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Hold Me Down

Chapter Text

Today was the day... Today was the day Johnny Joestar was finally being moved out from his pristine and clinical looking room he had nearly been kept inside a month for testing and scientific jargon. He was finally going to be out of the large room and teamed with a roomie, possibly some complete stranger, given the circumstances. The room had outside curtains so scientists could peer in on him at times then jot whatever dribble they thought was necessary. Thank god he was going to be someplace where they couldn't look in all the time like stalkers. The only door at the side of one of the four walls then opened up and a shaky lanky man in a white coat stepped in. The man seemed thin, nervous, and slightly ruffed up. He shook a bit, letting his long blonde hair wave about behind him. " U-Uhm Mister Johnny Joestar? Are you ready?"

"Ready as I'll ever be." In truth, Johnny wasn't entirely looking forward to joining the general population, basic privacy notwithstanding. He'd never been a natural social butterfly, even in his playboy days. It had been money and status back then, that had greased the wheels of interaction and made it all run smoothly. And without that, well, he didn't have a lot left to offer. He wheeled himself out the door, before the stranger could offer to help. Those scientist types were always quick to push his chair, like he couldn't get around himself. They were too much like doctors. But beggars couldn't exactly be choosers; Johnny was just glad to have a roof over his head and free meals at this point.

The quaking man was indeed, about to walk in to help push the wheelchair, just like Johnny had predicted and instead stood out of his way before going into the room and picking up a pair of crutches the lay on the bed's mattress. He rushed out soon behind the young wheelchair-bound man holding the crutches closely to his chest with great care. This guy was a scientist... Right? All the others seemed more orderly and down to Earth... But then there was this stooge. At a closer look, the scientist seemed to have a scar trailing down the side of his nose and down his face. Maybe he got it from someone here, but then again Johnny could give less of a shit about this man.

The man spoke out shyly, " Okay, we're just going to take a few turns around here and we'll be there. Your cousin Jonathan put in a good word for you and specifically asked me to help you while he's busy." The blond gave a faint smile.

Ah, of course, saintly Jonathan, Johnny's least favorite cousin. Josuke was fun to play the straight man with, Joseph was easy to get him to do stupid amusing things and Jotaro at least kept to his own business, but not Jonathan. On top of stealing Johnny's name (both sides of the family swore it was purely coincidence, but Johnny knew better) Jonathan was just so damn friendly it was impossible to hate him, which Johnny took as a blatant challenge. Oh well, if Jonathan had sent this dork then perhaps he would be as angelic as the man himself, and therefore as oblivious and naive. Johnny followed down the hallway, trying to catch a glimpse of the main living areas as he went. No such luck, the walls were bare and featureless. Several windows with curtains over them that were oddly on the inside, as if Johnny was outside a building. Bare metal doors with small doorbells with intercoms jutted out nearby on the plain walls near the doors. Each door had several papers tacked to the walls and on the door, much like medical notes. He shouldn't have expected anything less from such an institutional environment, especially with the fluorescent light above him and smooth tile under his chair's wheels. The lanky and slightly older man's smile vanished as he wasn't greeted and sigh a tad in a tinge of discouragement. The guy was honestly trying to help, but in Johnny's eyes, he was just another scientist. Someone who gave petty orders and prodded him with tests.

The man focused on Johnny, almost walking past their destination. He paused and took a step back, " ... Erm, oh here we are." Johnny pushed himself back in slight annoyance; he as well had passed by the door that looked just like all the others. The scientist cleared his throat, " You'll be having a roommate so please do try and get along-Though Jonathan said you'd be alright. Er-Anyways! If you need anything, just let me or Jonathan know. My name is Speedwagon-But you can call me Robert, l-like everyone else does-"
He was cut off by the younger male giving him a look, he quickly reacted to it, " It's not my foundation. It's my grandfather and dad's, so don't associate me with them." He sighed before opening the door to reveal a large room, like that of an apartment. It sported two beds, two desks, a table, television set, a horrendous purple shaggy rug, bathroom, several bean bags, and even a small kitchen. Speaking of which... Over the counter of the look in kitchen had something that smelt really good, almost heavenly in a way. It was definitely something to make one's mouth water.

Just then, across the counter of the see in kitchen swirled around a tall young man to look back. The man was a lean build with long dirty blonde hair with stubs of... What were those? bandages on the sides of his chin? He smiled showing off hideous golden grills as he tilted a large hat with laced sunglasses on it. " JOHNNY!" This man was Gyro... Johnny's longtime childhood friend.

"No way. No fucking way is that you, Gyro." Johnny was taken aback, all apprehension at the concept of a roommate vanished. Gyro... Gyro fucking Zeppeli, stupid gold teeth and all, leapt to his feet and crossed the room in a second. He lifted Johnny out of his chair with ease, and into a tight hug. "Is this where you've been for three years?!"

"Yeah," Gyro said, a little sheepishly. "I tried to get a message to you, but ya' know, that's not really an option." He looked down at the wheelchair and frowned, like he'd only just noticed it before placing Johnny back onto it. "What happened?"

"Tell you later." Johnny didn't fancy getting emotional in front of some random dorky scientist. And he knew that emotional would be an understatement in this case. Gyro's disappearance had left him completely alone, isolated, and the accident had been a direct result of that solitude.

Speedwagon-Or rather Robert heard the hint of worry in Gyros voice and proceeded to take his leave, upon backing out slowly and grabbing the door's handle. " Uhm, uh... I'll just be... Going." He softly closed the door before proceeding to flee from any trouble, or being spotted by one of the higher-ups to be told to do something he'd rather, mostly paperwork.

Gyro rubbed the back of his neck and let out a slight sigh before placing his hat onto the table nearby. " So, turns out I had gotten a stand. Figured it out when I was trying out for baseball." He crossed his arm and leaned onto the plain wall. " Nearly tore a rookie's head off. Good ol' pop sent me here." He raised a hand to wipe the tip of his nose before his eyes scanned over his old friend. " What the hell happen to you?" Johnny could easily tell he was upset and worried when he got this certain tone of voice, knocking off any kind of humor and diving straight into seriousness.

Johnny sighed. "Got in some shit after you vanished into thin air. Messing around, picking fights over nothing. One of them had a gun. I was being an ass and he shot me, right in the spine." That wasn't the whole story, but Johnny wasn't about to make his long-lost friend hate him immediately. "After that, things went downhill pretty fast. But I got a Stand and I needed a place to stay, all expenses paid. So, I ended up here."

His old friend sighed, taking in the information before shifting over to the wheelchair and grabbing a hold of Johnny's hand before giving him a stern look in the eyes. " I seriously wish I hadn't been sent here. I really wish I could'a been there. Help ya' out-Hell maybe both of us could have helped each other. Shit Johnny... Maybe you wouldn't have ended up like-..." His eyes gazed over Johnny's lame legs. " Like this, dude." He started to shake off the pained feeling of seeing his friend in this position and flashed a smile, showing off those stupid gold grills." But since you're here, I'll be here for ya', man! Just like before!"

Johnny sincerely hoped he was right. After his brother, Gyro had been his only real friend, and had stuck by him even when Johnny was being shitty, which was more often than he liked to admit. His disappearance had only made that aspect of Johnny's personality worse. It felt like a dream come true, seeing Gyro there, like he'd been granted a miracle, which made it all the more unbelievable. Miracles did not happen to Johnny Joestar. "Just like before," he repeated, allowing himself a small smile.

Gyro's smile only grew as he saw a small and subtle one cross his friend's face. The blonde put him in a very light and playful headlock before rubbing his knuckles against the red head's cap, making the weird laugh like he used to, just how Johnny remembered it. " Nyohoho!" Afterwards he released him from the slight rough-housing and gave a thumbs up. " As long as you're here, I'm 100% behind you-well unless you start shit like that one time when we got suspended from school for a week... But other than that, I'll be right here for ya'-"

And just like that, there was a knock on their door. No matter how small the chance was, there was a part of Johnny that thought, this was it. He instinctively grabbed Gyro by the arm and held him tightly, as if he could somehow anchor his friend to the ground and keep him from moving, from being taken away again. Because things this good never came without a catch, not for Johnny. That feeling of protectiveness was something he hadn't felt in a long time because there hadn't been anything left to protect, and he couldn't lose that along with Gyro. Gyro chuckled as Johnny held onto him, since he had been going through some things himself. Possibly as much as his friend or not, it was unsure. The door opened up to reveal a stern man standing in the doorway, tall and professional, dressed in a lab coat like the others. The man had a sullen look upon his face, with brooding eyes to match, but was otherwise unremarkable. The only thing that really stood out was his short spiky black hair. He looked over at Johnny and said, "Mr. Joestar, would you care to take part in an experiment?" Another scientist hid slightly behind the taller one and looked worried. It had been the same one who led Johnny out of his old room and into this one, and by the look on his face, he seemed far more nervous now.

As the one asked Johnny about something, Gyro's face went a bit grim. He knew better than to yell at the scientists to butt out, but Johnny JUST got here! " Hey whoa, back the fuck up, he just got here-"

" Yes but we-we really need a new candidate to try and open up to DBSM..." Robert shifted in a bit, looking rather guilty, considering he had just got Johnny settled down in a new environment. Gyro groaned, knowing full well enough of the User dubbed, 'DBSM'. " And I highly doubt you'd want to try and talk with him again, considering last time made him violent." Robert's eyes glanced away as he pulled up a clipboard to barely hide behind.

Johnny narrowed his eyes at the two, "Is that a sex thing? Because it sounds like a sex thing. I'm not saying I'm not on board, but it's going to be weird if you guys watch." As far as he knew, the Speedwagon Foundation was one of those outside the government but still black ops type labs. He wouldn't put it past them to be doing some really kinky shit, what with no oversight and probably like a whole warehouse full of classified documents.

The first scientist shook his head. "It's nothing to do with sex."

"You sure?" Johnny asked. "Like a hundred percent sure?" Everybody knew places like the Speedwagon Foundation got up to all kinds of stuff, and he wasn't about to end up in the middle of it.

Gyro couldn't help but nearly burst into tears of laughter and instead held a large smile, snickering lightly before shaking his head side to side, calming himself down. Gyro's serious tone came back again as he knew what a pain in the ass that one subject could be. " No Johnny, they just want you to go into some dingy old room and talk to one of the more violent Stand Users. I do it, your cousins do it, their friends do it-Hell, even Jonathan does it to try and calm down one really bad case. I'd take your place, but I ain't talking to that asshole again. 'Sides, I'm sure they wouldn't let me near him considering I made the guy flip his shit..." He muttered the last part lightly.

Robert shuffled a bit behind the first, " It's not that bad..." He said softly, disputing how shitty Gyro made it sound. He looked back up and held out a finger to speak up." A-And Mister Jonathan is trying his best with DBTW. And besides Gyro, we've already had one success. And well... Johnny, that success was your other cousin, Jotaro. He was a bit aggressive and didn't let anyone near him until we brought another User in to talk with him. We're just trying to help people out."

" And you want me? ... In case you haven't noticed, I'm not exactly the friendly type." People didn't tend to like Johnny very much, other than a select few. He didn't try to make people like him, not anymore. Whoever this Stand User was, they would most likely see him as the abrasive jerk he was, and the whole endeavor would be nothing more than wasted time. After all, who was Johnny to act as some kind of moral role model? But judging from the scientists' faces, mainly the more orderly one, he didn't have much of a choice. " But I'm guessing this is one of those requests that don't end in no."

" Your cooperation is entirely voluntary," the severe scientist answered. " Unless you wish to lose certain privileges." He glanced pointedly at Gyro.

The slightly older young man than Johnny glared directly at the first scientist and stood up defensively, " You can't do that! Jonathan put a lot of work to make sure Johnny wasn't booked in with someone he couldn't be as a roommate-Robert, do something!" He shouted to the shaky scientist who hid behind the other.

The shaky man from earlier let out a long sigh, " I know, I know. I'm really sorry, you two, but we're running out of options for DBSM to talk to. We don't want to drive the more violent users crazier than they already are. People need others to lean on and to talk to. People need some type of social interaction. I know this is sudden-but, nobody wants to end up alone."

"Fine. I'll do it." Johnny couldn't give less of a shit whether or not this DBSM ever connected with another human being and discovered the true meaning of friendship or whatever bullshit the Foundation wanted him to do. But he couldn't risk losing Gyro. With Jonathan involved, the chances of the threat actually happening were slim, but he wasn't willing to allow that possibility to even exist. It was strange, to feel so strongly about something. The last few years had passed like the surface of a pond. Things might fall in and disturb the water for a minute or two, but it would return to nothing soon enough. It had been suffocating.

The first scientist smiled, and moved out of the doorway, allowing Johnny to pass. Gyro was about to interject Johnny's decision but he recalled how the redhead could get at times, especially when given little choice. He had only experienced it a few times in the past, something deep down inside his friend which he dubbed, 'Johnny's Dark Determination'. He gave a worried look and told the wheelchair-bound boy he'd wait for him to get back, wishing him good luck as well. Gyro could be stubborn as well, but he was slightly better with making friends due to his sense of humor. But his real friend was and always would be Johnny. Anything that happened to Johnny made him worry in ways he wasn't used to. As Johnny rolled out, he noticed a small nametag on the first scientist, which read Dr. Kawajiri. He made sure to keep a note on that as Kawajiri gestured down the hall, and said, "We'll be taking the elevator to the basement."

 

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Once in the elevator, Speedwagon-or well, as Gyro and everyone else had called him, Robert- nervously stood there with the other two, only due to the tension in the air. And once out, there would only be a stronger strand of it. Robert took the time to take out a metallic bracelet with a neon blue strip as the only color that stood out, and snapped it onto Johnny's wrist. Once around his wrist, it instinctively clamped like a magnet before Johnny could even realize it was on him. " Sorry, it's for safety measures. You can't use your name or anyone you know. No locations either or you'll get a slight tranq shot. It'll affect the other user as well."

"Oh, well that makes me feel a lot better about being tranqed. At least I won't be alone." Johnny rolled his eyes. If Gyro was right, he'd just end up talking to a guy for a little while and it wouldn't do any good for either of them. So at worst, a waste of time. But as the elevator doors shut with a clang in front of him, he couldn't help but feel somewhat apprehensive. Stand powers were dangerous and unpredictable. If this Stand user was violent, there might not be much anyone could do to stop him. That would be just Johnny's luck, dying right after he found a long-lost friend.

The basement was somehow more oppressively gray than the ground floor of the building. Buzzing halogen lights cast a sickly orange glow across the concrete floor, turning the shadows of Johnny and the scientists into a faint haze that followed behind like fading ghosts. The walls were ribbed with steel and metal plating crept up the ceiling like scales. Shock absorbers, most likely. This place could withstand an earthquake, a bomb, anything, and the worst it'd do would to stir up the dust. It was a prison, with no chance of escape.

Robert followed along as Dr. Kawajiri led the way, the new area making the already semi-jumpy man a bit more tense on the edge. The scientist didn't normally come down here too terribly often, and when he did, it was normally with the other Joestar to help with DBTW, who was one of the more dangerous individuals in the entire foundation. Robert could have sworn that madman was something inhuman, like a vampire or something worse. He looked over to Johnny and decided it might be best to help ease him down for Jonathan's and Gyro's sakes. As they followed behind the more suitable scientist, the long-haired blond rubbed his arm as a sudden breeze of cold air swept over them for decontamination. " D-Don't worry. Unlike you, the other user has... A... A shock collar." He mentioned to Johnny to comfort him, but he himself didn't fully agree with the method in case they tried to get violent. "And besides, the first few times, there's a solid steel wall sprinkled with diamond tether, making it impossible to penetrate through."

"Of course." Johnny wasn't about to reveal his anxiety, but the words didn't do much to reassure him. He wasn't particularly well-versed in Stands, but he had heard the stories. They were beyond imagination, able to grasp the fabric of reality and rip it in half. At least, some of them could. Johnny's own Stand was an embarrassingly cute little elephant... thing. Tusk wasn't a bad Stand, but it wasn't exactly reality ripping material. The room Dr. Kawajiri led the group to was little more than a cell, bare concrete walls with only a single fluorescent panel embedded in the equally bare ceiling. It seemed to be wired for sound, with a small speaker and microphone placed on a folding table against the far wall. Johnny sighed and pushed himself to the table. "Let's get this over with."

" I-If you continue, eventually, later sessions will include a chair, bed, flowers in a vase, table, things to look more homely and-" Robert was quickly cut off by the more mature scientist shut a steel door behind Johnny. Right in the middle was a large steel wall that seemed to sparkle and glitter here and there. Like he had said though, it kept the two stand users from actually seeing each other. Sure it was all probably in protocol or some bullshit, but it seemed strange either way.

Before Johnny could even say a word, a small speaker jutting from the wall nearby announced someone's presence from the other side of the thick, heavy, and sturdy wall. " ..... He-Hello?" The other stand user didn't sound aggressive, but more curious like a cat fussing with something that intrigued them. But it may also be a cover. Not seeing the other person was rather unnerving. Talking to someone Johnny never even met before, a total stranger. Not knowing a damn thing about them, but on the bright side, it was that way for the other as well.

"Hello?" Johnny repeated back, unsure of exactly what to say. "Can you hear me?"

" Yeah, I can hear you. And it's a pleasure to meet you... Um, what was it... JJT. I am, of course, DBSM, I'd be more than happy to give my real name. But heh, you know..." This guy sounded rather young, more than likely around Johnny's own age. What was with the gentleman talk? 'A pleasure to meet you?' Who says that anymore-well besides Jonathan...

"Yeah, tranqs aren't pleasant." Whoever this DBSM was, Johnny already didn't like him. He sounded like a waiter at a fancy restaurant. His speech was clearly practiced, but still imperfect. Johnny knew how the upper-class talked, having been one himself, and this was not it. Close, but slightly unnatural. "So, uh, how are you doing?"

" Well... Let's see, I'm just sitting here, trying to make a friend and such, been here for about five years all alone with an itchy as fuck shock collar... So I guess I'm doing alright, all things considered." The sarcastic type... Wonderful. " And you? How are you feeling?"

"Better than you, it seems." And with that Johnny had exhausted his repertoire of small talk.

" ... Heh, and here I was hoping to not get a smart-ass. Oh well~," The unseen User sighed out.

Johnny puzzled over what to say next. What magical, morality reversing phrase did they want him to say? He got an idea. "Hey, so are we allowed to talk about Stands without getting knocked out cold?"

" Huh? Yeah, we're allowed to. Honestly, it's fairly tedious when you can't turn yours off. For example, I have heightened senses, but I can control somewhat of a good majority of it. Well, at times... In fact." There came a small noise like a dog sniffing the air for a scent of sorts. " Hmm, you smell like those strawberry and banana smoothies. What shampoo do you use, Peter Rabbit Organics?"

"No," Johnny said, a little too fast. "That would be ridiculous. I don't use fancy shampoo, and certainly not one with a fruity scent. And frankly, it's kinda creepy that you smelled me." And then to quickly change the subject. "What makes yours so dangerous? There wouldn't be all this production if it were just a really good nose." He wasn't really sure why he asked, but it seemed like an important thing to know. For his own safety, at least.

The other remained silent for a bit until Johnny's answer was finally heard, " I change into a scary monster. Sometimes I can control it, but more than often I kill people. Hurt 'things' that I normally w-wouldn't hurt. Kill horses, who didn't do a fucking thing-Even ea-eat them sometimes..." This DBSM guy sounded slightly shaky as he told hints of his stand. However it didn't last long as he snapped himself back into reality, going back to sounding chatty, " And what would yours be then~?" He chuckled as if he was a cat, snatching up a huge rat in its claws.

"My Stand?" Johnny realized he hadn't really thought this through. What was he supposed to tell this guy, that his Stand was a cute little pink alien thing that let him shoot his fingernails? Compared to the whole werewolf situation happening on the other end of the speaker, Tusk was nothing. "My Stand- Uh-" Johnny made a split second decision. Go by prison rules. Act like the toughest guy in the room, and maybe he could bluff his way out of a potential life-or-death situation in the future. If this guy got loose, maybe he would be too afraid to kill Johnny. "My Stand, well, it can... It can make anything stop, even like, time. Yeah. It can stop time. Anyway, you like horses?"

The more violent user seemed to actually perk up a tad at the sounds of this. " Huh, go figure. Didn't know my cousin wasn't the only one who could stop time-" A sudden loud thump was heard, more than likely the other male slamming his hands on the cheap table and barking madly at a wall, as if it was one of those one-way mirrors. " I DIDN'T SAY A NAME YOU BASTARDS! HAHAHA!" He cackled out, " YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT THAT!" After the sudden riot, he finally went back to Johnny in the original tone he had used, again perking up and possibly ecstatic in a sense. " Horses? Heh-yeah I do. I grew up with them. It's like they were the only ones who understood me-What of it?" He suddenly asked in a defensive manner.

Johnny leaned away from the speaker, wary of another outburst. It had been surprising, sure, but Johnny was intrigued. The man seemed unstable, but there was something underneath the anger, something that sounded almost sad. Something Johnny knew all too well. "I used to race horses. Learned to ride when I was little and turned out to be something of a prodigy."

The other user started to sound more excited, for once enjoying the fact that he didn't feel totally alone and had the slightest connection with someone. " Really?" He chuckled out, but not in a creepy tone. The laugh was more of a fond one. " This is going to sound fucking stupidly ironic, but I did too. Ever since I could climb onto a horse's back, I turned to racing. Some people called me a genius. I never felt more alive than when I was riding a horse, the breeze in my face, jockey, and mount speeding down the track as one." He sighed as he took in old pleasant memories.

"Yeah," Johnny said, his voice barely above a whisper. He too was remembering a time when he had been called a genius on horseback. Back then, he had taken the horses for granted, thought they'd always be a part of his life. The things he'd loved were the roar of the crowd, light reflecting off a gold medal, his name on the lips of a girl he barely knew. But the horses themselves, they were background. He hadn't realized how much he loved them until they were gone. "Do you remember your first time riding?"

" Yeah, yeah. I remember. Me and my mom worked for some-" He gave a small guttural growl, " Bastard who owned a ranch and track." And just like that, the resent was gone again. " Hehe, mom told me I could make friends if I raced with the other young jockeys. Except, the other jockeys were more experienced, shunned me. But damn, when I beat them and got the prize, their faces were hilarious! HA! They told me I was real good, a smooth racer. Invited me to hang out." The other user was starting to getting rather sentimental, only to have it snap away so suddenly. " Thought I finally got some friends-Tch! Hehe, god I was so stupid... To think they cared, always daring me to race with them past the train-tracks into town-Hehehe."

Johnny could hear something dig into the table on the other side. However, he ignored the scratching sound, as if he were entranced by something. It was like hearing an echo of his own voice. The resemblance was uncanny, even a little worrying. Could this Stand User read his mind? Perhaps he somehow knew who Johnny was and was simply fucking with him for a sick laugh. Still, it wouldn't hurt to return the answer. "I was real little, maybe four or five. My brother took me out to the stable one morning before anyone else woke up and sat me on his horse. I was terrified at first, but once the horse started moving it was like the whole world molded itself around me. Like I could do anything."

" The tracks, the tracks-Huh?" The other muttered lightly, he had been delving into his own past before snapping forward to hear the other's voice explain how he felt nervous and scared at first. He listened carefully, snickering at the thought of a small child being scared by the majestic equines. " I know that feeling. Especially being raised in a place with so many. My mom took care of them, showed me they weren't to be feared. Did you ever feel the same adrenaline as your horse, heart beating as one?"

"No. Back then, I was too wrapped up in myself," Johnny said, and a bitter laugh tumbled out with the words. "Still am, to be honest." He wanted to stop talking, stop telling secrets, but it felt good. The other man was trapped in a concrete cell, and trapped in his own mind by the sound of it. Faceless. No pitying eyes, no oh poor you, just quiet understanding and a story to match. It was comforting in a way he couldn't describe.

The user behind the steel walls complained with the other, not in a pity, but more of understanding. " Yeah, I used to as well. It all goes to your head and ego when you have it all. It lasts until the world around you crumbles down, spitting you up back into worthless and uselessness." He grunted in discomfort by his own memories and shrugged it off to hear Johnny's next statement.

"If I could ride again, maybe I would feel it. But it's too late for that." It had been Johnny's first question upon waking up in that hellhole of a hospital. Can I still ride? No. He'd thrown that away along with his future.

Upon hearing the small wish, the man responded. " Huh? What do you mean? You're more stable than I am. I'm sure you could ride again, I mean why wouldn't you be able to? Because you're in here? Pth, so?! Don't let this shithole get to you!"

"I can't," Johnny said, with a tone of finality that he hoped would end that line of discussion. He didn't want to break down, not with Speedwagon scientists waiting just outside the door, not in front of a dangerous man he couldn't even see. Normally, he could talk about his injury without too much emotion, but these were not normal circumstances. Too many ghosts were back to haunt him. He let the silence hang like a shroud.

The other user stayed in silence as well, he wasn't the best to cheer anyone up. Instead, the two sat there in an awkward stage of nothing before the speaker let up again, the other knowing full well Johnny didn't want to continue the discussion.

For the first time in years, the unstable man felt a slight connection in the world, and he wasn't going to give it up. Not one bit. " ..... I'd like to talk with you again."

After that, the door behind Johnny opened up with Robert giving a slight hopeful smile. " Tha-That was amazing, DBSM has never opened up so fully to someone! We might actually have something! If you'd like, we can schedule another meetup, you'll get to pick the steel wall or an indestructible blurry glass!" Robert seemed fairly excited, before slowing himself down from Johnny's tone. He coughed nervously, " Uhm... Erm, dinner is uh being served. You can go to the cafeteria now, Mister Joestar."

The room was suffocating. Johnny knew he should refuse another meeting. It was stupid to think he could somehow save this DBSM, not when he'd already failed to save himself. Because Johnny was no saint, not like Jonathan, not a good man and he never would be. Because those memories hurt, a deep pain that cut clean through his body and cloaked itself in his flesh. Because, more than anything else, he wanted to forget. And despite all that, Johnny looked at Robert and said, "I'll talk to him again."

Chapter Text

Gyro was more than thankful once Johnny came back. Sure it had only been about twenty minutes, but it seemed like an eternity to see his old friend again. Having seen Johnny again after three years, only to have him be taken away again pained the blond. But on the bright side, Gyro had been so happy from the news that his friend would be his roommate, that he went out of his way to cook his old pasta and share it at the large cafeteria. The dirty blond had managed to find Johnny and himself a nice round table with three other people, two of which Johnny knew. His cousins, Josuke and Jotaro, and a young man in a green coat with even more red hair than Johnny. " Nyohoho! Heya' guys, look who's here~!" Gyro was more referring to himself and Johnny than just Johnny.

The last thing Johnny wanted after the ordeal in the basement was a family reunion, but it was clearly unavoidable. He offered a quick "Hey." and stared at his hands. Jotaro wasn't too much of a problem; the ocean scientist (or whatever the fuck he called it) was quiet and reserved, rather like Johnny himself when it came to socializing. Josuke was a different story entirely. He was upbeat, outgoing, and an all-around pain in the ass to deal with, the sort of guy who was just too friendly for his own good. Johnny had been out of the loop with family stuff for a couple of years now and really only distantly involved before that, but he hadn't heard about his cousins ending up at the Speedwagon Foundation. Just how many of his family members were locked up here?

And of course Josuke smiled brightly and leaned over to give his feisty cousin a hug. Thankfully hope formed in the way of Gyro who instead held out a plate of pasta for him and shifted his eyes and head a tad. The younger male noticed and happily took the plate, leaning away from Johnny's personal bubble. He rubbed the back of his neck to give a softer smile, " Hehe, it's nice to see ya dude. It's uh, been a while..." Josuke wasn't one to be known for awkward small talk, he was more energetic and a mischief maker than a get-along, sappy kind of guy. But seeing Johnny's disposition made the air tense in a way. And again, Gyro came to the rescue, distracting the pompadour headed teen, questioning him about his roommate.

" So, where's Okuyasu at, dude?"

" Oh, he's talking to that chef guy again, really bad stomach pains-" The words trailed off as Johnny tuned them out and was left with the other two non-energetic men.

"Johnny," Jotaro said, as if simply stating his name was an acceptable greeting. He smiled, well looked slightly less stern than usual, in an attempt to ease the tension. Johnny was largely an unknown in the Joestar family, from a distant branch that didn't interact much with the main group. He had been famous for some kind of horse racing, and then suddenly he wasn't anymore. Jotaro supposed it had only been a matter of time before Johnny showed up at the Foundation. After all, every Joestar developed a Stand eventually, all of the cousins minus Jonathan at least. He gestured at his friend. "This is Noriaki Kakyoin. Kakyoin, Johnny Joestar."

The smaller man sitting next to the marine biologist looked up from a book and gave a kind smile before nodding. " It's nice to meet you, Johnny. I know things are new to you and this place houses many people from your family, but honestly, it'll be alright. Though, you don't have to take my word on it, I mean, I am just a stranger to you... But if you're part of the Joestars, I'll be more than happy to help you out." With that, he went back to his book. The guy seemed alright, he knew about personal space, being friendly, and knew not to press anything. He hadn't even batted an eye by Johnny's wheelchair. No pity, no over-friendliness, just a known existence. It was calming in a strange way. Just a neutral type of man who seemed to keep to himself, but slightly more open than the burly man next to him.

Johnny turned his attention to the meal Gyro had prepared. His cooking had been one of the many things Johnny missed in his absence. Gyro was a good cook, not spectacular but better than passable, but his recipes were all the kind of Italian food restaurants didn't even make in America, and that made the food something special. This meal was no exception, some mushroom and white sauce dish that probably came with a name Johnny couldn't even begin to pronounce. He started to wonder just how much freedom people like Gyro had at the Foundation, if he could get his hands on ingredients like this. "Am I allowed to tell you about the guy downstairs? These people seem pretty quick to knock you out for talking about the wrong stuff and I'd much rather enjoy my lunch."

The others enjoyed their meal as well, only for Gyro to stop halfway, nearly dropping his fork. He put a hand onto his hat and lowered it down in front of his eyes before shifting his eyes and head around. He whispered over, " We can but... Not too publicly. Speaking of which..." He stopped hunching over in poor secrecy and looked about. " Where's the security guy?"

Josuke smiled and chuckled. " Seeing as there's not many people here, Joseph got wound up from the lack of noise and went to challenge him. Today was the big guy who loves challenges and showing off how strong he is, so you have him to thank for that." He snickered, fondly remembering the other Joestar growing bored and actually running up to one of the major guards, challenging him, right in his face. " Basically, while he's not here, you can talk about it a bit, just no names. Well I mean, full names. Not those shitty code ones. Don't wanna get in trouble somehow. Hell, Jotaro used to be downstairs. Ain't that right, big guy~?" And there he went, poking the bear...

Jotaro gave Josuke his best glare, making the younger Joestar brother lean away from the sharp piercing gaze and silently slurp up his own noodles. The larger man gave a slight grunt, "Yeah. It's tough down there. Like a prison just for one inmate. No contact with anyone else. Most of them lose their minds pretty quickly." He turned to Johnny. "You get a sane one?"

"I think so," Johnny answered. The man in the basement had been unstable, but not detached from reality. "Just a little... feral." That was a good word for him. The sudden changes in tone, the animistic growl that lay just under the surface, the man had been a wild beast gnawing at the bars of his cage, but he was still human somewhere. Not all the way gone yet. "He said he had family down there with him. A cousin. Just how many people have they got here?"

This made the other redhead look up from his book. He closed his eyes to think momentarily before reopening them again to look at the wheelchair-bound male. " Stand Users aren't too common, but this is a rather large establishment. I wouldn't doubt they have at least a hundred or so cells. Maybe more... Secure, each and every one. Stand Users have only been found recently by the Foundation. But apparently they've been around for years, people just suspected it was magic or something." He stroked his chin, racking his mind for more information. " Though, having relatives isn't unheard of. I only know of a few. Jotaro, for example, who use to be down there. Some kid with their older brother down there, that Polnareff's trying to help out. Some crap involving one being able to skip time while the other can see the future or rewind a few seconds, something of that nature. Then there's..."

Gyro took over the talk and gulped slightly, which was hard for him to do. He wasn't one to fear something, let it be a fellow human. " DBTW... The guy's real bad news. We don't know who he is, but we've all heard snippets from Jonathan and Robert. Guy is fucking insane and egotistical. Course Jonathan won't tell us his name, but we do know he has a cousin. Shit, maybe those two are related-Oh god, that'd be horrible." Gyro groaned, rubbing his temples. Just thinking about the man was enough to set him on edge.

What had Johnny gotten himself into? He had just been looking for a place to stay, and now he was in the middle of what was looking more and more like some kind of government-sanctioned mass kidnapping operation, complete with monsters in the basement. "So we're sitting on a time bomb. If one of those fuckers gets loose, who knows what could happen..." Johnny shook his head and sighed. "And it's on us to talk them down. Well, if that isn't motivation I don't know what is."

"It's not going to work," Jotaro said, breaking the uncomfortable silence. All eyes focused on him immediately. "I've been down there with those guys. They're too far gone." Jotaro hadn't seen the other Stand users during his time downstairs, but he'd sure as fuck heard them. Concrete walls didn't do much for soundproofing. He felt a sudden wave of dread, not for his safety, for that of his little sister. Jolyne was good in a fight, but she was still so young. If an enemy got to her before he could...

Gyro knew rather well that Stands ran in families, however some members were untapped by the powers, like his own brothers. He changed topic slightly. " Rumor has it they got a special team just in case and the place has been around for about fifty years or so, and no one has managed to escape. But we don't know any of that information. I don't think even Jonathan knows. All I've heard of are rumors of some priest guy helping. Apparently, he fell for DBTW a few times but was pulled back into reality by Jonathan and a few other people. It's hard to say exactly..." Gyro sighed, looking rather upset and grim. " We don't have a hands-on how good their mental state is for certain people, but we do know most of their powers just in case something did happen... DBTW can apparently stop time from what I know. Though I was never able to get far with DBSM, to know his. So afterwards, Robert told me he had something to do with turning into a fuckin' monster. Honestly, only thing I know, the guy haaaates trains... So if shit goes south, there's some ammo Johnny."

"Thanks." Johnny was curious if this had been something Gyro had been told, or if it had just come up in normal conversation, but that wasn't really relevant. Out of nowhere, a bell sounded, a harsh electric buzzing played over crackling speakers. The others got to their feet with their trays in hand.

"Lunch's over," Jotaro said, and they all separated and left the cafeteria

 

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Once dinner was over, Gyro leaned back in his bed, fiddling with his bizarre goggles he always had upon his hat. He was content, happy, smiling, all because his old friend-his best friend-maybe his only true friend was right there beside him. Sure he'd had other roommates before, but no one that could fill his lonely void. He glanced over to the wheelchair-bound boy and noticed a slight uncertainty on Johnny's face. " Hey, you okay?

"I'm fine." It was a lie, but a simple one to tell. He couldn't risk anything more difficult. Even after all the time they'd spent apart, Gyro still read him better than anyone else.

" You're not afraid they'll bust out or somethin', right? Look, don't listen to Jotaro, man... Guy is such a stickler."

"Jotaro's my cousin. I know he can be a bit protective, especially when the family's involved." If Jotaro was worried about something, it was probably serious. Very little actually fazed his cousin, and even less prompted fear. "The guy I talked to was okay. Not normal by any meaning of the word, but okay. Like I said, he wasn't completely out of it."

Gyro squinted his eyes as if he could see something clearly written on Johnny's face, before raising a brow. " Yeah, I get that much. But seriously, the big guys a major stickler, but it's easy to tell he cares. Most people don't see it, but I'll agree to that." He kept his gaze on Johnny, knowing something was up. He tried to ease into that with agreeing and conversing with him before he continued. " Least you didn't have too much of an issue with the DBSM guy... And it's even better that you won't have to go down there and chat with him again... Right?" And there was the Zeppeli's stubbornness.

"I'm going back." Johnny knew Gyro would object, and he wasn't quite sure himself why he was so determined to speak to DBSM again, but it felt like what he needed to do. It wasn't pity, Johnny knew all too well how false pity was, it was something else entirely. Talking to the man in the basement had been like looking in a mirror. All the despair, the hopelessness, the barely-contained rage, it all created a perfect image of himself reflected back in that desperate voice. Johnny was a selfish man. He didn't give a shit about DBSM, but more than anything he wanted to fix those flaws in himself. And DBSM offered a chance for redemption.

His friend's skeptical look faltered into an odd mix of anger, concern, shock, and a hint of fear. Gyro's mouth gaped open as he took in the information from his old friend, and he dropped the shades he had been messing with. " Are... You fucking serious?" He quickly shifted over so his legs dangled off the side of his bed, his fingers digging into the mattress below him. " J-Johnny! Johnny, wh-what the hell?! Why the fruity flying fuck are going back?! Did they make you?! Please tell me they made you!" He started to slightly hyperventilate at the thought of getting his friend back, only to have him in danger that wasn't there, or at least not too much. " Dude, just leave the guy! He's long gone-Don't get into the middle of that! I don't want to lose you again!"

Johnny turned away. He couldn't watch Gyro like this, but at the same time he couldn't back down. "I've already made my choice." It hurt seeing his best friend panic, it fucking hurt like a knife through his chest. "Gyro, I'm not a good person. I've never been. And he's like me. Fucked up. If I can fix him, maybe I can..." He trailed off into silence. It sounded stupid even though it was true. Johnny's life had been a series of mistakes. Nicholas, the accident, everything had only led him deeper and deeper into desperation. He couldn't give up a chance to fix it all.

Gyro settled down and remained silent as he listened to his childhood friend. " ..... Fix yourself?" Gyro sighed deeply as he rubbed a hand against the side of his head. He knew how stubborn Johnny was, and he knew he wasn't the nicest person around, and was selfish for the most part. But seeing him here, confined to a wheelchair, not able to race anymore... It tore Gyro up inside. He didn't want his friend to be broken and feel like he didn't belong anywhere. He then came back to the thought of what he had told Johnny earlier, about having his back, just like the good old days of their youth. " You just wanna' fix yourself. Maybe do something 'good' in your life, is that it?" Gyro scanned over Johnny, knowing full well the other wasn't going to dare look back.

"Yeah," Johnny said, quietly. It was all he could do to hold his voice steady, to keep it from shaking too much and sending him over the edge into full on tears. "Maybe I do." Gyro would understand. He would yell at him and be as stubborn as he could, but he would understand that this was a thing Johnny had to do, that this was the only way he could live with himself. Because Gyro had to understand. If he didn't, Johnny would have no one else who could.

Suddenly Johnny felt something grab hold of his left hand. Once he looked over to whatever it was, he unfortunately saw Gyro's worried face as he clasped his hands on his. His anger seemed to have flickered out, all because he could read the other like a book laid out before him. He knew what Johnny was like, he knew he could break down and be sensitive at times, claiming he couldn't do anything right and doubting himself. " As a roommate, I'd say you're a fucking idiot and stop speaking to you for about a week..." He exhaled a bit and shifted his eyes away. " Possibly yell at you and fight you." His glance went back up with a small but hurt smile. " But as a friend. I already told you, I'm right behind ya'. No matter what. I'm not gonna' sit here and do nothin' again. I'm gonna' fight to stay beside you and your dumb decisions."

"Thank you." It was all Johnny could think to say. He looked up at Gyro, at the fear and worry in his eyes, at his stupid gold teeth and his impractically long hair and his tacky lipstick, and he smiled back. Just a little one, but it was enough.

 

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It took almost a week for Johnny to be called back down to that basement cell. The argument with Gyro was still fresh in his mind, but outwardly things had been as perfect as anything could be between the two. Gyro had gotten over the argument for the most part, but was mostly angry at himself for not being able to help his long-lost friend. The past three years had been lonely for him as it was to Johnny, only he didn't suffer as much as the redhead. With that, he felt even worse, he couldn't know what Johnny was going through. He was just happy to have him back in his life again, it gave him peace. As for Johnny, things were beginning to come back as he remembered how it had been before Gyro had disappeared, before his life had completely gone to shit. Which of course meant it was time for everything to be thrown up in the air again and for him to be sent to talk to DBSM. The knock came in the middle of the afternoon, while he and Gyro were busy playing cards and talking about nothing, ending all hope of a peaceful afternoon right then and there. It was ridiculous, how the scientists still knocked on their door when there was nothing keeping them from just barging in any time they wanted. Some false sense of courtesy.

Gyro sincerely hoped it was Josuke or Kakyoin, " ... Come in!" His faint smile was turned over as he saw the two former scientists walk in, and groaned. " I was fucking winning too..." He said as he looked at his cards that lay in his hands before folding them.

Robert shuffled in, still shaky like always. It was easy to say he didn't look forward working with the Users since most thought of him as just another ordinary scientist ready for test. But unlike the others, he strove to be friendly as possible. Yet in a bizarre sense, he did like to work with them, but again was only let down from what his job asked of him. But it was clear he was more nervous when he was with his superior, Kawajiri. He fumbled with a clipboard in his hands, " U-Uhm Mister Joestar, y-you have a choice today. You can either go back to the steel wall room, oooor what I like to call, 'The Blurry Glass Room'." This guy... This fucking guy...

Kawajiri glared at his unfortunate associate, a silent reprimand for his unprofessional behavior. "Joestar, get moving." With that, he turned on his heel and dragged Robert back to wait in the hallway. Johnny couldn't help but find Kawajiri strangely intimidating. He looked like a fairly nondescript guy, but there was something so incredibly cold just behind his eyes, something that made Johnny uncomfortable just to look at. Yes, he was unremarkable, but so was Ted Bundy. Even Gyro had been slightly intimidated the first time Johnny met the guy, though that was mostly covered up from Gyro's protectiveness in asking Robert for some help.

Johnny rolled his eyes and pulled himself into his wheelchair. He'd gotten used to using crutches in the room since he hated the sad way Gyro looked at the chair, like it was his fault Johnny had to use the thing. Still, it would make the trip to and from the basement much easier. He offered Gyro a quick apology and left the room. Gyro wished his friend the best of luck and glanced over the cards, before getting an idea that let him smile in the lightest way possible.

Robert meekly sulked behind the higher-up doctor, not questioning him. Thankfully Johnny wasn't the only one who got a small chill from the spiky-haired researcher. The two scientists waited for him just down the hall, and they led him back to the same elevator. Johnny remembered their question and said, "Glass is fine."

In the elevator Robert attached the tranq bracelet onto Johnny's wrist, looking fairly guilty when doing so. The lower scientist tried his best to be helpful and nice, trying to let Johnny know he wasn't like the others, and would not want to be associated with Kawajiri. But of course, Johnny was far too stubborn to really care or notice it. " The new room has a couch, table, homely things for Users to feel slightly more comfortable in..." Robert mentioned.

How kind, a comfortable prison. No matter how many armchairs and pillows the Foundation added, it would still be a cell. Johnny couldn't blame the hostile users for going a little stir crazy. He knew what it was like to be trapped and alone. As they traveled down, he felt like he was sinking to the bottom of the ocean, like the outside world was slipping farther and farther away. Even as patronizing as the new accommodations sounded, Johnny was curious to get a look at DBSM. Just how much of a monster was the man?

The elevator stopped and Kawajiri punctuated the sound of the doors sliding open with a harsh "Out." Johnny obeyed, and let himself be led to a room slightly further down the narrow hallway than before, passing through the chilly vents and gray steel walls. Robert followed alongside Johnny, a bit startled by the sudden harshness in the tone of the doctor's voice. He couldn't tell why the other was being even more bitter and cold today, but he kept to himself, knowing well enough than to question the older man. He opened up the door for Johnny, and like he had said, the cell seemed slightly more homely than the other plain and cold one from before.

After the door was shut, Johnny could see a large wall of glass that looked more like crystal or even diamond splitting down the middle of the room. He could barely make out a door on the other side until it was opened and a thin man stepped in. Due to the obscured view, he couldn't see his face well enough, or physical attributes other than his lanky and wiry build. This time, there was just an intercom that didn't need to be pushed to talk. The other male on the parallel side tilted his head in a curious manner like an owl surveying its surroundings. The way he moved seemed unnatural, at least for a human. It was like a child's toy, clockwork ticking into position for a second or two and then continuing its motion. He didn't seem to recognize the presence of another person at first.

"Hey," Johnny said, and waved to get his attention. "I'm over here."

The other User had been shifting around, as if he was trying to focus on Johnny who was right in front of him. Once he waved, DBSM 's full attention snapped to him in one moment. " Oh! Hehe, there you are. My apologies, I just got back from my weekly... 'Special Feeding'..." The User said in an uncomfortable manner, like he was ashamed of himself. He was constantly keeping his sight on Johnny since the small wave and seemed to hold his arms to his chest in an odd manner. " So, basically, it takes me a while to simmer down my powers afterwards. But it is nice to see you an-" He paused and made a sudden awkward movement to the glass for a better view. He stayed silent for a moment before stepping back, " Ah... So that's what you meant about not riding again." Seems he finally noticed the wheelchair.

"No shit, Sherlock," Johnny said, idly. He was far more interested in whatever the man meant by 'Special Feeding'. Of course, his mind immediately jumped to cannibalism, but the Speedwagon Foundation couldn't just let that happen, right? It had to be all kinds of illegal. Then again, places like this weren't exactly bastions of lawful behavior...

DBSM snorted in an animistic grunt, " Wow, rude. You know, just because you're in a wheelchair doesn't make you limited to things. Blind people can make amazing art. People without legs can still surf. Deaf people can still make the wonders of music come to life. Hehe... Humans are incredible when they put their mind to it."

It was almost sweet to hear this strange man attempt to... well, comfort him wasn't quite the right word... Make him slightly less bitter about his current situation. Johnny chose to ignore the first part of the response in the interest of not ending the conversation right there. He knew he could be a real shit some of the time, most of the time if he were being entirely honest, but he needed to keep DBSM talking. " Well, it's nice to see you too, I guess. You doing alright?"

" I'm fine, but you're probably still doing much better than moi~." It seemed Johnny had already rubbed him the wrong way. He gave a small sigh, trying to act friendly but was overwhelmed with being aggressive when one poked at him. Apparently, he was holding a small grudge from their last meeting as Johnny had stated he was probably doing better than the trapped man down below. But DBSM continued his kind act for both their sake, " And you? How are you doing?"

"I'm okay. Listen, I heard it's pretty rough down here. What's keeping you in the basement? You seem like you're at least as sane as me." Admittedly, not a high bar. If Johnny was going to help DBSM, he needed to establish what was wrong.

The other User trapped down below started to walk about in a pacing manner, still keeping his focus solely on Johnny and Johnny alone. He still kept his arms shortened and near his chest like he was pretending to be a chicken or some kind of an animal with odd behavior. " Why, that's nice of you. You're the first to say I'm sane and that I'm not a fucking monster. Why I'm down here is because THEY like to say, 'You're not stable. You have too many issues. You don't have faith in humanity anymore'-YEAH THAT'S RIGHT YOU BASTARDS! WE BOTH KNOW YOU THINK I'M USELESS!" Again like last time, he snapped at the walls before growling and mumbling to himself, " Useless, useless, useless..." And just like that, it was swept over. " Yeah, it can be rough here. But honestly, it's better than NOT being cared for on the outside world. Least I'm contained and I can't hurt people..."

Johnny stared at him in silence, not out of surprise, out of horrifying recognition. That one word being repeated again and again locked in a loop with Johnny's mind, making the rest of the conversation drown out. Useless, like a second son who could never be the brother he'd lost, like a jockey who couldn't even ride anymore, broken and useless, useless, fucking useless. He felt tears well up in the corners of his eyes and for what must be millionth time, cursed how easily he cried. When DBSM raised his voice, Johnny could hear it all, the jeers of his former rivals at his mistake, the soft little 'oh poor you' from people he didn't even know, the whispers of 'he deserved it' that he knew were true, the deafening silence that came with solitude, and underneath everything, the quiet squeak of a mouse and his father's words, the wrong son.

DBSM quieted down as he looked back over to Johnny, or at the very least, tried to. The blurry glass and sudden pause in the slightest of movement made the more aggressive User feel paranoid and flustered in a way. He swerved his head about, angling his lean body about to try and find Johnny, who was taken back into the depths of his own mind. Did the session suddenly stop? They hadn't come in to retrieve him yet, and the other door didn't open. DBSM grew worried suddenly and made a small whining sound as he paced around trying to find the other. " Hello? He-Hello?! JJT? Are you still there-Is the session over already- Anyone? Hello?" He kept calling out and this showed Johnny just how unhinged this DBSM guy really was. He started to scurry about at a frantic pace. " HELLO?! ANYONE?! Grrrr... Don't leave me alone and not tell me it's over!" He started to panic, " Don't go-please! I'm trying my best!" His movements started to quiver in a very unstable manner.

The frantic cries sounded like they were coming from underwater. Johnny wiped tears out of his eyes. His hands were shaking and all he could hear was muffled panic. The man on the other side of the glass was moving, yelling for him, and all he did was watch. Why did he think this was possible? He couldn't fix himself, so he sure as shit couldn't fix someone else. And now he had made it so much worse. But there was still something deep down that wouldn't let him leave. "I'm still here." Even if DBSM couldn't see that Johnny was crying, he could definitely hear it in his voice. "I haven't gone anywhere." He moved closer to the glass, trying to make himself more visible, trying to reassure the other man. To reassure himself.

It sounded like the same was going on for the other Stand User, considering he nearly ran into the wall once he caught the slightest glimpse of movement and reached out, shuffling his hands about on the glass before calming himself down from his sudden panic attack. It was strange... The guy had tried to be charming somewhat when chatting, very aggressive at the flick of a wrist, but like Johnny deep down, he was broken and crying out for help. And like Johnny, he said he was trying. Trying to connect and not feel like this anymore. His voice was equally as shaken up as the wheelchair-bound man, " O-Ohh... I didn't mean to panic and uh-" He sniffled, Johnny could make out the other wiping something off his face. So at the very least, Johnny wasn't the only one who had slightly broken down. " Again, apologies, I thought I was left alone, again. Hehehe." He chuckled nervously to wash away any emotions regarding to how badly he broke out into a fit. " Uh. I uh-Are you. Uhm, are you alright?" He seemed to ignore the tremble from Johnny's voice as he asked. DBSM seemed to be unsure of how to actually ask him, like it was some unknown and foreign sentence.

"I'm fine," Johnny said, like he could somehow convince himself it was true. Like they could just go back to casual conversation after... whatever that was. Like there wasn't a massive fucking glass wall between them that he wanted to break down more than anything in the world. Johnny wasn't the comforting sort, he'd always been too absorbed in his own sadness to deal with the emotions of others, but this was an exception. He reached out and touched the glass where the other's hand had been. Could he feel warmth? It was probably just his imagination. "Are you okay?"

The other chuckled lightly, still masking his sudden rash involvement of emotions. It was a chuckle of sadness mixed with a hint of crazy that made it seem so unworldly. " Hahaha-why do you keep asking me that? No one ever asks me. I just ask it out of the 'sociable thing to do'. We both know the other doesn't mean it... But it does feel nice to have someone ask you anyways. Thanks, I'll be fine." DBSM seemed unable to get a good hold on whether to be rude or friendly. All Johnny could tell was that the other User was still shaken, considering he could hear a small whine come out from him. And again in a weird way, the other tried to help Johnny instead of pushing him away. It was all so surreal. DBSM stayed there for a while before leaning against the wall and sliding down to remain in any type of comfort, mumbling to himself and more than presumably passing out from all the stress.

Chapter Text

"Holy shit!" Joseph stepped through the doorway with his usual amount of pomp and energy bound circumstance. "Johnny, I haven't seen you in forever!" He lifted his much smaller cousin out of his wheelchair and pulled him into a bear hug. "I missed you so much." Johnny was in a much moodier funk, and it showed. He didn't want anyone to notice the small break out on his cheeks and slightly puffy eyes from crying. He pulled his star patterned cap over his face while his other hand pushed Joseph's cheek.

" ARGH! Put me down, you asshole!" Most people would put on a show like that too badly fake emotion. But with Joseph, the affection was genuine. He put Johnny down carefully and chuckled a bit before practically skipping across the room to the kitchenette, where Gyro was cooking. It was quite a sight given his almost comically muscular build. The redhead groaned in annoyance, but honestly, he was just glad Joseph didn't fixate on the wheelchair like Josuke had done a week prior. While Johnny recovered from his wonderfully hyper-active cousin's burst of excitement, Gyro snickered to himself as he cooked, listening to the two Joestars.

"What'cha making?" Joesph asked the Italian to distract him as he slowly put a hand on a garlic roll.

Once Joseph popped on over, Gyro gave a smirk and swatted the other's hand with a spatula, " Non-ya'! You wait." Joseph reeled his hand back and held it tenderly as he made a small whine from the sudden slap. " Just settle down or I'm telling Caesar you challenged Wamuu the other day, keeping him from his post... AGAIN!" The thinner man looked over his shoulder to smile at Johnny. " Sorry dude, but you've seemed stressed sooo... I invited some friends over so you could wind down a little. Polnareff brought movies!" Another man leaning into a beanbag with impressively ridiculous hair to rival that of Josuke's, smiled to Johnny.

" Bonjour, you must be Joseph's cousin, correct? Nice to meet you." He gave a small salute to the redhead.

"Yeah. Johnny Joestar. And thanks for the RSVP, Gyro." In all truth, Johnny was thankful for Gyro's little impromptu party. It would be nice to melt into the background noise of conversation, forget about the events from earlier. He just had to give everybody shit, because otherwise, they'd think he'd been kidnapped and replaced with an unconvincing imposter. Gyro and Joseph were a bad combination for anyone's sanity, but it meant plenty of noise to distract him.

"What'd ya bring?" Joseph settled on the couch, looking eagerly to Polnareff. "Action movies are good, especially Indiana Jones. Johnny likes horror, but the rest of us like sleeping at night, so not a good option."

Gyro rolled his eyes once Joseph fled from the kitchen. Unlike Johnny, he liked having company around. Not all the time and not too many people, but a small group every once in a while was fine with him, especially how he used to be with his two older brothers when they spent time with one another growing up. He scoffed. " Psh! Puuuhlease! We all know you're just scared of piranhas, big guy!" He hollered out to poke fun at the more muscular man while the French man dug through a bag, calling out several movie names. Joseph, of course, had to retaliate in some manner.

" I am not! They're just creepy fish with creepy teeth..." Joseph huffed out in a small pout to shield his masculinity.

Polnareff glanced over to Johnny, seeing he was slightly tired. " Ah, let me guess, User therapy? It'll be okay. Don't stress about it or think about it too much. Let loose, you know?" he said as he let Joseph shift through the bag like a fucking monkey with a camcorder. " That's what I do at least." He gave a goofy but friendly smile to Johnny. It was kind of nice to know Johnny wasn't the only one going through with this experiment. Though in all honesty, Johnny wanted to say, 'Yeah, but I bet you didn't break down crying in the middle of it', but he figured he shouldn't purposefully ruin everyone's fun. It would be rude to Gyro. His friend just wanted to cheer him up, after all. The two of them had been total playboy trash before they were both forced to change for separate reasons. It only made sense that Gyro would try to cheer him up with some social interaction.

"Found it!" Joseph emerged from the bag, triumphantly holding aloft a copy of Temple of Doom. "There's always one, and at least it's not number four."

Polnareff shoved Joseph down with a foot from where he sat on the beanbag next to the small couch, only for Johnny and Gyro to have some room. The guy was trying to help a little, though it seemed to be coming off in the wrong way. Gyro came over with some food and snacks, placing them on a small coffee table in front of the couch. He glanced over to Joseph's grin to see the movie, " Aw fuck, the one with the whiny chick. I'm gonna' give you so much shit with this movie dude. Also, Polnareff, lay off." The French man gave a small look confused look, putting his hands out as if to say, ' The fuck I do?'.

" Hey I am just saying. I'm working with one as well." Gyro gave a small uncertain glance.

" Aren't you dealing with that kid whose older brother was in the mafia and threatened to gouge your eye out and tear your legs off?" He raised a brow while the other man scoffed and rolled his eyes. Polnareff crossed his arms and mumbled something French, making Gyro take it up as a challenge and started to back sass him in Italian.

Johnny moved onto the couch from his wheelchair. "Come on, Joseph. Let's watch the movie." He didn't want to talk about DBSM or the other hostile Stand users wasting away a floor below them, he just wanted to lose himself in 80's action and the sarcastic commentary Gyro was sure to provide. Feel normal for just one evening. He used to do this sort of thing all the time with Gyro.

Joseph cheerfully put in the disc and sat down with the remote next to Johnny, who did his best to shove him further away. "Leave room for Gyro."

"What, I'm not good enough?" He flashed a smile to his cousin. The Italian ended the meaningless multi-language argument and hopped over the back part of the couch with a cheeky grin, sliding in between the two Joestars, shoving Joseph further down. " Ehhh!" He gave out a whine as he was pushed away from his cousin.

" Nope~! Move it muscle-head!" This wasn't going to end well... Well, in the sense of those two were more than likely going to fight over the large bowl of popcorn. Of course, Gyro could have gotten another bowl, but he liked to challenge the other, but never in full spite. Polnareff sat back waiting for the antics to ensue, always enjoying the interaction between the two, letting the mood grow from tense to more at ease for the rest of Johnny's day.

 

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Jonathan Joestar glanced at his clipboard and adjusted his slightly too small lab coat nervously. Not that he had much reason to be nervous. He enjoyed his job, liked the Stand Users he worked with, and liked the man he was about to talk to. But still, he couldn't help but be a little nervous, it was just the sort of person he was. Working with hostile Stand Users was difficult, and the facility didn't make his job any easier. Jonathan wasn't a doctor by trade, his first love would always be archeology, but as the only Joestar cousin without a Stand, he figured it was his duty to look out for the rest of the family, however, he could, and if that meant working at the Speedwagon Foundation then so be it. He gave his notes a quick once-over, straightened his collar yet again, and opened the door into a long corridor with a roomy cell was placed in the back.

As Jonathan entered the room full of monitors, cameras and such, he went over his notes on the clipboard. Robert was down there assisting him before he'd have to go work elsewhere. The blond enjoyed working with the gentle man, and would stick by his side no matter what would happen. Robert tapped on a large clear sturdy bullet-proof glass that spanned from one side of the room down the other. " Mister Brando?"

The inside of the large cell was much like a padded room, with a door leading to a bathroom and shower. Other Users down below had various different arrangements in their room, but some needed softer spaces, with less furniture. Diego lay there on the pillow like floor snuggling against large dinosaur plushies he was given by someone on the outside for his birthdays. Robert had been receiving them for the past five years from a Mister Steel.

Robert continued to tap against the glass lightly and shrieked out in a high-pitched tone, stumbling back onto the floor once Diego jumped to the glass and roared out. Diego placed his hands on the glass and grinned as he watched the older man scream from the sudden pounce, and soon burst into a fit of laughter. Robert put on an upset face and huffed out as he looked up to Diego. He picked himself off the floor and dusted his coat off. " Hrmf! H-Hey! Be good or you'll have to wear the 'safety suit'!" Diego stopped his giggle fit and backed down. The 'Safety Suit' was a Kevlar straitjacket with cuffs, a muzzle, a tranq collar attached to the shock one, and ankle shackles with chains to restrain most movement. Diego could be rather stubborn, but unlike his cousin, Diego knew when to back down.

" I'll be good." He stepped away and looked down, clutching his hands together like a kid who just got in trouble and was worried about being put in the corner.

Jonathan gave a small sigh, shaking his head. He knew his good friend Robert was more bark than bite and would never put the Safety Suit on anyone, unless forced to. He made his way over and sat behind a bare desk, pen at the ready to take notes. He nodded at Robert and smiled. "Thank you. I'll be fine from here." Diego wasn't too difficult to deal with, and the two of them had a surprising amount in common. Nothing like Dio, despite their eerily similar looks. "Good morning, Diego. I hear you're doing well in the experiment." That was what he was here to discuss, the experiment. Jonathan like the idea, a sort of talk therapy mixed with rehabilitation, but in practice, it had yielded rather minimal results so far. Most of the hostile users, like Diego himself, could hold a conversation on the surface but were unwilling to open up any further.

Diego watched him as he hid behind his wall of toy dinosaurs poking his head out a bit. Due to all the things that happened in his past, being cooped up in the Foundation seem to change his mentality threefold. Jonathan and Robert would sometimes catch him talking to the toys like they were real people. He acted like a lost child at times, either due to growing up too quickly, the toll on his mind from being here, or delving into his psyche to stop feeling horrible things. But when he got serious, he could be much like Dio, which was a scary thought and image. " Morning Jonathan. I'm doing really well in the experiment." He nodded, cracking a nervous smile. He was never intimidated by the other man due to the gentle nature he sensed from him, but for some reason, he just couldn't find himself to lie as well as Dio could. His smile grew into a frown, " Erm... Listen, if you're here because of what happen-Kawajiri is a fucking liar! I didn't mean to make the other guy cry!" Diego had learned the hard way that making the other Users uncomfortable in any type of way would leave him alone and waiting for a new one all over again. Thus why he had to practice being kinder.

"Displays of emotion are natural." Despite the fact that Jonathan lacked formal training in psychology, he took to it like a fish to water. Kosaku Kawajiri was a solid employee, not exceptional but not underachieving either. Although lately he had seemed a little off, and it showed in his notes. Perhaps family trouble? "According to Robert's notes, you formed a connection. That's good, Diego. Very good. You're making progress. How about controlling your Stand?" He tilted his head from his papers to give a soft smile, reassuring the contained person.

The smaller man sighed in great relief. In the beginning of being here he had been highly aggressive and stubborn, but that, of course, dulled down over the years since nothing was getting better for him. Everything that was pent up soon broke from the inside and left him jaded. He was just glad he wasn't in trouble, that'd be the last thing he'd want in his position. Upon hearing Jonathan tell him that he and this JJT were forming a connection from Robert's notes, he flashed a toothy grin. But when it came to controlling his stand he thought for a moment before hopping over the wall of stuffed dinosaurs and let his skin crackle, already having a lumbering scaled tail behind him in a streak of cyan and yellow while spelling out DIO down to the tip. He clicked his teeth a bit, " It's going much better, see? Much better. I haven't had any urges except for feeding time." Which meant going into a room and being fed a live animal and rocks for digestion purposes.

Jonathan couldn't help but feel sorry for Diego. Stands were a gamble, and sometimes they paid out very badly. Most of the hostile users were kept prisoner because of their aggressive behavior. Diego was no saint, but he wasn't a bad person. He was here because of 'Scary Monsters'. The Stand was a curse more than anything. Horrifyingly animalistic and unpredictable, as it left its user with very little free will while it was active. It meant he would always be a risk, at least until his ability could be suppressed somehow. "If I were to enter your room right now, would you be able to keep yourself from hurting me? Answer honestly."

The slightly morphed dinosaur man paced around, keeping his eyes focused completely on Jonathan, staring him straight in the eyes. He recalled several times when he almost fully attacked several scientists and doctors. This included him biting Jonathan one of the first times they tried this method. He felt nervous and swayed a bit before taking in a deep breath. All he had to do was concentrate. He thought about everything that brought him here and suddenly sat down with his hands on the floor like a large dog. " Yes." He had been working on Scary Monsters for a while, and believed he could control a majority of it this time.

"Would you be willing to test it?" The basement prison had taken a toll on Diego and it was only a matter of time before he broke under its weight. Jonathan was determined to rescue him before then. He had watched too many people lose their minds to sit by and let it happen to Diego as well. That was the great irony of Jonathan's current profession. He had joined the Speedwagon Foundation to help his family, but spent most of his time charting slow descents into madness. Diego was dangerous, but Jonathan was willing to risk the injury if it meant getting the man his freedom.

Diego hopped up, putting his hands on the glass with his hefty tail swinging side to side as if he were a really, really big dog. A dog that could easily rip one's hand off in an instant... " I won't do anything bad, I promise!" All he could really do was make promises. Despite being driven a bit mad and rising from being a mostly egotistical jerk, he kept promises diligently as he could. He still had some to keep from a small handful of people he use to know on the outside. Robert nearby gave a slight worried expression, but he knew Jonathan could get like this. The guy may have been a giant, but he was real tender at heart.

If I get myself killed, sorry about this, Erina. Jonathan stood up and made his way to the door to Diego's cell proper. He had a taser in his coat pocket if things went bad, and he was probably strong enough to hold off Diego for a little while, at least until Robert got help. Jonathan knew he was the safer option compared to most of the other scientists, even without a Stand. Robert was worried about him, but when was he not worried about Jonathan? He put one hand on the taser still in his pocket and opened the door.

