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Nocturne

Chapter Text

You are fifteen years old when you meet Dio Brando, and you feel the world freeze for a few precious seconds, and then everything is changed.

(You don't know what this means now, but you will later.)

It is the Season now, and so you're living in a smaller home in London, meant to entertain. You are dressed like a doll within, and dressed like a doll without, every scrap of lace and strand of hair and dainty wrist perfectly sewn, pinned, worn. You are shown off, like a prime cut of meat, both within your butcher's shop of a home and the slaughterhouse of social gatherings.

Dinners, parties, tea time, dances--they are all the same, blended together in half-thought words you don't spend time on and half-true thoughts that you don't recall. You dance and you laugh and you smile and none of it means a damned thing. Everything is cold and cruelty trimmed in silks and brocades and the gentle tinkling of glasses in the low light, the burning of oil filling your nose as you uselessly drift from arm to arm to arm.

A calf waiting for the slaughter. A doll waiting to be shown off.

You hate it as much as you can, half-numb as you are. Your parents are good people, who mean to do well by you and find you a husband who will leave you well enough alone but make you comfortable. A good life for you, with a future involving a good home and a good husband and good children, just as they have been so lucky to have.

You do not live in the poorhouse. You do not work in a factory. You are not used and discarded in a brothel. Things could be far, far worse for you than they are. Corsetry and gossip and an eternal eye on you are a small price to pay for the luxuries and comforts that you have, that belong to so few others. In between all that, there are small, brightly shining moments that almost catch you, almost make you pause and look and feel. They never quite reach you, but they are the closest you have ever been to escaping the hollowness of your chest.

You smile and you laugh and you dance.

You're dancing with a boy, on the cusp of being a man. He stammers and laughs and shifts about as nervously as only someone on the brink can, and you follow his eyes to a young, golden-haired girl at the edge of the crowd surrounding the dance floor. This is another of those shining moments--the warmth and the hollowness behind each of their eyes as they find each other is, you think, what people call love. It fills the air so potently that something almost seems to bloom in the barren garden of your heart--but then you are spun away, and the thin thread between them snaps, insignificant and trodden underfoot by the oncoming wave of dancers.

As the music swells and drops, neither you nor the boy holding you speak anymore--he lost in thought, and you only half-thinking once more.

He lets go, and you find yourself automatically in a curtsy as he starts to bow, the motion only half-seen from the periphery of your vision.

But then you feel a hand taking yours, and hear someone ask you for a dance.

Most people sound like they're underwater, far away and insignificant. His voice rings clear and true and real, and you can't help how you look up, eyes trailing along the arm attached to the hand holding yours. You make your way slowly up, time unbearably slow as it always is in moments like these---

And then time stops, and something inside of you catches as your eyes meet his.

You know you might not look anything like the boy and his lady love, separated as they are, but you feel like there is something here that is close in intensity, snapping and crackling and coiling low, waiting to strike.

Time starts again, and you feel something in you bloom as, in response to his request for a dance, you tell Dio Brando (not for the last time in your life)---

"Yes."

Chapter Text

You are chaperoned, everywhere you go. It would hardly be proper, your mother tells you, for an eligible young woman to go wandering about alone. What if something was to happen, and you were spoiled by some uncaring ruffian only concerned with what laid beneath your skirts?

Anger broils in you as you wonder why that matters at all, and the fact that you think it bothers you, so you say nothing and reflect inwards.

Ever since that damned dance, there’s been a single thought continuously looping through your mind--the deep, piercing gaze of the young man you’d danced with. No, not piercing; he was subtler than that. Something in you had bloomed, coaxed open by his careful eye, and ever since that night, the seeds he had shown you had taken root. Spun from gold and carved from marble, he was a display of art made fluid and solid and real , and you’d been fool enough to reach out and touch, to feel the perfect marble against your own skin.

Now you are left with a garden in your chest, bright and sweet-smelling and busy with life. You don’t know what to do with all the new thoughts and feelings that bombard you, so you take it one moment at a time.

