followed immediately. Coughing, letting the painful explosion of wet air remove the bottle cap from his mouth, Leone sucked in a shaky breath and shoved the bottle in before he could talk himself out of it (yesyesyesyesyesyes), guzzling the beer till his lungs ached from lack of oxygen, till his throat burned from the alcohol, till the world spun and his head was tipped far back, a terrible mockery of a prayer.  

Panting, gasping, dropping the bottle to his bedroom floor, Leone put one hand to his throat, tears of pain pricking the corners of his eyes.

He shivered. He barely remembered to undress before dropping onto his bed and curling up, pushing his pillow off the bed because it still smelled like vomit and he just couldn't tonight.

He dreamed again. He was getting tired of dreaming. It was not the same dream. This time it was worse. This time it was Bruno.

Waking with a sobbed scream still spilling wetly from his throat, Leone didn't bother to stop his sobs as he staggered up and to the kitchen. Why? What did he do to deserve all of this? Where had it truly started? What sin had he committed so long ago that warranted so long a punishment? He threw the bottle at the wall when he was done but it didn't break. Just hit it with a thud and went to the ground. He put his hands over his face and screamed. It didn't help as much as he wanted it to.

Bruno. Just think of Bruno. He'll save you.

Leone managed to go to the shower instead of to the next bottle, his tears significantly less frequent, mostly because it was getting difficult to produce anymore tears and not at all because he was done hurting. He rested his head against the shower's wall even though it was disgusting and let his water-soaked hair weigh him down. He was starting to get sick of his hair. He hadn't cut it years, it was down to the small of his back, and he was sick of it. Just remembering in time to turn off the water, Leone left the shower without making too much of an effort to clean himself. He opened a drawer, then another (where was it?), then one more, finally finding what he sought. Third time's the charm after all. He grabbed the scissors and lifted them, grabbing a handful of his hair and cutting it off. It fell to the ground almost heavily, dragged by the water it still held, and Leone went on, attacking his hair with furious hatred, of himself, of the world, of Giorno, of alcohol, of life, of absolutely everything (save Bruno). He couldn't make himself cut it truly short. Just the thought sent violent bolts of memory through him and he went at his hair all the more wildly, eventually ending up surrounded by pathetic white strands, his hair shortened to just past his shoulders, all the parts he'd destroyed with neglect shorn free. 

He didn't think he looked much better. 

Pacing, occasionally attempting to wipe the water away, Leone spent his drying period thinking of anything other than The Incident or alcohol. It was very hard (or perhaps he was just weak).

He dressed the second he deemed himself dry enough, but his clothes still clung to him a bit from the dampness. He only put on lipstick. He needed to go, needed to work to pay for his rent (his booze), but he hesitated in the living room area, shuffling a half step in one direction then the other. After a few minutes of this (as well as telling himself that he didn't know what he was debating), Leone darted to the kitchen, ripped open the fridge and snatched the brandy bottle, turning it up and taking three long drinks before managing to wrench himself from it. He all but fled the apartment, heart pounding like he'd just had a brush with death himself.

God, he was going to kill himself, wasn't he?

Leone tried to shake that thought away. No. He was fine. Just fine. So what if he'd already had a breakdown this morning? It was okay. He would go see Bruno now, he would make it better, and tomorrow he'd go see Bruno's therapist friend and he would be fine.

Just fine.

He barely heard the bell as he pushed his way into the building, the warmth of alcohol in his stomach momentarily overridden by the frighteningly powerful surge of emotion he had at the sight of Bruno. And even with the beer and brandy in his stomach, Leone was more sober than he'd been in years, his body slowly but surely removing the poison from his blood. It allowed him to realize something he would rather not have realized. Bruno was starting to have an affect on his body, an affect he had not been able to cause on his own in quite a while. He was starting to realize that it was no longer just beer-want that simmered in his lower stomach. As the alcohol emptied, the fire was replaced by it's original tenant and Leone did not appreciate it. 

Bruno was starting to turn him on.

Dammit, dammit! Hell no, he could not be getting boners in these pants for his boss while he was at work. Terrible time to get going again, really, this definitely could have waited. 

Looking determinedly away from Bruno, doing his best to find anything else to look at, Leone had the immediate misfortune to find Giorno's eyes. Was this boy ever somewhere else? Ever? Would he literally die if he was away from Bruno for more than a day? Why the hell was he here again? Doesn't he have school? Doesn't he have anything resembling a personal life? And- Oh God no, he was looking down, dammit dick not now. Leone sped walked to the kitchen to change shirts, face burning. Had it always felt like this? Leone didn't like it. It was uncomfortable. He wanted better-cut pants, or maybe a skirt, because it was kind of hurting now. Giving a soft sigh of unhappiness, Leone changed, his mood improving slightly when he found that his apron covered him well enough that no one would be able to tell that he was, um, Ready To Go.

Dammit, body, why are you such a dumbass?

Hot and uncomfortable, he nonetheless went out to work. 

''You cut your hair." Bruno was looking at him, looking over him, blue eyes tracing the no-doubt ragged ends of Leone's hair. Self-conscious, Leone reached a hand up to tug at the ends. It had dried in the sun and the tips had curled upward slightly. He'd forgotten that his hair did that. 

Leone shifted when Bruno said nothing more. "I know it looks terrible, but I just got tired of it being that long and-"

"It looks fine, Leone." Bruno smiled at him and Leone thought his heart was going to stop. He thought it would make his Problem worse, but for some reason it eased it and his pants got a lot more comfortable. Sticking his tongue out slightly, nose scrunched up in an expression of soft teasing, Bruno continued with, "But maybe get a professional next time. I'm sure Narancia would love to help."

"Narancia knows how to cut hair?" What the devil?

Bruno laughed, deep and clear. "No, of course he doesn't. I'm teasing you, you big bear."

Leone was surprised that his heart had not simply given up. It felt too big for his chest and he found his hands were not shaking anymore. He could barely feel the heat of alcohol in his stomach. Bruno turned away then, back to focusing on work, and Leone let out a careful breath of tension. Part of him was absolutely overjoyed that Bruno was relaxed enough around him to joke, but another part ached with a slowly fatal agony because he knew that Bruno spoke to his kids that way too. He didn't like the thought of Bruno looking at him and seeing a sad child he had to parent. He wanted Bruno to rely on him, to talk to him about things, he wanted Bruno to come home to him, tired and angry, and he wanted to be the person Bruno screamed at until he felt better. He wanted to lay down at night and not be alone. He wanted to wake up too early and know he won't get back to sleep so he can get up and make Bruno breakfast because he does so much to take care of so many and he deserves to be taken care of too. 

Leone's chest ached. He wanted Bruno. He wanted a drink. 

Life's shitty like that sometimes.

He worked that day as best as he could, just focusing on what task he had to perform. But when no one was waiting to be served, when the dishes were clean, and when there was nothing, for the moment, to do, Leone couldn't help but think of Bruno and be thankful for his apron, or think of Noriaki and get very nervous about whether or not the Japanese man would like him. Or about the three beer bottles still sitting in his fridge. He didn't like thinking about that last one.

Eventually, more as a distraction than anything else, Leone found himself watching Bruno's kids. Mista was directly in Giorno's lap, cooing and making loving noises loud enough for Leone to just be able to hear. Sometimes, when Giorno didn't think anyone was watching, he softened. Leone wasn't quite sure what to make of the boy suddenly having emotions, but there was no mistaking the happy love on his face when he looked down at Mista, his arms looped lightly around Mista's waist. Next to them were Fugo and Narancia. Fugo was apparently trying to teach Narancia something. A book was laid out in front them and Narancia's round face was screwed up in confusion as he scribbled on a piece of paper,  Fugo watching with apparent distaste. 

Leone wasn't exactly sure what happened next, didn't know how Bruno knew to act, but within a second his (beautiful) boss had vaulted the counter, startling a customer, and took the distance to the kids' table in two strides just as Fugo let out a screech of wordless rage and raised the nearest weapon- a fork- over Narancia, bringing it down hard towards the other boy. Bruno just caught Fugo's wrist before the fork's tines could dig into Narancia's cheek. Narancia was chattering, speaking loud enough to be heard clearly but too fast to be well understood. Fugo's face had lost all color and he let Bruno pull the fork from his fist and then him to his feet, following Bruno with his head down to the kitchen. Leone watched the door even after it had fallen completely still. With the drop of Narancia's voice, the shop was completely silent. 

"Hey." Mista tapped Leone's arm, apparently having disentangled himself from Giorno and walked to behind the counter while Leone got lost in his own head. "You can go home now. I'll take over."

"Is that a decision you're allowed to make?"

Mista huffed. "Look man. You're pretty chill and I like you, but this? This has nothing to do with you. So just get out, okay? Go away. I'll explain it to Bruno, he'll get it." Mista put a hand to Leone's lower back and tried to push him. Leone flinched away from the contact.

"Fine." He relented only because he wanted Mista's hands off of him (beer at home). "I'm going." He did not quite flee the building, but he did not linger either, choosing to leave his other clothes here rather than walk in on whatever was going on with Fugo and Bruno. He couldn't bring himself to look at Narancia either. What if Bruno hadn't made it in time? He shook his head. He didn't want to think about that.

He was about halfway to his apartment when it hit him that there was several hours of daylight left before he could reasonably go to bed and he had nothing to distract him from the smell of beer and the bottles in his mini fridge. He stopped, uncertain. Did he just wander about? No, he needed to get his work clothes off... But... But what would he do once he was in the house? He had no distractions. Not even a television. He didn't think he'd ever be sober enough to need one. His stomach growled then. Food. He needed food. Bruno occasionally gave him something to eat, sure, but he hadn't had a proper meal in weeks, probably. He was suddenly very, very hungry.

Food then. Food first, then... Then what? He figured that he'd cross that bridge when he got there. He wasn't interested in anything fancy or even particularly tasty. He just wandered down the road till he found the closest convenience store and bought some cheap food- A pre-wrapped sandwich, some chips, a drink (a beer), too many small chocolate bars. He bought it with the few bills Bruno had given him from the tip box. His stomach was twisting itself in knots from the intense emptiness. How had he not noticed before? He tried to recall the last time he'd felt actually hungry as he left the small store to sit on a bench by the door, but nothing quite came to mind. He figured that was a bad sign. He figured it was also a bad sign that his stomach was now uncomfortably full and his hands were empty even though he only remembered taking one or two bites. What was wrong with his memory...? The beer he'd bought was on the bench beside him, just slightly less than half full, and he felt every part of him strain towards that bottle like it held its own gravitational force, dragging at his body until he relented. He took another drink of it. 

It was the shame that did it. The absolute self-loathing. And Bruno's face. Mostly Bruno's face. Regardless of the drive, Leone managed to gather enough will to turn his head away and dump what remained of the bottle's contents onto the ground. His mind was screaming at him the whole time, some wild part of his thoughts telling him to lick it off the sidewalk, and his hands shook uncontrollably, but he did it. He didn't finish the bottle. 

Letting out a shaky breath, Leone dropped the glass and kicked it away, refusing to look at where it rolled.

Now what? He didn't want to go home, it was absolutely disgusting there, he was realizing more and more. The whole place reeked and even though Drunk Leone had apparently gone on a wild cleaners run a little bit ago it was still full of piles and suspicious substances. He didn't like it. It turned his stomach just thinking about it.

Why not clean up then, smartass?

The voice in Leone's head was not his own, but he recognized it. God, he recognized it, and it twisted his heart. You're right, he conceded. Why not, indeed.

He stood, looking up at the clouds till he got to the small store's doors once more. He wandered the isles, grabbing random things he thought he'd need: Bleach, pine-sol, rags, glass cleaner, a bucket. He just managed enough money. Carrying his plastic bags of cleaning things, he finally started making his way home, praying to, perhaps, God Himself that this resolve would last until he could do what he so desperately needed to do if he was ever going to be better. When he actually walked through the door he almost lost all hope immediately. There was just so much. He half-forgot how bad it (he) truly was. 

You don't have to do it all at once.

Bruno. Bruno's voice purred in his head, all softness and gentle forgiveness. 

Just do a little, okay? You're okay. I love you.

Leone dropped what he held and rooted through the bags, gnawing open the pack of rags with his teeth and grabbing the glass cleaner.

You're so good, Leone, such a good man. You big bear.

He scrubbed at the nearest window, cutting a furrow in the layer of grime and dust.

I love you.

He managed to clean every window in the place before he couldn't make himself do more. He probably wouldn't have been able to do that much if his mind hadn't been so very good at making sentences with Bruno's deep voice. The problem with that, however, arose when he went to lay down for bed. His brain wouldn't shut off, kept pulling up images of Bruno, Bruno in every conceivable position to show off his pretty body, kept running through slow-mos of pulling that button up shirt off hard enough that buttons went flying. For the first time in a very long time he had to touch himself to have any hope of getting any sleep. It didn't help his stress too much. If anything, it made it worse. But, cheeks burning from a mix of embarrassment and exertion, he managed to fall asleep just as his heartbeat leveled out. 

He dreamed again. He missed being drunk, it kept the dreams away. He did not wake up screaming this time. But Bruno's accusing screams still sent tears down his cheeks. Sitting on the edge of his bed, trying very hard to steady himself, Leone pressed his shaking hands to his face and took a deep breath, forcing himself to breathe evenly until he stopped shaking and his exhales weren't shivering out of his lungs. He got himself up, went through his now-routine (shower, hair, clothes, makeup), and then half-heartedly picked up random pieces of trash, trying to ignore the dull ache of hunger in his stomach and the sharp ache of alcohol-want in his whole body. 

Eventually he found himself at the kitchen table, a bottle in front of him and dirty bandages finally unwound. His hands looked terrible, scabbed and bloody, no doubt they would scar. Gingerly, he tested a few places with his fingertips and then obeyed a strange instinct to press his tongue to the wounds. The memory of the pain was foggy, at best, but judging by appearances it had to have been intense. How had he gnawed away so much of himself? He wished he had something to replace the bandages with so he wouldn't have to look at them.

At first, he thought about just asking Fugo to rebind them, but then he remembered. He wasn't going to work today. He had a meeting with a therapist. 

Flexing his hands, relieved when the just-rebuilding skin didn't crack open and bleed, Leone threw back the last of his beer and threw the bottle in the trash (he was trying) before literally sprinting out of his apartment and the building itself. He took the first right he could to avoid crossing a road, running as far as his legs would allow to get away from his own home and the few bottles left in the fridge. It wasn't very far. As he came to a wheezing shuffle, he recalled with regret how powerful he used to be. How he'd been able to out-punch anyone on the force. How he'd been able to climb higher, lift more, run longer. He'd been more of everything. And now he could barely keep up a jog for more than five minutes. Pathetic.

When his breathing slowed he started to try and hail a cab, wandering slowly forward and raising his hands at any that drove by. By the time one stopped for him, he was seriously getting worried about being late. He slipped into the back seat with a muttered, "Thanks."

"Where are you headin'?" A man with tanned skin and long, platinum blond hair turned to look at him with near golden eyes. "Name's Tiziano."

"L-Leone." Buckling himself in, Leone hesitantly gave the name of the place- He'd managed to memorize it after staring at it in terror since he got out of the shower.

"Oh, you're one of Nori''s kids."

"Nori?"

"Noriaki."

Was he destined to be brought to shame in front of everyone he met? How many cab drivers could possibly know Kakyoin-Kujo well enough to recognize his meeting place's address? And of course he was the driver Leone got in with. Tiziano started the car and began to drive. "Ol' Nori'? He's a good dude. You'll like him. Whatever problem you've got, he's the best person to fix it."

Leone held his hands in his lap, knuckles down to hide the scabs. "Okay."

Thankfully, Tiziano didn't try to talk to him anymore and they made the drive in silence. But when they arrived, the man refused to take Leone's money. "You're trying to be okay, Leone. What kind of shithead would I have to be to take money from a guy like that? Don't worry about it. It's fine. I'll be back here to take you home when Nori''s time's up." He ignored Leone's protests on that too and just drove off, apparently to come back later. Sighing, putting his small amount of money back in his pocket, Leone marveled at the chances of that. The maybe one cab driver who knew Noriaki Kakyoin-Kujo had been the one to pick him up and now he still had money to feed himself and a drive back home. Maybe his punishment was over. Maybe the world was apologizing. 

The building he'd been taken to was, predictably, a church. The sign at the driveway colorfully declared it The Sunrise. What a stupid name for a church...

He climbed the front steps and knocked twice on the door before it was opened. Leone blinked then looked down at the small man in front of him. He wasn't really small (Leone was very large), he was about Bruno's size really, but there was something about his stance or perhaps his aura that made him seem smaller than he was. Bright red hair, short everywhere save for a single piece that hung down in his face, pale skin, and blue eyes. Why was it always blue...? The man smiled. "Abbacchio-kun."

"Noriaki?"

Noriaki's lips pressed together for a second, but he said, "Yes, that's me. Apologies, I am not used to your people's straightforwardness..."

"What?" Leone was genuinely confused. This little redhead was not what he'd been expecting at all.

"Honorifics," Noriaki explained. "You do not use them. It still startles me sometimes. Oh, but here I am, keeping you at the front door, come in, come in, come meet the others." His Italian seemed to be getting more relaxed as he spoke to Leone, but it was still oddly formal, though the Japanese man's accent was rather nice. Leone followed him willingly enough. No point in going back now. "You're the forth of the group if I am not counted." Leone snapped back to attention when Noriaki spoke over his shoulder. "The quietest one is named Johnny Joestar. Don't mention his legs. Then there's Hol Horse. He's quite scared of most things, so please try not to sit next to him right away. He'll be the blond with the cowboy hat. Then there's Jean-Pierre Polnareff. Polnareff-kun is... Well, you'll see."

They'd reached the end of the hallway and Noriaki pushed open a door to lead Leone into the main room. The first thing he took in was the grandness of it- The high ceilings, the chandeliers, the large, glorious stained glass windows, surely depicting scenes from the Bible, though for the life of him, Leone couldn't have named the stories. Then: The people. Three men sitting in as much of a half circle as three chairs would allow- No. Two chairs, Leone corrected himself. The third- Johnny, he presumed- was in a wheelchair. Johnny was glowering at him, dirty orange hair poking out of a white beanie. Next to him was Polnareff, an absolutely massive man with silver hair, just a shade or two off from Leone's own. He was all broad shoulders and huge arms. He had a flat stomach and even his legs were ripped, and when his painfully blue eyes (always blue, what the hell?) met Leone's, Leone was struck with an odd mix of arousal and fear. This man was dangerous. He was burning up from the inside out and he was absolutely begging for someone to submit to his flames so he would not go out alone. Leone shivered and not from cold.

Beside Polnareff was the third man, Hol Horse. He was extremely bland and pointless next to Polnareff, memorable only by his bug dumb hat.

"Hello, boys." Noriaki gently pushed Leone further into the room. "This is Leone Abbacchio. He'll be joining us today."

"You staying?"

Polnareff's voice was rippled through with soft French accent and it did absolutely nothing to lessen Leone's instinctual attraction. Leone managed to nod. The Frenchman grunted and looked away. Leone found it was much easier to breathe then. Noriaki was dragging him another chair, next to Johnny, and Leone reluctantly obeyed the motion for him to sit.

"Okay... So, would anyone of you like to say anything to Abbacchio-kun before-"

Noriaki's gentle voice was interrupted by Johnny, barely speaking loud enough to hear. "Before Pol Pol talks our ears off? No thanks."

"Don't pretend you don't love my voice, Jonathan." Polnareff seemed very unbothered by Johnny.

Leone sat still with discomfort. He did not like this. These men already knew each other, he did not like butting in. But he'd promised Bruno he would.

"Yes, very well, if that's what you'd like." Noriaki cut off any further chatter and the men went silent. "Abbacchio-kun-" Oh God, he did not want to be thrown on the spot like this, "-why did you decide to come here?"

"I-I promised someone I would."

"La~me!' Polnareff punctuated his word with a yawn. "Lemme guess, this someone just so happens to also be a hot piece of ass that you want to stick your di-"

"Jean-Pierre Polnareff!" Noriaki barely raised his voice but Polnareff immediately went silent and Leone heard Hol Horse squeak. "You will not speak that way in front of me."

A moment of silence. Then Polnareff scoffed. "Fine, fine, I'm sorry. Happy?" He shifted and fidgeted, just about ready to explode. "Can I just go first already?"

Noriaki sat back in his chair, in front of the slightly more accurate half-circle (Leone's presence helped), one leg thrown over the other. "Are you sure you want to tell it again? It doesn't seem to be helping you much as it is."

"Sorry I'm not getting well quick enough for you, Doc. So is that a yes?"

Noriaki sighed. "Very well. I suppose you should, seeing as you plan on talking over anyone else who tries."

"You know me so well." The words were spoken with something oddly close to affection, but the underlying anger in every word out of his mouth burned away any of the softness that may have imparted otherwise. "Buckle up, Leone, it's time for a fucking ride."

And then Polnareff opened his mouth and poured forth the most horrific tale Leone had ever been forced to hear. 

Chapter Text

I was twenty when it happened. This was about four years ago now. Anyway, she was fifteen, just fifteen... Barely more than a little girl. I raised her, you know. After our parents died she was practically my daughter. It was two men who did it, just two worthless bastards that didn't deserve to have lived that long.

Jean walked hand in hand with his little sister, paying careful attention to whatever pieces of her day she decided to tell him so when she questioned him later he could prove he'd been listening. It had become a bit of a game to them over the years. Sherry would scramble up what happened during her day into random bits of story and try to catch him off guard with some bit of information so she could catch him on it later and guilt him into buying her ice cream. The end result of this, however, was just that Jean had a very good memory. But sometimes he'd pretend to forget and Sherry would pretend she didn't know he was pretending and they'd go out for ice cream anyway. 

I don't know how I didn't hear them, or see them, or something. I just... I don't know.

The blow to the back of Jean's head knocked him to the ground and blacked his vision. He could feel hands on him, could hear Sherry's muffled squeals of pained fear, but he couldn't do anything. His big body was absolutely useless, his mind working far too slowly for it to be of any use. When he finally found the strength to raise his eyelids he and Sherry both had been dragged into an alleyway. The ground beneath him was dirty and cold and a stone was digging into his ribs. The walls of the nearby buildings blocked out the light so at first he couldn't quite figure out what he was looking at. When his mind cleared a bit more and his eyes adjusted to the gloom his heart nearly stopped. There was Sherry- his little baby Sherry- pinned to the ground, some burly man tearing at her clothes. Jean tried to move but someone dropped on him, a second man, and with the man's full weight on his back, bony knees forced painfully against his spine, it was all Jean could do to breathe. "She...rry..." Her name wheezed out of his lungs, panic setting in, and he tried to wriggle but the man atop him boxed him hard in the ears and his vision went black at the edges again.

Sherry was screaming now- why wasn't anyone coming?- and Jean dreaded the slow clearing of his vision, didn't want the blackness to fade, but he couldn't stop the inevitable showcasing of his Sherry being tortured. She was trying to fight back, bless her God, she was trying to fight, thrashing and clawing and biting, doing everything she could to get free, but she was just too tiny, too weak, she couldn't get the man off of her and he barely flinched at what few blows she could land.

Jean wanted to look away when her shirt was pulled free with the sound of tearing fabric but he couldn't manage to move his head. The man went after her pants and Jean screamed with Sherry, brother and sister howling in rage and terror, but still no one tried to help. No one came. And there was nothing either could do. He wanted so badly to look away, but it almost felt like if he refused to bear witness to what his precious Sherry was living through then he would be abandoning her, in a way. He tried to escape again, bucking and kicking, but again he was boxed hard in the side of the head. He wondered briefly if his eardrum would survive another blow.

"Jean!"

She was screaming for him now, begging for her big brother to save her.

"Jean! Jean, please, Jean!"

I couldn't do anything, I just... I laid there and screamed, but I couldn't...

She never stopped fighting. Never once stopped writhing even when Jean could see that the rough ground was scratching the blood from her back, never stopped screaming for him even when her voice was all but gone. And he screamed for her, screamed every obscenity he knew at the men, promised on his life that he would tear their lives from their throats with his teeth, but it didn't matter. 

When the first was through he and the one on Jean's back swapped places. He was choking on his tears and his tongue, unable to do much more than spit and curse, long since bled dry of tears. Sherry, his beautiful little girl, she couldn't cry anymore either. Couldn't scream. But still, in her sweet, broken voice she would say pleadingly, "Jean," and he knew she didn't mean to hurt him but with every whimper of his name he felt his very soul break apart, like everything he was was being flayed open by the very tool the Romans once used to tear away the back of the Son of God. "Sherry..."

She was bleeding, probably had been for a while judging by the sheer amount on and beneath her. Jean didn't know how much blood a person could lose before it was too much. "Please, please, stop, don't, not her, not my Sherry, stop, please." He was begging now, a babble of near-nonsensacle pleadings, but all he got for his efforts was a hand on the back of his head pushing his face harder into the dirt. "Kill me."

They laughed at that.

I couldn't even think to hate, then. I was just... Numb. All over. Like it was just a dream and my brain didn't know what emotions to fake. Nothing seemed real. It was all fuzzy around the edges. 

When the second man got off of her, she wasn't even saying Jean's name anymore. Her face was towards Jean, but any look of begging or fear had fallen away a while ago. She looked like she was dead.

"SHERRY-"

I don't know what they hit me with, but it knocked me out good. Probably thought they'd killed me. Probably would have if I'd been anyone but me, but I've always had a thick skull... It runs in the family...

When Jean could raise his head again his face was covered in his own blood. Groaning, he raised one hand to gingerly test the site of the wound, poking carefully around the place where he'd been struck. It didn't seem to be bleeding any more... His eyes flew open when he remembered and he tried to sit up but his head swam and the whole world swung out from under him and he found himself laid flat on his stomach again. Sherry. He dragged himself forward, trying desperately to see past the pain and the blood and his own silver hair. Where was Sherry?

He reached her shortly. She hadn't been far away. It took everything in him to sit slowly up, shaking from the effort. He tried to say her name, but his mouth wouldn't open right and his tongue didn't seem to want to function. She didn't move and he carefully cradled her in his big (useless) arms. Her shirt wasn't far away. He could reach it. Carefully, he pulled it over her, covering her back up.

"Jean...?"

He nodded, scorchingly hot tears pooling in his eyes. Sherry's eyes were open and she was looking at him clearly. He had a very terrible feeling in his stomach. She reached up one bloody, trembling hand to lay it on his cheek and whispered, "I love you. So much."

"Sherry..." He regained his ability to speak just as the tears came, holding her closer. "Love you too. I love you. You'll be fine, just... Hold on, hold on Sherry." He tried to stand. Fell. Tried again. Fell again. His knees were screaming in pain, but he tried again anyway. Third time's the charm. His strength was coming back, it seemed, but he still couldn't walk fast with Sherry limp in his arms. It took far too long to get out of the alley. It was late evening already, with very few people about, and as Jean stumbled down the sidewalk he wondered why there had been no one when Sherry needed them.

That was about when it occurred to me to hate them. Everyone. All of France was guilty for the defiling of my sister, my daughter, the love of my life, they were all guilty. Every fucking one of them.

"A-Are you alright?"

Jean turned, wobbling a bit. It was a teenager that had asked, the poor boy looking ready to collapse from fear. Jean wondered faintly what he looked like, covered in blood and holding an unconscious and bloodier girl with no pants. He shook his head and went back to shuffling forward. A hospital. He had to get Sherry to a hospital. She would be fine. She would be fine. She would be fine. 

She had to be.

She died in my arms without me realizing it. Just... Just like that. You wanna know what the real kicker was? I heard the doctors say that they probably could have saved her if she'd gotten there sooner. I was weak. I was too damn weak and I couldn't save her. She's dead because I couldn't move my damn legs and because every person that saw me carrying her, that heard us screaming, every one of them just... Kept going. Ignored it and went on with themselves. I left France because of that. Because I knew if I stayed I'd end up killing someone and I knew Sherry wouldn't have wanted that... So now I'm here, neck deep in bottles and so full of booze I can barely think most times... Maybe I should have just killed the bastards and dealt with prison. Couldn't be much worse than this.

Chapter Text

Leone sat with his hands in his lap, trying very hard to not look at Polnareff. He had not wanted a drink this bad in a while and that was really saying something. 

"Oh, boo hoo."

Eyes wide, Leone's head snapped around to stare at Johnny. The crippled man's face was unsympathetic. "We get it, Pol Pol, you're an absolute failure and you hate yourself. Now could you stop talking for once in your life?"

Polnareff was leaned forward, his massive arms braced on his knees. He didn't turn to look at Johnny, didn't even acknowledge that the man had spoken. Quieter than before, he said, "I can still hear her screaming at night. Every night. I wake up and I can hear her."

"I know." Leone spoke without thinking and regretted it almost immediately. Polnareff was looking at him now, those impossibly pale blue eyes on his face. Their fire seemed spent. He was empty now, cold and tired and done, and Leone had never felt so intensely alike to another human being. "I hear screaming too," he continued uncertainly. "Every night. And it- it's like-" God, why was it so very hard to say something if he'd never said it before? He stuttered for a few more seconds, feeling overheated and foolish, but no one tried to interrupt him. No one tried to finish his broken sentence for him. Polnareff never looked away. Eventually, he managed, "It's like he's accusing me of killing him even though I never would have hurt him and he never screamed like that when it happened, he didn't blame me for anything, he... Why does he scream like that when I sleep?" He couldn't look at those blue eyes anymore, blue eyes were going to be his undoing. He looked to Noriaki instead, begging for an answer.

The redhead looked extraordinarily kind. "Abbacchio-kun... Do you think it's because you blame yourself that your subconscious is making it accusatory?"

There was a sudden pressure on Leone's hand and he looked down, taking a few seconds to realize that Polnareff had leaned over Johnny and grabbed his hand. Before he could think to react the Frenchman pulled away. 

"Of course I blame myself," Leone muttered sourly. "It was my fault."

"Why?"

Leone shook his head, just managing to swallow past the lump of words in his throat. "I do not believe that is any of your business."

Hol Horse snorted, clapping his hand over the lower half of his face and leaning forward to give Leone a glance. Noriaki gave him a look of gentle scolding (how did he manage that, exactly?)  before turning those gentle eyes back to him and Leone shuffled in his seat after a moment of awkward silence. "Okay." Noriaki didn't push him and Leone wasn't sure why he was so desperately disappointed. "Just tell whatever you're ready to tell. Hol Horse-kun? Do you have anything to say today?"

"Oh, um..." Leone heard Hol Horse shift. "No. Just that I'm still a drunken bastard."

"Why?" Noriaki's stance relaxed, one leg pulling up into his chair, his chin on his knee. He looked like he was asking a genuine, unprompted question, like one you'd ask a friend during a sleepover at three a.m. Leone had a sudden and intense urge to spill his life story to this man, but he kept a hold on that, turning to look at Hol Horse over Polnareff's still-bowed form.

Hol Horse was silent for a second and then he shrugged. "I'm a coward with no family. Guess I started hating myself somewhere along the way and took up the practice."

"That isn't it," Noriaki said softly, suddenly seeming more like a mother chiding her child. "But we'll take it for now, alright?" Hol Horse nodded and looked away. "Johnny-kun? Anything from you?"

Johnny didn't move or speak, just looked down at his hands. Leone looked around himself as the seconds passed, becoming more and more uncomfortable in the heavy silence, but he was extremely reluctant to be the one that broke that silence. Johnny's hand curled into a fist, gripping star-pattered pajama pants so tightly that his knuckles turned white. And still, he was silent. All of them were. Even Polnareff's shattered breathing had evened out, his dangerous rage reignited. Then, so, so quietly, Johnny murmured, "I did it again."

Noriaki sighed, apparently knowing what Johnny meant. Leone was just confused, but there was no way he was going to ask. "Well... Do you want to talk about them?"

Leone saw Johnny shiver and it passed along to him, the ripple starting at his tail bone and sending shocks through his scalp (probably the same kind he'd get if Bruno pulled his hair. No. Stop. Don't think of that now). "Well..." Johnny licked his lips, both hands now working the fabric of his pants. "He was blond-"

"No shit," Hol Horse sneered.

"-And was a whole lot less annoying than Pony over there." Johnny barely missed a beat, neatly sliding into the roasting of Hol Horse and Leone was once again struck by how much of an outsider he truly was. Johnny continued, one hand going up to tug nervously at the red-orange hair that poked free of his beanie. "He was nice. And big, very big. God, he had good arms..." Johnny flinched, crossed himself, and continued. "I know, I shouldn't do this, shouldn't feel like this for... But he was so sweet." Johnny's right leg jerked suddenly and he hissed in pain through his teeth. "Damn..."

"His name?"

Johnny finally looked up at Noriaki when the redhead spoke. Blinking, Johnny seemed at a loss for words. "What?"

"Do you remember his name?"

"I-... His name? It was... It... Um..." Johnny pushed his hand into his hat, his fingers visible through the fabric as he grabbed a handful of his own hair. "I... I don't know, I..." 

"Okay, okay, that's okay, Johnny-chan." Noriaki stood and went to gently lay his hand over Johnny's, their skin separated by the beanie. "Do you think you can hold off this week? Not do it again? Just this week."

Johnny sniffed and Leone looked away sharply, suddenly feeling like a bit of a pervert for watching something so heart-wrenchingly intimate. The paraplegic coughed out something like a laugh. "I just wanna feel again."

Leone heard both men move and glanced over once to find Noriaki hugging Johnny fiercely, so tight that he must surely be hurting the other, but Johnny didn't seem to mind much, if at all. His arms were weakly around Noriaki and his whole body shook. Leone looked away again.

After some amount of time (had Leone blanked out again? Who knows) Noriaki was back in his chair. "Abbacchio-kun? Is there anything you'd like to say? Anything at all?" What a stupid question. Leone had a million things he wanted to say, wanted to scream, how was he supposed to grab one thing and force it out of his throat in anything like a reasonable amount of time? Noriaki continued softly, "Maybe why you started drinking-" Leone flinched, "-Or maybe why you've decided to stop?"

"Bruno." 

"Who?"

Leone felt his face go hot. He stared at his hands. He didn't want to see any of them staring at him. "Never mind. Leave me alone please."

"Is he hot?" Polnareff tipped his head just enough to look at Leone.

"Is he blond?" Johnny seemed a bit too interested in the answer to that question.

"I do not know how to contribute to this discussion." Hol Horse popped him a thumbs up and a wink.

Leone really wanted to go home.

"All of you, hush, leave him alone!" Noriaki gave them all a harsh look and their voices faded down, much to Leone's relief.

They didn't talk to him much after that, just gave him his space as he'd asked. Hol Horse kept trying to get Johnny to respond to him, Johnny kept ignoring everyone, and Polnareff would occasionally say something absolutely horrific about his sister's murder. It was terrible. But Leone couldn't make himself regret coming. Just knowing that there was at least one person in Italy who knew exactly what it felt like to wake up every morning with the screams of the person you'd loved more than anything echoing in your head felt... Amazing. Absolutely amazing in the worst way possible.

When it was time to go, Leone waited for the others to leave before standing, watching Hol Horse push Johnny's wheelchair until the door swung shut. Noriaki stood next to him, apparently waiting for whatever Leone wanted to say. "Um..." He shifted a bit. "Do I... Do I owe you something?"

Noriaki laughed, but it wasn't in any way mocking. "No, Of course not, Abbacchio-kun, none of you have to pay me. I make more than enough, trust me."

"What do you do?"

"I'm a painter. Flowers, landscapes, my husband, those sorts of things. Someone thought I was good and now I get paid for it." He shrugged. "And what do you do for a living?"

"I work in a bakery." Leone walked next to Noriaki, to and out the door that led to the initial long hallway. 

"Bruno's, I assume?"

"Y-Yes, he... He's given me everything."

"No, Abbacchio-kun, not quite." Noriaki smiled at him as they neared the front door. "He just gave you a key. You're the one who opened the door." On perfect cue, the redhead swung the church's door open and Leone narrowed his eyes against the natural light, blinking as he headed down the front steps.

"Is... Is that a horse?"

And indeed it was. Hol Horse was hoisting Johnny up onto it, gently easing the paraplegic's limp legs up onto parts of the saddle that stuck out and up, apparently for the sole purpose of cradling Johnny's legs so the didn't hang down. The horse was massive, bigger than even Abbacchio, a true war horse if ever he saw one. Her pelt was a pale grey, dappled with darker spots, and as Hol Horse finished assisting Johnny she shook out a mane the same color as her pelt with a soft whuff. Johnny leaned forward to pat the big horse on the cheek, barely paying Hol Horse any heed at all despite the man's clear attempts to be helpful. He was even folding and lifting up Johnny's wheelchair, lashing it to the saddle and getting nothing but a whap to the face by the mare's tail for his efforts. 

"Yes, her name is Slow Dancer. She's how Johnny-kun gets around." Noriaki stepped past Leone, giving him another smile. "I'll see you next week, I hope? It really was wonderful to meet you."

"Um, yeah, I'll, um, I'll try to, uh." Leone didn't bother to finish that particular train wreck of sentence, choosing instead to shut his mouth and give the horse another glance. Polnareff was nowhere in sight. 

Standing for another moment, just watching the other men disperse, Leone wondered briefly how small the chance was of everything in all their lives happening in the perfect order for them to meet. A washed-out ex-cop. A gay Japanese painter. A horse-riding paraplegic. A very angry Frenchman. Whatever the hell Hol Horse was. It couldn't be a great chance and yet, here they were. He watched as Johnny urged Slow Dancer into a trot, a flicker of amusement lighting in Leone's chest when Hol Horse started to jog behind. Noriaki had gone to a black car (a Chevy Impala, by the looks of it, but Leone would not have been surprised if he was wrong) and another man had rushed out to meet him halfway, carrying Noriaki off his feet in a hug. Was that Jojo? Probably so, judging by the way they were currently attached at the lips. He watched them get in the car and drive off. There was another car in the parking lot- was Polnareff still here after all?. But then Leone remembered. Tiziano. The cab man. He'd promised to come back.

Leone made his way to the car, crouching to look in the window as it began to roll down. Tiziano grinned at him, his oddly gold eyes shining. "Told you I'd come back. Where to, Boss?"

Leone got in the back of the car. He supposed he must have told Tiziano his address because the man was driving. He was saying something (Leone didn't know how long the driver had been talking) and when Leone clued back in Tiziano said, "Do you wanna see a picture?"

"Um, yeah. Yeah sure."

One tanned hand came into view, a photo held between his fingers. Leone took it. A paler man than Tiziano with orange hair pulled back in a messy ponytail smiled tiredly but with clear joy, a solemn looking child with purple hair on his hip. "Little one's name is Melba. We got him about a month ago and wow. He's work, sure, but I mean... He's perfect, ya know? And Squalo, bless his heart, he's so good at figuring out what the little raspberry wants... He's everything. Oh, we're almost here." Tiziano reached back again and Leone returned the photo. "Sorry about talking your ears off. I just can't help it sometimes. I love them both so much and I still can't quite figure out how I managed to get so lucky. Anyway, good luck man. See ya next week."

Leone got out of the car with the distinct feeling that he had just entirely blocked out a very important thing. He watched the car drive away, staring after it for quite a while after the dust had settled. His hands twitched. He wanted a drink. Any relief from talking to Polnareff had long since fled and now Leone just wanted a drink again. Just... Just one. To stop the shaking. He walked into his apartment, coughing at the stale scent that was starting to get stronger the longer he kept away from it. Doing his best to hold his breath, trying to deny the shift of want in his lower stomach, Leone managed to wrestle a window open and stuck his head out, taking a lungful of clean air before drawing back into his home. It was still a mess. There was no telling how much he'd trashed and still is was a mess. He wondered if he should just give up. There were three bottles and brandy in the fridge. 

He went to the kitchen and grabbed a bucket and pine-sol. Maybe he could get that smell out of the walls if he scrubbed hard enough. 


"Aww, poor Hol Horse."

"I know. Poor thing's doing his best but old Johnny boy doesn't want anything to do with him."

Abbacchio shifted, moving the phone from one shoulder to the other, pressing it against his head to keep it to his ear as he scrubbed hard at his living room walls. On the other side of the phone Bruno hummed. "Did he really have a horse?"

"Yup. Big one too."

"Oh, did you like Nori'? We're old friends you know. He's such a sweetheart. Oh! And did you meet Jotaro?"

"Jotaro?"

"Mmhmm. His husband. The Kujo of the Kakyoin-Kujos."

"Maybe? I mean, Noriaki was definitely making out with someone in the church's parking lot."

"How rude to make the poor Virgin Mary witness such."

"Wasn't it? Anyway, I didn't actually talk to him. He was otherwise preoccupied."

"Mm~ I'll bet. Those two are so sweet on each other, even if Jotaro seems a little cold to strangers. I hope I find someone soft on me like big Jojo is with Nori'. What about you, Abbacchio? Ever think about getting married?"

Leone almost dropped the phone and the rag in his hands as well. He took a minute to respond. "I-I haven't really thought about it recently... But yeah. It would be nice, I guess. If he was the right person, that is."

"He?"

Leone froze. No. Nooooo nonononononono. Oh God. "I-I just, ah, messed up, I meant, um-"

"It's alright, Leone! Calm down. Why are you scared all of a sudden?"

Bruno sounded so worried. Leone couldn't seem to get his tongue to move.

Bruno kept talking and it had the strange effect of soothing his nerves and ruffling them intermittently. "I mean, I already kind of thought... And anyway, you've seen Giorno and Guido together. I really don't mind, I mean... Men are very attractive, aren't they?" His sweet voice had dropped a bit, but there was a warm amusement in it and Leone shuddered.

"Y-Yes, they are." Leone's face was burning, he could feel it going even to the tips of his ears and across his throat. If Bruno was here, he would no doubt be able to read the truth in that red face. Or Giorno would... He cleared his throat. "Can we please talk about something else? Anything?"

"Of course. Did you know Narancia can fit twelve marshmallows in his mouth? Ah, no, make it thirteen." Bruno's voice came muffled then, clearly his face was turned from the phone. "You're doing amazing, sweetie!" There was a shriek in the background that was surely Narancia and Bruno returned to the phone. "Fourteen, then. He's got big cheeks, apparently."

"D-Does he?" Still rattled from his coming out to Bruno, from Bruno not caring, from Bruno agreeing, Leone could barely think enough to respond. 

"Mmhmm. Oh, have you-" There was a very loud crash and a high pitched shrieking followed immediately by a war bellow and Bruno sighed. "Aaaand, that's my cue to leave. Sorry to go so soon, Abbacchio, but I think the children may be tearing each other apart."

"It's fine! Fine. Go take care of things. And... Th-Thank you. For picking up."

"I'll always be here if you need me, Leone." Leone shut his eyes and shivered. "Arrivederci."

"A-Arrivederci." There was a click and the line was dead. He shuddered out a breath, leaning forward till his forehead touched the wall. He felt oddly hollow. Barely any emotion seemed to be left to respond to Bruno now knowing for a fact that he was gay, just a soft kind of fluttery anxiety ruffling against his guts. He wasn't sure if it was better or worse than the usual. He looked at his hands, bleeding again from his knuckles after the hot water freed the scabs and pine-sol got into the wounds. It stung. He couldn't make himself care. He was so tired... He tried to stand but his legs gave out and he just knelt there for a second longer. He tried again and made it. Dropping the rag into the bucket he decided to deal with it later. He'd done fairly well. A lot of the living room was looking far less grimy. It was now possible to tell, in most spots, that the paint on the walls was blue. It smelled like pine-sol in here too, which was a definite improvement.

He shuffled into the kitchen (take one) and sat down for a moment. He yawned. Looking towards the mini fridge (do it) Leone wondered about the few bottles left inside. It... It wasn't enough. He'd be out soon, he needed another pack. What if he ran out when the stores were closed or something? He might get sick again. He needed to go get more. Just in case. Just in case...

He kept thinking about the Before. Kept thinking about drinking. Kept thinking about Jean-Pierre and his little sister Sherry. About a sad man following after a cripple who wanted nothing to do with him. And, oddly, he kept thinking about Fugo. That lanky blond brat of Bruno's. What was it about him...? What was Leone missing? It nagged at him, a slightly louder voice amongst the chaos his tired mind had no strength to fight against. He wasn't even entirely sure when he left his home, but his next foggy memory was of passing over a handful of cash for a case full of beer. He had scattered memories of walking. He wasn't entirely sure when it started raining, either, but he was dripping as he walked down the hall to his apartment so it had to have begun when he was still outside. 

He stumbled into his home with a soft keening noise, his arm aching from the weight of the bottles. He was so tired... He went into the kitchen, got on his knees in front of the mini fridge (crouching was too much work), and shoved his new pack of beers in. He knelt there for a bit, eyeing the older bottles. Surely one more wouldn't hurt...? Surely not. Just one. To help him sleep. For sleep.

When he'd finished the third he placed the bottle carefully on top of the others so they made a kind of pyramid. He knocked them over then groaned in pain as the sound assaulted his ears. He felt sick. He was so tired. He fumbled in the fridge, grabbed the bottle Bruno had given him and tipped it up, draining the last of it. He felt worse. What was wrong with him? Did even this not work anymore? He just wanted to forget is all, just stop thinking about Polnareff and Sherry, or Fugo and his haunted violet eyes. 

You don't want it anymore. Now it doesn't want you. Two way street, buddy.

He groaned at the voice, trying to bat it away, but of course it didn't work. Running his dry tongue over his equally-dry lips, Leone dragged himself up and his stomach immediately heaved. He dry heaved a few times before it settled down. Apparently it wasn't entirely willing to let go of the alcohol in his stomach, it just wanted to make him feel like shit. He moved along the kitchen and into the living room, using walls and furniture to keep himself from collapsing. He looked towards his bedroom, but he knew with certainty that he would find no sleep there. Where? Where? Where go...?

He shuffled/stumbled towards the door and managed to get himself out, managed to lock it behind him, though he'd just barely remembered that one. He went to the building's front door and looked with narrowed eyes at the rain that poured down in sheets outside. He couldn't remember the last time it had rained quite so hard. Night had fallen sometime, though he had no idea how late it truly was. Late enough for the moon to be risen apparently, as the road and sidewalk and grass shimmered white from the light of the moon that managed to push through the no-doubt heavy clouds (how full was it tonight?). It was fairly easy to see. The walk wouldn't be hard to make at all.

I'll always be here if you need me, Leone.

Bruno... Bruno would help. He always helped. He'd make the pain go away, right? He'd make this feel better. Leone knew he would. Bruno always made him feel better. When he stood beside that beautiful man he felt as though he was allowed to be happy. When he got Bruno to laugh it was like God Himself had descended from heaven and declared Leone forgiven. When Bruno looked at him with those perfect, wonderfully blue eyes with all that soft affection Leone knew with certainty that death had never really been what he'd wanted. He'd dug a hole for himself, yes, but with Bruno waiting at the top Leone was more that ready to drag himself back out. 

He almost slipped twice on the rain-slicked sidewalks and he was splashed by a car running through a massive puddle at least once. He was shivering, chilled to the bone, but he didn't slow in his walk forward, unsteady though it was. He had to get to Bruno. Had to... It was only when the pink building was just in sight did Leone remember that he wasn't allowed in when he was drunk. And he was, without question, drunk off his ass. He shuffled, uncertain. He had to see Bruno. But if he couldn't go in the building... No... It wasn't the building he was banned from, it was the shop. The shop was on the first floor. If Leone could just get to the second... He shuffled closer to the buildings, slipping into the alley next to Bruno's and looking up at the walls. It was almost sheltered from the rain here and he didn't have to squint too much as he searched, the light pouring from both buildings' windows providing enough light for him to see the pink walls of his target. None of the windows were open, of course, it was raining after all, but if he could just figure out which one he could reach...

He turned in a circle, head pounding, limbs sore. Maybe... If he got a running start... He looked between both walls. The alley was narrow, not even enough space for each building to have it's own garbage bin. If he got a running start...

He pressed his back to Bruno's building and, with the little space he had, took two running steps and leapt. The other wall was brick and it scraped against his body as he collided with it, no doubt drawing blood on his palms as he clawed at the brickwork, just managing to get his leg to the top of the first floor window. He remembered doing something like this once, long, long ago, and even though the memory was blurry he knew he couldn't slow down. He'd barely found a foothold before he threw himself across the alley again, landing just in range of Bruno's second floor window. He huffed, arms shaking from his weight. He got his feet against the wall, pushed himself up, got one arm on the window frame and placed his hand against the glass, pushing in and up as hard as he dared. Rain slicked as it was, the window resisted being opened in this manner and every second that passed was a second closer to Leone losing his grip and falling back down to the ground below. It wasn't a terrible fall, but he didn't know if his legs would have the strength to get him up here a second time...

The window pushed up, just slightly, and Leone shoved his hand in the gap, forcing the window up and out of the way so he could drag his cold, shaking body through the opening and onto the floor of... Bruno's kitchen? He wasn't entirely sure he was right but he was also too tired to care. For a second he let his eyes fall shut. He was shivering. He was so cold. It smelled like Bruno in here.

It was a far wetter heaving than before that roused him to stand. There was no way in hell he was going to throw up on Bruno's floor. One arm around his stomach, one hand on his mouth, Leone looked around and went through the closest door, finding himself in the living room he'd talked to Bruno in. He... He knew this place. This way, he needed to go this way, there was a bathroom over here... He barely made it to the toilet before throwing up what felt like raw acid. Whimpering, rubbing his throat, Leone glanced at himself in the mirror as he staggered back out. He was soaking wet. He looked at the floor. He was making such a mess. His clothes and hair had dripped all over the place, leaving a clear trail of his passage. Unhappy, he did his best to wring his hair out in the sink, twisting it till rainwater no longer poured from the strands in mini waterfalls. But his clothes... What did he do about them? He had no way to dry them off. He stepped out of the bathroom and took a few steps, but the clothes kept shedding water and they were starting to rub him a little raw.

Grumbling, kicking off his shoes first, Leone started to wriggle out of his clothes as he staggered back towards the kitchen, leaving another kind of trail behind him. The air on his bare skin was so very cold and he found himself shivering harder. 

Opening the refrigerator did not help his warmth situation but he was hungry. Would... Would Bruno mind? He hoped not. He couldn't quite remember what he'd eaten after he'd eaten it, but he wasn't too concerned about the lapse in memory. He wandered around a bit more, eventually finding himself seated on the edge of a king sized bed. Or queen sized...? Leone wasn't too sure about the difference between them. He gently ran a hand over the pillows set up, the blankets laid unrumpled aside from his own weight. They felt very nice. They'd probably be warm. He really wanted to be warm right now. 

He'd just picked up one of the pillows when a soft voice called out. "Hello?"

Leone raised his head and tried to remember where he was.

"Who's here?"

Bruno? Was that... Bruno? 

The door to the bedroom creaked open and Bruno (yay) poked his head in. He was holding something but Leone couldn't tell what it was in the half light. Blue eyes, bright even in this darkness locked onto him. "What the- Leone?"

"Hi." That didn't seem quite right so he tried again. "Hi."

"Leone, what are you... Why did you take off your clothes?" Bruno walked further in the room, still holding the whatever-it-was.

"They were dripping on the floor. And cold... I'm cold, Bruno."

"Leone, how drunk are you?"

"Mm?" Leone tried to think but he couldn't quite find the answer. Perhaps that was answer enough. "Enough," he mumbled, hugging Bruno's pillow to his chest.

Bruno sighed and set the thing (gungungungun) on the nightstand, reaching out to put a hand to Leone's forehead. "What are you doing here?"

"I-I, I just..." His eyes pricked and he sniffled. "I drank too much. I didn't mean too. I was just so tired. And it hurt? Hurt. A lot. I didn't like it. I though you'd help." Tears starting to fall, he leaned forward against Bruno's palm, warm against his cold skin. "You do. Help, I mean. You help. I'm sorry I got water on the floor."

"It... It's fine, Leone." Bruno had a weird tone to his voice (was he mad?) but Leone couldn't figure out what it was for the life of him. "How did you get in here? You didn't come through the store..."

"No, of course not, of course not, you said never to come in your shop when I was drunk, never, so I couldn't." Leone hugged his pillow tighter, whimpering when Bruno pulled his hand away. "I went in a window. I'm sorry I got water on the floor."

"You- A window? On the second floor? Leone, did you climb the walls?"

"Yes. Yes. Mmhmm. Climbed up them, so I could see you, you make it stop hurting so much, Bruno, Bruno, in here." Leone thumped a fist against his chest. "It always hurts. It's been so bad, Bruno, ever since he died, ever since I got him killed, I couldn't stop drinking, I wanted to drown it, but I don't want to drink anymore, I don't, I want you, I want to be with you, you make it easier to live, Bruno." He shut his mouth hard. He felt terrible. He wanted to throw up again but there was nothing in his stomach. Bruno just kept staring at him and Leone found that he could not look back. He bowed his head and it suddenly hit him that he had just broken into Bruno's house in the middle of the night. "I'm sorry I'm here... I shouldn't have climbed your wall. I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking."

"Damn right you weren't." Bruno sighed and ran his hand over his face. He looked so tired too. "Dammit, Leone, dammit." He shifted his weight to one leg, chewing one lip. Leone stayed silent, giving him whatever time he needed to think through whatever he was thinking about. "Alright, look... Lay down, alright? Lay down, Leone." Leone obeyed and Bruno pulled the covers over him. "Stay here, alright? Stay. Now go to sleep. We'll talk about this in the morning."

Bruno turned and started to walk away and panic sent Leone's heart racing. "B-Bruno. Don't go. Please." He stuck one hand free of the covers, reaching pleadingly in Bruno's direction. "Stay. Please."

The baker was still for a long moment. Then he sighed. "Okay." Leone's shivering had faded down and for the first time in a long time he wasn't afraid of falling asleep. Bruno laid down beside him, on top of the covers, and they were so close. Leone shuffled down so the blankets were up to his nose, gazing up at Bruno with all the love in the world. Softly, Bruno whispered, "Close your eyes, Leone." Leone obeyed. He fell asleep quickly. 

Chapter Text

It was warm. Warm and dark and someone was holding him. Legs shifted, tucking against the backs of his own and he grumbled something, though even he himself was not sure what. A soft breath brushed his ear as his partner- in life and in crime- giggled, giving an equally ineligible mutter. Leone thought about opening his eyes, but it seemed far too much effort. Instead, he wiggled slightly free and rolled over, tucking his face into the curve of his man's neck, breathing in the warm scent of him, like the clean smell just after it rained. He sighed as arms wrapped around him, holding him close, love pooling in his chest as a pair of lips pressed to the top of his head. "Leone."

Leone smilied and he found he had the presence of mind to speak after all. "Matteo."

He woke up crying.

His chest was heavy. He was aching all over and not just from the hangover that beat at his head. This dream seemed worse, somehow, than the ones of blood and pain, a horrible reminder of how happy he'd once been, how very wonderful his life was. He did not love his partner anymore (his name was Matteo), that feeling had long since died in his chest, but the hole his death had ripped still bled and the memory of that love and of being loved in return was far more painful than anything he had ever borne. He was all but free of alcohol and with nothing left to numb the pain he was finding it far worse than he remembered it. It had festered and he supposed (knew) that it was his own damn fault. 

"Leone?"

Leone shifted and that's when his senses woke up and he realized that this soft, clean bed could not be his own.

"Are you okay?"

The voice was soft and worried and when Leone forced his sleep-blurry eyes open he found himself looking at none other than Bruno Bucciarati. And that's when he remembered. "Oh my God."

"What? What is it?" Bruno was not exactly in the bed with him, he was on top of the bedsheets and fully clothed. Leone shifted again and found out how unclothed he himself was.

"I-I, I just had a dream." Leone looked away, pulling the comforter up to his chin. He did not want Bruno to see him like this but in the back of his head something whispered that Bruno had already seen everything. "It wasn't as... Intense. As the others." He wiped away his tears, thankful that the dream was already blurring in his memories. "Don't worry about me."

"Do... Do you wake up crying often?"

"Every night. Usually I'm screaming too. Sometimes the neighbors complain."

"Oh, Leone..."

Leone flinched. He did not want Bruno to pity him. "I'm fine. It's just dreams."

"They aren't are they?" Bruno shifted and Leone felt him staring. Leone glanced over and when their eyes met, Bruno murmured, "They're memories, aren't they?" Leone stiffened. "You told me something, last night." Bruno seemed to be trying very hard not to scare Leone and Leone wondered what kind of emotion was on his face that prompted such gentleness. "Look, Leone, I... I'll find you something to wear, but then we need to talk okay? You broke into my home, Leone. Somehow you climbed into the second story window." He had done what? "That isn't okay."

Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit. He had climbed into Bruno's window? What the hell? And what... What had he said? 

Leone blinked when the bed shifted, drawn from his thoughts by Bruno's departure. His voice sleep and pain weakened, but he managed to croak out, "I'm sorry." Bruno didn't respond. Leone could not recall ever being more scared than this.

He pulled the covers entirely over his head, shielding himself in the darkness. It didn't help too much. Every time he breathed in he was filled with what could be nothing other than the scent of Bruno. It was a sweet kind of musk, his own natural smell overlaid with the sugar of his life's work and it made Leone's mouth water. It, despite everything, made him feel safe. He wanted to reach out to the other side of the bed, wanted to hook his arm around Bruno's waist and pull him closer, as close as they could be, wanted to kiss the back of his neck so he knew he was loved and then go back to sleep with Bruno keeping him warm. But he couldn't do that of course. Even if Bruno was here, even if he'd slept beneath the covers with Leone, he doubted that Bruno would have appreciated the gesture. 

"Leone? Out of there, come on. I've got your clothes."

Leone jumped a bit in surprise and poked his head free into the relative cool of the bedroom. Bruno was placing a set of Leone's clothes on the bed and not the one's he'd been wearing last night. "You left these last time, when Fugo... I cleaned them. I'll be in the living room."

He left and Leone slid free of the bed, shivering in the coldness. It was early morning and with summer quickly fading into autumn the temperature left a bit to be desired. He pulled on his clothes quickly. Apparently, Bruno had dried off his boxers too. Shame making his face go red to the ears, he slunk out of the bedroom as quietly as possible, creeping along till he could peer around the doorway. Bruno was sitting on the couch, a mug in his hands. He was looking down into the mug, his brow furrowed. That's when it hit Leone that Bruno looked tired. Not because his presence had disturbed the other man's sleep, but because something inside of him had been running on full power for quite a while now and he was more than ready to just shut everything down and sleep. Leone wondered how long Bruno had been this stressed. He remembered him saying something about it, remembered Giorno trying to help, and he felt a little bit less animosity towards the boy. If he cared enough about Bruno to see and try to soothe his pain then Leone couldn't bring himself to hate him. 

"Bruno?"

Bruno made no move of surprise, just looked up at Leone with a sigh and motioned him in. Leone went towards the love seat, nervous about sitting too close to Bruno while he was upset, but Bruno motioned him closer before Leone could sit. "Come here, Leone." He shifted, turning a bit, and patted the seat next to him. Leone obeyed, sitting on the edge of the couch like he was ready to flee at any moment. For a while, Bruno stayed silent, taking a sip of his drink. Then, "Tell me what you remember about last night."

Leone looked at the floor instead of at Bruno. "I remember... Coming home. Calling you. Cleaning the apartment a bit... And being tired. I remember being so, so tired... I kept thinking about... Things. I guess I thought that if I drank then I could at least sleep, but... But it didn't help and I think I just felt sick. And I kept thinking about how much- how much b-better you make me feel, I guess I figured that if I went and found you then I wouldn't feel so sick." He kept clasping and unclasping his hands, tracing the lines in the floor with his eyes. "I kind of forgot, I guess, that you didn't want me around when I was drunk and in some leap of logic assumed that it would be fine if I just didn't bother your shop. Then I climbed a wall? I don't really recall it, but... But I've done something like it b-before, when I was- when I- I was- when-" Why couldn't he just say it? He shut it eyes tight and forced the words out of his too-tight throat. "When. I. Was. A. Cop." He took a shuddering breath. That wasn't too hard, right? (Wrong.) "I- I remember being in here. I think I wrung my hair out it the bathroom sink because it kept dripping on your floor. My clothes, too. I didn't want to get your floors any wetter than I already had. Then... I walked around. I don't know when or why I got into your bedroom but I remember sitting down and thinking that the blankets were soft..." He trailed off. That seemed a rather pointless thing to say.

Softly, Bruno said, "Go on."

Leone couldn't look up at him. He cracked his knuckles. "I remember when you came in." He heard his voice drop in volume but he couldn't seem to make it get louder. "I was so happy to see you." He was getting too close to telling Bruno the Truth, he needed to stop. "It never even occurred to me that I wasn't supposed to be there, because you just make me feel right, Bruno." Stop stop stop it, no. "And I-I remember seeing your eyes, they're so blue, and I just felt okay. My stomach settled, my headache wasn't so bad, I just-" He took a shaky breath. Was he crying? Oh dear. "I'm so sorry," he whispered. "You don't deserve this, you deserve so much better than this, some foolish man, drunk off his ass, breaking into your home because he's too stupid to comprehend the notion that maybe you don't like his company as much as he likes yours." Bruno was silent for a long time and eventually Leone whispered, "The last thing I remember is begging you to stay." 

Silence. Heavy silence. It took all of Leone's strength to look up at Bruno at last. Bruno wasn't even looking at him. Those blue eyes were turned away, focusing on the wall. Leone wanted to say something- anything- to make this better, but he couldn't think of a single line that would save him. Then, so softly, Bruno spoke. "Whose death do you think you caused?"

No. No, no, God please, not this, of all the things, not this...

"Leone? Are you all right?"

Leone's throat felt ready to explode from the force of words and pain that pressed against it, confessions, screams, and sobs all fighting to be first. He couldn't breathe.

"Leone! Leone, breathe!"

When Bruno slapped him it knocked the breath from his lungs and he gasped it back in. His hands were shaking. "You hit me."

"Are you alright? Can you breathe now?"

"You hit me."

"I did, now answer me."

"I..." Leone took a breath. "I can."

Bruno sat back. Leone had not realized that he had nearly been standing. "Thank God... I'm sorry, I didn't think... I apologize for affecting you so strongly."

"It..." Leone wanted to say it was alright. That he was fine. All was forgiven. For some reason he couldn't convince the words to be spoken. 

"Are..." Bruno stopped and gnawed on his lip, clearly debating his next question. "Are your dreams related to why you can't stop?"

"Yes."

"Can you tell me one?"

"No."

"Ah." Bruno had finally bitten through what his body could let go and a bright spot of blood welled in the soft creases of his mouth. His tongue flicked out to take it in but he didn't seem to notice he did it. Leone noticed. He was quiet again. Neither of them could meet the other's eyes.

Leone figured that he would need to get used to telling Bruno things. He was under no illusions about that. If he wanted a future with this man (by God, he did) then one day Bruno would have to know everything. Leone could keep nothing from him. So, he took a breath and said, "I was a police officer before... Before. I k-keep dreaming about... What happened that made me leave. M-My partner-" He couldn't stop himself. He broke down. Bruno, all worried mother mode, was up in a moment, standing in front of him and cradling his face in his warm hands. 

"What is Leone? What is it you want to tell me?"

Leone keened. He could barely see past the film of tears over his eyes. He was unprepared when Bruno's forehead touched his. The tears finally rolled down his cheeks and his vision was momentarily cleared, the only thing he could see being Bruno's blue eyes. God, they were beautiful. For a moment he let himself be lost in him, in this, in the delicate lines of the muscle that was Bruno's iris, in the feel of Bruno's breath on his face.

"Tell me, Leone."

And who was he to refuse? Through tears and three years of agony, Leone managed to say, "My partner's name was Matteo."

Bruno held him. Urged Leone's head to his chest, wrapped his arms around his shoulders and just... Held him. Even after all he'd put this poor man through he still wanted Leone to be okay. Leone brought his arms up to encircle Bruno's waist and maybe it was selfish of him but he pulled the other man closer, leaning back a bit just to see if Bruno would allow himself to be pulled. He did and Leone soon found himself with the man he loved in his lap, petting his hair and rocking him gently. Leone's heart was wrenched by tides of unbearable agony and searing love, absolute joy and a surely unhealable kind of grief. He clung to Bruno, sobbing like he never had been able to let himself do, hiding from the world in Bruno's broad chest, taking in that sweet, wonderful smell, both hands fisted in the back of Bruno's shirt. And he screamed. And he pulled against Bruno's hold. And he tugged him desperately closer. And every part of him was hurting in the best possible way and he wondered idly if this was what it felt like to have poison bled from a wound. Painful, but healing.

By the time he was spent he had lost all concept of time. How long had he been crying on Bruno? A near-painful shiver went through his whole body and Bruno squeezed him gently.

"Are you alright...?" 

Leone nodded but he didn't release his hold on Bruno. Bruno didn't seem to be in any hurry to leave either, resting his chin on the top of Leone's head and continuing to run his hand through his long white hair. It felt so good, to just have him like this. Bruno's full weight felt nice on his legs and hips, the baker's thighs pressing lightly against the outside of Leone's own, and with his face pressed against his chest, Leone could hear Bruno's heart. He could have stayed there forever.

But eventually they had to separate and of course it was Bruno who did it. Leaning back, gently prying Leone's resisting arms from around himself, Bruno stepped back and up. "Are you hungry? I could cook. And you could use my shower, if you want."

"I want to cook for you." Leone had muttered the words without thinking and he felt his cheeks heat up. Bruno laughed softly.

"You don't know where anything is in my kitchen. And besides, you'll need a bath if you plan on working later."

Leone blinked, suddenly realizing that he had fully expected to be fired. "I... I'm still welcome around here, then?"

"Of course you are. You're just about there, Abbacchio, I'm not going to leave you now." Ah. Back to last names then. "You know where the bathroom is. Towels are under the sink." Bruno trotted quickly off and Leone stood to wearily follow Bruno's directions. He'd just woken up, but talking to Bruno, saying his partner's name- saying Matteo's name- after all this time, crying like that, it had all tired him out, hollowed him. He felt like Polnareff had looked after telling the story of his sister's demise. Empty and done. Difference being that Leone was ready now to fill that emptiness with something besides rage and booze. Maybe that was all the difference he needed.

Stripping down, fumbling with the shower, getting a towel from beneath the sink's bottom cabinet, Leone felt... Warm. He could still feel Bruno's body pressing down against him, their hips flush against each other, could very clearly remember how close Bruno had been, could still trace in his mind the precise pattern of those blue eyes. This line of thinking had the precise effect he figured it would. Well, better than getting a boner with Bruno on his lap. Wasn't like he'd never jacked off in a shower before.

Feeling remarkably better and smelling like Bruno's shampoo, Leone walked out of the bathroom with his hair wound up in the towel on his head, something like hope sparking up beneath the agony he had long since grown used to bearing. "Bruno, I-" Leone stepped into the kitchen and immediately forgot what he was about to say because Narancia was hurling his entire body at him and Leone just barely caught the boy.

"YOOOOOOOOO! Hey, Abbacchio! What's up?" Narancia was grinning, his heels digging into Leone's thighs as he tried to push himself up further on Leone's body. "What're you doing here this early?"

"I'd like to know that as well." Giorno. Of course.

Giving Giorno a look through narrowed eyes, doing his best to not look too guilty, Leone tried to think of an answer. Did he tell the truth? That would likely get him jumped by some very angry teenagers... But before he could respond, Bruno spoke up. "Abbacchio broke into my house last night to cry. Put down the knife, Gio." Giorno had, indeed, picked up a knife. Still without turning from his place by the stove, Bruno continued with, "Oh, and Leone? Next time you throw up in my toilet, be a dear and flush it. Kay?"

Mista threw his head back and screeched at the roof, apparently finding Leone's intense shame to be rather funny. Narancia was snickering and Leone promptly dropped him, earning a brief glare from Fugo. Leone looked up just in time to lock eyes with the blond and- Oh no. Oh God. Fugo turned away violently, hiding his face with a desperation that could only mean that he'd felt it too. How very, very close Leone had gotten to understanding. But like a dream, the revelation was already fading and Leone wasn't sure if it had even been real. Maybe Fugo was just shy. 

Fugo got up and dashed around to scoop Narancia off the floor, setting the boy on his feet. The second Narancia shot off, Fugo was gone, almost running away to half hide behind Giorno, pawing his blond hair down to hide half of his face. Leone swallowed hard. He went over to Bruno, glanced over his shoulder at Fugo. There was definitely something going on with that boy... He watched Bruno cooking for a second- something with rice- then murmured, "I'm sorry. I don't remember throwing up."

"It's fine, Abbacchio, I just wanted to embarrass you. Call it payback." Gently, and with an equally gentle smile, Bruno knocked his hip against Leone's and Leone forgot all about Fugo. Breath caught in his throat, he shuffled just slightly closer to Bruno.

A hand snatched the towel on his head, yanking hard and sending a bolt of pain through his scalp, hauling him backwards and away from Bruno. With a short squawk of surprise he twisted free, looking in shock at Giorno. "What was-"

"Do not touch Bruno." Giorno's blue-green eyes were blank, his face impassive. Leone felt his hackles start to rise.

"No fighting at the table." Bruno's voice calmed Leone immediately. Giorno's eyes narrowed just slightly before he backed off, dropping the towel to the floor and trotting to Mista, placing himself directly in the other boy's lap, one hand going up to comb through Mista's dark brown hair.  He, of course, did not break eye contact with Leone until Leone turned away.

Narancia returned just as breakfast was served. No one questioned his absence. No one questioned Leone's presence again, or asked for details, of which he was strangely grateful. He wondered if this happened everyday. If these boys were so deeply a part of Bruno's life that it would be strange for them to not be here, this early in the morning. He wondered if Bruno always cooked like this, just trusting that a houseful of rowdy boys would appear to eat it. Narancia tried to steal from Leone's plate and Leone responded by stealing Narancia's entire plate, promoting the child to squeal for Bruno's help. Bruno mediated between all of the kids, calming Narancia, gently getting Fugo to participate in the conversation, even managing to get Mista and Giorno to focus on something other than each other. Leone was not entirely sure how Bruno managed that last one. If Bruno was currently in Leone's lap, Leone knew with certainty that he would have been able to focus on nothing else.

When they were done with eating and all the kids had run off (Giorno with a last look of distrust), Leone stood beside Bruno at the sink and cleaned dishes.

"Bruno?"

"Mm?"

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"My life. My soul. Everything... Breakfast."

"You are welcome for breakfast, Abbacchio. I'm afraid I can't take credit for those last ones."

Leone laughed dryly, shaking his head a bit. "You really are something, you know that?"

"I've been told."

They fell silent again, but it was a warm silence. Leone tried to convince himself, for just a moment, that this was the norm. That it was perfectly normal for him to be here, now, that it was expected of him to stand so very close to Bruno and help him with the dishes. 

"I wish my kids were as happy as you are to be cleaning." Bruno's voice was teasing and he bumped their hips together again. With a flush of embarrassment, Leone realized he'd been smiling. He wasn't sure why or when he started, but his cheeks felt almost sore. Maybe it was just because it had been so long since he'd had a reason to smile. 

"I'm sure they'd be ecstatic if we offered them money."

"Mm. True. Perhaps I can bribe Narancia with food."

"Ah, yes, the old Work or Starve tactic. I like it."

Bruno laughed and Leone felt himself straighten his shoulders a bit in pride. This felt good. It felt right. Bruno felt right. 

"Well," Bruno stepped away and shook out his wet hands. "That's the last of them. Want to help me open up the shop?"

"Yes." God yes, anything to make work easier for him.

"Alright, come on." Bruno started to lead the way through his home, just dodging Narancia as the rat child zoomed by, Fugo hot on his tail. They went into the living room and Bruno detoured to physically lift Giorno off of the couch and Mista, ending the two boys' intense making out. "Not on my couch. Work time, Guido. Yes, yes, it's the end of the world and I've caused it. Up." Placing Giorno on his feet, Bruno went to the door that led to the stairs and Leone followed close behind. The kids didn't flood down after them immediately. In a silence broken only by their footsteps, Bruno spoke. "Abbacchio, the next time you crawl through my window, I'm throwing you right back out of it."

Leone flinched, the warm feeling of domesticity freezing over in his heart. "I-It won't happen again."

"See that it doesn't."

They didn't speak of it again. Even the kids kept silent on the issue, seemingly satisfied by what Bruno had earlier told them. Though Leone couldn't help but notice that Giorno was back to paying extreme attention to him. Every time he looked over at the boy those sea glass eyes were locked on him. He supposed he deserved it. Opening the store wasn't very hard. Leone was stronger than any of the kids and Bruno as well, so he found himself doing what he did best- moving heavy objects from one place to the next. Then it was just business as usual. Mista kept trying to sneak off with Giorno, Giorno kept being weird, Narancia made a fuss every now and then, and Fugo hid in shadows. Occasionally, Bruno's arm would brush Leone's. He liked to think it was intentional (he knew it wasn't).

By the time he was readying to leave and Mista was just getting started on cleaning up so they could close, Leone was absolutely exhausted. 

"Abbacchio?"

Ah. Bruno. Leone turned, smiling weakly for a moment at him. "Yes?"

"Here." Money. Quite a bit of it, actually. Leone took it, but his confusion must have shown on his face because Bruno went on into an explanation. "That's your pay, for woking as much as you've been. I don't do checks, they're too troublesome. Oh, and Abbacchio? You can have the day off tomorrow."

Leone's heart fell. "I don't want a day off."

"Well, you've got to have some time to take care of yourself. Other than when you went to see Nori', you've been working early to late every day. Weren't you cleaning up your apartment before? Did you finish?" Leone shook his head, far too embarrassed to try and explain why that would take years of effort. "Then maybe you can do that. Just..." Bruno glanced at his face then down at the floor. "Just be okay. Please. For me."

Leone shut his eyes, gripping tightly the money Bruno had just given him. "Okay."

"Good. I'll see you later then. Goodbye, Abbacchio."

"Leone." Bruno paused, half turned away. Leone gulped and tried again. "Please... Call me Leone."

Bruno smiled and Leone thought he was just going to have a massive heart attack and die on the spot. "Goodbye, Leone."

"Goodbye, Bruno."

His clothes under his arm, his money in his pocket, Leone went home. He had managed to stop crying by the time he got there. 

Chapter Text

Leone did not dream. He almost cried out of sheer relief. It was later than he had become used to sleeping and he was terrified for a second before remembering that he was not to go to work today. He thought about staying in bed a little longer. The thing he called a bed was not comfortable enough to warrant extra time on. Standing with a groan, stretching his arms above his head, Leone thought longingly of Bruno's bed. What he wouldn't give to wake up beside him every day of his life... Shaking away the resulting images, Leone took his shower and after shaking himself off and wishing he were dry until he was, Leone dressed and considered what to do next. 

He did not want to be in his apartment for long. It reeked and it made him want a drink. 

Weren't you cleaning up your apartment before? Did you finish?

Leone sighed. He may as well do as Bruno told him. He had a whole day, surely he could get most of it done... Right? But first, there was a demon he had to speak with. In the kitchen, crouched a bit to tug open the mini fridge, Leone picked up a bottle. He looked at it and his stomach turned. Turned in disgust, not want. "Well I'll be." He tossed the bottle up, catching it easily and starting towards the front door. Maybe all he had needed was to get violently ill for his body to figure out that this was Not Good. But he was far too afraid of withdrawal to put the bottle down. About halfway through the drink the need started to wake up and he hurled the bottle into the street, half full. His hands were shaking again. 

He kept walking.

His hands were still when he reached his destination. Just a dollar store. Just for some more trash bags. Heaven knows he was going to need them...

He worked on his apartment all day, starting at the front door and working his way through, focusing so intently that he could ignore the memory of beer in the fridge. He picked everything off the floors first. His arms were aching by the time he was through, but having clean floors? For the first time in years? It made him happy. Or something close to it (He wondered what Bruno would think). He cleaned the kitchen next, scrubbing the table and counters and oven, even the little fridge got a cleaning. Then he did his best to clean up the battered old couch in the living room. He'd have to just get a new couch, he decided. The bathroom then. It definitely needed a once-over. Ah, to bathe in a clean shower. A truly novel experience. He cleaned out the drawers too, dumping out all the trash and making room for... Something. He'd figure that out later. Eventually, he'd worked his way to his bedroom. Those sheets...... Were going to need to be burned.......

Sore and panting, Leone shuffled to the kitchen to check the time on the only clock- the one on the oven. Huh. Only six. He looked out the window and wondered... Could he just... Go buy a new mattress? And covers? He was getting pretty sick of what he had, those 'blankets' were, ah, crunchy, to put it lightly. Sleeping on Bruno's bed had reminded him what sleeping was supposed to feel like. Hoping it wouldn't cost too much money, Leone set out to walk around till he found somewhere to buy what he needed.


Finding someplace willing to drive his things and he himself to his home was harder than he'd thought it would be, but he'd done it. His home was clean (clean!) and he had an actually nice bed to sleep on. He had not burned his old sheets even though they probably deserved it. He'd just thrown them out. And he still had enough money for rent... Laid out on his new bed, eyes falling shut, Leone fell asleep quite on accident. 

He rolled over and bumped into the other person sleeping with him. He grumbled something and warm arms wrapped around him, holding him so he could not roll back away. A gentle voice murmured against his hair, "You're staying... Righ' here..." Grumbling 'angrily', pretending to be against the order, Leone snuggled into his partner's chest, managing to lay one hand on the other's hip. "Good boy~" The other purred the words and Leone hummed in response. "Now, keep your eyes closed, alright?"

He was pushed gently onto his back and a weight settled on his hips as his lover slid on top of him, warm hands sneaking up his shirt to roam across his chest. Leone's breath shivered from his lungs and he wanted so badly to look at him (which him, Leone?). The weight shifted and Leone felt lips press against his neck and he tilted his head to help, earning a soft murmur of approval against his skin. Warm (so warm) calloused hands wandered along his body, one stopping to rub gentle circles over his nipple. Leone gasped and the man on top of him moved to crash their mouths together, a soft tongue brushing past his parted lips to rub lovingly against his own. And still, those hands did their work. The second one had wandered downward, had pulled his pants down just enough to drag through the fluff of dark hair between his legs without actually touching where he was getting increasingly desperate to be touched. 

When the other pulled away just a bit, Leone gasped again against his lips, this time just so he could breathe. God, he wanted to open his eyes.

"Don't you dare." Gently, he felt the tip of his nose receive a kiss. "I'll stop if you look." Leone whimpered and screwed his eyes shut tight. He didn't know if he would be able to bear it if he stopped. "Good boy."

Those hands got to work again, one moving to the other side of his chest to give the same ministrations, the other shifting ever closer to the ache down below. And those lips were on his neck again, kissing and sucking across his pale skin, drifting to his shoulders, along the line of his collarbones, just at the corner of his mouth. Every touch was setting warmth aglow in his blood, every kiss sending sparks though his nerves, every brush of skin like tinder to the soft fire that was starting in his lower stomach. He wanted more, so badly wanted more. Wiggling a bit, arching his hips up against the hand that would not do as it promised, Leone huffed out an unsteady breath. "Ah, ah! None of that now." Both hands pulled away and Leone made a noise between a whine and a growl that he was sure to be embarrassed about later. Above him, his lover laughed. "You big bear." 

Two hands pushed into his hair then and Leone felt the bed shift as the other moved upwards, shifting his weight from Leone's hips, to his stomach, then to his chest, then- Oh. Leone reached up his own shaking hands to grab the other's hips, his fingers digging into soft skin. "Open your mouth?" He didn't hesitate to follow the order, whining when he was not immediately given what he wanted. 

"Hmm~ Say my name first."

Leone shivered and this man's name fell from his lips like a prayer. "Bruno."

"Good boy." 

The taste of him, sweet as his scent, was nearly enough to send Leone right over the edge. He gripped Bruno's hips hard enough to leave bruises, moaning softly when Bruno's increasingly ragged breath hitched or when he gave a soft murmur of praise. The gentle movement of his body, the hands fisted in Leone's hair, the way a shiver went through him when Leone used his tongue right, it was intoxicating in the best possible way and Leone never wanted to let him go. He knew when Bruno was almost done, felt it in the way he tensed up all over, heard it in the soft gasp of pleasure. Bruno's voice was a quiet, begging cry. "Leone!"

Leone woke up with a start, shivering from the aftereffects of the orgasm that had ripped him from sleep.

What the literal fuck was that.

He knew exactly what it was, loathe as he was to admit it. Still shivering in rhythmic bursts of shakes, he managed to get himself to his feet, groaning from the friction of his legs against his cock. He hadn't a wet dream since he was like, eighteen. This was absolutely humiliating... And yet... Bruno's soft, deep voice calling his name was wonderful indeed. He wanted it to be real. He supposed that was why he was so embarrassed. 

He went to pick up some clothes from the ground only to find that there weren't any clothes there. Confused, he looked around at the almost entirely clean floor, only remembering after a good thirty seconds that he'd cleaned the place up before (Bruno had told him to after all). Face red for two reasons now, he shuffled/waddled to his chest of drawers and opened one, pawing around until he got a new change of clothes. He showered as hot as he could stand it. He still felt kind of dirty. Standing around, looking out a window and wishing he was dry already, Leone watched the stars disappear as the sun rose. It was nice. He got dressed when he could, wondered if Bruno (warm hands, sweet taste) would mind him helping get everything ready to open again. The kids were probably helping him, though. He still wanted to be there. 

In the kitchen now, rolling a cold bottle between his hands, Leone wondered how much he had to have to live. If he only drank a little bit... Would he be okay? He seemed to do fine yesterday on just half a bottle but... Would he get bad in a day or so if he kept doing that? Would... Would he start having seizures? He'd never had a seizure before, but he was terrified of them. Of losing all control of his body, of feeling himself tense and shiver and jerk with no say in what moved when, of his lungs locking up, his eyes shutting him in darkness, of dying because he couldn't convince his body to not choke him to death on his own tongue. His hands were shaking. The bottle was empty. He made sure to set it in the trashcan. The sun was truly up now. He decided to go ahead and start walking, his work clothes over his shoulder.

He was a little more than halfway there when he noticed them following him. 

He stopped, looking at the gang of four, Giorno at the head, with narrowed eyes. "What do you want?" Apparently being acknowledged was some sort of signal, because all four of them rushed forward to surround him. He kept turning in an effort to see them all at once. The set of clothes over his shoulder were snatched away and he whirled around to snap at Giorno but was cut off by a sharp slap to his ass. With a yelp he turned around again. Narancia was grinning. "What the hell is wrong with you kids?"

"You really broke into Pops' house? At night?" Narancia hopped a half step forward, perched on the tips of his toes, violet eyes shining. 

Leone felt his face go hot. He knew he shouldn't have assumed he'd heard the last of that issue... "Y-Yeah. Yeah, I did. But-" He didn't get to finish.

Narancia shot forward, his little leg hiking up and pushing downward with enough force that when his heel barked Leone's shin Leone almost bent double, letting out a squawk of pain when Narancia immediately brought his knee back upwards, slamming against Leone's face and knocking him on his ass. Narancia was still grinning, his baby-round face as innocent as a cherub's. Leone reached a hand up to touch his nose, relieved to find that Narancia had not broken anything- his knee had missed that part of his face. "Yo." He looked up warily at the boy. "Do it again and I won't miss next time." Hopping back to his place in the ring, bumping his whole body against Fugo's with a whoop!, Narancia turned to dash away, leading the procession of children away from Leone. Giorno tossed his clothes at him as he passed. 

Leone just sat for a while, aching and shamed. 

"Um... You okay?"

That voice. No way. No. This couldn't be happening. But, sure enough, when Leone raised his head it was Hol Horse that stood in front of him. "Why."

"I-I don't know." The man (Leone just now realized he was blond) offered his hand. "I was just passing by and I recognized your hair. How are you?"

Terrible. Hurting. Bleeding. Dying. Falling apart from the inside out. "I'm fine. You?" Leone allowed Hol Horse to help him up.

"Oh, absolutely terrible myself. You haven't seen Johnny around, have you?" Hol Horse was clearly trying to sound just slightly interested, like he'd just happened to have thought about the other man, but Leone saw through it easily. The less drunk he was, the easier it seemed to be to actually see things. Leone shook his head and started walking. Or limping, rather. The leg Narancia had gotten was throbbing... "Oh." Hol Horse, to Leone's endless disappointment, followed after him. "Alright. That's fine. I was just wondering. Maybe he lives on the other side of town? Closer to Jean?"

It took Leone a bit to realize he meant Polnareff. "Uh, yeah. Maybe. Where did you say you were headed?" Please don't be to Bruno's, please don't be to Bruno's, please don't be to Bruno's.

"I didn't say. My destination is a secret for personal reasons."

"O-Oh. Um. Okay then."

There was quite a bit of uncomfortable silence as they walked, Hol Horse refusing to leave Leone's side even though Leone lengthened his steps for a while in an attempt to leave the blond behind. It forced him into the realization that Hol Horse was, in fact, very big. Big as he himself was. The man's timidity had made him seem small in that church, huddled in his metal folding chair, but the truth was exactly the opposite. Leone glanced at Hol Horse's bare arms. Hoo boy. Big. Very Big. He looked straight ahead after that. 

He sighed in relief when the pink building he loved so much came into view. 

"Guessing this is where that Bruno fellow is?" Leone jumped a bit and turned his head to look at Hol Horse. The man shrugged nervously. "I-I just remember you mentioning a Bruno and I been here with Nori' once, thought I remembered the owner being named Bruno. And ain't that over your shoulder a uniform? That's what you've gotta wear here right?"

Wow, Leone had never wished blindness so intensely on another human being before this very moment. "It is. And yes... This is his shop."

"I wanted a shop like this but for chocolate when I was younger, living in France," Hol Horse muttered the words and Leone wondered if he had been meant to hear. "See ya 'round, Leo." Leone wanted to protest the nickname but that also might have made Hol Horse linger longer, so he just stayed silent and watched the man saunter off, both hands in his pockets. When he was out of sight and Leone didn't have to worry about him coming back, he finally went into the pastry shop, breathing in the sweet air with relish. 

"Leone?"

Leone smiled when he saw Bruno. He couldn't help it. "Good morning."

"Yes, good morning, but..." Bruno, his hands nearly blurring they moved so fast, dealt with the last few customers in line before trotting out from behind the counter to meet Leone halfway. "Oh, Leone, your face. What happened?" Bruno reached up, his fingertips just grazing Leone's cheek and Leone shut his eyes, letting himself believe, for just a moment, that everything he'd spilled to Bruno about how he felt about him had softened the baker's view of him. That the touch to his face was given in love. He supposed it was love, in a way... He wished he could convince himself that it was the kind of love he wanted. 

"I..." Leone hesitated. He didn't know how Bruno would react if he told him that it was Narancia that had done it. Even if Bruno believed him, it would do nothing but hurt the man to know that his kids would do something like that and Leone could not survive being the one to hurt him, his Bruno Bucciarati. So, in the end he just said, "Some guy I owed money from a while back hit me a good one. It's fine now. Don't worry."

"Of course I'm worried. Stay here, I'll get you some ice to put on it." Bruno was gone before Leone could protest. He brought up a hand to touch gently the sore place on his face. 

"You didn't tell on me."

Leone turned around to look down at Narancia with distaste. "No, I didn't. Bruno would just get upset about it."

"Yup." Narancia looked at him for a long moment of uncomfortable, unbroken eye contact. Then, "I like you a lot, Abbacchio."

"Is that so?" Leone said dryly.

"Yup." The boy skipped off then, plopping himself down on Fugo's lap and earning a slap to the back of the head for his trouble.

Leone sighed, shifting his weight entirely to his unbruised leg. Kid sure had a weird way of showing he 'liked' someone... A hand touched his gently and something cold was pressed to his palm. "Here," Bruno's head was tipped down, looking at Leone's hand. Leone realized that there was a braid on the top of Bruno's head. Had that always been there? How'd he get it there? Was his hair longer in the back? Bruno looked up and Leone pulled himself from his thoughts. "Leone..." Bruno bit his lip. "I know you're lying. About how you got hurt. Just... You don't have to tell me what happened, but... Did you get drunk again?"

"No." Leone answered immediately, looking Bruno in the eyes and praying he saw that this was truth.

Evidently he did, because his whole body relaxed and he sighed. "Thank goodness... Did you get your home cleaned up?"

"Just about." Thankful that they'd moved on to some other topic of conversation, Leone limped towards the counter, Bruno following at his side. Pressing the ice pack he'd been given to the increasingly sore half of his face, Leone turned to ask Bruno about his favorite color when the bell above the door announced a customer. "Ah. Better get that."

"Indeed." Bruno was already brushing past him, all customer service, and Leone watched him for just a moment before going into the kitchen to change. He wandered around a bit as he buttoned his shirt up and tied his apron on, just kind of looking around because he hadn't had a chance to open many drawers in here and he was curious. Just a minute or so after he'd gotten himself fully redressed Bruno burst into the room like he was being chased, tense and on the tips of his toes like he was ready to fight.

"Bruno? Are you okay?" Leone tensed up too, ready to fight as well, but Bruno waved him off.

"I'm fine, just fine." He still looked a bit nervous though as he sped walked to a place across the room from Leone's current position and pulled open a drawer to... Something. Leaning over to get a look, Leone saw mist rise up and spill out from the large drawer Bruno was looking into, so evidently it was refrigerated. With a soft grunt, Bruno shoved the door closed again and gave Leone a sheepish look over his shoulder. "Yes, it was nothing. Don't worry about it. Come work the register?"

It was decidedly odd, Leone was sure, but he couldn't think of any way or reason to ask about it, so he just nodded and left the kitchen, body bumping Mista out of the way. "Scram, punk, you're not even in uniform." He got a glare and a huff for his efforts, though he had in no way intended to be mean. He didn't have to look across the bakery to know Giorno was staring at him. With a sigh, Leone decided to just accept that whatever minuscule progress he'd made with the unsettling blond had been utterly destroyed. More than that, it had been pushed beyond destruction and straight into the negatives. He wondered what Giorno said to Bruno about him when he wasn't around. Leone's shoulders slumped. Mista didn't like him anymore, Giorno probably was plotting to ruin any chance he had with Bruno, and Narancia had discovered the joys of beating the shit out a man twice his height. He was starting to wish he'd just been hit by a car before he ever got to Bruno's that night. 

The festered agony in his chest burned brighter for a moment. Leone wondered why it hadn't burned through him yet.

Bruno kept giving him worried looks, all through the day, and Leone wondered if he could see it, the way he hurt. If those blue eyes were sharp enough to see the writhing demon just under his skin that gnawed his bones and seared his veins. If he could, he did not ask about it. Leone was not sure if he was disappointed or relieved. 

But what really confused Leone was that Bruno did not seem to want him in the kitchen. Whenever he got close to the swinging door Bruno would glance at him like he was trying not to be noticed doing it but was too panicked to cover his tracks properly, or he would suddenly remember that there was something in the kitchen he needed to do. Or, and this was the most humiliating, if Leone managed to get into the kitchen and he couldn't leave his place, he would send one of the kids. Mista was fairly good at pretending he was following an order that was not 'babysit Leone', but Giorno? Giorno wanted Leone to know. He would stand there, leaning against the wall, his sea-glass eyes never once leaving Leone and if he ever blinked then he did it when Leone wasn't looking. It made his face burn. Anger started to burn with his cheeks after he went into the kitchen for the third time to get something that the display case was running low on and was immediately followed by Giorno.