The much smaller built man was watched him carefully, clearly seeing Jonathan stuff a hand into his pocket. Diego suddenly frowned and got up only to back away slightly. He trusted Jonathan more than the others, but he remembered a few times where others would enter and inject him with heavy sedation, or taze him if they were trying to fix something in the cell. He felt more afraid than comfortable to have another person in front of him; that, however, was only due to the hand in pocket, taking hold of something he couldn't see. " You don't trust me that well either I see. That's a shame. Hehe, neither did Steven." He paused thinking how he and Lucy were doing.

"It's only a precaution. I have a wife to think about, after all." Erina, the love of his life. Jonathan couldn't bear the thought of her becoming a widow at such a young age. And as much as he believed Diego would stick to his word, he had seen the damage Scary Monsters could do. Jonathan took a few tentative steps into the cell. "I won't use it unless I have to, I promise you that." Diego was doing very well so far, but he was easily spooked, like the horses he loved so much. "Come closer, Diego." He pulled his hand from the pocket and reached out both hands in a show of peace.

The malformed man's tail started to shake behind him, scales slowly evolving into feathers with some hovering down like a bird molting. It'd happen when he was nervous in this form, but what really got to him was Jonathan's explanation for the safety measures. " A wife....." His tail wrapped around himself as he looked down to one of the stuffed dinosaurs with a ribbon tied around it. " She always said I was a good man." Diego took a shaky step forward, he just didn't want anything to happen like every other time.

Who was Diego talking about? Jonathan couldn't be sure, but he decided to lean into it anyway. "You are a good man." Diego was close, perhaps closer than he'd been to anyone while still in control since he'd arrived at the Foundation. Jonathan moved forward as well, closer and closer. He was walking carefully, like the floor was a fragile layer of glass. So far, so good. He reached out and touched Diego's hand.

Diego nearly jumped to the cushioned ceiling as a sudden reaction to being touched in a gentle manner. It scared the ever-living hell out of him, but he didn't attack or snap out by accident. He was just startled and spooked from the sudden interaction. How long had it been since someone made contact with him in a non-threatening way? The younger male shifted a bit in place, however, his hands clamped around Jonathan's instinctively, avoiding the skin with the razor-sharp claws that poked out a bit from his nails. The User was a nervous wreck, and that was abnormal compared to the other Users down here.

Jonathan smiled softly. If he hadn't known better, he would have hugged Diego on the spot, but he knew that much physical contact would completely overwhelm the man. This was enough. "You're doing really well." He could feel Diego's hands shake as tremors ran under the skin. If Diego could handle something like this, perhaps he would be able to officially meet the user he'd been working within the experiment soon. Perhaps he could leave his silent prison.

Without any warning the wiry built half dinosaur like man nearly jumped onto Jonathan, clutching his arms around the stronger person. Robert who was watching nearby and on security cameras just in case, suddenly fell back from his chair and scrambled up to the table, with a finger terrifyingly close to press a button to deliver a hardy zap to the shock collar. But once he looked over, he couldn't see any blood, and Jonathan didn't seem to be in any form of pain. He raised an eyebrow, being more confused than worried. Diego just hung onto the scientist before his legs gave out, keeping his hold on him without digging his claws into the coat or skin.

Jonathan was, understandably, surprised as well. Diego clung to him like a cat held over water, but he was making a conscious effort not to hurt him, keeping his claws from even ripping his coat. His whole body shook, and he shuddered, even more, when Jonathan wrapped his arms around the other man. Diego was light and very easy to hold, like picking up a child. Jonathan found himself running his fingers through Diego's blond hair, trying to calm him down. "I'm not going to hurt you." He tried to speak as softly as he could and still be heard.

The smaller man curled up on instinct when he was picked up, his long tail went limp as he rested in Jonathan's arms. He just stayed there and buried his face into his chest while making a whining noise or some type of trill. " I know. It's just... It's been a long time since I've felt like this." Robert had looked into Diego's background, much like the others, but the only things he could unearth were the fact that he was a jockey, was terrified of trains for some reason, and how he was found. And how he had been found... It was one of the more gruesome incidents any of the scientists had ever seen or read about.

Diego didn't feel warm like a person should as Jonathan held him. He was cold... Small, scared and cold. This was a man who was haunted, a man who needed human contact more than anyone else, a man who had been denied it for far too long. Jonathan stroked his hair softly and held him close, cradling his slender body easily. "You won't be here forever. We'll get you out." And he meant it. It was the duty of a gentleman to protect those in trouble too weak to protect themselves. Leaving Diego to suffer would be abandoning all his morals, and Hell would have to freeze over before that happened.

The younger male's tail started to devolve into scales and shrink away back into... His spine? Stands were truly bizarre in the ways they worked, sometimes they barely made any sense at all. Diego nuzzled up against the scientist, curling up more and more into a ball of stress. From the information gathered, he never voluntarily turned into Scary Monsters, not taking advantage of his dangerous powers like others would. He was just like a werewolf or Mister Hyde. He'd only let it take over fully if he had to or if his animalistic instincts overpowered his mind. He even refused eating the animals he was given most of the time and just pet them before his senses got the better of him and made him lash out to gobble them down. He made a light cooing sound in Jonathan's arms; he just wanted to stay there and feel safe again.

Chapter Text

It took another week for Johnny to return to the basement cell. He wondered if it was because of his breakdown the last time, or if this was simply normal procedure. Whatever the reason, he was interrupted mid-conversation by the scientist called Kawajiri, who simply pushed the door open and said, "Let's go, Joestar." It was a bit silly to address Johnny by his last name, given the amount of other Joestars in the area, but Johnny didn't bother to correct him. His mind was on other things, namely his upcoming meeting with DBSM.

Gyro had been enjoying his small movie rant with Kakyoin who came to visit, being a quieter visitor for Johnny's sake, as well as allowing him to share some tea with the two. Well, it was more of Gyro ranting about movies while the other two listened in mostly. Gyro paused half way and gave the scientist a glare, only for the other redhead to try and calm him down, not wanting any trouble to occur. Robert popped his head in and greeted them before leaving so Johnny could roll himself out. And again, like always Johnny's good friend wished him luck and would wait for him. Despite the emotional outburst, last time had apparently gone well, and if that was well, Johnny hoped the other meetings would go very poorly from then on. Still, he had made his bed when he decided to continue with the experiment, and he wasn't about to back out now. The last time he had come back still upset, Gyro had made him coffee, so worst case scenario he got coffee. No, worst case scenario DBSM ripped off the parts of his body that still worked or whatever the fuck his Stand could do.

 

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Once again in the cold breezy elevator, Robert didn't seem to put the neon blue bracelet on at first. He looked over to his commanding scientist to ask if Johnny should have the tranq bracelet or not. For DBSM however, he had to have it for precautions. " Oh! By the way Mister Johnny, you can pick either the blurry glass or clear diamond glass-Don't ask how it works. And if you choose that, you'll be able to exchange names and see each other." He gave a soft smile, though he'd likely be ignored.

Johnny was surprised at the sudden freedoms. "Oh, am I allowed free speech now? Thank you so much." He rolled his eyes. "I'll take the clear glass." Even though he was giving Robert shit, he was honestly curious to see DBSM more clearly, and the absence of the constant specter of the tranq bracelet certainly helped matters as well. The man moved so strangely that he didn't look real through the blurry glass, like he was just a shadow puppet projected onto the cell wall.

Robert frowned and rubbed the back of his neck. When Jonathan asked to help with the newest addition of the family here, he didn't realize he'd be dealing with 'This'. He gave a small sigh and remained silent, much like Kawajiri would make him and followed along, leading Johnny to a much more lavish and furniture room that again, was split down the middle with a thick layer of glass. Robert said nothing and closed the door behind him. He wasn't worried, he just seemed a bit down this time. Speaking of down... No one knew what was about to go down as DBSM walked out from the other door with it closing and locking up. DBSM was everything he had seemed from behind the blurry glass, a short but lanky man with unkempt blond hair he had clearly tried to comb with his fingers and a way of holding himself that spoke too long confinement. He walked like he wasn't used to human legs. But what surprised Johnny wasn't how he looked, it was who he was. "Diego fucking Brando," Johnny said in disbelief. "No way is that you."

And for Diego to finally meet JJT was exciting in a way, he was sure he could try and help with the wheelchair fit as the other might be able to help him have a connection in this place. He put on a smile which turned sour immediately as his eyes locked onto Johnny. " ... J-Johnny? Johnny Joestar..." He cocked his head in disbelief before his smile came back in a twisted manner. " OHOHOHO! MY GOOOOD! YOU'RE JJT?! AHAHAHAHA! This must be some type of punishment, am I right?!" He whisked his head around with a crooked smile as if he was being punked on television. " Holy shit, what happened to the 'Almighty Joekid Of The Track'?! Did one of the floozies you hooked up with finally get tired of your bullshit?!" He cackled out.

"I-I-" Johnny stammered, taken unaware. Of course, Diego didn't know about his legs, he had quietly dropped off the face of the planet five years before. Happiest day of Johnny's life, might he add. "Like you did any better!" he finally managed to choke out. "Look at you, locked up like a rabid dog! You-you monster!" Diego, the bane of his existence, the biggest cheater in all of horse racing, probable wife-murderer Diego Brando was DBSM, also known as the man Johnny had cried in front of last week.

Diego's howling laughter stopped once he was called out, to be fair he had deserved it. He snarled and reared up showing off a toothy mouth with a row of sharp teeth, like he had filed them down like nails. " Monster?! Says the one who probably took advantage of people because you were such a privileged little shit! I may have done the same-but not as much as you, crushing girls' dreams by having one night flings! I'm well aware of your playboy days, you little punk! I can't think of anyone else who deserves never to ride again!" He snapped out. Things were starting to get bad...

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Robert nervously bit his lip as he watched from another room with his fellow scientist, " Uhm... S-Should we stop them-"

He was quickly cut off by his higher up who gave a wave of a hand, " Not yet." Things were becoming far more interesting for Kawajiri.
~~~~~~~~

It hurt more than it should. Johnny was used to getting into shouting matches with Diego, it was how they had spent most of their time together previously, but now all he could think of was the broken man behind the blurry glass, panicking because he thought his only friend had abandoned him. In the past, Johnny would have laughed at Diego for that display of weakness, but now it felt like a careful plan. Diego must have known the whole time who Johnny was, stringing him along like a puppet for this very moment. At least he knew how to ruin it, considering Gyro had given Johnny some ammo in case something like this happened... "Yeah, well at least I'm not afraid of trains!"

Diego's animalistic snarls of threatening to tear open Johnny's throat died down. One foot shook a bit, making him back up, but forced himself forward to not seem weak, in front of Johnny of all people. He cracked a nervous grin, " H-Hehehe, I-I don't know what you're talking about." He gulped slightly on reflex. Being trapped down below made the Diego Johnny used to know absent and unhinged mentally. His voice wavered, " I'm not-not scared of trains-WHO TOLD YOU?! I'M NOT!" He started to get more aggressive like he used to but rather fearful at the same time. He just had to be pushed a bit more...

Johnny felt a surge of vengeful joy at Diego's reaction. He knew it was shitty, but that wasn't about to stop him from wringing out every drop of pure sadistic glee from the interaction. Another part of him, a part he was surprised to discover still existed, felt a sense of profound tragedy. He really was a wreck of a person, too fucked up to deserve anyone's sympathy. Diego wasn't like him. He had only been pretending so he could mock Johnny later, that had to be it. And Johnny, in his desperation, had fallen for the trap. There was no magical redemption waiting for him, just another asshole to remind him of his greatest hits list of failures. Johnny looked Diego square in the eye. "Choo-choo, motherfucker."

With that, Diego started to back away more and look around, gripping the sides of his head. If he was what he use to be, he wouldn't have taken this or acknowledged it, and instead tease the wheelchair-bound man more. But all the years tacked into his brain, ripped at it from the inside and into his psyche. The old rival shook and started to look around frantically as if everything was growing darker around him. " Choo-choo... The whistling... The tracks, the tracks, the tracks!" For Johnny, he was getting a firsthand view of just how unstable his rival had gotten. " The tracks near the town-All the horses racing together! They kept challenging us! N-No one dared to glance back at us!" Diego started to grow out needle-sharp fangs and sickle-like claws, not controlling his body anymore. " They just kept racing! Th-There was so.... THERE WAS SO MUCH BLOOD!" He screamed out as tears started to pour. " H-He wouldn't wake up-WHY WOULDN'T HE WAKE UP?!" A large scaled tail began to wriggle behind him as he curled up on himself.

Guilt flooded through Johnny's mind. He couldn't believe he felt sorry for Diego, but he did and there was no changing that. The old Diego would have thrown that shit right back at him, found some hole in Johnny's armor, which wasn't hard to do anymore. Made fun of his useless legs or his breakdown during the last meeting, or the fact that in the end, he had never beaten Diego, there were a lot to choose from... Not curl up into a ball and yell in that horrible broken way. He had changed so drastically since the last time they saw each other all those years ago. But so had Johnny. "Diego," he said, and he could hardly believe the words coming out of his own mouth. "Calm down. I'm sorry."

Diego breathed heavily and gruffly like a large animal taking a break from trying to tear itself out of chains. The old Diego Johnny resented was buried deep down, but was now molded over with... Whatever this was. Diego's head spun around much like Johnny's mind during their last session. He started to salivate heavily while his skin cracked around him like a broken rock. " Why won't he wake up mom? Mom, why is HP leaving-where are they taking her? Mom, don't go-" And now it was a realization why Diego was locked away. He started to look much, much larger as he still mumbled to himself. " Marilyn please don't leave me-I don't want your money anymore! Just don't leave me! Lucy-Steven just take the money and go!" Before Johnny could have his mind click onto what just happen the other male turned into a fucking dinosaur. It stood up and clicked its tongue, seeking movement and nervously swaying its head around, confused by its surroundings. Johnny could only watch as Diego transformed. His body stretched, pulling skin tight against long, slender bones and sharpening his fingers into wicked knives. Scales crept up his face like an advancing army, covering over everything that made him look human. His eyes were a sickly yellow with narrow black slits for pupils that darted back and forth in what could only be fear. He was truly a monster, one that could rip Johnny to pieces if given half a chance.

~~~~~~~~~~
Robert on the outside panicked frantically at the scene. " AHHHH! MISTER KAWAJIRI DBSM CHANGED! G-GET THE TRANQUILIZERS READY!"

"Quit yelling." Kawajiri pulled a switch marked with a bright red, and the shock collar crackled to life. And Diego screamed. It was a horrible, piercing scream, like the screech of gears as they ripped off each other's teeth. Johnny covered his ears, but it was the only thing he could hear.

Robert tripped over himself landing on his face into the tiled floor before stumbling up, running out the observation room and to Johnny's side of the room. He opened the heavy door and dashed to the wheelchair-bound User, ignoring the horrible screeching produced by the dinosaur. Diego seemed to be in mid-molt as feathers began to sprout over the scales, but stopped halfway as the electrical current swarmed his body. Diego thrashed around wildly, tumbling over himself, legs kicking out madly, flailing at the air to escape the pain, and tail swishing around violently, knocking over various things in his side of the room. Robert grabbed hold of the wheelchair's handles and looked to the sight before him momentarily, " K-KAWAJIRI! U-USE THE TRANQS!" The jumpy scientist HATED the electrical force the Users were given, and would much rather have them drugged.

"Fine." Kawajiri turned his attention to a small keypad and entered a brief passcode. "Spoilsport," he muttered under his breath, as Diego collapsed in the other room. Johnny had seen his fair share of Stand-related bullshit, but something like this was new. A full body transformation was a rarity as a Stand ability. It wasn't especially unusual for a Stand to manipulate a user's body, his own Tusk was an example, but never to this extent. Diego almost seemed possessed, like he was straight out of a horror movie. Werewolves came to mind, a forced transformation into a beast. Stands were supposed to be stronger the closer range they were. If Diego's range was limited to his body, that meant his power could be abnormally strong. Johnny let himself be pulled away from the glass, completely stunned. How much was Diego capable of?

The convulsing dinosaur slowly started to morph back, but still stuck midway, a mix of man and a mess of scales, feathers, and teeth. The neon blue bracelet had turned an eerie glow of crimson, meaning he was giving the injections to knock him out, more than likely a much higher dose than a normal human needed. And still, despite all that, Diego shook himself to push his upper body up and watch the other two leave him there behind the glass. Diego gave out labored breaths and reached out before his hand and arm gave way, making him collapse. His other malformed claw-like hand tightened into a clutch while he dazedly watched them. " Don't go, please..." He mumbled softly to himself right as Robert had gotten Johnny out and shut the door.

 

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Robert who would much rather deal with the other User instead of attending to Diego had pushed the wheelchair into the elevator, when suddenly Johnny burst back to life in one instant. "What the fuck was that?!" Johnny realized he was yelling, but he didn't care. "Why'd you fucking hurt him?!" Sparks from the collar had danced up and down Diego like flames around a pile of kindling. His muscles had seized and contorted painfully, causing his already unnatural body to be twisted even more. It had hurt just to watch. Johnny whipped around to face Robert and Tusk manifested next to his hand. Even though Johnny was small, he could be terrifying when he wanted to be, and now was one of those times.

Robert squeaked out and moved his back to the wall as the elevator's doors shut behind them to have them travel the upper floors. Robert put his hands up defensively, " H-hey, whoa, whoa, whoa! I'm not the bad guy here-don't pin this on me! I hate the shock collars! I told Kawajiri to use the tranqs instead before I came into the room!" Robert could be cowardly at times, but if backed into a corner, he was known to grow a spine. " Please-I'm not the enemy here! I would never try to discourage a Joestar no matter what! I don't want to see anyone get hurt!" Honestly, he wasn't too intimidated by the small pink fairy stand next to Johnny, but knew something about watching his nails.

Of all the people Johnny felt protective towards, Diego Brando should have been the last name on the list. But he wasn't, and that was even more surprising than seeing the man turn into a full-on dinosaur. He wanted to kill Kawajiri for hurting Diego, to drive a nail bullet deep into his skull and out the other side. And that was surprising too, because it wasn't just hyperbole. Had it been Kawajiri in front of him and not Robert, Johnny would have already killed him.

 

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Robert escorted Johnny back to his room, both were greeted by a smiling Gyro and Kakyoin, only for their happy looks to suddenly turn upside-down. Robert didn't even say a single thing before turning around and taking his leave to go help with the mess downstairs that he had left. He started to sprint off, not wanting whatever what was transpiring down there to go to even more hell than it was. Gyro nudged the redhead clothed in green who gave a slight nod and left the two in peace, closing the door behind him. Gyro could easily tell Johnny was upset and angry, he'd seen his friend like this before, but this one seemed slightly more drastic. " Dude, what happened?"

"Guess who, of all fucking people, DBSM is." Diego had been a constant in Johnny and Gyro's lives for far too long. Johnny had thought he had escaped his rival when he dropped out of racing, but apparently, God just wasn't done taking a massive shit on him yet. Gyro didn't quite share Johnny's intense hatred for the man, but he certainly wasn't a fan of his. Johnny had been ready to take the racing world by storm when out of nowhere, Dio became the name the crowds chanted. Diego fucking Brando, with his insipid accent and his underdog status and his dumb hat with his stupid fucking nickname on it. Johnny had been so close to beating him. "Remember Diego?"

Gyro's look turned from worried and dearly concerned into disbelief and a hint of anger. Though again, it wasn't as harsh as Johnny's, but it was clearly still there. The Italian leaned away as his eyes squinted, " No... Noooo. There is no fucking way-I mean! T-That asshole is here?! The dick who cheated in the races, screwed you over, mocked us, married some old lady just for her money?! You can NOT be fucking serious right now!" His eyes locked onto Johnny, hoping he was pulling his leg, only to find Johnny's look was deadly serious. Gyro threw his hat off and smacked his face into his palms to let out a loud and long disappointing groan. " Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuucking hell..." He massaged his face as he took in a deep breath. " Well... It's not like they can force you to go back; judging by Robert's expression, it seems like this was your last time. Good, we can leave that bastard to rot down there."

As much as Johnny wanted to agree with Gyro, the words stuck in his throat. He tried to focus on the incidents Gyro mentioned, but all he could think of was the second meeting with DBSM, the figure curled up on the other side of the blurry glass, the frantic pleas not to leave him alone. Had they really all been faked? Diego was a cheat and a liar and God only knew what else, but the broken words trapped in his memories were too painful to be lies. Too much like Johnny himself. But Diego was nothing like him. He was some nobody in a green sweater who cheated his way to the top. Johnny didn't pretend to be moral, he was too far gone for that, but he would never stoop to poisoning horses. "I-I don't know what to do. Gyro, he's fucked up. Like really bad. And they're hurting him."

Johnny's childhood friend leaned forward, quirking a brow from the sudden uncertainty in his voice. " Whoa, whoa, hold it." He put his hands before gathering up the small bit of information. What had really taken Gyro by surprise was the slight stutter Johnny began with. " What do you mean you don't know? Johnny, he's some asshole who's a scum sucker who cheats, lies, and manipulates people just for his own gain. He's always been fucked up, I mean, how much worse can that type of guy really get? And besides that, so what if they're hurting him? He probably deserves it after what he's done to people, to other racers, to you." Gyro's morality was running in circles at this point, he knew he didn't understand as well as Johnny since he hadn't fully met Diego, so he could only go back on what he knew about the man.

"Look, I'm not exactly head of the Dio fan-club, but he's still a person." Johnny could practically see his previous self cringing at those words. He might not have had proof of all Diego's misdeeds, but he knew most of the rumors were true. Everyone who interacted with him could tell Diego was ruthlessly ambitious. "He's been down there for years, all alone. No one deserves that." Johnny knew isolation well, the last three years had been nothing but loneliness, but at least he hadn't been kept in a fucking dungeon the whole time. "It's messed with his brain. And he's got this Stand..." Johnny trailed off, letting his mind wander back to the monster Diego had become. One he couldn't control.

Gyro listened and either way, be it for better or worse, he'd always stick by his friend's side ever since they were separated. He rubbed the side of his head, fingers pressing into his temple to think this over more rationally. They both knew what being alone was like ever since Gyro was found out to be a Stand User. It left them both lonely and vulnerable, so vulnerable that Johnny had ended up in a wheelchair. Gyro wasn't stuck in a cell all day everyday though, he was granted much more freedom. " Shit. Robert told me the guys been here for five years-two years more than me even. And in that shitty place that even made Jotaro uncomfortable. Ahhh man." He glumly looked over to the other, uncertainty written all over his face. " How bad is he? Like, why is he down there? How bananas did he get?"

"He was crying." Johnny had never thought he'd see Diego cry. The man was composed and put-together and not the stupid little kid who cried so easily that Johnny was. "Just begging me not to leave him. He was so afraid that I already had. I don't think he can see properly and his Stand is like some kind of werewolf shit." Diego had always been the point of comparison for Johnny's father, the pinnacle his own son could never hope to reach, and that had only made Johnny hate him more. But his father had been right. Even after Diego had quietly dropped out of racing, Johnny still couldn't beat his records. He had been a constant reminder of that terrible day when Johnny had lost his brother and his father had lost the only son he could be proud of.

The Italian closed his eyes, soaking in more of the information he was given. In all honesty, he didn't know what to do as well. Here he was, stuck like before and couldn't be right at Johnny's side like he constantly could beforehand. If Johnny was to confront Diego again, he'd be doing it alone since the scientists didn't want to stress out the violent Users with more than one person at a time. " Tch, the wondrous Diego Brando reduced to being a scared, lonely, and crying little shit. Thought the sound of that would be ironic and hilarious... This sounds horrible Johnny, especially when you toss in werewolf syndrome with it." He sighed deeply as he clasped his hands together, " Johnny, you know I'll be there for ya' in spirit, and be here for ya' as much as I can. Whatever you decide, I won't detest to. Though, we may want to discuss this with someone." He was slightly hinting to the big softie, Jonathan.

"I guess. I just-I wish I didn't know who it was." Johnny had liked DBSM, the stranger in the basement prison who reminded him of himself in so many ways. It felt like Diego had stolen that person from him simply by existing. "He hates me as much I hate him." The echo of Diego's derisive laughter reverberated in his mind. Of course, Diego had mocked him. Johnny was pathetic, a worthless husk of who he used to be. "It's probably over no matter what I say. Why would he want to talk to me?"

Gyro gave it some thought and only shrugged, " Dunno. Maybe because you're the only fucking person who's gotten that far with him in five years. I really don't know. I'd be more worried if the scientists don't take you off the meeting roster for some reason, which would get them into trouble. I know that the guys down there don't get choices. All I can really say, is that we're all broken here." He looked away, remembering how talked to Johnny about DBSM beforehand, gaining a connection of somewhat, only for it to be Diego in reality. That was like being mocked at by life itself. He couldn't help but feel so sorry and sad for Johnny.

"I suppose you're right." Johnny felt a strange loss. DBSM hadn't been the highlight of his week by a long shot, but there had been something comforting about talking to him. And it meant he had lost his chance at redemption. It was cruel. He had tried so hard, and it had all been ripped away from him by pure bad luck. Johnny's life could be defined by bad luck at this point, a series of misfortunes that he only made worse by trying to fix. Hoping for anything else was doomed from the beginning.

 

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Diego had been sitting in his soft padded cell in the same spot for a while, back pushed up against the plush wall while he thought to himself in silence. He had gotten out of hand. That when he came to, he nearly tore off a doctor's arm and slashed out their throat. He was bound by the tougher version of a straitjacket, a large cuff as reinforcement on his arms, and accompanied with a muzzle over his face to prevent further biting at other people. Thankfully he didn't have to wear those damned leg cuffs and chains, but was still restricted from movement. Out of all the people in the world, JJT just HAD to be Johnny Joestar. Of course, it had to be. His life was just a big joke. He didn't even glance out his clear cell once a door opened up, letting Jonathan and Robert inside.

Jonathan hated to see Diego restrained like that. He wasn't some dangerous criminal. Dangerous yes, but not willingly so. The straitjacket highlighted just how thin he had become from years in captivity. When Diego had arrived at the Foundation, he had been an athlete in top condition. Now he was just a shadow. It wasn't his fault. The Foundation made mistakes, after all, it was run by people like everything else, but pairing Diego with Johnny Joestar was a step beyond the usual minor accident. Jonathan wasn't exactly close to the cousin who shared his name, but he knew enough about him to know Johnny was fiercely competitive, and that throwing him together with another former jockey would be a bad move. And now Jonathan had to repair the damage as best he could. "Diego, are you awake?"

Diego's eyes shone right to Jonathan and Robert with a glint of pure spite in the now cat-like irises. He let out a very low warning to the two with a clicking sounding growl, often like those heard in horror movies of some monster closing in on their prey. His head turned slowly so they could see Diego's hateful glance, trying to hide the fact that his eyes were just tired and heavy from crying. He scrunched up against the white wall and turned over not wanting to deal with them, or anyone at the moment. His mind was still registering what had happened the other day ago. Was it a day? Was it earlier? It was hard to keep track of time without seeing the outside. He didn't care, his mind was focusing solely on his old rival. Why was he here? Was he really a stand user as well? How'd he end up in a wheelchair? Could he move his legs? Could he ride again? Why should he care about Johnny? Did he hate him that much? Did Johnny hate him so much as well?

"Diego?" Jonathan tried to make his voice as comforting as he could. "I'm just here to talk." He didn't have an official reason to be there at the moment, the Foundation didn't want useful employees like Jonathan wasting time on hopeless cases like Diego, but he didn't care. "You've made progress. One mistake doesn't cancel it all out." He thought back to their last meeting, when Diego had allowed him to enter the cell, had collapsed against him in a desperate plea for human touch. "We can find someone else for you to talk with."

The younger and weaker looking man sighed out before letting himself fall over on his side. " Tch, like I get a fucking choice? Don't think I don't know how the procedure works. The other User is asked to continue or not by the staff. It's their decision, and besides that, what makes you think HE would want to see me again? He hates me, I hate him, that's how's it's always been." He tried curling up as much as he could with the uncomfortable jacket stretched around his body to tighten him up from the slightest of movement. Part of Diego desperately wanted to connect with anyone, be it an old rival or not. At least he'd be able to connect with Johnny slightly due to the same interests. But at the same time, another side wanted nothing more than feel Johnny's blood on him, revenge for showing how weak, scared, and broken Diego really was.

"How it's always been?" Jonathan had read over Robert's notes, and it seemed like Johnny and Diego had some kind of history. Exactly what the history was could be important. If they had been friends, enemies, simple acquaintances, any connection to life before the Foundation could spark humanity in Diego, and help him overcome his Stand. It was a risky move, but Jonathan decided to play dumb. "How long have you known him?" Johnny had always been the mystery cousin, the one who showed up maybe once a year for a random holiday and then disappeared the rest of the time. He had been a big deal in horse-racing circles, but Jonathan didn't pay much attention to that anyway.

Diego stayed silent for a moment before forcing himself to sit up and look over in a distasteful yet questioning look, as if Jonathan had grown another head... Or considered the gentle giant a total fucking idiot. " Are you for real-How do you not know anything about your own family you piece of sh-"

Robert quickly interjected him before the question could be complete, " Erm, he's not as close to his cousins as his brothers." Robert gave a small smile, hoping it'd distract the other enough.

Diego snarled out at Robert, who made a faint squeak of fear, " I'm not talking to you, you sniveling whelp! Grrr..." He let out a small huff before turning over to get a better look at Jonathan. " We've known each other since... I-I... I can't remember." He pondered to think how long ago that was, but quickly left it open to interpretation instead. " Look, we've known each other for a long time, okay? He never won against me, that's all I recall for his shitty records. Then again, I wasn't going to let anyone win against me." His lips stretched back to reveal sharpened teeth. Either Diego was full of pride on races, or he found it important that e made himself have the need to win.

Good. So they had raced. Well, that would explain the powder keg the situation had become once identities were revealed. "Robert is right. Johnny and I grew up on opposite sides of the Atlantic. We're not close." Most of what Jonathan knew about Johnny came from his files at the Foundation. Ranged Stand, projectile-based, easily controlled. No physical manifestation capable of violence, or 'punch ghost' as the staff jokingly called it. "So were you friends? Rivals?" Diego was clearly ambitious and just as competitive as Johnny, so the latter was more likely.

Robert preferably hid behind his clipboard, pretending to jot things down, but of course wasn't. The poor guy picked the habit up when people started to get aggravated with him in any way... Well, most people anyways. Diego rolled his eyes, considering the two Joestars didn't actually know the other too much, so he gave it a pass for now. However, his eye twitched slightly from the mere mention of friends. Diego howled with laughter, clearly showing how insane he could get, " AHAHAHA! Ohh, that's cute, me and Joekid friends? HA! Right, like we'd ever get along. No, no, I've learned the hard way that 'friends' are just excuses for rivals who want nothing more than to shove you into the dirt and leave you to rot."

Even an enemy could be comforting in the worst of times. Jonathan knew it was a long shot, but something about Diego's eyes caught his attention. There had been a spark at the first mention of Johnny, a hopeful glint that meant more than Diego's words could alone. They might have been rivals in the past, but the hatred didn't burn quite as hot now, not when racing was long gone for both of them. And there was no denying the connection that had existed between them during the first two meetings. "I could probably convince Johnny to speak to you again. Would you like that?"

The bound up man looked up to Jonathan with a mix of fear, anger, and sorrow. A look that he had given before when he had entered the spacious cell to confront the other. " Y-Ye-No! N-NO! W-Why would I want that?! Don't you think I hate myself enough already?! I'm not some masochistic guinea pig for you to test on! He hates me, and I hate him! I don't need to be reminded how broken I am!" He suddenly hopped up right onto his feet and gave a threatening stance, as if he could actually break the glass. But it was easy to see Diego had sounded hopeful in the slightest, and had been shivering violently as inner conflicts tore at each other in his mind. " He's right! I'm just a monster! Who would want to see a monster who always crushed their dreams?! It's useless, useless, useless-" He eventually quieted down mumbling the word over and over. He was too damn conflicted to choose. The choice was hard on him, but then again he hadn't been given a choice in such a long time.

"Think it over." Diego was shaking, like he had in Jonathan's arms the next time they'd talked. He needed security, some sense of normalcy in his upside down life. Johnny wasn't the most stable person Jonathan knew, but he was clearly the only choice. Diego needed someone from before all this, and that didn't leave many options. Maybe it would help Johnny too. "And you're not a monster." With that, Jonathan left the room.

Chapter Text

Diego sat there in his cell, thinking about what Jonathan had told him. The much larger man truly did want to help him, right? Was it really Diego's choice to see his former rival, or not? It'd been so long since he was given a choice. Hell, he never even got a choice on what animal he'd devour once a week or so. He did know that today was going to be the day where some stupid scientist would have to enter his cell and remove his bindings. And of course, they would be equipped with a taser, and a button on their belt to administer the shock collar to sparkle out. And if worse came to shove, they could easily call out to a computer to activate a hatch, letting tranquilizer darts to lock onto the User and shoot. Diego had no idea how the hell that worked, but it did somehow. The man currently known as Kosaku Kawajiri was looking forward to his duties that day. The job had been easy enough to pick up, not anything too technical, really an office position with a fancy name. And it meant power. Kawajiri was a simple man with simple desires. He didn't strive to be the best or the worst, just somewhere indistinct in the middle. But it felt good to have power; it satisfied some burning need in him for control. Interacting with hostile Stand users meant he was in charge, and gave him an indescribable rush. Kawajiri opened the door to Diego's cell, taser already crackling with electricity. Today was going to be fun.

Diego scanned the room outside his own, not noticing the good doctor's clumsy partner. For once he felt unnerved not having the grandson of Speedwagon there, especially when it came to Kawajiri and him. Diego kept his slit pupils on him, hidden in a fine amber that kept between his normal color and the yellow color hiding just beneath. However, something caught his attention as the other man walked into his lair. Diego stood up instead of curling himself into a corner like he normally would and made his odd and disjointed movements foreword, sniffing at the air. " Hmm? You smell... Different." He squinted his eyes to the scientist and gave a toothy grin. " Different cologne? No, no. Sex-Change? Nope, no, not hormones." He giggled.

Kawajiri froze at the words. Surely Diego couldn't know. His disguise was perfect. Diego was already losing his mind, this was probably just another symptom. He absentmindedly straightened his tie and caught a glimpse of his fingernails as he did. Shit, they were getting long. His cover wasn't yet solid enough to take a risk like that, but the desire gnawed at him like maggots slowly devouring a corpse. Someday soon, he would no longer have a choice. But not yet. Now, he had to keep up the charade, play the scientist for the time being. Kawajiri took out a key ring from the pocket of his lab coat and approached Diego cautiously. "Hold still. Don't move until I'm out. You know the drill."

Diego merely grinned at the man, noticing the slightest movement, just a simple glance at the other checking his hands. He started to feel more cocky and instead walked forward, but still listening to Kawajiri's words. He just wanted the muzzle and jacket off. He wasn't going to try and attack him, no, he was having fun and knew better than to dare touch the scientist. He stopped right in front of the white cloaked man and snickered to his own inane humor, " Whaaaat? Is something wrong with your hands? May, I must say, they look much cleaner than they use to." He took another sniff just to make Kawajiri unsettled, " They smell like soap. FANCY SOAP AT THAT! My, when did you become a neat freak~?" He just had to tug a little more to see if his suspicions were on point.

The possibility of getting rid of Diego permanently ran through Kawajiri's mind. He could do it before anyone noticed, maybe even avoid the cameras if he were lucky, but there would be consequences. Diego was a dangerous patient, and something that looked like an escape would be investigated more than thoroughly. Someone would know Kawajiri was the last to see him, someone would be watching. People were always watching at the Foundation. Kawajiri felt himself begin to sweat. Still, he was a lucky man, and he trusted in that luck. "I changed soap, so what? It's none of your business." He went to unlock the straitjacket, but fumbled the keys, dropping them on the cell floor.

Diego quickly stepped on the keys, wringing a toe or two around the ring and pulling it back. He put his leg up behind himself, balancing on one foot so Kawajiri couldn't snatch it away without having to maneuver around him. Diego leaned in, excitement dancing in his eyes as he watched the other closely. " Ooooh, looks like you're slipping up~! You're very lucky that I'm a sweet guy." he cackled to himself before bringing his leg out and dropping the keys next to Kawajiri's shoes. " Are you really someone else? And if so, then your cover be blown away if I tell anyone riiiight? But if you really are the man you say you are, then you'd have nothing to fret about. I'm just a psycho~! Why would one believe another with a broken mind, right? Buuuuut. If you were hiding something. Maybe like, you're not who you seem to be. Then you'd might want to counteract against my statement." He said in a slimy, weasely, smug manner. Had he contacted his cousin somehow? It was far too similar.

Kawajiri bent down and picked up the keys. His face twitched as he barely controlled his rage. It had been such a perfect cover. A solid, middle of the road job, a strangely-endearing wife, plenty of cats, everything had been perfect. And now this fucked up piece of trash held the power to take it all away. "Listen here, you little shit," Kawajiri hissed, his face only inches from Diego. "If you spread lies about me, I'll make your life so much worse than it already is."

Diego's smile faltered down, letting the scientist have a smell breath of relief. Only for that to be torn away harshly as the User giggled out in a maniacal manner. " Oh, you're FUN~! Trust me, I have nothing to lose! Family, friends, mind, they're allllll gone~! Long gone!" He nearly butted his forehead against Kawajiri's, slit pupils staring deep inside, " If you're afraid I'm going to spread blatant rumors, then how about you do me a solid? It's not too much for someone of your profession. Sides, I know you like seeing us suffer. Don't think I didn't hear, 'Spoilsport', when you had to give me those sedatives, you beautiful bastard you."

Kawajiri was not in a position to bargain. He wasn't confrontational by nature, an ideal Japanese salaryman who kept himself to himself, and if he could buy his way out of a problem, he would no matter the cost. And Diego was right, he did get a certain pleasure from the more... questionable aspects of the Foundation. Was it wrong for a man to enjoy his job? No, of course not. It meant he was a good employee, not like that nervous fuck Robert. He leaned back, looking at Diego with an air of skepticism. "What are you proposing?"

Diego gave a smirk that stretched ear to ear; quite literally at that. " Well, ya' see. That last time I talked with JJT, didn't go so well. He saw how weak, unstable, and frail I am. I don't like that. I can tell you and I are one in the same of that aspect. We don't like showing others how vulnerable we are. And to top it off, I cracked down in front of HIM. He use to be a rival, and for a rival to see you break down like that... Imagine how you'd feel. Your sense of pride and power goes all down the drain. All I want is some alone time with him in my cell. I won't kill him, I can promise you that. I just want a lil' chat. Hell, maybe you could drug him afterwards, make him think of it as a dream. You're clever like that, right?" He had to stroke Kawajiri's ego a bit, in case the blackmailing didn't work out in his favor. It sounded fun, scaring that jerk. Johnny wasn't nice to the staff and didn't cooperate easily, so maybe Diego could teach him something about obedience while he was at it. And it would be interesting to watch. Johnny quite literally didn't stand a chance against Diego, and Kawajiri had to admit that even if Diego did kill him, that would only make the show better. Drugs he could use ran through his mind. He didn't have much experience with drugging people, didn't have to normally, but a few weeks at the Foundation had taught him well. "Deal."

 

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Johnny rubbed his head. It didn't hurt, more just felt fuzzy, like he was underwater or something. His eyes didn't want to open, but he forced them to anyway. What time was it? The room wasn't completely dark, but the light didn't look natural. Had Gyro turned on the lights for some reason? He pushed himself into a sitting position and realized with a rush of fear where he was. A padded cell. And even worse, its occupant was in there with him.

" Heeeeya Joekid~." Even with some faint lighting on, Johnny could clearly see glints of topaz colored eyes shine at the other end of the large cell. Diego sat there like dog, only with a wide disturbing grin full of razor sharp teeth that threatened to tear Johnny's skin into two. " Awww, you look scared. You know, it's rude to stare at someone like that, right? I thought you grew up learning manners and what not." Without a bat of an eye, Diego crawled his way over in an unworldly fashion and speed. It was like a human mixed with the movement and speed of an alligator dashing onto the land. And when Diego smiled at him, the same could be said with the wicked teeth and piercing eyes.

"Diego!" Johnny attempted to drag himself backwards, away from the other man, but it was hard from this angle. He flipped over and crawled as fast as he could, which wasn't nearly as fast as Diego. Not that it mattered. There was nowhere to go in the enclosed cell. Just Diego with teeth too big for his mouth and claws like icicles. "Wh-What am I-Where-" He couldn't get a full sentence out with all the questions flooding his mind at once. Pretty pathetic for last words. As the Joestar struggled to crawl for his life, two hands took hold of Johnny's lame ankles and pulled him backwards like poor victims in a horror movie, who were only there to be slaughtered for entertainment. Diego held Johnny's lame legs firmly and with ease. He might not have been as well built as he had been when a jockey, but his stand did offer more muscle than being just a mangle of skin and bones. Now that Diego had his rival where he wanted him, right under his touch, he didn't know what to do, just like a dog catching up to a car or bike. So he let his shadier side and instinct take over and pulled up one of Johnny's leg's sleeves to inspect the skin under it. Johnny twisted around, Tusk at the ready. His nail bullets weren't very powerful, but they could hurt like Hell. Probably not enough to kill Diego. But he stopped short once he saw what Diego was doing. Just staring at his leg. Johnny's legs were pale and abnormally thin, a clear result of atrophy from two years of paralysis. So much weaker than they used to be. Even with the limited movement he'd managed to regain, his legs remained too weak to support him, and he could only stand for a short period of time with crutches. Something about the too-white skin fascinated Diego. This was Johnny's opportunity to shoot him, but somehow he couldn't. He was too curious.

The more aggressive, and much crazier Stand User tilted his head in curious manners as he scanned over the pale skin that looked so neglected, not being used. The leg was so easy to hold up and keep in place, it just dangle there like meat on bone from a meal. Diego was too entranced y the lame leg, that he hadn't even noticed the small pink fairy-like stand or that Johnny's nails were spinning around and around, rapidly in a fluent motion. But of course, instinct took hold of Diego's mind and actions, insisting him to taste the leg. Thankfully due to tests, he didn't eat human meat, and only would when desperate. Scientists were thankful some of the other users could regrow or heal themselves with a chunk missing. " How much can you feel?"

"Not much." The two of them were frozen in time, staring at each other. Johnny had answered the question for some reason he didn't quite understand. "It's really faint." Feeling became stronger further up his body, but it was weakest at his feet, near where Diego was touching. He felt a slight twinge of pain and wondered if it were the man's claws digging into his skin. Johnny was used to pity when people saw how thin his legs were, Gyro had certainly looked fucking broken the first time he saw Johnny in the boxers he wore as pajamas, but not this strange fascination. There was hunger in Diego's eyes. The tips of his claws were slightly digging in, but not enough to make any blood ooze out, but defiantly harder than just a normal prick of the skin. Diego remained silent as he listened to Johnny, his entire mind was in a blur and daze. Deep primal urges were fighting against his civilized mannerisms of being a human. He didn't even realize that his tongue ran out and past his teeth, being so close by temptation to bite down. But he managed to restrain himself... Well, restrain from causing anything major. He opened his jaw and grazed his teeth over and down Johnny's Achilles tendon, not piercing the skin below, but enough for Johnny to feel.

Johnny definitely felt that. The pain wasn't as intense as it should be, but it still cut through all other feeling like a hot knife through wax. Diego's teeth were sharp, way sharper than anything organic had any right to be, and even without breaking the skin Johnny could tell how fine the edge was. He was holding back. If Diego had wanted, he could have ripped through Johnny's skin like paper, draining his blood far quicker than Johnny could call for help. But he didn't. Johnny wasn't the vanilla person in the world. In fact, he was into some pretty weird shit. But being bitten by his life-long rival who was also half dinosaur? That was new. "Why?"

Diego sat himself down instead of being on the tips of his toes, now more relaxed somehow, like this was just a casual thing he did. He stopped and put his cheek against the worn out tendon, humming out, " Hmm? Why what?" It was odd to see Diego respond like this, just underneath he could easily kill Johnny, but he stayed so composed. Diego put his sharpened teeth to the leg's skin again, enjoying the feel apparently. He listened to Johnny's answer as the teeth cut down through the pale sickly skin like a tissue. He didn't chomp down, just giving what could only be called a soft love bite. Though it did draw out a pinch of blood that was soon lapped up by Diego, as if he were some type of fucking vampire,

"Why don't you just fucking kill me?! That's why I'm here, isn't it?!" Johnny attempted to wrench his leg from Diego's grip, only succeeding in making the bite deeper. "Just fucking do it!" If Diego tried to kill him, then Johnny would have a reason to shoot him. Maybe he could shock himself out of this strange trance, force himself to realize how much he hated Diego. Because he did hate him, and he always would, there was no changing that. All that bullshit about DBSM didn't matter. It had all been a trick, part of Diego's game to kill Johnny in some horribly painful way.

Diego grunted with an animalistic growl of that when something was getting in the way of their meal. He hadn't meant to bite the other's leg again near the first bite, but it was a reaction from Johnny trying to worm away from his grip. Once he bit down into the flesh, he let go and put one palm on the side of Johnny's head, pushing him harshly into the plush flooring. " Do you think I want to kill you?! Why do you think I want to so damn much?! You think I like being a fucking monster, you little shit?! If I were to kill you, I'd have no one to-..." He cut himself off, soon realizing his flaws of this plan. Johnny wouldn't want to see him after this. Not after what he just did. He was going to be alone again.

And there was that undeniably broken look in his eyes again. Diego, behind all his weird lizard bullshit and his pride and whatever else was tangled up in that mess of a mind, was genuinely honest-to-God sad that Johnny had called him a monster, however indirectly. Because Diego knew it was true, that there were things about himself he could never fix, no matter how desperately he tried. Because as much as Johnny wished he could deny it, he understood Diego. Because Johnny was the same way. "No one to what? What do you want, Diego?" He could feel the hand against his head shaking.

The hand shifted away, as well as its owner, backing away from Johnny in a fearful manner. He started to sway side to side as all of his realization spread through his mind like an infection, covering up everything. Diego didn't sound like himself, he sounded so... Distant. He probably didn't even know he was talking, " No one to talk to, to see, to feel like I'm not a useless piece of shit that can't do anything right." His little-twisted plan was unwinding faster and faster. What was his plan in the first place again? He sat there, looking off into space, he didn't know what he wanted. Revenge, company, blood, pain, comfort, it was all a vicious mix that spun in his mind.

Johnny sat up and stared at Diego. This was so... different from the heartless jockey he remembered, the man who would do anything to win. Diego Brando, genius jockey, the champion of the British racing circuit, so fucking broken. Johnny crawled towards Diego, trying to keep his movements slow so as not to surprise the man. He reached out and touched Diego's arm, patting him in a vague way that was meant to be comforting. "I'll keep talking to you. So you won't be alone." He tried to rationalize it, telling himself it was something he'd do for anyone. But it wasn't. Diego was important.

The unstable User kept looking vacant for a moment, not even registering the gentle pat on his arm which wasn't much of a pat, more of an awkward bap. Diego shook his head to snap back into reality, his eyes scanning about to find nothing in his sight but lights and colors. He did, however, smell Johnny was there next to him and forced himself to focus until his vision became clear again. It was so strange for them both, Diego didn't know what to do or say. He knew he couldn't just cling onto him like the friendlier cousin. " T-Thanks." He gulped a bit before a stray thought shot across his mind. Shit, he had promised to uphold his end of the bargain so Kawajiri could see someone be in pain. Quickly thinking Diego grabbed Johnny by the neck of his shirt and dragged him behind his large stuffed dinosaurs. " Shh! Fucking... Forgot about the good doctor watching." He whispered out.

 

Johnny crossed his arms and pulled an impressive pout. He did not like to be manhandled, much less by Diego Brando of all people. But it was a hollow reaction. He was relieved Diego had come to his senses. "Who are you talking about? Which one of those assholes is watching?" Johnny figured it had to be one of the Foundation scientists. After all, Diego could hardly leave his cell to go get Johnny from his room. And the stuffed dinosaurs, well that was a total Gyro move. It made him a bit more comfortable if he was entirely honest, being able to connect Diego with his best friend, even if it was just a little touch.

" Shut the fuck up Joekid. It's-Hrng... Damnit, I told him I wouldn't start rumors, not letting out a damn name. Look, I didn't know what I wanted okay." Another gulp as Diego thought, becoming more paranoid that Kawajiri would fall back on their deal. He had told him that he'd put on a little bit of a show, mostly with Johnny being in pain. And now that he had been reassured by the handicapped man, guilt was going to start to gnaw at his core. " I may have told them that you'd get hurt-nothing major! But, well... Looking back at that, this was stupid as hell." He shoved his face into his hands trying to think, though part of him did want to harm the other. He let out a deep breath, " I promise I won't cause major injury... Maybe a small fight will make him happy."

"I'm not giving you a free shot!" Johnny summoned Tusk and aimed a nail bullet at Diego. He would hit somewhere minor, maybe his hand or his leg. His pride was on the line, not his life, and contrary to popular belief, Johnny could tell the difference between the two. This felt more like how he should be acting around Diego, thinly veiled hostility, not this strange tenderness that neither of them really understood. He took aim at Diego's right hand and fired. Diego who was getting ready to... Somewhat firmly talk Johnny into getting into a small scuffle and for once preferably letting his rival have an upper hand by possibly staging it until Johnny got tired was now out of the question. Diego shrieked out from the sudden shot at his hand. He instinctively clutched hold of it and snarled out, baring his needle tipped teeth dangerously. He shuddered, restraining himself back. He had been working on Scary Monsters for a long time but just wasn't use to showing other people how well could retain it, knowing he'd always be dangerous, even if he was let out. Diego snarled out only let out some of his teeth and claws out, just a little, not enough to cause anything fatal... Kinda like a kitten. A really big kitten...

Johnny could tell Diego was holding back, and that gave him an opportunity he wasn't ashamed to take. Diego looked weaker than he had in his racing days, but he probably still had an advantage over Johnny physically, what with his fully working legs and weird half-dinosaur stuff. Johnny fired a second nail bullet, this time grazing Diego's shoulder. He could have done a lot more damage had he not aimed off center on purpose. He didn't want to put Diego in an actual life-or-death situation, that was a recipe for disaster. But a chance to hurt him a bit without consequences? Johnny would take that in a heartbeat. Diego had spent the last couple weeks fucking with his emotions, probably not intentionally but the damage was still done. Diego, on the other hand, hadn't even gotten to react yet from restraining himself not to tear out Johnny's jugular or slicing him open in one slice of a taloned claw. Again another quick sharp pain grazed over his shoulder. He didn't even know what Johnny was shooting. But after the second hit, he didn't feel like waiting anymore, nor trying to talk to Johnny to improvise and instead tackled the other User, toppling out from behind the wall of stuffed dinosaurs and into the glass panel's view. The blonde quickly pinned Johnny down to the soft flooring, wrapping a hand around his neck, but not to terribly tightly to choke him. He raised up his free hand and paused, making it tremble. He had to not maim Johnny... So instead he leaned forward and took a sharp nip into Johnny's shoulder.

The bite felt like being stabbed with about twenty knives at once. Johnny yelped in pain and raised a hand to shoot Diego, but stopped himself at the last second. Nothing too dangerous. Instead, he settled for punching him square in the face. That wouldn't do any long-term damage, but it would leave an impressive bruise. Johnny was strong, but the hit did nothing to loosen Diego's grip on his shoulder. The teeth twisted in the wound, and Johnny let out a hiss straight into Diego's ear. It fucking hurt. If he could just get Diego off him, he had a chance of winning the struggle. But as the situation was, Johnny was pinned. Diego kept his jaw clamped shut on the shoulder as if he was a crocodile-well, know that Johnny thought about it, that would make a bit of sense. He'd just have to hope Diego's instincts didn't tell him to grow out more of his lizard-like Stand and start a death roll. He still held back, true to his word, he didn't pierce any muscle or snap a bone thankfully. The grip on Johnny's shoulder started to loosen after a moment giving Johnny a chance. If it had been the older Diego, he wouldn't give him a single chance, to begin with. As the teeth started to loosen their grip, Diego's eyes darted to the glass seeing if Kawajiri was entertained enough or not.

Kawajiri was indeed entertained. He stood on the other side of the glass watching the two men fight like it was some kind of private gladiatorial match put on for his amusement, which in a sense it was. Of course, the fight would be much more interesting if Diego fully activated Scary Monsters and tore Johnny to pieces, but Kawajiri knew that would be far too difficult to explain later, as many of his more macabre interests were. It was truly a pity that other people couldn't see the beauty in violence that he did. All they saw was the viscera and the pain, when really there was so much more. Johnny took Diego's momentary distraction as the opening he was looking for. He shoved Diego off and lunged forward as best he could, landing on Diego's chest. Johnny pointed a spinning nail between his eyes. "I win."

Diego was relieved the doctor seemed to be amused, he could easily sense the mood he was in, but focusing more on the man instead of the scuffle, he used his sharper senses to solely focus on the man's face, catching a small smirk as he watched them both struggle. The struggle that was played out just for him, he must have felt special. However, Diego had forgotten how snappish and quick acting, Johnny really was, since his mind was being reduced down in this cell. Once he was pushed off and back landing on the soft ground under them, he caught a glimpse of Johnny, now in a way of clumsily straddling his chest as he tilted a finger right to Diego. Diego's focus suddenly changed onto the spinning fingernail and Johnny's face, which surprisingly scared him a bit. If his mind hadn't been broken so much, he probably wouldn't have felt intimidated. But being down here made fears grow and spread. He gave out a small whine, signaling the other, that he was backing down.

Johnny leaned back and his nail stopped spinning. He wasn't above taking a win under less than fair circumstances, especially when Diego was involved, but then he noticed that tiny spark of fear in Diego's eyes. Diego shouldn't be afraid of him. They had faced each other hundreds of times on the track, and after all, the fight had been Diego's idea in the first place. Johnny had been holding back and Diego knew it. There wasn't going to be any serious injury, that had been the agreement. But Diego was still afraid. It showed how broken he had become. And in the back of Johnny's mind, he realized something else. This was the first time he had ever beaten Diego. The victory felt hollow. All good things had to come to an end. Kawajiri sighed and hit a button on the console in front of him, activating the tranquilizer bracelet he had put on Johnny while taking him between his room and Diego's cell. It was a pity. The fight was starting to get interesting.

Chapter Text

A muffled voice came around from the darkness of Johnny's mind. Was it his long-deceased brother trying to wake him into Heaven? Probably a fat chance on that... Maybe it was his father... Maybe it was Diego crying out since he snapped out and killed Johnny... Though nothing felt like a terrible amount of pain yet. " OI!" Johnny was woken up by some gentle pats on the cheek. Suddenly light shined through his eyes, revealing he was back in the room he shared with his friend. Gyro looked over him with a puzzling expression, " You look like shit, but you look like you got good sleep... Weird. You okay there buddy?"

"I'm fine." Johnny rubbed his eyes, trying to wake himself up. His eyelids felt heavy, like there was a weight holding them down, and his head was all fuzzy. It was like he was still dreaming. The previous night had been strange. Johnny didn't normally remember his dreams, not anything more than vague images at least, but he was certain they had included Diego. Not too strange, the man had been on his mind lately, but he didn't normally remember something like that. He went to sit up and immediately clutched at his shoulder. It hurt like Hell and there was something seeping through his pajama shirt. Blood?

Gyro seemed to take notice once his old friend sat up and grabbed hold of his shoulder in a hiss of pain. " What the-Holy shit! What the fuck happened to your shoulder?! Here, wait, hold on." He rushed to his bed and pulled out a first aid kit from under it. He quickly sat by Johnny's side and carefully removed the blood-stained shirt, getting a better look. A bite mark was right there on his left shoulder, bruising and all. Though Gyro was training to become a medical doc, he hadn't been able to practice as well when he was sent here, making his skills rusty. " Fuck, looks like some kinda animal bit you... Ugh and friggen' Josuke asked me for those rubber bands to go bug Rohan today." He muttered to himself, remembering the pompadour teen and his room-mate going out to pester a certain artist by flinging rubber bands at him. " He'll be gone all day-Shit... Wait! I know someone who can fix ya' up!"

Some kinda animal. Diego? That seemed like a long shot. Johnny shook his head, trying to clear the fog of sleep that still hung over him. He hadn't actually been in the same room with Diego during any of their meetings, but somehow that explanation made sense. Perhaps Diego had gotten loose and was roaming the facility. No, he would have woken up Gyro, who was an abnormally light sleeper. Johnny couldn't imagine any other cause, but that left how. The only answer he could think of was that Diego had some Freddy Kruger-style dream powers and was using them purely to fuck with Johnny, which sounded like something he would do. Over the top of his thoughts, Gyro said something, but Johnny couldn't quite process what it was. "What?"

Gyro blinked at the question and let out a dramatic sigh. After a few minutes of Gyro waking up Johnny from his slight hang over-which took a while, to be honest, he pushed the wheelchair outside to a large area, possibly that of the size of a football stadium or two packed together.

 

-----------------

Gyro was the only person who could ever push his friend along. He was the only one Johnny trusted and knew the Zeppeli would handle the wheelchair with great care. The outside was somewhat enclosed by large metallic walls and a dome the scoured over the top, enclosing them like a giant atrium. The grass seemed fresh, even with a sidewalk pavement of bricks built around it. Various flora sprouted everywhere. Why hadn't Gyro taken Johnny out here before? It must have been at least two months since Johnny had been outside last. He had missed it. Most of his life had been spent outside for one reason or another, mostly horse-related, but now it felt like years since he had seen grass. The facility was impressive in scale, but this was still surprising. The only thing missing was the sound of birds. They were still closed off from the world. But maybe this was enough.

Gyro wheeled his friend down a path leading to a distant building, passing by various people, both scientist, and Users. But the closer they got... The more it looked like a house, no, a cabin-wait... It looked like a stable. Gyro gripped the front part of his hat, lowering it down his eyes, he couldn't take the sight of Johnny possibly yelling at him or breaking down for the moment. " I-Uh... Look, Johnny. I haven't shown you this outdoor place because-well..." He gave out a long and deep sigh of guilt. " I didn't know if seeing this would hurt you dude. Ya' know, since well. What happen." His grip on the wheelchair's handlebars curled even more to where if Gyro had been balling up his fists, he'd surely would have cut himself with his nails and started to bleed his palms.

Johnny understood perfectly. It did hurt, but so did plenty of other things. He had grown used to ignoring that sort of pain, the sort that would never be fixed. And it helped that Gyro was there. It felt a little like the way things used to be and that nostalgia was bittersweet, but at least it was more than just bitter. After the accident, Johnny had tried to force himself to return to the stables, but it had seemed pointless. There was nothing left if he couldn't ride. But he remembered the meeting with DBSM- no, with Diego. The talk of his first time riding, of how beautiful it had felt. He couldn't lose those memories just to protect himself from his own bitterness. "I'm fine."

The Italian put a hand on the non-wounded shoulder, giving him a gentle pat before pushing him to the stables. The stables seemed in good condition, clean, no rotted wood, and sturdy. Even though it was just the outside they were rolling to, it seemed so pristine and well taken care of, like nothing aged. Upon finally getting to the front, there was a young girl with pink hair that looked to be in layers like a petal of a flower. The girl seemed to be watching something in the distance as she sat upon some of the fencing. Gyro whistled over to her, drawing her attention. He pushed up his hat with the tip of his thumb to give a big grin to mask over the bittersweet moment with Johnny. " Yo Trish! Where's HP at?! We could use a bit of her help!"

The girl smiled back and waved, " Heya Gyro! She's busy getting stocking the food for the horses at the moment, so she'll be back in a few-" She paused as her bright eyes gleamed over Johnny. Again, she, like Kakyoin didn't even gloss over the fact Johnny was in a wheelchair and instead smiled to him. " Oh, hello there. You must be Gyro's roomie right? My name is Trish Una, it's nice to meet you."

Trish didn't exactly look like a stable hand, with her elaborate hair and well-manicured nails, but Johnny wasn't one to question things. And of course, manners dictated he must introduce himself. "Johnny Joestar," he said. Trish reminded him of girlfriends from years ago. She had the same refined attitude, the same designer clothes even in the middle of a stable, but she looked kinder. Still, it wasn't exactly a plus for her trustworthiness. And this HP was another unknown. He knew it was ridiculous to suspect people Gyro introduced him to, but after the whole Diego situation he wasn't about to take anyone at first impressions.

"Gyro?" A woman poked her head out of the stable door. "Is that you?" She had heard him from inside. The woman stepped out, a bit dirty from handling the animals, but still proudly wore a pink garment with fur-lined around it. She took off a cap, reviling a hotter pink type of hair than Trish. There was no mistaking Gyro Zeppelli, he was one in a million. She looked him and his companion over, and then opened the door fully. "I just finished up, Trish," she said, looking at her stable hand. Trish was a good girl, but not much for getting her hands dirty. But HP liked having her around anyway. She was always pleasant to talk to. "I see you've brought me a visitor." She noted the bandages on the stranger's shoulder. "Or should I say a favor?"

Gyro chuckled nervously as he rubbed the back of his neck, " Aww geez HP, ya' don't gotta' be like that. Can't I just come over and say, 'Hello ladies~'" He pointed to them with his fingers, displaying his hands as if they were guns while he winked and clicked his tongue... Always with the Flirting of Ladies for a Zeppeli... He was given the response of Trish hopping down, placing the tip of her classy looking shoes under an empty plastic bucket and kicking it right at Gyro, making the man yelp out and cover his forehead from the sudden impact. " AHHH! OKAY, OKAY! JEEZ! Fucking..." He muttered as he rubbed the new bruise popping into place. " Anyways... Yeah, don't know how, but my friend Johnny here got bit by an animal or something somehow."

Trish tilted her head as she squinted, " An animal? Not many animals around here. You sure it wasn't you sleepwalking?" She said in a smug manner, teasing the other Italian, who gave her a small pouty glare. " Okay, okay. Enough joking around. Johnny do you remember anything that may have caused your bite?"

"I honestly don't know." What else could he say? ' Oh yeah, there's a half dinosaur guy. He's locked up, but maybe there's some astral projection shit going on'. "It was just there when I woke up." It wasn't a lie, and the whole Diego theory was so ridiculous it barely even qualified as a theory. Johnny was just as mystified as everyone else.

HP took out a pocket knife and flicked the blade open. "Okay, don't tell us. I'll fix it anyway." She cut the bandages that had been expertly wrapped around Johnny's shoulder and was greeted by what was clearly a bite, and a bad one. HP was no stranger to animal-related injuries, horses could take your ear off with a bite if you weren't careful, but this was unlike anything she had seen before. A series of holes, small in diameter but all deep, clean incisions. The teeth must have been very sharp to leave patterns like that. She removed Cream Starter from her belt and began to fill in the holes with its spray.

Trish came over to the small group and leaned forward to examine the strange bruised bite. Though she wasn't as familiar with animals, she could plainly tell the small burrowed in holes of the skin we're unlike anything she had seen before. " Do you think it could have been a stand?" She stroked her chin to try and figure out this mysterious conundrum, the bite riddled her mind in a veil of mystery. " Maybe Giorno will know. He knows a lot on animals since he can make them. Or if, worse comes to shove, I could get Abbachio... Maybe Fugo would know as well. He's book-smart in that way." Gyro leaned back from seeing the nasty bite, normally this stuff didn't affect him in the slightest. But this just seemed too unnatural, even for someone practicing in the medical fields.

"Nah, it's not really a problem." If Diego did, in fact, turn out to be responsible, Johnny couldn't imagine what the Foundation would do to him. It wouldn't be pleasant, that's for sure. If it happened again maybe he would investigate further, but he couldn't risk something happening to Diego. And it was only a small bite. "Maybe it's just an accident and I didn't notice it for a while." Johnny was suddenly struck with a thought. He would talk to Diego again. Why, he wasn't exactly sure, but something told him he had already made up his mind to do it.

"There." Hot Pants replaced Cream Starter in its holster and took a step back. Johnny's shoulder was healed. Her Stand was a strange one, bound to an object and without a physical form otherwise, but she liked it anyway. It was practical and simple, very much her style. HP had taken a long time to figure out the intricacies of Cream Starter, so in a way, it was a blessing she has received the Stand at an abnormally early age. For all other reasons, it was very much a curse. "Need anything else?" She had horses to get back to.

