Work Header

The Stars Under Heaven

Chapter Text

"Jotaro!" Joseph called out, waving wildly and giving his grandson a winning smile. "We're going to the hospital!" he continued, sounding far too excited about going to a hospital. If the hotel lobby was more acoustically inclined, it would echo off the walls, producing a symphony Joseph Joestar that Jotaro would consider auditory hell. "Hurry up or we'll leave you behind!"

Muttering a good grief under his breath, Jotaro adjusted his cap before standing up from the chair he had been sitting in. It was old and rickety, creaking as he got to his feet. It wasn't a very comfy chair, it was covered only by a thin cushion upholstered by a striped fabric that had five different colors in five different patterns. It had hurt his ass to sit in it, and the only reason he took a few seconds to contemplate it was he needed an extra bit of time before he could deal with his grandfather's larger than life personality.

"I've been ready to go for an hour, Gramps," he replied, crossing his arms and giving him a halfhearted glare. After nearly two months of being in his grandfather's presence, Jotaro simply couldn't bring himself to be any more than just mildly irritated by him. And it was...nice, actually. If there was one thing that Jotaro could count on in the world, it would be that Joseph Joestar will find a way to be bothersome, like a fly buzzing around the room. Except this was one fly that Jotaro held quite a bit of affection for.

Not that he would ever tell the old man that.

"Don't give me that look," Joseph said, wagging a finger at him. However, he didn't look the least bit upset. "I'd tell you your face will get stuck if you keep doing that, but I fear I'm already too late! Did you take your meds, or do I have to shove them into you again?"

A less than pleased Jotaro nodded. He wasn't a fan of the pain medicine, but he did have to admit that it helped him not feel like every movement he made was threatening to rip him apart. Also, he absolutely did not want a repeat of when Joseph held him down with Hermit Purple and quite literally forced the pills into his mouth in what Jotaro was sure was a traumatic event that would cause nightmares in the future. At the answer, Joseph beamed even brighter than before and Jotaro couldn't help but be somewhat concerned that he'd actually be blinded by his grandfather's obnoxiously bright smile.

"Now let's get going, Polnareff's already hired a taxi for us."

There is very little in the world that truly scares Kujo Jotaro. He didn't fear half of the Stand users that stood in his way the for the past fifty days. He didn't fear dying in the desert or the fact that he was thousands of kilometers away from the familiar comforts of home.

Riding in a taxi through Egyptian traffic, however? Well, it did put a little bit of fear in him. There were no seatbelts in the cab. There wasn't even proper seats, save for the front, which Joseph had taken for himself. In the back, instead of a row of seats there was a pile of rugs for passengers to sit upon and as if that wasn't questionable enough, it turned out that every single driver in Cairo was apparently a madman. There was little to no regard for what Jotaro had understood to be road safety and the taxi zipped along the roads and highways at high speeds, weaving in and out of traffic without a care in the world. Multiple times, Jotaro would find himself thrown against Polnareff during a sharp, sudden turn or find himself squished between the side of the car and the Frenchman himself. And it wasn't just their taxi either, every car on the road drove like that. It was madness, and somewhere in between gripping the rug beneath him in a vain hope for stability and praying that he didn't get thrown from the vehicle whenever it turned, Jotaro would dimly realize that he knew little to nothing about Cairo or Egypt itself despite the time he's spent in it. It was still a mysterious, strange land that seemed so far away even though he was in it and experiencing it at that very moment. He felt as if he was viewing everything through a television screen, like the world he was seeing wasn't quite real.

Could he really be blamed, though? He didn't come to Egypt to enjoy it. He came to save his mother's life by punching a vampire in the face. Multiple times.

Speaking of which, it's been ten days since the defeat of Dio. He had powered through the last moments of the fight through a potent cocktail of adrenaline and anger and once that rush wore off, he nearly collapsed from his wounds and the excruciating pain. The next several days were spent in a haze as he somewhat remembered being attended to first by Speedwagon Foundation medics then doctors, who took care of his wounds and administered powerful painkillers. Before he knew it, he had more or less slept through an entire week then was given a prescription for more pain medicine at a lower dose and discharged to a waiting Polnareff and Joseph in the lobby.

("How did you get out before me?" he had asked his grandfather. "You were dead."

Joseph smiled and gave a thumbs up. "You underestimate your grandfather, Jotaro! I'm as healthy and hale as a teenager! ...Although those blood transfusion and restarting my heart things you did in the ambulance probably helped.")

Back then, he had thought the crazy car ride to the hotel had been a figment of his imagination, only a mildly bumpy ride that seemed far worse than it actually was due to the dizziness from the opioids in his system, a near hallucinatory harrowing experience that he figured was something like what dying was actually like. His second ever taxi ride in Cairo, however, had shown him that no, it really was that bad.

As they pulled up to the hospital, Jotaro started to think that he didn't like Egypt.

Stepping out of the cab, ignoring Polnareff's offer of support, he looked up to the building, seeing the name of the hospital printed in large letters in Arabic before following his friend inside. Joseph was already at the counter, telling the receptionist that they were there to see Avdol, Kakyoin, and Iggy, showing her a piece of paper saying they had permission to visit them from the Speedwagon Foundation, who were independently in charge of their care.

"Hey, Jotaro," Polnareff said, elbowing him lightly, mindful of the injuries that Jotaro was still recovering from. "Try to smile more, eh? What are Avdol and Kakyoin going to think if you go in there looking so stone faced?"

"It's fine!" Joseph replied before Jotaro could get off a good grief. "What's a better indication that everything is going fine than Jotaro being his normal surly self?"

Jotaro was silent for the elevator ride, the walk down the hall, and the opening of the door being guarded by Speedwagon Foundation security guards. The door creaked slightly as it opened, a quiet sound that seemed louder in the silence. The room behind it was stark white, with white walls, white tiled floors, white linens and white curtains on the windows. The most noticeable splash of color was the straw colored wicker dog bed sitting on a table between the two occupied beds. Quietly, the trio of men crept into the room, softly shutting the door behind them with a soft click, not wanting to disturb the patients' rest. They were mistaken, however, when Mohammed Avdol, in the bed closest to the door, opened his eyes and sat up.

"My friends," he said, giving them a smile. "It's good to see you."

"Avdol!" Polarneff shouted, tears in his eyes. "You're alright!" He nearly launched himself at the man, only to be stopped by Avdol holding up one hand palm forward with the other with a finger to his lips to send a signal to keep things a little quieter.

"Kakyoin and Iggy are asleep and it would be best to not wake them." But it was too late, as from the wicker basket radiated the high pitched growls of a Boston Terrier. Polnareff moved around Avdol's bed to it, bending down over to look at Iggy from a close-yet-still-safe distance.

"Did I wake you? Aww man, Iggy, I'm so sorry," he said, with none of the annoyance in his tone that he usually took with the dog. Much to everyone's surprise, Iggy seemed to accept the apology, curling back up on his cushion and closing his eyes. Tentatively, Polnareff reached out with a shaky hand to place it on Iggy's head, apparently expecting to have it bitten.

Nothing happened. After a few seconds, he lifted his hand and put it back down. Still no reaction. Encouraged, Polnareff continued to do something that somewhat resembled petting the dog, the only feedback from Iggy being satisfied snuffs.

"I thought for sure I was dead," Avdol said, turning towards Jotaro and Joseph. "I remember being devoured whole by that frightening Stand and finding myself in a place of complete darkness that couldn't be illuminated, not even with Magician's Red's strongest flames. I had no idea where I was, it was as if I was floating in nothingness. I could not tell which way was up or down. I figured, surely, if I was not dead, I would be very soon."

Joseph sat on the edge of the bed. "Then what happened?"

"A bright light shone through the darkness," was the reply. "It cut through the dark like a knife, shining brilliantly. If I were to describe it, I would say it was like, no it was a star. And as I turned to face it, another second one suddenly illuminated the void. It felt as if..." Avdol paused, curling a fist under his chin and directing his gaze to the featureless white wall opposite of his bed in deep thought. "It was as if I was being watched by a celestial being. In the hell that was that darkness, it felt as though heaven itself gazed upon me and granted me salvation."

Jotaro shuddered. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice.

"And the next thing I knew, I was outside of Dio's mansion where I was found by Speedwagon agents."

"So, you're okay then?" Polnareff asked, pausing his robotic patting of Iggy's head.

"I should be," Avdol answered. "I am mainly here for monitoring. The doctors want to make sure that there's going to be no lasting effects on my health due to that Stand's attack. So far, the prognosis is good. If all goes well, they will release me in a couple weeks."

"Doctors!" Joseph huffed, crossing his arms and turning his nose up at the very idea of Avdol being in the hospital for any more time. If Jotaro cared to look, he would probably be able to see up his grandfather's nose. He chose not to. "Overly cautious busybodies! They should let you go now!"

"I am rather weak," Avdol said, quietly. "I don't mind being here. Somebody needs to keep Kakyoin company, after all."

To nobody's surprise, Kakyoin was the one who had suffered most in the assault on Dio's stronghold. Having an actual hole put through one's body tended to be regarded as a serious injury. The doctors had said it was a miracle that he was still alive, and that a second miracle had occurred regarding the success of the surgery to keep him that way.

"How's he going to enjoy your company if he just sleeps through it the whole time?" Polnareff grumbled.

"He is a very perceptive young man," Avdol replied. "He probably knows you three are here right now. Furthermore, he's not in a coma, Polnareff, there are times he is awake."

Directing his sight past Avdol towards the bed on the opposite side, Kakyoin looked peaceful in his bed, looking far more restful than he had anytime during their fifty day excursion across the globe. Seeing him like that put Jotaro at ease as well, something he decided he was going to blame on the pain medication even though he was fully aware that they had nothing to do with it.

"It's a shame he's out like a light," Joseph said, moving to Kakyoin's bed, followed by Jotaro, and leaning over to hover above him. "Jotaro and I go back to Japan tomorrow and I was hoping we'd at least be able to talk to him before we do." A pensive look crossed the old man's face and Jotaro could practically hear the gears turning in that brain of his. With a finger, Joseph reached out to poke Kakyoin's sleeping body to wake him only to have it slapped away by Jotaro.

"Don't bother him, Old Man," he grumbled. "He won't get better if you annoy the shit out of him."

"Oh, so I'm Old Man now!?" Joseph frowned, but he didn't try to touch Kakyoin again. His lip quivered and he leaned back, putting the back of his right hand on his forehead in a gesture that screamed woe is me! "I'm hurt, Jotaro. Polnareff, go fetch a nurse, my cold hearted grandson has wounded me beyond repair!"

"Good grief," Jotaro growled. "You're fine."

"No, I'm not!"

At that point, Jotaro decided to tune Joseph out, a skill he had learned over the past two months that proved to be essential in surviving his company. He focused on Kakyoin instead. He wasn't there to witness Kakyoin, Avdol, or Iggy's deaths, but he had heard about them. In another time, in another place, where time and space were more like suggestions rather than universal constants that obeyed unflinching rules. He learned in that pocket of warped space and time the fate that had befallen not only his friends, but many other people he had met along the way. It was there he learned that time and space were not immovable, but that they could be shaped by beings with immense power, himself being one of them. But that's too much power for any entity to have, much less a single mortal man like himself. In the end, he had asked Star Platinum to shape a new reality using the power of heaven itself, then he let that power go. He figured he wouldn't be able to keep it even if he wanted to. It's a power that not even gods should be able to possess.

He wondered if it was okay for him to use it, even if it was just once. Kakyoin slept on, and if Jotaro was hoping to get an answer from him about it, he was sorely disappointed. Still, he knew even if Kakyoin was awake, he would have no answers. He probably didn't even know he ever died. It brought a frown to Jotaro's face. The idea of Kakyoin not knowing seemed out of place, because Kakyoin is supposed to know things because he is a smartass and a smug know-it-all. And if he didn't know it, he would eventually find out about it, just like how he had solved the riddle of Dio's The World. Would, perhaps, Kakyoin know what happened? Would he eventually figure it out? The possibility of it was nerve wracking to Jotaro for reasons he couldn't articulate, not even to himself. Maybe it was because if Kakyoin knew, he'd confront him about it, because Kakyoin has never been afraid to get in Jotaro's face and challenge him as an equal instead of cowering from him or looking down on him.

He could practically hear it. I died and you knew about it? Kakyoin would say. Why did you keep it a secret? Why am I alive now? Explain yourself, Jotaro!

Jotaro didn't want to explain. He wasn't sure if he even could. What had happened was an adventure too bizarre even for them. He was the only one who would know what happened, and he was fine with taking that story to his grave. He'd lock it away, and simply continue his life. And nothing would be different.

Suddenly, he was overcome with the urge to punch himself. He almost did, stopping Star Platinum from manifesting at the very last second. To think that everything will be the same and nothing will change was foolish. They already have changed. Kakyoin, Iggy, and Avdol were alive and the latter's story was proof that even now, Enrico Pucci's goddamn Eyes of Heaven were still looking down, watching the world. Watching Jotaro himself. He redirected the urge to punch himself into an urge to smoke, then suppressed it, because like hell was he lighting up in a hospital, and especially not in his friends' room.

"Hey, Jotaro," Joseph said, putting his prosthetic hand on his grandson's shoulder and giving it a shake. "We have to leave soon. Gotta pack for the plane ride home tomorrow."

Home almost sounded like a foreign concept to Jotaro. Even though he's only been away for a couple months, his quaint life in Japan felt like a lifetime ago and a world away. Everything got turned upside down the first time Star Platinum emerged to punch some nameless hooligan's face in, and it got turned an extra few more times for good measure when Avdol tricked him out of the jail cell he had stuck himself in out of fear of the evil spirit possessing him.

Although now that he thought of it, he never really was afraid of a demon. He was afraid of himself, of the idea that Star Platinum was simply a manifestation of the anger and violence in his soul that he had virtually no control of. He was half right, because Star is a reflection of himself, but even with his Stand's iron fists and frightening warcries, Jotaro knew now that it was so much more than that.

Much to his dismay, however, despite making his peace with Star Platinum, he was fully aware he still had no control over himself, Kujo Jotaro, the human whose emotions threaten to consume him at every turn. Kujo Jotaro, who could do little more than confine them in the stony prison of his body locked with an equally stony, yet intense expression that only just barely held them back.

In a way, he was jealous of his embarrassing idiot of a grandfather, who expressed everything he felt so easily and openly because he couldn't. Even though the others made jokes that he's something akin to an alien or an unfeeling robot, the truth is Jotaro does feel. He feels so strongly it hurts, and the only thing he can do about it is keep it all under control, letting everything out in controlled bursts, usually via his fists. Is it really any wonder that Star Platinum turned out the way it did?

"Jotaro," Joseph called out again, voice lower and sterner. "Visiting hours are almost over." Lightly, the fake hand on Jotaro's shoulder gripped just a little bit tighter, not enough to hurt, but enough to be noticeable, a subtle way to try to catch Jotaro's attention. Even though he didn't say it, Jotaro appreciated the action. He turned away from Kakyoin's bed and with his right hand, grabbed the bill of his cap between his thumb and index finger, and pulled it downward.

"Yeah," he said. "Let's go, Gramps."

It took Joseph three hours to pack, because in the last few hours between dinner and bedtime, he decided that he needed to go shopping for souvenirs for Holly, which then extended to Grandma Suzie, Rosas, and a few more names that Jotaro wasn't able to catch as Joseph's voice tapered down to a mutter.

It took Jotaro ten minutes to throw all of his spare clothes into a small duffel bag and he's in bed by ten at night Cairo time, where he took his scheduled dose of pain medication and proceeded to sleep until five in the morning, when both Joseph and Polnareff came to pound on his door until he could stumble out of bed, single bag slung over his shoulder, and follow them for yet another taxi ride from hell. At the airport, he bid farewell to Polnareff and stomped the seed of sadness that took root in his stomach as he watched his friend make his way towards the gate for his flight to Paris.

He boarded the plane back to Japan and found his seat, leaning his head against the window and closing his eyes, wondering if this would be the last thing he saw in his life.

Because Joseph Joestar was also on this plane, and the possibility that it was going to crash and kill them all while he slept was very, very high.

(The flight reached its destination just fine without even a single delay.)

Holly, Grandma Suzie and Rosas, personal attendant to Joseph and Suzie Q Joestar, were waiting for them at the airport, Holly on her feet and the picture of perfect health, as if she hadn't spent the past fifty days on the verge of death. It's been many years since Jotaro last saw his grandmother, and were he perfectly honest, his memories of her were fuzzy at best having only been a child during her last visit. Unlike how when he was reintroduced to his grandfather, however, he couldn't help but feel guilty about it. Like his mother, Suzie was sweet, and not overbearingly so. She simply wanted what was best for her family and Jotaro could always respect that. He had felt awful lying to her on the phone, and from the way she was watching her husband, it was pretty obvious that she knew she had been lied to.

"Joseph," Suzie Q said after a few seconds of affixing her husband with an intense stare. "How was your business trip?"

"O-oh, Suzie!" Joseph stammered, then smiled, but it was painfully fake. "I didn't think you'd come pick us up, my dear! Our trip was...uh. It was...I brought you souvenirs?"

"Joseph Joestar," Suzie said, also smiling, but this one had an underlying hint of menacing intent to it. "You will tell me all about your trip."

Jotaro could see Joseph practically shrink in size. "...yes, my dear."

As much as Jotaro wanted to watch Joseph cower before his wife, there was no chance of doing so because Holly chose that moment to descend upon him like a harpy of motherly love.

"Jotaro!" she squealed, putting her thin arms around her massive son's neck. "Oh Jotaro, my darling! Mama's so sorry she left you all alone!"

"Stop," Jotaro commanded, but it was laughably weak. He didn't have the heart to rebuff his mother, and even if he did, even his loudest, fiercest voice would do absolutely nothing to dissuade her. And after all, wasn't this what he embarked on that entire adventure for? For the mother that loved him unconditionally no matter what he had tried to do to push her away? He loved her back, and she knew it. That was why no matter what he said to her, she never minded. Holly understood him on levels where he didn't even understand himself. She probably still did.

My Jotaro is such a sweet boy, his mother would always say to people who would look at her as if she were blinded by motherly love at best, and as if she were insane at worst. Even he didn't believe it. And yet, at every turn on the journey, he would constantly prove her right, starting from the moment he chose to help Kakyoin, who had hurt the school nurse and fellow students and continuing through when he chose to change the world for the better, for people he knew for only a short time. And he'd probably keep doing unnecessary sappy nice things, because his mother is right: he's a bleeding heart underneath his rough exterior and kilograms of muscle.

Even now, it's still hard for him to accept.

Joseph explained everything to both Suzie and Holly on the way home. Jotaro wondered if they even understood a word of it, but he thought back to the tales of past exploits that Joseph would tell him on the Egypt excursion and the situations Jotaro found himself in while hopping in and out of the light rifts. If even half of those stories were true, then perhaps it's not so strange to Grandma Suzie, who was Lisa Lisa's attendant over on Air Supplena Island. She must have known what Hamon was, so even if she couldn't understand Stands, she would surely have something of an idea. His mother was a different story, one that Jotaro couldn't figure out either way. She had never gone through anything like that, even on the sidelines, but she must have grown up listening to Joseph's stories. And even if she did act airheaded most of the time, Jotaro knew that Holly was no fool. She possessed a sharp mind, amazing observational skills, and a sense of perception that allowed her to see Jotaro's true nature. Maybe she got it. Maybe she truly understood what was slowly killing her over those several weeks.

"One more thing, Joseph," Grandma Suzie said, interrupting Jotaro's contemplation of his mother. They were seated at the dinner table, Holly having cooked a feast of Japanese food. Joseph had complained loudly about it, but he shoveled his daughter's cooking into his mouth at breakneck pace and asked for more the moment his bowl was empty. At Suzie's words, however, he froze and stared at her with eyes so wide, they could almost rival that of the creepy old lady with the fog Stand. Suzie put down her chopsticks for a moment, resting them on the proper holder. It was obvious that she's had plenty of Japanese meals before. "To be clear, I'm not mad at you for running off on a dangerous mission where you could have been killed."

Were killed, Jotaro supplied in his mind, but knew better than to say out loud. Instead, he continued to eat as if his grandmother wasn't currently verbally eviscerating his grandfather from across the table.

"I'm upset because you chose to hide it from me," Suzie continued, looking her husband straight in the eye. "We have been married for over fifty years now. Do you think I don't fully understand you? That I don't understand the burden that rests upon your shoulders as a Joestar and what it means to be married to one?" She paused to pick up her tea and sip it, leaving Joseph to suffer from the prolonged confrontation. Jotaro spared Joseph a glance, and he looked as if he wanted to run from the room, but was forcing himself to stay put. With a sigh, Suzie said, "You aren't the only one with burdens, and I wish you would put more effort into realizing that. I have stayed by your side all this time, and yet you don't trust me. I feel as if I have failed as a wife."

Joseph started to reach across the table. "Suzie, no, that's not-"

"I wonder what else you're hiding from me," Suzie finished, and Joseph drew his hand back and fell silent. Jotaro paused eating for a moment as a face flashed into his mind, of a high school student that's just a little bit younger than him, with obnoxious hair, a somewhat awkward smile, and eyes that sparkled like diamonds. The boy portrayed an image that's both rough and sophisticated at the same time. He clearly cares quite a bit about his appearance, but at the same time, is more than ready to fight anyone who slights him. And yet, there's a gentle kindness to him that allows him to bring people ease and heal wounds, both physical and metaphorical, with words or a touch. An impressive, one-of-a-kind person who had great things ahead of him.

He must be about...five or six now? he thought to himself, then finished the rest of his food. Good grief, Old Man. Is there anyone you don't cause trouble for?

For the next month, Jotaro threw himself into his studies. Missing two months of school was usually a death sentence, but it seemed as if the Speedwagon Foundation could really do anything. Strings were pulled, and Jotaro soon found himself out of a physical classroom, but put under the watchful eye of a foundation provided tutor who would not only catch him back up on all the material he missed, but help him finish the year. Six days a week, he was put through the academic wringer, learning material as quickly as he could. It was, without a doubt, tougher than normal schooling. But he didn't complain. It was something to keep him occupied and despite what many of his classmates might have thought, he had goals. Ones that involved doing homework and scoring high on tests.

He stayed up late to finish his assignments, a pencil in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. And then he'd turn off the light and go to bed to do the same thing the next day. The pace was brutal and unforgiving, but Jotaro has always thrived in the toughest of situations, and by the end of the month, he's made incredible leaps in progress, basically completely caught up to where his class would be at about that time.

Then, perhaps as a reward, Joseph Joestar suddenly bursted into his room at six in the morning.

"Jotaro!" he shouted, and Jotaro responded by rolling so that he was facing away from absolute last thing he wants to see in the early mornings before he's even supposed to be awake. He went to bed at one in the morning the previous night, and he's already been running on a sleep deficit, and he didn't want to deal with his grandfather, who was supposed to be on the other side of the world in America, in New York City, an ocean and an entire continental landmass away from him. "Jotaro!" Joseph repeated, as if he thought Jotaro couldn't hear him the first time. "Holly tells me you've been doing amazing in your studies. That's my grandson for you, taking after me in my infinite wisdom!"

Jotaro finally sat up, glaring at him with all the malice he could muster, which was, unfortunately, not a lot for being angry requires a lot of energy, something that was in very short supply at the moment. He had grown to love his grandfather very much over the past several months, but if Joseph did not get to his point and let him go back to sleep, so help him, he was going to deck him.

"Jotaro, we're going to Cairo!" Joseph announced, which caught Jotaro's attention immediately. "Kakyoin is being released from the hospital today, and we're going to go pick him, Avdol, and Iggy up!"

He said it as if they were going to take a twenty minute car ride down to train station, not taking an international flight thousands of kilometers to Africa.

"Good grief. When do we leave?" Jotaro asked, mind still foggy with sleep.

"Tomorrow!" Joseph answered, looking oddly proud of himself. "So pack up! We'll spend a long weekend there and come right on back, how's that sound?"

It sounded...pretty great, actually. Jotaro told him so and promptly sunk back down to go back to sleep. Joseph refused to let him and hefted him over his shoulder, saying that he didn't come all the way back to Japan just to have his ungrateful grandson avoid him.

The next day, Jotaro caught up on his lost sleep on the plane.

He didn't expect his friends to be waiting for them at the gate when they disembarked and yet, there they were, Avdol standing right in front of them with Iggy perched on his shoulder and Kakyoin seated in one of those chair-bench fusion abominations a couple feet away. Polnareff was there too, having arrived on an earlier flight from France. Upon seeing them, Kakyoin smiled and stood, although the action seemed to take a little bit of effort on his part, and stood up tall to join the rest of them, lazily waving a hand in greeting.

"Hey," he said, and Jotaro had to look away for a second. He realized that it hadn't truly sunk in until that moment, and that he's been going through the past several weeks as if he were in some kind of extended dream. But it was not a dream, he could see that now. This was reality, the one he had crafted from a sincere desire from his heart. He had wished upon a star and that star moved the very fabric of existence for him. Seeing all three of his lost friends standing there, alive and well, felt more real than anything else he had experienced in his entire life.

"Hey," Jotaro replied, waving back. And he wondered if heaven was gazing down upon him right now, watching this new reality unfold.

Chapter Text

The three day stay in Cairo was both uneventful and kind of boring and Jotaro wouldn't have had it any other way. Due to the limited amount of time provided to them and the health complications of many of the people in their group, most of their time was spent at the hotel and the immediate area surrounding it. It was not time wasted, however, as it was spent catching up with each other in the month they had all been apart. Jotaro, in as few words as possible, informed his friends that his mother made a full recovery and that he'd been focusing on his school work. Joseph spent over a week slowly working his way back into Suzie Q's good graces, buying her flowers and apologizing profusely several times a day. He went back to his normal life as a wealthy New Yorker and mentioned something about planning to meet up with old friends in Europe in a few months. Polnareff had gone back to his childhood home to visit his sister's grave and inform her of the successful conclusion of his quest for justice. Meanwhile, Avdol and Kakyoin had focused on their recovery, making quick progress for people who had endured what they had.

On the third night, everyone had gathered in the hotel lobby in a circle, looking down at the tiled floor as Iggy pawed at the smooth ceramic with a new artificial leg, developed using the the latest in technology by the the brightest minds in veterinary medicine. The most innovative vets who were in the employ of the Speedwagon Foundation, of course.

Although he knew it was irrational, Jotaro was kind of sick of the Speedwagon Foundation being literally everywhere and sticking their noses into everybody's business.

"Just like a real leg, isn't it?" Joseph asked, kneeling down to get a better look at Iggy. "Science really is amazing. Now we match, Iggy!"

As if found he the idea of having anything in common with Joseph Joestar abhorrent, Iggy turned his back on him and kicked his hind legs backwards, using his Stand's abilities to send a small cloud of sand in Joseph's direction before trotting off towards Polnareff, head held high.

"I see you two are friends now," Avdol commented with a smile and Polnareff gave him a thumbs up.

"Yeah! All you need to do is show each other a little bit of respect," Polnareff responded proudly, seconds before Iggy bit his leg. Polnareff let out the most unmanly shriek that Jotaro had ever heard in his life (and he's heard many unmanly shrieks) and hopped around, waving his arms and shaking his leg frantically in a futile attempt to dislodge Iggy's unyielding jaws. "Get him off! Get him off!"

"Calm down, Polnareff!" Avdol called out, taking a single step forward, but hesitated in doing anything else of what Jotaro suspected was not fear of Iggy, but fear of being beaned by one of Polnareff's flailing limbs. "There's no need to panic! He's only got your trouser leg!" However, Polnareff didn't seem to hear him, continuing to do a poor imitation of American jive dancing around the hotel lobby until his foot slipped on the tile, causing him to crash down ungracefully with Iggy on top of him. The tiny dog sat on him in a few seconds of unrestrained smugness before hopping off as if nothing happened.

"I thought we were friends," Polnareff whined as Avdol leaned over and offers him a hand to help him up.

Avdol chuckled as Polnareff got back onto his feet. "You are. Notice that he didn't do anything to your face this time." The statement made Polnareff smile a bit. "Iggy is a prideful creature. He doesn't like being shown affection, even by the select few he cares about. He doesn't want to appear weak."

"Ridiculous!" Polnareff argued. "He's a dog! Dogs are supposed to love everyone!"

"That is a sweeping generalization," Avdol said, crossing his arms and shaking his head. "Dogs are individuals, like us humans, each with their unique personality..." The two would continue to debate the nature of dogs, but Jotaro lost interest in the conversation pretty quickly. He didn't really give a damn what a dog was supposed to be like. Iggy was Iggy, who also just happened to be a dog.

Jotaro watched as Iggy sat in the corner, using a leg to scratch his neck. He agreed with Avdol's assessment of him. Iggy wasn't one for affection, whether it was giving or receiving it. As much as Jotaro didn't think he'd ever truly "get" what a dog thinks or feels, especially a dog as unique as Iggy, he could understand that.

"Are you sure you want to come with us?" Joseph asked as they waited in line at to get their boarding passes onto the flight back to Japan. "I'd think you'd want to stay here."

"On the contrary, Mr. Joestar," Avdol said. "I think it would do me good to spend some time outside of the country for a while." Beside him was a brown and tan dog carrier with a large, bright orange sticker that read LIVE ANIMAL slapped haphazardly across it. "Besides, I have always wanted to see Japan."

"You've already been to Japan," Joseph pointed out.

"Going to see Jotaro in prison and then spending a single night at his home can hardly be called seeing the country, Mr. Joestar."

"I'm coming too!" Polnareff chimed from ahead of them, waving his newly acquired boarding pass in their faces.

"You too?" Joeseph asked. "How do you have so much free time? Do you not have a job, Polnareff?"

"What? No! I mean yes! I mean...I have a job!"

"So what is your job, then?" Joseph challenged, crossing his arms.

"I uh....can't tell you. Top secret," Polnareff said, eyes looking to the side.

"Just as I thought: unemployed." Polnareff made a strangled sound.

The flight to Japan was lively, full of chatter and activity. A flight attendant even had to stop by once and ask them to turn the volume down. There was something always going on with at least one of them, except for the rare times all five of them fell asleep. Then everything was blissfully quiet for a couple hours.

Jotaro awoke from one such sleep, feeling a rigid stiffness in his neck. Wonderful. This was why he wanted a window seat. He'd be able to lean against it and be slightly less uncomfortable when he woke up, but of course his was in the middle and he was fairly sure Joseph did this on purpose solely to spite him. At least the fan above him was blowing a comfortable and constant stream of cold air at him. He always found airplanes to be uncomfortably hot. For the relief it brought, he didn't mind the hair dryer-like noise it made. After a few minutes, he wouldn't notice it at all. Jotaro wanted nothing more than to stretch out his limbs; he's been in that tiny, packed seat for a while now, but that was proving to be an impossibility. He was seated between Kakyoin and Polnareff and they were both still asleep. And leaning on him. And Polnareff was drooling a little.

He could easily push them away and wake them, but he found the idea distasteful. He told himself it wasn't worth the trouble. Waking them up would mean having to deal with a grumpy Kakyoin and a whiny Polnareff at the same time and he didn't have the energy in him to do so. And then he forced himself to believe such a blatant lie. Trapped and with nothing else to do, he pulled his hat over his eyes and eventually drifted back off to sleep and soon enough, he was being nudged awake to disembark.

This time, he wasn't surprised to find Holly waiting for him. She's been in excellent health lately and she wouldn't pass up a chance to pick up her precious son from the airport for the world. To his relief, for once, he wasn't the only one to be fussed over.

"Papa!" she laughed, nearly jumping into her father's arms. "Welcome back, Papa! Oh, Mr. Avdol, it's good to see you again!" As her eyes fell upon Kakyoin, her smile only grew wider and she effortlessly switched to Japanese. "Kakyoin-kun! I heard all about what happened to you. Are you alright? Is your family here?" Without giving him a chance to answer, she's already out of Joseph's arms and making her way to Polnareff and back to using English. "Oh, hello! You must be Jotaro's friend, Mr. Polnareff!"

There was something that sounded fundamentally wrong with referring to Polnareff as "mister."

"Can't believe that's your mom," Polnareff whispered to him.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Jotaro hissed back.

"She's so nice and cute," Polnareff explained. "And you'"

"Good grief," Jotaro snorted. "Don't hit on my mom, Polnareff." But secretly, he was happy that everyone liked her. His mother deserved all of the friends in the world, surrounded by an overflowing well of love and affection. His father was almost never home, gone for months at a time and even when he was, he was always busy and never around for long. The rest of his mother's family was all the way in America. A lot of people in Japan treated her like a foreigner even though she's lived in the country for twenty years. That left her with only a small handful of friends and an abnormal son who couldn't give her the emotional connection that she sought.

He felt guilty about that. He always did. It's why he wished his mother wouldn't cling to him so much, because he, Kujo Jotaro, was a failure of a son who couldn't give his lonely mother the support she needed.

And yet, despite his coldness towards her, despite the harsh words he'd say to try to push her away, she still refused to leave his side and still continued to smile at him, cook for him, and just be there for him, whether he wanted it or not.

She is nice, he thought. And I'

No comment on the "cute" remark, though.

In between eating meals with his family and friends and helping his mother with household chores, Jotaro realized that for the first time in years, his large home had gotten lively. The Kujo home was large, unnecessarily so. Even when his father was home, there was just too much space for only three people and the excess of physical space absolutely didn't help the sense of disconnect that Jotaro felt with his family. Or more accurately, just his father specifically. He knew his father, spoke to him personally, but the interactions between them always felt stiff, as if they were just acquaintances rather than family. Jotaro knew more about his father as a performer than as a man. He was a musician first and family a distant second. But right now, it was different. With his grandfather and other friends here, the house had filled out quite a bit and it was as if new life had been injected into the place, it was now a place where people were living rather than just being the house he and his mother stayed in.

"Ah, Jotaro," a voice said, interrupting his thoughts. "Is there any particular reason you're standing in the doorway motionless holding a tray of tea?"

Jotaro blinked once, then twice, realizing he had spaced out while obstructing a doorway and holding a tray with a teapot and two cups. In front of him was Avdol seated at the table and inviting him to sit down.

"Where's the old man?" Jotaro asked, deciding to completely ignore the fact that he had stood there like an idiot for an unknown amount of time and setting the tray down on the table, putting one of the cups down in front of Avdol. He took the teapot in one hand and poured it carefully, doing his best to avoid any spillage. A stray drop did slide down the spout then dripped onto the table, making him frown. It really wasn't a big deal, but it made him feel inept, like he couldn't pour tea correctly. He should have had Star Platinum do it instead. But then again, what kind of guy makes his Stand pour tea just because he doesn't want to spill a single drop?

"Mr. Joestar is in the garden, I believe," Avdol answered and again motioned for Jotaro to sit. He finally did after a few seconds and ended up pouring the second cup of tea for himself. It was supposed to be for Joseph, but he wasn't there and Jotaro wasn't going to let perfectly good hot tea go cold. "Japan is lovely," Avdol said as Jotaro put down the teapot. "Polnareff and I are thinking about going out for sushi for lunch. Miss Holly recommended a place and I'm eager to try it. Do you want to come with us?"

No, was Jotaro's immediate first thought, but what he said was "yes," because that was what he really wanted. The desire to refuse was a bad habit; an instinctual response of a young man who used to try to reject any and all attempts to get close to him because dealing with people made him uncomfortable and irritated and he felt safe whenever he cut himself off from others, emotionally or even physically. All those months ago, that jail cell had been safe, not because it kept Jotaro away from others, but because it kept others away from him.

Until Avdol conned him into coming out on his own volition. It was Avdol, not Holly, not Joseph, or anyone else, who was the first to get Jotaro to start coming out of isolation, and he didn't even use force to do it. Or, well, he kind of did, because he accomplished it by attacking Jotaro, but he didn't actually pull him out of either the real and metaphorical cells that Jotaro was in. Jotaro was the one first step out of the cell and at the same time, take his first step into the world of having real, substantial relationships with other people. All because Avdol had managed to instill Jotaro with a desire to punch him across the jaw that was so strong, he left his safe space to try it. Only someone like Mohammed Avdol could pull that bullshit off.

Jotaro never asked for this. Now his life was more annoying, more complicated, and more chaotic. And he liked it that way.

Goddammit, Avdol.

"Splendid," Avdol said, lifting his cup to his lips and taking a long sip of tea. "You know, Jotaro, you've changed."

Jotaro had his cup halfway to his mouth and he put it back down onto the table, cradled in both hands. With a frown, he shot Avdol an accusing glare. "And whose fault is that?"

"Yours," Avdol chuckled. "It's not a very noticeable change, mind you. But you're less closed off these days. You're less adverse to showing people you care, even if you choose the most roundabout ways of doing so. I sense that something major changed in you between the moment we first entered Dio's mansion and when you came to visit me in the hospital."

Something major happened alright. A whole second quest that messed with space and time in ways Jotaro didn't fully understand then deposited him right back to the streets of Cairo, a mere thirty minutes after Dio's ultimate defeat, taking out his lighter and burning a cursed journal.

"Did something happen, Jotaro?" Avdol asked.

"No," Jotaro answered. He hated it when Avdol got like this. He always went on long winded lectures and asked all kinds of difficult probing questions because he was too wise and too observant for his own damn good. Whenever Avdol got onto his case, it always ended up with Jotaro having some kind of new insight on himself and the worst part is it's always something important that he always has to spend time thinking seriously about. It's sometimes kind of unnerving that Avdol could read him so well, even when they first met. It was Avdol who first said the name Star Platinum, and when he first mentioned it to him, it was like something magical clicked. Avdol didn't name Jotaro's Stand, it was more like Avdol was introducing him to it, telling him what Star Platinum's name already was and marking the beginning of a true cohesion between a man and his Stand. But there's no possible way for Avdol to know this particular detail, that Jotaro was carrying the knowledge of a different history with him. "Nothing happened. If you don't believe me, ask Polnareff or the old man."

Nothing did happen. Jotaro defeated Dio, then found and burned a piece of writing the bastard made because it seemed dangerous. That's all that occurred in that place at that time.

After a long silence, Avdol finished the rest of his tea and Jotaro poured him more. "You're not lying," he said. "But I don't think you're being truthful either."

Avdol did not press him for any more after that.

"Hey, Avdol," Polnareff said, eyes facing forward and furrowed in a look of intense disapproval. Beside him, Avdol folded the menu he was holding, gently put it down on the table, and slowly turned to him. "I have a question for you."

"Yes, Polnareff?"

Polnareff thrust his hand forward, pointing accusingly across the table. "What are those two doing here!?" In front of him, both Jotaro and Kakyoin looked up from their own menus in sync. Kakyoin had a small smile on his face and Jotaro simply seemed impassive.

"I invited them, Polnareff," Avdol said, as if he were stating an obvious fact.

"But-!" Polnareff sputtered. "But I thought it was just going to be us!"

"I simply thought, "the more the merrier,"" Avdol replied, picking up his menu again and running a finger down the contents, clearly more interested in the dishes than Polnareff's distress. "After all, Jotaro and his mother are kind enough to allow us to stay with them, the least we could do is treat them to a meal. I invited Mr. Joestar and Miss Holly as well, but they already had plans for some father-daughter time. And I invited Kakyoin because there's no reason to leave him out, seeing as his parents are currently abroad and he'd be alone otherwise." He let out a short gasp as if he just had an epiphany. "Ah, Polnareff, are you worried because you're paying and you don't have enough funds? Sushi is rather expensive. I can help with the bill."

"No!" Polnareff snapped. "It's not that! I have money!" To prove his point, he reached into his pocket to pull out a bundle of bills and slam them onto the table, more than enough to cover a meal for four. The table shook with the force, dishes, utensils, and cups vibrating slightly with it. He had made his point. "It's just...I thought...I wasn't expecting this, that's all." Under his breath, he muttered something about asking Holly what the best and most expensive sushi place in town was and how everything was now ruined thanks Jotaro, Kakyoin.

"Better luck next time, Polnareff," Kakyoin said, completely unsympathetic to Polnareff's plight. Beside him, Jotaro snorted in amusement.

If there is one admirable trait about Polnareff, it's his ability to bounce back quickly from any minor tragedy, especially ones that he makes a disproportional amount of fuss over. Within minutes, he's forgotten about ruined plans that Jotaro didn't really care about, but has an idea of what they were supposed to be, and was happily chatting up Avdol.

"I'm considering learning Japanese."

"Really? That's cool! Wanna learn together, Avdol?"

Beside Jotaro, Kakyoin delicately picked up a piece of sushi and lightly dipped it in soy sauce before bringing it to his mouth and eating it whole. "It seems we've been forgotten, Jotaro."

"Good," Jotaro said, because it meant he could eat in peace. Even though he's lived in this town most of his life, he hadn't been to this restaurant often. He never really had much of a reason to go. Money was no problem for his family, but they weren't in the habit of going out for meals often. Not when Holly enjoyed cooking so much. Restaurant trips were generally reserved for special occasions and even then it was a tossup on whether they'd go out or stay in. For him, this was almost as much of a treat as it was for the others, and he was going to enjoy it.

"Why's that good?" Kakyoin asked between bites of food. "It's rather rude of them to ignore us, isn't it?"

"I just want to eat," Jotaro answered, chopsticks in hand and eyes completely focused on the pieces of sushi in front of him.

"I don't."

"That's too bad."

With a roll of his eyes, Kakyoin jabbed at Jotaro with an elbow, making sure to hit him in the side, right below the ribs. Jotaro grunted and on reflex, dropped the piece of nigiri sushi he was holding. It fell onto his plate and dismantled, the generous slice of fatty tuna falling off its bed of rice that had split in two.

"What the hell, Kakyoin!?" Jotaro demanded.

"Talk to me, Jotaro," Kakyoin said. "I'm bored."

Jotaro poked at his ruined piece of sushi, thinking about the best way to salvage it. "About what?"

"Anything you want," Kakyoin shrugged, idly running a fingertip around the edge of his cup of tea. "Your family. Your childhood. Dolphins. Whatever. I just want to talk to you."

Picking up the slice of fatty tuna and eating it, Jotaro mulled over the request. As everybody knew, he wasn't an open person. He kept the vast majority of his words and his thoughts to himself and even when he did offer them, it was never all of them. He only released a tiny fraction of what he thought and felt at any given time, even to people he trusted. Even after two months in the company of four men that he had grown very close to, there was still a distance between them that Jotaro himself maintained, not with a wall, but something of a moat. A wall blocks vision from both sides and it wasn't that Jotaro didn't want to be close to his friends, it was that he didn't know how and that opening up to them was something he both did and didn't want to do. It was complicated. Feelings were complicated. He wished he'd stop being so damn wishy washy about what he did or didn't want. It's been even worse ever since sorting out all that Dio-from-a-parallel-universe mess and all the weird mindscrews that meeting your ancestors and descendant and distant relatives from all over the temporal spectrum tended to bring about.

He should have asked Star Platinum to erase his own memory when he reshaped reality itself. In his head, he thought he heard an annoyed ora of protest, as if Star was trying to tell him no I couldn't do that and you know it so deal with it.

