Actions

Work Header

Keep On

Work Text:

Keep On

 

Dio’s Stand. The World.

They didn’t see it, but they felt it: like electricity in the air; a rumbling of thunder in their ears; the vibrations of an earthquake in their bones; a solar eclipse in their eyes; the shadow of impending death falling cold over their skin.

They ran.

They had to.

 

“No! I can’t run away!” Polnareff’s eyes were wild. “Avdol and Iggy died for me! I’ll do underhanded things, and even go to Hell itself, but I will not run away!”

And then he turned and ran.

Kakyoin might’ve laughed at the irony, if the situation weren’t so grave. The hair all along his arms and the back of his neck was still sticking on end, his heart pounding in his chest.

He would not be that same weak Kakyoin who had given in to Dio—he would not.

“Wait, Polnareff!” Joseph cried.

“It’s no use trying to stop him, old man,” Jotaro said.

There was no stopping Polnareff when he made up his mind to do something, Jotaro knew. You couldn’t reason with him. You had to humor the guy, plan your own moves around him.

“Jotaro,” Kakyoin turned to him, knowing that he already had a plan from the tone of his voice, “tell us what you think we should do.”

Jotaro walked to the edge of the roof, the setting sun casting the Egyptian city in hues of rosehip and gold.

He turned to look at them, seafoam eyes merciless beneath the dark rim of his cap. “Polnareff is fighting him as he pursues him,” he said, gesturing incisively. “We’ll fight him as we retreat.” There was grim determination in every line of his body. “That means we’ll be in position for a pincer attack.”

Joseph’s eyes widened, Kakyoin lifted his chin.

“That’s probably our best chance at defeating him,” Kakyoin acknowledged.

“Indeed,” Joseph said, stroking his chin. “One of us should probably go after Polnareff, though. To make the pincers more even and to keep Polnareff out of trouble.” He lowered his hand. “Kakyoin and I have long-range Stands, so it would make sense for us to retreat and have Dio chase us since it will be easier for us to avoid him. Then Jotaro, you and Polnareff can sneak up and attack him from behind, since your Stands are powerful but close-range.”

Jotaro grunted, eyes narrowing. It was not a pleased grunt. Him, go after Polnareff? Did he really have to?

Kakyoin glanced at him, noting his displeasure, then turned to Joseph. “Are you sure that makes sense, Joestar-san?” Kakyoin asked. “Since our goal with sending one of us after Polnareff is to ‘even out the pincers,’ wouldn’t it make more sense to send a long-distance Stand with him, so each group has a long-distance and a close-distance Stand? They’d be stronger and more balanced units. Especially since we don’t know what kind of Stand Dio has.”

“Hm, that’s true,” Joseph said, stroking his beard. Sometimes Kakyoin reminded him so much of Caesar Zeppeli that it hurt. “Then in that case—”

“Kakyoin and I will retreat and goad Dio into chasing us,” Jotaro said. He glanced at Kakyoin, who nodded. Jotaro turned back to Joseph and jerked a thumb. “Old man, you can go after Polnareff, since this splitting up thing was your idea.” Under his breath he added, “Besides, you and Polnareff are about on the same wavelength.”

Kakyoin, who was standing close enough to hear him, hid a snort behind his hand, turning it into a cough.

Joseph looked at him. “Very well,” he conceded, and stretched an arm behind his head, popping his shoulder. “Alright! Looks like it’s time to show that this old man can still keep up with the young’uns.” He grinned at them and then ran off to catch up with Polnareff.

“Well,” Jotaro acknowledged, staring after him for a moment, “the old man can run.”

“Running was one of his favorite battle strategies, wasn’t it?” Kakyoin said, and fingered the frame of his sunglasses. It was getting dark. “I believe it was running and playing dead. If I recall his stories correctly.”

Jotaro grunted and turned, starting to walk toward the opposite edge of the roof. “Come on, Kakyoin. It’s our turn to run so Dio can chase us.”

Kakyoin fell into step beside him, smiling slightly. “So, how are we going to do this? Since neither of us have driver’s licenses…”

“I have a motorcycle license,” Jotaro grunted, and Kakyoin laughed. “Motorcycle it is, then. I assume you also know how to hotwire one?”

“No, but it shouldn’t be that hard,” Jotaro said, and jumped down from the roof, Kakyoin following after him, using Hierophant Green to control his fall while Jotaro landed with Star Platinum’s strength, the cement cracking beneath his feet. “Worst comes to worst we just kick one until it starts.”

Kakyoin landed nimbly beside him and took off his sunglasses, flicking his hair out of his face with a shake of his head. “Heh.” He replaced the shades. His eyes had been far more sensitive to light since healing from the cuts. “I’ve always wanted to ride a motorcycle.”

“Looks like tonight will be a night for crossing items off our bucket lists, then,” Jotaro said as they started walking. He cracked his knuckles. “I’ve always wanted to see what would happen if I punched someone repeatedly in the face without at all holding back. And Dio has a face that’s just asking to be punched.”

“You know, German has a word for that,” Kakyoin said. “A face that needs to be punched. The word is ‘Backpfeifengesicht.’”

Jotaro grunted. “What’s the point of having a single word for something if that word is so hard to pronounce? It’s easier to just say ‘a face that needs to be punched.’”

Kakyoin laughed. “I think the pronunciation is perfectly normal for Germans.”

Jotaro grunted again.

“English has a word specifically for throwing something out of a window,” Kakyoin said. “That word is ‘defenestrate.’”

Jotaro grunted. “That’s not too bad, I suppose. De-fen-ne-strai-to. It has a threatening ring to it.”

They turned a corner, spotting a motorcycle chained to a lamppost.

“There’s our ride,” Jotaro said.

“So, can you start it?” Kakyoin asked.

Jotaro strode over and kicked the tank, causing the engine to rev into life. Then he broke the chain with a kick strengthened by Star Platinum, then threw a leg over the bike and sitting easily in the seat, grabbing the handlebars and looking to Kakyoin. “It started. Hurry up and get on, Kakyoin.”

Kakyoin laughed and got onto the bike behind him. “Hurry up and start driving, Jotaro.” He wrapped his arms easily around Jotaro’s waist. “Dio is probably closing in on us even as we speak.”

“Good,” Jotaro said, and floored the gas, the bike shooting off down the street. “Let’s see how a vampire who lay at the bottom of the ocean for a hundred years deals with modern day vehicles and traffic.”

 

They were speeding down the street, Jotaro weaving the motorcycle between traffic.

“Do you feel that?” Kakyoin asked over the rushing of wind, his grip tightening slightly around Jotaro’s waist.

“Yeah,” Jotaro grunted, knowing Kakyoin was referring to the dark aura that was closing in on them and making it harder to breathe, like a sudden increase in atmospheric pressure.

Due to his Joestar blood Jotaro could also feel Dio’s presence like breath on the back of his neck or movement in his peripheral vision, the feeling of a corporeal body getting closer like watching the approach of a fog front in a rearview mirror that read ‘Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear.’

“Can he tell exactly where you and Joestar-san are?” Kakyoin asked, as if he’d been reading Jotaro’s thoughts. Maybe he could feel the tensing of Jotaro’s body.

“Not according to the old man,” Jotaro grunted, revving the engine to speed past a truck. “He can just tell that one of us is close, but can’t tell which of us it is. Purportedly. So he shouldn’t be able to tell that the old man and I have split up.”

Jotaro felt more than heard Kakyoin’s thoughtful hum. He could feel Kakyoin twist in his seat to look behind him, felt Kakyoin’s arms tense around his waist.

“He’s getting closer,” Kakyoin said. “It’s that black car. Dio’s in there.”

Jotaro grunted. He knew. He revved the engine, lane-splitting between the cars ahead of them. “He’s in a car, and a long one at that. He shouldn’t be able to catch up to us on this bike. Still, we shouldn’t get too far ahead of him. We want him to keep chasing us.”

Kakyoin hummed an affirmation and summoned his Hierophant Green, sending it towards the car behind them, emerald and silver flashing in the bike’s mirrors.

“Kakyoin!” Jotaro said.

“I won’t get too close,” Kakyoin promised him, gripping Jotaro tighter with one arm as he placed his other hand on the part of the seat behind him, twisting around more fully. “But I want to see something.”

Jotaro grit his teeth and kept driving.

“Take this, Dio! Emerald Splash!” A moment later Kakyoin tensed against him. “Wh-what is he?! He didn’t so much as move from his seat, but he managed to dodge my Emerald Splash with just one finger!” A breath and Kakyoin had collected himself. “How about this?!”

Jotaro wove between traffic. “Kakyoin—”

“Even when I concentrated the Splash, he dodged it. D-damn it!” Kakyoin’s grip suddenly tightened. “When did he release his Stand?! Impossible! How could I not notice?!”

“Kakyoin!” Jotaro said, and floored the gas, hoping to put more distance between them and the car with Dio. “Pull back your Hierophant!”

Kakyoin gasped in pain, lurching around to wrap his other arm around Jotaro’s frame so he wouldn’t be thrown off the bike. Jotaro could feel Kakyoin’s forehead resting between his shoulder blades, could feel the flexing of Kakyoin’s ribs as he panted.

“You got too close to him, Kakyoin!” Jotaro said, and wrenched the bike in a fast turn down another street.

“I-I apologize,” Kakyoin said, words close to his ear. “I-I couldn’t help it.” Kakyoin pulled back slightly, loosening his grip, the reason clear when Jotaro felt the hot wetness of blood soaking his shirt from Kakyoin’s hands.

“Kakyoin,” Jotaro said, the I’m displeased that you’ve gotten injured, please be careful implicit in his tone.

He could feel Kakyoin tremble. “A few months ago,” Kakyoin said, and his voice was low, almost inaudible over the rushing of wind even though he was talking almost in Jotaro’s ear, “Dio said, ‘There’s no need to make yourself vomit from fright. Relax. Relax, Kakyoin.’ Damn it!” Kakyoin’s grip tightened around him. “Never again! I will never lose again!”

“Kakyoin,” Jotaro said, the You’re not alone this time, Kakyoin, and we won’t lose, but you need to be more careful implicit in his tone.

Kakyoin’s grip relaxed slightly. “But I did gain valuable information,” Kakyoin said, his voice steadier. “I saw Dio’s Stand, The World. I attacked from about 10 meters away. If I had gotten any closer, I would’ve been done for. It’s obvious that his Stand has some terrifying secret far beyond anything we can imagine.”

Jotaro grunted, glancing in the bike’s mirrors. The car was still chasing them. It clearly wasn’t Dio in the front seat. He’d gotten some guy to drive for him.

Jotaro sped up, weaving between more cars and taking another corner. He was going to try to put a little more distance between them.

“But I’ve managed to figure out two things,” Kakyoin told him. “First, it can’t attack over distance like Hierophant Green and Hermit Purple. It’s a close-range power type, like Star Platinum. Its range is about 10 meters. Second, it attacked with its fist. So it doesn’t use ranged attacks, like bullets.” Kakyoin’s voice was strong and steady despite the blood Jotaro could still feel soaking his shirt. “If we can get within 10 meters of Dio without him noticing, I think we may have a chance of defeating him.”

Jotaro was watching the black car in the bike’s mirrors. “His car stopped,” he noted. It had veered into the curb, half-crashing.

He felt Kakyoin inhale sharply, twisting in his seat to look behind them. “Watch out!” he cried, grip tensing. “Something’s flying at us!”

Jotaro jerked the motorcycle to the side, but the object—a body—had overshot them, landing across the road.

Dio hadn’t been trying to hit them on their more agile vehicle; he’d been trying to throw the body into their path so they would hit it and be thrown from the bike.

And it worked. Jotaro was going too fast to veer around the body or pop a wheelie to avoid it, and since he’d veered to the side to try to avoid being hit by something he wasn’t going in a straight line to roll over the body, hitting it instead at an angle that sent both them and the bike flying.

Jotaro was still in the air when he felt Hierophant Green wrap around him, pulling him higher and then depositing him on the roof beside Kakyoin.

Jotaro nodded his thanks and turned to start putting more distance between them and Dio, but Kakyoin wasn’t following him. Kakyoin was standing at the edge of the roof, looking down at Dio’s approach, his jaw set. His eyes were hidden behind his shades and Jotaro couldn’t tell what he was thinking.

Ever fiber of Jotaro’s body was tense as a bowstring. “Kakyoin?” he asked. What are you doing?