Trish frowned a touch but nothing terribly bad. She could understand the wheelchair-bound man, remembering times when she'd tell her uncle she was fine, or vice-versa. She grew up with a tough family, respecting Johnny acting the way she and her family normally would. She nodded, " Alright, but if you do need anything, don't fret to call me or Hot Pants."

Gyro gazed forward and smiled to the woman, " Thanks HP." Gyro always seemed to marvel over the cream, and in some cases, Josuke's stand. Being able to heal people like such would make him a wondrous doctor. But then again, most people were terrified of any Stand and User. The very least he could do was relax muscles with a spin of the metal balls he was given. Gyro's gaze then hovered over to the horses in the stable and then to his friend. " ... If it's not too much to ask. Johnny, you wanna'... See the horses?"

"Sure." Johnny missed horses. They had been such a constant in his life for such a long time that he hadn't even thought to miss them at first. The horses at the Foundation obviously weren't the same as the ones back home, but it was close enough. Johnny didn't miss Kentucky, too many bad memories, but the horses that lived at his family home were a different story. He wondered what use the Foundation had for horses. Surely it wasn't just for the Stand users' comfort. That seemed overly considerate for such an institutional world.

HP nodded and led them inside. She went down the list, pointing at each horse and saying their name. Johnny was entranced. The man clearly had experience with horses. Probably had some background with Gyro, who was a pretty competent rider himself. She paused at her own Gets Up, who looked at her longingly, hoping for treats. The horse didn't technically belong to her any more than the others did, but Gets Up was her favorite.

Trish tagged along with them and saw some of the horses whinny a bit, actually excited to see a new face. The horses seemed pretty open to people, giving an example as one snorted next to the flower haired girl, reaching its head out and budging her with its snout. She gave a small giggle and gently pet the horse while the others traveled down the aisle. of horses looking out from the fencing. Gyro himself walked calmly up to one and gave it a sugar cube, " Hey Valkyrie." He said affectionately petting the horse's neck, running his fingers through its mane. " The horses can race, but they're mainly for comfort therapy. Their experienced racing horses that are in retirement, sent by Steel Ball Race Track to live out their days."

Johnny reached up and patted Valkyrie. The horse felt like old memories. Despite everything, he was happy. Johnny had no right to be happy, it was far more than he deserved, but he couldn't stop himself. "Thank you, Gyro."

 

===================

Johnny requested to speak to Diego again that afternoon, but it wasn't until a few days later that the now-familiar duo of Robert and Kawajiri showed up at his door. He had begun to worry about Diego, in a sort of background way like the buzz of static on a broken radio. For all Diego knew, Johnny had abandoned him after the disastrous third meeting. He had been so afraid of being alone, and now he was. The thought was so crushing that Johnny didn't even want to consider it, so he kept it walled off. Probably not the best coping mechanism, but it was all he had. To make matters worse, Gyro wasn't in their room and was off to help the chef Stand User in the cafeteria to whip up some new meal for the rest. So, Johnny wasn't able to get his goodbye and good luck that his friend would constantly give him, making the feelings of the predicament a bit more twisted in a way. Robert looked surprised and a bit taken back that the wheelchair-bound User wanted to see the other. Since the hostility, Robert was feeling uneasy and was starting to think Johnny only wanted to go back to fuck with Diego a bit more, possibly feeling a bit in power. But that was just Robert's guess. " Uhm, Mister Johnny, a-are you sure you want to see DBSM again? I mean, we can't technically deny your request but..." He simmered down as he caught a glance of Kawajiri's stern look. " Wh-What I meant was... Glass o-or no glass?"

Johnny knew he should be afraid of Diego. Logically, if he were to fear anyone, it should be the half-crazy man who could turn into a dinosaur when he got pissed off. But he didn't. He wasn't sure why. Ignorance, defiance, his own stubborn pride, the reason remained a mystery and all he knew was that he wasn't afraid of Diego. The thought of being in the same room as the man felt strangely exciting, like he had been struck by lightning and the current still crackled through his body. It was a good feeling, and Johnny didn't want it to end. "No glass."

Robert's eyes became wide as saucers, the scientist knew well enough that these meetings normally lasted much longer with staying with the glass so each User could get to know one another better, but this... This was new. Was Johnny actually this courageous, or did Kawajiri somehow convince Johnny to push further? Robert had only asked Johnny due to Kawajiri wanting to push the two forward as a small experiment, giving Johnny more options instead of waiting around after more meetings. And of course, Robert didn't try to argue with his superior. Robert's throat swelled up before gulping down harshly, truly shocked about Johnny's choice. But there were still more procedures to be taken account. " Would you like him to be drugged a bit?" Robert sincerely hoped Johnny wasn't this crazy...

The last meeting had ended with Diego losing control, but somehow Johnny knew Diego could hold back. A memory surfaced of Diego, his teeth a handful of needles, biting into Johnny's shoulder. But not deep. Just a scratch, Johnny himself had made it worse, Diego hadn't meant to really hurt him. He was putting on a show. But that memory wasn't true, Diego hadn't bitten Johnny. They had never been close enough together for that to happen. It felt real, but it wasn't. Still, Johnny couldn't make himself believe Diego would actually hurt him if given the chance. He'd never hear the end of it from Gyro if he ended up being wrong. "No. He'll have the tranq bracelet. That's enough."

The scientist's nervous smile of hoping dearly Johnny wouldn't be this hard-headed soon turned south. " Bu-But he could get aggressive and hostile and-and-and-" He soon cut himself off seeing the other's determined look and internally groaned before rubbing the nape of his neck under the long blonde hair. " It's not going to be a bracelet..." He mumbled quietly to himself before departing from the room with the other two. Down below after the tedious elevator ride, Robert kept quiet much like last time, but didn't seem saddened, but instead even more on edge than usual. Johnny could easily tell why the man enjoyed hanging around with Jonathan. At least someone else could handle him with a bit more care than his partner.

Johnny was invited to another spacious room with normal furniture, and a couch at a wall to suit it. And there on the couch sat Diego in a black leathered looking straitjacket, a neon-colored in collar around his normal shock one, cuffs clamped around his ankles with a chain attached to the two, and ghastly looking muzzle. Johnny stared at Diego. He looked so small in the restraints. The Diego he remembered was muscular and powerful, but this man was thin and bent, like the ceiling itself weighed down on him. The muzzle was a particularly awful touch, as much to remind everyone of his beastly nature as to subdue him. Johnny moved closer to the couch, looking for any sign of a response. "Diego?"

A glimmer of yellow darted to the side, Diego's eye trained on Johnny. Much like with Jonathan, he didn't move his head and instead focused with the one eye Johnny could see. Diego let out a growl, warning the other to not push his luck at all, despite Diego being restricted. " Why?" He asked out in a hollow and broken way, as if he was questioning life it's self. It reminded Johnny asking the same thing once his brother had passed away, wondering why he had been taken. " Why did you come back?" Diego started to let out a more guttural snarl, " WHY?! Did you come back to gloat at how much more freedom you have over me?! To try and expose any weakness in me?! Is that it?! To mock me, knowing I can never be let out of this hell?! To remind me how much of a fucking monster I am?! Or is it... That you-YOU JUST WANT TO SEE ME SUFFER?!"

"No." Johnny's voice sounded quiet in the ringing silence. He watched Diego struggle against the chains and shuddered at how the cuffs cut into his ankles. "I want..." What did he want? To free Diego. To break the chains and tear off the straitjacket. To bandage his cuts and calm him down. To say he would never leave Diego alone again. To protect him. "I want..." Johnny wasn't the type to make declarations like that, It was the sort of thing Jonathan would say. To his wife. "Diego, I..." Johnny had never been in love, and he knew he never would be. People like him didn't fall in love. They grew old and bitter and never let anyone get close. "I..."

The restrained jockey let out a small sigh, knowing he wasn't going to get much of an answer by the sounds of it. Though, that's not what bothered him. What bugged him was the fact that Johnny sounded meek in a way, fumbling with his words he desperately tried to grasp at. Just like how that night when Diego got the scientist's help to drag him into his cell, only for Diego to be confused about what he wanted with Johnny himself. And of course, at the back of his broken mind screamed out to have affection, be it rival or not. Just to have someone near him. But alas, bitter rivalry from the past tried suppressing any comfort. Both emotions conflicted with the other until the two somehow combined, even for just a moment. Diego quietly said, " Can you even move to this couch?" Part of him wanting to know how weak Johnny was, while the other, wanting to be near anyone.

Johnny still had enough presence of mind for a dirty look, but he took Diego's offer and transferred from his chair to the couch without a word. He didn't know what to say, and for that, he was silently cursing himself. The answer used to be so simple. He'd talked to Diego for entirely selfish reasons, to fix the damage done to himself by his own mistakes. Selfishness wasn't exactly a virtue, but he could handle that particular sin. That explanation wasn't true anymore. "I don't want you to be alone."

Diego watched how Johnny could still fairly easily move himself, giving slight respect or admiration for Johnny's upper body strength. But once his former rival was now close to him, with no exception of Diego to move around as freely as the last time, he felt a bit flustered. Again in an odd mix, he wanted to tear through some skin but at the same time, just wanted to feel anyone's touch. He cocked a brow once Johnny explained himself out, not knowing if this was a lie or a subtle truth. He'd been deceived for so long, scientists toying with his emotions, giving in hope, only to be lied to in the end. " Heh, yeah, sure. And why pray tell me, would you want that?" This just had to be a devious ploy, no one would want to be around him, especially not Johnny.

"I don't know." Johnny knew Diego wouldn't accept the real answer. No one wanted to hear how terribly broken they were, how even someone as fucked up and self-obsessed as Johnny could see it. And Diego hated him anyway. He would never believe it. "You said you didn't want me to leave. Isn't it enough for you that I'm still here?" Johnny reached out, and his hand brushed against the side of Diego's face. The skin was cold.

Diego bit the bottom of his lip, his teeth daring to sharpen themselves and pierce the skin till a trail of blood would leak out from the cut. It was true, and that's what Diego hated most. When he had made the other User have a small breakdown, making himself go into a conniption on how he thought the other had left him, he cried out not to be alone. And then the other time when Johnny had pushed him over and unleashed his true potential, only to be shocked as punishment, pleading yet again before passing out. Even the last time, if Johnny didn't even recall it, Diego was grateful for him saying he wouldn't leave him alone again. As Diego thought to himself, he flinched at the sudden brush of the fingers. Much like with Jonathan again, he wasn't use to any type of physical feeling that wasn't harmful. He cowered away for a moment giving Johnny that same fearful look he had that Johnny recalled in his 'dream'.

The spark of memory flared again, and Johnny was hit by a strange sense of déjà vu. He recognized the expression, even through the muzzle. It couldn't have been left over from their past together, the old Diego had never been scared like that. Whatever the source, he pushed the memory to the side for the time being and focused on Diego. "I'm not going to hurt you." Johnny drew back cautiously, wary of Diego's reaction. "Can I touch you?" He wanted to, God did he want to. But now it felt like something else, something more than pure human interaction.

Diego's mind ranted and rambled even more than it did previously, always trying to tug Diego's control to one side or the other. Deny or accept, deny or accept? Very rarely was there ever a middle ground between the two emotions. However after longing for any warmth of another living thing aside from his Stand's 'weekly meals', the part of his inner torment of kind approval won overall. Diego's eyes seemed to grow out just a bit, much like when someone was starting to calm down by having some type of calming injection of chemicals. He straightened himself up but didn't say a word, afraid he'd sound weak and scared. He only nodded to the other.

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Meanwhile, in another room, Robert had been jotting down note after note, but stopped as he watched the two, letting a smile grow across his face. " Th-They're connecting! OH, MY GOD! KAWAJIRI, WE MIGHT HAVE A BREAKTHROUGH!"

Kawajiri merely glared at his excitable colleague. "Yes, it seems we do." One disappointment after another.
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Johnny noticed the change and moved closer, pushing himself towards Diego until their knees bumped together. The impact was muffled by the lack of sensation in his legs, but Johnny felt a small shock travel up his body. He began to stroke Diego's hair, running his fingers lightly through it. The top layer of hair was combed, but underneath that lay a mess of tangles that Johnny was careful not to pull. He could feel Diego relaxing, and allowed himself a small smile. "Next time, I'll bring you a brush."

Diego started to calm down immensely and Johnny could plainly see it as his tired eyes lowered down to a half-lidded state. It felt like he was back with Jonathan, the only person that seem to try any affection on the unstable User. Like a cat, Diego leaned over to where the side of his tied up arm softly collided with Johnny's free arm. Diego was so... Fickle. He could be highly aggressive, but with the flick of the wrist he could be categorized under domesticated, like an animal-which to be frank, was partly what he was. He made a slight noise which Johnny could only describe as content. " ..... That'd be nice." It was like he was in a daze, because any other time he'd snap at Johnny.

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" Oh my gosh! I should tell Jonathan about this! It'll bring him such relief!" Fucking Robert... How did Kawajiri get paired up with this doofus...?
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The two of them sat like that for a long time. Johnny let the minutes tick by and wished they were longer. It wasn't like hanging out with Gyro; it was a different kind of pleasant, one that was warm and safe despite how unfamiliar it was. The kind of pleasant that accompanies a Saturday afternoon and a soft blanket and really good coffee, all on a snowy day in winter with maybe a dog or two thrown in for good measure. It was a feeling Johnny knew he'd miss the second it ended. And he knew it would, because Diego was the only reason it could exist and soon he would be taken away again. The other jockey finally mustered up the courage to put on a small smile that hid behind the crude muzzle over covering his mouth to ensure Johnny's safety. " Hehehehe. I remember doing this while me and my-my, wife watched soap operas together." He didn't sound distasteful about the elderly woman he had once married far before he was sent and locked up down in the foundation's prison. But he seemed to hesitate in calling her his wife. All of this seemed quite odd know that Johnny thought about it. He, Gyro, and several other old jockeys figured out Diego was just waiting for the old woman to die so he could gain her money. She was the richest person in their previous state, a well-known individual that acted like a sweet old grandmother, who would often donate to charities.

Johnny had been pretty sure at the time that Diego had murdered his wife, but now he was starting to doubt that accusation. If they had shared something like this, it was hard to imagine anyone being able to slip poison in the tea or whatever. Maybe that was just Johnny's latent desire for domesticity. Back in his jockey days, he would have laughed at the idea of enjoying something as mundane as... whatever they were doing. The word cuddling snuck unwanted into his mind but he forced it out. He did not cuddle with Diego Brando. Now that the former jockey was thinking to himself and absent-mildly brushing his fingers through the blonde's hair, Diego soon sparked up a grin which was to faint to see completely. Johnny soon felt something slide behind him, if it had been his legs, he wouldn't have noticed it as much. Before his mind could register to question what it was, it was too late as a spindly yet muscled tail of cyan and gold slithered to wrap around his lower torso. Strangely enough, it didn't squeeze him like a snake, suffocating its prey, but instead dragged him closer to Diego's side to where the blonde could rest his head on the other's shoulder. With that, the long tail went limp on Johnny's lap.

Diego hadn't returned Johnny's touch, and the actions with his tail made it clear to Johnny that it was because of the restraints. For some reason, that felt better than Johnny could put into words. He leaned to the side a bit, gently resting his own head on top of Diego's, and continued to stroke his hair while his other hand moved to the tail across his lap. The closest texture he could think of was alligator hide, the sort of thing high-class girls bought purses made of, or maybe snakeskin. It was colored with the intensity of wildflowers and ended in a plume of feathers. Johnny traced the words that ran along it with a finger, and Diego sighed happily.

Chapter Text

The shaky nervous mess of a scientist assisted his much more broad friend down the metallic hallways that shined with the fluorescent lighting above them. He was currently telling him about the small success that his cousin Johnny and Diego were going through. Robert was ecstatic and would hope for more future connections, but he was also doing this to cover up his fear of where the two were going. Had it not been Robert telling him, Jonathan would have thought it some kind of joke. Johnny was... difficult to get along with at the best of times, and vulnerable in front of a former rival was certainly not the best. But from what Robert said, it seemed like the two of them had put their past aside and found some strange friendship. Still, it was hard to imagine Johnny being, well, cuddly. He was short and skinny, all elbows and sharp edges, and his personality matched. But now wasn't the time to think about other cases. He had his own patient to deal with.

Robert hesitated at a certain door before opening it to reveal a large room with equipment with another spacious cell with impervious glass near the back. He swallowed harshly as he peeked over to the cell which was well furnished in Victorian attire, with a man near the corner reading something on a lounging chair. The blonde man behind the glass glanced up and calmly put the book aside. Jonathan spoke up to the man, "Hello, Dio."

The notorious DBTW, Dio Brando gave a smirk to the two, giving them a deadly gaze of orange piercing eyes. " Ahh, Jojo, so happy for you to grace me in your presence." The sly grin lowered, " Oh, I see you brought your little pet with you." He sighed out lightly, " Hello Robert..." The smaller scientist waved shyly back and soon went to a desk nearby and away from Dio's cell. Dio's full focus went directly to Jonathan with a firm smile, " Jojo, really, must you insist coming down here all the time? We're fine just by ourselves. Or MUST you always check on us?" Dio was... Interesting. He could be kind, but it was normally a false act he put on. There were one or two reports of him killing someone with and without a stand, but he seemed more stable to talk to. But somewhere, he was as unstable as the rest.

"I want to make sure you're being treated well." Dio was the only person other than Erina who still used Jonathan's childhood nickname. Hearing it was bittersweet. He could still remember their youth together, the years of quiet rivalry that took so long to rise to the surface. Jonathan had tried his hardest to befriend Dio, although there were few people in the world more difficult to befriend than Dio Brando. Jotaro had always said it was a fruitless endeavor, but Jonathan had still tried. And in a sense, he was still trying now. "How are you doing?"

Dio found it amusing how hard the other man had tried to become friends with him, even in the slightest. But he didn't need friends, never did, never would. He was far more different from his cousin Diego who had tried to fit in at a young age. But then again, Diego hadn't grown up in the slums and had a mother around him most of the time, along with no shitty father. People were always there just to be in Dio's way. Yet Jonathan... Jonathan was different, he respected him for that at the very least. " I am fine, Jonathan. But what really irritates me is not knowing how my son and cousin are doing. Is Giorno finally out of this place? Is Diego still locked up and treated like an animal?" He raised a brow, putting the tips of his fingers to one another.

"Giorno is doing very well upstairs." The boy was an absolute angel and Jonathan adored him. Somehow, Giorno had managed to obtain what Dio lacked the most: morals. He was loyal, kind, considerate, and had a strong sense of justice. Sometimes, he felt more like Jonathan's son than Dio's. "He's made a close group of friends and has plenty to read." Giorno was bright, the same surprising intellect that Dio had shown at his age. The boy could make something of himself, if he were ever freed from the Foundation. "And he still asks to see you. Perhaps if you were more cooperative, he would be allowed a visit." Jonathan felt bad using Giorno like that, but it was true. Dio's behavior was anything but helpful towards Foundation scientists, and that meant he had to be kept under the tightest security. "Diego's making progress in the experiment. He's found someone he can talk to."

Dio seemed cold, and truthfully, was cold and bitter to the end for everyone but a very select few, again like his dinosaur forming cousin, only dialed down worse. He did miss his estranged son and wanted to see him badly, there were so few people he'd dare to even hold onto, but Giorno was defiantly one of them. Diego, not as much, but he still somehow felt bad for the jockey's luck. Dio huffed in a slight response to the comment of him cooperating a bit more. He didn't want to waste time dealing with babbling idiots deemed scientists just to see his own damn kid. Him and another User, Diavolo shared the same negative trait of, they like their family, but hate everyone else, and didn't get along with most people. However, when the Joestar brought up Diego's name, he gave a puzzled look. Within the past five years-far more than Dio had been down there, surprised him that he was making progress. " He's finally found someone to talk to? Are you sure?"

"I am." Jonathan didn't want to disclose exactly who Diego had been talking to. Dio was familiar with the Joestar cousins, and would immediately suspect a trick if he knew one of them was responsible. "He's learning to control his Stand. But I'm not going to lie, he's been in a bad place. I was really worried about him for a while." Dio wouldn't believe that. He wasn't nearly as trusting as Jonathan. "He could be transferred upstairs soon if progress keeps up."

 

Dio scoffed, " Of course he's in a bad place, he's locked up down here like a common criminal for something he didn't even mean to do, yet he's paying punishment for it-even longer than me." He gave a cold glare. Dio had purposely killed several people, though, most of the small handful had probably deserved it, it was still so different from his cousin. He clasped his hand and boredly looked up to the ceiling, " If progress keeps up, hmm? Not that I don't per say, 'trust' him, my dear Jojo. But how well has he gotten with this other User?" A smirk grew onto his face as he thought, " Is it a JJ subject? I mean, you Joestars sure know how to handle I, Dio, apparently for better or worse. And I assume that would carry onto my dear broken cousin, correct?" He hinted to Jonathan himself, and Jotaro having dealt with Dio.

"Correct, he doesn't deserve to be treated this harshly." Jonathan wasn't about to disclose Johnny's identity, who knew what trouble could come from that, but there were enough Joestars to keep Dio guessing for a while. There was no doubt that Dio was dangerous, he'd proved that himself in the time before the Foundation found him, but it was a cold danger. Diego was dangerous in a chaotic way, lashing out like a blinded animal at anyone within reach. Dio was right, his cousin's imprisonment wasn't fair, but there wasn't much Jonathan could do to change that. It all depended on Johnny now. "They get along very well. Diego was allowed a visit with only minor restraints and everything went fine. I'm hopeful that he's learning to control his Stand."

" Oh Jojo... You have yet to learn we Brandos know much more than we let on. You and your 'staff' just haven't noticed what we can be capable of. What makes you think he hasn't been able to control it over the tedious years of being by himself day in and out." Jonathan always did have a slight suspicion that Dio and for all he knew, Giorno's powers were much, much more. Maybe Diego could control his stand to a majority and just hid it. Though, why would he? If he could control it, why would he want to stay locked away? The thought was expelled as Dio sighed and gave an unimpressive look to his old acquaintance, " You're really not going to tell me who it is, are you? Hmf, pity. Let us hope it's someone who can handle his disposition... Or else someone's hands will be bloodied." He gave another hardened glare, clearly threatening the two.

It wasn't that Jonathan didn't think Johnny could take care of himself, he could clearly hold his own in most situations, but the words still felt like a noose had been slipped around his neck. After all, Johnny wouldn't be much use against Diego if it came to a physical fight. Jonathan tried to banish the idea. It wouldn't come to that. He had seen the desperation in Diego, that burning desire to not be alone anymore, and that couldn't be faked. He shook his head, clearing away the image that was forming of Diego tearing out Johnny's throat. "Are you jealous of Diego? Worried he might get out before you do?"

Dio gave a long hard and un-moving look before throwing his head back and laughing like the insane person he really was deep on the inside when one moved away all his faked humanity. " AHAHAHA! Ohhh, that's a good one, Jonathan. Hehehe, very cheeky of you." He waved a finger from an eye, gesturing he was wiping a tear away when there wasn't any dripping out the ducts. After the two scientists blinked, Dio stood right there at the clear spanned glass in an instant like he had teleported there. It easily terrified Robert making the man stumble back. Dio gave Jonathan a cracked smile of malice, " Who says I'm worried about myself? The only ones who should be worried is Giorno and Diego, finally going free, and yoooou my dear Jojo."

"And why should I be worried, Dio?" Jonathan could see there was something more present than an empty threat. There was a fire in Dio's eyes, a raging inferno that burned hotter than the sun. He was out of his mind, but there was still some clarity in those eyes, a glimpse of what Dio meant. Ever since childhood, Dio had been conniving, always working on a new scheme, and more often than not they succeeded. Jonathan had learned long ago to fear that look because it meant Dio's plans were going well. "What's going to happen?"

Dio simply sighed and pressed his arms above himself to lean on the glass. " Well, considering you and your fellow colleges lock up Users down here, you already worry for your lives, do you not? And, you shouldn't say, ' What's going to happen.' But more of, what WILL happen... All in due time, I'll assure you something will happen. Let us just hope that when it does happen, you will remember my advice, and hopefully thank me if you're not caught in it." Dio shook his head and closed his eyes. It seemed like he was trying hard to tell Jonathan, but just wouldn't give in.

So Dio was planning something. What, Jonathan didn't know, but it had to be something big. Dio was one of only a handful of Stand users kept under full-time surveillance, but The World meant actually watching him at all times was impossible. As far as the Foundation knew, he could only stop time for five seconds, not long enough to escape his cell or do cause too much damage, but Jonathan had long suspected that Dio was capable of more than he let on. Jonathan couldn't follow Dio's instructions and leave the Foundation, it would mean endangering all the other employees and Stand users that lived there. No matter what Dio was up to, he had to stay. "Goodbye." Jonathan left the room without another word.
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It was early morning as the dirty blonde Zeppeli stretched out as he relaxed with his former friend, watching a simple generic cowboy movie as the two finished their breakfast the Italian had whipped up. Gyro was content, but it was rather a cover due to his concern over the wheelchair-bound User. Ever since he came back the last time, all he did was worry considering he wasn't there to wish him the best of luck. It seemed to go well, though Johnny; being stubborn as always didn't seem to talk about the last meet up as much. Suddenly the door opened, without any warning of a simple knock. And behind that, stepped in the usual scientist Johnny disliked, and... Not Robert? Instead, a well-built man with an odd blonde haircut stood by the doctor with a stern look on his face. "Already?" It was only a few days after the last meeting with Diego, not the normal interval at all. Johnny was happier to see Kawajiri than usual. The last meeting had been... nice. Johnny had enjoyed whatever it was he'd shared with Diego a little more than he thought possible, considering it involved a former rival. The only problem was Diego had been restrained. Perhaps it would be different this time.

Kawajiri was also happier than usual, but for a very different reason. "Joestar, get moving."

Gyro squinted in suspicion, " Whoa, whoa, hold on, whose the army mother fucker?" With that question being thrown out there, only came a deaf answer. The sturdy man rolled his eyes and turned around, exiting the door to await Johnny. " H-HEY! DON'T YOU WALK OUT ON M-" Gyro called out, but ceased his accusations as a card was thrown from the door and smacked him in the face. Gyro growled slightly before ripping the paper off, " ... Rudal Von Strohiem ? Wait, are-is he the same dude that knows Joseph and my brother-annnnd he's already gone. Wonderful... Ugh." His glance turned to Johnny and pat his shoulder. " Wish ya' luck, man. I hear the guys good, but kind of a hard-ass..."

"I'll live." It was moments like this when Johnny was so incredibly thankful he'd found Gyro again, little things like a few words of encouragement. Johnny still hesitated to call himself lucky, but the more time he spent with Gyro, the closer he got. "See you later." Johnny followed the military man out into the hallway, and a strange excitement welled in his chest. He would be allowed to see Diego again. It felt like a rush of adrenaline, but a little quieter, a little more familiar.

"Today will be different." Kawajiri had discovered this part of the job shortly after he'd... obtained the position, and it remained his favorite task. He was a simple man who enjoyed simple things, but even he could appreciate the complexity of the act. "You'll merely be observing."

Strohiem seemed to be in charge this time, or well, for the most part. He led the two into the elevator and sent them down, only to walk out and lead them on yet again down the metallic walls down below in the basement. The man seemed almost like Kawajiri in a way. But more quiet and stern, more disciplined, as he held his hands behind himself until going down a hallway Johnny never even witnessed. The German pushed a small button on the cold hard wall, letting a door slide open for them. Johnny entered the room and was hit with a wave of scent. It wasn't something unpleasant in itself, like garbage or rotting meat, it was just overly clean. Like the sunken room had been sterilized many times over, and the bleach had seeped into the concrete so deep it could never be scoured out. It smelled like a hospital, but much worse. Johnny had to stop himself gagging. Inside seemed to what only Johnny could describe as a small control station. Screens, buttons, and various switches splayed mostly across the end of the room, placed right in front of a long strip of glass to look down upon into another room. The room behind the glass was lower grounded, much like the olden hospitals that let people view surgeries from above. The lowered room seemed rather bare, with a large drain in the middle. Kawajiri gestured in front of the glass and Johnny wheeled himself to the spot, which gave him a view of the entirety of the other room. As he moved, Kawajiri exited, leaving him alone with Strohiem.

The other man stood by the controls, but sighed out as he heard the doctor take his leave. Strohiem sat down on a tall stool and folded his arms. " ... Never thought someone vould actually get through to DBSM. You must be very brave. Let us juzt hope you are brave enough to handle vhat you are about to vitness." With a simple flip of a small switch, one of the two doors on the sides of the room down below opened up to let in Diego with no restraints, aside from the sedative bracelet covering his wrist. Johnny finally got a good look at Diego's neck, which seemed to be so much paler compared to his body. It must have been where the shock collar had been clamped onto. The skin was just as pale as Johnny's weak legs in a sense. All the while Diego looked around his environment, arms close to his chest, on the tips of his toes, sniffing the air around him. Strohiem leaned over to a screen and scrolled down some notes and pictures. " ... You have got to be kidding me. Zhey really chose zhat as zhe meal?!"

As soon as Diego had entered the room, his movement had reverted to the more jerky, animalistic fashion Johnny had seen earlier. He was used to behaving like a beast in this particular room, and the change was obvious. Johnny watched as Diego paced the room, his head pointed down to catch any scent, as if he could smell anything through the overwhelming odor of bleach. The second door creaked open, and Diego's head snapped up at the sound. Johnny could see his mouth beginning to extend, his cheek ripping to reveal long teeth dripping with saliva. Diego was hungry. Diego lowered himself into a stance like a cat, readying itself to pounce upon its unsuspecting prey. Strohiem, along with other scientists would document Diego's behavior, but with Johnny around, he felt the need to explain a bit more. " Zhis is his veekly feeding time. Ve use to give him raw meat, but ve had to move it around, and aftervords he'd seem depressed. So, ve tried dead carcasses, but he'd just lay on zhem and cry, trying to pet zhem. So, ve moved to live animals. Most times he just sits zhere and pets zhem before killing them and eating, but sometimes his instincts overcome him and just vant to consume." Strohiem sighed lightly, he and others saw how much Diego longed for any type of interaction. So it had to be slaughter to avoid any risks. Strohiem seemed more upset as he and Johnny saw a small equine trot out from the other door. Diego, who had been drooling with anticipation suddenly froze up on the spot, his cheeks forming over the serrated teeth.

Johnny recognized the animal immediately as a pony. The way Diego had talked about horses, there was no way he'd just attack a pony, regardless of his Stand. He thought about what Strohiem had said, about what Diego did when given an animal corpse, and he found himself unable to deny sympathy for the man. Johnny wished he could still hate Diego, the way he'd used to, but after all this, he just couldn't. No one could. And it was more than that. He wanted to hold Diego, to comfort him, and the desire felt good, like it was something he should feel. But Diego was on the other side of thick glass, and all Johnny could do was watch. Diego swayed around nervously, stammering back away as the horse-related animal walked towards him in a curious manner. Diego slowly morphed back into his usual self, hiding away the teeth, claws, and wild hunger in his eyes. The meek animal shook it's head from the overwhelming scent of the room and started to walk to Diego, obviously raised with care. It moved slowly, since Ponies weren't one known for their meat, it must have been too old or sickly. And if Johnny could remember Jonathan; wanting to be an archeologist, that he had been told dinosaurs were closely related to birds. And some birds, like the vulture, had strong acids to withstand diseases. But that would have to be glossed over for the moment as Diego kept backing away in fear, " G-GO AWAY! SHOO! LEAVE! GET OUT OF HERE!" The pony tilted its head, curious to see a human so upset. It only took a few moments before the animal stood right next to Diego, cowering in the corner, weakly pushing it away. " GO! STOP IT! LE-LEAVE ME ALONE YOU STUPID THING! RUN! Just...J-Just go! Leave me alone! Get back!" Diego eventually gave up trying to push the equine like animal away and weakly leaned against it." Please. Please, just go..."

"Stop!" Johnny was yelling, and the volume of his voice surprised even himself. "Don't do this to him!" He felt helpless sitting there, hands pressed to the glass, just watching. "Please!" The glass was too thick for Diego to hear him, but he beat his fists against it anyway, hoping that maybe the sound would carry through and reach him. "Can't you see how much it's hurting him?!" Johnny didn't want to watch anymore, the way Diego twitched reminded him of a mouse, cowering in a corner before it died of sheer fright. But he couldn't tear his eyes away from the scene.

Strohiem actually leaned away from the redhead, startled that he would cause any type of ruckus. " Hey, calm down! I didn't choose today's meal! I have seen zhis play out time and time again! I'm zhe only one who does! Only because zhe others can't stand it!" The German sprang from his seat and grabbed hold of the other's wrists. " Ngrn! Only zhe higher-ups choose his meal! Unfortunately, he needs to eat or his Stand vill become unstable, and ve cannot supply another animal villy-nilly!" As the two struggled, Diego was given a small lick to the forehead, making his mind shut down from pushing the equine relative away. The jockey leapt his arms around its neck and brush its fur. The two could hear from the monitor on the panel, Diego breaking down, saying ' I'm sorry', over and over again, like a broken record stuck on an infinite loop. " I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorrWRYYYYYYY!" Suddenly before the two could even notice, Diego had the pony's neck stuffed into his stretched out mouth, the nail tipped teeth skewering into its jugular. A seeping amount of blood left the small horse-like animal's wound and dripped all over the flooring, some flooding into the center drain. Strohiem slightly froze at the sight, stopping his struggle against Johnny. No matter how many times he saw this happen, it always made him cringe.

Johnny's eyes went wide, and he stopped struggling. The blood coated Diego's mouth and dripped down his chin, staining his shirt and splattering onto the concrete floor. He looked like something out of a movie, a horror, drenched in red. As Johnny watched, Diego shook the pony's throat, and the neck broke with an audible snap. It was dead, but at least it had been fast. Diego killed quickly and he took no pleasure in it outside of basic satisfaction of needs, but Johnny knew he would do the same to a human if he were forced to. Perhaps he already had. The former rival dropped the freshly dead body, making it slump to the ground. Johnny could see how curved and jagged his teeth were, shining a pearly white with red stains. It looked like Diego had unhinged his entire mouth like a fucking snake in order to swallow its meal whole. Soon the pale skin cracked out into a tougher hide of scales to trail around his body, slowly contorting into the prehistoric predator Johnny witnessed that one time a week or so back. Fully scaled, with feathers sprouting out to engulf the dinosaur, it let out a clicking sound before salivating and craning its neck to easily rip open the animal, to feast upon its warm insides.

Strohiem let loose of Johnny and quietly sat back in his chair, finding himself unable to move his eyesight. Johnny watched in horror as Diego continued his grisly meal. He had grown up around animals, mainly horses but living in the country meant exposure to things like coyotes and the occasional wild dog. Nothing could have prepared him for this sight. Even as a monster Diego was still Diego, and that made it a hundred times more unsettling, to know that behind those jagged teeth tearing flesh off in strips was a rational mind, however deep it may be buried. The pony's eye stared back at Johnny, still and glassy like the eye of a doll. Like it wasn't real. Johnny wished that were true, that it was some elaborate setup by the Foundation, but he knew it wasn't. Diego had mentioned the 'special feedings' before. Somehow, Johnny had liked it better when he'd thought it might be cannibalism. At least that was fantasy, and not the truth, the visceral nightmare in the room behind the glass. The German man sighed and looked down upon the room where Diego was ripping out flesh and into his gullet. " Zhey handed zhis task to me since I've seen zhe horrors of var. Most others couldn't bear zhis image. Look, It's not my place to say zhis but, Feck some of zhese damned doctors. Zhey get to choose zhe meals." He made a grunt of disgust, not from Diego devouring the motionless body, but from the scientist's actions and choices. " I'll be sure to yell at zhem later. Zhis is vhy ve don't get many improvements, because ve-ve have to show zhe stable Users things like zhis!" Strohiem angrily threw out his arms into the air in pure frustration. Yes, the Users like Johnny had to know what they would be getting into, but showing it to them like this... It seemed a bit unfair. Logical but in a horrible twisted gnarled truth. After the man's small ramblings, Johnny could see something gleam down the dinosaur's face. Was the monstrous Diego crying? Could dinosaurs cry?

Johnny knew it was some kind of test by the Foundation. Would he desert Diego after seeing just how much of a monster he really was? Would anyone be able to look past the gruesome truth? Was Diego truly too far gone? Frankly, Johnny didn't give a shit. He had never been one to ponder ideals and deep philosophy, and he wasn't about to start now. And there was a part of him that relished just how far Diego had fallen. It wasn't a pleasant thing to admit, even to himself, but it was true. Diego had always been first place, always the champion, always the one who snatched the trophy right out of Johnny's hands. And now, for all his fame and glory, he was reduced to an animal.

Chapter Text

It had been a few days without seeing or even talking to the old rival after Johnny watched how far the man sunk, resorting to being feral and just officially fucked in the head. Just like Diego, there were two parts mixing with Johnny's thoughts. On one hand, he got to see how much was stripped away from Diego, who use to gloat and mock Johnny in the past, making him feel worthless. But another side was empathetic, finding a connection of just how pitifully he had fallen. And with these conflicting emotions, it was obvious to see how it affected him if one were to squint and examine it closer. " WOAH! GEEZ JOHNNY!" Gyro yelled out. The two of them were in the outer area, practicing their Stand's powers with soda bottles on a fence away from the stables. With them was a younger boy sporting red and blue who was just as shocked as Gyro. Johnny had shot a nail without paying too much attention, almost clipping the nail into one of the sentient Stand bullets from the boy, who was attacking a can.

Tusk wasn't a particularly useful Stand for daily life. It was primarily a combat Stand, although Johnny didn't do much of that, so he rarely found occasion to use it. Still, it felt good to mess around with Tusk, like watching a familiar movie for the hundredth time even though the Stand itself was relatively new. And with it came skills Johnny had not realized. Growing up in Kentucky, he'd always been around hunting, but it had never appealed to him. Not enough horses. The other kids learned to shoot guns and went to the firing range, but not Johnny. Which was a shame because as it turned out, he was a damn good shot. When he was paying attention, that is. "Sorry!"

" Damn man, almost knocked the flying fuck outta' that little bullet guy! I mean, it'd been hilarious, but I don't know if hitting it would hurt lil' loud mouth over here." Gyro gave a small smug smile as he pointed over to the other male besides them with a thumb. Stands were odd. Some were attached to Users, others could move away, some were sentient, and some could be hit with something and not affect their User. The lone sentient bullet climbed down the fence post and scurried back to his User crying out about how scary being fired and almost being fired at was, and just complaining in general.

Mista hadn't asked for any of this. He'd gone outside to practice because Giorno had absolutely forbidden it inside their room, and disobeying Foundation employees was one thing but disobeying Giorno was something else entirely. So he went outside, only for these two fucks to show up and use half the targets and yell and nearly shoot Number 5. And now he'd have to spend the rest of his afternoon talking down his own Stand because he just had to get a sentient one, not a quiet Stand that did what it was told like Gold Experience, no, Mista had Sex Pistols, the one Stand in the world that got pissed off when they missed lunch. Stands weren't even supposed to eat food. Mista pointed a finger at the offending pair. "What the fuck was that?! You trying to take my fucking head off?!"

Johnny looked at the furious boy with pure confusion. "English, please. I don't speak French."

Then Gyro just had to step in, leaning over to try and act as a bigger man-and by that, it meant just being abnormally taller. Gyro pointed right back to Mista with a small scowl on his face, yelling back in Italian which Johnny had no fucking clue on. " Oi! Lay off it pint-size! He said he was sorry! He's been kinda distracted a bit and-HEY DON'T YOU FLIP ME OFF, YOU LITTLE SHRIMP!" And now... Johnny was pretty much left there to himself. When Gyro got into an argument with someone equally as stubborn or even a shorter fuse than Johnny, the dirty blonde often got into a tangent, and depending on how the other acted, it could be a while.

 

Thankfully hope came in an outfit Johnny had seen from many girls in the past, aside from the magenta colored rose petal-like hair. Trish walked over with a young boy with ridiculously good looking gold hair, an ambiguous boy, and another with someone with poor fashion sense considering how bright pink their suit was... With holes in it. " Heya Mista, I brought your lunch and-Oh, wow... Really?" She said blandly as she watched the two other Italians yell at each other. She groaned and rubbed her head. " J-Just let them yell it out, it'll be fine."

Honestly, Johnny didn't know what he had expected from Trish's friends. The girl herself was clearly a fashionista, if a rather unorthodox one, but this was another level entirely. There were holes in the suit, for fuck's sake. Did the kid lose a bet? "Hey, Trish." Johnny waved at her and did his best to look welcoming, which was admittedly not much. "How are HP and the horses doing?" Johnny hadn't had a chance to return to the stables yet, busy with one thing or another, but hopefully, that would change soon. He missed horses even more now that he knew they were so close.

Trish smiled to him before responding, " They're doing great~! In fact, we might be getting a new one. An appaloosa!" She chirped out before mumbling a 'Whatever horse that is.' She sat down on a rather wide bench, putting a leg up onto her knee before gesturing to the others. " I see you've met Mista. Don't worry, he might be snappy, but he wouldn't harm anyone... Too much. And this is Fugo, Narancia, and Giorno."

It was more than obvious that the kid in orange whose gender was still being determined by Johnny's eyes had been helping with the horses today. He grinned widely as straws of hay littered over him. " Heya! Nice to meet cha!" He leaned over to shake Johnny's hand only to rear back and sneeze from some hay passing by his nose. The golden blonde peeked over, letting a well built looking Stand appear over his shoulder, wiping its golden arm across Narancia's head. In just a few moments, the hay started to wriggle with life and turned into butterflies of all shades of gold. The butterflies flocked off Narancia and fluttered to the two Italians squabbling, making the two flail around at them.

Johnny watched the butterflies float lazily in the slight breeze, easily evading the pair's arms, their wings the golden yellow color of hay. Stands could be so beautiful. He thought of Diego and wondered if Scary Monsters could ever become something beautiful like that. Probably not. It seemed Johnny's terrible luck had rubbed off on his rival somehow. "Hey." Johnny figured the androgynous one was Narancia. He looked younger than the others and his face was softer, more like a kid's. If anything, his manner reminded Johnny of Joseph, which wasn't a good sign.

Fugo knew the polite thing to do would be to greet the newcomers, but frankly, he was having too much fun watching Mista pick a fight with a man a good two feet taller than him. He'd spent the morning helping Narancia in the stables because the boy had whined about how boring the work was, and he deserved a bit of entertainment for his trouble. Still, Trish had introduced him, and she probably expected him to acknowledge that fact. He nodded vaguely in Johnny's direction and turned his attention back to the fight. Perhaps Narancia would be down to bet on the winner... And just like that, the boy in orange and black perked up from the squabbling of his friend and older man. A sly smirk grew upon his face as he watched them. He looked over to Trish and Giorno with puppy dog eyes. Trish cocked a brow before rolling her eyes, shifting aside with her arms crossed. " Ugh, go on..." Narancia bounced up with glee, bounding over next to Fugo to watch the other two fight, and defend themselves off from the graceful golden butterflies... Who looked to be winning against the stubborn Users.

The golden blonde simply gave a small smile with a chuckle, and shook his head, letting his two friends sit by the side and watch the other's antics. His gaze soon scanned over to Johnny before giving a slight bow to the young man. " Hello, it's nice to meet you, Johnny. Trish and Gyro both have told me about you. But more importantly, I wanted to meet you with what Jonathan had told me." Boy... This kid got straight to the point, didn't he? Johnny could be blunt at times, but he had nothing on Giorno. The kid talked like useless words cost him money. Johnny moved a little ways away from the others and motioned for Giorno to follow him. That way, they wouldn't be interrupted. If Jonathan wanted to tell him something, it was probably important. His giant of a cousin knew he wasn't exactly Johnny's favorite relative, so he tended to keep interactions brief, but he'd never used a messenger like this before. Giorno gave a nod to the girl in purple and pink who would wait for them to come back."Go ahead."

 

The blonde followed Johnny and stared, eye to eye, not wanting to avoid any contact what so ever. " At this moment, I am the only other User aside from Gyro, who knows that the User you are seeing is Diego Brando. Jonathan told me this, so I had to talk to about this. You see, Diego is like an uncle to me. Though, he's technically my cousin, but that doesn't matter. Me and Jonathan would be more than happy for him to be out of that cell. And you're the only one who can reach out to him. I hear things are going a bit... Rocky. So I am here to give you some advice. Understand?" He raised a brow, expecting an immediate response. And not one moment did he look away from Johnny.

He was a little intimidating, as embarrassing as that might be to say about someone clearly younger than Johnny. Giorno spoke in a way that wouldn't be out of place in a boardroom. It made Johnny uncomfortable, and even more so that he seemed to know the details of his meetings with Diego. But it could be useful to get more information. Even during Diego's days in the spotlight, his past had been a mystery. The papers had described him as a poor kid who rose to fame through sheer talent, but nothing else had really been said. And Diego's current condition was a different matter entirely. Talking to Giorno could be helpful. "Yeah. I understand."

The younger boy sighed with relief and gave a gentle smile to Johnny. It was if this kid could read Johnny like a book-without turning his face into a book like a certain someone Josuke had mentioned. " Thank you, please, you don't need to be tense. I just worry about his sanity." Though Giorno had spent a third of his life under Dio's watch, he was able to meet with their cousin and grew to know the man was much like his own father, but more mild. He wasn't a bad man, but he wasn't the best. " You see, no one has been able to click with him. Not even Jonathan and Robert know his past. He hasn't told anyone, and there's very little about him from only two witnesses that survived the-" He coughed into his hand, " Aherm-'Ordeal' when he was found and brought here. I only ever visited him, so in order to get closer, you'll have to talk to him about certain things I have devised and listed down." He drew out a blank piece of paper and a small snake curled around it.

"So is the snake part of the list, or is it just... there?" Johnny didn't have anything against snakes, but like most people, he preferred them to be at a healthy distance. And it sounded like he wasn't getting any of Diego's mysterious past, which was too bad. Johnny had always been curious about it but Diego himself was probably the last person to give a straight answer. The 'ordeal' Giorno mentioned was something new. He'd figured it must have took a lot to capture Diego, but he hadn't thought it was only two survivors bad.

Giorno eyed the snake before glancing back at Johnny, " ... It's my pen." He said in a dull tone. The snake unwrapped itself from the paper and soon went stiff, forming into a pen. " Having living objects gives me comfort most times. It also scares scientists from my journals." The kid seemed to like his privacy, and wasn't one to mess with too much for any information. He gave a slight smirk before jotting down on the paper. " If you're going to uncover any of his past, these questions will help you. Did he have any friends? Why is he afraid of trains? Why did he feel the need and want to win so badly? What really happened to his wife? And, what did he exactly do to be brought here? Ask these one at a time, it may take multiple meetings, but it's the least I can do to help. Go in that order, and you'll be golden... However. Do be careful, he might ask you certain things. He's one that is known for wanting information in exchange."

That didn't sound good. Johnny wasn't eager to spill his deepest, darkest secrets in front of Diego. Maybe it wouldn't come to that. Maybe Diego would be satisfied with something a little less personal. Especially not one particular secret... "Thanks." Johnny took the list and read over the questions again in Giorno's neat handwriting. The conversation was proving more useful than he could have imagined. "And what do you want in exchange?" Things this good didn't come cheap.

Giorno tilted his head in confusion before giving a rather harsh and stern look. " I'm sorry, did I not make it that clear nor evident? I'm worried about him. I want him out so his mind doesn't break even more than it already has." He turned his head and sighed. " You have family in these walls, you should know the feeling. True none of them are down below, but imagine having your family members down there, and you're the only one up here, free."

"Don't worry." The world weighed heavily on Giorno. He was young, too young for this kind of pressure, and Johnny could tell. Even with his group of friends, Giorno was alone. "I'll get him out." If Johnny had been sentimental, he would have added something like 'for you', but he wasn't Gyro and that wasn't true anyway. Johnny wanted Diego free for himself, not for Giorno, not for Jonathan, not even for Diego. And that fact became clearer and clearer as time went on. He needed Diego.

Once Johnny and Giorno made their way back to the others, they found both Mista and Gyro slumped over on the ground, short-breathed by trying to swat the butterflies away and one another. There was no real damage, the two only had slight bruises from accidentally slapping each other, trying to hit the butterflies, but instead hitting one another. Gyro lay there on the ground panting as the gold insects rested on him and Mista. He groaned in irritation while Narancia discussed their bet with Fugo. Giorno tilted his head and raised a finger to object what happen, only to put it down, " You know what... Never mind, I don't even want to know." The pink haired girl all the while sat there covering her mouth from bursting into a fit of laughter.
===============

 

Giorno's list was still fresh in Johnny's mind when he was next sent to talk with Diego. He didn't bring the actual paper with him, too conspicuous of course, but as he entered the basement cell he repeated the words silently like a mantra. Friends, fear, ambition, wife, capture. They had been a constant source of curiosity over the last few days. If even a relative who seemed fairly close didn't know the answers, how would Johnny of all people discover them? He and Diego certainly shared... something. And then there was the matter of information in exchange. What would Diego want to know?

As per usual, Robert was all in a tizzy, shocked that Johnny had chosen to still move forward, and absolutely nervous from what Johnny's choice was this time. The blonde took out a clipboard and shakily held a pen to it, " S-So... No glass. Fine, but u-uhm, which do you rather want? All of the restraints, no muzzle, o-or no ankle shackles?" It'd take some time for Johnny to finally get Diego to not wear the uncomforting straitjacket since the scientists and doctors didn't exactly trust the jockey enough to let his hands free with another person that close to him. Robert had led Johnny to the same room as last time, waiting for the reply. " T-Though, Jonathan said that you are to be permitted to silence us out, so DBSM won't need to worry about us listening in." So the choices were now either have the other restrained or have the doctors blocked out from their conversations.

Finally. "Oh, you've decided to stop spying on me, have you? How noble." Johnny was wary of scientists listening in to his conversation, even for his own safety. What was this, 1984? No, it was America, and he had his rights. And he was pretty sure one of them was the right to not be recorded. "And no muzzle." The cage around Diego's face had been horrible, too much like a rabid dog for Johnny to ignore. He hated seeing Diego like that.

The long blonde clearly didn't want to press his luck, thanking that Kawajiri was already in the observation room and gulped down some lost pride at being intimidated. He sighed deeply, Johnny was only supposed to have one choice, not two. But Jonathan was counting on him. He'd have to take Kawajiri's stubbornness head on. "You're only supposed to pick one but... F-F-Fine." He let out a loud sigh knowing he'd surely be chewed out for this and snatched up a walkie-talkie, telling the other scientists that handled Diego what to do before opening the room's door for Johnny.

 

---------------

The room was the same as the last time Johnny had seen it, sparsely but not uncomfortably furnished. Still, it had that unshakable institutional feeling that pervaded the entire Foundation. Even Johnny's own room felt too sterile for a normal apartment. Diego was not yet inside the room, probably because of Johnny's unexpected request, so Johnny wheeled over to the lone couch and moved to sit on it. The rough upholstery against the back of his neck made his heart beat faster, as he remembered the last meeting, the strange warmth that had come from simply being so close to Diego, from touching him. It took only a few minutes until the wheelchair User could hear something behind the door on the other side of the relatively spacious room. It almost sounded like maniacal calking of a rambling madman. After a few moments of the unnerving fit of muffled voices and shouting, the steel door opened. Diego who still wore the Kevlar straitjacket and ankle cuffs was shoved inside by some metal sticks people were armed with. He came in giggling up a storm, Johnny seeing a large sharp-toothed grin stretch across ear to ear clearly since his mouth wasn't caged by the muzzle anymore. The door slammed shut, making Diego's snickers continue. His eyes grazed around the room, trying to focus. He seemed to be slightly drugged. That may have been a consequence of letting Johnny have them silent from the scientists and with having the muzzle discarded.

Johnny waved at Diego, hoping the movement would catch his attention. He wasn't exactly happy about this turn of events, but Diego wasn't the one to give a shit about it. And perhaps it would make Johnny's questions easy to ask. A drugged Diego could be willing to talk more than an entirely sober Diego. Johnny certainly knew from experience how loose lips could be when under the influence. "I'm over here, Diego."

The thin jockey wavered in place before making his way over to the couch. He fumbled around trying to register his legs to move, but eventually made it to the couch, promptly bumping into the sofa's arm and flopping down onto the cushions in the most ungrateful manner. " O-O h-hey, hey, Joekid. Hehehe-I almost bit someone's thumb off. It scared the fuck outta' him." He seemed in a rather... Good mood? He adjusted himself to sit in the Indian style next to Johnny., still dazed. Well at least Johnny wouldn't have to worry about him being highly aggressive.

"Doing okay?" Johnny took Diego's chin in his hand and forced the other man to look at him. Diego didn't put up much resistance. "You look pretty out of it." His eyes were unfocused and his pupils were dilated to an alarming degree. It made Johnny worried. How much were those scientists giving him? Diego could probably take a higher dose than a normal person and shake it off, but right now he looked drugged off his ass. Johnny let go, and stared at the floor. It was his fault. He'd requested fewer restraints and no supervision. "I'm sorry they did this to you."

Diego shook his head slightly once Johnny let go him. He felt good, and couldn't quite grasp what was going on for the most part. But he could still acknowledge things to a certain degree. But another side effect was letting him rationalize like a normal person should. One that he and Johnny clearly weren't. " I-It's okay. It's not anyone fault, things just-just happen." The drugs seemed to make him act like a normal person... Well, drunk or high a bit, but more normal than he originally was. " A lot of things happen." He slurred slightly before slumping onto Johnny's arm to keep himself up.

Diego was taller than him by a good bit, but Johnny did his best to keep both of them upright. His hands found their way into Diego's hair and he combed it out with his fingers, careful not to pull too hard accidentally. "I missed you," Johnny whispered, before he could stop himself. He wished Diego's arms were free, and in that moment it eclipsed all other desires. Johnny was not usually interested in being held, but Diego was proving to be the exception. "Have they been hurting you?"

Apparently the heightened senses of Diego were still there, he chuckled under his jagged teeth, " Heh, missed me huh? Never thought I'd hear that again from anyone." The young man closed his eyes in peace, falling under Johnny's touch. It was as if he couldn't get enough of the socialization and interaction of another person. It was something he craved over the years, and the longer he was down there, the more it grew. " Pth, hurting me. Why are you so worried? Don't you know as being a former jockey, we only care about ourselves?"

Because he didn't want to see Diego hurt anymore. Because it was the same as the face looking back at him in the mirror every morning. Because he still believed the delusion that if he could somehow stop Diego's pain, his own would become tolerable. Johnny pausing his combing and ruffled Diego's hair playfully. "I don't want my hard work to go to waste." He loved the physicality of their relationship, the fact that Diego needed touch so desperately there was no such thing as too close. It was a shitty thing to love, but Johnny had never claimed to be anything more than shitty.

The blonde snickered, either from his hair being ruffled, the good feeling of being intoxicated, or how petty Johnny seemed right now. It was all too difficult to tell at this point. Diego who was now relaxed in Johnny's care looked up to the light redhead. His shifty smile turning sour, " You... You have something on your mind d-don't you?" Was it that obvious that Diego could sense Johnny was bugged by something?

"Yeah, I do." Johnny had hoped Diego wouldn't be able to tell, but apparently, that wasn't going to happen. Even drugged the man was strikingly perceptive. "Is it really just me? Am I the only person you have left?" Thinking back to the old days, Johnny couldn't remember seeing Diego willingly be close to anyone. Diego had been a smooth talker, the sort of person who was easy to get along with, well easy if you weren't Johnny, but he'd never seemed to actually have any friends.

 

The blond went silent and due to the chemicals flowing through his body made him unable to get a good grip on his emotions. He lazily pulled away to look at the light red-head. Tired dulled out eyes stared at Johnny. Diego looked so miserable, and more so when his eyes narrowed away to avoid any contact with Johnny. " ... I have someone on the outside. But they're not allowed to visit due to their age." Though Diego was charming in the past, he wasn't at all like Johnny. Johnny at the very least had Gyro. That was more than enough of what he needed.

Johnny felt guilt creep up on him like frost spreading across a window. He had only asked because Giorno had suggested the question, but now he regretted bringing up the past. Diego looked at him with an expression Johnny couldn't help but read as betrayal, and Johnny wished he could just outright the whole situation. But that wasn't how something like this worked. All Johnny would get for his honesty was a dead end. He pulled Diego closer, the other man didn't put up much resistance, and spoke quietly. "Who is it?"

The thin lanky man, dangled around in his straitjacket, trying to veer away but didn't, letting himself get gently tugged over. " Her name is Lucy. She's all I had left after my w-wife, my mom, my friend, my best friend." He gritted his teeth, trying to focus on making them jagged but just couldn't concentrate hard enough too. He let out a sigh, thinking of fonder things to calm himself down. " Hehe... I'm sure Lucy would have gotten along with my old friend. Only if they hadn't been taken away. It'd been nice to have someone around like that. H-Hehe, I envy you Joekid." He started to sway before clumsily falling on his side, then adjusting himself to lay on his back, his yellow hair brushing alongside Johnny's leg. " Can they hear us?" This looked to be a good time to get some information...

"I told them not to listen in. Probably why they drugged you." Even though Diego had tried to wave it away, Johnny knew it was his fault that Diego was so out of it. He'd fucked up, like he'd done so many other times, and now someone else was paying for his mistake. His fingers returned to stroking Diego's hair, and the two of them sank into a sort of rhythm, a strange sense of comfort. This was what Johnny had missed since their last meeting, this weird domestic shit he loved so much. Diego was about to ask questions in return, but as long as he remained lying there in Johnny's lap, he didn't mind.

Diego sighed in relief, most if not all the pressure was taken off from him. Like Giorno had said, he never opened up to anyone, but now that he knew he was safe from the eavesdropping doctors, he could lighten up. And he knew that Johnny wouldn't tell a soul of what he was about to say. Because Johnny was stubborn. He closed his eyes in a peaceful daze and began. He didn't know why, but he trusted Johnny, and had to for things to become any better. " It's fine. I feel more relaxed... And, I got to tell someone, after holding everything in for five years... My old friend came to the ranch, horse track we had after something happen to their brother. I can't remember their name, but their nickname. They were the manager's niece-nephew? Told me I couldn't be their friend because I'd get hurt. But I was stubborn and they helped me with cuts and bruises... Then one day, some people took her away. Manager said it was because they were dangerous."

Johnny honestly couldn't believe what he was hearing. Diego freely offering up information about his past? That was unthinkable. And yet it did make a strange sort of sense. What did Diego have to lose? He'd already had everything stripped away, his fame, his freedom, his pride, there was nothing left. Telling secrets must have felt like nothing, especially when they had become so close physically. Johnny was just glad Diego hadn't asked for secrets in return. At least not yet. "Where did they take them?"

" I don't know." His brows furrowed, trying to recall the brief months he spent with them, only for the past to vanish from under his grip. " They just said, they were dangerous. Needed to be studied. Maybe they were sent here. I don't know. That's all behind me. Ever since then, I took their advice on horses. Got to be a great rider. Tried to fit in with the other minor jockeys. But they all just shunned me for never losing to them." He opened his eyes for a brief moment and smiled in a broken way that Johnny had seen him do all too much. " I remember one at our track though. He was really sweet, asked why I was alone and crying after winning. Cheered me up, said he'd hang out with me and bring his brother along the next time we saw each other." Diego stared at the ceiling blankly, " But... Something happened. And it was all my fault."

Johnny's life had been a series of moments like that. He wasn't meant to be here, to have a Stand, to even be alive. It was all a mistake. He deserved to be dead. "It wasn't your fault. Whatever happened, it wasn't your fault." He wasn't sure which of them he was talking to, Diego or himself. Either way, it was a lie. But even a lie could be comforting. "Sometimes things just happen. Don't blame yourself." Punishment had taken years to catch up to Johnny, but once it did he'd lost everything. And he knew it wasn't enough. He deserved worse, so much worse. After all, he'd killed his own brother. That was a crime that couldn't be forgiven. "Please, don't blame yourself."

 

The other male curled up slightly, the way Johnny talked, reminded him of his mom in a way, saying what happen just happen, rule it out as a freak accident. Times like this, Diego questioned himself, who was he really? Was Johnny really there to help? He started to cave in. " You don't understand. They were put into a coma because of me. Because the manager told me after my race to go catch some fucking rat." A rat? Johnny's mind was slowly whirring into a touchy subject. " I had to listen to him or he'd kick me and mom out. I-I don't even get it. We only had lizards around there. I chased the little fucker all over the damn place." Aside from the horrid thought of a rat-or rather, mouse, it'd been funny to imagine the blond chasing such a small thing. But instead, pain was starting to crawl into Johnny's mind, nibbling and squeaking. " Then it just-just... Ran out into the track. I don't remember what I did afterwards or what happened. All I knew was that I had to catch it."

"Shut up!" Johnny shoved Diego as hard as he could, off the couch and onto the floor. "Shut your fucking mouth!" He clutched the sides of his head like he was trying to keep it from splitting apart. It was too painful to think about. He didn't want to remember. But that terrible day flooded his senses and he was there again. The warm afternoon sun beating down on a dirt track. The familiar smell of horses. The sudden fear. And then the silence, as he realized what had just happened. What he had done. "Don't fucking mock me!" He was crying, had been for a while, warm streams of tears running down his face.

The restrained User hit the floor rather hard, yelping upon impact. It happen so fast, he couldn't tell Johnny was starting to get unnerved due to his senses being drowned out by the drug. He struggled to get up, letting out a hiss of pain from the sudden hit on the tiled floor. Diego managed to prop himself onto his knees and toes to look at his old rival, who was now broken down. It was ironic in a small way, normally through these meetings, Johnny had seen the blond crack down under pressure. Worst of all, Diego had made him cry again, but even more, and somehow striking Johnny up with fear that lay dormant. Diego was so baffled, " Wh-What? Mock you?" What the hell did he do? He didn't even know what he did. " But I'm not-please. please stop crying. Please." He couldn't just up and say 'it'll be okay'. He couldn't lie like he use too, nor comfort properly. Even drugged, it hurt to see Johnny like this, because Johnny had seen him like that before.

"Was this your plan the whole time?" Johnny reached for his wheelchair, but the tears in his eyes were clouding his vision and his hand grasped at empty air. "You just wanted to hurt me?" He pulled his legs up onto the couch and clutched them tight to his chest, curling into a little ball. It had been stupid to trust Diego, fucking stupid, but just like Johnny. He'd never known who to trust. "Diego, I- I thought-" The words devolved into loud sobs, and Johnny hid his face behind his knees and let the tears drip down his cheeks. Of course, Diego would betray him. It had been stupid of Johnny to think there was something real, that anyone would ever want to be close to him.

In a flimsy way, Diego looked around, knowing there was a screen somewhere the blended into the walls. The scientists would surely see this and separate them. The blond didn't want to be alone again, he had to try and patch this wound he created as fast as he could. He would know Robert was probably flipping his shit while Kawajiri would watch, enjoying how things were turning. And here was Diego, useless to calm Johnny down. Useless to use his arms. Deep inside something burned with desire. Something snapped in him, he wasn't going to let this happen, not to be alone. Like Dio had told Jonathan, Diego had more control than let on. His muscles started to twinge and bulk up, his body squeezing against the jacket. He was almost suffocating, but finally heard a rip. The doctors hadn't put a reinforced steel cuff around his arms today. He was lucky. The jacket widened, ripping at the seams until it was loose enough for him. The muscles retracted and his hands shuffled about as he squirmed to throw the jacket off. He could certainly hear Robert behind a wall screaming. There was a part of Johnny that was happy Diego had given up the pretense of friendliness. It would have happened eventually. Better to get it over with sooner rather than later. People left. That's just how things worked. People left and Johnny would end up all alone. Even Gyro would disappear again one day, he was sure of that. At least Diego was being honest about it.

Within just a few mere seconds Diego crawled up onto the couch, cursing the shackles on his ankles. He had enough room to work around them though, and looked over to Johnny who hadn't even noticed he was set loose. Diego did what his instincts told him to do back with his wife, his sick ridden mother, and little Lucy. He managed to snag Johnny by a thin ankle and dragged him over onto his lap. Before the Joestar could acknowledge this, he found himself wrapped up in something more cold than warm. Diego had wrapped his arms around him, pulling him to his chest. " Please, please, please stop crying."

Diego was thin and bony and unnaturally cold, but Johnny didn't care. He let himself be held. After all, it would probably be his last opportunity. Diego didn't really want to comfort him. He couldn't, not after seeing how pathetic Johnny really was. It was all part of his plan. But that didn't mean Johnny couldn't enjoy it while it lasted. He buried his face in Diego's chest and let the tears soak into the other's shirt. Nothing seemed real. He couldn't even process the fact that Diego had his arms free, and exactly what that meant.