Easy for it to say. Star Platinum only ever had to worry about hitting things and stopping time. Jotaro's the one who had to do the actual hard stuff, like trying to be a functional person. Dealing with this was hard. Everything was so much simpler when Jotaro thought he could avoid problems until they went away.

"Were you ever worried," Jotaro began, putting down his chopsticks and resting his elbow on the table, chin in his palm. "that something would happen? That we'd fail or one of us or you would die?"

Shit. Why did he ask that? It just sort of slipped out as he was trying to think of something to talk about. Why didn't he pick something not awful, like sports or the weather or literally anything else. Jotaro wasn't exactly the most savvy on social etiquette, but even he knew that talking about dying wasn't exactly a great subject for small talk. He dared to look at Kakyoin who looked...a lot less disturbed or upset about it than he thought he might be. Instead, he was clearly off in thought, looking across the table, but past Polnareff and Avdol, who were still lost in their own conversation.

"Yeah, I thought about it," Kakyoin said at long last. "I thought about it a lot. I definitely really thought about it when Dio put a hole in me and knocked me into that water tank."

He stopped to laugh at the memory. Jotaro didn't laugh.

"I think it first really hit me when Avdol almost got killed by that gun guy. He lived, but he almost died. He was so close to it that Polnareff really did think he died."

Jotaro decided to be nice and not bring up the fact that a large contributor to that was the fact that they had all decided to collectively lie to Polnareff and tell him Avdol really was dead.

"Now that I think of it, we really were lucky, weren't we?" Kakyoin asked, tapping at his chin with the clean end of his chopsticks. "Dio and his followers were no pushovers, outliers like Steely Dan aside. They were powerful, smart, and some of them were outright fanatical in their loyalty. The fact that we all made it out of there alive seems near impossible. A one in a million chance."

We didn't, Jotaro almost blurted out right there and then. Half of us died. You died. The only reason you're here now is because I cheated existence itself to bring you all back. But this time, he stopped himself from saying anything. He was not the type of person to make the same mistake twice. "Yeah, lucky," he agreed quietly. "I..." he started, then trailed off, silent.

"Hmm?" Kakyoin asked. "I didn't quite catch that." When Jotaro didn't answer him, he leaned a bit, closer to Jotaro, but still maintaining a comfortable distance away from him. "Jotaro?" But he sounded far away from Jotaro, who was too busy grappling with himself to answer. Kakyoin tried again. "Jotaro...? ...JoJo. JoJo, look at me."

The nickname snapped Jotaro out of the rut he had fallen into, a brief moment of confusion crossing his face before he got a hold of himself, as he looks at his friend, expression neutral. "What?"

"You okay?" Kakyoin asked. "You were looking really...intense there. Did I say something wrong?"

Jotaro shook his head. "No. You didn't do anything wrong."

"If you say so," Kakyoin replied, although he didn't bother to hide the fact that he was not at all convinced. "Anyway, did you say something? I didn't hear it."

Jotaro turned away. "Nothing important. Just...I'm glad you're all okay."

"Hey, hey, hey, what's this!?" A third voice rang out and Jotaro looked up to find Polnareff staring and pointing at him. "Did I just hear Jotaro say that he's glad!? Incredible, Jotaro just had a feeling!"

"Shut. Up." Jotaro growled at him, yanking his hat down over his face with a lot more force than necessary, but it was too late. The damage had been done, and the day would be dubbed "The Day Jotaro Openly Expressed A Feeling (That Wasn't Anger)" by Polnareff, to be celebrated for years to come, or it would have, if Polnareff hadn't completely forgotten about it an hour later as they left the restaurant.

Minor embarrassment aside, it was a pleasant outing, and Jotaro found that he was able to enjoy the company of his friends. He could get used to it. The doing-stuff-with-friends-just-for-fun-without-a-world-ending-crisis-looming-over-their-heads thing. For most of his life, Jotaro never really had friends. He's only had admirers: girls who fawned over him despite knowing nothing about him and guys who thought they'd be cool if they hung out with him. Neither group really cared about him, they only liked the idea of him. He was safe to watch from afar. He was an image, a fantasy of what it might be like to be a "rebel," to be brave enough to buck the unyielding rules of Japanese society and not care about anything.

Joke's on them: Jotaro cared about lots of things. He did care about what people thought about him. The only difference was he only cared about the opinions of certain people, three of which were currently in his present company. Three of the only people in the world who couldn't care less that Jotaro was actually kind of awkward and weird instead of mysterious and charismatic. They put up with him and care about the real Kujo Jotaro, even if they chose the most annoying ways possible to express it, and for that, Jotaro would always be grateful for them. It was why, without even giving it a thought, he overwrote deaths and made it so that they never happened in anything except his memories, because he didn't want to let go of any of them, including the damn dog.

He couldn't imagine a future without them, even though he knew said future existed. It wasn't a future he wanted. What kind of man, when given the chance to save the people he loved most in the world from death with no drawbacks whatsoever, doesn't take it? Or maybe there was a cost, because the fact that this wasn't how things were supposed to go continued to nag persistently in his mind. Jotaro didn't know why he kept thinking about it, but he did. He didn't regret his actions, not at all, because if he were to do it all over again, he'd choose this course every single time, there was still a trace of...something that kept bothering him. And then at last, it hit him.


It was anxiety. It was a fear that this seemingly perfect ending he's shaped for himself out of his own selfishness was going to come crashing down. Something was going to come along and rip it apart. Just out of nowhere, Dio or Pucci or one of those other assholes was going to come in and shatter this reality, laughing that it was all a farce all along and that Jotaro was a fool to think that he could have it all, even using the power of heaven itself.

"You're worried about something."

The words out of Kakyoin's mouth weren't a question. They were a statement, without any doubt. Kakyoin was another person who could read Jotaro well. Polnareff and Joseph too, although they were a little worse at it, and Jotaro didn't know if he liked the fact that all of his friends seemed to understand him so well that they could all read him to some degree or not. He didn't like it because it made him feel exposed and vulnerable. He liked it because it meant he wasn't so cut off and that the little island surrounded by a moat he was stuck on wasn't so lonely after all.

When did he start feeling lonely? When did he start needing people? Jotaro would like to say that it happened around the Star Platinum's first appearance, when he didn't know what to do with the evil spirit possessing him, but he knew the answer was "always." He had just spent seventeen long years toughing it out alone and was nearing the end of what he could handle by himself.

"I won't ask you what it is," Kakyoin continued. "I can tell from your face that you don't want to talk about it. That's fine. You don't have to tell me anything. I just wanted you to know that I know."

Stands are named so because they stand beside their wielders, helping them and protecting them from danger. Those with Stands are drawn to each other and often find themselves in conflict. That's not always the case, however, and they can also form strong bonds with each other that go beyond the fact that they share such a rare and unique ability. Stands stand beside their users, and the users stand with each other.

"You don't like to talk," Kakyoin said. "But you do like to think, and sometimes you think about things too much. It's easy to get stuck in your own head. I know, I've been there before. For a long time. I'd say years, even. But you broke me out of it, Jotaro, on the day we met. So, if you ever need someone to break you out of your head, I'll do it for you. If anyone deserves to be happy, it's you, Jotaro."

Something in Jotaro almost broke, but he's had his entire life to practice keeping the rawest of his feelings hidden, even from people like Kakyoin or Avdol or Holly. "Good grief, Kakyoin," he said. "Don't say stuff like that."

But on the inside, he knew that was something he wanted to hear.

Chapter Text

Several months passed, and Jotaro finished the school year with an excellent grade from his Speedwagon Foundation assigned instructor. She told him that it probably would have been even higher if he hadn't been under the pressure of making up two months' worth of lost time. He was an intelligent person with a good work ethic when he really put his mind to it, and she expected great things from him in the future. And while Jotaro didn't feel any personal connection to her, the compliments were nice and he decided he'd try to live up to those expectations. It wasn't like he'd be going out of his way to do so, he always had the intention of doing well academically. He had his sights on a particular field, marine biology, and if he wanted to go into it, he needed to do well in school. While it wasn't going to be easy, it was a straightforward plan of action. Do well in school, eventually he'd get the job he wanted. There was no ambiguity in it, just an honest path from point a to point b. That was the attitude he took as the new school year began back during spring.

Summer break was now upon him, and the moment he was released from his academic obligations, it was like the entire world had suddenly changed. The days were suddenly slow and lazy. The heat and humidity sapped his energy and his desire to do anything even remotely strenuous and Holly had to nag him to get him to help with the chores. He stopped wearing his school uniform in favor of casual clothing and he was hanging out with Kakyoin every day because for all of his recent achievements, he was still Kujo Jotaro, who was seemingly incapable of making friends unless fighting and life threatening situations were somehow involved. In other words, Kakyoin was his only immediately available friend since everyone else left near the end of winter. Avdol joined Polnareff on a trip to France with Iggy in tow and Joseph returned to America, hopefully to actually stay there for a while.

His mother had practically adopted Kakyoin as an unofficial new addition to the family. She cooked food for him and made an effort to reach out to his parents when they returned home from their latest business trip sometime in February. They loved her, of course. Everyone who gave Kujo Holly a chance ended up falling in love with her and soon "dinner with the Kakyoin family" became a regular thing that occurred twice a month on every other Saturday. They were nice people. They just traveled a lot due to their jobs and they used to take their son along every time until said son put his foot down and said he needed to stay in one place to focus on school.

But now that it was summer, it was an ideal time for vacations and Joseph had called a week earlier asking if Jotaro and Holly ("and Kakyoin, he might as well come too") were available to take a trip to Venice, Italy. It was "very important" because there was "someone I want Jotaro to meet." Holly said yes, of course, and Jotaro had a distinct feeling that he didn't have a say in this matter even though it involved him. Kakyoin got permission from his family to also go, as they would be leaving for Barcelona, Spain at around the same time and plans were made to meet Joseph and Suzie Q at the airport when they landed.

While Venice had an airport, it was a distance away from the city itself. To actually get to Venice, one needed to take a boat to get there and there was an organized system of water ferries to bring people to and from the airport. However, there would be no water ferry for them. Instead, Joseph had hired a private boat taxi for them and it wasn't going straight for Venice, instead it was the side? Wherever it was going, the destination was definitely not the actual city of Venice.

Jotaro would get his answer forty-five minutes later when a lone island came into view. It was round in shape and the entire island was surrounded by large walls, intimidating, yet ornate as beautiful designs were carved into its walls. Jotaro was no architect, but even he could see and appreciate the amount of skill and craftsmanship that had gone into it. It looked to be an old installation, made many years ago. Jotaro had heard that much of Europe was rooted in its history. Many of its cities and structures were built hundreds of years ago, carefully maintained and kept upgraded by its passionate population creating a seamless blend of the old and the new. Seeing it with his own two eyes, however, was awe inspiring. It wasn't anything like what he had at home, or what he saw on the long road to Cairo. It was almost like a fantasy story come to life.

The boat docked at the island and Jotaro was the first one to disembark, taking a few seconds to get used to being on solid ground once again. He helped his mother and Grandma Suzie off the boat and helped with their luggage, and knew better than offer any help to Kakyoin. Lastly, he finished by completely ignoring his grandfather, who probably didn't need help anyway and was just complaining for the sake of complaining, something he knew was one of Joseph Joestar's favorite activities.

They entered a doorway and headed down a hallway, one just as beautifully crafted as the exterior walls. Following Joseph's directions, Jotaro led the way until they emerged in a wide open space, a huge outdoor courtyard that made him realize where he was. He knew this place.

Air Supplena Island.

When he first visited it, it was cold and empty, but the Air Supplena of the modern day wasn't. Eight people separated into pairs faced off against each other in different areas of the space, attacking each other with martial arts and weapons that crackled with telltale golden yellow sparks, something Jotaro recognized instantly: Hamon. So, over fifty years later, Air Supplena was still a training ground for Hamon warriors, was it? Something about that was actually kind of heartening. The art of Hamon was still alive, and from the looks of it, it was doing better than ever. Jotaro could remember, in another time and another place that Hamon was something of a dying art. Only a small handful of trained Hamon practitioners still existed around the time of the second world war, and to see eight Hamon users gathered, honing their skills would probably amaze the few Hamon warriors he had met.


One of the pairs of trainees broke off from their spar to look at Jotaro and Kakyoin with obvious suspicion. They're both women, one with light brown hair tied up in a braided ponytail that reached halfway down her back and the other with short black hair cut at an angle. Both of them were wearing long pants and sleeveless shirts, no doubt the standard recommendation for training. It was easy to move in and didn't offer much for your opponent to grab. Jotaro was a bit loathe to admit that sometimes his own clothes had gotten in his way during a fight.

The brunette narrowed her eyes at him. "This island is private property. You're trespassing."

"Jotaro!" Joseph cut in, huffing as he stomped up to them, a suitcase in each hand. "What kind of man doesn't help his poor old grandfather with the heavy lifting? Ah, hello, Hilda, Xiulan! Don't mind my rude grandson here. He's with me."

The two women immediately relaxed. "Ah, they're with Mr. Joestar," the black haired one muttered before speaking up. "I suppose we should let Master know you're here. He didn't mention anything about you visiting to us, though."

"That would be because I didn't tell him," Joseph explained, puffing out his chest for no apparent reason. "Don't worry. He loves surprises!"

"He really doesn't. Especially when they come from you," the woman sighed, but she and her companion left them to disappear down one of the doors that led into the walls.

As they watched the women go, Joseph turned to Jotaro with a serious look on his face and Jotaro decided to focus on anything but his grandfather. The pleasant feeling of the sun shining down on him. The refreshing smell of the sea breeze swirling around him. When Joseph Joestar got serious, that either meant very good or very bad things.

"I guess you're wondering what this place is," Joseph said, and Jotaro wasn't, but he kept himself as expressionless as possible so that he wouldn't accidentally betray the fact that he knew exactly what this place was. "This is Air Supplena Island. The one I told you about during the journey to Egypt. I don't know if you remember or not, but just as a reminder, this is where I was properly trained in Hamon over thirty days. I know, I know, my words didn't do it justice. As you can see, this is still a place where Hamon is taught, one of only a small number where someone can go to properly learn its ways under the guidance of a master."

"And the person we're here to meet is that master," Kakyoin said.

Joseph nodded and opened his mouth to say more, but he was stopped by a loud yell.

"Joseph. Joestar."

The voice belonged to a man, one who looked to be around forty years of age, give or take a couple years. He was tall, roughly the same height as Joseph and dressed in what Jotaro guessed was Italian made clothing: a powder blue button up dress shirt and light gray pants with a matching blazer, the edges and collar lined with a simple orange and purple triangle pattern. On his hands were a pair of black leather gloves that shined in the afternoon sun. The man's hair was a pale shade of blond with a matching mustache and his eyes were bright, irises a deep shade of green. Jotaro already knew who this was, but if he needed any more confirmation, all he needed to do was look at the pale pink markings beneath each eye.

"Joseph Joestar!" The man repeated, absolute pure fury in his face. "First, you go off on some dangerous quest without telling me and then you don't tell me about it until long after it's over? You think to call your wife, but not me? I could have helped, you know! You're always like this! You were in charge of kids, what if one of them died!?"

Jotaro flinched.

"Why do you never think these things through!? And then you just show up on my island six months later out of nowhere pretending that this is just a friendly visit!? You know I haven't been able to fly out to America lately and you were supposed to visit every other month!" The man shook with rage then drew an arm back, formed a fist, and swung it at Joseph's face with a lot more strength than a normal person his age would have. Both Joseph's face and the man's fist sparked with Hamon and by the end of it, the man was breathing heavily, as if he had put all of his energy into that one punch.

Joseph had done nothing to try to avoid the blow or weaken its impact. He had simply taken it. Even for a deceptively strong and seasoned fighter like him, it must have hurt a lot, but he didn't cry out in pain, not even a grunt. He didn't reach up to touch his abused cheek, only slowly turned back to the man and smiled softly before stepping forward and pulling the other man into a hug.

"There, there," he said, brushing his lips against the man's face and giving him the lightest of kisses. "I'm sorry. I really am. It all worked out in the end, didn't it? I was in very good hands."

"I'm still angry with you."

"I know."

The man growled something in Italian. His voice was harsh, but there was no bite behind the words. Even if Jotaro couldn't translate them, he could easily understand the sentiment behind them. They were words that were calling his grandfather an idiot and an expression of bottled feelings the man clearly had been waiting to tell Joseph for a while.

"I didn't understand any of that," Joseph chuckled.

"You're unbelievable, JoJo. All these years and you still don't know a word of Italian. Your wife is even Italian." the man sighed, pulling away.

"I do so know some Italian!" Joseph insisted.

"Only the swear words."

"Because those are the only ones you use around me!" Joseph laughed, patting the man on the back. "Anyway, I brought some people I want you to meet."

The man looked from Kakyoin to Jotaro, taking a few seconds to examine him with a critical eye. "Ah, this must be the grandson you couldn't stop raving about over the phone. He looks nothing like you."


"Oh, I'm not saying you're not related, but he clearly takes after your mother. They have that same stern look about them." The man held a hand out to him. "You must be Jotaro Kujo. I've heard much about you. Allow me to introduce myself."

"My name is Caesar Anthonio Zeppeli."

Jotaro studied the man before him. He was probably just a few years older than him, well built, and completely friendly looking, a contrast to just a short time ago when he had looked upon Jotaro with wariness and suspicion. There was something about Caesar that put Jotaro at ease, like he was familiar even though this was the first time they'd met in their lives. Watching Caesar was like seeing an upperclassman at school: he was someone Jotaro felt naturally inclined to show polite respect to.

"So, if I understand correctly, you're Joseph's grandson," Caesar said, crossing his arms. "Hard to believe that any woman would ever tolerate his presence long enough to have a child with him. Sorry for earlier. We're on edge in this place for a number of reasons."

"You don't have to apologize," Jotaro said. He got it. This was a closed off, secure area that was under a threat of infiltration. He saw it with his own two eyes when the Pillar Men appeared.

Caesar smiled. "You don't act like him at all. You must take after someone else in the family."

Did he? Jotaro didn't think so. He was nothing like Joseph, sure, but he also wasn't like Holly or his father. Or his great great grandfather, Jonathan. He was definitely not like Josuke either. The Joestar he apparently had the most in common with was Giorno, because of how distinctly un-Joestar like the both of them were. Conversations with Giorno were nice, as long as they were careful around the topic of family.

Everyone called Jotaro a Joestar, but he sure as hell didn't feel like one.

"Well, every family needs its black sheep," Caesar said. "It's good that you're not like JoJo. The world already has enough reckless Joestars, it's about time one with a good head on his shoulders showed up."

Jotaro had never wanted to meet his grandfather in the prime of his youth and despite that, here he was. The young Joseph Joestar was everything his grandfather was, but multiplied by a factor of ten and it was like a nightmare made real. Luckily for him, Caesar was like a bastion of sanity he could turn to whenever teenage Joseph or even old man Joseph became too much. Caesar wasn't afraid to give Joseph, either version of him, lip, which went a long way in tempering both their attitudes. Jotaro had tried the same thing many times, but he couldn't achieve the same results. Caesar could actually get the younger Joseph to shut up and the older one was always quick to back down whenever things got too heated between them.

It was as clear as the Venician sky above them: Caesar Anthonio Zeppeli was someone who was immeasurably important to Joseph Joestar. This was something Jotaro had only been dimly aware of as he half listened to his grandfather's tales, but seeing it in action, he finally did understand. There was something between the two of them that caused Joseph to treat him differently from how he treated everyone else.

"Jotaro," the teenage Joseph Joestar complained. "How could you prefer Caesar over me, your own grandfather?"

"You hate it when I call you "Gramps,"" Jotaro pointed out.

"Well, yeah, but that doesn't mean you can go make Caesar your new grandfather!"

"I'm not-" Jotaro started, but Joseph had set his sights on Caesar.

"And you, Caesar! How could you steal my own grandson from me? I thought we were friends!"

"It's not my fault he likes me more than you," Caesar grinned, enjoying himself as he shot Joseph a smug look. "Perhaps if you spend more time learning about him instead of trying to impress him with your meaningless bragging, he might like you more."

"Maybe," Joseph muttered, looking dejected. "Look, it's just weird because he's supposed to be my grandson. And we're about the same age. Not only that, there's an older me here too and I don't know what it is, but I think he doesn't like me very much. How can he hate himself!? He likes you better, too."

Caesar sighed. "I understand this is very strange for all of us, JoJo, especially you. Your entire clan has showed up here from the past and the future and there so many things you and I are still learning about. Just...give it time."

"You're right, Caesar," Joseph said before adding, "For once."

Caesar glared at him. Joseph ignored him.

"In the mean time, since Jotaro here is going to spend time with my best friend, I think I'll go spend time with his."

"Do you even know what his name is, JoJo?"

"Sure I do!" Joseph said. "It's..." he frowned for a second. "Cack yo ween, of course."

"Oh my god, JoJo," Caesar said, burying his face in his hands.

"It's not my fault Asian names are so hard to say!"

"You are an embarrassment to me, your family, and the entire human race in general. Why are we friends?"

Joseph slung an arm around Caesar, pulling him tight. "Because you love me, of course! Not that you'll ever admit it, but that's alright, because that's your endearing character flaw. Nothing will tear us apart. We'll always be side by side, Caesarino!"

Caesar pushed him away. Physically. By slapping a hand on Joseph's face and shoving as hard as he could.

Jotaro was overcome with immense sympathy for him.

"Grandma Suzie," Jotaro said as he watched Caesar fawn over Holly as if she were his own daughter. One of Caesar's students came by to offer him coffee and he took it, mainly to be polite more than anything else. "What's the relationship between Gramps and Caesar?" As he waited for a reply, he took a long sip of the coffee. It was pretty good, actually. It was a cut above what he was used to. It had a rich, smooth flavor to it and it was actually a pretty refreshing thing to have while out on an island about thirty minutes away from Venice by boat. Was this the famous Italian coffee that people liked to talk about?

"Oh, Caesar is Joseph's boyfriend," Suzie Q said and Jotaro choked on his drink. He examined his grandmother's face for any hint of sarcasm, but he found none, seeing only a kindly old woman watching her grandson affectionately.

"Are you serious?"

"It's a complicated matter, Jotaro," Suzie said. "I'm sure Joseph has told you all about how they first met and became friends. The three of us have a rather unique relationship. Joseph is someone who gives his love freely, and there's always been too much love in him for just one person alone."

Jotaro couldn't really understand it, but it was just like what Caesar had said. He and Joseph were two very different people. At the very least, this put Josuke's existence (the Josuke that was his uncle, not the one in the hat) into a bit more context. Despite asking, Jotaro never got an answer as to why Joseph ended up cheating on Grandma Suzie (and also Caesar too he guessed?). Jotaro's given virtually zero thought to romance, but Jotaro thought that if he were to fall in love, it would be with only one person, the way most people did. Having platonic feelings was already draining enough. He couldn't imagine being in love with more than one person at a time and the mere idea of it was already starting to tire him out. "Are you fine with that?"

"Yes," Suzie answered. "I learned long ago that just because Joseph loves Caesar, it doesn't change his love for me."

Jotaro learned that Joseph visited Caesar often and Caesar visited him in America. Circumstance kept them apart, mainly the fact that Caesar had chosen to become a Hamon instructor and that he wanted to do it at Air Supplena Island, a place that was important to him, still in his homeland, and was already outfitted with all of the facilities and equipment ideal for training Hamon. Caesar was literally a second father to Holly, who treated him as such, and was a part of the Joestar family all but legally. He supposed this meant that he had two grandfathers now. Weird, but since when has anything about Jotaro or the Joestars ever been normal? Weird was their normal. It was almost a little too easy to accept.

Air Supplena Island was a much nicer place than Jotaro remembered, but it's been, technically, decades since he saw it. The place had been renovated sometime in the past couple years. He recognized many of the features and designs, but they had undergone restoration. New coats of paint covered the walls and molding was redone to replace anything that was too old or too damaged from the effects of nature and time. New furniture had been implemented as well: modern Italian made furniture that somehow managed to evoke a sense of both simplicity and mature flourish. It was luxury, but without the air of pretentiousness that often came with places like it.

"I don't have that many guest rooms," Caesar muttered under his breath. "Especially now that I have so many students."

"Not to worry, Caesarino, I can stay with you!"

Caesar grunted at him. "It will take more than a nickname to butter me up, JoJo."

"I notice that you didn't say no."

In the end, Caesar did decide to let Joseph stay with him, and Jotaro committed himself to not thinking about what that meant. Grandma Suzie and Holly were to share a room and he and Kakyoin were to share a third.

Jotaro wasn't sure if the rooms were actually guest rooms or if they were simply unused bedrooms that would be filled with more Hamon students if Caesar had any more disciples. The one he and Kakyoin were given sort of reminds him of a hotel room. There were two beds, each with their own nightstands with single lamps on each of them. A large dresser stood at the opposite wall, divided into two halves and was large enough to hold enough clothes for two people to live comfortably for a couple weeks. A door led to a bathroom that was much nicer than it had any right to be, complete with dual sinks, a shower, and even a claw foot tub that Jotaro had always heard about and seen pictures of in books about European history, but never thought were quite real. Finally, a pair of double doors led out to a small balcony where one could look out onto the sea and view the city of Venice in the distance.

It probably looked beautiful at night, but there was still several hours until nightfall.

"What do you know about Venice?" Jotaro asked as they dumped their luggage in their room.

"Not too much," Kakyoin said, causing Jotaro to eye him with feigned suspicion.

"You know something about everywhere, though."

Kakyoin laughed. "I'm flattered, Jotaro, but I haven't been everywhere on the planet. In Italy, I've only been to Rome." It was something that made Jotaro snort. Only been to Rome. Sure. And only someone like Kakyoin could say that and be completely sincere about it. "If you'd like some generic facts I picked up from the tourist pamphlet I got from the airport, I could read them to you."

"No thanks," Jotaro replied, electing to flop onto his bed instead. That just wasn't the same. When Kakyoin spoke about a place, it wasn't boring, typical things you could read from a brochure. It wasn't about square kilometers or dates when significant buildings were made. It wasn't about name etymology or population demographics. It was about local customs and traditions. It was about the local culture in a way that only a person who had experienced it firsthand could describe and teach. On the crusade to Egypt, Jotaro couldn't help but be interested in everything Kakyoin had to say. Enemy Stand users aside, the people they had met on their journey were colorful and varied, and they were just regular common folk going about their daily lives and to learn about them made them seem less foreign, less exotic, and although he never acknowledged it, the miniature culture lessons Kakyoin had to impart made it easier for Jotaro to interact with the locals, even for something as simple as ordering tea from a restaurant.

If Jotaro hadn't changed things. If he had continued on the future that was supposed to be, he wouldn't have that anymore. He wouldn't be in Venice, Italy, visiting Caesar Anthonio Zeppeli with his family and he wouldn't have Kakyoin here, unknowingly helping him not suck so much at basic interaction with people he was probably only ever going to see once in his life and never even learn the names of.

The next day, everyone was only somewhat jet lagged and that was deemed good enough to go into Venice proper. Caesar took the day off from training his students, leaving his senior students in charge of supervising the less experienced ones.

Venice was, admittedly, beautiful with its small, but charming buildings and quaint shops that lined the streets. Local craftsmen displayed various handmade goods from jewelry to carved wooden toys in glass storefronts, hoping to attract a tourist's eye. It worked pretty well on Suzie and Holly, as they would drag Joseph and Caesar into shop after shop, sometimes buying something, sometimes just browsing.

"Don't wait up for us, boys," Holly told the two teenagers of the group. "You two go off on your own and we'll meet up in Saint Marco's Square at five. It's a famous landmark: big, open, and with lots of pigeons, you'll find it just fine." And with that, she had one arm hooked around Joseph's and the other around Caesar's and was pulling them into yet another local artisan's store. After the door shut behind them, Kakyoin turned to Jotaro and smiled.

"Well, Jotaro, shall we discover Venice together?"

Venice, being a very small city, posed little threat of getting too terribly lost according to Kakyoin's travel pamphlet, so Jotaro didn't give any thought to where they went, letting Kakyoin lead him down random streets, which turned out to be much more difficult than it should have been because as it turned out, Venice has some pretty narrow streets, often wide enough for only a single person to go down and if two people going opposite directions happened to cross paths, god help them because getting around each other, especially if one side was facing a canal, was a delicate task where one wrong move could lead to catastrophe.

They must have spent hours going around like that. Kakyoin was able to eventually lead Jotaro to some of Venice's tourist attractions like the Rialto Bridge along the Grand Canal. He also led him down quieter pathways, into the residential districts where the locals actually lived. Away from the busiest areas, Jotaro found himself surrounded by buildings that served as people's homes, many of them arranged around small open courtyards connected by those tiny, winding pathways. It would be suffocating if they also didn't give off a sense of tranquility, a welcome break of the hustle and bustle of the commercial and tourist districts.

"Jotaro, do you want gelato?" Kakyoin asked at some point.

"What's gelato?"

"It's like ice cream, but creamier."

That was the worst description Jotaro had ever heard and he made sure that Kakyoin knew that it was the worst description that he had ever heard. But when he did try it, it was completely accurate. Compared to ice cream, gelato had a smoother texture. It was thicker and a little warmer than ice cream. They sat at the edge of a small fountain to eat their treats, and in between bites, Jotaro looked over to his companion, who seemed to be completely immersed in his gelato, digging into it with the provided wooden stick to scoop some into his mouth.

He looked happy, eyes focused on his paper cup of gelato and the corners of his mouth turned up in a smile. And none of this would have ever been possible in the past. Past future? Whatever. The point was, in that other future, the one that Jotaro eliminated, this wouldn't be happening. Kakyoin would be dead. He would be buried in the ground and he wouldn't ever be able to go to Venice and be sitting here next to him eating cherry gelato as they waited for another thirty minutes to pass so they could meet up with his family and Caesar, who also wouldn't be here in the other future. But that future didn't exist anymore. Kakyoin was here. Caesar was here. A lot of people were now here, or they were there or they will be there, for Jotaro did more than just change his present day. He changed the past and the distant future as well.

"Hey, Jotaro?"

Jotaro gave a distant hum of acknowledgement as he put another stickful of gelato in his mouth. Shit, this stuff was good. He'd have to look into whether there were any places that sold gelato at home. Kakyoin was watching him, and Jotaro wondered if it was with the same amount of attention to detail as Jotaro did to him just now.

"Want to do this again tomorrow?" Kakyoin asked. "I want to see the Doge's Palace. We'll have to go early or get a reservation in advance. Did you see the line when we went by it?"

"Sure," Jotaro said. "Sounds fun."

"How do you put up with him?" Jotaro had asked the younger Caesar. They were seated at a café in Morioh Town, with little to do since apparently the light rifts had decided to be picky all of a sudden and were only allowing Jonathan and Josuke through to whatever the next location and era were. Caesar was absolutely fascinated by being in a small Japanese town roughly sixty years in the future. The change in both culture and technology captured his imagination, as if it were a beautiful woman who had wandered into his view by chance.

He was, however, a little less impressed to learn that this was where Joseph had the affair that led to the existence of Higashikata Josuke. He had really let Joseph have it on that one, and everyone in their rapidly growing group of time and space hoppers gave them a wide berth. But afterwards, Caesar had calmed down enough to tell Josuke no, he didn't have any issues with him (just with his father), he could enjoy everything Morioh had to offer, mainly a slow paced Japanese style of living.

"Joseph?" Caesar asked, then ran a hand through his hair. "It's not easy, let me tell you. You're lucky to deal with the tamer, mature Joseph." Tame and mature. Never in his life would Jotaro use those words to describe the grandfather he knew. The grandfather who regularly hatched ridiculous ideas like buying an expensive submarine that barely lasted a single day. The grandfather who enjoyed causing a scene whenever he was upset. That was the tame and mature version of Joesph Joestar, and the sad part was that Jotaro knew that Caesar was right. That was Joseph Joestar after he's had about fifty years to calm down and grow up. "Usually, I just let him be himself, but I let him know if he's really crossing any lines. Doing or saying something hurtful or if I just simply can't deal with him at that time. Joseph is an idiot, but he is not cruel. If you sincerely want him to stop something, he will." He brought up the cup of coffee he had ordered to his lips to take a sip. The café claimed the coffee was imported Italian brand coffee, but Jotaro kind of doubted it was. Regardless of its authenticity, Caesar seemed to like it.

"Does that mean you want him to annoy you all the time?"

Caesar choked on his drink.

He allowed Caesar the dignity of not being verbally called out on the fact that he enjoyed it when Joseph teased him. But that aside, their opinions of Joseph were nearly identical. "But yeah, he's...pretty okay once you get used to him."

While he may not have laughed, Caesar did. He threw his head back and released a loud laugh deep from his belly and by the time he was done, Caesar had almost doubled over in laughter with a wide grin on his face and tears glistening in the corners of his eyes. Even after he had finished laughing, Caesar needed a few seconds to catch his breath and Jotaro could do little more than kind of just sit there and watch as Caesar recovered from what was apparently the funniest thing he had ever heard in his life.

"I'm sorry, Jotaro," Caesar said, and while he was no Joseph, Jotaro realized that Caesar had a nice smile. It was light and airy, just like the bubbles that the man chose to be his weapons. Like his bubbles, his smile was captivating and fleeting, something he showed briefly to the people he cared about until it was suddenly gone, replaced by a serious expression or a frown or irritation depending on the situation. Jotaro was no Joseph, but he could now understand why he kept trying to get Caesar to smile. "I wasn't trying to make fun of you, honest. It's just...well, I always say the exact same thing about him. Are you sure you're not actually my grandson?" Caesar took a deep breath, a regular one, not the kind used to channel Hamon. "I'm joking, of course. But while Joseph may be an idiot, he is still your family, and I can tell you still adore him. I know you're Japanese, but you're also part Italian, aren't you? That's the thing with us Italians: we love our families like nothing else."

In another future, in another timeline, Jotaro would later learn that yes, he was Caesar's grandson. But only sort of. Not really. It was an "in spirit" kind of thing. As different as he was from much of his family, there was little doubt that Jotaro was a Joestar, the mark on his shoulder, the blood running in his veins, and Star Platinum's mere existence were all proof of that.

But if he wasn't a Joestar, Jotaro thought he wouldn't mind being a Zeppeli.

That night, they had dinner with Caesar at one of Venice's most highly regarded restaurants, and for once, Jotaro was starting to feel like he belonged. He belonged in this family, with these people, and with these friends.

He belonged in this reality.

Chapter Text

"You're going to ruin your eyes."

The only reply Jotaro gave to that was a grunt of acknowledgement. Not an acknowledgement that Kakyoin was right, just an acknowledgement that he had heard what was said. He didn't know if Kakyoin actually was right, but considering that his friend very nearly had his eyes gouged out by a Stand made of water, he probably knew a little more about eye damage than Jotaro himself did. It was summer break in America and Jotaro was back in Japan after nearly a year abroad.

"Jotaro," Kakyoin sighed. "Jotaro, it's summer break. You don't have to be studying."

"I want to."

"Why did you even bother coming back if you're going to just bury your nose in textbooks the entire time?" Kakyoin asked before reaching over to shut the book directly in Jotaro's face. "I know you have a one track mind sometimes, but it's one in the morning and you're back home and you're supposed to be spending time with your friends and family."

Jotaro snorted, but made no effort to stop Kakyoin from taking his book and setting it aside, because Kakyoin was right, as usual. The truth was that he didn't really want to spend his entire summer reading up on the migration patterns of whales, it was he was nervous about seeing everybody again after being away from them for months. It was irrational and he knew it, but he felt like what meager social skills he had before leaving for university had whittled away into nothing. There wasn't anything to be afraid of, but during his entire stay in America, Jotaro had completely neglected to make any friends whatsoever. He went to class, did his school work, spent his free time alone doing whatever, then went to bed. He couldn't even really remember the names of his classmates either. He learned them long enough to complete group projects, then promptly forgot them afterwards. It was a lonely existence, but he really didn't care. He was at university to study and graduate, not socialize.

He got all the socialization he needed from the people he already knew and cared about. He was more than happy enough with his family and small circle of friends. He had his mother. He had his grandparents. Once in a blue moon, he had his father, who still barely spent any time at home. He saw Caesar more than he saw his own father, but that's really how it's been since Jotaro was a child. His father was never home. Lots of fathers were rarely home, his was just an extreme case. He was used to it. He had Kakyoin, Polnareff, and Avdol. This was enough for him and even apart from them, knowing they were out there and could be reached with just a phone call away, gave him everything he needed. Why bother with more people when things were just right the way they were?

It made coming back home to Japan to find Holly and Kakyoin waiting for him at the arrival gate a perfect moment.

"Polnareff and Avdol are arriving tomorrow," Jotaro said before admitting, "I'm kind of anxious to see them again."

"So you stress read?" Kakyoin asked, trying to hide a laugh. "Better than smoking, I guess."

"Had to cut back," Jotaro grumbled. "Smoking's a hassle at university and cigarettes are expensive."

Money wasn't a concern for Jotaro and they both knew it. To say his family was obscenely rich was an understatement. However, Jotaro didn't spend any of his family's money on cigarettes, only his own. He's always been quite aware that he was attending university on his family's generosity, and while he may be cold and difficult at times, Kujo Jotaro was not an ungrateful brat. He paid for his own smokes using money he earned from an on campus library job and he kind of had to admit that it felt pretty good to buy something he wanted with money he earned himself. Any money he accepted from his parents or grandparents was strictly spent on his education and living costs only. Smoking was a luxury that he should probably be trying to kick entirely anyway.

Trying, but he still lit up a couple times a day. At least it was less than when he was in high school. A single pack could last him nearly a week now.

"Well, staying awake reading whale books in dim lighting isn't going to make you feel any better," Kakyoin shrugged. "I don't know about you, but I'm tired."

"Then go to bed. I didn't ask you to stay up late with me."

"I want to."


"Do I need a reason?" Kakyoin asked, then sighed for a second time when Jotaro stared at him with body language that clearly communicated yes, you need one and I want to hear it. "I haven't seen you in person in almost a year, JoJo. Is it so weird that I want to spend as much time as possible with my closest friend?"

His closest friend. Did Kakyoin really think that, Jotaro wondered. But at the same time, Jotaro could believe it. It was just as Kakyoin had said: they hadn't seen each other in nearly a year. And Kakyoin wasn't him: Kakyoin had a much easier time making casual conversation with people. It was more like Kakyoin was a nicer version of Jotaro who people actually wanted to spend time with. Kakyoin always knew what to say to Jotaro's mother, or to the girls who would get the cold shoulder every morning on their daily walk to school. Kakyoin always said the right things, but that was often all he did. He could be inoffensive and even charming, but like Jotaro, he usually kept people at a distance. While Jotaro kept people away using scowls and rudeness, Kakyoin did it by being so politely aloof that he created a boundary that most people wouldn't even try to cross. There were only a few people either man would let get close, and even then, they needed their space.

That was one of the things Jotaro liked about him. Kakyoin always gave him his space when he needed it. They could spend a whole day just existing in the same room each doing their own thing and that was good enough to be considered hanging out in their books. Kind of like what they were doing just five minutes before, until Kakyoin decided that enough was enough and that Jotaro was not going to stay up at one in the morning reading whale books like some kind of loser.

"You look like shit," Kakyoin said. "Go to bed, Jotaro."

"I'm not tired," Jotaro protested, except he was absolutely tired. It was in his nature to reflexively be contrary whenever someone told him to do something. Sadly, in this case, it made him sound like a child. And maybe he still was a child in some ways. He certainly was being one when he kept trying to reject his mother for most of his teenage years. He still made a show of initially rejecting any affection his friends and family show him until seemingly reluctantly accepting it even though it's what he actually wanted. Old habits die hard, they say.

"Jotaro, you're falling asleep even as we speak," Kakyoin pointed out and he was right. Kakyoin saw right through him. He knew, because Kakyoin is a smartass and a know-it-all. And if he didn't know it, he would eventually find out about it. The point was that Jotaro's eyelids were heavy as hell and he was literally starting to nod off in his chair. "Jotaro, if you sleep there, you're going to be in so much pain when you wake up in the morning and I didn't come here to deal with you sulking because of your own poor decisions. Get up." And then Jotaro's arm was being tugged and he's only mostly aware that Kakyoin is pulling him up and gently guiding him towards the futon.

"Thanks," Jotaro heard himself mutter as he sort of just crumpled downward and found himself comfortable despite it.

"For kicking your sorry ass to bed?"

"No, just for...being here," Jotaro yawned. "You don't have to be here. You don't have to do anything for me. You never had to do anything. So, thanks. For being my friend. I guess."

Kakyoin was already halfway towards the door when he paused, turning to look back at Jotaro. Their eyes met and there was a sense of...something passing between them. He didn't have any idea of what, and he wasn't sure if the reason he couldn't identify it was because he was tired or if he genuinely didn't know what it was, but there was no time to think about it, because Kakyoin smiled.

"Then you're welcome, I guess. But there isn't much to thank me for. I'm here because I want to be." And Kakyoin turned around, exuding an air of beauty and grace that Jotaro knew he'd never be able to come close to matching ever in his lifetime. "Good night, JoJo. I'll see you in the morning." And then he was gone, off towards one of the Kujo household's many guest rooms, and Jotaro was quickly drifting off to sleep.

He found himself in the middle of an ocean of sand. There was nothing but large dunes as far as the eye could see and it was hot. Terribly so. The desert had always been hot, and even though he pretended to not be bothered by it, the truth was, the entire time, in his school uniform making a trek across the world, often by foot, Jotaro was miserable in the searing, all illuminating light of the blazing sun. Black clothes on a clear sunny day was something akin to torture, but he kept wearing them because one year ago he was both stupid and stubborn.

And suddenly, in the blink of an eye, it was night and he was standing in the middle of one of the many, many camps their little traveling party had made in the desert. If the days were hot, the nights were cold, but Jotaro actually didn't mind the chill. It was a welcome relief from the brutality of the sun's rays and he could always sit by the campfire or bundle himself up if it ever got too cold.

What he liked most about those nights was the night sky. Japan's cities were brightly lit and American ones were no better, and while the artificial lights of the city were appealing in their own way, they came at the cost of a pretty night sky. Once they had gotten away from Singapore and Hong Kong, once they had gotten to India and Pakistan and especially Egypt, the night opened itself up to them and every night, Jotaro was treated to a gorgeous view of a dark midnight blue sky dotted with stars, something so vast and deep that it made even the ocean seem shallow in comparison.

He'd gaze up at them, and they'd shine back down on him in return, and if only for a short time, he could forget everything. He could forget about the dangers that lurked around every turn. He could forget about the fact that his mother was slowly dying entire countries away. He could forget that he was part of some stupid chosen bloodline that had some kind of unspoken sacred duty to seek out and kill Dio Brando to protect the world or whatever. He could just be Jotaro, finding peace in the silence and coolness of the untamed night. And to be able to return to it, even in just a dream, was like finding refuge in the busy whirlwind that was his waking life.

