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Keeping Up With The Joestars

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Yoshikage Kira is seriously considering becoming a hermit

 

Laying on the offered bed with his forearm covering his eyes was Kira, quietly listening to the serene summer sounds. The sound of the crickets and passing cars along the highway was alluring, practically begging him to jump outside, throw himself into the sea of tourists, succumb to his natural urges. And he would've done so, had he not been confined into a cold, dark prison cell. To be honest, the cool stone walls were making a great job at keeping the heat out. He chuckled quietly, his huffed laughter sounding thunderous as it resonated around the small cell. Not even a month in and he was already trying to compromise with himself.

He couldn't sleep that night or any other for that matter. It took the other cellmates approximately four days to find out who Kira was and what he had done. He was ushered into solitary confinement, but not before they broke his jaw and collarbone. He didn't let that get to him, he had lost his patience enough times throughout this entire ordeal. Besides, this was all part of the plan.

At 3 AM, as anticipated, he heard keys against the door. With a tired sigh, he sat up and stretched, bones making a horrifying sound. Kira needed full eight hours of sleep or he really felt like shit. At last, that was about to come to an end. The door opened with a shrill creak and Pucci's face appeared behind it.

“Be quick. The others are already here.”

Kira followed the man with no protests. They moved around the prison with no problems, all cameras and doors that stood in their way having already been deactivated. With each step, Kira could feel his heart beating faster, longing for a clear view of the night sky, a breath of night air. He couldn't let himself get excited just yet. Even though there were no chances this was going to fail, Kira still needed to remain calm and collected, listen to the instructions he was given.

They reached a rusty metal door that he helped Pucci throw open. He let the night air fill his lungs. The first step towards freedom, a faint smile was inevitable. Pucci urged him to hurry. Kira followed him, cursing his footsteps for making even the slightest sound against the cement. The men walked and walked, going further into the expansive depths of the prison, soon reaching the regions only accessible by tractors. Luckily, they didn't have to go into the swamp. Pucci guided him to the edge of the chain fence, where a large gap had been cut.

“We have fifteen minutes before the electricity turns back on. The moment it does, the control room will immediately know that there's been a breach. It won't take long for them to find the exact spot.”

“How much time do I have?”

“Five minutes, tops. You need to make a run for it.” Kira nodded. His stamina wasn't the best, perhaps he should have used his plentiful free time while in prison and worked out a little bit. But those guys were so fucking disgusting. He had to bear listening to them play with their dicks using the same hands they held the weights with all night. It was repulsive. And after he was disgusted, he grew impatient. Oh, how he was longing to have a nice, petite hand wrapped around his dick too.

“Thank you, Enrico.”

“No need to thank me. We'll talk later. All you need to do now is run straight ahead until you reach the side of the road. The car is there.”

After a brief handshake, Kira took off as fast as he could, sprinting through the sparse trees, feeling his lungs sting and throb with every gluttonous breath. His blonde hair was sticking on his forehead and neck, sweat sliding down his spine, making the disgusting polyester uniform become a second skin. He didn't look back, just kept on running, galloping towards the barely visible vein of light. He reached the edge of the grove and came to a sudden halt. He doubled over, hands on his knees and gasping. He could feel his face boil, sweat sliding into his eyes. He looked up, looking at the lines of lights and the faint city buildings blinking shyly in the distance. No cars were passing from here, most afraid of the escapees. The water was gently splashing against the rocks, the salt in the air washing his face.

This veil of serenity was violently ripped to shreds when Diavolo honked. Kira wasn't in the mood to get irritated so he simply walked towards the stationed Porsche and got in the back. Diavolo was sitting behind the wheel, legs perched on the dashboard and burger in hand. Doppio was sitting in the passenger's seat and Dio was sitting on the back. The blond pulled a face when he saw Kira.

“My God, are these uniforms hideous.”

“Indeed.” For the first time in weeks, he was able to relax, sighing blissfully as he comfortably leaned against the leather cushions. “Where are we headed?”

“The doctor's. He's a disgusting son of a bitch but he's the only one capable of doing this.”

“Have you come to terms with that, Yoshikage?” Doppio asked.

“Absolutely,” he candidly replied. Kira had spent his entire life carefully constructing his facade, making sure none of his actions ever brought attention to himself. When that peace died, Yoshikage Kira died with it. Running away from the cops for his entire life and leaving his home were never options. He was more than glad to cast that identity away.

He didn't bother asking for the details. He knew Diavolo would be as effective as always, that the end result would be impeccable. No matter how hard he looked, he'd never find the words to express his gratitude fully. Like on every other occasion, he'd let his actions speak for himself.

The doctor's studio was located in one of the shadiest parts of town. The four of them got out of the car and Diavolo, looking as irritated as always, walked the few stairs up to the door and knocked hard. After a short moment, the door was opened just a crack, revealing a face almost entirely covered in brownish bandages. At first, it looked as if an animal had answered the door. It was a human, a man, crouching down, moving around on his hands and knees, whose eyes widened almost comically upon seeing Diavolo.

“Move,” Diavolo commanded through gritted teeth.

With a feral yelp, the man moved to the side and allowed the four of them inside. The stench was enough to make Kira and Dio gag, the other two obviously more used to it. It was a mix of dried blood, copper, shit and vomit, with a hint of iodine. Kira blinked the tears from his eyes and looked around the room. The ceiling was hanging low, with only a blinking bulb dangling from it. The floor wasn't tiled, several bloody masonry tools were strewn on the dirt, along with several boxes of medicine. The only 'normal' items were a brown armchair, a small TV, and a fridge. Next to those was an open door, obviously leading to other rooms from where moaning sounds echoed. The sound of a drill overshadowed the pained groans. The room fell completely silent a few seconds later.

“Are you sure about this?”

“Yes. There's nothing you need to worry about.”

“Who else knows about this?”

“Aside from us who helped you escape, Kars.”

Five people in total would know about his new identity. Wait. “You didn't tell Valentine.”

“Of course we didn't tell Valentine,” Dio scoffed. “Only thing he'd want would be to put you back in the moment we broke you out. You know what a shit-stain he is.”

“We'll introduce the idea to him gradually. Don't worry about Funny, now.”

It was rather entertaining to see how quickly Diavolo's expression darkened when the doctor appeared. A man average in build, with green hair and a filthy pair of scrubs. He looked unhinged and even though Kira knew he shouldn't doubt Diavolo's methods, he couldn't help but do so upon the sight of the man who would change his fate. The doctor ogled at him, looking at him with a strange lust that bordered tenderness. He was eager, but for what? Disgusting fuck, wanting people only for their body parts. Kira hated people like that.

“Secco, go get the cameras ready in the next room.”

“There'll be no cameras, Cioccolata.”

At the sound of that, the doctor scowled. “That was part of the a-”

“Know your place,” Doppio cooly demanded, his tone suddenly similar to Diavolo's.

With the two Bosses ready to shoot him if he made the slightest thing to inconvenience them, Cioccolata wasn't left with another choice but to agree. Diavolo was already in a foul mood for having been dragged out of his house.

They followed him into another room in the back. Inside there were five men, all strapped to metal chairs, gagged, eyes bulging as they frantically looked around for salvation. “All of them are Japanese, as you requested. All of the same height and build, that's only what matters, anyway.”

Taking the identity of a Japanese man was something Kira was against to at first, saying that the police would look into it. Dio insisted that it would help him blend into the new family more easily since he knew the customs and language. Resuming a lifestyle not so different from his own would allow him to fool anyone.

“You pick whichever you like. All of them are supposed to be away on long business trips so that gives you plenty of time to recover.”

Kira started looking at the candidates, closely inspecting their faces. It had to be someone resembling him but not too much, so to make recovery even easier. He wanted to take his time with this but he heard Diavolo impatiently tap his foot against the filthy floor.

“That one,” he finally said. The man he was pointing out let out a muffled scream, not sure what that meant.

“Hmmm...Kosaku Kawajiri? Very well. Now, you are to sign this contract.” Kira picked the piece of paper and immediately handed it to Dio. “Once everything is ready, we can start.”

 

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Joseph opened the door to the house with the same grin as before, allowing the small family inside. The entrance hall was quite nice, airy, sunny, with a large staircase leading to the upper floor. Kira stopped at the foyer as Shinobu darted off to inspect the other rooms and Hayato sat on the floor, 3DS in hand.

“This one is probably the best so far. Two floors, a basement and a garage with room for two cars. It has four bedrooms, five bathrooms, a kitchen/dining area and this amazing lounge. It also has a room that could serve as a study and two small ones that can serve as supply closets.”

Kira liked this one, even more so because of Shinobu's excited 'ooh's' and 'ah's' coming from the second floor. There was a large backyard where he could finally do some gardening, plenty of room for Killer Queen to stroll around. He wondered if the basement was large enough for his fingernail collection.

“Kosaku, this place is amazing!” Shinobu shouted excitedly.

“I'm glad you like it,” he said with the faintest of smiles.

“Hayato, come and see the house with mama!”

Hayato dragged his feet up the stairs, leaving Kira with the ridiculously handsome and upbeat real estate agent.

“What do you think, Mr. Kawajiri?”

Kira had to consider this carefully. This was his first time buying a house, he wasn't sure what he had to pay attention to. The neighborhood was very beautiful, quiet, with all his friends nearby. A yacht club and a spa were nearby, as well as the good gym he'd be looking for. There was also a private school for Hayato, something to avert his mind from trying to find out the truth. This was the nicest one they've seen throughout the entire hunt and should have been the priciest. But it wasn't. Which only made Kira think.

“I like it. My wife likes it, our son...likes it? I hope my cat loves it too. But-”

“Your next line is 'this house is amazing, how come it's so cheap? There's gotta be a catch!'.”

“This house is amazing, how come it's so cheap? There's gotta be a catch!”

Joseph started laughing, flashing Kira another one of those too handsome smiles. Those Joestars seemed pleasant enough, why was Dio so salty? “There are some rowdy college students living down the road and many of us believe that Passione's boss lives somewhere along the street. That was off-putting for many buyers, causing this house to be empty for so long and a fantastic bargain to appear for you!”

Kira looked outside. Many families lived here, with mostly teenage kids. It would be great for Hayato to socialize, maybe Shinobu would stop worrying about him so much. Blending into a quaint suburban neighborhood was the dream.

Three boys passed in front of the house. Joseph waved giddily at one and he waved back. Had it not been for the thing on his head, the two would have been identical.

“We'll take it.”

 

 

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“Dude, it's a fucking sphinx cat.”

Josuke stopped. His dad had sold this house to a family a few days ago. The wife was pleasant enough, the husband less so. Their kid was a bit antisocial but he came out more and more. And they also had a cat, a little feline goblin that gracefully trod along the patio and had attracted Okuyasu's attention.

Before either Koichi or Josuke could say anything, Okuyasu approached the house's gate. “Imma go pet it.”

“Dude, the guy's kid says he's a serial killer. You don't want to go in there.”

“And you believed him? C'mon, don't be boring. Have you ever seen anything like this before?”

The prospect of petting a unique cat was quite alluring for Josuke. He stopped to consider the idea of a second. Koichi stopped his train of thought. “Are you actually considering breaking into a house to pet a cat?”

“It's not 'breaking in'. Look, the patio's door is open.”

“That doesn't change anything.”

The cat stopped and looked at them, cocking its head to the side. Okuyasu pointed at it. “Look at this shit.” It started wriggling its front paws, letting a quiet meow. Josuke was sold.

“If you're too scared, you stay here.”

“I'm not scared! Plus, someone has to keep an eye on you!”

The three of them ventured inside the front yard. Just to be safe, they rang the doorbell. No one was inside. Josuke and Okuyasu kept grinning like conspiring idiots, approaching the open door on their tip-toes, Koichi a few steps behind, sighing. He really wished Yukako was with them. She'd probably threaten them out of this.

The cat was giving them an unnerving look, its bulbous eyes following their motions. Okuyasu poked his head inside and surveyed the room. Everything was dark and quiet. When all of them got inside, the cat jumped off the chair it was on and meowed loudly. It quietly headed for the staircase leading to the basement.

“You're not thinking of following it there, are you?”

“Koichi, when you say you're gonna do something, you do it. That's the Joestar way.”

“Isn't the Joestar way running away at the smallest inconvenience?”

“Shut the hell up! You'll scare it!” Okuyasu barked.

Koichi gulped audibly. Okuyasu spotted the cat in the middle of the staircase. Almost tauntingly, it meowed, beckoning them to follow it into the dark, isolated basement. Before they took a step down, Koichi grabbed both their jackets.

“What if he IS a serial killer and we find mountains of corpses and he finds us and adds us to the pile?”

“Corpses smell after a time, Koichi,” Josuke pointed out, obviously forgetting the existence of freezers.

Okuyasu pushed the door open, revealing a normal basement. The cat was there, standing in the middle. With a big smile on his face, Okuyasu approached it and pet its head lightly, testing the waters. Once he saw that the cat was accepting his touches, he turned around, flashing his friends a confident smile. “See? Not so bad!” He scratched it behind the ears. “It feels so weird but she's so cute, man.”

“Alright, you pet it. Now let's go!” Koichi turned to look at Josuke, who in the meantime was looking at a small jar he found in a box. “What are you doing?”

“Just looking.” He opened the jar. Its contents spilled on his palm, some odd, white crescents. “What do you think these are? He has a shit ton of them.”

“They...they kinda look like nails, don't they?”

With a disgusted scream, Josuke threw the jar on the ground, breaking it, nails spilling everywhere. “Fucking gross!”

“Why does he even has those?” The cat had taken shelter into Okuyasu's arms and was purring quietly.

“Do you think they belonged to the corpses? Oh, I told you it'd be weird!”

“Let's get the hell out of here!”

“I'm keeping it.”

“You aren't.” Josuke picked the cat up and set it on the ground, from where it tried jumping on Okuyasu again.

The three darted outside, glad to be away from anything closely resembling a nail. And they were ready to call this adventure successful when Kira pulled over in his garage. They froze in the middle of the yard, each looking their own kind of shocked.

“Who the hell are you?” Kira barked. He knew who they were. Josuke, Joseph's kid, and his obnoxiously loud friends. “What are you doing in my house?”

“We...uh....we were playing ball and it...got here. And we came. To take. The ball. Back.”

“You sound unsure.”

“My mind tends to wander whenever ball-shaped things are involved.” Josuke flashed Kira a shaky smile. “We're gonna go now...Have a nice day!”

Kira quirked an eyebrow as the three of them ran away. “Where's the ball, though?” he muttered. His eyes widened. He dashed inside the house. It was empty, Shinobu had taken Hayato to buy shoes. Killer Queen was nowhere to be seen. They hadn't abducted his cat, had they?

He heard a relieving meow from the basement. When he got there, he found his cat, excited to see him as always, and a broken jar of nails from August 2003 next to her. A good year. He collected the cat in his arms and inspected the damage. Nothing he couldn't clean before Shinobu returned. Still. The jars were still packed and opening a sealed box required thumbs. Killer Queen whimpered with discomfort when Kira squeezed her a little too hard. A year later and his quiet life was in danger again.

 

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The days following Josuke's invasion were stressful for Kira. Shinobu noticed it and suggested they took a trip somewhere nearby. Kira shrugged the idea off, said he still needed to do some work around the new house. He wasn't going to leave the house unguarded, not any time soon. Stress during the summer wasn't the best thing. All these tourists running around and he was left to boil in his own blood, unable to do anything. One night while returning from his jog, he saw the prettiest girl, azure nails matching her pretty eyes. His breathing got heavy, sweat slicking his body despite the pleasant breeze. He needed a distraction, something to help him relax. He needed to, otherwise, he might end up hurting Shinobu. (Not that he cared, of course he didn't care. Having a dead wife would only raise suspicion, that's all.)

He waited for the girl to leave her friends and followed her at a safe distance. She was probably walking back to her hotel to enjoy the nice summer afternoon. She was walking down a trail in the park, looking around with blissful satisfaction. Kira was a few steps behind her, the largest rock he could find clutched tightly in his hand. No one was nearby. He stopped for just a second, taking in the sounds. Only their footsteps could be heard, his in perfect sync with hers. When she stopped to take a picture of something she found pretty, Kira lunged at her, bringing the rock down hard on her head. The blow was enough to make her stagger and yelp in surprise but not kill her. She buried her hands in her hair and saw blood. Turning around she saw an unfamiliar man, eyeing her with the eyes of a predator. Before she could scream, Kira's hands were at her throat, squeezing the life out of her. This wasn't his usual way of doing things but it had been so long, so, so long since he had last felt the feeling of a human body slowly turning into an empty sack of flesh. The light in her eyes died little by little. The struggle stopped.

Kira sat back, wheezing and sweating. He looked around. Still no one. He eyed her frozen form, his eyes gliding from her face to her hands. Small, slender, caramel-tinted, with perfectly manicured blue nails. With shaking hands, Kira reached for one, feeling the smooth flesh under his thumb. He sucked in a breath. He intertwined their fingers, looking lovingly at how good it looked. He brought her beautiful hand to his lips and slowly inserted her fingers into his mouth, tasting the saltiness of her sweat, feeling the nails like hard candy under his tongue. Oh, it had been so long.

“What the fuck?”

Kira raised his head abruptly. Standing right behind him was a strikingly beautiful man, obviously jogging as well, his perfectly-coiffed blonde hair tied in a ponytail and an earbud hanging from his ear. It would seem that once again luck had sided with Yoshikage Kira.

“Help me with the body,” he said in a single breath, springing up to his feet.

“Absolutely not.”

“Do it or I'm telling everyone about the race.”

That was the basis of the relationship between them. A group of equally ambitious and ruthless men that were forced to become friends since they had so much filth on one another, they could trigger a nuclear explosion at any moment. And they all had very particular skills that were necessary to one another. Out of their bunch, Valentine was admittedly the most rational one, the one that normally calmed them down. While being a genuinely intelligent man, Valentine was also very serious when it came to America's safety. He was the governor and he took his job very, very seriously.

Reluctantly, he decided to help Kira. “We need to carry her to my car. It's not far from here.”

Kira nodded. He grabbed his victim by the hands, those soft, small hands, while Valentine took hold of her ankles. She was heavier than anticipated but both were strong, able to carry her to the car with no problem. There was an issue, however. Valentine's car had no actual 'trunk', just a tiny cabin at the front, capable of holding perhaps one (1) sports bag.

“Why did you take this one?” he complained, pointing at Valentine's white Bugatti Veyron.

“Oh, I'm sorry. I had no idea you'd be out killing people tonight! Didn't get the fucking memo!”

“What are we going to do?” Kira never panicked whenever he killed. This was a new feeling, a foreign rush of adrenaline. The waves of pleasure brought from a fresh kill were slowly subsiding, making room for uncertainty, even fear.

“Just...uh...” Valentine lowered her bottom half inside the cabin before taking her back out. “I'm not the best at this. But we can fit her. I think.” Valentine propped her up in a sitting position and started bending her in half, body not going far enough to allow them to completely fold her in two. They closed the lid.

“We have to push it,” Kira said and Valentine agreed. They were two ridiculously lucky men. So far, no one else had passed.

Valentine stood up on the lid and jumped on it as Kira pushed it down with all his force. With a graphic crack, the lid was closed, Valentine sliding down from the hood but managing to gracefully land on his feet.

“So what do we do now?”

“We need to destroy it.” That much was understandable. Still, Kira wasn't looking forward to seeing such a pretty pair of hands for the last time. This would be the first time he wouldn't be taking a hand. There were no places to hide it. He wasn't alone anymore. He had a Hayato, snooping around, paranoid about the tiniest details. He had a Shinobu, a wife, tidying everything, making sure their lovely home was always nice and clean.

“I got an idea,” Valentine said as he started the car. Judging by the turn he took, heading for their neighborhood, Kira more or less knew where he was headed.

They stopped at a red light. The song playing from the radio was filling the silence between them. Kira was twiddling his thumbs. He still felt like he needed some closure with the guy. He looked at Valentine who was gripping hard on the steering wheel, sapphire eyes looking forward. His eyes trailed from his toned arms down to his hands, his beautiful hands. He had long fingers, the result of many years of piano and violin practice, and short, manicured nails. His platinum wedding ring, adorned with tiny diamonds, reflected the golden afternoon light prettily.

Valentine spoke first. “You need to stop. Not because it's a sick fucking thing-”

“Stop kinkshaming me.”

“-but because you're jeopardizing your new life. You were caught once, what if you're caught a second time? You'd lose everything and I swear it to you, Yoshikage, I'll do everything in my power to have you locked in a cell in the Rocky Mountains.”

Kira pursed his lips. He hated it when Valentine lectured him. He was the only one who had a problem with this. “I can't resist these urges.”

Valentine had a lot to say on that matter but he didn't. Mostly because he wasn't in the mood to start an argument they had gone through a million times before. And also because from just a few meters away, his wife was waving happily at him.

“Shit.”

“Hello! You must be Mr. Kawajiri. I'm Scarlet Valentine, pleasure to meet you.” They shook hands. Like Valentine, Scarlet also had beautiful hands, though she had a peculiar manicure; the nails on her middle and index fingers were shorter than the rest, though painted in the same, fiery, glossy red. “I met your wife. She's quite lovely.”

“Yes, I'm sure you two had an amazing time together, but you and our neighbor can catch up later. We're kind of in a hurry.”

She quirked an eyebrow at her husband. “A hurry? Why? Everything alright? What are you two even doing together?”

“That's way too many questions, Scarlet. I just happened upon Kosaku on the way back home and decided to give him a lift,” Valentine replied with a calm smile. That smile would have deceived everyone, even his own mother, but not the woman that had spent close to twenty years of her life with him.

“Alright,” she murmured. “I still have a few more things to do, do you mind taking these with you back home? I don't have my car with me.”

“There's no room.”

“What? But why?”

“I picked up some stuff earlier.” He smiled again, fingers flexing a little. Kira's face had turned into stone, unable to take any expression.

“We didn't need any groceries. What did you buy?”

“It's a surprise,” he simply answered, visibly irritated by his wife's interrogation.

“Oh! Is there something amazing in there? Something so extraordinary that you don't want me to see?”

“No!” he shouted. She looked at him, eyebrows raised. Black eyes met blue engaging in a battle of dominance that Valentine was clearly losing. “It's nothing important, just a small surprise.”

“If it's small, then my bags can fit as well.”

“They can't.”

“Funny,” Scarlet started, tone cold, much like Valentine's own. “Are you hiding something from me?”

“Why would I be hiding something from you?”

“You know, you're always replying to a question with a question when you're lying. Open the trunk.”

“I'm not opening it.”

“Do it.”

“Can't I have my secrets?”

“No, not when you're all suspicious like this. Open the trunk.”

Valentine took a steadying breath.” Let's say that hypothetically there was a corpse in the trunk, what would you do?”

“What the fuck are you doing?” Kira hissed in his ear.

“Trust me on this.”

“Is there a corpse in there?”

“Hypothetically, sweetheart.”

Scarlet sighed, looking completely exasperated. “Funny, stop acting like a child and show me what you have in there.”

Valentine stepped out of his car and Kira watched, utterly frozen, as he opened the cabin, revealing the sight of a probably mangled corpse to his wife. Scarlet blinked once, maybe twice.

“Being with you for so long has made me desensitized to shady shit,” was all she said. She leaned up to plant a soft kiss on his lips. She ran her hand along his light pink hoodie, smoothing any wrinkles. “I'll just call an Uber. There's food at home, I left it in the oven.”

“I'll eat once you get home.”

“You don't have to if you're hungry. I know you skip lunch breaks,” Scarlet sweetly admonished, pressing a finger against his chest.

“I'd rather wait for you.”

Kira watched the two interact, exchange sweet words and soft kisses, make plans for dinner, dogsitters, and babysitters. Kira found himself releasing a longing sigh. Would he and Shinobu ever reach the same level of understanding? He knew he was making a better job at keeping her happy than Kosaku Kawajiri ever could. What was pushing him to act like a good husband towards her? Shinobu's hands weren't even impressive! Mediocre, at best. Though after his arrival she started moisturizing them and making sure the nails were always clean.

Unsurprisingly, they ended up pulling over in front of Dio's house. The lights were on, indicating that the man was inside. Luck was on the side of Yoshikage Kira yet again as the ever-helpful Jonathan and the observative Giorno were both absent, meaning that Dio was alone (or with Pucci which wasn't really a problem). Taking the corpse out was even harder this time since the position they had put her in had made her lose some of her flexibility.

Valentine knocked on the door which was answered by Dio seconds later. “We're gonna need the incinerator.”

Dio complained as he loved to do, but after everything was said and done, the three ended up sipping wine on the porch. Across the street, Jotaro was watering his plants. Jolyne opened the window of her room and stepped on the roof. Jotaro merely turned to look at her and she crawled back inside, looking every bit like a wet cat. Everywhere Kira looked he found little scenes like this, people going around their lives with no complications. A relaxed smile formed on his lips. The sounds of the town around him filled his ears. It was a beautiful sound, the sound of everyday life. Quiet, boring even. He loved it.

Still, if more nosy teenagers came into his house and sniffed around his belongings, Yoshikage Kira was seriously considering becoming a hermit.

Chapter Text

 

 


Immoral or uncleanly transactions conducted in exchange for a sum of income considered reasonable by the majority of the population

 


In the darkness of his opulent bedroom, Valentine opened his eyes. He sat up on the bed, not even a hint of sleepiness on his person. Only anger. Pure anger. It was extremely rare for him, he was a very patient man. More than patient, however, he was passionate about his work. And in order to work, he needed to be up by 6 AM. And in order to be up by that hour, he had to be asleep by at least midnight, a task relatively easy but currently impossible, with the crowd of uncivilized apes that had gathered next door. As if Johnny and Gyro weren't loud enough on their own, they just had to throw a party that was as noisy as the battle of Thermopyles. Valentine could only glare maliciously outside the window. He could even feel the music resonate in his chest.

He looked at his wife, his peacefully sleeping wife. He narrowed his eyes and started shaking her. She only groaned.

“I know you're not sleeping.” She didn't respond. He shook her harder. “Scarlet. Wake up.”

“What is your issue?” she lamented and buried her face in her pillow.

“How can you sleep through this?!”

“You just woke me up!”

He stubbornly crossed his arms, ignoring her complaints. “They're gonna wake up everyone at this rate!”

“Funny, it's just you and me here. Just...go back to sleep and try to block out the sound.” She threw the blanket over her head but he yanked it off. “Oh my God...”

“How can anyone sleep through this madness!” He stood up and moved to the window. “Listen to this. Listen to how these brutes spend the days of their youth.”

“We were much worse.”

“No, we weren't.”

“Yes, we were. You, especially. You and Diavolo were drunk 70% of the time, we had a threesome in a bus, you and Dio stole a senator's car and your favorite past time activity was trashing hotel rooms.”

“I have no memory of these instances.”

She sighed. “Whatever you say. Just come back to bed. We can have sex until the party ends.”

“I have time neither for you nor for this! I need to sleep so I can be productive!”

Scarlet rubbed her temples. He was truly insufferable at times. She watched him peer outside like a conspiring housewife, murmuring things to himself. “You can't stay up all night and complain about this.”

“I'm going there. I'll try to reason with them.” Before Scarlet could even say anything, Valentine was off, wearing his fluffy pink robe and too expensive slippers.

This neighborhood was for hard-working families, not obnoxious college students! Those damn Joestars just had to live in packs. Out of the Johnny/ Gyro duo, Johnny was by far the most troublesome. The guy was snarky, cold and completely unapologetic. Valentine had tried reasoning with him on countless occasions, and all attempts had been futile. Their relationship as neighbors and co-existing Americans had only worsened after Johnny lost 10k on the Steel Ball Run race, a scam created by Valentine that Johnny had no way proving. After that, Johnny did everything in his power to annoy the ever-loving shit out of Valentine and boy was he good! Think of it as the “immovable object vs unstoppable force” analogy. Valentine was patient and perpetually calm while Johnny was a very irritating and resourceful kid.

Valentine approached the house with quiet anger and a pocket full of cash. Diego, who was actually one of his employees, had to be there and Diego was so easily lured by money. Maybe when offered a large sum of money, he'd try to reason with the others. Not that it meant anything for Valentine. He was rather rich. He knocked on the door loudly, trying to make the sound be heard above the kitschy music. (Governor Funny Valentine was also a bit of a hypocrite, scrunching his nose at Britney Spears' Toxic, which was in all honesty, his anthem.) After several minutes of knocking, Gyro answered the door. Valentine wriggled his nose in disgust. He looked worse than usual, with blue lipstick marks covering every patch of visible skin, dressed in a horrible mesh shirt, hair dirtier than usual. Valentine dared a peek behind the young man, equally revolted by the jungle he saw. Kids these days were like animals. (Of course, Mr. Funny Valentine would think this, completely deleting his adventurous weekend in Madrid with Diavolo where the two robbed a church and almost got married from his memory.)

“Well, look who it is.”

Valentine made a big show out of waving Gyro's horrid breath away from his face. “Julius. I demand you put an end to this. Some of us have to work, contribute to society.”

“So?”

“So I need to sleep to have the energy to be productive.”

“I still don't see where the problem is.”

Valentine breathed through his nose. No need to lose his temper with this buffoon. Oh, there was so much he wanted to say that his position didn't allow. He took out his wallet and held out 500 dollars. “I'll pay you to end the party.”

Gyro eyed the money with interest. He scratched his unshaven chin thoughtfully. “Double.”

“Double,” Valentine agreed and added five hundred more to the sum. “Here. Now stop the music.”

Gyro was a fast bastard, even faster than Valentine himself, who could only watch in shock as Gyro snatched the money, shut the door to his face and screamed “We got more beer money!”

Valentine stood outside the door, completely dumbfounded. He clenched his fist and headed back into his house. The tranquility of his opulent estate was disrupted by him making a show out of violently thumping his feet against the stairs, swinging the door open and bursting inside. Scarlet actually started sobbing, and tried to block the reality of her husband freaking out by covering herself with every blanket on the bed, despite the heat. Valentine reached for his rose gold iPhone and moved to the window, fixing his gaze on the raging party next door.

“Hello, police? I'd like to report an incident in my neighborhood.”

“What is the issue, sir?”

“There's a very loud party going on right next door and it's disturbing the entire neighborhood.”

“I see. We will dispatch a unit at our earliest convenience, sir. It's been a rather busy night.”

Valentine twirled a golden lock around his finger. “Yes, thank you, officer,” he nearly cooed in a voice dripping with sarcasm. “Please send them at Governor Valentine's house.”

“M-Mr. Valentine! I'm so sorry, sir! I didn't realize it was you!”

“It's fine. Please be quick.”

“Why don't you let them be? They're just kids, Funny.”

“This isn't a matter of sleeping anymore! This is a battle of strength. I must show these idiots just what happens when they lack respect.”

“Yes, they're gonna go extinct like the dinosaurs.” With a groggy laugh, she reclined on one arm, extending the other to him. “Come on. There's no point in insisting so much. Just come back to bed and try to relax. I'll help you.” He wasn't listening. One of the reasons she had married this rather magnificent man was because of how determined he was in everything he did. But there was a thin line between force of will and downright stubbornness, and Valentine crossed it every day. Most would give up but after knowing her husband for almost thirty years, Scarlet knew just which buttons to push. “So you're okay with Yoshikage killing people but lose your shit with a dumb college party.”

“That's...Why are you so mean to me?”

“Oh, for fuck's sake.” She knew she was right on this one. Trying to reason with him would only further irritate her. She was going to ignore him as she was ignoring the Armageddon occurring a yard away. “Do as you please.”

With a defeated sigh, Valentine sauntered over to the edge of the bed and sat down, a strong hand softly caressing the dip of her waist. “Forgive me. I tend to get a little strong-headed at times.”

“I was seconds away from yelling at you.”

“But.”

“But I can't do it when you look at me like that. It's unfair, having a face like that.” She reached for one of his incredibly soft locks, bringing one to her nose to inhale the sweet scent.

“Would it be easier for you to scold me if I was ugly?” he mumbled while a wide grin formed on his lips. He dipped down, nuzzling their noses together.

“Oh yes. Just a look at your ugly mug would be enough to make me furious.” Scarlet threw her arms around his neck, pulling him close so that his hair fell around her like a golden veil. Only his sky-blue eyes gleamed in the little light. “More than you normally do.”

“Do I really make you that angry?”

“Yes. Especially when we finally have the house to ourselves and you do nothing to celebrate that.”

“Hmmm...perhaps we can change that.”

In a whirlwind of giggles and happy sighs, he trailed kisses from her forehead to her nose and cheeks, lips and neck, before moving even further down, letting his hands roam across the surface his lips couldn't reach. He was almost completely lured, the little incident almost entirely was forgotten when police sirens rang in his ears.

“They're here!” he shouted and jumped off of Scarlet, darting off to the window.

A police car pulled over outside Johnny and Gyro's house and the officer walked outside. Valentine's triumphant smile completely disappeared when he saw who it was. Tim. Of all police officers available they had to send Tim. Fucking Tim. He walked to the door and knocked several times. The door was answered by Lucy, who upon seeing her friend, threw her hands in the air and pulled him inside, insisting that he stayed for a little while.

“Motherfucker!” Valentine hissed and slammed his fist on the wall. If the law wasn't taking this seriously, he was going to take the law in his hands.

“What are you doing now?” Scarlet whined.

“Don't worry, sweetheart. I'll be back soon and finish what I started.”

Valentine headed out once more, this time carrying his shotgun and some other useful tools.

Meanwhile, the party in Johnny and Gyro's was going great. Every cheesy early 00's anthem was blasting through the speakers, people were swimming in an inflatable pool filled with beer, Gyro was having a concert from the couch, Johnny was having a strip pie eating contest with Hot Pants, Diego was hosting a game of Russian-Uno-Charades, an amalgamation that somehow ended with the victor gaining ownership titles over a farm in Cincinnati while the losers all ended up owing money to the mafia. Lucy was auctioning random items found around the house. It was probably their best one yet. It was probably because of the house. It had a lot more space than their shitty old apartment. Blessed be Jonathan's heart for buying them a house like that. The neighborhood was great, too, if it wasn't for the stuck-up snob that lived next door. Johnny didn't know what was worse; Valentine being the way he was, or Diego wanting to seduce him by playing as his little secretary.

“Aight, ladies and gents,” Gyro shouted over the rowdy crowd, “taking requests!”

“Wonderwall!”

“All I want for Christmas is you!”

“The Evangelion opening!”

“I'm hearing some good ones right there. Did someone just say 'Ball Breaker'? I might as well go with that.

“Valentine!” Lucy screamed from her place atop the pool table.

“Oh, that's the one! It's a bit sadder than intended so you might wanna hold onto your valentine or go cry in the corner.” Gyro played the first notes, trying to bring his slurring voice into a reasonable singing tune.

Now, the real reason Lucy had said the word 'Valentine' wasn't because she wanted Gyro to sing the song 'My funny valentine', but because the actual Funny Valentine was there, standing with his shotgun in hand after having kicked the door in. He shot once in the air, effectively silencing everyone.

No one was moving. Valentine was standing in front of the sea of loud college kids looking every bit like a hunter targetting clueless deer. Lucy grabbed a bottle of absinthe, smashed in on the ground and at the top of her lungs shrieked “Scatter!” resulting in a sea of people trying to escape while screaming.

It would seem as though the energetic and very drunk college students underestimated the viciousness and speed of a 38-year old man, an armed one at that. Before Johnny could reach for it, Valentine kicked his wheelchair away while grabbing him by the neck. Johnny dug his fancy nails into Valentine's arms but the older man was far stronger, able to throw him over his shoulder no matter how much Johnny flailed and fought. While the rest of the partygoers were still in the middle of evacuating, Valentine stormed outside, carrying Johnny like a sack of potatoes.

“You maniac!” shrieked Johnny, tugging viciously on Valentine's hair.

“Since reason fails to take root within you, I have decided to use force. You brought this upon yourself.”

“What does that even mean?!” Johnny tried to wriggle free from his hold. Valentine was so calm, as if nothing ever touched him, infuriating Johnny all the more. He wished his arch nemesis was a deranged, vengeful psychopath like Dio.

“Hey, asshole.” In the middle of Johnny's despair, a shining ray of hope appeared, still wearing his tight leather pants and mesh shirt, hair dyed neon green. Valentine turned around to look at Gyro with sheer boredom in his eyes. “Leave my boyfriend alone.”

“Or?”

Gyro, using all the force he had, threw a water balloon at Valentine's face. The thing bounced on his face and came splashing on the pavement. Valentine followed its trajectory with his eyes and then looked back at Gyro, cocking his gun. He had never seen a man run so fast before.

“What is your fucking problem? Didn't you do stupid shit like that?”

“No! Don't you assume things about me! And don't ever think I was the same as you. Or any of those rejects, for that matter!” When they reached their destination, Valentine threw Johnny unceremoniously on the ground and immediately got to work. “You Joestars are certainly something but you take the fucking cake,” he huffed as he fastened the ropes around Johnny's arms and legs, securing them on Jonathan's fence. He stood back up, admiring his work. “There. I'll let him deal with you.”

Johnny looked at the house with horror. If there was something all of them hated doing was disappointing Jonathan. He was never angry, just disappointed and betrayed. And it hurt so much, the pain was far worse than being run over by a truck.

“You fiend.”

“Say whatever you want, idubbbz. That's the least I can do to you.”

With that, Valentine turned around to leave, his step finally more relaxed as he went back to his house. Johnny kept looking at the man's figure while he kept walking away, dark fire burning in his pale eyes. This asshole was obviously underestimating him and Johnny was going to teach him a lesson.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

It was extremely rare for Diavolo to wake up before noon and this day was exactly like that. It was close to 6 PM when he rose and in unusual fashion, decided to head to the garden with his coffee and cigarettes. His house was by far the quietest, located at the end of the road, being neighbors with only Valentine. The house right across had been empty for years, since he had terrorized the last tenants out of it.

Into the garden he walked, idly sipping on his coffee. Doppio was out and so was Trish, allowing him a much cherished moment of genuine peace and quiet. He gazed at nothing in particular, eyes switching between different sights, mind drifting to different matters. Work was going great, even with the rowdiness that came with summer. Perhaps he could squeeze in a few days of vacation, maybe in Naples. He was pulled out of his lazy contemplation when Valentine's car pulled over to the house next door. The man climbed out of it and locked it. Diavolo whistled at him, attracting his attention.

“Hey.”

“Hey. Done from work?”

“Yeah. Just woke up?”

“Yeah.” Diavolo passed him a cigarette. Valentine put it between his lips and Diavolo lit it for him. “I learned about what happened with Johnny.”

“Yes, well, it had to be dealt with.” He took a long drag. “It's not that I hate him, I just find him very, very annoying. You know I can't stand whiny people.”

“You were whiny when we were younger.”

“Oh, fuck off. If anything, I've always been the most patient one. You're the angry one, Yoshikage whines a lot.”

“And Dio.”

“Ugh, Dio. His only redeeming quality is his eyes. And his taste in men.” Valentine tapped off some of the ashes, watched them drift away, carried by the light breeze. “Scarlet and I are planning a little trip soon. You up for it?”

“I don't know, I'd rather be alone.”

“C'mon. At the lake house. It's really secluded there.”

The offer was tempting. The place was one of Diavolo's favorites, cool and serene, and Valentine's 'lodge' was a goddamn palace. He was seriously considering it. “I'll tell Doppio about it.”

“You know he'll agree. Bring Trish, too.”

“No kids. By the way, where the hell are yours? Did you drown them or something?”

“Summer camp.”

“Ah.”

“My Dad insisted, I thought it was a good idea. I spent all my summers there as a kid so I thought it'd be cute for them to do the same.” Valentine, being neat as always, collected the stump in a little napkin. “Thanks for the smoke.”

“Don't mention it.”

“We'll talk later.”

“Sure.”

Five steps away from the fence, Diavolo saw Valentine suddenly get sucked by the ground. Just like that, disappear from his eyes. He glanced at his cup of coffee and sniffed it. It seemed normal. He peered over the fence and saw a dark, gaping hole in the ground. His eyes widened. Even though there was some pretty weird shit going on around here, it wasn't common seeing your friend just get sucked by the planet Earth.

“Funny?” he called.”

“Funny!” Scarlet screamed, coming out of the house. Diavolo dragged his feet over to Valentine's house. “What the hell happened?”

There was some groaning coming from the hole. It was pitch black. “Get me out of here!”

“How deep is this thing?”

“I don't fucking know! Oh, fuck...I think I hurt my leg. Call the fire department, don't just fucking stand there!” Diavolo called the fire department when he stopped laughing.


From the house next door, Johnny and Lucy were observing the scene. The young woman was evidently more anxious, teeth nibbling slightly on her nails.

“He'll find out it was you and me.”

“Good. I'm prepared for what's to come,” Johnny confidently said, as if he was speaking about a grand battle or something. For him it was; a battle of wits and patience. It was him vs the government. Kind of.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 


The three of them were sitting on lounging chairs by Valentine's pool, safe under umbrellas, with margaritas to keep them refreshed.

“I have an idea.”

“Oh no.”

“Can your condescending ass not judge before I open my mouth?” Valentine shut up. “Thank you. Have you seen the Godfather?”

“Oh, for fuck's sake, Diavolo.”

“I wasn't done talking, asshole.”

“If you're getting at what I think you're getting at then no. That's just downright sadistic. Not that I didn't think about it...But no. It's just too much.”

“Then what do you suggest?”

“How about instead of trying to settle your beef with some dumb college kids, you keep minding your own business?” Kira offered.

“I wish,” Valentine huffed. He rolled his left ankle, still hurting from the fall. “But they're so annoying! They're children!”

“Exactly! They're dumb children and you're the next President. You have no business losing your time with that.”

“Losing your time is exactly what you have to do,” Diavolo said before Valentine could consider Kira's words. He sat up, letting his drink on the table between them. “You gotta show them who's boss. You're playing nice, Funny.”

“I don't want to kill them, I just want to teach them a lesson.” Valentine put his glass down, falling into thinking silence. Diavolo was suggesting raw violence while Kira supported a more passive approach. Meanwhile, his wife was looking at him with disapproval. He scowled, unsure which path to follow.

An idea was playing in his mind, hesitantly coming to life. “What is one thing you Italians find us Americans disgusting for?”

“One thing? Just one? Cuz the list is pretty big.”

“Of course it is. You Europeans adore overreacting. Just tell me one.”

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 


Gyro almost teared up when he saw his house. He tiredly came through the door and mindlessly shut it. He smiled when he saw Johnny sitting on the couch, watching yet another episode of Body Bizzare. The younger man looked at Gyro and a small smile formed on his lips.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” Gyro collapsed on the couch on top of Johnny, who started shouting at him for it. “I'm so tired.”

“So get off! Go take a shower and then sleep, you idiot.”

And Gyro did just that. He had already eaten so he was rather full. Not even an hour later and he was in bed, sleeping soundly next to Johnny. Despite the warm summer night, he kept Johnny's body close to his own, feeling his quiet breathing against his chest. The window was open, letting some of the fragrant air inside. He was always talking about taking better care of the garden but had never done so.

His sleep was peaceful, undisturbed. His entire body felt like jello after such a tiring day at the university and hospital. These internships were going to be the death of him. Quite literally, with all the people that puked on his through the day.

Gyro only woke up when he felt a light weight on the foot of the bed. It was probably Johnny, getting up to go to the bathroom. Or not. He was still holding Johnny in his arms and he could make out the sounds of...slurping? There was definitely some obnoxious chewing, the clutter of cutlery. He sniffed the air. It was cheesy. He opened his eyes. His entire body became frozen in fear once he saw a dark figure watching him, eating from something. When his eyes adjusted to the little light, he started making out the form's features more clearly. At first, it looked like an angel, blonde and blue-eyed, clad in white. But then he saw, in utter horror, that it was Valentine. And not only that, but the man was eating spaghetti from a plate balanced on a knee, using a fork and a spoon. Gyro felt bile climb to his throat. Valentine kept eating with a straight face, making no other sound, eyes stuck on Gyro's. Gyro had no way of figuring out whether this was a dream or not since he couldn't move. He just lay there, pinned by the man's cold gaze and disgusting eating habits.

“It's all soft and buttery, it's practically mush,” Valentine said, voice lacking any emotion, sounding as if it resonated from inside a well where light didn't reach. “Just as pasta should be.”

Gyro woke up screaming, panting, sweating. He looked around the bedroom frantically. No one. Johnny was telling him something but Gyro couldn't hear. He shot up from the bed and started looking around the room, behind the mirror, under the bed. He looked outside. The house next to his was quiet and dark, completely tranquil.

“What the hell, Gyro!”

“He was here! Right here!” Gyro pointed at the now cursed bed. “Sitting here, eating pasta! Like a freak!”

“What are you talking about?”

“Valentine! He was here! And he was just staring at me! Eating pasta with a fucking spoon! A spoon!”

This was weird even for them. Johnny didn't even know where to begin with. For now, he had to be the sensible one. “Gyro,” he sighed, “that was probably a dream.”

“It was real! He was really here!”

“And where is he now?”

Gyro eyed Johnny suspiciously. “I don't know! Here, don't you smell this? The air smells like cheese.”

“It's probably the mozzarella sticks you keep inside your drawer.” Deciding that this battle was not worth fighting and that it wasn't possible for Valentine to have actually gotten into his house, Johnny went back to sleep.

“I'll find out what happened,” Gyro whispered under his breath. It was much later that he drifted off to sleep, too.

For the next couple of days, Gyro was allegedly visited by 'Valentine' two more times. On his request, Hot Pants agreed to sleep into their bedroom. No one believed him but it was best to humor him. Despite sleeping very lightly, not even she was able to realize Valentine coming in. Gyro insisted it had happened. They were all doubting his mental stability. Even after finding out that their lock had been broken for a while, explaining Valentine's ability to come in, they weren't sold. So be it. If his friends didn't believe him, Gyro was going to take matters into his own hands.

He decided to strike during the day. Johnny was at the races, Valentine was at the church with his wife, the house was completely empty. Gyro headed out, quickly surveying the neighborhood. It was a pretty quiet Sunday morning, not that many people around this early. Gyro nonchalantly headed around the back, idly looking around. He glanced at Diavolo's house. While the owner was inside, there was no way he was going to wake within the next ten hours. And with the house behind it empty, Gyro was free to work his miracles.

He knew Valentine had cameras and all that fancy security shit around his house but Gyro would stop at nothing. With commendable agility, he climbed over the unnecessarily big garden wall, the opulent mansion coming to view. Arrogant asshole. All going about the comfort of the American people while living in a goddamn palace. His pool was the size of a lake and he even had a tree house made for the kids. (Some childhood they're having, Gyro thought to himself, shocked that he was considering that maybe Valentine was actually decent and compassionate. Hell no.)

He was interested in neither. Right there, treading elegantly through the perfectly mowed, emerald grass was the fluffiest, most beautiful dog Gyro had ever seen. Valentine's prized samoyed was a wonder to look at; big, white, clean, robust and an absolute sweetheart. Gyro almost felt bad that this precious fluffball had to pay for its owner's sins. Almost. He leaped inside and the docile creature looked at him curiously. He grinned, his grill reflecting the early sun.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 


“Stop laughing.”

“I can't,” Diavolo wheezed over the other line.

With a deep sigh, Valentine rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I call you to share my pain with you and you laugh.”

“You're taking this too seriously. It could've been worse.”

“He dyed my dog pink!”

“Now you match.”

“Diavolo!”

Okay, okay.” Diavolo took a drag of a cigarette. Valentine was in dire need of a smoke. “I suggested many things but you didn't listen. We should've gone with the horse head.”

“Is it too late to change my mind?” he groaned. His nerves were hanging from a thin thread, dangling over the black abyss of fury. He was so close to snapping, so, so close. Diavolo laughed hoarsely. He shifted on his chair, changing ear. “I can't fucking do this. I'm trying to work and all I can think about is how my house is completely defenseless.” He got up from his chair and looked at the parks and beautiful buildings surrounding him. Not even the sight of the flag was enough to calm him down, not even her fearless stars and stripes could help him concentrate.

“And you! None of this would've happened if you were awake!” he accused.

“Are you seriously fucking blaming me?”

His stern expression melted with a defeated sigh. “I'm sorry. I just...this is so annoying. They're kids! Damn kids!” A long finger twirled around a soft lock of flaxen hair. “I honestly don't know who's worse. Johnny or Gyro...”

“What more can you do?”

“Oh, I can kill them if I want to. Thing is I don't want to. They don't need to die over such a silly feud.”

“It may be silly but you're losing your head over it.”

Valentine let a mirthless laugh. “Yeah. Look what they're doing to me, Diavolo. I'm complaining and you're the one calming me down.”

A historic moment.” Diavolo put out his cigarette. He was probably putting his feet on his desk. “Until you've installed an electric fence or something, they'll keep getting in. They'll keep doing it no matter what you do and it's not like you can just fly from Albany to Greenhaven in minutes.”

“True.” The distance was another problem. Valentine was too far from his home, Scarlet worked 45 minutes away from it. Even if something happened, they wouldn't be able to get there on time. And this was all happening while the housekeeper was on vacation.

There was a knock on the door. “Listen, I'll call you later. If you see anything, call me immediately.”

“Alright, alright. And don't worry too much. Keep on working, make America great again.”

“Asshole.” He ended the call and cleared his throat. “Come in.”

It was Diego, who peered into the office, looking every bit like a nervous lizard. He had an odd hunch that Valentine would take his frustration with Johnny and Gyro on him, probably on his legs or his horse. And Valentine's appearance made him feel even more uneasy. Tall, cold, imposing, the giant window behind him making his head appear pure gold.

“Yes?” he asked with a raise of his eyebrow.

“I'll just...go get lunch and was wondering if you want anything.”

“Get me an...uhhh...iced venti americano with skim milk and caramel syrup,” he said as he gave Diego the money. “Ah, and before I forget.” He reached under his desk and pulled a shoe box. “Your brother forgot this at my place the other day.”

“I won't go by his place today. Don't you have keys?”

“Keys? Why would I have keys to Dio's house?”

Diego found that statement a little weird. He shrugged, giving Valentine an odd look. “You don't have keys to your best friend's house?”

“He's not my best friend,” Valentine snorted as he sat down. Suddenly, the dots were joined in his mind and his blue eyes widened, twinkling with dark thoughts. “You have keys to your best friends' house?”

“Yeah,” Diego idly replied.

“Huh.” Valentine smiled, enjoying the way Diego's brows furrowed. “You know, you don't have to bring my coffee immediately. Just sit and eat your food.”

Diego nodded. He pointed at the door, taking a small step towards it. “With that may I...?”

“Of course, of course.”

The moment Diego left, Valentine stuck his face to the window. Minutes later, he saw the short man exit the building and head to the Starbucks that was roughly ten minutes away. He grinned widely and losing no time, he stormed outside of his office. By a rough estimation, he had around forty minutes to act. He looked at Diego's things and much to the shock of the other secretary started rummaging through his backpack like a maniac. He let a completely un-Valentine laugh when he found Diego's keys.

“Blackmore!” he shouted, barging into the man's office. He caught his reflection in the mirror. He straightened his back and brought his expression back to a stoic mask of neutrality. “Blackmore,” he started again, a lot more calmly, gracefully closing the door with his foot. “I need you to do a little something for me. You will be paid extra, of course.”

Blackmore set his pen down and looked at Valentine. He handled the Governor's dirty deeds but why would Valentine risk being heard? It was unusual for him to be requesting anything serious in broad daylight.

“Sir?”

“I need you to copy these keys for me.”

Blackmore blinked slowly, looking suspiciously at the keys. “Is...is that it?”

“Yes,” Valentine said, impatient. “I need them now, Blackmore. Like, right now.”

Wasting no time, Blackmore shot up from his seat. “How soon is now?”

“Twenty minutes.”

“Right away, sir.”

With that out of the way, Valentine walked back into his office. He felt a weight lifted from his shoulders. He playfully ran his fingers along the little flag on his desk. He was definitely calmer.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 


Johnny was the first to come inside the house, a deep sigh leaving his chest at the sight of his household. He was feeling exhausted, absolutely drained. Two hours in the pool, even more on that damn treadmill. He was positive that Gyro was plotting to murder him as revenge for not believing his Valentine crap.

“I'll go cook something quick,” Gyro said as he reached for the light switch. Nothing. “Shit. When was the last time we replaced those?”

“Not once since we moved in,” Johnny sheepishly replied. He was too tired to care about anything. He was just longing for the sweet release of sleep (?) to engulf him. His plan was to fall asleep on the couch and have Gyro carry him upstairs. Oh, that was amazing.

Johnny wheeled into the living room and with little difficulty due to the absolute darkness, dropped his body on the couch. That completely collapsed under his little weight, resulting in him falling hard on the floor. He wasn't hurting as he was shocked, blinking stupidly at his shadowy surroundings. The furniture was new, surely it had to be sturdier than that. He reached for the couch's remains. Cardboard. He reached for the coffee table. Cardboard. He looked up and around. Everything was probably cardboard.

Gyro swore loudly from the kitchen. “That son of a bitch!”

 


“You are a petty man,” Scarlet said. He wasn't listening. “First you sneak into their house to eat spaghetti, now this! What did you even do with the furniture?”

Valentine looked at his watch. “Right now it's being auctioned.”

“Oh my God, Funny.”

“What was I supposed to do?”

“Nothing! You're better than this!”

“I'm better than everything and I choose to pick this battle.”

She sighed, exasperated. She gave up, let the man eat his ice cream while revel in the anrgy Italian noises coming from next door. Her last hope was for the kids to return. It was baffling seeing her rational, patient and maybe a bit cold husband being so worked up. A few days away would do him good.

Fortunately, after a week of constant childish battles that may have gotten a bit out of hand, a benevolent angel answered Scarlet's prayer. On Saturday night, at around 2 AM, Valentine was standing outside of his house with a revolver in his hand, Johnny and Gyro were stationed outside their own, both holding knives while Lucy waited behind them and Jonathan was standing between the two parties, looking baffled. Honestly, he had no idea what was actually going on but war had broken in the neighborhood. What he thought was a little feud between neighbors ended up with Valentine holding Gyro on the ground while trying to strangle him.

“I...Who started this?”

“You.”

“You.”

Jonathan sighed deeply. He looked at Dio who sneered back at him. He was having the time of his life seeing Valentine on the verge of getting stabbed. “Fine, don't tell me. It's not like I can't guess. Both of you are at fault here and for the sake of the neighborhood, I must ask you to shake hands and drop all weapons.”

“Hmph. I didn't start this.”

“I didn't ask you, Funny.”

“You think you can dictate how I behave?” Sapphire eyes glared into indigo ones. While Valentine wasn't intimidated, he was honestly a bit tired. He looked at his wife, standing a few feet away, dragged into the night because of him, when she should be sleeping, preparing for her case tomorrow. He sighed. “Alright, fine. I may have gone a little overboard.”

“That's a start!” Jonathan commended. After years with Dio, he had more or less learned how to manoeuver around megalomaniacs. At least Valentine was a lot more reasonable. “Anything else?”

“No. Even though I sincerely apologize that my actions may not have been as unclouded as I would've liked them to be, I don't think I have that much to apologize for. This all started because after offering Gyro a thousand bucks to end the party, he just took the money, completely not listening to my request. The people here need to rest so they can work and my work is important. I cannot be distracted by trivial matters. I work for the benefit of this state, the benefit of this country. Your only goal is to end up shitfaced!”

“Funny!”

“What! I apologize for going a little overboard and I mean it. But I only repaid what was done to me! And it's not a matter of revenge, but a matter of justice. I offered a solution, I offered a deal, you denied and here we are.”

“You tried to kill us.”

“And how exactly? By replacing your furniture with cardboard displays? You dug a hole in my garden! I could've died had I fallen more carelessly!”

Jonathan let the words sink in. Unfortunately, Valentine had a point. With a stern expression uncommon for his gentle face, he looked at Johnny and Gyro. This resembled many scenes from when they were younger, back when the youngest Joestar and Zeppeli were getting scolded for misbehaving. Johnny uprooted a tuft of grass, awkwardly examining the dirt that was caught under his nails.

“Johnny?”

“Alright, fine! We should've listened to you.”

“Is this how you apologize?” Valentine asked, looking down on them with the most arrogant expression.

“You're such an impossible bastard.”

“Johnny!”

“Fine! I'm sorry!”

“Gyro.”

Gyro shot Valentine a venomous glare. They still hadn't found out how Valentine was able to get into their house so easily and still no one believed that the man actually came to eat his deformed spaghetti while looking at Gyro at night.

“Whatever,” he gruffly mumbled, kicking a rock that rolled towards Valentine.

Jonathan smiled faintly. “Now, do you promise to put an end to this feud?”

“I promise,” they both candidly but reluctantly replied after the world's most awkward handshake. Valentine needed to bathe in sanitizer after touching Gyro's Cheeto hands.

“Now that we got that out of the way, I bid you all a good night.”

When Valentine turned around to leave, Lucy, who had remained quiet throughout the entire 'trial', suddenly remembered something. With wide eyes, she watched the blond man move further and further away.

“Johnny!” she anxiously whispered. “I forgot about the last hole I dug!”

“What.”

“Oh, fuck.”

The three watched as Valentine haughtily made his way into his estate, feet bringing him closer to destruction until he vanished from their sight with a terrified scream. It took a lot longer to take him out this time.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Local Cryptid Tries His Hardest

 


And thus, the dreaded morning arrived. Diavolo didn't want to leave the safe cocoon of his overly air-conditioned room, something completely usual for him. But that day he had a reason. He thought that if he denied reality, it would cease to exist. Of course, that didn't happen. Reality came to slap him across the face, like that trout Kars had once beat his ass with after he lost a bet. Cold, hard facts of life came for him in the shape of Doppio standing in front of the door with his suitcase. Diavolo froze completely while still coming down the staircase. He looked really frightening with his messed up leftover eyeliner soaking in his skin and tangled pink hair, but Doppio still smiled warmly at him.

Were they lovers? Friends? Family? Who knew? Who cared enough to discover? People had learned long ago the consequences of digging around his personal life. He offered Doppio safety and a comfortable life, and in turn, he had his blind loyalty. In an odd, inexplicable way, Diavolo felt like they completed each other. He had a special connection that he had with none of his friends those other assholes. Doppio understood him perfectly and even though Diavolo had considered the feeling of being so exposed uncomfortable at first, he started enjoying having someone who understood him so well after a time.

Doppio wasn't just a stellar underboss; he was Diavolo's emotional support. Doppio also took care of the house, saying that Diavolo didn't need to worry about anything. He did everything, from bringing up Trish to watering the plants. Diavolo wasn't going to miss just a loyal underling, he was going to miss a friend.

“It's just for a few days, Boss,” Doppio tried to make the situation sound better.

Diavolo was well aware of his childishness but he didn't care. This was going to be the longest time period he and Doppio would be apart ever since they met. They had business that Diavolo couldn't take care of, the kind of business he hated; interacting with others. Naturally, Doppio had to represent him, accompanied by several bodyguards of course.

“I'm sure you'll do fine.”

And just like that, he left, gone into the early dawn, out of town for the first time in years. Diavolo stayed outside for a moment too long, watching the speeding car shrink more and more, until it completely vanished in the horizon, heading to where the fresh light hadn't reached yet. He shuddered, the crisp morning air harsh on his bare chest. He quickly went back inside, to come face to face with the harsh reality of a cold, Doppio-less house. He gulped, eyeing the dark furniture with hatred. Not knowing what else to do, he decided to go back to sleep. He clumsily crawled under the multiple layers he used to cover himself with and closed his eyes, staining his pillow with more eyeliner.

His second round of waltzing into Morpheus' arms wasn't as successful as the first one. His anxiety for the upcoming days washed him in cold sweat. He tried falling asleep but he couldn't. He sighed. He was planning on spending all the days of Doppio's absence hurdled up in his room, with only his laptop and iPhone as company. But he did have to eat. That was kind of a problem.

Reluctantly and with the stance of a dead man, Diavolo walked down the stairs to the kitchen. From the window, he could see Valentine playing with his dog. What a dork. Diavolo took his eyes from the scene and started looking through the fridge. Doppio had gone through the trouble of stocking the fridge and pantry. They had no staff around the house (of course) and Doppio insisted on doing everything by himself. Diavolo felt as though the boy's services were underappreciated.

He wasn't exactly useless when it came to cooking. He was even better when he was younger, he had just forgotten how to do it over the years. Still, he was capable of frying some eggs with bacon, some blueberry pancakes on the side. With an accomplished smile, he sat at the breakfast bar, ready to enjoy his breakfast along with some strong, black, pipping hot coffee. So far, this wasn't as awful as he thought it'd be. Everything was calm, in order and it would keep that way.

Except Diavolo forgot a tiny little detail. The detail casually strolled into the kitchen, idly yawning with her nose buried in her phone. Diavolo completely froze in place, watching in complete shock as Trish mindlessly opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of cherry juice. She was humming, still scrolling through her phone. She finally noticed Diavolo, utterly perplexed by his presence. He didn't come out until noon or even later than that and she was almost always gone by that hour, only to return late at night. The same schedule went on throughout the entire year, with Trish staying out with her friends all day during summer and studying at Giorno's during winter. They rarely met and when they did, they never interacted. Diavolo gave her money, she made herself scarce. Other than that...nothing.

It's not that he didn't like Trish, he just didn't have any emotional attachment to her. For him, Trish was just another girl as those that populated the earth. And that was a big improvement, mind you, from when Diavolo considered dumping her on some church when he first got her. He didn't mind her existence. There was no way Trish could jeopardize his anonymity. She had gotten her mother's last name, (after endless days of trying to convince them) the Valentines were Trish's parents on all formal legal documents and Donatella Una was rotting away in the depths of the Hudson River.

Father and daughter looked at each other for the first time in months. They said nothing. Diavolo swallowed his pancakes, feeling the bite slide down his esophagus like lead. He assumed that Trish didn't know how to cook and since he was the only other adult in the house, someone had to do the chore. That meant waking up in the mornings and making her breakfast. When did she even wake up? How did Doppio know all those things?

“When did Doppio leave?” Trish asked.

“Couple of hours ago,” Diavolo replied with a clenched throat. Trish nodded. He looked down at the plate of pancakes. He hadn't made any for Trish. “You...want some?”

“Way too many carbs,” she scoffed. Diavolo noticed how quickly she typed on her phone despite her ostentatious manicure. What was she even so furiously typing anyway?

She then proceeded to open the fridge and take out some spinach, some avocado, a few blueberries, some cucumber slices and a couple of green apple slices. To Diavolo's utter shock, she went on to blend everything, stopping a few seconds in to add ice, then continuing. Diavolo watched the mashed fruit and vegetables spin inside the blender with wide eyes. The end result was poured into a tall glass. It looked like Shrek had bled out in there.

“Want some?” she offered though Diavolo doubted she meant it. He still refused with a shake of his head.

Interacting with Trish made him extremely nervous. Never in his whole life had Diavolo expected to ever be holding a conversation with his own flesh and blood. He hadn't expected that to exist in the first place. He looked at Trish. She wasn't paying any attention to him. He narrowed his eyes, observing her. She was faintly tanned and a bit too skinny. Wasn't she eating properly? She was rather stylish so that meant she liked fashion. Other than that, Diavolo had no idea who his daughter was.

Diavolo put his fork down but Trish opened her mouth before he ever had the chance to. “Don't bother asking me to go somewhere else; my only other options are Giorno's and Mr. Valentine's and I don't know which is worse, putting up with Dio for more than two hours or trying to survive co-existing with those tiny little monsters?” Diavolo snorted. “So I'll be here. Don't worry though. I'll be out most of the time.”

“Okay.” That was great. And without drama. Did he have to do anything else? What did other fathers do? All his friends those other assholes had sons. Were girls different? How could he know if Trish needed anything? Did she make a sound or...?

“Do you need any money?”

“I'm always up for a few more bucks,” she shrugged.

“Do you want anything for lunch?” he nervously asked.

“I'll probably eat out but I don't know yet. You don't have to make anything.”

She finished her smoothie and headed upstairs. Diavolo grabbed his phone, looking up wikiHows on how to care for a child.

 

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“You're hopeless.”

“Why are you always so judgemental of me?”

“Okay, first of all. The thing you're cooking is crawling with carbs. She's not gonna eat that.”

Diavolo glared at the boiling pasta as if it had offended him. His glare shifted from the food to Valentine who was sitting on the counter, casually throwing cherry tomato after cherry tomato in his mouth.

“How the fuck am I supposed to know what teenagers eat?” he shouted.

“While your interest for your daughter is admirable, I must admit that working with no directions is the least to say moronic.”

“Speak normally.”

“You don't know Trish, why are you suddenly caring for her?”

“Someone has to feed her!” That was reason enough for him to care. The last thing he wanted was for her to die and attract unwanted attention on his person.

“Oh, Jesus...” mumbled Valentine. He jumped off the counter and walked to the fridge. “I think this is a marvelous opportunity to bond with your daughter,” he remarked as he scanned through the various items. “But in order for you two to bond, you must first understand how human beings function. Engage in casual conversation, ask her about school, her future, you know...” One look at Diavolo informed him that he didn't. Diavolo didn't really see a reason to try and bond with Trish. Valentine sighed. “Think of it this way; Trish is your daughter. When you die-”

“If.”

“-she'll be the head of Passione. Don't you wanna test her? See if she has what it takes for the job?”

Now that was a subject Diavolo found vaguely interesting. Trish was in a way his 'heir'. When he was her age, he had already showcased those outstanding skills required for a man in his field. It would only be fitting for her to do the same.

“That's not a bad idea,” he admitted. “How will I know, though?”

“Be casual.” Valentine suddenly remembered who he was talking to. “Put on a TV show you like and see what her reaction is. Based on that, you'll know if you have anything in common.”

Diavolo eyed the blond with an amused smile. “You're being wasted working for the government, Funny.”

Valentine snorted. “After 23 years, I thought you'd finally stop trying to woo me over to the dark side.”

 

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With her eyes narrowed, Trish kept looking out to the street, only moving from her spot when she saw Valentine leave the house. She sauntered over to the bed and climbed on it, laying on her back while her legs stretched on Giorno. He had so greedily usurped her Vogue, examining the clothes and showing anything that interested him to Buccellati. Mista groaned from her spot next to her, absorbed in the little game he was playing on his phone.

“I'm pretty sure he just asked Mr. Valentine over to ask him about how human beings interact.”

“Do you think he'll try and be a good Dad?” Buccellati idly said.

Trish scoffed. “He doesn't give two shits about me, why would he?”

“Maybe he finally realized how much family means,” Giorno offered. “Take it from me, even the most obnoxious monsters can become decent parents.”

Giorno was probably right. It's just that Trish never viewed Diavolo as an actual human being. He had always been this mysterious figure, looming over her head, unseeable yet omniscient. His mythos had marked her otherwise pleasant childhood, the fact that she could never touch him frustrated her. She had been an angry child, mostly taking it on Doppio, sweet Doppio that always tried his hardest and deserved the best. In her later years, she came to terms with Diavolo being like that, her existence and the people he tolerated in his life the only proofs of his humanity. And to be honest, the more she grew, the less she became interested in having any sort of relationship with him. She'd leave for college and probably never see him again. He'd continue doing his thing and she'd continue doing her own.

“I don't think he'd ever do that.”

“Well, he's not totally shitty,” commented Mista. “He cares enough to buy you nice things.”

“If you evaluate his parenting abilities by the material good he's buying me then yeah, he's the best Dad in the world.”

“It's not like you're unhappy with the situation,” said Giorno.

“True.” Still, she was a little curious to see how a man who knew close to nothing about human interactions try and approach his teenage daughter.

 

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Diavolo learned that one thing Trish liked doing was sitting in the living room with all the lights and the TV on while looking at her phone. She spent too much time on that thing. Diavolo did too and most people he knew did so as well but for some reason seeing the overpriced device held in Trish's hands for too long made him nervous. He was sitting on the other side of the couch, observing her like some exotic animal. She kind of was. Over the past few days, he had realized that to call Trish an entirely different species wouldn't be hyperbole. She ate the weirdest things, laughed at things he couldn't understand and spoke of matters irrelevant to him.

Trish let out a huffed laughter, eyes twinkling with enthusiasm. Diavolo narrowed his eyes at her. There he was, trying to bond with her by doing absolutely nothing and she was ignoring him.

“Who're you texting?” he asked.

With furrowed brows she looked up, absolutely perplexed. While most kids would've either replied with honesty or vagueness or even get annoyed by the question, Trish just thought it weird. Not once had Diavolo asked her anything like that. She simply shrugged.

“Friends,” was the non-committal answer.

“What friends?”

“You know my friends,” she replied, sounding a bit annoyed.

Yes, he did. It was fortunate that the neighborhood had so many kids her age. Trish had a lot of friends, close friends she had had from her childhood and other she had met at school or whatever extracurricular activity he had signed her up for. His daughter was social and charming enough to attract people to her.

Attract...people...

“Are you dating anyone?”

She looked at him again, giving him that weirded out look. “Why are you asking me these things?”

“I'm your father,” he said with the same voice he used to assert his dominance over too-ambitious capos.

Trish didn't glare at him. She just looked at him with eyes so cold and annoyed, he thought he was looking in the mirror for a moment. “And you realized that just now.” It was supposed to be a question but came out like a demand.

Who was this child demanding this from him? “The fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“Just because Doppio's gone, doesn't mean you have to take care of me! I've been perfectly capable of growing up decently without your contribution!”

“Without my contribution? Who bought you all that fancy shit you own, huh?” he barked.

“Is this how you measure it? At the end of the day you sit down and think that 'yeah, I'm a good Dad, I bought my daughter expensive shit to keep her quiet! That's all kids need!'.”

Diavolo couldn't say anything because Trish was right. What more did kids want? That's all he wanted when he was a kid. He thought about that for a second. Maybe that wasn't all. Maybe he needed some more things, considering that all the wealth in the world hadn't prevented him from burying his mother alive. And maybe Trish needed them too. Was she going to bury him alive too? Did it run in the family?

“This conversation is meaningless,” he concluded as he rose from the couch, angrily heading to his room. It wasn't that late, some people were still out. He shut the window and climbed under the covers.

For some reason, he didn't sleep well. When he opened his eyes, the clock on his nightstand informed him that it was 2 AM, in shining red lights. He groaned as he rolled on his back, an arm over his eyes. He was feeling stressed and guilty for reasons he couldn't pinpoint. He decided that he wanted a drink. Numbly, he rose from the bed and walked out of his room. The house was perfectly still but as he started going down the stairs, he caught glimpses of light coming from the living room. What was Trish doing up so late? Didn't she have school?

(School was out for the summer but at 2 AM, after waking up not knowing why he existed, Diavolo couldn't really tell.)

He tiptoed down the rest of the marble stairs and over to the wall separating the living room from the foyer. He peeked over the edge and came upon a very disturbing sight. There his daughter was, making out with some worthless bug that Diavolo realized was Mista. His initial plan was to storm in there, shoot Mista and lock Trish in her bedroom. But he didn't do that. Even though he was never the one to shy away from mindless violence, he couldn't bring himself to do it this time. This was...odd. This sight bothered him beyond measure. He had no authority to interrupt this. He was nothing more to Trish than the guy who bought her things.

Diavolo moved away from the sight and headed in his office instead. Defeated and tired, he collapsed on his chair. He looked at the various items on his desk. He opened a drawer, revealing a small safe inside. After inputting the code, the safe opened, granting him access to the only photograph he had that he was actually in. It was an old thing, taken right after Trish's Christening. Almost everyone looked so different. Kira still looked like David Bowie and Valentine was still chubby. They didn't know Pucci yet. Dio's hair was shorter and he wasn't wearing any makeup. Giorno was in his arms, hair still jet black. Only Kars looked exactly the same. Forever young and godly, timeless.

And he...he was in the center, surprisingly, holding a baby with wide blue eyes in his arms. He wasn't looking at the camera but rather at her, in awe and wonder. Keeping Trish was the most insane thing he had done in his life. And the competition for that spot was fierce. Realizing took him a long time. Trish was his own flesh and blood, solid proof of his existence. By the time he had come to terms with her not being a threat to him, there she was, all grown up, smart and stylish and funny and charming and opinionative and supportive to her friends and maybe a bit mean and sometimes kind of cold. Diavolo didn't know what she was good at but he assumed she was good at makeup. Her makeup was always nice. He looked back at the baby. Her hair was now pink, she was old enough to decide that. It seemed surreal, as if all the years of Trish's life suddenly became cold water that was thrown at him.

When had that happened?

 

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Diavolo looked at the little heap of cigarettes piling up in the ashtray in front of him. Just a day ago, he and Trish had had their first actual fight, all because he assigned Illuso with following her around for a day. The man was eventually discovered, hence the fight, but not before finding out a very interesting piece of information. Trish was planning on going on a shopping spree with her boyfriend and there was no way Diavolo was going to let her stroll around unsupervised with that ape. Frustrated at the incapability of his men, the boss made a bold decision; he decided to go after Trish by himself. Of course, he was going to disguise himself and he wasn't going out there alone.

Trish was in her room getting ready for her stupid little date, giving Diavolo the perfect chance to slip out. She already had enough money and had no reason to bother him. After finding out that he had ordered his men to follow her, Trish didn't want anything to do with him anymore.

Since the owners were inside, Diavolo was able to walk inside Valentine's house with no problem. The kids were playing with the dog in the garden and seemed completely unbothered by him just strolling in. They were close enough to drop by the other's house unannounced, anyway. Fortunately, Scarlet, the only person who would probably stop him, was sleeping under her parasol by the poolside. Diavolo ventured inside and quickly walked upstairs. He knew this house even better than his own and found himself outside the master bedroom in seconds. Moving as silently as possible he opened the door, slowly peeking inside the room. As expected, Valentine was on his bed, taking his much cherished afternoon nap. He was sleeping soundly, the light spilling from the window making his blonde hair glisten. Diavolo grinned as he climbed on the bed next to him.

Valentine took note of the new presence next to him and smiled in his sleep. He inched closer to Diavolo, throwing an arm over his torso as he snuggled closer. “You smell good,” he mumbled, voice heavy with sleep but amused. “Here to disturb my sleep? Disturb away, I'm dying for some disturbance.”

“Don't mind if I do then.”

At the sound of Diavolo's deep, raspy goth voice, Valentine's eyes shot open. He looked up at Diavolo and screamed in fear and alarm. He grabbed the pillow from under Diavolo and started assaulting him with it. “You asshole!” he shouted, still hitting Diavolo anywhere he could. “What the fuck are you doing here?” he demanded.

Diavolo, who was taller and more muscular than Valentine, managed to wrestle the pillow out of his grasp but was ultimately met with some very aggressive limbs, kicking and slapping everywhere they found. “Will you shut up? I'm not here to kill you!”

“Then why in God's good name are you in my bed?” Valentine paused. He looked at Diavolo from head to toe. He noticed that there was still daylight pouring from the windows. “Why are you out of your house?”

“To pick you up,” he simply explained, as if everything else was pretty clear.

“Pick me up to go where?” For Valentine, who knew Diavolo all too well, this conversation was a bit unreal. The only times they went out was at some bar or restaurant Diavolo owned, secure in the safety of a luxurious VIP room, or at a grandiose estate for some well-deserved relaxation.

“To the mall.”

“You're here to pick me up to go to the mall?” In a friendship (?) that had been going on for almost 24 years, among dumping bodies in rivers, the most eventful road trip and waking up in Russia after falling asleep in Canada, this was by far the weirdest thing Diavolo had asked of him.

“You want us to go to the mall?” he said again.

“Yes,” Diavolo bit back, growing impatient.

“Forgive me, I'm not just repeating myself it's just that...this is hella weird.”

To make the situation even more bizarre, Scarlet burst through the door. Her eyebrows raised so high, they almost met her hairline. Finding Diavolo there wasn't what surprised her. The position she had found the two men in was rather unfortunate; Diavolo was kneeling between Valentine's parted knees, holding his arms pinned on the bed while both of them were flushed and breathless.

“Usually I'm the one caught doing something tremendously gay.”

“Usually.”

“I came here because you screamed. Do you guys want some room or some company?”

Valentine chugged the pillow at her. “Neither! Leave immediately, the both of you!”

Scarlet complied but Diavolo was a bit more persistent. “You're coming with me,” he declared as he got off the bed, grabbed Valentine by the ankles and started dragging him off of it.

“Why are you even doing this?”

“We're going to follow Trish.”

“Oh my God!” Valentine exclaimed. “You come here and drag me off my bed all because you want us to stalk your daughter?”

“Yes.”

“Why?!”

“She has a boyfriend!”

“So what! She's old enough to have one!”

“No, she's not! She doesn't know what's good for her! She's sti- Why are you looking at me like that?”

Valentine grinned. “This is kind of adorable, even for you. You actually care for your little girl and want to protect her.”

“I never said that.”

“Oh, but you did. You're blushing.”

Diavolo glared at the man who dared make accusations about him. “You're so fucking annoying.”

“Says you.” Valentine stretched, the last drops of sleeping leaving his person. Diavolo was very strong headed and if he wanted to stalk his daughter, he was going to stalk his daughter, even if that meant going out before 9 PM for the first time in seven years. Valentine knew he had to go with Diavolo. Doppio was his emotional support but Valentine was Diavolo's impulse control. Heaven forbid he lost his notoriously short temper in a mall full of people, Valentine had to be there to prevent the massacre.

“Are you coming or what?”

“Fine,” he finally agreed.

Diavolo smiled broadly at him. He rubbed a long leg affectionately, dragging Valentine even closer to the edge of the bed. “Knew it. You can't resist me.”

Valentine's foot landed in the middle of Diavolo's chest, sending him falling on the floor. “Do you ever think before you speak?”

The two men walked down several minutes later. They still had some time until Mista's estimated arrival. Valentine stopped in front of the mirror in the living room and tied his hair in a low ponytail, bringing a few strands to artfully fall around his face. Taking note of the two well-dressed men in front of her, Scarlet curiously walked into the room.

“Where are you two headed?” she inquired.

“The mall,” Valentine replied while testing out sunglasses.

“The mall?” She looked at Diavolo. “Is that a euphemism for something?”

“It's not,” chuckled Valentine. “We're going to the mall because Trish is going to the mall and Diavolo wants to stalk her with her new boyfriend.”

“Really?” Scarlet asked, more concerned rather than surprised. She trusted her husband to act rationally but Diavolo had always been less...stable. She looked at them both, a little smile on her lips. “You're going stalking? In that?”

The two men looked at each other. Diavolo was wearing a pair of royal purple slacks, lilac shoes and a magenta shirt that had the first few buttons open. He was wearing a rather eye-catching golden watch around his left wrist, along with several golden rings and bracelets, even sporting matching earrings. Her husband was wearing a baby pink satin suit consisting of a fitting jacket and a pair of somewhat loose, high-waisted, ankle-length trousers. His jacket was open and he was wearing a simple white tee underneath, a small platinum gold satchel dangling from his right shoulder. They both were sporting large sunglasses.

“Shouldn't you be...you know...a bit more casual?”

“I'm pretty casual,” Valentine said. “Look, I'm wearing sneakers.” And indeed he was, spotless white Stan Smith sneakers with gold details, like the tool he was. He seemed thoughtful for a second. “Maybe you're right. Diavolo, your hair is a giveaway.”

Diavolo looked at his reflection. “Shit, you're right. But I don't have any hair ties.”

“I got you.”

Diavolo put his hair in a high ponytail which Valentine approved and helped smooth down with some hairspray. Both seemed extremely satisfied with the result, admiring themselves in the mirror.

“She's definitely not going to notice us.”

“Of course.”

“Oh boy...” Scarlet shook her head. Whatever. It was nice seeing them relaxed every now and again, even if relaxed meant stalking Trish. She reached up to straighten her husband's eyebrows and planted a little kiss on his lips. “You two have fun. Don't shoot anyone! Don't die.”

While sitting inside Diavolo's Porsche Cayenne (which he had bought explicitly for this situation as it was a very ordinary car), Valentine was struck with an idea.

“Let's invite Yoshikage.”

“I don't know. What if we attract too much attention?” asked Diavolo, his numerous bejeweled rings reflecting the light as he moved his hands.

“I'm sure it'll be fine.”

Kira arrived a few minutes later, dressed in a white suit with a pinstripe shirt and a tie with weird cat designs. Casually, just as Valentine had instructed. Right on schedule, Mista arrived to pick up Trish in his shitty car. Diavolo's hands clenched around the steering wheel at the sight of the boy. He had known Mista for years now, ever since the kids were in first grade, but he never had the urge to stab his kneecaps before. In his eyes, this wasn't the kid that loved Clint Eastwood like God and dreamed of owning a gun someday anymore. Veins popped on his throat at the thought of Mista's hairy hands holding his Trish by the waist. Diavolo's eyes almost popped from their sockets when Trish walked, wearing an all too revealing outfit. Or so he thought.

“What is she wearing!” he hissed, seconds away from storming out.

“This is how girls her age dress, Diavolo,” Kira offered. “It's nothing unusual.”

“She's naked!”

“Far from,” Valentine corrected.

No matter how much his friends were trying to calm him down, Diavolo wasn't listening. Trish was completely open, what if some spy sent from other mafia heads tried to kill her? Diavolo made a mental note to order a bodyguard squad to protect Trish. His own personal guard would do.

He started the car, following the young couple within a short but safe distance. He felt a bit odd driving around so unprotected in such an early hour. He had forgotten how many people were usually out during the summer. Despite that not being the case, he couldn't help but feel all their eyes on him.

“Don't you dare,” he hissed when Valentine moved to turn on the radio.

“But Yoshikage brought his Queen playlist! You can't expect us to sit in silence for fifty minutes!”

“What!” exclaimed Kira, leaning in the gap between the two front seats. No matter the years, he'd never get used to what the Americans meant when they said “short trip”. He looked around. It was too late to ask to be let out and he knew Diavolo would stop at nothing, anyway. With his arms crossed, he leaned back on the seat and glared at Diavolo through the rearview mirror. “You better play my damn playlist then.”

While Diavolo wanted to keep this strictly professional, his anger melted away somewhat when Bohemian Rhapsody came on.

 

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As expected, they arrived at the mall within the hour, taking even less than fifty minutes (all because Mista was driving too fast, that damn son of a bitch, could've killed Trish). The three men stepped out of the car, immediately taking to straightening their clothes. Diavolo urged them to follow Trish and Mista and so they did, following like shadows closely behind. The other two had to hold Diavolo back when he saw Mista pull Trish closer by the waist. It was a good thing he had them with him. Nothing else was holding him back from just shredding Mista.

Cold sweat rolled down his forehead when they stepped into the mall. Diavolo couldn't remember the last time he had gone to one. It was pleasantly air-conditioned and crawling with people. What was worse, the three of them instantly attracted attention. Diavolo glared daggers at those that stared a bit too much. He looked around, seeing the endless rows of shops stretching as far as his eye could see. Spotting Trish's bright fuschia head in the crowd wasn't difficult. The young couple was walking around, stopping at anything they found interesting. Diavolo noticed how Trish only paid attention to high-end brands. Of course she did. His daughter had exceptional taste.

They used the escalator to get to the second level after strolling around the ground floor for a little while. Trish exclaimed excitedly when she saw something she liked and dragged Mista inside. Diavolo saw that they had gotten into a male clothing store.

“She's buying him clothes! With my money!”

“They're a couple, Diavolo. Couples like giving each other gifts,” Valentine explained as if it was the most natural thing in the world. And it was. Just not for Diavolo.

“And what the hell is he buying her?”

“Maybe she can't flaunt the gifts he gives her.”

Diavolo looked at Kira as if he wanted to vaporize him. He grabbed the man by the collar of his shirt, bringing their faces close, breathing into Kira's face like an angry bull.

“What the fuck are you insinuating about my daughter, stronzo?”

“Alright, alright, there's no need for this,” Valentine said, releasing Kira from Diavolo's grip.

Since the boutique was rather small, Diavolo couldn't go inside. They kept watching from a distance. Nothing atrocious was happening, just Trish showing Mista clothes. She shoved him into the changing room and evaluated the outfits once he came out.

“Oh, wow. Are they really buying that?” mumbled Valentine.

“I think these pants go better with the blue shirt.”

“With the stripes?”

“The polka dot.”

“I liked the one with the stripes better.”

“Can you two shut up?”

Kira and Valentine sent him almost identical judgemental looks. “Just because we're here for business, doesn't mean we won't have some fun.”

“Exactly. Besides, this situation is as ridiculous as it can be so we might as well enjoy it.”

Diavolo rolled his eyes. He bolted up when his daughter and Mista walked out of the shop, Mista holding a large bag. So she had bought him clothes. He urged the other two to keep moving and they did exactly that. There wasn't much to do other than follow. Diavolo didn't really know what he was waiting for. He knew they wouldn't do anything too risque in such a crowd. He just wanted to see...he didn't know exactly what. Right now he was feeling like a nature enthusiast, observing the peculiar mating dances of a rare species. Too bad his teammates weren't taking this as seriously.

“Want some?” Valentine offered, giving him his Caramel Chip Ultimate Frappe. Diavolo took a sip. It was quite good.

“I hope they go to the food court, I'm getting a bit hungry,” Kira said mostly to himself.

The next shop Trish and Mista went into was a shoe store. Since this was larger, they got in as well, getting a closer view of their targets. Actually, Diavolo was observing while his two accomplishes were trying shoes and taking selfies. Trish passed in front of the kids' section without casting the tiny shoes a single glance. Diavolo looked at the little shoes and then looked at Trish's feet. They were so small, just like she was in his head. She chose a nice pair of red high heels and put them on with ease and confidence. She posed in front of the mirror, turning around to ask for Mista's opinion. Giorno always snapped Dio his shopping hauls, why wasn't Trish doing the same with him?

“You okay there?” Valentine asked.

“Yeah...it's just...” he sighed. “I didn't know she was this big.”

Valentine looked at Trish. He smiled faintly. “Yeah, she is. She reminds me of you at times, you know.”

“Really?” His tone was far too excited for his liking.

“Yes. She's a really smart girl and she's not shy about expressing herself. You should be proud.”

To feel pride in anyone but himself was a concept alien to him. He looked back at Trish, struggling with a pair of boots. He doubted she was thinking of him like he was thinking of her and she had every reason to not do so. There had never been an empty chair to any of her school performances, he just hadn't been the one filling it. Guilt, something he hadn't felt in a long time, clogged his throat. Even Dio was managing parenting more than fine. Why was it so difficult for him?

After the shoe store, they headed to a Sephora, something Diavolo was admittedly excited to do. Trish once again went for the more expensive brands. Surprisingly, the three unlikely spies came across Kars, who was discussing matters with the manager. Kars was obviously shocked to see Diavolo out, so much that he couldn't actually believe it (but how could he mistake him when he was the only person he knew that had leopard hair in the year of our Lord 2017?).

“What are you guys doing here?”

“We're stalking Trish,” was the brief answer Kira gave.

Kars nodded. He had heard weirder things. “And you? What brings you here?”

“Oh, my new palette will launch here in about two weeks and I'm taking care of the preparations for the event.”

“Can you do me a favor?” Diavolo requested in a low, barely audible voice.

Kars eyed him with a raised eyebrow. To be honest, he was intrigued by this whole episode. To actually think he'd be seeing Diavolo in a public place, all because he cared too much about his kid...Times were truly changing.

“Go on.”

“I want you to go over there,” he looked a couple of aisles further, where Trish was browsing through highlighters, “and evaluate the situation.”

“Alright,” said Kars. The three watched him approach the couple. Trish greeted him warmly. She had always been fond of her father's weird friends. They chatted for a little while, Diavolo's hands getting sweatier with every passing second. Finally, they said their goodbyes and Kars walked back to them.

“Well?” Diavolo asked impatiently.

Kars flipped his hair and idly leaned against the shelf. “They seem pretty casual, nothing too cheesy. You can hardly tell they're a couple.”

“Did she introduce you to him?”

“Yes.”

“What did she say?”

“This is Mista,” Kars recited Trish's words.

“Only that?” Didn't people say 'my boyfriend' etc.?

“Yeah. I hope you'll be pleased to know that you two are using the same liquid eyeliner.”

Diavolo gasped. “Are you serious?”

“Yes. She bought a couple, so she obviously likes it a lot.”

Diavolo looked at his daughter. Finally, some common ground.

 

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“Holy shit,” mumbled Pucci. He tugged on Dio's jacket, attracting his attention. He pointed to the other side of the floor, where Valentine, Diavolo and Kira came storming out of a Hot Topic, running to the food court area while Valentine was shouting something at Diavolo.

Dio lowered his sunglasses and his jaw dropped a little. “That's actually him!”

“What is he doing here?”

“I don't know but it definitely isn't just for shopping.” Grabbing Pucci's hand, Dio pulled him towards the direction the other three had run towards. “Come, Enrico. Let's do something more entertaining.”

 

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Stopping himself from chopping Mista's head off while they ate was extremely difficult. For every fry Trish fed him, they exchanged a little peck on the lips. And every time, Diavolo would jump up a little, held down by Valentine and Kira. After Valentine's suggestion, he decided to take out his frustration on a burrito. He was chewing on the damn thing as if it had greatly offended him, as if it was Mista's head.

“You need to chill,” chided Valentine, waving an onion ring at Diavolo. “She's a teenager and teenagers have relationships. This is completely natural, Diavolo.”

“Funny's right,” said Kira after swallowing a bite of his burger. He licked some off the excess sauce with a too loud sound. “In a few years, she might even be married.”

“Exactly! I got married when I was 18!”

Diavolo didn't know who he wanted to strangle more. To think that Trish, who was still no more than a baby, was being totally normal by having a partner and that the prospect of her actually starting a family of her own existed was...unpleasant. Very, very unpleasant.

“This is just how things are,” Kira explained. “She might get married, she might not. Who knows?”

“She won't marry if I keep killing her partners.” Oh, that was a plan and a half. And after being disappointed by her bad luck in romance, Trish would lock herself in a monastery, safe and untouchable.

To his surprise and astonishment, Valentine slapped him. It wasn't a harsh slap, definitely not the worst he had ever gotten from the blond. Valentine's expression remained perfectly neutral. Before Diavolo could figure out how to gouge out his eyeballs, Valentine started talking. “You can't keep denying the truth. And the truth is that Trish has grown. You weren't there for it and there's nothing you can do about it. What you can do is be by her side from now on, if you want it so much. And a good way to start is by stopping this unnecessarily childish behavior.”

Diavolo looked at Valentine. He was right, Valentine was always right. And when he wasn't right, he was sorry. Unlike his friend, Diavolo wasn't as comfortable about admitting his mistakes.

“I'm her father,” he scowled deeply, leaning in to stare into clear blue eyes. “If I don't know about her personal life, then who?”

“There's a difference between knowing and spying!”

“What do you know? All your kids are babies!”

Valentine put his onion rings down, pouty lips forming a tight frown, brows furrowed. Diavolo knew that look well. “May I remind you who your high school sweetheart was?” Diavolo gulped. Valentine's voice dropped to a hissing whisper. He looked around, seeing if anyone was listening, because if they were, they were in for some hot gossip. “May I also remind you how awful it was when my parents found out? How we couldn't even look at each other anymore because I had a damn bodyguard with me? Why would you bereave Trish of the right you and I never had? Why would you want to take this away from her?”

“You're such an asshole,” Diavolo admitted, shaking his head. “Did you really have to do this?”

“Yes. My parents and I have always been close, they intervened and I still felt like shit. Imagine how Trish will feel if a stranger, which is exactly what you are to her don't give me that look, ruins her relationship because he suddenly decided to care for her.” Valentine leaned closer, tone a bit softer. “You don't have the right to do this and even if you did, you don't have a reason.”

“Let her be,” Kira added. “Look, she's happy. Doesn't mean you can't be a part of her life, still.”

Diavolo nodded. Suddenly, he reached and grabbed Valentine's hair, pulling it down. “That's for the slap.”

“Cunt,” Valentine murmured as he untied his hair, starting the ponytail over.

Diavolo sighed deeply. Maybe letting Trish continue enjoying her normal adolescence wouldn't be so disastrous. Besides, learning about the mannerisms of different people was helpful when it came to learning the art of manipulation, a skill essential for a future mafia boss. Feeling more relaxed, Diavolo turned around to look at his daughter, only to see her heading towards him, anger and confusion burning in her eyes. Diavolo jumped, making the whole table rattle.

“What the hell are you doing here?” she demanded, arms crossed over her chest.

“I...uh...”

“Your Dad wants to be a part of your life and doesn't know how to approach you,” Kira explained. “His idea of a plan was for us to follow you around all day.”

“Please forgive him and try to understand that he is a deeply weird man that has close to no idea how parenting works.”

Oh, those assholes were in for a beating.

Trish continued eyeing Diavolo with confusion and surprise. “Really?”

“Yes?” He cleared his throat. “Yes. I demand you- Ow!” Kira glared at him. Diavolo rubbed the part of his thigh Kira had pinched. “I'd like to be informed about the important changes going on in your life.”

Trish nodded slowly. This entire conversation was dangling off the edge of reality. “You really mean that?”

“Yes. Unless you don't want me to, which is also good because I can go back to minding- Will you fucking stop?” Trish stifled a giggle, catching Diavolo by surprise. Even because of his misfortune, he had made Trish laugh.

“Alright,” she decided, tilting her head to the side, still looking at her father. “Can we sit with you, then? Since you like my company.”

“Of course,” he stiffly replied. This felt like a chore but he was too far in to back down.

The table was a little small but they managed. Mista ended up sitting next to Diavolo, so close that he could feel the man's angry breath on his neck, his sharp eyes cutting holes into his skin.

“How did you know we were here?” asked Valentine.

“Mr. Brando sent me a text, telling me that Dad's here with you guys.” The three men looked at each other, the same thought passing through their minds.

“So, Guido.”

“Sir?” Mista smiled nervously. What a ridiculous guy. Even in summer, he wasn't taking off his beanie.

“What are your plans for my daughter?”

“We are not discussing this here. Or anywhere at all,” Trish sternly scolded.

Fair enough. They lived in the same house, he could ask about it then. He glanced at the salad his daughter was eating. He frowned. “This isn't good for you. You're still growing, you need vitamins.”

“I'm fine.”

“Have this,” he demanded, shoving his burrito into her face.

Trish scrunched her face, looking away. She used to do the exact same thing to the food she didn't like as a baby. And she was an extraordinarily picky eater. “I don't want to!”

“You need it! And this,” he said, tugging at the long skirt, “is too revealing! You'll catch a cold!”

“It's June!”

“Still, I don't want you walking around half naked.”

“You're the one to talk,” Kira cut in.

“If people hit on you on the street, I'll kill them no problem.”

“You don't need to go that far.”

“What should I do then?”

Trish looked at her father as if seeing him for the first time. A smile formed on her lips and she shrugged. “We'll see from now on, Dad.”

Chapter Text

 


Not so 'nice' now, huh?

 

"Tomoko, wait!"

The desperate voice echoed around the quiet neighborhood but fell on deaf ears. The leaves were rustling, the cicadas were chirping and Joseph was doing his best to hold his pants up as he hobbled in the sizzling asphalt. He skipped as fast as he could, feeling his feet set on fire. He reached Tomoko in the middle of the street. He grabbed her by the shoulder and spun her around. The woman shot him a vicious glare but didn't try to move from his grip.

"It's not what it looks like!" was the first thing he came to his mind. Classic, timeless, forever ineffective. "I can explain!" he added.

"Explain what," she hissed at him.

He gulped. Not even his craftiness and baffling intelligence could help him turn this situation around. He knew he was guilty but he still tried to negotiate. The first time had been very difficult to handle, he couldn't dare imagine what would happen now. There was nothing he could explain, nothing he could say to make himself look better, nothing he could say to fix it.

He still talked though, just because he didn't know when to stop. “I made a mistake!”

“The only one who made a mistake here was me!” she hollered. She started hitting him with her purse, a tiny woman managing to bring a giant like him to kneel. “I should've known this would eventually come back and bite me on the ass!”

With a final hard blow on the head, she marched away, head held high, purse clutched like a lethal weapon. Vision a little blurry and head throbbing, Joseph got on his feet and went after her. “Where are you going?” he shouted.

“It's none of your damn business!”

“Will you return?”

“Go to hell!”

“What about Josuke?”

At that, she stopped. That gave Joseph the opportunity to jog the distance between them. The mention of their son seemed to have made her calm down a little. She eyed Joseph with a little pout. He let her go, seeing that she was more relaxed. He swallowed his dry throat. With a shaky smile and a sweaty hand, he cupped her face.

“Please come back so we can fix this.”

“I'm going to my Dad's house,” she said eerily quietly. With a sharp kick, she brought her knee right on Joseph's prized groin. “And you're going to hell! Asshole! How are you use Josuke as bait! Don't think of contacting me! From now on you'll only be talking with my lawyer.”