“I’ve got it,” Kakyoin said, and his voice was steely calm. He finally pulled off his sunglasses, turning to look at Jotaro, determination and conviction hard in his byzantium eyes. It was a good look on him.

“I’ve figured out a way to reveal what Dio’s Stand truly is,” Kakyoin said.

The corner of Jotaro’s lip quirked upwards.

That was Kakyoin Noriaki for you.

 

“I’ve figured out a way to reveal what Dio’s Stand truly is,” Kakyoin had told him, and Jotaro had met his gaze and asked, “What do I do?”

Kakyoin had smiled. “Watch my back. I’m going to enclose Dio within Hierophant’s barrier so I can detect every move he and his Stand make. He won’t be able to hide his secret from Hierophant Green.”

Jotaro had lowered his chin, accepting. “Where?”

“Let’s find a place,” Kakyoin had said, and leapt onto the wall edging the roof, turning back to look at Jotaro. “This time it’s your turn to hold on,” he had said, and summoned his Hierophant Green.

Now they swung above the streets, Kakyoin riding on his Stand’s back, Jotaro and his Stand holding on to his ankle.

Kakyoin needed to find a good location above the rooftops where his Hierophant Green would be able to surround and attack Dio from all directions.

He glanced down at his Hierophant Green.

Even now, whenever he saw his Stand, he was still besieged by memories.

How many times had he stood outside the classroom while one of his teachers talked to his mother about him?

“Your little Noriaki doesn’t try at all to make friends. It’s not that the other kids don’t like him. He just doesn’t open up to anyone. As his teacher, I’m very concerned.”

But how could he have opened up to anyone? They couldn’t see his Hierophant Green. They’d think he was insane. He wasn’t insane. His Hierophant Green was real. He’d proved it to himself time and time again.

“I’m his mother, yet I still don’t know why he’s like that.”

Even his own mother couldn’t see his Hierophant Green. Even she would never believe him. Even she would think he was insane, if he opened up to her.

He couldn’t open up to anyone. He had to lie. About everything.

“Kakyoin-kun, how did you get that cut on your cheek?”

Hierophant Green had gotten caught in the ricochet from one of his Emerald Splashes. Apparently when Hierophant Green got injured it meant that Kakyoin got injured, too.

“Just a tree branch, mom.”

“Kakyoin-kun, please pay attention in class.”

He’d forgotten his jacket outside. His Hierophant was fetching it for him.

“I’m sorry, Sensei. It’s a beautiful day out.”

“Kakyoin-kun, play soccer with us!”

His Hierophant Green made him very good at sports, so he never played. Them telling him he was good at soccer when it was all because of his invisible Hierophant Green that he could always make the ball go exactly where he wanted wasn’t really a compliment at all. Or he’d have to hold back, and that was annoying.

“I’m sorry, I have studying to do.”

“Kakyoin-kun, what do you like to do? What are your hobbies?”

He liked to experiment with what Hierophant Green could do, what the limits of his Emerald Splash or his Hierophant Barrier were. What he could make people do when Hiedrophant Green hid inside them.

“I like reading books and playing video games.”

“Kakyoin-kun, how are you?”

He felt insane. His Hierophant was right beside him, yet nobody could see him. He could use his Hierophant to steal something, or break a window, or set a fire, or strangle someone, and nobody would ever know.

“I’m good. How are you?”

“Kakyoin-kun, how are you feeling? Are you okay?”

He tried throwing himself off a bridge, once. Just to see what would happen. His Hierophant caught him, of course. They all thought he’d slipped, and had managed to catch himself on the edge. They called him lucky.

“I’m fine.”

Ever since he was a child, Kakyoin had thought that living in a city meant meeting a lot of people. But even in an entire lifetime, how many people met others they could truly understand, and who understood them?

His classmates’ address books were filled with their friends’ names. There must have been about fifty in each. Maybe even a hundred. His mother had his father, and his father had his mother.

But he was different.

He was sure rock stars and people on TV had tens of thousands of friends.

But he was different.

He probably would never have someone who saw him for who he was. Because nobody could see his Hierophant Green. It was impossible for those who couldn’t see his Hierophant Green to understand him.

He was too different.

Until he met Jotaro, Joestar-san, Avdol, and Polnareff, he had felt that way all the time. Like he was entirely alone, cut off in a world that was parallel to but completely different from everyone else’s. He’d thought he’d live his entire life feeling that way. Die feeling that way.

It gave him goosebumps, now, thinking about Avdol and Iggy. Probably because they were among the first friends he’d shared a common goal with.

During this journey to defeat Dio, even though it had lasted only a few weeks, they had become friends he could truly connect with.

There was a clock tower that would offer a good view, and Kakyoin swung up to it, landing on the ledge. Jotaro had let go of his ankle on the approach to grab the edge, pulling himself up next to him, a strong and reassuring presence. Kakyoin looked out over the city below, the roofs and spires of the surrounding buildings.

Yes, this location would do.

He turned to look at Jotaro standing beside him. Then he looked at his Hierophant Green.

He’d used to wish that people could see him. More than anything, he’d wanted Hierophant Green to be seen.

“Here?” Jotaro asked, turning to look at him.

Now Kakyoin had friends who could see his Hierophant Green. He was no longer invisible.

Kakyoin shook his head. He gestured to a roof on the other side of the street. “We’ll wait for Dio there.”

But to reveal Dio’s true identity and to defeat him, Kakyoin would make Hierophant’s presence completely disappear.

Jotaro wrapped an arm around his waist and they swung over to the other roof, Hierophant Green setting them down before vanishing so completely that Jotaro’s eyes widened slightly.

Kakyoin would make his Hierophant Green invisible to everyone. Just like he used to be.

 

“What do I do?” Jotaro asked, looking at Kakyoin. Kakyoin’s eyes were narrowed as he stared out over the roofs, gaze analytical. No doubt his Hierophant Green was already at work.

“Withdraw Star Platinum for now,” Kakyoin said. “Dio would get suspicious if he saw Star Platinum but not my Hierophant Green. For now we stand here looking like we’re catching a breather and seeing if Dio is still following us.”

“Right,” Jotaro said, Star Platinum disappearing. He stepped next to Kakyoin, the two of them looking out over the roofs together, tense and waiting.

“When he sees just the two of us he’ll know we split off for a pincer attack,” Jotaro noted.

“It won’t matter,” Kakyoin said.

Jotaro nodded.

 

The humans had fled from him, like terrified wildebeest before the lethal jaws of a lion.

How useless. They couldn’t get away. Not from him.

It wasn’t long before he’d caught up with them. It took even less time than he’d expected. They’d landed on a roof and were now glancing around, no doubt looking for him, but they weren’t looking in the right direction. The two of them were standing close together, unconsciously leaning towards each other, like plants leaned unconsciously, desperately towards sunlight.

“Oho,” Dio murmured, an eyebrow raising. “That’s interesting.” He was reminded of Jonathan and that country girl, Erina. Of Jonathan and that damn mutt.

And to think that it was his own body, this body that he’d stolen from Jonathan, which had held that girl and played with that dog. He still wasn’t used to it.

No matter. The blood of one more person, and that damn scar around his neck would disappear, and this body would be completely his. And wouldn’t it be fitting to use the blood of a Joestar to accomplish that?

A quick survey of the rooftops confirmed that Joseph and Polnareff were nowhere in sight.

“So it’s only Kakyoin and Jotaro who are before me,” Dio noted. His lips curled in cruel amusement. “I see. They split up so they could attack from both sides.” He glanced over his shoulder. “So Joseph and Polnareff must intend to attack me from behind.” He scoffed, lowering down to the roof below him. They couldn’t do anything against him and The World. “How useless.”

As soon as his feet touched the roof, emeralds of psychic energy shot up from the spot at his face.

Dio blocked all the strikes with the metal bracelets around his wrists and the metal of his boots, his eyes narrowing. “This is…”

More emeralds were shot at him from behind, and he turned to block those as well. “Kakyoin’s Hierophant!” he growled. He hadn’t sensed it at all.

A flurry of emeralds from two directions, then another flurry from the side, then another from behind. He blocked all of them.

Kakyoin could fire all the Emerald Splash at him he wanted, it would be utterly ineffective against him, as ineffective as the few paltry hoses of firemen trying vainly to slow the damage being wreaked by a raging wildfire.

Dio’s ankle pressed against something in the air. “Hierophant’s barrier!” he realized, as yet more flurries of emeralds came from different directions.

To think that this was the same Kakyoin who only a few months ago had trembled so violently in fright of him that he’d nearly puked, like a terrified child before the monster from its nightmares, when it found that monster inexplicably borne into reality.

A single emerald managed to get through Dio’s defense, hitting him in the shoulder. Dio’s lip curled. “Tch.” Now there was a hole in his cloak.

He had to give that Kakyoin some credit. It was a clever trick, even if it was ultimately—

Dio’s eyes widened as he looked down, seeing strands of Hierophant Green’s barrier below his feet. When he looked up, he saw that there were strands all around him, in every direction. His lip curled in a sneer. “This is…”

“That’s right!” Kakyoin was balanced on a spire a little over 10 meters away from him, “Hierophant’s barrier, which activates when touched, completely surrounds you for 20 meters in every direction!” He pointed at Dio, like a child who so proudly thought he’d won at a game, in that moment right before his opponent shoved his face into the dirt. “Now I can sense both your movements and The World’s!”

Dio pulled his foot away from Hierophant’s barrier, righting himself in the air. He scoffed, lips curling.

How useless. They couldn’t do anything against The World. They were as powerless and at his mercy as anaesthetized patients under the scalpels of a surgeon.

He waited. Kakyoin was still standing on the spire, pointing at him. Jotaro was watching from the roof.

The base of the billboard that Dio had deflected one of the flurries of Emerald Splash into suddenly shattered, the billboard crashing towards the ground.

“Take this, Dio!” Kakyoin shouted, and didn’t he sound self-rightous and self-satsified. Jonathan had once sounded that way, too. “20-meter radius Emerald Splash!” Kakyoin wouldn’t sound that way for long.

Hierophant Green’s Emerald Splash was coming at Dio from all directions. Kakyoin had just sealed his fate.

“You fool,” Dio said, lips pulling away from his teeth. “You shall soon know that The World’s true power is, indeed, the power to reign over this world!”

He pointed at Kakyoin, releasing his Stand. “The World!”

Time froze for everyone but him, going gray.

Dio pulled off his crimson cloak and tossed it aside, the vibrant fabric becoming gray and still shortly after leaving his hand, and he and his Stand moved forward, The World slicing through Hierophant Green’s strands like it was brushing away spiderwebs.

Dio pushed aside a large piece of rubble that was suspended in the air, approaching Kakyoin, lips pulled in a smirk.

He stopped in front of Kakyoin, looking down at him. “This is The World,” he said, crossing his arms. His smirk grew, showing teeth. “But since time has stopped for you, you can neither see nor feel him.”

The World made a fist, about to punch a hole through Kakyoin’s body.

“Wait,” Dio said, holding up a hand. He looked over at Jotaro, frozen on the roof about 30 meters away.

“Tch,” Dio said. “He’s out of my range.” He looked back at Kakyoin. “I suppose I could use Kakyoin’s blood, but…”

He glanced back at Jotaro. Kakyoin was staring at the place where Dio had been before he’d stopped time, but Jotaro wasn’t; Jotaro’s eyes were fixed on Kakyoin.

This Jotaro may be far less expressive than Jonathan had been, but Dio still saw in his gaze the resemblance to the way Jonathan had looked at that country girl. Like she was perfection itself.

Dio hissed, a sneer curling his lip. “That Joestar blood…” He laughed, then. “Yes, Jotaro’s blood will do fine.”

He looked back at Kakyoin, a smirk tugging at his lips. “But since he’s not in range… I could kill Kakyoin, of course. But Jotaro’s Star Platinum is the most dangerous, and if he’s anything like Jonathan, killing someone he cares about would just make him stronger with rage. The more you beat Jonathan down, the stronger he became, like heated metal beneath the blows of a hammer. But the care he held for others was also his weakness.”

Dio glanced back at Jotaro, his smirk growing. “Yes. If I keep Kakyoin alive, I can use Jotaro’s feelings against him. It will be his undoing.”

He laughed, pulling out a handful of knives and flinging them at Kakyoin, the knives freezing in the air in front of him and his gaze that was still looking at where Dio had been, still seeing him there.

