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Diamonds in the Rough

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"Once upon a time, in a land far away, a princess was locked alone in a castle, guarded by dragons. However, in the absence of beautiful lady knights and charming princes... the princess fell in love with the dragons instead."


 

 

King Graham was a powerful and righteous king. His days were devoted to the care of his people. His hand was firm yet gentle and the land prospered under his rule. The kingdom he had ruled was vast, ranging from lush forests to briny seas all the way to fearsome mountains populated by northern beasts no one dare to encounter.

But the King had a reason for making this trek himself.

Being a man of wealth, means and power meant one would acquire many treasures. As a ruler of fruitful lands, Graham was no exception to such a rule. But some treasures could not be protected by lockbox or traps. Some needed guards, specially picked. The treasure he looked to protect was special, more dear to him than any legendary gold. He had to do everything in his power to protect it and keep it safe until the end of days. With this purpose in mind and his retinue of soldiers behind him, he climbed one of the tall, imposing mountains at the edges of his kingdom.

It was a height that no mere man should reach and not many had fared well on the journey to the snow capped peak. He watched as some soldiers fell victim to the sheer height of the mountain. Others had turned tail and fled once they beheld the remains of fallen adventurers in botched attempts, foolhardy climbers who thought they could best the mountain and the beasts that ruled it. But he was different, he was possessed by divine purpose. He staggered once he had reached the summit, only the most loyal of his soldiers behind him carrying a large oak chest. The wind whipped at their coats, their faces, to a painful degree. Surely the skin on his face was a garish red. But that would not stop him.

There before him stood the mouth of a cave, one he had anticipated. Therein lay the beasts he wished to confront, all he needed to do was take a step. He remembered his divine purpose, his treasure and took steps forward.

Inside, while the cave was dank, it was not dark in the slightest. Littered with golden treasure and gems as far as the eye could see. In front of the pile however, instead of the two beasts he had expected, were two boys. They both seemed to be around the age of thirteen. 

The boys seemed normal enough. One was a brunet, brown hair flopping into his bright green eyes. He was much larger and tanner than the other boy. The slender one possessed elegant blond hair and eyes of pure amber. But as they got closer, he realized… things that were off. The smattering of colorful scales along their faces in purple and red, curling horns sprouting from their heads and the flicker of far too inhuman eyes in their direction.

There was no time to react as the boys grew and transformed before their very eyes. Small adolescent bodies growing to immeasurable sizes and their skin becoming covered in deep red and iridescent purple scales. They were caught completely off guard as two dragons stood before them now, curling their tails at the cave’s mouth to block the entrance.

His men drew their swords and pointed them at the beasts but it was pointless. Surely, the blades would simply bounce off their hides and in the end, that was not what he was here for. The dragons leered, smoke billowed from their nostrils and their sets of sharp, intimidating teeth were put fully on display. Graham, to his credit, did not tremble as much as the soldiers behind him.

“State your purpose,” the crimson dragon bellowed, his amber eyes flashing as he looked down upon them. “Why are you here?”

The purple dragon’s scales glittered in the meager light within the cave but that did not detract from his terrifying nature. “We do not take kindly to visitors,” he hissed. “Especially those that mean us harm.”

Around him, Graham could hear the clink of metal on metal as his soldiers’ spears rattled against his armor. He swallowed his own fear and willed his knees to cease their knocking “I mean you no harm!” Graham announced, thanking every god that his voice did not shake. “I am King Graham, ruler of this realm, and I have come to parlay with the dragons of this mountain.”

“Parlay?” The red one echoed. “In regards to what? We entertain no mortals, not even kings.” He practically spat that word at Graham’s feet and it was difficult to ignore the insult.

“I anticipated as much,” he replied, nodding to his guards. At his signal they opened the oak chest, displaying a cache of jewels and coin from his own collection. “I fully intend to make it worth your while. This my offer merely for a simple conversation.”

The red one regarded him with suspicion, but it was the purple one whose green eyes glittered at the promise of treasure. “A-And all of this will be ours?!” His tail began swaying excitedly, nearly taking down one of his soldiers in the process.

But Graham nodded and gave a stately smile. “Indeed. Only if you hear me out.”

“Speak then. Make it quick.”

Graham nodded once more. “Well then. I am in need of guardians for a very specific treasure. After hearing tell that there were dragons here I thought perhaps… I could seek your employment.”

“Employment?” the purple dragon asked, tilting his massive head in confusion.

The elegant red dragon played off his confusion far better but it was still evident in his beastly eyes. “A treasure? And what have you to offer us in return?”

“You’ve been pilfering herds of domesticated animals in the nearby areas, yes? It looks like you’re hard pressed for resources,” Graham stated and watched as the two dragons exchanged a look. “I offer you all the resources you could ever ask for. Should you accept, I will make sure there are herds at your disposal. You will be well stocked and have the run of our abandoned winter palace. It is remote, the perfect place to hide my treasure and to provide you your privacy. You both will have plenty of space to amass your hoard and anyone who dares trespass is yours to loot and consume.”

The crimson dragon wound his sinuous body around the crowd, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. “And the catch? I imagine it is not all benefits.

“There will be many looking to intrude and steal the treasure. I imagine having such annoyances may be a headache.”

“Not one we can’t take,” the other dragon piped up, but he too pinned the King with a suspicious look of his own. “But… we ought to see this place, don’t you think? Just to make sure you aren’t bluffing.”

“Mm, I agree,” the dragon hummed. “Bring us there. We want to see it with our own eyes.”

Graham nodded, he felt tremors of fear throughout his hands. The worst was over and yet... “But of course. I can accommodate that if that is what you wish. Though, I will need you to assume human forms, of course. We want to attract as little attention as possible.”

The two glanced at each other before turning a terrifyingly tense glare on the group. “If you attempt anything. Any harm against us in our other forms. Beware.

“I assure you that will not happen,” the King responded, tight lipped.

After another moment of hesitation, the two dragons morphed back into the two boys he had seen before. They were still very clearly inhuman, but there was far less attention being drawn now than when they were gigantic.

“Lead the way,” the brunet called. His purple scales glinted in the scant light of the cave as Graham turned and began the descent down the mountain. All seemed rather quiet, rather tense. It wasn’t until they had reached solid ground at the base of the mountain and set off toward the palace that questions were asked.

“What is this treasure anyway?” the larger boy asked.

The blond  was just as curious. “Is it gold? Jewels?”

The answer to that question left Graham feeling hollow… but better not to blindside the dragons too badly. “...My child,” he answered after a moment of hesitation. “She is more sought after than jewels and more valuable than gold.”

“And  why is that?” the dragon frowned, something vaguely menacing glinting in his eyes.

“A blessing that is a curse. I apologize but I’d rather not give more information, it is… on a need to know basis.”

After another stretch of quiet travel, the large spires of the winter palace rose into view. The castle was a magnificent structure of intricate stone work. Yet, the architecture was impressively large, certainly large enough to house various dragons if they so chose to assume those forms.

“So… is it to your liking?”

The dragons once again shared a look, something unspoken between them before they nodded.

“It is looking good, we ought to have a tour don’t you think? To see what we’re signing up for?”

Relief flooded Graham’s entire body as he realized his precious daughter would finally have proper protection. Finally, he nodded.

“But of course.”


 

Though Erina was a princess she found she didn’t often dress like one. Her clothes were always plain, nondescript. The name of the game was to look so profoundly unmemorable that no one would know the secret she was hiding. Her boon that was her burden to carry.

The carriage ride from her home to her new residence, the abandoned winter palace, was quiet. She expected no less. Her father had never been much for talking unless it was about his work or governance. It had been interesting conversation when she was younger and thought she might use such information… but her life was rather taking a turn these days.

The idea of going off into the unknown was terrifying. To stay away from everything she’d ever known. And then, her father had mentioned dragons. In her books, they were large monsters capable of eating entire villages within the span of an hour. And her father was simply going to leave her with them?!

But he believed in this method. He believed in his choice of bodyguards. Too bad she was the one living with these decisions not him.

As the carriage rolled up to the imposing gates of her new home, she swallowed hard and led the charge out. Her legs carried her with only a hint of shaking, even though all she wanted to do was collapse and cry and beg her father not to send her away. She could stay in the cellar, underground forever so no one knew she lived… But she didn’t wish to make a spectacle.

How cowardly, she couldn’t even voice her own discomfort to her father.

“Erina.”

She turned at the sound of her name to find her father kneeling before her, his face stricken beyond belief. “I am… so sorry it has come to this, my darling girl. To leave you in the hands of those who know you not. But… I cannot trust staff, I cannot trust anyone. Only those who have no idea what they have in their midst can be around you. Sweetheart… I will come and visit you and see how you are doing. You must be a little more self-sufficient but your safety is my number one priority and I have people to look after. The dragons will pay you no mind if you give them space.”

Her father choked back a wave of tears and Erina felt the sadness wash over her. He was never this upset by anything… but knowing he was saying goodbye…

She nodded at all his advice, all his reminders. It was good to let him talk and talk when she knew the second she spoke, she would break. Her father stood at full attention finally, before smoothing her hair back and kissing her forehead gently.

“My darling girl, I will miss you.”

“I-I know father,” she replied finally, wrapping her arms around his middle. He held her just as close in return. “I-I will be safe… and I will do you proud. P-Please come visit soon.”

“You know I will… Be well. Keep away from those dragons if need be. Only acknowledge them you need to make sure you are safe and sound, if anything.”

She gave a shaky nod. “O-Of course, father. I… love you.”

“I love you too, Erina.”

He pat her head once more for good measure before she pulled her trunk behind her. There was more. A few boxes of items she had taken from home. But the move wasn’t the terrifying part, was it? It was the promise of dragons inside.

She imagined massive beasts that dwarfed her in size and could rip a man to shreds with their large teeth. Her father said they’d have no reason to harm her but it was still terrifying to think she’d be living with such beings.

That is, until two boys filled the doorway of the palace.

They both looked to be around her age. One blond, one brunet, standing close and familiarly. Yet, the one thing she noticed first was the color beneath their eyes. The scales. They were… the dragons?

“Are you the princess?” The brunet asked, wide eyed. “You sure don’t look like one.”

The blond hissed and elbowed his companion in the side. “Don’t be such an oaf, Jojo.” He looked up at her with a sharp, business-like expression. “Please, excuse his foolishness.”

“Ow! Hey Dio! I’m just saying…!”

Erina blinked for a moment. “W-Well… I’m not supposed to look like a princess. That’s the point.” She paused, debating whether to say something else before her impulse won out. “You two… don’t really look like dragons either.”

The dragon called Jojo merely smiled at her. It was broad enough to see all his pointed teeth, but there was a sincerity to the gesture that made her less fearful and more flustered. “I suppose you’re right about that! I could look more like a dragon, you know, but… I’d rather not scare your guards. Perhaps that should wait until a later date?”

“You’re right,” she answered with a shy nod.

The other dragon, known to her now as Dio, simply sighed. “Well then, perhaps a tour? We have already gotten ourselves comfortable. We can do introductions and all that… follow us and leave the trunks. We will carry them in for you as a favor.”

She nodded and cast one glance behind her as her father entered their carriage once more. Her heart twisted in her chest before she looked forward. There would be no use in crying now, even if her eyes burned. She could feel sorry for herself when she was alone.

“I’m Jonathan, by the way!” The larger boy called, pinning her with a grin.

“And I’m Dio. Charmed. Your name is, princess…?”

“Erina,” she supplied. “Just Erina. No need for princess.”

The dragons said nothing more as she followed them through the stone halls of the palace. These two were to be her guards? She had no idea what this kind of thing was going to entail. As they wandered, she could vaguely remember memories of her earliest years, before her mother had gone and the palace was shuttered. Cold winter months spent by the fire, the scent of mountain air lingering on her clothes and the smell of fresh baked bread and cinnamon wafting through the air from the kitchens. They were only impressions… but they were enough.

As Jonathan and Dio led her towards her chambers, she couldn’t help but notice a glint of light. It was from one of the old halls lined with tapestries. She could see now though it held piles of gold and jewels. The dragons’ hoard. Erina had read in bestiaries that that was where dragons would sleep. In their larger forms the gold and jewels would stick to their bellies forming an armor of sorts on their most vulnerable body parts.

Erina dimly hoped that they would sleep in some sort of bed instead of on some uncomfortable pile.

She couldn’t linger long. It felt private to peek in on something like that, even if the glittering hoard was fascinating and beautiful. Either way, her curiosity was piqued and if they remained this cordial and kind…

Perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad after all…


 

Princess Erina was a rather different person than either Jonathan or Dio expected. She actually preferred to be called only by her first name, which was fine by Jojo. But in the time leading up to her arrival, they had anticipated that she might be spoiled or as stiff as King Graham had been.

The months after her arrival had proved that nothing was farther from the truth.

Frankly? The two of them had no idea what made her special enough to warrant guarding. Originally she had been timid and nervous but as Erina became more comfortable, that melted away. It became obvious that she was bright and clever. Rather hardworking too. She had taken to learning basic skills like cooking after consulting books. Her first attempts had been bland but not unfortunate and she was improving every day! He had to admit, Dio’s cooking was still his favorite but hers was not far behind. She mended and cleaned for herself and had even taken to revitalizing the palace herb garden with plants he had never even seen before in order to make medicines. If you asked her questions about it she even became quite excited, delightedly explaining the medicinal and edible herbs she’d been tending to.

When he or Dio (mostly Dio) got on her nerves, she was almost like an icy breeze. Her eyes would get cold and her manner even more frigid than before. The two of them had agreed not to make her angry if they could help it.

She was an easy person to live with and sure enough, the three of them found their rhythm. Jonathan had been dwelling on that, dwelling on her when it happened

His stroll through the garden was cut short when he found Dio. The other boy was left face down in the grass and for one dreadful moment, he had thought him dead. He was spurred into action, fear coursing through his veins like icy tendrils as he ran to Dio’s side. He turned him with a trembling hand and let out a shaky breath once he got a good look at him.

The blond’s face was flushed crimson and though he was breathing, it was labored and heavy. One touch to his forehead only confirmed Jonathan’s fears. He was burning up, his skin clammy and not to the touch.

H-He was sick?

Terrified for his well being, Jonathan scooped Dio up. His head lolled against his broad chest and Jonathan held him close, like a treasure himself. He had to be okay, he had to do something…

His mind went numb and his legs instead carried him reflexively into the palace. Safe, safe, he had to get him safe. He couldn’t be ill, couldn’t be ripped away from him. The smell of cooking meat surrounded them as he rushed through the kitchen, stopping only when he found Erina at the hearth. She met his eyes with her own wide eyed stare, strands of blonde hair sticking to her forehead slicked with sweat from the kitchen fire.

“W-What happened to him?” She asked nervously, her gaze flitting to Dio’s prone form.

He tensed. “I-I don’t know,” he admitted, though it gutted him to say. “I-I think he has a… fever?” Jonathan felt lost, scared and horrified at the idea that something might happen to Dio. All he could do was hold onto him a little tighter. 

“Fever…?” Erina echoed, tapping her chin for a moment. “Okay, bring him to lay down, I think I have something that can help. I’ll give him a dose in his stew…”

“Will human medicines even work on a dragon?”

“Would it hurt to try?”

Erina pinned him with a grave expression before he nodded. “Right… y-yes. I don’t have any better ideas so… I-I’ll bring him to rest.”

He gave a weak nod before rushing off to one of the large uninhabited bedrooms. The room, like every other in the palace, was grand. But he paid it no heed as he threw aside musty bed curtains and laid Dio down on the bedding. Jonathan clutched his hand in his and tried to collect himself… It seemed so small.

In their youth, both Dio’s mother and his own had fallen victim to a plague. It wiped out a number of dragons in the area and he could recall watching his mother’s nearly black hide rise and fall slowly with her labored breaths before eventually stilling. Her claws going limp, the only family he had disappearing like smoke.

They were kindred spirits, him and Dio. Both alone in the world, lost and unsure of what to do. But… they realized they weren’t as alone as they had thought. They had each other… and Jonathan had never loved anyone more.

Seeing Dio like this, exhausted and weak and so vulnerable? It made Jonathan think back to his ailing mother in her last moments. Tears burned at the corner of his vision as he wiped them away. Gathering Dio’s hands in his, he pressed gentle kisses to his claws.

“P-Please get better,” he whispered against his soft skin and hard scales.

He wasn’t sure how long he stayed like that, his face pressed against Dio’s hands until Erina gently knocked on the doorframe. A tray laden with bowls of stew was held carefully in her hands. “I’m… sorry to interrupt,” she called nervously. Brandishing the food as if to explain herself.

“No! No! It’s alright!” Jonathan called, waving her in. She nodded in return, muscling her way into the room. 

“So!” She announced, setting the tray down. “I’ll cool his fever and while I do that… please feed him this?” She nudged a ceramic bowl in his direction and Jonathan gingerly took it in his hands. “The other is for you.”

“Th-Thank you,” he told her and he was grateful. As he grabbed the bowl his fingers brushed against hers, but instead of skin meeting skin he felt the cloth of a bandage. “...Oh, are you alright? Did you hurt yourself?”

Erina shook her head quickly, a nervous look on her face. “Just a minor kitchen accident. Dio needs your attention.”

She was right, he had to focus on the pressing matter here. As Erina dabbed a cold compress against Dio’s forehead, Jonathan spoon fed the stew past Dio’s lips. He prayed, to anything that would listen, that this would work.


 

Whatever medicine Erina had given him worked and after a few days of treatment, Dio’s fever broke and he was lucid. The fever had ravaged him and still left him weak, often too exhausted to carry on a conversation but… he was awake and alive. That was all Jonathan could ask for…

But something was off. Every day there were new bandages on Erina’s hands and when Jonathan asked about them she looked a bit like a spooked deer. She was ready to leap away at any moment, mindful of a danger he wasn’t even sure existed.

“Erina…” Jonathan asked, a few days after Dio had first collapsed. “Your hands. Is… everything alright?”

“What? They’re fine… I told you, a kitchen accident.”

Dio, awake and looking unimpressed with her excuse, rolled his eyes. “...You don’t really think we believe that, do you?” He asked, his voice laden with exhaustion.

At his insinuation, Erina looked down at her bandages. “It’s… not…-- Really, I can’t-- I can’t tell you.”

“What? Why not?” Jonathan piped up in dismay.

She opened her mouth, closed it and opened it once more. Something was warring within her and all the secrets… She didn’t need them. She trusted them, didn’t she?

“How about… a tell you both a story instead?”

Dio snorted. “Is this how you think you’ll get out of it?”

Please. I’m not allowed to say… so, let me-- let me tell you a story.”

Erina pinned them both with desperate looks, ones which made Jonathan’s stomach drop to the floor. Her reaction… Whatever this was, it was big. With one glance at Dio, whose concern was hidden in plain sight, they both turn back and gave her a nod.

“A story then,” Jonathan replied encouragingly.

Erina smiled down at her fingers and let out a shaky breath.

“Once upon a time, in a kingdom much like this one the queen gave birth to a baby girl. Everyone had been excited, the king’s line would continue and as he himself would be a good ruler, they anticipated just the same for her. While the king had made powerful enemies, he had made powerful allies as well and at his daughter’s christening all would be invited.”

“At the christening, all bequeathed gifts to the girl and to her parents. Treasures were left by foreign royalty in all varieties, while the fair folk bestowed their own blessings. Cleverness, kindness, a green thumb. There was one fae from the court that the king had never gotten on with. But he was no idiot, he would invite her all the same and not snub her. But the fae… had not forgotten her grievance.”

“As she approached the baby girl for a blessing, her smile was not quite as benevolent as she seemed. ‘For your daughter, mortal king, I bless her with the ability to heal. I do not mean a healer’s touch, no, but that the young princess’s body from the hair on her head to the bones in her body can be used. The blood that flows through her veins may cure illness, the tears from her eyes close wounds. She will be a boon for your people and anyone who shares in her favors.’ The faerie smiled, her sharp teeth on display. ‘But, mortal king, all blessings as you know, come with consequences. Her body, may grant immortality if consumed. Her liver, strength of body the likes never seen in mortals, her brain, wisdom and from her heart springs magic beyond comprehension.... Never once will her slayer know pain of death. Be mindful who is let close, king. If you are as foolhardy with her gift as you are in your conquests, your child will never know peace.’ The faerie let out a musical laugh, her bright eyes flashing one more time before she disappeared.”

“The king was a good man, but also a proud man and he paid the fae’s warning no heed. In the earliest days of her youth the princess spent hours kissing bruises and burns away. Her servants bottled her tears and when a grievous plague spread across the kingdom, her body was pricked and bloodlet until the people were safe from harm. She was happy to help, every part of her, even the tears shed from her pain could be used to help. It was a point of pride for her as well…”

“That is, until the first attack happened. Intruders constantly attempted to invade the palace. To kidnap, to kill, the desire shifted depending on who had ordered the infiltration. Staff turned, paid enough or promised enough of her, that they would allow those who would do her harm close enough. Sometimes they would attempt the assassinations themselves. As these attacks increased, her life in the palace changed. At once, her large bedroom in the palace proper turned into a room in the tallest tower, away from the general servants. Her retinue of servants and nannies turned into a single maid and then her mother. Though she was growing lonelier by the day, the princess knew her duty, knew what was expected.”

“But she was not the only target of attacks and when someone infiltrated to take the princess, they settled for her mother instead. As the culprits disappeared, all trace of the queen vanished as well. One fell swoop the kingdom had lost a monarch from the princess’s very nature. People had died, had been imprisoned, in pursuit of her. The king knew, although it pained him, deep down what he had to do.”

“Hide her away, kept safe under lock and key. She may never see another soul but she would be safe, the people around her would be safe. It was for the good of the kingdom, for the good of others, even if it broke his heart. The truth of the matter was that to people, she was worth more by the pound than by the actions she could perform.  Perhaps, one day, he would seek for her to continue the royal line but the king knew that his child was more of a liability than a leader on the throne. She was sent away, to languish an abandoned palace, guarded by two dragons who hopefully… have no need to consume her for eternal life.”

Finally, her story ended and Erina nervously looked up at them. The fearful and distraught expression she wore was almost haunted, like at any second she expected their mouths to widen and their maws to swallow her whole. He understood it however, it was not out of fear of dragons, it was out of fear of those who would wish to use her. She truly had never known peace…

Jonathan had known what it was like to be hunted, to be doggedly pursued for your very existence. He had known the crushing, haunting loss of his mother and Dio had as well. But he also knew what it was like to trust, to have someone at your side who would protect you beyond all else. 

She had no idea what that felt like, did she?

Erina, for her blessing and curse, had been abandoned because of the greed of others. Left vulnerable and with a price on every piece of her. Even when surrounded by people, there was no one beyond her parents who had ever put her well being first. Following that, her mother’s disappearance and her father’s abandonment…

Before, Jonathan had protected her because she was pleasant and nice, because it was his job and he didn’t mind this arrangement at all. But now? In that moment he knew, he had to be there for her. He had to take up the mantle and protect Erina, to support her. He swore to himself there and then that no harm would befall her again, he would do anything and everything in his power to protect her.

With one glance over to Dio, he could see it in his eyes as well. That resolve glittering in his amber irises. She would be safe, they would make sure of it. Who would have thought they would find kindred spirits here…?

“Are you telling me princess… that you’ve been bloodletting yourself into my stew these past evenings?” Dio drawled tiredly, fixing her with a lazy smirk.

Erina, not expecting that kind of response, seemed to straighten up. “Um… yes. It has worked well I think. Though, I believe it took a bit longer to take effect, possibly because of your draconic nature…? Is-- Is that okay?”

“You saved his life,” Jonathan remarked with a wide smile. “I don’t think he’s in any place to complain. …Thank you. For helping, for trusting us.

Though she still looked unsure of herself or if what she had done was righ,t she still smiled. It was nearly bright enough to light the whole room on it’s own.

“No, no. Thank you for listening the way that you did.”


 

The first assassins took months to painstakingly plan their descent into the winter palace. They had taken to sneaking through open doors and were surprised when the great rooms weren’t filled with magnificent dragons. Surely they had thought the king was bluffing. That is why they sheathed their swords and axes.

That is what Jonathan and Dio had waited for before they sprang into action.

Erina had been given the instructions to hide in a stone alcove while they took care of the threats and though she couldn’t see the action, she could hear the screams of agony. The spray of blood against the stone as the bottom half of an unfortunate would-be assassin slammed against the wall. It was hard not to flinch, even if these men and women had wished for her own death.

She waited patiently until Jonathan and Dio both called to her, their voices mixing together in a lovely harmony.

“You can come out now!”

Not one to spend her days cowering, Erina emerged from her hiding spot and wandered out into the open Great Hall. The boys remained in a half shifted form, their teeth elongated and long purple and red tails swished behind them. Their horns were even more prominent and their hands and feet had shifted into more bestial forms.

If she had forgotten they were dragons before, she certainly didn’t now.

Dio was leisurely munching on the armored limb of an attacker, while Jonathan was busy looting the rings off of a severed hand. “Hm, these men had surprisingly good taste in shinies, dontcha think Dio?”

“Mm,” the blond nodded. “I think they might’ve been a witch’s soldiers. Only the footsoldiers of magic users dress with any class nowadays.”

Erina stood in the doorway, taking in the carnage and their casual conversation with mixed results. She had to shift her focus from the bodies, or rather what was left, to find her speaking voice. “Thank you… for saving me,” she said finally.

“It’s our job, is it not?” Dio purred, licking his lips to remove any crimson stains that may have remained.

She shrugged at that before examining them. “Isn’t it… easier for you? To be in a larger form when you eat?”

“Oh! You mean our fully draconic forms?” Jojo asked in surprise. “Well, yes, it’s easier for us to digest but we didn’t wish to alarm you anymore than… this might.”

Erina hesitated for a moment before her courage got the better of her.

“I wish to… see those forms actually. I’ve never seen you two as full dragons…”

She was proud at how confidently her voice echoed through the palace. Both boys looked thrown off at her request but not… averse to such an idea. Jonathan was the one who spoke first, tilting his head as brown hair spilled in front of his eyes.

“But… we might scare you.”

“You have no intentions of attacking me, yes?” The boys nodded almost incredulously at her words.

“And you are fully in charge of your faculties as dragons, yes?” Another nod, this time, almost insulted at her insinuation.

“Then I should be fine,” Erina insisted, hands on her hips. “You shouldn’t need to watch yourself around me in that way. You should be allowed to be yourselves. So… c-can you show me?”

Jonathan and Dio exchanged a look in a way she had seen many times before through the months. They could read each other in a way she could only hope to one day, before they shifted then. Growing larger and larger until they both seemed to fill the room. The two of them were impressive and she couldn’t help the gasp that escaped her as the two of them fanned out their wings. Jonathan’s scales sparkled in the light and his form was large and muscular. His tail curled around her almost possessively as she leaned against it. They were soft to the touch there, a bit like a snake’s scales in certain areas as opposed to on their faces where they were far more ridged.

Dio’s tailed joined his, wrapping around her in a deep crimson. Dio by comparison was sinuous and lithe, his wingers were also just a bit larger. Yet the both of them sported long, sharp teeth while their nostrils billowed smoke.

It was in that moment she realized just how vulnerable she was. Compared to them she was… squishy. There was nothing to stop them from crunching her down in their powerful jaws beyond their good will towards her. Still though, they were beautiful, magnificent even. 

“My, my, I can’t tell if you’re impressed or petrified,” Dio practically purred, his voice filling the room.

“Enchanted,” Erina answered honestly. “C-Could I… get closer? Touch your… scales?”

Jonathan was the one who sputtered. “E-Enchanted? That’s not-- o-of course you can touch if you’d like!”

Without hesitation, both of them lowered their heads to her and allowed her hands to wander their snouts. The scales there were like armor, rigid to the touch but still like jewels beneath her fingertips. As she gently pet their faces she heard it then, a low rumble deep in the back of their throats. Was that…?

“A-Are you… purring ?”

“And what if we were,” Dio snapped, his tail swaying behind them. “Would you find yourself disgusted?”

“What? No! I just didn’t know dragons did that… It’s… cute.”

Tch.

Jonathan let out a small laugh. “No one’s ever called us that before… especially not when we looked like this.”

“But you are!” Erina insisted and the purring resumed. “And… those wings of yours! You fly right? W-What is it like? It must be amazing…!”

“Dio is far better at flight than me,” Jonathan admitted. “But I rather enjoy it myself…”

Dio at his words let out a deep laugh, one that made her shiver. “Shall I take you into the skies, princess? Show you a bird’s eye view of your kingdom?”

“You… would do that? Take me flying?”

Dio nodded. “Just say the word and your wish is my command.”


 

Dio did not consider himself the type of dragon that enjoyed humans. On the contrary, he rather despised them. They were useless things that only saw fit to terrorize his kind. But Erina was not a human… she was Erina and therein was the difference. He did favors for no one… but when she said she wished to fly? He couldn’t help but want to impress her. To give her a taste of what a dragon’s life was like.

He remained poised on the front lawn on the winter palace, his wings fanned out behind him as Jonathan gingerly helped the human girl onto his back. 

“Now Dio,” Jonathan warned him. “Try not to get too fancy. But I know you…”

Dio growled slightly, eyeing the other dragon. “Don’t get too fancy? That’s the whole reason I’m dressed like a show pony.” He cast a glance to the gilded saddle on his back. It was a beautiful object left in their hoard, from a soldier who valued his war steed far more than was healthy.

Jonathan had approached him when he arranged their little flight lesson and gestured to the overlarge saddle. “We could use this! When you take her up for a ride!”

“Do I look like a horse to you, Jojo?” Dio replied, not at all amused. He was not some beast to be tacked and saddled.

But Jojo, of course, had a reason. “Well, no! You don’t! But… you’re going to want to show off, to do your rolls and dips in the air. If you don’t wear something like this, she might fall from your back… might be injured. We want to keep her safe, don’t we?”

“Tch…” He hated when Jojo spoke rationally. How irritating. He didn’t want any harm to befall her though. He hoped… that if this went well, she’d go on flights with him again.

“...I suppose I can.”

That is how they ended up here, ready to take flight. Erina got herself comfortable in the saddle and held tightly to a chain looped around his neck. He refused the reins and bit. He would want to talk on this endeavor, not be completely reduced to a steed.

“Are you ready?” He called over his shoulder.

“I am!” Erina’s answer was giddy and he felt her fingers flex against his hide.

Dio let out a laugh and spread his wings. “Well then, we’re off.” He gave Jojo a nod before he launched himself off the ground, taking the to the air. 

It was always a delightful feeling, having the wind caressing his scales and watching as the earth became smaller and smaller beneath him. He sighed and stretched, enjoying the warmth of the sun. But his reverie was interrupted, by the shift of legs, the feeling of hands on his back. It was almost flustering to remember that Erina was with him.

“It’s… so beautiful,” Erina remarked, marveling as they reached a height in the sky that allowed her to survey her kingdom. “L-Look…! I can see all the way past the mountains…!”

Dio pointed a clawed finger down to the land below. “And there are the markets and the village…. While the sea stretches in that direction.” He pointed off to the east and Erina leaned closer to him.

“Amazing,” she breathed and he could practically feel the word settle into his hide.

He had to move, he had to do something. “...Shall I show you some tricks, Erina?”

“Tricks…?”

He laughed low then. “Hold on tight and you’ll see.”

He waited until the chain stiffened with her hold before he took off forward. The air was his stage and while out in the sky he spun and dipped. He flew in large elegant loops and rolled in the air once, twice, three times. The entire time, Erina held tight too. She still held onto the chain but wrapped her arms around his long neck and couldn’t help but cling to him. The entire time screaming with delight as he spun and danced in the air.

“OH! OH…! A-ANOTHER ROLL?” She shrieked, laughter coloring her voice.

“If that’s what you wish!” He yelled with a laugh of his own as he returned to more rolls. He hadn’t realized how far they’d travelled until they could see the crests of waves not too far in the distance. He stilled, floating in the air with only the flap of his wings disturbing the silence between them.

“I never… thought I’d ever see the sea,” Erina told him finally, her hand absentmindedly stroking his hide. “That would mean I would have to leave and be around others who may wish me harm. Thank you… for showing this to me.”

He hummed, feeling a warmth blooming through him as he looked out over the sea with Erina on his back. This felt… right, oddly enough.

“You are quite welcome… and there will be more, I promise. Jojo and I will show you things you’ve never seen. Take you places you wish to go. Knowing dragons moves you up in the world, I’m afraid~” He crooned and felt pleased when she laughed in return.

“I certainly feel lucky to know you.”

She had no idea how mutual that feeling was.


 

Erina had learned that Jonathan and Dio became easily cold in the winter months. Perhaps it was because they were rather cold blooded. But when the cold winds blew in, she had learned that the best way to sleep was in a heap by the fire. She would sit in the middle, a little furnace of warmth between them, while the boys curled up around her.

In their sleep, Jonathan and Dio’s tails would often curl around her. It was a reflexive gesture done in their sleep, but there was no denying it. The gesture made her feel more protected and warmer than any fireplace could.

But despite being in the middle, one thing had become clear as day. Jonathan and Dio were very much in love.

She had known for quite some time. It had been obvious the longer they lived together… but she’d caught them sneaking touches and slipping off together. The last thing they needed to do was hide for her sake. To pretend that it wasn’t happening.

That was why, at the start of winter in her fifteenth year, Erina finally said something. Flanked on both sides by her guards and her fingers running through their hair. This kind of atmosphere really emboldened a person…

“You don’t… have to hide yourselves from me you know,” Erina announced, breaking the sleepy silence.

Both of them stirred, pinning her with confused looks from either side. “Hide ourselves? We’re just curling up because you’re warm,” Jonathan muttered.

“No, no, silly,” Erina told him softly. “I… know you two are… courting? Do dragons court? Or… you love each other. You don’t have to hide that around me. P-Please don’t actually, I’ve said you deserve to be yourselves and I mean that.”

The two of them were quiet at her side before Dio spoke up. “How did you… figure it out?”

“You’re not as sneaky as you’d like to think,” Erina replied with a laugh.

“...And you’re alright with this?” It was Jojo speaking up this time.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” She asked, blinking in confusion. “You two are happy and that’s all that matters. I believe I’m happier when you two are! It makes our home feel much nicer.”

Dio gave a little laugh before burying into her side once more. “I suppose that much is true. There’s no point in hiding it then.”

“Suppose not~”

In the end, she was certainly happy for them. They made the palace feel like a warm home and when their home was full of love, it was even better. She would never admit though, not out loud, that being left out… left her with a pang of emptiness. A ghost of loneliness that never left.

The princess Erina had feelings for her dragon guards. A foolish endeavor when they were obviously made for each other. So instead, she kept her feelings inside of her and waited. Eventually their weight and intensity would dull and she could return to feeling normal.

Wouldn’t it?


 

Jonathan and Dio really loved jewelry. That much was obvious. They were dragons, they were supposed to. Their hoard always laid in one of the larger rooms in the palace, but she never ventured inside. It was like sneaking a peek into someone’s closet or a private place.

What she did see of the hoard were glimpses of treasure and whatever the boys decided to wear that day. They loved to have themselves dripping in jewels and gold when they had the chance. But throughout winter Jonathan had skipped on wearing an earring alongside his others.

So much so that the hole had closed up.

That’s why she found herself here, with a crying dragon in her lap, struggling with his sweetheart. Dio, looked completely unamused. He held a long, sharp needle in his hand and seemed to lose more of his patience by the second. What a sight they were. Erina’s heart twisted fondly just watching them.

“Now Jojo. You CAN’T wear those earrings unless you have the proper holes for them.”

“Noooo!” Jonathan cried. “You have to pierce my skin and it HURTS! I don’t want to be in pain. There has to be another way, right?”

“There is not!”

Erina watched with wide eyes as Dio waved the needle. This didn’t seem like Dio’s first attempt at all of this. No doubt he was the one who gave Jonathan his multiple piercings around his ears. Still, her eyes widened as she regarded the tool.

“You’re just going to shove that sharp thing through his ear…?” Erina asked with a tilt of her head. That sounded unpleasant but worth the beautiful jewelry you could wear.

Jonathan whined into her skirts. “Don’t say it like thaaaaaaaaaaat.”

“But that is what’s going to happen, right?”

Dio groaned. “I’m going to need you to not make my job harder, Erina darling. His ear holes closed again, so I have to do it once more since he never listens to me.

“I just like to change them a lot!” Jonathan protested, dangerously close to whining. “But I just… forget to replace them sometimes!”

“If you didn’t forget, then we wouldn’t have to go through this. Now hold still.

“Uuuuugggghhhhhh, fine,” Jonathan called in return. Erina could tell it was a little sulky for Dio’s liking by how he seemed to tense at Jonathan’s words. So she stepped in the best way that she could.

“Come on,” Erina urged, reaching out to hold his hand tightly. Jonathan looked to her hand and blushed a very pleasant shade of pink, all the way up to his ears before nodding.

Though when Dio so much as leaned in, he flinched. “You’re being too rough, Dio!”

“I haven’t even done anything yet! Stop acting like a child!”

“Okay, okay, relax you two,” Erina cut in. “Jojo, I’ll tell you when he does it, alright? So don’t worry…”

Jonathan gave a little nod that bordered on pitiful as he closed his eyes in grim anticipation. “One… Two,” and with that she gave a nod and Dio slipped the needle through his ear. 

“AUGH!” Jonathan shouted, tears in his eyes. “Th-That wasn’t fair, Erina! You didn’t-- That wasn’t on three!”