The second the door shut he whirled on the blond, hissing too quietly for his voice to carry, "What is it? What do you want, you street orphan beast? I know you want to tell me, you love it when something happens to hurt me, don't you? So go ahead, I'm sure it'll be good for you to be the one wielding the knife this time." Giorno didn't speak. "Tell me, you wretched thing." Blue-green eyes blinked slowly, blank and unaffected. Leone threw his hands up in defeat and turned away, flexing his hands. He glanced down at the backs of them. The scabs were finally nearly healed... But it was pretty clear that they weren't healing clean. He hadn't taken care of them right, just like he hadn't taken care of anything else. 

He felt horrible for that, all of a sudden. Felt like he was the wretched thing that wanted to tear his life apart, not Giorno. And maybe he was right. He cradled his right hand in his left, feeling self pity and grief spilling out of him in the form of tears till his breath began to catch on the emotion lining his throat and his shoulders started to shake in sympathy. His hands had never done him wrong and yet he'd gnawed them bloody, had left them in old bandages, had not even thought to clean them, and now they'd bear the scars of it forever. He traced the lumpy, slightly sore flesh and sniffed. "I don't want to hurt anyone." His voice was wavy and wet and two octaves higher than normal. "I just want to be okay, Giorno, that's it, I don't..." He had to pause to sniff again. "I don't want to hurt Bruno, or Mista, or even Narancia, I just want to be, that's all..."

Leone hadn't heard Giorno move, but the boy's voice was close enough that he didn't have to speak loudly to be heard. "I recognized your name." Leone's breath shuddered and hitched and he held it to try to be silent. "I read the newspapers a lot, to know what to look out for, who I don't have to worry about anymore... Those kinds of things. Did you ever read newspapers when it was happening, Officer Abbacchio?" Leone coughed out a sob.

"Please don't-"

"Do you know what they accused you of?"

"-do this-"

"The list isn't small, officer."

"-Giorno, please."

Leone glanced over his shoulder, hugging himself and shaking. He had been right. All this time he'd been right. Giorno really did know exactly what he'd done. "Please." He was begging this child (he could not possibly be a child) for mercy. Begging. But even now, even with Leone reduced to a trembling, sobbing mess, Giorno did not look smug, or self satisfied, or proud of his work. He was just... Blank. There was the smallest flicker of something in the way his eyes watched Leone's tears and in the barest twitch in the set of his mouth, but Leone couldn't figure out what it meant. Then Giorno looked away first. And Leone realized all at once that there was nothing about any of this that Giorno enjoyed. But that didn't affect his ruthlessness. 

"I will protect my family." Giorno turned away then, marching back to his place against the wall and watching Leone with all the emotion of a marble statue. Leone tried to hold himself together, but he was falling to pieces.

"Giorno, what- Leone!"

Bruno. Of fucking course. Bruno was here. Leone didn't turn when Bruno half ran to him. Whatever it was that Bruno was so worried about was the only reason he'd come in here, just to make sure Giorno could babysit on his own. "Leone?" It took everything Leone had to resist grabbing Bruno and burying his face in the man's shoulder. "Are... Are you alright?" Leone shook his head. Of course he wasn't. He'd killed Matteo, the only man who'd ever loved him, and Giorno knew. He sobbed harder, each burst of tears accompanied by a harsh expulsion of breath through his open mouth, teeth just barely parted in an expression of pure agony. God, he was falling apart, falling falling falling, and he was starting to fear that not even Bruno would be able to put him back together when he finally hit the bottom. "Oh, Leone..." Bruno hugged him and for some reason it made him hurt worse. But he couldn't seem to make himself pull away. "What happened?"

Leone could not answer. The way his tears wrenched his face was making his bruise ache terribly. 

Giorno spoke up and Leone hated him for it. "I'll tell you later, Bucciarati."

"Oh, so formal..." Leone felt Bruno twist around to look at Giorno. He didn't know what passed between them in that look but it made Bruno release him hastily. "A-Anyway... Leone, if you'd like to go home-"

"Please don't." He tried to continue but had to cough out a lump of tears that choked him. "Please. It'll just be worse."

"Um... Okay. Giorno? Come on." Leone still didn't turn around as Bruno and Giorno left. He waited for someone else to walk in. Nothing. Hesitantly, he turned and surveyed the room finding that he was, finally, alone. He didn't like it too much. Rubbing his arms like his shakes were caused by cold, Leone made his way to the freezer drawer Bruno had so frantically checked earlier. One hand on the handle, he paused. Did he really want to know...? He supposed he did because he hauled it open anyway. Cooking alcohol and bourbon. A few other kinds of drinks used in cooking. Alcohols. Bruno had checked his drawer of alcohol.

Leone shut it very, very carefully. He sat down, pulled his knees to his chest, wrapped his arms around them and hid his face in the darkness they offered. When Mista came in Leone was just thankful that the boy couldn't see the tears he had no energy to wipe away. 

"Yo."

Footsteps announced Mista's progress through the room and Leone tensed a bit when he reached his side. A hand laid on his head, ran gently through his hair a bit. Over and over, a very soft kind of comfort. He wished he had any tears left. Maybe he'd feel better if he cried some more. 

"Man, I... I don't get you. Can't figure out what you're thinking. But..." Leone heard Mista's joints pop as the boy sat or crouched. His hand did not stop its movements. "I don't know what Giorno said that would get you like this, but I'm sorry in his place. He... He always does what he thinks is best for us, but, well... He doesn't care too much about tact with the one he thinks he's protecting us from." Leone whimpered at the implication that Bruno needed to be protected from him. "I know, I know... He hasn't told me about why he's so mad at you. I think he doesn't want me to worry or something. But I'll fuss at him until he does. I deserve to make my own opinions about these things, don't I?" Leone dry sobbed. He did not want Mista to hate him too. "Woah, hey, it'll be alright." Leone leaned against Mista and, after a soft noise of surprise, Mista looped his arm around him and held him. "It'll turn out alright. Promise."

"It won't be. You'll hate me too." Leone just managed to keep his voice from breaking in eighteen different ways.

"Nah." 

"What?"

"Nah." He felt Mista shrug. "I don't think I can do that. Hate, I mean. Besides, whatever slight Giogio thinks you've done to our family... I mean, there's no way it's something unforgivable. I'd give you a list of the unforgivable sins, or whatever, but I get the feeling that's not what you need right now." Rather harshly, Mista slapped Leone on the arm before pulling away. "Come on. Get up. Let's go, one two."

Leone allowed himself to be tugged to his feet. Weakly, he wiped the tears and snot off his face. "There ya go." Mista grabbed his hand and Leone just stared at where they were connected as Mista began to gently tug him towards the sink. "Come on. Let's wash you up, okay?" Leone allowed Mista to wipe his face and he obeyed when the boy told him to wash his hands. Being cared for by a child... Leone thought with a peculiar sense of detachment that he should be humiliated by this. He was just grateful. "Okay, now..." Mista tugged and rubbed Leone's uniform into something like order. Leone flinched when one of Mista's hands rubbed down his sore shin. "Shit! Sorry, I forgot about..." He stood up straight again and Leone could see that he was arguing with himself about something. Pretty soon, he could hear it too. Mista turned away and paced a bit, his head tilted oddly, muttering to himself like he had to pep talk himself into reaching a decision. Then, with a harsh shake, he turned back to Leone and said, "They aren't done yet."

"What...?"

"Gio, Narancia, Panna'. They're not done yet. For before." Leone felt his heart drop even more when he realized what Mista was telling him. Narancia's damage to his leg and face wasn't the end of it? "I'll try to talk them out of it, but... Well, Narancia thinks he's playing and Panna' follows Giorno's orders without question, so..." His dark eyes widened slightly and a ghost of a smile went over his lips. "But if Giorno decides to quit, then... Okay, I've got a plan. Don't know if it'll work, but it'll be fun either way. You just come out whenever you feel okay enough to work. I'm going to go see if Bruno will let me and Gio use his shower." With a passing slap to the arm, Mista bolted off and Leone really did not want to think too hard about a persuasion plan that involved them both getting wet and naked, especially considering how excited Mista was to execute said plan. With a sigh, he tried to get control of himself.

Giorno had sent his emotions into a tailspin, but after crying his eyes out he felt... Better. Back in balance. It was easier to moderate the amount of pain he allowed himself to feel. After a good five minutes of just making sure he could keep his breathing even, Leone pushed his way out of the kitchen and into the main area. Bruno looked at him then immediately away. Leone felt a bit sick thinking about what Giorno could have told him. He went over to Bruno. "Bruno?"

"Mm? What?" Again, he got only a single glance from the baker.

"Do you need me to do anything?"

"Oh, umm..." He looked around a bit. "Clean the tables for me, could you?"

"Of course." Leone bowed his head to Bruno and shuffled quickly away. He hugged himself and wondered if that gentle hold in the kitchen was the last moment of affection he'd ever get from Bruno. 


The days did not pass easily for Leone Abbacchio. Every night ended with him waking up in screaming sobs, the pleasant dream of before a mere intermission between what he wished he still dreamt and the monstrosities he was subjected to now. Every day he went to work, the only place he'd felt safe in years now a place of torment. Narancia pinched and poked and kicked and punched at him and though the child was careful not to hit hard enough to leave marks, it still stung. Giorno muttered veiled references to his past and every time he nearly lost control of the beast that gnawed his insides. And Bruno? Bruno didn't do a thing. That hurt worse, in a way. It would have been easier if he'd taken a side because then, at least, Leone would have known, but... But. Mista seemed to be on his side. Leone didn't know why.

There were no more ambushes at least. The worst thing that the gang of children had done was leave a dead rat and an orange at his door (Leone had the feeling that that had actually just been Narancia), so maybe Mista had succeeded in his, ah, persuasion. He wasn't sure he had the energy to be grateful. 

Looking at Bruno now was like being filled up with poison and his only option left was to lick a knife coated in the antidote. It kept him alive, yes, but the pain was beginning to drive him mad. He hadn't fully realized how warm Bruno had been until that was gone. Now Bruno was just... Absent. Like he was on autopilot and didn't even really know where he was. Sometimes, driven more by desperation than anything else, Leone would say the absolute stupidest thing he could think of just to get a reaction and it seemed like it took a few second for Bruno to even realize he'd spoken. The kids didn't seem worried at all though, and that's what first clued Leone in to the fact that this might not be his fault. It was the day before he was due to drop back in with Noriaki when he finally worked up the courage to ask for an answer from the only one that would talk to him: Guido Mista.

"Mista."

"Mm?"

With a jerk of his head, Leone got the boy to follow him, and when they were alone in the kitchen he ran his hand over his face and asked. "What's wrong with Bruno?"

"Oh, um..." Mista rubbed the back of his neck, one foot tapping a beat against the floor. "Damn. Ya know, I don't think it's my job to tell you things like that, but... Don't worry about him, Abbacchio. He just... Gets like this at a, uh, certain time when, um, things happen. Yeah. Um." Mista was struggling very hard not to spill some piece of information he thought Leone shouldn't have, but after a few more badly stitched together sentences, he threw his hands in the air and the said, "Well shit, I wasn't made for figuring things out. I am a simple man. And since I've never actually been told to zip it I may as well spill. Bruno's old man comes to visit every now and then and is stresses the shit out of Pops till he gets like this. I'd say the old coot'll be here within the week. Pops should be fine in a few days, I plan to take full custody of the kids tomorrow so he can just sleep for about eighteen to twenty three hours, ya know?" Hoo boy, did Leone ever.

"So..." Leone shifted. "It wasn't my fault?"

"Well..." Again, Mista rubbed the back of his neck. "You definitely didn't help, buddy. But no. It wasn't all you."

Leone wasn't sure if he felt better or worse. The only comfort he had for himself now was that he was almost, just about certain that his physical dependency on alcohol was gone. He drank some, just in case he was wrong (lies), but he was almost, just about sure that he wouldn't start having fits if he stopped. He hoped it would make Bruno happy, when his boss started seeing what was around him again. He wondered if it would make Noriaki happy. He wondered if Polnareff would care. He went to sleep. He dreamed.

Chapter Text

Leone woke up early and wiped the tears from his cheeks. His throat was sore.

He picked up the takeout cartons and the bottles (only three, he would not go back) that he'd thrown to the floor. He didn't know why he cared so much, but the thought of going back to a nest of filth when he'd already told Bruno it was clean made him kind of want to cry (he'd been crying an awful lot recently). Also, it made him itchy. He showered and dried himself off with one of the towels he'd finally made himself get. He covered the last remnants of the bruise on his face with the makeup he'd bought. He brushed his ugly hair. He dressed himself as best he could (his only button up that wasn't pink, black pants, new shoes, also black) and put on black lipstick. Perhaps he liked the color black a bit too much. 

When he walked out into the morning's glare, Tiziano was already waiting. Leone got in the car. 

"Hey, you look good, man. Still got those shadows under your eyes, but you've got more meat on your bones." Tiziano started driving and Leone forced himself to focus. He had to stop blacking out. He also needed to start talking to people...

"I... I feel better. I don't have to drink anymore. I won't die or anything, I mean."

"Always a plus."

"Um... Yeah..." Leone stared out the window at the buildings they passed. "But, uh, some kids have taken a liking to bullying me." Tiziano snorted but tried to hide it behind a soft cough. "Yeah, yeah, go ahead and laugh. I guess it is a little funny... But the shortest one kicks pretty hard, so." He really laughed then and the car swerved slightly.

"Woop! My bad. But dude, seriously? You're getting the shit kicked out of you by a lil gremlin?"

"I prefer to think of him as a rat."

Tiziano laughed again. Leone felt kind of alright. They kept talking, mostly about nothing, but Leone did learn a few things he'd missed before. Tiziano was married. Married to a man (Leone didn't actually know you could do that). They had recently adopted a son. Tiziano liked to make jokes in which he himself was the punchline. He also had a cat named Clash, apparently so named because the first thing it did upon being released in its new home was attack cooking utensils and sending them skidding across the floor. Leone found that he actually quite liked Tiziano's company. When they arrived at the Sunrise Church he was almost disappointed.

"Alright, here we are! Be good man." Tiziano offered his fist and Leone tapped his against it before climbing free of the vehicle. Apparently he was actually on time today, because the others were just heading into the large stone building. Hol Horse was carrying Johnny up the steps in his arms, Polnareff easily swinging the wheelchair up and leaving it at the door for Hol Horse to reseat Johnny. Leone wondered why he hadn't noticed the absence of a wheelchair ramp before this moment. Breaking into a trot to catch up, Leone jumped the steps and stepped into the church, smiling at Noriaki who'd stayed to hold the door.

"Good day to you, Abbacchio-kun."

"Hey, Noriaki."

Side by side, they walked down the hallway and Leone watched Hol Horse pushing Johnny's wheelchair to avoid staring at Polnareff's ass. 

"You look a lot better, Abbacchio-kun. Why's that?" Noriaki tipped his head ever so slightly, his long lock of hair laying rather cutely over his face. Leone wondered how well that trick worked on Jotaro.

Leone figured he may as well answer. Better now then in front of everyone else. "Physically, I feel... Wonderful. No headache, no joint issues, no stomach pains."

"But emotionally, you're worse." Leone didn't bother to answer. Noriaki knew he was right. "Well... Not quite worse, hmm? You're just feeling a wound you left to rot." Leone wondered how this man was so good at figuring other people out. "I'll go ahead and tell you Abbacchio-kun, it's going to get much, much worse, but then it'll get a whole lot better all at once and you'll find that being okay isn't such a scary thought after all." Leone didn't have time to answer because they were in the main room now and he found himself suddenly drawn to the horrid realization that Hol Horse was taller than Polnareff.

Hol Horse was taller than Polnareff.

Standing dumbly in the doorway while Noriaki set up the chairs by himself, Leone found that he could not look away from the sight of Polnareff- Huge, powerful Polnareff- looking up slightly to talk to Hol Horse, who stood with his hands clasped together in front of himself. Leone hated literally everything about that. Oh God, oh no, that meant that he himself was taller than Polnareff too. The thought of Polnareff being smaller than literally anyone seemed... Ridiculous. Leone jumped a bit when Noriaki tapped him on the arm, ushering him into a seat that was, this time, between Johnny and Polnareff. He was right beside the Frenchman today and it was definitely something. He could feel the other man's heat, radiating off of him, like his rage made him a furnace.

"Alright then." Noriaki clapped his hands together just as he sat, throwing one leg over the other. "Anything to declare?"

"Sometimes in my nightmares I'm both the men that did it."

"Anyone besides Polnareff-kun have anything to declare?"

Leone looked directly at Johnny and the paraplegic hissed at him like a cat. Leone decided to look somewhere else. But after a short silence, Johnny spoke. "I have something to confess, Father Nori'." He made a pained noise. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have- I know you're not a priest, I'm sorry... I just... There's this man."

"He's blond, right?"

"Yes, Jean, bravo, you know my type." Johnny spat the words like poison. Leone just barely managed to keep from pointing out that Hol Horse was very blond indeed and Johnny seemed wholly uninterested in him. "Regardless... Me and him have been... For a while now. He's the first man I've been with for more than a single night and I don't know how to deal with it so I didn't tell you."

"Well, why don't you tell me about him now?" Noriaki's voice was gently neutral and Leone wondered how much he could hide behind that tone.

"Well, he's the biggest man I've ever seen in my life. Hair like gold. And his eyes... Lord above me forgive my soul, but his eyes are like raw amber and every time he calls me to him I know I'll be happy so long as he'll just let me look at him. His body is almost perfect enough to be sacrilegious..." Johnny was looking down at his hands, slowly opening and closing his fists. Leone was more than a little bit uncomfortable at the tone of absolute devotion in his voice as he described this man.

"And his name?" Noriaki prompted gently.

"His name is Dio Brando."

Polnareff shifted and Leone glanced at him just before he spoke. "Weird name." 

Johnny growled- actually growled- before falling completely silent. When a few gentle urges did nothing, Noriaki moved on. "Hol Horse-kun?"

"Yes?"

"How are you today?"

"Terrible. How are you, Jean?"

Polnareff leaned back in his chair, staring up at the ceiling. "Not your scapegoat, Pony."

"Oh, um..." Hol Horse shuffled in place and Leone was uncomfortably aware of the flex of muscle in the man's arms and legs. God, how was he so big and yet so small? "I, um... Slow Dancer almost kicked me the other day and I'm still kinda scared." 

Noriaki leaned forward and said, "Hol Horse-kun, why did you start drinking?"

"No one likes me. No family. No friends. No one cares about big ol' Hol Horse. Just a lonely coward."

"That's not it."

"No, it's not."

Noriaki nodded, apparently satisfied at having gotten Hol Horse to admit that he knew damn well his inherent unlikability was not the cause of his downfall. Then he looked to Leone. "Abbacchio-kun? Anything you'd like to talk about?"

Yes. Yes indeed there was. He wanted very deeply to just... Spill everything. To rip himself open with his own teeth and drag out the rotten guts that were killing him, but he knew he wouldn't be able to make himself do that,  no matter how much he wanted it. He couldn't talk about Matteo, he couldn't, not yet, not now, even if holding on to him burned worse than anything else. Maybe... Maybe if he could just talk about the things that happened After, then he could get to what happened Before. Maybe if he got enough of the smaller things off his shoulders he'd have the strength to shake off the largest. I am Atlas, he thought, and my sins are the sky. 

He realized he'd been silent for quite a while and that everyone was staring at him. Also that Polnareff had grabbed a hunk of his hair and was comparing the color to his own. "Your's is whiter," the Frenchman murmured. 

"Yep," Leone wheezed. Polnareff released him, but before he could feel any relief there was an ungodly screeching noise as a chair was scraped across the floor and suddenly Polnareff was a whole lot closer and their arms were touching. Also their legs. Oh shit.

"Go on." Polnareff spoke far too quietly for any of the others to hear. "I've got you."

Holy shit, Polnareff was trying to help him. He thought Leone was silent because he was scared so he got closer to help. 

He must be a touchy kind of person.

Filing that thought away for later use, Leone swallowed back his misgivings and finally began to speak. "I-I've done some very bad things for the sake of another bottle." Noriaki was still looking at him, had never once looked away or let his attention falter, and Leone found it kind of comforting. "I knew wh-which bars had barkeeps that l-liked me, my body that is, no one really cared about me, but they thought I was pretty, so I- so - I'd let 'em- let 'em do whatever they wanted to me." He looked down and away, finding his attention drawn to Johnny's clean shoes. How did he get them on? Why did he bother? He'd never use them. "I-I'd get on my kn-knees, or my hands and my knees, almost never on my back, none of them wanted to see my face, I think they wanted to me to be a thing and not a he." He was shaking a bit. He clasped his hands together to try and hold them steadier. "S-Somtimes they'd- they'd sell me, sell me, I-I remember, or half remember, money changing hands and men, it was always men, three or four or five, one after another, and I just did whatever they told me to do because I got booze for it." A big hand, Polnareff's, shoved between his own, forcing them apart. Polnareff's fingers knit with his and they held hands like that, no one in the room acknowledging the joining. "Some of them liked to hit me, liked to hear me beg to be hit, they always came in first then waited for the bruises to start to show be-before doing wh-whatever." God, he couldn't stop himself now, what a tide of words he poured forth. "None of them ever tried to kiss me. I know, I know, it's a stupid thing to remember, of all the horrible things, why is that what I remember the most? I don't know, I don't know, maybe it was just like if they didn't do something that was like affection then I wasn't real, wasn't a human, I was just a thing, not worth the effort, just a doll."

There was a soft pressure to the side of his head, an incredibly gentle push, and when it was gone it took Leone a full ten seconds of pained silence to realize Polnareff had kissed his temple. 

He laughed once, a wet and broken sound. "Thank you."

Polnareff grunted softly. There was total silence then. Leone was shaking, ripped between two urges, the one to go, go, let it out, speak, and the one to curl up in a ball and never make a sound again. 

"I let people beat on me." Leone glanced at Polnareff but didn't fully look at him. Even in that brief once-over he caught a flash of those pale, pale blue eyes. "Where ever they wanted, as hard as they wanted. I didn't care. So long as they'd give me a couple bucks for it."

Leone shivered. The silence didn't seem quite so heavy anymore. "I-I stood at a street corner once and sold myself properly."

"I beat people down on other people's orders, no question asked."

"I stole from sleeping beggars whenever they left their money out."

"I've mugged four people."

"I'd dig through the trash to find bottles, see if there was just a little more in the bottom."

They were looking at each other fully now and Leone had quite forgotten that there were other people in the room. Polnareff was almost smiling, but still there was that anger. Still there was that rage. Softly, his voice as acidic as thickly clouding smoke, Polnareff murmured, "We're quite the duo, eh?" Leone nodded dumbly.

"If you two are going to kiss then I am literally going to throw up on you." Johnny's voice startled them both out of their privacy and they jumped a bit, Polnareff's hand returning to the lap of its owner. Leone's palm felt cold without the Frenchman's heat. 

Leone turned back towards Noriaki, finding (to his great surprise) that the redhead had been stunned into silence. His eyes were wide, his lock of hair fallen, unheeded, into his face, wide mouth just slightly parted. He blinked rapidly for a second, seeming to find himself, and then molded back into softly comfortable. "Ah... That was definitely something, you two, I... I'm so glad you were able to say it. Do you feel any better?"

"Yes." Leone breathed the word, as much of a sigh of relief as an answer.

Polnareff just blew a breath out through his nose, his chair giving a soft squawl of protest as he leaned back.

"I-" Hol Horse started to speak but cut himself off. Leone turned to look at the blond. Both hands were between his legs, his thighs clamped tightly down on them. His head was ducked down between bowed shoulders, eyes shut tight, his whole body an expression of intense pain. He shook his head and swallowed. "Never mind."

"Something?" Noriaki murmured.

Hol Horse whimpered then, as steadily as possible, he said, "I wanted to run a chocolate shop when I was young."

Polnareff straightened up quickly, sliding to the edge of his seat, his whole body swiveling to face Hol Horse, the tension in his shoulders visible through his shirt. Hol Horse promptly burst into panicked tears. Leone wasn't quite sure when it happened, but all at once, Noriaki was between them, a very, very small man between a massive beast of a Frenchman and an even larger coward, and yet he seemed the largest man in the room. "Sit down, Jean-kun." His Japanese accent somehow made the words softer. Polnareff, still sitting, slid back into his seat, sitting properly, though Leone could still see the shivers that wracked him. He ran a hand through his hair and Leone watched the silver strands tremble as the hand within them was seized by a tremor. Just as softly, Noriaki spoke again. "What is it?"

"Sherry always told me she was going to be the best chocolatier in France." Polnareff's voice broke. 

Hol Horse had quieted quickly, and though occasional noises of fear still came from him, his tears seemed spent.

Noriaki looked at them all, deliberately intimate in the contact. Leone found himself both scared of and in need of that fiercely platonic kind of intimate. The redhead sighed, making it sound both loving and happy. "You're all doing wonderful." Leone felt warmed by the praise, though he couldn't have said why. Those blue eyes, darker than Polnareff's, swept over them again. "I know you will all be happy. I know that you will. Even you, Polnareff-kun. I know, I know, it doesn't seem possible, but you are all good, good men, and you deserve to be happy and since you brought yourselves here, clearly on some level you are aware of this fact. You deserve to be happy. All four of you." Leone could not look away from Noriaki's warm face. Jotaro was a lucky man. "I love you." His heart cracked, just slightly. "I love you all, so much, I want you to know this. Now. Come on. Let's all go home. We'll be better next week, mm?"

Leone walked with them as they headed for the door this time, close to Polnareff, again finding himself watching Hol Horse push Johnny along the long hallway. Noriaki's voice rose softly through the corridor, too quiet for him and Polnareff to hear, the echoed murmur strangely comforting. Polnareff started to drop back a bit and for a moment Leone assumed it was because of his shorter legs (God, he still hated that that was an accurate statement) but then fingertips just brushed his wrist, a clear request to slow, and Leone decided to follow along, taking short, leisurely steps as the other three grew further away. They were still a short bit from the door when it shut behind Hol Horse and Leone turned to Polnareff, planning to ask what this was about, but Polnareff beat him to the punch. "I'm going to kiss you."

"Ah. What?" Okay, that was most certainly not what he'd been expecting, but... Well, he'd have been lying if he'd said there was no appeal to the statement. 

Polnareff seemed unbothered by the brazenness of his own words. "I'm going to kiss you. On your mouth. If you say yes, I mean." There was not even a hint of a blush on those pale cheeks, not even a flicker of embarrassment in those pale eyes.

Leone considered it. He liked to think that he was not the kind of man to kiss around for no reason and that kissing did, in fact, mean something deep. Additionally, he was not romantically attracted to Polnareff in any way. He'd met the man twice and though there was something there, it was entirely physical. And yet. There was something in his face that begged for Leone to say yes, even as his eyes betrayed no love between them. Polnareff wasn't doing this for any kind of attachment either. So why...? He told himself it was curiosity that made him say it, that the need to know why was what pushed him towards the decision of, "Yes." But then Polnareff was on him, large hands (on his shirt, not under) fitting warmly into the curves of his sides, a hard pressure of toned muscle pressed against his whole body as Polanreff backed him to the wall, and a wet kind of heat against his mouth as their lips met. Polanreff did not attempt to get his tongue past Leone's teeth, he just held him, those hot hands squeezing just gently, the softest shifts of his lips sending a shiver through Leone that forced him to shut his eyes and just be. Just be. He wasn't entirely sure how long they stayed like that, bodies together, but when Polnareff backed off Leone found that his head was spinning. Quietly, breath hot against his ear, Polanreff whispered, "You are human."

And then he was gone, just like that, pushing his silver hair from his face as he pushed his way out of the church. 

By the time Leone had found the presence of mind to stumble out after him the parking lot was empty save for the bright yellow car that was Tiziano's cab. There wasn't any kind of mark identifying it as a cab. Leone seriously hoped that it was not just Tiziano's car. "Hey!" Window down, a platinum blond head poked into view, the driver in question grinned. "I was starting to think I'd have to come hunt you down. What's up?"

"It... It was nothing. Just got caught thinking." It was most certainly something. Leone got into the back of the car, buckling up and leaning back, tracing his lips just slightly with the tips of his fingers. He thought very intently about that kiss. It had felt strangely like comfort and not at all like love. There had been absolutely nothing romantic about that very romantic action, just a very distinct sense of Please understand that you are here.

You are human.

Polnareff's parting words returned to him and Leone suddenly remembered his own words. About how no man who'd touched him had ever kissed him. How it had made him feel like nothing more than a sex toy. Something that didn't need to be kissed because it wasn't alive at all. And Polnareff, who perhaps had more reason than most to block out entirely Leone's tale of his own sexual abuse (that was the first time he'd called it that) because of what had happened to Sherry Polnareff, this man had not only listened to him, he had responded to it. Had back-and-forthed with him so he could force more of this burden free, had pressed close to hold him up, had kissed him with a kind of warmth that felt like family, because dammit, he was human. He was again struck by the oddest feeling of Human being an emotion. 

Noriaki was right. Jean Pierre was a good, good man. Leone prayed that his rage would not burn him away before he could be healed. 


Leone was terrified. He had left his apartment without taking a drink from any of the very few bottles left in his little fridge and he was so, so scared that he was wrong. That he needed it. That he would throw up or start shaking all over or start hurting or collapse in a seizing fit of agony. Logically, he knew that even if he did start having withdrawal symptoms that there was alcohol he could reach that would ease it and people around who would limit what he took. That Mista, at the very least, would not let him bite his tongue and choke on his own blood. But still, he was scared. So, so scared. 

He didn't even notice Narancia until the boy slipped his hand into Leone's. Slapping the offending grabber away, Leone glared at the child. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Bothering you." Darting ahead so he could turn to walk backwards, facing Leone as he spoke, Narancia grinned. "It's fun. Hey, do you wanna know how long Pops slept yesterday?"

The mention of Bruno immediately calmed his annoyance, brushing his ruffled feathers back into order. "Yes, I do."

"I knew it!" Hopping up, clapping his heels together, Narancia took to frolicking around Leone, that wicked grin never leaving his face. "Because you lo~ve him!"

"Quiet, rat."

"Love him! Love him!"

"I swear, you insufferable creature, I will shove an orange up your ass."

Narancia's face screwed up in momentary confusion before a shriek of laughter erupted from his throat. "Jeez, Abbacchio, you sure know how to make friends! Hey, guess what? Mista got Pops to bed yesterday at like, nine o'clock! And he still hasn't woken up yet!"

Finally back to something that mattered to him, Leone rid his voice of its anger. "He hasn't? Is that normal? Should he be sleeping that long?"

Narancia burst into another fit of giggles, giving him a rather knowing look before answering. "Yeah, whenever Mista takes over, Pops just kinda clocks out for, uhhhh, I think the longest was like, eighteen hours. Hey, why do you think he's so tired?"

So he didn't know? Or was he testing him? No, that was something Giorno would do, not Narancia, but.... If Giorno had told him to do it... Shaking his head, Leone sighed. It would do him no good to doubt every one of the children because one didn't like him (*knew what he'd done). "I think Bruno just lets himself get far too stressed out."

"Mm. That makes sense. Hey, we almost there yet?"

"Of course, you know that full well. Why are you even here?"

"Giorno told me to stay away from you." Giving a cheerful wave over his shoulder, Narancia darted off, leaving Leone to trail after, pondering the boy's words. Giorno had warned him off? But... Narancia hadn't spoken like he knew, so... Giorno probably had just given some father-esque order that he knew better and that Narancia needed to listen. And the first thing Narancia decided to do was disobey. Alright.

Leone hummed in soft relief when he pushed open the bakery's door. Bad as Giorno had gotten, this was still his favorite place on earth. He glanced around, searching for Bruno, but then he supposed he'd have to believe Narancia because that beautiful man was no where in sight. There was just Mista, bent slightly over the counter with Giorno behind him. "Okay, I may not know all the rules, but I'm pretty sure you can't just have sex, Mista." The boy's face flushed scarlet and he straightened hastily, though Giorno hands went to Mista's hips to hold him close, blue-green eyes narrow.

"I-I'm not-! We weren't-! That is not what is happening."

"Sure buddy." His first instinct was to pat Mista on the shoulder, but with Giorno attached to the boy at the hips, Leone figured he'd probably lose his hand for trying. He moved to take the register place instead, promoting Giorno to hastily back up, still stuck to Mista. Rolling his eyes, Leone said, "Oh, and you honestly expect me to believe there is not a dick up your ass right now."

Mista jumped out of Giorno's hold, twisting to show his fully pants covered ass. "Look! It's fine!"

"You do have a fine ass Mista, that's why I'm worried."

Giorno slid between them, grabbing a handful of Leone's shirt and dragging him downward till their faces were less than inches apart, harsh breath warming his face and sea-glass eyes searing a hole in his very soul, more raw emotion in those blue-green depths then Leone had ever seen. Softly, he hissed, "Don't you ever look at him, do you understand me? Don't look at him, don't touch him, he is mine, you won't hurt him, Abbacchio."

The raw contempt with which his name was spat made Leone feel quite like it was bad word. 

Giorno released him in favor of snatching Mista's hand, drawing him away and muttering softly but urgently to him. Leone sighed. He hadn't meant- He didn't mean to- It was a joke. Feeling rather shitty, he went into the kitchen briefly to change. When he came back out, Mista was alone and furious looking and Giorno was lurking by one of the corner tables, watching Leone intently and ignoring Narancia's chattering. Leone approached Mista hesitantly. He'd never seen the boy mad before. "Are you alri-"

"Go back in the kitchen. Wash dishes or something, I don't care."

Leone just resisted the urge to break into a run to obey Mista's cold-given order. What was going on? Had Giorno told anyone or not? Was he even going to? Why hadn't he yet? Shaking his head, he just went to the sink and started to scrub clean pans and such used in the baking. As he worked the repetitive job, his thoughts gradually drifted to what they always seemed to: Bruno Bucciarati. He wondered about that braid on top of his head. Did he keep it up with bobby pins? How long had he done it that way? Had he taught himself? How would it feel, when Leone pulled it down, ran his hands through the dark locks till they slipped through his fingers like water? How would that beautiful man taste when Leone dragged his tongue up the curve of that pretty neck? God, he wanted to kiss him, had never in his life wanted to just kiss someone so badly. He wondered, briefly, if Bruno would be gentle or rough in bed. Would he want to be on top? Bottom? On his side? What would he want Leone to do? Whatever it was, Leone would do it, no matter what, so long as Bruno was happy he would be too. Several different actions and different positions flickered through his thoughts, but he hastily shook them off. He didn't have near enough time to go down that road, especially not in the kitchen. 

He wondered when Bruno would wake up.

He'd managed to successfully clean all the dishes without A) Jacking off in the kitchen, B) Crying, or C) Stealing from the alcohol drawer. He figured he did pretty good for himself. But now he didn't know what to do. Did Mista still want to be alone? Hesitating, shuffling in place, he was still just standing there like an idiot when Narancia's smudged face poked into the room. "Abbacchio! Señor!" Leone cringed. "Come here, come here, quickly!"

Deciding to humor the little street rat, Leone complied. "What?"

"Do you want to see Pa?"

Bruno. Leone's heart skipped a beat. "S-See him?"

"Yus! Giorno and Mista went outside to talk about something that's not my business-" the boy's voice was bitter, "-so I'm going to go check up on Pops. You wanna come with?" Knowing damn well Giorno wouldn't like it, Leone nodded. "Then come on! Be quick! Speed, Abbacchio!" Practicing what he preached, Narancia shot off, at and through the door to Bruno's home space before Leone was even properly out of the kitchen. He glanced over towards the front wall as he followed behind, seeking out Mista and Giorno. The two were outside, talking animatedly, hands waving, faces twisted into expressions of love and anger and exasperation. "Abbacchio!" Turning away from the two at Narancia's hiss, Leone hurried after him, closing the door behind them and ascending the steps, watching in stunned amazement as Narancia's short legs took the stairs three at a time. 

"Come on! Come on!" Narancia led the way through Bruno's home, trotting along on the tips of his toes with enough hop to send the tips of his wild hair bouncing. If he wasn't so annoying Leone might be able to call him cute. Wiggling, apparently from the sheer excitement of doing something he wasn't supposed to, Narancia opened the door to Bruno's bedroom with surprising care and slipped past it, motioning Leone after him. 

It was dark in the room. Leone stood for a moment, just getting used to the gloom. Then he could see him. Bruno Bucciarati, sprawled out on his bed, covers tangled around his body, one leg sticking free, pale skin showing from beneath the rucked up leg of his pajama pants, ink black hair spilling over his pillows. God, it really was long... He made a noise, half rolling over, pawing the blankets back over his bare leg and then proceeding to let out the single wettest snore Leone had ever heard. He was absolutely gorgeous and Leone wanted so badly to hold him. 

Narancia was sneaking closer, clearly making an effort to be silent, leaning over the bed. He inspected the rather loudly snoring Bruno for a moment before reaching over and pinching his nose shut. There was utter silence as Bruno was robbed of his ability to breathe. Leone was just heading over to throw Narancia out the window when Bruno gasped loudly, rolling over so his back was to them and continuing his slumber in silence. Narancia looked over to Leone with his violet eyes sparkling with victory. "I did it." Leone wanted to ask what, exactly, Narancia thought he had accomplished by that, but he didn't want to wake Bruno so he just gave the rat child a glare and shuffled closer to the bed. As gently as he could manage, Leone pulled the covers so they weren't rumpled up around Bruno, his yellow-purple eyes tracing down the gentle curve of Bruno's spine before he pulled the covers up to his chin. He hesitated for a moment then, his hand hovering over Bruno's shoulder. God, he wanted to touch him so badly. 

"Go ahead. He won't wake up." Narancia had darted rather quietly around the bed and was currently crawling up on it, ignoring Leone's looks and soft hissed words of warning. With a sigh, the boy wriggled under the covers and pressed himself against Bruno, relaxing entirely when Bruno wrapped one arm around him, pulling Narancia close even as he slept. Narancia's eyes were shut, a very, very gentle expression on his face and Leone was suddenly struck by the thought that this was what Narancia had brought him up here for. To see him, curled up in the curve of his Papa's body, completely vulnerable, trusting Bruno to keep him safe even as he slept. It felt like something sacred, the sheer amount of love they held for each other. Narancia hummed, a soft note of affection, and, though wobbly, Bruno hummed back. He still did not wake. Leone laid his hand on Bruno's head, petting him almost in the same fashion that Mista had pet him when he'd been curled up on the kitchen floor. He laid his hand to Narancia's head next, a soft spot he didn't want to admit he had feeling warm towards the wild boy. Perhaps not so wild. It seemed now that Bruno had quite nicely managed to tame him. It seemed that Bruno could tame just about anyone if he set his mind to it. More on impulse then anything else, Leone leaned down to kiss Narancia's temple, expecting some kind of pinch or snicker but just getting a contented warble in response. And dammit, he supposed he loved the stupid rat too. 

Quietly, he let himself out, creeping down the stairs and back into the store. Mista was back at the register and he was just as tense as the last time Leone had seen him there. Giorno was out of sight. Looking around, Leone approached Mista like the boy was a wounded animal, carefully studying his expression when he got close enough too. "Hey." Mista didn't respond but something flickered on his face. He was trying very, very hard to look neutral but he wasn't as good at hiding his emotions as Giorno was, couldn't seem to fully halt the twitch of his mouth or the shift or his eyes, couldn't seem to learn how to smother that light behind his pupils. Mista was absolutely miserable and Leone didn't know what to do about it. He leaned against the counter, close enough that it would only take the tiniest of shifts for their hips to bump. "What's up?"

Mista ran one hand over his face and Leone wondered if everyone was so very tired, because that was what was on Mista's face. Dejected exhaustion. "I don't know, I just... I just said some really terrible things to the love of my life and I don't know what I'll do if he doesn't come back." That seemed a little bit dramatic to Leone. Mista and Giorno both were very young, the odds of Giorno being Mista's true love were very slim. But he'd been a love-struck teenager before, so he supposed he knew how it felt. Mista sighed again and Leone tried to pay attention. "I'm just so tired of him trying to take everything on his own. We're supposed to be partners. One and the same. Side by side. Equal. That's how it should be, but... But he just won't tell me things and I can tell that it's bothering him, he hasn't slept properly in days, but he won't talk to me and it's so-" Mista broke off with a noise of exasperated frustration, throwing his hand in the air.

Leone reached out, finally obeying the need to put a hand to Mista's shoulder. "Hey, Mista. Calm down. So Giorno's being a bit of an ass about things, so what? He loves you. That's what's important. The rest will follow."

"... You think so?"

"I know so. The only time I've ever seen the little snot show human emotion is when he's looking at you."

Mista grumbled, again running his hand down his face. "He's going to have to start talking to me eventually." 

"He will." Leone shook Mista gently when the brunet didn't look at him. "He will, Mista. He'd be a fool to let someone like you go over something as stupid as that."

Finally Mista relaxed, turning a bit away to fiddle with the register. "Yeah... Yeah, you're right... Thanks, Abbacchio."

"Of course."

The rest of the day went rather smoothly. Bruno never showed up (Leone was happy he was getting the sleep he'd so badly needed), Narancia never came back down either, and Giorno was blessedly absent. There was just the job he knew how to preform and the one child that saw no reason to torment him. Briefly, he wondered about the location of Fugo. Where did he disappear to for days at a time? Maybe Bruno knew... He didn't bother with trying to remember the question to ask later. It didn't seem important enough to warrant the effort. He wondered what kind of man Bruno's father was to so deeply terrify his son, stressing him to the point of collapse. He wondered how often Narancia crawled into Bruno's bed. He wondered where Polnareff was. Was he drinking? Did the alcohol dampen his rage? Hide it behind a thin veil of mist? Or did it ignite in his fires? Send the blaze roaring ever higher? Was he, even now, screaming in anger, throwing furniture and people alike with no recognition of a difference between them? Did he ever think of Leone? Was Bruno okay? Beautiful Bruno, would he ever slow down? Or would he burn himself to ash trying to warm the world? Oh the questions. Leone wondered if he'd ever get the answer to any of them. 

Chapter Text

Leone missed Bruno. It was ridiculous, he knew, to so fiercely miss his boss after only a two day absence but his heart wanted what it wanted and what it wanted was Bruno Bucciarati. Sometimes the memory of how purely sweet he'd looked thrown over his bed, fast asleep, would just kind of... Pop up in his head and he found that every inch of him would heat up in the most pleasant way and suddenly, for just a small moment, everything seemed a little bit softer. Being in love was a lot softer than he remembered it being. 

And so when he pushed his way into the little pastry shop and saw him standing there, in the center of the space, not hidden behind the counter, but right there- Leone acted before he thought, darting forward with all the speed his long legs could give, crossing the distance in two strides, wrapping his arms around Bruno's waist, and lifting the man off his feet. Bruno gave a squeal of shock, both his hands braced on Leone's shoulders. "Leone?! What in heaven's name are you doing?" He was laughing as he said it and Leone smiled. "Put me down this instance you great oaf."  A gentle fist bumped against the side of his head, Bruno's other hand now gripping his shoulder almost painfully.

Leone hummed as if he didn't already know his answer. "No thank you. I quite like you where you are." Looking up, his cheek pressed fully against Bruno's stomach, one eye forced closed from the squish of the contact, Leone had never been happier. Because Bruno was here and he was looking at him with love again and even if it wasn't the kind of love Leone wanted that didn't mean it was the wrong kind of love. He was so very loved and he was so very happy. He didn't want to put Bruno down. He did it anyway because Bruno had asked him to and Leone would forever do as Bruno asked. 

"Thank you." Straightening his button up, amusement still on his face, Bruno glanced at Leone as he spoke. "Now, what on earth could have prompted that."

"I'm happy," Leone shrugged as he said it, like it was obvious. "I don't feel sick all the time anymore and you're not about to pass out. All's well."

"You felt sick all the time?" And now there was worry on that pretty face and Leone regretted his hand in putting it there. "Why?"

"Alcohol's a bitch. I'm fine now though, you don't have to worry, Bruno, I... I can hardly even feel the pull anymore. It's almost like when you can almost remember your dream but you don't quite care enough to dig it up entirely."

"I don't believe I understand what you're trying to tell me, but I can most certainly understand the general feeling of it." Bruno linked their arms and Leone just melted inside. Bruno truly was the panacea to his poison. Even that rancid wound that clawed his heart quieted in this man's presence, lessened to a tolerable ache. God, he'd missed him. "So..." Bruno's voice, as it always would, pulled Leone gently from his thoughts. "You... You're okay?"

Leone started to agree. Yes, he wanted to say, I am perfectly fine, you have done your duty well. But a bolt of raw pain went through his blood, like his heart had decided to pump barbed wire, and though it was most certainly not the agony of withdrawal, it still wasn't anything close to 'okay'. And so Leone told the truth. "Bruno, I'm not going to be okay for a very long time. But no, I no longer require alcohol to survive. Though I will be perfectly honest with you, I do greatly miss it sometimes. It made this hole in my chest quite a bit easier to live with."

Silence. Bruno's hand laid on Leone's arm, squeezed it gently. "And do I? Make it easier to live with?"

Leone's breath caught in his throat. "Yes. Yes, you do."

Another squeeze. "I'm glad." Finally- finally!- Bruno was looking at him, that mother-love in his eyes and this time Leone was nothing but grateful for it. "I want you to be happy, Leone."

"I am, sometimes. Sometimes I can almost forget that I'm rotting." Had it always been so very easy to speak about this? Had it always been so simple to lower the walls? His words had again brought worry to Bruno's brow and Leone just stopped himself from kissing that soft wrinkling. "I'll be okay, Bruno. I'll get there. Don't worry about me, alright? Maybe take care of yourself sometimes?"

Bruno rolled his blue eyes, an expression of perfectly crafted annoyance crossed over with a tired sense of I'm-used-to-it-ness, and if Leone had not been neck deep in love for this man then that expression would have been the push that sent him hurtling into it. "You're sounding like Giorno again, you accursed old man."

"I'm hardly older than you, Bucciarati."

"And have I ever called myself young?"

Leone laughed. He laughed straight from his stomach, the feeling of complete mirth bubbling up from his tum straight up through his mouth, spilling out with snorts and desperate gasps of breath and Leone wasn't even entirely sure why he found it quite so funny, but Bruno was laughing with him and it just felt so damn good that he didn't want to try and control the ugly sounds that came from his throat. He loved Bruno. He had loved Bruno since he had first looked into those deep-as-the-sky eyes. He was only just now realizing that he quite liked him too. Bumping his hips to Bruno's, Leone finally managed to quiet down a bit. "I believe people are staring."

"Let them." Bruno tossed his head, straight-cut black hair flowing perfectly with the movement. "Bitches are jealous."

And Leone was laughing again at the sheer absurdity of Bruno's words, of Bruno cursing, of Bruno's arm still tucked so warmly against his own. 

Then there was a whole Narancia pushing between them, wriggling and giggling, looking up at Leone with a shit eating grin. "What are we laughing about?" And so the children arrived, Giorno with expressionless anger, Mista with welcoming affection, empty Fugo between them for once. Leone didn't have time to consider the implications of that because Narancia was climbing up him and it was very painful.

"Quit it, you little street rat!" Getting his arms under Narancia's and hauling the boy up onto his body, Leone plopped the child down on his hip, carrying him like a toddler even though he was far larger than one. This appeared to be a rather agreeable situation for Narancia judging by the screech he aimed at Fugo, letting out his excitement in the easiest way possible- wordless expulsion. Leone, one arm under Narancia's butt to keep him up, turned back to Bruno with a deadpan expression, not at all surprised by the fact that his face was red with the effort of holding back a laugh and his shoulders shook. "Go ahead and laugh, I won't be mad."

And Bruno did. A deep, sweet sound. Leone could feel the glare Giorno was sending to the back of his head, but he could hardly bring himself to care, because Bruno was well-rested and healthy and happy. Narancia shifted on his side, twisting to say something to Mista that Leone didn't care enough about to listen to. He was only still holding the brat because it was the  only way to keep him from digging bruises all over him. Narancia was most certainly not gentle and Leone was getting quite sick of the purple-green-yellow blotches his hands and heels could deliver, disgustingly visible on his pale skin. He was starting to get though, that Narancia was not actually aware that he was hurting Leone. He was a good boy, if irritating, he wouldn't hurt someone on purpose if he didn't think they deserved it. Shifting from foot to foot on reflex, his other arm going around Narancia's middle to hold him up as he leaned too far over, he said, "I think you may be going overboard, Boss."

Bruno was still laughing at him, the expression on his face only describable as glee. 

"Yes, yes, my misery is hysterical." The deadpan tone the words were delivered in only seemed to tickle Bruno further and he devolved into snickering. Then he snorted, a singularly undignified sound. Clapping his hand over the lower half of his face, blue eyes wide, Bruno's expression was a plea for mercy that Leone's spreading grin denied. "You snorted."

"I did not."

Narancia piped up. "You did, Pops. Like a pig." Narancia then proceeded to snort and oink like a pig himself. Leone turned his head to look at Narancia and perhaps he was planning to say something, but he was stopped by the sight of something odd. He hadn't noticed them before (why would he have?) but this close to Narancia's face, Leone could easily see them. The boy's face was peppered in what looked like reverse freckles, dots of paleness instead of color, concentrated on his cheeks but present near his eyes and mouth too. Upon the first look they'd seemed random, but it didn't take a long look for Leone's brain to find the pattern. Each dot was one in a sequence of four. Four dots in a perfect line, over and over, repeated- Leone tipped his head a bit to catch a glimpse of the other side- across both cheeks. Four dots in a perfect line, four pale dots of scar tissue (it could be nothing else). Four, in a line. Like the tines on a fork. Leone felt his blood pump cold, his pale face no doubt losing whatever color it had. He still remembered quite vividly the sheer rage with which Fugo had wielded that fork, bringing the utensil down on Narancia like murder was his goal. Bruno had stopped him that time. Here lay the evidence that that wasn't always the outcome. 

A less-than-gentle blow to his own unscarred cheeks brought him back from his staring. "Hey!" Narancia hit him again on the other cheek. "HEEEY! I said carry me to the kitchen, I'm hungry."

"Carry yourself, rat." Just managing to keep a tremble from his tone, Leone removed his arms from Narancia's body and the boy squealed, managing to cling to Leone for a few painful seconds before dropping to the floor. He ran off, screaming loudly, "I'm a rat! I'm a rat!" as he darted through the kitchen door. The second he was gone Leone turned to Bruno and Bruno saw it on his face.

"I know," he murmured, blue eyes going to look at the door his shortest child had disappeared into. "I know." An affirmation of the injury, a soothing stroke to Leone's nerves. "Come on. Let's follow him before he breaks something. I want to teach you how to bake. Guido?! Take over for me, would you sweetheart?" Mista saluted and Leone saw the process of love's effects on Bruno's expression. It was truly wonderful to behold. Then he was following that man, eyes glued to the swoop of hair at the base of his skull that wound up into the braid on his head.

"Will you braid my hair?"

They were hardly in the kitchen when he spoke, not even thinking about the possible outcomes to this request. All he knew was that he very much so wanted Bruno to touch him in the least sexual way possible. Bruno's eyes lit up. "Yes! Yes, I will, that's a lot better than my idea." Oh God, had he been speaking??? "Come here, come sit, you're going to look amazing. Narancia?"

"I am Rat."

Bruno sighed, deeply and exaggerated. "Rat? Go get me my brush please."

"Yes sir, Mom!" Shoving an apple in his mouth, Narancia bolted off. 

Leone sat. "Mom?"

"Yes, he calls me that sometimes." There was a very soft kind of happiness in Bruno's voice, the kind that was so gently powerful that the feeler could not quite conceal it entirely. It reverberated through Bruno's words. "I can't imagine why." Leone could think of a few reasons. His love, his care, the way he worried so very much, the desperation with which he kept all of them safe, there was something very Mother about Bruno Bucciarati. Though it was still rather strange for Leone to hear him be called 'Mom' by someone other than his own inner voice. He didn't have much more time to ruminate on that particular strain of thought because them Bruno's hands were running through his hair, nails just scraping his scalp, running down his white locks with something that was so much like timidity. Over and over, till Leone thought his heart would burst from the love in him, Bruno combed through his hair with his fingers, easing tangles from it with methodical care. He was almost asleep, lulled by the comfort of the situation, when Narancia launched himself back into the room, wielding a brush.

And then Bruno was brushing his hair, flattening the stubborn flips and unraveling the knots with much more speed than his bare hands could manage (though Leone would not have minded sitting here for hours). When he'd accomplished the task, Bruno passed the brush on to Narancia again and Leone had just enough time to take in the fact that Narancia was using the brush before Bruno's fingers raked over his scalp again and all he could think of was the feeling of those fingers in his hair, tugging softly, petting with a very deliberate care, weaving with a practiced sort of ease. Leone's head was occasionally tugged one was or the other and Bruno would mutter out a half-mustered apology, too focused to truly speak. His eyes were closed through the whole experience, only popping open when Bruno hummed in satisfaction and said, "I'm through. You can get up now. My, but you have a lot of hair." Leone did, indeed, have a lot of hair. Standing up, he gave his head a curious shake, marveling at the odd sense of weight the binding gave him, his braid swinging with his motions. It was surprisingly comfortable. 

"I like it."

"You do?"

"I do. Thank you."

Bruno was positively beaming, puffed up slightly in pride. "I'm glad."

Leone raised one hand, carefully tracing the tightly woven do of his hair, the movement stopped by Narancia jabbing him in the ribs. Leone looked down at the boy and almost gagged aloud. His dark hair, usually a wild tangle that fit the rest of him perfectly, had been brushed back and, dare he say it, fluffed up into a neat looking swoop that parted on the right. His hair fell to his shoulders, as it turned out. It was the single most horrific thing Leone had ever seen and he really, really wanted to run his hands through Narancia's hair, ruffling it mercilessly till it stood on end once more. Bright purple eyes blinked up at him. "How do I look?"

"Like a rat someone dipped in grease." 

Shrieking a laugh, Narancia shook his head a bit, soft dark hair falling a bit in his face. "It feels weird! HEY!" Narancia darted to the kitchen door and stuck his head out, screaming for Fugo. Leone twisted his head around to watch him while Bruno led him further into the kitchen, looking away when he was urged to wash him hands. He heard the door open and Fugo's voice, too quiet to make out individual words. 

"Here. Dry off." Bruno tossed a hand towel at him, already distracted, leaving Leone's side to start gathering various bowls and pans and other such things, muttering to himself. 

Leone watched him, letting his deep affection show on his face now that no one was looking to see it. God, but he loved this man. Bruno squeaked softly and the crash of metal dishes announced the fact that Bruno had knocked something over in the lower cabinets and Leone just about died of love. Then there was a deep hum that Leone had heard before, the sound of a very happy, very loved Narancia, and he turned his head to see who the boy was humming at. And it was Fugo. Both boys were sitting down on a table, so close their thighs touched, and Fugo had one hand on Narancia's cheek (that he himself had scarred), the other running gently and carefully through Narancia's black hair, rubbing it into disarray once more. Leone blinked, utterly dumbfounded. Did... Did Narancia actually like Fugo? All Leone had ever seen the blond do to the rat child was hit or yell at him. But... But on that morning when they'd all eaten breakfast together... Fugo had been kind of good to him then, hadn't he? Leone couldn't quite remember and the fact that his brain was short-circuiting was not helping his memory retrieval. 

Fugo murmured something, expression bashful (what the hell) and Narancia nodded enthusiastically in response, knocking Fugo's hands from his head. They settled on his 'freckled' cheeks the second he fell still, violet eyes shut tight. Then, much to Leone's confused horror, Fugo tipped his head and very, very gently kissed Narancia on the lips. Had... Had Fugo just been asking Narancia for permission to kiss him? That... Was truly sweet, of course, but it didn't fit at all with the sullen, harsh-tempered boy that Leone had been led to believe Fugo was. People were complicated, he guessed... 

"Panettone? No, no, not that, maybe, sfogliatella? Leone!" Bruno's voice got quite a bit louder on his name and Leone jumped a bit.

"Yes?"

"Come here to me, I've decided. I'm teaching you how to make torta caprese."

Legs shaking a bit, Leone obeyed, as he surely always would.


It had been a good day. A wonderful day. Absolutely wonderful.

Leone had spent the majority of his time working with Bruno, learning how to make a chocolate-almond cake and then how to properly knead dough. He hadn't been able to get that quite right and Bruno had gotten behind him and, in a way Leone thought only happened in movies, had pressed himself to Leone's back, laying his hands over Leone's scarred ones and showing him how to work it right. Even now, as he prepared himself for sleep, Leone was not quite sure how his heart had handled the closeness. But beneath the very fragile layer of his happiness was fear. How could he be given this and not be expected to pay equally in pain? He was scared to sleep, he didn't want to know what his dreams would bring. He was scared to wake up, he didn't want to know what payment tomorrow would demand of him. 

His dream was only half nightmare. At some junction the screams faded to nothing, the roar of the gun rumbled down like thunder into inevitable silence, and the light of that morning softened into darkness. Then there was only that darkness. Then there was a weight in his arms and the smell of Bruno in his lungs and for the first time in so long a time he was safe. He could feel the gentle shift of Bruno's body as he breathed, could feel how very warm he was, and Leone wondered idly why he'd been having such a nightmare. Why would he dream a thing like that? He was just fine..... Bruno was here....... He heard the soft break in Bruno's even breath when he woke, felt him tense up in something close to a stretch. Fingers knit with his own and Bruno sighed, squeezing Leone's hand gently. "Leone...? Wake up now, alright?"

And so he did, because Bruno had asked him to.

Groaning, rubbing at his eyes, Leone sat up in his empty bed and looked down for a moment at the empty place beside him, letting himself feel deeply, deeply sad for a moment. Tears misted his vision but he took a breath and shook it off before they could roll down his cheeks, getting up and stretching his arms above his head. He ran his hand through his hair then, or tried to. It was still in its braid. He pulled it over his shoulder, tracing it gently as he walked to the bathroom. He needed a shower. But he really didn't want to undo this braid. Bruno had tied it for him. He only managed to get himself to do the deed by telling himself that Bruno could just rebraid it. After sleeping with a braid in, Leone's hair was oddly wavy, even after he'd scrubbed it and dried it as best a towel was able.

He was about to head out the door when the phone rang. That was... Weird. Really weird, no one ever called him. A bit hesitant, he picked up the phone and put it to his ear. "...Hello?"

"Oh, Leone, hello."

Bruno. It was Bruno. Leone damn near purred. "Hello, Bruno. Good morning."

"Yes, good morning, I called to... To tell you something, um..." Was Bruno actually stuttering? "I-I won't be opening the shop up today, so if you come in I can't pay you for it, I just, my father has come to visit you see, so I... But I'd like it if you came. Could- Could you come over? Watch the kids for me? Please."

God, Bruno was going to start begging. "Yes, yes, Bruno, of course I will, anything." Leone's voice came out a little louder than he'd intended, the force required to get the words from his throat more than he'd expected. Softer, he went on, unable to stop himself from adding, "I will always do whatever you ask of me, Bruno."

He heard Bruno suck in a breath through his teeth and nervousness twisted in his stomach. "I... Thank you, Leone. Thank you so much. I must go." Then came a click and the sound of an empty line. Leone put the phone back in its cradle and leaned against the wall for a second, taking a moment to breathe. Bruno wanted to see him. Bruno wanted his help. He was going to have to watch The Kids, but... Bruno. 

I should probably want a drink.

Leone shut his eyes and waited. Nothing. No tug in his gut, no headache, no shaking in his hands. He smiled. Bruno wanted to see him. Going back to his bedroom to fold his work clothes and put them away, he then went on to his bathroom, checking his makeup. He really did look much better with it on... He took a deep breath in as he walked through his apartment, thinking that it was nice, living in a place that didn't smell like sickness. He locked the door as he left and trotted quickly through the building, pushing his way out into the morning light to begin his walk to Bruno's bakery, having to smack at Narancia's hand almost immediately as it attempted to wriggle into his own. "Morning, street rat."

"Morning, ugly!"

"Grease head."

"Sharp face!"

"Fruit bitch."

"No ass!"

"Ouch." Leone put a hand to his chest, feigning hurt. "That really cut deep. I don't think I'll ever recover. Goodbye, Narancia, tell my wife I love her."

"You're gay as fuck!"

"L-Language." Leone felt his face heat up and he shoved his hands in his pockets, finding it rather hard to look at Narancia now.

The boy make a weird chirrup and tried to get around into his sight line again, but Leone kept turning his head to avoid it. "Hey..." That little hand tugged at his sleeve and Leone slowed to allow for his short little legs. "Did I say something bad? Do you not like cursing?... Was is the gay thing? I'm sorry if I offended you." He was trying so hard, the little snot, and Leone almost wanted to pick him up and chuck him like a football. Narancia pulled at him again, harder. "Hey. I'm gay too. So's Mista, an' Giorno, an' Pannacotta. Bruno too. You're not the only one. You... You're not alone, alright?" Dammit, why couldn't this brat be as dumb as he seemed? Narancia pulled at him again and Leone pulled his hand from his pocket and took hold of the boy's hand to get him to stop. Narancia hummed his weird little hum and Leone copied it. 

They walked the rest of the way like that. 

When the shop came into view, Narancia squeezed his hand once before slipping free and bolting off, screeching for Fugo as loud as possible. Leone found that it was quite hard to keep the smile off his face. He walked slowly closer, his eyes flickering over all the kids, crowded around the same table he'd first seen them at (how long ago had that been? It felt like years), Narancia just finishing his chair theft, dragging one close to Fugo's and sitting down. Leone wondered if he'd always sat near Fugo and if he was only just now noticing it. This time Giorno's back was to him, so he couldn't sound an alarm of his presence. Mista was sitting close to him, though not directly on him, and they weren't touching each other in any way, though their heads were bowed close together. Leone hoped they were working out their issue even if the outcome of that was Mista looking at him like he was a monster. He'd be fine with that. He'd suffer Mista's hate if it meant he'd be happy with Giorno (though how that blond bitch could make anyone happy was beyond his understanding). Giorno shifted a bit and Mista squealed softly, sitting back from Giorno with something purple in his hands. It wasn't until he jammed the thing onto his head that Leone realized it was a beanie.

Mista looked almost disproportionally happy with the simple gift, nearly bursting with something like pride, a grin wide enough to split his face. He grabbed Giorno by the front of his shirt and there was the kiss, messy and clumsy, more of a face-mashing-together than a kiss, but they both looked happy then, Mista in his bright, obvious way, and Giorno in a way much softer. Leone didn't want to bother them. Even with everything Giorno had done to him, everything he had yet to do, Leone still did not want to be the one to shatter that happiness. He entered the shop half sneaking, looking around at the sadly empty tables. It seemed wrong for this place to be so devoid of life. 

"Leone?"

Perhaps not so devoid after all. Leone turned his head as Bruno stepped from the door leading to his home, his expression unbearably soft.

"It is I, yes."

Bruno smiled at his answer, stepping further into the shop to allow another man to follow him. He was bigger than Bruno, wider shoulders, more muscled arms, closer to Leone's height, with close-cut black hair that was beginning to grey at the temples. He smiled too and wrinkles stood out sharply at the corner's of his eyes and around his mouth. "Well, hello there. My boy was just telling me about you. Leone Abbacchio, yes?"

"Y-Yes, sir." A bit surprised to hear that Bruno talked about him, Leone let the man take his hand into a rough, warm grip, shaking his arm so intensely he worried about the damage it was doing to his muscles. 

"My name is Paolo. Paolo Bucciarati. Bruno here is my son. Nice to see there's someone my size helping him."

"Yes, sir," Leone managed to choke out again, his hand throbbing when Paolo finally released it. He was so strong. 

"Ah, Leone?" Bruno slid in to save him, putting a hand gently to his arm. "Could you go out and check on the kids, please? I'll call you all in in a moment, I'd just like another moment with my father."

"Of course." He nodded to Paolo, unable to help himself from noticing that Bruno got his eyes from his father. He did not quite flee the store, but he didn't linger either. The cool air outside was a relief and he went wearily to the kids' table, trying to process all this new information. Bruno's father had seemed... Polite. And there was an aura of gentle kindness to him that very much so reminded Leone of Bruno. But if he was a good a man as he felt, why would his impending presence so terrify Bruno? 

You never know what happens behind closed doors.

Leone pushed the thought away. That was not something he wanted to dwell on right now. Besides, Bruno had asked him to watch the kids and the kids definitely needed watching. Fugo was again attempting to teach Narancia something and again, Narancia was not understanding it. His round face was screwed up in confusion, cheeks flushed with frustration that made the tiny scars stand out all the more. Fugo was shaking. Literally, visibly shaking with rage. Leone decided that the dumb rat child did NOT need more scars on his squishy pudgy cheeks. Ignoring the cold hatred Giorno sent his way, Leone walked around the table to put himself between Fugo and Narancia, having to shove their chairs further away from each other to do so. "Alright, what are we doing?"

Narancia leaned forward, slapping a hand on the school book laid out on the wrought iron table. "Math!" He gave it another slap for good measure and Leone leaned down to inspect the scribbles Narancia had made. Two hundred and forty eight plus two hundred and eight, the numbers written so neatly that they almost looked typed. Beneath it was scratched out the very wrong answer of four thousand four hundred and sixteen. "Hmm."

"It doesn't make sense," Narancia helpfully commented.

Fugo scoffed, raw contempt in the short sound. "It does make sense, you just aren't listening when I tell you what to do!"

"I'm listening, you just don't make any sense either!"

Before their bickering could escalate to the point of Fugo launching himself at Narancia, Leone spoke up. "I see what you did wrong."

Narancia shut up immediately. Leone gestured to the paper. "You've almost got it. But you don't need to write down what the first two equal underneath like that. Look, it's like..." He snatched a pencil from Narancia's hand and drew lines through the little math problem, sectioning off each column of numbers, much to Fugo's apparent distress. Leone ignored him. "All of them have their own spot. That's ones. That's tens. That's hundreds. So when the one you're counting up here goes past ten, you have to put whatever that amount is over onto the spot it belongs in. So, it's not sixteen that goes here, it's six. And the one?"

"Goes over there?" Narancia poked the column next to the ones place. 

"Yup." Leone rewrote the problem, with his lines, and slid the paper to Narancia. "Now try."

After a few minutes of chewing his lip and looking towards Leone like he wanted the answer just told to him, Narancia finally wrote something down and hesitantly pushed the paper past Leone to Fugo. Fugo snatched the paper up and glanced over it, giving a half-exhausted laugh. "It's correct." 

"I did it!" Narancia threw his hands into the air then slammed them on the table, leaning up to look at Fugo. "Why didn't you ever just explain it like that!"

"I did!" the blond snapped. "I told you a hundred times to carry it over but-"

"You never told me what carry over meant, dumbass!"

That shut him up. Fugo's mouth opened and shut a few times, but no sound came out. He ended up just looking down at the now-wrinkled paper in his hands. Leone gently took it from his grasp and handed it back to Narancia. "Now, is there anything else you don't get?"

In the end, he helped Narancia figure out multiplication (he needed to hear 'six, seven times' not 'six times seven' for it to click) and was rather awkwardly trying to explain what dividing was. Mista had joined in and though Giorno made it clear at every possible moment that he did NOT like Leone, he still offered his help to Narancia now and then. Fugo had gone completely silent, only making a small noise of affirmation when Narancia showed him that he could do it. Narancia didn't seem bothered by Fugo's lack of participation. That was how Bruno found them when he leaned out the door of the bakery. 

"Oh."

Leone looked up, straightening slightly from his hunched stance, though his hands were still braced on the table. Bruno was looking at him, blue eyes wide. He looked remarkably vulnerable in that moment, like he'd just been cracked open and hadn't yet figured out how to hold his halves together. Then his brows furrowed slightly in confusion before he shook it all off and stepped outside. "What are you all doing?"

"Leone's helping me with math, Pops! I've got it! NO ONE CAN STOP ME NOW!"

Leone was starting to fear what he'd just released upon this earth. 

"Wow. That's wonderful Narancia." Bruno smiled at the screaming boy, that warm expression moving to Leone and he felt his whole body go fluttery. "You helped him."

"Y-Yes. I just, I explained it a little differently is all. He figured it out pretty quickly. He's smart." Narancia shrieked again. "For a rat." He received a sharp slap to the ass for that and Bruno gave Narancia a tired look.

"Please don't smack people's butts, Narancia."

"You said butt."

"I did indeed. Alright, up everyone. Let's go inside. My father brought some fish with him. I'll make it for lunch, alright? Oh, that's a nice hat, Mista."

Mista beamed. "Isn't it?"

All of them scrambled to get up then, following after Bruno. Leone managed to walk at his side instead. "How long will your father be staying, if I may ask?"

Bruno sighed, just slightly. "Two weeks is the normal amount of time."

"And... And will your shop be closed all that time?"

"No, no, just today. I wanted to get my father settled before I had to go back to it and I also wanted at least a little time to myself with him. It is so rare that I see him these days, even when he's here I'm usually so busy, what with work and the kids and..." He shook his head a bit and Leone let him draw ahead to go up the stairs first, following behind him and unashamedly watching his ass. God, he had a good ass. It was only when the whole group had filed into the home and Bruno had sat them all down in the living room did Leone take the time to ponder Bruno's words. So he did appreciate his father's company? Or... Was he just saying that he wanted time with him so it didn't seem suspicious? Leone didn't know, didn't even know how to begin to figure it out. In the end he decided to just accept it.

After a few minutes of listening to Narancia badly singing to himself and Mista muttering to Giorno, Bruno appeared with the elder Bucciarati on his arm, true affection on his face as he walked his father to the couch and sat- right next to Leone. Bruno was right next to him, so very, very close. Leone felt a flash of raw heat go through him, searing and intense, pooling in his stomach and setting his blood on fire with want. Want for Bruno. Oh but how he needed to pull that beautiful body against his own, to kiss every inch of skin Bruno would allow him to touch, to run his hands though that ink-dark hair, to whisper every moment his lips were not occupied that he loved him, loved him, loved him, so very very much. 

Bruno elbowing him hard in the ribs was what knocked him from his reverie. 

"Hmm? What?"

Bruno gave him a Look. "I was just telling my father that you don't space out like that when you're working."

"Oh. Um. Thank you." His face was burning. "I-I just clock out when my hands aren't working on something."

"Oh, I know the feeling." Paolo's weather-worn face settled into something close to a smile, the barest twitch of the corners of his mouth, really. "When you spend ten hours staring at the sea, waiting for the fish, time loses meaning. Somethin' like that... It carries over into everything else."

It was a strange meeting, to say the least, that of Leone Abbacchio and Paolo Bucciarati. There was so much of Paolo in his son, but, oddly enough, they weren't similar people. The more Leone talked with Paolo, the more time he spent around the man, the more Leone understood that. Paolo was a very kind, very humble man. He was a fisherman. He had been a fisherman since he was twelve years old and his father had chucked him into the ocean so he would learn how to swim. He loved his simple life. He loved it very, very much. He wished Bruno had stayed to be a fisherman with him, but he was also so very proud of his son for doing what made him happy. 

Most of this Leone had to figure out. Paolo was a man who liked his words like he liked his life: As simple as possible. He rarely mentioned his emotions or thoughts about things and his responses were usually short, with few metaphors or descriptions. It was how it was how it was, and Paolo Bucciarati liked it that way. But the more time that passed, the easier it was for Leone to see it. How much this man truly and deeply felt things and how much he loved his son. Leone wondered with intense confusion how anyone could be stressed by this calm man, as easy as the ocean he loved on a soft day of no clouds. He wanted desperately to just ask Bruno, as Bruno was unlike his father in that he would not be able to sense a question and answer it without actually seeming to. But Leone was almost positive that Bruno would not appreciate the question. Besides, he doubted he'd even get a chance to ask a question like that any time soon...

A chance presented itself not much later, when Narancia began to squirm in his seat. Bruno slapped his hands to his thighs and said, "I should get started on lunch. Leone?"

"Yes?"

"Help me?"

Oh. OH. Leone nodded dumbly, somehow finding the strength to stand. He glanced over his shoulder once, just before his view of the others was cut off by the doorframe and he regretted it immediately. Giorno was looking at him with open disgust, a raw and festering hatred on his face, overexaggerated even if he had been an expressive person. Leone didn't know why he was doing it but the he saw Paolo, gauging Giorno's reaction with the barest narrowing of his eyes. Oh God. He was trying to get Paolo on his side.

"Leone?"

He forced himself to keep moving. Paolo was not the kind of man to make decisions about people based on others' feelings, he was sure. But... But Leone couldn't ignore the prickle of fear in his guts, winding like roses through him, with all the thorns and none of the blooms.

Bruno was at the sink, washing something, and Leone stepped up behind him. There was so much tension in Bruno's shoulders and his movements were jerky. "Bruno?" Bruno made a sound to show he'd heard as opposed to actually answering. Leone bit his lip, fighting with a decision. Was he making this choice based on what he thought would help? Or was it purely selfishness? Well... He supposed he deserved to be a little selfish sometimes. Taking a breath to steady himself, he asked the question: "Do you need a hug?"

Bruno froze and Leone immediately began to curse himself. God, he was stupid, he was so unbearably stupid, it was a miracle he hadn't been hit by a car yet, or struck by lightning, or-

"Yes, I think I do."

Oh  S H I T.

He said yes. He said yes. His heart in his throat, Leone stepped closer. Bruno's head was bowed and Leone found himself staring at the knob of bone that marked the beginning of Bruno's spine, humped up beneath the skin from the angle. He wanted to kiss him there, so very much, but he didn't because that's not what Bruno had allowed. Instead, he put his arms around Bruno, one wrapped tight around his waist, the other laid gentler over his chest. Head tilted, cheek pressed to Bruno's hair, Leone closed his eyes and held very gently the love of his life. Bruno sighed and Leone felt it, his chest aching from the sheer amount of love it contained as Bruno leaned back into him, his ribs almost shattering from the pressure at the almost relieved sigh that slipped past Bruno's lips. He was so beautiful.

"Thank you." For one terrifying moment, Leone thought he'd spoken the thought aloud, but Bruno wasn't talking about Leone's ruminations on his beauty. He kept working- Leone could see now that he was actually cleaning fish- and made no move to escape Leone's careful grasp. If anything, he snuggled deeper into it and when Leone just barely tightened his grip Bruno let out another sound of soft pleasure. This was it. This was the end of Leone Abbacchio. Dead at twenty five of a heart attack. But the more time he spent like that the less painful it became, the less intensely his heart beat in his chest. After a good five minutes it just... Just felt like home. Leone shifted gently from foot to foot, daring to half rock Bruno, shifting his head when his neck started to ache so that his cheek was closer to Bruno's temple. Bruno turned his head just enough for Leone to feel it. "You know Leone, sometimes I find myself forgetting that you haven't always been a part of our patchquilt of a family."

"I-I feel the same, sometimes."

"Do you?" Leone nodded because it was true. Bruno was silent for a little bit longer, but when his movements to the fish his father had brought started to become unsteady again- almost rough- he said, "Could you tell me a time?"

"Yes." Leone thought for a second, his fingers rubbing lazy patterns against Bruno's side. God, if Giorno saw him now he'd surely shoot him dead... "Did you know Narancia's been walking me to work for the past few days?" Bruno shook his head, a very tiny shift that he more felt than saw. "Well, he has been. Little street rat follows me around like I fed him once and he's expecting more. Just yesterday I caught myself trying to remember something the rat mentioned, something about Mista. He said it had happened about, four months ago? Four and a half?" Leone huffed out a laugh through his nose, his eyes flickering briefly open before he decided that that didn't quite suit this situation. "I'm sure you already see the issue with my remembering it." He'd likely been passed out in a ditch somewhere, or in the back room of a bar with his pants being forcibly removed from his legs. 

"I started to ask Giorno why we hadn't invited you to something, I think it was... Some kind of festival? It was a long time ago, almost a year now, so of course the answer was I didn't know you then." Bruno's quiet voice was affectionate and Leone found himself smiling. "Leone...?" There was a tone in Bruno's voice that made the smile drop rather quickly from his lips.

"Yes?"

"I... I apologize for asking now, of all times, but... Will you still not tell me your dreams?"

Leone considered. He kept his eyes shut. Darkness was more suited to decisions of this kind. His hand went still on Bruno's shirt, its gentle circlings brought to a halt so abruptly that the cloth was still wrinkled up against his fingertips. He wanted to tell Bruno, by God he did, but... But it was so hard to start. 

Then start with something else.

He took a breath and said, "I've never believed in all that light good, dark bad stuff. Light's never done anything but hurt me, but darkness?" He tilted his head a bit, making sure Bruno could feel his breath through that thick dark hair. "Darkness has always been closer than a friend. The light hurt my head so badly and it kept me from sleeping or it made me see what I was allowing myself to live like and- in my- and in my dreams it's always-it's always there just before the sound hits me, a muzzle's flash and then the gunshots. Sometimes it doesn't go away, just burns there in the air, bright enough to hurt my eyes, getting so very bright as more and more just explode into existence until all I can see is white light and it burns me to death while the sound eats me alive."

Bruno cut a fish open and raked out its guts. Leone felt quite like the fish looked. "Ah... Do you always have nightmares?"

Weight on his tongue, salt and sugar, a deep groan and hands fisted in his hair.

"N-No, not recently." Think about something else, think about something else, thinkaboutsomethingelse. By God, he could NOT get a boner with his hips pressed flush to Bruno's ass. "Sometimes there's things more... Pleasant."

"Like?"

Oh dear. Leone took a deep breath and squeezed Bruno gently for a moment. "Would you believe me if I said it was this?"

Bruno laughed lowly. "I suppose I could. Could you get a pan for me? It's over in the cabinet by the stove."

And so, Leone finally had to release Bruno and he felt the parting like a physical ache. For the rest of the time, he ran around the kitchen, getting everything Bruno needed while Bruno cleaned, deboned, and cut the fish, preparing it with expert ease. Leone wanted so badly to just watch those hands go to work, but he couldn't stop and stare because Bruno kept telling him to do things and he was more than happy (he was positively ELATED) to obey whatever order Bruno would give. By the time the food was actually cooking, Leone was at Bruno's side and slightly out of breath. He wanted to hold Bruno again, but Bruno had given no indication that that was something he wanted and Leone was not going to push. He watched as Bruno cooked, his presence rendered pointless by his startling inability to cook anything at all, enraptured by the other man's skill. He'd never eaten much fish, but right now it looked like the best damn meal on earth. He was so very hungry. He hardly had the time to wonder about all the ways this lunch could go horribly wrong. 

Chapter Text

Leone could not remember a more awkward lunch. Giorno was sending raw NO towards him, Narancia had groped Fugo twice, Fugo allowed himself to be groped twice, Mista was lost in his own Gay World Of Giorno Is Pretty, apparently oblivious to Giorno's anger once more (Leone could practically see the tiny hearts around Mista's hat-adorned head). The occasional softening into a deep and true love aimed towards Mista just made Giorno's actions all the weirder. Bruno was next to him and beneath the table their legs were touching. And, of course, there was the issue of Paolo. Leone had officially met the father of the man he desperately wanted to make feel loved (he would literally kill for a chance to just make Bruno breakfast) and it was going about as well as he could have hoped, but every moment was rife with the fear that Paolo's observant nature would pick out the reason for the soft spot Leone had for Bruno. How would this man feel about that? About a man having a crush on his son?

Uhg. 'Crush' made it sound so juvenile...

Oh, yes, and Bruno wasn't eating.

He was talking plenty, laughing in his gentle way, occasionally taking the tiniest, tiniest, bite just to be using his fork it seemed, but the majority of the fish on his plate was getting steadily taken by Narancia and Bruno made no move to stop him. Leone wondered what was wrong. It took studying his face almost too obviously before he caught it- the slight wrinkling between his brows, the quick jerk at the corner of his mouth, the way his nose twitched. Bruno Bucciarati, son of a fisherman, hated fish. Oh, this poor man. Leone resolved then to make something for Bruno with his very limited skill set. He had to be hungry and if he couldn't eat this, then by God, Leone would make him something he could. Probably a sandwich if he was being honest with himself here... 

He spaced out in this manner for the entirety of the meal, occasionally managing a moment of awareness when Bruno's leg shifted against his own, or when he heard his own name. For once his lack of attention was on purpose- he didn't really care about whatever Narancia had been going on about for the past ten minutes. He did, however, listen to the few things Paolo said (did Paolo like him??). 

Fugo finished eating first, dumping his plate's leftovers onto Narancia's, prompting a squeal from the boy. Giorno and Mista soon copied the gesture and Narancia looked just about ready to pop with glee, though, how the tiny boy was going to be able to hold all that, Leone couldn't even begin to guess. He watched in morbid fascination as Narancia just... Kept eating. And eating. He didn't even slow down. Where did he put it? He was a lean kind of muscled without even a hint of a tummy pouch, so where did he put it? 

"Don't try and figure it out." Bruno knocked their legs together before he stood, dropping what Narancia had not already taken onto his plate and bending down to kiss the boy's mess of dirty hair (Leone could not fathom how Bruno could stand his lips touching such a filthy thing). Bruno started to gather up the kids' plates and Leone scrambled to help, taking Paolo's as well after a small nod of allowance, going to put them in the sink, turning the water to hot and watching it run over the back of his hand as he tested the temperature. The glassware clinked softly as Bruno lowered his own into the sink and Leone turned his head to look at him. Their eyes met for just a moment and Bruno smiled at him. Leone smiled back. He was amazed at how easy it was. 

"Living room." He and Bruno both turned to watch Paolo as he stood, going to the place he'd announced he'd be. Narancia was just finishing with shoving the last of his food in his mouth and Fugo, who had apparently stayed in the kitchen with him, gently wiped the rat child's face clean. In a blur of motion, Narancia bolted away from Fugo, tossed the plate in the sink, and shot off past Fugo, a loud smack announcing the fact that Narancia had hit Fugo hard in the ass as he passed, prompting the blond to give chase with a roar of anger. Leone hoped Narancia could run faster. 

"Why does Narancia put up with him?" The question sounded harsher than Leone had intended. Bruno didn't seem to mind.

Picking up a plate and a rag, Bruno cleaned as he talked and Leone hurriedly copied him. "I think... I think Narancia loves him and he's also quite convinced himself that he deserves it when he gets hurt. And despite how angry he gets at him, Pannacotta is rather protective of him." Leone scrunched up his nose in disbelief. "I know, I know... It seems like he enjoys Narancia hurting, doesn't it? He doesn't though. I can't tell you how many times I've walked in and found Panna' on his knees, crying in Narancia's lap and begging to be forgiven. He doesn't mean to be like he is, he just-" Bruno's breath hitched and Leone felt a furious bolt of hatred, aimed only at himself. How dare he bring something up that made Bruno hurt? Bruno continued speaking despite the fact that it clearly affected him greatly. "There is something wrong with my son, Leone, and I don't know how to fix him." He was truly crying now, tears rolling silently down his perfect cheeks and it terrified Leone. He had never seen Bruno cry. It only lasted a few moments before Bruno took a shaking breath and wiped his eyes clean. "I-I apologize, this isn't something you should have to have burdening you."

"It's fine, Bruno. I... I like it when you talk to me like this." Leone tried to put all his sincerity in his voice, trying to catch Bruno's eye so he could see that Leone meant it. "You've done everything for me. Let me at least do this for you." Bruno glanced up at him then, the barest graze of eye contact, but he relaxed from it and Leone's shoulders dropped a tension he hadn't realized they'd had. "Do... Do you want a hug again?" Leone was so very, very glad he'd asked first, because Bruno shook his head a bit, a clear no. He offered his hand instead, palm up. After a second of hesitation, Bruno grabbed it, squeezing him gently before they both went back to cleaning, moving on to the pans and such that the fish had been cooked in. "So... Where'd Mista and Giorno meet?"

Bruno hummed and Leone glanced at him to see that he'd calmed back down. "Well, Mista has been with me for a very long time. He was my first child, you know. Anyway, we were supposed to meet up at this Olive Garden for dinner one day and I met Giorno on the way. He stepped up next to me and said, 'I'm going with you, Mister Bucciarati.' I didn't even question it. I just said okay and kept walking. I ended up buying his dinner too. Him and Mista got along immediately, though I'm not quite sure how. Gio's so quiet you know, and my Guido is most certainly not. He's never told me how he knew my name or how he knew that I would take him in. He's never even told me why he needed to be taken in. Whatever it is, it seems that I helped him through it. He's so much happier than he used to be... Well... Until you showed up, that is." Leone flinched and Bruno hastily went on. "I'm not blaming you, Leone, nothing like that! It's just... Gio really doesn't like you for some reason. I've been trying to get him to just talk to me, but... He's as quiet with me as he is with Mista. I think... I think he's convinced that he's the only person in the world that should hurt so that everyone else can be safe, so he doesn't want to tell us anything he thinks will burden us."

Leone wanted to doubt Bruno's words, wanted to convince himself that Giorno was not nearly so good, but he knew otherwise. He'd seen the cold fury that lay in Giorno's eyes for anything he deemed a threat to his family. 

"Tell me what you're thinking," Bruno murmured.

Leone jumped a bit. "What?"

"I'm always the one doing the talking. So go on. Tell me something you've never told anyone else."

Something he'd never told anyone? How was he supposed to just come up with something like that on the fly? He scrambled for something to say, literally anything, and so, in the interest of Speed over Quality, the first thing that came out of Leone's mouth was, "When I was a kid I kept eating ladybugs because I figured that they should taste as pretty as they looked and I was just getting the 'bad' ones."

Bruno laughed and Leone was so very happy to have gotten that from him. "Really?"

"Really."

He leaned against Leone then, just for a moment. A warm, happy moment. Leone had quite forgotten how it felt to just be happy. Then Bruno pulled away. "Well, that's the last of them. Shall we join the others?"

"Ah, Bruno, wait." Leone slapped his hands dry on his pants as he turned to speak. "I, um, I feel as though I have something to confess."

"Oh?" One eyebrow went up and Leone wanted to kiss him again.

"Yes, um..." He shuffled a bit, wondering why he couldn't have just let it be. "I went with Narancia the other day when he came to check on you while you slept. I just, thought you should know. That I was there. Um. Yeah. I'm sorry."

Bruno chuckled lowly and Leone's heart went all Bwur. "Yes, Narancia's already told me that he dragged you along. I'm sorry you had to witness that, I know how badly I snore."

"I thought you looked beautiful." COULD HE STOP BEING GAY FOR FIVE MINUTES??!!? He clenched his jaw shut almost tight enough to hurt to prevent any more unwanted words from falling out, his eyes frantically searching Bruno's blue ones, stretched wide in surprise. Bruno kept opening his mouth like he wanted to say something but then just shutting it again and Leone kind of wanted to die or maybe just sort of clip through the universe and be torn apart in the void for a while. 

After what felt like hours but was surely less than minutes, Bruno finally choked out a, "Th-Thank you, Leone. That's remarkably kind if Narancia's description of me is anything close to accurate."

"I-I just, I didn't mean to say that, I just, that came out wrong, I'm so sorry."

"It's... It's fine, Leone. I'm not upset, just surprised. Now, to the living room?"

Leone just nodded and followed. He had a feeling that this shame was going to be staying with him for the rest of the day and perhaps a little bit into tomorrow as well.


Well, he'd certainly been right about the shame thing. Every time Bruno had looked at him it flared up to scorching again. Leone had been squirming practically the whole day, the feeling lingering even when Bruno and Paolo had gone off together and Leone was left to play babysitter. He never did get a chance to get Bruno something to eat...

He'd actually been relieved to go when the time came. But then he started missing Bruno almost immediately. Wow, his emotions were complicated. He allowed himself to consider a life with Bruno as he laid in bed, unable to sleep. Bruno would probably wake up first, but he'd always lay in bed for a while, too busy with wanting to be asleep again to bother with getting up. Then Leone would wake up and pull him closer so he could kiss the back of his neck, lips pressed to his skin long enough to feel the vibrations of the hum Bruno offered in place of words. 

"Good morning to you too."

Bruno would roll over then and do his best to kiss Leone on the lips even though his eyes were still closed and his aim was a bit off. Leone would kiss him correctly even though he tasted like morning breath. Then he'd probably kiss him a few more times before carrying him to the shower. Bruno would let Leone wash his hair and Leone would treat it like an honor. He'd dry Bruno off after with all the care he was capable of, then dry himself while Bruno dressed. They'd make breakfast together, of course, occasionally brushing arms or lips, stealing sips of too-hot coffee between moments of cooking until they could just sit down and eat. The dishes would go in the sink. One of the kids would clean them later, maybe. They'd go to work together, a perfect team, and Mista wouldn't have to work because he was their son and their son would always have whatever he needed without having to have a job under them. He could just spend the rest of his childhood happily and Giorno was happy too, he didn't hate Leone at all. Narancia wouldn't have those scars and he'd be wild forever and cause such a racket. Fugo would be good to him because that's what he deserved- a man who was good to him. And Fugo would be good to himself too, the Whatever It Was no longer anything that could hurt him. 

Maybe one day they'd adopt a child, one of their own that hadn't known the streets. Maybe his name would be Adamo or maybe Pippo and he would be such a tiny little thing and they would love him so much. Little Pippo (or maybe Adamo) would have so much love given to him, so much care, by two fathers, four brothers, and (why the hell not) two uncles in Jean Pierre and Noriaki. Jotaro too, he supposed. Three uncles, then. 

Maybe they would have a small wedding, with just their kids, Noriaki, Polnareff too, maybe Bruno's father would want to be there, maybe Bruno's mother was somewhere out there too. Or maybe they'd have a big wedding, a huge party, with everyone they could think to invite, every guest free to bring as many plus ones as they desired. Bruno and Leone Bucciarati.

Leone woke up without remembering falling asleep. He sat on the edge of his bed for a while, eyes closed, hands in his lap, making an effort to remember this dream. It was so rare that he had a good dream and this one was actually kind of wonderful, scattered about though it was. Leone Bucciarati... That sounded rather nice, actually. 

Eventually he got up, stretched, and went to bathe, thinking about Bruno, mostly, as he went. He kept thinking about how Bruno had literally stressed himself into a near catatonic state over the presence of a man he seemed to get along with. It was... Strange, to say the least. Maybe Mista knew what was up...? He had just finished getting dressed and had his hair wound up in a towel on his head when he heard someone check if his front door was locked. "What the fu..." He crept up on it, checking through the peephole to see... Narancia? Oh great. Wonderful. The rat knew his apartment's number now. He slammed the lock hard enough for Narancia to hear it being undone and went to the kitchen to find something to eat, poking through his few things as the street rat let himself in.

"Hi, Abbacchio! I'm here!" Declared like he had been invited.

"Yep. You're here. Why exactly?"

"I wanted to say good morning. Good morning!"

"Mmhmm." He picked up a cup ramen and turned on the kitchen's sink, letting it run for a second so the water would turn clear before shoving the cup under the stream. "You couldn't have waited another five minutes?"

"Um, no, because, well, you see, I love you. Yes."

"Izzat so?"

"Yup."

Leone smiled where Narancia wouldn't see it as he shoved the cheap cup in the microwave and smashed the buttons. "You want a ramen?" That was as close as Narancia was going to get to an 'I love you, too'.

Narancia seemed to get it, though, as Leone knew he would. He got up and shot to where he saw Leone get his own breakfast and helped himself, snickering all the while. When both of their meals had been sufficiently microwaved, Leone handed Narancia a plastic fork and they went out together, eating as the went. "So, now you know exactly where I live." Narancia nodded rather enthusiastically. "You know how to pick locks?" Another nod. "Peachy. Just wake me up if you decide on any late night visits, alright?" 

"Yes sir!"

