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a sort of let's pretend

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It was well past midnight by the time Jonathan and Dio returned to the mansion. The servants had long since retired to bed, and so too had Sir Joestar, and the clumsy footfalls of the two young men echoed through the quiet foyer as they stumbled over the threshold on unsteady, wine-drunk feet.

“Dio,” said Jonathan warningly, for Dio was leaning rather heavily against him, “if you faint here, I’m not carrying you upstairs.”

“I wouldn’t want you to in the first place,” Dio countered at once. “And I’m not going to faint.”

Even as he said it, his eyelids began to droop. He was putting all his weight on Jonathan’s arm, and Jonathan, tall and broad though he was, could not hold him up much longer. He seized Dio’s shoulders and, ignoring Dio’s efforts to shrug him off, steered him into the drawing room and deposited him on the sofa.

Dio slumped sideways like a marionette with its strings cut, half-curling around the arm of the sofa, one of his arms folded beneath his head and the other hanging off the cushions. It looked so like a pose that Jonathan leaned in close to Dio’s ear and said, in a loud stage-whisper, “I’m still not taking you upstairs.”

Dio made an irritated noise and swatted at Jonathan half-heartedly, but he did not wake.

There was nothing to keep Jonathan from leaving Dio behind and going up to bed, but he could not help but hover over Dio a moment longer, rooted there by the sight of his loose limbs, his mussed hair, his sleeping face. Even in sleep he had a haughty look about him, but his expression was still softer, and more sincere in its softness, than any he ever wore while awake.

“You know,” said Jonathan pointedly, “I like you better like this.”

As soon as he said it, he felt a faint twinge of guilt. It struck him as a needlessly cruel thing to say. When had Dio ever been unkind to him beyond those miserable early days of their shared youth, which in time would be half-forgotten? It was true that he could often be cynical, sometimes even spiteful, but only in the way a brother might be—or so Jonathan imagined. He wouldn’t know. He had never had a brother; there was only Dio.

Jonathan could think of no excuse for lingering, and yet he could not bring himself to simply leave Dio there on the sofa. He tried to tell himself it was shame over his lingering boyhood resentment, and not the strange tightness he felt closing around his chest the longer he looked at Dio’s sleeping form; but whatever it was, it moved Jonathan to shrug off his dinner jacket, and drape it carefully over Dio’s shoulders.

“You’re welcome,” he whispered, with only a hint of irony, before going on his way.

(Jonathan never did see that dinner jacket again, but then, he had never really expected to.)