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night watch

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The giggling wakes Fugo up. 

 

In the more logical parts of his brain, he understands that this is not that big a deal. In fact, given the muffled, furtive quality of the laughter in question, he doubts it was born of inconsiderate carelessness. It was hardly the fault of whoever was on watch that Fugo was a light sleeper at the best of times, that between the fights with Zucchero and Sale and the sudden responsibility of the boss’ own daughter it was not the best of times, that he’d left the bedroom window open an inch to let in the night breeze. This understanding does not stop the ever-present tide of his rage from seething just under the skin as Fugo glares up at the ceiling. 

 

He recognizes the louder of the two now-murmuring voices as Narancia. The other is too soft to place, which at least eliminates Mista from the pool, but this is hardly any help. Fugo does not remember exactly who Buccellati had paired up for which watches, except that he is to have third watch with Mista.

 

Another spurt of quiet laughter splashes into the room. Hands moving to cover his face, Fugo groans, fingers pressing onto his eyelids until he sees spots. There is no point trying to go back to sleep now that he’s awake.

 

A few minutes later, Fugo pads silently downstairs, turning the corner into the kitchen. It’s dark, but moonlight streams through leaves and the side-door’s window to create dappled shadows on the hardwood. Although Narancia must be sitting just outside that door, without an open window the sound is closer to the surreptitious mumble it was likely meant to be. 

 

Careful not to make more noise than necessary, Fugo turns to ritual to sooth the warning press of his Stand at the back of his mind. Setting the electric kettle on the counter to boil. A teabag pulled from the half-crushed box he keeps with his other belongings sits neatly in a clean mug, and Fugo times his breathing as he watches the bubbles grow larger and faster. Inhale; one, two, three, four. Hold; one, two, three, four. Exhale; one, two, three, four. Hold; one, two, three, four. Inhale…

 

When the water gets to just-under boiling, Fugo pours, setting the kettle down to pick up his mug when he’s done. The anger is still present, but it’s quieter, and he thinks he can stand to find out what the hell Narancia and the unknown idiot outside are up to at… 2:27 in the morning. 

 

Shuffling over to the door, Fugo swings it open and immediately finds himself bemused by the scene before him.

 

As he suspected, Narancia has sprawled himself over the steps leading up to the small deck and roof that could charitably be called a porch. His watch partner tonight is apparently the newbie, Giorno, both of them having swapped out their day clothes for casual sleepwear like Fugo himself. Giorno’s complicated updo has been demoted to a loose ponytail, wavy strands escaping to frame his delicate jaw in a way that Fugo certainly does not catch himself staring at. Not much of this is unexpected, but the glimmering figure of Giorno’s Stand draped over his back, gold cheek pressed against tan shoulder, and the half dozen large frogs between him and Narancia is. 

 

“What the fuck.” Fugo asks, conscious of the need to keep his voice down. 

 

“Fugo. Did we wake you up?” Giorno whispers back, gently placing a particularly fat bullfrog on the wood planks in front of him. This brings the count up to seven. “My apologies.”

 

“Yes. No. Whatever. That doesn’t answer my question.”

 

Narancia snorts, a hand flying over his mouth. While it’s not as quiet as Giorno, it’s still a far cry from his usual cackle, and Fugo supposes he has to give credit where credit is due.

 

“Narancia was curious about my Gold Experience’s ability. And as there hasn’t been any enemy activity during our watch…” Giorno shrugs, gesturing at the army of amphibians sitting placidly on the porch. One hops onto Narancia’s thigh, pulling another bubble of laughter out of him as it croaks. Despite himself, Fugo can feel a corner of his mouth twitching upwards.

 

“Oi, Fugo.” Narancia hisses, a wide grin growing across his face as it becomes clear that he isn’t going to blow up at them. “Did you make coffee?”

 

“Tea.”

 

“Eurgh. Nevermind. But in any case, do you have any junk on you? A dead pen, a wrapper? I’m out.”

 

Closing the door behind him, Fugo sinks down to sit besides his teammates, back leaning against the wall of the house. “Why?”

 

“I could create something new with it. It wouldn’t have to be a frog if you didn’t want.” Giorno replies, amusement curling into his normally neutral voice.

 

Fugo looks down to the steaming mug he’s been holding close to his chest as if to ward off the slight chill of the night air. Pinching the string of his teabag between thumb and forefinger, he pulls it out, letting it drip back into the mug for a few moments before blowing on it to try and cool it a bit more. This accomplished, he holds it out to Giorno. “Would this work?”