Unsurprisingly, Narancia finished his first and he was looking at his empty styrofoam cup so sadly that Leone caved and gave him the rest of his own. Humming in pleasure, Narancia took his prize, smudged face practically glowing with his victory. Leone rolled his eyes and shoved his hands in his pockets, expecting to finish their journey in silence. But then Narancia spoke up. "Hey, Abbacchio."

"Mm?"

"How come dogs go away to die?"

Um, what? What kind of question was that? What had prompted it. "Um, it's... ah..." Leone had a decision to make here. Either he could make some shit up or he could tell Narancia what he believed to be the truth. He went with truth because he had no time to think up some lie. "They don't want their corpse to attract any predators to their people."

"Oh..." Narancia seemed very interested in his cup ramen, he had yet to look up from it. "So it's to protect their family?"

"Yep. Why are you asking about something like that? Dog go missing?"

"Nah. Just wondering."

Leone grunted and, for lack of anything else to do, gently ruffled Narancia's dark hair. Neither of them spoke again as they walked. When they arrived, Narancia split off from him, going to his group, still gripping a ramen cup. This time Fugo didn't respond with a slap when Narancia snuggled up against his side. 

"Boy." Paolo's voice made Leone turn.

"Um, yes?"

"You wearing makeup?"

The question sounded a bit gruff, but Leone could tell that it was just genuine curiosity that drove the fisherman to ask. "Yes, I am. I prefer it over how I look without." Paolo nodded and trotted briskly off, leaving the store without so much as a goodbye. 

"Leone, I am so sorry." Bruno was there then, both of his hands enveloping one of Leone's own. "I-I'm sure he doesn't mean to be rude, he just doesn't think sometimes, please don't be angry with him."

"Why would I be? He only asked a question. He wasn't rude about it at all." Leone's brow furrowed a bit, the gears turning in his head. Could Bruno not read his father...? This seemed very important, a large piece to the puzzle he had been trying to solve, but for the life of him he could not figure out where it went. 

Bruno sighed in relief and the sound distracted Leone from his musings. "Oh, thank goodness..."

"So... Where's he going?" Leone asked the question just as Bruno released him and Bruno answered as they walked behind the counter. 

"To sell his fish, probably. Maybe to drop by at the houses of a few old friends. Those kinds of things." Bruno sounded tense and Leone wished he could think of something to say to make him smile. But in the end he just turned to go change clothes. When he came back out he found he'd lost his chance because Giorno was behind the counter and it was clear from his expression that he wasn't going to let Leone anywhere near Bruno. One of those kinds of days then. He supposed it made sense. He'd had it too good recently, anyway. 

Throughout the entire day, Giorno made it his solemn duty to 'defend' Bruno from Leone, like this was the day that Leone would snap and kill them all, starting with the prettiest man in the building. Leone wondered what had set him off this time. Was it because Bruno had held his hand? That seemed a bit trite to be it, but then, Leone had no idea what would set Giorno off anymore. He was still wondering about it as he went home. He was actually kind of relieved that that was the only thing of note that had happened. At least Giorno had been silent about it all instead of hissing abuse any time Leone got close enough to hear it. Eventually, tired of thinking about the blond brat, Leone's thoughts drifted off to Narancia. Why had the rat asked him about dying dogs? Maybe he'd seen a stray or something... 

Regardless of how he felt about it, the week kept going. Narancia began to join him for breakfast every morning as opposed to waiting for him outside and following along. Leone would have begrudged the amount of money it would take to feed the child as well as himself if not for the fact that Narancia started bringing his own food with him, often with extra for Leone. Apparently, Narancia really did just want his company. He could hardly complain about the few times Narancia barged in, loudly demanding to be fed as soon as possible. Paolo was still a bit odd to be around, but he was a good man and he didn't seem particularly negative towards Leone despite Giorno's efforts. Before he knew it, it was time to go see Noriaki again.

"Whatcha doing?" Narancia was on his bed, laying on his back with his head hanging down, wet hair dripping from where Leone had forced him to take a bath. 

"Getting ready to leave."

"Well yeah, but I mean, why are you dressed like that?"

"It's the nicest clothes I've got and I don't want to look like a bum."

"Why?"

"Because I'm not going to work, rat, I'm going to church."

"Oh, okay. I didn't know you were religious."

Leone didn't bother with answering mostly because he didn't know how to answer that. "Up. You're not staying here while I'm gone." Narancia complained, but got up and followed Leone, whining the whole way through the building, only falling silent when he caught sight of Tiziano's absolutely hideous car."That's my ride. So scoot, get on, go rob a seven eleven or something."

Narancia's eyes were sparkling pools of violet, the color of cartoon poison. He whispered, just loud enough to hear, "Permission."

"Narancia, no."

But he was already gone and Leone prayed that he was not on his way to rob the nearest seven eleven. With a sigh, he got into the now-familiar car with something like relief. "Tiz', you are not going to believe what my week's been like."

"Spill that tea, sis."

Leone buckled himself in as Tiziano started driving. "Well, the absolute love of my life stressed himself unconscious-"

"Yeowch."

"-his son is trying to kill me-"

"Understandable."

"-Okay, ouch. Also, that boy that was with me? That's the rat."

"That's him?"

"Yup. He breaks into my house and steals my food now."

"Damn."

"Damn."

Tiziano laughed at the echo. "Dude, the only thing of note that's happened to me is that lil Melba called me dad."

"Holy shit, he did?" Leone was not sure why that was a big deal, but he could hear the barely suppressed note of excitement in Tiziano's voice. "That's wonderful, Tiziano."

"Isn't it?" He wasn't trying to hide it now and his voice shivered with the force of it. Leone could practically hear his smile. "He's just been so quiet and we've both been so worried that he like, missed his first parents or something even though he can't actually remember them and we didn't think he'd ever want us around at this rate, but he called me dad." His voice softened with love and awe and Leone was suddenly a bit jealous. "I'm a dad."

"You're a dad." Leone was glad things were going good for at least one person on this wretched earth. 

He arrived first this time, oddly enough, stepping out of the car just as Noriaki's pulled up. "Abbacchio-kun!" The redhead was beaming at the sight of him. "Hello! Oh, Jojo, come out of there, meet Abbacchio-kun." His voice dropped below what Leone could hear then, but Leone assumed he was persuading his husband to get out of the car, which he eventually did with some muttered Japanese that Leone didn't understand. Noriaki ran around the car to attach himself to Jotaro's arm and Leone was struck by how tiny Noriaki looked next to his beast of a husband. Jotaro was dressed in almost full white, from his expensive-looking shoes, to his suit pants, to the coat he wore that came down to his calves, to the hat on his head that cast a dark shadow over his eyes. The only other colors were the black of his sweater and the gold ornaments that adorned his hat and coat. His gaze was piercing, his expression set in one of utmost distaste for reality itself. He was huge too, taller than even Leone with very broad shoulders and enough muscle to fill out his clothes completely. How Noriaki was with a man like this, Leone had no clue.

Or at least, he didn't at first. But then Noriaki shifted, pressing his cheek to Jotaro's arm with a warbling string of Japanese and Jotaro's attention shifted to him instead. The effect was almost immediate. His face relaxed into what was most people's neutral and his eyes lost all their sharpness, his shoulders losing their tension. He replied, his gruff voice very quiet, and Leone was struck by how very gentle a giant this Jotaro was. He truly loved Noriaki with everything he was, he just had a bit of a resting bitch face was all.

"Now, speak so he can understand you." Noriaki motioned to Leone and he jumped a bit, focusing again. 

Jotaro looked at him, his hard expression back. There a long moment of silence, interrupted once by Noriaki gently encouraging his husband. Then, hesitantly and with a very thick accent, Jotaro spoke Italian. "Hello. My name is Jotaro Kakyoin-Kujo." Noriaki beamed at him, proud.

Leone just about melted then and there with affection for them both, a bit surprised by the force of his emotion. But then, when your therapy leader coaxes his shy and massive husband into a simple greeting, what else could he do? And the touch of pride that had gone into Jotaro's voice when he's said his last name was just so sweet. Leone offered his hand before any of this could show on his face. "My name is Leone Abbacchio." They shook and Jotaro gave a terse nod, muttering something to Noriaki and glancing at Leone again. Noriaki laughed and got on his tiptoes, pulling Jotaro down a bit by grabbing his coat and tugging so he could kiss him goodbye, much the big man's apparent embarrassment. Pulling his hat down over his eyes, sighing something in Japanese, he got quickly in the car and drove off while Noriaki waved frantically. 

"Oh, I love him so much. He's such a sweetheart."

"He seemed it."

Noriaki grinned at him. "You understood him? Oh, I'm so glad. He's just so shy is what people do not understand. And his face-"

"That's just what he looks like?"

"Yes!"

They were still laughing together when the sound of hooves announced Johnny's arrival, wheezing gasps following behind as Hol Horse staggered after Slow Dancer and her human cargo. Johnny patted his mare on the neck then hauled one of his limp legs over the saddle so he was sitting on the horse like a chair, then just kind of... Fell. Luckily, or perhaps as usual, Hol Horse was there, both arms reaching upward to catch the paraplegic in his self-induced plunge. He set Johnny gently in his wheelchair (when had Hol Horse set it up?) and started to wheel him over, smiling shyly at Noriaki. "Howdy you two."

Did that man just say howdy.

Behind him, Polnareff spoke up and Leone just about jumped out of his skin. "Howdy to you too, you dumbass yeehaw bitch." When did he even get here??? HOW did he even get here? Letting out a breath, Leone turned to nod a greeting to Polnareff and the Frenchman grinned, arms crossed over his well-muscled chest. "Sup."

They all went to the church then, and Leone found himself getting a much closer view of the amount of care Hol Horse put into his handling of Johnny. He lifted him slowly into his arms and took the steps hesitantly, only putting his full wight on the next leg up when he was certain it was solidly on the next step. Polnareff swung Johnny's wheelchair up with ease, leaving it for Hol Horse to return Johnny to with the same loving gentility that he'd raised him with. Throughout all of it, Johnny refused to help bear his own weight. He didn't thank Hol Horse either, didn't even look at his face, really. No wonder Hol Horse was so convinced that no one would ever love him. 

By the time they'd all sat down Leone was feeling pretty bad for Hol Horse. Still didn't want to hang out with him though. 

"Hello, everyone." Noriaki smiled at them, incredibly soft. "What's up for today?"

They all at least glanced at Polanreff, but for once the big man was silent, hands clasped together, knuckles pressed to his lips. He was very clearly thinking deeply about something. Leone found himself hoping he could say it. 

"Um..." Johnny spoke first for the first time and Leone stared at him, wondering what it was that drove the bitter man to talk so quickly. "I... I just... Nevermind."

"Aww, come on." Polnareff leaned back, turning his head just enough to glare at Johnny through silver bangs. "You can tell us. Are we not sisters of the same sisterhood?"

"No?" Johnny gave Polnareff a glance, but Noriaki seemed absolutely elated by the Frenchman's words.

"Yes! We are a sisterhood! Family!" And he was just so excited, grinning like a fool, that Leone couldn't help but smile too.

"Color me sister shook," Polnareff grumbled, for once his voice leaning towards good-natured. Leone shifted so his leg bumped against Polnareff's.

Johnny finally sighed and, with a shake of his head, spoke. "I found someone."

"Oh, big shock. Blond, yes?"

Johnny didn't snap at Polnareff like before, he just nodded shyly. Even Noriaki looked surprised for a moment. Hands kneading unresponsive legs, Johnny continued. "I-I met him a few days ago at a bar, I thought he- thought he wanted to- wanted... You know. I was all for it, he was cute and sweet and big enough to pick me up no trouble... B-But he didn't? Want me, that is, or maybe he did but not then? I don't know, I don't know, but he was good to me and he asked me on a date and I said yes." Johnny laughed weakly. "No one's ever asked me on a date before, I had no idea what to do... Turns out he wanted to take me to this little place with old looking buildings that sell like, old vinyls and shit. I don't even care about that, but... He was so happy." Leone had never heard Johnny speak so much. His face was actually wearing a soft expression for once. "And I do know his name, by the way. It's Gyro Zeppeli." Then he laughed, weak and short. "God, and he stole a lobster from the tank at a restaurant."

"And are you going to see him again?" Noriaki prompted gently.

"Yes. Tomorrow, actually." Johnny went silent then in the way they all knew to mean that he was done speaking.

Noriaki looked at him for a second longer, affection on his face. He brushed his hair a bit out of his face. "Polnareff-kun?"

"Yeah?"

"What is it you've been wanting to tell me?"

Polnareff sighed and rolled his shoulders. "It... I don't know how to say it, Doc. Give a man a minute." Noriaki did not flinch from that simmering anger and Polnareff shifted again. Leone gently knocked their knees together again. I'm here. Sighing, the big man ran one hand through his silvery hair. "I just... I just kinda wish I wasn't a guy, I guess?" Say what now?

Hol Horse looked scared as usual but with a bit of confusion now. "Should we call you Jeanne?" 

"No! I don't-" He kept shifting and fidgeting, tapping his fingers against each other, just generally fumbling. "I don't mean that I'm a girl, I just- I'm sick of just-" He made a vague hand gesture and Noriaki raised a single brow in response, clearly not accepting that as an answer. Leone reached out, hesitant, and took one of Polnareff's ceaselessly fluttering hands. He gripped him almost painfully hard in return, pale, pale eyes locking onto Leone's face. 

Quietly, Leone spoke. "I knew the man who shot my partner, my love, I knew him and that made it so much worse."

Polnareff sucked in a sharp breath. God, he looked ready to explode into shrapnel, taking out everyone nearest to him. "I-I'm sick of this body," he hissed, blue eyes furious, with himself, with life, with the world, with absolutely everything that dared to exist in the absence of Sherry Polnareff. "It's like, I just can't forget, you know? That I'm exactly like the bastards that killed her. That I am perfectly physically capable of doing the exact same thing. And I wouldn't, never, not ever, I couldn't-" He broke off with a choking sound and Leone grabbed his hand with both of his own as opposed to just one. Polnareff's breath shook. "I don't want a body like what hurt hers. I don't want it."

Leone thought of something then and he hesitated, taking a few seconds to think it through. What he wanted to tell now wasn't related to Polnareff's, but... Well, just talking seemed to help them both well enough. And maybe he just wanted to talk about him. "I only decided to stop trying to kill myself because of a man named Bruno. I- I love him." Even though Johnny had just said that he'd gone on a date with a man and seemed to bring a new story of the men he fucks every damn week and no one had said anything about it, Leone was still gripped by that old fear- What if they hurt me for this? But no one spoke. Polnareff just seemed willing to take any distraction from his own words. "He found me, took me in, without him, I... I might be dead right now. Or worse. I know I would have sold myself again, anything for money..."

"Ah, I knew you were gay." Polnareff grinned, all sharp rage. "Gaydar's never wrong." Leone felt his face go hot. He realized his hands were still caught in one of Polnareff's and quickly pulled them back to himself, much to the Frenchman's apparent amusement. At least he seemed better together than when he was talking about Sherry... Then he sighed and Leone watched his face for any sign that he was about to crumble again. "Well, if we're all telling out tales of infinite Gayness... I stopped because of a guy too. Or, least I'm trying to stop."

Noriaki sat up straighter then, smiling softer. "It seems the sisterhood summons gays like burgers summons Americans."

Polnareff laughed, slapping Leone hard on the back. Wheezing, Leone tried to recatch his breath as Polnareff kept speaking. "I love it, Nori', you're slaying. Anyway, back to me and my problems. I saw the guy in a bar one night- yeah, yeah, we're exactly alike Jonathan- he was playing a song on the stage. He's a guitar player and... And you know that song? Killing Me Softly? I never got what it meant until then, because my God, he played my soul." Polnareff had done something Leone did not think he had been capable of doing- he softened. "His name is Mohammed. I've never even gotten to speak to him, but damn. If I love anyone on this Godforsaken planet, it's him."

"Mohammed?" Hol Horse questioned quietly.

"He's Egyptian."

Leone watched Polnareff with something like awe. For once, his voice was gentle. For once, his mouth was soft. For once, he did not seem angry. It didn't last long. 

"Well then..." Noriaki smiled. "I wish all three of you the best... Hol Horse-kun?"

"Hmm? Yes? What is it?"

"Will you still not tell me why you decided to start drinking?"

"Mmmmmm, no. No thank you."

"Alright." Noriaki stood and went to Hol Horse, taking the blond's face in his hands and leaning down to kiss him on both cheeks. Hol Horse just looked stunned. "I'll see you all next week, yes?"

They all murmured an assent as they stood, Polnareff making a beeline for the door, throwing a, "Bye sisters," over his shoulder before he was out of view. Leone followed slowly, walking in a companionable silence with Noriaki, while behind them Hol Horse pushed Johnny. Noriaki smiled at Leone as a farewell just as they passed through the church's front doors, speeding up to hop down the stairs and rush to his husband, who again met him halfway. Polnareff was long gone, though how he disappeared so fast, Leone figured he'd never know. It fell to him to lift Johnny's wheelchair and lower it down the stairs this time. It was a lot heavier than he thought. He didn't bother with speaking to either Johnny or Hol Horse again. 

He trudged towards Tiziano's car gratefully- he just wanted to go home and eat something- but paused with his hand on the ugly car's handle. He looked back towards the church, glanced at Slow Dancer trotting off, then focused on the sign that cheerfully proclaimed the building's name. The Sunrise Church. The Sunrise Sisterhood? Shaking his head at the foolishness of it all, he opened the door and got into the backseat, a smile on his lips. 

Chapter Text

Midnight, perhaps. Or just a bit after. Regardless, the sun was not up when Narancia's voice woke Leone.

"Abbacchio. Hey. Abbacchio." A small hand pushed gently at his shoulder and he groaned. "Are you awake now?"

"Yes... God, what do you want?"

"You told me to wake you up."

Narancia crawled into bed with him then, wriggling under the covers and pressing himself against Leone's nearly-bare body, cold as the fall night. "Get off of me, you freezing rat of a child." Leone managed to raise one arm and made to push Narancia off of him, but when his hand touched the boy he realized his entire body was shaking, shaking far too powerfully for the slight chill that lingered on his skin. "Hey..." He forced his eyes open, looking at Narancia's head of dark hair with vision blurred by sleep and obscured by darkness. "Are you okay?"

"I'm sleepin'."

Leone wanted to press, but Narancia was warming up now even if he was still racked by waves of shivers, and sleep was pulling at Leone's bones. "Did ya... Door?"

"It's locked."

"Mm." He let his eyes fall shut again, the arm thrown over Narancia tightening its grip. Sleep came gently this night and, perhaps, it was Narancia's presence that did it. Perhaps Leone was just no longer a man who could face the night alone. His dream was blissfully simple. He sat at Bruno's kitchen table, his hands warmed by the mug of coffee they held, and he watched the gentle shift of Bruno's body as he washed dishes, humming a song just loud enough for Leone to hear. It was only towards the end that adrenaline was sent through his blood, because without any warning Bruno whirled around, blue eyes wide with frantic terror, and he yelled at Leone, "Wake up! Wake up, Leone! Leone, MY BABY!"

He woke up with a jerk just in time to catch Narancia from rolling off the bed. He gently pulled the boy close again, tucking him to his chest, his chin on Narancia's head. Letting out a breath of relief, Leone did his best to ease his breathing while his heartbeat made its way to calm. He'd just closed his eyes again when Narancia woke, stretching like a dog, legs out, hands reaching down, head tipped back. Violet eyes flickered open to meet Leone's own and Narancia grinned. "Aww, no good morning kiss?" Leone shoved him off the bed. 

Giggling and unharmed, Narancia hopped up and skipped off, apparently deciding to just... Make himself at home. Then again, Leone had just welcomed the brat into his bed, bad as that sounded, so maybe a few liberties were expected, how the hell would he know, he'd never had kids. He stopped himself, brow furrowed. He still didn't have kids. Narancia wasn't his kid, he was his reminder that annoying people were still a presence in this world. Still a bit disoriented, he headed for the bathroom, yelling towards the kitchen, "Don't eat everything I've got, make me something, and stay outta the bathroom, I'm gunna be naked!"

"Yuck, Abbacchio!"

Shrugging even though Narancia couldn't see him, Leone bathed himself as quickly as he could, painfully aware of the fact that his bathroom lock was busted. He dried off with his back to the door, only relaxing when the towel was around his waist. Pushing his hair out of his eyes, Leone made his way to the kitchen, sniffing at the air. "What the hell are you doing in here, kid?"

"Cookin'."

Narancia was, indeed, cooking. Using the stove, even, as well as the one pan Leone owned (though he couldn't recall its origin). "Cooking what?"

"Egg."

Despite the answer being singular, the count in the pan was most certainly greater than one. It actually smelled pretty nice. Leone watched over Narancia's shoulder for a second. "Umm..." Violet eyes glanced to his face. "H-How do you keep it from burning?"

Narancia blinked. "You just gotta make sure it ain't on high and then keep stirring it." 

As it turned out, Narancia was a fairly good cook. Bruno and Fugo both had taught him and he was more than willing to help Leone figure out the simplest things without any hint of judgment. Leone could have kissed the brat's fat face for that. But then they actually got to eating their meal and Narancia spent every moment he could picking on Leone, Leone was far more willing to slam his elbow into Narancia's face, or perhaps just lift him bodily and toss him into the nearest garbage can (where he belonged, really). With a rather smug expression, food on his face, Narancia snickered, "It's like I'm your housewife or something! Oh, cook for me, Narancia! Keep me warm, Narancia! I cannot live without you!"

"You are absolutely insufferable."

"If I'm sooo bad, then why'd ya leave your door unlocked? Huh? Why'd ya do that, grumpy?"

Leone had no answer to that, other than to drop his empty plate next to Narancia's and say, "Well then, wife, wash the dishes for daddy while he gets ready for work." Narancia screamed at the top of his lungs in laughter as Leone's speed walked away, cheeks burning from the immediate flush of embarrassment that came from his own words. God, why did he let this child rile him up so much? When he was finally ready to go, having just finished checking his lipstick for smudges, he called for Narancia and they left together. "You wash them dishes?"

"Yes."

"If they're not done when I get home I'm chucking you in a lake."

Narancia's eyes glowed when he looked up at Leone. "Promise?"

He did not like the sound of that. Wanting to change the subject, he snatched Narancia's hand as they started to cross a road to keep him from scampering off after something. "So why'd you stay with me last night?"

"You were closer than Pops."

"Okay, but why did you wanna stay with one of us?"

Narancia didn't answer for a bit and Leone was starting to doubt he'd give any response when he said, "Sometimes it's just not too good to be alone, ya know?" Boy did he. He accepted that as his answer and they moved on to more pleasant things, Narancia chattering on and on about so many things Leone had missed in their lives while he was curled up in the grave he'd dug for himself. Narancia was swinging their clasped hands between them as they walked, Narancia stepping a little farther than his normal, Leone stepping a little less than his, and they almost walked even. The boy just kept talking, about the time Mista won a pie eating contest only to have to be taken to the hospital for eating so damn much (he had no regrets and apparently had kept the trophy), or the time Bruno had picked up all four of them at once to prove that he was strong only to pull something in his shoulder and need their help with basically everything for months, or how Giorno had once broken his wrist trying to catch something that Fugo had dropped so it wouldn't break and how it still clicked funny when he turned it a certain way. 

It was only when they were almost at their destination that Narancia fell silent and Leone found that a silent Narancia was a bit of an oddity. "Hey, uh, kid. Say something wise."

"Mm? Why?"

"Aren't wives supposed to make their husbands smarter?'

Narancia snorted. "I dunno! Alright, alright, I'll try..." He thought for a moment, head slightly tipped. Then, "Pretty much everything sucks and the world is trash, so you gotta let yourself be happy about whatever, whenever. There's no stupid reason to be okay. Like, it's alright to feel happy when you see a flower managing to grow through cement even if there's some bad things going on. You don't have to be sad all the time for, I dunno, penance. Ya just gotta let yourself be sometimes. Love yourself enough to give yourself a break."

"Damn kid." Leone freed his hand from Narancia's grip to swat him gently on the back of the head. "Where do you hear this stuff?"

He shrugged. "I just kinda figure it out for myself. Oh, hey, Fugo! HI FUGO!" He took off then, rushing away from Leone to launch himself at Fugo, who just managed to catch the flying rat. 

When a literal Rat proved to have his life together better than him, Leone wondered if he had ever actually had anything together for himself ever. Narancia was chattering fast at Fugo and Leone watched for a second, half-curious about what the boy was telling his boyfriend(?). The beginning curiosity turned to pure fear when Giorno, sitting close by, whirled around to face them. He spoke to Narancia and Narancia said something back to him. Then, as one, Giorno and Fugo turned to stare at Leone. There was a raw sort of agony on Fugo's face and it hurt to look at it so Leone hurried inside the store before he could figure out what would cause that emotion to be carved so clearly into Fugo's features. 

There was a shit ton of people in this shop. Enough that Leone could almost forget the beginnings of fear- actual fear- twitching at Giorno's features. When Bruno saw him his expression melted into shaky relief. "Oh, Leone, thank God, please help me." And so he did, rushing to get dressed as fast as he could before literally sprinting around behind the counter to get whatever Bruno asked of him, almost colliding with Mista several times as the boy did the same. It took nearly half an hour of frantic, constant rush to get rid of the line of people and the dull roar of conversation filled the small shop with life. He managed to catch Bruno's eye and smiled tiredly. Bruno laughed without humor, an expression of stressed fatigue more than anything else, then smiled back. He was so caught up in Bruno that he almost didn't notice Fugo swinging a chair at him.

The chair whistled through the air it was brought down so hard and it was only that noise that allowed Leone to turn on his heel, crossed arms brought up to defend his head. Good thing too, because the makeshift weapon crashed hard enough against his forearms to recoil a bit, agony shooting straight through to Leone's bones. Fugo let out a wordless noise of rage as he swung again, the second blow dropping Leone to one knee. He wondered what he'd done to deserve this. 

"Pannacotta Fugo!"

Bruno. Bruno was standing over him, one hand gripping the chair Fugo still brandished. Leone looked up at him, almost convinced that he wasn't real for a moment, because he was absolutely furious and so beautiful in that fury. Leone didn't know rage could burn like holiness. Fugo's face had crumpled into grief, dull eyes scanning Bruno's face for a moment. He let go of the chair and Bruno's arm dropped from the weight of it, stepping back, his eyes darting away from Leone as his hands found their way to his chest. Now he just looked like a scared little boy. 

"Fugo." Bruno set the chair down, his voice carefully gentle, but still stern. "Panna'. Look at me." Fugo complied. "Why would you do that to Leone?"

"He-He-" Fugo shivered once, hard, and he refused to look at Leone. "He slept with Narancia. Put his hands on my Narancia, my Narancia."

"What?" Bruno looked down at Leone. "You...?"

Leone struggled to his feet, a pleading expression on his face. "Bruno, I know that sounds bad, but it was innocent, I swear to you. I don't know how Narancia worded it Fugo, but I assure you I didn't hurt him." He looked into Bruno's eyes, begging to be believed. Dammit, Narancia... "He sleeps with you too, doesn't it? Sneaks in in the middle of the night?" Bruno nodded slowly and Leone could tell he wanted to believe him.

"Narancia says you called him your wife."

Leone flinched and glanced at Fugo. "It was a joke," he murmured. "Narancia's the one that said it first, just ask him."

"Fugo?" Narancia trotted up then, thank God, his dirty face as confused looking as Leone still felt. "What's up? Why'd ya run off like that?"

Leone figured he may as well say it as plainly as he could for the kid. "Fugo thinks we had sex."

"Oh, gross." Narancia made a face of disgust, tongue poking out through his lips. "I have standards, Abbacchio, Christ."

"Same, rat." He tried to motion towards the kid, but the slightest shift sent pain shooting through his arm and he hissed softly under his breath. "Damn, Fugo. You hit hard."

"Mm? What'd he do?"

"Beat me with a chair. Nice to know you've got someone defending your honor, I guess, but ouch. Now take your rabid blond and explain what's up, please?"

Narancia made another face and muttered, "Sex..." under his breath before taking Fugo by the arm and dragging him away. Leone looked around after they'd gone. Surprisingly few people had noticed the assault, or if they did they were far more concerned with themselves to bother with being worried. Leone thought then of Polnareff and his baby sister. How no one had been willing to just... Make a phone call to bring help. Absolutely no one had been willing to take away their time for the sake of someone else. His arms ached. 

"Leone...?" Bruno, very gently, touched Leone and Leone felt his breath shudder out of his lungs from it. 

"Yes?"

"Are..." Bruno bit at his lips, drawing blood. "Are you okay?"

"I will be. I've been hurt worse." He experimentally lifted his arms. The pain was fading just a bit, but... It was going to bruise pretty badly. "I would never hurt him, Bruno, I swear it."

"I know, I know." Bruno ran a hand over his shoulders, then turned to look at Mista (Leone had forgotten the boy was there). "Mista, take care of the place, come get me if you need me." Mista gave a stunned nod and Bruno began to lead Leone towards the door that opened to the stairs, pushing him gently forward first to make the climb to Bruno's home. Leone didn't have to be led to the couch Bruno liked to talk to him in. He sat with his hands in his lap. Bruno practically fell next to him, leaning back with a sigh and running hands over his hair. His braid knocked loose, falling from the top of his head and he sighed deeply like the last straw had just spontaneously combusted. Leone wanted to do something to help, but he didn't know if any sign of affection would be taken well right now. After a few minutes of silence, Bruno finally focused on him and said tiredly, "Tell me from the beginning."

And so he did, starting with Narancia barging into his house every morning for breakfast, walking with him to work, clinging to him all the time and generally just making a nuisance of himself. "I started leaving the door unlocked at nights, because I figured I had nothing worth stealing and if he couldn't walk in then he'd bust in and I'd rather not have my door further damaged by a rat throwing himself at it at midnight." Something like amusement softened the lines of Bruno's face for a moment and hope flickered in Leone's chest. Maybe it would all be okay. He finished by explaining how Narancia had chosen last night to crash and how the whole 'wife' thing started. "I honestly didn't think anything about it, I mean... He's Narancia. So I just... Went along. I... I get now that it sounds pretty bad." His hands were worked into his shirt, pulling gently at the fabric as he watched Bruno's face. But there was no sign of what he was thinking, no hint as to what he felt, and in the end he motioned for Leone to stay and stood, marching out the door and leaving Leone alone. He stayed sitting there, staring at his own shoes, trying his best to think of nothing, because if he thought about something he knew he'd cry or scream or throw something or perhaps all three at once. He wondered if that's how Polnareff felt, all the time.

He jumped in startlement when Bruno returned, sitting straight and twisting to see his face, almost falling apart when he saw the soft expression that beloved face held. Bruno smiled at him. His hair was back in place. "I talked to Narancia. He said the same thing you did, so I guess you're free to go, hmm?" Leone wasn't even the slightest bit upset that he'd double checked his story, he was glad that everything was okay. "Though..." Dread bit his stomach a little harder than before. "Giorno still seems very agitated. Maybe it would be best if you stayed in the kitchen today? Out of sight?" Leone just nodded. Yes, alright, whatever you say, anything at all, so long as he was not to be sent away. He spent his day hiding in the kitchen. Occasionally, Bruno poked his head in to check on him, but no one else came. He figured Giorno was keeping them away. That was fine. It was just fine.

But when the occasional muffled shriek, so clearly Narancia's, made it through the kitchen's closed doors he felt a different kind of pain in his chest and he wondered why that was.

Pretty much everything sucks and the world is trash.

Leone figured Narancia had had that part right, at least.

The day went on, lonely and quiet, and by the time Leone noticed Paolo standing off to the side to watch him it seemed as though the man had been there for quite some time. Leone nodded at him. Paolo nodded back. Few words were needed around Paolo Bucciarati and Leone was starting to find that he quite liked it. It was easier than any beating around the bush. It was how it was how it was.

After a good ten minutes of a rather comfortable silence, Paolo finally spoke. "My son likes your company."

"I like his too." Leone measured out the flour like Bruno had shown him and worked it into his bowl with his bare hands.

"You're gay."

"I am."

"You love my son."

"I do." Hmm. Easier than he'd thought.

Paolo was quiet for a while, evidently mulling this over before he could say his thoughts in as simple a way as possible. "My son," he finally said, "needs a wife. He's like his papa. He's gonna need kids of his own to be happy. You can't grow kids."

"I cannot," Leone agreed quietly. "Would you like me to stay away from him?"

"Nah. Nothing like that." Paolo's face was kind and he smiled at Leone when Leone glanced at him. "I just want my son to be happy." He stared Leone in the eyes and Leone understood what he had not said. It is not you. You are a good man, but you are a man and Bruno needs children more than he needs a husband. Think of him before you think of yourself. Please.

Leone nodded. Always.

Paolo nodded back. Thank you. Then he left, making sure the kitchen door shut gently behind himself and Leone was alone with his thoughts. Paolo was certainly right about one thing: Bruno needed a baby. He had Narancia, sure, but... But one day he was going to want a true baby of his own and maybe adoption would be enough but maybe it wouldn't. Leone couldn't give him that. He was a man. He had to lean back a bit as he rolled the sugar cookie dough so his tears wouldn't mess it up. At least Paolo didn't agree with Giorno...


Narancia kept having breakfast with him. He started to bring things that needed to be cooked and he taught Leone how to cook them. He never told Leone where he got the food. Neither of them ever spoke about the night Narancia had crawled into his bed. Which was fine with Leone, he's just as soon forget it had ever happened at all, except... Except he couldn't quite forget that Narancia had been shaking like he was afraid. 

"Ya know, Abbacchio, you're dumb as shit."

"At least I don't look like shit, Shit Head."

"I don't know about that Chief."

Leone smacked him gently on the back of the head. Annoying as he was, Leone couldn't make himself be mad at the kid, even with all the trouble he'd caused and the bruises that had yet to fade on his arms. Narancia shook his head hard in response to the blow and Leone regretted making the street rat bathe occasionally because water droplets went absolutely everywhere including directly into Leone's left eye. Cursing, swatting at Narancia a little harder, Leone left the boy to finish the dishes on his own. Wild as he was, Narancia always completed the simple tasks Leone had made clear were required of him. He was a good boy. "Leaving!" Leone called out even though he wasn't leaving and there was a short, frantic scrambling in the kitchen followed by Narancia shooting out of the doorway with his ams dripping with water.

He stood on his tiptoes, ready to bolt. "You're not leaving."

"Nope."

"Asshole."

"Ass face."

Narancia stuck his tongue out, smacking his arms on his clothes to get them dry while Leone went and got his work clothes, knocking on the top of Narancia's head as he passed and holding the door for a second for him. It was always easy to walk with Narancia, even if Leone knew Giorno and Fugo would give him hell if they saw. The kid (ratty though he was) just kinda... Got it. He understood Leone, even though Leone wasn't entirely sure why. 

"Hey. Hey, Abbacchio." Pulled from his thoughts, Leone grumbled a response. "Yup. Hey, tell me what the biggest thing you've ever thrown was."

"Biggest thing I've- Shit kid, I don't know, uh, a person, I guess."

"I see, I see... So you could, theoretically, throw me?"

"Kid, I don't need to theorize, I could chuck you like an American football."

"Spin and all?!" He seemed FAR too excited about this.

"Uh, sure. Spin and all."

"Do it. Right now. Throw me. Abbacchio, throw me."

"No! Quit it!" Narancia kept trying to climb up him and Leone kept shoving him away. The kid was grinning though, his face pressed to Leone's restraining palm while his hands reached desperately past, fingertips just grazing Leone's side.

"Throooow meeeeeeeee."

"No, Bruno would have my ass."

"You would love for him to have your ass."

"Don't you dare start saying shit like that, you greasy rat."

"Excuse you, I am a clean rat."

They bickered the whole way, the 'fight' carrying on even as they went through the shop's front doors. Fugo was immediately between them, close to Narancia but refusing to touch Leone, Giorno following behind. Bruno gave them a worried look and trailed behind too, but Leone gave him a soft look and Narancia's loud insistence that he'd earned the right to be thrown like a hacky sack seemed to reassure Bruno that nothing was wrong. He went into the kitchen with three kids trailing him and continued to bark at Narancia while he shucked his shirt and buttoned on the proper one, tying his apron while Narancia attempted once more to climb him, this time thwarted by Fugo. 

"Narancia Ghira." It was Giorno's voice, coldly commanding, that got the rat to shut up.

"What do you want," Narancia huffed.

"Come here. Now. You too Fugo. Out, let's go."

"No." Narancia crossed his arms, widening his stance to resist the soft push of Fugo's body attempting to herd him away from Leone. "You're not the boss of me. You're younger than me anyway."

What the hell, what the fuck, what the literal shit, Narancia was older than Giorno??? The RAT was older than the boy with eyes that looked like they had been forged by Poseidon himself at the dawn of the ocean's creation? No. Absolutely not. He refused to believe it.

Giorno was shaking his head. "That's irrelevant, Narancia." Oh God, it was true. "Nar'." His voice softened, became more persuasive. "Just come on. I'll get Bruno to give you some sweets."

Narancia's eyes narrowed. "Promise?"

"Of course. Come on now."

With a huff, Narancia obeyed, chin up like it had been his idea all along, Fugo tiptoeing carefully after with his arms held close to himself. Leone watched them go. The pain that had long become the norm ached deeper suddenly, clawed into bleeding again by Giorno's claws, not because Giorno still did not trust him, but because it was Narancia that he did not trust him with. Because he looked at Leone and saw someone capable of hurting that wild boy in the worst way he could be hurt. Leone looked at the scars on his big hands and all at once he understood what Polnareff had meant, when he said he hated his body for the things it had the capacity to do. Leone could, if he wanted, do some very horrible things to Narancia. Or Mista. Or Bruno or Fugo or even Giorno himself. He was a big man and very strong. He would never hurt them. But he could. And he hated it. He wished he were small. He figured standing there hating himself wasn't too productive so he went to hate himself around the sink so he could wash some dishes too. 

"Leone?"

Leone burst into tears and Bruno practically slammed into him in his hurry to give a hug. "Leone, Leone, what's wrong, Leone?" When Bruno had figured out that hearing him say his name calmed him down, Leone wasn't sure, but that gentle voice and the warmth of that body pressed so close to his own helped him gain control of himself rather quickly. Bruno was holding him in much the same manner that, just a few days ago now, Leone had held Bruno. Though, Bruno was a mite too short to have his head anywhere but on Leone's shoulder. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm..." His breath shuddered and he shut his eyes, gripping the edge of the sink tightly. "I guess I'm finally just feeling how shitty it is that Giorno thinks I want to- want- that I- I-... To Narancia."

"Yeah." Bruno squeezed him just tight enough to be felt. "Yeah. I know. I'm so sorry, Leone."

"I would never hurt him, not him, I- I just- Bruno?"

"I know, I know..."

Bruno held him until Giorno came and tersely requested his presence. Leone had the feeling that he didn't need Bruno at all, he just wanted him away from Leone. He wished Bruno would have stayed with him. He wished he knew what Giorno had read in those papers that made him so angry. He wished Mista would come talk to him. He missed Narancia. 

He washed the dishes. He went home.

Laying in bed, sore arms folded under his head, he stared at the roof wondering why he couldn't just get it over with and fall asleep. He felt like he was waiting for something. He wondered if it was Narancia he was waiting for. Eventually he just rolled over and shut his eyes, hoping that if he pretended to be asleep for long enough that eventually he wouldn't be pretending anymore. It was one of the worse ones that night, because it wasn't just Matteo and it wasn't just Bruno and it wasn't just both of them. It was absolutely everything and he kept hesitating, every damn time someone else called for him, begged for him to just save them, he hesitated, because he could only save one, he knew, but he couldn't move and they were all going to die even though he could save one, but dammit, how was he supposed to choose? Narancia, Bruno, Matteo, Jean Pierre, Mista, dammit, how was he supposed to choose? And they dragged at him, hands hot with fire burning into his skin but he couldn't do anything but join them because he was a worthless bastard of a man. Then the hands stopped being pleading, started being demanding, dragging at his clothes and his limbs, pawing his legs open, forcing his jaws apart, and he just shook and allowed it because he is a worthless bastard of a man.

He woke up curled into a ball, shaking all over, in a cold sweat even though it was freezing. Getting up on still-weak legs, he snuck through his own house, the silence oppressive, unnatural, and it took him a moment to realize what he was missing was Narancia. Where was he...? Maybe just a bit late. He ignored the beginnings of worry and took a too-hot shower, scalding himself pink and taking his time in drying himself off, but Narancia still wasn't there when he got out. He dressed, fumbled about in the kitchen, wondered if he should wait much longer. But no, if Narancia wasn't coming today then he wasn't coming. Maybe he was at Bruno's instead. Leone putzed around a bit more, but he wasn't hungry so he didn't eat, choosing instead to just leave.

When he stepped from the building, work clothes over his shoulder, he looked both ways on reflex, checking for that little rat, but he just... Wasn't there.

Maybe Giorno finally got him to listen...

Sighing, shoving his hands in his pockets as a defense against the chill that was getting worse with every passing day, Leone started to walk to work. Narancia would be there, surely. Of all the kids, he was the one that was absent the least, seeming to have nothing else in his life to do other than bug Leone and beg food off of Bruno. Leone wondered why that was. Narancia was a young kid, shouldn't he be in school? Or at home, even? Was he an orphan? That was a depressing thought... But then, why wasn't he in a home? Some kind of system? Did... Did his parents just not care where he went? He remembered quite vividly the way Narancia had shivered against him, pressed close enough for Leone to feel every tremble like it was his own, cold and alone in the middle of the night. For all it had wrought, Leone was glad he'd left the door unlocked. Rubbing his sore arms with a sigh, Leone walked a little faster. It'd be warm in Bruno's bakery...

The sound of the bell had the same calming effect on him as always and he hummed slightly with it as the door drifted shut behind him. There was a brief squeal of a chair being shoved quickly back and Leone turned his head to look at Fugo, who had just jumped up quick enough to knock his chair into producing the sound. The boy looked ready to fly at him again. Close by to him was Giorno, his normally impassive expression broken by his raised eyebrows and a twitch of unease in the set of his mouth. Mista was there too, tugging at his purple beanie. But Narancia wasn't there. Fugo looked at him. He looked at Fugo. For once, stronger than whatever it was he so desperately wanted to hide, was a question, burning in his eyes like fire. Where is Narancia?

Leone stared him down until he caved, backing into his seat and nervously drumming his fingers against the table, leg jerking. Leone went on without looking back at them, heading straight to Bruno and touching the man on the arm to get his attention, leaning forward to murmur, "Have you seen Narancia today?"

Bruno blinked at him, clearly surprised by his sudden appearance. His hands moved easily, on reflex now, slapping out the current customer's change and handing it over even as he spoke back to Leone, equally quiet. "I assumed he was with you. We all did. Fugo has been waiting for him."

"Well, he isn't. Didn't show up for breakfast either. Does he ever just disappear?"

Bruno considered it, head slightly tipped. "Hmm... Sometimes, yes, but never without telling me. Usually indirectly, but.. I can't think of anything he's said that was like what meant he planned on going off."

"Maybe he's just late?" Leone didn't believe it.

"Maybe." Ah. So Bruno didn't believe it either.

Narancia didn't show up. Leone could see it on Giorno's face as the day progressed, the barest hints of pain and worry that were only shown by powerful emotion, they got more and more obvious until it was almost a regular person's expression. Mista stayed close to him, rubbing his arm or kissing his temple, but it was clear that nothing but Narancia's arrival would soothe Giorno's franticity. Leone kept messing things up from his worry for the rat, but Bruno didn't seem too upset at him. Leone tried to not be too out of it- Bruno had said that vanishing for a day or two wasn't a new thing for Narancia- but... But the looks Giorno kept giving him. He knew exactly what that blond bitch was thinking and it killed him. 

Leone went home. He went to sleep. He woke up (screaming) and took a shower (without screaming). Narancia never showed up. 

It was time to go see Noriaki again, but he found it difficult to head out the door just yet and on a whim he picked up his phone and called Bruno.

"Sti-"

"Bruno, it's me, sorry for interrupting you..."

"It's fine Leone, what's wrong?"

"I just- Is Narancia there?"

"No... So he's not with you?"

"He isn't."

"Oh... Thank you for telling me. I'll tell the others. Have a nice day, Leone."

"Thank you. You... Take care of yourself, Bruno."

Softly, like it was an old joke, Bruno murmured, "You sound like Giorno."

Leone smiled but not out of humor. Bruno hung up and Leone made himself leave, running one hand over his face as he stepped into the morning sun, narrowing his eyes against the glare of that horrendous color yellow Tiziano had decided was a good paint job for a car. Sliding into the front seat, Leone said, "Have you seen the rat anywhere?"

"Damn, not even a hey. But, nah, I haven't... Should I have?"

"No, no, it's just that we can't find him. He's probably off eating garbage somewhere, but... I guess I'm worried about him."  Tiziano made a noise and the both fell silent for a good while, just making the journey in the company of a friend.

Then Tiziano spoke, about halfway there. "I haven't been looking for him, so... I mean, he could be around, so... Hey, tell me your number and if I see him I'll dial you up." Leone recited it and Tiziano nodded. "Got it. I promise you, if he's anywhere near a road, I'll find him."

"Thank you..." Having someone else, especially someone whose job it was to wander the city, looking for Narancia too made him feel a hell of a lot better. Tiziano took his hand for a moment, gave him a soft squeeze.

"I... I'm sure his alright. Ah, we're here, just... Take care of yourself, too, yeah? I'll see you in a bit."

"Yeah." Leone smiled at him, but it was weak. Either he was hella early or hella late, because the parking lot was empty and there was no sign of the others as he walked stiffly to the church. It was empty. Early, then. Half-hopeful, but mostly just feeling foolish, he called out, "Narancia?" It echoed back at him and he felt his cheeks heat up even though no one was there. Dammit, where was he...

"Abbacchio-kun?" Noriaki. Leone turned to face him. "You're quite early."

"Aww, couldn't wait to see me?" Polnareff, huge arms easily sweeping little Noriaki out of the way, moved to stand in front of Leone. He was still burning inside. Leone was starting to think that nothing would stop that fire.

"Stop that, Polnareff-kun." Their therapy leader was setting up the chairs and he'd only just finished when Hol Horse made his appearance, for once not pushing Johnny but leading- a dog? A massive dog. It looked part Shiba Inu, part something really big, or maybe it was just an unusually large Shibe. Regardless, the dog was wiggling all over in excitement, held in check only by the restraining hand Hol Horse kept on it's collar. 

"Hey, uh... Nori'?" The dog attempted to leap forward and Hol Horse wheezed. "Can I let him go yet?"

"Mmm..." Noriaki set up the last chair and waited until Johnny entered before nodding, getting on his knees and holding his arms open with a, "Come here, Star!"

Hol Horse released the dog and with a blur of cream fur and a very excited whine, Noriaki was slammed to the ground. What a way to go... Laughing, getting a face full of doggo kisses, Noriaki struggled to push the dog away, speaking a rush of Japanese. Leone managed to pick out that the beast's name was 'Star', but that was about it. After watching the poor redhead struggle for a moment, Polnareff finally just scooped the dog up off the man, cradling the massive dog like a baby. "Hey there, pup." Star licked Polnareff's face. "Nice to meet you too. You alright down there, Doc?"

"I... I am fine... Uhg..." Noriaki struggled to his feet and everyone took their places, Polnareff still cradling the beast that seemed to have taken quite a liking to him. "Anyway... Good morning everyone! This is my husband's dog, Star Platinum. He is a very good boy." Star's tail wagged like crazy upon hearing his name. "He was training to be a service dog, but he could not be trained to follow orders well, so he is ours now. He likes to turn lights on and off. Now, would anyone like to speak?"

"I-I lost someone!" Leone blurted out. "He just went missing, I can't find him, Bruno can't find him, Tiz' is going to start looking too, but have any of you seen a rat-looking kid with dark hair that's never been brushed? Small, dirty? His name is Narancia." He looked frantically from person to person, searching each face for something like recognition. Nothing. One by one, each man shook their heads negative. Leone slumped in defeat, losing the hope he hadn't even realized he had, running both hands over his face before rubbing his eyes so hard that spots of light danced across his vision. Dammit Narancia, where are you? A hand laid heavy on his head, petting him behind the ears like he was a cat and he didn't have to look to know that it was Polnareff. How was he holding that big dog with one arm...? Leone didn't care enough to open his eyes and look, resigning himself to the pleasurable feel of being scritched. He hummed softly in appreciation and Polnareff didn't stop.

"I'll help a sister out," Polnareff muttered. "I'll look around for him, alright?" Leone tried to nod, but damn... He was kind of clocking out a little bit...... Damn, that felt good. He tipped his head back a bit, pushing against Polnareff's hand and he heard the Frenchman laugh. He scratched him right though and that was what was important. Sure did make him relax....

Johnny started speaking then- he sure had become quite talkative- but Leone mostly ignored it. He didn't really care about that Gyro guy. 

Polnareff only stopped petting him when he damn near fell out of his seat when he fell asleep for a second. Johnny was glaring at him. "I don't care about your life either, shit head, but at least I don't fall out when you're talking!" Leone bowed his head a bit. The man had a point. Huffing, pulling his beanie further down on his head, Johnny kept talking. "Anyway, I just... I don't know if I should tell Gyro about him or not, I mean... We haven't exactly known each other long, but... And what even am I with Dio? Does it count as cheating if you're just in it for sex?"

"Yes?"

"Shut it, Jean." 

"Well, excuuuse me, princess."

Noriaki sighed softly and they both quit their bickering, though Star chose that moment to let out a boof, reminding them all of his fluffy presence. The redhead turned to Hol Horse then, the new quietest of the group. "Hol Horse-kun?"

"Mm?"

"Anything?"

"I, um..." Hol Horse shuffled a bit and Leone saw the tips of his ears go pink. "I m-met- I met Dio. Johnny is right." Hol Horse refused to say anything else after that. Eventually Noriaki stopped trying.

"Alright, anyone else? Anything?"

"Nightmares are getting worse." Polnareff grinned and it was an expression made of shattered glass, of ash, of the silence after a bullet: That is, it was the aftermath of something terrible. "But don't worry about it."

The split up soon after and Leone found himself worrying about it.

He got into Tiziano's car and he could see it on the man's face before he spoke. "I didn't find him, bud. I'll keep looking though, I swear. He can't be gone."

He could though. He could, and that's what terrified Leone, how very, very easy it would be to just... Take Narancia. He was so small, after all, not hard to lift at all. Dammit, Narancia, where are you?

Leone got home. Leone went to bed. He woke up (screaming) and took a shower (screaming), then he went out to his empty apartment to wander around and pretend he wasn't looking for Narancia. He wasn't there. He wasn't waiting for him outside, either. He's fine, he's fine, he's just at the bakery, probably doing something stupid or maybe Fugo's got him, he's fine, just fine. He half-ran to the bakery, pushing the door open a little too hard, quickly scanning the whole shop, braced on reflex for the weight of a child that was too big to be held but determined to be carried either way. He wasn't there. Leone didn't have to take too deep a look, the expression on Fugo's face told him everything. All day, he waited. All day he stood at Bruno's side and together they watched the door. All day. But it was no use.

Narancia was gone.

Chapter Text

Bruno paced, rubbing his arms like he was cold, and Leone wanted so badly to catch him, hold him, kiss his hair and promise him that everything was going to be okay. But he couldn't do that. Because Bruno did not want to be touched by him now, would not accept a kiss from him, and besides... Leone didn't know if everything was going to be okay. Because Narancia was gone.

Giorno caught Bruno mid-step and the father of the pair just... Crumpled. Wrapped his arms around Giorno and folded, hiding his face against the blond's shoulder. "Where is he Giorno?"

"I do not know."

"Where could he have gone?"

"I do not know, Bruno."

"Why didn't he tell me anything?"

"I do not know."

Bruno allowed himself to be held for a few minutes but then he shook himself free and started pacing again, blue eyes dry but frantic. Fugo was sitting next to Leone, for once oblivious to his presence. The kid just looked... Dead. Mista was crying, sitting very, very still in the kind of way people do when they don't want to draw attention to the fact that they have tears rolling down their face. Every once in a while he'd sniff softly. Paolo was gone. As soon as he heard that little Narancia (so very small...) was missing he'd gone to look for him. It had been a day since then and neither of them had shown up. 

Tapping out a tattoo against his arms, Bruno turned to Leone and for perhaps the tenth time he said, "Are you sure we can't ask the police for help?"

"Yes. He hasn't been gone long enough and..." Leone hesitated. "Bruno, please forgive me for this, but he is not your child." Bruno turned away and Leone could see the way that hurt him in the set of his shoulders. "Oh, Bruno, I just... They won't see any reason to consider him missing, is all I mean, they'll just believe he went to his family or-"

"I am his family," Bruno hissed the words, glaring over his shoulder at Leone. "Me. Not that bastard that claims to be his father."

"I know, I know..." Leone stood, hands out in a pacifying gesture, and Giorno shifted to be between him and Bruno. "I know, Bruno, that you are his mama and he loves you as such." Bruno softened, just slightly. "I know that, but the police? All they will see is blood ties. Not love. And you have no blood ties to him. Do you see?"

"I know, I just..." Bruno rubbed his arms again. "Dammit, but I feel so useless..."

No one said anything. They all felt the same, after all. The day dragged by. Giorno kept hissing abuse at Leone, making it very clear that he thought he knew what had happened. Leone wanted to cry from that alone, that Giorno thought that he'd- thought that- that he'd ki- that he'd killed- God, he couldn't even think it. Only Bruno kept Leone in that building, because every time he moved towards the door Bruno would give him this terrified look, like he'd disappear too if Bruno let him out of his sight. Leone thought that that desperate need to have them all close was the only thing keeping Giorno from straight up accusing him of murder. Bruno needed Leone, so Giorno was going to allow his presence. But the second Bruno didn't need him? Well, only God knew what would happen then, but Leone had a pretty good idea.

He was tired and fraying around the edges when he finally got to stagger home, leaving with Giorno ghosting him. He wondered what the blond expected him to be doing. He hated to disappoint, but the only thing on his to-do list right now was Sleeping. The next day was much the same, only this time Fugo wasn't there at all. It made Bruno's anxiety worse until he had been literally chewing his own hair. Paolo came back the next day with nothing in his arms but a brief hug for his son. Bruno was falling apart at the seams and it hurt them all to watch it. Fugo, when he came back, took to following Bruno around with one hand fisted in the baker's sleeve, like Bruno's presence could help him. Giorno was getting worse too, blanker but crueler, seeming to redouble his efforts in chasing Leone off. Mista stopped smiling entirely. He was very quiet. On the seventh day without Narancia, Leone got a phone call.

He picked up the phone and, just barely, managed a "Hello."

"Leone!"

Oh God, it was Tiziano, and he sounded so happy. People were still that way...? Happy? How? "What is it, Tiziano."

"Okay, okay, so I told the other dudes, um, cab drivers, I told them about your rat problem-"

"He was never a problem..."

"-and they've been looking around too, and someone just found him!"

"What?"

"I know! We couldn't find him because he's way farther than we'd think to look! You know that place right by the river? Old buildings, on the very, very edge of town? Kinda dirty? He's there."

"Wha... There? How? Why? What in the world..." Leone wondered if he was still dreaming. If he was, then his nightmares were taking the Elaborate Storyline thing a bit too far.

"I know! Anyway, I was about to drive over and get you, so stay there, yeah? I'll drive you as close as I can to where my friend saw him, then you can start looking, alright? There's something up with him though, he might be hurt. Said he had some bandages or something around his head." Leone wanted to respond, really he did, but nothing was happening and he wasn't sure what this agonizing feeling in his chest was (love). He wondered if he was dead, but his heart was still beating and with every pound it sang Narancia's name. He was alive. "I'll be right there, so sit tight! Ciao, Leone!"

"C-Ciao, Tiziano." The line clicked dead and Leone gripped it tightly for perhaps a bit too long. Eventually, he managed to pull himself away from it. Managed to stagger into the kitchen. He reached into his mini fridge for a bottle (cola) and chugged it, tossing it into the trash with the burn still in his throat. Narancia was alive. He managed to eat something for the first time in three days. Narancia was alive. He grabbed an orange and held it in his hands as he headed for the door, locking it behind him. Narancia was alive. He started to jog down the hallway, then broke into a sprint, finally allowing the excitement to bubble in his chest. Narancia was alive! He exploded out into the sunlight just as that ugly yellow car roared around the corner, coming to a too-sudden halt in front of Leone and Leone practically threw himself into the passenger seat. "Drive, Tiziano, go!" And boy did he. He broke every speed limit, ignored every yellow light, and ran two stop signs, traversing the country with all the self-preservation of a man who has seen God's face and was not impressed. Even at that very illegal pace it still took more than twenty minutes to get near the place. How had Narancia gotten here? And why?

That's around when the doubt settled in. That it wasn't him. That this was all for nothing. That Narancia was-

He cut that thought off before it could destroy him. Narancia was okay. He had to be. Leone rolled the orange he held between his palms, leg jittering with nerves. 

"Hey." Leone glanced at Tiziano as the car began to slow, inching carefully along one-lane alleys. "He's fine. Don't worry. It'll all work out." Laughing from the pain of it, Leone looked back out the window, desperately searching for any sign of that dirty little boy. "Okay, this is it. You wanna continue on foot? I can't get off the roads, obviously, so..."

"Yeah, yeah, this is... Fine. This is fine." Leone hesitated then, half wanting to run out into the alleys now, half wanting to better tell Tiziano just how much this meant to him. In the end he just reached over and laid his hand over the driver's and said, with all the emotion he could muster, "Thank you."

"Aww, shit man, anyone'd do the same." But he looked happy as he said it and Leone managed to almost smile back before stepping out of the car and trotting into the nearest alley.

They were all dirty, in some way. Litter contributing the only spots of color in the uniform grey-brown of dirt covered stone. No plants grew here, in the deep shade of the tightly-built buildings and it was the kind of cold that only arose from a place that has not known the sun in decades. There were a disconcerting amount of children. Dirty, dressed in rags mostly, whispering to each other and darting away before Leone could get close enough to give chase (not that he would). They kept shadowing him and perhaps it was only his size and natural aura of standoffishness that had kept his wallet safe thus far. 

If these truly were children of the streets then surely they would know if someone intruded upon their territory... With a sigh of defeat, he took his wallet from his pocket and sat heavily on the nearest crate. He pulled out a coin and rolled it across his knuckles. They kept him waiting for a fair amount of time, but eventually an ambassador was chosen and shoved forward from the shadows of the many-branching alleyways. He was cute, that was for sure. All soft features and big brown eyes, face covered in freckles. But Leone never did like kids. He motioned the kid forward with a jerk of his head, meeting his open stare with narrowed eyes. The softness sharpened rather quickly on the child when he realized his face would not be enough. He trotted closer and stood with his arms crossed. Leone nodded once. "Name."

The kid hesitated. "I'm the runt."

"Alright, Runt. I need you to tell me something." He flicked the coin at the kid, who just barely caught it. "I'm looking for someone. Black hair. Purple eyes. About a head or so taller than you. Sound familiar?"

Runt turned the coin over in his hands. "This ain't enough."

"I know." He crossed one leg over the other, leaning back slightly, trying his damnedest to look relaxed. "Start talking and I start paying."

The kid turned and ran off, coin clutched in his fist, and a low murmur of children's voices sprang up. Leone waited. Runt came back empty handed. "They say alright." Leone flicked another coin at him. "We seen the kid. Showed up a few days ago." A silence. Another few coins. "Somethin's up with him. He won't talk to no one, says he's just waiting' to die, like his momma did." Another few coins. "Got a bandage on. He's been holing' up not too far from here, but you won't be able to get there without gettin' lost."

Runt blinked at him and Leone sighed. "I suppose I'm to pay you for your guiding services?"

"You suppose right."

"Figures. Lead the way then, but if you try and lead me astray I will go ahead and warn you and your little friends, I will have no qualms about beating a child. Your age will not shield you from me." Runt nodded at that and Leone stood, allowing the boy to lead him. He could still hear the soft sounds of ill-concealed ghosting as he went, Runt's pack keeping a close eye on him. It took nearly ten minutes to walk there. Leone was starting to worry he was walking into their camp where he would be mugged by children, the most humiliating defeat of his life. But no. Runt led him faithfully to a dark dead-end alley where, huddled in a tight ball on a bed of dirty cloth, was him. He knew that gangly little rat anywhere... 

"Thank you." Leone just barely managed to speak the words, fumbling for a moment to tug free a few bills- about fifty euros worth- and hand them to Runt. The child looked at the papers in his hand with wide eyes, then back up at Leone, like he expected him to take them back. Then he took off running, vanishing quickly, followed by the sound of several other children giving chase. 

Narancia did not move as Leone walked to him. He did not move as Leone sat with a grunt, his back to the wall. He did, however, shift when Leone began to peel the orange he'd hauled all this way. Neither of them spoke. Leone tossed the peels carelessly away until the fruit was bare, digging his thumbs into the top and pulling it apart. Narancia shifted again. Leone tugged a segment of the orange free and considered it. Narancia started to move closer, uncoiling from his dog-like position, just as Leone ate it himself. There was a soft huff and Leone just managed to keep from smiling. He tugged off a second segment and offered it to the boy beside him without turning his head. It was taken carefully. He kept on like that, eating one himself then passing the next to Narancia till the last piece. Technically it was his. He gave it to Narancia. 

They stayed silent for a bit longer. Leone's hands were shaking. "Narancia." He could hear it, the raw tone of agony and fury in his voice. Narancia jumped a bit. He tried to speak more evenly. "What are you doing out here?"

"Waitin' to die."

"Mm. Why?"

"Well... Look at me." Leone turned his head. Narancia. It was Narancia, scarred up cheeks still as fat as ever. He was dirtier than usual and his hair was so dirty that it was hardly even fluffy anymore, weighed down by his own filth, and across his left eye was a wrap of filthy cloth, similar to what he'd been laying in. So, something was up with his eye.

"Look kid, I know how your face is, but people don't die of being ugly." He couldn't help it. That sweet face so wrenched in misery, he couldn't help but try to make a joke, and thank God it worked.

Narancia's mouth twitched up a bit, like he wanted to smile, but it fell rather quickly. He put one hand over where his eye would be, now hidden. "My mother died because her eye got all messed up and the doctors couldn't do nothing about it. It just cost a bunch and then Dad... Dad didn't want me no more. After she died." He wasn't looking at Leone anymore, but Leone found he could not look away from the dirty face. "So... When I felt something... Something not right going on, I knew it was my turn, so... So I figured it would be better if I just left, cuz Pops would try and help me and he doesn't really have the money to be spending on something like that, 'specially seeing as I'm just gonna die anyway. Besides, I didn't want to worry anyone so I wanted 'em to think I just ran away or something."

Leone wanted to choke this child. Wanted very badly to shake him like a doll. Tersely, in a harsh tone he immediately regretted, Leone hissed, "Giorno thinks I raped you and dumped your body in the river, so how's that for not worrying anyone?"

"What!?" Narancia's one visible eye was wide with a mix of horror and disgust, his mouth twisted in distaste. "You wouldn't- He thinks that- My God!"

"Yeah, I know." Leone ran his hand over his face, glad he hadn't bothered with any kind of makeup. He stretched his legs out and leaned his head back, shutting his eyes and doing his best to keep his voice from sounding angry. "Fugo gave up. I don't know what he's been fighting in himself, but he gave up the day he thought he lost you. He's just kind of... Empty now. Mista doesn't smile anymore, he'll only talk to Bruno or Giorno, Bruno has been barely holding himself together. We had to tell him to stop gnawing on his own hair at least eight times every, oh I dunno, every twenty minutes or so? Paolo was looking for you nonstop for two or three days, didn't even come home at night." He laughed once, harshly. "I haven't eaten in three days." He heard Narancia suck in a breath through his teeth, because he understood food. He got what that meant. How very deeply hurt and frantic Leone had been. 

Without warning, Leone reached over and gripped the bandages on Narancia's face, hauling them up. Narancia flinched back with a hiss, glaring at Leone, but he didn't turn his head away to hide. He was definitely worse for wear and roughing it in this filth hadn't helped... The 'white' of his eye had become the 'red' of his eye and the pupil was fogged over with some film of something that wasn't supposed to be there. The veins stood out sharply and Leone grimaced a bit. It looked painful. "You've got an infection," he growled. "Perfectly treatable, you stupid, stupid child. I ought to whip you lame, you hear me?" He grabbed Narancia by the hair before he could lean away, shaking his head from side to side. 

"Ow! OW! I get it, I get it, stop, please!" Leone released him and Narancia hastily covered his eye again. "Umm... How did you find me anyway?"

Leone scoffed. "Well, after Giorno and Bruno and Fugo and Paolo and myself couldn't find you, we had to get a shitload of other people involved. I convinced the biggest Frenchman I've ever seen to keep an eye out for you and my friend the cab driver managed to convince the whole damn city's cab system to be looking for you, so I hope you're proud of your little stunt, bitch face." Narancia didn't react to the insults like he usually did, perhaps because the anger was starting to leak into his voice. But could Narancia blame him? This stupid child had vanished for a week. No letter, no warning, no reason, just gone. Over something so pointless! The relief of finding him was fast fading indeed and now Leone just wanted to hurl the little shit against the nearest wall. "How could you, Narancia?"

"I-I just thought-"

"No, you didn't think at all!" He pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes, growling in rage and frustration. "You didn't think! Did it ever even occur to you, how we would feel? How Bruno  would feel? Dammit, do you know what you did to him?" Narancia was avoiding his eyes again so Leone looked back down the alley. "Narancia." One violet eye flicked to his face. "What if one day... What if Bruno knew he was going to die in... In an hour. So he told all you guys that he was going to the store and he'd be right back, but he never came back. And no one ever found him. He was just there and then he wasn't, what would you do? Would you feel any better by not knowing he was dead, or-" Leone turned his head away and tried to wipe his eyes in a way that wasn't too obvious. "Or would you spend your whole life waiting for him, even if you knew he was gone, if you never saw a body would you not spend every day of your life looking? Wouldn't you chase after people who looked kind of like him in a crowd, because what if it really was him?" He shook his head. "Not knowing is the worst punishment you can give a person. What has Bruno ever done to you but loved you?"

"I get it okay? Geez..." Narancia had his knees drawn up to his chest, his arms around them. He looked so miserable. "They think I'm dead?"

"Of course they do!" God, this kid was so dense! "A cute little kid with damn pretty eyes wanders off alone at night and doesn't come back? What does that sound like to you?"

Narancia shifted. "I- I guess it never... I didn't think of it like that." He shuddered a bit, hugging his legs tighter and Leone sighed.

"Dammit kid... Look, just get up already and let's go." Leone stood and Narancia stood with him, wobbling a bit before following after him.

"Go where?"

"What do you mean where? Home."

"I-I can't." Narancia stopped, shuffled backwards a step. "I can't, can I? Not after..."

Leone sighed. "They won't care that you were gone. They'll just be happy that you're back. Promise. Now come on." Narancia started to follow him again, still a little unsteady on his feet. Leone didn't bother with offering him a hand to stay standing. He regretted that fairly quickly. 

It was a very soft noise that announced it, the quietest squeak of surprise not long after they'd left the tangle of alleys. Leone turned to see that Narancia had stumbled out into the road and was swaying with one hand over his bandage. That's about when everything slowed down for Leone. He heard it before he saw it, the roar of an engine, the shriek of tortured tires, pushed too hard against the blacktop. He saw it then, the truck, hurtling around the corner far faster than was safe, tipping over far enough on the curve that Leone wondered idly if two tires were going to lift from the earth. Then it righted. Then it kept coming. And Narancia was still in the road.

No. No. No. Nonononononono.

Dammit, not this one too.

His legs were moving before he remembered thinking that he needed to run. His arms were out towards that boy- that sweet, stupid boy- and Narancia was just looking at him blankly. Go, go, faster, get him, you can't lose him. He felt every flex of muscle that propelled him onward and pushed it further, heedless of the building ache. You just found him, just found him! The car's horn began to blare, but it was a dull sound behind the roar of Leone's blood, rushing through him from the frantic pounding of his terrified heart. 

You can't take him, he thought, the words thrown like venom in his mind. You can't have my baby.

He collided with Narancia. He got his arms around him (so small). The car was still coming. Leone kept running. He jumped forward at the last moment, just trying to get Narancia out of harm's way, to hell with his legs. The vehicle clipped his foot as it passed, flipping Leone through the air and sending a bolt of pain through his entire leg. He landed hard on his back, curved protectively around Narancia, and for just a moment there was nothing. Then everything rushed back at once and suddenly there were three people poking at him, asking him if he was okay, trying to get him to tell them what was wrong with the kid, but he ignored them because Narancia was shaking against him which meant he was alive. He barked something at the people that made them back off, but he didn't care enough to remember exactly what he'd said, because Narancia was alive.

He sat up painfully, gasping from the pain in his leg, gently easing Narancia back from his chest so he could see his face. "Are you okay!?" Narancia nodded numbly and Leone crushed him in a hug, rocking him and sobbing and suddenly it was very, very clear how Bruno could stand to kiss Narancia when he was so dirty. Leone kissed that stupid brat's greasy hair and he kissed his smudged cheeks and all over his filthy face, just so damn happy this his kid, his baby, his little boy was alright. Leone remembered thinking all that time ago that Narancia wasn't his kid and he managed a weak laugh. Ah, denial... How violently it had just been ripped away. "Thank God..." He squeezed Narancia perhaps a bit too tight, kissing him again, and more than anything else it was Narancia's silence at his smothering affection that told him how truly terrified the child was. 

Then, very softly, Narancia murmured, "Thanks, Papa."

And then it was very, very clear why Tiziano had been so excited that his son had called him dad.


Bruno let out a wail when Leone told him over the hospital's phone that he'd found Narancia. He'd just barely managed to tell the baker where they were before Bruno was screaming for the others and slamming down the phone. Leone flinched at the noise, but he understood. His leg was in a cast and horribly itchy. He had half a mind to hit it against the nearest wall as he hobbled along, confined to crutches. He kind of wanted to go lay down in his bed, but... But if Narancia could have visitors now, he wanted to see him. The trip ended up being for nothing. Only relatives, the doctor said. Leone didn't bother arguing. He just limped away to his own bed, barely getting himself into some semblance of comfort when the crowd flooded in.

Bruno was first, exploding into the room and throwing himself at Leone, hugging him so fiercely that Leone was worried he'd crack a rib. Not to say that he didn't hold Bruno just as tightly. Mista was grinning, his purple hat pulled low over his brows, one arm around a blank faced Giorno. Fugo wasn't present, but Leone wasn't surprised. Bruno wasn't letting him go- he'd actually gotten into the bed for the sake of his back- and Leone shivered just slightly when the baker spoke, warm breath brushing against Leone's neck. "How did you find him, Leone? And what happened to your leg?"

And so, with the most beautiful man in the world tucked against his side, Leone went about telling him how he'd found their son. About Jean and Tiz' and the phone call and the drive and the street kids and, finally, the car. Bruno tensed against him when he tried to describe that. There was a heat prickling at the backs of his eyes when he thought about what could have happened, so he shoved the thoughts away and changed the subject- he would not cry in front of Giorno. "And so, an ambulance got called and we got taken here. That hit to the leg didn't quite fracture my ankle, so I won't have to wear this damn cast for two months, thank God for that." He shut his eyes then, running one hand up and down the gentle curve of Bruno's spine and wondering when someone would tell him how Narancia was dong.

"Wow, quite a crowd in here!" A man in scrubs pushed his way into the room, grinning widely. He was very blond and had the strangest facial hair Leone had ever seen. It was shaved clean except for a line of carefully made squares all the way across both sides of his jaw and up his face into his sideburns. "Hi there. My name is Julius Zeppeli, I'm your nurse. Is this your boyfriend?"

"I'm his boss," Bruno muttered, just as Giorno snapped, "He most certainly is not."

"Hoo boy, alrighty then!" Julius' grin never faltered, but there was... Something... Trying to be realized in the back of Leone's head. He felt like he'd heard this man's name before...

Gyro. Not Julius Zeppeli, Gyro. Without thinking, Leone blurted out, "Did you steal a lobster recently?"

Julius- or Gyro?- blinked. Then he chuckled nervously. "Hey, uh... M-Maybe not so loud?"

"Oh my God, I cannot believe this. Of course you're a nurse at this exact hospital, of course you are, damn lobster stealing Gyro is my fu-"

"Do you know Johnny?" Gyro perked up considerably at that thought, interrupting Leone's lamentations. "He talk about me?"

"Yeah, he does, all good things, don't worry..." Leone sighed, suddenly very tired, and Bruno was getting himself up which did not improve his mood at all. Rubbing the wrinkles from his clothes, Bruno shuffled back, away from the bed, and Giorno tugged him back quicker when he got in range. Leone sighed. "I don't have time to talk about your boyfriend, Zeppeli, train wreck though he be. Please just... Do your thing and leave me be."

"Boyfriend? He calls me his boyfriend? Me? Really?" Gyro didn't stop talking and Leone didn't stop ignoring him. By the time the nurse was done and got his (admittedly fine) ass out of there, Giorno was the only other person in the room. Leone covered his face with both hands and spoke through them. "God, what do you want? I found Narancia!" He threw his hands up towards the roof in a grand gesture of tired exasperation, aimed at the continued existence of this blond before him. "And, surprise surprise, I didn't kill him! Because I'm not a fucking psychopath who likes hurting people! Unlike a certain bitch I know named Giorno Giovanna!" He was snarling the words now, but he couldn't make himself turn his head to face Giorno. His arms were getting tired. He let them drop, just managing to bring his hands to his face and grind the heels of his palms against his tired eyes. "Just... Just stop, please, I can't... Not today. Not today." And still Giorno was silent. Leone could almost believe he'd left if not for the cold aura of hate that radiated off of him. Even the sound of his shoes when he began to move sounded cold, the harsh click grating almost violently against Leone's heavily frayed nerves. Leone didn't move his hands. He didn't want to have to look into those eyes that judged him so harshly. "What did I ever do to you? What did I..." Dammit, he was crying. 

"This isn't about me." Giorno's voice was soft in the worst possible way. He was not soft like Bruno, or even like Narancia, no, Giorno Giovanna was soft like the sound of a suppressor when the first bullet is fired from the gun. 

"Sure it isn't, kid... If that's what you have to tell yourself."

"And what do you tell yourself, officer? Hmm?" Leone bit his tongue to keep himself from reacting, praying that Giorno could not see the way his whole body trembled. "This is not about me. This is about them."

"I would never hurt Narancia."

"I cannot risk taking your word on that." Leone growled softly. Damn but this kid was dense. It was like taking to a brick wall. "However, you did indeed have nothing to do with Narancia's disappearance and it was your connections that allowed us to find him. So, I now owe you a debt." What? What was he going on about? "I will repay that debt by giving you fair warning. The elder Bucciarati left for his home when he knew Narancia had been found. His presence is no longer a concern for Bruno. Now that it will not be overwhelming to him, I plan to tell him what you've done. All of it. As soon as he knows Narancia is stable and we return to his home. I suggest you be gone by then, it will be easier for him and for yourself."

"You've got a pretty shitty idea of 'repayment', blond bitch." He wanted very badly for there to be some semblance of venom in his voice, something like fighting, but no. He was as dead as Fugo.

"I have said what I wished. Good day, Abbacchio. I hope I never see you again." Giorno left then. Leone was alone. He sobbed and tried so hard to remember the feeling of Bruno's arms around him.


He left the hospital as soon as they would let him. He hoped Narancia wouldn't be too upset that he hadn't visited. He hoped he wouldn't be blind in his left eye. God, he wanted to see him so badly... But in the end, all he'd gotten to do was hail a cab and go home. He hadn't even gotten to say goodbye to Bruno.

Leone hated crying. He hated it almost as he hated Giorno's ugly face, but he found that he could not stop. He hobbled through his apartment and managed to eat something before dragging himself to his bedroom. He wanted to go to bed. Maybe this was a nightmare after all, just a long, horrible nightmare, and he'd wake up in just a minute and Narancia would be okay and Bruno would love him and Giorno would just... Not be there. That would be nice. He couldn't even do that, though, because he couldn't figure out how to get his pants off with this big cast on. And so, pants awkwardly stuck on one leg, bunched up on some dumb cast, he was forced to lay on his back for the sake of his leg and suffer. And suffer he did. After who knows how long of laying there in discomfort, he somehow managed to go to sleep only to be shoved headfirst into a nightmare where he wasn't fast enough. Where he'd been just a bit too far away. Where he'd had to watch as Narancia was destroyed. Then the car stopped and Matteo got out and smiled at him.

He woke up. He kind of wished he'd died in his sleep. He wondered how Narancia was doing. He wondered if Giorno had made good on his promise. He wondered if Bruno was okay. His leg throbbed as he dragged it off the bed, almost wishing the injury had been bad enough for them to let him keep a pair of crutches. How was he going to take a shower...? Sighing and already starting to cry again from frustration, he hauled his pants up and shuffled/hobbled to the kitchen where he could be miserable while sitting. He didn't know how long he sat there before the phone rang. Sniffing, wiping snot off his face, he drew up enough strength to make it to the phone and pick it up. "He-Hello?"

"Leone. Um, hi. H-How's your leg?"

Bruno. God, Bruno... He sounded scared. "It's fine... Just say it, Bruno." He leaned his forehead against the wall. He couldn't do this right now. Could not bear to be the target of Bruno's unfailing kindness. It was going to kill him.

"Ah... Alright. I finally got Giorno to speak to me and, um, I-I'm just going to need you to stay home today, alright? I'm closing the store is why, I've got something I need to check, but... Ah, i-if you could possibly come by for a while at, um, abou-about six or so? I'd like to speak with you about something."

"Okay."

"Okay. Goodbye."

"Goodb-" There was a quiet click as Bruno hung up before Leone could finish. Leone put the phone back in its cradle very, very carefully. Then he put his back to the wall and slid to the floor, screaming with his hands over his face until his throat burned. He did nothing that day. Occasionally, he would resurface from his blind fog of misery to check the time. Other than that... Well, what else could he do? Nothing, really. So he waited and cried and tried to eat but threw it up and scrubbed throw up from his hair (while crying). He managed to wash his hair in the sink, but he really only bothered because he was a greasy man and it was really starting to itch. At least his hair was dry by the time he had to leave. It took longer than usual thanks to his handicapped leg and the entirety of said leg was throbbing by the time he walked through the doors of that bakery.

It smelled like home and it made his heart twist because he knew that this might be the last time he ever walked through those doors. The little bell sounded almost melancholy. He limped to the door behind the counter and somehow managed to get himself up the stairs. The door here was unlocked too, but he knocked twice. 

"Come in, Leone."

He opened the door and half snuck in, closing it behind himself as silently as possible. Bruno was sitting in his usual spot, his face as closed off as Giorno's. It ripped Leone apart to see. Leone started to walk to him, to put himself where he always did, but Bruno nodded once to the chair across from the couch and said, "Sit." Leone obeyed even though it damn near killed him. He looked down at the coffee table between them. "I suppose you know what this is about?"

Leone shifted, shrugged, nodded, shrugged again, he could not look at Bruno's face. "I have an idea, yes."

Bruno sighed. "Leone... Giorno told me about... About what you've done. Did. Before. I... I didn't want to believe it but I knew Giorno would never lie to me, especially not over something as silly as disliking a person. So, I asked him how he knew and he told me about the papers..." God, those papers, those damn newspapers. Leone had half a mind to burn every newspaper company to the ground for doing this to him. Bruno kept speaking. "So I went to the library earlier today and I used their archive. I... I searched your name, Leone." Silence. Leone supposed Bruno wanted him to say something. Throat dry, Leone tried to swallow spit that would not come. He wished he'd spoken to Bruno sooner, wished he'd ever bothered to see what they'd actually accused him of. Bruno sighed. "Your partner's name was Celestino. Not Matteo."

"That was his middle name," Leone barely managed to cough. "He... He only let me call him that." 

"Mm. Then what about... Leone, how did he die?" There was something in Bruno's voice, something suspiciously level, and Leone felt sweat trickle down his back. He glanced up, just for a moment. But even in that brief contact he saw the gun. Bruno had a gun in his lap and his hand was around the handle.

"He-He was sh-shot, he was shot by a m-man."

"What man, Leone."

"A man."

"What man."

"Jesus, Bruno, why does this matter?"

"Tell me why your partner had to die, Leone."

"Because I fucked up! Is that what you want to hear?!" He was screaming even though he didn't want to and there were tears on his cheeks and it took everything in him to stay in his seat. "It was me, it was my fault, and I know it should have been me, I know that, I know, Bruno, please, stop, please..." He pushed his hands into his hair, shaking all over. Dammit, he was falling apart and he couldn't even begin to figure out how to catch all the pieces. Bruno didn't speak as Leone tried to get himself under control. He just looked at him with those blue eyes and in that moment if someone had told Leone that Giorno was Bruno's blood son he would have believed it, because those eyes were the same. They were the exact same. Not bothering to try and keep the brokenness from his voice, Leone said, "I hesitated... He s-saw the gun before I did and he just... He jumped in the way. Because I hesitated."

"Why did you hesitate."

"B-Because I knew the man. I'd seen him before, I didn't think... I didn't know I'd ever... But he was there and he had a gun and I didn't see it and Matteo, Matteo, he gave up everything for me and he shouldn't have, he shouldn't have..." Leone wrapped his arms around himself. He wanted so badly to run away, but his own leg was weighing him down. 

"And what about all those other things? Hmm?"

"Wh-What?" Leone sniffed and tried to make himself smaller as he studied Bruno's face. "What do you mean?"

"I mean," Bruno shifted to the very edge of his seat, the pistol held loosely in his right hand. "What about the assaults? The women? The kids? The drugs? What about the money, Leone, what about all that?"

"I- I don't- What?"

He was truly confused now, what did Bruno mean? Something in Bruno softened then. Maybe he could tell Leone truly didn't know. He did have a talent for telling truth from lie. "Leone.. Just... Just tell me it isn't true and I'll believe you." God, those eyes, so pretty and soft, gentle again as they studied his tear-stained face. Bruno was giving him a chance, but why? Why would he do this?

"I..." It isn't true, he so badly wanted to scream. But he couldn't. Because he didn't know what they'd said he'd done. He could not deny something he had no knowledge of. He hung his head in defeat. "I never read any newspapers then, I just... I turned in my gun and badge as quick as they'd take them and then I found the nearest bar and then I didn't stop, so... And I never figured it mattered because I planned to die quick anyway. So, I can't Bruno. I can't say it isn't true because I've never even..." He made a vague gesture with his hands, looking at Bruno's face and begging to be believed. 

Bruno shut his eyes and let out a breath through his nose. His free hand rubbed up his arm like he was cold (or like he was trying to rub something off) and Leone saw the shift in his expression as he made a decision. "Leone, I cannot believe that you are a bad man. I just... Can't. But until you figure out all..." He gestured towards Leone's entire being. "All this? Leone, surely you understand, I can't let you near my children." That, somehow, hurt worse than anything. That Bruno no longer trusted him near the kids. "Leone, please, just... Just figure it out and come home."

Leone looked up then. Bruno's mask was slipping. There was true pain on his face, a begging sort of look in his eyes, and Leone didn't understand it. "I... Bruno, I'll try." He shuffled a bit, aching with the need to cry but long since spent of tears. "So this is it?"

"It is." Bruno took a breath and straightened his shoulders. "I'll walk you to the door. You go first." 

So I can keep the gun on you. Leone nodded. He stood and left without complaint. Bruno followed him all the way and when the store's door shut behind him, Leone heard the click of a lock. He began his painful walk back home. His leg was fine. It was his heart that was bleeding.

But then, he supposed that wasn't exactly new.


In his dreams, he was very small. Small enough for Bruno to hold him in his cupped hands. He was a very comforting person to be held by, Leone knew he would not be dropped by those careful hands. But then Giorno distracted Bruno, told him he needed to be somewhere, and Bruno left him, set him down very carefully, but left him alone. Giorno picked him up then, cruelly, by the neck of his shirt. He was choking from his own weight, kicking and struggling, trying to wriggle free of the clothing, but it seemed stuck to him, as determined as Giorno to end his life. Giorno carried him to the window. He opened it, held Leone out over an abyss and smiled. Then he let go.

He woke up with a jolt, unable to breathe for a second or two, still jarred by the feeling of falling. His first thought was that he wasn't going to work today because he had to go see Noriaki. Then he remembered. The he kind of just wanted to go get something stronger to drink (wine) and then lay in bed to wallow in his own misery. Giorno had done it. He'd finally done it. He'd gotten Bruno to chase him out with a gun in his hand. But... But it wasn't hopeless. Bruno had said that there was a chance he could come back. And all he had to do was face up to the biggest trauma he'd ever experienced. All he had to do was rub a handful of salt in a three-years-festered wound with no anesthetic. Peachy. At least... At least he had the others today. His 'sisters,' as Polnareff had jokingly dubbed them. Maybe it was time, anyway. He needed to say everything he'd ever done and then he needed to go and see what everyone else had said he'd done and then he needed to show Bruno the difference, all the while praying that it was enough. But that was only three things. Easy.

He kept talking to himself as he bathed and dressed, keeping a half-nonsense monologue going to block out any of the thoughts that threatened to break him down. Don't think about Bruno. Or Narancia. Or Giorno, or Mista, or Fugo, or Matteo. Don't think. Just keep moving. Go. Just get to the car. One leg forward. One leg half-dragged. Lift and drag, lift and drag, just a little more...

He got into the car, settling his leg awkwardly. Tiziano twisted to look at him. "What happened to the leg?"

"Got hit by a car. I cannot talk about it right now, I'll fall to pieces."

"Mood. Hey, wanna hear about what Squalo does for a living? He makes little stuffed animals and shit. Works from home and all that. He's really good, a lot of people pay good money for what he makes." And so, Tiziano kept talking and Leone shut his eyes to listen, putting all his concentration into seeing what the driver described. The man in the photo, a bit tired looking, but happy. Bright orange hair tied up in a ponytail that was threatening to come loose. Loose fitting clothes. Big hands woking the delicate job of hand stitching some small piece of fabric to another, brow slightly furrowed over pale blue eyes. And a child with purple hair sitting quietly next to him, small hands that were still a little baby-chubby carefully stacking Lego pieces to make a pyramid, chubby face comically serious for a toddler.

"Ah, we're here. Hey, you asleep?"

"No." Leone opened his eyes and wiped away the tears that had gathered in the corners. "I'm awake. I..." He hesitated with one hand on the car's handle. "I'm happy for you, Tiziano. I'm glad at least one of us gets to be happy." He was out and gone before Tiziano could respond, hobbling as quickly as he was able with his cast weighed leg.

"Chin up, sis." Polnareff bumped him bodily as he passed. "It isn't the end of the world just yet."

Leone wasn't entirely sure if that were true or not.

"You find your kid?"

It took a minute for Leone to gather his thoughts together enough to understand, but when he did, he nodded and managed to say, "I did. He's going to be fine."

"Thank God for that, eh?"

He didn't answer that, just followed behind Polnareff, conscious of the fact that the Frenchman had slowed down when Leone began to lag behind. They entered the room together. Noriaki was there. Johnny was there. Hell, even the dog was there. Hol Horse, however, was not. It seemed... Wrong. For Johnny to be present without the cowardly cowboy shuffling behind like an oft-beaten servant. Leone looked the large chamber over once, thinking maybe he'd just overlooked Hol Horse- he didn't exactly stand out, despite his size and terrible fashion sense. But nope. He just... Wasn't there. "Ey. Johnny. Where's your stalker?"

"Hell if I know." Johnny pulled his beanie off, revealing a head of red, slightly curly hair, flattened in most places from being so long confined. He ran his hand through it and tufts stuck up in wild directions. "He just wasn't around. Nori' had to help me."

Noriaki made a face of pained confirmation. "He is... Fatter than I thought."

Johnny scoffed. "The word is 'heavier,' Noriaki, not 'fatter.' Jesus..."

Polnareff laughed. Leone almost wished he could, too. But it took an effort to even make it to the chair Noriaki had set out for him without collapsing or screaming. Noriaki started to go to his chair, but hesitated, looking at the door. No Hol Horse. He sat down, giving Star a pat as he attempted to get into his lap, and started to speak, but hesitated again, twisting around to check one last time. With a sigh, he said, "I suppose he is not-"

The door opened and Hol Horse strode in, looking like he was trying desperately to not piss his pants from nervous fear. He tipped his hat at Noriaki. "Sorry for being late." Then he went to Johnny, swinging one foot up to rest on the armrest of the man's wheelchair, leaning down with one arm hooked over his knee till he was close enough to Johnny's face that the redhead had no choice but to look at him. Then Hol Horse spoke. "What's up, you dumb depressed bitch." Polnareff shrieked with laughter, the harsh edge of rage to it making it almost manic. Leone just watched, silent with shock. What the hell-?

And then Johnny smiled. "What's up, you inbred podunk." Hol Horse grinned and they just kind of looked at each other like idiots for a second before Hol Horse backed off and went to his own seat, Johnny watching his back. What... was that? Leone had no clue and judging by the expression on Noriaki's face, he didn't know either. 

"Umm..." Shifting, rubbing at Star's ears till the dog nearly fell over from it, the leader of their sisterhood pushed his hair a bit back from his face. "I'm glad you could make it, Hol Horse-kun."

"Thanks, ma."

Something like a smile ghosted across Noriaki's face. "You are welcome. Ah, Abbacchio-kun? Did you find your boy?"

"Yes, I did, Tiziano helped me." Noriaki's expression softened further at the mention of the cab driver. "He got his eye infected and he was extremely dirty, but he's going to be fine. I busted up my leg getting him though." He raised his bum leg for a second. "It'll be fine. Not broken."

"Oh, that's such a relief to hear... If you hadn't found him, Jojo was planning on calling in his whole family! His grandpa Joseph has quite the nack for finding lost things. But thankfully that was not necessary. Now, moving on... Does anyone have anything to share?"

"Yeah, I do." Leone spoke up before Polnareff could, leaning forward to brace his elbows on his knees, like that would someone help him hold himself together through what came next. "I... I need to tell you why I started drinking."

Noriaki smiled warmly, his posture relaxing into a gentle mimic of Leone's own. "I'm listening."

Somehow, that helped. Somehow, that made it easier. He shut his eyes. He took a breath. He thought of Bruno. And then he started to speak.

Chapter Text

It was three years ago, you know, maybe a little more now, three and a half maybe... Anyway. That's when the... The event happened, but really it started a whole lot before.

Leone absently rolled his cigarette from one side of his mouth to the other, shuffling through the papers with a sigh. There was just so much... He was hardly even reading them anymore. It had been hours, after all, his vision was starting to get weak from it. 

"Long day?" His partner, in more than just work, leaned against the doorway to the records room, a cheap plastic cup in his hand. Leone nodded and Matteo walked to him, offering the cup and snatching the cigarette from his lips. It held the nasty, over-done coffee that the office's machine spat out and Leone downed it gratefully. Matteo laughed, tossing Leone's cig into the trashcan by the door before sliding close enough for their bodies to touch, his whispered words close enough to brush warmly against the shell of Leone's ear. "I bet I could wake you up better than that sorry excuse for a cup of coffee." Jumping in shock, shuffling desperately away from his laughing partner, Leone glanced around. Was there someone else at the door? Had someone seen through the room's windows? "Hey, Leo. It's okay, calm down." Matteo held up his hands in a placating gesture, the amusement gone from his expression. He didn't try to touch Leone again. "I'm sorry, alright? I forgot. No one saw."

