The ring on your finger is a monument, a shrine, a promise. It is a reward, a boon--and you have worked so damnably hard for it.
Missus Brando. It’s got a charm to it, certainly, though you care far less for the sound of it than you do the information and implication that comes with it. That above all, at the end, you are the woman that he’s chosen. That you are the one he’s deemed worthy being by his side, that his favor is yours and yours alone.
Gold, heavy and warm. Soon, it promises. Soon, and you will have what you’ve long fought for, all these years.
Beneath the ring, there is blood and sweat and poison and lies, so many lies. The foundation you stand on is shaky and poorly-constructed, the topsoil heavy with salt and dust. But still you stand and still you bloom, so what all does that matter to you?
Dio has learned, in the years you’ve been together, just what bloomed in you. He had learned how he had planted the seeds and made you come alive. All this, you had confessed to him warily, but he’d rewarded you with a soft smile, and that made it all worth it. So you had opened yourself to him, and he gently withdrew some of the flowers, replacing each of them with something better.
Within you grows Larkspur and Iris and Hydrangea, interwoven with bursts of Nightshade, Hemlock and Monkshood. All carefully and artfully placed and nurtured, and your garden is all the stronger for it. You are stronger, your garden protected by what Dio has given you within and what he has given you without. You are a poison garden, carefully tended to and groomed, and you are all the more happy for it.
You don’t know that this is love, per se, but it’s damn close and he’s yours, so what does love matter anyways? You belong to and with each other, which is more powerful.
But your happiness is not complete.
For all the evenings you've spent reading over the bible with your mother like the good, Christian woman you're supposed to be, for all the prayers and sermons and services and tithes, the concept of a creator has never much impressed you. But there one thing it has made you think about is eternity. Your whole life, you've worked towards getting what you want, and now that it's so close to being in your grasp? You can't let go. No, rather--you won't let go. Dio is to be yours, for all eternity, God and Satan both be damned.
You have long since decided that not even Death shall be able to part you from him.
The first time that Dio looked at you with something like possession in his eyes, you were already his.
Things have been....going well, oddly enough. It was almost unsettling, in a fashion: you were so very used to life being a continuous series of annoyances and frustrations, obligations you’d never agreed were yours.
You had bonded enough with Dio that it seemed that his adoptive father had taken notice of you, and in his due diligence, had sought out your own parents. So it was that you were invited to the Joestar family estate for a civilized evening of dining and conversation--with your parents alongside, of course. Your mother had never been particularly gracious about your propensity to wander and to act freely, but now she couldn’t seem to sing enough of your praises to Lord Joestar. It wasn’t bluster, by any means--each of her words was full of confidence that those speaking the truth only seem to possess.
You never knew just how highly she thought of you. There is something like warmth in your chest, and the smile you send her way is the closest to a true one than you’ve ever remembered giving her.
The food is wonderful, opulent but somehow sincere, like the rest of the estate that you have seen thus far in the evening. It is only now sunset, with the meal drawing to a close, and your parents no doubt set to take drinks with Lord Joestar---George, he had insisted---in his study. You envy them. You are enough of a woman to be wedded, to begin a family and to be a supportive wife to whatever husband is chosen for you, but not enough of one to be included in talks of your own future.
If you believed in God, you might pray that you’d not be given to that lumbering oaf Jonathan. He was intelligent enough, you supposed, with a pleasing face and frame, but the sheer earnestness by which he acted unnerved you--and annoyed you. He was so eager to know you, it seemed, to deem you a new friend (as you were aware he had but a mere handful, if even that), that you could barely answer a question before you found yourself verbally barrelled over as he announced some similarity between you where you only saw disparity.
Luckily enough, when George does invite your parents to speak with him in private over a drink or two, you are left alone with Dio and, rather regrettably, Jonathan. He was almost like a dog--so eager and excited at the mere prospect of the barest affections, he couldn’t hardly help himself in his boisterousness. You recoiled from him, for fear that he could casually trample underfoot the garden so carefully cultivated in you--but then Dio spoke.
“Jonathan, how did your French lesson go today?”
The dark haired-young man was taken aback by Dio’s query. “Well enough, I suppose. I do believe I may be catching up to you.”
“Then you completed Madame Chauvigny’s assignment?”
It was interesting to watch the face of one so lively fade from confusion to sheer dread. It was all you could do to restrain yourself from laughter as the Lord Joestar’s son scampered away to some unknown corner of the manse, no doubt to rush his way through whatever assignment the object of your attentions was aware of.
As soon as he turned a corner at such speed you’d been sure he would go careening into the wall, Dio spoke to you, and all else fell away (as it always did).
“Come. The library is this way.”
You follow after him, the fading light staining the walls both ahead and behind you in rich crimsons and violets, the sinking of the sun somehow forbidding either of you from speech. You didn’t ask why the library was his destination of choice--all would become clear to you soon, you were sure. But all the same, trailing after him, you felt that you were somehow in a dream.