Joseph's head started spinning. He fell on his front, doing a terrible job at muffling his cries of pain. Tears welled in the corners of his eyes, dizzying him ever further. When the pain subsided, he dared to look up. Tomoko was nowhere to be seen and he had collapsed in the middle of the road. Supporting himself on his unsteady arms, Joseph stood up, first on his knees and then, slowly, on his feet. With his legs just a little spread, Joseph walked back to the house like a sad dog, green eyes looking sadly at the ground and plump lips forming a pout. He lost speed with every step he took, practically crawling up the stairs and collapsing on the bed face-first, releasing a chain of unholy screams into the soft covers.

“You done?” asked Caesar after the screams had died out. For some reason, he was still on the bed, arms crossed over his chest.

Joseph raised a finger as if to say something but instead released another string of ungodly screams. He eventually stopped and raised his head, bright eyes flooding with tears. “I fucked up real bad, bubble butt.”

“Yes. Yes you did,” Caesar idly replied whilst looking at his nails, as if this whole incident didn't have anything to do with him. He sighed, his heart melting a little at the sight of Joseph mopping like a kicked puppy. He ran his fingers through his soft brown hair, massaging the nape of his neck just the way Joseph liked. “What do we do now?”

Joseph sighed deeply as if trying to remove all the air from his lungs. “First, we're gonna have to face our families.”

They looked at each other. The prospect of that was the least to say terrifying.

 

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Dio Brando lived, breathed and ate drama. Everything he did in his life, from the most mundane things such as plucking his eyebrows or filing his nails, to the more serious ones, such as murdering his father and making a monstrous human being appear like a lamb in front of a court, was oozing with drama. When the opportunity arose for him to pose as a solemn husband, he grabbed it by the hair. During Jonathan's trip to various excavation missions, Dio would adorn silky robes with feather trimmings, matching slippers, a light cocktail on his hand, flawless eyeliner and would sit in front of the window, looking outside longingly, sighing whenever Giorno passed by him. Of course, he still went to work and out with his friends, he still took his time of the day to threaten Jotaro's life and attempt to strangle his brother, it's just that with no one to supervise his evil tendencies and scold him lovingly, it wasn't as fun.

“Padre,” Giorno spoke softly, as he stepped into his office. Dio looked at his son. Giorno's warm blue eyes were Jonathan's, looking at him with such love and admiration, Dio's heart skipped a beat. “You haven't had anything to eat.”

“I'm fine, Giogio,” Dio replied.

Concern was still shining in Giorno's soulful blue eyes and Dio looked back with as much tenderness as he could muster. Giorno and Jonathan were the only ones who saw him like this, saw the side of him that could love just as passionately as it could hate. Maybe that's why he loved them so much, because it was just the two of them.

“I'm going to bed,” said the boy. “You should sleep soon, too.”

“I'll sleep once I finish work, Giogio.”

“Good night, padre.”

“Good night, Giogio.”

Honestly, Dio couldn't work. He wasn't concentrated. There were a few times that he experienced this, and it was more common when Jonathan was away for too long. It was like a buzz electrified his body, made him unable to look at the same thing or sit in the same spot for more than five minutes. He was restless and everything he tried to do to fight his inability to focus was useless. He decided to leave his office, go to the awfully empty master bedroom and try reading something. Once inside, he looked at the house next door. Completely dark and quiet, though he doubted Pucci was sleeping. Better not bother him, he had problems on his own. Across the street, Dio noticed how the lights in Jotaro's were on. He just hoped his moronic friends weren't over. As if they weren't troublesome enough, he had heard Jotaro and Joseph discussing their friends moving here. Great, even more annoying pests.

Twenty minutes in, Dio decided he couldn't read. With an irritated sigh, he tossed the book to the other side of the bed, turned the lights off and stubbornly rolled on his side, as if angry with Jonathan's empty pillow. He closed his eyes, occupying his mind with literally anything else. Seeing that it didn't work, he tried emptying his head. A sweet numbness took over his body within minutes, the fatigue of working and reacting excessively at everything lulling him into sweet sleep.

Then he heard it.

A car stopped right outside his driveway and someone walked out, heading for the house. Dio shot up, sleep leaving his person. He darted outside of the room and made it to the top of the stairs just in time to see the familiar gigantic body of Jonathan cross the threshold.

What was it with this idiot that made his heart turn into mush? Jonathan's picture alone could calm him down. He ran down the stairs in delight, robe waving behind him. He leaped forward, ready to fall into his handsome husband's arms. Instead, he was met with a homeless-looking giant, with a filthy beard, a mousy mop of hair and brown rags on him. He screamed, jumping back just in time.

“Dio!”

“What the fuck happened to you?!” he shouted in disbelief. Lighter, frantic footsteps could be heard from behind.

“Dad!” Giorno exclaimed at the sight of his father, immediately jumping into his embrace. In between giggles and other happy sounds, Jonathan picked up his boy and swirled him around, all the while Dio was watching in pure shock. “We were expecting you next week! This is a pleasant surprise!” he said as Jonathan put him down.

“The excavation ended sooner so I could come home earlier. Home, to my beautiful family,” Jonathan almost sobbed, looking at the men of his life with all the love in the world. “Dio? What's wrong?”

“You look like Robin Williams when he came out of the Jumanji.”

Jonathan only laughed tiredly. There he was, coming back home after weeks and Dio was greeting him with this. Well, he'd be lying if he said he wasn't expecting this. It was the little things that made Dio, Dio.

Teasingly, he leaned in, sending Dio a playful wink. “Won't you give your dear Jojo a kiss?”

“Jojo, I swear to God, you bring your hairy mug any closer to my face, I'm stabbing you.” But Jonathan didn't care. He wrapped his arms around Dio, pulling him closer as the blond tried to flee. “Jojo!” he yelled, nails digging into Jonathan's arms as he kissed everywhere he could on Dio's face. It's not that he didn't like it. On the contrary, it suited him well. He looked like a rugged sailor, coming home after months of loneliness, ready to take all his pent-up frustration on his eager spouse. Dio just liked bitching about everything, kept the romance alive. Of course, the scruffy appearance didn't hold a torch compared to his velvety smooth, bright-eyed Jonathan.

They fell on the bed, Jonathan almost crying at the amazing feeling of a solid construction for once. Home again, surrounded by his beloved family and dear friends. This was his last mission for the year. Come September, he'd go back to teaching at the university, something he loved as much as unearthing the secrets of time. Seeing young eyes looking hopefully to the future and knowing that he had shared a small piece of his passion for archeology with them meant the world to him. There were times where he missed field work but playing a role in the making of future archeologists was just as fulfilling.

“Anything happen while I was away?”

“No,” mumbled Dio, snuggling as close to Jonathan as he could. He looked up, meeting those starry blue eyes. “Just peace and quiet.”

“I like peace and quiet,” Jonathan admitted in the dark, as if it was a dirty secret. “I like sharing it with you.”

Dio grinned. If he went twenty-six years in the past and told his prepubescent self that 'hey, you'll marry Jojo and have a baby with him', he'd probably get stabbed. Yet here they were, feeling complete while in each other's arms. Even with the fame and show-stopping opulence, Dio couldn't for the life of him think of a better place to be.

Jonathan stopped rubbing circles on Dio's back. “Dio?” he asked, voice rigid. “Where's Danny?”

Dio rolled his eyes. “Giorno sent him over at Funny's.”

“Oh, thank God.”

“I can't believe you'd distrust me like that!” He had every reason to. Dio really did want to cook the dog alive at times, but he held those urges back for Jonathan.

Jonathan only laughed in reply, giving Dio a quick kiss on the forehead. “I'm so happy to be back, Dio. I've missed you dearly. I've missed our life.”

“Yes,” Dio hummed. With a swift spin, he rolled on top of Jonathan, pressing their smiling mouths together. “And now we're all alone. Want to show me how much you've missed me?”

“You have no idea how much. I really want to sleep but may- Is there someone at the door?”

“What.”

“I think there's someone at the door. Be quiet for a moment.” A ring of the doorbell, loud and clear, echoed around the house. The two men exchanged curious glances. Who could it be at this hour?

“It's probably a drunk kid, Jojo,” Dio dismissed, bringing his face close to Jonathan's once more.

“What if something happened?” Jonathan rose from the bed to the disappointment and annoyance of Dio. He walked to the window and looked down, at the man standing at the front door. “Jotaro?”

“Fucking great...” mumbled Dio, rolling on his back with a defeated sigh.

“Something happened,” was what Jotaro said, expecting like always everyone else to understand the feelings he couldn't articulate for the life of him. He did seem a bit angry though, if the cigarette dangling from his lips – a habit he had given up long ago – was anything to go by.


Before realizing that his fate lay with Jonathan, Dio had never considered getting married, much less having a child. Living together with Jonathan hadn't made him lose his edge, as he had originally feared. On the contrary, it had made him stronger, cooled his temper and taught him so much about people. He introduced him to a life with Giorno, a life Dio wouldn't give up for the world. But if there was one aspect of living with the most generous and sweet man there was that Dio absolutely hated with every cell of his being, it was Jonathan's family. Years came and passed, the seasons changed and the children grew, together with his detest for the extensive Joestar family.

For starters, he didn't kill George because he hated him. That was just for practical reasons, nothing personal. It was the other Joestar children that made his blood boil. Joseph was an intolerable, loud, obnoxious asshole and if anything, Dio had to give props to Lisa Lisa for giving birth to a human disaster. He suspected that there was more to Joseph than he let on, though he never cared enough to dig deeper. But the real problem lay with Jotaro. Where to begin and where to finish with this one? Dio believed that 90% of his problems existed because of Jotaro, with the remaining 10% being because of Diego and other imbeciles he came across. He couldn't exactly pinpoint the moment when hatred rooted in his heart, couldn't even remember why he hated Jotaro so passionately, but Dio was the one to stay loyal to his grudges. He couldn't even begin to list the reason why he found Jotaro so damn unlikeable. He did, however, have a fondness for Jolyne, despite the sins of her father. She had moxie, wasn't afraid of Jotaro and was the only other person Dio knew who could pull off green lipstick as well as he did. Of course, he never got too chummy with her, for the sake of Pucci and his aesthetic.

One of the main reasons he hated this impossible family was because of how close they all were. They went on vacations and day trips together, spent the holidays together and now they even lived together. And while growing up with such a lively bunch of uncles and cousins was beneficial for Giorno's emotional growth, it drove Dio off the edge. For the past 20 years, 26 counting the years Dio had been in this family, he was constantly surrounded by Joestars, Joestars, Joestars. And it wasn't just the members of the family, oh no. When speaking about their family, the Joestars counted their friends, that were also omnipresent in Dio's life.

Such moments of 'family closeness' were those family councils, the reason why Dio was dragged into Jotaro's house at 3 AM. The crowd gathered there was large, as expected, only this time it also included the beloved Zeppelis. The setting was a bit too solemn, surprising Dio. Joseph and Caesar were sitting on the couch, looking at their feet while William was walking circles in front of them, hands joined behind his back, brows furrowed. Erina was sitting behind the two younger men, looking at them with stern blue eyes. Dio's face dropped at the sight of her. She glanced at him, eyes turning into ice cubes. Of course she'd be there. Jotaro and Kakyoin were standing close to the door. Giorno, who insisted on coming, dragged his feet over to the couch where Johnny and Gyro were almost dozing off, along with Jolyne and the self-proclaimed plankton hive mind her family had adopted. The atmosphere became even colder when Jonathan walked inside. William looked at him with utmost relief while Joseph gave him a wounded look, full of shame and guilt. It took Dio all his self-control to not sneer at it.

“What happened?” asked Jonathan once he stepped inside, looking at Joseph and Caesar. It wasn't unusual for his brother to cause trouble, he had just grown more considerate over the years, doing nothing that requested both families gathering at the dead of the night.

“Tell him,” Erina ordered coolly.

“Where's Josuke?” said Jonathan before Joseph could speak.

“Sleeping over at a friend's,” replied Jotaro, “I took care of it.”

“Tell him what happened,” Erina insisted.

Joseph took a deep breath. Caesar opened his mouth to speak but Joseph was faster. “Tomoko left me.”

“What?” Sensible woman, in Dio's opinion. A lot of the men surrounding him were with women they didn't deserve. Though he was curious as to why she had done so. “Why?”

Joseph gulped. He shamefully lowered his head, avoiding Jonathan's gaze. He mumbled something. He stopped and cleared his throat. “She caught me with Caesar.”

“Caught you...?” Jonathan's voice trailed off as he looked at William in shock. The other man sighed. Dio assumed he needed some wine. “Are you serious?”

“Yes.”

Jonathan looked at Erina with disbelief. She shook her head. Dio went to stand behind his son, who was listening to the news with surprise.

“Unbelievable,” Jonathan muttered. “This is the second time you've ruined your marriage because you were caught cheating!”

“I know!”

“And? Knowledge didn't really help you, apparently. This...Do you realize what you've done?!” Name a living creature that wasn't scared shitless of an angry Jonathan Joestar. What made his rage so terrifying was its rarity. Jonathan was sweet and polite, the stricter he could be was admonish softly. Few things irritated him and he overcame most problems calmly. But even he got angry and it was always unsettling.

“What about Josuke?” Jonathan continued. “What will you tell him?”

Joseph's shoulders dropped lower, head almost hanging between his knees. Caesar was holding his face in his hands. “I don't know,” Joseph rasped, sounding utterly defeated. “I don't know...I'll...I don't know.”

“What will happen now? What will you two do?”

“We don't know, Jonathan,” sighed Caesar, speaking for the first time.

“I think it's better that we look into this in the morning,” offered Kakyoin, trying to look awake despite his apparent tiredness. “We'll all be a lot calmer.”

They all agreed with this idea. Jonathan seemed reluctant to leave but they all urged him to rest after another long trip. Erina was the last to speak before the meeting ended.

“It's best if we keep this between us,” she said. “It would be disastrous if Josuke heard of this before we could handle it.”

 

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“How scandalous,” cooed Kars, giving Dio a wry smile.

“Indeed,” hummed the blond.

The two of them had gone to their favorite beauty salon, getting their manicures done. Dio adored it here. He loved it wherever people were all over him and the workers at his favorite shops adored him for spending too much money, more and more each time. Aside from Pucci, Kars was his favorite shopping partner, their tastes being quite similar and their thirst for material goods roaring. They had bonded over their common disdain for Joestars, coming quite close as the years went by.

“To tell you the truth, I'm not THAT surprised. I'm just shocked it took too long,” commented Kars. “Caesar is almost always over at Jojo's and when he's not, Joseph goes by his place.” Kars dislike for Joseph was notorious, and it increased the more his eldest son liked the Joestar. Absolutely ridiculous. “But to think that he'd actually get caught by his wife...What an amateur.”

“I know, right?” Dio leaned over the beautician's head to observe the work he was doing. So far, so good. “This whole situation is so annoying. This is all Jojo thinks and talks about! All that's in his head is Joseph's mess!”

Kars nodded, understanding. He was, in a way, their mentor. No one knew how old he actually was but it didn't really matter. They all were plenty smart, Kars was wise. His experiences and wisdom were the kind that came only with age. Be it relationships or children, he always had the best advice. Despite his pride, Dio had to acknowledge Kars' help when Giorno was an infant or when marriage proved to be a really difficult task.

“Jonathan will keep thinking about this and you know it. Sometimes you have to let them be, create the illusion that you're not the most important figure in their lives. You have to offer emotional support even if you couldn't care less.”

Good thing Dio was good at hiding his feelings. “I guess. Ugh, this is so tiring. I was waiting for him to get home but all he does is sulk!”

“Be patient for a couple of days and if it takes longer than that, force it out of him.”

“You're right. Ugh, look at this. Joseph's stupidity was ebbed into my life!” With a melodic sigh, Dio turned to look at his phone. “Enrico will come pick us up when we're done.”

“Wonderful. What are we doing for lunch?”

“I'm not feeling particularly hungry at the moment so I can't really think of anything.”

Kars hummed. “We'll decide later.”

 

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With Jonathan's return, Dio was expecting the return of his domestic bliss as well. Thanks to Joseph's irredeemable and uncontrollable sexuality, such a thing didn't happen. Jonathan couldn't do anything but mope around all day, moving from couch to couch. His anger had melted away into sadness over his brother, thinking that it was his fault that Joseph had turned out that way. This turn of events made Dio the least to say irritated. How dare Joseph bring Jonathan to this state? How dare anyone make Jonathan feel bad about himself, when he had nothing wrong ever in his life?

Dio wasn't surprised to find Jonathan sitting on the couch when he returned home, trying to get some work done. He approached quietly, studying the man's perplexed expression. “Jojo?” he softly called, making Jonathan look at him.

Jonathan managed a small smile, all for the sake of not making Dio worry about him even more. Seeing how much Dio had progressed from being a murderous, angry little twat to a murderous, less angry husband and father was truly remarkable. Stone masks and arrows aside, this was the work Jonathan was most proud of.

“Hello,” he greeted, making some room for Dio to sit. “How was your day?”

“Uninteresting,” Dio simply shrugged. “Yours?”

“Same old,” Jonathan replied.

“Jojo, you need to stop feeling bad about yourself.”

Jonathan looked at him, blue eyes full of sorrow. “What saddens me is that Joseph is so smart yet he never uses his head.” Defeated, he pushed all files and notes aside. Not that he was making any progress. “I think we've spoiled him too much.”

Of course they've spoiled him too much. Out of all the Joestars, Joseph was undoubtedly the most spoiled. Even from their childhood, everyone was all over Joseph for reasons Dio couldn't understand. He assumed they did so to prevent Joseph from feeling neglected because of his status as a middle child.

“And Caesar,” Jonathan continued, “I thought he was more mature than Joseph.”

“Guess they were carried away,” was all Dio could say. Despite his phenomenal rhetoric abilities, Dio was the worst when it came to expressing his feelings or offering consolation. Giorno adored reminding him, never letting him forget his infamous 'animals can't go to Heaven so Goldie will probably haunt you as a ghost' when his hamster/ childhood friend died.

The doorbell rung and Dio rose to get it. It was probably Giorno, having forgotten his keys. It wasn't. Before Dio could even properly open the door, it was pushed to the side, squashing him against the wall. The guest stormed inside, yelling loudly at Jonathan.

“Robert!” Jonathan exclaimed, springing up. “How did you get here so quickly?”

“I bought another helicopter! I'd do anything to be by your side when you need me!”

Dio walked into the living room, his deep scowl a blatant mismatch next to the two happily hugging friends. Robert Fucking Speedwagon. No word in any language could ever begin to describe how much Dio loathed this man. And their feelings were mutual. They were quite similar, in ways Dio would never acknowledge. Two boys raised in the slums, suspicious of everything and everyone, trying to protect the same ray of sunshine from each other.

(Dio was mostly jealous of Speedwagon's wealth and closeness with Jonathan, whereas Speedwagon didn't trust Dio because he was a damn snake. Quite obvious who was on the right.)

“Speedwagon, how lovely of you to drop by. Unannounced,” Dio said through gritted teeth.

“Robert doesn't need an invitation to come here!” said Jonathan. “This is his house, too!”

Oh, boy. Dio sat down, legs and arms crossed. “William called me and told me what happened,” Speedwagon began to explain. “I still can't believe it.” Here they were, treating a one-night-stand like it was the Civil War. And they dared call Dio a drama queen.

“Yes, I can't believe it happened, either. What can we do about it, Robert?”

“There's nothing we can do about it!” Dio snapped back. “They're both adults and perfectly capable of taking care of themselves!” Dio was both mildly annoyed at the situation and right. One would expect two 36-year old men to be able to settle this by themselves. Jonathan was caring too much, spending too much time thinking about Joseph when he had a family of his own.

“I don't think you understand the gravity of the situation,” stated Speedwagon. “Not only did Joseph ruin his marriage with Tomoko but he also ruined his friendship with Caesar, as well hurting his son.”

Dio understood. He just didn't care. He almost got carried away and showed it in front of Jonathan. “I understand perfectly, mind you,” he said in a voice too saccharine to be his own. “All I'm saying is that Jonathan shouldn't fret over things that are easy to be taken care of.”

Jonathan looked at the two men, both expecting something from him. “I'll go get you some coffee,” he said absentmindedly and walked into the kitchen.

The tension inside the living room could be cut with a knife. Sharp amber eyes looked into inquisitive brown ones.

“You damn rat,” hissed Speedwagon in a voice low enough so only Dio could catch it. It was incredible how he could go to that from being a damn megaphone all the time. “Why are you trying to keep Jojo away from his family?”

“I'm not trying to keep him away from his family, I AM his family! I'm simply trying to show him what's more important.”

“Whether you like it or not, his brothers will always be his family. They have been his family long before you came and they will be after you'll be gone.”

Dio clenched his fist, newly done nails digging viciously into his skin. His expression was akin to that of a snake, wanting nothing more than to bury his fangs into Speedwagon's neck and drain him. “I don't know what you're getting at-”

“What I'm getting at is that your days are counted, Dio. One slip up,” he whispered, raising a finger in front of Dio's face, “and I'll make sure you never see Jojo or Giorno ever again.”

Dio couldn't believe the nerve, the audacity this damn peasant had. Oh, had they only been in an alley or something...Dio was just dying to sever his carotid. A feral grin twisted his handsome face into a mask of viciousness. Speedwagon flinched a little.

“You're just jealous,” he sneered, “that I, Dio, have Jojo and you have no one!”

Speedwagon would have answered to that, had Jonathan not walked in, holding a cup of coffee. Speedwagon took a grateful sip, imagining the bitter liquid was the marrow of Dio's bones. He brought his attention to Jonathan, making sure to look as supportive as possible so not to startle him.

“This situation must be handled delicately. I can't even begin to imagine what will happen once the papers catch the smell of it.” Noticing how the look in Jonathan's eyes went back to that of desperation, Speedwagon cupped his hand reassuringly, squeezing it to the chagrin of Dio. “Don't worry. Help is on its way.”

 

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Throughout the span of three days, Joseph had been scolded by every member of his family and the Zeppelis, had been rejected by his own son and all his attempts of approaching Tomoko were met with justified anger. Even someone like him, someone who had a plan for literally everything, had no idea what to do this time. Looking back, this was probably the worst week in his life, even worse than when Dio married Jonathan.

Both he and Caesar were sat on a couch with the rest of the family around them, heads hanging low while Lisa Lisa was standing in front of them, arms crossed, eyes obscured by black sunglasses. Her expression was stony, perfectly neutral as she looked at the boys, her boys, giving away nothing. Knowing his mother, Joseph was in to receive divine punishment. The first time had been harsh, Lisa Lisa had taken personal insult since she was the one to bring Suzie Q and her son together. Joseph didn't know what to expect this time, especially when Lisa Lisa's adored Josuke devastated because of his stupidity.

“Caesar,” started Lisa Lisa, voice cool as always, “I expected better from you.”

“Yes ma'am,” mumbled Caesar, unable to look at her.

“If anything, you should have been the one to realize how childish and dangerous your fooling around with my son was.”

“It wasn't fooling around,” Joseph cut in. Even behind glasses, Lisa Lisa's glare was powerful enough to make him zip his mouth and make all 195cm of him look like a scolded pomeranian.

“I always thought you were more mature than Jojo, more rational. And I still do. I'm just astonished at how you didn't take into consideration how you could have potentially ruined Jojo's marriage.”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“That was selfish, irresponsible and immature.”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“Your grandfather and I have decided that you will come with me to Venice and help me repair the estate. Through manual labor and solitude, you'll be able to reflect on your choices and decided what to do next.”

“Yes, ma'am. Thank you.”

Joseph looked at Caesar, puzzled. He was always so sharp and sometimes incredibly stubborn, yet so obedient when it came to Lisa Lisa. He had the expression of an embarrassed child. It would've been cute if it wasn't so annoying.

“As for you,” Lisa Lisa resumed, turning to look at her son. “You have successfully made both your wife and son hate you.” The words stung. Joseph hated being reminded of his mistakes. He wanted to explain himself but he couldn't. Not when everyone was standing over his head like a famished vulture. He knew they were doing it out of love but still! And that damn Caesar wasn't saying anything.

“However, Josuke has accepted to speak to you once you return.”

“Return? Return from where?”

Jonathan snorted. Erina made an attempt at hiding her own smile. Dio didn't. He just stood there, grinning from ear to ear. Joseph looked at Jotaro who shook his head.

“I've spoiled you too much,” Lisa Lisa concluded. “I tried teaching you discipline but you've always been lazy and disobedient, like you don't know what's good for you. I think it's time we changed that.”

Joseph smiled nervously. “So you're taking me with you?”

“No,” she said and the corners of her scarlet mouth twitched ever so slightly. “I'm sending you to your grandfather.”

Joseph could hear glass shattering in his mind, followed by anguished screaming once the words had settled in. He looked at his mother, still smiling nervously. His eye twitched. He looked at Caesar who was looking at him with wide eyes.

“My...grandfather?”

“Yes,” Lisa Lisa casually replied. “It's for your own good.”

“How is it for my own good?” he barked.

“Joseph,” said Erina, voice cold but maybe a bit gentler than Lisa Lisa's. “Some time away will do you good.”

“Well send me to a resort, or in Germany with Stroheim! Not to the damn mountains with Straizo!”

“Jojo-”

“He hates me!”

Lisa Lisa put her hands on her hips, sighing. “It's final. Go get your things, just some essentials. It's only for twenty days.”

Joseph mouthed the words in shock. Twenty days with a man who had repeatedly expressed his dislike for him. “Don't you care if he kills me?” That was a final resort, trying to touch Lisa Lisa's heartstrings.

She spared him an emotionless glance before walking out. Joseph groaned and flopped back on the couch. Jonathan's gigantic hand fell on his shoulder. Looking up, Joseph looked at the face of a sweet benevolent angel.

“You'll do fine. It's not like we'll let Straizo kill you.”

“I don't think we have much say on the subject,” Speedwagon mused aloud.

Once outside, Joseph felt like he walking the walk of shame to his mother's car. He looked around his neighborhood, his favorite places, his house, his friends, and family. Caesar was walking next to him. He had it easier. Way easier. Joseph wasn't going to die, was he?

Something he was sure he'd never miss was his neighbor, looking at him over the fence like the condescending jerk he was. The guy was probably one of the most ridiculous and downright awful people Joseph knew. Vicious, aggressive and twice as megalomaniac as those other wonderful friends of his. He was that kind of person that just gave off a bad vibe, the kind of person that Joseph didn't like just because. Of course, Kars later gave him a reason to. While the other members of his family weren't exactly saints, Joseph was quite fond of his eldest son. Wamuu proved to be a good friend, once Joseph managed to dig past three layers of his ego and aloof attitude.

What was surprising was that for once, Kars didn't address him to make a snide comment. This time, he turned to Lisa Lisa right before she got in the car. “I think you owe me something, Elisabeth.”

“I would say the same.”

“So...?”

“I'll call you when I return.”

Kars nodded and went back to sunbathing. “I'll be waiting.”

“What the hell?” mumbled Joseph. “Mom, what business do you have with this guy?”

“It doesn't interest you, Jojo.” Lisa Lisa buckled her seat belt while the two men were squashed in the backseat. The car started, heading to Joseph's doom.

“Come back alive,” Caesar said suddenly, quietly, speaking to Joseph for the first time in days. “Or else.”

Joseph blinked. He smiled, inching his hand closer to Caesar's. "You too, bubble butt.”

Chapter Text

 


Diego Brando Fucking Dies

 


Diego hated his job. That much was undeniable. But he wouldn't change it for the world. Be it Dio's influence or his desire to escape from his poor upbringing, Diego had decided early on in his life that he was destined for greatness and that he'd do anything to achieve that. In order to stay loyal to his goal, Diego had to push his real passion, paleontology, to the side and pursue something far more 'useful for society rather than a mundane hobby', as Dio had put it. Finishing Law School had been extremely hard, simply because he hated every bit of it. At least he had made quite a lot of money there, blessed be those clueless rich kids. After graduating, and through his brother's connections, Diego had landed an enviable and much sought after position in the Governor's office. This was everything Diego could've ever hoped for. Through his job he met everyone that was worth a damn in the country and had even charmed a couple of them, thus bringing himself even closer to his final goal, slowly but steadily.

Except he wasn't aware of a tiny little detail; the boss was a ginormous asshole. In Diego's eyes, Valentine was an even bigger asshole than Dio. Unlike Dio, no one suspected Valentine of being a piece of shit. He was polite, charming, eloquent, intelligent and too beautiful. But above all the guy didn't have a bad history. His entire bio was stellar; devoted family man, coming from a family of accomplished military men, with an exceptional academic record and a strong desire to see America prosper. The other guys in the office were too busy sucking up to him to see that the guy was actually an ass.

It wasn't that he was evil or cruel. Inflicting pain on others didn't bring him pleasure. He was entirely devoted to his work and hated losing precious time, hence why everything had to be done perfectly from the first try. That meant that Diego was more than often in charge of performing tasks that didn't require usage of his Law degree, especially when Valentine was in a foul mood or he had done something wrong. Work would sometimes get a bit too overwhelming and Diego had once made the grave mistake of trying on getting on Valentine's 'good side' to see how he would benefit from this. He was met with a dense brick wall and all that he got from it was a pair of sore, blister-riddled feet after turning Boston upside down for a bagel that didn't exist. So all he could really do was keep his head low and look for the best chance to gain more power.

It took all his resolve to turn the alarm off as quickly as possible. He groaned deeply, unable to meet the phone screen's unforgiving fluorescent glare. 5 AM. Slowly, he got out of the bed, as carefully as possible so not to disturb Hot Pants who was sleeping soundly next to him. The room's complete darkness along with his terrible eyesight made walking to the door near impossible but in time he had learned how to navigate. He got out in the dark hall and turned on every light on his way to the bathroom. Unlike his brother, Diego didn't live in a multi-million dollar palace. His apartment was modest but cozy. Hot Pants wouldn't have it any other way. It wasn't his dream house but the view was more than Diego could have ever hoped for. After a brisk shower, he'd drink his first cup of coffee while gazing out to Manhattan, the lights and buildings reflecting in his eyes in a blurry haze. One day.

By 5:30, Diego tiptoed back into his bedroom, this time turning on a little light to look through his dresser. By the time Diego was dressed and ready to leave, Hot Pants was blearily looking at him through pink hair. He sat on the bed and brushed some pink strands away from her face.

“You don't have to do this,” she groggily groaned, voice muffled by the pillow.

“It's either that or marrying rich,” he said and she laughed.

“Have a good day.”

“You too.”

The train ride was three hours and something and usually, Diego either checked his phone or slept a little. Scrolling through his feed, he saw that last night had been fairly normal for most of his acquaintances; movie night for Dio and Jonathan, poker night for Jolyne, Giorno and Josuke, fajita night for Johnny and Gyro and dinner at another ridiculously luxurious restaurant for Mr. and Mrs. Valentine. Diego snorted as he felt his eyelids grow heavier. Arrogant cunt.

Dozing off was inevitable. He had mastered the art of sleeping while traveling and nothing bothered him. And he was just so into it, having gotten in just the right position, when he was gently woken by another passenger. Annoyed and confused, Diego opened his eyes and looked straight into the face of a concerned young woman.

“What's going on?” he rasped as he sat up, clumsily wiping the drool from the corner of his mouth.

“Well...I've noticed you before and you always get off at Albany,” she said. Diego's eyes widened. He looked outside. He knew this place. He shouldn't be here.

“Where am I?” he demanded, shooting up from his seat, grabbing all his belongings at once.

“Saratoga Springs.”

Diego's heart stopped once he heard the two words. “Shit!” he yelled, dashing through the hall and out to the platform, feeling the morning dew cool his sweaty body.

He checked the time. His stomach dropped. 10:15. Oh no. “Shit! Shit!” he yelled even louder. He looked around frantically. He couldn't wait for another bus or train. With the corner of his eye he spotted it. He sprinted to the taxi rank and after pushing another would be passenger out the way, dove in. “Get me to the State Capitol Building immediately!” he barked at the taxi driver.

He noticed how his one eye was extremely blurry. Somewhere along the way, he had lost one of his contacts. Diego felt like screaming. With shaky fingers, he checked his phone. No messages. Oh no. No messages meant that there was a storm waiting for him at work. For now, all he could do was sit back and enjoy the ride to his death.

He climbed the steps three by three, sprinting through doors and halls, finally reaching his destination as a sweating, panting mess. The entire floor turned to look at him, all sharing the same knowledgable silence as he walked to his desk, right in front of the heavy set of double doors.

“Is he inside?” he asked Sandman.

The man merely looked up from his computer, face completely blank. “What do you think?”

It was a foolish question Diego knew the answer to. He just hoped, dammit. He sat down on the desk across Sandman's and placed his head in his hands. He ran his fingers through his short hair, inhaling sharply. Everything seemed so foreign. It was like it was his first time on the job. What did he usually do first? Right. Sort out Valentine's appointments for the day.

Or at least that's what he was meaning to do when the double doors opened. He bit his lip, head still hanging low, hands working faster. He wasn't surprised to finally see a shadow looming over him. Valentine's ability to move like air was unnerving, something Diego would never get used to.

“Well,” started the older man, crossing his arms and looking at Diego with utmost contempt, “look who decided to drop by.”

Diego flinched at the sound of his voice. Condescending, cold, mocking. He looked up, seeing a pair of clear blue eyes and a gorgeous face surrounded by perfect blonde hair. He bit his tongue. “I missed my stop.”

“Is that really an eligible excuse?” Valentine asked, arching an eyebrow. It actually was, yeah, but Valentine would turn it against him no matter what. So Diego shut up. Valentine looked at his watch. “Now that you're here, be a good boy and fetch me my coffee.”

There was a pointless staring contest between the two. Eventually, Diego stood up, teeth gritted. It was assholes like Valentine that really got to him. Raised in opulence, brought up in a family that provided him with everything, always given the finest luxuries in life, marrying an oil company owner's daughter, living in a damn palace while also owning ostentatious estates all around the globe. Oh, he was infuriating, he and his kind. These people never had to starve or try for anything, never had a bad day in their lives and though they owned the world because of it.

(Funny Valentine was actually held prisoner and brutally tortured for a long period of time, but Diego chose to ignore that fact.)

He could already see what kind of day this was going to be. The iced caramel venti americano in his hand told him so. He, of course, brought it to Valentine's office, along with the blueberry muffins the man was so fond of.

“Right on time,” Valentine remarked. “That's rare.” Seeing how Diego's expression was that of pure annoyance and hate, Valentine chuckled. Teasing guys with easily wounded egos was a guilty pleasure of his. “Come on, Diego, I'm merely joking.” Diego wanted to comment on the success of the joke but had to hold back. “I know you take your work seriously. If anything, I admire your devotion.”

“Thank you, sir,” Diego said through gritted teeth.

Valentine continued looking at him, head tilted to the side and resting on his linked fingers. He was smiling politely, blue eyes half-lidded. Diego gulped. Why was he so calm?

“You may go back to work,” Valentine chimed, he too returning to his very important work, now with coffee.

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

An hour into work, Diego stood up from his desk and like every other day brought the daily schedule into Valentine's office.

“I already have the schedule right here,” Valentine simply said, showing Diego a piece of paper almost identical to the one he had spent an hour making. Be it his nervousness over the day's strange beginning or Valentine's eerie neutrality, Diego remained silent, feeling utterly stupid. “You weren't expecting me to wait until you untangled yourself from under your blanket, did you?” Valentine snorted. “Losing time isn't an option and if I relied solely on you...well...I would've been fucked.” With the same indecipherable and calm expression as always, Valentine leaned back in his chair. “Actually, all your daily duties have already been taken care of.”

For the first time ever since he started working, Diego felt his knees wobble. His throat convulsed, lips trembling. This was it. This was the last drop. After so much hard work, after trying so hard, after stepping over countless others, he was about to get fired. He was completely frozen in place, feet nailed to the floor as his wide eyes remained fixed on the man before him. He could feel the blood boil in his veins, his ears become deaf, overcome by dull static.

“Luckily for you, I found something else for you to do,” Valentine announced and even gave Diego a cheeky wink. With deft fingers, he produced a piece of paper from one of the drawers of his imposing desk.

Diego snapped out of his stillness and reached forward to grab the note. It was from the notepad Valentine used, its authenticity further confirmed by the man's pristine cursive handwriting. “These are all addresses,” he pointed out.

“Once again, your intellect leaves me at a loss of words.” Diego shot the man the most venomous glare he could in his position. He wanted to scream at him at the top of his lungs to fuck off. But he couldn't. For the moment he was a bug under Valentine's fine Prada shoes. Only for the moment. Soon, he'd have his justice and Valentine would be the first one to answer for his crimes.

“These are all in Manhattan,” Diego then said, genuinely surprised. That translated to a trip at least three hours away. What exactly was Valentine planing?

“Yes. And they are very urgent so you might want to get going.”

“What...do I have to do?”

“Leave, for starters. After you're done, you'll take everything to Dio's office. My wife will bring them home.”

'Everything'? Was he going to be collecting documents from offices around the city? None of these addresses were known to him and Diego had memorized all the important addresses. He left, nevertheless, as he didn't really have another choice. He'd think about the details while on the way. Judging by what Valentine had said, Diego would be spending the entire day on the streets. Doing...what exactly? He looked at the paper again while still on the train. He was wearing his glasses, as he didn't have another pair of contacts on him. Maybe he'd be doing some dirty work, finally catch a glimpse of the backstage. No, there was no way it was going to be it. Blackmore was the one that did this kind of thing. Had Valentine thought of an elaborate revenge plan? Simply because Diego was a little late? Valentine wasn't known for being vengeful.

For the second time in such a short period of time, Diego was in Manhattan. He checked his list. First stop was...seventeen blocks away. Great. Grumbling under his breath, Diego started walking. He could've taken the bus but he was so pissed, he didn't even think about that option. His feet were on fire, step after step taking him to whatever it was that Valentine was sending him. His curiosity grew the closer he got. He was in his favorite part of the city, surrounded by name brands and opulence, glamour and money, endless amounts of it.

His steps brought him in front of a Gucci store. Ah, yes. High school valedictorian, accepted into an Ivy League Law school with a scholarship and his job was getting clothes. However irritating, it wasn't entirely unpleasant or cruel. Just a bit humiliating. He fixed his posture, tried his best not to look like a disheveled worker, running for his boss' errands. He walked inside, sighing blissfully at the cool temperature. Aside from the staff, only two more women were in, too busy gloating about their wealth to notice him. Unsure of what to do, Diego approached the cashier, a gaunt woman clad in black who scrunched her nose upon seeing him.

“Good morning,” he greeted.

“Good morning,” she mumbled, eyeing him from head to toe. “May I help you?”

“Yes. I'm here on behalf of Governor Valentine.”

She blinked. She looked mildly disappointed. Of course she did. Valentine was tall and bright and perfect and rich, not sweaty and short and near-sighted. “Give me a sec.”

Diego waited, tapping his fingers on the stainless glass of the front desk, while the woman went to bring whatever Diego was here to take. He glanced at the designer clothes. Most of them were unnecessarily eccentric and odd but he doubted anyone bought these for the aesthetic. He sighed longingly. One day he was too going to have an ugly coat he could flaunt.

The woman returned with two very large bags. Diego left, after crossing out the first address from his list. He had just stepped outside when he realized that he had no idea if he had taken the right items. Surely, a high-end prestigious brand like that wouldn't fuck up such an important client's order but everyone was prone to mistakes. Anxiety overtook him as he looked at the bags. There was only one way to verify this.

Yes?”

“Mr. Valentine, it's me.”

“I'm aware. Don't tell me you're done already...”

“No, I just came out of the Gucci store.”

“Oh. Did you get my coats?”

Coats? Diego peered inside. One bag had two pairs of shoes and the other had a suit. He gulped. Should he tell Valentine? Maybe not. He'd just go back to the store and solve this with the staff. “Yes...”

Then why are you wasting my time for the second time today?” huffed Valentine. “Do not contact me unless something happens. And you better pray nothing happens, Diego. Otherwise, everything's coming out of your paycheck.”

And with that, he hung up, leaving Diego to contemplate jumping into the Hudson. Hesitantly, he walked back inside and approached the same woman he had before.

“I think you gave me the wrong order.” At that, she raised a too dark, too thin, too 2000's brow at him. “I just spoke to Mr. Valentine and he told me that I was supposed to pick up some coats.”

“Coats?” she repeated. “Impossible, the order was placed by Mr. Valentine himself three days ago.”

“Yes, but I just spoke with him and he told me he is expecting coats!” he said, voice getting more shrill with each word.

She pursed her lips, hands on her hips. “Do you honestly think that I'd mess up the order of the most important person in this state?” Well, one of them had to be wrong. “And even if I did, I can't give you anything. These items have already been paid for. You can either pay for anything else yourself or have Mr. Valentine come here.”

That'd be signing his death sentence. Enraged, Diego stormed out of the store. Just fucking wonderful. He didn't dare call Valentine again even though he knew he was on the right. He checked the time. It was already almost 3 PM. He looked at the list. He couldn't bother with this any longer. He had to get everything done before the shops closed. Any mistakes could be fixed once the new sun was up.

Luckily, his next stop was rather close by. Diego went inside the Louis Vuitton shop, this time caring little about his appearance.

“I'm here on behalf of Governor Valentine,” he spat out before any of the clerks could react.

Did all the high-end store clerks wear the same fucking clothes? A different figure dressed in black approached him this time, a condescending man that looked at him with haughty disdain.

“We don't have Mr. Valentine's order here,” he merely said, shooting a bullet through Diego's heart. “It's in our shop in Soho.”

“Soho?!” Diego shouted.

“Yes, sir, Soho. Would you perhaps like a map?”

What Diego would like was a nice, tall glass of hemlock with some lime. For the second (and probably not for the last) time that day, he stormed out of the boutique like a madman. He beelined towards the first taxi he saw, aggressively shoving everyone out of his way.

“Soho!” he shrieked. “Now!”

“I'm going to need a more specific address, sir.”

“Uhhh...The Louis Vuitton place?”

“Which one?”

Diego choked on a wail “Just pick one!” he screamed.

Oh, he was going to get back at the bastard. He was already plotting his revenge. Killing him would be far too merciful. He'd toy with him a bit, just enough to make him beg for death. And then, finally, he'd tie each of his perfectly toned, long limbs on a horse and give the order and-

His phone buzzed, almost slipping from his sweaty palm. It was a message from Hot Pants.

Hot Cakes: You having lunch?

You: I wish im running around manhattan, doing valentine's chores

Hot Cakes: Ah fuck

Hot Cakes: Not getting out of it?

You: nope

You: was late probably getting shit for it

Hot Cakes: Ouch.

Hot Cakes: Call me when you're done

Hot Cakes: I love you

You: so ive heard

Hot Cakes: fuck off

Diego sat back to enjoy the rest of the ride, evidently more relaxed. He looked out to the skyscrapers and bustling streets, to all the expensive boutiques and carefree rich assholes. He remembered when he first saw this city, how awed and smitten he was. He was still young back then, still a child that dreamed. He believed that this was the trait that differentiated him from his brother. Dio was cynical, flat, cruel. Diego still hoped and knew how to take a fucking joke. He had Jonathan to thank for that.

The sweat-scented car stopped. Diego looked at the endless line of honking cars stretching before him, another one quickly forming behind him.

“What's the holdup?”

“We're kinda stuck,” was the only explanation the driver gave.

Diego checked the time. Almost 3:30. He checked his list. He had three more locations to go to and needed to deliver everything to Scarlet before she left her office. He leaned into the gap between the two front seats.

“Listen, I'm kind of in a hurry. Isn't there any way you can go?”

“I can't just fly over the other cars!”

True. Diego looked around him. “The sidewalk is wide enough.” The driver chuckled. “I'm not joking.”

“I'm not getting in jail just because your boss can't bother doing his own shit.”

“Is it that obvious?”

“You have no idea how many Anne Hathaways I see every day, kid.”

Diego could only chuckle weakly at that. Getting out of the car and just taking off by himself would take too much time. The car started moving after twenty whole minutes, making every pore in Diego's body sigh in relief. The moment of joy was short-lived, as Diego got a call from Valentine. He contemplated not picking up, though that would probably cost him his head.

“Hello?”

“Diego? Where are you right now?”

“Heading to Soho. They sent me there from the Louis Vuitton shop.”

Is that so? Well, that's more convenient for you. You can pick my dry cleaning from there.” Diego grit his teeth. Valentine was a hundred times more annoying when Diego wasn't looking at him. His voice was cold, demanding, regal and its infuriating effect wasn't dulled by his admittedly stunning face. “Be very careful with my clothes. White stains like crazy.”

“Is that everything?”

“Yes. I'll leave you to your work.”

They finally arrived at the damn store and Diego stepped out but left everything inside. “Wait here!” he barked at the driver. This was probably going to cost him a month's rent.

He barged inside, a panting, sweaty mess, not caring about the distressed whispers he got. “I'm here o-”

“For Governor Valentine's clothes? Yes, they called us from the other store.” This one was definitely less stuck up than the others.

Diego wasn't given a single minute to relax as right in front of his almost weeping eyes, several people started stacking boxes and bags in a neat pile, then shoving the contents into three bags, each the size of Diego. He wondered if it was worth it. A nice dip in the river was seeming all the more tempting. They at least helped him move them in the cab, though Diego ran the distance to get to the dry cleaner's, the taxi still waiting for him a block away.

“I'm here for Valentine's clothes,” he wheezed once he walked inside the store. The worker, a middle-aged woman, nodded and fetched a bubblegum pink coat and a pair of pink and purple gloves. Diego froze. Was it because he had helped Dio kill their dad? Or because he once scammed Johnny out of five grand?

“This...is pink.”

“So?”

“It's supposed to be white.”

“Maybe it got messed up in the wash,” she idly replied. She gave off the vibe of a woman far too tired to give a shit. Diego would've liked that, had his entire life and career not been at stake.

“Then do something about it!” he shouted.

“Our policy says that in the event of something like that happening, we can come to an arrangement only with the owner. You're not Governor Valentine.”

“Unfortunately,” he mumbled. “Listen, my employer gave me clear instructions that I was supposed to receive a white coat! This isn't white!”

She eyed him with bored eyes. “I told you, I can't do anything about this unless the owner is here.”

“Then what the fuck am I supposed to do?”

“Die mad about it.”

And with that, Diego left again, having once again fucked up his task at hand. He suspected that Valentine was fucking with him but he brushed that idea off. There was no way a man as busy and stuck up as him would take precious time off his day to fuck with his secretary.

It would seem that Diego had some luck on his side as he was able to reach his next destination in under forty minutes. He immediately stumbled upon a misfortune, however, as his new task was picking up Valentine's dog from the daycare. The taxi driver, who had no other option but to stick with Diego throughout this ordeal, had to draw a line. No pets allowed in his car was the rule he set, and with Diego hollering insults at him drove into the sunset. Diego was left on the pavement with a mountain of clothes worth more than his entire bank account, sweating profusely and looking every bit like an angry lizard. The sun was glaring at him, the hot rays burning in his messy clothes. At least he had just one more to go.

Somehow, he managed to carry everything inside. He unceremoniously dumped the bags and boxes on the floor, practically collapsing on the front desk.

“I'm here for Governor Valentine's dog,” he managed to cough out.

“This way,” the young man instructed and led him through the halls of the doggy daycare.

Okay, Diego had never been in a dog daycare before but he doubted they all looked like that. The halls were decorated with lively flowers and thriving plants, light music was playing from the speakers, fountains and mini waterfalls decorated every inch of open space. Everywhere he looked, he saw happy dogs, all getting treated in one way or another; elaborate playgrounds, spa treatments, heavenly meals. Not for the first in his life, Diego found himself wishing that he was Valentine's bitch.

The dog he had come to retrieve was in a VIP room, getting her nails done and still pinkish fur brushed while watching Sailor Moon. Brando men and dogs didn't mix really well but Diego had to admit; that was a very sweet dog.

“Gracie,” one of her caretakers cooed. “Look who's here to pick you up!”

The excited dog looked at Diego with confusion. “She doesn't know me.”

“Oh, that's fine. She'll come if you give her her favorite biscuits.”

“I...don't have any biscuits on me.” Why was this day so surreal?

The caretaker sighed. “You can buy some at the vending machine outside. She's not gonna come with you otherwise. She's been really wary of strangers lately.”

Damn Gyro and his shitty pranks. Now this perfectly docile animal was scarred for life and Diego had to buy his way into her heart. He stomped outside, where the vending machine was.

“They're the ones on the top row.”

Diego nodded. A pack of three beef biscuits for...two hundred dollars. “Isn't there any other way?” he asked, not caring if he sounded desperate.

There wasn't. In order to convince this picky fluffball to come with him, Diego shoved four fifty dollar bills into the cursed machine that soon gave him a tiny little pack of dog biscuits. Defeated and utterly drained, he walked back into the dog lounge. This should've been a horse. He knew how to deal with horses, plus he could use the horse to just ride around without having to carry all the stuff. But no...it had to be a little princess mutt who started panting happily at the sight of her favorite snack. The four-legged cloud sauntered over to Diego, expecting him to make the first move. Diego wriggled a biscuit in front of her awkwardly. He let it on the floor and before he could retract his hand, her big, wet tongue was all over his fingers. He jumped back with a surprised yelp, causing the dog to whimper and seek shelter into her caretaker's arms.

“Don't react like that, it makes her nervous. Try again.”

Diego had a lot to say but held it all back. All he needed to do was earn a dog's trust. Then he could keep his job, his head and his hopes of skewering Valentine. Moving slower this time, he laid a biscuit on the floor and took a step back. The dog hesitantly moved to sniff the offered tribute and once seeing that it was clean, ate it. Diego sighed in relief. Big black eyes looked at him with anticipation, tail wagging needily in want of the last biscuit. Diego followed the same process, only this time he buried his hand in the pinkish fur, stroking gently. He earned a positive response from the dog. Another triumph.

Gracie proved to be a rather sweet dog indeed, with the kind of childish curiosity and energy all spoiled dogs had. This kills the Diego. The man was left alone in the Manhattan jungle, trying to balance a small country's worth of clothes and a very excited dog while figuring out a route for his next and thankfully final stop. He staggered and stumbled, fell over pedestrians and even stepped on an unsuspecting pigeon. Sweat was rolling down his body, fogging his miraculously intact glasses and sticking his hair on his forehead. Dumping everything as well as himself in the river became more and more tempting as the day went by.

When Gracie decided that a cardboard box on the other side of the fucking block was interesting enough to gallop towards, literally dragging Diego behind her, Diego thought he had seen it all. In hindsight, he probably should have never asked what could be worse than fucking up every single task, almost running out of money and having to deal with Joseph Joestar in dog form. Standing in front of a daycare with a 45 thousand-dollar tuition felt like staring into the depths of hell. All color drained from his face as he shakily stepped inside, feeling like heading to the guillotine.

The place was even fancier than the ridiculous daycare Dio used to send Giorno at. The kids were in the middle of some snobbish activity, which would be cute had Diego not been so utterly tired and furious. They all dropped everything when they saw the dog, their little hands messing up her perfectly coiffed fur.

“Oh, you must be Diego,” one of the teachers smiled at him. “Mr. Valentine called us a little while ago. I'll go get the boys ready.”

'The boys'.

There was something...unnerving about Valentine's offspring. Diego had seen pictures of him as a child and those little bastards looked exactly like him. Same curls, same pouty lips, same bright blue eyes. They even acted exactly like him. Their mother often joked that they were clones but Diego didn't think of that as a joke. It was a damn fact. There were no differences between them, none at all. All four of them, even the damn infant, was all Valentine. If not clones, then what?

As expected, the teacher returned with two boys, identical in appearance. They were only distinguishable by their outfits; perfectly matching, only one was wearing navy shorts and the other black ones. The two boys begrudgingly agreed to follow him and Diego was actually a bit relieved. Now the dog wouldn't run around like crazy and these kids seemed rather well-mannered.

Until they came out. Both turned to look at him, eyes angelic but smiles eerily devilish. “You're Diego, right?”

“You're Johnny's friend.”

“Daddy doesn't like Johnny.”

“Or Gyro.”

“I like Gyro.”

“He smells like cheese.”

“Where are you from?”

Diego took a deep breath. “I'm British.”

“Your accent is weird.”

“Why are you so short?”

“Why are your teeth so sharp?”

“So I can eat faster!” Diego shouted, alarming the people around them who shot him judgemental glares.

The kids didn't react to that. They merely moved closer together and started whispering into each other's ear, while looking at Diego. He rolled his eyes. Whatever. It didn't matter anymore. The office was relatively close by. Once he dropped them all off, Diego would be free to go home and cry in the bathtub, waiting to be executed for messing up Valentine's clothes. Or maybe he could reach an arrangement with Scarlet. She was a witch, sure, but definitely more understanding than the monster she had married. There wasn't much Diego could give her. He wasn't above offering her himself. He'd do anything to-

Somewhere in the depths of his contemplation, the leash slipped from his hold. The twins immediately reacted by running like the wind, their enthusiastic dog in tow. Diego watched in shock as the small figures became smaller and smaller, swallowed by the sea of people.

“Fuck!” he screamed as he followed. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”

He pushed and shoved harder than ever before, even beat a guy to shit with his shopping bags. The twins glanced back and grinned at him. Diego was foaming from the mouth, hot air coming from his nostrils. Despite his short legs, he was fast. His fatigue and extra weight slowed him down a little but his determination fueled him. Shitty little brats. He bet Valentine used to be like that when he was their age.

(Not at all. Funny Valentine was a perfectly tame child. All he cared about were his dogs.)

Right before his dumbstruck eyes, the trio leaped into the road, crossing the street in giddy excitement. Diego jumped behind them but his timing was off. The light turned green and he was pushed to the side by a speeding motorcycle, falling right in front of a taxi that luckily managed to stop before turning him into mush. The kids and dog stopped, as if understanding the gravity of the situation. A small crowd gathered around him, staring at the wide-eyed man as he just lay on the asphalt, high-end clothes scattered around him. Diego looked at the damage, barely able to comprehend what had happened. He sat up, breath heavy. He was numb, cold and stiff. He closed his eyes and turned to the Heavens, opening his mouth unhumanly widely and released his war cry.

“Wryyyyy!” he screamed and screamed, his frustration leaving the more he screamed. And who could stop him? No one dared to interfere. They simply watched as the man screamed and screamed, like a newborn dinosaur, minutes out of his shell.

He stood up and shoved everything into the bags without a care in the world. He threw the awestruck children over his shoulders and took hold of the dog's leash. No one stood in his way. They all made way for the enraged blond, no one asked a single question as he stomped into the building where his brother's office was. He rode the elevator alone with the little bugs, feeling like he was getting closer and closer to heaven. Once there, he dropped everything on the floor and left the kids on the chairs in the foyer.

“Stay here,” he hissed as he tied the dog to the armrest. They both nodded fearfully. Good. It was about damn time he got some order.

He practically collapsed on the front desk, startling Telence who looked at him over his Switch. “What are you doing here?”

“Where's my brother?”

“In his office. I don't thi-”

But it was too late. Diego had already barged into Dio's office. Dio, who was fully focused on his work, jumped, surprised that someone would dare bother him while he worked. He relaxed a little when he saw who it was but his expression remained cold and disapproving.

“The hell are you doing here?” he demanded. It wasn't often that he got visits from his brother. Those usually included Diego just coming over to annoy Dio or ask for money.

“Where is she?”

“Where's who?”

“Valentine.”

Dio raised a quizzical brow. “What business do you have with Scarlet?”

“Long fucking story. I just gotta give her some things.”

Still puzzled, Dio exited his office and went to Scarlet's. He knocked sharply and peered inside, then turning back to Diego. “In five minutes.” He paused. “Is that a fucking dog?”

“Yes.”

“Why did you bring a fil-”

“Will you shut up?” growled Diego as he collapsed on the seat next to the twins. “I've had a very very rough day.” More than a drink, Diego need some coffee. He needed the sweet bitter nectar to revive his brain.

Dio scoffed and sneered, looking down at Diego with gleaming eyes. “Funny's making you run his errands?”

Diego had listened to this lecture countless times before and like always, Dio went in a rant how Diego should have stuck with him, Dio, his benevolent brother, instead of leeching off on a guy that had no intention of giving him what he so desperately desired. After this incident, Diego was more than ever determined to keep doing this job. He wasn't going to give Valentine the pleasure of breaking him.

“How can you fucking stand him?” asked Diego, digging the heels of his palms into his eyes.

“I don't,” admitted Dio. “I've been dying to crack his skull open for the past 24 years.”

Diego blinked stupidly. He didn't feel like Dio meant this the same way Diego meant it about Johnny or Gyro. This was expected Dio behavior, he couldn't even be surprised anymore.

A door opened and Scarlet walked out, accompanied by a rather attractive woman who was bawling her eyes as she clung to her clothes. “I want to make him pay, Mrs. Valentine!”

“You will...and please, just call me Scarlet. Perhaps we can arrange a private meeting to discuss the details?”

“I-I'd love that.”

“Wonderful.” Scarlet leaned against the front desk and sighed as she watched her client leave. “Damn.”

“Ahem.”

“Oh, let me be already.” She walked over to the small group, surprise showing in her eyes. “These are some familiar faces...What are you three doing here?”

“Diego picked us up from school.”

“But he sucks at it.”

“He almost died.”

“Twice.”

She hummed mirthfully. “Why don't you go in and play with mommy's computer?” The prospect of that greatly pleased the children that jumped up and darted into the office, in a whirlwind of giggles. “What's going on?”

Diego blinked stupidly. Again. “Didn't your husband tell you?”

“He told me you were bringing the clothes. We have the bus for the kids and the dog.” Diego's stomach clenched hard. He had a terrible feeling about this.

“What?”

“Yeah. They're usually dropped off by the time I'm home. It's been like that since they enrolled.” She turned to the bags.

“I...fucked those up.”

“What do you mean?”

“I got everything mixed up, that coat is ruined...”

“Diego, what are you talking about?” she said as she dug through the items. “Everything is right.”

“W-what?” he stammered.

“These are the right clothes. Even if you made a mistake, it wouldn't be your fault. I told Funny I had already arranged everything.”

“What.”

“Yeah. I actually called the boutiques this morning and told them to deliver everything at the house but Funny canceled it.” She suddenly looked at Diego, trying her best to look sympathetic. “Diego...did something happen between you and my husband?”

“Yes!” he cried. That asshole! That sneaky weasel! “I was running around the damn city all day doing things I didn't need to do because I was a little late?! I lost ten years of my life thinking I had fucked up royally and you're telling me that he, the most eligible man to become president, was just fucking with me?”

“Apparently,” she laughed. “Oh, boy...It's nothing personal, though,” she reassured him. “I hope you understand.”

Oh, he understood alright. Understood that Valentine was first on his shit list. At least he still had his job.

Chapter Text

 

 

Like a good neighbor Jean Pierre is there

 


There was nothing Diavolo valued more than solitude. The more he grew, the less he got what he desired and so he cherished moments where he could be alone with his thoughts. He was sitting in the lounge, a cigar in his one hand, a glass of whiskey in the other, gazing out to the twilight sky. The breeze was sweet, heavy with the scent of jasmine, reminding him of summer nights in Sardinia. Even though he wanted to erase those times, he still remembered those little snippets of carelessness with fondness, unfortunately. Swimming at night, strolling around Naples, between alleyways, and lips sticky with gelato. The memories were all so vivid, especially whenever he gazed into too blue eyes, as blue as the sea. He looked at the house next door. There was a bottle of white wine on the counter in the kitchen and laughter pouring from upstairs. While the cat is away...

Doppio walked into the room, his feet hitting the floor gently. He smiled at Diavolo who managed a tight smirk back. With Doppio's return, order returned. While his relationship with Trish definitely improved, he'd never do this full-time. Getting along with his daughter brought peace in the house and relieved all tension. Plus, he got to see if she had what it took to run Passione, make sure he was there to train and prepare her.

(No offense to Diavolo, but Trish couldn't care less about Passione.)

He heard the heavy gate being pushed open. Trish was probably back to change, ask for money and head out for the night. Her keys rattled against the door. She pushed in the code and the door opened.

“I'm home!” she announced. “And I brought a friend!”

Ugh, great. Trish's friends were all loud, obnoxious and annoying. Narancia and Giorno were the actual worst, Buccellati had the emotional range of a celery, Mista needed to die, Fugo was fucking terrifying and Abbachio got a pass solely because of his fashion choices. He tolerated them simply because they were useful for teaching his daughter people skills. And because Dio would scalp him if anything happened to his golden son.

Only this time, no one of the boys was accompanying Trish. With her was a man, a quite older unknown male. The man was very tall, made even taller with that ridiculous column of silver hair on top of his head, had no visible eyebrows and a ridiculous amount of muscle, almost Joestar-ish. He was even holding a little dog, a little huffing mutt. Warning bells and red lights went off inside Diavolo's head, not because his daughter was with an unknown male but because said male was in his house.

“What is the meaning of this?!” he demanded, shooting up from his seat. The little dog jumped from the man's hold and casually strolled into the living room as if he owned the place.

“Can you relax? I just wanted you to meet our new neighbor!”

“Bonsoir, neighbors! My name is Jean Pierre Polnareff and I-”

“I don't care who you are!” he barked. Doppio rushed to his side, ready to hold him back as best as he could. “What the fuck are you doing in my house? How did you even get in?!”

“He came with me,” Trish insisted. “He just wanted to say hello.”

Diavolo glared at the intruder with narrowed, hostile eyes. Polnareff was beaming, looking like a labrador excited about life while Diavolo looked like an agitated sphinx cat. Diavolo turned to Trish who simply shrugged with an apologetic smile.

“We just moved in right across the street!”

Diavolo's eyes widened. He stomped to the window and looked across the street. The house situated right across his own had been empty ever seen he had moved. He had chased the tenants at the time out of it and had been terrorizing potential buyers ever since. Nowadays, only the neighborhood kids went in there to smoke pot or hide while playing hide and seek. Joseph had repeatedly tried selling the house but to no avail. Diavolo felt a twinge of joy whenever he saw the dark, empty house, knowing that no outsiders would ever disturb him.

But alas! There was life in this house, the lit up, freshly painted house. Diavolo looked at it with disbelief. Chasing him (or them, based on what Polnareff said) wouldn't be difficult but Diavolo was royally pissed. This was the first time someone had actually moved in without him noticing.

“When did that happen?!” he shouted. Polnareff still had that oblivious smile on his dumb face and Doppio was trying to earn the dog's trust by offering him gum.

“Yesterday!” he happily replied and Diavolo's fingers curled around the curtains so tightly, he thought he was going to rip them off. “I didn't get the chance to come say hi up until now! Trish suggested it. She helped me put up some shelves!”

Betrayed by his flesh and blood. Right when he was trying to make some goddamn progress. He walked back in front of Polnareff, stopping right before his ridiculously big pectorals. “You introduced yourself. Now leave.”

Polnareff pat Diavolo on the shoulder, making his knees buckle. Every additional second Polnareff spent there made Diavolo wish for his death all the more. He could feel the blood boil in his veins.

“I shouldn't have come unannounced! But I'm still glad I managed to drop by!” He cooed at his dog who reluctantly went to him, grunting angrily as Polnareff picked him up. “Hope I'll see you again!”

And with that, he left. He hadn't even crossed the street when Diavolo burst out in a screaming fit, Trish shouting back in full Italian as Doppio tried to smooth out the tension. Once at a safe distance, Polnareff started whistling cheerfully, his bouncy stride making Iggy snarl in irritation. He pushed his house's front gate open and stepped inside, walking through the front yard all the way up to his porch.

“You were right about everything,” he said as he entered the house. Grateful to finally be released from Polnareff's lovingly tight hold, Iggy jumped off, going to lay under Magician's Red's cage. “The guy is insane.”

“You haven't seen anything yet,” chimed Giorno.

Polnareff pushed the curtains to the side to peer outside. Little by little, the houses were getting swallowed by the lulling darkness, disappearing into the dry summer night. Diavolo's house was a well-fortified castle. There was no way Polnareff would've ever been able to get in without someone allowing him in first.

“How come he doesn't have guards?” A logical question. Surely a man as important as him would care for his safety. Was Doppio secretly a complete beast? Polnareff's information said otherwise.

“He doesn't want his men finding out where he lives,” answered Buccellati.

Polnareff nodded. His eyes moved to the house next to Diavolo's, the white and gold mansion with probably the biggest American flag Diavolo had ever seen hanging outside. To think that the Governor of the State, a man who preached about the prosperity and safety of the United States would tolerate a man contrasting his ideals living next to him...“And how does he protect himself?”

“Mr. Valentine covers for him.”

“They have this deal where Diavolo keeps the streets clean from other gangs for him and Valentine destroys all information about him in turn,” added Buccellati.

“With padre as his lawyer, everything is easier for them.”

Polnareff hummed. “Any idea how I'm getting into the house?”

“We'll assist you.”

“Great.” This was going to be a hard catch but definitely his biggest. Moving in this neighborhood didn't only mean he finally got to be close to his friends but also right across his target. He just hoped Diavolo wouldn't discover anything. He hoped that by the time he did, he would have been done with him.

 

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

  

“Have you completely lost your mind?!” Kakyoin's voice echoed through the garden. He looked at Avdol for support but the man only shook his head and sighed. The question was more rhetorical. Of course Polnareff had lost his mind. The most memorable moments of their friendship had been marked by Polnareff's stupidity.

“It's not as dangerous as it looks! Besides, I'm not even going to arrest him myself. I'll just go in, plant a bug, collect it and take the information to the police.”

Polnareff laid down the basics of his plan as if it was the simplest thing ever. Kakyoin sat back on the couch, eyes closed. “You're such an idiot. You're going to get yourself killed.”

“Every time you say this and every time I return unscathed. Are you THAT worried about me?”

Kakyoin shot him a vicious glare. “As if. My only concern is Sherry, who's condemned with the only adult in her life being you.” He sighed. “Don't you care about her? Why make her worry so much?”

Kakyoin would do this every damn time and Polnareff hated it beyond comprehension. Sherry was his biggest weakness. She was the reason he had taken bounty hunting in the first place. This way he had more money to support her studies and help her follow her dreams. “Don't be a dick. Of course I care for her, that's why I'm so careful.”

“You underestimate Diavolo. He's unlike anything you've ever seen before.”

Polnareff snorted. “How bad can he be?” Taking note of Kakyoin's stern expression, he grinned. “Come on, Noriaki! I'll be fine.”

“I actually hope you die. Then I'll have one thing less to care about.”

“I knew it! You care about me!”

Kakyoin turned his attention to Jotaro, who had just come out of the garage with the lawnmower, Anasui in tow. The girls cheered and clapped from upstairs. Kakyoin was feeling bad for the kid but he was kind of asking for it. Jotaro had been making him do all the chores around the house so he could see Jolyne for five minutes, supervised of course. Jotaro had even mentioned a little trip to their lake cabin, an idea Jolyne wasn't very supportive of.

“Whatever,” concluded Kakyoin. “Just act quickly, before he finds out who you are.”

“Don't worry. I will.”


Polnareff was quick, but Diavolo was quicker. Like always, he handled the matter of his unwanted neighbors personally. Only this time, he had some help. If there was an expert in breaking into houses, that had to be Kira. Albeit reluctantly, he agreed on helping Diavolo after Diavolo offered a romantic trip to the Maldives for him and Shinobu. Not that he cared about her, of course, just so that he could appear as a normal husband to the rest of the neighborhood.

“I can't believe you convinced me to do this,” muttered Kira.

“Yes well, you fucking owe me anyway, Yoshikage. So you don't really have a choice.”

The two men got into the garden easily. Diavolo had of course studied the house's layout beforehand and knew the only means of security was an easily deactivated alarm. There was also the issue of the dog but the guy was really tiny. Diavolo didn't really perceive a small Boston Terrier as a big threat. And even if it was, he could deflect the mutt with the crowbar he had brought with him.

Despite the heat, the two men were wearing all black and gloves, the outfits complete with black ski masks. They moved quickly, crossing the freshly mowed grass and stopping in front of the window leading into the kitchen. Diavolo looked around. Jotaro was good friends with them so he must have warned them about strange things happening to that particular house's owners. Guess he believed that his friends were capable of defending themselves. How utterly foolish. This night was perfect for this sort of thing; everyone was asleep in their homes, only the kids were out in the nearby park, probably not to return to their homes until the early dawn.

Diavolo waited patiently while Kira worked on the security. After almost 20 years of breaking into houses and murdering people, Yoshikage Kira was the most capable guy for the job. With only one failure in his stellar career as a serial killer, Kira was able to deactivate the alarm in less than fifteen minutes, clearing the way for the two of them. Diavolo, being the more physically stronger than the two, jammed the crowbar under the window and opened it with little effort. They both pulled the ski masks over their faces. Diavolo was the first one to climb in, carefully getting through one leg after the other. It would seem however that he had gotten a little rusty from when he was just a rising criminal breaking into houses to steal as he landed clumsily, stepping on some drying plates and making them spill loudly in the sink.

“Shit!” he hissed.

“Be fucking careful!” Kira scolded him. They stayed still for a second, trying to catch any movement around the house. All was still quiet.

Kira followed after, his movements far more quiet and careful. It was a shame Mr. “I don't make any sound when I walk and everybody freaks out because of it” wasn't with them. Not that Valentine would ever agree to this anyway.

“What's the plan?” asked Kira as they slowly but extremely carefully navigated through the dark house.

Diavolo found something that felt like a couch and laid the house's plan on it. He illuminated it with his phone's flashlight and they got to revising their plan. The main idea was that they were burglars, here to beat the shit out of the owners and take their valuables.

“We go upstairs,” Diavolo said in a really hushed voice, “we tie them to the bed, break their legs, steal some random shit and scram.”

“Okay.”

“If that doesn't discourage them, then we'll come again tomorrow.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Fine. Then I'll set fire to their house.”

Diavolo folded the plan and the two men started making their way to the second floor. When someone spoke. “Iggy likes coffee!”

They both jumped. The voice was eerie, not scary, just odd and inhuman. Diavolo shed the light around, looking for the mysterious presence. He saw nothing but furniture occupying the empty rooms.

“Iggy likes coffee!”

“What the fuck is going on?” whispered Kira. Flashlights in hand, the two men started searching around frantically for the source of the sound.

And they found it. There, in the living room, locked in a very fancy cage was a very fancy bird, otherworldly and with the colors of a burning fire, almost looking like a phoenix. “Iggy likes coffee!” it exclaimed, flapping its fiery wings. It cawed, alarmed by the sudden exposure.

“Shut the fuck up!” Diavolo threatened the bird.

Magician's Red shut his beak for a moment. He eyed Diavolo suspiciously with bead-like eyes. “Iggy likes coffee! Iggy likes coffee!”

“Make it shut up!” urged Kira, anxiously looking at the staircase. Oh, why had he agreed to this? Even with the blackmail, this was definitely not worth the risk.

“Iggy like-”

“Shh!” Diavolo shushed the bird angrily. It made a graphic gulping sound and moved away from him. Proud of his accomplishment, he wriggled his finger past the bars, waving it in front of Magician's Red's obsidian beak. “The fuck's an Iggy anyway?”

“Ask him!” screeched the bird. “He's right behind you!”

The little dog's angry snarl was covered by Kira's blood curling scream as Iggy buried his sharp teeth into his shin, shaking his head as if trying to tear a piece. Still screaming, Kira started shaking his leg like a man possessed while Diavolo tried to beat the dog off. Iggy was small and fast, easily dodging all the hits aimed at him. Ditching the crowbar, Diavolo grabbed the little mutt with both hands and yanked him off Kira, making the man fall down and scream. Not knowing what to do with the snarling dog, he opened the window and threw him into the garden.

“Did you just throw a fucking dog like a baseball?!” asked Kira as he hobbled across the street.

“What else would you fucking have me do, huh?”

Kira lamented about his situation, wondering how he was going to explain this to Shinobu but Diavolo paid him no mind. He was staring at Polnareff's house, now with every light on as the owners were trying to figure out what had happened. He narrowed his eyes and spat on the ground. He may have lost a battle, but the war was yet to come.

“Great. Not even two days in and he's already tried to kill us,” said Avdol as he meticulously checked his precious bird for any signs of assault.

Polnareff continued rubbing comforting circles behind Iggy's ears. His dog was usually so angry and haughty, just downright nasty, and seeing him so scared broke Polnareff's heart. He leaned down to nuzzle his nose against the black and white fur and was met with a half-hearted snarl. He was definitely sleeping on their bed that night.

“Whatever you want to do, Jean Pierre, you better do it fast.”

 

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When told that the boys were planning on getting furniture, there was no way Hot Pants was going to let them go alone. Knowing Johhny and Gyro, they'd probably try and go according to their list but would soon go overboard and invest in lamps and bean bags. Since she didn't want to see them use their limited resources until they ended, she insisted that she and Lucy accompanied them on their quest. The girls pulled over in front of the house where Johnny and Gyro were waiting. Gyro, in a show of unnecessary and misplaced old-fashioned chivalry, picked Johnny up like a dainty damsel, while Lucy loaded the chair (lovingly nicknamed 'the buttmobile') into the car. And so, the four started heading to the nearest IKEA.

They ended up going to the Long Island IKEA. It was a long trip but Lucy insisted it was worth it. The four of them stood before endless rows of furniture and other miscellaneous crap that suddenly became a mighty need.

“We just need the basics. Nothing weird and nothing dick shaped. Gyro.”

“Excuse you, but I am perfectly capable of holding back my needs.”

“We can't afford it, anyway,” mused Johnny. After hard work and persistence (annoying the man to death, really) Valentine agreed to give them the earnings of the auction. It was much less than what it was to supposed to be but along with some aid from Jonathan, it was enough to help them furnish their home and stop sleeping on the fucking floor in sleeping bags, like a couple of cowboys enjoying life in Brokeback Mountain.

“I can't believe this actually happened,” said Lucy. “For such a self-important guy, Valentine is really petty.”

“He's a damn cunt, is what you're trying to say.” In the process of testing out potential furniture, Gyro collapsed on a brown armchair. The color was rather unappealing but the armchair itself was very comfortable.

“First order of business is...” started Hot Pants as she skimmed through her list, “...lighting and cutlery.”

Surely, that was going to be easy. She had planned it to be so. She was going to let the kids pick the knick-knacks and leave the heavy stuff for last when they would be too tired to care and all their excitement would've been spent early on. Then, they'd agree with her suggestions, on things more practical rather than flashy or straight up dumb. It was a good thing Diego wasn't here. There was so much dinosaur-themed shit around them Hot Pants was sure he would die to buy.

“Check this out.” Johnny reached over and picked a tiny plastic green apple. He shook it and it lit up, making him and Gyro gasp.

“For 50 cents?!” exclaimed Gyro. “A fucking steal.” Johnny shook it again, turning it off. “Okay, lamps are canceled.”

“You've got to be kidding me.” Hot Pants snatched the apple from Johnny's hands. “This is useless.”

“It's the future, Hot Pants!”

“Yeah! You can sit your stupid boring lamps while we ascend to apple light heaven.”

Hot Pants shook her head. “We're not getting the damn apple lights.”

“You're not our Mom!” scoffed Johnny. Hot Pants shot him the cold, steely gaze of a panther, pinning him to the ground. She wasn't, but who dared say otherwise?

“How about this one?” proposed Lucy while holding an admittedly cute table light.

“Fine,” grumbled Gyro.

“Aesthetically pleasing and within the budget. Nice work, Luce.”

They ended up getting pretty standard stuff, all based on the maps of their house Hot Pants was unsurprisingly carrying with her. She did allow the boys to buy something stupid each. Gyro got a table light shaped like a cheese wheel and Johnny got an outdoor chandelier that he thought was ironic.

Moving on to cutlery, Hot Pants was ready to make a few allowances. But only a few. She got stricter after the boys started throwing the most inappropriate mugs they could find in the cart.

“Let's get something durable and simple so you won't be mad if it breaks.”

“But-” stuttered Gyro as he desperately clutched the glass bottle that had little horses on it he suddenly decided he couldn't live without.

“No.” Hot Pants was absolute. She yanked the bottle and set it back on the counter.

“We should at least be able to decorate our own house!” Johnny bit back.

“We'll get the essentials first and then you can buy what you want, only if you have money.”

Had it not been for Lucy, who was starting to feel a little bad for the boys, Hot Pants was going to have them eating from wooden plates. Annoyed and disappointed that their right to second Christmas had been stripped from them so cruelly, Johnny and Gyro followed the two women around, barely able to express a goddamn opinion.

“Gyro,” whispered Johnny. “Are you thinking what I'm thinking?”

Gyro grinned wryly, green eyes twinkling more than his grill. “I'm always thinking what you're thinking,” he said as he pushed Johnny away from the girls, taking a turn that led them deeper into the depths of the store.

 

There was a very odd and specific pleasure when feeling expensive items without permission. Upon finding the most expensive bed the place had to offer, the two boys climbed on it, giddy with excitement. They got under the soft cotton covers, sighing as they relaxed against the mattress.

“I can see us getting used to this,” mused Gyro, stretching on the bed he couldn't afford.

“Yes, well, maybe if we eat instant ramen for two months.”

Gyro sighed. Despite living in a very fancy neighborhood, the two weren't exactly the best when it came to managing their finances. They had no idea why but it was probably because they had both grown up pampered, surrounded by riches, and then suddenly found themselves tossed to the street, forced to take care of themselves for once.

Gyro's scowl was only momentarily. He inched closer to Johnny, flashing him that sly grin that always promised a good and sometimes illegal time. “If we can't bring it home, then maybe we can bring a bit of home here.”

“What are you implying?”

“You know damn well what I'm implying, Johnny boy.”

 

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Going according to plan, Giorno was going to let Polnareff in at around 9 PM. Polnareff was waiting outside in the approaching dusk when Buccellati signaled him. With all the security deactivated, he managed to get inside the garden with no problem, running fast to the kitchen entrance. Giorno urged him to come inside, quickly shutting the door behind him.

“How much time do you need?”

“When are you leaving?”

“I can sleep here, that's not an issue.”

Polnareff paused to think for a second. While taking revenge on the man that terrorized his shitty but lovable dog was tempting, Polnareff was here to do just his job. Anything else would be too risky.

“Give me two hours,” he replied. That would be more than enough time.

Giorno nodded. Despite how calm he was, his nervousness showed in his quick, huffed breathing. Polnareff flashed him a comforting smile. “You're very brave for doing this.”

“I just want some justice. I don't want to live in a society where criminals like this roam freely,” said Dio's son and he meant every word.

Polnareff pat him on the head and quickly headed upstairs while Buccellati was keeping everyone occupied in the living room. According to the information the boys had given him, Diavolo spent most of his time in the upper floor, particularly his office and bedroom. For safe measure, and because the man's paranoia was unpredictable, Polnareff was going to bug every room he found unlocked except for Trish's.

Most people would think that because of his size, Polnareff wasn't good at sneaking around. But it was the exact opposite. Polnareff was very agile and flexible, able to slither around unnoticed. The job was going well, the only misfortune being the locked office door. To avoid raising suspicion, he didn't pick any locks, just placed a hypersensitive bug on the frame, hoping to catch fragments of what was said inside. He wasn't hoping to be done with this in a single night anyway.

The only room he had left was Diavolo's bedroom and as much as Polnareff wanted to keep it professional, he got a bit distracted. The guy lived for his aesthetic. Everywhere he looked were pieces of furniture made from carved, dark wood, heavy drapes and priceless works of art decorating the walls. It was by no means tidy. The covers were all tangled in a heap, one pillow was thrown on the floor and several articles of clothing were tossed here and there, evidence of a man that had probably lost his temper while looking for something to wear. Curious, he picked up a heavy ruby ring and tried it on his finger. He admired the pretty rock, thinking how the colors would look good on Avdol. But he was no thief. So he took it off. It wouldn't budge. Polnareff tugged at the stubborn golden band, cursing under his breath. With a crack of a joint, the ring detached itself from his finger. He put it back on the coffee table, sighing at the red mark staining his finger.

Which would be the ideal spot for the bug? Under the bed would do nicely, he concluded. But he had to hide it well. His years of experience told him that Diavolo was the kind of guy to search around maniacally for bugs.

Suddenly, footsteps. Only one pair, walking heavily. Probably Diavolo. Polnareff shot up and rushed to the window. Jumping down would be no problem. He would get into through the back and have Giorno let him out. Before he could even cross the frame, the door's handle rattled.

“Shit!” he hissed and seeing no other getaway, ducked under the bed. At least it was high enough to make room for him, otherwise he would've been a dead man.

The door opened and two people walked in. “How was the trip?” asked the one. Diavolo.

“Same old,” replied the other. Although Polnareff wasn't entirely sure, this was probably Valentine. “I already have everyone's support for my campaign. I'm just making sure they don't forget their promises.”

Diavolo hummed. Valentine sat on the bed and the mattress made a dip above Polnareff's head. Moving as quietly as possible, he slithered further back, his feet touching the wall. It was getting unbearably hot, his lack of eyebrows making sweat roll in his eyes even more easily. It was still early. There was no way Diavolo was going to just sleep here. Surely Polnareff would be able to come out eventually. Right?

“Anything happen while I was gone?”

“No,” Diavolo replied nonchalantly.

“Don't lie to me.”

“If you already know then why are you asking?” he growled, annoyed.

“I was just checking if you'd be honest for once.”

“Alright. I got into the asshole's house because I want him out of here. I don't care if he's not suspicious, I want him to leave. Nothing you say will convince me otherwise. And since you asked me to give you a full report on what happened during your absence, I'm sure you will be happy to know that your dear wife was very busy even without you.”

There was a pause. “And?”

“And?” Diavolo repeated, sounding angrier with each word. “So you let her fuck anyone she likes while you work your ass off?”

Polnareff couldn't really understand if Diavolo liked bringing other families to chaos or if he was just caring for his friend. Probably the former.

It was neither. “Why do you care so much about what's going on in my bed? Do you perhaps miss your spot in it?”

Polnareff blinked. He thought he would be collecting information about nuclear weapons and secret government conspiracies that would help bring the biggest weapon dealer in the States to justice. Not juicy gossip.

“It's been twenty years,” rasped Diavolo and Polnareff's jaw dropped a little. “Don't you think I've waited enough?”

“Enough for what, you idiot. What were you hoping would come from a dumb fling?” Valentine stood up. “We're friends. Why ruin that?”

“I want more.”

“You're too selfish. You've always been too selfish.”

“Not everyone can waste his life for the greater good like your stupid ass.”

Valentine sighed. “Is this why you brought me here? I thought we were discussing business. Forgive me but I don't have time to waste on this nonsense.” Valentine tried moving away but Diavolo stopped him. “Let me go and I will forget this conversation ever happened.”

“I've been having a lot of stress with the whole Trish thing and I don't know how to cope with it,” Diavolo blurted in a single breath.

Valentine chuckled in response. Polnareff's goal was to do some recon but now that the tea had been spilled, he couldn't resist a cup.

“I understand,” Valentine huffed. Polnareff couldn't see much, only their lower legs. They were close, too close. Perhaps he could use this closeness as blackmail material? No, believe it or not, blackmailing wasn't his thing. Despite the shrewd and deceptive nature of his job, Polnareff was honest, as honest as a bounty hunter could get.

“You know you can talk to me,” Valentine continued. His voice was soft but stern, vaguely fatherly. Odd guy. Was he just going to ignore the fact that his friend (?) had just hit on him? And they were apparently exes? What the fuck? “Things have been going better, haven't they?”

“Yeah,” Diavolo begrudgingly replied. He suddenly sounded like he was regretting this. “Forget this. And stop fucking smiling like that!”

“Never in my life was I expecting to see you like this. It's very pleasant.”

“Oh, fuck off.” He froze. Polnareff felt sweat slick his entire body. Had Diavolo caught the smell of him? Was Kakyoin right? Was Polnareff about to die? Shit, and he really needed to take a piss, now of all times.

“Someone was here,” he said in a very low, threatening voice. His rugged baritone sent shivers down Polnareff's spine.

“What?”

“Someone was here!” Diavolo barked. Polnareff's stomach dropped. How? “This ring! I always leave it facing the door, not the wall!” Shit!

“...are you serious?”

“Yes, I'm fucking serious! Doppio!” he roared as he stormed out of the room.

“Wait!” Valentine called and followed, leaving Polnareff to contemplate his position.

Hesitantly, he crawled out of the bed but only halfway. He could hear all hell breaking loose from downstairs. Stupid, stupid curiosity! Now he was stuck in Diavolo's bedroom with nowhere to go. The more his anxiety grew, so did his need to run to the bathroom. He stumbled around the room frantically, clumsily, trying to brainstorm a means of salvation.

Someone was running up the stairs, heading in his direction. He dove right under the bed once more. The door opened. He saw perfectly polished black dress shoes and the bottom of white trousers, decorated with golden zippers. He sighed.

“Bruno!” he hissed out a whisper. “Bruno!”

Buccellati crouched and peered under the bed. His blue eyes widened in shock when he saw Polnareff squeezed under there. “Mr. Polnareff! What are you doing here?”

“I'm stuck!”

Another person entered the room but Buccellati didn't flinch. “Mr. Polnareff, are you under there?” It was Giorno.

“Yes! What do I do?”

“Did you at least plant the bug?”

“Yes! How can I get out?”

“You can't,” Buccellati solemnly replied. “He's called La Squadra here for the first time. He's not even letting Valentine go.”

“Then what the hell am I supposed to do?!” He'd been stuck before, countless of times. It was just that none of his previous targets had been as terrifying as Diavolo. If he found him here...and he had just gotten a new car! “Who knows about this?”

“Us two and Leone,” said Buccellati. “He's been taking care of the cameras.”

“How long until La Squadra gets here?”

“Twenty minutes, tops. The others are pretty manageable. Risotto is the problem.”

“So I have to get out before they get here.”

“Yes.”

Polnareff slid from under the bed, stretching and dusting himself off. “We'll think of a plan-”

“Yes.”

“After I come out from the bathroom.”

“No!” shouted both Buccellati and Giorno. “You can go to the bathroom after you're out,” said Giorno and it was rare to see him so nervous.

“No,” Polnareff insisted as he walked into Diavolo's en-suite. “I can barely move, boys. This needs to be taken care of.”

Despite their protests, Polnareff did indeed use the bathroom to the fullest. Giving in to his insatiable curiosity, he idly opened a few shampoo and shower gel bottles and sniffed them. After washing his hands and wiping them on a fluffy towel, he lathered moisturizing lotion over them and doused himself in some very expensive and musky Italian cologne. Whistling mirthfully, he started combing his hair with a ruby-encrusted comb. He could get used to a bathroom like this.

“What are you doing here?” he heard Diavolo say from the other side of the door and the comb nearly fell from his hands.

“We're checking for intruders.”

Polnareff looked around. His only two options of getting out of the room were either the door (no) or the window. Opening it as quietly as possible, he poked his head out to the cool night air. It was rather high up, but with a well-calculated jump, he could make it, maybe land in the bushes below.

“Here?” The conversation continued and Polnareff's anxiety skyrocketed, and not only for himself. He had entrusted two boys with the task of assisting him simply because they had asked and now they were in danger. He knew Diavolo wouldn't lay a finger on Dio's baby boy but Buccellati was defenseless. He wanted to storm out and defend the kid but something like that would probably cost them both their lives.

“Yes.”

“And?”

“We haven't checked everywhere yet.”

“So do it.”

“We will.”

“Now.”

Polnareff backstepped until his back hit the wall. Seeing that he had no other choice, he opened the window and carefully stepped on the ledge. He dared a peek down and he could swear that the house had been shorter. His eyes fell on the pool, glimmering almost fluorescent blue against the cypress green expanse of the garden. If he jumped far enough, he could land in the water. Or dive into his death, end up in a mangled heap of limbs on the grass.

Diavolo barged into the bathroom, finding it empty. Polnareff pressed his body as close to the wall as possible, as if trying to merge into the building. Despite the cool night breeze, his body was on fire, sweat rolling from the roots of his hair. He risked a step, barely dragging his feet on the ledge. He shut his eyes and breathed deeply. He cursed his stupidity. Dealing with Diavolo in close quarters would have been much better than whatever the fuck he was doing. He could have just held the guy off, he was big enough for that, and stormed out of the house before Diavolo could take any measures against him. Avdol was at Jotaro's house. Diavolo would never dare go there, not alone or unarmed anyway.

“He was here!” Diavolo hollered.

“Shit,” Polnareff hissed under his breath. He took a hasty step and slipped a little, one foot dangling over the edge. “Shit, shit!”

Panic was surging through his veins. If he jumped into the pool, Diavolo would instantly know that someone was indeed in his house and that he wasn't paranoid. But he wouldn't see who it was. As long as Diavolo didn't see him face to face, he'd be safe.

“No one was here!” That was Valentine. He sounded close to the window Polnareff was inches away from. “You're being paranoid!”

“Shut up! I know someone's here!”

“Oh, for crying out loud!” Valentine huffed. Polnareff could hear him move but he couldn't understand where. “See,” he declared as he opened the window, “no one's here!”

Polnareff stood perfectly still, breath freezing in his throat. Valentine was facing the other way. Polnareff just stood there in utter horror, eyes glued on the admittedly impressive flaxen curls. This was it. He was going to die. He could already see it. Sherry would sit on his grave, crying about her foolish brother that wasted his life like an idiot. Joseph would probably be bawling out his eyes while drinking himself to blindness. Jotaro would simply sigh in contempt. Avdol...Polnareff's heart twisted when he thought about Avdol, trying to keep a cool facade for the sake of dignity. Iggy would probably miss him. Kakyoin would be dancing on his grave, shouting 'I told you so' in ten languages. Polnareff wanted his last resting home to be impressive, extravagant even. He wanted roses, white, reminiscent of his childhood in France. And maybe hibiscus flowers. Avdol was very fond of them. And the tombstone would read 'Jean Pierre Polnareff. Died as he lived, not listening to other people's warnings' in fine calligraphy.

Suddenly, a pair of very surprised blue eyes were looking right at him. Valentine's jaw dropped open almost comically widely. Polnareff gave him the most nervous smile he had ever formed in his life, so to stop himself from bursting into tears.

“I...I made a huge mistake.”

“Same,” Polnareff wheezed.

Diavolo scurried to where Valentine was standing, aggressively shoving him out of the way. His anger faded into puzzlement, eyes falling on Polnareff as if he was the weirdest thing he had ever seen. To his great dismay, Polnareff noticed that the man was holding a gun. Awesome.

“You...?” He eyed Polnareff from head to toe. He looked so confused. “What the hell?” As if snapping out of his trance, he pointed the guy at Polnareff's face. “What the hell are you doing in my house? How did you get here?”

“I...uh...” No words. He glanced down. Could he make the jump before Diavolo hit him?

“He's a bounty hunter!”

“What!”

“I thought I knew that name from somewhere! He's a bounty hunter, I'm 100% sure of it!”

Putting maybe a bit too much faith into Mother Mary, Polnareff leaped backward, an anguished scream leaving his throat as he cut through the air like an arrow of desperation. The ground was coming closer, nearer, higher, opening its maw, ready to swallow him whole, tear him piece by piece-

With an Oscar-winning splash, Polnareff fell into the illuminated pool, almost reaching the bottom. His entire body was stinging, head buzzing with the ugly sensation of water flooding through his nose. He flailed his limbs frantically, managing to bring himself to the surface. He collapsed on the grass, wet and gasping, vision blurry.

Needless to say, after discovering an intruder in his own home, Diavolo was more than just pissed. He didn't have the mind to process how Polnareff had gotten inside. All he could think of was murdering the man, getting to him before he left the house. He ran down his house with his gun in hand, Valentine following him, still trying to talk him out of it.

“He's French!” was all Diavolo could think of.

“He lives here, he's my responsibility! Murdering people in the open wasn't part of our deal!”

“I don't have time for this!” he screamed back as he ran out of the house. Polnareff had managed to hobble outside, trying to get to his house as quickly as he could. Diavolo raised his hand and shot once.

“Diavolo!”

“You stay out of this!” He started running.

He fired again, this one grazing the asphalt in a sea of sparks. Alarmed by the gunshots that echoed around the quiet neighborhood, Dio walked out of his house. His eyes widened in surprise as he saw Diavolo standing in the middle of the road, shooting at Polnareff who had taken shelter behind his car. Jotaro was already running to the scene. Not wasting another second thinking about it, he left his house. This was more than what Valentine let him do and if he actually killed Polnareff, Valentine would have him locked up. And of course, Dio's filth would surface, having acted as Diavolo's lawyer for 13 years. And that was not good at all. For once, he had to be the person that prevented someone from killing another. How the turntables.

“Diavolo!” he called. Probably for the first in his life, Valentine sighed in relief when he saw Dio.

“Come out, motherfucker!”

“You shot my fucking leg!”

“I said come out!”

“What's going on?” Dio and Jotaro asked almost simultaneously.

“He's a bounty hunter! And he came into my house! To catch me!”

Dio didn't really know what to say in this situation. Usually, he was in Diavolo's position. Jonathan would have known what to do but he wasn't there, all thanks to Johnny and Gyro, who had landed themselves in trouble again. Apparently, Jotaro knew how to handle this too, albeit more sternly. Dio scoffed. He faced anything Jotaro did with disdain, every second he spent close to him killed him little by little.

“He'll leave,” he said, “he'll never bother you again.” Polnareff opened his mouth to speak but Jotaro shut him up with a glare. “He'll never bother you again and we can all forget about this.”

“He's right,” insisted Valentine. “There's no need for this.”

Before Diavolo could express his opinion, Dio took a step forward, looking at Jotaro with narrow, predatory eyes. “You realize that this is all your fault right?”

“What are you fucking talking about?” Jotaro sighed.

“You brought your friend to live here. You knew this was going to happen sooner or later.” Dio crossed his arms, a sneer forming on his lips. “By doing so you've endangered the entire neighborhood, including your own daughter. Though I doubt you give a damn about her, let alone the other residents.”

Jotaro's focus shifted from Polnareff entirely to Dio. Jolyne was, despite everything, his softest spot. Dio could only grin as Jotaro took a step towards him, his body looming threateningly in front of him. Even after all these years, he so quickly went back to that infuriatingly edgy teenager that never smiled and used his knuckles to solve all his problems.

“At least I don't let my kid hang around a fucking mafia boss,” he said, voice threateningly calm.

“That doesn't mean anything. My son's future is bright. Unlike Jolyne's. She'll probably be in prison by the time this month ends, we both know it. Or better yet, dead.”

What was Dio expecting exactly? Sometimes, all it took was some expert shit talking to throw his emotional growth off a cliff. To say he'd been expecting his tooth to so easily fly from his mouth would have been an understatement.

 

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Pucci exited his room after showering and getting dressed for yet another day of working in the church and contributing to the community. There was really nothing more fulfilling than aiding those in need, expecting nothing in return, only for them to remain on the right path. This was by far his favorite parish, where he could both be close to his dearest friend, but also be able to help even more people than before. The neighborhood was prestigious and added with his already recognizable family name within the ecclesiastical social circles, he had the chance to grow even more.

He walked down the hall carefully, making sure he wasn't walking over the boundaries set by the line drawn on the floor that ran along the entire house. The only rooms unaffected by this were the kitchen and living room, along with all the exits. It was all because of that stupid condition his parents had set when they bought the house for him. Pucci could have his dream house, literally right next to Dio's, only if he shared it with his brother.

In a way, he understood why his parents were so thrilled about Wes. He was their long-lost son, their little, lost lamb, that they managed to find after so many years. They favored and spoiled him to make up for all the lost time. Perla favored him, too, probably excited about her new, interesting older brother. Pucci had tried doing the same but all his attempts had ended in failure. Wes was just...weird. Too weird. The way he moved and talked was weird, his nickname too. He was friends with Jotaro, another drawback. And he had the weirdest habits. Just the other day, Pucci had walked in on him eating snails while laying on the couch watching '21 kids and counting' claiming that they were 'gourmet' and 'good for back pains'. It wasn't that Pucci hated him, he just didn't like him and didn't want anything to do with him. They came to this agreement and Wes was completely fine with it. So they lived life as they wished, in the same house but in different hemispheres, almost never interacting.

When he walked into the kitchen that morning, he was expecting to see something moderately weird. Definitely not a child sitting on the table, enjoying a nice plate of pancakes. That had to be the most anxious-looking child he had ever seen. It was a little blond boy, with big golden round eyes, wide and worried about life. Pucci was standing at the doorframe, slowly registering the information.

“Wes!” he screamed. He heard a door open, followed by the familiar sound of his brother tiptoeing down the stairs. Weather stopped in front of him, looking as calm as ever. Pucci pointed at the little boy. “What the fuck?”

“Is this how a priest is supposed to be talking?” Weather ventured into the kitchen and hopped on the counter. “This is Emporio. He'll be staying with us from now on.”

“Excuse me?” Pucci gasped, narrowing his eyes. Who was this child anyway? “I didn't agree to this.”

“You don't need to. He'll be living on my side of the house. You won't even notice him.”

Pucci looked from Weather to Emporio, who was sweating profusely. “Where's your mother?”

“She died a few days ago.”

Snap. Pucci gulped. “Your dad?”

“My mom was put in jail for killing him. She gave birth to me in there.”

He looked at Weather who simply shrugged. He took a calming breath. “I don't have time to deal with this,” he muttered as he left the house, praying to the Lord to give me strength and patience. Lots of it.