Shuddering with a swallow of fear, Leone nodded and went back to shuffling through the massive amounts of unsolved minor cases. "Why do there have to be so many, Matteo? It's like none of them have ever been taken care of. Like no one's ever had to pay for the... The lesser things." He took out a page and looked it over with a sigh. "I've found three so far that sound like it was the same person, but there's just so many, they'll never have to face the consequences of it because we just don't have enough people to..."

"I know, Leo, trust me. I know. It's shitty and it should be different. But it isn't different, so we just gotta do what we can. Maybe bring those three up to the chief though? If someone's going on a crime spree of thefts or assaults, she'll probably wanna know." Matteo patted him on the shoulder, a gesture that could be taken as friendly if someone happened to glance in. Quieter, Matteo mumbled, "You'll be done soon, yeah? Ready to go home?" Leone nodded absently, pawing though the pile, gradiented eyes narrowed in an effort to make them focus better. 

There was just... There was almost more, you know? No matter what I did, no matter where I looked, no matter how many I caught, there were always ten more to replace them. And sometimes they didn't even get punished for what they did. Just got the legal equivalent of a slap to the wrist and sent on their way... I guess I just... I stopped caring.

He'd only even walked up to the three because the woman looked scared. "What's going on here?" His voice sounded dead even to his own ears. Inwardly he sighed. One of the men shuffled half behind the woman, gripping her arm to keep her still as he attempted to hide. The other was far more eager to sidle up closer to Leone.

"Hey now, nothing you need to concern yourself with, officer." God, he even sounded sleazy. "Just a bit of fun is all, and besides it's not like we're makin' her, all she's gotta do is say no, right? Besides, she needs the money." Leone shifted his gaze to the woman. She still looked terrified, but her expression was just begging him to let it go. For him to just turn around and stop bearing witness to her shame. A hand bumped his own, a gentle brush of knuckles and Leone twitched away on reflex, but the touch was persistent, turning a bit to nudge something against his palm. Money. A bribe. He thought for a moment. At most, the men would be slapped with a small fine and sent on their way and if the woman was determined to pay her way in this manner, then there'd be someone else. There was always someone else. Always. He was just so tired. His fingers closed around the bills and he turned away, got back in his car, and went along with his route. 

It was a downward spiral from there, a deeply slanted slope that he could find no traction on. He started allowing things he'd never imagined he would allow, began to look away when certain people passed a certain package between them, started drinking at night. The only good thing that came from his new view on life that everything was meaningless and he could do nothing about it was that he was starting to care less if someone saw him with Matteo. Matteo was his and he was the only good thing in his terrible life and he'd be damned before he let someone take that away from him. It was easier than he thought it would be to be okay when the other men in the force started giving him weird looks. When notes were left in the pockets of his uniform. When they replaced his favorite mug with a cheap white one with 'fag' written on it in sharpie. He never did find that mug. He just used the white one (sharpie isn't hard to wipe off of ceramic, he learned). It made Matteo furious but Leone had asked him to do nothing about it, so he didn't. He really didn't mind. And besides, the few women who worked with him had made a sort of... Protection Group for him. He wasn't sure why, but they had and he appreciated it, truly. He'd almost been beaten up at least twice, but with a ring of angry, well-trained women around him it was rather difficult for those with a particularly strong hate to reach him. 

Leone only cared when they'd done something to Matteo. It was pinned to his uniform instead of being shoved in a pocket. Leone was glad for that, because it meant he could find before his dear Matteo did. It was far crueler than the ones they left for him. It hadn't taken long to find who'd written in. The man ended up in the hospital for weeks from cracked ribs, a broken wrist, and a missing finger. He'd been far too terrified to out who'd done it to him and the second he'd healed enough he quit the force and left town. Matteo knew he did it. They never talked about it. No one bothered Matteo after that. The only part of it Leone regretted was that he'd had to get himself a new pocketknife.

I just didn't care about anything. The law, morality, human beings in general, nothing mattered. Nothing but him and then I lost him too...

Someone had called about gunshots. Said there'd been an argument a room over from their's, that at least a few cops needed to be sent over, just in case. Leone didn't expect anything to come of it really. If a gun had been shot, then a gun had been heard. Criminals knew that well enough, so they'd probably be gone by the time they arrived. In the driver's seat, Matteo was tense, as he always was with situations where guns were involved."Calm down, love," Leone murmured, one leg propped up on the dash. "It's probably nothing. Someone knocked over some shampoo bottles in the shower and their roommate panicked."

"Don't joke right now, Leo!" Matteo glanced at him, bright blue eyes half-furious. "Not now. Shush."

"Mm. Yes sir... Daddy~" The car swerved slightly and Leone laughed.

"Leone Abbacchio, I swear to God, I will end your life here and now!"

"You like it~" Matteo made a choked snort and Leone grinned at him. Matteo was the only person who could really get him to smile. There was silence for a moment (Matteo claimed to be unable to drive with the radio on) and Leone watched his lover's face. "Hey, you know what I think the problem is?"

"That we're headed towards a potential shooting?"

"Nope. Matteo Abbacchio. It rhymes. I may have to start calling you Celestino, at least on occasions where I must introduce you fully."

Leone watched as it fully dawned on Matteo, what he had just said. "Wha- was that- Leone, is this your shitty idea of a proposal."

"Ummm, what would make you happier."

"That is not the question!"

"Isn't it though?"

"God, you are impossible!" Matteo slapped at him without looking and Leone squeaked (only Matteo had ever gotten him to make such an undignified sound), putting up his arms to protect his face. "I will be speaking to you about this later."

"Well, I should hope so." He slid down further in his seat, both legs up now, chuckling to himself. Matteo huffed. That was all the warning Leone got before the love of his life slammed the breaks for the sole purpose of damn near choking him on his own seatbelt. Wheezing, Leone sat up properly in the seat, rubbing at his throat. "Ouch, Matteo. That was entirely unnecessary."

"Perhaps, but we're here now, so get off your lazy ass and let's go."

They fell silent as they headed into the building, low and fast to the door they'd been ordered to. There were voices coming from inside and Leone raised a brow towards Matteo. What kind of idiots stayed around after firing a gun? Leone watched Matteo as he moved to stand in front of the door, to shout the protocol warning. He had been joking, with what he'd said about their names, but... But God, he would love to be married to this man. As expected, there was neither a surrender nor an assault, just a sudden silence that lasted long enough for Matteo to be allowed to kick open the door. The second it was open, Leone slid forward, moving as fast as possible, getting inside while his partner recovered from the recoil, one hand on his gun. The small hotel room opened into a cramped living room that held two people attempting to flee through a window and it didn't take Leone long to notice the splashes of blood on the floor. A drug deal gone wrong, maybe?

"Freeze! Poli-" Leone's voice died in his throat when one of the men turned. It was him, the man that had passed that bribe to him so long ago, the first of many. Seeing a face he knew just... Locked Leone up for a moment. Stalled something in his thought process. The man was speaking, but Leone heard it dully, like his ears were stuffed with cotton. He got the gist of it though. He was a dirty cop. This man knew that. So he had two choices: Take the man in and he'd snitch on Leone's leanings towards the illegal, or he could kill him. Destroy the evidence and hope the consequences were light. His hand was on his gun, fingers half-curled around the familiar hilt, but he didn't know what to do- what to do- didn't know what to do-

"LEONE!"

BANGBANG!

The man was out the window and Matteo was laid at Leone's feet, curled up and wheezing in pain. "Matteo...?" He didn't understand what had happened, why was Matteo down there? "M-Matteo, what happened?" He went to his knees and took Matteo into his arms. God, there was so much blood. There were two holes in the chest of his partner's uniform, just two tiny holes, too small to be significant surely? But there was so much blood, darkening the blue fabric, running to the ground, getting on Leone too as he held him. What was happening? "Matteo?" Blue eyes, pupils blown wide, rolled over to lock onto him for just a moment and it was the fear in those eyes that finally sent it all rushing to Leone in one horrific moment of realization. "Noooo, no no, Matteo, nononono, not you, Matteo, no, God, no!" Cradling Matteo close to his chest, Leone frantically clawed for his radio, screaming into for someone, anyone, to come and help him because Matteo was- He was- Matteo was-

Matteo was dying. And it was all his fault.

"Matteo, please, look at me, look at me Matteo." Leone gently turned his partner's head to face him, leaning down to kiss his forehead. "You're going to be alright, I-I'll get you help, just hold on, I promise you'll be okay." Those blue eyes were locked on him and the fear was fading, just a little bit. Leone rocked him, laying a hand on his pain-sweaty face and stroking his cheek with a thumb. "You're going to fine. You know why? Because we've still got to be married, you know. W-We're going to get out of that shitty little apartment and we'll get a real house and some big ugly dog and..." Matteo's hand had wound itself into the front of Leone's uniform. He pulled at him weakly and Leone felt the ache of tears beginning to rise. Matteo pulled at him again. Leone bent down, turning his head to catch the soft words Matteo wanted him to hear.

"You... You were it, Leo.... I-I wou'a... Would... Yes to you... s-said yes.... Leo..." His breathing was getting harsher, his body desperately trying to make up for the rapidly decreasing amount of blood in him. It didn't matter anymore, who came in response to Leone's desperate call for help. He knew what a person looked like when they couldn't come back.

So he held Matteo, kissed him, told him he loved him, loved him so much, that he was everything, he was so, so loved. Even when those pretty blue eyes fell shut, even when his final shivers died down to stillness, even when his final breath sighed out from his lungs, Leone held him and told him again and again that he loved him. He loved him so much.

I turned in my gun and badge as soon as I could. There wasn't anything there for me anymore and besides, rumors were already going around that I was a dirty cop. I got myself drunk as fast as I was able and I made it my duty to stay that way for the rest of a life I was determined to make short. After about four months, I... I started selling myself. I think I was hoping that one of them would kill me, or it would give me the courage to kill myself. I was just sick of being alive. It stopped being anything more than a hassle I had no interest in dealing with. I... I don't know when I stopped loving him, but... But the day I realized it, I remember feeling even worse. Like it was a betrayal, somehow. Like I should have tried harder. I just... I was so tired. I just didn't want to be tired anymore.

Chapter Text

"So you're a dirty cop."

Leone flinched, tucking his arms closer to himself in an attempt to look smaller. He nodded at Polnareff's words. Softer, the Frenchman said, "Well, there's far worse things to be."

There was a moment's silence, broken only by an inquisitive boof from Star as he nosed at Leone's hand. He gave the dog his scratches, focusing on the furry face as he continued speaking. "The newspapers... Apparently, they were told I did a lot more than I did. It's not uncommon, I suppose. Dumping a few loose cases on a scapegoat just to get them out of the system. Problem is, I have no idea what they accused me of and Bruno-... Bruno's son knows. Whatever it is must be terrible because he's wanted me dead since the moment I stepped through the door..." Star wriggled closer, ignoring the push Leone gave him and shoving his nose against Leone stomach, whole butt wiggling in puppy pride. Leone sighed. "When... When my boy, his name is Narancia, when Narancia went missing, the other kid, Giorno, he thought I-" Leone's voice broke so he silenced it, taking a breath in an attempt to calm himself. "He thought I- that I'd- ra-rape- that I'd killed him." Star Platinum's fur was very thick. Leone buried his hand in it, gently scratching at the dog's back. "Even when I went and got Narancia, he still... He still thought I was going to hurt him, or Bruno, God, he thinks I want to hurt-" He broke off again when Star backed up enough to hop his front paws into his lap. "Hey buddy... Anyway, um... Giorno, he... He told Bruno, yesterday, what he thinks I did and, um... Bruno said he- he doesn't... He can't have me near his children anymore..."

"Oh, Abbacchio-kun..." Noriaki managed to, somehow, not make it sound like pity.

"Yeah... B-But he said if I told him it wasn't true, then he would believe me. Problem is, I've never even seen what they're accusing me of and... And Bruno is very good at telling when someone is lying." Noriaki nodded a bit, like he was agreeing with this assessment. "So, I... I had to see if I could tell the truth to you. Then I've got to go and... And see what's made the son so terrified of me. Then I've got to show Bruno the difference between the two and pray it's enough."

"It will be." Noriaki smiled a bit. "I told you, didn't I? That it would get a whole lot worse. It will get better, Abbacchio-kun. Just a little more, okay? Bruno knows that you are a good man. He will help his son see reason."

"Are you sure?"

"I am. I have known Bruno for quite some time. He would never abandon you without true reason. What you just told us? That is not true reason. He will take you back."

Leone let out a shaky breath. Star sniffed curiously at him before nosing him hard in the face. He decided to allow it.

"Now," Noriaki sat up straighter. "Does anyone have anything to say?"

Johnny shifted in his wheelchair. "Are you scared of guns now?"

Leone blinked, silenced for a moment. Then Star licked his face and he managed a weak, "Yeah."

The redhead nodded, both hands kneading at his legs. "I am too." He looked away then, and though Leone wanted to ask him why he was scared too, he knew he'd get nothing more.

Polnareff made a very soft sound in the back of his throat and Star turned towards him, ears pricked, before abandoning Leone to look up adoringly at the Frenchman. Taking the dog's muzzle in his hands, Polnareff planted a kiss to Star's chops, causing that big tail to wag like crazy. "Good boy." He picked up the dog and sat back, allowing his face and neck to be licked at without complaint. "I, uh... I finally talked to Mohammed."

"You did?" Noriaki grinned. "Do tell."

"Spill the tea, sis," Hol Horse deadpanned, his hat low on his face like he was trying to nap.

Polnareff hummed, silenced for a moment by Star frantically attempting to get his tongue into the man's mouth. Finally just turning his head away and shifting his grip on the Shibe, Polnareff said, "Yeah, I got really drunk and uh... Well, how it happened isn't important. Thing is, he uh... He got me to stop? Hitting things, that is. I don't remember much of it, but... I do remember the feeling of not being angry. It didn't last, but... I'd forgotten how it felt, to not be so damn mad all the time.  Anyway, he said he recognized me? Apparently I'm not the only one taking notice. He knows my name now, so... Oh, and his family name is Avdol, apparently." Star gave a particularly powerful wriggle and Polnareff turned his attention to the dog for a moment, muttering loving nonsense and planting kisses to the fluffy pup's snout. 

Mohammed Avdol and Jean Pierre Polnareff? Mohammed Polnareff. Jean Avdol. Both sounded weird to Leone. He poked Polnareff gently in the arm and, in an attempt at a joke, said, "That is damn awful, Jean. You're going to have to hyphenate your name when you get married, that's the only chance you've got at anything close to a presentable signature."

Polnareff grinned at him, that terribly sharp expression that Leone was beginning to realize was just the only thing Polnareff could manage. "Well, if mine's so bad, what's your gonna be, smartass?"

"Better a smartass than a dumbass."

"Shut up, Jonathan."

Leone huffed like he was offended. "I'll have you know that I plan on being Leone Bucciarati as soon as possible."

Polnareff's brow furrowed. "Dammit, that actually sounds pretty solid so I can't mock you for it."

Leone stuck his tongue out. How, he wondered, did these people manage to make him feel so alright? To his right, Leone heard, very quietly, as Johnny murmured to himself, "Jonathan Zeppeli..."

Which reminded him of something. Turning, Leone said, "I met your Gyro, by the way. You never said he was a nurse."

Johnny perked up considerably at that. "You did? Did... Did he say anything about me?"

"I may have insinuated that you'd referred to him as your boyfriend. He got very excited at that. Take that as you will." Johnny's cheeks flushed slightly pink and he looked away again, one hand tugging gently on the beanie that was starting to show holes.

"Well... This has been wonderful, truly." Noriaki stood and Star boofed at him. "But it is time for us to go. Polnareff-kun? My dog please." Polnareff let the dog free and Star immediately went to the door then... Opened it? He didn't see how, but yes, the dog had opened the door and was holding it for them, looking back with soulful eyes. A good boy, indeed. They all made their way up and out then, and for once Johnny was pulling himself along instead of being pushed by Hol Horse. Leone wasn't entirely sure what was going on between those two, but then, it wasn't his business either. When they came to the stairs, Hol Horse tossed Johnny over his shoulder like a sack of flour instead of his usual care, earning some good-natured curses and a slap to the ass. It got Polnareff to laugh at least. 

"Noriaki...?" Jotaro was at the foot of the stairs, standing awkwardly out of the way with his hands in the pockets of his spotless white coat.

"Sorry I'm a bit late." Noriaki jumped at his husband and Jotaro, after a second of just-visible panic, caught him, cheeks dusting pink. He lowered his head to hide his embarrassment behind the shadow of his hat, turning to carry Noriaki to their car, the two of them talking quietly in Japanese. 

Leone wanted to say goodbye to Polnareff, but some time during the distraction that was Jotaro, the Frenchman had disappeared. Leone sighed and headed to his own ride as Hol Horse and Johnny bickered behind him, Slow Dancer huffing loudly. He slid into the backseat with a deep sigh. He'd done it. He'd finally done it. He thought he'd feel... Different. Better, maybe. He just felt tired.

"Bad day?"

"You can't even imagine..." Leone shut his eyes and leaned against the car's door, half wanting to sleep through the drive, but...

You need to go see what they accused you of.

It was true, he supposed but... But he didn't have to do it now, surely? I-It was hardly the time for going through some library's archives (it wasn't late at all), besides he had to do something else. Yes. Of course. "Hey, Tiz'?"

"Mm?"

"Could you take me somewhere else first?"

"Yeah, course."

Leone gave him the address.


The automatic doors opened for him and he shuffled into the cool building, looking around in hopeless confusion. How did he go about this? Eventually he managed to find the help desk and from there he was directed from one place to another until he finally got someone to give him Narancia's room number (why was his memory so shitty??). Momentarily disregarding his deteriorating memory, he made his way through the sterile-white halls until he got there. To Narancia's door.

He opened it carefully, poking his head in and scanning it quickly for any sign of Bruno or the kids, but no. The room was empty save for him (thank God). Narancia's unbandaged eye was fixed on him and he was grinning as Leone finally slid fully in, shutting the door behind him as quietly as he was able. "Hey, Rat."

"Hey, loser."

"Hey, Cyclops."

"Hey, Papa."

"...Hey, baby."

By the end of all that he had gotten himself to Narancia's bed side. He took the boy's hand when it was offered and sat in the chair that had been dragged (by Bruno?) to be next to him. For a little while they just looked at each other. Then Narancia said, "Pops told me you wasn't gunna visit. Said there were things I didn't understand-" The boy's voice took a bitter edge, "-but that you couldn't be around for a while." One tired violet eye searched his face and Leone knew what his kid was looking for: The truth that no one else was willing to give him.

"A while back I did some shit that got a lot of people hurt. Got someone killed, even. But after that, the police station decided to get rid of some cases they didn't have enough evidence to solve- you know what I mean?" Narancia nodded. "Good. So, they slapped a few on my head even though I didn't do it, and that's apparently what's had Gio's panties in a twist." Narancia snickered at that and Leone managed a smile. "Anyway, he told Bruno what he thinks I did and now I gotta go play detective and figure out what's so damn bad. Bruno doesn't want me around you guys until I do, uh, I guess it's, um... Just in case."

Narancia thought for a minute. "I know sometimes you kinda wanna choke me, but I know you'd never actually do it. You're a fightin' kinda guy, Abbacchio. But you're not a violent kinda guy, ya know? Pops'll come around." He pulled Leone's hand over so his other could reach it and started to poke at Leone's scars. "Hey, uh... Thanks." For finding me, for bringing me home, for talking to me like I'm not a dumb kid.

"You're welcome. How's the eye?"

"Getting better. Doc says I'll be allowed to leave tomorrow if I want, but Pops is gunna have to give me some medicine every day and Pannacotta's gunna have to keep me wrapped up."

"Why did his parents name him that."

"Hey, mine named me Narancia."

"Not true, me and Bruno named you Rat."

Narancia grinned so big Leone wondered if it hurt. "Yeah, you did!... Hey, not that I don't like your company, but ah... Well, Pops is probably gunna come by soon, so you should probably get going."

"Yeah. Yeah, of course, you're right." He gently tugged his hands free of Narancia's and went to the door, pausing to look over his shoulder. "I, uh... I probably shoulda come by after all this mess was sorted out, but um, I couldn't because, you see, I love you. Yeah." He left quickly, but he heard Narancia start to laugh behind him. He found himself smiling and wondered for a second if he should be feeling so happy, but then he remembered what Narancia had told him. That is was alright to let himself be happy, even if everything was kind of shitty. Shaking his head, Leone wondered why everyone but he himself seemed so determined to believe that Narancia was some baby child that needed to be protected. To Leone, Narancia was about the smartest one in their little group. He was certainly better at existing than Leone was...

He still didn't know quite what to make of it all when he got into the taxi. "You don't have to wait for me, you know."

"Yeah, but where else would I get such delightful company?"

Leone smiled, a bit weakly, but he was trying. Tiziano started to drive and Leone shifted to look back at the hospital. His heart just about stopped when he saw Bruno, walking quickly to the building's automatic doors with Giorno at his side. God, but how he wanted to tell Tiziano to stop, to go back, to be able to leave this car and go to Bruno, to hold him and kiss him and let him know that everything was going to be okay, but he couldn't do that, so he just watched until the two stepped into the hospital and Leone couldn't see them anymore.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow he would do it. He would face whatever fire had been set beneath his pyre all those years ago and by God he would survive it.


Leone knew it was a dream when Bruno kissed him. He pushed Bruno away, just slightly, and informed the baker of this revelation, but Bruno just laughed and said, "Yes, but you're going to forget for me, alright?" before kissing him again and of course he forgot as Bruno had asked him to.

Bruno was warm against Leone, comforting and strong, his hands wandering over Leone's body till he arched his back and whimpered in a beg for more. "Good boy..." Hot against his neck, Bruno murmured the words just loud enough to hear before running his tongue over Leone's skin, prompting him to release another high-pitched keen of want. He was going to go mad if Bruno didn't touch him more. 

"B-Bruno, please."

"Please what?"

Damn that man. His hands kept up their wandering, far too soft against his hot skin, and he was starting to kiss at him, those lips pressed to his neck and shoulders and face, but now he was refusing to even kiss Leone on the lips and it was torture. "P-Please, Bruno, please, please-" He broke off with a weak cry as Bruno shifted his leg to grind between his own, bucking his hips up against the touch and nearly sobbing in frustration when Bruno rocked with him, denying him even this simple pleasure. "Brunoooo...."

"Tell me what you want, Leone, and I'll give it to you. Just tell me."

He managed to raise his hands, pawing at Bruno, unable to stop the begging noises he made as he attempted to get his thoughts into something like order. "Please, just... Bruno, take me."

Bruno purred low in his throat, kissing Leone on the lips again and murmuring against his mouth, "With pleasure."

And God, did he. He pulled Leone's legs up onto his shoulders and slammed into him with enough force that Leone's body shifted backwards and he yelped, the sound quickly silenced by Bruno, kissing him nearly frantically, hands gripping Leone's hips, holding him still as he pounded into him with all the strength that gorgeous body could give. Leone gasped out a begging sound- Please, please, more, please, Bruno, please- and Bruno took the chance to push his tongue past Leone's lips, taking him in every way he could be taken. 

"Leone." Hearing his name come from that perfect mouth nearly sent him over the edge then. Bruno pulled away from him enough to look at him, watching the effect he had on Leone as he shifted, tipping his hips just a little different and slamming full force into the one place Leone had been increasingly desperate to have touched. It sent stars across his vision and his back arched with it. Half-cohenrent words of begging and praise fell unhindered from his lips. With a soft groan, Bruno leaned closer to him again and Leone managed to get his legs free, pushing his hips up in an attempt to make it easier for Bruno. Both the baker's hands slid around to lay against his back, holding him up as he started to pant. "God, Leone, you're wonderful." Leone didn't know why that made him blush, but it did. 

"B-Bruno-"

"I know, I know..." Bruno moaned out the words, a shiver going through him powerfully enough for Leone to feel it in every place they touched. "Leone." That he could make this truly perfect human being make a sound like that made something like pride come up through the cloud of lust and pleasure that dulled nearly everything else. He starting slowing down then and Leone whimpered in protest, bucking back against Bruno and getting the baker to laugh weakly. "Come on now, I want you to be able to walk in the morning."

"And if I don't want that?" Leone grumbled, trying again to get Bruno to go a little faster.

"You'll complain in the morning," Bruno murmured, pulling away completely. Leone made a loud noise of pure displeasure and Bruno laughed at him fully then, pushing him down so he laid flat on his back and laying on top of him, kissing along his jaw.

"Quit throwing a tantrum."

"I am not-" Bruno ground their hips together and Leone broke off with a shuddering gasp. "O-Okay, maybe I wa-was."

"Mmhmm~" The movement of his hips was almost gentle, but with the full weight of Bruno on him, the closeness of them keeping their cocks pressed together between their bodies, it sent a different kind of pleasure through Leone that was no less craved despite his complaints just a moment before. He put his hands on Bruno and shut his eyes, letting soft sounds of want fall from his mouth without hindrance as his lover brushed kisses up his neck and along his jawline. He traced soft patterns against Bruno's pale skin before dragging his nails down the other man's back, not hard enough to mark him. Bruno hummed softly in response, grinding a little harder and Leone groaned.

"Why can't you be rougher with me," Leone grumbled, turning his head to press his cheek to Bruno's hair, his hands sliding to Bruno's hips so he could pull him closer.

"I will be, if it's what you want. It wouldn't kill you to be a little patient sometimes."

"Excuse you, I am very patien-" Bruno bucked hard against him, his teeth pressing lightly against Leone's throat.

"What was that?" Bruno murmured, lips close enough to brush against Leone's skin. "I don't think you finished."

One of Bruno's hands was wandering suspiciously low on Leone's body, but Leone foolishly tried to speak anyway, "I said that- AH!"

Grinding hard against him again, Bruno grinned at Leone, that damn hand of his sliding under Leone to grab his ass for a second before moving on to it's destination. "Do you want me to?"

"Please, Bruno, God, yes, please, touch me, Bruno-" Leone was starting to lose track of how many times he had interrupted his own words with a low keen of pleasure, but whatever the number it just went up by one, because Bruno had just pushed two fingers in him as far as they would go and it felt so good. "Bruno..."

"Good boy," Bruno murmured, "You're so good for me, Leone. My Leone. I love you."

"L-Love you too, Bruno." Somehow he managed to speak the words. Then Bruno was moving a little harder, panting softly, precum and sweat making the drag of Bruno's cock run smoothly over his own. With a soft groan, Leone wrapped his arms around Bruno, the grip turning desperate when Bruno curled his fingers up towards Leone's navel and dragged down harshly over his prostate, sending his vision flashing white and his back arching. Then he did it again and again, his face buried in the crook of Leone's neck, his free hand pushing between their bodies to grab them both. If Leone had been the type to cry easily he would have been sobbing from the sheer amount of love he felt for this man and all the things he did to him. "Bruno!"

"Leone." Bruno was panting again, his heavy breath hot against Leone's skin. It was almost too much, all of it, it was just so good, Leone had almost forgotten that this didn't have to hurt. He dragged his nails down Bruno's back again and that pretty baker arched up against his touch, groaning softly, and Leone wondered if Bruno could make anything look beautiful.  

The end of this was building up in him, a dull near-ache just above the base of his cock, and he shuddered, trying to buck up against Bruno even though he could move little beneath the other man's weight. "B-Bruno, I-I can't, I-"

"It's okay." Bruno tipped his head up to kiss Leone's jaw again and Leone took the chance to kiss him on the lips. Leone felt it when Bruno smiled against him just before those pretty lips parted enough for his tongue to push gently into Leone's mouth and of course Leone allowed it. Bruno didn't slow down and Leone keened into his lover's mouth as the pleasure mounted, his whole body beginning to shiver from the force of it. Bruno broke their kiss and shifted to murmur in his ear, "Come on me?" How could he refuse an order so sweetly given? Nearly screaming Bruno's name, back arching up toward this man, his one reason for living, Leone came. He just went limp after, eyes half shut, chest heaving with the force of his panting. He couldn't remember anything feeling quite as good as that. 

Bruno was kissing him, very gently, those soft lips pressed to his neck. Then he started to suck hard against him and Leone grumbled weakly, one hand going to press against Bruno's side. Bruno grabbed his hand and pinned it down, sucking harder on him and Leone just shut his eyes, resigning himself to what would no doubt be a very visible hickey. When Leone's breathing eased, Bruno came off him with a soft pop, raising himself up on one elbow to grin at him proudly. Leone sighed and gently wriggled his hand free of Bruno's, laying it against the man's cheek. "Do you have to do that?"

"Yep. Besides, I know you like it."

That was true, but he didn't have to admit it. 

"Now..." Bruno leaned against Leone's palm, a soft smile on his lips. "My turn?" A very hard cock pressed against Leone's leg and he felt his cheeks heat up. 

"Y-Yeah." 

"Good boy, Leone," Bruno purred, leaning down to kiss him before sitting up and shifting free of Leone's body. "Sit up." Leone obeyed, kneeling and shivering. Bruno stood in front of Leone, wound both hands into his long white hair and pulled his head back. Bruno smiled at him, very gently, before saying, "Open your mouth." Again, Leone obeyed him, his eyes falling shut as he did, both hands sliding up Bruno's thighs, a groan of pleasure rumbling up his throat when Bruno finally took him. God, but he tasted good. Leone never could quite figure out how Bruno managed to taste so damn good, but then, maybe Leone was a little bit biased about that. "G-Good boy," Bruno half moaned the words this time, slowly rocking his hips, getting more of himself into Leone's mouth every time and Leone had never been so grateful for his lack of a gag reflex. There was a harsh tug to his hair and Leone shivered, tipping his head up a bit further, Bruno pressed so deep to him that Leone's nose touched hair. Leone moaned softly around the weight on his tongue, one hand going to grip at Bruno's hip, almost begging for more, and Bruno complied. 

"Leone~" His name, sounded in a breathy moan, coming from Bruno's mouth, it was damn near too much. Bruno shivered, tense beneath Leone's hands, and Leone pulled him closer till he quite literally could not breathe, not that he cared that much about that, wanting Bruno in him when he finished. Bruno did not deny him that. He just gripped his hair harder, took in a shaking breath, and tried his best to say Leone's name again before-

Before Leone woke up, very alone, in his bed, shaking all over and wishing with every fibre of his being that this could have waited until he got this damn cast off. 

Groaning, he managed to sit up, pulling up the waistband of his boxers in curious distaste. "I'm an absolute mess," he grumbled, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and wondering if he should try and get his cast off himself or if he should just continue to live in an increasingly disgusting pool of his own fluids. He decided he'd risk a little 'permanent bone injury'. He bent down to mess with the damn thing and it took him approximately ten seconds to figure out that was supposed to come off. He kind of felt like crying but he also kind of just wanted to die. Unhindered, he waddled to his bathroom and finally got to shower, scalding himself with too-hot water and also maybe crying a little bit (not much though). By the time he was clean and dried his foot was aching horribly and he was almost relieved to strap himself back into the cast. 

He hobbled through his apartment, going into the kitchen and muttering a "G'morning," to Narancia before bending down to tug open the mini fridge and-

Wait one diddly darn second.

Turning his neck awkwardly to look back without straightening up, Leone double-checked and sure enough Narancia stood in his kitchen, apparently just finishing breakfast, a huge grin on his scarred up face. He reached up to mess with the bandages over his eye. "It's noon, Abbacchio."

"Huh. No shit?"

"No shit. I grilled you a cheese."

"I didn't have any cheese."

"Nope."

"Or bread."

"I took care of it."

Shaking his head, Leone grabbed two bottles of cola and offered one to his rat. "Well, thanks I guess. Eye any better?"

"Nah. Leg?"

"Absolutely shitty."

They tapped their bottles together and sat at his kitchen table, eating in silence. Grilled cheese sandwich...... Was actually really good. Or maybe Narancia was just very good at making them. "Can't believe I slept till noon, I haven't done that in... Well, ever."

"Pops says that you only sleep that long if you need it." Narancia had finished his sandwiches (two) and was staring pointedly at what was left of Leone's.

"I guess I did. Haven't exactly been great as of late." Leone was trying not to make any sudden movements so as not to entice Narancia into pouncing. The rat of a child shifted forward a bit in his seat and Leone shoved the rest of his food into his mouth as frantically as possible just as Narancia made a jump for him. With an entire Narancia clinging to his arm and a sandwich crammed down his throat it was no wonder that Leone toppled almost immediately, the chair making almost as much of a racket as his body. Groaning, trying not to choke, Leone looked at the boy on his chest with tired bafflement. Swallowing painfully, he gasped, "I have never hated anything more than I hate you, I hope you know."

"Yeah, but have you considered... Giorno."

Leone couldn't help it. He started laughing. "God, you're right! What a little shit!"

"He thinks he knows everything."

"Looks at you like God Herself detailed all your sins to him."

"Like he hasn't done some weird shit too!"

"Oh honey, you know he's done some weird shit."

"I know it."

They laughed almost too hard on the less-than-clean floor of Leone's kitchen, one of Leone's arms laid over Narancia's lower back, so close their noses almost touched. It was a welcome distraction. After they managed to catch their breath, Narancia now laying fully on him, head on Leone's chest, Leone muttered, "I missed ya, bud."

"Missed you too, ugly."

"Scrawny."

"Long nose."

"Overcooked pasta."

"Poltroon."

"I'm a what now?"

Narancia snickered but refused to answer, rolling off of Leone and stretching like a cat before standing. "C'mon! Let's go somewhere."

Leone rolled his eyes as he hauled himself to his feet, limping awkwardly as he carried their dishes to the sink. "Sorry sewer rat, but this old man's got some things to do today. I told you I had to prove my innocence and all that shit, didn't I?" It was strange how easy to talk about it it was after the nonsense that was Narancia. But he supposed a lot of things would have been easier with Narancia. It was a little bit easier to carry a load when you got to rest every now and then. "That's what I'm doing. So you'll have to entertain yourself. Or Fugo."

Narancia stuck his tongue out at Leone. "Fugo's at school today, so I can't. 'S why I'm here, dumbass."

At school? Like, college? How old was Fugo, even? Shaking his head, Leone truly did try his best to resist. "I can't. I wanna get this over with, you know?"

"Yeah, I know. But it's a little early, isn't it? Play with me first! Then you can go be super miserable or something. Please?" He grabbed the crook of Leone's arm to get his attention. "Giorno's already fussing at me again and I don't wanna go back there! Please?"

Leone sighed. "Fine, fine, God..." Tomorrow. He'd do it tomorrow. That wasn't too much time. And besides, it wasn't like he had a deadline. "What do you wanna do?"

"Karaoke bar!"

"No."

"Yes!"

He caved eventually. 


Leone regretted his decision immediately upon entering the building. It was way too bright, way too loud, and way too much. Narancia grabbed his hand and hauled him along until he could shove him in a booth, darting off and returning shortly with a big plastic binder. He slammed the book down and grinned. "It's the song list."

Face twisted in an expression of disgust he doubted he would ever lose after this experience, Leone said, "You're looking at me like you expect me to be singing."

"Of course you are!"

"I can't sing."

"No shit, Sherlock, that's why we're at a karaoke bar and not some audition. You're suppose to sound shitty, that's the point!" The woman currently on stage let out a horribly off key note and they both winced. "Okay, but maybe don't be that shitty? Look, you'll do fine, I know it, you got that deep voice."

"What does my vocal range have to do with anything?"

"If you don't know, I'm not going to be the one to tell you. Buy me a beer."

"No."

"Pussy."

"Excuse me?"

"I said pussy and I was referring to you." Narancia heaved the big book open in the middle and started flipping through the list, brow furrowed.

Leone spluttered for a moment. "You are way too young to be-"

"I'm seventeen?" Narancia gave him a look of confusion as Leone broke off into pained stutters. No. Absolutely not. He could not be that old. Narancia was nine, tops, he was not- he could not- 

Leone sighed in defeat and hailed a waiter. "What do you want?"

"IPA."

"That shit tastes like piss."

"Oh, and you're a piss connoisseur?"

Leone gave up, deciding to just accept the fact that Narancia would forever have the upper hand. He ordered the boy his drink, doing his best to ignore the twist in his stomach. The second the waiter was gone, Narancia moved to Leone's side of the table, crowding close to his side and shoving the book closer to him. "You should sing a love song, it'll go best for ya."

"Why the hell would you think that?"

"It'll be easier for you to feel. Songs always sound better when you can feel 'em." Narancia turned his head awkwardly far so his unbandaged eye could focus on Leone. "You love my Pops, don't ya? Just sing for him." Leone spluttered, cheeks burning, ears burning, this damn blush was probably spreading down his neck too from how hot he felt. Narancia laughed after a moment of watching Leone suffer. "What, did you think you were hiding it? You worship the ground he walks on!" Still snickering, Narancia got up and darted off, barely giving Leone time to comprehend all this. It... It was obvious? Truly? Did... Did Bruno know? Dear God, had Bruno known this whole time? The waiter returned with the drink and Leone twisted the cap off without thinking, tipping his head and taking two drinks before recoiling with a cough.

"Hey, that's mine." Narancia snatched the disgusting shit from his hand and wiped the rim before he chugged it with apparent pleasure, sliding back into his seat next to Leone, some scraps of paper clutched in his free hand. Leone ran his tongue over his lips and regretted it as the taste of lipstick replaced the taste of IPA. Grumbling, throat burning, desperately unhappy, Leone fumbled in his pocket and pulled free his lipstick, shakily fixing it blind, rubbing his lips together to even it out. When he finally refocused his attention on the boy (who was of legal drinking age, apparently) he was scribbling something on his paper scraps with a nub of a pencil.

"Whatcha got there." Leone didn't actually care all that much at the moment, but he was in need of a distraction.

Narancia's tongue poked out through his lips, caught between his teeth, and he didn't answer till he'd finished what he was doing. "It's how you let 'em know you wanna sing. Go over to the person next the stage with the music thingie, give em this, and they put you on the lineup." The music went silent for a moment, damn near on cue, and Narancia pointed up to the roof as a voice blared over the speakers, letting the next person know (Leone forget their name immediately) that the stage was now theirs. "Yeah, like that. Anyway, you just gotta fill it out. Song name, artist, track number, your name, or whatever you wanna call yourself I guess." The next song started, a preppy pop-something so terrible that Leone could have sworn it physically pained him. Narancia offered his bottle. Leone shook his head a little too hard, half telling himself off with movement. "Oh, yeah, um... Sorry. I forgot." Deciding to hold the bottle with his thighs and hiding it from Leone's view with his body, Narancia shoved the book even more in front of Leone than it already was. "Now, come on. We aren't leaving until you sing something."

"Oh, and you're going to stop me?"

"Yeah, I'll pitch the biggest hissy fit you've ever seen. Get everyone in this place staring right at you."

Leone sighed. "They're going to be staring at me either way."

"Yeah, but when you're on stage they're on your side. Trust me, it's not as hard as you think it'll be. Now pick something before I pick one for you."

Leone was most certainly not going to allow that. With a sigh of defeat, he leaned over the book and tried to read the small print in the too-bright but too-dim lighting that was this damn bar's setup. He didn't listen to music much anymore, didn't recognize ninety percent of the names in the book, but... But he did remember a few from a while back, after he'd given up, but before he'd lost everything, a brief period where music had kept him alive. He flipped through the book. Narancia wanted him to give a love song? Fine then.

"Whatcha got?" Narancia shuffled closer, leaning his cheek against Leone's arm.

"Love song, like you wanted."

"Love or sex?"

"Love." Leone was surprisingly pleased that Narancia knew there was a difference between the two things.

"What about."

"Destroying yourself and everyone and everything for the sake of laying it at your goddess' feet."

"Gunna change the pronouns?"

"Gunna channel the spirit of a lesbian."

"Oh, mood."

When Leone had filled out the paper, Narancia snatched it and took off, like he thought Leone would rip it up at the last second. He came back grinning. "You're after me." Leone sighed deeply like this was all incredibly tiresome, but in truth it was just nerves that were eating him alive. Dammit, he shouldn't have agreed to this.  Should not have agreed to this. Narancia grabbed his shoulder and turned him, roughly yanking his white hair up and binding it into a ponytail. "Ow! What the hell kid? What are you even tying it with?"

"Hairtie. Now shush. You're gunna be fine. Just don't forget to breathe." Narancia slapped him hard on the arm and Leone sighed again, not bothering to turn. Narancia leaned his entire weight against Leone's back after a moment, propping his chin on Leone's shoulder with a soft sigh and Leone decided to allow it. They stayed that way, not talking, until the music fading out led to the silence being replaced by Narancia's name and, with a soft giggle of excitement, Narancia left, leaving Leone's feeling a bit too cold and light. He shuffled around in his seat, watching the crowd closer to the stage shift as Narancia got through them, shooting onto the stage with a wide grin, waving frantically at the crowd. "HI GUYS!"

"HI NARANCIA!"

Leone's jaw dropped, awe momentarily overriding his fear as an entire building of people screaming back the greeting of a gangly little boy with a bandage on his face. Narancia was nearly vibrating with excitement, hopping in a circle as his music started up, taking the mic with no small amount of flair. He sang quite a bit better than Leone thought he would be able to. And he danced around and his voice cracked every now and then and he almost tripped once, interrupting his own verse with a "Whoop!" that sent a rumble of laughter through the crowd that sounded somehow supportive. Leone didn't know that love could be so damn soft, but it could be and it was and he couldn't take his eyes off his stupid little boy as he made a fool of himself in front of an audience that already loved him. He thought his chest would damn near break open from this pressure behind his ribs when Narancia's song ended and he laughed into the silence, a booming giggle sent throughout every speaker this bar had. 

It didn't register for a second, when his name was called. He jumped a bit, startled into inaction, only able to move when Narancia, still on the damn stage, yelled out, "COME ON DAD, YOU PROMISED!" There was a good natured rumble from all those present and Leone pushed himself to his feet, shuffling along with his head down. A few people muttered encouragement to him, but most complimented him on the creation of an excellent son and Leone was a bit busy wanting to die of embarrassment to let anyone know that Narancia wasn't actually his child. The second he stepped up onto stage Narancia was hugging him, squeezing him almost too hard with a "Good luck!" He was gone all too soon and Leone found himself stepping carefully towards the mic stand like it was going to attack him. That was about when he remembered that the particular song he'd chosen had exactly one note of warning before the lyrics started. Oh shit.

Then the tone dropped and for the first time in as far back as he could remember, he was singing. His voice was wobbly at first, but he managed to at least keep it level. The intensity of the lights shining down on the stage made it hard for his eyes to see much of the crowd and even though he knew they were there it still calmed him, just a bit. His legs still shook, but he managed to relax, just slightly. Then he remembered what Narancia had said, about it being for Bruno. It hurt, it hurt so bad to think about Bruno, but how could he think of anything else? Everything he did was for Bruno. He supposed it made sense that this would be too. He almost stopped feeling it, the shape of the words, the thrum of the music. He did, however, feel it when his tone changed. Narancia was right again. It was a hell of a lot easier to do this once he'd started and it was hell of a lot easier when he could feel it. 

Because if God had ever decided to speak to Her creations, surely Bruno was the last of that holiness. 

When it was over he was dazed and his legs were extraordinarily weak. He fumbled a bit, as he put the mic back on its stand amidst the applause that was far more than obligatory, his cheeks flushed. The next person's name was called as he hurried down the stage's stairs. When he sat back in his seat, Narancia was practically vibrating with excitement. "You did good!"

"I'm mortified."

"You did good!"

He sighed. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. I'm gunna go put my paper in, I ordered you a drink." Narancia shot off and Leone sighed again, deeper. Knowing Narancia that probably meant that he'd just added something to Leone's tab that he didn't want. He didn't want it. He didn't.

The waiter returned before Narancia did, setting down a glass and moving on quickly. Leone took one look at it and laughed dryly, shaking his head. Orange juice. God bless that child.

"I didn't know if you liked oranges or apples better." Narancia sat next to him and took the first drink of what was supposedly his. 

"I thought that was mine."

"So? You drank mine."

Leone wanted to argue, but he couldn't seeing as Narancia was right. 

Leone spent the rest of their time there in his seat, drinking his juice and watching Narancia sing and dance around. He couldn't help but notice that Narancia seemed to stick to a theme of self-destruction in his choice of songs. He decided he wouldn't mention it. After nearly three hours of Narancia successfully making friends with nearly everyone in the damn place, Leone finally convinced him to leave, but of course Narancia had to stop at the door to scream a goodbye and the immediate uproar nearly shocked the piss out of Leone. 

"I think they liked me."

"No shit, Sherlock."

Narancia giggled when Leone said his own words back to him, swinging their clasped hands between them. They walked in silence for a bit. Leone was tempted to ask, for the third time, where Narancia was taking him, but he knew he'd just get the name non-answer of, "You'll see!" So he decided to just go with it. He kind of regretted that though, because Narancia took him to a 7-11 and told him to wait outside. And so, Leone waited with rising concern until Narancia strode casually out and walked past Leone with a muttered, "Walk like nothing is wrong."

As it turns out, Narancia had stole honey buns for them both. Leone was kind of touched that Narancia would commit a crime for him but he also really didn't like that Narancia was committing crimes. "You can't just take things, you know," Leone muttered around a mouthful of stolen food.

"Oh, like you're actually complaining. They deserved to be robbed."

Probably so, but still. In the end, Leone just dropped the issue. It was easier that way. They kept walking around, ending up in a store district with all sorts of little things around. Real vinyl records, plants, furniture, the obligatory clothes shop, blown glass, several bric-a-brac shops, and a barber's. Narancia managed to drag him into the barber's and after a bit of talking around it, Leone finally agreed to get his nightmare haircut fixed. He kept it long, of course, he couldn't handle it any other way, but at least it didn't look like someone had taken a hacksaw to it anymore. He'd asked them to put it in a braid and they'd complied and even though it wasn't the same kind that Bruno used it still felt nice. Narancia told him he looked good. He ended up buying some better makeup for himself at the next store. Somehow Narancia got him in a shoe store and he damn near died when Narancia quite literally sprinted past him in a set of leather thigh highs with a good four inches of heel. He did not want to know why Narancia could handle heels that well. 

By the time his leg was hurting enough for him to want to go home, Narancia was yawning. He was about to suggest hailing a cab when something in the front of a store caught his attention and he wandered over, tugging Narancia with him. It was a little clothes/jewelry shop. The glitter that had drawn him was from said jewelry. He wondered if Bruno liked that kind of stuff. 

"Thinking about Pops?"

Leone jumped, face flushing. "Uh... Yeah." 

"C'mon, let's get him something. I'll deliver it for ya."

Still blushing a bit, Leone allowed himself to be tugged through the building's door. He and the rat wandered for a bit, eventually ending up where the cheapest things were, looking over the small but pretty objects and considering them. Leone found one of them, a shiny little barrette, oval shaped and gold (though not real gold, of course). Narancia found the second one a second after and offered it to Leone as well. "He can use 'em to hold his braid up! Bobby pins never worked quite right for him. Hair's too thick for it." Leone agreed. They didn't cost too much and he was glad for it (but he would give up his right arm if it meant making Bruno happy). 

The sun was nearly setting by the time they finally got back to Leone's apartment. Narancia set to making dinner while Leone put away the stuff he'd bought, returning to find that Narancia had set out quite a bit of stolen goods on the table. "My God, Narancia."

"They weren't watching any of it."

"How much was all this?"

"It was just sitting there."

"What do you even need these for?"

"I can pawn 'em."

"No."

They went back and forth about it till dinner was done (something with rice and vegetables, Leone didn't know where either had come from) and then they were kind of too busy to talk. Narancia helped him clean up, then started putting all 'his' things back into the various pockets and places he had in his clothes. "What the hell, Narancia."

"Sewing is a good skill to have, Abbacchio, I'll teach you sometime."

"Th-Thanks, but still."

"Shush. It feeds you, don't it?" This child was going to be the death of him. After everything was put away, he patted himself down to check that nothing stuck out to much and said, "I'm gunna walk to Pops'. Gio's gunna have a fit if I stay out, I just know it, so give me those hair thingies-"

"Barrettes."

"-and I'll give 'em to Pops."

Leone handed them over and, after a brief hug and a swat to the back of Narancia's head, the boy left, snickering under his breath and tugging on his bandages. Leone didn't much like the silence of the house, but there wasn't much he could do about it, he supposed. He wanted to do something about it. He really didn't like the silence. He ended up walking (limping) down to the little store he was almost a regular to by now and bought a little radio. He bought some food too, because Narancia seriously needed to stop stealing to keep him from starving. He got home, put away everything edible, then got himself ready for bed, the cheap radio sitting on his nightstand, playing just loud enough to be discernible as music. It was surprisingly easy to fall asleep with the noise. Almost easier. He didn't even dream.

He laid in bed for a bit after he woke (stalling). He pulled the covers over his head without opening his eyes and thought as hard as he could about being somewhere else. Eventually, he drifted into a half-sleep where he didn't have to hurt himself and nothing hurt and Bruno was tucked close to him, warm and strong, smelling like sugar. When he jerked awake a second time he felt almost painfully groggy. It felt like his bones had gotten heavier... Shuffling with his eyes half shut, Leone did his best to clean and dress himself before he ate a breakfast of peanut butter sandwich. He wondered about Narancia then. Where was the little shit?

He got scared then. What if Narancia was gone again? What if he'd gotten hurt? What if his eye got worse? Without really thinking about it, Leone found himself at the phone. He was halfway through typing the number when he hesitated. Would Bruno get mad...? He shut his eyes. To hell with that. He needed to know if Naranica was okay. He called the number. It rang a few times. Then Bruno picked it up.

"Sticky Fingers, pastries and sweets! Bruno Bucciarati speaking, how may I help you?"

"Is Narancia okay?"

"L-Leone?"

"Yes! Narancia. Is he okay?"

"Um... Yes. He is. He's fine."

"Thank God..." Leone ran one hand through his hair, leaning his head against the wall. "So he's with you?"

"He is."

"Good, I just... I dunno, I got scared... I'm sorry I bothered you."

"It... It's alright, Leone." Bruno's voice was soft and it was tearing Leone apart.

"Goodbye, Bruno."

"Goodbye, Leone... A-Are you okay?" God, he sounded so worried. Leone wasn't entirely sure how to feel about that.

"Nah. I'm not."

"Oh."

"Yeah. I'm trying, Bruno, I am."

"I know you are... D-Do you think you'll be able to talk? To me? Soon?"

Leone laughed once, humorless. "Maybe. Can I call you?"

"Yes. Yes, of course, please."

"Alright. Goodbye?"

"Yes, goodbye. Goodbye, Leone."

There was a soft click and Leone let out a shaky breath, putting the phone back in its cradle. Bruno was worried about him. He wanted him to come home. Leone took a breath and pushed himself away from the wall, going to and out the door before he could talk himself out of it. It was time to do it. It was time to see what those hateful bastards had laid on his head. He left the building. It was cold outside. The walk kept him warm enough. 

Chapter Text

There weren't many people in the library at this time of the day. Most were probably at their jobs or maybe eating an early lunch. Leone wondered how those people were doing. Maybe their lives were easier. He wondered what an easier life would even feel like. 

No one was near the computers. It was easy to get the one in the farthest corner. Harder to pull up the archive. Hardest to fill in his own name. But eventually he did it. Then he hit search. Turns out there was quite a few that mentioned him by name. Some were about someone else from a long time ago that shared his name. He tried not to look at those too long, he knew he was just stalling. The first one he found was brief. Just a mention that officer Leone Abbacchio had been released from the force on several charges. The next on was a little bit more... Detailed. Apparently he'd been let go (he had quit) after being suspected of being part of a drug scheme. According to this, he'd been using his patrol car to move cocaine for drug rings. Ridiculous. Had he allowed some selling to go on around him? Yes. But had he ever done it himself? God no. He went further down the list. He was starting to get a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. 

The next one was a case he actually remembered, however fuzzily. Someone had been going around trying to get kids to follow him. Apparently that 'someone' had been Leone. The man had never actually gotten ahold of a kid and had disappeared from their part of the city after no more than three months, but all the kids had looked alike. They'd all had dark hair, generally the same set to their eyes, and a similar facial structure. They'd all looked a bit like Mista, now that he thought about it. A cold sweat broke out over his skin and he froze. Good God. The way Giorno had been damn near ready to eat his throat out that day, when he'd made some comment about Mista's body, just as a joke of course, but... But if Giorno thought... Jesus Christ. He ran his hand over his hair and went down a little more. 

Dirty cop. That was used a lot. He was a dirty cop, dirty cop, dirty cop. They got it right that he took bribes, but from there it just... Just went wild. They'd also accused him of accepting drugs, women (yuck), men, even a position in a gang. They were seriously calling him a gangster? What, had they just brought in a reporter and told him to write down whatever he thought would sell? Luckily, those kinds of articles seemed to be kept within a few papers of a low reputation. Maybe that's why no gang had come for his head yet...

He kept going, one arm around his increasingly unsettled stomach. The ones about Matteo were the worst. They all called him Celestino and none of them mentioned that he'd been with Leone. He didn't know why that hurt so much. That no one cared that Leone had loved that man more than life itself. But of course, no one wanted to read a story like that. It had to be about blood and death and betrayal and dirty cops shooting their partners in the back. That was what truly hurt, more than anything else. Two of the papers had claimed that Leone had been the one with the gun. That he'd shot Matteo in the back for seeing too much. Matteo had been shot in the chest, so the accusation didn't even make any sense, and yet... Leone wiped his eyes on the back of his hand. Why had they hated him so much? All he'd ever done was fall in love with his partner and make a few dumb mistakes... 

There were a few more things. A couple of petty assaults. A few sexual harassments to young women (why would he ever want to touch a titty). One even claimed that he had been the main suspect in the raping of a young boy (Narancia's age), but that there had been "insufficient evidence to warrant an arrest." Bullshit. Leone really wished he could be angry. He wanted to hate them as furiously as they had hated him. Wanted to be able to scream and throw things and people, for once he wanted to be like Polnareff. But he just felt kind of tired.

So that was what had scared Giorno so badly. Leone thought about it for a second. If someone he knew was a rapist walked through the door of Bruno's bakery and started talking to Narancia or Mista... Leone didn't have to think about it too hard. He'd break the fucker's arms and legs before he let him anywhere near that sweet little rat or Guido. And he'd crawled into Bruno's window drunk as shit...

He sat back and ran both hands through his hair. He remembered, quite painfully, every time Bruno had hugged him, or bumped him, or just touched him in some gentle way because that's who Bruno was: A man who equated touch with love. He wondered if Bruno would ever touch him so freely again. Even if Bruno allowed him back into his shop, would he be allowed up those stairs? Would he ever be trusted to sit in the kitchen to talk alone with Mista for a while? Would they ever see him walk up the road with Narancia on his arm and not wonder, for just a moment, if he'd hurt the boy? Would Bruno ever hug him again? Leone had never thought of himself as a particularly touchy person, but the thought of never being able to feel the warmth of that sweet man holding him together damn near broke him. He gripped his hair in both fists and shook his head. Dammit. Dammit! All he'd ever wanted was to be happy. All he'd ever wanted was to just be what he was. He hadn't ever meant to hurt anyone. Hadn't meant to even bother anyone, he just... He just.

"Um... Are you alright sir?" A deep, sort of slow voice broke Leone from his self-pity induced haze and he jumped a bit, turning his head to see a very familiar man with a child on his hip.

"Squalo?"

Tiziano's husband blinked and took a half step away, turning a bit to hide Melba and Leone cursed himself. "Yes?"

"Sorry! Sorry, that was weird, your husband talks about you a lot."

That worked. Squalo's tanned face relaxed immediately at the mention of Tiziano, the rest of his body quickly following suit. His arms lost their tension around Melba and he held the boy up in a loose grip, shifting from foot to foot in a half rocking motion. "You know him? Where from?"

"Oh, he drives me around a lot. I gotta say, I half feel like I know you from how much Tiziano talks." Leone smiled and stood, holding his hands clasped in front of himself to try and appear nonthreatening.

Squalo looked up at him, returning the smile. "Why am I not surprised. He thinks the world revolves around me, though I can't begin to understand why." Melba wriggled a bit and Squalo adjusted his hold on the toddler, glancing at Leone. "Would you like to hold him?" Leone did not like children, especially not drooly toddlers who always wanted to chew his hair for some God-awful reason, but before he could politely refuse, Squalo was shoving Melba in his grip. Rubbing at his arms, the man sighed. "Thank you. He just gets so heavy after an hour or so. Are you free? There's a coffee shop nearby I was just heading to."

Leone just nodded and shuffled after Squalo, hoping his cast wasn't making him limp too obviously. "My name is Leone."

"Oh, Leone! Tizzy mentioned you!" Squalo smiled at him again as he reached up to untie his hair, shaking out the orange locks with a sigh. "That feels better. Mel' yanks on my hair if I don't put it out of reach." Leone felt himself start to sweat, glancing at the child on his hip. Burnt orange eyes glared at him from under purple bangs and Leone was very conscious of his own long hair, well within the child's reach.

"Please don't," he whispered. Melba shoved a thumb in his mouth and turned his head to look at Squalo.

Hair untugged, they arrived at the small shop- he didn't see too much of the name, something about beans- and Squalo held the door for him, slipping past to lead the way to the place for ordering and holy shit. The largest man Leone had ever seen stood behind the counter, stuffed into a too-small black and white uniform with- dear God- with a pair of comically large cat ears perched atop his head, 'fur' matched to his white hair. He was a good head taller than Leone and his arms looked like he could crush Leone's head with a flex and barely notice the resistance. God help him, Leone was staring. The man shuffled, giving Leone a glance and tucking his broad shoulders in like that could somehow make him seem smaller. "G'day, Squalo. Same as always?" He mumbled the words, his voice the deep bass that only men of a certain size seemed to possess.

"Yes please, Risotto." The man's name was Risotto? "And, um, Leone, what do you like?"

"Um," Leone gave the menu a frantic once-over. He didn't know coffee! "Somethin' sweet? Ch-Chocolate?" Risotto rumbled- literally rumbled- and gave a single small nod, turning awkwardly in the too-small space he had (too small only for him) and started to mess with some machines and cups. 

That's when the cat on the counter meowed and Leone damn near dropped the baby. "What's that?"

"That..." Risotto turned, one dark eye showing through a lock of white hair when he blew it out of the way. "Is Vanilla Bean."

"V-Vanilla Bean?"

"Mm." The massive man shuffled a bit more and turned carefully around, two cups held delicately in his proportionally gigantic hands. "She's... A good girl." The cat purred and Risotto rumbled back at her, something like fondness crossing his features. "Here." He set the cups down and Squalo passed him some money, the bills seeming like play money in those big hands.

"H-Hey, you don't have to pay for mine," Leone started to argue, but Squalo was already shaking his head.

"Don't worry about it! Consider it payment for hauling chubbs around for so long." He reached over to tap Melba gently on the nose, earning a swat from the child and a huff of annoyance. Leone decided to just accept it. Then another cat jumped up on the counter. Leone looked around, just realizing that there were a lot of cats in this cafe. Like, a lot a lot. 

Risotto was gently petting Vanilla Bean and the newcomer- a dilute callie. "This is Lima Bean," he murmured. Were all the cats named after beans???

"She's uh, very pretty."

"She is..."

Squalo saved him from further conversation with the giant. "Come on, Leone! Let's sit over here." He followed gratefully, wincing slightly when Melba finally reached up and yanked hard on his hair. He sat down and the child continued to pull on him mercilessly till Leone was forced to contort himself till his face was nearly pressed to the kid's head in an effort to escape the burning pain of hair being ripped from his head. "Oh, goodness, Mel'!" Squalo reached across the table and plucked the child from Leone's arms. Leone was about ready to cry from relief. "Sorry, he just... Does that. Sorry." Putting Melba in the seat beside him and giving the boy a rubix cube, of all things, Squalo leaned down to kiss the child's head with affection before turning his attention to Leone. "So, what's up?" There was a parental tone to Squalo's voice and a certain softness to his face that very much reminded Leone of Noriaki. "You really looked upset in the library."

A gentle nudge to tell him what was wrong. What was it with gay people being so sweet to him? And why were they all... Motherly? Did Nori' want kids? It would certainly fit the running theme of 'people who give a shit about Leone Abbacchio's mental state.' But no... That was unfair. Polnareff loved him too. Shaking his head a bit to bring himself back to now (he was getting better at that), Leone picked up his cup and took a careful sip of it to buy himself time as he considered what he was willing to tell. It was a nice cup of coffee. "I just... Have had a lot of things happening to me at once. H-Have you ever been to Sticky Fingers? The bakery?"

"Mmm, once or twice, I think."

"I work there." Did he? Or was that over? He didn't want to think about that. "Or, I hope I do? It's complicated... The owner, his name is Bruno Bucciarati." He should not have said Bruno's full name like that, God, Narancia was so right, he couldn't hide his love at all. Shaking it off, reminding himself that Squalo wouldn't care, he literally had a husband, Leone managed to go on. "He's got four kids already, you know? And one of them just hated my guts from day one and I uh... Just figured out why. It just kind of made my stomach upset thinking about it, is all. Why I was kinda curled up like that, I mean." He took another drink of his coffee before the rolling of his stomach could make it impossible. "I'm... I think it'll be fine though. You know Noriaki? Redhead?" Squalo nodded. "He knows Bruno too and he said... The difference between what I've done and what the son thinks I've done is enough. Bruno will take me back." Saying it was... Nice. Really nice. It felt good to talk to someone, despite how vague he had to be.

"Well, I would hope so. Four kids? Poor man shouldn't have to raise them all on his own." There was a knowing look on Squalo's face, in the shine of his pale eyes and the set of his mouth, and Leone felt his cheeks heat up a bit. 

"Um, y-yes, I agree." Distracted from pain, he took another drink of his coffee just as a chunky orange and white cat with a very sympathetic face jumped up on the table and blinked at him. "Hello?"

"Sorry..." Somehow, Risotto was there, his massive hands cradling the cat gently as he lifted it up and set it to the floor. "His name... Is Coffee Bean. He has not quite... learned the rules."

"It's fine, Nero," Squalo reassured, patting the large man on the arm just before he nodded once and shuffled away. Squalo bent down to pat Coffee Bean.

"Are all the cats named after beans?" Leone looked around at the other felines, lounging about. Good thing he wasn't allergic. 

"Mmhmm. Hey, Mel', look." Squalo reached for the boy, hesitating before picking him up. Melba nodded and Squalo got the boy under the arms, lifting him into his lap and holding him so he could look down at the very fluffy Coffee Bean. "Do you wanna pet him?" Melba considered this carefully before giving a single nod and a tug to Squalo's hair. Wincing, he set Melba on the ground and the toddler got to gently petting the cat down his spine, much to his apparent approval as he immediately began to purr. 

"You're good with him," Leone commented. 

Squalo's blue eyes glowed. "Thanks. He's started being pretty easy for me to understand after a little while. Kids are just smaller people, ya know?" Leone just smiled and nodded even though he definitely didn't know.

From there, the conversion softened into just... Life. Leone found himself gushing about Narancia without even realizing how he'd gotten there- he was Leone Abbacchio! He didn't gush! But here he was, excitedly telling an equally-hyped-up parent about the absolute joy that was his wild little boy. "God, and I don't even know how to tell him that I just fuckin' love him, because neither of us are the kind of people to just say things like that, but I just want him to know how proud I am of him, ya know? He's such a good kid and he just cares, so much."

"I know, I know! Lil Mel's always doing something to entertain himself that other kids his age just don't think of! He's so smart and I can't exactly tell him how much I love that about him because he doesn't even understand that it's something for me to proud of him for!"

"God! Yes! The problem!"

They didn't actually start crying until they were talking about their men and by that point Leone had migrated to Squalo's side of the table and they were taking turns with talking and with holding Melba. 

"He just tries so hard, and I know he doesn't believe me when I tell him how much he does and how wonderful he is." Squalo sniffed and wiped his eyes on the back of his hand, his sleeve pulled over his hand to take the moisture. 

"I know, I know, but I can't even hold Bruno, ya know? And he's just so stressed all the time, taking care of four kids that shouldn't really be his responsibility anyway and trying to fix everyone around him and good God, he's tearing himself to pieces for everyone else and it's like he doesn't even know how good he is. I just wanna hold him, I just want to make it easier..."

"Oh, I know that feeling! Utter uselessness when you can't figure out what help would be accepted so you just-"

"Struggle with yourself nonstop until you feel like you'll just die-"

"And end up doing nothing anyway?"

"Yes!"

They both laughed dryly, wiping at their eyes. Leone handed Melba off when the kid yanked at his hair. Apparently pulling was his way of signaling that he wanted something. Leone picked up his empty cup for perhaps the twelfth time, giving it a small shake like more drink had somehow been teleported in at the same time Squalo turned to look at the clock on the wall. "Goodness. We've been here for a while, eh?" 

"Mmhmm." Leone looked around, for once nearly at peace. Cats were everywhere, a couple was watching their child attempt to bring a cat close by ringing a bell toy, a man with green hair was rubbing his cheek against his companion's, both arms around the other to hold him close. It was all really peaceful in here and it smelled like coffee and cats which was actually a very nice combination and he hadn't been able to talk about what he felt for Bruno and Narancia and Mista to anyone and saying it felt about as nice as the rest of the cafe did. He sighed and stretched, something between his shoulder blades popping. "Ouch... Do you have somewhere you need to be, then?"

"Just about, yeah." Melba gripped Squalo's shirt (his hair was pulled back up) and Squalo made a noise of questioning, kissing the boy on the head. "Gotta get home and put dinner on. Uhg, and make sure Clash didn't get into the pans again." They both stood, Squalo swinging his kid up onto his hip with ease. "I can't imagine why, but he just adores the sound of them hitting the ground."

"Anarchy is his only love."

Squalo laughed, a slightly ugly sound, but endearing for its realness. "Good God, no one's ever-" His own laughing and gasps for breath interrupted him more than once as he attempted to talk. "No one's just- just said something like- like that, but you're right! You're so right!" The happy glow that came from his amusement made him something like beautiful. It was kind of nice to watch. Lifting Melba up over his head a bit, Squalo kissed his son's face till it scrunched up and tiny little fists tugged at his hair. 

"S'enough, Dad." Leone glanced at the kid, for some reason surprised that he could speak (of course he could, dimwit). 

"Mm~ Alright. Can I have one?" 

The little boy grabbed Squalo's cheeks in his still baby-chubby hands and solemnly kissed him on the forehead.

"Thank you~" Returning the boy to his hip, grinning like a fool, he led the way out of the cafe. "It was wonderful to meet you, Leone. Tizzy's gunna be so happy we met. He really cares about you, you know."

Leone stiffened, suddenly expecting some kind of hostility, but no. Squalo was just looking at his son, a very gentle expression on his face. It wasn't a challenge. Squalo saw no reason for his husband's affection for another man to affect him. Thank God for that... "I..." Leone shuffled, unused to speaking so plainly about such matters of the heart. "I care about him too. B-Both of you, actually. All of you. Kid. Um. Sorry." Squalo looked away from Melba to smile at him and Leone suddenly felt quite embarrassed about being embarrassed. What a strange layer of emotion. 

"Maybe you could come over for dinner some time?"

Leone had to take a second for his brain to process the offer. Then he nodded once. Squalo's smile widened, just slightly, and he said some sort of farewell before turning on a heel and walking off, both arms around his little boy. 

Leone was beyond stunned. He was damn near one-shot-killed by the offer. And knowing Tiziano, he would follow through with it. As he began to walk, Leone wondered what kind of food the family even liked and if he would like it too. What did their house look like? Squalo made stuffed animals for a living, so did they both like soft things? They were pretty soft men, so maybe their house reflected that. What kind of cat was their cat? Leone kind of felt like the dish-whacking bastard had big Maine Coon energy, but then he wasn't exactly an expert on cats. He actually wanted to know the answer to that. He'd ask Tiz' next time he saw him.

He was so lost in his thoughts that when he turned the corner, he almost didn't notice Bruno in time. Shuffling back, hiding behind the nearest building and looking around the corner like some high school girl, he bit his lip to keep quiet. The first thing that registered was Bruno. The second thing was that Bruno was talking to someone. The third was that that someone was a woman. Then his brain modified the tag: The someone was a girl. Most certainly not an adult. But she was dressed... God, he hated to think of the poor mite like this, but she was dressed like a whore. Her 'shirt' was nothing more than a glorified bra and her tight skirt did little to hide anything what with how it barely covered the tops of her thighs and her boots came up past the knee, tight enough to advertise well-shaped legs. The girl was looking at the ground, bright pink hair almost covering her face from Leone's view, though certainly not from Bruno's.

It was the way she stood that told Leone. The acceptance of pain that had not happened and the absolute uncaringness. She was dressed like a whore because she was a whore. Against her will. She had long been waiting to die. She said something, far too softly for Leone to hear, and Bruno circled her once before reaching up to push her hair back, examining her face for a moment. Then he said something and grabbed the girl by the hand, nearly hauling her off her feet as he walked quickly away, dragging her behind him.

Leone stayed rooted where he was, whole body tensed enough to hurt. What the- What had- What-

What had he just witnessed?

He bought a child whore.

No! Leone shook his head hard. He refused to believe it. Bruno wasn't- he wouldn't- he would never hurt someone like that. Especially not a child! Shaking, hands balled into fists so powerfully that his nails were digging into his palms, he began to shuffle forward again, changing his course home so he wouldn't be on the route Bruno had walked (though part of him wanted to follow). 

Bruno. What had he even been doing here? Was Mista running the shop? Where was the ever-present Giorno? Why had he taken that girl? Every expected scenario went rapid-fire through his head only to continue straight on into some far more... Horrible ones. Old cases of murder, kidnapping, rape, torture, all sorts of things that people just as human as Bruno had done. Some of them had had families aside from the insanity. Some of them had kids. He shook his head, smacked himself on both cheeks with a growl. Shut up, shut up. Those people were few and far in between, even on purely statistical odds, Bruno was highly unlikely to be one of the mad crowd. Pedophilia was far more likely. "Shut up," he growled at his own head, walking faster even though it made his leg twinge with pain. It's fine. Everything is fine. Nothing is wrong.

Good God he needed a drink.


He managed to not drink, but he spent the entire night in near-agony, violent nightmares ripping him awake more times than he cared enough to count, and by the time his bedroom was lighting with morning he felt more tired that he had when he'd laid down. He needed to see Bruno. He needed to know what had happened to that girl. He needed Bruno to take him back. God, what a conflict of feeling.

When he was showered and dressed with makeup on his face, he managed to ring Bruno's number.

"Yo, what's up?" Mista's voice. There was a muffled noise, likely Giorno, and Mista quickly continued. "I mean, uh, pastry shop, how may I help?" Leone laughed and he heard Mista take in a quiet breath. Then, "Oh, hi! Been a while! Yeah, yeah, 'course, how's the wife and them?" He sounded like an idiot and Leone smiled tiredly. Mista sighed. "Okay, I managed to get far enough away that Gio can't hear me. But, Leone, is it really you?"

"Yep. It's me. Giorno tell you my supposed sins yet?"

"Yeah, he... He finally talked to me." There was a brief coloring of happiness in Mista voice before he quickly continued. "B-But I didn't believe it! I know you dude. You're too chill for that."

"Thanks, Mista, but... Well, I'm not exactly innocent of all crime."

"What?"

"I'll tell you all later. Get Bruno for me?"

"Yeah, yeah, of course, just hold on!" There was a clatter of Mista putting the phone down a little too enthusiastically, then silence. Then the soft sound of someone breathing. Narancia would have spoken. Fugo wouldn't have cared. Leone held his tongue and listened to Giorno breathe. 

Then, blessedly, Bruno. "May I have? Thank you... Leone?"

"Yes."

Silence from both of them. Leone wasn't sure how he was supposed to handle this. Quietly, Bruno murmured, "I can have the shop closed in a little more than a hour, after the folks here for breakfast stop coming in."

"I'll be there."

"Thank you... Leone?"

"Yes?"

"It may be selfish of me to say this to you, but I don't want to have to let you go."

"I know, Bruno. I don't want to leave."

Another silence. "Well... Goodbye then."

"Goodbye, Bruno." The line clicked and Leone shut his eyes, seeing shelter in the darkness. 

"You're gunna go see Pops?" Leone jumped and whirled around, fists up to fight before his eyes registered that it was Narancia standing there.

"Dammit rat, make some noise when you break into my house!" Spitting the words out with the last traces of the adrenaline shot his body had given him, Leone ran a hand through his hair and started to make his way towards the kitchen. "And yes. He's going to listen to my side of the story, too, not just Giorno's." Most of the cabinets were open and Narancia had laid several things out on the table, but nothing coherently meal was there and Leone started to poke at what his rat boy had chosen. "What's this for?"

"Omurice. It's like a omelet, but there's rice inside. It's Korean."

"How the hell do you know how to make these things?"

"Sometimes I go to the library and read cookbooks. Pops lets me try things on his stove."

Leone supposed that made sense and Narancia's love of food could have expanded into a love of making it. Still looked kind of weird to see the skinny street rat turning into a damn fine chef. "Hey." He smacked the back of Narancia's head gently, careful not to upset the wrap of the bandages still over his eye. "Wash up first."

"Whatever. Oil the pan for me." Narancia took off towards Leone's bathroom. He'd meant 'wash your hands' but Narancia had apparently taken it as 'feel free to use my shower'. Oh well. The kid could use a little regular bathing. He looked down at the pan (where did Narancia steal it from?) on the stove. He looked at the vegetable oil he most certainly had not possessed before Narancia walked in this morning. He didn't know how much to put in it. 

He stood there, lost, for so long that by the time Narancia returned with wet hair (and a now-badly-tied bandage) he still had not done anything. "I didn't know how much," Leone muttered in self defense before Narancia even said anything.

"That's fine." Narancia knocked a sharp hip against Leone's leg and went on with making breakfast and Leone decided to just sit and watch.

"How long does this take?"

"An hour? Well, a little less because I'm good at it."

Well... He supposed that was enough time.


It was almost too long a wait, but they ate quick enough to start their walk to Bruno's with a little spare time. Narancia had a serious expression, his hand in Leone's. While Narancia cooked, Leone had explained to him in full everything that had been going on, from beginning to end, softening nothing. He figured that if no one else was going to tell Narancia anything then Leone owed it to him to tell him what was happening and to tell it truly. Narancia had listened without comment and ate silently and Leone started to get scared that Narancia was going to leave him. But just before he'd walked out the front door Narancia had said, "Giorno was wrong in this. Let's go."

So now they walked, hand in hand, an odd sort of team. For the first time, Narancia did not release him as they neared the building. Fugo was out the door before they reached it, hugging Narancia hard before walking behind them, one hand fisted in the back of Narancia's shirt. They all filed into the shop together and the first thing Leone noticed was that the pink-haired girl was standing behind the register with a button up on that was a size too big. Pure relief went through his blood, pumped by his stress-frantic heart to every part of his body, and though it wasn't enough to get rid of his lingering fear that he would be rejected, it was still welcome. Bruno was a good man. Perhaps that would be enough. 

"You." Giorno's voice, cold and hard.

Leone turned his head to acknowledge the blond. "Me."

At Giorno's side, Mista shuffled awkwardly, clearly torn about who to side with. The indecision was brief. He pulled his bright beanie further down on his head and wrapped an arm around Giorno's waist, refusing to look in Leone's direction. Leone didn't mind.

"Leone."

"Bruno." Relief and love dripped from that single word, that gently breathed sound of a name, and Leoen turned again to look at him, blue eyes wide as he stood half out of the doorway that led to the building's upper level. He was wearing the barrettes in his hair. Leone did his best to get his voice under control even though his heart felt as though it would explode. "You're wearing them."

"Wearing what?" There was a soft kind of confusion on Bruno's face.

"Hair clips," Leone managed. "I bought them. Narancia said he'd give them to you."

Bruno blinked. "He didn't say... I assumed he'd stolen them." There was a very awkward silence and Leone crushed Narancia's hand for a short second, painfully aware of the scorching glare Giorno was now including Narancia in. Then Bruno took a step forward, shaking off the moment of vulnerability as his expression sharpened a bit, going over the two children close to him, then to Giorno and Mista, then to the girl Leone didn't know the name of. "Will you tell me now? What's true?" He was still walking closer, his blue eyes locked onto Leone's now, and Leone found he could not look away.  "Without lying to me, Leone. I'll know if you lie."

"Y-Yes, Bruno." Leone's hands were shaking. Narancia squeezed him gently. 

"Mister Bucciarati?" The girl spoke just loud enough to be heard. "Who is this?"

"This is Leone Abbacchio." Bruno didn't turn away from Leone, who was beginning to feel like he would drown in the blueness of those pretty eyes. "Leone? This is Trish."

"So you just picked her up for this, right?" Leone murmured the words with all the strength he was currently capable of. 

Bruno finally blinked, brow furrowing slightly. "What?"

"I saw you. Yesterday. With her. I was walking home." Bruno was starting to get defensive, not for himself but for the girl he already saw as his child, and Leone continued quieter, "It was good of you, Bruno. I can tell in how she stands, she wouldn't have lasted much longer." 

Softening again, Bruno looked him over once before nodding. "Yes, I just... She didn't belong out there. I just... I had to get her out."

"Bruno." Giorno had finally decided to butt in, one hand laying feather-light on Bruno's shoulder. "Why is he here?"

Bruno turned a loving look on Giorno, laying his hand over the boy's. "Because I want to hear what he has to say, Giorno."

"You do not believe me."

"That's not it. I believe you are trying to protect us, but Giorno, Leone deserves a chance to defend himself." Giorno looked... Lost. For once, his expressions were not carefully guarded. His heart was shown plain and all it held was a drifting sort of betrayal. "Giorno-" He didn't let Bruno finish, yanking his hand back to himself like Bruno's had burned him. 

"Fine," Giorno half-hissed, shoulders drawing up as he backed against Mista. "Bring him into your home. I no longer care what you invite to your bed, Bucciarati." It was the cruel words of a hurting child, but Leone still wanted to slap him for the raw pain that sentence brought to Bruno's face. Giorno blinked, his face neutraling into blank once more. "I apologize. I should not..."

"No, you shouldn't," Bruno agreed quietly. The whole room went silent then until Bruno took a shaking breath and turned. "All of you, come with me. Trish, this does not concern you. If you don't want to be a part of it, you do not have to be."

"I have nowhere else to go," she muttered, shoving her hands into the pockets of her pants.

"Very well. Up, then" Bruno led the way up the stairs, Leone following with Narancia and Fugo close behind, Giorno, Mista, and Trish following in the back. When they were all in the living room, Bruno strode to his usual seat and nodded at the chair Leone had been put in last time. He sat in it without comment, finally releasing Narancia. He didn't realize that he'd expected the rat to go to Bruno until he moved to stand stubbornly by Leone's chair, head up, tugging Fugo behind him. Giorno went to stand next to Bruno, hesitantly laying a hand on the baker's shoulder. Bruno sighed through his nose, again laying his hand over Giorno's. It was only in the set of his shoulders that Giorno showed his relief. Mista sat heavily at Bruno's other side, while Trish set herself carefully on the arm of the couch, looking Leone over suspiciously. 

Leone smiled at her. "I like men." She nodded once and looked away.

"Now, Leone..." Leone looked at Bruno and Bruno smiled at him, almost unsure. Then his shoulders straightened and he folded both hands in his lap, his gaze sharpening. "Tell me everything."

Stuttering, having to stop at times, his hands in tight fists, Leone obeyed. He told him of where it started. Of what he had allowed. What he had looked away from. The hate he'd taken from his 'comrades'. What he'd done to a man when that hate was directed at his Matteo. He told him when he started drinking. When the phone call came. When they arrived. When it had happened. How it was his fault. 

"I never meant for it to get so bad, I just... Once you stop caring it's so hard to do right." He was shaking so badly and he had to force his hands to uncurl because if he didn't then his nails were going to cut into his skin. "All I ever wanted was to help people, but... But I guess I wasn't strong enough and Matteo died in my arms because of it. I got then, that I couldn't be as I was. I was part of the problem with the world. So I quit. I gave them my badge and my gun and I got drunk and I did not leave that state until... Until you picked me up off the street, Bruno."

Bruno's eyes, so intensely on him while he'd spoken, roamed over his whole body now and Leone tensed up beneath the weight of that gaze. He stood and Leone felt his body begin to heat up, a sweat breaking out over his skin as Bruno slowly walked around the table to stand in front of him. Bruno leaned forward then, both hands going to brace against the back of the chair as he continued to lean closer, and Leone found he was shaking harder as he looked up at those eyes like ice. "Are you telling me everything, Leone?"

"Y-Yes."

Blue eyes, narrowing slightly, Bruno leaned closer, so unbearably close, his breath was hot on Leone's cheek. "Everything?"

"Yes, I-" His voice cut off with a gurgle as Bruno turned his head just a little more- and pressed his tongue to Leone's face. Unbearably hot against his too-warm skin, Bruno's tongue ran wetly over him, dragging slowly up from close to the corner of his mouth almost to his cheekbone. Everything in him shivered, his whole body tensing up from the contact, a shift between his legs bringing a flush to his cheeks. 

Bruno stayed close enough that his whispered words made his lips brush Leone's cheek. "You're lying to me, Leone."

Leone's mouth opened and closed in dumbfounded silence, try as he did to speak. Bruno finally leaned back, though he stayed over Leone, his arms caging him in the shadow of his body. Leone swallowed painfully and managed to squeak, "The rest is irrelevant to this." For a long, long moment, Bruno just looked at him. Then his gaze softened and Leone realized all at once that this sharper Bruno was his way of hiding what he was: A very gentle man with far too soft a heart.

"Thank God." Bruno whispered the words before backing off entirely and Leone was still too stunned to speak. Because Noriaki had been right. He could see it on Bruno's face before he said it. Noriaki had been right!

Bruno looked around the room at all of his children before he spoke. "He's telling the truth."

Mista let out a loud, breathy sort of laugh, leaning his head back with a grin. Narancia smacked Leone hard on the arm, grinning. "I told ya Giorno was wrong!" Bruno smiled at them both. Giorno was blank. Still as a statue. He did not even appear to be breathing. Bruno went to him, ever the mother, and Leone found he could not look away. Bruno leaned down and, so very gently, kissed Giorno on the temple. Giorno whispered something, too quietly for Leone to hear past Narancia's continued chatter, and Bruno nodded. Bruno sat back down and Narancia went quiet, leaving his place at Leone's side to sprawl in the loveseat with Fugo, his support no longer needing to be shown. 

"What you did... Was horrible, Leone. I hope you know that." Leone nodded. He knew, by God he knew. Bruno nodded back at him. "But it does not make you a danger to my family."

"He nearly beat a man to death," Giorno whispered.

"Would you not do the same for me?" Bruno's gentle words were a challenge that Giorno met with silence. Their eyes met- ice and sea glass- and Giorno looked away first. "He's a good man, Giorno. Mista?" The boy perked up at his name. "Has Leone ever made you feel unsafe?"

"Oh, hell no. If anything, he makes me feel better. Someone tries to jump me on the job and I know I've got backup." Mista grinned, the expression faltering a little when he looked to Giorno, who still sat like marble.

"Mm. Narancia? Has Leone ever made you fell unsafe?"

Narancia shifted in Fugo's grip, tilting his head just slightly. Fugo made him look straight again as he finished wrapping Narancia's head up in new bandages. "No. He saved my life. Twice." Looking at Bruno for a moment, his one working eye looking over his Pops' whole face, Narancia said, voice rather small, "Papa won't hurt any of us."

Bruno sucked in a breath through his teeth at that, biting down on his lower lip. "Panna'?"

Fugo was silent, wrapped around Narancia, one hand shoved between the smaller one's legs in a way that was more protective than sexual. Quietly, he spoke, looking at the floor. "At first... Yes... But it wasn't his fault, really... Now, no. He does not make me feel threatened."

Damn. Not even Fugo.

Bruno shifted in his seat, looking to, of all people, Trish. "Trish? How do you feel about working with this man?"

"He's big," she grumbled, clearly uncomfortable at being put on the spot like that. "But I could take him."

"Do you think you'd have to?"

She narrowed her eyes in thought at that. After a moment, she shrugged. "If you trust him, I do. You know him better than me."

"Very well." Then Bruno shifted in the other direction and everyone followed his gaze to Giorno, still sitting as still as the dead, both hands laid calmly in his lap. "Giorno?" He finally moved, answering Bruno's gentle summons. "Has he truly made you feel unsafe? Done something, said something... Touched you?" Leone flinched at that. Giorno was silent. Leone started to wonder how good a liar Giorno was. He started to wonder if that was a skill he planned to use here, to cement Leone's undoing. 

Then, very quietly, Giorno spoke. "Every perception of him is colored by the belief that he wanted to hurt those I love most. Of course he has scared me." A brief silence. Giorno's body never tensed, his face remained impassive, his breathing, even. "He is a large man. None of us here could stop him from doing anything if he so desired. Perhaps a few of us together, but all of you have been alone with him despite my pleadings otherwise. But the only thing he has said that truly terrified me was not meant in the way that it was taken, I believe. Correct, Guido?"

Mista nodded, shifting closer to Giorno even though there was an entire Bruno between them.

Giorno nodded too. "Very well then... He has never touched me, in any way that I recall, unless accidentally in passing. I believe we would all know if he had attempted something on Fugo, as he does not take physicality well. Apologies, Panna'."

"I's alright." But Fugo's face had lost most of its color and he'd dragged Narancia even closer to him. 

"The only ones I'm truly worried about are Narancia and- and you Bruno." He shifted slightly, the barest crack in his armor. "I care deeply about the things that happen to you."

"Thank you, Giorno." Bruno reached out and took hold of Giorno's hand, a grip so fiercely returned that it seemed a wonder that Giorno managed to keep the rest of himself looking so very, very calm. "But even when he was drunk, he did not touch me. Did not even attempt it. I promise you. We laid in a bed together and he did not so much as touch my hair."

"Same!" Narancia grinned, apparently enjoying being able to contribute to the conversation. "Well, not quite same. He kept trying to use me like a teddy bear."

"I did what?" This was the first Leone had heard of this.

Narancia shrugged as best he could with Fugo nearly on top of him. "Yeah. You kept whimpering and trying to spoon me. I think you were having a nightmare. Wouldn't wake up though. I elbowed you in the face like, twice."

Leone stuck his hands between his legs and clamped his thighs down on them, wanting to hide as much of himself as possible. "I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean to- I never intended to-"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Don't worry about it. I didn't mind that much actually. Pops does the same minus the noises, so I slept fine."

Giorno sighed through his nose and Narancia shut up rather quickly. He was still holding Bruno's hand with bruising force. "To answer your question... Pops... No. I no longer believe he harbors you any ill will. If you say he is telling the truth, then I believe you." Those cold eyes slid up to Leone's face then and Leone froze, sweating again. "But on the low chance that you are wrong, I feel as though I should warn you. If he ever harms any of you, I will kill him with my own hands, consequences be damned."

A silence, heavy and expectant. Then Bruno gave a single laugh. "Giorno, if he hurts one of you, believe me when I say that you won't be the one killing him."

Leone was quaking. 

But then Bruno looked at him and his expression was warm. "But we'll be fine, Giorno. Everything will be alright now." When he looked away again Leone found he had a bit trouble breathing. "Now, Giorno, I would like you to apologize to Leone. You've treated him horribly."

Giorno's head shifted, just slightly, angled a bit further away from Bruno's face. "No."

"I- What?" Bruno blinked, his hand, still gripped by Giorno's, raising just slightly on apparent reflex. 

"I said no, Bucciarati." His eyes, cold behind his shield of ice, were looking straight ahead, refusing to focus on any person in the room. "This is the only thing I cannot obey you in. I did what I thought was right to protect you and Narancia and Fugo and Mista. I cannot be sorry for that. I will not apologize for keeping my family safe."

Bruno made a soft sound of distress and Leone wanted to tell him that it was okay. That he didn't need anything from Giorno. But he knew that any assistance from him would not be welcomed by the blond. After a few seconds of tense silence, Bruno's shoulders slumped. "Very well. I won't press." Leone barely caught the shiver that went through Giorno's entire body.

"Thank you." He released Bruno's hand and stood, turning primly to look down on Mista. "Guido. Come help me rebraid my hair?" Giorno's hair was immaculate. Mista jumped up either way, sticking close against Giorno as he began to go to the kitchen. Giorno looked back at the last second, his eyes meeting Leone's, and that's when Leone understood. That this was all he would ever get. Giorno, voluntarily leaving Leone in the presence of his family. An acceptance, of sorts, and perhaps a bit of a test as well.

"Well." Bruno smacked both hands down on his thighs (hehe squishy) before standing. "Shall we reopen the shop? Leone, I've got another uniform if you'd like to help."

Leone wanted to hug Bruno and cry against his chest. He settled for just nodding instead.

Chapter Text

The next two days passed in a bit of a blur. It felt almost fake, actually. Trish rarely talked to anyone when she didn't have to, so Leone mostly ignored her presence, choosing instead to focus on Narancia, who was always climbing on him now, or Fugo, who was actually starting to get softer towards him, occasionally wandering close to stay just out of arms reach, which Leone was beginning to understand was his way of hanging out. Close but safe. Leone respected the boy's distance. Giorno didn't glare at him all the time. In fact, on a handful of occasions, Leone had caught Giorno smiling. At Mista or Narancia, of course, but the fact that he allowed any emotion of his face in Leone's presence was... Well, it was quite the improvement. And whenever Giorno felt like he needed to follow after when Leone and Mista went into kitchen together, Leone decided to stop reacting to it. He supposed he'd do the same. Some fears just wouldn't go away overnight. He got that. And Bruno. God, Bruno. Just to hear him speak and laugh and be, it was perfect. There was a difference in how Bruno was with him. He wasn't so quick to touch Leone anymore, on the arm or back in passing, and when Leone's breathing had gone shaky and his hands began to tremble, Bruno had not hugged him. He'd stayed and talked to him calmly, but he had not hugged him. It was a painful difference, but Leone had been in pain for damn near every day of his life. He could live with this. This was fine. He was home and that was enough.

He almost wanted to stay there forever. Sleep under a table and never go home. Or maybe Bruno would allow him the couch. But when the phone rang while he was trying his hardest to cook himself breakfast, he was glad he was home because it was Tiziano calling him. "Yo, Leo!" Leone flinched. "Hey, Squisho told me he invited you to dinner! Would tonight work? Ah, sorry for the short notice."

Squisho and Tizzy. What nicknames. 

"It's fine, Tiziano. I'd love to actually, though you'll have to pick me up from work."

"Remind me where that is?"

"Bakery. Pink building."

"Oh, cool! Yeah, I know it. Sticky somethin'. Anyway, I'll pick you up at, ah, six-ish?"

"That'll work. See you then."

"Yup! Bye!"

"Goodbye."

Tiziano hung up and Leone found that he was smiling. He touched up his makeup before he left, finally able to just wear his uniform for the walk since it was cold enough for him to not sweat too much. Narancia was on him almost immediately, clinging to his arm and just kind of... Dropping his weigh for a second until Leone gave in and lifted his arm with Narancia still attached, lifting the shrieking rat up off his feet. With an entire child using his arm as a swing, Leone did his best to struggle on until the burn in his muscles became too much and he dropped his arm back down without warning. Narancia squealed, almost falling, before tugging on Leone again. "Aww, come on, come on, pick me up again, come on!"

Leone pressed his lips together to keep from snapping at the boy. Love him though he did, he still didn't like his screeching. Then Narancia went on to literal wordless screeching and Leone decided, hey! I've had enough.