 

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As this was transpiring, Robert was, in fact, flipping the fuck out. This had never happened before. Did Diego just play dumb on how strong we really was? " Oh god, oh god, oh god! Do we shock or tranq-shock or tranq?!" He pleaded for a choice to his higher up who was more than likely hiding an interested smirk and being unresponsive to the panicking man.

In the control room, Kawajiri shrugged. "I don't know," he said, dragging out each word until it was painfully long. "Which do you think is the best option?" It was beautiful, the way Robert squirmed.

With Robert initially freaking out, scared that by drugging or shocking Diego could result in Johnny being harmed, he quickly pulled out his walkie-talkie. He flipped several stations, " J-J-Jonathan! Jonathan! E-E-Emergency! DBSM is with JJT a-a-and oh god, oh god, oh god, Diego's arms are loose-he has Johnny in his arms, what do we do?!"

Jonathan was busy with paperwork when the radio at his hip crackled to life. He dropped the pen once he heard Robert's words, and stood up so fast he knocked over the chair. "I'll be there in a second. Keep the situation under control."
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Diego kept a firm hold on Johnny, biting his own lip slightly. He had played this role so many times with Lucy. The crying, the jumbled up words delving into nothingness, the tears seeping into his sweater. He didn't care about the doctors, the only thing that mattered was to make things right, somehow. A hand ran down Johnny's back doing its best to comfort him. " Shhh..." He couldn't just say it'd be okay like he did with the young girl. He lowered his voice and began humming a tune. Thank the lord spending time with the girl prepared him for this in a way.

Johnny tried to stop crying, but he knew that wouldn't help. He couldn't forget the scene that replayed itself over and over in his mind. The horse rearing up. Nicholas lying broken and bleeding in the dirt. The flash of a white mouse disappearing into the grass. Over and over, until Johnny wanted to rip his own heart out of his chest just to make it stop. He clung to Diego like debris in a shipwreck and let the quiet melody drown out all other thought. When he finally found his voice, it was weak and shaky. "Why do you want to hurt me?"

The way Johnny had sounded, made Diego reflect on himself, how all the times he was weak to the other, scared and alone. And again, there was that 'why'. He recalled that one night when Johnny asked why he was toying with him, why didn't he just kill him then and there. Diego's thoughts were starting to clear, the medication thinly wearing off. He did his best to cradle the red-head, to comfort him. And he still didn't know why Johnny was broken. He was more broken than when Diego had tried his damnedest to break him on purpose in the past of their racing days. " I-I... I don't. I don't even know why your crying-I just don't know." He sounded hollow, genuinely confused, and wrapped in guilt.

"How stupid do you think I am?" Diego sounded honest, but Johnny couldn't believe him. He knew the man could be a very convincing actor when he wanted to be. "I know what you're doing. The mouse. The track. Nicholas. You always were a manipulative asshole, but I didn't think you'd stoop this low." The words came out stronger and stronger as Johnny continued talking. "If you want to hurt me, then do it. Use your Stand and tear out my throat. I won't fight back. Just... not this. Please."

The other man frowned, looking hurt and lost again, just like he always did, like he always was. His grip loosened on the other User who was glaring at him, suppressing the constant stream of tears. " Mouse-but I thought it was a rat-how do you know what it really was-wha... Who the fuck is Nicholas?" Diego never looked into any other jockey's past, because he simply didn't care, nor had the time to. He'd only do it if they had crossed him. And Johnny never had, Johnny was always filled with rage but did nothing, all bark with no bite. And that's how Diego liked it, just Johnny being kept in place. When the Stand was mentioned, the somewhat neurotic man gave off that pained look. " I-But I-" He didn't understand what he did, what was this devious plan Johnny thought he was doing? " Why do you keep reminding me of what I am-I don't want to be a monster."

"Do you really not know?" It was hard to imagine that Diego was telling the truth, but the longer the conversation went on, the more it seemed like he was. Johnny stared at him in disbelief. Was it merely some strange coincidence? It almost felt like a miracle. Diego was still there and trying to comfort him, not as some ploy to fuck with his emotions, honestly trying to calm him down. "Nicholas was my older brother."

 

Diego remain quiet as the pieces of the puzzle snapped together, his eyes didn't look at Johnny. He fully let go of the other, not seeming to care or at the very least notice he dropped Johnny, making the wheelchair-bound User flop onto his back where he originally cried over. Diego's face looked like the life from it was drained in an instant. His hands still in position from letting go, setting in like rigor mortise. " But-that was the one who offered me friendship-To Hang out with him and his little brother-But-But." His face was horrified, as if he had just witnessed a murder at a young age. His brain crackled, now Johnny had more of a reason to hate him. He felt he was responsible and had indirectly put his brother into a coma. " What happen to him...?"

"The riding accident." Johnny looked away from Diego, staring at the white wall with a blank look in his eyes. "I- I don't want to talk about it." Diego had enough clues to figure out the details, he didn't need it spelled out. And the last thing Johnny wanted was to relive that day. He lay still, trying to force the memories to disappear, even though he knew it was a losing battle. But even with the pain, it would cause, he did want to tell Diego. Because Johnny didn't want to keep secrets anymore, not from him.

All the while Diego connected more of the pieces with the given strings he huddled up, bringing his legs to his chest much like Johnny had done so very few minutes ago. He felt like he was a monster even without psychically being one anymore. Some people probably did refer to him as one before his Stand, hell maybe Johnny felt that way about him beforehand. But now it finally dawned on him, that maybe he really was, even indirectly. Maybe he deserved to be locked up. He had hurt an old rival that never did any harm to him in their racing days. " I didn't know he was your brother. He talked so fondly of you. No one ever told me what happen afterwards. They only said he was in a coma..."

"He..." Johnny had never liked hospitals, but after that day he hated them. Acrid cleaning chemicals mixed with overly sterilized linen and the inescapable scent of blood. It had given him a headache, sitting on that hard plastic chair, listening to the whine of machinery, waiting to hear if there was still a part of his brother left to save. "He never woke up." Hospitals brought up too many bad memories, not just Nicholas, Johnny's own injury. More things he wished he could forget.

Diego made a loud unnatural whine from the back of his throat. He could connect with Johnny in that regard. People in comas were always hospitalized. And that's where he lost two people, except, they could say goodbye, but for Johnny... Johnny never got his goodbye. " ..... I'm-..." He couldn't just say 'I'm sorry', that was too natural of a human response. He knew Johnny would just throw it away. " If you want to hate me even more, that's fine. I understand. I deserve it." "It wasn't your fault." Johnny knew the sentiment sounded false. There was no emotion behind the words, but not because they weren't true. Because he couldn't bring himself to say the rest. It wasn't your fault, it was mine. If Johnny had done what he was told, Danny wouldn't have been there in the first place. Diego chasing the mouse onto the track, the accident itself, none of that mattered. Johnny should have been the one punished for his disobedience, not his brother. He deserved to be dead.

Diego didn't respond and instead crawled off the couch, retrieving the straitjacket and putting it back on around him as best he could. He couldn't think of anything to say except one thing that made him feel at ease." Heh... Maybe him, that rat and Pet-Shop are all living peacefully together." He gave a hurt smile, thinking about what happened once he actually caught Danny. What he was forced to do, and what he did afterwards. He wasn't about to let on any other deaths of those he knew, but a small subtle hint was good enough for him. However, he didn't care if he caught it or not. He didn't care if Johnny wanted to see him or not. It didn't matter, especially once Jonathan got there.

"Maybe." Johnny wasn't religious, never really fit in when it came to the particular brand of Southern Christianity that had surrounded his childhood, but he knew there had to be a Heaven. Because he couldn't tolerate the idea of someone like Nicholas just disappearing from the world, gone like he never existed in the first place. Even if he would never see it himself, it was comforting to simply believe it was there. Johnny looked at Diego, and it was then he finally realized something very important. "Holy shit, what happened to your straitjacket?"

Diego looked back at him with a stubborn and confused face as if Johnny was speaking another language. " How did you not even know-You know what, fuck it. Never-mind." He shook his head, deeply thanking this was breaking all the seriousness. Especially considering the consequences that would inevitably lay before him. He hoped the researchers would let him see Johnny again after this, he hadn't hurt him-well in a physical way. But at the same time, he was fine if the other User didn't want to see him again. This was his life. Not getting choose how to lead his own. " What do you think happen to it, Sherlock?" But he could at least talk before he was taken away.

 

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"What's going on?" Jonathan burst through the door and into the observation room like a gunshot. He wasn't yelling, now was not the time for yelling, but he spoke in his most serious tone, the one that made everyone else in the room jump at the sound. "How did he get loose?" The taser was clutched in his hand, but a situation like this would probably warrant something stronger. It had all been going so well, and now the whole experiment was resting on matchsticks.

" We-W-Well, Johnny wanted no muzzle and for us to turn off listening to them. Diego-He got loose somehow-I think he ripped the jacket from growing then shrunk down again! Before we knew it, he had Johnny in his lap and arms around him, he wasn't harming him-and if we initiated a shock or tranq, he might end up harming him!" Robert nervously told the situation, trying not to yell too loudly, but was still in panic. He looked back over to the window that lay hidden to the Users and shakily fiddled with his hands. " Then he let him go and put the jacket back on-is he trying to see how far he can go before attacking?!"

"So he's not behaving violently?" Jonathan looked to Kawajiri for further information, and merely got a disinterested nod in return. "Alright." He wasn't about to let anyone get hurt, especially not a family member. The two people in the other room were still, Johnny lying on the couch and Diego standing nearby, the tatters of the straitjacket draped across his shoulders like a blanket. Jonathan opened a desk drawer and took out a syringe full of tranquilizer. "I'm going in." Robert stayed by the desk, fingers trembling at the ready to push the tranquilizer button, even if Diego was drugged or shock, he could still do some harm in a desperate attempt. The shaggy blond had never dealt with what could be a potential hostage situation.
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Diego heard the metal door subtly opening, as if trying to be quiet and make as little movement as possible. He sighed, knowing full well the session was finally over, and it'd be treated like a hostage situation. He wasn't planning on fighting, and he didn't want to. He didn't want to hurt anyone, or see anyone get hurt because of him again. Johnny looked up at the noise. "I'm fine." It was Jonathan, who was probably one of the better options when it came to Foundation employees, but still a danger to Diego. He pushed himself into a sitting position and reached for his wheelchair. "Diego isn't going to hurt me. He just wanted to-" What, he'd broken out of a straitjacket just to cuddle? Well, he had, but there was no way anyone would believe that. "I was upset. He was trying to comfort me. So he wouldn't get in trouble." Jonathan stopped and waited for Diego's response. He was having a hard time imagining Diego attacking Johnny and still being human at the end of it, but he knew better than to trust a Brando not to have a plan. Diego looked up to the much larger man and didn't say a word. Talking could get people in trouble. And besides, would that Joestar really trust the words of a madman? Probably not, any sane person who could grasp knowledge knew that. He didn't try to puppy eye Jonathan, instead just giving him a look of apathy, waiting for anything to happen and letting that take over him without a fight. He was ready for anything. There was no point to struggle, he was sure Johnny would leave him after this. He wanted to feel numb, shut his mind down, lay there. Nothing was going to get better, it never did.

Jonathan approached Diego cautiously, but didn't get any response. As he grew closer, he realized Johnny had been crying, and he wasn't sure if that proved the story true or hinted the man was covering up something. Diego had been manipulative in the past, and Johnny was at a clear disadvantage physically. If Johnny were in danger, the safest choice would be to play along. But of course, this was Johnny, and he rarely seemed to pick the safest choice. Jonathan readied the needle. "I'm going to have to sedate you, Diego." There wasn't much Johnny could do. He moved to his wheelchair, but kept his distance. After all, Diego was unpredictable. Perhaps the presence of Jonathan would trigger a violent reaction. Thankfully Diego just sat there and craned his neck to receive the shot, like he was use to all of this. He flinched momentarily as the tip pierced and slid into skin. He started to relax, letting the full sedative enter his blood, letting himself slump over and be dragged into the darkness of sleep. His eyes fluttered to look at Johnny before closing. Robert made his way into the room to escort Johnny back to the surface building.

Chapter Text

That afternoon, all Johnny could think about was Diego. It wasn't just the memories the meeting had unearthed, there was one big unanswered question. Jonathan had told him afterwards that Diego had used his Stand to escape from the straitjacket, which implied a level of control that was previously nonexistent. Diego had been so set on comforting Johnny that he'd managed to control Scary Monsters. And that sounded wrong. Not in a moral sense, in a purely factual, 'this is incorrect' kind of way. There was no way his former rival cared that much about him. Diego was just isolated, and Johnny was the first person to make contact with him. Nothing more. But still, the thought refused to leave, that maybe there was something. And so when Gyro offered a relaxing evening to take Johnny's mind off things, he immediately accepted. In hindsight, perhaps not the best decision...

Gyro pushed along the wheelchair while a large backpack rustled behind him, he leaned his elbows onto the handles and ruffled Johnny's light red hear. " Don't worry dude, this might help with the stress level. And if not, you can bitch at me allll you want. Nyhoho~" He gave off that goofy golden grin of his, desperately trying to take care of his friend. When Johnny came back to their room, the young man looked like he had been dragged through hell and back... And maybe a few more times. As Johnny's certified and technically only friend, Gyro put it upon himself to help the other no matter what. Considering he couldn't be there when that bullet paralyzed him for good. The Italian strolled the wheelchair to the outer area, where a bright moon greeted them above the large dome. Small street lights were on along the pathways like a park at night. And further away was a small contained campfire glittering with people around it. It really was impressive, just how much of a world the Foundation had built. You could almost forget it was all a weird lab complete with basement cells and a simply irresponsible number of tasers. Johnny let himself relax. He didn't mind that Gyro insisted on pushing him, it was Gyro after all, if anyone was allowed it was him. And it was nice how hard Gyro tried to make things easier, even if Johnny didn't ask for it. The fire flickered, casting thin shadows of the people around it that danced across the grass as the light wavered.

The dirty blond pulled over to the small contained campfire, which now looking at it more closely, was actually quite small. And there, Johnny was welcomed by the ragtag group of kids Gyro and others called, The Passione. Most if not all were so young to be in these metal walls, but were still Stand Users all and all. But it didn't keep some from acting like children of course. The young teen in orange and black gave a wide smile as he rolled over a log, that was more of just a prop to blend in with the fake yet real environment. Narancia flopped onto the log on his belly and watched the fire blaze in front of him, eagerly awaiting Gyro. Gyro rolled his eyes and tossed the backpack to him. " Here, ya little goblin." Narancia squealed with joy as he dug into the bag to pull out the essentials to make a s'more. Meanwhile, Mista was struggling with a bag of marshmallows. You'd think being a Stand user would help with opening things, but all the Sex Pistols did was whine. 'Mista, hurry up!' 'Mista, we're hungry!' 'Open the bag, Mista!' The bag was busy doing that thing where instead of tearing like, you know, a package should, the plastic just kept stretching and getting hotter and hotter like it was about to roast the marshmallows right there. Finally, Mista gave up. He raised the bag to his mouth and ripped a hole in it with his teeth.

" Woah... Easy there, tiger. We wouldn't want you to rip out a tooth-And there he goes flipping me off again." Gyro said as he rested the wheelchair at a good distance of the fire. " How you manage to stay civilized is beyond me..."

" Like you're any better?" Trish raised a brow as she made herself comfortable, trying her best to keep the grass from poking her legs and the small amount of dirt from ruffling up her clothes. Gyro just made a small unintelligible mimicking sound before sitting down himself like the big kid he could somewhat be at times. Trish shook her head, letting her pink hair sway around. She looked up and over to Johnny giving a sincere smile. " Hey, you doing okay there?" She sounded genuine, worried about his emotions...

"I'm fine." Even though she was being sincere, Johnny wasn't eager to return the sentiment. The evening was about forgetting what had happened earlier. Still, he did appreciate her asking. Trish scoffed lightly, but not in a rude way like the classy 'sophisticated' girls Johnny remembered back in his old racing days. Instead, she handed a small wooden skewer with a fluffy marshmallow on the tip to him and Mista, smiling as she readied her own to the fire. " Heh, you remind me of my uncle and dad, saying that. But, I'm not going to dwell or push. Just have some fun, that's all we ask of you. Well, that and try not to get into a fight with Mista's Sex Pistols." She giggled, seeing one of them hanging off her marshmallow, trying to tear off a chunk of it.

 

On the other side of the group, Fugo noticed Narancia rummaging through Gyro's bag and pounced. He wasn't sure exactly what was in it, but if Narancia wanted it, then so did he. It wasn't that he was petty, more that he possessed a healthy sense of competition. At least that's what Giorno said when he was trying to be polite. When he wasn't, it was petty all the way. Fugo managed to wrestle the backpack out from under the smaller boy, and held it tightly. " Ah-H-Hey! You're gonna' smoosh the crackers!" Narancia almost proceeded to tackle the other boy... or make a few more holes in his suit by the looks of it. Gyro looked over and snatched the bag from them both, scolding them a bit in Italian. He reached in and tossed the graham cracks to them, muttering in an irritated way. He carefully peeked into the bag to make sure whatever else he had was fine. Especially his teddy bear.

"Alright." Johnny held out the skewer and watched flames lick the sides of the marshmallow, burning it a golden brown. He liked Trish. She was the sort of kind that few people were, not kind merely for the show or looking for a reward, just a genuinely kind person. Maybe without the age difference, she would have been a nice girlfriend, but he wasn't really interested in that stuff now. Hard enough to deal with friends, never mind romance. Gyro took out a rather old guitar. It looked to be in fine shape, well taken care of, but one could tell it had been around with him. Johnny only remembered his friend playing a one in the past in their days of high school. Gyro wasn't the classiest Zepelli, not by a long shot, but he had talented fingers to strum. Though, he never bothered with any classical music, and went more into rock n' roll, or just whatever was on his mind. Gyro strummed the strings in practice before something caught his eye. That being the movement of the golden blond boy, finally making his way over to the camp. Giorno sat down next to Mista and Trish, getting a skewer from the girl and marshmallow from the feisty boy. Giorno smiled in appreciation of his friends. He didn't at all seem like the kid Johnny had talked to the other day ago...

Fugo pinned Narancia to the ground, using the full advantage of his height. Narancia may have been older, but he was more than a little short for his age, and Fugo was the opposite. "I'll let you up if you give me your share of the chocolate."

Narancia meanwhile wriggled about to get the other boy off, sticking his tongue out. Gyro groaned, " Hey, hey! No fuckin' over there! I'm not here to babysit!" Narancia bit his and pouted, admitting defeat to share the sweet treat. Mostly just to get Fugo off of him and Gyro to stop bitching.

Johnny stared into the fire and just let it all wash over him. It should have been the perfect scene. A campfire, marshmallows, his best friend, everything laid out exactly in its place. But he couldn't escape the feeling that something was missing. The heat from the flames felt familiar. And as Johnny tried to puzzle out what was missing, he remembered what it felt like. It was like Diego. Not in the temperature sense, Diego was unnaturally cold, in the fact that it was comforting. And that was what he needed to make the whole thing perfect. Diego.

Gyro played a soft tune letting himself get caught up in it, finally time to think to himself while the others talked around the campfire. He wasn't as stressed as Johnny-far from it, but he needed a break from keeping his best friend to cling onto some type of hope, even if it may be just a small percentage. While the mood was relaxing and Johnny dwelled on his thoughts, a sudden voice called him back briefly. " You're marshmallow will get burnt if you don't pull out of the fire." Said the relative of Diego. Giorno had snuck over to his side as he watched the flames tingle and dance around. " Better and safer to let it have some air. Or eventually, it may burn you too." It was hard to tell if he was using this as a metaphor for Johnny's odd relationship with his cousin. Yet... Oddly enough he didn't mention a thing about him or their talk previously.

Johnny felt he owed Giorno something. After all, he had been the one to give Johnny questions to ask, and while that hadn't exactly worked out as planned, it still felt like progress. "Thanks," he said, and took the marshmallow from the fire. A flame had indeed caught on the end, burning the white exterior black, and Johnny blew it out carefully. He liked it better burnt anyway.
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It hadn't even been five days until Robert had to make himself scarce and knock on Jonathan's door. Of course, the blonde was greeted in and fidgeted himself to a desk holding several papers. Sure Robert always looked nervous and tense, but instead, this time he looked rather... Spooked or mortified. " U-Uhm Jonathan. Sorry for disrupting you, but... Me and Kawajiri may need your help." He brushed the back of his neck, avoiding eye contact. " Johnny has a request to see DBSM again. We can't really refuse the request, but we may need you. I mean, for the past three days, Diego has been rather..." He couldn't find the correct wording since the man was already unstable.

"Erratic?" Jonathan had been monitoring the situation with Diego as much as he could, which unfortunately wasn't very much. The Foundation always needed one thing done or another. After all, the sheer number of subjects was unprecedented. "I'll need the details if you want my help." He was more than willing to help Robert, a longtime friend and perhaps the best coworker in the whole facility, but users could be just as unpredictable as their Stands, and the last thing he wanted was to go in unprepared. Especially when it risked Johnny's life as well.

" More of shut off even more than usual. Ever since the last meeting, he either lays there or spends all his time talking to his toys, he's barely eaten. Both main and weekly feed. Stopped petting it and just kind of-" Robert gagged slightly, " Toyed it to death. He keeps asking and demanding medication to feel happy or numb-But don't worry! I've been keeping an eye on Kawajiri, making sure he hasn't been getting anything dangerous." He sighed out, rubbing his temples. " Okay, I guess erratic would be the word."

"And how can I help?" At least Diego wasn't violent again. It sounded like he wouldn't hurt Johnny if the two were together, but Jonathan had learned not to trust his own instincts. Not after Dio. So he would be on his guard, even if Diego seemed abnormally passive. Perhaps it was a ruse. You could never be too careful in situations like this.

" Moral support? Help me get him to the room, help Kawajiri strap him down, be by the sidelines just in case he somehow breaks free again?" Robert honestly didn't want to do any of this. Force his friend to help, strap Diego into another straitjacket, put on a muzzle, tie him down with secured chains this time. He was starting to question Johnny more and more. Any other User would have left the other alone if they had pulled off something and crazy like that. Let alone make them have a meltdown.

"Of course." Jonathan was used to being asked to help when strength was needed. He did work out a lot more than the average person, and his size could be very useful when intimidation helped. "No problem." Securing Diego would be easy, and that way so would protecting Johnny. His cousin seemed to have a rather deficient sense of self-preservation, at least when it came to Diego, and that combined with his disability made him quite the target. If Diego were fully restrained, it would be even easier than usual.
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The two men walked into the large room of observation where the large sturdy glass spanned across in the back to Diego's own little territory. Robert's job was simple, or it would be if one of the major security guards wasn't called out to chase Joseph for stealing a permit card... Just get Diego to the meeting room, then either help Jonathan secure him, or have Kawajiri and the burly man to do it instead. Robert carefully tucked a taser into his coat's pocket and tapped gently on the glass. Beyond the clear wall lay Diego, having his back to them both. He curled up upon the knock and groaned. " Either you give me some pills or go away."

"Diego, it's me." Jonathan still remembered the desperate way Diego had clung to him the first time he'd been able to safely enter his cell. The man needed human contact, no matter how much he tried to deny it. "Would you like to talk to Johnny? He wants to see you." The two of them had a strange relationship. Jonathan was aware of how physical it had become, and just how important that was to Diego. He hoped that hadn't somehow changed, because in a sense, Johnny needed it too.

Right after the larger man softly spoke to him, Diego started to calm down, " ... Hello Jonatha-" but one mention of Johnny and he became silent, curling up on himself even more. It took a moment before he exhaled and swiftly got up, only to lunge at the clear wall, letting his lips curl back to show off his dagger-like teeth. " What makes you think he'd want to see me?! What makes you think I'd fall for that?! Do you think I'm that petty?! Your lying-you just want to hook me up and-and toy with me or something!" Which wasn't at all true. The foundation didn't do shock therapy... Only administered shocks for safety reasons, and even then they tried not to do it too much.

"He does want to see you." Why was a question Jonathan couldn't answer. He didn't know himself why Johnny had requested to see Diego again, after he proved himself to be dangerous, but there had to be a reason. Of course, there was a sort of tenderness in their interactions, a comfortable intimacy, but Jonathan would never assume- It didn't matter why, only that Johnny wanted to and it helped Diego to talk to someone. "Diego, I'm not here to hurt you. I wouldn't lie to you."

Diego's ravenous behavior slowly but surely died down ad he leaned against the glass to slide down. His rationality was coming over him and chose the only possible choice why Johnny wanted to see him. He whined out, " Maybe he just wants to say bye before he leaves me. They always try to. Fine whatever, I don't care anymore." Robert gulped down a large amount of fear and carefully opened the door leading into the soft padded room with taser at the ready. Diego started to fall back into the place that Jonathan had last seen him. Full of apathy and making no effort in resistance.

It was worrying, seeing Diego relapse like that. He had made so much progress in the last couple weeks, only for it all to fall away when he really needed it. Jonathan hoped Diego wasn't right, that Johnny wasn't trying to say goodbye, because as dangerous as the meetings were, he knew they were the only thing keeping Diego sane at this point. He entered the cell behind Robert and wrapped Diego in a straitjacket, receiving no resistance.
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After the preparation of the now sluggish Diego being settled into the room, Robert had gone with his higher up to retrieve Johnny, who had been wished luck by his roommate. When Johnny was greeted to the room, it was very different... Robert held the door open for him to view the inside. No couch, only a chair, table, a plastic vase with fake flowers, and not much else on his side of the room. On the other side where Diego was, was barren and empty except for Diego who had the crude muzzle back on, the shackles, the jacket, the collar, now added and fit with chains clinging to the ankle shackles, and from a large cuff behind him, that held his arms in place. The only other thing were three lines going down the middle of the room. Two green and one red in the middle. Robert quickly ran his eyes away from Johnny before slapping a bracelet that glowed green on his wrist " S-Sorry. See those lines. If you or him pass through the green ones, he'll get tranqed. The red one will shock him. Please be careful this time."

Johnny understood the precautions, but that didn't stop them from pissing him off. Sure, Diego had broken out of a straitjacket the last time, but the only result had been a hug. Hardly a major security breach. "Is all this really necessary?" He already knew the answer. But more than simply finding it ridiculous, Johnny wanted to be able to touch Diego. Exactly what that meant, he hadn't quite figured out, but he couldn't deny it was true. Johnny knew he could be overconfident, but he didn't think this was an example. It was something more alien, something he'd never felt before. He wheeled into the room, up to a few inches from the green line.

The slightly older man rubbed the back of his nape and let off a shrug, " Sorry but he did break out. Don't worry, I talked with Jonathan and Kawajiri to have yourselves muted out from us." He said before leaving Johnny to his own devices.

 

It did seem rather extreme, but they had to make sure and fully endorse the code strictly, no matter what. Diego sat there, slumped over looking at the floor. He wasn't shaking, he wasn't happy, and he wasn't upset. It was kind of eerie in a silent way. He sat there like a living husk. " I take it you came to say bye, right?" He sounded hollow, no emotion in it at all.

"Diego..." It was rough seeing him this broken. Johnny knew in his current position he couldn't do shit to help, not in any real way. Talking Diego out of this was going to be difficult. "I'm not afraid of you. Maybe that makes me a fucking idiot, but it's true. If you wanted to hurt me, you would have, and you didn't." Johnny stopped for a moment, took a deep breath, and continued. "We're not rivals anymore. I don't know what we are, but I know I don't hate you. I'm not going to leave you. Please, I need you to believe me."

The blond looked up to the other stricken to the wheelchair, his expression was so mixed up. " Wha-But everyone always leaves. I-... Don't understand." Diego desperately wanted to ask 'why', but he knew Johnny probably didn't have a good enough answer, or he didn't know himself. He gave out a heavy sigh, " Thank... Thank you." It didn't sound like he meant it, saying it in a hollow tone, but he was just so flabbergasted. He couldn't think of anything else to say. He just wanted to be there with Johnny, hold onto him, tell him things. " Can they still hear us?" His eyes loomed over to the metallic walls.

"I don't think so." There was no telling with the Foundation. As an American, Johnny had a natural distrust of authority, and they certainly were no exception. "But I'm not really sure. Is there something you want to say?" He was a touch surprised Diego had believed him that easily. Perhaps their relationship was more than he'd thought. Perhaps Diego felt the same indescribable closeness that he did. No. That kind of thinking would only lead to disappointment. People like Johnny didn't get their desires answered. He didn't deserve it. Diego was desperate, and any personal connection had to be entirely on Johnny's side of things.

Diego bit his lip a bit, he mostly trusted the other not to leave him considering he was still here. It could have been a test, but again he was too deprived of being near left behind in the shadows of the basement. Besides, not much more could be taken away. " I may have overheard Jonathan and the squeaky loser talking a bit about questions. Something about my cousin and you. I didn't get all of it, but I'm sure you have things to ask? A-And if I get into an area that will make you..." He remembered the last meeting vividly. " Uncomfortable, let me know... I'm so tired of hurting people."

"That wasn't your fault. You didn't know." Johnny hated how easily he cried. It had been that way since he was little, and really it'd only gotten worse with age. He was pathetic, but that was his own doing, not Diego's. His own mistakes. "Are you sure you want to talk about that sort of stuff?" It was a hard thing to learn how to care for another person. Johnny rarely gave other people's feelings a thought, but with Diego... He just hoped he wouldn't make it worse. His feelings were important.

He chuckled slightly as he tilted himself, wanting so badly to lean on something. " I'd like to think of it as therapy or a coping mechanism. I much rather talk to a person too damn stubborn for their own good than someone who would write down notes about it and press more and more into it." He sounded a bit rash, but it was true. Johnny wouldn't tell anyone for the most part, because he rather keep information to himself. And doctors would inform others and try to talk to Diego about certain things, which could be considered a weakness.

 

"Fine." Johnny still had the list memorized. Friends, fear, ambition, wife, capture. The questions Giorno had given him. Number one could be checked off, Diego did have friends on the outside, which left four to go. "Why are you afraid of trains?" Johnny could not be considered a subtle man by anyone's measure. He tended to favor a direct approach, and- Well, there were disadvantages to that fact. This was one of them.

Diego let out a small hiss of pain as if he had just punctured his finger on something sharp. He slowly lay himself on the cold floor, closing his eyes to concentrate. He curled up slightly, but not as badly as that one time Johnny had offended him when he finally saw who DBSM truly was. After a moment, Diego relaxed himself as best he could in his position of chains and muzzle. " I had another friend after the other was taken away. We both raised him up. Name was Pet-Sop. He was my first horse. My best if not, only friend." He smiled under the crude muzzle hiding his mouth. Fond memories swept over him. Johnny remembered the fondness in Diego's voice when he talked about horses. It was another thing they shared. Came with being a jockey, he supposed. Would he like the stables at the Foundation? Perhaps Johnny could take him there one day. Even under the muzzle, he could tell Diego was happy, and that was an expression he wanted to see again.

" Remember when I said I tried fitting in with the other minors and they became envious? Well... A rather well know one, wanted to make amends on out-casting me. Gave me specially made back shoes for Pet-Shop." He chuckled in a dark tone. " And stupid me, put them on Pet-Shop. The others always wanted to race past the tracks into town to be winners outside the races. We ran over the tracks except... Pet-Shop." The warm smile Johnny enjoyed was soon gone. " His back feet were stuck on the metal. I flew off of him, got up and tried helping him. We tried to push and pull, but it was like trying to pull off a magnet. Then-Then..." He opened his eyes to stare off, " We heard a whistle. Pet-Shop bit my arm, threw me away from where I fell. Then-... There was so much blood..." His voice trembled, " The train had tried to stop, but it still happened. It stopped, the workers ran to my aid. Pet-Shop... He wouldn't get up. Split down the middle, I didn't understand. Mom never told me about death before. She wanted to keep me happy for as long as she could." He gritted his teeth, resisting the urge to turn them sharp. Johnny couldn't remember a time before he'd understood death. His own mother, as little of a presence in his life as she had been, had never tried to shield him from the world. No one had. It was better that way. He had learned at a young age just how cruel things really were. It was his own fault that he still crumbled so easily. The look on Diego's face was heartbreaking. Johnny wanted to touch him, to hold him, but the security system prevented him crossing the room. He was trapped watching Diego unravel in front of him, useless as ever.

The other man shuddered, still managing to regain his composure for the most part, though Johnny could tell and clearly see the gnarled teeth forming. " After-After investigating. The shoes were indeed magnetic. After that I-I... Well. I saw no punishment in cheating as long as you weren't caught." Another dark chuckle slithered out from his throat. " Don't get me wrong. I'd never stoop that low. I only gave other horses some herbal relaxation in their feed. I'd never poison them, they don't deserve it. But I will tell you-hehehe. Being older, that fucker who crossed me. Hahaha-They found him barely clinging to life in a ditch trapped in his car after I drank with him!" Diego could be intimidating when he wanted to be, cackling out in a hysteric before lowering himself down to being rational. " Ahhh. Honestly Joekid. I'd say that guy should have been paralyzed instead of you."

"Good work." Johnny was nothing if not petty, and definitely pro-revenge. Cheating was a bit more problematic, but those days were over. And Diego had never really had a reason to mess with Johnny's horse. As long as it hadn't happened to him, he wasn't going to complain. People were punished for their actions, it was simply how the world worked. "You're wrong about that last bit, though. You weren't there to see me. I got what I deserved."

Diego glanced up at him with a smirk from the compliment. But it did turn as he continued on. Diego wanted to ask why and what happened, but he rather not push it, especially after last time. No, he'd have to wait and bide his time on the question. Diego rattled against the chains to nuzzle himself into the floor to pretend it was Johnny, he was craving human contact badly. " Mrm... So what are you afraid of?"

Johnny shrugged. "The usual stuff. Plane crashes, sharks, emotional intimacy." Losing more people he loved. The fact that one day, Gyro would realize how shitty he actually was and leave. How he would never replace Nicholas, not in his father's eyes or anyone else's. The next mistake he would make, and what that would cost him. His own inescapable worthlessness. "Normal people shit." Of course, Diego remained silent giving a tedious annoyed glare at the Joestar. He clearly wasn't buying it. And to be fair, he wasn't drugged this time, letting his senses be much more observant. He didn't say a single thing back though, or else he would have said something like, ' yeah, okay sure, whatever'. Best not push away the only person you could interact with, even if only by means of talking.

 

In his scramble to change the subject, Johnny hit upon a realization. "Hang on, I've got an idea." Tusk appeared next to him, and Johnny patted the weird alien thing. "I can't cross the line, but maybe my Stand can. Want me to try?" Just then Diego's attention widened onto the small pink fairy. If he wasn't desperate, he would have laughed and called it cute, but with that idea, he was willing to risk it. He nodded as best he could, entranced by it, entranced with the feeling of having something there besides him that was living. Tusk floated carefully over the first green line and Johnny kept a watch on Diego as it moved. When he saw nothing happened, he gave up all presence of caution. The Stand flew to Diego and nuzzled against his chest like a kitten. Tusk had the advantage of being fairly long-range, made up somewhat for its low power, and it had no trouble reaching the other man. Johnny felt himself blush. "Sorry, I-I just-I wanted-" He couldn't finish the sentence, but once Tusk touched Diego, Johnny was overcome with a sweeping sense of relief.

Sure Diego couldn't move much, but he was at the very least rather flexible. He managed to curl up as if he was trying to hold the tiny stand against his chest. He could hear Robert yelling behind the walls, but he didn't care. He smiled softly, slowly turning it into a devious smirk. A bright vividly colored tail slinked around the man's waist and slowly curled around the Stand to cradle it. It was a part of Johnny, and that was fine with him. He was too busy with the small creature to notice Johnny's disposition.
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And much like other times, Robert was in panic mode, " O-Oh god! I forgot about the Stand! Oh no, oh no, oh no-" Thankfully for once, Kawajiri simply smacked the back of his head to shut him up.
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It was strange to feel someone else touch his Stand. Tusk was both part of Johnny's body and at the same time not, sort of like an extra hand he only had sometimes. Even then, the feeling was distant, and Johnny found it more than a little frustrating to be so close to Diego without actually touching him. But it was enough to grasp the echoes of that comfort from before. Johnny knew his face was bright red. He was never this shy even when actual sex was involved, especially when actual sex was involved, but this was something different. Diego merely just lay there on the floor, trying to nuzzle the small Stand. He often wondered what it was like to have something be a part of you and detach itself away from oneself. He wished he could do that with his Stand. He wish he could contain it, push it away, be somewhat normal. Most other Users had Stands that left, but not his. It'd be forever locked in his own body. He let out a happy sigh as the tail's tip stroked the pink thing's back gently. Johnny was just lucky Diego didn't catch him blushing and was too focused on Tusk.

Johnny tried to pull himself together. He didn't want to think about what his embarrassment implied about his feelings toward Diego, because it sure felt like attraction, which was firmly in the Do Not Want column. Not that he minded being attracted to another man, he'd figured out the whole bisexual thing years ago, but Diego? That was a step too far. Even if their rivalry was over, they couldn't just jump in bed together. Diego was currently imprisoned and also half-dinosaur, and Johnny... He didn't want to fuck up whatever they had by bringing in his one-sided desires. No way Diego felt the same about him. Diego felt the small thing become a bit warmer, not much but just a bit. He cracked his eyes opened for just a moment to see Johnny slightly fidgeting in his chair. Diego turned his head to hide a toothy smile, if he chuckled at how Johnny looked, the warm position he was in would be over. It was hard for him not to laugh at how cute the other looked when flustered, but he had to hold it to have any interaction. Interaction was the most important thing to him at the moment. Unlike Johnny, Diego wasn't really thinking of being attracted to another, he just wanted to be close to someone after being left there rotting in his cell.

Johnny closed his eyes and let the feeling wash over him. It was another almost-perfect moment like sitting by the campfire. Somehow, this bare cell was made a thousand times better simply by Diego's presence. It was the sort of thing Gyro would call love. But Johnny was not Gyro, and he called things what they were. It was comfort and happiness and warmth, but not love. People like Johnny didn't fall in love. They were too bitter...

Chapter Text

After a few days, things seemed to be going rather well for once, in fact, Diego seemed rather happy last time. He didn't have to be dragged out from the room and instead was content. It was lunch time as Gyro and Johnny were accompanied by the large man, Jotaro, and the thin less stubborn, Kakyoin. Not much was going on until the Frenchman, Polnareff ran near their table, but still always from them, calling out to Trish who was with their own group. " TRISH!"

" WHAAAT?!"

The man chuckled out and pulled out two plastic cards from a pocket, waving them above his head like a dork. " Check it!"

Trish didn't say a word and instead got up to run over to him with bright eyes. " OH, MY GOD! A-ARE YOU SERIOUS?!" She squealed out as he gave her the two plastic cards. She stared at them with enthusiasm. " O-Oh my god... I-I... I CAN SEE DAD AND UNCLE!" She nearly shrieked with joy, jumping up to hug him.

 

"Gyro, what the fuck is going on?" Johnny found their antics amusing, but frankly, he was just here for lunch, not yelling.

" Holy shit, that nerd actually did it... Oh, right-aherm." He cleared his throat from his food. " You see, there are certain Permit Cards Users can gain. From seeing someone, to being with someone in a room, to even having a day outside of here or outside of the basement. They're really special and tricky to come by. There's like only three ways we know how to gain any. Kaky-boy knows more of it than me man." He went back to eating his food, getting a slight glare from the man in green.

Johnny immediately thought of Diego. The last meeting had shown a jump in security and if anything, an increase in their desires for physical contact with each other. Through normal channels, it could be weeks before he was allowed to touch Diego again, but perhaps with a permit things would be different. Maybe Diego could even leave his cell for a bit. It would certainly be good for him to see the outside world. "Alright then. Go ahead, Kakyoin."

The normally quiet and reserved man punched the arm of Gyro, gaining a whine and 'Ow!' in the process from making him miss his meal, he nodded to Johnny. " Right, right. One way I know for sure is asking for one. But upon requesting one, it could take to three days to three weeks if you're lucky. It normally takes three months to five to get. That's how I was able to get Jotaro out for a bit." He frowned, remembering how long it took. " But you could also ask the head of security, Kars-"

Gyro then interrupted, " Which is a BAD idea. Trust me dude, that guy is not like his brothers. He is a major hard-ass, and doesn't fuck around. His shoulders also look like two little baby-heads! He's more ripped than fucking Jonathan!" He shuddered, recalling a time or so, getting into trouble and having to deal with him.

Kakyoin rolled his eyes, " And then there's the forum and paper worker who gained a Stand while working here. He likes to think he brings justice or whatever, but... The guy is weird. He's sneaky and sly. He'll ask you for a favor-not sexual I should mention, but he has his own agenda. Possibly blackmail, or something that is pretty bad. Information or something. I suggest if you try to strike a deal with him, you get his roommate with you."

"The third guy sounds promising." Johnny could deal with weird and sneaky, and he didn't really care about what was probably Foundation office politics. And at this point, there was a lot he would do to see Diego more often. Why exactly he wanted it that bad crossed his mind, but he shoved it aside as soon as he noticed. Better not to worry about things like that. "Who's his roommate?"

Gyro eyed his friend oddly, like he was a parrot that had plucked out all of its feathers and made him truly bizarre. " He's a maintenance worker, he found his Stand here as well. But since they both worked here, they spend half their week here and a half at home. People call him Mountain Tim. Not sure why, but the guy wears a cowboy hat around. He takes care of things that get broken. You may have seen him around working in the outer area, fixing lights or something." Kakyoin explained. " He's a nice guy, likes to help people, doesn't ask for anything in return."

"You know where this guy hangs out?" Johnny knew it was a long shot, but he had to try. All he could think of was Diego the way he'd seen him last, restrained with a muzzle and confined to one side of a room. Too far away to reach. He had to do something.

"He has an office on the second floor of the south building," Jotaro answered. It was the first time he'd spoken the whole conversation. He looked Johnny in the eye and said, "Be careful."

Kakyoin cleared his throat slightly, though being roommates with the other Joestar, he could still be slightly intimidating, mainly because he would be quiet and rarely talk. " Tim can be seen loitering around the outer area until he's given a task. You'll do fine with him, he's rational. Just try to find him before confronting Valentine."

Gyro rubbed his temples a bit before raising a brow to his friend, " Need someone to go with ya' to find Timmy, boy?" Gyro was starting to get nervous, he'd play it off as arrogant, rash, or whatever else one could describe. But Johnny knew him well enough to see he was worried deeply.

"You're coming with me whether you want to or not." This whole Diego business was hard on Gyro. Johnny hated seeing his best friend this anxious, it just wasn't natural. Gyro was supposed to be the cheerful, upbeat one. Him being worried was a very bad sign. "This is your afternoon now." The humor was enough to make Gyro smile, but it was brief.

The Zepelli glared to his old friend, but not in a bitter way, more of a pout like a toddler would do. He cracked a small golden grilled smile, " Fine, but if shit goes south, I'm NEVER gonna' let you live this down."
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Later in the afternoon Gyro walked alongside Johnny, peering around the outside area, often pushing his friend's wheelchair every now and then out of what could only be considered habit at this point. He still gave Johnny the chance to move on his own, not being part of the pity party, but helping push the wheelchair made him comfortable in a small way. Eventually, the two came upon a man with semi-curly dark blond hair fixing a lamppost. At first glance, it looked like he was using a rope, but upon further inspection, the rope was... Coming out of his wrist and the end of it near the light was where his hand was, screwing in the new bulb. "Hey, are you Mountain Tim?" Johnny figured if he wasn't right, he was at least close. The man wore a uniform emblazoned with the Speedwagon Foundation logo, and he was the first employee Johnny had seen with an obvious Stand. Plus, cowboy hat. The afternoon had been uncomfortable for both him and Gyro. He couldn't help but feel that he owed Gyro an explanation for his fascination with Diego, but he couldn't think of the words. At least, not any words that wouldn't be horribly embarrassing.

The tall man peeked over his shoulder, he even outranked Gyro by a few inches. He gave a small sly smirk while the rope extending from his wrist pulled back, attaching his gloved hand back into place. He turned around and tilted his hat up in the old fashion way of cowboys in movies would. " Yessum. I'm Mountain Tim, and you?"

" Gyro Zepelli, GZSB, and my this here is my friend and roomie Johnny, JJT. We uh, we're wondering if you could help us out-mostly him, he just dragged me along..." Gyro was still going to try to get any bit of sarcasm and humor out of this situation no matter what. He kind of deserved it anyway.

"I'm looking for a permit." Johnny was not particularly smooth, but he knew enough to not approach something like this too bluntly. "And I heard you know how to get one." This sort of thing required finesse. After all, he was trying to make a deal, not a demand. "Nothing too extreme. I just want to talk to a hostile Stand user without all this experiment bullshit in the way. It's hard to have a civil conversation with scientists breathing down your neck. You understand, right?"

Tim's smile slowly turned as he listened to Johnny. The friendly banter was closed into a serious tone. The repairman closed his eyes, nodding slightly as he took out a handkerchief to wipe his gloved hand. " True. I had to go through a series of tests just to be able to leave this place and go to my house, check up on my dogs n' hens. So I see what you're driving at." He opened his eyes after reliving the small flashback in his mind. " So, which type ya' lookin' fer? Just to chat at their cell without anyone else? Or ya' lookin' fer a room without restrictions and peepers?"

Johnny opened his mouth to answer, but stopped once he realized what he was about to say. A room with zero restrictions sounded ideal, just him and Diego with nothing in-between them, but what if that was a mistake? Diego was down in the basement for a reason. The scientists were clearly afraid of him, and Johnny had seen just how quickly everything could go to shit. Did he really trust Diego enough to be alone with him, no restraints or anything? He wanted to say yes, fuck did he want to say yes, but he knew that was just selfish desire. If something happened to him, what would happen to Gyro? The man had thought he'd lost Johnny once already, and even after a couple of months he still looked at the wheelchair with guilt in his eyes. If he failed to protect Johnny twice, it would be crushing. He couldn't do that to Gyro. "I-I don't know."

Tim watched Johnny like a hawk and leaned his back and foot onto the lamppost, he could clearly see conflict in his eyes and hear it in the tone of voice. He felt sorry for the kid and furrowed his brows to think. He did want to help, hell, that's what made his upside-down life nice, being rewarded by helping others who were in trouble. Only reason he had taken the job in the first place. He smiled softly, " Look, I'm sure we can figure something out. Maybe start off slow. I mean, it'll take some doing to get more permits later on down the road, but it might work. How about we find you one so you can go to their cell and chat. Then maybe move up to letting them out up here with your supervision. Then maybe a room. Or letting them out and room, either is possible. Difficult but possible."

It sounded perfect. Johnny knew there was a risk. Of course, there was, Diego, could turn into a dinosaur for fuck's sake, being around him was risky as hell. But they needed each other's company like two halves of the same person. As concerned as he was for Gyro, he couldn't deny that need. Johnny was no good at self-control, never had been, never would be. It was just who he was. "What do I need to do?"

Gyro groaned slightly, mumbling something in Italian, but he'd stand by his friend. The cowboy repair man gave a semi-worried look, " We need to make a bargain with Valentine. He fills out the paperwork and forums for the foundation. Did it before he got a stand, and still does it now. And, you'll need my help, to make sure it's nothing too terribly shady. Also, don't be fooled by any charm or class he's got. Follow me." He tilted his head a bit, gesturing to them before walking onto the path nearby and into a building.
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Despite his job, Valentine seemed like far more than a secretary. Johnny followed Tim into the building, a bit apprehensive. At least he had Gyro so worst case scenario, the fight would be two-on-two. Of course, Stands could make those odd irrelevant in a second, but it was still comforting. As they went through the doorway, Johnny leaned over and whispered to Gyro. "What's up with this Valentine guy?"

Gyro kept his voice down while the Mountain Ranger knocked on the finely wooden door with a plaque over it. " I don't know, all I know is that he's an asshole from what Polnareff's said. Sly, charismatic, and not one to be fucked with. The only thing he can do as far as we know is he can go through objects and people, but can't get stuck in them, making it easy for the fucker to get around.

The knock sounded like salvation. Valentine shuffled the myriad paper on his desk into an empty drawer and got up to answer the door. It had been a long day of managing expense forms, the latest in a long series of annoyances, and he was not in a good mood. The Foundation was so terribly inefficient, and the people at the top just didn't understand how to run such a large facility. If he were in charge... But that was just a fantasy, he had very real people to deal with at the moment. "Come in."

Tim strolled in with the other two following him. He tilted his hat up with his thumb to give a supportive smile. Tim was kind of like Giorno in a way. That only being how they could read people, but Tim did know the other man quite well ever since they were bunked together for half a week. He could tell today wasn't the best, but Tim was bold., and possibly stupid from Valentine's perspective " Heya' Funny. These here boys want to ask ya' bout a permit card." He gestured to them, only for Gyro to point down to Johnny. Gyro was too busy looking around the office that was very well organized. Something about the place just seemed off with him... But then again, any place that wasn't cluttered with minimal paperwork set him off.

Valentine took a good look at his visitors and sat back down behind his desk. He didn't recognize them, but there were plenty of people at the Foundation he didn't recognize. A tall, scruffy man who was dressed like a peacock given human form, and a smaller one with a starred beanie and a wheelchair. In any other group they would have stuck out, but Stand users tended to look rather unusual, to begin with. "Funny Valentine, secretary, and vice-chairman of security. And you are?"

"Johnny Joestar," Johnny answered. He didn't trust Valentine, but that was hardly a surprise. The Foundation staff seemed to get worse the further he moved into bureaucracy. As much as it pained him to admit, Jonathan was seeming more and more like the best person working there. "I'd like a permit to visit Diego Brando in his cell freely." Fuck. Something about this guy made him nervous. He looked to Gyro for backup.

" Gyro Zepelli, you may know my brothers. And my friend here means TO his cell or something. Not inside. Unless you fuckers have some weird permission slip for that, which wouldn't surprise me at all. " Johnny had to go through this smoothly to ensure a card. This guy, unfortunately, was his only good chance to obtain one. So when it came to Gyro, who already had what he wanted in this place, he could be blunt and not give too much of a fuck. If there was going to be someone to play hardball while Johnny was out of commission of making a nuisance, it was sure as hell going to be Gyro. Tim sighed lightly, rolling his eyes from the other dirty blond and gave his partner a look.

" It's just a simple card, Funny. Nothing too big..." Tim spoke up, more of mentioning what Valentine would want for the trade. He knew how the other worked and knew if he wasn't there being a goody-two-shoes, that the one asking for such things would have to sink pretty low.

"I know." Valentine smiled. He wouldn't ask for much. Johnny was too much of a prize to let slip away. "Joestar, did you say? Any relation to Jonathan Joestar?" Jonathan had been the thorn in Valentine's side since he'd joined the Foundation, the epitome of all the facility's inefficiencies. It was tradition and decorum that held back the research, the very things Jonathan considered so precious. Order came at a price. Valentine understood this well, but Jonathan? He seemed determined to foil progress whenever he could.

"I assume you're talking about my cousin. Long story, but we actually share a name." Johnny narrowed his eyes. What could Valentine want with Jonathan?

Tim was a respected person, much like Jonathan, so of course, the cowboy wouldn't really understand what Valentine would want from the Joestars. He didn't question anything, but kept a lookout. Gyro gave a very non-subtle glare to the platinum blond with curls at the tips-how did someone manage to get their hair like that? He looked like those old farts from the Boston tea party days. Of course, Gyro was sly, he wasn't always the sharpest in some situations, this being one of them. " Look, if you're wanting something from the Users of the family, it ain't gonna' happen."It was unclear why his mind hopped to the other Joestars and not Jonathan, maybe he thought Valentine wouldn't have anything against co-workers.

"Oh, don't worry." It was such a fantastic opportunity. Valentine couldn't believe his luck. "I would never dream of asking for something you're not willing to provide. You see, I am a man of justice, Johnny Joestar. And I do my best to ensure that this facility is run in a just fashion. Unfortunately, I have coworkers who do not share my convictions, and your cousin is one of them. Jonathan is a difficult man to persuade. I'm sure you're aware of that fact. He's set in the old way of doing things, and it makes him blind to the flaws inherent in the system. The man means well, but he's simply misguided. Surely you've seen the abhorrent conditions the hostile Stand users are kept in? I can offer a solution, but Jonathan won't listen to me."

Johnny felt himself shiver at the tone Valentine used. It was rehearsed and carefully constructed, the sort of thing that came from years of practice. Valentine had all the charisma of a used car salesman. "I don't care about your ideals. What do you want me to do?"

Gyro gripped one of the wheelchair's handles. Johnny couldn't see how badly he was clutching it, but if he had, he'd be able to see the man's knuckles turn white. But he could defiantly feel it, there seemed to be a sturdy shake as if one was clinging onto something in desperation, ready to have any pain brought upon them. Gyro told him he'd be there, and he would, be it better or worse, but it didn't mean he couldn't have his own opinion on the matter. It must have been the tone and smug nature how Valentine talked about the foundation and Jonathan that made him weary. " Yeah, you heard 'em dirtbag. We don't care about your rank or anything that has to deal with your politics in this place. Just tell us what ya' want and we'll be on our way." At least he was good at covering his shakiness in his voice.

"All I ask for is a number. Jonathan's Identification Code." Every Foundation employee had a seven-digit code that allowed access to the computer database. For Valentine, that only included the unclassified information, but for Jonathan... "It's on the back of his ID card. Give me that, and I can grant you any permit you want."

Gyro cocked a brow, " How do we know you're not gonna' fuck with his info, make him buy or pass certain things, or frame him wise-guy?" Here comes the Zepelli sass right on time.

" It is pretty valuable, but it can only clear so much information. Most have to be DNA, fingerprint, eye retina, or voice permission to gain access to the major enlisting. The founder wouldn't let someone in charge of absolute control and has a tight security." Tim slightly backed up Valentine. He didn't want to, but he wanted to reassure the two other Users.

"Like Tim said. I wouldn't have the authority to change information." Valentine shifted his attention directly to Johnny. It was his decision after all. "All I want is access. I work here too. Don't you think I should be aware of what's happening around me? There's lots of dangerous Stand users. I'm only looking for personal safety."

Johnny stared at his hands. He knew the true reason was something more than that, but how much more? And if it meant access to Diego, was letting a scumbag like Valentine do research worth it? Diego was on a time limit. The longer he stayed down there, the more of his sanity he lost. Johnny was already piecing together a broken man, but it wouldn't be long before Diego was shattered again. He thought of the defeat in Diego's eyes and the desperate way he'd held Johnny's Stand, clinging to comfort in that barren cell.Gyro took in a sharp breath before patting his friend's shoulder before gripping it gently. He had Gyro with him, he wouldn't have to do this alone too terribly much. And lucky for him, Gyro was almost as stubborn as him. And ever since the shot, Gyro felt he needed to help Johnny in some way to cover up the loss from not being there. He whispered over, " It's your choice dude." He felt like he didn't have any say in the matter-which he honestly didn't, but it was just his way to cool down Johnny at the very least. It was shitty to think of... But Gyro would help Johnny. It was horrid to think of using his friend to help, but at the same time, he was willing.

"Well," Valentine said. "I'm waiting."

Johnny couldn't think. He shut his eyes and all he saw was Diego begging him to stay. To not leave him alone in that basement anymore, where the scientists were watching his every move and solitude slowly ate away at his mind, gnawing holes in his sanity like worms eating a corpse. He needed Johnny to protect him. But Valentine was up to something, Johnny could see that clear as day, and Jonathan may be a pain in the ass, but he was a moral pain in the ass. Whatever Valentine wanted, Jonathan would be against. But in the end, Johnny knew he didn't care. Not about morals, not about Jonathan, none of that mattered. He had to protect Diego. "I'll do it."
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Thankfully for Johnny while planning with his roommate to grab hold of Jonathan's ID card, it had only taken a day or so until the grandson of the Speedwagon Foundation opened up their door. He gave a smile, or at the very least tried to, in order to hide any shakiness, " Mister Johnny, we're ready for you to have another meeting. You won't be separated again, we'll have you on mute, and u-uhm, yeah." He tried playing it off as nothing was going to happen. If he had let the younger man know Jonathan was going to be watching alongside this time as well, Johnny may act differently.

The conversation with Valentine was still fresh in Johnny's mind. He didn't fully understand what he'd agreed to help with, but he didn't regret it. Of course, there was still the practical problem of stealing from Jonathan. The man was like eight feet tall and fucking ripped. Not exactly an easy target. But that was a problem for another day. "I'm ready." He left the room, saying bye to Gyro on his way out, and followed Robert down to the basement.

Like always, the dirty blond gave him a gold toothy smile and wished him luck, without Gyro, Johnny would have been so lost at the foundation. What made it even better was that he was going through with a plan to help take the ID. He wasn't like his brothers for damn sure, stealing wasn't below him. Hell, he did it for kicks sometimes. But right now was to be focused on Diego.
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Johnny was led back into the room that was more furnished, including the couch where the two had talked. And on the other side walked in the other young man still bound up, but without a cruel muzzle, and this time, no ankle shackles, letting his movement be a bit better and not tripping over himself like a baby foal. Robert closed the door and sighed in relief before going to the other room where his two fellow scientists were. Johnny had gotten used to waving to catch Diego's eye, since he had so much trouble seeing stationary objects. "Diego, I'm over here." He moved onto the couch. It would be easier if they were on the same plane, both sitting down side-by-side. The list of questions played over in his head. This time, it was ambition. Why did Diego feel such a drive to win? Johnny was competitive himself, but Diego had always raced like his life depended on getting first place. It was what had created their rivalry all those years ago.

Diego caught the slightest of movement, much like those videos of chameleons watching a fly whizz around above them. He gave a slight sharp-toothed grin, keeping his lips covered over in order to let the scientists know he wasn't going to chomp at Johnny. Scientists were always so damn cautious over everything. He made his way over and sat right alongside Johnny, and by the way he moved, it was clear he wasn't drugged this time... This might prove difficult, but then again Diego was finicky with emotions. " Hey, Joekid. Uhm, how are you doing?" It still sounded odd for him to ask that, and odd for Johnny to hear it. He was trying to overly sugar coat it like when they were separated from another by the thick wall.

"Same as always." Johnny couldn't blame Diego for his caution. He would be careful too, if the punishment was chains and a muzzle. Still, it was a little frustrating to be addressed in such an obviously fake manner. "And you?" Johnny reached out for Diego almost instinctively and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. It felt so good just to touch him, with his actual hand this time instead of Tusk. The two of them were sitting close together, but it still seemed like they were so far apart.

" I'm doing better I guess-" Diego acted on instinct as well, locking up upon contact. Sure he craved any touch by a living thing, but it normally spooked him at first. He seemed to shut down temporarily before leaning into Johnny, his slender tail growing out from behind to wrap around Johnny's waist to pull him in closer. The two had to wonder when the jacket would finally be cast away, but for the time being, this was good enough. The blond wanted to say things like, ' I'm happy to see you', but being sober, he couldn't bring himself to say it, out of fear of weakness. Well more weakness to Johnny and possibly the other people looking in. " Can they hear us again?"

"I don't think so." There was so much Johnny wanted to do. In his head, he pulled Diego in for a kiss and pressed their lips together like pages of a book. In his head, he ripped the straitjacket off and climbed onto Diego's lap and let himself be held. In his head, his hands were already lifting up Diego's shirt, feeling the cold skin under his fingers and tracing up his spine. But in reality, all Johnny did was rest his head on Diego's shoulder and imagine what could be.

Diego sighed in relief and did his best to nuzzle his mess of hair into Johnny's light red hair. As long as he was with Johnny and the scientists didn't hear them, he was content. He wish he could hold onto the other, curl up around him, maybe have the other tell stories. Man, he missed being an older brother to Lucy, or at the very least have someone to hold onto. " So... Anything on your mind again?" Diego, unfortunately, didn't like to stay in one place at a time when being restrained, mainly because he couldn't enjoy it as fully as he wanted to, constantly being reminded of his movement when he tried to move his arms.

"Why were we ever rivals?" Johnny knew why he'd been so competitive. It was that constant need to replace Nicholas, to prove to his father that he still had a son worth being proud of. But Diego? He had been an outsider to the racing scene and high society in general, a young upstart without a past creating his own future. And he had been the fiercest on the track, the most bitter, most ambitious son of a bitch in a world of bitterness and ambition. "This is so much fun. Why didn't we think of it back then? Why did you want to beat me so bad?"

Diego pondered for a moment, though truthfully the question washed over him, feeding upon his emotions of the past. " It wasn't just you, it was everyone. Only reason is because I HAD to. I had to win." Johnny could feel other man shake under him, " Me and my mom, we worked under the manager. He took us in after my father left. It was our home. And to keep your home, you worked. I use to work with her until I could ride. Mom told me, I could be the best, believed in me, so I won for her, helped us get by, working together... Then one day, she started to get sick. We couldn't afford the medication, so I had to begin a loan with the manager. As long as I kept winning and bringing in the money to pay the guy, the more he'd help my mom, supplying her meds. Except well..." He looked away to avoid any eye contact, even though Johnny was resting on his shoulder.

"What happened?" Johnny knew the right things to say. It's fine. You don't have to tell me if it hurts too much. I'm here for you. and the one phrase that kept sneaking into his thoughts uninvited I love you. But he did want to know, and as much as he hated seeing Diego hurt, this was important enough to risk it. Things were worse when they were left unsaid.

Johnny suddenly felt Diego's head rest against his again before exhaling a deep sigh. " She didn't get any better, and eventually the only person who was there for me was suddenly gone. After that, I had to pay the debt of her medical fund, and for that, I already had a job, and that was to win and pay off the loan. I could have run away, but I had nowhere to go, no one I knew. So I just stayed there, racing all the time just to be set free." He chuckled in a darker tone, " Hehehehe... I got so damn desperate that I hooked up with other racers, treat me like I was the loser, or if they wanted, treat me like the winner I was... I'd have gone with fans, but most of them-if not, all were women. I couldn't afford getting someone pregnant. I wouldn't be able to handle a girl or a kid. It'd be too risky, and besides, I have more respect for them than guys, considering the only one there for me was one of them." Well... This was incredibly sad, but also slightly uplifting for Johnny's hormones. But now was not the time to think about that. Diego had originally done all of this for his mother, then for freedom and to be himself...

"But not me..." It wasn't jealousy or anything petty like that for once, just confusion. Johnny hadn't exactly kept his sexuality a secret in his racing days. It had been a minor scandal. Horse racing was the sport of the rich and well-bred, and turns out that crowd wasn't exactly a fan of the time a tabloid got hold of photos that showed him and a boyfriend. Of course, they had twice as many photos of him with girls, so it had all been excused as youthful experimentation. Had Diego asked, Johnny would have laughed at him, but they probably would've fucked anyway. And maybe it would have ended up like their relationship now, and he could have protected Diego from the Foundation.

To get his mind off of how deeply Diego missed his mother, he decided to change topics, slightly indulging Johnny. He just didn't want to think about any of this. It would just break him down further, and make himself upset, possibly violent against the scientists. " It's fine, I'm surprised you never caught onto me hitting on you-Or you did, but still hated me, or maybe you didn't have any money at the time... Hell, I tried to flirt with Zepelli, remember him? Before he tried taking up baseball." He paused thinking about the redhead's friend. " Hope he's doing okay, wherever he is." Diego only told this to Johnny because he recalled how good friends they were, and how he, himself grew bitter and envious of having a friend be there for him, even if Johnny had been a little shit.

"Gyro's here. He's my roommate." Johnny could tell Diego wanted to drop the subject, and he allowed it. He had gotten all the information he needed and now he had to do a bit of damage control. "Disappeared a few years after you, and then shit went bad. But it's okay. I mean, I'm here now and I've got both of you. What more could I want?" The cheerful sentiment rang so clearly false in his voice, but Johnny hoped it was the thought that counted.

" Offff course he is. Doesn't surprise me honestly, I mean you're here to anyways. Must be nice to have someone to be around-..." He stopped himself as he his mind caught up to the other statement. " You've got both of us? That sounds like a blatant lie... But then again, you still come here and only ask me things because of my cousin... But you're still here. He was slowly thinking that Johnny was just an excuse for information gathering, but the way he closed his touch to him meant Johnny was going with his own agenda. Again, he wanted to ask why, but again he was sure the other wouldn't have an answer himself.