“Well, if I told you exactly when, you would’ve panicked! I caught you by surprise to cause you less pain,” she explained with a squeeze of his hands. Jojo just gave a sniffle and huff at that.

Dio rolled his eyes, staunching the bleeding and fixing up the beautiful gold and emerald earring that now adorned Jonathan’s ear. “You’ve taken blades to the hide before and this is what brings tears to your eyes?”

Y-Yes!

Erina laughed a little to herself and continued to rub soothing circles into Jonathan’s back as Dio went for the other side. Another round of tears and crying came and went while Dio rolled his eyes.

“And you want your nose pierced? You can’t even handle this! When you decide to do it, count me out for helping you. If your ears are this hard then that will be impossible.”

“Well, when I’m ready for that I’ll be so much better…!”

The two of them melted into their little argument Erina stared at the needle in Dio’s hand. Did she… dare? Princesses weren’t necessarily supposed to do things like that. Would they even…?

“Could you pierce mine too?” Erina said suddenly and far too loud for her own ears. Both boys stopped their squabbling to stare at her.

“You… want your ears pierced?” Jonathan asked a little surprised.

“Yes… but if it’s a problem...” Her voice trailed off and she almost didn’t know what to say. The attention got the better of her, making her want to shrink back in embarrassment. Maybe this was a bad idea… If it was too much a chore then--

“But of course I will,” Dio practically purred.

Jonathan was just as enthusiastic, all his prior pain forgotten. “It is most  definitely NOT a problem!” As he grinned, Erina could see all of his sharp teeth glinting in the light and tried to ignore how her stomach twisted with delight at seeing him that way. “Actually… we should get a pair of earrings fit for a princess, don’t you think?”

“Mm, perhaps a gift from us,” the way Dio’s eyes glittered as he looked at her made her heart stutter against her ribs too. They were dangerous those two. “Wait here, Erina, we’ll return in a moment…”

With that, the two of them swept out of the room. 

She had to stop this. She thought the feelings nonsense would go away but a chance look from each of them had her turning to jelly. They were too kind for their own good, giving her gifts, encouraging her and complimenting her, thinking of what makes her happy. She had tried all she could to make up for it, to earn this sort of treatment from them.

And she repaid their lovely treatment by getting feelings for them? When they were in love with each other? What a selfish idiot!

Sometimes, Erina thought she didn’t deserve them. Really, when all she’d known was distrust and threats… to have them act so nice to her when she’d really done nothing for them. It felt like she needed to do more for them. Like one day they would realize they’re getting nothing out of making her happy specifically. They could continue to have all these perks by just ignoring her and doing their job…

She was terrified that one day they would realize they didn’t have to entertain her and they would simply withdraw. Erina wouldn’t stop them but the day they did that… her heart would break into a million pieces, that much was for certain.

“E~ri~na~” Dio called  as both him and Jonathan had returned from their destination. It seemed clear where they’d been when she saw the glittering jewels in their hands. Were those…?

“Did you just… get me earrings from your hoard?”

Jonathan nodded brightly. “Indeed! We picked out some earrings you might like. A few to change as the mood suits you… and also ones we think will really… compliment you.

There was an odd tone to his last phrase but Erina couldn’t help but melt a little at the way they both seemed to regard her. Warm, fond…

“I don’t deserve anything from your hoard though, that’s special,” she told them almost nervously. Surely they would understand their mistake and--

“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Dio replied smoothly. “These are our treasures to do with as we see fit. We want you to wear something from us. Is that so bad?”

She couldn’t help but wring her hands together. “I… suppose not.”

“Then please choose!”

The boys laid before her jewels of all different sorts. Silver filigree dotted with rubies, golden ornaments with inset purple gems. Pearls, diamonds, emeralds, they had brought her choices of precious stones that left her head spinning. But Erina’s eyes were drawn to a pair they had laid out from the moment she saw them. Deep sapphires cut in the shape of flower petals, dangling from a chain of silver and surrounding a tiny cluster of diamonds. They were elegant but not quite as ostentatious as some others. 

“Those are… beautiful,” she whispered as she picked them up delicately.

She noticed the way the boys seemed to share a confident look. “We had an idea you might,” Dio answered, noticing her questioning expression.

Erina couldn’t help but gaze at the jewels in her hand. “W-Well… I think… these are the ones I’d like to wear, thank you.”

“Well, they’re all yours!” Jonathan informed her. “Make sure to keep a jewelry box so you don’t lose them, okay?”

“All of them?” she echoed and at their nods, she looked down at the group of earrings they’d brought her, feeling incredibly unworthy of it. But she knew it would hurt them to deny it, even Dio looked excited about her keeping them. “Well… I will keep them safe then. Thank you…”

“Don’t thank me yet,” Dio drawled, brandishing the piercing needle once more. “You’ll have to find a way to wear them, eh?”

Erina snorted and realized that night that the slight pinch of a needle was worth it when you could wear beautiful things. Her heart was a traitor, slamming erratically in her chest whenever she saw the beautiful sapphire flowers growing from her ears. It may have been wrong but for now, she would relish their favors for as long as they wished to give them.


 

Erina didn’t see the hoard again until her seventeenth birthday.

Honestly, the entire day had been a bit overwhelming. She had to wonder how long the plans had been in the works considering what they had done for her. 

She awoke to a treat of lemon cake for breakfast which was her absolute favorite. When Dio cooked it was always delightful but when he baked, especially with lemons and oranges, it left her mouth watering. She would have been happy with that alone but the boys did not stop there.

There were gardenias on her breakfast tray and orange blossoms in vases in her room. Freesia filled the drawing room and delphinium dotted the library. Honeysuckle surrounded their copper pots in the kitchen and Erina thought that the palace had never smelled lovelier or looked brighter.

Though she paused. The hall that held their hoard was decorated in flowers too.

Lilies and roses, the boys’ favorite. 

Had they meant for her to go in there? But she never--

“Now, dearest princess,” Dio drawled, hooking one arm with hers.

“Won’t you please join us at our hoard?” Jonathan finished, doing the same on the other side.

She couldn’t help but blink at them both in bewilderment as they ushered her forward. “Your… hoard? Am I… getting a tour of it finally?” That was a nice thought, to see what they had amassed here while living with her and the treasures they had kept before when they lived in a cold mountain cave.

At her question the boys seemed to wear strange looks. Smiles tugging at their lips but something else sparkling in their eyes. Fear? Apprehension? Why…? There was no good conclusion she could reach from that alone…

“Something like that…” Jonathan replied finally, in a more subdued voice than she had expected.

But without further ado, they had led her past the doors that separated their space from the rest of the palace to reveal it to her fully. There was no restraining the gasp that escaped her. This was nothing like the peeks in she had gotten over the years, no not at all.

Around her, piles of treasure rose up on either side. Coins of every sort made up the bulk of the clutter but there were also jewels and accessories. Some strange things like the saddle she had used occasionally to fly as well as old golden instruments and gilded weaponry. Suits of armor, not ones for combat but ones for show, stood proudly on display at all sides. The whole room practically glittered and when she took a tentative step forward she could feel Jonathan and Dio’s eyes on her. They were expecting something but she had to find the words first.

“I-It’s…,” Brilliant, lovely, magnificent, beautiful, unbelievable, any of those words could fit, “...Huge.”

Or she could just sound like a giant idiot.

Dio at her right snorted. “Well, that’s one word for it.”

“We’ve been collecting a long time… but really, it’s kind of middling for a hoard of two dragons,” Jonathan explained, before releasing her arm and instead beginning to climb the pile. He turned then and offered a hand to her. “Join us…?”

She glanced over to see Dio slinking over beside him and looking at her just as expectantly. Who was she to keep them waiting?

Erina reached for their hands and they pulled her up on the pile of gold and silver. There was copper as well, though is less frequency. Only the best of the best no doubt. She laughed and held tight as the gold shifted under their feet. It was easy to lose your balance if you were unused to it but Jonathan and Dio didn’t flinch. They held onto her, steadfast and strong. Goodness, did they know what they were doing to her like this?

Finally, they reached a large patch of treasure where Jonathan opened his arms. “This is where we sleep if we choose to sleep in the hoard. It’s the comfiest spot with the softest gold and our favorite treasures are around here…”

“But,” Dio interrupted, an arm slung around Jonathan’s waist, “You may find your favorites elsewhere… Pick anything you like. It’s yours.”

“W-What? From-- but-- i-it’s yours!”

Jonathan snorted and picked up a string of pearls and draped it around her neck while Dio reached for a ruby diadem, placing it lopsided on her head. “What’s ours is yours,” they replied, like it wasn’t a big deal. Which was stupid. It was a very big deal. “The hoard… we share it freely with you.”

“But that’s… ridiculous.”

Their hands both froze, a pair at her neck and a pair in her hair. All lovely places to be, without the looks of hurt they both seemed to wear. “...Ridiculous?” Dio questioned, his voice grave. Like they’d both made a mistake.

“This is yours. Not mine. I’ve hardly earned your company, let alone your treasure. I-I… don’t deserve this.”

It was as if relief flooded every bone in their body. They must have been expecting a different answer, but this one was the right one. She didn’t deserve this at all… Gods above, they didn’t even know what she thought of them.

“It’s not a matter of deserving,” Jonathan told her softly, his hands resting gently on her shoulders in a way that made her want to melt. “It’s a matter of us wanting. Do you… understand?”

“Wanting?”

A shiver ran down Erina’s spine as Dio began to run his fingers through her hair. “With Jojo, it was more like yearning but… well… I suppose I didn’t mind~”

“Don’t play it off now when you’re the one who suggested we do this here. Like this.

Erina laughed nervously. “Wh--When you put it that way, it sounds a bit like you’re both trying to court me. You ought to be more… careful with your words.” Her traitorous heart sped up as Dio gave her the most genuine smile she’d ever seen him wear.

“We’re well past courtship now, don’t you think?”

Well, that wasn’t what she was expecting.

W-What?

There was no helping the way she balked at his words. Past courtship ? “B-But that means marriage…! Cohabitation…!”

“We’re cohabitating now, no?” Jonathan asked a little shyly. “Not to mention, well, we’re a unit aren’t we? A unit of three, never to be broken… It’s something in our home, something to share.”

Dio’s eyes pinned her, sharp and serious but also genuinely gentle. “And I may jest, but Erina, I truly do wish to share this with you. We wish to share it with you… Everything.

“We’re not quite sure how humans do this…” Jonathan muttered, scratching his head. “It’s… not as easy as it was before.”

Erina trembled a bit, unsure of what to make of it. It felt like… a confession, it even sounded like it in bits but her brain screamed at her to be rational. Think! Don’t just fall victim to misconception and ruin the only people not related by blood who had put you first.

“I love you…!” She blurted out, and Erina’s brain recoiled at just how mixed up the signals had gotten. That was the exact opposite of what was intended. 

Excellent work, idiot. 

Realizing the horrific mistake Erina had just made and how shell shocked the boys both looked, she struggled to rectify it. “I-I mean… alright. I perhaps have… romantic feelings for you both. B-but… love is so strong of a word!” She laughed desperately. “It’s just… you can’t share this with me. Because I have… those feelings. It muddies the waters, changes things, ruins them even! You two… are devoted to each other. I can’t take this gesture because to me, no matter what, I will treasure it for a different reason than you’ve intended…”

An awful silence stretched on after Erina talked herself into the world’s deepest hole. She wished absently that the pile of gold would give way and swallow her up so she didn’t have to deal with this anymore. She itched to say something more, but her brain had resumed control. No need to make herself look further like an idiot…

And then, they started laughing.

Erina curled in on herself as they did. Of all the things they could have done, this was the worst. It didn’t matter how musical or lovely their voices were, at her expense they made her flinch. 

That is, until two sets of arms and two tails wrapped around her. That protective gesture once more but… it felt different.

“Goodness, please don’t make that face,” Jonathan whispered in her ear. “Not when we feel the same way! That’s-- that’s what this whole thing was!” 

Dio’s claws traced circles along her back. “No need to flinch or look so sorrowful. I’m surprised we’re having to spell it out now after all the effort.”

Erina felt weak, felt faint. Was this a dream? It had to be, it couldn’t have been this easy.

“But you two… love each other.”

Dio tutted. “Darling, Jojo and I have had plenty of practice when it comes to sharing. Our hoard, our time. We have figured out, that we can share each other… and we can share you…”

“If you’re willing to try,” Jonathan finished. He seemed equal parts noble and hopeful and Erina had to swallow back tears. It was nearly overwhelming in the greatest way…

“Goodness… and… if I want to try…?”

“Then please don’t push me away,” Jonathan replied low before he leaned close. When he pressed his lips to hers Erina found he tasted like cinnamon and chocolate. Little things he couldn’t seem to resist. He held onto her soundly but with a gentle touch. As they shared this moment, she felt his fingers shift against her face from human hands to dragon claws and only leaned in further. This did not put her off, just being held by Jonathan… kissing him even! It was more than she could have ever hoped for. In fact, she liked him like this, half as a human and half in his true form… 

Something about it felt… more authentic.

When he pulled away, red faced, he could only smile. “I love you, Erina.” 

Her heart soared.

Dio, only cleared his throat to get her attention. He put on an act of aloofness, but she could see the want there. When her eyes were on him he pulled her close to him to do the same. While Dio smelled of roses, he tasted of a faint hint of lemon and the coppery tang of blood. It was it’s own appeal and she melted right against him just as she had with Jonathan. They were so similar and so different, it left her head spinning… but she wanted both. She had known as much for a long time… but to have it coming to fruition? It almost felt unreal.

When he pulled away from her, his voice was low, like a secret for only her and Jojo to hear.

“And I love you as well, Erina.”

Her heart stuttered and might’ve stopped. But if she was lucky, she would remain with them. “Now please,” Jojo asked, returning to hold her once more. “We’ve wanted you wearing things from our hoard since we got here. Please pick things out…”

Princess Erina would never sit on the throne of her kingdom. Her condition was too great of a risk, at least publicly to accept the title of queen. But now? She’d had her pick of the dragons hoard. She’d found delicate little anklets in the shape of sinuous dragons to wear, each with inlaid eyes of topaz, and chosen them for herself. Around her neck, she wore pearls and teardrop diamonds, on her fingers more rings than any one person ought to wear and on her head, that diadem from before. But her dragons had picked out all of that, excited to find her practically dripping with their treasures. And here, not in the wealth of their treasures, but in the wealth of their company she had never felt more like a queen.

Their companionship. Their love. Them.

That was all she needed.

But it would be a lie to say playing dress up in the hoard wasn’t a draw on it’s own. Especially when their eyes were on her.


 

Being intimate with dragons had been a bit… problematic.

Not for the reasons one would think. It had nothing to do with her lovers being dragons. It had everything to do with being a princess actually. The nervousness of not performing her duty, of not fulfilling what she was supposed to. To be royalty was to sacrifice her wants and needs to fulfill what was expected of her.

For months, as their relationship got deeper, Erina would be involved in the boys activities but as a spectator. She would hold Dio’s face and let him rut against her nightgown as Jonatan pressed into him. She would trail her hands over their tails as they wrapped around each other, sometimes her too.

They weren’t selfish. Not her dragons. When they were done, when she was needy and in a soiled nightgown, their hands, their faces, would end up between her legs. But beyond that…

Erina had always stopped them.

Not because she didn’t want to enjoy them, so much as she was scared of disappointing people who were depending on her. Her people, her father… It took her months to realize that her father hadn’t been to visit her in a year. Why was she holding herself back for a position she would never have? Because she was expected to sire an heir at some point? It was becoming increasingly clear that she was too much of a danger to have as an actual ruler...

She didn’t want to live her life like this. At the whims of her father or anyone else. Erina was sent away, out of sight and out of mind… But this was her life. These were her choices to make. If she wanted to share herself  with her Jonathan, her Dio, she would do as she pleased. Life was too short and she was already stuck in one place.

That was when she’d made up her mind.

The winter had been cold. While a bitter frost had settled over the land Erina found warmth with Jonathan and Dio any way she could. Whether it be in front of the fireplace, on a pile of quilts, wrapped up on top of their hoard, they made do. There were many places to be warm in the winter palace.

But nothing eased the chill quite like a dinner made by Dio, while Jonathan ate with gusto beside her. They were… soft, sweet, gentle only for her…

Her mouth moved before she could stop it.

“I think I’m ready to lay with you.”

Jonathan stretched leisurely as Dio got up to rinse the cookpot. “Mmm yeah, I’m pretty tired too,” Jojo mumbled.

She hesitated for a moment. It was a curse, when Erina was ready to be bold she defaulted to such-- such formality. She wanted them to know, she needed them to but she only made it a struggle for herself. “No I mean… intimately. I want to… be with you two. I-I want to-- You know!

At her words the room went completely silent. At least, until Dio nearly dropped their dinner pot, only saving it from hitting the floor with his tail. Both boys were staring at her, both seemed to struggle with what to say.

“You’re… sure?” Jonathan spoke up. “W-What changed your mind…?”

Erina was thoughtful for a moment. Something had changed but well, saying perspective alone seemed like a bit of a cop out. “...I want to do something for myself. I want to do something that makes me happy. You two make me happy and… I just want to.”

“T-Tonight?” It was Dio this time, looking shy for once. He seemed completely caught off guard and bothered by his own stutter.

She nodded slowly. “If that’s… amenable to you?”

“Well we can… see where the mood takes us, don’t you think?” Jonathan asked.

It didn’t take long for the mood to set in at all.

They had retired to their shared bedroom. Or at least one of them, they slept where they chose but always together. The fireplace was roaring, the bed curtains drawn and as if to add to the moment, a snow began falling gently outside.

It started slow with lazy kisses. Jonathan pressing kisses along her jaw and then leaving insistent ones against her mouth. She liked feeling his hands tracing every curve and dip of her. Dio started up not long after, his lips dancing along her neck, at the juncture of her neck and shoulder. A flick of the tongue at her skin from Dio, the gentle brush of claws against her hips from Jonathan and she was already on cloud nine. Every so often Jonathan and Dio would meet over her shoulder, kissing each other deeply before they returned their attentions to her. 

But that was the normal way of things. That was what they always did when wrapped up with one another. Erina realized with a hint of boldness that it would be what came after that would set the tone. After one particular kiss between her two boys, one that made her ache between her legs, Dio rested his head on her shoulder.

“Are we… going to…?” She asked, feeling sparks of nervousness and desire both running down her spine.

“...Do you still want to?” His voice was hot and ragged against her ear. She could feel him stirring against her backside and Jonathan against her thigh. “If you want to… we have to build up to it. For your comfort of course, Princess~”

“Call me Erina please… n-none of that princess stuff,” she told them softly. “A-And I do want to. You say build up as if it’s a bad thing… But it’s only more time with you.”

Jonathan hummed and pressed another kiss to her lips. “Well in that case…”

He met Dio’s eyes over her shoulder before they shifted. Erina found herself tucked up against Jonathan’s chest as Dio sank between her legs. Slowly, carefully, Dio pushed the nightgown up her thighs. Up and up and up. As his hands traveled so did his lips starting from gentle kisses on her ankle, trailing all the way up her calf to her thigh. They made her shake and her breathing come quick. The anticipation, the attention… It was so much. 

Jonathan on the other hand found his hands tracing the neckline of her nightgown and pulling down, down, down. As more of her skin became exposed he sighed against her, pressing kisses to her jaw, her neck, the juncture of her shoulder.

“You don’t like these underthings do you?” Dio purred, his breath coming in warm puffs against her thighs. 

“Huh?”

The sound of tearing fabric as her underwear fell in scraps to the bed answered her question. “D-Dio…!

“You have more, right?”

Erina rolled her eyes and looked away. “Yes, I do…” She didn’t want to admit just how attractive that was. How overwhelming they were, with Dio’s head between her thighs and Jonathan’s hands working their way across her chest.

“Now, sit back and relax, darling…”

With that, Dio dipped his head low and licked a stripe against her slit. He was always very good with his tongue, Erina had felt it before. But this time it felt… different. There was a promise of something as his tongue worked its way across her in figure eights. As he swirled his tongue along her clit, leaving her whining and writhing back against Jonathan’s chest.

When he slipped a finger inside, she whined low. Erina had done this before, to herself quite a few times. But Dio’s fingers were longer, a little bigger and once he slipped inside to the knuckle she could hardly breathe. “Look at you,” Jonathan’s voice echoed in her ear. “You’re beautiful, Erina…” 

Dio chuckled between her thighs and sighed warm against her skin. “Lovely, very lovely.” She had no idea which way was up. She wanted to reach for Jonathan when his voice left her melting while Dio made her want him as well. One arm reached forward, one arm back until she found purchase in hair, against skin, wherever she could.

When a second finger joined the first, there was no ceasing her moans. Jonathan in response peppered her neck with kisses. Erina felt the gentle pinch of his fingers around her nipple as he rolled it between his digits. Such an action sent jolts of electricity between her legs. A pleasant fog settled over her brain as she focused solely on the sensations around her. Her dragons, their hands and mouths and… them. Her eyes were hazy as she tried to look from one to the other. 

“Y-You’re…--A-Ah…!” Dio had begun spreading his fingers inside. Stretching her until she dug her nails into Jonathan’s flesh, leaving the dragon hissing with delight. The low moan that escaped her was needy… W-Was all of this really necessary?

Dio seemed to drink up all of her sounds. It empowered him, left him moving his fingers a little faster, a little deeper as he pumped them inside of her while Jonathan just moved his hands in tandem. His teeth grazed against her neck, his hands lavishing attention on the other side of her chest.

“You need to be ready… to take Jonathan. Not so much me, but our darling is a monster~” Dio hummed as he added a third finger. Her toes curled and she felt something familiar building up. It was different than when it was only her fingers bringing her to her own climax. It was more… more intense . She suspected, somewhere dimly in the back of her brain, that that was by virtue of it being them who touched her.

“Just a little more,” Jonathan crooned. He looked on at her with an intense look of want in his eyes. She melted against him, at the mercy of these two dragons who could kill her with nothing but a snap of the jaws and who instead wanted her screaming not with fear but pleasure. When Dio’s tongue darted out to lavish attention on her clit again, she simply… fell apart.

Erina whined out an unintelligible mix of their names as she reached out, properly this time, for Dio’s head. Lacing her fingers in his hair she rutted up against his face until her orgasm passed. But his fingers still worked her, still stretched her while his tongue aimed to lap up all that he could.

She couldn’t stop shaking, overwhelmed by the sensation of it all, when he finally withdrew his fingers. He beheld her with half lidded eyes and smiled wide enough to show off his sharp teeth. “You should be ready, darling…”

Erina could hardly wrap her mind around what was happening and in her overstimulation tried to help them undress. Perhaps it was useless tugging at their sleep shirts and trousers, but she wanted them to be rid of their clothing as soon as possible. As the fog of her mind lifted Jonathan’s hands held onto the hem of her nightgown.

“Do you wish to continue, Erina?” 

He pressed a tentative kiss to her overheated cheeks but as he did she sighed out dreamily. “I do, I do… do you?”

A chorus of “yes” sounded from both boys and it made her smile. “...Alright then…”

When Jonathan rested back against the bed, Erina finally got the chance to see him in all his glory. She had before, tanned skin, purple scales and scars littering his body, his tail coiled behind him… and then there was that cock. A monster all on it’s own.. But this time, as she looked at him aroused and waiting… it was for her.

Dio was much the same, pale and scarred, his crimson tail spilling behind him and his horns curling elegantly around his ears. He was not nearly as big as Jonathan, but she could recall him whispering in her ear. “Size means nothing if you can’t use it properly.”

She wanted to see if he was right.

Jonathan gave his thighs a pat as he fixed her with a nervous smile. “H-Hey… I think, it might be better for you if you… were on top of me?”

“Like a real dragon rider?” Erina laughed breathlessly. 

Dio rolled his eyes. “You’re terrible, Erina…”

“I’m right though~” She grinned and crawled her way over Jonathan’s body. She straddled him, up on her knees as he guided himself to her entrance. She could feel him teasing her there, tantalizing. Though for a moment, Erina looked behind her at Dio.

“...Do you not want to…?”

“One at a time, love,” Dio crooned. “I’ll have my turn.”

“If you’re sure…?” She sounded nervous at that. Was it a sign there was less interest?

But Dio instead just hummed. “I need to get myself ready for the both of you anyway.” He laid down next to them, his hand leisurely stroking the length of him. “I want to watch you both like this…”

Who were they to disagree with that?

“I-If you’re ready, Erina? You can take c-- O-Oh…!”

Erina didn’t let him finish as she began to sink down on him. Her fingers dug into his shoulders and she couldn’t help but hiss. It took quite a bit of time to take every inch of him. He was… so hopelessly big, but there was something delicious about that stretch. Even when she eventually bottomed out, there was a sting and a stretch but to have him firmly nestled inside of her...

“D-Don’t move,” she whined when she felt herself anchored to him. She had to wait, to get adjusted. Even with that preparation it was just… so much. So overwhelming. On display for Dio, finally joined together…

As the pain subsided and only pleasure remained Erina’s hold on his shoulders had finally let up. She’d drawn blood, even on a dragon. “...I-I’m going to move now…” Erina was trembling, Jonathan was in no better condition and all she could do to stop it was move.

And move she did.

Slowly at first, lifting herself up until just the tip of him remained inside of her and then back down. There was a groan from Jojo as she sank back down again. He shuddered every time he was fully sheathed inside her once more and she wanted to moan the second they were joined together once again.

Slow movements gained speed, her hips rolled forward and her own confidence in their activities skyrocketed. She was riding him, honestly truly and eventually his hips rolled up to meet hers. She saw stars nearly every time as he hit her deeply. His tail wrapped around her, through the middle of her breasts and down around her waist. All she could think about were the sensations surrounding her and Jonathan in front of her. He dragged his teeth against her skin and as she rode him, harder and deeper than before, she had to wonder… if she could ever sleep with a human after this.

“J-Jonathan,” she moaned into his ear, dragging her fingers along the curve of his horn as they ended up twined together.

“Erina,” he called in return and it nearly made her lose herself to hear her own name whispered with such desperation. Such need.

She glanced over his shoulder and saw Dio. Her other dragon, beautiful in all his glory was riding his own fingers while slowly, teasingly, pumping himself. To see such a reaction from him when it came to the two of them together…

Her release was building, with every roll of her hips and every snap of his as he rose up to meet her. “J-Jojo… I-I think… it’s happening again soon,” she sighed with need. At her words, his hands flew to her waist and suddenly his hips began pistoning up even harder. Jojo was serving her, trying to guide her to her inevitable end. Her control was lost and she didn’t mind giving it up to him.

Through gritted teeth he moaned. “Th-Then finish, Erina. P-Please.”

It was a demand and a request all at once… but it wasn’t hard to facilitate. Jonathan rutted up into her and hit deep enough for Erina to nearly pitch forward. A few more hits like that and she was moaning, tightening, soaking his cock below her. “J-Jojo….!” She whined, burying her face in the crook of his neck.

He didn’t stop though, not until the rhythm of his hips became staccato. “E-Erina…~” he moaned, letting her name drip from his tongue in the filthiest way until he rolled his hips forward and she felt… a warmth between them. Heat spilling out from him and filling her in a way that made her knees weak. So that was how it felt to have someone finish inside her like this…? He laid back then, a thin sheen of sweat over his brow as she fell forward onto his chest right after.

“I-I’m sorry,” he mumbled against her hair. “I-I forgot to pull out…”

“It’s okay,” she sighed against his skin. “I like the way it feels…”

“But… Dio?”

As she glanced over at Dio, the hunger in his eyes spoke volumes. “I don’t mind your sloppy seconds much…” he replied easily, his gaze flitting over their bodies, locked together in this way. “...Just tell me when you’re ready for me, Erina darling…”

Erina looked over at him in a haze, her face completely flushed and her heart pounding. “Where… do you want me?” she asked slowly, only for Dio’s smile to grow. 

“On your back, if you please…”

She nodded slowly. It took her a few minutes, to collect the ragged pieces of her after being with Jonathan. But when she was ready, she let out a loud whine as she slid  herself off of Jonathan. Erina felt his spend spill out along her thighs and she merely just fell back, spread out on her bed covers. 

Just as in his dragon form, Dio crawled over her, his body sinuous and elegant all at once. He kissed her slowly from her collarbone, up her neck and all the way to her lips. “You and Jojo were visions,” he whispered against her skin like a secret.

“Says the beauty himself,” she retorted  but it only made him smile.

Slowly, he ground himself up against her entrance. “T-Tell me, Erina… are you ready? ...Are you comfortable?”

“Y-Yes and yes ...a-and I want you so please…?”

That was all Dio needed to hear before he pushed himself inside. Erina’s back arched and her arms wrapped around him. She was clinging but clawing his back all at once. He wasn’t Jojo. He was different, special all his own. Satisfying.

“C-Can I…?” he hissed through gritted teeth.

Erina liked that look on him, that desperation. “Gods, p-please move Dio,” she moaned and he was happy to oblige. He thrust his hips forward, pushing one of Erina’s legs a little wider with his tail. She was happy to comply, happy to feel him.

After being intimate with one dragon and then another right after, one would think there would have to be a comparison. But Erina couldn’t let her addled brain find anything substantial. They had  been two different experiences. Jonathan slow and steady and Dio, hard and intense. 

Dio moaned her name into her hair. A needy “E-Erina…~” sinking into her skin and making her feel warmer and wetter than before as he steadily worked its way in and out of her. But then, after a particularly deep thrust, she felt him press a little further and fumble above her with a shudder.

Jonathan had entered the fray now. Or more importantly... entered Dio. The blond was sandwiched between the two of them now, his cock twitching against her walls at the feeling no doubt, of being completely surrounded. 

“N-Not fair,” Dio moaned against her cheek and she tightened just a bit more around him. Securing her hold and leaving him hissing in her wake.

“Y-You... can handle us both, can’t you?” Jonathan groaned as he pressed himself flush against Dio’s back. “We’ll s-set up a rhythm for you.”

“S-Someone has to move soon though,” Erina hissed, wanting to so badly feel the friction from before again.

“As you wish,” Jonathan growled low, before rolling his hips forward. Erina rushed to meet them and soon enough found that Dio had nearly gone useless between them. Jonathan pushed him forward, deeper inside her and with Erina rocking back up in tandem, she helped ease him back onto Jonathan. 

Dio tried him damnedest to keep to their pace… but the longer this continued on, the faster he was reduced to a needy, drooling mess. A far cry from the prideful crimson dragon, but not once unwelcomed. Erina reached up to him and cupped his face, much like she did in the times he would rut into her nightgown as he took his fellow beast. Only this time around, they were joined as one, and this was far better than anything like that…

“Darling,  y-you talk about my beauty and yet he leaves you like this~?”

It took everything she had not to moan her teasing words. It felt so good. They felt good. Jonathan’s tail wrapped around them in an embrace as he let out something between a moan and admonishment.

“...Y-You both leave me like this.” Dio practically whined. “T-Together.”

Erina let that confession wash over her as the force of the two of them together pressed Dio hilt deep inside, further than anything before. This time, a long, drawn out cry of his name spilled from her lips. His body reacted soundly to her moans, and twitched wantonly at the mere thought of her calling out to him. She didn’t stop saying his name, either. 

Or Jojo’s for that matter.

The room was a chorus of Dio and Jojo over and over until their names ran together into something unintelligible. She almost wasn’t sure why she didn’t do this sooner.

“D-Dio… I--!” She moaned when she felt herself getting close. Only for Dio to fall forward against her and whine. The warm splash of him finishing inside of her accompanied it, and she felt herself tumbling and following suit right after. 

It was Jonathan that took a little more time, but in a few more thrusts he snapped his hips forward and came to a stop. The three of them were left a panting, writhing mess in bed together. Collapsed on one another until their breathing regulated and their limbs tingled with the onset of sleep.

Dio, his voice hoarse, was the first to speak up. “L-Let’s get comfortable… s-shall we?”

“Mmm I’ve got this,” Jonathan answered, hauling them both up correctly in bed. Erina was tucked into Jonathan’s side and Dio on the other side of her. The three of them fit together perfectly, like puzzle pieces… 

Erina hummed to herself. “...W-Was that… alright?”

“I think we’re the ones who should be asking that question… no?”

“What?” Erina laughed softly to herself. “It was incredible… I-I loved it. I just-- when faced with someone inexperienced…”

“You were wonderful,” Jonathan mumbled, kissing her forehead. “A little more intuitive about things than you realize.”

Dio kissed below her jaw. “When the two of you decided on that little double team, I nearly blacked out for a minute. I think you’re doing just fine…”

“I love you,” Erina said out of nowhere. It was a declaration they had shared before, she wasn’t sure why this moment felt like it needed the weight of that… But really, she fell in love with them more and more every day. She wanted them to know… to feel it in this warm, unforgettable afterglow.

They curled around her. Protective. Adoring.

“I love you too.”

“And I, you…”

As the snow fell in drifts outside, freezing the pane of the winter palace’s windows, Erina had never felt happier or more in love in her life. Her family could waltz back in and demand she marry a prince or some hero meant to protect her in the future… but she knew she could never accept. Not now.

These two were hers. Her partners, her protectors, her companions, her bedfellows. A committed trio in all but “royally official” notions… and there was no way she could simply let them go.

If ever.

Chapter Text

"Erina Pendleton was a girl of discerning literary taste, strict upbringing and a presence people hardly noticed. That was why when a shadow whirled into her life, providing her with contraband reading material and looking for her opinion Erina had no idea what to do... Except provide her exacting opinion, of course."


 

 

Dio Brando kept with a frightfully mean crowd. He himself seemed to be the ringleader of the little group. Erina had steered clear for the most part, after all, he stayed with the boys who stole her dolls and would say such disgusting things. They scared her so she saw no reason to want to be near them. Then, there were the stories about Dio that she had heard in passing from Jonathan. He had done some cruel things to him and Erina hoped that Jojo found peace soon. He deserved it… 

But it was because of these testimonials and her own experience with his group, that she had frozen when he strolled into the bookstore she had been browsing through. She held her breath and tried to remind herself that he had never been introduced to her. Jonathan had kept their time together a secret. What could he possibly know of her?

“...Excuse me… You are Erina Pendleton, yes? The physician’s daughter?”

Erina wished for the ground to swallow her whole.

“Ah um… yes! I am. Are you a patient of my father’s…?” She asked, attempting to feign ignorance.

It seemed to work. The boy’s expression didn’t change, he merely shrugged. “No, I’m afraid not. My name is Dio Brando, I have recently come under the care of the Joestars… I have simply heard of your father and you around town and I wished to meet you for myself. I am glad I’ve run into you here.”

She had to suppress a grimace. Things he’d heard from people around town? Erina could hardly imagine what sort of false stories he had been subjected to regarding her. Her fingers grazed the spine of a book in front of her. “Well, thank you for taking the time out for introductions. I had heard of your arrival but… I tend to keep to myself.”

“Mm, understandable. Some here lack proper manners I’ve seen…”

They fell into an awkward stunted silence and Erina just tried to focus on the books ahead of her. There were many she had read, many she hadn’t and quite a few she was not allowed to read. She didn’t dare spend her money on these things in case her father happened to find out from the shopkeep. Her index finger paused over the black leather bound spine in front of her. ‘Carmilla ’ the dark story written by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu sat before her and she frowned. She had wanted to read something like that but her father had expressly forbidden her.

“Is that what you’re going to purchase?”

Dio’s voice rang out and immediately she startled. She snatched her hand away from the display and turned to the boy next to her. Erina had nearly forgotten he was there. “I-- No. No, I will not be. There are some books I’m allowed to purchase and some I’m not. So… this-- this one has been disallowed, you see. I was just glancing, really. I think I’m actually going to get this one…”

She walked along the shelves before plucking out a volume between them. Jules Verne’s ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ .

“You certainly enjoy flights of fancy, don’t you?” He asked with a smirk and a glance at the cover.

“Is there something wrong with that? I especially find scientific fiction to be entertaining… Verne’s work is some of my favorite,” she announced indignantly. She could practically feel the heat rising on her cheeks. “You would do well to enjoy some flights of fancy in your life too.”

Dio only laughed a little, his amber eyes glimmering with delight. “Is that so? Perhaps you could use a little danger in your own life, then.”

“Ah, I see…” Erina replied with a little devilish smirk of her own and a thinly veiled judgemental tone. “You must be a Byron fan.”

“Perhaps I am! Is there something wrong with that?!”

“Oh no, no~ Not at  all.”

“T-There certainly isn’t anything wrong, Miss Pendleton! Don’t you make that face at me!”

Erina was certainly making a face but it only became more pronounced as he sputtered. “What are you talking about?”

He huffed for a moment, attempting to collect himself after his outburst. After he seemed to be in control of himself there was no helping the laughter bubbling up from his throat.

“My, you’re a bold one, Miss Pendleton. That’s rather fun.”


 

After spending time with Jonathan Joestar and his dog, Erina found herself still wandering off for some time alone. She often spent her time in the shade of a tree amongst the ruins on the Joestar land. It was nice to be away from the awful town boys and to simply read her books or make crowns from the wildflowers that flourished amongst the old rubble.

It was surprising to find a small brown package sitting on a crumbling old wall by her tree. She held the small rectangle in her hands and looked at the small white card tucked away behind twine. It was... addressed to her?