In this moment, you decide you are angry at your mother. No--irritated. That’s the word, isn’t it? After all, being chaperoned is certainly a disadvantage, but not entirely a detriment. You know the city streets well enough to get away if need be, but the annoyance of having people telling you who to stand and chat with, which shops to see, what to buy...the weight of it sits in your chest, and you can feel it shift, something new taking shape within your chest.

The longer your mother speaks, the heavier that feeling is, and the more you feel as if you won’t be able to hold back your own words. You aren’t used to this clarity, to being so present and being able to respond so quickly without so much as saying a word.

Something in your face must give way, give some hint as to the secrets growing inside of you; your mother is looking at you strangely, the same shrewd eyes you see in the mirror drinking in every detail--from the gentle (deliberate) fold of your hands in your lap to your even (cold) gaze. You know she is looking to make sure you’re alright, motherly concern living just beneath her skin and fluttering around the air between you two, but not quite reaching you. It never has, and it never will. You were born a daughter, but you did not choose it, and so it is inconsequential to you.

“Is everything alright?”

You compose yourself. It wouldn’t do, for anyone else to see you like this. If they’d known you were hollow...you’re not sure why, but you feel now that it would change something. So you nod, and say with the same neutral face you always had,

“I’m perfectly fine, mother.” You’re not sure if you’re lying or not, but in that moment, you make it your truth. She searches your face for a few moments longer, and then decides you’re telling the truth. You’re not sure why she does--perhaps because it’s never mattered to you whether what you said was true or not.        

That seems to be the end of that, and you are glad of it.

So you are taken into town, your mother at your side. You have an appointment at the tailor’s--it would hardly do to be unfashionable, your mother tells you. Already you are fifteen, nearly sixteen, and with any luck this season would cement the marriage proposals she was sure had been thought so carefully of for several years now. Yes, you were quite the prize--your family one known for the generosity, but their shrewd business sense as well, with the added bonus of noble blood and charmingly good looks.

Some days, you wondered if your mother hadn’t simply seen you sitting in an abandoned bassinet and thought to take you home. It would have been a better explanation for how you ended up in such a family.

But all thoughts of the season, of your bloodline, of marriage and all the trimmings and bindings it would come with that so enthralled your mother faded in a second as you caught sight of golden hair ahead of you.

Your feet were not your own as you found yourself gripping your skirts, dashing forward after him. The sounds of the world were muted once more, your mother’s calls after you incomprehensible to you. Your whole world was new, changed, warped and twisted a new once more at his mere presence. Air was water, and you were swimming as quick as you could, desperate for a push of air into your lungs.

So close. You’re so close, now. Just one more push of speed, even as your head reels, as your heart pounds, as your breath stays caught low in your throat---

Your hands don’t even touch him before he turns to face you. Again, you are caught in the perfect gold of his gaze, and everything in you blossoms and blooms and increases tenfold, the green filling every inch of what was once the empty cavity you called your chest.

“You never gave me your name when you danced with me Ainsworth’s party, just over a week ago.” Again, you think your mother may be calling for you, but you don’t know and don’t care. What matters, the only thing that matters is standing in front of you, the strength of his gaze almost enough to reduce you to a mess of shaking hands and trembling knees.

“Did we dance together?” His voice is almost a sneer, thinly veiled, and you are glad of it. If he had given you approval instantly, you wonder why it was him that planted a seed in you.

“Yes,” you affirmed. “Right after a young man of similar build to you, who was clearly pining after...I believe it was Erina Pendleton.” The two of you were familiar, if only in passing, thanks to meddling mothers and multiple tea parties.

Something like pride swells in you as you catch a flash in his eyes. You hear the quick clicking of heels behind you, and sure of your mother’s impending approach and reprimand, you speak up again, demanding.

“Might I have the name of the most competent of all of my dance partners of that night?”