Kakyoin was there too, even though just a moment ago, Jotaro was completely alone. He was also looking up at the night sky, looking contemplative for a few seconds before he turned to face Jotaro, hair swaying slightly in the night breeze. He may have been pretty walking out of his bedroom, but here in the desert, in the ocean of sand, beneath the sea of stars, within the realm of dreams, Kakyoin was so downright gorgeous he might as well be a mirage.

"Do you think they're watching us, Jotaro?" Kakyoin asked, and before Jotaro could answer him, he woke up.

There was something different about Avdol and Polnareff as they stepped off the plane, but Jotaro couldn't quite figure out what it was. He didn't know how to describe it. Of course, people change over time and Jotaro wasn't expecting them to be exactly the same as they were a year ago, but it's...something. The way they talk to each other. Polnareff had always worn his heart on his sleeve, or, he would if he wore sleeved shirts more often. But Avdol seemed more open than usual, like someone who's loosened up a bit. And Jotaro thought it had something to do with Polnareff. From what he's heard, they've been spending a lot of time together over the past year.

He watched with mild curiosity as Polnareff pulled a dog carrier off the luggage claim, which, without a doubt, contained Iggy inside. It wasn't accurate to say that Polnareff had adopted Iggy: it was more that Iggy had chosen to stay with him and there was nothing anyone, including Polnareff himself, was able to do about it. Iggy was Polnareff's problem now and Jotaro was pretty glad for it because it meant that if Iggy was being a pain in the ass, he could just tell Polnareff to deal with it.

Jotaro pieced things together slowly. Star Platinum has always been observant, but that was a trait that was inherent to Jotaro himself. It was a useful talent that had gotten Jotaro out of countless situations, both everyday nuisances and life threatening battles where he had almost died. It was great for basic survival. It was not great for noticing that sometime in the past eight months or so, two of your friends hooked up.

But even if it does take a bit of time for him to realize what it meant, he did see that Polnareff would sit closer to Avdol. He'd see them pouring over a copy of a book that was supposed to teach Japanese and that they'd speak slow, somewhat incorrect Japanese to each other and laugh about how their grammar was a little off. And of course, it's pretty hard for anyone to miss it when Avdol would wrap an arm around Polnareff's waist to pull him closer and mutter something in French in his ear.

Jotaro was sure everyone else saw it too. They weren't exactly subtle about it. Nobody else said anything, and so, Jotaro decided he also wouldn't say anything. There wasn't any reason to call any attention to it. What was there to say anyway? It's been obvious ever since their first meeting that Polnareff's always been a bit starry eyed whenever it came to Avdol even when the two butted heads over their differences in personality and methodology and Avdol has always been clear that he thought Polnareff was someone worthy of admiration, albeit also in dire need of guidance. It didn't surprise anyone at all, especially not after the Sushi Incident.

(That was Polnareff's name for it, and only Polnareff's. Nobody else cared about the Sushi Incident.)

If that were the end of things, then Jotaro would have been perfectly happy with the situation. However, it wasn't the end. They couldn't have a proper reunion of their group without one Joseph Joestar, who had arrived a day after Polnareff and Avdol and if there was one person who could take something completely and utterly unrelated to Jotaro and use it to needle his grandson, it was Joseph.

"They're cute, aren't they?"

"I don't care, Old Man," Jotaro replied. There was more that he wanted to say like leave them alone or whatever point you're going to make using this, don't, but he didn't say them. It just wasn't worth the effort.

"Your English is so much better these days," Joseph said, meandering off in a different direction.

"I've been living in America for a year," Jotaro said. It would be more concerning if his English hadn't gotten any better. Even if he still spoke as little as ever, having to use English all the time and being surrounded by it did improve it noticeably. He could now speak it faster, clearer, and it became much more natural for him. He could even now just as easily think in English as he did in Japanese.

Joseph clapped a hand on his shoulder, saying he was glad that his grandson was getting more in touch with his heritage. The half that was American or part British part Italian or whatever. Jotaro never cared exactly what his ethnicity was. As far as he was concerned, he was Japanese and that was that. Nice and simple.

"So what about you?" Joseph asked and Jotaro internally groaned for several reasons, one of which was because his grandfather was trying to make small talk and there was little Jotaro found more trying than making small talk with Joseph which was worse than just small talk in general. Small talk was hard. He always had to struggle to think about topics and most of them were boring and went nowhere. Nothing meaningful ever came out of small talk. It was just a waste of time and breath.

Unless it was with Kakyoin. For whatever reason, it didn't feel awkward or out of place if it's with Kakyoin, maybe because Kakyoin was more than happy to carry most of the conversation himself. He liked to talk and Jotaro liked to listen and this turned out to be a perfect combination where they both got what they wanted out of small talk.

One of the other reasons he was internally groaning was he had to try, yet again, to try to get it through his grandfather's dumb thick skull that he's single and not looking and leave him alone.

"Do you have a girlfriend at school?" Joseph asked, looking far too unrealistically hopeful.

"No," was the only answer Jotaro needed to give.

Joseph wouldn't give up, though. "A boyfriend?"

"No," Jotaro repeated. "I'm not interested in anyone there." He didn't even like his classmates enough to be friends with them. Dating was completely out of the question. He wasn't looking and if he went his entire life without seeing anyone, that was okay with him. He didn't need romance in his life.

"Not anyone there you say?" Joseph echoed and already Jotaro knew what his next comment was going to be. "So, you're saying there's someone here-"

"We're not having this conversation," Jotaro interrupted, and then put a considerable amount of effort into ignoring Joseph Joestar for the next several hours. There's only so many times a man can listen to Joseph Joestar prattle on about how he married young while also maintaining a relationship with a boyfriend on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and everything was fine and it was one of the best decisions he's ever made and Jotaro had to bite his tongue, because if he was a worse person, he'd tell Joseph that he knew. He knew about the affair Joseph had several years ago, and that said affair resulted in an illegitimate son and if everything was so great, why'd he cheat on Grandma Suzie and Caesar?

But he didn't bring it up, because Joseph didn't deserve that. Suzie didn't deserve that. Caesar didn't deserve that, and Josuke and his mother definitely didn't deserve that either. To reveal it would be nothing short of cruelty, and one of the things Jotaro was not was cruel. It was just another secret that Jotaro would have to keep to himself. After all, it wasn't his secret to tell. It was a secret that would reveal itself in time.

But god, keeping all these secrets was hard. It was difficult to be careful about what he said, lest he'd accidentally let something slip. He couldn't discuss anything with anyone. Not about the past, not about the future, and not the fact that half of his friends were supposed to be dead in Egypt and every time he saw them, the fact that they had died brings itself right back to the forefront of his mind. Jotaro was one of the least open people on the entire planet but for once, just this once, it would be nice if he could tell someone about it.

But he can't, and for a few, agonizingly long seconds while surrounded by his family and all of his friends, Jotaro had never felt so alone.

Jotaro didn't just dream of the Egyptian night sky. Sometimes, when he slept, he found himself back in Egypt. He's back in Cairo with its sandy buildings and bustling streets. He's wandering the bazaars, navigating around market goers and salesmen trying to peddle souvenirs and oddities to him while trying to say hello to him in Chinese. The scents of incense and spice are heavy in the air, so strong that they almost overwhelm his sense of smell. Above him are beautifully patterned tarps of all colors, painting rainbows of fabric above, but with enough gaps in them to be able to see the dark sky and its stars above. And in the distance, he can always see Dio's mansion, the mansion they had spent days trying to find, but now he couldn't get away from. It always loomed in the distance, towering over everything with a dark aura so menacing that you didn't need a Stand to be able to see it.

You might have changed reality, but you'll never change the past.

The voice belonged to Dio. It always belonged to Dio. His voice was like a centipede crawling up Jotaro's back. It would crawl with its hundred legs on his shoulder, over the star shaped birthmark and up his neck until it finally reached his ear and slithered in, creeping around inside his head until it would find his brain, latch on, and refuse to let go. There was no centipede, there never is. If there was one, Star Platinum would crush it between two fingers before it even got anywhere close to Jotaro's head. But because it wasn't there, because it wasn't real, it had free reign to do whatever it wanted. And he could feel it, oh how he could feel it. It poked and prodded at his grey matter and dug in with its tiny centipede mouth to dig and dig and dig and it was the worst pain he's ever felt in his life. It won't stop digging, however, it would dig relentlessly until it unearthed all of the things that Jotaro desperately has been trying to keep buried for a year, and hoped would stay buried for the rest of his life.

Fuck off, Jotaro would reply back to Dio. You're dead.

Then how am I, DIO, here? And then Jotaro would feel long black nails on his left shoulder, tracing the muscles before moving to his neck, running the tips up halfway until they can slide across the front of his throat, threatening to slice it open in one easy movement. Jotaro would lash out, swing his left arm backwards. But there wouldn't be anything there except for empty air. There was never anything there. Despite what he claimed, Dio wasn't there. Because Dio was dead. Jotaro can't hit that which didn't exist. I still live, Jotaro. Dio's voice would purr, echoing all around him. Just as how I lived through Jonathan, I now live through you.


You can tell yourself it didn't happen as much as you want, you can even change history itself, but that doesn't matter.


The fact is it did. It did happen, and you know it. That is how I'm here, Jotaro, I am your curse. The curse of knowing.

"Jotaro!" Kakyoin yelled and Jotaro shot straight up. Where was he? He was in his room, lying on his futon. What time was it? Morning, probably. Why was Kakyoin in his room? He didn't have an answer for that one.

"You didn't show up at breakfast," Kakyoin said. That means he slept in. Jotaro would like to blame that on jet lag, but he had a suspicion that it wasn't the actual cause. "Your mom was worried about you and asked me to check up on you." He curled a hand under his chin and narrowed his eyes and Jotaro could feel himself being scrutinized. "Are you sick? You look a little pale."

He was okay. Or, he should be. It was just a stupid dream. Except that it was a reoccurring one that always showed up right as he was forgetting it was a thing, as if it wanted to remind him that it was a thing. But it's just that: a dream. Dreams can't hurt (except when Stands were involved, according to Kakyoin), so they can only affect you if you let them. And here he was, letting himself be affected like a child who was afraid of the dark. All he has to do is get over it. Literally the only thing he had to do is forget about something that technically never happened.

So why couldn't he? Why was he still so hung up on it? Why did he continue to be cursed and haunted by the specter of the rewritten past that refused to die? What did he have to do to exorcise this evil spirit? How could he kill something that was already dead? He had everything he wanted. He was going to one of the best schools in the world for his chosen field of study. All of his friends and family were alive. There was exactly zero strife in his life. So why can't he just be fucking happy and get away from events that didn't happen?

Because they did happen, Imaginary Ghost Dio reminded him, whispering seductively in his ear and reaching up with an invisible hand to caress his cheek. You'll never forget that despair. That feeling of powerlessness. Of being useless. Of being a worthless maggot who let everyone die.

"I'm fine," Jotaro replied, even though that was the furthest thing from the truth. "I'm just tired."

You look absolutely exquisite like this, Jotaro, Dumbshit Fake Illusory Dio told him.

There was a noticeable pause. Not long enough to become awkward, but long enough to be felt. Jotaro thought that pauses were never good. In the dead time, where supposedly nothing happens, something is always happening. And it's usually something bad. The enemy is thinking of their next move. Someone is trying to figure out how to tell you something difficult. Kakyoin is silently judging you for being a bad liar. Kakyoin was the first to give, pretending to shrug off the entire situation. "Alright, I'll let your mom know you just overslept. Don't miss lunch, okay? You get crabby when you're hungry."

"Kakyoin, wait."

Kakyoin looked down on him. The earrings that hung from his ears swayed briefly with the movement. "Hmm? What is it?"

Jotaro took a deep breath and lay back down on his futon. "Stay. Just for a few minutes."

Kakyoin stayed, sitting down cross legged next to the futon, just as requested, Hierophant Green emerging after a few seconds to rearrange the books on Jotaro's shelf by subject, then in alphabetical order by author. Although it was just for a few minutes, Jotaro did feel much better afterward, his stupid ass dream fading away into the ether as he focused on his friend fixing up his messy bookshelf. As soon as Hierophant Green put the last book in place, Jotaro sat up and uttered a word of thanks, ready to properly face the day ahead of him.

Hierophant Green did not have the most expressive of faces, but the way it tilted its head at him curiously before fading away spoke volumes.

It was one of those slow days. The days where you wanted to do nothing more than sit around outside eating slices of watermelon. Polnareff devoured his ungracefully, practically shoving his slice into his face and biting and chewing and sending droplets of watermelon juice everywhere. Everyone, including the ones furthest from him, scooted back a few centimeters. More than a few, actually, for the splash zone was much larger than it really should have been. Jotaro ate his share slowly, watching Iggy wander around the garden, doing dog things like barking at birds and sniffing everything in sight. It's rare seeing Iggy act like an actual dog and it, ironically, seemed a bit unnatural to Jotaro.

"Next time, we should meet up somewhere else," Polnareff suggested. "We can't crash at Jotaro's house every single time. It's not fair to Holly, you know?"

"I agree," Avdol said. "We've been imposing on Miss Holly far too much."

"Oh, it's really no trouble," Holly reassured. "It just means I get to see you all."

"Then come visit me in New York!" Joseph suggested. "It's the grandest city in the world, you know. It puts everywhere else we've been to shame."

Jotaro half listened as everyone else started throwing ideas about a hypothetical New York meetup. Where they'd all stay would be an issue, considering that even if Joseph lived in one of the largest, nicest penthouse apartments in New York, it wasn't really meant to accommodate lots of overnight guests, so alternate lodgings would have to be found. By the time they started talking about all the landmarks they wanted to see, Jotaro had tuned out of the conversation entirely. Whether they went to museums or went to see baseball games didn't matter to him. To Jotaro, the activity mattered less than the fact that he would be spending time with the people he cared about. As long as it wasn't something completely embarrassing, he'd go along with more or less anything. He'll go to a Broadway show as long as Polnareff didn't start singing.

"We should go to the New York Aquarium for Jotaro," he heard Kakyoin say and briefly, Jotaro was back in the conversation. "I hear it's a world class facility and the oldest aquarium in the United States." Wait, really? Was that true? He has to go there. Alright, he didn't care where else everyone wanted to go as long as he got to visit that aquarium.

Going to New York should have been more exciting to Jotaro, but he found it hard to focus on the conversation. Holly once said he'd been there as toddler, but he had no memories of it. It was always Joseph and Suzie who came to visit him at home, and he was only a small child then, until, for whatever reason, they stopped visiting for about a decade. It had been so long that Jotaro needed to be reintroduced to his grandfather that fateful day Joseph hopped on a plane to Japan to convince Jotaro to get out of a jail cell.

Now that he was older and knew things that he shouldn't, Jotaro wondered if Higashikata Tomoko had anything to do with that.

"Hey, Jotaro," Joseph said. "We've been deciding everything without you. Was there somewhere you wanted to go?"

"Yeah," Jotaro said, without thinking. It was as if his mouth acted on his own and he wasn't fully conscious of what he was saying. In that sense, it was probably one of the rare times in life when Jotaro was completely open and honest to even himself. Looking back on this moment hours later, Jotaro would wonder what caused it. He's always exercised careful control over his emotions and his actions, only losing it whenever the most extreme of circumstances presented themselves. So it would be logical to say this was one of those circumstances, while he was back home in Japan on summer break, spending leisure time with everyone he liked. "I want to go to Egypt."

Much later, he would recognize this exact point in time as the moment that he, Kujo Jotaro, had started to break.

Chapter Text

Egypt was unchanged from when he was last there.

It wasn't that Jotaro expected anything to change drastically, or even at all. Cairo was not going to sprout skyscrapers in a year and a half. Returning to Cairo felt like he was going back in time, like he had just stepped through a light rift to return to the days following Dio's defeat, right before boarding the plane back home. Right before a young Robert Edward O. Speedwagon came barreling through the halls pursued by a revived and possessed Avdol and Iggy.

He was getting his timelines mixed up.

As he left the airport, Jotaro felt as if he should be looking for Dio's mansion. He didn't remember where it was and even if he did, it didn't exist anymore. It was demolished shortly after the end of the fifty day crusade, condemned due to the structural damage it received as the result of multiple fierce battles inside. Jotaro had a feeling the Speedwagon Foundation was involved in that, but he couldn't prove it and he really didn't care if they were responsible or not. Dio's mansion was gone and was no longer a blemish on the Cairo skyline and that was good enough for him. The city was infinitely more beautiful for it.

As he waited at the edge of the street to hail a cab, he said, "None of you had to come with me, you know," he said. He had fully intended to make this trip alone, but one had turned into five despite his protests.

"Oh. My. God, Jotaro, we've been through this a thousand times already," Joseph groaned, putting a hand to his forehead and shaking his head, the sign of a man who has been long suffering. And it was genuine suffering, for once, because they have been through this conversation many times. Maybe not thousands, but it was at least five, maybe even six. Jotaro didn't keep count because keeping count was useless. Behind Joseph, Avdol, Polnareff, and Kakyoin nodded. "We wanted to come with you. I don't know why you wanted to come to Egypt, but I'm here to support you every step of the way and so are these guys."

That was great, because Jotaro wasn't exactly sure why he wanted to come to Egypt either, but there's something about the country that kept calling out to him, beckoning him and if the only way to make it shut up was to obey it, then he was going to do it. Otherwise, he wouldn't come back. If he had his way, he'd avoid Egypt for the rest of his life, surrounding himself with water instead of sand. He'd leave that chapter of his life to erode in the desert heat and winds until it was covered by sand and left to be forgotten by time. Except that wasn't what was happening. Despite himself and his intentions, he kept coming back to Egypt mentally. For being someone who didn't like Egypt, he sure as hell thought about it way too damn much.

The first thing they did was check into their hotel, but not after Jotaro was reminded why Egyptian taxis were the worst as he, Polnareff, and Kakyoin were thrown from side to side with each turn while Joseph sat comfortably in the front seat and Avdol used some kind of weird fortune teller bullshit to keep his balance. This new hotel was much nicer than the one they had been in last time. Each room was a suite, with two queen sized beds, a sitting area that led out to a small balcony, a tiny kitchenette, and a large, modern bathroom. It was more like a small apartment than a hotel room and one or even two people could probably live there comfortably were it not for the nightly rate.

"I have a feeling you're not here to be a tourist," Kakyoin said as he deposited his suitcase by his bed. Kakyoin's bed was always the one further away from the door while Jotaro took the one closer to it. It wasn't a thing they had decided at any point, it was something they had developed over nearly two months of sharing hotel rooms on their first journey across the world. There was no discussion about it and they never acknowledged it as a thing, they just did it, and Jotaro wondered if he should be worried that they were falling back into their old travel habits so easily. If this was proof that no matter how much time passed or what country he'd go to, he would always be in Egypt. Or maybe he was worrying too much about something that was ultimately insignificant. "Why did you decide all of a sudden that you needed to come to Egypt?"

The question, for Jotaro, should be whether he had come back to Egypt or if he ever actually left it in the first place.

He didn't answer the question. Kakyoin did not press him.

They went to visit Avdol's home, which also doubled as where he had done his fortune telling in the past. When his lifestyle changed to include a lot more traveling, Avdol stopped doing it for a living as it was unfeasible to run a business out of your own home when you weren't there half the time. Instead, he had taken up a position with the Speedwagon Foundation regarding the documentation and study of Stands, making him one of the world's leading experts on the subject although to be honest, there was very little competition in the field.

The house was small and unremarkable, just a humble domicile in the middle of a quiet street. On the inside, despite its middle eastern decor, it felt homely and warm. The smell of incense lingered in the air, light and inoffensive, but adding an important element to the atmosphere of the place, with its modest furniture and handmade blankets and pillows.

Polnareff immediately set himself to excitedly explaining the features of the house to Kakyoin and Joseph, from its architecture to its art pieces. It's clear that he's been there before. He spoke with the passion of someone who both learned this information relatively recently and was absolutely delighted to explain it. And probably to show off, just a little bit, he gestured at a book sitting on a table and read the title, which was written in Arabic. Jotaro didn't know when Polnareff learned Arabic, or at least enough Arabic to read a few things, but it was a potent reminder that Polnareff wasn't as dumb as he looked. He was clever with a knack for learning new things. He was just hotheaded and had weird hangups about bathrooms.

"Jotaro," Avdol said, holding a small box in both hands. "Would you care for a tarot reading?"

"I don't believe in that," Jotaro replied.

"Are you sure?" Avdol asked. "You deny many things about yourself, even if you know they are true."

He's sure, well, mostly sure. He didn't believe in tarot readings or fortune telling. Although he believed that Avdol was sincere about it, most fortune tellers were just cons looking to separate fools from their money. But at the same time, he couldn't call it completely fake. It was Avdol's fortune telling that revealed Star Platinum's name and the cards played a large role in their journey.

"Good grief. Fine," he said, giving in. "If it'll make you happy."

They sat across from each other at a table and even though it was supposed to just be a reading and that they were friends, Jotaro couldn't help but feel like this was some kind of showdown. The box containing Avdol's cards sat between them, feeling more like a ticking time bomb than a harmless wooden box containing tarot cards. Reaching out with an arm (one of the arms that he wasn't supposed to have, Jotaro remembered), Avdol opened the box and withdrew the deck of cards, shuffling them once, twice, then instructed Jotaro to do it, to which he complied.

Once the deck has been shuffled to Avdol's apparent satisfaction, he placed it on one side of the table then used his hand to spread the cards out face down in a neat line.

"Pick any six cards in any order," he said. Jotaro reached out with one hand before Avdol stopped him by grabbing his wrist. "Just you, Jotaro. Don't use Star Platinum."

Glancing down at his arm, Jotaro was surprised to see Star Platinum's overlayed on his own. He hadn't realized he called his Stand forth. Did he call it? Regardless, he dismissed Star Platinum and Avdol released him. He had no idea what this meant or why Avdol didn't want Star Platinum there, but he'll go along with it. There was no reason to argue about it.

The cards that lay before him on the table were spread out in a perfectly even line and Jotaro reached out with one hand, index finger extended, towards them slowly, hovering a few centimeters above them. Picking a card on the left side at random, his hand hovered over it before he changed his mind, moving it towards the right. He had no idea why he suddenly decided against it. It didn't matter what card he picked. It didn't matter which of the major arcana was on the other side. He didn't believe in tarot readings. And yet...

Avdol was watching him, Magician's Red behind him, also observing him with a piercing gaze. Magician's Red is an intense Stand and when it watched you, it was as if it could see straight through you with an eagle's eye. A perfect personality to match its passionate flames. Jotaro wondered if it was common for Avdol to use his Stand while performing readings or if he had decided that he was a special case. Did Magician's Red have abilities that its user never disclosed to the others? There's no point in asking because Jotaro already knew that Avdol wouldn't answer. Magician's Red manipulated fire to its will and that was all Jotaro needed to know about it. Whatever abilities it held related to the tarot deck were irrelevant.

Jotaro picked his first card. Then his second, third, fourth, fifth, then waited a few seconds before selecting the last one. The cards were all smooth under his fingers, old, but well cared for. Avdol took all of the choices and stacked them in a neat pile in the middle of the table before returning the rest of the cards to their box in one neat, fluid motion, handling his cards in a way that was similar to, but not quite like a card dealer in a casino. Avdol handled his tarot cards with a light touch, with barely any grip, yet the cards never threatened to slip from his hands. He moved with a swift grace similar to when he directed his Stand in battle. He deftly handled the cards between his fingers like he was a sagely sorcerer and each of the cards were a magical spell at his command.

"The first card will tell us how you currently view yourself." With the flick of his wrist, he flipped over the top card in the tiny deck of six. The card flipped face up and fell neatly on the side of the pile. On the card was two dogs standing by a body of water that contained a lobster. Above the dogs in the sky was the moon, looking down on them with a face. "The Moon," Avdol continued as he pulled his hand back. "It is a card that represents fear, anxiety, and confusion to one's own desires. In other words, something is troubling you, Jotaro."

It's a coincidence, of course. Tarot readings aren't real, even if it's Mohammed Avdol doing it. So what if the card did reflect what he was thinking and feeling? It was a one out of twenty-two chance. He could only thank whatever gods were listening that he wasn't asked what it was that was bothering him. Instead of being nosy, like he usually was, Avdol moved his hand back to the stack of now five cards.

"The second card reflects what it is you want," and then the card at the top of the stack was flipped over, landing neatly beside The Moon sitting on the table. The card depicted an angel pouring water from one cup to another while at the edge of a body of water. "Temperance," Avdol said. "What you wish for is peace and harmony in your life. To feel as if you're in control. You feel as if life has stopped for you and wish for it to move again."

Tarot readings aren't real.

"The third card represents what you fear," Avdol continued and with another fluid movement, the third card landed next to Temperance face up. On it was a woman and a lion, the woman caring for the animal tenderly, one hand petting its head and the other scratching it beneath its chin. "Strength," he said. "Drawing Strength here means you fear you lack the willpower and strength to face your problems and obstacles in your way."

Tarot readings aren't real.

"The fourth card portrays what is in your favor." And with that, the fourth card was flicked and landed in its spot in line, next to the Strength card. Jotaro was familiar with this card. Very familiar with it. It showed a naked woman standing at the water's edge (Why was there so much water in all of these cards? He felt like this was something of a personal attack on him even though the very idea of that was absurd). She held a jug of water in both hands, both turned upside down with water flowing both into the water and onto the ground on which she stood. Above her was a single large yellow star surrounded by seven smaller white ones. He didn't need Avdol to tell him which card this was.

Card Number XVII. "The Star," Jotaro said. This was the card that was suggested by his Stand, which was named after it. The day Jotaro left his jail cell and entered the world of Stand users, he had drawn this card from Avdol's tarot deck, leading to the discovery of Star Platinum's name.

"Indeed," Avdol nodded, Magician's Red nodding in sync with him. "The Star is a good sign. It represents that a wish had come true for you, often after a fierce struggle. I will not pry into what this wish was, but whatever it was, it's had a profound impact on your life."

If only he knew. It was a wish that under ordinary circumstances, would have never come true. It was a wish that started small, born from grief, and grew bigger and bigger as Jotaro met more and more people and, admittedly unwillingly, became attached to them. All of them. Except Otoishi Akira. He didn't really like that guy. Nobody did, especially not Okuyasu, they just sort of dragged him along in the end because there wasn't anything else they could do with him. At least he pulled his weight and Jotaro eventually learned to trust him in a fight if nothing else. Regardless of the size of his wish, Jotaro had thought it to be impossible, at least not until he held the power of heaven in his hands.

And despite the fact that it was impossible, it was simple. The most basic of wishes with virtually no complications to it.

I want everyone to live and be happy.

It was the most modest of wishes, and yet it was completely out of reach. When he acquired that power, the power to do anything he wanted, this was what he chose to make happen. Other men would have chosen to make drastic changes. They would have altered the entire universe and made themselves kings, like the other Dio was planning. But Jotaro wasn't interested in world change. He didn't want to rule all creation and he didn't understand why anybody would want to. He saw no reason to mess with the lives of billions of people he didn't even know. All mattered to him was the people he cared about, for them to carve out their own small place in the grand scheme of things and be left in peace.

A nice little existence for the Joestars and their loved ones. Was it too much to ask? The universe apparently thought so, for it sought to pain them in so many different ways. It wasn't fair. It was bullshit, and that was why Jotaro put a stop to all that. As far as he was concerned, reality itself owed him and his family and his friends for everything they've all gone through and Kujo Jotaro collected on that debt.

Avdol flipped over the next card, depicting an armor clad skeleton riding a horse standing before a group of people, both living and dead, and if Jotaro thought he had gotten away from water, there was a river in the background of the card.

"Death," Avdol said. "is the card that shows what is in your way. When it appears as the fifth card in a reading, it represents anxiety, depression, and fear."

Of course. Of course it did, because the cards just didn't care that Jotaro didn't believe in fortune telling or thought tarot readings were dumb. At this point, he was forced to acknowledge that this had gotten extremely uncanny and more than a little unsettling and he glared at the Death card as if it had done something to wrong him. There was nothing more that Jotaro wanted to do than get out of his seat and walk away, but he remained rooted in his spot. As much as he didn't like what was going on, he'd seen five cards out of six. He might as well stay for the last one, then he could tell Avdol how useless and stupid this entire endeavor was.

The sixth card was the one that was actually supposed to do the fortune telling, it was to predict the outcome of the future, to give a suggestion on what the client is to do. When it was turned over and placed neatly next to Death, the card depicted a wise man in religious garb seated upon a chair, holding a staff in one hand.

"The Hierophant," Avdol said, "is a symbol of wisdom and assistance. It suggests that you confide in someone that you trust. They will be able to help you through whatever difficulties you may be experiencing at this moment."

If the reading had been disturbingly correct up until now, Jotaro thought this last card was off. Completely off. Confiding in someone else was the one thing he absolutely could not do. He couldn't tell anyone about the light rifts and the Holy Corpse and the parallel universes and the timeline that no longer existed, the one where his friends and his grandfather's boyfriend were dead. The one where he let not just them, but everyone else down, learning that the other Dio had taken their souls.

The timeline where he failed to protect Jolyne, who was right in front of him. The one single person he could have saved, should have saved, and he couldn't do anything but watch his future daughter die, no, be erased at the hands of the man who had also killed his friends.

(He was a terrible, shitty father and she deserved so much better. She hasn't even been born yet and he was already so, so, sorry she was going to be saddled with him.)

No, he couldn't tell anyone any of this. He couldn't share that story or his weakness and vulnerability.

He just couldn't.

"You guys done yet?" Polnareff asked, having run out of things to show Joseph and Kakyoin in Avdol's modest home. He had a tray in his hands with two cups of tea carefully balanced on it. Avdol nodded and Jotaro stood up, the chair making an awful scraping sound against the floor that sounded much louder than it should have. It took every ounce of willpower he had to not wince at the sound. It was simply that grating. Nobody else seemed affected by it.

"Yeah," Jotaro replied, taking one of the tea cups from Polnareff and drinking half of it in one go. The hot liquid soothed his throat as it went down, quelling the discomfort he had been feeling up until that very moment. "It was a waste of time."

There was something incredibly strange about being in Cairo, but not having to constantly fear for one's life. By which Jotaro meant enemy Stand users. He still didn't really trust Egyptian taxis and yet another ride in one to their hotel did little to convince him otherwise.

"Stop scowling," Kakyoin said, and Jotaro's immediate response was to argue he wasn't, a statement that Kakyoin obviously did not believe for a second.

"I just don't like the taxis here," Jotaro mumbled.

"Ah, they are quite the thing, aren't they?" Kakyoin chuckled at him. "I understand. They're rather aggressive drivers and they ask you to put a lot of trust in them." Jotaro wasn't sure if Kakyoin was empathising with him or mocking him, but he didn't rule out the distinct possibility that it's both, because that was a very Kakyoin thing to do. "We were fine, weren't we?" When it became evident that words alone weren't going to make Jotaro feel any better, he bought him a falafel wrapped in taboon bread from a nearby vendor. "Here, something to take your mind off it."

Jotaro stared at it warily for a second before reaching out for it, feeling the crinkle of the food wrapper in between his fingers.

"It's called a falafel: a deep fried patty made from chickpeas or fava beans," Kakyoin explained. "A traditional Middle Eastern food that is thought to have been originated here in Egypt over a thousand years ago. It's often used as a substitute for meat by vegetarians."

After folding the wrapper back, Jotaro took a bite out of the falafel, first biting through the soft taboon bread before getting to the falafel itself, taking in the flaky texture and deep fried taste of the falafel itself. There's more than just chickpeas in it, some kind of spice or combination of spices that Jotaro knew he had before but didn't know the name of. He remembered tasting it before in both the Middle Eastern and Indian food he's had before. If he hadn't spent two months traveling across the world eating ethnic cuisines, he didn't think that he'd like it. But now, he kind of, maybe sort of, was developing a taste for it.

"Good, right?" Kakyoin asked with a smile. Jotaro didn't answer him, but the fact that he continued to eat the falafel was answer enough.

The relatively good atmosphere between them was interrupted when a large man bumped into Kakyoin, uttering a half assed apology without even turning to look at him or even slowing down. Star Platinum is almost begging to be let out, for the man was a pickpocket and Jotaro noticed the man's hand liberating Kakyoin's wallet from his pocket. In a few seconds, the man would disappear into the crowd, never to be seen again, but Jotaro did nothing about it.

He did nothing because he didn't need to.

A green and white tendril snaked along the street, grabbing the pickpocket's ankle and pulling hard, causing him to trip to the ground. Kakyoin strolled over, casual as can be, and offered a hand to help the man up.

"Thank you," the pickpocket said in shaky English.

"It's no problem," Kakyoin chuckled with a smile, then held out his other hand. "I believe you have something that belongs to me."

"It's mine now," the man replied, frowned at him. "You'll let me have it if you know what's good for you."

Kakyoin responded by lifting his hand higher. "My wallet, if you please."

"You asked for it!" the brute yelled, drawing a knife from somewhere, but just before he could use it, Kakyoin drove his right elbow directly into his face. Kakyoin never used his Stand to fight off the common thug. He never needed to. One well placed hit was usually all it took to send them running and Jotaro knew from first hand experience that Kakyoin's elbow was a deadly weapon more dangerous than any knife. A very satisfying crack echoed throughout the air as the man stumbled backwards from the force onto the ground, blood spurting from his now broken nose. Kakyoin stood over him, no longer smiling, his expression now a serious glare of contempt.

By now, Jotaro was halfway finished with his falafel.

"My wallet," Kakyoin repeated, and the man hissed something in Arabic that Jotaro was going to guess was a swear and/or unflattering names before throwing it at Kakyoin's feet before scrambling upright to run away. The man melted into the crowd, never to show his face to them again

It's hilarious every time. Kakyoin was by no means small, but to the foolish, he looked delicate and fragile with his elegant features and gentle public demeanor, like he was an easy target for petty crime like pickpocketing or mugging. There were multiple instances on the Egyptian crusade where some idiot tried to pull something on him. And every single time, they'd regret it. Kakyoin always gave them a chance, just like he did with this guy. He gave them a chance to back off and get away with all of their teeth, but they never took it. They always chose to attack him and poor Kakyoin would be forced deliver a beatdown and reveal his true self to be a cunning and, at times, vicious and ruthless individual. Truly, Jotaro thought, it must be difficult to be Kakyoin Noriaki.

But really, Jotaro could watch Kakyoin beat up people all day. It was simply fascinating to watch the way he moved and fought, which was in a way that was so unlike Jotaro himself. Where Jotaro was raw strength expressed in short, quick, often restrained strikes, Kakyoin was the opposite. He used range and movement to their fullest capabilities. While Jotaro was often inclined to win fights using intimidation and force, Kakyoin sought to control the battle using distance and tactics, often driving his opponents into a corner and trapping them. Or, in cases like this, sometimes all he really needed to do was just get them with a solid hit. And when they fought together, they were nigh unbeatable as they complimented each other quite well.

Kakyoin was strong. He was an embodiment of power, a certain kind of power that Jotaro would never attain and he admired him for it. He was drawn to it, even. Stand users were naturally drawn to each other, but this was something different. Something that he was struggling to identify.

As he finished off the last few bites of his falafel and rolled up the wrapper into a ball with one hand, Jotaro started to think that he didn't think Egypt was that bad.

He hadn't come to Egypt to be a tourist, and yet, there he was doing tourist things. He joined the others for a camel ride, mainly so Joseph could insist that yes, he really knew how to ride a camel (he didn't) and visited various ancient ruins with them. Archaeology was not Jotaro's main interest, but he had to admit that it was pretty cool to see all of the ancient artifacts up close. They visited the Sphinx and the famous pyramids of Giza, which, to Joseph's immense disappointment, were completely on the inside, being a single, empty, tiny, bland chamber and not something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

"Hey, Jotaro, look at this."

Jotaro paused and followed the sound of Kakyoin's voice. Ahead of them, Joseph, Avdol, and Polnareff pulled further ahead, lost in their own conversation as they strolled down the street. Kakyoin was standing in front of a completely unremarkable building, looking very contemplative and thoughtful. "What are you looking at?"

"Look up."

Jotaro did and he froze completely in place. Above him was a tower that had a clock face on every side. One of the faces was slightly different from the rest. It was fresher, newer, repaired about a year and a half ago when it had been mysteriously damaged in what the Cairo newspapers called an act of vandalism. The face was cleaner and the hands were done in a very slightly different style, only noticeable to someone who was paying attention.

"Remember that?" Kakyoin asked, then continued without waiting for a response. "Looks like they fixed that up. From what I heard, it was in the newspapers the next day and they never caught the culprit." He pointed to the side with a finger. "Ah, look over there."

Although he felt like he couldn't move, Jotaro's eyes followed Kakyoin's finger, where he saw a billboard he vaguely remembered and the word AIR in large green lights that stood out against the night sky. He wanted to tell Kakyoin to stop. He wanted to tell him that they were being left behind by the others and that they should stop messing around and go, but his voice caught in his throat. He forgot what words were and his mind emptied of thoughts, filled only with images that he'd been trying so hard to keep locked away for so long.

"I wonder if..." Kakyoin mused, moving his finger across the rooftops before stopping on a single object. "Aha! Looks like they replaced it."

Jotaro didn't have to ask what "it" was or even see it, but he looked anyway. It was a water tank, sitting unassumingly on the roof of a nearby building.

"I suppose the Speedwagon Foundation paid for it." Kakyoin sounded far too chipper for the situation, Jotaro thought. He didn't understand why Kakyoin thought it would be amusing to torment him in this way. He didn't understand why Kakyoin was fucking laughing about it. "It's kind of weird to see it now, but it's nice that we can look back on it and remember that we were really lucky back then. I almost died there."

He couldn't take it anymore. Every word was like a knife being driven directly into his ear and each sentence twisted it deeper and deeper until the tip pierced his brain. This, Jotaro was certain, was some kind of cruel ironic punishment being inflicted onto him for the crime of messing with the fabric of time and space. Some god, he didn't know which, had struck him down and sent him to hell for his arrogance where he was to be tortured by a likeness of Kakyoin Noriaki making light of his death, treating it like it was no big deal. Like it was all just one big joke that he could look back on and laugh about.

"Stop," Jotaro finally said, grabbing the brim of his hat, clutching it tightly and pulling it downward. It did nothing for him and he was holding it so tightly his fingers began to hurt. "It's not funny."

"Jotaro?" Kakyoin asked. "Jotaro, are you alright-"

"We weren't lucky!" Jotaro roared at him, shoving his hat back upwards to its proper place, eyes wide and his entire body trembling. "Dio nearly won! Half of us were killed! Kakyoin..."

"JoJo, what are you saying?" Kakyoin reached out for him, but Jotaro knocked his hand aside and turned away, hands balled into fists and feeling as if he was just one provocation away from punching the nearest wall with every ounce of strength in his body. It would hurt like hell. It would draw all kinds of attention. He'd bloody his knuckles. He'd probably need to visit a doctor afterwards. But all of that was preferable to the sheer anguish he was feeling in that moment. It was too strong, too suffocating. He was positively drowning in it with no air in sight.

And the worst part was he didn't even have the strength to struggle through it. He let it rush into his lungs and allowed himself to sink further and further down into the depths until he reached the bottom of the abyss, where he'd stay and rot.

"'re supposed to be dead," he whispered, and everything just fell apart.

Chapter Text

Jotaro wasn't sure what he expected Jonathan Joestar to be like. Everything he knew about his ancestor was from the stories that Joseph told him, and he spoke of Jonathan with a clear sense of reverence. It was no surprise to him, for Joseph took an immeasurable amount of pride in the Joestar family lineage. Jotaro didn't, and he didn't think he ever would. He didn't even share the Joestar name, only its blood. As far as Jotaro understood, everything started with Jonathan. Jonathan was the first to face Dio, cementing the Joestar family line's place as the ones responsible for dealing with all the crap that was going on in the world. That alone made Jotaro inclined to dislike him, as unfair as he knew it was.

Except Jonathan made it hard to dislike him. He carried himself with a noble dignity befitting of someone of his status, yet he also had the humility of someone who was young and understood he had much to learn. And the guy could fight. For someone who had no Stand, he definitely held his own against Stand users. Jonathan had told him he couldn't see Stands, but Jotaro didn't believe it, not with how efficiently his ancestor could fight against them. There was probably something that allowed him to at least detect them. Something to do with Hamon. Regardless, Jonathan didn't even really need a Stand to fight. Hamon was more than enough for Jonathan Joestar. Jotaro wasn't ashamed to admit that if he and Jonathan got into a fistfight, he stood a good chance of losing. Eventually, Jotaro just gave up and quietly conceded to himself that he liked Jonathan Joestar and that he was proud to be descended from this man.

"Speedwagon says you're my great great grandson," Jonathan said. "Having seen you fight, I believe it. You said your name is Jotaro?" He said Jotaro's name a bit slowly, clearly unused to pronouncing Japanese names, or possibly any kind of Asian name whatsoever. Still, he managed to get it right on the first try, which was better than many other foreigners Jotaro has met in his lifetime. Too many of them put wrong emphasis on the wrong syllables. "Speedwagon was right to ask you for help."

You look like Jonathan, Speedwagon had said shortly after they met. You may not believe it, but I see some of him in you.

Jotaro had ignored it at first. Speedwagon was biased, really. The man idolized Jonathan, probably a little more than he should, so it would be natural for him to see traits of Jonathan in him. Someone could see anything in anybody if they wanted to, but after watching a severely injured Jonathan fight off a hoard of lesser vampires, Jotaro began to understand that it wasn't a figment of Speedwagon's imagination. They shared the same toughness, the resilience that let them stand up every time they were knocked down and return to a fight with twice the vigor they had before.

"Are you sure you don't want to take over?" Jotaro asked, gesturing vaguely with one hand at the ever growing group of allies that they just kept accumulating. It seemed only fair to offer leadership to the "head" of the family and to be quite honest, Jotaro would be very happy to hand off the responsibility to someone else.

Many of the group had broken off into small groups to explore the legendary Joestar residence. One of the ones who didn't was Giorno, who sat daintily in a chair, one leg crossed over the other, hands on his knees, and with his eyes completely fixated on them, or, Jotaro suspected, on Jonathan. Whatever Giorno wanted with Jonathan was none of his business, so he did his best to pay it no mind, something that turned out to be more difficult than it should be because it's difficult to ignore Giorno Giovanna's gaze. It was like the boy had two different modes: soft and gentle, offering to heal his comrades' injuries with a soothing voice, or he was fierce and oppressive, beating down his foes with an icy stare and he could switch between them with ease in the blink of an eye. (If there were any other states to Giorno Giovanna, Jotaro had yet to witness them.) But, Jotaro figured, it should come as no surprise; Giorno would not be the newly crowned Don of the Italian underworld if he couldn't both win over followers and eliminate his enemies.

He just needed to remember that despite his thin frame and pretty face, Giorno Giovanna was quite possibly the most terrifying of them all and the one Jotaro least wanted to make his enemy.

