At the end of the summer, when the warmth of the sun rescinded on a small town called Morioh and the petally leaves trembled from the trees and journeyed in adventurous drifts guided by the wind, Jotaro could say finally that this town was safe from the plague of war incited by Yoshikage Kira. However, as with any war, it did not pass without its martyrs.
Jotaro hadn’t expected to stay this long, or to make the connections that he had. Although he understood that his little uncle was blood, he had expected to bear the brunt of his grandfather’s mistakes and then leave, but everything about this small town had surprised him. Through the facade of normalcy and small-townededness, Morioh proved itself to be an epicenter of justice and gold, because the people who lived there made it so. Many people died at the hands of the criminals who scampered in the backdrop of this small town. For now, Higashikata Josuke’s soul still lingered on this earth with every shallow beat of his heart. But shortly after being admitted into the hospital with his own wounds and not long after the doctors confirmed that his arm had certainly been broken, Josuke had fainted from blood loss. Jotaro, and everyone who had come to visit Josuke, had not seen him since.
Jotaro leaned on the wall of the waiting room of the hospital, just down the hallway from where Josuke was. Though externally, his face did not express any worry or concern over the state of his uncle, he couldn’t sit out of nerves. If Josuke died at the end of this, Jotaro would blame himself; he was the adult, after all, who came here only to express to Josuke his rightful inheritance, but had instead dragged him into danger and harm. If Josuke died, then it would be the death of another sixteen-year-old on his conscience.
He was family. Jotaro should have done more to protect him.
He wished he and his wife were on speaking terms. She could perhaps alleviate some of the bad thoughts in his head. But she hadn’t answered the past couple times he’d called, which was fair; he hadn’t answered the last few times she’d called either. They hadn’t even been this unsynchronized before. Jotaro couldn’t worry about it now, but he still missed his wife.
Keeping his hands in his pockets, he glanced towards Okuyasu, who hadn’t left the hospital. To Jotaro’s understanding, the hospital might have been more welcoming to him than home, if only due to Josuke’s presence there. The boy, gray from grief and stress, slacked his jaw, almost asleep, his eyes fighting to stay open, his shoulders slightly slumping to the side as he crossed his arms over his stomach, fists clenched together. Blood was still on his school uniform. His own. Josuke’s, perhaps.
Jotaro cleared his throat and looked ahead.
His grandfather put on a happy front. Holding the baby in his arms, he cooed at her and bounced her in his lap, sometimes yelping as she yanked on his beard and then complimenting her strong hands before pretending to eat her fingers. Jotaro almost smiled. It reminded him of his own daughter. Jotaro had gotten used to the oddities of his family, so he decided not to dwell on how his grandfather was seventy-nine and how Jotaro now had an aunt who was only six months old. Perhaps when I tell my wife, she’ll laugh about it. That was called a silver lining.
Okuyasu’s head lobbed to the side. Jotaro watched, thinking that perhaps he’d fallen asleep for good, before he snorted and jerked awake, his eyes still heavy. Okuyasu was the only one showing real worry, and Jotaro supposed everyone was only pretending they weren’t for his sake. If one looked closely enough at Joseph, they would notice the way his eyes sometimes glinted with sadness and anxiety, how he sometimes would lean forward and peek down the hall when he detected movement, just in case it was one of Josuke’s doctors coming out to tell them anymore news. So far, it was null.
Okuyasu looked around, wiping drool from his bottom lip. He glanced up at Jotaro, and their eyes met for a moment before Okuyasu tensed and looked away, scratching the back of his head. Then he yawned into his fist.
Jotaro walked to him, leaning down. He kept his voice low. “You can probably sleep,” Jotaro said. “We won’t hear anything for a while. I will wake you if there’s any news.”
Okuyasu had glanced at him up and down nervously. Jotaro could sense his hesitance, but eventually, he said, “O-okay,” and shifted in the seat, trying to get comfortable on a seat of metal and thin, thin cushions.
He was asleep within the next ten minutes, his hands underneath his head, knees jutted into his stomach to try and make himself as small as possible. Jotaro shed his coat from his shoulders and cleared his throat as he covered Okuyasu, trying to make him a little more comfortable. He had not known Josuke for much longer than Jotaro had, but even Jotaro could sense the passion that Okuyasu felt for Josuke--a love more sincere than one most people ever feel in their lifetime. A sense of duty, or protection. Okuyasu must have felt guilty that Josuke could use his stand to heal anyone, even those who don’t deserve it, while Okuyasu could only watch helplessly as Josuke bled.
Jotaro crossed his arms. Leaned on the wall. Tried not to tap his foot.
Okuyasu’s breaths were shallow. Jiji’s baby squealed and cried sometimes. Sometimes Okuyasu would stir, then tug Jotaro’s coat closer to his chin.
Anytime a doctor approached, even a nurse, Jotaro would repel from the wall, just in case it was any news for them. Several hours had passed. But it was never for them.
Until, of course, it was.