A few minutes after Pucci's departure, Anasui walked in through the kitchen door, looking a bit too tired. His pink hair was tied in a messy bun, mesh top torn in several places and legs turned greenish even below the hem of his booty shorts.

“The fuck happened to you?”

“I've been doing Mr. Jotaro's chores all weekend,” Anasui complained. He opened the fridge and took a bottle of Pucci's too expensive water. “Who's the little dude?”

“He's Emporio. He'll be living with me from now on.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“Hmm. How did the priest take it?”

“He doesn't have a choice. And even if he could prevent this, I would have found another way of getting to him.” Weather took a sip of his coffee, cold and dark like revenge. “I'm honestly just testing the limits of his patience. Little by little, he'll give in and leave, and I'll have this place to myself. You can come live here. Won't take him long to completely break.”

“You know, Weather,” started Anasui, concern in both his voice and eyes, “you're the most chill dude I know but sometimes the things you say scare the shit out of me.”

Weather could only smile at that.

Chapter Text

 


It's not delivery, it's a mess

 


"How am I supposed to have a lit summer with only five bucks?" lamented Jolyne as she held the flimsy dollar bill between her fingers. She leaned over the edge of her bunk, looking down at F.F's bed. "Foo, do you have any money?"

F.F. momentarily stopped sipping on their drink to look at Jolyne. "Twenty bucks. But I'm not gonna give it to you. I decided I'm gonna start saving up."

Jolyne scrunched her face. She plopped back on the bed, groaning loudly against her pillow. "Great. Then what am I supposed to be doing for the rest of the summer?"

"Why are you complaining? We got a pool, air conditioning and internet."

"I want to live, Foo!" declared Jolyne before burying her face in the pillow once again. Oh, how she reminisced the careless days of childhood where she could just go around pointing at things and people (mostly other relatives rather than her parents) would buy them for her. Now everyone was expecting her to save money. Jotaro had said time and time again that even though he'd still give her an allowance, everything she wanted, she had to buy herself, manage her funds through hard work and discipline. Kakyoin had jumped in on the same train as well, albeit less sternly. Her mother was fully supportive of this idea as well, claiming that it helped Jolyne understand the value of money and learn how to manage it, a skill important for the future.

Thinking about this logically, it actually was quite a valuable lesson. It was just that she hated having to go through it. The best solution would be getting a part-time job but she wasn't very fond of that idea. Instead, she did chores for the neighbors, who always tipped very generously. Then where had all her money gone? To clothes and makeup, of course, damned be her beautiful face and its ability to pull off every lipstick color.

"I'm going over to uncle Jonathan's," she mumbled as she climbed down from her bed. F.F. hummed in acknowledgment.

She got there in barely a minute, as the house was right across the street. She knocked at the door, nervously waiting at the porch. How was she going to phrase this? She didn't want to sound like she was begging for money (which was exactly what she was doing, let's be real), just casually asking for financial aid.

Jonathan answered the door seconds later, a radiant smile appearing on his handsome face. "Jolyne!" he greeted warmly. His thick chocolate brown curls were still looking a bit damp, evidence that he had just gotten out of the shower. "Come in, come in!" He stepped to the side, letting Jolyne in and closing the door behind her. "Are you here for Giogio? We have plans for the morning, unfortunately, so you'll have to wait a little."

"Ah, no. I'm actually here for you."

"Me?" Thankfully, because their family was pretty close, Jonathan wasn't too surprised. "Sure thing! How can I help you?"

Oh, he was too pure. Jolyne was almost feeling bad for doing this. Almost. "I...uh...I recently bought something quite expensive," new leather boots, worth every penny, "and I'm a little low on cash at the moment."

"I see," said Jonathan. His brows were furrowed, the look on his face serious but still caring. "Jolyne, you know how much I love you." She had to use all her willpower not to roll her eyes at that. Jonathan had done nothing wrong to receive her sass. "But if you're big enough to hold such large sums of money, that means you can manage it. No one pressured you to buy these items. You spent your money on your own volition. I'm sorry Jolly, but helping you would be against everything your parents have been trying to teach you. Try to understand me."

Jolyne sighed. She smiled at Jonathan, landing a tiny punch on his overly muscular bicep. "I understand, big guy. Thanks for listening to me, anyway."

"I can give you some allowance if you help me clean the garage," he offered.

"Maybe some other time."

Disappointed but not entirely disheartened by this first defeat, Jolyne decided to head to Polnareff's house. She knocked on the door. It opened just a crack, Polnareff's face appearing in the small slit. "Come in," he urged, pulling her inside and quickly shutting the door.

"Still having problems with the neighbors?"

"Oh yeah," Polnareff chuckled.

"Don't say it like that," Avdol admonished him as he walked into the living room. He stopped to kiss Jolyne on the cheeks before going to attend to this beloved bird. "That maniac has shot you every time you stepped out of the house."

"Eh, it could be worse," Polnareff shrugged. "Anyway, what brings you here today, Jojo?"

"Well, I kind of...ran dry...and I could use a couple of extra bucks. Not like too many!" she hastily added. "I'll return the money later, of course."

"And why on earth don't you have any money?" asked Avdol. "You have a weekly allowance and we all bought you the things you wanted for your birthday. What more could you want?"

Jolyne pouted. "They were on sale!" she whined. "Ugh, c'mon guys! I just want enough for like a day trip, nothing too much. I'll start saving, I promise!"

"You are old enough to be responsible for the money you have and you should be using it wisely, you shouldn't be spending it left and right." The first few bites of adulthood were bitter in her mouth. Avdol stroked the bird's head fondly. "Jolyne, this is for your own good, to teach you how to be smart and not have to depend on anyone."

"Avdol's right, kiddo," Polnareff tried to comfort her. He escorted her out of the house, limping hastily. Once outside, he fished out a couple of ten-dollar bills. He handed them to her with a big bright smile, if a bit apologetic. "That's all I have at the moment."

This was a bad idea. Now she was feeling bad for making Polnareff do this. She guiltily looked at her feet, one hand awkwardly grasping at her neck. "It's okay, Polly. I shouldn't have asked."

"Hey, it's fine."

"No, keep it. You guys need it more than I do. I'll just spend it on dumb stuff again." Polnareff put the money back in his pocket. "I'm really glad you moved in here."

He ruffled her hair, letting out a boyish giggle. "Not more than I am."

Oh, if only Joseph was there. Joseph was the definition of 'fun uncle'. He was always supportive of the dumb and sometimes reckless shit the kids of the family did, even did it himself, ten times worse. Joseph would certainly support her. But unfortunately, he wasn't there. They hadn't actually heard from him in quite a while. Jonathan assured them all he was still alive. Surprisingly.

With her head lowered, she returned to her house. Anasui was in the kitchen, doing the dishes. Mindlessly, she leaned against him, burying her face in his back and groaning.

"What are we supposed to do for the rest of the summer?"

"Well...I have to paint your fence, change the tires on Mr. Jotaro's car, repair the roof, trim the hedges, mow the lawn, clean the pool and whatever else comes up I guess."

"You're not even getting paid for this."

"Being with you is all the payment I need." She grinned and patted him on the shoulder. He finished the last dishes and let them dry. "But really, that's all I'll be doing for the rest of the summer. My parents aren't giving me money after what happened with the neighbor's car."

"Then are we supposed to sit and stare at the wall?"

"We can always go to the beach," Anasui suggested.

Annoyed, Jolyne reached for her phone and furiously scrolled through her Instagram feed. She found the picture she was looking for, a cute little picture of Josuke, Okuyasu Koichi and Yukako being in the middle of an enviable brunch while sitting in an overly-fancy restaurant, bags from high-end brands all around them.

“THIS,” she punctuated as she shoved her phone into Anasui's face, “is what I want, Narciso!”

He pursed his lips, looking at the picture with furrowed brows. One of Anasui's redeeming qualities was his ability to think quickly and figure out plans on the fly. Those plans were a little...risky most of the times but they always promised fun times, which was exactly what their gang was all about. That, along with his strong desire to give Jolyne whatever she wanted, was enough to shift his brain into gear, already thinking of a plan.

“Where's Hermes?”

“I actually don't know,” mumbled Jolyne, surprised that in her frenzy she had forgotten to check up on Hermes.

You: wya?

Hermes: the restaurant. Gloria's making me clean up. Why?

You: we're all at my place.
You: come over

Hermes: i'll get there when im done bruh
Hermes: she's not letting me off the hook yet

You: ok

By the time Hermes got to Jolyne's house, the other three were sitting on the wooden stairs leading from the back deck to the garden. She wordlessly sat down, joining in the circle of contemplation. She was a little bit confused. All three of them were sitting with their arms on their knees and their faces in their hands, looking out to the vivid green grass like the inhabitants of Plato's cave.

“What's going on?”

“We don't have any money to do anything,” sighed F.F.

“I got like five bucks,” Jolyne said and produced the said bill from the pocket of her jeans. Hermes reached forth and snatched it swiftly. “Hey!”

“You OWE me five bucks,” Hermes reminded her.

Jolyne stood up, ready to defend what remained of her fortune. She lunged at Hermes' hand but she was quicker and shoved the money down her bra. Not that it stopped Jolyne. Hermes laid flat on the floor, shrieking as Jolyne tried to find a way to the money. It wasn't a matter of money anymore, but a matter of pride. Life and death, all shrunk into five dollars, Jolyne's only ticket to a good summer.

“Fine!” she shouted as she stood up from Hermes' body. “Then we're back to zero.”

They all sighed in unison, their shared desperation forming a little black cloud over their heads. “Why don't we ask Weather?” suggested Hermes.

“I don't know. We shouldn't bother him now. He's trying to take care of the kid.” They all agreed with Jolyne's words.

“I...got an idea,” Anasui hesitantly started after ten minutes of utter, barren silence.

“Oh no,” sighed F.F., shaking their head.

“I'll pretend I didn't hear that.” Anasui flipped his luscious pink hair over his shoulder, slapping Hermes across the face with it. “I have an idea but it's a bit too...risky.”

“Oh no.”

“Will you shut up?”

“What's the idea, Anasui?” Jolyne pressed on, impatient.

He licked his dry lips and took a steadying breath. “By risky I mean illegal.”

The other three froze. “So?” asked Hermes and the other two nodded.

“Why don't we rob a gas station?” was the suggestion that dropped on their heads like an anchor. Jolyne looked at Hermes. Hermes looked at F.F. F.F. looked at Jolyne. “We'll be wearing masks and gloves and shit,” he quickly added. “No one's gonna know it's us.”

“What if the owner has a gun?” asked Jolyne.

Anasui paused for just a second. “We'll take baseball bats and stuff like that. We'll go to a place where only one person's inside. Even with a gun, they won't be able to do much against four people.”

That much seemed logical. They had all silently decided to go along with this plan. It was their only hope for an unforgettable summer. And since they would have their faces and hands covered, not even their families would know it was them

“We need a car,” F.F. pointed out.

“I'll go find us a car, you guys go and get us weapons.” And with that, they parted ways, promising to return in twenty minutes.

 

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If there was one thing Jonathan adored more than archeology, it had to be spending time with his son. Giorno was a very sweet child, filled with a sharp wit and a buzzing curiosity, completed by a gentle soul. Seeing that they shared a love for animals and nature, father and son reached out for each other's company more than often. They did many things as a family, just the three of them, but some activities were 'their thing', like hiking or gardening or playing with Danny for hours, things that Dio would never do under any circumstances. Because the nature of his job was such that required Jonathan to be absent from his home for long periods of time, he took every opportunity to spend some time with Giorno, teach him things and just see what a marvelous person he was growing into.

Like in all families, there were certain things only one parent could take care of. Such was the case with Jonathan's family as well and Dio was forever salty with that fact.

“I don't understand how you are more qualified than I, Dio, for this sort of thing.”

“Your driver's license has been revoked and for a very good reason,” Jonathan nonchalantly commented, looking at the scowling Dio over the rim of his mug.

Dio lifted his head and looked away disdainfully. “Everything about that incident was an exaggeration aiming solely to sully my reputation.”

Jonathan shook his head. What he wanted to say was that Dio had neither the patience nor the skills to teach Giorno how to drive. But he knew that blatantly stating that would trigger a nuclear explosion.

“I have some free time, you don't. It's just the circumstances, my dear. It just happened that I would be the one to teach our Giogio how to drive.”

“Hmph.”

“Oh, don't be like that. You have more important things to do, don't you?”

“I actually do,” Dio admitted. “Maybe you two can take me for a drive sometime soon.”

“Of course,” Jonathan smiled as he planted soft kisses on Dio's hands.

“Jojo,” Dio called as Jonathan made his way to the garage.

“Yes?”

“Don't die,” he said a bit too seriously, sharp eyes glaring at Jonathan.

Dio had the strangest ways of showing affection. “I promise,” laughed Jonathan.

“Because if anything happens to our son, I want to be the one to decapitate you.”

“O...okay, Dio.”

Giorno was waiting for Jonathan by the car with a little surprise. “Hello, boys!” greeted Jonathan, getting a chorus of greetings back.

“Dad, can my friends come with us?”

“We want to learn how to drive too and this is a nice chance to get in touch with the basics,” said Fugo.

While Jonathan had initially wanted this to be between him and Giorno, simply because teaching him would be way easier, he saw no problem with the three tagging along. And the boys were asking so nicely and Jonathan had always been a sucker for polite kids.

“Sure! Hop in.”

“Shotgun!” yelled Narancia, making a lunge for the passenger's seat.

“I think it would be better if I sat in the front with Giorno, Narancia. To show him what to do.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Mr. Joestar?” asked Mista.

“Yes, Guido?”

“Does that mean that you'll buy Giorno his own car?”

“When he gets his license.” Giorno smiled brightly at the prospect of that. He gripped the steering wheel with dedication, his face illuminated by the light as the garage door rolled up. Jonathan was admittedly a bit nervous. He had taught people how to drive cars before but it was always anxiety-inducing. It was a big responsibility and his role as a coach was very important. Thankfully, he had been blessed with an abundance of patience and intelligence, able to deal with situations like this expertly.

“Okay! What is the first thing you do when you get in the car?”

“Uhh...” Giorno looked around. “I turn on the radio!”

“No...Guess again.”

“Uhh...I...I put my seatbelt on?”

“Correct! Boys, you put your seatbelts on.”

“That's pretty boring, Mr. Joestar,” Narancia complained.

“This isn't a park ride, you idiot. No one wants to see your ass just smashing on the windshield when Giorno steps on the brake.”

“Mind your language, Panacotta,” Jonathan softly admonished.

“I'm sorry, Mr. Joestar.”

“What's next?” Giorno asked impatiently. Jonathan had taught him those basic steps a little while ago but in his excitement, Giorno's memory was a bit blurry.

“Try and remember.”

“Hmmm...I adjust the mirrors?”

“Yes!” Jonathan's encouraging attitude relaxed Giorno a bit. His Dad had the ability to make everyone comfortable. He just made people feel like everything was going to be okay. “Do you remember the controls?”

Just barely. He was probably able to name everything if he concentrated. He looked at the odd pedals and buttons and levers. They had taken Jonathan's Range Rover since it was a rather durable car. The plan was to go in an empty lot where the houses ended and practice there. Then, and only if Giorno had done well enough, Jonathan would allow him a stroll around the neighborhood.

“This is the brake and this the accelerator and I always start with my foot on the brake.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I keep my hands at 9 and 3 o'clock.”

“Yes.”

“Uhh...” What else was there? “These are the blinkers. That's the...gear...stick...thing.”

“Go on.”

“The handbrake...and umm...” He flicked an unfamiliar lever. “That cleans the windshield, I guess.”

“Giorno, can you honk?”

“You never honk,” Jonathan hastily said, “unless it's an emergency.”

Jonathan helped him adjust his seat so that his much shorter legs reached the pedals. “Can I drive now?” Giorno asked with the giddiness of a toddler.

“Carefully,” Jonathan instructed.

Giorno flexed his hands around the steering wheel. The first thing he had to do was start the car. It started with a low whirring noise, its vibrations passing through Giorno's fingertips. Then he selected 1st gear. He looked at Jonathan who simply nodded. He really wanted to do well. This was an important milestone and Giorno didn't want to disappoint Jonathan.

“A little gas...” Giorno gulped. Maybe taking his friends with him was a bad idea. The boys were just fixated on his legs and his movements, eerily silent for their usual rowdy selves, thoroughly absorbed in what was to come.

“A little gas,” said Giorno as he slammed on the gas, making the car dash out of the garage. It bounced down the ramp, stopping mere meters away from Jotaro's fence.

“A little, Giogio!” shouted Jonathan, throwing a hand over his rapidly beating heart. He sighed. “Be more gentle with your moves and don't rush. It's not hard. It just requires some practice. Now we're gonna go the clearing where there's more space and we'll practice there, okay?”

“Okay,” mumbled Giorno.

“Don't be disheartened!” Jonathan encouraged him. “It's alright to make mistakes! This is only your first time!”

Giorno nodded numbly. He took a deep breath. “Try backing out a little,” Jonathan proposed.

“You can do it, man.”

“Thank you, Mista.”

Giorno interpreted 'backing out a little' as 'almost ramming into his own house's fence'. Jonathan tried his best to look supportive and optimistic but he couldn't stop a deep breath from leaving his lungs. He looked up to the windows of his house, seeing Dio's silhouetted looming menacingly behind the curtains. Dio pointed into his own eyes and then at Jonathan's, then brought a sharp fingernail on his neck and dragged it across. Jonathan nodded. The message was clear.

“Mr. Joestar, are you gonna teach him how to parallel park?” asked Narancia, leaning in the gap between the two front seats.

“Not yet, Narancia. Some other day.”

Obviously disappointed, the boy sat back down. “Can we at least turn on the radio?”

“That would ruin Giorno's concentration. We will when he's more comfortable.”

“What do I do next, Dad?”

“Now you'll start driving. Slowly,” he emphasized. “It's a straight line. There won't be any problems.”

“Okay.”

Giorno stepped on the gas once more, much more gently this time. The car started moving forward very, very slowly. He stepped on it a little more. He glanced at Jonathan. He was quiet and looking forward. Giorno fixed his gaze on the road ahead. Driving was actually a really good feeling. He briefly glanced at the rows of houses, smiling at how swiftly and effortlessly he was gliding through them. He stepped on the gas a little bit more and shifted into second gear. Oh, this school year was going to be great! He'd show that he was an expert driver and they were going to buy him a car and he was going to show up with his sick ride instead of taking the bus. And everyone was going to be admiring him- not that he wasn't popular already, some extra popularity was alway-

“Giorno, STOP!” Jonathan shouted. Giorno came out of his trance just in time to slam on the brake, stopping inches away from Iggy, who was lying in the middle of the road, not giving two shits that he almost died. “Please be more careful!”

“I'm sorry,” Giorno apologized, letting his head hang low, cheeks flushing in embarrassment.

Jonathan shook his head. “Please be more focused. Now honk and he'll go away.”

Giorno nodded breathlessly and honked. The little dog remained indifferent. Giorno honked again. Iggy cracked an eye open and looked at him in distaste. Jonathan groaned and stepped out of the car. He approached the small dog cautiously, smiling at his suspicious snarling. Iggy let Jonathan come close to him. Jonathan started petting his fur, even rubbing his belly. Iggy let Jonathan pick him up. Jonathan quickly took him back to his house.

“It's okay, Giorno,” said Fugo. “It's only the first time.”

“At least you're making the thing move,” shrugged Mista.

“We're not supposed to be taking notes, are we?”

“No, Narancia,” Giorno smiled. “Just watch.”

“Okay,” said Jonathan as he climbed back in. It was a miracle he had gotten Iggy to trust him so quickly. Didn't call him the dog whisperer for nothing. “Let's get moving again!”

There were no more unfortunate events until they reached the clearing. Quiet and empty, it was the perfect place for their little driving session. Giorno could hear the cars coming on the highway right below, hidden by the rows of trees.

“Try driving a few circles around, so to get comfortable with making turns. And please be careful.”

“Okay, Dad. I'll be careful.”

And Giorno lied.

 

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“When I grow up,” started F.F. “I'm gonna be a priest.”

“Really though! Look at this!” said Hermes as she ran her hands over the soft leather cushions with a longing sigh. “What sort of salary does he make to afford a damn Porsche?”

“How much time Weather say we have until Pucci returns?” asked Jolyne.

“About...three hours.”

“What does that mean?”

“It's plenty of time,” Anasui explained. “I know a gas station that's quiet around this time of day and is like ten minutes away from here. That's the perfect candidate.”

That sounded good enough. They could finish the job, leave quickly and rush back home and quickly pretend nothing happened. They were adequately equipped, whatever they could get from Jotaro's toolbox and a baseball bat Emporio had very reluctantly given them, along with old pantyhose to cover their quite frankly eccentric appearances. Jolyne's only concern was with the car. She had no idea what Anasui had done to it. Out of them, he was undoubtedly the best when it came to stealing cars and criminal acts in general, with her being the second. He had assured her nothing was going to happen. And she believed him. Not that she had any other choice at this point.

True to his words, Anasui took them there in around ten minutes. He parked the car at a safe distance from the gas station, from where they had a clear view of the store. Their previous confidence had melted into something more muted, anxiety even. They were meters away from their objective and they had just realized what they were about to do.

“Man, I don't know. If we're caught Gloria's going to murder me. I mean...She works so hard and this is how I repay her?”

Jolyne sighed deeply. She could relate to that a lot. Her parents loved her so much and showed it however they could and Kakyoin tried his hardest to make her feel as if nothing had changed. Despite having the expressive capabilities of a Hasselback potato, she could really see that Jotaro was doing everything in his power to stop her from getting into trouble like he was in her age. The seed of guilt was planted in her heart. She looked around her partners in crime with uncertainty.

“Come on, guys!” shouted F.F. “We planned this so carefully! We need the money! Why are you chickening out right now?”

“We're not chickening out!” Hermes defended herself.

“Then say we're gonna do it! We're here to rob the place and we're gonna do exactly that! We're gonna take the money and we're gonna leave and we're gonna go buy expensive shit and there won't be any problems!” She looked around the car at the hesitant faces of her friends. “Say it! I wanna do it! I'm gonna do it!”

“Foo's right. We didn't come this far to back down!” said Anasui. “C'mon, girls. We need this.”

Hermes and Jolyne exchanged glances. Hermes nodded and Jolyne smiled faintly. “Alright,” she began, “how are we gonna do this?”

“One of us should get inside and keep the guy occupied,” F.F. suggested.

“Yes, but how?”

“I'll go,” Anasui proposed. “I'll go and you guys follow after like two minutes.”

“Are you going to do what I think you're going to do?” Jolyne asked fearfully.

“Yes!” he said and flashed her a wicked smile. “I just need a lipstick and a bra.”

“Hermes, give him your bra,” Jolyne demanded as she reached for a tube of gaudy fuschia lipstick.

“Like hell I am! I have cash in there!”

Jolyne groaned. She reached around her back and undid the fastenings and unhooked it, swiftly taking it off from under her top. She handed it to Anasui who looked at the skimpy lacy item of clothing as if it were a priceless, ancient relic.

“I'll protect this with my life,” he mumbled in awe. F.F's eye roll almost echoed around the car. Anasui pulled down his mesh shirt and after struggling for a good minute, put the bra on, pulling his shirt back up. “Give me some padding.”

“You guys got anything?”

“Check the glove compartment.”

“Won't he know we went through his car though?”

“As if his entire car being turned inside-out won't be enough evidence,” Anasui said with a roll of his eyes.

Jolyne opened the glove compartment. She rummaged through the items she found there, looking for something to serve as padding. “He's got...uh...the Bible...gum...”

“Gimme a piece,” Hermes asked and reached for one. “Thanks.”

“He's got a...gun.”

“Take it!”

“But I don't know how to shoot it...”

“I do!” F.F. was perhaps getting a bit too excited with this but no one questioned it. Or the fact that a priest had a gun. “Aw, nice!”

“Here, I found some tissues.” Jolyne handed Anasui the box and the man started stuffing the paper into the bra. He adjusted it just so, making sure the padding wasn't visible. Just to be safe, he placed some of his hair over his shoulders, covering his makeshift breasts. He checked his lipstick, making sure his fake lashes were in place as well. “Looking good.”

“Thank you!” Anasui got out of the car and smoothed his skirt, checking if his fishnets were holding up. “I go in and you guys follow in two minutes, okay?”

“Alright,” Jolyne mumbled, “let's do this.”

The three saw Anasui quickly cross the street and go into the store, swaying his hips and pushing out his finely sculpted ass. Two minutes. Jolyne waited, nervously playing with her hands. This was gonna go well. They were just gonna take the money and leave. No one would know a thing, especially Jotaro.

“Should we yell 'this is a robbery' when we enter?” asked Hermes.

“I wanna do that!” F.F. requested.

“We should focus on being quick,” said Jolyne as she pulled the pantyhose over her head. She made sure to grab Anasui's crowbar before they left.

They exchanged nods and glances right outside the door. The street was empty and quiet. Anasui was talking with the man behind the counter, who was utterly absorbed into the conversation.

“This is a shrubbery!” F.F. yelled as the three stormed inside. They even knocked a stack of potato chips on the floor for emphasis while waving the gun around.

“Robbery!” Hermes corrected them. Jolyne tossed Anasui his crowbar and he quickly hit the man on the shoulders, making him fall back, wincing in pain. “Put all the money in...uhh...dude, we didn't bring anything to put the money in.”

“What the fuck is going on?!”

“Shut the hell up or I'll shank you!” Anasui threatened, pressing the tip of the crowbar against the man's chest. “Gives us all the money!”

“We should take some juice, too!” exclaimed F.F. and picked up as many cans of juice as they could carry.

“Hey, how much is this?” asked Hermes, waving a bag of jumbo chips at the owners.

“T-two dollars.”

“Two dollars? Are you trying to rob me?”

“Can you guys be a bit more serious?” hissed Jolyne, putting on her serious criminal face.

Jolyne jumped over the counter. She grabbed hold of the register and yanked it off, making the coins inside it rattle. She looked inside, seeing but a few dollar bills. “Is that it?” she inquired, frankly disappointed.

“Answer the question!” barked F.F., firing a shot at the ceiling. “Holy shit!”

“Jesus Christ, dude!”

“Sorry! I didn't expect it to actually be loaded!”

“T-there's m-more-”

“Where?”

“U-under the counter.”

Jolyne crouched down. There, tucked among random items and outdated porn magazines, she found a bag filled with dollar bills. She showed Anasui her findings and they both grinned. She grabbed the bag and shoved everything else down her pants.

“Let's go!” she urged.

“Just a sec.” Anasui brought the crowbar down hard on the older man, across his chest, and legs. “That'll keep him still for a while.”

The four of them ran like the wind, quickly climbing into the car. Jolyne looked at the money in her hands, probably the largest amount she had ever held. They all cheered. Hermes even started crying, caressing the crumbled bills with shaking fingers.

“Let's fucking go!” cheered Anasui, taking a tissue from his bra and handing it Hermes.

Any feelings of guilt Jolyne had vanished in an instant. She grinned broadly at the fruits of her labor. “I better start counting these.”

They started driving, way faster than before. Hermes and F.F. were making plans, declarations for an amazing summer, adventures and trips, new clothes and the best food. Anasui wanted to buy new clothes and also take Jolyne on a nice date. But Jolyne wasn't listening to any of this. She kept counting the money, muttering numbers under her breath. The more the amount grew, the less she heard. She was oblivious to everything, even the car unexpectedly slowing down.

“What's wrong?” asked Hermes.

Jolyne looked up, just now noticing how there were thin plumes of smoke coming from the hood. “What's wrong, Narciso?”

“I...” Anasui stammered, “I have no clue!”

“Did you do anything to the car, Anasui?” F.F. demanded. Anasui, clearly at a loss for words, opened his mouth but no sound came out. “Did you take any parts?” F.F. insisted.

“Maybe... I don't know!”

“Oh my God...”

The fours kids just sat inside the car, listening as, in a cruel twist of fate, the police decided to react quickly this time. Jolyne saw the flashing lights while scenes of her short but exciting life played in front of her eyes.

 

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So far, so good, if Jonathan's pleased smile was anything to go by. Making circles around the clearing for twenty minutes was a tad boring but Giorno listened to his father's instructions, knowing that they were for his own good, so to teach him the basics the best way possible. It wasn't yet the time to stun everyone with some sick turns and parallel parking.

To make the lesson a bit more challenging, Jonathan suggested Giorno drove around the trees, to learn how to glide through obstacles and stay steady on a rocky terrain. Giorno was smiling his entire ride, impressed by how swiftly he was moving around the trees, enjoying the sound of cracking stones under the tires. He might have gotten a bit cocky with how well he was doing as he tried an especially sharp turn, something he wasn't yet capable of pulling off. The car slid down the hill, the front of it dangerously dangling over the edge.

“Giorno,” Jonathan spoke softly, “I'm going to need you to slowly move to the back while I come and take the wheel, okay? Whatever you do, do not remove your foot from the brake under any circumstances until I'm there, do you understand?”

“Yes, Dad,” Giorno replied and stepped on what he thought was the brake.

“The gas!” shrieked Fugo. “That's the gas, Giogio!”

That car started rolling downhill, crashing through trees. Branches and rocks fell on the windshield like rain, the sounds of breaking almost entirely covered by the screams of the five passengers. Giorno slammed his foot on the brake but it was too late. The road below was growing larger, the noise becoming clearer. The out-of-control vehicle broke through the guardrail, its deranged course finally coming to an end. But their position was even worse than before, as they were now standing in the middle of the highway, completely open to the approaching cars. A collective scream came from the car as a bus came fast towards them, the collision being inevitable.

“Turn the car around!” screamed Jonathan.

“We're all going to die!” cried Mista, shaking Narancia from the shoulders.

Giorno was at a loss. His hands were flying all over the different controls, all his knowledge wiped from his brain. He touched unknown levers and buttons not knowing what to do. His mind suddenly clicked into gear. He stepped on the gas and by almost tearing the wheel off the dashboard, turned the car around, in a storm of dirt and broken wood. The other passing vehicles honked at him and cursed loudly but all insults fell on deaf ears. Giorno was shaking, sweat rolling down his now messed up hair, and he was clinging desperately to the steering wheel, eyes wide and unblinking.

“I mean,” started Mista, “you could make a mean bumper-car driver.”

“We are not telling Dio any of this.” The kids all nodded. “Pull over, Giogio. I'll take it home through the dirt road.”

“Can...can I do it?” Jonathan shot him an angry glare and Giorno gulped. His father was usually so sweet which only made his rare angry moments even worse. It was justified anger and the shame Giorno was feeling because of it couldn't be put into words. “Please, Dad.”

“He won't mess up this time.”

Jonathan looked at them all. The dirt road was nearby. It led to the opposite end of the neighborhood from where their house was but it was still a familiar, completely straight road. And Giorno had done quite well, save for a few...mishaps. It was clear that his driving abilities came from his Brando side. Jonathan looked at his son, at those big blue eyes that were so similar to his, seeming like those of a wounded kitten's.

“Fine,” he allowed and the kids let out a more quiet cheer. “Turn left there.”

“Watch where you're going, shitlips!” a driver hollered at them.

“Go and fuck yourself, bitch!” shouted Mista.

“Suck a bee's cock, asshat!” yelled Narancia.

“Eat shit and die, cunt!” screamed Fugo.

“Boys, please!” Jonathan gasped in shock. “And please use the light signals when you turn, Giorno!”

 

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“Whatever you do, promise me you won't lose your shit.” Jotaro pulled down the brim of his hat, eyes looking at his feet. “Jojo.”

“What,” he snapped, finally meeting Kakyoin's stare. He groaned. He was finally able to control his temper, his attitude had certainly improved and he even had manners. But sometimes...sometimes he had to draw a line. And this was one of those times.

He didn't even want to come. Not because he had more important things to do other than care for Jolyne, he just couldn't predict his reaction. Kakyoin was cool as a cucumber. He was the one that had talked with Jolyne's mother, who insisted on coming all the way from Kansas. Jotaro remained silent, absent, cold. In a way, he was scared of himself, scared that all the progress he had done would be thrown down the drain the moment he saw Jolyne in the cell. This wasn't something he could take care of with mindless violence. He was faintly shaking with anxiety. What did his daughter's actions say for him?

“You're not a bad Dad, Jojo,” said Kakyoin, as if reading his thoughts. A slender hand moved over Jotaro's own, squeezing comfortingly.

Jotaro only huffed. Jolyne should have been with her mother but when faced with that decision, Jotaro had stepped up and decided to take it upon himself. Why? Had he seen raising his daughter as a challenge? A bet against himself? To leave the cringeworthy edgelord behind and become a functional human being?

“Just because she messed up once, doesn't mean she's a bad kid. Or that you're a bad parent.”

“This isn't just 'messing up', Noriaki. It's serious. And it's not just once.”

“So she's a rowdy kid. And? We were much worse.”

“No, we weren't.”

“Yes, we were. Do you remember how we thought backpacking all the way from Japan to Egypt was a stellar idea?” That much was enough to put a small smile on Jotaro's lips. Those were the most eventful fifty days of his life, without a doubt. He couldn't even think about it without feeling his head throb. So many memories squeezed into such a small time period.

Kakyoin smiled at him, violet eyes gleaming behind his glasses. “Be patient and remember that above all, you love her. And she loves you. And she's such a good kid, Jojo. You've done a wonderful job.”

“We,” corrected Jotaro. “We did a wonderful job.”

“Doctors Kakyoin and Kujo?” asked a police officer, coming into the waiting area. “They're ready.”

Jotaro didn't see Jolyne in a cell (thankfully), just in a pair of handcuffs and sitting on a bench with her head hanging low. She looked at him pitifully and Jotaro's heart clenched hard. He sighed, feeling his anger dissipate into simple sorrow.

He signed whatever papers they presented him with. Anasui and Hermes had already been picked up. Pucci had been notified about the theft and had, of course, decided to press charges. All the money had been returned. Jotaro would receive information about the hearing in a few days.

“Um, sirs? We're having some trouble with his one.” The police officer pointed at F.F., who was in the middle of emptying the water fountain.

“I'll stay behind,” Kakyoin proposed. Of course he would do this, give Jotaro some time. Before Jotaro left, he held his hand, looking at him encouragingly. “You'll do fine. Just remember than you love her.”

Easier said than done... Jotaro's blood was boiling, his entire body felt like a repressed spring as he sat in his car next to Jolyne, ready to just explode and bounce around the place. She had her back turned at him and her knees close to her chest, idly gazing out to the road.

“You're grounded for the rest of the summer.” That much was undeniable. Though, he wasn't sure how confining his daughter would teach her the lesson she needed to learn. “You'll come and help around the aquarium.” He furrowed his brows. He looked at her through the rearview mirror, catching glimpses of her green bangs. “Jolyne.”

“Fine,” she mumbled.

“Why did you do that?”

“I don't know,” was her reply. And she was being honest, Jotaro could tell. “I just thought it was a good idea at the time, didn't really think it through.” She awkwardly played with the little squares at the hemlines of her pants. “I'm sorry.”

“Don't apologize to me. You should feel bad about attacking a helpless man and stealing the fruit of his labor.”

“I am.”

“Good. You should also feel bad about not being able to manage your money.”

“I am.”

“Good. Hopefully, this teaches you a lesson.”

“It does.” She sniffed. Oh no. Oh no no no. Jotaro tensed, knuckles turning white around the steering wheel. “I'm really sorry, Dad,” she sobbed and turned to look at him.

“Fucking...” He sighed. “I know. Just...don't do it again.”

“I won't,” she promised and wiped her tears, painted black with runy mascara. “Can I at least go to the 4th of July BBQ?”

“I'll allow it.” Jolyne smiled and Jotaro felt his own lips twitch. Even after robbing a damn gas station, she still managed to slip right back into that rambunctious kid Jotaro used to chase around the beach to cover in sunscreen so easily.

He shook his head, trying to hide his smile. “Good work on stealing that asshole's car.”

Jolyne laughed. The sound went straight to Jotaro's heart. “I knew you would say that!”

 

 

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A straight line. Just a straight line and he'd be home and call this a day. Giorno was honestly ready to just take a tearful shower while listening to the same Lana del Rey song on repeat and sleep. He was tired, drained and a little disappointed. Jonathan still looked as bright and optimistic as ever but Giorno could sense his true feelings. He didn't care about driving anymore. All that mattered was that he had messed up what Jonathan had wanted to be a good, fun day.

He stepped on the gas, picking up some speed. The sun was hanging over the horizon like a golden eye, another Dr. T.J. Eckleburg. The streets were still mostly empty, the neighborhood filled with the sweet serenity that went hand in hand with hazy summer afternoons. Someone was playing music. Someone was sitting on their porch, laughing. Giorno hadn't just crashed into Diavolo's fence, completely fucking up the man's beloved rosebushes. Life was good again.

“Mr. Joestar?” whispered Fugo.

“Yes, Panacotta?”

“Is it okay if I swear now?”

“Knock yourself out, kid.”

Diavolo came running out of his mansion, gun in hand. Trish opened her window and peered down, mouth gaping, eyes blown wide in shock. The broken fountain was bleeding out on the mangled corpses of the white roses. The mafioso looked at the damage in horror before his utterly unhinged gaze shifted to the car.

“We're going to fucking die.”

“Most likely.”

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Valentine's Day

 


Kira sat up and swept the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. After hours of working under the scorching summer sun, he could finally look around and be pleased with the result. What had formerly been a rather empty garden was now filled with plants and flowers Kira had so carefully planted. There were elegant planters filled with blush pink peonies, yellow and white roses, lavender, thriving ferns, fiery hibiscuses, a plethora of shrubs and an abundance of herbs, ingredients they could use for cooking. He stroked the oregano and basil leaves, smiling pleasantly at the scent. There was still work to be done, so many more flowers and trees to be planted, and the pool still needed new tiles. It would all be done in time. This was their forever home and Kira was beyond thrilled to see it be shaped into his own personal paradise.

"Kosaku," Shinobu called softly from behind him. Kira turned around and saw his wife holding a silver tray with a tall glass of chilled lemonade on it. Kira's eyes gleamed at the sight of the offered refreshment. "I tried a new recipe. How do you like it?"

"It's very sweet," he said after a long sip. He stuck his sticky lips on her flushed cheek. "Nowhere near as sweet as you, though." Surprised at his own spontaneity, Kira froze. "Ah, forgive me. I'm all sweaty..."

"No, no!" Shinobu quickly reassured him. She reached under his chin and pulled him closer, pressing her grinning lips against Kira's. "I like you whichever way you are."

However tempting Shinobu was, the need to wash the sweat off his body was dire. "I'll go take a shower and head to the grocery store."

"You don't have to! You've been working hard all afternoon!"

"No, no. I have so much energy right now." Going to the gym had worked miracles on him. He grew less tired and he managed to fight his urges to an extent by punching them out. "You should relax, go get a manicure."

Shinobu glanced at her hands. She had never been big on manicures. She only started making weekly appointments after Kira's insistence. "That sounds nice."

Was he in love with her? Well, he certainly enjoyed seeing her happy. Maintaining that was necessary. A happy Shinobu didn't attract any attention. He told himself it was just that, another requirement for his carefully constructed facade. But whenever Shinobu did something utterly ordinary, Kira's heart did weird things. The way she cooed at Killer Queen, how she hummed while she cooked, how she scrunched her nose whenever she saw something she didn't like, how beautiful she looked in yellow... Kira had never fallen in love with an actual human being before and he was confused, to say the least. He was hoping to spend the rest of his days with Shinobu as Kosaku Kawajiri and that prospect delighted him. Kosaku was her husband but how did Yoshikage feel? He didn't view Shinobu as just a pair of hands. She was...important to him, in a way he couldn't quite describe.

Shinobu was doing her makeup when Kira stepped out of the shower. He planted a kiss on the side of her neck before leaving, dressed in a pair of lilac pants and a light blue shirt. He skipped down the stairs, whistling cheerfully as he got into the car. He drove through the neighborhood, looking around to the empty street. Curious. Usually, around this time of day, his neighbors were all over the place, the kids were carelessly strolling through the streets, sitting at the cafes and the parks, making plans for a gathering at the beach. Kira paid the strange occurrence no mind and went on his merry way.

Kira arrived at the grocery store in ten minutes. It would seem that luck had sided with Yoshikage Kira yet again, as all his favorite cleaning supplies were on discount. Kira was in the middle of shoving bottles of bleach into his cart when he noticed a blond little boy with springy curls and cloudless blue eyes, walking while carrying a bottle of Coke. Mindlessly, Kira followed the tiny Valentine to the original, standing in front of a variety of hair conditioners, inspecting each bottle with furrowed brows. There was a chubby baby on the baby seat, babbling nonsense while playing with different items that Valentine patiently set back on the shelf.

"Mr. Kawajiri," Valentine greeted cooly and turned to look at Kira.

"Your Excellency," Kira greeted back with a bemused smile and a tiny bow. "Forgive my rudeness, but since when does the Governor of New York do his own grocery shopping?"

"Since all of his employees are incompetent."

"Daddy, can we pick up some more Fanta?"

"Sure thing, buddy. Go with your brothers." The little boy took off giddily while Valentine watched with pride. "How's life?"

"Never been better," Kira candidly replied. "Yours?"

"Pretty sweet. You're coming to the BBQ tomorrow, right?"

"Oh, that's tomorrow? Sure, but do I need to bring anything?"

"Only if you want to. I've already taken care of everything though, it wouldn't really be necessary." And indeed, Valentine was holding probably the biggest shopping list Kira had ever seen in his life. "Just your presence is enough."

"Okay then. See you tomorrow?"

"Yes," Valentine nodded, maybe a bit too excitedly for his usual stoic self. Kira shrugged it off. Valentine was usually the most chipper of them.

Shinobu was still at the manicure parlor when Kira returned. Hayato was in his room, doing God knows what. The neighborhood was still eerily quiet, not a single person outside. The sun had only begun to set. Kira still had a few hours free before his bedtime. After putting away the groceries, he called Diavolo.

"What," the Italian barked sleepily, sounding even angrier than usual.

"Hey. Wanna hang?"

Diavolo didn't respond immediately. He mumbled something, a string of Italian profanities no doubt. "Go and fuck yourself," was all he said before he hung up.

Kira scowled at Diavolo's contact information at his phone's screen. High school, college, and all through their adult life up until that point had Kira put up with Diavolo's foul temper and annoying habit of taking his frustration on literally everyone. He took a deep breath. He was a friend, the only friend that understood Kira's desire for a life in the background, and a very useful connection. So once again, Kira put up with his behavior.

Kira remembered checking the time right before going to bed. It read 23:45. He had allowed himself to stay a little later than usual since tomorrow was a holiday. As silently as he could, Kira climbed on the bed next to Shinobu. She had her back turned to him. He scooted closer, placing a hand around her waist and pulling his head close, in the crook of her neck. With the sweet scent of her auburn hair lulling him to sleep, Kira slowly drifted away, tired after an exhausting but productive day.

It was exactly midnight when he bolted out of sleep, feeling his heart ready to leap out of his chest. He looked around in panic, wondering where that deafeningly loud explosion had come from. Shinobu was awake as well, looking utterly mortified. Any hint of sleepiness they had was completely gone. Kira shot up from the bed and looked outside. Had war broken out? Alien invasion? Nuclear attack? Nope, just fireworks, shooting up to the black night sky and exploding in a rain of red, white and blue.

"What the hell is going on?" asked Shinobu, voice clear and angry over the continuous barrage of fireworks.

Kira, shaken and a bit out of place from the sudden awakening, couldn't really think of an explanation. As Lana Del Rey started blasting through the loudest speakers ever, Kira looked at his phone. Three minutes after midnight.

"It's the 4th of July."

"What sort of maniac celebrates the 4th the moment it begins?!"

Good question. That Kira didn't have the answer to. He looked at the houses in the neighborhood, same as always. Dio's was dark and so was Pucci's right next to it. Kars' was quiet, though someone was probably awake. Diavolo's didn't show any signs of life either...

Oh.

Kira stormed out of his family home, passing by a very confused Hayato and a mildly shaken Killer Queen. He got to the culprit's house in under a minute, stomping angrily all the way to the front door. He knocked viciously, feeling his fist sting.

"Happy 4th of July!"

"Have you completely lost your mind?!" It was a rhetorical question. Of course he had. He was insane. And here Kira thought Valentine wasn't a batshit sadist.

"What are you talking about?" He looked absolutely confused, looking at him with bright blue eyes, blonde brows furrowed, pretty pink mouth pouting ever so slightly. Kira wanted to punch him.

"It's fucking midnight!"

"Yeah, but it's the 4th of July," he explained, as if that solved everything.

"So what!"

Valentine sighed, as if he was the one being patient while dealing with an idiot. "Today we celebrate the birth of this great nation and I intend to celebrate every second of this day." With an impressive wave of his hand, he produced a small hotdog out of thin air that he shoved into Kira's mouth. "Happy America day, Yoshikage!"

And with that, he shut the door to his face, leaving an unbelievably pissed off Kira to just stare at his front door. Before he could knock again, Diavolo called him from over the fence. The mafioso was standing on his porch holding a cup of coffee and looking rather beat up, an utterly exhausted Trish and Doppio trying to catch some sleep on the stairs next to him.

"I was sleeping when you called," he explained. "He does this every year at midnight. He wouldn't stop no matter what we did so we decided to spend the day before sleeping."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Kira demanded after a mouthful of hotdog.

"I thought you knew," he simply shrugged and walked back into his house.

Having no other options, Kira walked back into his home. Fortunately, Valentine ran out of fireworks at around 1 AM, letting the Kawajiri household sleep a little. In his dreams, Kira dreamt that he was stabbing the man on the back repeatedly, choking him, then cutting off his admittedly beautiful hands.

 


 

 


Despite having lived in the States for most of his life, Kira wasn't big on celebrating American holidays. The only time he had properly celebrated a 4th of July was on his senior year of college. The memories of that absolutely berserk weekend were fuzzy, but Kira remembered he had a fun time. Whenever they spoke of that time, Kars hinted at some past drama and whenever Diavolo or Valentine was present, they quickly changed the subject.

Well, whatever had happened during that weekend at the Hamptons, it certainly didn't compare to what was happening on Valentine's backyard that Wednesday. The whole neighborhood was there, not at each other's throats for once. Music was playing, everything was red, white and blue, the kids were running around, the buffet was stretching across the entire garden and the intoxicating scent of cooking meat was rising to the sky in a grey cloud. Had it not been for the three hours of sleep he had gotten (the firework extravaganza resumed sometime around 4 AM), Kira would've been overjoyed. Participating in neighborhood get-togethers was the dream.

"Do you always go so over the top or is it just because I moved in here?" Kira casually remarked with a little smirk, rolling up next to Valentine.

The host laughed and Kira couldn't help but chuckle a little himself. "It would seem that every year is better than the last. This day is all having fun and I think I came through!"

"You did."

Valentine was standing at the center of the yard, both so that everyone could see the host and appreciate how much effort he was putting into this gathering and so that he could easily scope out the entire territory, eyes open for trouble.

By 'trouble', Valentine of course meant any unwanted guests trying to come uninvited. He spotted the sneaky rats while they were in the middle of climbing over the garden wall.

"Zeppeli, you step a foot in here, you lose that foot," he threatened, making Gyro freeze mid-climb. "Who turned off the fence?"

"Come on, you snob!" shouted Gyro. "Share some of your American spirit!"

"You're Italian!"

"I am an American citizen!" declared Gyro, laying a hand flat on his chest. "Look, I even got a cowboy hat."

The idiot was already making a scene, sitting on the fence and screaming. It was most likely he was already a bit drunk. Valentine walked over to him, reassuring the guests that everything was alright with a well-practiced smile. He wasn't going to lose his patience, just deal with this the same way as always.

"Who else is with you?"

Gyro looked behind, counting the people with him. "It's me...Johnny, Lucy, and Hot Pants."

Valentine pursed his lips. Great. With Diego already inside, the squad of the world's most infuriating kids was complete. He had a bad history with all of them and letting them in his house was an uncharacteristically stupid move. But if he didn't, Gyro would probably continue chanting 'let us in'. Oh, well. He was willing to make an allowance for the sake of the day.

"On one condition," he added once the verdict was out. "If I catch any of you doing anything shady, I'll break your legs." A pause. "Arms!"

"We won't do anything stupid," Gyro was quick to assure him.

"Catch!" shouted Hot Pants and threw Johnny over the wall, right into Gyro's arms, before climbing in herself.

Valentine shook his head. Just this once. He prayed his patience lasted that long. Surely, the kids wouldn't be their usual annoying selves with their much more mature and responsible relatives around. Leaving the group to their own devices, Valentine resumed his rounds around the yard, chatting with his guests and snacking left and right.

On the other side of the garden, and out of Valentine's field of hawk-like vision, was Diavolo, standing at the far corner under an imposing weeping willow. From under his shadowy dome, the mafioso glared at the crowd like a finicky cat, ready to scratch their eyes out if they approached him. Martini in hand, Diavolo kept glaring at everything and everyone, especially the host. Damn Valentine and his persuasive skills. How had he even convinced him to do this?

(Every year Diavolo wondered this, and every year he was there from the start to the end. Valentine didn't actually have to be persuasive. Diavolo didn't need an excuse to be with him.)

"Lovely day, is it not?" Diavolo looked at the man who had addressed him, casually filling his plate with all sorts of deep-fried goodies.

"Americans really go all out. Or is it just him?" That was Avdol, Polnareff's...partner? Diavolo didn't have any particularly useful information about the man. An immigrant from Egypt, owner of a pawn shop and in a relationship with Jean Pierre Polnareff for seven years now. Despite him not seeming that interesting, he was giving off a strange vibe, like he was showing merely the tip of the iceberg.

There was no way he had approached Diavolo to chit-chat. Nevertheless, Diavolo remained silent. (Because he really had no idea how to initiate conversation with other human beings.)

"I'm glad I moved into this neigh-"

"Cut to the chase, asshole," Diavolo barked.

Avdol nodded, the confident smile on his smile not wavering for even a second. "Right. He might be a bit of an idiot," he started while gesturing over to where Polnareff was arguing with Kakyoin, "but I'm not. And I will defend our right to live here peacefully and not be intimidated by ruffians like yourself."

The glass Diavolo was holding shattered in his hand but that didn't bother Avdol in the slightest. This piece of trash, this nobody, dared come up to his face and talk to him in a way no one had in years. "Are you threatening me?" he hissed, voice oozing with venom.

"Yes," Avdol answered confidently. He snatched a BBQ chicken wing and took a big bite, all the while looking right into Diavolo's eyes. "I am."

As if sensing his murderous intent, Doppio beelined for Diavolo and grabbed him by the arm, dragging him back before he could stab Avdol with the toothpick he was holding.

"Come on, Boss. Just let it slide."

"How can you say this? This insect insulted me, my pride, my ego. I must get back at him."

"Do it some other time," Doppio insisted, now pushing Diavolo out of his dark corner. "Look how much fun everyone's having!"

In any other case, this would have meant nothing. But Diavolo took a look around the yard. He looked at Valentine, standing next to the grill and chatting with the Kawajiris, a bright smile on his face, hair spilling down his back like spun gold. It had gotten longer. It suited him. Diavolo then looked at Trish, who was having a very loud conversation with her friends. Jolyne said something that made her laugh out loud, her thunderous and a little bit obnoxious laughter booming loudly over the ambient chatter.

"Fine," he decided and Doppio beamed. "Not today."

Getting the entire neighborhood in the same place without having war break out was truly a miracle, one that only good food and unlimited drinks could bring. Even Dio, who had the shortest fuse in the universe, could stand in Jotaro's presence without yelling at him. Still, he couldn't help but hold back an occasional condescending remark.

"Let me show you kids a cool trick," Jotaro started and picked up a can of beer.

"Dad, you've shown us this a million times."

"I haven't seen it," said F.F., curiously getting closer.

"What is he gonna do?" asked Emporio, golden eyes blown wide with curiosity.

Jotaro fished his keys out of his pocket. He tapped the can with the flat side and drew a little X mark, applying some pressure. Then, he jammed the key into the can, immediately sticking his lips to the hole and cracking the can open, making the beer flow into his mouth. Once done, he sighed deeply, crushing the empty can in his hand.

"I was the shotgunning champion in college."

"There was never a shotgunning championship," Kakyoin said with a roll of his eyes. "You were the only competitor because all the frat boys were scared of you."

"Hm. You're jealous."

"How many of these can you do in say...five minutes?" asked Dio, eyes narrowed.

Jotaro glared back, eyes like blue ice cubes. "More than you."

"Oh, I'm merely asking for a friend," he chuckled. Jotaro looked at him in confusion. Nothing Dio ever said made sense. "Funny!" he yelled. "Come here for a second."

Said blond jogged over to them. "What's up?"

"How many of these can you do in five minutes?"

Valentine paused for a second. "I don't really know. Close to fifteen, maybe twenty on a Sunday."

"You can shotgun twenty cans of beer in five minutes?" Johnny had every right to be surprised. He looked at Valentine from head to toe. "You?"

"Why are you so surprised? And why are you still here?"

"Let's settle this," Dio cut in. To be completely frank, out of all his friends, he liked Valentine the least. But when faced with Jotaro, there was nothing he wouldn't do to have his allies prove their superiority.

"I don't know," said Valentine.

"What? Are you scared?" provoked Johnny, crossing his arms over his chest.

Valentine glared at the young man. "Please, I simply wanted to not completely wreck your family name."

"You got this, Jojo!" Kakyoin cheered.

"No audience," said Jotaro while helping Valentine get the cans on the table. "We settle this like men. One on one." All protests were silenced by the sheer force of Jotaro's Siberian glare.

The two competitors took their seats on opposite ends of the small square table. They shook hands, wishing each other good luck on the noblest of sports.

Per Jotaro's request, they left the two men, Jonathan staying behind as the referee. Dio approached Giorno, who was sitting with a nearly passed-out Mista.

"Still not over it?"

"No," sighed Giorno, stroking Mista's shuddering back softly. "He'll be fine by tomorrow but until then, we'll have to deal with this."

"What's with this fool?" snarled Diavolo, looking at Mista with scorn.

"Dad," admonished Trish.

"Mista has tetraphobia," explained Buccellati. "It's extreme fear and anxiety over the number after three and before five."

"That is the most fucking stupid thing I have heard in my entire life."

"Dad!"

"I can't believe you're afraid of a fucking number."

"Leone," scolded Buccellati. "We've talked about this."

Abbacchio groaned, crossing one leg over the other. He kept his cool even though he could feel his blood boil. Wearing all black in 40 degrees Celsius wasn't the most stellar idea.

"I'm just saying that he's afraid of something abstract, something that can't harm him." Abbachio nudged Mista with his foot, who was still curled in a ball, muttering about how he was going to die. "Look at him. He's like this because he's afraid of a notion."

"Well," started Fugo, "you're afraid that Buccellati will break up with you and it's still a notion. While there are possibilities of it happening, it shows that you aren't confident in yourself and you don't trust Bruno. It's not that different from what Mista has."

Silence. Narancia snorted. "Snap."

"Shut the fuck up, Narancia." Abbachio raised his head haughtily, more to hide the blush blooming on his cheekbones.

After five minutes, Jonathan approached Dio with a concerned look on his face, Jotaro in tow. "Who won?" asked Dio, furrowing his brows.

"He did," responded Jotaro. He was yellow and sweating, looking a bit dizzy but otherwise good. "But we got a bit of a problem."

What Jotaro meant by saying 'problem' was a completely shitfaced Valentine, who was laying with his back on the grass, lazily kicking his legs in the air like a stunted turtle. The whole process of it greatly amused him, as he kept giggling at how his limbs worked, something he found very, very peculiar. Some of his neighbors gathered around him, all absolutely shocked by the sight.

"Go get his wife," Jonathan said to no one in particular. Trish volunteered for the task.

"Mr. Valentine, are you alright?" asked Giorno in the same voice one would use on a little child.

"I'm feelin' better than ever, Giogio," he slurred, reaching up to poke the teen's curls. "This is rather comfortable. I wish I could take a nap here but I have so much energy!" He emphasized his words with more flailing of his legs. "I want to do all the things!"

For Dio, it was a shame that only the residents of the neighborhood were there. Oh, how splendid it would be for Governor Valentine to be drunk and stupid in front of members of the Parliament, people on who he depended for his future presidential campaign. But alas, this quite extravagant show would be private.

Trish returned a short moment later, this time accompanied by her godmother. "What the hell is going on here?" Scarlet demanded, cutting through the circle of people and into the middle, where her husband was still laying on the ground, entertaining himself by letting an ant crawl around his hands. Her jaw dropped a little, her ability to talk completely gone due to shock. She gawked at him as he rolled around the grass like a labrador, not giving two shits about his too expensive silk dress shirt and prized hair becoming green.

"Funny! What have you done?!"

Valentine looked at her, finding the way she looked upside down utterly hilarious. "Hello, my beautiful, bitchy wife," he cooed, flashing her an unfocused grin. He playfully tugged at the hemline of her dress, snickering in the process. "Don't you look fine today?"

"What the fuck happened?" she asked the others, while Valentine was trying to crawl up her leg. "Who did this to him?"

"He did this to himself," answered Jotaro, who had meanwhile regained his composure. "We were having a contest and well...guess he can't handle his alcohol anymore. He did win, though."

"Oh, this is spectacular! Diego! Come here!"

Valentine managed to stand on his own two feet, only to come crashing down, bringing the entire table with him. "Juss for clarfi...clarifc...clarificate...fuck it...Jojo numero tres is right...uhhh...Stacy..."

"Scarlet."

"Oh, nice to meet you." Diavolo snorted.

Scarlet glared at Valentine with such ferocity, it was a wonder how his head didn't explode. She took a deep, calming breath, letting her blood cool. "Yes, nice to meet you, too. Diavolo, come help me with this idiot."

Obeying simply because the situation was too fucking entertaining, Diavolo pulled Valentine up, supporting him entirely. Valentine leaned his grinning face closer to Diavolo's, who scrunched his nose at the strong scent of beer coming from the man's mouth.

"You have such a cute fucking nose," whispered Valentine. "Boop," he snickered as he pressed a finger on Diavolo's nose. He snuggled deeper into his embrace, letting his head drop on the man's chest.

"Jonathan, can you please take the kids inside?" asked Scarlet. "Make them watch some VeggieTales or something."

"Of course," said Jonathan, but before he could act, Valentine had reached for the high chair and had scooped the baby up, who giggled cheerfully.

"This is incredible," gasped Valentine, squeezing the chubby clone. "Amazing product quality! Very soft and squishy. Does it bounce?"

"The baby doesn't bounce!" shouted Scarlet, trying to take the baby from him. Valentine lifted his arms over his head, making the baby shriek in glee while Scarlet's eyes almost fell from their sockets.

"This is fantastic...I made this?"

"Yes."

"Aw, hell yeah. Is there more?"

"Funny, give me the baby right now."

"You sound like my Mom." He scowled. "Look at his little feeties." He grabbed a tiny baby foot and wiggled it in front of his wife's face. "Look at them."

"You give me that!" she snapped, snatching the baby from his hands and protectively putting it against her chest. "Take him inside."

"C'mon, buddy," Diavolo prompted, helping Valentine move. "Let's get you in."

"Nuh-uh," Valentine protested. Like a bratty child that had never been denied anything in his life (which was exactly what he was), Valentine let his body become a dead weight, making Diavolo lose his balance. "I wanna stay here with you." His fingers trailed over Diavolo's mesh shirt, tickling the skin underneath. "And do stuff," he added, flashing him a lopsided grin. His face was bright pink, hair falling messily over it.

"W-what stuff?" Diavolo stammered, still trying to resist being dragged on the grass in front of fucking everyone.

"You know," he grinned, tickling under Diavolo's chin. "Stuff we haven't done in years."

Taken aback by an invitation he had been expecting for years, Diavolo slipped, ending up on the grass, with Valentine on top of him. The blond rested his chin on Diavolo's chest, fingers caressing shapes on his muscular chest. His eyes were gleaming with wickedness, yet still bearing the hazy blurriness of a man who hadn't drunk more than a glass of whiskey in years.

Diavolo shook his head and pushed Valentine off, who seemed very displeased with this move. "You'll regret this," he told himself more than Valentine.

Valentine wrapped his legs around Diavolo's waist and pulled him back down once more. Diavolo was experiencing a lot of feelings simultaneously, something entirely out of his comfort zone. While every cell in his body screamed at him to just dive in (yes, in front of everyone) that was entirely unreasonable, even for his standards. No matter how much he tried to haul himself up, Valentine kept him pinned down, with his limbs wrapped around Diavolo's torso.

"Don't you love me anymore?!" he cried. He was pouting childishly, brows furrowed. "Don't you think I'm pretty?"

"You're very pretty," Diavolo choked.

Valentine beamed. "Gimme a kiss, then."

"No!"

"Gimme a kissy kiss." Grabbing Diavolo's neck with surprising strength, he started pushing his puckered lips towards Diavolo's matte black ones.

It took all his willpower to push Valentine off, who still clung on whichever part of Diavolo's body he could find. Fortunately for Diavolo, two large and much stronger arms wrapped around Valentine's waist and effortlessly pulled him off. Kars threw Valentine over his shoulder like a potato sack, all the while the blond's grabby hands were still trying to reach Diavolo.

"You have a nice butt," blurted Valentine, giving Kars' admittedly fantastic butt and cheeky slap. "It moves... Fascinating."


Watching the scene from a safe distance, Diego was cursing Scarlet under his breath for confiscating his phone. He knew that he could never upload the videos of a drunk Valentine without risking his life. He just wanted to hold onto these memories for his personal enjoyment, use them as his secret pride whenever the man got a little too arrogant (which was every day).

"Now's our chance!" exclaimed Lucy, clasping her hands together.

"Our chance for what?" asked Johnny. All he was asking was a day without drama, though the occasional sneaky mischief wasn't unwelcome. He didn't like the glint in Lucy's eyes.

"For finding out information about the race! Look at him! He's drunk off his..."

"Ass."

"Thank you, Hot Pants." Lucy fished out her phone, readying the voice recorder. "If we get him to talk, we'll have proof that he planned everything! We can get our money back this way, Johnny!"

Johnny considered the idea for a while. If they anonymously sent the recording to the press, then they wouldn't be in any danger. Above all, Valentine would probably end up behind bars or suffer irredeemable damage to his reputation. It was two birds with one stone. He didn't even care about his money anymore. He just wanted to see Valentine get what he deserved.

"Let's do it," he decided and Lucy's face lit up.

"You need to get him to drink more, first," said Gyro. "Beer drunk doesn't last long."


"When was the last time he got this drunk?" wondered Kira, who was amusing himself by waving a mozzarella stick in front of Valentine's nose and watching him try to bite it, much like the way he played with Killer Queen.

"About sixteen years ago, wasn't it?" Kars got in first, unceremoniously planting Valentine on a chair. "We were at the Hamptons, before you guys left for university."

"There's no point in discussing that," Diavolo gruffly cut in.

Kira narrowed his eyes at him. "I don't like secrets."

"I don't give a shit."

"Are you two fighting for me?" giggled Valentine, pressing his foot against Diavolo's thigh. "No need, I can take you both at the same time."

"Oh god...Scarlet!" shouted Kars.

"Coming!" Scarlet sprinted out of the kitchen, holding a cup of black coffee. She set it on the table next to Valentine. Curiously, he peeked inside.

"This is...?"

"Coffee," she replied. "To make you feel better."

Valentine picked up the mug and in front of his wife's shocked eyes, poured the liquid on her beloved, 200.000 dollar carpet. "You can't make me do anything."

She looked at the ceiling, taking deep, calming breaths, fingers twitching against the fabric of her blouse.

"You want to ruin my fun."

"Stop. Talking," she hissed. She remembered she had kept a few celebratory cigars in her office. This seemed like the perfect moment for them, hopefully, relax a little.

"You don't love me," he declared. "You want me for my money." He reached for Diavolo and hugged him protectively, all the while the man tried to run away. "He loves me." Valentine rubbed his face against Diavolo affectionately. "Good boy," he whispered, giving Diavolo a little kiss on the forehead and nuzzling closer.

Defeated, Diavolo looked at Kira who merely shrugged. "It's not as if you don't want it..." was all he said before walking back into the garden, to Shinobu.

"He could be worse," said Kars. "Thank God he's not an aggressive drunk."

"To you!" shouted Diavolo. He could feel his organs slither and squirm around because of how tightly Valentine was hugging him.

"You'll be fine" concluded Kars.

"Don't fucking leave me alone!" But it was futile. Diavolo looked around the empty dining room, looking for a means of salvation. He screamed inside his head as loudly as he could, hoping that Doppio would come to his aid telepathically.

"Alone at last," purred Valentine, going to straddle him. Diavolo gulped hard. Not even a seasoned mafia Don could maintain his cool when he was this close to this high school crush. "Why are you so nervous?"

"Why don't we go into the kitchen to make you another cup of coffee?"

"Or...we can stay here and fuck on the table," he offered with a grin. "Right here, where I have dinner with my family...Wouldn't that be something?"

"That's not a g-Button your fucking pants!" Force wouldn't work with this one. Valentine was smaller but he was just as strong and definitely agiler. He could reason him out of it, try and talk with whatever scraps of logic he could find at the moment. To be honest, talking -especially negotiating- had never been Diavolo's forte.

He gulped.

"If we do what you're suggesting- Funny, you button your pants right now...Thank you. If we do that, then no one's going to take you seriously as a presidential candidate. Imagine you having sex while fifty people are listening."

"Hot."

"No! That is...this is difficult, fucking hell...Don't you think people will find that disturbing? Don't you think they'll lose their respect for you?"

Valentine stopped while trying to unbutton his shirt. "...maybe," he admitted, making Diavolo sigh in relief. "Then what can we do?"

"I'll go make you a cup of coffee and then we'll get you to bed, okay?"

"'Kay."

Diavolo lifted Valentine off of him and sat him back on the chair. He stopped at the doorway to the kitchen and looked back. Valentine was holding a lock of his hair, looking utterly perplexed by the physics of it. When Diavolo returned with a cup of coffee -or the brown piss Americans called coffee, anyway- in hand, he found the blond sitting face-first on the table.

"Funny?" he called softly. No response. He pressed two fingers against the man's throat. His heart was beating steadily, just fine. He put the cup down. After looking around, he leaned closer. He stopped. Better not.

Lucy peered into the empty dining room after Diavolo left and quickly tiptoed inside, her friends following. They all formed a conspiratory circle above Valentine's passed out form. They could easily kill him, they had the guts for it. Too bad their alibis weren't strong enough.

Lucy sat down and softly nudged him with the corner of her phone. Valentine snapped up, making them all scream.

"I just wanted to see him ONCE!" he shouted, burying a hand in his hair. "Just fucking once! All I got was this handkerchief..." he sorrowfully mumbled, waving a pale blue cloth in front of his eyes.

It would seem that he hadn't yet noticed the kids. "Mr. Valentine?"

At the sound of Lucy's voice, Valentine looked at her. He narrowed his eyes, scowling deeply. "Oh, look who it is."

"I want to a-"

"I'm thirsty," he said, scratching his toned stomach absentmindedly.

"I got what you need right here, my man." Gyro placed a bottle of vodka on the table and pushed it close to Valentine. "Look, it's sealed."

"Hmm..." Valentine opened the bottle and sniffed it. He took a big swig. "Fair enough."

"Mr. Valentine, I want to ask you some questions about the race."

"The race," snorted Valentine, taking another swig. He wiped the excess with the back of his hand. "Y'all are probably trying to frame me or somethin'." He downed some more, halving the amount. He burped. "Scuse me. Ask your questions, see if you can find any fault."

"Two years ago-"

"You weren't even born then."

Lucy closed her eyes, trying to calm herself. "Two years ago, the events of the Steel Ball Run race took place. Now, during that race, you-"

"Hey, sorry for cutting in," started Hot Pants, "but have you guys seen Diego?"

"No!" said Lucy, a bit more irritated than usual.

(The reason why they hadn't seen Diego for quite some time was because the man was on his way to New Rochelle -per Scarlet's demand- to retrieve a mysterious something. Honestly, he was fearing for his life, but at least he was driving Scarlet's Maserati.)

Before Lucy could focus, Valentine had snatched her phone. "I'll show you a cool trick," he announced. And just like that, he covered the device with his handkerchief and when he removed it, the phone was gone. "Ta-da! Where did it go?" he gasped, waving the handkerchief around.

"What did you do to my phone?!

"Holy shit," muttered Johnny, "how the fuck did you do that?"

"A magician never reveals his secrets," he whispered, leaning to boop Johnny's nose. He cleared his throat and with excessive theatricality, reached behind Lucy's ear. "It's right here!" And indeed, he was holding the phone between his finger and thumb.

Scarlet walked in, followed by Dio, who was following her throughout her chaos with a margarita in hand and a snarky remark on his sneering lips.

"Who gave this to him?" she demanded, clutching the bottle of vodka viciously, while Valentine was trying to get it back.

"He found it," shrugged Gyro. "Let the man have his fun, he's harmless."

"He's better that way."

"Better than ever."

Valentine grinned at the kids, not really sure what they were talking about.

Had it not been for Diego bursting through the door holding a crate twice his size, Scarlet might have actually killed someone. Hot Pants rushed to his side but before she could reach him, Diego dropped the crate and its contents slipped out.

"Bunnies!" exclaimed Valentine. At the sight of a dozen white, fluffy little fuzzballs, curiously peeking out and hopping around, Valentine lost interest in the phone and tossed it away. Lucy caught it like a slippery fish. He crawled on the floor among the animals, gasping as he picked several in his arms. "Scarlet, look!"

"Yes, baby. I am."

"What is the purpose of this?" wheezed Diego, still panting from having carried a damn colony of bunnies all through the house. Oh, what else would these maniacs have him do?

"To keep him occupied so he doesn't...do something we'll both regret."

"Where did you even get all these bunnies?" These shady government people had a guy for everything, didn't seem entirely impossible for the Valentines to have a 'bunny guy'. Sneakily, Johnny picked a stray one in his arms and gave it a little rub. Perhaps it was time he got Danny a friend.

"You wouldn't believe me even if I told you."

Valentine looked like he was in heaven. He laughed giddily as the little animals hopped around him, nuzzling closer to his perpetually warm body. Suddenly, his blue eyes blurred and his lips started trembling. Clutching the five bunnies he was holding in his arms, Valentine buried his face into their soft furs.

"I can't protect them," he sobbed. Using both arms and legs, he formed a cage around the bunnies, holding them close to his body, safe from the evils of the world. Still, crying about the bunnies, Valentine fell asleep.

 

 

When he woke up the next morning, his entire body felt numb save for the excruciating headache he had. He felt as if an anvil was sitting on his head, slowly crushing his skull. His eyes fluttered open and he immediately groaned at the light flooding from the picture windows. Valentine waited for a few moments and reopened them, squinting at his surroundings. He was in his house, just not his bedroom. A guest room? Yes, that was one of the guest rooms of his house. But what was he doing there?

Slowly, Valentine sat up, groaning through the process. He let his feet touch the hardwood floor, limply dangle over the edge while he stared at his reflection in the mirror. His skin was sickly and yellow, with dark circles almost reaching his lips. His hair was a mess of disoriented curls and his clothes were wrinkly. Aside from the sharp headache, his eyes were stinging and his throat was on fire. He hadn't felt that bad in years, but the worst part was that he couldn't remember what he had done the day before. He remembered the BBQ up to a point but after that...nothing.

"Scarlet!" he called, immediately regretting it.

As he reached for the nightstand, hoping to find his phone, he noticed a neatly folded note.

Funny, read the letter in his wife's handwriting,

I have taken the kids and dog and have gone to my parents at Connecticut. This isn't an act of revenge, rather, I want you to reflect on your behavior yesterday and how a silly incident could have cost us everything we've achieved up until this point. My role isn't only to support your ambitions but to help you correct yourself. Call me when you're feeling ready.

Love always,
Scarlet

"What!" he barked, letting the letter fall from his hands.


"Cheers," said Dio and proceeded to sip on his tequila sunrise. Safe under the shade, he was sitting by the poolside, watching Jonathan play with his beloved dog and Valentine's kids, running around the grass with the same excitement as them.

"When will you return?" he asked.

"Oh, I'll probably be back for lunch," Scarlet idly replied. "I just want to scare him a little, teach him a lesson."

"It may have been stressful for you, but it was a wonderful sight for me."

"I'm glad one of us enjoyed it." The sun was too hot on her skin and the pool's glimmering waters were calling for her. Maybe she'd take a dip after she finished her cocktail. "I still can't believe him. I had to go around and make sure no one had noticed a thing while he was playing with bunnies and trying to fuck Diavolo."

"Old habits die hard."

"Ugh. He could have shown some restraint. He will be the next President and slip-ups like that are unacceptable."

Dio wondered which one of the two wanted to win the elections more. His money was on Scarlet. She had always been viciously ambitious, stopping at nothing, unlike her spouse who had morals and stuff like that. At moments like this, he said again and again how Valentine had landed a woman that was way out of his league. For Dio, at least.

He looked at Jonathan, who was rolling on the grass with Danny, prompting the kids to do the same. He'd probably smell like dog and grass by the time he finished. "We must love our soulmates even with their flaws. At least keep in mind how rich and powerful he is when tolerating him gets especially hard."

"Yes," she sighed. Her eyes fell on the platinum wedding ring around her finger, paired with her engagement ring that Valentine had given her twenty years ago, right after prom. The square-cut diamond caught the light like a dream, reminding her of the lights that night. If she closed her eyes, she could recall every detail, from the clothes he was wearing to the box the ring was in. "He is kind of cute, though. Isn't he?"

Chapter Text

 

Beaches and Cream

 


Josuke didn't have any particular problems with his parents divorcing or his Dad getting together with Caesar. What bothered him was the way Joseph had handled it. Having inherited his mother's temper, Josuke reacted very badly and had it not been for his uncles, he might have actually done something he'd probably regret. After learning that Joseph was having an extremely hard time under the hell Straizo had put him through (Like father, like daughter, Speedwagon had said with a shake of his head), his anger dissipated. Finally, some damn justice.

Tomoko had gone to her father's house but Josuke had refused to go with her. He loved his house, loved how close he was with all his friends. She was two hours away by car so it wasn't anything too bad. With both his parents gone, Jonathan had insisted that his nephew moved in with them temporarily. The only member of the household that had protested this was Dio, but he was outnumbered. Josuke wasn't too mad about the situation, not at all. He got to stay up as late as he wanted and talk with Giorno until morning.

Even though Jonathan had given him a room of his own, the two boys insisted they slept in the same room. Jonathan had dragged a spare bed into Giorno's room, making a make-shift double bed for the boys. Josuke rolled over, coming face to face with a sleeping Giorno. He poked his cheek, making the blond wince and hide his face.

"Giogio," he crooned.

"What," grumbled Giorno. Despite his name, Giorno and early mornings didn't really mix well, a trait he had inherited from Dio.

"Do you wanna go to the beach today?" It was only a few minutes past 10 AM and the burning July sun was making Josuke's skin turn unbelievably pink. He pushed the sweaty sheets off of him, letting his body cool a little.

"Sure." Giorno blindly reached for his phone, groaning at the screen's brightness. "Let's get some breakfast first."

The boys rose from the bed and groggily walked out of the room. Once outside, they noticed how voices could be heard from the living room, and not just Dio and Jonathan's. Despite his drowsiness, Josuke was able to single out a familiar voice in the rowdy conversation. And it would seem that Giorno did too, as he looked at his cousin with wide, curious eyes. Not caring that his hair was limply falling on his shoulders, Josuke skipped down the stairs, Giorno in tow. The duo walked into the living room, finding themselves standing in front a small family meeting.

Jonathan was sitting by the piano, smiling warmly at the two boys as they walked in, Dio by his side, looking as sour as ever. The voice Josuke had heard was Straizo's, who was in the middle of some disagreement with Speedwagon while William was trying to down another bottle of wine with some sandwiches. Joseph and Caesar were sitting on the couch, trying their best to look apologetic. Josuke's eyes immediately darted to Joseph who looked up, guilty and alarmed.

The others stopped talking, all looking at the boy. Wordlessly, Josuke walked inside and took a seat next to his uncle on the smaller couch, right across his father. He was glaring intently at Joseph, who let his head hang from his shoulders, awkwardly twiddling his thumbs. Was it because he was a middle child or because of his character? Either way, Joseph was one of those guys that never grew up despite having a kid and a multi-million dollar business. Not that Josuke was the pinnacle of maturity, he just wished his father acted more as a mentor rather than a bro at times. Tomoko had enough common sense for the both of them but with her gone... More than angry at his father's stupidity, Josuke was insecure. Jonathan had told him a million times that he didn't have to 'pick a side' or anything like that. His life would be as it was, though Josuke doubted it. He wanted to lash out at the damn idiot for fucking everything up because he couldn't keep his dick in check but seeing him looking like a kicked puppy, green eyes filled with sadness, pouty lips scowling forlornly, made the ice in his heart melt a little bit.

"I didn't know you were coming back today," Josuke said. He looked elsewhere, fixing his outside the window, where Danny was playing with his toys instead of his Dad's heartbreaking expression. "Thought you might have died."

"It's not like I didn't try."

"Straizo!"

"Cut it out already," said William."It's not even noon and you're fighting again."

"Not without reason," Speedwagon retorted. "He's not even been here for two hours and he already tried to kill me!"

"Threatened," corrected Straizo, haughtily raising his head in mock-offense. "These are two very different things, Robert. And your words really hurt me, you know. I would NEVER-"

"Don't say it."

"-actually kill you! It's not like I would benefit from your death! I would just inherit the Foundation since I'm the vice-president and you have no heirs...You may have had an illegitimate child but I took care of that."

"What."

"What."

"Why don't we all go to the garden and give Josuke and Joseph some time?" Jonathan proposed.

"Or they could go to their own place instead of forcing me, Dio, out of my own home."

Jonathan looked at Dio, lips pursed into a thin line. "It won't kill you." Sometimes, the things Dio said were so utterly ridiculous.

"How can you be so sure? What if I die, Jojo? What if that vicious beast you adore tears me to pieces and you witness it?"

Jonathan opened and closed his mouth, finding no words to respond to that. "That. Is not. Going to happen! How can you even think that?" Before Dio could suggest something even more insane, Jonathan stood up, making his way to the garden. "We'll give you some time, okay?"

Josuke nodded. Caesar stood up to leave. "Not you," he said, stopping the man. "I wanna talk with you, too."

Caesar sat back down, crossing his arms and legs. Minutes after the others had gone, the three remained quiet, only the muffled sounds of Speedwagon laughing at Dio's distress reaching them. Josuke had never been good with confrontation. Most of the time, he was the one in trouble and he found all sorts of ways to avoid people's wrath aimed at him. He wasn't that different from Joseph in that aspect, he supposed. But in situations like these, where he was the one lecturing someone, he was afraid his emotions would run loose. He didn't know what to say, didn't want to say anything.

Luckily, Caesar spoke first. "I visited Tomoko this morning," he said. "This idiot didn't have the balls to do it. But you'll do it soon," he cooly demanded, grabbing Joseph by the nape of the neck, fingers digging viciously, "you'll apologize to the woman whose life you ruined."

"Bold of you to assume that my mother isn't strong enough to survive without him." Caesar flashed Josuke a sly grin and Josuke chuckled back. People bonding over roasting the same person was a privilege only of humanity. "What did she say?"

"Said she's not that mad that they have to divorce but because he lied to her. I know I'm equally guilty and I apologize-"

"You're not equally guilty," Josuke cut in. "But you do need to apologize."

"I apologize," said Caesar, and Josuke knew he meant it. "And I promise you that I'm not going to let this dumbass do anything like that ever again."

"You talk about me like I'm a damn child," Joseph pouted.

Caesar slapped him upside the head. "That's because you are, idiot. Now be a man and apologize to your son."

Joseph took a deep breath. "I'm really sorry, Josuke. I-I hope I can one day make it up to you. Hopefully, you can love me again."

"I didn't stop loving you, Dad," Josuke said with a roll of his eyes and Joseph beamed like an excited dog. It was endearing, made his damn eyes water. "But you need to make it up to me. Starting with this." Josuke stretched his arm, shoving his open palm in Joseph's face.

Catching the drift, Joseph took out his wallet, counting several dollar bills. "Your credit card," Josuke emphasized.

"You play hard, kid."

"I need to cover the emotional trauma with material goods." Italian shoes and suits, good food and the finest luxuries, for him and his best bro. Of course, without telling Joseph that he had already spent his college funds during the days of his absence.

"I say that's enough tension for a day. Why don't we go to the beach?" Caesar suggested.

"The beach!" exclaimed Jonathan, bursting through the door with an excited smile. He froze, his smile turning apologetic. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop, I just wanted to make sure everything was alright. But the beach sounds nice! Even Danny misses it, don't you boy?"

"Jojo, we are NOT taking the animal with us."

"You can stay behind then," chimed Speedwagon, easily evading a fist to the gut.

 


 

 

Dio's relationship with summer was strange and tumultuous. He liked relaxing after so many months of hard work, a good vacation was the best way to recharge his batteries and be more productive in the upcoming months. He liked having his son around more, thought Giorno stayed home less and less the more he grew. He loved visiting the sea and living so close to it meant he was able to visit whenever he liked. He loved going to trips to exotic and luxurious locations that he could boast about on social media. On the other hand, Dio hated the summer because that meant that Jonathan was going to be on some excavation again. To be fair, most of the time Dio went with him, especially when he was on a mission around the Mediterranean, but he mostly sat alone while Jonathan remained at the excavation sites all day.

But above all, the one thing about summer that drove Dio insane was the sun. He had no problem with the heat -though he preferred the cold- he just absolutely detested the sun. His pale skin was unbelievably vulnerable even with thick layers of sunscreen and mere minutes of exposure. Unlike Jonathan, who tanned like a glorious bronze statue, Dio became an angry lobster red, unable to tolerate even the breeze on his tortured skin.

Having nothing better to do, Dio agreed to go to the beach, complaining during the entire way. By the looks of it, this was going be an outlandishly hellish day and not only because of the scorching mid-summer sun angrily burning on his skin, but also because of the usual entourage of Joestars and friends that accompanied his every fucking move for almost three decades now. Joseph was cheerfully skipping behind him, recounting his stay on Tibet to a more relaxed Josuke and his dumb friends. He spotted the familiar sight of a wheelchair riddled with ridiculous stickers ('Honk If You Love Jesus', read one, 'Let's McFreakin Lose It', read another) and his gut actually recoiled. And as if that wasn't bad enough...

“Fuck,” mumbled Dio, green lips curling in disgust.

“Fuck,” murmured Jotaro, pulling down the brim of his hat to cover his eyes.

Jolyne sprinted up from her seat and beelined for Joseph, jumping in his arms with an excited yelp, making them both tumble on the sand. “I can't believe you're back! Alive!”

“Me either!”

“It's good to have you back, Joseph,” Kakyoin offered with a relaxed smile, looking up from his book. “Looks like we all had the same idea.”

“Yes!” Jonathan exclaimed excitedly. He scanned the area, a huge smile spreading on his lips when he spotted Johnny and Gyro. He waved at them, with the promise of joining them soon.

The kids had already run off with their friends, Danny skipping behind them enthusiastically, the distant sounds of them splashing and laughing making Jonathan smile. He meticulously laid his towel on the lounging chair and set the mini fridge under the shade. He then took off his clothes, revealing navy blue swimming trunks underneath and put his folded clothes on the offered chair.

“Oh, look. It's the Kawajiris.” He waved cheerfully. Shinobu waved back. “Good people, quiet and responsible. They must like it here.”

“I guess,” Dio said through gritted teeth. Kira looked so uncomfortable. Underneath those sunglasses, Dio was sure Kira was scoping the area for potential targets while being unable to do anything about it.

“Do you want some sunscreen?”

“Of course I want some fucking sunscreen!”

“Why are you always in such a bad mood?” Jonathan chuckled as he poured some lotion on Dio's pasty shoulders. “Try and relax. You have your book, you can have a drink, or maybe you can have a dip.”

“In the filthy water? That's crawling with fish? As if,” he snorted.

“It's not crawling with fish,” snapped Jotaro. “It's crawling with people. The fish live here, we are trespassing their territory. And it's not filthy. It's one of the cleanest beaches in all of North America. If anything, you entering with all that lotion will be the source of pollution.”

“Well...don't you think you're a little harsh, Jotaro?”

“No,” Jotaro answered curtly, eyes locked with Jonathan's. Moving swiftly, he removed his shirt, revealing chiseled abs and pectorals, and casually walked towards the water, where his daughter and her friends were having backflip competitions.

“Cunt,” grumbled Dio.

“Hey!” Jonathan slapped him across the shoulders. “You may be my husband, but he's my little brother. And he's right. He knows more than us, Dio. That's his job.” He sighed. He sat down on the sand next to Dio, looking at him with the same expression he used for Giorno. “Try and have a good time. Look, that's Kars over there. Why don't you go hang out with him?”

And indeed he was, laying his glorious caramel body on the blazing sun, in a heavy coat of oil and a miniscule bathing suit, while the rest of his family was chilling under the shade.

“I don't know, Jojo!” he barked. Seeing the wounded look on Jonathan's face made Dio feel a twinge of guilt. Another proof of how far he had come. He laid a hand on Jonathan's cheek and leaned to peck his forehead. “I'm fine, Jojo. Go, have fun. But be back soon.”

“Yes!” Jonathan shot up, making sand fly everywhere. “So, gentlemen!” he started, turning to his friends. “Race you to the water?”

“If you're comfortable with being second,” William chimed with a wry grin.

“Or third,” said Straizo, coming to stand next to the other two.

“On the count of three,” started Speedwagon. “One...two...three!”

The four of them took off like the wind, spreading sand everywhere. Seeing three ripped guys and a damn giant running like madmen would have been a terrifying sight, had it not been for their laughter. Jonathan got to the water first, laughing triumphantly as the other two tried to push him underwater

“You go on ahead...” Speedwagon wheezed, doubling over. Sweat was rolling down his temples and forehead, sliding into his eyes. He collapsed on the sand. “I'll be right with you...”

 


“Oh, fuck,” hissed Kars, narrowing his eyes at Joseph. “He's back already.”

Esidisi looked up from his phone, squinting because of the sun. “I didn't even notice it.”

“It was so nice and quiet without this idiot. God, look at him. I want to cave his head in.”

“Jojo! Caesar!” yelled Wamuu, waving both hands at the pair.

Kars whipped his son on the shin with a towel. “Whose side are you on?!” he demanded.

Joseph casually jogged to them in the scorching sand, that big, moronic grin plastered on his admittedly charming face, Caesar following. Kars could actually feel the fine hairs on the back of his neck stand as the two men drew closer. Gone were the blissful days of him enjoying his beautiful home without Joseph being right next to it. Moving out would be a solution but then he would be admitting defeat. Besides, where could he find a better house and so close to his friends?

“Hello, friends!” Joseph greeted. “Good to see you all in good health. Santana, looking good.”

“...fuck off.”

“And same as always! Love me a man that knows what he wants.”

“Already flirting with others,” Caesar said through gritted teeth, kicking Joseph on the back of his knees. “You're impossible, Jojo.”

“I'm really glad to see you back in one piece, Jojo,” Wamuu said and he actually meant it, the idiot. Kars rolled his eyes. Throughout this entire time, he was hoping Straizo would stay true to his word and kill the man. God knows what dumb tricks Joseph must have used to escape the inevitable.

“Thank you, it's nice to see you too. Are you guys up for a little game of beach volley? Caesar and I vs. you and Santana.”

“That's not a bad idea,” mused Wamuu.

“That is a terrible idea!”

“Come on, guy!” Joseph laughed, playfully nudging Santana on the ribs. “Just for fun!”

In the end, Joseph got what he wanted. As they started going to the beach volley court, Kars grabbed Santana by the wrist, stopping him. Unlike Wamuu, who resembled Esidisi and tended to get weirdly sentimental at times, Santana took after Kars more, in ruthlessness, lack of toleration for all things Joestar and appearance.

“Break his bones,” he advised.

“Of course,” his son replied, a tiny smirk pulling the corners of his lips.

After some stretching, both teams got into position. “No cheating,” Wamuu pointed a finger at Joseph, serious as always.

“Me? I would never!” gasped Joseph, throwing a hand over his heart.

 

“Come on!” the kids all hollered at Josuke, who was still standing at the edge of the water, squirming as he got in slower than a grandma. He looked around fearfully, gasping when a tiny splash hit his back.

“It's too cold!” he whined. Jotaro walked past by him, cooly power walking towards the kids, easily cutting through the water as if there was no resistance. He was in his natural habitat. This is where he belonged.

“Do you want me to come carry you?” Jonathan offered, loud voice booming all around the beach, effectively chasing any potential mates away from the young and afraid boy.

Suddenly, Okuyasu jumped from the water and started manically splashing Josuke who shrieked and tried swimming away, only to be dragged underwater by Koichi. The two laughed as Josuke resurfaced, wheezing and coughing, hair dripping on his shoulders. He wiped the wet strands off from his eyes and glared at his two friends venomously.

“You assholes!” he screamed, lunging for them. They both swam away as fast as they could, seeking shelter behind Jotaro.

Polnareff laid back, letting the water carry him gently while Iggy was napping on his belly as if they weighed nothing. He sighed blissfully, loving how the sun caressed his skin, how its warmth mixed pleasantly with the cool water below him. His ears were in the water, deaf to any conversations around him. The muffled sounds reached him as if from inside a well; Jotaro was lecturing the kids, Buccellati was trying to convince Abbacchio to come inside, Johnny was talking about cockfights. Avdol was somewhere nearby. Even now Polnareff could smell his signature sandalwood scent.

A slick tendril ran along Polnareff's spine, making the man jump in alarm, scaring the shit out of Iggy, who swam away whimpering. Polnareff looked around frantically, heart threatening to jump out of his chest. No one else had noticed anything. The same slippery object touched him again, this time sliding up his calf to his thigh. With a deafening screech unfit to a man of his size and age, Polnareff leaped into Avdol's arms, looking around as if chased by hellhounds.

“What happened?”

“Something touched my leggy!” he yelled, latching onto Avdol for dear life.

Kakyoin chuckled, pushing his goggles up to his forehead. Jotaro looked at him with furrowed brows. Kakyoin smiled apologetically. “I had no ill intentions.”

Johnny swam up to Jonathan, dexterously wrapping his arms around the man's neck. Despite having the exact same name, Jonathan Joestar II was the complete opposite of the absolute beef of a man that was Jonathan Joestar I.

Jonathan picked Johnny up and effortlessly put him to sit on his shoulders. “Damn,” mused Johnny while scanning the area. “I can see my house from here.” The perks of having a cousin as big and loving as Jonathan included the most amazing rides on his shoulders, with a clear view of the entire beach, better than what anyone else had.

“Alright!” yelled Gyro, clapping his hands while William tried to steady him on his shoulders.

“Are you okay down there?” asked Lucy, looking down at her cousin.

“No need to worry about me, Luce,” Erina reassured her. “All you need to do is show these four who's boss.” Even though the others boys were significantly larger, if they played their cards right, they were going to win.

The three pairs took their positions, eyeing the competition suspiciously. “I'll go easy on you, Johnny boy,” chuckled Gyro, “because I love you.”

“Suck my dick and prepare to die, Zeppeli.”

“Ready...set...go!”

With the force of an angered bull, Jonathan charged right for the Zeppeli duo, Johnny using one hand to support himself and the other to throw Gyro off. Despite being ambushed, the younger Zeppeli tried to stabilize himself while fighting his enemy. They both fought valiantly, but Johnny was stronger, giving Gyro a run for his money. And it seemed like he was doing well, managing to make Johnny almost slip while William kept going strong against Jonathan, until the Pendleton duo decided to take action, charging for them as well. With the combination of Lucy and Johnny attacking him, there wasn't much Gyro could do. With a string of curses, nails desperately digging into his uncle's shoulders, Gyro fell into the water while the other four cheered. Gyro came out of the water, gasping and brushing his long locks from his face, clearly not sharing William's amusement over the situation.

“Team Zeppeli bites the dust!” announced Giorno.

(“Are you alright Kosaku? Did you catch a cold?” asked Shinobu, questioning her husband's sneeze.

“It must be my allergies”, grumbled Kira, warily sniffing his nose.)

Erina and Jonathan started circling around each other like competitive tigers, though unable to hide their childish grins. Suddenly, Erina charged forward, Lucy leaning over to push Johnny before he could act. What they lacked in strength, they made for in strategy. Lucy reached under Johnny's chin and started tickling him devilishly, Erina keeping her steady with an iron grip. No matter how much he tried flinching away, in the end, he was too weak and fell into the water with a magnificent splash while Lucy and Erina cheered.

“You play hard, Steel,” wheezed Johnny, unable to hold back a smile to Lucy's victorious grin. “I'll give ya that.”

Meanwhile, on the coast, Dio had grown a bit jealous by the way Kars was just letting the sun fry him and decided to try it for himself. It wasn't as hot anymore, with the early afternoon light bathing everything in gold, so he decided to try it out. He let himself relax a bit too much, not wanting to move a single muscle. But he was in dire need of another heavy coat of sunscreen. Through heavy-lidded and barely awake eyes, he spotted Jonathan's familiar overwhelming shadow.

“Jojo,” he cooed, waving the bottle of lotion at him, “pour some lotion on me.”

Jotaro looked around. The others were all in the water, he had only gone out to check his phone. Dio was still waving the bottle at him, obviously waiting for him to take it. Jotaro had to think fast, and he was struck with an idea far too mischievous for him.

“Sure,” he said, hoping that Dio wouldn't tell the difference in his half-dazed state.

 

People wrongfully assumed that Esidisi was the most emotional one between him and his husband, but they couldn't be more wrong. Esidisi was more vocal and expressive when it came to his feelings while Kars kept his cool and aloof demeanor but just a handful of people knew what went on behind closed doors. Kars had a low tolerance for other people, idiots especially, and if left loose his rage could be lethal.

He was nearing the edges of his patience, trying his best to block out the sounds of Joseph frolicking childishly with his sons. A couple of times the ball went a little off track and Joseph, being a perfect little jock, went to retrieve it, each time flashing him a more ridiculous grin while snickering about how he was 'just getting his ball back'. What a ridiculous, ridiculous man. Not even a day back and he was already making the same mistakes, and right in front of Caesar.

He was scrolling through his Instagram, checking his posts and making new ones while stalking other beauty gurus. Kars was more than thrilled to see that his latest eyeshadow palette was being worshipped both by other makeup artists and most importantly, his general audience. Despite the success following this launch, Kars couldn't just revel in it. He was already thinking about his next move, probably individual highlighters and a few lip glosses. He also needed to hire a new model but none of the applicants were what he was looking for. And he was looking for perfection. Shame one of his favorite models had retired; Valentine really had an irreplaceable beauty, something truly one of a kind.

The moment Kars lost it was when another stray ball flew to his direction, only this time it came crashing right in front of him, sending sand flying everywhere, including him. The coarse grains easily stuck on his well-oiled body and face, some even getting into his gawking mouth. Esidisi was dozing off right next to him and was unable to stop Kars from charging at Joseph at full force. Wamuu and Caesar tried stopping him but to no avail while Joseph was getting the hell away. Santana swiftly tackled Joseph who fell on the sand, trying to laugh Kars' anger off. It didn't work. The older man grabbed the Joestar's left arm and without breaking a sweat snapped it backward, a graphic crack echoing along with Joseph's anguished screams.

 


 

 

Jonathan waited until everyone was there. They gathered at one of the conference rooms in the yacht club, as they had done so many times in the past. The early twilight light was peering through the giant picture windows. He looked out to the crowd of people, all looking their own kind of displeased, scared, angered and downright confused. He, too, was utterly baffled, especially when he looked at a whimpering Joseph and an enraged Dio, Pucci was barely able to hold back from tearing Jotaro's throat.

“In light of recent events,” he started unsure on what to address first, “I thought it was necessary to call for another meeting.”

“So...umm...what happened?” asked Valentine.

“There were a few incidents at the beach today, some rather...extreme ones.”

Valentine looked around, even more, confused than before. “What happened, lover boy-”

“Do. Not. Ever call me that again, Julius, or help me, God.”

“Kars snapped Joseph's arm and Jotaro gave Dio a sun tattoo shaped like a dick. Rather large one. On his back,” Johnny rather cynically responded while munching on a too-sweet muffin.

“A portrait,” Jotaro shrugged, “to match his personality.”

“I am going to SLAUGHTER YOU!”

“Dio, please!” shouted Jonathan. He sighed. He was honestly at a loss. Was he supposed to first address how absolutely insane what Kars had done was or the century-old feud between his brother and husband? Or perhaps the unexplainable battle between Valentine and Johnny? Maybe Diavolo's various attempts at Polnareff's life? Or even his existence in the neighborhood?

He ran a hand over his face. “Kars and Joseph, I will leave you to resolve this between yourselves, but please keep in mind that had the circumstances been different, Kars, I would have personally taken action against you.”