Erina,

I have heard talk that you very much enjoyed reading but your father only buys you "books appropriate for a lady." That notion is quite idiotic and I believe you know the same. That is why I have taken the liberty to gift you something of the finest degree. The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley. I do believe you'll quite enjoy this one... if you would like to share your thoughts afterwards, there is a hollow in this wall that keeps paper rather dry, minus a few creepy crawlies. I have read this before and would love to hear your opinions. Please, enjoy...

-Your Admiring Shadow

She gasped, turning the card over to find any further information and frowned when there was none to be had. Slipping the message into the pocket of her skirt, she tore open the paper. Sure enough, as her ‘shadow’ had said, the shiny red cover bore the title ‘The Modern Prometheus’ in bold gold lettering and filigree. This was not a cheap copy, it was something more akin to what would be found in the Joestar libraries.

Her heart fluttered for a moment. The Joestar library? ...Could it have been Jojo who left her such a gift? She pressed the book to her chest with a sigh. It would be lovely to have it be him… but either way, she felt a warmth inside of her. This person was willing to share the gift of contraband books. The idea was exciting and having someone to share her thoughts with even more so. Now knowing what her afternoon would entail, Erina sat beneath the tree and opened the cover, ready to lose herself in the story.


 

Dear Shadow,

This truly has been a fascinating read! Thank you so much for leaving me with such a thoughtful gift. If you were hoping I would take my time with this, I apologize. You have been sorely mistaken. My entire day, well into the night was spent reading, I simply couldn’t put it down!

As for my thoughts, Frankenstein’s Monster? He felt more like Frankenstein’s poor neglected son than anything else. To have his creator turn away from him so, when he was merely desperate for familial love and affection. He did not deserve such a fate and Victor was beyond a fool. I’m afraid I’ve never been so cross with a literary character in my life! I would like to think of an alternate turn of events where The Creature finds happiness with one who looks beyond his physical appearance. Albeit, without all the murder. I’m afraid that’s one area where the creature loses me. But, he does deserve happiness…

I wonder if you really will read this, Shadow. Or if you will find my comments to be silly and frivolous. Either way, you have made a young lady very happy. I have hidden my contraband well and I promise to take very good care of it.

Forever Grateful,

Erina


 

Erina’s shadow had certainly responded. 

Darling Erina,

I have to agree with your sentiments about The Creature. There is something so deeply powerful about a child wishing to be loved by its father. However, I believe that The Creature’s fatal flaw lies in how it went about killing so many others when his true aggressor was the one that gave him life. Victor Frankenstein dies in a frenzy after abusing the life he’d created. The idea of The Creature killing himself is one of my least favorite parts of this. Yet the questions about life and humanity and playing God remain to fascinate me. I am very glad you’ve enjoyed it…

Who knows, perhaps in the future we can write our own story with a better ending. The Creature finding his own bride as he intended. One capable of seeing past the standards of beauty within him. She could be made, perhaps she could not. I think you may be onto something with a rewrite.

I hope you are not overwhelmed by my gifts but I have included another one. I thought perhaps it might be nice to engage in the reading of some poetry. I find Edgar Allan Poe to be quite thought provoking for an American, specifically in the realm of poetry. If you rather like these I know the ‘Cask of Amontillado’ or ‘The Masque of Red Death’ might be nice selections for you next. I await with baited breath your review.

-Your Admiring Shadow

It did not end there. For weeks and weeks Erina would tear into the books exchanged between them. She often left her own well-worn novels on the walls for him to read as well. ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ exchanged for ‘Wuthering Heights’, Austen for Byron, Goethe for Blake. Her head was spinning from all of the stories being read, re-read, spoken about. It was a lovely process to say the least. Perhaps… she had become a little enamored with her shadow. Who always wished to hear her opinions and share.

For a while she had thought it was Jonathan. Yet, when she spoke to him, he had not yet read 'The Modern Prometheus'  and was eager to accept her copy to borrow. Luckily, he loved it and also wished to speak with her about it. Although after, he lamented that Dio had been incredibly irritable with him the few days before.

Her Shadow had been ruled out as Jonathan though she couldn’t think of anyone else who might fit the bill. Yet he continued on, even sending her a contraband copy of ‘ Carmilla ’ which she read in an evening and hid under one of her floorboards. With each exchange too their letters became more personal. Speaking of their favorite authors turned into long passages about philosophy and the annoying boy up the street and the best baked goods to eat and how they liked their tea.

Erina spoke of her mother leaving all those years ago. The Shadow spoke of his mother passing away. He spoke not of a father but Erina didn’t ask and she hardly brought up her own. She wished to see him. Wished to meet him in person.

You know you could come meet me to speak instead of leaving letters. I want to meet you...

The next day the Shadow’s reply was tacked at the end, inky blots covering up past responses to her request.

Shadows are cast long when the light is at its brightest. Perhaps on the Summer Solstice you will catch a glimpse of me.

Erina couldn’t help but snort a bit. Her shadow had a flair for the dramatic that was infinitely entertaining. She rather liked that he spoke in riddles and she smiled fondly as her fingers skimmed the paper he’d left inside the wall. She rather liked the mystery he tried to cloak himself with, as if he himself were some mysterious, dark protagonist in a story. What did that make her…? His sidekick? 

She rose to her feet and ran. Erina had to find out when the summer solstice was to take place.


 

Erina waited patiently by the wall on June 21st, the date that the sun would cast light for the longest. She was certain to meet her shadow today, even if he only appeared for an instant. Once the afternoon meal had finished she picked up her skirts and ran, her books bound together and hitting her legs as she cleared the distance from her home to her spot by the old wall.

The breeze carried through her hair as she waited. Wringing her hands together, wondering if she should have changed her dress. But the dust that had gathered was from the run, not from lunch. She was doomed to be a mess whenever she did meet him…

“Waiting for someone?” A voice asked and as she turned, she almost felt confused.

“Dio Brando…?”

He stood before her in a rather smart looking outfit. He looked a bit like a peacock in a waistcoat of deep blue with a blooming rose pinned on the front. She couldn’t lie, he looked rather handsome…

At her words, he coughed slightly into his closed fist and looked away. “Yes, it is… I-- You look busy.”

“No, it’s as you said… I was waiting for someone. They haven’t arrived yet though. I suppose I won’t be much longer if you wish to sit here,” she replied quickly, taking a step back.

Dio walked towards her, his arm outstretched. “I-- No! I, Dio, wish to speak with you…”

Erina blinked once, twice, in confusion. “With… me?”

He gave a nod, his blond hair flopping in waves around him. “You… Would you… review these next?” He held out two books bound together in a small belt. From the spines it seemed to be Flaubert’s ‘Madame Bovary ’ and Bulfinch’s ‘Mythology ’. The covers were old and cracking, these two were old but cared for so meticulously that Erina thought they must have been special. It clicked then, why he was here, why he was offering these. “They were my mother’s favorites, passed down to me and I would… rather like to speak to someone about them…”

“...Shadow?”

Upon hearing her say the name, he turned crimson. It was as if hearing that word coming from her mouth flustered him beyond anything. “Yes, precisely. I told you, you might catch me on the summer solstice and I am a man of my word.”

Her face flushed. “Why did you… why did you leave me notes?”

“I simply didn’t have the time…” he began sharply before his voice trailed off and he cleared his throat. He seemed to be worked up, sweating. “Because... I wasn’t sure if you’d stay if it were me. I know you speak to Jojo, I know you avoid me. I can’t say it’s not for good reason but… I don’t want you to. I--I… admire you.”

Erina let his words sink into her brain and really take root. As well as his stance, the blush across his face… the waist coat in her favorite color. It couldn’t be could it?

Her stupid mouth moved before she could stop it. “A-Are you… saying you fancy me?”

Dio’s pale skin turned rosy up to his hairline and he seemed even more distressed than before. “And what if I am?” He asked her calmly, despite looking like he might pass out.

A moment stretched between them before Erina walked forward. She wasn’t sure if it was bravery or pure idiocy that caused her to reach for his face, soft and sure. It was definitely idiocy that made her boldly press her lips to his. Erina felt him tremble under her fingers before his hands rested on her hips. It was only a few seconds but that was enough. His amber eyes blown wide and his breathing surprisingly heavy. She could practically feel his pulse hammering beneath his skin.

“Was that… acceptable?”

“V-Very much so…”

She smiled and brushed a lock of hair out from his face with her own shaky hands. Her own heartbeat left her ears ringing and her boldness… Goodness, she wasn’t sure she could ever say what she’d done while seeming like a respectable lady.

Dio met her eyes with a smile playing at the edge of his lips. “Could we perhaps… attempt this again? Your admiring shadow would like to take the lead…”

“That depends, could you perhaps be nicer to Jojo?”

“...You drive the hardest of bargains. I suppose, if I must.”

Erina smiled. “You must.”

When he huffed and reached for her himself, to press a quick kiss of his own to her lips, she found herself at a loss. Could he really feel strongly enough for her to steal kisses in a field over some letters? But as her heart slammed against her ribcage with the feeling of his soft lips and the smell of roses, she thought that was a silly question. Her own feelings had gotten so strong over letters after all…

Chapter Text

"Robert E.O. Speedwagon earned his break after a long day at work... but the universe, and one persistent dog, had other plans."

 


 

 

Robert E.O. Speedwagon was a hardworking guy. A little shady perhaps, his criminal past was nothing to sneeze at. But he’d reformed (mostly) and made his living out of a garage more often than not nowadays. Being under the hood of a car wasn’t quite like hot wiring it from the inside, but there had been a sense of familiarity there. He enjoyed it, the methodical work and having something to show for it.

He wasn’t a slouch, he worked hard. That also meant he deserved to fuckin’ relax when the day was out. He trudged out of his garage looking forward to decompressing, taking in a bit of fresh air, relaxing, and then heading home for a beer and to sit with his cat. He wasn’t a complicated guy, his needs were few.

But of course, life had to throw a fucking monkey wrench in his day.

It started off innocently enough. A rock in his shoe, bit of discomfort that he could deal with until he found an open bench to sit on. It was easy to find one too, right off the main path in the park. “Ugh okay, let’s get this shit out and relax, ‘kay Robbie?” He muttered to himself as he unlaced and slipped off his beaten up combat boot.

He tipped it over and watched a bit of gravel tumble out. Speedwagon had only put his shoe down for a moment to readjust his sock.

It was only a second. Only one fucking second .

But that was just enough for a lumbering rottweiler to come running past him. In one fell swoop, the massive beast of a dog picked his boot up in his powerful jaws and had run off down the path. 

It took a minute for everything to sink in. To think that he was sitting there in one shoe, his novelty weed sock on display for all the children in the park to see. And then he was up on his feet.

“Y-YOU LITTLE SHIT! GET BACK HERE WITH MY SHOE!”

He yelled loud but the dog paid no heed. Speedwagon kept his eye on the bastard’s retreating figure and couldn’t help the loud grunts and yells coming out of him as he hauled ass trying to catch up. Try as he might though, the universe was against him. Enough that he tripped and fell in the grass, eating shit in front of an entire group of ultimate frisbee players.

“You okay, bro?” One asked, offering him a hand. Robert wasn’t in the position to be shitty to people who wanted to help. He took the guy’s hand and hauled himself up to his feet.

Breathing heavily, he looked at the concerned stranger. “I’m good… y-you see where a dog went, man?”

“Oh that way, over by that ripped guy…”

“Thanks,” Robert nodded and turned to run over towards the dog in question. Though… he had to admit. He hadn’t counted for the ‘ripped guy’ as the frisbee player had said.

Ripped was an understatement. This guy had more of an eight pack than a six pack and pecs that looked more like two large luxury hotel pillows. He wore no shirt, obviously he had no problems with showing off. His skin was a lovely shade of brown that contrasted with the light blond hair that sat on his head. Hell, the sweatpants he wore sat so low on his hips with no hint of fabric that Robert had to wonder if this guy was going commando.

His body though, had nothing on his face. Every feature chiseled like he was a fucking sculpture, a strong nose and jaw. That bright hair sticking up in front but cascading down his neck in the back. He’d even had a tattoo on his face too, a red geometric square. Well, this motherfucker didn’t have a desk job…

He was sexy… but also probably a total tool. 

This was going to be inconvenient, wasn’t it?

“Good boy, Achilles,” the man told the dog in a booming voice while patting his head. “This isn’t the stick I threw at all, but something even better. I appreciate your initiative…”

“OI!” Robert called then, waving his hands and walking forward. He was pissed off and it didn’t matter how pretty this guy was. “Your dog! Took my shit!” He was catching up now, trying not to grimace about how not intimidating he probably looked right now. He just wanted his shoe back.

Mr. Fitness-God-of-Instagram looked up at him, then at the shoe in his hand and down at Robert’s stupid sock and his other old combat boot and then back up at his face. Speedwagon could see the way his lips pulled in an obnoxiously handsome amused smile at his misfortune. 

“Oh you kept up, even like that. Excellent form…”

He could see the other man’s blue eyes flitting up and down, taking in his messy appearance and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Robert sighed, just running a hand through his windblown mane of hair.

“Listen man. I just want my shoe back, I don’t wanna fuck around. But if I need to cause trouble to get it back, then I will…”

The other man smirked. “Oh, is that so? Big words for someone of your… stature.”

This guy was huge. Not only was he buff, but Robert was pretty sure he had a couple inches on Jojo of all people. But he wasn’t one to back down from a fight. He’d taken down the likes of him before in his sleep.

“You tryin’ to fight me?” He asked coolly.

The brick shithouse in front of him smiled in earnest now. “Could you handle it if I was?”

“You’re the one that fuckin’ stole my shoe!”

“Well, come get it back,” the other man replied easily.

This was it. He was a good person. He didn’t need this shit today. Whatever this was, he didn’t want to deal with this overly hot man thinking that he could put his nobody ass in his place. He didn’t know he was dealing with Robert E.O. Speedwagon, and he was about to show him what that meant.

“Fine. Square up.”

At those words, the guy's face changed. From mild antagonism to unbridled excitement and determination. He shifted his stance. His fists raising in front of his face, his legs spread to keep his balance.

Bingo.

Robert lifted his fists but it was merely a fake out. As he rushed the other man, he slipped down on the grass and slid between his open legs. Honestly, they were more tree trunk than leg. It didn’t take much to topple a huge man like that, not if you knew where to hit. As he turned, the stranger hadn’t quite caught up in time to stop Speedwagon from slamming his feet hard against the back of his ankles, sending the other man falling to the ground.

While the other man was fast, turning on his back in an instant, Robert was faster. He sat on his torso, straddling his wide barrel-like chest and pressing his forearm over his neck. For a moment, his unwitting opponent just stared up at him. Blue eyes wide and surprised at just how quickly he’d been taken down. Robert didn’t want to think about the slight dusting of pink along the man’s cheek either. Stop that. Now was not the time to think like that.

“Listen! I’m a nice guy. I just want my damn shoe back!” Robert reached for the fallen combat boot and sat back on his haunches. He was desperate to not think about exactly how far back his ass was on this guy, or how much this whole thing was getting his adrenaline pumping. A good fight was still a good fight. “Don’t try to fuck with me just cause I knocked you down, okay? I’ve got a knife and I’m tired.”

He stood quickly and stepped away from the incredibly hot annoyance in question and turned his back on him. “Thanks for the shoe,” he announced, trying to calm himself down. 

“Wait!” The deep voice from behind him called. “...What’s your name?”

Speedwagon froze and turned his head slowly, trying to get a glimpse of the shirtless man over his shoulder. He was sitting up now with grass in his hair. Cute. Wait-- Fuck.

Robert squinted at him, able shove that intrusive thought into the back of his mind. “ Why ? ...You a cop?”

The man on the ground blanched. “Do I look like a police officer?” He gestured to himself in disbelief, but Robert stood his ground. That wasn’t a no. After a moment, the guy sighed. “No, I am not a law enforcement officer. I’m actually a mixed martial arts fighter. I had to ask your name though. You caught me by such surprise…”

“Yeah well, s’good to know your opponent,” Speedwagon grumbled, content in the fact that he wasn’t slightly lusting over a plain clothes cop. “Especially when they’re doubting what you’re capable of.”

“Know your opponent? What could you possibly know about me?”

“Because you underestimated me, bastard. I could see it in your face… and I know you’re big. That made it easy,” Robert huffed.

At those words, the big guy grinned again. It was wide, but it had that sort of edge to it. One that made a shiver run down Robert’s spine. “Meet me in the ring fair and square tomorrow night and I promise you. There will be no underestimations.”

Oh, oh that was-- Was he flirting with him or asking to kill him in an MMA ring? Robert had no idea… but that was hot. He knew where he was going.

“Robert,” he announced. He tried to keep his tone sharp to retain any sense of dignity he might have. “The name’s Robert E.O. Speedwagon.”

“I certainly won’t forget that name…” The other man replied, his voice low. “My name is Wamuu. Ask for me by name at the Pillar Gym and we’ll be accommodated.”

Robert swallowed hard and turned his attention toward the empty bench fifty feet away. He could feel the sweat on his brow but it definitely wasn’t from fear. He took a deep breath.

“I’ll be there.”

Chapter Text

"Like her Stand's namesake, Mariah held no fondness for rain... at least, not until it welcomed the High Priestess in."

 


 

 

You would be hard pressed to find yourself caught in the rain very much in Egypt. Being surrounded by the desert meant that rain was far more sparse. It was what preserved the pyramids and not worn them away to nothingness and Mariah, being herself, despised the rain anyway.

It was cold and ruined your clothes. It left your shirt clinging to your skin and it soaked your socks through with a poorly timed step. It could dismantle a perfectly coiffed style in seconds and with her Stand? Mariah needed to rely on distraction.

But today? She could smell it in the air. The humidity and clouds rolling into this usually dry climate. It would rain soon, no doubt. In a few hours maybe? Soaking the dusty ground, making it run with mud.

Lord DIO had asked her to patrol the grounds outside his manor. Speedwagon Foundation agents had been spotted in the area and she was to dispatch anyone who got too close. He had told her quietly they would be moving house soon, but everything had to remain as normal as possible. The other news was that of a new hire. One more Stand User to add to his growing collection.

Everyone had been interested. They all often made a point to see who their newest competition would be. The line to get into Lord DIO’s bed was long and tedious, yet everyone had already been there at least once. Many wished to spend the rest of their days in his embrace, reaching for his approval. Mariah was one of them, but not one who cared about the competition.

She was far more easy going than that.

Though she had to admit the possibility of a new person was one that piqued her interest. She was the lucky one who got patrol, so perhaps she’d get a sneak peek.

Mariah wandered the boundaries of Lord DIO’s property until she had to stop herself. A woman with raven hair, cascading down her back in a massive ponytail approached. She hardly wore anything. Stars adorned her ample chest and she was barely kept modest by a bolt of yellow cloth.

She was beautiful.

Their eyes met, light, honeyed brown meeting electric blue, and lightning struck the ground. Mariah for a moment, could hardly register what was happening as the rain began to pour.

It was almost as if this woman had brought the rain with her.

 


 

Lord DIO’s bed remained warm, even when he wasn’t there. That was Midler’s doing. He had gotten up, his body on display for both of them to admire with their greedy eyes, like they both hadn’t just appreciated everything it had to offer, before walking off. He had some business to attend to, something about a priest. It was disappointing, but he had allowed them to remain in his bed for as long as they wished.

“A treat, for being such lovely ladies for me alone,” he had told them, his voice like velvet. It had made Mariah tremble and the way Midler seemed to shake next to her, he had the same effect on her as well.

While they laid there amongst their Lord’s silk sheets, Mariah gazed at Midler’s face. It was nice to see without the sheer veil in place. The strong planes of her cheeks and her eyes, rimmed by long eyelashes. Vaguely, she could register the sound of rain pelting the roof of the manor and felt a sense of exhaustion settle over her like a warm blanket.

Without much of a word, she burrowed against Midler’s soft skin, relishing how warm it was. She was all lovely curves and proved to be the most comfortable spot on the bed once their Lord had left.

“You’re so cute,” Midler told her quietly. Her hands immediately traveled to Mariah’s hair and the other woman felt herself melt further. “Every bit like a kitty cat.”

“Of course I am,” Mariah replied matter of factly, shifting to look Midler in the eyes once more. A lazy grin spread across her face. “You’ve even heard me purr before~” The suggestion in her voice was not lost on the High Priestess, who gave a girlish laugh.

“I have, I have,” Midler replied lazily. 

Slowly, Midler leaned forward and pressed her lips to Mariah’s. It was sweet, it was lazy, it was nice. While the rain picked up outside, Mariah pulled her down on top of her and let her mouth wander where it may.

 


 

The morning Midler was leaving was raining too. A muggy drizzle that was only accented by oppressive heat. It was nothing serious enough to worry about. Yet, as the other woman stood before Mariah, she had to wonder why she felt so nervous. It was like her feelings from the previous night had only tangled further in her gut.

“You know,” she called out teasingly to Midler, “you should definitely be wearing more lest you want to catch a cold before you even cross paths with the Joestars.” She couldn’t help the smile on her face as she gazed at her.

She was wearing the same skimpy outfit she’d worn the first day she arrived. Getting soaked in that downpour in next to nothing. She remembered the head cold that plagued her the first week that she was there.

“Oh? Will you take care of me afterwards, then~?” Midler called playfully. Smiling right back at Mariah herself.

Mariah felt her insides fluttering as she walked closer to her. Gently she held onto the other woman’s face and pressed a quick, gentle kiss to her lips. “Be safe and come back... and I’ll take care of you as long as you need.”

“Of course I’m going to come back. Do you think the Joestars stand a chance?”

Mariah hesitated for a moment before she kissed Midler once more. “Against you? ...Never.”

The High Priestess smiled and reached for a bag at her side. A shock of blue peeking out from the zipper. “Then don’t worry, I have something much more appropriate for prudish mixed company.”

Mariah snickered and kept her smile as Midler left her hold and walked away. As her figure faded from view, the rain picked up. The already damp land becoming soaked and muddy. Mariah hoped she was dry, hoped that she would be okay.

Yet one thing remained sitting heavily at the forefront of her mind.

Was all this rain a good sign or a bad one...? She had to hope for the former.

Chapter Text

"For all the stars out on the red carpet tonight, Erina was looking everywhere but the direction she was supposed to."

 


 

 

Dio Brando was a star of stage and screen. The most in-demand of celebrities of this day. His face had graced the covers and editorial spreads of magazines since he was seventeen. He had branched out into film and television once he felt his acting was top notch. He was a heartthrob, a leading man, an icon.

That’s why it was irritating beyond all reason to have her not looking at him.

Erina, his personal assistant, stood on the red carpet beside him. Her arm looped through his and a hand reaching out to point at all the different people as they walked by.

She had been so excited to hear that she'd be accompanying this red carpet event. For once, she put in an effort not to look quite like a grandmother like she did while scheduling his appointments. Given the occasion, Erina procured a wine red gown with a skirt that billowed from her hips and a neckline cut so low, he had to remind himself that it was impolite to stare. The sleeves on the gown were superfluous, two loops of silk that laid low on her forearms. He had fastened the sapphire choker around her neck. It was a gift from him, for all her hard work… while simultaneously giving him an excuse to get close. To see the long line of her neck, the curve of her shoulders and--

Wait a minute. He was the star here, not her. What was he doing?!

“Look! It’s Mariah Bastet,” she called, pointing over to his fellow actor. “Isn’t she beautiful?” She was beautiful, he couldn’t disagree but the way Erina pitched herself forward, the way her eyes glittered and she bit softly on her bottom lip? His hackles were raising.

Erina seemed not to notice. “God, do you think she kisses well? Look at her lips… if we kissed she’d outclass me and I’d have to thank her and apologize all at once.”

Dio pouted. Perhaps not his best look, though it photographed exceedingly well. “Are you so sure about that? She might be clumsy. Mariah is a nice girl but… you know.”

Erina looked over at him with an incredulous expression. “If you believe that then I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. Plus, I’m not being fully serious. There’s no chance of that at all.”

Dio remembered the little asides Mariah had made about Erina at their last promotional shoot. He remembered the way those cat eyes of hers had wandered to look at his assistant. Erina had no idea how wrong she was.

“Hm, good to know you think that.”

“Oh! It’s Daniel J. D’arby! He’s so good in those casino heist movies…” Erina sighed. “I mean, I’m not usually the type who likes mustaches, but I think he works it well.”

Dio groaned. “Must you point out everyone you think mildly attractive?”

“What? I’m just stargazing~” she replied in a sing-song tone of voice, squeezing his arm. “You don’t need to be so snippy about it. Am I making you uncomfortable?”

“Yes,” he hissed, frowning in her direction.

“Why? Is it because you’ve slept with them?”

Dio sighed. “I’ve slept with Mariah, not Daniel. But that’s not the point, that doesn’t bother me.”

To her credit, Erina at least began to look concerned. “What? What is it then?”

“You haven’t noticed me at least once.”

Erina seemed to realize what he was saying and her mouth twisted into a wry smile. “Ah… you think I’m not giving you the proper attention, huh? Big baby…”

He scowled. “Excuse you, am I not the biggest star in your life? Gaze at me. I’m right here next to you.”

She didn’t bother to stifle the laugh that escaped her before she turned, smoothing her free hand down the lapel of his blazer. He had gone all out, his outfit emblazoned with precious crystals and beneath his jacket, he had opted out of a shirt in exchange for a skin-tight leotard that made its way up to a beautiful clasp around his neck. His pants fit like a glove and made certain his ass looked impeccable too.

Erina’s fingers danced along the crystals dotting his outfit and her eyes followed. “Why do you want my attention so badly…?”

“Because I want everyone’s attention.”

It was a half lie. Of course, he wanted everyone to look at him but… her. She was someone whose attention he wanted more than anything.

“Mm, I see. Well, you have it now. Am I done?”

“Praise me,” he added, almost petulantly. “You had so much to say about Mariah and Daniel.” He did his best not to sound sulky, but the way that she smiled when he spoke told him proved he hadn’t hidden it well enough.

Erina sighed fondly before she pulled him down. She leaned close enough for her lips to brush against the shell of his ear. “I had fully intended to praise you when all was said and done here. I’m afraid what I want to say and do are not appropriate for the public. Can you at least wait until we’re in the limousine…? I want to show you the extent of my feelings,” she whispered low.

With each puff of her breath against his ear, he had to will his body to calm down.

“I suppose I can wait. But you’d best make it up to me,” he answered with surprising restraint.

The way she laughed made him shiver.

“Oh, I very much intend to.”

Chapter Text

"The stars were shining mighty bright this late December evening, and Johnny Joestar found himself caught up in a mythological ballad of heroes, beasts, and star-crossed romances... as told by the last person he'd ever expect."

 


 

Diego was in the stables after hours again. 

His old man had made a stink about that before last time it happened, but thankfully Nicholas had come around to diffuse the situation. Almost like magic, George ceased threatening to reprimand the young Brit, and instead ended his tirade with a warning. He was not to step foot into the stables well after sunset, nor would he be allowed to engage with the horses. He was to focus on his duties as a stable boy, nothing more and nothing less, during the hours required of him. Anything after would be a distraction to the Joestars’ Kentucky Derby Pride and Joys. Despite all that, it came as no surprise to Johnny that Diego didn’t take a shred of his father’s rules into account. 

To be honest, he had expected him to make his way back to the stables the same night he was caught red-handed the first time. But he was smarter than Johnny gave him credit for. Diego was crafty, in a way that made him seem unassuming to most unless you got the chance to know him. And not many people knew him well enough to see the truth to Johnny’s claims. 

Nic believed him though, even witnessed it firsthand, so it was always a relief to know he wasn’t alone in seeing Diego for who he really was. 

Not a bad guy or anything, he guessed, just… way too sneaky.

He was trouble. At least, that was what his old man said… and his mother was always quick to agree. His father’s word was supposed to be the gospel right? Second only to God, but something about that never sat right with him.

If he was so much trouble, why the heck did they hire him then? 

Johnny didn’t bother to try and understand the nonsense his parents preached at times, and honestly… he couldn’t really care about that stuff. What he did care about, however, was going to see whatever it was Diego was doing. 

It was easy to slip out undetected, rolling out of bed about an hour after his gaslamp had been turned off for the night. He sprinted across the open fields away from the massive estate looming behind him, towards the stables a good distance away. It was dark, almost unnervingly so, but Johnny found himself drawn to a low light flickering in the second tier of the stables where the haystacks sat. Diego had to be up there, with a burning candle no less.

Did the guy have a death wish or something? 

Carefully tiptoeing his way past a section of sleeping foals, and only pausing to reach between the bars to gently run his fingers through Slow Dancer’s mane to wish her good night, Johnny found the ladder leading to the second story. He tapped at the wood once, twice, and a third time before speaking up for the first time in a few hours. “Psst… Diego, I know you’re up there...”

No response. 

“You can feign sleep all ya want, but I know your game…” 

The young Joestar started his trek up the ladder, taking careful steps so not to cause the wood to groan too loudly. He hated that noise more than anything. “Like you’d actually listen to my old man and keep away from Silver Bulle--...”

Diego was up here alright, but not in the state he expected to find him in.

Curled up in a ball, his back was facing Johnny. If not for the fact that his head was held up high, Johnny would have thought he’d fallen asleep like that. But no, he was awake… his gaze sharp and focused on the night sky laid out before him. Given that the second tier’s single window hadn’t been replaced yet, there was a chill coming through. It smelled like the early onset of winter, cold and unforgiving. It was going to snow sooner than later, wasn’t it? Diego however, seemed to pay that no mind as he traced out various constellations above him, who in turn reflected in his turquoise eyes. “...Um, Diego?” 

Johnny decided to try again, and this time his calls apparently registered with the other boy. Maybe it had something to do with him getting closer? 

Who knows? 

“The stars are exceptionally lovely tonight, wouldn’t you agree Joekid?” 

The first thing he says to him in… days, and it’s something like that? “...Well, I don’t know much ‘bout stars an’ stuff… outside of them bein’ there.” 

“Mm, not surprising… that’s the answer most people give.”

“Is that… supposed to be a bad thing or what?” He frowned, not at all sure what the Brit was trying to get at here. This wasn’t like their usual back and forth at all, especially with how… not-all-there Diego was acting. He hadn’t once turned to look at him, but knew without having to second guess himself that it was Johnny who found him and not anyone else. Honed instincts like that made for an excellent jockey, the same skills Johnny still struggled with. But he didn’t want to get into that. Not yet, not now

“...Did I sound like what you said was bad?” Diego spoke up, this time a bit more put together than before and actually turned his head to greet him. He looked tired, and Johnny couldn’t stop himself from bringing it up. Nic said he needed to get better at looking before he leaped, but that was there and this is now and if Diego was going to be all weird, he might as well keep his manners to a minimum. It wasn’t like his mother was there to see him act this way.

What was she gonna do about it? 

“Oh, you’re worried about me huh, huh, hu~uuh?” He might have looked like he’d seen better days, but Diego never failed to remind Johnny how obnoxious he could be at times. “That’s new, Jo~nathan~” Ew, he used his full name.

“I ain’t say I was worried. You just… seem different tonight.” 

“Different? Heh,” he chuckled low, more to himself than anything, before patting the space beside him. “Come on, take a seat then. I won’t bite.” 

“...Wha?”

“I’m telling you to sit down beside me. Is that so hard to understand?”

“No, but… I mean--” Why? It was what he wanted to ask, but decided against it and instead shuffled to where Diego asked him to sit. There was still a good distance between them, and the other blond rolled his eyes before tugging him closer by the pajama pants. “W-what the hell you do that for?!” 

“I already said I didn’t bite. Scared I smell like horse feces or something?” 

“No, you turd! Stop tryin’ to make this all weird...” He grumbled, trying to will away the pout forming on his face. It was too late in the evening to get rustled up by Diego Brando of all people, but again, he wasn’t acting like himself and whatever oddity he had must’ve been contagious or something. “So, uh, what’s this all about stars and junk…?” Maybe a conversation change would help? 

“Oh, right. Yes. I was, well, recalling the legends tied to them.” 

“The what now?”

“Legends. Centuries of spoken word that weave tales of the heavenly bodies above us, and their impact on our ever-changing world.”

“... Hmm? 

Mythology, Joekid. Goodness, have you learned nothing from your tutors?” 

“Oh... why didn’t you just say that, then?!”

“Because I fancy myself more of a storyteller than anything, don’t you agree?”

Couldn’t say that he really did. “That’s news to me, Diego… how ‘bout you put your money where your mouth is and prove how good you are at it, then?” He turned his full attention to the boy beside him, doing his part to try and read him. There wasn’t a lot he could really go by with expression alone, but it helped to know your competition off and on the racetrack. “You got me out here in the dead of night when I could be sleepin’, so. Tell me a story.”

Diego stared for a few seconds before he broke out into a short fit of laughter, wiping a tear away from his eye. “I don’t recall telling you to go snooping around your property after hours, but fair enough! I’m feeling quite generous tonight… you’re lucky to have caught me in such a good mood.”

There he went, peacocking again. Didn’t he get tired of that? 

Who was he trying to prove things to… especially in his company, of all people?

They were kids. Even with the burden of future expectation on their shoulders from the moment they understood what a horse was, it didn’t change the fact that at the end of the day, he and Diego were just kids. About two years or so apart, but he was the last person around here that Diego needed to put a front up for. “Well, put up or shut up... I’m waitin’.”

"Didn’t your mother ever tell you patience is a virtue?” 

“She tells me a lotta things, can’t blame me for not rememberin’ them all.”

“Touche.” The blond tapped at his chin after that, nodding to himself as if he figured out the answers of the universe. “But I think I have one you’d like. It was a favorite of mine back in the day,--” Johnny snorted at that use of phrase, which earned him a solid flick to the forehead. What an ass. “-- hush, you brat. But, as I was saying--the tale of the Legendary Founder of Mycenae who beheaded Medusa and slew the sea monster Cetus, Perseus.” Diego looked rather pleased in his choice of words, going as far to give himself a pat on the back. Johnny, on the other hand, tilted his head with a frown. 

“You mean to say, the stars up there can tell a story ‘bout all of that?” He honestly couldn’t help his skepticism about the notion. Stars were nothing more than flickering lights in the sky that… made shapes sometimes, right? How were they supposed to tell a winding adventure to that degree? “You’re better off just usin’ a book than relying on anything you can’t see that well!” 

Tsking, Diego waved a finger in his face quite similar to how his tutors did, before reaching down to gently take his hand with his. 

Wait, what? 

“You’re being impatient again… here, look.” A slightly calloused thumb grazed the skin of his knuckles as Diego directed Johnny’s pointer finger towards the window. He paused for a moment, muttering to himself about position and placement before shifting his arm up a few inches and to the right. From there, the hand holding his began guiding him to trace out an unfamiliar shape. It was almost like drawing on a blank canvas, except he wasn’t too sure of the picture he was being tasked with completing. 

“The lines are a bit tricky if you don’t know where to place them, but we just finished tracing out Andromeda, who is comfortably bordered by…” Diego squeezed Johnny’s hand slightly, a silent way of requesting him to move a bit closer to his side. Make it easier for his arm to be directed. “...Perseus. Quite fitting given how their tale of unexpected romance came to a delightful end. To think a young maiden meant to be ravished at the hands of a monstrous sea beast would one day find herself among the stars with the love of her life.” 

To further emphasize his statement, he guided his hand with Johnny’s to tie an imaginary knot between the two constellations, as if solidifying the extent of their relationship. “Star-crossed lovers, if you want to be exact.” 

“...How’d they get to that point, then? After all of the slaying and decapitation Perseus got up to?” Johnny asked in a hushed voice, coming to grips with how late it was. Cold, too. How did Diego stay out here so frequently? "Y’should hurry up and spill, since you know so much. I’m startin’ to doze off...” 

As if on cue, a yawn escaped him. With his dominant hand still in Diego’s hold, Johnny was forced to rely on his left to deal with the sleep gathering in his eyes. Initially, he was just trying to get the other to start on with whatever tall tale he wanted to share, but man… his bed sound real nice right about now. 

Or at least, something soft enough to rest his head on. 

Another yawn slipped out, and with it went Johnny’s head plopping against Diego’s shoulder. He didn’t bother looking up after making himself comfortable, choosing to instead ignore the eyes he felt on him. It was only fair that he got to use his fellow jockey-in-training as a head rest, especially since he forced him out here. Okay, sure, Johnny had willingly ventured out after hours to see what was up, but Diego didn’t tell him to go away! 

He was complicit in his own way too, see?!

“...Well?” 

“Well, indeed.” The teenager chuckled, the sound unfamiliar to Johnny’s ears--perhaps because he was so close --but not as unpleasant as he imagined. 

And from there, Diego started his story.

 


 

If there was one thing that peeved Jonathan “Johnny” Joestar more than anything else out there, it was being proved wrong. Sure, Nic giving him those “I’m Disappointed in You” eyes came in at a close second, but he wasn’t fond of having to swallow what little pride he had when he turned out to be wrong. Diego, in all his obnoxiousness and poor timing with puns, turned out to be a surprisingly good storyteller. Enough so, that Johnny found his eyes growing heavy with every extension of his retelling of Perseus & Andromeda

He never took the Brit as the type to enjoy romances, but with how animated Diego got upon describing their first meeting, and the journeys Andromeda accompanied her savior turned lover on thereafter… it was clear as day that he was quite infatuated with the myth. Surprising, but he supposed you learned something new about a person each day. 

Maybe this would be the first of many things he learned about Diego Brando. 

If not? Well, at least they had this night then.

