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beneath heaven and before the world, a rooftop

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Something changed in Dio after the passing of his mother.

He had always been a somewhat rude child, and often a bit of a bully as well, but he took this behavior even further without his mother around to support him and discourage it. The caustic anger that Dio carried inside of him was drastically amplified by his loss and it turned him rather sadistic, often finding clear joy in causing others pain, whether it be physical or emotional. Anyone who dared to insult or disrespect Dio, look down on him, or wrong him in any way would face his wrath--at least when the outcome looked to be in his favor--and he would enjoy every moment of it.

Many times would you witness a fellow child’s honest mistake punished with violent depreciation, unnecessary roughness and even a public humiliation so harsh that you could hardly bare to watch. All of this was made even scarier by the obvious delight on Dio’s features, the triumphant grin as he stood over one of his victims, and the feverish laughter that often accompanied it. You never thought he would grow to such an extreme, but bizarrely, even seeing him in such a vicious state did little to put you off of him. Your proximity to him fostered a high tolerance for his wickedness--a dulling of your compassion for anyone other that Dio himself. Perhaps he was contagious.   

He started spending a lot of time around boxers many years his elder, teaching himself their techniques and happily applying them whenever he found a chance to do so. Dio adored fighting and would find any reason to start one, from making bets with poor, unsuspecting peers to fabricating conflicts that he would gladly solve with his fists. You supposed it was cathartic for him, an outlet for the anger and stress that he was plagued with, as well as an opportunity to prove his superiority at such a basic level. You didn’t like this hobby of his very much, and it made you worried to see him getting in fights so often, but as expected, your concern fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t all bad, though. After all, whenever he did get hurt, he always allowed you to fix him up, and how could you pass up on such a rare and intimate experience?

Another change, which you much preferred, was that Dio became very interested in learning. You already knew him to enjoy reading books--an interest you admired greatly given your own sub-par reading level--but it was now something he spent as much of his time doing as possible. It seemed as though he had found something new to read every time that you saw him, and usually, when you tried to read along with him over his shoulder, it was too difficult for you to understand. Dio grew more knowledgeable every day, easily surpassing the other kids you grew up with, and it made you feel a bit superior by extension, even if you didn’t know what the hell he was talking about at times. He took up chess as well, and found that he had an impressive natural talent for it, being able to beat even grown adults with far more experience under their belts. Though, it would be hard to find something Dio wasn’t downright prodigal at.

Dio’s life became much harder without his mother, as he had to rely solely on his own strength and wits to teach himself how to survive in the world. On a near daily basis, he was forced to struggle and suffer pain and humiliation just to keep himself fed, which in turn fueled his desire to inflict the same kind of pain and humiliation on just about anyone that he could. Though he still had his father, he was not a man with any interest in taking care of a child, and the small amount of time that he didn’t spend tending to and indulging in the wares of his failing bar were spent making Dio’s life even more miserable than it already was. Now more than ever, you were determined to stand by him, and for the first time since you met him, he would actually give you space to do so.

In contrast to the darkness that had fallen over Dio, his treatment of you became much lighter. After that day on the roof, Dio would no longer seriously insult or belittle you with intent to harm, nor would he play mean tricks on you or blatantly reject your presence unless he was in the very worst of moods and needed complete solitude. Of course, it wasn’t as if he had suddenly started treating you kindly, given that kindness was not a part of Dio’s lexicon, but at the very least he no longer considered you a potential target of his terror. You were not an equal--no one would be an equal to Dio --but he accepted that you were on his side, at the very least. Though he wouldn’t actively treat you as a friend, he never again seemed genuinely bothered by your presence, and the compliments and praise that you threw at him were met often with pleased agreement. You might even go so far as to say that he seemed faintly annoyed by anyone who attempted to give you grief in the way he had once done before. It was clear by then that you couldn’t expect much of anything from Dio in terms of friendship or romance, but to be closer to him in a way so specific to Dio was all you could ask for. It felt like miles of progress, achieved nearly overnight.

Your affections for Dio had changed as well from somewhat of a childish, shallow infatuation to something more devoted and doting, possibly even bordering on obsession. This was in part due to having been with him through perhaps the darkest time in his life, and seeing him at his absolute lowest. Every time that you thought back on that day, you felt determined to never have to see him like that again, and this feeling manifested itself as a consuming need to protect and care for him, almost as if you had taken it upon yourself to try and fit into the role his mother had left behind. Dio did not need your concern or attention, and he made this fact well known to you, but, well, he could see no reason to stop you or be rid of you.

Similarly, being next to Dio was just plain exciting. He was such a commanding, self-assured, and composed presence no matter where he went, and being able to follow at his side and witness him at such proximity truly felt like a privilege. He was a much needed distraction from the rest of your rather miserable life in the slums, and a flash of searing, brutal radiance that cut through all the muck and grime of the streets. Not to mention the safety--very few who knew of Dio would try to harm or do wrong to you, lest Dio interpret it as an offense upon himself. As far as you were concerned, you needed him; as man needs bread, and as an artist demands their muse.