Dio smirked. “You don’t even realize that you’re about to be impaled. There’s no way for you to even know what’s happening.” The knives wouldn’t kill Kakyoin immediately, but they would wound him enough to knock him out of the fight and prevent him from using his Hierophant Green.

In his last second before time started moving again, Dio moved to hover a few feet behind Kakyoin. His lips was still curled in a smirk. “You thought you had me cornered, but you just cornered yourself. Instead of figuring out my secret you’ll become my pawn once again, and assist me in obtaining Jotaro’s blood so I can make this body completely my own. A cruel twist of fate for you, isn’t it?”

Dio laughed. “Welcome, Kakyoin, to The World.”

Time restarted.

 

There was a shatter and a rumble as the billboard crashed down.

“Take this, Dio!” Kakyoin said. “20-meter radius Emerald Splash!”

“You fool,” Dio said, as Hierophant’s emerald blasts of energy shot towards him from all sides. “You shall soon know that The World’s true power is, indeed, the power to reign over this world!”

Kakyoin’s heartbeat was raised but steady, his eyes narrowed and gaze piercing. Bring out your Stand, Dio!

Dio pointed at him extravagantly. “The World!” he cried, as the flames of his power roared around him.

And there The World was, armored and gold.

Kakyoin was ready. Every move Dio and his Stand made to avoid his Emerald Splash, Hierophant Green’s barrier would detect. Dio couldn’t hide anything now. The World’s secret would be revealed in the next millisecond. He was ready.

And then Kakyoin’s eyes widened as he felt every strand of Hierophant Green’s barrier be ripped apart instantaneously, and a millisecond later he was shot through with pain and knocked backwards off the spire, several knives buried to the hilt in his body.

And then strong arms caught him, sharp nails sinking into his arms.

“It appears you’ve returned to me, Kakyoin-kun,” Dio purred in his ear, and Kakyoin’s heart seized, his mind racing.

Wh-what… just happened?

 

Jotaro was watching Kakyoin when it happened.

One moment Kakyoin was balanced on the spire, staring Dio down like only Kakyoin could, utterly collected and dauntless, the strands of Hierophant Green’s barrier strung shimmering in the air.

The next moment all of Hierophant Green’s strands were snapped and Kakyoin was flying backwards in a spray of blood, only to be caught by Dio, who was floating in the air behind him with a sharp smirk on his face.

Even as Jotaro watched Dio leaned in and murmured something in Kakyoin’s ear, Kakyoin’s eyes wide with pain and shock, blood already staining his clothes and trickling from the corners of his mouth.

“Kakyoin!” Jotaro shouted, clenching his fists. Star Platinum had materialized beside him, ready to fight.

But Dio was too far away, and he had to Kakyoin.

Jotaro clenched his jaw. What are you planning, Dio?

Dio wrapped an arm around Kakyoin’s waist, gripped the hilt of one of the knives sticking out of Kakyoin’s body and twisted it, making the stain of blood in Kakyoin’s clothes expand in a rush and Kakyoin’s body convulse in a bloody gasp. The red dripped from his mouth over his chin.

There were seven knives embedded in Kakyoin’s torso, two in his thigh and one in his shoulder. The ones in his torso, despite the number of them, had somehow managed to miss his heart. That had to have been purposeful on Dio’s part.

Jotaro’s fists clenched so tightly he heard the joints of his fingers crack. “Dio,” he grit out, filled with a surge of hatred that boiled his blood.

He was going to kill Dio. And he wasn’t going to feel bad about it at all.

 

Dio was perfectly positioned to catch Kakyoin when the knives sent him flying back.

Kakyoin was panting and his eyes were widened in shock, the scent of his blood filling Dio’s nostrils. Dio’s lips pulled away from his teeth in a grin.

“It appears you’ve returned to me, Kakyoin-kun,” he murmured into Kakyoin’s ear, feeling the way Kakyoin tensed up, his breath catching and heart pounding wildly, like prey caught in the clutches of a predator when it realized there was no chance for its escape and its death by consumption was inevitable.

Looked like Kakyoin was the same fearful wreck he’d been a few months ago, after all.

“Kakyoin!” Jotaro shouted, and Dio glanced at him, smirking as he wrapped his arm around Kakyoin’s waist, gripping one of the knives and twisting it, watching Jotaro’s face.

Kakyoin convulsed in his arms, gagging on the blood that was filling his mouth, and Jotaro’s glare turned murderous. He’d called forth his Star Platinum, and it now stood beside him a fighting stance, clenched fists raised, though Jotaro remained standing straight with his feet apart and hands tucked in his pockets.

“Dio,” he grit out, and in his gaze was that same molten fury as had been in Jonathan’s eyes when he’d attacked Dio after hearing about what he’d done to that country girl.

Dio smirked. “Oh?” he said as he watched Jotaro, his lips pulling farther away from his teeth. “Did that bother you? Then maybe you’ll like this, too.” And with that he ripped the knife from Kakyoin’s flesh, twirled the blade in his fingers and then stabbed Kakyoin again.

Kakyoin gasped, hacking up another mouthful of blood.

Still no scream. Hm. No matter. Jotaro was still livid, his eyes blazing. So much like Jonathan.

“Dio!” That furious tone, too.

Dio smiled at him, smoothing his voice into a gentle croon. “Now now, Jotaro-kun. I don’t plan on killing your dear Kakyoin.” He was still holding Kakyoin around the waist with one arm, while with his other hand he traced his fingers down the side of Kakyoin’s face, feeling the way Kakyoin shuddered and watching the way Jotaro’s jaw clenched.

“I could, of course,” Dio crooned. He moved his hand to pull aside his collar, tilting his head to expose the pale scar around his neck. “You see, this body of mine is the body of your great-great-grandfather, Jonatahn Joestar. I need the blood of one more person to get rid of this scar and make this body stop resisting me.”

Dio let go of his collar, smiling as he pressed himself against Kakyoin’s back, reaching around him with his other arm to drag his fingers up the blood-stained fabric of the gakuran sticking to Kakyoin’s chest. “I could use Kakyoin-kun’s blood here, of course,” he purred, Kakyoin’s blood dripping over his fingers, “but don’t you think the blood of a Joestar would be just the thing to make Jonathan’s body completely mine?”

Yes, there was that fierce, determined Joestar fury, like when Jonathan had tackled him into the burning mansion, planning on burning him alive even if it meant burning with him.

Surely there was nothing Jotaro wouldn’t do to try to save Kakyoin, at this point. And he couldn’t fight Dio, not when Dio had The World.

“So let me make you a deal, Jotaro-kun,” Dio said, holding out a hand dripping with Kakyoin’s blood. “You offer me your life and your blood, and I’ll let your dear Kakyoin go.” He smiled, waiting.

Jotaro had pulled his hands out of his pockets, his fists now clenched at his sides so tightly his shoulders were trembling, his eyes blazing. “Dio…”

“J-jotaro…” Kakyoin was weakly reaching a hand towards Jotaro, trembling with the pain and exertion the movement was causing him. “D-don’t…”

Dio looked at Kakyoin in amusement. “So you can still speak, Kakyoin-kun, even in this state,” he said. “That’s rather impressive. And to think this must mean that you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for Jotaro…” Dio glanced at Jotaro, his lip curling. “In that case…”

Dio yanked one of the knives out of Kakyoin’s chest, bringing the blade to his lips and licking the blood from it while Kakyoin convulsed in his grasp and choked the blood that was welling into his mouth, Dio keeping his gaze on Jotaro the entire time.

“You bastard,” Jotaro grit out, his chin lowered so that the rim of his cap covered his eyes.

“Oh, so you’re not okay with that after all, Jotaro-kun?” Dio asked, grinning as he licked the blood from his lips. “But I didn’t see you agreeing to my trade. No matter.” He waved the hand that still held the knife. “I don’t need your blood, after all. I do have Kakyoin’s here.” He used the tip of the knife to lift Kakyoin’s chin, forcing him to tilt his head back and expose his neck that was covered in the blood dripping from both sides of his mouth. Dio leaned closer, breathing against Kakyoin’s skin.

Kakyoin was shuddering, gasping and choking on blood.

“But say, Jotaro-kun,” Dio crooned, still watching him. “You and Kakyoin-kun seem to care quite a lot about each other. Don’t tell me this is love?”

Dio felt Kakyoin gasp, while Jotaro stiffened further.

“Oh?” Dio purred, lips curling and eyelids lowering. ”It is?” He traced his fingers up Kakyoin’s neck, over his jaw, his chin, his lips. “Tell me, then, have you even kissed yet?”

Kakyoin tensed, his already racing heartbeat and ragged breathing quickening, and Jotaro’s clenched fist was raising slightly, his head ducked lower and cap obscuring more of his face.

Dio’s lips pulled away from his teeth. “I’ll take that as a No, then,” he said, and pressed his fingers against Kakyoin’s throat, nails biting into his skin. “A shame you’ll never be able to now that you’ve forced me to use Kakyoin’s blood instead of your own.”

 

Wh-what… just happened?

The pain was excruciating and this scent was dizzying—blood and jasmine and sandalwood. Dio.

Did he beat me? It’s no use. I don’t know if these injuries are fatal as they are, but I’m at Dio’s mercy. I can’t do anything against him. I don’t know if I can even speak…

“Kakyoin!” That was Jotaro.

Kakyoin tried to look up, tried to look at him, but Dio twisted one of the knives in his gut, sending pain lancing through him, blood bubbling up hot and thick in his mouth.

“Oh?” Dio was saying, his voice coming distantly through the haze of pain clouding Kakyoin’s mind. “Did that bother you? Then maybe you’ll like this, too.”

And then one of the knives was ripped roughly from Kakyoin’s chest, making his mind cloud, and then the knife was stabbed back into him, his vision going briefly white, his body spasming, blood welling up in his mouth. He was choking on it.

“Dio!” Jotaro again.

I’ve failed, haven’t I? Jotaro… I’m sorry…

Through the haze of pain Kakyoin could just make out the clock tower, reading the hands.

It’s 5:15… That means it’s around midnight in Japan. I wonder what my parents are doing. Maybe they’re already asleep. I’m sorry for making you worry so much.

Dio’s was talking, his voice gentle. So gentle. Just like that time. “Now now, Jotaro-kun. I don’t plan on killing your dear Kakyoin.” Dio was brushing his fingers gently along Kakyoin’s cheek and Kakyoin couldn’t suppress a shudder.

No. Not again. I will not give in to you again! This isn’t over yet!

I need to think. The World’s secret. If we don’t figure it out, we won’t stand a fighting chance against him. I should’ve been able to detect it. I can sense every movement of those who touch Hierophant Green’s barrier. But Dio ripped apart the entire barrier at once.

Why wasn’t it done strand by strand? It was completely simultaneous, without even a microsecond of a time between them.

“I could, of course,” Dio was saying. Gently. So gently. “You see, this body of mine is the body of your great-great-grandfather, Jonatahn Joestar. I need the blood of one more person to get rid of this scar and make this body stop resisting me.”

So why hasn’t he killed me yet? He easily could have… The entire barrier, over a 20-meter radius, was ripped apart all at once? How? Without even the slightest delay… How… all at once…? Even an explosion would have had a slight delay between the strands closest to him and the strands at the outermost edge, but there was none at all… How?

And the knives… they hit me only a microsecond after the barrier was ripped apart… How is that possible? Even if he’d thrown them with all his strength, they couldn’t have crossed that distance in that time… And when I flew backwards, he was already behind me…

Dio was pressing against him, trailing his fingers up Kakyoin’s chest, digging into his wounds, and Kakyoin could hardly think through the pain and the shame.

I flew right into his arms… But he couldn’t have gotten behind me before throwing them, and yet he was already there… So how…?

“I could use Kakyoin-kun’s blood here, of course,” Dio was saying, “but don’t you think the blood of a Joestar would be just the thing to make Jonathan’s body completely mine? So let me make you a deal, Jotaro-kun. You offer me your life and your blood, and I’ll let your dear Kakyoin go.”

So that’s why Dio hasn’t killed me yet. No! I won’t let myself be used like this!

The World’s secret, I need to…

“J-jotaro…” Kakyoin tried to force his mouth, his tongue, his vocal chords to work. “D-don’t…” Don’t listen to him, Jotaro.

“So you can still speak, Kakyoin-kun, even in this state,” Dio was saying. His voice was so gentle. So incredibly gentle. “That’s rather impressive.”