Jotaro had been the first to hear that Josuke was now stable, that he was suspected to make a full recovery. He’d received some blood from donors, so he should be waking up soon, though perhaps would not be comprehensible through all the drugs in his system, and that he may be in a lot of pain. But he was a very lucky boy.
“Yes,” Jotaro answered. “Thank you.”
Jiji exhaled and smiled the first genuine smile he’d had all day. “Ah, see?” Joseph said. “All's right with the world... He is my boy. He’s a fighter!” Jiji sighed wistfully. “I was in the hospital too, for a long time, like him. Before you were even born, Jotaro. I hated it! I can imagine how restless and bored he will be, if he’s anything like me...”
Jotaro grunted, though even he had a small smirk on his face, and he kneeled down beside Okuyasu. He put his hand on the boy’s shoulder first, patting gently. “Okuyasu,” he said. “Okuyasu.”
“Huh... Mom...?” Okuyasu muttered wearily, rubbing his hand into his face as he blinked. “Oh. Jo...” He jerked up, Jotaro’s coat falling from his body onto the floor. “Jotaro-san, how’s--?” he asked, though his eyes filled with tears before he could finish, the sadness in his throat like a rock choking out the rest of his question.
“It’s good news,” Jotaro assured him. “Josuke is expected to make a full recovery in a number of weeks. He’s going to be fine.”
Okuyasu breathed out, and although Jotaro had expected this news to make him feel better, he still sobbed even harder, hands in his face. “R-really?” he asked. “You ain’t fuckin’--I mean, you’re not just sayin’ that?”
Jotaro sighed, but put his hand on Okuyasu’s shoulder. “No. I promise. The doctor told me so himself.” His hand fell back to his side, as he picked up his coat and slowly put it back on, distantly. “Josuke is going to be in a lot of pain still, and due to how much medication he’s on for the pain, he’s going to be sleeping a lot. But he will be fine.”
“Oh.” Okuyasu glanced up. Fidgeted with his hand. “Can I see him?”
Jotaro glanced towards Joseph, as if looking for help, then turned back, letting his chin touch his chest. “Eventually, yes. I’m not sure if he’s awake, or suitable for visitors.”
“Yeah, but...” Okuyasu scratched the back of his head. “He’d want me to come ‘nd see him. Even if he wasn’t awake.”
Jotaro pursed his lips. “I know you want to see your friend, but--”
“Okay,” Okuyasu answered. His voice was a little broken. Defeated. He didn’t want to be told he couldn’t see Josuke, it seemed; it appeared as if he’d rather reach the conclusion himself than explicitly be told. Okuyasu gulped and sniffed, wiping his face. “I guess it’s family only, huh?”
What a family they were. Josuke, who had grown up without his father until just this summer, and Jotaro, who dragged him into this mess. Okuyasu had known Josuke for just as long as he had--even longer than Jiji had. His mother, who didn’t even know her own son was in the hospital yet.
“That’s okay, Jotaro-san,” Okuyasu mumbled. “Thanks for letting me know.” He hesitated, squirming in his seat restlessly, like he knew there was no reason to be here but still wanting to stay. “I think... I think I’m still gonna wait here though.” He shrugged. “Like... I don’t know. Maybe they’ll let me see him if I wait long enough, huh? Right?” he said, smiling a toothy smile. Tears twinkled in his eyes.
Jotaro nodded. “Right.” He turned away and cleared his throat, taking a certain step forward, before he sat down beside Okuyasu. “Perhaps I’ll sit and wait too.”
Jiji smiled at the both of them. “Me three,” he added, holding onto Shizuka’s small hands.
Okuyasu brightly smiled. Even though he wanted to, he didn’t say anything, just sniffling and wiping his face. “Thanks,” was all he ended up saying through a sob.
Jotaro grinned. For all the stupid stunts he and Josuke pulled, he could at least say that Okuyasu was a bright, good young man. He kept that to himself.
Once everyone had been allowed to visit Josuke, in between his bouts of consciousness, slurring hellos and struggling to answer questions around the anesthetic numbing his brain and the fatigue of injury, Okuyasu had stayed in the room for as long as he could before being asked to leave by the nurses. The nurses had made a rule that only one visitor was allowed inside at a time, and most of the time, that one visitor was Okuyasu.
Jotaro stood outside of the door. Sometimes he peeked inside to see Okuyasu flipping through a magazine or topping off the water on Josuke’s tray, the one that he made sure Josuke would sip from every time he was awake. Even if Josuke wasn’t awake, Okuyasu talked to him, mostly about anything other than the fact that they’d both almost died.
Jiji had left once he’d said hello to Josuke and wished him well, kissing his forehead and telling him to visit him and Shizuka in America once he got better, assuring him he would see him again before leaving Japan. He’d also apologized. For not being there for him, not being aware of him, and not being a father for him. He’d kissed his forehead again and made a joke about his Joestar looks. Then he had another look of remorse on his face and apologized again. None of this Josuke had heard.