The story was nearing its end, Andromeda having just been picked from her deathbed and placed in the skies as a newfound constellation by the Goddess Athena, while Johnny slouched further against his companion. He didn’t give too much of a damn about personal space now when he was close enough to sleep that he probably wouldn’t stir until morning. He should’ve been worried about the chances of being caught out of bed by Nic or his old man, but such thoughts were in the furthest corners of his mind. “...’ey, Diego…?” 

His speech was a bit more sluggish, tiredness more evident than ever. Despite how bony the bastard looked overall, he could really be comfortable when he needed to be.  

Diego stopped, at the moment when Perseus and Andromeda’s hands met in the cluster of stars that was now their sanctuary, and glanced down at the sleepy Joestar that had practically melted against him. “Yes?” 

“...Who did’ya…” Johnny cut himself off with another yawn. “...learn all this fancy myth stuff from anyway?” 

With his head down, tucked against Diego’s side by this point, Johnny didn’t see the expression the other was making at the time of his question. Nor did he completely register the subtle squeeze of their still interlaced hands as Diego’s lips hesitated close to his ear. All he could gather was the steady beat of Diego Brando’s heart as he drifted off for the night.

 


 

Johnny had fallen asleep on him. Quite literally. 

It was… unexpected, to say the least. He supposed a lot of factors came into play when trying to add up exactly how they wound up like this. But what was even more unexpected, was the near case of loose lips Diego felt himself almost fall victim to. To think, him getting caught up with fleeting memories of yesteryear and bedtime stories from childhood would actually…--

No, he didn’t want to dwell on it. 

Too close, too vulnerable, too open for his liking.

Maybe another time, maybe never, but not tonight. 

Sighing to himself, Diego knew he’d have to wake Johnny before sunrise, but there were thankfully a few more hours until then. Wouldn’t hurt to let the poor kid catch up on some necessary sleep. After all, he’d been coming around to check up on him at the stables after hours completely unprompted. 

“You know, I expect to hear a well-thought out review on my storytelling tomorrow, Joekid.” His declaration fell on deaf ears, but it did not stop him from retrieving a wool quilt left behind from a visit up there some nights ago. He wrapped the warm fabric around the two of them, doing his best to keep the cold from slipping in as they stayed settled in front of the window. 

It would have been smart to move himself and Johnny off to the side, but the December night sky never failed to leave him struck speechless.

...

He was glad to have been able to share it with someone again after so long.

Chapter Text

"A stand is a manifestation of a person's will but what that entailed was rather vague. What would your will manifested into it's own form do with the freedom a form had given it? Erina Joestar was about to find out."


 

 

There was a bit of a learning curve with all of this… stand business.

To have a piece of your soul or will, whatever it may be, made manifest was a monumental thing on it’s own. But then to have it flying about, doing what it wished, that was something to get used to. Erina was not used to this one bit.

She had known what to expect when that arrow pierced her chest. There was no shortage of talk about The World and Lord DIO’s fearsome ability. Before her own initiation, she had seen it’s power at work without really seeing it. But to see Dio’s stand next to him was far different from feeling her own will manifested.

Strangely enough, it often times didn’t feel like much of anything. Aeon liked to take refuge within her own body and sometimes Erina would forget she was even there. That is until she was surrounded by otherworldly chirps or walked by some sort of mirror. Sometimes, seeing the multicolored panes of stained glass that formed Aeon’s wings shooting out of her back, made her gasp. For a moment, she would wonder how she could look so otherworldly until she felt that presence inhabiting her.

But there were also times, where she didn’t feel Aeon at all. Those were always the most confusing. There was a strange emptiness to her when her stand had gone, perhaps because she had become accustomed to her presence. But Erina had admittedly thought her stand was of the shyer variety, much like she had been as a child, unable to confront new people without hiding behind something. There was comfort in cover, comfort in not being known at all.

When Aeon disappeared from her, the emptiness wasn’t the only thing Erina felt. There were phantom touches. The ghostly feeling of incorporeal hands traveling along her arms and shoulders until she felt arms snugly around her, holding her.

How… bizarre.

The morning sun would be high about now as she tried to succumb to the blissfulness of sleep. But she had been restless all day. There had been a celebration in Cairo, people launching fireworks well into the evening. It was easy to pretend that she was merely annoyed by the sound as she hurried off of the balcony. But loud explosions made her tremble, made her knees want to buckle beneath her. She had fled into the bowels of the mansion and sobbed until the sounds had ceased.

But even now that it was over she found herself struggling to relax, struggling to sleep. That is, until a hand slowly crept up from her lower back, lightly trailing it’s fingertips up and down along her skin. It was a gentle, but insistent touch and she groaned. This was not the time for Dio to be doing this.

At first, she only tried to shimmy, to nudge the offending hand away from her. Attempting to chase him away should have hopefully gotten the message across. But again and again , the touch returned.

With a frown Erina finally turned over, her eyes wide and angry. “Do you--?!” She didn’t even get to finish her sentence. Dio was not the culprit. Instead, he was fast asleep, his eyelashes brushing his cheek and looking almost sweet. This wasn’t him trying to get her to join him in some early morning lascivious activities…

That was when she saw it. A flutter of motion in the corner of the room. Ever so slowly, she turned until she could make out a general shape in the dim light of the room. Amid the melting candles shadowing them against the wall, Aeon stood with The World. Her own stand was chirping softly, hard for even someone like her to hear as the other stand held her in his arms. 

Ever so steadily, Aeon rested her head against his chest and Erina could swear she felt the weight of The World’s head on her brow as he embraced her. She watched as Aeon’s wings fluttered under his touch and she could see his hand moving up and down her back. No wonder she continued to feel hands…

This was a moment not meant for her to see. 

A private moment shared between these extensions of her and…

Dashing that thought away from her mind like waves on the rocks, she merely continued to watch them. The two stands were tender and sweet. It was a surprise, to say the least, to see them there in such an embrace. But she didn’t dare speak, didn’t dare disturb their private moment. 

Her gaze was drawn to the look in Aeon’s eyes and she nearly faltered. 

She had seen that look before… that glimmer as she gazed at The World was something she hadn’t seen in such a long time. 

Erina had stars in her eyes like that on her wedding day. When Jonathan Joestar was to become her husband. She had seen it on a steamship in the Atlantic before an ill-fated dinner.

Erina drew in a shaky breath and tried to close her eyes, despite the tears gathering there. But the ache would not go away. Instead, it rang hollow in her ribs. There would always be a piece of her missing, wouldn’t there? A piece of her wanting and desperate, reaching out for a person who was so close yet still so far away…

No matter how hard she tried, sleep still eluded her. She continued to listen instead. To feel as The World held onto Aeon so securely and sweetly, as a fluttery feeling welled up in her own chest. She knew, dimly that such a thing was her stand’s doing but it had been so long .

As a tear finally tracked it’s way down her cheek, another heavy arm draped it’s way around her. This time, instead of being a phantom touch, it pulled her forwards. The body of her husband molded around her as perfectly as it always had. Yet, as she looked up… Dio still slept.

Perhaps she was desperate. They’d hardly showed real, true emotion outside of their intimate evenings together. There was no denying that emotions ran rather high when they did. But they would shrug it off, pretend it wasn’t happening.

But now? She burrowed into his chest, finding solace in his hold.  Should she have been worried about the stands? Worried about this even? She couldn’t tell. Perhaps it was for the best now… if Dio didn’t know.

For now, it would be a secret between herself and Aeon.


 

Stands were the true apex of a person’s power. Dio thought this much was true. It was why he had undergone rigorous training and tests of his own abilities, having bullets fired at him so he may stop time and catch them.

Though Erina may have been his wife in all but name, she too had to undergo such training. It was a little more difficult, to attempt to find a safe middle ground to test her power, but Dio made sure that others had found it. Just as Nukesaku would fire bullets in his direction, Erina would be subjected to the same so that Aeon may create her barriers of stained glass between them.

He had to see their level of resistance. Would they be as fragile as the stand or as resilient as the user? Hol Horse stood before them, Emperor cocked and aimed at Erina in front of them, though he looked awkward about it.

“I dunno if I like this, Lord DIO,” Hol mumbled, scratching the back of his head. “I’m a lover, I don’t like to shoot ladies. Especially not Lady Erina…”

“But you can control your bullet, can’t you? Emperor bends to your will,” Dio all but purred. “You are to fire, but should your bullet pass through the shields you are not to harm a hair on your Madonna’s head. Is that understood?”

“Well, I hadn’t planned on anything like that--”

Is that understood ?” Dio was nowhere in the realm of being indulgent about something like this. Hol Horse could be rather fun when the mood struck him, but his patience was running thin.

It seemed Hol had gotten the message. “...Yes, my lord.”

“Glad we have that settled then. Carry on.”

He sighed and aimed Emperor at Erina once more. “S-Sorry about this… but duty calls.”

Erina merely inclined her head, as elegant as ever. “I trust you, Hol.”

For a moment, Dio hated that. How easy those words came for someone like Hol Horse from Erina’s very mouth. It had taken him decades to pry such a sentiment from her. Yet as he felt irritation bubble up in his gut, the man in question had finally fired. Within a moment, Aeon’s shields had raised and the bullet ricocheted off the glass.

But… something was wrong.

“Sh-Shit! I can’t… I didn’t do that!” Hol called in dismay.

The bullet had bounced off the barrier and then another wall of the mansion before launching itself over Aeon’s shields. It hadn’t hit directly but the sound of a large crack echoed throughout the room before Hol Horse managed to recall his bullet. A loud cry of pain from Erina followed after.

As Dio looked over, trying his best to keep his calm, he saw a fracture along Aeon’s forehead. Spidery cracks had formed, as if along a window. Just behind the stand, her user sat with a wound along her forehead in a similar pattern. 

Dio spun on his heel, feeling rage like nothing else welling inside of him. He was not to touch her, had been ordered not to do so, and yet, he drew BLOOD? He allowed harm to come to her?! What if it had ricocheted elsewhere?!

“L-Lord DIO I didn’t--”

“Don’t you dare speak, ” he hissed, poison seeping into every word.

“Dio, no!

He could’ve killed him on the spot if he so desired but something had stopped him. It wasn’t Erina’s plea for him to stop himself. No, no. It was the very distinct feeling of himself being pulled away. His soul, unbidden, manifesting. He hadn’t expected that and frankly it threw him for a loop. At the feeling of The World meandering away, he whipped his head around.

His stand, the marvel of power that it was, was making its way over to Aeon. After the injury, she had crumpled to the ground, curling into a ball as her hands lifted to cover the crack embedded along her forehead. She didn’t do well with pain this soon after her waking, it had not yet been long enough for her to grow a tolerance for it. But Dio could hardly concentrate on that…

Not as The World stopped before her and slowly, but surely reached down for her. Ever so gently he touched her arm, announcing his presence to her in the only way he could non-verbally before gathering her into his arms.

Aeon had looked skittish and terrified for only a moment before she seemed to register who she was with. Instead of struggling, of pulling away, she instead leaned into her fellow stand and buried her face into his chest. Dio could feel the ghostly touch of lips across his own, gently pressing into his skin. He could feel the tremble of Aeon’s form and he wasn’t even holding her…

Without another word, Dio stepped between the two stands and the onlookers for this training session. They wouldn’t be allowed to witness this any longer. He was not prone to public intimate exchanges and with The World being what it was, it was only right for him to protect his privacy. It was just in time too, as he felt the phantom sensation of cracked skin against his lips.

“Lord DIO--” Hol called, desperate to know if he would be okay.

But as distracted as he was, Dio had no time for rage. “Begone and I will forgive this transgression. ...All of you, leave my sight.”

There would have been a sense of satisfaction to watch all of his underlings scurry out of the room as fast as their legs could carry them. But there was nothing but shock and a strange desire to bring Erina in close echoing in his mind. He refused to act on that urge though, instead looking her way.

What was she thinking? He had always wished to know that. But as she sat on the floor, her fingertips gently brushing the cut on her forehead and her face bright red, he could assume for once.

She was flustered.

So was he.

Neither of them spoke.


 

“What you’re doing with that priest could be dangerous!”

Erina couldn’t rightly sit by and say nothing. Not when she had caught a glimpse of a letter to the young priest-in-training they had met in America some time ago. It felt like playing with fire and she didn’t like it.

“Bold of you to say such things to me when you know nothing!”

Of course, Dio didn’t like answering to her either.

“I don’t know what you’re IMPLYING, let alone what you’re DOING to achieve your ‘Heaven’!”

“Why would you want to know?! So you can thwart me at every turn because you want things to turn out a certain way?!” He was angry, throwing his hands up in the air. It wasn’t the controlled rage he often put up in front of his followers, but an out and out tantrum as he used to have decades ago back when he was still a human man.

Some things never changed.

Erina frowned. “Is Heaven what you’re trying to achieve to return Jonathan back to his previous state? I-I’ve told you what I can do! You’ve seen it !”

“I WILL NOT LET GO OF THIS BODY!” Dio finally snapped, his shout echoing loudly in their bedroom. It took him a moment to recover, to bring his voice down to a shaky indoor level. But the raw emotion was there, still simmering under the surface. “ That is out of the question…

At his words there was no schooling her face. If he wished to act like a child he would see what it wrought. She sneered at him, disgust written all over her face. “That isn’t how it works and you know it,” she hissed. “He won’t come back like that, no matter how hard you try. You and I both know it, Dio.”

“You don’t know that. You can’t even comprehend what sort of miracles await in Heaven, ” he snarled before his mind seemed to switch gears, latching onto another point. “But you don’t believe in me now, do you? You don’t believe in what we’ve built together ?! I know that Enrico believes, that’s why he’s assisting me. He knows my capabilities. He knows I can reach for Heaven and get what I want. Yet you, my companion for all this time. You doubt me and our partnership.” Despite his tirade, there was a sense of desperation to his voice. She wasn’t sure why it was there and in the moment she didn’t care.

“I don’t doubt our partnership, but I do know you’re a fool.”

“Doubting me is just the same. I am no fool. Enrico knows it.”

Erina felt anger rising up, hot and acidic at the back of her throat. She wanted to spit fire at his feet, to tell him he was acting as a child would. But her fire turned to ice quickly, freezing in her veins as she turned away from him with only a dismissive hum. She didn’t need to deal with this, not in a home where there were so many rooms. Why subject herself to an argument with Dio when she could simply yell at a brick wall instead?

“Just say you despise me instead of pretending you care about anything else! You’re TRANSPARENT !” He shouted at her retreating form.

Erina didn’t even turn to face him as she spoke. “Don’t put words in my mouth, Dio.”

Her answer was frosty and without realizing, the ground below her crackled with spreading ice as she walked away. Dimly, she could hear Dio throw something with a yell and the resounding crash as that something shattered under his strength. If he wished to throw a tantrum like a toddler, she wanted to no part of it…

But as the sounds of his struggle became fainter, she felt an ache settling in her chest. He was so quick to write her off, to think that she despised him. But did that idiot not notice anything at all? It physically pained her to think that he didn’t realize by now… that her concern was her care. Can’t he see her worry? Her compassion…?

She wanted so badly to see their common goal realized but she also didn’t want him slipping into something there was no recovering from. He teetered on the edge, she could just see it.

Erina felt herself trembling. Long ago she would have thought these feelings wrong and perhaps she still did in the back of her mind. But it was how she felt. Too much time had passed together for her not to… care about him. Not to worry. She had long since come to terms with the fact that she was inherently wrong in all that she did…

She was so scared. So many things could go wrong and the idea left terror seeping into her veins. But she also… wanted to be close to him. Erina desperately wished he would let her in. For a moment, a part of her that her pride refused to recognize, wanted to go to him and say so. To show him just how wrong about her he was. But she could never…

Suddenly, a chill passed through her and then that familiar emptiness.

Aeon had gone.

It was startling to feel her stand separate from her so quickly. It wasn’t like Aeon to run off like this and as she turned around, she saw the vibrant colors of her wings and the faint glow that accompanied her. Without so much as a thought, Erina gave chase.

Her stand was hard to follow as she zipped down the halls. The only hint of where she could be was the trail of light left behind in her wake. That is, until Erina stumbled forward. Aeon had run into a solid mass. A solid person. Nervousness welled up in her gut as she felt arms looping around her body and she peered into the room.

Aeon was holding The World’s face and chirping with distress. The World was a stand that was silent and intimidating. He was meant to induce fear in those who crossed Dio. But in Aeon’s embrace, he merely gazed with adoration and held onto the other stand with a delicacy she didn’t know he was capable of. His jaw was set, but not in his usual stoicism mixed with the frightening energy Dio liked to wear like a cape. No, this time he looked... concerned. There was a set to his brow or what could be seen between the mask while he searched Aeon’s desperate face.

Erina’s eyes drifted from the pair to Dio behind them. The emotions that passed his face flew by in rapid succession. Anger was first, still lingering from their argument before but it didn’t stay. His expression morphed into confusion and then disbelief followed by… resignation as Aeon began peppering The World’s face with feather-light kisses. The World himself kept his hands on her like a lifetime. Like he might have drowned if he let go of her.

Dio walked past the stands between them until he was at her side.

“Do you… believe in gravity?”

The words hung in the air and she lifted her gaze to meet his own. Everything she wanted to say, everything she was too proud to say, she hoped could be read from her eyes alone.

“...I do, and always have…” she replied.

Once her words settled in the space between them, he closed the distance they had established. What had felt like an uncrossable gulf had shrunk in an instant. When his hand reached to cup her face, they felt like The World’s. 

They lined up… perfectly.

“I can’t stray far from you,” he admitted in a rare moment of honesty. “We’re in orbit, you and I.”

A laugh bubbled out of Erina, soft and sad all at once. That was like most things she did nowadays. There was a melancholy and a sweetness about her as she placed her hand over the one against her cheek. “My… what a mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, huh?”

Dio laughed but not in his usual manner. It was... gentle. “Darling,” he practically crooned, “we’ve been in this mess for decades.”

“...So we have~”

But the tenderness did not last long before his tone shifted to that desperate mania once more. “Erina… I need you to believe in me. To trust in me. I know what I’m doing. I know we can achieve our Heaven… whatever that means to us.”

Erina wasn’t sure how she felt about that. Was it the right decision to give in this? Did she want to believe that she could? What was Heaven to her…?

She could imagine Jorge alive, her boy standing like he hadn’t fallen victim to circumstance. Her family gathered around her. Jonathan on her left side… and Dio on her right. But now was not the time for flights of fancy, was it?

“...Let me do my part then,” she sighed. “Let me help you uncover this… Heaven that you’ve promised us. Don’t leave me in the dark, Dio.” If her voice took on a note of desperation at the end there, she refused to acknowledge it.

After hearing her words, Dio ever so tenderly, brushed the pad of his thumb along her cheekbone. It was one of the most intimate gestures she had ever experienced from him, and it made her heart stutter in ways it hadn’t in decades. 

A smile played at Dio’s lips as he gazed at her. “I can facilitate that… If you wish to help me? Then who am I to deny my partner …” After a beat, he let out a dreamy sigh and tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear.

Enrico simply cannot wait to see you again, darling.

The fear regarding Dio’s plans with Enrico Pucci still remained. Their plans were an unknowable fear at the moment. But he would show her, he promised to do so. But for once, she would have to quiet that.

Information was the key to know your enemy… and to know your partner. The line separating Dio from those sides of the coin had long since blurred. Especially as he leaned forward to kiss her.

It was a long and languid, one that left her weak in the knees and wishing to cling to that familiar body of his. When he leaned away from her, in the wake of it, they were both breathless. Or they would have been if they needed to breathe at all.

From the corner of her eye, Erina could see their stands watching them now much as she had those weeks ago when she first caught them at their bedside. Aeon was tucked up against The World’s chest, as she always seemed to be nowadays and she had to wonder.

Whose stand was The World? Did he belong to Dio…? Is that why he caused fear in all he met? Or was he a manifestation of Jonathan’s will even after he had passed on…?

A dark, traitorous little voice spoke up in her head before she could stop it.

You know you wish it to be both.

Her mental brakes had been slammed, the proverbial vault closed on that sentiment. She couldn’t think about this now. These musings would only prove poisonous to her in the future. Erina would put this away and maybe open this Pandora’s Box only when she was ready. ...If she would ever be.

Chapter Text

"Trying to live up to Cinderella's potential has it's ups and downs more often than not... to a point of completely overwhelming her at times, but sometimes all she needed was a gentle pick-me-up from a surprisingly adorable larvae-looking Stand."

 


 

Yamagishi Yukako had made it clear that she was no longer daunted by the prospect of change. She would strive to be someone that took possibilities by the reins and in time, gained an understanding of them on par with mastery. This was meant to be her ticket to success. One she held in high regards when matters of the future came up in conversation, but maybe… just maybe… she was biting off more than she could ever possibly chew with this. 

It was one thing to set a goal towards becoming a beautician, flipping through various Yellow Pages to find a suitable (read: local) Beauty School to apply to, but it was a whole other monster to finally be in those shoes. Actively on her way to obtain a license that would not only cement her status as a certified professional, but hopefully bring attention to her name in due time. Morioh wasn’t a place that ever came up in conversation when discussing the latest trends, it was far too small and sleepy for that, but Yukako aimed to be the catalyst that changed such notions. 

Being in the new millennium definitely had its perks, and she’d be a fool to ignore the way cosmetology was impacting the fashion industry these days. Between newfound hair care products, and outlandish styles that screamed futuristic vibes, it was near shocking to think that the aesthetician practices of the once thriving Cinderella would be considered outdated today. 

That thought alone was enough to encourage Yukako to work harder.

To push herself further. 

To make certain that despite the changes happening in the world of beauty and aesthetics, Tsuji Aya’s message of helping those around her achieve their fairytale happy ending wouldn’t be forgotten. Even in the years following her passing. It was the least she could do after everything the proclaimed fairy godmother had done for her, had taught her in their short time together. 

Morioh’s population might be under the impression that Cinderella’s closing was at the hands of an abrupt decision to leave by the manager, but Yukako intended to do her part to keep the fallen’s memory strong. 

Even if it felt like she was drowning in a storm of assignments and stress the size of her final thesis for this particular year. Her final year to be exact, and now was not the time to suddenly forget how to keep herself afloat and her head above water. Yes, there were a number of contributing factors behind the tension she’d been feeling lately, but it wasn’t as if this was anything new being added to an already overflowing plate. By now, taking time to compose herself against onset headaches were practically second nature, and her eye spasms no longer plagued her as frequently they did during adolescence. Still… this was no way to keep on, and Yukako knew as such, but what could she do when her main de-stressors were travelling their own personal roads? 

With Josuke having left town temporarily to further his education in medicine, and Okuyasu’s attention kept to the lessons he’s been picking up during his apprenticeship under Tonio, only Koichi remained amongst their lot from Summer of 1999, but Yukako had promised not to cause him any distractions.

He was keeping up with his studies day-to-day, and working just as hard to contribute to his family’s household… an admirable effort expected from someone of his kindness and caliber. And it was because of his ongoing efforts that she wanted to do her part in supporting him, even if it meant distance was inevitable. They had separate goals and needed to walk different paths to pursue them, so it went without saying that time shared between them these days were scarce. It was to be expected, they weren’t students anymore. 

The memories of their school years, while not that long ago, felt rather fleeting these days the more she thought about them. An unfortunate circumstance of reaching adulthood she supposed, but a reality nonetheless. 

There were far more important things she needed to focus on, is what she told Koichi during their last evening out a month prior. Flying fancies wouldn’t cut it anymore, especially if she intended to become a fairy godmother worthy of granting wishes to those who sought her guidance. It was her final year to make a statement, to stand out among her classmates and competition… so spending time apart felt like a reasonable course of action. At the time.  

“...What was I thinking ?” she asked no one in particular, dropping her face in her hands as massive curls curtained her in a heap, knocking over a nearby desk lamp. Before it could hit the floor however, Love Deluxe carefully retrieved the fallen item and placed it further away from it’s distressed user. 

The action went unnoticed to Yukako, whose voice was muffled against the palm of her hands, but irritation was nevertheless evident. “That’s the thing, you weren’t fucking thinking! Going out of your way to try and prove yourself when you knew damn well you were nearing your breaking point--why do you always have to be like this?” In Yukako’s frustrations, her Stand followed suit in mimicking her temperament. It whipped about in a mesmerizing fashion, never once damaging her surroundings, but it did paint a clear picture of her current turmoil. 

Self inflicted of course, but turmoil nonetheless.

Damn her self-destructive tendencies.

She was supposed to be better at this by now. Hadn’t five years of proper growth and self-reflection defined that? No, apparently fucking not

"I assured Koichi-kun that everything would be fine, and he didn’t once doubt my words when I told him. Hell, even I believed myself at the time.” Yukako sighed, gradually regaining some composure from a few moments prior. She knew she was digging her own grave at the time of their last conversation, but did nothing to try and stop herself. Reassuring him with a smile was fine and dandy when past-Yukako was giddy at the prospect of seeing positive results, but present day-Yukako sure as hell didn’t share the sentiment. 

If she could… she’d just go back in time and give that brainless bitch a piece of her mind.

Shake some goddamn sense into her for once in her life. 

Wouldn’t even have to go back far seeing as she tried the same shit when Koichi called her earlier today. He was on his way to the library, looking to gather materials for an upcoming exam since there was only so much to glean from his textbooks. Yukako was surprised by the call, given her recent track record of keeping their chats short, but he had time to pass apparently. 

In fact, Koichi had made a point to get to the library before the morning rush. Not only to see how she was doing, but to hear her voice again.

How on earth was she supposed to focus on anything when he brazenly admitted things like that? It was near impossible, and if not for the fact that she had errands to run, she would’ve caved and gone off to the library!

And that was a no-no, she was supposed to have greater resolve than that! 

She wasn’t fifteen years old anymore for fuck’s sake!

But her maiden’s heart still felt like it at times. 

Maybe that’s why he asked if she was still feeling up to all of this. She didn’t know how he did it, even with five years together on their plate, but Koichi had a penchant for reading people. After one or two quick interactions, even with those he met by chance, his judgement was sound… and more often than not, correct.  It was like a magician’s trick, something only he knew the secrets to. Sometimes it was aggravating, but at others? Greatly appreciative. 

To know that you didn’t have to rely on your own honesty (or lack thereof) around him at times was a godsend. It made admitting the truth all the more easier. But she hadn’t done it this time around. She smiled through it over the phone, her laughter most likely echoing in the phone booth Koichi was stationed in this morning. I’m perfectly fine, Koichi-kun~

She had copied her initial reassurance from weeks before. 

Of course I’m still feeling up to this!You know better than most that Yamagishi Yukako is not someone who gives in! 

She really tried to make herself believable earlier, didn’t she? 

How about this? If you ace your exam with flying colors, it’ll be your pick for where we go out to dinner when our schedules sync up! My treat! I know there was that new spot in S-City that you wanted to check out, right? 

Goddamn idiot. 

The fact that it had actually worked spoke wonders to her current state of affairs. Suggesting a night out together had shifted the conversation elsewhere and for a while, Yukako felt quite victorious in proving to Koichi that she had her head in the game. But as the hours passed, and early morning bled into afternoon and then a cloudy evening with her nose pressed into her study sheets, she was beginning to grow irritated. Which wasn’t anything new, but was definitely getting old. And to be honest? She was tired. 

Tired of keeping to herself. Tired of having to focus on how-to’s on perfecting a double french braid bun. Tired of missing out on enjoying herself with people who actually liked spending time with her.

Tired of avoiding her Koichi. 

And for what? It wasn’t like she’d be able to rent out the still vacant building where Cinderella once stood anytime soon. She would have her license yes, but she’d have to be an honest-to-God fairy just to find the funds to afford that place right out of Beauty School.

So, what was she even trying to prove right now? 

Trying to focus on work was doing more bad than good, and it was evident on her face. Between the prominent bags under her eyes, and lack of volume in her… normally voluminous hair, she was looking quite the mess. If Aya could see her now, Yukako didn’t need to imagine the scolding she’d receive. Not even Cinderella would be able to save her and that ability worked miracles. “Aya-san put a whole lot of work into helping you discover the stepping stones towards becoming your very own Cinderella, Yukako,” she warned herself as she took a good look into the nearby mirror. “To spit on her efforts would be spitting on the progress you’ve made towards bettering yourself!”

Reaching up, she slapped her cheeks with the intent of taking the first steps to getting out of this funk. “So! First thing’s first! Not only are you going to make a point to try and look decent, but you’re going to call Koichi-kun and see if he’s busy tonight!” Even if he was, she’d just try again for another day!

With her wits about her, Yukako made way to her bedside phone. If she picked it up a bit too eagerly, she couldn’t find it in herself to care all that much. She was a woman with set mission, and she’d be damned if she missed out on her chance to set things straight. Given the time of night and that it was Friday, there was a good chance Koichi was still awake. An even greater chance that he would be taking Police around the neighborhood to stretch his old legs, so as her thumb pressed down on speed dial, she weighed her odds. 

One ring. 

Two rings.

Thre--

“...Hello?”

“Good luck, Yukako-san!”

Well, that was odd.

She glanced at the receiver in question, making sure there wasn’t a problem with the connection. She could hear Ayana, albeit with a slight tiredness to her voice, but at the same time? Koichi’s was crystal clear. As if he was beside her and not over the phone. Yukako spoke up then, confusion evident in her tone. “Um, my apologies for possibly disturbing you Ayana… but I wanted to speak with Koichi-kun?” Even though she had apparently heard him already.

“Ko?” Ayana asked quietly, giving a soft yawn before continuing further “He actually isn’t home right now, Yuka-chan… did you want to leave a message for when he gets back? I’ll remember to tell him!” 

He wasn’t home? Then, what was… “Oh! Um, I-I could just call him again at a later time! I don’t want to inconvenience you!” 

“It wouldn’t be any trouble, really! It’ll give me something to tease Ko with since the material’s gotten stale. He’s always too busy these days!” 

“W-well, if you insist… could you tell him I called?”

“Mhm, any reason in particular other than your usual?” There was a knowing smile on Koichi’s sister’s face, she could sense it without seeing it.

“A-ah, um, I wanted to see if he’d be free soon…” 

“Understood! I’ll let him know ASAP--”

"Good luck, Yukako-san!”

There it was again. 

Frowning, her attention fell to the phone again. She could hear him perfectly, as if he had joined in on the conversation. But Ayana had said he wasn’t home yet, and his sister wasn’t one for lying. No one in their family was. And the phrase he kept repeating. “...Good luck--” “Good luck, Yukako-san!”

“...Eh? K-Koichi-kun?” Yukako asked tentatively in to the receiver, trying her best to figure out what was happening. Ayana already hung up, giving her usual sweet goodbye… so there was no reason she should still be able to hear him. But she could, his voice clear as day and as supportive as ever. 

Except this time, he resembled a broken record more than anything. 

He continued offering his well wishes to her, in a pattern that had a lot more familiarity to it the more she thought back on things. And the more she remembered, the more his voice would reverberate almost soothingly. 

As if he was attempting to help her unwind… slowly, steadily. 

“Good luck, Yukako-san!” Koichi’s voice spoke out to her again, his timbre softer than it was before. “Give it your all!” He had said something different this time. 

“I believe in you!”

Something new again. 

"Take care of yourself!”

And again. 

“No worries, alright?” 

Another.

“It’s all about going at your own pace…!” 

And another.

"If you need anything during this time though, I’ll be there…”

Oh. This… this was--

“Because, well--”

Before Yukako could take the time to get a full scope of the colorful characters littering the span of her arm and parts of her phone, she felt the careful press of something nudging her back. A particularly small something by the name of Echoes. Appearing in its base form, the Stand let out an array of squeaks that Yukako couldn’t decipher but felt the genuineness behind the gesture. ACT 1 was happy to see her, and did it’s part to convey that fact the only way it could like this: by pushing the final set of phrases it held further against her.

Until the rosy colored characters found refuge across her chest.

"--I really love you, Yukako.”  

Unlike the others, this phrase lingered much longer… resonating throughout her very being. From the top of her head, to the very tips of her toes, there was no mistaking the warmth beginning to blanket Yukako. It enveloped her in an almost melodic cocoon, one that only ACT 1 was capable of. With Koichi’s words as it’s disposal, there was enough power behind its ability to completely shift the tides of one’s demeanor. Yukako, feeling the lovely effects of that then and there, gently wrapped her arms around the larvae-like Stand, and brought it into a soft embrace. At it’s positive response and content trills, she followed up with a kiss to it’s temple. Ah, the perks of being a Stand User. 

“...Is Koichi-kun nearby then, ACT 1?” she asked a question she knew the answer to, but getting the confirmation was a nice feeling within itself. 

Given Echoes’ impressive range in its base form, it would come as no surprise to look outside and see no signs of its user. ACT 1’s specialty was scouting for a reason, and it seemed Koichi was abusing that skillset in a manner Yukako couldn’t even be mad about. Frankly, she was impressed… and the way Love Deluxe signalled her more prominent curls to intertwine with Echoes’ tail emphasized that soundly. “Perhaps we should wait and see if he’s close?” 

“Gree~! Gree~!” ACT 1 trilled again, nuzzling it’s shellhead comfortably against her. She supposed that was a yes? Either way, Yukako couldn’t help her soft laughter she reached forward with one hand to push her curtains aside. The earlier overcast had passed, and in its place sat clear skies littered with clusters and constellations. The view was stunning, one she hadn’t the opportunity to appreciate in quite some time now. 

That would definitely be changing from here on out. 

“...Good to see you getting all cozy up there,” A voice beneath her snapped her away from her thoughts. Blinking, she glanced down only to lock eyes with Koichi’s familiar blues. “I can’t lie, it really is a good look on you, Yukako!”

O-oh. He was a lot closer to home than she initially thought.

“A..aha, was me showing up no good? M-maybe I should have called in advance, but… that would have r-ruined the surprise, wouldn’t it?” Her lack of response seemed to have worried Koichi in a way, as his relaxed demeanor only minutes ago was now taut with doubt. This wouldn’t do. “I’m sorry if I disturbed you, Yukako, but with how our schedules have been lately, I was starting to worry that maybe you were working yourself into a corner. I-It might’ve just been me overthinking again, but… I wanted to see how you were doing. I-In person as opposed to over the phone, since it’s been pretty long since we bo-- W-WHOA! ” 

Love Deluxe’s soft tresses shot forward then and brought Koichi up to window level. They were eye to eye, for the first time in over a month.

“Y-Yukako… I-I could’ve used the door!” Her darling stammered, blushing to the tips of his ears in that undeniably adorable way of his. Even as a man in his early twenties, cute was how she’d forever describe him. 

“Yes, you could have… but this is easier, isn’t it?” Her ability brought him ever so closer, passing over the threshold of her window. “Why buy our time when we can cut to the chase, eh Koichi-kun~?” Another smile found its way to Yukako’s lips, this one bigger and brighter as she felt her eyes squint up. It was a bad habit of hers, especially when he was in her presence, but alas. 

“C-Cut to the chase?” He repeated her words, a visible knot in his throat as he swallowed it down to gather himself together. Echoes had detached itself from Yukako, opting to snuggle up at her pillows as Koichi took its place, nestled comfortably in her arms. “I-I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the sound of that.” With a somewhat lopsided grin, Koichi reached up to gently cup her face. His hands were warm, soothing... safe.

It was just as she remembered, just as she hoped for, and all the more reason for Yukako to bring him into a kiss that was long since overdue.

Chapter Text

"Caesar wasn't one for little white lies about his interests, that was more in Joseph's department, but it's hard to stop your mouth from running when you're struck speechless by Suzi QT."

 


 

Caesar really wasn’t in his element right now.

...

Okay, that was somewhat of a lie, but he was doing his best not to bite his tongue as he was literally pulled in five different directions by Joseph. You know, a typical Saturday night for the two of them. 

“Any reason you’ve got me out here tonight, Jojo? I know it isn’t for the musical.” This music scene was even less of Joseph’s than his own, but he definitely know how to dress the part to make a statement. Something Caesar had to give him props for. When Joseph fixated on something, you better believe he’d make sure to leave a lasting impression that kept people talking about him long after he left. It was insufferable at times, by the Lord did he know it, but also made for interesting stories to share with others… so, it wasn’t always so bad. He’d never tell that to his face, though.

Screw that.

“Ah ah ah, no need for the scowl, Caesarino~” the brunet flicked his nose, grinning in that mischievous way of his… which meant he was definitely up to no good. “I just needed that beautiful face of yours to keep close to me for a few hours. You know how it is, with your closest friends making you look even better to others when they’re in your immediate radius and all that!” Wow, he didn’t even try to soften the blow. At least Jojo was being honest. 

But that meant he was here to play wingman, huh? 

Albeit a quiet one who was supposed to stand there and continue to look uninterested, but a wingman nonetheless. “I see.” 

“Yesss, so keep on doing what you’re doing and-- oh, shit there she is --Hey, Tomokooooooo!” Turning to where Joseph’s attention had suddenly gone, he noticed a small flock of women laughing amongst themselves at the bar. They looked to be college students, the biggest giveaway being the one with reddish pink hair tied back in a low ponytail going on about the good-for-nothing bore she’s wasted most of her university hey-days with. But the girl Joseph called out to was the one with short black hair that perked up at the call of her name, and suddenly her brown eyes were sparkling like stars. One minute, she was comfortably seated at her stool, and then the next? Joseph had scooped her up as if she weighed nothing, and they were suddenly chatting up a storm.

Whatever else shared between the two of them though, was drowned out by the sound of the next band starting up their set. It caught the attention of the few people around Caesar, as well as the crowd of clubgoers who cheered and whistled and hooted as they clambered closer to the stage. 