“Are you threatening me, Joestar?” hissed Kars with narrowed eyes.

“I think it's better if we leave personal differences aside and instead focus on finding a solution,” Kakyoin, Jonathan's second in command for the day, cut in.

“A solution to what?” barked Diavolo. It was a wonder he had graced his neighbors with his presence, standing as far away from Valentine as possible. “There's no problem. You're just wasting my time.”

“Is that what you think?” sneered Avdol. “I think the real problem here is you. We all know who you are and what you do and I can't believe we're letting you live so close to us! Especially with a Government official living right next door.”

“Leave Barbie out of this, it doesn't interest him,” Diavolo growled, taking a step towards the man. “If you want to defend your right to a peaceful life,” he swiftly reached for his revolver inside his jacket, making everyone gasp and move away, “defend away, cunt.”

No one really knew how to deal with an armed man, one with a vicious temper too. Almost no one. Valentine quickly crossed the room, gently coaxing Diavolo to give him the weapon, the same way one would talk to a petulant child. Johnny snickered and kept nudging Gyro. Diavolo complied, growling things while Valentine tried calming him down. The blond walked to the table in front of Jonathan and deposited the confiscated weapon, along with his own.

“Anyone else packing heat?” he asked, looking around the room. He knew who carried a gun, though calling them out wouldn't be very diplomatic.

“The priest,” Jolyne answered bluntly.

All eyes turned to look at Pucci who was still holding Dio. He blinked, momentarily confused.

“You do...?” asked Jonathan, looking him up and down.

“He does,” continued Jolyne. “I found it when we stole his car.”

“That says a lot about you, you little criminal,” Pucci snarled, stiffly going to deposit the gun he was hiding under his robes next to the others.

“Don't even think about starting with her.”

“What are you gonna do, Kujo? Have me sleeping with the fish?”

“It's quite obvious that we have a problem!” Jonathan raised his voice, effectively making everyone else shut up. “My idea on how to solve it is by choosing a homeowners' association president. It's been a while since we've had one.” And they all remembered what had happened to her. “I think it's a marvelous idea...Yes, Funny?”

“If we're gonna vote, then I'd like to point out that everyone will vote for themselves,” he said and everyone nodded. “I know I will.”

He was right. Even though the idea hadn't crossed Jonathan's mind, most of his neighbors had humongous egos and would be voting for themselves.

“We should vote three people each,” Kakyoin suggested. “We haven't done it before, but it could work. Then even if someone votes for themselves, there will still be a result.”

Everyone seemed on board with the idea and thus the ballots were handed out, made from little pieces of paper from a notebook Jonathan found laying around. Kira had no intention of voting for himself. He looked around. Three people. There definitely weren't three completely sane people around here. He thought about voting for Jonathan but most would and that meant Dio would also interfere to the procedure. Valentine maybe? He definitely had an ounce of logic on him and Kira had known him for a long time. He wrote his name down. He also voted for Shinobu, wondering who to pick next. Pucci? He seemed like a good option. Having chosen the three names, Kira folded the piece of paper and threw it in the pile with the others. With a content smile, he walked back to his wife. Participating in activities such as this was strangely exhilarating.

Once everyone had voted, Jonathan and Kakyoin were ready to count the votes. Jonathan would be reading the names and Kakyoin would be writing the votes down on the whiteboard behind him. Jonathan chose a random one from the pile and opened it.

“Dio Brando, in capital letters, Enrico Pucci, with little hearts, and Jonathan Joestar, with a rather terrifying smiley face. Wonder whose it is...”

“We don't need your commentary, Jojo.”

He chuckled and picked another. “Funny Valentine, Muhammad Avdol and Kosaku Kawajiri.”

Kira looked up abruptly. That wasn't his. Who had voted for him? “Was this yours?” he whispered.

“No,” Shinobu replied, completely absorbed in the process.

That wasn't the last time Kira heard his name. Almost every ballot Jonathan chose had the names Shinobu and Kosaku Kawajiri and honestly, Kira was stressed. Kakyoin kept adding lines and boxes next to his name on the whiteboard, soon surpassing everyone else's. He looked at the remaining papers. Just a few left, barely a handful, definitely not enough to make someone else surpass him.

When they were done, Kakyoin stepped back to look at his work. “In third place, we have Jonathan, with 30 votes. In second, Mr. Valentine with 37 and in first...Kosaku Kawajiri, with 45. Looks like we have a winner!”

The reluctant and honestly baffled clapping sounded like white noise in Kira's ears. “But why?” he mumbled. Why had this calamity befallen on him?

“Probably because you're the only one who hasn't caused any serious problems,” Valentine told him. Oh, that blond weasel. Kira didn't know how but that slight smug smirk on his stupid face told him that he had something to do with this.

Shinobu laughed joyously, gladly accepting congratulations as she dragged her husband to the one place where he didn't want to be; the center of attention.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Cursed art teacher that drinks all your Pepsi and calls you a bitch

 

 


Rohan Kishibe wasn't a human, a man, a mortal. He was an artist. Every second of his life he spent it making art and thinking about it. He ate, drank and breathed art. Everything, from the way ashes fell from a cigarette to the taste of hangnails was a source of inspiration. A true artist through and through, Rohan had no limits when it came to art. He experienced everything, stopped at nothing when it came to having more source material. Nothing was off limits. Nothing was dangerous. Everything was for art.

So Rohan did literally everything for his art. Some of his moves were more thought out than the rest, hence why they ended him in dire situations. Rohan was willing to give everything for art. Thus, Rohan Kishibe had gone bankrupt.

To explain why he had bought a mountain would be too confusing as he wasn't sure of the details himself. All he knew was that one day he was sitting in his studio and the next one he was waving his collector's edition furniture goodbye. Unfortunately, because of the rules of this wretched society, Rohan needed money and his art wasn't enough to support him after throwing his life's savings into the fire. He thought about turning to his parents, surely they would help. No, the great Rohan Kishibe was far too...well, great for that. Then he thought about getting a sugar daddy. He was young and attractive, surely many rich idiots would be thrilled to spend their money on him. Plus, it would be great source material for the more mature chapters. Eventually, he shrugged that idea off. He thought he had reached the end of his life as an artist when Reimi suggested something quite simple; that Rohan got a second job.

It didn't need to be full-time, just enough to help him survive. But Rohan was high maintenance and he would never even think of abandoning his mansion simply because he needed to save money. He wanted his cake and by God, he was gonna eat it, too.

He saw the job offer on a newspaper he managed to sneak out of his neighbor's trash. A teaching position at a private high school, not too far from his home. Though Rohan wasn't exactly excited about being around kids, or people in general, he was honestly quite tempted. The pay was remarkably better than all the others jobs Rohan had checked. He reluctantly decided to call and arranged a meeting.

The members of the faculty were all plain, dull people, the kind one would expect to find in a school, with the sole exception of Miss Erina Pendleton, who volunteered to show Rohan around. She was filled with a shining optimism and a genuine desire to help kids better themselves that Rohan found encouraging. She urged him to turn to her if he had any questions and said a million times how thrilled the school was to be having a renowned artist as their art teacher.

"You don't have to do anything too advanced," she told him. "Just show them some basic techniques, teach them art history and above all, encourage them if they showcase any inclination towards art."

Rohan was unwilling to do any of those things but he had to, otherwise, he was gonna starve. Though, come to think of it, that would be great reference material.

 


 

 


"You were a model?!" Trish exclaimed, slamming her glass of orange juice on the breakfast bar.

"Why are you so shocked?" Valentine chuckled. He set another plate of pancakes and fresh fruit on the table and drizzled maple syrup on top. "We've all done odd jobs as teenagers."

"Yeah, but most teenagers work at Taco Bell or McDonald's, not as models! Why did you have to work, anyway? You're rich!"

"I just did it for fun," Valentine reminisced. "Kars was just getting started with his brand and since he had a rather tight budget, he couldn't afford decent models. So he asked a couple of friends to help him out and he asked me and I agreed. It's nothing extraordinary, I helped him out a little, got noticed by a bunch of photographers, got in Vogue-"

"Vogue?!" Trish gawked. "You?"

"Yup. I never intended it to go that far. I just wanted to help out a friend and make a couple of bucks without being a burden to my parents."

"Unbelievable," she murmured. "Out of all the people I know, you're the least likely to have done such a thing."

"And why is that?"

"You're kinda...you know...too-"

"Too much of a stick in the mud? Too far up his ass? Boring?"

"I see someone woke up in a good mood," Valentine commented as he poured coffee into a mug.

Scarlet grabbed the mug, sipping on the bitter liquid with a small, sly smile. "He may not look the part, but he was a wild youth, this one." She gave her husband a pat on the back.

Trish nodded, impressed. "Then you can help me!"

"Help you?"

"Well..." she shyly started. In the years of Diavolo's neglect and before Doppio moved in with them, those two had been her 'parents', being the only ones remotely normal in her father's circle of close and only acquaintances. It was natural for her that she discussed it with them first, hoping to get some decent adult advice.

"I recently saw an ad on the TV about America's Next Top Model, and I thought about signing up but that's for plebs. I wanna do something more...professional! Something with more chances of succeeding!" She looked at them impatiently. As expected, Scarlet seemed pretty on board with the idea but Valentine was utterly shocked.

"No!" was all he said, furrowing his brows and placing his hands on his hips. "This is a bad idea and you better get it out of your head quickly, young lady." He then proceeded to put several slices of crispy bacon on her plate and shoved the fork in her hand.

"But I want to!"

"She's right, Funny. She can try, at least to get it out of her system."

"Absolutely not," he insisted. "This industry is not for girls like yourself! Or for any others! What you're going to do is go to school, study hard, get into a good college and get a good job!" He pushed the plate to her direction but she looked away. She always did that whenever she didn't like something, and it was especially common with food. Trish had always been a picky eater and even as a baby, turned her face away from something she didn't want to eat.

"And finish your breakfast!" He moved to the sink and started vigorously scrubbing the plates while glaring at Diavolo's house through the window. "I can't believe your father! Doesn't he know that you need to eat?"

"They both were pretty tired last night, so I let them sleep." Picking up the last subject of discussion, Trish eyed Valentine curiously. "Why did you quit? Being a model, I mean."

Valentine sighed. There was no harm in humoring her curiosity, so long she didn't want to do it anymore. Perhaps, hearing unsettling stories from Valentine's experience would discourage her. "I had to leave for university. And after that, I enlisted, and by the time I got back it was time to get a normal job and it didn't exactly fit with the profile I was trying to create or who I am currently."

There was crying from upstairs and Scarlet rushed to the baby. "And what about Dad?" she inquired once the coast was clear.

"What about him?"

"When where you guys dating?"

Valentine pursed his lips. He should be diplomatic with this one. "That's a story for another time."

"That's the same as saying 'you'll never find out'."

"I'm glad we communicate." She rolled her eyes. "You barely ate anything."

"I'm not that hungry," she simply shrugged.

Valentine seemed pretty displeased with that answer but said nothing. He could pack her some leftovers for lunch at school. Speaking of school, Valentine glanced at his watch. "When does your bus arrive?"

"Fifteen minutes ago."

"Trish!" She only grinned. He huffed. Reaching for his phone, he called his office. "Yes, Diego? It's me. Yes. Listen, I'll run late, probably around an hour or so, so push back all my meetings...Is that bitterness I detect in your voice? Are you perhaps salty that I will suffer no consequences? By all means, if you have anything to say, go ahead... That's what I thought." He hung up, giving Trish that not-your-Dad-but-you-still-answer-to-me-missy look.

"I'll drive you," he said and she cheered. Going to school with a fancy ride was so much better than taking the shitty bus. When was Diavolo going to buy her a car, anyway? "Don't get used to it!"

 


 

 


The first few days of fall were always strange, an amalgamation of summer's death and winter's beginnings. The heat was still there, mixed with an unbearable humidity. The sun was shining behind an endless dome of gray clouds. The sky resonated with rolls of thunder that never came. A strange stillness had settled over the atmosphere, fitting for the first few days of school. Just a glance at the bleak sky could send anyone in the planes of daydreaming, of thinking about the past summer, about rushing into a cafe on a rainy afternoon to write private thoughts in public or to vore the Wendy's menu. And daydreaming was exactly what the kids did, sheepishly laying around the classroom, some with their heads on the cold, hard desks, trying to catch a few minutes of sleep. Oh, gone were the sweet days of summer, where they could just sleep until noon and no one gave them shit about it.

They all straightened themselves when Erina walked into the classroom, greeting the children with a loving smile. There were many pros to having Erina Pendleton as a teacher, as well as a few cons. For one, Erina was a stellar teacher, not only the best at making the kids enjoy the class and actually learn, but because she cared for them not only as students but as fellow human beings, paying close attention to their mental state, encouraging them to share their insecurities and reach out to her if anything was wrong. The problem was that Erina was good friends with everyone's parents. And there was nothing worse than parent-teacher alliances, where they both sat together and roasted the poor, defenseless students.

Erina set her books on her desk in a neat pile. "Narciso," she started, without even looking up, "we've talked about this."

Anasui groaned. "But it's covering my legs!...kinda." Defeated in seconds by Erina's softly admonishing glare, the teen lowered his head and stomped out of the classroom, holding his spare outfit with clenched fists.

"Before we begin, I want to tell you kids about a change in your schedule today." The students instantly started murmuring, speculating about which teacher had died. "You're going to be having your art class in 4th period and move chemistry to the 3rd. PE has been rescheduled for another day. I'll hopefully have the complete timetable by lunch...Yes, Giorno?"

"We don't have an art teacher, miss."

"You do, since a couple of days ago."

"Alright!" Josuke beamed. "Time to practice my mad art skills."

"What are you fucking talking about?" Okuyasu sneered, flicking Josuke's nose. "The artsiest thing you've ever drawn was a dick on your Dad's car."

"Yes, but it was a very good dick."

There was a knock on the door and Anasui walked in, devoid of his fuschia lipstick and wearing a T-shirt and jeans (still tight enough to get him dresscoded). F.F. quickly snapped a picture of him.

The rest of the class went on as usual, if a bit slower, damned be those early mornings. When the bell rang, Josuke and his two main bros were approached by an overly excited Hazamada. In a classroom full of ...singular characters, Hazamada definitely stood out as the 'wrong' kind of weird. He looked like a dynamite about to explode, an excited smile lighting up his pale face, barely able to contain what he wanted to say.

“It's Rohan Kishibe!”

“Who?” asked Koichi, quirking an eyebrow.

Hazamada gasped, genuinely shocked. Josuke and Okuyasu didn't seem exactly thrilled about the news, something Hazamada found unbelievable. “Koichi! I expected at least you to know who he is!”

“Are you suggesting all Japanese people know each other, huh? Cuz that's kinda racist!”

“Dude, he IS Japanese, too.”

“You idiots,” Hazamada scoffed. “Rohan Kishibe is a world-renowned manga artist! He's the creator of Pink Dark Boy!”

“Oh, yeah!” Koichi exclaimed. “I know this guy!”

“What, he like famous or something?”

“Very! And the school hired him as an art teacher?”

“Yup!”

“Huh... Guess private schools really go all out.”

 


 

 

By 4th period, the news of the art teacher being such a famous guy had spread around the school like wildfire. Some knew his work, some didn't. Giorno, surprisingly, knew quite a lot about the subject of Rohan Kishibe.

“He's only 20?!” Josuke and Okuyasu gasped in perfect sync.

“Yes, he's very young and accomplished. But they say he's kinda weird.”

“Define weird.”

“Well, he never appears on meetups, never gives interviews, some even speculate he's not just one person but a facade for something bigger. But I guess he's just a loner.”

Josuke, obviously impressed by the man's mythos rather his occupation and international fame, started making theories. “He's probably a pushover,” he decided. “He's probably the kind of dude that has perfect control over his work but has no idea what to do around people. Hell, we can do what we want with him.”

“You sly bastard!” Okuyasu nudged him, both sporting matching grins. “Since when do you think like that?”

“Hey, man. I'm just having my fun.”


It turns out that Josuke's prediction had been completely wrong. When the students walked into the art room that day they didn't find a pushover, but a very attractive, albeit a bit unconventional man clad in Gucci. Rohan was leaning against his desk, observing the flock of clueless children with brewing irritation. Just like everything in this pathetic excuse of an art room -though incredible by American school standards, the school's art room was a clear downgrade from what Rohan was used to- his new students were underwhelming, flocking into the room absentmindedly, not treating it like a holy place. Disgusting. He watched as they mindlessly took their seats behind the easels. As if they deserved them. Rohan had promised himself, promised Reimi, that he wouldn't lose his shit. And he intended to hold on to that promise until he saw a dumb kid take out a big ass book.

“What is this?” he hissed, eyeing the foreign object with disgust.

Fugo looked down at the tome in confusion. “It's a book...sir.”

“Unacceptable!” Rohan shouted, grabbing the book and throwing it out the window. The students all gawked in shock. They exchanged worried glances, not knowing how to react Buccellati reached for Fugo before he could choke Rohan. “Unbelievable! You expect to get a grasp on REAL art from reading some book- What are you doing?” Rohan stopped when he noticed an incredibly round and bubbly butt as well as two legs dangling from the window.

Josuke stood back up, holding Fugo's book. He carefully straightened his pompadour, making sure not even a single hair had strayed. “No offense, but our parents paid money for these books. Many of us never even opened this book but if there's anyone here that wants it, that's Fugo. At least he takes exams and tests seriously.”

“What is your name?” Rohan asked with narrowed eyes.

“Higashikata Josuke.”

Rohan observed the boy for a few long seconds. His appearance was definitely eye-catching, though perfectly fitting with the rest of his classmates. His outfit looked very carefully put-together. Rohan assumed that he was another shallow teenager, that cared naught for art and true beauty.

(Quite hypocritical of Rohan to think that, as he spent at least two hours every day preparing an outfit worth at least 10,000 dollars only to stay at home and draw.)

“Josuke,” he said, voice oozing with superiority. He wanted to solve this as peacefully as possible, he had the authority to do so. He didn't want much to do with these idiots, just teach them how to scribble and get his paycheck. “I could send you to the principal's office to get punished. In fact,” he said and picked up one of the detention slips, “that's exactly what I'm going to do. Though,” he added with a small chuckle, “that thing atop your head is punishment enough.”

The moment those words left Rohan's mouth, all eyes turned to look at Josuke. The book dropped lifelessly on the floor, the dull thud echoing around the electrified room. With a lunge a panther would envy, Josuke jumped forward, screaming bloody murder as he aimed for Rohan's face with his clenched fists. Rohan, who had never been very accomplished when it came to physical combat, froze in place as the enraged student's fist fell hard across his face. Whatever he had in mind, he was under no circumstances expecting to be punched on his first day of work.

No pain for the first few seconds, Rohan thought. It settles slowly, like a sting. Ears ring, vision blurs. Slight nausea. I need paper. I need a pen.

“I'm gonna beat the living shit out of you!” hollered Josuke, getting ready for another blow.

Giorno jumped in front of his cousin, standing between him and the bleeding Rohan. “Josuke, please calm down,” he said, trying to rationalize with him. He knew his words fell on deaf ears. The usually sweet and playful Josuke lost all control when his hair was insulted. Maybe he could win some time for Rohan to escape.

Unfortunately for Giorno, Rohan wasn't an exactly rational human being. Instead of fleeing, the man got up on his shaky legs, smiling despite the blood dripping from his mouth. “No, no! Let him hit me again. T-this is great reference material...”

“What are you talking about?! You're in danger here!”

“Don't you dare tell me what to do, tortellini!”

At that, Giorno paused. He blinked slowly and stepped to the side, allowing Josuke to jump at Rohan like a rabid beast.

 


 

 

Caesar put the plate down on the table harshly, making the silverware rattle. Josuke lowered his head even more, avoiding the man's harsh glare. Joseph was strangely silent, not uttering a single word all the way from school back home. Caesar had been glaring at him this entire time, making Josuke wonder just whom had Lisa Lisa given birth to.

“Unbelievable,” Caesar muttered as he sat down across Josuke. “You sent your teacher to the hospital on his first day, all because he insulted your hair.” Josuke opened his mouth to speak but Caesar silenced him. “I know it's important to you but you can't keep losing your shit whenever someone doesn't like your hair! Believe me, this behavior will get you nowhere in life.” Caesar spoke with the wisdom of a reformed street thug and Josuke should listen to him. But he didn't.

Caesar's gaze softened as he watched Josuke poke around his food with a small pout, so similar to Joseph's. “You should respect your teachers, you have a lot to learn from them.” He looked around the table, just then noticing that he had forgotten to bring the wine.

The moment Caesar was out of range, Joseph leaned forward, startling his absentminded son. “Give the bastard hell.”

“What?”

“Yes! You gotta show him who's boss, can't have him go around talking to you like that!” was the fatherly advice Joseph gave his young son.

Josuke had only heard stories of what an absolute riot his father had been when he was his age, some scraps of that carelessness had made it into his adult life. He could only look at Joseph in wonder, expecting holy wisdom to come from his mouth.

“You gotta be crafty, alright? Make sure whatever he does or says, you won't attack him inside the school. You'd be doing your old man a favor, I don't want Erina to beat my ass ever again...”

“Then what should I do?” asked Josuke in a hushed voice, rushed and anxious, while Caesar's irritated mumbling could be heard from the kitchen.

Joseph stopped to think for a moment. “Attack him in his house.”

“What?!”

“Shh! Yes. Nothing too extreme, just a silly little prank to scare him a bit.”

Josuke thought about it for a second. Scaring Rohan would definitely teach him some humility. Maybe he'd believe that messing with Josuke was an act punishable by God. “I don't know where he lives, though.”

“That shouldn't be hard to find.” Unfortunately, Caesar strutted into the dining room, this time with wine, putting an end to Josuke and Joseph's little scheming session. Joseph sent Josuke a sly wink and the boy couldn't help but smile back.

 


 

 

Rohan preferred spending his free time in the art room, away from students and nosy teachers alike. Ever since the assault, people had been pestering him with questions, never taking 'no' for an answer. And those damn kids loved to make fun, snicker how he was the teacher that had gotten his ass handed to himself by Josuke Higashikata. Erina believed that Rohan wanting to quit the job was perfectly understandable but Rohan couldn't disagree more. He was determined to make it through the year and teach Josuke a lesson he'd never forget.

His thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door. He looked up in irritation, finding one of the students standing by the open door, nervously peering inside. Did these people not know about privacy?

“What do you want?” he demanded, glaring at the young boy. Light hair, misplaced determination, significantly shorter than the rest. Didn't really ring a bell.

“I wanted to talk to you about Josuke.”

Just the name was enough to make Rohan twitch. “What's your name?”

“Hirose Koichi, sir.” Rohan eyed him suspiciously. Interpreting his silence as acceptance, Koichi stepped inside, stopping a few feet away from Rohan. “Uh... I know you two got off on the wrong foot-”

“You think?”

“-but please, don't get the wrong impression!” A bit too late for that. “Josuke is a very good guy, he's just very protective of his hair. I'm sure if y-”

“You have a perfectly symmetrical face,” Rohan murmured in awe.

Koichi hadn't even noticed that Rohan had crawled closer to him, barely inches away. He jumped back with a little yelp, yet Rohan only got even closer. “I haven't seen a perfectly symmetrical face in years.” Rohan said those words like a man that hadn't eaten in decades. He flashed Koichi an unhinged grin full of teeth (or those Josuke's fist-extravaganza had left intact) and sprung to his feet.

“Perfect, perfect!” he declared, grabbing the nearest sheet of paper. “Your chivalry, your love for your friend, your symmetrical face! Koichi, you truly are a blessing!”

Koichi started backstepping, blindly going for the door but Rohan stopped him, grabbed him by the shoulders. “You will be my muse!”

“I think I should get going...”

“Just a little sketch, Koichi!” How was no one hearing this? Koichi looked around, contemplating screaming for help. Maybe Yukako would sense his distress and come to his aid like she always did.

Rohan suddenly stopped, his grip on Koichi relaxing. “I can't draw here. It needs to be done in my own place, on my own terms.” Moving quicker than light, he scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to Koichi, who was still utterly dumbfounded. “There! This is my address. Come model for me whenever you want! I'm always there! Always!”

What Koichi did was run the fuck away, screaming all the way to the classroom. He barged inside panting, chest heaving and sweat rolling from his forehead. Josuke and Okuyasu, who were sitting on their desks, looked up at him curiously.

“What's wrong, Koichi?”

“He...he's insane.”

“Who is?”

“Rohan.”

Josuke snorted. Of course a guy who didn't appreciate the unparalleled beauty of a pompadour was insane. “What'd he do to you?”

“He started telling me how he likes my face and how symmetrical it is.” Koichi unclenched his fist, revealing a crumbled and sweaty piece of paper. “He even gave me his address!”

“His address?” Josuke snatched the note from Koichi's open palm, quickly unfolding it. He grinned excitedly, looking at Okuyasu with gleaming eyes. “Bro, we found it!”

“Koichi, you're a real man!”

Now that they had the address, all they needed was a small but strong task force. Josuke looked around the classroom. He had to think about this carefully.

 


 

 


“Never...again...” Jolyne nearly barfed as she tumbled out of the passenger's seat.

Giorno got out of the driver's seat and walked to where Josuke and Okyasu where standing, looking at Rohan's house. “Are you sure this is it?”

“Yes.” Josuke checked the address again. “That's the one.”

“Man, I can't believe he has a house like that,” sighed Okuyasu, looking at the mansion. He noticed light coming from a room on the top floor, and the shadow of a body, hunched over what he assumed was a desk. “Hey, look. That's probably him.”

“What's he doing up so late?”

“Drawing probably.” The quartet of teenagers formed a circle, crouching next to their car (Kakyoin's Audi that Jolyne had stolen). “How should we proceed?”

"We shouldn't actually go inside, he's got cameras and stuff.” They all looked to where Giorno was pointing, noticing several cameras next to the door and windows.

“So we scare him from the outside?”

“Yeah, just a little something, to shake him up a bit.”

Josuke nodded. It's not like he wanted to kill the guy, just annoy him a little. “What did you bring?”

Giorno walked to the trunk and retrieved a cardboard box. “Um... firecrackers, some nasty firework-looking things from Jotaro's garage, a bunch of...dynamite from Padre's closet.”

“We're not gonna use the dynamite, put it back in!” Carrying their tools like sacred instruments, the four crawled to the house, leaning against the wall. “We'll just light the firecrackers and throw 'em on the porch!” Josuke instructed and the other three nodded. “Does anyone have a lighter?”

They all started patting their pockets. Jolyne reached inside the too-tight pocket of her jeans and fished out a little box of matches. “I got these.”

“Do they work?” asked Okuyasu, grabbing the box and giving it a little shake. “We should test them.”

They all sat in anxious silence, feeling a bit sore from crouching, as Okuyasu tried lighting the first one. “Dammit,” he huffed as he tossed it over his shoulder. “Not this one.” He tried another. “Jolyne, where the hell did you get these from?” He tried a third one. “Aw, come on!”

“Uh...Okuyasu?”

“Not now, Josuke! I'm busy!”

“Dude!”

“What!”

“You set the fucking house on fire!”

Okuyasu slowly looked around. Lo and behold, he had indeed set the house on fire, all because the discarded matches were in fact perfectly functioning. He jumped up with a screech, running away from the rapidly growing flames. The fire grew stronger, moving higher, consuming more of the elegant exterior of Rohan's house.

“What do we do?!”

Josuke looked around. The house next to Rohan's looked inhabited. “We should alert the neighbors!”

“No! Have you lost your mind?” Giorno grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. “If four kids they've never seen before tell them that a house suddenly caught fire, who do you think they're gonna blame it on?!”

“Then what can we do?”

“We can put it out with our jackets!” A pause. They looked down at themselves. No one was willing to sacrifice their too-expensive outfit for this. If anyone saw them and realized what they had done, they would not only be faced with felony charges but a grande ass whooping from their parents. And there was no way Jolyne would ever let Jotaro lecture her again.

“I'm not going back to jail!” yelled Jolyne and jumped into the car.

“Wait!” screamed the other three, managing to get in as she took off.

 


 

 

When Rohan was drawing, he was in the zone. Time ceased to exist, even if the universe ended, he wouldn't realize it. There was no other world but his, the one he created as a God, a creator, a higher force. Hence why under no circumstances was Rohan to ever be disturbed why in the middle of his work.

At first, he didn't register the rapid knocking on the door. After the stranger persisted for a while, the distant thuds reached Rohan's ears in a haze. He checked the time. 4 AM. Who on earth was it? Probably some drunk neighborhood kid. He shook his head and focused back on his work. But the knocking wouldn't stop. Infuriated, Rohan stood up, cursing and opening the window. The night air had gotten colder.

“Who the fuck is it?” he barked.

A young man, no more than 16 or 17 years old, stepped down from Rohan's porch and looked up. That was his neighbors'...kid? Rohan wasn't exactly sure what was going on with the family next door, didn't really care to be honest.

“Mister!” yelled the boy. “Your house is on fire! You need to get out!”

Rohan didn't listen to him. He was entirely absorbed by the boy's face, his mouth especially. Gapped teeth, he thought. I've never had source material for gapped teeth.

“Sir!” the boy called again.

“What do you want?”

“I said your house is on fire!”

Rohan blinked slowly. He looked to the side, just then noticing the strange warmth and orange glow. His jaw dropped when he saw large flames, stretching from the ground floor to almost the roof, rapidly coming closer.

“Mister, you need to jump!”

“What!”

“Yeah! Using the stairs is too dangerous.”

The kid was right. Rohan looked back, to his unfinished draft. “Call the fire department!”

“I already did,” replied the boy. Good. Those assholes better arrive before his workshop was swallowed by the flames. That's all that mattered, anyway.

“You're gonna have to jump,” the boy said again.

Rohan nodded breathlessly. Carefully, he placed one leg outside the window, sticking as close to the wall as possible. Grasping onto the windowsill for support, he stepped outside, looking down to the dark grass. It wasn't that far down, if he was lucky he wouldn't injure himself. He cared only for his hands, anyway. Rohan jumped down, tumbling on the grass as he landed. The fall hurt a little, but he didn't feel anything breaking or going out of place. He turned around to look at his house. He heard the distant sirens of a firetruck arriving. Good, good. At least his work was going to be saved.

“Thank you for alerting me,” he said.

The boy shook his head. “It's just what neighbors do.”

Rohan nodded. If the kid's house had caught on fire, he would first sketch the scene then draw the blinds. Still, he was thankful for the boy's intervention. Maybe he should cut him a check or something. “What's your name?”

“Josuke,” answered the boy. “Josuke Higashikata.”

Rohan felt his throat convulse. He actually gagged a little, throwing a hand over his mouth as he hurled over the ground. Oh goody, were his last thoughts before passing out, another one.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

One man's abandoned child is another's adopted daughter

 

 


Joseph didn't like his job. He liked the way it made him a lot of money but that could have been anything. When he was younger he was dreaming of becoming a pilot but that dream was quickly pushed to the side when he realized how much work becoming a pilot was. Real estate hadn't been too bad when he was just a kid working at an agency. It almost felt like hunting, still had that thrill of deadly competition. Not anymore. Joseph had become nothing more than a figurehead, cooped up in his office every day while his army of employees handled literally everything. He rarely ever sold houses himself, only did so for those around his neighborhood but otherwise, he was just signing papers and hopping from one country to another.

It was another one of those afternoons, when he was sitting in his office, back stubbornly turned to his desk and gazing out to the Manhattan skyline, how glorious the sunset was, dying everything gold. Joseph sighed, shifting on his chair. He felt like an excited dog on a leash. The more he looked at the busybodies coming and going along Upper East Side, the more he wanted to throw himself in there, do whatever he pleased.

There was a knock on the door. Before Joseph could answer, Caesar poked his head inside. Joseph sprung up, eyes lighting up at the sight of the blond. "I got off work early and I was wondering if you're up for a stroll around town. Are you free?"

"I sure fucking am!" Joseph laughed.

Once outside, Joseph breathed in the trashy New York air greedily, joyously letting it fill his lungs. The two men decided to ditch their cars and instead go around town by foot for once. The air was pleasantly chilly, as one would expect a September afternoon to be. They walked among the people, up and down the crowded sidewalk. Joseph threw an arm around Caesar's shoulders, pulling him closer. Caesar rolled his eyes but couldn't help smiling at Joseph's broad grin. Damn thing was fucking contagious.

They ended up going to the park, where the air was fresher and the grass greener. As was common for fall, the days lasted for way less, twilight settling a few minutes after the sun had set. Purple, blue and pink stretched over their heads and it was barely 7 PM. Joseph had decided that he needed to eat something extremely hazardous and bought an overly-stuffed hot dog from one of his favorite vendors, munching happily while Caesar glared at it disdainfully.

"How can you tolerate this stuff going inside your body?" he hissed, suspiciously poking the foamy bun.

"I can tolerate stuff worse than this getting into my body."

"That's exactly what I wanted to hear."

The two sat down on a bench in a more private corner of the park, close to the pond. The trees around them were slowly wilting away, their leaves already falling in a lazy dance, piling on the ground. Caesar relaxed against the bench, leaning back with a sigh. He looked around him, to how still and beautiful everything was, even for the world's biggest metropolis. Not many people were expected to be found around there on a busy Tuesday afternoon, which made the place much more tranquil. The car horns and angry American yelling barely reached his ears, covered almost entirely by the sound of leaves swaying in the wind and the chirping of birds. It felt like Eden, even more so because of the moron right beside him.

"What are we doing for my birthday?" Joseph asked once he was done eating.

"Jojo, your birthday is on the 27th."

"I know. There's not much time left."

"It's not even the 20th yet!"

Joseph pouted. "I just wanna make it fun for everyone. Especially me." He scooted closer, leaning his head on Caesar's shoulder. "Though I doubt anything will top last year's." Caesar groaned and broke out in laughter. "Do you remember?" Joseph nudged him.

"How could I ever forget? I knew there was something suspicious with a cake as big as that, but I could never have imagined that Stroheim would jump out of it."

"Oh God...Who knew Smokey could be so crafty?"

"I know, right?"

They sat in silence for a little while, just enjoying each other's presence. Caesar buried a hand in Joseph's soft chocolate hair, gently rubbing his scalp. Joseph hummed appreciatevely, melting into the touch. It was a perfectly serene moment, one that made time seem as if on a standstill. There were no lawyers, no divorce, no messy neighborhood. Just them, sitting on a bench in the middle of Manhattan.

Suddenly, Joseph sprung up, looking around like an alarmed hound. His green eyes scanned the area as if looking for something. "Did you hear that?" he whispered.

"Hear what?" Trust Joseph to ruin a perfect moment.

"That!" he exclaimed and fell silent, trying to make out every sound.

"Jojo, I don't hear anything." Maybe Joseph was playing another prank on him, maybe it was another one of his jokes. But the more time passed, the more Caesar realized that Joseph was dead serious and was indeed looking for something.

"How can you not?" Joseph walked away from the bench, carefully approaching a large bush, between the wall and a tree. Caesar followed curiously, if a little worried. Was Joseph hearing things or was there something going on for real? Perhaps he had heard the crying of a wounded animal.

"Holy shit!" yelled Joseph, successfully scaring the shit out of Caesar as well as a few other people that stood nearby. He went around the bush, eyes and mouth wide in shock.

Wondering what the fuck was going on, Caesar went right behind him, only to have his heart skip a few beats. Joseph was kneeling on the ground, trying to calm down an infant. Caesar stood a few feet behind, absolutely frozen, watching in complete shock as Joseph stood back up, cradling the baby in his arms.

"It's a little baby girl," he said softly, voice uneven and cracking. "It's a little girl and someone left her."

Caesar approached the man, peaking inside the bundle. The poor thing was wrapped in only a blanket, dwarfed by Joseph's enormous biceps. Being the eldest of five siblings and eleven cousins, Caesar knew quite a lot about babies. He assumed this one was around four to five months, though she was so small and pale that it was pretty hard to determine. She became quiet once Joseph took hold of her, fixing her black eyes on him, processing him with innocent curiosity. Joseph grinned at the baby and cooed just like he used to do with his son and the younger Joestars. The girl squirmed, shaking her little arms and legs, giving him a tiny giggle. Caesar's heart leaped to his mouth.

"Look at you," Joseph crooned. "What a happy baby you are!" She laughed again and Joseph mimicked her, shaking her a little.

"How could someone do this to a baby?" Caesar looked around. Thankfully, no one had noticed a thing. It was getting darker, meaning that less and fewer people would pass by. "Jojo, we need to take her to the police."

Joseph didn't move, utterly absorbed in the little human being in his hands. The baby stretched her tiny arms, reaching for the smiling face above her. Joseph let her run her tiny hands over his nose, his lips, pull the tufts of his hair, giggling with her glee.

"Jojo," Caesar called again and Joseph didn't respond. He had a very bad feeling about this. "Jojo, we have to take her to the police."

"Why?" For the first time since finding the little girl, Joseph looked at him. There was nothing goofy or playful about his expression. For one night only, Joseph was dead serious. "Her parents abandoned her, even if the police makes a warrant, they won't come for her."

"You don't know that."

"I do. This child is unwanted, nobody will come for her."

"And what do you suggest we do?" said Caesar, grabbing his trusty shovel and digging his own damn grave.

Joseph turned to look at the baby, who kept smiling at him. He brought her closer, almost tucking her inside his jacket. "Let's take her home-"

"Joseph."

"For one night, Caesar, please! Just to feed her and bathe her a-and clothe her..."

Caesar glanced at the baby. Then, his eyes moved to Joseph. The look on his face was impossible. His vivid green eyes held such sorrow and determination. Asking for Caesar's permission was just a formality. Joseph was going to do what he wanted.

"For one night," he allowed and Joseph grinned from ear to ear. "We'll take her to the police in the morning."

"Right when the dawn breaks, yes!" Joseph nodded eagerly.

Caesar couldn't believe that he was fooling his own damn self. Maybe there was a tiny bit deep in his soul, a small fragment of hope that told him that Joseph would do what was right instead of doing what he wanted. But that was just a probability.

 

 


 

 


"Have you finished packing? You need to be meticulous, you know. Make sure you don't forget a single thing. Can't come back from fucking Greece in a day. Do me a favor, take a picture of me with you so that you won't forget my breathtaking face. Though I suppose, these long trips are all for the sake of forgetting me, Dio."

"Dio-"

"But no, I understand. Perhaps I am too overwhelming for you to handle. I am a very intense man, after all."

"Yes, you are," Jonathan sighed. Dio scooted over to the other end of the couch, stubbornly moving away from him, sipping on his cocktail with a scornful expression. Jonathan chuckled and moved closer to him, wrapping his arms around his shoulders, despite Dio's hissing. "I'm not leaving until next Saturday, silly."

"I am highly intelligent, thank you." Dio made the mistake of glancing at Jonathan's stupid face and his stupid eyes, glimmering like clear blue lakes on a warm summer day, and his stupid smiling lips, always so sweet and begging for kisses. "Why do you have to leave again?"

Jonathan sat with his feet on the floor, gently reaching for one of Dio's hands. "I hate leaving you and Giorno more than anyone, believe me. But my job is a big part of who I am. It's my passion. Dio," he started softly, getting even closer. "This is a great opportunity for me. It's a chance I can't miss. Would you settle for anything but the best beside you?"

"...no," Dio admitted almost childishly. He took a deep sigh. Living with Jonathan had taught him more than what the too-expensive universities he had gone to ever could. He cupped Jonathan's ridiculously large and gentle hands. He admired the contrast; his, pale and slender, with sharp, black nails, and Jonathan's, bronze and calloused from the years of digging around graves of forgotten kings and queens, large and loving, like the rest of him. "I'm proud of you."

"I'm proud of you, too."

Dio smiled when Jonathan pressed his lips against the side of his head. "You're the best at what you do and I would never hold you back, Jojo."

"As would I."

There were soft footsteps on the stairs and a few seconds later Giorno walked into the living room, holding a bag of M&M's. He laid down on the couch by the piano, stretching on the cushions. "Are you done for the day?" asked Dio. Jonathan stood up and left the room, going to answer a call.

"Yes, Padre," sighed Giorno. In truth, Giorno had an essay and three pages of math homework but he could always wake a bit earlier in the morning to do it. Right?

"We haven't talked about what you're doing for college."

"I don't even know what we're having for dinner tomorrow, Padre. It's too soon."

"Beef Stroganoff."

"What?"

"We're having Beef Stroganoff tomorrow. Now tell me about your future."

Luckily for Giorno, Jonathan walked back in, looking every bit like a corpse. As was natural, they both looked at him. Jonathan sat back on the couch, mouth wide and gaping, hands shaking.

"Jojo?" Dio instantly inquired, worry darkening his face. Death to those that dare upset Jonathan.

"It's Joseph," was all he said, voice barely above a whisper. Of course it was fucking Joseph. It was always Joseph, it had always been Joseph and it would always be Joseph fucking Joestar. "He found a baby."

"A baby?" asked Giorno, exchanging confused glances with Dio. "A baby animal?"

Jonathan shook his head. He buried his face in his hands. At times like these, he really wished he could go into the garden and scream every profanity he knew. But alas, he was a good boy. "A human baby."

 

 

It took a few minutes to assemble every Joestar, Zeppeli and friend and when they did, they all gathered at Joseph's house. After Jonathan's insistence, Jolyne and Giorno were to remain at home so they wouldn't be tired on a school day. Besides, Erina would flame them if she saw them lazing around on a Tuesday.

"Why." Jonathan was the first one to speak.

"I couldn't just leave her there!" Joseph protested. The baby had been given food and clothes, Josuke's old onesies, though Josuke had been a much larger baby. She was sitting on the couch, whining while Josuke tried to earn her trust.

"But why didn't you take her to the police?!"

"They'd probably sent her back to her awful parents or to some orphanage! That's no place for a baby!"

"Let me see her," said Erina and leaned down to take the infant in her arms. But when she did, the baby started wailing louder than ever before.

"Even the baby doesn't like you," sneered Dio. He snatched the baby and to no one's surprise, the crying got even worse.

"I don't think I'm the problem, dearest."

"Here's the thing." Caesar picked the baby up and even though the crying got quieter, it was still going strong. He walked to the kitchen and the baby's shrieks got deafening. He quickly walked back in and handed the baby to Joseph. Suddenly, she stopped crying altogether, even started giggling and nuzzling closer to him. "She only likes him."

Joseph went to pass the baby to Jonathan but she squirmed disdainfully once removed from his embrace. He held her again, closer than before. "So what will you do now?" asked William, who was as confused as everyone else was.

"We'll take her to the police in the morning," answered Caesar.

"Jojo," started Lisa Lisa, "will you?"

All eyes turned to look at Joseph. He took a step back, still holding the baby. She started squirming, letting out tiny wails.

"She's hungry..."

"Joseph," Lisa Lisa pressed on, "will you take the baby to the police?"

"Mom, I have to feed her."

"Answer me, Joseph! This is very serious."

"I know!" he snapped back. The baby's crying got louder and even Joseph's attempts to hush her didn't work. "I can't let her be given to a random house! Who knows what they'll do to her?"

"Joseph, you can't just keep a baby you found on the street!" Jonathan tried to rationalize. "You have to take her to the police!"

"No! You guys were late, we bonded and I'm keeping her!"

They all fell silent, exchanging worried glances. Johnny opened his mouth to say something but quickly shut it, discarding his idea. Kakyoin whispered something into Jotaro's ear and Jotaro's scowl deepened. They were all more or less thinking the same thing; this wasn't just another of Joseph's gimmicks or silly little mishaps. This was a serious matter, unlike anything they've ever faced before.

Surprisingly, it was Straizo who spoke first, breaking the silence. "She's not hungry," he said. "Just overwhelmed. This is all new to her, the people, the place. Give her some space."

"Maybe-"

"I think I know more than you do about abandoned children, Robert!" He sighed. "Leave us."

"What?" The request was a shock to everyone, even to the more stoic ones. "Dad-"

"Please, Elisabeth."

It wasn't like he could just kill Joseph in a house full of people. Deciding that the situation wasn't too shady, they all left the living room, going to the garden to take some much needed fresh air. Lisa Lisa was the last one to exit, casting a concerned glance to her Father and son. Even though she tried to remain neutral, her emotions shone through.

When the crowd dispersed, the baby calmed down just a bit, her whimpers dying out as Joseph continued cradling her. Now, he was the one who wanted to cry. He couldn't remember the last time he had been left alone in a room with Straizo, and for good reason. The man was fucking terrifying, probably a century old and still looked not a day older than fifty. Always dressed in dark clothes, hair long and black and lustrous for as long as Joseph could remember it. The only times he ever addressed Joseph was to remind him of his stupidity or threaten him or to tell him how much of a lazy oaf he was. So yeah, Joseph had every right to be scared shitless during this encounter.

"A couple of years ago, he began, "I found a little girl on an accident site, just like the one you're holding." A couple of years ago, said Straizo. Sixty, said everyone else, though behind his back as no one had the courage to remind him his actual age. "Your mother."

"I know."

"I know you know. When Will and I found your mother, he insisted that I should take her to the police, that I should just give the baby away and forget about her." A small smile spread on his lips, the kind of smile a man who rarely smiled had. "But I didn't. Elisabeth's relatives never came for her and even if they had, I still wouldn't give her." The baby calmed down completely, more interested in Joseph's hair than the words exchanged. "You're young, rich... she won't find a home better than yours."

"You think?"

"I know it. Keeping your mother was the craziest thing I've ever done. But it changed my life." He approached the baby and she looked at him curiously, grabby hands reaching for his hair. "Change yours."

 


 

 


Putting Josuke's old crib together was a hassle but finding out that the baby wouldn't sleep without Joseph in the room was another. It was well into the night when she finally quieted down, moving her little limbs around, giggling at Joseph. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, closely observing her, completely intrigued by her every move. It had been awfully long since Joseph had been so close to a baby as young as that. He was afraid he had forgotten how to handle them but once she was in his arms, it all clicked into place.

He heard rustling behind, groaning, a few Italian curses. Caesar moved to sit beside him, dragging the covers with him. "Still awake?" He reached inside the crib, giving her a finger to hold on to.

"Yeah. I think we gave her too much to eat." He sighed, letting his head hang low. "There's a part of me that tells me that this is insane."

"It is."

"But I can't help feeling there's a deep connection with this little one, like we were meant to be." The baby tried getting on her arms and legs making Joseph smile fondly. "Isn't the timing a bit too suspicious?"

"What do you mean?"

Joseph brought his feet up on the bed, facing Caesar. "We're finally together, you just moved in, once the divorce is out we'll..." He turned to the baby, still aimlessly wiggling in the crib. "This baby could signal our new beginning together. She could be our daughter, Caesar."

A daughter. Caesar had always wanted to have a large family, and as the years went by, he thought that the chances of that happening were slim. And all because he was anchored to that idiot without knowing it. Keeping this baby was illegal, above all. But the more time he spent around her, just thinking about waking up in the middle of the night to feed her, teaching her words, hearing her laughter, his heart melted bit by bit.

"We need a name. And baby stuff. We can't keep borrowing from the neighbors." Joseph nodded eagerly. "This is insane, Jojo."

"Dad?" called Josuke, peeking inside the dark room from the corner. He walked inside, tiredly dragging his feet to the bed. "How is she?"

"Awake. Well-fed. Clean. Happy."

"Thank God she's finally quiet." He tickled her tummy, making her break out in too-adorable giggles. "What will you do now?"

"We're keeping her, Josuke."

Maybe because he was tired and couldn't process the information, Josuke only nodded and smiled lazily. "Be quiet, okay?" he mumbled. "Big bro needs to sleep."


The following morning, Joseph called his PA to inform him that he was sick and without a moment of hesitation, took the baby and headed to the baby store. He took her to sit on the baby seat and she seemed ecstatic about the shelves and endless aisles around her. If Joseph wasn't convinced about keeping her before, seeing her this happy certainly did the trick.

Into the store they went, and Joseph realized that it had been way too long since he had bought baby stuff. He wandered down the aisles like a lost man, looking at the items in confusion. There was just too much stuff, way too many little things, an enormous variety to choose from. Whenever he tried picking something up, another, newer, better, fancier, prettier option presented itself and Joseph was utterly lost. He tried getting the baby's opinion by showing her various items and choosing the ones she liked the most. But she liked everything. Desperate and little bit nervous, Joseph ended up wandering around with an empty cart, sorrowfully looking at a bunch of pacifiers.

"Hello!" yelled an overly-excited assistant, appearing next to him out of nowhere. "How may I assist you today, sir?"

"Oh...hi. I'm just looking for everything, basically. I want diapers and a pacifier and a bottle I guess-"

"Sir," the assistant cut in curtly, glaring at Joseph. "You have to be more specific."

"W-what do you mean?"

With a deep sigh, the shorter man turned around, beckoning Joseph to follow. "Do you want a plastic bottle or a glass one? Plastic is lighter but smells after a while, whereas glass is cleaner but heavier. What about the pacifier? We have simpler silicone ones that stimulate the sucking reflex and help create straight teeth and others that have little toys attached, to keep the baby entertained. As for diapers, we have a large variety of disposable, eco-friendly diapers, with a cotton lining to keep your baby's skin smooth that you can choose from. Exercise toys, to help develop muscles as well as mental growth, comfort blankets, educational toys... Strollers! Full-size, can hold a bassinet or a baby seat, with plenty room for all the essentials, with a big canopy of course OR a Jogger stroller, for the more active ones OR a lightweight stroller, that can fold because of its compact wheels and basket! Here we have cribs, wooden or plastic. Plastic is far more durable but wood is eco-friendly and prettier."

Joseph was panting even harder than when Lisa Lisa roughhoused him at the gym. He was dizzy, confused, and in need of a cry. The man paused, turning around to look at Joseph and the baby. "How old is the child, sir?"

Everyone in the family estimated that she was around four to five months old. He gulped. Would his uncertainty seem suspicious? "Four months old...ish."

"Are not sure, sir? About the age of your own child?"

"My memory is a little hazy."

The man scanned Joseph with his beady eyes. The 195cm giant was sweating profusely, nervously smiling. Deciding that he was dealing with a moron rather than a borderline child-kidnapper, the clerk resumed walking, leading Joseph further into the maze. At the center of it, however, was no Minotaur but a gilded monstrosity displayed on a platform, worth a whopping forty grand.

"This is our newest addition. Platinum-plated ebony, encrusted with precious gems such as rubies and diamonds. The mattress is handcrafted and only fifty exist in the world, with 300 super strong pocketed coil springs, individually wrapped for support, made from organic cotton to ensure perfect hygiene for your child."

Joseph glanced at the cart, and the sea of items they had thrown inside it while walking. Pacifiers, bottles, diapers, baby wipes...It all mixed in a colorful mush that hurt his eyes if he looked at it for too long. He looked at the overly dramatic crib. Had Giorno been a newborn, Dio would 100% buy this for him. Joseph was honestly tempted but despite having more than enough money, he was a tad scared. He still had a joint account with Tomoko and she would most likely beat his ass if he spent a small fortune on baby stuff.

His mind shifted into gear, thinking of a solution. He could always 'borrow' from Josuke's college savings. He wasn't going to be using it any time soon, anyway.

"We're definitely taking that one."

 

 


 

 


Dio wanted a drink. Actually, Dio needed a drink and a drinking companion. Specifically, he needed Pucci, to help him vent and unwind after a near endless week of Joestar shenanigans. He walked up to the man's house and rang the doorbell, patiently waiting outside. The door was opened moments later by a very distressed-looking Pucci.

"Are you okay?" he asked, looking at his friend from head to toe.

"I'm good, I'm Gucci!" he yelled, voice a bit too shrill.

He looked anything but. Maybe he needed a drink more than Dio did. "I was wondering if you have some free time. We could go for a drink."

"I have more important issues than you, Dio!" And with that, Pucci slammed the door to his face. Dio stared at the closed door with wide eyes. He took a few steps back, looking at the house in complete confusion.

The door opened again seconds later and Pucci stormed out. "Ugh, I'm so fucking sorry," he sighed, wrapping his arms around Dio's neck. "I trully am..."

"It's fine, Enrico. Tell me, what's troubling you?"

Instead of a response, Pucci rummaged around his pockets and fished out a folded piece of paper. He handed it to Dio. "Can you tell if it's legitimate?"

Dio scanned the letters. Though he was practicing criminal law, this wasn't anything he hadn't seen before. "...we hereby declare Wes Bluemarine as the rightful guardian of Emporio Alniño..." His bit his lip. "That bastard."

"He actually fucking did it," hissed Pucci. "I can't believe this, Dio!"

"I know. Losing your temper means that you've lost this battle." Grasping Pucci firmly by the shoulders, Dio stared deeply into his eyes. "Now, you go in there and claim what is rightfully yours."

"Yes!" A much-needed pep-hug was given and Pucci stomped to the door. He paused. "Maybe we'll have that drink later."

"I sure hope we do, my dear."

Having calmed down just a bit, Pucci got back inside his house. He walked into the living room where Weather was sitting with Emporio. The boy looked at him with those big, golden, perpetually anxious eyes of his, making him equally nervous. Weather looked as chill as ever, sipping coffee from a blue mug, looking at Pucci over the rim. Even though Pucci wanted to rip his throat to shreds, he still wasn't going to do it in front of the child. He wasn't a monster.

"Wes, can I please talk to you in the kitchen?"

"Sure."

The two brothers walked into the kitchen. Pucci was standing by the entrance, nervously tapping his foot on the floor while Weather leaned against the counter. The more Pucci lived with his brother, the more he came to realize that the chill Weather had was a facade for something sinister, he dare say. His usually apathetic eyes would at times gleam with a malicious glint, lips twitch with the faintest smug smile. And it was driving him crazy.

"Did you speak with Dio?" Weather asked, voice low and unassuming as always.

"Yes."

"And? Are the papers okay?"

"Yes," Pucci said through gritted teeth.

"Told you."

He would have to snap, eventually. Pucci just had to mess around a bit, find the right button and then his dear brother would inevitably explode, meaning that Pucci had won. Provided he didn't snap first, of course.

"He can stay, but while he does, you are responsible for everything."

"I think there's something you don't realize, Enrico." There, that eerie light that shone in his eyes appeared again, voice rising just a bit. "This house is also mine, which means I can do as I please with the rooms I own. I need neither your permission nor your opinion. And of course I'm responsible for his actions, Enrico. I'm his father."

He could just kill him. Take a knife, grab his neck and slit his throat. He glanced outside the window. Jotaro was standing outside his house, watering his plants. The last man Pucci wanted to have as a witness. At least he would be leaving the next day, to some forgotten edge of the Earth, clapping dolphin cheeks or something. He took a deep breath, counting odd numbers.

"I'm going to the church," he mumbled, grabbing his phone and storming out. Yes, pray to the Lord, to give him the strength to not turn this into Cain and Abel 2.0.

Not even five minutes after Pucci left, there was a knock at the door. There stood Anasui, carrying a bunch of duffel bags.

"What did you do?" Weather asked in a heartbeat.

"Nothing illegal, if that's what you're asking," he said with a roll of his eyes. He strutted into the house, leaving Weather to deal with his luggage. He flopped down on the couch, next to Emporio, who pinned him with his wide-eyed stare. "Hey, bud. Whatcha watchin'?"

"Baseball."

"Cool. Do you wanna watch the drag race later?"

"Sure."

"Anasui, what the fuck?" yelled Weather, slamming the door shut.

The dynamic of their friendship was based on Anasui's unpredictable temper and Weather's ability to calm him down. Their roles being reversed was truly a rarity.

"Hey, just chill, okay?"

"What did you do?!"

Anasui took a deep breath. "I ran away from home."

"Why would you do that?!"

"My parents were getting on my nerves, okay?!"

"That's because you robbed a damn gas station!" Weather looked at Emporio. Perhaps having an argument in front of him wasn't such a good idea. Definitely not appropriate for his first day as a legitimate member of the household. "Kitchen. Now."

Anasui groaned and stood up, the heels of his thigh-high boots obnoxiously clicking against the floor. He sat down on a chair and reached for the weird tropical and invaluable fruit Pucci had stacked in a bejeweled bowl.

"While that's definitely not the weirdest thing you've ever done, I can't have you here."

"What! Why?"

"Narciso," he sighed and sat down. "You stole Enrico's car."

"You helped me!"

"I know! But that's not the point. Even if I own half the house, he'll go absolutely ballistic with you here."

Anasui pouted. Weather was right. "Then what am I supposed to do? I can't go to my place, not for now, anyway."

"Have you tried Jotaro's?"

"Are you kidding? As if he'd ever let me."

"Go and ask him. Kakyoin likes you."

"Ugh, I guess..."

Weather sighed in relief. Thank God for those moments that Anasui listened to him. "And hey, I can take you in after I get him out if you're still looking for a place to live when that happens."

"You're still going on about that, huh?"

"Of course," Weather grinned, sipping from his mug of coffee.

 


 

 


It had been quite a while since Kars had been woken in the middle of the night by the cries of a baby. With both his sons being adults, he had forgotten how nerve-wracking the crying of a baby was. He waited for it to end but after a while, it looked like it would go on for the entire night. He tried blocking out the sound by shoving his face in his pillow but the piercing wails still reached him. He needed eight hours of beauty sleep every day, no matter what. And by God, he was going to have them.

"Where are you going?" Esidisi drowsily asked him, looking up from his pillow.

"To Jojo's. If he wants to have another baby, he should at least be able to shut it up."

"Don't kill anyone."

"Can't promise you that, babe."

In a matter of seconds, he was standing on Joseph's doorstep in the dead of the night, furiously knocking on the door. It was answered by Josuke, tired beyong imagination with his hair in complete disarray, who froze in place when he saw him. He was cradling the fussy infant in his arms, trying to get her to sleep.

"C-can I help you?"

"Where is your Father?"

"Maine," blurted Josuke. "Urgent business. I'm sorry about the baby, Mr. Kars, but she can't calm down unless he's here."

Without waiting for an invitation, Kars walked into the house. He looked around, seeing endless stacks of clothes and pacifiers and high-chairs and strollers and all sorts of items necessary for a baby. Or not. "Who bought all this crap?"

"Dad."

He huffed. Joseph had obviously forgotten how to care for a baby. "Hand me the child," he demanded.

Now, being a Joestar meant that Josuke got to experience rather bizarre situations from time to time. It was as if it was a hereditary characteristic of theirs. And a humongous makeup mogul, with the body of a God and a notorious dislike for his Father demanding he was handed a crying infant at 3 AM was definitely one such bizarre situation.

"Hand me the child, boy," he insisted. "I have raised two sons into adulthood, I can certainly deal with an infant."

Josuke glanced down at the baby. She had quieted down a bit, intrigued by the foreign presence. "Uh...sure," he finally decided, carefully giving her to Kars. To his astonishment, her whimpers slowly died out as she was gently rocked in Kars' muscular arms. He handled her expertly, hushing her comfortingly, not minding how she was viciously tugging on his long strands of hair.

"When did she eat?"

"Around midnight. She started crying and I assumed she was hungry."

"She has an upset stomach," he grumbled and sat down on the couch. "Does she have a name?"

"Not yet." Josuke approached, still in shock by how quickly the baby had gone completely silent, staring at Kars with wide eyes. "I've never seen her this quiet before," he mumbled.

"Yes, she's finally quieted down." The baby, like all babies, smelled amazing. She gave him a toothless grin and he couldn't help but smile back. It was a surprise to many but not those that were close, that a big and bad guy like him had a soft spot for cute animals, flowers and babies. "Maybe you should call her that."

"What? Quiet?"

"Yeah."

"It's kinda...pretentious."

"Well, you have to give her a name soon, if she's gonna live with you. It's bad luck to leave them without names for too long."

Josuke nodded. "I'll tell my Dad about it." He fumbled with his hands, awkwardly looking around. "Thanks, Mr. Kars."

"I'm doing this for myself."

"Of course." Even though the baby had stopped crying, Kars wasn't going to leave until she had fallen asleep. And that didn't look like it was going to happen soon. Oh well, he could always depend on his concealer.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Dinner at eight, murder at midnight

 


Diego was nervous, more than he usually was. His sweaty hands were fidgeting uncontrollably as he desperately tried tying his tie. After a few minutes of trying, he took it off his neck and tossed it on the bed, angrily sitting next to it.

“Let me help,” offered Hot Pants as she walked out of the bathroom. Prompting Diego to stand back up, she looped it around his neck and with much more deft fingers, tied a pristine knot within seconds. She smoothed down his hair and smiled at him. “There, all done.”

Being dressed to the nines wasn't their style, Hot Pants even made fun of them, but Diego secretly loved every second of it. Even the procedure had been more than satisfying. Holding his credit card like a flag, he would never forget the look on the Gucci store's clerk's face when he told the rat bastard than no, he wasn't there for Valentine but for himself. Hot Pants, who never really understood why some clothes were more expensive than others, had opted for something far cheaper and simpler, yet still looked stunning. To him, she'd look stunning even wearing a potato sack.

The young couple stood before the mirror, studying their reflections. Diego had gone for a sharp-tailored black suit, with a subtle glittery glint to it. Underneath, he was wearing a silk white shirt and a black tie. To break the monotony and simplicity of his outfit, he was wearing a satin green vest, with golden and red floral designs. It matched his green shoes, that were adorned with elegant golden details. Next to him stood Hot Pants, two heads taller in her black high heeled shoes. She was effortlessly beautiful, regal, imposing, in her deep burgundy velvet suit and simple white shirt gliding over her muscular body. The outfit was complete with a platinum cross encrusted with small rubies, artfully tied into the thin bow around her collar. Definitely her most expensive and prized possession.

“I think we're good to go.”

They made their way to their car, with Hot Pants climbing in the driver's seat. Hot Pants' little Citroen C3 wasn't the high-end sports car Diego dreamed of, but at least it helped them move around. They could always use public transport but Diego wanted to go to the restaurant with some dignity. Or at least his version of it.

Dio had chosen the restaurant. Downtown Manhattan, best spot in the city, probably charging a thousand dollars and a liver for bread. Even subtly, he still found a way to get to Diego, remind him what he had accomplished while his little brother was still an employee. A servant. It was his treat, he said, because he knew Diego was tight on a budget. He later on suggested going to a Burger King. Perhaps that would be closer to their tastes and budget. What a fucking asshole.

So why was Diego seeking the approval of such a ginormous shithead, one might ask (literally all of his friends). Dio was a lot of unsavory things but he was still the only family Diego had, the last remnant of an unhappy life. Or rather, the only other person he could share memories of his mother with. They both clung to one another solely for that reason, despite not getting along so well. Still, Diego owed Dio quite a lot. For caring for him ever since their mother died while excelling at school, for finally killing their father and for helping him get a job most people would kill for. That was all Hot Pants' influence. She had taught him gratitude, humility, love, and kindness. It was a weird mix, Dio's cruelty and ambition and Hot Pants' humanity. He loved it. After living in Dio's shadow for years, he finally was someone. And it all was thanks to the woman right next to him. And maybe Johnny and Gyro, though he'd never tell them.

They arrived at the restaurant fifteen minutes earlier. As expected, Dio and Jonathan weren't there yet. The young couple was directed to the bar, where they could enjoy some of the restaurant's finest cocktails while waiting for their table to get ready. Diego looked around, eyes wide and gleaming like a child's. The unnecessary luxury, the blinding opulence, the glitz and glam of the upper class. He absolutely loved it all. He hungrily looked around, at the restaurant and its customers, a world so different from his own. The only interactions he had ever had with a place like this was whenever he booked a table for Mr. and Mrs. Valentine. But now he was sitting in one, and he didn't stand out like a sore thumb. In fact, they both fit right in, even earned some interested glances along the way.

The restaurant was dressed in smooth reds and golds, with the finest carpets laying on the floor and elegant paintings decorating the walls. The light was dim, courtesy of several small crystal chandeliers. Even the walls screamed expensive, deep crimson with intricate floral details. The bar was a lovely antique made from ebony, with the most comfortable velvet stools and a dizzying selection of drinks. The main dining hall seemed like an entrance to another world. Roundtables were strategically placed around the room, with sparkling silverware and fine linen napkins folded into complex shapes and high-back chairs of the same deep color as everything else. The giant picture windows allowed a mesmerizing view of the Manhattan city lights, shining like a billion fireflies in the velvet night. He was so high up, he could actually see all the way to Brooklyn. The atmosphere would be incomplete without the gentle piano sounding from the corner, accompanied by a smooth saxophone. The ambient chatter and clinking of silverware, the staff going around like bumbling bees in their sharp uniforms, the diamond-plated customers. Diego leaned against the bar and took it all in with a dazed smile.

“How are you feeling?” asked Hot Pants. Even if he wouldn't tell her, she could still detect the telltale signs of nervousness on him. She cupped his hand lovingly and smiled encouragingly. “It'll be fine.”

“I just don't want Dio to mess this whole thing up.”

“He won't,” she reassured him.

He frowned. “You don't know him like I do.”

“What's the worst thing that could happen?”

“See, you never ask this question when talking about Dio. You'd be surprised.”

Hot Pants sighed. “You worry too much. Besides, how out of control can he go with Jonathan here?”

“Well...” Jonathan. Diego put all his faith into Jonathan. He was sweet, kind, loving and above all, able to handle Dio's super-ego and short temper without breaking a sweat. Jonathan was supportive, he was the brother Diego wished he had.

“You're right,” he decided. “Let's just hope nothing bad will happen.”

 


 

 


“Do you honestly think that I, Dio, would ever let you accompany me while wearing this hideous bow tie?” Jonathan looked at his red bow tie in confusion, failing to see what was wrong with it.

“It seems fine to me.”

“Yes, because you have no taste.”

“It's just a family dinner, Dio,” Jonathan said with a roll of his eyes. “No need for formalities.”

There was that one, very specific thing Dio couldn't stand about Jonathan. It was actually the reason why he had hated Jonathan so passionately as a child. And that was his complete disregard for the 'rules' of the upper class. Jonathan was born into comfort and luxury yet he couldn't care less for it, something Dio, a man born into poverty and lusting after wealth, couldn't ever stomach. Whenever they went to some important event, Dio had to push Jonathan to try buying new shoes, try a more daring and bold piece of clothing. Had it not been for his impossibly muscular body and captivating face, Jonathan would have gone completely unnoticed in his boring black tuxedos.

Still, he made for quite a sight, innocently fixing his bow tie in front of the mirror. Dio stretched his leg and poked Jonathan's bubble butt. “Perhaps you'd look better wearing ONLY that bow tie.”

“D-Dio!” gasped Jonathan, scandalized. “Not now!”

“Later, then. I'll hold you to that promise, Jojo.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Excuse me? You're leaving tomorrow and you expect me to have you sleeping next to me and do nothing?”

“What about Giorno?”

“We can go to my office. I have a very sturdy desk.”

Jonathan shook his head. “There's no point in talking about this.” He quickly exited the room and walked down the stairs to the living room, where his son was laying on the couch, watching TV. “We're gonna go now, okay Giogio?”

“Yes, Dad.”

“Call us if anything happens, get something to eat if you're hungry, don't wait for us to go to sleep and lock the door and windows before you go to bed!”

“Yes, Dad. This isn't the first time I'll be home alone.”

“I'm just making sure,” said Jonathan, leaning down to plant a kiss on his son's forehead.

Dio descended the stairs and stopped next to Jonathan. He looked at Giorno with a disdainful frown, brows furrowed. “Giorno, you need to go study immediately after we leave.”

“Yes, Padre.”

“And you are under no circumstance to let the animal into this house!”

“Yes, Padre.”

Dio narrowed his eyes at him. He had a feeling that Giorno was bullshitting him but he didn't say anything in front of Jonathan. He shared a look with Giorno, one only the two of them understood. Jonathan's voice broke him out of this pointless staring contest, urging him to leave.

Giorno waited until his parents drove off, watching closely as the car shrunk in the distance. When they were completely out of view, he dashed to the kitchen door and threw it open, letting Danny bounce in with the excitement of a puppy and not a 90kg Great Dane. With nothing to stop him, he hopped on Dio's beloved armchair, getting comfortable while Giorno brought him his favorite toys and blankie. Once the dog was nice and comfy, Giorno opened the front door, letting Buccellati, Mista, Fugo, Narancia, Abbacchio, and Trish in. Without waiting for an invitation, the kids all made themselves comfortable in the house they knew too well.

“What's on the menu, boys?” asked Trish.

“How about we order pizza?” suggested Buccellati.

“Pizza?” Fugo looked down at his books, then back up. “I thought we were here for the History project.”

“Oh, Fugo,” cooed Abbacchio. He snatched Fugo's book out of his hands and tossed it somewhere in the back. “You almost bring a tear to my eye.”

“I'm on board with pizza,” said Mista.

"Danny likes the idea, too," Narancia pointed out. He was too busy cuddling with the big dog to care about them all.

Abbacchio looked at them all with an unimpressed frown. “You guys are so fucking boring. Are you all here to eat pizza and watch TV?”

“Basically...”

Disappointed, the teenager shook his head. He leaned closer, blue eyes gleaming dangerously. “Why don't we do something more fun?”

 

 


 

 

Before they went into the restaurant, Jonathan wanted to have a bit of a chat with Dio, make sure he would stay on his best behavior. Dio didn't like it, said Jonathan was treating him like a child and he wasn't actually far from the truth. Sometimes dealing with Dio was like dealing with a very stubborn, petulant and impossible child. He was a very intelligent man, there was no denying that, just not very rational. Or patient. Jonathan fulfilled those roles in Dio's life and made sure he didn't just explode, especially on a night like this.

One of Jonathan's biggest regrets was that his husband and brother-in-law weren't as close as the Joestar family was. He always suggested Dio approached Diego and when they were invited to dine with him and his girlfriend, he beamed. That was the perfect chance to bring the two brothers closer.

“I won't do anything, Jojo! Why would I?”

“I don't know! You just have a tendency to...overreact.”

Dio crossed his arms over his chest and stubbornly looked away. “I don't know what you're talking about.”

Jonathan sighed. “It's not that I don't have faith in you,” he said in a much softer tone, gently reaching for Dio's hand. “I just want to make sure you're doing yourself justice. You're one of the most remarkable people I know and to be known only for your temper and attitude is very insulting.”

Dio bit the inside of his cheek, avoiding looking into Jonathan's eyes. Known only for being rude and angry definitely wasn't what Dio was going for. But sometimes, his temper got the best of him, making him forget that he wasn't living in a cave alone but in a big world, with several others. Luckily for him, Jonathan had always been there, patient and loving, to remind him of his humanity, fill in what Dio lacked.

“Fine,” he finally said. “It's not like I'm determined to see this night go to shit or anything. I'm just...curious. I know my brother and I aren't as close as you are with yours, but I still know Diego quite well. And for him to actually be with someone for so long and clean up his act is a bit weird.”

Jonathan nodded. “It may seem like it, but you should have a little faith in him.”

Of course Jonathan would say that. Opting to say nothing else -for once- Dio stepped out of the car and walked together with Jonathan into the restaurant. He did feel a little weird about the entire encounter. Diego had requested this meeting, saying he had something important to announce. Dio honestly couldn't think what it was.

Once they got inside, they were brought to their reserved table, where Hot Pants and Diego were already sitting at. Inexplicably, Dio liked seeing Hot Pants, despite having spoken to her maybe three times. She had a certain vibe and authority to her that was strange to him, though in a good way. Her integrity, strength and strong will showed in her expression. She greeted them with a small but welcoming smile, letting Jonathan embrace her heartily.

They sat down, Hot Pants facing Jonathan and the two Brando brothers facing one another. The first few seconds were awkwardly silent, with Dio and Diego just staring into one other's eyes in suspicion. On one hand, Diego was curious as to what his brother would do to see this evening ruined, what new way he would find to make him feel unsure of himself despite his many accomplishments, make him feel that he would perpetually walk under Dio's shadow. On the other hand, Dio was trying to decode his brother, trying to see if he had actually grown from that annoying little pest with bad eyesight and a love for horses. The uncomfortable silence was broken by the waiter, who came to take their order.

“You must be having difficulty deciphering the menu,” chuckled Dio. “Allow me to help-”

“That won't be necessary,” Hot Pants said sharply. With exceeding comfort, she placed her and Diego's order in impeccable Italian.

Dio furrowed his brows, eyeing the woman suspiciously. Despite liking her aura, he still didn't feel comfortable around her. He didn't know anything about Hot Pants, which was absurd to some people, since she had been in his brother's life for so long.

“Your accent is amazing,” Jonathan complimented her. “How did you pick up Italian?”

“I'm from Italy,” was the reply Hot Pants offered.

“I didn't know that!” exclaimed Jonathan. Dio didn't even have to turn to see the look Jonathan was giving him. It was that insufferable 'look how much we don't know about her and she's practically family!' look. “Which part of Italy are you from?”

“Ancona, though my parents moved here when my brother and I were little.”

“You have a brother?”

“Yes, he's four years younger than me.”

“Forgive me,” Dio cut in, “but Hot Pants isn't an Italian name." Or a name at all. " Or am I wrong?”

“No, you're not wrong. It's just that my parents like James Brown a lot. I do have a Christian name, of course.”

Dio nodded. He looked at the woman's cross, the precious stones reflection the low light. “I can see religion is very important to you.”

“It is. Speaking of which, I think your mention makes for an excellent introduction to why we asked to dine with you.”

Diego, who had obviously been spacing out, looked up suddenly. He looked at Hot Pants who was urging him to speak. He cleared his throat and straightened himself. He reached for her hand underneath the table, squeezing it lovingly. There was nothing to be nervous about, he kept telling himself. He was his own person, capable of making his own decisions.

“Hot Pants and I decided to get married.”

At first, there was no reaction to the announcement. But as the words sank in, both Dio and Jonathan expressed equally strong but very different emotions. Dio's jaw went slack as Jonathan shot up, making the entire table rattle.

“That's wonderful!” He reached to hug the young couple, who both laughed at the sweet show of emotion. Jonathan let them go and behold, he actually had tears in his eyes. He looked at them both with immense pride and tenderness. “Oh, this is...this is...incredible! Isn't it, Dio?”

“...yeah,” mumbled the other, looking up at Diego with wide eyes. Thankfully, the waiter came with their cocktails. Dio grabbed his tequila sunrise and almost gulped it down at once. “It's...incredible.”

“Such great news,” mumbled Jonathan as he sat back down. “When did you even decide it?”

“A few weeks back,” said Hot Pants. “It wasn't like a grand proposal or anything. I just brought it up and we both agreed.”

“You make it sound like there wasn't much thought to it.”

“I made my intentions clear when we first started dating. I've always wanted to get married, I've always liked the idea of a close-tied family.”

Just what Jonathan wanted to hear. “I can already tell you'll fit right in.” She smiled at him, thanking him with a small bow of her head. “Oh, God! I'm so excited!”

Hot Pants laughed, bringing her martini to her lips. “Thank you, Jonathan. I appreciate the support.”

Diego, clearly encouraged from the enthusiastic reception, became more relaxed. He leaned back in his chair, looking at his brother with a smile. “You're quiet, Dio. Are you that shocked?”

Honestly? Yes, he was. Because in his eyes, Diego had just signed up for a big fuck up. In Dio's eyes, marriage was a mistake. Except for his own. Also in his eyes, Diego was still an immature, unstable idiot that had no idea where he was going or what he was doing and just randomly decided to get married, simply because he had nothing better to do. While most praised his younger brother for his intelligence and talent, Dio was deaf to it all. To him, Diego was a cunning fox cub, blindly heading right into a bear trap. Ambitious and nothing more. A kid playing house.

The waiter brought the entrees. Dio ordered another drink. He chose to ignore on the look Jonathan gave him.

“I am quite shocked, yes. I'm just wondering if you're making the right decision.”

“Of course we are,” Diego surely replied.

Dio grabbed the glass of wine Jonathan was drinking from and took a big swig. “I'm not talking about you two. I'm talking about YOU personally. Is Diego Brando sure?”

“Yes,” Diego hissed, upper lip curling in a way it made his teeth show.

“I'm just saying that this all seems pretty impulsive. You said it yourselves you just decided it one day. Sounds pretty irresponsible. And casual. I mean,” he chuckled, “you don't even have a ring.”

“It wasn't casual,” snapped Diego. “We've been thinking about it for quite a while now and we thought it was about time we did. And the ring is completely irrelevant.”

“It's too much money wasted on a meaningless accessory,” added Hot Pants.

Seeing that this was going south really really quickly, Jonathan decided to intervene. “Have you thought about the details? There's a lot that needs to be done first! Have you even decided on a date?”

Hot Pants tore her cold gaze from Dio and looked at Jonathan, melting a little bit. “We talked about, you know, a date and a place but nothing solid yet.” Meanwhile, Dio's second drink arrived and he chugged it down before the waiter could even leave, demanding a third. “We're thinking sometime next spring.”

“Spring!” croaked Dio, startling everyone around him. “In like...six months?”

“Yes. We want something simple, shouldn't take long to plan.”

Dio knew his brother well enough to say for sure that Hot Pants wanted something simple. But Diego was making an allowance for her. Unbelievable.

“Most people nowadays are seeing their wedding ceremonies as big musicals or shows and forget the essence of it, the ceremony's true purpose.” The entrees arrived, consisting of mostly vegetables, presented in various imaginative ways.

“Spring, then,” said Jonathan. “Where?”

“We haven't decided yet. We were thinking about having it in Ancona, since Hot Pants is from there, but that's too much of a hassle and requires a lot more time and money. As for places within the country...we were thinking maybe San Diego.”

“Lemme get this straight.” Jonathan's eyes widened as he noticed how his husband had a new empty glass in his hand and was already signaling for a fourth. “You don't have money to afford a ring but you have money to have a wedding on the other side of the country?”

“Yes,” answered Hot Pants. “We decided to save some more for our wedding instead of wasting it on something pointless.”

“We-”

“Dio, can I talk to you for a second, please?” Jonathan's voice, loud and clear, effectively silenced everyone at the table.

Dio blinked slowly at him. Be it the strange bond the two of them had or just the years they had spent together, Dio could usually find the meaning behind the various stares Jonathan was sending him. In his mildly drunk stage, he was unable to. Before he could process the situation, a vice-like hand was around his bicep and he was practically dragged across the restaurant and into the patio.

How dare you.”

“What are you doing?” Jonathan asked in a low voice.

“What are you talking about?”

“Why are you like this? I thought you promised you wouldn't ruin this night!”

“Am I not allowed to express a goddamn opinion?” gasped Dio, bringing a well-manicured hand over his heart.

“You're not expressing an opinion! You're insulting them!”

“And how so? By reminding them how poor and young they are?”

“We were younger when we got married!”

“Yes, but we had our lives in check, Jojo!”

“They do, too!”

Dio scowled deeply. “Diego spends all of his money on the races.”

“No...he spends SOME of it on the races. Dio, you really don't know your brother at all, do you?” He placed a comforting hand on Dio's shoulder, which the man frowned at. “He called us here today, called you, because you matter to him a great deal. He loves you and he's trying to get closer to you. Don't you see you keep pushing him away?”

While Dio saw his mistakes after putting his two sober brain cells together, he'd never admit to them. He looked away haughtily. To be fair, there were times where being so unnecessarily strong-headed was tiring. He was 38, he had a grown son, a respectable job he excelled at, actual friends and a loving husband. Clearly, he had better things to do.

“I don't want him to fuck up,” he explained. “I don't want him to make a mistake that'll be hard to fix.”

“What makes you think that?”

“He's irresponsible, immature...”

“He's been living on his own for quite awhile, has been in a stable relationship for a few good years and has a great job most people would envy.” Jonathan smiled down at him, poking his cheek. “I think he's doing okay on his own.”

“...fine.”

“Now, when we go back, I want you to be on your best behavior. And no more drinking!”

“Don't you dare patronize me, Jojo,” he sneered as he walked past him. “I'm not a damn child.”

"I'm not patronizing you. I care about you."

By the time Jonathan and Dio returned, their food had been served. Jonathan jumped right into it with enthusiasm while Dio merely poked around a piece of asparagus with his fork. Silence, only the various sounds of the restaurant surrounding them.

“Hot Pants!” Dio called, maybe a bit too loudly. “What do you do for a living, again?”

Hot Pants cleared her throat, trying not to look alarmed. “I'm a journalist," she informed them. "I used to do freelance but now I work for the New Yorker.”

“Are you liking it?”

“They both have their pros and cons,” she shrugged.

Their surprisingly civil conversation was cut short as Dio sat back with an amused smile, crossing his arms over his chest. “Looks like we're not the only ones getting the news of your engagement tonight.”

Two pale hands slammed down on Diego's shoulders, making the man jumped back with a yelp. “Fancy seeing you here,” grinned Valentine, squeezing Diego a bit too hard before standing straight up.

After his heart calmed down from the scare, Diego looked back and saw his boss with his wife. They both looked stunning, practically cutting off the oxygen of those around them. Valentine, especially. He looked like an angel clad in all white, his perfectly-tailored suit sticking to his fit and lithe body in the most flattering way. Scarlet, staying true to her brand, was wearing a satin red slip dress, red Louboutins and red jewelry, along with a perfect, red smile. Why were all of Dio's asshole friends so ridiculously attractive?

“Good evening, you two!” Jonathan greeted them excitedly. “Diego, tell them!”

Diego looked at Jonathan. He gritted his teeth so hard, his jaw went a bit numb. But Jonathan was so sweet and well-meaning, getting mad at him should be considered a sin. He sighed deeply and turned to his boss. “I...uh...We're getting married.”

Valentine's eyes widened, a brow arching. “For real?”

“Yeah.”

He paused for a second. He nodded slowly and cracked an illegally charming smile. “That's great news! Congratulations, you two!” He pulled his wife closer. “Honey, I don't think you and Hot Pants have formally met, yet. Hot Pants, this is my wife-”

“Charmed.” Dio, who had been working with this woman even when he was an intern, could tell exactly what she was thinking just by looking at her face. Her eyes were comically wide, unblinking, just staring at Hot Pants as if she was a mystic goddess of the forest. “I-I mean I am charmed but my name is S-Scarlet. But you can call me anything you want.”

“I know what your name is. We've met before.”

“So, when's the wedding taking place?” asked Valentine.

“We're thinking sometime next spring.”

“Oh, lovely! I'm expecting an invitation.”

As much as Diego didn't want to invite the man that was most likely to throw hands with his friends, he had to. “Of course.”

A waiter approached the Valentines. “Sir, ma'am, your table is ready.”

“Yes, we're coming.” Valentine gave the other four a polite smile. “Enjoy your meal and congratulations, once again.”

“B-Bye, Hot Pants.”

Since the founding of this proud nation, the Americans have prided themselves on being above aristocracy, above monarchy and social injustice. But the moment the Governor of the State walked anywhere, everyone just had to throw themselves at his feet. He was once again given the best table in the house, with both a great view of the entire restaurant as well as the city skyline. Even if Valentine requested this table at the last minute, the people sitting on it were thrown out for his sake. Luckily for them, Valentine was more of a sophisticated asshole so dick moves like that weren't really his style. That was Dio's thing.

He and his wife sat down on the table and were handed the menus. “Ugh, I just realized how much I'm starving. I honestly miss just shoving everything I wanted down my throat at any given time.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I think I'm going for seafood tonight. It's been a while since I had lobster.”

“Uh-huh.”

“We should get some wine, first.”

“Uh-huh.”

“...Scarlet?”

“Uh-huh.”

“...Scarlet, I don't how to say this but I'm pregnant with Diavolo's child.”

“Uh-h-Wait, what?”

“There we go!” He slammed the menu shut and threw it to the side. His polite smile turned unbelievably sour as he leaned in, eyes suspiciously narrow. “What are you doing?”

“Just...looking.”

Confused, Valentine followed his wife's smitten gaze and looked over his shoulder, to where Hot Pants was trying to eat her shrimps. “Are you fucking serious?”

“I didn't know she was a woman! And a hot one, at that.” Scarlet sighed blissfully and leaned on her arm. “Fuck, look at her. Did you see her thighs?”

“No! Why are you like this?”

“Oh, I bet she could crush my skull to pieces if she sat on my face.” She shuddered.

Valentine groaned deeply. It once again came to this, to him being the only one with an ounce of logic between them. “Scarlet, you can't keep falling in love with every pretty girl you see.”

“She's not like the others! She's different! God, look at her fingers...”

“You know I'm totally fine with you doing whatever you want with whomever you want but you can't fuck my secretary's fiancee.” Valentine had married young because he valued these things. He always looked up to the relationship his parents had, one full of respect and love. And he wanted that. And he actually got it, though he doubted either his father or stepfather ever had to tell his mother to not try and seduce every woman she met on the street.

“What if she comes to me, huh?” She gasped, excited with an idea. “We should have them for dinner! To like, personally congratulate them and show your best employee how much you appreciate him. Or better yet, we can invite them to the lake house! You and Diego can fuck off to fish while Hot Pants and I will be home alone, free to do whatever we want. Funny, this is a great idea!”

“What will you be drinking tonight, ma'am?” asked a waitress.

“Oh, I'll have a Manhattan!”

“And you, sir?”

“Hemlock on the rocks,” said Valentine, seriously contemplating just storming out. “In a tall glass, if you will.”

 


 

 


The kids (and dog) tiptoed across the grass. They all cursed under the breaths when the door beeped loudly once the code was inserted but after stepping into the dark entrance hall realized that no one knew they were there. The house was completely still and quiet. Doppio was either sleeping or in his office and Diavolo had gone out for business.

“Okay, so what do we do?” asked Giorno.

“We snuck in because we wanna fuck around, and fuck around is what we're gonna do!” said Mista and Narancia nodded fervently.

“We're gonna get ourselves killed, sneaking into his house like that!”

“MY house, Fugo,” emphasized Trish. “We can finally uncover some saucy mafia secrets!”

“Can't we just skip the drama for once?”

“Dude, you are so fucking boring. You're super old.”

“Really? How old am I?”

“Like...60.”

“You can't even count up to it.”

“Guys!” Buccellati cut in before they could start barking at one another. Even when in the midst of dumb shenanigans, he still was the most sensible one of them. “We should just go to the basement, do what we want and go out. We have keys. It's not like he'll kill us, nothing bad's gonna happen.”

“...are you sure about that?”

“You can stay behind if you want, Fugo. No one will judge you.”

Fugo looked at his friends. He was faced with two options; to either join them, uncover some delicious tea that would most likely cost him his life or to bail and seem like a pussy, something Narancia would probably never shut up about. He sighed, two fingers going to massage the bridge of his nose.

“Fine,” he decided and they all headed to the basement, Danny in tow.

Ever since being old enough to understand the environment around her, Trish had been intrigued about the ever-mysterious basement of her house. They didn't allow her in there and never gave her a reason for that prohibition. At first, it was childish curiosity. Then, when she got older and found out what it was that Diavolo was actually doing, she was both grossed out and weirdly interested, the way someone desperately wanted to see something gross or downright wrong. She was a bit scared, just thinking about the secrets a mafioso could be hiding made her hair stand like needles. Eventually, with her and Diavolo coming closer, that fear melted into genuine interest once more, the need to know the man that called himself her father a little bit better, know every side of a man whose real name was only known to one human being. Maybe it was foolish, but what was life without some stupidity? She was thankful her friends were the way they were. No sane person would ever agree to this.

While the cellar was just as luxurious and lavishly decorated as the rest of the house, the basement was plain. Just a simple door, yet eerily creepy. One could probably see the word 'menacing' flying all around it. The kids and the gentle hound got behind Abbacchio and pushed him forward.

“What are you guys doing?”

“You suggested we do something fun! Now open the door!”

“Mista is right, Abbacchio. As the instigator of this operation, you should proceed first.”

“As tHe iNstIgAtOr oF thIs oPERatiOn, yOu sHOulD prOCeeD fIRst. Shut the hell up.”

“Leone,” scolded Buccellati.

Abbacchio scowled. He was kind of scared too but he never showcased any emotion other than disdain for those around him. He wrapped each finger around the knob tantalizingly slowly and twisted it. They all held their breaths when Abbacchio pushed the door open, revealing darkness. With a deep groan, he blindly reached inside and switched the lights on. The room was actually well lit, and not at all a creepy basement. It looked normal, if anything. The hardwood floor was polished and shiny, covered by a plush rug, the walls were covered in burgundy wallpaper, several sconces were shedding their light on the numerous shelves and closets were pressed against the walls.

“That's not so bad,” murmured Narancia as he ventured in, sounding a bit disappointed. He looked around with a bored frown, observing the cardboard boxes stacked on the floor. “I was expecting a dead body or tubs full of cash.”

“Or drugs.”

“No drugs.”

“Yes, Dad.”

“I'm serious, Mista. Drugs are bad and you shouldn't joke about that. If we find anything, we're taking it to the police.”

Trish sat down on the floor with the eager smile of a curious explorer. She grabbed the first box near her and opened it. Books, notes, files, Passione stuff that would probably make her a goddess for the FBI if she handed it to them. Fugo fished out a couple of novels in Italian, probably invaluable antiques, too flimsy to be displayed in Diavolo's library. He reached for one he deemed interesting and sat down on the floor next to Trish, laying his head on her lap.

“Check THIS out,” announced Buccellati and reached inside another box. He brought out a lacy, complex garment that closely resembled a bralette. In a heartbeat, he was tossing his hoodie into a shocked Abbacchio's hands and was trying the bralette on.

“Bruno, what the hell are you doing?”

“Trying it on.” After struggling for a bit, he managed to put it on. He twirled around with a triumphant smile. “How do I look?”

“You'd look good even with a potato sack on.”

“Aw, thank you, Leone. Giogio, did you find anything interesting?”

Giorno was kneeling in front of one of the shelves, rummaging through the various items. “I found his stash of lipstick.”

“What!?” Abbacchio shoved him out of the way and got to inspecting the goodies. His face lit up like a Christmas tree when he found several intact tubes of matte, black, liquid lipstick. “Why didn't we do this sooner?”

“Holy shit!” Narancia suddenly yelled.

“Dude, keep it down!”

“I'm sorry!” He held up what seemed to be a yearbook for them. “It's David Bowie!”

“What?” Curious, they all approached him. Indeed, the man Narancia was talking about bore a striking resemblance to David Bowie. Giorno smiled a bit sadly. “That's just Kira.”

“Who's that?”

“Kira was an old friend of Dad's and Mr. Dio's. Doppio told me he, Dad and Val used to be inseparable during school.”

“Yoshikage Kira...” muttered Fugo. “Wasn't that the serial killer they caught a while ago? The one that actually got out?”

“They said they managed to kill him, but...” Trish's voice trailed off. She and Giorno exchanged looks, the looks only the kids of shady people understood. Even they weren't sure and for now, they didn't want to talk about it.

“Hey, look! It's your Dads, Giogio!”

“Oh, yeah!” Giorno leaned in, studying the youthful faces of both Dio Brando and Jonathan Joestar. They hadn't changed so much. Dio wasn't as cruel-looking and cold anymore, the harsh amber of his eyes had mellowed out a little bit. The only way Jonathan had changed was with the few silver hairs that now decorated his sideburns. “Even uncle Robert is here, and aunt Erina!”

“It's so weird seeing your teachers in a school yearbook...Look at this. Most of these guys have their faces crossed out?"

"Do you think it's the people he killed?" Narancia asked excitedly.

“There aren't any mentions of Diavolo in this.”

“Of course there aren't,” said Trish with a roll of her eyes. “You think a guy like that would agree to have his face into a yearbook that everyone could hold on to?”

“Hm, true.” Continuing their exploration, the kids and dog all went for different sides of the room, wondering what else there was for them to discover.

Mista rummaged around an old box until his fingers brushed against something cold, heavy and metallic. Once he brought it out, he realized it was a gun, a loaded and fully functioning one.

“Don't even think about it,” Trish hissed before he could pocket it.

“But why? I've always wanted a gun!” Mista shoved it down his pants, grinning at the way his crotch bulged and showing it off to Fugo and Narancia.

“If you shoot your dick off, I'm breaking up with you.”

Mista rolled his eyes. Whatever. He was keeping the gun. Guns were gangster. (Or so thought the teenaged Mista, since every bad motherfucker on the silver screen was carrying a gun. Cool guys didn't care about danger.) He sat down on the floor, now more than excited about what else he could discover. Unfortunately, finding that gun was as good as it could get. The box he had gotten his hands on was filled with issues of fashion magazines.

“Diavolo definitely doesn't look like the kind of dude to collect fashion magazines,” he mumbled to himself but Fugo heard him.

“That's probably how he gets his killer fashion sense,” he snorted.

“What did you find, Mista?”

“Bunch of magazines, photos, some really good ones. He seems to like Vogue a lot.”

“Vogue?” parrotted Trish. She tasted the word in her mouth, pushed it around her brain. It bounced around the walls of her skull, putting pieces of information together. “Oh my God!” She bolted up and reached for the first copy of Vogue she could find. She skimmed through it smiling like a madwoman. Her eyes lit up with glee, squealing in pure joy. “I can't believe that bastard!”

The others all gathered around her, peering into the glossy pages. There, right in the middle of the issue was the picture of a young person, probably around their age. Had they not known who he was already, they probably would have never guessed his gender. Young Valentine was slim, yet bearing the softness and plumpness of a boy raised in riches. Golden hair was spilling down his back like a waterfall of sunshine, even longer than it currently was, blue eyes boredly looking to the distance, rosy lips forming an uninterested pout. He was dressed in a pair of too short high waisted blue denim shorts with several white stars and a loose-fitting silk shirt with red and white stripes, open enough to reveal his smooth chest. He was effortlessly standing on a pair of rollerskates in the middle of some bridge. It looked like Europe. Maybe that's why he was so bored.

The other issues all included pictures of him, becoming more daring as the years went by. From wearing high-fashion suits to just a sheet around him and some red lipstick. There were also pictures of him from when he used to model for Kars. Back when he had told Trish about his time as a model, he made it sound like he just did a couple of gigs and maybe got lucky a few times. But by the looks of it, the guy was in for a modeling career shrouded in glitz and glam. It became more interesting when a little note slipped out of one magazine, dancing all the way to the floor. Abbacchio picked it up with the edges of his fingertips.

“You have one final chance to fuck off before I deliver you to your family piece by piece. Think I won't do it? Try having him on your boat again, cunt. Then we'll talk...What the fuck?”

“The fuck was that?”

“I just asked you that!”

“It's a threat.”

“Yeah, no shit, Giorno!” Abbacchio inspected the note, looking for anything that might indicate its origin or purpose. “What do you think this is about?”

“Oh my God, what if some guy got the hots for Valentine while he was dating Dad and Dad got royally pissed off about that threatened to kill him?”

“What's with the 'boat' though? Is that a code for something?”

Oh, so many speculations, so many theories, all buzzing in Trish's head. She was ready to dig deeper, uncover the largest fountain of tea ever seen by humanity when Buccellati called for them.

“Come look at this.” Buccellati was holding a large picture frame, displaying only some pink circles.

“Looks like weird artwork.” During their excavation, they came across several pieces of art that Diavolo displayed around his house depending on the season of the year. But nothing like this. Fugo took another in his hands, as there were many. This one was displaying two larger circles that strangely resembled salami. “He's got a lot of them. Is this formalin?”

Mista reached inside the box and randomly chose another frame. A large shape, almost circular but with some rounded edges. Upon closer examination, he saw how much it looked like a clean slice of skull and brain. Mouth and eyes wide in horror, the boy dropped the frame and jumped back, slamming against a tower of boxes, bringing it all crashing down.

“Mista, what the hell!”

“It's fucking human body slice!” he whispered.

Miraculously, the frame hadn't broken. Fugo curiously picked it up and inspected it with narrowed eyes. His jaw dropped a little once the realization hit. “Holy fuck...he's right.”

Giorno reached inside the box, finding a large collection of similar pieces. Inspecting them closely, he saw that if placed in a certain order, they formed a human body. He counted roughly 36, from the soles of the victim's feet to the top of their head.

“What should we do?” he asked fearfully. Maybe digging into the secrets of a mafia Don wasn't the best idea.

“The fuck do you think? We're getting the hell outta here!” Narancia sprung up and headed for the door, only to find it shut. He pulled viciously but it wouldn't budge. Abbacchio, who was the most physically stronger of them all helped his friend but to no avail. The door was locked.

“We're all gonna die here!” wailed Narancia, collapsing on Fugo's feet. Danny was the only one blissfully oblivious to this whole mess.

“Calm yourselves, we're gonna find a way out!”

“I told you this was a shit idea and now he's gonna fucking kill us!”

“My own Dad's gonna kill me...”

“Seeing this realistically, he can't kill us. Padre would scalp him if anything happened to me and Valentine will beat his ass if he actually kills kids.”

“There's nothing realistic about Diavolo, Giorno! The guy is bat-shit insane!”

“Why is the door even locked in the first place?” wondered Mista. “It wasn't locked when we got here!”

They all looked at one another, equally perplexed. There was no logical explanation about why the door had been locked. From the outside, no less. Could it be that Doppio was actually pranking them? No, he wasn't an asshole.

“Why are you in there in the first place is what I should be asking, Mista!”