A slight curl of his lips, just at the very edges, thick lashes framing half-closed eyes. It’s like being dropped into icy water, for this-- this is an expression you understand. He knows the game you play, and appreciates the compliment for what it is regardless--a fact.

“My name is Dio Brando. And yours?”

You give it to him, even though he knows it already. It’s there, in the slow close of his eyes that another might take for nothing more than a wink. He’s testing you, seeing how long you’ll comply with his demands and utterances.

A while longer, you decide. You want to know the man who so greatly changed your whole world, and you want him to want you by his side.

Both his rooks are out, and your hand is on the queen, but he doesn’t yet realize all the pieces on the board are black. That’s alright. Now that you’ve found him, you won’t let him go.

Chapter Text

Over the days and weeks to follow, you come to know the young man named Dio Brando, adopted son of the Joestar family. Your parents seem well enough content with your pursuit of him--you hear whispering a between them of a future for the two of you. It would all depend on how he turned out, of course: your hand was one well worth bartering over, and your parents wouldn't fold until they were sure they had the best deal possible.

Like selling cattle. You were an investment, not a child. You'd be fool to think otherwise.

Still, as much as you did not care about the approval of your parents, having it--even if only tentatively--certainly made things easier. You found yourself more and more at functions with Dio, and always you made your way to him. He seemed bemused by your intentions, but didn't take you all too seriously. You understood; a young man with his wit and beauty would always be well-sought after, especially now that he had a linkage to the ever-noble Joestar family.

So, you decided to impress him.

It was a warm summer’s eve, at an outdoor dinner party when you impressed upon him just how desirable of a partner you could be, dowry aside. The two of you were walking together, the perfect image of good breeding and careful tutoring as your hand was delicately placed in the crook of his arm.

“Have you met Lord Pembrook’s son, Daniel?” You queried, voice honey-sweet and light. You hated to talk in such a fashion, but so close to the rest of the crowd, it was best to not let your facade slip, even for a moment. You watched his brow quirk, no doubt noticing the discrepancy between the saccharine time of your voice and the utterly bored and blank look on your face. You had a natural talent for manipulating any given aspect of yourself individually, and you were glad of it, now that you'd caught his attention.

“We’ve spoken once or twice, but not at any sort of length,” he replies, golden eyes scanning the crowd for the subject of your conversation. “Or any sort of depth, for that matter.”

“Yes, well, one could say he takes after his mother’s side of the family in such regards.” The Lady Pembrook, née Turner, was well known for her folly and flights of fancy. Her daughter Mary was more practical, but already the Pembrook house was slated for poor fortune under Daniel’s clumsy hands. “Regardless, I have not spoken with him in some time--and he seems to be with Duke Ellington’s boys as well. I've not yet had the chance to make my acquaintance with them. Shall we remedy that?” You let the barest hint of a smile curl the edges of your lips, and you watch as Dio quickly takes in all the aspects of your expression and speech.

You watch a slow smile unfurl across his lips, and you feel a thrill up your spine at the barest hint of cruelty behind it--there for only a moment, mind you, but you saw it all the same.

“Yes, I believe we should.” He wants to see what it is you have to show himself, and inside you the garden he made blooms open at his careful tending. Foxglove and belladonna fill the air inside your chest, and let it soak into your lungs, your heart, your very soul as you approach.

“Mister Pembrook!” You call, breaking away from Dio with a bright, easy smile on your face, saturating your speech with familiarity. At the sight of you, he lights up, coming forward to take both your gloved hands in his own.

“Ah, there you are! I had heard you would be here this evening, but I hadn't yet seen hide nor hair of you.” His hands are clammy and damp with sweat, even through the silk of your gloves, belaying just how infatuated you'd already made him with you. A brief burst of pride rolled through you; it had taken more work than you had expected, but now he pined for you, striving for your attention whenever possible.