Guess that was his cue to get comfortable up against the wall he was already leaning up on. Arms crossed, and a foot tapping absentmindedly to the background beat of the drums, it was time to make the most of this night.  

Hey, he was getting a free concert out of it… so, why not enjoy himself?

 


 

“You look like you’re having fun there, stranger~” 

A feminine voice broke Caesar out of the tunnel vision he had directed to the stage. It was different from the others he earlier, much sweeter sounding… like the first bite of a white chocolate truffle. The owner of said voice was suddenly standing beside him, the blues of her eyes seeming so much brighter than they already were thanks to the smile on her face. She was wearing a checkered bra-like top, the straps outlined with black and dark pink, and a choker that connected it all together. At the center, the fabric parted, allowing for a tasteful show of cleavage and a heart-shaped birthmark on her chest. Midriff exposed, it looked as if she was wearing a pair of black jeans that hung loosely at her hips and thighs, but bore a similar checkered pattern. 

Knee high black boots, with dark pink laces and matching heels completed the look, alongside the accented set of multiple bracelets she wore on both arms. Her earrings were silver and they glinted under the low light of the club, three in one ear and two in the other. She emphasized her eyes with a smokey eyeshadow, and grinned with pearly white teeth as she twirled a finger in messy blonde curls. “Got caught up in the music, huh? Can’t blame you there!”

Calling this stranger stunning would definitely be an understatement. 

“...H-huh?”

“The music, silly!” The pretty blonde laughed, doing her best to make sure he could hear her over the lead vocalist. “They usually get the crowd hyped up reaaaaallly early in, and you looked lonely over here in the corner so I wanted to see if you were doing okay! Glad to see you’re enjoying yourself too!”

“Yeah!” Caesar answered a bit lamely, internally cursing himself out for getting caught off guard so easily. Yeah? That was his reply for her? He was supposed to be much smoother than this, but thankfully he had enough time to pick this back up without worrying about fumbling again. “They’re definitely good, but the next set is what I really came here for!” Okay so, maybe he didn’t have much of an idea about the next band performing, but there was enough chatter earlier about them that he managed to pick up on a thing or two. This girl was obviously a regular, so hopefully she wouldn’t catch his little white lie. 

“Oh! You’re a fan of The QTs?!” 

Right! That was it! Jojo had mentioned that name before too, after the first time he came around this hole in the wall on his own. Though, he missed out on a majority of that performance for being thrown out due to roughhousing. 

He never did get into detail about that with Caesar. 

“‘Fan’ would be putting it lightly, signora ~ ” He knew he was making a fool of himself here, but hey? When was the next chance was going to get to have an up-close and personal conversation like this, especially with no Joseph nosing himself into the fray? “Their lead vocalist’s had me enamored since day one!”

The girl’s smile only seemed to brighten further. “It’s Suzi, actually! My name, that is, and I’m in a similar boat myself… something about their music just resonates with me, y’know? Gets my blood pumping and ready for a new day, if that makes any sense?” Suzi looked a bit embarrassed by her choice of words, but played it off rather adorably. “And what about you…?”

Oh, she was asking his name. 

“Caesar. You can call me Caesar.” He took her hand gently and kissed it which made her snort, but she didn’t seem at all bothered by the gesture. Even if it was quite unfitting in their current surroundings. “I’m guessing you come to their shows a lot? This is one of my first times here, so…” 

“But didn’t you just say you were a fan~?” 

“R-right, yes! I did! I mean, it’s not that I’m not--which I definitely am, I’ve just never had much of a chance to come around and see them with my own eyes.” 

Smooth. Real smooth. 

“Ohh, so I’m guessing the loudmouth with the weird lips is your friend, huh?” She winked, nudging her thumb across the way to where Joseph and Tomoko were still caught up in each other. He wasn’t even really paying attention to what was going on around him anymore. Typical Joestar.

“Yes, and I’m starting to regret coming along with him.” 

“Well, if you didn’t… you wouldn’t have gotten a chance to see The QTs! Especially since they’ll be starting their small tour in a few days… it’ll be awhile ‘til they’re back here again so you’re really, really lucky Caesar~” 

“So, I am!” Huh, what were the odds of that he wondered?

In the midst of their conversation, the rambunctious round of applause and calls for encore signalled that the current set had come to a successful end. With the stage curtains drawn, the sound of transferring and replacing equipment could be heard from behind it as other clubgoers settled back into earlier conversation. Some people were shuffling off to the restrooms in packs, and others were making an immediate beline to the bartender. In the commotion, Suzi had taken his hand and brought him closer to the stage.

Her hands were soft, just like the rest of her, and her touch lingered well after she had gotten him settled. “You’ll have the best view of everything here, and not have to worry too much about the crowds if that really isn’t your thing!”

“I’m guessing you’ll be going closer, then?” He couldn’t help but ask, watching as the bubbly blonde swayed on the heels of her boots. She was excited. 

“Mm, something like that~ I’m more a hands on experiencer when it comes to The QTs, juuuust so a novice like you can learn a thing or two after seeing how I roll~” Despite her teasing tone of voice, her words were genuine and sweet. It was only a few minutes later when those that had left the surrounding area were flocking back to get ready for the next set. Suzi took that as her own cue to get on her way and waved to him with a hop in her step. He could still hear that sing-song laugh of hers well after the crowd had gathered back again and the lights dimmed further. 

The people around him chattered animatedly, talking back and forth about the  upcoming tour of The QTs and how much tickets were going for depending on the venue. Some cities were far more expensive than others, unsurprising, and others were sold out hours after the websites to purchase tickets went live. Caesar whistled low, this band must be something else then. 

Joseph had mentioned them before, even their music, but he was more caught up in the lead vocalist. Something about her blue eyes, her curly blonde hair, and the smiles she gave to the audience from beginning to end. She was like sunshine, he had told her, all wrapped up in checkered black and dark pink--

“How are you lovely folks doing tonight?!” 

That was Suzi’s voice, wasn’t it? 

Sure enough, standing center stage with a custom microphone and stand of her signature pattern, was Suzi.

Or rather, the apparent lead vocalist of the QTs. 

“Since it’s gonna be a handful of months ‘til we’re able to come back to where it all started, we want to do our part tonight in thanking each and every one of you for your overwhelming and oh, so wonderful support!” She gestured her arm out to the crowd, genuine gratitude evident in her voice. “So, we’re going to apologize now in the case that we happen to take the roof down with us!”

With a stomp of her boots, the QTs starting up their first song of the night, and it was only minutes in that Caesar locked gazes with Suzi. She was staring at him, knowingly… and only gave a little wave and a smile before continuing on.

Lord Above, he’d gone and made a fool of himself in front of the lead vocalist of the band he was ‘supposedly’ into… and she had read him for his bullshit from the very start. 

 


 

“Tonight was awesome, right? Right? ” Joseph’s arm had wrapped around him almost suddenly, and Caesar couldn’t stop himself from jumping out of sheer reflex. “Easy, easy! What’s got you so spooked?” 

“I haven’t seen you most of the night and now you’re here all of a sudden? Excuse me for getting startled by the unidentified flying bastard that you are.” He sighed, shaking his head at the ridiculousness of at all. It was nearing 3 AM, and they had an early morning tomorrow, so the quicker they got out of here, the better. The QTs really did keep their promise of nearly bringing the roof down with them, as the performance had to be cut a little bit short due to noise complaints. It was a Rock Club, though… what did you expect? 

Either way, Caesar had watched Suzi hurry off-stage with her bandmates and that was the last he saw of her for the night. Maybe if he was fast enough, there’d still be a few local venues that were selling tickets-- 

“Hey! You! Guy with the cheek markings!” Another unfamiliar voice called out to him, which in turn had both Caesar and Joseph blinking in confusion. The bartender was making her way over, and she had something in hand. It was a CD case, and there was something written on it. “Can’t head out without takin’ this.” It was placed in his hands and the bartender turned away, dishrag thrown over her shoulder as she started to wash down her post. 

What was that all about? 

Curious, Caesar took a good look at the CD. From what the title stated, it was a physical copy of The QTs most recent collection of songs, and the writing he had noticed before was written in that familiar dark pink color.

“Take a listen to these and then maybe you can say the lead vocalist’s got you enamored <3 Catch you around, Caesar! XOXO - Suzt QT”

Attached to the CD case was a small card that had a number written on it, and a note at the bottom stating one thing and one thing only: ‘Call me!’ 

...Well, whaddya know? 

“HEY, SO WHAT THE HELL DID YOU GET UP TO TONIGHT, CAESAR?!” 

“It’s none of your business, Jojo… I don’t believe I see your name on this~”

Chapter Text

"Angels and demons made for strange bedfellows... and it was even stranger when they played house. But even so, the angel Erina and the fearsome demon Dio managed to make it believable."

 


 

 

Rome, 60 A.D.

 

Erina had to wonder what the Big Boss upstairs was playing at.

How on Earth she had wound up in this situation was beyond her comprehension. Was it by chance that she’d run into him? He surely had been around for the unrest in Rome leading up to Imperator Augustus taking power, but that had been some decades ago. Perhaps it was that the new emperor assuming the throne, Nero, would be someone closer to his interests?

...Since the Julio-Claudian house had taken power only Augustus had achieved a stable reign. Was that instability all him?

Or was this chance meeting someone toying with her upstairs for deciding to linger in Rome just a little bit longer?

If it was the latter, then it was simply not fair! She was on assignment here, to fill the Earth with light and provide miracles where she could. Why were things getting harder for her?

It’s not her fault that the Romans created that exquisite combination of herbs and cheese called moretum, though she wished she could take credit. And it definitely wasn’t her fault that she had to have seconds!

But perhaps she shouldn’t have had that second helping anyway. Perhaps it would’ve meant she didn’t run into him.

The demon Dio stood before her, his toga draped over his arm and a devilish smile creeping across his face. Upon seeing him, Erina tugged her stola gently, trying not to react. It didn’t matter how many times they’d crossed paths, he always made her feel… strange. Like she was somehow flirting with disaster…

It was frankly, inconvenient.

He had shown up without a care in the world, like the newest emperor wasn’t whispering about razing down neighborhoods in the city proper to build a pleasure palace all his own. Dio had asserted to her that this was not his doing, nor the work of any of his “friends” as he had so generously called them. It was only human error and extravagance at play.

That perhaps wasn’t the most surprising part. What was, however, was just how long he’d stayed. He had been lingering... normally, he had kept it to forty days and forty nights. It was a tongue-in-cheek reference no doubt to the cleansing rains the Higher Ups had initiated.

That was a twist of irony considering the problem he had had with it when the rains first began. A problem with the whole… drowning children thing, and though Erina couldn’t help but feel a bit of distaste about the whole event herself, it wasn’t her place to question it.

It had been over thirty days and Dio should have been getting ready to leave. But now… she wasn’t so sure. Mainly because they were at dinner right now.

With her “neighbors”.

How… how did she end up here, actually? She had known the family that had taken up residence next door to her in passing. It had been a few years, ones she spent with her nose in codexes and nights spent at little hole-in-the-wall eateries just off of the Forum. She hadn’t bothered to speak to them past a cheerful greeting in the morning, or a nod toward the woman who lived next door at the Baths.

But this had almost moved too fast for her to comprehend. Here she was, being invited to dinner… because they had insisted after meeting her husband.

Erina had nearly declared that Lucius and Octavia were spouting ridiculous things. That is, until Dio’s hand rested at the small of her back. His voice a soft whisper in her ear.

Play along.

She paused, not willing to immediately accept nor deny him. Surely he knew better than to assume that she would stand for this without incentive.

You’ll be getting something good out of it. His wife happens to come from a family of culinary geniuses.

Oh, right . That was exactly why she was here. She was convinced by the promise of delicious food. But she was ANGRY! How could she have been so easily bought? Her irritation coursed through her entire body as she took a sip of her delicious lentil soup! Goodness, she truly WAS an incredible cook and damn it all, that wasn’t fair!

How dare he be right!

But despite all of that huffing and puffing, there had been something charming about the couple’s home. It felt loved in every corner, well lived in and surrounded by the warm comforting atmosphere of a delicious family meal. It wasn’t limited to the place as well, those who occupied it radiated love in nearly every direction. That, at least, was a consolation for this evening.

The demon of the hour was of course, working that silvertongue of his. He was trying to explain his absence for so many years around these parts. Apparently, Dio had settled on the backstory of a war hero. A legendary legionnaire who had cut down foes of the state on campaign and was returning to his “lady love.” His words, not her own. But Lucius and Octavia both seemed to hang on his every word. Of course, that was how demons were. Dio, however, was far more theatrical than others and it only made it more compelling for the humans here. She had to keep herself from laughing.

“And how did you nab such a soldier, Erina? I can’t help but be curious!” Octavia called to her over the table. Obviously, she wanted her to speak since Dio had taken the floor for so long. Possibly also, because she had been such a mystery to others.

Dio had also turned to look at her. His expression interested, as if wondering whether she would actually play along.

“Well, we met in a vast orchard, beneath an apple tree. I had been tending to the land in my youth…” Erina answered, and had to stop the way her stomach twisted at Dio’s pleased smile.

“An orchard? I didn’t realize you had such a humble background!”

Erina nodded, doing a wondrous job at not reacting with mirth at such words. “Indeed, very humble. He was pursuing another woman though, I’m afraid. Our brave soldier merely settled for me~” 

Her tone was teasing, but she could think back to Eden now. Dio had not only been the snake that tempted Eve, but even before that had tempted her in the form of Lilith. She remembered him walking to her under the guise of a beautiful woman.

Perhaps I could tempt you as well.

The words of centuries before echoed in her ears as her cheeks burned just remembering it. Perhaps, some things were better left to time than to be dredged up in one’s memories.

The other couple began to laugh heartily at her words. “With the way your husband speaks of you, it seems like he thought long and hard about pursuing you! Far more than you may have thought!” It was good natured Lucius speaking to her now, and she had to admire just how quickly he had jumped to that conclusion. Dio was really selling this well.

To Lucius’s credit, Dio was indeed wearing a look of shock. “H-Honestly!” he declared. “To say I merely… settled for you in the end? After everything you and I have been through together, angel?”

He was exaggerating, his hand pressed to his chest in that rather dramatic way of his. But to her surprise, there was a bit of gravity behind those words…

“You know, it’s not a bad thing,” Erina remarked with a smile playing at her lips. “You were quite wrapped up in her all those years ago, no? You settled and then steadily built up your affections elsewhere...”

“Yes, yes, but I eventually did untangle myself, didn’t I?”

“Ah, I suppose you did.”

At that, laughter bubbled up all along the table and Erina felt it again. That love surging through the room. But there was more to it, an extra layer she hadn’t quite felt before. Her eyes glanced about their collection. From Lucius, to Octavia, to Dio and had to wonder where these feelings were coming from.

Perhaps lovers in the street outside? That possibly could explain it all…

Regardless of how, the atmosphere was even more lovely than before. So much so, that she didn’t realize Dio had absentmindedly reached for her hand until it was there. She could feel his thumb grazing along the top her of hand and with each gentle stroke, her heart seemed to stutter in her chest.

Was this a malfunction of her human vessel? Would she have to make a complaint upstairs?

Her hand seemed to react on it’s own, lacing her fingers with his and holding on securely. It was strange but certainly enough her body seemed to enjoy this. Humans really were something else…

Was that such a bad thing?

Perhaps other angels might have thought that way, but… she was beginning to see things from a different angle.

 


 

London, England, 1890

 

Dio walked along the cobblestone streets of London as a fine misty rain cascaded from the sky. His deep blue coat, complete with matching dove grey feathers were a fine look for a foppish gentleman out and about. Too bad no one was around to really behold him. Everyone had taken refuge inside buildings.

Cowards.

He was content to let the rain water cascade from his top hat, soaking his hair beneath. There was an umbrella in his grasp of course, but he mighty liked the rain if no one cared to look at him. It felt a bit cleansing when one needed it, so the umbrella remained unopened at his side. Besides, it was for someone else.

He walked with a purpose, sauntering down the streets until a corner bookstore had finally come into view. ‘ E. P. Books ’ the sign read, ‘ Principal Purveyor of Printed Publications. ’ Dio had told her that it was too much alliteration. She had told him in no uncertain terms that there would be no changing it. In fact, it had made her rather giddy.

You can make fun of me all you like, but isn’t it fun to say?

She had asked him with the purest smile he had ever seen and honestly, Dio had nearly swallowed his own tongue at her question. Instead, he sputtered and gave a non-answer. If it made her happy, perhaps it had been worth it.

The bookshop in front of him had been setting up to close and he watched as a young man fumbled with the locks in this rain. It was coming down a little harder now and Dio didn’t care. He approached the young man with hardly a sound, a remnant from his days lounging in the sun as a serpent. By the time the young man noticed him, he gave a rather loud undignified yelp before nearly dropping the key.

“L-Lord Ainsworth! I… I didn’t expect to see you so soon!”

Dio smiled devilishly at the use of his name, the tinted spectacles on his face hiding the true nature of his gaze. He rather liked the name Ainsworth, it spoke of old money and he had been looking to intimidate on the streets of London. It was good to know that, personal issues aside, he still had it.

“My apologies,” Dio chuckled softly, tipping his wet hat in greeting. “...But ah, has she gone off ahead?”

The young man nodded, his wet hair sticking to his forehead. “Y-Yes, actually! She wanted to get back before the rain started up… you see, the first editions she has with her--”

Dio immediately held up his hand, effectively cutting the other man off. “Ahh, no need, no need. I get where this is going. Thank you for your assistance and have a lovely evening.” He was not one to wish anyone well, but the demon had to admit, the poor lad had earned a break this evening. After all, how would he be of any use to them if he fell ill.

With that, Dio walked off, following Erina’s path back to their shared London townhouse. She was a creature of habit and had walked the same route every day since their plan together began. As a woman in London society, Erina found it very difficult to be taken seriously when purchasing a storefront for her newest endeavor.

Perhaps she hadn’t needed to attempt things this way. In all honesty, she could have simply worked a small miracle to acquire her property. But instead, she approached him with a partnership. Together, they would pose as a married couple and he would purchase the space for her. It would be hers to run however she wished, but it would be easier for everyone involved.

You know, pretending to be married would be easier on both of us, ” she had told him matter-of-factly. “ No one would be badgering either of us when we’re out in high society and obviously I won’t hold you to some sort of ridiculous promise. We can’t lose.

He should have hated just how quickly he had jumped for that. But he had also had centuries coming to terms with how he felt for her. To even pretend to be her husband, her paramour, her lover. Well, it was a chance to act out a deep-seated fantasy of his. He found he was rather enjoying it.

It took a bit, but he found her eventually, hovering beneath a tree at the edge of a park they’d passed every day. She liked to smell the flowers and the scent of grass as she took her morning walks but now, it seemed, the trees had come in handy as a sort of shelter.

Erina was never the most put together person but he saw her now, dripping wet with her large blonde bun practically wilting on top of her head. She held the cape of her ulster coat spread over these books to protect them from the elements. There was no doubt in his mind that she had stopped beneath these trees if only to protect the literature at her hip.

Classic angel.

She was distracted, busy fussing over the books and he knew an opportunity when he saw him. He wasted no time to slink over to her side and open the umbrella over her head with a gentlemanly flourish. “For the Lady Ainsworth,” he crooned, noting with delight how she stood at attention and immediately turned to behold him.

“Oh… Dio!” She said with such a bright smile and oh , didn’t it feel incredible every time his name dropped from her lips. He’d never tell her, no, but he would keep it close anyway. “You know, when we’re alone you don’t have to use our falsified last name…”

“Yes, yes, but I definitely like saying it. Lord and Lady Ainsworth of London… Proud owners of a prominent countryside estate and E. P. Books, Principal Purveyors of Printed Publications,” he listed with a wry smile on his face. “I feel we’ve done quite well this time around, no?”

“Ha, the alliteration is growing on you, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps~”

At her answering laugh, he couldn’t help but ruminate on their earliest exchanges in the Garden. She had been so bullheaded and looking for a fight. Blind to perhaps an interest that was blossoming, on his end at least. But more recently… they’d taken up a more successful partnership, something that neither upstairs or downstairs had quite caught on to yet. He intended to make that last for as long as possible. It helped, at the very least, that neither angel nor demon seemed to care about humanity at this point…

The last hurrah anyone in Hell felt toward the damned planet Earth anyway was during that ghastly plague. He remembered she had been testy and called him a rat when she had thought it was his doing.

Him! A rat!

“You like saying it? When did you get so attached to last names…?” She called teasingly, breaking him out of his reverie. “...But I suppose we both have done well for ourselves. I think this go around may be my favorite so far. Well, I mean-- it’s the same go around but-- you understand, don’t you?”

She fixed him with an embarrassed sort of smile, rain droplets still lingering on her eyelashes and streaks of moisture against her cheek bones. His eyes couldn’t help but linger there, on the flush of her cheeks. They had both figured out how humanity ticked and done enough to keep both sides in check. Miracles and curses, alike in effort and frequency. So it was nice now to just… pull back for a bit. To do something for themselves.

This had been lovely. To no longer be a rat but her husband, if only for the time being.

It was nice to be able to really look at her. Here, in the rain, beneath this tree and this umbrella. She wasn’t quite a Gibson Girl was she? Even an angel like her. Her hair was always a mess, rain or shine. Constantly crooked or falling out of her bun. Her beautiful blue eyes sometimes hidden behind small spectacles she just had to wear to seem smarter. The brooch at her neck was near constantly askew.

She was never quite put together and certainly not in the tight corsets of the times. But he’s looked at illustrations of the ideal lady in magazines. They always looked elegant, the utter portraits of perfection. Perhaps he could claim them as a hellish invention because that certainly was not what real beauty was.

No, real beauty stood in front of him now, holding first editions beneath her sopping wet coat and wearing an angel wing brooch at her neck sitting at a 70 degree angle.

He hoped they could do this for a bit longer. Maybe well into the 20th century if they were careful enough.

With his free hand, Dio pulled her closer, making sure she was securely under the umbrella and blocked by the rain. It felt much like it had when she sheltered him with her own angelic wing during the first rain in Eden. Only this time, he had books to be mindful of.

“Darling, shall we get going for the night?” He asked, ready to face the rain head on. “We have an early morning tomorrow if I recall correctly…~”

“Ah, yes! We do, we do…! You wanted to get breakfast together, yes?”

Well it was certainly something like that. Humanity had learned to exert their mastery over the culinary arts. At first, Dio had taken up the practice to relax but now… Knowing just how much it would take to impress Erina, he had wanted to practice before he showed her just what he could do. He hoped this was the right time…

“Yes, I had but… I was wondering, if perhaps we could eat in this time around instead. There’s something special I’d like to show you.” He silently thanked himself for not allowing a tremble to sneak it’s way into his voice now.

Erina made a show of tapping her chin in thought before a wry smile overtook her face. “Hm, sounds… tempting. ” Immediately she fell into giggles at her own joke and he did indeed laugh too.

However, a shiver had run it’s way down his spine at her words. And then, the butterflies in his stomach got all riled up. Really it was a one-two punch to the gut.

She was wonderful.

And for now, she was his wife .

He was not going to waste this opportunity.

 


 

Naples, Italy, 13 Years Before the End of the World

 

Okay, so perhaps he did end up wasting his opportunity in the 19th century but he wasn’t going to let this one pass him by.  He had made some mistakes, didn’t say the things he should have when push came to shove… or perhaps he had done too much. They had separated for a few decades.

Yes, okay… he had taken a bit of a depression nap, but he was out of that funk now and they had reunited decades ago. Who was really counting? It’s not like anything had changed, except for maybe his last name. Ainsworth had been deemed far too snooty a surname once punk rock came into fashion. He was Dio Brando now and he had to thank Marlon Brando for that bit… but really, that didn’t matter. What mattered was that Erina was here with him now.

What mattered was that Erina was here with him now.

And they had both gone completely rogue from here on out.

It had always been an ‘Us Against Them’ sort of thing though, hadn’t it? Even if they had never quite been as open about it. But both upstairs and downstairs were chomping at the bit to have their petty war to bring in the apocalypse.

Well, that was too bad for them, wasn’t it?

Because they had just stolen the Antichrist.

In fact, he was driving Erina and the boy, Giorno, now. His radio was turned down for the small boy who was asleep in the back. Erina, on the other hand, was looking through all sorts of books and magazines stacked between her legs in the passenger's seat.

He’d had a small apartment in Naples for when he was up to no good in the area, what he hadn’t expected was that he would live there with anyone, let alone his angel. But here she was, mumbling to herself about fixtures and asking dimly if he minded a soft green color for the kitchen walls.

He should really feel ridiculous about this. He should want to snap at her instead of feeling excited to pick new fixtures for his already decent home. But he was thrilled to make future plans. Hell, he had an entire shopping list of clothing, of pink comforters with flowers, of toys and food to stock up on…

And frankly? He hadn’t felt this excited in years.

To think that when he dropped this kid off with those loony nuns only two years prior, the last thing he’d wanted to do was even hold the basket he was in. But now he’s here, asleep in the back, tucked comfortably into a carseat Erina insisted they acquire. She had insisted that this toddler’s safety was to be their top priority and that she wasn’t going to let him get hurt in this sleek deathtrap of a 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom.

He was trying his best to drive carefully, under the speed limit even for once, but Erina did not make things easy. Not with the way her hand rested on his over the manual transmission. Her free hand was busy tossing aside a Home and Garden magazine for a parenting book, but the one on his never wandered.

“...Is Giorno considered a baby?” She asked, not looking up from the page. “I know he’s a toddler, but this book only says baby.”

“Who knows?” Dio called, trying to keep his eyes on the road instead of looking over to catch a glimpse of that cute little crease between her brow that she got when she concentrated. “He’s our kid now and that’s what matters.”

Erina hummed in response and continued to glance at the page, that damned hand still over his before she stopped. The parenting book was closed in her lap as she glanced up at Dio.

“That apartment you have… there’s only one bedroom?”

His grip on the wheel tightened at her words. It was subtle and if she noticed anything, she didn’t say so. “Yes… is that a problem? We’ve shared a marriage bed before, numerous times… to be exact.”

What a sentence that was? Something powerful enough to make his heart leap into his throat.

“That was different,” she replied with a roll of her eyes. “But I don’t think… that’s going to be a problem for us. Upstairs isn’t going to like it, but… upstairs isn’t going to like a lot of things I’m doing now. Though, I just wonder-- will you be safe? During all of this?”

Her question made him swallow hard. That was an unfortunate reality of their situation wasn’t it? “Probably not, but that’s why we have each other, no?”

“You want me to protect you ? A demon ? From your own?” Erina’s voice was teasing but there was no helping his reaction. There was a flinch and ice cold worry blooming in the pit of his stomach.  Would she… not want to?

“Yes. Because I intend to protect you. From those that never… saw your potential.” He couldn’t look her in the face now, couldn’t bring himself to even turn in her direction. His eyes remained fixed on the road if only to save himself from incredible embarrassment at his own words. He’d really said it like that?

For one torturous moment, Erina said nothing. But then, he felt fingers against the hand he had rested on the gears. Gently, they stroked his skin in a calming manner. “...Good. I intend to protect you from those that wish to do you harm,” Erina announced with a confidence in her voice that no angel in her situation had any business having. “I can’t say I’ll do a bang up job, but… I’ll do what I can. For you ? I’ll try.”

“And I, you. We’re stronger together, did you know that? We… always have been,” he hesitated before looking in the rearview mirror, only to see the young boy’s sleeping face. Very angelic looking for the Antichrist. “So we’ll have to stay in tip top shape for the little one. Your ladybug. ” He finally managed to smile, the tightness in his throat easing somewhat. It was easier when he could tease Erina. He’d heard her call him as such before and he simply couldn’t resist.

He could just make out red creeping across her face out of the corner of his eye. “H-Hey! You were listening in on that?! It’s not-- It’s not a bad name! You can make fun of me all you like, it looks like he’s happy with it…! And that’s what’s most important.” She huffed next to him and a wide smile spread across Dio’s face, sharp incisors and all.

“He does, he does,” Dio agreed, barely restraining the mirth in his voice. “That’s good though. It means we’re at least doing something right. We can only go up from here.”

“Well, I think we’re on the right track.”

“As parents~?”

Erina nodded. “As parents. I suppose we should give this husband and wife thing an honest shot as well, don’t you think? Would you… want to try? Something more closer to the real thing than what we had in the 1890’s…”

For a moment, something visceral twisted in his gut. That try in the 19th century had been very real to him. He hadn’t been playing house for the bloody fun of it. He had done it to be with her… but he was quick to brush it off. He wouldn’t focus on that now.

Instead, he gave a laugh. “Yes, the neighborhood association won’t know what fuckin’ hit ‘em.

“You’re absolutely right…!”

Much to his delight, she laughed too. Even further making his heart stutter, she laced her fingers with his over the gearbox. It took him a second not to swerve in the middle of the street from that contact alone.

“You know… I was thinking,” she began, in that way that she did when she wanted something from him. A tone he was more than happy to indulge. “Do you remember that cake made with the orange peel? And that delightful icing? I think you made it eight years ago… If you remember how, maybe you could make it again…?”

Yes, he remembered the cake. It was a gift for her when she’d fallen into a slump after losing an Ebay auction for another first edition copy of some Blake poetry. “Ooh, I like the way you think. A housewarming gift for the three of us…”

He couldn’t help but reflect on this moment. Erina’s hand wrapped around his, their child in the car even if he was the Antichrist, plans for the future being made… Perhaps people downstairs would say he was just playing house, but they didn’t know anything did they? He was going to make this count, make this right. For all three of them.

Didn’t that just sound grand?

Chapter Text

"Johnny and Rina (née Higashikata) Joestar were newlyweds, and it was especially exciting to learn something new about this person they promised themselves to each and every day...!"

 


 

Marriage was quite the adventure. 

It was blissful, exciting, eye-opening, but also incredibly terrifying at the best and worst times. A melting pot of emotions and experiences that sometimes spilled over if you weren’t keeping a careful eye on the fire kindling beneath it, but there was always an opportunity to ease the flames whenever things just so happened to get a bit hasty. It took time of course, and patience, but there was always a new lesson to be learned between them when the bright sparks of their honeymoon phase settled back into its earlier warmth.

A soft, comfortable feeling that lingered pleasantly, just as it had on their wedding day… and the days, weeks, months that followed thereafter.

Johnny and Rina (née Higashikata) were newlyweds. Young, impressionable, and rather eager to see what this world had in store for them. 

As a veteran jockey, Johnny’s participation in the Steel Ball Run allowed him a chance to see his home country through a perspective hat would have never crossed his mind before deciding to compete, while the 2nd place victory acquired by Norisuke Higashikata gave Rina the opportunity to peer into a world that was more of a faraway dream at an earlier time. 

...

Was it fate, then? 

That they met on that steamship crossing the Atlantic back to America after everything was said and done? To have crossed paths and exchanged stories... and ultimately decided to keep to each other’s sides? Neither of them were too certain about the wheels of destiny and how they functioned, but something about this--something about getting to this point-- felt right. As if they’ve gone through this before. Maybe that was why despite their inexperience, crossing that threshold hand in hand wasn’t as intimidating as they once thought. 

They were learning so many new things about each other, in different ways every day… and that within itself was a gift that could not be given by just anyone. In the weeks that followed the ceremony, Johnny learned that Rina had never riden a horse before. She only ever admired her father’s prized Hono from afar, always nervous to get too close. He eased her fears through Slow Dancer's aid and the old girl’s never-ending patience. 

For Rina, it was a surprise to find out that Johnny wasn’t fond of strawberries, and preferred sharing fresh batches of them with her as opposed to being wasteful. Old habits from his mother were always a bit too difficult to forget. 

Rina had this way of scrunching up her eyebrows when she was concentrating especially hard on something, and it always made her face look a bit silly without meaning to. As if looking at a trick mirror, it was cute and Johnny couldn’t help himself with poking her cheeks when she looked like that.

Johnny wasn’t the biggest fan of their next-door neighbors… something about their cattle dogs hopping the fence and ‘poking their noses where they ain’t belong in the haystacks’ , but he had this sarcastic tone of voice that was almost too believable for its own good. It made for interesting exchanges between him and the older couple that kept to their suspicions about a pair of fresh-faced twenty year olds who fondly regarded one another as husband and wife. 

… 

Rina could never help but laugh every time Johnny returned from a ‘quick morning chat’ that overstayed its welcome, and the roll of his eyes and exasperated slump that usually settled in his shoulders. She liked to give him kisses of encouragement every time he came back around. 

On the other side of that, Rina struggled with the very families that bordered their ranch. They always made a point to keep their conversations with her brief, or sought out Johnny in her stead, even though she was more than capable of handling matters regarding their home on her own! She always made a point to keep her pleasantries firm around them, but always had the most eloquent of things to mutter under her breath in her native Japanese. 

Phrases that Johnny was slowly, but surely picking up on over time and Lord Have Mercy, did his lovely little wife have a mouth on her!

There were times when Rina would look upon the sunset’s horizon with a wistful look in her eyes, stories of a childhood home in a quaint little town called Morioh on the tip of her tongue. Sometimes they would share stories of who they were all those years ago under the soft glow of their bedroom’s hearth, curled up in each other’s arms, and sometimes… sometimes Johnny would wake from visceral night terrors with tears in his eyes, shouting the name of a man who meant the world to him. 

Sometimes he would mention other names, other people in his sleep…

Lucy, Diego, Hot Pants… Valentine. Every time that last one was spoken, it was always full of fear and unbridled anger, but also a firm resolve. 

Despite not knowing these people that were once in her husband’s life, Rina also found herself well acquainted with them. They were a mystery, but at the same time not. All key players of a time and place in history that seemed to have been forgotten by those uninvolved with the incidents. But Johnny always remembered, but he persevered despite those phantom pains. 

Those physical and emotional scars that told an unspoken tale that Rina wasn’t certain she’d ever fully comprehend, especially in the occasions she’s come across Johnny offering his leftovers to something she could never quite see, but he always had such a serene look on his face when he did so. 

Whatever that thing was, it seemed to be a comforting presence from his past… from that short period of time that wound up changing everything. 

She, of course, was an outsider of that part of Johnny’s incredible story, but Rina Higashikata-Joestar wanted nothing more than to be a supportive, loving presence for the man that had taken her hand and led her along an adventure all of their own. Even if it took tedious, but careful, baby steps… she would do everything in her power to make each coming day just a bit easier for him.

For the both of them. 

...

And it was lovely knowing that they could start this by promising to never go to bed angry at each other. 

Chapter Text

"Air Supplena was a sanctuary, a home away from home... not only for the Warriors blessed by the Sun's brilliant light, but a pair of lovers whose reunion was long since overdue."

 


 

This… wasn’t supposed to be a vacation. 

Rather, they were supposed to be tending to sections of Air Supplena that were in need of repairs. But it was almost too easy to forget about what they’d been tasked to do by Straits and Dire in their absence, and instead lose themselves in the tranquility of it all. The soothing sound of waves lapping carefully along the shoreline, the distant call of seabirds who flocked to the island’s ruins in groups and chittered animatedly amongst themselves, and the reality of being the only two inhabiting this place forgotten by history and time itself. 

It would be only temporary, of course, but for now… it was a chance to exhale the breath they’ve both been holding for the longest time. Four years, three months, and two weeks to be exact, with an additional year tacked on for good measure. That was how long Jorge and Elizabeth had been apart. It was also how long they were  forced to correspond through an exchange of sporadic letter writing and coded telegrams. But, even more importantly…

It was how long the world as they knew it was at war with itself on such an unpredictable scale… an unpredictably great scale, if you would. 

Jorge Joestar spent that extra year in recovery with a lot of things on his mind, a back-and-forth of wondering what life had in store for him next. He was a man of the skies, having found his calling in the clouds during childhood, but he knew the chances of getting right back out there were slim at best. His mother, bless her heart, had scolded him a few weeks into his return home, doing her best to persuade him from going out to tinker around with a busted engine he’d brought back. Things may have still been fresh, even well after the year had come and gone, but he was definitely feeling restless. Wired. 

His nerves hummed anxiously for him to do something, anything… while his blood pumped with the energy of someone unsure of what to do with themselves. Someone listless. Someone who needed a sign.

And as if she were telepathic, which was something he has wondered more often than not in their time growing up, Elizabeth delivered one. 

An honest-to-God sign in the form of a simple letter. 

Her fine penmanship requested one thing, and one thing alone: his presence at Air Supplena. The Hamon Warriors stationed at the massive sanctuary had long since retreated to protected territory in the early inklings of war, knowing it best to avoid the crossfire from the Italian mainland. Elizabeth had been the first to return, having been tasked by her fathers to begin early restoration of the structures throughout the island. Deal with the smaller damages and allow them to handle the larger messes that might have come from man-made tremors. Air Supplena, despite its beauty, was unstable ground and she felt taking this task on alone would be quite… uneventful

So, she asked for him. Not only for needed assistance and company, but to have him in her arms again for the first time in almost five years. 

They definitely had some… catching up to do, and who was he to try and deny his lady love?  

 


 

He awoke to the low rumble of thunder in the distance. It was finally pushing off and away from Air Supplena, a far cry to the overnight storm that plagued them the night before. They had been in the midst of overlooking the state of the weathered stones supporting the trainees’ sleeping quarters when Jorge found himself unable to continue for the time being. A phantom pain, from a gunshot injury almost two years prior, bloomed across his right shoulder and down to his wrist. It made handling things difficult to near impossible from time to time, especially when unpleasant weather was on its way. 