At least when Josuke’s mother first arrived, Jiji had already departed from the hospital to return to his hotel for a place where Shizuka could properly sleep. She had been angry first and then distraught second, smacking Jotaro’s chest and only getting more annoyed that it didn’t even make him flinch or appear to hurt him at all, before she grieved into his chest, crying against him and shaking her head. “I’m just so glad he’s okay, I’m just so glad he’s okay,” she had sobbed, and Jotaro, tensely, patted her back.
Explaining what had happened to her luckily was avoided in how she burst into his hospital room to coddle him and see to him as if she was a nurse as well. Okuyasu had modestly stood at her arrival, going to leave the room, before she snapped, “Where do you think you’re going?” and had him stay. Though Okuyasu had stressed about how only one visitor was allowed and, besides, he’s not even family, Tomoko had retorted that he was damn close enough to family and that he was absolutely forbidden from leaving. And even though he’d just been yelled at, he still smiled with tears in his eyes and agreed to stay.
Tomoko and Okuyasu stayed permanently in Josuke’s room, waiting for him to wake up. It would be several hours before he was able to stay conscious for minutes at a time, a point at which Tomoko had left to talk to doctors, to get him some food, to talk about when he could leave, what she would need to do to make sure he got better as soon as possible.
So Okuyasu was in the room alone with Josuke.
The door stayed barely cracked open. Jotaro stood outside, arms crossed. Stoic, thinking.
“Okuyasu,” croaked a voice. Not Okuyasu’s. It was hardly more than a breath, scraping like rust against rust; Josuke’s voice was arid and painful, like desert winds. When Jotaro glanced inside, he could see how his eyes could barely stay open, his hands trembling as he reached towards his friend. His forehead shined with exhausted sweat, his upper lip bubbled with dots of perspiration, his hair flat, his arm heavy with cast. It appeared for the first time that he was conscious enough to be aware of his surroundings. “Aw, man,” he mumbled, before choking on his own voice and coughing, crossing his arms over his stomach in pain.
“J-Josuke! H-hey, man,” Okuyasu said. “Um--shit, here. Water.”
Jotaro minded his own business. He’d been watching Okuyasu sit beside Josuke, holding the plastic cup of water to his lips for the past few hours. He knew the tender approach Okuyasu took, careful not to touch any part of Josuke in fear of hurting him worse.
“Thanks, dude.” Josuke sighed, a little bit of a cough finding him. “Kira...”
“He’s dead. Do you remember that?” Okuyasu asked.
“Yeah. Yeah,” Josuke whispered, then whined. “Am I almost dead or somethin’? Hurts so bad...”
Okuyasu laughed shakily. “Y-yeah, bro. You scared the shit outta all of us.”
Josuke frowned. “Is Mom mad?”
“No... She’s out of the room right now, but she been babying you like crazy. I swear, you won’t have to lift a finger for, like, two months ‘cause she’s gonna be so great at takin’ care of you.”
“Awesome.” They both paused. Then Josuke said, “How long I been in here?”
“Um.” Pause. “I dunno. Maybe a whole day now, I guess. Close to it.”
“I’m gonna be okay?”
“Yeah. You need rest, the doctors said. To heal.”
Another pause. “You’re okay?” Josuke asked.
“Yeah, man, I’m fine. You healed me up all good. I’m fine.”
Their voices got lower. It was harder to hear them. More personal. Intimate. “I’m sorry for--”
“No, don’t be sorry--”
“I was so fuckin’--”
“Don’t be sorry.” A pause, and a sniffle. Then, “Okuyasu... Don’t cry.”
“You don’t fuckin’ cry,” Okuyasu sobbed, voice thick with emotion. He inhaled a shivering breath. “You gotta... rest, man. Ain’t you tired?”
Josuke’s voice was too soft to hear his answer, but Jotaro could tell he’d said yes.
“I been sleepin’--”
“You gotta heal--”
“Yeah?” Okuyasu whispered.
Josuke sniffed. “You really died for a second. A little while.”
“Yeah. Did you?”
No answer. Maybe he shrugged.
“Josuke, I, um...” There was a weight in his silence. “I’m glad you’re okay.”
“Yeah. I’m glad you’re okay too.”
That was all they had to say for the moment. Jotaro had thought perhaps they had been too awkward to discuss their emotions, that perhaps, like he had been as a teenager and still was to this day, they could not face their feelings or discuss it in full, but when he turned to peek through the window of the door, he saw Okuyasu stroking through Josuke’s hair as he kissed him.
Jotaro widened his eyes a bit, then dipped his hat down over his head. That wasn’t something he was meant to see. (He wasn’t surprised necessarily--he could tell there was something a little different about Josuke.) Jotaro shut the door as quietly as he could and then began to walk down the hall, grabbing Tomoko by the elbow as she passed. “You must be hungry. You haven’t eaten since visiting him. Let’s get lunch.”
“Oh,” Tomoko said, her eyes fleeting towards Josuke’s room, “but I...” Then she noticed how his hand felt on her arm and melted. “Oh, okay!”
Jotaro grimaced and tilted his hat down over his head, guiding her to the cafeteria.
Yare yare. The things he does for love...