“Dad!” yelled Trish. She started slamming her fists on the door. Her fear and confusion dissipated within seconds, replaced by anger and exasperation for the toddler that was raising her. “Dad! What are you doing!?”

“What are you doing in my basement?”

“Boss, let them out, for God's sake!”

“We weren't doing anything!” Turning to her cohorts, Trish dropped her voice to a conspiratory whisper. “Hide the corpse.” Definitely not the last time she'd be saying this to them.

The boys all got on their feet, trying to tidy up the mess they made while Trish was trying to negotiate with an uncompromising madman. At least Doppio was there. “We weren't doing anything!” she shouted.

“Bullshit!”

“Boss! Open the door!”

“Dad, can you please let us out? We weren't doing anything! Just playing around with some old clothes!”

There was a pause, followed by a hushed conversation in Italian. Trish stuck her ear to the door. She closed her eyes, trying to remember any prayer from when Valentine used to send her to Sunday school as a toddler. She was a good liar and she only got better as she grew. Hopefully, Diavolo bought it. Behind her, the boys all stood breathlessly, gazes pinned on the door, anticipating the verdict. Even Danny had gone completely silent.

“When I open the door, you are all gonna take four steps back, with your hands behind your backs! Capisce?”

“Is he gonna pull a fucking gun on us?” hissed Fugo.

“I said-”

“Okay! Fine!” Trish erratically agreed and scurried to the back with the others.

The door opened slowly and Diavolo poked his head inside, eyeing them like a threatened crow. He stepped inside, thankfully without a gun. Doppio entered after him, sighing in relief once he saw that the kids were all safe. Diavolo looked at the magazines, yearbooks, clothes and all sorts of forgotten crap strewn on the floor. It was mainly miscellaneous items he had grown weirdly attached to over the years. Most of them he didn't even know he still had. Except for his collection of fashion magazines. He scowled when he saw them scattered around, open and creased.

“What business do you have in here? There are three whole floors, an attic and a garden for you to fuck around.”

“We were just looking for props for a school play,” Giorno blurted the first thing that came to his mind. The others blinked stupidly for a moment but silently decided to fuck it and go on with this excuse. They all were very artsy, Diavolo had to buy it.

“I don't fucking trust you,” he grumbled to the boy that had a few weeks prior wrecked the front of his house.

“But he's telling the truth!” Abbacchio gulped dryly as Diavolo fixed his gaze on him. His eyes alone were weird and unnerving, nevermind the feral look they were sending him.

Diavolo knew Abbacchio didn't like Giorno and for him to defend the boy was weird. So maybe he was telling the truth? He turned to look at Doppio, who urged him to be done with it and let the kids go. He looked at Trish. He bit the inside of his cheek. Maybe threatening to lock his daughter underground and possibly starve her to death wasn't the best strategy for coming closer to her.

“Fine,” he decided and they all sighed in relief. “But you are never coming back in here, do you understand me?”

“Yes, boss!”

They all fled the scene like frightened rats. At least Abbacchio and Mista had managed to sneak out their goodies.

“You shouldn't be mad at her,” Doppio advised him as the two got to tidy the mess.

Diavolo picked up a copy of Vogue from 1996 and carefully straightened it, making sure the important pages weren't damaged. He placed it back with a rest with a deep sigh. “I don't like this parenting thing.”

“Well, you don't have another choice. It's too late to bail.”

True. He was in this for life. While there was a solution for spouses that didn't like one another anymore, there was nothing parents could do. Sure, he could always abandon everything and run away, leaving no trace, or just bash her head in but he couldn't bring himself to even think of these as options. Especially the second. He had misunderstood what caring for a teenager actually meant. It wasn't like he could feed and water her a few times a day, give her money and everything would automatically be okay. The problem was his temper and understanding of human nature and the sooner he realized that, the better.

“Shit, good thing they didn't find Sorbet.” Diavolo counted the formalin frames. 36, all in perfect order.

“Yeah...” remarked Doppio. “Are we still going with that plan?”

“Of course. You'll send the first one to Risotto tomorrow and keep sending one every twelve hours. It should take...around eighteen days, right?”

“He's not gonna take it well.”

“I don't care! They broke the rules of the gang and now they must suffer the consequences.” Diavolo walked to him, tilting his chin upwards very affectionately. “You worry too much.”

“Somebody has to. Boss, these are trained assassins! They could seek revenge, they could-”

“My decision is final. Nothing's gonna happen, Doppio,” he reassured him. He gave him a little kiss on the forehead and left the room, wishing him goodnight.

“You don't know that...”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Kira Yoshikage 2: Electric Boogaloo

 


Being the president of anything, much less president of the homeowners' association in a very upscale neighborhood, had never been in Kira's sights. Just the idea of being in charge of something and having to be a sort of figurehead was enough to bring vomit into his mouth. But alas, one was never safe from their worst fears. It took some pushing, but Kira eventually got Valentine to confess that he had convinced everyone to vote for Kira when he wasn't looking. A little payback, he said with one of those too-charming smiles, for hiding the truth from him. It was the least he could do, Valentine had said, and he was right. A man with as much power as him could do what he pleased with those he didn't like. Kira couldn't be angry. If anything, he was grateful.

His duties as president of the HOA mostly included him running around the neighborhood and acting as a peacemaker and making sure the neighborhood always looked as expensive as it was. For that purpose, a small council had been created, consisting of the neighborhood's most rational residents, where they discussed changes that needed to be done around the neighborhood, improvements, and adjustments in general. Kira was less than enthusiastic about his new role, he could compare it to the day he was arrested but he couldn't voice his displeasure out of fear he might seem suspicious. He kept doing this new job as efficiently as he could for the time being, always on the lookout for the perfect chance to fuck up and bail.

While Kira hated this new arrangement, Shinobu was thriving. Ever since they had moved into the new neighborhood, she had been a bit defensive, feeling misplaced among all the millionaires and local celebrities. Kira's new position gave her the perfect chance to mingle even better with her neighbors, become more social, urging Kira to do the same. He didn't. Whenever she organized a small gathering or dragged him off to one, Kira just lurked in the corner and tried to make himself as invisible as possible while cursing Valentine for forcing him into this. But Kira couldn't bring himself to be mad at her. Seeing Shinobu happy was oddly fulfilling.

He was sitting on the patio, looking out to the garden, admiring his work. It was a shame the pool was finished right when summer ended. Oh well, it was always pretty to look at. He heard the door open and close, followed by Shinobu's heels clicking on the floor. She told him once how much she hated heels yet here she was, wearing them every day. He went to meet her, putting on a lazy smile as he leaned against the wall. She was very beautiful, long auburn hair sleek and shiny, hands soft and perfectly manicured. The more time they spent together, the more beautiful she became.

“Hello, darling!” she greeted and reached up to peck him on the cheek.

Kira cleared his throat. “Hi. How was shopping?”

“Oh, just great! I love this neighborhood, Kosaku, I really do. There's just so many things to do and the people are so nice!”

“I'm glad you're making friends.”

“We should go for brunch this Sunday. Scarlet and I just went to this gorgeous little rooftop-”

“Scarlet? You were out with Scarlet Valentine?”

“Yes.”

Kira furrowed his brows. Shinobu wasn't the type of person to be patronized but Kira had to express his worries in the most subtle way possible. “Shinobu, I want you to stay away from that woman.” So much for subtlety.

Shinobu looked at him in confusion. He followed her into the kitchen where she reached for a bowl of raspberries and hopped on the counter. “What do you mean?”

“You shouldn't be hanging out with her.”

“And why is that?”

There was no way for Kira to tell her about the time when Scarlet invited one of her coursemates for a group project and ended up giving her head on the kitchen counter without revealing his identity.

“Just a hunch.”

“A hunch,” she repeated. She shook her head. “You shouldn't be listening to gossip, Kosaku.” So she knew. Or at least knew about the rumors. Was that witch playing the victim card again? “I like her,” Shinobu decided. “We finally have friends!”

Kira froze. Shinobu, like the fully-functioning mentally stable human being she was, had an innate need to socialize. Kira weighed his options. Forbidding Shinobu from having a friend just because he had a hunch was a really dumb move. Not only would it be the source of conflict between him and his wife but it would also draw unwanted attention if the two of them were the only loners in a very active neighborhood. What he could do was talk to the Valentines about his concerns, make sure Scarlet stayed in her lane.

“You're right,” he sighed, approaching her with a relaxed smile. He pressed his lips against the top of her head and she smiled. She loved it when he did that. “It's probably nothing.”

Shinobu also loved it when her husband helped her with cooking. Hayato had been paranoid about that at first, saying how it was impossible for a man who didn't know how to boil an egg to suddenly cook the most complex dishes. Kira's excuse was efficient and romantic; said he had picked up cooking as a way of impressing Shinobu, of charming her and reviving their relationship. Shinobu had bought it. Hayato hadn't but he kept quiet.

“Oh, dang it,” Shinobu huffed. She was standing on her tiptoes, peering into the pantry. “We don't have any baking powder.”

“Do you want me to run to the grocery store?”

“It'll take too long. Why don't you ask one of our neighbors?”

That seemed like a better idea. Kira headed for Valentine's. That way, he could also talk to him about his concerns. Kira walked through the quiet neighborhood, going near the end of the block where Valentine's house was. It was kind of entertaining to see his white and gold palace standing right next to Diavolo's dark Fortress of Solitude.

After waiting to be buzzed in for several minutes, Kira realized that the house was most likely empty. He glanced over the fence, noticing Valentine's car -one of many- parked on the driveway. Maybe he had gone for a jog.

In the end, Jonathan provided him with what he needed. Kira turned to walk back to his house when he noticed a rather large package dropped off outside his door. Curious, Kira picked it up to examine it. A plain cardboard, taped at the top and bottom. It was heavy, felt like it was filled with several smaller items. 'Yoshikage Kira' it read on to and sure enough, that was him. Kira furrowed his brows. He couldn't recall ordering anything. He rarely bought stuff from the internet. Maybe Shinobu had. Or perhaps Hayato. Kira unlocked the door to his house and walked in. He was instantly greeted by Killer Queen, who ran to his feet, meowing for attention. Still carrying the strange package, he got inside the kitchen and placed it on the counter.

“What's that?” asked Shinobu. So she didn't know either. It had to be Hayato, then.

“Found it outside the door,” he shrugged. He looked around for a pair of scissors, found it neatly placed inside a drawer.

“Kira Yoshikage...” she mumbled. “Who's that?”

Kira's blood froze in his veins. That name sounded foreign and odd in Shinobu's mouth. She had never uttered it before. Pure fear struck in his eyes as Kawajiri's hair started to wetly stick on his forehead. His eyes moved to the package slowly, as if scared to face an old enemy, a ghost from the past, still lingering and haunting him.

Kira had momentarily forgotten he wasn't Kira anymore.

His mind shifted into gear, trying to think of an excuse, a plan, anything. His first instinct was to kill Shinobu and scram. No, that wasn't an option, not now or ever. He carefully approached the box, warily narrowing his eyes at it. “No clue...” he said, voice as neutral as he could make it. He gulped. Sweat was sliding down Kawajiri's skull and rolling into Kira's shirt, down his spine. His palms, nose and upper lip were drenched in sweat, dryness sticking to his throat like a ball of hay.

“Then why'd you bring it inside?”

“Oh...I just found it on the door, thought you might have ordered something since the address is the same.” Shinobu looked at the package and Kira looked at her, waiting for her reaction. She finally shrugged, thinking that it made sense. “I should have checked the name. Silly me.”

“It's okay, we all make mistakes. You should take it back to the post office, though. Whoever this Kira guy is, he's probably waiting for his package.”

“You're right. I'll see if I can contact them.”

“Okay. Hey, did you get the baking powder?”

“Right here.”

“Thank you.”

Kira walked out of the room, package in hands, as nonchalantly as he could. The moment he was out of Shinobu's sight he ran up the stairs, quickly getting into his office and slamming the door behind him. He locked it, for safe measure.

“What the fuck...what the fuck...what the fuck...” he mumbled to himself.

He dropped the package on his desk and loomed over it, paper cutter in his hand like a deadly weapon. Before doing anything, he ran his fingers along the underside of his desk, his chair, anywhere convenient. He found the bug on the curtain and crushed it between his fingers. Where did Hayato even get these things?

Kira focused on the package. Should he really open it? He stuck his ear to it and listened closely. Didn't sound like a bomb and Kira knew his bombs. Pressing his lips in a tight line, Kira stood back up. He checked the information once more. That was definitely his name and new address written there. Or at least the name of who he used to be. No matter how hard he dug into his brain, he could only find one explanation; the loved ones of one of his victims had tracked him down and decided to take justice into their hands. This package was probably just a warning. It wasn't wet or smelled bad, just had that scent of being in a small space for too long. And also cardboard.

But how had they tracked him down? Diavolo had done an amazing job, there was no way he had fucked up. The only people that knew who he actually was were his friends, his fellow conspirators, the partners in crime he never expected to have. They had so much filth on one another, Kira was in no way in danger of being double-crossed. They didn't care about justice or morals, why would they ever sell him out to his worst enemies?

Well...one cared.

Kira gritted his teeth down hard, so much that a sharp twinge of pain coursed through the hinges of his jaw. He pressed the tip of the paper cutter against the tape that sealed the box and slowly dragged it down, feeling the cool metal heat up under his fingertips, slip from his sweaty grasp. The flaps bounced up slightly and Kira instinctively jumped back, tumbling down with his chair.

No smell came out, no bugs, no sparks, nothing. Kira came closer to it with the cautiousness of a deer. With the edge of the paper cutter, he pushed one flap open, jerking back again. Nothing yet. He did with the same with the other, now completely having opened the box. He held his breath, trying to make out any other sounds. Still nothing. Sweat dripped down his chin, rolling in thick, salty beads down his chest. He wiped his forehead with his forearm. He didn't even have time to be disgusted by this move.

How could it be that he was found out again so soon? How could Valentine do this to him? Serial killings aside, those two used to be inseparable. Was he perhaps jumping to conclusions? No, it couldn't be. How many Yoshikage Kiras could be out there?

At last, Kira peered inside the god-forsaken box and saw...rows of canned, green beans, neatly stacked, looking identical. He reached for one with a numb hand. He shook it. Sounded like liquid and beans. He squinted his eyes at the label. Nothing out of the ordinary, just the green beans he had seen so many times before on the grocery store aisles, right next to his favorite gherkins. He furiously thoughts back to all his crimes, from his first murder when he was a teenager to his last successful one, almost three years ago. He found nothing that related to green beans. Panic surged through his veins as his eyes fell on the innocent-looking cans. What was that supposed to mean? Was this just a bad prank?

Kira sat down, dizzy and confused. He needed to think about this, think about what he could do. After contemplating about the bizarre situation he was in for a few minutes, he decided his best option was to grab the package and go find Valentine. If his intuition was right, he was behind it all and he could provide Kira with some damn facts.

“Did you contact the post office?” Shinobu asked when she saw her husband about to go through the door, package in hand.

“Yes. They told me to take it there.”

She nodded. She gave him one of those warm smiles that did things to his heart. “Alright, but don't be late for dinner!”

“I won't.” Ah, domestic life. How unbelievably sweet it was. Kira wasn't going to lose it ever again.

Knowing that this neighborhood always had someone watching, Kira started strolling casually, heading towards Valentine's house for the second time in a day. The house was still empty, even though the car was still outside. Had they gone somewhere? No, that couldn't be it. According to Shinobu, Scarlet was in the city. There was no way Valentine was at work. Kira could hear Diego's voice coming from Johnny and Gyro's house. Diego would never get off from work if Valentine didn't leave first. Slowly, Kira turned to look at Diavolo's house.

Hello? Is that you, Yoshikage?” Doppio asked through the door phone.

“Yeah! Is Funny there?”

“Yes, he's here. You want me to call him for you?”

“No! Just...let me in, okay?”

“Does the boss know you're coming?”

“No, Doppio, and I want it to stay that way. I just wanna hang out for a bit, that's all.”

Doppio let him in. Kira stomped down the cobbled path and burst through the open door. “You're gonna have to wait a bit,” Doppio told him. “They're having a business meeting or something.”

“Business meeting my ass...” Kira grumbled under his breath, upper lip curling in fury.

Ignoring Doppio's protests, he ran up the stairs, heading to Diavolo's office. Once he found the door, he threw it open, barging inside like a madman. There was some cursing, a startled scream, and hurried moves. Kira looked up in confusion, snapped out of his infuriated state. Diavolo was sitting on one end of the couch, Valentine on the other, both looking their own kind of disheveled and shaken. Valentine was trying to smooth down his hair and fix his clothes while Diavolo glared at Kira, a deep scowl marking his face.

“What are you guys doing?” he asked in a low voice, eyes narrow as he looked at the two men.

“You come into MY house and ask me questions! What the fuck are you even doing here?”

“I'm here for him.”

“F-For me?” Valentine stuttered, puzzled, obviously still disoriented. A bouncy golden curl was sticking from the side of his head.

Kira shut the door with the edge of his shoe. Upon seeing this scene, his anger had almost been forgotten. Remains of too expensive black lipstick were stubbornly sticking on Valentine's mouth. “What were you guys doing?”

“We weren't doing anything, Yoshikage!” Valentine snapped, trying to smudge the lipstick off.

“Why are you here, dammit?” Diavolo insisted.

Kira, still suspicious, dropped the package on Diavolo's desk with a loud thud. He motioned at it with his head and the two others exchanged confused looks. Diavolo was the first one to rise from the couch and approach the box. Valentine did so a second later. Both stopped in front of the box and looked at Kira.

“What is this about?”

“Read this.”

“I don't like your tone, Yoshikage.”

“Read this,” Kira said again, with more hostility, through gritted teeth.

Valentine shot him a sharp glare but still read the information on top of the box. Kira watched as his eyes widened in shock while his lips quietly formed the words. “....what?” Valentine opened the box. He grabbed hold of a can, looking even more puzzled than before. “Yoshikage, is that supposed to mean anything?”

Valentine looked genuinely confused. Kira blinked slowly, observing the way both men quizzically looked at the items as if seeing them for the first time in their lives. Diavolo was a heinous bastard, never to be trusted, but Valentine had a few shards of integrity. Seeing his reaction made Kira doubt himself.

He toughened up. “Don't act as if you don't know!”

“You barge in here with a box full of fucking beans and you expect him to know what the fuck's going on!” Diavolo barked, obviously exasperated and very upset that his...uh...very important business meeting had been cut short.

“Yoshikage, I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.”

“Do you swear it?”

“Excuse me.”

“Do you swear you have no idea what this is?”

Valentine pursed his lips, brows furrowed. It didn't escape Kira how the blond had just caught his breath. “Why are you doing this?”

“I know you keep your promises. And I want you to promise me you have absolutely no idea what this is about.”

Valentine crossed his arms, haughtily raising his head. “I promise you, I have no clue what the hell this is.”

Kira sized him up. His brilliant blue eyes were boring into him, unblinking, unyielding, certain. Next to him, Diavolo was impatiently tapping his foot on the floor. Valentine was innocent.

“I thought...” He collapsed on Diavolo's chair, burying his face in his hands. He sighed heavily. “Someone left this at my door this morning and I thought...I thought it was a threat sent by some family member of someone I killed.” He omitted how he had forgotten he wasn't Yoshikage Kira anymore.

“And what do I have to do with anything?”

“I thought you did it!”

“What!”

“You're the only one that's against this whole thing!”

“You mean you being a serial killer? Of course, I am! But I didn't do this!”

Diavolo examined the box closely. “That's your name but the address is Kawajiri's...is it possible there could another Yoshikage Kira?”

Kira's eyebrows raised almost to his hairline. “You mean there's another with this name living in the same state as me? And I wouldn't know?”

“Maybe he just moved in...” Kira grew inexplicably irritated as the two started supporting this insane theory. “There's a chance! Nobody knows who you really are so the only logical explanation is that there's someone else with that name.”

Kira leaned back, deep in thought. “What if it's the last one? She's alive, intact, maybe still on the hunt for me. What if she got a lead and started sending me...beans?” This made less and less sense the more he talked about it. Why beans of all things?

“Sugimoto?” Diavolo snorted. He retook his position on the couch. “My boys've been keeping an eye on her. She thinks you're dead. As does everyone.” He took out a cigarette. Valentine took it between his lips and Diavolo lit it for him. He lit another for himself. “You have access to everything. Why don't you check with your guy at the registry?”

Valentine shook his head. Gray plumes of smoke spiraled to the ceiling through his nose. “That won't be necessary. Let's just google him.”

“Google him?”

“Yeah, why not? A Facebook profile, an Instagram, anything. If he's not anywhere, then I'll give Mike a call.” It was a simple strategy, too simple, but it sounded effective the way he explained it. Kira couldn't even express an opinion anymore. He was just waiting for the epilogue to this episode.

Valentine reached for his phone and typed the name Yoshikage Kira in the Google search bar. The three of them sat in agonizing silence, the occasional tapping of ashes breaking it. Kira raised his head, suddenly remembering something.

“I think your wife wants to fuck mine.”

Valentine didn't look up from his search. “So?”

“So tell her off, dude! The hell!”

“Fine, I will,” said Valentine, too absent-mindedly for Kira's liking. Diavolo scooted closer to him, whispering something, snaking one hand on his thigh. Valentine elbowed him in the chest.

"You guys better not be doing what I think you were doing," Kira muttered, glaring at them. Reviving past drama, and especially this story, was something Kira was strongly against.

"Fuck off, bean boy," Diavolo groaned, taking a long drag and letting out the smoke towards Valentine's direction. He reached for a can of beans. "What are you gonna do with these?"

"I don't know. Give them to some charity." Kira did not give a single shit about the fate of the beans.

"Whatever you do, don't use them as a movie theater snack." Valentine snorted and Diavolo smiled, awfully pleased with himself.

Valentine continued looking for a few short minutes that seemed like an eternity for Kira. He glared at Diavolo in annoyance but the mafioso still wouldn't understand the seriousness of the situation. He kept telling Valentine things and Valentine still shooed him away. Black lipstick marks, wrinkled shirts, undone zippers. Kira highly doubted those two had been discussing business but he didn't have the mind to care about anything else.

“There he is,” Valentine announced after a short while and his words were those of sweet liberation.

Kira lunged for him, snatching his phone out of his hand. On the screen was the picture of a man in what seemed to be a sailor's outfit. Cold and aloof, he was harshly beautiful, with sharp characteristics, frigid blue eyes, and short black hair. It was some article about a big rescue operation off the coast of Japan, where a very stubborn marine biologist had badly injured himself while trying to rescue a baby whale. The interview praised Dr. Kira for his quick thinking and outstanding abilities as a marine surgeon that had saved the marine biologist's life. And while he was celebrated as the man of the day, Kira looked like he'd rather be anywhere else.

“So he exists...” Kira whispered to himself in awe, as if seeing proof of the existence of some legendary cryptid.

“What will you do?”

Again, he first thought about killing the man. But was it really necessary? He wasn't causing him any trouble. For the time being, Dr. Kira Yoshikage was off the hook. Still... Kira ran his fingers along the side of the cardboard box. He felt the cold metal of the cans neatly stacked inside. He had to admit, the way they aligned was orgasmic.

“Nothing, for now. Isn't it a bit weird that this guy's package ended in my hands- Are you guys twelve?”

“It's life,” Valentine shrugged. “There's no other explanation. This is nothing but a jest of fate.”

“...this is such a dumb explanation.”

“Do you have anything better?”

Kira let them enjoy their mindless bickering. Telling them that they still were like an old married couple would probably add more fuel to the fire, one that had supposedly burned out years ago.

 

 


 

 


Kakyoin didn't even bother locking the car. He jumped out the moment he parked it and sprinted towards the hospital, not caring about his undone tie or glasses that were about to slide from his nose and smash on the floor. He arrived at the front desk, panting, sweating, not making himself presentable for once.

“I'm here for Dr. Kujo.”

“Room 505, third door to the left down the hall to your right.”

Kakyoin thanked the woman with a shake of his head and bolted towards the room. He halted right outside the door, clearing his throat and finally tying his tie and fixing his glasses. He knocked sharply, calmly, yet his body was burning with anxiety.

“Come in,” came the gruff reply, the voice evidently weaker, too tired.

Kakyoin burst through the door, eyes immediately falling on Jotaro. He was laying on the bed, in a swath of blankets and pillows, surrounded by various beeping machines, wrapped in bandages, having all sorts of fluids running into him.

“Hi,” he said softly. He took a chair and dragged it close to the bed, sitting next to Jotaro.

“Hey,” Jotaro greeted back. His expression was softer but the crease between his brows persisted. It seemed like it was permanent these days. He tried moving. The sharp pain racking his body stopped him. He grumbled something and fell back down on the mattress. “Sup?”

“You fucking idiot," Kakyoin spoke softly, playing with the edge of the covers. "You scared the shit out of me,” he hissed. He would've pinched Jotaro's nose, had it not been broken. Jotaro wisely chose to keep his mouth shut. “I know you were just doing your job but could you please every once in a while think about your family?” He didn't continue. Jotaro was far too weak for this conversation. Kakyoin shook his head. He removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Be more careful next time, okay?” Silence. “Jojo.”

“Fine.” Jotaro huffed. He hated everything about this. He hated being lectured (even though Kakyoin was right), hated being confined to a bed, hated being through so much pain, hated having to push his work back for weeks, maybe months.

“Where's Jolyne?”

“She wanted to come but I wouldn't let her. I thought this might be too hard for her.”

“Thank you.”

“She'll probably come later with Polnareff. They're all coming, actually, so you better be prepared for that. Even Jonathan wanted to come.”

“He better fucking not.” Jonathan was the type of sweet, sweet fool to put his family over everything. They couldn't thank him enough for that.

“Dio's not letting him. Says he has to focus on his career.” Kakyoin chuckled when he noticed the incredible sourness of Jotaro's face when he realized he was agreeing with Dio.

Their conversation was cut short by a knock on the door. There was no answer before the door opened. Jotaro's savior walked in, having done away with his nautical garb and donning a simple blue sweater, black slacks, and white scrubs. Kakyoin vaguely remembered this face from the wedding, Christmas cards, and old childhood photos.

“Yoshikage,” he greeted politely. He wasn't exactly excited. He didn't even know the man that well but he was grateful he had saved Jotaro. “It's good to see you again.”

“Yeah...” Kira started examining the clipboard he was holding in his hands.

“May I have a look at that?” Kira raised an eyebrow at him. “I'm a doctor,” Kakyoin explained. “Neurosurgeon.”

Kira huffed but still handed him the clipboard. “How's Josefumi?” rasped Jotaro.

Kira, obviously not in the mood for chit-chat, paused for a second. “He's okay. We're all okay.”

“I didn't know you work here, Yoshikage.”

What Kakyoin remembered about Kira was that he always looked like he'd rather be home playing with his cat or filing his nails. He did relax a little bit, taking a seat on the foot of Jotaro's bed. “I started a few weeks ago.”

“So you live in the city?” Kakyoin heard Jotaro growl something behind him. He probably wanted them both to fuck off and let him sleep. It was about time he realized socializing was important, too.

“Yeah, Brooklyn. Though we still have a few packages scattered around the country.”

“It happens when moving. All you can do is hope that a creep didn't find your stuff!”

 

 


 

 


Yukako held a very vibrant red sweater at arm's length, admiring it, checking if it was warm and stylish enough. “What do you think? I think red's your color.”

Koichi pursed his lips as he looked at the sweater. “Eh, I don't really know. I like green more.”

“I saw some nice green sweaters a little while ago,” said Yukako.

“I'll go check. You stay here and see if you find anything interesting.”

Koichi left and Yukako got to scrutinizing the shelves in front of her, looking for something Koichi would like. She had to get the size right, Koichi had gained weight recently. Muscle mass. He started going to the gym and he was studying more. He was becoming even better, something she thought was impossible.

When she looked up, Koichi still hadn't returned. Was he having difficulty choosing? Yukako grabbed the items she had chosen and went to meet him. Coming around the corner, her eyes fell on a truly terrifying sight. There Koichi was, chatting with some pink-haired girl, wearing what seemed to be a skirt with roses all over. Hot air filled her head through her nostrils. She beelined for them, feeling every hair on her body stand.

“Yukako!” Koichi cheerfully exclaimed when she arrived. Both Koichi and the other girl looked at her with bright smiles.

Yukako quirked a finely arched eyebrow. “Who is this, Koichi?” she asked in the calmest way possible. Experience and past mistakes had taught her to trust him and keep her possessiveness at check, though her innate hot-headedness often won.

“This is my cousin, Yasuho.”

“It's good to meet you!” Yasuho beamed. They shook hands, though Yukako didn't let go of her cellphone.

Yukako let her tense shoulders drop. She sighed, a gentle smile bringing back serenity on her face. “It's good to meet you, too. It's always a pleasure to meet members of Koichi's family.”

A teenaged boy, probably around their age, approached Yasuho and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. He gave them all a relaxed, gapped-tooth smile. “Hey. What's up?”

“Yukako,” said Koichi, turning to look at her. “You've probably heard about Josuke.”

She had, at some point. Josuke Higashikata, or Gappy as they playfully called him, was the first cousin (?) of their Josuke Higashikata. Despite him being mentioned often, Yukako had never actually met Gappy.

“I have. It's good to finally meet you.”

Josuke nodded, still smiling. “I heard you moved here!”

“Oh, yeah! We did, couple of weeks ago. It's great,” shrugged Josuke. “The house is great, bigger than Yoshikage's apartment, the school's nice...The only problem is my neighbor.”

Despite not living in the neighborhood, Koichi and Yukako had heard the near-legendary tales from their friends that lived there. “Problematic, huh?” Koichi offered.

“Not really. Just very very very weird.”

“You said weird thrice.”

“He's super weird. He tried breaking into our house to sniff our cat because he HAD to know how sphinx cats smell.”

“Okuyasu did that actually,” Koichi mumbled.

“Josuke, we have to get going or we'll miss the train back home,” Yasuho pointed out.

“You're right. Hey, now that I live closer, we should definitely hang out sometime!”

“I'll tell Josuke about it! I'm sure he'll be thrilled.”

Yasuho and Josuke departed, leaving Yukako and Koichi alone. “Isn't it kinda weird how two guys with the exact same name live in the same city?”

“I guess. Definitely not something you see often, is it?”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 


The 21st Night Of September Pt. 1

 


Big, ostentatious estates always had an eerie aura whenever they were empty. Valentine's house was quiet, illuminated only by the rosy light of dusk. Diavolo entered through the patio, tiptoeing all the way to the kitchen. He found Valentine sitting on the breakfast bar, gazing out to the garden through the window. He didn't say anything even though he knew it was Diavolo that had come in. Diavolo approached him, noticing how his deft fingers were nervously playing with his prized handkerchief.

"Why aren't you outside?" Diavolo asked. "It's your birthday party."

"I just wanted some time alone," he shrugged. "To think and stuff."

"About what?" Diavolo hoped it was marriage problems. "What's troubling you? You know you can talk to me."

When Diavolo's hand reached a bit too close to Valentine's neck, Valentine turned around to look at him. It wasn't a glare, just an exasperated look. "Work," he huffed, much to Diavolo's obvious disappointment. "I'm pretty sure everyone at the Congress wants to kill me."

"What makes you think that?"

"I get along with everybody, I have to. But I can't stop feeling like they're all plotting against me." He spun around, fully facing Diavolo. "Looking at this logically, I'm surprised I'm not dead yet. I'm the only one that actually wants to see this country prosper for once, without having to rely on brutality and violence, and they hate me for that. Scarlet says I'm paranoid but I'm certain." He sighed. "They all treat America like some sort of corporation, a cow they keep on milking despite how thin and old it is."

"And what do you wanna do with the cow?"

"Kill it. Then buy a new one."

"That seems like a lot to be thinking about on your birthday," Diavolo remarked.

"You think so? I think birthdays are the perfect time for reflection. You get to realize how many years have passed, where you are and where you used to be, if you stand where you want to... You make plans for the future, think about what you had in the past, what you have now and what you will have in the future." Valentine held the handkerchief loosely and waved it in front of his face. He reached for one of Scarlet's favorite lemon macarons and covered it with the pale cloth. When he removed it, nothing was there. "What will remain of you once you're gone..."

Okay, Diavolo didn't think Valentine would get this dark. He walked over to the sink and opened the cabinet below, reaching for a bottle of bourbon. He took it back to the counter and put it in front of Valentine. “Wow, thanks. I share my troubles with you and you start drinking.”

Diavolo opened the bottle and took a big swig. “You gotta let loose a little bit. If you continue thinking so much, your head's gonna explode.”

“And how would I do that? By getting hammered?”

“Yup.”

Valentine scoffed. “No, thank you. Last time I got drunk I almost had sex with you in front of a crowd and my wife threatened to leave me. So...I'll pass.”

“Come on! Don't be so uptight! You never used to be like that!”

“I'm officially 38, not 20. Same goes for you.”

Diavolo frowned. “We've really known each other for so long, haven't we?”

“Yes. Twenty four whole years.”

“Christ.” That certainly was a mouthful, gave Diavolo a headache if he thought about it for too long. It seemed like it was yesterday that he had first attended Valentine's birthday party on a very warm September afternoon. They were fourteen at the time and had a secret only the two of them knew.

“Did you...uh...did you think about what I told you? When we were in my office, after Yoshikage left.”

Valentine blinked, not sure what Diavolo was talking about. His eyes widened when he remembered. “I...uh...I can't promise you anything. Not yet.”

“That's fine.” It really wasn't but Diavolo was willing to keep his temper in check just this once. He drank some more, offering Valentine the bottle. “I can live with that for a little while. But, and I'm saying this as a friend, you really need to unwind.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm gonna have to pass.”

“Come on!” Diavolo insisted. “You haven't even listened to my plan yet!” He circled an arm around Valentine's shoulders, bringing his grinning face closer. “We can go through the back door, take your car and go to town! We can even go to Connecticut, remember the old times! Don't be a cold bitch, it'll be a boys' night!”

“I don't know how to tell you this. I don't have time to get tested for STDs with you tomorrow!”

“Nothing bad's gonna happen, man! Look, we can go to my penthouse in Manhattan! We can have our fun and stay out of trouble! What do you say?”

Honestly? The offer was tempting. Valentine really felt like he could take a load off. He glanced outside to his lavish backyard. Extravagant buffets, elegant décor, light music. His wife was standing in the middle of it all, gracefully juggling several conversations while also monitoring their boys. Just one night, then he could go back to domestic bliss and serving America. Plus, he wouldn't cause any problems for his and Scarlet's reputation,

“Fuck it,” he decided and grabbed the bottle, downing it all much to Diavolo's amusement.

 

 


 

 


The moment the boys were off to school, the house fell in complete tranquility. After watching the last bus drive off to the horizon, Scarlet walked back into the house, phone clutched tightly in her hand. She walked into the kitchen, where her baby boy was sitting on his high chair, excited about the day ahead of him. She caressed his chubby cheek affectionately and he looked at her with wide, bright blue eyes. She sat down next to him, sighing as she called the daycare once more. Scarlet stuck her pristine iPhone to her ear, impatiently clicking her glossy red nails on the table. The baby looked at her hand in fascination, entranced by the sharp, tapping sound it produced.

“Mrs. Valentine! Oh, I was about to call you!”

“But you didn't,” Scarlet said in a cold, monotone voice. “I called you three time already, Samantha! Three!”

“I know, ma'am-”

“If you know then why didn't you call me? For 20,000 dollars a year, I expect your behavior to be impeccable! This is absolutely unacceptable! It's 8:30, I have to go to work and no one has come to pick up my son yet!”

Mrs. Valentine, please listen to me!” Scarlet huffed but stayed quiet, allowing the young woman to go on with her feeble excuses. “Something urgent happened this morning and we can't have the kids today.”

“What!”

“Please listen to me. Mrs. May died last night-”

“Wait, what?”

“Yes. She had a heart attack.

“But how? She was a very active woman.” A very active old woman, indeed. Too active. After the unfortunate and mysterious death of her husband, she had gone wild, drooling whenever the too handsome Governor Valentine showed up at the daycare. “Doesn't matter,” she sighed after figuring out the details herself. “What now?”

“Well...the school's a complete mess right now, we have to go to the funeral, we couldn't possibly have the kids today. I'm sorry I didn't return your calls but we have to call every parent.”

“I understand, dear. This is gonna be hard,” she huffed while looking at her baby who was busying himself with playing with his bottle. “Anyway, I'll be expecting further notice before the days ends, yes?”

“Absolutely, Mrs. Valentine! I apologize for this mishap and I wish you a good day.”

“Thank you.” She hung up, tossing her phone on the table. She had so much work to do, luckily no appointments but still had an awful lot of paperwork waiting. Sending the baby off to her husband wasn't even an option. He always had so much to do and even a day after his birthday, he had dived right into work, leaving before she woke up. He was so busy, he hadn't even replied to her good morning text yet.

“Guess you'll be staying with mom today,” she smiled at him. She instantly fished for her phone once more, this time to call Dio.

Hello?”

“Hey, it's me. Are you at the office?”

“I'm on my way. Something wrong?”

“There's trouble at Teddy's daycare, the headmistress died or something.”

“And you have to keep him for the day?”

“Yes. I'm going to work from home, but I don't have my papers. Could you please e-mail them to me? I'll print them here.”

Absolutely.” She smiled, relieved. The fact that Dio liked her made her feel special. He was very picky and even though she knew his dislike for her husband, she enjoyed her friendship with him. “I'll have Dan do it immediately.”

“Thank you. Have a good morning.” She hung up. Next in her agenda was updating her husband on the situation. She sent him a brief but informative text, though he hadn't even read her first one yet.

Scarlet relocated Teddy in his playpen in his bedroom, giving him all his favorite toys. She made sure to write his daily schedule and set up timers for his snack and naptime. After printing out all the necessary documents, Scarlet changed into something more comfortable and started working from her office, keeping an eye on her son through the baby monitor.

Being at the house at that hour felt weird, reminded her of the late stages of her pregnancies and the post-partum period, where she used to stay at home all day, eating and catching up on all her favorite shows. The neighborhood was mostly empty, too, being far quieter than it usually was. Sure, she had to do a few things by herself but it was nice and tranquil. If she kept going at a steady pace, maybe she could squeeze in a little walk in the park with the baby.

Scarlet managed to work for a solid forty minutes before looking up at the baby monitor to check at her son. Her eyes widened when she registered what she was seeing. The playpen was empty and the room was completely quiet. Teddy was nowhere to be seen. Cursing a bit too loudly, the anxious mother stormed out of her office and barged into the nursery.

“Teddy?!” She yelled, leaning over the edge of the playpen. The pile of stuffed toys in the corner moved. Curious, Scarlet reached in, touching something soft, squishy and fleshy. She pulled Teddy out, who giggled at her. Even though he had scared the shit out of her, she sucked at getting mad at her kids. They all looked like their Dad, they were just too damn cute. Teddy kept looking at her with his sweet blue eyes, bouncy flaxen curls falling on his shoulders, smiling his little grin. She hugged him, squeezing him close to her chest.

“I guess I should keep a close eye on you, you little rascal.”

And so, Scarlet brought everything to the living room, setting up her son's playpen a few feet away from her. Even though his little babbling was a bit distracting, listening to him go, making up his own worlds and games was cute. She caught herself staring at him, taking in his image. Light poured from the windows and illuminated his chubby body. He looked like an angel, like those that were drawn around churches and Renaissance paintings.

He won her over in an astonishingly short time. She ditched all the paperwork and joined him in his kingdom. What a sweetie he was, rejoiced that his mother was going to be playing with him. He shoved a little frog plushie in her hands and urged her to play with it. Scarlet decided to take him out of the playpen. She laid out all the toys around them and got on the carpet next to him, allowing him more room to make up his adventures. Snacks, drinks, all the essentials were right next to her. Teddy's favorite music was playing on her laptop. Aw, well. While she was excellent at her job, which she adored, Scarlet didn't think there'd be much of a problem if she spent one day playing with her baby son.

“Do you want to send Daddy a picture?” she told him.

His bright eyes were fixated on her phone's screen. “Da,” he said, reaching for her phone's background. It was a pretty picture of Funny during their summer vacation, sitting on a log in front of their lake house.

“Yes,” she smiled and planted a kiss on his golden head. Babies had the best smell. All her others boys still smelled like that, like clouds.

After snapping a few shots, Scarlet decided to sent one to her husband, hoping that it'd made him crack a smile while at work. He didn't reply this time either. He was so incredibly busy. She put her phone aside and turned her attention to her baby. She tickled his tummy and chubby little legs and he giggled so sweetly, warming up her heart. Work could wait one day.

When Teddy woke up from his morning nap, it was time for lunch. Scarlet dressed him up in jeans, a red sweater and a denim jacket that Trish and Giorno had embroidered flowers on. She changed out of her crimson velvet designer sweats to a red and black pinstripe suit with a silk white blouse and black Louboutins. After tidying the living room somewhat, she called her husband, to inform him that she was coming with their son. She waited a few seconds but he didn't pick up. Even though she knew that they both were very dedicated to their work, this was getting a bit annoying. Was he really so busy that he couldn't even text her a smiley face back? She thought about the night before and couldn't remember any fight occurring between the two of them. He had no reason to be ignoring her so coldly.

Persistent as she was, Scarlet called again. She stopped walking around the house impatiently, halting at the bottom of the stairs. In the quiet of the house and neighborhood, she could faintly make out the familiar sound of the national anthem. She lowered her phone, not sure if she was actually hearing it. She listened for a few seconds and indeed, the sound was there. It was coming from upstairs. She quickly headed to the second floor and into the master bedroom. Even though muffled, it was obvious that the Star Spangled Banner was playing from somewhere in there. She found the source of the sound under the discarded heap of Funny's satin pajamas. It was his phone, with her contact information on-screen. She ended the call and the national anthem stopped.

Scarlet sat down on the bed. More than confused, she had this ugly feeling welling in the pits of her stomach, some sensation of inexplicable terror looming overhead, trailing its nails along the length of her spine. In the roughly twenty years she had been married to that man, not once had he forgotten his phone. All his important contacts were there and it was the only way to reach him in case of an emergency, as he didn't like his family members calling his office. Some would accuse her of being overdramatic and worrying too much about the well-being of a grown man, a former marine at that, that didn't even go to the bathroom without carrying a gun but she couldn't help it.

She started pacing up and down the room, hands linked behind her back. Her eyes fell on Funny's pajamas, carelessly tossed on the foot of the bed. She froze. Aside from never forgetting his phone, her husband never left his clothes like that. Had he left so hastily in the morning that he hadn't even folded them like he always did? She ran inside their ensuite bathroom and felt his favorite fully bathrobe. It was completely dry, as if it hadn't been used that day. She then ran her fingers along the bristles of his toothbrush. Hard and dry, untouched. No matter how busy he was, there was absolutely no way Funny would ever skip such important steps of his personal hygiene.

Dizzy and more confused than ever before, Scarlet got back to the kitchen. Aside from the utensils she had used, there were no other signs that someone else had used the kitchen that morning. Maybe she was being paranoid, nitpicking with too much dedication, but she couldn't help but worry. She hadn't even heard him leave...What about last night? Oddly enough, it was one of the few times they didn't go to bed together. He must have gotten to bed later than her. Or not at all. There were no signs of him being in the house in almost 24 hours. In her panic, she tried clearing her thoughts, thinking as far back as she could. Come to think of it, she had lost track of him at some point and she remembered him looking a bit gloomy. He told her he was going inside the house and that he'd come back in a little while. That was the last time Scarlet had seen her husband.

Without hesitation, she called his office. “Governor Valentine's of-”

“Diego!” she yelled, scaring the young man. “I know I'm not supposed to be calling there but this an emergency. Is my husband in there?”

“You mean at work?”

“Yes!”

Of course he is,” Diego replied, who was honestly a bit weirded out by the question. Where else would Valentine be?

Scarlet bit her lip. She couldn't be relieved just yet. “Are you sure about that?”

“Yeah. I can hear him walking up and down his office.”

At that, she froze again. Her palms became drenched in sweat. The strange feeling of dread returned even stronger, coursing through her veins like a lightning bolt. She went numb, almost losing her tongue at the back of her throat. “Diego,” she managed to croak, “that man isn't my husband.”

The rapid clicking of Diavolo's keyboard stopped. “What?”

"You've never noticed? Funny makes no sound when he walks.”

“Maybe-”

“Did you see him enter?”

“What?”

Scarlet gritted her teeth. Diego's inability to understand the situation was already stretching out the edges of her limited patience. “Did you see my husband enter when you came to work this morning?”

“No! H-He was already inside when I came in. He hasn't come out at all today, no calls, no appointments, nothing.”

It was a surreal scenario but probable nevertheless. After thinking for a few good seconds, Scarlet opened her mouth once more. “Diego, I want you to go into his office and see if he has his handkerchief.”

“What.”

“Stop saying that!” she snapped. “I want you to go into Funny's office and look for his handkerchief. He always has it with him. If he doesn't, then that will confirm that this man is not my husband.”

Diego fell silent for a while. Scarlet listened to his breath, anxiously drumming her nails on the countertop. “I am not going to do that.

“Yes, you are!” she barked, slamming her fist on the counter. She would definitely feel that later.

“I can't just barge into his office and start looking around! He'll fire me!”

“No, he won't! If he catches you, you'll tell him I sent you.”

“He's not going to buy it!”

“Listen,” she said. “You either do as I say or I'll make sure you never get employed again! From the White House to the smallest McDonald's, I'll make sure no one, absolutely no one ever hires you again!” She paused. “Do you understand me?” Silence. She could feel Diego shaking, maybe from anger, maybe from fear. “Do it, and I'll give you a handsome reward.”

...I'll do it,” Diego finally agreed. “I'll go in when he takes his afternoon nap.”

“Good. Call me when you're done.” She hung up.

She walked back into the living room, where her son was blissfully oblivious to her distress, playing with his toys. Where had Funny gone after she last saw him? The notion that he had slept late and left early seemed unrealistic. He had gone somewhere but where? It was a workday! There was no way he'd disappear on a workday!

“Not willingly,” Scarlet murmured to herself. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously as her gaze drifted to Johnny and Gyro's house right next door.

 

 


 

 


Hot Pants shut the washing machine and started the program. She could hear Lucy doing the plates behind her. They worked silently, though the same thought was passing from their heads; Johnny and Gyro were completely unfit to be homeowners. When they arrived at their house that morning with the hope of making plans for the wedding, they knew they had to make this pigsty habitable. Gyro had bailed, said he had work at the hospital but they had at least forced Johnny to run to the nearest grocery store for some cleaning supplies and actual food. Too bad Jonathan was away. He'd surely support this endeavor wholeheartedly, make sure the two boys did everything themselves.

Since the fridge only had mozzarella and scotch, the girls decided to order some pizza. By lunchtime, the house looked presentable and they could actually use the stairs. They sat on the breakfast bar, proudly looking at their work while indulging in some cheesy goodness.

“What will you do about the location?”

Hot Pants groaned. “I honestly don't know. I don't even know where to start.”

Lucy smiled sympathetically. “You know I'll help with everything you need, though I'll doubt I'll be of any help. When I got married, things were so rushed. We just went to the first church we saw before the mafia could kill us.”

Hot Pants chuckled mirthlessly. “Thanks, Luce. I need all the help I can get.”

There was a knock on the door, sharp and loud. Thinking that it was Johnny who had most likely forgotten his keys, Lucy walked to answer it. The moment she opened the door, she shut it immediately, pressing her back against the white wood. Hot Pants arched a brow at her.

“Who is it?” she asked.

“Scarlet.”

Shit. Hot Pants had a bad feeling about that woman. Not only because she was married to Valentine. For her, Scarlet was one of those people she didn't know why she didn't like but she did so regardless. Something about her smug aura, the way she carried herself with haughtiness disguised as dignity. Scarlet already knew there were people in this house and ignoring her would most likely be a mistake. Hot Pants didn't bother wiping her oily hands and made her way out of the kitchen and to the entrance. Lucy hurried behind her. Hot Pants took a deep breath and opened the door, revealing a Scarlet standing at the doorstep, holding her infant son. It wasn't her unexpected appearance that had obviously distressed Lucy but her attire. Scarlet crossed the threshold and just stood there, looking like the goddess of rich people among dusty peasants. On her feet, she was wearing red satin high heeled slippers with fur details. Her main outfit consisted of a long-sleeved maxi robe made from black silk, with red fur around the bottom of the sleeves and the hemline. Under that, she was wearing what seemed to be a red satin nightgown. The robe was tied snuggly around her waist, emphasizing her hourglass figure. Hot Pants and Lucy exchanged confused glances.

“Good morning, peasants. You might be wondering why I have graced you with my appearance on this fine day.”

“Not really-”

“The thing is, my dear girls, that my beloved husband seems to have mysteriously disappeared.” Scarlet sauntered over to the living room, observing the house with a scrunched nose. How small and...smothering. She abruptly turned around. “And I believe that Johnny and Gyro had something to do with this.”

“That's ridiculous,” Lucy said. “They were with us all day yesterday.”

Scarlet scanned the young woman from head to toe with a quirked brow. “And why should I believe you?”

“Because I'm telling the truth.”

Scarlet scoffed. Ignoring their confusion, she made her way to the living room and sat down on the couch, glamorously draping her robe over her legs. “Yeah, right.”

“You can't stay here,” Hot Pants cut in. “You're trespassing.”

Scarlet's cold charcoal gaze fixed on Hot Pants but she didn't flinch. She suddenly gasped daintily, throwing a hand over her chest. “How can you speak to me so harshly, Hot Pants? I thought you liked me.”

“The fuck gave you that idea...”

“Your husband isn't here,” Lucy insisted.

“I don't trust you. At all. For all I know, you're in on this plan. I know that you hate our guts. Wrongfully so.”

"Wrongfully?” Lucy parroted. “Steven's been rotting in jail where your husband threw him while you people-”

“I'm not going anywhere,” Scarlet declared. “I'm not going anywhere until I get some goddamn answers.”

Lucy huffed angrily. Grabbing Hot Pants by the arm, she dragged her off to the kitchen. “What do we do with this lunatic? We obviously can't use force with her.” Hot Pants had to agree on that. Despite being physically able to throw Scarlet out of the window, doing so would mostly end her up in a secret CIA prison. At best.

“I don't know her that well,” she whispered.

Lucy thought about it for a second. The baby was definitely an obstacle. She'd never forgive herself if she distressed a little baby. And he was so cute.

“She's harmless if you leave her alone,” she said. “She doesn't seem to be carrying a gun with her, either.”

“So we keep her here until the boys come?”

“I don't think she'll stay put for that long. She'll probably start looking around the house before the hour ends. And even after they get here, I doubt she'll calm down.”

They both turned to glance at the woman, who was still looking around the house like a very upset aristocrat. “I have a plan,” Hot Pants blurted, “though it's risky. And illegal.”

Lucy looked at her, puzzled. “Like what?”

“She's already pretty mad, right? Chances are that Johnny will annoy her even more and something very bad will most likely happen.” Hot Pants pulled Lucy further into the kitchen, dropping her voice to a hushed whisper. “What if we sedate her?”

“What.”

“Yeah. We'll give her some tea, put some sleeping pills in it or something and give it to her. By the time she wakes up, we'll probably have this figured out.”

Lucy opened her mouth several times, gawking at Hot Pants in utter shock. “Wh-Who are you?”

“Come on, Lucy!” Hot Pants shook her from the shoulders. “Do you have anything better?”

Well, no. She didn't. This was a very immoral plan but if pulled off correctly, it would be successful. Besides, Scarlet deserved it. “We'll do it,” she decided. “Steven has some pills that could knock out a horse. I'm sure I can find some.”

“Sounds great. Let's go.”

“You'll stay behind and keep her in check,” Lucy said.

As much as Hot Pants didn't like that prospect, it seemed perfectly logical. Having figured out their plan, the two women walked back into the living room. Scarlet looked at them coldly, folding her arms over her chest.

“I have to run some errands,” Lucy announced. “Hot Pants will stay here with you.”

“You're not going anywhere,” Scarlet hissed. “How do I know you're not going where you're hiding my Funny, huh?”

“This neighborhood has a security station at the gate. If we really kidnapped him, he's still somewhere around here.”

Scarlet sat back. “Fair enough,” she mumbled. “You can leave.”

Lucy rolled her eyes. Rich people were either infuriating or entertaining. As she approached the door, she suddenly halted, turning around to face Scarlet. She seemed hesitant, embarrassed, even. “Umm...” she started. “Can...can I have your baby?”

Scarlet blinked, surprised. A mischievous grin spread across her velvety red lips. “At least buy me dinner first,” she purred.

“That is not what I meant!” Lucy shouted. “He just looks bored and I thought that taking him for a ride would do him good.”

“I know, dear. I'm just teasing.” Scarlet glanced at her bundle of joy. He did look very bored. Plus, if he left and she would be all alone with Hot Pants.”Very well.”

Not bothering to hide her joy, Lucy picked the baby up. He wasn't shy at all, squealing with glee and she pulled him into her embrace. Oh, he was the cutest. He looked like a marshmallow with curls. She squeezed him and he giggled. Chubby babies were the best.

“What's his name?”

“Theodore Roosevelt Valentine,” Scarlet replied. “We call him Teddy.”

“Teddy,” Lucy cooed and he smiled at her. What a sweetheart.

Hot Pants stuck her face on the window as if her husband had gone to war. Lucy lived in Brooklyn, which was almost an hour away. Great. Mustering all her courage, Hot Pants walked back into the living room. She had no reason to be feeling this anxious. She had been through worse, surely handling a woman wouldn't be that big of a challenge.

Alas, she was wrong. Scarlet was laying on the couch, legs stretched in front of her in the most inviting way, lips curved into a devilish smile. Hot Pants gulped.

“Come sit here with me, dear,” Scarlet smiled, a bit too sweetly. Weird woman. One moment she was acting all tough and then she was all mellow and warm. Hot Pants wasn't under the impression that this wasn't a vicious, ruthless bitch. She was friends with Dio, after all.

"What's with the get-up?"

"Oh, this?" Scarlet chirped, looking down at her garments as if she was dealing with rags. "It's the outfit I have prepared for when my rich husband mysteriously disappears." Hot Pants choked on her own saliva.

“We should be getting along, you and I,” Scarlet continued. Even though Hot Pants had taken a seat on the far side of the couch, Scarlet had crawled closer, her knees brushing against Hot Pants' thigh. “Our boys do.”

“Yes.”

“How's the wedding planning going, by the way?” Before Hot Pants could answer, Scarlet had grabbed one of her hands, squeezing it lovingly. “Don't forget that I can help you with whatever you want. I'm only a call away.”

There was that smile again, that feral, sugary smile. Hot Pants wasn't a fool. She knew what this woman wanted and so she had to push her off as gracefully as possible. One wrong move and Diego would be without a job, probably she would, too. No telling how much power these people had.

“Thank you, Mrs. Valentine.”

“Oh, there's no need for such formalities, darling! Just call me Scarlet.” Hot Pants nodded. Obviously, Scarlet wasn't satisfied. Her smile wavered long enough for Hot Pants to catch it. “Say it.”

“Scarlet?”

“Good!” she applauded. Deft fingers skimmed along the edge of her robe, tugging slightly to reveal her nightgown's plunging neckline ever so discretely. “What about you? Is Hot Pants your real name?”

“Yes.” One-worded replies were a surefire way of making someone bored.

Or more intrigued in Scarlet's case, who interpreted Hot Pants' reluctance and awkwardness for coyness. “Fascinating,” she remarked. “Very descriptive, if you ask me.”

“My parents just like James Brown a lot.”

Scarlet laughed at that, fleetingly touching Hot Pants' thigh. “I'm sure you'll have the wedding of your dreams. I'm so thrilled that you have invited us.”

“For that, we're gonna have to find your husband, first,” Hot Pants joked hoping that she would remind Scarlet what her true objective was.

“Nevermind him,” Scarlet dismissed. “I'll be fine on my own. I'll be even better if he's actually dead!” she laughed heartily and Hot Pants chuckled nervously. Somehow, she was getting the feeling that Scarlet meant that.

The closer the older woman got, the more overwhelming the strong scent of roses became. The armrest was digging painfully into Hot Pants' back. There was nothing she could do other than politely evade her advances while praying Lucy would hurry the fuck back.

“I thought you wanted to find him.”

“That would be nice but you know what would be even nicer? If all of his inheritance goes to me! We're talking houses, yachts, bank accounts.” She shuddered. “You must think I'm horrible.”

I think you're fucked in the head and the only reason you're still alive is because my pepper spray is out of reach. “Only God can judge.”

Scarlet snorted. “Now you speak like my husband. He's always been like that, you know. Ever since we were kids. Very...pious. My experiences with religion have been very different, I'm afraid.”

Should she risk it? Should she ask her what she meant? If she didn't, chances were Scarlet would jump on her. If she did, Scarlet would hopefully break out in a monologue. “What do you mean?”

“Aw, well...” Scarlet snickered. “When I was in middle school, my Dad sent me to an all girls' boarding Catholic school. I was a rather...energetic and curious girl and those traits were generally frowned upon. So, one of the nuns took it upon herself to punish me.”

“Wh-what did she do?” Hot Pants stuttered. She bolted up, going to check on her phone when in reality she wanted to get away from this woman as soon as possible.

Scarlet sighed longingly. “I think we're gonna need some drinks for that story.”

“You know what?” Hot Pants said, voice a bit too shrill, forehead a bit too sweaty. “I'll go check if they have anything.”

“And I'll be right here.”

Hot Pants stormed into the kitchen, standing with her back pressed against the fridge. All she wanted was to sit down and decide on a goddamn cake design and this is what she got. A damn madwoman, flirting with her with the ferocity of a jungle beast. She hastily called Lucy.

Hello?”

“Where the fuck are you?”

“I'm still on my way to Brooklyn.”

Hot Pants choked. “Can't you hurry up!? I'm fearing for my safety here!”

“I can't go too fast, there's a baby in the car!”

“Why did you have to take him!?”

“I love him, okay!? I love cute babies!”

Hot Pants took a deep, calming breath, gently rubbing the bridge of her nose. “Okay,” she breathed. “Okay. I'll survive until you return but please don't take too long.”

“I promise I won't.”

Once again, Hot Pants gathered all her courage and walked back into the living room to face her worst fear; entitled rich people.

 

 


 

 

Diego kept staring at the phone thoughtfully even a few minutes after he had ended his call. His gaze shifted to the set of wooden doors standing a few meters away from him. Valentine would be taking his nap in just a few minutes like he always did. That gave Diego a twenty to half-hour window to carry out the task Scarlet had entrusted him with. Her call had troubled him deeply. If it wasn't Valentine the one in there, then who? The only other who had keys to his office was Blackmore, but he was in his office. Diego had seen him by the coffee machine in the kitchen earlier that day.

“Is Valentine in there?” he asked.

Sandman looked up from his computer screen, glancing at Diego as if he was an idiot, just like he always did. “Is that an actual question you just asked me?” he asked in a monotone voice.

“Yes. Is he in there.”

“Of course, he is. Who else could it be?”

Diego glanced around. Everyone else was too busy doing their jobs, not paying attention to them. He stood up from his chair and skittered to the desk across, much to Sandman's annoyance. “Here's the thing,” he started. “His wife believes it's not him.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

“You know how Valentine doesn't make any sound when he walks, right?” Of course, he did. They all did. It scared the shit out of them, it was the reason why they didn't have any privacy around this place. “I've been hearing the guy who's in there walking up and down all day.”

Sandman glanced at the door behind Diego. “I don't think we should conclude that the guy in there isn't Valentine based on just that.”

“Did you see him come in this morning?” Diego asked impatiently.

“Well...no. He was here long before I came in.” He sat back on his chair. Despite his indifference to most things, Diego's words were intriguing. He shook his head. “Does it matter? There's no way we can verify it, anyway. It's not like we can barge in there and demand answers.”

Diego leaned in. “Scarlet told me that Valentine, her Valentine, always carries a handkerchief with him. If the one in there has it, it means it's the real deal.”

“I know which one you're talking about. He always has it on him.” Diego nodded fervently. “So what?”

“So, we'll go in there and look for it while he sleeps!”

“Why are you including me in this mess?” Sandman hissed.

“Scarlet said she'd pay me. I can split the reward with you.”

Knowing her, it was probably an unrealistically large sum. Still, he had to decline. “No.”

“But why!?”

“Scarlet doesn't have any power here but he does. And if he catches me snooping around, I'm gonna lose my job! This is the only thing I have left! My sister has already shunned me for working for the actual white devil!”

“You're a little overdramatic.”

“Am I? I am not losing this job, Diego! I get a good pay, a car and a penthouse in SoHo. There's no way I'd jeopardize all that!”

“What are you guys talking about?”

At the sound of the most infuriating voice in all of humanity, Diego shot up. He bolted to Magenta, eyeing him with a shaky smile. “How about you do me a little favor, huh? I'll owe you one.”

Magenta snorted. “Like hell I am. Last time I got in on one of your little plans, I almost drowned.”

“That was a long time ago!”

“It was last week!”

Diego pursed his lips. It was really tough not getting along with anyone in the office. “I'll pay you. Scarlet will, thirty grand.”

Magenta considered the offer. “No,” he finally replied, carrying on his way to the fax machine.

Assholes, all of them. Diego growled bitterly as he stomped all the way to his desk. It wasn't a matter of quenching his curiosity or getting the money anymore. It was a matter of dignity, of pride, of ego. He checked the time. Valentine always followed his schedule strictly, meaning that he had fallen asleep ten minutes ago. Diego inhaled deeply several times, stretching his limbs a bit, slapping his face a couple of times. He slowly wrapped each finger around the heavily ornate knob and twisted, flinching at the tiny creak it made.

He hurried inside, closing the door behind him as silently as possible. He pressed his back against the cool wood and observed the room in front of him. Valentine had a small (small being roughly the size of a modern condo, in Valentine's world) room next to his office where he could take his daily naps, had a gorgeous kitchen and lavish bathroom. The lights were turned off, the room was only being illuminated by the giant window behind Valentine's desk. Walking on his tiptoes, Diego approached the imposing mahogany desk. The temptation was far too strong and Diego couldn't resist not running his fingers across Valentine's leather chair. More of a throne than a chair, really. Oh, the material felt like pure silk under his sweaty fingertips. He bit his lips. He sat down carefully, gasping quietly once he was fully seated. Felt like sitting on a 10,000-dollar cloud. The view was incredible but what was even greater was the feeling of sitting on that throne like some grand inquisitor, some sort of god. He inspected Valentine's various belongings; pens worth more than his salary, leather binders and a rather great amount of pink glitter gel pens. Valentine had many pictures of his family showcased in elegant frames, mostly on vacation or during the holidays.

He suddenly snapped up, remembering why he had come here in the first place. Where to start? He tried remembering where Valentine put his handkerchief when he didn't have it on him. His hands hovered around the desk awkwardly before going for the top right drawer. That was the one, the one that contained Valentine's most prized belongings. In order to open the drawer, Diego had to input a four-digit code. He didn't really know any important dates in Valentine's life. Maybe important dates in American history? Hesitantly, he pushed in 1776. The drawer opened with a click. Of course. The top layer was mostly unopened office supplies that Diego stacked on the desk, without neglecting to pocket some for himself. The findings under that were the least to say surprising. Though Diego never expected to, he caught a glimpse of the side of Valentine that didn't flinch when his skin came in contact with anything worth less than a thousand dollars. Carefully stacked Polaroids of Scarlet, doing the most mundane things that Valentine still found extremely amusing. The newest dated a few days back, picturing her while trying to give their son a bath, covered in bubbles and rubber duckies. More pictures, more miscellaneous memorabilia that held a secret meaning. At the bottom of this small treasure trove, Diego unearthed a photograph, yellowed at the edges but the figures and colors were still vivid. It depicted two boys, two easily recognizable boys, no older than maybe 16 years. They were sitting on a ledge on top of some cliff, the endless blue sea stretching behind them. Even though he wasn't smiling or looking at the camera, Diavolo looked calm and content. His arms were wrapped around Valentine's shoulders, lips softly pressed against his golden hair. Valentine as a teenager was softer, sweeter, untouched by whips and torturers wearing large sunglasses, sporting a huge grin. Curiously, Diego looked at the back.

“Ti adoro per sempre,” Diego read. That sounded like something Gyro would say.

Carefully, he tucked the photograph back in its place. He rummaged some more, digging into the darkest depths of the drawer. He could feel sweat gathering on the back of his knees. Still no handkerchief. As he was hurriedly putting the folders inside the drawer, Diego heard the door open. Footsteps. His breathing stopped altogether, fingers froze around the golden handle. He slowly looked up, eyes wide and horrified. There, leaning against the doorframe was Valentine. Or at least someone that looked like him. In the dim light of the room, Diego could only make out his deep scowl. He seemed taller, chunkier, bigger and far colder.

“May I help you?” he offered. His voice rang inside Diego's skull, numbing his brain.

 


 

 


At the sound of the keys turning in the lock, Hot Pants bolted up and practically dragged Lucy inside.

“Finally!” she gasped.

“What happened while I was gone?”

“Nothing but let me tell you that woman is insane!”

Lucy glanced past Hot Pants' shoulder. Scarlet waved at her with a small smile. He walked up to her to return her the baby. “He was a real sweetheart, Mrs. Valentine.”

“He looks sleepy,” Scarlet noted as the little boy leaned on her shoulder, wrapping his chubby little arms around her neck as best as he could. “Thank you for that. I guess he must have gotten a bit bored.”

Lucy hurried back to where Hot Pants was. From the little plastic bag she had brought, she pulled out a box of pills. She gave the container a shake. “I had to try a few different drugstores but one eventually gave them to me.”

“Are they potent?”

“Incredibly so, they kick in within seconds, though I guess they work better on older people, as well as men. But I think she'll be out cold at least until Johnny gets here.”

“Where the hell is he, anyway?”

“Probably went to the races.” Lucy walked to the cupboards, heating some water to prepare tea. “Mrs. Valentine, would you like some tea?”

“Oh, yes!”

“Any preference?”

“I can't be too picky. I'll just have what you plebs have.”

Lucy sighed. She couldn't even be offended anymore. Just amazed by how out of touch with reality these people were. Hot Pants sat on the breakfast bar, still examining the box of pills. “She won't die, right?”

“A pill won't kill her.”

“Do you think she'll notice it?”

“I doubt it. They are odorless and tasteless.”

The tea was ready in a matter of minutes. Lucy chose the three mugs Johnny and Gyro owned that didn't have any profanities on them and poured the hot tea. She slipped the pill on one, waiting for it to dissolve. She carefully placed them on a tray and carried them into the living room.

“Last year when we went to China for a government thing,” Scarlet started, “they gifted Funny a kind of tea worth a million dollars.” She smiled. “It didn't even taste good.” The younger women watched breathlessly as Scarlet took a sip of her tea.

Lucy was right. In a matter of a few short minutes, Scarlet started yawning. In five, she leaned her head on the armrest. Lucy took the baby as the mother fell asleep, one arm dangling from the couch.

 

 


 

 

 

A few minutes after Johnny arrived, Diego stormed into the house, looking as if he had been chased by hellhounds. The other three all shushed him. Diego approached them quietly. Scarlet was sleeping on the couch, and the others were all playing with her baby.

“What's going on here?”

“This fucking lunatic thinks I kidnapped her husband!” Johnny complained. He narrowed his eyes. “Are you okay? You look pale.”

Diego took a deep breath. Hot Pants pulled him closer to sit him down on her knees. “I got fired,” he announced.

“What!”

“Yeah...”

“But why?” Hot Pants demanded.

“To make a long story short, Scarlet asked me to check if the guy at the office was actually Valentine. So I went into his office to look for evidence and he caught me right in the act.”

“You lost your job because she asked you to!?” Hot Pants barked. Great. Now they had to get married at a goddamn McDonald's parking lot in their gym clothes.

“At least now we know where he is...” Johnny muttered.

“No, we don't.” Diego stood up and removed his jacket and shoes as if they were suddenly burning. “That wasn't Valentine.”

“But you saw him.”

“It wasn't him!” he insisted. “It definitely looked like him but I'm 100% that it wasn't Valentine.” Diego was shaken and not because he had lost his job. That fact alone was enough to make the others pay attention to him. “Guys, I think he might be dead.”

“Dead!?”

“Yes! Think about it; despite everything, he's the only politician that's actually doing his job. Do you honestly think it's that unlikely that they got him killed?”

They all exchanged glances. That was entirely possible. If anything, it was surprising it hadn't already happened.

“Good.”

“Johnny!”

“What? Nothing good will ever come from the bastard, why shouldn't I be happy he's dead?” Lucy looked at him in disbelief. He snorted. “Why are you looking at me like that? You should be happy, too. Now you can finally get Steven out of prison.”

“I was already planning to but Valentine didn't have to die!”

“Does it matter?”

“It does! How can you be so cold? Four kids will live the rest of their lives not knowing how their Father got killed off!” She held Teddy close. She had taken a liking to him. “You can't just wish for someone's death simply because you don't like them!”

“I don't really care. I'm just glad he's dead. Now she'll finally leave my house.”

“You're such a bastard sometimes...”

“Call me whatever.” He wheeled over to where Scarlet had been peacefully napping for the past three and a half hours. Rather tastelessly, he threw the remaining tea, now cold, on her face.

Scarlet snapped awake, gasping in shock as she sat up. Rivulets of tea were running down her face, miraculously leaving her makeup intact. Her burning black gaze moved to Johnny. “What the fuck do you think you're doing?” she asked in a low, threatening voice.

“Your husband's dead.”

“Johnny!”

She narrowed her eyes at him. She slowly stood up, looking every bit like a disturbed predator. “What are you fucking talking about?”

“I said he's dead.”

Scarlet sneered at him. Weird kid, annoying as hell, now she could finally see why Funny disliked him so much. She turned to Diego, hoping he would debunk this nonsense. “What is he talking about, Diego?”

Under the pressure of this strange -stranger than usual- day, as well as the shock from both Valentine's mysterious disappearance and the apparent loss of his job, Diego crumbled. “He's telling the truth,” he choked out.

Scarlet's eyes widened in surprise. “Wha-”

“He's telling the truth, Scarlet,” he repeated. He gulped dryly. “I did what you told me to but I didn't find the handkerchief. I saw Valentine.” At that, her face lit up. “But it wasn't him. It looked at him but he was way off. Like a clone or a doppelganger.”

Had anyone else heard those words, they would have laughed at their ridiculousness. But for a woman who had been involved in the murky and violent affair that was American politics, the initial reaction was to collapse on the couch with a vacant stare. “What?” she uttered. Diego didn't have the heart to answer her. Johnny opened his mouth to speak but Hot Pants slapped him upside the head.

 

 


 

 

 

“How are your studies going?”

“I think I'm managing. I definitely have some weaknesses but I will keep pushing myself towards perfection.” And Giorno lied. Dio didn't need to know about his career as a student. He would, eventually, but Giorno would rather enjoy life while it lasted. Since only the two of them were in the house, Giorno was trying his hardest to keep Dio in a good mood. Only for a few more hours. Then, Jonathan would return and with him, domestic peace.

Their peaceful meal was rudely interrupted by rapid knocking on the door. Dio sat up, grumbling, and headed for the door. Diego was behind it, looking like he had run a marathon on his own.

“What are you doing?”

“We...uh...we got a situation.”

“And why should I, Dio, care?”

“Dio, please,” Diego said through gritted teeth. “It's bad.”

Dio sighed. Knowing Diego, it was probably some silly feud between him and his idiotic friends. “Very well,” he said. “Giogio, I will be back shortly!”

“I'm coming!”

“You aren't!”

“But I want tea!” Giorno complained and hurried out of the house, following his father and uncle.

Much to Dio's surprise, it wasn't another stupid argument. It seemed strange enough when Diego led him into Valentine's house and he was honestly at a loss for words when he stepped into the living room to find Scarlet, bawling her eyes out while Kars was hugging her, trying to console her.

“Oh, Dio!” she cried when he walked in.

“What happened?”

Instead of answering, Scarlet started crying even more. Incomprehensible, barely audible sounds came out of her mouth, drowned by her violent, rugged sobbing and constant sniffing. In the end, she started wailing even louder and buried her face in Kars' abdomen, who merely sighed and rubbed her back comfortingly.

“We...we believe Funny...bit the dust,” Kars said and Scarlet broke out in more sobs.

The doorbell rang and Giorno, who was also very shaken, went to answer the door. “I heard about what happened,” Kira breathed as he walked in. “Is it true?”

“Nothing's been confirmed but we believe so.”

“Nothing's ever going to be confirmed!” Scarlet yelled. “Th-They killed him and chopped him up and turned him into pig food!”

“I still have no idea what's going on,” Dio said.

“He knew he was going to die!” Scarlet lamented. “He told me a few days ago! He told me that he was scared those old fucks were going to get rid of him because he cared about America and didn't tolerate their shady bullshit!” More crying, with hiccups wracking her entire body. “And they did it! I should have listened to him!"

“Maybe he's-”

“Maybe he's what? Alive?” She let out a hoarse, unhinged guffaw. “He disappeared without a trace and they already replaced him with a clone!”

“The government can do that?” Giorno whispered in awe.

“Darling,” Dio started awkwardly, “I thought you hated Funny.”

“I love him!” she declared. “I love that garbage man so much!” She discarded her used tissue, filthy with mascara, and reached for a new box. “What am I going to do? What will I tell the kids? His parents and sisters? What if they come for me, too?” She grabbed Kars by the shoulders. “Please take care of my kids if I die! The dog, too.” She gasped. “They must have finished school by now!”

“I took care of that,” Kars reassured her. “Esidisi is keeping them busy.”

“Oh, thank you!” She started crying again, while those around her remained baffled at the sight. Watching strong and more than often violent people be overcome with sorrow was always strange.

“I didn't know you and Mr. Valentine were so close, Mr. Kawajiri,” Giorno noted, catching Kira off guard.

“Oh...I'm the president of the HOA. I have to be there.” Giorno nodded. He was going to believe that. For now.

Scarlet was truly inconsolable, crying and crying right when they thought she had run out of tears. To make matters worse, Dio gave her a box of wine that she started drinking with a straw like a CapriSun. She was in a really bad state, sad, upset, afraid and a little bit drunk. An hour in the hypothetical funeral, the doorbell rang again. This time it was Doppio, who was upset for his own reasons.

He looked around the room, not questioning the scene he found. “The Boss isn't here?”

“Why would he be here?” Scarlet venomously spat. “He never really cared about Funny.”

“I can't find him anywhere!” he exclaimed.

The temperature in the room dropped by ten degrees. Scarlet's crying halted abruptly. “What do you mean?” Kars inquired.

“I looked everywhere, called him on every phone, I even visited the office in Manhattan and I still can't find him!”

It took a short moment for the words to sink in. Dio and Kira exchanged glances. Kars threw a hand over his mouth. Those that knew had the same thought passing through their minds but Scarlet was the one to voice it.

“They ran away together,” she mumbled. As the reality of those words sank in, fresh tears started streaming down her face, anger began brewing in her heart.


To be continued...

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

The 21st Night Of September Pt. 2

 


Long before he opened his eyes, Valentine became aware of the soreness in his body. His limbs ached dully, like he had been working out for hours, nausea was stirring in his gut, there was an excruciating pain at the base of his spine, as if a weight was being pressed down his body, but the worst of all was his headache. Every time he tried opening his eyes, they fluttered shut again, a deep groan resonating in his throat. After what felt like (and actually was) hours, Valentine managed to roll over, even though his entire body protested this action. He heard soft creaking from underneath, felt smooth cloth under his back and over his body. His naked body. A bed, he thought and sighed in relief. Memory still a bit foggy and head threatening to explode, Valentine opened his eyes. He still couldn't see anything. It was pitch black in his room. One by one, his senses activated and he realized that there was another body laying next to him. A smile pulled up the corners of his lips and he leaned down to kiss what he thought was Scarlet's lips.

"Thank you for the lovely birthday," he grinned. To be honest, he couldn't really remember much of it but for him to be in such a state of distress meant that it had been a hell of a birthday party.

Scarlet didn't respond. She only groaned deeply, too deeply, and rolled over. Smiling at the reaction, Valentine slithered a hand under the sheet and over her belly, only to feel defined abs. He paused. His wife was working out but she definitely wasn't so jacked. He slapped a hand over her chest. He was met his a pair of muscular pectorals, something that puzzled him greatly. He threw a hand above the headboard, hoping to hit the switch but he didn't. He started feeling the wall in the absolute darkness, confused that he hadn't found the switch. The more he moved, the dizzier he got. His frustration grew. He reached over to his nightstand to grab his phone but it wasn't there. Huffing in frustration, he started touching around the floor, feeling the cool tiles under his sweaty fingers. But the floors in his house's bedrooms were hardwood...

Dizzy and confused as he was, Valentine came crashing on the floor, dragging the sheet with him. He stood up shakily, managing to get on his knees. He looked around. In the absolute darkness, he noticed a few lines of light on the floor across from him. He supported himself on the bed and stood up. His head spun and his stomach threatened to spill its contents but he quickly regained his focus. Bunching up the sheet around him like a make-believe emperor, he stumbled to the light. It wasn't enough to illuminate the space but Valentine saw it was slipping through azure shutters. Even stronger nausea settled in his stomach, though this one felt more like crippling anxiety. Without giving it much thought, he threw the shutters open.

"Oh, fuck!" he yelled, hiding his face from the blinding sunlight. It took him a few moments to slowly get used to it and when he did, he scanned the area with wide, shocked eyes.

In front of him was the sea, vast and endless, growing from turquoise to indigo, with a few boats and luxurious yachts peppered here and there. The sky stretched over his head, in its purest, bluest color, the midday sun standing in the middle of the crystal clear dome. His ears opened up to sounds and he hastily stepped on the balcony, fearfully peering down. His own accommodations appeared to be some sort of suite, with its very own infinity pool. Over the edge of it, Valentine saw endless rows of pristine white houses with bright blue shutters, sprouting randomly here and there like mushrooms. Several circular domes, the same blue as the shutters, sky, and sea, with heavy crosses standing proudly at the top appeared between the houses. Cobbled paths were running between the buildings like veins, flooded with people that stopped to snap a picture or have a look at the local shops. Further down was the beach, or several actually. Colorful umbrellas broke the monotony of sand, and even for September, the beach bars were as busy as ever. Even from that distance, Valentine could still feel the thumping music resonate within his chest.

Needless to say, he knew exactly where he was.

He sprinted back into the room, that was now flooded with fresh light and looked around. It was as he believed, a lavish suite, with plush couches and armchairs in white and gold, carved coffee tables and a large TV. The bedroom area was separated from the rest of the room by curtains that swayed ever so gently in the light breeze. In the middle of the bedroom stood an imposing four-poster king-sized bed, that would look great had it not been for the heap of pillows and bedsheets strewn on it. Under said heap, Valentine could make out long, hot pink tresses, adorned with black spots. Grabbing the first object he found (a small, porcelain statue), he threw it at Diavolo's head, making him snap awake.

“How can you still be sleeping?” he screamed, even though he had woken up just a few minutes ago.

Diavolo, lost and disoriented, turned to look at the culprit. He seemed relieved when he saw it was just Valentine. He looked around the room and shrugged. For him, it wasn't that unusual to be waking up someplace unknown.

“Morning.”

“Morning!?” Valentine shrieked, throwing more of the décor at him. “Do you have any idea where we fucking are?”

“Not...really...”

“Greece!”

“I don't see where the problem is. Greece is a very beautiful country.”

“We live in New York, Diavolo! And somehow we ended up here!” As he moved to the bed, Valentine caught his reflection in the mirror. He looked like absolute shit; he had bags under his eyes, his hair was a mess but the most worrisome part was the black lipstick marks and other concerning bruises spanning from his neck down to his thighs.

“What did you do to me!?” he hollered, throwing an ashtray at Diavolo. “Answer me, goddammit! What the fuck is going on?”

Diavolo shielded himself under the covers, waiting for Valentine to run out of things to throw. When that happened, he poked his head out of the sheet. “Hey, calm down for a sec, okay?”

“How do you expect me to calm down?” Valentine hissed, brandishing an empty bottle of vodka, ready to bludgeon Diavolo to death with it. “We're in another country, on another continent and I have no fucking clue how we even got here!”

Diavolo licked his dry lips and sat up straight. He wasn't in better condition but at least he was kinda used to it. More than Valentine, anyway. “Calm down,” he said, probably the second time in his life he was saying that. “Let's just sit down and try to remember.”

Valentine begrudgingly stomped to the bed and sat down, arms crossed over his chest. Diavolo scooted closer. Valentine moved away. Diavolo sighed. He didn't actually remember too much himself but it wasn't the first time he was facing a situation like this. And just like every other time, he was going to survive.

Valentine was stubbornly looking the other way, frowning. He was scrunching his nose, something he did when he was greatly displeased. Trish did the same thing when she was annoyed. Must have picked it from him. Diavolo reached out to his scarred shoulder but Valentine glared at him viciously. He retracted his hand.

“What do you remember from last night?”

“I remember that I was minding my own fucking business and then I listened to your bullshit!” Valentine shouted, voice getting angrier by the second. He started slapping Diavolo wherever he could find.

“It's not my fault you listened to me!” Diavolo barked back. Yeah, his patience didn't last long. That's why Valentine was his impulse control and not vice versa.

“You told me we were gonna go to Manhattan! This isn't fucking Manhattan, this is Mykonos!”

“Okay, so we had a little change of plans! Don't fuss about it!”

Within an instant, Valentine had dug his teeth into Diavolo's bicep. Diavolo screeched in alarm and tried prying the man off. But the harder he pushed, the deeper Valentine's teeth sank. He buried a hand in the long, blonde locks and pulled harshly. Valentine wouldn't budge. When that didn't work, he started tickling the man underneath his chin. Valentine snapped back immediately and blood sprung from the wound. Diavolo hissed and looked down at it. Blood was trickling down his arms from the small wounds, staining the sheets. It looked as if a damn animal had bitten him.

“The fuck was that!?” he growled. He chucked a pillow at Valentine, who was busy wiping the blood around his mouth on the sheets.

“You pissed me off!”

“And you just bite the people that annoy you? Not even I do that!”

“This is a serious situation and you're too fucking relaxed!” He stood up and started nervously pacing up and down the room. “We're on another continent, we have no clue how we got here and I woke up naked on a bed with you!”

“Like the good old times.”

This time he threw a shoe but Diavolo managed to evade it. “Is there any point in fighting? Sit down and we'll figure out a solution.”

Valentine glowered at him, lips pressed into a thin line. He sat down on the bed once more. His eyes fell on the wound. Grabbing the end of the sheet, he tore a long, wide stripe, which he proceeded to tie around the injured arm. “There,” he said as he finished tying a tight knot.

“Thank you for taking care of me.”

“I didn't do it for you. I did it because it's disgusting to look at.” He sighed. “Alright, what's the plan?”

“I say we go around the room, see if we can find anything. Phones, wallets...”

They both stood up and started inspecting different sides of the room. All signs pointed to a messy night. Clothes were strewn across the floor, pieces of jewelry, empty bottles, overfilled ashtrays and miniscule underwear. But no signs of anything that belonged to them.

“Funny!” Diavolo called from the bathroom. “Come look at this!”

Valentine hurried to the other side of the suite where the bathroom was. It was lavish, with a marble floor and walls, along with golden details but very messy. On the edge of the counter, Valentine noticed a very familiar platinum ring, adorned with several diamonds. Shocked, he glanced down at his hands and saw that his wedding ring wasn't there.

“I don't remember taking this off,” he mumbled as he hurriedly slipped it back on.

“Like you remember everything else. That's not the real issue, though. Look.”

Diavolo was pointing at the bathtub, that was almost entirely filled with foreign, purple bills. “It's just Monopoly money,” Valentine shrugged.

“It's not! It's euros!”

“So it's actual money?”

“Yeah!”

“We should pick it up. It's definitely useful.”

It took them a while but in the end, they managed to gather a pretty large stack of money. Valentine sat in silence as Diavolo counted them one by one. His gaze fell on his wedding ring. It was the first time he had come close to losing it. Involuntarily, his mind drifted to Scarlet. He knew his wife, he could more or less guess what her reaction was. Or what her reaction would be. He couldn't say what time it was for sure, but he knew it was early morning back in the States. She had probably just woken up, or she was already at work. She would surely notice it at one point, and he shuddered just thinking about that. Valentine knew there was no way he'd be back before Scarlet got off from work but there was still a chance that he'd find some way to contact her by then.

“13.000 euros in total,” Diavolo announced.

“How much is that in dollars?”

Diavolo paused to think. “15.200.”

"Oh, it's not that much..."

The two men carried the money out of the bathroom and dropped it all on the bed. Valentine thought that it was high time the two of them wore clothes. He ventured into the lounge area and chose the ones he thought were clean enough. Unfortunately, all he found was two pairs of perhaps too-large swimming trunks and two T-shirts that read 'I love Greece'. Seeing that they had no other option, the two men hesitantly put them on. They slipped on their mismatched flip flops and got to work.

“I just realized something,” Valentine said.

“What?”

“We don't have our papers with us.”

“So?”

“We can't get plane or boat tickets without any identification. We can't leave the country unless we have an ID and a passport.”

Diavolo scowled. “That's not much of a problem. We'll just go to Naples, I own the city.”

“We'll just go to Naples,” Valentine parroted, eyeing Diavolo with a quirked brow. “And how exactly will we do that?”

“We'll steal a boat.”

“We'll steal a boat.”

“It's easier than stealing a plane.”

“Diavolo, going to Naples by boat will take us a day!”

“Stop being so goddamn negative,” he grumbled. “You got any better ideas?”

Valentine pursed his lips. He sat down on the bed next to the pile of money, crossing one knee over the other. “I actually do, yeah. Something that's both effective and legal.”

“And that is?”

“We'll go to the embassy in Athens. The ambassador here is a friend of mine from the army, he'll help us out.”

“You do realize that we'll still have to get to Athens by boat, right? One that we'll have to steal.”

Valentine bit his bottom lip and Diavolo flinched like a goddamn teenager. “Shit, you're right.” He sighed. “Guess we can't escape the boat-stealing then. But before that, I wanna find out just how exactly we got here.”

“That's an issue, too.” Diavolo looked around him. He idly kicked a pair of Armani trousers, sadly ruined by red wine. “I think we should check around some more.”

Valentine nodded affirmitively. They both stood up, holding the money in a makeshift sack. Not the most discrete solution but a solution nevertheless. Before leaving, Diavolo searched around for sunglasses, hoping that they would somehow improve the disgrace that was their outfits. He was tasked with carrying the money. Valentine wrapped his hand around the handle and yanked it down.

Nothing.

He tried a few more times, pulling harder. Concern appeared in his eyes. “Lemme try,” said Diavolo and handed him the sack. He pulled even harder than Valentine but to no avail. “It's locked,” he mumbled.

“Yeah, no shit!”

“Can you fucking stop that?!”

Before Valentine could respond, they heard voices from outside. [They tried opening the door.]

[Really?]

[Yeah. Just now.]

[Should we call the boss?]

[Nah, we'll just take them to him.]

“What the fuck is going on?” Valentine whispered. Suddenly, keys were pushed inside the lock and it turned. They both jumped back, anticipating the worst.

[Where are the fucking keys?]

[Kostas has them.]

[Where is he?]

[Oh, he died.]

[What?]

[Yeah. He drowned.]

[Well, go find his corpse and bring me the fucking keys! If they're awake, we have to take them to the boss so he can deal with them!]

“I think we should leave. Like right now.”

“Agreed.”

Grabbing the money, the duo sprinted out of the room. Even though the balcony was quite high up, there were many levels they could use as steps. Diavolo jumped over the railing, carefully landing on a stone wall that separated the suite below from the street. Valentine lowered the money first and followed suit. They walked to the edge of the wall, hoping no one would deem two men dressed like the definition of the word 'tourist', carrying a small fortune while escaping like that suspicious. Once they reached the end of it, Diavolo jumped down on a small roof. As his footing was unstable, he sat down and slid all the way to the edge, stopping right before falling on the cobbled street below. He jumped down and inspected the area. Looked like the back of some shed, hidden in the shade and luckily empty.

“I'll toss the money first, okay?”

“Yeah.”

Valentine tied the sack even tighter and let it roll all the way to Diavolo. When the money ended in Diavolo's hands safely, Valentine did as he had done, jumping down on the street soundlessly. He dusted off his outfit and rolled his shoulders.

“Now what?”

Valentine sat down on the ground and started fanning his face with his hand. Even in late September, the heat was too much, and the warm wind blowing only made matters worse. “I think we should go back there.”

“Are you nuts? Those guys probably wanted to kill us!”

“I know! But if we wanna find out what the hell happened, we have to start from somewhere.”

Diavolo leaned against the cool wall. He considered Valentine's proposition. “What about the boat, though?”

“We can't do anything right now. This is a very popular island and it's the middle of the day. We should wait until night falls. Meanwhile, we can figure out a plan and eat something. I don't know about you but I'm starving.”

Diavolo nodded. No objections to that. It was exactly what he was thinking. “We still need some very necessary items.”

They headed out to the street and Diavolo approached the first couple he saw. “Is there a Gucci store on this island?”

 

 


 

 

 

“Again?” Trish blurted. “You mean this has happened before?”

“Once before, yes,” Kars replied.

“I thought this was just a high school fling.”

Dio, who had made himself very comfortable on Valentine's armchair with a glass of brandy in his hand, chuckled lightly. “Did Funny tell you that blatant lie? Of course, he did. Diavolo never talks about the past, anyway.”

“What's the truth, padre?”

“The truth is, dear children, that...well...this is actually a really sad story. Even though I really don't like Funny that much -no offense, dear.”

“None taken. Drag him."

“Yes. As I was saying, even though I don't like him that much, I feel bad for him and all the bullshit he and Diavolo went through.”

“If they ran away together, that must mean things were really serious between them, right?” Diego asked impatiently. The reality of him being fired had been reduced to a dull sort of pain at the deepest, darkest corner of his skull. Because there was nothing that Diego Brando was more interested in than scalding tea.

“Exactly.”

“So what happened?” the youngest three all pressed on.

All eyes turned to Kars. He merely sighed deeply and continued stroking Scarlet's back. She started sobbing quietly and buried her face into his abs. “It was sixt-”

“Wait!” Dio yelled abruptly. He hurried to the front door and opened it. “Enrico!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, voice echoing around the neighborhood.

A few seconds passed. “What!” Pucci yelled back.

“We're spilling tea!”

Pucci burst through the door not even a minute later, panting and patting his sweaty forehead dry. “What's the tea?”

“Funny ran away with Diavolo. Or he's dead in a ditch. I like the first theory more.”

Pucci walked into the living room and sat down next to Doppio, watching Kars with wide eyes. “Can my friends come, too?” Diego asked nervously.

“Sure! The more, the merrier!”

“Hey, guys!” Diego called through the kitchen window.

“What,” Johnny snapped back.

“We're spilling tea on Valentine.”

“Aw, hell yeah!” Lucy exclaimed and darted out of the house.

Once everyone was nice and comfy with snacks and Scarlet had been given another box of wine, Kars cleared his throat. “It was sixteen years ago on the 4th of July. It was the summer before Dio, Scarlet and Funny left for Law school. Funny decided to throw a huge party at this gorgeous mansion he had rented at the Hamptons and of course, we were all in. And by 'all' I mean Dio, our dear friend who is sadly not among us anymore, Yoshikage, Diavolo and of course, myself.”

“Wait,” Giorno said. “If this happened on the 4th of July sixteen year ago, that means Trish and I were already born.”

“Yup.”

“Where were we?”

“Well...Giogio, you were with Jonathan and Trish came with us.”

“You left your infant son and husband to go get shitfaced?” Giorno accused. Definitely not the worst or most immoral thing Dio had ever done.

“He took me with him to chase after his ex-boyfriend?”

“I'm glad you pointed this out, Giorno,” Kars continued. “Trish's role in this story is quite important.” The teenagers exchanged confused glances and scooted closer together. “Before we begin, let me give you some context. Funny and Diavolo started dating when they were fourteen, around the time when Diavolo moved next to him.”

“I thought Valentine was dating you.”

“He was a two-timer,” Scarlet sighed bitterly and started crying even more. “I didn't mind it at first, not even after we got married.”

“That slut,” Johnny and Lucy both mumbled.

“They were dating for three years until they were forced to break up. Then things got really ugly.”

“Why were they forced to break up?” Giorno inquired, his feet tapping on the floor impatiently.

“Because Funny's Dad caught him riding Diavolo's dick when he was seventeen,” Dio bluntly stated and a scandalized gasp echoed around the room. Johnny choked on his popcorn. Oh, Gyro was so unlucky for missing this.

“Things between them got super awkward, Funny and Scarlet got married after a while, Diavolo disappeared and for a while, we thought we'd never see him again. Then he started popping up in our lives more frequently and unexpectadly, he had a baby. Which brings us to the 4th of July party.” Kars repositioned his arms so that Scarlet wouldn't actually suffocate. “Because he had nowhere to leave you, Diavolo took you with him to the party. And it was a wild one, let me tell you. Dio had to leave early because he had to drive Yoshikage to the ER...”

“So that's what happened...” Kira thoughtfully muttered to himself.

“I was still there and even though I was drunk, I was doing better than most. Funny was completely sober because he said he had to look after the baby and Diavolo was also completely sober, which I thought was kinda weird. Anyway, the last I saw them was while they were chatting by the pool before I went inside the house and passed out on the couch. Scarlet woke me up the next morning and she was like she is now.”

“What had happened?” Pucci inquired with wide, yearning eyes.

“He was decent enough to leave a note along with his wedding ring,” Scarlet croaked. “He told me how sorry he was, how he wished me happiness and all that bullshit you tell your wife when you abandon her.”

“Can't relate,” mumbled Diego, laying his head on Hot Pants' muscular thighs.

“When we woke up that morning,” Kars recounted, “we discovered that Funny and Diavolo had taken Trish and had run away to Italy, where they would remain for the rest of the summer and return in time for Funny to go to university.”

“What happened next?” they all asked in unison.

“One day in August, while I was sitting alone in our house in Boston, I heard a knock on the door. And what do you know!” Scarlet chuckled mirthlessly. “It was Funny with Trish.”

“With me? He took me from Dad?”

“I never found out the details, Funny never told me. All I know is that they had a huge fight, bigger than ever. From what I've pieced together over the years, Funny feared for your safety and fled with you. That was pretty heroic of him, Diavolo is fucking insane.”

“And he returned to your house, while you were still married, holding his lover's daughter?” Hot Pants questioned.

Scarlet nodded. “Yeah...”

“And you accepted that?”

“How dare you pity me?” she barked. “You don't know what happened! And there's no need in telling you, anyway. All that matters is that I forgave Funny after he ran away with Diavolo because I loved him. And I still do. But I won't do it a second time. We have kids now, there's so much more to consider.” After saying that, harder, more violent sobs cut off her oxygen. “Oh, the kids! He wanted them so much! We were so happy when we had them, I thought nothing could ruin this for us. But I was wrong.” She sprang up, walking all the way to the fireplace, to lament over the family photographs on the mantlepiece. “I should have known something was wrong when he said 'no' to the official state residence! I was so fucking stupid! I should have known it was all so that he could live next to his lover!”

“Scarlet,” Doppio spoke softly, coming around the couch to sit on Trish's knees, “I understand how you feel but there's no way they just abandoned everything. Think; Funny will be running for President in a few years. Do you think he'd just leave that behind?” Scarlet pouted. “Then he has you and the kids. Why would he suddenly leave now? He could've done that any other day in the 20 years of your marriage! Why now? Why out of the blue?”

“I don't know!” she shouted. “I just...I know he did it.”

“Don't you trust him?”

“It's Diavolo I don't trust.” She walked back to her seat and leaned her head against Kars' arm. “You kids have no idea how insane he truly is.” She sighed deeply, digging the heels of her palms into her eyes. “There's so much history, so much we had to overcome. I should have known something bad was going to happen. We've been living quietly for far too long.”

“Let's not jump into conclusions,” Diego said. Unlike everyone else in the room, he believed that Valentine had actually been killed off. There was no explaining the clone in the office. “Not until we have something solid.”

“Oh, shut up,” Dio sneered, waving a dismissive hand at him. Hot Pants wrapped her muscular arms over Diego to stop him from lunging forward and biting Dio's hand off. “You were too young to understand what was happening. While I would love to agree with Doppio, I don't really think common sense applies in this case. There's just... so much you guys don't know.”

“Then tell us!” Lucy prompted hastily.

“I have a question,” Trish spoke quietly. “When I asked Funny about the whole modeling thing he dismissed it as something small, something like a hobby, and told me that he quit because he had to go to university and all that stuff. But a few days ago we discovered a few things while looking through Dad's basement, one of which was a note that was hidden in Dad's stash of Funny's photos. It was a threat directed to someone, obviously sent by Dad. What's with that?”

“Valentine was a model?” Johnny coughed out. Giorno handed him his phone which held some of those photographs. “Holy shit...”

Once again, all eyes fell on Kars, silently demanding he cleared this up. He didn't need much to be convinced.