There was a storm coming, most likely a big one, and the two took that as their cue to return to Elizabeth’s room for the remainder of the evening. 

It hit almost immediately after they had secured the locks on various window shutters, loud and booming overhead. The foundation beneath their feet shook ever so slightly, but it was nothing to worry about. In fact, as they settled in the all-too-welcoming warmth of her pillows and quilted comforter, Elizabeth had thought it best to try and distract him from the raging storm outside. 

Her fingers found purchase along the slope of his broad shoulders, careful but pressing as she sought to ease the tension from his body. A light dusting of Hamon across the planes of his back muscles, with special attention given to the scarring along his right arm, definitely did the trick. It wasn’t a permanent fix, it would never be that easy, but it sure as hell loosened up his knots.

Left him boneless and at ease in all the best ways.

And that same feeling lingered well into the early morning. 

A glance to the clock some feet from the bedside told Jorge was almost six-thirty. Not bad, he was used to an early rising, having preferred to make the most of his morning than letting hours get away from him. Elizabeth was still asleep, the gentle rise and fall of her chest signalling as much. However, he knew it wouldn’t be much longer until she stirred. In all the time Jorge has known her, she was a definite light sleeper and wasn’t keen on sleeping in well over an expected time. Seven o’clock was her latest at best, choosing to spend her time doing far more productive things than lounging about. 

Now that the storm had passed, there was a good chance they’d be right back in the trainees’ quarters for most of today and parts of tomorrow before moving forward to the next buildings. So, he was going to have to make the most of what time they had before it was back to the grind.

Reaching over with his right arm, careful not to possibly agitate it too much, he pulled her sleeping form closer to his front. The tangle of brown curls that was Elizabeth’s hair clouded his vision only temporarily as he brushed some of it aside to rest his chin at the meeting of her neck and shoulder. 

Her breathing was soft and even, similar to when she was channeling the perfect charge of Hamon to do away with adversaries, and it nearly lulled Jorge back into a peaceful slumber by sound alone. 

It was almost too easy to be tempted by this comforting atmosphere, wrapped in a cocoon of blankets that were warm and soft and oh, so inviting. 

But he pushed past the temptation of sleep and pressed a featherlight kiss to the base of Elizabeth’s neck.

And then another one, and another after that.

 


 

“...Mmm, what time is it?” Elizabeth asked, her voice still groggy with sleep. She had come to only a few minutes earlier to the feeling of familiar lips peppering her skin with butterfly kisses. Jorge was being extra careful, considerate to the fact that she was sleeping and only pressed forward when he knew she was awake. “Do you know, or… have you been occupied this entire time?” 

She laughed then, soft and musical but further enticed by Jorge’s incentive to move along the span of her neck and shoulder. He had shifted positions, removing the arm that once held her flush to his side to instead roll her onto her back to continue the careful expedition of her body. The kisses were no longer featherlight, they held intent… a purpose, one that made itself known the moment his lips marked their way up, up, up the column of her throat, along her jaw, and finally claiming her mouth with his. 

This particular sensation was as memorable as they both remembered. It was tender, careful, most likely due to their time apart, but the emotional charge remained just as it did the last time they kissed like this. It was unmistakable, unforgettable, and left such a pleasant fluttering in the pit of her belly that she pushed herself up just a bit from the mattress to take more of him in. 

One of Jorge’s hands found its way into her hair, fingers threading through her bed-head while the other took heed to remove the blankets still separating them. The gasp that escaped her thereafter was on reflex due to the abrupt shift from warm to cold, but it was all he needed to slip his tongue inside. 

Elizabeth welcomed him earnestly, wrapping her arms around him as a means of encouragement. While appreciative, and it sent the loveliest chill down his spine, he broke the kiss only a few moments after. His chest rose and fell heavily with the need for air as they parted, only a beaded trail of saliva separating them proper. Between the pounding of his heart in his ears, and a blossoming heat in his lower gut that was near impossible to ignore, Jorge licked at his already wet lips before speaking up with a sheepish grin. 

“I-it’s… ah, well… it’s almost seven-thirty,” The chuckle he let out shook his body from head to toe, but it could have just been the nerves. “...there isn’t much we have to do today, right?” 

He knew the answer to that question and he knew that she knew it too, but it didn’t hurt to get a little reminder again. His attention was elsewhere, you see. 

And he needed to keep his focus, seeing as he was beginning quite the impressive descent. He slid down her naked form, taking in every curve on display as his mouth started up a downward trail from her chin, to her neckline, her collarbone, only to take pause at the area between her breasts.

Elizabeth felt more than saw when his tongue began to lavish attention there, suckling, grazing, biting down against her flesh with blunt teeth. It was careful enough not to break skin, but more than enough to leave her toes curling. 

But her lower back fully arched off the mattress when Jorge’s lips claimed her nipple, intent on making her squirm. The use of his teeth was only a bonus. 

“Y-you…” she breathed out after a moment, a noticeable tremble in her voice as she looked down at him. “...think you’re b-being slick, h-huh?” 

With his mouth occupied, she knew there wouldn’t be much Jorge could answer with so she continued, her grip slack in his hair. “H-had all intentions of keeping u-us in bed today? Y-you should know better than to try p-putting the wool over my ey--!” This gasp was louder than her last, enough that it warranted her head falling back against the pillows with a soft moan, brown curls surrounding her like a messy halo. Blood had been drawn, just a little but his tongue eagerly lapped away at what had gathered from the wound. 

He savored the salty, coppery taste as it meshed almost near-perfect with the sweat gathering on her skin. His Elizabeth was intoxicating in ways he could never fully convey with words alone, so it was in moments like this one where he was able to do that. To worship and devote himself to her proper. 

Removing himself from her chest, Jorge hummed soundly as he continued downward. The rough, calloused palms of his hands secured themselves at her hip bones, gently rubbing at the soft skin there as he peppered down, down, down past her midsection. The touch was featherlight once more, working in tandem with the light, breathy laughter slipping past his lips. 

The feel of his breath against her flushed skin gave her goosebumps, and she rubbed her legs together. “...What was that you were sayin’, Liz~?”

He drawled that question out, a smirk evident on his face as he nuzzled against her pelvis, pressing a sweet kiss to a discolored scar nearby. “Don’t think I heard you right… could you say it again?” 

Their eyes locked then, and she could clearly make out the desire to please that surged in the icy blues of his gaze.

He wanted to hear her voice. 

Again and again and again, for as long as she would allow him. 

“...I…” She hesitated, watching as Jorge’s hands reached down between her trembling thighs to gently press them apart. His gaze remained focused on her, but there were quick flickers and shifts of blue glancing back down. Where she was now spread out before him, waiting to be devoured whole. He was waiting for her answer, and it went without saying that he would stop in a heartbeat if that's what she asked of him. But Elizabeth didn’t want him to stop. 

Gods, why would she want that now when he was so close

“I suppose we could get back to our duties once afternoon comes around…” Elizabeth spoke with all the refinement she could muster, and it was promptly thrown out the window when she bucked her hips forward. Closer to his face, closer to his awaiting mouth. “It’s still fairly early, wouldn’t you agree Jorgie ?”

He got her message then and there, and pressed a smoldering kiss to the inside of her thigh, sweet, almost chaste, and spurred on by the elegant fingers threading his hair, tugging with pure intent. He teased along the way to her welcoming heat, light dustings of red and purple painting his trek well until he ran the flat of his tongue languorously across her slit. A tentative gesture, but one that was quickly pushed to the backburner as he started to delve further between Elizabeth’s legs, wet lips taking purchase of her dripping folds.  

“O-oh.” She sighed breathlessly, rolling her hips up to try and get him closer. It didn’t work as intended though, as Jorge’s hands squeezed at her hips before they slid back down to her legs to lift them up and onto his shoulders for support. “ O-ohh... ” He hummed against her, a smug, pleased sound that shook her to her very core and oh, she felt it. She felt him as he dipped his tongue deeper inside her, thumb making way to spread her open just a bit more. 

Just a bit further to make room for one of his fingers, and then another… sinking to the knuckle. Her inner muscles, wet and wanting, squeezed around him almost instinctively, and he couldn’t help the laugh that escaped him. 

Rough, amused, but oh, so endeared by her. 

“...You’re just as sweet as I remember, Liz.” the pilot rasped, his voice scraping along her flushed skin as he pulled away to speak. “Delicious, unforgettably so…” That was punctuated by another swipe from his tongue, by the scorching hot touch of his fingers, sweeping and feeling and seeking entrance for the parts of her he couldn’t reach with mouth alone. There was so much of her he wanted to savor, wanted to enjoy, and his eyes fluttered close at the sound of her soft whimpers above him. It was music to his ears, to see the admirable, unwavering Hamon Master come undone by touch alone. His touch to be exact. One he would have once believed to be unworthy, but now?

He could never imagine himself anywhere else… to be of use to her. 

Just like this, always like this

“J-Joooorge...” Elizabeth moaned his name like a familiar song. Again and again until she heard herself cry out something between an ‘ oh’ and ‘yes’ , trembling fingers freeing themselves from his mussed hair to trail up her body, cupping her breasts to gently fondle them. “Y-you’re… you’re a g-glutton tod-- ah!

His two fingers, and a third that slipped in after, curved suddenly, pressing up and against her walls as his lips wrapped around her clit, drinking her in like a man starved. That was his answer to her, and she responded in kind with a low hiss. “...Fuck, fuck, f-fuck …” She muttered softly, her voice an obscene pant that fumbled under the stress of her own actions. It was a bit humiliating to say the least, but her shame had long since flown out the window. Pushing off with the early morning breeze, and granting her enough sense to lock her ankles behind his head, securing him for the remainder of this encounter.  

Jorge seemed pleased by that action, if the muffled moan at her entrance was anything to go by. In fact, it urged him to double his efforts once more, teasing her with the tip of his tongue before following up with long, needy strokes. 

It was building Elizabeth up bit by bit, leaving her in a state of needing… wanting… desperately seeking more of Jorge’s touch, until her back bowed off the pillows with the sudden grazing of teeth at tender flesh. Oh... oh gods.

His tongue was curled inside her again, nose pressed at her clit, and he was slurping, suckling, lapping at the wetness that gushed from her cunt, pausing only to lick away at what gathered along his chin. 

Fuck!  ” She choked out a sob, eyes fluttering as her vision flittered to the ceiling above them. She was drowning in the sensations, already oversensitive, her muscles tensing up in time with the fingers that varied in pressure but remained inside. He intended to add a fourth, wanting to see her body taut in ecstasy, but decided against it… slipping each one out in short, tantalizing intervals. A ragged gasp of Jorge’s name followed each removal, her heels digging into his sculpted back to warn him. To let him know. 

She was close… Gods, she was so fucking close and it took everything in her power not to literally fuck his face. But it was building up. More and more and more while the touch of his tongue stripped away at every remaining shred of control she had left. “I-I… J...Jorgie, I d-don’t think…-- ”  

And then she was coming.

His tongue was still inside her, smooth as a secret, but he had done something unexpected… something especially clever with the tiniest charge of Hamon that pushed his darling over the edge. Her orgasm overwhelmed her, and Elizabeth choked out as she took it in full, allowing sweet pleasure to wash over while her thighs tightened around his head. “Oh…” she moaned, shuddering from head to toe. “O-oh, Jorge, k-keep… you feel so… y-you’re so…” She ground into him again, hips moving of their own accord to hold onto that feeling just a bit longer. 

It was a fleeting chase, utterly useless, but one not in vain… her cunt continued to spasm and throb around his tongue, and a-ah , there was a wet mess spilling out of her, soaking Jorge’s mouth and the bedding beneath them. 

...

Chest heaving and a trail of drool dribbling down her chin, Elizabeth tried finding her voice to no avail, and instead nudged the back of her ace pilot’s head to get his attention. Seconds later, Jorge was finally pulling out, panting with low, shaky breaths that tickled the bites and markings from before. 

“...Don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that…” he purred, pressing one final kiss to her thighs before climbing back up to look at her again.

To kiss her again. Wet face and all. 

“A-are… are you done for now?” She cooed once they parted, hazy-eyed but nevertheless glancing down to where his leaking cock strained against his leg. “Or… should I…?” 

Jorge shook his head, taking her hand with his and holding it close to his cheek. There was no other way to describe the expression he wore other than contentment, especially as he leaned further into her touch. “No, no… I’m fine… that can wait, Liz. We’ve got all the time ahead of us...”

 


 

This... wasn’t supposed to be a vacation, but they were going to make it one.

Chapter Text

"There were so few people out there they could actually turn to, let alone trust, so who'll be there for them if not... each other?"

 


 

Dio Brando wasn’t sure how fast he had run out into the night, but what he was sure of… was that his knees continued to buckle under the earlier strain. It had more to do with his rattled nerves than anything else, and he knew that, but he wouldn’t be caught dead admitting that to anyone. Not now, and especially not to the familiar, scarred up face looking him over with knowing, concerned eyes. Just because he decided to slip in through the busted back entrance of this condemned corner store looking for Robert, didn’t mean he was actually… looking to find him. It was outright ridiculous to even think that was the case, but again, Dio knew he was lying to himself. 

And he knew that Robert knew he was lying to himself, but Robert was also too soft for his own good… especially when it came to Dio, and he wouldn’t open his big, fat mouth until he got the go-ahead to ask anything. 

But Dio wasn’t going to let it come to that. 

No matter how tight his grip got in Robert’s hold. When did he reach out for his hand, he couldn’t remember, but it was there now and he wasn’t letting go. 

They would sit there in silence until the rain stopped. 

Until Dio caught wind of ambulance sirens cruising down the street. 

...

It always took them so long to arrive when he called, unsurprising for their neighborhood, but it never failed to leave a heavy weight on his chest. He hadn’t been able to do it this time, struck speechless as he looked down the small set of steps leading to the front door of his house. The old phone had slippered from his trembling hands, hitting the floor with a loud crack as he stumbled over himself to reach her. To see if she was awake, to see if she was breathing . She couldn’t say much of anything, trembling like a feeble mouse, but her eyes said what she couldn’t speak aloud. Get out of here, Dio. Now.

He knew he had to listen to her pleas, but for the moment… his legs wouldn’t take him anywhere. Not forward, not back, not even to retrieve their broken phone. How could he think to move once he noticed the blood pooling from her obvious head injury, or the pieces of shattered glass embedding her hair and scalp like a crystalized crown of thorns. How terribly fitting it was. 

But after those grueling seconds which felt more like hours, he overheard the next door neighbors’ door opening and the cry of someone ordering another person to call 911, and Dio took that cue to run. 

As quickly as his nimble legs would take him in the pouring rain.

There was only one place his instincts were telling him to go. To hurry, hurry and don’t look back until he met up with Speedwagon. It would be safe there, it was always safe there. The Not-Box was their sanctuary, no matter how run down the place got since they first crossed paths there a few years ago. 

No longer exchanging threats and blows, but instead seeking comfort from one another. Because who else would be there with the odds stacked against them?

No one, that’s who. 

“I-It… it happened again.” 

So much for keeping quiet. Internally, the blond beat himself ten times over for breaking his vow of silence. Robert didn’t need to know everything about what went on his life, but at the same time… Dio wanted him to know. Wanted him to listen, remark, reassure in that supportive way of his. Like he always did. No matter how difficult Dio might be that particular day. 

“He… h-he threw a bottle, and it struck her in the head.” He swallowed hard, focusing all of his attention on the way his thumb rubbed absentmindedly along Robert’s knuckles. They were bruised, cracked, and trying so hard to heal without proper wrappings. Did he get into a fight recently? 

“She was on the floor. I… I thought she was dead this time.” 

There was a god awful pressure beginning to crawl along the back of his head, and he knew it well. His vision was blurring, and he tried his hardest to blink away the fresh tears to no avail. “I-I… I c-couldn’t do anything. I was t-there and I… I j-just stood there, b-because everything stopped around me a-and I thought I was too late…” A quiet sob slipped past his lips. Fuck .

“I… I was r-really scared, Robbie, and I’m s-so fuckin’ tired of being scared of these things happening, but… w-what can I do?” He was only eleven, nearing his twelfth birthday in less than two months and never felt more helpless. 

Dio’s face had turned a ruddy red color and he hiccuped over his next words, which were basically unintelligible, as he began to cry freely. 

This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen, but it was happening and he was making a definite fool of himself, wasn’t he? Robert wouldn’t judge him, he never did, and maybe that’s why it was easier to be a bit more open with himself, a bit more vulnerable, around the thirteen year old boy. 

He clung to him then, hands squeezing tight to the rough ones he held onto… much like a cherished security blanket, a life line. The only thing keeping him tethered to the idea that there was so much more beyond this, that this wouldn’t be their day-to-day forever. It was selfish to think of Speedwagon like that, well aware that there was much more to what made him utterly, genuinely Robert, but… he’d be a damn fool to let this go. 

To let him go. After everything. 

He wouldn’t do it. He couldn’t do it. 

N-Not now. 

Not yet.

 


 

For all his constant babbling, Robert was always real shit at words. That was the whole reason he never stopped talking. Keep going and eventually you’ll say the right thing, even if it was buried under a mountain of bullshit. But sometimes, there were moments where talking was only counter-intuitive.

Now was one of those times.

He held onto Dio and just let him speak. The other boy was a mess, shaking in his arms and crying about the state his mother was left in. Gently, as he spoke, Robert began to stroke his hair, to let him know that he was there. He was not alone. And then he asked it, that question that he himself had been puzzling over…

‘W-What can I do…?’

Frankly? Robert had no clue. He hadn’t had any answers. A thirteen year old foster kid hardly had an idea of how to process that. He knew what he did, he knew how to hide out when no one cared if you were coming or going anyway. To squat in a shitty abandoned store because that was your place, no one else's.

Well… this place was Dio’s too. The Not-Box. Called as such because it wasn’t a box, it was better, so deal with it.

Robert looked down at the other boy’s tear streaked face and wanted to kill his shitty father already. But he had to stop himself…

“I… dunno,” he answered honestly, rubbing Dio’s back in circles. He hated that this was the only answer he could give. “You already so much, Dio. You take care of her, you help out around your place,  you try so damn hard. And it’s nothing to sneeze at. But sometimes… other people have to make the first move, you know? Sometimes shit just-- just happens.”

He paused and let his hands drift from around Dio to his face. He wiped the dark lines from his ruddy cheeks and fixed him with a serious look. “Now listen to me. You… You always got a place here though and you got a person in me. You don’t-- Y’don’t have to feel helpless or alone. If there’s something you need to do, if there’s something you need back up on… I’m your man, okay?” Maybe this was closer to babbling than he wanted but he needed to know this. He didn’t want Dio to stay here not knowing this. “Robert E. O. Motherfucking Speedwagon is going to do whatever he can to help you. For now, that means keepin’ you safe… and with me, you’ll always be safe. I damn well promise that.”

“Please… trust me.”

For a moment, Dio was quiet. Amber eyes met deep brown and for that time, Robert just looked at him. He showed all his pain, all his fear, in his eyes. His anger is what he wore on his brow, heavy and sharp. It was the rest of him that looked all angelic. The soft shape of his eyes and the dainty nose. A person like Dio was all sharp edges wrapped in silk at such a young age.

But he couldn’t say much either. He wore his exhaustion like a wool coat, his years of struggle marked him with scars and the bags under his eyes.  He knew what it was like… to have to wear the effects of just living on your face while trying to hide them…

“Robbie,” Dio whispered to himself. Was he stupid? Did he talk too much? Did that not help? “I do. I trust you.

Oh. That was… That was--

He was too lost in his own brain to notice Dio had moved forward. Not until his hands slipped from the other boy’s face and found purchase on his shoulders, while Dio’s lips were pressed against his.

It was… a sweet thing. Just soft lips against chapped. Those fiery eyes of his were closed, making him look more delicate than anything else. For a moment he felt like this shouldn’t happen, that he was unworthy, shit below someone’s heel.

And that much was true.

But if Dio needed him, needed this comfort. He’d give it. 

Robert closed his eyes too. He let this happen, let Dio’s lips linger against his for however long he needed. It wasn’t a long time, but it had been enough that when Dio was finally satisfied enough to lean away, he was red in the face. Judging by the heat along Robert’s cheeks, he wasn’t looking much better.

“You… wanna stay here tonight?” It was a question Robert already knew the answer to, but he had to say something. Something that was not about kisses or stupid emotions or whatever was happening here. “I can hop down by the 7-11 and get us something.”

Dio wiped at his face, removing the evidence of any traitorous tears that may have gathered there. “...Yes, o-of course I want to stay. It’s better than being home with…” That was a loaded statement, one that Robert couldn’t help but echo. This place, despite being an empty shell, was a fucking upgrade by comparison.

But with a cock of Dio’s head, the heavy atmosphere was masked. Humor overtaking the oppressive sadness and strange tension that had overwhelmed them. “Get us something? Funyuns doesn’t count as a meal…”

“Well you can’t steal taquitos now, can you?” Robert asked him matter-of-factly, but a smile was playing on his lips and Dio’s face soon grew tentatively to match his own.

“Hmph, you can figure it out, can’t you?”

Robert rolled his eyes as he stood up. He brushed the dirt from his ripped jeans and unzipped his busted up Metallica hoodie. There were holes in the bottoms of the sleeves and parts of the printed design had flaked off, but it was warm as anything else. Quickly, he draped the fabric over the other boy’s shoulders.

“I guess so. But stay warm… s’cold out there.”

 Dio zipped the hoodie up, despite swimming in the damn thing. But still, despite that, he burrowed his face into the black fabric, red creeping along his cheekbones.

 “...Thanks, Robbie. ...And if you tell anyone about that, I’ll kill you.”

 With a flourish, Robert slung his arms over Dio’s shoulders, leading him out of the Not-Box into the cold night air. “Don’t worry about it. ...Plus, you trust me, don’t you?”

 The elbow he received to the ribs was worth it.

Chapter Text

 

"She was lovely. She was intelligent. She was the closest thing to a perfect role model their child could have possibly asked for. She was Erina Pendleton-Brando, and although she was far too good for him (his words, not hers)... she was his wife."


 

 

Dio had taken off from work for the day. The life of a London attorney was always a hectic one, but his schedules have been stacked back to back. He had only been married for a few months after all, and now his wife was expecting. It seemed intuitive to take a day off, to relax and laze about and care for her.

They’d spent it doing nothing and enjoyed the evening much in the same way. Erina, his lovely Erina, laid in bed in their small one-room attic apartment. They were going to move to another, nicer flat soon but Erina’s pregnancy had complicated matters. They decided to remain in this small space until she’d given birth and then they were off. He didn’t wish to risk anything, not her or the child they would bring into the world.  For now? He curled against her, listening as the sky opened up and a storm unleashed it’s fury outside.

Rain pelted heavily against the roof, leaving a symphony of hollow thuds against wood while whatever hit the window panes added a harmony that it so dearly needed. Only glimpses of the moon could be seen between breaks in the clouds and strikes of lightning. But they were safe and warm in here.

Dio held onto Erina’s hand, wrapped up in her more than the blankets. She was so… big and round, but truly she was radiant wasn’t she? Gently, he pressed a kiss to her ring finger, above the diamond he had given to her all those months ago alongside a promise of his own.

His wife.

The words made him want to grin, to prance about like a peacock and to despair that he would never be good enough for her all at once. It was a complicated feeling, that much was for sure. This train of thought certainly didn’t help how nervously worked up he’d become…

Instead, he tried to listen to her as she spoke, backed by the sounds of the rain. Her voice was lovely as always but nothing could soothe him, could it?

“It was ridiculous, as soon as I stepped on the cobblestones our little monster began to roll. I swear, I was almost hit by an errant carriage,” Erina announced, waving her free arm around for emphasis. Though after a moment she hesitated, her brows twisting up in worry. 

“Something on your mind?” She asked, in a soft tone that gave him no room to deny anything. “You look… like there’s a lot you’re thinking about…”

For a moment, he hesitated. He wanted nothing more than to pretend that she was just going to forget about this. It was a joke to even imagine that though. Erina was like a dog with a bone and that look of concern on her face meant that she wasn’t going to use this against him… not that she ever would.

But goddamn, to be known was bloody terrifying.

At least it was her. He could lean on her, she wanted him to, even if she was a balloon at this point. And he knew regardless, that she was stronger than him anyway.

“My last semblance of a normal family was when my bastard father was incarcerated, and my mother raised me for two years alone. Those were the first two years of my life, so my memory of those days are fuzzy at best and missing at worst. How could someone like me … who has never truly known family…-- Who-- ...Who had only had a glimmer of familial love before it was ripped away... how could I ever be good enough for this child you’re carrying, Erina? How could I ever be good enough for you ?”

His grip on her tightened ever so slightly and he knew she could feel the tremors in his hands. But she let him speak, let his voice trail off in despairing confusion until a moment settled between them. It was only when she was sure he had said all he wanted, that she finally spoke up.

“Your nervousness? Your desire to do well…? Those are the very foundations of a parent looking to do right by their unborn child.” Erina’s voice rang out with a confidence that Dio didn’t feel like he deserved at all. “It’s… scary. H-Honestly, fucking terrifying. The whole situation is. Guiding a person to be the best version of themselves that they could ever possibly be? Loving them and providing for their every need…”

Slowly, she reached out to brush stray locks of blond hair away from his forehead. “But you know what not to do as a father. You know what you deserved and what you never received. What your mother wanted to provide for you… that in itself is a road map, Dio and I know you’re more than capable of following it. ” Erina fixed him with a serious look, but one of pure belief in him. “And you’ve always been good enough for me, and that goes second for our little monster too. You’ve always taken care of me… been there when I needed you most. Your worthiness has never, ever been a question.”

Her confidence in him almost seemed unbelievable, but it was soothing at the same time. Not unfounded in fact, but rational. Rationality tended to be her strong suit when it came to other people.

“You always know… exactly what to say. And I’m… so grateful for that,” he told her earnestly before holding her hand to his cheek She turned red at his praise, how lucky for him that he could still make her do that.

“You’re a passionate person. You play it off and think you have nothing that redeems you, but you are so intelligent and thoughtful and dependable,” she told him, her eyes wide and beseeching like she wasn’t sure he would listen. “I know this fear... my own mother was gone and I’m terrified to fill in shoes I hardly remember, but I’ve learned from my parents triumphs and mistakes. And I learn from you, every day. There is so much to love about you… so many good things…”

Those words hit him square in the chest. His eyes burned with unshed tears but instead of indulging in that, he instead pulled her hand to his lips. He kissed her knuckles and then her fingers, all gentle in succession, before pulling her closer.

When their lips met this kiss was different than the others they’d shared. 

It was grateful and it was full of deep rooted affection.

“I adore you. So much.”

The words left his mouth before he could swallow them and honestly, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to. No, he wanted her to hear it, if he was being honest and she was hearing his fears… she should hear everything else.

Erina laughed quietly against his lips, a painfully fond smile breaking out across her face as she gazed at him. “Oh? You adore me? What sort of lawyer worth his salt adores his wife?”

It was meant to be a joke, something teasing and his tone reflected that at the very least. “This one. In fact… this one loves her with everything he has.” His words, on the other hand, were far more serious.

Erina went stock still for a moment but Dio instead just leaned forward, peppering her face with kisses. Anywhere he could reach. When she finally let out a shaky breath, she reached out for him. Her expression searching, as if worried he was joking.

“You… love me ?”

“With everything I have. I admit, it’s not much but--”

She didn’t even let him finish. Instead, she grabbed his shoulders and pulled him back in. Dio had never been kissed quite like this in his life. Desperate and full of tenderness, like she had been waiting to hear that. He could practically taste her own unvoiced doubts on her lips. But when she finally parted, she pressed her forehead against his.

Her voice a whisper, as if to make it clear this was only for him. Even if they were the only ones in the room. “I… love you too. So much. And I know I’m not Jojo, but--”

Dio held up his hand, cutting her off right there. “This is between us… and I will gladly accept this. Jojo is doing what he is doing… and right now, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than here with you.” He could see the glassy tears in her eyes as he leaned forward to press a chaste kiss against her lips.

“Okay,” she whispered, her mouth upturned into an expression of happiness through the tears.

“Good.” With that Dio pressed kisses down her neck, slowly and steadily. He made his way through the valley between her breasts and over the swell of her stomach until he found himself comfortably between her legs. “...You said you were aching today, right?”

“Huh?” Erina leaned up on her elbows in surprise. “Well yes, but you don’t have to--”

Dio gasped, putting on an air of mock scandal. “Darling, I have the power to ease your aches and pains with my mouth alone, and you would say I don’t have to? Please… it’s a treat for me as well as for you…”

With that he lowered himself down, pressing soft kisses on the inside of her thighs. 

“Incorrigible man,” she laughed softly to herself and Dio only felt his heart jumping at the sound. “I still wonder how you can even want to do this when I’m so… crowded.”

Dio ghosted his lips against her, laughing hotly against the skin of her thigh. “No matter how we look, you’ll always be my Venus.” 

Without waiting even a moment more, Dio Brando did as Oscar Wilde had said. Love was a sacrament that was taken kneeling and he was certainly on his knees for the one woman he loved.

Chapter Text

"On the night following his maturation, Kosaku Kawajiri's wife confesses her feelings to Yoshikage Kira. Given his new perspective, Yoshikage finds himself indulging the notion of a confession in multiple ways..."


 

Yoshikage Kira was a man of simple desires. He enjoyed routine and to have things always in their places. He adored the elegant lines and curves of a woman’s hands, the soft pads of their fingers, their divine swell of their knuckles, the exquisite oval of their fingernails. He liked the rush when his hands were around a woman’s slender neck. There was something wonderful about the feeling of bones snapping beneath his grasp, the spray of blood, the ebbing of life from one’s body…

But an afterglow was something else entirely. Perhaps he wouldn’t include it upon his list of passions but it had its merits.

His afterglows were usually spent laid out on the futon in his bedroom. One of his lovely girlfriends stock still in his grasp and covered in the mess he himself had made. He thought he was a caring lover, wiping down her fingers all on his own without prompting… Sometimes he would even lick it off if he was feeling rather saucy on that particular evening. Yoshikage would bask right after, enjoying the feeling of living his life exactly to his desires.

An afterglow with a whole living and breathing woman, however, was different. Shinobu laid against his chest after their coupling, her own rising and falling in steady time. “Th-That was so…” she gasped between hard breaths.

“...Amazing?” he finished for her and something in him smiled with dark glee as she nodded. Her red hair flying every which way.

“Took the words right out of my mouth, dear.” With that she kissed the palm of his hand. It was a simple gesture, but one that caused a shiver to run down his spine. Casual intimacy was one thing… but it was another to show that sort of affection there.

He had matured, his problems with Hayato and no doubt with Josuke Higashikata and his friends would be over soon. Kira had thought it would be an excellent occasion to indulge his wife, he had been feeling charitable…

Truth be told, Yoshikage hadn’t expected her to press her fingers insistently into to his mouth when he seemed to express… interest in that. He hadn’t expected her to leave her own lingering touches and goodness, when she had pressed her fingers inside of him? That was… well… his opinion of her had shifted once again.

Shinobu smiled up at him and something seized ahold of him. She had seen a part of him, one that women didn’t usually find out about him. Not at least, until they’d died. But surprisingly enough, she had wanted to participate.

“You know…” Shinobu began, nervously twirling a lock of red hair around her finger. “You’ve been different these past few weeks, Kosaku…”

Something in Yoshikage froze. He had just been musing internally about his little “wife’s” good qualities. Was she going to make him turn his back on her so quickly? Could he quell her doubts? Would he have to kill her too? He hoped not...

Shinobu continued speaking, blissfully unaware of his thoughts. “I have to say, I really like this change in you. For so long, we’ve been in a rut, but… I’ll admit, since you’ve changed I don’t think I’ve ever been more in love.” Her confession hung in the air and for a moment, Yoshikage felt tendrils of fear creeping up from his gut . This was different… he had never felt afraid before.

He was not a man who knew fear. Not when fortune favored him so boldly. He could do exactly as he pleased and no matter what he would find a way around the consequences. But… feelings. When he was in a situation like this… they were not only dangerous but he realized he didn’t want Shinobu to be upset.

It would be easier to not have to deal with his wife’s sadness when he needed things to run smoothly. And maybe… perhaps, he wanted to keep Shinobu Kawajiri at his side. Maybe it was the next thing he would ask from the universe.

Kira Yoshikage was used to having his cake and eating it too.

Shinobu was looking down at his hands, fingers tracing along the lines of his palm and making him want to tremble. Slowly, he dragged his free hand up her ribs, lightly tapping each bone like he was playing the piano. He imagined each one cracking under his touch, shattering until he managed to arrive at her neck. Instead of acting on his violent urges however, he kissed the top of her head.

“Are you confessing to me, Shinobu…?” he asked coyly

“C-Confessing?! Geez, what are we? In high school?” she mumbled. He could hear the shyness in her voice as she turned in his hold. They laid there, chest to chest, and Yoshikage couldn’t deny how warm it was. “I just… Love you. I wanted you to know. That’s the kind of thing I don’t want there to be any miscommunication on.”

For a brief moment, he couldn’t help but wonder if she’d really love Yoshikage Kira. Not whatever version of Kosaku Kawajiri she thought she was looking at. His hand drifted up her spine to rest carefully against the back of her neck.

“Well, we have been together quite a long time, you and I.”

For me, Yoshikage Kira, this feels like a lifetime.

“When I’m around you… frankly, I’m at a loss when it comes to expressing myself.”

I don’t know whether I want to break you or have my way with you.

“But I do know I want you at my side forever.”

You’re the one I want to kill last.

Shinobu smiled softly, before leaning up to capture his lips in a kiss. He could do without these, but he would accept them for now. He supposed they weren’t the worst kisses he’s ever had to endure.

“And I want to stay by your side, Kosaku,” she whispered, as if for him only.

Perhaps he could tell her the truth. When all his ducks were in a row, he could slowly show her what his world was like. For once, Kira Yoshikage felt a desire to be known…

To confess.

Chapter Text

"Time  away from home gave them a chance to enjoy one another... in ways previous opportunities never allowed them."

 


 

They hadn’t really meant to take a weekend trip. They were parents, they would’ve spent the days tending to their lovely boys. Jonathan however, was away on an archaeological dig and George Joestar had insisted that he take charge in watching the boys for a weekend. An extra special grandfather week… and well, if those two had the means to leave and the keys to a Brighton cottage for a few days? Well…

They weren’t complaining.

It was early September, warm enough still to enjoy the water… but the season was winding down. That at least made the prospect of a trip seem a little nicer. Time together, away from everyone else… But… it was strange to be doing that though, to be away from their family. After Dio had come back they’d remained a unit.

Erina felt a strange sense of not knowing what to do with herself as the carriage led them through the roads of England. They reached Brighton, the lovely seaside destination, after night had fallen and once the carriage had stopped in front of their country cottage and their trunks had been loaded inside, she gave Dio a bit of a look.

“A walk? Did you… want to go for a night walk?”

He’s the one who said it first, his otherworldly eyes sharp and cutting right to the matter already. Strangely, Erina found comfort in that, in not having to hide herself… so she carefully slipped her hand into his.

“I thought you’d never ask,” she replied with a hum before linking her arm with his. Without further ado the two of them sauntered off together down toward the beach.

It wasn’t a long walk. The cottage was far closer to the seaside than anywhere they’d ever stayed before. Even back in Italy, when things were dire, they hadn’t quite stayed this close. But now, as they slipped off their shoes and wandered along the coast, letting the waves lap at their feat, they both seemed to savor the moment.

“You know,” Erina said, in a stroke of brilliance, “...this could be our honeymoon.”

“Our honeymoon?” Dio echoed, raising his brow elegantly. Even now, after all this time, it made her blush.

She laughed nervously and squeezed his hand in hers. “Well, yes. I mean we never really had this sort of time alone… to celebrate. You were gone so quickly.”

He seemed distant for a moment, turning her words around in his head and frowning. “I suppose you’re right… We never really did.”

“Did you ever think about it? Going off on a honeymoon with me?” Erina asked suddenly, she wasn’t sure why she was so keen on knowing… but it had been something that she’d thought about before. “...I mean, surely you’d thought about with Jojo. The two of you had all that time at Hugh Hudson together…”

Dio laughed then, a lovely musical sound that made Erina’s heart leap into her throat as he gazed at her. “Our years at Hugh Hudson were basically our honeymoon. We were taking advantage of our time alone when we could~”

“I’ll admit,” she said a little hesitantly, glancing down at the sand. “I was jealous of that, all those years ago. That you two had all that time together… I-I wanted to be there too… so badly.”

It felt ugly, to admit something like that. She felt so fortunate that they’d waited for her, that to think she was jealous was… stupid. Erina hadn’t wanted to say so them but it simply slipped out. She wasn’t afraid of sharing how she felt about them but to admit to something like that felt terrible to the both of them. She knew better, they loved her, it was just--

“Oh my, someone’s brain is going a mile a minute, isn’t it?” Dio called with an indulgent tone. He pulled her just a little closer. “It would be nice to have one of our own though, right? A little honeymoon just for the two of us....?”

She couldn’t help the warmth that surged through her at his words. He didn’t outright dismiss her, he didn’t even bat an eye. He just looked at her adoringly. “That sounds honestly… wonderful,” she admitted. “Even if it’s an odd little time to go and do it. Was there anything you wanted to do?”