Dio. Kakyoin suppressed a shudder. The barrier… the knives… and he’d moved behind me… all at once… How did you do that all at once with no time passing in between? No time passing at all…

Time passing… Time…

“And to think this must mean that you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for Jotaro…”

No time passed…

“In that case…”

Kakyoin’s eyes widened in realization. The time!

And then one of the knives was ripped out of his body, the pain lancing white through his brain. His mouth was full and he was choking on his blood.

I… I understand now. H-how could this be? There’s no other explanation. I-I have to tell Jotaro about this!

Dio was forcing his chin up, the blood pouring out of his mouth, spilling down his neck.

This terrifying truth… somehow… I have to tell Jotaro… At this rate, everyone will be defeated. I need to tell him…

Dio’s gentle words were filtering back in. “But say, Jotaro-kun.” So, so gentle. “You and Kakyoin-kun seem to care quite a lot about each other.” So incredibly gentle. Soft. Insidious. “Don’t tell me this is love?”

Love?

“Oh?” Dio’s voice was a purr in Kakyoin’s ear. ”It is?” Kakyoin could feel Dio tracing his fingers gently up his neck, over his jaw, his chin, his lips. Kakyoin felt sick. Even through all the pain in his body he felt sick.“Tell me, then, have you even kissed yet?”

Kissed?

What is Dio saying?

The events of the last few weeks were flashing through Kakyoin’s mind.

Jotaro risking his life to save him even though he’d tried to kill him. Holly. Joining Jotaro and Joestar-san on their expedition for no identifiable reason. Fighting by Jotaro’s side. The way Star Platinum strong-armed his way through everything. Bashing his way through diamond teeth. Their conversations. Jotaro’s quips. The way Jotaro’s lips quirked when he thought something was funny. The way Jotaro hid behind his hat. The way Jotaro understood him the way no one every had. The way they could communicate with a look. The way Jotaro trusted him and his abilities. The way Jotaro had listened to his plan and simply said, ‘What do I do?’

Oh, Kakyoin realized. I do love him.

Dio’s nails were digging into his throat. “I’ll take that as a No, then.”

Funny that it should be Dio who would point that out.

“A shame you’ll never be able to now that you’ve forced me to use Kakyoin’s blood instead of your own.”

Kakyoin grit his teeth. No. I will not die without telling Jotaro the secret of The World! That it has the ability to stop time!

But he couldn’t speak. Dio’s fingers were digging into his throat. His mouth was full of blood. Even if he tried to speak, Dio could snap his neck or suck out his blood in a second.

But he needed to tell Jotaro.

Kakyoin’s gaze landed on the clocktower. The clock. Time.

Jotaro understood him. For the first time in his life, Kakyoin had someone who understood him.

Jotaro would understand this.

This might be… my final Emerald Splash…

Kakyoin summoned his Hierophant Green. It hurt. It felt like his insides were being ripped out. He was choking on blood.

But Hierophant Green’s aim was steady. The Emerald Splash hit the face of the clock, destroying the hands. The clock was stopped.

He might not have been able to speak, but he didn’t need words for Jotaro to understand him.

 

Dio had been expecting Jotaro to snap and attack him, not for an attack to come from Hierophant Green.

“Oh?” Dio said amusedly, as Hierophant Green materialized in front of him. Just the energy it took to summon his Stand was making Kakyoin convulse and vomit blood. “So you still have enough strength and energy to summon your Stand?” Dio lowered his eyelids, is lips curling. This Kakyoin was almost as determined to suffer as much as possible as Jonathan had been. “That’s impressive, but do you really think you can do anything against me?”

Hierophant Green managed to summon an Emerald Splash, sending them shooting up and to the left, in the completely wrong direction.

Dio tilted his head to look after them. They’d crashed into the clocktower.

Hah. He supposed Kakyoin couldn’t even see through all the pain.

He looked back down at Kakyoin, who was panting and trembling in his arms, the blood from his wounds now oozing faster. All the pain he was already in and he’d still purposefully exacerbated it, like Jonathan had thrown his already wounded and dying body in front of Erina to save her from the shrapnel from the ship’s exploding piston.

But in Kakyoin’s case, he hadn’t even achieved anything with the action.

Dio’s lips curled further. “Oh? You didn’t even aim in the right direction. Is this the desperate flailing of a trapped and frightened animal? How useless.” He leaned closer, breathing in Kakyoin’s ear. “There’s no need to try so hard, Kakyoin-kun. You should just give in. Things will be so much easier for you, that way. So much more painless. You wouldn’t have to suffer like this.” (Why had Jonathan been so stubborn?)

Kakyoin grit his teeth, blood trickling from behind them. “It’s… a message…”

Dio was suddenly reminded of Jonathan using the last of his Hamon to charge Wang Chan’s body into clinging tightly enough to the paddle’s screw shaft in order to make the ship explode. He narrowed his eyes.

“A message?” he asked, and the twisting sensation in his gut was simply suspicion, that was all.

 

Dio had twisted the knife in Kakyoin’s flesh.

Now he was smirking. “Oh? Did that bother you? Then maybe you’ll like this, too.”

He ripped the knife out of Kakyoin, twirling it in his fingers and then stabbing it back in, making Kakyoin convulse and spit up more blood.

Jotaro’s teeth were gritted, his fists clenched. “Dio!”

“Now now, Jotaro-kun,” Dio smirked at him. “I don’t plan on killing your dear Kakyoin.” He was brushing his fingers down Kakyoin’s face. “I could, of course.”

Jotaro was going to kill him.

“You see, this body of mine is the body of your great-great-grandfather, Jonatahn Joestar,” Dio told him. As if he didn’t already know that. “I need the blood of one more person to get rid of this scar and make this body stop resisting me.”

The bastard. And he was dragging his fingers up Kakyoin’s chest. Kakyoin was bleeding so much that Dio’s fingers were covered in his blood.

“I could use Kakyoin-kun’s blood here, of course,” he said, “but don’t you think the blood of a Joestar would be just the thing to make Jonathan’s body completely mine?”

Dio was sick.

Jotaro was going to kill him.

“So let me make you a deal, Jotaro-kun,” Dio said, holding out a hand towards him. It was dripping with Kakyoin’s blood. “You offer me your life and your blood, and I’ll let your dear Kakyoin go.”

Dio was smirking.

Jotaro’s jaw was clenched. “Dio…”

Jotaro was going to kill him.

“J-jotaro…” Kakyoin was reaching a hand towards him, his gaze desperate and warning. “D-don’t…”

Like hell Jotaro was going to hand himself over.

He was going to kill Dio.

Somehow.

Dio was looking at Kakyoin as if he was some puppy who’d just pulled some amusing antic. “So you can still speak, Kakyoin-kun, even in this state. That’s rather impressive. And to think this must mean that you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for Jotaro…”

Dio looked at him and smirked. “In that case…”

And then Dio pulled one of the knives from Kakyoin’s chest and proceeded to lick the blood from it. Kakyoin was convulsing and throwing up more blood.

“You bastard,” Jotaro grit out, lowering his chin, fists clenched tightly at his sides.

He was going to kill Dio.

Somehow.

He just needed to figure something out.

“Oh, so you’re not okay with that after all, Jotaro-kun?” Dio said smugly. “But I didn’t see you agreeing to my trade. No matter. I don’t need your blood, after all. I do have Kakyoin’s here.”

Dio forced Kakyoin’s head back, the blood trailing in streams from his mouth.

Jotaro was going to kill him.

“But say, Jotaro-kun,” Dio smirked. “You and Kakyoin-kun seem to care quite a lot about each other. Don’t tell me this is love?”

Jotaro tensed impossibly further.

Love? Did he love Kakyoin?

“Oh?” Dio said smugly. “It is?” He was caressing Kakyoin’s face. Kakyoin was trembling. “Tell me, then, have you even kissed yet?”

Jotaro clenched his fists impossibly tighter.

Yes, he loved Kakyoin. It had snuck up on him like a sunrise, so he hadn’t noticed. He wasn’t sure when it had started getting to light, or when it had gotten brighter and the grays and lavenders of dawn had shifted into orchid and cherry blossom colors, but now that Dio had pointed it out to him and he’d actually looked at it the stark vividness of all the different shades took his breath away.

Yes, he was in love with Kakyoin.

And he was going to kill Dio a hundred times over for all the pain he was inflicting on him.

And for what Dio was doing to his mother.

And for the deaths of Avdol and Iggy.

And for all the pain he’d put all of them through the past two months.

“I’ll take that as a No, then,” Dio smirked. Still making a big deal about that kiss thing, apparently. Who cared about that?

Dio was pressing his fingers against Kakyoin’s neck. “A shame you’ll never be able to now that you’ve forced me to use Kakyoin’s blood instead of your own.”

He wouldn’t be using Kakyoin’s blood. Jotaro was going to kill him.

If Kakyoin didn’t kill him first.

Kakyoin had manifested his Hierophant Green, the Stand holding steady even as Kakyoin vomited more blood.

You really had to hand it to Kakyoin. His self-control was phenomenal.

Dio however was an idiot, and he was looking at Kakyoin like he was some amusing little kitten. “Oh? So you still have enough strength and energy to summon your Stand? That’s impressive, but do you really think you can do anything against me?”

It was Jotaro’s turn to smirk. You should never underestimate Kakyoin Noriaki, Dio.

Hierophant Green aimed, firing an Emerald Splash straight into the clocktower, partially destroying the clock, before disappearing again.

Dio looked at the clocktower, then down at Kakyoin, and his smirk widened. “Oh? You didn’t even aim in the right direction. Is this the desperate flailing of a trapped and frightened animal? How useless.”

You’re wrong, Dio. Kakyoin never does anything useless. Especially not at times like this.

Hierophant Green’s aiming had been deliberate. He’d been trying to hit the clocktower. The expression on Kakyoin’s face after he’d hit it had made that perfectly clear.

Kakyoin had meant to hit the clocktower and destroy the clock the way he had. It obviously wasn’t an attack against Dio. He was trying to tell Jotaro something.

You figured out the secret of Dio’s Stand while all that was going on, didn’t you Kakyoin?

(To think Kakyoin managed to figure it out even while as injured as he was and being tormented by Dio. But that was just Kakyoin Noriaki for you.)

Jotaro looked at the clock that Kakyoin had broken. Its hands were destroyed and it was no longer moving, as if time had stopped.

Time stopping.

Jotaro’s eyes widened.

Dio’s Stand—The World stops time. He can move in stopped time.

Everything suddenly made sense now. How Polnareff had moved down the steps. How Dio’s crony had gotten into the coffin. How Dio had destroyed Hierophant Green’s barrier and impaled Kakyoin with all those knives.

Although to think Dio would sink so low as to troll like that.

He and Kakyoin would laugh about that later.

Right now, he was going to kill Dio.

 

Blood was trickling from behind Kakyoin’s clenched teeth, his voice weak. “It’s… a message…”

Still, his words were concerning.

Dio’s eyes narrowed. “Nani?”

Kakyoin’s was sagged forward in his grip, but he tilted his head to look at him, gaze defiant.

Dio tched. This Kakyoin really was a pain. Dio pulled back his hand, fingers together. If Jotaro wouldn’t offer himself up then he should just end Kakyoin quickly, before he tried to pull anything.

“Dio!” Jotaro called, and Dio glanced over at him. Jotaro was pointing at him, his gaze level, Star Platinum floating beside him. “I now understand what The World’s power is.”

Dio tilted his head, eyes narrowing further. “Oh?”

“It stops time,” Jotaro said, looking at him defiantly. It was the same expression Kakyoin was wearing. “Though it seems it can only stop time for a few seconds at a time. Otherwise we would have all died in that mansion.”

“Hm?” Dio said, tilting his head further, his lips peeling away from his teeth. “So that’s why Kakyoin shot the clock tower. And you understood that message this quickly. I suppose I’ll spare you some praise for that.”

Jotaro was still staring at him levelly. “Not me,” he said. “It was Kakyoin who figured it out.”

Dio’s eyelids lowered, his lips curling, offering a display of pointed teeth. “Yes, Kakyoin has done well by you. Thanks to him, you now understand how my The World works.”

Leaning closer to Kakyoin, he lowered his voice to a resonant purr. “Do you really think it was worth it, Kakyoin-kun? All this pain, just to tell your dear Jotaro something that won’t even help him?” He stroked a nail over one of the scars that traced vertically over Kakyon’s eyes, murmuring, “How foolish,” delighting in the way Kakyoin shuddered, the movement agitating the knives still embedded in his flesh and wracking him with fresh waves of agony that made him gasp and retch.