You nearly felt water beneath your feet, rising up past your ankles, warm and soothing to you as you followed Dio into the darkness, sinking further and further, the barest hint of a single marking on a pale, bared shoulder, his broad musculature shifting with each and every movement as the heat settled down into your very bones---
The creaking of the door interrupts your reverie, and whatever it was you’d been seeing fades from your vision. Instead now, you see Dio in his crisp clothes, the pale skin of his face and spun-gold of his hair reflecting the forboding crimson soaking into every inch of space where light reached.
You wondered how you looked to him.
“After you, miss.” You don’t miss the smile playing across his lips, toothless and barely there--but there all the same. There is something playful in his tone, but you feel his eyes weigh you down like gravity as you step past him.
The library is expansive, to say the least of it, a veritable dragon’s hoarde of books. You find your fingers dancing along spines, tracing the embossed letters and the gilded pages as you peruse title after title. Engrossed as you are, Dio’s voice is a sharp reminder that you are not alone.
“Choose any book you would like.”
You murmur out a quick thanks, preoccupied with attempting to come to a conclusion of where you ought to even start. It would have to be something that your mother would not think to be unbefitting of a lady, as you intended to take whatever you read with you home, if only for an excuse to return.
Your eyes drift over several works by John Stuart Mill, whom you’ve heard spoken of in a rather derisive manner by your parents. No, you decide, better not to tempt fate where the ground below you was so fragile. These next few years, you are sure that you will have to play your cards tight enough to your chest that it will be a challenge for even you to see them. And then you see it--- “On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History”, by a man named Thomas Carlyle.
You pull it from the shelf, and flip through it, your interest only growing with each page. A series of lectures, identifying specific figures from various mythologies as one type of hero or another. There is something to it that compels you to continue reading, and you eagerly devour it as you find yourself taking a seat in one of the overstuffed chairs by the newly-stoked fireplace.
Already, you have very nearly consumed in its entirety the first of these six lectures, enthralled by the concepts which you are so greedily devouring.
“Fancy your own generous hearts’-love of some greatest man expanding ‘till it transcended all bounds,” Carlyle enthuses from the silent pages you find your fingers trailing over, as if to somehow pluck out the words that you might better consume them, “‘till it filled and overflowed the whole field of your thought!”
“I believe that my adoptive father seeks for you to be betrothed to me.”
Your eyes shift to look at Dio, who sits across from you, no book in his hands, his attention on you as rapt as your has always been on him.
“I would not hesitate to agree with you. What are your thoughts on the matter?” You will not admit it, but you fear his answer.
He says nothing, and gazes at the fire warming you both. Again, you find yourself very nearly spell-bound by how the light plays across his features, casting midnight-dark shadows and still managing only, even with such darkness, to emphasize his beauty. His eyes very nearly seem to glow in the low light, and you begin to believe that you understand the truth behind Carlyle’s words, and all at once know you’ve achieved knowledge the lecturer will never have: that such a man could exist.
Dio’s eyes slide to behold you, and you all at once know his answer without a single word.
It has been a late evening, and you are exhausted.
It was the season, and so you found yourself expected at a multitude of parties, hosted by this lord and lady or this earl or some social butterfly of a woman. You hate having to adorn yourself like some sort of doll, then go and be entertaining or some such nonsense. The pinching of your shoes, the aches of your ribs from the corset your mother insisted be laced too tight, the steady pull on your scalp from where your hair was gathered away from your face. Pain is beauty, you’ve heard tittered from woman after woman as you’ve grown up.
Dio is beautiful, and it causes him no pain. So should it cause you any?
Still, some small part of you whispers the efforts and aches are worth it, if only for the appreciative gaze that’s been upon you all night. He’s always thought you to be beautiful--because you are. That is merely an objective fact.
But the deep crimson you purposefully chose, the shine of your black gloves, the bright burst of the cameo clasped tight to your throat; all in all, you are a dark and menacing beauty. The lustrous fabric sits at the very edge of your shoulders, sloping low enough to whisper of enticement without any true indecency, your decolletage the only skin visible in this dress. It was a bold choice, certainly, and your mother was aghast when the completed version arrived from the tailor--but oh, it was worth it for this knowledge.
The knowing that you were, both in image and in truth, the perfect woman to be at his side.
He is the only person you would ever let lead you around on a leash--and that is because you donned the collar yourself.
But at last, the night had drawn to a close. Guests had slowly started making their way back to their seasonal homes, and you only lingered as long as you did out of a part of the competitive social life your family insisted that you lead. The night is a temperate one, so you’ve simply wrapped a shawl around your shoulders; just to afford yourself a slightly greater modicum of modesty, now that you’ve the potential to be examined by wandering eyes. Dio keeps you close to his side, your arm linked through his, your other hand resting on his arm.