He grabbed Narancia by the thigh and the armpit, lifting the boy up nearly effortlessly despite the twinge his now-sore arm gave. Narancia shrieked louder and twisted in his grip but Leone was not to be stopped. He reared back, and threw him. He threw Narancia like the pest he was, wrenching the boy's leg around as he let go so he spun like an American football. The second he left Leone's hold, Narancia had his limbs tucked close to himself, letting out a high-pitched keen as he flew for a moment before crashing into a bush. Silence. Blessed silence. Then Narancia ripped himself free of the bush's branches and bolted to Leone's side, pressing himself against him and pulling at his arm with all the force he could managed, the bandage on his face now slightly crooked. "Again! Again! Throw me again!"

Leone groaned and kept walking. He had a feeling he would regret this moment for the rest of his life. 

When he walked through the bakery's door with Narancia on his arm the boy was still begging to be thrown. Fugo shuffled up then, same as usual, and gently began to run his hands over Narancia, up his sides, over his hips, along his arms and shoulders, carefully running his fingertips over the lines of Narancia's face. Leone wasn't entirely sure, but he thought that Fugo was making sure Narancia was okay. The blond carefully lifted Narancia's bandage and looked into his eyes for a second. Leone leaned forward to get a look too and was actually kind of surprised by how okay he looked. There was still a little redness, yeah, but otherwise he looked fine. With a soft murmur, Fugo set to resetting the cloth, making sure Narancia's eye was fully covered. "Can I kiss you?" Narancia nodded at the quiet question and Fugo touched their lips together, an incredibly gentle motion. Fugo always seemed to think he'd break Narancia if he handled him too roughly. Leone decided to not mention that he'd chucked the rat into a bush.

With Narancia wandering off with Fugo, Leone got to approach Bruno alone, holding his hands close to his chest. "Um, Bruno?"

"Mm?" Bruno turned to him, shuffling back a bit as Trish walked past to hand something over the counter. 

"T-Tiziano and his husband invited me to dinner. I thought you'd want to know that he'll be picking me up a little earlier than I usually leave."

"Oh." Bruno's blue eyes widened for just a second before he covered his surprise. "Of course. That's fine, Leone... Who's Tiziano?" The question was put casually, but Leone could see it in the way Bruno's eyes flicked away for a moment that he was trying to hide his interest.

"A friend of mine. He drives me to see Nori' every week. They're friends too. I met his husband the other day, when you picked up Trish, actually. Anyway, we got coffee and he invited me over. They've got a little kid named Melba. Probably four or five."

"Is that so? Where'd you meet the husband?"

"Library. I was um..." Leone shuffled and rubbed the back of his neck. "I was having a bit of a meltdown. He helped. I knew him because Tiz' keeps showing me pictures and then we just got to talking."

"Oh." Bruno relaxed considerably and Leone made a rapid recount of everything said. What had Bruno been worrying about? "You said they have a child?"

"Yeah. A little boy. He's cute, I guess, but he likes to pull hair." Bruno kept asking questions about Melba then, his earlier tension gone, replaced with a soft kind of excitement over children that Leone just could not fathom. What color was his hair? Did he speak a lot? Was he a loud baby? Did Leone see him walk? How much did he weigh? Just on and on and on until Mista finally had to come tell the poor man that he was kind of in Trish's way and that he needed to help or go in the back. Cheeks tinged pink, Bruno had muttered an apology and gone back to work and Leone had made to help him but had then been shooed into the kitchen to clean.

"Always me," he grumbled, elbow deep in soap water, his hair yanked up into a ponytail. "Why not Mista? Or Giorno? Why doesn't he carry his own weight?"

"Perhaps it is because I am not an employee."

Leone's entire body froze, hands gripping a plate hard enough for his fingers to ache as a jolt of adrenaline nearly sent him into fight or flight (he'd have chosen fight). Slowly looking over his shoulder, he acknowledged the fear Giorno sparked in him with no small amount of shame, wondering what the boy wanted to do to him this time. But Giorno was just sort of... Standing there. Looking around at the large ovens for a moment before wandering over to the one that was on and checking inside. It was such an innocent thing and there was something almost childish in the way he tipped his whole body to the side as opposed to bending over, head tipped, and Leone suddenly remembered something Narancia had said: Giorno was younger than him. Giorno was, at most, sixteen years old, but he might even be younger, and for the first time Leone could see it. He was just a little boy. 

He still didn't like the bitch, but... But he supposed he could manage to not hate him. Even if it was only for Bruno, he'd tolerate the little snot.

Mista skipped in then, his hat still pulled too low on his head. "So, what is it Gio? Was I right?"

"You were not. It's a pie."

"Aww, really?"

"Yes. Apple, I think."

Mista pressed up close to Giorno and they inspected the pie together. Leone shook his head and turned back around, getting on with the dishes. They really were just a bunch of kids.


Bruno came and got him when Tiziano showed up and Leone was more than happy to wash his hands free of flour (more cookies had been needed). He said goodbye to the lot of the kids, even Trish and Giorno, before giving a much softer goodbye to Bruno. He wanted to hug him badly, but in the end he settled for a smile, waving as he walked out the door, chest warming with affection as Bruno and Narancia both returned the gesture, Narancia far more frantically. 

He almost fell into Tiziano's ugly car. "I threw a rat today."

"Damn. How'd that go?"

"He won't stop asking me to do it again."

Tiziano laughed and started driving. "Still can't believe you and Squalo bumped into each other. Like, what are the chances?"

"Pretty good, apparently. He's a sweetheart."

"Isn't he just? God, I love the fuck outta that man. Just, damn, I love him. I love him. Sorry, too much?"

Leone laughed briefly. "Quite the opposite. I think it's sweet." But he didn't know how Tiziano managed to say it so easily. Maybe he would too, someday. Maybe even to Bruno. "So what's for dinner."

"A cheese and bacon ravioli Squalo likes making. He's just really good at making ravioli for some reason. Mine always fall apart."

"He- He's making them by hand?"

"Yup. Makes the dough too, bless his heart. I keep telling him that I don't mind eating a little lazier every now and then, but he says he likes seeing me happy and I guess I can't complain too much seeing as his food is just about the best I've ever eaten. Damn, he can even make shark fin soup, and that shit is hard to get right! Only had it once though. Shark is expensive."

They kept on talking, a conversation that was mostly Tiziano boasting about his husband and Leone listening in stunned silence, until they finally pulled up to a small house, painted pale blue. "Well, here we are!" Tiziano got out and Leone clumsily followed, hurrying to catch up to Tiziano and walking close behind him, suddenly feeling nervous, the feeling only getting worse as they climbed the three steps that led to the front door. Tiziano opened it and led the way in, saying over his shoulder, "Feel free to go anywhere you'd like. Neither of us will mind. Just no breaking anything, yeah?"

Leone muttered an agreement, but he doubted he would be able to leave Tiziano's side. He continued to walk a little bit too close to the man as they walked down a short hallway, going through a door and emerging into the kitchen. Leone glanced at the tile floor (black marble) before scanning the area as Tiziano skipped to the oven to hug Squalo from behind. The walls were painted, of all the colors, a dark maroon. The counters were black granite, the cabinet doors were painted black, every handle was brass, brass pots hung above the stove, which was black and brass as well. Even the refrigerator was black. The table set in the center of the rather large space was a dark wood, though Leone couldn't begin to guess at what kind. Overall, it was... Darker than he thought it would be, but he couldn't deny that there was a certain comfort to it all. Warmth, even. He liked it.

Melba was sitting on the floor by his father's feet, scribbling with crayons. He looked up at Leone. Leone waved. Melba ignored him and went back to his scribbles. Ouch.

Hands close to his chest, Leone moved to stand closer to the married couple, unable to stop a small twinge of envy at their closeness. Tiziano was fit comfortably against Squalo's back, his cheek pressed to the side of his husband's head, and both of them were clearly happy and in love. Leone felt kind of like a pervert for watching. Then Squalo noticed him and turned his head with a bright smile. "Hey, Leone! Thanks for coming over."

"Um, thank- thank you for, um, for inviting me." Why was he so damn nervous? It was just dinner.

"Of course. Tizzy?"

"Bwurr?" Tiziano's amber eyes flickered open when he heard his name.

Squalo snickered at the noise his husband made. "Wake up, honey. Take Leo and Mel' into the living room, visit with your guest. I'll call you when it's done."

"You sure?"

"Yes. I love you, but you're a disaster in the kitchen."

"True, true... C'mere, Melba." Tiziano released his husband to bend down for the child. Melba allowed himself to be scooped with little resistance, clutching his few crayons and piece of paper in his hands. "This way, Leone." Tiziano led him through a different door than the one they'd come in and Leone looked around the second he passed through the doorframe, taking in the recurring theme of dark colors. There was a large fireplace, clearly a wood burner, and aside from the normal setting of couch, chair, loveseat, coffee table and TV, there were also two couches shoved together in the edge of the room, the 'nest' they made filled by pillows and blankets and stuffed animals that were the only spot of pastel in the whole place. Leone decided not to question it, choosing instead to just go sit down on one of the black leather couches and pretend he wasn't terrified in a very vague, very targetless way. Tiziano dropped down beside him and placed Melba on the low, dark wood coffee table in front of them. The boy immediately got to work on his masterpiece again, brow furrowed in concentration. 

Tiziano smiled at his son. Then he smiled at Leone. "I take it everything worked out for you then?"

"I..." Leone shuffled, tucking his hands between his thighs. "I think so. I hope so."

"Hey." Leone glanced up at him. "You know I love you, right?" He nodded shyly, looking back down at his lap. Tiziano spoke softer then. "And I'm here for you, man, so...  If you need to talk about this to someone other than Nori', I'm right here."

Leone hesitated, thinking. Well, there certainly was some things he'd like to get off his chest, things he didn't really deem sisterhood worthy but that he couldn't exactly say to Narancia or Mista either. "Well... D-Did I ever tell you about Giorno? Bruno's son? Adopted son, I suppose..." Tiziano leaned back, brushing near-white hair out of his face and looking at Leone. He shook his head just slightly. So, Leone took a breath and, mindful of the child on the table, he told his friend about everything he'd been put through. About the insults, the threats, the quiet attempts at breaking him down, the steady murmured words that had more than once sent him into a crying frenzy. Leone finally called it what it was: phycological abuse. He had allowed himself to be abused by a child for the sake of being around the one person that promised an out from the agony his life had become. He came for Bruno and the promise of being okay. But instead he got another scar. "And I guess I just, I didn't just- just tell Bruno about all- about all of it because maybe I- I thought I de-deserved it. I thought I deserved to be treated like- treated like- like that, I just." He sniffed and wiped angrily at his face. He hated crying. "And I guess I was scared of Bruno hating me just as much as I hate myself."

"Damn, Leone." A hand laid on the back of his neck, pulled at him gently, and before he was entirely sure what was happening, Tiziano's forehead was pressed to his own and he was so close that Leone was damn near drowning in the gold of his iris. The closeness was different than Bruno's had been, all that time ago. It was warm in a different kind of way. Bruno carried in him the furious blaze of a mother, but Tiziano? His warmth was all softness. His warmth was the soft glow of the fireplace, the gentle comfort of hot chocolate. His grip tightened just slightly on the back of Leone's neck, holding him there, and though the touch was almost restraining, Leone felt safe. His vision kept blurring and clearing as tears formed and fell and he only knew Tiziano was smiling because of the wrinkles by his eyes. "Don't you go talking about my friend like that, alright?" Leone nodded as best he could. "You're a good man. Aren't you?" Leone again attempted a nod. "Nah, you gotta say it." He didn't want to. He really didn't want to, but he didn't know why. "Come on, Leo, I have to hear you say it. You are a good man."

Leone swallowed nothing and forced his dry tongue to move. "I-I'm a good man."

"Damn right you are." Tiziano dragged him closer then, pressing Leone's face to the crook of his neck and wrapping his arms around him as best he could. "Damn right you are, you glorious bastard." Leone couldn't make his arms move to hug Tiziano back, but he shut his eyes and leaned into the touch, just riding out the wave of agony until his tears slowed and his breath didn't shudder from liquid hiccoughs. Leone leaned back and Tiziano let him go.

"Th-Thank you, Tiziano." He wiped his face again and sniffed. "Truly. I mean that."

"You don't have to thank me." He grinned at Leone. "But I get the need to do it. Feel better?"

"Remarkably."

"It's the crying that does it, I tell ya."

Tiziano was going to say something else, but then, very softly, they both heard Melba whisper, "Bastard."

Golden eyes wide in shock, the poor father said, "Oh no," just as Squalo walked in the room.

"Boys? Dinner's rea-" A magnificent crash interrupted Squalo's words and he screamed, "No no no, bad cat, bad cat!" while he was in mid run, rushing back to the kitchen as the racket continued. 

Tiziano looked in almost physical pain. "So, uh... Wanna meet our cat?"

"I would love to."

"Please don't tell my husband I taught our child to say bastard."

"I won't."

"Thank you..." With a deep sigh, Tiziano stood and snatched his son off the table. The boy's brows were furrowed angrily from the sudden yank and he communicated this by taking a fistful of Tiziano's platinum hair and yanking down as hard as he could. "Ouch, Mel'!" Looking about ready to cry himself, Tiziano led the way to the kitchen to find Squalo holding a cat out from himself, the blue-grey kitty hanging completely limp in his grip.

"I caught him." He grinned and hoisted the cat a little higher. "He didn't get the food." Tiziano smiled just as Melba pulled his hair again and Leone decided to take pity on the man, gently taking Melba to place him in the high chair set by the dining table. 

He didn't really know what to do then. Melba was pouting, Tiziano and Squalo were talking to each other, and Clash looked dead but was probably just planning his escape. "Um, can I help?" Both men glanced at him and it was Squalo who answered.

"Hold Clash? We've gotta put the dishes back." Leone glanced around the floor on reflex and found that there were indeed several pots and things scattered about.

"S-Sure." He took the cat awkwardly, wholly uncertain as to how one was even supposed to hold a cat. Weren't you supposed to support their feet? Well, Squalo hadn't been, but maybe that was just so he didn't escape? Green, slit-pupiled eyes were staring out at him from a furry face and he held the cat up to his eye level. How were supposed to talk to cats again? He thought he remembered a little bit... Clash finally made full eye contact with him and Leone blinked at him slowly before looking away and slowly bringing the cat closer to himself so he could cradle it a little better. The cat allowed it and Leone breathed a sigh of relief. Scratches were the last thing he needed. 

Squalo and Tiziano put everything away pretty quickly and then Tiz' set out plates and such while his husband actually dished out the meal: Ravioli as Tiziano had promised. Clash gave a "Mrrrow?" of apparent interest as he watched his owners, relaxed in Leone's grip. "Okay, I think- Hey, Squalo, look!" Tiziano interrupted himself to gesture to Leone and Leone tensed up on reflex. "Look at Clash."

"Wow. He... Doesn't really get along with strangers. How'd you do that?"

Leone decided not to comment on the fact that they'd given him a cat that didn't like strangers. "I don't know, I just-" Clash stood and clawed his way up to stand precariously on Leone's shoulder. "I just said hello."

"Well," Squalo sat down heavily and pulled his hair from its ponytail. "Congratulations, however you managed that. Let's eat?"

Leone sat down and the cat stayed on his shoulder. Neither man mentioned it, so he assumed the cat was allowed at the table. They ate in mostly silence, not because there wasn't anything to say, but because Squalo really was a damn fine cook and the food seemed more important at the moment. Melba would occasionally ask Leone something, his questions kind of cute in the way kids sometimes were. He asked Leone if he had a kitchen once, Leone told him that he did have a kitchen and Melba said nothing else about it. Towards the end of the meal, Squalo started talking to him, asking about Narancia, Mista, Bruno, and Leone was surprised that the man had remembered so much of what he had told him. Every now and then Tiziano would interject with a question about Noriaki or the others in his group and Leone would answer as best he could, though he honestly didn't know much about them now that he thought about it. Maybe tomorrow he'd ask.

When they were done, Leone damn near threw hands with Tiziano, because he wanted to wash the dishes so he could at least do something for the couple and Tiziano was insisting that he couldn't because he was the guest and guests didn't do chores. Squalo ended the almost-argument by saying, "Good Lord, Tizzy, let the man do the dishes!" and shoving their son into Tiziano's arms. Leone did the dishes (suck it, Tiz'). 

But then he wasn't really sure what else to do. He'd come for dinner. Dinner was done. Did he just... Leave? Did he have to tell them? He supposed he did, say goodbye and all that. Or was there something else? He had no clue. Luckily, that particular problem was solved for him when Squalo led him to the living room and sat him down on the couch. They just kind of talked then. Not about anything serious or painful, just about softer things. Leone's enjoyment in making cookie dough, Tiziano's old math teacher that everyone had hated, Squalo's weirdest interactions with people trying to buy something from him. At some point, Squalo had gotten his work out and his hands were busy with needle and thread and scraps of cloth that was turning into something actually worth having. Melba was in the corner, back to his drawing. Clash kept wanting to lay across Leone's shoulders, all but covered by his long white hair. It felt weird against the nape of his neck whenever Clash would start to purr. He stayed a lot longer than he thought he would- literal hours longer- and it was only Tiziano happening to glance out the window and notice the darkness that even got him to move.

"Leone, dude, look outside. It's hella late."

"Mm?" Sure enough, it was fully night. "Oh. I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"It's fine, it's fine." Both men hurried to reassure him that his presence had not been an intrusion. Squalo gently laid his hand over Leone's, patting the back of it. "You're wonderful company, Leone, I'm glad you stayed so long." Was he? He hadn't known. Regardless, the praise and contact made his cheeks heat up. 

"Th-Thank you. Both of you, very much, I... I've a wonderful time. But I should probably be going, yes?"

"Probably." Tiziano stood and stretched, his back popping audibly in three different places. "Oh, good God, my spine. I'll drive you home. Come on."

"Oh, no, no I couldn't take up more of your time than I already have. I can walk just fine."

Tiziano raised a brow and looked pointedly at Leone's cast. "You sure about that, buddy?" Leone shifted, then shrugged. Admittedly, his leg felt much better and the cast's weight was hardly something he noticed anymore, but... His apartment was quite a ways away. 

"Fair point," Leone conceded, reaching up to pluck Clash from his shoulders and set him on the ground. "Alright. Shall we go then?"

"We shall," Tiziano said with a flair that made it obvious he was teasing. 

Rolling his eyes, Leone made to follow Tiziano to the front door, turning a bit to say a goodbye to Squalo and damn near bowling Melba over. "Woah! Hey buddy, what's up." Melba blinked up at him, then tugged at Leone's pants leg. Crouching to the boy's level, Leone repeated, "What's up?" Melba offered a piece of paper. It was an absolutely horrid crayon drawing of what was meant to be Leone, really only recognizable by his hair and the terribly scribbled in half yellow half purple dots that were meant to be eyes. He looked at for a second and then made a noise that wasn't quite a laugh but that successfully kept back the less dignified noise he kind of wanted to make. "Thanks, kid. Looks just like me. You're real talented."

Melba smiled at him. It was small and it didn't last long, but it was only time Leone had ever seen him smile. He went back to his corner and sat, picking up a crayon and promptly snapping it in half. Shaking his head and smiling, Leone held his drawing as carefully as he was able. 

Tiziano gently pulling at his sleeve was what got Leone to move and they both shuffled out of the house in silence. It was only when they were both in the car and the engine was running did Tiziano speak. "He really likes you." Leone shrugged. "I mean it. My kid really likes you. How do you do that? Just... Get everyone to love you like that?" There was no harshness or judgement in Tiziano's tone and Leone wondered why he'd expected any. 

"I don't know. I don't think I do."

"Trust me, Leo, you do."

Leone flinched, just slightly, drawing his shoulders up a little and shuffling in his seat. "It's not something I do on purpose."

"Hmm."

"What?"

Tiziano shrugged. "I have no clue. So did you like dinner?" The conversation shifted to something a little less uncomfortable and Leone relaxed for the rest of the drive, just chatting amicably with the cab driver that had become his closest friend. When they pulled up in front of his apartment building, Leone planned to just say bye and leave, but Tiziano was leaning over to hug him before he could even get his seatbelt undone. Leone decided to accept the affection, laying his cheek against Tiziano's hair and shutting his eyes for the few seconds the contact lasted. "Be good, man."

"I will." Leone pulled away and stepped out of the car, cast first. "Bye. See you tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow."

Leone was a very soft kind of happy as he waved goodbye with the hand that did not carry Melba's gift before heading into the building. He couldn't remember the last time everything had been this okay. That was probably why it took him a moment to realize that there was something wrong with his front door being unlocked when it shouldn't be. He froze mid stride, listening intently. He didn't have anything worth stealing, but if a would-be thief was still wandering around his home he wanted to be prepared. Silence. Then the sound of the floorboards creaking. It sounded like it was coming from the bedroom. He tensed, ready to fight, but then the door opened just slightly and a so-loved voice asked, "Papa?"

Leone's breath left him in a rush. "Narancia." Narancia stepped into view, his one healthy eye looking Leone over. Leone walked towards him, arms coming up to hug the dirty kid. "Hey, what are you doi-" Fugo stepped out then, both hands laying on Narancia's shoulders. 

"I brought Panna' with me, Pops." Narancia blinked up at him, head dipping slightly with sleep. "I's okay?"

"Yeah... Yeah, it's fine sweetheart, you okay?"

"Mmm... Mmhmm. Tired. Where ya been?" Narancia started to try and move towards him, but Fugo's grip tightened on his shoulders and tugged him gently back. Narancia didn't try again. 

"Just with my friends... Fugo, why are you here?" Fugo didn't answer, he just kept staring at the back of Narancia's head, his fingers flexing and relaxing against the smaller boy's shoulders. His breath was shuddering. Leone took a half step closer and Fugo tensed. "Hey, hey, I'm not going to hurt you, okay?" That did not help. If anything it made it worse. Fugo was visibly shaking now, his hair shivering from the force of it, his eyes wide but unfocused. Leone took a step back. "I... I'm not going to touch you. At all. Alright? I'm going to be over here. Okay?" Fugo glanced up at him and- And good God, his eyes looked absolutely shattered. His thin arms slid around Narancia's neck, holding him close and Leone started to shift towards the kitchen. "I'm just going to go in the kitchen, alright Fugo? Everything's fine. Just fine."

Narancia yawned and squinted up at Fugo, patting his partner's arm. "What's up?"

Leone didn't stick around to see if Fugo planned on answering that. He slid into the next room and huffed, rubbing at the back of his neck with his empty hand. What the hell? Why did Narancia bring him here? Sure, Leone had worried about the kid on and off pretty much since they met, but he didn't want him in his home. And something about him seemed... Unstable. Leone wasn't sure if he was more worried about Fugo hurting him or about Fugo hurting Narancia. Would Fugo hurt Narancia badly...? Bruno said that Fugo hated hurting Narancia but that he lashed out without being able to stop, but did that mean he would go as far as-

As far as murder?

Leone gently laid his shitty crayon drawing on the kitchen counter and leaned against it, bracing his arms on the edge and shutting his eyes. What did he do? Rush them and try to get Narancia? Try and talk Fugo down? Call Bruno to come get them both? He didn't know, he didn't know, he-... He really wanted a drink. Running both hands through his hair, Leone took a breath and looked up at the ceiling. Breathe in. Breathe out. Ignore it. Breathe in. Think of Bruno. Breathe out. He shuddered. He still wanted a drink. He decided to take care of Narancia instead.

Shaking a little, hopefully too little to be noticed, Leone stepped carefully back into his living room. Fugo had moved. He was standing by the beat up couch, holding Narancia against his chest, the smaller boy's arms wrapped around Fugo's neck, his legs up on his hips. He looked to be asleep, but when Fugo turned Narancia raised his head. "Hey, Papa... Can we go to bed now?"

"Sure, buddy. Sure. Just tell Fugo to let you down and, um, y-you two can sleep in my bed, alright? I'll just sleep on the couch." Leone held his hands out slightly towards Fugo, a show that he was unarmed. 

Narancia huffed. "I don't wanna sleep separate. Come with us."

"I, uh." Fugo wasn't quite looking at him, but there was something unnerving about his not-quite-stare. "I don't think Fugo'll like that, Nara'."

"Mm?" Narancia leaned back to look at Fugo's face, taking it in his hands. "Really? You don't want to?"

"It's fine." Fugo's voice was warm and gentle, his empty and scared expression melting away beneath the warmth of love. "Whatever you want, Narancia. You're so good and smart, my Narancia, I trust you. If that's what you want then I'll do it."

Narancia giggled sleepily. "A'ight... Let's all sleep together. It's cold in here."

Leone stepped back when Fugo started to walk, letting the blond lead the way, Narancia in his arms. He didn't follow for a second after Fugo went through the door to his bedroom and when he did follow he was almost sneaking. Narancia had burrowed down in the middle of the bed, a lump beneath the blankets, but Fugo was sitting up, staring at him intensely. Leone got the feeling that trying to undress to his normal sleeping attire was a very, very bad idea. Instead, he kicked off his one shoe and slowly laid himself down, fully dressed and over the covers, never once looking Fugo in the eyes. He shut his own, staying as still as possible and praying that Fugo hadn't come here with anything sharp until the bed shifted with the boy's weight as he laid down. Narancia gave a soft hum of affection and shifted, presumably towards Fugo. Leone wondered if he'd get any sleep at all. 

As a matter of fact, it was only after his two 'guests'' breathing had softened into sleep's rhythm did Leone get any himself and even then it wasn't exactly restful. His old nightmares were back to it, only... Only this time he knew he was dreaming. He could see a sort of... Fakeness to it all. He stepped back, out of his own body, and watched his own grief, curiously detached from it.

A warm hand grabbed his and he turned- To find that he was facing the sunset, beautiful over the edge of the cliff that dropped off straight into a sun-reddened ocean. Matteo was sitting at the edge, legs hanging over. Leone went to sit beside him, their knees almost touching. Silence, for a long while, save the sounds of the black-tailed gulls whirling overhead and the ocean far below. Matteo offered him a piece of an orange. Leone took it. "Leo, I-" Matteo stopped himself, sighed, very deeply. Leone watched his face. "I'm so sorry, Leo."

Leone woke up and for a second he tried to hear the sound of the waves. But of course there was nothing. Then he was just kind of confused. What had that been about? He'd never had a dream like that, not once in all his years of living. And why had Matteo said he was sorry?

He sighed through his nose and decided to stop trying to figure it out, opening his eyes to be met with the pale violet of Fugo's. He tensed, almost ready to throw hands, but Fugo didn't move. He just crouched where he was, between Leone and Narancia, his limbs tucked as under him as they would go and a terrified look in his eyes. He was trembling. Leone decided the best course of action was to get as far away from Fugo as he could before he got bit or stabbed or something and so promptly rolled away from the two boys and off the bed, just barely landing on all fours with out getting hurt too much. The impact didn't feel too good on his leg, though... He stood and shuffled further away, holding his hands up a bit as he moved backwards, only turning his back when he was sure he was near the door. Good God, but that kid was weird. 

He showered quickly, all but throwing his clothes on when he was done, brushing his hair a little too hard and not bothering with makeup. Limping quickly, he went to the kitchen first, looking at Narancia, cracking eggs over a pan, and Fugo-

Fugo was holding Melba's little crayon drawing.

Heart in his throat, Leone hobbled forward. "P-Put that down." Fugo glanced at him, hiding behind his hair, and didn't move. "Put it down. Now."

Narancia twisted around awkwardly to look at them both in turn. "Me? Oh. Fugo. What's he got? What do you have?"

Leone held up his hands again, an act of surrender this time. "Please, Fugo, just... Don't rip it. Please."

"What is it?" Fugo whispered, still refusing to just put it down.

"Th-There's this little kid I know, m-my friend's kid, they adopted him a little ago, he drew it for me last night, they invited me to dinner, please put it down."

Fugo fussed with the paper for another second. "I just wanted to look... I wasn't gunna hurt it." He put it back on the counter. Leone gave a single sob of relief before he managed to get control of himself. With a last glance in his general direction, Fugo went to stand by Narancia and Leone went to check that Melba's drawing really was fine. It was. He wasn't entirely sure why that had scared him so much.

Fugo didn't say anything after than and neither did Leone, so really it was just Narancia's chatter that kept away silence. He didn't let up even thought neither of the other two in the room responded to him, going on about this weird dream he had and about the time he almost got caught stealing and how sometimes Bruno talks in his sleep. He only went silent when the food was done. When they were all sitting down, the silence turning awkward, Narancia turned to Fugo. "He'd not gunna hurt ya, Pan'. He's okay." Fugo didn't respond and Narancia reached over to grab his hand, stalling his attempts to eat. "Hey." Nothing. "Hey." Fugo finally turned his head and Narancia smiled at him, the softest expression Leone had ever seen the boy give. "He'll help, Fugo. That's why I brought you here, remember? He's the good one." Gently, Narancia patted the hand he'd covered before drawing back and Fugo sniffed. It was then that Leone realized that the boy had started to cry.

"Woah, woah, hey..." He got up and went around the table, stopped when Fugo tensed up and going down on one knee. Very aware of the fork Fugo still clutched, Leone hoped he wasn't making a horrible mistake. "What's wrong, Fugo?"

Leone thought he'd get nothing. Just another damaged silence. But then Fugo tried to speak, broke off, tried again, coughed out a sob. He stood, laid his fork on the table, and hesitantly approached Leone. Still, Fugo would not meet his eyes. "I-" he was crying in earnest now. "I- I can't do it anymore, I can't, I can't-"

"Woah, Fugo, can't do what? What's wrong?" Leone tried to get Fugo to look at him, because that's what it was going to take. He knew that and so did Fugo. All it took was a moment of eye contact. Fugo held out his hands and Leone took them, clutching the boy just as intensely as he clutched Leone. Fugo was shivering and shaking, fighting something.

Then he turned his head, face suddenly determined, his violet eyes shining with a resolve fractured into a thousand slivers by the cracks in his soul, and Leone knew. The boy whispered, "Help me."

Leone nodded once. "Just tell me, Fugo. Tell me and I'll stop it, I swear to you."

And so, kneeling on the floor of his own kitchen, a broken child's hands grasped in his own, Leone listened. 

Chapter Text

I am... Abnormally smart. Everyone around me, since I was just a child, has always expected great things of me because of this, but I... I've always been so angry, too. Sometimes I felt like some badly cobbled together mistake, some horrid amalgamation that was never meant to exist... Regardless of that... My brain got me into a college by the time I was thirteen and of course that was when everything... Started.

"Excuse me, sir!" Pannacotta trotted to catch up to his professor, his still-short legs making it a bit difficult. "Excuse me!" His teacher slowed and Pannacotta breathed a sigh of relief through his nose, panting softly. "Thank you, sir... I was wondering about something in my textbook." Hoisting the book in his hands up a little more, Pannacotta looked up at the man he walked with, pleased to find that he was paying attention to him. "I read a little bit ahead and there's something I'd like clarification on."

"Of course!" The teacher- Professor Cazzo Culo- smiled at him. "How about we go to my office, Fugo? You, ah, aren't expected anywhere soon are you?"

Pannacotta shook his head. "No sir. Your's is my last class. All I have to do today is get my homework finished."

"Excellent! Plenty of time." Professor Culo clapped his hands together and sped up a little. Pannacotta's legs didn't much appreciate the new pace, but he didn't complain. His professor probably had to hurry all the time, seeing as how he always seemed so busy. Through the building's halls and up a flight of stairs, Pannacotta followed, until Professor Culo was pulling open a door with his name on the outside and motioning Pannacotta in. He nodded a thanks as he went in, looking around the space curiously. He didn't like it. It was too cluttered, too unordered, it would be far too difficult to keep clean. Behind him, the door shut before his professor's large hand pressed gently to the small of his back. "Come on then. Around to this side of my desk. You can show me what you don't understand."

Pannacotta followed the pressure, laying his book on the desk and opening it, standing next to Professor Culo as the man sat in the old leather chair behind the desk, leaning forward slightly to look. He started to talk, pointing a few things out, saying what he thought, but as the time passed he began to realize that Professor Culo was looking at him more than he was looking at the book. It was... Weird. But maybe he was just paying attention to what Pannacotta was saying? He flipped a few pages and kept going, startling only slightly when the professor's hand again laid on his back. He relaxed again after a moment, asking a question and getting a response that made sense. This was fine. This was normal. Just talking. The professor's hand started to move, just a bit, rubbing his back slowly. It was a little odd, Pannacotta supposed, but maybe his professor was just doing it because he was a kid? People patted small kids, right? The thought made him kind of angry. He didn't want his professor to think he was a child. 

He shook his head a little, brushing blond hair out of his eyes. Don't blow up now. He took a second to breathe, pretending he had to find something in the book as he got a hold of his rage. Breathe in. Breathe out. Don't lose control.

He bent over just slightly and Professor Culo's hand slid a little too low. Jumping away, Pannacotta gave the man a shocked look. "What the hell are you-?"

"Hey, hey, don't worry, I'm sorry!" Making pacifying motions with his hands, Professor Culo grinned. "My mistake, my mistake... What were you saying about the theorem?" Pannacotta shuffled close again, a strange, shivery feeling in his chest that he didn't know how to fix. He didn't like this. Something was wrong. What was it? He was a genius, dammit, so why couldn't he figure out what was wrong? He kept talking, even when Professor Culo's hand laid on his side. He tried not to stutter when the other hand touched his thigh. He didn't know what to do, didn't know what to do, what was happening? What did this mean? He'd never heard of anyone touching like this. What did it mean? It felt... Worse, when Professor Culo started petting his leg. That was all he could think to call it. Up and down his thigh, the professor's rather large hand clamped against the sensitive inner part. It was making him feel weird, he didn't like it. Why were his legs shaking? 

"You're really a very pretty boy, Pannacotta." Pannacotta didn't like that, didn't like the tone or the words or the way his thigh was still being pet. "Quite beautiful, actually."

"Th-Thank you, sir." He was looking at the book, but the letters weren't really making words anymore, they were just sort of smears against the white of the paper. His hands gripped the edge of the desk painfully. Don't lose control. Don't lose control.

The hand on his thigh moved higher, cupped right between his legs, and he didn't like it. 

"Now, just be a good boy, alright? I'm not going to hurt you..."

It hurt. Quite a bit, actually. I cried from it. I didn't even know what sex between opposite genders was, much less how two of the same would go about it. My parents had only bothered with teaching me what they believed would get me into a school. My learnings in human biology was limited to the function and placement of major organs and blood vessels. I didn't know how one went about the process of creating children, nor how it could be... Adapted for other things, and I had not cared enough to find out. It took me a month to even put a name to the fact that I was being raped and that was only because I heard it mentioned on the television. I... I tried to tell my parents. I thought they would make him stop.

"Mama? Papa?" Pannacotta stepped carefully into the living room, walking as quietly as he could. It was almost habit now, to try and exist as little as possible. Make no noise and maybe no one would notice him. His parents looked up at him, his mother from her book, his father from his work papers. "M-May I speak to you about something?"

"Of course." His father gestured with his pen to a chair before making another mark on his paper. "Sit." He sat, as ordered, on the very edge of the seat, his legs tensed to get up and run at the slightest provocation. He'd been sitting that way a lot recently. "Now, what is it?"

Gripping his pants hard to keep back a painfully powerful surge of fearful rage, Pannacotta took a breath. "I-I just, I wanted to tell you something about school."

"You aren't failing anything are you?" His mother looked at him with wide eyes over her book (she hadn't even put it down?). "We payed good money for this, Pannacotta, you'd better not be slacking off."

"N-No, mama, that's not-" He shook his head, almost relieved when the longer part of his hair flopped down to cover nearly half of his face. He didn't bother to fix it this time as he tried to speak again. "My grades are fine, I just... One of my t-teachers, Professor Culo-"

"Such a nice man," his father interrupted him, not even looking up at his son. "His family's been in business with ours for quite a while now. At least a whole generation."

"No," Pannacotta whispered. His hands were shaking. He gripped his pants harder. "He's a monster."

"What was that? Speak up, Pannacotta, you know I can't stand it when you mumble."

Looking up from his white-knuckled hands, Pannacotta's one uncovered eye locked on his father's face. "I said. He. Is. A. Monster."

Now he had their attention, it seemed. But... But they just looked more angry than concerned. Weren't parents supposed to care? His father set his work aside and crossed one leg over the other, hands folded over his knee. "Pannacotta Fugo, you will not speak about your elders in such a manner, especially not when they are your teacher and our family's partner. What if someone heard you talking like that and word got around to the head of the family? They might stop doing business with us and-"

"I don't care."

"Wha- Excuse me?"

"I said, I don't care about that. Papa, he-"

"You will call me, Father, young man."

"F-Father, listen, he-"

"No, you listen." Pannacotta flinched at the cold tone beneath his father's cool voice. "We have sheltered you and let you do as you please because we believed that you needed the freedom to reach your intellectual potential, but now it's time you deal with rules and expectations, so-"

"Just shut up!" He couldn't take it anymore, couldn't take it, couldn't take it, he wanted to smash his father's stupid face in, wanted to grab one of those hideous silver candlesticks he loved so much and swing until his head was just red mush. Pannacotta was standing, but he didn't remember getting up. "This isn't about rules, or deadlines, or stupid fucking homework. That bastard's been raping me for over a month." Tell it like it is, just say it like data and it'll come out easier, use the rage, say it so it'll stop. "He takes me to his office and makes me bend over the desk like I'm some whore-" he had not known the word 'whore' until two weeks ago, "-and pulls down my pants to-"

"Enough!" His father stood as well and Pannacotta wished he weren't so young so that he would not tower over him so. Pannacotta shut up. His father was breathing hard, face red in anger, his hands fisted at his sides. "That is enough out of you, Pannacotta. Go to your room. You will never say this to me or your mother or anyone else ever again, do you hear me?"

They didn't believe him. Pannacotta looked to his mother. "Mama?"

"Do as your father says, Pannacotta." She wouldn't look at him. "And please... Do not make accusations you do not know the severity of."

They didn't believe him. He started to walk, numb for the moment, shuffling past his father to go back to his room, to hide. They didn't believe him. It wasn't until he was in his room alone, the door locked, that the rage kicked in. He embraced it this time.

I destroyed my room nearly entirely, sparing only the things that were too heavy for me to lift. During all of it, no one bothered to check on me or see what the noise was. My parents never even considered the possibility that I had been telling the truth. So, about a week later, I stopped going home after school. Rarely, I would return for a change of clothes or to get money, but other than that... I cut myself off from them. I didn't know what to do then. I considered killing myself. Then I met Narancia.

It was the sound of a trashcan being riffled through that made Pannacotta turn his head. The boy in the alley was small. He had to stand on his tiptoes to reach the bottom of whatever he was pawing at. Stepping quietly, Pannacotta entered the shaded space, drawn to this street rat for a reason he couldn't define. "What are you doing?"

"Sometimes there's silverware in here." The voice sounded odd, echoed up through the metal tube his head was shoved in. "If I get enough of 'em I can take 'em to a pawn shop." He stood up then and Pannacotta's breath caught in his throat. Blindingly gorgeous violet eyes looked out from behind dirty black bangs, the boy's smudged face childishly round. He was beautiful in a way Pannacotta had never seen and he found that he desperately wanted to help this boy.

"Here." He fumbled in his pockets, took out a wad of money. "Just take this." The boy's eyes narrowed, flickering between the money and his face. "It's not a trick. I just want to help you." The boy's narrow shoulders straightened a bit and he huffed, stepping up close to Pannacotta and standing on the tips of his toes so their faces were close together. Something like panic started to build up in Pannacotta's body, crawling though his spine like some centipede-beast. 

The boy huffed again and stepped back. "You need more help than I do, guy. My name's Narancia."

"F-Fugo. Pannacotta Fugo."

"C'mon, Fugo. I'll introduce you to Bruno." Narancia turned and pranced away, checking at the end of the alley that Pannacotta was following. Pannacotta didn't know what he was doing, why he was here, or why this boy had such an effect on him, but he did. Perhaps it was because of how different he was from Pannacotta himself. Perhaps because he was everything he had been raised away from. Or perhaps it was because Narancia kept looking over his shoulder to make sure that Pannacotta was still close behind.

He introduced me to Bruno. My... My true father. He gave me something to stay alive for, these past three years of my life. He took care of me. Narancia is... Narancia, you are everything. Wh-When I thought I lost you, I... I stopped fighting him. I just... I let it happen. I didn't see any point in struggling anymore, but then you came back? You came back and I... I suppose it made me realize how truly desperate I am to get out of this. To be free. By God, I want to be free... I've never told Pops any of this. I've tried so hard to keep it hidden from him. I told myself it was because I did not want to worry him, but I suppose that if I've come this far I may as well admit that I was scared he would not believe me either. I was terrified that he would reject me too... Will you help me? Please? Please? 

Chapter Text

Narancia was crying. Leone could hear him, try as he did to be quiet. Fugo looked... Not quite dead, but close. His hands in Leone's held a near painful grip. Leone's stomach didn't feel alright. "Hey. Fugo." Pale purple eyes shifted to his face and Leone held his gaze for a moment. "That bastard's never gunna touch you again, you hear? He's never going to fucking touch you again. I promise."

Something like life in those eyes and then Fugo was nodding. "Never."

"Never." Leone stood, his knee giving a twinge of pain as he finally got to straighten it. "Damn..." Narancia collided with him and Leone almost went down again, wrapping his arm around Narancia on reflex. The little rat was shaking, his expression blank as tears fell, uninhibited, down his dirty cheeks. "Hey, hey, it's gunna be alright, Nara', I... I'll take care of you both, I promise." He was so caught up in comforting Narancia that he wasn't prepared when Fugo pressed close too, wriggling under Leone's other arm and pressing his face to his chest. So Leone held two children, kissing them both on the head and doing his best not to cry too because he was supposed to be the strong one right now. 

Good God, no wonder Fugo was so shattered. No wonder he had been so terrified of looking Leone in the eyes. Because they were the same, really. Their cracks followed the same seams. 

When Tiziano came looking for him, that's how he found him. A soft knock against the doorframe drew Leone's attention (Fugo's whole body tensed up) to the cab driver, looking rather sheepish. "Hey, sorry about just walking in, um... I knocked? You didn't answer, I got worried... Is everything okay?" Leone blinked, not quite understanding, for a moment, what Tiziano was asking. When it finally hit him, he just slightly shook his head, grip tightening on the children pressed close to his sides. "Do... Do you need a ride?"

Did he? Leone took a minute to think. His thoughts felt... Muddy. Distantly, he knew it was a kind of shock that did it, but he couldn't work up enough emotion to care. He was going numb. Narancia tugged weakly at his shirt and Leone looked down at him. "I want Pops." Bruno. Bruno would help. Of course he would. Bruno always helped. He just had to get to Bruno.

Leone looked back to Tiziano, waiting patiently at the door. "Take us to Bruno."

I'm sorry, Noriaki. I can't be with you today.

The children stayed practically stuck to him as he showed them all to the door, Tiziano in the front of the procession. It took a bit of gentle persuasion to get Fugo and Narancia to detach from him to buckle up and the second they were secure they were again leaning into him, desperate for what they never had: A parent who kept them safe. Leone wrapped his arms around them. They would never be hurt again. Not if he had anything to say about it. 

Tiziano followed them in when Leone, struggling to walk past the children so close to his legs, made his way into the bakery's front door. The bell sounded painfully cheerful. "Bruno?"

Bruno was behind the counter, thank God, and when he looked up at Leone, Leone could damn near feel the fear running out of him. Everything would be okay. "Leone?" Bruno came around to meet them halfway, looking over Leone's shoulder at Tiziano in confusion. "I-I don't understand, aren't you supposed to be with Noriaki today? Why is Fugo with you? What's going on?"

"Bruno, I will tell you everything in just a moment, I swear to you, but I can't do it here." Leone looked into those beautiful blue eyes and there he found his strength. "There's something very important you need to know." Fugo's breath sucked in harshly through his teeth and Leone felt his grip tighten on his shirt. Gently working the boy's hands from the fabric, Leone pushed him away enough to kneel, laying his hands very, very lightly on Fugo's arms, careful to be nothing close to restraining. "Fugo. Look at me." Violet met dawn as Fugo's gaze flicked up to Leone's. "Bruno loves you, do you hear me? He loves you. Not the things you might do. You."

"What?" Bruno stepped forward, worry on his face, arms coming up to encircle the blond. Fugo flinched and Bruno let his arms drop. "I... Of course I love you, Pannacotta, why must you be reassured of this?"

Leone wanted so, so badly to look at Bruno and nothing else, but he forced himself to focus on Fugo. "Do you understand the difference?" Fugo looked down, silent and still for a very long moment. Then he nodded once. "Hey." Fugo glanced up again. "For the record, I don't give two shits about how smart you are." He gently ruffled Fugo's hair before standing, looking around for Narancia on reflex. 

The poor rat looked remarkably small, standing with his shoulders pulled in and his head down, whole body shaking gently from the force of the tears he was just managing to keep quiet. Giorno was there. Leone didn't know when he'd arrived. Sea-glass eyes looked up at him accusingly, before, "What did you do, Abbacchio?"

"Nothing. Back off." Leone didn't have time for this today, not today. He shouldered Giorno aside, earning a soft noise of disgust at the contact. "Hey." He knelt, aware of Fugo shuffling close to him again. "Narancia. Hey! C'mon, Rat, what's wrong."

Narancia whimpered, a very un-Narancia sound that scared Leone for its strangeness. "I- I just- I-" He finally let out a very loud, very wet sob. "I made it worse!" Leone did not know how to comfort him because he was right. Fugo knew though. He stepped up to Narancia and they sat on the floor together, in the middle of Bruno's bakery, Narancia curled up in a ball in Fugo's lap, begging to be forgiven and all the while Fugo quietly assured him that there was nothing to forgive. Leone couldn't look at them for long. He stood and turned back to a very worried and scared Bruno, continuing to ignore Giorno entirely. 

"Bruno, you need to come with me. Now. Let's go." Leone took Bruno's arm to pull him away from Fugo and Narancia, to the stairs, so they could go where they could talk. Bruno resisted for a moment, giving Leone a startled look, before giving in and letting himself be led. He pushed Bruno up the stairs first, following after, Giorno trailing behind. Every part of Leone wanted to turn and tell Giorno to fuck off, but even with his nerves shot he knew Bruno wouldn't like that at all, so he bore the weight of Giorno's gaze and kept climbing till he could carefully wrap an arm around Bruno's waist and lead him to the couch. "I know what's wrong with your son, Bruno."

Bruno tensed, again looking at him with shock, but for a different reason. "You... You do?"

"Narancia brought him to my place last night and... He wanted to talk to me. After breakfast he kind of broke down and just spilled and it's..." Leone sat, pulling Bruno with him, shifting a bit and taking both of Bruno's hands in his own. He didn't know where Giorno had sat himself and he didn't particularly care, Bruno was what mattered now. "Bruno, I'm going to be honest with you, it... It's exactly what I expected and worse than you've ever allowed yourself to think." Bruno looked scared. He looked so scared. Leone squeezed his hands and Bruno returned the grip. And then he told him. Everything, from start to finish, the school, the teacher, Fugo's parents, everything Fugo had told him, Leone relayed to Bruno and he could see the effect it had as he spoke, every word twisting like a knife in Bruno's spine. He looked like he was in so much pain, but over that was rage. A deep and powerful rage that rivaled that of Fugo's and all at once Leone realized what people meant when they said a mother was the most powerful being in the world. Because Bruno looked damn near ready to fist fight God and win. 

When Leone was done the whole room was silent and Bruno did not let go of his hands. Then, from Giorno, "Pannacotta told you this? You? Why you and not-" He fell silent and Leone turned to look at him. Giorno's face was nearly as impassive as always, but in the set of his mouth Leone could see his pain. And then he ran his hands through his perfect blond hair, destroying the front curls entirely. 

"And not you?" Leone questioned softly. Giorno didn't look at him, but he nodded. "Because me and Fugo? We're exactly alike, golden boy. We're the damn same. That's why not you."

Silence again. Leone looked back to Bruno. He had bitten the blood out of his lips again, only this time the taste of it didn't stop his gnawing. His eyes were dangerous. They burned like  Polnareff's. Gently, hesitantly, Leone leaned forward till their foreheads touched. God, that fire truly was painful to look at. "He'll be okay, Bruno. He'll make it. He's done the hardest thing and he will be okay."

Something... Settled in Bruno's eyes, some decision was made, and he nodded, a shift Leone more felt than saw. "You're right. He will be." Bruno leaned away then, pulling his hands free of Leone's and sitting up straight, his entire demeanor shifting into the Giorno-esque mask of cold indifference he wore to keep himself up (had Giorno learned that from Bruno, or the other way around?). "Leone, you will go downstairs and leave with the taxi man if he is still there. You will go see Noriaki and you will tell him the Bruno Bucciarati is going to call in a debt. Make sure no one else hears. Do you understand me?"

"I- Bruno, what?"

"I said, did you understand me?"

What the hell was this? "I-I did, but Bruno-"

"Good. Get out. You can't be here for this. Giorno, you know what to do, I trust."

Giorno stood and bowed at the waist. "As you will it, Bucciarati." Then he turned and trotted quickly away, vanishing into the stairwell to the lower floor and Leone just watched him go, still stunned to stuttering or silence. 

Gently, so gently, Bruno grabbed Leone by the chin, holding his head so he had to look into those bright eyes, Bruno's thumb lightly over his lips to keep him silent. "Leone." A shiver went up his spine. "Will you do as I have told you?"

Bruno shifted his grip and Leone took it as permission to speak. "Always."

"Thank you." Bruno released him and then stood. "Then go. Be quick, Leone. Noriaki must know."

Leone didn't know what this meant or what was happening, but he obeyed, because it was Bruno and he would always do as this man bid him. He got up and left, almost stumbling down the steps and emerging in the shop in a daze. It was nearly empty and Giorno was urging the last remaining customers out of the building, Mista standing close behind him, perhaps as a show of force should one be required. Fugo and Narancia were still together on the floor, but judging by Narancia's stillness, the rat had stopped crying. Leone went to him first, kneeling and laying a hand on Narancia's hair when Fugo nodded. "From now on, Bruno and I will keep you safe." He looked at Fugo and Fugo looked right back. "Do you believe that?" Fugo was still for a few seconds of silence. Then he nodded. "Good." For just a moment, Leone had the ridiculous urge to kiss Fugo on the cheek, but it passed quickly and he just stood up to walk out the door, breathing a sigh of relief when he saw Tiziano, leaning against his car. "Tiziano."

"Leo!" Leone managed to keep the flinch internal. "Dude, is everything okay?"

"God no, but we're getting there. Take me to Noriaki. I need to tell him something."

"Y-Yeah, of course. Come on."

During the ride, Tiziano tried to ask what was wrong, but Leone just told him that though he loved him, this was not his business. "Some things just aren't meant to be spread around, Tiz'. It's not my tale to tell." Tiziano had nodded and asked nothing more. He was out of the car before it was fully stopped, rushing to the church as fast as his cast would allow and throwing himself inside, shouldering open the second door and wheezing for breath as he did it. Hol Horse squeaked, but Polnareff was on his feet the second Leone was visible, setting Star Platinum back on his paws and crossing the distance between them in two steps. Leone had never been hugged so hard. He didn't know what he did to deserve it. For the time it lasted, he let himself feel it, shutting his eyes and hugging Polnareff back just as tightly because he was going to fall apart if he didn't. Fugo had been raped. Repeatedly. For three years. Three damn years. Was there something wrong with the number three or some shit?

"I didn't know where you were, man." Polnareff's face was pressed to his shoulder, his hands balled into fists in Leone's shirt. "I didn't know..."

"Sorry... Some, uh. Some things with Bruno's- With my kid came up." He reached up to run his hand over Polnareff's silver hair, surprised to find it as soft as it was. "Any sister news?" Polnareff laughed against him, the effect he'd hoped for, but still didn't release him. 

Noriaki was smiling, twisted around in his seat to watch the two. "It's wonderful to see you, Abbacchio-kun. And no, not much. Polnareff-kun was talking about his sister again and how he missed you."

"I think I used the word fucking somewhere in there, Doc."

"Polnareff-kun."

"Yeah, yeah, sorry."

Johnny huffed, looking away. "And I was about to speak before Jean so rudely interrupted me six times."

"Seven, Jonathan. Learn your numbers before you come at me."

"It's that I- I've been thinking about getting physical therapy." 

That's when Polnareff released him, turning to look at Johnny with one brow raised. The Frenchman's knuckles brushed Leone's and Leone allowed his hand to be held because by God, he needed it. "What for? Sisterhood isn't therapy enough?"

After a single dry laugh, Johnny shook his head. "You're something else, Jean. Point is, Gyro... He's a nurse, you know, and he said- He-" Johnny wiped his eyes and laughed again, but it a decidedly wetter sound. "He said if I'd ever just... Just bothered to get the therapy then I could probably walk. My dumb ass just never- I didn't think to-" He sniffed. "I kind of didn't want to be able to just stand up for a second. I thought that was all it would do, but... Noriaki, what if I could walk again? Not without help, of course, but... My spine wasn't fully severed, so what if one day all I need is a cane?" Johnny looked happy. It was strange to see, actually. "Th-The bullet just nicked it after all, so what if I could walk again?"

Bullet? Leone wanted to know about that. Polnareff's hand tightened around his own, Noriaki shifted in his seat, even Hol Horse turned to give Johnny a curious look, but the man didn't notice the looks and no one voiced the question. He was tugging at his beanie again, tufts of red hair showing though the ever-widening holes. He didn't say anything else. Noriaki turned to Hol Horse. "Hol Horse-kun?"

Hol Horse glanced up towards Leone and Polnareff with something like fear before his gaze shifting to something else, his whole body keeping that look of tension. Star went over with a soft boof, nosing him in the leg with a wag of his feathery tail. Hol Horse gave the dog a pat on the head. "I-... I can't, Nori'. I'm sorry. I'm scared."

"It's all right, Hol Horse-kun. We understand. Abbacchio-kun? Since you are here?"

Leone thought about that, for a moment. "I've been wanting to drink again recently."

"I haven't managed to stop!" Polnareff added cheerily.

"I haven't actually done it though." Polnareff shifted closer to him. Leone kind of liked his closeness. Huh. He'd never really thought of himself as a touchy person. "It's... Harder but also... Easier... Than I thought it would be to ignore. I don't really know how else to explain it." Noriaki rested his chin on the back of his chair and Leone felt a moment of guilt for not moving to where he could see him easier, but he couldn't bring himself to move with Polnareff so close (what if he didn't move with him?). "You were right. Bruno let me come back. And N-Narancia's been teaching me how to cook and um, G-Giorno's been trying to be a little nicer to me. F-Fugo is- Fu- Fugo is going to be okay." He choked on a sob and moved on before tears could truly form. "A-And Tiziano? Our friend, Noriaki? He invited me to dinner at his home. His cat took a liking to me. Um, so did his son." 

"And how does all that make you feel, Abbacchio-kun?"

His eyes misted up at that and he looked up to try and stall the tears because he really didn't want to cry here, especially when he didn't even know why he was crying. "It makes me feel like I'm glad to still be breathing."

Noriaki grinned at him, a rather odd expression thanks to his wide mouth. "I am very glad to hear that." The redhead turned back around to face the other two in their group. "Anything else? Anyone?" Silence. Noriaki stood up and stretched. "Well then. I suppose it is time for us to go then, yes? Star?" An order to Star in Japanese and he led the way out of the room and down the hall with Star at his side. Leone was starting to worry that he wasn't going to be able to obey Bruno's order. What if he couldn't get Noriaki alone? Polnareff was still glued to him... But the problem resolved itself when they stepped out of the building. Polnareff kissed him roughly on the head and released him, going to help Hol Horse with getting Johnny's wheelchair down the steps after Hol Horse hoisted Johnny over his shoulder, smacking him hard on the ass and getting an equally hard ass-smacking for it. 

Noriaki was walking towards the sleek black car that his husband was no doubt waiting for him in and Leone hurried to catch up and walk with him before Jotaro made a full appearance. "Noriaki. Bruno asked me to tell you something."

"Hmm? What's that?"

"He- He said, um-" Did it have to be exact? He hoped he was remembering right. "He said... Bruno Bucciarati is calling in a debt?"

Noriaki froze. Just slightly, his pupils widened. "Are you certain? That is exactly what he said?"

"Y-Yes, he even referred to himself in full name. Noriaki, what does that mean?"

The redhead licked his lips, crossing his arms then uncrossing them. "It's- I do not believe I can-" He broke off, brow furrowed.

"Nori'?" Good God, now Jotaro was here, massive and angry, his gaze hot on Leone's face. "Are you okay?"

Noriaki grabbed Jotaro by the arms, a flurry of Japanese coming from him. Whatever it was that he was saying made Jotaro's eyes widen just enough to be noticed, his large hands going to lay on Noriaki's waist. He spoke softly back at him, still in Japanese. Leone kind of felt left out. After a few more rapid-fire sentences, Noriaki finally looked back at him, switching to Italian. "I'm so sorry, Abbacchio-kun, thank you for telling me this. You may go now. Jotaro and I must make a few phone calls. I will see you next week?"

"O-Of course. Um... Bye." He turned and walked away, glancing over his shoulder just in time to nearly be bowled over by Slow Dancer. "What your step, Italian!" Johnny called out. Hol Horse, on Slow Dancer's back instead of running behind, gave a whoop of apparent agreement, taking his hat off in Leone's direction. He only started walking again when his heart stopped beating so hard.

"Are you all right?" Tiziano was asking him before his ass even hit the carseat. "Did the horse hit you?"

"Nah. I'm fine." He buckled up and laid back, looking out the window and trying to figure out what the hell all that had been about. What had that meant? What debt was Bruno calling in? Why was Noriaki and Jotaro both so affected by it? What did all this mean?

He was fairly certain that he wasn't going to get an answer to that any time soon.


He was at the cliff again (again? When had he left?) and Matteo was tossing orange peels into the ocean far, far below. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a moment to listen to the gulls. "Leo?"

"Mm?"

"Are you going to be alright?"

"Mm. I'd like to be."

Matteo made a soft "Ah," noise and Leone half opened one eye in time to watch him toss away the last of the peel. "I'm sorry, Leo. For everything."

"Nothin' to be sorry for," Leone grunted, looking up at the gulls instead. 

"Yes, there is." Matteo's hand brushed against Leone's and Leone sighed. 

He woke up listening for the sea again. He wondered what had caused the mellowing of his dreams. Whatever it was, he certainly wasn't complaining. Standing and stretching the sleep from his bones, Leone wandered for a second, looking for Narancia and heading on to take a shower when he didn't find him. By the time he was clean, dry, and dressed, Narancia still wasn't there, so Leone assumed it was a Bruno morning and managed to scratch something together for himself before heading out. Narancia wasn't outside either. He wasn't sure that he liked walking alone. Shoving his hands in his pockets, Leone absently wondered how long it had been since he'd first met Bruno, that day on the sidewalk. It seemed like years ago, but surely it wasn't too long... It wasn't even winter yet and they'd met late summer, so... A few months? Less? Could so much truly happen in so short a time? The wind blew and he tucked his shoulders up a bit, holding arms close to himself in defense against the growing cold. He wondered what else could possibly happen. He wondered if this time next year he'd still be alive. He wondered if he'd be with Bruno. He wondered if he'd ever be with Bruno, at least in the way he wanted. It was easier to think about that then it was to think about Fugo.

He pushed his way into the bakery with a sigh of relief, the inside warmer than the wind. Mista was behind the counter. He waved at Leone with little enthusiasm. Leone looked around quickly, smiling softly when he caught sight of Narancia and Fugo, sitting at a table with- Trish? Yes indeed, Trish was sandwiched between them, wearing a shirt of Bruno's that was wholly too big for her. It hid her figure entirely and maybe that was the point. They were all muttering softly, heads bowed and touching, and Leone almost didn't want to bother them but he also really needed to see Narancia. He walked over, stopping a good bit away and keeping the table between himself and the kids. "Hey."

Three teens looked up as one, three sets of eyes locked onto Leone's face. Trish spoke first. "Wussup."

Narancia grinned at him, but it was a bit wobbly. "Hi, Papa."

Softly, Fugo whispered with awe in his voice, "I'm missing school."

Leone smiled at him. "Ah, but there goes your honor, Fugo! Who shall marry you now?" Fugo looked confused, but Narancia picked up the tease immediately. 

"Don't worry Panna', I'm a rat, I don't care about society's report card based system of honor." He bumped his shoulder to Trish's to knock her into Fugo, and that's about when he got that it was a joke.

"Um..." His brow furrowed as he hesitated. "W-We'll have our wedding behind the seven eleven?" Narancia hummed, a deep, loving sound, wrapping one arm around Trish so his hand could lay on Fugo's shoulder. 

Leaving the kids to themselves, Leone walked away with a profound sense of relief that Fugo was not totally broken. That boy would be just fine. Mista was still looking sad and confused when Leone joined him, dark eyes seeming darker for their pain. "Hey, Abbacchio."

"Hey, Mista."

"So, um... Giorno told me everything, like I asked him to, and... I guess I see what he meant when he said he'd just been trying to keep me from being hurt, 'cause... This is shitty." He wrapped his arms around himself, muttering under his breath and Leone wondered idly who he was talking to in his head. Then, "I mean I guess I should have expected something this wrong to happen, you know? I mean, there was four of us. Four! It was only a matter of time with four, only a matter of time." Mista kept going before Leone could say anything about his odd behavior, beginning to pace now, his hands flittering wildly about him. "Trish is here now, so that's five, five, not four, five, that's why it's gunna start looking up now, everything will be fine now that we're not four anymore, everything'll be fine, just fine, right Abbacchio? Th-There's no four, Panna's gunna be just fine, isn't he?" Mista looked about ready to collapse. whatever thin protection he'd built up around himself falling apart like a house of cards in a hurricane.

Leone stepped forward and grabbed Mista, pulling him against his chest and rocking him gently. He could not cry. He had to be the strong one. "Yeah, Guido. Everything's going to be just fine. I promise. Fugo's gunna get better and Trish is gunna stay around so there's no four and Giorno's going to be here for you too, alright?" He ran one hand up and down Mista's back, his cheek pressed to the fabric of his precious purple beanie. He held him until the door to the next floor opened and Giorno walked out of it. Sea-glass eyes, just raw enough for it to show through, looked over him and Mista. Leone didn't particularly care what he thought about it at this moment. He just jerked his head to get Giorno to come closer and carefully transferred the loving of Guido Mista from himself to Giorno. "You need to take him to the kitchen," he murmured. Giorno looked at him for a long moment. Then he nodded and led Mista away.

Was Bruno upstairs? The question entered his thoughts as he gently shut the door to the stairwell. Was he okay? How was he taking this? Leone hoped he wasn't blaming himself because that was ridiculous but it seemed like something Bruno would do. His thoughts warred between concern for Bruno and concern for Fugo throughout the day and he kept his eyes on the one he could watch, trying to pick up any signal that his rage was rising up enough for him to lash out at his companions. Heaven knows Trish doesn't need any more pain and Leone would rather let his eyes get cut out then stand by while Narancia got hurt. But Fugo just seemed... Empty at worst, dazed at best. His movements were slow and his responses seemed to take a second or so to come. Leone supposed that made sense. He himself still got lost pretty deep in his own head sometimes. Every once in a while Mista would reappear, Giorno shadowing him, and Leone would get a little bit of help for a moment before something (the sight of Fugo?) sent Mista creeping back out of sight, often with tears in his eyes. If Giorno ever cried it was not where Leone could see. Bruno never showed.

Narancia and Fugo followed him home. He didn't question it, just holding the door for them both and locking it behind for the night.

"C'mon, Abbacchio!" Narancia tried for cheerful, but his voice cracked a bit. "It's about time you learned how to cook your own dinner. You make and I'll offer witty commentary. Fugo! You can be the taste tester."

Fugo shuffled close to Narancia and grabbed his sleeve, silent for a good ten seconds. Then, "Alright."

Leone did not like being the chef. At first he thought that it couldn't be too hard to make something passable, but... Well, as it turned out, Narancia only made it look easy peasy lemon squeazy when in fact it was difficult difficult lemon difficult. Just choosing what to make was hard. In the end, he just went with eggs, because omelets didn't have to look pretty to taste good. 

"Mm." Narancia made a sound of disagreement almost immediately and Leone jumped. 

"Wh-What?"

Narancia shrugged. "Oh, nothing, nothing... It's just that if you want anything other than plain egg, then you'll have to put that stuff first."

"Why?"

Fugo blinked slowly at him. "Eggs cook fast. Other things cook..."

"Less fast," Narancia finished. Leone set down the egg he'd been holding and watched it for a second to make sure it wouldn't roll off the counter and die before he deemed it time. Then he just kind of... Stood with his hands close to his chest. Narancia's voice had the tone of someone talking to a particularly slow toddler. "Do you know what to put in it, big guy?"

Leone felt his cheeks heat up. "No."

"Alright, I guess I'm still the housewife in this game of House. Fugo? Wanna help?"

"..... Okay."

Leone shuffled back and let the two kids take over, occasionally asking a question about something but mostly just watching. Narancia made him chop the onion himself which, of course, burned the shit out of his eyes and sent tears streaming down his face. 

"It's too quiet in here," Narancia announced suddenly and loudly, causing Leone to startle and damn near chop his finger off. "You got a radio?"

"Um..." Leone carefully set the knife down and narrowed his eyes at his rather mangled onion. "Yeah. Next to the bed. A small one." Narancia shot off and, to Leone's slight surprise, Fugo came closer to him instead of following the rat. 

He looked over Leone's God-awful cutting job. "If you cut it in a grid first, you can slice it into cubes easier."

"If I do what now."

"Here... Let me see it." Leone relinquished the space and Fugo carefully picked up the knife. Leone wondered about the wisdom of letting Fugo handle a knife. But he didn't seem about to attack and all he did was carefully and methodically dice the onion in a way that was a helluva lot neater than Leone's mess. Narancia hopped in then, putting the already playing radio on the counter, its sad little speakers doing their best to fill the small room. Fugo diced the onion. Leone was set to crack the eggs in a bowl. Narancia hacked butter into the pan and spread it around. Fugo got something out of Leone's fridge that Narancia had probably stolen and cut it too (green pepper?) before dumping it and the onion bits into the pan. Leone was assigned the important role of Guy Who Stirs It So It Doesn't Burn while Narancia did his best to get Fugo to dance with him.

"Come on, come on, there's enough room!" Poor little rat looked near desperate to get a little life into Fugo's eyes. "Dance with me, Pannacotta! Come on!"

Then Narancia started doing a really weird little dance and Fugo, something close to a smile on his lips, followed suit. Narancia squealed softly, finally grinning, and Leone almost failed in his one job because he was too busy watching them (his kids). They were in perfect sync. He wondered how long they'd done it together. A full song later and Narancia was skipping over to examine Leone's handiwork, deeming it acceptable and dumping in the eggs. "Fugo! Your turn to stir. C'mon Papa, I'll teach you how to dance." So, in a completely unexpected development, Leone found himself beet red and trying to copy the movement of this absolute rat of a child, nearly falling about four times thanks to his clunky cast. Narancia was laughing at him and Fugo would occasionally make some kind of amusement noise and Leone might have been mad if he wasn't so damn happy. 

It was a whole lot nicer than he'd thought it would be, to have his small apartment full of rowdy teenagers.

"Do you even still need that thing?" Narancia asked the question as they were settling down to eat, tapping the side of his head, purple eyes bright. "I mean, I'm all better."

Leone blinked, mid bite. He hadn't even noticed that Narancia's bandage was gone. He just... Looked like Narancia. "Huh."

"Yup. You wanna try walking without it?"

"I-I don't know. I don't want to hurt it again." He kept looked at Narancia's left eye, wondering if it was really okay. Was he still in pain? Would it come back? Was Bruno still putting in his medicine?

"You're doing the thing."

Leone jumped a bit. "What thing."

"Parent thing. Bruno does it too. I'm fine. Promise." Narancia was scooting his chair over as he spoke, only stopping when he was pressed close to Fugo, their arms brushing slightly when he moved. Fugo turned his head and not-quite-kissed Narancia's temple, more just letting his lips brush the skin than actually kissing him, before going back to his food. "Soooo, leg?" Narancia didn't let up for the entirety of dinner and Leone was just done enough to comply by the end of it, removing his cast and taking an uncertain step forward with Narancia holding one arm and Fugo holding the other. Well, the limb certainly held, but whether or not it would stay that way was another matter entirely. It was only when Narancia tried getting him to dance again that he refused.

"Hell no. I'm not going to cripple myself because you relish my pain, Nar'."

Narancia snickered. "I like rat better."

"I'm not going to make myself lame, rat."

"You're already lame."

"Dear God, take me home."

Fugo's grip tightened just a bit on his arm. "But Abbacchio, you are home."

Leone was so.... SO.... Tired of fatherhood...... Or at least, that's what he wanted to feel. Really, he was just kind of proud that Fugo was here and he was trying to join in on Narancia's shitty jokes. "You kids are gunna be the death of me, I swear."

Narancia gasped and, as was his custom apparently, dropped his weight while holding onto Leone's arm. "Fugo, he's discovered that we eat souls, what do we do?"

Fugo shrugged. "Eat faster?"

Yep. Leone was dying. Even with Narancia's constant teasings and Fugo's occasional quiet comments, Leone managed to get everything clean in the kitchen before the kids (mostly Narancia) bullied him into chasing that rat child across the entire apartment while Fugo sat in the living room and offered encouragement to Narancia only whenever they passed him. Leone's leg held through all of it, thank God, and when he finally caught the damn rat and tickled him into submission it was barely even aching. "Yield!"

"NeverrrrreeeeAAAAHHHHHHHH FUGO GET HIIIIIIIM WRYYYYY!!!!" With Narancia squealing and wriggling in his grip Leone had little time to prepare for Fugo sitting directly on his shoulders, the unexpected weight shoving him down onto Narancia and audibly squeezing the breath out of the kid. "Fugo......heeeeeh...... Dear God...... Weh........" And other such wheezed complaints marked Narancia's Death By Leone's Fat Self. With a grunt of effort, Leone got his palms to the floor and pushed up, getting some of his weight off Narancia and lifting Fugo up a bit.

"You good, rat?"

"Hehe... Yeah... Hey, you're kinda strong, Abbacchio!"

"Yeah? I threw you, why did you doubt my strength."

Fugo shifted on his back and Leone winced as the kid's ass dug into his shoulder blade. "You what?"

"Oh dear."

"No, what did you do."

"Threw him? Only a little?"

Narancia rolled onto his stomach and wiggled free jumping up to chatter at Fugo excitedly. "It was great! He chucked me like an American football! Spin and everything! I went whoosh, right into a bush!"

Leone could quite literally feel Fugo shaking. Please don't gingersnap my neck.

He did not, in fact, gingersnap Leone's neck. Instead, Fugo went for Narancia. By the time Leone had managed to get to his feet Fugo had both hands around Narancia's throat and had lifted him off the ground, holding him up and snarling. "You stupid, stupid thing! What if you'd broken your stupid neck?!" He shook Narancia a bit and the rat gagged, hands coming up to lay on Fugo's arms, but he didn't fight him. Why didn't he fight him?

Leone's first instinct was to grab Fugo and wrench Narancia away from him, but... God, he didn't want to hurt Fugo, but what if he hurt Narancia? "Panna'? Put him down." Fugo jerked his head around to look at Leone, pale eyes frantic, breathing harsh. "Just put him down... You're hurting him. Don't you see? Narancia's in pain." He was so angry that for a second Leone doubted if he'd even heard. But then he shut his eyes and shuddered once, hard, lowering Narancia back to the floor and stepping close to hide against the crook of the rat's neck that he'd just been determined to wring. Narancia didn't hesitate to hug Fugo, coughing softly a few times before managing to hum. Leone didn't know how he did it.

Leone wanted to pick Narancia up, take him away, make sure he wasn't badly hurt, but he also knew that neither Narancia nor Fugo would allow a parting. Besides, Leone didn't trust himself any closer to Fugo until his own anger died down. Really all he wanted to do was smack the blond. Taking a breath to steady himself, Leone muttered, "Bed, then?"

It wasn't too hard, to herd the children to bed (he wondered if he would ever stop thinking of them as children). Laying on the very edge of the bed, trying not to bother them, he ignored the urge to hold them both close. Narancia was holding Fugo, the blond's face in the rat's chest. It was fairly clear they wouldn't appreciate a reminder that they weren't alone, so he did his best to breathe quietly and stay still, faking sleep until it actually claimed him. He didn't actually dream that night. There was just a deep, deep darkness and the distinct feeling that he was unconscious. For a moment... He felt like he could open his eyes. But he didn't want to see behind the darkness, not really. The feeling quickly passed and he opened his true eyes, feeling better rested than he had since before he'd gotten his cast. Fugo was still asleep this time, when he woke up. Narancia wasn't. Leone's shifting drew his attention, dead-dull violet eyes glancing over to him. Gently, carefully, one of Narancia's hands pet the back of Fugo's head.

Narancia's voice was nearly unintelligible, his lips hardly having to move to release the quiet words. "Sometimes... I'd try and get Fugo to kiss me different. He never would. Guess I know why now." He shifted, curving further around Fugo, never pausing in his strokes to that blond hair.

Leone didn't have anything to say to that. What could possibly ease this? Time and Fugo's healing would be the only salve. So he just leaned down and kissed Narancia on the temple before leaving, as quietly as he could, heading to the kitchen to struggle with starting breakfast instead of taking a shower first as usual. His leg didn't hurt. His heart still did. Maybe everyone's did. Even Tiziano's. Maybe it was just something you had to learn to live with. Leone sighed and started making some toast in the toaster Narancia had definitely probably stole a while back, jumping every time the bread finished and popped up with a quiet crash. He felt almost embarrassed for some reason, painfully aware that this was not his usual routine. What if someone sees you? They'll think it's odd. Why did he care? Good God, his shit brain was just coming up with anything to feel bad over. Didn't it have enough shit to offer without making some up? Face reddening despite his attempts to talk himself out of the stupid emotion, Leone squished butter on the toast, wondering if it would look so bad if Narancia had done it. Probably not.

There was bacon in the fridge. Did he just lay it in the pan? He was pretty sure that's what Narancia had done... He was regretting his choice to try his damn best when he had to touch the raw meat. It made his skin crawl. Hair on his arms still standing on end, Leone scrubbed his hands and gave the pan a glare, wondering how much hotter the pan had to get before it would start cooking. Had he turned it up too high? Too low. God, cooking was hard when he didn't have someone to tell him what to do. In a separate pan, he remembered just in time to add butter before egg, watching the butter melt and wondering if that was the proper amount. His hair kept falling in his face, so while the butter became puddle, he pushed around in the designated junk drawer until he found a hair band, pulling his hair up into a high ponytail, grumbling a bit when a single lock fell free. Well, he supposed it wasn't too bad. Better than tying his hair up again. He went back to the pan and grabbed the handle, hesitating for a second before moving it around to get the butter to spread. Well. Good enough. He cracked an egg straight into the pan and it hissed on contact, making him flinch a bit. Was it supposed to do that??? Oh, shit, he was supposed to put it into a bowl first so he could break the yolk, oh shit. But it looked like it was cooking? Something was going on, that was for sure. Could he still... Stir it? Would that mess something up?

"Whatcha got, Papa?" Narancia stepped close to him, hugging his arm for a moment. "Hey, how'd ya know Panna' liked his eggs that way?" This was a 'way'? Leone didn't answer because Narancia was moving on, flipping the bacon over and messing with the oven's dials. 

"Good morning." Fugo's fingertips just brushed Leone's arm as he passed, going to stand by Narancia, one arm around the smaller boy's waist. "Breakfast?" Narancia hummed an affirmation, tipping his head so it leaned against Fugo's chest. That's when Leone noticed the bruises, very clearly in the shape of Fugo's hands, beginning to form around Narancia's throat. Dear God, but he looked so fragile. Leone shut his eyes for a moment to steady himself. Just make breakfast. They're okay.

He went to get a bowl to crack some more eggs in, stirring them up for himself and Narancia before hesitantly cracking another one straight into the pan because apparently that was a way to do it and also how Fugo liked it. Fugo glanced over at the sound, his expression lightening into something closer to alive. "Thank you."

"Of course... Hey, Nara'? You got this from here? I need a shower."

Narancia nodded. "Yup. Thanks for starting it today."

"Anytime." He showered as quick as he was physically capable of doing. He knew Fugo didn't mean harm. But then, Leone doubted that Polnareff did either. Didn't change much for the people that they wounded. If Fugo was still willing to choke marks onto Narancia's neck then Leone didn't want them alone for long. He brushed his hair hard enough to hurt in his haste and all but threw on his clothes, still straightening them out a bit when he walked into the kitchen. He'd worried for nothing. Narancia was fine. They'd set him out a plate, so he sat to eat, huffing out his next breath when a very intense weight settled on his shoulders. He was so tired. Not even physically tired, more like... A very deep, emotional tired. Again, nothing new. He took a bite of eggs and wondered when he'd learn to cook something else. They ate in a warm silence and for once, Leone helped Narancia wash the dishes. They walked out of the apartment the same way they had that first day- that is, hand in hand with Leone in the middle, trying not to trip past the two kids pressed almost too close to him.

Giorno was waiting outside the bakery. He started towards the trio when he caught sight of them. Leone groaned inwardly and shared a look with Narancia. 

Know-It-All.

Something close to a smile crossed both their faces. Then Giorno was there in front of them and they couldn't silently mock him anymore. "Abbacchio. Someone is here to see you."

Okay, what? That... Wasn't what Leone had expected. He gave Giorno a confused look, his confusion only deepening to see no hostility on Giorno's face. His blankness was still there, of course, but it was... Softer, somehow. "Who?"

"Noriaki is here, but he is currently speaking with Bruno... He brought two other men with him. One of them is very large, with silver hair."

"Polnareff."

"Yes, that is how he introduced himself."

Leone's heart jumped in his chest. Polnareff? Here? Really? He went around Giorno, releasing Fugo for a moment to push open the door of the bakery and sure enough there he was. Big, angry Polnareff, sitting down awkwardly in a pastel chair with a dark-skinned man beside him that Leone had never seen. The oft-mentioned Mohammed, perhaps? The man looked over at the sound of the bell and when their eyes met, Leone felt... Something... Wrench in his gut, the feeling so intense he barely noticed when Fugo and Narancia left his side. The man's eyes were unusually amber. They widened in surprise at the sight of him, but it was quickly covered. Leone wanted to wonder what the hell this man was, but Polnareff was already up and coming for him, slamming into Leone full force and lifting him off his feet in a hug. He tensed for a second, expecting to be crushed damn near to death, but... No. Polnareff was very careful in how hard he squeezed Leone. "Hey, Jean. I missed you too, pal. Um, what are you doing here?"

Polnareff set him back on his feet, releasing him but staying very close. He raised one hand, put it to Leone's cheek and just kind of... Touched him. Had it been anyone but Polnareff, the careful tracing of his cheekbones, jaw, and brow would have been annoying, mortifying even, but with him? It was just kind of nice.

"Hey! Papa! Who's this?" Narancia was back it seemed and yanking on his arm.

"This is Jean Polnareff. He's... A really good friend of mine." Polnareff's burning blue eyes softened, just for a moment.

"Why's he here?"

Leone just watched Polnareff, waiting for the twice-asked question to be answered as the Frenchman continued to trace the lines of his face. Then, softly, Polnareff murmured only for Leone, "I guess I needed to be reminded that I'm human too." He said something else, a curving flow of French that Leone couldn't even begin to understand, but the emotion came through well enough. I love you.

Leone shifted his head a bit, leaning into Polnareff's touch. I love you, too.

"Jean? Care to introduce us?" The other man, his eyes (two tones of amber) locked onto Leone's face. His interest was starting to make Leone a little uncomfortable. 

"Mm? Oh. Yeah. Abbacchio, this is Mohammed." As he'd figured. Polnareff let go of Leone to shuffle closer to Mohammed, starting to reach for his hand but stopping before he got there. It was strange, seeing Polnareff try and hold back his touchy nature. "Mohammed, this is Leone Abbacchio."

"The Wheel." Mohammed's words were so absolutely random that Leone had absolutely no response prepared and by the time he thought to question, the man had already moved on. "It is nice to finally meet you. Jean talks about you quite a bit." He did? Leone felt his face heat up a bit. He wondered what Polnareff said about him. Mohammed offered his hand to shake and Leone took it, still distracted. Because of that, he was again unprepared for Mohammed's actions when he grabbed Leone's hand firmly and tuned it palm up, forcing his fingers apart to look at it.

"What are you doing?" He tried to take his hand back, oddly relieved when the action was allowed.

"Apologies. I'm a fortune teller. You... Have something about you, is all. I think I figured it out, though." Mohammed offered him something close to a smile and Leone did not return it, giving Polnareff a look instead. 

Polnareff grinned. "Yeah, I forgot to tell you I guess. Mohammed just plays guitar for fun. His real talent's fortune."

"Real talent?"

"Oh, shit, sorry, I didn't mean- You play really good."

Mohammed laughed, the first normal thing from him, and patted Polnareff hard on the back. He said something in French that made Polnareff blush before nodding at Leone and walking away, apparently to wait outside. Leone waited till Polnareff could meet his gaze. "That's him?"

"Yeah." For once, it wasn't anger making those blue eyes shine. "He's amazing, right?"

"That's one way to put it. What was that about?"

"I dunno. Probably have a weird aura is all. The Wheel is your card, by the way. That's what he meant. You're the Wheel of Fortune. He wasn't just being weird." Polnareff grabbed Leone's hand, turning it up in the same way Mohammed had, but Polnareff used his other hand to gently trace his palm's lines, stepping just slightly closer. "Sorry about coming here, man, I just... I did something. Messed me up a bit, I guess. I just had to see you." He looked up then, so very close, the slight height difference painfully obvious to Leone. "I don't know why. You just kinda... Anchor me, I guess. Nori' offered to drive me, so..." He shrugged a bit, pale blue eyes searching Leone's and Leone did everything he could to make sure Polnareff saw only love there. 

"Don't ever be sorry for this," he murmured. "You're always welcome here, Jean Pierre." He tipped his head down that last little bit so their noses touched. "You... You're important." There was something about this man that woke up every soft thing in Leone and he suddenly found himself truly believing that everything would be okay. 

Polnareff smiled. Leone could only tell because of the way his eyes crinkled at the corners because they were so close. "Thanks, Leone."

For a few more seconds they stood, close and in a kind of love, only separating when Bruno's voice rose. "Leone? Who is this? What are you doing?" Leone leaned back from Polnareff, but his hand was still held in the Frenchman's. Bruno's expression was the kind of blank that meant he was hiding something.

"This is Jean Polnareff. He's from my therapy group. He's a good friend." Leone motioned to Bruno. "Polnareff, this is Bruno."

"Oho~ Wonderful to meet you." Releasing Leone to bow with a flourish, Polnareff purred something in French.

Bruno smiled coldly and responded. In perfect French.

Polnareff straightened quickly, face going scarlet, and after a few more French exchanges, Polnareff grinned. "Well then, I suppose that's my cue to leave. Mohammed's waiting for me anyway." He stood on the tips of his toes to kiss Leone on the cheek before bolting towards the door, tossing a, "Ciao!" over his shoulder. 

Noriaki walked up then and it was just so strange to see that gentle face and bright hair. "Hello, Abbacchio-kun. I wish I could stay and talk, but I already must leave." He held his arms out to Bruno then and Bruno hugged him tightly. "Goodbye, Bruno, my dear friend. Please, be careful for yourself, yes?"

"Of course, Noriaki. Be safe." Bruno kissed Noriaki briefly on both cheeks before they separated, Noriaki heading quickly to and out the door. 

Leone stood awkwardly for a moment, uncertain as to where the strange feeling in the air came from. "I-I didn't know you could speak French."

"I also speak German and some Sardinian. There are many languages spoken in Italy, Leone, and I must deal with many kinds of people." There was something... Off. In Bruno's voice, but Leone decided not to mention it. Bruno was still wearing his armor. His eyes were like steel. "Come upstairs with me, Leone. Children!" His voice raised and Leone turned in time to see every one of Bruno's kids (even Trish) look up. "Come with me. Upstairs."

"But, Bruno, who's going to run the shop?" Leone followed behind Bruno as he began to walk, pausing to set up a 'Be Back Soon' sign next to the register before leading the way up the stairs. "Oh." Glancing once at the sign on the counter and the kids that followed behind him, Leone walked close behind Bruno, almost wanting to ask what was happening to warrant this. But in the end he was just a bit too frightened. Bruno held the door until everyone had filed into his living room. "Please. Sit down." Leone uncertainly went to the seat on the couch Bruno had sat him in several times before. Mista sat down and Giorno crawled into his lap to curl into a ball, tugging absently on his braid while Mista held the other hand. Narancia and Fugo were practically attached at the hip and they stayed that close when they sat next to Leone, close enough that Narancia's leg touched his own. Trish was just sitting down when Bruno went to a cabinet looking thing and opened the doors to show- A television? 

He grabbed a remote and went to sit on Leone's other side, turning the TV on and the channel to the News. There was something about a slight rise in robberies. Something about what they planned to go into detail with later. It started to go to the weather. Leone shifted. "Um... Bruno what are we doing?"

"They said it would be now..." Bruno's voice was soft. Leone doubted he'd been meant to hear it. Judging by Bruno's hard but lifeless expression, Bruno probably hadn't even meant to voice the thought. Then the news moved on to a different story.

"The Professor arrested just yesterday for possession of child pornography was killed before his trial."

Leone turned his head so sharply that his hair damn near smacked him in the face. 

"Professor Cazzo Culo, forty three, was arrested after a tip was given to the police about some illegal practices. After a short investigation, several files were found on his personal computer as well as several physical files of images. Professor Culo denied any of the pornography being his and was being held for further investigation. However, he was found this morning in his holding cell, beaten severely. Autopsy is pending, but the cause of death appeared to have been blunt force trauma to the head. Police have ruled it as a gang hit."

Bruno turned off the TV. Silence. He stood and Leone watched him, as beautiful and as dangerous as an angel sent for justice. He went to stand in front of Fugo, gently took the boy's face in his hands. "He will never touch you again."

Bruno, what have you done?

That was the first thought that came into Leone's mind. What had he done? But... But Fugo's face. That sweet, near-broken child, crying without moving or making a sound, looking like he finally knew what it meant to live without pain. Whatever Bruno had done was worth it. It had to be. Bruno bent to kiss Fugo on the forehead. Then he walked calmly to the stairs and down to the shop. For another moment, the room was silent. Narancia was clinging to Fugo, looking like he was waiting for the reveal that this was all a bad prank. Mista's face was hidden in Giorno's golden hair, and Giorno? Giorno Giovanna, the creature of ice and stone that felt no emotion? He was sobbing. Shaking and hiccoughing, gripping Mista's hand so hard that it had to hurt terribly, a low wail coming from deep in his chest the only sound in the room and it echoed through it with a strange power, like God heard this child's pain and They agreed with it. Perhaps if it had been anyone else it wouldn't have been the same. But seeing Giorno like that- falling apart with snot and tears running down his face- it was too much for Leone. He started crying too. Then Narancia. Then Mista. Even Trish. And then, finally, Fugo.

He howled, a sound nearly jubilant, grinning through the tears, holding Narancia as close as he could possibly be. "They broke your fucking skull!" Fugo stood, dragging Narancia with him. "Broke your fucking skull!" Then he was laughing, lifting Narancia off his feet and spinning with him. Something that was almost a smile was breaking out on Narancia's face. "Can I kiss you?" Always the question, always the nod, and then Fugo was kissing Narancia. Crying and smiling and kissing him in a messily beautiful way, both of Narancia's arms going around his neck as Fugo continued to hold him off the ground, spinning in place and laughing breathless in the few moments they were separated.

Leone felt an odd kind of raw, his brain and his heart still trying to process the events of the day ever since he'd walked through the bakery's door with a child on each arm. It was almost painful, this mix of grief and relief, both felt for Fugo. Because he was so close to unfixable. So very, very close. But he would be okay. He could still heal.

And now he was free. 

Chapter Text

The kids were still crying when Leone went down the stairs to find Bruno. He wiped at his face with his sleeve again to make sure his own cheeks were dry before pushing open the door. Bruno was behind the register, handing a coffee cup to- to a- a- a literal furry. There was someone dressed a cyan deer excitedly taking a coffee cup from Bruno and it did not look real. An olive-skinned woman with dreadlocks walked up just as Leone got in hearing range. "She says thanks."

Bruno smiled. "Anytime! I hope she enjoys it." The deer waved rather enthusiastically, the other woman leading her away with a hand on her back.

"What was that?" Leone had not really expected that to be the first thing out of his mouth, but he couldn't really help it.

"Hermes and her wife, Koyuki. They come here every now and then. Same order every time." Bruno put his hands on the counter and leaned forward a bit, bearing his weight on his arms. He looked so tired, even after all this time. He deserved a break more than Leone ever had and yet, here he was, having to fake being okay for a furry. "Is... Is Pannacotta...?"

"He's going to be fine, Bruno. Last I saw him he was laughing his ass off and trying to kiss Narancia at the same time." Leone got a little closer, hesitantly laying his hand on Bruno's back. He tensed, for just a second, then relaxed with a deep sigh. 

"I think I know that, I just... I get so scared, Leone." Bruno's blue eyes were begging him for something, but Leone didn't know what it was. He didn't have time to figure it out either, because then Bruno was hugging him and dear God he'd missed this. He held him back without hesitation, one hand laying on the back of Bruno's head, the other arm as tight around the baker's waist as he thought he was allowed. Bruno clung to him almost desperately, shaking, and Leone wondered if he was crying. Was he trying to hide his tears? Did he really not know that Leone would not see him as any weaker for it? He kissed the side of Bruno's head without thinking, laying his cheek against the spot and closing his eyes. "Leone?"

Leone squeezed him, just slightly. "Yes?"

"Could you..." Bruno turned his head a bit, so his voice wasn't quite so muffled against Leone's shoulder. "Would you like to stay for dinner?"

"I would love to stay for dinner."

He held him for a short time more before Bruno pulled away with shaky inhale and rubbed the wrinkles from the front of his shirt, back to business mode. None of the kids ever came down to help, so it was just Leone and Bruno, working to keep a whole bakery running smoothly. It was a bit harder than Leone had thought, but he wouldn't have traded it for anything. The work kept him distracted, Bruno was close, and the kids needed rest anyway. They closed up the shop a tiny bit earlier than the time posted on the door, but neither of them cared too much. They were far too busy with wanting to be back upstairs. Were the kids okay? Had any of them gotten hurt? How was Fugo? And Narancia? They half ran up the steps, Bruno looking right and Leone looking left when they came to the top of the stairs, nearly on top of each other. The living room was empty of any children. They looked at each other at the same time and went off in search of the kids, finding them in the last room they checked: Bruno's bedroom. 

All of them, even Keep-To-Herself-Trish, were piled up on Bruno's bed, on and around each other, limbs thrown over limbs and torsos with little care as to where they landed or who they landed on. Leone picked out Narancia in the pile, his head on Fugo's chest and his leg on Mista's ass, one hand absently twirling a lock of Trish's bright pink hair. Bruno grabbed him by the wrist and slowly tugged him back, leading him to the kitchen before speaking. "Let's leave them be until dinner is done, okay?"

"Okay." Now that he'd seen that the kids were safe, Leone had no problems at all with having a few more moments of silence away from them. "What do you want to make?"