"Diego." Johnny sat up straight, suddenly dead serious. His hand caught in Diego's hair and pulled gently, forcing the man to look at him. "I'm not here for anyone else but me. I don't give a shit about your cousin or what he wants. The only reason I'm talking to you is because I want to. Not him." The former jockey listened well and stared into Johnny's eyes. All the reason was, was because Johnny wanted to see him. And it wasn't because the other wanted to know Diego's past, that information was just a small tidbit to get to know him. He really was there for him. The tone was covered in seriousness, nothing was false. He was reminded of Lucy in a way. She didn't care what Diego had done in the past, she had just wanted him to be with her. And hearing this from Johnny was a new step. Johnny had friends, family, a home now. And yet he still wanted to see Diego, all for himself and not because he was 'suppose' to as a duty. Diego bit his lip to keep himself stable and not break into tears. For five years, people only checked on him because they were supposed to, not because they wanted to.

 

What could he do to make Diego believe him? Johnny was shit at emotions, and even worse at showing them. But he could see the tears starting to form in Diego's eyes, and he knew he couldn't let them fall. Diego had told him about his mother, and what had Johnny done to repay him? Made him cry. He had to do something. And, he realized, there was one thing that would prove he was telling the truth. And unlike emotions, it happened to be something he was rather good at. Johnny leaned forward, pulled Diego down a bit to even out the height difference, and kissed him full on the lips. Diego froze up right on the spot. A touch was one thing, but a full-on kiss was not what he was expecting, at least for the moment. He stiffened up and felt the world lag behind him, questions racing through his head a mile a minute. He couldn't shove Johnny away, well he could with his feet but, that'd send a bad message to both him and the scientists. Hopefully, the scientists weren't seeing this, it was bad enough they noticed Diego's... Instinctual problems that occurred from being half of a primal animal. He just sat there, unsure how to act, what to say and instead just let it happen. It wasn't that he didn't like it or Johnny, it was just so sudden, making his mind process slowly. He'd return the kiss, but he was still being held back with restraints, making him more likely to accidentally fall on Johnny instead. Johnny could at least feel the tail around him tingle and twitch.

Johnny broke off the kiss and ran a hand down Diego's face. He had gotten no response. "Shit," he whispered. "I fucked up, didn't I?" Johnny was no Casanova, but he liked to think he knew a thing or two about body language. Certainly had plenty of practice. Diego had been all over him, even using his Stand for comfort. Johnny must have been mistaken. Clearly, the feelings were one-sided, and he'd just made everything a thousand times worse... The blond quickly scanned the wall on the opposite side, hearing muffled voices. Mostly it was just Robert questioning things. Good... He knew where they were watching. Before Johnny could curl up into a ball like the time previous to the last meeting, Diego's trickery came up again. This time without the shackles on his ankles, allowed better movement with his feet. He quickly hopped off the couch, moved to the side and shoved it away from the wall with the help of the slim but powerful tail. After that, he sprinted to Johnny's side of the couch, tail wrapping around his waist and pulling him off the cushions and dragging him as Diego headed behind the couch. It happen so quickly, that before anyone knew it, Johnny and Diego were both huddled behind the couch, away from the scientist's views. Diego just wanted privacy. Privacy from any other eye that weren't Johnny's. He leaned over on his knees to try and give Johnny a rough kiss on the lips, trying his best not to lean too much and fall over on him.

Johnny was not a fan of being manhandled, but he decided to let it slide just this once. Diego was good at kissing and it was just the sort he liked, rough and hurried and imperfect. Fuck those movies with their perfect little chaste kisses, he'd rather have this any day of the week. He lowered himself onto his back, returning the kiss full force, pulling Diego on top of him as he did. It was incontinent for both of them and Johnny knew there would soon be scientists stopping them, but none of that mattered. Diego was pulled down by Johnny, trying his best not to fall, but Johnny was the one who dragged him instead of himself. He grunted a bit, hoping he wasn't too heavy. He remembered well enough to let the other have some room, he had found that out the hard way when hooking up in the past, normally on his end, however. He couldn't tell if it was his instinctual hormones, normal hormones, or just the desperate need of feeling that compelled him to even do any of this. He wasn't fully aware of himself for the moment as the cyan tail slithered around on of Johnny's lam legs. He was just indulging on instinct, his head mostly in the clouds at this point. It was everything Johnny wanted and not quite close enough at the same time. He wanted Diego's arms free so desperately, wanted them to be entirely alone instead of just hiding behind a couch like a couple of teenagers at a sleepover. Diego's weight pressed down on his chest and it felt like the only thing keeping his heart from bursting. It had been a long time since anyone had held him like that. They pulled apart for a second and Johnny was panting. He could barely breathe, not from the pressure, from the sheer thrill of it all. There was something happening to his legs, but he couldn't process that right now. It was all too much.

Jonathan could barely believe what he was seeing. He had heard rumors about Johnny, everyone had, but this was something else entirely. The audacity... And he knew there were people watching! It was unthinkable. Jonathan was already two steps to the door when Diego yanked Johnny off the couch, and he covered the remaining distance in a second. It wasn't that disapproved of his cousin's rather forward behavior, Jonathan was of the firm opinion that it was none of his business, but there was a time and place for these sorts of things, and now certainly wasn't it. Plus, Johnny could be in danger. Who knew if Diego would transform during... None of his business, that, but he had a job to do. Jonathan burst through the door and froze. He now had a full view of the scene. "Oh dear. Excuse me, could you..."

Diego's tail tightened its grip as soon as the door opened, clearly hearing Robert freak out because he had hidden Johnny behind the couch rather than their small kiss. He probably didn't even notice it... Diego backed away on his knees, looking ashamed and lost. He told himself that he was just going to hide behind the couch and calm Johnny down, not wanting the scientists to see Johnny about to crumble down, thinking the kiss had fucked everything up that he worked on. But instinct took over Diego, swarming his head of the want and need of human interaction, especially when dealing with five years of pent-up hormones that raged from his dinosaur side. He gulped, " I-I... I just wanted to calm him down-I didn't mean to-I..." He couldn't just say ' He started it' like a simple child. That'd be putting Johnny to blame, and possibly push Johnny away, which was the last thing he wanted. If the scientists thought this wasn't good enough progress, Diego would act aggressive...

Johnny sat up, a little disheveled but otherwise none the worse for wear, and looked around for Diego. Instead, his eye landed on Jonathan, and he realized immediately what had happened. "Okay, I can explain." He really couldn't.

Jonathan stared at Johnny like he'd just grown an extra foot or something. "No, I think I've got it. You were..."

"Yeah," Johnny answered. "I was."

"And he didn't..."

Johnny shook his head. "I'm fine."

Jonathan shuffled his feet and stared at the ceiling, hoping that somehow the last five minutes just hadn't happened. "So this is..."

Johnny finished the sentence for him. "Weird? Yes. Yes, it is."

Diego couldn't think properly, Johnny was Jonathan's cousin after all. They had just been seen making out, all because of... He didn't know why Johnny had started it. And he, himself broke out into instinct over matter. All because he didn't want Johnny to go away, all because he needed someone with him, all because he didn't want to be alone again. The blond shivered, thinking the two would now be split up for unacceptable behavior. Then it hit him, that Kawajiri could have seen this too if Jonathan had. Kawajiri could use this as another gain on his already broken down mind. Instincts from his Stand was starting to wage war on human emotions. Everything was spiraling out of his only control. Diego steadied himself on his knees and toes, letting out a snarl. He restrained himself loosely, " Don't you dare use this against me-I know your kind will!" It was like scientists were a different race completely. Fear was circling around him, ordering him to stop thinking and just act on impulse.

Johnny picked up on Diego's fear quickly. He crawled to him, luckily not too far away, and grabbed Diego around the waist, pulling him into a tight embrace. "Calm down," he said, stroking Diego's back in what he hoped was a soothing manner. "Jonathan won't hurt you. No one will. I'll protect you." It was a hollow sentiment and Johnny knew it. He couldn't do much more than hold Diego, and even that was temporary.

Chapter Text

An hour or so went by once Johnny was escorted back to his room. He had been silent for a while for a good twenty minutes, possibly still reeling in what just happen. Gyro knew not to prod at his friend, and would only do so if Johnny opened up. But for now, he handed him some fresh coffee and put on a movie to assess the situation of his long time friend. The dirty blond peered over to see if the other was okay or not. It didn't make sense. Kissing didn't normally feel that... intense. It wasn't like they'd fucked. Diego had barely been able to touch him, wrapped up in that straitjacket, but Johnny had practically been seeing stars he was so into it. He may be young, but he certainly wasn't some blushing virgin. No reason to melt like that from a kiss. He just didn't understand, and he needed help. Which meant there was only one person to ask. "Gyro, I need to talk." He'd asked Gyro for advice plenty of times before, this wouldn't be any different. "So Diego and I... We..."

Gyro stopped chomping on his chips that he had poured into a bowl to watch the movie and be there whenever Johnny would open. He was thankful Johnny finally tore away from what set him off into space. But upon hearing something about Diego being involved, he couldn't differentiate if this was going to be good or bad. Johnny had kept seeing the locked up loony, no matter how much his cheeks turned red and eye swelled from crying. Yet Johnny never really told him anything about the meetings, and Gyro respected his privacy. " Got in another fight? Gone back to hating each other? Made some stupid half-assed plan to break out? Cuz' if it's the third one, I ain't touching that."

"We kissed." It sounded ridiculous to say out loud, even though it was true. Johnny wished it had been one of the options Gyro offered, because any of those would be a relatively normal thing for him and Diego to do, instead of like the last activity on the planet anyone expected. "Well, I kissed him. And then he kissed me back. And then I'm not really sure who did what, but it was more kissing." Shit, he was making it sound like a trash romance movie.

The Italian sat straight up and cocked a brow, looking intensely at his friend. It was almost a cold deathly stare... But, Gyro instead grinned and threw his head back, placing a palm on his forehead as he busted out in sheer laughter. " Ahahaha! O-Ohoho! Oh-oh god! Ohh-Pttth-ahahaha! Oh my god, Johnny! Hohoholy fuck! Ehahaha-Oh god!" It took a moment until the laughter subsided. Gyro looked back over, still chuckling as he wiped a tear from his eye from laughing so hard. " Ahhh-hehehe... Oh boy... Ah, Johnny, I didn't know you could make up such a good joke. Hahaha-ehahah... Why aren't you laughing?" The snickers started to downgrade into a nervous humor.

"Because it actually happened." Johnny couldn't blame him. If he were Gyro, he would be laughing too. Well, maybe not outright laughing, but enjoying the joke nonetheless. And it confirmed that no, Johnny wasn't going crazy, this was still completely absurd. No matter how normal his brain seemed to think it was. "Diego and I kissed. Right in front of everybody." As he explained it, the shock just shot through his system again and again, like every second he was thinking oh fuck, I kissed Diego Brando for the first time.

Gyro was in complete silence, his brain slowly processing the words of what he was just told, by his best friend. His best fucking friend! He blinked a little and cleared his throat with a cough in his hand. He knew when Johnny was serious, well more serious than he tended to be. Gyro pointed a finger to say something but couldn't grasp a single syllable before retrying. " Y-You-" His voice cracked, making him clear himself again. " You... Kissed... Diego fucking Brando-Th-The guy... Who was such a prick when racing and got locked up, and is now fucking bananas... AND... He kissed you back?"

Johnny felt like he was in a dream. Not some nice fluffy one where things were perfect, one where the test was today and he forgot his pants at home. But at least then he could wake up and none of it would have happened. "Yeah... We got pretty into it, too..." That was one way to say full-on made out, to the point that his cousin practically had to tear them away from each other. And Johnny had loved it the whole time. Couldn't forget that little detail.

Gyro's eye twitched involuntarily for a quick moment, " Wha-but-how-why-wha..." All of this, no matter how many times Johnny told him, Gyro just couldn't wrap it around his head. He knew Johnny since they were little, he was still his friend when Johnny was a shit, there for him when he had flings with girls who wanted a taste of a jockey. Hell, he was even there when Johnny was found out to be bisexual. But making out with a rival and someone they both hated in the past was... Shocking. He took in a deep long breath, " Can I at least ask why?" He didn't sound angry, just baffled.

"I don't really know." Johnny was just as confused as Gyro. The kiss had been a real spur of the moment move, but at the same time, it wasn't exactly the first time he'd thought about kissing Diego. Or touching him. Or other things he shouldn't think too hard about right next to his best friend. "I just had to do something. Had to make him believe I wanted to be there, talking to him. He was going on about how I'd been sent by Giorno or the Foundation or whatever, and I just kissed him to prove the point. But it was more than that. I liked it. A lot."

 

" As your roommate... I say you're a fucking idiot since the guy is someone you use to hate with your guts, and he's nuts... But as your friend, I-... I'm not really sure what to say. This is just kinda weird dude." He pondered for a moment, rubbing his scruffy chin to think more clearly. " So... He thought you were just visiting because you were told to. I'm guessing he was starting to think that, believe it, and was getting upset since his brain has been scrambled for such a long time. So, your only action was to kiss him because, I'll be honest, you don't think shit through to well. But then again, neither do I-well to an extent." it was a harsh truth that Johnny normally acted before thinking through, but his friend tended to as well, leaving them in the same boat. " Well, look. I don't care, but I want you to be careful. I mean what if it's just your hormones acting up? And what if his are acting up, or acting like that because no one's been near him. I just want you to be careful."

"Gyro, I know what it's like to be horny. That was not just horny." Maybe a little. Johnny hadn't had sex in two years, no one could blame him for a bit of lust. But this was clearly more than lust, at least on his part. Who knew about Diego, Gyro could easily be right on that point. Johnny hoped he wasn't, and then wondered why he'd hoped that. So things would be more complicated? "Look, I've felt this way about him for a while now and it's not going away. I don't know what to do."

Gyro rubbed the back of his neck, unsure on what to do. It wasn't like it use to be. He couldn't just tell Johnny to go get his thoughts out of the way in the bathroom, or hook up with a fan... " Oh jeez-Dude, are you like, getting a crush on him? No, no. Ma-Maybe-Maybe you just feel sorry for him since he was always the winner, and now he's locked up and closed off from the world and everyone who's on it?" Gyro wasn't able to understand as much as Johnny, which normally didn't happen.

"What if it's the first one?" Johnny had never been in love, and that was how things were supposed to be. Sex had always just been sex to him, nothing special. One lover was interchangeable with the next. He would never fall in love because he didn't deserve to feel something that wonderful. But the way he felt about Diego, it was more than pity, more than misguided sympathy, it was real. "I don't hate him anymore, not by a long shot. I look forward to the meetings and I think about him all the time. When we're together, I just want-" Johnny faltered, his face burning red, but he had to continue. "I just want to hold him. That's what we do. Just sorta' cuddle."

Gyro shook his head before getting up and flopping his back onto his bed, rubbing his temples. " Welp... Not sure why you suddenly got a crush on him-could be, spending time with him, and he's so broken to fight you off anymore and doesn't want to be alone. Maybe that's made him and you grow closer? Hell, maybe you guys could'a been like this if you guys weren't rivals. I mean you two share quite a bit in common, no offense." Gyro honestly didn't know what to tell his friend, his best advice was running out and going in circles at this point. " Okay, look. I'm fine with it. But you need to see if he feels the same. I can't see you get hurt again." Gyro just couldn't let go of what happened to Johnny when he wasn't there. He knew it wasn't his own fault, but he hated seeing it each and every day.

"I'll be careful." The last thing Johnny wanted to do was hurt Gyro, especially if it involved getting hurt himself. Survival instinct and all that. He had no idea how to go about discerning Diego's true feelings. Johnny had enough trouble with his own emotions, someone else's were simply impossible. If he had to ask then he would ask, and if they were lucky, Diego wouldn't feel the same. It would only make things worse. But Johnny knew he didn't really believe that. He wanted Diego to love him, if only to prove that someone could.

 

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Even after a day, Jonathan's mind was still buzzing with the memory of the last session with Johnny and Diego. The kiss had been thoroughly unexpected, as had everything after, and frankly, Jonathan wasn't sure if it had been a good thing. Sure, it showed how close the two were, but Diego would do very poorly in the case of a falling out, and a romantic interest only made that possibility more likely. The thoughts continued to swirl as he walked into the small lounge that served as a sort of break room for Foundation staff. It was fairly empty, a couple familiar faces seated at the tables, and his eyes light up when he spotted Robert at the coffee machine. His friend was someone he could discuss the problem with. Robert as per usual doused a clump of sugar into his coffee, as if he wasn't spastic enough. But Jonathan knew him for a long while, so the two were close-knit friends along with another co-worker who was in a different section of the foundation, one William Zepelli. Robert sighed in a small bit of relief after taking a sip before his eye glazed over the mostly empty room, trying to wake up. He caught sight of his friend and smiled, letting him walk over. Jonathan seemed like he wanted to discuss something, and Robert would never shy away from it. " Morning Jonathan, what's up?"

"I've been thinking about the meeting yesterday." There was no point in dodging the question. Robert had been in the observation room with Jonathan when it all had happened. Jonathan sat down at a nearby table and gestured for Robert to sit across from him. "Do you think there's something between Diego and Johnny? You know, something serious?" Jonathan had a terrible time reading faces, and just generally assumed people weren't doing anything malicious or deceptive. It had gotten him in trouble more than once. Before he worried about the implications of a relationship, he wanted to make sure it actually existed.

Robert quite awkwardly sipped his coffee in a long moment of silence, eyeing other workers who soon took their leave. Only then did he set the cup down and cough from only inhaling the now sugary substance. Once he shook it off, he cleared his throat. " Shit, I thought I didn't see that. I look over for three seconds and they're like a couple of teenagers-..." He stopped himself short, making an expression of self-disgust. " ... I mean, younger teens. I thought that wasn't real and you just ran in because Diego snatched Johnny up and hid behind the couch. Y-You know... Like, maybe he was trying to chomp him o-or something."

Jonathan had gotten a pretty clear view of what they had been doing. It had been rather shameless. "I agree, it's hard to believe they would be so bold, but that's definitely what it was." Johnny was such an American. Back in Britain, people were never that forward. "The way I understand it, we're dealing with one of two situations. Either they're so pent up and frustrated they're looking for... well... sexual release, or it's a genuine emotional connection." In that light, it was quite romantic. Two star-crossed lovers discovering their feelings at the worst time possible and making it work anyway. The sort of heartwarming movie he'd take Erina out to see.

Robert brought a hand to his chin to rub his stubble, " Hrm... Both are plausible, but they are young adults. And besides that, Diego has been cooped up for five years. Oh dear, this is quite the dilemma." He frowned, still deep in thought. " If it's just them being frustrated, it could possibly break Diego's relationship to people in general, not learning how to deal with issues and how to behave properly since his confinement." Robert frowned, he knew Diego was dangerous and had to be kept away, but at the same time, it initially hurt him instead of others. " B-But if they are connecting, he may be able to become stable, maybe even control his Stand in order to not harm Johnny, thus not harming anyone else."

"Johnny doesn't have a good track record with long-term relationships. As far as I know, he hasn't been able to keep a partner for longer than a month." Jonathan had done a bit of digging, and while he knew how untrustworthy gossip magazines were, they seemed right in this case. Of course, the last two years weren't accounted for, but he doubted Johnny had been dating much in that time. "I'm worried that it's something real for Diego, but Johnny might lose interest. The results could be devastating for Diego's treatment."

The long-haired blond bit his lip. Just thinking about it was a terrifying thought altogether. Diego was already so dangerous and erratic at times. He vividly remembered how he acted when he had made Johnny cry and went so far as to even tear out of his bindings just to try and comfort the other. Diego hardly moved, kept even more to himself, killed his weekly feeding by prying at it till it was dead from so much pain and fear. " O-Ohh my. This doesn't sound good at all. And if we separate them now-oh dear-I don't know how Diego would react!"

"We can't separate them." It was far too late for that. Separation meant giving up entirely on Diego, and Jonathan wasn't willing to do that yet. "It's only a possibility, but we should be prepared in case it does happen. On the other hand, Johnny was the one to initiate the kiss. He may be entirely serious about the situation." Johnny had changed a lot from the irresponsible kid Jonathan remembered. Perhaps he had matured enough since then to handle the whole Diego issue.

Robert sighed and grabbed his cup to sip, taking in all the stress of the fragile situation. " Are we sure Johnny can even try to handle this? Didn't his report and status say his own arrogance ended him in that wheelchair? I mean no offense, but do you think he'd be stable enough for a relationship if he can't even maintain himself? He was the one who came here, ON HIS OWN, mind you. Just for shelter..." The blond wasn't trying to be pessimistic, he was just trying to be truthful with the situation... Then again, Johnny did behave like an asshole to the man.

"I'm not going to defend all of his behavior, but Johnny is still a Joestar." Jonathan felt a strong pride in his family, even the more distant members. They were an old and noble lineage, and through the years had proved time and again worthy of that description. Johnny had grown up largely estranged from the rest of the family, but he still had Joestar blood in his veins. Perhaps it was an archaic belief, but Jonathan couldn't help but think that meant something about his character. "I trust him to do the right thing."

" So... I-I guess we just have to rely on him, hope he doesn't mess this up?" Robert knew the Joestar family quite well due to his grandfather and his own father. The Joestars were stubborn, but were noble in the long run. It seemed that no matter how bad things got, the family would strive to a better day. Even Jotaro, despite his quietness and stubbornness, did what was right and would lend people a hand. So maybe, just maybe, if they were lucky, Johnny could do the same.

"That's all we can do." Jonathan sighed and got up to pour his own cup of coffee. It wasn't an ideal situation, not by a long shot, but it wasn't hopeless either. Johnny would figure out what to do. As the pair moved on to other conversation, a third man stood up and quietly slipped out of the room. He was currently known by the name Kawajiri, a convenient identity that was slowly becoming less and less convenient by the day. It was supposed to be his break as well, but for now, he had his own work to do. Kawajiri walked briskly to the staff elevator and pressed the button for the basement floor, scanning his access card as he did so, and headed for one of the more heavily-guarded cells. This information would prove very useful.

 

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In one of the most secured cells, lay a golden blond, reading another meaningless book that he had read more than fifty times by now. The only light that illuminated was the ones in his cells and small buttons outside the glass casing. The man seemed to be stuck in the book's words and sentences, entirely sucked in with imagination until the main room's light lit up the place. He winced slightly from the rays of the light and glared away from his book. He liked things dark, that was just how he was. Just like how he was, angry. But seeing the 'scientist' come in without Robert or Jonathan, made him quirk a brow. " What is it Kira?" He was still annoyed though...

"I told you not to use that name," Kawajiri hissed. The cameras weren't on, but the last thing he wanted to be was careless. Bad enough Dio had forced it out of him.

Dio gave a smile, " Ahh, Kira, you worry too much. You should have a bit more faith in the cameras in this sector. Oingo knows how to deal with certain ones, for example, seeing you by your lonesome to come into my room would be noticed immediately. I'm surprised security trusts him."

"You wanted information, didn't you? Well, I'll got some." He didn't like any of this either, not the proximity to one of the Foundation's most dangerous Stand users and certainly not the fact that his cover was at stake. And his 'son' back home was starting to get suspicious... "It's about your cousin, Diego."

However his simple smirk downgraded upon hearing 'information'. He gave a sigh, rubbing his forehead, " Is it useful this ti-" He stopped, lowering the hand away to give the other man a look. " What about him...?" Dio may have acted like anyone who was related to his foul blood wasn't in relation of family. But deep in his bitter cold heart, he did often worry about the side of the family who wasn't corrupted.

Kawajiri could see the curiosity on Dio's face. "His correspondence with Johnny Joestar continues, and there seems to be something more than friendship between them. From what I hear, they kissed. Jonathan thinks it might be love." It was a foreign concept to Kawajiri. He couldn't imagine caring about another person enough to call it love without lying. "I can attest to the closeness of their relationship. I think Jonathan is right."

The blond behind the glass stared at him dumbfounded, baffled as the speech was slowly being acknowledged in the depths of his mind. With a few blinks, Dio's normal stoic face mixed into various phases of looking like he was about to laugh, to confusion, then to disgust, to the face of, 'Are you fucking kidding me right now?'. The User rubbed his temples, the very thought of a Joestar being friends with a Brando was one thing, but, in a more deeper relationship was just blowing his mind back. " I... Don't even... How is that even informat-...." He caught himself, a sly smirk spreading on his face. " Oh... Ohoho. Ohoho, yes!"

"So you see the same potential I do." Kawajiri knew the information was valuable, even if Dio had doubted it at first. "It means a Brando winning the trust of a Joestar. As long as Diego remains loyal to his family, this could be very useful in the future." He didn't know Dio's plans, didn't care if he was being honest. All that mattered to Kawajiri was the day-to-day, that there would be breakfast the next morning and that he could spend an afternoon reading a book in peace.

Dio settled his book down and thought of the possibilities he could gain with Diego's help. Though the two weren't too terribly close, they often did think like the other and knew opportunities when they were shown. Even better yet, it may be possible for Diego to insist old Johnny boy into doing something from inside his own family. Dio marveled at the thoughts as he grinned, " Ah, Kawajiri, you have nooooo idea, how valuable this is to me. I must thank you greatly." Despite being a crazed mastermind, he could never tell how Kira stood on any ground. He couldn't tell if the other was afraid of his own powers, or just afraid that Dio would rat him out. So the deal was a bit biased.

"Thank me by removing the threat you're holding over my head." Empty thanks meant nothing. Dio held the power to bring suspicion onto Kawajiri, to destroy his quiet life forever. "You asked for information and that's what I brought you. Now fulfill your end of the deal."

Dio sighed and looked at his nails in boredom, " Alright, alright. You have my word no one will know who you really are or what happen to the actual man you dress as. Just keep me updated Kawajiri." Dio was thankful he could lie so well to scientists, making them believe Kira was just like them, a simple wolf in a flock of sheep. He did rather admire how well the other pulled it off.

"Thank you." Kawajiri left the cell, back to the web he had constructed so carefully and the daily business of the Foundation.
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Within a few days, Johnny was back in that basement cell, waiting for Diego to arrive with a bit of trepidation. What was he going to say? Gyro had told him to figure out Diego's true feelings before going all in, which was good advice, although he still had no idea how to do that. Obviously, a direct question wouldn't work, and it was possible Diego himself didn't know the answer. The task seemed impossible.

Robert escorted the younger man like always and took in a deep breath, scratching the back of his head, intertwining his fingers with his hair. " L-Look... You two have done really well-or maybe a little too well... S-Soooo... Uhm, we have a surprise for you, just uh. Please, just don't do anything." His throat plugged up as he bashfully looked about, " D-Don't do anything i-indecent okay?" After that, he closed the door and let Johnny wait for the other door to open up. It took a while, loud muttering could be heard through the thick walls. That along with questioning dribbles of someone. The door opened up and in stepped Diego who... Was free of all of his bindings!

Johnny could hardly believe it. At first, it seemed like a mistake. He was so used to seeing Diego restrained that now he looked odd without the straitjacket. Now he was almost normal, and Johnny had to stop himself thinking about all the things Diego could do with his arms free. It was obviously on the condition that nothing too intense happened, and he wasn't about to ruin this gift. Johnny moved towards him, hoping the motion would attract his attention. "Diego, I'm right here."

Diego's eyes were running rampant in the room as to see if this was just a test before he was put back into the straitjacket he'd been wearing ever since the two were able to be near the other. However, his vision gained sight of the movement of Johnny. He curled his arms up to his chest and took a step back. He looked rather scared about the new situation. He wanted to run over and pick up Johnny but it was all so new, and the scientists would be watching, including Robert who'd flip out at any sight of fast movement. So Diego instead slowly stalked his way to the couch, still keeping his eye peeled like a frightened animal. The anxiety was obvious in Diego's every move. Johnny followed him to the couch and transferred onto it, waiting for Diego to join him. He understood the hesitation. All this could be some kind of twisted test, a game the Foundation was playing with them to see what would trigger the desired reaction. And, Johnny realized, it was probably one of a handful of times Diego had been unrestrained with another person in the room during his captivity. As much as Johnny wanted to pull Diego on top of him again, he would wait until the other man was comfortable making the first move. That'd show Gyro for saying he acted without thinking.

The way Diego's movement could fall under the category of a chameleon. A chameleon trying to decide whether or not to move up or stay, constantly moving forward but pulling back in a continuous motion to decide what to do. Finally, Diego sat on the cough and brought his feet up on it before hugging his legs. He still looked around, paranoid as ever, but with his arms being around his own legs, he was starting to believe that he could actually use his arms. After another small moment of reaching himself, his eyes shot over to the Joestar. He quietly scooted over to him to where their arms touched, Diego still in his crouched position, trying to huddle his face behind his legs. It was at that moment Johnny decided patience could go fuck itself. Diego clearly wasn't able to act first, so he would have to do it. Johnny stroked the side of Diego's face gently. "Hey. They're not listening." The scaly skin felt strange under his fingers. "You don't have to be so nervous." Despite Robert's warning, Johnny wanted to just lean over and give Diego a quick kiss, but he wasn't willing to risk losing this opportunity. "I said I'd protect you, didn't I? Nobody's going to hurt you."

Almost immediately Diego leaned into the other, quickly wrapping his arms around Johnny's own arms and torso. He tugged him over closer and buried his face into Johnny's shirt. Still, at an angle, Diego rested his head on the redhead's chest, pressing his ear to it, listening. Johnny could distinctly hear Diego mumbling ' Please be real', over and over on loop until he quieted down. After confirming he could hear Johnny's fairly rapid heart-beat from just being clung onto, Diego let out a sigh of relief, letting it wash over him. For the first time in his life, Johnny realized he enjoyed the sensation of being held. He had always hated it, always been the guy who left right after sex so he didn't have to wake up in another person's arms. Everywhere Diego touched felt like it was buzzing, like it was burning, and Johnny could hardly believe it himself. "Yeah, I'm real," he said, and ran his fingers down Diego's back, tracing out the bony path of his spine. "I'm real and I'm not going anywhere." Diego moved himself from scrunching down to Johnny, straitening his back while he felt the other's fingers run down in, trailing down the small ridges of the spine. Knowing Johnny was there, being free from his jacket, and now knowing this wasn't all a dream, Diego grew a small burst of courage and picked up Johnny. Setting him on his lap in order to hold him closer to where he could also rest his head on Johnny's shoulder in pure bliss to have someone warm, and living to hold onto again. The more heat Johnny's cheeks produced, the more Diego leaned into it, like a cat to a laptop.

Johnny wanted to believe they had something special, that it wasn't just Diego's desperate need to touch another human being, but he knew that wasn't true. He was nothing more than a doll, an object that a child used for empty comfort. Diego would have latched onto anyone in that state. It was merely luck he'd chosen Johnny. But of course, Johnny had to go and fuck everything up by pretending it was something more. He didn't need to ask to know Diego didn't love him back. Finally regaining his senses, Diego spoke, cutting out the mute sounds around them from the lights. " You're going to ask me something I know it. But this does feel nice. T-Thank you for staying with me" He stumbled over his small thank you, purely content with just holding Johnny. If Johnny were the one listening to Diego's chest, he'd be hearing how fast it was beating. Maybe he felt it a bit, but it could just be his thoughts trying to trip him up again. " But, I didn't get to ask you anything last time... How about I ask you two things and you ask me two things, fair?" This could be a good opportunity to ask how Diego felt, but also about his former wife. Though Johnny would be risking slightly from what Diego would question him.

"Ask away." Johnny was willing to take the chance, as long as it meant he could stay in Diego's arms for a little while longer. He was deluding himself, but it was such a pleasant delusion. Being this close to Diego felt like a contact high, like Johnny was able to relax just from his presence. It was intoxicating. In this state, he would tell any secret, but he didn't mind. The only person who would hear was Diego, and it seemed okay if he knew everything about Johnny.

" Why did you race? Fame, fortune, honor? Or..." He seemed to trail off. Ever since Johnny had broken down in front of him, being reminded about the accident of his brother's death, Diego thought up theory, after theory. He could imagine that Johnny, being the younger sibling took up his brother's spot to try and make something of himself, follow in his footsteps, or avenge him in some mentally delusional way. Diego didn't press any further and held him close in a calm manner. It was like he was drugged again, but without fumbling over and slurring.

"I don't really know." Johnny had never thought much about it back when he was racing, and after he'd tried to forget everything he couldn't get back. "It was the only thing I was any good at, I suppose. Not many other options. And winning felt good. When I won, people fought just to talk to me and every girl wanted to fuck me and it felt like I owned the whole world. Maybe I just wanted to believe I was worth something." He relaxed against Diego completely, and his voice dropped to barely above a whisper. "I never was."

Johnny could feel Diego's grip on him tighten, along with a stray hand instinctively grabbing his, squeezing it. " Everyone's worth something in someone's eyes. You're worth more than you use to be. That's how I see you at least." Diego's voice lowered down, going back to being a bit reserved. " People care about you, I can see that. You're worth something. You're worth a lot." He gritted his teeth, he wasn't use to being flustered like this. " A-A lot... A lot to me..." Now it was Diego's turn to go into a whispery moment, but unlike Johnny, it was more of embarrassing. He felt the need to say something, anything, just as long as Johnny would stay with him.

 

"You don't have to keep up that act." At this point, Johnny was used to protecting himself. He knew how to go all cold and keep everything from hurting. "I won't leave. No matter what happens, I won't leave. You don't need to lie to me anymore. I know you don't really mean that, and I'm fine with it. You just need someone right now, and it happens to be me." The words were bitter, and Johnny pulled himself closer to Diego, hiding his face against the other's shoulder.

All at once Johnny was suddenly shoved off and away from any comfort, his back hitting the arm of the couch. When he looked over from the shock of being pushed away, Diego's hand shook uncontrollably. The blond started to shake like he use to, all calm and peace now strewn away. It took him a small second to regain a bit of composure just to even look at Johnny. His face was a twist of sharp-toothed grin with eyes full of shame and hurt. Diego nervously put his trembling hands on his head, " I-I knew it! I fucking knew it! I-I knew you were just staying with me because s-some part of you is sick! They all think I'm just clingy to whoever-I knew that's what they think of me! S-Sure fine, yeah, that's true I am clingy because of this place! B-But none of them ever told me anything about themselves! I could never relate with them! Their just therapists! I can't connect with anyone who doesn't open up a little! I need to care about someone, 'cause I sure as hell don't care about myself anymore!" Finally, tears started to leak out. " Why does everything go wrong when I care about them?!"

"I'm sorry." It was better this way. Diego would have given up on him eventually. "I didn't want to hurt you." Johnny would always be alone. Even Gyro only stayed his friend out of guilt. "You don't have to pretend to care anymore. I don't mind, really. It's enough just for you to hold me." It was everything he wanted, and so he knew it had to be fake. Things this good just didn't happen to Johnny. Diego would never love him back. "Please, Diego. Calm down." No one would ever love him.

Diego snarled out, almost lashing at him, only to restrain himself back. He couldn't calm down and let his slim leathery tail grow out from the bottom of his spine, just so he could hold it. " I don't understand. Why do you keep thinking everyone just puts on some facade for you? D-Do people do that to me? Do you even care?" He starting to cave in on himself to the point of hiccuping. All of his thoughts swirled around with such intensity. " I'm ju-just going to stay down here away from anyone I care about a-as a fucking monster, aren't I? Why does everything bad happen to anyone I like-to anyone I try to love?!"

"Do you really love me?" It felt like Johnny's whole body had gone numb. He couldn't believe Diego had said that, couldn't allow himself to think it was true. It just meant Diego was trying to trick him, but he still couldn't let go of the hope that maybe it was real. Maybe Diego really did care about him, and Johnny wasn't as broken as he'd thought. "Diego, I answered your question. Answer mine. Do you love me?"

The blond sniffled, not even focusing on Johnny or the scientists. He didn't care anymore, he figured no one cared inside the walls of the faculty, maybe Johnny was right. Maybe everything was a lie. " I-I keep trying-but things keep happening. You keep saying that's it's all fake-You're the only person I have left to talk to." He started to groan, his lips curled back twitching. " Maybe... Maybe you're just another animal for me to try and care for." He looked back up at Johnny with amber eyes, the pupils slowly getting thinner and thinner.

Oh shit. Johnny knew where this was going, and it wasn't anywhere good. Even with all the shock and mixed emotions, the conversation had brought, his survival instinct managed to kick in. "Diego, look at me. I'm not an animal." He had seen what Diego was capable of and he didn't stand a chance. It would be over in seconds. "Please, don't hurt me." Johnny was talking faster and faster, trying to say something, anything that would make Diego back down. "Please. I didn't mean it like that. You're not a monster." He wasn't thinking, just talking. "I love you. That's why I didn't believe you. Because there's no way you'd love me back. It's too good to be true."

Diego twitched involuntarily, a string of saliva ran down a needle pointed tooth. His fingers dug into the couch, nails piercing the soft cushions underneath him. The sentences slowly looped around him, resisting the sudden urge to plunge his teeth into Johnny. The ghastly view of the sharp-toothed snarl lowered, eyes slowly going back to their normal state. He had been so close to almost losing control. Diego gulped, taking in the information. " How do I know you're no-not lying-I don't even." He was starting to feel woozy again. He was never use to all these emotional build-up pouring out all at once in front of another person. With a few deep breaths, Diego let himself flop onto Johnny, muscles twitched to regain his composure.

"You just have to believe me." Johnny gathered Diego up in his arms as best he could and began to stroke his hair like he had done so many times before. Perhaps that was his answer. Diego had been absolutely fucking pissed and still managed to control his Stand, just to protect Johnny. And it wasn't the first time. From what he'd heard from the scientists, Diego was unable to maintain that level of control around anyone else. Not some grand romantic confession, but Johnny's hadn't been that either, just a frantic attempt to save his own skin that became a bit more truthful than he'd meant it to be. Perhaps that was how love was, a collection of little kindnesses that added into something much greater. "I love you."

Diego's quickened breaths started to stabilize as he rested his head on Johnny's chest, listening to his heartbeat and tiredly closing his eyes. The past few minutes had been hard on him, maybe if he was use to this sort of thing he wouldn't get so worked up. He let the light red-head stroke his blond hair and wrapped his arms around Johnny as best he could in this position. He stayed strangely quiet until Johnny felt a shiver from him. " I'd like to say the same, but every time I say it to someone, something always happens. I don't want to lose another person."

"You don't have to say it." There was still that voice of doubt in Johnny's mind, the one never stopped saying he was too broken to be loved, but he could ignore it for the time being. For Diego's sake. "Just try not to scare me like that again." He stopped his hand for a second and pressed a brief kiss on the top of Diego's head, too small a motion to be noticed by the scientists watching a room over. "I'm sorry I hurt you. I really didn't mean to."

Diego let out a small whine and nuzzled against Johnny, soaking in the touch, affection, and warmth. " S-Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you o-or hurt you again." He nearly bit his tongue after saying that, hoping Johnny would just drop it and not ask about 'again'. He could imagine Johnny just shrugging it off or making it out to be as a harm in pride from when they use to compete. " It's okay. I've been through worse."

True to Diego's assumption, Johnny didn't even notice the extra word. "It doesn't matter what you've been through. I said I'd protect you, and I meant it. I shouldn't be hurting you. So, I'm sorry." It felt so natural to apologize to Diego that it surprised even Johnny. He was normally way too stubborn to admit a mistake like that. "Well, I asked you a question. Want to ask me your second?"

The blond let out a small sigh, finally regaining everything from the sudden meltdown and possible accident of teeth and flesh. " I-It's fine Joekid, it's fine." It was honestly the first time he ever felt threatened by Johnny. In the past, he'd just bark at him, but then again that was before Diego's emotions and mind melted away. Diego's mind rattled briefly, " I-I can't think of any. I was going to ask if cared or not. I didn't mean it to turn out so ugly. But I guess, you kinda' answered that, huh?"

"Yeah, I kinda did." Johnny decided his own questions could wait until the next meeting. For now, he just wanted to enjoy the feeling of Diego in his arms and the knowledge that maybe his love wasn't entirely one-sided.

Chapter Text

Robert fumbled around with a rather large box that looked to be taped up crudely to the extreme. Crayon and highlighted markers were caked all over the sides with children's drawings of blobs that were supposed to be horses if one were to guess and a big smiling sun on one side in the top right corner. Robert grunted slightly as he passed through a door leading to a hallway to spot Jonathan talking to a co-worker who normally tended to another area of the large buildings, one William Zepelli. The older man quirked a brow and looked over to the other. " Good lord, Robert what on Earth is that?" He gave an odd yet curious look from all the scribbles surrounding it.

" P-Package!"

"Who's it for?" Jonathan was enjoying his free afternoon, but he was always willing to help if Robert needed it. The package looked like something Erina would bring home from the kindergarten she taught at, all bright crayon pictures and twisted packing tape. Foundation employees like him didn't normally deal with the mail, the facility was large enough to require its own mail-room, so the fact that Robert even had the package was unusual, never mind its appearance.

" DBSM, Diego. Your damn brother shoved it to me because he didn't want to be caught carrying this big thing around!" Robert snapped slightly at William who only chuckled. Though to be fair, Robert was... Something else entirely, so most people wouldn't question him carrying around a package that was bright and taped together like some failed school project. " This thing is not like the other ones... It's not even his birthday. Normally his packages are pristine and normal. Bu-But this... I-I don't even know what this thing is!"

" Well have you tried reading who it's from?"

Robert gave a small scowl, " That's the key word, 'TRIED'... It's a bunch of chicken scratch..."

"Here, I'll take it." Jonathan stood up and offered Robert his chair. "You look tired." Tired was one word for it. A more accurate one would be grumpy, but Jonathan didn't want to argue. He was fine playing mailman and taking the package down to Diego if it would make Robert happy. It was strange for Diego to get mail on a day other than his birthday, and Jonathan had to admit he curious about its contents. If they had been an official government facility, perhaps they could have x-rayed the box, but since the Foundation was technically a private company they tried to keep away from messing up the federal post as much as possible. That was a one-way ticket to confusing legal trouble.

" Oh jeez Jonathan, thank you so much. I need a break from him and you're crazy cousin-N-No offense." He gave a nervous chuckle as he handed the large gift to the much stronger man. Robert sat down in a chair and sighed in relief, resting before he'd be called away again. The box was fairly light-well from what Jonathan could feel since many things were light for him.

William who had been off duty took a curious stance and investigated the drawing all about, " Might I tag along? It's not often I get to see the more troublesome Users."

"I don't see why not." Jonathan knew what Robert meant about Johnny and Diego. Dealing with those two was a full-time job. They got along like a house on fire, if the house were also in the middle of a hurricane, and it certainly didn't help matters that Johnny didn't particularly like Robert. All in all, the man deserved a break. And it would be a good opportunity to get William's opinion on the situation. Jonathan led the way to the basement floor.

 

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William stepped into the large room, spying Diego curled up around a large plush T-Rex with green fabric, a yellow underbelly and patches tattered around various places. Diego groaned as he heard the door open up, seeing as he was trying to enjoy a nap on the soft padded flooring. He opened his eyes and bared his grisly teeth only to see the two men. Seeing Jonathan made his snarl curl back down before eyeing the box with great suspicion. " If it's a new jacket, you'll have to fight me to put me in it. But if it's something else that Kawajiri ordered, I'm gonna' shove it up his ass..." His eyes then went to William, " And who the fuck is this fancy asshole?"

"Good afternoon to you too, Diego." Jonathan was probably the only person in the world who could say that sentence devoid of any sarcasm. He legitimately hoped Diego had and would continue to have a good afternoon. "This is my good friend William A. Zeppeli." William took a small bow, making Diego roll his eyes. Jonathan then held out the box. "It's a package for you from..." Jonathan glanced at the label and Robert hadn't been wrong, the thing was completely unreadable. "From somebody. You know the drill, I have to watch you open it. Sorry about that." While they couldn't inspect mail beforehand, the Foundation had a policy that all dangerous Stand users open their mail under supervision. Just in case someone decided to send in a knife or something.

Diego soon sat up, tilting his head, curiosity getting the better of him. " A package? B-But it's not my birthday. I-Is it?" It was so hard to tell the time down below, hell he hadn't even known it was the afternoon.

Before Jonathan could place the box into Diego's 'lair', the eldest Zepelli cocked his head, squinting at the horrid penmanship. " It says..." He leaned in more, " Luffy... No, no... Lucy?"

Diego pounced right to the glass, startling William a bit since he didn't know about Diego's dinosaur Stand. He pressed his hands against the glass looking happy and yet hurt and the same time. " LUCY?!"

"Looks like it." Jonathan opened the hatch that allowed objects to pass into Diego's cell and slid the box inside, closing the door behind it. Interacting with Diego had become so much less dangerous in the last few months, but it was still against the rules to be careless, and Jonathan had always been the sort of kid who reminded the teacher when they forgot to give out homework. "Can you get it open on your own?" The mass of tape that engulfed every corner would be tricky to untangle.

Diego didn't even answer him back before growing out his nails into the skin ripping claws they were. He didn't tear it open like a ferret on sugar, but instead carefully sliced the top portion of it. He got his claws stuck on the sticky tape here and there, but he was able to easily access the opening after only a few seconds. He opened it and dove his hands into a sea of packing peanuts before pulling out a children's table colored in bright vibrant colors and plastic toy teacups, along with a kettle. Diego sat there and stared at the cups in his hands. He smiled in a broken uncanny way that seemed to be fighting against a frown before he held the toy cups to his chest. It was an odd package, to say the least. Diego had received children's toys before, the decor of his cell was proof enough of that, but this one was particularly strange. What would he need a table and plastic tea set for? Anyway, Jonathan could easily tell it wasn't dangerous, and there was no harm in letting him keep the box or peanuts either. Diego treated his few possessions very well, treasuring the gifts he received from outside the facility. William peered into the cell quietly while the blond inside turned his back to the two, remaining silent. Diego had wished he could tell how much the odd set meant to him, but if he did, they might ask further for more information. He didn't want to be talked to like a patient with a psychiatrist or therapist. He knew he was already fucked up enough, and talking to another who tried talking about his problems or past would make him feel even more inhuman in a way. He just wanted to be treated normally for once and not like a patient or an animal. Jonathan didn't press for more information. That would only end badly, and he didn't want to spoil the present for Diego.

 

----------

He led William away from the cell and back towards Robert. The walk provided him with a chance to ask his friend questions, and hopefully devise a strategy for the future. "Mr. Zeppeli, I need your opinion on a matter." William was Jonathan's senior and more than that, his mentor. Jonathan was always careful to address him with the respect he deserved.

" Hmm? What has you bothered Jonathan?" A brow raised up as they left Diego to his own devices... Though to be fair, it was more of leaving him with his feelings on past things. William would always help out Jonathan, even more, because he was stationed to handle the violent Users of the facility, whereas Zepelli was more rounded to the calmer Users above, often getting them out of trouble and so on like a disciplinary teacher.

"Diego has been a part of the experiment for a while now, and he's doing very well. Except..." Jonathan was struggling for a way to explain the situation delicately. He wanted to be specific enough that William could give advice, but still careful with the details. Secrecy was normally maintained between departments. "Except he's started up a sort of romance with the other Stand user. It seems fine, but I'm worried about the long-term effects on his treatment."

" Hrmm... A romantic relationship with a stable User? That is rather new." He fiddled with his small mustache for a moment, pondering. There had only been a handful of Users who were released from the ground beneath them, and even then none of them were romantically involved. He recalled Robert and Jonathan informing him on the reserved man of the family, Jotaro. There was no romance going on there aside from Kakyoin leaning on him, reading, while Polnareff has been plenty hugged and clung onto by the other User. " Interesting. Do you know if it is genuine? If it's steady and not because one is acting aloof or just wanting the need of human interaction, it should be rather fine. Though if they are young, I would worry among... Aherm, other matters."

"It seems pretty real." Jonathan didn't have much experience with stuff like dating. He'd met Erina when they were both kids and that was it, she had always been the only one for him. And that had been nothing like what Johnny and Diego did, just all over each other so quickly. With Erina, Jonathan had been scared to even hold her hand, but Johnny went straight for kissing like he and Diego had been together for years. It was like something from a movie rather than real life. "But I'm not really sure."

" Some people find love in the most oddest of places. As long as they both are happy and it seems real enough, it should be fine. If things get out of hand and turn ugly, then they would, unfortunately, need to be separated from another, given their positions in this place. But if it's going well, they can help one another. I'm sure Diego, being a User in the basement, could really use some compassion and care from a sweet girl up here, right?" Ohhh how wrong he was...

"So far, it's been very beneficial." The key phrase was 'so far'. Jonathan was far from a cynic, but he couldn't be entirely optimistic about the relationship given the obvious pitfalls. William sounded right, but it was still worrying to consider something like separating the two. Diego wouldn't be able to cope with complete isolation a second time. "Thanks for the advice."

 

--------------

 

It was near the morning, it was a quiet and peaceful day, however, not much activity actually going on around the large facility, which meant not many people in the hallways aside Users while the scientists filled out paperwork. It was the perfect day to NOT get caught for Gyro and Johnny. Gyro peeked out from their room and looked down the empty hallways, not a scientist in sight. He tucked his head back in and grinned, " Alright the coast is clear! Kaky-boy filled me in with two people who can easily help us out. Hopefully, they won't want anything too pricey in return, considering one is part of your family... I think?"

"Well, that narrows it down to about half the people in this building." The Joestar family had certainly proved itself capable of producing Stand users. Johnny followed his friend out into the hallway. He was more than a little nervous about this whole plan. Not the breaking the rules part, he had plenty of experience doing that, the fact that more and more people were getting involved. In his life, very few people had been worth trusting with a trip out for coffee, let alone a shady theft that could end with all of them locked up. "Got anything more specific?"

His friend, the one, and only Gyro Zepelli... Stuck to the walls, spreading his arms out to be up against it, switching from wall to wall, making stupid sounds like it was a theme song. " You should know better than to question my knowledge dude." He went back to making stupid sounds with Johnny just following normally, without trying to be sneaky in the least. Gyro pressed up against a wall, holding a note of his song while two Users walked back, looking to one another and shrugging before leaving the two's presence. With that, Gyro tune went back up again until they made it to a door with nameplates with plastic bubbles and screws around each one. Johnny rolled his eyes. It was easier to let Gyro have his fun than to try and talk some sense into him. And it did fit the almost cinematic atmosphere the task created. It was ridiculous, stealing from his own cousin, but Johnny was willing to do something ridiculous if it meant helping Diego. Their last meeting had only proved how desperately Diego needed to see the outside world. He had been about ready to rip out Johnny's throat at the prospect of losing his only contact with it.

 

------------------

Gyro knocked on the door only to have it open and reveal a young somewhat dorky looking man with a bowl-cut. Who still had bowl-cuts anymore? The teen quirked a black brow before giving the Italian a mean-spirited glare. " I told you never to come near my room again after you paralyzed my nerves for about five hours when we were all playing ball."

Gyro rolled his eyes, " Puuuhlease, we all know you were cheating by unscrewing people's feet and hands. So come off it and move outta' the way, bowl-dome. We need to talk to Jousuke-"

Before he could finish, the bowl-cut boy shoved Gyro away to look over at Johnny, " No, you move it, and what do you mean 'we'? Huh?" His eyes narrowed down to look at the wheelchaired User. " Whoa... What the fuck happen to him? Did one of your shitty balls actually paralyze someone permanently, or are scientists actually taking in cripples now?" He gave a smirk, finding his own crude humor funny.

Tusk was out in a second. Johnny pointed his spinning nail right between the boy's eyes and stared him down. "Hey, Gyro," he said, and the coldness in his voice surprised even him. "Mind if I kill him?" And he meant it. Johnny was certainly used to the special brand of insults that came with the wheelchair, but today was not the day to say something like that. He was already on edge about the theft plan, the last thing he needed was direct insults. The boy would have a Stand, but Johnny was willing to take the bet that it wasn't ranged. Most weren't, which gave Tusk a bit of an advantage.

The bowl-cut boy instinctively had his own Stand come out, clicking and clacking as the nuts and bolts that were drilled into it clattered in a warning sense. Gyro quickly got between the two holding the two steel balls in both hands. " Hey, hey, hey! Both of you knock it off! Johnny, no! You're not killing him! Joshuu, fuck off! We just want to talk to Gappy! I have more experience than the both of you! Sides, I'll tell people who you like Johnny, and I'll tell what you said about Johnny to Yasuho, fucker!" With that, Joshuu quickly retracted back like a little kid gasping out, or rather a preppy girl from a cheer-leading unit.

" You bastard! Urgh! FINE! He went out to the outside area's park with her because I got in trouble and needed to stay in the room because Tim caught me stealing some of his shit... And unscrewing Valentine's desk..." He rubbed his arm, looking away and pouting in a way.

" Tch, nice one on Valentine, but dude. Don't fuck with Tim man. Okay, not cool-And Johnny, I said hold your fire..." Gyro gave a subtle but stern glare to his friend.

Johnny held up his hands in surrender. "I'm not doing shit." Of course, Tusk was still floating around his head, which made the gesture somewhat insincere, but it had to count for something. So the Joestar in question was Jousuke, not to be confused with Josuke, because having one set of duplicate names just wasn't enough. Johnny didn't know much about Jousuke, since he was a fairly recent addition. He had been adopted into the Japanese side of the family and as far Johnny knew, was still an amnesiac. The Joestars were nothing if not weird, so he fit right in.

Gyro grabbed hold of his friend's wheelchair handles and pushed him away, flipping off Joshuu who gave the same gesture as a goodbye in some form. He gave a deep sigh, " Sorry dude. I was hoping he was there, but I didn't expect that fucker to be loitering and room bound. I'm really sorry." That was the nice thing about Gyro, he would always try to cool Johnny down when his temper sky-rocketed. He knew the wheelchair insults effected him badly, and the times when Johnny was anxious, he tended to be even more snappy. Gyro at least knew his friend was uncomfortable about the situation and didn't blame him a bit.

 

------------------

The Italian pushed the wheelchair to the outdoor area, hoping maybe the calm breeze the facility programmed would settle Johnny down a bit, along with the help of the ever wondrous sight of the gardens, green grass with small glimmering lakes and man-made waterfalls. The gardens were certainly something, but they reminded Johnny of a tropical bird kept in a cage. Bright and beautiful, but the bars were impossible to ignore. He was thankful to the Foundation. After all, it had provided him with free room and board. Still, he knew just how cruel it could be. Perhaps Diego would like to see the gardens.

Meanwhile, Yasuho was thoroughly enjoying her Joshuu-free day with Jousuke. It was terrible luck, the fact that her best friend had ended up rooming with her worst enemy, and he could be very hard to shake when he wanted to be. But now Joshuu was under house arrest, which really wasn't punishment considering how much time he spent in the room normally, and she was free to spend time with Jousuke in peace. The two of them had prepared a picnic lunch, and Jousuke had greeted her with freshly-picked flowers that morning. Of course, they still had the dirt-covered roots, but it was the thought that counted.

Gyro waved over to the two friend, who seemed more of love-birds in anyone else's eyes, and maybe they really were, but Gyro honestly could never quite tell, which was a first. " Heya guys. Morning Jousuke and, morning Madame Yasuho~." He gave a gold tooth grin and wink. Gyro knew better than to flirt with the ladies when they were clearly with someone they liked more, but it was just the kind of guy he was. He only did it out of habit and manner, and sometimes women didn't see it as a small flirt, but as a kind gesture. The other teen with Yasuho, donning a sailor cap and attire at that, looked over and smiled, showing off the small gap in his front teeth. The teen was quite friendly, and actually enjoyed meeting new people, but when his eyes came across Johnny's, he couldn't help but give a questioning look. " This is my good friend Johnny, and uhm... I think your cousin Gappers."

"Cousin," Johnny confirmed. It wasn't the full extent of their familial relationship, but he wasn't about to list the chain of in-laws and siblings that had led the Joestars to Japan. Cousin was good enough. Yasuho caught his eye as well. She was a pretty girl, with roses on her skirt and bubblegum pink hair. But Johnny wasn't the sort to steal someone else's girl. Well, not anymore. "Haven't seen you in a while." Understatement. The two had met all of once, and most of his knowledge of Jousuke came from letters people like Jonathan insisted on sending him. "How've you been?" It seemed rude to immediately dive into asking him to steal for them.

The sailor dressed User gave a bright smile, " Doing good. I didn't expect to see you here-then again, I didn't expect to see everyone else here. This is my good friend, Yasuho. Yasuho, this is my cousin from the Eastern side of the family. It's nice to see you again, how have you been Johnny?" It was a bit surprising for Jousuke to fully remember Johnny's name, given the fact, he couldn't even remember himself for the most part. He also knew not to walk over and give him a firm hug nor a handshake. Someone must have tipped him in with Johnny's want of not being touched and keeping himself in his personal angry bubble.

"Nice to meet you." Yasuho was not a Joestar herself, and she was still learning all the branches of that massive family tree. "And it's good to see you too, Gyro." The man was always polite to her, but she was fully aware of his ulterior motives. Plenty of guys had tried stuff like that on her before, mostly Joshuu, although he was much worse at it than Gyro. "What's up?"

Gyro clasped his hand together, taking in a sharp breath, " Weeeell... You see. Johnny-boy here, has been seeing someone in the basement, and the two have actually hit it off." Gyro decided to put in the talking, knowing how to cover for Johnny fairly well, making it sound better than it could be at times. Jousuke's brows went up, astonished that Johnny of all people could connect with someone. Well from the personality and publicity he had read and heard of him. " And well, Johnny doesn't want to wait like five months to see them up-top. And there's no way we're asking Kars. Sooo... We uh, kinda made a deal with Valentine." Gyro always included himself, never wanting his friend to take full blame.

"Yeah, that's about it." Johnny hadn't expected Gyro to be so direct, but he wasn't going to complain as long as it worked. "The issue is pretty time-sensitive. It's not a matter of what I want. We don't have five months to waste." Diego's sanity was so precarious that Johnny found himself fearing the worst every day they were apart. He knew how difficult solitude could be, but even he couldn't begin to imagine what it like down there. "So I need to get my hands on Jonathan's ID card."

" ... So... You're asking us to help you snag Jonathan's ID, because that Funny guy told you to, so he can give you a Special Permit? Oh boy, I don't know... I mean Jonathan's kind of." He couldn't really place the words, he got to know his cousin much better ever since he came to the facility. He helped him settle in, meet people, get him to join some activities. It seemed rather disrespectful to up and suddenly take something from the gentle giant. But how Johnny put the situation being based on time, seemed viable and crucial. " Why are you timed?"

" Because, the User has been down under for FIVE years and he can crack at any day." Gyro sighed out.

 

"Yeah, I know. Jonathan's massive. But I don't really have a choice." Johnny struggled to explain his relationship with Diego in a way that made sense to anyone, himself included. Were they friends? Boyfriends? Sometimes it felt like that, but Johnny didn't really understand the parts of a relationship that happened outside of the bedroom. He was pretty sure you both had to agree to be boyfriends before you were boyfriends. "Look, this guy's important to me. I can't leave him to rot away in the basement."

Jousuke gave a frown, obviously thinking if the situation happen to him or to Yasuho. Then again, he did care about people and having someone down there for such a long time, never meant well for their sanity or well being in general. He looked over to his pink haired friend before his eyes skimmed over to Johnny once more. He bit his lip very lightly with a concerned expression. " I... I think that's horrible. And it sounds rather lonely. I-I'm in. Yasuho, you don't have to join in, no one's making you. But, this person sounds like they really need help." And for Johnny to ask for help, again was surprising from the small vast knowledge Jousuke had on him.

"I'll do it." Yasuho knew she would be willing to do something like that and much worse, were Jousuke in that situation. She recognized the look in his eyes. It was the same way Jousuke looked at her, minus the whole two-tone iris thing. "Do you just need the card?"

Gyro nodded, " Tim told us it won't allow Valentine to change any information. I don't know what exactly he's looking for, but as long as he can't change or get into places, it's fine by us. We just need to track him down and snag it, hand it over then stealthfully put it back."

Jousuke nodded, " I'm sure we can do that. Though you guys may have to distract him. He's got a good eye."

The only things that could distract Jonathan were chocolate and dusty old books about archeology, two things Johnny did not currently possess. But it wasn't like he had a choice. "How long do you need?"

" Only five minutes tops. I can transfer the writing onto this paper, you guys can write all the information down then I can put it back. Yasuho will just need to track him, see which building he's at." Gyro nodded in response.

" I'm sure we can get him into a topic easily." Gyro said, giving a golden grin.

Yasuho pulled out her phone, and Paisley Park manifested behind her like a shadow. The Stand was very much utility-based, not nearly as good in combat as others, but she liked it anyway. It was nice to be helpful, especially when Jousuke was involved. "Let's see..." She opened a map of the Foundation on the screen and scrolled through it. The phone was technically contraband, but it couldn't be successfully removed from her possession for more than an hour, so the scientists had stopped trying. Stands tended to be tricky like that. "Jonathan Joestar... Here we go." A small dot flashed on the screen, traveling across the surprisingly detailed map of labyrinthine hallways as what looked like a normal walking speed. "He's outside the main labs on the first floor of the north building. Pretty close to us, actually."

Gyro peered over with the other two, tilting his hat up with a thumb. " Neat! Alright Johnny, let's do this!" He said as he raised an arm, making his hand form a fist to be pumped up... Only to slowly bring it down, " Shit, what the hell do we talk about with him?"

Jousuke gave confused look, looking even more slightly dopey with the gap in his teeth as he watched the Zepelli. He ran a finger across the bottom of his lip in concentration. " Well... there's those weird masks he has in his office. They look quite dusty and old-"

" Oh yeah, those things! Ha, we've got this in the bag now!" The Zepelli grinned.

The plan sounded fine then. Gyro could talk your ear off if you gave him the chance, something Johnny knew from firsthand experience, and Jonathan loved talking incessantly about his masks. He'd had them for a while. According to him, they were ancient Meso-American funerary masks. According to Johnny, they were needlessly creepy junk. The only wild card in the equation was Jousuke's Stand. He sounded confident about his ability to pull off the theft, but Johnny didn't know enough to deduce if that confidence was unfounded or not. But worst case scenario, Jousuke would be taking the fall, not him. "Alright. Let's go."

 

------------------
It didn't take long until Gyro strolled up to the larger Joestar with Johnny, wheeling besides him. " Heeeey! Just the man we wanted to see~! Heya' big guy. Since Johnny boy here is still fairly new, not sure he knows about those uhh..." A shudder soon ran down his spine. He didn't like the look nor presence those creepy masks gave up that hung up n Jonathan's office. They rubbed him and his eldest brother the wrong way, which was odd considering nothing much made them weary. " Those weird creepy as fucks masks. Ya' know, the-the ones with the tiny fangs. I mean, you've told me and my bros about 'em, why not give Johnny a brief history lesson?" Thankfully, Johnny could see Jousuke peek out from a turn down the hallway.

Johnny found himself faced with the greatest challenge of his life. He'd won more races than he could count, become one of the world's top jockeys as a teenager, and willingly cuddled with a dinosaur, but nothing came close to this. "Yes, Jonathan," he said, struggling to sound the least bit sincere. "I'd love to hear about your masks."

"Really?" Jonathan couldn't believe his luck. He'd never thought of Johnny as an academic, but he was always happy to talk about the masks. They were a family heirloom and the spark for his interest in archeology. Everyone at the Foundation was sick of hearing him talk about them. But he just couldn't help himself. Burial practices of Pre-Colombian Mexico and importance of ritual attire in funerary rites? Who didn't love that? "Well, there's five, two from the Yucatan peninsula and the rest from central Mexico. They're actually more than two thousand years old!"

Gyro set his smile down, trying his best not to budge an inch of it, looking fully invested. But Johnny could tell very well deep down that his friend was thinking, ' Dear god what the fuck have I done?!'. He could clearly see a small subtle twitch of his right eye as he desperately focused onto Jonathan's wondrous and long history of the things found in dirt. While Gyro kept the main focus, Johnny was able to see a small bubble float over to them, drifting lightly in the breeze of the air conditioners, finally making way onto Jonathan's ID and absorbing the lettering and numbers. The small bubble soon drifted away and around the corner of the hallway's turning point. Stands could be pretty weird, but bubbles were something new. Johnny was almost glad for the world's most boring lecture, at least it made it impossible to laugh at having bubbles for a Stand. As silly as it was, it did seem useful, especially in this situation. And Diego was worth however long Jonathan would drone on for.