There is only silence between you, but all the same it is a comfortable sort of silence. Companionable, if you had to choose a word. The walk will hardly be a long one, hence your mutual choice to forego a carriage. The evening air was pleasant enough, given that you were away from any sort of manufacturing that threatened to cloud the air.
Of course, the silence meant that you could have heard a pin drop--but that was not what you heard. Instead, it was the sound of footsteps trailing behind you. First one set, then two, then four--and Dio brought you to an abrupt halt as yet another set of men stepped out before the two of you, blocking the way.
It ought to be frightening, you supposed. One man and one woman, up against a band of at least six. But as your love’s expression stayed placid and calm, so too did yours. Even as one of the men before you began to speak, he sounded almost like he was underwater, the sound of his voice distant and muffled to you. All that you could understand was the slide of those golden eyes you coveted to look at you--a silent question that rang out like a church bell at midnight.
You inclined your head slightly, and let go of his arm.
You’d seen Dio play rugby a few times, and he was always a force to be reckoned with on the field. While Jonathan had grown to be a wall of a man, all strength and mass, Dio’s form was more lithe, built with all the agility and speed and power of a predator. To see it now, the way his muscles pulled and bunched beneath the layers of fabric as he moved--it was exhilarating.
Barely a few seconds passed before the speaker was silenced, cut off by his own cry of pain. Your suitor’s silhouette hid the ruffian in question from your view, but you caught a glimpse of a form crumpling to the ground. Something in your throat rose up, beginning to take on shape and form--a cry of victory, perhaps?--but the sound, whatever it may have been, was premature.
Your worldview shifted as you felt a rough tug and a shift of cool air across your chest and upper back, the shawl you’d been wearing torn easily from your lax grasp, your pin scattering across the cobblestones. A hand grasped roughly at your bicep, and you felt yourself being pulled strongly, twisted at the same time to face your assailant.
It was times like these that you were grateful for the fact that your mother let you consult privately with the tailor all those weeks ago, rather than hovering as she usually does.
In the folds of your skirts, towards your left side, lay a flattened out pocket. Barely noticeable, truly, and small besides. But it was just big enough for what you needed.
Your would-be-attacker didn’t have a change to speak before, with your free hand, you were slamming the long, solid hat pin you’d tucked neatly away into his eye. You felt the sickening pop of its surface, the sort of bursting you might come to expect from overripe fruit more than anything. The sound he made was a howl of pain and panic, immediately beginning to shake you as best he could, his grip on you much tighter now.
“Y-you--you little bitch--!”
Somehow, he didn’t see the second pin coming. Nor did his compatriots, even as they rushed forward to try and restrain you on his behalf.
This time, you pushed forward will all your strength--and were rewarded with the way his scream tapered off into a half-choked gurgle of pain, his form slumping to the ground. Briefly, you begrudgingly thought of Jonathan: how he’d lent you a book about human anatomy from his own collection when he’d seen you casually perusing the more grisly books in his father’s collection. It had been that text that informed you of the direct path to the brain through the eye.
It was a shame you were down two hat pins, but it was worth it for the sheer rush you’d felt, intense and warm, curling in the pit of your belly like a well-fed cat.
The two had been so eager to hold you back seemed less eager now, especially as they saw you reach once more for the pocked you’d had installed. The pallid hues of their faces was--well, frankly, it was hilarious as they turned and ran, fleeing for their lives. From you. You, of all people.
But another dull thunk drew you out of your moment, and you turned to see what had caused the sound--and were unsurprised to see that it was Dio, having dispatched the other he’d been faced with. Likely, the sixth had run off when he first saw your love draw his knife--something you knew he’d done, given how he wiped the blade off on the corpse before you.
It was not the knife that struck you as odd, no. You knew Dio well, enough so to know that he was never without a knife on his person. What was striking to you was the look on his face as he turned to face you.
It was a hunger, of sorts. The kind you’d never seen on him before--raw and greedy and threatening, sending a chill to pulse down your spine at the same time that low, dull heat returned in you. His eyes flickered about, taking in the remains behind you, and your somewhat more unkempt state in the present moment.
He stalked forward, lightning quick, and you did not move. He would not move with such purpose towards you unless it was for a reason, of course, and---
Your breath caught in your chest, trapped and halted.
In the span of perhaps only a second or two, you felt the winding tangle of fingers into your hair, and a softness against your mouth.
You’d never been kissed before. But now, as you felt Dio’s freehand skim the tightly-bound curve of your ribs and waist, you understood all the songs and poems and writings of love and lust. Already, you knew what love was--the all-consuming force that dominated your every thought and feeling for years now, the sensation of being whole.
But this--this was lust, raw and animalistic and angry. Before you quite knew what to do, you found your lips parting under Dio’s demands, delivered to you in the form of a harsh nip that seemed to set your nerves alight.
How could this--how could a singular kiss reduce you to mere rubble?
But you readily and willingly gave in, acquiescent as ever to Dio’s commands, even as the blood spilled through the cobblestones to pool under your feet.