"There's no need. I think you're doing a fine job," Jonathan said, and Jotaro had his hopes of freedom from the burden of herding all these people around dashed upon the rocky shore of reality. Thank god for the turtle. "Everybody here likes you, Jotaro, and they all trust you to lead them and keep them safe."

The smell of death was everywhere. Jotaro had not wanted to come here, but he would never be able to live with himself if he didn't. Joseph and Polnareff were with him, but it was easy to forget that they were there, for they were completely silent, almost as quiet as the dead themselves.

He was severely injured. He had stab wounds all over his body and his very being ached and cried out in pain with every breath he took. He was bruised and still bloody and even though the doctors told him he was close to being in critical condition and needed to rest and take some painkillers, Jotaro had refused, for he had to come here right after he watched Jonathan Joestar's stolen body finally given the rest it deserved, crumbling away in the light of the morning sun, a fitting end for a man who, by all accounts, embodied it, radiant and warm just like the star at the center of their galaxy. Some of Jotaro's wounds were reopening but he could not care less. Every cut could reopen, every bone in his body could break, and every drop of blood could drain from his veins and Jotaro wouldn't care.

He could keel over and die right then and there and he would be perfectly alright with that. The only reason he didn't was because everybody else wouldn't be.

Instead of dying, he forced himself to look at the center of the room, where two sterile metal tables stood. On one table was a pair of severed arms, skin dark brown in color, but was beginning to change into a deathly grey. A set of gold bracelets sat on each wrist and beside him, he could hear Polnareff choke on his breath. These were all that were left of Mohammed Avdol after being devoured by an all consuming Stand.

Next to the arms was the twisted and broken corpse of a small black and white dog, who perhaps suffered an even more painful death. They could speculate how Avdol died, although nobody actually wanted to do that, but there was no question as to what happened to Iggy. He was killed by simple cruelty, kicked over and over by a crazed monster until his ribs broke and punctured his lungs. But that was not the real cruelty that killed him. The cruelty that ultimately took Iggy's life was his kindness and pride, using the last of his life, his last chance at survival, to save Polnareff from suffering the same fate as Avdol.

Jotaro could not imagine what Polnareff could be feeling. It would be foolish to think that just because they were both hurting, they felt the exact same thing.

On the other table was the body of Kakyoin Noriaki, who almost looked whole, but if he was, he would be alive right now. The hole in his abdomen was horrifying, round, nearly perfectly circular, it almost reminded Jotaro of a clock and he found himself frowning at the comparison. Clocks were the very last thing he wanted to look at, and he had already crushed the clock that was in his hospital room with his bare fist.

The Speedwagon agents that retrieved Kakyoin's body said he looked calm. Peaceful. And Jotaro didn't believe them until now, seeing it on his face. Kakyoin didn't look like a dead man. He just looked as if he was sleeping, no distress on his face, only a serenity that would make anyone think that he was having a nice dream. But he must have died awfully. He must have been in so much pain and suffering. But he died smiling, content and satisfied with his short life.

And there was Joseph, who had actually died, but Jotaro was able to bring him back. A small, cold comfort.

But Jotaro wasn't satisfied. He was anything but. He was despondent, angry, and extracting revenge on Dio had done nothing to help. He had taken Dio's life as payment for the sins the vampire had committed, but it wasn't enough. Dio's life was worthless, and even if it did have any value, it didn't come anywhere close to those of his friends. There was no price that Dio could pay that could make up for this. He could die a hundred thousand times over and Jotaro wouldn't accept it. It wasn't enough.

What was all this for? Jotaro reminded himself of his mother back in Japan, who should be fine now that Dio was gone. But to save her, he had to trade the lives of his friends.

He realized, dimly, that he would have to tell Holly this. He would have to let her know that Avdol and Kakyoin and a dog she never met died to save her. She would never forgive herself. And she would never forgive him for letting them go and get themselves killed on her behalf. She'd resent him, and rightfully so.

His mother was now safe, but at what cost? The lives of three of his friends and his relationship with her would never be the same once she found out. Because she will. She'd eventually ask him about charming Mr. Avdol and sweet Kakyoin-kun and if Jotaro didn't tell her, then Joseph would. Holly's never harmed anyone in her life, but now she has, indirectly, when her stupid, worthless son got them killed in Egypt on a quest to save her life. And there would be nothing Jotaro could do to make it up to her. Nothing would ever be enough.

He wasn't enough.

A new emotion joined his flurry of rage and despair, a deep, potent loathing for anything and everything around him. He hated Dio for causing all this. He hated Polnareff for being unable to save Avdol and Iggy. He hated Joseph for not saving Kakyoin. He hated Avdol, Iggy, and Kakyoin, for going and getting themselves killed. He hated Star Platinum, for being a useless Stand. He hated his mother for falling prey to the sickness. But most of all...

The maelstrom of emotions twisted and turned, taking shape. They became a beast, biting and snarling and clawing at its restraints within Jotaro's body. The cage Jotaro had created to contain his emotions was powerful and sturdy with a strength that dwarfed even the strongest of metals, but with each swipe the beast made, they cracked easily, as if they were made of thin glass. And there was nothing that Jotaro could do but watch it destroy the solid and sturdy prison for emotions that he's spent years constructing. The beast would escape in mere seconds, everything collapsing like a house made of cards.

The beast burst through, and Jotaro didn't know what to do as it ran wild and free, tearing up everything within his reach.

There was nothing he could do.

Nothing but let the tears run down his face.

Look at Jotaro. Foolish, weak, pathetic, Jotaro, Dio cooed at him in his dreams that night. The first of many nights to come. Is he not the most pitiable thing you have ever seen?

Dio reached up with a hand to ghost his fingertips along Jotaro's chin. His touch was gentle and were Jotaro able to react, he would perhaps fall for his charms and give in to that sweet serenade. He knew it was Dio. He didn't care.

But he wasn't able to react. He wasn't able to do anything but gaze blankly forward into a empty void.

Doesn't he look lovely?

Poor Jotaro.

Poor, poor, Jotaro.

"What if they're wrong?"

Jonathan looked up at him curiously.

"What if I'm not the right person," Jotaro clarified, looking over to where Speedwagon was showing off his hat to Guido Mista. "The right person to lead or protect them."

"That is not something you can decide," Jonathan answered. "I haven't had the chance to meet them, but I know they are all courageous and strong. They choose who to trust, and they've chosen you."

"If something happens-"

"They won't resent you for it," Jonathan interrupted. "I could tell you, Jotaro, that everything will be fine, but I can't say that it will. Nor do I think you are looking for comfort in empty platitudes. Loss happens. You have the look of a man who understands that all too well and you're terrified of it happening again. However, you must do what is right, for their sake."

"I heard you lost your father," Jotaro said, unsure if he was trying to change the subject or not.

Jonathan nodded. "Yes. And I lost Mr. Zeppeli as well. So to see him again in the state that he's in, it's...hard." And Jotaro agreed. It was hard to see people you loved and lost suddenly return to you and demand your blood. He had Kakyoin back, but Avdol and Iggy were still out there, brainwashed into serving the so called Noble One, who couldn't possibly possess a single noble bone in his body if he had to resort to mind control to get people to serve him. "But they aren't the only ones."

Who? Jotaro didn't ask, but the question reached Jonathan anyway.


"I'm sorry," a new voice interrupted. Jotaro looked over to see Giorno had finally decided to join the conversation. And luckily for them, Giorno had switched gears to sweet and nice mode. "I could not help but overhear. You said Dio, as in Dio Brando?"

As if there could be any other Dio. Well, Jotaro supposed there was that Diego character.

"Eavesdropping is rude," Jotaro told him.

"My sincerest apologies," Giorno replied, but he didn't look sorry at all.

"Yes, Dio Brando," Jonathan answered. "I often think about how I lost him." He held up a hand before Jotaro could even open his mouth. "Do not correct me. I know. I know Dio is evil. I have not forgotten what he did to me and my family and I know that he must have inflicted terrible suffering onto you as well as many others. But he was still my brother. I don't expect you to understand. I can't help but wonder if I could have saved him. He was not born evil. I don't believe anyone is. I don't know much about his true past, but I can't imagine it was anything good, for he was raised to be cruel. But even with the daily torments he inflicted upon me, even with the crimes he committed, I always had a bit of hope in him." Jonathan paused to laugh a bit, as if he were amused by his own foolishness. "At his core, he is someone who always desired to be something more. Something better. He was born in squalor, yet he acted with class and pride. He was a genius who could put his entire being into anything and achieve perfection. Sadly, he chose the wrong things to pursue."

It was strange to hear praise for Dio, and coming from his supposed mortal enemy, Jonathan Joestar. But as he listened, Jotaro found that he could not deny a word of it. Dio was an incredible man. He survived a hundred years locked in a box at the bottom of the ocean with naught but Jonathan's corpse to keep him company and after his escape, he established himself in Cairo and won a legion of followers using his charisma and power. And for however short a time it was, Dio could claim the title of strongest Stand user in the world. Until Jotaro casually took it from him, of course. Jonathan was right: Dio was a genius. He was also an absolute moron.

"If I could have, somehow, convinced him to put his efforts into good," Jonathan continued. "If I could have directed him on a noble path, think of all he could have accomplished."

However, it was not to be. Jotaro didn't think that anything Jonathan could have done or said would have changed Dio from his course. Dio had made his decision long ago, before he even met Jonathan for the first time.

"I think," Giorno said. "I think you should not consider yourself responsible for him, but I do think you have been influential on him. Even if you are enemies, you are very important to him, and I think he holds some kind of affection for you, twisted as it may be."

Jotaro snorted.

"He still calls you JoJo, does he not?"

"He does," Jonathan said. "Honestly, that makes it hurt all the more."

Giorno put a comforting hand on Jonathan's shoulder. "I am sorry for your loss. I know it must be difficult for you, but, could you tell me more? I wish to know more about him." And after a pause, he added, "And you."

Jotaro recognized that was his cue to leave them to their privacy.

Much later, he lamented losing them all.

The hotel suite seemed a lot smaller now that everyone was gathered in it. Jotaro sat on his bed, staring at the wall for he couldn't bring himself to look at anyone in the room.

"Holy shit," Joseph said, breaking the silence that had fallen upon them. "Holy shit, Jotaro. And you've been holding onto this for almost two years?"

Jotaro didn't answer him. He was tired. So, so, tired.

"We've known something was bothering you for a while," Avdol said. "We tried to get you to tell us what was wrong, but you never opened up to us." And all Jotaro could think to that was that must have been the reason Avdol made him do the tarot reading. "To think that it would be something as complex and heavy as this..."

How could he? Was he supposed to just walk up to them and say, "You guys are supposed to be dead and we're in an alternate timeline? Also I met a bunch of friends and family from the past and the future. Please don't think I'm crazy."

"Jotaro." When Jotaro turned, a fist collided directly with his face. Kakyoin drew his arm back, rubbing his knuckles slightly and staring him down with the angriest expression Jotaro had ever seen on his face. "I can't believe you hid this from us. From me. I thought you-!" Kakyoin cut himself off and let out a frustrated growl before standing up and stalking to the door, arms rigid at his sides and footsteps stiff. It was very unlike him and Jotaro couldn't help but be bothered by the inherent wrongness of it all. "I'm sorry. I need some fresh air. I can't deal with this right now."

"Oi, Kakyoin!" Polareff shouted, but he was answered only by the slamming of the door.

"It's fine," Jotaro said numbly, the first words he said since finishing his long story. "He's right to be mad. I let you all die. Twice. I couldn't save any of you."

What good is Star Platinum if it can't save anyone, only exact revenge after the fact?

Joseph said something, probably his name, but Jotaro wasn't listening. He'd just confessed all of his sins to his grandfather and his friends and he didn't want to hear any comforts. He was ready for their disappointment. He would not get it.

"Well," Polnareff's voice said, cutting through straight to him like a rapier piercing the air. "That's not exactly right, is it?" Jotaro turned his head towards him, slowly, intending to tell Polnareff off but finding himself too exhausted and defeated to do so. "I mean, it's not true. Like, factually not true."

"Jean," Avdol said. "You're meandering."

"Right, sorry," Polnareff apologized, then fiddled with one of the earrings dangling from his ears. "What I mean is, you saved me, didn't you?" Letting go of his earring, he put his hands in front of him like he was trying to hold an invisible object, apparently a way to focus on what he wanted to say. "In the fight against Dio. He was going to kill me, but you stopped him."

That did happen. Jotaro had the memory of Dio Brando, a twisted street sign in one hand, slowly advancing on an unconscious Polnareff lying in the street. Jotaro had just been impaled with a ridiculous number of knives, and had originally planned to wait for a moment Dio let his guard down to strike, but when Dio turned his attention to Polnareff, that was all shoved aside for a single thought.

I have to save Polnareff.

And he did.

With a forced laugh, Joseph joined in. "Yes! And you saved me too! Alright, okay, I did die, so I guess you actually didn't, but you brought me back and that's just as good!"

"Mr. Joestar," Avdol sighed. "I don't think that's helping." With that, he took a deep breath and cleared his throat with a cough. "Jotaro, I think I understand a little bit of what you're going through. You feel guilty, even though you are not responsible in the least. We all made our choices, Iggy, Kakyoin, and I, and I can safely say that even in that...other circumstance, I would not have regretted it."

That didn't make Jotaro feel better when Jonathan said it, and it didn't make him feel better now.

"Alright, both of you. Out," Polnareff grumbled, first physically pushing a protesting Joseph Joestar out of the room before doing the same to Avdol. "Sorry to do this, babe, but I want to talk to Jotaro alone."

"You could have just asked," Avdol pointed out, amused as he let Polnareff push him across the room.

"Make it up to you later," Polnareff said as he closed the door behind Avdol. He took a moment to take a breath before returning to sit next to Jotaro on the bed. "So uh, me and Avdol. We're a thing."

Jotaro stared at him for exactly 2.58 seconds before saying, in his most deadpan voice, "I know. Everybody knows." Polnareff ignored him.

"Yeah, so, what I was saying," Polnareff said. "is thanks, Jotaro." He reached out to give Jotaro a pat on the shoulder. "You don't have to believe me now, or later. Or ever. But that doesn't change the fact that it's true. You saved my life, uh...both times? Is that the right way to think about it? And I really appreciate it, and I'm glad you're alive and here with us right now."

He paused. Jotaro wondered if Polnareff was expecting a reply.

"I don't expect you to say anything, since you're you," Polnareff continued. "Anyway, I'm not gonna say I know exactly how you feel, because I don't. I can't, and I probably never will. But I am gonna say that I kind of get it. You know when Hol Horse shot Avdol? I felt super shitty when it happened. Not because I thought he was gone, but because I though he was gone because of me. And then it happened again, when Vanilla Ice's Stand ate him. It was like that all over again. And to make things worse, Iggy nearly got kicked to death."

Polnareff paused again, this time to drag his hands down his face. Once he had finished, there was a forlorn expression on his face. Without really thinking, Jotaro reached over to the nightstand where a pack of cigarettes lay. He pushed one out of the box and held it towards his friend in a silent offering. Polnareff looked from the offered smoke to Jotaro, then back down at the cigarette before taking it, then held up his free hand to catch the lighter Jotaro tossed to him. He put the cigarette in his mouth and lit it, taking a long drag, exhaling lightly and watching the smoke rise.

"Is it okay to smoke in here?"

Jotaro shrugged. "I won't tell if you don't."

"Deal." Polnareff held the cigarette between two fingers. "Back then, I thought, everyone around me dies. My sister. Avdol. Iggy. They all die. Of course, Iggy and Avdol were fine and I just didn't know it yet, but at the time, I thought they were gone forever. And it's always my fault. I didn't go pick Sherry up from school that day. Avdol got shot and he got eaten protecting me. Iggy was on the verge of death and decided to save me instead of himself."

Another inhale, another exhale, another pattern of smoke danced through the air.

"So when I saw you there, dead still with Dio standing above you, I thought I had to save you. Because everyone else keeps saving me and dying. I thought, "this time, it'll be me. I'll save Jotaro and I'll be the one who dies." You ruined my big moment, you know."

Jotaro thought that maybe he should also light up, but Polnareff still had his lighter and he didn't want to ask for it back.

"But, that's okay. You didn't die. I didn't die. It was a lot better than I was expecting it to be." Polnaref took another drag and laughed. "Isn't that terrible, Jotaro? That I was expecting you to die? Because everyone else did. I thought you were going to die and leave me behind too. So, I get it, kinda. Being the survivor sucks."

Maybe Polnareff did understand. Maybe he understood a lot more than Jotaro thought he did.

"So, let me finish by saying this: it means a lot to me that you didn't die that night. It means so damn much to me you don't even know. What you're carrying is heavy. Heavier than I'll ever know but...if anyone can carry it and keep going on, it's you."

Polnareff smiled. The cigarette in his hand glowed brightly.

"Because you're Jotaro Kujo, and you're one of the most incredible men I've ever had the honor of knowing."

It was thirty minutes later when the door to the suite opened and closed.

"I'm back."

"Welcome back."

Jotaro hadn't moved from his spot. Polnareff was gone, having left twenty minutes ago after finishing his cigarette. Joseph and Avdol never came back, something for which Jotaro was grateful for. It gave Jotaro the time he needed to try to recover from everything that had happened, starting from when he let slip his secret in the middle of Cairo's streets. Having a breakdown because he couldn't handle looking at a goddamn water tank. God, he was pathetic.

The bed under him shifted as Kakyoin sat beside him, in the same spot where Polnareff did not too long ago.

"I'm sorry I walked out," Kakyoin started. "I was angry and I needed to leave to calm down."

"It's fine," Jotaro said. The exact same thing he said earlier.

"It was overwhelming," Kakyoin said. "I know it's not right, but I felt betrayed."

"I'm sorry I couldn't save you."

Kakyoin stopped, staring with Jotaro with first confusion, then exasperation. "Oh my god." He shook his head. "What am I going to do with you? Jotaro, I'm not mad about that."

It was Jotaro's turn to look confused, scrunching his face as he tried to make sense of just what he heard. If Kakyoin wasn't mad about dying, then what could it possibly be? To answer him, Kakyoin leaned closer to point an accusing finger at him.

"I'm mad because you didn't trust me enough to tell me."


Kakyoin also frowned. "If I'm to be totally honest, I think this is more on me than it is you. Except I'm still going to place some blame on you because it's still partially your fault. I to think that I'm the person you can tell things to. You told me you were nervous about seeing Avdol and Polnareff again, something I know you hadn't told anyone else. And it made me feel good. Like I'm someone special to you. So to find out there was this big major thing that you felt like you couldn't tell me, it shattered that idea I had of myself. And you. Of the two of us. So even though it was really shitty of me, I needed to leave for a bit to pull myself back together."

"It wasn't shitty."

"It was. Don't argue with me on this," Kakyoin scoffed. "I understand why you didn't say anything. Because it's, frankly, a lot and it sounds unbelievable, but I know you. You wouldn't make shit like that up. It just still hurts that you kept it from me. I just want to be important to you."

"You are."

"Flatterer," Kakyoin chucked, then reached over to pull Jotaro close. Jotaro found himself leaning against Kakyoin's shoulder, which was a bit bony, yet comforting. After tensing up so tightly he thought he might burst, he slowly relaxed. It was inviting, safe, and warm, and bit by bit, Jotaro started to feel more and more at ease the more time went by. "Jotaro, can I ask you a question?"

Jotaro grunted what he hoped sounded like a yes.

"Are you okay?"

Jotaro hesitated, then said, "No. I...haven't been okay for a long time. It helps when you're here." He did trust Kakyoin. He did trust him with things that he didn't dare share with others, and he wanted to prove that to him.


"I'm not sure," Jotaro admitted, and told the uneasy feeling in his stomach to piss off. It didn't, but he pushed through anyway, even if he wanted nothing more than to clam up and say nothing. "Because you know me the best, I guess. You aren't nosy like Avdol and the Old Man. You're not obnoxious like Polnareff. You always know what to say or do. I like being around you."

They sat like that for a while, until Kakyoin got Jotaro to his feet, telling him they should go out to the balcony for some air. When the crisp night air hit Jotaro's face, he was surprised at how refreshing it was. It turned out that spending hours in a slightly smoky hotel room, even if it was a very nice hotel room, wasn't the greatest thing. Jotaro leaned against the railing, observing the city of Cairo at night before looking up at the sky, taking in all the stars above.

The desert's night is prettier, but Cairo's isn't bad at all.

"Can I ask you one more question?" Kakyoin asked.

"Sure. Whatever," Jotaro replied, thinking that now would probably be a perfect time for that cigarette he didn't have with Polnareff. Already, he was reaching into his pockets for his pack and his lighter. "Not like I can stop you."

"JoJo," Kakyoin said and the nickname made Jotaro pause and turn to look at him, mind furthest away from either smoking or the scenery before him. Kakyoin seemed hesitant, even shy, before continuing. "JoJo...are you in love with me?"

The question caught him off guard. How could it not? Jotaro's hands fell to his sides as he took the time to process a single sentence of less than ten uncomplicated words. It was a weird, random, totally out of nowhere question, he thought. What could possibly prompt Kakyoin to ask it? Was it the way Jotaro preferred his company over everyone else's? The way Jotaro wanted Kakyoin to always think favorably of him? The way he trusted him with things he couldn't even tell his own mother? The way he openly admired Kakyoin and did little to hide it?


It was probably all of that.

Kakyoin knew, before Jotaro even knew himself. Of course he knew, because Kakyoin is supposed to know things because he is a smartass and a smug know-it-all. And if he didn't know it, he would eventually find about it, just like how he managed to pull the truth of his own death from Jotaro's lips.

So, yes, Kakyoin knew. And he confronted Jotaro about it because he has never been afraid to get in Jotaro's face and challenge him.

And it was Jotaro's turn to shy away, looking down at the streets below.


"Mmm, thought so," Kakyoin mused, looking distant, and Jotaro wondered what he was supposed to do now. Kakyoin didn't say anything else, and he didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Is he supposed to kiss him? Jotaro thought he was supposed to kiss him, so he took a step forward, leaned closer and-

-was stopped by a finger being pressed against his lips.


He was being rejected.

But Kakyoin was smiling at him, and that only made it all the more confusing. Jotaro wished he would make himself clear already. All he's doing is sending mixed signals and Jotaro already had a hard enough time interacting with people when they were being straightforward. As if answering his silent plea, Kakyoin moved his hand to Jotaro's cheek, giving it a light stroke. It's completely unlike Dream Phantom Dio's touch. It didn't have that same hypnotic, intoxicating effect, but it was full of emotion and affection, something Dio, real or self created, could never hope to imitate.

"Jotaro, I can't. Not now. Not while you're like this," Kakyoin said. "The first time we kiss, I want you to be able to fully enjoy it." He grinned and gave a weak laugh. "Go to bed, JoJo. You must be tired."

Jotaro didn't argue with him.

Jotaro unlocked the door to his rented apartment, two plastic bags filled with household purchases in his free hand. He opened the door and flicked the lights on before placing his two bags on his kitchen counter. The first bag was filled with food, enough to last him through the week. Holly's been on his case about him cooking more, so he had promised to learn a new recipe every week. Baked catfish was going to be this week's new adventure.

In the other bag were some household items that he needed. Soap for his shower, cleaning supplies, and a paper bag that was stapled shut. He took out the bag and ripped it open, the only item inside, a small, orange plastic bottle, falling out onto the counter with a loud sound. He stared at it briefly before picking it up to read the label.




He put it down on the counter and part of him didn't want to believe the bottle was real. Medication was for old people, or the very sick. Or temporarily, for those who found themselves hospitalized because they just barely managed to survive an encounter with the world's most dangerous vampire, of which Jotaro was none of those things (he fought the vampire almost two years ago). He began putting his perishable groceries in the refrigerator and freezer, in an action that certainly wasn't stalling for time. He remembered the painkillers from his time recovering from his injuries and it had left a sour taste in his mouth. The pills were disgusting, for one, and they didn't go down his throat easily. And they put him out of commission, leaving him feeling dizzy and nauseous and the only reason he took them was because Joseph made him and it was marginally better than being in constant, awful pain.

The Speedwagon Foundation therapist assured him that it wasn't going to be that bad. Any side effects he could experience wouldn't be nearly as bad. Jotaro didn't really trust her. How could he? He's only known her for a couple weeks, visiting in one hour sessions. So, only two hours total.

But she said she didn't expect him to trust her yet. That it was only natural he didn't and that she was willing to wait however long it took for him to be comfortable around her.

He appreciated that, at least, and that statement was what convinced him to not give up on the process immediately.

He took a bottle of water out of the fridge and opened the cap, drinking it in small sips as he stared at the bottle of medication as if it bore him ill will.

Medication was for the elderly and the sick.

Well, his head certainly wasn't healthy. It was all kinds of fucked up. That, at least, he could freely admit.

Jotaro unscrewed the cap of the medication bottle and put one pill in his hand. With the other, he took a big sip of water before adding the pill and swallowing it all.

Chapter Text

Jotaro lost count of how many times people waited for him at airports. It happened fairly often these days and he traveled so frequently he barely had any time to marvel at the fact that he went from spending years in his hometown to traveling to different countries on a regular basis. And every time he stepped off a plane, there was always someone waiting for him. His family, his friends, Speedwagon Foundation employees, there was always someone there.

It's not often Jotaro was the one who got to do the waiting, but he's been sitting here for a good thirty minutes, keeping himself occupied by people watching and trying to not fall asleep.

He looked up at the clock on the wall. The plane he's been waiting for was twenty minutes late, but outside the window, from his uncomfortable chair-bench fusion abomination seat, he could see the plane pulling up to the gate. It'll probably be another fifteen minutes from there. He waited anxiously, eyes trained on the plane as airport workers scurried all around it. At some point, Star Platinum appeared to press its face against the wall of windows, glaring at it and looking like it really wanted to punch that plane, as if that would speed up the process somehow. Jotaro told it not to, and Star Platinum instead settled for looking impatient.

The first person disembarked from the plane. It was a man of average height, wearing a business suit and carrying a briefcase. The man looked down at a watch on his wrist, then hurried towards the direction of the baggage claim. Jotaro didn't care who he was, but he was still glad to see him, because it meant that finally, finally the passengers were being allowed off. The man was like a signal, and more people began to flow out of the gate and into the waiting area. First it was more business men and women, no doubt here for work. Next came the families, small groups of husbands and wives and children chattering excitedly about the beach and Disney World. Seeing them stirred something strange in Jotaro, and as much as he wanted to pretend he was oblivious, he knew exactly what it was. However, he put those feelings aside. Now wasn't the time. He wasn't here to contemplate families on vacation.

Most of the passengers had gotten off the plane when finally, the person he was waiting for emerged, like a figure exiting a long dark tunnel for the first time and stepping into the sunlight, except there was no tunnel and the sunlight was more slightly dim industrial lighting. Kakyoin Noriaki paused, stretching his arms out to chase away the stiffness he was surely feeling when Star Platinum rushed from its spot at the windows to capture him in a bear hug.

"Star Platinum," Kakyoin greeted, smiling and trying to do his best to not look like he was being squished by an invisible ghost to the ordinary people around them. It was a passable attempt. Hierophant Green slowly manifested into existence, floating gracefully over to Jotaro to give him a looser, but no less affectionate hug. Seemingly satisfied, Star Platinum released its captive and Kakyoin took a moment to smooth out his clothes before making his way over to Jotaro properly. "Hello, Jotaro," he said, greeting him in English. It's clear he's been practicing it lately. Hierophant Green let go of Jotaro to return to its user's side. "It's been a while."

"Yeah," Jotaro agreed, in Japanese. It's refreshing for him to be able to speak to someone in his native tongue in person for once. He's comfortable with English, of course, but he'll always prefer Japanese. His own face was stoic, but Star Platinum was grinning widely behind him. "Welcome to America, Noriaki."

Jotaro has since moved out of his rented apartment and into a small place of his own, a house that was both closer to his university and to the shore, a win-win, honestly. He wasn't out of school just yet, but after years of thinking of the Speedwagon Foundation as a nuisance, Jotaro was now working for them while continuing his studies. He'd be able to contribute to their oceanography projects while also agreeing to investigate Stand related activity. It was a fair enough deal, so he took it.

"Nice place," Noriaki told him as soon as they entered the front door, each carrying suitcases.

"Thanks," Jotaro replied, setting the luggage he was carrying down by the door. "A little big for just me, though."

"Have you considered getting a pet?"

Jotaro answered by pointing at a large saltwater aquarium sitting against one of the walls. Tropical fish of all kinds swam around it happily among the live plants and only slightly tacky tank decorations. He was very proud of the thing.

"Yes, of course, I should have guessed," Noriaki laughed with a playful roll of his eyes. "I wouldn't say fish count."

"They count," Jotaro retorted, looking slightly offended on behalf of his beloved fish. It had taken weeks of research for him to figure out how to make a balanced ecosystem, then even more time to set up the ideal environment before he could actually go get fish to put in it. They were perfect and he wasn't going to stand any insult towards them, not even from Noriaki.

"I know, I'm just teasing you," Noriaki said, and his words were enough to soothe Jotaro's mild indignation. "Either way, you won't be alone anymore. Thanks for letting me stay with you. Saves me a lot of money."

Jotaro replied with a grunt. Of course he would let Noriaki stay. What kind of person, upon hearing his long distance boyfriend would be attending school in his area and needed a place to stay, doesn't offer up his own small-yet-too-big place as an option? "Good grief. Don't think this is a free ride. I expect you to pull some weight around here."

"Don't I always?" Noriaki asked. Hierophant Green emerged to pick up all of the luggage with both its hands and its tentacles. "I'm going to put these away and after that, how about we talk about dinner?"

"Down the hall. Second door on the left," Jotaro said to Hierophant Green and the Stand nodded before slithering its way to Jotaro's woefully neglected guest room. The amount of independence that Hierophant Green could display sometimes was incredible, though he suspected that was a natural perk of it being a long range type Stand. Star Platinum sometimes seemed to have a mind of its own, but it rarely ever ventured too far from its user.

Once Hierophant Green was out of sight, the last of its body disappearing into the guest room, Jotaro turned to find himself being watched, perhaps scrutinized by his new roommate/live in boyfriend. He stared back, the obvious question he wanted to ask left unvoiced.

"You're looking a lot better," Noriaki told him. "It wasn't that long ago you had a complete mental breakdown and told me I was supposed to be dead and rotting."

"Good grief. It would be nice if you didn't put it like that," Jotaro said as Hierophant Green returned to its master, having completed its task. "I'm not completely okay and I probably never will be." Once he had realized it, it was surprisingly easy for him to accept it. He was never normal to begin with. Even before Dio, even before Stands, he's always been different, an outcast not because he was a delinquent or a rebel, but because he simply did not fit in. He was damaged in a way that could never be fixed, for being broken was a fundamental part of his being.

But that was no matter. He was doing fine, managing quite well for someone like himself. Before, he'd simply just shut it out and shut everything down. Now he could at least engage with society, even if he felt that he'd never fully integrate into it. He could go entire days without dwelling on his past mistakes.

He'd stopped thinking of this as an alternate reality and simply just reality.

Since Jotaro was too tired to cook and he wanted Noriaki's first meal in the United States to be a good one, they went out for seafood at one of the Chinese restaurants in the area. They brought each other up to speed on what they've been doing for the past several months. Jotaro had actually made some real, genuine friends at university and Noriaki was also offered a job at the Speedwagon Foundation, which was not a surprise to Jotaro at all. The Foundation would be fools to not try to recruit him.

"They want me to help with improving their technology," Noriaki explained. "And of course, deal with Stand related cases."

"You'd be good at it," Jotaro told him, and the conversation ended there because the waiter was bringing them their food. Clams in black bean sauce, salt and pepper fried squid, and a steamed fish were brought to their table and food was best eaten when freshly served.

They make it back home an hour later, full, but exhausted. Noriaki was tired due to traveling. Jotaro was tired because he got almost no sleep the previous night. So even though they were both young men in the prime of their lives, an early bedtime sounded appealing to them both.

"Jotaro, wait," Noriaki said, reaching out to grab a wrist, and before Jotaro could ask what he wanted, Noriaki used both hands to grab the collar of his jacket and pull him forward for a kiss. Jotaro froze, first from shock, then with a dim realization that he wasn't exactly sure what to do.

So he stopped thinking and let his instincts take over. He parted his lips and his hands found Noriaki's hips, and before he knew it, Noriaki was pulling away, smiling at him.

"You're shy, aren't you, Jotaro?" he asked, and Jotaro responded by reaching up for his hat. "It's cute."

Jotaro wanted to protest. He very much did, but his ability to form words decided to leave him at that time. He felt as if his head was filled with clouds and did his best to try to push them away, but clouds cannot simply be pushed. Physical force didn't work on clouds. They couldn't be shoved or punched. And thus, they stayed in his head, shrouding his brain, unable to do little more than wait for them to clear up on their own.

"Ah, I think I broke you," Noriaki continued to tease, because Kakyoin Noriaki was cruel and a bully. "I'll let you go to bed then. Good night, JoJo."

And he left Jotaro to stand there in the living room dumbly.

"Goddammit, Noraki," Jotaro said, two minutes later.

"I thought we were going to meet in New York," Jotaro said as Polnareff used his shoulder to nudge Jotaro's front door open, carrying two suitcases.

"We were," Polnareff answered before dropping both suitcases down on Jotaro's nice dark hardwood floors, what the hell, Polnareff, don't scuff my floors. "But then you went and got yourself a house. You expect us to not want to come see it?"

"Whatever happened to "we can't keep crashing at Jotaro's house every single time?"" Jotaro muttered through gritted teeth in Japanese.

"That was over a year ago," Polnareff shrugged, and Jotaro couldn't hide his surprise. Not only was Polnareff speaking Japanese, it was also surprisingly good. Switching back to English, he said, "Ha, didn't think I'd understand? Well, Mohammed and I haven't spent the last year learning Japanese for nothing. Now the four of us can annoy Mr. Joestar together by speaking Japanese around him. Anyway, plans change, Jotaro."

"I don't remember agreeing to this." Although the everyone using Japanese around Joseph idea was pretty good.

"Kakyoin said it was okay."

"For the record," Noriaki said, standing on the other side of the room and sipping from a glass of water. "I did not. All you did was ask me if the spare bedroom was free."

"And you said yes," Polnareff said, punctuating each word with a wag of a finger on one hand and using the other to hold the door open to let Avdol in.

"Good grief," Jotaro sighed. It was definitely a shock to receive a phone call from Polnareff telling him that they were at the airport and needed to be picked up when he had absolutely no idea that they were coming in the first place, leading to a mad scramble to drive through rush hour traffic to get there. He was never not happy to see his friends, but advance warning, or even any warning at all, would have been nice. The house could have used some cleaning, they only just finished moving the last of Noriaki's things into the master bedroom and dinner plans would have to be completely reworked now that there were two extra mouths to feed. Should they cook or go out? Going out for dinner was the safer choice, but maybe Polnareff and Avdol would enjoy something home cooked more.

Briefly, Jotaro wondered when he got so domestic. It was probably shortly after he got his own house and had to worry about things like bills and chores. He glanced at the door, as if he were expecting Joseph Joestar to barrel his way in and announce his grand presence, but it didn't happen. It wasn't going to happen. Joseph was in New York and he wasn't leaving it anytime soon. Suzie Q had fallen ill as of late and it had the potential to become serious. His grandmother didn't have the same Hamon given health benefits his grandfather did. Even Caesar had left Venice to stay with them and Jotaro himself would be going to visit in two weeks. Jotaro was now looking the fact that his grandmother was old and frail and the days she would stare her husband down and defeat him with words alone felt like they were just yesterday. Suzie Q Joestar was now over seventy years old and the limits of the human lifespan could practically be seen. Even at that very moment her health could take a turn for the worst.

And Joseph and Caesar wouldn't be much longer either. Caesar already chose one of his students to succeed him as the master of Air Supplena Island and was planning on retiring and moving to New York City once said successor's learned everything there was to know about teaching Hamon to others. And there was nothing Jotaro could do about his grandparents aging, even though he had the strongest Stand in the world.

For a moment, Jotaro wondered what it was like to be an immortal vampire then immediately chastised himself for it. How could he even think...!?

He felt a hand on his back and recognized it as Noriaki's straight away. It's something he always did whenever he wanted to comfort Jotaro. It was a calming touch, able to help Jotaro relax and expel some of the tension he might be feeling at any given moment.

"You getting overwhelmed?" Noriaki asked, and Jotaro nodded. "I don't blame you. This on top of everything else that's been going on would drive anyone nuts. Why don't you go to our room and take a break? I'll take care of everything."

There were times Jotaro felt like he didn't deserve Kakyoin Noriaki. Even if he was...better these days, things were still an uphill climb for him. There were days when Jotaro failed to find the will to function. He was normally a driven, goal oriented person, but sometimes it just didn't happen, often without any real explanation. Those were the days he didn't want to do anything and just forget that he had responsibilities that needed attending to. He never truly forgot, of course, and remembering only made him feel worse. But Noriaki was always there to pick up the slack, and Jotaro always did the same whenever Noriaki was the one having a bad day, taking on all of the household chores or watering his plants while Noriaki had his head firmly planted on his computer's keyboard, cursing himself for deciding to go into computer science and occasionally during these spells, Jotaro would rub his back and hope that was helpful.

Flopping onto his bed (their bed), Jotaro spent a few minutes staring up at the ceiling before turning onto his side. A thirty minute nap never hurt anyone.

Polnareff and Avdol lived in France now, with Iggy in a little house in the countryside in the southern region of the country. Apparently there's a French bulldog living down the street that Iggy's taken an interest in. They lived in a small village about twenty minutes away from Marseille by car. Jotaro heard that Marseille was a beautiful coastal city famous for its seafood. He'd like to go some day, mainly because he's genuinely interested, but also because he wanted to see how Polnareff handled having guests. Although Avdol made a bit of money doing fortune telling, it was more of a hobby than a living for them. Both of them worked for the Speedwagon Foundation, though much to Jotaro's surprise, Polnareff's been working for them the longest, having started basically directly after Dio's defeat.

("They recruited me when we were in the hospital, when Mohammed and Kakyoin were bedridden and Jotaro spent half his time knocked out on painkillers and the other half whining about them," Polnareff said, and Jotaro shot him his most intimidating glare. It had no effect whatsoever and he didn't know if it was because Polnareff had become immune to it or if he had lost some of his intimidating qualities when he grew out of being a rough and tumble teenager and cleaned himself up a bit. "I don't think you were fully aware of it, Jotaro, because man, who knew you could whine so much? It was actually kind of cute, you know? The way you'd curl up and the dying animal noises you made."

"Polnareff," Jotaro warned him, and even if it's been a while since he got into a serious fight, he was still completely confident he could punch Polnareff's face in.

To cut the tension, Avdol inserted himself between them, figuratively and almost literally to steer the conversation back to its original topic. "We had no idea you were working for the Foundation, Jean."

"Wait, you guys really thought I was unemployed?" Polnareff asked, jaw dropping. "I even told you I couldn't tell you about my job. I was under orders to not share any details!"

Noriaki shrugged. "We thought that was just a lame excuse."

"Where did you think I got my money from!?"

"I don't know. Inheritance?"

"Do I look like a Joestar to you!?")

Even if their arrival was something they were completely unprepared for, Jotaro couldn't bring himself to be truly angry about it. He liked Polnareff. He liked Avdol. Even if they both could get on his nerves, each in his own unique way, he enjoyed their company and while he still had no desire to tell them that directly, he no longer pretended to reluctantly accept them in his life. He was an adult now, and a busy one at that. He had neither the time nor the patience for juvenile tough guy teenage antics anymore. Besides, what was the point in keeping up the charade when everyone knew it was just that: an act?

Jotaro showered, washed his face, and changed into comfortable clothes before making his way out of the bathroom and towards his bed, where Noriaki had already made himself comfortable. A couple months after moving in, the cheeky bastard slowly invaded Jotaro's room. It was just "curiosity" at first. Then to "hang out." Before Jotaro knew it, Noriaki had dropped all pretenses and just straight up spent entire nights in his bed and after an unbroken fourteen day streak of this, Jotaro flat out told him to move his stuff in and that he could have half the closet and half of the shelves in the dresser. It wasn't like Jotaro was using them anyway.

"Polnareff and Avdol seem happy," Noriaki said, scooting to the side to let Jotaro in. The mattress creaked and dipped slightly under Jotaro's weight as he sat down, then leveled itself back out once he had properly lay down. Jotaro's hand went to his nightstand, grabbing a hardcover book that was resting on it, a bookmark placed roughly a third into its pages. As Jotaro opened to it, Noriaki wrinkled his nose in slight disapproval. "Turn on your lamp. You need more light."

Jotaro rolled his eyes, but did what he was told.

"I still think you need glasses."

"My eyes are fine," Jotaro said, and they were. The fact that he had to squint a little or have Star Platinum read writing on the whiteboards in university sometimes proved nothing. People have shitty handwriting, especially when they write on vertical surfaces using half dried markers. Sometimes Jotaro couldn't tell if someone was trying to write a sentence or draw a poorly realized clownfish. "You were saying about Polnareff and Avdol?" There we go, a perfect transition back to the subject of not Kakyoin Noriaki nagging him about his eyes.

"Just glad they're doing well." Noriaki said, eyes closed. "The two of them and their dog. They make a happy family."

Jotaro paused, thoughts and emotions he didn't want to contemplate right before bed forcing their way to the forefront of his mind. Without a word, he rolled over to wedge himself between Noriaki's arms and press himself against his chest. Yeah, it made him look and feel weak and vulnerable, but he didn't care about that right at that moment. He was upset and they both knew he was upset and they both knew that he got needy when he was upset.

He felt a hand thread through his hair. "Can I ask what you're thinking about?"

"Family," Jotaro answered, and it was technically true. He wasn't trying to hide anything from Noriaki, but he just didn't have the ability to tangle himself out, much less articulate it to another human being. His grandmother was sick. His grandfather and his grandfather's boyfriend were getting old. Polnareff and Avdol were practically married with a bratty dog child and they were disgustingly cute about it. He was a part of the illustrious Joestar bloodline. Florida itself was a hotspot for vacationing families (and also old people). He's been thinking about family a lot.

"We're going to see Grandma Suzie soon," Noriaki said, and while it was nice to hear, it did nothing to help. It wasn't just about Grandma Suzie's illness, it was the combination of everything going on. But he recognized and appreciated the attempt to make him feel better. "Go to sleep. Polnareff wants to go to Disney World."

"He's an adult," Jotaro groaned. "He's older than us."

"He still wants to go."

"Aren't they opening a Disneyland in Paris?"

"I brought that up and he said, and I quote, "It's not Disney World.""

Jotaro responded by burying his face into Noriaki's neck.

Disney World was fun, but Jotaro would sooner slit his own throat than admit it out loud.