"So the masks allowed priests to transcend their humanity and take on divine form while performing rituals. Unfortunately, most of them were lost in the Spanish conquests, but I think their usage was widespread enough that it may have reached the Incan Empire. I'd love to do a study of Andean mummy masks and see if I can find any similarities." Jonathan smiled. Both Gyro and Johnny looked very interested. Perhaps they would like to help with his research? He was about to ask, when he caught a glimpse of his watch. "Oh dear, I'm late. We'll have to talk another time." As soon as he witnessed a bubble heading over their way with a jumble of letters and numbers, Gyro quickly did the only thing he could literally do to stop Jonathan from running off. Gyro quickly gave a full hug to Jonathan, keeping him in place. Gyro was like Johnny, comfortable with both genders, even trans, but hugging the large Joestar was a whole new thing that made him... Question himself and feel uncomfortable for some reason... Probably because Jonathan was much bigger than him. The bubble slowly made its way, as if it was trying to sneak over until it popped itself on Jonathan's ID, letting the lettering spread where it was originally. Jonathan was a little confused, but he accepted the hug nonetheless. He let go quickly, but not too quickly, still completely unaware of the bubble. "Sorry, but I really have to go." He hurried down the corridor without another word, losing sight of the pair as he turned the corner. Johnny waited for probably a little longer than he needed to, and then waved at Jousuke to join them. It had been a success. Now all he had to do was bring the information to Valentine, and he would have a permit.

 

Once they met back up, Gyro was busy wiping nothing off of him, but to him, it seemed like a weird sensation he was obviously not use to, even with his constant flirting. Jousuke gave Johnny a small piece of paper he had scribbled the information on, and let out a sigh. " Please be careful with this. I mean, I don't know much about this Funny guy, but word has spread about from Users. Please be careful." He looked over, greatly worried, even though he had gone through the whole ordeal.

"Don't worry about me. I know what I'm doing." Johnny hadn't meant it as a lie, but he realized how untrue it was as he said it. He was in way over his head. Diego, the Foundation, whatever the fuck Valentine was doing, it was all stuff Johnny knew he shouldn't mess with. But there he was, messing with it. And even if it turned out to be the wrong choice, he knew he wouldn't regret it. Not if it helped Diego.

 

-----------------------------

 

Another day, another meeting. Johnny had yet to fully give up the ID information to Valentine, due to being rather hesitant and nervous. The gyro would keep it safe and away from anyone who entered their room, so it was in good hands for the time being. But enough of that for now, the information of the card was shoved aside so that Johnny could fully focus on the man he was desperately trying to take out from the basement. Again Gyro wished him luck, Robert escorted him, and in the same room as before sat Diego without being bound up like a caged animal, right on the couch in his casual spot. He noticed the door open and saw Johnny, giving a small smile to him. " Hey, Joekid."

"Diego." He was the only person who still called Johnny by his old nickname. The first couple times it had been strange, hearing it again after two years, but now it just felt natural. Diego was a part of his past. They had been different back then, but he had still been there and that gave him a sense of permanence. Even if Johnny couldn't let himself believe it yet. He wheeled towards Diego eagerly. After the stressful theft, he was looking forward to having the other man's hands on him. It was relaxing.

Though, again Johnny didn't like to be handled by anyone, he didn't seem to struggle too much when Diego suddenly got up and picked him out from the wheelchair once he got near the other. Diego scooped an arm under his legs while the other arm went around his waist, holding him closely before sitting back down and resting his head on Johnny's shoulder. Diego let out a happy sigh, taking in any warmth he could feel that radiated off from Johnny. Before Johnny could say a single syllable, the long scaled and feathery tail slithered out from the back behind Diego and curled up against the side of one of Johnny's legs that currently wasn't next to Diego's lower torso.

Johnny leaned against Diego, more than happy to feel arms around him. He could get used to being carried, as long as it was by Diego. "How've you been? I missed you." He was becoming a bit shameless when it came to admitting things like that. The old Johnny would have never told anyone he missed them. But he hadn't had anyone to say it to, either. Diego's head was close enough for a kiss, but Johnny didn't want to cause any trouble with the scientists. This was too good to mess up.

" I've been a-adjusting for the most part. Been getting better." Diego slid his arm from under Johnny's legs to the wheelchair User's lap, grabbing hold of one Johnny's hands. " I missed you too." Diego was like Johnny in so many ways, almost too many to count. This was one of them, not having anyone to say he missed them, at least not anymore until now. " Can we just get the questions out of the way? I really just want to enjoy being like this." He relaxed as he started to nuzzle in the crook of Johnny's neck and shoulder.

"Sure." Johnny felt the same way. There was nothing he wanted more than to just exist this close to Diego. It felt more like home than his actual home ever had. Diego's blond hair was rough against his exposed skin, and he wondered how long it had been since the man had been given a chance to take care of it the way he used to. Once he was upstairs, Johnny would find him whatever conditioner he wanted. After all this, he deserved luxury. "Your wife. Why did you marry her?"

The blond took in a breath to psyche himself up and to actually move on to the answer. Johnny could easily feel a small twitch of his hand as Diego dug up memories he had repressed but could never fully cover. " It was the time around where I was by myself, but, I did have Lucy. It was a few years after my mom. I just wanted to be free from the debt. So one day I was reading some news and saw noticed this elderly lady who was well known around town, was diagnosed with something. It was only on the local news because she wanted to have time to say goodbye to people." His grip tightened a bit. " So, I figured, hey, she'll die soon, maybe I can get some money. I charmed her and we got married much quicker than I thought. Hehe, she knew I was only there for the money after our first night together. She said it was fine, as long as I could stay with her until her time was up. Never had a kid of her own. She didn't treat me like a husband, and I didn't treat her like a wife... It was like another mom." His breath became shaky, but he managed to hold on. In the past, Johnny had assumed Diego had murdered his wife. Why, he wasn't entirely sure. It had just seemed like something he would do. But he had abandoned that belief once Diego became something other a rival. He hated the way Diego shook, the pain those memories caused him. Johnny took a hold of Diego's other hand, entwining their fingers like vines, and held both his hands tight, trying to keep them steady. He wanted to be a rock to him, to give him a sense of safety he could cling to. But that was something Johnny himself lacked, and he knew he would never be that for another person.

Diego took in another breath, letting himself sink into his memories and Johnny's reassuring touch. " At the end, I didn't want her money anymore. I just wanted her to stay with me." This would help explain the constant need and want of human interaction, and how broken he would become if left alone. He was weighed down by heavy abandonment issues. Johnny knew what that was like, except he had only ever lost one person. " My turn for a question." He wanted to move past his thoughts of his elderly friend, though the question's answer wouldn't be any better, but it did have a bittersweetness to it in his perspective. " Do you want to know what happen to the mouse I caught? You can say no."

Johnny wanted to say yes. He had always assumed Danny had run off to do whatever it was mice did in the wild. They didn't live very long, not more than a couple years, so he was definitely dead by now. But Diego made it seemed like Danny hadn't gotten away, and Johnny was afraid of what had happened in that case. It was enough that he'd lost Nicholas to his decision to let Danny go. Drowning was a quick death. If he had kept Danny alive, only for him to meet a much worse end, it would be another stone around his neck. "No."

The older Diego would have teased and said the mouse's fate anyways, poking various holes in Johnny's old scarred wounds and exploit any signs of weakness. But this wasn't the Diego he knew. Diego's tail pulled Johnny closer to his chest where he snuggled against Johnny's cheek. " Okay." But alas, the nagging in the back of his head wanted to get things over with. " Are there any more questions you want to know?" Diego just wanted to get all of this out for good, finally be free of the things of his past which constantly dragged him down into a painful abyss.

 

"How'd you get here?" The last Johnny had seen of Diego, he had been the same as always, as in not part dinosaur. And then he was just gone. People talked about his absence in the press, blamed it on any number of excuses, but in the end, it had dropped out of headlines fairly quickly. The general assumption had been an early retirement, certainly possible with his winnings, perhaps in secret to avoid the media attention. There had been no investigation. One reporter had gone so far as to request a missing persons case, but nothing came of it. Johnny guessed the Foundation had covered it all up.

The blond let out a sigh, knowing this was inevitable. " After Marylin passed away, I had her money and her home. I went to the manager to give him the rest of the money from the debt. Along the way, I got to talk and meet up with Lucy, told me what was going on for the last half a year since I married Marilyn. She told me her dad, Steven was getting sick. He... He was starting to get sick like my mother. I went to go to the manager's office, saw him walk out with a cup, stayed behind a wall. I went into his office and found some poison recently on a spoon to mix in with something... When he came back, I confronted him, accused him of poisoning my mother. He did it to anyone who worked and had a child. He didn't care for money, he cared for control over people's lives... I can't remember much after that. All I remember is chasing him, people screaming, then waking up in blood with bodies all around me. People with guns and a priest surrounded me..."

Johnny had expected the story to involve murder. Diego's Stand was one of the more dangerous ones he had seen, especially since it acted without the will of its user, and the Foundation seemed pretty serious about keeping him locked up. Of course, it had a body count. Although he didn't exactly feel sorry for the initial target, it was kind of strange to think that he was being held by someone who had killed before.

" Steven was there with the unit, he called the foundation to turn me in. They told me, I killed several horses, and everyone working there but Steven and Lucy... I almost killed the only person I had left." He let out a whine. " I remember her running to me, people ready to fire and Steven screaming. She clung onto me, yelled at everyone not hurt me. That I wasn't a monster. I was her brother..." Johnny could feel dampness on his shoulder by this point. " Picked her up, gave her to Steven. She screamed and cried out for me. I told Steven about the money and house before the foundation took me away. I hope they're doing okay..."

"I'm sorry that happened." Johnny felt his hands fall into the familiar rhythm, running through Diego's hair and down his back. Diego was shaking again, just clinging to him and crying and shaking and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He was all elbows and sharp edges, too small to really hold Diego the way he needed to be held. Diego needed to be enveloped in safety, surrounded completely by someone who could hold his body still, but all he had was Johnny, short and slim and barely able to move his lower half anyway. The best he could do was worthless sentiment. "I'm so sorry."

Diego's emotions were all strewn up everywhere, place to place and out of reach. The warmth he felt from Johnny was so new to him, especially with the sympathetic apologizes added onto it. It felt good to get it off his chest, but also made him sad deep down. He felt sad, relief, warmth, safe, lost, everything just mixed together. Diego hardly even registered giving Johnny a small kiss on the cheek as a thanks for his help, being there and reassuring he wouldn't have to be in so much pain. After a moment of letting the old rival hold onto him, Diego's mind finally freed up, letting him regain control and slide his arms around Johnny to pull him in. " Thank you for being here. But, may I ask you one last question?"

"Of course." After everything Johnny had put him through, Diego deserved to get his questions answered as well. And Johnny felt he had to do something in return for the kiss. It still felt as electric as their first time, although not so sexually charged. More of a familiar warmth. "Ask anything you want."

Diego practically purred out when Johnny told him he could ask something. Maybe he was finally starting to feel safe and secure now, broken away from any mental shackles that held him down. Now was the time he wouldn't have to worry about his past. And honestly, he felt Johnny might be the same once he asked the last question that he had been saving in his mind since the very beginning. " What-What." He almost couldn't bring himself to do it. " Aherm. W-What happened to you?" He asked in a gentle tone, looking over to the only physical prison of Johnny, his wheelchair.

Johnny had guessed that was coming. It was generally the one question people asked him, but even then, it was hard to answer. "I was being shitty. You know how I was back then. Thought the whole world owed me something. I wanted to impress this girl, and... Fuck, I don't even remember her name. She didn't matter, it wasn't her fault anyway. I was being stupid, so fucking stupid. Trying to use my name to get us into a theater before anyone else. Only the guy at the front of the line had a gun. Next thing I know, I wake up in the hospital and my legs won't move."

" S-Sorry that happen too." The blond observed the once used legs now being tossed aside as being worthless to Johnny. He didn't know why, but the legs had Diego in a strange fascination ever since he saw them up close from Johnny's delirious 'dream' him and Kawajiri had cooked up. It wasn't a fetish or anything, but they peeked his curiosity for some inexplicable reason that was unknown to him. Maybe they only made Johnny think he was half useless, while Diego had been scolded by his manager that he was always useless, even though he brought in the money. He shook the feeling off and grabbed hold of one of Johnny's leg's sleeves, pulling it up. Diego again acted out in action before thinking, he had to know if that bite mark was still there, even though it had been several weeks.

"What are you doing?" That was enough to startle Johnny out of his memories, and he was thankful for that fact. It wasn't anything he wanted to remember. This was strange, even for Diego. "Yep, I've still got legs under there, and people are watching, so I would appreciate it if you kept my pants on." The image reminded him of something, but he couldn't quite put his finger on what. It was a nagging feeling, like he had forgotten something important. All Diego could see were some slight marks that had healed up from the weeks that had gone by. He didn't answer Johnny and pulled the sleeve back down quickly, making sure Johnny hadn't seen the marks that were left by his teeth. he figured Johnny wouldn't notice anything on his legs. He suddenly snagged Johnny's shirt by the neck and pulling it down and out to take a good look at his shoulder. Surely Johnny would remember and feel that better. This time, he was met with normal skin, he could have sworn that he had left a nasty bite on him. Did Johnny really not remember? What would happen if Diego told him what he did? Was it wise to hold back any secrets now? That's what couples or friends did... right?

 

"Okay, not gonna' lie, this is really weird." Had there been anything on his shoulder? Not that Johnny could remember. The most he could think of was that strange cut, but that had been weeks ago. And anyway, HP had healed it. Maybe Diego was looking for his birthmark? In that case, wrong shoulder. "Diego, I'm down, but now is not the time to get naked."

" Huh-Wha-I-I know, I know-... Wait, you'd be okay with that-Urgh, never-mind that!" The last statement caught him off guard pretty well for a moment. But he had to tell Johnny, then there'd be no more secrets and he could rest easy. He took in a deep breath, it made him feel bad. Friends didn't hurt friends. " Look... I-I was just wanting to make sure you were okay and..." He was losing his wording, becoming worried. But he told himself that Johnny still wanted to see him, after all of this. It may piss him off, but it was better to tell him the truth. " L-Look. A few weeks ago, I kinda... Had you snuck in down here and-and. Well, I kind of bit you, not sure if you remember but it wasn't a dream and I just wanted to say I'm really sorry if I hurt you is all."

"Holy shit." The memory came flooding back all at once. The pain had been muffled at first while Diego bit into his leg, but then so sharp and vivid on his shoulder. Johnny had been afraid, trying to crawl away from him but unable to escape. He'd used Tusk, almost shot him too. "That was real." The sane reaction would be to freak out, to leave and never come back. After all, what Diego had done was basically attempted murder. Or maybe attempted manslaughter or something. It was reckless, at the very least. He could have easily killed Johnny, just torn him to pieces when his Stand took over. Johnny let go, pushing himself back so there a little space between him and Diego without leaving his lap. Of all the things he wanted to say, only one of them came out. "Why?"

Diego let the redhead lean away in his lap, he told himself he deserved it for being an idiot, for tormenting Johnny that one night, for making Johnny think he wasn't as bad as he seemed. Since he didn't know that the scientists let Johnny see his 'special feeding', it was his only way to let him know how horrid he could be, giving one last chance for Johnny to trust him or not. " I_i... I thought you'd see me as weak as I am emotionally. I wanted to get back at you for calling me a monster. Maybe it was because I didn't want another reminder of someone hating me again. But I wasn't going to kill you, that was never any intention. I just wanted to toy with you, I didn't know what I wanted. I guess, maybe, I just wanted someone to be with me. I-I'm so sorry. But I'm not that good of a person. And I didn't want to hold that back anymore." It seemed like this was the final wall between the two.

Johnny just sat on the couch, stunned. Of all the things he'd expected, this was certainly not one of them. "Hey, so you didn't do it again, did you?" He'd had other dreams about Diego, none as clear as that one, but he wanted to make sure they were just dreams. Being able to process reality was kind of important to him. And he wasn't mad. He honestly wasn't mad, even though he definitely should have been. It even seemed a little, well, romantic. Sort of a drastic gesture to make sure Johnny really cared about him. Yeah, kinda fucked up, but so was love.

Diego cocked his head, not expecting Johnny to not be a bit angry at him, and certainly not asking him that of all things. He shook his head, " N-No, it was only one time. You said you wouldn't leave me. I felt bad afterwards. I wouldn't do it again, why, did you have other nightmares too?" He knew he could be scary, hell, very scary since the last meeting when Johnny was desperately trying to calm him down from pouncing on him. He wasn't thinking of any sweet dreams, only focusing on nightmares from what he could be.

"No, not nightmares..." Johnny wasn't about to spill the details about the type of dreams Diego showed up in. Not that they were sexy ones or anything, he wasn't a middle school boy hiding his dirty sheets. It was just too... personal. The dreams with Diego were wonderful, nothing but that light feeling he got when they were together and a sense of happiness that he hadn't even thought possible. In them, Diego wasn't locked up at the Foundation. They were in a field somewhere quiet, somewhere far away from anyone else, and they were happy just being together.

Diego, unbeknownst to what exactly those dreams implied, made his cheeks light up slightly, " O-Oh." He could only assume slightly, but given the look from Johnny and the sound of his voice, seemed like they were pleasant enough. Maybe they didn't deal with sexual fantasies. Diego decided to break the gap by leaning over and pulling Johnny back to him, happy that he wasn't mad at him, and just happy he was there with him. It's all that mattered in his world.

Chapter Text

Johnny went to knock on the door and hesitated, looking down at the folded scrap of paper that sat in his lap. It felt like he was doing something wrong. Not anything in particular, just a vague sense of alarm bells going off in his head. He didn't trust Valentine, but that barely meant anything. Gyro was pretty much the only person he trusted, expect maybe Diego on a good day. Was it just because Jonathan was family? No, there was definitely something about Valentine he didn't like. Johnny raised his hand again, but again it stopped before hitting the door, like some invisible force held him back. This time, he turned to Gyro. "What do you think the odds are this fucks me over?"

" Mmmmm... Well, if we're lucky, which we're not, it won't bend us in the Alps and fuck us over. Then there's the part where it fucks you, Jonathan, or Diego. Or if worse comes to ware, it fucks everyone... Soooo, basically, I'm not sure but you best be ready if something happens." Gyro didn't feel the need to lie one bit about the whole situation, he had a bad feeling deep down just as Johnny did. Thankfully for Johnny, Gyro wasn't one known to back down, especially when it included his friend or set his mind into it. And if it were both those reasons, he wouldn't back down for no reason. " If you want, I can knock. I don't have any deals with this guy, so I can call him out on bullshit. It shouldn't affect you in any way."

"I'll do it." Johnny knew it had to be him. After all, this was something he had decided to do for Diego, and he had some selfish pride in that fact. He would be the person to save Diego, to rescue him from captivity and help him recover what sanity he could still piece together from the broken shards of his mind. Having Gyro there with him helped, but in the end it was his problem alone. Johnny gave the door a couple of sharp knocks, and listened for the answer.

"Come in." Valentine smiled when he saw who his visitors were. Johnny Joestar and Gyro Zeppeli, exactly the people he wanted to see. He closed the expense file that he had spent the morning working on and folded his hands on the desk. "I trust you've brought me the information?"

" Yeah, yeah, try not to get too fuckin' eager there blondie..." Gyro's eyes glanced over him a few good time, trying to pick at any other type of small insult, but unfortunately, he couldn't really find anything that regarded pink from the man's coat. He quietly mumbled before speaking up, " God, that's garish...We have it, but you better not be trying to back-stab us or anything. We are not to be trifled with." He gave a subtle glare to the worker, to seem tough. Though in all actuality Gyro was pretty tough, Johnny knew that first hand after being friends with him for so long. " However, we wanna' see the permit. We're not gonna' wait." It was like this was all a drug deal or a hostage situation...

"Of course." Gyro was a problem, he couldn't deny that, but perhaps Valentine could convince him. Still, it would take time. Johnny was easy, desperate enough about his imprisoned friend to agree to any terms, but Gyro didn't seem to share that desperation. A Zeppeli could be useful, but he wasn't worth risking a Joestar's loyalty for. " Here." Valentine took out the laminated card from a desk drawer and pushed it towards the pair. "One permit, special visitation privileges for Diego Brando. Now, the ID." Johnny unfolded the scrap of paper and read over the information again. To him, it was a meaningless series of numbers. What was it to Valentine? Clearly something very important. In a sense, Johnny didn't care what happened. As long as Gyro, Diego, and him were all safe, the whole world could end and he wouldn't mind. It was fucking selfish, and being selfish was what got him into this mess, to begin with, but he still hadn't learned. And so, if it did end up going to shit, it would be his own fault.

And of course, being the stubborn Zepelli he was, Gyro stepped forth, holding an arm out in front of Johnny to gesture him to not exactly hand it over just yet. " And what type of visitations is this for? I can't really recall. Is this one for visiting? For bananas boy to come out, or all that and some room where they can talk without being spied on?" He sounded like he really knew what type it was... However, he actually didn't remember for the life of him. But Gyro made it sound like he knew too well, just to double make sure about their permission's content. " Just tell us that, and we'll hand it over." Johnny could always count on his childhood friend to back him up with the 'We' part. In fact, in the past, he would always direct people to himself or the two of them, never saying just Johnny.

"What you asked for was the ability to visit Diego in his cell. No monitoring aside from the usual security cameras in that section of the facility, no special procedures to restrain the subject, and no Foundation employees listening in. Allowing a hostile Stand user upstairs is another matter entirely, although if you're interested I'm sure we could work out a deal." Valentine was a hard man to shake, and Gyro's bluff certainly wasn't enough to do it. "Any other questions, Zeppeli?"

The Italian gave a hard stern look, obviously taking this as a challenge. He always did this when people dared to butt heads against his. The only exception he would make would be Johnny, but even then there were some points where he wouldn't be taken down by his friend. Gyro let out an irritated breath, nodding to Johnny, allowing the wheelchair User to hand over the information in exchange for what Johnny sought out for this past week or so. Johnny set the paper down on the desk, next to the permit. It looked like nothing compared to the official document, and he was thankful for that. Maybe it really was nothing, and he wouldn't have to worry. Diego was worth whatever this ended up costing him. It was something Gyro would never really understand, but he could live with that. Johnny could hear his heart pound as he picked up the permit. He had done it. Diego wouldn't have to be alone anymore.

"Thank you." Valentine took the paper and slipped it into an inside pocket. He was one step closer to a better world.

 

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" BAM!" Gyro said with his stupid golden grill grin, pointing to the permit over and over, reeling in his arms then reaching out a bit to somehow clarify the small card even more than it already was while Johnny held it up. " In yo' face kitty boy!" He teased Kawajiri, noticing the man in the lab coat had obtained a tie with cat face designs on it, presumably bought by his 'wife' or maybe he had a taste in cats. Robert stood next to his superior taken aback by the whole situation. He had heard and seen the cards slightly, but never even came this close to seeing one. That's just how special they were. It shocked him so much that he had nearly dropped his clipboard, mouth a gap. Kawajiri merely shrugged and made a mental note of the new development. He no longer owed Dio a debt, but perhaps he would be willing to pay for useful information.

 

-----------------------------

After all the trouble they'd gone through to get it, Johnny was just glad the permit worked. It seemed like a total Valentine move to give them a fake. As the elevator door shut, he realized just how nervous he really was. Previous meetings with Diego had been structured and monitored, with questions to ask and safety precautions to follow. Now, he was on his own. It was a wonderful feeling, but more than a little precarious, like balancing on the edge of a cliff. There were few people on the lower floor, but the ones Johnny came across on his way to Diego's cell stared at him. There he was, obviously not a Foundation employee and alone in a restricted area. Somehow, he made it to the cell without getting stopped, and he held out the permit for the card scanner to read. The light flashed green and the door slid open.

Sure enough, the room he had seen in his supposed dream was real, just like Diego said to him, letting him know the truth about the whole fiasco. As the door slid into the safety of the wall, Diego who had been napping or thinking to himself, raised his head. He had been laying in the middle of the soft clear white padding, back turned to anyone who viewed the glass cell. " Fuck off! I don't wanna' do any shitty tests or anything!" He called out in a loud ruthless manner, presuming it was the scientists that would prod him every now and then. He growled and slowly withdrew himself back to laying down, curling up.

"Diego, it's me." Johnny looked down at the padded floor. It would be a difficult surface for his wheelchair. And it reminded him just how far gone Diego was, that he needed a cell he couldn't use to hurt himself. Maybe things would be better now. He wheeled forward carefully, opening the secured door to the cell of padding and glass, but as expected, he didn't get very far once he hit fabric. "Hey, Diego. Over here."

Diego snapped up in an instant, sitting up quickly, making him rock a bit due to the sudden urgency of getting up, making his head a bit dizzy from the sudden rush of blood. He looked over his shoulder and saw Johnny, wheelchair and all right in the doorway that locked him in his cell and the room outside with various electronic equipment. He rubbed his eyes like a child waking up to find their Christmas presents were there and for real. The blond got up slowly and carefully walked over, holding his arms to his chest, and moving cautiously on his toes. " This is just another dream i-isn't it, this can't be real, can it?" He seemed super nervous as if his chest were about to burst out of his chest.

Johnny shook his head. "I'm not a dream." The fact that Diego had said 'another dream' made his head spin. Did he show up in Diego's dreams as much as Diego did in his? He heard the door slide closed behind him, sealing him into the cell. Johnny was trusting his life to Diego, and it surprised him he could even tolerate that. It wasn't like Johnny to trust other people with anything. But he did. "I'm really here."

The old rival got close to Johnny, knees trembling. He poked Johnny's hand and dashed behind the large stuffed dinosaur toys as a safety net for protection. When nothing happened, Diego slowly peeked his head out from the soft wall and blinked several times. He then hopped over the stack of plushies, running back to Johnny, scanning him from every angle he could without touching him. After a few skeptical looks, he showed a large toothy grin and picked Johnny up out of his chair and held him into a hug, repetitively saying ' Thank you.' over and over while he buried his head Johnny's shoulder. With no one watching, Johnny realized there was nothing stopping him anymore. He clung tightly to Diego and pressed kisses against his neck, and the two of them sank to the floor. Johnny was beginning to feel like that first time Diego had kissed back, like it was all overwhelming and too perfect to be real. He pulled away for a second to catch his breath, and took the opportunity to explain things. "I got a permit to visit you. Nobody's watching." The last sentence felt like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. They could do anything.

Diego shook almost uncontrollably. It wasn't from fear or sorrow like Johnny had seen in the past. It was genuine happiness and excitedness that leapt into his heart. The blond sat up with Johnny in his lap, facing him. The redhead could see Diego was nearly in tears of pure joy, just to have someone who he actually enjoyed their company being there for him. Diego cupped Johnny's face gently, pulling him over to kiss his him. He didn't even ask how Johnny had gotten a permission or question that there were such things. While Diego slid his tongue into Johnny's mouth, Johnny could feel that scaly yet smooth skin of a tail slither behind him. It had been a long time since Johnny had felt wanted, and he had never thought he would miss it this much. He had been with plenty of people who kissed like it was a business transaction, like it meant nothing to them, and that had been fine. Johnny hadn't wanted emotions mixed up in his sex, just the blank feeling of losing himself in another person's body. Sure, there had been a few who kissed like they were looking for something more, but they never found it in Johnny. It had been an annoyance, one he didn't miss until no one wanted him anymore. And then it had seemed impossible. But Diego wanted him, he needed Johnny, and that felt better than pure sex ever had.

Diego pulled away to get a few breaths before leaning down to put is head against Johnny's chest, hands trailing down to hold the other's hands, intertwining them. Diego finally felt at peace for once in the past five years of his life he called Hell. For Diego, everyone who he cared for had left, and new people were to afraid of him, making him feel constantly lost, afraid, and altogether alone. It was hard for him to choke back any tears from the sheer pleasure of having someone there for him, next to him, in his touch. And to Johnny, he wasn't like just some normal person to have sex or to just kiss with. Diego didn't rush things like anyone looking for a quick fuck would do, the type Johnny was use to. He took in every second, enjoying the other. Then again he might be suppressing any primal urge, not wanting to mess this moment up. "I love you so fucking much." Johnny shut his eyes, let the feeling of Diego's skin against his be the only thing in the world that he could feel. He didn't want to hurry to sex either, and run headlong into the fact that he was no longer much of a prize in that area. Diego was experienced, not as much as he was but still a significant amount, and Johnny knew he wouldn't be able to live up to previous partners. He didn't want to disappoint him yet. Maybe he could just enjoy the moment for now.

He could hear Diego gulp, relatively nervous. Not to making out or thinking about sex, hell, not even his primal instincts. He was just afraid of a few words that were almost magical, and were legendary in film and stories, along with fairy-tales. He took in a deep breath to urge himself to say the few words he wanted. " I-I... I love you too." He pulled away to hug him and rest his head on Johnny's shoulder again, like it was there to put him at ease, which it did. His hands held onto Johnny's, enjoying the warmth coming off from them. Johnny felt the slim yet muscular tail twitch every now and then, with a sudden surge of static. It was a good thing Diego could maintain himself for a large percent of the time. It was strange how a few words could mean so much. Johnny remembered what Diego had said in response the first time, his fear of losing anyone he loved, and the change made it all feel real. Maybe Diego really did love him, maybe he wasn't just desperate for someone, anyone, and Johnny was more than simply convenient. When Johnny opened his eyes, he could see the tears that still clung to Diego's eyelashes, just on the verge of falling, and kissed him again to stop them. He would do anything if it kept Diego from crying.

 

The blond started to relax once kissed, letting it wash away all his worry, loneliness, and so on. He practically melted under the gentle kiss from Johnny and exchanged back, fingers still snaking around Johnny's. Once the two broke away, Diego gave a smile. Still mildly upset with joy, but better than he was a little bit ago. " Hey. Uh... No one knows about this but...." He trailed off, nervousness entering his gut again. " I wanna' show you something." He said, picking up Johnny and sitting near his mound of dinosaur plushies, but mostly away from any cameras on the outside of the cell. He carefully put Johnny down and sat next to him. The unstable User reached out to a blue Brachiosaurus toy and put his palm on its snout. All Johnny could see for the time being was its glossy button eyes staring off into space. However, he could have realized it blinked... Johnny stared at the toy like it had leapt up and done a jig, and all of a sudden the blue cloth became rough skin covering flesh and bone. The small dinosaur stretched like a cat and made a sound halfway between a bird call and a purr, nuzzling against Diego's hand with its tiny nose. It was alive, a perfect replica of a living creature in miniature. Johnny reached out tentatively, half expecting the dinosaur to snap at his fingers, but instead, it stood still and allowed him to pet it. The skin felt dry and leathery, nothing like the soft fabric it had been only seconds before. "Holy shit," Johnny said, unable to contain the wonder in his voice. "Diego, you're amazing."

Diego chuckled a bit, rubbing the back of his neck. Sure he was use to praise in the past, but it all changed so much. He was actually a bit embarrassed, considering all he thought that his powers were just a shitty curse which never gained praise, only fear. " Hehe, thanks. I learned it last year or so. Or was it three years?" He shook his head to dismiss the thought. " I haven't shown anyone because they'll probably want to test me. And, they might fear me more than they already do. These guys are my only friends, I rather not them be taken away. Isn't that right Miss Buttons?" He smiled wide and gave the long neck of the dinosaur a gentle hug before sitting back down. " They understand me, but can't really talk. I've been trying to teach them words, but I think I still need to work on their vocal cords or something. They're pretty smart all things considered." And here Diego had five of these things! It must have been difficult to hide away from the ever stalking cameras.

"Your only friends? What about me?" Johnny crossed his arms and pulled an impressive pout, pretending to be too offended to even look in Diego's direction. It was only a joke, of course. The fact that Diego had companions in his cell, that he wasn't so hopelessly alone when they were apart, meant more than Johnny could express in words. He'd spent so many nights lying awake, worrying about Diego and his solitude, and it was a major relief to see he had company, even if they couldn't talk.

He gave a large toothy grin, " Tchehehe, who says your only a friend?" Diego pulled the light red-head over to give him a quick kiss of reassurance, knowing fully well it was a joke. The bright blond snickered a bit, finding it amusing while he pulled away. He leaned to his side to touch another toy, that of some kind of fucked up looking pterodactyl... Or well, at least from Johnny's knowledge. It's curbed head fidgeted a few times before its tail swung about and wings rippled a bit from the sudden muscle gained. It squawked quietly and sauntered over to Johnny sniffing him. Before he knew it, the smallest of the dinosaurs ran behind him and crawled up his back and onto his head, making cooing sounds.

"Uh, Diego?" Johnny froze, afraid to disturb the tiny creature on his head. "Diego, which one is that? What's it doing?" The dinosaurs may be small, but they still had rather worryingly sharp teeth and tiny curved claws. And Johnny was no paleo-whatever like Jonathan, but he was pretty sure dinosaurs were carnivores. Did they eat people? History had never been his strong suit. He reached towards the top of his head blindly, and quickly withdrew his hand once he felt something small and bony. "These guys are pretty cool, but can they not be on my head?"

Diego was getting a fucking kick out of this all, but Johnny would come to realize or already knew, there wasn't much to actually fear. The dinosaur User made some clicking sounds that didn't even sound human, commanding the creature wriggle its rear like a cat ready to pounce and flutter over onto his shoulder, crawling around him and... Did it just stick it's tongue out at Johnny? It reminded him of those stupid cat pictures people would post up on the internet. " It's a Dimorphodon, I call 'em Dimitri. Also, they can't really eat. They only have muscle, skeleton, and minds. I mean yeah. they can bite... But I have control of them for the most part." The smaller dinosaur ruffled up some scales and small feathers before flying over to the vibrant tea set and table. Johnny didn't remember that being there when he was kidnapped... It was way too bright not to notice.

Johnny breathed a sigh of relief once the little pinpricks of claws left his scalp, and shifted his attention to the table and tea set. "Are you planning a tea party?" Diego's cell was decorated like the room of a very dinosaur-focused child, but the new addition still stood out, all pink plastic and cheap paint. It seemed unusual even for him. There were so many strange things about Diego that Johnny still didn't know, and he was ready to find out.

Diego played it off as a joke, lightly pushing Johnny's arm to hide up any emotions. Johnny had already seen him cry before, and had gone all this way to be with him. " Hahaha-shut up. No, it was a package from Lucy." He glanced over to it, recollection filling his head for the brief moment. " She use to make me play with her with her tea parties with her toys when I was free and Steven was busy. We didn't have any other kids around but her, and her being alone with Steven reminded me of me and my mom. Heh, I use to make her tea and made myself coffee. There were only a few times when I had to deny the tea parties, due to work, stress, or uh... Aherm-Having a fucking twinge in my back." He coughed in an awkward way to cover up a slight bit of shame.

"You'll see her again." Johnny didn't know where that came from, but he meant it. "I promise." He was always making Diego promises. So far he'd managed to make good on all of them, and he wasn't going to let that change any time soon. "I'll get you out of here." Johnny had already begun that process by obtaining the permit. He would need more and more permissions for Diego, and that would mean more favors for Valentine, but if it made his promises come true, he was willing to do whatever he was asked. Johnny thought about his bedroom upstairs, about the living space he shared with Gyro, about the parties and movie nights and campfires, and how it would all be so much better once Diego was there with him.

" Hehe, you don't have to do so much for me, especially things that can't happen. But it does mean a lot to me, thanks." Diego once more pulled him over to give him a sweet kiss. He didn't know how Johnny was able to keep this up. Making promises, and actually abiding by them. The older version of his rival would have scoffed at any idea of it. But more importantly, Diego didn't really know how to repay him back for everything he had done. The only way he knew how was from the outside in his previous life, by money or sex. He'd only say thank you to his mother, wife, and Lucy, because he knew that's all they would ever want. But Johnny was different, he didn't know what to give in return but empty soundings thank yous. While kissing the paralyzed User, the dinosaurs had gone back to being toys, and Johnny could feel the slender tail slide behind him, twitching.

Johnny broke off the kiss, and rested his hands on Diego's shoulders, looking the other man straight in the eyes. "I will get you out of here. That's not some just meaningless little promise. It's what's going to happen. I won't let die down here." Another one of his fine qualities, along with selfishness and sarcasm, was just how stubborn he could be. Johnny wanted to make sure Diego knew that he was being serious, and it showed in his eyes. He leaned in for another short kiss. "I'll protect you." There was more, but it went unsaid as their lips met. I'd kill for you.

Diego looked at his eyes, the seriousness when it came to the tone, he could have sworn to see a hint of that same look he saw when Johnny had won their little 'fight'. It made his spine tingle and he couldn't tell why. It always did when he pissed him off in the past, showing him how serious and determined he was even he never won against him in the race tracks. The tail started to twitch more at odd thoughts crept into his mind. He took in a deep breath and managed to close his eyes to not gaze at Johnny's persistence, which was quite hard. " Look, I can manage myself for the most part, but I act out so I can stay down here, I don't want to hurt anyone. When my emotions start to go out just a smidge, I might snap."

"You can control it. I've seen you do it." Staying in the basement was a slow and painful death, a death of the mind before the body. Diego had already lost so much by staying this long, and Johnny refused to let go of the pieces that were left. "You've been angry at me, you've bitten me, you've had me at your mercy, but I'm still here. If you're really so broken, why haven't you killed me yet?" Johnny stroked Diego's cheek, bringing the two of them even closer. "You're afraid. Don't be."

Diego cracked an eye open for a tiny instance to see the more gentle side of Johnny he had gotten use to. It calmed him down immensely so that he took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly, his senses flowing back. " I-Okay." He gave off a warm smile, glad to have someone by his side to lean on. He hadn't been reassured from someone he actually took interest in, in years. " Yeah, I-I can do it! I'm Brando, I can do it!" With a sharp grin plastered on his face, he could feel confidence in himself again. He leaned over to give the other a soft kiss, Johnny's small dialog and touch were enough to set him ablaze.

Johnny kissed back, deep and passionate this time, and it was like he'd forgotten how to do anything else, like Diego was his sole reason to live. Words couldn't describe how sweet it was to finally have him all alone. When they broke apart, Johnny was smiling. "You can do it."

 

----------------------------

After a good couple of hours of mostly just cuddling and simple talking as Johnny could call it, his best friend decided to treat him, and himself to go spend some time at the stables. Gyro never asked for much in return to see his friend have a good day, other than to see him happy. But he also enjoyed the time with the equines himself. They had been a decent substitute for him with Johnny's absence for two years. He didn't even have to lift a finger to the wheelchair, having Johnny move it by himself when walking down the path in the outer area. Gyro recalled Johnny being... Timid and a bit pessimistic when going outside, having Gyro push him along to go have a good time. So this was shocking to the dirty blond as he strolled by his friend's side with a golden grin. " So, I take it, it went well?"

"You could say that." Johnny kept his focus straight ahead and his expression neutral. He knew Gyro would want all the details, but telling him was the last thing he wanted to do. It had been awkward enough telling Gyro about the kiss, he didn't need his friend's reaction to just how comfortable he had gotten with Diego. Gyro would still ask, but maybe he could be distracted. "How are the horses doing?"

Sure Gyro enjoyed gossip, but Johnny didn't seem to know how relaxed the young man could be. He knew well enough when to behave and not ask into personal affairs, this being one of them, ever since his father's teaching of behavior that was acceptable in society. Then again, his father was a bit of a hard ass... " Doin' just fine, that's why we're goin' there ya' dingus." He gave Johnny a grin, having fun poking at his friend, knowing fully well Johnny would just throw the silly name off. " Yo, Trish!" He hollered out to see the pink flower petaled hair girl presumably talking to Mista or Hot Pants. She looked over her shoulder as she leaned on the fencing and waved to them. Johnny waved at Trish as well. He was looking forward to spending time in the stables. After the stress that had been Valentine's deal and the constant clash of emotions caused by Diego's presence, it was nice to have something so simple. Horses were just horses, not potential family betrayals or mentally unstable dinosaurs, and Johnny knew how to handle horses. The stable was nothing like the one at home, much smaller and quieter, and that felt good. He didn't want to be reminded of home, not when he was having such a good day.

Johnny could hear Trish and Gyro talk about something that didn't interest him in the slightest until the young girl had mentioned something about a new horse who was older, experienced, and stubborn. " Yeah her name's Slowdancer, an-uhm... What was it-Oh right! An Appaloosa! She's really experienced when it comes to riding somehow even though, I think they're mainly for farm use. She's a bit older but still rough as fuck, according to Mista... Who almost got kicked by her." She gave out a sigh, good Ol' Mista getting into unwanted trouble like always. " They sent her in from The Steel Ball Track." Gyro kept up the conversation for a bit more, eventually going into territory Johnny had nothing to hear about.

It had been two years since Johnny had ridden a horse. He'd spent most of his life riding on a daily basis, and it had been two years. The time felt like forever. He wouldn't be able to ride very well anymore, but maybe... It was a foolish hope, the sort of wish that led nowhere. No point in dwelling on impossibilities. But the words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. "Can I see the new horse?"

Gyro lifted his hat at the tip with his thumb, giving his friend a slightly surprised look, while Trish moved away from the fencing, " Sure thing, just follow me, Mista, I'm going to go, Johnny, the new horse, please don't piss off any of the horses or goats over there!" She gave him a quick smile before walking over and leading Johnny inside while Gyro smirked and tossed a pebble at the unseen Mista who was notably yelling at Gyro in Italian. Trish passed by several doors and finally stopped at one near the back end and opened it up to reveal an almost pristine white mare with black spots speckled over her like a Dalmatian. The mare looked up from chewing some oats and flicked her ears before snorting a bit and going back to her food. After a moment, Trish left Johnny to the horse to go back out to help and chat to Gyro and Mista.

Johnny reached up and stroked the horse's flank. The hide felt familiar beneath his fingers, even relaxing. It reminded him of hot summer days out in the stables with Nicholas, of the triumph that came with being good at something for once. His world had been broken for so long and this made it feel almost normal again. There was still the nagging lack of Diego in the back of his mind, still the knowledge that he would never be able to ride, but remembering it all felt like something close. The mare shook her head and lifted her head up to inspect whatever was stroking her. With a wiggle of her ears and a slow blink, she craned her neck over to sniff Johnny. Nostrils flared up as she took in his scent and almost went back to her oats... Almost. Slowdancer leaned over a bit more, sniffing Johnny's beanie and two hair tufts poking out of it. It was relaxing and peaceful before Slowdancer took a light hold on the beanie with her teeth and pulled it off his head.

"Hey! What was that for?" Johnny grabbed at the beanie, but it was out of his reach. Defeated, he put the hood of his sweatshirt up to hide the tangled mess that was his hair. It really was a mess today, even more than usual. Johnny had combed it like usual, admittedly not that thoroughly, but Diego had spent most of the afternoon messing that up. He liked to play with Johnny's hair almost as much as Johnny liked playing with his. The horse looked like she was taunting him, dangling the hat just above where Johnny could reach it. "Give it back!" Slowdancer snorted and held it above Johnny just out of reach, what a smart fucking horse. She pulled her lips back and made a slight whiney, as if she was smiling and giggling at the paralyzed User. Then again, Trish had said she was experienced and stubborn-headed. Which obviously meant, she was wiser than the typical horse at a track. She tried chewing on it a tad but stopped as she saw Johnny steal trying to snatch it back.

 

The beanie was just a little too high. Johnny braced himself against Slowdancer's stall for support and stood cautiously. His legs shook and threatened to fold up under him, but he managed to grab the beanie before collapsing back into his wheelchair. Standing was a lot easier with his crutches, but that still wasn't very easy and Johnny spent most of his time in the chair for a reason. He moved out of Slowdancer's reach and brushed the oats off the hat, jamming it back on his head as quickly as he could. Slowdancer shook her head and mane once more, as if to be appalled how he was able to swipe his beanie cap. She watched her swat the leftover oats off and stuff it into a pocket, letting only a snippet of it poke out. The stubborn horse snorted at his face and rose up her head up along with other horses as Gyro walked over. " Whoaho, what's with the hoodie? Wait, don't tell me." He rubbed a thumb under his lower lip and smiled, " She stole your beanie huh?"

"Yeah. What a shitty horse." Johnny shoved the worst of his hair under the hat and pulled the hood back up for safety. He didn't need Gyro getting any ideas about what he'd been doing with Diego earlier, and messed-up hair certainly introduced a few rather embarrassing possibilities. "She tricked me. All still and letting me pet her, and then my hat's gone." He didn't really mean it. Slowdancer seemed like an alright horse, if a little temperamental. If the situation had been different, Johnny would have liked to ride her.

" Yeah, same thing happen to Mista, apparently she got a thing for hats-Hey, hey, back off." Gyro fended himself by leaning back and putting his hands up as Slowdancer started to lean over to him in interest of his hat. Slowdancer let out a small huff as if Gyro was just a spoilsport before craning her neck over to look at the light red head who was keeping a sharp eye on her. She put her face right above Johnny's and crinkled her snout a bit, looking him in the eyes as best she could. " I think she likes you, dude. I mean she's ignoring your hat... For now" He muttered

It didn't matter if Slowdancer liked him or not. Johnny looked down at his legs, just as weak and useless as ever. He could barely stand, let alone ride, and that wasn't changing any time soon. Or ever. At first, doctors had said he was lucky the injury wasn't life-threatening. And then he was lucky it was only his legs, and lucky that he could still walk with crutches. But Johnny had never felt lucky, not before the accident and certainly not after. "Whatever. Let's go." Gyro let out a small sympathetic sigh as Johnny's mood suddenly shifted once he looked over his legs, thinking back to how broken they were. Gyro didn't question him and turned around to walk along his side. However once Johnny turned his wheelchair, it seemed to be stuck. Gyro shifted to look back hearing a harsh snort from behind.

Slowdance had put her teeth on the one of the wheelchair's handle used to push forward. For such a stubborn mischievous horse, Slowdancer quickly let go once Johnny turned his head and licked the side of his face before turning around and going to her oats like nothing just happened. "What do you want?" Johnny stared at the horse with confusion and more than a little annoyance. He just wanted to leave, to go back to his room and think about something else, anything else. Maybe just think about Diego for a little while, since the memory of that afternoon was still fresh in his mind, curl up somewhere and remember the warm feeling he got when Diego kissed him. But Slowdancer clearly had other plans, and they involved Johnny being in the stables. And even if it wouldn't be the same, maybe he could... "Gyro, can you help me? I- I think I want to ride."

" Whoa, hold on there, Jethro. Y-You sure about this? I mean..." He trailed off as he looked to Johnny, avoiding any glance to his lame legs. He couldn't bear to see his friend in this position, he was raised as a horse rider, it'd be cruel not to let him feel the embrace of riding one again, and with the animals so damn close. He gave up and sighed lightly and whistled out to the front of the stables where Trish still hung out at. He hollered over to her about something, which made her yell to Hot Pants. Trish would have helped, but she was nowhere near as qualified to handle Johnny to ride a horse. She and Gyro were rather anxious to help, worrying that Johnny would get hurt in the process. But Gyro would help, even though he seemed worried. Hot Pants already had enough to do today, but no was clearly not an option. She had been fixing a fence in the paddock adjacent to the stables, no doubt somehow Joseph's fault as most vandalism at the Foundation was, when she heard Trish yell, and she trudged into the stables pretty quickly after that. Johnny and Gyro were waiting for her, and she let Johnny explain the situation.

"I just- I want to ride." Johnny seemed nervous about the request, like he was afraid the answer would be no.

"Alright," HP said, and began to secure a saddle to Slowdancer's back. "As long as you're careful, it should be fine. Gyro, pick him up." The man was taller than she was, and would have a better angle.

Gyro nodded and scooped up his friend with ease. He was fairly glad Johnny had always been shorter than him, as well as light. Jockeys had to be so light and tiny to not weigh the horse down, and with the loss of the muscles in his legs were a slight positive. Even though that itself was horrible in turn. " Thanks, HP, sorry about this. Look, if there's anything ya' need just lemme' know." Gyro, being flirtatious, did respect the hard work of Hot Pants, and would rather not ask for favors so much since she seemed to be busy whenever he needed help. He carefully boosted up Johnny onto the saddle, Slowdancer merely just looking at them with a slow blink. She was use to people being on her back after all these years, and since she had stopped Johnny from leaving, she probably wouldn't buck, unless she was a total bitch.

HP rolled her eyes. She knew better than to give Gyro's flirting any credence, and she hardly approved of it. Johnny clung to Slowdancer, and managed a faint smile. It was different, not being able to hold himself on the horse's back with his legs, and the feeling of actually sitting in the saddle was a lot duller than it used to be, but he still recognized the sensation. And it was wonderful, like seeing Gyro again after years of them being apart. He let the familiarity wash over him, and sighed. "Thanks."

Gyro gave his good friend a flash of a smile, though still slightly nervous, only because he didn't want Johnny to suddenly slip off from not being in this type of position without the use of his legs. Slowdancer breathed peacefully and flickered her ears a tad as Johnny put his palms against her to manage his balance a bit before brushing her fur. With a quick glance at Johnny, the older Appaloosa started to walk around her pen a bit, just enough for Johnny to readjust himself to get the sensation back. Honestly, for her, Johnny was practically nothing on her back, letting her move around easily. Once the horse stopped her brief circuit, Johnny reached out for Gyro. It had been short, but that was enough. He didn't need to be reminded of how difficult actually riding would be now, just a quick dose of nostalgia, something to dredge up the past and let it sink back down before too long. It would only hurt to dwell on things like that.

Chapter Text

The trip to the stables only convinced Johnny more that Diego needed some time out of his basement prison. Perhaps just out in the courtyard, wouldn't want to overwhelm him with too much all at once. It was important that Diego be allowed back into the outside world, and Johnny was sure it would help. And that meant another conversation with Valentine. The man had promised the ability to obtain higher level permits in the future, and Johnny was ready to take him up on it. Of course, he asked Gyro to come too. For the numbers advantage if nothing else. Along the way, the light red head and dirty blonde happen to stumble upon Trish nervously standing in front of the door leading to the man one went to make deals with. For the first time, Johnny saw her, afraid. A very uncomforting face spread across while she stared up at the door's plaque. She sighed heavily and shook her, turning around to take her leave, cowering out from what she was about to do. She noticed the other two and avoided any eye contact from the all skeptical Gyro. Johnny wondered just how many Stand users Valentine had on his payroll. That couldn't be a good sign for the Foundation, or really anyone if he was being honest, but at the same time, he didn't care. All that mattered was that he got his hands on another permit for Diego. The whole building could be falling down around his ears, and Johnny would still only have one goal. It was easy to knock this time. He had none of Trish's hesitation. Making a deal with Valentine would probably fuck him in the long run, but Johnny had never been good at that sort of stuff anyway. He raised his hand and knocked on the office door. "Come in."

Gyro frowned, watching the young girl sulk away, beating herself up mentally. She was like Giorno, her only family members in the place were kept down below and away from her. The Italian gave a soft sigh and opened the door up for Johnny and him. He counted himself as lucky considering his brothers worked for the foundation and weren't kept under the rug. And he would have called Johnny lucky for most of his family to be above ground too, but he knew Johnny had no interest. Gyro tilted his hat back with a flick of his thumb, giving Valentine a healthy glare. " Heya pink panther. My friend wants to make another deal..."

Valentine happened to think his trademark coat was very fashionable and not at all comparable to a cartoon character. He glared at Gyro right back, but his mood changed once he noticed Johnny. His presence could mean two things. One, Johnny had decided to go back on their deal for some reason and was here to fight, in which case Valentine could probably win, or two, he actually was ready for a second deal. Obviously, the latter was the better option. "Johnny Joestar. What can I do for you?"

There was no point couching the request in pleasantries. "What lets Diego leave the basement and how do I get it?" Valentine reminded Johnny of a used car salesman, all talk, and presentation and lying through his teeth the whole time.

Gyro stuck his tongue out in a childish manner, the only thing he could really do to combat against the older man and not mess anything up for his friend. Johnny should have called himself somewhat lucky to have a friend like Gyro, considering most people wouldn't have come along and help him see a crazed lunatic kept locked away from society. " I'ma go on a long shot annnnd guess, it's another card, right pinky?" Valentine did unnerve Gyro slightly, but only due to his look, tone in voice of being so formal, and being sleazy in dealings.

"Permits have different levels." Valentine was fully into his spiel by now. It was a practiced sort of speech, and one he had delivered many times. "What you have is actually level two. Level one is visitation without physical contact. You're asking for level three at least, and for that, I need to possess a few documents that attest to Diego's mental stability. Of course, I can obtain them, but it isn't easy. It will require-"

"Cut your bullshit." Johnny was done with the whole sales pitch. He looked Valentine right in the eyes with the most threatening glare he could manage. "What's the price?"

Valentine smiled. He liked Johnny. The boy was frank and to the point. It was a valuable trait. "A key. After hours, the facility is on lockdown. The only people who possess a key are the security staff. Find me one, and you can rescue your precious Diego."

" Oi! You know, you shouldn't be teasing someone whose risking their ass to get you something." Gyro snapped out from the whole 'precious' comment. " Yeah, I got it, you're all high and mighty, but really dude. That's not cool." He gave a small huff before rolling his eyes angrily, " Key to the security huh? Wait, hold the fucking phone." Things were slowly weaving out through the blonde's head as the more he thought about it. His eyes grew wide, and nearly took a step back, leaning away in shock, " You mean from one of the Pillar Brothers?! Are you nuts?!"

"As I said, the documents aren't easy to get." Valentine took on a cold tone of voice and the smile disappeared. "You two aren't the only ones putting themselves in danger. You're asking me to forge highly confidential documents regarding the mental state of an individual proven to be dangerous. I'm risking my job, and if things go far enough, my life. Do you think people who cause trouble here get fired? No, that would put the Foundation in too much danger. They disappear."

He had to be lying. No way was Johnny going to believe that. It was something out of a movie. But the Foundation was already knee-deep in shit, what was there to stop them from disposing of a few risks? "We got the ID. How hard could this be?"

 

Gyro simply gave a nod before yanking his friend's wheelchair handles, taking him out the room quickly. Before Johnny had enough time to react or push Gyro away, Gyro managed to push him a good ways away from the room where the deal went down and gave a very skeptical look. His face and tone changed drastically, " Dude, what the fuck... Forging? I thought they just handed the paperwork to that asshole. How long has he been forging that shit? Were all of those cards fake? Shit-Dude. I'll help ya, but..." He rattled his wrists around as if to grasp something in mid-air, " You don't think they'd actually 'DISPOSE OF' workers? I-I mean, fuck they let that fucker and Tim go home like a few times a week. This isn't what my bros told me at all-Fuck, we're they lying?" Gyro didn't get unnerved easily... Johnny could see that his only friend in the place was starting to doubt things.

"Of course it's forgery. It's been forgery this whole time. That's what happens when you trade favors for paperwork." Johnny had grown up rich, and there were certain secrets that came with being rich. Some privileges of the wealthy weren't exactly legal. "Gyro, you'd have to be naive to think that Valentine is following the rules. And who knows, maybe the Foundation does put out hits on problem employees. Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me. You've seen how they treat the Stand users downstairs." He couldn't lose this chance. "Look, Diego isn't going to last down there. I'm doing this for him."

" I know, and I'm all there for ya. But..." He rubbed his temples, letting his hat slide down over his eyes a bit as he tried to clear things up. " Dude, real talk." He tilted his hat up giving his friend a hard stare, " I know ya' dun' give many fucks about your family. But, my brothers are the only family I've got left aside from dad. I can't afford to lose them. That-If it was a bluff, It's freaking me the hell out." He had to try and explain why he was slightly falling apart, because it was so unlike him. He was the friend who would tag in no matter what, but sometimes, he needed a slight encouragement or feel of safety. Anyone had to or they'd break apart. " I just want to know-o-or think things will be okay."

"I can't give you that certainty." Johnny knew this whole plan could go to hell faster he could blink. He had never been certain, not from the beginning, not from the first time he had spoken to Diego through a wall. It was risky and stupid and a whole lot to lose. But his meetings with Diego were the same way. There had been no guarantee he would leave that basement room alive, but Johnny had been willing to take the chance. "Gyro, I'm sorry I dragged you into all this. You can go back to the room right now and I'll never bring it up again. I need to do this, but you don't. Leave. Get out while you still can."

The stubbornness finally cut out from Gyro's sudden anxiousness as he sighed and rubbed his temple. He gave his friend one of the most stern glares Johnny had ever seen, " I am NOT leaving you again. I promised myself I wouldn't get wrapped up in shit and leave you out to get yourself wrecked. Let's just get this over with so I can stop thinking about what the creep said." With a toothy golden grin, he balled up his hand and bumped the knuckles with Johnny before leading him away, " C'mon dude. I'm pretty sure they're near their office or patrolling about."

"Thanks." It felt good to have someone on his side. Well, technically Diego was, but he wasn't a particularly useful ally given the circumstance. Johnny looked down the hall, hoping the catch a glimpse of the over-muscled security guards he'd seen a few times before. They stood out pretty well. As he did, he realized something important. "Wait a minute, Gyro. Those guys are huge. How are we supposed to steal something from them and not get our asses kicked in the process?"

Gyro gripped at the corner of the wall they peeked behind, "... Actually, I have no fucking clue. I only know that Joseph likes to challenge the youngest dude, Wammu. Polnareff's roomie likes to have tea with the middle, Esidisi. But the eldest, Kars, mrm... Fuck if I know. I thought you'd have something." He bit his lip with some hesitation, he clearly remembered one time he was caught doing something stupid and punishment was not taken lightly once Kars got hold of the situation. " I've got nothing on the big guy. All I know is that he loves animals, even if he's not the cuddly looking typ-..." Gyro's irrational planning cooked up something as he talked, mainly going over any facts he knew. " How much do you think you get along with The Passione Kids?"

"How much do you think I get along with anyone?" Johnny was firmly what you would call an acquired taste. He didn't make friends easy, and beyond Gyro, he didn't keep them at all. "Well enough. Giorno seems pretty safe to trust." He had, after all, given Johnny the questions to ask Diego. If nothing else, he was smart enough to keep something like this quiet and had a reason to want Diego out of the basement. "Have you got a plan in mind?"

" You may wanna' define 'plan' a bit better. But so far, all I can think of is asking those little bastards and Giorno for some help. Let's retreat the fuck outta' dodge for the time." Gyro said before scooting back and placing his back against the wall, sliding across, much like he did when going to Jousuke and Joshuu's room. Good thing Johnny could have someone to lean on and show off some rather stupidly amusing antics to clash against his bitterness.

 

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Johnny returned to Diego's cell the next day, and they quickly fell into a sort of two-person trance. Diego curled up around Johnny, both of them sitting on the cushioned floor, and they just stayed like that for what felt like anywhere between seconds and years. Johnny wasn't sure, he had stopped keeping track of time so he could give Diego his full attention. They didn't talk much, mostly just enjoyed each other's presence, but there was something Johnny knew he should bring up. "Diego," he said, and the man looked up from nuzzling against his shoulder. "I'm working on getting you a permit to go upstairs." Diego had rested his eyes, leaning on Johnny's shoulder while his arms wove around the other's torso into a good grip of a hug from behind. His legs sat right aside from Johnny's while his sleek feathery and scaled tail wrapped around Johnny's lap. He opened his eyes briefly when his name was mentioned and looked up from his spot his chin cradled on. Once he heard the news, he blinked as if someone smacked him from out of thin air. " What? But, I might attack someone or something and-" He remembered the last time he was near many people, and they all lost their lives but two. He took in a deep breath, " No, I'll have ya with me, right?"

"You'll always have me." Before Diego, that was the sort of thing Johnny wouldn't be caught dead saying, but now it felt as natural as the embrace they shared. Johnny leaned back and kissed Diego on the cheek. "You can't get rid of me now." And at that moment Johnny heard something that sounded suspiciously like a door opening.

Jonathan was in the middle of a typical day. It was always the same at the Foundation, the same tasks, the same Stand users, week after week after week. He didn't mind too much, but everybody wanted a little variety. The door to the observation room next to Diego's cell was shut but the lock still glowed a faint green. It was unlocked. Probably just a simple mistake, but the Foundation couldn't afford to be careless. Jonathan figured he should check it out. And he did have business with Diego. Two birds and all that. And once he entered the room, he got his wish. It was no longer a typical day. "Johnny?! What are you doing here?!"

With hearing the normally quiet and reserved one of the Joestar bunch, this was quite a twist for William Zepelli. Who had gotten time to help out with Jonathan and actually get away from his sector to add some variety much like Jonathan wanted. He quickly peeked into the room before entering it and seeing the odd pair of jockeys behind the hard and sturdy glass panning. So this was Johnny Joestar, the young jockey who shared his friend's name, huh? From appearance, William could defiantly tell how young and possibly reckless who was. Noticing the wheelchair, made him wonder if he actually crawled over to where the two sat or if Diego had hoisted him up. He folded his arms and gave a curious look. Diego on the other hand, had not excepted company and quickly went into a defensive take by baring his teeth. " He got a permit!"

"I do!" Johnny clung to Diego, trying to stop him just running away and hiding. That wouldn't be very helpful. He took the plastic card out of his pocket and waved it in front of the glass. This could go really bad really fast.

Jonathan stared at the permit like it was some kind of alien technology. It was a long process to acquire one and Diego would be one of the more difficult users to receive privileges like that. How did Johnny manage to get his hands on one in such a short period of time? He spotted William near the door and ushered him in, closing it behind him. This was probably not a matter other people should hear about, especially if Johnny and Diego had been... But he couldn't assume that. William stepped aside to listen to his apprentice and quirked a thin black brow, " Johnny hasn't been here for even three months, am I correct? How in the bloody hell did he obtain such a card? Surely he didn't talk to Kars about it, did he?" He fiddled with his twirled mustache, thinking to himself, " This is rather peculiar. I only know if you were to obtain one, you wait for three months or persuade Kars, explaining good reasons to do so. And even then, he is not to be taken lightly as his brothers... This is quite troubling." William had worked here longer than Jonathan had, hell even before Jonathan worked here. He knew all the ins and outs, but this stuck out like a sore thumb.

"It doesn't matter how I got it." Johnny was getting a bit desperate now. Could Jonathan take away the permit? Could he ruin Johnny's whole plan? It seemed likely. The question was, would he? "I have it. I'm allowed to be here."

"You're not wrong..." Jonathan mind was spinning. He had known Johnny was reckless, but this level of risk? It was one thing to meet with Diego while under careful supervision, and another to visit him freely. And whole third one to sit in his arms and be completely at his mercy. It wouldn't even take a second. Diego's mouth was right near Johnny's throat. He stared at William, speechless.

The eldest Zeppeli sighed lightly and watched Diego act out from the mere idea of them being split up. He could finally acknowledge what Jonathan meant by the two forming a bond. But it was hard to see whether it was out of goodness and ambition, or out of instinct and loneliness. " DBSM, you are fine. there is no reason to go into that state, we are here merely because we were required to. We will not take Johnny away from you. We do not wish for anything to happen. If you trust Jonathan, then by all means, you can have my word on it." Diego's lips started to cover his fangs as he shrunk a bit behind Johnny, a bit hurt that it was all true. He did trust Jonathan, and he gave that trust to Johnny to. He couldn't go back on his words and actions from the larger man.

"Well, uh..." Jonathan didn't know what to say. Somehow it was even more awkward than when he had interrupted them kissing, more intimate to see them just cuddling and enjoying a private moment. "Carry on?"

 

With that he shuffled out of the observation room, William right behind him. Once they were outside, he whispered to his friend, "How did he get a permit?"

" I am unsure. If he's as stubborn as my brother and you have told me, I highly doubt he would dare tell us. There must be a way to see if it is indeed genuine. But how..." William began to think, rubbing his chin with the tip of his thumb. Luck seemed to be on their side as the young hot pink haired Trish strolled past them, holding a card firmly. " Aherm, I say, Lady Trish, are you permitted to be down here?"

Trish stopped and turned around showing her card proudly, " Yup! Polnareff got it for me to see my dad and uncle!"

" Do you mind if I look at it for a moment, my dear?" Trish shrugged and handed the plastic covered card over to him. William squinted his eyes and held it out for both him and Jonathan to look more closely at it, expecting each and every angle and backside. " Hmmm..." He suddenly snatched Jonathan's I.D card and put them side by side, seeing as Jonathan had permission to come down to the basement and open rooms along with cells.

"What is it?" Jonathan was beginning to get suspicious. Could one of the Stand users upstairs be running a forgery scheme? It sounded like someone that would happen in prison. But if they were, it would explain the sudden appearance of both permits. Although he wasn't sure what his ID had to do with anything. He hadn't been making fake cards. Jonathan would never do something like that.