They had technically been married, or at least viewing each other that way, for over a year. To have a honeymoon a year later was a little ridiculous but she didn’t mind it one bit…

Suddenly, he stepped away from her and her body immediately missed the warmth. Only to be replaced by the encroaching heat of a different kind as Dio undid the buttons on his waistcoat and slowly on his shirt. “W-What are you doing?!” Erina yelped, simply thrown off by the act of him disrobing already.

Dio, on the other hand, didn’t seem phased at all. “Something we haven’t done in ages…” Little by little, his layers were abandoned until he was in all his glory… which is to say, nothing at all. Her husband stood before her, nude and stupidly handsome as always, and gave her a devilish grin.

“Well…? Will you join me?”

She thought back to an Italian beach where it was just her, Jonathan, Dio and the end of the world. Terror made you really remember just how much you had to lose, didn’t it? And she hadn’t lost it, she’d kept it. She’d kept him, that was for sure.

“I suppose…” she said finally, reaching to undress herself as well. Little by little, her skirt, her blouse, her stockings, her corset and combinations slowly but surely fell away from her. The way Dio looked at her as she exposed herself could be described as nothing short of wolfish. “My, my, you sure are looking quite hard.

Dio snickered at her with a roll of his eyes. “Perhaps. I mean it’s certainly a lovely night out... wouldn’t it be nice to take advantage of it?”

“Take advantage huh? Of the situation or me…?”

“Both would be fun, no~?”

Erina gave a pleased little hum. “It would wouldn’t it?” And with that, she led the way into the sea. Dio followed after and Erina felt delighted as the cool water sloshed around her legs, little by little, before it enveloped her.

The two of them spent quite a bit of time swimming and splashing. Dio had become rather adept at it after being in the water with both herself and Jojo for a while. It was fun to swim around each other and send a targeted font of water careening into the other when they had the chance. After a while though, Erina had had enough of just swimming. She wanted to see him in full. Without even a warning she drifted over to him. Her hands resting on either side of his face.

“Huuuuuuuuuuuusband,” she said with fascination, gazing at him. The marriage of sharp and soft in every plane of his face was something to behold. “You’re my husband, isn’t that strange?”

“Not at all,” he replied with a hum and a placid smile. “It’s quite thrilling don’t you think?”

Erina nodded. “It is isn’t it…?” Her voice trailed off for a moment before her desire to overshare kicked in. “Do you remember… all those years ago. When we were young and I wrote your last name in my journal next to my own?”

“Yes, Mrs. Brandoooo~”

“Aha so you do remember,” she declared, tinge of embarrassment coloring her voice. “Well, when I wrote it… I was thinking about a night like this.” It felt strange to admit something like this. She had been so vulnerable before with him but to say something this childish was… flustering. She was being honest for once. “I remember it clearly, my first romantic fantasy of you involved you saying… you wanted to watch the stars with me. Silly, no?” She smiled to herself, either way she looked back on that situation with fondness. The Erina of the past had no idea how happy that thought would make her in the future…

Ever so gently, Dio reached out to hold her hands. “Haven’t we done that already~?”

“We did, we did,” she crooned. “You treat me so well, fulfilling all my adolescent fantasies~ I just-- I just think about how far we’ve come and I… I love you so much, you know? I love being Mrs. Erina Joestar ... and Mrs. Erina Brando~”

Dio just looked at her for a moment, as if he was trying to commit this scene to memory before he smiled at her once more. “I think I prefer Joestar for the both of us. ...What do you say?”

Of course, he would want to shed the name of the man who caused so much suffering. The man who gave him that last name was garbage. If they were all sharing a surname, Joestar… was truly their best option.

“Mmmm I think I do too,” she hummed. Slowly but surely, Erina leaned her face closer and closer until her lips were nearly brushing along the shell of Dio’s ear. “What do you think then, Mr. Joestar? Do you feel lucky ?”

“I do. I feel on top of the world, darling.” His answer was quick and when she felt his hands at her hips she felt inclined to believe him.

“Well then, darling. We can retire to the beach and… take a chance,” she whispered to him. Her voice was pitched low and full of suggestion. “We can see if anyone catches us…”

“Ah, I do love the way you always think~”

Erina loved the way she could just hear the thrill in his voice. “I think I took some cues from you,” she answered honestly. He was always far better at seduction than her. “But what do you think…? Shall we?”

“We shall,” Dio said before pulling her in for a kiss. As the two of them stumbled backwards towards the shore Erina had decided then and there, that she was going to make up for all the lost time.

To make the most of their honeymoon.

Chapter Text

"Did you hear? Did you hear? Joestar declared a school challenge against Lisa Lisa! What for? Who knows? We're gonna have to go and see!"

 


 

 

“ELIZABETH STRAITS!” A loud voice boomed clear across the courtyard, causing the heads of students lounging in the area to seek the source behind it. There, towards the center where the winding paths met at the statuesque fountain on display, stood one Jorge Joestar. The brunet, standing at 195 centimeters of robust muscle and pure sunshine, was pointing at someone across the way, arm stretched outward in quite the overzealous fashion. He was here to make a statement, a declaration if you will, and it seemed he wouldn’t be taking ‘no’ for an answer.

The someone in question, Elizabeth Straits--better known by most as Lisa Lisa--had no qualms with taking her time to acknowledge the young man addressing her. She turned to him with a sweep of flowing brown hair, only lowering her black shades when their gazes locked. 

Ice blue met royal blue in that moment, and no one dared say a word.

It wasn’t everyday someone brazenly confronted Lisa Lisa, as it went without saying that getting on her bad side was something you’d prefer avoiding. She was ruthless when need be, stone cold in ways a person wouldn’t have expected from a mysterious beauty like herself. But if you knew her well enough, like the poor sap calling her out right this moment, you’d know to think twice before trying to make waves with a professional black belt. 

“...Did you need something from me, Jorgie  ?” Elizabeth’s voice was cool as always. Calm and collected was her specialty, a stark contrast to her noisy childhood friend. It was in instances like these that their peers couldn’t help but wonder how two incredibly different people could be as thick as thieves as they were. Did it have something to do with Jorge’s bad habit of wearing his heart on his sleeve, which in turn made him an easy target for bullies that Lisa Lisa was eager to protect him from? Or did Elizabeth’s intimidating aura make it so that only the boy who looked to her as a savior reached out in friendship? 

No one really knew, but they were always making bets about the day of promise when Joestar decided to finally stand up for himself against her.

Today must have been that day. Go figure. 

“Matter of fact, I do!” Fist clenched at the sound of his nickname, Jorge straightened his posture as he reached behind himself to reveal a pristine white glove. Where he got it from, nobody knew, but in a quick flourish, it was thrown to the open ground between them. “This is a declaration of challenge!”

The normally head-in-the-clouds student had a look in his eyes that no one had ever quite seen before.

It was like a flame, burning brightly… confidently. 

Jorge Joestar was exuding an air of confidence that brought pause to everyone still looking in on this exchange, and he only further emphasized this new side by loosening the checkered tie of his school uniform and tossing it alongside the unexplained white glove. “Do you accept this, my declaration?!” 

Those that expected Lisa Lisa to shrug her friend’s ridiculous display off and continue on her way to the library, were surprised to see that not only did she stick around, but she was smiling in that particular way of hers. The one where it was obvious she was already two or three steps ahead of everyone else. 

“To think, after all this time…” she chuckled quietly to herself, adjusting her red muffler before slipping her shades back on. When both items were back in their rightful place, Elizabeth’s response was swift and resolute. “I accept.” 

With her arms folded across her chest, her gaze hardened under its coveted protection. “Name the time, place, and I’ll be there.” 

Jorge returned the gesture, unwavering under her stare. “The field where the old school well resides. Two days from now. 2 pm.” Classes would be ending early that day, it was a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the lack of students and faculty that would be around. 

“Excellent. Don’t be late, Jorgie.” 

“Oh, I don’t intend to, Liz.”

“Good, good. I’m glad~” 

They both turned after coming to their agreement, going in opposite directions on campus with no intention of meeting for another two days. 

 


 

“Did you hear? Joestar’s apparently challenged Lisa Lisa to something!” 

“He challenged her? What, are we suddenly in the 18th century or?”

“Well, y’know how his parents tend to act in their day-to-day… as if they were all pulled out of a history book or something. Professor Pendleton-Joestar dresses like she’s a turn-of-the-century grandma for reasons I still can’t figure out, her husband’s no better… it’d be unfortunate if he weren’t so easy on the eyes. And don’t even get me started on Professor Brando’s… Lestat thing.” 

“True, true--but did Joestar say what he was planning to do?” 

“No, he just made some declaration of challenge and she actually accepted! We’re planning to go over by the well earlier than when they’re supposed to meet to get a good view of what might go down. You in or nah?” 

“Definitely!” 

 


 

“Tch, it’s about time Joestar did something about that weird relationship he had going with that She-Devil.” 

“I ‘unno, he seemed like the type who liked getting pulled around on a leash.” 

“Yeah, yeah! Like a big, dumb puppy or something…”

“Either way, we’ll be getting ourselves front row seats to see if he’ll be giving her what she’s had comin’ for a long time now!” 

 


 

“I heard a good chunk of kids from the upper level classes are going to go watch this supposed duel between Jorge and Elizabeth!” 

“...Is it really a duel?”

“Don’t know, but that’s what peeps have been callin’ it! It has a nice ring to it… leaves things rather suspenseful, don’t you think?” 

“Baah, I doubt it’s gonna be anything that big… I’m probably not going.”

“Aww, why?!”

“And miss out on trying to get a seat at that new crepes shop that opened recently?! I’ve been waiting on a table for weeks now… someone managed to beat me to a reservation on the same day as whatever’s happening here. I wanna go by and see if maybe there’ll be any surprise openings…” 

“Ohh, that place does have some really good stuff.”

“Yeah, so…--WAIT, YOU’VE BEEN THERE ALREADY?!”

 


 

“Hey, sly dog!” Mario Zeppeli, third year and only son of the school’s headmaster, clapped his hand loudly against the brunet’s shoulder. Jorge, having not expected it, jumped on reflex, nearly taking Mario down with him. 

“M-Mario…!” Jorge was beet red, trying to gather himself together as picked himself off the floor. “W-what… did I say about sneaking up on me like that?! You nearly made me throw up my own fuckin’ heart on the spot!”

“Relax, amico mio ~ Just wanted to see how you were doing in preparation of that whole… challenge thing of course. You aren’t getting cold feet now, are you?” Mario tilted his head down, trying to garner the state of his good friend’s resolve by glance alone. His intuition never failed him, so he said. 

“I-I’M GONNA BE FINE! DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT!” 

The red color had returned to Jorge’s face, but he was keeping himself composed. He was assuring both Mario and himself. “I… I got this, okay?”

“Si, that’s what I like to hear~” 

 


 

“...Do you think it was wise to agree to his challenge, Elizabeth?” 

“Whatever do you mean, Messina?” Lisa Lisa looked up from the page she had just dog-earred in her textbook. Final exams were getting close, so she took advantage of what time they all had left to meet up with her usual study group. At her left sat Messina, and to her right was Loggins. They seemed to be more concerned with her than the study guide on refractions of light they needed to look over. “Are you and Loggins saying that I shouldn’t have?” 

“Not… quite.” The mustached young man hesitated to continue his sentence and turned to his brown haired companion for assistance. “What Messina is saying, well, it’s worrisome to know that you intend to show him up after all this time you’ve spent together as friends.” 

Messina nodded in agreement with his friend’s phrasing. “Yes, exactly! It’s going to be rather damaging to the pride he’s built up, no?” 

Rather than answering right away, Lisa Lisa removed the highlighter she had behind her ear and continued underlining important paragraphs for future study.. She waited a minute or two to finally speak up.

“You both should have more faith in Jorge.”

And she left it at that. 

 


 

Two days had come and gone, and the students that had agreed to peek in on what would be happening in the field of the school well that day were surprised to see how many of their fellow peers has flocked to the rendezvous point. There was a buzz amongst the collection, gossip passing to and fro. No one was exactly sure of what was going to go down today, but they all made a point to arrive a good half hour to an hour earlier than Jorge and Elizabeth were meant to. Among the crowd were Mario, Messina, and Loggins, and the three exchanged curious glances to each other. Like the others, they too hadn’t been told much about anything for what was to happen today… it was a bit odd, given their relationships with the two in question, but it is what it is.

There were only five minutes left before Jorge and Elizabeth arrived, and from there, they could all figure out what’s supposed to be happening today. 

Four minutes.

Three minutes.

Two. 

One. 

Five minutes after… ten, fifteen

They never showed. 

“WHAT THE HELL?!” 


 

On the opposite side of town, nowhere near the prestigious academy where students were handpicked to attend by Headmaster William A. Zeppeli, sat a quaint little shop that was thriving exponentially on it’s golden ticket: crepes.

“Here you are!” The finely dressed waitress called out with a warm smile as she arrived at their table. “One Maple Cream Cheese for the gentleman, and a Coffee Mascarpone Cream for the lovely lady… please enjoy!” She waved them off and got on her way, disappearing around the corner which allowed them the full privacy that their reserved seating offered with open arms. 

Jorge Joestar, who was giddy to finally have a taste, tore into the soft wrapping messily. While he minded his manners, it didn’t change the amount of force he was putting into his bites. Elizabeth Straits couldn’t help but laugh.

Sometimes things really didn’t change. She realized that as she watched him continue to devour his first crepe, an almost translucent image of his ten year old self doing the same with a melting waffle cone projected over that. Cute

“So,” she hummed in a sing-song tone, waving her fork in the brunet’s face after taking a bite of her own dessert. Ah, the bitterness was just right. Not too forceful on the taste buds, but not too tame at the same time. A perfect blend. “you really did all that back there... just to ask me out on a date today, huh?”

It was so unlike him, but also welcomed wholeheartedly. 

“What can I say, Liz?” Jorge grinned, licking his lips clean of any maple-y residue, not at all aware of the whipped cream dotting his nose in a clownish manner. “I wanted to make an impression for once! A real good one!”

His smile was infectious, to a point that her cheeks were beginning to hurt, but she had no intention of stopping as she leaned over to wipe the cream from his nose with her finger. Jorge registered his blunder then, a rosy blush starting to rise up to the tips of his ears as he looked down at his plate. He muttered an embarrassed apology, but Elizabeth didn’t mind. She never did.

In fact, it only made her smile more. “You always make a star-studded impression, Jorgie… that’s just something so uniquely, endearingly you~”

Chapter Text

"Although she was Ange Luminous, designated leader of the Luminous Trio and sworn protector of Earth, it went without saying that Erina wanted nothing more than to make her teammates proud of her. Or more importantly, to make HP proud of her."

 


 

Erina had always thought that HP was a far better leader than she could ever be.

Hazel was calm, cool and collected, in the face of all danger. She was reliable and the type of person that if she was on your team? You were beyond lucky and should count every blessing.

So to think... that she was part of her team. That she was taking orders from her now when it came to fighting off Enya’s dark forces.

Erina did indeed think she was quite fortunate. Although, perhaps now wasn’t the time to be thinking about things like luck. The sounds of battle echoed all around her as Enya’s top generals, Erebus and Typhon as they called themselves, summoned inky black monsters to fight on their behalf.

Their group was spread rather thin by the advancing troops. Erina glanced over as Suzi-- or rather Lily Luminous as their powers dictated she be called-- cut down an enemy with her large garden shears. The shadow beast split off into a useless puddle of black viscera before melting into the ground beneath them. That couldn’t have been good, but they had no other choice.

“You doing okay?!” Suzi called as Erina knocked back an enemy of her own with her feathered fan, whirling them up in a mini dust devil and sending them flying. What was left on the ground where the monster landed was more like a splatter of ink blots than anything else.

Upon seeing her own success, Erina gave her companion a curt nod. Ange Luminous completely had this under control. Well… she could handle herself like this at the very least. “I’m doing better than okay, Lily! I see you are too… Have you seen Velvet?”

Velvet Luminous, HP’s magical title to the group. She’d hated it at first but slowly warmed up to it.

“No! She’s gotta be off on her own…!”

...Shit. There were so many of these enemies that to think Hazel had been alone fighting them, without even the chance of back up had Erina moving forward before she even thought about it.

“Lily! H-Hey, call out Joseph and Caesar, let them give you a hand! I’m gonna go find Velvet!”

For a moment, Suzi stared at her dumbfounded. “A-Alone?!”

“I’ll be fine! I won’t be alone once I find her!” Erina declared, gesturing for her to ask for the assistance of her boys. “Come on, come on, Jonathan’s distracting Erebus anyway. Just-- Just please make sure they have your back.”

 Suzi seemed to understand it now or at least, she didn’t feel like arguing any further. She ran a shadow through with her scissors and glanced back. “Go be her back up then. I’ll make sure my back is covered!”

“Thank you,” Erina told her with a nod of the head. “And be safe.”

“You too, now stop dawdling!” Suzi called with a surprising smile on the battlefield before Erina sped off. She had always been so bright, it was probably to calm her down. What had she done to deserve such a sweet teammate?

It took Erina some flitting across the battlefield, checking skirmish after skirmish until she finally found who she was looking for. Hazel, as Velvet Luminous, was something else entirely. The ribbons that she was found with were wrapped around the necks of the shadows and pulled until their heads were nothing but a pile of black goo. She was so… imposing, every attack seemed elegant, but heavy hitting and… that was what Erina wanted. Erina… was enamored with her, wanted to live up to her every expectation.

Hazel noticed her finally, stripes of dripping black across her cheeks before she gave Erina a smile that made her heart stutter for a moment. HP was so… brilliant like this. In the midst of a fight…

“WATCH OUT!”

Erina screamed as the shadowy enemies merged together to form a larger lumbering beast from behind Hazel. She used her fan to create large gusts of wind, if only to paralyze these things for a moment so the other girl could find her bearings. But that didn’t happen. With one sweeping motion Hazel was knocked backward, slamming her into a group of unsuspecting shadows who turned into a collective puddle of sludge as she rolled along the ground.

Without a moment of hesitation, Erina rushed to her. She knelt down next to Hazel and examined her. “W-What hurts? I don’t think you have any broken bones but… c-can you walk?”

Hazel shook her head at the question. “N-Not now. Thanks for warning me though,” she hissed through gritted teeth. “I need a second-- you shouldn’t be taking care of me! You should be fighting!”

“But if it took you down, then--”

“Damn it, Ange!” she yelled out, her eyes narrowing. “You’re strong! You’re just as capable… and right now! I need you to focus on kicking those guys’ asses! C-Can you do that for me? B-Because you’re my only hope… our only hope!”

For a half-second Erina was thrown off, but HP met her gaze steadily. “I know you can do this,” she told her once more, her voice set and full of belief.

She didn’t think, instead, Erina just reached out and took HP’s hands in her own. Her eyes were burning with a fire that she hadn’t felt before. “I promise,” Erina said with conviction and she watched as Hazel’s face turned as pink as her hair. “I promise I’ll protect you. I’ll do it with everything I have…”

HP only seemed to stare at her. Either she was too shocked or she was playing quiet as she liked too when things got to be too much for her. For a moment, Erina held her hands up to her forehead before standing and turning to face the large monster head on. It’s speed slowed considerably because of its mass and Erina was already planning a route of attack.

She would face this head on. She would show HP she was the sort of leader she wanted to be. Erina would show HP just how much she cared about her, how much she wanted to keep her safe.

There was no way she would allow this violence against her teammates to go unpunished.

“I’ll make quick work of you,” Erina told the lumbering shadow in front of her. “That is a promise.”

Chapter Text

"It was never about winning it all in the end for either of them, it was always the journey... The contentment that follows a homecooked meal, and the everlasting bond that have settled comfortably between them."


 

The moon was hanging low in the evening sky, it’s soft glow supplying their campgrounds with a comforting light that seconded as a soothing presence. Jonathan sat crouched over a simmering cook pan, surrounded by a surplus of ingredients gathered from his last in-town rest stop in between stages during the race. To say he had purchased more than his pockets could handle was an understatement, but between the fresh produce on display… and the one time deals being offered to participants (which was probably a scam, now that he thought back on it… but hey, he got quality jerky, four full jars of preserves and free rope coils for his hefty purchases) were too good to pass up! 

It wasn’t as if he was spending what funds he had on frivolous, unnecessary things either. No, he had long since pushed aside those selfish mannerisms of his boyhood to focus on the fact that it wasn’t just him in this trans-continental horse race anymore. He had a companion now, a partner if you will. 

Someone who the former Joestar Heir had met simply by chance, but nevertheless they decided to keep to one another for the remaining stages.

That someone in question, Santana was how he referred to himself, was making his way back to where they set up camp for the night, having spent the last hour trying to round up their horses from the earlier events that made up most of their day. They had been swindled by a fellow competitor looking to get the drop on them, and sure enough found themselves running in a maze of endless circles until it came to their attention that this ‘re-routed path’ was nothing more than a decoy. One that had set them back a handful of hours that could have been spent pushing forward. Nevertheless, they did eventually find a means of escape… but their steeds were still energetic after everything was said and done. Overdrive, the prized mare that belonged to Jonathan’s father once upon a time, had a fire in her eyes that hadn’t seen the light of day in quite some time… while Santana’s own Smooth seemed eager to push on. 

That wouldn’t do either of them any good, so Santana had quietly offered his assistance in calming them down as Jonathan got to preparing dinner. It was best that they settled in for the night as early as today’s antics allowed them anyway, seeing as they had a vast stretch of land ahead to catch up to.

The thought within itself was rather exhausting the more Jonathan lingered on it, but it’s never really been about where his placed in each stage has it?

“...Putting together one of those savory stews of yours again?” Santana called over, a hint of amusement in his voice as he found a place to settle near the campfire. His usually voluminous red hair looked as if it had a slightly damp tinge to it, but Jonathan was almost certain that his eyes were deceiving him. Almost being the keyword. “I have to say… the last one was a bit on the heavier side than your usual, caused us to sleep in longer than our usual no…?”

The somewhat lethargic way of speaking Santana had would have probably bothered anyone else, but Jonathan had grown accustomed to the airy speech with every conversation they had. Hence why he simply rolled his eyes in playful irritation as he kept his attention on the meal before him. 

“On the contrary, my good friend… I decided to make hotcakes tonight.” The brunet looked rather pleased in himself, and only emphasized said notion with a successful flip of the spatula in hand. Nailed it.  

“Hotcakes? What happens to be the occasion, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Nothing really, to be exact...” Jonathan hummed, sliding another batch of the breakfast-turned-dinner off the cook pan and on to the cooling tray he had laid out. “I just thought it might be best to try something different. There’s only so much stew one person can handle before they start to lose it, no?” Okay, there were definitely truths to the statement he gave, but he couldn’t deny the fact that he also wanted to try some of his new preserves with this dinner. 

...Santana didn’t have to know that, right? His wording probably didn’t give it away, but Jonathan was never the best at keeping a solid poker face.

“Besides!” He pointed out, while pouring what remained of the batter. “Who went and made you a sudden connoisseur of campfire delicacies, hm? You’ll scarf down anything offered to you on a plate!” It might have been a case of the pot calling the kettle black, but Jojo couldn’t help himself. While he was someone who definitely enjoyed his seconds, and sometimes thirds if the mood struck him, Santana’s appetite was something else entirely. 

It was almost inhuman... absorption might have been a better word for it actually, but it was surely a sight to behold. 

And every time they finish a meal together, over the soft crackle of their campfire for that particular night, Santana gave his opinion on it. 

Always positive, often tied with the neat little bow that was his contentment.

Despite the fact that they were in the middle of a cross country race that stretched from San Deigo to New York City, with first place prize consisting of riches no mere man could ever fathom, they always took time out to appreciate the joys that came with dinner. Not only through the simple indulgence of the first bite of a dish that had a lot of love put into it, but the prospects of fellow company… of having someone there to share those moments with. It made the genuine fulfillment of a job well done… even more, well, fulfilling.

Especially to someone like him where isolation and loneliness had become commonplace in his everyday life. 


 

Being the only son to one of the Steel Ball Run’s biggest investors, Jonathan Joestar had a future ahead of him that was worth envying. Or so, that is what most outsiders looking in would have thought. Being someone that carried a hefty inheritance on his back, it went without saying that lines were constantly drawn between himself and those who should have been his peers. There was always an unspoken tension, an unwillingness to reach out to him… even in Jonathan’s own attempts to try and make friends. They were fleeting at best, and disappointingly crushing at worst.

But he kept on trying. 

Again and again until he just couldn’t do it anymore. Between the pressure of his father’s watchful eye, the whispers of faceless people who’s gazes followed him as he walked by, and the burdens of high society on his shoulders, there was only so much he could do until he reached that breaking point. 

Teetering on the edge with nothing to lose and nowhere to go, so he decided to be rash and run with that.

To gather what he could and get out of there. As far away as Overdrive would take him. 

It’d been years since his father had ridden her out in the open fields, opting to only rely on the mare as a show pony to bring out when it was time to admire proper pedigrees. She had grown as restless as Jojo did, so it only made sense to take her by the reins and lead her off into new horizons with him. 

And so, here they were now. Competitors in the very face his father had put thousands of dollars in to support, and lying under a pseudonym to not be found out so quickly. It was definitely a risk, a dangerous one, but one he was willing to take ten times over if it meant he’d be able to keep on with this. 

It definitely came as a surprise when he discovered that the man he stumbled upon sleeping within a rock crevice, understood his choices fairly easy. 

Santana was also doing his part to get away from the burdens of his past. While never getting into full detail like Jonathan did, seeing as he was a lot less talkative unless the mood really struck him, they definitely occupied the same boat. Neither of them were looking to snatch up first place prize, nor the second or third. Instead, it was all about the journey getting there. 

About chasing the end goal of completing a rather intimidating goal. 

It was an adventure for the both of them, an opportunity to branch out and away from the very silence that held them prisoner for so long. A person could probably consider this a means of escapism for them both, and there’s a good chance that they’d be correct in that notion, but did Jonathan care? Did Santana? Not really, and it showed in how they took to the road. 

How they took time out to just… sit back and enjoy the quieter moments. 

“You’ve outdone yourself again, Jonathan.” Santana’s response was short, but well meaning as he pulled apart another piece of hotcake. For a moment, his gaze settled on the steam that lingered and he couldn’t help the content hum that escaped him as he popped one half into his mouth. The remaining piece was promptly slathered in wild berry preserves. A Godsend in a glass jar. 

Jonathan beamed, eyes crinkling up in mirth as he gathered the dirty pots and pans for later washing in the nearby river. For now, he left them off to the side as he poked and prodded at the fried eggs he included in the meal. They had cooked a bit longer than he personally liked, no longer the runny consistency that made for good dipping, so he just picked at the yolk. 

A bit childish of him, sure, but it wasn’t like his father was around to scold him for poor table manners. “Aw, you’re making it sound like you’ve never had a good batch of breakfast before… flattering me far more than I’d deserve...” 

Modesty was always his best policy, and it showed in how his cheeks grew rosy at the simple praise. He might not have been able to contribute much to their continued travels as they crossed into the next stages of the race, but it was always good to know that he at least had something he could do right for both himself and Santana. To know that his efforts, no matter how small compared to the overall picture, mattered… was honestly a good feeling. 

“Besides, it’s the least I can do for how you’ve aided me since day one…” 

A comfortable silence stretched between them in the moments after Jonathan said that, only to be broken shortly thereafter by Santana speaking up again. 

“No, I don’t think I am.” 

“...Huh?” Jonathan blinked, tilting his head to the side. 

“Flattering you. I don’t think… or feel as if I’m giving you more than you deserve, Jonathan.” Santana’s voice was even for once, as if he had needed a few minutes to think about how he wanted to go about saying this. “I’ve told you this before I’m certain, but… sit downs like this were not exactly common among my family. At least, not as the years began to pass us by. As my brother and I grew older, so did the lines separating us. The distance was becoming bigger, greater, and soon enough I found myself left to my own devices.” 

Yes, he had mentioned this to Jonathan before, but it usually ended when he reached the point in time when he discovered the note his older brother left behind. An unexpected goodbye from the only person willing to offer one. 

“So… I’d rather you not think so little of your efforts here. You dedicate your time and skill to prepare us something delicious to eat almost every night, and you do everything in your power to make certain we’re comfortable. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been able to sit around with someone else, engaging in peaceful conversation. I’m incredibly rusty, but it’s nice being able to hear someone else’s voice outside of my own.” He glanced over at the brunet then, red eyes appearing almost golden as they reflected the fire between them.

“I know I am not… the best company to have on this journey, but I am very thankful that you allowed me to join you for the remaining stages.” 

The way he spoke made it sound as if Jonathan had gone out of his way to persuade Santana into a partnership, but no… he had just given him the time of day. Simple as that, but maybe that was just what they both needed. 

“I have no intentions of winning this, and I know you share the sentiment, but let’s keep our sights out on completing this together, yes?” He offered out his hand then, a direct parallel to the first time he and Jonathan exchanged words in the dry air, desert-like state whose name escaped him at the moment.

Jonathan, in turn, stared at the hand held out to him until he reached forward to return the gesture. His rough, calloused fingers brushed against Santana’s own for a short, but lingering moment before he gripped his hand tightly. Assuredly. “But, of course! You and I are just getting started , aren’t we?”

“Ah, that we are, Jojo . That we are.”


 

Kindred Spirits

That was what Santana had referred to them one particular evening under the starry skies. It had taken Jonathan a minute to register that he was addressing him, as this was a time when conversation between them was still scarce, but he nevertheless looked up from his sleeping bag with curious eyes. 

He hadn’t heard the term before this night, but Santana had taken the time to explain it to him. An individual with the same beliefs, attitudes or feelings as oneself. Two people that have made a special connection by sharing a bond that has joined them in some way. Apparently, they weren’t common to come by and at the time, Jonathan wasn’t too sure what such an established chemistry had to do with someone like him and someone like Santana… 

But now? As Jonathan gazed upon Santana across the campfire, the chirp of crickets in his ears and the feeling of satisfaction in the pit of his stomach after a home cooked meal… he finally understood. He really liked the sound of it. 

And to know the sentiment had long since been returned? How wonderful.

Chapter Text

"Though everything was uncertain and full of possibilities, there was one thing Trish was completely sure of. She wanted nothing more than to face it head on with these two are her side."


 

 

The final box had been shuffled into what was supposed to be their living room, but resembled a cardboard maze more than anything else right now. Thankfully, she was quick to create an earlier path that extended from the front door to whichever room down the hall led to the kitchen. It was a tight squeeze, but manageable enough to get them through the remaining days that would be spent unpacking everything. Why had they decided to ship so many things over to an already furnished house? Well, she didn’t have an exact answer, but perhaps it had something to do with deep sentimentality for certain things being a shared trait between the three of them. 

Out of their cozy little triad however, Trish was quite certain she’d be the only one to willingly admit to that notion though. It went without saying that she was someone who held strong attachments. Whether it be people, or items purchased over a set time, there was always a story to go with it. Some longer and far more memorable than others, but each of them there. Holding a special place in her heart, and securing a slot as an unforgettable memory. 

Like any other memory however, they were things of the past. 

Snapshots of a time long ago, that only seemed to get further and further away from her with the passing days. Not that that was a bad thing, of course. She was rather pleased to know she didn’t feel pressed to look over her shoulder as much anymore, because it meant she was ready to move forward.

And given the events of last night’s celebration? Those feelings had truly cemented themselves. They were here to stay, and she was oh, so excited! 

“Guess who managed to bring the last one in!” Trish called out, massaging her biceps as a reward for her earlier efforts. Whatever was in that damn thing was heavier than it looked, and given that her name wasn’t written along the side meant she wasn’t the one who had stashed enough stuff in one box to require triple dosages of duct tape. “And after all that talk about letting me sleep in, you two needed it more than I did to recharge from our party.” 

She had made her way over to the pair slouched on the loveseat in the far corner of the living room, teasing grin and all, and settled herself comfortably in the middle. “Can’t say I’m surprised by the turn of events, though~” 

Leone, with a silk sleep mask covering his eyes, let out a sluggish groan. “Is it finally just the three of us?” He hadn’t bothered to remove the mask. Trish remembered seeing him snatch it out of a box of his own belongings around the crack of dawn. Something about wanting to be asleep before the sun rose for another day. She couldn’t help but wonder how well that had turned out. 

“It is, it is~” she hummed, tracing the cute eyelash design across the silk. Where did he buy this one, she wondered. “Giorno was the last to leave! He wanted to make sure he didn’t forget to give us his housewarming gift!”

“That was nice of him...” To her left, Bruno finally spoke up, shifting ever so slightly to remove the blanket that was thrown haphazardly over his face earlier. “Especially since he knows this place like the back of his hand.” 

“Let’s just hope it isn’t another potted plant. Upstairs already resembles a tropical forest with every new one he’s brought here, and they’re all still alive .”

“So, it’s a good representation of how far we’ve come as a team?” 

“I wouldn’t use those words exactly, Buccellati. But you might be onto something there.” 

“Ah, I’m glad~” 

Yes, right. She was the only one that had not known the comfort of Bruno’s family home before this. Seeing it for the first time with her own eyes after hearing stories from Mista and Narancia and Bruno himself, was a moment she was sure to never forget. A quaint little house along the coastline in a quiet fishing town. It was like something straight out of a watercolor painting, like the postcards Bruno had sent her following his disappearance. A place that couldn’t possibly be real unless you see it with your own eyes. 

And here she finally was, an eyewitness to the existence of this lovely place. Ready to create newer, brighter memories with these two at her side.  

“...Soooo, should we get back to unpacking?” She couldn’t help but ask, examining the packages scattered throughout the room. “We put a pretty good dent in things yesterday before ordering those margherita pies--speaking of which, is there any left or did Mista take the last slices for the Pistols?” 

“I recall him saying something about promising not to touch the box at the bottom, but you know how those little guys get around mozzarella…”

Her face scrunched up at Bruno’s answer. That definitely meant there were only flimsy pieces of crust left behind at best. “I told him to leave that one alone, but he probably didn’t listen… don’t feel like checking it either...”

Laziness was at an all time high for her, but she knew there was so much more that needed to get done. Keeping herself nestled between Bruno and Leone was the better choice of what options she had, but there was also a giddiness in her system looking to get things going. To do her part in officially making this home theirs . “...Mmmaybe I’ll take a crack at fishing around for the CD player? I think music is what we’ll need to get ourselves into gear!”

Bruno let out a content sigh at the sound of ‘fishing’. “That reminds me, there are a few spots in the area that I wanted to show you both… a particular cove that has only gotten lovelier with the years. It was barely a nook when I first came across it back in the day.” When he spoke like that, his age really did show and Trish tried to mask her giggles to no avail. Leone on the other hand, decided it was time to put his foot down… eyelash sleep mask and all. 

“If there’s anything we’re doing around here first, it’s going to be finally setting up our bed.” Lifting up one side of the eyewear, a blue-violet eye stared sharply across the loveseat. “If we have to sleep on the floor, or god forbid that deflated air mattress again, I’m going to be incredibly irritated.” 

Given the amount of effort, or better yet lack thereof, put into unpacking and rearranging things around the house as need be, they haven’t had the chance to make good use of the master bedroom. 

An unfortunate turn of events, yes, but also… the mere thought of doing that was exhausting. Trish didn’t want to do it yet, and she was more than certain that neither of them wanted to either. So, to retaliate she turned to face Abbacchio, reaching forward with her recently manicured nails to poke teasingly at his cheekbones. “Aaah,” she joked in a sing-song tone, a soft laugh bubbling out seconds after. “we don’t want your back going out, now do we?”

“...And what are you implying there, hm?” Leone’s response was somewhat prickly, but in a somewhat flustered kind of way. She thought it was cute, and the smile she gave him said just as much. 

“That you’re getting up there in age, old man~!” 

If only she managed to grab a camera in time to capture the sputter and follow up expression that Abbacchio gave her in those moments. Priceless wasn’t enough to describe it, and Bruno’s laughter at her words made it even better. 

“Since we’re taking pot shots like that,” Leone interjected, sitting up and taking Trish’s chin in his hand, gently securing it between his index finger and thumb. “Buccellati is only a year younger than me, ergo… you’re the one comfortably settling in here with two old men, Princess.” He looked confident in his choice of words, and what could only be called an inkling of a smirk across his lips. 

“...Maybe I’m into that , huh? Ever think about that?” 

“Would you look at the time! I should be heading into the kitchen now.” Was all that Bruno said before he carefully maneuvered Trish from off his lap as he shimmied his way out of the living room.

“You get BACK here!”

“There isn’t even anything set up in there yet!”

As Bruno disappeared into the kitchen Trish and Leone shared a knowing look before they were on their feet. Their loud thumping footsteps ought to have been enough of a warning for Bruno that they were coming, but there was no way he could get out of this now.

Trish reached him first, wrapping her arms around his waist and clinging to him like a starfish. Leone joined her right after and his long arms encapsulated both her and Bruno in a tight hug.

“Coward!” Abbacchio called.

“He’s right!”

Bruno, steadfast and cool headed as always, kept his eyes trained out of the small kitchen window. It was obvious though that he was fighting a smile. “Tell me, Leone, do you want to hear her say she’s into old men again?”

The other man hesitated. “...Okay, well, no…”

“Maybe if you two are good, I’ll keep the comments to a minimum~” There was no helping the cheeky little grin that spread across her face as she watched her words settle between the three of them. She adored them because honestly, they were beyond easy to tease.