New York City was not the type of city Jotaro liked. It smelled like garbage. Literal garbage. Because there was garbage on the streets. Everywhere. Jotaro had wrinkled his nose in disgust and a glance over at Noriaki told him that he was just as sensitive to it as he was. The city was ridiculously large, and even with all that space, it was terribly crowded. People covered the streets like waves of humanity, everyone moving quickly and nobody liking any disruptions in their pace or the paths. More than once, someone would bump into Jotaro and tell him to watch where he was going even though they were the ones who bumped into him. At least in Venice, the people had manners and they figured out how to get around each other in narrow canals and streets without hurling insults at each other. The buildings seemed unnecessarily tall, and even with buildings that big, there still wasn't enough room for the seven million people who lived in the city.

He had no idea why Joseph loved it so much.

Joseph wasn't able to pick them up at the airport, but Caesar was, something that wasn't strictly necessary since they were just going to take a cab, but it was a nice gesture nonetheless.

"Caesar, how's Grandma Suzie?" Jotaro was never sure how to refer to Caesar, so he's always called him just by his name. Caesar didn't seem to mind.

"She's good," Caesar told him. "She's almost fully recovered, but the doctor told her to stay in bed for the next couple days. Joseph and Holly are with her."

The distance they traveled was about two miles. It took them nearly thirty minutes to get there. Traffic in New York was absolutely unreal and had Jotaro known this would happen, he would have just walked instead. The taxi drivers in Cairo were crazy, but at least they got you where you wanted to go quickly. Here in New York, cars spent a fourth of their time moving and the rest of it idling still and wasting gasoline.

Jotaro's grandparents lived in a former hotel that was constructed several decades ago, converted into a condominium and renovated on the inside to account for modern day conveniences. The lobby preserved as much of the original architecture as possible. Marble tile lined the floors and the ceiling was circular and carved. Stepping out of New York's dirty streets and into this posh looking place was almost like crossing into another world. Even the front desk was fancy, made from cherry wood that had been stained a darker shade of brown. The doorman seated at it greeted Caesar by name and buzzed them in. They took an elevator straight up and Caesar knocked on the door before opening it.

The Joestar residence was at a penthouse that took up the entire top floor of the building and Jotaro realized it was actually larger than his house. Good grief. What did his old man need all that space for? One wall was made entirely of floor-to-ceiling windows, offering an unparalleled view of the New York City skyline. It consisted of two levels and the floorplan was almost completely open with barely a solid wall in sight, making the space feel even larger than it already was.

From one of the couches in the open living area, he heard a high pitched "Jotaro!" as Holly immediately leapt from her seat to greet her son in Japanese. "How's my little boy?" And Jotaro, her little boy, leaned over a bit so she could kiss his cheek. "And how are you, Noriaki-kun?"

"We're both doing good," Jotaro replied, standing back up straight as it was Noriaki's turn to be smothered in Holly's love. His mother enveloped Noriaki in a bear hug and clearly demonstrated that Joestar strength didn't exist only in the men of the family. "How's Grandma Suzie?"

Before Holly could answer him, Joseph Joestar's voice boomed from somewhere in the condo, although it was very difficult to tell exactly where. "Hey!" he shouted, sounding far too loud for his age. "No Japanese! There's a strict English only rule in this house!"

"It's true," Caesar muttered. "He put it in forty-five years ago because he was mad because he thought Suzie and I were making fun of him in Italian right in front of his face."

"Were you?" Jotaro asked.

"Yes," Caesar answered, and the corners of Jotaro's mouth turned upwards into the barest hint of a smile. He loved Joseph, but Caesar was his favorite grandfather, no contest. Sorry, Joseph, except he wasn't sorry at all. "Come, Suzie's been eagerly waiting to see you."

His grandmother looked impossibly small in the king sized bed that she and Joseph shared, nestled in the blankets and lying with her head against the huge, cushy pillows that Jotaro thought couldn't possibly be comfortable. He had been told that she was alright, that she would be fine in another day or two, but he couldn't help but worry. She had just been sick enough to warrant a visit from Jotaro, Holly, and Caesar.

"Is that my Jotaro?" Suzie Q asked, opening her eyes and sitting up. To see her do that was encouraging and Jotaro pulled up a chair to sit by her bed. "Oh, Jotaro, I'm sorry to make you come all the way up here to New York like this."

"You didn't make me do anything," Jotaro snorted, then realized how rude that must have sounded. He sat up straight and cleared his throat, hand going to the brim of his hat and pulling it down over one eye. "I came because I wanted to."

Suzie laughed. "Of course, of course. Silly me. You aren't the type to be easily pushed into doing anything you don't want to. Well, your old grandmother is happy to see you regardless."

Jotaro wished she would stop reminding him that she was old.

"Oh, don't make that face. I still have some years left in me," she said, reaching out to touch his face. "And even if I didn't, you can't let that stop you from living your life. Everybody dies eventually, Jotaro, and the best thing you can do for the ones you love is to carry on."

It hurt, a bit, to hear that, because Jotaro had failed to move on those years ago and history was forever altered because of it. There's something shameful about it, about not accepting the cards fate had dealt him, and like a poker match against D'arby, he cheated to put things in his favor. He didn't regret it then and he still didn't regret it, but he still couldn't shake the feeling that what he had done was cowardly and proved he was weak, because he couldn't bear to live without his friends and family and he knew, when speaking to people like Hermes and Anasui, that only sadness and heartache awaited him in the future. He preferred his current present to the promised future of misery, but part of him always wondered if he should have simply stayed with it and faced the hardship that was waiting for him.

"I know you've been struggling so much these past few years," Suzie said. "And I want you to know that you're doing great. You nearly have your dream job, you have wonderful friends to rely on, and you and Noriaki take such good care of each other."

"Then why doesn't it feel right?" Jotaro asked without thinking. "Why does it feel like I'm doing something wrong?" Why won't the nagging feeling that he's a coward who's been looking for an easy way go away?

"My dear Jotaro," Suzie said. "That's simply part of being human. We always question ourselves. The reality is, being happy requires work. If we sit around and wait for happiness to come to us, it will never come and everything will be bleak. People only get a happy future when they make it for themselves. So if you feel that something is wrong, you must change it yourself. If you feel discontent now, figure out what it is you want."

He didn't have to, because Jotaro already knew what he wanted.

"Can I talk to you?"

Noriaki hefted his suitcase onto the bed, popping the lid open. "It must be important if you're asking me this the moment we get back home."

"It is," Jotaro said as he mimicked the action on his side of the bed. They've talked about a lot of things. Sumo, art, video games, marine life, and Jotaro's mental health, which was always engaged in the world's most delicate balancing act, threatening to topple over at a moment's notice. Even with the antidepressants, even with regularly scheduled therapy, Jotaro often felt like he was just barely able to keep afloat in the turbulent sea of his emotions.

"Well, what is it?" Noriaki asked as he started removing clothes from the suitcases, putting them in the laundry basket. "Jotaro, I'm not a mind reader. Use your words. You have to tell me what you're thinking about."

Jotaro's suitcase was open, but all he could really do was stare into it, paralyzed by a potent cocktail made of equal parts nervousness, determination, and terror. It's something they have to discuss, however, even though Jotaro couldn't help but fear that once he said something, Noriaki would leave him forever.

"What's on your mind, JoJo?"

But he's learned his lesson. Trying to bury and hide his feelings never works out. He looked up from the suitcase and right into Noriaki's eyes.

"Jolyne. I'm thinking about Jolyne."

Chapter Text

Her name is Roxanne. Roxanne Summer.

She's four years older than Jotaro and lives in Miami. She was single and worked as bartender in a night club. She has short hair that flared outwards and was a little below average in height for a woman, and she's staring at him like she's trying to burn a hole in his head with her eyes alone. Not the type of person he was expecting, to be honest.

"What made you decide to apply for this?" he asked her. It's an entirely unnecessary question. Any question he could ask would be entirely unnecessary, but he had to ask. This was an interview, after all. He had to interview her, even though he knew she was the one the moment she walked into the room, eyes forward, face professional, and her three inch stiletto high heels clicking proudly across the tiled floor.

"Simply put," she said, and her voice was quiet and low, but full of confidence. "I need the money. My mother is very sick, and if she doesn't get treatment, she'll die."

A part of Jotaro wished he hadn't asked as unpleasant memories resurfaced in his mind's eye. First, he thought of his mother, enveloped in ethereal green thorns, then he thought of the events that transpired as a direct result of that, of all the pain that followed him for the next couple of months and the lingering remnants that clung to him afterwards that took root and thrived like an overgrown garden, sapping him dry.

They were still there. He could feel them embedded in his neck, in his shoulders, and in his back, twisting all around him in a silent promise to never let him go. Vowing to one day choke the life out of him.

"You realize what's being asked of you, right?" he continued. "Along with the payment, all of your expenses will be covered and you'll be taken care of, but it still won't be easy."

"Mr. Kujo," she said. "I'm sorry if this sounds rude, but I know what I'm getting into and I don't care. I'll do whatever it takes to save my mother."

Listening to her pulled at Jotaro's heart in ways he didn't even know were possible. When he looked at her, he saw someone else in her place. Someone young, rough, and stupid, but also someone full of determination and empathy. Someone who put on a confident and brave act, but deep down was lost and scared and didn't know what to do with the powerful emotions that were threatening to run free.

When Jotaro was still in high school, he imagined his perfect woman to be like the samurai wives from a bygone era. Beautiful, graceful, supportive, but at the same time, willful and strong; able to stand on her own two feet. Someone who would love him and be there for him, but didn't need to be protected and sheltered from the dangers of the world like some kind of delicate flower. Someone who was strong enough to stand up to and fight against anyone, including himself. As an adult, he still found himself attracted to those traits. The only difference was the person he found them in wasn't a woman.

But if he didn't have Noriaki, he could easily see himself being drawn to Roxanne instead. Who would have guessed that he would find an embodiment of the samurai's wife in an American woman? It would be easy to imagine her at the front gate of a Japanese mansion, a naginata in her hands and ready to defend her home from enemies. And the more he looked at her, the more sure he became: this was her. This was the woman who was Jolyne's mother in another time.

This was the woman that he married, then divorced.

He didn't know how to feel about that.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you," he said. He hadn't meant to imply that she wasn't thinking this through, that she didn't understand what a commitment this would be. The way she carried herself demanded respect, and Jotaro always gave respect to people who deserved it. It just usually turned out that the number of people who deserved his respect was very, very small. "Miss Summer, if you still want to do it, the job is yours."

She'll carry the baby that will eventually be born as Kujo Jolyne.

He didn't allow himself to become captivated by Roxanne. He didn't think about what it would be like to be in a relationship with her. He didn't wonder what it would be like to go out with or marry her. He didn't imagine her at the front gates of a Japanese mansion, wielding a naginata to drive off invaders. All he did was see her as someone to respect from a distance.

At the same time, he didn't want to see her simply as someone he was hiring for a job. He didn't want her to be someone who would only be a footnote in the story that was his life, doomed to fall into anonymous irrelevance. Even if he had no romantic interest in her, he still wanted to reach out to her, get to know her, and just maybe, be friends with her.

There was a connection between them, Jotaro thought, something that told him that nobody else could possibly fill this role. After all, even if Jolyne reminded him, sometimes painfully, of his teenage self, she wasn't a clone of him. She was also her mother's daughter, and even if Jolyne never told him anything about her mother (and Jotaro didn't dare ask), he knew, deep in his very being, that the woman in front of him is her. In another reality, in another world, he'd probably ask her out on a date. Or more likely, she'd ask him out on one. They'd spend time together, understand each other due to their similar dispositions, and eventually get married and start a family together.

But that won't happen in this reality, because this time around, Jotaro knew. They can never be any more than just friends at best, if they ever even get to that stage. It's not just that he loved someone else now, because even if he was single, a relationship between them wouldn't work out. He didn't know if they'd fight or if they'd eventually grow cold towards each other and drift apart, but regardless of the path it took, it would end in failure. They'd divorce and the one who would suffer would be Jolyne.

Jotaro was drawn to Roxanne because she was so much like him.

He would never be able to truly love her for the same reason.

"Tell me about Jolyne," Noriaki had said. What Jotaro heard was I don't know how to respond to this, so I'm going to stall for time by asking you about your daughter who doesn't exist yet.

When Jotaro met Jolyne at Cape Canaveral, she had looked at him at first with awe. He had no idea who she was, of course. He was just a high school student on some kind of time and space hopping quest looking for a cut up dead body dragging a small train of allies behind him that was getting increasingly bigger with every hop. She was someone who was outnumbered and could have used a hand. He helped her fight off enemies and she had dropped the biggest bombshell that had ever been dropped on him, and probably ever would be dropped on him.

"You' father!"

Which came as a surprise to him for two reasons. The first was that he's never slept with any women. He actively disliked all the girls at school and most other women tended to steer clear of him out of fear. The second reason was because Jolyne was older than him and he almost said then and there, "You can't be my kid. You're old." Luckily for him, he didn't say it, because family or not, Jolyne probably would have driven her fist directly into his gut and just from the few minutes they spent fighting together, he knew that would hurt like hell.

They didn't really like each other at first. Jolyne seemed to alternate between wanting Jotaro to approve of her and trying to push him away and Jotaro didn't know what to do because he was still a teenager and a woman older than him calling him her dad and he had no idea what was her deal with older him was. He even tried asking her friends about it, but Hermes would only vaguely threaten him to treat Jolyne well and Anasui would instead beg him for his "blessing" to marry her. Even now, in the present day with all of the knowledge of that adventure with him, he still didn't know what went down to make Jolyne the way she was, but he did know one thing:

He was a shitty father.

Jotaro tried to distance himself from Jolyne. He tried his damn hardest. He didn't have the knowledge or the emotional maturity to deal with his adult daughter from like, thirty years in the future and her daddy issues that directly involved him, but at the same time, didn't. The most interaction he was planning to have with her was to rely on her in fights and outside of those, they could awkwardly keep a nice ten meter distance between them at all times. Of course, things didn't work out that way. There was no chance they ever would, and he was a fool to believe they would, because Jotaro is someone who cares. He can't turn a blind eye to anyone's plight, no matter how much he wants to. He gets attached to people, grows to love them fiercely, and they become permanently etched into his heart to the point where it often becomes painful to love people.

But he keeps doing it, because Kujo Jotaro is a kind, loving man who can't live any other way.

And Kujo Jolyne was his daughter. He couldn't not love her.

Jotaro didn't know if his desire to have Jolyne in his current life was supposed to be some kind of apology to her. An apology for being a bad father decades in the future or an apology for failing to protect her from Dio. There might be an element of that in it, but he didn't think that was the only reason. It might not even be the main one. No, it definitely wasn't the main one.

He wanted Jolyne in his life because he loved his daughter. It was as simple as that.

He didn't know what he would do if Noriaki said no. No to his insane proposal of trying to raise a child that wouldn't even be biologically his when they would both be just finishing up school. Both be working busy jobs that would require them to travel often.

"Can I..." Noriaki at last said. "...can I think about it?"

Jotaro nodded. "Take all the time you need."

And that was the end of that conversation for half a year. Jotaro didn't bring it up again and they both resumed life as normal as if they had never talked about it. They went from day-to-day, venting to each other about what so-and-so did that day, teased each other, went grocery shopping together, took care of each other when the other got sick, went on dates, had petty arguments, then made up hours later with apologies, affectionate touches, and soft words.

And life was good, but once in a while, Jotaro would think and worry, suspended in this state of not knowing what Noriaki's answer would be or if he'd ever get one. Because he was happy. He liked the way his life was, sharing his life with someone he really, truly loved.

But if Noriaki said no, if he had to choose between Noriaki and Jolyne, he didn't know what he would do.

It was six months later, almost to the date, that he got his answer.

"Okay," Noriaki said to him, first thing in the morning. Jotaro waited for him to continue, but no other words came.

"Okay what?" Jotaro asked when it became clear he was expected to answer.

"Okay," Noriaki repeated. "Let's have Jolyne."

Sitting up in bed, Jotaro looked to the side, where Noriaki was still lying down and looking up at the ceiling, eyes slightly unfocused. It was what Jotaro has wanted to hear for the past several months. To know that he could have both Noriaki and Jolyne. But he didn't just want to have them. He wanted them both to be happy.

He had to ask. "Are you sure? You're not just saying yes to make me happy?"

"Jotaro," Noriaki said, turning to focus his gaze on Jotaro. "You know me. I don't agree to things just because I think it'll make someone happy. Even if that person is you. I didn't take six months to answer just to waste both our time. I said I needed to think about it and that's what I did. Just one condition. We wait a bit. A year or two, so we're both ready."

And Jotaro was relieved to hear it. While he didn't think that Noriaki was the type of person to bow to pressure, it was still reassuring to hear. After relief came elation, for this was basically the best possible outcome. He even agreed with the delay. It would be best if they made sure they were both stable, ready for a kid, and also figure out this whole process of how to actually get from wanting to have a child to actually getting a child, because the process was going to be a little more complicated for them than the average couple.

Jotaro could kiss Noriaki right there and then, and the only reason he didn't was because Noriaki had more to say.

"I asked all kinds of people for advice," Noriaki continued. "My parents, your mom-"

"My mom!?"

"-Grandma Suzie, Caesar, Avdol and Polnareff-"

"You asked Polnareff!?"

"Yes. You know he and Avdol are thinking about adopting, right?"

Jotaro closed his eyes, put both of his hands to his temples and rubbed because he could feel the beginnings of a headache starting to form. Yes, he knew about that. He learned about it from Avdol a couple weeks ago during a phone call, a semi-regular occurrence the two of them started and didn't quite maintain, but usually, once a month, one of them would call up the other and they'd spend an hour just talking. It wasn't a formal thing, not really. Just something they just started doing three months ago. Adoption plans, however, didn't mean that Polnareff should be considered a source of advice for a subject like this. "Please tell me you didn't ask Gramps."

Noriaki snorted and dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand. "Jotaro, please. What do you take me for? Of course I didn't." Thank god.

Headache successfully warded off, Jotaro asked, "And what did they have to tell you?"

"Absolutely nothing useful," Noriaki answered. "I mean, I wasn't really expecting too much. I just needed people to talk to about it and to hear a few opinions."

Jotaro would have asked if it was absolutely necessary for Noriaki to go to pretty much everyone they were close to about it, but he had the distinct feeling that the answer was going to be yes.

"They all basically told me to not think about you but think about myself. To just forget about you for a bit and think about how I feel about having a kid."

"Thanks," Jotaro said, miffed at the idea of being forgotten.

Noriaki ignored him, putting a hand under his chin and looking wistful. It was an act, of course, an intentionally bad display meant to remind Jotaro that Kakyoin Noriaki delighted in being an asshole sometimes. "I came to the conclusion that it doesn't sound bad. Or maybe that's just my issues talking; a subconscious desire to return to my childhood days and pretend they sucked less by raising a child to have everything I didn't. Like friends. Just one and she'll do better than I ever did."


"But more importantly, the more I thought about it. The more I liked the idea. I like kids, and I think I'd enjoy having one of my own." And with the biggest shit eating grin Jotaro had ever seen, Noriaki added, "I can't wait to meet Jolyne. We're going to team up and make you bend to our wills."

A dawning horror crept up Jotaro's neck, a distinct kind of horror that occurs only when one realizes they've made a grave mistake. He already sometimes had difficulty saying no to Noriaki and he suspected that it was going to be the same case with Jolyne. Their combined might was going to be absolutely brutal. They were going to crush him under their heels whenever they decided to team up and do what Dio would have never been able to do in a thousand years: utterly defeat him.

"Good grief," Jotaro replied, sinking back down into his pillow and pulling the blanket over himself, turning away from Noriaki. He should have just done the kissing thing earlier. "I'm going back to sleep. You can make your own breakfast today."

Noriaki looked scandalized. "What? No! Kujo Jotaro, make me an omelette this instant."

"No." Sometimes, it was easy to say no to Noriaki.

"I'm going to starve."

"You brought this on yourself."

He felt a warm weight press into his back, an arm wrap around his waist, and a pair of lips on his shoulder, brushing against the star shaped birthmark there. "Love you too, JoJo."

The phone rang once, twice, then was answered on the third ring.

"Hello?" answered a soft, feminine voice.

"Miss Summer," Jotaro said, putting down his pen and looking away from his report to the Speedwagon Foundation about a Stand using petty thief that tried to mug him on his way home from University. The guy's Stand could make copies of small items, which he used to create an endless of pocket knives he could threaten victims with by throwing them at them. His aim was lousy. Jotaro asked him why he didn't use his Stand to counterfit money, had Star Platinum punch him in the face, and called the authorities.

"Mr. Kujo," Roxanne replied, voice suddenly a lot more tense.

"I just wanted to check up on you."

"Mr. Kujo," Roxanne repeated, a hint of iciness seeping into her tone. "I don't need you to "check up on me" every day like I'm some kind of porcelain doll. I'm pregnant, not dying. You're going to get your baby."

Her words stung. Rejection wasn't something he was unfamiliar with. Many people didn't want to associate with him during his younger, wilder days, going out of their way to avoid him like he was a dangerous animal. And he was, if he were honest with himself. Even as a child, people tried to steer clear of him, for he was the surliest, angriest looking boy in town. He wasn't angry all he time, he just looked that way, but that did him no favors. But even now, it still happened. He could hear the occasional whisper about how he looked like a member of the Yakuza, probably here to do some kind of deal with the local gangs or try to muscle in on their turf. A few people would cross the street when they saw him walking their way. He and Noriaki would always get a few stares whenever they went out, whether it was for a date or for errands. Rejection was something Jotaro knew quite well.

But this kind of rejection was different, it wasn't from nameless strangers, it was from someone he knew personally and that changed it from needles pricking his skin to a knife being thrust into his body. It was silly to think of it that way. He and Roxanne weren't friends. The extent of their relationship was he was paying her to more or less give up nearly a year of her life to have his kid.

"If you don't have anything else to say, I'm going to hang up."

"Wait," he said. Truthfully, he actually didn't have anything else to say. He had called only to check up on her, but now that he had her on the phone, he didn't want her to leave just like that. "I...have some questions."

"Like what?"

Jotaro drummed his fingers on his desk. "I want to know what kind of drink you'd recommend to someone who likes sweet drinks. He really likes fruity stuff."

The silence on the other side of the phone was brief, but it was also heavy and felt like an eternity. Jotaro was expecting to hear the click of the receiver and a dial tone at any moment. At last, he heard, "Well, let me start with a question of my own. Does he like strong drinks or would he like something a little lighter?"

Half an hour later, Jotaro had recommendations for mixed drinks for himself and Noriaki and made a promise to drive down to Miami and meet Roxanne for lunch the following weekend. Noriaki and Roxanne really hit it off and Jotaro wondered what it was about him that caused everyone to conspire with his boyfriend against him. He supposed that he should be thankful that the two were getting along, but he just wished it didn't have to come at his expense.

The weeks turned to months and things noticeably changed between the three of them. Roxanne no longer looked at or spoke to Jotaro with mild scorn and even began to smile at him two months in. She no longer turned away his offers to help her as long as he wasn't patronizing about it, even taking advantage of it by sending him out on errands whenever he was in her area. It was a hassle, but he never once refused or complained. He got it. She was pregnant and pregnancy did weird things to people and the least he could do was go buy her ice cream and pickles.

He could, at least, take comfort in the fact that Noriaki was subject to the same treatment. Seeing him being bossed around by her was surprisingly entertaining.

They got the call at night, right before they were going to bed for the night. Roxanne had gone into labor and that meant they needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible, not because there was anything wrong or that there were any time constraints, but because she was their friend. She was an only child with her sickly mother as her only family. Her father had walked out on his wife and child when she was only four years old. All of her close friends moved away to other states in the country after high school. She had no one else, and neither Jotaro nor Noriaki were going to abandon her.

And while all of that was very dramatic and noble of them, they weren't allowed to do anything except sit in the waiting room.

They passed the time however they could, reading through every single one of the outdated magazines piled up on the low corner tables that sat only half a meter off the floor. Noriaki became an expert on last season's hottest fashions and Jotaro knew the names of all of the luxury car brands and models he had zero interest in owning, but he had to admit that the latest Ferrari was a very sleek looking machine. A television that was suspended in one corner of the ceiling blasted the news, which was not interesting to hear and the picture quality was fuzzy at best and downright incomprehensible at worst. Jotaro had the urge to smoke, but he had decided to completely give up that habit a while ago. It wasn't good for his health, smoking would be unacceptable around Jolyne, and Noriaki's been trying to get him to fully kick the habit for a year. He had already cut back on it significantly, it was high time he stopped. Cravings sometimes reared their ugly head, especially in high stress situations like this one. Instead, he found other ways to occupy his time like taking short walks outside the hospital or reciting facts about sea otters in his head. He liked sea otters. They're unbearably cute.

The door to the waiting room creaked open and a nurse poked her head inside. "Mr. Kujo? Mr. Kakyoin? Miss Summer is asking to see both of you."

Roxanne had been moved to a clean hospital room post birth, something that Jotaro was thankful for. He was no stranger to blood and gore, being a biologist and someone with both the fortune and curse of being a Stand user, but the last thing he wanted to see was anything even remotely distressing. Roxanne was seated upright in the bed, leaning against the pillows and looking completely exhausted, but with a dreamy look on her face as she held a swaddled bundle in her arms. At the sound of the door opening, she looked up and smiled.

"Mr. Kujo, Mr. Kakyoin, come see your daughter."

Jotaro felt a little hesitant at first, but Noriaki used a hand to gently push him forward, closer to the bed.

"She's a baby, she's not going to hurt you." That wasn't what he was afraid of.

"Do you want to hold her?" Roxanne asked and before Jotaro could reply, a baby was being pushed in his general direction and he had no choice but to take the bundle into his arms.

"Not like that, Mr. Kujo, have you never held a baby before?" Actually no, he hadn't. Even on the trip to Egypt, he didn't handle that baby they were in charge of for like, three days. It was usually either his grandfather or Polnareff taking care of it. "Here, do it like this." Roxanne's arms were weak, an understandable state to be in considering she had just given birth, but Jotaro let himself be pulled and pushed at until he was properly holding his daughter.

"She's so...small," he said, dumbly. She was even smaller than that other baby, who Noriaki once said was eleven months old. It was a stupid thing to say. Babies were tiny. He knew that. It's not exactly a brand new, mind blowing piece of information. But holding this baby - Jolyne - in his arms, he was overcome with the desire to protect this child from everything. He wanted nothing more than to take the best care of her.

And in the back of the mind, he thought that if he failed to do that, a light rift would open right in front of him and Hermes Costello would appear to beat him into a bloody pulp.

Beside him, both Noriaki and Roxanne laughed, and he shot a halfhearted glare at them. If he was not holding a baby, he would verbally threaten them, but realistically, they'd probably just laugh that off too. By now, they've both learned that when it came to the people he liked, Jotaro was often all bark and no bite. As the years went by, he proved his mother's early assessment of him more and more correct and sometimes he hated that.

So instead, he let that drop, looking at the woman in the hospital bed. "Thank you for this." The words didn't feel like enough, but he didn't think that words that properly expressed his gratitude existed in any language.

"You're welcome...I guess?" Roxanne replied. "Although I feel like I should be thanking you instead. My mother's going to be fine thanks to your family picking up the bill."

Silence descended upon them, and the happy atmosphere suddenly turned uncomfortable and awkward. Roxanne was the first to speak.

"So, um, I guess this is it?"

Jotaro stared at her. "What do you mean?"

"You have your baby," her eyes went to Jolyne, still in Jotaro's arms. "And I got the money I needed. There's no reason for us to have any contact anymore."

Part of Jotaro felt crushed. Was that all she saw this as? A business transaction? A contract that once fulfilled, meant that they would part ways and never see each other ever again? He didn't think that was right. Not that it was wrong, but it wasn't right. Roxanne was planning to go back to her isolated and lonely life of serving people alcohol in a night club, smiling at drunks and pretending to be nice to them without even a single person to talk to afterward. If that was what she wanted, then he would let her go. He'd take Jolyne and they'd both go back to their lives. However, the way her eyes lingered on Jolyne, on Noriaki, and on him, told him otherwise. That wasn't what she wanted.

"Is that what you want?"

"Excuse me?"

"Just breaking off like that. Never seeing any of us again."


Jotaro handed Jolyne back to her. "She's not just my daughter. She's yours, too. You should also be in her life." Roxanne held Jolyne close to her chest, confirming her suspicions. She loved this child just as much as he did.

Noriaki cleared his throat. "What he's trying to say is you're part of this family now, whether you like it or not. My deepest condolences."

She looked speechless for a moment, staring at the both of them before saying. "Thank you, Mr. Kujo, Mr. Kakyoin."

"Jotaro," Jotaro corrected. "Call me Jotaro."

"And Noriaki is just fine for me," Noriaki added with a wave of his hand.

"Then, please," she smiled. "Call me Roxanne."

The next morning, Jotaro called his mother to let her know she was now a grandmother, then he called Avdol and Polnareff. And then after a moment of hesitation, he dialed Joseph's number to let his grandparents know that they were now great grandparents.

Caesar was the one to pick up the phone and he sounded overjoyed at the news and promised to visit as soon as possible. He then handed the phone to Suzie Q who shared a similar sentiment.

If only Joseph could have done the same thing. Jotaro was forced to hold the receiver away from his ear as Joseph Joestar did something that was a combination of yelling, crying, sobbing, and sniffing. It was the worst sound Jotaro's ever heard come from a human being.

"Oh, Jotaro! For a while, I never thought this day would come, but you pulled through for me."

"She did all the work, honestly." His part was easy. He wasn't the one who carried a baby in his body for nine months. "And I didn't do this for you, Old Man."

"Jotaro, we're coming to Florida right away!"

"No, you're not," Jotaro told him. "It's going to be a couple days before we can take Jolyne home and you are not going to bother the mother in the hospital."

Joseph started to protest, but Jotaro gave him a curt goodbye before hanging up on him.

Both mother and daughter were cleared to leave the hospital shortly afterwards. They hadn't drawn up a formal custody agreement yet, but for now, Jotaro and Noriaki would take Jolyne to give Roxanne some time to recover. When she was ready, she'd spend time with Jolyne and then they'd go from there. It was a good, solid, plan, and Jotaro was ready to spend time with his daughter and Noriaki.

Unfortunately, a loud pounding on his front door early one morning shattered those modest plans. He didn't have to get out of bed to know who was at his door. There was only one person it could possibly be. He and Noriaki got up, got dressed, and made their way to the front door to open it. As it swung open, a stream of people made their way in with Joseph Joestar at the helm, followed by Suzie, Caesar, Holly, Avdol, and Polnareff in that order. As they entered single file, each of them dropped a gift into Jotaro's arms.

Why did they all have to come visit at the same time!?

"Where's the baby!?" Joseph demanded. "Where is my great granddaughter?"

"Be quiet," Jotaro snapped. "You'll wake her." He was not prepared to have this many people in his house at the same time and as much as he'd like to escape for a little bit, he wasn't about to leave Noriaki alone with all of them. And if any of them were hoping to stay for the night, they would be disappointed. The spare bedroom now belonged to Jolyne. Noriaki went to get her, finding she had miraculously not woken up with all the commotion going on in their small house and the moment he stepped back into the living room, he was surrounded by all of their family and friends.

"She's beautiful, Noriaki," Suzie said.

Caesar agreed. "Yes, she looks like an angel."

"Mohammed, I want a kid too!"

"I know, Jean."

As everyone else cooed over Jolyne, Holly pulled her son aside.

"I'm so happy for you," she said. "And while I don't doubt you and Noriaki-kun will make great parents, I can't help but worry a little bit. I'm always a phone call away, but I won't be able to be here in person to help you. Will you be okay, Sweetie?"

Jotaro looked away from her towards the happy group of people that had invaded his house then back to her. His mother has always been his biggest supporter, whether he wanted her to be or not. He hadn't been able to appreciate it as a high school student or even as a college student, but now that he had a kid of his own, he was starting to truly see her point of view. "Yeah. I think so."

"Jotaro," she said. "You should be more confident. Everybody here believes in you and they have believed in you for years."

He felt his mouth go dry and his throat suddenly feel tight. Holly reached for one of his hands, clasping it between both of her own.

"Isn't it time you started believing in yourself?"

Chapter Text

Star Platinum peered over the edge of the wooden crib cautiously, both hands gripping the top of the wall and only the top of its head clearing the edge to look down below. It pointed with one finger down to the bottom of the crib where a baby girl lay, her chest slowly rising and falling in the slow cadence of sleep.

"Ora," it said to its companion, Hierophant Green, who was doing much the same thing as Star Platinum, looking over the edge to look at the baby below. Being a very quiet Stand, Hierophant Green put a finger to what passed for its mouth to signal to Star Platinum that it was being a little loud. "Ora," Star Platinum repeated, quieter this time, and Hierophant Green gave it a thumbs up in approval. They both went back to watching the sleeping baby, a huge, happy smile on Star Platinum's face and Hierophant Green didn't smile because it couldn't, but if it could, it would be at that very moment.

"Good grief," Jotaro said as he swept the floor with a broom. "We just got her to go to sleep. If they wake her up, I'm punching my own Stand."

"I don't think that'll work out very well for you, but I can't blame you for wanting to try," Noriaki replied, putting some clean, freshly laundered baby clothes into a dresser. Taking care of a baby wasn't easy. Both of them knew this going into it, and there were days and nights where the task became incredibly trying for them but they persevered. Millions of people raise babies every day. Humans have been raising kids for thousands of years. This should be easy compared to fighting supernatural enemies.

But every time Jolyne woke them up in the middle of the night, they both frequently found themselves wishing they were staring down vampires instead.

Jolyne woke up hours later, crying for her parents. Star Platinum and Hierophant Green, who were apparently endlessly fascinated by babies, had not moved from their spots the entire time and were the first to attend to her.

"Ora," Star Platinum said, sticking its arm into the crib and offering Jolyne a finger, which she happily grabbed with one of her tiny hands. Star Platinum smiled and pulled lightly, pretending it wasn't strong enough to free itself from Jolyne's almighty grasp. It used its other arm to scoop Jolyne up gently, holding her against its chest. Hierophant Green wound itself around Star Platinum before using a tentacle to tickle Jolyne's neck, then let it hover above her, waving it around as she tried to grab it with her free hand.

Jotaro opened his eyes groggily from the master bedroom. The nice thing about Stands was they could be used as the world's best baby monitors. The bad thing about Stands was they could be used as the world's best baby monitors. Bleary eyed, he glanced at the clock and saw that it was two in the morning. Briefly, he wondered if he could have Star Platinum take care of Jolyne in his stead, but he told himself no. He's not going to use his Stand as a substitute parent.

"Jotaro," Noriaki groaned next to him, eyes closed and still half asleep. "It's your turn to take care of Jolyne. She's your daughter, after all."

"She's yours too," Jotaro retorted as he got up to head over to Jolyne's room. As he opened the door, Star Platinum floated over to hand Jolyne off to him. He checked her for any signs of discomfort, checked her diaper, and after a thorough examination, determined that she had just woken up and cried because she wanted her parents because as Jotaro has quickly found out, babies are the most mistrustful little imps in existence. They woke up, fail to find their parents somewhere in a small radius around themselves, then assume they've been abandoned. She had woken up, couldn't find her parents, and as a result, started to cry. He hoped she wouldn't be this needy once she got older. It wasn't long before Jolyne had calmed down and fell back asleep, and Jotaro carefully returned her to her crib. "I'm going back to sleep," he told the two Stands. "If she wakes up again, it's Noriaki's turn to deal with it."

The next morning, one of Jotaro's coworkers told him he looked tired.

"Baby running you ragged?" the coworker asked, holding up a coffee pot in a silent offering.

Pushing a mug across his desk towards him, Jotaro nodded. "Yeah, but it's not so bad." When the mug was full, he pulled it back towards himself, lifting it up to take a sip. It was instant coffee and it tasted awful, so Jotaro took one packet of creamer and one packet of sugar and dumped both into the drink in a bid to make it a little more tolerable. "It's worth it."

For every time Jolyne smiled at him, it was worth a dozen nights of poor sleep.

Noriaki put a hand on the phone of the phone's receiver before turning to Jotaro. "It's Jolyne's preschool. They say she got into a fight."

Jotaro didn't look up from the paper he was writing, rereading the sentence he had just written through a pair of glasses. Yes, Noriaki had been right. Yes, he had gloated about it. Jotaro's only comfort was that his eyes were still in relatively good shape and also contact lenses were things that existed. "Did she start it?"

"Let me check." Noriaki turned his attention back to the phone, asking questions that Jotaro was only half listening to and pausing to listen to the responses. He used his hand to cover the receiver once again. "They say no, but it doesn't matter because when a fight happens, everybody involved gets punished regardless of responsibility."

"That's bullshit," Jotaro said, his pen writing at a furious pace. His handwriting got slightly sloppier with his annoyance until he took a moment to right it.

"They're saying she beat up three boys. At the same time. They're not sure how she did it."

Jotaro paused then put his pen down on the desk, next to a framed photograph of Polnareff, Avdol, Iggy, and a little girl with long white hair that was around Jolyne's age. They both knew what this meant. Silently, Jotaro mouthed the name of Jolyne's Stand to himself. "What do they want us to do?"

"They want us to pick her up and also she's suspended for three days."

"Can preschools even issue suspensions?" Jotaro snorted. He never really saw the point of suspension for kids. Kids didn't really understand why not going to school was supposed to be a punishment. For them, it's almost like a reward. Whatever. Fine. They don't want to see Jolyne for a few days, no big deal. Preschool wasn't real school. There's a reason it's called preschool. "Should I go get her?"

"I'll do it." Noriaki had already hung up the phone and was grabbing his jacket off a nearby coat hanger. "You finish up your paper."

Noriaki was gone and back after an hour with Jolyne by his side and holding two cups of ice cream. He handed one to Hierophant Green, who slithered over to Jotaro to offer him the frozen treat. Jotaro took it and used the plastic scoop to take a bite. Nice, his favorite flavor.

"Heard you got into a fight," Jotaro said, looking down at Jolyne who had already finished half of an ice cream of her own. Noriaki left to put their jackets and Jolyne's backpack away.

His daughter looked up at him. "Dad, am I in trouble?"

"Depends," Jotaro answered. "Did they deserve it?"

Jolyne puffed out her cheeks at him. "They were saying bad things about you and Papa, so I beat them up."

He didn't respond at first and put his ice cream down on his desk. This was one of the things he was afraid of happening with Jolyne, that people would look down on her or treat her badly because of him and Noriaki. He knew some of the other parents disliked them, but they didn't dare try to start anything and Jotaro resolved to just ignore them. But if they were setting their sights on Jolyne, then that resolution was changing to beating the everloving crap out of them. He wondered if those kids really knew what they were saying or if they were just parroting things they heard from their own parents. These were preschool kids. They shouldn't be around that kind of talk. He almost asked her to tell him what they said, but then realized there was no point to it. He already knew what those people thought about them and he didn't want to make Jolyne repeat such things.

Jotaro's heard it all. The whispers about him, Noriaki, and Jolyne. They're not very affectionate in public and usually kept to themselves, but he and Noriaki didn't exactly hide the fact that they're together. As for Jolyne, there was all sorts of speculation about her. Some of it is more benign, such as she's the child of a previous marriage (sort of technically true?) or that she's a niece that Jotaro has guardianship of for whatever reason. Some of it is less flattering, he's fairly certain he's heard a few neighborhood busybodies speculating she's the daughter of a prostitute Jotaro knocked up and while he's less than happy to know that those kinds of rumors are floating around about him, he told himself that it's not worth confronting them and that those people should consider themselves lucky that Roxanne lived in Miami, where she can't hear those things. She's far less tolerant than he was and even he's decided to maintain a safe distance whenever she got furious.

"You're not in trouble," he told Jolyne. "What did I teach you about bullies?"

"To not let them boss me around!" she answered proudly. He reached down to ruffle her hair.

"Good. Let me know what you want for dinner and I'll make it for you."


"Cookies are not dinner food. They're treats or desserts." Speaking of dessert, Jotaro snatched his cup of ice cream off his desk. It was beginning to melt and he had to act fast to eat what remained of it. Jolyne watched him eat for a little bit, then looked down at her feet, twiddling her fingers.

"Um, Dad, can I ask you something?"

"What is it?" Jotaro asked between bites of ice cream.

"When I was fighting the boys, something happened." Jolyne scrunched her face as if she was trying to remember exactly what had happened. Jotaro understood. It's hard to remember what goes on in a fight. Especially when you're young. Especially when your Stand appears for the first time. "Someone came out!" she finally said. "Someone came out of me and punched the boys super fast! And afterwards, they asked me how I did it and I couldn't explain it. I don't think they could see it. It's like how people can't see Star or Green."

At the sound of its name, Star Platinum appeared to peek over Jotaro's shoulder down at Jolyne.

Jotaro had tried to explain the concepts of Stands to Jolyne once, and he had no idea if she understood it or not. There's zero doubt that she was a user. She's been able to see Star Platinum and Hierophant Green since she was a baby and the older Jolyne he met years ago was a user herself. The question was always going to be when would she discover her own power and he spent lots of time preparing for this moment only to realize that it was all for naught. Now that it was here, he wasn't sure what he could say to help her out. So he did the next best thing.

He turned his head towards the open door of the study. "Noriaki!" he called. "Noriaki, you know more about having a Stand as a kid, come talk to Jolyne about it."

Hierophant Green was the first to poke its head through the doorway followed by Noriaki seconds later. When Jotaro looked back at Jolyne, she was trying to feed Star Platinum some of her ice cream. She had her plastic scoop with a small dollop of cookies and cream ice cream sitting on the end held out towards Star Platinum, who lowered itself down to her height and had its mouth wide open. As Jolyne pushed the ice cream closer, Jotaro leaned over to catch it in his own mouth.

"Dad!" she huffed. "That was for Star!"

"Star Platinum and I are one and the same," Jotaro told her.

"Honey, don't bully our daughter," Noriaki scolded. Jotaro snorted in response. Noriaki only brought out pet names when he wanted to be mean. He always called Jotaro by name, or when he wanted to be extra affectionate, he called him JoJo. It was kind of embarrassing how the nickname could get to him. Noriaki had Jotaro wrapped around his finger and Jotaro was well aware of it. There was just nothing he could do about it.

"Yeah!" Jolyne chimed in. "No bully messes with me and gets away with it!"

"Yes, Dear," he responded sarcastically, voice low and monotone.

Noriaki turned to Jolyne. "Now, tell me all about what happened when you fought those three boys." He listened intently as Jolyne described how her Stand, or as she put it, another person, appeared to punch all three boys into submission. "That's your Stand, just like Dad's Star Platinum and my Hierophant Green. Your Stand is a wonderful friend who will protect you and all the people you love when you need it. And when you're all alone, your Stand will be there for you. Whenever you're in trouble, need to protect something, or whenever you think, "that guy needs to be taught a lesson," your Stand will be there for you."

Jolyne looked thoughtful for a few seconds. "Papa, what's my Stand's name?"