Dio tilted his head to look back at Jotaro, gaze mocking and sultry. “What good does understanding my Stand’s power do for you, Jotaro-kun?” he asked, and laughed, loving the way they both tensed at the sound, like dogs before the raised whip of their master. His eyes flashed. “No one can enter my world of stopped time!”

He once again pulled back his hand, fingers together, ready to stab his hand into Kakyoin’s neck. “This is your last chance, Jotaro,” he said, holding furious Jotaro’s gaze, teeth bared. “Hand yourself over, or your dear Kakyoin dies.”

Jotaro’s eyes looked like Jonathan’s had whenever he was about to snap. Good. He’d either give in and hand himself over, or he’d attack recklessly and get within range of The World.

“You…” Kakyoin was wretchedly forcing words out of his mouth again, and Dio glanced down at him to see Kakyoin’s lips curved upwards through the blood. For a brief moment Dio was reminded overwhelmingly, uncannily of Jonathan—but then the moment was gone, as quickly as it had come.

“C-clearly don’t…” Kakyoin’s eyes were distant and glassy with pain, but they were laughing nonetheless, crinkled at the corners and glistening. Though whether that was from mirth or from pain it was hard to tell. “Know… Jotaro…”

Dio narrowed his eyes, his lip curling, pulling away from his pointed teeth. “Nani?”

“You’re wrong, Dio, if you think something like that would sway me,” Jotaro said, pointing at him, and he no longer looked like he might shatter. “Kakyoin joined us knowing that he was accepting the possibility of his death.”

Jotaro’s gaze was cold and unfeeling, an expression that Dio had never seen on the face of Jonathan, could not even imagine on the face of Jonathan (such an expression as he’d seen countless times in the mirror).

“Kill him if you want, Dio,” Jotaro said, and he was utterly unflinching. “I’m not obliged to save him.” His stare was all of Jonathan’s determination with none of Jonathan’s compassion. “My only task here is to end you.”

Jotaro was everything that had made Jonathan infuriating, without all the things that had made Jonathan pathetic.

All of Jonathan’s strength with none of Jonathan’s weakness.

Dio wanted to tear him apart.

“Oh?” Dio drawled out, and dropped Kakyoin, letting the limp body fall. Let Kakyoin splatter himself across the pavement several stories bellow, if Jotaro really didn’t care. “Then come try.”

 

“Man, I wanna be rich myself one day,” Polnareff mused from the shotgun seat of their acquired truck as Joseph sped them down the streets that had been thrown into chaos from a car versus motorcycle chase. “It sure is nice, being able to just by whatever ride you want, whenever you want it, just by waving a wad of bills in someone’s face.”

“Oi, you don’t think it’s easy getting and staying rich, do you?” Joseph conversed distractedly, eyes keen on the road, mouth tugging towards a concerned frown. “I had to work for this fortune, you know! Well, er. Most of it. Some of it came from the Joestar family inheritance, of course, but I’ve worked my ass off for a lot of it, too!”

“Hey, if you can do it, I think I should be able to do it, too!” Polnareff shot back, but without his usual verve, his brow furrowed and expression pensive as he watched the road, his fingers tapping impatiently on the truck’s window sill and foot tapping restlessly on the mat.

“I dunno, how is anyone who spends an hour turning their hair into a skyscraper every morning supposed to find the time to get rich, huh?” Joseph quipped back, but there was no energy in it. Their conversation at that point was more a force of habit than anything else, carried out automatically simply because the only alternative was an anxious silence, and neither of them were one to let a silence sit undisturbed.

“Look!” Polnareff suddenly said, energy back in his voice and eyes widened as he pointed out the window to the motorcycle crashed into the side of a building. “That motorcycle’s been totally totaled!”

“The roofs!” Joseph said, nodding to the tops of the buildings. “Kakyoin and Jotaro took the fight up to the roofs!”

“Then what are we waiting for?!” Polnareff demanded, leaping out of the car, Joseph only a split second behind him. “Let’s go!”

 

Dio was about to kill Kakyoin. That was not acceptable.

I need to distract him, Jotaro thought. Bring his attention back to me, away from Kakyoin.

“Dio!” he called, succeeding in getting Dio to look at him. Jotaro pointed at him. “I now understand what The World’s power is.” That should drive the arrogant bastard nuts.

Indeed, Dio’s interest was piqued. “Oh?”

“It stops time,” Jotaro announced. Stopping time. It’s a formidable ability. But it’s not perfect. Even with that ability, he hasn’t been able to kill us. “Though it seems it can only stop time for a few seconds at a time,” he added, watching for the anger in Dio’s face. “Otherwise we would have all died in that mansion.” And there it is.

Dio looked downright ticked off. “Hm? So that’s why Kakyoin shot the clock tower. And you understood that message this quickly.” Dio sneered. “I suppose I’ll spare you some praise for that.”

Jotaro’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Not me,” he reminded Dio, because it really ticked him off the way people tended to sell Kakyion short. “It was Kakyoin who figured it out.”

Damn. It’s not just Dio who’s in danger of losing his temper. I need to keep hold of mine, too. Luckily I’ve gotten better at keeping Star Platinum from acting automatically on my urges to punch people’s faces in.

“Yes,” Dio sneered, “Kakyoin has done well by you. Thanks to him, you now understand how my The World works.”

Dio leaned in close to Kakyoin, doing something to him that made him vomit more blood, and Jotaro’s fists clenched even tighter at his sides. It was a good thing he kept his nails cut short or he’d probably have bloody crescents in his palms by now.

Dio was looking back at him. “What good does understanding my Stand’s power do for you, Jotaro-kun?” he asked, laughing. It was an awful sound that made Jotaro grit his teeth. “No one can enter my world of stopped time!”

Dio was smirking as he pulled back his hand, obviously threatening to stab his hand into Kakyoin’s neck and kill him, before stealing his blood for his own.

The thought made Jotaro feel like he might lose it. The leash on his temper had been frayed down to a thread.

I can’t lose it. If I do then he’ll kill Kakyoin for sure. Right now the fact that I’m outside the range of your powers and you aren’t able to get to me is the only thing keeping Dio from killing him.

“This is your last chance, Jotaro,” Dio called. “Hand yourself over, or your dear Kakyoin dies.”

Bastard. Jotaro was looking down, cap covering his eyes, his teeth gritted. Damn it. I need to get at him without him killing Kakyoin.

And then there, down on the street below, just coming around the corner. Joseph and Polnareff.

So you guys finally caught up. Jotaro’s fists loosened, his shoulders lowering. Perfect timing.

Looks like it’s time for another bluff.

Jotaro lifted his head, looking up and meeting Dio’s gaze. His stare was perfectly steady. “You’re wrong, Dio, if you think something like that would sway me,” he said, pointing at him. “Kakyoin joined us knowing that he was accepting the possibility of his death. Kill him if you want, Dio.” Jotaro was watching Joseph and Polnareff’s progress in his peripheral vision, not taking his eyes off Dio. “I’m not obliged to save him.”

Joseph and Polnareff were almost close enough. Jotaro kept his gaze on Dio. “My only task here is to end you.”

Polnareff and the old man are close enough.

“Oh?” Dio said arrogantly, and with that he let go of Kakyoin, dropping him. “Then come try.”

Perfect timing, Jotaro thought, and used Star Platinum to push off from the roof, lunging at Dio, while down below he knew that the old man and Polnareff would catch Kakyoin before he hit the ground.

Don’t you dare worry about me. Just get Kakyoin to a hospital, old man. Before he bleeds out from all those damn stab wounds.

Jotaro was going to kill Dio.

Somehow.

 

I’m going to die here, Kakyoin thought distantly. By Dio’s hand, in Dio’s arms.

He closed his eyes. He opened his eyes. He didn’t dare close his eyes.

“Dio!” That was Jotaro. Jotaro. “I now understand what The World’s power is.”

“Oh?” That was Dio.

“It stops time.” That was Jotaro. You understood. You understood me. Jotaro… thank you… “Though it seems it can only stop time for a few seconds at a time. Otherwise we would have all died in that mansion.”

“Hm?” That was Dio. “So that’s why Kakyoin shot the clock tower. And you understood that message this quickly.” That’s Jotaro for you, Dio. “I suppose I’ll spare you some praise for that.” You should.

Kakyoin felt distant, floating. Separated from himself like a balloon on a ribbon.

“Not me.” That was Jotaro. “It was Kakyoin who figured it out.”

But you understood me.

“Yes, Kakyoin has done well by you.” That was Dio. “Thanks to him, you now understand how my The World works.” Dio sounded disparaging.

Jotaro will defeat you, Dio. You’ll see. Just you wait.

“Do you really think it was worth it, Kakyoin-kun?” Dio’s voice in his ear. Gentle. Warm. So gentle. Warm breath on his neck. His face. Cold shivers down his back. “All this pain, just to tell your dear Jotaro something that won’t even help him?” A cold nail traced the scars over his eyes, threatening to reopen them. “How foolish.” That gentle voice. Just like the time before, when Kakyoin had given in to it. He shuddered. The knives dug into him, his vision going white. Pain. Blood in his mouth. It was hard to breathe.

Never again. Never again will I give in to you, Dio!

“What good does understanding my Stand’s power do for you, Jotaro-kun?” That was Dio. “No one can enter my world of stopped time!”

It was hard to think. Kakyoin’s eyes felt heavy. He didn’t dare close his eyes. He wouldn’t give in.

“This is your last chance, Jotaro.” That was Dio. “Hand yourself over, or your dear Kakyoin dies.”

Jotaro will never give in to you, Dio.

Kakyoin could almost have laughed. “You…” He could barely speak. “C-clearly don’t…” Kakyoin wanted to laugh, but everything hurt too much. “Know… Jotaro…”

“Nani?” That was Dio. He sounded wary. You should be.

“You’re wrong, Dio, if you think something like that would sway me.” That was Jotaro. “Kakyoin joined us knowing that he was accepting the possibility of his death.”

Jotaro. Even if I die now… you’re the one who saved me, when you pulled out Dio’s flesh bud. It would’ve killed me. All this extra time I got… I owe this to you. And this…

This was really… the best time of my life. Going on this venture with you.

“Kill him if you want, Dio.” That was Jotaro. Kakyoin only just then noticed that he was smiling. He wasn’t sure for how long he’d been smiling. “I’m not obliged to save him.” You never were. And yet you did, anyway. “My only task here is to end you.”

Kakyoin wasn’t really thinking. Not coherently, at any rate. His thoughts were vague and half-formed, but he knew Jotaro. In a vague way he understood that Jotaro wouldn’t willingly let him die. He didn’t really expect to survive the injuries he had sustained, but he knew Jotaro would do whatever he could, and he thought he could make out Joestar-san and Polnareff on the street below them but he wasn’t sure, and he felt happy to have known them, happy for the regard that Jotaro had for him, sorry at the thought that he was dying and that his death would hurt them, a kind of bitterness at the idea that he’d be yet another friend that Dio had managed to take from them.

He would miss Jotaro when he was dead, he thought, rather absurdly.

And then Dio let go of him, and as the air rushed past Kakyoin wondered vaguely how one could possibly go about defeating someone who could stop time.

Maybe, with the ability to stop time, he could have given himself extra seconds during the brief freefall to come up with a solution, but as it was he supposed he’d have to leave the rest of this one to Jotaro.

And knowing Jotaro, he’d just force his way through the problem with brute determination and force, as he did most things. Inadvertently forcing the impossible to become possible because he simply didn’t accept that there was anything he couldn’t do. Figure out how to move in Dio’s stopped time because it would never cross his mind that there was any reason why he shouldn’t be able to.

If Kakyoin had actually hit the ground at the bottom of the fall and died then and there, he would’ve died with a smile on his lips.

But as it was, someone caught him.

 

Joseph and Polnareff turned the corner to see above them Dio floating in the air with Kakyoin sagged in his arm, green gakuran black with blood, Jotaro standing on the roof across from them with Star Platinum at his side. Not attacking.

“Dio!” Polnareff snarled, and made to dash forward.

“Polnareff wait!” Joseph hissed, grabbing the Frenchman by the shoulder and then slapping a hand over his mouth, holding him back as he struggled. Joseph felt like someone had just punched him through the gut. “Don’t you see that Dio has Kakyoin and that Jotaro isn’t attacking?! Why do you think that is, if not that Dio will kill Kakyoin if he does?!”