 

 


 

 

 

“God,” Valentine exclaimed, “I feel like a human being again.”

Even though they had spent almost all their money, they at least looked like a very stylish gay couple and not like clueless tourists. Since the Gucci store was on the other side of the island, walking there had taken them two hours under the blazing Aegean sun. But they made it. They stepped out of the store in their new outfits; Valentine had gone for a pair of baby blue, satin, cropped, high-waisted trousers and a white T-shirt with lotus flowers embroidered on it. On his feet he was wearing a pair of watermelon pink sliders with fur and a white satchel was dangling from his left shoulder, so he could keep the remaining money safe. Diavolo, staying true to his aesthetic, had gone for something darker. Namely, a pair of purple ripped jeans with studs and a black lace T-shirt that had immediately attracted his attention, mainly because it resembled his favorite mesh shirt. He had also gone for slides, the same as Valentine's in fact, only in black. As a final detail, they had also purchased two silk scrunchies, a light blue for Valentine and a crimson one for Diavolo and of course, large, Swarovski encrusted sunglasses.

By the time they had finished their shopping and had burned their former outfits in the dumpster behind the store, the sun was setting. Deciding that they were too hungry to do anything more, they headed to a place Valentine had pointed out on their way to the store. It was a roof garden, located on the top of an avant-garde art gallery. They sat under a canopy of vibrant pink bougainvillea, gazing out to the tangerine sun setting in the distance, at the edge of the Aegean. It was a short moment of blissful silence, with the wind gently blowing between the colorful leaves and it seemed like they were on a peaceful vacation and not the most anxiety-inducing incident in Valentine's life ever since his capture and subsequent torture.

“What now?” Diavolo asked, a question that came forward in their lips after every action.

Valentine shrugged. He idly dug his spoon into his banana split, swallowing some frozen fruit and ice cream. “I still think we should go back.”

“That's a dumb fucking plan,” Diavolo said as he took a big bite out of his crepe. “Don't give me that look! These people probably want to kill us!”

“I wanna know why!” Valentine hissed. “I want to know how we got here, why we got here and what the hell they want from us!” He angrily ate some more ice cream. “If you don't want to come, fine. Go to Naples. I'll go to Athens, get my papers and go back to my family.”

“You're going to get yourself killed!”

“Just who the hell do you think I am? I know how to sneak around!”

“Why'd you get caught then?” Upon blurting this out, Diavolo's eyes widened. He looked across the table, where Valentine had frozen, mouth slightly open. “Shit, sorry. I'm sorry, I-” Valentine stood up to leave but Diavolo grabbed him by the wrist. “I said I'm fucking sorry, okay?”

“Do you ever think before you speak?” Valentine snarled. He sat down, only because he wanted his ice cream.

“I didn't mean to offend you.”

“Yeah, but you did!” He bitterly chewed down a piece of banana. “You always do.”

“Where the fuck is that coming from?”

“I'd love to elaborate but I don't have the energy to argue with you. I'm lost, I'm angry and I got a million things going through my head.”

Had the setting been different, Diavolo would've probably flipped the table and started yelling. But he didn't. He looked the other way, glaring at the sea below as if it was the one he was frustrated at. They ate in silence and paid the bill. They started walking, mixing with the tourists on the busy streets. The island got louder and more lively at night, with thumping music coming from the beach parties and people flooding the streets in search of a place to get wasted. It also got colder. The gentle breeze shifted into a cool wind, whistling sharply as it surged through the alleys. But it was definitely better than wandering around in the scorching heat. Getting back to where they started took them only about an hour this time.

“I think we should wait at least until midnight before going in again,” Diavolo said.

“We? You're suddenly on board with this?”

Diavolo's fists clenched. Being calm really wasn't his forte. But he was trying. “Yes. I am.”

Valentine scanned him with suspicious, narrowed eyes and defensive folded arms. “Huh,” he huffed after a few long seconds. “And what should we do before we go inside?”

Diavolo looked around. The sea had gone from blue to abyss black, waves washed over the sandy shore. It was empty, save for a stray dog that walked by. “You wanna sit at the beach for a while?”

“Sure,” Valentine agreed. There really wasn't much else to do.

They walked down to the beach, finding a nice spot of dry sand and sitting down on it. Diavolo laid back with a groan, stretching his body on the sand and resting his hands behind his head. Valentine followed suit with some hesitation, laying next to him with his fingers linked on top of his belly. The music and incomprehensible yells from the nearby beach bar reached them distantly. The sky above them was dark blue, mixing with purple, riddled with silvery stars. It was nice, calm, nostalgic.

“Do you remember?” Diavolo started. “How we used to sneak at the roof of your house and look at the stars?”

“Yeah. I'm still surprised how we didn't die climbing up there.” They chuckled nervously, out of lack of a better reaction. “Not that we didn't have any accidents.”

“Yeah...Like when I broke my leg trying to climb the tree outside your window.”

Valentine laughed. It was genuine this time. “I was so scared my parents would figure out we were dating. But you were so weird, doing stuff like that was normal for you.” He smiled fondly, closing his eyes. “I miss those times, when we had nothing to worry about. Just strolling around, listening to music, going to the pier...Remember how much you hated it there?”

“And now it's my favorite place on earth.”

“Really?” Valentine asked with a quirked brow.

“One of them,” Diavolo shrugged. “It doesn't have the greatest view or anything, it just means a lot.” Valentine didn't speak. “Because we went there on my 14th birthday, when you stole Dio's pizza and we took it there to eat it.”

“Diavolo-”

“And I kissed you. Do you remember?” More silence. Diavolo looked to the side. Valentine's face was hidden by the dark but he could still make out his features, the shape of his jaw and lips, the arch of his nose and hollow of his eyes. Like mountains standing in the horizon. “I went there after you got married.”

“Before or after you burned everything to the ground?”

Diavolo snorted. “Before.” He took a deep breath, letting the salty air fill his lungs. “Right after I asked you to come with me.”

Valentine huffed. “I would've followed you, you know. Had you insisted a little bit more.”

“What?” He slowly sat up, looking at Valentine's face blankly.

Valentine cleared his throat. “Yeah,” he hoarsely admitted. “I was young, my life was just beginning. My family and Scarlet would hate me for a little while but they'd forget about it, probably by the time we'd come back and start our life together.”

“Why didn't you?” Diavolo asked breathlessly. He sprang up to his knees. “When I asked you to follow me a few years later, why didn't you stay?”

“Because I couldn't do it to Scarlet. I couldn't betray her like that.”

“So you came back because you felt guilty.”

“I came back because I love her.”

Diavolo scoffed. “Keep telling yourself that. Maybe one day you'll believe it.”

Suddenly, sand flew into his mouth. Diavolo coughed violently, wiping his tongue on his shirt. “What the fuck?!” he demanded. Instead of waiting for an answer, he threw some sand back.

“Asshole,” Valentine growled before he grabbed a handful of sand and tossed it at Diavolo's face.

The most fearsome gangster to ever plague North America and the man who would in a few years become the President of the United States rolled around the beach, shoving sand in one another's mouths and eyes. Valentine quite sneakily managed to get some in Diavolo's pants and Diavolo responded by licking his cheek, which made Valentine recoil in disgust.

[What the fuck's going on down there?]

[Dude, that's them.]

[What?]

[The blondie and the emo kid.]

Thoroughly absorbed in their little battle, neither Diavolo nor Valentine didn't take notice of the four men that came running towards them, pointing their guns at them. They were abrupty dragged on their feet, completely frozen in alarm as the other four kept barking Greek at them. Upon feeling their hands grabbing him, Diavolo started jerking like an animal, trying to break free.

“Calm down,” Valentine hurriedly whispered. “They're all armed.” He was met with enraged Italian swearing.

“Listen to your friend,” one of the men advised, in a thick, square accent. “We won't hurt you if you don't hurt us.”

“What do you want from us?” Valentine inquired.

“You'll see.”

Offering no further resistance (though Diavolo still kept sending them death glares), the duo let themselves be led to their destination, which apparently was a ginormous, lavish yacht, standing between several other ginormous, lavish yachts. Once inside, they felt more like they were walking in a mansion rather than a boat. Comfortable lounges with the most luxurious furniture, lit-up pools, fully-stocked bars, plush carpets and rich hardwood floors. Further in they went, passing by opulent suites and rooms filled with fine pieces of art. They silently followed the four bodyguards down a long hall until they reached a set of double mahogany doors. One of the men knocked.

[Come in.]

Diavolo and Valentine exchanged fleeting glances before they stepped inside. It was an office, with enough room to accommodate maybe ten people as well as various statues and paintings. Following the ship's aesthetic, the office had a lovely wooden floor and crème walls, with several sconces that shed their sweet light on the precious items that were displayed on carved tables and glass displays. A large window offered a perfect view of the sleepless Mykonos, of the city lights and random fireworks shooting up to the sky. In the center of the room stood an imposing desk, with two brown suede armchairs in front of it and a larger brown leather armchair behind it, on which a man was sitting. Had it not been for his well-tailored suit and strong scent of cloves and whiskey, he would have looked like any other of the loud-mouth locals they had encountered that day. His black beady eyes glimmered when Diavolo and Valentine walked in, a smile pulling up the edges of his thick, black mustache.

“Come,” he said, voice bearing the slightest hint of an accent. “Sit down. I died waiting for you, dearest.”

It took Valentine a while to realize that the man was talking to him. “I beg your pardon?”

The man hummed pleasantly. [You guys can go.]

[You sure about this boss?]

[Yeah, just wait outside the door.] The four other nodded and exited the room. The man returned his attention to the blond before him. “I was wondering when my boys would find you, though I was hoping you'd come to me first.”

Diavolo opened his mouth to speak but Valentine discretely squeezed his hand. A sign. Diavolo knew what that meant. He sourly sat back on the chair, nails digging into the fine material, and let Valentine do the talking.

“Please excuse my confusion but how did we come to know each other?”

The man snickered. “Oh, dear...Guess you boys were too drunk to remember.” He stood up from his chair and sat on the edge of the desk, closer to Valentine. “Last night, you two came into my nightclub in Brooklyn, absolutely wasted. I have my men on the look for beautiful people to keep me company but you caught my eye the moment you walked in.” Valentine tried to hide his gagging. “I told you that I was about to ride my helicopter here and you two wanted to come with us.”

“And you took us?!” Valentine gasped in disbelief.

“Obviously.”

“We were drunk! You kidnapped us!”

“I've done worse,” he shrugged. “After we came here, I quickly took us to my favorite suite. I was getting impatient, you have no idea how much. You kept teasing me all the way here, you naughty little-”

“I never did that!” Valentine declared. He might have. He was the kind of drunk to hit on inanimate objects and cry when his wife rejected his advances because she was married. But he chose to forget that. “I'm married!”

“Didn't seem to bother you when you jumped on your little friend's dick the moment we stepped into the room.”

“Little friend?!” Diavolo glowered. Meanwhile, Valentine was done hiding his horror and was screaming into his hands. “I'm not 'little', you dumb cunt! I am Diavolo!”

The man blinked. “Passione's Diavolo?”

“Is there another?”

“Prove it.”

“What?”

“Prove it. Not that it'll matter, anyway. You are unarmed and my boys can barge in here at any second, blow your skull to smithereens.”

“Sit down,” Valentine quietly requested. “For the love of God, Diavolo, sit down.”

Diavolo did as he was told. His left eye was twitching. One of the downsides of being a phantom of a human being was the inability of proving himself to be who he was. For now, he deposited all hope on Valentine's charm.

“And you were watching?”

“Naturally.” Valentine made that choked whimpering noise that signaled tremendous disgust. “I was willing to wait for you but you passed out soon after. So we left you there and I decided to wait until you woke up.”

Valentine shifted in his seat. He put on a shaky smile, though the horror in his eyes was hard to miss. Diavolo saw a clear bead of sweat rolling down the side of his face, down to his jaw. “Sadly, despite the fun we had, it is time for us to return home. I have a wife and four kids, my youngest is just eleven months old. This man also has a daughter that will be devastated if something happens to him.” Quite the stretch, really, though Valentine needed the extra sentiment.

“How will you leave? You have no papers on you.”

“We could get them at the embassy in Athens. But for that, we require a boat.”

The man fell silent for a second, thoughtfully scratching his chin. “I could give you a boat,” he muttered, “though I want something in return.”

“Of course,” Valentine smiled. “Money is not a problem. I could have it transferred into your account the moment I set foot on American soil!”

“I don't want money,” he said with a shake of his head and his eyes glimmered as he scanned Valentine. “I want you.” Silence fell over the room. Awkward, stressful silence. Diavolo was about to explode but Valentine squeezed his hand harder. “Not for a lifetime,” he laughed. “Just for an hour or two.”

Diavolo caught the brief glance Valentine cast around the room as if looking for something. “Very well,” he said in a voice far too calm to be completely innocent. But captivated by his pretty blue eyes, the other man bought it. “But please give me the keys to the boat first.”

From one of the drawers of the desk, the man produced a single key with a plastic tag, with the boat's name scribbled on it. “It's called Dimitra, it's on the left side of this one.” He handed the key to Valentine who put it in his bag. “Are we okay?”

“Yes.” Valentine looked at Diavolo. Though he was serious, mischievousness was shining in his eyes, as well as certainty. “Wait for me right outside.”

“Right outside?” the other man questioned, obviously troubled by this request.

“Would that be too much to ask?” Valentine tilted his head to the side. “You have four armed bodyguards stationed outside. Would the presence of my unarmed and unintelligent-”

“Fuck you.”

“-friend be that much of a problem? I know he can be a real hassle at times, a-a real pain in the ass, a nuisance, a very serious problem-”

“Will you shut up?”

“-but I will feel safe knowing he is out there, waiting for me, that stupid son of a bitch, that moronic human being- Ouch! See how quickly he resorts to violence? Clearly, we are dealing with a primate rather than a rational human being.”

“Of course, of course! He can wait for you outside.”

“Thank you,” Valentine said sweetly, before shooing Diavolo away with a wave of his hand. “Now run along, you idiot. And wait for me.”

“Sounds like talking to a dog!”

“Sounds like talking to my bitch,” Valentine smirked. Never in his life had Diavolo wanted to pummel a man to death so much before.

Plotting his revenge, Diavolo stood up mechanically and headed for the door. “Bone apple teeth,” he said with a deep bow and slammed the door shut behind him.

Once outside, the bodyguards didn't pay him any mind. They all spared him a glance before going back to their phones. He walked to a chair and sat down, eyes fixed on the door. His stomach was tied in a knot, threatening to spill the delicious crepe he had eaten that evening. He was worried, mostly because Valentine, as smart and strong as he was, didn't have his knack for cruelty and also because he was jealous. Just what was Valentine thinking? Was he really okay with that suggestion? He, the biggest snob whose pride could baffle even Dio at times?

Diavolo strained his ears trying to pick up any sounds. There was nothing for the first few minutes. He guessed it was minutes. He had lost track of time actually, could only tell the times of day from the sun. After those estimated minutes of silence, he heard some grunting and moving of furniture. His eye started twitching again. More grunting, the sound of a palm falling flat on something, possibly flesh. A surprised yelp. That was Valentine's voice.

The door opened and Valentine's head poked outside. He looked messy. And half-naked. “Come in,” he said, nodding at Diavolo to stand up.

“Why?” one of the bodyguards demanded.

“His presence is required,” Valentine said in a tone of voice that left room for no objections.

Diavolo stood up and stepped inside the room. Valentine quickly shut and locked the door behind him, before anyone else could see what was going on in there.

“You killed him?”

Obviously. There the man was, naked on his stomach, with black blood pouring from his cracked skull to the thick carpet. The wound was awful, taking up almost the entire back of his head and also appeared to be quite deep as bits of bone and brain were distinguishable in the mess. The weapon, a golden statuette of two ancient dudes grinding on one another, lay next to him, bloody and forgotten.

“Shh! Valentine quickly shushed him. “Yeah. First time I murdered someone who wasn't a soldier.” His hands were shaking, despite the calmness of his voice.

“Popped your murder cherry.”

“You're disgusting.”

Diavolo kicked the lifeless body. He always hated how glassy and lost the eyes of corpses were. “We can't leave through the front door. Is there another way?”

“The window,” Valentine replied as he put on his shirt, artfully tucking it in the waistband of his slacks. “Duh.”

“Got the keys?”

“Right here.”

“Let's go.”

They opened the window and stepped outside to the cool night. The ledge they were standing on was quite narrow so they had to carefully drag their feet all the way to the deck while also keeping their bodies as close to the wall as possible.

“Where's our boat?” Diavolo asked once they were on the deck.

“Over here,” Valentine answered, looking over the railing to what he assumed was their boat.

The two men quickly climbed down the stairs and made their way to the smaller vessel. Valentine checked the name to verify if it was indeed the one. They stepped inside carefully, kinda regretting not bringing any weapons.

“We should hurry,” Valentine prompted. “The others will realize he's dead soon, if they haven't already.”

Acting as the captain of a ship was a very pleasant touch on an extremely weird day for Diavolo. Ever since he was a kid he'd loved ships, dreamed of one day going all around the world on one. And for a little while, it seemed like his dream was going to be true, never mind the fact that it was just an escape plan from the cruel reality of the love of his life tying the knot. He walked inside the cabin, feeling oddly nostalgic as he ran his fingers across the helm.

“Where to, captain?”

He walked out to the deck where Valentine was standing. He scanned the dark horizon. “Athens...? It's a port city, right? I haven't been to Greece in a while.”

Valentine thought about it for a moment. “The port city is Piraeus but we shouldn't go there. It's far too busy and the coastguard is on edge. I think our best option is Faliro.”

“What's that?”

“A suburb of Piraeus. From there we're going to take the train, go to Monastiraki, then to Syntagma square and then go to the embassy.”

“I don't know where any of that is.”

“Don't worry. All you need to care about is taking us to Faliro safely.”

“Alright.”

The moment Valentine stood up to walk inside the cabin, Diavolo pushed him harshly, making him stumble over the railing and fall on the water below.

“Are you fucking insane!?” he hollered when he surfaced.

“Nah,” Diavolo playfully replied, “just an idiot.”

 

 


 

 

 

They arrived right at the crack of dawn, as the first few rays of sunlight were shyly peeking from the edge of the sea. They left the boat at a small marina right next to a large stadium and quickly crossed the street, to the nearby train station. As expected of the hour, the station was completely empty. Diavolo looked around to combat his boredom while Valentine fetched their tickets. Another stadium stood across the station, this one belonging to some red and white football team. Damn, he used to be a huge football fan. Migrating to the States didn't really help that.

“There you go,” Valentine said as he handed him the ticket. “Next train is coming in ten minutes. We have some time to relax.”

They sat on the offered metal chairs and waited, listening to the cars racing on the highway behind them. Diavolo stretched his legs in front of him, keeping them open like an asshole while awkwardly fiddling with the ticket.

“So what does that mean?”

“What are you talking about?”

Diavolo groaned in frustration. “We had sex twice in the past two days. What does that mean for us?”

“For us?”

“Don't fucking give me that!” he shouted. “You've been postponing this conversation for weeks!”

“We're friends!” Valentine retorted. “Why can't you be satisfied with that?”

“Friends don't let friends fuck them on a stolen ship!” he hissed. “And for the record, I never wanted to be your friend!”

“You told me you were fine with it!”

“I lied! I lied because it was the only way I could be close to you!”

The train came running on the tracks, its high, metallic whistle effectively covering what Diavolo said next. Valentine stood up haughtily and boarded. Diavolo followed, having no other option. They sat down next to each other despite being the only ones there and childishly looked at opposite directions.

The ride to Monastiraki was short. They stepped out to a mostly empty plateau, save for a few homeless people and passengers rushing to the subway station right below. Buildings, modern and vintage surrounded them, tourist shops just a few hours away from opening for the day, the nearby bakery was already busy. And to their right stood the Acropolis, ageless, watching over the city of Athens from its throne atop the steep, rocky hill.

Without saying anything, Valentine started walking, heading for one of the alleys. “Funny!” Diavolo called after him. He didn't stop. “Goddammit,” he mumbled as he jogged to him. Damn bastard walked fast.

“Why aren't we taking the subway?”

“I want to go somewhere.”

“Where?”

“You'll see.”

Diavolo was a little bit scared at that response but for no reason, he soon found out, as Valentine marched right inside a Starbucks that had just opened. Ten minutes later, and with their venti caramel frappucinos in hand, the two men continued their stroll through the Greek capital. It was pleasant enough; they walked down the narrow streets and cobbled paths before they became flooded with tourists. The temperature was nice, an enjoyable and bearable chill washing over their skin as they traversed foreign neighborhoods. The sun hadn't engulfed these parts of the city yet. For now, they walked in the shadows among shops and letters they had forgotten how to read. They reached a large open square, with a majestic Cathedral at its center. A truly magnificent church, vaguely Catholic despite being Orthodox. Its imposing towers and gilded iconography were a clear mismatch to the tiny, archaic church that stood right beside it, though not forgotten and charming in its own way. They turned right, getting into another cobbled alley covered entirely by trees. They passed chic cafes and restaurants, not yet open for the day. While passing in front of a pharmacy, Diavolo saw what time it was. 6:15. Usually, Valentine was awake by that hour. He was sleeping, or just getting into bed.

Upon exiting the alley, they entered another of those cobbled streets the Athenians were so fond of. This one was larger, showered in fresh light, surrounded by large stores and name brands. People were scarcely walking by, heading to work or home, depending on the state of their hair and outfit. Diavolo was uncomfortable in the silence, desperately needing to fill it with something. Valentine was still drinking his frappuccino. He looked awkward, very stiff. Maybe he was a bit cold. His hair was still a bit wet.

Being the center of the capital, Syntagma square was steadily getting busier. Being in an open space was a welcome change. Diavolo certainly felt at home surrounded by luxurious hotels and Valentine yearned for his own office while looking at the House of Parliament. Speaking of Valentine, he hurriedly went inside the McDonald's, desperate for a Big Mac while Diavolo waited outside.

“How does that taste?”

“Like home,” Valentine sighed, taking a bite that would put Diego to shame.

They headed for the subway station, walking down the numerous stairs until they reached the platform. The subway was a sudden change from the train they had taken earlier, going way faster, almost feeling like time travel, speeding through the underground tunnels like a bullet. They arrived at their destination in no time, right outside a building that Diavolo assumed was a theater or an opera.

“That's the Embassy right there,” Valentine said but stopped the next minute, suddenly seeming as if he had realized something. “Diavolo, you can't leave the country.”

“What.”

“As I've said before, leaving the country requires identification documents. You have none.”

Indeed, Diavolo didn't have any documents that proved he even existed. Not even Trish did, though Valentine had insisted on using his name so she could go to school. Diavolo leaned against the wall, gaze fixed on his feet as he tried thinking of a solution.

“How much money do we have left?”

Valentine peered inside his bag. “Uh...around 700 euros.”

“Give it to me.” Valentine arched a brow. “I'm gonna get a fake ID and passport.”

“How will you even do that?”

“Deadbeats attract deadbeats,” he shrugged. “You told me that once.”

Valentine sighed, giving a little shake of his head. “Stop taking everything I say literally.” He gave Diavolo the bag. “How long will that take you?”

“Two hours. Tops.”

“I'll be waiting here. This place isn't hard to find. Ask around if you get lost.”

“Yeah.”

“Good luck.”

“You too.”

They parted ways. Valentine headed towards the Embassy and Diavolo went to the opposite direction, in search of a shady neighborhood.

 

 


 

 


“How many does that make?” Diavolo pondered with a little smirk as he shoved his new ID card and passport in his bag.

He exited the seemingly deserted building carefully, quickly crossing the street. No one had heard a thing. Diavolo was able to escape undisturbed, hurrying to the nearest subway station. The platform was now filled with people, workers, tourists, and students running late. He kept his head down, thankful for his sunglasses and ponytail. No one paid him any attention as he sat on a seat and gazed outside the window to the cold underground.

He made it back to the Embassy before he even realized it. He found Valentine right outside, sitting under the shade of a tree. Diavolo didn't miss his sour expression and the way he was nervously looking around, fidgeting slightly.

“Hey,” he breathlessly greeted. “What happened?”

“Did you get your stuff?” Diavolo nodded. “That makes one of us.”

“What happened?” Diavolo sat down next to him, seeking the cooling shade. The chilly dawn had given its place to suffocating heat and overcast skies.

“Well,” Valentine started with a sigh. “I went inside after a thorough security check. I asked for the ambassador but the one who was my friend was murdered by his wife two months ago.”

“For real?”

“Yup. Anyway, I didn't think that it would be an obstacle so I asked to speak to the new one. They, of course, declined my request and I guess I kinda lost my patience back there.”

“It's okay, we all have our limits.”

“I'm really tired, you know? I miss my country, my wife, my kids...I'm-I'm kinda pissed off and holy shit, I want to cave your skull in.”

“...what happened next?”

“I told them -yelled, really- that I am a high-ranking United States government official and I demanded to speak with the ambassador. They declined and thought I was insane. But just to be sure, they looked me up and...threw me out.”

“Why? What did you do?”

“I went on a diet. All the information on me has slightly outdated pictures.”

“So they-”

“They didn't believe me, yeah.” He groaned and sunk further down, legs taking up most of the walking space in front of him. “They told me that if I want my papers, I need to bring another US citizen with me that can verify my identity. And before you ask, no, it can't be you. They are very thorough with their security checks. They'll know something's wrong.”

“Can't you call home?”

“And have Scarlet fly all the way here? That's going to take another day. I want to be home tonight.”

“But if you don't call her, then you'll be stuck here. There's no other solution!”

Valentine fell silent. He shifted his gaze up and to the distance, blankly staring at the sky blue horizon. There were no obstacles in his empty stare, save for the ancient Parthenon. Too bad this wasn't a leisure trip, Valentine loved going up there. He was so well versed in its history that he didn't need an archeologist to show him around anymore!

He sprang up, power walking through the people, Diavolo following him. “Where you going now?” he yelled.

“The Acropolis museum!”

“Wha-You are stranded on a foreign country and you wanna go to a museum? What the hell is there for you- Oh.”

They ended up riding the subway back to Syntagma square. From there, and with a little asking around, they successfully arrived at their destination. The Acropolis museum was a very modern and pristine building located on a very glamorous street right below the Acropolis. They paid the entrance fee with the last of their money and burst through the door. Finding their target didn't take long as he stood a head taller than everyone, his overly muscular body barely contained in his mismatched suit and bright red bowtie. While the cat is away, the mouse will wear what he pleases.

They walked to the back of the group of intellectuals, furiously waving at Jonathan. He briefly glanced at them, immediately snapping his head for a better look once he realized who they were. His jaw dropped, eyes opening widely. He politely excused himself and approached them.

“What...the hell?”

“Oh, Jonathan! I am so happy to see you!”

“This is where you guys were?”

“What do you mean?”

“Everyone thinks you ran away together!”

“What.”

“Funny, you're in deep trouble. Scarlet wants to cook you up. Dio told me she's been crying all day.”

Valentine's face paled momentarily. “Jonathan, I need your help going home.”

“Of course,” said Jonathan. He was always willing to help out Dio's eccentric and villainous friends, though Valentine tended to be a bit more well-mannered. “You got here just on time. I'm supposed to be catching my flight in six hours. With the different time zones, we'll be home at around 11 PM.”

“Oh, thank God...Thank you, Jonathan. I mean it.”

“No problem. I should get back now. I still have my presentation. Feel free to watch, it starts in twenty minutes.”

“We will. Oh, one more thing.”

“What is it?”

“Do you still smoke?”

Jonathan chuckled mischievously, the same crystal clear way he'd been laughing ever since he was a kid. “Don't tell Dio,” he said and handed Valentine a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.

Evidently relieved, Diavolo and Valentine stepped outside to have a smoke while gazing out to the Parthenon.

“We never asked about the money.”

“Oh, yeah.” Valentine leaned against the railing, peering at the remains of an ancient town below. “I don't know about you but I'd rather not look into it. I just wanna go home.”

“Yeah,” Diavolo said. “Same.”

By the time they walked in, rain was falling from the sky.

 

 


 

 

 

“What did I tell you when you first got married; if he doesn't treat you right by now, you're gone.”

“I'm gone.”

“Now go chop his dick off.”

“Ye-Wait, no. I'm not going to do that. I want to give him a quick death, shoot him on the head or something.”

Kars walked into the living room, sighing deeply as he sat down on the couch. “The kids are finally asleep.”

“Thank you, all of you, for being such good friends.”

The last two days had been an utterly exhausting whirlwind of emotions. Confusion had melted into anger following pure sadness. She'd stare outside the window, wondering if it was her fault, if she had done something wrong without realizing it. Incoherent thoughts were dancing around her head, buzzing like wasps, stinging her brain. In the end, all her energy had been spent crying and shattering every plate they owned. The last thing she felt before falling asleep on the couch was a blanket being thrown over her body and a strong hand softly caressing her hair.

The only ones who remained in the living room were Dio, Kars, Kira, Doppio, Pucci, and Diego, sitting in silence, watching over Scarlet's sleeping body. Diego spoke first.

“Even if Valentine ran away, that still doesn't explain the guy at the office.”

“This is only a conspiracy theory but they say the government is ready to replace all its officials with clones at any given moment.” They all looked at Kira. “Kawajiri was already subscribed to Shane Dawson when I took his place.”

“Do you think that's what happened?” Kars asked. “That they killed him off and replaced him with a clone?”

“I don't think so,” said Doppio. “That still doesn't explain the Boss' disappearance.”

“Maybe it's coincidental.”

“Isn't it a bit too convenient? We all know their history, it's not impossible they ran away.”

“Ugh, I can't believe I didn't meet you guys sooner,” Pucci complained. “I missed all the drama.”

“Believe me, dear, it's for the best.”

“People actually died.”

“We almost did.”

There was a knock at the door around midnight and Dio went to answer it. To his great astonishment, it was Jonathan. Caught up in this mess, he had forgotten his husband was coming today, though Jonathan's arrival wasn't the most shocking thing.

“Look who I found,” he tiredly chimed.

Silence struck the room like lightning, as the men present stopped breathing, all looking as if they had seen a ghost. Valentine inspected his living room, how messy it was, looking as if a horde had passed through it. He looked at Scarlet, who was still sleeping on the couch, dreaming of a thousand ways of murdering him. He exhaled.

“Hi.”

“At least you're alive!” Doppio exclaimed after a long, awkward pause.

“Diego, give me your phone.” Diego, still frozen, responded a minute too late for Valentine's liking. Valentine called Blackmore's number. “It's me. Kill him.”

Understood.” Even though faint, they all heard the gunshots. Valentine hung up and gave the phone back to Diego.

“What the fuck?”

“Look, we're all tired. I suggest we talk in the morning.”

“An excellent suggestion,” Kars exclaimed before anyone else could speak. Honestly, acting as emotional support and spilling so much tea was exhausting. He needed Esidisi to give him a backrub. “Let's all go home.”

“Dio, where's Giogio?”

“Oh, so you come back after a damn week and you don't even ask me how I'm doing?”

“You're obviously fine! What do you want me to say?”

“Cut it out,” Pucci scolded them. “I'm too tired for your whining, Dio.”

“Oh, fuck off.”

“You too.”

“Come on, Boss.”

“...yeah.”

When everyone left, Valentine carefully picked up Scarlet in a princess carry and went up the stairs. He chuckled when he noticed that she was wearing the outfit she was keeping for when her wealthy husband mysteriously died. So tired she was, she didn't even stir as he lowered her on their bed, gently covering her with the duvet. As he was about to climb on the bed, his eyes fell on Diavolo's house, catching the glimpse of him carrying Trish inside her room. Diavolo turned around, catching him in the act. Valentine quickly went to the window and shut the curtains. He turned around and got on his bed, right next to his wife.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Two Josukes For The Price Of One

 

 


Rohan hated his new side job. Time and time again he thought about quitting but he quickly discarded the thought. Not just because he was desperate for the extra money but mostly because quitting would be admitting defeat in the hands of those little gremlins. Everything else around the school was fine, he enjoyed working in an elite environment, but those damn kids were trying him. Just one class, yet it was hell, enough to drive him insane. Reimi tried calming him down, though Rohan had a terrible feeling that she was enjoying his torment.

The bell rang, making him snap up. Rohan looked up at the clock with disbelief, his stomach sinking a bit when he confirmed that it was time for another class with those dumb kids. Despite the feeling of dread akin to nausea when driving past a WalMart stirring in his gut, Rohan pulled his Gucci-clad self up, gathered his necessary belongings and stepped out of the faculty room, head held high.

It was really difficult to say for sure which one of those infernal kids was the worst. From Giorno's white lies and Mista's complete disregard for safety to Jolyne's constant sexualizing of everything and Anasui's stripper wardrobe, the competition for that title was fierce. But no, come to think of it, those kids were lambs compared to him.

Josuke.

Rohan gagged every time he saw that little brat, and not only because of that thing on top of his head. Every damn week, Josuke found a different way to fuck with him, push him to the limit. The other teachers loved him and how playful he was, but Rohan couldn't disagree more. He had the option of being a reasonable adult and paying no mind to the teen's mischievousness. He'd rather die. When pushed, Rohan could only push back. And that was exactly what he was going to do, not caring about the fact that he was older and a teacher.

He took a deep breath before stepping into the art room. The room was too loud, the kids were all yelling at one another, tossing paper balls and laughing like lightning. The ruckus stopped little by little as Rohan shut the door behind him and walked to his desk. Narancia was the last one to shut the fuck up, excited as he was by the appearance of bubbles in the classroom.

Rohan stood silently, scanning his students. Fugo insisted on bringing his books. Whatever. There was no point in rationalizing with these kids. His eyes skimmed over the crowd, counting heads. Everyone was there, unfortunately, even Josuke.

Wait.

Rohan squinted his eyes at the boy that was sitting on Josuke's seat. He was vaguely familiar but not quite Josuke himself. Rohan looked down at the seating plan, checking for any changes. Sure enough, the name Josuke Higashikata was there, between Okuyasu Nijimura and Koichi Hirose. He lifted his gaze once more, looking at the boy. A bubble blower was sitting at the corner of his desk, some liquid leaking from the sides.

Then it hit him. That was his neighbor's kid (?), who for some reason was also called Josuke Higashikata. He was seating on Josuke's desk very calmly, as if he belonged there. He flashed Rohan a gap-toothed smile when he noticed he was looking at him.

"Who the hell are you?" Rohan demanded, even though he knew. He just couldn't think of another way of expressing his confusion.

Gappy blinked. He pointed at himself, puzzled by the question. "I'm Josuke, sir. Josuke Higashikata."

Sir? There was no way Josuke would ever call him 'sir'! Not the Josuke he knew, anyway. Rohan looked around the room. No one else was sharing his confusion. In fact, they all looked perplexed by the way their already very weird teacher was acting.

Rohan took a deep breath. "I know you're Josuke Higashikata, but you're not THE Josuke Higashikata."

"I'm not sure I understand, sir," Gappy chirped.

Rohan narrowed his eyes suspiciously. Very well. If that was their game, Rohan was willing to play. He crossed his arms, haughtily lifting his head. "Your hair looks like a pile of cow shit that's been left on the side of the road to dry."

"Oh," the teenager mouthed. He then cracked a too-innocent smile. "That's perfectly fine, sir! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion."

Rohan's left eye started twitching. He looked at the other students, who were still as nonchalant as possible. "Are you all seeing this?"

"Seeing what?" Fugo snapped back. "There's nothing wrong with him. Can we please start the class now?"

Rohan huffed. He sent a venomous glare at Josuke who remained indifferent. He was going to get to the bottom of this. Except this time, he was going to handle things differently, so that he wouldn't look like the villain again.

After explaining to the students a few pages from their unnecessary books, Rohan tasked them with drawing some fruit he placed in the middle of the room. They all sucked at drawing (by his standards) and it was always painful to look at their creations. But it was an effective way of shutting them up. Pen in hand, Rohan circled around the teenagers, inspecting their blasphemous work, occasionally leaning in to make any comments. The ambiance inside the room was very pleasant, oddly so. The thunderstorm from outside reached them distantly, and inside the room, only the sounds of their scribbling could be heard. Rohan hummed as he continued his rounds. Maybe he could sit at his desk and sketch something. He was feeling inspired all of the sudden.

Then he paused.

"Mista," he started, "what the hell is this?"

The teenager stopped drawing. He looked up from his masterpiece and flashed Rohan a proud smile. Displayed on his aquarelle was a bunch of little, banana-shaped creatures, holding small guns. They were all bearing a unique expression and had numbers written on their foreheads.

"Oh, this? Well, I drew the banana first and I was really good at it. I drew some more bananas and they all looked hella good. So I decided to draw only the bananas. But after drawing a bunch, I realized that they looked kinda boring. So I gave them little faces and little guns! Cool, huh?"

Rohan inhaled sharply. "This looks nothing like the fruit I told you to draw."

Trish glared at Rohan, putting her hands on her hips. "I thought this was an art class, not history. Aren't we supposed to be letting our creativity flow?"

"Exactly," added Giorno, who had also drawn a bunch of bananas, though they all looked kinda...familiar. "Everyone here should have the right to express themselves however they please."

Two pairs of unyielding eyes were staring right at Rohan. But he wasn't going to have it. It was about damn time he established his superiority over those kids. "This is an assignment, not a pass-time activity. And Mista was assigned with copying what he saw. And he failed. And now I have to grade him."

Wearing a smug smile, Rohan reached in his back-pocket, readying his pen. His fingers grasped the air. Curious, Rohan's fingers reached deep inside the pocket, searching every crevice for any signs of his $12,000, diamond encrusted, platinum Mont Blanc pen. It wasn't there. Rohan glanced around the room for any possible culprits. He looked at Anasui, who was too busy making Jolyne's portrait. Maybe not him, he was sitting too far away.

His inquisitive gaze fell on Gappy, happily sketching fruit on his block and showing them to a very impressed Okuyasu. He waved when he noticed Rohan looking at him.

"Did you steal my pen?" Rohan demanded.

"Of course not, sir. I was here the entire time."

"It's true," Okuyasu nodded eagerly.

"Shut up," Rohan snarled. He looked around Gappy's desk, randomly lifting his belongings. No sign of the pen. Now, he could have hidden it inside his clothes but Rohan was pretty sure he wasn't allowed to force a student to strip. He had broken enough rules already.

He huffed. Gappy's eyes were bearing no emotion other than a genuine excitement about life, giving away nothing. Rohan snooped around some more, wishing he could rummage inside his back bag. More irritated than before, he turned around and walked away.

"Sir!" Gappy called, attracting his attention. "You dropped this."

Rohan's eyes went a little cross as Gappy held his precious pen in front of his nose. With numb fingers, he snatched it from the boy's grasp. Gappy grinned and went back to his seat, back to his art, leaving Rohan to contemplate on his life's choices.

 

 


 

 

 

Rohan crept behind the trashcan, eyes glued on the table Gappy was sitting on. Every other person in the school, student or teacher, didn't acknowledge the change. Those around the boy treated him no differently than they treated Josuke Higashikata, son of Tomoko Higashikata and Joseph Joestar. Even Erina, a close friend of the Joestars' and a very serious woman, behaved as if nothing was wrong. During a rare, short-lived moment of weakness, Rohan had questioned his sanity, thinking that maybe he was the one on the wrong. But no, that was never the case. He, Rohan Kishibe, was never wrong. Those damn kids were just trying to drive him insane but he wasn't having it.

He waited until school was over and tailed the young boy outside of the school. He, his 'friends' and 'cousins' were all heading to the bus stop, chatting and joking without a care in the world. Giorno was the first one to notice the 20-year-old man that was not so discretely lurking in the shadows and nudged Gappy. With his cover blown, Rohan walked forward proudly, straightening his clothes.

"Hello, children."

"Is something wrong, Mr. Kishibe?" Jolyne asked him.

"I...uh...I wanted to apologize to Josuke," he said through gritted fucking teeth. Even though this was but a part of his grand scheme, he still had difficulty blurting it.

Gappy blinked, surprised. He bounced back quickly, so not give Rohan room for doubt. "What for?"

"For asking you weird questions earlier."

"Oh. Oh, that's fine! Don't worry about it! Everything's fine."

"No," Rohan said with a shake of his head. "I feel guilty, Josuke. I have to make it up to you somehow."

Gappy took a step back, putting his hands up nervously. According to Josefumi who spent the most time learning about their neighbors, Rohan Kishibe was a special case. Gappy wasn't sure exactly what that meant until today, when he took a closer glimpse at the world-renowned artist.

"Really," he laughed, "there's no need for that!"

"Please," Rohan hissed, wrapping his fingers around the boy's wrist so tightly as if trying to make it pop off. "I insist."

Gappy glanced back at Giorno and Jolyne. They were obviously at a loss for words. "It'll be fine," Giorno reassured him, though not quite sure himself.

"Give us a call if it won't," Jolyne added.

Gappy turned his head back to Rohan who was giving him an eerie, predatory smile. He gulped. "Okay," he finally said. "What's on the menu?"

"I thought I could drive you home," Rohan offered. "My car is better than the bus and we could have the time to sort our differences out, what do you say?"

"Umm..." He could call Yoshikage. Yoshikage was terrifying. But then again, Rohan didn't look too dangerous. Whatever happened, Gappy would be able to handle it. After all, he had twice the balls as any man. "Sure thing," he sighed, following Rohan to the parking lot.

Rohan's car was a Bugatti, something that was quite odd considering the fact that he was bankrupt. Gappy sat down on the passenger's seat and glanced around, obviously very impressed. "Nice car you got, Mr. Kishibe."

"Yes, it's very nice." Rohan climbed into the driver's seat and locked the doors, cutting all escape routes for Gappy. It wasn't like he was planning on murdering the kid, just driving him to his home and sorting this with his parents. Even though he hadn't met them yet, everyone held the Joestars in a very high esteem. He knew Joseph was a very successful businessman. He was the richest, most rapidly growing real estate mogul in the States. Surely a man like that had to be serious and responsible. Rohan was hoping to find some goddamn justice in the Joestar family. Some would wonder why he was doing this, why couldn't he simply let this little gimmick slide. The answer? Rohan Kishibe was a very petty man and wouldn't rest until he was satisfied.

“So, Josuke,” he started. “Am I going the right way?”

Gappy looked up from his phone momentarily. “Sure,” he said. “I'll tell you if you take a wrong turn.”

Rohan nodded. “I must apologize for my behavior earlier this morning. It's just...there's a Josuke Higashikata living right next to me and I thought you two have switched places just to fuck with me! Haha!”

“Haha! That's ridiculous, Mr. Kishibe! Only a manga artist could think of that!”

Rohan's fingers twitched around the steering wheel. He was going maybe a bit too fast and Gappy had obviously noticed it, as he was holding onto his seatbelt with evident nervousness. Meanwhile, the rain was growing stronger, whipping harshly against the windshield. The sky was getting darker. The days lasted less and less during fall.

“Josuke!” Rohan exclaimed with a voice too shrill, scaring the shit out of Gappy. “You know, you guys should really consider me a friend and not a teacher! I'm young, I can relate to your problems!”

“Sure th-”

“No, but really!” he shrieked. “I understand what it means to be growing up in this day and age! How you kids like to have fun and how much you hate those stupid teachers!” Rohan suddenly paused. He sniffed the air. Like all his belongings, his car was always in excellent condition. But he could smell something unusual but vaguely familiar. It didn't smell like an oil leak or anything serious, rather, it smelled liked feet. Rohan glanced at his feet. His Prada shoes were as clean and pristine as ever, surely his powdered toes weren't producing that heinous scent. His gaze shifted to Gappy and he looked down, where the teenager was wiggling his toes into the fuzzy mat.

“Did you take your shoes off?” he asked in a very low voice.

Gappy looked down, as if he was unaware of what Rohan was talking about. “Oh, yeah, I did! I like feeling fuzzy things, it helps me get comfortable.” To emphasize how comfortable he was, Gappy dug his toes into the fuzzy carpet, appearing very pleased with himself.

Right as he had thought he was getting the upper hand, right when he thought he managed to calm down a bit, the damn kid found another way of pissing him off. It could have been anything, anything at all, but he chose to take out his stinky-ass toes in Rohan's car. Rohan couldn't really tell which Josuke was worse but at that moment, the Josuke sitting next to him was the next in line for murder. In a different setting, perhaps Rohan would have admired his calm and unbothered attitude. Effortlessly and unintentionally superior. A man not quite sure of what the hell was going on around him but he was making sure to enjoy the ride.

With how fast Rohan was driving, it was a miracle he didn't end up killing them both. Somehow, they were alive and at their destination in less than an hour. Instead of parking the car like a normal human being, Rohan climbed on the sidewalk in front of Joseph's house, bringing part of the fence down in the process. Luckily for him, the rain was too heavy and efficiently covered the sounds of the destruction. Rohan stomped out of the car to the front door, Gappy following in a much more relaxed pace.

Rohan banged his fist on the front door while also ringing the doorbell like a damn thirteen-year-old. He turned around to maliciously glance at Gappy. “Now we'll see,” he grinned, “who you really are!”

“Again with this?” Gappy huffed. “I told you, my name is Josuke Higashikata!”

“You think I don't know what you kids are playing at?!” He took a step closer to Gappy. “You're trying to drive me insane! And I'm not having it!”

Rohan prepared to yell at Gappy some more, when the door opened. Behind it stood 195cm of pure muscle, wearing a very vibrant pink frilly dress, matching hair accessories and heavy makeup. Joseph was cradling his new daughter in his arms, feeding her a bottle of milk. Rohan froze when he came face to face with this singular – to put it politely – spectacle. He was an artist, he had seen so many weird things, couldn't even count the times he had been commissioned to draw fetish furry porn. But none of those times could even compare to the sight of Joseph Joestar feeding his child while wearing that little dress. The seams would scream if they could. His abnormally huge, classic Joestar pectorals were threatening to shred the kitschy satin to pieces at any given moment. His makeup, despite being borderline obnoxious, was actually very artfully done. Maybe except for the blush.

It was at that moment that Rohan realized he was most likely not dealing with a serious businessman.

“Hello!” Joseph greeted. “You must be Mr. Kishibe. The kids told me about you!” He stepped to the side, inviting the newcomers into his home. “Come in! You must be so cold!”

With legs as heavy and flexible as wood, Rohan carried himself inside. He was led into the lounge and offered a seat at one of the plush, beige couches, close to the lit fireplace. Joseph sat on an emerald green armchair across from him, now gently rocking Shizuka on his shoulder.

“To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?” He paused. “Caesar!” he hollered.

A few seconds later, another sweaty behemoth of a man came through the door, patting himself dry with a towel. “What?”

“We got a visitor.”

Caesar scanned Rohan with sparkling green eyes. Both he and Joseph seemed completely unfazed by Gappy's sudden appearance, much to Rohan's annoyance. Could it be that the entire family was in on this bullshit?

“Oh, you must be Mr. Kishibe,” Caesar remarked and moved to sit down on the couch next to Joseph. “I wanted to speak with you, apologize for Josuke's disrespectful behavior.”

“This Josuke's?”

Caesar quirked a brow in question. “Who else's?”

Rohan pressed his lips in a thin line. He shifted his gaze to Joseph. “This is your son?”

“Yup.”

“The son you had with Tomoko Higashikata?”

“Yup.”

“The son you had with Tomoko Higashikata while still married to Suzie Q?”

“Are you from the church?”

“This is your son?” Rohan pressed on. “Are you sure that this is your son?”

“Yes!”

“How?”

“I was there when he happened!”

Steaming like an old kettle, Rohan sat back. With the corner of his eye, he spotted a round wooden table, bearing the weight of an abundance of family photographs. Rohan lunged for one, triumphantly holding it in the air. Smiling smugly, he glanced around the room before turning to the photograph. On it were Joseph and Jotaro, who was holding a very young but not unrecognizable Gappy in his arms. Confusion flooded Rohan's system as he collapsed on the couch once more, holding the picture frame limply.

“Are you okay?” Joseph asked him. “Can I get you anything?”

The doorbell rang and Caesar went to answer it, momentarily leaving the living room. It was Jotaro, not wearing his coat or hat for once, going instead for a marine turtleneck and white slacks. He shook his body like a dog, spraying droplets of rainwater everywhere. Rohan had heard about this guy, Jolyne's father. A renowned marine biologist and a very stern, no-nonsense man, according to everyone around him. He had a bit of a temper problem, though he had made progress in that field. Still, a guy as big as him wouldn't have any problems beating anyone he wanted to shit.

Rohan perked up. Surely, someone as serious as Jotaro wouldn't be in on this bullshit. He didn't let the other man's neutral expression discourage him.

“Dr. Kujo,” he started, skipping any introductions, “is this Josuke Higashikata, your nephew?”

Jotaro eyed Josuke. “Yeah,” he shrugged. “This is Josuke Higashikata, my nephew.”

Rohan looked at Gappy. He then looked at Joseph and Caesar, finally resting his gaze on Jotaro. He pointed at Gappy. “This...is-”

“My son.”

“My nephew, yes.”

Rohan felt his left eye twitching. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe staying awake for twenty-two hours straight and snorting ground coffee wasn't the best idea after all. Maybe Reimi was right and he needed some vacation, just a few days off to soothe his nerves. The countryside would do. Come to think of it, he could finally utilize his mountain.

Convincing Rohan to leave the house took a while, especially because he looked disoriented and absolutely confused the entire time. In the end, he got in his car, though he didn't leave for at least another half hour. Caesar watched him drive off and walked back into the living room, hands on his hips, lips pouting.

“I can't believe you convinced me to do this,” he huffed.

Joseph laughed. “Come on! It was just a bit of harmless fun!”

“Harmless? That man needs to be looked at, Joseph!” He narrowed his eyes at Gappy. “I thought you were more responsible, Josuke.”

“He'll be fine,” the boy shrugged. “Probably.”

“You're a surprisingly good liar, Jotaro,” Joseph commented, playfully nudging him.

Jotaro, who was playing with Shizuka on the floor, cracked the faintest smile. “I didn't lie,” he said. “Josefumi is my cousin and that makes Josuke my nephew.”

Caesar sighed. Josuke behaved exactly like Joseph when he was his age, and unfortunately for everyone around him, Josuke didn't have any responsible friends like his father had. At least he was a genuinely good kid, like everyone in his family.

“And what was Josuke doing while you were tormenting that poor man?” he inquired, genuinely curious.

Gappy checked his watch. “He said he didn't want to walk around in this weather, said it'd ruin his hair. He's gonna wait until the rain stops and then head to Joshu's.”

 

 


 

 

 

“Joshu, can you get the door?”

“Ugh, ask the servant to do it!”

“Joshu, in this house we respect women! Don't call her a servant ever again!”

Grumbling angrily, Joshu slammed his iPad on the coffee table and marched to the front door, to do the job they were paying Kyo to do. He yanked it open, coming face to face with a very cheerful Josuke.

“What's up, bro?” Josuke greeted, patting him on the shoulder heartily.

Joshu curled his upper lip, running a hand over his stinging shoulder. He scanned Josuke, stopping at his smiling face. “What do you want here?” he questioned.

Josuke seemed confused by the question. “Do I need a special reason to see my best bud?”

“I'm not your best bud,” Joshu frowned. “And we never see each other!”

“What are you saying, bro? We're together every day!”

Joshu folded his arms. “What?”

“Come on, man! At school and stuff! Why are you acting like that all of the sudden?”

Without expecting an invitation, Josuke allowed himself into the house, not forgetting to take off his shoes before going any further. Joshu slammed the door shut and followed him.

“What do you want, Josuke? Why are you here?”

“Why am I here? To see you, of course!” He gave Joshu a close, inspecting look. “Maybe we should go to the hair-dresser, do something about that disaster hair of yours...”

Josuke flicked a tuft of Joshu's hair and Joshu angrily swatted his hand off. The last thing he wanted in his life was another moron named Josuke. He was fortunate enough that he didn't see him very often. But for some reason, Josuke had suddenly decided to pay him a visit. He got a bit suspicious, thinking that the two Josukes were up to something.

“Hey girls!” Josuke cheered as he walked into the living room where Joshu's sisters were sitting. He sat down on the couch and Daiya scooted closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder with a peaceful smile.

“Hey,” Hato smiled, discarding her copy of Vogue on the coffee table. “What's up?”

“What's up?!” Joshu coughed. “Aren't you guys weirded out that he's suddenly here?”

“Why would we be?” Hato asked. “He was here yesterday.”

“Yeah, man. I was here yesterday after school.”

Joshu opened his mouth. He furrowed his brows, looking at the other three Higashikatas. “No...No, you weren't here! Josuke was here!”

“But I'm Josuke, bro.”

Joshu blinked stupidly. He sent Josuke a hostile glare. “What are you on about, you little bitch?”

“Dude, don't you remember? I was here yesterday and we were playing Mario Kart and I beat you and then you started yelling until Yasuho gave you her chips and then your Dad came and he beat you, too, and then you cried until Jobin came and threatened to turn you into beetle food if you wouldn't shut up...”

Joshu took a step back. That was a very detailed and accurate description of the day before, something Josuke should be unaware of. “Josuke told you all this, didn't he?”

“That's impossible, Joshu! Josuke hasn't been here in months.”

“No, you haven't been here in months!”

“No, I was here yesterday!”

“Joshu,” Daiya cut in, “you're confusing the two Josukes.”

“I'm not confusing anyone!” he snapped back. “I know that this is Josuke Higashikata but he isn't my Josuke Higashikata!”

Your Josuke Higashikata?!” Hato laughed, eyes opening wide. “Joshu and Josuke sitting in the tree-”

“Shut up!”

“-k-i-s-s-i-n-g!”

Kyo strolled into the living room, carrying a green plastic box and snacks for the kids. Joshu lunged at her, grabbing her by the shoulders. “Kyo!” he yelled. “Who is this?”

Completely unbothered, Kyo looked at Josuke. “Ah, Josuke.” She handed him the box. “Can you give this to Yoshikage? I know he likes apple pie so I saved some for him.”

“Sure thing!” Josuke opened the container slightly, sniffing the delicious scent

“Joshu,” Daiya chimed again, feeling pure dumbfoundedness radiating from her brother. “Just calm down, 'kay?”

“No!” he declared. He stepped away from Kyo, looking at them all with infuriated eyes. “All of you are trying to fuck with me!” He pointed an accusing finger at Josuke. “This isn't Josuke Higashikata! This is Josuke Higashikata!”

“This feels like a Scooby Doo episode,” Kyo mumbled before going on with her daily chores.

“Stop pretending this is Josuke!”

“But I am Josuke!”

“Not the Josuke I hang around with!”

“Oh, damn,” Hato whistled, giving her younger brother a pitying smile. “I think you might be hallucinating, Joshu.”

“So you're telling me that this guy,” started Joshu, “isn't aunt Tomoko's Josuke but Yoshikage and Josefumi's Josuke.”

“Yup.”

“Huh.” Joshu cast a glance around the room, pressing his lips in a thin line. “I will get to the bottom of this...”

 

 


 

 

 

Josefumi sighed with boredom and mild exasperation as he leaned against the handle of the shopping cart. Yoshikage was holding a jar of pickles on each hand and was inspecting them extremely closely, with much more scrutiny than when he examined his patients. Every now and again he hummed thoughtfully and moved to place a jar in the cart, making Josefumi jump up, only to retract his hand at the last moment. This happened every time they went grocery shopping and it was the reason why Josefumi preferred going by himself. They had been stuck in this aisle for nearly forty minutes, there was only a bottle of orange juice in their cart and they still had a nearly meter-long list to go through.

“Just pick one,” Josefumi pleaded.

Yoshikage shot him a glare. “This is for our safety, Josefumi. I have to check every little detail.”

“Can't you do that faster? Jotaro just texted me, we have to go get Josuke.”

“No,” was the very articulate and mature answer Yoshikage gave him and Josefumi groaned.

“There they are!” a very familiar voice announced and seconds later, Joshu came strutting down the aisle, Josuke walking behind him. He made various abstract hand signs that Josefumi and Yoshikage thankfully caught on. They both nodded slightly.

Joshu stopped in front of the two men, folding his arms and expecting an explanation. “Who is this?”

“What do you mean 'who is this'?” Yoshikage furrowed his brows. Finally, he tossed a jar of pickles into the cart.

“Yeah, Joshu. What do you mean?”

“I mean that...Why is everyone doing this today?” he angrily shouted. “This is Josuke Higashikata!”

“We know.”

“We were there.”

“No!” Joshu insisted. This was it. The final straw. Everyone around him was calm and that ticked him off even more. Even in his absence, Gappy still found a way to annoy the fuck out of him, with the help of a substitute. “This isn't YOUR Josuke Higashikata!”

“Joshu,” Yoshikage called, staring at the teenager cooly. “I don't know what you're on about and I don't really care. I had a long day at work and all I want to do is buy my groceries and go home without any delays.” He grabbed the cart, almost throwing Josefumi on the floor. “And you are a delay. And my patience is running out.”

“Joshu,” Josefumi said in a much calmer voice. “Maybe you're a bit tired too. Why don't you go home and get some rest, huh? We can drive you.”

“I don't want you to drive me!” Joshu barked. He glared at them all with hostility. He opened his mouth several times, unable to find the right words. He channeled some of his anger on a row of shampoos, throwing them all on the floor. The ruckus attracted an employee but Joshu walked right past her. His Dad could pay for all that.

The three others watched in stunned silence as Joshu stormed out of the grocery store, cursing Josuke's name the entire time.

“That certainly was something,” Josefumi commented.

“Thank you guys for agreeing to help us,” Josuke said.

“Oh, it's fine. I don't like the kid, anyway.” Yoshikage reached for the list and skimmed over the items. “We need some cat food. Josefumi, can you go get it? I want to go look for peas.”

“Sure!”

Taking hold of the cart once more, Josefumi strolled down different aisles, looking for the cat food. Apparently, the grocery store had done some rearranging and the pet section was now filled with cleaning supplies. Josefumi looked around, searching for an employee he could turn to for directions. After failing to locate anyone, Josefumi approached a couple, a man with spiky black hair and an auburn-haired woman.

“Excuse me,” he started, attracting their attention. “Do you know where the cat food is?”

“Oh, yes!” Shinobu replied. “If you go down this aisle and turn left, you should find the pet section.”

“Thank you,” he smiled and walked away.

"We should get some cat food, too, Kosaku."

"Oh, we should." Kira reached inside his jacket and pulled out a neat envelope, with several coupons inside. He grinned with satisfaction. "We'll get a great discount with these."

Shinobu smiled, giving her husband a little punch on the shoulder. "You're so smart, Kosaku!"

"Hardly," he chuckled. He started pushing the cart, Shinobu walking right by him. "I'm just a family man."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 


Salt and Vinegar

 

 

 

Usually, Doppio woke up at around 6 AM, while the world around him was still asleep. As he made his way out of his room, huddled in his cozy pajamas and fluffy robe, dragging his feet inside his slippers, his eyes fell outside the window, to the road passing in front of the house, getting swallowed in the still dark horizon. The house was quiet save for the sound of his feet going down the marble staircase, heading to the kitchen. After waking up and using the bathroom, Doppio always enjoyed a cup of rich espresso on the patio, gazing out to the wooded area behind the house. Cup in hand, he took a brave step to the cold October morning, shivering from the change in temperature. The world around him was still dipped in sleepy serenity, the veil of silence disrupted by the sounds of bugs and nocturnal animals. Doppio could see the puffs of his breath in the crisp air. He raised his head to the sky, where the sweet pink and yellow of dawn met the royal blue of the night. With the corner of his eye, Doppio caught another figure standing just a fence away. He waved at Valentine and the blond smiled back, sleep still evident in his eyes though he was trying to fight it with some coffee. After finishing his own cup, Doppio walked back inside, ready to start his day.

After taking a shower and finishing his morning makeup, Doppio headed downstairs once again, this time to prepare breakfast. Trish would be waking up soon and ever since becoming a member of their family, Doppio always made sure to have a grand breakfast ready for her. It usually included pancakes, fluffy and perfectly golden brown, fresh fruit and juice, eggs on toast with crispy bacon and hash browns. By the time breakfast was ready, Doppio could hear the distinctive sound of Trish's feet padding against the floor as she slowly made her way to the kitchen. Doppio smiled while doing the dishes in anticipation of her arrival. He could always tell who was moving around the house. Trish had a very light step, most likely because of Valentine's influence during her early childhood. Diavolo's footsteps were heavy, dragging along the floor, sounding tired and inexplicably angry at the same time. But it wouldn't a few more good hours later until he woke up.

"Good morning," Doppio greeted as Trish sat on the breakfast bar, looking at the feast in front of her with heavy lids. He approached her and kissed her forehead, still warm with sleep, and handed her a glass of juice. "How did you sleep?"

"Fine," she groaned, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes with the heels of her palms. She set her iPhone next to her plate and dived into breakfast.

Doppio put some eggs and bacon on his own plate and started eating. He looked outside the kitchen window. Morning had arrived but the skies were overcast, smoke gray in the distance. "You should wear something warm today. It's been getting colder."

"Mhmm."

"I'm serious, Trish. I don't want you to catch a cold."

Trish smiled. Her face was resting on her fist, hot pink strands of messy hair falling in front of her ocean-blue eyes. "Don't worry, Doppio. I'll be careful."

"Good. Now finish your breakfast. I don't want you to be late again." He took a sip of his juice. These oranges were quite sweet. He should buy some more, seeing that the entire family was enjoying them. "How's school going, by the way?"

Trish shrugged while scrolling through her Instagram. "'s fine, I guess."

"You should be taking school more seriously, sweetheart."

"You sound like Funny."

"He's right," Doppio chimed, giving her a soft but fatherly look. "You should start thinking about the future."

"I already am," Trish replied. "I want to become a model."

Doppio put his glass down. He really wasn't the best to handle this kind of thing, not the best advisor when it came to someone's future. When he was Trish's age, he didn't even know if he had one. He was – in more ways than one – a piece of driftwood, limp and empty, letting himself be carried by whatever wave he found. Until he reached the shore. Or rather, until a very temperamental, bitter but sadly, hopelessly romantic sailor fished him out.

“Have you discussed it with the Boss yet?” he asked her. Trish shook her head. “You really should. Despite everything, he's still your Dad.”

“I know,” she sighed. “Don't worry. I'll tell him.”

They ate the rest of their breakfast while making small talk, the kind of small talk two barely awake people could make. After Doppio's gentle admonishing, Trish finished her breakfast in time and went back upstairs to get ready for school. Doppio got to cleaning the kitchen, putting dishes in the dishwasher and setting a plate aside for Diavolo. He put it inside the microwave with a little note. Hopefully, he was going to eat it. Diavolo ate little and these days, he ate even less. Something was bugging him and Doppio could tell. He could always tell.

There wasn't a word to describe their relationship. Lovers? Definitely not. Despite their closeness and fondness for one another, there wasn't anything romantic between them. Diavolo was a very charming man and in the early stages of their unorthodox relationship had made a move on him but Doppio could see the desperation behind his actions. For the sake of them both, he had stayed indifferent to those advances. Was their relationship fatherly? No, not at all. Even though Diavolo was someone Doppio looked up to, he was far from a father figure. Was Doppio a simple caretaker? He definitely was, he cared for Diavolo's well-being and was carrying out the task Valentine had entrusted him with so long; making sure Trish had the perfect life by her father's side. But he wasn't just a caretaker. He was so much more. A partner in crime, then? He was Passione's underboss, after all. Doppio was the face of the organization, the only one that ever came in contact with the unknown deity, the cloud looming overhead, the smoke-like threat, the Boss.

In the end, did a title really matter? Doppio would be dead without Diavolo and vice versa. They completed each other in many ways, filling what the other lacked. Together they not only made themselves stronger but also Passione, and managed to successfully (?) raise a child.

Doppio's attention shifted from his thoughts to Trish, who had come down dressed in blue jeans, knee-high back suede boots, and a fuzzy, glittery magenta sweater. She put her black leather jacket and backpack on the couch and stood in front of the mirror to put her earrings on, pink little diamonds that her godparents had bought her on a whim. She smiled at Doppio's reflection and he smiled back. She walked to him and planted a soft kiss on his freckled cheek.

“Have a good day,” he said.

“You too!”

Doppio waited until Trish boarded the bus, getting in with Giorno, Josuke, and Jolyne. He sighed and looked at the time. He had to get ready and be at the office in the Bronx in time for his first meeting. Doppio went back into his room and started putting together an outfit. He put on a pair of black slacks and a black belt with a silver buckle, a comfortable but stylish violet turtleneck, and a plum blazer. He put his hair in a low ponytail, in an attempt to make his face appear sharper, a task quite difficult with his freckled baby cheeks and large maroon eyes. Satisfied with his appearance, Doppio grabbed his phone and left his room.

He stopped outside Diavolo's door and knocked. When he received no answer, he carefully stepped inside, quietly closing the door. Laying on his bed in the middle of the room was Diavolo, out cold under a heap of blankets, face-first into his pillow, pink hair almost strangling him, arms bent in the most awkward positions. Doppio walked to the window right by the bed and cracked it open just a bit, enough to let some fresh air in. He frowned at the small pile of cigarettes that were overflowing from the porcelain ashtray on the nightstand. These days Diavolo seemed to eat even less, sleep even more and get angrier way easily. It was worrying and despite his many curiosities, Doppio rarely saw him in such a bad mood. He was sad. Doppio wished he knew the source of this sadness though he had a feeling he knew what it was. Or rather who.

“Boss?” he spoke softly, ducking down to Diavolo's level. A groan. “I'm going to the Bronx. Call me if you need anything, okay?” Another groan. “I left you food in the microwave.” More groaning. “Have a nice day.” Silence.

Doppio was practically skipping as he made his way to the garage. He was all pumped and ready for a very busy day. As he hopped into his G-Wagon (Trish was begging him to give it to her but Diavolo had forbidden it, per Valentine's suggestion) he recited his schedule for the day. Nothing unusual or different from his everyday duties. Doppio, serving as the face of Passione, went to meetings with other members of the gang, various dealers or even other syndicates. That last one was a bit of a gray area as most other (inferior) mafia bosses would never negotiate with the second in command. It was Doppio's job to arrange everything. In the minds of many, those that doubted Diavolo's existence altogether, Doppio was the real boss of Passione. Of course they'd say that, as they had never witnessed Diavolo's talent with brass knuckles.

It took Doppio nearly an hour to arrive at the office. The base of operations was a not-so-discrete skyscraper, disguised as a colossal international shipping company. Diavolo operated under many aliases, using them to operate the several businesses he owned all around the globe that served as fronts for Passione. Through the years, and especially after the 'peace treaty' between him and Valentine, the empire had flourished. As he traversed the busy lobby, greeting the workers, Doppio felt a twinge of pride, thinking that he had contributed to this success. It was very dangerous, some would label this type of work as a waste of one's life but through it, Doppio had found a family. He knew he was in good hands, not in danger of being turned into a strainer any time soon.

He sat behind the desk, relaxing on his leather chair. Or his superior's. Diavolo had decorated the place quite nicely and according to his tastes. Thick, crimson carpet was covering the hardwood floor to provide extra warmth for the coming winter. The walls were painted black, the set of double ebony doors almost blending with them perfectly. The wall behind Doppio was all glass, allowing him a glorious view to Manhattan and Rikers Island, going all the way to Brooklyn, and even beyond. Back inside the room, the dark walls were decorated with fine pieces of art, antiques, and artifacts that belonged in the museum. Diavolo loved art and it showed. Displayed in luxurious glass cases, his prized belongings added color and character to the otherwise very cold and vampiric room. Under such a display was the lounge, right next to the fully stocked bar. Dark red couches and armchairs made from the finest leather had been artfully placed around a black coffee table. The only drop of color in the sitting area was the navy blue china vase, filled with white lilies. The bouquet seemed a little out of place in the darkness yet at the same time, it was just right.

There was a sharp knock on the door, informing Doppio that his first appointment was there.

 

 


 

 

 

As he looked around the lavish interior of Valentine's bedroom, Kira pursed his lips. He had never been antagonistic or jealous of his friends' belongings. But ever since he had moved to this neighborhood as a family man, he had been feeling the urge to compete with all these millionaires. There wasn't much he could do, all of them were richer than him and for some reason, Kira suddenly cared.

“We bought a Roomba a few days ago,” he damn near shouted, in his I-care-but-I-don't-want-you-to-think-I-do voice.

“Really?” came Valentine's voice from inside his gigantic walk-in closet.

Kira smirked. Valentine sounded genuinely impressed and given his love for cleanliness, he definitely was. Kira raised his hand, idly examining his nails. “Yeah,” he said nonchalantly. Valentine stepped out of the closet in full gym gear, his spare clothes and other necessities carefully tucked inside a Louis Vuitton duffel bag. “I haven't used it yet. We could go check it out together later.”

“Sounds great!” Valentine moved in front of the mirror and carefully tied his hair in a ponytail, all but two flaxen locks, letting them frame his handsome face. “We bought one of these a while ago but gave it to Scarlet's sister like a week later. The kids and the dog absolutely hated it.”

Kira's chest swelled. That felt great. After finishing his hair, Valentine turned around to face Kira. He reached for his phone and checked it momentarily before shoving it into the pocket of his Gucci sweatpants. The two men descended the stairs of the empty mansion and made their way outside, to the quiet street. Despite the impending threat of rain, they decided to walk to the gym that was located on the other side of the neighborhood, surrounded by stylish cafes and sophisticated brunch restaurants.

“Hey,” said Kira, suddenly stopping. “Why don't we invite Diavolo?”

Valentine's face dropped. Ever since their little episode a few weeks back, Kira hadn't really spoken to Diavolo and every time he met Valentine, he swiftly changed the subject with his politician's silver tongue. Frankly, Kira believed it was unacceptable that his friends of nearly twenty-five years had obscured the truth from him. Kira had been through it all; the awkward first dates, the summer they spent in the Valentines' lake cottage, the first break up, the escape to Italy, everything! He was the servant that arranged the meetings between Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere in some garden in Camelot! So yeah, if anyone, he deserved to know.

“I don't know,” Valentine said and Kira knew that voice too well. “He probably doesn't wanna come.”

“We haven't asked him yet.”

“You know he hates going out, Yoshikage.”

“He might have changed his mind.”

Before Valentine could offer any more useless protests, Kira pulled out his phone and was already dialing Diavolo's number.

What,” Diavolo gruffly demanded.

“Hey, it's me.”

“I know it's you, asshole. What do you want?”

Valentine rolled his eyes. Kira smiled. “I'm going to the gym and I was wondering if you wanted to come along.”

A short pause. “Why the fuck would I do that?”

“That's a no, then?”

Duh.”

“Very well. Looks like it's just me and Funny.”

Another pause, this one heavier, not even Diavolo's breathing disrupting it. “Funny's there with you?” he asked in a hushed voice.

“Yeah.” Kira hadn't even stopped talking when the line went dead.

Valentine folded his arms over his chest with a small frown and waited, displeasure written all over his face. It took Diavolo a few short moments to get there, panting and wheezing, wearing probably the first things he found and carrying a duffel bag similar to Valentine's. His hair was tied in a very messy ponytail that he desperately tried straightening, to make himself more presentable.

“Hey lads,” he coughed out, trying to look nonchalant.

“Nice of you to join us,” Valentine hissed and turned around without a second thought, heading in the direction of the gym.

Kira didn't bring up his questions while on the way. The last thing he wanted was an argument in the middle of the street. They made small talk as they walked, chatting about trivial matters while ignoring the elephant in the room. Kira was standing awkwardly between his two friends, feeling sandwiched by sexual tension and twenty-four years of feelings.

Being friends with the owner of the gym had many perks. Esidisi always kept a private room for them where they could do as they pleased away from the intrusive eyes of their other neighbors. After doing some stretching, they all headed to different machines. Diavolo went to lift some weights, sulking, stealing glances at Valentine whenever he found an opening. Valentine went to one of the treadmills, turning his back to Diavolo. Kira went to the one next to him.

“So,” Kira started. “What's up?”

“Not much,” Valentine replied. “Been busy with work and stuff.”

“That's not what I meant.”

“Oh?”

“I meant what's up with you and him.”

“That's not what you asked.”

“Well, I'm asking it now.”

“What are you asking?”

“What's going on with you and Diavolo?”

“There's nothing going on with me and Diavolo. Why would there be something going on between me and Diavolo?”

“You always reply with a question when you're lying.”

“What do you want, Yoshikage?” Valentine said through gritted teeth. He punched the buttons on the treadmill, making it go faster. Hopefully, he'd run himself to a heart attack and escape the interrogation.

“I want you to tell me the truth.”

“That's an odd demand coming from the man who didn't tell me he's a fucking serial killer!”

“Will you stop being petty?”

“Petty?”

“Just tell me what's going on!”

“No!”

“Fine,” Kira decided, pressing his lips in a thin, displeased line. “I'll ask him.”

“Good fucking luck.”

For a few short minutes, the room was entirely silent save for their huffing breathing and sounds of machinery. Through the mirror in front of him, Kira saw Diavolo glaring at Valentine's back while grumbling something under his breath. Kira pouted. He tugged on Valentine's red hoodie.

“What?” Valentine snapped.

“Tell me.”

Valentine stared at Kira before letting out a long sigh. He slowed down the treadmill. He looked over his shoulder where Diavolo was still lifting weights, or at least did so whenever Valentine wasn't looking.

“A couple of days ago,” Valentine whispered, voice so low that Kira had to strain his ears, “Diavolo told me he loves me.”

“What.”

“Sh!” Valentine checked on Diavolo again, before returning to Kira. “Yeah...he just told me that.”

“And what did you do? What did you say?” Valentine mumbled something. Kira blinked. “What?” He noticed how his friend's high cheekbones were dyed a pale shade of pink. A rare moment of embarrassment. “What did you say?”

“...cool beans...”

Kira lost his footing for a moment, nearly falling off the treadmill but he luckily kept his balance. “Excuse me.”

“Yeah.”

“Diavolo told you he loves you and you said 'cool beans'?”

“I freaked out! I wasn't expecting it! What was I supposed to say?”

“Anything but that!”

“The setting wasn't ideal!”

“And what was the setting?”

“We were naked on his bed,” Valentine replied after a moment of hesitation.

“And that's not ideal setting?”

“What are you two whispering about?”

The two men screamed. Diavolo inspected them with narrow eyes. He brought his face close to Valentine, glaring at him sternly. He then looked at Kira with the same suspicion. He leaned back, hands on his hips, frown on his lips.

“You guys wanna go home and see my Roomba?” Kira quickly suggested, hoping to prevent the impending explosion.

Diavolo looked at him with a quirked brow. “A Roomba? That one of those floor-cleaning things?”

“Yeah.”

“Cool. I was thinking of buying one of those. Are you satisfied with it?”

“Haven't tried it yet. Wanna go and test it together?”

“Sure,” Valentine shrugged and got off the treadmill.

 

 


 

 

 


Doppio gulped thickly, feeling sweat slick his knitted fingers. There were many terrifying and bizarre individuals within the vast organization that was Passione, the most terrifying and bizarre being the boss himself. But to Doppio, who was used to Diavolo, no other member of the group struck terror in his heart the same way Risotto Nero did. Just sitting in the dimly lit room, staring at Doppio with his ghoulish eyes, face a stone mask of cruelty was enough to make the underboss shiver. As head of La Squadra, Risotto was the most ruthless and capable assassin Passione had to offer. Quite the title, considering the monsters they had in their ranks.

But unfortunately for Doppio, Risotto wasn't at all as heartless as the underboss thought he was. Risotto cared for those under his command, made sure they got rewarded for the work they did. As the prime assassination squad, their work was very serious, it allowed no room for failure. It was important to Risotto to feel that he and his rowdy boys got what they truly deserved. They never did. That was why he was sitting in front of Doppio, one knee crossed over the other, right next to a crate containing Sorbet's pieces.

“This is bad in taste,” Risotto said, voice clear and metallic, resonating within the quiet room like a bell.

Doppio swallowed the saliva in his throat. He straightened himself. Whatever the case, he was still the underboss. “It was necessary.”

“Necessary.” Risotto repeated the word, rolling it on his tongue, swirling it around his mouth. “I think it was a bit of an overkill.”

“You know how the boss is...”

“Do I, now?” A flash passed through Risotto's eyes. “I have been a member of Passione ever since I was seventeen years old and I've been the leader of La Squadra for seven years. My men and I have dedicated our lives to this gang and ask for nothing in return. We only want what we deserve.”

“Ris-”

“All the other teams have their territories and that means extra money. So much extra money, Doppio. When I became a member of La Squadra, I knew the assassination squad didn't have a base of operation or territories. I joined regardless, expecting to find gratitude in some other way. We deserve gratitude, Doppio. You know I dislike bragging but my boys put their lives on the line every day. We have made so many sacrifices for the gang, way more than anyone else. And how does the boss choose to reward us? By murdering a member of our team.”

Doppio loosened his fingers. He leaned forward, trying to make his shoulders as square as possible. Risotto was right but Doppio couldn't tell him that. His job was to justify the boss at all times. “Sorbet broke the first rule of the gang; he searched about the Boss' identity.”

“Did he find anything?”

“No.”

“Why was he murdered then? Butchered like an animal?”

“Risotto, you know how the Boss feels about this rule! He can excuse anything but this! Sorbet knew yet he chose to investigate regardless. He had to face the consequences.”

“Consequences? The Boss sliced him into thirty six pieces and had them all mailed to me! He wanted to prolong his suffering, give him an agonizing death! He had no sense of honor or gratitude towards one of his most loyal men!”

“I know it seems brutal-”

“It doesn't seem brutal. It IS brutal.” Risotto unfolded his knees and folded them once more. “I'm not here to fight, Doppio. I only want justice for my men.”

Doppio nodded. Risotto's calmness was making him feel uneasy. It felt like the calm before the storm, a very, very harsh storm. “I understand,” he said. “I'll do everything to make sure you get the justice you deserve.”

“I don't want you to do everything, Doppio. I only want you to get me to contact the boss.”

At that, Doppio's eyes widened. What Risotto had just said was in the mind of many members of Passione. As of yet, no one had uttered it. Then again, no one had Risotto's guts. The look in his eye informed Doppio that no matter what he told Risotto, the assassin wouldn't reconsider his demand.

“You know I can't do that,” Doppio said.

“If not you, then who? You're the only one that has ever seen the boss.”

“Yes, but I can't do as I please. I can't get you to meet with him, Risotto. It's the policy.”

“The policy,” Risotto mouthed. “Enforced by a phantom who treats his own men like garbage. And you choose to remain loyal to him. So loyal that you're the second in command and the only person in the gang that has ever seen him and spoken to him.”

“Listen, I know-”

“I don't care what you know, Doppio,” Risotto snapped. He suddenly stood up straight, black and red eyes burning holes into Doppio's skull.

Doppio watched completely motionless as Risotto picked up the crate and walked out of the office, the sound of his footsteps muffled by the thick carpet. Even after his departure, Risotto's coppery scent lingered in the air. Doppio started fanning his face, suddenly very hot. He glanced behind him, to the dark gray skyline. The deeper into winter they went, the harder it was to distinguish the times of the day. Doppio checked his phone. He still had to go to the warehouse in Brooklyn but this encounter with Risotto had spooked him. Doppio wasn't the smartest guy around but sure as hell wasn't stupid enough to be running around in the most chaotic city in the world after pissing off an extremely skilled assassin. No, any other appointments could wait. What Doppio needed to do was get the hell out of the building and go straight home.

He typed a short message and sent it to Diavolo, informing his boss about his schedule. Diavolo wasn't most likely going to check it any time soon. Doppio packed all the necessary documents into his briefcase and walked out of the office, making sure to lock everything down. The rest of the building still had a steady flow of people, though most 9-to-5 workers had gone home for the day. Doppio only felt a sense of insecurity when he stepped into the underground parking. Suddenly, his car seemed kilometers away and the walk to it was impossible. Doppio took the first brave step, hearing it echo around the concrete walls. There were cameras everywhere, surely Risotto wouldn't strike him here. Still, Doppio couldn't help but shiver as sudden gusts of wind howled in his ear, whispering things to him.

He unlocked the car and quickly climbed inside, letting out every ounce of air held in his lungs. He took a few steadying breaths. Diavolo hadn't responded to his message yet. Doppio checked his reflection in the rear-view mirror. He was smoothing down his purple hair when he saw a flash of something gray in the distance. It lasted only for a second, long enough for Doppio to catch it but not long enough for him to think it real. Doppio snapped around, wide eyes fixed on the wall across. A trick of the mind? Anxiety-induced hallucinations? Doppio chose to believe that.

“What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck...” he kept saying as he rolled into the bustling New York streets, hoping to lose himself in the crowd.

Doppio didn't relax just yet. Hands sweaty around the steering wheel, he nervously kept checking the mirrors every few seconds, making sure no one was following him. He didn't feel safe. He was out in the open. Risotto and La Squadra could attack him from everywhere; from the front, the back, the sides, the rooftops, the sewers. He was surprised no one had been hiding in his car.

His entire body kept twitching. Doppio realized he could never make it safely back home in this condition with this traffic. He had to calm down first. And he knew just the way how. Doppio pulled over inside an alley tucked between two plain brick buildings, stocky and rectangular, remnants of an era long since past. He quickly stepped out of the car and rushed inside a tiny little shop that made the best calzone he had ever eaten. Each bite of the soft, filling, warm goodness took him back home and no matter what, it always made him feel better. He had to wait a few minutes until the new batch was out of the oven but at least he was going to be tasting his favorite delicacy fresh. Doppio waited inside the stuffy workshop, looking back at the car every now and again. When his calzone was ready, Doppio quickly paid and left.

Once inside the car, Doppio put his calzone on the passenger's seat and waited for it to cool down while playing some Sims on his phone. As he dived inside the world of beautiful houses and no problems, Doppio soon forgot about Risotto. He played some more, finding that his mood quickly improved. When the calzone finally cooled down to the perfect temperature, Doppio reached for it eagerly and took a big, hungry bite.

However, instead of tasting cheesy goodness – as he was expecting – Doppio winced as sudden, sharp pain pierced through his tongue. Soon, the all-too-well familiar taste of coppery blood filled his mouth. Doppio doubled over the passenger's seat and quickly spat out the contents of his mouth. Barely bitten down pieces of calzone sprinkled with blood were laying on the fine leather. In the midst of the mess, Doppio caught the metallic glint of a tiny object. With shaking fingers, Doppio reached for it. It was a needle, a very thin but way sharper one. He tore open the rest of the calzone and to his horror, found more needles, hidden under the salami and tomato sauce. Doppio stared at his hands in disbelief, still trying to process what had happened. He looked at the seemingly innocent pizzeria. Should he go back in and demand an explanation? That wasn't a great idea. He would probably be walking right into a death trap. Dammit! How had he been so careless? Of course, someone like Risotto knew that Doppio always got a calzone from one specific place after work.

Without further ado, Doppio started the engine and exited the alley, once again taking to the busy streets of the American Metropolis. He ignored a few red lights and hollering New Yorkers as he darted through the streets, heading home. This time, he wasted no time checking. Risotto was most likely following him and all Doppio could hope for was for the assassin to not catch up to him. All he had to do was follow Doppio all the way home, into Diavolo's turf, where his defenses were the strongest. But Doppio had to be fast.

While speeding through crowded avenues, Doppio didn't notice how the scenery changed from towering skyscrapers to flat plains and farms. The ocean, dark gray instead of blue, was crashing against the rocks to his right as he drove. The further north he went, the less traffic his encountered. Doppio relaxed a bit, now able to check his surroundings. The only thing concerning him was the appearance of a dark dot in the horizon, resembling a motorcycle as it drew closer. Cold sweat slicked his body, his turtleneck was suddenly smothering him. That was Risotto, no doubt about it. Or maybe not. Shit. Was this how Diavolo's mind worked? Constantly fabricating enemies out of thin air?

(Bold of Doppio to assume he had any idea what was going on inside Diavolo's clusterfuck of a brain.)

Doppio drove past an abandoned warehouse, with its distinctive color exterior all worn out, and sighed. He was getting close, probably like fifteen minutes away from home. He hadn't checked his phone in a while but hadn't heard any incoming texts or calls. He had to find a way of alerting Diavolo, letting him know what was going on.

The screech of the tires cut off Doppio's train of thought. First, a sudden pop and then, shrill sounds, those of the rims being dragged on the asphalt, all four at the same time. Doppio tried regaining control of the car but it was too late. The vehicle swerved off the side of the road after spinning like a paper boat in a tornado and ended up toppled over into some field. Doppio was shaken harshly but his seatbelt and airbags managed to keep him in place. He shut his eyes, shielding them from the countless windshield shards that filled the car.

Head spinning, ears buzzing, body stinging, Doppio opened his eyes. He was alive, for one, and he had full control of all his limbs. Good. Judging by the green sky and smoky ground, Doppio safely assumed that the car had landed upside down. He undid the belt and fell on the hood with a muffled thud. Even in the limited light, Doppio searched for his phone frantically. The formerly spotless screen was now decorated by a large crack. Doppio pressed the home button but his phone didn't respond. He hissed. Just fucking great.

Moving slowly, Doppio opened the door and crawled out of the car, keeping his body as close to the ground as possible. The grass was tall enough to conceal his small body somewhat but Risotto would surely notice him if he took too long. Pushing himself on his elbows and knees, Doppio slithered among the grass, huffing as he moved with difficulty, praying that Risotto was investigating the car. So many questions swirled around his mind but Doppio pushed them all away. How had Risotto tracked him? How had he caused this accident? Didn't matter, Doppio just had to find a way to get back home ASAP. He momentarily considered sneaking behind Risotto and taking his motorcycle but he ultimately decided against it. His best option was to go as far away as he could as quickly as possible and seek shelter. Perhaps he could even steal one of those trucks from the near farms and escape while he still had time.

Somewhere from behind him, Doppio could hear Risotto examining the car. He didn't have much time until Risotto realized where he was. Slowly, Doppio rose, still holding his dear phone in his hand. He started sprinting, chest heaving, only the image of a nearby farm in his eyes. He was running as fast as his feet could carry him. Searing pain suddenly pierced his entire body, centered at the meat of his calf. Risotto approached him as he lay on the ground, trying to grasp reality.

“I want to talk to the Boss,” Risotto demanded. “And I won't take no for an answer.”

With a gun pointed at his face and a bullet already lodged into his leg, Doppio had to think fast. He brought his cracked phone up to his eyes, shielding it from Risotto and did the most eighth-grader thing ever. He lifted it to his ear and flashed Risotto a nervous smile.

“Hello?” he exclaimed. “Hello? Boss, is that you? Good evening, sir! How are you?” Doppio glanced up at Risotto. He was probably not buying it. “Boss, I'm here with Risotto and he wanted to speak with you...Oh, oh, I see. That's unfortunate. I'll be waiting, then.”

Doppio lowered his phone. “What did he say?” Risotto hissed.

“He's busy now. Said he'll call later.”

Pushing back the pain (he's had worse), Doppio tried sitting up. A stern foot on his chest stopped him. “I'll wait with you,” Risotto told him a bit too calmly. “I got all the time in the world.”

Doppio sat back down obediently. He had to think of a way out of this. He considered screaming at one of the passing cars but Risotto would instantaneously kill him. He had to play the waiting game, one he had stupidly initiated. And wait they did. Doppio was laying on the ground, bleeding, and Risotto was towering above him, gun in hand.

“Ring, ring, ring, ring...” Risotto blinked. “Ring, ring, ring, ring...”

“What are you doing?”

“Do you hear that?” Doppio asked, voice dropping to a hush.

“You're literally making that noise with your mouth.”

“No, I'm not. Look, it's the Boss!”

“Your phone's broken, asshole.”

Doppio scoffed. “Hello, Boss! Yes, Risotto is still here.”

Risotto snatched the phone out of Doppio's hand and it tossed away. “Cut the shit,” he snarled.

“I was just trying to get you in contact with the Boss!”

“Oh, and you will. Just not the way you imagined.” Risotto studied Doppio's face. “You know what I think, Doppio? I think it's a tiny bit suspicious that you're the only one that has ever seen the boss.”

“I told you-”

“That just can't be right, you know?” Risotto continued, ignoring Doppio. “Not even the senior members of Passione know him. Weird, right? And what sort of name is 'Diavolo' anyway?”

“Y-Your name is Risotto!” Ironic.

“It keeps bugging me; just how and why are you the only one that's ever talked to the boss? And you know what I realized?” Risotto lifted the weapon once again, bringing it just centimeters away from Doppio's forehead. “You're the Boss, Doppio. You're Diavolo.”

“W-What?”

“You heard me. Diavolo is just a front. I understand your motives, I wouldn't want to be the boss of such a large organization, either. It's a clever trick, and I thought you were a dumbass. Make a phantom personality, someone everyone can blame but only you can talk to. Genius.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don't fuck with me, Diavolo. I know it's you.”

 

 

 


 

 

 

Sporting an arrogant smile, Kira reached for his new, unused Roomba. His two friends, idly sipping on margaritas, widened their eyes in admiration. Valentine was the first one to approach, examining the device with impressed and somewhat jealous eyes. Kira's grin grew wider.

“Sick,” Valentine whistled.

“Oh, you have no idea. This isn't an ordinary Roomba.”

“What does it do?” Diavolo came closer, intrigued by the newest technological advances in housekeeping.

“Longer battery life, rough with stains but gentle with hardwood and parquet, can be used as a carpet cleaner AND has a voice command.”

“Voice command?” Valentine questioned. “What does that mean?”

“When it encounters something that's too complex for it to clean perfectly – like blood – it will send you a message and if you're in the house, it'll call for you.”

“Can you make it do that?” Diavolo asked.

Feeling every bit like a frivolous magician, Kira pressed a yellow button the sleek cyan surface. Through the speakers located on the front, a deep, ancient, guttural voice came.

“Look over here,” said the Roomba.

Kira smiled proudly. “Along with all the cool things it can do, the voice command will also alert you when the temperature somewhere in the house is higher than ordinary. Works great as a fire alarm.”

“Can we test it?” Valentine requested eagerly. He put his glass down. Seeing that his hands were free, Killer Queen walked up to him, meowing until he picked her up.

Without thinking much, Diavolo spilled his margarita on the floor. Kira would have otherwise imploded. Instead, he lowered the Roomba on the floor and activated it. The cleaning robot detected the spilled liquid and rolled over it. When it moved away, the floor below was spotless. Diavolo and Valentine whistled in sync.

“Look over here.”

Using its wheely little legs, the Roomba headed for Valentine, stubbornly bumping against his Versace sneakers. Valentine glared at it. “Yoshikage, is your Roomba insinuating something about me?”

“No, of course not.” Trying out complex devices for the first time could be tricky. Kira bent down to turn it off. He pressed the button but the light stayed on. Weird. He persisted. Nothing.

“Look over here.”

Grumbling, Diavolo nudged the robot away with his foot. It made its way back to Valentine.

“Look over here!”

“What does it want?”

“Look over here!”

Distraught, Valentine climbed on the counter, still holding Killer Queen like a baby. The relentless Roomba, now unable to pursue, kept bumping against the counter. “Yoshikage, why is it doing this?!”

“I don't know!” Kira reached for the instruction booklet and skimmed through it, eyes narrow. “I can't find anything...”

“Oh my God...”

The Roomba suddenly changed its direction, this time heading for Diavolo. The mafioso glared down at it and kicked it away, earning a slap on his shoulder from Kira. “I paid for this!”

“I don't care,” Diavolo growled. “It's pissing me off.” Following Valentine's example, Diavolo hopped on the counter next to the fridge.

The Roomba paused for a second. It then changed its course, aiming for Kira. Reflexively, Kira jumped back, scrambling to climb on the table. With three available targets, the Roomba picked up its speed and started running around the room, bouncing around the kitchen like a pinball.

“Does it have a remote?”

“It's too far away.”

Diavolo groaned. “What are we supposed to fucking do now?”

“Where is Shinobu?”

“She's visiting her mother with Hayato, won't return until late.”

Valentine sighed. At least he could cuddle Killer Queen for stress relief. He looked down, where the Roomba was going apeshit on the floor. “Hey,” he called, “gimme a snack.”

“You're the only snack I see.”

“Excuse you, I am a full-course meal.”

Chuckling, Diavolo opened the fridge and stared at it thoughtfully. He tossed Valentine a bag of string cheese and grabbed a can of coconut La Croix for himself. “What are you assholes doing?”

Valentine shrugged nonchalantly. “We're gonna be here for a while. I got hungry.” Killer Queen meowed curiously, pawing at the plasticky mozzarella. “Can I give her some?”

 

 


 

 

 

“I'm not the Boss!” Doppio protested. “I'm me!”

“Like hell you are!”

“But I'm telling you the truth!”

“Then take me to the Boss!”

“I can't!”

“You're full of shit!”

Doppio whimpered, flinching away. Risotto was fucking terrifying and convinced Doppio was Diavolo. Calling Diavolo from Risotto's phone wasn't an option, he'd never pick up. Taking Risotto to Diavolo wasn't also an option. Doppio looked around frantically, trying to devise an escape plan.

It was now or never.

Riding the sudden adrenaline burst that washed over him, Doppio used his good leg to kick Risotto's dick as hard as he could. The reaction was immediate. Even a man of his standing couldn't tolerate such a dastardly hit. Doppio jumped up, snatched the gun from Risotto's hands and started running, fighting back the sting on his leg and nausea in his stomach. He climbed on the motorcycle and started the engine, driving off while Risotto was screaming at him.

 

 


 

 

 

You: Don't laugh

Scarlet: you can't just say that

You: I'm serious!
You: Something happened

Scarlet: ????
Scarlet: are the kids okay?

You: Just fine, Diego is babysitting them.

Scarlet: you call that fine????

You: I'm trapped!

Scarlet: ????

You sent a video.

Scarlet: jklagdhaklxsgahdjsklaxzdslhfslsajfgaf
Scarlet: tf
Scarlet: what is that?

You: A Roomba.

Scarlet: whose?

You: Yoshikage's. We're at his place.

Scarlet: we????

You: Yoshikage, Diavolo and me.

Scarlet: have your boyfriend help u then

You: Scarlet, this is hardly the time for this!
You: I could die here!

Scarlet: then perish.

“Dammit,” Valentine hissed.

“What?”

“Scarlet won't come help.”

“Why?”

“Because your dumbass doesn't know how to be discrete!”

“How is this my fault?” Diavolo barked.

“Stop fighting! We need to figure out a solution!” Kira shouted, voice booming over theirs. “Mainly because I really need to go to the bathroom.”

The Roomba was still going amok, had been for nearly an hour, showing no signs of slowing down. If anything, it seemed to be getting faster, all the while speaking in its ghastly voice. Valentine looked around the room. He reluctantly let go of the ever-curious feline, freeing his hands.

“You said it detects heat, right?”

“Yes.”

“Hmmm... Diavolo can you reach my bag?”

Diavolo scooted to the edge of the counter and leaned forward, keeping himself steady with one hand. It was rather awkward but after trying for a bit, he managed to grab the straps from Valentine's bag and yanked it up. He tossed it to its owner. Valentine reached for his cigarettes and lighter. Kira opened his mouth to scold him but shut up when he realized what Valentine was doing. Valentine lit the cigarette and quickly tossed it on the floor. It only took a few seconds before the Roomba halted and changed direction, heading to investigate the cigarette.

“Look over here.”

“Now, now!”

The three men and cat jumped off their safe spots and dashed out of the house. They only looked back when they reached the sidewalk outside the fence.

“What about the cigarette?”

“It'll put itself out.” Valentine, once again cradling Killer Queen, sat down on the curb and sighed. “The hell was that?”

“It glitched.”

“It's terrifying. With the voice and all that shit...”

Diavolo sat right next to Valentine and Kira followed. The three friends sat in silence, observing the neighborhood around them. Right on time, like a well-oiled clock, Jotaro walked out of his house, wearing his dark blue robe and matching slippers, dolphin-patterned pajamas peeking from underneath, to water his plants.

In the serene neighborhood, the sudden screeching of tires and rain of profanities boomed like thunder. Two fast-approaching figures came out of the steadily darkening horizon. Right in front of Kira's house and all their confused stares, Doppio lost control of Risotto's motorcycle. The man tumbled on the ground as the vehicle crashed on a nearby tree. Risotto appeared mere seconds later, driving a rusty pick-up truck.

“Doppio!” he hollered and stepped out of the car. Neither of them was in good shape; Doppio's suit was torn in various places, his hair was in disarray, his leg was bleeding and scratches were covering every bit of visible skin. Risotto, on the other hand, was walking with a limp, was sporting a bloody, crooked nose and was missing a tooth.

“I'm going to kill you, Doppio!”

Frantic and in total panic, Doppio reached for the gun and aimed it at Risotto. The trained assassin was good but at that moment, Doppio's adrenaline was better. Doppio shot once – Risotto's leg – twice – Risotto's stomach – thrice – Risotto's stomach again. With wide, disbelieving eyes, Risotto brought his fingers to the bullet holes, gasping at the warm blood. He fell on his knees before collapsing on the road, face-first.