She got a shrug in return. It wasn't feigned ignorance on Noriaki's part. Jotaro had never told him the name of Jolyne's Stand. "I don't know. A Stand's name is a very personal thing. Some people name their own Stands or someone else names it for them. But the one thing that's true for every Stand is that you'll know you have the right name for them when it feels right."

That answer, apparently, was not good enough for Jolyne and like a typical child, when what one parent said wasn't satisfying, she went to the other. "Dad, what's my Stand's name?"

Jotaro had the plastic ice cream scoop stuck in his mouth, sucking the drops of melted ice cream off it. He bit down on the plastic slightly, mulling over the options. He knew the name of Jolyne's Stand. He didn't know how it got the name, but he knew what it was. Should he say it? Or was this something that Jolyne was meant to discover on her own? He thought he should leave it to Jolyne to learn herself. He didn't want to accidentally screw things up. So to avoid that possibility, he should also say that he didn't know. That was the safe option.

But was it the right one? Was that what he was supposed to do as a father, sit there and do nothing? It didn't feel right. A parent shouldn't just leave things to their kids to "figure it out" and offer them no direction and guidance. Not telling Jolyne her Stand's name was probably the safe thing to do, but it wasn't the right one. He very much badly wanted to tell Jolyne what it was. His own daughter asked him a question and he should answer her honestly.


He was going to do it. He was going to trust himself on this one.

"Stone Free. Its name is Stone Free."

He was done just letting things happen to him. He was going to take control of the future and make it a good one.

"Stone Free...Stone Free..." Jolyne muttered to herself, very clearly considering it. Her face scrunched up in deep determination and/or thought and at last, she slammed a fist into her palm. "I love it! Stone Free!"

As if it were waiting for confirmation, Jolyne's Stand emerged to make itself known to everyone around them. It was small, roughly the same height as Jolyne, but it would grow with her. Jotaro already knew it was going to become a powerful Stand. But for now, it was just going to be Jolyne's protector and her friend and like its user, it had a lot of growing up to do. Stone Free looked around the room and noticed the other two Stands for the first time. Both Star Platinum and Hierophant Green floated closer, examining the little Stand until Star Platinum reached out to pat it on the head with a friendly "ora!"

Suddenly, it felt as if their family had somehow gotten bigger.

In the months that followed, Noriaki took it upon himself to help Jolyne learn to use her Stand with Jotaro occasionally helping. It wasn't anything dangerous, just an exploration to figure out what Stone Free's abilities were and how to best encourage them to develop. They eventually learned that it's pretty good at punching, or at least as good as a Stand belonging to a child can be and that it could produce and utilize string, not unlike Hierophant Green's tentacles. Jotaro actually did not know this fun fact until Jolyne used it to steal his hat right off his head while he was using the phone, much to Noriaki's delight. He had turned to glare at them both, but all they did in response was giggle.

"Noriaki, take your daughter elsewhere," he said. "I'm on the phone with Gramps."

"She's yours too," Noriaki shrugged, taking the hat from Jolyne to plop it haphazardly back onto Jotaro's head. "Don't act like you don't also have a mischievous streak."

Jotaro turned his attention back to the phone, using his free hand to fix his hat. In the past couple years, Joseph had slowed down significantly. No longer was he the endlessly energetic older gentleman who could outpace men less than half his age. He now spent his days quietly with Suzie and Caesar and Jotaro found himself not liking that. Joseph Joestar was supposed to be running around causing trouble for everyone everywhere. He was supposed to be loud and boisterous and demanding that the entire world turn its eyes on him.

If he could have another wish, Jotaro would like for things to go back to the way they were ten years ago.

Ten years.

It's been ten years.

Ten years since the battle with Dio.

In those ten years, he moved to America, went to university, got his dream job, got into a committed relationship with the love of his life, and started a family.

Kujo Jotaro, a man in his late twenties, suddenly felt immeasurably old.

"So we need you to go to Japan," Joseph said. "To Morioh."

Jotaro has never been to Morioh in his life. He didn't even know of its what he would like to say. He's been to Morioh, as a teenager. He's met the inhabitants there and he sort of knew what was going on over there. After years of living relatively worry free about the problems of knowing things he shouldn't, he now had to navigate that minefield again. Only this time, it was going to be even harder.

"Preparations are still underway," Joseph said. "The Foundation is still gathering information and developing a plan for how to approach this. Morioh is a small town and as nosy as the Foundation can be, they try not to step on the toes of the locals as much as possible. It will probably be a month before everything is ready."

"One question, Gramps," Jotaro said. It's a question he already knew the answer to, but he must ask it. "Why are you telling me this? Shouldn't they be calling me directly?"

He heard a sigh on the other end of the line. "It's...because of one thing. There's a known Stand user in the town. He's a high school student by the name of Josuke Higashikata. He's been a Stand user for years, but only recently has he started really using his power. From all accounts, he's a natural who already has a good handle on his Stand. He's..."

Joseph paused. Jotaro waited.

"He' son."

There it was.

"Your...son?" Jotaro repeated, doing his best to pretend to sound surprised at this revelation that he's known for a decade. It turned out to be easier than he expected to be given that Jotaro's reaction to surprises was often quite muted and over the phone, Joseph wouldn't be able to see his complete lack of physical response. "You have a son. A high school age son."

"It's complicated, Jotaro," Joseph said, but Jotaro knew that no, it really wasn't. The truth was Joseph had an affair in a small Japanese town sometime when Jotaro was young. The only even remotely complicated part of this was he didn't know why it happened. It was hard to imagine Joseph cheating on Suzie and Caesar, and then Jotaro immediately regretted thinking about it because ew. "But that is what it comes down to. I have a teenage son and that also makes him your uncle."

Jotaro knew this. He's known this for a long time. But the gravity of the situation didn't really sink in until now. Joseph Joestar had an illegitimate son in a small town in Japan and that made the kid Holly's brother and Jotaro's uncle. Josuke Higashikata, a somewhat immature high school student whose hobbies apparently included hair care and bothering local manga artists, was his mother's brother and his uncle. Wasn't this family complicated enough?

And then Jotaro remembered that they haven't even gotten to Giorno yet.

Good. Fucking. Grief.

Why do the Joestars have to be the most tiring family in the universe? How do they manage to exhaust him even when they're nowhere near him? Why did Jotaro have to love them so much? Poor Josuke was about to have his nice, peaceful life turned upside down very soon.

"Jotaro?" Joseph asked. "Is all this okay? I know Noriaki will be dealing with a different assignment from the Foundation around the same time. Do you need someone to watch Jolyne for you? Suzie and Caesar can take her, or you can leave her with Holly or the Kakyoins." Roxanne unfortunately wasn't an option. Her job made it difficult for her to care for her daughter for extended periods of time and could only take Jolyne on weekends when she didn't have to work.

"I'll take her with me," Jotaro said. It would probably be safer to leave her in someone else's care, to be honest. Jotaro was only vaguely familiar with what was happening in Morioh, but he knew there was an element of danger. He should be keeping his daughter out of danger. She'd be happy to stay with any of their relatives. But he decided to take her with him. He'll protect her from danger, and he trusted his former/future friends in Morioh to protect her too. Nothing will be able to harm her.

"If you're sure," Joseph replied, sounding a bit uneasy himself. "Well, I suppose I can understand. You don't want to be away from your daughter, especially when Noriaki will be out on an assignment at the same time. Jotaro, why don't you three do something together before you leave for Morioh? It might be a while until you're all together again."

"You're sulking," Jotaro said. Noriaki was seated at his computer, but he was looking away from it, at the wall. A half finished computer program was displayed on screen. It was a bunch of words arranged in weird ways to Jotaro and even if he recognized the words, he didn't understand what they meant in this context. The on screen cursor blinked rhythmically, awaiting input that probably would not be given anytime soon.

"Excuse me for being less than thrilled to learn a new programming language," Noriaki told him. "It's like I never left school."

Jotaro couldn't really relate. Instead, he reached over to save the work on screen and shut the computer down. "That's not what you're sulking about," he said as he watched the computer take its sweet time to go through the shutdown procedures.

"Heard you're going to Japan for a while," Noriaki said. "I'll be in Norway and neither of us will know how long we'll be gone."

It could be days. It could be weeks. If they were really unlucky, it might be months. Their missions for the Speedwagon Foundation never had set timeframes, only "until the work is finished." It's caused a fair bit of anxiety in the past and it was still causing it now. There was good reason for it. Last time Jotaro went out on a mission, he nearly got himself impaled on a spike wielding Stand's arms in Russia. In hindsight, he probably shouldn't have told Noriaki about that.

"You ever miss living in Japan?" Noriaki asked.

Jotaro nodded. "Yeah, a lot," he admitted. Sometimes he thought about moving back. He wouldn't necessarily live in his hometown, but it would be nice to be, at most, a train ride away from family rather than an airplane flight. His nearest relatives were his grandparents and they still lived a huge distance away even if it was technically the same country because America was too damn big for its own good and it had shit all for public transportation unlike other, sensible countries that had things like extensive passenger railway lines. Yes, Jotaro has thought many times about returning to his home country, but circumstance kept him here in America. This was, for better or worse, home now, especially now that he had Jolyne. He couldn't uproot her life like that. He couldn't take her away from her mother. Maybe when Jolyne was older, but for now, here was where he was going to stay.

"I miss it too," Noriaki said. "You're lucky work's gonna take you back there. If I finish early, I think I'll meet you in Morioh. No point coming back to an empty house. It's not the same without you or Jolyne."

After years together, Jotaro had learned how to read Noriaki, similar to how he could read him. "You don't want to be by yourself."

"No, I don't," Noriaki snapped at him, then immediately looked apologetic. "Sorry. It's just you're both are such big parts of my life. We've never both been away for work at the same time, and I'm going to spend half my time worrying about you two."

Doing something Stand related always carried an inherent risk to it. It was not something either of them enjoyed, but it was necessary to keep their lives safe. To prevent another Dio from ever growing that powerful again. Jotaro put his arms around Noriaki and rested his chin on his shoulder. That bony shoulder that admittedly, isn't the most comfortable thing in the world but he loved being on it anyway. "Just worry about yourself. We'll be safe."

Noriaki made a noncomittal sound in response. Jotaro kissed his cheek.

"Gramps said we should do something before we go. A vacation sound good?"

"That would be nice." Progress. "Where would we go?"

A good question. They had both the money and the ability to take the time off to go wherever they like. They've been to New York and Japan a few times to visit family. Both of them have been to various countries due to work. But this was meant to be a leisure trip.

"We could go to France," Noriaki suggested. "Visit Avdol and Polnareff and Lilianne."

It was a good suggestion. Jolyne loved her uncles and adopted cousin (Jotaro felt like he should stop trying to figure out how this family tree that somehow included people who weren't at all related to the Joestars was structured at this point for his own sake if nothing else) and she would be thrilled to go see them. At the same time, he'd like it if it was just the three of them. The purpose of the trip was to get in some family time before they'd be separated for an unknown amount of time. He voiced this preference and it was like the entire world had opened up to them in a figurative sense.

Once they had the list of possible candidates, it was time to start trimming it.

Italy was out. They've been there too many times, usually when they went to Venice to visit Caesar before he moved to New York to be with Joseph and Suzie. None of the Nordic countries either, because Noriaki was going to Norway shortly afterwards. Neither of them were too enthusiastic about any other European countries, so they moved on to Asia. China and Hong Kong were choices, as were Singapore and India. Australia was also okay. Somewhere in South America didn't seem bad either, and so on and so forth. Once all of the blatantly objectionable countries were out, they moved on to phase two, picking between the candidates that were left.

This task ended up taking far more time than Jotaro expected it to. A not insignificant portion of it was one or the other objecting to a country for various reasons, some of them legitimate, others not so much.

"Maybe we shouldn't go to Canada."


"It's less why shouldn't we go to Canada and more like why should we go to Canada?"


An hour later, they finally narrowed the choice down to one. A single country that won through a process of elimination. Both of them looked down at the paper they had procured halfway through the process and had the names of several countries written on it, then were scratched out as they were taken out of the running for reasons like "Noriaki went to Vietnam last year" and "Jotaro doesn't like German food."

They both stared at it, then at each other, then back down at the paper.

If it had eyes, the name would stare right back at them.


Chapter Text

"You sure about this?" Noriaki asked.

"The time to ask me that," Jotaro answered, "would have been some time before we got on the plane."

Not while they were standing in the middle of a busy Cairo marketplace with currents of people flowing around them. The mingled scents of countless incense and spices lingered in the air and already, no less than three merchants were vying for their attention.

"Can I interest you in some textiles?"

"Care for some spices, sir?"

"How about a souvenir for your lovely daughter?"

It's easy to ignore them. There's so many things going on at once that the sales pitches quickly fade into white noise. Jotaro was more practiced at this than he cared to admit. He's visited many Egyptian marketplaces, albeit only in his nightmares. The dreams have become less frequent over the years. What was once a regular occurrence was now only a rare event. Guilt Manifestation Dio only made himself known on the worst of days, when Jotaro would falter in his vigilance and take a temporary step backwards to the torment of his days as a teenager and a young adult.

He'll never be truly free of the dark thoughts and emotions that overtook him in the couple of years following Dio's defeat, but he's learned to live with them. He knew now they were a part of him that can't be banished or hidden. No longer did he try to run from his weakness. Instead, he accepted it, watched over it, and let others see and help with it.

Once he stopped trying to be perfect, stopped fearing mistakes, and stopped blaming himself for everything, life took a turn for the better and managing himself and his various dysfunctional qualities seemed like less of an impossible task.

Ducking into a nearby café to escape the increasingly pushy merchants, they ordered tea for themselves and a soda pop for Jolyne.

"This place never changes," Jotaro said as they relished the feeling of air conditioning, even if it was actually making the place just a little bit too cold.

"You've been here before, Dad?" Jolyne asked, setting her drink and her elbows on the table. It was wobbly and slightly uneven and the entire thing shifted slightly towards her with the weight.

"We both have," Noriaki said. "A long time ago, before you were born, Dad and I traveled across the world with Uncle Avdol, Uncle Polnareff, and Grandpa Joseph. We started in Japan and ended it here."

"Was Iggy there too?"

"He joined us when we made it to Egypt, skipping the rest."

They proceeded to tell Jolyne a sanitized version of the trip around the world that changed their lives forever. Many of the less child friendly details were omitted, the two of them having decided long ago that they'd tell her the full version of what happened when she was older. For now, all Jolyne needed to know was that Holly once fell very ill and that they needed to travel to Egypt to cure her and a lot of bad people tried to stop them along the way.

"The two of us first met the day before Grandma Holly got sick," Noriaki said.

Jolyne stared up at them expectantly, clearly wanting to hear more about that particular detail.

"We beat each other up," Jotaro said bluntly. "He pushed me down some stairs and then later that day we fought in the school's nurse's office."

Noriaki crossed his arms. "I did not push you. I had Hierophant Green cut your leg. It's not my fault you lost your balance and fell."

"You cut my leg specifically to make that happen," Jotaro hissed back at him. He then brought his cup of tea up to his face to take a sip. "Whatever, I still won the fight."

"I was being mind controlled," Noriaki protested.

"Are you saying Dio made you a bad fighter?" Jotaro asked.

"That is exactly what I'm saying."

A giggle fit interrupted their argument and they both turned to see their daughter having a laugh at their expense. "Did you two argue like that back then too?"

"No," Jotaro answered. "...yes. Sometimes. We became friends after the fight, but we also liked to annoy each other sometimes."

"We still do."

"Because we thought it was funny."

"We still think it's funny."

Jolyne sipped her drink thoughtfully. "So when did you start liking each other?"

Jotaro turned away, desperately hoping that he wasn't blushing. What an embarrassing question. He had to wonder why Jolyne was interested in this kind of stuff. He was going to blame it on those kids' movies that always featured some kind of romantic subplot, whether it was relevant to the main story or not. What made matters worse was he didn't really have an answer for her and he knew that she wouldn't accept an I don't really know from him. There isn't any one moment where you just decide to like someone. It just sort of crept up on you like a predator slinking around in some tall grass, low to the ground. Next thing you know, it's pounced on you and you find yourself admiring some unlucky bastard, thinking he looks good and being fascinated by everything he did and yearning for his attention and his presence.

At least, that's how it was for him. Maybe other people do sort of just decide to like someone, flipping on like a light switch. He didn't know how normal people worked. The only thing Jotaro was one hundred percent sure of was that the way he saw and navigated through life was different from how the average person did.

You're like a cat sometimes, Noriaki once said. You want my affection so badly yet you won't come out and say it.

"I can't speak for him," Noriaki said, jutting a thumb in Jotaro's direction, "but I can speak for myself. I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew I liked him."

Jotaro couldn't help but be curious. This was never a question he asked nor was it information that Noriaki ever volunteered. He tried to not look eager as he got himself another cup of tea.

"Jotaro, do you remember that time in the car?" Norkai asked, and Jotaro didn't, because they were in a lot of cars a lot of times during that trip so he needed to be more specific. "With the Wheel of Fortune," he clarified.

Now that Jotaro remembered. That time he almost burned alive and saved himself by burrowing into the dirt like some kind of mole. He'd say the memories were good, but they really weren't. His jacket was ruined and he had to pay good money to a local tailor to create an exact replica of it, which was decidedly not easy. It's not often that a Middle Eastern seamstress got asked to recreate part of a Japanese high school student's uniform using nothing but a few pictures as a reference. Somehow, she managed to create a perfect copy and Jotaro gave her a large tip as a result. He's usually not one for extravagant spending, but this was his school uniform. Also it was Joseph's money so he had absolutely zero qualms about spending it.

Briefly, Jotaro's thoughts drifted to the Wheel of Fortune Stand's user. Did he ever escape from that rock they chained him to or did he die there? If he did die, was it from thirst, starvation, or exposure to the elements?

Jotaro usually tried to not think about how he had put a large number of people in critical health and he really tried to not think about the possibility that he might have killed someone, either directly or indirectly. Even if they were evil assholes working for Dio who, frankly, probably didn't have a shred of either goodness or productivity in their bodies and that the world was probably objectively better without them, it didn't mean that it was right.

"Anyway," Noriaki continued. "we were in the middle of a fight against a bad guy. And do you know what your father does, Jolyne? He turns to me, smirks, and asks me, "Do you like sumo?""

Oh. Oh god. Jotaro felt himself go rigid.

"It was the absolute worst pick up line I had ever heard in my life," Noriaki said. "And I've heard some bad ones, trust me."

Jolyne scrunched her face. "Papa, what's sumo?"

"It's a sport that's very popular in Japan," Noriaki explained as Jotaro wondered if there was a way to quietly sink into the floor and never be seen again. "Two large men face off against each other and attempt to push each other out of a ring."

"That," Jotaro managed to say at last, hand going to his hat to pull it downward and fiddle with the brim. "that wasn' wasn't supposed to was really just a question, Noriaki."

Although he couldn't see it, he could feel the judgmental look that was sent his way. "JoJo," Noriaki said, deadpan. "my dear, sweet, innocent, adorable, occasionally idiotic JoJo, in the middle of a life or death situation, where we stood a very good chance of falling down a ravine to our dooms in a rickety old car that would explode in a ball of fiery death, you decided to hit on me and use Star Platinum to show off and try to impress me." Jotaro heard a chuckle. "Although, I am one hundred percent willing to believe that you didn't realize you were doing it."

You were showing off too, Jotaro wanted to say, but he was too preoccupied with this ten years too late revelation.

No. No. Fuck. No. Jotaro was embarrassed by a large number of things he did as a teenager. The amount of school that he skipped, the sometimes excessive number of cigarettes he sometimes smoked for no reason other than he could, and the way he treated his own mother who had given him nothing but the utmost love and care, but this was one of the worst. Not the absolute worst thing, but it was definitely up there. Top ten at least. And it was compounded by the fact that he's only been made aware of it now, ten years later, as a supposedly mature adult. Did this mean he had liked Noriaki for even longer than he was aware of? Jotaro was no expert on romance, not even now after years of a successful, steady relationship, so he had no idea.

"The point is," Noriaki said, turning back to Jolyne. "that it was extremely lame, especially coming from him, who acted tough and cool at all times. And yet, worked."

Jotaro cautiously peeked out from under his hat like a mouse checking if the cat was gone.

"I was absolutely, completely charmed by it, despite its awfulness. Or maybe because it was so awkward and dorky. Who knows? I just positively knew at that moment that this was the person I liked. Alright, I may have had a bit of a crush on him before that, but it was that exact point in time that it went beyond that stage."

The information that Noriaki's liked him for that long was kind of mind boggling.

"Oh, don't tell me you didn't notice, JoJo," Noriaki scolded him. "For two years after that, I flirted with you every chance I got."

"I..." Jotaro trailed off as he took a quick, somewhat involuntary trip down memory lane. The talks, the hanging out, the invitations to do things, the nagging even when they were high school students, the fact that he wanted to be special to Jotaro, the...everything, really. It's so blatantly obvious in retrospect.

Shit, Jotaro was dumb as a teenager.

Shit, he was still dumb as an adult getting close to thirty years old.

Noriaki looked down at his teacup, mildly mortified and started muttering in Japanese. "Oh. Oh god, you didn't. You really didn't. I can't, actually, yes I can. That is just so like you, JoJo." He started to laugh. "You're perfect," he said, obvious admiration shining in his eyes. "You're absolutely, completely perfect."

Jotaro wasn't sure how to feel about any of this. He was annoyed at being teased and ganged up on by Noriaki and Jolyne, something they enjoy doing a little too much, but the way Noriaki, his...what was he anyway? Boyfriend wasn't the right word. Partner? It sounded kind of impersonal, but he didn't have any other options. Partner it was. The way his partner was looking at him with unrestrained affection, wide mouth in a beautiful smile, brought Jotaro immense joy and happiness and made him feel like he could sit here in this modest Egyptian café for the rest of all time.

"Good grief," he mumbled. "Stop being so embarrassing, Noriaki."

"Hey!" Jolyne protested, putting her empty bottle of soda on the table. "What are you two talking about!? Is it me?" Oh right, they had slipped back into Japanese. They were planning to teach it to her, but in a few years once she was older and had true mastery over English.

"No," Noriaki said, reaching over to pat her head. "It's just your parents being sappy and lovey dovey."

"Gross," Jolyne replied, but the smile on her face said otherwise.

Egypt was the location of some of the worst and most life changing events of his life. This was where he had lost loved ones, gotten them back, and faltered in his previous resolve to power through life on his strength alone. Strength, that he had learned many years ago, that was limited and fragile. Humans are social creatures, designed to work together and support one another. He should have known that back then, even when all he was equipped with was high school biology. Maybe he would have saved himself large amounts of unnecessary strife if he had.

Many would say that Egypt was a country of death. Their culture placed a strong emphasis on it and the environment was harsh with the sun's unforgiving rays during the day and the icy chill of the night. Jotaro had even more reason to believe it, seeing as so many people important to him have died here. Fortunately, none of them remember it happening, so they were relatively unscathed by their own tragic demises. But now, being in the country for the fourth time in his life, Jotaro was, unexpectedly, at peace. There was a rhythm to the country, something like a heartbeat, and a current of energy that cut through it like the Nile, that have convinced him of the opposite. Egypt was a country of life. He could feel it in the atmosphere around him, see it all around him, hear it, smell it, it's everywhere.

He thought he'd spend the entire trip thinking about everything bad that's ever happened to him in the country, but when Jolyne got thrown against him in the back of an Egyptian taxi, laughing, all he could think about was how happy she sounded and that if she could, she'd probably never stop. He could only think about how detailed the craftsmanship on display in the artisans' shops was. He could only think about how friendly most of the people he met were, speaking to him in broken English, yet managing to get their points across perfectly.

Jotaro thought that, maybe, he liked Egypt.

The more time he spent in Egypt, the less he associated it with the trauma of ten years past. It's taken him a while, but he was finally starting to understand that Egypt itself had done nothing to harm him. Egypt did not murder his loved ones in cold blood and it did not inflict him with a lifetime's worth of mental issues that he would be dealing with until his dying breath. That was all the fault of Dio and his shitbag followers.

It all came with a startling realization. Jotaro was happy to be here. Happy to be in Egypt. It's not just that it's a gorgeous country rich in culture and history. He has a connection to this place, and rather than trying to avoid or sever it, he was embracing it for all it was worth. That was why everything always came back to Egypt. That was why the desert sands called for him and why he always felt compelled to listen. Egypt was a part of him, just as much as his Stand or his family's bloodline was, and Jotaro now knew better than to try to reject parts of himself.

Fuck you, Dio, he thought proudly. He was here, alive, doing well, and having a great time in Egypt. He had a family and friends who were all very much alive and doing great on their own parts. The Joestars were thriving and probably in the best state they've been in for the past century or so. They still existed and were continuing to survive while Dio was destined to become nothing but an insignificant footnote in the ongoing story that was history, a sad aside about how one man who had so much power and potential wasted it all. You don't control me anymore. And if he wasn't standing in the middle of a public street, right next to his daughter, he'd flip his middle finger at the sky, at Dio's ghost who he was convinced has been haunting him for the past decade, and at heaven itself, or at least, Dio's version of it, that he knew had its eyes on him and has been watching him relentlessly for a long time. Longer than ten years, longer than he's had Star Platinum, perhaps even since before he was born.

He couldn't call it freedom. There was no truly being free from his past. It was still a burden he was destined to carry, but he could now carry it easily. It no longer weighed him down, demanding his attention and bleeding him dry. It was now just something he kept with him, like the pictures of Jolyne and Noriaki in his wallet.

He felt a tug on his hand and looked down to see Jolyne holding it with both hands and pulling. "Dad! Papa has the tickets, so we can go into the museum now!"

"Do you remember," Jotaro asked later that evening, while looking out the window of their hotel room. "the last time we were here?"

Noriaki, who was lying on one of the beds, looked up from the television in the room before reaching for the remote control to switch it off. There were so many more channels these days. It wasn't uncommon to find Noriaki flipping through them, eyes slightly unfocused and somehow seeming half asleep. More often than not, they left the music channel playing in the background at home. Tonight, however, he was listening.

"Yes, I remember," Noriaki said. "You were acting weird the whole time. You were distant and distracted. All wound up like you believed that something was going to attack you at any given moment. You looked like you wanted nothing more than to find some place to curl up and hide." Noriaki looked away, to the other bed where Jolyne was fast asleep. She far too small for the bed, surrounded by way too many pillows and covered with a heavy blanket. "It was so unlike you, or, what my image of you was like at the time. You were so anxious."

"I live in a state of constant, mild anxiety," Jotaro said. And it was true. While he's made leaps and bounds over the years, Jotaro still vastly preferred to be by himself or in the company of people he already knew and trusted. Every time someone new joined his department at the Speedwagon Foundation, it took weeks, if not months, for him to warm up to them, leaving his poor, put upon coworkers to apologize for his behavior and explain the way he worked. It was never the fault of the newcomers. They were all good people. Jotaro always just needed time to first get used to new people and open up to them. Noriaki was right: he was like an animal.

"I know that now," Noriaki replied. "But back then, I didn't. I thought you were infallible and invincible. I mean, you fought against the world's most dangerous vampire and won. Even back then, you weren't just strong: you were smart and witty too. The kind of guy that everyone would either want to be or be with."

It kind of hurt that Noriaki was using the past tense, but Jotaro knew he didn't mean to imply anything bad about it. "I'm sorry I couldn't live up to your expectations."

He got a headshake in return. "No, that's not on you. It's my fault for building up an idea of you that you couldn't possibly live up to. I even threw a fit about it, remember? Looking back on it, I don't really know what I was expecting. I expected you to be something you obviously weren't. I saw that you were going through some kind of problems, even if I didn't know what they were, and yet I still expected you to be an idol. It was right in front of my face and I chose to ignore it out of blind hero worship."

At least it was nice to know that Jotaro wasn't the only one of them who looked back on his teenage self with some semblance of shame.

"I like the real you better," Noriaki continued, rolling himself over to get out of the bed. He strolled over to his suitcase, lying next to the wall, and opened it, digging for something. Jotaro figured he was probably looking for his toothbrush or something like that. "The real you wasn't born amazing. He has good days and bad days, although back then you seemed to have a lot more bad days than good ones. You were twice as grumpy back then as you are now."

Jotaro wished he could deny that, any of it, but it was one hundred percent true. What was also true that some of his hardships were self inflicted. But most of all, he didn't know what to do with himself when he was younger, which led to his ever so clever strategy of bottling everything within himself until they, predictably, exploded.

"Anyway, back to last time we were here. I also remember you finally telling us what the problem was, and it was more than any of us could have even imagined."

If there was one thing that nobody could ever truly understand, it would be the events that happened, but really didn't. Ironic, because so many of his friends and family were there for it. None of them could remember it, or, more accurately, none of it really happened. Only Jotaro had true knowledge of what had happened and then were erased. Sure, he's told it to the others, but for them, while they knew it was the truth, it was also just a story to them. It wasn't real for them the way it was for him.

"And then," Noriaki smiled, standing up upon finding whatever it was he was looking for. He turned to Jotaro smiling, both hands behind his back. "You told me you were in love with me."

Jotaro felt like throwing something at him, but there was nothing viable within reach. All of the pillows were on the bed. "That's not how I remember that going," he said before adding. "What really happened was you told me that I loved you."

"Actually, I asked if you loved me."

"For me, it was the same thing." And it was. Jotaro himself hadn't seen it, or perhaps he was willfully ignoring it the best he could. Sure, he had thought a few girls in school were cute, but he didn't like their personalities. He didn't like the way they followed him around and tried to hang onto him. Perhaps it wasn't fair to them, but he thought they were vapid and shallow, not people that he enjoyed being around. So until Egypt, until Noriaki, he's never actually liked anyone before. Which made sense, considering that Jotaro didn't have any real friends until the day his mother fell ill from Stand sickness. So, of course he had never actually been in love with anyone up until then.

He's heard it's rare to stick with your first love, that most people go through many relationships before finding the one they're meant to be with for the rest of their lives. In that sense, Jotaro wasn't surprised that this was how he turned out. He was Kujo Jotaro, a Joestar. The Joestars were fated to live unusual lives, forming close and powerful bonds with a small circle of people. So of course his love life was going to be strange, just like his grandfather and his mother before him. He only hoped that Jolyne could find something that worked for her in the future.

"If I never did, would you have ever told me?" Noriaki asked, stepping around the bed to get closer to him, hands still behind his back.

"I'm not sure if I'd have ever figured it out," Jotaro admitted, causing Noriaki to laugh. "But if I did, I'm not sure if I would have." He was still in his isolation phase, the time in his life where he felt he had to go through life all alone. Maybe he would, after getting help and undoing the bad habits he had imposed on himself, but that was a process that took years. Unlearning things he had ingrained into himself as a child didn't happen overnight. It took dedication and persistence and there were multiple times he'd slide backwards into those old routines, shutting everyone out and shutting himself down. It's led to countless arguments with Noriaki, especially after the latter moved to America to live with him. To this day, Jotaro was fairly sure he would have never gotten better without his friends and family and especially Noriaki to push him.

"I think you would have," Noriaki said, shrugging. "You don't give yourself enough credit, you know? You can't do everything, but you're not useless either. You still do things right some of the time."

Jotaro rolled his eyes at him. "Thanks for the vote of confidence."

"Don't be like that."

"Then stop teasing me."

"You like it."

He was a bit loathe to admit that yes, he did. Jotaro thought back to his adventure that took him across space and time, to that time in Morioh when he sat at a café with Caesar and talked about Joseph. Back then, he had noted that Caesar enjoyed it whenever his grandfather got onto his nerves. Back then, he hadn't understood it. And now he still didn't quite get it, because Joseph Joestar is the most exhausting person to ever walk the face of the Earth, but what he did now get was the concept of affectionate teasing and how a person can tolerate a lot more from the person he loves.

Good grief. He really was Caesar Anthonio Zeppeli's grandson, wasn't he? Jotaro would be completely unsurprised if he found out one day that he really did have Zeppeli blood within him.

"Say, Jotaro," Noriaki said, catching his attention. "How long has it been now? Since our last trip here."

Jotaro stopped to think about it. "Almost ten years now."

"It doesn't feel that long," Noriaki continued and Jotaro gave a vague grunt of agreement. "That's like, a third of our lives right there. We've done a lot since then. We got together, went to school, got our dream jobs, and in what I still think was you being momentarily possessed by some kind of spirit, got ourselves a kid."

Jotaro would protest that he was not possessed, thank you very much, but he would have to concede that it probably seemed that way. Even now, he still couldn't believe that Noriaki didn't break up with him then and there. He supposed it took being someone as weird as Kakyoin Noriaki to be with him and stick with him. The more Jotaro thought about it, the more he realized how incredibly lucky he was.

"Life's pretty good for us, don't you think?" Noriaki asked as Hierophant Green manifested itself behind him, hands clenched together as if it were holding something in them. "Why, I would say that we've reached quite a few milestones of life together. Not bad for two men who haven't even reached thirty yet."

Narrowing his eyes at him in suspicion, Jotaro asked, "What are you getting at?" He was definitely up to something. This was the part where Noriaki asked him for something and put on a cute act about it while being indirect and coy about whatever it is he wanted, wasn't it?

"We missed one," Noriaki said. "Skipped over it. So we're kind of doing this life thing out of order." He looked away for a moment, saying, perhaps more to himself than to Jotaro, "I didn't know a good time to ask this, and now probably isn't good at all, but we're both about to leave home for who knows how long..."


"...and this isn't a good place to do it either, but I don't think you'd appreciate it if I asked you in public where a bunch of strangers can see. Actually this is an awful time and an awful place to do this. Fuck, this isn't how I wanted this to go. You know what, forget I said anyth-"


Noriaki stopped his rambling to stare at Jotaro.

"It's..something important, right?" Jotaro said. "It's something you've been waiting to ask isn't it? You can ask it now. If it's that important, then this is as good a time or place as any."

"JoJo..." Noriaki trailed off, then took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair. "JoJo, ever since the day we met, my life has gotten infinitely better because of you. Ever since you saved me from Dio's control, you've been nothing but an incredible influence in my life. You're not the only person who's improved himself over these years. I have too. I'm stronger now, no longer the weak and pathetic person who was so easily seduced by Dio's charm and his words. You might not believe it, but you've been nothing but good to me over these years."

Where were these heartfelt words coming from? What was prompting Noriaki to spill them like this was some kind of American romance movie?

Wait. Wait a minute-

Hierophant Green passed whatever it was holding to its user and Noriaki held it between his own hands.

"It won't be official or anything, because, yeah, but..." he held out his hands and moved them, revealing a tiny square box.

He was.

", Kujo Jotaro..." he pulled the lid of the box open, revealing a simple platinum ring inside, delicate patterns carved into its surface. "Will you marry me?"

Chapter Text

The weather was absurdly perfect. The skies were clear and the temperature was right in that sweet spot of not too hot and not too cold. It also wasn't too bright and Jotaro could feel the faint tickle of sea breeze that surely flowed in from the harbor.

Morioh was a small town, peaceful and unassuming. It had a central business district, a downtown for commerce, and most of the rest was standalone modest houses, much like the American neighborhood he currently called home. Small as it may be, there was a lot more to this little place. It was clearly crafted with care: the buildings were well constructed, high quality stone tiles were expertly inlaid into the town's plazas, and it was kept quite clean. The people of this town clearly loved it a lot.

At his side, Jolyne looked all around her, mostly unimpressed. Morioh bore a bit of a resemblance to their own hometown, so to her, there isn't much she hadn't seen before. She clung to her father's hand while her head swiveled this way and that, looking for something, anything, to catch her attention.

With his nose buried in an unfolded map in his free hand, Jotaro didn't notice the boy that was going in the opposite direction. The two collided and Jotaro, being the massive wall of solid muscle he was, was mostly unaffected while the poor boy stumbled backwards, the contents of his school bag going flying. In the blink of an eye, Star Platinum moved, snatching everything out of the air and putting them back in their proper place. Moving the paper away from his face, Jotaro looked down. The boy was small. Definitely on the really short side. Were it not for the high school uniform he wore (a first year, by the looks of it), Jotaro would have assumed he was a middle school student who had yet to have his growth spurt. There was something else about him too. Something he couldn't quite put his finger on.

"I'm sorry, I wasn't watching where I was going," Jotaro said.

The boy looked confused. "I was sure I saw my stuff go flying..." The voice was enough to joggle Jotaro's memory. Yes, he knew this person. Hirose Koichi, one of the many people he had met in the light rifts. He didn't recognize him at first, partially because of the different hair style, but more importantly, because of his disposition. The Koichi he knew didn't look so mousey. Not that he thought Koichi was supposed to look rough and mean, but Jotaro was used to Koichi looking a little more confident and a little less timid, someone who didn't enjoy conflict, but didn't back down from it either.

He remembered the kid mentioning that this was how they met. This must be that meeting. "Actually, I'm new here. Can you help me?" Without waiting for an answer, he continued. "Do you know of a Higashikata house around here?"

"No, sorry," Koichi said, shaking his head. Ah, so this must mean he hasn't met the Higashikata family yet. Pulling out a notebook, Jotaro flipped to one of the pages and instead asked about a written address, the one that supposedly belonged to the Higashikatas. Koichi lit up and directed him to a bus that would take him the correct direction.

By now, Jolyne had finally spotted what it was she was looking for. Upon seeing a nearby artificial pond, her eyes lit up and she let go of Jotaro's hand. "Dad, I'm going to go to that pond! I see a turtle in it!" And before Jotaro could answer her, she was off with the soft pitter patter of her feet against the stone tile to the small fountain just a few feet away.

Thanks Jolyne, Jotaro thought with good natured sarcasm. Don't ask your father, who you know loves aquatic life, if he also wants to see the turtle. It's fine.

"Is that your daughter, Sir? She's cute," Koichi said as he took the map from Jotaro to look at it. He put a finger on it. "Alright, the bus will drop you off here. Where you want to go" His finger moved to the destination. "It's not hard to get there. Morioh isn't a very complicated town. Do you want me to write some directions for you?"

Jotaro opened his mouth to answer, but was interrupted when a gang of four delinquents, high school age, probably third years, deliberately bumped into Koichi and hassled him, demanding respect when they were the ones being rude.

Pathetic. And people called Jotaro a delinquent when he was their age? He was practically a saint compared to them. The small gang moved on, towards the pond where they began hassling another first year high school student.

Although he didn't need to, Jotaro looked back to his notebook, where a paperclip on the open page held a photograph. He looked from the photo to the lone boy then back to it. That's him, he thought. Bright blue eyes tinted with a shade of violet, school uniform jacket open, revealing the shirt underneath, large pins adorning each side, and most importantly, an immaculately cared for pompadour sitting on his head. It's impossible to mistake Higashikata Josuke (uncle version) for anyone else.

Josuke was being heckled by the four boys and he seemed to cower before them, something Jotaro thought to be extremely unusual. This was not at all like the Josuke he knew. They went through some kind of nonsense conversation that was almost physically painful for Jotaro to watch. Something about Josuke having a fear of reptiles, which Jotaro could vaguely recall, and him trying to take the opportunity to get over it by getting close to the turtle in the fountain. The other boys mocked him for this, something Jotaro couldn't comprehend at all. What were the hoping to get out of a lone guy standing at a fountain apparently trying to get over a harmless fear? Suddenly, their leader slapped Josuke across the face then grabbed the turtle from the pond and hurled it at the ground. It made a sickening crunch as it collided, the shell breaking off and exposing the flesh underneath. The turtle wriggled helplessly on its back, bleeding out from where the shards of shell pierced its body.

It was surely going to die.

The delinquents, proud of themselves, demanded money from Josuke and Jotaro couldn't help but turn away in disappointment. This was not how he expected his first encounter with Higashikata Josuke to be like. Not even showing a frown as the turtle suffered? He knew Josuke's Herpetophobia was real, but he also knew that he wasn't paralyzed by it. The Higashikata Josuke he knew didn't take insults like that. The Higashikata Josuke he knew didn't let small time bullies push him around. The Higashikata Josuke he knew was kind, gentle, and strongly opposed cruelty. Sometimes violently.

"Good grief," Jotaro quietly muttered to himself as Josuke told the delinquents his name with a bow and willingly gave up his wallet to them. He even started to unbutton his school uniform for them. "It seems that he might have to learn to be the person he needs to be."

"Ha, we should call you JoJo from now on!" One of them sneered.

Jotaro frowned. Even Dio said the name JoJo with more respect than these clowns.

"Hey!" a new voice shouted and Jotaro felt his stomach drop. Jolyne was standing on the edge of the fountain pointing a finger at the boys. "Leave him alone you big bullies! And how dare you hurt that turtle!?"

"Eh, what's this?" the ringleader of the boys asked before turning to one of his companions. "Hey, your English is better than mine, what did she say?"

"She said to leave him alone. Also, she's mad at you for throwing the stupid turtle."

The ringleader burst out laughing. "Oh really? Some little American girl is going to tell me what to do?"

Koichi tugged on Jotaro's sleeve. "Sir, your daughter...!"

Shit, this wasn't good. Jolyne looked ready to actually fight those boys. She probably would. Yes, she was a Stand user. Yes, the old saying went that only Stand users could defeat Stand users, but Jolyne (and her Stand) was a child. She hasn't used her Stand to fight anyone ever since that time in preschool. Fighting off three preschool boys was different from four high school third years who probably beat up kids all day as a hobby.

"Hey, little girl," the ringleader said in slow, shaky English. "Just for that, do you know what we're going to do? First, we're going to beat up JoJo here and shave that ugly Astro Boy hair right of his head, and then we're gonna spank you. You're in Japan now. Didn't your mommy ever teach you how a good Japanese girl should act? Looks like you could use a lesson in respect!"

"Hey, Senpai," Josuke cut in. The expression on his face was completely different, no longer with that awkward, nervous smile that was meant to appease a threatening upperclassman. It was stern, serious, and with unbridled rage simmering underneath the surface, just one second away from boiling over. "Do you normally make a habit of threatening innocent little girls here on vacation?"

The delinquents turned around.

"And more importantly, what did you say about my hair!?" Josuke drew his fist back and Jotaro could see another one overlayed on it. It's muscular, pink, and silver. The arm of a Stand. Perhaps, in another timeline, Jotaro would be surprised to see this, but in this one, he was expecting to see it far earlier. A swift beatdown occurred, made extra painful as Josuke broke the ringleader's nose and used his Stand's power to heal...improperly. The nose was twisted upward and the delinquent was left with his voice sounding nasally. Jotaro wondered if that was going to remain permanent. As the ringleader writhed in pain, Josuke gently picked up the turtle with both hands before putting it to the pond, fondly watching it slip beneath the water's surface before turning back to the delinquents, furious. "You made me touch that turtle even though I didn't want to! How are you going to make this up to me!?"

They squealed like pigs and ran.

Koichi looked hopelessly confused as Jotaro managed to remember being told that Koichi and many of the other Stand users from Morioh weren't "natural." They weren't born with Stands like Noriaki, Jolyne, or Polnareff, nor did one simply manifest later in their lives like him, Josuke, and Joseph. They had their Stands forced upon them by some kind of arrow. Giorno and his crew had also mentioned something about it. Jotaro didn't really understand what they were talking about, but he could tell that right now, at this point of time, Hirose Koichi was not a Stand user.