"Hmm... Lasagna?"

"S-Sure!... I have no idea how to make that."

Bruno smiled at him. "I know. It's fine. I'll show you, okay? I... Just want your company, really."

Leone stared dumbly at him in surprise for a moment, almost unable to process that. Bruno just wanted his company. He felt his cheeks heat up slightly and he nodded, not trusting himself to speak. And Bruno smiled a bit softer before turning around, setting about cooking while Leone just sort of watched, feeling rather useless but enjoying himself far too much to entertain the notion of leaving to do something productive. He wanted to touch Bruno. Wanted so badly to walk behind him, wrap his arms around the baker's waist and hold him. Hold him like they were married and in love. Wanted to press his face to Bruno's soft hair again and kiss his face all over, wanted to kiss his body all over, to mark that pale skin with black lickstick so at the very least Bruno would know that they belonged to each other. 

"Leone?"

Leone jumped, focusing on Bruno. "Mmm?"

"You're staring." Pale blue eyes, wide innocence a little too exaggerated to be true. "Is there something on my pants?"

"I didn't mean to! I was just spacing out!"

"Mmhmm."

"It's not my fault you put your ass where I was staring."

Bruno raised a brow but didn't comment, walking across the kitchen with a little more swing in his hips than usual. Okay, now he was just being mean. "I usually make the dough myself, but I just couldn't recently." Bruno sounded almost apologetic, holding a store box of lasagna noodles. "I'm sure it'll still taste fine..."

"Bruno, I assure you, anything you make will be lightyears beyond what I could cobble together. If Fugo can eat my food, he can eat yours, and Narancia'll eat anything."

He laughed a bit and Leone felt something like pride. "Thank you, Leone. That's very kind of you to say. I'll make it for you proper anyway, some time... Um, h-how are Narancia and Fugo? Seeing as they live with you now."

"They. They live with me? God, Narancia's just moving in now, I guess, damn." Bruno glanced over his shoulder at him and Leone shrugged a bit. "I mean, yeah, lil' rat sleeps over every now and then and Fugo's joined in one or twice now, but is that really 'living with' me?"

"Well, Narancia used to spend every night with me, so I assumed he's been with you whenever he isn't here."

"Every night?"

"Mmhmm. It isn't like he has anywhere else to go. Well, I guess now he does." Bruno turned to look at him and there was warmth in his eyes. "Thank you for that, by the way. It's good knowing that someone else is looking out for my babies." Babies. It was such a warm thing to call those street kids and almost silly when applied to Giorno. "I'm... I'm sorry for the way Giorno treated you, Leone. He told me the other day, how much he'd actually done to you and... I guess I just feel a bit responsible. If I had known I wouldn't have let... I'm sorry."

"Hey, hey, it's alright." Leone didn't like the wet tone in Bruno's voice, didn't want him to cry over him. "I mean, yeah, it was shitty, but even if you'd tried to make him stop, he wouldn't have listened." He went closer to Bruno, gently touching his arm. "Don't feel bad about me too, alright? You... You've got more than enough to worry about with the kids."

"I can't help it, I just- I- He hurt you, Leone, my own little GioGio." Oh no, oh God, Bruno was crying now and trying desperately to hold it in, his lower lip shaking with the effort as a few tears spilled free. Leone reached out and gently laid his hands on Bruno's cheeks, turning his head till he was forced to look Leone in the eyes.

"Hey. I'm not one of your kids, okay? I'm not." Bruno started to say something and Leone shushed him gently. "I'm not. You don't have to be strong for me, Bruno. Just talk to me. Please."

That did it. Bruno's face crumpled, a rather ugly sound coughing out of his chest and he truly began to cry, shuffling a little closer to Leone and leaning his head against Leone's chest. With a tear-broken voice, Bruno said, "I'm so tired, Leone, I'm so damn tired and I don't even remember what it feels like to just be alright. There's always something, some terrible thing going on. Either Mista was disappearing with Giorno or Narancia was getting beat on by Fugo or Fugo was just falling apart and I didn't even know why or something was wrong with you and then F-Fugo, my little baby, Leone, my baby boy, he's only sixteen Leone, he's just a baby." Leone held him. He didn't try to do anything more than listen. "I h-had to save him, I couldn't just let it be, I had to, and Narancia's falling apart now and Trish is here and I have to watch the shop and clean the house and take care of myself and get enough sleep and make sure no one's missing for too long and watch Fugo just in case he tries to hurt someone and I'm so tired, Leone." Leone held him. Very gently, he rubbed Bruno's back, shutting his eyes and doing his best to let Bruno feel all the love he felt in this hug, listening to the cough-hack-sniffing noises that came with Bruno's intense and ugly crying.

There was a pot on the stove. When the water in it started to boil, Bruno pulled away. "I-I'm sorry, Leone, I shouldn't-"

"You should." Leone spoke a little more firmly than he'd meant to. He tried again, softer. "You should. Don't be sorry. Do you feel better?"

Bruno sniffed and gave a half-hearted laugh through the last of his tears. "I think I do, actually. Please... Don't tell the kids about this, alright? I just... I don't want them to think that they're burdens or that they're hurting me somehow."

"Of course, Bruno." The baker's face softened and he sniffed again, going to wipe his face and blow his nose before he rewashed his hands and went back to cooking. They talked about easier things then, even though Leone had a thousand questions about what Bruno had done. But they just talked about Leone's lack of cooking skill and Narancia's attempts to teach him. About how when Bruno was little the first cookies he'd ever tried to make were so absolutely awful that he cried so hard he threw up. Leone told him about Tiziano's cat. Bruno told him about the time Narancia caught a bird with his bare hands and tried to convince Bruno to let him keep it. 

By the time Bruno was placing the lasagna into the oven, Leone was almost feeling okay. Almost. "Well, that's going to take a little while. Come sit with me?" Bruno turned to look at Leone, halfway to the living room, and Leone hurried to follow him. Bruno motioned for him to sit first, so he did. With a soft sound, Bruno kicked off his shoes and sat heavily beside Leone, leaning against him and tucking his feet up on the couch, sighing. Leone was tensed with shock, hands balled into fists against his pants legs. Bruno was so close and so warm. This was a different kind of contact than the hugs. It was good in a painful kind of way. "So, Leone, who was your friend from earlier? Jean?"

"He's from Noriaki's g-group, I think I told you... P-Polnareff and me just kinda clicked, I guess, right when we met. We ge- We get along really well." Leone gulped and forced himself to relax, shaking slightly from the effort. Bruno smelled very good. "He just... Understands a lot of what I feel, what I go through, I guess. We just fit together, or something."

"Is that so?"

"Y-Yes."

"And who was he with?"

"Um, some guitar player, or fortune teller? Both? His name is Mohammed Avdol. I think Polnareff is in love with him."

"Looked to me like he's in love with you."

Leone laughed, more from surprise than anything. Polnareff? In love with Leone? In was almost ridiculous. "Good God no! No, nope. Definitely not."

Bruno looked up a bit, his chin on Leone's shoulder. "Why are you so certain? He was quite on you and practically kissing you. And he had quite the compliment for your ass. Though, that part was in French, so you wouldn't know."

"He what?" Both the implication that his hugging on Polnareff was romantic and the statement that the man had been talking about Leone's ass nearly knocked Leone out then and there. 

"Oh yes. Said it was very fine." Bruno chuckled a bit, moving his head so his breath was no longer brushing Leone's face. "I do not believe he expected me to speak the language."

"W-Well, either way." His face was no doubt fully scarlet at this point, he felt like he was on fire. "Jean doesn't- he wouldn't- there just isn't a way for us to fall in love like that."

"Why?"

"I-I don't know. It's just a feeling, I guess... Like... Um... Hey, how old's the oldest of the kids?"

"Um, Mista, he's eighteen. Why are you asking all of a sudden?"

Leone shrugged. "Well, then you could, legally, date Mista."

"What?" Bruno flinched back from him, a look of disgust on his face. "No. No no no no no."

"Why not? Age gap's fine. All's legal. You like each other pretty well."

"I wouldn't- I couldn't- It just-"

"Feels wrong to think about?" Bruno shrugged then nodded. Leone shrugged too. "It's... Kind of the same feeling with me and Polnareff. I... I love him. I do. With all my heart. But not like that. It's more like... Like I lost a part of myself, a long time ago, and now that piece is him. We don't fit together as one person anymore, but anyone could tell that we're the same." Bruno went quiet and slowly settled back against his side, face thoughtful. Leone let him think for a few minutes before asking, "What, um, what made you ask about him?"

"I don't know... You two just seemed awful close. I guess I was just wondering why you hadn't mentioned him before."

"Oh. I um... I could tell you about the others. If you'd like."

"I would like that, actually."

"Well, there's Johnny first off. Paraplegic and bitter about it. Though, guess I would be too. Anyway, what I've gotten from what little he says is that he's kind of a whore and at some point he got shot in the back. Generally an asshole to everyone. Remember when me and Nara' were in the hospital? That nurse with the weird beard cut going on? That's Johnny's boyfriend, close as I can tell, but he still sleeps around. The other one is named Hol Horse, he's just... Really weird. Super quiet, terrified of everything, but especially of Polnareff, and has this weird obsession with Johnny. Follows him everywhere, does everything he can for him, gets a lot of abuse for it too. Well... Johnny's eased up on him recently, they might actually be friends now... Hmm... Oh, and Johnny's got a horse. I told you that, remember?"

"Yes! Slow Dancer, was it?"

Leone grinned, ridiculously pleased that Bruno actually did remember when he'd talked about Johnny's horse. "That's all of us. Nori's really nice too. He kind of gives off... Mom vibes. Hey, do he and Jotaro have any kids?"

"Not yet. They're trying though. Noriaki's wanted a baby for a while, actually."

"Doesn't surprise me. I kind of figured as much, to be honest." Leone was so busy trying to figure out if Bruno would let him hold his hand that the way Bruno worded it didn't really catch up for a second. "Wait. Trying? Like, to get pregnant?"

Bruno laughed, pressing his face to Leone's arm to muffle the sound a bit so it didn't disturb the kids. "No, no, I just meant they were looking for the right kid to adopt." His blue eyes were soft, but beneath the softness there was stress and amusement and pain and joy and it was so truly Bruno that Leone's breath caught in his throat. "You big bear." Leone flushed, looking down at his hands. His scars were showing. He turned them around so his palms faced upward instead of his knuckles. Bruno's hand reached over, grabbed his, turned it back over. His grip was soft, intentionally unrestraining. Leone could hide again, if he wanted. But he would never be able to deny Bruno. "You don't have to cover them in front of me, you know. I kind of like them."

"You do?"

"Yes. They were what it took for you to make it." Endlessly gentle, Bruno let his fingertips brush over the odd lines of raised flesh where Leone's teeth had ripped open his own skin all that time ago, when that was what it took to keep himself away from another bottle. Bruno's touch went further than Leone's scars, idly tracing the lines of his veins, a nearly invisible blue on his pale skin. Leone just watched the small movements, completely enraptured, nearly forgetting to breathe. 

Narancia's shriek broke their quiet peace. "YO, I SMELL LASENGE!"

Bruno hummed and stood. "I suppose that means it's time to check on the kids again."

"Y-Yeah."

Dinner was a far more lively affair when Bruno liked what was being served, Leone found, thinking briefly of the fish Bruno had scorned. He was so happy, talking to every one of his kids (his babies) with a different tone than he'd had back then. Giorno wasn't glaring at Leone this time. He was far too busy siting in Mista's lap and feeding him. Mista looked just about happy, even with the dark circles around his eyes. Narancia and Trish had Fugo sandwiched between them, all three of them mostly murmuring quietly to each other when they weren't chattering to Bruno (though Narancia still did most of the talking). Narancia still stole food and Leone doubted that that would ever change. Occasionally, Narancia would drag Leone into something he was discussing with Fugo without actually explaining the context. He was just supposed to answer a, "Do you agree, Abbacchio?" and watch as his answer affected what was becoming an argument. Oddly enough, Trish seemed to almost act as a... A buffer of sorts for Fugo's rage. Narancia's never-ending ratness could enrage Fugo rather quickly, but Trish, the near polar opposite of Narancia, was able to calm him just as fast. It was actually kind of interesting to watch. 

Bruno's cooking was, of course, absolutely delicious. Leone had never been so grateful to have an appetite again. He kept finding himself glancing at Bruno, just wanting to look at him for a moment. Sometimes their eyes met because Bruno was looking too. 

"No! That's ridiculous!" Fugo snapped, grabbed a fistful of Narancia's hair and pulling his head back, clearly intending to slam Narancia's face into the table's edge. Leone and Bruno both started to reach for them, but Trish poked Fugo on the back of the neck, distracting him enough for her to mutter something. Fugo hesitated. Then he let Narancia go with a soft apology. Leone and Bruno stared at each other for a few seconds then, surprise in both their expressions. It seemed that Trish was even better at shushing Fugo than they'd thought.

Aside from the near attack, nothing else of interest really happened. The kids dumped all their leftovers onto Narancia's plate and Narancia somehow ate it, Leone picked up after them when even Narancia was done, and then he and Bruno set to cleaning the dishes. "How does Narancia eat all of that food?"

"He probably just copied me."

"He what?"

Bruno shrugged. "I eat a lot when I'm stressed. Like... A lot a lot. Narancia started trying to see if he could out eat me and then uh, didn't stop."

Leone's brain was short-circuiting a bit, but he managed to keep scrubbing the plate in his hands. "I- I just-"

Laughing softly, reaching up a soap-covered hand to tap Leone on the nose, Bruno said, "You thought I couldn't eat too much because I've got no fat on me?"

Rubbing his nose dry, Leone huffed. "I don't know, I guess I like to think we live in a nice world where Narancia is just a freak and not the world you just created." Bruno laughed again, fuller this time, and moved closer to him, so close their arms touched. Leone felt himself start to blush.

"Leone?"

"Mm?"

"I, um... Well, I've been thinking."

"Y-Yeah?"

Bruno was silent for a moment and Leone didn't press. He just waited. Then, "I'm sorry for treating you differently after you told me what you'd been through, I guess... I was still a little afraid. It wasn't because of anything you've done! It's just- It's-"

"They're your children."

"Yeah. They're my children."

"It's fine, Bruno. I know. I get it." Trying to cheer up the baker, Leone gently bumped their hips together. "You're good now?"

"Yes, I... I'm good." Bruno again shifted closer, leaning against Leone's side. 

"Um..." Leone's face was heating up full force now, he could feel the flush reach the tips of his ears and a bit down his throat. "C-Can I hug you?"

"Mmhmm." A very soft response and it damn near unravelled Leone. Carefully, he shook the water off his hands and dried them on his pants, shifting a bit to get behind Bruno to hug him right and damn if Bruno didn't move with him, leaning a bit out the way and pressing back against him when Leone got close. Both arms around Bruno's waist, Leone watched him at the dishes, eyes already half shut. Bruno... Was very comfortable. "Thank you, Leone. It... It helps."

"With what?" Bruno made a sound like he had been about to speak but stopped himself. Praying it would be okay, Leone laid his chin on Bruno's shoulder, shuffling a little bit 'closer', almost smiling when Bruno did not move away from the deeper pressure. "How about you tell me and I'll tell you something. We can both admit some things. Would that be easier?"

Bruno laughed weakly. "You aren't going to let it go?"

"Nope."

A sigh. Then, "M-My father is not exactly a touchy person. I was raised in a household of few hugs, especially after my mother left." Left? "I know he never meant any harm, he does not rely on... Physical contact, like I do, but... Even after all this time, it is difficult for me to ask for it." He leaned back harder, putting effort into crushing himself against Leone's body. "To accept it as fully as I'd like when it is offered. Sometimes I find myself wanting to just hug my children and- or you, Leone, and I stop myself because I feel like I'm not supposed to. It always takes me a while to realize that the feeling is utterly ridiculous and not rooted in anything at all really." Leone hoped he was right when he took that as an invitation, damn near pinning Bruno to the sink and holding him desperately, hands fisted in his shirt, face buried in his neck. Bruno tensed for just a moment and Leone was briefly terrified, but then he sighed deeply, tipping his head a bit to let Leone closer, one hand coming up to push into Leone's hair, wet and cold, but appreciated nonetheless. "Th-The funny thing is, I was never actually told not to ask for what I needed. It wasn't given as much as I would have liked it to be and I guess, being a child, I assumed that meant I couldn't have it." Leone shifted his grip a bit, holding Bruno no less tightly. "L-Leone... Can I turn around?"

Good God, yes. Leone let him go just long enough for Bruno to get himself around and then they were on each other again, Bruno's hand in his hair, the other splayed against his back, pushing against him like Leone could somehow get closer than he already was, both arms around Bruno, crushing the smaller man to himself and again pressing his face to the crook of Bruno's neck. He wanted so badly to kiss him. He settled for lifting Bruno off his feet, a jolt of surprised pleasure going through him when Bruno gave a low giggle and wrapped his legs around his waist. "Bruno."

"Mm?"

"I-I just. I wanted to say your name..."

"Silly bear." Bruno started to pet him gently, a still wet hand occasionally catching a bit on Leone's white hair, but there wasn't the slightest trace of disagreement in him. He could live like this, enveloped in Bruno's warmth and smell, able to hear his heartbeat, feel his pulse. It was intoxicating in the purest way and Leone never wanted to put him down. And it kind of seemed like Bruno didn't want to be put down. The only change in him was that, slowly like he thought Leone wouldn't notice, Bruno was going completely limp. After a few minutes, Leone had his arm tucked beneath Bruno's ass to keep him from falling, holding him up entirely by his own strength. "Falling asleep?" he murmured quietly, rubbing his free hand up and down Bruno's spine. Bruno just sighed in response. Leone was beginning to get the sneaking suspicion that Bruno was just as touchy as Polnareff was. 

It was only when his arms started to seriously ache that Leone started to move. "Where?" Bruno started to ask something but gave up. Apparently he was falling asleep.

"Just going to sit down, okay?"

"Mmm~" Bruno nuzzled his face against Leone's shoulder and Leone's heart just ached with all the love in it.

The looks on the kids' faces when he walked in carrying their Pops was priceless. 

"Is he alright?" Giorno, of course, worried as ever. Leone just nodded, going to sit on the couch. Bruno shifted as he did, getting into a comfortable position and slumping back against him with a soft sigh.

"C'mon kids, hug your Pops. He needs it." Leone's words broke whatever shock held them all still. Every one of them then proceeded to shove themselves on the couch. Narancia was pressed directly to Leone's side, hugging him as much as he hugged Bruno, while Fugo was right behind Narancia, his arm laid over the rat as well. Mista had one knee on the couch and was leaned against Bruno's back, effectively sandwiching the man, while Giorno took the empty seat on Leone's other side, doing his best to touch only Bruno, shifting if he thought he was in contact with Leone anywhere. Trish sat on the arm of the couch. She was doing her best. Leone smiled at her then focused back on Bruno. He couldn't see his face, but he knew, by the soft noises Bruno had made with the addition of each teenager, that he was happy. Leone leaned his head against Bruno's and shut his eyes, deciding to just enjoy this. A pile of kids and their two dads. Maybe that was what families were made of.


The days passed very softly for Leone Abbacchio. Fugo and Narancia did, indeed, live with him. He supposed it wasn't so bad. Bruno hugged him more often. Giorno hugged Bruno too, even if Leone happened to be around. Sometimes Fugo laughed. Sometimes Trish did too. Narancia started smiling again. Not as much as before. But some. The nightmares hadn't come back. Tiziano stopped by the bakery for a hug sometimes and some brownies, of course. Sometimes he brought Squalo and Melba too. It was nice. That furry came back with her wife once. They were actually really sweet people. 

By the time the new week rolled around and it was time to go see Noriaki, Leone kind of felt like everything was going to be fine. 

"Okay, I'm leaving now, I've gotta go see Noriaki. Remember him? Redhead?" Leone smacked Narancia's hand gently away from his plate and shoveled the last of breakfast into his mouth. "I'll see you two later."

"Bye, Papa!" Narancia held his arms up when Leone walked behind him and he paused to kiss Narancia's hair, staying there for a moment as his head was hugged at an awkward angle. "See you later?"

"Course. Bye, Panna'."

Fugo fiddled with his fork for a second. "Goodbye... Papa."

It sounded weird, coming from Fugo. It was equally weird to see the shy blush across Fugo's cheeks. Leone smiled at him. "I'll see you later, too. I'll get Tiz' to stop somewhere for takeout or something. What do you want."

"Pizza!" Narancia screamed. "Pizza! With mushrooms!"

Leone made a noise of agreement, already walking away. Narancia's shouts for pizza followed him all the way out of the apartment and a little bit down the hall. So really, it was Narancia's fault that he was grinning like an idiot. Tiziano reached over to pat him on the arm the second his ass heat the seat. "Morning, Leo'."

"G-Good morning, Tiziano. How's Squalo and Melba?"

"Excellent aside from the fact that Melba called Squalo a bastard and then pointed at me when Squalo asked him who taught him to say that."

"Oh my."

"Yep. I tried to defend myself but apparently, 'he had to learn to defend himself' is not a proper reason. Oh well." Tiziano shrugged and the car swerved a bit. "Haha, whoops. Too gay to drive."

Leone looked out the window and listened to Tiziano's chatter, occasionally adding something, until they pulled into the familiar parking lot. "Thanks, Tiz', I-" He stopped, staring out the front window with eyes narrowed. Something was wrong. Johnny was still on Slow Dancer, Hol Horse was pacing next to the horse, and Polnareff was yelling at- at Jotaro. And Noriaki was nowhere to be seen. "Wait here, Tiziano. Something isn't right."

"Um, y-yeah."

Leone jumped out of the car and ran, thanking God that his leg no longer bothered him.

"Just tell us where he is you stupid fuck!" Polnareff's words were clear to Leone now that he was out of the car and he could see very clear that the Frenchman was shaking, his hands trembling even though they were balled into fists. Jotaro stood in front of him, shoulders stiff, head down to hide behind the bill of his hat. The big man's hands were hidden in his white coat's pockets. 

Leone sped up for the last of the distance, doing the only thing he could think of to calm Polnareff down: By screaming his name and launching himself full speed into his arms. Polnareff barely caught him. Panting from the run, Leone managed to say, "What's up, Jean?"

"Nori's not here and this fucking-"

"Language."

"-stupid thing won't tell us where he is!"

Jotaro spoke softly, as loud as was required of him for all gathered to hear. "I did not want to have to say it twice." His Italian was still rather stuttery, but at least it was understandable. Polnareff put Leone down and he turned to look at Jotaro better, but neither of them moved apart. Jotaro was still looking down and away. "My husband is- um... He is, the, um..." He fidgeted, saying something to himself in Japanese. Then, "The sick house?"

"Hospital." Johnny tugged gently on Slow Dancer's reigns and the horse turned around and took a step towards Jotaro. "Is that what you're thinking of?"

"Hospital, yes. He is there."

Hol Horse took his hat off and asked what they were all thinking. "Why?"

"Some men jumped on him. Clawed his eyes. Blind. Doctors say he may heal wrong." Jotaro still wouldn't look at them. Polnareff grabbed Leone's hand and squeezed it, less than gently.

"C-Can we go see him?" Hol Horse's voice shook.

Jotaro hesitated then nodded. "Yes. Follow my car, I will lead the way." He turned his head a bit towards Slow Dancer. "I will drive slow." Jotaro turned and walked quickly away. Leone didn't bother to watch Jotaro get into his car, he just turned away as soon as the man stopped speaking and began to drag Polnareff with him. The Frenchman followed without comment, allowing himself to be shoving into the backseat of the cab. Leone crawled in after him and leaned between the front seats to talk to Tiziano. "Noriaki's hurt. Follow the black car to the hospital."

"What?!" Tiziano started the car while Leone buckled up Polnareff and then himself.

"Yeah, that's how I feel about it pretty much."

"What happened?"

"I don't know." Leone grabbed Polnareff's hand again and knitted their fingers together. "Jotaro's Italian is... Less than exquisite. Much as I got was that Noriaki got jumped and his eyes are hurt. I think he said cut, actually. Oh, and he may go blind."

"Jesus Christ."

"I don't think this had anything to do with him, buddy."

They followed Jotaro's car easily enough, Slow Dancer trotting or galloping alongside them on the sidewalks. True to his word, Jotaro drove slow enough for the horse to keep up without straining herself too much, putzing along at nearly a crawl sometimes to let the mare walk for a bit. Part of Leone wanted to just leave Johnny and Hol Horse behind- he wanted to see Noriaki!- but he also knew how he'd feel being the one left behind. So, he swallowed his frustration and leaned on Polnareff, closing his eyes and trying to think of something else (not Nori', not Fugo, not Narancia, not Matteo, please just one good thought) but it was hard to conjure anything happy. Eventually he managed. He thought of Bruno, of course. Thought of holding him. Of finally, finally, being allowed to help that beautiful man in some small way. He wished Bruno were here. Leone pressed closer to Polnareff, feeling deeply lonely, and of course Polnareff held him too. They stayed like that until Tiziano slowed to a full stop and said, "This is it. Come on."

They all filed into the hospital together (Leone had no idea what Johnny did with Slow Dancer), Jotaro leading the way to the front desk. They all had to sign their names on some visitor form and then, again with Jotaro at the front, they made their way to Noriaki's room. 

"Noriaki." Jotaro's voice wavered a bit, on his husband's name. He went immediately to the hospital bed, going to one knee to lean over the bed and hug Noriaki. Leone and the rest approached slower. Noriaki was propped up in a half sitting position. His red hair was a mess. And, perhaps the most jarring thing, his eyes were covered by tight bandages. Noriaki patted at Jotaro, evidently trying to find how he was laid, before carefully hugging him back. 

"Jotaro." There was so much love in that, the simple saying of a name. Love and relief and comfort, all for this big, quiet man. He said something else then, in soft Japanese and whatever it was made Jotaro hold him tighter. Then Noriaki turned his head towards them, pulling Jotaro closer like he wanted to hide him. "Jojo?" More Japanese that Jotaro responded to and Noriaki relaxed. "Oh, hello all of you, I'm so glad you're here. Please, sit down, sit down, come and talk to me." Of course, even now he wanted to help them. Jotaro stood up and retreated to the corner of the room while the rest of them followed Noriaki's request to sit. Johnny wheeled himself closer, Hol Horse sat on the floor beside him, Leone took one of the chairs, and Polnareff sat on the edge of the bed. Noriaki reached out blindly and Polnareff took his hand. The redhead smiled a bit. "Hello, Polnareff-kun."

"Hey, Doc'. How ya holding up?"

"Very well, I believe. The doctors say that there is a good chance my eyes will heal."

There was a brief moment of silence and in it Leone remembered something. Without thinking about how his words could hurt Noriaki, he blurted out, "But how will you paint if you're blind?"

The smile on Noriaki's lips was forced. "I guess I won't, will I?"

"God, Nori', I'm sorry, I shouldn't have-" He cut himself off. 

Their group leader shrugged a bit. "It's fine, Abbacchio-kun. I understand that sometimes words will not be stopped. Did any of you wish to tell me something?"

Johnny laughed a bit. "Yeah, I did, but it isn't urgent. When you're better, okay?"

"Yeah." Hol Horse shuffled a bit, leaning his shoulder against Johnny's chair. "When you're better, Nori'."

"Worry about yourself a bit, Cherry Head." Polnareff reached over to pat Noriaki on the head. "Do you wanna talk? It must have been pretty harsh, getting roughed up like this. We're here for you too, man. We're your sisters, aren't we?"

Noriaki was quiet for a bit, reaching up to twirl the longer piece of his hair, considering. "Very well. I suppose it isn't exactly a secret... I-I didn't see who it was, but... Well, he targeted me for a reason. My connections to the Speedwagon Foundation were making things a bit more... Difficult, for his group then he'd like. So he came to take out the problem, so to speak."

"Wait, wait, Speedwagon?" Polnareff shifted to sit cross-legged, facing Nori'. "Like, that science group?"

"And medicine, technology, history preservation, nature preservation, as well as several other things. Yes, they are... Closely connected to my family. You see, Robert Speedwagon was the best friend of Jonathan Joestar. Who's grandson was named Joseph Joestar, who's grandson is named Jotaro Kakyoin-Kujo. So, the Speedwagons have always helped his bloodline in any way they could, per the wishes of their founder. I called in a debt-" Leone froze at the way that was worded, "- and some people around here didn't like it too much. I'll be fine now, I'm sure. The SWF should have heard about the incident by now and they'll take care of it."

"You trust 'em that much?" Polnareff was bristling, fury boiling just beneath his skin, ready to eat him alive if he didn't do something. "To keep you and your husband safe?"

"Yes."

The immediate answer seemed to put Polnareff off a bit. He looked away with a scoff, clearly pouting. "Well, when dear Jojo over there finds your body in a ditch, don't say I didn't warn you." 

Jotaro moved so quickly that it seemed fundamentally wrong for the movement to also be silent. But as it was, Polnareff had no warning for when the massive Japanese man grabbed him by the back of his shirt and hauled him off the bed. Nearly falling, Polnareff yelped, turning to fight, but was immediately overtaken. Jotaro was just too fast and too careful for Polnareff's wildness to defend against. Jotaro grabbed Polnareff, lifted him off his feet and pinned him to the nearest wall. Hol Horse was whimpering. Slowly, trying to make himself very clear, Jotaro spoke. "You. Will not. Speak death. Over. My Noriaki."

"Jojo?" Noriaki was turning his head like it would help him figure out what was happening. "Where are you? Polnareff-kun?"

Jotaro held Polnareff, their faces close together. Polnareff glanced to Leone once and their eyes met. Help. Leone shook his head a bit. Polnareff would have to save himself here. Growling low in his throat, Polnareff turned his head away from Jotaro's gaze and grumbled, "Okay, okay, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it." Jotaro dropped him, quite literally, and Polnareff nearly fell back on his ass. Jotaro went to speak quietly to Noriaki for a second before again retreating to his corner.

"Please don't fight." Noriaki was tugging at the thin hospital sheets pulled up to his waist. The door opened and Tiziano looked in. Leone hadn't even realized he'd stopped outside the door. "Hello? Nurse?"

"Nah, Nor'. I's me."

"Tiziano!"

"Yep." Tiziano stepped in, followed by Squalo carrying a sleeping Melba. "I called my family. They wanted to see you too."

"Oh, thank you." Noriaki held his arms out in Tiziano's general direction and the man went to hug his friend. Melba was passed from one parent to the other and Squalo hugged Noriaki too. "Did you bring your baby? I've been wanting to see him. Oh. Hehe... Guess I still won't be seeing him, mm?" Only Polnareff laughed at that. Regardless, the boy was passed into Noriaki's arms. Melba, to his credit, bore the continual passing with a good amount of grace seeing as he was trying to sleep. "Aww, Jojo, come look, come here." Jotaro obeyed quickly, sitting on the edge of the bed and making a quiet grunting noise, perhaps to let Noriaki know it was him. "Here." Noriaki held out Melba (who only let out a small, toddler sigh) and after a hesitation, Jotaro took him.

Something rather strange happened then. As Leone watched Jotaro, cradling a tired child in his big arms, emotion flickered across that so-impassive face. Even when he ducked his head a bit and the bill of his hat obscured his eyes, Leone could still see, in the twitch of his cheeks and the set of his mouth what was going through the big man. Maybe, Leone thought to himself, it wasn't Nori' that was the mom.

Jotaro spoke quietly, the soft flow of Japanese absolute jargon to Leone's ears, but whatever it was must have been wonderful because Noriaki just... Lit up. All at once it was like every good thing at been laid at that redhead's feet. He was grinning, too wide to look good on his face, but the pure joy behind it fixed whatever ugliness would have otherwise been imparted, rapid fire words spilling together in a string of sentences far beyond what Leone could ever hope to understand, but Jotaro seemed to get it. He shifted his grip on Melba, holding the boy a little closer, and nodded once. Noriaki leaned towards Jotaro and Jotaro moved Melba to one arm so the other could wrap around his husband's neck and hold him close as, very gently, Jotaro kissed him on the lips. It was brief and it made the big man's face go red to his ears. He really was just a shy giant...

"I'd say that's our cue to leave." Polnareff snatched Melba from Jotaro and dropped the kid in Squalo's arms. "Let's give the happy couple their privacy."

Jotaro didn't seem to like having Melba stolen from him, but he didn't complain. He just shuffled further onto the bed as everyone left the room, Leone the last to go. "So, um..." Leone looked around the group. "Anyone speak Japanese?" After a round of 'No's, they all just sort of resigned themselves to never knowing. Eventually, they made their way down and out, signing those papers again at the front desk to show that they'd gone. 

Polnareff disappeared when Leone wasn't looking, as he was wont to do. Johnny and Hol Horse took Slow Dancer. Leone ended up in the back of Tiziano's cab with Melba in his arms while Tiz' drove and Squalo flirted with him in the passenger seat. Needless to say, the ride to Bruno's bakery (why hadn't he asked for home?) was rather uncomfortable. In fact, he was so desperate to get out of the car that he damn near stole Melba when the car stopped in front of the pink shop, at the door before Squalo called out, "Hey, give me my kid!"

"S-Sorry..." Leone handed Melba through the car's window, cheeks burning, while both Tiziano and Squalo laughed at his embarrassment.

"Aww, sorry dude!" Tiziano was grinned. "Didn't mean to ignore you like that, but ya know." The slap of Tiziano's hand coming down on Squalo's thigh made Leone's cheeks get hotter.

"Y-Yeah. Goodbye. Thank you for the ride." Leone didn't run away exactly but uh.... Yeah, he ran away.

Narancia jumped him before he could take three steps into the building. He was shaking and crawling up him and Fugo was right behind him, screaming, both hands reaching up to try and grab Narancia by the hair. With the rat boy clinging to him like a baby koala, Leone's hands were free to grab Fugo's wrists, holding him away from Narancia. For a moment it seemed that Fugo could not even register that Leone was there or that he was holding him. He just screeched again and tried to push forward, his rage so explosively voiced that spit hit Leone's face. "Pannacotta Fugo!"

Fugo froze, blown pupils slowly narrowing to a normal size. Softer, Leone spoke again. "Pannacotta."

"Abbacchio...?"

"Yeah, buddy. It's me. Breathe. Just breathe." He relaxed his grip on the boy, trying not to restrain him but unwilling to release him entirely. "Look at me, Panna'. You're alright. You're just fine."

Fugo gulped and looked down, shoulders shaking. Narancia twisted around to watch, pressing his dirty cheek against Leone's. Quietly, Fugo said, "I am sorry, Narancia. I... Do not know what came over me."

"I's alright." Danger apparently gone, Narancia dropped down to take Fugo's hands from Leone, holding them both in his smaller ones. "I'm the one who made you mad." Fugo shuffled closer to Narancia, hiding his face against Narancia's dark hair. Without moving, Narancia said, "Hey, Abbacchio, whacha doing here?"

"I, um, I just-"

"He is here to see Bruno, I believe." Giorno. Of course, Giorno. Why not? Really top off an excellent day. Leone gave the blond a look of raw rage, just so, so tired and unable to deal with him right now. Giorno blinked before speaking again. "He is upstairs, Abbacchio. Please calm yourself before you see him, he is unwell."

Leone sighed deeply. "I'm sorry kid, I just... I'm not looking forward to telling him that one of his closest friends may have just been blinded for life, alright? It's been a tough day."

There was some kind of emotion on Giorno's face but for the life of him, Leone couldn't tell what it was. "Noriaki?"

"Yeah... Yeah, it's Nori'." Leone walked past Giorno, heels scraping the ground from his minimum effort shuffle. Trish was behind the counter. She raised a hand in hello and Leone just managed the strength to return the gesture. Damn, but it was getting hard to do anything. He kind of just wanted to take a nap. The stairs were difficult, to say the least, but he managed, pushing open the door and calling Bruno's name.

"Leone?" On the couch, Bruno was practically buried beneath Mista. Had... Had Mista gotten bigger since Leone first met him? The brunet let out a huff, tugging his beanie lower down on his brows and lowering his head back on Bruno's their cheeks squished together. "Sup', Abbacchio."

"Um. Hi, Mista. Bruno, do you have a minute?" 

"Mmhmm." Bruno's arms came into view, wrapping around Mista's chest. "What's up?"

"Uh, it's um. Can he go somewhere?" Leone gestured at Mista and Mista stuck his tongue out at him.

"Only if you want to take his place."

Leone sputtered, cheeks burning immediately. Oh, how he wanted. But he just looked away and muttered an, "Okay," sitting down in a chair and knitting his fingers together. "I, uh, I just came back from the hospital..."

"Oh, is it your leg? Narancia said you were all better."

"N-No, Bruno, it wasn't for me, um... When I got to the church today, Nori' wasn't there. But his husband was." Bruno shifted and Mista did as well, giving Bruno a little more freedom to look at Leone's face. "He came to tell us that Noriaki was in the hospital because-be-because someone had c-cut his eyes." Bruno's lips parted, just slightly in shock. Above him, Mista went still, every muscle tensed up even as his arms and legs tucked almost protectively close to Bruno. Leone kept going. "Noriaki said there's a good chance that he'll be able to heal just fine and that he won't be... Permanently blinded."

Bruno turned away a bit then, half hiding against Mista. "Why can't everything just be okay for once?"

Leone didn't know what to do. Mista held Bruno as best he could, but Leone was still scared that Bruno would begin to cry. But maybe it would be better if he did. Not sure if he would even be accepted, Leone stood to go kneel by the couch, gently laying his hand over Bruno's. Bruno startled a bit, opening one eye to look at Leone on for a second. Then he relaxed again and grabbed Leone's hand. Leone could feel him shaking. 

Chapter Text

"You still owe me a story, Leone."

"Do I now?"

"Mmhmm."

A soft hand ran over his hair and Leone let his eyes fall shut, surrendering to the gentle affection and the support of Bruno's lap beneath his head. 

After Leone had told Bruno about Noriaki and after they'd sat for a while with Mista there, Mista had gotten up to go find Giorno, leaving the two alone. Bruno had sat up and rather shyly asked Leone to do something for him. Leone had readily agreed. Apparently, Bruno had just wanted him to lay in his lap. So he ended up here, eyes shut, head on the thighs of the man he loved more than damn near anything while he petted his hair.

"Remember? I told you something, you tell me something?" Bruno tucked a stray piece of hair back behind Leone's ear, tracing the shell of his ear in the process. Leone sighed at the touch.

"Yeah... Mm... I remember... What do you wanna know?" His heart stuttered a bit in fear of what Bruno would want. The gentle touch of Bruno's hand soothed his anxiety.

"Leone..." Very, very softly, Bruno traced Leone's brow, brushed his cheekbone, went back to his hair. "What was it? That you didn't tell me about what you'd done?"

Leone's breath shivered from his lungs. "Do I have to?"

"Of course not. If it hurts too much for you to tell me, then don't tell me, but..." Bruno combed his fingers through Leone's hair, nails just grazing his scalp and Leone could barely keep back a whimper of pleasure. Dear God, did Bruno know what he was doing to him? "But I would like to be someone you can talk to, Leone."

Leone was quiet, if only to hide the way his breath was shaking. Then, "Do you really want to hear it? It's bad, Bruno, and it's already been a damn shitty day."

"Yes, that's why I ask. Better to make a bad day worse than to ruin one that has been going well. Or at least, that's how I've always felt."

That made sense actually. Leone shut his eyes and tried to steady his breathing, taking refuge in darkness, focusing on nothing but the steady stroke of Bruno's hand over his hair. He could do it. He could tell him this. Bruno would never truly understand him if he did not know this crucially painful thing and so Leone would tell him, because he needed to know and because he had asked. "Okay. Okay, I... I'll tell you." Bruno didn't speak, just kept petting him, and Leone was thankful for it. "A-A little bit after I-" Dammit, it was still hard to say. "After I lost... Matteo... I-I started doing things to get extra drinks. All I cared about was another bottle, so I did it even though it made me sick and because I needed the money and so... I-I meant it when I said me and Fugo were the same. I know I let it happen to me, but that doesn't make it hurt any less..." Bruno was still petting him, still gentle with him. Leone tried to say it exactly. "I-I sold myself. Or I let- I let other people sell me. Night clubs, mostly, wanted that. Let as many people take me as wanted me, I didn't fight, they said they'd give me booze." Leone was shaking, one hand fisted into the fabric of Bruno's pants. He was starting to cry. "That's all I c-cared about, so I just let 'em, I just let 'em do whatever they wanted. They hurt me, some just wanted to hurt me, hit me, wanted me to ask to be hit and I just- I don't- It hurt Bruno." 

Bruno listened to him, even with his stutters and choked off sobs, stroking his white hair comfortingly, his free hand going to lay over Leone's, still balled in a fist. Coughing on snot, he kept going. "I-I think, now that I'm a little better, I know- I know that what I really wanted was something to make me kill myself." Bruno froze, for just long enough for Leone to notice. "Or, I wanted one of them to kill me, anything to get me out quicker than alcohol was taking me, I just- I was so done, so I let them touch me and I-" His breathing stuttered, his whole body shivering. "Why did none of them want to look at me, Bruno? Why? I'm not a doll, I'm not a doll, I-"

"Oh, Leone." So soft, Bruno's voice. It stopped Leone's words and he went to just crying. Gently, Bruno turned his head and Leone half opened his eyes to see his face, blinking tears out of his eyes. Bruno was crying too. He wiped away some of Leone's tears and offered him a tissue. "Here. Blow your nose." Leone did as he was told. Then he just laid till his tears ran dry and Bruno never stopped touching him in some way, wiping his tears, petting his hair, holding his hand. It was all that held him together. Minutes passed and eventually Leone wasn't snorting snot back up his nose and his cheeks were fully dry and even Bruno's uneven breaths had leveled. "Do you feel any better?"

There was always a numbness, Leone had found, that followed the tears. An odd sort of weightlessness. It was certainly better than the pain. "Yes. Do you?"

Bruno laughed. "Not at all."

They were quiet again and Leone managed to work the stiffness out of his fingers, left from being so long clenched. "Bruno?"

"Mm?"

"Why... Why did you want me to lay like this?" He kind of wanted to turn his head, just slightly, and look at Bruno's face while he answered, but he was also a little scared (why?), so he stayed as he was, with his eyes shut.

"Mm... Well... Sometimes when Narancia is upset, he'll lay in my lap. Overtime, the weight and, ah-" He drug his nails across Leone's scalp again and again Leone shivered. "-the petting as well has become... Comforting. To me. Do you not enjoy it?"

"I do. I... I really do." He really did. At first, he'd been afraid that the position would cause... Problems. Down Below. But being with Bruno like this, completely vulnerable beneath his hands, really it was just calming. He sighed softly. He was so tired. "I hope Nori' gets better..."

"I do as well... Now go to sleep, Leone. I know you're tired."

"Mmnot... Not tired... I'm fine." But he couldn't manage to open his eyes anymore and his body was relaxing, his already slow thoughts getting slower. Then he drifted off, with Bruno still running his hands through his hair.

"Hey, Leo." Matteo shuffled closer, a pebble falling free from the movement to fall into the ocean, so very far below, and Leone wrapped an arm around him to make sure he wouldn't fall.

"Hey, Matteo." Leone took a deep breath, enjoying the smell of the ocean for a moment, listening to its crash. He wondered how many more years it would take for this cliff to be destroyed. He held Matteo closer. Matteo turned to him then, grabbed the collar of his shirt, and with something like desperation he kissed him. For a moment, Leone tried to return it. Tried to kiss him back. But it didn't feel right and he didn't know why. 

Bruno.

Bruno. Of course. It was Bruno, not Matteo, Bruno was the one because-

Because Matteo was dead.

Leone leaned back, gently pushing his once-partner away and now he could see the holes in Matteo's shirt. He was not blood splattered. He was saved from having to see that. Matteo gave him a smile that was so very sad. "I guess that's it then, huh? There's nothing left of me in you."

"Matteo, I-I'm sorry, I tried, I just-"

"Don't, Leo. Don't apologize to me for... For moving on." He laughed dryly, shaking his head. "God, that was such a cliche."

"Well, cliches are common for a reason, I suppose..."

"But they don't belong in speaking, Leo!" He laughed again, a little realer. "If my old speech teacher heard me talking like that, she'd have killed me herself."

"Miss Mauser?"

"Yes! God, what a fucking battle axe." They both laughed then, their eyes meeting with a very soft kind of fondness. Then Matteo sighed and leaned back on his arms, watching the gulls circle above. "Ya know, Leo, I... I'm happy for you, I am, about all of this. I never wanted... I don't want you to hurt, Leo, especially not because of me, I just... I guess I panicked a little. Bad excuse I know, but." Matteo shrugged. "So, Bruno?"

Leone hesitantly copied Matteo's positon, nodding a bit. "Yes. He's wonderful, Matteo. He's so good, he... He's everything I thought I could be, when we were first starting on the force. Remember then?"

Matteo smiled. "Of course. God, you absolutely shone then. I always loved you for that, you know. That shine. Even when you were burnt out and done with the world, it was still there, even if only I could see it. You're good too, Leone." He hesitated too. Then he put his hand overtop Leone's, gently rubbing the back with a thumb. "I'm so proud of you, you know. So damn proud, you glorious bastard."

Leone's eyes burned a bit, the start of tears, but he managed to keep them back. "Thank you."

Matteo smiled. "I'm sorry again, about everything, I just... I was angry. And scared. But it's over now, alright? I just... Damn it." He turned away and ran a hand through his hair. "I'm no good with this kind of stuff."

"I'll say." Leone laid down, staring at the sky. 

"Gee, thanks." At least there was amusement in his voice now. Leone heard Matteo moving and wrapped an arm around him when he laid by his side, one hand on his chest. "I know it's not the same now, but... Can I just stay here for a while? Then I'll go, I promise, I just... I guess I'm the one who's a little stuck."

"Of course, Matteo." Leone held him and watched the gulls. "Of course you can stay."

He woke up feeling like he was missing something. Not something major or needed, more like... Like he'd been a little too full for a very long time and the extra had finally been removed. He'd dreamed something. He couldn't quite remember what it was now. Taking a deep breath, not quite a yawn, Leone tried to stretch and realized he was laying in a very weird position and his head wasn't supported quite right. This was not a pillow and he was not in a bed. "Mmwurr?"

"Oh, good morning, sleepyhead. Is winter over?" Bruno. Bruno's voice. Leone tried to turn towards him, forcing open his eyes and peering through the waking blurriness to see his smiling face. "Get it? Because you're a bear?" He groaned and rolled back over, pressing his face to... What again?

Oh. Oh, right. Bruno's thighs. Faking another sleep-induced half stretch, Leone breathed in the smell of him, smiling and rubbing his face against Bruno's legs. Bruno giggled softly, one of his hands moving to scratch Leone's head and he damn near moaned aloud, just remembering to keep his mouth shut. Humming instead, rubbing his head against the pleasant feeling, he earned another soft laugh from Bruno. "Goodness, you're more a cat than a bear, aren't you?"

"Mm... Meow." Another laugh, the fullest one so far, and Leone smiled, still not bothering to open his eyes. "In my defense... It does feel nice."

"Well, I wouldn't know."

That got Leone to open his eyes. He turned his head to look up at Bruno while lifting himself up with his arms, managing to hold himself up with one. His now-freed hand reached for Bruno's face. "Can I?" Bruno nodded and Leone gently laid his hand to Bruno's cheek, just feeling him for a moment before sliding his hand back into Bruno's thick hair, petting him like a he was a good dog. After a second, Bruno's eyes almost shut and he hummed, leaning against the pressure of Leone's massaging fingers, the corners of his mouth twitching upward.

"That does feel nice..." It was only when Leone's arm began to tremble from the weight of holding his whole body up that he pulled away, sitting back on his legs and rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "Hmm. Um, Leone?"

"Yeah?"

"Do you know how to get makeup out of clothes?"

Oh no. Oh no, oh God, oh shit, no. Leone lowered his hands and opened his eyes, his face an expression of pure pain as he looked at the stains on Bruno white pants. The most jarring being, of course, the black lipstick. "Bruno, I am so sorry, I forgot, I didn't mean-"

"It's fine, it's fine, I've got more." Bruno waved off his apologies, shifting his legs a bit and examining the full extent of the damage. He glanced up at Leone for a second, maybe to say something, but then he was trying not to laugh and Leone had a feeling he knew why.

"It's just all over my face, isn't it?" Bruno nodded. Leone sighed. Of course. "I'm... Going to try and clean up."

"Of course! Of course! Go ahead!" With Bruno still trying not to snicker too loudly behind him, Leone sped walked away, locking himself in the only bathroom he knew the location of and groaning low in his throat. Why did everything wrong have to happen to him? Why the hell had he felt the need to rub himself against Bruno's thighs like some horny bastard? With a deep sigh, Leone set to getting his face clean. Without proper makeup remover, it wouldn't come off entirely, of course, but by the time he felt presentable enough to sneak out of the bathroom he looked nearly barefaced. He didn't like it. He needed to start bringing his lipstick with him.

Looking for Bruno, Leone eventually found him in the kitchen, standing at the stove between Mista and Giorno, while Narancia had sat himself on the counter, Fugo and Trish watching from the table. Narancia saw him first. He grinned. "Hey, Papa! Bruno's making dinner, but we can get pizza tomorrow, right?"

Pizza? Oh, right, he had said something about getting them a pizza. With everything else, he'd forgotten. "W-With mushrooms, yeah?"

"Yaaas!" Narancia swung his legs, looking over at Bruno's work with his head slightly tilted. Bruno reached for something- Leone couldn't see what- and Narancia stopped him before he put it in. "No, wait Pops, don't do that. Just use actual garlic, it'll taste better."

"Oh. Alright." Bruno started to turn around, but Giorno and Fugo both beat him too it. Fugo had gotten a clove of garlic from the fridge and chucked it over his shoulder without looking and Giorno snatched it from the air, offering it to Bruno with a soft smile. "Here you are."

"Oh. Thank you, Giorno. Hello, Leone." Bruno and Narancia started talking quietly to each other then and Mista shuffled politely out of the way. Yeah, he was definitely taller. Mista's head was above Bruno's now and he was broader. Dear God, when was he going to stop growing? Leone didn't want to be shorter than him.

Shaking himself out of his thoughts, he went to sit at the table. "Hello, Trish."

"Mmhmm."

Well, good enough he supposed. Fugo sat down next to him and from the blond his greeting was returned fully. Leone laid an arm across the back of Fugo's chair, turning his head to watch the the way Bruno's hair moved with his body. "So, what's for dinner?"

"I don't know. Something with meat, I think, maybe steak, and a salad because Narancia doesn't like meat all that much."

"He doesn't? Seriously?"

"Yes. It isn't some save the animals bullshit, he just prefers the taste of fruits or vegetables. But he'll eat it of course."

"Hmm." Leone filed that fact away for later, letting his gaze sweep over all the four crowded around the stove. "Hey, uh, Fugo?" Silence, but Leone figured he was listening. "Mista look bigger to you?"

"Yes. He's just had another growth spurt, most likely."

"Another?"

"Mmhmm. If it's any consolation, this is probably his last."

Leone didn't like the 'probably' part of that sentence.


Dinner was, of course, wonderful. Narancia did indeed eat more salad than meat, though when the last of the others' was dumped onto his plate he ate it with enthusiasm. Fugo didn't try and attack Narancia even once, though Leone thought that that was largely thanks to Trish (thank God for her). Leone and Bruno cleaned the kitchen, of course, and then they all just sort of... Sat around the living room, talking. Fugo smiled quite a bit, Narancia in his lap. Even Trish offered a few jokes, most of which were made towards the mocking of Mista, but hey. In her defense, Mista is very mockable. 

After a while (an hour? Two?) Mista and Giorno both stood to say goodbye. "We gotta go, Pops."

Giorno went to kiss Bruno gently on both cheeks before saying his own goodbye to everyone except Leone (ouch). They left together, arm in arm, and Leone turned to Bruno once the door had shut behind them. "Where are they going, exactly?"

"I'm not sure. But they always leave together, so I know they have someone with them."

"They live together?"

"I assume so, yes."

Well, it wasn't like Giorno could get pregnant. Leone supposed it wasn't any of his business anyhow. 

It wasn't long before Trish followed the first two, just slipping out without a word. It had actually taken Leone a minute to realize she was gone. Bruno had probably noticed immediately. He was good like that. When Narancia started yawning, Leone figured it was time for him to leave too. He felt a bit guilty for keeping him up so long, actually, just because he was so desperate for Bruno's company. "I-I guess we should get going. Kids gotta get to bed and all." Leone motioned to Fugo and Narancia, nearly asleep on each other. 

Nearly asleep. Leone's words made Narancia open his eyes and whine a wordless protest, taking the time to flip Leone off before pressing closer to Fugo. "I don't wanna walk anywhere. Fuck off... Mweh...." Fugo sighed but didn't offer any words of his own.

"Um." Bruno stood and Leone followed the motion, waiting for the baker to continue. "If you'd like, um... You could just stay here? I-I mean it is rather late. Rather late. I'd hate for you to have to walk home in the dark." Blue eyes holding his and how could Leone refuse him?

"I... That would be nice. Thank you, Bruno."

Bruno smiled, tension leaving his shoulders (had he been nervous?) as he moved over to Narancia and Fugo. "Alright kids, come on. To the actual bed, okay? I know, I know, baby boy, but let's get up, okay? Come on." Narancia was starting to separate himself from Fugo with much complaining. Leone watched with something close to a smile. With another noise of displeasure, Narancia stood, immediately turning to raise his arms towards Leone and Leone went and picked him up on reflex. Bruno was looking at him, something like a smile on his face too. Then Bruno helped Fugo up and all four of them went to Bruno's bedroom (was this really the only bed?). 

Bruno pulled back the covers and let Fugo crawl up under them, waiting for Narancia to join the blond before muttering to Leone, "I'm going to go change. Lay where you'd like." Watching Bruno as he got a set of pajamas from a set of drawers and disappeared through a door (another bathroom?), Leone only turned away when he could not see him, kicking off his shoes and pausing. He couldn't very well sleep as he normally did, but... It was so hard to sleep dressed. Sighing in defeat, Leone just took off his socks and shoved them down in his shoes before following the two kids into the bed. Luckily it was a king size and held them all, though there was no way Leone would get out of this without being pressed up to one of the kids. Apparently, he would have had to deal with that either way, because the second he was comfortable Narancia scooted back until they were touching and Fugo followed him, sandwiching the rat. Bruno reappeared, just a few minutes later, wearing a blue and gold pajama set that was clearly designed for comfort only. It was a little too loose and flattered absolutely nothing on him and Leone wondered how anyone could look so beautiful like that. 

He came around to the other side of the bed and reached up to pull his hair clips down (he still wore the gold ones) running his hands through his hair over and over again, unweaving his braid and shaking his head a bit, the longer part of his hair, slightly wavy from the confines of a braid, rippling with the motion. Their eyes met and Bruno smiled at him before yawning and getting himself to bed, putting himself behind Fugo and laying his arm over them all- even Leone. It was unintentional of course, Bruno was just touchy and wanting to hold his children and Leone happened to be there. No matter how harshly he told himself this, he still reached up to grab Bruno's hand. Bruno's fingers tightened around his own, a gentle squeeze, and then he did not pull away. Leone fell asleep like that, his fingers locked with Bruno's, Narancia pressed back-to-chest against him, with Fugo just barely visible.


Leone didn't dream.

Waking up was easier for it. He was warm, pleasantly so, and his arms were around someone. The someone shifted a bit, humming a soft note and Leone tightened his grip a bit, laying his face to soft hair with a soft grumble that meant to convey the feeling of shut up now. The sentiment was apparently understood. There was no more fussing. Slowly, as his time awake continued, he began to regain a few other senses. First he realized that this bed didn't feel like his, but it was familiar. Second he took a breath and recognized the scent of his own shampoo on whoever he held against his chest. Third he heard the shifts and breathing of multiple people. Where was he...?

He forced his eyes open for just a moment, blurry black the only thing in his vision. He tried again, just blackness, but not like in the absence of light. It took a third try for him to recognize it as hair. Grumbling, he raised his head a bit and looked through narrowed eyes at the people piled on the bed. Narancia, of course, that's who he had so close. Fugo, his face entirely hidden against Narancia. And Bruno. Beautiful Bruno, snoring quietly this time with his mouth open, one arm thrown over his head. Leone looked at him until his vision cleared of sleep and he could appreciate him fully, looking over him until he started to feel a bit like a creep. Cheeks reddening, Leone began to get himself free, carefully pulling his arm from between Fugo and Narancia and sliding out of the bed without waking any of the three. Or, if any of them were already awake he didn't disturb them enough to stir. Careful to be silent, Leone left the bedroom and shut the door behind himself, going faster to the kitchen and looking around a bit.

Maybe he could finally cook the only thing he's figured out for Bruno.

Maybe. If he could figure out how to work this oven. It had to be the same as his own, right? Right. Surely. But what if the temperatures were different? He'd barely figured out his own, if his sad attempts could be called that. His first thought was that he'd know if he touched it. Like he spent time touching his burning hot stovetops. Good God, he was stupid. Maybe if he just kind of... Started. Aaaaaand everything sort of reacted the same as it did at his house, then... He'd know? Yeah. Yeah that'd be fine. Oh, but what if he messed it up and Bruno walked in to see him attempting to hide the evidence? He'd die of shame on the spot. It hadn't even happened yet and already he was flinching at the raw shame of it.

No! He could not be afraid now! This might be his only chance to do something for Bruno. Bruno, precious Bruno, he did so much already, he deserved a break and besides, he'd already fed Leone several times. He needed to return the favor. Yes. That was it. So... He needed to get to it, already. Shaking only a tiny bit, Leone wandered the kitchen, taking what he needed when he found it until, finally, he had onions, peppers, and carrots cut up (correctly!) and making the proper noise in the pan while he shoved them around. He thought they'd be fine while he cracked some eggs in a bowl and stirred them up. Either way, he paused between each egg to push the ingredients around just in case. By the time he had the eggs ready, everything else seemed cooked enough, so he dumped them in too. They sizzled a bit loudly and he jumped, face immediately going red. He watched as the eggs settled and began to cook. Would that be enough for everyone...? He wasn't sure. Was there anything else he could do? Well, Bruno had a toaster and nothing was easier than crushing butter onto heated bread. 

Turning the oven down a bit, just in case, Leone left the eggs to fiddle around with bread and butter (still constantly checking the eggs) and had just finished and returned to the stove when a very sleepy voice spoke up. "Leone?"

Leone's heart flipped over in his chest as he turned to look at him. "Good morning, Bruno."

"What... You doin'? Mm. Smells nice." Bruno shuffled over, still in his pajamas, and wrapped his arms around Leone's chest. Leone hesitated, for just a second, before holding Bruno tightly. Bruno sighed. "G'morn... too... Makin'?"

It took him a second to realize that that last part had been about breakfast. "O-Oh, just, um, omelet. And toast."

"Thank you... I'm shower, mmkay?"

"O-Okay."

Bruno released him and half stumbled away, stretching his arms over his head as he went. Leone was, for a moment, quite weak with love. Then he went back with cooking before it could burn. Soon after, Narancia came barreling in, standing on the tips of his toes with stiff legs. He was shivering slightly, apparently with excitement. "Food?"

"Yep. Finally got this one thing right." Despite his words, there was still something like nervousness in his stomach when Narancia came over to inspect what Leone had to offer. After a very close look, Narancia grinned at him.

"Yeah! You did get this one right." Narancia went off to gather plates and such for the meal while Fugo made his appearance, loitering by the doorway. Leone was just relieved to have finally figured out one single dish. Maybe this meant that Narancia would start trying to teach him something else...

He didn't think about that much. Instead, they all worked together to set the table. When it was done, Narancia showed Leone how to use Bruno's coffee machine and when there was enough in it to bother with pouring, Narancia made a cup and handed it to Leone. "Here. For Bruno. Give it to him when he shows up. It'll be soon."

"Um... Okay?" Leone didn't see why Narancia was handing him a cup meant for Bruno, but he supposed there were worse things to be than a delivery boy. He was right anyway, after only a few moments of him holding the mug, Bruno walked in, dressed in casual clothes with his hair rebraided, looking remarkably less tired. "H-Hi, Bruno. Um, here." Leone held out the cup and Bruno's whole expression softened.

"Oh. Thank you, Leone. So much." He took the mug and smiled at Leone and Leone wondered how that didn't just stop his heart and end him. "For breakfast too," Bruno said as he went to sit, taking the first sip of his coffee.

"O-Of course. How did you sleep?" Leone followed, as did the kids, and soon they were all eating together. 

"Well. I'm glad my bed is so big. There was room enough for us all. And you, Leone?"

There was an undertone of concern in Bruno's voice and Leone remembered quite painfully the last time Bruno had seen him awake in his bed. Shaking and crying, as per the usual. Or... Was it still the usual? It had been a while since he'd done that. He hadn't even really noticed that he'd stopped. Shaking his head a bit to focus, Leone answered. "I slept remarkably well. I didn't even dream." I'm okay, Bruno.

Bruno made a soft sound of satisfaction. Leone barely caught his smile before it was hidden beneath the rim of a mug. Their eyes met. For a moment neither looked away. Then from the living room came Mista's voice and that broke the moment, both of them turning to see the big boy walk in, Giorno up on Mista's hip like he was a toddler. Apparently Giorno had also discovered Mista's new height advantage. Grinning, Mista shifted his grip on Giorno and said, "Hey, what about us? Couldn't wait?"

Bruno flushed. "Oh! N-No, I just- I didn't- I-"

Leone decided to save the poor man. "It was me. I cooked for who was present, not for who might show. Feel free to make a sandwich."

Mista laughed, setting Giorno down and swaggering to the refrigerator. "Well, maybe I will."

Bruno was still trying to apologize, only accepting that there was no real trouble when Giorno quietly spoke to him for a few minutes. Leone didn't bother with trying to hear what Giorno was saying, he just minded his own damn business, getting up from the table to clean his dishes. Mista made something for Giorno too and they sat together while pretty much everyone else gravitated towards the living room. Bruno sighed. "I still feel bad for not having something ready for them..."

Leone looked over his shoulder at Bruno. "Hey, they can't expect you to feed them every time... You need to be taken care of too sometimes, Bruno."

Bruno shook his head, but said nothing more about it. "Go take a shower if you'd like, Leone, then come and help us open up shop. Trish should be here soon, too." Leone did as he was told, of course, showering quickly, oddly happy at the fact that he now smelled a little like Bruno. Giorno was sitting on Mista's knee when Leone walked into the living room, both boys on the couch. Mista's legs were spread to take up most, if not all, of the couch, but Giorno sat like a noblewoman. Leone sighed.

"Why were you here this early, Abbacchio?"

Leone huffed at Giorno, considering just not answering the brat. But if he didn't answer then Giorno wouldn't stop bothering him with it... With yet another sigh, Leone said, "Bruno asked me to stay. After you and Mista left. He didn't want me or the kids going back to my place after it got dark."

"Hmm." Giorno shifted a bit on Mista, turning to look at him. Leone wondered if that was it. Whether it was or not, he managed to get to and down the stairs before Giorno could ask anything else, straightening the spare set of work clothes Bruno had once shown him the location of. It was easy after that, to just be. It was getting easier, every day, to not think about some things without just shutting down entirely. He could sit his pain down now, for a little while at a time. Bruno helped, of course he helped, that beautiful man, talking to him, joking with him, showing him how to ice cakes in the kitchen while Trish handled the customers. Really what made him the most happy was that Bruno trusted him. Perhaps, for a little bit, any faith he'd had in him had been shaken, but now? Bruno trusted Leone with two of his children. His babies. He knew that Fugo and Narancia were Leone's now too and he was happy. It made Leone's heart sing.

The only thing that really hurt him now that wouldn't go away was Noriaki. He couldn't stop remembering those bandages. Nori' was a painter. What would he do without his eyes? Leone could see it on Bruno too, the clinging fear that nothing would ever be quite the same. That the news would come and from then on everything would be just slightly tilted. Just slightly wrong.

But aside from that, that day, and the one after, passed rather easily.


 

It was a very cold morning. Leone could feel it even though he was still under the comforter and Narancia was pressed against his side. He laid there for as long as he dared, hesitant to leave the cocoon of blankets, but eventually he had to get up or be late for work (to see Bruno). The air hit him like a solid object, sending shivers through him immediately, his teeth chattering as he gathered his clothes and shook his way to the shower, almost moaning aloud at the welcomed warmth of hot water. The steam afterwards kept him warm enough to be comfortable as he dressed, but when he stepped from the bathroom he was again near-painfully cold. Having wet hair wasn't exactly helping things either.

Fugo and Narancia were still in bed, curled around each other with the blankets over their heads. "Hey." Leone poked one of them, though he wasn't sure which. "Are you getting up or not?" A noise, probably from Narancia. "Was that a no? I've got to go, are you coming with me or aren't you?" Another grumbled sound, but nothing like an answer. Leone finally just sighed and left, fixing his makeup before heading out the door. 

It was actually warmer outside of the apartment, the sun lending some semblance of relief when it struck him directly. The wind was weak enough that he could defend against it, though he knew that if he didn't get a jacket of some kind soon then he was going to start to freeze. Most likely this was a false winter and it would warm up again before it truly got cold, but still. It was horrible. Shoulders tucked up, arms pressed to his sides, Leone could barely work up the energy to uncurl his fist to open the door to Bruno's bakery. He managed, slipping into the warm shop with a quiet sigh, rubbing his hands together to get some semblance of feeling back in them. Behind the counter was Mista, grinning at him with his thick beanie pulled down low, as usual. "Yo, Abbacchio! What's up? Don't you have anything warmer?"

"I hardly have anything at all," he answered, breathing into his hands in an attempt to quicker revive the feeling as he went to stand by Mista. "How's your mom and them?"

Mista giggled, an oddly low sound. "Bruno's fine. He's in the kitchen actually. And Giorno's good too. Wonderful actually. He brought home another plant yesterday, so our place is one step closer to becoming a greenhouse! But oh well. Where's the other two?"

"Wouldn't get out of bed. Apparently the cold wasn't worth facing." Leone shrugged. "I almost agreed with them."

"Leone!" Bruno. Leone turned around, looking at that sweet face with all that love in those blue eyes. He smiled.

"Good morning, Bruno."

"Yes, it is! Oh, Mista, I told you to send him into the kitchen." Bruno practically pranced over to them, flour covering his forearms and apron. 

Mista grinned sheepishly. "Oh yeah. You did, didn't ya, Boss?"

"You're impossible." But Bruno was smiling as he said it. He was just so happy. "Leone, come on, come bake with me, I have something wonderful to tell you." Leone followed with a backwards glance at Mista, one brow raised. The brunet just shrugged. Leading the way, Bruno hopped into the kitchen and all but danced to whatever it was he was currently putting together, pushing his flour-coated hands to it and humming. Leone didn't mind waiting for whatever it was that Bruno wanted to tell him. He was fine with watching his happiness. Eventually, waving a hand holding dough, Bruno said, "Leone, come here. Come here to me. I want you to help me." It was only when he was standing next to Bruno did Bruno grin at him and say, "Noriaki called me. He's going to be just fine."

For a second the words didn't make sense in Leone's brain. Didn't line up to make any sort of meaning. But then tears started to prick the backs of his eyes and he found himself starting to smile too. "Really?"

"Yes!" Another hand motion, this one sending off dough and flour, not that Bruno seemed to care too much. "He's going to be okay, Leone, everything is going to be okay."

Leone had his arms around Bruno before he even really knew what he was doing, lifting the baker off his feet and squeezing. Bruno squeaked and then something wet and sticky smacked Leone's hair. "Oh! Leone I am sorry." He didn't sound sorry, he sounded about ready to burst into giggles. Still holding him, Leone narrowed his eyes up at Bruno.

"There's dough in my hair, isn't there?"

"Yes."

Leone put Bruno down and tested the back of his head. Yeah, that wasn't coming out anytime soon. Bruno still looked pretty damn pleased with himself, so Leone did the only thing he really could do: He went to the sink, washed his hands, dried them off, went back to Bruno, smacked his hand directly into the unfinished dough and slapped the top of Bruno's head before the baker could think to run. Braid coated, Bruno gave Leone a look of momentary horror. Then it slowly melted into mischief. "Oh, if that's how you're going to be." This was followed immediately by Bruno taking the dough still clinging to his hands and chucking it directly at Leone's chest. It hit, of course, and by the time Leone thought to react, Bruno was gone, ducking behind a worktable to hide.

Leone grabbed a large handful of the dough on the table and ducked down out of sight as well. He wasn't going into this without ammunition. Hobbling along in an awkward crouch, sometimes using his free arm for balance, Leone started to look around the kitchen, sneaking as quietly as he could around and behind the counters and such. But no Bruno. Leone supposed that Bruno could be doing the same thing as him and they'd both just missed each other, but if that was the case then-

That's about when Bruno's soft giggle gave away the fact that he wasn't on the floor at all. He was on the counter. Leone looked up. Bruno grinned at him. Then he threw a hunk of unbaked cookie hard enough that when it smacked Leone in the face it knocked him onto his side. 

Roaring like a wounded lion, Leone jumped up and hurled what he had at Bruno, missing him but throwing him off balance long enough for Leone to grab him, pinning his arms to his side and carrying him, fussing and squealing and wriggling, all the way back to the original table. "Leone! Leone, don't! Don't! Leone! Leone!"

Too late. Leone half threw Bruno onto the table and hoisted himself up on top of the baker, pressing him into the dough and, with what wasn't beneath Bruno, rubbing more on Bruno's face and hair till he was begging mercy. "Leone, please! I'm sorry, okay?" He squealed and flailed again. "Quit it! Leone!" Bruno again tried to escape and Leone laughed, settling down on the smaller man until, panting, Bruno gave up fighting. With a sticky hand, Leone brushed Bruno's cheek and for a moment they just looked at each other, almost laughing, almost smiling. 

That's when Bruno's gaze flickered down to Leone's mouth for just a moment and he had the absurd idea that Bruno wanted him to kiss him. No, it was probably just what Bruno had thrown at him earlier, still stuck on his face, or maybe his lipstick was messed up.

Or maybe he wants you to kiss him.

The thought wouldn't leave and Bruno's hands were laying on his hips, neither encouraging him not pushing him away, and those blue eyes were firmly on his two-toned ones now, no answer to be found in them. Leone swallowed on reflex. Could he...? He leaned a little closer to Bruno and still Bruno's hands did not push him away. Tilted his head, just slightly, to make it easier. Bruno's breath was warm on his face. He smelled like sugar. 

Then the door opened and whatever it was vanished. 

Giorno stood there, holding open the kitchen's doors with eyes just barely widened. "Bruno."

"Y-Yes, Giorno?" Gently, Bruno urged Leone away and Leone obeyed, backing off of Bruno and helping him off of the counter. "What is it?" Bruno tried to put himself together, but he was covered in dough and flour and- Leone realized with a dull feeling of horror- a single black mark of lipstick, pressed into the fabric of Bruno's shirt near his shoulder. He must have gotten a little too close when he picked Bruno up, his face must have been against there, hard enough to mark the fabric. Leone saw the moment Giorno's eyes shifted just slightly to take in the mark. 

"I apologize for interrupting." Formal as always. "But Mista asked for you. He needs-" Giorno stopped, took in both their appearances. "He will need more cookies when you get around to baking them."

Bruno grinned, a little sheepish, a little apologetic. "W-Well, I did make some actually, I just, ah... Got a little distracted with the third batch. Do you want to take them out for him?"

"That would likely be best." Giorno stepped further into the kitchen, refusing to look at either of them more than was necessary. "You will need to clean yourself up before working in the front, Bucciarati."

"So formal," Bruno grumbled, grabbing Leone by the wrist and taking him as well as he left the kitchen and went, as quickly as he could, to the stairwell, pushing Leone up first. "I'm sorry, Leone, I have no idea what came over me."

"Hey, don't apologize." Please, please, don't regret that, Bruno. "I haven't... I can't remember the last time I laughed so much. It was fun. You were happy. It's okay, Bruno."

"I see... Thank you, Leone... It was kind of fun, wasn't it?"

"You nailed me in the face with cookie dough, it better have been."

Bruno laughed softly and Leone relaxed, holding the door for Bruno and closing it behind them. "So... How exactly do we get this out?"

"Hot water and prayers. You can go first if you'd like, I've got to get my braid undone anyway seeing as someone slathered it in dough."

"Now, who would ever do such a thing?" Leone blinked at Bruno, the wide-eyed look of astonished innocence far too exaggerated. He couldn't hold the expression long, grinning at the look Bruno gave him before running off, deciding to take Bruno up on his offer of first shower before the baker changed his mind. It was a lot harder than he thought it would be to get the stuff out of his long hair and by the time he was fairly certain he'd gotten it all the water was beginning to run cold. Dried and wearing a towel up to his chest in a woman's fashion, he snuck out of the bathroom, looking around corners until he found Bruno in the kitchen with his head under the sink. "Um. Bruno?"

"Mm?"

"I don't have anything clean." Leone saw Bruno freeze for just a second. Then he turned off the water and looked over his shoulder, eyes widening slightly when he saw what Leone was willing to show as he looked around the doorframe.

"Oh."

"Mmhmm."

"U-Um, well, you have underwear, surely?"

"Yes, I just wanted my chest covered, so..."

"Ah." Bruno glanced away, cheeks reddening. "I believe I have some of your clothes here from when... You left them here a while ago. They were wet. I dried them. Hold on." Bruno wrung out his hair as best he could, holding the long part up on top of his head, probably so it wouldn't drop onto his dirty shirt. Or maybe he just didn't like the way it felt when it was wet. As he was told, Leone stayed still, holding up his towel and trying to keep his hair from dripping too much. Bruno, as promised, returned with a handful of clothes. "Here you are, Leone, just put them on in the kitchen if you'd like. Is there any hot water left?"

"Um. No, sorry. Shit. I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking."

"It's fine, it's fine, I'll just- Um. I'll..." He sighed in defeat. "I suppose I'll just have to scrape it off and use the sink and a washcloth for the sticky places."

Leone watched him walk away, feeling guilty. Thinking that it would have been better for them to shower together only made it worse. He dressed as fast as he could, going to sit in the living room when he was done. Could... Could he go down and help Mista if he wasn't wearing a uniform? He wanted to go ask Bruno, but he figured he'd bothered the poor man enough. And besides, he was busy. Busy cleaning himself. Probably naked.

Alright, it is now Think About Something Else Hours. 

Head ducked in shame, cheeks hot with the same, Leone decided that laying facedown on the couch was the best way to fix his problem. Bruno's home was well warmed against the cold snap outside, but even so, his wet hair made him chilled enough for the occasional shiver. When a hand brushed down his spine, the shiver wasn't from cold. "Are you asleep?" How long had been laying here? Leone turned his head to look at Bruno, only one eye opened. Bruno smiled at him. "I suppose not. Would you like to stay up here? You're more than welcomed to."

"Would you stay with me?"

He laughed a bit and Leone's cheeks went red again. Of course he couldn't (wouldn't), it was stupid of him to ask, stupid stupid stu-

"If you'd like me to. Let me check on the kids. Do you wanna watch a movie?"

Leone got his arms under him a little better and pushed up onto his forearms, searching Bruno's face for any sign that it was a joke. Bruno just looked at him, that soft smile that just seemed to be his neutral still on his lips. "I-" Leone had to stop to clear his throat. "I'd love that."

"Alright then. I'll be right back. Oh!" He paused mid turn. "There's popcorn in the top cabinet closest to the refrigerator. Put some in if you'd like." He kept going then and Leone watched him till the door shut behind him. Feeling a little bit weak and quite like he was dreaming, he got up and went to the kitchen to do as he was told. He was just tugging the little bag open, careful not to burn himself, when Bruno returned. "What do you wanna watch?"

Leone jumped a bit and looked over his shoulder at the baker. "I-I never really had time to watch movies b-before, so I don't..."

Bruno hummed, leaning against the doorframe. "How about The Postman?"

"Um, sure, whatever you'd like."

Considering that Bruno all but pranced away, Leone assumed he'd said the right thing. Following slower, Leone went sit, placing the popcorn on the coffee table and trying to make as little noise as possible while Bruno messed with the TV. When he got it to work, Bruno came to sit next to him, kicking off his shoes and leaning against Leone's side. Just like the first time, it caught him off guard, sending a blush to his cheeks and a tense through his muscles. Bruno shifted away a bit. "Oh, I'm sorry, are you okay with this? I should ask, I know, I just don't think about it."

"I-It's fine, Bruno." Leone did his best to meet the baker's gaze. "I'm just not used to..." To what? Being in love? Being around someone who cared? Being touched in a way he wanted? "I'm okay."

Bruno leaned against him again and Leone managed to relax just as the movie started. It turned out to be a pretty good movie about a fisherman's son who didn't want to be a fisherman taking up a job as a postman on a island with exactly one mail-recieving resident: A man exiled from his homeland for reasons involving politics. The two grew close and eventually the postman confided in the exile that he was in love with a woman near his home. With the exile's skill of poetry, the postman managed to woo his girl, marrying her. Then the exile learned that he wasn't an exile anymore. He went home and the two never saw each other again. The once-exile, much later, found the wife as well as the postman's son, but the postman himself had died without ever meeting his own child. 

At some point during the film, Leone had wrapped his arms around Bruno while the baker ate popcorn in a way that was borderline violent and because of that hold he could feel every shiver of tears Bruno had. Bruno had been pressing closer and closer the entire time, so perhaps it was just meant to be that Leone now had his head resting against the top of Bruno's, one hand rubbing up and down the sobbing man's arm. "You alright?"

"Y-Y-Yes, I-I'll be-be f-fine." Bruno just managed to speak past his stuttered breathing, wiping his tears on the back of his hand. "I'm so-s-s-sorry, I jus-st really love tha-at movie-movie."

Leone smiled at him. It was kind of sweet, how emotional he got over a movie. "I liked it."

"Y-You did?"

"I did. It was wonderful."

Giving a soft laugh, still patting at the corners of his eyes, Bruno shifted away from him and stood, sniffing one last time. "Okay, okay... G-Give me a few minutes and then, maybe go downstairs and help?"

Leone agreed. Within ten minutes they were in the shop, helping an overworked Mista who almost burst into relieved tears upon seeing them. "Four o'clock!" He'd hissed at Leone. "All the bad ones always come in a four o'clock!" Leone decided that it would be best to just... Not question Mista about this. Instead, he sent the poor boy to the kitchen to work (pretending that he didn't see Giorno follow immediately after). Narancia, with chocolate on his face, slipped out the kitchen door before it could shut, Fugo on his heels, and Leone was oddly relieved to find that they had, in fact, left the bed. He did his best to watch them both while he worked. But mostly his eyes were on Bruno. Sometimes Bruno was watching him, too. 

Chapter Text

"I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am for you."

On the other side of the line, Noriaki hummed happily. "Thank you, Abbacchio-kun. I am happy as well. When they told me my- my, um... kokoro... Heart! My heart nearly burst from happy! I cannot wait to see my Jotaro's face again! I've missed it so much."

"Can't imagine why." Leone leaned against the wall, a smile on his lips.

"Do not be mean! He is a good boy!"

"Mmhmm."

"He is!"

"Mmhmm."

Giving a huff of insulted anger, Noriaki managed to fake the animosity for perhaps two seconds before dissolving in giggles. "I'm just so happy! Jojo's been getting everything ready for our baby and I cannot wait! I am going to be a parent! Finally!"

"Really? That's wonderful, Nori'. I'm happy for you."

"Happy! Yes!"

Almost grinning now, Leone pushed away Narancia's questioning tugs on his clothes. Noriaki's precision fell apart a bit when he got really excited, his Italian unraveling just slightly. "You getting a boy or a girl?"

"I will not say! I want it to be a surprise for you all."

"All of us?"

"Of course! Our little baby will need to meet their many aunts, yes?"

Auntie Leone. Why the hell not. "I'm so happy for you, Nori', really, like, God, I'm so fucking happy."

"Language!"

"Sure, sis. Hey, I gotta go though, okay? I just wanted to check on you-" Narancia attempted to climb Leone's arm and Leone tried to shake him off without success, "-to make sure you were doing well. I'm gunna miss you today."

"I miss you as well, Abbacchio-kun. Tell Bruno I said hello! Goodbye."

"Bye." Dropping the phone in it's cradle, Leone lifted his arm, taking Narancia with it. "What?"

Narancia turned his head around in a way that looked almost owlish. "I wanna go get pizza."

"No."

"Why?!"

"Because I have to work today and that takes priority over your cravings."

"You don't work on Saturdays!"

Leone sighed at the reminder that the week had truly come around and instead of going to see sweet hearted Noriaki he was headed to work instead. Not that he particularly minded being able to see Bruno, it was just... Well, he had a schedule. And he missed Polnareff. And Tiz'. God, he was such an emotional bitch. Shaking his head a bit, lowering his sore arm, Leone said, "It's not that this is my day off or something, I just have other plans, usually. I can't exactly go do those plans today so, I'm going to wo-"

"To see Bruno."

"Sure. To see Bruno. Which means no pizza."

Narancia whined loudly, letting go of Leone's arm and plummeting towards the ground. Leone barely caught him in time, getting the rat in his arms just as Fugo appeared beside him, reaching out for Narancia. Leone didn't let him have him, pretending to not see Fugo at all and lifting Narancia up over his head. "Quit that shit, Rat Boy."

"Rat Boy!"

"Yup. Rat Brat. Stinky man. Dirty orange." Leone's gentle insults kept Narancia still and giggling long enough for him to lay the kid over his shoulders like a shepherd to a lamp and walk out the door, holding it for Fugo and locking it behind them. He got a few weird looks seeing as he was practically wearing a child, but it left his hands free to be shoved into his pockets, so he wasn't complaining. And besides, the look of shock of Giorno's face when he waltzed into the bakery made it more than worth it. He grinned. He was pretty sure Narancia did too. Mista left Giorno's side (not working today, then) to join them, touching fists with Narancia and giving Fugo a very soft look. "Hey, Panna'. What's up? Ya doing alright?"

Fugo gave Mista a sideways glance and muttered, "Same as always?" before shuffling behind Leone, out of view. Leone gave Mista a look that meant don't treat him like an invalid, you dumb bitch, but he doubted that Mista got the message. And anyway, he stopped caring about Mista for a second about then because Bruno came out of the kitchen, looking tired, and he smiled when he saw Leone. 

Bruno had been... Different, over the last few days. He was touchier, to everyone, but mostly to Giorno and Leone himself. He was slower to smile, but when he did they were bright and beautiful. Bags were starting to form under his eyes, so clearly he hadn't been getting enough sleep, but he never slowed down and did everything he could to feign alrightness in front of the kids (but sometimes he relaxed when it was only Leone). Leone had started watching him closer too, in response to his clear exhaustion and neediness, and sometimes he'd caught exactly what Bruno had told him about: Bruno would be looking at one of his children with so much pure longing, holding his own hands in front of him and looking ready to fall apart in some way but not letting himself just love on his children. Leone had always gone to whichever kid Bruno watched and gently informed them that they needed to go and hug their Pops. None of them, not even Giorno, had ever questioned this. They would just nod, stand, and go to their Pops. Well, Narancia would throw himself at him, but that was just how he was. 

Today, he looked more done, more tired, just ready to stop, but he couldn't. The most he would allow himself was to walk to Leone and hug him, even if just for a moment. Leone held him awkwardly past a now-squirming Narancia, setting the boy down when Bruno stepped away. Narancia ran twice around Fugo before rocketing towards the kitchen, Fugo giving chase. Leone shuffled closer to Bruno. "I hope they're okay."

"As do I."

God, but there was so much more Leone wanted to say to him. Watching his expression, wishing he could just touch him, in some way, Leone settled for something safe. "I called Noriaki earlier. They're about to get their first kid."

"Oh, they are?" Now, that got Bruno's attention, as children always seemed to do, his blue eyes lighting up with excited affection. "Will they be a boy or a girl? What's their name? Their age? When will he get them? Can I hold them?"

"Jesus, Cookie, calm down." Leone's face immediately flushed a deep red. He had not meant to call him that, had not meant to call him that, but Bruno barely seemed to notice (thank God) bouncing in place with a happy smile that sent enough joy through Leone that he almost forgot his shame. "N-Nori' wouldn't tell me anything, he wants it to be a surprise. And I'm sure he'll let you hold the kid, you're his closest friend after all."

Bruno stopped his hopping, something like surprise on his face. "He calls me his closest friend?"

"W-Well, you're the only person he doesn't use honorifics with and, well, he isn't exactly a touchy person but he just seemed comfortable with you. I guess I assumed, I apologize."

"It's fine, Leone, just fine." Bruno's face held a different kind of affection now and he looked off at nothing for a second, something like a smile on his lips, before he snapped out of it. "Anyway, Trish will be fine at the register on her own for a while so c-could you come and talk with me abou-"

The door being flung open almost violently interrupted Bruno's words and Leone twisted around just in time to see Polnareff finish a mocking bow as he held the door for Johnny. "Polnareff?"

The Frenchman stood straight, grinning, on the very edge of self destruction today it seemed. Leone started walking towards him. "Jean Pierre."

Then Polnareff was on him, lifting him off his feet and spinning him around once, twice, three times, before squeezing him just shy of too tightly. "I'm trying," Polnareff whispered. "I'm trying so hard but if I don't get a drink soon, I think I'm going to kill someone."

"Not me," Leone leaned back enough to press his face to Polnareff's. "I know you wouldn't hurt me."

A deep shiver and an agonized voice. "No you don't."

He set him down before he could argue the point. Leone decided that it was better to just let it go for now. He was slapped hard on the back and Leone turned to see Hol Horse just before the big man snuck off towards the counter, neither he nor Trish daring to look at the other while his purchase was taking place. Johnny had Gyro with him. They seemed more concerned with each other than with where they were or why they were there. "Hey, Polnareff?" Leone glanced towards the man. "What are you all doing here?"

"I missed your ugly face. Made the others come with me."

"Hmm." Without thinking, he grabbed Polnareff's hand.

"He's not ugly." Bruno. Sweet Bruno, trying to defend him, giving massive Polnareff an angry look and something said in the French that Leone could never hope to learn. Polnareff responded in the same language and Leone resigned himself to being an outsider in the middle of a conversation started because of him.

Wait. Did Bruno think he was... Pretty? Leone looked down and away, the flowing chatter of his boss and his best friend fading into background noise as he considered this. That would be nice, of course, but... Well, he knew how he looked. Yeah, some people liked some weird things, but was it a little too much to think that Bruno- perfect, amazing, beautiful Bruno- could find anything attractive in his too-sharp face? Leone reached up his free hand, absently tracing his prominent cheekbones with his fingertips for a moment, careful not to mess up his makeup. A gentle hand grabbed him by the wrist, pulled his hand down, and Leone turned to look at Bruno. "You aren't ugly, Leone." Both of them just looked at each other for a moment, cheeks pinked. 

"Th-Thank you, Bruno."

"Aww, c'mon." Polnareff pressed closer to him and Leone leaned back against him to keep from being pushed over. Breath, warm on his skin, was the only brief warning he had before Polnareff's lips touched his temple. The Frenchman kissed him hard (he likely did everything roughly), hard enough to tip his head a bit from the force. They separated audibly when Polnareff backed off. "Abba here knows I don't mean it, don't you?" Hips knocked against his own and he almost stumbled, nodding in agreement with Polnareff's words.

Bruno eyes flicked between them for a second and his hand fell away from Leone's. "Well... Alright then. I can't control who Leone keeps around him, just... Behave yourself in my bakery."

"Yes sir, mom," Polnareff said to the back of Bruno's head as he nearly speed walked away, hands in his apron pockets.

"Dammit, Pol'." Leone tugged at Polnareff's arm but didn't release him. "You can be an ass to me, but don't do it to him, alright?"

"But it looks like he sees me being an ass to you as the same thing as being an ass to him, sooo."

"Then don't talk around him."

Polnareff laughed and kissed him again, dragging him over to a table where Gyro and Johnny were, Hol Horse just returning with some pastries and cookies. The cowboy tipped his hat to Leone, but remained silent, refusing to look at Polnareff (though that was normal). Sitting down, the Frenchman dragged Leone onto his lap, wrapping his arms around Leone's waist to hold him there, humming with his face pressed against Leone's back. Polnareff sighed deeply. "This is better."

Leone laid his hands over Polnareff's. "Yeah. It is."

They all stayed about like that for the entirety of the visit. Polnareff was mostly silent. Apparently all he'd wanted was to hold Leone for a while. Gyro, when he wasn't rubbing his cheek on Johnny's and muttering things that made the redhead blush, turned out to be a pretty good guy. He was good hearted at least and kept saying jokes that were so stupid they were funny. He made Johnny happy, at least. That was something pretty much no one else had managed, from what Leone had seen. Hol Horse was as quiet as always. All of the kids wandered over at some point, including Giorno, of course, and Leone introduced his group (plus Gyro). Narancia had offered his hand to Polnareff and, upon receiving a handshake, had introduced himself by saying, "Hi. I'm Narancia. Abbacchio's my dad. Kay', bye." He then walked off and didn't come back. Gyro started asking Leone about Narancia then, "Who's the mother?" No mother. "How old is he?" Seventeen. "Was he like that as a toddler too?" Don't know, wasn't there. "Adopted?" Yep. "He's cute." Yep.

Fugo had only come up to grab Leone's hand for a moment and look at his face, clearly trying to check up on him. Leone had given him a reassuring smile and gently squeezed his hand in both of his own. I'm fine. He'd nodded and slunk back off, probably to wherever Narancia had gone, and Leone had, with more pride than he'd thought he'd have, claimed Fugo as his second son.

"Bitch just poplin' out full grown babies," Polnareff had grumbled, sounding half asleep. 

Bruno never came back around them, but sometimes Leone caught him staring. Was he really so worried? He tried to catch Bruno's eye for more than a moment, long enough to show with expression that everything was okay, but the baker always looked away quickly the moment he was caught. It was bothering Leone. And what had Bruno been saying? Before Polnareff had thrown the door open? He wanted to talk about something. Maybe that was why he was so antsy. But... What would he want to talk about? Leaning back on Polnareff, blocking out the soft sounds of Johnny giggling at something Gyro said, Leone tried to think of something he'd done that would affect Bruno like this. By the time all his friends were leaving, he still hadn't figured it out.

So, like the idiot he was, he decided to ask. "Um... Bruno?" Bruno made a noise of questioning, but didn't turn from his task, placing more cookies and such in the display cabinet. "Uh, wh-what did you want to talk to me about? Before? You were saying-"

"Oh, don't worry about that." Bruno stood and dusted his apron off, giving Leone a bright, fake smile. "It was nothing, really. I've already forgotten. Maybe next time?"

"Y-Yeah." Bruno turned and pranced off, leaving Leone to wonder what it was he'd done wrong. He was still wondering when he caught Narancia and threw him over his shoulder, holding Fugo's hand as the three made their way back to his apartment. 

Still over Leone's shoulder and showing no desire to get down, Narancia said, "You alright, Papa?"

Leone patted the kid's leg. "Yeah, bumpkin, I'm fine. Just thinking."

"'Bout what?"

He thought about just not telling him, but then, Narancia got enough of not being told by the rest of the family. He sighed before saying, "I think Bruno's mad at me, but I can't for the life of me figure out what I did." As briefly as possible, he explained why and Narancia wiggled a bit on him.

"I mean, yeah he could definitely be just fuckin' pissed at you."

"Thanks, rat."

"Anytime. But he might be mad about something else and he was trying not to take your head off when you didn't deserve it."

"Ya think?"

"Well... Yeah. It's how he is."