She felt one of Abbacchio’s hands leave it’s spot joined with hers in front of Bruno to pinch playfully at her hip. “Well someone’s gotten bold,” he teased right back as she yelped in surprise.

Trish swatted at his hand, urging it to move back into its place. But as they messed around amongst themselves, Bruno had taken a big breath. It was noticeable enough that it gave them pause. Trish glanced at Abbacchio and the other man met her eyes with a mixture of surprise and nervousness as they embraced him once more.

“You… alright?” It was Leone speaking, but Trish rested her head against his shoulder in support.

For an excruciating few seconds, silence settled between the three of them. A terrible span of time where she was afraid that he would keep what he wanted to himself. But then… Bruno spoke.

“...We’ve really made it here, huh?”

His voice was wistful and full of the surprise that she was sure they all seemed to sport. It was why she had brought so many things in the move. It was why this home was never going to have to any shortage of well loved knick knacks  or love in general. They almost hadn’t made it out and life was too short not to live it surrounded by the things and people you loved.

“For a moment…” Leone said before trailing off. At first, he had started his statement with all the gravitas of someone telling an unpleasant truth before he decided it didn’t need to be said at all. They all knew… for a moment, they weren’t sure if they were going to actually come back.

But these were what-ifs and alternate versions of events that didn’t need to be dwelled upon. They were here with her, there was no reason to dwell on the darker possibilities.

Trish huffed against Bruno’s shoulder. “But you did make it out alive. You were strong enough to beat all the odds… That’s pretty in line with what I had seen of you both before. Strong and dependable and capable of all sorts of wild feats.”

“You were just as strong too, you know,” Leone told her sharply. Almost like a school teacher making sure an important formula was drilled into her head.  It made her feel good to hear. She knew as much, she had known her own strength the second she awakened Spice Girl. But it was delightful to hear it from them. “You made it out as well. The three of us managed something… beyond what I think we had expected.”

Bruno nodded and his hand gently covered their own over his middle. “We did indeed,” he agreed. “And all that’s left for us now is… the future. Just laid out before us in all directions, I suppose.”

He gazed out the window again, at a sea surging in all directions. So many possibilities, the potential for good and bad. It was all rushing through his head, that much was clear as day.

Carefully, Trish leaned up on the tips of her toes and gently nudged Bruno to look in her direction. It didn’t take much at all to close the distance between them and press her lips against his. Their kiss was sweet and as she held him against her, lips moving in tandem, she tried to make sure he felt all of it. Her excitement to start this chapter of her life with them, her comfort and contentment, her adoration…

When she finally pulled away, Leone was quick to join in. He turned Bruno in the other direction, slow and steady. Trish gazed at the two of them as they kissed each other, the hint of Leone’s violet lipstick mixing with the pink she’d left behind on Bruno’s mouth too. They were so… tender, so sweet. Their years of reliance on each other was obvious from one kiss alone and she felt so… fortunate to be privy to something like.

Trish talked a big game but she was always grateful in the end for the big things. To know them and to love them felt like such a big thing.

When Bruno and Leone finally parted, the latter smiled down at her. His painted lips pulled up on either side. “Don’t think I forgot about you too…”

“You’ll ruin my lipstick.”

Fuck it,” Leone replied. “We both fell asleep with it on anyway last night.”

There was no hesitation, no second thoughts, as he leaned down to kiss her too. The one-two hit of kisses from Buccellati and Abbacchio left Trish weak in the knees. One was methodical while the other insistent but both put their hearts into it.

Leone’s kiss made it very clear just how enthusiastic he was about having her here. That spoke volumes for a man who was enthusiastic about very little.

After a few moments, Trish leaned back with a smile. Almost reflexively she burrowed closer, proud to wear the odd shade of purple and pink that now no doubt covered her lips. At least they all matched now…

“Now I’ll be honest with you two,” Abbacchio announced, “the only future I even want to contemplate right now is one with food in it.”

Trish’s stomach rumbled as if in assent, but as she gazed out of the window of their small house an idea popped into her head. “Excellent idea, how about crab?” It was her favorite after all.

“Do you have crab money, or do you want to catch it yourself then?” Bruno asked incredulously as he turned to look at her over his shoulder.

The three of them burst into fits of laughter at that and the house seemed full of it. Laughter, happiness, comfort, love. Trish couldn’t think of any other place that would be better suited to the first days of the rest of her life and no two people better suited to sharing that life with.

Chapter Text

"Society had moved on from belief in the gods of old but that was a foolish notion. The gods of old merely waited, biding their time. It is for that reason alone that Erina found herself now as an offering to the long forgotten God of Snakes."


 

 

Fear. All Erina knew in this moment was pure, unadulterated fear.

She was asleep in the comfort of her own bed until she found herself being grabbed and tied. It was horrible, fighting against her attackers who only bound her tighter and carried her trussed up body out of her window. They had blindfolded and gagged her and for a blind, terrifying moment she thought she was going to die. She thought all sorts of horrible things would happen…

But then she felt the necklace settle around her neck as the chilling sensation of known terror filled every vein.

“Y’wanna try and mouth off to us? Wanna try and make us look like right fuckin’ fools in front of everyone?” The raspy voice of one of the village idiots filled her ears as she tried to struggle. She had hit him in front of a crowd in the square when he attempted to talk to her like she was an idiot. He had disparaged her, talked down to her, the black eye she’d given him was well deserved, even if he hadn’t thought so. “Well, if you’re looking to learn more ‘bout that old shrine in the woods, I know just how to help ya.”

The boys laughed together, as they carried her through what had to be the woods. She didn’t stop struggling but she knew what this meant.  They were taking her to the ancient shrine of the snake god, long since abandoned and fallen into ruin. It had captured her imagination during childhood and has been the source of her scholarship for years, much to everyone’s amusement. But this was beyond the pale.

“Didn’t they say, back in the day, the followers of the snake god would go into massive frenzies? Killin’ people and drinkin’ their blood? You’d best hope there aren’t any crazy old worshippers still kickin’ eh?”

Erina struggled again. This wasn’t funny, even though they were laughing at her. This was awful, she could die exposed to the elements or as the prey of some hungry beast.

The second boy, who followed the orders of the one shamed spoke up with sick glee. The one must’ve just gotten off on her suffering. “We made a necklace of sacrifice and everything, just so the snake god knows who this is for.” 

They walked her through the brush for what felt like ages and she wriggled and tried to collect her thoughts as they did. She could get away if she played her cards right, if she could wiggle out of the ropes or find a knife. There was no bargaining with them, not when they had decided to play victim. She had her pride too and she’d rather die in the forest that way…

Once their footsteps stopped, the boys dropped Erina on the forest floor. It was enough to make her flinch and wonder if she’d bruise. But she felt a hand tugging at the gag in her mouth between disgusting guffaws and this was a chance. When the boy’s fingers came close enough to her mouth she bit down, hard enough to draw blood that filled her mouth after the gag had disappeared.

“LET GO OF ME, YA BITCH!” her victim screamed. She figured if he wanted a real complex she’d give him one, though he kicked her side and she was forced to release him. As the other pulled away her blindfold she beheld her attackers. One boy was thin and gangly, stooping behind the ringleader, whilst the other was shorter with curly hair and a black eye. She didn’t remember their names but she did remember with glee giving him that black eye. “She-- She damn near bit my finger off!” 

It was the tall one she’d hurt and she wanted to preen at the thought. “Let me go,” she said evenly. “I’ll forget this happened and no one has to get hurt. But if you wait, if you make me wait here, once I’m released I’ll do worse than bite your finger off .” Her eyes were cold and her voice was even more frigid.

For a moment, the two neanderthals recoiled, like they worried about what she may do. But then, as if remembering she was tied up beneath them, the boys turned to ugly confidence once more. “Pfft, you think that scares us? We’ll see you in the morning then.”

Without so much as a word, they turned on their heels and walked off into the brush laughing. 

“N-NO! COME BACK!” Erina screamed, straining against the ropes as blood dripping down her chin. “Y-YOU STUPID BASTARDS! I-I’LL END YOU WHEN I SEE YOU AGAIN!”

She let out a shriek of frustration and fear as they disappeared from view. She was alone now, the forest around her suddenly full only of the sound of rustling leaves and the distant sound of birds in the night. Only now, completely alone did she allow tears to flow. She had all night to figure her way out of this, to work the ropes until they gave out from under her attention. But that could wait for one moment for her to lament her situation.

This was… too much. Already, she had felt like an outsider in town. The only person who seemed to want to spend time with her was Jonathan. But he had left on a research trip some weeks ago. Being friends with the rich lord’s son was bad enough but the fact that they both were fascinated by the temple and the old gods from centuries past painted an even bigger target on her back.

Now she laid there, a terrible facsimile of a human sacrifice in front of the temple complex’s yawning marble mouth. It was horrible, to be stuck here. She didn’t even know if she could make it out once she was out of these bindings. Would she wander the forest until she passed out from hunger or dehydration…?

What could she do?

As if to piss on her further, the sky opened up then. Rain started to fall gently and then suddenly harder and she felt it soaking through her clothes, through the ropes and her hair. At least no one would notice she was crying. This truly was the worst thing that could happen…

That is until she saw them. The figures approaching her in thick black cloaks. Once again, the horror returned all at once. “W-What?”

“A sacrifice,” one said with reverence as they walked toward her. “Finally, someone pays their dues to our Lord.”

Erina’s blood ran cold. “I-I’m not a sacrifice! This is-- Th-This is all big misunderstanding…!”

“Lord Dio shall like this one,” another said as they approached. Without even a moment’s hesitation, she was scooped up in the arms of strangers and once again began to flail and struggle. She did so even more violently, panic rising up in the back of her throat like acid.

She screamed once more. A frenzied cry for help tumbling past her lips in the hopes that one of her previous captors would hear. But there was nothing, no one came to help her as she disappeared inside the overgrown temple. 

One member of the group pushed back her hood, revealing dark, withered skin and a long poof of white hair. She merely glowered at Erina. “Stop screaming. You are to be presented to our Lord. He doesn’t like his visitors to be gagged, but if I must…”

Erina felt a fresh wave of tears roll down her cheeks and mix with the raindrops. But the screams died in her throat at the mention of Lord Dio and a gag. Wasn’t… Dio the title of the old snake god? Did that mean she’d be placed before a stone statue then? She hoped that was where that ended but this was all so terrifying she couldn’t be sure of anything…

“Good,” the older woman said when she finally calmed down. As a group, these temple acolytes carried her through old, cracked marble halls until they reached a room in the inner sanctum. A large altar was set in the middle of the room, gilded and beautiful as it stood before a statue of a figure that was half man, half snake. Was this… their Lord?

Erina was placed on the altar then, her heart pounding in her chest. This was terrifying. What were they going to do to her? She felt herself trembling against the soggy ropes she was tied in and she prayed to every god that she might survive this.

“Lord Dio!” The gathered crowd gasp and Erina was surprised to hear a heavy door open. From the large doorway, she saw a man… or rather half of one. He was beautiful, golden blond hair and ruby red eyes. A smirk that was both predatory and regal all at once with little fangs peeking past his lips. His chest was well toned, nothing like Jonathan but something impressive. In his hair he wore an emerald circlet in the shape of a heart and armlets shaped like golden snakes coiling around his upper arms. But it wasn’t the human half that caught her attention half as much as the golden tail coiling it’s way from his lower half. Along the back of the tail he sported a pattern of deep green, working its way in diamonds down the back. It was massive, trailing behind him as he slithered his way over to the altar. 

“My Lord!” The older woman called with a sweeping bow. “The humans seem to have come to their senses and offered up a sacrifice for your enjoyment. To think… it’s been so long.”

The snake man, Lord Dio, looked from the woman down to Erina. He reached out then, taking the charm around her neck between his black clawed fingers. His pupils, which Erina realized were only slits, seemed to focus on the necklace.

“Enyaba, have you noticed… the quality of this charm?”

The acolyte, named Enyaba it seemed, paused for a moment. “Ah, no… I did not. Is there something the matter?”

Dio raised his sharp brow. “I see. It’s… crude. Unofficial. This was not ordained in any sort of official capacity. This must have been done in a haphazard manner, not in the days of old. Tell me, darling…” The snake man, ‘naga’ her brain supplied, was addressing her much to her own surprise. “Was it your village elder who has sanctioned this gift to me?”

Erina shook her head quickly. “N-No… we don’t even-- we don’t have elders anymore. Some boys tied me up, th-this was-- it was for revenge. A joke.”

It stung to show her shame in front of a crowd of faceless strangers, but she also didn’t wish to be eaten. “I see,” Dio hummed, stroking his chin. “My sacrifices all gave themselves to me willingly, you see. It is not the same if you do not wish it. Considering your state and the rain… please, stay the night at the very least and if you wish to return home tomorrow I will send someone to guide you back. Chaka… please remove her bindings.”

Without so much as a word, a cloaked figure walked forward. As the acolyte’s hood fell away, Erina beheld a lovely dark skinned man. His black hair cascading behind him in a thin ponytail. In one fluid motion, he produced a sword from beneath his robes and quickly cut away her bindings. Erina looked down at her arms with a grimace as she saw the red welts along her skin from the burns of the rope.

“Tch.”

Erina looked up at the snake god as he himself gazed down disdainfully at her arms. “Is this what humanity has come to?” he asked aloud as he carefully scooped her up in his arms. “They have always lacked in manners but this has only gotten worse. Never did we have such problems before…”

She had to swallow a scream as Dio slithered deeper into the temple complex. It wasn’t that she feared for her life anymore so much as… she didn’t understand what to expect. Would she be imprisoned? He didn’t seem to want her around unwilling. But could she even trust that? She wanted to.

He carried her into an empty bedroom somewhere in the complex before gently placing her on the bed itself. “Um… th-thank you,” she finally said, her nerves not having allowed her to speak before. “I um-- you… I appreciate you not-- not eating me.”

“Eating you?”

Erina wanted to blanch at the way he echoed her words. It was amused and surprised. “I-Is that not what… the human sacrifice was for…?”

Dio looked humored. “Occasionally, but I much prefer to be a collector. To keep those that wish to be in my presence. That is why you will be escorted home if that is what you desire… and if you choose to stay among my court, then it’s a delight for me. Is that truly what humanity thinks of me now…?”

She was honestly taken aback by his answer. Kept? Was it like a harem? Or was that how he collected his acolytes? All Erina knew was that she didn’t want to offend him after all of this good will. “Oh, um… that’s what they think. Truthfully, not much information remains about this place. The scholarship is very limited. I’ve read everything I could get my hands on a-and truthfully I’ve come up quite short…”

“Scholarship? You’ve read scholarship about me?” He seemed intrigued.

Erina nodded. “I-I don’t think it’s all very accurate but I admit I’ve been fascinated… Outside of that, this place has become a bit of a scary tale to tell children in order to keep them behaving.” 

For a moment, she held her breath, terrified that Dio was going to unleash his fury on her for such flippant words. Instead, he laughed. A hearty, belly laugh. “A cautionary tale for children? Interesting… and you would say you’re intrigued in knowing the truth?”

Normally, she would be dubious but her excitement was leading her in a ridiculous direction. “I-I am! I’ve been studying this place for years. We all stay away from here but myself and my… friend, we both enjoy researching the shrine and… you.

At hearing that she read about him, the naga practically preened. It was an interesting look. Dare she say cute? Even in her situation?

“Mm, perhaps… if you’re so interested. Tomorrow, shall we go on a tour together? You may ask me any questions and I will show you the temple at large. You could possibly write a more accurate book of your own,” Dio asked. The smile on his face seemed genuinely amused and she couldn’t help the way she glanced up at him with a nervous smile.

“Oh that sounds-- that sounds lovely. Yes please… th-thank you.”

Suddenly, an acolyte squeezed past Dio into the room. She also had dark skin, much like Chaka, but her hair was a lovely shade of white. In her hands, she held a folded pile of clothes. 

“Warm, dry clothes here, Miss,” the woman told her with a flirty grin in both Dio and her own direction. “At least take those wet things off and get comfy.”

“Thank you, Mariah,” Dio replied.

“Y-Yes thank you, Miss… Mariah,” Erina said as well, feeling a little awkward. 

Mariah grinned wide, looking almost like a cat before she slipped out of the room.  “Rest well, sacrifice~”

Erina blanched a bit at that name. She’d rather not be known as the human sacrifice. As soon as Dio caught that look, laughter bubbled up in his throat. “Do you have a name, human?” He asked between snickers.

“...Erina. My name is Erina.”

Dio sighed softly. “...Erina, Erina…” he repeated her name over and over as  if tasting it, trying to see how it rolled off the tongue. She felt a shiver run down her spine at the very thought.

“Well then, Erina, ” he crooned, sending that jolt down her back again with just three cyllables. “I will see you tomorrow. Sleep well.”

“O-Oh um, you too!”

With that, he slithered out of the room and she watched him disappear out of the hall. Looking at a snake man shouldn’t have gotten so easy for her. But it had in only one exchange. Perhaps that would change after she slept on it. She took one glance at the warm clothes and gave a small sigh.

Just a tour and she’d go home.

Well, her clothes were interesting. She was provided a white cloth dress, something she tried to drape artfully across her form even if it was difficult. The bright blue sash she tied across her waist had matched her eyes and she had to wonder if that was Mariah’s doing or merely coincidence.

The tour was fascinating as Dio took her from room to room through the inner sanctum. The acolytes, he explained, had lived there self-sufficiently for centuries. Some were descended from previous acolytes, others had found salvation there by accident. They hadn’t had an instance of a human sacrifice in so long, he had told her.

There were gardens where his worshippers grew their own food and herbs. They sewed too, creating their own fabric and garments. They all seemed to do relatively well for themselves. Enough that when they shed their vestments and rode into a town in another direction, they made enough money to bring back other delicacies as well as some treasure for their beloved god.

He took her through a large room of worship with another statue of him in the middle. On the floor there were various embroidered pillows, no doubt for kneeling. “And this room is where my followers come to worship me.” Dio proudly gestured around the room. Along the wall were various carvings as he walked her around. “This relief carving here is of my mother, the primordial moon goddess, and I when I was born. Along this section of the wall depicts my first kill and in turn, my earliest worshippers. Right here… is when I slayed the great wolf in a rain of fire…” he pointed out different myths. They were stories Erina had heard of in her youth and though it was hard to imagine they happened, a large naga was speaking to her. How could she deny it?

Following the worship room, he took her off into another with shelves and shelves of jewels and similar goodies. Treasures so ancient, she felt the echoes of millennia just by looking at them. “Here is where I’ve kept my tributes over the centuries,” he told her matter of factly. “There are plenty of things I use in my daily wardrobe, others for the most special of occasions.”

Erina nodded, staring at various treasures with wide eyes. “These are beautiful… it’s incredible that you still have all of this.”

“Mm, I know. Keeping it in excellent condition is a bit of a chore, but I rather enjoy sparkling, don’t you?” Dio asked with a smile in his voice as he plucked a fine looking necklace from the shelf.

That wasn’t quite what Erina had been getting at but there was no point in saying so. “I don’t quite know. I’ve never quite sparkled before… my father’s a doctor. Oftentimes, I don’t even see him much.”

Dio was quiet for a bit, looking intently at the necklace in hand. As Erina chanced a glance in his direction, she noticed finally what it was. An amulet of sacrifice, very unlike the one she’d worn.

“I see,” he said finally. “...And how exactly did you end up here?”

It felt upsetting to say just what had happened. Difficult to admit her own weakness and her own inadequate reaction to stop them. But… how did one lie to a god? She had to say something... 

After a moment of reflection, she finally spoke up. “I… upset some boys. Gave one a black eye when he was rude to me. This was a form of payback I suppose. They snuck into my home and… well, you know.

It felt silly, to simply speak so casually to a being like Dio. But he didn’t laugh at her, nor did he judge her. Instead, he snatched the false amulet from her neck, crushing it in his impressive grip. “Those actions being done in my name are insulting,” he said finally as he offered her the sacrificial amulet of real gold. The twining snakes of the amulet were inset with topaz and emerald with rubies for the eyes. It was beautiful... “This is yours to keep whether you stay or not. I’ll not have my reputation tarnished in such a way. To have a fake was not only a mockery of me but of you.”

For a moment, Erina blinked at the necklace in her hands before meeting Dio’s inhuman eyes. “A-Are you sure? Even if I don’t stay?”

“Especially if you don’t, you can use it in your village, I’m sure?”

“Oh! I’m sure I could…” she nodded before attempting to fasten it around her neck. “Thank you for the offer. I don’t mean to offend…”

Dio shook his head before gesturing for her to turn around. “You didn’t offend in the slightest,” he said finally before to Erina’s surprise, he took to fastening the necklace around her neck. She felt his claws graze the back of her neck as a little tremor ran down her spine. “Just wear this proudly.”

Once he was done, she turned to face him with a flustered smile. “A-Ah yes… of course.”

“Shall we continue though?” He finally asked, gesturing her forward. Though that strangely charged moment was lovely, it would be nice to move on.

“Absolutely!”

Dio offered his arm and after a moment of surprise, Erina took it once more. They traveled onward, passing through a hall into a large room. Wall to wall it was covered in ancient scrolls and codexes and even some books. “Welcome to our library and records room. We have kept detailed records of events for a long time now, and I also have personal journals stored here.”

Erina’s eyes went wide as she took in all of this reading material. Myths, reports, firsthand accounts of everything she’d been so curious about. Surely there were boring things like expenditures among this, but… O-Oh.

“Th-This is wonderful,” she whispered as she looked around. “Could I…?”

Dio looked awfully pleased with himself. “You wish to read my collection?”

Erina nodded, she almost felt dumb in the the action. But Dio only laughed. “You are more than welcome to, however, my journals are forbidden without express permission from me. Is that clear?”

“Crystal.”

“Excellent then,” Dio replied with a smirk. His tail coiled behind him as he gestured to the pile of scales. “Care to sit?”

Erina looked around at various empty seats in the space. “On you? But there are chairs…”

Dio tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Perhaps I should rephrase… care to join me?”

“Yes!” The answer came out so quickly, it almost flustered Erina. She attempted to clear her throat, to look away. “I mean, but of course.” Though Erina walked over to the coiled tail, it took Dio little effort to pick her up with the large tail and pull her in until she sat comfortably against him.

“Now, tell me Erina,” he practically purred. “Do you wish to start off with event records? Scrolls of various visitors? Mythologies?”

Erina’s eyes widened at the possibilities.

“The scrolls, please!”


 

Perhaps she should have gone home after that first day, not stayed for weeks on end. But Erina’s father probably had no idea she had been declared missing and Jonathan wouldn’t be home for some time. Instead, she spent her time in Dio’s records room. Oftentimes, the god shared these moments with his tail wrapped around her and writing different things down in his journals.

She was fascinated by what she read. There was creedence to the rumors of the wild followers of his. When he hadn’t been properly paid tribute his acolytes would reach a frenzy. To the point of blood being spilled in his name. They would dye the rivers red, lost in a frenzied ecstacy until someone stepped up. Until the proper sacrifice was offered to the lord of the lands.

That was honestly even more terrifying than what Erina had heard.

“Erina,” Dio called and she finally pulled her nose from the scroll.

“Yes?”

The snake god closed his journal and turned to her. “Have I shown you… my personal baths?”

She had known that the complex was attached to a hot spring and that’s why she had such a lovely little pool to bathe in when the time came. However, Dio’s personal baths were a different story…

Erina shook her head. “No you… haven’t.”

“Mm well then,” Dio hummed, giving her a placid smile, “perhaps you could bathe with me this evening?”

“B-Bathe with you?” Erina stuttered, trying to wrap her mind around that. He was asking her to do something like that? Was there a reason for this? He certainly couldn’t want to-- “Why?”

The one-word question escaped her before she could stop herself. While recently she was beginning to warm up to the snake god’s fondness for her, this still made her worry that he wouldn’t find her entertaining at all. Which was unfounded, he snorted rather loudly actually.

“Because I enjoy your company, simply put,” he said finally. “Does there have to be any other reason?”

Erina swallowed hard. “I-I mean, you’re not inviting me to the bath… for anything surprisingly untoward, are you?”

Do you want me to? ” Dio asked in a low seductive voice. Erina turned a bright red and had no idea how to even respond. Was he joking? Did she want to say no? Did she want to say yes?

After a moment of seeing her reaction though, Dio merely broke out into loud laughter. “I’m joking, I’m joking. Completely innocent. I’d rather just continue our chit-chat and I’d like to hear what you’ve learned.”

That put her at ease at the very least. He could’ve been lying, but she didn’t feel that sense of him in her gut at that moment. He just seemed rather enthusiastic.

“I suppose then,” Erina relented. “You can show me the baths then.”

Dio smile at that and pulled Erina into his grip as his tail daintily pushed their reading materials back onto the shelf. “Alright, let’s go then…~”

Without further ado, Dio carried her through the various halls of the complex until he came across wide, carved doors. With a single push, he opened it to a rather expansive room. The ceilings were high and along the walls Erina could see coiling snakes and roses carved into the surrounding marble. On the floor, there were deep pools of hot water,  luxurious springs that no one in her home village could rightly even dream of enjoying.

Gingerly, he placed Erina down on her feet by the pool of water. “Well then,” Dio murmured to her,  “I believe it might be best for you to undress before me. I promise I won’t look, I just merely have… far less layers than you do.”

“You’re… very right then. Please look away and I’ll tell you when you can slip in as well.” 

Dio nodded and turned away, allowing her the time to slip out of her white dress. The water already was dotted with rose petals for scent and Erina could see various bottles of soaps and lotions all along the edge of the hot spring.

The snake god was right about one thing, she was wearing far more layers than he was. Dio only bothered to wear a loincloth. No shirt for him, not at all. Instead, he was dripped in jewels that Erina watched him slip off his fingers, watched him neatly leave his necklaces and bracelets atop his discarded clothing. The circlet on his head was placed down with reverence as well. Erina tried not to focus on him as she slipped into the hot bath.

It was… lovely. Relaxation on the muscles after a long day of being hunched over ancient scrolls. She stretched and yawned for a moment before making sure she had submerged herself enough not to be seen. “A-Alright, I’m in!” she called out to the large snake in the room.

Without waiting further, she heard the splash of water as Dio eased himself into the bath as well. She felt the brush of cool, familiar scales against her back and the outside of her thigh. Finally she looked over at him as the god settled comfortably against the edge of the hot spring.

“Isn’t this just divine?” he asked with a contented sigh. “This is perhaps one of my favorite places in the whole temple. I love to just… soak for the evening and relax.”

“I can see why,” Erina replied. “It’s lovely, perfect to ease the tension from a long day.”

“Indeed… You can scoff at me, but being a god is certainly hard work.” Dio hummed. For a moment they lapsed into a companionable silence, merely enjoying the water, that is until Dio reached for something. “Tsk, your hair is a mess, darling.”

“A mess? That’s merely from today! I need to brush it again.”

Dio gently nudged her with his tail. “Keep your back to me and I’ll do it. Does that sound agreeable?”

Erina couldn’t help her surprise. She was currently in the bath with an ancient snake god and he wanted to… brush her hair? This was beyond expectations. Honestly, this wasn’t how these meetings usually went at all. “You don’t have to do something like that… I-I wouldn’t make you.”

“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t want to, E~ri~na~” he replied with a teasing tone. “I asked, so if you like the idea then please, don’t hesitate.”

She really couldn’t argue with that, could she? “...A-Alright, if you really want to?”

“Mhmm….”

At that she turned a bit, her back facing Dio’s chest as he finally reached over. Ever so gently, he began to run a comb through her long blonde hair. He hummed to himself as he set to work. “I hope you don’t mind the smell of roses. I only have that scent for myself, it’s my favorite.” He was careful with the comb, making sure not to rip through knots as he encountered them.

She was so lost in the feeling of him working the comb through her hair that she almost forgot to answer. “Hm? Huh? N-No, it’s fine. It’s a lovely scent… at home I like to wash with orange blossom and honey. It’s not much different in theory, I suppose. Still a flower~”

As Dio worked through her hair, he added shampoo and other oils meant to clean it and she couldn’t help herself as she leaned against his bare chest.

“Orange blossom and honey? So that was the scent on you when you came in?”

Erina laughed a little dreamily as his nails grazed her scalp. “No, no. That was mud and rain, I believe.”

“Cheeky,” Dio muttered, reaching over to pinch her cheek. She snickered as he did so, fully enjoying this, even as she swatted his hand away. “Well, I can’t procure you rain and mud, but the orange blossom I think I can find.”

“Are you planning on bathing with me again?”

“Dunk your head,” Dio told her then and she did as she was told, scrubbing the soap from her hair before resurfacing with a gasp. “Excellent. And yes, perhaps I am planning on it if you’re unopposed~”

“And if I said I needed more convincing…?”

“You drive a hard bargain…”

The snake gave a low laugh as he reached for her hand, raising it gingerly and inspecting her uneven nails. “You know, I can have these taken care of for you~”

“Huh? No it’s okay,” she replied quickly. “You don’t have to call anyone in for me.”

Erina watched as the edge of his golden tail flicked against the water. “Oh no, no. You misunderstand. I mean I can take care of your nails. Personally, myself.”

“... Really?

Without any further word, Dio simply placed the comb back down on the rocks. Erina glanced now and saw it was ivory, carved into the shape of two twined snakes above the teeth. But once he dropped the comb, he immediately picked up a file and reached for hands. Carefully, he started running the file over the edge of Erina’s nails.

“I didn’t say so for my health, you know,” he teased. “I find this to be most relaxing actually. I ask my attendants to help me occasionally, but I find that I’m the one who knows exactly what I want. So please… if there’s any way you’d like me to go about this, let me know.”

Erina thought this was rather surreal, a god filing down her nails into elegant shapes in the bath of his own accord. She almost didn’t know what to make of this… “Oh, um… I don’t-- I’ve never had this done. Not like this. I’m frankly not sure what looks good.”

“Well then... just tell me when to stop, alright?”

“...Okay.”

Under Dio’s surprisingly expert touch, her uneven nails tuned smooth and neat. Once she had stopped him at what seemed like an appropriate length, she took a moment to admire them. They were filed into an elegant oval shape that made her feel fancier than she ever had. As her nails were shaped up she gasped when he pulled out various pigments. Things like that were reserved for the rich. It was never something she could afford…

“What color do you think?”

She looked between the few he’d had out. A deep red, a black like his own and a gold. 

“Perhaps the gold?”

Dio grinned as he reached for the color, readying himself to paint her nails in the luxurious gold. “Wishing to look like a treasure…~?”

“Perhaps I wanted to match you,” she fired right back, with a flirtiness she probably shouldn’t possess with a snake deity. But while she expected laughter at her words, instead his cheeks turned an even darker shade of magenta…

But that was the bath right?

Dio cleared his throat and began to apply the glittering pigment. “W-Well then, I suppose we’ll match.”

The conversation died down as Erina watched the artist at work, painting her nails completely in the color she had selected. Occasionally he messed up, his brush leaving specks of gold against her skin. Though, usually when she looked up to see what he was doing, he was looking at her.

After a bit, her nails were done and she waited quite a fair amount of time for them to dry. “...Thank you for this,” Erina said finally, chancing a look at Dio once more and finding him looking right at her. “I don’t often feel this… taken care of. Certainly not this fancy, either.”

“Mm, it looks like you ought to get used to it.”

Erina laughed just a bit. “Oh, is that so? Even if I’m staying, you would want to pamper me like this every day? That’s a bit unusual for a human sacrifice if I do say so myself…”

Dio merely snorted. “You have been here for weeks darling, you haven’t been the ‘human sacrifice’ in ages. You’ve been Erina…”

Oh, that was… that was nice to hear.

“...Good to know.”

She almost couldn’t sit still. Didn’t want to. They had rested comfortably in that bath for quite some time and she was feeling faint just looking at Dio. She turned away, facing the edge of the pool and stood up a few moments after, trying not to think about what Dio could see from behind her only. With one glance over her shoulder, she smiled at his wide eyed, intrigued look.

“I think I’m getting a bit overheated and tired. It might be time for me to rest.” With that, she emerged from the bath and watched Dio almost lean forward as she reached for a robe that had been left for her on the rocks. Once she was enveloped in the lovely soft fabric, in her favorite shade of blue (a pleasant surprise!), she turned to Dio.

He too was emerging from the bath and reaching for his own robe. A little black silk number he left open, much to the delight of Erina’s traitorous roaming eyes.

“Well, there is one place I wanted to show you before we retire…”

“Another place…?” Erina questioned, her brow raising. “What room haven’t I seen yet?”

Dio smirked. “My quarters…”

“O-Oh…”

“Relax,” Dio called before she could draw any untoward conclusions. “I have some decor I’d like to show you… if you don’t mind?”

Erina made a show of thinking about it but she knew her answer already…. 

“Y-Yes, of course I don’t mind.”

With their robes donned, Dio led Erina out of the baths and through a different doorway. Various swathes of fabric hid the inside of the next room from a wandering eye. As he lead her through, past red and blue, green and yellow and purple, they arrived in a large cavernous room.

The first thing Erina noticed was the large carving and painting along the walls. What wasn’t painted was inlaid with precious stones. It was a scene of deep forest, turning to seaside turning to desert all seamlessly in the circular space of the room. Along the walls there were inset shelves, littered with scrolls and codexes even older than the books in the libraries. Dio’s own personal collection she imagined. A vanity was set up off to one side, snakes winding around a mirror and all sorts of cosmetics and jewelry along the table itself. Another fun detail were small sculptures everywhere as well.

As Erina padded barefoot into the chamber it was those that eventually held her attention. “Where did you get these?” She called as she marveled at a painstakingly created ship.

“I made them myself.”

At that, she paused and turned to face him, the ship held carefully in her hands. “You… made these?”

Dio nodded. “I rather enjoy model making. The attention to detail is relaxing I think…”

“This is all so lovely,” she grinned at him. The color rose to his cheeks again. “You have a real talent, I think. There’s so much detail here!”

Though his tail seemed to sway back and forth at her praise he crossed his arms across his chest. “Well thank you, but I admit, I didn’t bring you here to see my baubles.”

“...Oh?”

Dio slithered over to her and gently pressed his hand to the small of her back. Slowly but surely, he guided her to the middle of the room. She had neglected to see the large, circular bed in the middle of the room. It was stacked high with pillows and blankets in varying jewel tones. For a moment, she wondered what he was doing, until he stopped her right at the edge of the bed itself and pointed up.

Her eyes followed the path until she saw it then. The ceiling had been painted in swaths of deep purples and dark blues and in the stone diamonds had been embedded, glinting in the low candlelight around them.

Erina didn’t even wait for Dio’s go ahead, she spun in his hold and fell back into the welcoming embrace of pillows and bedding. Her wet hair stuck to her neck but she didn’t mind as she gazed into this shimmering faux night sky. Dio joined her on the bed, his snake tail draping and coiling around the bed and her as well.

“When my earliest worshippers built this temple here, they created these constellations to mirror that of the stars they saw in the sky. My mother, being of the moon, well it only made sense to have the night sky embracing me while I slept,” Dio told her, tucking her closer to his chest and not minding the moisture against his skin.

“...Were the constellations different so long ago?” She asked, nestled comfortably against him.

“Mmmm yes and no,” Dio explained, pointing up at the ceiling. “While some of these remain the same, others have disappeared over time... you still have the lion and the scorpion and the water-bearer, yes?”

“Mhmm”

“Well, this line here,” he showed her, following an arc of stars, “was a celestial river. While this one was once a falcon… I believe it’s an eagle now?” Erina listened closely and followed the shapes he traced with his fingers. 

“Amazing,” she whispered, making out the flow of the river and the wings of the eagle.

Dio glanced down at her. “And what stars were you born under…?”

“The bull,” she answered, while she wasn’t well versed in the stars, this she knew.

The snake snickered at her. “You’re about as stubborn as one, the way you bit that one fool’s finger.”

Erina’s cheeks flushed. “H-He deserved it! And you know he did!”

“He did, he did~ And just desserts have been delivered swiftly.”

Erina had no idea what he meant by that but before she could even ask about it, Dio had meandered into another explanation about stars. He traced out the shape of twins and the maiden in the ceiling stars for her as Erina’s eyes grew heavy. Before she knew it, his voice faded and faded until she was awash in comfort and safe in the warm embrace of sleep.

When she woke next Erina had no idea if it was morning or night but she did know she was tired… and wrapped up in something. She blearily blinked her eyes open only to find Dio gazing down at her.

“Mm… ‘s it early?” She asked dumbly.

Dio seemed amused by this and smiled. “Good morning,” he teased. “Indeed, it’s early. Did you… wish to take your leave today?”

Dimly, in the back of her head, Erina knew this carried far more meaning. He didn’t mean to ask if she wished to leave his bed for hers, he wanted to know if she wanted to return home. Frankly, she didn’t want to move.

“If ‘s early… then… too early for anything like that. I’m stayin’ right here for now...” she mumbled and reflexively turned to burrow against his chest. Sleep would claim her again and she would make the decision to stay or go later. It was becoming less and less appealing for her to leave by the day.

Faintly she felt a pressure against her head. Did he just kiss her? A part of her hoped it was a yes, another was too tired to care.

(He had indeed.)

Unbeknownst to Erina, elsewhere in the village, two local boys were found incapacitated with snake bites as Jonathan Joestar returned home for the first time in months. The ire of the ancient snake god had been drawn to the village, people whispered worriedly, and no one could be sure of exactly why...