"Hey, are you alright?" Josuke asked Jolyne, who stuck her tongue out at him. His English was better than the delinquent ringleader's, but it was clearly at the level where he had to think about what to say and pause to translate any English he heard in his head.

"I could've beaten them all by myself!"

Josuke laughed at her. "I'm sure you could have, but they were beneath you, so I took care of it. You've come here to visit, right? Don't let those boys give you a bad impression of Morioh." He froze as Jotaro approached them, eyes going to him. Beside him, the turtle reemerged from the pond's waters.

Josuke screamed.

Jotaro introduced himself by first reciting every fact he knew about Higashikata Josuke: his name, the year of his birth, his mother's name, the severe "mysterious illness" he suffered from for fifty days when he was only four years old, and the fact that his father was Joseph Joestar, and then, only partially unintentionally, went off on a tangent insulting his grandfather's dignity. It didn't matter that Joseph was almost eighty years old and was now seriously starting to think about how to divide the Joestar family fortune among his heirs. He deserved every word of it and Jotaro was obligated by celestial decree to give his grandfather every bit of shit possible at every available opportunity.

Only once he was done with that did he actually give Josuke his name.

He kind of forgot that Josuke didn't know who he was.

"This is my daughter, Jolyne," Jotaro said, gently pushing Jolyne forward. Josuke looked like he was having an out of body experience. Jotaro didn't blame him. "She doesn't know a lot of Japanese, so please speak English to her." Switching to English, he knelt down beside his daughter. "Jolyne, this is your great uncle, Josuke. Say hello to him."

"Hi Uncle Josuke!" Jolyne smiled, holding out a hand to him. Josuke took it, even though he still looked like he was dissociating. She firmly grasped it in both hands and shook it up and down with great vigor. "Nice to meet you!"

He told Josuke that he was here to discuss the topic of inheritance with him, which was mostly true. That really was the main reason for his visit, along with assessing Josuke's power for the Speedwagon Foundation. There was also a second reason, the disturbing pictures that had come out when Joseph tried to use Hermit Purple to get pictures of Josuke, but there was yet another reason, one that nobody else, not Josuke, not Joseph, not Speedwagon, or anyone else knew or could possibly know. That was because that reason had yet to exist.

Very soon, Jotaro was going to find himself mixed up in a load of Stand related trouble, with a serial killer mystery on top to boot. He was not ready for this, but there probably wasn't any way to be ready for it.

Josuke was polite, way too polite. He tried to refuse his share of the Joestar inheritance, and Jotaro suspected that Josuke was trying to get rid of him, preferably as quickly as possible. He could sympathize. Jotaro, too, had wanted nothing to do with the Joestars when he was around Josuke's age. Back then, Jotaro's world consisted only of himself and his mother. After all, why should he care about a grandfather who lived halfway across the world and hadn't visited him since he was too young to remember it? At the time, he hadn't believed Joseph cared about him. He thought that Joseph only came because Holly begged him to, that if he had his way, he would pretend he didn't have a half Japanese grandson and that Stand business was the only reason he ever showed himself to a teenage Jotaro.

And then here's Josuke, who was Joseph's literal son and had never met his father at all, with a mother who gave birth to him while she was in college after a brief affair, whose father never came to visit him, even when he was sick in the hospital for fifty days on death's doorstep as a small child.

(Joseph both didn't know of Josuke's existence all those years ago and he was sort of busy with something really important at the time, but still. It's not like a four-year-old Josuke would have cared about that.)

That was how Josuke had been found: while researching the Stand sickness, Speedwagon researchers discovered his case and saw the striking resemblance to what happened to Holly, right down to the nearly identical dates. That lead into looking into who Higashikata Josuke was, which led them to his mother, Tomoko, and Joseph having little choice but to admit that he had an affair during a business trip to Japan. And now Jotaro was here to turn Josuke's nice, peaceful life upside down.

So yeah, Jotaro understood. He got it, far more than he cared to admit. If he met himself when he was Josuke's age, he'd want himself to go away too. However, he was here to bring Josuke into the Joestar family, whether he liked it or not. It was not a fun task, but somebody has to do it, just like how Jotaro himself was dragged into it despite fighting it every step of the way. He had resisted it for a long time, only truly accepting his place as the Joestar heir when he was staring Dio down in the streets of Cairo. One can't run from their fate as a Joestar. Jotaro's learned this the hard way, and soon Josuke would be learning it as well. It sucked, but ultimately, this was what was best for the kid. He was going to need all of the support he could get not just in the immediate future, but years down the road, chances that some imminent crisis starts to threaten the world and Josuke becomes the one chosen to deal with it were very high. Statistics regarding the issue of their bloodline, sadly, showed a trend and as a scientist, Jotaro was forced to acknowledge them.

A group of feminine voices called out Josuke's name and no less than three high school girls began to crowd around him and Jotaro felt like he was going back in time. He was half expecting Noriaki to appear and push Josuke down a flight of stairs. Losing his patience, he demanded Josuke tell the girls to leave, and that they could continue their stupid conversation about his hair later.

That was a mistake. The girls gasped in horror and took a few steps backwards. Josuke stared at him with pure murder in his eyes.

He hadn't even insulted Josuke's hair! He just happened to use the words "stupid" and "hair" in the same sentence!

Josuke turned on him, summoning his Stand and fully intending to turn Jotaro, who he knew now was his nephew, into a bloody mess. Jotaro tried to temper it with a preemptive strike, Star Platinum's fist appearing to land a jab on Josuke's face. He accidentally hit harder than he intended to as a trail of blood trickled from Josuke's mouth.

That too, was a mistake. But the mistake was he didn't hit him hard enough.

For the first time, Josuke's Stand showed itself fully, launching a ferocious flurry of punches, shouting "Dorararara!" as its warcry. It's been a while since Star Platinum's had to defend against such a strong attack and with an uppercut, Josuke's Stand broke Star Platinum's guard and was about to land a critical blow when Jotaro reached inside himself for all the strength he had.

For the first time in ten years, Jotaro froze time. It only lasted half a second, but it was enough time to get behind Josuke and get him with a good old fashioned right cross directly across the cheek, splitting his lip. Instantly, Josuke's anger disappeared and he apologized profusely for his behavior.

Good grief. Was he going to have to keep his own uncle in line by hitting him? This was not how familial relationships were supposed to go. Jotaro did his best to warn Josuke of the upcoming possible dangers he'd be in regarding an escaped death row inmate who was almost certainly hiding out in this town, but Josuke excused himself to run to class with Koichi in tow, promising to meet up with him after school to hear more.

Jotaro figured he wasn't going to show.

He was right.

From the comfort of his luxury suite in the Morioh Grand hotel, he picked up the phone and dialed the number to the Higashikata house.

"I healed him," Josuke said. He had both of his hands against the sides of his grandfather's face, and although his touch was gentle, his entire body was shaking. Jotaro was glad that he left Jolyne back at the hotel. She didn't need to see this. "I fixed his...I fixed him. Why...why isn't he waking up?"

Jotaro watched quietly as Josuke muttered to himself. The teenager had his back to him, but it wasn't hard to imagine what his face was like: eyes wide, glistening with tears, sweat rolling down his cheeks, and lips pulled taught in a pained fake smile. Jotaro knew the type of person Josuke was. He was the type of person who smiles through his grief, his head refusing to acknowledge what his heart already knew. It wasn't denial. Not quite. It was a defense mechanism, for if Josuke were to register it too quickly, were he to allow himself to realize it too soon, he would break.

"I've done this dozens of times," Josuke said. "I just did it earlier today. I've healed injuries that people would have died from so..."


When Josuke turned, he saw that Jotaro had a hand on his shoulder.

Looking back on it, Jotaro realized that he had no idea what he was doing. He had no plan on what he was going to do or what to say, he had only the knowledge that he had to do something, anything, and so, for a man who frequently immersed himself in thought to the point that he got lost in it, he let himself speak openly and freely.

"I've seen many Stands in my lifetime. And I've seen the people who wield them." The words flowed from his mouth like water, and once he started, he wasn't able to stop. He would have better luck trying to stop the tides than his own voice. "The possibilities of things Stands can do are endless. Most of them are meant to destroy or to hurt others, but yours is different. You have an incredible power, one that's very kind. To be able to heal others is a wonderful gift." And was a rare and unique ability indeed, Jotaro wasn't aware of any other Stand users who could heal, aside from Giorno Giovanna. But he wouldn't be meeting him for a while so as far as Jotaro was concerned, Josuke was the only Stand user of his kind in the entire world. He withdrew his hand from Josuke's shoulder, turning away to look out the window at the idyllic neighborhood street the Higashikata family lived on. It was hard to imagine such a gruesome murder happening on it, but proof that one occurred was lying right in front of him. "However...there is no Stand that can bring back the dead."

Not Josuke's Stand. Not Giorno's Stand. Not the other Dio's Stand. And not even his own. Star Platinum Over Heaven did not revive the dead. Even with the divine powers at its fingertips, it could not return the dead to the land of the living, for death was the eternal, almighty hunter that not even gods could escape from. Star Platinum instead had to circumvent death, altering reality so that death was avoided, as death cannot be defeated. Even vampires couldn't get away. Their "immortality" was conditional and they too, had to fear death lurking in the dark corners.

Jotaro has thought for a long time now that if there ever came the day that a person emerged with a Stand that was able to defeat death, defy it and bring souls back to the land of the living, they would truly be the strongest Stand user in the universe, across all universes, alternate realities and all.

"I..." Josuke said as he let go of his grandfather's corpse and stood up. "How can you say that? There's gotta be a way, there must be...! You don't understand! If you lost someone important to you, if it was your grandfather, you would...!"

Jotaro slammed his fist on the small living room table. How dare he? How dare this little punk who was still wet behind the ears say that to him? He didn't know? He didn't understand? Fucking bullshit. Jotaro understood quite well, and he understood it better than Josuke did. He understood so deeply that it hurt, watching Josuke's despair and rage was reopening a decade old wound, slashing his insides open and forcibly shoving all that agony back into his being, and Jotaro felt like he was seventeen all over again, reliving the worst moments of his life once again. He's seen his friends, his love, his grandfather, and his daughter die all while standing there helplessly. What did Josuke know!?


Josuke knew nothing. Higashikata Josuke was nothing but a self-centered brat who was lashing out because he was in pain.

And that was why Jotaro was being unfair to him. Of course Josuke didn't know. He was just a kid. A scared kid who's suddenly found himself in deeper shit than he's ever been his entire life, whose happy and lazy paced life has just been violently shattered.

He can't help but be sympathetic with Josuke. After all, he went through basically the same exact things when he was still in high school. Kid's way too much like Jotaro in his younger days for his own good. He could only hope that Josuke wasn't destined to suffer nearly as much as he had.

He fervently hoped that Josuke wouldn't turn out like him.

"...sorry," Jotaro said as he pulled his arm back from the table. "I didn't mean, it's just..."

Josuke shook his head. "No, I'm the one who should be sorry," he said. "I shouldn't have assumed that you didn't understand. It's written all over your face. You've seen some shit, haven't you?"

"Yeah," Jotaro said. "I've seen a lot."

"I know he's gone and there's no way to bring him back," Josuke said, looking back down on his grandfather's body. "I just don't want to believe it. Because if I do, it's like I'm giving up."

"It's not giving up," Jotaro told him. "It's not about winning or losing. There's no winners when it comes to this crap, only losers. Now let's talk about how we're going to explain this to your mother."

The official story was Officer Higashikata died from a sudden stroke. A funeral was hastily arranged, small and modest. Jotaro left Josuke alone for the mourning period and instead did his best to not think about the fact that he was going to have to make funeral arrangements for Joseph Joestar sometime in the future, possibly within the next couple of years. When Joseph and Suzie Q died, Jotaro realized, there would be nobody left who bore the Joestar name. He, Jolyne, and his mother were Kujo. Josuke's family name was Higashikata. Caesar was a Zeppeli. The currently unknown Giorno's last name was Giovanna. The Joestar bloodline would continue on into the future, but the name Joestar itself was going to be left behind in the past.

Something about that struck Jotaro as very sad.

When the funerary traditions was over, after Josuke managed to convince Tomoko to stay with relatives for a while, Jotaro came to the Higashikata house with Jolyne to stay with Josuke for the following days.

"If I could have any Stand in the world," Jotaro said as he twisted the cap off a bottle of water before handing it to Josuke. "I would want to have yours."

"Huh? Why?" Josuke asked, grabbing the offered bottle and pouring the contents into a cup before taking a swig of it. "Yours is really cool though. It's super strong."

"That's all it is," Jotaro said. "It's strong. Nothing else. Yours is different. It has the ability to save people, bringing them back from the brink of death. Mine isn't going to do any saving unless that saving involves punching someone's lights out or getting to someone before they get hurt. And it's impossible to save everyone from getting hurt."

Josuke put down his glass. "Sorry if this is personal, but you sound like you're talking from experience."

Jotaro took another bottle of water and uncapped it, drinking from it directly. "There was a time some friends and I were getting pretty badly hurt on a near daily basis. There were times when things were cut really close. And..." He stopped, realizing he needed to choose his next words carefully. "If I had a power like yours, there were a few things that would have gone very differently."

And that was all he could say about that. The message got across, however, as Josuke nodded in understanding. "So that's why you nearly broke my table, huh?"

"Yeah. Sorry about that."

"No need to apologize, you didn't actually break it," Josuke said, and both of them pointedly ignored the fact that there was a twisted chair next to them and an utterly destroyed dish cabinet right by the door, the unfortunate victims of Josuke's anger and sorrow. "And even if you did, I would have fixed it."

He just hoped Josuke remembered to fix everything before his mother came home. Jotaro hadn't met Higashikata Tomoko in person yet, but from what Josuke said, she didn't sound like the type of woman who tolerated bullshit. Honestly, she sounded like Roxanne.

"Jotaro-san," Josuke said, pouring himself more water from his open water bottle. Jotaro wondered what the point of drinking it from a glass was. Just drink it directly, Josuke. "What are the Joestars like?"

He took a moment to think about it, slowly drinking more water as he did. Faintly, he could hear the sound of music coming from the second floor of the house. Josuke had been kind enough to let Jolyne borrow his CD player and a sample of his music collection to keep her entertained. He wasn't quite ready to let her play his video games just yet, but Jotaro could tell he was getting there.

It's hard to describe the Joestars using words, because in many ways, the Joestars defied logical explanation. They had their origins in England, but have since begun to spread out in the world, first to America, then to Japan. And that wasn't counting the ones who weren't Joestars by blood, but were part of the family either by marriage or some other circumstance. If they counted too, Joestars have lived in Italy and France as well.

"If you want my honest opinion," Jotaro said. "They're a pain in the ass. You spend the first fifteen or so years of your life either unaware of them or vaguely aware of them at best, and then suddenly they show up on your front door to make your life hell."

"Oh, so that's why you came here without so much as a warning," Josuke tried to hold back a laugh. "So that's what happened to you?"

Jotaro nodded. "The old man...Joseph. He was out of my life for over a decade before he barged right back into it. I was so young the last time I saw him, I couldn't remember him at all. Not his voice or his face. He was basically a stranger to me. I couldn't get rid of him. Now I'm trapped."

"Should I be worried?"

"Yes," Jotaro replied, monotone. "Run while you have the chance."

They shared a laugh and by the time they were done, Josuke gave him a wide grin. "You don't seem too upset about it."

"I'm not," Jotaro agreed. "But for a long time, I was. Gramps brought with him nothing but trouble. Still does, actually, even though he's almost eighty goddamn years old. But I was a little shit too."

Josuke raised an eyebrow at him. "Really? You? I can hardly believe it."

"Don't give me sass."

"Hey, hey, I'm your uncle. You should respect your elders."

"I'm almost twice as old as you are."

"Almost, but not quite. You look like you're off by a few years." Josuke put his glass down on the table with a soft clink as it hit the wooden top. "Hey, you think the family would accept me? I mean, I'm an illegitimate lovechild, after all."

"You are, without a doubt, not the worst thing the Joestars have taken in," Jotaro snorted. That honor belonged to none other than Dio Brando. "Joseph had a harder time accepting my dad than he would you." And Jotaro's always wondered if Joseph had similar issues with him. After all, he and Joseph didn't get along at all at first, and Joseph liked to often remind Jotaro what a problem child he was, even though he was absent for nearly all of Jotaro's childhood and teenage years. He knew Joseph loved him now, but he's always been afraid to ask about his opinion of him before Stands, before Egypt, when Joseph just automatically hated everything Japanese and wondered if that extended to his Japanese grandson. "If you were being rejected, you wouldn't be considered for inheritance. You have nothing to worry about. The Joestars are an extremely loving family." He finished his bottle of water. "Annoyingly so."

Across the table, he could see Josuke smile as his blue eyes drifted downwards, to Jotaro's left hand where a platinum ring rested on his fourth finger. "So, you married?"


"Cool. To Jolyne's mom?"


"Oh," Josuke said, fidgeting slightly in his seat.

"It's weird," Jotaro said, casually. These days, he liked to dismiss everything about himself as weird. It's easier than explaining the complicated truth and he was starting to be a little proud of being so unusual. "It's not bad or anything. Her mother's a good friend of mine, but I'm engaged to someone I've been seeing for almost ten years now."

He noticed Josuke staring at him with a hint of wariness in his face.

"If you're thinking I cheated, I'm going to smash your face against this table."

"I'm not, I swear!" Josuke said, holding his hands up in surrender. Except his slightly fearful face told Jotaro otherwise. "So uh, let's let that subject drop, alright?"

Jotaro agreed, and he and Josuke spent the entire day talking.

Chapter Text

The phone in Jotaro's hotel suite rang.

"Hello?" He said, picking it up as he watched Jolyne coloring meticulously between the lines of a coloring book on the bed. The image was of the latest Disney movie that Jotaro couldn't quite remember the name of.

"Hello, Jotaro-san?" Asked the voice on the other end of the line. "It's Josuke."

"Why are you calling me so early in the morning?" Jotaro asked as he eyed the needlessly fancy tea set sitting on the table halfway across the room. It was too far from the phone to be able to pour himself a cup. "Isn't school starting in half an hour?"

"Yeah, uh, this is really important and I have ask you about it like, right now," Josuke said, but the relaxed and casual cadence of his tone made Jotaro suspect that this really wasn't important at all. "So, you remember Okuyasu? Nijimura Okuyasu? The guy who moved in like, three houses away from me? The one I beat up last week?"

"Yes," Jotaro answered, and refrained from telling Josuke that just Okuyasu's name was enough. He knew who Okuyasu was. He came to talk to him personally about the bow and arrow and his family's involvement with Dio. He helped him with the funeral arrangements for his older brother. He met the guy's unfortunate father. It's hard to forget a guy with a face like Okuyasu's.

"Great! So uh, he's in my house right now."

"Why is he in your house?" Jotaro asked as Jolyne rummaged through her crayons, looking for a particular color.

"My mom invited him in! For coffee! Jotaro-san, he's drinking coffee with my mom!"

"Josuke," Jotaro growled. "Will you tell me what the problem is already?"

"Look," Josuke said, and it sounded like he's half whispering into the phone receiver. "All of a sudden he shows up on my doorstep saying he's here to walk to school together like we've known each other since childhood and we weren't just trying to murder each other a week ago. Jotaro-san, you're the only one I can turn to, what do I do?"

Jotaro sat down in the chair next to the desk that held the phone and leaned back. He leaned so far his head had cleared the headrest and he was now looking directly upwards at the gold filigree pattern that criss crossed the pearl white recessed ceiling of the luxury suite.

He imagined Higashikata Tomoko greeting Okuyasu with a smile, swinging the front door of the house open to let him in. The scent of coffee was strong in the air.

The house changed. It morphed from a small suburban home to a large Japanese mansion. The smell of coffee slowly diffused and the sound of tea being poured replaced it. Tomoko wasn't in this house. After all, it's not her house. It's the Kujo household and Holly was the matriarch here. There's no reason for Okuyasu to be there either and instead in his place is...

"You've just engaged in one of the oldest Joestar family traditions," Jotaro told him. It was a ritual that dated back to the days of Jonathan Joestar, started one dark and snowy night as he traversed the back alleys of London where the English ogres lurked. "Congratulations on your new best friend."


Jotaro hung up.

God, he missed him.

Caesar Anthonio Zeppeli was a man in his eighties, but he didn't look a day over sixty. Even though he was retired and has since stopped instructing promising young students in the art of Hamon, he still regularly practiced and trained in it daily. Hamon keeps its practitioners looking young and was rumored to extend the human lifespan as well due to slowing down the aging process. In reality, it didn't quite work out. Hamon tended to paint a target on its users' backs. At least, that's how it was historically. The life expectantly of Hamon users has increased dramatically since the end of the Pillar Men. Some of them, like himself, were actually making it to the point where the biggest threat to their lives was old age.

He supposed it was true, the extended lifespan thing. Lisa Lisa lived to a ripe old age before her passing and he was pretty sure the only reason she died was because she decided she was done with living. But he couldn't be sure if the reason she lived so long was because of Hamon or if it was because she was Lisa Lisa. Furthermore, Caesar didn't feel the aches and pains most men his age suffered from. He still stood up tall and straight. His senses haven't deteriorated at all in ages. Even in the present day, he was still experimenting and pushing the limits of what Hamon can do. Just a couple years ago, he and his successor on Air Supplena Island came up with a breakthrough technique that completely shook up the worldwide community of Hamon users, as tiny as it was.

Not like Joseph, who was sitting next to him on this boat bound for Morioh Town. Joseph had always been lax in his Hamon training, but after obtaining his Stand, he pretty much stopped training altogether despite Caesar's constant nagging and age began to catch up with him fast. Joseph needed glasses now. His hearing's going. He was using a cane. His voice was quieter and raspier. Caesar hated seeing him like this. If there was one thing that he hated about Hamon, it was watching everyone around him aging faster than he was. Holly was complaining about finding grey hairs on her head. Polnareff regularly called him late at night asking for advice on how to deal with child tantrums.

Jotaro, somehow, looks younger than he did as a teenager. Nobody's really sure why, but Caesar's personal theory was because his grandson actually took care of himself now.

Caesar can't help but feel that they're all changing too fast, but he knew the truth was that he's the one that's slow.

He wished that Joseph hadn't abandoned Hamon. Or he wished he had also stopped practicing it. But Caesar couldn't do that. Hamon was so dear to him and reviving it became his new goal in life after he achieved vengeance for his family. It was so important he chose to spend most of his life in Venice rather than move to New York to be with Joseph and Suzie Q.

You're stuck with me now, a young teenage Joseph declared once, when he showed up at his own goddamn funeral. He had taken one of Caesar's hands into both of his own and smiled that big, doofy grin at him. We're going to grow old together, Caesarino!


But Caesar should have known. Joseph Joestar was always a notorious liar.

Yet he believed him anyway.

And now he must live with the fact that Joseph, who was younger than him, was probably going to be the first of them to die.

Still, he didn't regret it at all.

Sometimes it's okay to believe in a lie. This one's brought Caesar much happiness for the past sixty years. He's still happy. Even now as they're on their way to see Joseph's illegitimate son born from an affair. It had taken Caesar quite a while to forgive Joseph, and he suspected that Suzie Q's trust in him had taken an irreparable hit despite her giving her forgiveness as well.

Regardless, Caesar was going to treat this boy, Higashikata Josuke, with love. If there was anything Caesar was good at, it was loving family that technically wasn't even related to him. Holly was his daughter as much as she was Joseph and Suzie's and it was easy for him to accept Jotaro as his grandson as well.

Family has always been one of Caesar's greatest treasures in life, and he learned early on that family wasn't defined solely by blood. Every new addition to his family has improved it and by extension, him.

There was a knock at the cabin door as an earnest young Speedwagon Foundation employee reported in to tell them they were approaching Morioh and that he would take their luggage for them. Minutes later, the roughest looking high schooler Caesar had ever seen (even rougher than a young Jotaro) slid the door open and introduced himself as Nijimura Okuyasu, friend of Higashikata Josuke, a Stand user and apparently eager to talk to Joseph, at which point Caesar excused himself to meet Jotaro on the deck.

He found his grandson on the deck of the boat, talking to something invisible. It was time to put that new technique to use, so Caesar closed his eyes, took a deep breath and focused on creating and channeling Hamon into his eyes and his ears.

"-defeated the Stand user!" he hears a young boy's voice say and when he opened his eyes again, he could see it, a strange green creature hovering in front of Jotaro. A Stand. It took a couple years, but Caesar was finally able to see the blasted things. It's been long theorized that Stands and Hamon were related and Jotaro once mentioned that he believed that Hamon users had a way to detect Stands.

"Jotaro," he called, and Jotaro turned to him. He looked tired. Exhausted. Like he hasn't gotten any decent rest in the past week. "Jotaro, are you alright?"

"Caesar," Jotaro said, looking at him with the same usual neutral expression he had, but there was something about it. Something that conveyed the aura of a man who was trying to hold things together. ""

"What's wrong?" Caesar asked. He knew there was trouble in this town. Was it regarding the bow and arrow? "Are you hurt, Jotaro? Did something happen?"

"Caesar," Jotaro repeated, and to the average person he sounded like the normal Jotaro that everyone knew, but Caesar's begun to pick up on the minute differences in tone that Jotaro's voice could have from the years of listening to the things his favorite grandson (his only grandson) would confide in him. Jotaro was frustrated, annoyed, feeling overwhelmed. "How the hell do you deal with teenagers?"

"So this is Naples," Josuke said with a low whistle as he stepped out of the Neapolis Train Station and into Naples proper. Old European style buildings surrounded them on all sides. The streets were lined with cobblestone and many of the roads were slanted, going up and downhill. Of the most interest to Jotaro was the small slivers of ocean blue he could glimpse beween buildings, giving him a tiny, tantalizing view of the Gulf of Naples.

"Do you like it?" Giorno asked, approaching Josuke from behind and placing a friendly hand on his shoulder. His accented voice was smooth like olive oil, gentle and sweet. It's charming and comforting and even Jotaro was susceptible to his charisma. It's times like this that Giorno reminded Jotaro uncomfortably of Dio, however, Giorno had things that Dio could never hope to possess, namely kindness and sincerity. Still, Jotaro thought that silver tongue of his was just as much a liability as it was an asset. "Napoli is the most beautiful city in all of Italia."

"Roma is better," Jotaro heard Caesar quietly mutter beside him.

"That is a strange way to pronounce Venezia," Lisa Lisa replied.

"It's gorgeous," Josuke answered, and he looked like he was going to cry. "I've always wanted to visit Italy, but my family doesn't exactly have the funds to go on international vacations."

"Really? That's a shame," Giorno replied, withdrawing his hand. He let the pads of his fingers linger, ghosting along Josuke's broad shoulders before lifting them. "You would fit in beautifully here, Josuke."

Josuke looked at Giorno with stars in his eyes, or maybe it was the overdramatic tears glistening in the sunlight. "You think so?"

"I know so," Giorno huffed with a wave of his hand. "A man of your disposition. Your culture. Your impeccable fashion sense. It's almost as if you belong here."

Jotaro tried to pass off a laugh as a cough. It sounded more like he was choking on something. He felt a fist solidly thump him on the back between the shoulder blades as Jolyne strolled past him without so much a sideways glance.

"Don't die, Dad," she huffed before raising her voice. "Hey, Giorno! I wanna go shopping, show me around!"

"We're not here to sight see," Jotaro told her.

"Why not?" Jolyne asked. "We're here to rest before moving on. You said so yourself. What, you expect us to just sit in the train station for a day? No way."

"Do you even have money?"

"Giorno does. And he promised to buy me a Gucci handbag and I'm collecting on it."

"Where are you even going to keep it?" Jotaro asked.

"Uh, in the turtle?" Jolyne told him, looking at him like he was stupid. "Oh right, you barely ever get to go in the turtle because you're the designated Turtle Bitch."

Turtle Bitch. Turtle Bitch. Jotaro supposed this was karmic retribution for calling his mother names. "What do you even need a bag for?"

"No offense, Dad, but someone like you wouldn't understand." She was right. He wouldn't. He got that women needed purses. He just didn't understand why it had to be an overpriced Italian name brand one. He also didn't understand why Jolyne needed one now. She didn't even have anything to put in it.

"You have nothing to worry about," Giorno said, stepping between them. "Jolyne, Josuke, and I can take care of ourselves. I promise to keep them both safe."

Jotaro glared at him. Giorno didn't even look as he put a hand on Josuke's back to start leading him down the street. Jolyne was already far ahead of them. "That's not what I meant."

Giorno turned back towards him and gave him a lazy smile. A lazy, smug smile of knowing. "Of course it isn't. We'll be back in a few hours." Lifting his free hand to his lips, he kissed two fingers before blowing it at Jotaro. "Ciao."

They did return later, as promised. Jolyne had her brand new Gucci bag slung over one shoulder. Josuke had a box of new shoes under one arm and on Giorno's face as a pair of designer sunglasses. All three of them carried large paper shopping bags emblazoned with luxury brands. While Jotaro didn't know their names, he recognized their logos and he didn't really want to ask how much any of those items cost. He hoped that Giorno kept his word and paid for all that crap with his own money. The funds that they all shared were supposed to keep their large group fed as hunger and thirst don't care about time and space travel. Despite his worries, he found himself trusting him. Giorno had been honest with him so far, and Jotaro thought he was the type to only lie when it benefited him, and Giorno benefited far more from being honest in this case.

"We're back!" Jolyne called, waving her brand new purse in the air. "Did you guys miss us?"

"No," Jotaro told her, and that would be the end of that, were it not for goddamn Polnareff who put a devious grin on his face and strolled over to sling an arm around Jotaro's shoulders.

"Don't believe him," he said, using his free hand to point at Jotaro's face. "He was sick with worry! You should have seen him pacing around! I'm surprised he didn't wear a hole in the ground!"

That traitor. Jotaro tried to break himself free, but it was to no avail. He couldn't push Polnareff off even though he had the strength to. It was that damn bleeding heart of his. He was going way too soft. He was letting all of them walk over him. This was a problem. Too much of a problem.

Stop getting attached to people, He told himself. You know what happens when you do.

Something happens to them. Something always happened. It was like he was an omen of disaster, bringing ruin upon anyone who made the mistake of getting close to him. They got lucky this time, but what about the next one? It was true that Josuke, Jolyne, and Giorno were all strong, but they weren't invincible either.

"That's so sweet of you," Giorno said, pushing his designer sunglasses up so they rested on the top of his head, just above those meticulously styled swirls. "We got you something, Jotaro."

Josuke set one of his bags on the ground and reached in, digging around for a second before pulling out a trench coat. It's navy blue in color with gold buttons. Jotaro had no idea what material it was made out of, but it certainly looked expensive.

"What did you get me that for?"

"What, you can't comprehend the idea of someone doing something nice for you?" Jolyne asked and he couldn't bring himself to tell her that it wasn't quite that. He's been alone for most of his life. He wasn't used to people doing nice things for him. He didn't deserve it. "Just take it. Think of it as a thanks for putting up with us, I guess. We know we're all assholes here and you're the one who has to deal with it."

He took it from Josuke, examining it up closer. It's even the right size.

"I had the idea to get you something, Josuke suggested a coat for you, and Giorno picked out the style and paid for it."

"Thanks," Jotaro managed to say, and found that he really meant it.

Giorno smiled at him, and it was a real, genuine smile. Not one of his playful smirks or a smug grin, just the smile of someone who seemed happy. "After all of this is over, come visit me here in Napoli."

"Yeah," he said, accepting the invitation. "I think I will."

"Josuke, this is Caesar Zeppeli," Jotaro said. They were in Jotaro's suite at the Morioh Grand Hotel which was more like the size of a small ballroom than a hotel room. It reminded him of Joseph's penthouse in New York: a whole lot of space with only a little bit of furniture, making it seem even bigger than it was. "He's..." Jotaro paused, scrunching his face. All those years he failed to properly identify Caesar's place in the Joestar family were coming back to haunt him. It never seemed important to define Caesar's role. He was a part of the Joestar family and the best damn grandfather Jotaro could ever ask for and that was all he ever cared about. "I guess you could call him your stepfather or something."

Josuke stared, clearly wanting to ask questions, but unable to figure out what those questions should be. He settled for a confused "...okay?" instead. "I mean, it doesn't make sense because my mom hasn't even looked at another guy since Joestar-san, but okay."

The poor boy was overwhelmed. Jotaro would hate to be in his shoes. Beside them, Joseph gave a small smile and he knew it was because of his son's acceptance of Caesar despite his confusion.

"Nah," Okuyasu said, putting a hand under his chin. His other hand was behind his back, holding up Jolyne who had demanded a piggyback ride from him and had both of her arms around his neck. She thumped a small fist on his head, telling him to move, but Okuyasu didn't seem to notice it in the least. "You're looking at it all wrong, Josuke. If it's not your mom Zeppeli-san here is attached to, then it must be your dad. Like, I bet he's your dad's boyfriend or something."

"Okuyasu!" Jolyne commanded, driving both of her heels into Okuyasu's sides. "Giddy up!"

"Ah, sorry!" Okuyasu apologized as she began to pull on his cheeks. Okuyasu's English wasn't the best, but it was easy to understand what he was being ordered to do. "Uh, you guys just forget what I said. It's stupid, I know. I'm stupid."

Jotaro shook his head. "You're not as stupid as you think you are."

But Okuyasu was still pretty stupid, he had to admit. However, there's a special kind of intelligence and wisdom in knowing your own stupidity and Okuyasu clearly knew his. Jotaro couldn't say the same about himself. So who really was the stupid one in the room? It certainly wasn't Nijimura Okuyasu.

(Joseph. Joseph was the stupid one in the room.)

Okuyasu paused, then trotted off like a good little pony, using both arms to support Jolyne. "Hup!" he'd shout every now and then, giving Jolyne a bounce. She laughed and wrapped her arms tighter around his neck and snuggle into him like he was a big fuzzy animal.

"So," Josuke said, not quite making eye contact with Caesar. "What brings you here?"

"What brings me here," Caesar started, "is not letting this old fool leave me behind again." He gave Joseph a light tap on the shoulder. "I told him Egypt was the last time he would run off on some perilous excursion alone, especially when he's in charge of a bunch of children."

"I'm twenty-eight," Jotaro protested. He had a house and a child and bills and he's getting married in a few months, probably. Assuming all this work stuff was wrapped up by then. After this business in Morioh was finished, he was blocking out the next few months from any work that would require him to travel. The Speedwagon Foundation had plenty of other Stand users in its employ they could call upon.

Caesar regarded him fondly. "You will always be my dear grandson no matter how old you get, Jotaro." And then his face turned mischievous. "Besides, was it not just an hour ago you were pleading for my help?"

"I was not pleading," Jotaro hissed at him.

"Fine. Begging, then."


"You best take notes, Jotaro. Soon Jolyne will be locking herself in her room to talk to her friends on the phone for hours and sneaking out late at night for dates."

"Stop." Jotaro turned away with a grunt. He's hit his limit for being teased for the day. Behind him, Okuyasu marched by, spurred on by Jolyne.

Josuke watched the exchange with wide eyes, as if he couldn't believe that someone was getting the best of Kujo Jotaro and running verbal circles around him.

"Anyway, we are here for more than just a friendly visit," Caesar said, finally letting Jotaro off the hook. "Josuke, what Okuyasu said was true. I have been with your father for sixty years now. The last time Joseph decided to go meet a family member, he took a dangerous trip around the world without letting me know. I am here to keep him out of trouble. I am, however, also thrilled to be meeting you face to face."

"Sixty years? You don't look that old," Josuke blurted out before covering his mouth with both hands.

Caesar laughed. "Believe it or not, I am older than JoJo here. I just happened to put more effort into retaining my youthful good looks than he did."

"Hamon," Jotaro mumbled just loud enough for Josuke to hear. "It's this thing he practices that makes him age slower than other people."

"Jotaro, you shouldn't give away my secrets so easily like that," Caesar chided in mock hurt. "Unlike the rest of you, I don't have a Stand. However, I can use Hamon to see and effectively interact with them."

It was something related to Hamon's ability to detect life. Jotaro has tried his best to understand it, but he doesn't have the talent to use Hamon. Or at least, he didn't think so. There was supposedly a genetic component to it which is why Joseph was using Hamon before he even really knew what it was. Either way, Jotaro wasn't very interested in learning it. He's just fine with his Stand. He just remembered the first time Caesar tested Hamon's ability to make a Stand visible to the practitioner. Caesar had opened his eyes to find Star Platinum's face inches from his own and he had nearly fallen backwards out of surprise.

On the other hand, Josuke looked as if he didn't understand at all. That was probably going to keep happening until they all stopped throwing weird shit at him.

"By the way, Jotaro," Caesar said. "On the way here, one of the Foundation employees told me that the mission in Norway has finally finished up."

Jotaro perked up, his intent to spend the next fifteen minutes or so sulking forgotten. It's been over a month. Almost two months, actually. "Really? Then that means-"

"You can expect your fiancé to be here in three days' time."

"So what do you think she's like?" Josuke's voice said.

"Super hot," Okuyasu's answered. "Jotaro-san's the type of guy who can have anyone he wants. I'm thinking a blonde American!"

"Nah, I think Japanese girls are more his type."

Koichi let out an unsure noise. "Is it really okay for you two to talk about this right where he can hear you?"

It was alright. Jotaro didn't really care, which was why he let them tag along with him and Jolyne to Morioh's train station.

"Disrespectful of them, isn't it Koichi-kun?" A fourth voice chimed in. It belonged to Kishibe Rohan, famous manga artist and professional nuisance. A good chunk of Jotaro's interactions with the guy involved him asking for permission to use his invasive Stand to pry into Jotaro's past and his mind, a request that Jotaro has refused repeatedly and would continue to refuse until the end of time. There were few things creepier than a Stand that could literally read a person like a book. And yet, Jotaro couldn't find it in him to tell Rohan to stay away from him. He didn't know what that said about him. "They should treat a lady with respect."

"Um, Rohan-sensei," Koichi said. "Are you planning on asking her if you can read her with Heaven's Door?"

"But of course," Rohan answered. "Kujo Jotaro's betrothed must have incredible stories to tell."

"You're hoping to find out things about Jotaro-san, aren't you?"

Rohan ignored him.

As the four of them gossiped among themselves, Jotaro tuned them out, impatiently glancing at the train station's clock every few minutes. Time seemed to move slower every time he did. Every second felt twice as long as it was supposed to be and at one point, Jolyne tugged on his hand and told him to stop fidgeting. It was a new low, having to have your own child tell you to calm down.

It was one of the longest ten minute waits of his life. In that span of time, Josuke and Okuyasu had somehow talked themselves into believing that the person they were waiting for was a naturally blonde ethnic Japanese woman who lived in California and was secretly a mermaid. Rohan was rehearsing how he'd introduce himself and word his request in a way that wouldn't cause immediate horror and even lead to it being accepted. Koichi, the good child, had basically given up on talking any sense into anyone near him.

The PA system over the train platform announced the arrival of the incoming train, perfectly on time. Jotaro used one hand to hold onto the brim of his hat as the train blew by, the light winds kicked up by it ruffling his coat. Jolyne held tightly onto his other hand, as if she were afraid that she could be swept away by the winds.

The train slowed to a stop with a loud, unpleasant metal screeching. Letting out a sound that was something like a train's version of a relieved sigh, the doors to the cars slid open. Very few people got off, not like the trains in the busier, larger cities and towns of Japan. Morioh was not a place people went to or from regularly.

Jotaro watched as a few commuters exited the train, likely people who traveled to nearby towns for daily work. While Morioh was a small, tight knit town, it was likely that some of its residents had to seek economic opportunity elsewhere or there were some who weren't content with small town living and sought escape every now and then.

It doesn't take long to find who he's waiting for. Kakyoin Noriaki always stood out no matter where he was. As soon as he was off the train, Noriaki looked one way, then the other, his face brighting as soon as he saw Jotaro and Jolyne. Jolyne let go of Jotaro's hand to run at him and Noriaki knelt down to scoop her up into his arms.

"JoJo," Noriaki said and it's the first time in months that Jotaro's heard his voice in person. It just wasn't the same over the phone. "It's been a while, JoJo."

Jotaro responded by pulling him into a hug. A few years ago, he probably wouldn't have done this. Not in public. But now? He didn't give a shit who saw. He hasn't seen Noriaki in two months. He's allowed this at the very least. "Missed you," he murmured.

"Wait!" Josuke yelled from somewhere behind him, jogging up to the two of them. "Wait, wait, wait! I thought we were here to pick up Jotaro-san's fiancée?"

Rolling his eyes, Jotaro let go of Noriaki. "Josuke, this is Kakyoin Noriaki," he said, gesturing with one hand. "He is my fiancé."

Josuke was silent for a few seconds, his mind clearly trying to process what he was just told. At last, he blinked and said, "Oh...okay." And once he did, he was back to his usual self and giving Noriaki a polite bow. "I'm Higashikata Josuke. Nice to meet you."

It seemed that Josuke was learning quickly what kind of family the Joestars really was.

Chapter Text

Kishibe Rohan was staring.

Jotaro tried to ignore it at first, but if there was one thing Rohan refused to be, it was ignored. However, that didn't mean that Jotaro wasn't going to try his damn best. This was supposed to be his tender reunion with Noriaki and he was trying to have it. It wasn't working. Not with Rohan there, lurking ten meters behind him and gazing right through him. Rohan's stare was uncomfortably intense, one of the worst Jotaro's ever had to undergo his entire life. Even though he couldn't see it from his position, it was creeping him out big time.

"Jotaro," Noriaki whispered and Jotaro knew that he could feel it too. One didn't survive long as a Stand user without strong instincts. Their lives depended on it, and while Rohan probably wasn't going to harm them, it didn't mean he was pleasant to be around either. "It's not that I'm not completely elated to see you, but...that guy over there is making this extremely uncomfortable. Do you know him?"

A frustrated groan answered him. "Yeah. Fine. I'll see what he wants." And with no small amount of reluctance, he used a hand to beckon Rohan over. "What do you want, Rohan?"

"Just to say hello to your lovely fiancé," Rohan answered. "My name is Kishibe Rohan. A pleasure to meet you."

"Kakyoin Noriaki," Noriaki replied. "By Kishibe Rohan, you don't happen to mean the world famous creator of Pink Dark Boy, do you?"

Rohan examined his nails in an unbridled display of pure arrogance. "The one and the same."

"I expected you to be better looking."

Pure murderous intent enveloped Rohan's being, but despite the blatant insult to him, he did nothing but glare. Slowly, quietly, completely obviously, Jotaro moved to the side so that he was not directly in between both Kakyoin Noriaki and Kishibe Rohan. Despite what some people thought, he had a very strong sense of self preservation. Usually, said sense of self preservation told him to hit things until his self was sufficiently preserved, but by far, the wiser move here was to not be in the middle of this situation.