“Well, I wanted to surprise you, but by the time I had the notion, you were already socializing! And here I thought that you would at least ask me to dance.” You pout at him, childish petulance jump starting his own hurried defense.

“Ah, I should love to dance with you, my dear--”

“Mister Pembrook--”

“Daniel, you must call me Daniel.”

You hesitate just long enough to let a false flush arise in your cheeks, lashes lowered and eyes focused down and away from him as you correct yourself delicately. “Daniel.” You glance up at him, the very image of a demure woman, as you say “I couldn't very well gallivant off for a dance when you've not even introduced me to your friends--and you've ignored my companion as well! For shame.” Your tone is teasing and feather-light, but you mean it. All the same, you can't help a small private moment of pride once more; you can tell that he’ll be awash with shame in just a moment. You own him.

Just as you predicted, he seems flustered by this, as if you've shocked him with the fact that the two of you were not, in fact, alone. As he flails about for a few moments, struggling for words as his sallow skin shifts to a pinker hue, you dare a glance at Dio. He seems uninterested, but there's a sharpness in his gaze as he keeps it on you. He's seen the hold you have on the pitiful creature before you, and he's interested to see the rest of your talents. You feel warmed by his attentions, heartbeat picking up just the slightest bit--and the moment dies as Pembrook speaks once more.

“Ah, it seems I've forgotten my manners! I think I can hardly be blamed, in the face of your beauty.” You fight the urge to burst out laughing as he prattles on. “Eric, Christopher, Simon, let me introduce--”

“There's no need,” Eric interrupts, arrogance and confidence dripping off of him. An easy target, then. “I've already gathered our darling miss’ name from your fawning.” He takes your hand, rather presumptuously, and kisses it before bowing over it with a smarmy smile. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, miss.”

You let a hand drift to you cheek, turning your face away in a feigned fluster. The motion is just enough that you're able to watch through your lashes as his eyes trail down the graceful curve of your neck, drifting to your breast as it swells with a breath. Far too easy. Christopher seems to be equally as enthralled by your physique, but Simon seems almost uninterested. Good. You didn't want only easy targets.

“I'd no idea that any of the Ellingtons would be aware of my presence here tonight,” you cooed. “But I certainly shan't complain of your attentions, sir.”

“Good, for I should hate to deprive you of them.” You let a giggle slip out of you.

“Well, gentlemen, my companion this evening is none other than Dio Brando.” You indicate the young man beside you, who takes a half step forward to better be a part of the small circle you'd seemed to form. “We have become rather well-acquainted as of late, and he was so kind as to offer me company this evening, since my mother was unable to attend this little soirée.” It had only taken the barest hint of hemlock earlier this week, then a drop or two of laudanum in her tea this morning. Her constitution was exceptionally weak, so it never took much. You didn't want her dead--you just wanted time to work your charms.

You watch Pembrook’s face twist in an attempt at recollection of your companion for a few long, insufferable moments. How dull could he be? Finally he spoke up, having apparently accessed whatever grey matter he had in that thick skull of his, rotted as it might be.

“Oh, Jonathan Joestar’s adopted brother?”

If you hadn't been watching closely, you wouldn't have noticed the second-long flash of anger in Dio’s eyes, the slightest tightening of his fists. You would both enjoy it if he pummeled Pembrook, beat him until his face caved in. Perhaps later--but not just yet.

“Indeed I am,” he nearly croons, charm rolling off of him in waves. You very nearly preen, thrilled at how alike you two are.

“I saw your boxing match the other day,” one of the Ellington brothers comments. “Your speed was unbelievable!”

“Well, I do my best,” Dio comments, his small smile making him seem good-natured and humble. “I aim to excel in all that I do--after all, if it is worth doing, then it is worth doing to the utmost of your abilities.”

“Here here!” Eric laughed. With that, he introduces you both to his brothers. Christopher is good-looking enough, you suppose, but is plain and dull in every other way, content to simply drift along. But Simon..there is an intelligence there that surprises you.