Leone could most certainly believe that. It was how Bruno was. Then it hit him. "Polnareff."

Fugo tugged at him, just strong enough to be felt. "The big guy?"

"Yeah, buddy. Big Frenchman. I think he said something bad to Bruno again." Leone shook his head, swinging his and Fugo's hands between them. "He's a good man, he is, he just... Is falling apart and says the wrong things sometimes."

"Like me..." Fugo's voice was very quiet and Leone didn't react to the words in case he hadn't been meant to hear them. 

They kept walking and Narancia started chattering about pizza and wouldn't shut up until Leone finally agreed to go get one. Which didn't actually help all that much because as soon as the words left his mouth, Narancia started screeching. He eventually just tossed him into a nearby bush, walking on with Fugo in a few seconds of peace before Narancia rocketed past them, still screeching, now begging to be thrown. In fact, he didn't stop yelling or begging until he had a pizza box in his hands, wherein he fell into a reverent silence, following behind and cradling the box like it held some sacred calling. Maybe it did. Narancia, head priest in the Church of Pizza. The thought was almost stupid enough to make Leone smile.

He held the door for the kids when they made it to the apartment and followed them to the kitchen, only bothering with one piece of pizza, just to keep hunger pangs from preventing sleep. Fugo only ate one as well. Then they both just sort of watched as Narancia demolished the rest, never stopping, never even slowing down, until there was nothing but a grease-spotted cardboard box left. He burped and said, "Is that all?"

Leone kissed his head and mussed up his hair. "Yes, fatty, that's all."

"I'm not fat!" Narancia jumped up and promptly shucked his shirt (which made a suspiciously heavy noise when it hit the ground), tensing his arms to make the muscles look bigger, an action that was barely necessary seeing as the little rat was absolutely ripped. It kind of made Leone feel bad about himself, actually. He raised his shirt and looked at his own stomach, flat enough but long since robbed of any sort of muscle tone. Narancia laughed and poked him. "Hey, you're kinda squishy! Ew, and furry." Leone put his shirt back down and looked at the floor. "Oh." Narancia tried to get in his sight line, but Leone kept turning his head, trying to hide the pink in his cheeks behind his long hair. "I'm being an ass again, right? I'm sorry." Narancia hugged him. "I don't care if you're fluffy and squishy. You're still cool. And strong."

Leone laughed weakly and patted Narancia's shoulder. "Yeah. Thanks bud."

"Mmhmm."

Fugo went to pick up Narancia's shirt and couldn't pick it up for a second, eyes widening a bit when he realized the amount of force that would be required. "Good God, Narancia, what do you keep in here?"

"Goods. Give it." Narancia released Leone to snatch his shirt. putting it on carefully and patting himself down. "I forgot to empty it out earlier. Hey, Abbacchio," Narancia held out his hand, suddenly holding a rather intricate looking knife. "Need a cutter?"

"Um. No."

"Good, because you can't have this one. The handle's gold." Tucking it away somewhere, Narancia ran off, ignoring Leone's questions as to where he had acquired a gold-handled switchblade. Maybe it was better that he didn't know. Narancia disappeared for a while after that and when he returned he proudly shook himself and said, "I am now evidence free." Leone didn't like that at all. But he still didn't question it as he bullied Narancia into taking a bath. He and Fugo played cards until Narancia reappeared with wet hair. They dealed him in and they kept playing until Narancia requested the right to bet, which was where Leone decided it was bedtime, unwilling to let Narancia finesse him into giving away his claim to something like the stove or his bed or something even more abstract, like the windows.

He let the kids get in first, following after them after deciding to once again sleep fully clothed for Fugo's sake. After a bit of shifting, uncomfortable this dressed, Leone managed something close to comfort. He shut his eyes and did his best to sleep, ignoring the occasional sound from the other two or Narancia's occasional odd warble. He fell asleep, eventually, and he dreamed, maybe. Maybe it wasn't bright enough or terrifying enough or maybe he just didn't remember it because he woke up too fast. He woke up because the phone was ringing. It was muffled by the door and distance, quiet enough that Narancia was still snoring, but Leone's training had not entirely forsaken him- Any sound that was out-of-place still woke him. Carefully, he managed to get out of bed, half stumbling as quietly as he could, getting out of the room without any sign from the kids that they were awake. The phone was still ringing when he got to it. Whoever it was really wanted his attention.

Yawning, wondering what time it was, Leone picked up the phone and leaned against the wall, answering with his eyes drifting shut. "He'o?"

"Leone."

"Bruno?" Why was he calling this late? Was something wrong? Was he hurt? He sounded fine, but... Why else would he be calling?

"Yes. So I was thinking about something and I wanted to talk to you about it." Leone started to shuffle towards the kitchen, whimpering some kind of response at Bruno. "It's about your French friend, he bothered me quite a bit and I was trying to figure out why." Narrowing his eyes at the relatively bright light of the stove's digital clock, Leone read the numbers it displayed with something like horror. "I thought about for a while and I think I finally got it, see-" It was midnight. It was literally past midnight. And Bruno called him to criticize his choice of friends.

Something close to anger pushing through the fog of tiredness, Leone growled, "Do you know what time it is?"

"-it was- Mm? Oh, yes, it's about twelve I believe. Anyway, as I was saying-"

"Bruno- you can't just-"

"I think it was because I was envious of him." Leone shut up quickly. Bruno kept talking. "He was rubbing on you and touching you and kissing you, he had you in his lap, and the longer I watched the madder I got and eventually I figured out that it was because I wanted to be in his place." Leone was having difficulty breathing evenly. His breath was shivering out of him. "I just... I wanted to be the one holding you. I couldn't sleep for it... Remember when I wanted to talk to you? I didn't forget, that was a lie, I just... I wanted to talk to you about how I've been feeling, so I guess I thought I'd try and call to tell you before I lost my nerve again."

Leone swallowed hard. "A-And how have you been feeling?" His voice cracked a bit at the end.

Bruno hummed, a warm noise, and Leone shivered. "I've been wanting you, Leone. My Leone." Leone gasped. He couldn't help himself. He clapped his hand over his mouth immediately after, blushing to his ears. Laughing softly, Bruno said, "I know you feel the same, Leone, so come over. Now. It's rather cold tonight. I'd like someone to help warm my bed." If Leone had any doubts as to the nature of Bruno's invitation they were destroyed immediately when he said, "Oh, and Leone? Put on your black lipstick. I want to see what it looks like when you get it on my cock."

Click! The line went dead. Bruno had hung up. Leone went to put on his lipstick.

He was pulling on his shoes and stumbling towards the door when he remembered the kids. Hesitating, shifting from foot to foot, he eventually went to check on them, leaning over the bed to see if they would be alright. They were both still sleeping. He ended up just writing a short note saying that Bruno had called so he'd gone to the bakery. The night was bitterly cold, a less-than-gentle wind pulling at the thickest shirt Leone owned (not even a sweater), robbing him of any heat he could have made. He ran to keep himself warm. That was it. Just for warmth. He started panting quickly, but did everything he could to distract himself from it and the growing pains in his thighs.

Bruno wanted him. Bruno wanted him. Maybe it wasn't love, but it was something. Maybe love would come later, maybe Bruno just hadn't said it. Either way, he'd get to touch him, hold him, love him in every way he could think of. He'd finally know what Bruno looked like under all those clothes.

He was almost stumbling by the time he arrived. The store was dark, but when he tried the door it was unlocked. He let himself in, locked the door behind himself and then sat on the floor, legs shaking, breathing harsh. He waited until he was some semblance of calm, running his hands through his hair, hoping he looked okay and carefully standing, walking on shaking legs towards the stairs. He had to put one hand to the wall as he climbed, each step harder than the last, equal parts excited and nervous. Maybe he hadn't meant it. Maybe Bruno had just wanted to see if he would show up. No, that made no sense, Bruno wasn't cruel like that. But Bruno- perfect Bruno Bucciarati- actually wanting him made even less sense. Then, maybe he was just horny.

Leone shook his head harshly as he arrived at the top, putting his hand to the doorknob. Whatever this was, he was about to figure it out. He pushed open the door and stepped into Bruno's home. 

"Leone?" Bruno's voice, half moaned, and a shiver that had nothing to do with cold went up Leone's spine. He shuffled further into the room, freezing up entirely when he saw Bruno. He was laid over the couch, his arms and head propped up on the arm while his hips shifted against the cushions. He smiled at Leone, falling still. "There you are~" Moving to lay back instead, legs spread wide, Bruno beckoned Leone closer. "Come here, come here. Do you want to kiss me?" Leone nodded dumbly, his eyes wandering over Bruno's spread legs, hardly covered at all by shorts that most certainly did not suit the current weather. Bruno laid his head back and sighed. "Then do so, wherever you'd like sweetheart, I just need you to touch me." Leone finally managed to move then, rushing to the couch in two strides and half-throwing himself on it, burying his face against Bruno's thigh and kissing him there, leaving a very clear mark. 

Bruno almost moaned, shifting his legs just a bit further apart, the bulge in his shorts all the more obvious. Leone shifted his attention further up Bruno's leg, kissing him again, just at the edge of his pants, breathing in the smell of him with a low groan. He was actually doing this. He was kissing Bruno and Bruno was letting him. He glanced at the bulge so close to his face. Could he...? He swallowed hard, hesitating. "Leone?" Leone shut his eyes and pressed his lips to Bruno's clothed erection, no doubt leaving a stain of lipstick on his shorts. The effect was immediate and intense. Bruno arched his back, one hand going into his hair to push him closer, both legs wrapping around his neck to hold him down, and Leone didn't fight the begging pressure, instead just moving as much as he was able, rubbing his cheek between Bruno's legs and earning soft sounds of pleasure for his trouble.

"Leone~" Again, Bruno purred his name, unwinding his shaking legs from Leone's body and tugging gently on his hair. "Come here, please." He was going to start begging. Leone shut his eyes for a moment, waiting until Bruno whimpered again before finally obeying, kissing him the whole way over his clothes, reluctant to pull anything off quite yet, but marking his arms and neck and shoulders with his lipstick. Tipping his head up and away, Bruno held Leone close and made some small noise with every kiss Leone gave, arching his back in an attempt to grind their hips together. Leone almost wanted to let him (his own pants were getting far too tight), but if Bruno had been touching himself, well... Leone didn't want him to finish too quickly. When he got that Leone wasn't going to give him what he wanted just yet, Bruno grumbled softly under his breath and pushed him back, enough to turn his head for a kiss on the lips. "Leone." Bruno breathed his name, both hands fisted in his shirt to pull him closer and Leone almost let him.

But then the smell of alcohol hit him.

He was off Bruno nearly as fast as he'd gotten on him, standing tense like he was ready to flee from something, looking down at Bruno with shock. "Leone? What's wrong?" His voice wasn't slurred and his gaze seemed clear as he looked up at him, but Leone wasn't sure.

"Have you been drinking?"

Bruno blinked, thrown. "I- What?"

"You heard me."

Bruno looked away and muttered, "A little bit."

"How much."

"A little."

Leone's lip curled in disgust for a moment and he turned to walk away from Bruno, just planning to get out of arms reach, but Bruno squeaked, "No, don't go in the kitchen!" so of course, Leone headed immediately there. He didn't bother with counting the bottles on the table (all expensive stuff). It was pretty clear that Bruno could not be anything close to sober. He was just a horny drunk. Bruno was still laying down when Leone went back to him, looking dazed, but his expression shifted back to normal when Leone leaned into his vision. "Hi, Leone."

"Hi, Bruno."

"Come here."

"I can't do that, Bruno."

"Why not?"

"You're drunk."

"Hardly." He sat up, swaying a bit before regaining his balance. "I only had a few drinks, I'm not drunk drunk."

Leone reached forward to lay his hand on Bruno's forehead and the baker sighed, leaning against his touch. "Bruno, what happened to you? Why'd you do this? Why call me?"

"Well, I wanted you." He attempted to grab Leone's hand so Leone pulled away. Bruno huffed at him. "Come now, I've seen how you look at me, Leone, I know you want this just as much as I do, so what's the problem?"

"You're drunk, Bruno." Leone stood and shifted away from him again, trying desperately to keep from falling apart. "You can't truly give consent to me when you are drunk. I won't touch you."

"You already have. What's a little more?"

Leone flinched, tears starting to pool. "Don't. Don't, Bruno, I- I'm sorry."

Bruno stood and walked to him, remarkably steady on his feet, wrapping his arms around Leone and leaning against him. "Oh, it's alright, it's alright, just come here, make it up to me?" Leone shook his head and pushed Bruno gently off, trying not to look at all the places on his skin and clothes that Leone had smeared in black lipstick.

"C'mon." Leone took Bruno's hand and started to lead him towards the kitchen. "I'm cleaning you up."

"No, don't, I like it." Bruno kept protesting or weakly trying to escape. Leone managed to get him to the sink and started to scrub at him, cleaning his body up well enough, but at a loss on what to do about his clothes. He managed to get a bit off, but for the most part it was stained. Likely permanent. He was really going to start crying soon. The more Leone attempted to clean Bruno the more obvious the man's drunkenness became. He started whining and complaining in the manner of a child, once even stamping his foot and whining without words, face screwed up in disagreement, all the while attempting to coerce Leone into having sex with him. "Please, Leone, I'll do whatever you want."

"Then hush."

"Leone!"

Leone sighed and turned around, reaching up into a cabinet to get a glass so Bruno could drink some water. Bruno hugged him from behind, one callused hand pushing up his shirt, rubbing warmly across his stomach. Leone almost smacked Bruno's arm in his haste to get him off, ripping himself away and doing the only thing he could think of: Shouting, "No!" like Bruno was a bad dog. It worked at least. Bruno flinched and shuffled away, looking at him with hurt confusion. Leone sighed and ran a hand over his face, leaning back against the counter and covering his eyes when he could no longer hold back a weak sob, hot tears running down his cheeks. "Leone?" Bruno was coming close again, laying a hand on Leone's chest. "Are you sad?" Giving a weak sob of laughter, Leone couldn't stop an near-angry grin from spreading across his face as he actually thought about the situation he was in. Damn, but he wanted some of what was on that table. He let his arm drop, looking down at Bruno who smiled at him and reached up to dry his face. "Don't cry, darling, my precious Leone, don't cry, I'm here." Bruno hugged him again, this time keeping his hands out of Leone's clothes, and Leone caved, hugging him back and letting his tears run into that dark hair.

It actually took a few minutes before Bruno tried again. His hands started to wander, up and down his spine, tracing his shoulder blades, one hand even going up to grip his hair. "Leone~"

"No, Bruno."

"You don't even know what I'm going to say." Bruno turned his head so his lips brushed Leone's neck. "I was going to say that I want it to be you."

"Stop."

"Because I've never done it before, you know."

Leone, without thinking, blurted out, "You've never had sex?"

Bruno laughed softly, shifting even closer, practically kissing his neck now, and murmured, "No, silly, I mean I've never come."

Leone flushed, the blood rushing to his face and he spluttered for a second. "Wh-What?"

With a hand still running through his hair, Bruno leaned further against Leone and continued. "Mmhmm~ I've never been with anyone before and I've always hated the thought of touching myself, so... I want it to be you, though."

It took a great effort to push Bruno away. "No, Bruno. Not tonight."

His face screwed up in confusion again. Clearly he was trying very hard to process this rejection. "Not tonight?"

"No. Not tonight."

Something like triumph lit his face then and he said a little too loudly, "But a different night?"

Leone's blush was getting worse. He felt too hot and he was tired and he really wanted a drink and to not do this right now. He sighed and went to the kitchen table, picking up the first thing that didn't look empty and bringing it to his lips. 

"Don't!" Bruno was on him again then, holding his arm and dragging it away from his face, keeping the bottle from him with the weight of his entire body. Leone huffed softly from it, momentarily thrown off balance. Then, Bruno and all, he slowly began to pull his arm back up. Bruno squealed and pulled harder. "Leone, please, don't don't, I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry. It's my fault. I won't do it again, I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry!" He was sobbing now, his pulls becoming weak because of it.

"Hey, hey, woah, what's up, Bruno." Gently, Leone reached out his free hand to touch Bruno's cheek, stilling him, but he never stopped begging and apologizing. "Bruno, what's wrong with you? What happened?"

"Don't, please..." Sniffing snot up his nose and coughing out sobs, Bruno tried to force open Leone's hand that held the bottle. "Don't do it, please, I'm sorry, Leone, Leone, I'm sorry." Leone allowed Bruno to open his hand and Bruno carefully transferred the bottle from his grip to the table, sniffing the whole way. "Don't do that, Leone."

"Why?"

The question made Bruno cry harder. He was practically wailing at this point, his words just as loud when he managed to speak them. "I know! I know! I'm just a good for nothing hypocrite who can't do anything for anyone, but you can't do that to yourself!" He made some wide gesture at Leone, taking what was almost a battle stance. Then, clearly making an effort to control his voice, Bruno said, "You're more important than me." That's about when the world stopped turning for Leone Abbacchio.

"Bruno... No, no, baby, no." Leone wrapped his arms around Bruno and lifted the still-crying man off the ground. Did... Did Bruno really think that? That he, disgraced cop Leone, was in any way close to being Bruno's equal? More than equal? How in God's name-?

"Please don't go." Bruno gripped Leone hard, shaking all over. "Please don't leave me."

"I won't... I won't." It took him a little bit to set Bruno down, because Bruno just didn't want to let go. But eventually he managed and, in a last ditch effort to get Bruno to listen, he held the man's face and said, "Hey, c'mon sweetheart, it's late, isn't it?" Bruno nodded. "Yeah, it is, and we're both tired, so how about you drink some water-" Bruno made a face of disgust, "-and then go to bed and in the morning I'll do anything you want. How's that sound?" He perked up considerably then, wiping his cheeks and nodding.

"That sounds nice."

"Yeah, it does, now come on." At last, Bruno began to just follow him silently, accepting the water and allowing himself to be led to the bedroom. Once there, Leone convinced him to brush his teeth and get his pajamas on before helping him lay down, tucking the covers up around his shoulders. "There. You feel okay?" Bruno nodded and shuffled further down, hiding the lower part of his face and blinking up at Leone. "Good. I'm going to be in here, okay?" He started towards the door, planning to sleep on the couch, but Bruno made a sound of pure distress and started trying to get up.

"Leone, don't go, Leone, Leone." Bruno was reaching for him, 'trapped' under the blankets. "Stay." He patted the bed next to him. "Stay. Please."

Leone almost refused. He almost just left Bruno alone. But then he remembered that day, so long ago now it seemed, when he'd been drunk and in that bed, terrified of waking up alone. Bruno had stayed with him then. Leone sighed and turned back around. "Okay." He kicked off his shoes and slid in beside Bruno, not at all surprised when the baker cuddled up to him, laying his head on Leone's chest and taking hold of his hand. Bruno was looking up at him and Leone couldn't bear to look at the love in those eyes, so he said softly, "Close your eyes, Bruno." Bruno obeyed. He fell asleep quickly. Leone didn't know if he'd be able to follow.


When Leone woke up, he was on his side and someone was in his arms. He breathed in deeply, taking in that beloved smell, and thought to himself, ah, I'm dreaming. Bruno shifted against him, half rolling over and Leone smiled softly at his sleep-ruffled look, leaning down to kiss him gently on the cheek. Bruno's brow furrowed and he shuffled a bit away. "Leone? What... What are you doin'?" He tried to open his eyes and groaned, rolling back over to bury his face against Leone's arm. "Ow, ow, ow, my head..." Leone started to wake up then, cheeks heating up. 

"Oh, I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"Shut up! Oww..." Bruno pressed himself closer to Leone, doing everything he could to hide himself from the morning light. "My head... Leone?"

"Y-Yeah, what's up?"

"Help me?"

God, he sounded so hurt. Gently, Leone separated himself from Bruno, laying a pillow over the poor man's head in an attempt to help. Bruno curled up, still letting out soft groans of pain, gripping the pillow to his face. "I-I'll be right back, Bruno, don't worry." Bruno just whimpered and Leone went to find something to help his hangover. He went straight to the kitchen, but seeing as Bruno didn't have pickles, his go-to was unavailable. After thinking for a second, he muttered, "Food," to himself and started to look for something Bruno would be able to eat. Bread probably wouldn't upset his stomach too much... And juice, some kind of juice, Bruno needed some kind of liquid in him that wasn't alcohol and soon. Water would be ideal, of course, but the dry toast was going to be hard enough to get down, water would likely make it harder. 

When he came back into the room, Bruno was still curled up in a ball and shivering in rhythmic bursts. Leone sat the small breakfast on the nightstand and shook him gently. "Sit up, Bruno, you have to eat this. Come on, it'll help." While Bruno was getting himself a little more together, Leone went to shut all the blinds, lessening the light. Bruno was trying, bless him, forcing himself to take tiny bites of toast, eyes shut, looking absolutely miserable. "Bruno?" Leone came closer, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Are you alright?"

"It's never been this bad," he mumbled quietly. After another moment he managed to open his eyes just the smallest amount, slits of blue somewhat focused on Leone's face. "Leone... What are you doing here?"

Leone blinked, shocked to silence for a heartbeat. "I- You don't remember?"

Bruno looked away. "I... I don't know."

He remembers. 

Leone sighed. Clearly Bruno remembered a little and he didn't like what he was remembering. "What do you think happened."

"I- Did I call you?"

"You did."

"Ah." Bruno shut his eyes again. "And you came."

"I did."

"Did I... A-Ask you for something?"

"Do you mean sex, Bruno?" Cheeks getting redder by the second, Bruno nodded. "Yes, you did. Repeatedly."

"Oh. D-Did you...?" Bruno still wouldn't look at him.

The question hurt. He understood why Bruno had to ask, of course he did, but it still hurt. Leone decided to answer as honestly as he could. "You don't seem drunk when you're drunk, Bruno. I-I didn't know at first." Bruno flinched, his whole body sort of collapsing in on itself, and Leone hurried to continue. "B-But I didn't touch you under your clothes, I promise, you- you tried to kiss me. I smelled it on your breath. I didn't touch you after that."

"Why were you in bed with me?"

"You asked me to stay."

Bruno nodded, slowly relaxing. The silence between them was anything but comfortable. "Leone, I-" Bruno stopped mid sentence, his eyes suddenly going wide as his stomach made a very loud complaint. "Oh no." With those barely whispered words, Bruno all but flung himself out of bed, limping and stumbling towards the room's attached bathroom, both arms around his stomach. "Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh God help me, oh no." The door slammed in Bruno's haste to shut it behind him and Leone was left alone, wondering what it was Bruno was going to say and how much he remembered. Eventually, Bruno stumbled back, face red. "Sorry, m-my stomach, I just..."

"Throwing up?"

"N-No."

"Oh... Yeah, you'll have that." He helped Bruno back in bed and for a moment they just sat.

Then Bruno started crying. "I-I'm sorry, I don't think- earlier, when I asked- I just- Leone, I know you would never." He rubbed his arms, swaying a bit where he sat. "I-I just, I've never felt like this. It hurts so badly. I'm scared, Leone."

"Yeah, I know." Leone moved closer and wrapped an arm around Bruno. "It's..." He couldn't say that it was okay.

Bruno dry heaved and his whole body shivered hard. "Good God, you lived like this?"

"Yeah."

Leaning into his hold, Bruno murmured, "Then you must be a lot stronger than me to have come out alive." Leone decided not to answer that. He just held Bruno until the baker sat back, looking down and away to say, "I-I need you to tell me everything I did. I want to know how accurate my memories are." When he didn't answer right away, Bruno started to fidget. "Please, Leone, not knowing would be worse for me."

He caved. Of course he did. It was Bruno asking, after all. "Okay... Y-You called me around midnight-"

"Dear God." Bruno put his head in his hands.

Leone continued. "-and I answered the phone, neither of the kids woke up, anyway, I picked it up and it was you and you just... Went off on Polnareff. Just straight dragged my boy, and I was kind of getting angry because you'd called me at midnight to criticize my best friend, but th-then you said he-he'd made you so mad because you envied him. B-Becuase he got to hold me. And- And k-kiss me." Neither of them were looking at each other. Leone swallowed hard before continuing. "And, then, um, you asked me to come over and um- yeah."

"Leone, please just... Tell me exactly what I said, I... I really need to know if I'm remembering this correctly."

Leone sighed and tugged at the edge of his shirt. "Y-You said... You told me to put on my black lipstick. 'Cause, um. You wanted it on you."

"On me?"

"Y-Yeah, um. Down there. So. Yeah."

"H-How badly did I word this?"

"You said you wanted to see what it looked like when I got it on your cock, is that what you want to hear?"

Bruno choked and started coughing, turning his body further away from Leone. "O-Oh... And you came?"

Leone rubbed the back of his neck, shoulders tucking in as he tried to make himself seem smaller. "Yeah."

"Oh."

With no idea of what that last 'oh' meant, Leone decided to continue and hope it would make it better. "You were on the couch when I got here, you left all the doors unlocked, and you asked me if I wanted to kiss you. That if I did, then I could do it wherever I wanted. So, um. I kissed your, uh, your legs. And your stomach. Your chest. I, uh, kind of marked up your clothes, I'm sorry... Your arms too. Your neck and shoulders."

"I remember that," Bruno murmured, focusing rather intensely on the curtains that kept the sunlight from hurting his head.

When he didn't say anything more, Leone said, "Y-You tried to kiss me on the mouth and, um, well, you smelled like booze. I got off of you quick as I could and got around to looking in the kitchen, and, um... It was kind of obvious. You kept begging me to come back, but I refused. I just wanted you to drink some water before the alcohol got you too dehydrated, but you started acting like a child- Er, besides the part where you were begging for- You know. You wouldn't let me get the l-lipstick off of you, you wouldn't drink anything, and you kept trying to get me to take off my clothes... And, um... You told me you've never come."

"Come where?" Bruno's brow furrowed a bit and Leone raised a brow, just looking at him. A few more seconds of blank staring and Bruno's face blazed bright red and he squeaked out an, "Oh my."

"Um... Yeah. After I got you off of me with that, you were holding on to me then, I was just kind of... Done. So, I went to see what was left to drink. Wh-When I tried to take some of what was on the table you started crying. You did everything you could to keep me from drinking. You called yourself a hypocrite and... Said that I was more important than you."

"Good to know I had some sense..." Bruno seemed to be trying for humor, but the defeated tone of his voice made it fall flat.

Leone reached out and gently laid his hand over Bruno's. "Not quite. You'll always be better than me."

"Then we'll agree to disagree, yes?" Bruno glanced at him, almost shyly. "I-I apologize. For everything. For all of this. For you having to take care of me."

Leone wanted so badly to kiss his head and assure him that being his caretaker would never be a chore. Instead, he leaned away again and said, "You're welcome." Another silence of discomfort filled the air between them. All Leone could thing about was that A) Bruno had drunk called him for sex, and B) Bruno now knew that Leone would come running if he called for sex.

Bruno cleared his throat and winced. "Dear God... L-Leone, I just... I wanted to say that this isn't normal, this isn't who I am, I just... I wasn't myself last night, it was the first time I've ever been really drunk even, I just- I take shot or two now and then to sleep is all, but... I guess this time I didn't stop. I assure you, the pain has cured me of the desire to ever do that again." 

"Did you call me because you wanted me?" The question burst from Leone before he could think to stop it, falling past his lips the second it came to his mind. Bruno looked at him then, finally, but he didn't answer. They just started into each other's eyes for a moment and Leone murmured, "Or was it because you knew I wouldn't say no." Blue eyes widened, just enough to be noticeable, and Bruno struggled for an answer, opening and closing his mouth without a sound. Then he looked away. Leone swallowed past the tears in his throat. "Alright then." He stood up and Bruno suddenly seemed able to speak.

"W-Wait, where are you going?"

"To Tiziano's. Or to see Nori'. Or Polnareff. Just... Someone who loves me."

"I-" Bruno stopped as quick as he started. Leone didn't turn to look at him. "W-When will you be back?"

"Maybe tomorrow. I don't know. I just need a minute. Please don't call me." Leone shuffled out then, head down, feeling thoroughly shamed. The tears started falling when he was halfway down the stairs, an ugly flood that stuttered his breath and wrenched his face in agony.

He pushed his way out into the shop and Narancia called out to him. "Hi, Abbacchio!... Oh, what's wrong!" His little rat came running and Leone picked him up, holding Narancia to his chest and crying against him for a moment. Narancia was petting his hair, doing his best to comfort him. Fugo came close too, laying his hand on Leone's for a moment. He pulled away just before someone tapped very gently against his shoulder. Leone turned to look at Giorno, doing his best to change his expression.

Giorno looked him over once, twice, then shifted back a bit. "Is Bruno alright?"

Leone coughed and tried not to get snot on Narancia's shirt. "H-H-He's f-fine, just n-not used to de-dealing with hangovers." Giorno's eyes widened just slightly at that and he hesitated before turning and going quickly to the stairs. Leone watched him go before carefully putting Narancia back on his feet and patting his head, getting himself a little more under control before saying, "I'm going to go somewhere else today, alright kids? Watch Giorno for me, tell me what dumb shit he g-gets up to, yeah?"

"Course, Papa." Narancia grabbed his hand for a moment, worry in his violet eyes. But when Leone tried to leave, Narancia released him without comment, just watching as he walked out the front doors and half ran down the street. 

He ended up at Tiziano and Squalo's place, sobbing with his head in Squalo's lap, Clash nestled up in his arms until Tiziano came home from work, the blond's presence prompting a shift from the couch to the couch/nest, with Leone between the two husbands, Clash now sitting on him and Melba always nearby. Occasionally, the child would crawl close enough to give Leone's leg a single pat, but for the most part he was left with the parents. He fell asleep there and woke up in the same way, squished between two people who loved him with a cat hiding under his hair. He tried to apologize for overstaying his welcome. They both kissed him on the cheek (one on the left, one on the right, both in union) and told him to be a little bit less stupid, if he could. He was always welcome. They made him breakfast. They let him use their shower, watch their TV, watch their son, they talked to him and generally just cared for him. Pretty soon, they were making him lunch. It was only then that it occurred to him that he needed to go talk to Bruno now that he wasn't drunk or in pain. At least, he hoped he wasn't in pain. Some hangovers could last two days...

It was the worry that did it. Despite everything, he had to know if Bruno was still hurting and if he could help if he was. Squalo and Tiziano hugged him and kissed him on both cheeks and hugged him again before managing to say goodbye. And then he was off, back to Bruno, back to the bakery and his kids. 

The bell was almost too loud when he pushed his way through the door. Bruno was behind the counter, looking absolutely miserable, but when his eyes shifted upwards at the sound and locked on him, his whole face just... Lit up. "Leone!" He was halfway across the store before he froze, nervously tugging at his apron. "G-Good afternoon... I didn't know if you'd come."

"Neither did I." Bruno flinched, just slightly, but nodded.

"I- Leone, could-" Bruno looked at his face for a moment, evidently searching for something, but whatever it was, Leone was too tired to give it. He sighed a bit and looked away. "Um, N-Narancia has been asking about you. He is in the kitchen." Leone nodded, waiting for just a second longer to give the Bruno the chance to say whatever it was he wanted to say. When Bruno just stayed there, looking down at the floor, Leone shuffled past him to find his rat. When he asked Narancia what he needed him for the kid had just looked confused. Apparently Narancia had just been a scapegoat of sorts. Leone was almost too tired to care.

Almost.

It was hard to be around Bruno. Harder still to be away from him. Oh, how Leone loved the abuse. He wanted so badly to talk to Bruno, to ask him what all this meant, if he still cared about him, if he thought that he was nothing more than a horny bastard that was far too interested in getting in his bed. But he didn't. He just watched as Bruno worked. A few times Bruno started to walk towards him, maybe to say something, maybe not, but each time he stopped, bit his lip, then turned away again. 

This went on for two days.

And the one who ended it was Giorno.

Leone was in the kitchen, scrubbing muffin tins clean with tears running down his face when the blond walked in. Hurriedly wiping his face dry, Leone glanced over his shoulder, eyes narrowed. "Wh-What do you want?"

Sea glass eyes went over him once and Leone shivered slightly, tucking his limbs a little closer. Giorno met his gaze. "I will bring Bruno here and you will talk to him. Whatever either of you have done, it's time to get over it." He hesitated and looked away, face as impassive as ever. "I am tired of seeing my father cry himself to sleep." Then he turned sharply and was out the door before Leone could respond. What... just happened? He dried his hands and his face again, sniffing a bit as he looked towards the kitchen door.

He heard Bruno before he saw him. "Oh, Gio, don't, stop, please!" Then he was shoved through the doors, ruffled and squealing, by an arm far too big to be Giorno's (probably Mista). For a moment, Bruno tried to get back out, pushing against the door with all his strength, but someone (again, Mista) was holding it shut from the other side. He turned, blue eyes meeting Leone's yellow/violet ones. "H-Hello, Leone."

"Hey, Bruno." He looked away from the baker, shuffling closer to the sink. "I'll just... Wash the dishes. You can pretend I'm not here if you'd like."

"No, no, Leone, don't..." Coming towards him, Bruno half raised an arm, like he wanted to touch Leone somehow, but just like every other time he stopped, bit his lip, and looked away. He hugged himself. Then he took a breath and kept walking until he was standing right in front of Leone, shaking slightly. "G-Giorno is right. I need to talk to you and I suppose I won't be able to do it on my own." He glanced up but couldn't hold eye contact.

Leone just looked at him. He wanted to hold him. He put his hands in his pockets instead. He wanted to kiss him, so badly. He turned his head away. "Go on then. Talk to me." Gruff and low, because it had to be if he wanted to keep these tears back while Bruno was present. Bruno flinched.

"Ah, um, yes, it's... It's about the other day. W-Why I called you." He shut his eyes tightly and spoke so fast that Leone could just barely make out the words. "I didn't call you because I knew that you wouldn't say no to me." Leone looked back to Bruno, half curled in on himself, eyes shut tight like he was expecting to be hit. He kept talking, almost too fast. "It was because I wanted you to be with me, I just wanted you there, Leone, I'd just been wanting you with me ever since your French friend had shown up and I meant what I said, when I was drunk, I was jealous of him, I wanted to be the one holding you and I couldn't figure out why and I just kept drinking and thinking and wishing you were there and I just-" He stopped to take a breath, shuffling where he stood and relaxing, just a bit. "I just..." Swallowing audibly, Bruno slowly reached his hands out and Leone took his hands from his pockets, letting Bruno hold them, listening with something like disbelief. Running his thumbs over the ridges of Leone's scars, Bruno continued. "I've just been thinking about you a lot recently, Leone. I kept finding myself wishing you were with me, or wondering what kind of food you'd like... Sometimes I'd be with the kids and I'd find myself turning to say something to you and when I realized you weren't there, it... It was a different kind of feeling from when I'm missing one of them. Everything I feel about you is different from how I feel about them, actually..."

"Bruno..." Leone barely whispered his name, wishing desperately that Bruno would look him in the eyes.

"I-I don't know why, I don't even know what it is that I'm feeling or what I'm wanting, and it's just been bothering me so badly when you aren't around..." He laughed weakly, without humor, and shifted both of his hands to just one of Leone's, bringing it up to press his cheek against the palm. Leone could barely breathe. Bruno finally looked up at him. "I guess you make it easier for me, too. That's what I mean. I never meant for- I never want to hurt you, Leone."

"Bruno." Leone shifted closer, licking his lips nervously and gently brushing Bruno's cheekbone with his thumb. "C-Can I kiss you?" His cheeks heated with the question, praying he wasn't hearing this the wrong way, shaking from the fear of being rejected. Of Bruno wanting to be away from him, of thinking he was disgusting, a horrid creature, of-

Bruno smiled at him. "Yes, you may."

Leone's heart felt almost painfully full and for a moment he just studied Bruno's face, gentle and tired and loving, and he waited for it to be taken back or for Bruno to turn his head away so Leone could not kiss his mouth. But no. Bruno just tipped his head up a bit and shut his eyes and Leone found himself laying his free hand on Bruno's hip to guide him a bit closer, tipping his head and leaning down past that little bit of difference in their height. Leone kissed him carefully. Their lips were pressed together with just enough force for it to be considered a kiss and all Leone could think was that Bruno was exactly as soft as he'd thought he'd be. He pulled away after only a moment, searching Bruno's face, his own cheeks flushed crimson. "W-Was that okay?"

Bruno laughed and nodded a bit, his arms reaching up to wind around Leone's neck. "It's okay, Leone. Kiss me again." Then it was Bruno leading this, one hand in Leone's hair, holding him as close as he could get him and Leone could feel it when Bruno smiled against his lips. Still unsure, Leone got his arms around Bruno's waist and lifted him off his feet. Bruno almost gasped and then he was giggling, kissing Leone's lips and cheeks and forehead, even the tip of his nose. Just over and over again and Leone wondered idly if he was dreaming. When Bruno calmed down a bit, he just took a moment to look at Leone, one hand on his cheek. "Leone?"

"Y-Yes, Bruno?"

"I'm not quite certain yet, but..." He leaned down and just barely brushed their mouths together. "I think I may be in love with you. Or I will be, very soon."

"Oh." Leone was quite certain now that he was dreaming. How else could he be here? Holding this beautiful man in his arms while he told him he loved him? "B-Bruno, I-I- You-"

Bruno laughed softly and laid his head on Leone's shoulder. "I know, Leone. I know."

So Leone shut up and held him. He didn't have to say the thousand words he would never be able to get past his throat, because Bruno already knew. He'd always known. Instead, he kissed the baker's temple and breathed in the scent of him. He'd have to thank Giorno later. God knows the brat was going to hate this.

Chapter Text

Leone wondered quite often what he ever could have done to deserve such happiness. Maybe he'd done something grand in a past life. Maybe the universe was just correcting itself- so much pain had to have an equal and opposite reaction of joy, yes? Or maybe there was no meaning to anything at all and he was just one lucky motherfucker. 

Regardless of the reason, Leone decided to stop thinking about it and just focus on the fact that Bruno was in his lap and kissing him slowly. He ran his hands up Bruno's sides, hesitantly at first, and then more fully when he got a hum of encouragement (he was always so scared of doing something wrong). The gentle shift of Bruno's lips against his own and the way his body moved beneath his hands, it was all Leone could do to follow it, allowing himself to give only what Bruno gave first even though he really wanted to slam him against this couch and push his tongue down his throat. He shivered a bit at that thought, his fingers tightening around Bruno's hips. The baker giggled softly, smiling against Leone's mouth before pulling away enough to murmur, "What are you thinking of, hmm?"

"N-Nothing!"

"Mmhmm..." He kissed him again, both hands cradling his face and Leone damn near melted from the love in it. "You're lying to me, Leone." Bruno's tongue brushed over his lips and Leone squeaked softly, earning another quiet laugh. "God, but you're cute."

"I'm no-" Bruno kissed him again and Leone hummed, just soft all over (well, nearly all over).

"You are. You're also showing through your pants."

Leone's face went red, redder when Bruno looked pointedly downward, one brow raised. "I-I'm sorry, I can't control it."

Bruno kissed the tip of his nose and got off of him, much to Leone's disappointment. "I know darling, but I believe we've had enough either way. C'mon, back to work."

"Like this?"

"Well, you can take care of it yourself if you'd like, but I'd rather not be around for it."

Deciding to make the horrible decision to out-embarrass Bruno, Leone laid back and hooked a thumb in his pocket. "Right on the couch? Goodness Bruno, I didn't think you were into people dirtying your furniture."

"Put it between the cushions and I'll never know. Bye~" Then he was down the stairs and Leone was facedown on the couch, wondering if he should just do as Bruno suggested and fuck the furniture just to prove a point. But no. That was gross. He ended up just thinking of Giorno and like magic any and all arousal was gone. Instantaneously. Hmm. He followed after Bruno, wondering if he would let him hold his hand.

It had been more than a week since that first, very gentle kiss and many more had followed. Bruno kissed him all the time, on his hands, or his face, or his lips, once on his neck. It was amazing to Leone and he was constantly waiting for the news that this wasn't reality, he had just finally snapped. Or he was waiting to wake up. This being a dream seemed very plausible sometimes, especially when Bruno decided that one wasn't enough and dragged him upstairs to cuddle and kiss. He was just so touchy and Leone absolutely loved it. 

Bruno was handing a coffee to a girl with snow white hair when Leone stepped out and Bruno turned to glance at him. "Oh, Leone, there you are. Could you get one of the chocolate muffins please? And what were you saying?" He turned back to the girl and kept talking while Leone went to get what he was told, offering it to the girl. She didn't take it and just gave him a look.

"What?"

"Oh, sorry..." Bruno snatched it from him and went to get a different one, the one with chocolate chips in it. "That was my fault, should have been more specific, here you go dear."

"Aw, it's alright sugar." The absolute hick of that woman's voice shocked Leone. It was odder still that she was speaking English- this was an Italian bakery after all. "I know y'all are trying your darnest."

Leone had absolutely no idea what the hell that meant, but Bruno seemed to, giving the girl a smile. "Thank you, Koyuki. Have a nice day."

"Always. See y'all later now."

The small girl (woman?) trotted oddly away and it took Leone a second to realize that she was walking like someone wearing a fursuit that wanted their tail to wag. How often did she wear that thing...? All that aside, why the hell did she talk like that? Bruno took Leone's arm and linked it with his own, leaning his head against Leone's shoulder. "She was adopted when she was little. Kept her name, learned the accent. Personally, I think it's nice."

"I'm not saying y'all."

"Ah, I shall forever be unfulfilled."

Leone turned his head to kiss Bruno's hair but paused. "C-Can I kiss you?"

"Mm? Of course." Bruno stood on the tips of his toes to press their lips together and Leone's face went scarlet, not that he was complaining. He just kept forgetting how much Bruno was willing to give was all.

"Gay!" The word came from Mista and was accompanied by a slap to Leone's ass. He jumped and glared at the boy (m a n), wrapping an arm around Bruno's waist and tucking him closer. "Aww, you protect. That's cute. Hey, how've you two been? Feels like I haven't talked to you in forever, Abbacchio."

Sighing and releasing Bruno, Leone crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm absolutely terrible because some asshole just spanked me."

Mista grinned and crossed his own arms. They were bigger than Leone's. And... Fluffier. "Heh. Yeah, I did. Hey, I actually had something to tell you, but um..." He tipped his head, eyes going out of focus as he muttered to himself for a moment before startling back into alertness. "Yeah! I'm marrying Giorno."

"What?" Bruno voice cracked four different ways and he stuck himself back to Leone's side, fingers digging into Leone's arm.

Mista grinned. "Yeah! Or, at least I will be. Later. I haven't actually asked him yet. Anyway, I figured I had to get your permission first, Pops, asking for his hand and all that." His grin widened slightly and his stance relaxed, his arms swinging at his sides as he rocked on the balls of his feet, clearly nervous."Because, you know, I love him. A lot. More than anything. And I never want to leave him ever, I just want to always be able to hold him and squish him till he can't breathe, so I wanna marry him so that everyone else knows too, that I'm his, I mean, so yeah." Still shuffling about but now with his hands held in front of him, Mista worriedly looked at Bruno. "P-Pops?"

Leone looked down at Bruno who looked damn near ready to pass out. His face had lost all color and his lips (still slightly smeared with black) were just barely parted, but no words came out of him. Mista was starting to tuck into himself, clearly taking the silence as disagreement. Gently, Leone bumped his hips to Bruno's in an attempt to get an answer from him. "Say something, Bruno."

"I-I don't- expect- What?" He blinked a few times and then managed to squeak out, "G-Giorno is rather young to be marrying, Guido..."

"What do you mean? He's almost sixteen."

Bruno made a face and let go of Leone in favor of taking Mista's hands. "Sweetie... You cannot be legally bound before Giorno's eighteenth birthday."

"He can if you let him!"

Bruno sighed through his nose and said quietly, "I am not his parent, Mista. What I say means nothing."

Mista seemed a little taken aback by that. He looked down a bit, lower jaw pushed forward oddly. Then he muttered, "I forgot about that... Guess he'll be my fiancé for a while, then... Geez, almost three years..."

Bruno looked up at Mista (why was he so big...) with a softer expression. "But if it means anything... I think you two will be very happy together. You make my little GioGio smile, Guido, not many others can say that. I hope only the best for you both."

"Really?" Mista was grinning again. "Ya mean it Pops?" He scooped Bruno up and crushed him to his chest, squeezing the baker so tightly that his breath wheezed from his lungs. "Thank you, thank you! I love you!" He then proceeded to kiss Bruno's face approximately twenty times as fast as he physically could before dropping him and running away. Leone went and carefully wrapped his arm around Bruno's waist, holding his more fully when Bruno leaned against him.

"You alright?"

"Yes, yes, just... Shocked." Bruno's eyes widened a bit and he looked up at Leone. "What if Giorno says yes?"

"Then I guess they'll be engaged?"

"And if he says no?"

Leone didn't really want to think about that. "Come on, let's go eat some of the reject cookies before Narancia gets them all."

"I like cookies."

"Yeah, so do I."


Giorno said yes. It was a shock to them all. He had walked up to Bruno, presented his left hand, now adorned by a simple gold band, and said, "I am to be married to Guido. When the time comes, I would like you to be my best man." Bruno had cried, of course, and accepted readily, holding Giorno's hand in both of his and planting a kiss to the ring.

When Giorno had finally gone, Bruno had said to Leone, "I thought I would have more time with my children before it was time to marry them away."

"He's just marrying Mista."

"It still won't be the same."

Leone hadn't questioned it. Tiziano had though, when Leone finished telling the story. "So like, this Giorno kid's fifteen?"

"Yep."

"Guido's eighteen?"

"Yep."

"And they plan on getting married?"

"Yep."

"Boy, how long have they been dating?"

"I have no idea. It can't have been long."

Tiziano took a drink from the coffee in his hands, shooing a cat off the cafe's table. "Well... Their choice I guess, but... I mean, wow. Fifteen. I wouldn't even fuck Squalo before we'd been dating for like, two years."

"Too much information, Tiz'."

"Mm? Oh. Heh. Sorry. Anyway, I proposed to him on our eighth anniversary." Tiziano sat back with a proud expression. "He cried for twenty minutes before he managed to say yes."

"That's adorable, but I'm gunna be honest, I don't plan on waiting that long." Leone carefully drank some of his own drink, taking a bigger mouthful when he discovered it was no longer painfully hot. "I just... I wanna be his husband. I want to belong to him."

"Kinky."

"Shut the fuck up, babe."

They both laughed and Tiziano made some kind of apologetic motion, trying not to choke on coffee. Leone stuck his tongue out at him, almost immediately regretting the childish action. He cleared his throat, "A-Anyway... I'm going to ask him as soon as I think he'll say yes."

"So you two are together now? Officially?"

"I-I think so? He lets me kiss him... Or, he kisses me. A lot. He's really touchy." Tiziano made a very particular face at him and Leone's face went red. "N-Not like that! Not... At all like that. Not at all. No."

"Aww, poor baby." Tiz' gave him a sad look, over-exaggerating the pout. "Maybe one day."

"I will seriously end you. I mean it. I'll destroy you completely."

"Mmhmm."

From there the conversation went more into other things, what Squalo had been up to, what Narancia had stolen recently, what new curse words Melba had learned from his dear father (shit and damn), and the people their respective jobs brought them into contact with. Both of them had been up close with at least one full-suited furry. Apparently, the guy (?) had tipped Tiziano like, thirty bucks, so he wasn't complaining. "They can wear whatever the hell they want if they're giving me that much. I have a family to feed, after all." 

Leone was about to respond to that when a very loud noise rang out. "Tuuu-lu-lu-lu-lu!" He and Tiziano both turned to seek out the source. "Tuuuuu-lu-lu-lu-lu!" A man, or rather a boy, was making the odd sound, his head tipped back, bright pink hair making him stand out almost as much as the sound he made. There was a large man beside him, face showing nothing but distress as he attempted to pet the boy's hair and calm him down, but the poor thing was trying to get out of his seat now, only managing to take a single step before freezing and again throwing his head back to make the noise.

"What's wrong with him?" Leone tapped Tiziano's arm as he spoke, brow furrowed.

"I... Have no idea."

Risotto was shuffling closer, apparently knowing that he had to quiet the boy down but at a loss as to how. The large man- he had pink hair too: were they related?- held out a hand towards Risotto. "I've got him. Don't touch him, he's-" The small boy finished one last warble and made a lunge for the man's outstretched hand, pulling it down and pressing it to the side of his face.

"Boss?" Looking around, the boy appeared to be searching for something, or someone. "Boss? Where are you? Where did you go? Why did you leave me?"

The man's expression softened and he gently pet the boy's hair with his free hand. "I... I'm sorry, precious Doppio, I- I thought you were behind me. I'll come back, alright? Just stay where you are, I'll come get you."

Leone knew staring was rude but... How were you supposed to look away from something so bizarre? The man tried to pull the boy, Doppio, closer, but Doppio resisted, almost panicked now as he turned one way and then the other, the large man's hand still pressed against his face. "Boss? Boss? Where are you? Please, Boss. Boss? I'm lonely."

Looking like he was in terrible pain, the man again tried to reach for the boy with a warm, "I'm right here, precious," managing to get his free arm around him. He lifted Doppio off the ground, glancing around the shop for a moment before making a run for the door, shouldering his way out and vanishing from sight.

"What the hell was that about?" The shout came from a man with odd marks on his face (please don't be tattoos), gently petting the dark hair of the person shivering in his lap. No one had an answer to that. Then a cat meowed loudly and people started to talk again, a comfortable murmur filling the silence. Leone and Tiziano decided to leave anyway, petting a few cats on the way out and saying goodbye to Risotto before going out to walk in the general direction of Tiziano's house, walking close. Leone kept his hands in his pockets. Neither of them spoke. The silence was a whole lot more comfortable than what had lingered in the cafe after the exit of the man and his boy. There had been something about them though... Something he couldn't quite put his finger on... He shook it off. He wasn't a cop anymore. Whatever it was, it wasn't his business. He had more important things to do than chasing down some crazy guy and his messed up smaller guy. He pulled himself together and started to focus again right when Polnareff ran in front of him.

Leone froze and for a second Polnareff just stared at him. Then he started doing a dumb little dance. Confused but supportive, Leone badly copied the simple motion for a second and Polnareff laughed, reaching for a hug that Leone reciprocated. Over Leone's head, Polnareff shouted, "Told ya he'd do it!"

"So you did." Leone knew that voice. Disentangling himself from Polnareff's arms, Leone turned to greet Mohammed who nodded at him in response before stopping mid-step. "How did you get rid of your spirit?"

"What?" Leone shuffled back, closer to Polnareff, when Mohammed started to get close to him, but the Egyptian reached past Leone to grab Polnareff directly on the chest and push him gently back, circling Leone twice.

He huffed and stepped back then, looking more perplexed than anything. "You had another spirit attached to your own. What happened to it? Did someone help you exorcize it?" Leone just looked at him. With a deep sigh, Mohammed said, "Let me try it this way... You were haunted?"

"I was what?" Leone looked over his shoulder at Polnareff, eyebrows raised. "What the hell is your boyfriend saying."

Polnareff flushed. "H-He isn't-"

Mohammed was already talking. "I'm saying that your body was housing someone else's soul and now it's gone and I want to know how you did it. Expelling a spirit isn't easy."

Okay, so were they dating or not? Deciding to just let that one be for now, Leone focused on him again and shrugged. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Mm. Alright." He shrugged too, going to loop his arm with Polnareff's (who was still blushing hard). "So where are we going?" Apparently, Mohammed planned to stay. Alrighty then. Tiziano led the way then, completely unfazed by two more announced guests, calling Squalo on a flip phone to explain to his husband the increased amount of people expected over for dinner. Leone decided to walk on Polnareff's other side, keeping the large Frenchman between himself and the odd fortune teller. He went to grab Polnareff's hand, pausing at a weird bruising just showing from under his sleeve. Was.... Was that a.... Gently, Leone lifted Polnareff's sleeve just a bit more, looking at the red-purple mark that was very clear on his pale skin.

"Uh. Jean?"

"Yeah?"

"What is this?"

Polnareff looked down at his arm for a second, then shrugged. "Mohammed keeps leaving them on me."

"He what?"

"He just. Keeps doing it. There's more." Polnareff lifted his shirt then and pointed to a mark on his side, two on his chest, one was even on his lower back. This man was just covered in hickeys. Mohammed looked rather smug the entire time this display was going on. He put an arm around Polnareff before he could get his shirt down and kept it there on his bare skin even when Polnareff attempted to get his shirt back down. Polnareff didn't seem to mind, so Leone didn't mention it and they kept walking until they reached the place where Tiziano had parked his car. Leone sat up front, leaving the back to Jean Pierre and his oddly unsettling man. He could hear Mohammed muttering softly and occasionally Polnareff would respond in equally low words. Leone tried to make a mental note to remember to ask Polnareff about his relationship status. Were they actually together? Or was Mohammed so intent on marking Polnareff for some other reason?

Regardless of what it was, Leone stopped thinking about it when they pulled up Tiziano's driveway because it was ~lunchtime~ and damn could Squalo cook. Squalo was remarkably accepting of his uninvited guests, but Leone noticed that Melba hid himself from Polnareff and Mohammed, albeit in the hardly-hidden manner of a child. He pointed this out to Tiziano and the blond made a soft sound in the back of his throat and went to crouch next to his son, talking to him quietly while Squalo herded all the rest of them towards the kitchen. 

"Now, Leone, who are these friends of yours?" Squalo smiled at him and Leone was again struck by how kind his friend was.

"Th-This is Polnareff. Jean Pierre Polnareff. He's..." Leone paused to consider what to say about the Frenchman and Polnareff wandered over to him in the short silence, snuggling up to him and starting to kiss at his cheek and hair. "He's something."

"Hell yeah I am." Polnareff lifted Leone off his feet then, carrying him around the kitchen.

Leone attempted to keep talking to Squalo. "His friend over there is named Mohammed, um, something."

"Avdol."

"Avdol. He plays guitar."

Mohammed waved at Squalo despite being in the same room and Squalo returned the motion just as Tiziano walked in. "Yeah, Mel' says he doesn't wanna eat right now, so we can go ahead and get the table set."

"I'll help." Leone stared Tiziano in the eyes, daring him to argue. Do it. Say something about it. Start talking shit. Tiziano huffed but said nothing. Leone just managed to hold down the smirk. 

Lunch was... Really something. Polnareff got along pretty well with Tiziano, but Mohammed and Squalo were immediately friends, sitting close together and talking with heads bowed so no one else at the table could hear them, occasionally laughing softly. Every once in a while Polnareff or Tiz' attempted to get the attention of their respective man and they would get a few minutes of conversation before the two gravitated back to each other, picking up wherever it was they'd left off. Leone wasn't entirely sure that he wanted to know what they were talking about. 

He managed to ask Polnareff about the whole being-covered-in-hickeys thing though. The Frenchman's face had gone scarlet and he'd glanced away before saying, "I-I'm not entirely sure. I haven't asked, but... W-Well, he spent the night in my house once and he does tell people I'm his."

"He what?"

"He-" Polnareff shifted in his seat. "He introduces me as 'my Jean Pierre' to people." Turning his head to consider Mohammed, Polnareff absently rubbed at the mark on his arm. "But I don't know what we are..."

Leone decided not to ask again. But he was starting to get a little worried about who Polnareff had decided to spend his time with.


"I think it's time you moved out."

Leone stopped mid-bite to look at Narancia, blinking slowly. "... What?"

The rat had his hands folded on the table and he gave Leone a look of pity. "You. Out. It's time to go. You've mooched off me and Panna' long enough I think, you need to find your own place."

"Narancia, this is my house."

"Is it?"

"Yes."

"No."

Leone sighed and reached out a hand to lay it over Narancia's face. The boy cooed softly, completely accepting the touch. "You're ridiculous." The phone rang then and Leone let Narancia free, standing and patting the boy's hair as he passed. Who could it be...? He reached for the phone, pausing just a bit from it, remembering all too vividly a midnight phone call from a very drunk baker. He shook it off and picked it up. "Hello?"

"Wussup, man?"

"Tiziano?"

"The one and only."

Leone put his free hand in his pocket and shifted his weight from one leg to the other. "What's up with you? Everything alright?"

"Yeah, yeah, I just wanted to let you know that Nori' called. He's fine if you wanna go see him today. I'll pick you up, same as always."

For a moment he couldn't answer. Nori' was okay...? "Y-Yeah, that... Yeah." His voice was shaking a bit. He cleared his throat in an attempt to steady it. "That'd be great. Thank you, Tiziano."

"My pleasure. See you in a bit."

"Yeah."

Leone hung the phone back up and looked down at the bright clothes he hardly noticed anymore, tugging gently at his pink shirt. He needed to change... "Yo!" Narancia not-quite-jumped him, tugging on his arm to get his attention. "Yo, what's up? You're looking shook up, Abbacchio."

"Nori's okay."

Narancia stopped yanking on him, just holding his hand instead. "That redhead that Pops likes?"

"Mmhmm." Leone walked towards his bedroom, dragging Narancia behind him. "Which means I'm not going to work today. Scurry off, rat. I'll be busy." Narancia did not scurry off as requested so when he got his shirt off, Leone threw it over the boy's head. Narancia didn't budge, in fact he got stiller, so Leone threw his pants on him too. "I mean, if you just have to see me off, I guess you can do whatever you want." He pawed through his drawer at random, wondering if he should set up some sort of organization system for his clothes before deciding that it was too much work. "Well, you do that regardless, I don't know why I'm saying it. Hey, black or blue?"

There was a slightly muffled, "Black," so Leone took out a black t-shirt and wiggled into it.

"What are you doing?" Fugo, speaking very softly, was standing in the doorway. Leone jerked his shirt down fully onto himself before answering.

"I'm gunna go see how Nori's doing today, alright? Will you and Narancia be fine on your own?" It was really just Fugo he was worried about. Narancia was more than capable of defending himself. But it was better if Fugo didn't feel singled out. He picked up some dark jeans and pulled them on while waiting for an answer and when he didn't get it, he turned his head to look at Fugo, shuffling awkwardly and looking at the floor. "You know if you need me, I'll stay, right?" Fugo went still then nodded after a moment. "Do you need me to stay?" Another pause. Then the blond boy shook his head and shuffled back out of the room. Sighing, Leone snatched his clothes off Narancia's head and folded them up, shoving some clothes aside in the drawer and placing his uniform carefully into the cleared space. "There. I'll see you for dinner, yeah? Maybe steal some chicken for us."

Narancia, to Leone's horror, took on a thoughtful expression before nodding. "Yeah, I could do that."

"N-Nar', I was joking."

"Nope. Chinken Dinder." Then he was gone, darting out the room in the sudden way he seemed to like, leaving Leone worried and more frazzled than before. Sighing, pretty sure he'd brought this one down on himself, he tugged on his shoes and left the apartment, calling out a farewell before shutting the front door behind him. Tiziano's car was waiting and he dropped into the front seat gratefully, just stopping himself from rubbing at his face with his hands. He could not be ruining his makeup this early, it just wasn't going to happen. 

"How ya holdin' up?" Tiziano patted his shoulder before beginning to drive and Leone laughed tiredly, leaning back and wearily watching the world rush by.

"Terribly. Narancia's a handful."

"Well, pets are quite the responsibility."

"Especially such dirty ones." They both snickered.

When they arrived, Leone got out of the car almost before it was stopped, blurting out a hasty farewell and running to the church's steps, staggering up them and pushing his way into the hall, walking down to the last door and wheezing a bit. He really needed to work out more... Pausing to breathe, he finally made himself go in when his lungs weren't hurting quite so much. Noriaki turned and smiled at him. "Oh, hello Abbacchio-kun, we were just-" Leone rushed forward and hugged him without thinking, squeezing him tightly for a moment and letting go just as quickly as he'd jumped, shuffling away and rubbing the back of his neck. Noriaki's cheeks were tinged pink and he blinked at Leone. "W-We were just setting up the chairs..." Leone actually looked at Noriaki then. His eyes were the same blue and they held the same kindness, but his face... He had two scars now, mirroring each other over his eyes, beginning above the brow and ending in line with his nose. He had scars on his face of all places and it made Leone's heart ache, because Noriaki was such a good and gentle man, but from this day forward the first thing anyone would ever see would be those scars and they would judge him for it.

A wet nose bumped his hand and Leone looked away from that man's marked face to the fluffy visage of Star Platinum. "Bwoof."

"Bwoof, indeed." Leone patted him and that plumy tail went to wagging. He glanced up at the other three and nodded at Polnareff. "Hey."

The Frenchman grinned. "Bonjour, mon chéri."

Leone didn't have any idea what that meant, so he just smiled and focused back on Star.

Hol Horse was fidgety today, Leone could hear it without even looking at him, and he wondered what had happened to shake up the already unstable cowboy. Johnny was just quiet as always. Noriaki sat himself down after he'd finished with the chairs and everyone followed suit and that was when Leone realized that Jotaro was there. For all his size, he was so very quiet and still that Leone had completely overlooked him, gold coat ornaments and all. He sat his bulk next to his small husband, huddled awkwardly in a folding chair meant for someone normally sized, looking very uncomfortable with being here. Noriaki rubbed his husband's arm and offered a small smile before turning to the group. "I am very happy to be here and seeing you all." He blinked and his smile widened into an awkwardly wide grin. "Actually seeing you is much better than just hearing your voices."

"Preach, Doc." Polnareff seemed... Softer, somehow. Less on edge today, though that was, of course, compared to his normal. He still looked ready to snap a man in half over his knee, but... He wasn't quite begging for the opportunity to do so. When Star wiggle walked his way over, Polnareff scooped him up, softening even further.

Nori' seemed to notice it too, his ugly-wide mouth grinning even bigger. "Yes! Because we are in church!" His Italian was getting a little wobbly and Leone had to fight to keep down a smile. After a visible effort at calming himself, Noriaki resettled himself in his seat and made a hand motion towards them all. "Who wants to go first?"

"Um..." Leone messed with his hands, looking down at them instead of at everyone else. "I'm... With Bruno now. He lets me kiss him."

"Took him long enough." Polnareff's head was tipped back as he scratched at his neck, successfully avoiding eye contact with absolutely everyone. "I was starting to think I'd have to sweep you off your feet, seeing as he was taking his damn sweet time with it." Leone flushed, partly because he wasn't sure how serious Polnareff was being. 

Johnny cleared his throat and they all turned to look at him. Even so, he kept silent for a moment before muttering, "I did it. I broke up with Dio. I'm not... It's just Gyro now."

Noriaki clapped his hands together, genuinely happy for Johnny. "That is wonderful, Johnny-kun. How did he um... Take it?"

Johnny shrugged. "He tried to stab me, so well enough." Silence. Everyone stared at him and Johnny just shrugged again, refusing to meet any of their gazes. Eventually, Noriaki had to just move on. 

"Ah, w-well, I'm glad it worked out well for you, um... Polnareff-kun?"

Polnareff considered Star, grabbing the dog's muzzle and kissing his chops with a loving sound. "You're such a good boy. Such a good boy..."

"Polnareff-kun?"

He petted on the dog for a little bit longer before gently placing him back on his paws. Star stayed at Polnareff's side regardless. "Um. Mohammed fucked me."

Leone choked on nothing, coughing while beside him, Johnny tried not to laugh with little success. Noriaki made a face, but did his best to preform his duty. "And, ah, how did that... Go?" Beside him, poor Jotaro looked ready to just sink into the floor to never be seen again.

Polnareff shrugged. "Well, he certainly knew what he was doing."

"M-Move..." Jotaro made a face, looking up just enough to briefly scan them all from beneath his hat's visor. "Move on."

Noriaki again patted at Jotaro's arm. "I, um... Am glad things are going better for you, Polnareff-kun. Hol Horse-kun? Would you like to speak?" Silence, save for the creak of Hol Horse's chair as he rocked himself, eyes shut tight. All of them were watching him, even Jotaro, and Star Platinum left Polnareff's side to sniff at the distressed man, tail giving a few weak waves. He boofed questioningly and Hol Horse shivered, opening one eye halfway to pet the big dog's head.

"G-Good boy..." He looked oddly terrified today, like he expected any one of them to whip out a revolver and end him.

"C'mon, Holly." Johnny was leaned forward in his wheelchair, eyes narrowed. He tugged at his beanie and Leone watched as a thread snapped and a tuft of red hair poked out. "We talked about this, remember? Let's go." He clapped his hands together and made a 'let's go' motion. Hol Horse gulped.

Very softly, Noriaki said, "Hol Horse-kun, why did you start drinking?"

Hol Horse started crying, quietly this time, not his usual short-lived bawling. The tears just sort of ran down his face as he stared at his hands, body tensed to fight or flee. Leone wondered what it was that did this. He wondered if Hol Horse would actually talk. Then the man sighed and reached up to take off his stetson, running a hand through his blond hair and saying, "Okay. Okay, I'll tell you, even if he kills me for it."

"He?" Noriaki's face creased in confusion, but Hol Horse just shook his head a bit.

"It... It all started about four years ago now."

Chapter Text

I say four years, but I guess it actually started because I met her, long before, but... I don't really want to go into that. The point is, four years ago I lost everything and I've been running ever since. I was in France at the time. I'd lived there since I was fifteen, actually... Anyway...

Hol Horse strolled down the street, enjoying the weak wind, both hands in his pockets. He was humming the music to a song he'd forgotten the lyrics to when he heard the screams. He froze, the hair on the back of his neck raising. What was that? Another scream, this one a man's, clearly furious and pained and Hol Horse started to move warily forward, hands beginning to shake. He wasn't planning on doing anything, not really, he just wanted to make sure that when he ran he wasn't running directly into whatever it was he was trying to escape. Screams erupted again, clearly someone was very, very scared and that really set Hol Horse's hands to shaking. His knees weren't feeling too strong either as he crept along a building to peer into an alley. It was too dark to see much detail for a moment, but when his eyes cleared his face went scarlet.

There were four people in there. The girl was the first one he noticed, though he couldn't make out her face, then the man fighting to keep her still. Behind them, two others, a large man pressed into the dirt and another on top of him, holding him down. It didn't take a genius to figure out what was going on. He took a half step forward, about to go an help, but- But what if both the attacking men turned on him? He'd have no chance. What if one of them had a gun? Or a knife? What if they told police that he, Hol Horse, had been with them and not against them? He didn't know how to prove otherwise! What if those two on the ground weren't persuasive enough and he got sent to jail? He'd die in there!

His legs were truly shaking now, doubt after doubt piling up in his chest. He retreated a bit. Then the man being held on the ground raised his head, pale eyes burning behind pale bangs, and he roared and Hol Horse ran, keening with terror, knowing that he would never forget that man's face and the way he looked damn near ready to set all of France burning. He kept running. And running. And running. Till the sun had set and his thighs felt like iron in the furnace. He ran all the way home to crawl into his bed and hide beneath the covers like a child trying to keep the closet monsters at bay. 

He tried to forget about it. Tried very hard to tell himself that someone else had helped (there had been no one on that street), that someone had called the police, surely (he'd neither seen nor heard any sirens). Everything was fine. Everything was just fine.

Hol Horse had never been the kind of man to worry about the news. It was all just depressing or terrifying (usually the latter), but he found himself searching the obituaries. He hadn't seen the girl's face, so he wouldn't even know if- But he'd seen the man's. Nothing could remove that particular memory, an imprint of nearly animalistic rage, a blind sort of fury that could drive a man to rip another apart with nothing more than his teeth. Just thinking about it sent the hairs on his arms on end. So, he searched, looking for the man, because if he was dead than so was the woman. He didn't find the man. He found Sherry Polnareff.

I-I'd met Sherry about a year before that and we were good friends. More than friends, actually. She- She'd asked me to open a chocolate shop with her. AAAAAIIIIEEEEEEEE, stop him, STOP HIM, NORIAKI, HELP ME!... Th-Thank you, Jotaro... Jean, I-I didn't- I never meant- Did she really never mention me?... Oh... I guess that's... Expected... Mm? After that? I... I just...

He had to get out. Had to get out, get out, get out get out getoutgetoutgetoutGETOUT

He sold everything he had except for the clothes on his back and a small bag of things like an electric razor, his toothbrush, a picture of Sherry, even, though he could hardly bear to look at that. He'd killed her. He had not touched her, but he had left her to die, and really that was as bad as being the one with both hands around her neck. He had killed her, the only person that had ever looked at him and seen someone worth loving. 

His father likely didn't know he existed, his mother had gotten tired of him when he was three, the women at the orphanage didn't bother with stopping the other kids from picking on him, his coworkers never wanted to be more than acquaintances. No one had ever wanted to be around him. No one had ever bothered to talk to him like he was a human being until her. Until he had the God-given luck to miss the first bus and be forced to stand there in the rain with no umbrella, looking so miserable that she had walked to his side, raised her own umbrella high over her head and stood on the tips of her toes to get it to cover him too. Sherry had been so very beautiful in a way that had everything to do with her soul and now she was gone and it was all his fault, because he was too much of a worthless coward to save her.

The plane that was leaving France soonest had its destination somewhere in Italy, he wasn't concerned with exactly where, so long as it wasn't France, so long as the people weren't speaking her language. He knew that he must look terrible. The love of his life had just died (because of him) and he wasn't even going to get to go to her funeral. He broke down in ten minutes, huddled in his uncomfortable chair, the seat beside him empty, crying with his arms around himself. The flight attendants glanced at him. They didn't ask him if he was okay. They just turned away and busied themselves with other people. That was fine. Just fine. He wiped his face off on his sleeve, not that it did much, and tried to look out the window. Tried to stop thinking, at least for a little while, but he couldn't stop replaying over and over, her first screams that had drawn him close. How had he not recognized her voice? How had he not known that it was her laying there? How? How? The paper hadn't given much detail, confidentiality laws and all that, but he'd seen enough to know exactly what had befallen his sweet Sherry and the brother (that burning man) she had spoken about so lovingly.

It should have been him. Hol Horse knew he'd likely kill himself if someone ever- If he'd ever be- He just wouldn't survive it. But it should have been him, regardless. Or anyone else, really. No one had deserved this less than her.

Despite his efforts, or perhaps because of, he could think of nothing but her. How was it that he'd seen her just a few days ago? She'd laughed at him and called him her cowboy. Kissed him on the cheek before running off, waving goodbye and promising to see him soon, just like always. But... But she wouldn't? She wouldn't ever walk with him again, would never get to open her chocolate shop. That's what hurt more than anything, somehow. Knowing that she'd never even got to live the life she wanted before it was taken from her. Hol Horse hit himself on both cheeks, shutting his eyes tight in an attempt to get the thoughts to stop. He needed to sleep. He needed to find somewhere to stay when he landed in Wherever-He-Was-Going. He needed food. Probably a bath.. There were so many things he had to do if he wanted to survive (and he was still so scared of death). 

He arrived. He wandered till the sun set. He slept curled up like a dog beneath a bridge until a pale-haired cop chased him off, shouting Italian he could almost understand. He wandered until he found the only place open at this hour: A bar. He went in for the warmth and light. He stayed for the drinks.

He had never actually been drunk before- had never had the reason or desire to- but he found the condition suited him nicely. It was harder to think, harder to focus, harder to remember. He had no plans to stop until his body gave out and he could say he had never intended for death to be the end of this. He didn't want to get better because there was no better for him, no matter what he did with his life, Sherry would no longer be a part of it, so what was even the point? It was only a few months later that he saw the brother again. Here? In Italy? At first Hol Horse had been terrified. Somehow he knew that Hol Horse had been there, that he could have stopped all of it, that his sister's death was his fault, and he'd tracked him down to kill him. But no, the man didn't even recognize him. By some twist of fate, he had ended up here entirely on chance. Hol Horse had watched him drink glass after glass after glass and then he'd watched him fight four people at once and win. He'd been right, all that time ago. Sherry's big brother was powerful enough to destroy anything he wanted destroyed. 

At the end of the night, when the barkeep had decided that the man was becoming more of a problem than a show, he'd thrown him out and Hol Horse followed. Then he just... Kept following. He didn't know why or what the end goal was, he just wanted to be close to this odd piece of France, roaming Italy with the stain of his sister's death written in every line of him. He kept following him around without ever being noticed and, eventually, he saw him come to the church that would mark something of a turning point. Hol Horse had followed him in and there he'd met Noriaki. He'd made up some bullshit story about hearing about him from someone in passing. And then he'd stayed.

At first it was just to hear the brother (Jean Pierre Polnareff) speak. He wanted so badly to just talk to someone who knew what it meant to know Sherry Polnareff, but he'd been far too scared to do anything but listen, over and over again, to the story of his own failure. Polnareff always said that it was his fault for not being strong enough. Really it was Hol Horse's fault for not being brave enough and that killed him every damn day that he woke up still breathing. 

But then time passed and with Johnny and Noriaki he suddenly had people who gave a shit about him. People who would care if he didn't wake up one morning. That's when he considered actually trying to be better instead of just faking it and hoping death would maybe hurry up a bit with his schedule. He started showing up for himself then. To try and be better. Sherry had always believed he could be something great if he just tried. 

I think, what really hurts is that I'd have gone to her if I'd known. If I'd just seen her face for a moment... I could have done it. I could have walked straight into a shootout for her, if that's what it took. If I had just seen her, then... Then everything would be okay. But I didn't and it isn't... Jean, I'm so sorry.

Chapter Text

Polnareff was shaking. Jotaro had him held firmly, both arms wrenched behind his back, forcing him to lean forward so he was too off balance to escape, but it didn't look like he wanted to escape. He was just... Dead. When he spoke it was almost too quietly to hear. His head turned, just slightly, towards Johnny. "Did she call you Holly, too?"

Hol Horse watched Polnareff with the same fear he always had and nodded slightly. "Y-Yes."

Then he laughed, weak and defeated. "She mentioned you... I thought you were a girl."

Hol Horse sat up a little, wiping tears off his face. "R-Really?"

Polnareff nodded once, slumped against Jotaro's hold. No one moved or spoke. Polnareff didn't fight. Then, very slowly, Jotaro released the Frenchman. Polnareff turned, nodded to him, and launched himself at Hol Horse. It was fast and it was violent and Leone could barely follow the flurry of blows. One, two, three, four punches to the face, a slap on the other cheek, then he grabbed the front of Hol Horse's shirt and headbutted him hard. The blond made a rough gurgling noise, eyes rolling in his head, and Johnny looked about ready to fight Polnareff himself. There was something on the man's face, something very cold, and Leone barely had time to wonder what Johnny was thinking before the redhead screeched, "Dammit, Jean, you can't kill your sister!"

It was cruel, to use that against Polnareff, but Leone knew that Johnny didn't care. Polnareff had frozen, one fist up to slam against Hol Horse's face again, but he wasn't moving. Leone stood, went around to gently lay his hand on Polnareff's arm, but the look on the man's face made him hesitate. It was too much. Polnareff couldn't take it, he was falling apart, shattering, and Leone didn't know what to do to help him. Then he screamed, a sound of such agony that Leone took a half step back just as Polnareff hit Hol Horse one last time, boxing him in the ear hard enough to send him to the ground before running away, slamming against the door and escaping with another strangled cry. "Holly!" Johnny rolled over to Hol Horse, leaning down as best he could in an attempt to reach Hol Horse's hand, but he couldn't make it. Hol Horse's breathing was rough and Leone could tell at a single glance that his nose was broken and he was close to unconsciousness. His eyes shifted to focus on Johnny's outstretched hand and he made a very pathetic attempt to reach it before his eyes rolled back and he passed out. Johnny was screaming, mostly abuse at the absent Polnareff, and Leone finally processed everything enough to realize that he needed to go after Polnareff.

"Jean." He glanced at Noriaki who just looked shocked to numbness, Jotaro close at his side, before following his big Frenchman, dashing down the hallway as fast as his body would allow, stopping at the steps and looking around. Polnareff was gone, vanished as usual, and Leone cursed. How the hell did he disappear? Where did he go? How on earth-? No. No, there had to be an answer. He couldn't get this wrong, he had to find Polnareff. He ran down the stairs and surveyed the parking lot. It was too big for Polnareff to have run across, so he couldn't have gone in that direction. There was no reason for him to have gone somewhere else in the building, so... So left, or right. Leone looked around then chose right, going to the side of the church and following along it. Was this is? How Polnareff always disappeared? Had he just been turning a corner? Stepping awkwardly over overgrown grass and briar, Leone put his hands over his head in an effort to lessen the pull he was getting to his hair from the trees planted close to the church's side, grumbling complaints about nature under his breath. 

It was a bit of a fight, but eventually he got to the back of the church. And Polnareff was there. He was shaking and crying, Leone could tell even with the distance between them, and Leone did not know what to do. "Jean Pierre?"

Polnareff turned, just enough to look at Leone over his shoulder. "Y-Ya know, I can't stand shit like this." His breath shuddered inward, tears pouring down his face. "It just annoys me so damn much. So..." He turned back around. It looked like he was holding something so Leone started to circle around Polanreff. "So damn much..."

"Oh, Jean Pierre..." Leone decided just... Fuck it. If Polnareff snapped his neck, then that was how he went out. He came closer, raising his arms to hold Polnareff, but he stopped before he got there because Polnareff was cradling a very tiny cat in his hands. The little thing was almost fully black save for a small spot on its forehead and it looked absolutely pathetic, thin, dirty, and malnourished. It... Kind of reminded Leone of Narancia.

Polnareff sniffed and coughed out a sob. "I almost stepped on it."

Oh. Oh dear. This little kitten looked ready to die if it was breathed on too harshly, so... "B-But it's okay, Jean. It's alright."

"I almost stepped on it."

"But you didn't."

"I-I almost-"

"Jean." Leone reached up to cup Polnareff's face in his hands, forcing him to look him in the eyes. He laid their foreheads together, wiping the tears off the Frenchman's face. "You... You're..." Dammit, he didn't know what to say?! Now, of all times? He tried to put whatever was in his chest into something like order. "You won't hurt something... That doesn't deserve it. You're not a monster."

"I am." Polnareff sounded so broken and it was tearing at Leone's heart. "I've done things, Abba. H-Horrible things."

"So have I. We all have, Pol'. You're okay."

Polnareff shook his head, or tried too, holding his hands and the cat closer to his chest. "You can't say that. You don't know."

"Then tell me." Whatever Polnareff had expected to hear next, that wasn't it. Maybe he'd been bracing himself for too much pointless reassurances, but Leone knew as good as anyone that eventually that shit just got annoying. If he wouldn't listen, he wouldn't listen. So maybe he needed to talk instead. "It's just me here, Polnareff, and... A-And I love you, so..." He shuffled away a bit, looking down in an attempt to hide how his cheeks were burning. The kitten mewed. Polnareff looked so lost.

"You do?"

Leone scoffed. "Of course, dickhead."

Polnareff was still shaking but his tears were slowing down. Though, maybe that was just because he'd run out of tears. He looked down at the kitten in his hands, attempting to stand on very shaky legs, and sniffed. Then he held the pathetic thing towards Leone. "Here. Take it, please, I don't want to hurt it." Leone took the cat with something like distaste. Polnareff started to say something then, but he stopped and shook his head. "I-I'm sorry." 

Polnareff could run very fast. He was gone before Leone could even think to chase him and now he was alone and this damn kitten was trying to chew his thumb. He might still be able to follow after Polnareff, but... No. He clearly wanted to be alone and finding him a second time would help neither of them. Cat in tow, Leone started to make his way back through the underbrush to the front of the church. 

"Abbacchio-kun!" Noriaki ran up to him, dark glasses over his scarred eyes, and said, "Did you find Polnareff-kun? Is he alright?"

Leone was already shaking his head. "I don't think he'll ever be okay, Nori', I just..." He made some motion that was almost a shrug. "I caught him once, but... He ran off again. Gave me this cat." He raised his hands to showcase the pathetic thing and it meowed loudly, again setting to gnawing Leone's fingers. "It keeps biting me."

"Oh, the poor little creature..." Noriaki gently pet the kitten for a moment. "I am... Worried... About what Polnareff-kun will do. He is not stable."

"I know, I know, but there wasn't anything I could have done, I- I just..." Leone's eyes started to burn and he blinked hard to get it to stop. 

"I do not doubt it, Abbacchio-kun." Noriaki patted him then, one hardy slap to the top of his head, before turning and heading back to his husband, jabbering something in Japanese that made big Jotaro's face twitch towards worry. Hol Horse was up but looked by no means steady, leaning heavily against Johnny's wheelchair. Johnny was holding Hol Horse's hand, either for moral support or to physically keep him from falling, Leone didn't know which. 

He shuffled back to the group slower, cradling the kitten so it wouldn't jump out of his grip and die on the pavement. He glanced at Hol Horse and muttered to Johnny, "He's going to need to reset his nose soon or it'll be crooked."

Johnny scoffed. "No shit, Sherlock, but I don't know how to do that!"

"Here." He dumped the kitten onto Johnny's lap and set to doing it himself, reaching up towards Hol Horse's face. The big man flinched, making a pained noise of confusion. "Hey, hey, it's alright, hold still... I'm trying to help you, alright? Quit moving around." Bones reset with a very uncomfortable noise. Johnny visibly shivered from it. Hol Horse flinched back again with a low wail, looking at Leone through narrowed, tear-filled eyes. "Yeah, yeah, I'm the worst. It'll be better in the long run. Johnny, can you get him to the hospital on your own?"

"I'll tie him to Slow Dancer." Leone shrugged. Whatever works. Grabbing the kitten by the scruff, Johnny raised it up. "This yours?"

Leone didn't like Johnny holding it like that. He grabbed it, holding it close to his chest. "Yes. Jean gave it to me."

"Then what's its name?"

Leone hesitated. He glanced up at the church and blurted, "Chapel."

"Hmm. I was expecting you to name it after your precious Bruno, but whatever. C'mon Holly."

Cheeks red, Leone watched for a moment as Hol Horse and Johnny made their slow way across the lot, before turning and going to the ugly yellow car that was waiting for him. He sat down carefully in the passenger's seat even though he kind of wanted to just throw himself down, awkwardly holding the newly-Christened Chapel with one hand as he attempted to buckle his seatbelt. Tiziano took the cat and Leone gave him a grateful look, buckling himself in and retaking the scrawny kitten. "Hey, Tiz'."

"Hey, Leo." The nickname almost didn't hurt. "What's up?"

"Um... Ah... J-Jean Pierre is very hurt and I don't know how to help him." Chapel again attempted to get his tiny jaws around Leone's thumb and he sighed.

Tiziano started the car. "Can you tell me why?"

"It-" He bit his lip, reflexively closing his hands and earning a loud yowl from the little cat between them. He released the poor thing. "It's about his sister. How she died. Some... Things came up." He couldn't say anymore. It wasn't his job to tell these things.

"Oh. Damn. I was an only child, so..." He shrugged and the car swerved. "Whoops, too gay to drive. So, um... The cat?"

Leone raised Chapel up to his eye level and the ball of vindictive fluff immediately tried to bite his nose. "Polnareff gave it to me. He ran off, I chased him, ended up behind the church. He was holding it. Said he'd almost crushed it and then ended up handing it over. Named it Chapel."

"That's a cool name. Because of the church?"

"Yeah. Johnny asked me its name and I panicked."

Tiziano giggled, an oddly high-pitched sound, and Leone managed something bordering on a smile. "So, do you wanna head home, or...?" He probably should. He needed to figure out if he was going to keep this cat or not. He needed to start making himself lunch. If Narancia was still hanging around there for some reason, he needed to make sure he wasn't causing trouble. If Narancia was there, then Fugo was there, and he always needed to check up on Fugo... But in the end he gave in.

"Take me to Bruno."

It didn't even occur to Leone that he wasn't supposed to bring a cat into the bakery. He just wanted (needed) Bruno, he wasn't thinking of anything else. So, Chapel to his chest, almost forgetting Tiziano's goodbye, Leone hurried into the shop, looking around for his beloved baker. But there was just Mista and Giorno, cuddled up behind the counter. Mista was all but wrapped around Giorno, the relatively tiny blond nearly lost in his massive boyfriend (fiancé??). Leone gave Mista a sideways glance, really hoping that he was done growing. Narancia wasn't present, which was rather worrying, but Fugo was. He and Trish were squished into a single chair, talking, so Leone left them be. He went to the door that led to the upper level and looked to Mista before opening it, raising a brow in question. Mista nodded. He went up.

Bruno was singing when Leone stepped through the door in a language he didn't know and it damn near stopped his heart. He stood there like an idiot with a wriggling kitten in his hands until Bruno pranced out of the kitchen with his hair pulled into a small bun instead of a braid. He stopped singing and froze when he saw Leone, just blinking at him with wide eyes and Leone grinned uncertainly. "H-Hi?"

Bruno's face went red. "Um. Uh. Y-Yes, hello, Leone, um... When did you get here?"

"Five minutes ago?"

"Oh dear."

"I couldn't understand what you were saying if that's any consolation."

"You know, it really isn't, but thank you for trying." That's about when Chapel let out a shriek and gave them both something else to focus on. "Oh, dear God, is that a cat?"

"Yes?" Leone glanced down at Chapel, nervous. "I-Is that... Bad?"

"Well, no, but..." Bruno came closer with a look of distaste and Leone held the pathetic kitten out. Chapel attempted to stand in Leone's grip, skinny legs shaking, whiskers all aquake, and with the saddest look a cat is capable of giving, it gave a lost little mew. Leone could see the exact moment that Bruno forgot about not liking Chapel. "Oh, the poor thing... Is it hurt?"

"I don't think so? Jean gave him to me after, um, s-some things, so... His name is- is Chapel."

Bruno was just about to pet the small cat but his head jerked up when Leone began to speak, his blue eyes narrowing as he searched Leone's face, something close to a pout on his lips. "Leone?"

"Y-Yes?"

"What's wrong."

Leone shrugged and Chapel shrieked. Wincing, he said, "It's nothing, Bruno, really. Don't worry about it."

Those eyes (so pretty) narrowed further. He pointed at the ground. "Put the cat down."

"Wha-"

"Now, Leone." Leone hurried to obey, placing Chapel on its rather unsteady paws and watching it toddle off until Bruno's hands cupped his cheeks and forced him to look back at those eyes, soft with love now. "Thank you. Now, take off your clothes, okay?" Leone's face went scarlet. What? Here? Now? Hesitantly obeying, trying to figure out what prompted this, Leone wondered if Bruno just planned to fuck the answers out of him. That... Would probably work, actually... He pulled his shirt over his head and tried to cover his stomach on reflex, intensely aware of the difference between how he used to look and how he looked now. Bruno didn't try and convince him that it was okay, or that he looked fine, he just watched with love in his eyes and that was actually what got him to drop his shirt on the ground. He stepped out of his shoes, hopped awkwardly on one leg to get his socks off, then pushed his pants down, stopping with one hand on the waistband of his boxers. Blushing to his ears, he glanced at Bruno, more asking for permission than anything else. Bruno smiled. "It's alright, you can leave those on, come here and lay down on the couch. On your stomach, please." ??? What now? Confusion aside, Leone again obeyed (he always would) laying on his stomach and shifting a bit to get comfortable, watching Bruno.

Bruno rolled up his sleeves and came closer, out of Leone's sight when he got on the couch with him, straddling him really, dick to ass. Leone's face got hotter. "B-Bruno."

"Mm?" Bruno's hands started wandering across Leone's back, just gently tracing the lines of his muscles and Leone let his eyes fall shut, a sigh shuddering from him. "What is it, Leone?"

"I-I just- I- Bruno." Very gently, Bruno's nails scraped against Leone's back and he gasped softly.

Bruno laughed lowly. "Goodness, but you are easy to get a rise out of, hmm?" Leone groaned at the wording, turning his face to hide against the cushions. Bruno's weigh vanished from him and he tensed up, almost turning his head to look, then there was clearly the sound of fabric hitting the floor and he was too busy processing the fact that Bruno was undressing to move. Weight back against his hips and Leone found himself almost shaking. Bruno shifted on top of him, warm hands again running over Leone's bare back. Then Bruno, slowly and carefully, laid down on him, skin against skin and Leone gave a soft keen before he thought to keep silent. Bruno kissed his neck. "Is this better?"

"Y-Yes." Bruno hummed at his answer, one hand going to grab one of Leone's, twining their fingers together while he continued to kiss at his shoulders and neck. And then he just kept doing that, laying naked, or at least nearly so, on top of him. Leone tried to look over his shoulder, almost relieved that he couldn't really meet Bruno's eyes, and muttered, "Aren't you going to...?"

"Mm? Going to what?" Good God, he sounded truly confused and Leone regretted having ever spoken. Unable and unwilling to answer in words, Leone shifted his hips. Bruno squeaked. "Oh, no, no, no, goodness no! I just-" Bruno huffed, nuzzling his face against Leone's hair and muttering, "I just think it feels nicer like this, is all... Do you want me to get off?"

"No, no, I don't... You can stay."

"Thank you, Leone." Bruno shifted, getting his legs tangled up with Leone's and getting his other arm under Leone's head, occasionally humming a few notes of what Leone assumed was his earlier song.

Leone slowly managed to relax and laying on his stomach gradually got less uncomfortable Down There. He let his eyes fall shut again and managed to say, "Will you sing for me?"

"I-I'm hardly worth listening to..."

"Please?"

There was a pause and Bruno sighed. "Alright." And then he started to sing and Leone couldn't remember hearing anything more beautiful.

He fell asleep on accident (he seemed to do that a lot on this couch). Or at least, he assumed he was asleep because Bruno was fucking him and he couldn't quite remember when that started. "Am I asleep?"

In a voice quite unhindered by the roughness of his breathing, Bruno said, "Yes, you are."

"Hmm. Well, alright then." He decided to shut up then, arching his back against Bruno and earning a gentle bite in response. One of Bruno's hands was gripping his hip to keep him steady. Leone was vaguely aware that there were... Other voices around them, but for some reason that didn't seem like too big a deal. "B-Bruno? I wanna see." Bruno was quick to comply, backing off of him and flipping him onto his back, pulling his hips up and carefully pushing in him again before picking up his steady pace. Leone tipped his head, just watching it all happen. Bruno was very good at this.

"You're a good boy, Leone." Still Bruno's voice was largely unaffected by his labored breath. Leone didn't bother with questioning it. One of Bruno's hands went to lay on his cheek and Leone leaned against the touch, closing his eyes with a sigh. Bruno traced the lines of his face with a gentle hand, murmuring softly, "My good boy. Precious Leone, I love you. So much, my good bear, I love you so much."

"I-I love you- love you too, Bruno, Bruno."  Everything felt very good all at once and Leone whimpered, arching his back and reaching out to pull Bruno closer-

-Just as Bruno shook his shoulder to wake him up. "Good heavens, Leone, are you alright?" Bruno. Bruno was so close to him and for a second when Leone looked up at that beautiful face he forgot that he'd just been dreaming. Reaching up to wrap one arm around Bruno's neck, Leone hauled him down, kissing him hard on the mouth and trying to get the baker under him, pressing his lips to anywhere they could reach, his neck, his face, his lips, his shoulders, anywhere Bruno would allow. Hesitantly at first, Bruno allowed himself to be pulled, giving up fully when Leone sucked gently on his neck (he wouldn't leave any hickeys on Bruno). "L-Leone."

"Mm?" Tugging Bruno beneath him, caging the man down with his body, Leone went back to kissing at his neck, sucking and licking at the spots that made Bruno gasp. Shaking hands laid against his hips and Leone smiled even while he continued with his kissing, humming in pleasure and lowing his body closer to the one under him. Damn, but he was hard... "Bruno." Finally (Finally!) their hips pressed together and Leone shivered, reaching up to take those clips from Bruno's bangs (he still wore the ones Leone had gotten him) so he could run his hands through that pretty dark hair.