“Did you see that boss?” Doppio wheezed. His legs gave in and he, too, fell on the ground, panting and hissing in pain. “I fucking killed a guy.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Saint Jonathan

 

 


There it was. The dreadful knock that declared the end of fun. Well, at least Jonathan had the decency to knock. Unlike Dio, who just barged into whatever room he pleased whenever he wanted to, demanding that Giorno went to studying immediately. No, Jonathan was a gentle giant in every sense of the expression. When he first knocked on the door, Giorno begged for five more minutes. Jonathan returned in an hour, and again, Giorno asked for five more minutes. Jonathan let another hour pass before knocking again, for the third time. He poked his head into the room, smiling softly.

"Come on, boys," he called. He stepped inside the room, towering over the two teenagers. "It's late and you have school tomorrow."

Giorno sighed. Reluctantly, he put his and Narancia's remotes under his PlayStation, so as not to invoke Dio's fury. He stretched lazily and yawned, feeling a bit sore from all the hours spent sitting cross-legged on a large pillow on the floor.

"Okay Dad," he sighed. Steadying himself on the couch, Giorno stood up, stretching some more. "I'll go walk Danny.” As he walked away, he pat Narancia on the back. “I'll see you tomorrow, man.”

“Sure!”

After Giorno's departure, Jonathan and Narancia walked to the garage. On the way there, Jonathan kept humming a cheerful, nonchalant tune, the back of his mind revising his lecture notes and walking amongst displays at the museum. But as he was climbing into the car, Jonathan noticed Narancia's silence. Jonathan had known those kids for long and he knew the little things about them. Giorno and his friends were a very lively bunch but Narancia was admittedly the rowdiest. So of course, being a very tender and caring Dad to the entire squad, Jonathan was puzzled at how quiet the boy was.

Jonathan glanced at Narancia through the rear-view mirror, just then realizing how thin and scrawny the young boy was against the expensive leather cushions. Narancia was staring at his feet, thumbs twiddling awkwardly, stealing glances at the cold garage.

“Are you okay, Narancia?” Jonathan asked softly, turning around to take a closer look at the teenager.

The boy jumped, alarmed by the question. His brown eyes were blown wide, just staring at Jonathan for a moment. He took a deep breath before digging his teeth into his bottom lip with hesitation.

“Mr. Joestar,” he started slowly, “can I sleep here tonight?”

Jonathan blinked. It wasn't the first time one of Giorno's friends slept over. But there was just something about Narancia's tone of voice and dark face that rang wrong in Jonathan's ears. Jonathan gave Narancia a long look, paying close attention to the details, namely his too-sharp collarbone, his worn shoes, and slight quivering. He wasn't cold. He was scared.

“Sure thing, bud,” Jonathan smiled. “Just let me check with your parents first, okay?”

At that, Narancia's eyes widened, mouth opening ever so slightly. He got ready to say something but quickly strangled the words by biting down softly on his tongue. He coughed before sinking back into the cushions. “That's too much trouble,” Narancia tried shrugging it off.

Jonathan's heart sunk. He was at a loss for words. Jonathan was blessed with very strong parental instincts and that ability allowed him to sense that there was something wrong there. Now, a younger Jonathan would have showered Narancia with questions, possibly terrified him, but thirty-eight-year-old Dr. Jonathan Joestar who had been living with Dio Brando for nearly two decades knew better. For now, he was going to stay quiet, obey the child's wishes while planning his strategy.

Come to think of it, Jonathan had never driven Narancia to his house before. He only knew that he lived close to Fugo. As he was passing the ostentatious Fugo household, Narancia tapped him on the shoulder.

“You can leave me here, Mr. Joestar.”

“Are you sure?” Jonathan inquired with furrowed brows. While the surrounding neighborhood was all villas, mansions and castle-like estates, the street stretching ahead seemed more like an abandoned borough. It was old, looking barely lived-in, with broken lights and low, dark buildings, lurking like mushrooms in the shadows.

“Yeah.”

“I can take you to your door.”

“Nah, I'm fine. My house is just ahead.” With that, Narancia opened the door and jumped out to the chilly October air. He flashed Jonathan a bright smile and Jonathan's heart sank even further. That smile was genuine. A rose among thorns.

“Thanks for the ride, Mr. Joestar.

“No problem. Good night, sweetheart.”

“You too.”

Jonathan remained planted in his seat, hands clenched around the wheel, eyes glued up ahead, watching without blinking as Narancia's small form was swallowed by the darkness. Hesitantly, the ever-worrying Jonathan exited his car, suspiciously glancing at his surroundings. Just a dark, gloomy, deadbeat neighborhood. Nothing he had never seen before. He ventured further in, shoving his hands in his pockets to shield them from the wind. Despite his size, Jonathan managed to walk very lightly, tiptoeing just a few meters behind Narancia. The boy reached a house like those around it and unlocked the door. Jonathan didn't miss the way Narancia stalled on the porch. And then, he entered, shutting Jonathan outside.

In the distance, Jonathan saw a light turn on in the house Narancia had entered. His parental curiosity clashed with his experience. After sitting completely still for several long moments, Jonathan decided to wait a bit, and turned his car around, heading home.

 

 


 

 

 

“I just know it!” Jonathan exclaimed and Dio rolled his eyes.

Like every night before bed, Dio was once again sitting in front of his vanity unit, applying creams and serums on his pale skin with perfectly harmonious motions. Jonathan was already in bed although this time, he wasn't holding a book. His arms were crossed over his broad chest, one foot twitching anxiously under the expensive duvet. Dio observed Jonathan through the mirror all the while applying moisturizer on his neck. After meticulously combing his blonde hair, Dio stood up, gently depositing his long, crimson, satin robe on the back of his chair. He walked to the bed, unable to stop a small smile from spreading on his lips at the sight of Jonathan's little pout. Eyes downcast and dark, plump lips frowning, long lashes reaching the chocolate locks that were hanging from his forehead. Had Dio been younger, he would have most likely been the source for Jonathan's distress. But a thirty-eight-year-old Dio Brando, who was also quite tired after a day of giving those fools at the court the ol' razzle-dazzle, could only lift the covers and climb underneath, scooting closer to his spouse.

“You're overthinking things,” he said.

“Am I?” Jonathan snapped, turning to look at Dio. “I'm telling you, he looked afraid!”

“Maybe he broke something. Oh, come on, Jojo! You know the stupid shit Narancia does sometimes!”

“I thought you of all people would know better.”

Dio's slight smile dropped. He got up on one elbow, amber eyes piercing into Jonathan's indigo ones. “The fuck's that supposed to mean?” he hissed.

“I think you know.”

Dio furrowed his brows. “You promised we'd never talk about this.”

“I know b-”

“Yet you chose to offend me in this horrible HORRIBLE way because of some child.”

There it was. Jonathan was a big-time believer that people could change, make progress on themselves. But in the end, no matter how much one changed, how much they improved, their essence stayed the same. Such was the case with him, as well as with Dio. When his face turned like that, Jonathan knew that no matter what he said would only add fuel to the fire.

Fortunately for them, Dio's need to fight diminished as the years went. He rolled on his side, turning his back on Jonathan and stubbornly hogging all the covers.

“We'll talk in the morning, okay?”

A scoff. Jonathan sighed. He went to the closet to fetch another blanket and threw it over his body before turning the lights off and getting comfortable on his pillow. Sleep came late, as his mind was tormented with images of Narancia's sad eyes.

 

 


 

 

 

Jonathan knew he had to act fast but he also knew that he had to be discrete. The perfect chance to do so presented itself when Fugo came over to their house to study with Giorno on Friday night. Jonathan waited until Dio left for Pucci's before bolting up the stairs and barging into his son's room. Jonathan never entered without knocking first but his distress had made him forget his manners. He froze at the door, just then realizing what he was looking at. Sure, there were books and notes spread on the desk but the two boys were suddenly sitting very far apart and were blushing profusely. Giorno was giving him the venomous Brando glare. Jonathan bit his lips, standing there awkwardly.

“What do you want, Dad?” Giorno said threateningly quietly.

It took Jonathan's mind a few minutes to shift into gear. This was expected, Giorno was at that age. After this whole business was over, Jonathan would have to discuss this with Dio. It was bittersweet, preparing to talk with his baby about serious things but at the same time realizing that his baby wasn't his baby anymore. How would they handle things? Dio tended to be blunt to the point of frustrating Giorno. How much did their son know already, anyway? The internet was a vast domain but not all information on it was reliable. How much had he done already? How were th-

“Dad?” Giorno asked again. “What's wrong?”

“I...uh...” Jonathan shook his head, putting his thoughts in order. “I'm really sorry for disturbing you while you're studying, boys, but I...Pannacotta, can I ask you something?”

Fugo blinked, surprised. He put the chunky notebook he was holding away and turned his full attention on Jonathan. “Sure thing, Mr. Joestar.”

Jonathan went to sit on Giorno's bed, facing the two boys. “Is Narancia alright?”

Fugo sighed. He was a smart kid, he wasn't surprised at all. He knew exactly what Jonathan was talking about. “I don't answer to questions with questions but is there a specific reason why you're asking?”

Giorno glanced at his father and...uh...friend, utterly confused. “He was here the other day and when the time came for me to drive him home, he seemed like he didn't want to go. He asked me to stay the night and when I said we needed to notify his parents first, he seemed scared.”

Fugo ran a hand through his pale blonde hair. “My parents are paying for his tuition to go to a good school but that's the only help he'll accept. Narancia is very quiet about his private life and he gets angry when people ask him things. I've known him for long and he's always been this way but things got worse after his mother died.”

“He lives with his Dad, right?”

“Yup. Just the two of them, no other relatives.” Jonathan nodded. “He's a shady guy. Never talks with the neighbors and when he does, it's to tell them to fuck off-Ah, sorry.”

“It's okay. Please, go on.”

“Mr. Joestar,” Fugo continued, leaning forward. “you have to understand that I have no facts. All I have is assumptions, mere guesses.”

“Just tell me, Pannacotta. Please.”

Fugo took a deep breath. He crossed one bony knee over the other, linking his fingers on his lap. “My parents and I believe Narancia is being abused by his Dad.”

“What?” both Joestars shouted at the same time. Jonathan was horrified but Giorno was a bit offended. “And you didn't tell me?”

“I didn't tell anyone,” Fugo hurried. “There's nothing you could have done that we already haven't.”

“If you suspected Narancia is being abused, why didn't you call the police?”

“We did,” Fugo explained. “But every time they went to investigate, Narancia's Dad claimed nothing was wrong. Cops don't bother too much with incidents like this, especially in bad parts of town. They know the family, as I said, Narancia has been getting in all sorts of trouble with the law.” Fugo cleared his throat. “We considered adopting him at some point but we eventually abandoned the idea. We live too close, his Dad wouldn't live us alone.”

“If he doesn't want him, why doesn't he give him away?” Giorno asked.

“Many parents view their kids as servants,” Fugo said. “His Dad probably wants to cut Narancia off of school so he can work.” Fugo studied Jonathan's expression, seeing that the man was deep in thought. “Mr. Joestar,” he pleaded, “if you're gonna do something, be quick. Narancia didn't come to school today.”

Jonathan's head snapped up. All color had drained from his face, eyes wide like two bottomless lakes. He gulped. “You think that's the reason why?” Giorno asked quietly.

“I know it. I'm sorry I didn't tell you about this, Mr. Joestar, I really am.”

“This isn't your fault, Pannacotta. Thank you for telling me.”

 

 


 

 

 


Less than an hour later, Jonathan found himself standing outside Narancia's house. In the daylight, the signs of neglect and abandonment were evident in the old, two-story house. The stocky, rectangular building was surrounded by a short wall, with a rusty, metal gate serving as the main gate to the concrete front 'yard'. As discretely as a man of his stature could, Jonathan moved to the windows, pressing his large body against the wall. He glued his ear on the cold surface and stilled his breathing, trying to make out any sounds. Silence, the kind one would expect on a Saturday morning. Jonathan considered going in but he quickly scrapped that idea. He went inside his car and took off.

The rest of his day was filled with clumsiness, absentmindedness, and nervousness, as Jonathan found it difficult to focus on his work while thoughts of Narancia's feeble voice and Fugo's words whirled around his busy mind. He had to help Narancia but how? Call child services and get him up for adoption? No, traveling through a sea of foster homes would be traumatizing. Get him to live with a friend, then. But with who? Trish was out of the question, Diavolo could barely manage her. Buccellati was out of consideration, as well, as he and his father were already taking care of Mista, thus adding to their financial weight. Abbacchio's family wouldn't do either. Both his parents were police officers, they would never take the child of a shady man. And Fugo had said his family couldn't do much else for Narancia other than paying his tuition. That left only...them.

Jonathan had always wanted a big family, a lot of kids just running around wrecking havoc. Life had other plans, but being blessed with Giorno was more than Jonathan could have ever wished for. That short little boy that was just the perfect mix of him and Dio filled Jonathan with hope and joy. Having another child had always been in the back of Jonathan's mind but as the years went by and both his and Dio's careers grew, that idea became more and more of a distant dream, a hidden aspiration. Was that...it? The idea was already taking shape in Jonathan's mind. It was like he had been lost in a forest for the past few days, stumbling upon bushes, hitting his head on branches and tumbling over roots, filthy and sweaty, when he reached the exit. And there, he saw a few simple words, bright letters hanging from the sky's canopy from an invisible thread.

He should adopt Narancia.

 

 

 


 

 

 

“Ha!” Joseph exclaimed triumphantly. He was sitting in his favorite armchair, feeding Shizuka her afternoon bottle. It was incredible what a few weeks in the right environment had done to her. She had gained weight, her appetite was back stronger than ever and she became more open towards the other members of the family. But as much as she liked the others, her favorite place in the world was still nestled in Joseph's muscular arms.

“And then I'm the irresponsible one for adopting a child!”

“There's nothing irresponsible about adopting a baby, you moron,” Caesar said with a roll of his eyes. “And we didn't adopt the baby, we found her on the ground.”

“Details.”

Jonathan couldn't share their joking mood. Hands wrapped around his mug, he lifelessly brought it to his lips, sipping on the fruity tea. As Caesar and Joseph resumed their bickering, Jonathan turned to Speedwagon, peering at him with wide eyes.

“I want to help this boy, Robert. But I don't know what to do.”

Speedwagon leaned back on his chair, one knee crossed over the other, hand scratching his chin thoughtfully. “Have you talked to him?”

“No. He didn't go to school on Friday and even though I know where his house is, I can't go in while his Dad's there.”

“Why don't you wait outside until he leaves?”

“Dio will notice it if I'm gone for too long and you know how he gets.”

“Jonathan, you're thinking of adopting this kid and Dio doesn't know anything?” Caesar asked.

Jonathan pressed his lips in a thin line. The way Caesar said it made Jonathan's idea sound incredibly stupid. “I'll tell him after I've figured out a plan.” All three of them opened their mouths to speak but Jonathan got ahead of them. “I just want to give this boy the life he deserves. I know it'll be hard but I'll do whatever it takes.”

The three others all looked at Jonathan with soft, sympathetic eyes. “You deserve the best, Jonathan,” Joseph sighed.

“And we'll do whatever to give it to you,” Caesar added. “Hey, there's a bunch of cute guys at the gym that I'm sure you'd like. How's about that?”

“I...I have a man, Caesar. Thanks?”

“That's not a man,” Speedwagon snorted. “That's a problem.”

“Robert.”

“What. You know he'll never agree.”

“I'll make him.”

“And how exactly will you do that? It's Dio Brando we're talking about! And I know you're planning on making him sympathize with the kid and I know it's never going to work out. You know it, too.”

Perhaps Speedwagon was right. Speedwagon was almost always right. But he wasn't always objective. That was William. It was natural for Speedwagon to disapprove of Narancia's adoption if Dio was going to be the other parent. But Jonathan was stubborn and when he said he wanted to give this rowdy, happy little boy a better chance in life, he meant it. He knew that the procedure was going to be long and just this once, Jonathan was considering the possibility of doing something illegal.

In order to get a grasp on the whole situation and find once and for all if Fugo's suspicions were actually true, Jonathan had to talk to someone who was with Narancia all day. And that someone was Erina.

 

 


 

 

 

 

Jonathan cleared his throat and straightened himself as he stood outside the door. Before he could knock on the door, it opened and a young man, dressed in a Gucci crop top and matching pants stepped out. Rohan seemed startled and annoyed for narrowly avoiding collision with a wall of muscle and kindness.

“Oh, I'm sorry!” Jonathan apologized. He grabbed the younger man by the shoulders, stabilizing him. A bright smile appeared on his lips. “Are you Mr. Kishibe?”

“Yes,” Rohan gruffly replied. He scanned Jonathan from head to toe. His nose scrunched in slight dislike but his interest in Jonathan's marvelous physique was hard to hide. “Are you Jonathan Joestar?”

“Yes!” Jonathan replied excitedly. He needed to start off right with this one, try to apologize for all the dumb things the kids did.

“Giorno's Dad?” Rohan asked, not sharing Jonathan's enthusiasm.

“That's me!”

“I am so fucking sorry,” Rohan said, sounding genuinely remorseful. With that, he walked away, leaving Jonathan alone with his questions.

“Jojo?”, a gentle voice came from inside. Erina stood up to welcome her friend into the faculty room. At this time of the day, it was empty, as most teachers had either left for the day or were in class. Erina led him to sit on a chair in front of a wooden table, choosing the one next to it herself.

“Thank you for having me.”

Erina shook her head. “I should be thanking you. I'm sure you'll be the one to do what so many of us couldn't.” She sighed. “It's like I told you on the phone; I've tried contacting Narancia's Dad multiple times but to no avail. The poor thing's grades keep getting worse and he sometimes seems so sad. I've spoken to the ones he's the closest to but they didn't know anything either. They all felt like Narancia was hiding something from them but he never said anything. So many of my colleagues tried helping him but he refused to speak with us, said everything was fine. Last week I tried having Bruno lick his face but he caught wind of us.”

“I want to help him, Erina,” Jonathan said before Erina's voice could die out. Erina's words confirmed Jonathan's suspicions. Something was terribly wrong in Narancia's life and Jonathan was deadset on fixing it. Not because he had a hero complex, as Dio loved to remind him in their past, but because nothing brought Jonathan more joy than making people happy, especially children. “I want to give him the life he deserves.”

“I know you do, Jojo. But it's going to be difficult. First of all, Narancia is too terrified to speak. And second, it's going to be an exhausting legal procedure.”

At that, Jonathan's lips twitched with the hint of a smile. “I have a good lawyer.”

Erina huffed. “What does he have to say on that matter?” Silence. Jonathan lowered his head the way Danny did when he had broken something. “Oh my God, Jonathan...”

“He'd never agree to it! I had to be sly!”

Erina couldn't help but smile at Jonathan's idea of being sly. Well, that was actually quite sly of him. “Be careful. You know how Dio gets when he's angry.”

“I do.” Jonathan knew the force of Dio's anger better than anyone. Hopefully, their son would somehow relieve the tension this time. “Giogio knows what I'm trying to do.”

“Maybe he can help with Dio.” Jonathan nodded. Erina's pale hand moved to cup Jonathan large, calloused one. They exchanged fond smiles. “I'm sure you'll be able to help Narancia, Jojo. Give him the home he deserves.”

“I hope so. And you know, I've always wanted another kid. I really love this boy, Erina. It would be such an honor to have him in my family.”

After his meeting with Erina, Jonathan waited outside the school by the gate, scanning the crowd of students flooding through it. He met some familiar faces that greeted him enthusiastically. The taste of tobacco was strong in his mouth, bitter and somewhat forgotten. Stupid habit, why had he ever picked it up? It all started with his Father's pipe and Joseph's bright ideas, like all dumb decisions in his life. Even though he never smoked anymore, he even scolded Jotaro for still doing it, it really came in handy when Jonathan was numb from anxiety. Like now, while he was standing like a tree of nervousness, waiting for Narancia.

A sudden weight dropped on his back. It wasn't heavier than a small animal but Jonathan doubled over from the surprise. “Are you here to pick us up?” Jolyne grinned before climbing down.

Jonathan turned around to face Jolyne and Giorno. He gave his niece a shaky smile and ruffled her green hair. “No, sweetie. I'm here...uh...I have some work to do here.”

“Really? What?” Jolyne's eyes widened. “Are we going on a field trip to an excavation site?”

“It's not that, sorry.”

“I'll tell you on the bus,” Giorno said while pulling his cousin away. As they moved toward the bus stop, Giorno gave his Father a nod of encouragement. Jonathan nodded back.

Time went by quickly and fall, staying true to itself, decided that the sun had to set early. By early afternoon, the sky was a sea of soft orange and soothing purple, the pale moon hanging like a silver coin in the distance. Jonathan was beginning to worry that Narancia hadn't come to school that day either. That wasn't the case. Reality what much more painful than that. Jonathan saw Narancia walk out of the school alone, one of the last students to do so, practically dragging his feet into his weathered shoes. The most shocking thing on Narancia wasn't his worn outfit but the cotton ball sloppily taped over his left eye. As he watched the scrawny little boy walk with his head hanging low, Jonathan felt his blood bubble inside his veins. Anger bloomed into his gut and spread its roots all over his body, tangling them around his brain. Before he could control his actions, Jonathan was marching toward Narancia. He grabbed the boy by the shoulders, eyes wide and heavy with moisture.

“Who did this to you?” he asked in a low voice, a mix of anger and horror.

Narancia was evidently startled at Jonathan's sudden actions, fear shining in his eyes. When he realized who it was, the fear melted into surprise and a bit of guilt. Uncertainty. “M-Mr. Joestar?” he stammered. “What-”

“Narancia, please.” Jonathan softened his voice. He released Narancia from his grasp and got down on one knee, bringing himself to eye level with the teenager. Under his fingertips, Jonathan could feel Narancia's protruding bones. Seeing him closer, Jonathan realized how tired Narancia was. His visible eye was red and glimmering and Jonathan could make out the pale shapes of fading scars on his jaw.

“I'm sorry for scaring you, sweetheart,” Jonathan said softly. “But...I'm concerned. Who did this to you?”

Jonathan moved to touch the make-shift patch but Narancia flinched away. He kept his jaw clenched hard, pouting, gaze turned away from Jonathan. “I just...fell down some stairs,” Narancia mumbled.

Jonathan's heart stopped altogether for a moment. “Do you fall down the stairs often, Narancia?” The teenager turned to look at Jonathan, brows furrowed. “Please forgive me. I merely want to help you.”

Narancia eyed Jonathan for a long moment, deciding if he wanted to talk or not. Jonathan was trustworthy and gentle, everything a parent should be. But in the end, Narancia decided against it. He pulled away from Jonathan and started walking away rapidly.

“I'm fine, Mr. Joestar! Really!”

Jonathan bolted up and hurried after the kid. Sensing him, Narancia walked faster. But Jonathan, with his long and strong legs caught up to him within seconds. He made sure that even though he was blocking Narancia, his intentions were still clear. He wanted to help the boy, nothing more. Jonathan knew how secretive and defensive abused children could get and reminded himself to be gentle and allow Narancia space to breathe.

“I know you don't find adults trustworthy but I am here for you,” he told the boy, once again crouching down. “I will not judge you, I will not punish you but I will help you. If you let me.”

Narancia looked at Jonathan. He was shaking slightly, small fists curled inside the pockets of his hoodie. As he opened his mouth to speak, a low, rumbling sound was heard from his stomach. The boy blushed deeply, sucking his bottom lip inside his mouth. Jonathan felt his eyes water. When was the last time he ate?

“Come on,” he said, gently pushing the kid to the direction of his car. “Let's go eat something."

They ended up at a Burger King. Jonathan would most likely never forget the soft gasp Narancia let out when he realized they were pulling in the parking lot. The restaurant was mostly empty, save for another group of teenagers and the bored staff. Narancia took some encouragement but Jonathan managed to convince him to order whatever he liked. After getting their food, the duo headed for a booth in the far corner of the store, in front of the window.

Jonathan sat down across Narancia, watching him as he ate the food with great joy, scarfing everything down with barely enough time to chew. It was a funny scene but at the same time overwhelmingly bitter. The rowdy boy acted as if this was the first thing he had eaten in days and the last he would eat in his life. Jonathan ate with much less appetite, his attention fully on Narancia. He gave the boy some time to satisfy his hunger and feel more comfortable, really see that Jonathan only wanted to help him.

Narancia had almost finished with his food when he decided to talk to Jonathan. His fingers were anxiously fidgeting, playing with the buckle of his belt. He suddenly looked up, visible eye wide.

“You won't believe me if I tell you nothing's wrong, right?”

“No, sweetie. I won't.”

“Who told you?” Narancia asked. He thought about it for a second and then scrunched his nose in annoyance. “It was Fugo, wasn't it?”

“I figured it out myself.” That wasn't a lie. Jonathan had figured out something was wrong with Narancia and then asked Fugo about it. “Last week when you were at my house, I was going to drive you home. But then you asked me if you could stay overnight.”

“I remember that.”

“When I told you that we had to get permission from you Dad, you immediately changed your mind. Why did you do that, Narancia? Why were you afraid to go home?” Silence. Jonathan leaned closer. He reached to touch the cotton ball and this time, Narancia let him. “Did your Father do this?” Jonathan tried keeping his voice as calm and soothing as possible, not letting Narancia know that his insides were burning.

There was silence for a long moment. The only other customers got up and left. A waitress came to wipe their table clean. Somewhere in the distance, lightning rolled behind a swarm of gray clouds. Narancia lowered his head, suddenly very aware of his injury. He hid his face from Jonathan, trying to deny the sorrow that bubbled inside him. It was childish and pure, a 'why' only a child could ask.

He nodded.

Jonathan felt his muscles tense, jaw clench hard, heart skip a beat. He saw white for a moment before the blur faded away, revealing a frail young boy that had done absolutely nothing wrong.

“Why?”

Narancia opened his mouth and a high, whining sound crept out. He cleared his throat, finding his voice. “I tried to run away from home,” he explained in a small voice. “We...we had a fight, he was drunk, I was scared he'd kill me.” Jonathan pushed back the urge to vomit. In his mind, Narancia's Father was a stain on the floor. “I started running. I wanted to go to Trish's. I know Fugo lives right across the street but there's no way Dad would ever go around Diavolo. I guess...” He bit his lip, stopping himself there.

“You were hoping Diavolo would kill him?”

Narancia lifted his head. A clear, wet line was cutting down both his cheeks. A small nod. “I know I shouldn't be saying that but...that's what I feel sometimes.”

“He caught up to you?”

“Yes.”

“And he did this?”

“Yeah.”

That was all Jonathan needed. He stood up and straightened his clothes. His expression was calm but the fire in his eyes was hard to hide. “Come on, then,” he mumbled, afraid that if he spoke any louder, he was gonna yell.

“Where to?”

“My lawyer.”

 

 


 

 

 

Jonathan was a very cautious driver but that day, he was driving like a maniac chased by hellhounds. It was the first time he drove into the bustling streets of downtown Manhattan like a rock rolling down a hill, completely ignoring -and even glaring at- the displeased drivers around him. Most shut up, wisely so, as an enraged beefed up dude was very intimidating. He arrived at Dio's office right as the sun had completely set. Narancia in tow, Jonathan burst through the doors, scaring the shit out of Telence.

“Jesus, Jonathan!” the secretary complained. He reached down to collect his Switch from the floor.

“I'm sorry for startling you but it's urgent. Is Dio here?”

“Yeah, he's in his office.”

“Mrs. Valentine?”

“Yeah, she's here, too.” Telence peeked behind Jonathan, to where Narancia was shoving the offered hard candies into his backpack. “Everything all right?”

“Only time will tell.”

Waiting for nothing, Jonathan barged inside Dio's office, throwing the door open and making his spouse fall off his chair. Dio's angered face peeked from under his imposing desk, amber eyes shooting flames at Jonathan.

“What the hell, Jojo?!” he barked as he stood up, making sure his emerald velvet suit was impeccable. When he noticed Narancia standing behind Jonathan, Dio's expression shifted into confusion, before melting into annoyance.

“Seriously?” He sat down on his chair, back turned on the magnetizing Manhattan skyline.

Jonathan allowed Narancia to walk ahead of him. He shut the door and sat next to the kid in front of Dio's desk. One of his large hands moved to cup Narancia's clenched fists. “It's okay,” he smiled. “Just tell Dio what happened."

Narancia looked at Dio and swallowed. Giorno's parents were weird. There was Jonathan, sweet, gentle Jonathan, always there with words of encouragement and open arms, heart twice the size of a normal person's. And there was Dio. That was self-explanatory.

“I don't care wha-Ouch!” Dio looked down in shock, seeing a big, dusty print of the perfect leather of his shoes.

“Don't you dare,” Jonathan hissed. There was a short glaring contest between the couple. Dio scoffed and looked away. Once again, Jonathan turned to look at Narancia. “You can go on, no one will judge you.” But the teenager was frozen solid. He zipped his mouth and glanced between Dio and Jonathan, absolutely terrified. Jonathan stroked his hand softly. He took a deep breath. “I want to adopt him.”

“What?!” Dio and Narancia exclaimed in unison. “You never told me that, Mr. Joestar!”

“Jojo, what the hell are you talking about?”

“You deserve love and safety,” Jonathan said, completely ignoring Dio. He let go of his composure, allowing the sobs to choke his voice. “And I want to give that to you. If you want, too, that is. We could be your new family.”

Mr. Joestar...?”

“I know we can never replace your real family but...but...you know...”

“Where is my say in this?” Dio demanded, shattering the emotional moment like glass. “And even if I agree, you know it'll be years before we get him. It's very difficult to take a child from a living parent. If that happens, he'll be traversing foster homes and orphanages before we, two men, are deemed suitable for adoption.”

“We're rich! And we've already raised a child!”

Dio groaned. He rubbed the bridge of his nose in an attempt to soothe his nerves. Through his well-moisturized fingers, Dio glanced at Narancia. Scrawny, filthy, injured, malnourished, too young. He knew exactly what Jonathan was playing at, he had smelled his intentions the moment he had brought up the subject.

And Dio waltzed right into this scheme like a fool.

The years he had spent with Jonathan had mellowed Dio somehow. But the most drastic change occurred with the birth of his gem, his precious golden boy, his greatest accomplishment. His own dawn. He often said that there were some moments he'd never forget but he was certain that the memory of him, nothing more than a clueless kid himself, holding a tiny newborn Giorno would forever remain burned into his brain. He remembered everything down to the last detail, from the number of bouquets his friends had bought him to how many hairs Giorno had on his head. That day, the 16th day of April, Dio had vowed to give that tiny little thing the life Dario Brando never could. Fatherhood had changed Dio significantly in a way he'd never confess. It was as if he suddenly had new eyes. And through those eyes, he looked at Narancia and saw Giorno, saw Diego, saw himself.

“Leave us,” he requested, voice flat and emotionless. Jonathan quirked an eyebrow at him quizzically. Dio rolled his eyes. “I won't kill the kid, Jojo. Just let me talk to him for a fucking second.”

Jonathan stood up and walked to the door. “Please don't swear in front of our new son.”

“Get out!”

And Jonathan did, leaving Dio alone with a terrified and confused Narancia. Dio sighed. He stood up from his chair and went around his desk. He eyed his bar. Perhaps not. He walked to the teapot and reached for two porcelain cups, fine china with black and golden flowers. A gift from Jolyne, unbeknownst to both Pucci and Jotaro.

“Would you like some chamomile? My clients find it suitable during tense moments.”

“I don't like tea.”

“Juice, then? You like orange, right?”

“Can I have some vodka?”

Dio turned to look at the boy. “Sure,” he decided and prepared the kid his drink. No harm done in a little drink under supervision.

“Thanks.”

“You might wanna be careful with that,” Dio said as he took the seat Jonathan had emptied. “Speaking from experience.”

“Done stupid shit while drunk, Mr. Brando?”

“Haven't we all? Usually, when I'm drunk, there's at least one person in my entourage that's sober. But one time, while we were in Madrid, this friend of mine – the one that usually stayed sober – got so absolutely sauced that he went and married another one of our friends.”

“For real?”

“Yes. But I guess the marriage was never validated as he already has a wife and the wedding was officiated by a homeless man outside a bank.”

“Wild.”

“Oh, you have no idea.” Narancia was taking the drink like a champ, not flinching even once. Wasn't too surprising. After all, that's all they did last summer, even though the neighborhood pretended not to know. Well, except for Jonathan, who actually had no idea his son was drinking.

Seeing him more relaxed, Dio leaned in. “Who did this to you? The stairs? The doorknob? One of the kids in the neighborhood?”

“The stairs,” Narancia replied after a short moment of hesitation.

Dio huffed, a sound resembling a mirthless laugh. “If I show you mine, will you show me yours?” Narancia seemed confused for a moment. Dio loosened his tie, tossing it aside. After that, off went his velvet jacket and brocade vest, followed by his silk shirt. When the layers of expensive cloth were removed, Dio's broad and muscular pale chest came into full view. Dio took good care of himself but some stubborn scars had yet to fade, the most prominent one being one just above the waistband of his slacks. Narancia looked around, even more confused than before.

“This,” Dio started, pressing his index fingers on the scar, “happened after my mother's funeral. My brother was three at the time and starving. He was tired and scared. Mom knew how to handle him. I wasn't as good. Never became.” Dio looked at the scar, relieved to see that time had dulled its initially bright pink color. “My father beat the shit out of me with a beer bottle because I asked for money to get Diego something to eat. Not the first time that happened.” He turned around, showing Narancia a much larger and angrier scar cleverly hidden in the golden hair flowing down the nape of his neck. “This was the last time he touched me. He kidnapped Diego for ransom and I followed him, found him before the police ever could. Never saw him again.” No point in sharing more details.

Dio redressed himself, once again claiming his seat. “I showed you mine,” he reminded Narancia.

Dio was a lot calmer than Narancia had anticipated. Everyone feared the guy and for good reason. But seeing him like this made Narancia trust him. He undid the patch, relieved as fresh air hit his irked skin for the first time in ages.

It wasn't the worst eye injury Dio had ever seen but it definitely was up there. Judging by the swelling and color of the bruise, Dio could safely assume that the injury had occurred just a couple of days ago. It looked bad, red and angry, and would lead to serious infection if left unchecked.

“When did he start?”

“After Mom died.” As expected. They probably were a normal family while she was around. “Our money started running out, and what little we had left, he gambled it. At some point, he tried opening a store but it didn't work out. Then he started selling Mom's belongings and bought booze with what he earned.” Of course he did. The more Narancia talked, the more Dio got the urge to vomit. A familiar sweat slicked his back. Damn Jonathan and his fantastic ideas. “I started stealing when I saw we had almost no money left. I wasn't very good at it, got caught many times.”

“Pannacotta's parents are paying your tuition, right?” Narancia nodded. “Why didn't you go to them?”

“I could never!” Narancia straightened his frail, battered body with pride, scrunching his nose with haughtiness. Proud little bastard, but who was Dio to judge? He had done the exact same thing.

“You kept stealing?”

“Whenever I could, yeah. Dad wanted me to drop out of school so I could work and that's why we fought all the time. I really wanna go to school! All my friends are there and Mom always said that if I'm a good student, I'll have a good life! Well...I'm not a good student but I wanna keep trying! I wanna make her proud, you know?”

Uh-oh. There it was. That...feeling. Dio shoved it down with both his hands, nails digging into the expensive leather of the armchair. He could feel his left eye twitch. His ear was itching him. Fresh sweat rolled down his temples.

“Yeah,” he coughed, “I know.”

When Jonathan returned into the office, he couldn't hide his horror at the sight of Narancia's nearly-infected eye. Dio motioned at him to sit down and just stay calm for a second.

“We have to be quick, Dio,” Jonathan anxiously said.

“Be quick with what? I haven't said anything yet.” At that, Jonathan's lips turned into a pout. Narancia looked at Dio. “You deceived me, Jonathan.” Full name. Happened every once in twenty years. And as always, Dio was dramatic and heavy with his words. Jonathan wouldn't call it deceit but he knew better than to cut off Dio at the beginning of what seemed to be another angry monologue. Right in front of their future son. “You acted behind my back, you gave this boy false hope and you played with my feelings. And don't you try denying that. I know you brought him to me because you wanted me to sympathize with him.”

“I brought Narancia to you because you are my family. And I would never do anything – especially something so important that affects us both – without consulting you first. I never intended to play with your feelings and I apologize if I did.”

Dio furrowed his brows, pressing his sculpted lips in a thin line. He narrowed his eyes, scanning Jonathan's face. The once emotional Jonathan Joestar had gotten better at hiding his feelings, to the point where Dio didn't know if he was deceiving him.

Dio sighed heavily and sat down behind his desk. To be honest, the thought of expanding their family had always been in the back of Dio's mind, though he couldn't think of having a child other than his Giorno. It was obvious that Narancia needed help, help only the two of them could provide. Dio was sure that if he turned his back on this kid, his mother would haunt him in his sleep and his son and husband wouldn't speak to him for months.

“This is going to be a long process,” he finally started and the other two beamed. Dio's heart quickened at the way Jonathan's indigo eyes gleamed. “And quite a messy one.”

“You've already told me,” Jonathan added hurriedly, “but there is a way of speeding things up.”

Dio quirked an eyebrow. “Care to enlighten me?”

Jonathan cleared his throat lightly. He ever so slightly tilted his head to his left. Dio glanced at Narancia. Jonathan shook his head. He kept nodding at the direction of the wall. Dio's eyes widened.

“No.”

“Yes.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Do you have any other friends in the government?”

“I don't want to owe Funny shit!”

“He can help us! He's the Governor, he has more power than anyone in the state! Everything he says, goes, Dio!”

“I thought you were a law-abiding citizen.”

“I am. But sometimes...sometimes ethics are above the law.” Jonathan cocked his head to the side, giving Dio that soft smile that made his knees buckle. “Dio,” he pleaded, “my Dio...please, put aside your differences for the sake of an innocent kid. I'll go talk to him!”

Dio remained silent for a few seconds. Oh, to hell with it.

He stood up and marched out of his office. He returned a short moment later, Scarlet in tow. As always, Scarlet was dressed to the nines. Her hair was styled the same as always, the jet-black strands held up by an ornated golden brace. The color of her lipstick matched the color of her exquisitely tailored ruby-red suit. Underneath her flattering jacket, Scarlet was wearing a black, silk top. On her feet, Scarlet was wearing a pair of black patent leather heels, the subtle detail of a red sole peeking from underneath. Her outfit was complete with effortlessly chic golden bracelets and small, golden hoops.

“I heard you, Jonathan.”

“And?” Jonathan pressed on impatiently.

Scarlet sat on the plush couch, her red, glossy nails gliding across the golden leather absentmindedly. “Seeing this realistically, you two will never be eligible to adopt a child. And no, not because you're guys, but because Dio would never get past the psych evaluation.”

“Excuse me.”

“You heard me.” Her always sharp, charcoal gaze softened as she turned to look at Jonathan. “Bypassing the paperwork is your only solution.”

“Can Funny do it?”

“Of course he can. He'll do it for you, Jonathan. He always liked you. But if you want your plan to work I suggest you get moving. If you hurry, you'll get there before he leaves the office.”

“He's still there? What's he doing?”

“Politician stuff,” Scarlet shrugged.

Jonathan bolted up. He checked the time. 5 PM. If he rushed, he would make it to Albany by...Seven-ish. A long drive, but it was worth it.

“Take Narancia home, I'll be back later.” Before leaving, he ruffled Narancia's hair, managing to make the boy smile a little.

 

 


 

 

 

When Jonathan arrived at State Capitol building his heart sank. The parking lot was completely empty and most of the windows were dark. He parked his car and hesitantly approached the gate.

“May I help you?” Wekapipo asked, stepping out of the guard's station.

“Uh...yes? I'm here to see Funny- I mean, Governor Valentine.”

Wekapipo glanced at Jonathan from head to toe. “You're Jonathan Joestar.”

“I am.” He paused. “Is-is that a problem?”

“Not at all,” Wekapipo smiled. He went inside his station to open the gate for Jonathan. “I'm a friend of Johnny and Gyro's.”

“Really? You should come for dinner sometime!”

“Aren't you sweet?” The gate opened. “Mr. Valentine's still in his office. Just knock before you enter.”

“Thank you.”

Jonathan reached the floor Valentine's office was in and found it almost completely empty. Only one room was lit up and Jonathan could make out the faint clicking of fingers on a keyboard. He ventured out of the elevator, cautiously glancing around. He walked further in, finding himself in front of a set of double mahogany doors. That had to be it. Jonathan's gaze traveled to Diego's desk and he smiled lovingly. He was probably at home, looking at cake designs and venues. Jonathan made a mental note to request a meeting with his brother-in-law, to give him some directions about wedding planning and offer his assistance as an overly-enthusiastic family member.

Jonathan hesitated for a moment but quickly found the courage to knock. Valentine was a very intense guy, a strict professional when it came to his precious work, leaving no room for chit-chat. Jonathan had known the guy since they were toddlers but he couldn't help feeling uncomfortable. The sound of his clenched fist on the wood echoed around the empty office. He received no response. He leaned closer, barely catching the sound of voices on the other side. There definitely were people there but Jonathan couldn't figure out what they were doing. Forgetting his manners for once, Jonathan opened the door, albeit very gently.

The light from the hall flooded the dark office, illuminating the vague figure that was sitting on the chair. Upon closer inspection, Jonathan realized that it was actually Valentine, sitting with his back turned to the door, flaxen curls cascading down to his waist while two muscular, tattooed arms were wrapped around him. Jonathan stood at the doorway, completely immobile, hand frozen around the handle, unable to form a single coherent thought.

Puzzled by the sudden appearance of light, Valentine looked over his shoulder. His eyes almost rolled off their sockets and he let out a terrified, un-Valentine screech. He and Diavolo fell on the floor with a thud, the chair falling over them. Valentine slapped around the wall behind him until he found the light switch.

“Um...”

“Jonathan!”

Valentine surfaced from under the desk. He was absolutely enraged but Jonathan couldn't be intimidated. Flustered Funny Valentine was always very amusing. He clawed on his desk and shakily climbed on his chair. His hair was an absolute mess, shirt wrinkled, a collage of lipstick stains marking the entire length of his neck. He didn't know what to fix first, cursing at his inability to button his shirt. Meanwhile, Diavolo crawled out from under the desk. He merely zipped his pants and went to sit on edge of Valentine's desk.

“Hey, sorry f-”

“What are you doing here, Jonathan.”

Jonathan sat down on an offered armchair. His eyes switched awkwardly between the mafioso and the politician. Diavolo looked awfully pleased with himself but Valentine was like a ticking bomb.

“I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“Seriously?” Valentine barked. “Couldn't it fucking wait? We literally live three houses away!”

“I know! But it is super-urgent!”

Valentine huffed. “I don't care that you cut my meeting short.” Diavolo snorted. Valentine shot him a poisonous glare. “I just don't like unannounced guests. Especially in my workplace.”

“I'm sorry, Funny. I really am.”

“Sorry won't cut it, Jojo,” Diavolo smiled. “Now I have to barge in your room while you're fucking Dio.”

“Diavolo!”

“What! He has eyes!”

“Nothing was going on!”

“Stop with that bullshit!”

“What bullshit? I'm just telling the truth! I don't want there to be any misconceptions about me!”

“What 'misconceptions', you idiot? Everyone and their grandma knows we love each other!”

“I don't love you! Actually, I happen to find you very – very – annoying!”

“Uh, guys?” Jonathan intervened, cutting their argument short. “It actually is kind of urgent.”

Valentine focused his full attention on Jonathan. Seeing him in such a state and still trying to pull himself together was...well...funny. “Go on. I'm listening. Diavolo, if you c-”

“I'm not going anywhere, asshole.”

“I want to adopt a child,” Jonathan blurted before they could start bickering again.

At that, the other two both furrowed their brows. “And how is my intervention necessary?”

“I can't sit through the procedure, Funny. The boy I want to adopt is being abused by his Father and I can't have him be traumatized by switching foster homes! I want him in my family as soon as possible!”

“Jonathan,” Valentine started, “what you're asking for is very easy to be done. I know you, you of all people should raise children.”

“But.”

“But Dio's vanity is a big obstacle. Do you think he'll be able to raise an adopted child?”

“Yes!” Jonathan fervently replied. “He's grown, Funny.”

Valentine pursed his lips. He reached for one of his luxurious fountain pens and idly played with it. “Was this child abused, Jonathan?”

“Yes,” Jonathan answered with some hesitation. He could see where Valentine was going with this.

“Are you sure he's not doing it out of pity?”

“Dio can't feel pity!” Diavolo barked and Valentine inhaled sharply in irritation. “I doubt he can feel anything...”

“I understand why you'd say that, Diavolo. But he can do it. We can do it.”

“How old is this kid?”

“Same as Giorno.”

“Is he one of his friends?” Valentine inquired, intrigued.

“Yes.”

“Who?”

“It's Narancia.”

“Shit,” Diavolo mumbled and Valentine side-eyed him.

“Does it matter? Funny, I want to give him a better home, one he deserves. And I want that to happen fast!”

“Okay, okay. It's too late to start now, I'll start making phone calls first thing in the morning.”

Jonathan lunged across the desk and grabbed one of Valentine's hands in both his own. He shook it fervently, shaking the man's entire body while giving him a bright smile. Valentine, while being annoyed and probably very tired, was quite easy to convince. Once again, Jonathan was perplexed by this man but he didn't let his confusion fog his joy. Narancia was coming home with them, and that's all that mattered.

When Jonathan left, Valentine leaned back on his chair with a heavy sigh. He cast his gaze on the dark ceiling over his head, mindlessly swaying in his swivel chair.

“Why'd you react like that?”

“What?”

“When Jonathan said he wants to adopt Narancia, you said 'shit'. Why?”

“Oh...” Diavolo looked away with guilt. He shrugged. “I'm kinda the reason why Narancia's Dad was beating him.”

What.”

“Yeah. After his wife died, he got in a lot of debt, started owing to my loan sharks and one thing led to the other.”

“Oh my God, Diavolo...” was the only thing Valentine could say. He'd rather leave it at that. He was pretty sure he'd decapitate Diavolo if he opened his mouth again.

 

 


 

 


Everything went swimmingly with a friend in the government. Before Jonathan could blink, he and Dio were signing the adoption papers. It all passed in a haze, too perfect to believe. Narancia was still numb to the whole deal, unsure of how to act. On one hand, he was overjoyed, but he couldn't believe this was happening. It came like a wave and he let it carry him to unknown waters.

Instead of choosing a separate room for Narancia, they decided to relocate Giorno in a larger bedroom so Narancia could be with him. That was more Dio's domain. He spared no expense preparing a suitable and of course, comfortable and luxurious environment for the boys.

“You sure you don't mind sharing a room with me?” Narancia asked for the 100th time ever since he moved in.

Giorno laughed sleepily. “Of course not. It's the best deal; bigger room AND constant sleepovers. If anyone, I should be thanking you for choosing me as a roommate.”

Narancia smiled. Giorno knew just what to say to make him feel more comfortable. He fell on the plush mattress and relaxed to the warmth enveloping him. He suddenly had it all; loving guardians, a great environment, a cute ass dog the size of a small horse, a horde of rowdy relatives and neighbors to keep things interesting. Yet years of looking over his shoulder were making Narancia wonder if he deserved this.

Slowly, carefully as not to wake up Giorno, Narancia tiptoed across the floor, heading for the door. He opened it gently, stepping out to the dark hall. Their room was on the second floor of the ostentatious mansion, right across the master bedroom. Narancia glanced at the doors on the wall across, reciting the rooms. Guest room, broom closet, master bedroom, guest bathroom, Jonathan's study. Moonlight was pouring from the window, illuminating Narancia's path somewhat. He glanced outside, past the dark garden, to the other houses. There was still light in Kars'. Those guys never seemed to sleep. There was some light coming out of Jolyne's room, too. She was probably watching a movie with Foo.

Narancia walked the stairs to the kitchen. To his great surprise, he found Jonathan sitting on the counter, shoving spoonfuls of pudding down his throat.

“Want some?” he offered.

“No, Mr. Joestar. You've already given me enough.”

Jonathan beckoned Narancia to come sit on the stool next to him. “What are you doing up so late? Are you hungry? Is the mattress not to your liking?”

“I'm fine, Mr. Joestar,” Narancia quickly reassured him. “I just...I was just thinking.”

“Oh?” Jonathan put the empty cup of pudding down. “Can...can I help you? Do you want to talk to me? You don't have to!”

“No, it's fine.” Narancia sighed. “I guess...it's all happening so fast. One day I'm stealing whatever wallets I can find and the next I'm here. I don't know if there's another, fancier, word to express how I feel but all I can say is that I feel grateful. Really. Out of all the kids you could have helped, you chose me, Mr. Joestar.”

Jonathan swallowed his tears. He smiled weakly, shakily. “How about you cut the 'Mr. Joestar'? We're family now, you can call me anything you want! Jonathan, Jojo – most people call me that...”

Family. Narancia clung to that word, that very simple word. His eyes opened wide, as if for the first time. Sitting on the breakfast counter with his baggy pajamas, eating pudding at 3 AM, Jonathan was shining brighter than the sun. Narancia lunged forward, wrapping his lanky arms around Jonathan's torso. Or as much as he could.

“Thanks, Dad,” he mumbled against Jonathan's marble-like abs.

This time, Jonathan let himself cry a bit.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

In Sickness and In Health

 

 

Surprisingly, Jotaro was the first one to fall. But the epidemic that swept through the neighborhood didn't start from him. Like all bad things, it started from the school. Even though it was a very high-profile institution, the school was still a cage were kids exchanged gross bacteria all day. The kids of the neighborhood were practically conjoined so if there was a flu going on, it would reach their parents in hours. And that was exactly what happened. But how did it start?

It started from Okuyasu. Specifically, when the teenager sneezed while sitting in Rohan's classroom waiting for the teacher's arrival. Josuke snapped to look at him immediately, eyes blown wide. Not giving a single shit about catching anything, Josuke grabbed his bro's face between his hands, feeling his temperature. Glassy eyes, warm cheeks, runny nose. That confirmed it.

"Bro," he started, voice shaking, "you're sick."

"Nah, dude. I'm fine." Another sneeze, stronger this time. "Really."

"Bullshit," Josuke hissed. He pressed his soft lips against Okuyasu's forehead, shocked at how hot he was. Literally this time. "We have to get you home immediately. I'll get Caesar to make some soup for you. You're sleeping over at mine today."

"Bro, I'm good."

"Bro, stop. You're obviously not feeling well. And it's my duty as your best bro to take care of you and make sure you're once again the cool, handsome, energetic dude that I know," Josuke blinked, making the tears that had been hanging from his feather-like lashes trickle down his soft cheeks, "and love."

"Bro..." Okuyasu smiled a teary smile

"Bro..." Holding his best bro's hand in his own, Josuke stood up. "Class president!"

"We don't have one yet," Koichi commented.

"We should take care of that soon," Trish mused.

The door slid open and Rohan walked in, looking as annoyed and unwilling as ever. He gave a quick scan around the classroom, lip curling in disgust. He noticed that the two most annoying students in the East Coast were standing up and his mind started racing to all the ways something could go wrong. His teeth ground against each other when Josuke approached him, dragging Okuyasu behind him. He looked serious, pressing his plump lips together in an attempt to look stern and apologetic. He wanted mercy but Rohan had none.

"Mr. Rohan?"

"What."

"Okuyasu is sick. He needs to go home."

Rohan glanced at Okuyasu. He shrugged. "Seems fine to me."

"He's not," Josuke insisted.

"Okay, I'm starting to feel kinda weird."

"See? I need to get him home. Please, Mr. Rohan."

Rohan folded his arms, eyeing the boy smugly. "And how do I know he really is sick and not just pretending so he can sit out on my class, huh?"

"Okuyasu is a good boy! He'd never deceive anyone." Josuke tried giving Rohan a small smile. "Is it too much to ask to be excused once?"

"You know what I think, Higashikata? I think you need an excuse to be out of this class because you suck at it! Your feeble, plebian mind is too occupied with hair to comprehend the subtleties of fine a-"

Okuyasu sneezed again, harder than ever that day, shooting whatever the hell was plaguing him all over Rohan's Armani ensemble. The entire class stood petrified, their lively conversations halting altogether. Rohan stood with his eyes wide open, mouth trembling with horror. Josuke grabbed Okuyasu and sprinted out of the classroom, narrowly avoiding a handful of paintbrushes thrown at them.

 

 


 

 

 


Joseph was busy with work, Caesar was doing renovations at the gym, Tomoko was still at school and Jonathan was at the university. That left only one. Jotaro remained silent throughout the entire ride home, gruffly grumbling under his breath, scratching his stubbly chin with a displeased frown. Had Josuke not known better, he would've thought that Jotaro was mad with him. But he knew that was far from the truth. In reality, his uncle was angrily reciting the names of oceanic creatures under his breath as he drove, paying little mind to the kids in the back. All he cared about was racing the fuck back home and continuing his thesis. Second doctorate, motherfucker. Jotaro still had no idea why he was doing this to himself. Come to think of it, it was like an over-simplified version of the thought process surrounding the creation of a child. Even though the pain was excruciating and the process had been difficult, some people went for another one.

Jotaro pulled over in his driveway. Jolyne was still at school and Kakyoin was at the hospital. That gave him a few good hours of work, provided he had no distractions.

"You guys should hurry home," he said. "Okuyasu doesn't look too good."

"We will. Thanks for driving us, Jotaro!"

Jotaro stood in his driveway until he saw that the boys were inside Joseph's house. He marched to his porch and unlocked the door, letting himself in the peace and quiet of his home. He prepared another cup of coffee and quickly headed upstairs to his office. He shut the door and eyed his desk with hostility. It seemed as if the desk was glaring right back, mocking him with the stack of papers on it. With a heavy sigh, Jotaro sat down on his chair, blearily glancing around his notes. Coffee stains, tears, smudged ink and stress was all he saw. He took a sip of his coffee. Time for another all-nighter.

Completely absorbed as he was, Jotaro forgot to check the time. Or attend to his other basic human needs. He snapped up, half-scared to death when the door of his office was thrown open. Kakyoin stood at the doorway, looking at him with narrowed eyes behind his glasses and a displeased frown.

"Jojo," he started sternly. "I understand that you need to finish your paper but this is too much. I let you work without disrupting you the first few hours but you have to take breaks every once in a while!"

"I don't need it. Thanks for the concern."

Before Jotaro could go back in his work, Kakyoin was standing right in front of him, one cold, slender hand pressed against his forehead. Marry a doctor, they said. They'll always have your back, they said. Yeah, your back against the wall.

"You have a fever," Kakyoin announced, his wide frown sinking even further.

Ever since he started writing again, Jotaro had completely forgotten about his mortality. But now that Kakyoin had snapped him out of the zone, the reality of his sickness was slowly sinking in. He was feeling cold in a pleasantly warm room, his eyes ere stinging and his head felt heavy. Regardless, Jotaro tried shrugging it off.

"I probably need some water."

"Medicine and rest is what you need."

"Tenmei." Ooh, bustin' out the 'Tenmei'. A good strategy, but it wasn't going to work. "I'm fine. Thank you for caring about me, really, but I'm fine."

Jotaro turned to his laptop again but Kakyoin slammed it shut. Jotaro glared up at him, mildly annoyed. Kakyoin glared right back, enraged. Jotaro gulped.

"Medicine and rest," he repeated in a threateningly low voice. "Now."

"For fuck's sake," Jotaro huffed, averting his gaze from Kakyoin's for a second. He finally stood up but a sudden wave of nausea and numbness made his knees buckle. Kakyoin caught him in time, practically dragging him out of the office and into their bedroom.

"You look like shit, Jojo. How can you expect yourself to be productive when you're like this?" Kakyoin admonished him. And frankly, he was right. Jotaro had been typing bullshit for the most time, before angrily correcting it, only to do the same mistakes seconds later. It was a constant back and forth, no progress made, only continuing this because of his innate stubbornness.

He sank into their warm, soft mattress gladly, feeling his body melt on the covers. Limp and boneless as he was, Kakyoin threw the duvet over him, covering Jotaro up to his eyes. Once he made sure his spouse was nice and comfy, he sat back, a small smile on his thin lips. Jotaro looked every bit like a grumpy child, even if he was a column of pure beef. Kakyoin ruffled his hair lovingly.

"Please take better care of yourself, Jojo," he said in a much softer voice. "I really don't like seeing you overexert yourself like that."

"I need to work on my thesis."

"You still have months ahead of you, a day or two off won't ruin everything!" Jotaro scowled. "Your health is more important than baby whales and starfish, Jojo."

"But not dolphins." Kakyoin rolled his eyes. Jotaro cringed at the dryness of his throat. He really wasn't feeling well. He wondered what would have happened if Kakyoin never interrupted him. Would he continue working until his body gave in and shut down? He could already see the newspaper headline; 'Marine Biologist, age 36, Dies Like A Fucking Idiot, Leaving Behind His Children and Sarcastic Husband, more on page 9.'

"I'll go to Avdol's and get some tea for you."

"Thanks."

Kakyoin left Jotaro alone in the bedroom with nothing to do. His phone was out of reach, he couldn't even think about reading a book and he was too exhausted to fetch his laptop. Slowly, Jotaro let his lids fall, body relax against the mattress, give himself to sleep.

"Psst."

Jotaro cracked an eye open. He glanced around the room until he noticed his daughter's head poking from the doorway.

"What."

Jolyne tiptoed inside the room, carefully shutting the door behind her. She sat down on the bed. Jotaro knew that look; wide eyes, lips pressed in a line. She wanted something.

"What is it, Jolyne?"

"You sick?"

"Yes. I am sick."

"Tough shit."

"Language."

"Hard shit?"

Jotaro huffed, the only sound he could make close to a laugh. "Yeah, tough shit. You should probably go downstairs, I don't want you to catch anything."

"Actually..." she started, voice trailing off. She took a deep breath. "Can you make me sick?"

"What."

Jolyne lunged for her father, grabbing his head with both her hands and pressing her cheek against his mouth. "Make me sick!" she demanded.

"Jolyne, what are you talking about?!"

"I don't want to go to school! Please make me sick!"

Even while sick, Jotaro was still quite strong, thus being able to fend off his daughter all the while she was trying to smooch his stubbly cheeks. Jolyne was determined and kept wiggling like a fish out of water but Jotaro held her at arm's length. Eventually, Jolyne gave up, though a small pout remained on her lips.

"Noriaki's making you rest?"

"Yes."

"He's right, you know. You can't keep working in this state."

"I know he's right," Jotaro sighed. "You should go study."

"Ugh, don't remind me."

"I used to hate studying when I was your age, too." A blatant lie. Jotaro was a nerd from the womb.

"Says the guy with the two doctorates."

"I said 'I used to'. Some things you do because you need to, not because you want to. Studying is one of them. You have to get good grades so you'll get into a good college and a good grad school and you'll get a good job."

Begrudgingly, Jolyne stood up, the mattress squeaking with the absence of the extra weight. She marched to the door and before she stepped out, turned around to glance at her father, eyes empty save for a slightly mocking tint.

"You sound like Dio."

Jotaro gagged. As Jolyne walked away triumphantly, he dashed inside the bathroom and emptied his guts on the toilet.

 

 


 

 

 


Jotaro wasn't the only workaholic that had been forced to take a break due to illness. Rohan blinked slowly, getting used to the world surrounding him. He snapped awake very fast once he realized that he wasn't in his office but in his bed, laying under a mountain of blankets. How had he gotten here? When? Why? The last one was easy to answer. A wave of nausea shook him even more awake, a splitting headache drumming against the back of his skull. His eyes felt hot and puffy. He was sick. His guts turned but with a different type of nausea. Okuyasu. That stupid kid had gotten him sick. Just fucking great. Rohan had no idea for how long he had been in his bed, wasting his time by recovering. But one thing was certain; he was running behind schedule. Shakily, he tried lifting the surprisingly heavy covers.

"Don't even think about it."

Reimi stood at the door, a bowl of soup in her hands. Arnold was standing beside her, panting happily at the sight of Rohan. She walked inside the room and sat down on the bed. Rohan tried sniffing but his nose was stuffed. Great. Reimi prepared a spoonful of the broth and directed it towards Rohan's scowling mouth.

"I don't need this," he hissed.

"Yes, you do. Now stop being a brat and open your mouth."

"No!"

Reimi paused. "Here comes the airplane!"

"What are you doing?"

"You used to love that when we were kids!"

"I'm not a kid anymore!"

Reimi pursed her lips, spoon still in hand. "Rohan. You need to eat so you can get healthy and go back to work."

"I don't need to eat!" Rohan declared. "I don't need anything! I am Rohan Kishibe! I am-"

Reimi shoved the spoon in Rohan's open mouth and Rohan gawked at her in shock. The metal pressed against his tongue gave him no other choice but to swallow. The broth traveled down his throat slowly, evenly warming his insides, soothing his scratched and sore throat. Rohan felt his body relax on the bed, lids dropping as the warmth enveloped him inside and out.

"You win this round," he growled. Reimi smiled, preparing another spoonful.

 

 


 

 

 

Caesar was in hell. He was currently living in a house with a sick teenager, a sick adult that behaved like an infant and an actual infant that was teething. Not a pleasant process. Josuke had taken it upon himself to care for Okuyasu and assisted Caesar however he could. Caesar definitely appreciated the extra help but it was clear that the two of them wouldn't make it through the night at this pace. Josuke was charged with Okuyasu's care and making frequent trips to the pharmacy, as well as doing his homework. Caesar was trying to juggle a very distressed Shizuka, an even more distressed Joseph, work and the chores. He was doing fine for the first few hours but soon came the breaking point. For a man that had grown up with five siblings and six cousins, his patience ran thin when dealing with Joseph.

He considered calling his grandfather but William was away on urgent Speedwagon Foundation business. His other option was Lisa Lisa, and so he gave her a call. He was sitting in the kitchen, bouncing a crying Shizuka on his lap while trying to stay indifferent to Joseph's wailing.

"You're not dying, dumbass," Caesar hissed through gritted teeth.

"Hello? Caesar?"

"Oh, thank God."

"Are you alright?"

"Not particularly," Caesar said with a heavy sigh. He leaned back on the chair, shutting his eyes for a moment. "Jojo is sick, Josuke's taking care of his sick friend and the baby is teething."

"I see. It's a mess, isn't it?"

"You have no idea. Is there any way you could come here and help me a bit? I can't handle two babies at once."

Lisa Lisa chuckled hoarsely. "Don't worry, I'll be there in the afternoon. How is Jojo?"

"Insufferable," Caesar groaned. "How did you handle him as a kid?"

There was silence. Awkward, guilty silence. Caesar supposed Lisa Lisa had to be guilty in order to be human. But he was an idiot for mentioning something like that. The answer was that she didn't handle Joseph as a kid. In fact, she had only seen Joseph once in the first fifteen years of his life. They never spoke of it, they all pretended that she had always been there and it worked just fine. Until someone got a bit careless, of course. Like now.

Lisa Lisa cleared her throat. "What did Jonathan tell you?"

"To give him some tea and let him puke it all out."

"He's probably right. Don't worry, Caesar," she reassured him. "I'll be here."

With that, the call ended. Caesar took a deep breath and walked to the sink. Balancing Shizuka on one arm, he poured himself a glass of water. He squinted at the sight right outside the house, specifically the neighboring yard. Kars was leisurely walking on the grass, wearing a miniscule swimsuit and carrying a lawn chair. He was already coated in tanning lotion from head to toe. Guessing what he was going to do wasn't hard.

Caesar put his phone to charge and walked upstairs. He couldn't bear looking around the house. It looked like a war zone, filled with used tissues, empty medicine boxes, and blankets. Caesar knocked gently on Josuke's door and peeked inside after receiving an answer. Josuke was sitting on the bed, applying a fresh compress on Okuyasu's forehead. His fever had gone down significantly but he was still too weak to be awake for hours. Josuke woke him up every now and again to give him some soup and water, as much of it as he was able to take without feeling sick.

Caesar approached the teenager and they shared soft smiles in solidarity. "He's doing better," Josuke informed him, gently patting Okuyasu's face.

"He's lucky to have someone like you in his life, Josuke."

"No. I'm lucky to have him."

Okuyasu stirred in his sleep and Josuke got back to attending to his fever, cooling it down and making sure his bro had whatever he needed. Caesar gave Josuke one final look before exiting the room. Josuke had inherited Tomoko's short temper but he was a very sweet child most of the time, the best one could wish for. Caesar expected hatred, expected yelling and refusal but instead, he was met with Josuke, loving, accepting Josuke.

It took a lot of cooing, but Shizuka eventually calmed down a bit, enough to be left alone in her crib for a few minutes. She seemed like a princess in her little nursery, decorated with love and gifts from her doting family. Caesar set her up comfortably between her stuffed toys and left the room, leaving the door open. Time to check on the other baby.

The moment he opened the door to his and Joseph's room, Caesar was met with ceaseless whining and a chorus of coughing. He sighed. He approached the lump of blankets on the bed and sat down next to it, patting it gently.

"Jojo?"

"I am DYING," Joseph lamented and started coughing again.

"You're not dying, Jojo. It's just a cold."

Joseph's head poked from under the blankets. His hair was messier than usual, strands sticking out like the leaves of a fern, eyes too glassy and nose red. Despite his irritation, Caesar couldn't help sympathizing with the guy. Okay, it was in Caesar's nature to feel annoyed by everything, he wasn't actually irritated by Joseph's illness. If anything, he was more than glad to take care of him, knowing that Joseph would do the same, albeit more dramatically.

"I'm gonna die, bubble butt," Joseph said in a too-serious tone.

"No, you're not, you idiot. I called your mother to come to help me with the baby so I can dedicate my afternoon to you. Happy?"

Joseph gave him a small, boyish grin. "Really?"

"Yup."

"You'd do that for me, Caesarino?"

"Yes, Jojo."

With surprising agility, Joseph scooted to the other side of the bed, making room for Caesar. He lifted the covers, inviting the man under them with him, grinning widely. Caesar quirked a brow.

"You know, Jojo," he started, "something's telling me you're not as sick as you look and you're only pretending so I'll spend some time with you."

"Nonsense," Joseph snorted. "When have I ever deceived anyone?"

 

 

 


 

 

 

Weather looked at the thermometer with a deep frown. Emporio was staring at him with wide eyes, fists curled around the hem of his blanket.

"Is it bad?" the boy asked in a low voice.

"You're not going to school tomorrow." It was bad, but it wasn't uncommon. Weather wanted to be a responsible parent and there was no way he was letting the kid go to school with a fever like that. He needed rest and vitamins. And quiet. A rarity in the neighborhood but always appreciated.

Weather managed a smile at the boy's defeated frown. "I thought you'd be happy."

"I like going to school," Emporio explained. "I finally got in the baseball team, too..."

"Don't worry, buddy." Weather ruffled the boy's blonde curls. "You'll be back before you know it. But for now, rest."

Emporio nodded. Weather left the room, heading for the kitchen. Perhaps he was being hasty or irresponsible but this parenting thing wasn't exactly difficult. Then again, Emporio viewed him as his caretaker rather than his parent but Weather had expected their relationship to be way more difficult, considering both their emotional baggage. It helped that Emporio was such a great child. He adapted quickly, even to such a fucked up household, and was generally very easy-going. He was grateful and reassuring, possibly more mature than Weather himself. It also helped that their neighbors were all families. Jotaro, especially, offered Weather advice and all the help he needed as a new parent. The existence of so many kids in the neighborhood helped soothe Emporio's nerves. So far, so good.

Parenting was such an odd concept. Weather had never expected to take this role in his life but here he was. He didn't believe he even had the compassion to take up a child, be charged with raising him, helping him turn into a responsible adult. All he ever wanted in his life was to slither into the Pucci family, take his part of the inheritance and go live in the French countryside, eating snails and writing poetry. His ambitions had given him the strength to pursue this path, to make him seek a job at Green Dolphin Str. Prison, suddenly appear into the life of his biological family. And it was going well; his parents and sister adored him, his twin was a bit hard to convince but that was nothing some arsenic couldn't fix.

But suddenly, Weather was struck with the overwhelming urge to help someone other than himself. Before he could check or control this urge, there Emporio was, quiet but trying to enjoy life, though a bit nervous.

Weather walked down the hall, heading for the kitchen, when he heard coughing. He looked back. Emporio's room was too far away. The sound must have come from his brother's bedroom. Come to think of it, Weather hadn't seen or heard Pucci in a while. Good. The house finally had some damn peace and quiet. He stayed still outside Pucci's bedroom, waiting for the sound. Pucci was coughing his lungs out, cursing in a low voice between the fits.

“I can't believe I'm doing this,” Weather mumbled in disbelief of his own self.

He walked down to the kitchen and heated up a pot of soup. Once the soup was hot enough, Weather poured a generous amount in a bowl, placing it on a tray with a glass of water and some cough drops. Carefully, he carried the tray upstairs and halted outside Pucci's bedroom, passing over the bright, white line that split the house into two sections. Before knocking, Weather paused and looked down at the bowl. The gob of spit that fell out of his mouth fell into the broth effortlessly, instantly becoming one. He stirred it with a spoon to make any clinging evidence disappear. He knocked.

“No.”

“Enrico. It's me.”

“That's why I said 'no'. Go away.”

The handle twisted easily, the door opened with the slightest creak. The room was almost completely dark, as the blinds were drawn, the only source of light being Pucci's phone. The priest was laying on his bed in the corner, a pile of books stacked on the floor next to him. Even in the little light, Weather noticed the glare Pucci was sending him.

“Go away.”

“I thought you'd like some soup. You sound like shit.”

Despite Pucci's protests, Weather approached the bed and carefully placed the tray on the nightstand. Pucci glared at it with suspicious, narrowed eyes.

“If I need soup, I'll go get it. Now get out of my room.”

“Just take the fucking soup, Enrico. I can't stand your coughing, it's bad for the kid.”

“The kid,” Pucci snorted. Even under twenty blankets and with a nose more clogged than Valentine's shower, he managed to smirk arrogantly. “You're still going on with that, huh?”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

“I don't know what you're playing at, Wes, but I will find out.”

Weather rolled his eyes. He had neither the time nor the energy to fight with Pucci. Probably because he was always two seconds away from bashing his skull in.

“Eat the damn soup.”

“Get fucked.”

Weather shook his head. He left the room, closing the door behind him. Pucci inspected the bowl. It was definitely tempting. But if he ate it, then he would be admitting defeat. What if it was poisoned? No, Weather would never do something so forward. Maybe it was just sibling interest? As if.

Hesitantly, Pucci took the bowl in his hands. He brought a spoonful in front of his eyes and sniffed. Nothing but an overwhelming amount of snot clogging his damn brain. He tasted it, relieved at the way the warm liquid slid down his throat. Okay, maybe it wasn't so bad.

 

 


 

 


Kira couldn't remember a better day in his life. This was it, the ultimate dream. Performing daily duties while listening to light jazz on the radio. More specifically, Kira was chopping up vegetables to prepare some soup for Shinobu. He opened the pot's lid, checking if the water had come to a boil yet. Once it did, he added the chopped veggies along with some chicken stock. He gave the mixture a few stirs, lowered the heat and placed the lid on top. Sighing with satisfaction, Kira wiped his hands on a towel.

Kira leaned against the granite counter and glanced around the kitchen. This was where he belonged, he thought while running his hand across the smooth surface, inside a family home, being a family man, enjoying the simple but sincere pleasures brought by such little moments. Making soup for his sick wife, trimming the hedges, making sure the house was prepared for the heavy rains that would soon come... Kira tried digging inside his memory but he couldn't find another time he had been as happy. Becoming Kosaku Kawajiri was the best thing Kira had ever done.

From her special spot by the window, Killer Queen meowed demandingly at him. He had been neglecting her that day and he was honestly sorry, but Shinobu was his priority. Kira flashed his cat an apologetic smile before going upstairs, carrying a glass of water and some medicine.

Shinobu was where he left her, laying on their bed, trying to get some sleep with the TV as a lullaby. She cracked a slow smile when he stepped inside the room. She sat up, the compress on her forehead falling on the duvet.

“The soup will be ready shortly,” Kira informed her as he handed her the medicine.

After taking her medicine, Shinobu let Kira put a fresh compress on her forehead. He fluffed her pillows and made sure the covers were enveloping her entire body. She looked at him with foggy but affectionate eyes. She looked over Kira's shoulder, a soft smile spreading on her lips.

“Come here, sweetie,” she called.

Kira looked over his shoulder and clenched his jaw. Hayato stepped inside the room hesitantly, holding a cup of hot tea. Father and son locked eyes and Hayato's gaze was screaming defiance. Suspicion. Fear. Under Valentine's insistence (damn meddling bastard), Kira was making an effort to approach the boy. Said it would be less suspicious if their relationship was good or at least neutral. Said that if they were constantly fighting or wary of one another, people would talk about them, talk about what a bad father Kosaku Kawajiri was. But above all, it would make Shinobu sad. She'd come to bed every night, wearing a little frown, wondering why Hayato was so distant, urging her husband to do something about it. Their relationship had been saved, surely Kira could do the same with Hayato. And he was trying, really, but the kid wouldn't give up so easily. It seemed as if they were rivals, battling for Shinobu's affection.

“I should get sick more often,” Shinobu laughed. “I'm so lucky to have my favorite boys take such good care of me.”

“What are you saying?” Kira reached for his wife's hand, stroking it softly and placing a kiss on the knuckles. Shinobu's already flushed cheeks got even hotter. “It's the least we can do for you.”

“Are you feeling any better, mom?” Hayato questioned.

“Yes, I am. I'm not completely well but I'm getting there.” Shinobu ruffled her son's hair. “How was school today?”

“It was fine,” Hayato shrugged. “My friend didn't come to school today. He's sick.”

“Emporio?”

“Yup.”

“Why don't you go by his house to see if he's any better?”

“Hayato,” Kira said and the name felt odd on his tongue. He rarely addressed Hayato. The boy looked at him with the whites of his eyes. “You should go to your room. You might get sick if you stay here for too long.”

“Dad is right. I don't want you getting sick because of me.” Hayato nodded slowly. Before leaving, he gave his mother a kiss on the cheek. Shinobu rubbed the skin tenderly. “We have a wonderful son, Kosaku.”

“We do.”

“He's such a great kid.”

“He is.”

“We make good kids.”

“We...do?” Kira could feel something there, something that wasn't so obvious. It felt like the beginning of a long and painful conversation. A hint he had to take. But he couldn't. Shinobu was obviously trying to tell him something but Kira let it fly over his head. He stood up suddenly, seeking escape for some reason. “I'll go check on the soup.”

Kira returned to the kitchen mere moments before the contents of the pot overflowed on the stovetops. He removed the pot from the heat and focused on continuing the preparation. He looked out of the window as he added spices and herbs, seeing a gloomy sky and a long line of houses. The neighborhood was quiet, defeated by the sickness. It was nice and peaceful. A perfectly quiet and domestic scenery.

 

 

 


 

 

 

“Damn you, Tasty,” Gyro hissed through gritted golden teeth, feeling absolutely betrayed by 'Five Hearty Soups to Help Combat A Cold.' The soup on screen was creamy and golden. Gyro looked down at his pot, running the wooden spoon he was using to stir through the runny, green liquid. Yeah...no.

He heard Johnny wheel inside the kitchen behind him. The younger man took a peek inside the pot, gagging as he quickly turned his face away. “What the hell, Gyro!”

“I did what the recipe said!” Kinda.

“Recipe for what? Chicken noodle soup or slime?” Johnny picked some of the mysterious substance on the spoon and sniffed it. Smelled like plastic. “Is this thing even edible?”

Defeated and annoyed, Gyro took off his gaudy 'Kiss The Cook' apron and tossed it on the table. He looked at the kitchen. Ten different pans, a sea of utensils, all for some fluorescent goo. Ordering some soup, asking some from the neighbors or getting the instant kind would be easier and cheaper, but Julius Caesar Zeppeli was a fighter. A stallion. And when Erina showed up at their door, begging them to take care of a very sick Lucy for a day, Gyro vowed to do his best.

“I'll just go ask Jonathan for some,” Johnny sighed.

“Like hell you are! Just give a few more minutes and I got this!”

“Got what, you idiot? There's nothing left in the fridge! We only have string cheese and olives.”

“Delicious AND nutritious.”

The two men paused when they heard the sound of slippers being dragged along the floor behind them. Lucy was standing on the doorway, shivering slightly. Lucy was a very petite young woman and while sick, she looked even smaller, feeble, weak. Her skin was sickly pale, lids heavy and dropping, lips almost white and cracked, hands and feet always were frozen.

“What are you doing out of bed?” Johnny scolded her.

“I just wanted to get some water.” Lucy approached the counter and looked at Gyro's soup. She flinched. “Can't say I've had frog soup before...”

“Go ahead! Make fun of me!”

“Oh, don't be like that! You know I appreciate you taking care of me. And thank you for making me soup, though I doubt I can eat anything right now.”

“You have to eat.”

“You are still a baby.”

“Johnny, I'm three years younger than you.”

“Just go back to bed, Luce,” Gyro sighed. “Get some rest for now. We'll see if you can eat anything when you wake up.”

Lucy was more than happy to oblige. Johnny and Gyro had given her their bed, setting her up nicely with blankets and pillows and Netflix. Lucy climbed under the covers, sighing blissfully at the warmth. Her bucket was still next to her, acting as her faithful companion throughout this ordeal. The urge to vomit returned every few hours. Even with an empty stomach, Lucy still emptied her guts on the bucket every once in a while, most of it being water and bit of soup she had managed to eat. Sleeping seemed like the best thing to do and so Lucy let her body go limp on the pillows.

Lucy was a very sweet person, she had always been very sweet and easy-going. She had no peculiarities, she was dignified but not picky, able to adapt to whatever circumstances she was experiencing. But if there was one thing Lucy was very particular about was sleeping. In order for her to fall completely asleep, she needed it to be totally quiet. No sounds, not even the wind. And if that wasn't possible, very distant sounds would do. But this...this was just horrible.

There was a violin, loud and sad. Very sad. The tune sounded very near and heart-breakingly sorrowful. It felt like a hand clutching her heart, squeezing it tightly. Under different circumstances, the song would be lovely to listen to. The violinist was an excellent virtuoso, managing to play the instrument like heartstrings. But at that moment, when Lucy was laying in bed trying not to throw up everything yet another time, the noise was unbearable. And as if that wasn't enough...

“Liar!” one of the tiny Valentines accused.

“It's true!” his twin bit back. “Ask Daddy!”

“Daddy doesn't like to be disturbed when he's playing the violin!” their older brother reminded them. “Especially when it's about lies, Tommy.”

“It's not! It's true! Grandpa told me!”

“There's no way that happened, Tommy.”

“It did!” the boy insisted. “Grandpa gouged out his eye and hid Daddy's na-”

“Stop! You're lying!”

“You're just scared! Admit it!”

“I'm not!”

“You are!”

“I'm not!”

“You are!”

“Guys, stop it! You're scaring Teddy!”

“I'll stop when Tommy admits he's lying!”

“I'm not!”

“You are!”

“I'm not!”

“You are!”

“Mommy, Abe is being a butthat!”

“I'm not!”

“You are!”

“I'm not!”

“You are!”

Distraught by his siblings' arguing, the baby started wailing, instantly attracting his mother's attention. The three boys started bickering even more vividly as Scarlet scolded them, the baby began wailing even louder and Valentine's violin got even sadder.

“I can't believe I'm doing this,” Lucy mumbled to herself.

It took all her physical and mental strength to get off the bed. Once her feet touched the carpeted floor, her insides started spinning. She gagged over the bucket but nothing came out. Shakily, Lucy managed to get on her feet and reach the door. The difference in temperature made her teeth chatter. Everything outside her cocoon of blankets seemed like a frozen wasteland. But she pushed through. Because besides being sick, Lucy was also very brave.

She found Johnny and Gyro sitting in front of the TV when she walked down, wasting their most productive years watching Cake Boss while eating Takis. Johnny, who was laying all over Gyro, furrowed his brows disapprovingly when he spotted Lucy.

“Are you alright? What are you doing out of bed?”

“It's the noise.”

The two men looked outside the window, at the very lively Valentine household. “They'll probably end it soon,” Gyro shrugged.

“No, they won't. I'm going over there to tell them to keep quiet.”

“He'll never listen to you.”

“He has to! He has to be considerate towards his neighbors! And if he doesn't, I'm going to the president of the HOA!”

Nothing could stop Lucy when she felt wronged, not even the freezing cold outside. Johnny and Gyro followed her out of curiosity as well as the need to protect her. All three of them had beef with Valentine and even though there was a serious power imbalance, nothing could discourage them.

Sporting teddy bear slippers and three layers of pajamas, Lucy mustered the courage to march outside the house. She halted in front of Valentine's house and pressed the door phone. No answer. She persisted.

“What could you possibly want.”

“You're being loud and I'm trying to sleep,” Lucy explained.

A pause. “And?”

“She's sick, asshole,” Gyro butted in. “And she can't sleep because of you.”

“...and?”

“For fuck's sake, Valentine!” Johnny groaned. “Can't you be fucking nice once in your damn life?”

The door opened. Valentine's figure loomed at the doorway. Clutching his violin in hand, the man made his way through his front yard, passing by intricate cobbled paths, ponds and waterfalls, rosebushes and other unnecessary luxuries. Valentine stopped before the trio, wearing pale pink pajamas, a fluffy magenta robe, and matching slippers.

“Well,” he huffed, “if it isn't my favorite people in the world.”

Lucy wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt to get warmer. Maybe stepping out in such a cold night wasn't such a great idea after all.

“You're being loud, your kids are being loud, your wife's being loud...Lucy needs to recover.”

“I don't care what she needs, Julius. She doesn't even live here.”

“Just for an hour,” Lucy requested.

“jUsT foR aN HoUR! Look at me! I'm Lucy Steel and I don't know when to fucking shut up!”

Johnny looked at him in disbelief. “How old are you?”

“Old enough to have you all locked in CIA prisons!”

“Gyro,” Lucy muttered. “I don't feel so good.”

“Look at this, you bastard!” Gyro hissed. “She's sick, all because you can't keep fucking quiet!”

“Bitch all you want, I don't care! I have done nothing wrong and I don't see why the wellbeing of an insect should bother me!”

“How can you talk like that?! Why do people still believe you're nice?!”

“Because I-”

They never found out. Valentine was cut off abruptly when Lucy emptied the contents of her stomach – water, cough syrup and some forgotten soup – all over Valentine's legs. She wiped her mouth on the back of her hand, slowly regaining control of her senses. The realization of what had happened struck her at once. She looked up, at a mortified Valentine. His expression was a mix of disgust, horror, and wrath. Lucy could almost hear the ticking of the bomb.

“Run!” Scarlet yelled from inside the house. “Run now!”

They didn't need to be told twice. Johnny wheeled back into his house like Lightning McQueen, Gyro in two with Lucy thrown over his shoulder. They managed to make it inside just as the explosion occurred.

“SCARLET.”

“I know, baby. It's fine, you can shower.”

“SCARLET. LETMEGONOW.”

“Hey, it's fine. It's nothing!”

“IT IS NOT.”

“Oh God... Where did the gun come from?”

So much for peace and quiet.

 

 


 

 

 


Jonathan usually woke up because of his alarm clock. But on that day, he was woken up by the sound of violent puking. Confused, Jonathan rubbed the sleepiness off his eyes and looked around. Morning had barely arrived, the first shy hints of dawn peeking through the curtains. He looked to his side and found Dio's side of the bed empty, the covers in disarray. More puking. Jonathan bolted up and rushed to the en-suite bathroom. There, he found Dio kneeling in front of the toilet, head resting against the porcelain. Dio rarely got sick but when he did, it was a sight to behold. He was messy and disoriented, a polar opposite to his usually polished and luxurious visage. Dio was naturally very pale and sickness made his skin almost fluorescent green. There were dark circles and bags under his eyes and his already thin lips had almost completely disappeared.

Dio looked up at Jonathan, eyes red and puffy. Before he could think of anything to say, he hurled over the edge of the toilet once more. Jonathan rushed to his side, kneeling beside him on the cold marble floor. They said nothing. Jonathan kept caressing Dio's back soothingly, pushing back the sweaty strands of blonde hair. His satin pajamas were clinging on his clammy body. He started coughing violently, body thrashing with the force of his coughs. Jonathan started rubbing circles on his back, leaning to kiss his spotted ear.

When Dio was sure the vomiting had stopped – at least for the time being – he clasped the rim of the toilet. Shakily, he pushed himself up, trying with all his might not to fall on his ass. “L-Let's get this bread,” he stammered and nearly crawled to the mirror.

“What are you doing?”

Dio reached for his eyeliner, throwing several other objects in the sink in the process. “Getting ready for work,” he explained matter-of-factly.

“Like hell you are.”

Saying nothing more, Jonathan stood up and effortlessly picked Dio up in his arms and carried him into the bedroom, the same way he had carried him into their house after their wedding. Dio was a big guy, almost as big as Jonathan himself, but Jonathan was able to pick him as if he was nothing more but a puppy. Jonathan placed him on the bed gently, throwing the covers over him. Dio only offered him a glare. He had no strength to fight.

“I have to go to work.”

“You're not going to work. You will stay here and recover.” Jonathan felt Dio's forehead. “You're burning.”

“With anticipation to go to work!”

Jonathan sighed. He pushed Dio's hair off his forehead. “You have to stay at home and recover, sweetheart.”

Dio frowned deeply. Jonathan knew better than anyone how much Dio loved his job. For him, it was more than just an occupation. It was a confirmation of his worth, proof of his progress. In Dio's eyes, being such a successful attorney was proof that he was someone that had gotten somewhere. But sometimes, Dio's adoration for his work made him forget some essential things, such as his roles as a husband and father and his humanity.

“No.”

“Dio!”

“I'm fine!”

“Really? And what were you doing back there?”

“You never ask a gentleman what he does in the bathroom.”

Jonathan shook his head. “I'll go wake the boys up. You better be here when I return.”

Under Dio's annoyed glaring, Jonathan exited the room. He knocked gently on the boys' door. No answer. They were probably sleeping. Ever since Narancia had moved in with them, every night was a sleepover, with fatigue finally winning them over late at night.

“Boys?” Jonathan called softly as he poked his head inside.

Curiously, the bunks were both empty. Jonathan suddenly made out the faint sounds of gagging and coughing. It was coming from their bathroom. The loving Dad leaped inside the room and barged inside the bathroom.

“Morning, Dad,” Narancia greeted casually from his spot on top of the counter.

Like Dio, Giorno was kneeling in front of the toilet, golden hair spilling around his face messily. The boy turned to look at his father, face as pale as a sheet of paper, shaking like a leaf in the wind. “...daddy...” he called softly.

Jonathan rushed to his son's side like lightning. He picked Giorno up and carried him inside the bedroom. Jonathan felt his son's forehead, seeing that he, too, was burning with a fever. Giorno's health had always been delicate and catching the flu or a cold during winter wasn't uncommon. Still, even the slightest sneeze distressed Jonathan greatly.

“Why didn't you come to me sooner?” Jonathan admonished softly.

“We just woke up,” Narancia explained. “Giorno ran to the bathroom the moment he opened his eyes.”

Jonathan turned to Narancia and felt his forehead. Felt normal. “How are you feeling, Narancia?”

“Oh, I'm great! I've been eating fruit!”

That was a relief. Jonathan had no idea what he would do if all of them were sick. He picked Giorno up once more and exited the room, heading for the master bedroom. Miraculously, Dio was still in bed, cursing under his breath. He cracked an eye open to glare at the new sight. Jonathan carried Giorno to the bed and put him down next to Dio, making sure they were both nice and warm.

“There,” he smiled. “Now you'll be easier to look after.”

“Are you putting us on quarantine?”

“Basically. This way you'll be easier to monitor and the other members of the household don't run the risk of getting sick!”

Giorno was too exhausted to say anything. Dio narrowed his eyes like a jungle cat about to attack. “You do realize this is all because of the animal, right? It infected me. You let this beast roam the house, poison your son and husband and-Oh, God...”

Said animal poked his muzzle through the slightly opened door. Dio hissed as Danny stepped inside, seeing Giorno in pain and immediately heading for him. “Get it OUT NOW, JOJO!”

“You're very energetic for a sick person, Mr. Dio.”

“I am not sick!”

“Be quiet already!” Giorno shouted. Terrible decision, really. He rolled over with a groan, burying his tired face in the pillows.

“Look,” Jonathan started. Maybe putting them together wasn't such a great idea after all. Giorno had reached that age where Dio's overprotectiveness was tyranny. Giorno detested what his padre did for a living, calling him out on it every chance he got. In turn, Dio, being much less mature than he thought himself to be, kept pushing his son to pursue his career path and seek excellence in all he did. Jonathan – and now Narancia – was caught in the crossfire, trying to ease the tension any way he could. It worked, only because Giorno hated upsetting Jonathan in any way. Dio was stubborn, it took him a while to realize his mistakes. But then again, he had always been this way.

“Both of you are staying home today-”

“Bullshit.”

Jonathan glared at Dio. “Would you rather miss a day of work or a week?” No response. “That's what I thought.”

Jonathan braced himself for the long day ahead. Because he didn't want Dio to explode, Jonathan took his dog to the living room, giving him some toys that would keep him occupied for the biggest part of the day as well as putting on his favorite cartoons. Jonathan made pancakes and eggs on toast for Narancia. He also packed the boy some lunch, ham, and cheese sandwiches with some fruit and a cup of yogurt. Jonathan lingered on the porch as Narancia walked away. The boy turned around and waved at him every few seconds and Jonathan would always wave back with a smile. He remained on the porch until Narancia had boarded the bus, one of the few kids to have done so that day.

Upstairs in the master bedroom, Dio was struggling. He found himself tangled under his covers and every time he tried to move, the bonds tightened, the blankets getting heavier. He gave up with an exasperated huff. He hated everything about this. Most of all, he hated the feeling of weakness, of nausea, of helplessness. He hadn't experienced that in a while. Dio also detested the grimy feeling of his sweaty body, his sweaty hair and the taste of his mouth.

Giorno's whimpering caught his attention. Looking to his side, Dio found his son, laying there and trying to make himself as small as possible. Dio managed to push himself on his elbow and looked down on the teenager. His shaking fingers ghosted over Giorno's pale cheek.

“Your stomach hurts?” Giorno nodded. “You need to puke everything out.”

“I already did. It hurts because it's empty.”

“You shouldn't eat immediately after throwing up. Dad will make you some soup later.” Dio reached for Giorno's forehead. “You're burning.”

“I know.”

“Who was it?”

“Trish. They're all knocked out.”

Dio smirked. “I bet Diavolo's a mess right now.”

“How was he?”

“Hm?”

“As a kid. How was Diavolo as a kid?”

Diavolo as a kid. That was a long time ago. “Shy, and I know it's weird. But he was very shy, less violent, less paranoid.”

“That's hard to imagine.”

“It is. But it's what happened. Why are you asking me this all of the sudden?”

“I've always been intrigued by him,” Giorno shrugged. “I've always wondered what could make a man become a monster.”

“Harsh words, my Giorno.”

“He is a monster. And everyone that covers for him is as bad, if not worse.”

“I take it you're talking about Funny.”

“I'm talking about you.”

Dio huffed. He really didn't have the energy to fight or argue. “Be grateful,” he said, voice cold. “This job you hate so much bought you everything you own, bought us this wonderful life.”

“Couldn't buy you a conscience,” Giorno mumbled as he rolled over.

When Jonathan returned to the bedroom, he found Giorno sleeping blissfully, face darkened by the slightest bit of discomfort. Dio was laying on his side, gazing off to the distance outside the window, lips pressed tight together, eyes dark. Jonathan sat next to him with a small smile, rubbing the curve of his waist affectionately.

“How are you feeling?”

“Jojo, he hates me.”

“He doesn't!” Jonathan gasped. He held both of Dio's hands and brought them to his lips. “Did you fight again?”

Dio sighed deeply. He dug his palms into his sockets, rubbing vigorously. “Can we discuss this later? I'm very tired right now.”

“Of course, Dio. Anything you want.”

The faintest idea of a smile appeared on Dio's lips. “Since you said that... If you go to my desk, you'll find a red file under my laptop. Take it to Scarlet. She knows what to do with it.”

“So you've decided to stay home.”

“Yes. I, Dio, have decided to do you the favor. You're welcome by the way.”

 

 

 


 

 

 


Diavolo woke up in his dark room, feeling dizzy and disoriented. His eyes opened blearily, adjusting to the darkness. The covers were weighing him down but that wasn't the only thing keeping him pinned on the bed. There were hammers inside his head, trying to shatter his skull. His eyes felt dry and sore, lids heavy. His throat was on fire but he couldn't do anything about it. He couldn't move. Lead was tied on his wrists and ankles, keeping him from even flinching.

But suddenly, in the darkness, Diavolo saw a white form, like fog, bathed in the only ray of light slithering through a crack in the curtains. This was it then. He was dead. Confused and apathetic as he was, Diavolo could only observe the form. It was clad in white, moving silently across the room. Its long, golden mane spilled down its back, breaking the monotony of white. It moved towards the window, blocking the only source of light. Its features became more prominent. Through his clumped lashes, Diavolo could see the form's lithe body, its tall legs, its dexterous fingers. An angel, then.

Valentine yanked the curtains open with one swift motion, rendering Diavolo blind for a few long seconds. Diavolo hissed and thrashed on the mattress, trying to hide from the fresh sunlight. Not an angel. Just an asshole.

“I can't believe the biggest drug lord in all of North America doesn't have a single box of Tylenol in his house,” Valentine commented idly. He walked to the dresser and picked up a silver tray. On it was a piping hot bowl of soup, a bottle of water and a few pills. He sat down on the bed and inspected Diavolo's face. Tangled hair, smudged eyeliner, clumped mascara, lipstick stains, pale, sickly skin, ragged breaths. “You look like shit.”

Diavolo huffed. “Thanks, asshole.” He sniffed the air and to his great joy, he caught hints of the best chicken noodle soup he had ever eaten. “Is this your mother's soup?”

“Yup. I made a few adjustments. Hope you still like it.”

“I will. I like everything you do.”

Valentine rolled his eyes. “Trish called me,” he said while fluffing Diavolo's pillows. “It's time you got some goddamn order in this house.” Diavolo knew this tone. He knew what was coming.

“Are you here to lecture me?”

“I'm here because I don't want to see you wither.” He inched closer and cupped Diavolo's face with one hand. “Look at you. You eat garbage, you drink, you don't sleep at all, your health's going downhill and you're only 38... Why are you doing this to yourself, darling?”

They said nothing and the seconds came to pass. Valentine retracted his hand, as if suddenly burning. He handed Diavolo a thermometer. “Keep this in your mouth for a few seconds.” More silence, this one being short-lived. Diavolo handed Valentine the thermometer and saw his eyes widen in horror. “Thirty-nine!?”

“It's in Celsius.”

“Oh.” Valentine put the thermometer aside. “Is that a lot?”

“Yes.”

“Yikes.” Valentine picked up the tray and placed it on top of his knees. “You should eat your soup.”

Diavolo didn't need to be told twice. He hadn't eaten that soup in at least twenty years and having that delicious broth and evenly cut roasted chicken slide down his throat was pure bliss. Valentine said nothing as Diavolo ate the soup. Seeing that he had an appetite was a good sign. After he had eaten, Valentine gave him the Tylenol and Diavolo downed it with some water.

“Feeling any better?”

“Yes.”

“You should get some rest. I'll be in the house for a little while longer so yell if you need anything.”

“There's something I need, yeah.”

“Oh?”

“I need an answer, Funny.” Valentine gave Diavolo a final look before turning his gaze elsewhere. He cleared his throat and got to tidying up the used utensils. Diavolo, even in his weakened state, could detect the hints and details on Valentine. From the way he did his hair to the way he smelled, Diavolo knew that everything had a meaning.

“You stopped smoking,” he mumbled. The scent of peaches and fruit, lacking the usual undertones of tobacco was the answer Diavolo wanted. “You're having another baby.”

Valentine sighed. He ran his long fingers through his silky hair, tugging at the roots. “No, I'm not. But we've been...discussing it. I want a big family, Diavolo. I've always wanted one. And when I was finally able to make this dream come true...”

“Just say it.” As if it wouldn't hurt. Rejection. Always.

“I can't betray my family, not again. Scarlet doesn't deserve this.”

Empty words. Diavolo turned deaf to it all. He turned his head to the side, focusing on some dusty corner of his room. “Just leave.”

“Please try to understa-”

“Leave. Now.”

Valentine didn't need to be told twice. He moved to touch Diavolo's face but quickly changed his mind. “Get well, soon.”

“Now!”


Doppio was sleeping when Valentine stepped into his room. The man was buried under a heap of blankets, breathing softly into his pillow. Valentine opened the window just a crack, letting fresh air into the room. He shook the younger man gently, waking him up. Doppio looked up blearily, staring at Valentine through a whirlwind of pink hair.

“Hey,” Valentine greeted breathlessly. He let the tray on the nightstand. “I brought you soup and Tylenol. And a new box of tissues.”