Not as sharp or large as your own own, of course, but one can only do so much.

As he takes your hand, introducing himself formally, you let recognition dawn across your features.

“Oh, pardon me, but--you are a medical student, aren't you?” You watch him blink, a bit surprised at the sudden introduction of a topic.

“I am, yes. I aim to be a physician.”

“How noble!” You praise. “I do so admire any sort of medical professional--how you have so much room in your head for names and terms, let alone any sort of...any sort of....” You pause, lower lips drifting into the slightest of pout.

“Nomenclature?” Simon suggests, and you fight the instinctive curling of your lips into a snarl. Instead, you coax your mouth into a smile, clapping your hands delightedly. “Why, yes! I do believe that was the word. Thank you very much for saving me from making a fool of myself.”

Simon smiles, and you watch as his shoulders roll back, spine straightening as his chest fills with confidence. It could be so, so easy to reach inside of him, to plant weeds and watch them take root. Already, you can tell he thinks you to be some feeble little woman, and you've counted on that to make your play this far. He doesn't suspect a thing, it would be so easy---too easy. You want a greater challenge. After all, this is not about Simon, it is not about the Ellingtons, and it is not even about you.

This is about Dio.

So, you decide, you are going to steal from Simon.

It's no surprise that Simon is carrying around several vials of liquids and toxins a young man of good breeding really need not be having on his person. After all, he does think himself a doctor already, even if he's barely past the halfway point within his university. The slight bulging of his coat over one breast gives it away, along with the occasional flash of the vials as he moves, having left his waistcoat open. It is almost humorous. No doubt he could help in an emergency, but to carry around poisons and antidotes?Unnecessary.

A smile comes to you as the two of you dance, unbidden, thrilled at just how helpful this will be. It was easy to beckon him to take you for a dance--it gave him a leg up over his brothers and Pembrook both, and you'd found that if men enjoyed one thing, it was competition. Now, you need only figure out where what is located on him, and then take it for your own.

By the end of the dance, you've discerned he keeps all his vials in his inner pocket. You saw the beginning of the neat, handwritten label disclosing which was arsenic, as well as distilled foxglove. Both easily within your reach, if you played your cards right. So as the dance continued, you made sure to stumble, your smile fading. Your skin did not pale, but you carefully and expertly manipulated your expression to make it seem as such. And then, just as the last few bars of the song start up---

Your eyes roll back into your head, and you drop to the ground limply, perfectly mimicking a faint. A chorus of astonished gasps occurs, and you find Simon kneeling beside you in an instant. Worriedly he hovers, his presence felt keenly even through your closed lids. Gingerly, you feel one arm curl around your shoulders, lifting you from off the ground, bringing you closer as Simon looks you over. You let out a faint moan of discomfort, letting your lashes flutter as the young man draws you closer. Dazedly, your eyes slide open to meet with this, your hand landing at the edge of his lapel as you grip it--but then your eyes slip closed once more as your head lolls back, your hand sliding from the cloth.

“Is she steady?”
“Is she alright?”
“Has she become ill?”

The murmurs and suggestions continue as the gathering crowd seems to focus on Simon, and he on them, trying to answer questions. You stay still, revelling in your victory as you feel the small glass vials you have been aiming for this whole time firmly in your pocket. Grabbing them was easy--the hard part was to conceal them without damaging the glass as your hand fell from Simon’s lapel, and then rolling them into the small, pocket-like compartment at the side of your dress.

And, of course, there is no rest for the wicked. Just as you slip the small vials away, beginning to stir at last, your keen ears pick up on the sound of clicking shoes as your eyes land upon Dio, who is slow approaching.

There’s something now to the line of his shoulders, and a depth of darkness within his eyes that you’ve never seen before. You find your breathless with his gaze upon you, constant and unflinching. He knows you’ve done something, and you quiver at the way that all within you struggles and stretches for the light of his attention, your very heart hungry for whatever he could decide to give you.