" Just inspecting the bar codes since they access clearance. And as I suspected, these two codes are far more different, Jonathan, yours is much larger. I say, Trish, where did Polnareff obtain this?" She merely shrugged, being handed the piece of hard sturdy plastic back. " As you were." Trish gave a skeptical look before drawing away to go on with her visits. " Jonathan, I think we'd best ask Stroheim or Kars about this. They're sure to have level one permits like hers. And if possible find her again and a few others who have any level ones so we can inspect them more closely."

 

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It was hard for Johnny not to spend all his time in the basement cell with Diego. Gyro would get pissed off if he didn't return to the room for a whole day, but fuck did he want to just stay there for hours and hours. Diego was intensely interesting in a way that no one else was. Johnny had never really managed a real relationship, not one built on anything more than casual sex, but they couldn't all be this engrossing. It had to be something special. Even after the weird moment with Jonathan, Johnny returned the next day, more than a little excited to see Diego again. And of course, Diego enjoyed and deeply relished the time spent with Johnny. Sure he would have been like that to anyone, but his old rival somehow made it all the better. Maybe because they put aside everything, maybe he use to have a crush on him, or maybe he was too broken to push him away. It didn't seem to matter. However, today Diego acted a bit more strange than he normally did, in his own weird mannerism. He had Johnny in his lap and was constantly nuzzling his shoulder slowly. He hadn't hopped up like he use to when Johnny arrived, he was a bit weaker, like he was sick or something. Only now was the time Johnny could feel warmth from the other.

"You doing alright?" Johnny figured that if something was seriously wrong with Diego, he was under enough medical supervision the Foundation would know, and theoretically treat him. But it was hard to tell with them. Diego certainly hadn't received sufficient care for his mental health, why should his physical health be any different? Johnny frowned and twisted around to catch a glimpse of Diego's face. Gyro was better at this sort of stuff, but he'd taught Johnny some basics. It seemed like a fever, which would explain the weakness and the elevated temperature. Could dinosaurs even catch fevers?

Diego shook his head, pushing away some blond hair out from his droopy eyes. " Huh? Y-Yeah, yeah. I just get this way every now and then, like I don't know, once every two months? Doctors say it has something to do with my Stand and the fact that Stand are more powerful than nature intended animals to be?" The only odd thing was that, Diego wasn't shivering like someone when they were sick. Why would a Stand make its own User sick, if it's not meant to in order to do something else to another body nearby? There were cases of a User being hurt, and somehow that inflicted pain onto someone else, but this was different.

"Do you feel bad? Your head hurt or anything?" Johnny had certainly heard of Stands that were destructive to their users before, it wasn't entirely uncommon, but he couldn't imagine what part of Scary Monsters was making Diego sick. The Stand seemed pretty straightforward, as far as Stands went at least. It was really the short end of the stick if it caused periodic illness along with uncontrollable fits of dinosaur. Johnny stared into Diego's eyes, searching for any abnormality. They just looked tired.

The blond groaned a bit, " Just a little. It'll go away within the next day or so. I mean, this happens, and I normally don't remember things well. It's kinda like being on medication. Your sight gets weird, but you feel really good." Johnny couldn't tell if his new found friend or boyfriend was lying about this or correct. Maybe it was a mixture of both. " No one's ever been right next to me when it happens." He looked flustered and exhausted as hell, that was for sure. However, upon further inspection, his eyes had gone to the slits of a cat's pupil. They strained themselves onto Johnny with some type of look of waiting to pounce and confusion, being scared to move. His entire body froze up, yet he didn't grow scales or anything like he would.

The eyes were starting to creep Johnny out. He hugged Diego tight and kissed him on the cheek. "You know what I want?" Diego shook his head. "I want to wrap you up in a blanket and take care of you." It was hopelessly domestic, something Johnny knew Gyro would have mocked him mercilessly for. Hell, he was about to mock himself for it. But that didn't make it any less true. "Once you're out of here, I'll let you curl up in my bed whenever you feel bad and get Gyro to make you soup or something. And then I'll stay with you all day and we can talk about nothing until you're better." Diego remained silent for a small while before Johnny felt the hands on him started to twitch like a kitten sleeping. Just soft sudden impulsed jumps from the hands, bumping into Johnny lightly. Diego always did enjoy just lulling around under the warmth of the other, much like lazy lizards did, but something seemed off as he pulled his next action ut of nowhere. Diego suddenly pulled away from the comfort and domestic bliss to quickly hold his hands on Johnny's arms, pulling him for a sudden rough kiss. In fact... Diego didn't seem to use his teeth before, but Johnny could feel them sharpening like a blade.

Johnny broke off the kiss a little too quickly. He would definitely have to file those teeth under 'scary but also kinda hot', which was an ever-expanding category around Diego, but for now, he was still wary of Diego's Stand. The thought immediately sprung up, the fear that maybe this had all been a ploy, maybe Diego just wanted to kill him with no one there to stop it. Because of course, no one could ever love Johnny, it had to be false, Diego had to be lying. Johnny tried his best to dismiss the anxiety. Maybe Diego really did love him. But it wasn't loud enough to drown out the fear, not entirely. "What are you doing?"

Diego still didn't resemble his dinosaur-like patterns yet, no claws, no tail, no feathers nor scales. Just those ill yellow ridden eyes and slightly sharp teeth. His cheeks ran a fierce pink when they departed the kiss. " I-I don't know, this hasn't happened to me before-I'm in control, yet I'm not." He whined out a bit. What the hell was going on? He didn't even know, thus adding the more strange things onto the ever-growing oddities of Diego. After running a hand through the blonde hair, he locked up on sight again. This time, he snatched Johnny's wrists and pulled him over to give a fast but sharp nip to his shoulder. After which, he let Johnny go and scooted himself back, frightened for what he just did. " Oh my god, I-I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to..."

Johnny clutched his shoulder and stared at Diego in shock. There was warm blood beginning to seep through his shirt. But right now that wasn't his primary concern. He had to calm down Diego, or the situation would only get worse. "It's okay. No big deal." Johnny pulled himself forward and winced as the fabric of his shirt was dragged across the fresh wound, but he didn't stop crawling. "Diego, this isn't your fault. I don't hate you. Just calm down and everything will be fine." He wasn't that reassuring in the best of times, and this certainly wasn't the best of times. But it would have to do.

Diego did calm down from the reassurance, but still looked upset for yet another mistake he did. " Hold on." He got up and stumbled over to part of the wall, pushing on it, to reveal that it was actually a door leading to a bathroom. After a few jumbled noises and clattering, he came back next to Johnny and pulled down the red head's shirt a bit to put a bandage on him. Not as skillful as Gyro, but good enough. " Maybe it's best if you go. I'm normally in control, but I guess I act out when this happens, and when I break down, or feel threatened." He frowned, not wanting Johnny to leave, but he did seem rather worried. Johnny wanted to say something more, to insist that he stay to support Diego and help him deal with whatever this was, but instead, he just nodded. The truth was, he was scared. Not necessarily of what Diego might do to him, but of what that might do to Diego. Sanity was a fragile thing. Diego had killed before, and it had convinced him he was a monster. Another incident like that could do far worse. And there was Gyro to think about. He was already guilty enough about Johnny's physical condition, he didn't need something else to blame himself for. Johnny took a long look at Diego and turned away, crawling out of the cell and back towards his wheelchair. Diego sighed, wanting to help Johnny, even though he knew he didn't need it, and was normally stubborn about the damned chair. But in this case, he didn't want another slip up to happen.

 

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On the flip-side, Gyro sat on the fence of the stables from above while Hot Pants tended the minor yet stinging wound. " Did he bite you or something? I mean, I know you not the vanilla type but-ACK!" The dirty blonde was suddenly shoved off rather violently by Trish from behind, making the Zeppeli land flat on his ass. Trish folded her arms and rolled her eyes. Speaking of Trish... Johnny did have something to ask her-or well, The Passione.

"It's nothing." Johnny had done his best to dismiss the injury, but Gyro didn't seem ready to let it go. And maybe he was right. Johnny remembered something about how dangerous human bites could be. High risk of infection and everything. Although he wondered if that really applied in this case... Anyway, Trish was here, and now was as good a time as ever to ask. "Can you get a message to Giorno? Tell him I need to talk. It's a rather serious matter."

Gyro got up, rubbing his buns and giving the hot tinted pink colored girl with a glare. " Dude, you're lucky that Stand Users don't get sick easily..."

Trish scoffed, " Yeah, we all know, your ass would be riddled with STDs." She smirked, poking fun at Gyro as 'friends' would do. He took a gasp and started to mutter low in Italian. Trish's bright eyes turned to Johnny, " Huh? Oh, yeah sure. I mean, I can easily get Narancia to go get him real quick. Just meet over there where you two first talked, sure he'll be there." She gave a sincere smile before grabbing a pebble from the dirt and throwing it where Johnny couldn't see. They all heard the hyper User yell out. " OI! Go tell Giorno Johnny wants to meet him by the rocks, it's serious!" A few muttered complaints and Trish snatched another rock, making the ambiguous boy dart away. Giorno was the type of person who always had a plan. Johnny knew that, but he still was willing to trust him. It had to be desperation. That or Diego stopped him thinking clearly. Either way, it was probably another choice that, like doing favors for Valentine, would fuck him over in the long run. But it wasn't like he really had any other option. All he could do was wait where Trish said and hope the long run wouldn't be any time soon.

Sure enough, Giorno came around a few minutes later, strolling around a rather large rock, be it fake or real. Once the gold blonde came near Johnny, he cocked his head, raising a brow of interest. " Trish and Narancia said you needed to talk to me. But before you say anything, I want-well, need to know how did the questions go? Did he actually answer them or reel back? All in all, I just want to know how things are going between the two of you." Sure the kid was more worried about Diego, but he did seem a bit concerned for Johnny's well being, though the stubborn Joestar wouldn't think of himself as much.

"It went well." Johnny didn't meet Giorno's eye. What was he supposed to say, that he and Diego were sort of a couple now? That seemed a little personal and perhaps not entirely true. There was that nagging doubt again, the one that whispered maybe Diego didn't love him, maybe it was just coincidence and he was no one special. But Giorno didn't need to know all those details. "They were very helpful. Thanks." The questions had been invaluable in getting Diego to open up about his past, but Johnny wasn't very good at gratitude, so that was about all he could manage.

Giorno on the hand sighed in relief, it felt like a heavy weight was now lifted off his chest. Sure he didn't look sincere, but his voice showed how relieved he was. Much like Johnny, he kept a stern face, and did his best to cover up a shred of emotion, but he lowered that guard down involuntarily. " I should be the one thanking you. But seeing as you have given me rather a great deal of comfort and relief, it is only fair I should do something in return sometime. But for now, what did you need exactly?"

"I can get Diego a permit to leave the basement." Johnny wasn't sure how this would go over, but Giorno didn't seem like a snitch. "Valentine has agreed to give me one in exchange for one of the keys the security staff carry. I don't know your Stand very well, but Gyro says it's some powerful shit and you've got considerably more friends than I do. So I need your help stealing the key."

Giorno tucked an elbow onto the other arms wrist, letting the free hand tap a finger on his chin as he listened. " He could finally take a look around after five years. I know that would be beautiful for anyone given the circumstances. I don't know much about Valentine unlike two of my friends... Security are tough costumers, especially Kars." He was saying all of this out loud to clear out a plan, describing it all out as his mind formed a way around all the obstacles. " Hrm, yes, yes." A sly smirk ran up his face, chuckling lightly in a sinister tone, or at the least, mischievous, " Stealing you say? Hehehe, oh, yes~. Aherm, meet me at room five-twenty-two on the north side hallways. It's a large room, you can't miss it. Come alone or with your lanky friend, up to you." He said before taking his leave. Johnny could hardly believe it. Had it really been that easy? Giorno seemed too proper to be a delinquent, but maybe he was. Either way, there was no turning back at this point. They were going to steal the key. And as he watched Giorno's golden hair disappear around a corner of the building, he realized he wasn't worried. It was all for Diego, after all. He was willing to do whatever it took, fuck the consequences.

Chapter Text

Gyro stood beside his friend, placing both hands on hips, looking at the two doors that led into what could have only been a recreation room The Passione made their own. He gave Johnny a look, before cracking a huge smile, trying not to laugh. " Pttth-ahahaha! Ohoho my god! Hahaha, oh man! These kids think they're like a fucking mafia or something! Oh lord, that's fucking cute." He chuckled merrily as he opened the twin doors only to have Mista point his Stand's pistol and several clicks, though no guns were seen. Gyro quickly put his hands up, being in a predicament like this once. " ..." With a quick peek of the room, there were only three of the kids there, making the recreation room look like a kids version of mafia living room or office.

Giorno waved to them, sitting on a plush looking couch. " Over here-not a word on how childish this room looks. It was the best we could do." He groaned lightly as tons of childlike drawings clouded up a wall, away from a bulletin board which seemed to have actual writing on the notes.

Johnny, of course, couldn't help himself. "No, I like the atheistic. Sort of an Al Capone goes to kindergarten vibe." He wheeled into the room and stopped in front of Giorno. "So what's the plan?" Giorno did look like he had one, and Johnny didn't find that at all surprising. He was clearly a quick thinker. All Johnny knew of Giorno's Stand was what he'd seen, which had been Giorno turning a snake into a pen and vice versa. It was probably something more than that.

Giorno took in a deep sharp breath as he closed his eyes. This was going to be slightly painful... He opened them and gave a small smile to cover up a harsh glare from the two poking fun at The Passione's 'office'. " If you don't know, Kars is one of the most stubborn and temperamental people around here. Even more hardheaded than you or Valentine. He only has one weak point, and that's not even his brothers. He has a soft spot for animals, he enjoys nature. If I can somehow distract him, say an animal being in the facility and in danger, he's sure to come rushing. I will need you and your lackey-"

" HEY!"

" To get his attention and act, being worried for its care, since let's face it, both of your Stands wouldn't really be able to do much but more harm, no offense. And that is where my dear friend, Buccellati comes in." He gestured to a much taller boy with not as much of an obnoxious bowl cut as Joshuu, wearing a white long-sleeved shirt with Dalmatian spots all around. The new boy looked as serious as Mista, given the harsh look in his eyes.

"Well, that's quite a name." Johnny couldn't pin down the language. French maybe? It didn't matter. "What can he do?" If this new guy was supposed to pull off a sneak attack on Kars, the plan was worse than he'd expected from Giorno. The boy was tall, but he didn't have much else going for him in a fight. Gyro would be a better option. At least he had some muscle. The first part of the plan sounded good. Giorno could create an animal easily, and it would make a fine distraction. But the rest...

Buccellati narrowed his eyes at Johnny. He wasn't used to having his Stand questioned, and Giorno hadn't explained exactly what he meant by 'a new job' yet. With him, it could be anything. Even though Buccellati was technically the leader of their little gang, he trusted Giorno to know what he was doing despite his younger age. The boy was smarter than his age implied. " So... What can he faze people with his fucking shirt, 'cuz, it's doing horrible wonders for my eyes already." Gyro teased, still not seeing the entire point of the leader, then the planner.

Girno sighed, yup this was painful for sure. At the quick-witted comment, Giorno gave a harsh glare to the dirty blond, face unmoving, " He can create zippers, allowing him to nearly go anywhere, or just have a part of his own body to stick out. It's highly dangerous, enough to unzipping your daft head off your gangly body." Right before Gyro could counter-argue, Giorno simply put his hand out to his friend. " He is how we are going to get the key, give it to Valentine, and return it before Kars' head spins around and goes into a rampage, capiche'?." Gyro backed his talk down with a grumpy look spread across his face. He was just cranky from getting one-upped by someone much younger than him, who actually knew what he was doing.

Johnny trusted Giorno. He knew he shouldn't, but he did. Trusting people had been one of his many mistakes. That, and trusting himself. "When will you be ready to pull off the theft?" Sooner was better, especially with how strange Diego had been when they'd last met. It probably wasn't a good sign, biting people you claimed to love. Not exactly an omen of good mental health.

 

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Gyro was a remarkable man, as in, he knew how to act, especially with his goofy nature out. He nearly kicked in the door to the security, momentarily cursing and grabbing at his foot since it was locked. " Son of-" Then came the obnoxious pounding on the door. " HEY, HEY, HEY! KARS! Kars, Kars-" The large man inside the office looked away from several monitors and groaned before pulling himself from his chair and opening the door to give Gyro and Johnny a glare that could pierce the soul. He didn't even ask, 'what?'. Gyro gave a nervous smile, still caressing his foot, " H-H-Hey there big guy! Uhm, sorry to ya know, be noisy, but, there's a fuckin' badger-" Johnny interjected with, ' Raccoon'. " Right, right, possum-whatever in the outer area?" Kars stern menacing glare didn't let up, but he did raise a dark purple brow.

"Yep," Johnny said, trying his best to sound convincing. "A raccoon. Dunno' how it got in, but it's there." He looked up at Kars and then just kept looking up, since there was still a lot of the man left once you reached normal person height. This really was a stupid idea. "I saw it near the stables. Just hanging out in a tree." There was, in fact, a raccoon outside. About five minutes ago, it had been a rather large rock, but now it was a living creature, which must be a confusing change. Giorno really was powerful if he could do something like that. It was some Frankenstein shit, just creating life.

Kars sighed and rubbed his forehead in annoyance before walking out, nearly trampling over Gyro. " Are you sure it's a raccoon?" Gyro nodded as he followed the billowing man, agreeing indeed it was. The guard finally got to the outside area and headed straight to the stables, moving his hand over his eyes to look around the trees. " What in the hell-How did it get in here?" He mumbled to himself before actually climbing the tree to gently pick it up by the scruff, without any trouble, even if it had hissed at him and climbed away, acting much like an actual raccoon in the wild.

Gyro watched from below with his friend, " God, the guys like a friggin' giant ass squirrel. That's terrifying..."

Johnny shrugged. "It's okay. The people hands are a little weird, but that's about it." Buccellati took a peek out of the zipper he'd created in a nearby tree. Sure enough, Kars was there, and he looked completely fascinated by the oversized rodent. That would make it easier. Still not easy, but easier. He climbed out of the tree trunk and zipped the hole back together, allowing the zipper to disappear. It would require a careful plan of attack, and the whole thing was on a time limit. Once Kars dealt with the raccoon and returned to his duties, the opportunity would be lost. Buccellati crept forward and opened a zipper just out of Kars' view, on the other side of the tree he was currently climbing. From there, he would have access to the man's back pocket.

" Who said I was talkin' bout the coon?" Gyro asked quietly.

Kars carefully climbed down, or more as well, dropped down landing on his feet. Still had it by the scruff, putting it into his arms, managing to keep it from moving, though it clawed out a bit in defense. Kars, however, was not phased. He looked to the two younger men with an unamused stare. " So you two were just wandering the stables and saw it? Why would either of you have business here? I know you enjoy the horses Gyro, and HP, but what of him? If you were a genuine friend, you might have brought a pony out to help him cope, instead of making him wheel all the way over here."

 

Gyro puffed up his chest like the vibrant peacock he was, " Hey, me and HP are just friends! And besides, Johnny here is a jockey!" Gyro didn't stutter once from fear of the overgrown man, and most of all... He didn't say 'Johnny was a jockey'. He still had the idea his friend still is one.

Kars huffed lightly, " How sad." He didn't sound sincere in anyway, making more of a statement.

Johnny crossed his arms and glared at Kars. He knew he couldn't start anything, not with Diego on the line, so kept quiet about it. And Gyro helped. He still thought of Johnny as a competent racer, and even if it wasn't true anymore, it meant something. His attention was soon drawn away from Kars himself, and to the tree behind him. Johnny tried his best not to stare, but it wasn't every day you saw a man unzip a tree. Buccellati reached out from his hiding place and unzipped the back pocket of Kars' jeans. It was a shallow zipper, just through a single layer of fabric, and that made it rather delicate. His awkward positioning didn't help matters either. There was a small, silver key, alone on a ring, and Buccellati managed to snag it with his finger before ducking back into the trunk. Kars didn't feel a thing.

Kars' brow raised as his eyes glanced to Johnny looking somewhere. He was about to turn his gaze behind him, but something more caught his eagle eyes. " GIORNO GIOVANNA BRANDO!" He shouted out in only what could be one-fifth of his true anger. The golden blond had been keeping an eye from behind a group of rocks with a tree. He had walked out on purpose. Maybe that raccoon was a part of the blonde, analyzing Johnny's expressions. Giorno took in a gulp, which was rare for the boy before walking over like a disciplined child. Gyro watched in a cold sweat.

" Yes sir?" Giorno tilted his head down with his eyes looking up. Johnny could see the true Brando side of him, pretending and acting more weak than he really was.

" Is this yours?" Kars asked darkly. Even from inside the tree, Buccellati almost jumped at the sudden yell. He scrambled to exit out through the opposite side, and closed the large, obvious zipper. But it seemed Kars was preoccupied. The mission had been a success. Buccellati pocketed the key and casually strolled back inside. Johnny just barely remembered to breathe. That had been too close. If Kars had realized what they were doing... Well, he didn't know exactly what, but it wouldn't be good.

" No sir. I hadn't even noticed it, how did it get in?"

" Don't play dumb with me, Brando." Giorno gritted his teeth, that name was always thrown around like a damned curse. Kars let up a faint smile as his eyes narrowed down to the boy, " How about we test if it really is dumb luck of a coincidence. Use your Stand." Giorno took in a shallow breath before looking up to him. His golden Stand appeared above him and waved its hand across the raccoon... Nothing happened and the Stand vanished. Kars, not being happy with the results let go of its scruff but kept it in a firm hold. Sure the man could have easily killed it, making it turn into a rock, but he had to make sure. " Pet it then." Giorno gave him a worried look. It was hard to tell if he was acting or not now. The boy put his hand out to the animal slowly, hand shaking. As soon as it got close enough, the raccoon actually lashed out, grabbing hold of Girno's hand, clawing at it and biting him. Gyro jumped, surprised to see Giorno yelp in pain by his own creation. Kars quickly took a more firm hold on its scruff, pulling it away, shocked for once.

Johnny watched, just as surprised as Gyro. Surely Giorno had some degree of control over his creations? It was a clever ploy, and one that probably took a strong will. With a few exceptions, Stands protected their users from harm on a subconscious level. For Giorno to hurt himself with his Stand even indirectly, he would have to completely override his own survival instinct through sheer force of will. The boy was certainly someone Johnny didn't want to cross. Giorno again played it up by grasping his hand and shaking slightly, even adding a sniffle or two for good measure. Kars' expression was hard to read, it was certainly one not many people were use to. " I... I am sorry. Forgive me. Go see the nurses about infection, though you Stand Users resist most illnesses. Go just in case. Afterward, let HP know." With that, the massive man walked off to go put the raccoon outside. Gyro finally let out a breath he had been holding in and looked over to Giorno.

Girono stopped his weakling act and stood straight to face them both, still holding his torn up hand. " That was stupid of you to look elsewhere, but other than that you two pulled it off. It takes a lot to pretend I can't make something I made to turn back. And even more, to make it attack myself. Johnny, I hope you now see, you're not the only one who's desperate to help my cousin."

It was a strange feeling, being scolded by someone four years younger, but Giorno was right. Johnny had almost fucked it up. But now they had the key, and that was one step closer to Diego's freedom. And Johnny had another ally, one who was willing to do anything for Diego, same as he was. "Thanks, Giorno," he said and turned back towards the buildings. "Diego's going to be fine. I promise you he will be."

 

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Gyro took a stride into Valentine's office, like the cock of the walk many people could call him as, and further irritating Valentine. Gyro gave a golden grilled grin and placed the key on the office's desk, " Bam! How ya' like that, Pretty In Pink?!" Johnny had to be thankful that since if he were toke poke fun at Valentine, it'd end badly, but Gyro had nothing to lose.

"That will-" Valentine looked down at the key and stopped short. There was no way. Kars didn't even carry that one most of the time. "Where did you find this?" He held up the silver key and sure enough, there was no mistaking it. One of the Foundation's carefully guarded skeleton keys.

"In Kars' pocket." Johnny was suddenly nervous. Had they gone through all that for nothing? Giorno certainly wouldn't be pleased if he had to help them again, and Kars probably wouldn't fall for the same trick twice. "Is it the wrong one?"

"No, no." Valentine said, perhaps a little too quickly. "It's right. Just a touch... unexpected."

Gyro blinked, a bit unnerved as well, " Unexpected? How many keys does the guy have on him-I mean, what's so uhh, Troubling?" Gyro was as confused as his friend, if the key was right, then why did the other man seem relatively shocked by it? He looked down to Johnny giving a baffled look before eyeing the key again. Was it a working fake or something along drastic half-brained ideas Gyro normally could come up with when discussing things with Joseph?

"Yes." Valentine slipped the key into an inner pocket of his jacket. "This will do nicely." He took out a stack of carefully printed documents and added his own signature to the first page. "There," he said, handing Johnny a couple pages. "The necessary paperwork for Diego to be allowed upstairs for up to two hours at a time. Supervised by a stable Stand user, of course." The key was quite a find. He would be able to make great use out of it. Johnny stared at the papers in his hand. It was all a mess of jargon and legal wording, but it looked right. He could hardly believe it. For the first time in years, Diego would see the outside world.

Gyro looked over it, and being a rookie medical assistant, he could read most of the jumbled mess. His eyes widened as a certain sentence poked out from the scrabbling jumble of words, " Whoa, dude! You're allowed a room for an extra thirty minutes!" Gyro remembered the time Kakyoin had gotten this granting the 'legal' way, and how him and Jotaro spent time relaxing to music and selective talking from how quiet the other Joestar was. There was something wrong with the key. Johnny could tell Valentine had gotten more than he'd asked for, but he wasn't in a position to charge a higher price at this point. It was enough to just have this. Diego all to himself. The thought felt like fire.

 

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The next morning was something Johnny would never forget. That being he'd finally get to spend actual alone time with Diego without the presence of cameras looming overhead and for the imprisoned man to finally have a taste of freedom again. However, that wasn't the only thing... Gyro was brewing up some fresh coffee for him and his friend, already up and at 'em. He inhaled the smell of the brew, pouring some into a mug before looking over the kitchen's sidebar island to see if Johnny had gotten up or not. With the cup at his lips, his face drained, dropping the mug onto the tile of the kitchen. " Holy fuck... J-Johnny. PST! JOHNNY!" he quietly yelled over. Once Johnny awoke, Gyro stepped over slowly. " Dude, don't freak out, but there's a fuckin' snake in your bed. Just don't move..." He snuck over to the tail end poking out from the bed. Gyro quickly grabbed it and pulled back.

Johnny rubbed at his eyes. He wasn't exactly a morning person. "Wha-" Suddenly, he was yanked backwards off the bed, clawing at the sheets as they were ripped out of his grasp. He landed on the cold, hard floor in a heap. Luckily most of the impact was dulled by his legs. "Gyro! What the fuck?!" He'd banged his elbow in the fall, just in that place where it really fucking hurt. The morning was definitely not the right time for practical jokes. And especially not this morning. "Not funny!"

Gyro let go of the long scaled a slightly coated feathery tail, keeping a frightened face on pause. The roommate started to produce the sound which could only e described as a little tiny screaming girl in one pitch of volume, not too loud, but certainly not too quiet. Gyro fumbled back, tripping over the couch's back and tumbling over the entire thing, landing on the other side and the floor. He snatched the couch's backboard and peeked out. " DUDE! Yo-y-y-you've got a tail!"Johnny knew it was serious when the Zeppeli didn't even go back to pick his favored hat up from falling off his head.

Johnny looked down and, well, Gyro was right. There was a tail poking out from the back of his pajama pants, long and slender and distinctly reptilian. And very familiar. "I'm gonna fucking kill, Diego." Scary Monsters was a weird Stand, but Johnny hadn't thought it was this weird. Maybe it was contagious and he was about to go full dino and murder his best friend. Between that and having a tail for the rest of his life, Johnny wasn't sure which was worse. He attempted to move the tail and to his surprise, it worked perfectly fine. Like a clumsy, awkward third arm, but completely under his control. It seemed Stands were unaffected by paralysis.

Gyro quickly hopped over and knelt down to his friend, grabbing the sides of his face and handling Johnny's head in different directions like a monkey trying to figure out how to assess a computer, " Hrmm. Well, good note, no sharp teeth, pupils still the same." He stopped and grabbed Johnny's arms, " No odd pigmentation, no claws, no scales or feathers. How do you feel? Do you feel a craving of meat, plant matter, how many fingers am I holding?!" He lifted three fingers, this was just how gyro acted when nervous, nothing serious. But upon all that, Johnny felt... Normal, or well, as normal as a handicapped Stand User who use to be a jockey could, aside from the whole tail thing.

"I'm fine. Get out of my face." Johnny really didn't feel any different. It was almost a disappointment. If Diego was going to make him into a weird half-lizard, then he might as well get some cool dino-senses out of the deal. The tail didn't seem very helpful. It was muscular and looked pretty strong, but it clearly lacked precision in its movement. And it probably wouldn't do him any favors when it came to walking, which was a delicate enough task already. Johnny crawled towards the bed and tried to climb up, only succeeding in pulling a mess of blankets onto the floor with him. "Help me up. I'm going back to sleep."

 

----------------

Meanwhile as Johnny was dealing with problems of the reptilian kind and lulling himself back to sleep, down in the basement, Robert popped into Diego's room. Today was a good day for him, Kawajiri had called in sick, letting him travel about with his good friend, or best friend in the whole damned place, Jonathan. Seeing the more unstable Users would be a breeze today since the stress of his superior wasn't around to criticize him. Robert looked over to the crystal clear glass panning holding a large pillow. He never liked this part of Diego Brando. Every two to three months or so, the young man would go into what the scientists could only describe, 'rut', always poking fun that it was the time of the month. Diego would be moody, weak, hungry, frustrated, and heated instead of his normal chilled skin. However, Robert stopped as he saw Diego perfectly normal, sitting at the small table with his dinosaurs toys. " Wha...? Diego?"

Jonathan was just as confused as Robert. He checked his watch, one of those fancy ones with the date and everything that Erina had given him for his last birthday, and sure enough, it was the right day. Despite the abnormality of the situation, Jonathan couldn't help but be thankful Diego wasn't affected by the usual change. It was just a side effect of his Stand and everything, but it still felt like something Jonathan had no business seeing. Just supremely uncomfortable, like when he'd taken Erina and little George to the zoo and some of the primates had been... well... rather indecent. But Robert had asked for his company and he couldn't deny that, no matter the task. And as awkward as it was, part of his job was monitoring the physical health of the Stand users, even when it came to the personal details. Jonathan walked up to the glass and said, "Uh, Diego? How are you doing?"

Diego, all in all, seemed rather stable, or well as stable as he could. He glanced over and smiled, not too sure of himself. " Hey guys, I feel great! It's strange, but it's better than being all sick and stuff." Though his tail poked out and waggled. " Only thing is, I can't seem to put my tail away, but it doesn't bother me or anyone. I don't need anything."

Robert gave a questionable look before walking back just a bit, " Well, erm. T-That's good to hear." Robert was so baffled, he could have sworn that Diego's primal cycle lasted a couple of days or so. He had just found out about it yesterday, and now all traces vanished away, like Diego could actually control some decency and being civilized. Which again, wasn't his fault, it was just the nature of his Stand.

"Nothing else abnormal?" Jonathan had to admit he was getting a bit worried. Diego had been making great progress now that he was allowed greater contact with Johnny, although he still had his suspicions about the permit itself, and the tail was a touch concerning. A shorter cycle could be explained by better control of the Stand, perhaps Diego was able to subconsciously suppress changes in behavior now that he was more balanced mentally, but in that case, the tail should also be missing. That is, if Scary Monsters followed any form of logic, which Stands tended to avoid. "Have you been, uh, feeling those urges lately? The desire to..." Jonathan trailed off. It simply wasn't right to discuss these sorts of things with anyone other than your own spouse. But if he didn't ask, who knew what could happen? The whole Foundation might be in danger. "The impulse to, well, copulate."

The younger man behind the glass tried to think and shook his head, " No, not really. I mean normally the day after it hits hard, but nothing." He shrugged. Diego just seemed happy that the cycle went and gone like nothing happen. Robert put the pillow onto a table, leaning against the table itself to think, or at the very least try for this odd situation. He knew Diego would never go for any of his plushies, they were too precious to him, in fact when the first time this had happened, Diego actually bit his own wrist when reaching for one. There was some humanity he could bestow upon his Stand's instincts. So not needing the large pillow, was rather off.

Robert shrugged to his friend, "Maybe it was just a small spurt?"

"Maybe." Jonathan's voice was barely above a whisper. He knew far too well just how dangerous Diego could be. Anything abnormal and unexpected could easily mean a lapse in Stand control, and the result could be devastating. "Keep an eye on him and make a note of any other unusual behavior." It would be a tragedy if Diego relapsed. Not just for potential victims, for Diego himself. He had made so much progress in a few short months. Jonathan spoke louder again, addressing Diego. "Everything seems to be fine for now. Tell Robert if anything changes, alright?"

Robert nodded and whispered back, jotting some things down, " Got it." He deeply thought nothing would go wrong today, it had been going quite swimmingly to his likening, but there usually seemed to be a bump in every good day for him it seemed.

Diego watched as the two began to leave, raising a hand up to a half-hearted wave of a goodbye, " Sure thing, thanks for the checkup." With that, Diego went back to his small toy table and looked at his plushies. Jonathan could hear him mutter something like, ' Okay, now repeat after me, A. B. C'

 

-----------------------

Johnny, as mad as he was about the whole tail situation, was still looking forward to seeing Diego that day. The tail itself ended up being much less inconvenient than it had seemed at first. Johnny had figured it would be rather problematic when combined with things like pants and the fact that he spent a large part of his time sitting down, but it just sort of worked. He put on his clothes same as always, and there was the tail, right on top of the fabric. And it managed to stay out of the way once he sat in his wheelchair. Stands were weird. Of course, that didn't make the tail okay. Johnny had not agreed to this, and that meant Diego had to fix it as soon as possible. Which would be soon. Johnny had shown the permit to one of the security guards, thankfully not the one they had stolen from, and now he and Gyro were waiting for Diego to show up at their door.

Gyro leaned his back against the wall, crossing his arms, looking deep in thought, " Damn... I haven't seen the guy in like five or six years. This is going to be like a weird ass reunion." He occupied himself with his own thoughts instead of talking. That was until several hardy knocks came to the door before opening, as another muscular and well-toned man similar to Kars peeked his head in. " Johnny and Gyro, correct?"

" Sup Wams?"

" Not much, here's the guy you wanted to see. Remember if something goes wrong to contact someone." He passed over a clicker of some kind to Johnny. " Now if you'll excuse me, Joseph's waiting outside for a race, and Esidisi bet on me." With that, he opened the door all the way, nudging in Diego with what he use to wear. Besides the sweater and leather colored pants he always had on, he was finally able to have his old black varnish boots, belt, gloves, and of course, that stupid hat with the words 'DIO' on it. Wammu left, closing the door as Diego looked rather frightened, either from the new area, over excitedness, or being handled by a large man. He tucked his arms to his chest, stood up straight, knees nearly touching the other with a part of his tail curled in-between his ankles.

Guyro looked over, eyes widening, " Whoa... Holy fuck, he's so skinny."

Johnny didn't know what to say. This was what he had been working for, Diego able to leave that lonely little cell and be a part of the rest of his life. And it had happened, not completely yet, but sort of. Johnny reached for his crutches and stood, more than a bit unstable, and walked towards Diego slowly. It must be overwhelming, all this change at once, and it showed on Diego's face. And it must strange for Gyro as well. He hadn't seen Diego in years. "Hey," Johnny said, like that was a smooth way to open a conversation. His legs weren't cooperating very well. Enough to keep him standing, but not much more than that. "Diego, I'm right here." Gyro looked at him funny, so Johnny gave a quick explanation. "He can't see that well."

Diego blinked a bit, still scared of the new surroundings, he had barely remembered the surface of the building, only passing by it one time, and that had been his last for years. But here he was, after a nervous breath in and out, he acted out slightly by picking Johnny up and putting him in his wheelchair. His main focus was Johnny, since he was the only he could connect with outside of his cell. He hadn't noticed the tail, he was too preoccupied with helping Johnny out before looking around and kneeling beside the wheelchair, peeking his head about to look at all the new things. " Is this real?"

" Real as it's gonna' be. Soooo, he's a dinosaur now? That's his Stand?" gyro quirked a brow while Diego slowly took in the new surroundings.

"It's a bit more complicated than that." Johnny wasn't really paying attention to Gyro. He had Diego to deal with. Had it been anyone else, Johnny would have been pissed about them manhandling him. But he could forgive Diego, especially when he was so overwhelmed. Of course, he wanted to make sure Johnny was safe. It was even kind of cute. Johnny took Diego's hand and held it tight. "It's real. I'm real." He couldn't tell if the man believed him or not. Being around Diego was going to be more complicated with Gyro thrown into the mix. He probably wouldn't be too eager to watch Diego and Johnny kiss and cuddle like they usually did.

Gyro did feel out of place and awkward, especially since Diego himself was more fearful of his surroundings at the moment, than people. " You guys have a nice room." Diego complimented quietly, easing his way into adjusting himself. It all just seemed like another room to him. He wasn't sure what he was expecting, did Gyro and Johnny get locked up here in this better room like he was when in his cell?

Gyro, one for caring about the horses and reading a bit of their movement even more now that Hot Pants further taught him, noticed the look in Diego's expression. He coughed a bit, " You uh... You know, we have an outside area?" Diego's eyes lit up, looking at Gyro like he just saw something shine upon him in the horizon. Diego had always been cooped up in a room, never experiencing actual movement at his leisure.

Johnny worried that it might be too much for Diego, but he couldn't exactly deny him a trip outside. So he let go of Diego's hand and wheeled to the door. "It's just down the hall." The crutches still lay where Diego had left them, and Johnny figured he wouldn't be comfortable with the one person he trusted in danger of falling. The wheelchair would do. "Come on, Diego. What are you waiting for?" Gyro must think they were insane, that he was insane for putting up with this. But he did. Johnny liked being in control. He hated that Diego was so broken, but he didn't mind taking care of him. It was nice.

Chapter Text

Gyro helped his friend's new friend and previous rival outside. The more golden blonde nearly clung onto gyro's arm and Johnny's wheelchair handle when walking in the hallway, like he was about to fall down or was walking on a tightrope. But once they went outside, Diego didn't hobble anymore and instead walked forward a bit, letting the sights, sounds, and smells overflow him. Sure he stayed still for a moment or so, but then let out a deep breath of relief, much like heavy chains finally being taken off from him. He walked back to them, taking off his boots, gloves, and hat, giving them to Gyro who questioned at first, but stopped as he watched the previous jockey quickly snatch up Johnny with ease and put him into a piggyback position. " Whoa, whoa, hey wait a minute, Diego what the fuck are you doing?!" Diego started to walk quicker and further away from Gyro, leaving him behind. Johnny could soon feel Diego's body ripple and bones contort.

Johnny threw his arms around Diego's neck as it lengthen under his hands, the skin hardening into scales. They moved faster and faster, and Diego broke into a run with Johnny just clinging to his back. He was fully dinosaur now, and Johnny knew that should frighten him, but if anything it made him feel safe. Like Diego could just keep running and no one would ever be able to touch Johnny again. The grass whipped by in a green blur and Johnny relaxed into the feeling of movement. It was so very familiar, and something he thought he'd never feel again.

Diego did run fast, and possibly could run even faster, but Johnny could tell that somewhere in this twisted dinosaur form, he was restraining himself, making sure not to make any sharp turns or go to fast. Fast yet steady just for him. Resonance of how he use to race came to mind, just like the horses he rode would be there for him when he was much younger, more older and experienced, making sure he didn't fall off. Diego had passed by a small building that resembled a bakery shop, no doubly made by the chef User Tonio, who helped out so much, that he was able to talk the scientists into the small abode. Inside Trish had been chatting with her fellow friends until Narancia stopped sipping from his cup and glanced out the window. " WOAH!" He pressed up against the glass, forgetting about his drink, making it splash all over him and the window, " AWWW SHIT!"

Just besides them sitting at the other window was Kakyoin and Jotaro enjoying some tea. The bright redhead nearly dropped his cup as he looked out the window, " ... J-Jotaro. isn't that your cousin?"

 

"That's enough." Johnny patted Diego's side, careful not mess with his feathers. They looked pretty delicate, if something connected to a creature as powerful as a dinosaur could be called delicate. "You're freaking out Gyro. And everybody else." This was why he loved Diego. Because he had known how much something like this would mean to Johnny, and he had done it without having to ask. Diego knew him almost too well. Or maybe it was just what he wanted to do and Johnny's happiness was merely a coincidence. Either way, it was wonderful.

Diego slowed downed to a trot and panted like a very pleased dog. It was surely incredible, that something like this was from and still was human. Happily chirping as he trotted back over to gyro who had put Diego's possessions in Johnny's wheelchair, running over. The dirty blonde nearly tripped over the chair once he came over to them o stop. " H-H-HOLY SHIT DUDE! That was scary as hell! But... That was pretty friggin' awesome, not gonna' lie. Not every day you see a dinosaur taking your best friend for a ride." Gyro was only panicky because out of nowhere a dinosaur, but the way he smiled to them both, made Johnny sure, he felt Johnny was safe with Diego. If he hadn't he would have used his Stand to do something to stop Diego... Or maybe if he did, it'd hurt Johnny in turn. Diego got close to Gyro who was now a bit weirded out by the whole dinosaur thing, but calmed down as the dinosaur knelt down aside the wheelchair, biting his own possessions to pick them up like a dog or cat would.

Johnny leaned over and kissed Diego on his neck, which was about as close to his cheek as he could reach at the moment, and slid off his back and into the wheelchair. The scales felt strange against his lips, like kissing a rock. "See? He's great." He wanted Gyro to like Diego, and he wasn't exactly sure why. Maybe he planned on Diego remaining a part of his life for a while, one Gyro would have to learn to put up with. The idea of a long-term relationship was a new one to Johnny. He preferred to think of him and Diego in the moment, and as they were, something like marriage wasn't looking likely in the near future. And Johnny didn't want to think about stuff like that. It would only make losing it more painful, and he knew he would lose it eventually. He lost everything.

Diego let out a pleasing trill before getting back up and cocking his head to Gyro. Gyro reached his hand over to the dinosaur's snout, Diego's head cocked to the side like he really was an animal and Gyro was someone he never even knew, smelling the fingers. Gyro gulped lightly, he only knew how to really deal with animals like this, make them get use to one's scent, but a half animal, half human... That was just freaky. Diego's sickly yellow eyes watched him before he slowly morphed back into a human, scales, and feathers seeping back into him. The transformation looked painful, but Diego didn't seem hurt. Diego smiled and shook Gyro's hand. " That was... weird. And so is this. Uh, nice to see you?"

Diego shrugged, " It's fine. And good to see someone else I know is here." A sudden growl rumbled from somewhere, making Gyro nervously looked around, hoping this new Diego wasn't one for eating people. Diego looked down to his belly and rubbed the back of his neck, " Uhm.. Heh, you guys have somewhere to eat actual food?"

"Course we do." It was strange to think about how long Diego had spent underground, buried deep in the Foundation's basement. What did he get to eat down there? Johnny had seen one feeding, but that was more about satisfying animal needs than actually providing daily meals. Diego had to eat people food sometimes. And knowing the Foundation, it was probably shitty. "Hey Gyro, why don't you go grab us sandwiches or something from the cafeteria? We can have a picnic." That sounded like a dream, just sitting in the grass with Diego and Gyro, his two favorite people. Well, the only two people he actively liked being around.

Gyro huffed and joked with his friend, honestly just happy to help and possibly make a positive difference in someone's life for once, " You sooo owe me, dude." He said, gently punching Johnny's arm before walking to the inner buildings that surrounded them.

Diego sat down before laying fully onto the crisp green very well taken care of grass under him. He embraced the outdoors even if they had been man-made. The outside area was cared for that he didn't mind the meaningless chirps of real birds or bugs. He inhaled the cool air around them both before something caught his eye. " Wha th-Uhm..." He suddenly sprang up to sit, seeing something poke out from the side of Johnny's chair. " Is that...? What the hell?" He finally noticed the tail, took long enough, but it was understandable he only witnessed it now.

"Oh yeah. That." Johnny had honestly forgotten as well. He was kind of caught up in the fact that his sorta-boyfriend was actually there and then the whole dinosaur riding situation. "You gave me a fucking tail." That made it sound like some weird STD, which for all Johnny knew, wasn't incorrect. Could you catch dinosaur by fucking one? Not that he'd fucked Diego. Not yet. "And I didn't ask for a tail. So make it go away." That was really Johnny's major problem with it. The tail itself wasn't too much hassle, but it was the principle of the thing. Diego wasn't allowed to just give him lizard parts out of nowhere.

Diego gave a concerned look, touching the tail himself, " Wha-How the hell did I do that? I can't people dinosaurs, can I?" Distinct fears crawled from the very bottom and back of his mind. What if he could infect people? He could make a zombie apocalypse more of a cute fantasy at merely trying. But making people dinosaurs who were strong, fast, and killing machines... He shook his head, frowning, " I-I don't know. It's never happened before." He looked at his own, " Though, mine won't go away either." Thankfully Diego was in a place where he felt happy and with someone he enjoyed being around, so he wouldn't have a panic attack or meltdown.

Even as calm as he was, Johnny could still hear the panic in Diego's voice. "It's fine. If you really don't know how, then don't worry about it." The tail could be sorted out later. For now, he wanted to enjoy the time they had together. "You're looking a lot better than you were yesterday. Maybe it's because you were sick."

" I guess so, I hope it's not contagious." He let out a soft sigh and soaked up the peaceful atmosphere around them, getting his mind off the problem. Besides the whole tail thing, this was possibly the best damn day he's ever had, in fact, he soon said that. " This is the best day I've ever had... Okay, well, there was that time I got that one guy drunk and he drove into a ditch barely alive, but this is better." A bit morbid to bring up, but apparently that's what happens when one fucked with Diego to a certain point. Hopefully, Johnny didn't seem to be in that position anymore. Diego grabbed Johnny's hand and looked over at a manmade lake and smiled. " I only turned into a dinosaur to stretch my legs. But most of all, I know how you miss being a jockey. It's the only thing I can repay you with." He gave a toothy grin, wagging the feathered tail happily.

"Uh..." Johnny fumbled for words, his face turning a rather embarrassing shade of red. "Well... Uh... Thanks." He couldn't believe it. Diego honestly wanted to help him be happier. Kissing was nothing, just a simple action, but this... It was sweet, and he hadn't thought Diego was capable of sweet. And if he'd wanted to comfort Johnny, the short ride had done the task. "Thanks for- for noticing. That I missed it." He loved seeing Diego smile, but something about it made him feel like he couldn't sit still. Maybe that was love. Johnny gave Diego's hand a squeeze and tried to smile back.

Diego leaned on the wheelchair's side, still holding Johnny's hand. He knew how broken Johnny had sounded when the 'met' the first time, of how he couldn't ride anymore. Much like himself, he missed the horses and adrenaline, so the very least he could do was let someone who was a jockey experience it if only for a short time. Times like this he was reminded of his wife, watching various things while sitting next to each other. Those were possibly the best months of his life, and he desperately missed them. But now he had Johnny, and his smile was all that was needed to tell anyone he was happy. Eventually after a while of sitting there in peace Gyro came back with a small basket with food and a blanket. Gyro placed the fabric down while Diego sniffed and riffled through the basket asking what foods the other two wanted. Gyro was overly surprised how Diego was acting, it must have been because he was constantly in isolation, and figure why be a dick to the people who helped.

Johnny lowered himself to the ground carefully, using his wheelchair for support, and sat on the picnic blanket. He tapped Diego on the shoulder. "Quit it." The words weren't harsh, just a little reminder of how to act around other people. Diego had spent so much time alone, and Johnny wondered just how much he had forgotten. It was almost comical that Johnny, possibly the least polite person in the world, was criticizing the always so elegant Diego Brando on his manners. But that had been the Diego of long ago, and things changed. They never stopped changing. Johnny tugged on Diego's arm. "Don't worry about the food. Hold me."

Diego stuck out his tongue with the tip being forked, for all Johnny knew, just another side effect of what was going on with him. Thankfully Johnny could feel his own tongue not being split at the tip, so it was a plus. Diego leaned next to him and wrapped an arm over the back of his neck to pull him over a bit more while Gyro sorted out the food, quietly thanking Johnny from keeping Deigo from scavenging the basket. As they ate, Gyro chatted just a bit, not finding much in conversation, but also mostly watching Diego, not out of carefulness, but out of interest, seeing him able to eat normal food. He could have sworn with being a dinosaur hybrid he'd only eat like grass or meat. But he kept quiet, not wanting to go into awkward talks about anything and just let the two enjoy themselves. When they were nearly finished or just about, they noticed Diego wasn't scarfing food down, nor salivating at it. So best of case was that he did get food normally and it wasn't some gross prison food. So at the very least, the basement Users were treated with respectful food. They finished lunch quickly, and Johnny settled into the familiar comfort of Diego's arms. He wondered if Diego minded being so public about it all. Johnny had never bothered with hiding his dalliances, but Diego had been a proper gentleman and if Jonathan was to be believed, that meant little room for public displays of affection. Especially not with another man. Unless their relationship wasn't anything, to Diego at least, and he thought of Johnny as just another one of his stuffed animals. But as he lay against Diego's chest and listened to his heartbeat, the doubts grew softer. Diego was enjoying the moment, but unlike Johnny, was never too use to displaying affection in public, especially when he was a jockey. He had seen, read, and heard of various things of other jockeys that were well known, with the paparazzi stalking them here and there, and the occasional tabloid. He kept to himself and only acted in a sophisticated manner to fool people, so that he wouldn't have mindless stories written about him. He recalled seeing a few from Johnny, and having the thought of having stories around him, would just add another dent into his life. Gyro knew how Johnny was on the other hand and didn't question a thing when it came to public affection. He was just easing his way into the odd predicament of Diego now being there, since the young man had been such a devastating rival for Johnny in the past.

 

" Whooooa!" someone nearby exclaimed making Gyro look over in a glare for them ruining the moment for his best friend. Diego meanwhile shrunk a bit to try not to be seen.

" The hell you want... dude? Girl? W-What are you again?" Gyro raised a brow.

The ambiguous boy in orange huffed lightly as he came near with three other people, being Giorno, Trish, and Mista " I'm a man!"

" Call yourself whatever you want."

"Giorno." Johnny sat up and straightened his hat. As comfortable as he was about cuddling with Diego in front of pretty much anybody, he did not want to end up on Giorno's bad side. Especially since the boy had helped them with theft and could easily turn him in for that. There was something about Giorno that screamed sophistication, and whatever Johnny and Diego were, it was not sophisticated. "How nice to see you. I got the permit." He gestured at Diego.

Giorno stood there, and for all his class, the boy couldn't help but look startled, but in a good way. Diego gave Johnny a quick kiss on the cheek, thanking himself for hiding on the side of Johnny so no one of the group would see before getting up and walking over to his cousin. " Uncle Dieg-OH!" The taller of the two blondes snatched the younger one up quickly holding onto him and trying his best not to cry in pure joy to see his cousin in years. Giorno struggled to get a free arm and quietly calm the other down, patting his beck. Trish watched the touching moment of family reuniting, going ' awww', while Narancia was more confused and fascinated by the tail that swung around. " It's good to see you again." Diego put the other down and smiled, showing the slightly sharpen teeth, not startling the boy.

" It's so good to see you too. You've grown last time I've met you. Are those your friends?" Giorno nodded and introduced the other three before flashing a kind smile to Johnny.

Gyro patted Johnny's shoulder, " Just let 'em have a moment, least we could do for 'em. Sides, Girono will understand, so don't be all jelly."

"I know." Johnny had never really understood family. He remembered Nicholas of course, but he had just been a kid then, and kids didn't understand anything. And after Nicholas, family had meant nothing to him. He had spent the rest of his childhood desperately trying to not be alone anymore. His parents, the other Joestars, they had all been so far away. Family wasn't supposed to be like that. It was supposed to be kindness and warmth and jokes told across the dinner table, not solitude and a fragile silence.

 

" Whoa! That's so cool!" Narancia barked out, poking Diego's tail, receiving a sudden slap from Mista. Diego chatted with them while Giorno talked with him about certain things. Giorno seemed to be actually happy and not so damn tight and serious for once. It was a sweet moment, even if Johnny couldn't fully understand or empathize with it. Speaking of family matters...

Gyro raised a brow, " Huh? Oh fuck. Hey Johnny, big ol' Jojo is coming over." He tilted his hat down a bit to hide away any anxiousness as the large member of the family, Jotaro walked over with the more redheaded boy in green following him. The two had to be thankful that Diego was being called to away, but still nearby. Thankfully no enough for conversation distance. Jotaro looked pissed, which wasn't exactly unusual for him, but it still put Johnny on edge. He glared at Diego as he walked past, and the way he looked down at Johnny was far too intimidating for a casual meeting. Johnny returned the glare. Jotaro may be family, but Diego meant more than he did by a long shot.

"Johnny."

"Jotaro."

The man practically let off an aura of pure rage. "We need to talk."

Gyro gave a nervous signal to Trish who was able to catch glimpse of it. She insisted that they went over near the gardens, giving a worried half wave to the other two. Trish had grown up learning certain signals from being raised in a mafia disposition, which normally lingered on deadly matters. This was no different as she led the others away, whispering to Giorno. Giorno, taking a look back to Gyro and Johnny, giving an affirmative nod into keeping Diego away for the moment. Giorno tended to avoid Jotaro, though he knew Jotaro wouldn't pick a fight with him. But the two were still rocky in coming to contact, both avoided the other or ignored them. Gyro gave a nervous smile, trying to comb over the sudden tension " Heeeeeey, big guy, what's uhh... What's goin' on? We don't need to talk. I mean, what is there to talk abou-" Kakyoin who stood slightly ajar from Jotaro shook a flat hand in a swaying motion for Gyro to shut up. Obviously worried himself for the two friends.

Jotaro sighed. It was for the best. "You can't trust Diego. Look at him. He wears Dio's name on his hat." Brandos were no good for Joestars, Jotaro had learned that the hard way. He could still see Jonathan cowering, Dio ready to deliver a killing blow, could still feel the adrenaline of the moment and the way his muscles had moved without his direction. Johnny was an outsider, but he was still a Joestar. And Jotaro needed to protect him, maybe more than anyone else. Johnny was so small. "He's going to hurt you."

"Shut up!" Johnny wanted to fight back, to fire a nail bullet right into Jotaro's neck. "You don't know shit about him!" Jotaro had no business telling Johnny what to do. None of them did. What had they ever done for him? Just left him all alone, like everybody else.

Gyro quickly tackled Johnny, grabbing the arm away from pointing it at his taller cousin, " W-Whoa! J-Johnny, calm down! If you do something stupid, then you'll be sent down there for a week or two!" He whisked out one of the steel balls and put its gyrating spin on Johnny's wrist, making the hand fall asleep for the moment. " Listen, Johnny, Diego needs you, and that won't help. And you need me, because, without me, no one else will help you up here!"

Kakyoin sighed, feeling bad for what all was going on, " Jotaro, what if he's like Giorno? Yeah, he's a Brando, sure he bears the name, but, just because there's one bad seed, doesn't mean all of them are, right?" Kakyoin and Gyro never really got to know the whole issue with Joestars and Brandos. Maybe Johnny didn't know either, he WAS far away from the other family members.

"Right. Like Giorno." Jotaro still didn't trust the little blond brat who stole what he wanted and ran his friends like a gang. He was too ambitious, too much like Dio. He had that same terrible fire burning in him, that endless need for more power and more status and more and more until the whole world belonged to him. And Jotaro couldn't let someone like Johnny get caught up in all that. Sure, Johnny wasn't a saint, but he hadn't exactly had an easy time of it. He deserved safety. "Bullshit." Johnny knew he couldn't afford to do anything stupid. And he wasn't about to ruin things for Diego, not when he was having such a good day. All he could do was glare at Jotaro and imagine it would somehow stop his heart.

As if things couldn't get any worse, Diego just happen to walk back over, even though the kids had yelled and tried to distract him. Trish and Giorno both trying to reason to him while Mista and Narancia held tightly onto the slithering tail, to pull him back, only to get dragged across the dirt and grass. Gyro looked over in shock, they only had one job to do! Giorno stayed back a bit, the others could hear a hint of fear in it as he pleaded Diego to come back. But, Diego ignored him, something was telling him that Johnny wasn't in a good position. Possibly due to his dinosaur side picking up certain things, like how animals did with fear. Diego tilted his head, " You guys doing okay?" He had to make sure Johnny was doing alright, ever since they finally connected. He looked up to see the other Joestar, immense in size. " Oh, hello, are you a friend of Johnny's?" Gyro all the while hid his face in his palms, cursing in Italian.

"Cousin." Jotaro had a good foot and a half on Diego, and he was considerably more muscular. If it came to a fight, he would have the upper hand easily. "What about you? What's Johnny to you?" The correct answer was nobody, just a coincidence that Diego's savior was a Joestar and not some underhanded strategy by Dio himself. But he didn't trust Diego to tell the truth anyway. Dio certainly never did. He had talked about Jonathan like a brother, and then stabbed him in the back. Almost literally.

" Oh, I wasn't aware he had so many family members. My cousins never went into too much. He's uhh..." Having the two families next to another, along with having a crush on the one who was helping him, was certainly awkward enough. Diego cleared his throat, " Well, he was-hehe, keyword, 'was' an old rival. But we're friends now." He gave slight toothy smile unintentionally. Gyro peeked over before returning to his position, groaning. " It's um, nice to meet you... uhm...?" Giorno, for all of his aura of not being messed with, was one to know not to go near Jotaro, which made this more difficult. All he really could do was watch with the others, unsure how to interact with this awkward moment. Giorno and his friend suddenly noticed another tail hiding away near Johnny's leg, which made them tense up more.

"Jotaro was just leaving," Johnny said coldly, like just saying the words could make it true. He hadn't considered the objections his family might have to Diego, since pissing off relatives was normally a good thing in his book. Made it harder to let them down. "Weren't you, Jotaro?"

"I wasn't." Jotaro stared down at Diego. He certainly looked like Dio, same cold features and golden-blond hair, but there was something desperate in the way he held himself, almost animalistic, and that made Jotaro's skin crawl as much as the name on his hat. "So you're called Dio too, huh?" He cracked his knuckles and pulled his hat down to cover his eyes. "Don't try anything. If you hurt Johnny, I'll kick your ass twice as hard."

Diego squinted up to the larger man. What the fuck was going on? This large man whose part of Johnny's family, had just somewhat threatened him. And for what reason? Because his mother and aunt thought the name Dio was cute for their children. Diego bared his teeth a bit, lips twisting into a frown. Jotaro wasn't given the type of glare he had seen in Dio however, it wasn't the pure hatred of wishing he'd died. This stare was of one of confusion and disgust. " You think I'm like my cousin? The only way you have made a connection to us is my hate, us being poor British kids, and our gold hair. You shouldn't judge a book by its cover." He began a snarl but stopped, restricting himself. He couldn't fuck this up. He was outside. And he had missed it so much.

"I don't know what you're like." Dio had seemed almost normal at first. Sure, he was big and muscular, but so was Jonathan. But Dio had turned out to be pure evil, and if Jotaro hadn't acted quickly, he'd be down a cousin at least. And it didn't matter if Diego was mad at him, as long as Johnny was safe. "Don't hurt Johnny and we won't have a problem. Understand?"

Johnny answered before Diego could. "I can take care of myself." He knew how Jotaro saw him, weak and helpless. It was how everyone saw him. And maybe they were right, but Johnny had to believe he wasn't that worthless. He didn't care if it ended up killing him. Death was better than losing the little of his pride that remained.

The blonde was about to interject but Johnny spoke up first. He watched Johnny, the tone of voice, he knew it well. Again, it was like a small reflection of himself, trying to seem like he wasn't helpless and worthless to anyone. Diego sighed before giving a smirk, " Heh, yeah I understand, except you're missing one detail." His grin widened, as he stared up to Jotaro, even as far as stepping forward to get just a bit closer, to show no fear, again dragging Narancia and Mista who were still clutching his tail. He nearly got close enough to the other Joestars face. " If I hurt him, you'll hafta' wait until I'm done kicking my own ass." Gyro looked up from his frustrated hiding spot, giving a bewildered look. Huh... So that's where Diego's cockiness went. From what Johnny had said, Gyro thought that part of the young man was gone.

"Good grief." Jotaro turned around and walked away, his hands in his pockets. He still didn't trust Diego, but there wasn't much he could without escalating the situation more than he wanted. The only thing left to do was wait and see what happened. "Come on, Kakyoin. Let's go." Kakyoin sighed lightly, rubbing one side of his temples and mouthed out ' Sorry' to the entirety of the two groups before following along. He would have to talk with his friend, possibly invite him to calm down with Avdol later.

 

Johnny realized he'd been holding his breath, and let it out in a sigh of relief. He'd been sure Jotaro was about to start a fight, and that wouldn't end well with Diego involved. Best case scenario, the permit got taken away and he would have to do something drastic to get it back. Worst case, they all got mauled by a dinosaur. So really the situation could have ended a lot worse. "Sorry about him, Diego. Jotaro is..." What was the word for his cousin? Hot-tempered? Abrasive? "A fucking asshole."

Diego snorted an animalistic huff from his nose before his tail started to swing around, making the two kids fling off and roll into the grass. He sat down to think. " It's fine. I wouldn't trust me either." He hated to admit it, but Jotaro was right about him. He'd always hurt someone, even when he never meant it. He had hurt Johnny in the past as well, before and after being in the foundation. " It was nice to see you Giorno, but I think it's best if you go with your friends." The golden blonde boy almost raised an argument, but he understood when someone needed to be left alone in better hands than his own. He nodded and rounded up his friends, leaving the three.

 

Nearby, the lone cowboy rested against a tree, picking up his walkie-talkie to inform Jonathan of any going ons since Robert had let the staff know Diego was allowed out for today. " Tim to Jonathan, I repeat Cowboy to Philosopher, do you read me?" He heard Robert in the distance of the other end, " Quiet cowpoke. Listen here, just saw Jotaro confront Diego. No fight or else you'd have been called sooner."

Jonathan sighed. Philosopher? He was an archeologist. But that was close enough apparently. "Understood. Don't intervene if you can help it." Diego needed this visit outside, and he needed them in the future. Although Jonathan wasn't quite sure how Johnny had managed to get permission for it...

" Got it. Only woulda' if somethin' went down. But for now, coast is clear." With that, Tim kept watch from afar, well as far as he could without actually going too far away. Tim didn't know much about the Joestar family tree, but he was able to piece together they had some quarrels with the Brandos, which was unfortunate, to say the least since both families were in the same place.

 

"I trust you." Johnny meant it, and that scared him a little. He wasn't used to trusting people. "It doesn't matter if you hurt me a little. I'm not made of glass." Diego couldn't always control his Stand, but Johnny wanted to be there to help him no matter the risk. It was a stupid, selfish desire, but he needed Diego. They weren't very far apart, and Johnny closed the distance easily. His hand found Diego's and gave it a squeeze. He felt so cold. "Don't let him scare you."

Diego smiled softly, " Least someone does." Diego didn't even trust himself anymore, not after what he became. How could anyone, really? " I don't want to hurt you, or anyone. I'm tired of doing it.

" Heh, kinda reminds me how I accidentally hurt my bro, Caesar, and my dad was proud when he saw me. Though I said I'm sorry, he said, don't be. It'll make you tough. I didn't want to hurt anyone. But he said, 'too bad, cause I'd hurt everyone." Gyro chuckled a bit, making Diego lighten up to a small chuckle as well.

" What a dick."

" Hehe, yeah... You know what you two need? I think some alone time to feel better now that 'Mister I Punch Shit' is gone." He nudged Johnny's arm lightly. Johnny could always count on his friend to uplift the mood and help when help was needed most.

"Yeah. That would be nice." Johnny wasn't going to let Jotaro ruin their day. He just wanted to protect the Joestars. Something had happened with Dio, but Johnny hadn't been there to see it. Must have been something bad to get Jotaro so upset. "Diego, we're allowed some time in a room to ourselves. Would you like that?" The implication was just under the surface. Johnny didn't have anything planned, but he did have more than a few ideas. Fantasies, really.