When it became clear that Rohan was not going to respond to his previous statement, Noriaki chucked. "I didn't expect to be meeting a celebrity in a small town such as this."

"This is my hometown," Rohan explained, and some of the menacing intent he was radiating diffused into thin air. "I recently moved back to find some inspiration for the next chapters."

"There's no place like home, as they say."

"But you're not unknown yourself," Rohan said. "Everyone here has been eagerly anticipating meeting Kujo Jotaro's mysterious fiancé for days now."

"Is that so?" Noriaki asked, giving Jotaro a glance. Jotaro fought the urge to shrink back a bit. "I hope he's been saying good things about me."

"He didn't say anything at all, actually."

Noriaki snorted. "That sounds like him." Jotaro pretended to not be listening to their conversation, leading Jolyne a few steps away to hand her off to Josuke. He had somehow gotten his young uncle to agree to watch her for a day so he could have some alone time with Noriaki, but.






"I assume you're a Stand user?" Rohan asked. "I became one myself recently. I know this is an odd request, but I'd like to ask: may I use it on you? It won't hurt as long as you follow my instructions."

Please go away, Rohan.

Noriaki seemed to be considering it, crossing his arms and tapping his own arm with one hand. "Do you mind my asking what it does?"

For the love of whoever the god of manga is, go away.

"Of course not," Rohan said with a flourish of his arms. "My Heaven's Door has the ability to read people's memories and their experiences like a book. I can even influence them or change them by writing in the pages. For example, if I write that a person will say, go flying backwards at seventy kilometers per hour, their body will do it despite the physical impossibility. Or if I write that they can speak a certain language, they will be able to do so fluently without taking a single lesson. I won't do any of that to you, obviously. I'm simply just interested in learning about you. You seem like such a fascinating person, Kakyoin-san."

"No," Jotaro firmly said, gathering what courage he had and making his way back to them. "You're not using your Stand on Noriaki."

A hand found its way to his shoulder. "JoJo," Noriaki said. "I appreciate it, but I am capable of making my own decisions." It made Jotaro pause. Rohan looked smug. Did that mean Noriaki was seriously considering letting Rohan use Heaven's Door on him? He didn't think that of all the people in the world, Noriaki might be the single one that would actually consent to having that thing used on him. He watched as Noriaki paused to clear his throat and looked Rohan straight in the eyes before saying, "No."

Rohan looked crushed at the rejection. "I promise I mean you no harm, I simply want to get to know you better."

"And I'd like that," Noriaki responded. "But I'd prefer to do that the old fashioned way, through communicating with our words. If you want to meet up sometime to talk, I would love to do that. After all, Kishibe-san," he leaned in close to purr, "I think you're fascinating as well." He pulled away, leaving Rohan to sputter uselessly and make his way towards the trio of teenagers. "Okuyasu-kun, do you mind helping me with my luggage?"

"Not at all, Kakyoin-san!"

Jotaro watched Rohan, who seemed to be undergoing an intense rollercoaster of emotions. Rohan's hands were clenched into fists and his entire body was shaking. His eyes were narrowed and glaring daggers at Noriaki and his teeth were grit.

"Are you okay?" Jotaro asked casually. "He likes being an asshole sometimes."

"" Rohan started and it looked as if he had no idea what he wanted to say. Before Jotaro could say anything else, however, Rohan positively exploded. "You're both insufferable! You deserve each other, smug bastards, the both of you!" He pointed an accusing finger at Jotaro. "That only makes you two all the more appealing! Rest assured, Kujo-san, I will get your stories! I will have you both!" And with that declaration, he stomped away radiating equal parts rage and determination.

Jotaro had no idea what just happened. He couldn't tell if Rohan liked them or hated them. However, he took comfort in the fact that this didn't seem to just be a him problem. Nobody seemed to be able to understand Kishibe Rohan. Was it an artist thing? He highly doubted it was an artist thing. Jotaro adjusted his hat and muttered a good grief under his breath. Move aside, Kakyoin Noriaki, for there was a new King of Mixed Signals.

"Dude, did you see that?" Okuyasu whispered to Josuke while holding a suitcase. "Kakyoin-san totally just owned Rohan there."

"Yeah," Josuke nodded, casting his eyes towards the direction Rohan went. Although Rohan was long gone, his presence could still be felt, as if he were still there. "Kakyoin-san is so cool."

Jotaro couldn't help but feel just a little bit jealous. They didn't look at him with the same kind of admiration. He just didn't understand how Noriaki was able to command respect from people while he couldn't.

But it wasn't like he could blame them.

Noriaki was the coolest. And the lamest. But still the coolest.

"Him and Jotaro-san," Josuke said in pure awe. "What a power couple."

Jotaro feel a little better.

The phone in the hotel suite rang.

"Jotaro!" Joseph's voice yelled. In his old age, he wasn't nearly as loud as he used to be, but the old man could still put out some volume if he really wanted to. "Jotaro! Josuke and I need help! You see, there's this baby and it's a Stand user and-"

"No," Jotaro said. "I'm off today. Ask Caesar for help." He hung up the phone. He turned to Noriaki, who had just finished shaking off the last traces of travel fatigue. "Noriaki, let's go out."

As it turned out, Morioh being a small, relatively unknown town didn't mean it was slow and quiet. There's always something happening in Morioh Town. There's always places to go and things to do. Jotaro found this out very quickly when he asked the trio of teenage boys he never wanted to be a mentor-slash-pseudo-parent-to-but-here-he-was for recommendations. It was a mistake to ask all three of them at once, because they started talking over each other in their eagerness to share their opinions.

But if that told him one thing, it was that they really loved their town. And they wanted Jotaro to love it too. Morioh reminded him of the little family friendly suburban area of Florida that he's lived in for the past several years. It also reminded him, just a bit, of his childhood home, less in aesthetic, but more in feeling. It didn't really look all that much like his hometown, but Morioh still somehow filled Jotaro with a sense of nostalgia, bringing him back to the days where the worst of his worries was getting good grades and trying to figure out how to avoid his little fanclub on the way to school. He never was able to successfully evade them.

As they passed a new local landmark, just down the street from the Higashikata house, Jotaro raised a hand in lazy greeting. "Hey, Angelo."

"JoJo, are you saying hello to a rock?" Noriaki asked.


Noriaki stopped, looking at the large, strange rock in the sidewalk. "What is this anyway? Why is there a random huge rock here in the middle of the street?"

"It's Angelo."

Noriaki took a few steps closer and leaned over to look at it. "I can't believe it has a name. It's the ugliest fucking rock I've ever seen. I didn't know rocks could be repulsive, but you learn something new every day. It's almost like it's staring at me. Is this someone's street art or something?"

"You could say that," Jotaro shrugged. "It's new. Just went up a couple weeks ago, a few days after I got here. Josuke says it's getting popular with local couples."

"It's a good thing we're not local then, because it's awful," Noriaki said, turning away from the Angelo Stone in mild scorn. Jotaro thought he was getting a little too worked up over a rock, but he was going to keep that to himself. Part of a successful relationship was knowing when to bite your tongue and it wasn't like Noriaki was wrong: Angelo was hideous in more ways than one.

Angelo moaned, the sound muffled by the layers of stone to the point where it was just only barely audible.

"Did you hear something, Jotaro?"

"No. Let's go."

Okuyasu swore by a local Italian restaurant run by a Stand user. Although Jotaro was apprehensive at first, it seemed that the owner wasn't doing anybody any harm. The Speedwagon Foundation didn't make a habit of bothering Stand users who weren't causing trouble as more and more people with Stands were beginning to emerge as the years went by. It simply wasn't possible to do even with the Foundation's frankly ridiculous amount of resources and even if it was, it was a waste.

The food was amazing, even by their high standards. Thanks to his Italian heritage, grandparents, and frequent trips to Italy, Jotaro became quite familiar with what qualified as good Italian food and this Tonio Trussardi certainly was up to the task. But even if the food wasn't good, Jotaro thought he would still have enjoyed it. It's been months since he last saw Noriaki and the ability to sit down together and reconnect after so much time apart was invaluable and by far the most important part of this outing.

It made him feel both young and old at the same time. It reminded him of the dates they would go on in the early years of their relationship, where it felt like that nothing mattered in the world aside from each other, but it also brought him the comforting feeling of being with his long time partner. Many years ago, Jotaro felt that nobody in the world understood him. Nowadays, he knew that it wasn't true. There were many people who did understand him: how he thought and how he felt. He had just refused to let them get close. But even with this small circle of people who really did get who Kujo Jotaro was, nobody understood him better than Kakyoin Noriaki.

When Jotaro awoke early the next morning, with Noriaki still asleep beside him, instead of getting up and out of bed like he usually did, he pulled the blankets back over himself and went back to sleep.

Traveling was hard. Even though Jotaro probably could be considered one of the most well traveled people in the world, it never got any easier. Travel technology had yet to become not awful and it's always an odd sensation to wake up in a room that isn't your own. Living out of a suitcase for an extended amount of time wears a person out and there's always a point where he just wanted to go back home.

But with his family beside him, he would always be home.

The momentary peace was bound to end quickly. Jotaro knew it was coming, although he didn't know exactly when. He and the other Joestars were still in Morioh to tie up supposed loose ends, dealing with Stand users and figuring out how to bring Josuke properly into the Joestar clan without disrupting his life too much, when Josuke called in a panic. Josuke had called Jotaro multiple times over the past few weeks, and most of the time, it was for trivial bullshit like complaining about whatever ridiculous things Joseph was doing that particular day, but this time it was a legitimate emergency.

Recently, Josuke and Okuyasu had befriended a middle school student by the name of Yanguu Shigekiyo, a short and stubby little thing who had an uncanny resemblance to a durian fruit and appeared to have a perpetual cold. Jotaro knew of him, having met him during the life changing space and time journey over a decade ago and from what he was told way back then, a terrible fate had fallen upon the poor kid.

But this time it was different. When Jotaro made his fateful wish, Shigekyo's life was saved as well. Unfortunately, it didn't mean that everything was perfectly dandy for him.

"Shigechi was attacked!" Josuke shouted at him as soon as he picked up the reciever. "By some sicko! He stumbled into my classroom all bloody and awful. Jotaro-san, it was the worst thing I'd ever seen! He was about to die! I...I..."

Josuke went quiet and Jotaro, worried, prompted him. "You what, Josuke?"

"I healed him," Josuke whispered. "I...I saved him."

It did not take a genius to figure out why Josuke was nearly the verge of a breakdown, and Jotaro suddenly sorely wished that he was at Josuke's side right at that moment. Instead, he had to settle for the next best thing. "I'm proud of you, Josuke." And he really was.

"I think," Josuke said, speaking in a quiet voice. "I think I understand what you meant back then, when you said my Stand was special. That it was the kind of Stand that you'd want to have. I think I get it now. How you feel."

If there was anyone who was a master at using his Stand creatively, it was Higashikata Josuke. Jotaro has seen him repair the most unconventional items to his advantage, attack and heal so quickly that the target didn't even notice it, or use the power to heal to hurt, but it was rare to see him use Crazy Diamond's abilities in its simplest and purest form: to save a person.

He remembered Josuke telling him he had done it successfully once, when Koichi's throat had been pierced by that cursed bow and arrow. But back then, part of Josuke had been driven by his rage at the Nijimura brothers. Here, in this case, there was no enemy to worry about. No desire to kick somebody's ass getting in the way. Just Josuke and a person who needed his help. Nothing to focus on except how much he needed to save a person's life.

"You don't get it," Jotaro told him. "It's not your fault." Jotaro paused, looking out of the suite's huge windows onto the incredible view of Morioh it offered. "The reason you don't understand is because I haven't told you everything."

Josuke meant well and Jotaro knew it, but they've only known each other for a couple weeks and while they've had their fair share of misadventures together, it wasn't the same as Egypt, when he spent nearly every moment with Joseph, Avdol, Polnareff, and Kakyoin. (Iggy didn't count because the bastard dog often went on his own for hours at a time.) There was a lot that Josuke didn't know about him and conversely, a lot he didn't know about Josuke.

Now just wasn't a great time to drop his life story on Josuke. He had been intending on doing that later.

"Anyway, shouldn't your priority be finding the one who did this to Shigekiyo?"

"Oh!" Josuke gasped. "Yeah! That bastard's gotta pay. We can't have someone like him running around unchecked in this town! Who knows who he might go after next? Anyway guess what, Shigechi has a clue on him! He was able to use his Stand to grab a part of the guy's clothes!"

All of this, Jotaro realized, was unnecessary. All of this detective work. He's encountered Morioh's mystery killer before in the past, again while jumping in and out of the light rifts. There was just one tiny, major problem.

He couldn't remember the guy's name. Not only that, there was some kind of weird complication that he didn't understand. There was two of the guy. One of them wearing another man's face. And Josuke, back then, had tried to explain it to him but often, words just can't properly convey the nature of Stands, especially not when time and space bullshit apparently made a clone of the guy.

And to make things even more complicated, the other Josuke was looking for the guy too. Except his situation seemed to be completely different and unrelated to the Morioh murders.

Just thinking about it was giving Jotaro a headache.

"So we'll meet up, right?" Josuke asked. "Here, I'll tell you the address."

Jotaro didn't know where they were meeting up, but as long as he had the address he'd probably find it okay. Using a nearby pen and paper, both branded with the hotel's name and logo, he jotted down the address and hoped that he'd be able to find wherever it was they were going to go soon.

The door to the suite opened and closed and Jotaro turned his head to see both Noriaki and Jolyne with shopping bags in their hands.

"Hey, Jotaro," Noriaki said as he moved to put his bags on the table in the middle of the room. "I met a weird guy today."

"Never mind that," Jotaro said as he hung up the phone. "Josuke just called. There's trouble."

Noriaki narrowed his eyes. "Stand trouble?"

"Stand trouble."

"I see," Noriaki responded. "Well, I'll ask Joseph and Caesar if they can watch Jolyne for us." A quick phone call and a few minutes later, Jolyne was safely in the care of her great grandparents. "So about that weird guy," he continued as he waited for Jotaro to put on his coat. "He was salaryman, if his clothes and his briefcase were any indication. Anyway, he just comes up to me and randomly tells me I have nice hands. Total creep."

Hands. Hands...something about that made Jotaro feel like he should have been remembering something. He grabbed the key to their suite and followed Noriaki out the door and down the hallway towards the hotel's elevator. All the while, Noriaki continued to talk about the creepy stranger he met that morning.

"He said he wanted to look at my hands. I told him no, of course."

The elevator doors chimed and opened and Jotaro pushed the button for the ground floor.

"I think he said his name was Kira Yoshikage?"


Kira Yoshikage.

Jotaro's eyes widened in recognition. Shit, that was the guy's name! Josuke had told him about Kira over a decade ago while they were all huddled in a Florida prison. At the time, it was difficult to comprehend because spoken word really just did not do these kinds of things justice. He only really understood that Kira Yoshikage was a killer and hands were important for some reason.

"Noriaki," he said. "Tell me everything you can remember about that guy."

From what the rattled, but safe Shigekiyo told them, the one that attacked him did so because he had accidentally stolen the man's bag thinking it was his own bag of food. Except instead of food, there was a severed human arm inside.

It turned out that Kira Yoshikage was someone with a severe hand fetish. A fetish so powerful it drove him to murder. He'd pick a person with a suitably "beautiful" hands and lure them in with charm and his appearance. It was easy to see how he'd easily hook his victims: he was a relatively good looking man with impeccable manners, good grooming, and had a well-paying job working in Morioh's business district. Once alone, Kira would murder his victim and slice off one of the arms at the elbow and preserve it then proceed to treat it like a significant other. He would take it on "dates" and even give it gifts of perfume or jewelry until the limb began to rot. He'd then toss the appendage and repeat the process all over again.

Once they had figured all this out, everyone's thoughts were the same: What the everloving fuck!?

The victims had been women up until now, but apparently a man would do if he had sufficiently pretty hands. Kira's interest in hands seemingly meant he was only interested in hands. He couldn't care less about the rest of the body those hands were attached to. That was probably why he had taken to murder and dismemberment in the first place.

Morioh's murder rate was said to be eight times the national average. Kira was probably the main contributor to that.

And since Shigekiyo forced Kira to abandon his current hand, he was probably on the lookout for a new one.

That meant the natural target was...

"I'm not going to get murdered, Jotaro," Noriaki growled at him.

"You've been murdered before," Jotaro pointed out.

"Okay one," Noriaki said, reaching out with a finger to poke Jotaro in the chest. "In all technicality, that never happened. And two, I'm very glad you are now in a mentally in a place where you can not only think about that without having a panic attack, but also bring it up in casual conversation and in this case, arguments."

It was sort of a taboo topic between the two of them, the alternate past where Kakyoin Noriaki died at the age of seventeen, brutally killed by Dio Brando in a fight that he would have won if Dio didn't have the one exact power that let him win that fight. They both knew it happened ever since Jotaro confessed it as the big secret he had been hiding for almost two years. Jotaro would think that after a few years, it wouldn't hurt as much. In reality, Jotaro would still like to not talk about it. In this case, it had sort of just slipped out. It turns out that you don't really get over your first and best friend (who was also the person you loved but you were too dense to realize it at the time) dying even if you managed to get a cosmic do over to fix that.

They had managed to track Kira down and would have had him, were it not for the interference of Kira's Stand using ghost father and that was a situation that even Jotaro would have never believed would happen.

"Okuyasu-kun," Noriaki said once it was clear that the argument was done. "Why didn't you use your Stand to bring the photograph to us so we could capture him?"

"Huh?" Okuyasu grunted, looking terribly confused. "You mean, use The Hand to scoop away the space and bring Kira's ghost picture dad to...oh."

Noriaki looked like he was trying his best to not lose his temper. It was only just barely working.

"Go easy on him," Jotaro whispered. "He's...not the brightest." He had heard that Josuke defeated Okuyasu by tricking him into scooping a flower pot into his own face. Jotaro didn't see it happen, but he was one hundred percent willing to believe that it did.

Enough was apparently enough, however, and Noriaki decided to give mandatory Stand using lessons. Jotaro would say he was overreacting, but it was true. They'd have Kira's ghost photograph father in custody if Okuyasu had thought to use The Hand to capture it and because of that, the trail on Kira had gone cold. It wasn't just for Okuyasu. Josuke and Koichi were also required to attend and it also extended to others as well. Shigekiyo was there and Yukako showed up without fuss when she found out Koichi would be attending as well.

"I don't see why I have to be here," Rohan muttered.

"Because I said so," Noriaki snarled. Rohan glared at him with what Jotaro could only describe as a mixture of both hate and admiration. If Rohan truly didn't want to attend, Jotaro figured, he could have just not shown up. "How many times have we had to bail you out of trouble now?"

"An artist's curiosity can't be contained!" Rohan replied, crossing his arms and turning the snobbery up to maximum levels.

"No, it's because you're a fucking idiot," Noriaki shot back. "Now excuse me while I talk to someone less stupid and more useful than you. Okuyasu-kun, what exactly are the limits of your Stand?"

Once Noriaki had accepted the limits of Okuyasu's mental abilities, he became far more tolerant and patient with him. He helped the boy figure out how to better put The Hand to use, not just using it to bring people and objects closer to him, but to make use of the momentum that the act of scraping space away provided.

Seeing that he was probably not going to be involved in the training unless he was called upon, Jotaro focused instead on trying to figure out how to find Kira again. Kira had not only abandoned his home, but the murder of the Stand using beautician Tsuji Aya meant that he probably forced her to change his face before killing her and he was likely going under a new name as well. From all observations, Kira was the methodical type and chances were he decided to kill someone and assume their identity as that would be the safest way to hide. Morioh was a small town and a stranger would attract too much attention. If he kept up with that person's routines, it would be even harder to find him.

It was a dilemma. One he couldn't solve. Meanwhile, Speedwagon agents were combing Kira's house for any clues and found the remains of several bodies hidden on the property. Jotaro didn't even want to think about it. Something about what Kira was doing made him seem more repulsive than Dio, even though it wasn't logical. Dio's killed plenty of people himself. Probably more than Kira, but at least Dio had a goal in mind, a twisted wicked goal he was working towards.

Kira Yoshikage, instead, was a monster indulging in murderous hedonism.

He had to be stopped.

"Hey, Jotaro-san."

Jotaro turned away from his thoughts and towards Josuke, who Noriaki had deemed the best at using his Stand out of their group and thus was being made to wait his turn while Noriaki attended to the ones who most needed help first. He had a comb in one hand and was running it through his hair for reasons Jotaro couldn't comprehend. It looked fine. Not even a strand out of place.

"When you said I didn't understand," Josuke began. "what did you mean?"

"It's a really long story," Jotaro said. "And it's kind of...unbelievable."

"I have time," Josuke said. "So try me."

Jotaro weighed his options. It was pretty likely he wouldn't be able to finish the story, but it wouldn't hurt to start it, he supposed. He was going to have to tell Josuke about this eventually. "Alright then. Would you believe that we met before I came here?"

Kira Yoshikage was dead after a long, drawn out battle. He had been found with a combination of sleuthing and the efforts of a small, but brave child whose family was being held hostage by Kira. Jotaro was just glad they didn't have to resort to trying to use Noriaki as bait. It wasn't the outcome anyone was hoping for. They couldn't really call it justice when they didn't truly capture Kira so he could answer for his crimes. It wasn't like Dio, who was an immortal vampire on top of being a Stand user; Kira was human, which was simultaneously better and worse, and the fact that he now wasn't going to have his misdeeds exposed for the world to see felt wrong.

Kira was simply going to fade away. Quietly, just like the man claimed he liked. It almost felt like giving him what he wanted, aside from the whole "dead" part.

Their business in Morioh finally done, it was time for the visitors to head back to the United States.

"Don't think you've seen the last of me," Rohan told both Jotaro and Noriaki and Jotaro couldn't tell if that was a promise to visit or a threat on their lives.

"Bye, Dad," Josuke said, giving Joseph a hug. "Bye, uh...Other Dad."

"Just Caesar is fine," Caesar replied, amused.

"Come visit us in America," Noriaki said. "We'll help pay if money's a problem."

"I think I will," Josuke replied. "Oh, but you're getting married soon, right? Send me an invite."

"Of course. We wouldn't dream of excluding you," Noriaki said. "We haven't had any time to plan, however, so we'll likely have to push it back."

They should have expected this from the start. There wasn't much they could do to speed up the process either. From everything Jotaro's heard, weddings were a logistical nightmare regardless of income level, status, and everything else. They were naturally high stress inducing events and he was starting to wonder why they were even bothering with one. It's not like weddings were required. Hell, it wasn't even like he and Noriaki could get married in a legal sense.

But then he saw Noriaki and Josuke laughing together at some sort of joke, Okuyasu thanking Noriaki for his help with improving his Stand abilities, Koichi shyly saying he was going to miss them, and Rohan lingering nearby being his usual indecipherable Kishibe Rohan self and he realized why. A wedding is just as much for the attendees as it was for the couple. It was an event where friends and families gathered together to celebrate life.

"Make sure to invite Okuyasu and Koichi too."

Well, that was a few more names to add to the guest list. Without any prompting, Jotaro decided to go ahead and add Rohan as well.

Jolyne ran to each of their Morioh friends, giving them hugs and tearful goodbyes. Even Rohan allowed it despite looking like he was physically allergic to children. Speaking of children...

"Gramps," Jotaro said, looking over his shoulder at Joseph. "What are you going to do with that baby you found?"

"I think," Joseph said quietly. "That I'm going to take her."

"Are you serious?" Although Jotaro's always figured that Joseph was a questionable parent at best, his concern was actually more about Joseph's well being. Joseph Joestar was old. Was he really in any shape to be taking care of an infant? What about when the child got older?

"Don't worry about me, Jotaro," Joseph smiled, holding the baby in both arms as Josuke helped him load his luggage. "I have Suzie and Caesar to help me."

There was no use in arguing, Jotaro quickly realized. Joseph Joestar was old and frail, but he was no less headstrong than he was in his youth. He was determined to adopt this baby, and Jotaro couldn't help but wonder if it was because of lingering guilt over not being there for Josuke. "At least name her."

"I've already got one in mind," Joseph said. "How does Shizuka sound to you?"

Jotaro paused. There was a time, over a decade ago, where Joseph would turn his nose up at anything even remotely Japanese (with the sole exception of his Walkman). Joseph had rejected Jotaro's Japanese father, and whether it was true or not, Jotaro had felt rejected as a child as well.

And now Joseph Joestar had a Japanese son that he was embracing, and he was going to give this baby girl a Japanese name.

"Shizuka Joestar. It sounds great."

Chapter Text

Naples, Italy is one of the oldest inhabited areas in the world, having been settled as a port colony by the ancient Greeks roughly four thousand years ago. It has gone by many names such as Parthenope and Neápolis and has played a pivotal role in history and the development western culture as a whole. Situated on the western coast of the country, it is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in all of Italy.

A young teenager returned to his dorm after a long day. Despite his youth, he's quite self sufficient. With little to no support from either his mother or his stepfather, he was forced to mature quickly and learn to fend for himself and for someone like him, so young and without a solid foundation of support, that meant a life of petty crime. It was more than just pickpocketing, cons, and scams, the seedy underbelly of Naples demanded more than just sweet talk and swift fingers, it was also about relationships and networking.

Here, crime was a business. One with its own set of rules, laws, and obligations. It was an entire second world that existed at the same time and in the same place, yet was invisible to the average person. The young man always paid his dues in full and on time and because of it, the police happily look the other way and pretend they've never seen him before. They pretend they don't know his name and they pretend they don't have an unwritten contract between them. Bribes cut into his income and leave him with just enough to sustain himself, but it's better than prison, for he can't afford to be incarcerated. He didn't see himself being a petty thief forever, fighting with other small time criminals for meager scraps on the outskirts of society. He was someone who dreams, and his dreams were grand and large, enveloped in the golden glow of hope.

It was what kept him going, because without a dream, he had nothing else.

It's not an easy life. But it's the only one he knew, and thus he never complained, never felt entitled to anything more. He didn't expect the world to give him anything, instead, he needed to grasp it for himself. Money, respect, status, those were all things that had to be earned. Even life itself was something that one had to struggle and fight for. Such was the way of the world.

Closing the door to his room behind him, he flicked the light switch on, for it was late afternoon and the sun would soon be setting. His room was nothing special. It was plain and contained only the standard furnishings that came with it. And in that sense, that was why it was far from ordinary. There was nothing to suggest anything about the room's occupant. Posters didn't hang on the walls. Pictures of friends and family were nowhere to be found. The only books on the standard issue desk made from cheap, unfinished wood were his school texts.

It was empty, for if there was something that this young man wanted, more than riches, more than respect, more than life itself, it was identity. To feel as if he knew himself and his place in the world. His own life was one shrouded in mystery, in strange and unusual events that his own mother would never tell him about. He had already decided long ago that he would choose who he was and the person he would be in the future, but that didn't erase his desire to learn about his past, to look into his mysterious father and feel less like a part of him was missing.

But that's not something he figured he would learn anytime soon. Not today. Reaching into his pockets, he used one hand to pull out his ill gotten gains for the day, lire he's stolen or swindled from tourists and the naive. He dropped them onto the table haphazardly, intending to sort through them later. He was tired. With that same hand, he reached up to tug on a hair tie that held together the loose braid he kept his hair in, pulling it off and letting the blond strands of his hair free. They're long, reaching down just a little past his shoulders and down towards his shoulder blades. Sometimes he thought about getting it cut. It would be easier to care for and more than once, someone's tried to grab his hair as he made a quick escape, but he always decided against it. He had shorter hair when he was younger and he rather liked the way it was now. He just had to deal with the complications that longer hair brought with it.

Dropping the hair tie onto the desk alongside the money, he looked at his other hand, which held a letter. It's not often he got mail, so to find out that there was one waiting for him as he returned to the dorm was a surprise. At first, he thought it might be a mistake. It's not uncommon for mail to get mixed up and he would have delivered it to the correct recipient, but his name was printed on the envelope clearly. There's multiple stamps and postmarks on it, suggesting it was a letter from overseas. Further inspection, mainly of the return address, revealed it to be from the United States of America.

He didn't recognize the address and there wasn't a name to go with it. He had no idea why someone across the Atlantic would be writing to him. He didn't even know any Americans. So, carefully, to avoid getting a papercut, he opened it. Inside was a piece of stationary folded neatly into thirds, and once unfolded, he could see it was made from expensive paper stock and decorated with embossed designs and patterns in platinum and green. They shine in the light of his room, catching his eyes before he actually reads the text. Despite coming from America, it's written in Italian in a fancy font.

Noriaki Kakyoin and Jotaro Kujo

Request the honor of your presence on their wedding day.

Surely this must be some sort of mistake. He didn't know a Noriaki Kakyoin nor did he know a Jotaro Kujo. The letter went on to mention a date and a location. This wedding would be taking place about two months from now and it was a destination wedding to take place in Japan. Fitting, he supposed, because both of those names were Japanese. They probably lived in America if the return address and the postmarks were any indication. He wished them happiness in their upcoming union, but again, he didn't know these people.

Still, this was addressed specifically to him. It was his name on the envelope, sent specifically to the dorm that he lived in. It couldn't possibly be the result of the most bizarre postal mistake to ever happen.

A knock on his door distracted him from the conundrum. Even rarer than mail were visitors. Even though most people his age were keen on socializing, he didn't have much in the way of friends. At most, he had acquaintances: classmates who knew his name, but no one he would consider himself even remotely close to. He wasn't interested in getting close to them, keeping them at arm's length was enough.

He thought he'd perhaps ignore it, but the knocks came again, this time more insistent. While he could escape out of his own window, that seemed like a bit of an extreme reaction. It was probably just someone who had the wrong room. Other people got visitors frequently. All he had to do was open the door and direct whoever was on the other side to wherever it was they were really heading. With a hand on knob, he twisted it and pulled it open.

On the other side was perhaps one of the largest men he's ever seen. Almost two meters tall and built like a Greek statue. He's Japanese, mostly, with a few features that suggested a mixed heritage. It's a subject the young man knew quite a bit about, although he cared not to think of it. The stranger wore a heavy coat, unbuttoned, and on his head was a white hat adorned with several golden pins. Even with the other man's size, even with his ethnicity, even with his clothes, the most striking feature about the stranger on the other side of the door was his eyes. They were a beautiful shade of turquoise that made him think of the ocean. Not the enveloping deep blue of Naples, but the turquoise of the tropical seas that he's only seen in pictures.

A beautiful shade of turquoise that mirrored his own.

"May I help you?" he asked the stranger. He was prepared to give him directions to whichever dorm room was his real destination.

"Giorno Giovanna," the stranger said. He was surprised to hear his own name. And not only that, the stranger said it with absolute confidence, as if he knew exactly who he was speaking to. Who was this, and what did he want? Suspicion clouded the young man's eyes and he simply stared at the stranger for a few seconds. Caution was an important trait when one lived with one foot in the criminal underworld. Someone he didn't know knowing who he was could be a bad sign. The stranger waited patiently for a reply and was very clearly not going to leave until he got one.

"I'm sorry," the boy, Giorno Giovanna, finally said. "Do I know you?"

He surely did not, because he would absolutely remember a man who looked like that.

"Yes, and no," came the reply. It was nonsense.

"Did someone send you here?"


"I don't know how you know me," he said. "but please leave." He began to shut the door only to find it being held open by the mysterious man. Instincts told him that he should run. Do that window escape that he had thought about earlier. How quick was this person, he wondered. If he bolted, how long did he have to get the window open before he would be caught? Perhaps he should try to squeeze past the man instead to run down the hallway.

The man switched to Japanese. "Or should I call you Shiobana Haruno?"

He should have pretended he didn't know Japanese. Just give him a blank stare. But instead, he froze. No one has spoken Japanese to him in a while. Nobody has called him by that name for longer.

"Who are you?" he finally asked.

"Oh," the man said, looking thoughtful. "I should have introduced myself sooner." His Italian was decent, but he clearly wasn't completely fluent in it. He sounded like someone who picked up on the language through exposure rather than any formal teaching. It's not bad. Perfectly understandable, if a bit slow. "My name is Jotaro Kujo."

Jotaro Kujo.

One of the names on that wedding invitation he got. The young man's eyes strayed to this Jotaro's left hand where what he assumed was an engagement ring rested on the fourth finger.

"Why are you here?" he asked. He couldn't understand what any of this meant. He received an invitation to a wedding and no sooner than he had opened it, one of the people getting married showed up at his door.

"Did you get my invitation?" Jotaro asked instead, then saw said invitation still being held in his hand in a weak grip. "Good. I don't know how long it takes for mail to get to Italy from the States. I was going to ask you in person if it hadn't arrived yet."

"Why are you here?" the teenager repeated.

Jotaro paused, then turned away momentarily, hand underneath his chin as if he were thinking about what he wanted to say. The pause was only a few seconds long, but the wait was excruciating. It felt as if entire minutes had passed and never had a single minute felt so long. "You don't remember it," Jotaro finally said. "But many years ago, you said to me, "after all this is over, come visit me in Napoli." I said I would, so here I am."

"How long ago was this?"

"Over ten years ago, and also never." A few moments of silence hovered between them. Jotaro sighed. "It's complicated, okay?"

"Clearly." There was nothing Giorno wanted more than for this awkward conversation to be over. He didn't let his discomfort show, however. Weakness wasn't tolerable, not with the life he led. Not with the life he was planning to lead. "And you want me to attend your wedding?"

"Yeah," Jotaro replied, entirely too casually. "We'll help arrange travel if you need it."

"I must ask," Giorno said. "Why me?" It was clear that this Jotaro Kujo knew him, or at least he thought he did.

Up until now, Jotaro seemed a bit distant, as if he had been distracted during this entire encounter. His body language was slack, and he seemed like he was thinking about something else the entire time. But now he was focused, standing up straight and looking directly at Giorno with those turquoise eyes that were as clear as a Caribbean sea. Now that they were trained directly on him, he could feel how intense they were. Jotaro Kujo could probably stare a man into submission. It took seemingly forever, but at last, Jotaro started to speak. "Because we're family."

Giorno froze. His entire body seized up, as if he'd become a tree. His feet felt like roots that were permanently embedded into the floor. While he's been contemplating running away from Jotaro this entire time, he could no longer do that. Not after hearing that.

"Don't ask how," Jotaro said. "I don't know. It's already complicated and you're an extra special case."

Giorno swallowed. "You're not lying to me, are you?"

Quietly, Jotaro shrugged off the white jacket he was wearing and pulled at the collar of his shirt before leaning over to show Giorno his left shoulder, revealing a dark star imprinted onto his skin right below his neck. It was so perfectly shaped it almost looked like a tattoo. "I know you have this too."

Instinctively, Giorno's hand went to his own shoulder and once he felt his hand touch where his own mark lay hidden underneath his clothes, he reprimanded himself for the action. He didn't like doing things unintentionally. One wrong move may cost him his life one day. He was just lucky that Jotaro, strange and mysterious as he was, didn't seem to be here to cause him any harm.

"Everyone in our bloodline has it," Jotaro continued. "We can tell you about it. We can also teach you about your powers."

If Giorno was surprised at Jotaro knowing his name, he was absolutely flabbergasted at Jotaro knowing about his "power." The one that's made itself known only very recently. He's carefully kept it hidden to himself ever since he became aware of it. Nobody was supposed to know about it. He's only used it in the complete privacy of his dorm room, with the door locked and the shutters closed. There was absolutely no possible way for Jotaro to know about his power.

Unless this was somehow hereditary. And if it was, that must mean that Jotaro was telling him the truth about being related.

It's almost too much of a revelation for him to take. But Giorno Giovanna, despite his age, had a will made iron that's been smelted in the forge that was his life, refined, and forged into a form that allowed him to continue living with his head held high and his ambitions lofty. Even so, he was still nearly overwhelmed. The missing half of his family showing up one day out of nowhere was one thing he never expected to happen in his lifetime.

"We can..." Jotaro hesitated, as if he didn't want to say whatever it was he was going to say next. He looked conflicted, concerned, almost as if his next words could be dangerous. "...we can tell you about your father."

This could not be real. It couldn't possibly be real. It felt too easy. Too convenient. Giorno has always figured that he'd either never learn about his father's side of the family or he would have to fight for every little scrap of information that was out there. Instead, Jotaro Kujo was here in his doorway offering to tell him everything. It felt like something out of a play. It seemed like, to use crude terms, bullshit.

But he wanted to believe it.

He can't quite believe it just yet.

But he wanted to.

He wanted to so badly.

"Well then," he said. "Mr. Kujo, you came all the way here just to see me. It would be a shame for you to leave without seeing everything that Napoli has to offer. Is there anything you would like to do?"

He wanted to trust Jotaro, and to find out if he could or not, he would extend to him a polite invitation. Jotaro seemed to consider it, no doubt wondering if this was some kind of trick as well. But there was no trick here, at least not yet. For now, Giorno simply wanted to see if he could get to know Jotaro Kujo, his supposed relative, better and judge his character.

"Then, Giorno," Jotaro said, and that was only the second time he's said Giorno's name. "I'd like to go shopping. Will you show me around?"

Jotaro Kujo, Giorno learned, is a person who is both simple and complex. He worked as a scientist and really liked the ocean if his comments about how nice the view of the sea was were any indication. He appeared to want for little, not because he was wealthy, but because his desires were mostly modest. He wasn't very interested in buying things for himself, but rather for the people he cared about. He stepped into a Gucci store to buy a small purse for his young daughter, who was named Jolyne, and he browsed the shoe racks for his uncle, who he said was named Josuke.

Although he had apparently already decided ahead of time to buy his daughter a purse and his uncle a pair of shoes, he seemed a little more lost over what to get his fiancé, the Noriaki Kakyoin whose name was printed on the wedding invitation that Giorno left on his desk in his dorm room. Giorno watched as Jotaro went through the racks of clothing in deep concentration, clearly determined to find that perfect gift. Giorno thought he should probably help, but it quickly became apparent that there was little help that could be given.

He would ask what Noriaki liked to wear and Jotaro would simply reply something vague like, "I think he's been leaning towards dress shirts lately."

Did he have a favorite brand? "No."

What colors did he want? "Probably not green. He has too much green stuff already."

There was little Giorno could do but hope that Jotaro would miraculously find that one thing. He did find a thing, but that thing wasn't the gift he was looking for.

"That's a nice coat," Giorno said, peeking around Jotaro to look at what had caught his attention. It's navy blue with golden buttons and very nice looking. "But I don't think that will fit him." Jotaro had said that Noriaki was a bit shorter than he was.

"I wasn't thinking about getting it for him," Jotaro said. "It's just...this reminded me of something. A gift I got once. From some family. It looked just like this."

Giorno wondered if he meant that literally, or if it was something that was extremely similar. Probably the latter. The forerunners of fashion only kept the latest designs out on their sales floors.

"I didn't ask for it," Jotaro continued. "They got it because they said they wanted to do something nice for me."

It's clear that Jotaro was not used to people doing things for him or getting him gifts. Or, maybe, that's how he was some undetermined amount of time in the past. The way he spoke implied that this previous gift was given to him years ago. Giorno wondered how long ago it was. Five years? Perhaps ten. "Why don't you get it for yourself?" he suggested. "It would look good on you and it seems to bring you good memories."

He was kind of jealous. It must be nice to see something that reminds you of good memories.

It must be nice having good memories to be reminded of.

If Giorno chose to trust Jotaro, if he chose to believe him...would he be able to have good memories to look back on ten years from now?

"That sounds like a good idea," Jotaro said, pulling the coat off the rack to hang it off his arm. It took another ten minutes for him to finally find something for his fiancé. Jotaro paid for his purchases and Giorno saw bills upon bills of lire in his wallet.

He wondered if he could possibly liberate some of them from Jotaro. Not that he was going to try it; he didn't want to foster ill will between them and Jotaro didn't look like the type of person who could be easily pickpocketed. However, that didn't stop Giorno from wondering if he could.

"Mr. Kujo," he said as they exited the store. "What exactly is your family like?"

His family was the Joestars, although that may change soon. According to Jotaro, the number of people in the family who were actually named Joestar was dwindling. There was only the family's elders left along with an adopted daughter who would be the sole bearer of the Joestar name once the elders passed away. The Joestar name, it seemed, was going to come to an end. Already, there was no one related by blood who had the name unless one of the others decided they were going to change their name.

"So you may be the Kujo family soon?" Giorno asked.

"Maybe. That feels weird though," Jotaro replied. "There's already a "Kujo family." My father's side of my family. My mother is next in line to become the head of the Joestars. Then if I'm still around, it'll probably pass to me."

He spoke as if he wouldn't be surprised if he died before his mother.

Giorno would also not be surprised if he himself died before his mother.

"Will you really tell me about my father?" Giorno asked.

"Yeah," Jotaro said. "But not today. Or tomorrow. It's..."


"I didn't want to repeat myself again, but yeah."

He didn't really expect Jotaro to tell him about his father then and there. Not for free. Everybody always wants something. That was a lesson Giorno has learned over the years. No matter how good someone's intentions, no matter how pure their souls, everyone has wants. It didn't matter if what they wanted was money, power, or just to do a good thing, in the end, it's all desire. Even the most altruistic of actions have a sense of selfishness to them. Jotaro seemed like a good enough person, but he wasn't going to tell Giorno what he wanted so easily.

"I haven't asked this yet," Giorno said. "but what do you want from me?" From everything he can see, Jotaro lived a nice life. He had plenty of money, a job he liked, supportive relatives, and his own family. Since want is what drives the human condition, what was it that Jotaro wanted? What could possibly be missing? What was it that he, Giorno Giovanna, a lone kid in Italy with little to his name, could give him?

Jotaro looked confused. "I want you to attend my wedding," he said, as if it was obvious. "You're family. Really distant family, but family. More importantly though, I like you. I know it's weird. I show up out of nowhere acting like I know you when you have no idea who I am or who the Joestars are. I'm not asking you to leave Naples or change how you want to live your life. I know you've already planned out your own future. I'm just asking if I can be..." he frowned, apparently internally grappling with himself. "...if I can be part of it."

Despite the fact that he refused to budge hours ago, now Jotaro looked as if he wanted nothing more than to leave. His hand reached up for his hat, holding onto the bill. To Giorno, it looked to be a nervous habit, one that looked pretty well ingrained in Jotaro's being. Even though he reached up to grab it, Jotaro did nothing with it. He didn't take it off or pull at it or anything else, just held it between his fingers.

"You don't have to come if you don't want to. It's just an invitation. You can say no. We're sorry- I'm sorry that it took us so long to find and contact you. I just want you to know that we're here, that I'm here, if you want us."

If Jotaro Kujo was a liar, he was a damn good one.

"Mr. Kujo," Giorno said softly, quietly, with the kindness he usually kept hidden from the world. Giorno Giovanna had a will made of steel, smelted in the forge that was his life, but behind that will, he's still a lost teenager struggling to find his place. And Jotaro, too, despite being much older, seemed to still be looking for places he belonged to as well. "I'd be happy to attend your wedding."

And at that moment, he chose to believe Jotaro Kujo.