Polnareff stopped straining against him, but the Frenchman was panting with fear and anger, eyes wide and wild.

We’ve already lost Avdol and Iggy, and Polnareff witnessed both of their deaths. Joseph knew the poor guy understood. We can’t lose Kakyoin, too.

Letting go of Polnareff, Joseph held a finger up to his lips, and the two of them began creeping forward along the street, sticking close to the walls of the buildings, watching the scene above them anxiously and hoping Dio didn’t notice them.

Joseph didn’t know what they were supposed to do, but he almost never really knew what he was doing. He was sure his grandson would make a move soon. That boy really was impressive. (All thanks to the Joestar genes that had been passed down to him, Joseph was sure.)

There was a large splash of blood into the puddle that had collected on the cement far below Kakyoin, and Joseph’s fists clenched, Polnareff beside him looking like he might snap.

And then Kakyoin was falling, and Jotaro had leapt at Dio and they both flew out of view, and Joseph was moving even before his brain had fully processed what was happening, Hermit Purple shooting up to latch onto the roof of a building and pulling Joseph into the air, catching Kakyoin under one arm as he shot up.

He landed on the roof, lying Kakyoin down, and his heart was trying to beat its goddamn way out of his chest.

Kakyoin’s eyes were open but glazed. There were nine knives total sticking out of his body. Nine knives stuck in him, plus two more stab wounds where the knife or knives had been pulled out. Those were the wounds bleeding the most. It was obvious Kakyoin had already lost a large amount of blood. His skin was pallid and his gakuran was soaked with blood, dark and dripping. A new puddle was already starting to form on the ground around him.

“Kakyoin!” That was Polnareff, landing on the roof beside them, rushing over, looking like he would either be sick or go batshit crazy chasing after Dio.

Kakyoin would die if they didn’t do something, and stat. They could call an ambulance but Joseph was pretty sure they were all preoccupied with the pedestrians that Dio had run over with that limo.

“Polnareff!” Joseph barked. Kakyoin wasn’t dead yet. “Go get a first-aid kit and as many bandages as you can carry from the closest drugstore! Now!”

“Oui!” Polnareff ran and jumped off the roof, Silver Chariot right beside him.

Which left Joseph alone with Kakyoin, staring down at his injured form and feeling cold all over.

Caesar, Joseph thought, and that face flashed through his mind. That unkempt blond hair, those ridiculous purple birthmarks on his cheeks, those haughty eyes.

Kakyoin sometimes had that expression, too. The expression of someone who’d grown up not depending on anyone.

That expression had cracked, on Kakyoin. The smiles had been showing through.

That expression had cracked on Caesar, too. Caesar’s smile. Blood spreading from beneath the rubble, glistening and sanguine. That rubble that had been shaped oh-so-mockingly like a goddamn cross.

There had been a similar puddle on the ground below where Dio had been floating in the air with Kakyoin. Even now, Joseph could see the way the red kept splashing as more drops fell, the crimson spreading.

It was a common enough recurring dream for him, even all these years later—Stroheim’s legs, and Caesar’s blood leaking out from that rubble. The crimson bubble floating in the air, dazzling in the sunlight. The silence.

Joseph didn’t want yet another horrific scene added to his damn dreams. And he didn’t want that for Jotaro. It made his chest ache sometimes, the two of them—it reminded him so much of his time with Caesar.

Ah, being young.

Being young and dying young—

Kakyoin was losing so much blood. In Joseph’s mind it was dripping down a flight of stone steps, seeping out from under a giant cross of rubble.

At this rate Kakyoin probably wouldn’t make it. His skin was starting to gray and he was getting colder. He’d fallen into unconsciousness and his eyes had slipped closed. His breathing was getting shallower.

Joseph’s hands were trembling. “No!” he said aloud. He clenched his hands into fists, gritting his teeth. “I will not allow Kakyoin to die!” He began pulling out the knives from Kakyoin’s body, tossing them aside—which you weren’t supposed to do because then the wounds bled more freely, but Kakyoin was going to bleed out if he didn’t do something, so he had to do something, and maybe this was crazy and wouldn’t work but goddamn it, he had to do something!

“Caesar, give me strength!” Joseph said, and placed his hands flat on Kakyoin’s chest, summoning his Hamon as Hermit Purple emerged, wrapping around Kakyoin’s body.

When channeled properly, Hamon could help with healing. The healing properties of Hamon had never been a focus of his training, and he’d never gotten specific instruction in how to use it for such—but then again his mother’s Hamon-teaching strategies had been somewhat questionable and he’d never been given much specific instruction in any of it, mostly he was just forced into situations where he had to figure it out or die trying. Like that damn Hellclimb Pillar.

So he could probably do this.

No, he had to!

Kakyoin gave a gasp as the Hamon flowed through him, his eyes flying open, pupils shrinking. “J-joestar-s-san? Wh-what…?”

Joseph was channeling as much Hamon into Kakyoin’s body as he was capable of, but this would be easier if he had a TV or something he could use to get a look at what kind of damage had been done to Kakyoin’s internal organs.

Someone landed on the roof. “Joestar-san, I have the first-aid kit and bandages—whoa! What are you doing to Kakyoin?!”

“Trying to save his life!” Joseph barked at him. “Now, go fetch me a TV!”

“Wha—?”

“Do you want to save Kakyoin’s life or not?!” Joseph wasn’t being very nice about it, he supposed, but goddamn it! Kakyoin was dying, here! And Joseph was trying to save him but he didn’t know what he was goddamn doing! “Take my wallet and fetch me that TV!”

“O-oui.” And Polnareff rushed off again. Joseph took the rolls of bandages and began folding them into some kind of bandage pillow things to press over the wounds for now. That was what you were supposed to do, right? Use something to staunch the blood and apply pressure?

There was a needle and thread kind of thing in the sewing kit. Was he supposed to stitch these kinds of wounds closed? But he’d never been very good at sewing… and there were a ton of different kinds of stitches, right? What kind of stitch were you supposed to use to sew a body back together?

“J-joestar-s-san…” Kakyoin said weakly, eyes wide and pupils contracted to pinpricks, making his irises look insanely purple. Just like those marks on Caesar’s face. “Wh-what are you…?”

Kakyoin’s breathing was shallow and unsteady. And goddamn it, breathing was the most important thing for getting Hamon to work! It was all about the breathing!

And then, Joseph had a brilliant idea. Truly, it was brilliant. And it might just save Kakyoin’s life.

“Kakyoin,” Joseph said, looking Kakyoin in the eyes and pressing his hands over Kakyoin’s chest, over his diaphragm and lungs. “I need you to breathe the way I’m going to show you, okay? I’m trying to use Hamon to heal your wounds, but this will work a lot better if you can manage to create a bit of Hamon, too. Can you do that for me?”

Kakyoin’s expression was dazed. He could probably barely think through all the pain and the bloodloss.

“I’m going to show you how to breathe in order to create Hamon so we can heal your wounds,” Joseph repeated, keeping his voice calm but firm. In these kinds of situations confidence and control were key! “Or at least to heal your wounds enough to keep you alive.”

Whoops. Probably shouldn’t have said that out loud.

Oh well, Kakyoin didn’t look like he could understand very much at this point, anyway. He needed to use words that Kakyoin would definitely understand.

Maybe something like: “Jotaro is fighting Dio right now, and if we want to help him then we need to heal you up first.” There—Kakyoin’s eyes were starting to focus, a determination and a lively eagerness starting to replace the totally blank-dazed-dying look.

“So can you breathe the way I’m going to show you?” Joseph coaxed, and Kakyoin nodded.

And there was that iron resolve in those crazy familiar-purple eyes.

“Good,” Joseph said, and took one of Kakyoin’s hands, pressing it over his own chest, over his lungs. “Now, I need you to breathe like this—”

 

Dio finally let go of Kakyoin. And the old man and Polnareff were there to catch him and get him to a hospital.

Jotaro just had to make sure Dio didn’t see any of that. So he just had to distract the guy and get him somewhere else.

Beating the crap out of him seemed like a pretty good way to do that.

Jotaro bent his knees, using Star Platinum’s power to launch himself into the air, straight at Dio.

“Oh? You’re attacking me head on?” Dio smirked, flying backtauntingly. “Instead of keeping your distance, you’re coming right to me? Even though your dear Kakyoin used the last of his strength to tell you the secret of The World, like an athlete using up every last ounce of his strength to reach the finish line, only to collapse immediately upon crossing it?”

Jotaro grit his teeth. He was going to kill Dio. “I can’t beat the shit out of you without getting closer,” he said, pulling in close enough for Star Platinum to aim a punch at Dio’s head. Ideally to knock it right off his damn shoulders.

“Oho,” Dio smirked, and landed on the roof below them. “Then come as close as you like.”

Jotaro landed as well, walking forward, Dio walking to meet him, still smirking. Jotaro was going to punch that smirk right off his damn face.

Which Star Platinum aimed for just as soon as Dio’s Stand was in range. “Ora!”

The World dodged, kicking Star Platinum in the shin, ripping the cloth of Jotaro’s pants. Damn it.

“Too slow, too slow!” Dio gloated, smirking. “The World is the ultimate Stand.” He crossed his arms complacently over his chest, preening like a fucking cockerel. “Even without his power to stop time, his speed and power far exceed that of your Star Platinum.”

Jotaro glanced down at his leg, expression considering. “So it’s the same type of Stand as Star Platinum,” he concluded, looking back at Dio. “Not much range, but immense power and precise movements.”

Dio was grinning smugly. He definitely had a—what was that German word Kakyoin had used? Backpfeifengesickt? Dio had one of those. Jotaro wanted to defenestrate him. And then kill him.

“I wanted to try a little test to find out just how much more powerful The World was, compared to your Stand,” Dio was saying, smirking complacently. “Though it appears a test was hardly necessary.”

Jotaro just stared at him. “Test?” he asked. Yare yare daze. This guy is unbelievable. “Is that what you call just patting me, and not even enough to hurt?” Honestly, Jotaro had hurt himself worse just accidentally stubbing his toe or forgetting to duck when walking through a doorway. The injury was nothing. “Although I guess you did rip my 200,000 yen pants.” And that was annoying. He’d already had to replace his uniform once this trip.

“Why are you Joestars so stubborn about admitting defeat?” Dio asked, looking annoyed.

Defeat? Is that what you think this is? As long as I’m still alive, I’m not defeated.

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

“Hah,” Dio smirked, shrugging. “I suppose I shall rise to your silly provocation and test you just a bit more.” The World emerged, and Star Platinum wasted no time in attacking.

Dio was no novice at fighting. It was clear he’d had practice, and probably some training as well. This fight wasn’t going to be easy.

Still, Dio’s Stand wasn’t managing to land anything against Star Platinum, while Star Platinum managed to at least graze him, opening a gash on Dio’s cheek.

He wasn’t actually getting anywhere against him, though. The World was countering Star Platinum’s every punch, finally managing to lock knuckle-to-knuckle in a temporary stalemate.

Jotaro grunted in frustration.

Fuck, Dio was just playing with him. He could end this at any moment if he used The World’s power to stop time. Jotaro needed to figure out a way to counter that.

For now, all he could do was keep Dio ‘testing’ him as long as possible. It was clear the guy had issues, what with the way he needed to prove to himself he was better than Jotaro and that The World was better than Star Platinum in every way, rather than just using the time-stopping trick against him. Jotaro would take advantage of that.

They were still caught in a gridlock and Dio smirked. “Shall we compare the speed of our attack rushes?” He reached up to cover his cut with a hand, and when he removed his hand a moment later the cut was completely gone.

Damn vampire.

Not only did he have the power to stop time, but he was also practically immortal and could heal within minutes from probably anything except getting his head smashed in. And yet he still felt the need to prove himself superior?

Yare yare. Well, it’s something that gives me a fighting chance against him, at least. I can stay alive as long as I can exploit his doubts, and as long as I can stay alive I have a chance at defeating him.

I hope the old man’s gotten you to the hospital by now, Kakyoin.

The World and Star Platinum were exchanging high-speed blows, the both of them yelling: “Ora! Ora! Ora!” for Star Platinum and “Muda! Muda! Muda!!” for The World. They really were the same kind of Stand. They were matching each other blow-for-blow, and it was clear Star Platinum wasn’t getting anywhere.

What a pain.

He needed to figure something out. Kakyoin went through hell to give me the advantage of knowing the power of Dio’s Stand. I know what his power is; I just need to figure out how to counter it.