Diego nodded, " Actually, that would be... That'd be nice." Being alone meant comfort for the two, and this time without any watching and no cameras, making Diego even more relaxed. He really needed to let all the stress off and just relax. And what better way than to be with someone he liked... Or well, possibly love at this point. No more prying eyes or security, just themselves. His tail was practically wagging a bit at this point as he thought of the two snuggling up in a bed.

Chapter Text

When Johnny had requested Diego be allowed outside, he had also received a key and directions to a room. It was supposed to be completely out of the cameras' view and private. What he hadn't expected it to be was basically a hotel room, right down to the mass-produced landscape painting on one wall and the neutral carpet. And a bed. It seemed the Foundation was aware of what activities it might be used for. They had said goodbye to Gyro back at his and Johnny's room, and now, as the door to the hallway swung shut, he realized he was entirely alone with Diego. And something felt off about it, like Johnny couldn't quite see right. Like the whole world was slightly unfocused.

As soon as Diego had closed the door and picked up Johnny to carry over, he stopped halfway, his tail twitching behind him in an erratic manner. With a shake of his head, he scanned the room like he had just walked into it a second time. He shrugged it off and picked up the other User. " You okay?" He asked calmly, though... Diego seemed a bit off as he held Johnny in a bridal position. Johnny could at the very least see Diego's pupils were normal except the ill yellow in the iris was there instead of his casual color. He nuzzled against Johnny, making sure he'd be fine. " Thank you for trusting me Joekid." Wait... Didn't Diego start calling him Johnny? He had when talking with Gyro and Jotaro.

"I feel..." Johnny was immediately on edge, and it didn't help that it felt like his brain was covered in fur. Had Diego done something to him? It seemed unlikely he would have even had the chance. Gyro had brought them lunch, and he certainly wouldn't poison Johnny either. "I feel..." He looked down and his tail was flicking about, curling around Diego's legs on its own. Was he sick? The room felt hot, much hotter than it had when he'd first entered. It wasn't entirely unpleasant, especially not when it felt so good to just be held. But that raised more alarms. It didn't normally feel this wonderful. "Diego, something's wrong."

Diego gave a worried look and put him onto the bed, sitting beside him, though it was a bit hard with how Johnny's own tail kept a hold on his leg, but he was able to finally get Johnny to sit. " Nothing's wrong, just calm down, and focus on me, okay?" He held Johnny's hands tightly, enough to get Johnny to focus in on him. The heat seemed to simmer down a bit, but still there, like a nagging thought. His eyesight started to get clearer, but he still felt a small shudder of warmth wisp around him. Diego looked to be slightly concentrating, was this really his doing? Could he control this odd feeling? Speaking of control, Diego's shoulder twitched a bit when he asked if Johnny was any better.

Johnny tried to clear his head, but it wasn't working. The air was thick with heat, and Diego was so very close. He had such beautiful eyes. Were they always yellow? "I can't..." Johnny wanted Diego, no, he needed him. Without him, Johnny knew he would die. It was like starving to death. Diego was the only thing he could think about. "Diego, come closer. Please." The heat was almost unbearable, like he was being suffocated. "Please," he begged, and tugged at Diego's hands. "Please."

Diego groaned lightly, like something wasn't coming to his ideals. He cursed lightly as his tail twitched as if dipped into a put vial of static. He mumbled something faintly to hear, something like, ' We'll have to play that game later'. Diego scooped up Johnny with ease and onto his lap, soon cupping Johnny's cheeks and pulling him into a deep kiss. It didn't take long for Johnny to feel Diego's hands move from his skin and remove the gloves he had on. Then quite suddenly, Diego grabbed hold of Johnny's lower back, nearly shoving their chests together to deepen the kiss. All the while, the free hand reached down into Johnny's pants, feeling him up. The kiss was mercy, and Johnny leaned into it with his whole body. He could feel Diego's fingers, but the sensation dulled as it slipped below his waist and he needed more. Johnny pushed Diego onto the bed, lying on top of his chest, and pulled his own shirt over his head, knocking off his hat as he did so. The heat felt good on his bare skin, like warm sunlight. Every move was frantic, and his hands shook as he pulled at Diego's sweater. It had been so long since Johnny had felt another person's skin against his own, so long since he had lost himself in pleasure like this. Had it always been this intense?

Diego let out a muffled grunt as he was pushed onto his back, not expecting Johnny to suddenly make his own way. He could have sworn Johnny would have just been putty in his hands by all the initial begging a moment ago. Diego chuckled after his own sweater was removed, his hand that originally held onto Johnny's back slithered over to the light redhead's pants leg down, soon with the other leg sliding down to join its identical twin. Both hands toyed, softly gliding over Johnny's arousal. Diego's tail curled around Johnny's own made up tail, intertwining. " How much do you know what's going on? Is it the heat, or can you think clearly?" He had to know. If Johnny was feeling warm and flustered, Diego would go all in, play off his rut. If not, the shady side that hid under the crumbling shell Johnny got to know would be let loose. The side Johnny knew well of.

"Heat?" It was unbearable. Johnny struggled to form words. If only he could move the rest of his body, then maybe he could satisfy the urges that screamed louder than any other thoughts. It was pure frustration. He moaned at the touch and arched his back as something so light sent electric shocks up his spine. "Diego, it's so hot. I can't breathe. Help me." He couldn't see anymore. The world no longer made sense to his eyes. The only clarity was Diego, and his touch and his voice and his scent. "Fuck me."

With that, Diego's own urges began to untangle itself. Primal feelings of nature flooded his body, and before Johnny even knew it, the blond had sat up a bit to adjust himself, snagging Johnny's pants off in the process. It happen so quickly, Johnny soon felt small scrapes of scales against his own skin as Diego reached over, snatching a pillow to place behind Johnny. The blond turned him around and pushed the Joestar onto the pillow. Everything was in a haze for Johnny as he felt Diego's chest on his back, breath whisking at his neck. Diego growled with anticipation, purely giggling into his rut, sliding down his own pants while he nibbled on Johnny's star birthmark. The only downside to the heat, that Diego knew too well, was that there was little passion and everything moved quickly, not really building up terribly much.

Johnny's face felt wet, and he realized he was crying. It was simply too much to process at once. Nothing felt right, but it was still unimaginably good, and he let himself drown in the feeling of Diego against his back and the teeth on his shoulder. And then Diego jerked forward suddenly and his vision went white. He could hear his own voice, mixed in with Diego's, but the sounds were impossible to decipher. It was a cacophony of senses, the whole orchestra all playing different songs at once, and Johnny could hear each one distinctly. Diego's name rose to his lips, but the sound of it was lost in the chaos. It had been quick, nothing sensual or worth describing. Just like any other animal that was caught in their natural instincts. All of that only took such little time, which was a shame, sure it was pleasureful, but it wasn't enough to satisfy one's actual libido. Only instinct's intentions. And as soon as it came it went immediately afterwards and Johnny's world started to crumble in. Like some type of curse or spell had been broken. Apparently the same went for Diego, except now that the blond laid next to him, pulling his own pants up, Johnny could see the yellow glitter in his eyes. Those eyes looked... Like ones Johnny saw back in his racing day.

 

Johnny pushed himself upright. His head was clear, at least. And for something so short, it had been fucking amazing. Not really comparable to normal sex, almost an alien experience, like something the human body wasn't meant to feel but was forced to tackle anyway. "What the fuck was that?" Diego had a strange look on his face. It was familiar, but Johnny didn't have a great memory for faces and he couldn't quite place it. "I feel better now. It's all gone away. Are you alright too?"

Diego showed a toothy grin, one that Johnny could have sworn he saw before... " That was called a rut. Like when a mare goes into heat, and the bucks go wild. It goes by fast and hits hard, leaving you without a thought. You just happen to be near me when it started up." Patches of scales here and there on his shoulder and arm gave off small vibrant cyan colors. " Should I add that to my wins Joekid?"

"I'd call it a draw at best." That was an understatement, but Johnny wasn't about to give Diego the satisfaction of calling it a 'win'. And there was his old nickname again. It was so strange to hear, a relic of a life he no longer lived. "And I just happened to be there? Diego, you were all over me before this whole rut thing even happened. You almost fucked me the first time we kissed. It's more than coincidence." Maybe if he said it, Johnny could believe it himself. Diego loved him, right? He'd said he did. It couldn't just be desire for release. Johnny stroked the scales on his shoulder, and they were smooth underneath his fingers. Such a beautiful color. Diego looked so good lying there shirtless, it was almost criminal.

Diego flinched slightly, like he didn't want to be touched sweetly like he normally did." Okay, fair point, true, true. I guess you could say the more broken side loves you. Doesn't mean I don't." What the fuck was he going on about? "You see, being cooped up in a cell, breaks you. And once the personality you made up doesn't go anywhere and crumbles down, the older and real version of you who made that wall is left out and is forced to accept reality. Think of it as a minor case of split personality or bipolar. When you gain a Stand, it's like forming another part of you. So what happens when a part of you breaks off, where would it go? Do you really not remember me? Hehe, I'm the one in power, the winner."

Why did Johnny have to fall in love with Diego, the one person who was more of a mess than he was? "Well. This is awkward." Diego hadn't exactly been pleasant in his racing days. The sort of person Johnny would generously refer to as a dickhead. Of course, he hadn't been much better himself. "Yeah, I remember you." It was almost good to see the old Diego. The new one was so terribly broken. But Johnny wanted the Diego he loved back as soon as possible. This one probably wouldn't want to cuddle. And as he was thinking, something important hit him. "Hang on, did you say the other you loves me? Are you sure?" It was certainly an unusual situation, but maybe he could quite a few of his doubts.

The old Diego who was vicious to Johnny and anyone else was here and now, and didn't seem to be going away that soon than Johnny would have hoped for. His cheeks and scales flushed a bit in a tint of embarrassment from what he had to admit. " Don't play it off like that Joekid." He gave a nasty glare to the redhead, " Course he does. That's why I was made up, to cover up myself. To cover up all the pain and loneliness. To be in control, to be in power. To do what needed to be done. Unfortunately, the same love thing goes for me, but like hell, if I'm saying that to your face. Speaking of your face..." Another shit-eating grin and a sudden finger tipped claw ran down Johnny's cheek gently, " I know there's something in you that you keep hidden away like I use to do with myself. But you're not covering fear are you? No, you're covering up something better~"

Johnny pulled himself away from Diego, trying to get a bit of distance between them. "I don't know what you're talking about." He was starting to get worried. After all, he was vulnerable, still naked and across the room from his wheelchair. He might be able to walk that far on his own, but there was a much higher chance he fell and then there was nothing stopping Diego from doing whatever it was he wanted. Through the static of anxiety, there was still a sense of triumph. Diego did love him.

Diego gave a playful yet sinister smile, the jagged teeth didn't help with making it look any less crafty and sly. " I know... Gyro knows. It's when you seem fully determined to do something. Such as beating me, protecting someone dearly, being serious. Come now, Joekid, you should feel that tingle somewhere. I was originally trying to see how strong you are now, but the hormones acted up. Didn't feel very passionate, though those hormones fucked you up plenty, hehe, it's fun to see you beg." Defiantly the old Diego. Talking and prodding at him for reactions, what a shitty move... He kept his watch on him as well, " Why do you look startled? I'm not going to hurt you~. I made a promise, didn't I? Though you didn't make a promise to anyone that I'd get hurt, right?" What the fuck was he implying?

"I won't hurt you either." If there was one thing Johnny knew about the old Diego, it was that he wasn't trustworthy. The old Diego was a cheat and a liar and God only knew what else. So maybe he would stick to his promise, but maybe he wouldn't. And then Johnny would be fucked. "So you just want sex? I can do that." It would be a little strange with the whole alternate personality situation, but Johnny was definitely not all that vanilla himself.

Diego huffed a bit, " Sure didn't take you as basic Joekid. But anyways, putting it rather bluntly..." He raised his hand to gloss over his nails, still sharpened a bit at the tip, " Yes. I just had to get all the shitty nature bullshit out of the way. But it doesn't make me feel satisfied, only quenching the hormones." His gaze locked back onto Johnny with a smirk, " However it's not you I'm after. I'm sure there's another part of you. Not as weird as mine, but, something is residing within you. I can sense it. There's still a spark of hatred to me."

Johnny didn't know how to react. This new side of Diego was like a whole other person, none of the desperation and the fear he was used to. He certainly wouldn't be as gentle to him. But Johnny liked things rough. It made him feel alive. "Fine. You wanna' fuck? I'll fuck you. But I'm on top." Sex used to be his safety, the only way he felt in control of his own life, and things hadn't changed that much. His body might not allow for everything he wanted, but he could still leave a bruise, and that was all that mattered. He could still be in control.

Diego's smirk cracked into a toothy grin, before chuckling darkly, " Hehehe, that's the spirit, although." Diego was still quick unfortunately on Johnny's behalf. He swung his entire body over Johnny's with ease, pinning one of his arms, giving one of the widest grin to match a Cheshire cat. " You think, I'm going to be willing? Hehehe, no, no. Again, may I clarify, I want a challenge. I want to see that part of you that still clings to the irrational and hate. By yourself, like this, you're weak." His free hand suddenly grabbed onto Johnny's chin, tilting his head up to look him straight into those yellow piercing eyes.

Johnny glared at Diego. It wasn't going to be that easy, not even close. He looked at his options. Diego would certainly exploit his legs as a weakness, it would be stupid not to, and there wasn't much he could do about that. Moving them quickly just wasn't possible. So he had his arms to work with. Maybe Tusk, if he was willing to risk that. It could easily do more damage than he meant, and he didn't want to seriously wound Diego or anything. So his Stand wasn't an option, unless things got dire. But it wasn't the only way he knew to fight back. Johnny pulled back his free arm and punched Diego in the jaw.

Diego immoderately let go and arched away grasping his jaw to recoil from the hit. That would leave a nasty bruise, however... The primal stand made Diego's skin a bit rougher as he wiped away a small bit of blood and saliva away with his knuckle. And all Diego did, was smile. The old shitty smile he would give to Johnny whenever he lost. " Aww, is that all? I know you're stronger than you let on. If you won't go all out, I'll make you. And that wouldn't be fun for you. I want to taste that last bit of resentment, anger, and hatred."

"Fuck you." Johnny didn't want to hurt Diego. He knew he could have hit harder, but once his fist was raised all he could think of was the man cowering in his cell, asking over and over if Johnny was really there, crying because he was terrified of being left alone again. He had promised to protect Diego. This wasn't part of the deal. Diego was tough, but the last thing he needed was to see the one person he had left attacking him. And maybe the real Diego was watching. Johnny didn't want to risk it.

 

Diego let out a growl when Johnny didn't act through. He squinted his eyes, glaring back at the other User. He could easily tell Johnny was holding back. Sure he didn't want to be beaten up too badly, but he really enjoyed roughness, and was still under the illusion that there was still a part of Johnny that hated him, and would supply that rough touch. He didn't want to be coddled like how he really was deep inside. " I just ask for a challenge. I guess, in a shitty way, to make up for how I was to you on the tracks. Some type of punishment to justify how much of an asshole I was." Diego groaned, frustrated, wanting to get rid of any speck of hate Johnny had on him, no matter how little and how deep it was buried. Then a twisted idea slithered into his head and he chuckled, " You know... I never did tell you, what happen to your pet rat, did I?"

"No. You didn't." So this was how Diego was going to play it. Get Johnny pissed off enough about something that he forgot to hold back. That was the old Diego all over, cunning and manipulative and cruel. And it would probably work. Johnny knew his own shortcomings, and a temper was certainly on the list. Diego had always been like that, able to piss off Johnny whenever he wanted. It was part of what made Johnny hate him. A major part. "Are we gonna' fuck or what?"

The blond folded his arms much like a child would, when something didn't go his way. " I'd much rather like to know if you're actually capable of being strong, or just a pathetic loser who's still weak. I might just say fuck it, and screw you know. But, I'll give you one last chance." Diego swiftly leaned over, gripping hold of Johnny's chin again. He then leaned near his ear and gave a sinister whisper, " I killed your rat." He started to cackle, " I caught it. Felt it wriggle around, frightened, too weak to do anything. Snapped its tiny neck, then ripped it's fucking head off."

So that was how the story had ended. Danny had died scared and confused and way too quickly, just like Nicholas. It was almost poetic in its tragedy. Johnny had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Danny had managed to escape and lived the rest of his short life in peace. But no, his life had ended in Diego's hands, a brutal and bloody exit. He was the only one of the three to survive, and the one who had caused it all. It should have been him. If anyone had to die, it should have been Johnny. Tears pricked the corners of his eyes, and Johnny felt Tusk manifest. His father had been right. He should be dead. And without so much as a word, a nail bullet flew straight at Diego's head.

 

Diego shrieked, suddenly surprised as he toppled off from Johnny. His hand clutched onto his head and yelped, picking out the sudden nail, that struck him down. Diego cursed to himself, thanking for his Stand's gritty skin and just being strong in general. He did, however, cuss in a mumbling mess of dribble. He should have seen that coming, he had just wanted to rile Johnny up, get him angry, have a rough sex, not to actually get hit with the Stand, or to actually make Johnny cry. In fact, he didn't want to see the other cry, not ever since his real and scared self had connected with him. Now he felt more shitty, too much of a low blow. There were tears running down his cheeks now. Johnny tried to wipe them away with his sleeve, he couldn't stop the flow. He should be dead. Diego looked shocked, like he hadn't expected Johnny to fight back even though that's what he'd been wanting this whole time. Johnny covered his face with his hands. He should be dead. It wouldn't stop. The memories just kept pouring into his brain. He should be dead. There was Nicholas, a bloody mess lying in the dirt. He should be dead. His breath caught in his throat. He couldn't breathe. The world was spinning too fast, and he couldn't breathe. What did it matter if he died right now? After all, he should be dead.

Guilt started flowing through Diego's mind. He let out a whine. This isn't what he wanted. He just wanted to be roughed up, pay for all of his misdeeds in a sick twisted way. Just wanted to feel useless to Johnny, but he always had to play hard to get, that's just who he was. But no, he fucked it all up. He sighed harshly before sitting next to Johnny, picking him up and putting him on his lap. Like he had said, he did love Johnny. He cradled Johnny a bit, angry with himself. " ... I didn't want to kill it. Manager wanted me to be strong. He wanted me to throw it in the trash. Didn't want to. So, he snatched it away, tore the head off himself. Told me, half would get thrown away and I'd have the leftovers. Went to Pet-Shop, buried it with him. Maybe he'd have a friend. He wouldn't be alone like me. I deserve any kind of pain for being weak."

The only thing Johnny could feel was a strong pair of arms, holding him tight. The world was a blur. It all moved too fast for his eyes. He concentrated on the feeling, struggling to calm his breathing. And then, as if from far away, Diego's voice. Was it true? It was Johnny's fault either way, but maybe Diego was right. Maybe Danny wasn't alone. It was a small comfort, but it was all he had. Maybe that was enough. The world started to settle, and Johnny took shallow breaths. He was still crying, but now his face was pressed against Diego's chest instead of hidden in his own hands. Diego, even with his old personality, did love him. Why else would he put up with something like that? " Shhh..." He gently patted his back, leaning back into some of the pillows to lull Johnny back into the real world, the world with him, the world where Diego wasn't alone in anymore. He didn't say sorry, but Johnny knew Diego was on the inside. This was the old version, not admitting he was sorry, not wanting to seem weak. But also one who couldn't stand to see Johnny in tears. " It's okay. It's okay." He took in a deep breath, rubbing his back gently. It seemed like he never wanted to make Johnny cry, at least not anymore.

Johnny's vision cleared and Diego was there. He wiped at his face, and this time the tears stayed dry. Diego was there, he was real, and Johnny could breathe again. The air tasted sweeter after being deprived of it. Johnny could feel the hand on his back, could hear the soft reassurances. It was okay. For all his mistakes, Diego still loved him. Even after Johnny had ruined his plans for the afternoon. "I-I'm sorry," he said. "I fucked it all up, didn't I?"

" No, no. It was my fault. I was just trying to get you angry. Thought there might have been another side of you in a way. Wanted to get rid of any hatred left, no matter how small." He groaned lightly, angry with himself most of all. He gave him a small kiss on the cheek, trying to make it up to him, or at the very least, try to. " Just stop crying. I didn't mean to hurt you like this."

"It's fine," Johnny said, and looked up at Diego with the hint of a smile. "I won't hold it against you." In the end, he had gotten the old Diego to admit his own failing. And even if Johnny never beat him on the track, that was more than a win. It was a long time since they had been rivals, but now they were even, and Johnny could forget the way things used to be.

 

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Valentine had never spent much time in the basement before. Normally, he wasn't allowed to visit the hostile Stand users personally unless he had specific business, but this was certainly far from normal. And he did have specific business. Access to the database had provided him with a list of Stand, which included a few rather useful abilities. Clearly, something drastic was required, and Valentine was a man of action. It would take a lot for people to listen to him, but it would be changed for the better in the end. He shut the door to the cell he'd been visiting, and kept his head down as he walked briskly back to the elevator.

Of course walking in such fashion would gain anyone's attention, thankfully not too many people around the underground area knew him too well, and would be going about their day, not giving too much of a glance. But there was one person who knew him well enough, seeing him rush himself in a hurried walk to the elevators. A sudden hand shot across from his side and snagged onto the metal wall. Where an arm would normally be, was instead a lengthy rope. The sounds of boots and spurs clattered against the floor as Tim walked over, slowly absorbing the rope into his wrist to reattach his hand. " Heya' Funny. Sorry, ta' startle ya', but why are ya' doin' down here with the rustlers? Ol' man Wagon send ya' down hea'?"

Of course, it had to be the one day that Mountain Tim was also in the basement. Of course. "Oh, Tim. Fancy seeing you here." Valentine struggled to think of an excuse, and didn't end up with much. "I was just-I was told to retrieve some paperwork. From one of the cells." It wasn't a great excuse, but Tim would believe him. Probably. And with any luck, he wouldn't check exactly which cell Valentine had just left. Some of the prisoners were more dangerous than others, and this one certainly qualified.

Tim nodded as he followed alongside Valentine to the elevator. He poked the tip of his hat up with a finger, giving a skeptical look. " Uhuh. Right. And don't mind me fer proddin', but exactly whose paperwork were ya' retrivin' down hea' exactly?" His brows creased from skeptical of anything to genuine worry. Valentine had a lucky break with Tim, being such an honest and good person. " It wasn't ya' know... That Dio guy? Or Diavolo? I mean those suckers can be mighty slippery. Very manipulative. Just wantin' ta make sure ya' okay is all partner."

"Don't worry about me." Valentine had gotten what he needed. Let Tim have his suspicions, there was nothing he could do to prove them. And Valentine knew he'd be proved right in the end, anyway. As long as his actions were just, nothing else mattered. He was doing a service for his country. Soldiers were allowed to kill in war, and he was something similar. Sometimes treaties had to be made with the enemy. It was part of diplomacy. Even with someone like Dio Brando. The elevator door slid open and Valentine stepped in.

 

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In the room, everything was starting to become a blur to Diego. He was sitting there, with Johnny in his lap, awkwardly apologizing for his old personality as best he could, messing it up left and right, just trying to make amends. Then all of the sudden, out from nowhere things started to twist around, making him startled as something took a hold of him. Before he knew it he snarled out and dug his sharpened teeth into Johnny's shoulder, claws now skewering out from his fingertips, clutching the other User, to keep him from moving. The teeth hit bone in a second. Johnny screamed out of pure pain, trying to push Diego away, but he was trapped. He couldn't move without ripping a chunk out of his shoulder. Tusk burst out, and a nail bullet hit Diego and then another, but he didn't let go. His teeth twisted in the wound, and Johnny tried desperately to stay conscious. The shock had hit him full force and every second was a struggle.

Diego finally let go, only to shove Johnny down into the bed, panting heavily from the adrenaline, the struggling, and the sudden wounds from the nails. The blonde's hand grabbed hold of Johnny's wrists, placing them above the red head's hair. The skillful slender tail whisked by from behind, appearing so suddenly, wrapping around Johnny's wrists to replace the strong grip of hands. " C'mon Joestar, let me hear you scream. Beg for me, like the useless loser you are." Diego cackled out, having fun toying with his new found prey.

"Fuck you." There was defiance in Johnny's eyes, but he knew just how dire his situation really was. There was no way out. His wrists might as well have been handcuffed. Diego was considerably stronger than him, and he had shrugged off the nail bullets like a gentle breeze. Probably just adrenaline dulling the pain, but Johnny didn't have time to wait for it to wear off. Even if he got loose, he didn't have much of an escape plan. His wheelchair was still so far away. But if this was the end, he wasn't going to give Diego the satisfaction of breaking him. And as Diego leaned in close, Johnny spat in his face.

Diego froze up and let out an animalistic growl deep within the back of his throat. He let his serrated teeth poke out more before opening his jaw like a snake unhinging its maw. Diego craned forward, digging his teeth deeper down into Johnny's shoulder, tearing through muscle before stripping out a rather large chunk of him off. The screams were loud and rang out down the corridors. Someone screaming in pure pain and agony, similar to an animal wailing for its life. That was the doors slammed open for Jonathan and Robert to see a ghastly sight. Diego sprawled out on his plush flooring behind his glass, wailing and flailing about with his eyes closed.

 

"Diego!" Jonathan had arrived with other plans for the visit, but one look at Diego changed his mind immediately. Nightmares were nothing abnormal for the hostile Stand users, but not this level of fear. He hammered on the glass, but it was too thick to make a loud enough sound. There was only one thing for it. Jonathan ran to the console as input the access code with shaking fingers. The screen lit up, and with one more look at Diego, he pressed the button to administer a controlled shock. The lowest setting possible, but still painful enough to wake him up Robert cowered nearby, not one who could really deal with this sort of thing. It was just going to be a simple check-up, but the shrieks and cries put him on edge to move. Diego's claws clung into the padded floor, his tail whisked about violently, all until sudden pain jolted him awake making him snap out from his dream and yelp from the sudden fear, pain, and unawareness of where he really was. He flailed about now fully awake, more scared that the collar was shocking him that the actual electrical currents surrounding him. Thankfully it stopped relatively quickly, making Diego stumble backwards into a corner and hunching over, threatening anyone who dared come near him, Jonathan cringed at the sight of Diego in pain. He hadn't meant to really hurt him, but there wasn't much of a choice. Stands could be activated even in sleep, and they couldn't risk a full Scary Monsters transformation and possible rampage. He faced the glass, and there was Diego, all curled up and hiding. "Diego, I'm sorry. You were having a nightmare, but it's okay now. I just- You know I had to wake you up. Safety and all that. Sorry, it hurt."

Diego settled down, shaking and snarling like some cat was violently dunked into a vat of water, then kicked harshly with a boot. Eventually, he stopped his growling and just shook before bringing his hands to his head and backing into the corner as much as he could, " I didn't mean it I swear! You're going to kill me, aren't you?! Just hurry up and do it so I can be happy with Pet-Shop, Marilyn, Mom, and Johnny already! I just want to join them!"

Robert took in a deep breath knowing Diego wasn't going to unleash himself onto the facility and quietly walked over, " E-Erm, Diego. Johnny is still here. He's not-" He gulped, fearing what he could only imagine as Diego's nightmare, " He's not dead. He's still alive."

Johnny. That was who Diego had been worried about. Jonathan almost smiled at the thought, but caught himself at the last minute. It was sweet how close his cousin was with Diego, even if it wasn't always appropriate, and he was glad Diego finally had someone to worry about. But not like this. "Johnny's fine. Diego, what did you dream about?"

Diego took in several deep breaths before crawling out from his curled up position of hiding away in the back before his arms gave way and let him collapse on the floor, letting everything soak in around him, letting him have clearance that everything was fine. After a long pause, he looked over to the other two men and kept quiet. Talking got people in trouble, he knew that far too well, unlike his cousin. And besides that, he especially didn't want to tell the one person in the room who was related to Johnny. He had already had the unpleasantness from Jotaro, even though Jonathan was nothing like him.

 

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After the last visit with Diego, Johnny could tell that things were about to change. For one, he had proven that Diego could be safely left alone with him. Well, more or less safely. It hadn't gone entirely to plan. But Diego hadn't physically hurt him and that's what counted to the Foundation. And he was so close to rescuing him now. Just a little longer and Diego wouldn't be trapped in that basement all alone. Johnny could deal with those problems once he was out, but being locked down there prevented any real chance of recovery. So he had told Robert and a few other employees to hurry up the process and now he was being led down a familiar hallway, to a familiar room. The door opened and Johnny's suspicions were confirmed. It was the room where he'd previously witnessed Diego's 'special feeding'.

The scraggly blond fidgeted with his usual paperwork clipped together on the board in his trembling hands. He had wanted to have things slow and steady for safety, but that was due to the fact that the poor man was always nervous, But Johnny was up-front and abrasive, leaving him with not many options for the stubborn Joestar. Stroheim was there tagging behind slightly, not comfortable in the slightest. The other Users down below were so vastly different, and not typically having little to no mind to control their Stand to kill someone. All the others who didn't understand their powers used these rooms for practice to possibly control it, but Diego's was more of a necessary requirement. " Alright, just zo you know, he'll have ze collar and bracelets on. Be careful vhen you vant to enter, understood?"

"He's a dinosaur. No shit I should be careful." Johnny wasn't that afraid of Diego anymore, not after everything they'd been through together. He couldn't both fear the man and love him, and it was pretty clear that he'd picked the latter. But this room made him uncomfortable. Diego liked animals and he wasn't exactly happy when his instincts told him to rip them to pieces. It wasn't something he could stop. And that added in an element of danger that Johnny couldn't account for, no matter how careful he was. But he still entered the room and he guessed that was what love is. Being willing to risk your life to protect someone.

Once word was given, several security people let Johnny pass through the steel door, tranq guns at the ready in case one little thing happen. It was better to be safe than sorry seeing as Diego had ripped through a dozen or so people with ease regarding how he had been found. In the large sterile and pristine white room of tile and a single drain in the middle, sat the scaly version of the guy Johnny grew to enjoy. The smell of the cleaning supplies and sudden spread of blood and viscera was rightfully pungent to Johnny's poor nose. Diego was currently ripping out chunks of what could only be assumed as a sheep, or what remains Johnny could pick up. The dinosaur stopped, picking up the slight hint of the wheelchair and the door opening. It swerved it's head to him and stared like a cat, all focus solely on Johnny's actions. Johnny raised his hands in what he hoped dinosaurs could also understand as surrender. "Hey. It's just me. You doing okay?" There was blood on Diego's muzzle, so bright red in the sterile environment. This was something he had to do, the final step in proving that Diego wasn't a danger to the other Stand users in the Foundation. But Johnny found he was doubting himself. Diego's eyes weren't human, they were reptilian and cold.

Diego snarled and hissed out, hunching over, backing away to put a clawed foot on its food as if to tell Johnny to back away and it was his kill. However, the snarls came to a sudden shriek as the cyan tinted dinosaur hopped right in front of him, threatening to gut him then and there. Once the snout of razors got close it stopped, not because of a shock or tranq which everyone was about to do, but because Diego willed himself not to. Diego closed his bloodied jaw and blinked before backing away frightened. He shook his head and feathers and started to pace away and whine out, somehow knowing it was Johnny and not wanting him to see him in such a primal state. Johnny reached out carefully. "Shh. It's okay. Nobody's going to hurt you." He didn't like to see Diego in the shock collar again, it looked like something a wild beast should wear. Diego wasn't that beast anymore. "I'm just here to see how you're doing." He couldn't tell Diego the true purpose for his visit, that he was being used as human bait to test his mental state, not without setting off a few protective instincts as well. "Go ahead. You can eat."

Diego snorted, backing further away and leaving his fresh meal on the ground, sure the crippled User was letting the other continue, but the dinosaur was still very human, shaking its head and glancing around nervously. Diego finally backed up to the other metallic wall, shifting himself into a position of laying on his side giving what could only be described as puppy dog eyes. The type of eyes a dog would get when scolded, it may have been Diego scolding himself, wanting Johnny to leave and not see any of the carnage that happen a few minutes ago. "It's fine." Johnny leaned down and stroked Diego's side. The scales felt cold, way too cold for something living. "I know this isn't you. It's your Stand." They were such strange things, Stands. Tusk was fairly useless at worst, but Scary Monsters had almost ruined Diego. They were the reason that all of them were stuck like this, all trapped in the same prison. Johnny knew he should hate Scary Monsters, but it was hard to hate any part of Diego. Even one that hurt him so much.

The bright brilliant snout that was coated in crimson lowered down from its whining and morphed slowly back into a human face. Diego stood there, skinny, bloodied, fearful, and nearly naked if it weren't for his dark shaded green boxers. He blinked a couple of times, regaining his vision and shook in front of Johnny, clearly unhappy at the whole thing. His hand twitched slightly before he swung both arms around Johnny's shoulder and neck, slowly letting himself crumble onto him but not enough to pull him off his chair. Of course, security took aim but noticed he wasn't harming the redhead. Johnny did his best to hold onto Diego tightly, even as his fingers slipped in the blood. It was a little surprising. He wasn't used to the transformation being so... so smooth. It had taken time, but it had looked something close to voluntary and that was new. "What do you want me to do?" It was an honest question. Johnny didn't really have a plan beyond the basics. He'd assumed that he would be interacting with Diego as a dinosaur, not as a person.

Diego didn't really answer and just let himself sink into Johnny's chest. He didn't move even when the tightly bolted doors opened up, letting Stroheim and several security officers in. Stroheim gave them a signal, making them lower their weapons before walking over to Johnny. " Thank you JJT. Ve vill take it from here..." He said calmly before signaling the others to back off. " Actually. He's doing vell und so are you. I think... I may be able to make up for that pony incident." He gave a soft smile-or how soft a man in his position could. " I'm going to let you go into ze showers to help clean him up. Ve vill also vash your clothes. Just don't do anything... Indecent." This was all the German could give him, knowing the two had gone through a lot.

Johnny wasn't about to make any promises he couldn't keep. A shower with Diego sounded wonderful, even if he wasn't entirely himself at the moment. "Thanks. I really appreciate it." He poked Diego gently, and then a little harder. "Hey. I need you to pay attention. I think I can manage without the chair if you hold me up." Johnny hadn't brought his crutches or anything, but Diego was strong. Even after the years in captivity, he was strong. And it would be nice to be so close to him like that.

 

Diego silently let him go and nodded slowly, still coming to grips with reality. The other blond led them both out and down a corridor, opening up another vaulted door and snapping a bracelet on Johnny's wrist. " It measures your heart rate. If it dips or goes up to point of explosion ve vill come in." He turned the lights on revealing a medium sized room with another drain near the center and finely wooded shower benches around it, two to be specific. Diego shifted in, his brain acknowledging his habit of the room, by sitting on one of the benches and waiting, still shaken up.

Johnny discarded his clothing, putting them onto his wheelchair, leaving him only in his boxers. He soon got to his feet cautiously. The tile looked worryingly slippery and he wasn't exactly very steady standing. But he couldn't take his wheelchair into the room with him, since it wasn't waterproof. One hand bracing himself against the wall, he took a step and then another. It wasn't that far to the bench and Diego was waiting for him. Not helping, just waiting. But Johnny could excuse that in this situation, he was still clearly out of it. The next step was harder than the first two and his foot slipped as he put weight on it, not enough to make him fall down but enough to scare him. Diego needed him to stay on his feet right now. Just a little stability to put his mind at ease.

Though the slip startled him, Johnny fully wasn't expecting Diego to snap out of his situation and be there to catch him with ease, picking him up in a bridal position and carrying the lighter jockey to the bench with him. His eyes still said he was out of it, but the actions said otherwise, as if he was half awake. The blond rubbed his eyes, making him notice the other on his lap. " Wha-what happen? Why are you here?" He sounded confused before looking down and seeing his arms drenched in blood, then back to Johnny, " Wha-I... Did I hurt you?"

"I'm not hurt." Johnny wanted to establish that before anything else. Diego looked so scared. "It's not my blood." It was almost ridiculous, but Johnny felt like he could relax now. Diego smelled like blood and fear, and any sane person would have been afraid, but Johnny definitely wasn't sane and he wasn't afraid either. "I'm here to prove that you're not dangerous. And you're not. You wouldn't even touch me without changing back to normal. That means you can come live with me soon." He was so close, so close to rescuing Diego. It felt good. The other jockey sighed in relief, letting his mind soon rest at ease. It was hard to trust someone, especially since it was now harder to trust even himself. As he rationalized the thought of Johnny being there for him and his Stand not outright attacking him, his eyes wandered over Johnny's skin as the overhead sprinkling system sprayed out a nice warm temperature of man-made rain, casting upon them both. Diego was slowly coming back to reality as he started to notice like himself, that Johnny was stripped down besides his underwear. He felt himself blush a pinch, looking over the skin before his eyes landed on the odd starred birthmark on his shoulder. Diego inspected it closer, reaching a hand over it, hovering above it, truly fascinated with it.

"It's real, not a tattoo." That was usually the question people asked. The birthmark was abnormally well-shaped and neat, almost too perfect to be real, but all the members of his family had it and that was just the way they were. Sometimes things worked out neatly, but the birthmark was about the only time that had happened for Johnny. Warm water aside, the shower wasn't built for comfort. Concrete on concrete didn't do much to retain heat. He shivered and leaned against Diego, who wasn't very warm himself but was better than nothing.

" I didn't know those rumors of it being there were real." He instinctively wrapped an arm around Johnny's shoulder, still entranced by the perfectly formed birthmark. Diego was so strange, he seemed to fixate on the oddest and smallest things in pure awe. Of course, this normally meant his primal instincts persuaded him to always lick something that fascinated him, much like Johnny's lame legs. Without a warning, the other leaned over gliding his tongue across the birthmark in a testing manner. The tongue was still a bit in his stand's mode, making it slightly rougher than a human's. And before Johnny knew it, his skin was starting to feel small pricks around the sensitive area, but those soon went away, Diego resisting himself to actually bite him.

The things Johnny was willing to put up with. "Yep. All the Joestars have it." It was strange to think of himself as connected to a larger family. He had been isolated for much of his youth, since the family was pretty spread out and his father didn't get along with most of their relatives. Now, being a Joestar was unavoidable. And it wasn't all cheerful family reunions. When shit had gone south, his family had been just as absent as ever. Johnny couldn't help but resent them a little. But right now, something else was bugging him. "Hey, Diego. I don't... I don't taste like food to you, right?"

Diego whined a bit, mostly seemingly disappointed in himself before nuzzling against the crook of his neck, " No. People don't taste like food, and besides if it makes you feel any better, you're much more special than them. I-I just, get a need to bite things that I enjoy. Call it a kink or whatever, but I don't mean to harm you." The blond sighed out, enjoying the warmth Johnny and the water radiated off to his cold body. " I uhh, also wanted to see if you had erm a-any sensitive areas." He felt a bit guilty saying that, but it was true for what he'd be planning in the far future. " If-if you want, I can tell you mine if I get out of control." He whispered, embarrassing himself to the light redhead.

"Are they anywhere out of the ordinary?" Johnny was pretty confident that Diego would be sensitive in a few places. Even dinosaurs probably didn't like getting punched in the dick. And he didn't really mind if Diego bit him that much. It was... Well, cute wasn't really the right word. Could something be both adorable and unsettling at the same time? "Now that you've brought it up, you know I'm curious."

The blond gave a small snicker, finding it funny and surprisingly cute that Johnny was now interested as he raised a brow to Diego. However, Diego, in turn, was blushing a bit, much like how he had made Johnny do in the past. It wasn't that he was overly embarrassed, he just seemed rather shy, but then again this was his personality once the prideful mask was taken away. He pointed to his right ear to show off three small dots on the lobe, " Me and my cousin have these. His is on the left, while I got the right. People usually say it's bad luck or something, but, whatever... I guess it's a birthmark in a way? But it's not as pretty as yours."

"Your ear? Weird." Johnny had been expecting nipples at least. But like everything else with Diego, it was strangely sweet. Almost a cute little quirk. It felt out of place. Diego was locked up in a prison, his mind barely held together at this point, and he was still so adorable. Things shouldn't be cute here. Johnny's curiosity got the better of him and he stroked the dots gently. "How does that feel?"

Diego gave off a small shy smile before sticking his tongue out at Johnny, " Yours is weird-ahh!" The blonde was suddenly withdrawn back from the gentle gesture and couldn't help but lean into the touch much like a cat. " Mrmm." He whimpered out just a tad before getting a hold of himself, turning it into a pleased hum. It seemed to also relax him as a bonus for Johnny. " It feels... Nice. I'm also sensitive around my neck. But that's because of, well..." He trailed off, avoiding eye contact, letting Johnny quickly figure out that it was due to the shock and tranq collars constantly being around him, chaffing his skin and making a pale color.

Johnny kissed him on the cheek, because it was that or cry. Why couldn't they have a normal life? Maybe in another world, they weren't locked up like this. Maybe in another world, Diego hadn't been put through torture and his body wasn't changed by trauma. Maybe in another world, everything could be simpler. But in this world, things were fucked up and they would never stop being that way. Diego couldn't forget that pain and neither could Johnny. And no matter how much he wanted to kill the people who had hurt Diego, he knew he wouldn't get the chance. "You won't have to wear it forever. Soon you'll be upstairs with me."

The other jockey sighed calmly, honestly, he had been through much worse. Emotions hit more than actual pain to him, and he rather not mind that as much. Johnny could see it one way or another, the facade of being the bitter and stubborn racer made to hide his real emotions. Diego had never really connected with any others and would go out of his way to make himself so unpleasant in the past. All because he was actually relatively scared. Scared to be attached, scared of losing people, scared of being alone when they left. " I hope so..." He said before looking around, trying to distract himself, not wanting to cry in front of Johnny yet again. His eyes drifted to a spot on Johnny's side. He furrowed his brows and looked at it intently. " Is that another birthmark?"

"No. It's a scar." It was hard to remember that Diego couldn't actually see that well and of course, he wouldn't know about that. It had happened after he'd been captured. "From when I was shot." The world had hurt them both in different ways, and left little marks of the experience. Diego had the raw skin around his neck and Johnny had an ugly circular scar about the size of a quarter. And neither of them would ever heal.

Diego gave somewhat of a sad look, almost the one Gyro would give to his friend when his eyes scanned over the scar, grimacing in guilt for not being there for him. But Diego's... Diego's wasn't one of pure pity, instead, it just seemed like a sad reminder more than anything. He carefully stroked the scar with the tips of his fingers to feel the texture. Again, just another weird entrancing state for him, which was oddly sweet in a way. To get Johnny's mind off of the scar of the past, a tail soon slithered over on top of its owner's lap. " I have one more spot. If you're still curious."

"Sure." Johnny didn't want to think about it any more than Diego did. He hated the sadness in his eyes, the fact that merely seeing his body was a tragedy. He used to think he looked pretty good, but that was gone now. It didn't matter what he looked like, not with his legs like this. "Tell me."

Diego grabbed hold of his tail, not yet fully feathered and chuckled lightly, " This'll seem pretty silly but when it's not feathery... T-The tip is sensitive-Don't you dare ask how I know." He gave a playful pouted glare to Johnny as the tail wriggled around like a damn worm. Most Johnny could guess was that Diego was just fucking around since he like he said, he liked to put things in his mouth and give a small nip. Either that or he acted like a cat or dog, chasing his tail then catching it... Dinosaurs were weird... But then again so was Johnny and everyone here.

"Your tail?" There was an obvious joke there, but Johnny was too classy to make it. Just barely too classy. "I'll remember that." They had a future for him to use that information. They actually had a future together. The thought was too good to be true. Soon, Diego would be safe upstairs and Johnny could be alone with him as much as he wanted. And he wanted it a lot. "I can't wait until I have you all to myself. It'll be soon now."

The other blushed up and scoffed, pushing him playfully, " Pshhh! We still have a ways to go Joekid." He was just trying to remove the obvious pink and red tinted stain across his cheeks, but it was unfortunately true. There were still obstacles in the way for them both, and it wouldn't be easy...

Chapter Text

Another few days had passed by since the two had seen or spoken to, which was rather concerning for Johnny, considering his pass to the basement was blocked out. Gyro tried his best to calm down his feisty friend from anger or depression. The lanky dirty blond thought it was rather odd and downright frustrating, that the pass was now declined, with no reason for that matter. Just when it seemed to be the lowest point, hope came through as the door opened up to reveal Jonathan and Robert. This was a first of seeing the duo, unlike the normal Kawajiri and skittish Robert. In fact, Robert seemed surprisingly cheerful, " Heya' guys!" Gyro gave a small disdained look. " Erm... We have some good news! But we can't tell you about it until you follow us to a certain room, or else you might inform some other Users. Just a precaution."

"What, you throwing us a surprise party?" Johnny had a few ideas of what this 'good news' might be. Of course, it would be related to Diego. The scientists only really bothered to interact with him when Diego was involved. Probably because his own Stand wasn't much use in general. But Scary Monsters had potential, or at least was more of a risk. So he was excited. He was missing Diego.

Jonathan smiled at Johnny. "No, something better." He led the pair down the hall and out of the area open to Stand users, deeper into the wing of the building meant only for staff. And for occasions like this.
--------------

Once they came into a rather nice large and lavish room, like a fancy doctor's waiting lobby, the odd ragtag team of Johnny and Gyro were greeted by another User who was waiting. The French man Polnareff had his back against the wall, folding his arms, and eyeing the clock with sheer boredom. He looked over, confused as to why the other two were brought in, " Why are you two here?"

Gryo scoffed, " The fuck are you doing here, you loaf-haired Frenchmen?" The two soon began a glaring contest until they both broke out into a fit of laughs... These two dorks...

Robert sighed lightly before bringing himself to be pepped up, " We brought you all here today, because, the Users you've been working on, might be let up here." Both of the goofy men mouths's dropped, eye slightly widening. " This is the waiting room for results. To put it simply, you both will be interviewed with the User's family member. While the others will be interviewed by your family members Johnny. And your roommate Avdol, Polnareff."

"Really?" Johnny had been expecting something like that, but it still felt like an electric shock. The last few days had been tough. He trusted Diego to behave and not hurt anyone, but the thought that his suspended pass might have been caused by something Diego did had lurked at the back of mind like an unwanted house-guest. What if Diego had gone berserk and now the whole plan was fucked? But now it seemed like that wasn't a possibility.

"Really," Jonathan answered. "As long as the interviews go well, Diego will be allowed to spend a trial period sharing a room with you upstairs. After that, well, the Foundation will begin to consider him rehabilitated. Good job, Johnny."

" Whoa, hey, why I am I here?" The human formed peacock of the Zeppeli questioned. Robert merely shrugged, " Moral support?" He honestly knew if Johnny was taken somewhere, Gyro would be questioning here and there like a Pop Up Ad. The scruffy blond had watched the other wish his friend luck, so it seemed like the best course to take. With that, Gyro thought to himself and gave a shrugging nod. " Johnny, you'll be interviewed by Giorno in the room to the right, and Polnareff, Trish is waiting in the left."

Gyro grinned, showing off those stupid golden grills, patting Johnny's shoulder, " Nyoho, good luck dude!"

At least Johnny felt like he had an ally in Giorno. The boy was hard to read and way too serious for someone so young, and he couldn't imagine having him for an enemy. But on the other hand, he wasn't an easy person to please and he legitimately cared about Diego, so Johnny was starting to worry that he might not live up to Giorno's standards. He didn't have a great history of that. "Thanks, Gyro." With that, he entered the room on the right and there was Giorno just as severe as ever.

~~~~~
Giorno sat in a chair, curious to why he had been called up, but grew even more curious once Jonathan had told him the circumstances. He sat there, well mannered with a leg propped on his knee and hands clasped together to watch Johnny wheel over in front of him. Presumably, there had been a chair there beforehand, but was moved aside for the wheelchair. The golden-haired boy simply smiled to the Joestar, " Heh, you actually did it. You've managed to get Diego to this point. Not that I didn't trust you, but it seemed rather shaky when you began. So I apologize for having some doubts." He sighed lightly, still having a gentle smile on his lips. All before it vanished and the strong-willed and serious eyes locked onto Johnny's, " Do you think you can handle him?" What was this, a shotgun wedding?

"Yes. I do." Johnny didn't like the look in Giorno's eyes. It was almost like an accusation. And he hated being called weak. "Diego is tricky, but he'd never hurt me. And I can take care of myself." He was about as surprised as Giorno, if he were being honest. When he had first met with Diego, he would have never imagined that it would lead to all this. He hadn't even known it was Diego in the first place. But here he was, trying to convince a 15-year-old to let him spend time alone with his boyfriend. As hilarious as that sounded in a sad twisted way, Giorno didn't let up lightly. This really showed how much the young boy cared for the mental safety of his cousin. It was as if he had to make a point so clear that he could trust Johnny, even though he had in the past. But he couldn't afford one small miscalculation, not now since the two were so close.

He nodded quietly before pressing further, " And you can keep him out of trouble? I know you've been in some at times, how do I know? I'm unsure, but I can tell." Thankfully he wasn't gesturing to the wheelchair, for all he knew, Johnny had always been like this. " For a Joestar to care for a Brando... It is, what would be the word? Laboring? Demanding? Challenging? Yes, highly challenging."

"I'm not perfect," Johnny said, and he tried to keep his voice steady. Even thinking about some of that stuff was hard. "I've made mistakes. A lot of them." His legs, his failures on the racetrack, Nicholas. Above everything else, Nicholas. "And I didn't know how to solve them. I couldn't solve them. But Diego is important to me. I won't lose him too." It was a pathetic defense and Johnny knew it. But sometimes the truth wasn't pretty and it wasn't safe. He was asking Giorno to take a risk and maybe that was too much to ask but he didn't really have a choice. "I'd rather die than lose him."

The business type of teen listened, listened well to Johnny's truth. The boy could hear it in the timbre of his voice, Johnny was telling him that he wasn't a great person, but he ended up caring for Diego. Giorno closed his eyes, hiding his mouth behind the clutched hands, leaning forward to take in the information. And Johnny for just a split second could clearly see Giorno wince to hold back his emotion of being sappy by Johnny's last comment. It was hard, but it was the right thing to do, to take a risk on it all for the better. His blue eyes opened up and gave a harden long gaze to Johnny, " ... I trust you."

"Thanks. That really means a lot." So Johnny was one step closer to rescuing Diego and that felt good. One step closer to fixing some of the damage that had been done. Giorno was right, Diego would be challenging to care for. He had barely been out of the basement cell-block for years. And Johnny didn't exactly have a handle on his own shit most of the time. But it was for Diego, he was sure he could manage. He had to. "I'll take good care of him." Giorno stood up and gave a gentle smile, like all of that thorough hardness just broke away without much of a slight hesitation. The golden-haired boy sighed in relief, another burden lifted from his heavy shoulders of his family. He was glad he could trust someone, even if they were terribly stubborn.
~~~~~

The two exited the room and into the waiting one where they were greeted by Joseph getting berated by the pompadour and gaped toothed Joestar. Giorno raised his head to watch as the scarf wearer of the family chuckled nervously. Josuke seemed angry, which wasn't a good thing, considering it was rather hard to piss him off. Even Jousuke seemed irritated. The pompadour User called out to his American Cousin," You dumbass! Why?! Why did you pick no?!"

" I got scared! Instinct caught me, man! You know I have a fear of sharp teeth!" Joseph cried out in defense.

"Yeah, and if you fucked this up for Diego I'll make sure those sharp teeth end up in your throat." Johnny was only mostly joking. If his own family were the reason that Diego couldn't be released from the basement, well, there'd be hell to pay. No doubt that was what Joseph was talking about. He'd seen Scary Monsters and decided it was too much of a danger to release into the general population. Maybe Johnny was being selfish, but he hadn't really thought about the risk to other Stand users in the facility.

Josuke groaned out and snatched the very closely named, Jousuke's sailor hat and pelted Joseph a bit with it as he defended himself with his arms miserably. Gyro ran over with his hat and joined in just for the hell of it, but also knowing fully well how this affected Johnny in turn, " You idiot!"

" Ahhh-I'm sorry! I didn't mean it!"

Giorno sighed lightly, " I take it that they didn't know they were going to be interviewed until they got here." He watched as the two kept flimsily flailing the hats onto the brown-haired Joestar in mild amusement. He put a hand onto Johnny's shoulder to reassure him, " It will be fine. Mistakes happen. I can tell he didn't do it out of malice." Though mistakes could be dangerous, Johnny knew that too well, but like hell was Giorno going to get him thinking negatively, " So who's next to see him?"

Jousuke rubbed the back of his neck, frowning, showing off the large gap in his teeth. " J-Jotaro..." Johnny could feel Giorno's hand stiffen up and shake ever so lightly. Okay, so Jotaro was a no. That was inevitable. He had warned Johnny about Diego before and he wasn't very fond of Brandos in general. Not after what had happened with Dio. Which meant it would come down to a tie, Diego's life settled on a tie. He wouldn't last long if he was denied this chance. Johnny could probably still visit him, but the thought of watching him waste away was horrible. They were so close. They were so close and it had come down to this. Maybe it was punishment. Maybe he deserved to have the first person he'd ever really loved taken away, like he'd deserved so much else.

Johnny gritted his teeth slightly, "A tie. How're they going to settle it?"

Josuke stopped his small winded hissy fit and sat down sighing, " Jolyne. But maybe, just ya' know. Maybe Jotaro will-" He paused his wording as he watched Giorno back away from Johnny looking to the floor unnerved. "Yeah, you're right, he won't agree to it. Thankfully he can't rush out and warn her, so that's a plus, I guess." The pompadour teen look rather defeated, not finding much to really say in this matter.
~~~~~

Speaking of family matters, just nearby was another room holding Diego behind a secured, nearly unbreakable glass much like his own cell, for someone to peer in. Diego gulped, wondering how many other family members he had to go through. He had accidentally scared one, but the two others seemed fine. So he was a bit hopeful... Well until the second largest family member walked in and leaned against the wall instead of taking a seat. Jotaro didn't even know why they bothered having him meet Diego. He knew better than to trust a Brando like him, especially one who had already proved himself capable of hurting people. Johnny was family and more than that, he was someone who should be protected. Jotaro didn't know Johnny that well, none of the Joestars did, but he couldn't let anything happen to him. Johnny, the cousin that nobody ever saw, the little brat with obvious problems and no way to deal with them, the one with his name in the headlines. The Joestar who was hurt and depressed and needed someone much better than a former rival to care about him. But for now, he still had to meet with Diego, if only as a formality. And maybe he could get some information out of him. This couldn't be innocent. "Brando. What do you think you're doing to my cousin?"

Diego felt so much smaller than he normally did in the foundation. Jotaro was very intimidating, and most of Diego's fight was washed away unlike Dio's. The jockey nervously fiddled with his hands, trying his best to make eye contact but just couldn't. He twitched slightly from being called his last name, like it was some type of curse. " I'm thinking that, w-we could be friends? Be there for each other?" Thoughts raced through his mind a mile per second, finally standing his ground, if only a bit. " To help one another. To care for him." He knew none of these answers were good enough, but he had to put his foot down somehow, not just for his, but for Johnny's sake, " I need him. And he needs me."

"Cut the bullshit. Did Dio put you up to this?" Jotaro stared holes in the glass between them, his eyes fixed on Diego. This interview had become an interrogation. "You need him? You need your freedom. And Johnny is a weak link. You think you can break him." Jotaro had seen enough of Dio's power to know it wasn't to be trifled with. Even if he only had a fraction of that power, Diego probably could break Johnny. "You disgust me."

Though Diego felt weak, scared, and so small to the man in front of him, he still had the raw primal instinct not to give in, especially when he was being accused as just using Johnny as leverage for himself. In the past, Jotaro's theory would have been spot on, but now that Diego had nothing left but a broken mind, he felt the want and need of Johnny's presence beside him. He needed him so he could be cared for, and to care for someone again since so many had left in his life. Diego snarled out and glared, " Fuck my cousin, I don't care what he thinks! He doesn't know Johnny. Johnny he... h-he's not weak! I don't want him broken, because if he is, then I'd have no one with me again!" He started to pant a bit, teeth getting sharper, pupils slimming down, claws breaking out from his fingernails, and a tail forming out from the back, making Diego look far more feral than Dio.

Jotaro felt the strength of Star Platinum build in his body. He was ready to fight. If that was what it took, he was ready to fight. "Even if you aren't working for Dio, you can't control yourself. I won't let you kill Johnny." He stood up and walked closer to the glass, until Diego was just barely out of his Stand's range. Any closer and Star Platinum could have him by the throat. Jotaro knew it would get him sent to the basement again, but he didn't care. If it protected his family, he would spend the rest of his life down there.

Diego was never informed about anyone's stand other than his relatives, so seeing something as large as Jotaro himself made his body lock up as he stared up at the Stand. The jockey twitched, his muscles convulsing, unsure what to do with the sudden adrenaline, he hadn't thought Jotaro would threaten him to this degree. The blond soon went limp on himself, falling to his knees clutching his face to hide the sudden flurry of scales, teeth, and split mouth. He hadn't been called a monster, but hearing the other say he wasn't in control, and wouldn't allow Diego to kill Johnny, just made him feel like a monster again. What if he did hurt Johnny? Could he really bring himself from harming Johnny, let alone killing him? He soon broke up into tears, desperately hiding his face. He really was a monster.

That was a good sign, but Jotaro didn't let it show on his face. Good sign or not, Diego was still too much of a risk and he knew his vote was already decided. Before he left the room, Jotaro selected 'no'. He knew it would hurt Johnny, but it was the only thing he could do and still be able to sleep at night. This way, Johnny would be alive to be disappointed. Jotaro stuck his hands into his pocket and walked out of the room.
~~~~~

The large burly Joestar was met with the other family members but his and Josuke's little sister, Jolyne. Josuke looked up and bit his lip, knowing fully well what may have happened in the room, especially after talking to Diego on his own. He seemed like a nice guy, even if he was a Brando. He also seemed very vulnerable and easy to rile up and shatter from the weakened mind. He sighed and stood up to confront his brother, while Gyro held onto Johnny's wheelchair and Giorno sticking far away on the other end of the room. " Hey Jotaro..." He always thought of himself as the paladin of the family, to do the right thing and stick up for the others much like Jonathan did. He took in a deep breath to get Jotaro's attention off of Johnny, " If you need to know, I voted yes." There wasn't a point in lying.

"Fine." Jotaro couldn't make his brother's choices for him. He knew that. Josuke had been fooled by Diego and that was just how things were now. He had always been kind and trusting. Too naive for a world like this, a world where one brother tried to kill another for his inheritance. Even if Diego got out, Jotaro would still protect Johnny however he could. It wasn't ideal, but at the first sign of trouble he could snap Diego's neck and deal with the consequences. There was always that option. He looked at Johnny and saw anger in his eyes. "Be careful." Johnny didn't answer, just sat there staring back. And as the door to the other room closed, he swore he could hear Diego sobbing. All the tensions were now weighed down onto one individual who had no idea where her family stood on this odd spectrum. Giorno nervously wavered his eyes on the floor, not wanting to draw attention from Jotaro who had been onto him since the beginning due to his father's actions. ~~~~~

He and Johnny both had only a small miracle left. And Diego on the other hand who had been curled into a ball with his slim tail wrapping around his legs thought everything was over. Again, he hadn't kept a track record of Johnny's family, so maybe a tie meant no in all circumstances. He had barely even noticed the door opening up, making him look up from burring his head in his arms which rested on his knees. Jolyne stepped into the room hesitantly, her head down. She didn't like the Foundation very much, especially when it came to the medical tests, and the presence of men in white coats made her nervous. She was too young to be here. Most 12-year-olds were busy with middle school drama and trying out makeup for the first time. Jolyne was trapped in a medical prison. Her instructions had been brief. She was to decide if this man would pose a danger to everybody else. A lot of pressure for a kid, but so was everything else about this place. She'd had to grow up quickly.

Diego looked up to her, and was instantly reminded of Lucy. But she wasn't Lucy, she was someone else, a Joestar, probably scared, and was now confronted by someone who was more of a monster than a human. Diego didn't try to lead her to his freedom, of course, if it was the older version he would have put more thought into it, but not now. Diego curled up more and shook, there was no way a child wouldn't be terrified of him. He kept quiet and went back to hiding his face within his arms. Jolyne peered through the glass with a sudden curiosity. She wasn't scared. No, she was never scared, just like her big brother Jotaro. There was something interesting about this man, something wrong with his face, and she couldn't quite get a good look at it. But what she could see was the tears. "Why are you crying?"

He looked up, not wanting to talk, but again, it was like back with Lucy. The young girl had cared for him and treated him like a brother no matter how much of a monster he was. He gulped instinctively, " Because I'm a monster." He unfolded himself and wiped an arm past his face to rid of any waterworks. He still had those sharpen teeth, razor claws, cat eyes, and the long cyan-colored tail that was coated in gold words of DIO.

"Wow! You look badass!" If Jotaro could hear her now, he'd wash her mouth out with soap. Jolyne's eyes were wide. This was enough reason to let this man out for her, but she knew she had to at least ask a few questions first. "So... Uh... I'm supposed to interview you or something. What's your name? Why do you want out?"

Diego was a bit taken back from the sudden burst in nature, he had rarely ever heard a child say a swear word, or let alone have someone be amazed with his faulty stand since it normally terrified people. He gave a small smile wiping away any leftover waterworks. " M-my name's Diego Brando. I wanted out because I've been here for a long time, but that was before your cousin Johnny visited me. He's been helping me out. It's sappy, but I'd like to be with him. He means a lot to me. What's your name?" His hefty tail started to slink away from his legs and wag a small bit.

"I'm Jolyne. My brother says I shouldn't listen to Brandos." Jolyne didn't really mind. She was getting to that age where it felt good to break rules. "So do you love him? Do you love Johnny?" She hadn't grown up in the same generation as Johnny and Jotaro, and she only knew her cousin as the strange, sad one in a wheelchair. And Brando was just a name that people whispered rather than outright said. "It's okay if you do. I won't tell him."

" That's a nice name." He wasn't trying to overcoat anything, he honestly thought it had fit her. However, the half dinosaur man gave a slight sigh and worried face as she mentioned the accursed Brando name, but kept listening to her anyways and soon grabbed his dragging tail to put over his cheeks to hide any amount of blush. He didn't know how much of 'love' the girl knew, and was quite embarrassed. " Y-Yeah. I love him..." He peeked out to give a small smile, " Heh, thanks, I just rather not have any other people know." Oh god he was getting butterflies in his stomach by talking about a crush to a child.

Jolyne smiled. "Well, if you love him, then everything's okay." She was a romantic and Jotaro always said that would get her into trouble later, but so far it had worked out. "Johnny would be mad at you if you hurt any of us. So don't do that. And you'd better take care of him. Johnny's always so sad. He smiles less than Jotaro." Her finger hovered over 'yes'. "Will you do that?"

Diego couldn't help but give a small chuckle on the description she gave Johnny. But it was sadly true. He was a sad person once things had been taken from him, and that's why Diego connected with him. Because when everything was gone, he became scared. They were both broken, sad, and scared. He walked over and sat in front of the glass holding out his pinky, nudging it against the glass since they couldn't make a full contract, " I don't want to hurt anyone. I want to care for him. I promise, not just for you, but for your family. I pinky promise."

"Okay." Jolyne sat in front of him and did the same. "Now you'd better not break your promise or I'll get my big brother to kill you. Understand?" She got up and selected 'yes' before leaving the room.Diego gulped and started to shake like a leaf in a storm, he could easily tell she had a part of wherever Jotaro got his anger from. He took hold of himself and nodded, understanding the risks.
~~~~~

When Jolyne walked into the waiting room, Josuke knelt down to ruffle up her hair, making sure not to undo her little hair buns, " Heeeeya Jolyne~! How'd it go?" He wasn't really counting on his little sister, but he had to make sure she was okay with anything that may have bothered her from this odd situation.

"I met a cool dino-man. And he-" She clamped a hand over her mouth before she could say any more. "Sorry, that's a secret. Anyway, I think he's cool and he can hang out with us if he wants."

The pompadour Joestar's eye widened a bit while Joseph and Gyro's mouths opened in surprise. This even got Giorno to lift his eyes off from the floor, doubting that things would turn well due to Joseph's mistake. Josuke's eyes glanced to his older brother then back to Jolyne who was smiling at him like an innocent kid. Gyro merely muttered out near Johnny, " Holy fuck dude..."

Johnny couldn't believe it. After all this, Diego would be sleeping somewhere above ground for the first time in years. "Jolyne, did you really... You said yes?" The girl nodded and Johnny felt like he was dreaming. But all of this felt a bit like a dream. A few years ago, he never would have thought he'd have these feelings for his bitter rival. And now they were going to live together.