But then Bruno's grip on him tightened and instead of pulling him close like Leone so desperately wanted, Bruno pushed him away. "Leone, stop." Confused, Leone did as he was told, backing off quickly to cram himself awkwardly in the corner of the couch, giving a Bruno a tired and hurt look. He was (beautifully) ruffled and his blue eyes looked a little dazed even as he tried to straighten his clothes and sit up. "Leone, you can't-" Sighing, Bruno looked away. "Don't do that, Leone."

"Why?" He tucked his legs closer to himself, suddenly very conscious of the fact that he was still barely dressed. 

"Do I have to have a reason?"

"No. Just thought I'd like to hear it if you had one."

"Oh, don't pout..." Sighing again, Bruno stood and went to kiss Leone on the forehead. "Not yet, alright? It's too soon for that."

"I'm sorry, I just..." Leone rubbed the back of his neck. "Was confused, I guess, I just woke up, I mean. Do you want me to go?"

"Of course not." Bruno picked up Leone's clothes, folded on the coffee table, of course, and handed them over. "You can come help me make dinner if you'd like."

"Dinner? How long was I out?" Leone pulled his shirt over his head with something close to relief.

"Oh, not terribly long, it just takes a little while to cook for seven people, you know." There was a weary sort of fondness to Bruno's voice and Leone marveled at how good this man was. Twenty three years old and he'd already declared himself the father of five. Leone had pulled his pants on while he thought this over and the second his arms were free they were around Bruno, holding him just in affection this time, a desperate attempt to let him know how much he was truly loved. Bruno tensed up at first, but then he all but went limp against Leone, humming softly (had he taken the habit from Narancia, or was it the other way around?) as he laid one hand against Leone's. "I'm sorry that I can't give you what you want," he muttered, hiding his face against Leone's arm. "But I just can't do it."

"No, Bruno, dammit, no, don't apologize for that!" This all felt very backwards to Leone. Why would Bruno ever need to apologize to him. Bruno was the perfect one here, he shouldn't ever feel the need to say 'I'm sorry'.

Okay, maybe that was pushing it a bit, but it was still a stupid thing to apologize for.

"I don't care about any of that, Bruno, whatever you want, I want, alright? It's all your choice."

"And if I can't ever want it?"

"Okay. Then I'll just have to make due with the absolute chore of kissing you." Then, gently, Leone pressed a brief kiss to Bruno's hair.

Bruno sighed shakily and his arms went to hug Leone back. "You know... I'm actually glad this came up. It's been bothering me for about three days now, I think."

"Say something sooner next time, dumbass." That at least got Bruno to laugh and he looked up at Leone with something close to a smile, standing on the tips of his toes to kiss Leone on the mouth. Leone tried very hard to not smile, but he did anyway and then Bruno did too.

"Now... Dinner?" Bruno kissed the tip of his nose and slid out of his grasp, bouncing off to do whatever it was he was planning on doing. Leone followed. He didn't know what he was supposed to be doing in here, but if Bruno wanted his company and not his help then he was more than happy to just stay for that too. This was about when Narancia barreled in, screaming.

"Mamaaaa!" The little rat nearly headbutted Bruno in the dick, stopping just in time to spare the poor baker an impromptu transition to sterility. Taking a second to pant after his rush, Narancia held something over his head that Leone did not want to admit the identity of and announced, "I brought dinner."

"Oh, um... Thank you, Narancia, that's very sweet. I don't think this is enough for everyone, though..." With a look of confusion, Bruno took the fried chicken bucket from Narancia's hands, turning to Leone and offering it for his inspection, one brow raised. Leone decided that looking at the ground would be a pretty good idea right about now. Then, of course, Narancia proudly proclaimed, "Papa told me to steal it, so I did."

"Leone!"

"I meant it as a joke and he knew it!" 

Bruno sighed deeply. "He doesn't- Narancia won't- Leone, just don't tell him things, please, for all our sakes." Leone shrugged, still refusing to look anywhere but the floor. Bruno started to wander the kitchen then and Leone heard him mutter, "What goes with this kind of thing anyway? Potatoes?" He decided not to comment. This was more Narancia's field.

Speaking of Narancia, the little rat was in front of him now and Leone scowled, reaching out to rub down the spikes of hair that stuck up from his perpetual bedhead. "What the hell, rat."

"I did like you told me. I did it good too! They never suspected a thing!" Narancia grinned, but for some reason it didn't reach his eyes. Leone narrowed his own eyes a bit, starting to get worried, but Narancia barreled on. "I broke into this restaurant from the back door and snuck around to get it, I even remembered to lock the door behind me so it's like I was never there. I was super nervous 'cause I've never done something like that before, but I did good right?" His grin broadened to near desperate and Leone finally got it.

He reached out and pulled Narancia close, hugging the kid with every ounce of affection he felt for the ratty little thing, pressing his cheek to Narancia's hair. Narancia hugged him back after a moment and that's when Leone muttered, "You will always be enough to me." It was easier to say it when it was quiet and no one else could hear. Leone could almost pretend he hadn't even said it. Narancia's arms tightened around him and Leone returned the more powerful grip. "You ugly rat, I will always love you, okay? You don't have to do anything to keep it that way, that's just how it is. Now," he pulled back and grabbed Narancia by the shoulders, making him look at his face. "Are you going to keep being stupid or do you want to make Pannacotta owe me ten bucks and be smart?"

Narancia managed a wet chuckle. "Make Panna' owe you money."

"That's my boy." Ruffling Narancia's hair into a deeper mess than normal, Leone glanced over his shoulder at Bruno. He still had his back to them both, completely ignorant of what his dirtiest child just showed Leone. Leone decided that maybe, just this once, it was better that Bruno didn't know.

Heaven knows he worried about enough already.

"Um, guys?" Mista looked in, brow furrowed. "Trish found a kitten on the couch, is that normal."

"It's mine." Leone turned to look at the massive man. "Polnareff found it after- He gave it to me after he found it." Leone had no doubt that Bruno had heard the stutter in his voice and he prayed that he wouldn't ask about it, or if he did that it at least wouldn't be around the kids."Its name is Chapel."

"Hmm. Alright. Gio says it's a boy by the way. Couldn't tell you how he figured that out, cats this little don't even have anything down there..." Mista disappeared from sight, muttering the whole time and Narancia followed after him, the same near-bounce to his step as always. Leone hoped he was okay.

Throughout the evening, Leone manage to avoid any questions pertaining to Polnareff, speaking exclusively about Noriaki and his new scars the one time Bruno asked about his group. He fumbled through helping Bruno make a small lunch before just watching him begin the makings of a very large, very involved dinner. It was quite amazing really, to watch how willing Bruno was to spend so much time on just making his kids something to eat. On making him something too, Leone guessed. The thought of this being for him made him blush. 

Giorno absolutely adored Chapel. He hounded Leone on whether he knew proper cat care, on what food to get, what toys, what bed, on and off, only stopping when Mista gently led him away only to come back later with something he'd forgotten to mention, always with the cat on his shoulder. It was actually kind of exhausting. Fugo didn't want the kitten anywhere near him. He almost seemed scared of touching it, keeping Leone between himself and Giorno whenever the cat-toting blond decided to make an appearance. Leone decided that he wouldn't question it. By the end of the day, he was looking forward to bed and dreading the walk home. But then Bruno turned to Narancia (who was still sniffing around for food) and said, "Narancia, will you and Pannacotta be okay walking home alone?"

Narancia shrugged. "I guess."

"Then, Leone, would you like to stay with me?"

Leone had an entire mental and emotional breakdown/repair in the span of about two seconds. He blinked. "I- Uh- I do- Buh- Sure!"

Bruno smiled at him and Leone damn near forgot to breathe. "Thank you, sweetheart. Narancia, do you want to take the cat with you?"

"No way, Fugo don't like it."

"Mm. Then I guess. It'll have to live here. With me." Bruno made a face of distaste for a moment then sighed. "I suppose it's cute enough. We'll go get some things for it- er, him- tomorrow, alright Leone?"

"Y-Yeah, sure, whatever."

Narancia finally got finished with scavenging then and went off, saying, "Bye then," over his shoulder. Slightly muffled, Leone heard him call after Fugo. Bruno hugged him from behind then, his hands, still wet from washing the dishes, curling into fists in his shirt.

"I don't know if it's because I just ate or if it's been a long day, but I am extraordinarily tired."

Leone laid his hands over Bruno's. "Yeah. Yeah, me too."

"I can go tell Giorno and Mista to get out if you'd like to go to bed."

"That would be nice." He really just wanted to watch Bruno tell Giorno to get lost. So, when Bruno released him, Leone followed behind to hear him say it.

Bruno ended up literally just looking into the living room, making eye contact with Giorno, and saying, "Get out." Giorno didn't even question it, he just took Chapel off his shoulder, grabbed Mista's hand, and let himself out. Bruno gave Leone a proud look and Leone gave a weak laugh, kissing Bruno on the forehead.

"You're really something, you know that?"

"So I've been told. Come on. Let's get ready for bed."

Leone followed Bruno, as he always would, the feeling that he was imagining this or that he was still asleep getting stronger the longer it went on. Was he really here? In Bruno's home? Both of them of sound mind and yet going to bed together? Part of him wanted to suggest he sleep on the couch if only to dissuade this blush on his cheeks. But then before he quite knew what had happened, Bruno was helping him out of his clothes and kissing him and he couldn't bear the thought of being without him throughout the night. It was cold after all. Bruno led him to the bed and laid him down, laying himself on Leone's chest and kissing at his throat. Leone wasn't quite sure how something so intimate could be so nonsexual, but here he was, finally able to run his hands through that long hair and thinking of nothing more heated than waking up with Bruno at his side.

Who would have guessed, he thought tiredly, that my greatest sexual fantasy would be waking up next to someone who loves me.

He fell asleep with Bruno in his arms, their legs locked together, as close as they could make themselves be. 

Chapter Text

He was awake enough to have one (1) coherent thought and that thought was Bruno. Taking a deep breath, Leone tightened his arms around this precious man. He'd have smiled if he had the strength for it. Bruno shifted in his grip, moving only enough to tug the blankets further over them both before again hiding against Leone's chest, his breath heating Leone's skin. It felt more right than anything else, to be here with him. Bruno truly was it for him. There wouldn't be another. This would be his happily ever after or it would be his death. Through his blurry thoughts, he saw no problem with this lack of a grey area. At some point, Bruno started to weakly suck on his chest and Leone didn't care enough to stop him, almost falling asleep again before Bruno wriggled away from him to get up.

Reaching for him, making the loudest noise he could manage (a weak whine), Leone tried to get him back, but Bruno just leaned down to kiss him gently before leaving. Leone heard the shower come on. Grumbling, putting Bruno's pillow over his face, Leone curled up and tried to get back to sleep, but it was harder to sleep alone than he'd like to admit. Eventually, the shower cut off and the door opened up, but Leone stayed in hiding. That is, until Bruno threw his entire weight on top of him. Wheezing, Leone managed to roll over only because Bruno allowed it, though the baker immediately laid back down on him again. His wet hair was cold when it fell against Leone's bare neck. "Leone...?"

"Mm?"

"Wan' sleeb..."

"You already took a shower and you're still asleep?" His voice was a little rough from just waking, but at least he was managing full sentences. Bruno nodded, one hand laying on Leone's chest and drawing circles against his skin. Bruno shifted then, grinding their hips together and pressing his face against Leone's throat with a soft sigh and Leone had to make a powerful effort to keep himself from getting hard and making this awkward . Bruno continued to lay on top of him for a moment (Leone was starting to understand that Bruno thought pinning him down was Just Affection), tilting his head just enough to suck and kiss gently at Leone's neck and he had to bite his lip to keep from moaning. Then Bruno grumbled and dragged himself up, presumably leaving to make breakfast, probably for all the kids too. Leone sighed. He really wanted to stay in bed. But he also missed Bruno. Grumbling and tired, he forced himself to follow, shuffling through the house nearly naked to hug him from behind and hide his face against his hair.

Bruno sighed and leaned back against him. He was cutting something up, but Leone couldn't begin to tell what. "Do you want me to put on some coffee?"

"Pleeeeam."

Taking that as encouragement, Leone kissed Bruno's wet hair and went to it, damn near stepping on Chapel in the process. "Dammit, cat!" He got his foot under the little thing and shoved him aside despite his loud meows of protest. "Yeah, yeah, whatever..." He managed to remember what Narancia had showed him, a while back, and got the machine running right. When he turned around, Bruno was sitting on the ground, spitting something out and letting Chapel eat it. "Um. Okay, maybe don't do that."

Bruno looked up with narrowed eyes and shoved something (sandwich turkey???) in his mouth, chewing and spitting it out on his hand without ever breaking eye contact. He gave it to the screaming cat. Leone decided it was best to not protest again. At the very least, Chapel seemed happy to be fed, the scrawny thing eating as fast as he could, something close to a purr rattling out of his narrow chest. When Bruno stopped his weird way of feeding the ugly thing, Chapel set to screaming again. Bruno carefully stroked his spine before standing up and going to wash his hands (Thank God) before getting back to cooking. Leone brought him a cup of coffee. "Thank, Leone." Bruno didn't take the cup, he just put his lips to the edge and Leone tilted it enough for him to drink without thinking. Then he kind of stood there and considered how it came to this. He came to the conclusion that being a cup holder was a helluva lot better than he'd ever thought he'd get.

"Bruno?"

"Mm?"

"Can I kiss you?" Bruno didn't quite answer, but he did tip his head back and close his eyes, so Leone kissed him carefully on the lips and muttered, "Good morning."

Bruno smiled and leaned against him for a moment. "Good morn'." Then whatever he was making started to make a sizzling noise and he went back to shoving it across the pan. Didn't Narancia say that that was so it wouldn't burn? Leone couldn't be bothered with remembering. He set Bruno's mug down where he could reach it then went to get his own, keeping his eyes down so he didn't kick Chapel. He still almost kicked Chapel. Definitely on accident. That cat just really liked running in front of people...

He was just pouring his coffee when a scream echoed through the house and he jumped hard enough to send hot coffee directly onto his hand. From the living room came the screech, "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeey, Brunoooooooo!" Narancia leaned into the kitchen, holding onto the doorframe to keep himself from falling. "Yo, what's for breakfast?"

"Food," Bruno mumbled, giving Narancia a tired smile.

"Aw, fuck yeah, food's my favorite. Mornin' Dads!" Then he was gone before he could even hear Bruno's attempted reply. Leone dried off his hand, grumbling under his breath.

"I'm gunna beat that boy."

Bruno kicked him gently. "Not."

"Am."

"No."

"I will." Leone set off towards the living room. "I'm doing it now." He only made it to the doorway. Looking around the corner, Leone watched as Narancia, knelt in front of Fugo, gently placed his hand on Fugo's arm.

"It's okay?"

Fugo nodded. "Y-Yeah, that's fine."

Narancia lifted his hand, placed it on Fugo's knee. "Okay?"

"It's fine, Narancia."

Then Narancia's hand slid up to Fugo's thigh. He visibly tensed up, his hands curling into fists, his face losing color. Hesitantly, Narancia asked, "Not okay?"

"It's... Fine..." It was clearly Not Fine.

Narancia lifted his hand. "No, it isn't."

"No it isn't," Fugo agreed, but he wouldn't look up.

Narancia reached up, put his hand to Fugo's cheek. "It's okay?"

Fugo leaned into the touch. "Yeah. That's okay."

Leone left them alone. He shuffled back to Bruno and hugged him. "I couldn't do it." Bruno hummed and reached back to pat him gently and Leone huffed. "You already knew though, right?"

"Mmhmm... Leone? Food's almost done... Go put clothes on, maybe? Giorno... Be here soon."

Oh. Yeah, right. Oops. He'd kind of forgotten about the whole walking-around-in-his-underwear thing. Cheeks just tinged pink, Leone hastily made his way to Bruno's bedroom, snatching his clothes off the floor and dressing as quickly as he could manage. When he returned, Bruno was sitting down and Giorno was braiding his hair for him. Those damn eyes looked Leone over, narrowing slightly. Then he went back to Bruno. Narancia hopped over to him, bumping him with pretty much his entire body. "Pops made breakfast. It's not on my level, but you'll have to take what you can get, Abbacchio."

"Please, Bruno's a way better cook than you." Narancia grabbed onto his arm so Leone lifted him up to eye level. "Quit flattering yourself, dirty rat."

Giggling, Narancia let go and dropped to the ground, running back to sit at the table. Something brushed Leone's hand then and he looked down at Fugo. The blond was looking away, but he again reached out to bump Leone's hand with his own before following Narancia. "Good morning, Panna'." Fugo glanced back and nodded. Giorno had finally finished with Bruno's hair, pinning it in place with bobby pins. Mista came in then, with a soft "Time to eat?" that was answered by a chorus of "Yes!". He had Chapel cradled in his big hands, the scruffy kit looking more like trash than an animal. Chapel started screaming the second Mista set him down.

They all sat down and started to eat (Leone wasn't entirely sure what Bruno had made, but it might have had cheese in it), Bruno scooting his chair closer to Leone's so he could lean against him, head on Leone's shoulder, still unwilling to fully open his eyes. Leone was hungry. He wanted to eat. He put down his fork and reached across to lay his hand on Bruno's cheek. Bruno smiled and made a soft noise of appreciation, turning his head just enough to nuzzle his face against Leone's palm. Leone was ready to die. Bruno was just far too cute for him to handle.

Across the table, Giorno was glaring at him and Leone stared back at him, raising a brow. Giorno made a small motion that clearly meant Get your filthy hands off my father's face you mooching ingrate. You fool. You come into MY house, lay your hand on MY father and expect it to just be all fine. Well guess what bucko, I'm going to rip out your spinal fluid. I'll suck your eyes out, I swear to God, I will end you with no hesitation.

Leone stuck his tongue out at Giorno. Like me or not, he thought at the blond, you're going to have to put up with me.

Then, definitely not just to piss off Giorno, Leone turned Bruno's face towards him and gently pressed their lips together. Bruno responded immediately, making a sound that was almost a coo in the back of his throat and turning his body so he could kiss him back easier, reaching up to push his hand in Leone's hair. Narancia shouted, "Stop being gay at the table!" and then Leone felt something hit his hair, so clearly Narancia had already resorted to throwing things. He pulled away before it could occur to Narancia to use his fork like a javelin, though he did stay close to Bruno for a second, just kind of petting his cheek and appreciating how genuinely beautiful he was when he was almost too tired to see straight.

"Bruno?" Speaking hopefully too quietly for the kids to hear.

"Mm~?"

"You're beautiful."

Judging by the immediate, "Aww~" that came from Mista, Leone had not been quiet enough. Cheeks pink, he let Bruno go and focused on breakfast, the blush getting worse when Bruno grabbed his free hand under the table. God, he was such a useless gay.

By the time everyone, even Narancia, was done eating and Mista had gone down to open the shop and Narancia had vanished and Fugo had wandered off and Giorno followed Mista, Leone was Done with socialization. Bruno hugged him from behind while he washed the dishes, his cheek pressed to the back of Leone's neck, and he slightly edited that last thought. He was Done with socialization with everyone but Bruno. Bruno pushed his hair out of the way and kissed him and Leone shivered slightly. "Did you sleep well?"

Leone managed to nod. "Mmhmm."

"I'm glad... I sleep better with you there, I think. Or at least, I did last night... Mm... Have to try it a few more times to tell for sure." Leone's face went red and he ducked his head a bit, just remembering to not drop the plate he held. Lowering his head was a mistake, Bruno immediately started to kiss at him, in the same place he himself had wanted to kiss Bruno, quite a while back, lips occasionally parting against his skin, a warm tongue just brushing his neck. Leone was dying. Surely Bruno knew what he was doing? R-Right? "B-Bruno."

"Mm?"

Leone's grip on the edge of the sink was intense enough to make his knuckles go white. "Please don't- don't kiss me like that unless you're going to fuck me too." Bruno made a soft squeak sound, his arms tightening around Leone's waist. Leone felt Bruno hide his face against his back. "Uh, too straightforward?" Bruno nodded against him. "Sorry..."

"Sorry too... Didn't mean to." Bruno's hands fisted in his shirt and for a little bit there was silence. Then, shyly, Bruno asked, "What else does, um, that?"

"Uh." Leone tried to focus on his job but he was pretty sure that he'd been mindlessly scrubbing this plate for five minutes now. "Um. Wh-When you l-lay on top of me and, um, really get into kissing my neck. Anythi-Anything on my neck- my neck, really." Dammit, nerves stutter! Go away, please, now is not the time. "And, ah, w-when you lick me?"

"Mm?"

"I know! It's weird, but I can't exactly help it..."

"Not judging, not judging..." Bruno's grip on him had relaxed slightly, but he was still holding on to Leone's shirt. "Thank you for telling me, though."

"Mmhmm." He shakily set the plate aside. "The dishes are done."

"Mmkay." Bruno made no move to release him. Leone didn't mind all that much, but if Bruno was going to latch onto him then he'd rather not be standing at the sink.

"Uh, Bruno?"

"Mm?"

"Do you wanna just go lay down on the couch?"

"I should really go see how the kids are doing..." Bruno muttered. Despite this, he grabbed Leone's hand and tugged him into the living room, practically dragging him down on top of him. Leone had no problem with slightly crushing Bruno under his weight, taking advantage of the closeness to kiss at his jaw. Bruno sighed happily, tipping his head back with a soft smile, both arms going around Leone's waist. Softly, Bruno not quite laughed. "Why are you so gentle, Leone?"

"Oh?" He kissed him on the lips, as gentle as he usually made himself be. "And would you like me to be rough?"

He meant it as a joke, but Bruno flushed and looked away. "Maybe for a little bit?"

Oh. Oh my. Leone leaned back enough to search Bruno's face for a moment for any sign that he wasn't serious, but Bruno only met his gaze once in a shy sideways glance. "Really?" Bruno nodded. Leone swallowed, shifting so his body wasn't pressed to Bruno's anymore, mostly to get his hips off of the baker- if he was going to do this, then he wasn't making it out without being almost painfully hard. "Okay... Alright, just... Hold still?"

"Mmhmm." Bruno closed his eyes, relaxed beneath Leone, so completely submissive that for a moment Leone could do nothing but stare.

"Bruno, you're so beautiful." He couldn't help it. He had to make sure Bruno knew how perfect he was or he was going to explode from the force of these emotions. "You're so beautiful," laying his hand on Bruno's waist, still hesitant despite having permission, Leone leaned down to press a kiss to Bruno's neck. "Perfect," his hand started to move, rubbing up and down his side, grabbing at him just gently, practically kneading at him like a pleased cat. "Beautiful," he kissed him harder, fully up the curve of his neck then along the bottom of his jaw, only stopping when he got just below Bruno's ear. "Bruno," gently still, he let his teeth graze the shell of Bruno's ear, getting a shiver from the baker and a very quiet gasp. "Bruno," his hand got more insistent when he was given no sign of discomfort, grabbing at Bruno's body, pushing under his shirt so he could drag his nails down his skin, careful not to mark him. He let his lips part when they pressed again to Bruno's throat, pressing his tongue to his pulse and shivering slightly from it, pushing himself closer, kissing hard, just enough for his teeth to press against skin. He wanted so badly to bite that pale neck but he made due with just a gentle touch, grazing him as opposed to marking him, sucking on spots that made Bruno arch his back, just slightly.

"L-Leone." Leone froze, one hand gripping Bruno's hip, his mouth still on his neck. One of Bruno's hands laid on the back on Leone's head, pushing him down like he could possibly be closer. "No, don't- don't stop-" If he could purr, he would have, shifting to hold himself up with just his legs, both hands pulling, rubbing, and kneading at Bruno's soft body, so willing under him, while he continued his now-frantic kissing, letting his teeth graze skin with more and more pressure, dragging his canines down Bruno's neck, his tongue pressed out against skin, his whole body shaking from the want. He'd never wanted anyone or anything more than he wanted Bruno Bucciarati.

Bruno's eyes looked nearly glazed over, his breathing coming shallower by the second, perfectly accepting of everything Leone gave him. One hand came up to grab Bruno by the chin, turning his head straight so Leone could kiss his lips, licking his way into that pretty mouth and moaning at the feel of him, at the warmth and softness of this perfect man's tongue against his own. It took of moment, but Bruno attempted to copy his desperate movements, his tongue moving awkwardly against Leone's, but after four or five wet kisses he managed to reach something close to adequacy, that one hand still curled weakly in Leone's white hair. Bruno had never allowed Leone to kiss him like this until this moment. Not that Leone had asked or attempted it. It hadn't been given so Leone had not tried, but God, he regretted not having this sooner. 

He got maybe a minute of this before Bruno laid a hand on his chest and he backed off a bit, searching Bruno's flushed face. "That... That's good, Leone, that's... Enough..." Leone saw the shiver that went through him and wondered what it was he was trying to keep back.

"Did-" His face went slightly pink and he glanced away. "Did you like it?"

"God, yes." They were both blushing then, barely able to meet the other's gaze for more than a moment at a time. Bruno cleared his throat and muttered, "Should we go check on the kids?"

"Um, yeah. Yeah." He got off him, hoping the problem in his pants wasn't too obvious, and helping him up, glancing at the red blotches that were already fading but covered Bruno's neck. He reached out and pulled Bruno against him, burying his face against that marked-up neck and breathing in the smell of him before the bakery's sugar got in the way. Bruno still smelled sweet, even just showered. Leone held him tighter.

"Leone? Are you alright?" Leone nodded, but Bruno still wrapped his arms around him and muttered, "Is it because of yesterday? Do you want to tell me what happened?"

He shook his head. "Just... Another minute? Please?"

He felt Bruno lay his cheek against his hair, one hand gently going up and down his spine. "Of course, sweetheart." It was more than a minute.

When they finally made their appearance downstairs, Trish was there, standing behind the register, and Leone started to say hello but then she tensed up before just... Dropping. She curled up on the ground, clearly attempting to be as small as possible, wrapping both arms over her head like she was trying to hide her bright hair. Then the bell above the door tinged and the pink haired man from the cat cafe walked in, the strange boy holding his hand. Leone went to the register, legs awkwardly spread as he placed himself directly over Trish. "Hello, how can we help you this morning?"

He directed the question at the taller of the pair, but the boy, Doppio, pulled the man behind him before stepping up to the counter. "Good morning. Cake?"

"Um. We have cake, yes, what kind would you like?"

Doppio tipped his head back a bit. "Boss? What do you want?" The big man leaned down to speak quietly to Doppio and the boy nodded. "Mm. Chocolate." Leone glanced at Bruno, meeting those worried blue eyes with a look of his own unsettlement. He told Doppio the price and started to ring him up while Bruno fumbled by the display case, clearly panicking on how to translate 'chocolate' when there was approximately four different kinds. Leone kept finding his eyes drawn to the larger man, standing quietly with his head turned away, pink hair nearly hiding his face. The more seconds that passed, the more agitated Doppio seemed as well, twitching occasionally or even starting to click once. Leone really wanted them gone, they unsettled him in a way few people ever had. It was when he looked back up at the man for perhaps the tenth time that Doppio nearly threw himself onto the counter to get his hand on Leone's neck. "What are you looking at, bastard?" The words were hissed hard enough for spit to hit Leone's face and for a second he was too shocked to defend himself, wheezing when the boy's hand tightened on his windpipe. "Keep your eyes off what isn't yours."

"Here you are." Bruno arrived, voice cold, holding out a brown paper bag with the store's logo and Doppio dropped away immediately, his rather round face softening back into neutral.

"Oh, thank you... Diavolo, here." Doppio handed the bag to his companion and they began to make their exit together, but Doppio froze at the door, head cocked. He turned his head, looking with narrowed eyes at Leone. Then his gaze slid downward, staring intently at where Leone's feet were and for a moment Leone got the feeling that he could see Trish. But that was ridiculous. He left then and Leone let out a sigh of relief, stepping back and away from Trish just as Bruno was on him.

"Are you alright?" Fingertips just brushed his throat. "Did he hurt you?" A gentle hand brushed the spit off his face. "Leone, I'm so sorry." Soft lips against his own and Leone shut his eyes, relaxing against Bruno's wonderful affection, whimpering when he pulled away all too soon. Bruno didn't come back and kiss him again despite his clear need to be kissed, so Leone pouted and watched as Bruno crouched by Trish, laying a hand on her shoulder and saying quietly, "Trish are you alright? Did... Have one of those men hurt you?"

Trish's hands were hiding her face, but one eye peered up at Bruno from between her fingers. Softly, almost like she was afraid of saying it, Trish whispered, "Diavolo is my father." Bruno looked up, his blue eyes seeking out Leone's for a moment before he turned back to the girl and gently began to help her up.

"Come on Trish, let's go to the kitchen, alright? They're gone now, so let's hurry along. Giorno?" Bruno, one arm around Trish's shoulders, began to herd her out of sight, Giorno detaching himself from Mista to follow.

Mista made to follow as well, but stopped at the kitchen's door, going over to Leone instead, brow furrowed, his big hands shoved in pockets that were already falling open. "What happened to Trish? Is she gunna be alright?"

Leone shrugged. "Couldn't say. I don't know her too well. Did you see that big guy? Pink hair?" Mista nodded. "She said that's her dad. She's scared of him." Great. Someone else was falling apart and Leone didn't know how to help them either. Then the bell ringed hard, the sound of someone throwing open the door almost violently, and Leone turned his head sharply, almost expecting that boy to be back, but it was Noriaki standing there, red hair an absolute mess, a coat thrown over his shoulders that was several times too big. He ran up to the counter, leaning over it and reaching out towards Leone, chattering in Japanese, and Leone had to grab his hands to quiet him enough to say, "Woah, Noriaki, I don't speak Japanese, please, use Italian, I can't understand you." He kept on chattering, an occasional word of Italian getting thrown in. What was clearest to Leone though was when Noriaki said, "Polnareff-kun."

Fear and terror are not the same. Leone knew fear well, had been afraid for so long that fear barely meant anything to him anymore, but terror? True terror, that froze your blood, sunk its teeth into your marrow, simultaneously stopped and accelerated every thought you could possibly have? That was new to him. Jean Pierre? His Jean Pierre?

He'd meant to think it, but maybe he'd said it aloud, because Noriaki was nodding. "Yes, yes, yes, Polnareff-kun, yes."

Bruno. Leone needed Bruno. Letting go of Noriaki's hands, he staggered around a confused Mista and shoved himself into the kitchen, looking around wildly for a moment. He was losing control of his breathing. What had Noriaki like this? Completely unable to recall Italian? Frantically trying to make him understand? What had happened to Jean Pierre? Hands locked onto his upper arms, forcing him still, and Leone looked into eyes that were entirely too green. "Calm yourself," Giorno said lowly, shifting with Leone when he tried to look away. "Calm, Abbacchio, breathe." Giorno had yet to blink. How could he go so long without blinking? Didn't it burn? "Breathe." He didn't want to breathe, he wanted to scream, but those eyes wouldn't let him go and he found his breathing matching to Giorno's against his will. "Breathe."

He was still shaking, but he could think somewhat rationally when Giorno released him. Bruno was there then (when had he gotten so close?), brushing Giorno's shoulder and saying a thanks before taking Leone's face in his hands. "Leone? Darling, what's wrong?"

"It's Jean." Leone pressed forward, getting close to Bruno and wrapping his arms around him, shivering when Bruno returned the hug. He wished he'd call him darling again. "Something's happened to Jean and Nori' can't tell me what it is. He's terrified, Bruno. Bruno, I don't know what to do." Dammit, he was crying. He didn't want to cry. He didn't want to. "Please, Bruno, please tell me what to do." His voice was shaking and his eyes burned. "Bruno, say everything's okay, please." He gripped Bruno harder. He was shaking again. "Please."

"Oh, Leone..." Bruno turned his head and kissed Leone on the neck, a very gentle pressure, one hand going up to pet Leone's hair. He didn't tell Leone what to do. He didn't tell him it was going to be alright. Very, very quietly, he told him, "I love you."

Leone broke down just as Noriaki decided to follow him, his chattering filling the kitchen with its fear. Bruno didn't let go of him and Leone crouched down closer, hiding his face, and Bruno let him, speaking over his head at Noriaki. "Nori', we can't understand you, you need to calm down. Calm down, Noriaki! Where is your husband? Jojo? Where is Jojo?"

"Jojo? Jojo?" A flurry of Japanese followed and Leone felt Bruno sigh. He didn't say anything else, but Giorno started to speak quietly, presumably to Noriaki, and eventually the redhead's voice faded to silence and he started to copy Giorno's breathing with deep breaths of his own. "I- I sorry- Polnareff-kun, he is- Ah-" Leone shifted and Bruno let him go enough for him to turn and look at Nori'. Noriaki tried again. "Polnareff-kun is in..." He made some motions with his hands. "Box? Bad box? Box? House?"

Giorno tapped Noriaki's arm to get his attention and made some strange but clearly deliberate motions and Noriaki's face lit up. He started frantically motioning towards Giorno and the blond's eyes narrowed in concentration. "He says that Jean is in jail for attacking someone. Leone needs to come with him because Jean will not calm down. He says that he is afraid he will be put into prison for refusing to cooperate."

"I have to go." Leone turned to Bruno, both hands still gripping the baker's shirt. "I-I have to go, Bruno, will you be alright?"

Bruno almost laughed in a very bitter kind of way. "You're worried about me? I'll be fine, Leone. Go. Get your friend."

"But..." Leone looked across the kitchen, catching a flash of Trish's pink hair just as she ducked out of view. "Trish?"

Something flickered across Bruno's face and he laid one hand on Leone's chest, pushing him gently away. "Leone she's scared of you." He spoke quietly and begrudgingly, his expression making it clear that he hadn't wanted to tell Leone this. Leone just stared at him. Bruno tried again. "You're a big man that she doesn't know, Leone, she doesn't like it when you're close to her. I-... I'm sorry. But it would actually be better if you weren't here right now. Go. I'll take care of Trish and you go take care of Jean, okay?" Then he kissed him softly on the lips and slid out of his arms, trotting away after Trish and leaving Leone alone.

Noriaki grabbed his arm and started to lead him away, nearly dragging him out of the kitchen and through the bakery, turning to fuss at him by the door when Leone had not yet looked away from the kitchen door. Trish was scared of him...? He only snapped out of it when Noriaki hit him on the back of the head and barked, "Abbacchio-kun, follow! Now!" Leone obeyed, allowing himself to be pulled out of the building and then shoved into the back of Nori's sleek black car. Jotaro was behind the wheel, but he didn't even turn his head to acknowledge Leone's presence. Leone didn't mind. The entire drive, all he could do was stare blankly out of the window, his thoughts so sluggish as to be motionless. Trish... Was scared of him? Polnareff... In jail? What? Nothing was quite lining up right and Leone didn't like it. He wanted Bruno. Bringing one hand to his mouth, he idly dragged his canines over the raised edges of his scars, watching the road wind by with eyes half shut. He damn near fell out of the car when Noriaki opened the door.

"Up, Abbacchio-kun. We are here." Apparently, Noriaki had finally calmed down enough to speak plain Italian, but Leone couldn't remember when it'd happened. He got out of the car and turned around.

He didn't want to be here, didn't want to be here, didn't want to be here, he'd worked here, he'd been here before, only he'd been the one of the ones with the keys. He wanted to go home. He needed Bruno. He didn't want to be here.

Noriaki took his arm and made him walk, leading him to and through the doors. Everything after was a blur until he was sitting in an uncomfortable chair, waiting his turn to see Polnareff. Noriaki was talking to someone, saying something that Leone couldn't hear (he could barely hear anything past his own heartbeat). Then he was moving, being pushed forward again and then he was shoved in a chair and Polnareff was in front of him, shoulders slumped, pale hair in his face. Leone stared at him for a moment. "Hey, Jean."

The Frenchman tried for a smile. "Hey, Abba."

He was still wearing his own clothes, not those of a prisoner, but they were dirty and there was a rip going down the front of his shirt, quite a bit of his pale chest exposed. He was handcuffed to the table between them. Hesitantly, Leone reached out and laid his hand over Polnareff's. "Jean, what happened to you?"

Polnareff laughed and in it Leone could hear every reason why they'd needed someone to calm him down: he was ready to kill anyone who got too close. He looked up, just enough for his blue eyes to show through the strands of white hair that fell in his face. Beneath Leone's hand, Polnareff started to shake. "Nice of ya, to make this about me. If you must know, I almost killed a man." He laughed again, further on edge. One arm jerked up against his restraints and he hissed, face wrenched into an expression of rage so pure that for a moment, Leone was scared of him. Then Leone reached forward and gently brushed Polnareff's hair out of his face. And then he just looked hurt.

"Tell me what happened." Leone laid one hand on his cheek, gently making sure he didn't look away. "Just tell me, Jean."

Then he started to cry. It wasn't like how he usually cried, Polnareff had always looked angry or just flat empty, but this? This was an ugly kind of sobbing, his whole big body heaving from it, a pathetic whimper coming out with his exhale. Through shaking cries and hiccoughs, Polnareff managed to speak. "He was gunna hurt her, Abba, he was gunna hurt her, I had to do it, if I hadn't then- then- then I'd be no better than that damn Hol Horse, I couldn't let it happen, not again, not again, Abba, it wasn't my fault, I didn't have any other choice, I-"

Leone knew that he wasn't allowed to get too close to the prisoner. No prolonged hugging, no kissing, no getting naked, nothing that could allow the transfer of items. He didn't really care. He went around the table and wrapped his arms around his best friend, pressing his cheek to that pale hair and rocking him gently while he continued to sob and splutter out that he'd had to, had to, had to. "I know, Jean, I know, it's not your fault, you didn't do anything wrong."

"Y-You're not supposed to stand that close to him."

Leone looked over at the guard he hadn't noticed standing by the door. He narrowed his eyes, just slightly. "What's your name, boy?"

Maybe it was because of his tone, but the young guard jumped a bit. "S-Sale Zucchero, sir."

"Officer Zucchero-" The man straightened up a bit at that, "- you are aware of the purpose of that rule?"

"Yes sir! To prevent the transfer of objects that may help in the prisoner's escape."

"Good lad. Now, this man I have is innocent of all wrongdoing. Under the laws of self defense, he cannot be prosecuted for the protection of himself or another person. If he's going to be released, why would he need to escape?" Sale shifted at that, brow furrowing. Leone stood up straighter himself, one hand on Polnareff's shoulder. "Now, I need you to go and get your superior. Tell them that this man is ready to provide a statement and in the event of a trial, he is pleading not guilty under self defense. Dismissed."

The officer left quickly. Leone felt strangely disconnected from all this. Was he really still so good at giving orders? So long as it had worked, Leone supposed it didn't matter.

"Damn. Guess you really were a cop, huh?" Polnareff was smiling at him weakly, tears and snot still running down his face. "You sound like one. I've never heard it before now." Leone shrugged and muttered dismissals, cleaning Polnareff's face with the apron he still wore. "Thanks..."

"Of course. You'll be just fine, Jean, I'll get you out of here."

"They won't want to let me go, you know. That girl ran off, there's no one to confirm what I'm saying."

"I'll... We'll think of something."

Leone leaned down and kissed Polnareff on the cheek just when the door opened and the young guard was dragged in by an angry looking man with swept back sandy blond hair. He pushed Sale back to where he was originally standing and barked, "Stay. I'll deal with you later." Sale flinched, but muttered a "Yes sir!"

Giving the young man another stern look, the older one finally turned to Leone. "So, you're the one that finds it so easy to talk my recruits into disobeying orders."

"Yes sir, I am." Leone smiled without warmth. "My name is Leone Abbacchio."

This man recognized his name. Leone could see it on his face. Hopefully he wouldn't remember quite where he'd heard it before. "Adriatico." He gave no other name. "Polnareff. You're ready to talk sensibly?" There was no response from the Frenchman and Leone bumped him gently, prompting him to nod once. "Good. Signore Abbacchio, you may leave."

'May leave' meant 'get the fuck out.'

Leone stayed long enough to make Polnareff look him in the eyes one last time and muttered, "You'll be okay," before separating himself from Polnareff, leaving quickly with a last look at Adriatico. Noriaki was on him almost as soon as he was out the door, holding onto his arm and pulling him towards Jotaro.

"Oh, Abbacchio-kun, do you think he will be okay?" The redhead was still wearing those dark sunglasses over his eyes, like he had not long after his eyes had first healed, and for the first time Leone realized that the lenses were almost big enough to completely cover up Noriaki's scars. His heart ached.

"I don't know, Nori'. I just-" And then Mohammed Avdol walked up with a woman on his arm, grinning like a fool.

"Hello. I'm not late, am I?" He looked from person to person, that grin never faltering. "I mean, I came as fast as I could, but you know. He's alright, yes? Oh, and I found her, by the way, so that's one less thing. Oh, Noriaki, how's the whole kid business coming? It's next week yes? No delays?"

"Um, I- Ah, N-No, everything's fine." Noriaki shuffled closer to Jotaro, linking his arm with his husband's. "Who is she?"

"Mm? Oh!" Mohammed laid a hand on the woman's back and gently urged her a bit forward. "She's the woman my Jean Pierre saved." Again, that grin, absolutely triumphant. "Now they'll have to let him go, yes?"

Leone supposed he should have been happy, but he was just so damn tired. He wanted to go home. He slumped and shuffled past Mohammed, sighing lowly and making for the door. "Abbacchio-kun?" Noriaki called after him and Leone stopped, turning around just enough to look over his shoulder.

"Jean's okay. So I'm going home." He kept going. No one tried to stop him again. It was a pretty long walk from here to Bruno, but he didn't mind too much. He'd get there, one way or the other.

Chapter Text

It wasn't exactly cold out, but the wind was blowing and it made it worse. He had long since stopped trying to fix his hair. He was so tired. He was so focused on walking that when he arrived at his destination, he almost missed it. He pushed open the door and looked at Bruno, standing behind the desk. When the door shut behind him was when he started to cry.

"Oh, baby!" Bruno almost ran to him and Leone just managed to raise his arms before the baker slammed into him, gripping him powerfully and kissing at his face. "What's wrong? Is everything alright? Oh, you look awful, poor thing, are you hungry? What do I need to do, Leone?" He was just too much sometimes. Leone gently laid his hand over Bruno's mouth and shushed him, careful to not sound mean, and leaned his head against Bruno's. 

"Please, just... Just a minute, that's all."

Bruno's grip on him softened and he pulled away, his hands sliding to Leone's. He tugged Leone behind himself, leading the way to the stairwell's door and calling towards the kitchen, "Mista, come out of there sweetheart, your turn for the register," before tugging Leone up the stairs. He could barely make it. His legs were burning so badly. Bruno didn't rush him. When they finally got to the top, Leone expected to be led to the couch, but Bruno gently urged him onward, deeper into his home, into his bedroom. Bruno started to undress him and all Leone could really do in response was raise his arms a bit to help Bruno get his shirt off. Standing in his boxers, Leone put a hand to his stomach, poking at the just-visible lines of muscle with a pout. "Now, stop that..." Bruno took  his hands, kissed them, and led him to the bed, sitting him on the edge and kissing his forehead before muttering, "Stay." He obeyed, of course. Bruno left him, disappearing into the attached bath and Leone heard the water start running.

He was wondering if he was allowed to lay down on the bed when something scratched his foot and a loud yowl rang out. Leaning over, he gave Chapel a tired look, reaching down to scoop the kitty up when he let out another scream. "Yeah, yeah, I hear you..." He held the cat close to himself so he wouldn't drop him, considering his crooked whiskers and big eyes. "What's up, scruff? Mm?" Purring rather rustily, Chapel tipped his head to rub it on Leone's hand so Leone pet him carefully and the purring got a little more intense. Then the cat started to wriggle, so Leone put his down on his small paws and watched him trot over to where his clothes were laid on the ground, tug them into something like a nest, then curl up with his tail over his nose. He was still watching the cat when the sound of water stopped and Bruno reappeared. He turned to him, a smile coming easier than he thought it would. "Bruno."

"Yes, it's me." Bruno kissed him again and grabbed his hands. "Come on, Leone, up you go. Let's go in here, alright?" Leone yawned but nodded, shuffling after Bruno to the bathroom. The bathtub was full and almost overflowing with soap bubbles. "I put a little too much..." Bruno muttered, cheeks just turning pink. He reached out towards Leone, laying his hands on his hips and starting to push his boxers down, but he stopped at the last second. "Um... Is this alright, Leone? I-I could turn around if you'd rather do it yourself." It took him longer than he'd like to admit to figure out what Bruno was saying, but then he nodded and gently brushed Bruno's hands away, doing it for himself when the baker turned around. He hesitated, then stepped into the bath, whimpering slightly at the too-hot water, but sitting down in it anyway to hide himself for when Bruno turned back around. 

Bruno knelt beside the bath when Leone made a noise that was meant to be, "It's alright," but that came out more like, "Hnnnmmmmmmn."

"Is the water alright?" Leone nodded even though it was still too hot. Bruno smiled at him, kissed him again, and rolled up his sleeves before grabbing a cup on the side of the tub, filling it with the bathwater, and dumping it over Leone's head. Scalded, he whined and gave Bruno a weak glare, but the baker just laughed softly and said, "None of that now, you've got to get cleaned up. You'll feel better, I promise." Leone sighed, slumping down in the water and leaning against the tub's side, looking up at Bruno, moving only enough for Bruno to scrub his hair when the time came. Chin on the tub's edge, he shut his eyes with a sigh, just enjoying the feeling of Bruno's hands in his hair. He was so gentle, like he thought the shampoo might hurt him or something. Not that Leone minded. It felt… nice. To be cared for.

Bruno washed his hair clean of soap and gently made him sit up, rubbing conditioner in his hair before rinsing it out too and starting to carefully rub down Leone's body with a soft washcloth. Leone sat with eyes half shut through all of it, absolutely lost in the feel of Bruno's care, only really reacting when Bruno's hands slid down, under the water to run down his thigh. "B-Bruno?"

"Hmm?" Again, up and down the length of his thigh, so very close to touching him some place very sensitive.

"Close-Cl-Close."

"What?… Oh!" He pulled away, cheeks red. "I apologize, Leone, I was not thinking."

Blushing too, Leone sunk down in the bath. "I's alright… I-I don't really care, if it's you."

Bruno blushed harder than Leone had ever seen and it was beautiful. He watched him with wide eyes, shamelessly enamored with him. Trying not to get water on the floor, Leone lifted his hand free of the soap and water, reaching towards Bruno as much as he dared. Bruno smiled and took it. Leone felt like everything might end up okay after all. Bringing his wet hand to his lips, Bruno kissed his busted up knuckles, so much tenderness for his scars in that soft motion. "Leone, are you ready to get out? I'll braid your hair for you, if you'd like."

"Yes. Yes please." He almost stood up right then, but Bruno had made it pretty clear that that would be very uncomfortable for him, so he just sat up straighter while Bruno reached down to pull the tub's plug and got him a towel.

"Here, Leone." He held one open, head turned away, and Leone stepped out, letting Bruno wrap it around him and start to pat him down.

"Y-You don't have to…"

"I know. I want to."

His cheeks stayed red even when Bruno left to get him something to wear. Bruno returned with pajamas. "B-Bruno, I don't think your pajamas will fit me."

"Oh, they aren't mine, I bought them for you." He smiled then seemed to realize what he'd said. "I-I hope that's okay. I was going to give them to you later, but… H-Here, just try them on." They were solid black and very soft and Leone loved them because they smelled like Bruno. He dropped his towel and dressed when Bruno turned around, wondering idly if Bruno'd bought the boxers for him too or if they just happened to wear the same size there. When he was decent, Bruno led him to the bed and sat him down and again Leone found himself drifting nearly thoughtless while Bruno's hands combed through his hair.

Bruno didn't have a brush. Leone almost suggested that it would be easier if he went and got one, but the words never made it past his lips and he sat in pure contentment for what seemed like ages as Bruno gently worked the knots from Leone's long hair with just his hands, eventually beginning to pull the strands together into a braid. When it was done, Leone turned around to ask him how it looked, but he couldn't speak past Bruno's tongue when the baker leaned forward and shoved it in his mouth. Giving a soft groan against Bruno's mouth, Leone allowed himself to be pushed back, spreading his legs to let Bruno between them, wrapping his arms around his perfect man and holding him close as he kissed him. Bruno still wasn't very good at this kind of kissing. Their teeth kept bumping against each other, Leone already had Bruno's spit on his face, and his tongue wasn't moving quite right, but he didn't care. Bruno was kissing him and that was all he could ever want. When Bruno pulled away they were both panting from lack of air. "Ah… Sorry…" Bruno wiped off Leone's face then his own, cheeks pink. "I just… I wanted to…" Instead of continuing, Bruno leaned back down to kiss Leone again, very briefly. "Leone, I love you. You know that right?"

Leone studied Bruno's face. There really was so much love there, though he couldn't imagine why it was being given to him. He laid one hand on Bruno's cheek, rubbing his cheekbone with a thumb. "Yeah, I know."

"Alright… S-So, will you tell me what's been bothering you? What was wrong today?" Bruno laid his head down on Leone's chest, reaching for his hand and twining their fingers together. "Will you just talk to me, Leone?" Leone didn't answer. He couldn't think of anything to say. Then, quietly, "If you tell me something, I'll tell you something?"

Leone wrapped his free arm tighter around Bruno's waist. "Okay."

And so he told him, as simply as he could manage, from the very beginning. About Sherry. About Polnareff. About how Hol Horse has ended up mixed in with it all and how furious it had made Polnareff. About how he ran away, how he gave Leone the cat, how he'd looked ready to tear himself apart. About just this morning, when he'd been dragged across town to somewhere he could barley stand being in without breaking down, to talk to a very angry Frenchman in a building full of people who hated him. He hadn't run into anyone who'd known him, but he could have. He could have and the possibility of it still terrified him.

"And then Mohammed shows up like everything's fine, like Jean Pierre isn't in a cage, like the whole world is just peachy, some scared girl on his arm, and I just… I was done. I walked out the door and I didn't stop walking until I got here."

Bruno had shifted on top of him while he talked and now his face was tucked against the curve of his neck. It didn't take very much effort for Bruno to kiss him, but even that soft touch was enough to send a shiver down his spine. "Oh, love…" Bruno's words were breathed warm against his skin, another soft kiss making him arch his back, just slightly, towards the man on top of him. "My precious Leone, I'm so sorry…" Leone could not recall the last time he had been called precious. It was nice. Bruno moved, lips just touching Leone's skin, shifting upward  until their mouths fit together and Leone shut his eyes, surrendering entirely to the comfort that was Bruno's warmth. He did not deserve this. He was a filthy bastard of a man and the hands that wandered lovingly up Bruno's sides tainted him every moment they lay against his skin, but he couldn't make himself stop. He parted his lips against the heat of Bruno's tongue, sighed into the touch, both hands trailing poison across Bruno's purity as they roamed under his shirt, over pale skin that was warm against his palms, over a body that moved with his touch, encouraging him without words. "Leone." His name, barely breathed, spoken with such a perfect reverence, it burned him in some way, made his soul as tired as his body. There was no force behind the tears when they came. They simply poured, unhindered and unhelped, down his face.

Bruno held him, asking what he'd done wrong, if Leone was okay, what he needed to do, and for the second time that day, Leone had to shush him. "You didn't do anything, Bruno. I'm not okay, but there's nothing you need to do about it, just… Just please don't leave me." Leone's arms tightened around Bruno, feeling the gentle give of his body beneath the pressure. "Please stay with me."

"Oh, Leone…" Bruno wiggled out of his grip, sitting up and away, and Leone was suddenly terrified that he'd said too much, done too much, that Bruno knew how deep Leone's love for him truly ran and he could not reciprocate. But there was nothing but affection on that face and Leone wondered idly if Bruno would even mind that Leone damn near idolized him. He smiled then and in a voice like salvation, he purred, "Why would I ever leave you?" Leone had a hundred thousand reasons, but none would make it past his throat. Bruno started to get off of the bed and Leone watched him blankly, already missing the weight of his body and the heat of his lips. "Do you need to sleep? You're more than welcome to my bed."

Leone flushed. He wondered if Bruno understood the double meaning of those words. "I- No, I- If I sleep now, I'll wake up before the sun." He forced himself to sit, attempting a smile and failing utterly. He wiped his face on his sleeve. "I'll be fine." This being followed immediately by a yawn.

"Well, if you're certain. The whole of my home is yours, Leone. Go where you will." Bruno leaned forward and Leone hurried to meet him halfway, whimpering just before their lips touched and he felt Bruno smile against him. "Silly bear…" The words murmured against his mouth in a way that sent a shiver up Leone's spine that he had no desire to hide.

"Bruno." Half thanks, half beg, Leone looked into those beautiful blue eyes. Why, he wanted to ask, do you hold back? He could see it, the heat Bruno was trying so hard to smother. Why not let yourself feel it? But he couldn't ask. Of course he couldn't. He had no right to ask anything of Bruno Bucciarati.

"Leone." Bruno's expression was soft, adoring even. "I have to go check on the kids, alright? Will you be alright alone?" No. He wouldn't be and he knew it, but if he asked Bruno to stay then he would and he could not make himself do that to Bruno. He nodded and Bruno smiled, kissing him one last time. "Then I'll be downstairs. If you need me before I come back, please, just come get me." Leone nodded like he could ever possibly make himself do that. Bruno left then and Leone watched the door long after it had swung shut, sitting in Bruno's bed. His heart was heavy and his pants were too tight and he wondered what Bruno would do if he found Leone touching himself in his bed. He shook his head to try and clear away the thoughts and forced himself to stand, limping from the bedroom to the living room, stroking his braid absently. He already missed Bruno, but he wasn't going to follow him down and beg for attention like some-

There was a yowl at his feet and Leone sighed. Like some scrawny cat that was entirely too comfortable in this house. "Hello to you too, Chap'." Another scream, so Leone picked him up, rewarded with a rusty purr and a gentle bite. Wincing, Leone carried Chapel to the kitchen, wondering if he was hungry. Cats needed lunch too, right? Surely there was something cat-friendly in Bruno's refrigerator. He felt almost guilty going through the fridge's contents for some reason, hastily pulling out a package of sandwich ham and taking some for the cat before shoving it back and shutting the door. Chapel was screaming again, maybe he smelled food, and Leone sat him down to try and pull the ham apart into smaller pieces so the kit didn't choke. Chapel, still screaming, began to climb up Leone's leg almost immediately, stumbling and rolling down into the middle of Leone's folded legs several times. "Geez, calm down, you act like you've never been fed." Well… Judging by the cat's visible ribs, he very well may have been starving for a long while. He fed Chapel and in his haste the cat nipped Leone's fingers several times. He didn't bother with scolding him. He was just hungry, after all.

When the ham was gone and Chapel's frantic bites had calmed to rough licks, Leone picked him up and carried him to the living room, sitting on the couch and again setting Chapel down, offering a hand for the kitten to lick at. Purring just loud enough to hear, Chapel crawled onto Leone's palm as best as he could fit, curling his legs under himself and licking at Leone's fingers, tail tip twitching. Well damn. He couldn't very well move now. Quickly growing bored with watching the cat, Leone looked around himself for something to do, focusing on the couch cushions, bent oddly around something. He shoved his hand between them and pulled out a book, plain covered and clearly hastily hidden. Curious, he managed to open it to the first page and started to read it.


Curled up in the corner of the couch, gently biting one knuckle, cheeks aflame, Leone read the book. Chapel had wandered off long ago, he didn't know where. He was over halfway through the novel and enraptured by how entirely filthy it was. Its only purpose seemed to be to figure out how many ways one could detail two people rutting before publishing companies wouldn't let it be released. It was entirely inaccurate, as books like this often were, but still… It was also like a traffic accident. Horrible as it was, he couldn't look away. What made it somehow worse was that the story aside from the sex was interesting. Whoever wrote this monstrosity actually had something and then they ruined it with repeated and inaccurate porn scenes. Was… Was this Bruno's? Leone hadn't really bothered to take the time to think about it, but he supposed it had to be. He couldn't imagine one of the kids hiding something like this right in Bruno's living room, so perhaps Bruno had heard someone coming and shoved it between the cushions.

Kinda like how someone was coming up the stairs right now. Huh. Funny how that happens.

Not quite panicking, Leone slammed the book shut and shoved it back where he'd found it, curling up in a ball on the couch in an attempt to hide his face, still bright red. The door opened.

"Leone?"

Good God, of course it was Bruno. Couldn't it have been Narancia? Or better yet, Mista? That big idiot wouldn't have noticed a thing, but Bruno saw everything. A hand laid on his back, gentle and warm. "Leone, are you all right?"

Desperately trying to get his face into something like normal, Leone went for 'I just woke up' and turned his head around just enough to see Bruno from the corner of his eye. "Mm?"

"Oh, did I wake you?" Success. "I'm sorry dear, how are you?" Leone grunted and turned back around, relieved when Bruno just chuckled and didn't try again. A moment of silence, then Leone felt the couch move, just slightly, not like it did when someone sat. He's getting the book. Leone fought hard the desire to turn and look, staying still as Bruno walked off, only turning when he heard his footsteps come back. Rolling over, Leone figured he may as well try and get something out of this, backing up as far as the couch would allow and holding his arms open towards Bruno, whining questioningly. Bruno came to him, laying down and pressing against his chest and Leone sighed happily, wrapping his arms around Bruno and pressing his cheek to his black hair. "So you decided to go to sleep after all, hmm?" Leone muttered something that could be taken as an affirmative, another wave of relief going through him.

Only for the feeling to be shattered when Bruno's grip on him turned harsh, teeth grazing his throat. "You're lying to me, Leone."

Leone squeaked. "I am?"

"Mmhmm. You weren't asleep at all. What are you hiding?"  Bruno's lips, already close enough to brush Leone's skin, came closer, pressing warm against his pulse and Leone shivered. "What it is Leone?"

"I-I'm not hiding anythi-" Nearly harsh, Bruno mouthed at Leone's throat, teeth just grazing skin, his tongue running up the curve of his neck and Leone whined. "I-I found your book, okay? That's it, that's all, Bruno, please." It was Bruno's turn to squeak then, hiding in the only place he could- against Leone's chest. Leone breathed a sigh of relief, shifting to make sure his legs kept Bruno from feeling the rather obvious bulge in his pants. "It's alright Bruno, it's not like it's weird to have something like that… Well, it is a little bit, but-" Bruno groaned, pressing himself harder against Leone.

"Please stop talking, love." Leone did as he was asked and rubbed Bruno's back until the baker felt comfortable enough to glance up. "I didn't know it was like that when I bought it."

"But you did keep it and trash the dust jacket so no one could see the cover."

"It never had a dust jacket, it was used."  Bruno hit Leone on the chest and Leone couldn't help but laugh at him a little bit, getting a hand under Bruno's chin and tipping his head up to kiss him. Bruno grumbled in the back of his throat through it all, continuing to hit Leone gently, but he did kiss him back.

When they separated, Leone muttered, "But you know that isn't how sex works, right?"

"You're terrible." Bruno hit him one last time and wriggled free, walking to the kitchen as fast as he could without it turning into running.

Leone laughed louder, calling after him, "Maybe, but I'm also right!"

He felt better. He was still tired and aching and he was still so very worried about Polnareff, but he felt better.

"Leone, have you already fed the cat?"

It was almost like they'd always been like this and Leone loved it.

"Yeah, but not too much. You might want to give him more."

He loved the home-ness of it. The way Bruno so quickly forgot his irritation and embarrassment to ask about a cat. Their cat.

"Alright. I only ask because he's attacking my legs again."

He wanted Bruno to be in his arms again, wanted so badly to kiss him, and for a moment he almost denied himself this. But then he got up and went after Bruno, into the kitchen, because why the hell not? Bruno was leaning down to pet Chapel who was almost knocking himself over in his attempts to rub himself against Bruno's hand, but he straightened up when he heard Leone walking closer, blue eyes wide and full of affection, even if his cheeks were still tinged with shame. "Leone, what- Oh!" Leone pulled Bruno close almost too harshly, squeezing him when his hug was returned. "Are you alright…?"

"Can I kiss you?"

"Of course you can, Leone."

He loved how Bruno said his name, with so much care, like he was someone that deserved gentleness. Maybe he was. What the hell did he know? Pushing those thoughts aside for now, Leone leaned back only enough to get his lips to Bruno's, trying almost immediately to get his tongue past the baker's teeth. Bruno made a soft noise in the back of his throat, almost surprise, but allowed Leone to deepen the kiss, one hand coming up to lay on the back of Leone's neck. He tasted like chocolate. Leone shivered, slid both his hands up Bruno's body till he was cupping his face, as desperate as always for Bruno to know how truly he was loved. In the brief moment they parted for breath, both said the other's name. Leone smiled against his baker's lips, fighting for one more moment of this before they both backed away just slightly, foreheads still touching as they panted. Bruno almost laughed, but even if the sound didn't escape fully from his throat, it still shone in his eyes when they met Leone's.

Leone held his face for another moment, almost like he was scared Bruno would leave him if he wasn't holding on, but slowly he started to run his hands back down Bruno's body, tracing the curve of his neck, over his shoulders, down his arms, to his hands, where he twined their fingers together, letting his eyes drift shut as he breathed in deeply, just enjoying the smell of him. Bruno hummed. "Do I smell nice?"

"You do." Leone muttered as quietly as he felt he could get away with. "Like home and sugar."

"Hmm~ I like how you smell too." Bruno shifted, rubbing their cheeks together and said with a voice nearly squeaking with held back affection, "You're my spicy boy."

"I-I smell spicy?"

"Mmhmm." Bruno all but fell on him, burying his face against the crook of Leone's neck. "It's different from what I'm used too, but… It makes me happy."

"O-Oh." Leone again got his arms around Bruno, turning his head to gently kiss his hair. He bit his lip and held Bruno tighter, earning a soft hum, then he forced himself to speak, though the words only came out as the barest whisper. "Bruno, I love you."

"I love you too, Leone."

How he could say it so easily, Leone would never know. But he didn't mind it. He just held him closer, if that was even possible, until Chapel started shrieking for attention.

"Aww, little thing…" Bruno pulled away to pick up the cat, holding him up close to his chest with a muttered, "I don't even like cats you know."

"Why not?" Leone reached out to pet Chapel but his hand quickly went up to push into Bruno's hair, petting him instead. "I mean, as far as animals go, they aren't too bad."

Bruno hummed, smiling with eyes half shut, leaning against Leone's hand. "They would just get all into my father's nets when I was younger… Mm… Steal the fish, tear the rope, those sorts of things… Guess I just never had any good experiences with the little devils." Chapel shrieked again and Bruno laughed softly. "Yes, yes, we're talking about you." His father. Oh. Oh yeah. Oh dear God, Paolo was going to hate this when he showed up again. Leone had gone and done exactly what he'd asked him not to do. Bruno's expression shifted to concerned and he said, "Leone, are you all right? You look worried."

"It… It's just… Well, you'd better sit down." Leone leading the way, Bruno and him went to the living room to sit. Bruno sat Chapel on the ground before sitting very close to Leone, cuddling up against his side and reaching for his hand.

"Now, what's wrong?"

Leone sighed. "Okay, so, um… God, I hope I don't get into some kind of trouble for this, but, uh… Well, a while back when your father was visiting, he, uh… Kind of, sort of, warned me off you?"

"He what?"

"W-Well, he just sort of, maybe, told me not to date or marry you because I'd eventually make you unhappy?" Leone didn't want to look at Bruno's face too long, he didn't want to know what was shown there. He really was trying to find a way to make this sound a little less bad, but Leone could tell even in the way that Bruno tensed against him that he was mad. "I-I mean, it's not that big a deal really, he's just trying to look out for you, that's all, he just, um, said you needed a wife who could give you a baby. Which I cannot do. So. Yeah."

He didn't like thinking about that conversation again. He wanted to just go on believing that one day he would be enough of his own man to be good for Bruno. That he would be able to make him happy and loved. But… Paolo hadn't been entirely wrong...

"Leone." Leone made a noise of questioning, but apparently that wasn't good enough because Bruno said his name again, sharper. "Leone. Look at me. Now." Leone turned his head and Bruno grabbed him by the chin to stop him from turning away. Those blue eyes burned. "Listen to me, Leone Abbacchio, my father is a closed-minded fool. He has no right to tell you or me who we choose to marry." Bruno shifted, got on his knees, pushing Leone back as he did. "I love you, Leone." Bruno let go of his chin to grab his hands, pulling them above his head and pinning him down, leaning down to kiss at his neck and saying just loud enough to hear, "You are everything I have ever wanted."

Leone was shaking. He didn't know how to speak and his one living train of thought was entirely occupied by the feeling of Bruno, pressed against him, holding him down, kissing across his jaw now. "B-Bruno-Bru-Bruno."

"Leone, you are everything I want. Do you understand?" Bruno kissed him across both cheeks before finally brushed their lips together, a touch all too gentle. "I don't want a woman, I have never wanted anything less than I want a wife, I want you, Leone." A proper kiss and any semblance of strength Leone had left vanished immediately. "I want you." The pressure given harder. "Only you." A warm tongue pushed past his lips and Leone's body took to shaking against the soft love of Bruno's touch. Then he pulled away, worry creasing his brow, and Leone barely had the cognitive powers left to understand him. "I-Is it alright to say that? It isn't too much, is it?"

"Bruno." Leone practically moaned his name, trying to pull Bruno back against him. "Bruno, I love you the same. You're never too much, never." It was easier to say it when he was all but drunk on Bruno's body. Bruno loved him. He loved him, the worthless ex-cop. How on earth had he found himself here, beneath the most beautiful man to ever grace the earth? But he found he didn't have the strength to care about the 'how's of this, because Bruno was kissing him again and it took everything he had just to be able to respond.

Bruno was learning very quickly how to correctly use his tongue.

When he backed off of Leone, Leone was shaking all over and whimpering between his pants, two toned eyes almost fully unfocused. Bruno giggled. "Goodness, but you're easy to unravel, aren't you dearest?" Leone nodded dumbly and Bruno laughed again, kissing him on the cheek. "Well, I've got to go check on the kids, mmkay? I'll be right back. I promise." He made a very sad noise in an attempt to convince Bruno that he needed him way more than those kids did, but all he got was another kiss on the cheek before Bruno was up and gone, leaving him trembling. Wow, he had it bad. Eventually, he managed to roll off the couch and stand unsteadily, shuffling off when he regained something close to balance. Bruno had said that he had free range of the house and he was curious about the doors he hadn't opened. Were there any more rooms? Or just hall closets? Going into the hallway and passing the bathroom, Leone opened the first door he came across to find, surprise surprise, a closet stuffed with blankets and things. The second one, however, opened into a room. A guest bedroom, by the looks of it, perhaps where Bruno's father slept during his visits. Leone shut the door, and carried on, cheeks pink. So Bruno did have a guest bedroom. And he still let Leone sleep in his bed with him, even before they were… Whatever it was they were.

He didn't really find anything else other than a closet-turned-bookcase, though he only skimmed over the titles of the books crammed inside, not really interested in picking up any other book Bruno owned. Finally, he made his way back to Bruno's bedroom, standing by a window to watch the just-lighted sky. Was it late enough to justify going to sleep? His stomach growled then and he sighed. Even if it was, he wouldn't be able to sleep until dinner. Once, he'd gone days without eating simply because he'd never felt hungry, but sobriety as well as the efforts of Narancia and Bruno had returned his appetite in full. They actually made it worse than it had been for him before. He almost had to eat, on time, or else he felt kind of lost. Maybe that was why he'd gained so much weight… Lifting his pajama top up, he looked down at his stomach, poking at it. Goodbye muscles, hello dad bod. Well, at least Bruno seemed to like him regardless. Though he really should start exercising again...

Then a pair of arms wrapped around his waist and he jumped, twisting around to try and see who had him. "Hello!" Bruno. Just Bruno. He relaxed, laying his hands on Bruno's arms and taking a deep breath. "Are you all right? Why were you poking at your tummy again? Are you feeling sick?"

Leone gave a weak laugh. "No, not sick, just… I-I mean, I'm just getting kind of fat is all…"

"Nonsense." Bruno squeezed him slightly. "Just because you don't have abs that can crush diamonds, it doesn't mean you're fat, dummy. Just… Soft, is all."

Leone scoffed. "Yeah, that's one way to put it."

"Stop being an ass to yourself." Bruno let him go so he could hit him gently. "Now, I am going to go make us dinner. You can stay in here and pout, or you can come with me. Your choice." Leone heard him walk off and managed to stand where he was for about half a minute before chasing after, almost sneaking into the kitchen to press himself against Bruno's back. "Oh, hello darling."

"Hello." Leone rubbed his cheek on Bruno's hair. "How was your day? I'm sorry I didn't ask earlier…"

"Oh, nonsense, you're fine. It was… Fine, I suppose. Too many pissy customers. Oh and Narancia broke another mixing bowl, so that's more money down the drain and Giorno's so preoccupied with Mista and his engagement ring that he was just all in the way, silly boy." Turning his head, Bruno made a noise and pursed his lips, so Leone leaned forward and kissed him. "Hmm~ Thank you~ Having you up here helped a great deal, to be honest. I just… I feel better knowing you're close. That I could just come up here and kiss you anytime I wanted to."

Leone grumbled nonsense under his breath, hiding his burning cheeks by pressing his face to Bruno's hair.

"Yeah, yeah, you're both gay, can I eat now?" Narancia. Of course. Leone turned his head to glare at the rat, but was entirely ignored as Narancia chose to prance around the kitchen looking for snacks as opposed to giving Leone anything close to attention. Narancia's fuss made Chapel start screaming as he followed him on stubby legs, tripping as much as he walked.

Bruno took this all quite well. "No, sweetheart, you know I just started cooking. You can help, if you'd like."

"And give you and Papa time to be even gayer? No thank you!"

Leone would have destroyed that child a long time ago if he didn't love him so damn much. Sighing, snuggling up closer to Bruno, he muttered, "I could try and help, if you need it."

"Hmm. Well, I suppose you've got to learn eventually… Alright." Leone made a sad sound of dejection at how that started and Bruno reached up a hand to run it through his hair. "Oh, sweetheart, don't be like that. You know you aren't the best chef. Which is fine, we can't all be Narancia, right sweetie?"

"Yeah!" Narancia sounded like he had something in his mouth. Leone decided it would best to not look.

"And anyway, we were all bad when we started."

"Except for me!"

"Except for Narancia."

Leone squeezed Bruno gently. "I get it, I get it, so you can stop now." Bruno laughed, again reaching back to pet him and Leone rubbed against the touch with a hum.

Very softly, Bruno whispered, "Cat."

"No." Leone decided that it was Time to Leave. He let Bruno go and went to pluck Narancia off the counter, sitting the boy back on the ground and smacking his ass to get him going, sending him screaming for Fugo into the living room. Kitchen free of children, Leone went back to Bruno. "… What would you like me to do?" And so, with quite a bit of assistance, he managed to be something close to a help. He also figured out how to peel potatoes, so if Narancia ever ended up asking him to do that he would actually be able to do it instead of looking like the absolute idiot that he was.

Dinner was… Quieter than Leone was used to. Whatever had happened after Narancia had run off had sobered the rat down to silence. Leone didn't like it much. Giorno didn't glare at him the whole time for once. Bruno was right, that boy was absolutely enamored with his ring. He kept pausing to turn it on his finger, watching it with an expression that could just be called soft. Over once in a while, Mista would lean over to kiss the blond on the forehead and a smile would barely tug at the corners of Giorno's mouth. Bruno had moved his chair close to Leone's, as he seemed fond of doing, and Leone had one arm around his waist, holding him carefully and occasionally managing to get a kiss from him. That part was nice. But after dinner, when even Narancia was fed and the kids were talking just loud enough to hear from the living room, while Leone washed the dishes with Bruno hugging him tightly, he managed to ask, "C-Can I stay with you tonight?"

And Bruno had laughed and at first Leone had been terrified that it was because Bruno thought he was a fool to ask when the answer was clearly no, but the baker just hugged him tighter and said, "Of course you can, silly bear. Whenever you'd like it, you're welcome with me."

And so, Leone found himself kissing his kids goodbye before they headed off to the apartment that Narancia had claimed ownership of before being led to bed by the most beautiful human being this damned earth had ever managed to produce. Bruno smiled at him, kissed him gently, eased his hair from its braid, and pushed him down, laying him to bed before going off to dress in his pajamas. Leone waited for him without ever looking away from the bathroom door, shuffling in anticipation when Bruno reemerged. "Bruno."

"Mm?" Bruno laid down next to him, shifting himself closer even as Leone reached out to pull him against himself.

Practically wrapped around Bruno, his face pressed to that pretty black hair, exhaustion dragging him into sleep, Leone muttered, "…G'night."

He managed to stay conscious long enough to hear Bruno's soft, "Good night to you too, love."

Chapter Text

Chapel woke him. Damn cat was screaming his head off. Groaning, Leone rolled over as much as he could with Bruno's entire weight on him, which is to say he made a half-assed effort to turn his head. "Shut up…" The cat screamed louder. "Shut it!" He was fully caterwauling now. Bruno shifted, raising his head without opening his eyes and making a soft sound of questioning. Gently, Leone kissed him. "It's just the cat, sweetheart, I'll take care of it, okay? Just lay down…" He nudged Bruno off of him despite Bruno's protests, forcing himself out of bed. The moment he was up, Chapel stopped screaming. "Oh, so now you're quiet…?" With a sigh, Leone bent down to scoop up the kitten, who immediately bit him, and carried him out of the room. "Are you hungry? That why you're screamin'?"

When he made it to the kitchen, he sat the cat back down on its paws and got out some more of that sandwich stuff (turkey? Ham? It probably wouldn't hurt the cat) and offered it to Chapel in small bits, wondering if he should ask Bruno about getting cat food. Cat fed and purring, Leone paused to pet him once before shuffling over to the coffee maker, figuring that he may as well get this started for Bruno later. When it was running and coffee was dripping into the pot beneath, Leone sighed and started to make his way back to the bedroom, relieved when Chapel made no move to follow.

Bruno was still in bed, laying facedown with his head pillowed by his arm. He looked like he'd fallen back to sleep, but when Leone slid into bed next to him he shifted, blinking open those wonderfully blue eyes just long enough to smile at him before cuddling close, gently urging Leone onto his side so he could press his face to his chest. Wrapping his arms around Bruno, Leone hesitantly laid a leg over him too, relaxing when he was given no sign of displeasure. In fact, Bruno made a soft chirp of agreement, rubbing his face against Leone and squeezing him weakly. Bruno smelled different when he just woke up. Softer, maybe, or more like musk and less like sugar. Whatever the difference, Leone liked it, pressing his face to the top of Bruno's head, one hand absently playing with the longer part of his dark hair. "I like your hair." Bruno hummed in response, awake enough to hear, at least. Leone felt a very powerful urge to continue, so he did, talking quietly to this precious man in his arms. "I love your eyes, they're so beautiful, Bruno. I love that you smell kind of like sugar. I love that your hands are rough because you've worked so much in your life. I love your voice, dear God, I love your voice. I love how you kind of perk up when you hear something interesting or how you wiggle a bit when you're excited and you don't even seem to realize it." Bruno had shifted in his grip, looking up at him with his cheek pressed to his chest. It was hard for Leone to keep speaking when he was looking at that pretty face, but he managed to squeak out, "I love the way your voice drops when you're teasing me and how absolutely kind you are."

Bruno's cheeks went pink and he hid his face against Leone's chest again and for a moment Leone was scared that he'd gone too far, but then, muffled and soft, Bruno said, "Thank you, Leone."

Planting a kiss to the top of Bruno's head, Leone made himself say, "I love you, Bruno," before the silence made it impossible to get the words off his tongue.

With a voice still sleep-heavy, Bruno turned his head enough to say almost clearly, "Love you too."

Leone still didn't know how or why, but he could accept it. There were worse things to be eternally confused over than being loved by Bruno Bucciarati. He wasn't entirely sure how much time had passed, how long he'd laid here with Bruno half-asleep in his arms, petting that dark hair with all the adoration in his soul, but apparently it was long enough for Bruno to fall back to fully asleep, because he had mouthed open the buttons on Leone's shirt was again sucking on his chest. Looking down, one brow raised, Leone wondered what Bruno was dreaming about, if in fact a dream was what caused this. Maybe it was just a reflex from childhood that had never quite gone away? Well, whatever it was, it was starting to leave marks. Gently, Leone shook himself a bit, trying to dislodge Bruno, but the baker moved with him, determined to keep his mouth to Leone's skin. Leone sighed. Guess he'd have to wake him. "Hey." Another shake and a poke to Bruno's cheek. "C'mon, wake up Cookie. Wake up." The steady pressure of Bruno sucking on him lessened. Had he done it…?

Then Bruno came off of him with a pop! and drug his mouth to a different place, his tongue just brushing Leone's chest. A shiver went down Leone's spine, not helped at all when Bruno murmured his name. He then went back to sucking on his chest. Leone decided he'd just deal with it. And besides, it wasn't like it felt bad (just the opposite, in fact), Leone was just worried about hickeys.

Eventually, Bruno stopped, shifting for a moment before tensing up in something close to a stretch. Then he raised his head, blue eyes just open enough to be seen. "Mmmm, time's it?"

"I don't know. Later than usual." Bruno whined softly and weakly attempted to roll out of Leone's grip, giving up almost immediately to hide his face against Leone's neck. Leone petted the back of his head and said, "I know, I know, it's tough isn't it?"

Bruno nodded, snuggling closer, and Leone almost managed a smile. Muffled, Bruno said, "I gotta… Up… Kids, breakfa', store… Gotta…"

That's when the bedroom door opened.

Leone pulled Bruno tighter against himself, half rolling over to look over his shoulder at the intruder, lip curled to spit words that died on his tongue when Narancia leaned down so closely that their noses touched. "Narancia."

"Abbacchio."

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"Breakfast's almost done." Then he turned and hopped away.

With a sigh, Leone turned back to Bruno, brushing his dark hair out of his face. "Guess that solves one problem, yeah?"

"Mmhmm… Kiss." Bruno tipped his head up, eyes shut, and Leone complied, kissing him very gently for a long moment. When he pulled back, Bruno hummed softly before really stretching and then rolling away to get up, stumbling off towards the bath. Leone waited until the water came on to stand and make his way to the kitchen.

"Yo!" Narancia stopped in his dashing around to grin at him. "G'morning Papa! You two have sex yet?"

"What? No? Why does that matter?"

"Shame, Pops could use a smash. PANNACOTTA!"

There was a pause and then a, "What?" from the living room.

Narancia took a deep breath to continue screaming. "GET YOUR HOT ASS IN HERE AND HELP ME HOLD THESE DAMN BEETROOT!"

"B-Beetroot?" Leone shuffled towards the coffee machine, hoping that he would be out of Narancia's destruction path if he was nearer to the counter.

Narancia glanced at Leone. "Ingredients." Leone decided not to ask for his sanity's sake. Hastily, more as an excuse to leave than anything else, he made a mug of coffee and snuck back out of the kitchen, making it to Bruno's bedroom just as the man shuffled out of the bathroom, looking tired and angry. "B-Bruno." Bruno turned his head towards him, but made no move to respond so Leone swallowed and managed to say, "Got you coffee."

"Thank, Leone…" Bruno shuffled over to the bed and sat on the edge with a sigh, holding out both hands towards Leone. "Give."

"Here you go…" He put the mug in Bruno's hands, watching with growing affection as a smile spread across Bruno's tired face. He couldn't help it. He reached forward and grabbed Bruno's face before the poor man could take a drink, kissing him over and over, across his cheeks, over his nose, on his eyelids, just against the corners of his mouth, just kissing him until he gave a soft whine of disapproval. Leone backed off immediately, again just watching as Bruno brought the mug to his lips and took a long drink. Then he tipped his head up and grunted. Leone laughed and started kissing him again, rewarded with a pleased hum for his efforts. After about a minute, Leone let him go and Bruno went back to his coffee before raising his head with a soft whine. So Leone went back to loving on him. So it went until Bruno's cup was empty and the baker was leaned forward, cheek to Leone's stomach while Leone ran his hand through that dark hair, gently easing straight the worst of the tangles.

"Leeeeone?"

"Yes, Bruno?"

"Don't wanna… Wake…"

"I know, Cookie. C'mere, how about I carry you?"

"Mmmmpleame…" Bruno shifted, weakly attempting to raise his arms. Leone kissed him one last time before getting one arm under Bruno's legs and bracing the baker's back with the other, picking him up bridal style while Bruno giggled weakly, head laid against his shoulder. "Thank."

"You're welcome."

When he returned to the kitchen, Bruno in his arms, Narancia was just finishing his cooking while Fugo slowly set the table, Giorno hovering behind. The boy looked so worried, watching Fugo's every move like a hawk. Had something happened? Then Mista appeared, Chapel on his shoulder and a grin on his lips. He glanced at Leone and Bruno and made a face of amusement. "Hey, it's already impossible to wake him up in the mornings! Start treating him like that and he'll just stay asleep forever."

Leone shrugged. "If that's what he wants." In his arms, Bruno hummed, reaching up just enough to run his fingertips over Leone's collarbone.

"Hey!" Narancia abandoned his task to prance over to Leone, reaching up to grab his sleeve. "Hey, what- Holy shit, what are you wearing?"

Leone shifted his grip on Bruno, arms getting tired. "Pajamas? Bruno bought them for me."

"If this is what it looks like I'm gunna drop kick Pops." Narancia reached up to poke Bruno on the cheek and Leone shuffled away from the rat when Bruno gave an answering whine. Narancia huffed. "Don't spend that much on him, dumbass! No one needs silk." Leone walked to the table, Narancia following, to sit Bruno down in a chair, suddenly very conscious of the feel of his clothes against his skin. Was it really actual silk? He looked down at his sleeve, brow furrowed.

"Let me see." Mista was suddenly next to him and Leone cursed that boy for being so big but so quiet. Why couldn't he just always be loud? That made more sense to Leone. Mista grabbed Leone's arm to check out the fabric then jerked him around to pull back the neck of the shirt and check the tag. "Mm. Damn. Yeah, he should not have bought this, but hey, it's not my money. Good news is that this will last you a while if you treat it right." With a slap to the back that nearly knocked Leone over, Mista walked off, around the table to sit by Giorno, immediately beginning to speak quietly to the blond brat. Leone sat down, cheeks pink at the thought of Bruno buying him something expensive.

"Leone~" Bruno leaned against him as soon as he was close enough, grabbing his hand and bringing it to his lips. "Mornin'."

"Good morning, Bruno… Um, Bruno?"

"Mmm~?"

"H-How much did this cost?" He shifted his arm to indicate his clothes and Bruno snorted dismissively.

"Don't worry… I's fine…" Bruno kissed at his hands again and Leone decided to drop it.

"C'mon, give me my hands back… Narancia made breakfast, so eat it, okay?" Bruno made a face at him but complied, slowly starting to stuff food in his mouth, his eyes nearly shut. Leone wondered why it was so hard for that man to wake up in the mornings. Maybe Mista was right and he was making it worse… He decided that he wouldn't worry about it. Bruno would wake up when he wanted to. Leone would do whatever he asked in the meantime.

Bruno had managed to wake up by the end of breakfast and he helped Leone clean while the kids went downstairs to open the shop. Leone kept leaning down to kiss him, very gently on his forehead or his cheek, and Bruno never gave any sign of displeasure, so Leone just sort of kept doing it. Could he just… Kiss him? On the mouth? Was he allowed to do that? Uncertain, he tried it and to his surprise and pleasure, Bruno not only allowed it, he supported it, tipping his head to make it easier and standing up on the tips of his toes to kiss him harder, like a cat arching up against a desired touch. When they separated, Leone managed only a quiet, "Thank you."

"Mm? Whatever for, sweetheart?"

Cheeks going pink, Leone looked away, focusing a bit too hard on drying his hands. "Letting me kiss you."

Bruno laughed lightly and bumped their hips together before pressing close enough to lay his face against Leone's arm. "You don't have to thank me for that, darling, I like it more than you do, after all, and I believe that's saying quite a bit." Leone's cheeks flushed further. Softer, Bruno continued. "You are welcome to kiss me whenever you feel the need." He started to say something, then hesitated. Leone glanced at him. He was blushing too. "A-And, well… Not to sound like some old playwright, but- but I lay my body in your hands to do as you will, Leone, I trust you with my whole being. I know you would never hurt me, not even in the smallest way."

"O-Oh." It was the way Bruno worded it that just destroyed Leone entirely. He couldn't look at Bruno no matter how much he wanted to, his cheeks flaming red.

"Leone? I-I'm sorry, is it too much?"

"You. Are never. Too much." The words were nearly growled, a necessity since he could find no other way to speak past this lump in his throat. He finally managed to look at Bruno, taking the man's face in both his hands. "Never." Then he kissed him, as hard as his own fears would allow, sliding both hands back just enough to grip that dark hair, knocking their teeth together in his desperation. Bruno's hands laid on his hips first, then roamed up him, tracing a delicate pattern up his sides, across his chest, those pretty lips parting just as his hands pulled open the first button of Leone's shirt.

"Leone." Bruno breathed his name, just barely pulling away enough to speak, melting against him again with a shiver. His tongue gently urged Leone's mouth open and Leone whimpered, surrendering to Bruno's lead, shutting his eyes and simply allowing. Bruno's hands slid further down his chest, opening the second button, and then those work-roughed hands were on his bare skin and his own hands started to shake, his grip on Bruno's hair weakening until he was just barely cradling him. Every time Bruno backed away to breathe Leone whimpered a soft beg. Please come back. And every time, before his cry was hardly through, Bruno was on him again, those soft lips loving him roughly, those rough hands loving him gently. His shirt was almost entirely unbuttoned and when the last one was tugged free Leone gasped. 

With a soft chuckle, Bruno shifted closer, wrapping his arms around Leone, holding him beneath his unbuttoned top, warm hands tracing circles on his back. Leone whined. "B-Bruno-" He wasn't sure if he'd wanted to say something or not, but if he had he'd already lost his chance. It was difficult to speak when Bruno was kissing him so thoroughly.

"Leone." Between his frantic expressions of love, Bruno managed to speak. "Leone. Leone, I love you. I love you. Leone."

Leone's legs were getting weak, a bit too weak perhaps. At this rate he would end up on his knees, not that he was not willing to place himself in such a position for Bruno. The slightest sign that that was what Bruno was after and Leone would fall. If Bruno wanted him, then Bruno would have him.

But he didn't want that of course. Eventually, long after Leone had lost all cohesive thought, Bruno stopped, laying his head against Leone's shoulder and panting against his bare skin. "Leone…" Rhythmic shivers were still rippling through Leone's entire body. He wanted so badly to throw Bruno on the kitchen table and make him beg, wanted to get on his knees and take whatever Bruno saw fit to give him. He made due by wrapping his arms around Bruno and holding him just a little bit closer. "Um… Leone?"

Leone just managed a, "Hmm?"

"D-Do you want to, um… M-Maybe go on a date with me? Like- Like to dinner or something."

What little brain function Leone had retained crashed immediately and for a moment he just stuttered nonsense. Then, "I- Of cour- Of course, Bruno. I would love to, um… When?"

"Well, around dinner time, I assumed."

"N-No, I meant, what day?"

"Today?" Bruno shifted enough to look up at him and those blue eyes were just so beautiful that Leone almost missed Bruno's quiet words. "D-Did you have other plans?"

"No, no, tonight is fine, Bruno, that's… Oh. I don't have anything to wear though." He looked down at himself, considering the black fabric of his pajamas.

Bruno leaned a bit back from him, but kept his arms around Leone. "Oh, I could buy you some!"

"No."

"But, Leone, I-"

"No, absolutely not."

"But-"

"No."

"Leone!" Bruno pouted at him, brows furrowed. "I just want to give you things, is that really such a big deal?"

"It is." Gently, Leone started to kiss Bruno across his cheeks, muttering as he did, "I can take care of myself you know. I can buy my own things."

"I know, but if can do it for you, why shouldn't I? What's mine is yours after all."

"Bruno, we aren't married or anything, you don't have to do anything for me."

Bruno's cheeks went pink and he looked away. "Th-That only applies to marriage?"

Laying his hand to Bruno's face, Leone turned the baker's attention back to himself. "No, not always. But Bruno, I don't want you wasting money on me, of all things. You own a business, surely that's hard enough on your paycheck. Look-" he continued quickly, before Bruno could say whatever denial was building. "Bruno, you have already done enough for me. Okay? Deny it all you want, but you have given me life, Bruno. I'd be dead without you. I wouldn't have two perfect kids, or a stupid cat, and I never could have met Jean Pierre, or Noriaki, or Tiziano and Squalo, not without you. Bruno." He laid their foreheads together, smiling at him softly. "You have given me enough."

Bruno huffed, but muttered, "Alright. I'll wash your clothes and you can go get your own."

"Thank you…"

Regretfully, he released Bruno, beginning to rebutton his shirt when Bruno left. Then, with nothing else to do, he went to sit on the couch. Bruno appeared not much later and Leone's body released a tension he hadn't realized it held. "Well, they're washing. Oh, do you want to watch something? TV? A movie?"

"Uh," Leone shuffled, tucking his legs up onto the couch and close to himself. "Will you stay with me?"

Bruno smiled. "Of course, sweetheart." Leone watched Bruno while he opened that cabinet thing that hid the TV. "Is there anything in particular you'd like to watch?"

"Um. No, not really, whatever you want is fine."

"Alright." Bruno put something in the DVD player and started to walk over to him, so Leone sat up straighter and held out his arms, aching from the force of his desire to have Bruno close. To his surprise (and joy), Bruno sat directly in his lap. Wrapping his arms around Bruno's waist, kissing him very gently on the neck, Leone hummed a note of affection that Bruno returned along with a soft, "Hello to you too, darling." Leone was so caught up in him that he missed the title of the movie as well as part of the beginning. He tried to focus, he really did, but Bruno was so warm and soft… Leone squeezed him just a bit for perhaps the twelfth time, turning his head so his lips just brushed the shell of Bruno's ear. Bruno squeaked and shot him a look, though there was amusement in his eyes. "Are you even paying attention?"

"I'm trying," Leone muttered, not trying at all. He was a bit busy kissing Bruno, behind his ear, on the curve of his jaw, just under his ear. He shifted his grip on the baker, holding him a bit more fully and sighing against his pale skin.

"You aren't trying at all." It wasn't a question. Leone just made a vague shrugging motion.

"I'd rather pay attention to you."

Bruno flushed and raised a hand to boop Leone directly on the nose. "Oh, you stop that."

"Do you really want me to?" He leaned back a bit, loosening his hold on Bruno. The last thing he wanted was to make Bruno uncomfortable.

Bruno sat in silence for about five seconds before muttering, "Could you please kiss me again?" Leone smiled and complied, just touching his fingertips to Bruno's jaw to turn his head enough to kiss him on the mouth. Then he kissed him again. Then a third time. Bruno shifted in his lap, wriggling (wow) until he got himself turned all the way around, straddling Leone and kissing him back with the desperateness that Leone was growing accustomed to. Bruno only stopped when he began to shake, breath heavy with a want he couldn't (wouldn't) name. Leone let him go without complaint, allowing himself to be pulled down on the couch as Bruno got him the way he wanted him. Facing the same direction now, laying down together, Bruno shuffled himself backwards until they were pressed together, hips to ass, and Leone laid an arm over him, more than willing to give him the cuddles he so clearly needed.

"Now…" Leone kissed his hair, taking hold of his hand and twining their fingers together. "What's up?"

"W-What do you mean?"<