Kakyoin trusted him to do that.

Dio was still smirking. The bastard. Their Stands were stirring up great gusts of wind with the force of their blows, if anything happened to the roof that he and Dio were standing on Dio would be at a distinct advantage, considering he could fly through the air.

Wait. Can he fly because he’s a vampire, or is it a power he gets from his Stand? I haven’t heard anything about vampires being able to fly. If that’s a power that he gets from his Stand, which is the same type as Star Platinum, then that means I should be able to do that, too.

Might as well give it a try.

Jotaro started rising into the air. Dio rose to follow him, not even raising an eyebrow at the fact that Jotaro could now levitate as well. Definitely not a vampire thing.

Damn. I wish I’d known about this ability sooner.

Dio was also still surrounded by those gold flames, but they didn’t seem to actually be fire. Probably just some kind of visual manifestation of his power or something. Whatever. Now they were facing each other in the air, their Stands battling between them.

And then The World finally broke their deadlock, swinging at Star Platinum’s face instead of matching him knuckle-to-knuckle. Star Platinum dodged, but it seemed like that had been Dio’s plan from the beginning, because The World’s other fist connected with Star Platinum’s cheek, sending him flying back, Jotaro feeling the blow to the face.

It wasn’t enough to knock him back or stagger him, but it still caused him to spit blood. Tch.

Dio put his hands arrogantly on his hips, laughing. “So my The World’s power and precision are both superior!” he gloated. “I’ve seen enough.” He smirked. “I’m satisfied.” He leaned forward, looking pleased with himself as a damn cat. “I will end you now!”

This isn’t good.

Dio licked his lips. “And after I’m done with you,” he smirked, “all that’s left is to deal with that old man, Joseph, and then the Joestar bloodline that has been such a thorn in my side will be forever cut, tossed aside like the discarded stem of a rose.”

Jotaro yelled. And kept yelling. His blood was boiling. He’d been trying to hold his fury in, but he felt like if he didn’t let it out he would explode.

Holly was dying because of Dio. Iggy and Polnareff were killed by Dio’s followers. Dio had tortured Kakyoin and intended to kill him. And now he was about to kill Jotaro and then go after the old man. And he probably wouldn’t leave Polnareff alive, either. Or Kakyoin when he found him.

Jotaro couldn’t let that happen.

He was going to pay Dio back for everything he’d done to them, tenfold.

The only problem was how?

Dio was licking Kakyoin’s blood from his nails, smirking as he did. “I have decided that I will show no mercy when fighting one of the Joestar bloodline,” he said, “but will kill them instantly!”

And yet you haven’t killed me yet. And you won’t.

Jotaro kept seeing Dio suddenly behind Kakyoin, catching him as he was suddenly knocked back in a splash of blood, all those knives suddenly embedded in his flesh. He kept seeing Dio twisting that knife in Kakyoin’s chest, smirking the whole damn time. He kept seeing the expression of anger on Dio’s face when he’d find out that Kakyoin was still alive, then the sadistic glee, kept seeing Dio sticking his fingers in Kakyoin’s neck and draining the life out of him. Which was just one of the things that would happen if Jotaro failed to defeat him.

Jotaro felt like he was going insane. Like a ticking time-bomb about to go off.

Time—

Star Platinum was punching harder and faster than ever, but The World was still keeping up. This wasn’t getting him anywhere. I need to do something!

Dio was smirking like crazy, sharp and predatory. “The way to end you is with The World’s true power!”

Shit!

For a moment Jotaro panicked.

If his Stand stops time and I can’t do anything then I’ll be completely at his mercy, I’ll be dead before I even realize it—

If I can’t do anything during his stopped time—

I have to be able to do something during his stopped time—

I have to be able to move—

The World and Star Platinum are the same kinds of Stands—

“The World!” Dio cried, crossing his arms in front of him and then throwing them out to his side—

I have to be able to move in his stopped time—

I can do this—

“Stop time!”

Focus—

And Jotaro saw time stop, the world becoming gray and frozen.

Yes!

And then there was Dio, enveloped in roaring gold flames and smirking, coming towards him.

But Jotaro couldn’t move.

Damnit!

He could see Dio coming towards him, smirking, but his body wouldn’t move.

Well, this is the first part won. It confirms again that Star Platinum and The World are indeed the same type of Stands, so it must be possible for me to move. I just have to figure it out. Or force my way through it. Either way.

Dio was hovering in front of him, smirking that damn Backpfeifengesickt smirk. Jotaro badly wanted to punch him. But his body still wouldn’t move.

Damn.

“With this the Joestar bloodline is almost at an end,” Dio smirked, and pulled back his hand, fingers together.

Shit! He probably plans on stabbing me through with that. Or lopping my head off. Either way, if I don’t do something NOW then I’m dead.

“My archenemies, who dared to make an appearance in my destiny….” Dio was monologuing, pulling his arm back further.

Fucking bastard! Jotaro was straining his hardest to move. It was like being stuck in a block of ice. If I don’t move NOW then I’m going to get killed and Kakyoin and the old man and Polnareff will be next—

Kakyoin—

“Farewell!” Dio said, and started driving his arm forward.

DAMN IT, MOVE!

His fingers twitched.

YES!

 

Kakyoin was aware of being caught in the air, of seeing Hermit Purple, Joseph and Polnareff’s worried faces, all of it a blur.

He was aware of it, but distantly. It didn’t entirely feel real. His vision was clouding with black, shifting in and out of focus, some kind of dark mesh crawling over his eyes. He felt faint, dizzy, suspended, falling, drifting, sinking, floating, slipping, tipping, hazy like a cloud and insubstantial like a shadow.

There were spiders crawling over glass and carousels he was riding and blurry images in front of his eyes like a low-quality TV screen and Jotaro’s voice coming muffled and hard to distinguish through a wall and someone was yelling and people were running around and slamming doors and he was lying on the floor of his room with a terrible headache and there were a bunch of people in his house partying and he wished they would go away and shut up he was so tired and he hurt all over and he felt like he might have to throw up except he was too exhausted even to move and sleep was lapping at him like ocean waves, salt water getting in his mouth and maybe he shouldn’t be sleeping on a beach but he couldn’t find the energy to move and he was cold but the sand was warm and there were colorful sun umbrellas spinning above him and keeping the eclipsing sun off his face.

The next thing he was aware of was the sensation of being woken up by a warm, bright light in his eyes and a thrumming in his blood like a sudden dose of caffeine, and he could make out Joseph’s face hovering over him, pinched in concern and concentration.

“J-joestar-s-san?” Kakyoin managed. He didn’t know what was going on. Where he was or what was happening. “Wh-what…?” He was missing something. Something important.

Polnareff’s voice, Polnareff’s face, eyes wide and mouth dropped open, saying something. Kakyoin only caught his name.

Joestar-san was saying something. Something about a TV. A TV? Where was he? A TV would suggest a hotel room, but there was a night sky above him and the movement of air against his skin.

Oh, and he hurt. It felt like his entire body was one throbbing injury. Why did he hurt so much? What had happened? He was missing something.

He heard his name again. More pain as something pressed against him. Oh, and he was glowing. Glowing gold. That reminded him of something. He was missing something. Why was he glowing? He was missing something. Something important.

Joestar-san was pressing something painfully against him, his brow furrowed and lips thinned, looking pained by something himself. He was sparking with gold light.

Gold light. The same gold light Kakyoin was enveloped in. He could feel it inside him like sunlight shining through a window.

Oh. It’s Hamon. Joestar-san was using Hamon on him?

“J-joestar-s-san…” Kakyoin tried to make his mouth and throat work. It was disturbingly difficult. “Wh-what are you…?”

“Kakyoin,” Joseph said, applying more pressure to his chest. “I need you to breathe the way I’m going to show you, okay? I’m trying to use Hamon to heal your wounds, but this will work a lot better if you can manage to create a bit of Hamon, too. Can you do that for me?”

Hamon. Healing wounds. Right, he was injured. Something had happened. Hamon could heal wounds? Kakyoin couldn’t use Hamon. What was Joestar-san saying? Where was Jotaro?

Gold light. Kakyoin was missing something. It was niggling at him. An important thought. What was it?

Joestar-san was talking again. It was disturbingly difficult to understand him. “I’m going to show you how to breathe in order to create Hamon so we can heal your wounds enough to keep you alive,” Joestar-san seemed to be saying. “Can you do that for me? Jotaro is fighting Dio right now—“

That’s it!

The thought. Jotaro and Dio. The gold light. The knives. Dio. Jotaro. Time. Dio could stop time. Falling.

“—and if we want to help him then we need to heal you up first.” Joestar-san’s eyes were holding his. They were turquoise. But a different shade from Jotaro’s. Jotaro’s were lighter.

Jotaro. Right. He needed to help Jotaro. He was useless as he was. He’d just drag them down. Here Joestar was with him when he should be helping Jotaro. Dio can stop time. We have to—

“Can you breathe the way I’m going to show you, for Jotaro?” Joseph asked, holding his gaze.

Jotaro. Kakyoin nodded his head. I just need to breath?

Oh. Breathing. It was hard right now. I see. And Hamon was a type of energy created by breathing. Like meditation? How did it work? Why had he never wondered about it before?

“Good,” Joseph said, and took one of Kakyoin’s hands, pressing it against his own chest. His ribs expanded and contracted beneath Kakyoin’s palm. “Now, I need you to breathe like this—”

Like this? But you’re just—

breathing—

oh.

Oh.

I see.

And Kakyoin changed the way he was breathing, concentrating everything on matching the rhythm to Joseph’s.

Breathing became easier, became warmer, became a conscious conversion of energy instead of simply an unconscious instinct of the body. Something like conscious photosynthesis. Or, altered photosynthesis, turning water and sugar into sunlight instead of water and sunlight into sugar. Spiritus-synthesis rather than photo-synthesis. A synthesis of the breath.

The experience was not unalike to having been stiff and aching from standing in place forever and then suddenly figuring out you could move, and suddenly you feel the opportunities open up before you and with the movement your blood finally starts flowing properly in your veins and the aching from standing still starts to fade.

How obvious.

 

“Oh? You’re attacking me head-on?” Dio asked with a quirk of his lips, as Jotaro bent his knees and used his Stand’s power to launch himself into the air, coming straight at him. Dio flew backwards, just to see if Jotaro continued after him.

He did. Dio bit back a dark, delighted laugh. “Instead of keeping your distance, you’re coming right to me? Even though your dear Kakyoin used the last of his strength to tell you the secret of The World, like an athlete using up every last ounce of his strength to reach the finish line, only to collapse immediately upon crossing it?”

Similar to the way Jonathan had died.

“I can’t beat the shit out of you without getting closer,” Jotaro said, and there was nothing of Jonathan in his demeanor as he flew after Dio, Star Platinum aiming a punch at Dio’s head. Dio dodged easily.

“Oho,” Dio said, lips curling, floating backwards and touching down on a nearby roof, walking forward as Jotaro touched down across from him, walking forward to meet him. “Then come as close as you like.” This would certainly make things easier, not having to chase the Joestar down again. It looked like this battle would be even easier than he’d expected.

When Jotaro had claimed that he was willing to sacrifice Kakyoin and let him die Dio had half-suspected that Jotaro was bluffing, so when he’d dropped Kakyoin he’d been prepared to attack Jotaro as soon as Jotaro lunged after his beloved friend.

But Jotaro hadn’t. Instead of diving after Kakyoin to prevent him from splattering his insides all over the cement, Jotaro had lunged straight at him, Dio.

So he hadn’t been bluffing. Dio had almost been surprised.

Jotaro couldn’t have been more different from Jonathan. Jonathan, who would’ve foolishly risked his life to save even a complete stranger, and would’ve risked his life many times over to save a friend. Jonathan, who had hated his guts with a fierce passion, willing to risk life and limb again and again to destroy him, and yet had still cradled Dio’s severed head to his chest as he died from the wounds Dio had given him. Jonathan, who had prioritized saving that country girl Erina over everything else, even over destroying Dio.

Jonathan had been the only person Dio had ever respected in his entire life. It was for that reason that Dio had taken Jonathan’s body for his own, had immortalized and preserved Jonathan as part of himself. Nobody else would’ve deserved the honor.

But this Jotaro—he had guts, Dio would give him that. But he wasn’t worth a even a fifth of what Jonathan had been. He didn’t have and didn’t deserve Dio’s respect.