“You're godsend.” Doppio managed to sit up. He put the tray on his lap, stirring it a bit to cool it down. “How's the boss?”

“He's fine.”

“And how are you?”

“I'm fine, Doppio. Thank you for asking.”

In Doppio's opinion, Valentine wasn't fine. He chose to accept the man's answer. He didn't want to be a part of whatever was going on until they asked him too.

After Doppio, Valentine visited Trish's room. Trish was laying on her bed when he entered, scrolling through her Instagram, laying among fluffy blankets, used tissues and discarded fashion magazines. She lifted her gaze when Valentine entered, carrying another tray with soup, water, juice, yogurt, tissues, and Tylenol. Trish sighed in relief and put her phone to the side.

“Thank God... I thought we were all gonna die here.”

Valentine handed her the tray and pulled up an armchair, placing it next to her bed. “How are you feeling?”

“Better. I'll probably be fine by tomorrow morning.”

“You're still not going to school.”

“Never thought I'd hear that from you.”

“You need to make a full recovery, first.”

Trish nodded. Staying at home wasn't bad at all. It just got a bit boring sometimes. “How's everyone else?”

“Doppio still has a fever but he'll be fine.”

“And Dad?”

“Dad's fine too, Trishie.”

Trish dipped a piece of bread into the creamy broth and chewed hungrily. She narrowed her eyes, scanning Valentine. He had lost more weight, his cheeks had sunk into the hollows of his skull. There were dark lines under his eyes and a small wound on his bottom lip. Small signs, but Trish was able to notice them.

“You fought again, didn't you?” He didn't need to answer that. “Funny, do you love my Dad?”

“I do,” he admitted.

“Then why don't you tell him!” Trish demanded. “Why are you so afraid of your own feelings?”

“It's not feelings I'm afraid of.” His voice was hoarse, as if coming out after years. Valentine wasn't sitting straight for once. He was hunched over, eyes on the floor, twidling his thumbs. “It's consequences.” He leaned back on the chair, busying himself with the curled ends of his hair. “Do you know what 'Don't Ask – Don't Tell' is?”

“Can't say I'm familiar...”

“Well. It was the official United States policy regarding the service of homosexual and bisexual folk in the army that was instituted by the Clinton administration in 1994. It lasted until 2011. The act prohibited homosexual and bisexual people from disclosing their sexual preferences while in the army. In turn, the superiors of the army were forbidden from looking into the sexual preferences of those serving under them. If, by any chance, any homosexual or bisexual talked about their preferences while serving in the US Army, they would be dishonorably discharged without a second thought.

As you already know, I enlisted after I finished university. That was in 2004, while DADT was still in effect. During my training, I met a guy, a kid from Georgia whose only dream in life was to serve the country and honor his family. We hit it off immediately, he was the type of friend I never knew I needed. Just a simple man, not overdramatic like...literally all of my friends. We both knew there was something stronger going on but we didn't acknowledge it. Until one night, when we went drinking with twenty other people, and we managed to slip away long enough to make clear what we wanted from one another.

We were very cautious at first, we were both afraid of what would happen if he were found out. He was in the closet and I couldn't bear the thought of disappointing my family again. But I guess enthusiasm took over. we got careless, did the same mistakes your Dad and I did. As you'd expect, we were found out. Miraculously, everyone turned a blind eye to what the son of General Valentine did in his spare time. But my partner was forced into confessing. And so, he was dishonorably discharged.

His family shunned him, all his friends turned their backs to him. He had just gotten out of community college, there weren't many things he could do. I was...gone for six months and when I returned, I looked everywhere for him. I found him two years later at a homeless shelter in DC. I offered him help but he refused it. Every time I offered to help him, he pushed me away. He hated me. I'd hate me, too. I was the reason why his life had been ruined. His family hated me for corrupting their son and getting away with it. He was found dead in a park three months later, died of hypothermia.

I ruined his life, Trish. And he was only twenty-five. I robbed that kid of his future, I robbed a family of their son, all because I couldn't learn from my mistakes.” A deep, dry breath, blue eyes looking at her for the first time, lids heavy, jaw clenched. “It's not feelings I'm afraid of. It's consequences. I will never forgive myself if I hurt my family in any way. I finally have kids of my own, and I would rather kill myself in the most gruesome way than hurt or disappoint my boys. Scarlet put her faith in me and I can't betray that. I can't just throw everything I've achieved into the flames because of your father.”

“From what I've pieced together, your relationship has been going on for years,” Trish provoked, hoping to knock some sense into her godfather. “It's not like he suddenly decided he loves you and wants to ruin your life. You started it.”

“I know,” Valentine sighed, greatly surprising her. He looked exhausted. “And now I'm ending it.”

He stood up abruptly and forced a concerned smile on his face. “If you sleep now, you'll feel better when you wake up. I'll drop by later to check on you guys but please call me immediately if you need anything, okay sweetie?”

“Okay.” Valentine ruffled Trish's hair and turned to leave. “Hey, Funny,” she called as he was opening the door.

“What is it?”

“Thank you for taking care of me.”

“You don't have to thank me, Trish. Any loving parent would care for their child without a second thought.”

Then Diavolo doesn't love me, Trish thought bitterly but quickly changed her mind. Diavolo was too confusing of a man to be categorized as a normal human being. Trish never considered her father's feelings. She had only ever seen him express anger or irritation. But he had to be capable of love, otherwise why bother with Valentine? What about her mother? Questions, questions, all bumbling inside her head. Trish was curious. She was going to solve the mystery called Diavolo. But first-

“Siri,” she croaked at her phone right before falling asleep, “remind me to get these idiots back together.”

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 


It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

 

 

 

 

 

Sundays were family days. Every Sunday, the entire extended Joestar family would gather at Jonathan's house to have lunch together, much to Dio's eternal chagrin. That Sunday was very special, as it would be Narancia's first big Joestar lunch. Jonathan had been planning it for two weeks, making sure all of the family and friends managed to make some time in their busy schedules for the newest member of the family. Dio had no other choice but to accept the invasion of two dozen annoying busybodies in his home. But the one thing he would never fully accept no matter how hard Jonathan tried, was Jotaro. Just seeing the man pollute the air of his estate made Dio's skin crawl. He crossed the threshold so casually, smugly, accompanied by that frog he called a husband and his two kids. Surprisingly, Dio had taken a liking to Jolyne, unbeknownst to her father and Pucci. He liked the girl for a plethora of reasons, especially because of her fashion taste and complete disregard for the rules Jotaro set. Jolyne was always fun to have around and Dio found himself looking forward to chatting with his niece after lunch.

After the food had been thoroughly eaten, Dio led Jolyne into the living room to enjoy some brandy and fashion talk. Right as he was wondering how his day hadn't been ruined yet, he saw it; there Polnareff was, nonchalantly sitting in Dio's favorite seat by the piano, scarfing down that day's dessert. Dio caught the Frenchman mid-sneeze. After sneezing his heart out, Polnareff grabbed the edge of Dio's beloved, handmade brocade drapes, recently delivered from Milano, and wiped his snot with it. Dio felt his blood run cold, what little color he had in his face vanish at the horrid sight. Dio stood at the doorway, mortified, not sure whether to look at Polnareff or at his defiled drapes.

Kill him? No, that would be too easy, too obvious. Polnareff needed to suffer slowly, needed to be fully punished for his despicable crime.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 


Ever seen those absolutely mundane and pointless Buzzfeed videos of people trying to walk their cats? Yeah, that was Iggy during his morning walks. While he was a very energetic little bastard, Iggy was the boss of himself. He took walks whenever he pleased and lived life as he pleased. As a stray. Ever since he was taken in by Polnareff and Avdol, Iggy had to fight for such liberties. Sure, he had all the food and love in the world but he was a little bastard above all. So when Polnareff excitedly bounced down the stairs and announced that he would be taking his bestest friend in the whole wide world for a morning walk, Iggy craved death. Regardless of his wishes, Polnareff put him in a little sweater and a harness and dragged him out to the chilly late October morning.

Once outside, Polnareff breathed in the air greedily. Morning dew still hovered over the tranquil neighborhood. Dawn had barely arrived, the first few rays of sunlight appearing on the east. Polnareff stood on the porch for a few seconds, just looking around. His neighbors had put on their Halloween gear, getting ready for the celebration. Jonathan had told him that there was going to be an HOA meeting soon, to discuss how they would be celebrating. Honestly, Polnareff was excited.

As he made his way to the forest, he passed by the most grim-looking house in the street, at the edge of the road, surrounded by a tall fence. Diavolo had increased security since Polnareff's intrusion last summer. But Polnareff was far from disheartened. He was going to catch this guy, one way or another.

Speaking of Diavolo, Polnareff found Valentine in the forest, talking with Jonathan while walking their dogs. Polnareff was about to call out to the two men when he noticed their expressions. Valentine, devoid or ridiculously expensive suits and heeled shoes, looked very young and afraid, sharing his worries with Jonathan, who was listening to him intently, with the expression of a concerned father. Polnareff was hoping to catch bits and pieces of their conversation when Jonathan noticed him, instantly flashing him a big smile.

"Jean Pierre!" he shouted, voice echoing around the woods. "Good morning!"

Iggy skittered over to Jonathan and lovingly demanded attention from the angelic man. "Good morning, Jonathan. Mr. Valentine."

Valentine gave him a curt nod, face as frozen as his deep blue eyes. Mysterious guy. Polnareff remembered him vaguely when they were younger, as an occasional guest to some big gathering, like Jonathan's wedding and most birthdays. A true American hero, a devout family man, a son, a husband, a father... Perfectly neutral, though sometimes his gorgeous visage could hide his dirty deeds. He was admittedly the most normal out of Dio's friends but Polnareff couldn't help but wonder; what sort of person fell in love with Diavolo, what sort of man could love this monster so truly and deeply to risk his future repeatedly for his sake? Was Valentine a monster himself, or was Diavolo human after all?

He spared Polnareff a frigid glance as he strode by, haughty and oozing with arrogance, even in magenta Juicy Couture sweats and the biggest Balenciaga coat Polnareff had ever seen. He halted, knuckles white around the leash's handle. "Jonathan, are you coming?"

"I'll be right with you. I'll see you at the meeting, right, Jean Pierre?"

"Sure. Have a nice day."

"You too!"

The rest of the walk was uneventful. Once again, Iggy waged war against the neighborhood pigeons and decided trash was the most delectable breakfast. To prevent his feisty little dog from getting even more distracted, Polnareff picked him in his arms and carried him back home, while whistling some cheerful tune. As Polnareff got ready to unlock his house's door, he noticed a bright orange flyer stuck on the porch's wooden floor. Intrigued, he leaned down to pick it up.

"The Mansion of Death! Abandoned by God, this cursed corner of the Earth awaits you and your courageous friends to take upon the dark spirits that dwell within its dark halls! Are you up to the challenge?" Polnareff read. He whistled, impressed. "Spooky."

Iggy dashed to his bed like a fat, hairy bullet once inside, and Polnareff walked into the kitchen. There, he found Avdol sitting on the table, sipping on some fragrant coffee. Polnareff pressed his smiling mouth against his boyfriend's forehead and sat down next to him.

"How was your walk?"

"Nothing special. Saw Jonathan and Valentine. They looked like they were having a serious conversation."

"They probably were. I'm not an expert on the subject but Valentine's private life seems like a mess." He sighed. "What's that you're holding?"

Polnareff looked down, just then realizing he had brought the flyer inside. "An ad for a haunted house." Polnareff handed Avdol the flyer. "Wanna check it out? Seems like a fun Halloween activity."

Avdol read the ad with squinted eyes. He snorted before crumbling the paper and tossing it on the table. "Don't tell me you believe this mumbo jumbo..."

"You don't?"

"Of course not!" said the part-time fortune teller, clearly not understanding irony. "Come on, Jean Pierre. This is probably just some tacky exhibit aiming to scare the shit out of teenagers."

Polnareff pouted. "Then we won't have any problem! Come on! It'll be fun!"

"It's a waste of time and money."

"No!" Polnareff paused. His lips were pulled up by a sly grin. "Are you scared, Muhammad?"

"I know what you're playing at, Jean Pierre, and it's not going to work," Avdol chimed, smugly sipping on some coffee.

Polnareff sauntered over to the counter and poured himself a mug. "You're just scared," he decided, "and you don't want to admit it."

"You're being immature."

"Maybe. But you know what you are?"

"What?"

"Scared."

Avdol closed his eyes and inhaled sharply. He could have so easily avoided Polnareff's bait, but he didn't. Avdol was a proud man and when he felt that his ego and everything he stood for were at stake, he couldn't back down.

"Very well," he suddenly said, putting an end to the conversation by standing up and going to feed his precious bird. "We will go to this stupid thing only because I want to prove you wrong."

Polnareff could only smile cheekily at that.

 

 

 


 

 

 


After Jonathan's pleas, the neighbors managed to shut up. They were all once again gathered in one of the conference rooms at the yacht club, sitting in front of the HOA council. There were snacks and drinks laid out on foldable plastic tables. The sky outside was pitch black, every now and again lit up by a bolt of lightning. The vicious rain was whipping against the windows and the lights were flickering ever so slightly. And as if the scenery wasn't horror movie-ish enough, the doors were suddenly thrown open by the dark silhouette of a man looming on the doorway.

Diavolo stepped inside the room casually, face a mask of stone. He grabbed a chair and dragged it across the floor, making it produce a vile screeching sound. He eventually stopped when he reached Doppio. He sat down next to his underboss and folded his arms, putting his legs on the table nearby.

"Well," Valentine started, eyes cold and lips pressed in a thin line, "nice of you to join us."

"You bet your ass it is. I still live in this goddamn neighborhood and I demanded to be included in...whatever the fuck it is you're doing here."

There was a brief staring contest between the two men. Valentine sighed and averted his gaze, bringing it back to the papers in front of him. "Before you so rudely interrupted us, we were trying to decide on a theme for the Halloween party."

"Why does there need to be a theme?" Joseph asked. "We tried having one every year and every year it ended in complete failure."

"Last year's Marvel party was successful..."

"Because everyone dressed up as Loki and you were Captain America, Funny. Why can't we just be free and pick our costumes ourselves?"

Jotaro groaned. "You're gonna dress up like fucking slutty witch again, aren't you?"

"This might come as a surprise but I, Dio, agree with Joseph's idea."

Silence. "Please don't dress up as a slutty vampire again," Jonathan begged in a small voice.

"I think it's pretty clear most of us don't want a theme," Kars said. "Why don't we focus on other details instead, like who's going to be organizing the party and stuff."

Caesar raised a hand. "Who's gonna plan everything? All of us are hella busy, at least I know we are."

That much was true. Kids, jobs, daily life, it would seem that the neighbors couldn't take it upon themselves to throw a successful party. Jolyne raised her hand but Jotaro's glare cut her off. The lively chatter and glancing around in the room paused when Johnny raised his hand.

"We can do it," he shrugged.

Valentine looked at the younger man over his glasses. "We?"

"Gyro and I. We can get our friends to help."

Now, Valentine was generally well-spoken and polite, especially in front of an audience, but the recent developments in his personal life had pushed his patience to the limit. He snorted loudly, giving Johnny a mocking little smile. "I understand that you are very experienced in frat parties and orgies but this isn't the case here."

Johnny opened his mouth to respond appropriately to that but Gyro's hand on his shoulder stopped him. "I admit, we may not look like responsible adults-"

"You aren't."

"-but we can throw a party the way you guys want it. We've been helping Diego with the wedding planning, we have some good ideas. And we have time, something none of you have."

The proposal itself was very tempting, though there was some hesitation, given Johnny and Gyro's tendency to...fuck things up.

"There, the silence is the answer you need."

"I think we should let them do it."

"Jonathan, I suggest you keep your feelings for your cousin out of this and see things realistically."

"I think it's a good idea, too," Kakyoin mused. "What do we have to lose?"

"Our lives, our fortunes, couple of body parts." Valentine shook his head, somehow managing to bring back his practiced politician's smile with terrifying ease. "Doesn't matter what we say. Our dear president has the last word."

All eyes fell on Kira, who had been more or less zoning out for this entire meeting. He looked at Valentine, who was smiling brightly at him, face shining with hope and arrogance. True, they had been friends for the biggest part of their lives, but Valentine had been a self-righteous asshole recently by not excepting his best friend's double identity as a ferocious serial killer. How dare he.

"Johnny and Gyro can do it," Kira decided and his word was law.

Valentine shot him a look of betrayal and disbelief. "Doesn't matter," he said, "you're gonna end up fucking up anyway."

"You sit here and watch, Valentine! We're gonna throw the best party this neighborhood has ever seen!"

"Maybe not the best but we'll do an adequate job."

"If you two plan anything remotely close to a successful Halloween party, I'll dress up as a slutty bunny."

Johnny's eyes widened. A nearly-unhinged grin took over one half of his face. "Do you swear that, Valentine?"

"Excuse me."

"Do you swear that you'll dress up as a slutty bunny if we throw a successful Halloween party?"

Valentine chose to ignore all the warning glares his wife was sending him. "Sure," he agreed. "What will happen if you lose?"

"We'll move out."

"Deal."

"Johnny, you're taking this too far-"

"Great! And so it begins!"

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


The Mansion of Death was an abandoned three-floor house on the outskirts of town. Even though it was shrouded in an eerie, vaguely haunting aura, Avdol could only roll his eyes as Polnareff led him inside, their brave hound looking equally tired. Creaking floors, shadows lurking around every corner, objects suddenly falling... Every horror movie cliche put together inside an outlandishly kitschy deserted house. Honestly, this place had to be a very kinky whorehouse in its day, or maybe a strip club, judging by the color palette of the worn furniture and dusty wallpaper.

The two men and their dog traversed the empty halls in absolute darkness, save for the light from Polnareff's phone. The scratching of Iggy's nails on the wooden floor and the sound of their footsteps were the only sounds breaking the thick veil of silence. Polnareff jumped and turned at the slightest whisper of the wind, hurriedly casting his light on anything he found suspicious.

Suddenly, a loud thud shook the house to its core. Polnareff yelped and jumped, dropping his phone on the floor. "What was that?" he whispered.

"Probably the wind."

"Sounds like the wind has been hitting the gym lately!" Another thud, louder, closer. Polnareff jumped up and started running. "That's it!" he declared. "I'm getting out of here!"

"Jean Pierre!" Avdol called after him.

Polnareff wasn't listening. He didn't dare look back, another Orpheus trying to resist the calling voice of Eurydice. He looked around in a frenzy, panicking even more as his surroundings grew unfamiliar. His feet carried him in front of a heavy, wooden door. That had to be a basement exit. Polnareff could feel the cold wind coming through the crack. It opened with little resistance, the old, rusty hinges giving out a sharp screech. Avdol and Iggy in tow, Polnareff walked inside the mysterious room.

While the other areas in the mansion had been frightening, this one was just bizarre. The room was well-lit by a series of fluorescent lamps hanging from the ceiling. It looked like a playroom, cold and devoid of life. The several outdated, 90s consoles and computers seemed as if they hadn't been touched for a long time. But the weirdest thing about the room was the selection of dolls neatly placed upon a brown couch. If anyone could call these things dolls at all. They weren't the type kids normally played with, rather some crude, muppet-like things, with glassy eyes and wide mouths. One of the dolls pulled Polnareff's gaze like a magnet and he reached for it without thinking. It had a wider mouth than the rest and green clothes, giving it the appearance of a humanoid frog. But Polnareff knew better. The fiery mop of hair and cherry earrings clearly showed that this was supposed to be Kakyoin.

Still holding the doll, Polnareff turned to look at Avdol with horror in his eyes. Avdol approached him with furrowed brows, examining the doll with obvious concern. He put his common sense to work immediately, trying to find a logical explanation for this.

“It's simple,” he murmured after a moment of thought. “This is a prank.”

“A prank?”

“Yes. Think about it, Jean Pierre. Out of all the people in the neighborhood, we're the only ones that showed up. You know how the kids love haunted houses, there's no way they'd miss this if they saw the flyer!”

Polnareff looked at the doll before glancing around the room. Some of the fear had left his face, now replaced with confusion. “Yes, but-”

“If we're the only ones that saw the ad, then that means we're the only ones that were supposed to see it!”

“But who would do such a thing?” Diavolo? Nah, that guy was a brute. If he wanted to kill Polnareff, he would have done so ages ago. The only thing stopping him was Valentine's disapproving glare everytime he attempted to.

Sporting the knowing smirk of a great detective, Avdol reached for the doll. “I think the answer is right here.”

“Kakyoin?” Polnareff questioned.

“Who else? You know how much he loves shitting on you...”

“That's true. I still don't get the doll thing, though.”

“I suppose he did it to spook us,” Avdol shrugged. He nonchalantly tossed the doll with the rest and marched out of the room, chest puffed.

Now that the mystery had been more or less solved, Polnareff was able to relax. While on their way to the exit, he could only think about going home and rubbing his victory in Kakyoin's face.

“I can't believe you fell for any of this, Jean Pierre,” Avdol said. “This place is childish! It's every horror cliché put together!” He noticed some spooky writing on the wall and rolled his eyes. How creative. “Look at this; 'after you see this writing and turn around, you will die'. Pffft. What a load of b-”

Another sound. An eerie, indescribable sound. A sudden gust of wind and a foul smell, faint but there. Darkness, as if the moon had been turned off. Polnareff chuckled and looked around.

“Very funny,” he smiled, folding his arms over his chest. “Yeah, I get it. I shouldn't have believed this crap. You can come out now.”

Polnareff knew just how stubborn Avdol could get sometimes. Seems like he was interested in playing games. “Okay, I get it! Cut it out and let's go home! Iggy's tired.”

There was silence, interrupted only by the echo of Polnareff's voice. Weird. It felt like the house around him had been suddenly swallowed by endless, abysmal darkness. This was getting kind of annoying. And spooky.

“If you jump at me, I'll punch you in the dick and none of us want that. Especially me...”

No response. Polnareff looked around in vain, trying to pierce this total darkness. A shiver raced down his spine, making the hairs on his arms stand. There was an ugly feeling brewing in the pits of his stomach.

“Iggy,” he called softly, “come here, buddy.” His dog, no matter how much of a shithead he was, was a very smart guy. If Polnareff sensed danger, Iggy already knew it was coming. And yet this time, Polnareff didn't hear the familiar sound of his dog's little legs approaching him. He didn't hear his ragged little breaths or angry little snarls at literally everything.

“Iggy?” Polnareff called again, voice sounding small and feeble in the dark. Was this Kakyoin's doing? Were they all in this together? No matter how hard he tried, Polnareff couldn't remember anything he might have done that was so bad to deserve this.

“Muhammad?” Silence. Polnareff took the first step forward, shakily reaching for his phone's flashlight. He was on the first floor, in what appeared to be another lounge. He saw leather armchairs, a stocked bar, and a pool table but no sign of his boyfriend or dog.

He kept telling himself that they were in this together, in this conspiracy against him. Polnareff hurriedly made his way to the exit, cursing the size of this place under his breath. He was too afraid to look back, almost feeling an unfamiliar breath on his neck. They were outside, he told himself, waiting for him. Yeah. That was it.

The door seemed like an exit to another world, a free dimension, a world where the sun was shining and Polnareff wasn't abandoned in Satan's vacation house. He raced for it with the joy of a seven-year-old and yanked it open without a moment of hesitation, finding himself in front of a pair of severed arms. And not just any arms. Polnareff knew exactly who owned those heavy golden bracelets. Fear and confusion struck his heart all at once and Polnareff screamed as he had never screamed before.


“I knew I could count on you.”

“Oh, please,” said Vanilla Ice. “You know there's nothing I wouldn't do for you.”

Sitting in the car parked across the house, Dio grinned at the sight of Polnareff crying. “Let's just leave him like that for a little while. It's what he deserves.”

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Jonathan looked around the house, visibly impressed. To make more room for their guests, Johnny and Gyro had moved all the furniture to the side. The living room was being used as an impromptu dance floor, with classic rock blasting through the speakers. The décor was on point, consisting of pumpkins lovingly carved by Lucy, ghosts, spiders, and everything appropriate for the spooky season. The snacks fit the aesthetic, too; from mozzarella sticks shaped as fingers to jello eyeballs, one glance around the room was enough to verify that the kids had taken care of everything.

“This is impressive!” Jonathan beamed. “Well done!”

“Save the compliments, Jonathan,” said Gyro. “We just want our reward.”

Valentine's face paled. “This is barely successful! My sons could have thrown a better party.”

“Oh, come on, Funny! It's got everything!”

“The bare minimum. The guests haven't even arrived yet.”

Johnny sat back on his chair, enjoying the scene with an arrogant smile. Valentine was like a cornered animal, desperately clawing for an escape, trapped by his own words. Sure, this wasn't a Halloween extravaganza but the party wasn't lacking either. No matter how Valentine looked at it, this was a success.

“And what about the entertainment, huh? What are the guests supposed to-”

“We have a karaoke, a DDR machine and a home cinema in our bedroom.”

“-do.” Valentine pouted. He looked at Jonathan pleadingly but Jonathan only smiled back.

Grinning widely, Gyro offered him a paper bag. “Hope it's your size!”

Saying nothing more, Valentine angrily yanked the paper bag and strode away as haughtily as he could in his position.

Soon enough, the guests started pouring in, each sporting a different costume. Johnny and Gyro, each dressed as one half of a whole horse, were there to greet their neighbors. The Kawajiris arrived first, with Shinobu dressed as a witch and Hayato dressed as a skeleton. Kira had put on cat ears after his wife had begged him to. Josuke, Jolyne, and Giorno dressed up as Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian respectively. Doppio had chosen to dress up as a Roman emperor while Trish and Narancia were both wearing iconic Britney Spears outfits. For another year, Diego had chosen to dress up as a dinosaur, managing to fit his petite body in a full costume. Hot Pants and Lucy had dressed up as Mario and Luigi, though the mustache on Hot Pants' face made her look anything but a friendly plumber.

“The party is going great,” Speedwagon said, munching on some nachos while observing Doppio and Scarlet's tearing it up on the DDR to the Undertale soundtrack. The way that woman could move in her skin-tight vinyl Batwoman suit and stripper heels was honestly impressive. “I think the boys overdid themselves!”

“Yeah, they did.”

“You okay, Jojo? Doesn't look like you're enjoying yourself.”

“No, I'm just...I haven't seen Dio in a while.”

Speedwagon rolled his eyes. Always Dio. Ever since they were children, it had always been fucking Dio. “It's not like he's dead or something. He'll probably arrive soo-”

“GOOD EVENING, PEASANTS!” Dio's voice boomed over the entire party, effectively drowning every other sound. The man stood at the doorway, arms stretched wide, showing off his newly whitened teeth. Dio's costume could be anything from a Victoria's Secret model to a slutty vampire. He was dressed... honestly, where had he even found those clothes? He was wearing a black, glittery, vinyl leotard that outlined the shape of his toned body perfectly. He was wearing crotchless golden pants, held up by a gaudy green belt with a heart-shaped buckle. Dio was also wearing a pair of golden high heels and a flowing red velvet cape. Meanwhile, Giorno craved death.

“Cat got your tongue, Jojo?”

Jonathan opened and closed his mouth several times. Dio was a very attractive man and Jonathan was lucky enough to have confirmed that fact several times. And Dio definitely knew how to flaunt his assets, though he sometimes did it less...elegantly.

“And what are you supposed to be, exactly?”

“I'm a vampire, dearest Robert. Guess a billion dollars couldn't buy you an appreciation for art and fashion.”

“No, but they could buy me a gag reflex. And you're triggering it.”

“Hilarious.”

“I only try.”

“I need a drink,” Jonathan mumbled as he stood up.

Dio's green smiled dropped once Jonathan was out of earshot. He leaned in, amber eyes gleaming dangerously surrounded by green eyeshadow. “I'm going to suck his dick when we get home.”

Speedwagon leaned in as well, forehead almost touching Dio's. “And I hope you choke on it.”

Yet even though the party was an obvious success, it was obvious to Johnny that something was missing. He wheeled into the living room and approached the couch, where Kars, Trish, and Scarlet were offering backing vocals to Doppio's 'I Need A Hero' performance.

“Great party, Johnny. Congrats.”

“Yeah, thanks. I put a bet on it.”

“I know.”

“With your husband.”

“I know.”

“So where is he?”

Scarlet looked around, suddenly realizing her spouse's absence. “I have no idea, actually. Haven't seen him all evening.”

Johnny frowned, fingers drumming impatiently on the arm of his chair. “That won't do. You have to go find him-”

“'I have to'?” she repeated, eyes glaring daggers under the cowl. Even in all the vinyl and the blood-red wig, she was still strangely intimidating. “Careful who you're talking to, now.”

As if on cue, Blackmore approached Scarlet and tugged on her cape like a demanding toddler. He was obviously very anxious, shifting from one leg to the other. “Ma'am? We have a...problem.”

“Problem? What happened?”

“It's...uh...It's Mr. Valentine. He's locked himself in the closet and he's not coming out.”

(Diavolo stared into the camera like he was in The Office.)

“I've been trying to get him out for an hour now but he won't listen to me. He says he can't do it.”

“He's probably embarrassed,” said Kars. “I'll come with.”

Just as Blackmore had said, Valentine had locked himself into the closet. Scarlet was the first one to try and get him out of there. “Honey?”

“Go away!”

Scarlet sighed. “Baby, you have to come out. You swore.”

“The bet was to put on the costume not walk around with it! I'm not coming out dressed like that!”

“Just for five minutes. Then you can come back home!”

“No!”

“Is it really that bad?”

“Yes!”

“Can I come see?”

“No!”

Defeated, Scarlet looked at the others for support. After her, Diavolo approached the door. “Hey.”

“Ugh, not you, too.”

Diavolo took a deep, calming breath. For all his maturity and intelligence, Valentine was really childish sometimes. “Is the costume too revealing?”

“I'm practically naked, Diavolo!”

Diavolo and Scarlet shared looks in thirsty solidarity. Valentine had to come out of there ASAP. “I'm sure you're not as bad as Dio.”

There was a pause. “What is he wearing?” Valentine inquired, sounding a lot like his teenage self.

“Crotchless pants and the most disgusting shoes I've ever seen. He looks like a slutty banana.”

Valentine laughed. “I'd love to see that.”

“You can. You just have to come out of there.”

“Like hell I am! Take a pic and send it to me.”

“No, you have to see it yourself.”

“Fine, I'll ask someone else to do it.”

“It's just a Halloween costume!” Kars said.

“Not for you! I have a reputation! I have a family! I will be running for president! And I can't have evidence of me dressed up as a slutty bunny.”

“Yet there's evidence of you dressed in literally nothing.” Silence. “Come on, Funny. You've worn less.”

“That was a long time ago. And I was younger. And a nobody.”

“You were never a nobody. You were one of the most recognizable faces in the fashion industry. And a couple of hundred million people have seen you in less. All of us in this room have seen you in nothing. So, stop being a baby and just come out.”

“No.” Scarlet groaned in frustration. For a moment there, it seemed that Kars would succeed. As his old manager and mentor, he was the one with the most possibilities of getting him out of there.

“You made a promise.”

“God will understand. “

Suddenly, Diavolo charged at the closet with all his might. The frame rattled but the door remained closed. Growling like an angered bull, Diavolo dropped his weight on the door again but it didn't cave in. It seemed that something was blocking it from the inside, though a few more hits like that, and the wooden shutters would be mere scraps.

“What are you doing?” Valentine yelled from his hiding spot.

“You either come out yourself, or I break down the door and drag you!”

“Violence is not the answer to the problem!” Scarlet shouted, putting herself in front of Diavolo before he could charge at the closet once again.

He paused, huffing, eyes shining with ire. “You got a better idea?”

God, just talking to one another was awkward. “As a matter of fact, I do, yeah. Blackmore!”

“Ma'am.”

“Call Frank. Tell him to get here as soon as he can.”

“Right away, Mrs. Valentine.”

Diavolo took a step back. “F-Frank?” he stammered. He suddenly felt like an animal desperate to protect its territory. A lone, injured tiger, intimidated by the archnemesis of every lover; the ex.

“Yes,” Scarlet replied coolly. “Do you have an issue with that?”

Diavolo knew the question was rhetorical. Yes, he had an issue. A lot, actually. To keep the remaining drops of dignity he had left intact, Diavolo raised his head, preparing an appropriate answer. “Why would I?” To further emphasize how much he did NOT care, Diavolo sat on Scarlet's vanity and put his feet on the dresser. “I don't give a shit.”

The minutes passed slowly, testing their patience. Valentine wouldn't answer to any of their questions and pleas. Finally, after half an hour, the door opened, announcing the arrival of their long-awaited possible savior.

“Alright,” Ferdinand said, dropping his heavy tan coat on the floor, revealing a slutty cat costume beneath, “where is he?”

Scarlet sighed in relief. If there was anyone capable of getting Valentine out of there, it had to be Ferdinand. “Oh, thank God. You even wore a matching costume in solidarity.”

“Solidarity? Scarlet, I'm not wearing this costume for Funny. I'm wearing it because I look hella good in it.” And indeed he did. Wearing a pair of black, patent leather stilettos, Ferdinand carried himself to the closet and knocked.

“Funny?” he called. No response. “Funny?”

“Wha- Frank? Is that you?”

“Yes. Are you alright?”

“Yeah. I must have dozed off in here.”

“Funny.”

“Yes?”

“Come out.”

“No.”

“Is the costume really that bad?”

“Yes.”

“You've worn less, you know.”

“I know. But I'm not 17 anymore, Frank.”

“I know. You used to have balls back then.”

“Excuse me.”

“The Funny Valentine I knew would step out wearing only the bunny ears.”

“The Funny Valentine you knew didn't have a career in politics.”

“I bet you're being dramatic. The costume can't be that bad.”

“It is.”

“Show me yours and I'll show you mine?”

There was a short moment of silence before Valentine spoke again. “Very well.”

For the first time since Valentine had barricaded himself in there, the closet's door opened ever so slightly, allowing access to Ferdinand and Ferdinand alone. Diavolo stood up, visibly upset.

“Why is he going in there?”

“Does it matter? At least we're getting Funny out of there.”

Diavolo scoffed. “Doesn't matter. They can do what they want in there, I don't give a shit.”

There was a hushed conversation between the two men in the closet. After a few seconds, Ferdinand stepped out, holding the door open for Valentine, blushing blood red from his neck to the tips of his ears. He hadn't exaggerated about the costume; he was wearing a tight, white bodysuit, barely covering the essentials, white fishnet tights, white stilettos, white bunny ears and of course, a fluffy bunny tail. He was trying really hard to turn his face into an unbreakable mask of dignity and haughtiness but he wasn't exactly succeeding. He crossed his arms over his chest, trying to make himself as possible.

“There he is,” Ferdinand as he wrapped one arm around Valentine's shoulders.

“Ugh.”

“It's not so bad,” Kars commented.

“That's because you're practically naked!” Valentine groaned in frustration and buried his flaming face in his hands as Ferdinand led him out of his house and into the party. “I'm going to die, Frank.” He suddenly grabbed Ferdinand by the shoulders, shaking him. “Avenge my untimely death, Frank. Kill them. Make them suffer. Zeppeli, Johnny, Steel...I want them all dead for this!”

“I think you need some alcohol, Funjamin.”

Valentine looked at the offered selection of booze with hostility. Last time he had gotten drunk, he had woken up on another continent, in the arms of a man he was desperate to avoid. But maybe, just maybe...

“You know what?” He took a solo cup and filled it with beer. "Let's get this bread.”

 

 

 


 

 

 

One thing about organizing a party that Johnny and Gyro hadn't thought was the cleaning once everything was over. The night had been a huge success, everyone had had a lot of fun and it showed in the remains. Most of the neighbors were still there, although catatonic. Jotaro was showing Kakyoin how to shotgun a can of beer, Jonathan was trying on Dio's crotchless pants, Joseph was trying to teach Shizuka the lyrics to Mr. Brightside, Valentine was a drunk mess and Trish and Narancia were trying to pole dance on the porch.

Gyro stepped into the kitchen, dragging the third garbage bag behind him. “Thanks for helping me, guys. Much appreciated.”

“We're sending you good vibes, mate.”

“I don't help people that eat my sandwiches.”

“I can help you if you want, Gyro.”

“Nah, Luce. You're fine.” Deciding that he needed a break after approximately ten minutes of work, Gyro cracked open a can of warm beer and started strolling around the house, inspecting the damage. He found Caesar kneeling in front of the toilet, cursing Joseph while puking his guts out. Speedwagon was at his side, comforting him. Johnny was laying face-first against the carpet in the living room. Gyro made no attempt to wake him up. Damn bastard deserved to wake up with a sore neck after letting Gyro deal with this mess himself. Still, Gyro tossed a blanket over him. Bastard, but still cute and worthy of love.

“Sup, cheese boy.” Valentine was laying on the couch, legs against the back, hair spilling on the floor. He was rubbing his thighs together, balancing one white Louboutin on the tip of his big toe.

“You know, Valentine? You're kind of fun when you're drunk. And you look good, not gonna lie," Gyro admitted as he took a seat next to the other man.

“Thank you, gyrocopter. 'preciate that.”

“Alright,” Diavolo sighed. “Let's get you home.”

“Not you,” Valentine squirmed. “Where's my wife? I want Scarlet. Did you see how cute she was tonight? Very sexy.”

“Yes, I did. Now stand up.”

“You don't tell me what to fucking do!”

Valentine attempted to get on his feet, falling on the floor in the process. He proudly straightened his bunny ears and flipped his hair. Diavolo tried grabbing him but Valentine jumped away, eyes narrowed like a fussy cat's. “Don't you dare fucking touch me!”

“What's the matter with you?” Diavolo hissed. Drunk Valentine had always been horny Valentine, maybe a bit sentimental. But never so finicky.

“If you ever look at me again, I'll have you beaten to death, Diavolo!”

“Once we get home.”

“No! Get your fucking hands off of me!” He staggered back, supporting himself on the door. “Haven't you had enough already?”

“What the hell are you talking about!?”

Valentine let out a shrill laugh. He threw the door open and walked outside, his drunkness making him immune to the piercing cold. Diavolo followed, grumbling under his breath. Gyro did, too. A warm cup of tea was always welcome. Diavolo caught up to Valentine as he was trying to balance himself on the grass. He grabbed the blond by the arm and spun him around.

“Let go of me.”

“What are you fucking talking about?”

“Don't fucking touch me!” Valentine pushed Diavolo away, glaring at him with angry, foggy eyes. “And don't pretend you don't know what you did.” Diavolo had done a lot of things one would frown upon but as he was a complete narcissist, he failed to detect his faults. Especially when it came to Valentine. “You piece of shit,” he hissed. “How could you do this to me?”

“For the last fu-”

“How could you take her away from me?” Diavolo paused. Her? Who was he talking about? “I raised her, I cared for her like she was my own.”

Trish. He was talking about Trish. Diavolo licked his dry lips out of reflex. He took a hesitant step forward, slightly extending his arm, as if approaching a stray cat. “We can talk about this back home.”

“No! I don't want to talk about anything with you!” Alarmed by the sounds of arguing. Gyro was joined by his friends. “How could you condemn a little girl to a life of misery because of a grudge? How could you do this to her? How could you take her away from the only home she had ever known? Do you remember how much she cried when you came to take her away?”

Diavolo dropped his arm, his entire body tensing up with anger. If Valentine wanted a fight, Diavolo was going to give it to him. “You gave her to me.”

“You took her. Are you that fucking delusional to believe that I gave my child to a monster like yourself?” Valentine lifted his head, eyes suddenly shining with a flash of clarity. The ramblings of a drunk or the bitterness of a hurt man? “You are undeserving of a child. I still can't believe how someone as disgusting as you could ever have a baby when I...I...”

He suddenly turned around and walked away. Diavolo made no move to follow him. He remained planted on the backyard, watching as Valentine made his way out through the back door, only to collapse on the pavement seconds later.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 


Love Is In The Air

 

 

The moment Erina stood up, the kids collectively shut up, eyes glued on the pile of papers she was holding in her hands. The classroom was as still and quiet as a cemetery, the silence only disturbed by the sound of Erina walking around.

"I'll admit," she started and a few of the students winced, "there was an overall improvement." A collective sigh echoed around the classroom. "Though some of you are concerning me."

Erina started handing out the tests. First was Fugo, who accepted his paper with the same blank expression as always. "Perfect A," she smiled. "You even taught me a few things. Congratulations, Pannacotta."

"Thank you, Miss Pendleton."

"No surprise here," Giorno grinned, leaning closer to Fugo. "You're the best one around."

"Thanks, Giogio."

Giorno's smile dropped. He sat back in his chair, arms folded, patiently waiting for his turn.

Erina kept going around the classroom, handing out tests and making small comments every now and again. Narancia squealed with joy when he saw his C+. Far from great but definitely an improvement, all thanks to his own persistence and Jonathan's saint-like patience. Meanwhile, Trish's face went from rosy to white to yellow when she was handed her own paper.

"Trish, I want to speak with you after class."

Trish swallowed, her saliva traveling like lead down her throat. Buccellati squeezed her hand sympathetically and Trish got the urge to cry.

"I will consider this a mishap, Giorno. Though I must admit, your performance hasn't been ideal lately."

That much was true. Much to Dio's chagrin, Giorno couldn't care less about academics. He studied just enough so not to fail his classes but other than that, he was an average student. Now, the paper sitting in front of him was an abomination. But it was also part of a greater plan.

"I knew I would fail this," the boy whined maybe a bit too loudly.

"Glad you're becoming self-aware."

"Leone."

"I just don't get this stuff. Every time I sit down to study, I get a headache!"

"Just give up. No need to strain your two remaining brain cells."

"Leone!"

"Pannacotta," Giorno called, attracting Fugo's attention. "What's your secret?"

"What?"

"You always get a perfect score. What's your secret?"

"Oh..." Fugo looked down at his paper, just then remembering its existence. He shrugged. "I guess I'm good a studying...?"

"Ingenious."

"...really?"

"Is there any way I can get you to tutor me? I can pay you if you want," he grinned, sending Fugo a cheeky wink.

"I can share my notes with you if you want."

"Then it's settled!" Giorno exclaimed, scaring the shit out of Hermes who was dozing off in the desk next to his. "I'll be waiting for you tomorrow at 7!"

After class was over, Trish stayed behind, as Erina had requested. She was standing awkwardly in front of her teacher's desk, thumbs twiddling nervously, shifting from one leg to the other. Her eyes were downcast before the lecturing even began.

"Trish," Erina started in a much softer tone than what Trish had anticipated. "Is everything alright at home?"

Trish looked up, puzzled. Saying that the situation at her house was 'alright' would be a stretch. Even in a neighborhood full of downright bizarre families, hers stood out. From her mafioso father to his overly dramatic and honestly depressing love life, there were a lot of peculiarities in Trish's life. But no tension, no violence, nothing that would disturb her.

"I guess. Nothing worth mentioning."

Erina nodded. She took a deep breath, linking her slender fingers on the desk. "Your performance has been concerning me lately. Is there something on your mind besides your studies? What about your relationship with Guido?"

"No, Mista and I are fine. Now that you mention it, I've been thinking about my future these days."

"And?"

"I really want to try modeling. I feel like it's...my thing."

Erina sighed and pressed her lips in a thin, disapproving line, sending Trish a softly admonishing glare. "Following Dad's footsteps?"

"I want to but he won't let me," Trish chuckled, hoping to lighten the mood.

"He's right you know," Erina said and she seemed like she hated herself for agreeing with Valentine. "You should prioritize your studies. Getting into a good college-"

"But I don't want to get into a good college!" Trish protested. "I want to follow my dreams."

"Even so, you should NEVER give up on your education, Trish. You're smart, you realize why that's important."

"Fine," she mumbled, just so that she could get out of this. Valentine had lectured her about this a million times and a million times his words had fallen on deaf ears. Trish knew what she wanted to do, and by God, she was going to do it, one way or another.

Erina said nothing though she knew Trish wouldn't listen to her. "I think it's time I had a little chat with your Dad, don't you think?"

Temperature unrelated, Trish felt her blood freeze in her veins. All color drained from her cheeks and cold sweat started rolling down her back. Trish had never been a model student and together with her sometimes explosive temper and tendency to be mean – and not the playful kind – gave her elementary school teachers more than enough reasons to call her Dad every now and again. Those days were long gone, having happened nearly a decade ago. But alas! The ghosts of the past had caught up to her and Trish knew there was no getting out of this.

"Are you going to call him or should I...?"

"Just tell him to come visit me tomorrow," Erina smiled and Trish nodded.

She walked to the cafeteria like a zombie, dragging her feet down the hall and dropping like a dead weight on the table her friends were sitting at. Her appetite had vanished completely and she couldn't communicate with the world around her. What the hell was she going to do? She could actually tell Diavolo to show up himself. He didn't care much about her education but he would tell Valentine about it. And Valentine would show up instead. And then he'd know. And then he'd lock her in her room and make her study until her eyes rolled out of their sockets or she got into Harvard, whichever came first.

"You okay there?" Jolyne asked her while peeling a clementine.

"No," Trish whined. She got on her elbows, hands buried into her hot pink locks. "Erina wants to meet with my parents."

"Is that bad? I thought your Dad doesn't give two shits about your education."

"He doesn't. It's just that he'll tell Funny he came to the school and then Funny's gonna come too and when he finds out I've been bullshitting my way through all my essays he'll go apeshit and make me study until I die. Like... I know he cares about me but he goes a little crazy about school."

Jolyne paid close attention to her friend's words, instantly putting her mind to work. She didn't like bragging but she had lied and cheated her way out of many parent-teacher meetings, a nearly impossible feat with Jotaro Kujo looming over her.

"What about Doppio?"

"Doppio's gonna tell Dad and Dad'd gonna tell Funny and you know the rest."

Jolyne pursed her lips. "What if your Dad comes here...but not really?"

"What do you mean?"

"What if you find someone that looks like Diavolo and get him to come here in his place?"

Trish snorted. "Right, yeah. Looking for white male, must have at least ten mesh shirts and pink hair! You know a lot of people like that?"

"Not a lot," Jolyne grinned, smugly throwing a piece of clementine in her mouth. "Just one."

 

 

 


 

 

 

 


Giorno stood in front of the mirror, not even breathing as he drew his eyeliner. It seemed fine, a bit wobbly, but thankfully obscured by his long, thick eyelashes. He teased his hair some more, having undone his braid but not his rolls. He checked his outfit, smoothing down any wrinkles. He had gone for an oversized, lavender sweater with a heart cutout on his chest, black skinny jeans, and some fuzzy socks. Cozy and cute. He stepped out of the bathroom and there was a collective whistle from the room.

"What's the occasion, Giogio?" Buccellati questioned, idly looking up from his Vogue.

"Pannacotta is coming to help me study."

The three boys exchanged glances. "Study," Mista smirked.

"Biology?" Narancia blurted and all three of them burst out laughing.

"Hilarious," Giorno grumbled. He caught the sound of the doorbell ringing. "Quickly!" he exclaimed, dragging Buccellati off the bed. "Get out!"

"And where are we supposed to go?"

"I don't know, Mista! Go to Trish's!"

"I don't like being at her place when Diavolo is there!"

"Then go to Polnareff's!" Giorno threw the door open and shoved his friends outside.

"Guys?"

Giorno snapped his head to the side, seeing Fugo standing at the staircase, looking at them with confusion. Instantly, Giorno put on a bright smile, nonchalantly flipping his golden locks. "Ah, you're here, Pannacotta."

"Uh...you told me to come? I didn't know this was going to be a group study, though."

"It's not! The guys were just leaving. Weren't you guys?"

"We were," Buccellati said. "Come on, guys. Let's go to Polnareff's."

With those three out of the picture, Fugo walked into the room and Giorno shut the door behind them. We walked to the desk and leaned against it, looking at Fugo through his heavy lids.

"So," he smiled, "what now?"

Fugo answered him by slapping an absolute unit of a folder, filled to the brim with notes, on the desk. Giorno jumped, startled by the sight. Right. Study. He sat down on his chair, still not letting himself be disappointed.

"It's still early so there's room for improvement. If you take some time every day to read my notes-"

"All this?!"

"Of course not, Giorno. That's just a quarter. I'll bring the others next week."

Without further ado, Fugo got into studying. He was very meticulous and patient, explaining every little detail to Giorno, who wasn't really paying attention to anything but his little strawberry earrings, his soft cheeks, his long fingers... He inched closer, his thigh brushing against Fugo's.

"I think it's time we took a little break, don't you?"

"Giogio, we've been studying for seven minutes." Giorno groaned, curling his lip in disgust. Fugo chuckled, moving to cup Giorno's hand gently. "I know it seems tough but you can pull through! You're smart, you just gotta believe in yourself!"

"I will," Giorno reassured him. "And I'm sure I'll do better in the next one. Especially with a teacher like yourself."

Fugo smiled and Giorno felt his mind shatter into a million little pieces. For the following hour, he tried concentrating, he really did, but he just couldn't get into it. What was Hamlet's paranoia compared to the strawberry scent of Fugo's pale blonde hair? Giorno found himself spacing out for several minutes, merely nodding in shame to whatever Fugo was telling him. Dammit! Fugo was serious, Giorno knew Fugo was going to be serious about this bullshit. He was in the zone, so eager to explain everything to Giorno, not knowing that the other boy was lost in the gleam of his eyes.

There was a gentle knock on the door and Jonathan's sweetly smiling face poked inside a second later. The man stepped into the room holding a tray with two sandwiches and two glasses of juice for the boys. "I thought you might want a snack," he said.

"Thanks, Dad."

"Thank you, Mr. Joestar."

"I should be thanking you for helping Giogio, Pannacotta."

Jonathan smiled. He noticed Giorno's pout and ruffled his hair. "Are you alright, champ?"

"Yeah. Just a bit tired."

"Tired? We just got started, dude. Come on."

Giorno looked at Jonathan pleadingly, trying to communicate his feelings. Luckily, Jonathan seemed to catch onto something. "I'll leave you boys to it, okay?"

"Yes, Dad."

"Call me if you need anything. I'll be downstairs."

The study session ended sometime after 10 PM. Giorno's disappointment was immeasurable as he watched Jonathan drive Fugo back to his house. A few weeks back they had come really close to a kiss, a brief brush of the lips. But that didn't happen. Nothing happened. Nothing ever happened. It was as if Fugo didn't know. How could he not when Giorno was so nice to him and always smiled to him and always dressed nicely? How could Fugo not know when Giorno was treating him the same way he treated everyone else?

These thoughts plagued the young Joestar's mind when he went to bed at night, denying him the right to sleep. He lay underneath his blankets, staring at the ceiling, listening to Narancia's quiet snoring. He suddenly sat up and pushed all the covers off of him. Moving carefully as not to wake Narancia, Giorno exited the room and tiptoed across the floor, to the master bedroom. He opened the door slowly, trying to make out the shapes in the dark. He found his parents sleeping on their bed. Dio had his leg and arm draped over Jonathan, holding him as close to his body as possible. He seemed very gentle when he was sleeping. Only when he was sleeping.

"Dad?" Giorno called softly, shaking Jonathan. "Dad?"

Jonathan opened his eyes in confusion, trying to realize what was going on. He noticed his son standing over him and furrowed his brows. "Giogio? Are you okay? Is Narancia alright?"

"We're both fine. Dad, can I talk to you about something?"

"Uh...sure thing, sweetie. Just let me..." Carefully, Jonathan detached Dio's limbs from his body and planted a soft kiss on top of the golden locks. He put on his slippers and followed his son out of the room and into the kitchen.

"I'm sorry for waking you up."

"Honey, there's nothing I wouldn't do for you." Jonathan fetched a box of emergency chocolate ice cream and two spoons. "Alright. What's troubling you?"

Giorno took a deep breath. "I'm in love with Pannacotta." Jonathan's eyes widened momentarily and then a knowing smile spread on his lips. "What? It's THAT obvious?"

"To me. I can always tell, Giogio. To be honest, I thought you were already dating."

"I wish we were," Giorno huffed, shoving a spoonful of chocolate ice cream in his mouth. "He just doesn't get it!"

"Have you told him how you feel?"

"Downright confess? No, never. What if he rejects me?"

"What if he doesn't?"

"What if he does?" Giorno sighed and Jonathan's heart melted. "What if he doesn't feel what I feel and I end up losing him forever?"

Giorno's concerns were justifiable but Jonathan knew exactly how to shoo them away. "Jotaro and Noriaki had a crush on each other for maybe twenty years, if not more. They kept their feelings bottled, afraid of losing a friend and being rejected. It took a lot of time, it was very stressful but they confessed to one another. And look at them now! Honey, if Jotaro can finally communicate his feelings, so can you."

"You really think so?"

"I know it. And I've seen the way Pannacotta looks at you, I've noticed how he never snaps at you. He's a very respectful young man but he needs some validation. Don't be afraid to make the first step."

"But how should I proceed? Should I just tell him how I feel?"

"That's a good start."

"But this is important! I want it to feel important. I want something big, something flashy."

Pictures of a blimp floating over the city, sporting the words 'I, Dio, have a crush on you', flashed before Jonathan's eyes. Good times. "You could serenade him."

"Stand under his house and sing?"

"You can go there with a boombox and play him a romantic song."

That was actually a cute idea, very close to Giorno's aesthetic, too. "And where am I supposed to find a boombox? Do they even still make those?"

"I have one from when your Padre and I serenaded Enrico."

"You serenaded Pucci?"

"Yes, five years ago, when Padre puked on Enrico's Versace pants. It was a rough time, Enrico wouldn't speak to him for three months."

 

 


 

 

 


"Are you expecting anyone?"

"Maybe Shinobu forgot her keys."

Kira, knowing full well who was at the door, went to answer it. Diavolo was standing at the doorway, huffing, and puffing. he marched past Kira, getting into the house. And so, Jay Gatsby walked into the living room, Nick Carraway in tow, where he locked eyes with Daisy Buchanan, who was idly standing by the window. There was silence for a few moments, broken not even by their breaths.

"Was this your plan, Yoshikage?" Valentine hissed, eyes narrowed.

"Yes. You two need to talk, the situation has gotten out of hand."

"I got nothing to say to him," Diavolo scoffed, stubbornly looking the other way.

"Same here."

"What do you mean 'same here', cunt? You owe me a fucking apology!"

"I don't owe you SHIT!"

"Yes, you do! You called me a monster!"

"You ARE a monster!"

"And what are you, huh?" Diavolo took a step forward, hand in his pocket, probably reaching for a knife. Kira exited the scene, not wanting to be caught in the crossfire. "You think you're better than me?"

"I know it."

Diavolo got closer, like a jungle cat closing in on its prey. Valentine raised his head haughtily, not at all scared of the larger, more violent man standing a few centimeters away from him. They shared a long look, a stubborn staring contest that led nowhere.

"You've always been like that," Diavolo noted. "Always thought yourself to be morally superior to everyone. You aren't," he added before Valentine could say something in turn.

"You don't know shit about me."

What a stupid thing to say. Diavolo was taken aback by the sheer idiocy of that statement. "I don't know you?" he questioned, voice fit for a man nearing the edge of his patience and sanity. "I'm the only person in the entire world that knows you."

"Really, now? Then what's my name? Let's start from here."

"What?"

"What's my name, Diavolo?"

Diavolo searched Valentine's expression to see if he was joking. He wasn't. He was seriously asking him that. "Your name is Funny Valentine."

"No, it's not."

"Cut the bullshit, for fuck's sake."

"My name isn't Valentine, Diavolo."

"What do you mean it isn't Valentine?"

"I mean it's not. If you know me as well as you think, you must surely know what my last name is."

Diavolo knew for a fact that Funny was just a nickname given to Valentine by his father when he was a few days old, a nickname that had eventually pushed his given name to extinction. Wait. "Valentine is your stepdad."

"Correct."

"Your father died when you were seven."

"Good boy! You are smarter than you look!"

"You weren't born a Valentine."

"Yes."

Diavolo blinked a few times. His anger had been forgotten, pushed aside by a horrible realization; Valentine knew everything about him but not vice versa. Diavolo felt his knees buckle, throat suddenly very dry. He turned around and left like the wind, not caring about the cold rain whipping his body.

Kira stepped out of the kitchen when he heard the door open and close. Valentine sighed deeply and moved to sit on the couch, busying himself with a gardening magazine. "What did you think was gonna happen?" he asked, voice a bit too calm.

Kira sat down next to him. "I thought you two would be able to talk like adults for once."

Valentine snorted. "Do you honestly think Diavolo is capable of rational thinking?" Every inch of his body gave away his irritation. Furiously tapping feet, twitching fingers, furrowed brows.

"You're not that better yourself," Kira didn't say, not wanting to cause a damn explosion. He reached for the remote and turned the TV on. "We still got some time until Shinobu comes home. What do you wanna do?"

"How about we watch a movie?"

With Hayato and Shinobu gone, the two men were able to just watch a movie without distractions. The hours passed without them realizing it. Come to think of it, this was the first time the atmosphere between them felt...normal. Like the old days. They were just watching a movie as the rain outside died out.

Valentine was snapped out of his concentration when his phone rang. He inwardly prayed it wasn't an important matter. Even he needed some rest from time to time. Weirdly enough, the call was from his mother, who had called to check up on him last night.

"Hello?"

"Oh, sweetheart!"

"Mom? What happened?" Kira looked at him, confused. "Is everything alright?" Valentine asked. Both his parents were growing older day by day, it was only natural for him to worry.

"Funny, this is terrible!"

"What happened?" Valentine pressed.

His mother took a deep, steadying breath. "I hate upsetting you..."

"Just tell me what it is already!"

"Funny, do you remember Solido Naso?"

"Solido Naso? I don't even know anyone named-"

At the sound of the name, Kira's eyes widened, jaw dropping a bit. Valentine furrowed his brows before his face was twisted in a mask of horror. He sat up straight, making Killer Queen jump off of his knees, visibly annoyed. Yes, Solido Naso. The rebellious son of the good priest, the mysterious Italian, that foul knave that had defiled sweet and innocent Funny Valentine, that had poisoned his mind and body with his twisted passions.

"I remember him." For his mother to be suddenly mentioning the forbidden name like that meant things were serious.

"He's here."

"What?"

"Yes. Oh, God... Martha saw him on her way home from the church. She said he was looking for something in the cemetery. Do you have any idea what he wants?"

"No, how could I? I haven't spoken to him in twenty years. Are you sure it's him?"

"Yes! His hair is still the same and he has those eyes... Good God, those eyes! Can you do something about it, sweetheart?"

"I'll be here as fast as I can."

"What happened?" Kira asked once Valentine ended the call.

"It's Diavolo." It was always Diavolo. Valentine bolted up, immediately reaching for his shoes. "He's in Greenwich."

"Home? You're telling me that Diavolo is at home?"

"Yes, Yoshikage! He is there right now!" Irritated, Valentine shoved his right foot into his left boot. Seeing that it didn't work, he reached for the other, frantically hobbling around the living room like a man on fire. “I have to go there and fix this mess.”

“You don't have to clean up after his mess.”

“I am not cleaning up after Diavolo's mess,” Valentine hissed. “I never was and I never will. But I have to go there immediately. There's no telling what he'll do.”

“Maybe he just visited?”

Valentine let out a shrill cackle. “Diavolo? Visiting a place tied with his past? After we had an argument? I thought you were smart, Yoshikage.” He suddenly froze, as if realizing something. “You have to come with me.”

“What?”

“If I take my car, Scarlet will ask me where I'm going and when I tell her I'm going to pick up Diavolo, she's gonna beat my ass!”

“So lie to her! Why do I have to get involved?”

“I can't lie to Scarlet, she's terrifying!” He approached his friend, expression softening a bit. “Yoshikage, please. You have to take me there! Besides, he'll listen to you! It will be over much quicker if you're there.”

“You don't know that.”

“I do. Come on, it will only be for a few hours! You can tell Shinobu we went to the gym.”

“So you can't lie to your wife but I can lie to mine?”

“Don't be like that!”

“Then tell me what I should be like!” Kira stood up, hands and voice raised in exasperation. “I have been involved with you and Diavolo's mess for twenty-four years! I slept in the goddamn hallway on our school's trip to D.C just so you two could have the room to yourselves, I had to hide an entire summer so that you two could fuck like rabbits in your lake house, and I was almost killed by your wife for covering up for you! Twice!”

“That's just an exaggeration-”

“She held me at gunpoint!”

Valentine paused, eyes wide and blinking slowly. He pressed his lips together. “So that's a no?”

As Kira got ready to give Valentine the enraged response he deserved, the craziest thing happened, the same crazy thing that had been happening for the majority of their lives. Instead of saying something, Kira curled his lip and moved to grab his car keys. “You owe me this one, Valentine.”

 

 

 


 

 

 


Jolyne poked her head inside the house and scanned the area. Silence, only disturbed by the sounds from outside. Both Jotaro and Kakyoin's cars weren't there. She opened the door a bit and let Anasui and Trish in. Wasting no time, the trio walked up to her room.

“Where's Foo?”

“They're helping Hermes with the restaurant.”

Anasui sighed in relief. Had the two of them been there, they would have made fun of him until someone died. “So...uhh...what am I going to be doing, again?”

“Wear this,” Trish said and handed him a large shopping bag.

Anasui peeked inside and reached for the contents. He fished out an obscure black mesh shirt, a turtleneck with a boob window and a pair of purple leather pants. They had definitely been used recently, as all items reeked of cigarettes. He scrunched his nose in disgust and let the garments fall back in the bag.

“You're going to have to wear this for an hour, tops,” Jolyne explained. “And we'll make a few changes to your hair and make up.” Anasui's hands moved protectively over his precious fuschia fake lashes.

“And I'll go talk to Erina about your grades, Trish?”

“Yes.”

“Pretending to be your Dad?”

“Yes.”

Anasui pursed his lips. He turned to look at Jolyne. “I only considered doing this because you asked me but this is too much, Jojo. Diavolo is insane! If he sees me dressed like this-”

“He won't! Dad left town a while ago!”

“What about Valentine?”

“He's gone, too. The coast is completely clear, no one will ever know a thing.”

He crossed his arms over his chest and sighed. “Fine,” he finally said and Trish smiled, relieved.

First things first, Anasui had to put on the outfit. Even though Diavolo was surprisingly muscular and almost as tall as Jonathan – something no one realized with how bad his posture was – Anasui had a hard time getting into those tight-ass pants. The infuriating leather seemed to get stuck every chance it got, taking all three pairs of hands to get past his thighs. After that, it was time for the most complex shirt ever created. Anasui struggled for several minutes but he eventually got his arms and head out of the correct hole. Once he put on the sweater, it was clear to see that the disguise would be successful enough to fool even the ever-sharp Erina.

“What now?” Anasui asked while inspecting his reflection. He looked as if his head had been put on another's body. The outfit looked alien on him. Good, but alien.

“We gotta dye your hair.” Anasui gave Jolyne bitter puppy eyes. “Don't give me that look,” she warned. “Get your ass in the bathroom right now! We've lost enough time already!”

“Anything for you,” Anasui mumbled reluctantly and walked into the bathroom like a man walking into a slaughterhouse.

“He's a bit whiny, isn't he?” Trish noted.

“Yeah, but he's cute and buys me food, so...” Jolyne shrugged.

The two girls followed Anasui into the bathroom. Trish reached for the hair dye and started reading the instructions. Perhaps it seemed weird that she didn't know how to use hair dye but ever since she started dying her hair pink, a hairstylist had been doing it for her. Mildly confused, she handed the box to Jolyne.

“You know how to use dye, right?”

“Yeah, it's not that hard. I just don't know how to do the spots.”

“He uses a celery stalk for it.”

“Celery? Really?”

“It's what Doppio told me.”

“Alright then. You wash his hair and I'll mix the dye.”

“Can't you do it?” Anasui whined. “Trish's nails are too big!”

“Narciso, shut up! We don't have much time!”

“Don't tell me to shut up!”

“Narciso, shut up! We don't have much time!”

“O-Okay, Jojo.”

With great reluctance, Anasui leaned over the rim of the tub and let his hair spill inside. Trish started washing his hair (“It's too cold!” he'd yell but no one would care), pausing only to quickly massage some shampoo into his skull. Jolyne was sitting on the toilet, hastily mixing the dye. According to her estimations, it wouldn't be another two hours until both her Dad and Kakyoin were back. She wasn't afraid of Kakyoin's reaction; despite his reputation as a very reserved and logical man, he always supported whatever bullshit the kids were planning. Jotaro, on the other hand, had gone from teenage delinquent to the world's most law-abiding citizen and he absolutely did not tolerate the kids' bullshit.

“I'm done,” she announced, showing Trish the contents of the small, plastic bowl.

“You sure it'll be fine?”

“Yeah. With how pink his hair already is, it'll show up no problem. You should get the celery. It's in the fridge.”

Trish nodded and quickly left the room. She practically skipped down the stairs, hurrying for the kitchen. Once there, she froze in her tracks, eyes wide with fear and shock, as she found 195cm of pure muscle dressed in a purple tank top and pajama pants with little yellow sharks on them, standing by the fridge, preparing the biggest BLT sandwich Trish had ever seen while humming a jolly tune. Without a second thought, Trish bolted up the stairs. She heard Jotaro move away from his spot and she panicked, diving back into Jolyne's bedroom.

“Jolyne?”

Jotaro started going up the stairs. “It's your Dad!” Trish explained and Jolyne's eyes widened.

“Already?! What is he doing here so early?”

“Jolyne, are you there?”

“What are we going to do, Jojo?!”

Jolyne quickly shut the bathroom door just as Jotaro got inside her room. “Jolyne?”

“I'm in the bathroom, Dad!” she called, trying to make her voice as nonchalant as possible. “I'm taking a shower!”

There was silence, ominous silence. They all stuck their ears on the door, trying to make out what Jotaro was doing. “Jojo!” Anasui suddenly gasped. “I left my clothes in there!”

Before any of them could react, Jotaro had already flung the door open, rage in his eyes and Anasui's boots clutched in his hands. He looked down at the three kids, anger melting into confusion at the sight of Anasui dressed like Diavolo.

Trish was allowed to escape, leaving the other two to their demise. Footsteps heavy, head hanging low, Trish carried herself back to her house, trying to figure out a last-resort plan. She could tell Erina her Dad had suddenly gotten sick. Or she could pretend to be Diavolo and talk to her on the phone. Many more stupid ideas bounced around her head, the new one being more absurd and frantic than the last one.

As she made her way through the main gate, she heard some noise coming from Valentine's house. Looking over the fence, she found Scarlet struggling to cover the rose bushes so they wouldn't freeze to death during winter. Turns out the answer to her problem had been in front of her the entire time.

“Scarlet!” she exclaimed, scaring the woman.

“Oh, Trish! Hello, sweetie! Beautiful day today, isn't it?”

“Yes, yes. Listen, can you go to my school? My teacher said she had to talk to one of my parents about my grades and you're supposed to be my parent!”

“That's it?”

“Yes! Can you please do it? I promised Erina-”

“You want me to go talk to Erina?”

“Yeah?”

At the sound of that, Scarlet puffed out her chest, an almost childish smile of excitement spreading on her lips. “Come help me choose an outfit!” she shouted as she bolted inside her house.

 

 


 

 

 


The last time Kira had visited his hometown was about a year and a half ago. That had also been the last time he had spent the holidays as Yoshikage Kira. To be honest, not much had changed in his neighborhood. Picture-perfect American homes, beautiful parks, clean roads, picket fences, the smell of the peach cobbler Mrs. Valentine made for her only son. The only change he saw was the house next to the Valentine residence. The house that had perished in the fire along with its owner, the one that used to belong to a caring Sardinian priest and his prickly son, had been built anew, now inhabited by a family. Kira sat in the car, just looking around the neighborhood, waiting for Valentine, when something caught his eye. There, a little further down the street, stood the house of a man having lost both his wife and his son. The door opened and the owner, a frail old man, with gray hair and a small mustache, walked out, carrying a tray of cat food in his shaking hands. He let it down by the doorstep and three cats walked to it, instantly digging in. He smiled at the furry bunch and sighed. He looked around, mumbling something to himself. Before he could get too cold, he got back inside.

“I'll call you when I get home!”

“Okay! Kiss the boys for me!”

Valentine walked back inside the car, carrying a large bowl of peach cobbler covered in aluminum foil. “He was last seen at the cemetery,” he informed Kira.

“What the hell was he even doing there?”

“If I take into consideration what triggered him to come here, I guess he's looking for my Dad's grave to find out my real name.”

“You think he did?” Kira started the car. It had rained not long ago. The asphalt was still slippery.

“Impossible. Dad's buried in Arizona. That's where we're from.” Valentine looked outside the window, gazing at the scenery he had grown up around. “I think we should take a look around town. Even though the cemetery is big, he must have looked through it by n- Watch out!”

Valentine's warning came a second too late. Kira stepped on the brake, just as he collided with a black and pink creature. A cryptid? An alien? Whatever it was, it was lying on the road, groaning in pain.

Valentine rushed out of the car. “Are you alright?” He extended an arm, offering Diavolo to take his hand. When he didn't, he nudged him with his foot. “Stop being a baby and stand up.”

“That's really fucking polite of you, asshole,” Diavolo spat out. He took Valentine's hand and stood up. “First you run me over, then you call me a baby. Oh, fantastic. You're here too.”

“Just get in the car,” Kira said, whose desire to go back home had skyrocketed in the last hour.

Begrudgingly, Diavolo followed Valentine into the vehicle. Kira started the engine once more and boy, oh boy, was it awkward! The three men stood in silence, the most awkward silence, trying to take their minds off of what just happened. Valentine was idly gazing out the window, eyes barely catching the moody autumn sky. Diavolo was glaring at the back of Valentine's blonde head. Kira wanted to leave. Fat raindrops started falling from the sky, landing on the hood of the car like pebbles.

“You didn't have to come pick me up, Mom and Dad. I know the way back myself.”

“We didn't come because you don't know the way back home but because we were the only ones that could prevent you from becoming a nuisance to anyone. Especially my parents.”

“You think you have that much power over me?”

“Yes. And you should be grateful I'm here to get your life in order.”

Diavolo snorted. “And how exactly did you do that?”

“By raising the child you did not give two shits about.”

As shown several times before, Diavolo's temper could very easily jump from 0 to 100. Well, from 99 to 100. “Nobody fucking asked you to. You just took Trish and ran away.”

“And what was I supposed to do? Leave her to grow up with you?”

“Not just me, you bastard. With us.” Diavolo leaned forward in the gap between the two front seats. “I was ready to start a new life with you in Napoli. I abandoned everything for you!”

“YOU abandoned everything for ME?!” Valentine snapped, turning around to glare at Diavolo. Even though he was mild-mannered and generally very polite, it took the right button and the right person to get him fired up. “I did that! I left my wife, my future, my parents! I left everything behind for you! You didn't do shit! You had nothing!”

“I had you! I left everything I had built for you! For our life together! And you betrayed me!”

“I did NOT fucking betray you! I did what I had to. What I promised.”

“And you promised to spend the rest of your life stuck in a loveless marriage?”

“What makes you think I'd be happier with you? Look at you, you're nearly forty and you're dying! What makes you think you can ever be a family man? And my marriage isn't fucking loveless!”

“You keep telling yourself that damn lie! You may believe it but that's not true! You're miserable and you won't admit it!”

“How do you know what's good for me?!”

“That's my opinion!”

“ENOUGH!” Kira slammed his foot on the brake, making the other two jerk forward abruptly. They sat in silence for a few seconds, listening only to the heavy rainfall and Kira's rugged, enraged breathing. “Both of you. Get out right now.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Get out. Now. Right fucking now. I can't stand you! I can't deal with your bullshit anymore! I have had ENOUGH!”

“Yos-”

“Out!” Kira hollered. “Now!”

Valentine and Diavolo suddenly froze, the same thought passing through both their minds. Just then, the two men realized that Kira was a serial killer. Valentine nodded slowly, giving Kira a shaky smile. “Alright,” he said. “No need to get so jumpy! Haha!”

“Get the fuck out!”

“Okay, okay! We're going out! No need to yell.”

Valentine reached behind for the door. He opened it and stepped outside, immediately getting drenched to the bone. Diavolo did the same, already cold from the rain, teeth chattering. Without saying a single word, Kira took off, leaving both men to stand alone in the rain, in the middle of nowhere.

“What...are we supposed to do now?” Fear had a strange effect on Diavolo. While it usually made him more panicky and less frightened, it never made him so helpless. Since Valentine was also in a state of panic, he didn't have the mind to pay attention to Diavolo's behavior.

He looked around, seeing only pine trees and the muddy hill that would collapse any minute with this rain. He couldn't see that far ahead, the thick mist and veil of pouring rain making it impossible for him to know exactly where they were. He took a trembling breath. Fingers shaking uncontrollably, Valentine reached for his phone. He hunched over it, trying to shield it from the downpour.

“I'm gonna call Frank, tell him to come pick us up. He lives near here so it won't be-”

Before he could finish talking, Diavolo had grabbed his phone and had thrown it on the road, completely shattering it. It took Valentine a few seconds to process what the fuck had just happened. “My phone!” he shrieked, lunging for the pitiful remains. “Why would you do that?!”

“I don't want you talking to Ferdinand!” was Diavolo's very reasonable explanation.

Valentine looked at him as if he was insane. “Then how are we supposed to get home?! He was our only way back!”

“We can spend the night at a motel. We passed one a few minutes ago.”

Valentine rose slowly. His Trussardi fur coat had most likely been ruined forever, his beloved Gucci pants were soaked and there was water inside his Prada boots. His blond hair was sticking to his face and neck and his breathing was hard. He started marching in the direction they had come from, Diavolo jogging behind him.

“You are so fucking dead to me,” he hissed.

“You've said that a couple of times.”

“And now I mean it!” he barked. “Thanks to you I'm stuck in the middle of fucking nowhere with no phone, no way of telling my wife where the hell I am and Yoshikage took my peach cobbler! And don't think I don't know what you're playing at, asshole! I only agreed to spend the night with you out of necessity! I am not having sex with you!”

“Fair enough,” Diavolo sniffed. ”I can't have sex with you, anyway. It's No Nut November.”

Valentine momentarily furrowed his brows in absolute confusion. He started walking away, groaning in frustration. That was it. The last straw. The sign he had been waiting to cut Diavolo out of his life.

They walked in silence all the way to the motel, which, thankfully, wasn't that far away. To save himself from the embarrassment of being seen by anyone else, Valentine ran inside as fast as he could in this cataclysm. Sitting on the front desk was an old lady, munching on some cheese puffs while watching Family Feud. Her eyes widened at the strange, dripping wet men.

“Oh, dear!” she exclaimed. “Got caught in the rain?”

Valentine grumbled under his breath. “Yes. And we need a room. Please.”

“Yes, yes. Right away.”

As she went to retrieve the key, Valentine took a peek around. Striped, brown wallpaper, torn at places, green-carpeted floor with mysterious splotches here and there, surprisingly thriving houseplants and a worn leather couch. And of course, a cooler filled with cheap beer, which Valentine beelined for.

“There you go. It's room 109, last door to your left.”

After paying for the room, they headed upstairs. “I'm moving out,” Valentine blurted and Diavolo's heart momentarily stopped. “This can't go on for long. It's bad enough as it is and there's no need for collateral damage.”

“Where are you going?”

“The Official State Residence. It's closer to work and I'm supposed to be living there, anyway.”

“...if that's what you think is best.”

“It is. We need to distance ourselves from one another.” He moved to open the door. The room inside was pathetic, compared to the ones he usually stayed at. Same color palette as the lobby, an old TV, a copy of the Bible and of course... “One bed,” Valentine huffed. “Of course.”

Having no other choice, they walked inside what would be their shelter for the night. As November would have it, the sun had already set by 5 PM, drowning the world in absolute, rainy darkness. As the warmth of their surroundings started growing, the cold from their clothes started seeping into their skin.

“We have to take these off.”

Valentine snorted. “Go see if there are towels in the bathroom.”

Diavolo did. “There are.” He brought back two, tossing the other to Valentine.

They started undressing, silently. Valentine folded his clothes and let them by the radiator to completely dry. Diavolo let his clothes drop to a heap on the floor and kicked them out of his sight. While undressing, he kept glancing at Valentine's body. He had grown used to the marks on his back, having touched and kissed each line and hole countless time. But he didn't like the sight of his sharp hipbones and jutting collarbone.

“Have you been eating properly lately?” he asked nonchalantly, as nonchalant a man hopelessly in love could be.

“I've been eating just fine, Diavolo. Thank you for your concern.”

Diavolo didn't comment on the sarcasm oozing from Valentine's tongue. He was too tired for another fight. he plopped down on the bed, throwing the blankets over him. “I can't feel my toes.”

Valentine wrapped the towel around his entire body. He started combing his hair with his fingers, trying to undo all the knots. When he was done, he tied it all in a neat bun at the base of his neck. He sat down on the bed. He honestly didn't know what was worse; laying down facing Diavolo or with his back turned to him?

“It's cold.”

“It is.”

“You broke my phone.”

“I know. I'll buy you a new one.”

“I had pictures of my kids in there.”

“You have a backup. You always do.”

Valentine huffed mirthlessly. “True.” In the dark, he could make out the peculiar gleam on Diavolo's eyes. Singular, unlike anything in the entire world. In turn, Diavolo found Valentine's eyes in the dark, glimmering like blue stars. “This whole situation felt very... bizarre. You are very... quiet today.”

“I'm just tired, Funny.”

“Of me?”

“Never.”

“That makes one of us.”

“Are you tired of me, my love?”

“Yes.”

 

 


 

 

 

 

Buccellati stumbled out of the car, shaking and terrified. He had died in there, he was sure of it. He felt his heart, beating faster than a train's engine, surprised it was still there. Mista helped him up with a sympathetic smile.

“Who taught him to drive like that?” Buccellati stammered.

“Mr. Joestar tried but I guess it ain't Giogio's strongest point.”

“Alright, people,” Giorno said. His cheeks were flushed both from the cold and the excitement. A serenade! Romantic AND bold! Everything Giorno stood for. Narancia happily took the boombox out of the trunk. “Here's the plan; Narancia, when I give you the signal, you turn the boombox on and you two will hold this for him to see.” Handed to Buccellati and Mista was a banner that read 'I'll never Fugo you'.

“And what will you be doing?”

“I'll be standing under his window, showing him my love.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Yes. Narancia, you alright?”

“Don't worry about me,” Narancia reassured him with a smile. “Let's do this! I'm excited!”

The four boys took their positions as instructed. Giorno's hands were sweating profusely through his gloves. It was dead quiet. In the dark of the night, New York seemed like a million fireflies in the distance.

“Hit it, Narancia!”

At Giorno's command, Narancia turned on the boombox. A slow, sensual tune started blasting at full volume, shattering the veil of silence. It was the wrong song. Giorno turned to look at Narancia.

“Every time I close my eyes...

“What...the hell?”

“I wake up feeling so horny...”

“Narancia, what is this!?”

“I can't get you outta my mind...”

“That's the song we agreed on!”

“Sexin' you be all I see...”

“No, it's not! Turn it off! Turn it off!”

“Dude, calm down!”

Despite Giorno's most valiant efforts to pause the music before anyone from Fugo's family could hear it, he failed. He looked up suddenly, seeing the entire Fugo family looking down at him. They were shocked, confused but Fugo especially had something in his eyes Giorno had never seen before be directed at him; pure, black rage.

 

 


 

 

 


Valentine screamed into the pillow. Diavolo let out a hearty chuckle and scooted closer to him. He threw one arm around Valentine's back, pulling him closer. At least they both were warmer now.

“I hate you.”

“Five minutes ago you loved me to death.”

“I'm a liar.”

“Uh-huh.”

Valentine sighed deeply. “This can't keep happening and you know it.”

“We make the rules, tesoro. We decide what can keep happening and what can't.”

“It doesn't work like that and you know it.”

They exchanged no words for a few seconds. They lay side by side, their bodies fitting together like two pieces of a puzzle. “Can I ask you a question?”

“I know the damn question. And the answer is no. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner but it's the truth. I can't be with you! We don't make the rules! I have a wife, a political career... I have kids, Diavolo. Kids of my own. Scarlet and I went through hell to have them, you know that.”

“That's not the question I wanted to ask you.”

Valentine looked up, genuinely puzzled. “Then what is it?”

He got on his elbows and pushed his hair out of his face. Diavolo stood up from the bed and knelt beside his discarded clothes. He went back to the bed, holding something behind his back. Valentine's jaw went slack as Diavolo presented him with a small, dark blue velvet box. Inside it was a ring, a gorgeous thing consisting of a platinum band and a square-cut, stunning pink diamond on it.

“Will you marry me?”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Merry Chrysler

 

 

 

 


Jonathan took a step back to admire his work. Almost three hours and two very excited but tired teenagers later, the house had been fully decorated. Drapes, tables, chairs, the piano, every surface on the house was covered in Christmas decorations. But the most impressive piece of the holiday decor had to be the Christmas tree; a five-meter pine, covered with tinsel, lights, toys, candy and flowers, all red and gold. At the top stood the star. Narancia had the honor of placing it there that year.

"I hope there's enough room for the presents when Santa brings them tonight," Jonathan smiled and winked at the two boys.

"We get presents?" Narancia gasped, eyes wide and reflecting all the pretty lights from the tree.

"Of course we do! We exchange gifts after eating."

"Oh, man...I can barely wait for tomorrow!"

Proud with his accomplishments, Jonathan snapped a picture of the tree and sent it to Dio, who was out with Pucci for some last-minute-shopping in Manhattan.

You: What do you think??? :D

Sweetiepie: I congratulate you, Jojo. You actually managed to make it look like the inside of Santa's head this year.

You: I know you like it :D

Sweetiepie: Maybe it looks better up close

You: :D

 

Dio was...like that. He had always been more or less the same. He had improved greatly, sure, but he still never confessed his feelings. It was funny how he called everyone around him immature yet he was so very similar to that angry 12-year-old boy his father almost adopted.

The kids decided to go pick up Josuke and Jolyne, maybe go and try the Christmasy Starbucks drinks. Having nothing else to do, Jonathan put a very kitschy, itchy but still adorable sweater on his beloved dog and headed out. He loved walking around the neighborhood this time of year. The snow on the lawns was as soft and white as a cloud and all the houses had put on their Christmas gear. Lights, blow-up figures, even baskets full of candy canes, along with the snowy roofs and smell of cinnamon made the neighborhood seem like a peaceful Christmas wonderland. As he walked down the street, enjoying the colorful sight, Jonathan noticed that Valentine's house was still bare, an oddity, since it was always the most heavily decorated one. He entered through the front gate and found Valentine, standing in the middle of the front yard dressed in light blue pajamas and a fluffy white robe. His three boys were building tiny snowmen all around him and his younger was nestled in his arms, joyfully sucking on a candy cake.

"Good morning, Funny!" Jonathan beamed enthusiastically. "No Christmas lights this year?"

Valentine sighed deeply. He looked very tired. "You know that hyper fixation gay girls have with fixing things around the house and Home Depot?"

"I...guess?"

Another sigh. He brought his cup to his lips and took a big sip. It smelled like eggnog. He scrunched his nose in disgust. "God, I always hated this stuff."

"I'm all ready up here!" Scarlet hollered from the roof. "Plug it in, loverboy!"

Valentine handed Jonathan his son and walked to answer to his wife's command. The moment he plugged all the cables in the outlet, his house lit up like a forest full of Christmas trees. Lights, lights everywhere! Gold, white, blue, red, green, yellow. Inflatable Santas, snowmen and other holiday-appropriate figures, candy canes and glacier sculptures, a goddamn movie starring Santa and his helpers playing on the roof, and Mariah Carrey blasting through the speakers. But the cherry on top was the light-up sign on the front of the house, spanning almost through the entirety of the yard, reading 'Have a Gay Christmas, y'all!'.

Scarlet jumped down. She looked way different than she did every day. Sweats, thick gloves, red cheeks, and messy hair, melting snow mixing with the sleek black. She grinned, arms open wide.

"Ta-da!" she exclaimed and looked at the work with a proud smile. "How's it lookin'?"

Her four babies cheered with joy. Valentine took in the sight with the serious expression of an art critic. He finally cracked a smile, an illegally charming one. "Very gay."

"Right?! And I did it all while wearing my MAGA sweater!"

Jonathan blinked. "You guys have MAGA sweaters?"

"It's not what you think..."

Scarlet unzipped her fleece jacket to reveal her 'Make America Gay Again' sweater. Jonathan nodded, smiling a bit. "I should have known. I'll see you all tomorrow, right?"

"Sure!"

"Yup."

He handed the adorable chubby baby back to his parents and walked off with Danny. Meanwhile, a fence across, Diavolo stormed out of the house, gun in hand, Doppio after him.

"Please, Boss! It took me hours to get him up there!"

"What is that fucker doing up in my roof?!"

"That's Santa! That's where he's supposed to be!"

"I don't like him! I feel like he's watching me! And why do we need a damn Santa, anyway? He ain't real!"

The four tiny Valentines all gasped in sync. Their baby blue eyes widened in shock, pouty pink lips open with soundless horror. They turned their tiny heads to their Dad, eyes shining with tears.

"That's not true! Santa is real! He's coming tonight!"

"Is he, Daddy?"

"Of course! Right, honey?"

"Yes! Let's go inside and make cookies for him!"

Once his family was safely inside, Valentine stomped across his snowy yard, glaring at the Italian. "Diavolo, I swear to God-"

"No, no, no! Don't take the ring off!" Diavolo yelled. He reached for Valentine's hand across the fence and held it in both his own. He brought it to his black lips, planting a chaste kiss on the rosy knuckles. "It looks good on you."

"You're on thin ice..." Valentine mumbled. He hid his little smirk with his mug.

"You're too harsh with me."

"It's called tough love."

"It's still love, right?"

Valentine smiled. He moved one cold hand to caress Diavolo's cheek. Diavolo leaned to the touch, eternally grateful to have it again. "Yes. It is."

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Kira stood before the mirror and fixed his tie, carefully inspecting his white, pinstripe suit for creases. His appearance was flawless as always, better than ever before. Going to the gym had worked wonders on him. Kira never wanted to be ridiculously buff but he wasn't at all dissatisfied with how toned his back and legs looked. Smiling arrogantly, he brought a well-moisturized hand through his hair, combing back the black hair to reveal dark gray. Shinobu paid the sudden appearance of gray hair no mind. Maybe Kawajiri's hair just worked like that, maybe it grayed earlier than most. He touched his face and the skin felt like plastic for an instant. This was a mask, after all, no matter how perfectly crafted. He discovered the man he was supposed to be, the role he was playing, through bits and pieces of information, through little details peppered around the house, his wardrobe, photo albums.

But did it really matter? Kawajiri had been reduced to nothing but a mask for Kira to wear. He owned his life, his family, his very existence. Kira noticed Shinobu watching from the doorway and smiled. She approached him, looking like his own Christmas miracle in her bright yellow dress, auburn hair styled in beautiful curls. He caught her hands and kissed them. She giggled.

"You look good, Kosaku."

"You look even better."

Those days, she seemed to be glowing. Her soft cheeks were full and rosy, eyes shining with joy, nothing like the dull marbles he had seen upon arriving. Shinobu had changed and he felt pride in having contributed to that change. He was the one she loved, not some long-forgotten memory of a ghost. Kosaku Kawajiri was dust and he, Yoshikage Kira, was free as a bird. Nothing could threaten him, nothing could compromise his identity. He had won.

The Kawajiris grabbed their coats and left their house. Held in their gloved hands were presents for some of their neighbors. Due to the heavy snowfall that year, the people of the neighborhood were unable to leave their homes and so they decided to spend the holidays together. Second worst idea Kira had ever heard since Valentine's decision to just abandon his entire life and run away with his dead-beat lover to Italy. The Christmas party would be hosted in Jonathan's house since he was the only one willing to put up with a tremendous amount of bullshit in one day. So, off they went, carrying presents that had been purchased with money that seemed to rain from heaven (a loan from Diavolo, a necessary evil so to impress the snobs around the neighborhood). A Christmas bonus, Kira had said and Shinobu believed him. Hayato did not.

Jonathan's house was buzzing with laughter and chatter by the time they got there. Kira looked at Hayato, who was staring at the ground, sulking. “Why don't you smile a bit? Don't want to give our neighbors a bad impression...”

“Oh, you know how they are at this age.” Shinobu ruffled her son's hair. “He's a good boy, Kosaku,” she whispered. “We make great kids.”

“We...do?”

Jonathan opened the door, greeting his neighbors with a bright smile. He and Dio were wearing matching 'I've Been Naughty/ I've Been Nice' sweaters. The house was too crowded, just managing to fit all the guests in. Kira scanned the area, practically smelling those itching for a fight; Diavolo was half-obscured by the drapes, his glare trying to slice Polnareff's neck, Dio and Jotaro were just staring at each other like finicky cats, Johnny was already having an argument with Valentine, who pretended he was too good to waste even a minute for him. This was going to be good.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Jolyne was sitting by the window, sulking, idly playing with the fringing of her new boots. They were dreamy, a gift from Uncle Broseph, but still not enough to cover the hole in her heart. Or her brain. She kept looking out the window, eyes sad and downcast, sighing heavily.

Trish approached her, holding a cup of mulled wine. It was odd to see Jolyne like this. She loved Christmas and was always the heart of the party. Trish sat down next to her friend, putting on her best concerned face.

“You okay, dude?”

Jolyne sighed all the air out of her lungs. Her sad gaze hovered over to Trish, fluorescent green lips still pouting. “I have a problem,” she announced before sinking further into the swamp of sadness.

“Problem? What problem?”

“Well...no offense but I don't think you could offer me advice.”

Trish pursed her lips. “Would a very gay wine aunt help?”

Jolyne blinked, surprised. “You know someone like that?”

Smiling smugly, Trish stood up and left. She returned a few seconds later, dragging Scarlet, who was drinking boxed wine like a CapriSun.

“What's the problem ladies?”

“Jolyne here needed some advice.”

“Is that right?” Scarlet looked at the other girl, gloomy and confused, eyes filled with uncertainty. “Lemme guess; you fall in love with every pretty girl you see on the street but you're in love with your best friend but you also like this guy but he's very effeminate so you're not sure if you're bi or a lesbian?”

Jolyne's eyes widened, jaw slack in shock. “...how?” she muttered. She looked at Trish. “Is she a witch?”

“I wish I was! I'm merely someone who had the exact same problem as you!”

Watching the scene from a distance was Jotaro, brows furrowed and casting a dark shadow over his eyes, knuckles white around his glass of cinnamon whiskey. Kakyoin approached him, peering over the edge to see what Jotaro was staring at so intently.

“Something wrong?”

“Jolyne,” Jotaro grumbled. Kakyoin nodded, understanding. “She went off to some stranger woman for advice and not me. Her dad.”

“Have you thought why?”

“No,” Jotaro mumbled, somewhat childishly.

Kakyoin sighed and followed him. “You know, you could actually try going to her first.” Of course, Kakyoin was met with Jotaro's unique brand of stoic, somewhat baffled and awkward, silence. He nudged the man, urging him to just go, eyes smiling almost as widely as his thin lips. “It's your job to be there for her. So go. Be there.”

Jotaro scowled, an expression Kakyoin had learned meant more than just one thing. When they were younger, it seemed to had been permanent on Jotaro's handsome and youthful face. Begrudgingly, Jotaro stood up and walked into the other room, to loom at the corner like some scorned household spirit.

Scarlet caught his sight with the corner of her eye. Despite the muscle and the sparse gray hairs on his head, Jotaro looked an awful lot like a shy child, unsure of how to approach them. Or maybe like an awkward gentleman, known for his gruffness, not sure as to how to address a flock of gossipping country lasses.

“Trishie,” she called gently. “Why don't we go find your godfather? I'm sure he's dying to have his hair braided.”

With the departure of those two, only Jotaro and Jolyne remained in the room. The tension was thicker than the blanket of snow settled on the lawn outside. Jotaro moved slowly, his entire body as flexible as a tree trunk, and sat down on the chair Trish had emptied, lips pressed tightly together, eyes fearing to even blink. Jolyne crooked an eyebrow and inspected the man, arms folded over her chest.

When Jolyne was born, Jotaro had been just out of high school. With dreams of going to college and university, the existence of a daughter completely changed the direction of his life. His ex-wife decided to postpone her pursue of academics for Jolyne, but not Jotaro. At first, he was there, in his own way, always urged by his other family members. After the divorce, he disappeared, only calling every few weeks to ask what was up. Jolyne, being a small child at the time, had no idea what she had done wrong to push her father away. Even on the Christmas vacation they spent together, Jotaro seemed reluctant to engage with her, always standing at a distance and watching from afar. It was odd, really, how Jolyne's relationship with her uncles and cousins had always been stronger than the one she had with her father.

(Could be worse, she always said. There was always Diavolo.)

It took a few more years, some inner searching and Kakyoin's intervention for Jotaro to finally try and warm up to his daughter. Of course, they were 'forced' to co-exist, as her mother finally went after her dream and going to college. Jotaro moved his entire household from Florida to New York to be closer to his family. He pushed himself to warm up to her, be a figure she could depend on and look up to. It was difficult, and with how emotionally constipated he was, it was even harder. But he tried.

“So...uh...” Jotaro looked down and pulled the brim of his hat over his eyes, muttering something under his breath. “You got a problem?”

Jolyne inspected the other man. Was this something people discussed with their parents? Josuke talked about his bromantic adventures with Joseph, Giorno always had Jonathan to turn to... Did that mean Jolyne could do the same? Hell yeah! There was nothing she should be ashamed of! On the contrary. At least she was facing her feelings for her best friends early on, unlike Jotaro who kept everything bottled up for twenty fucking years.

“I kinda do, yeah,” she breathed. “I kinda like Hermes.”

Jotaro's mouth opened and closed. Hermes was a good girl, no problem there-

“And Anasui.”

“Oh.”

“He's cute! And he buys me food!”

Jotaro scratched his slightly stubbly chin. “He did repair the entire house this summer...”

“That's because you forced him to!” Jolyne sighed. “Got any advice for me, Dad? I feel like if I get with the one, I'll keep wanting the other. But I don't wanna lose either of them!”

Jotaro searched deep inside him, looking for...anything really. When he finally found it (?), he sat up straight, putting on the most fatherly face he had.

“Jolyne,” he said. “You have two hands.”

With that, Jotaro stood up and left like a badass protagonist walking away from an explosion, feeling accomplished as fuck. Jolyne blinked a few times, trying to find her voice.

“What does that even mean?!” she cried.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


Every Christmas was a challenge for local billionaire/ part-time Santa Robert E.O. Speedwagon. Every year he tried and tried to think of gifts to give his loved ones, to give his treasured family, to make sure their smiles shone brighter. And every year it would seem that he was unable to think of a proper gift, of something truly special to give to those truly special ones. Every time he found himself stuck on that problem, he solved with a simple trick, a life hack if you will, a certain way to always find the best gifts for his family.

“What can I get Giorno that will annoy the living shit out of Dio?”

That year, the Joestar-Brando family had two kids, making Speedwagon's eventual success more enjoyable. They were all sitting at the lounge, discussing nothing and everything, eating cookies and watching the snow falling. Speedwagon walked inside, smiling brightly. Dio narrowed his eyes.

“I still haven't given my presents to Giorno and Narancia!”

“You got us stuff?” Narancia beamed.

“Of course I did!”

Speedwagon left the room and returned a moment later, carrying two very large boxes. Giorno eyed them curiously. Speedwagon had gotten him huge gifts before but this year, Giorno had no idea what it could be. His godfather usually asked him subtle questions a few months before Christmas, trying to sneakily figure out what Giorno wanted. But this year, nothing. Equally puzzled, the two boys opened their boxes. The moment they did so, the entire house was shaken to its foundations from the velociraptor screeches.

“PUPPIES!” Narancia shrieked. He picked up his very confused Dalmatian puppy and showed him to the entire world. “It's fucking puppies!”

Indeed, it was fucking puppies. Narancia had gotten a chubby little Dalmatian boy and Giorno was now the proud Dad of a golden lab girl. The little animal, remaining as quiet as him, looked into his very soul with her gleaming, brown eyes. Unable to utter a single word, Giorno took the puppy out of the box and clutched her close to his chest. Curious, Danny approached to sniff the newcomers.

“Robert...” Jonathan mouthed, already wiping the tears from his eyes. “This is...this is amazing!”

“That way, Danny can have some new friends, too. It's two birds with one stone!”

Among the sea of smiling faces, Speedwagon saw two piercing amber eyes and a deep, green scowl. He kept his smile where it belonged when Dio approached him, fingers curled around a cup of hot chocolate.

“This is what you're playing at, huh? Trying to annoy me, make me look bad in front of Jojo so we'll divorce? So you can have him all to yourself? Just like you've always wanted...”

Speedwagon merely rolled his eyes. Dio seemed like he was overflowing with confidence but his insecurities showed. It took someone with a similar mindset to know how to take advantage of those little slip-ups. That's right; Dio and Speedwagon had always been quite similar. Not the two sides of the same coin like he and Jonathan were, but rather the same coi