He kneels, and reaches out. Simon seems reluctant to let go of you, but he does without a single word of protest. One arm tight around your shoulders, Dio helps you to your feet, allowing you to lean into him. Pembrook and the other Ellingtons are not far behind, each with some version of worry on their face. It is a veritable struggle to not laugh in their faces at how easily fooled these men are. But you do not, and you simply let your form slump against Dio’s at the others pry.

“Gentlemen,” Dio finally snaps, his smile only slightly thinner and crueler than before. You feel his fingers tighten around you just the barest bit, but you have a charade to keep up, so you keep your reaction internal. “As the young lady’s escort for the evening, it is my duty to take her home now that she is at risk of ailment. If you would all be so kind as to help me call for a coach?”

Eric speaks up, already waving over one of the footmen scattered around the opulent event this evening. “Of course--you, fetch the Ellington carriage, and take these two wherever they need going.” The plebian Eric commanded nodded, hurrying away to have the carriage brought around.

“Will you be alright, my dear?” Pembrook asks, reaching for one of your hands, and you are glad at how sick you are playing at being, as it gives you an excuse to clutch at your support in the form of Dio.

“I am fine,” you simper. “Merely tired, I think, but Mister Brando here will take good care of me; I trust him implicitly.” Pembrook’s churlish, immature face falls, and you cannot help the laugh rising up within your throat, even if you are careful not to let even an iota of noise to such effect. Even now, it simply stuns you how oafish a single person can be, but if there’s one thing that Daniel has taught you, it’s how unbelievably easily people can be fooled if you merely tell them what they want to hear.

He goes to say something else, and you wonder how much longer you could be forced to suffer his grating presence. Even though very little of your evening has been made up of interacting with him, you are sure that he is so assured in his own misguided feelings that you might soon receive a marriage proposal. You will, of course, turn it down, regardless of what your parents might have to say. But with some luck, the carriage belonging to the Ellington family arrives, and you find yourself assisted by no less than five men when it comes to climbing into the carriage. Weakly, you say your thank yous and goodbyes, waving almost limply as the horses begin their trot, pulling away from the party and the men you’d so easily wrapped around your fingers.

A few minutes pass in silence, Dio studying you without saying so much as a word. You watch him in return, absolutely refusing to flinch or crumple. He’s seen how you can wind people up, and now you will show him how steadfast you can be.

Your hand slides into your pocket, and you daringly toss the two small vials at Dio, who snatches them out of the air with complete ease. He turns them over in his hand, and you watch the edge of his lips quirk into something almost like a smirk, one brow lifting. “Well, I hardly expected a young lady such as yourself to have Strynchnine and Cyanide on her person.” There’s something snide to the tone he takes...but perhaps a bit of gladdened surprise as well. You may well be reading into things, but you will take it and take it gladly.

“I have no need to carry such things around so blatantly, Mr. Brando. A lady has other weapons at her disposal. No, these belong to a certain Simon Ellington.”

His gaze snaps to you, face neutral as he studies you--and bursts into a short laugh. “What, inside of his coat pocket? I knew that the Ellingtons were a special kind of foolish, but perhaps I ought to reconsider my opinion, given the brashness I saw tonight.”

“Oh, no,” you correct with a smile. “What you saw tonight was the bravado they bring out around women. They think they have their pick so easily, and it makes them weaker than one might suspect at the outset.”

He continues to turn the vials over and over and over in his hand before his fist closes over them, removing the poisons from your sight. “Well, thank you for the gift of these, my dear--I must say, this evening was far more entertaining than I had expected it to be.”

“I aim to please,” you return, and you want to hate just how much you mean that in relation to him--but you don’t. Instead, you find your heart pounding, lungs expanding and garden blooming when those golden eyes stay locked on your own, perfect lips forming the words that you had no idea until this moment you wanted to hear:

“You succeeded.”

Chapter Text

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.

Belladonna.
Oleander.
Philodendron.

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.