 

“Yes,” says Giorno, taking the offered teabag. His fingertips brush Fugo’s for a heartbeat. “Any requests?”

 

“Dealer’s choice.”

 

Giorno blows on the teabag as well, carefully lowering the cooled bag into the cup of his palm before holding it up as an offering to Gold Experience. The solemn Stand seems to consider it for a moment, eventually reaching out a hand to cover Giorno’s. An odd, almost electronic noise breaks the silence, and Gold Experience pulls back to return to his position draped over Giorno. Looking at the contents of his hand, Giorno smiles, extending it out to show Fugo and Narancia.

 

Fugo leans in, curious, and in place of the teabag sits a large salamander, perhaps twelve centimeters long. It is the color of a tomato, or perhaps a half-ripe strawberry, and is covered in small black spots.

 

“A red salamander.” Giorno clarifies, eyes flicking back to Fugo. “Not found in Italy, but… I think they’re rather striking.”

 

“Fuck yeah.” breathes Narancia, reaching out and gently stroking its back with one finger.

 

“Be careful.” Fugo snaps, more out of reflex than anything else. For one horrible moment, his brain informs him just how easy it would be for a moment of carelessness, or worse, temper , to destroy the teabag-turned-salamander currently licking Giorno’s thumb. He blinks, and the vision is gone. He pulls back slightly, taking a too-hot gulp of tea, and focuses his energy on keeping his hands steady.

 

“I’m being careful, asshole.”

 

“He’ll be alright.” Giorno says with such confidence that Fugo can’t help but raise an eyebrow. “He’s among good people.” Gold Experience sinks into his user’s skin, and Giorno scoots a few inches towards Fugo. “Here, give me your hand.”

 

When he complies, slow and uncertain, Giorno positions Fugo’s hand to his liking before carefully transferring the salamander into the newly created cradle of his fingers. 

 

“Wait-” Fugo starts, trying to ignore the way Narancia’s posture straightens just a fraction in response to his tone.

 

“He’ll be alright.” Giorno says again, still with that unflappable surety. “Don’t make me repeat myself, Fugo.”

 

The words are sharp, but the tone is soft, and Fugo glances up from his hand to find Giorno staring right back at him. His green eyes flash in the moonlight as he tilts his head, and Fugo shivers to be under the full weight of his attention. 

 

“Okay.” he replies, more mouthing the word than anything, and turns back to the salamander. Like a small, slimy cat, he’s curled up in the warm cup of his hand, tongue occasionally slipping out to taste Fugo’s skin. He looks comfortable, even. “He’s… cute.”

 

“Name your son.” Narancia intones, visibly relaxing even as his tone is comically solemn. 

 

Fugo has never been more grateful for his friend’s sense of timing. “What?” he laughs, shooting Narancia a quizzical look.

 

“Name your son!” he repeats, gleeful. “All the frogs have names. You can’t just leave him out because he’s a salamander or whatever. That would be speciesist.

 

“Oolong.” Fugo decides, spur of the moment. Perhaps not the most imaginative, but the tea-hater asking wouldn’t guess his inspiration.

 

“And so he is christened in the eyes of the Lord. Oolong.” Giorno says, voice and expression most appropriate for a funeral. He pauses, waiting for Narancia’s latest string of giggles to quiet down before continuing, suddenly sheepish. “Perhaps I should have mentioned this earlier, Fugo, but. Ah. Neither of you could hurt Oolong if you tried. One of Gold Experience’s abilities is that of reflecting damage directed at his creations back to the attacker. Apologies.”

 

Fugo stares at him in disbelief, jaw hanging in what he is privately sure is a rather unattractive look. Perhaps it is a trick of the light, but it seems to him that there might be a flush creeping up Giorno’s neck.

 

He is just as surprised as the other two when instead of screaming, what bursts out of his mouth is howling laughter.

 

Narancia joins him within seconds, the cackle Fugo has heard so many times echoing around the vineyard. Even Giorno, preternaturally composed for most of the time Fugo has known him, breaks down into gasping, almost-silent laughter that whistles like a teakettle on its way out. The three feed back into each other's loops to ever-rising hysterics, Fugo cradling Oolong close to his chest to spare him from the worst of the shaking, and only manage to calm down when Abbacchio’s window slams open and he starts yelling demands to quiet down.

 

Even when Narancia and Giorno’s night watch shift ends and Mista comes stumbling sleepy-eyed out onto the porch to join Fugo for the final watch until morning, Oolong sits comfortably in his palm.