With time, Dio’s popularity and admiration from your fellow children only grew as more became privy to the sort of things that you had seen in him for ages, which meant it was more difficult than ever to spend time with him alone, especially considering how much he savored the adoration. Everyone who wasn’t utterly scared of him wanted to be his friend, and you even suffered the resentment of some who coveted your strange yet plainly exclusive place with him. It wasn’t hard to ignore it, however. Dio enjoyed being loved, and you would not get in the way of that. But, of course, you knew that you loved him the most. And, in turn, you had become his closest admirer.

When Dio decided he would murder his father, you were a little shocked, but you were sure that he hadn’t entrusted that information with anyone other than you, and that alone made your heart soar. Being the only person in the world who Dio even came close to trusting--the only soul he would bare any aspect of his cold heart to--was the sweetest feeling you knew. Though it felt scary to know you were an accomplice in the death of a fellow human, you knew that Dario Brando was not a man who deserved to go on living. Dio, and the world at large, would be better off without him.

Dio would not allow you to help him in this endeavor. It was something to be completed by him and him alone, and though he let you in on his intentions, he kept the finer details to himself. You were confused for quite a while as to why his father remained alive for so long after Dio set his mind on killing him, but when the already old and rotting man became sickly, then bedridden, and eventually on the verge of death, you realized that Dio’s plan must have been long since set in motion.

But Dio was not happy, even when his father’s corpse was dragged away to be buried. You appeared at his door merely a day after the fact, and as you quietly and cautiously let yourself in, he did not even bother to look at you. He sat on the bed where his father had laid before, his brow furrowed as he glared down at his feet. He clutched a letter in one hand, and beside him was a large suitcase sitting open, packed neatly with his belongings. A shock of cold grasped at your stomach.

“What’s that?” you asked hesitantly, his answer both necessary and dreaded.

Dio stood from the bed, turning his back to you as he stuffed the letter somewhere deep within his things and snapped the lid of the suitcase closed.

“Is something wrong?” you pressed on. “...Must you leave? If you can't stay here, I can share my room with you.”  

He made a sound like a scoff and pulled his arms deliberately through the sleeves of his coat.

“Answer me,” you insisted, wearing a voice much bolder than usual. Part of you worried that he would take some offense to your attempt to command him, but all that he did was ignore you. It wasn’t unlike him to simply not listen. “Dio…”

As you watched, he silently wrapped his scarf around his neck, taking his time to secure it to his liking. You were beginning to panic.

“No, you can have all of it,” you bargained, your voice betraying your desperation. “I’ll give you my room, and I’ll sleep somewhere else. Where are you going?”

“Quiet,” he ordered, but his voice had no bite. He finally turned to address you, and that gave you some relief. “That bastard was owed a debt by the Joestar family. I’m going to live at their estate, in the country.”

What? you asked stupidly, in a broken voice. You had no idea that this was part of the plan--was it part of the plan? “You’re staying there? For how long?”

“I’m being adopted ,” he clarified with a tinge of annoyance, taking his suitcase into his hand and sliding it from the bed.

“But you’ll come back, won’t you?” you pleaded with rising urgency and ire. “You can’t abandon me here for some pampered, useless, rotten nobles.” Dio wouldn’t just leave you behind, would he? But you knew that he would--otherwise, you wouldn’t have been so scared.

Dio walked towards you, but really, his destination was through the door behind you.

“Do you love me?” Dio asked suddenly as he stopped beside you, his sharp eyes drilling into yours with a touch more warmth than before. This, along with the question itself made your heart beat strongly, your head moving of its own accord to confirm with fervor. Did he even need to ask?

For a moment he only gave you a blank stare, and paintings of a goodbye kiss flashed behind your eyes. Might he finally requite your feelings before he took his leave? A dream too soft for the boy that you loved, but one that you pleaded for nonetheless.

“If you say that you do, then stop whining,” he scolded, with a face that did not betray any regret or reluctance. “I intend to take the Joestar fortune for myself, and become richer than any man has ever been. If you love me, then don't waste my time and let me through.”

But you didn’t want to move. If you moved, he would leave you, and you’d be far more alone that you ever were without him. Of course you wanted him to succeed and become rich, but why did he have to do it without you?

“Dio…” you said softly, a final plea as your mind tried to process everything. It was all happening so suddenly--couldn’t he have at least warned you of this beforehand?

“Move,” he repeated louder, and you felt tears begin to brim in your eyes as you gave in and stepped aside. Dio stepped past you, but stopped again just outside the doorway and sighed, his voice taking on a more authoritative tone. “I’ll have it arranged for you to come on Saturdays, so be prepared. And thankful.”

Profound relief washed over you at his words, and you couldn’t stop yourself from jumping forward to hug him from behind, burying your face into the shoulder of his coat. Dio clicked his tongue, but did not make you stop.

“I’ll be ready,” you cried, “I’ll wake up at dawn to make sure. I’ll see you there. I love you.”

“Let go,” he commanded, and though reluctant, you did so, a smile now plastered onto your face. He did not look at you again as he left, but you watched him go until his carriage disappeared into the darkness down the cobblestone street.