He was nothing but a foolish boy who’d always been the biggest and strongest child on the playground, used to always getting his way and being able to push all the other children around without hardly needing to try.

“Ora!” yelled Jotaro’s Star Platinum, punching at Dio’s The World.

Well, well. Dio would show Jotaro what true superiority was.

The World dodged Star Platinum’s punch easily, then landed a kick to Star Platinum’s shin.

Dio’s lips curled. “Too slow, too slow! The World is the ultimate Stand.” He crossed his arms over his chest, one of his fingers lifting pointedly, his teeth baring in a grin. “Even without his power to stop time, his speed and power far exceed that of your Star Platinum.”

Jotaro glanced down at the injury on his leg, eyes narrowing slightly. “So it’s the same type of Stand as Star Platinum,” he said, his eyes moving to look back at Dio. “Not much range, but immense power and precise movements.”

Dio tapped a finger on his arm. “I wanted to try a little test to find out just how much more powerful The World was, compared to your Stand,” he said, lifting a hand, his lips curled, gaze keen and derogatory. “Though it appears a test was hardly necessary.”

“Test?” Jotaro said phlegmatically, staring at him with unimpressed eyes. “Is that what you call just patting me, and not even enough to hurt? Although I guess you did rip my 200,000 yen pants.”

A taunt. And an infantile one, at that. Did this Jotaro really think he could bait Dio with such petty tricks? It was clear that Jotaro would lose this fight, and yet he was still keeping up an attitude as if he believed he could win.

Dio tilted his head. “Why are you Joestars so stubborn about admitting defeat?” he wondered aloud. Jonathan had been the same, never admitting defeat no matter how badly he was beat, still trying everything in his power to beat Dio no matter how weak and vain the attempts.

Dio’s lips pulled away from his teeth. “Hah.” Maybe this Jotaro was a little like Jonathan, after all.

“I suppose I shall rise to your silly provocation and test you just a bit more,” he relented, uncrossing his arms and gesturing indifferently as The World emerged from his form. It would be worth it to prove his superiority and see Jotoaro’s face finally crumble in defeat, the way Jonathan’s never had.

The World and Star Platinum clashed, exchanging blows. The World punched, Star Platinum blocked with his forearms. Star Platinum tilted back and kicked repeatedly, The World jumped out of the way, into the air. The World came lunging down, Star Platinum spun and blocked, punched again, just missed The World’s head.

Star Platinum’s next punch just grazed The World, a small cut appearing on Dio’s own cheek. Dio glanced at it, just able to see the slight welling of red, feeling it start to drip slowly over his skin.

“Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora!” Star Platinum was shouting, punching repeatedly. The World met him blow for blow, before finally locking him knuckle to knuckle.

Jotaro made a noise of frustration.

Dio’s lips curled. So his superiority was finally starting to sink into Jotaro’s thick skull. Maybe it was time to speed this up. “Shall we compare the speed of our attack rushes?” he suggested, and moved his right hand to lightly cover the cut on his cheek.

It took hardly a second for the cut to heal, and Dio removed his hand, lips pulling farther away from his teeth.

The World and Star Platinum were exchanging high-speed blows.

“Ora!” Star Platinum was shouting as he punched as hard and as fast as he could. “Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora!”

“Muda!” countered The World, easily matching Star Platinum’s every strike. “Muda! Muda! Muda! Muda! Muda! Muda! Muda! Muda! Muda!”

Dio’s lips were relaxed in a satisfied curve, Jotaro making progressively louder grunts of frustration as he realized that his Star Platinum was no match for The World.

Their Stands were stirring the air into gusts and buffets of wind with the force of their blows and when Jotaro started rising into the air Dio rose to follow him, engulfed in the brilliant flames of his power, untouchable.

Star Platinum and The World were still meeting each other blow for blow, and Dio’s lips curled, revealing the sharp points of his teeth. It was time to end this charade.

On the next punch The World moved his fist slightly to the inside, missing Star Platinum’s knuckle and instead aiming the blow at his face.

As predicted, Star Platinum dodged to the side, but The World’s other fist was already in motion to catch him there, connecting with Star Platinum’s cheek and sending the Stand flying backwards.

Jotaro did his best to hide the impact of the blow, which was commendable, but even if he could keep himself from flinching or being thrown back he couldn’t swallow down the pained grunt or the splash of blood that spurted from his mouth.

Even Jonathan would have been staggered by a punch like that.

This Jotaro really couldn’t do anything against him.

Even Jonathan had died at his hand.

Dio laughed, sliding his hands to his hips, lips curling to reveal the sharp glint of his fangs. “So my The World’s power and precision are both superior!” he observed. He gazed down at Jotaro with half-lidded eyes. That determined Joestar anger was back in Jotaro’s expression. No matter. “I’ve seen enough. I’m satisfied.” He leaned forward, his grin sharpening, the flames of his power blazing around him. “I will end you now!”

He folded an arm over his chest, bringing the other up to drag a nail over his smiling lips, tongue sweeping out to lick along the edge. “And after I’m done with you, all that’s left is to deal with that old man, Joseph, and then the Joestar bloodline that has been such a thorn in my side will be forever cut, tossed aside like the discarded stem of a rose.”

Jotaro gives a wordless yell of desperate, terrified fury. How eloquent. Jonathan may not have been a wordsmith either, but at least he’d been able to coherently form his cries into that word, ‘DIO!’

Dio’s lips curled, and swept his tongue over his nail, still tasting dried there the blood of Kakyoin. Whetting his appetite before taking Jotaro’s blood for his own. He could hardly wait; he had the feeling Jotaro’s Joestar blood would suit him very well indeed.

“I have decided that I will show no mercy when fighting one of the Joestar bloodline,” he declared as Jotaro continued to yell, “but will kill them instantly!”

Jotaro’s Star Platinum was punching harder and faster than ever, Jotaro pouring everything into his Stand, and while The World was easily keeping up and wouldn’t have any trouble defeating Star Platinum in this hand-to-hand combat, this wasn’t the way to end the Joestar bloodline.

No, this was Jonathan’s descendant, after all—Dio couldn’t just defeat him, he had to completely crush him.

“The way to end you is with The World’s true power!” he told Jotaro, feeling a thrill run through him, pulling his lips away from his teeth. It would be delightfully ironic to destroy Jotaro with The World, when he was completely helpless and powerless against him, and when he’d done it to himself, coming willingly within Dio’s range even though Kakyoin had sacrificed his life to tell him the secret of The World.

Useless. Everything that Kakyoin had done, and everything that Jotoro was trying to do: it was all utterly useless against him.

This Jotaro deserved to die like that, utterly helpless and at Dio’s mercy, destroyed by his own stubborn stupidity. If he’d had any intelligence or compassion at all, he would’ve listened to his dear Kakyoin like that country girl Erina had listened to Jonathan, taking that baby and running.

But even in love most humans were selfish.

And now Jotaro would be destroyed, just as helpless to prevent Dio from taking from his life and his blood as Jonathan had been once he’d died.

“The World!” Dio announced, throwing out his arms. “Stop time!”

And time stopped, the world gray and frozen.

With his The World Dio really did have the power to rule the world. Time was the one thing no one could ever escape, the one thing everyone was always at completely mercy to, unable to do anything against—time ruled everything. And now time was at his command, and everyone was completely at his mercy, unable to anything against him, and so it was he who was the one who ruled everything.

Star Platinum was frozen mid-punch, Jotaro frozen with his legs slightly apart and arms held loosely at his sides, like someone brace to receive a punch, his chin tilted down so the rim of his cap covered his eyes as if he didn’t want to see what was coming. Not that he could see it, anyway.

Dio, wrapped in dancing gold flames, moved forward towards the frozen Jotaro, his lips pulling farther away from his teeth. “With this the Joestar bloodline is almost at an end,” Dio said, and readied his hand to stab it straight through Jotaro’s chest. “My archenemies, who dared to make an appearance in my destiny….” Dio nearly shivered at the idea of finally being free. Free from the Joestars; free from his past; free to make the future and the world his own, once and for all. “Farewell!”

He pulled back his arm, then drove it forward—

And then—impossibly—Jotaro’s fingers moved.

 

There were some people that others termed ‘naturals.’ At one thing or another.

Joseph had been one of them himself—a natural at Hamon, he’d been using before he even knew what it was. Caesar had been the same.

Even without any Hamon training he’d been able to defeat Straizo and Santana. And then with only a month of Hamon training, he and Caesar had been able to defeat Esidisi, Wamuu, and Kars.

(And yes, it had been him and Caesar, even if it was technically Joseph who had served the finishing blows; but he wouldn’t have been able to succeed without Caesar—without everything Caesar had done for him. If not for Caesar, he wouldn’t have been able to win, much less still be alive today.)

But Kakyoin—Kakyoin was impressive. Even for a natural like Joseph, Kakyoin was impressive.

Kakyoin had never shown any predisposition for Hamon; had never, as far as Joseph knew, ever used Hamon before.

And yet with only about five minutes of instruction he was already breathing like a Hamon pro. And yet Joseph wasn’t sure ‘natural’ was quite the right word—Kakyoin didn’t seem to have a predisposition towards Hamon, he was just a scary-fast learner who was determined as hell and forcing himself to make it work.

I am going to learn Hamon, said Kakyoin’s look. I am going to live.

And he did. Already his body was healing itself, more than Joseph had been able to do for him.

Kakyoin shared that trait with Jotaro, Joseph supposed. They put their minds to something and got it done, accepting no compromises.

Of course, that was also probably the trait that had gotten Kakyoin into this situation in the first place, on the verge of death—and the trait that might still kill him yet.

Because the obstinate kid was already trying to push himself to his feet.

“NO,” Joseph said, pushing him back down by the shoulders. “You’re not an idiot are you?! Your insides have been totally messed up, even if most of the bleeding is now stopped—”

“I know myself very well, thanks,” Kakyoin said, trying to push Joseph’s hands from his shoulders and sit up. “That Hamon is incredibly useful and versatile. I’ve already healed my organs—”

“How could you do that when you couldn’t even see what the damage was?!”

Kakyoin was frowning at him. “It’s my body, isn’t it? I think that—”

“I have the TV!” Polnareff cried, landing by Joseph’s side, breathing hard, a TV under his arm.

“Great! Put it right there!” Joseph said, gesturing beside him.

Kakyoin was still frowning and trying to sit up. “I’m sorry, but there’s no time to waste—”

“You are not going anywhere until we’re sure you’re not going to die!” Joseph barked at him. “Polnareff, hold him down! He keeps trying to sit up! He’ll reopen his wounds again—”

Kakyoin was frowning. “I won’t—”

“Got him!” Polnareff said, taking Joseph’s place pressing down on Kakyoin’s shoulders.

Kakyoin looked annoyed. “I don’t need—”

“Hermit Purple!” Joseph cried, unleashing his Stand on the TV, focusing on bringing up an image of Kakyoin’s torn up internal organs.

“Jotaro’s still fighting Dio isn’t he?” Kakyoin said, trying to sit up despite Polnareff. “We need to—I need to—”

“I’m not losing anyone else!” Polnareff shouted at him. “Iggy, Avdol—they’re both dead! I’m not losing you too!”

Kakyoin’s eyes widened and he stopped straining. “I…”

“Oh my God!” Joseph cried, staring open-mouth at the TV. “Your internal organs are all healed!”

“I told you—” Kakyoin started.

“How did you even do that?!” Joseph demanded.

Kakyoin was looking annoyed. “I just used the Hamon you taught me—”

“You had like a minute of instruction!” Joseph said, pointing at him accusingly. “And you’re telling me that you managed to heal all your internal organs within like five minutes of that?!”

Kakyoin was frowning. “Was that only five minutes? That felt like a lot longer—”

“Hell if I know!” Joseph cried, throwing up his hands. “I was trying to save your life, not paying attention to the time! I might be exaggerating! But my point still stands! How did you manage to heal yourself like that after so little instruction, and when you were nearly dead to boot?!”

Kakyoin raised an eyebrow. “Hell if I know. I was just doing what you told me.”

“No, you were doing more than what I told you!” Joseph said.

“Time is of the essence right now,” Kakyoin said, and tried to sit up again. “Jotaro is—”

“What the hell is going on?” Polnareff asked, still holding Kakyoin down by the shoulders. He was looking at Kakyoin with an expression of extreme confusion. Like Kakyoin was a dangerous crocodile that had just turned into a fluffy pink rabbit. “You’re not dying, Kakyoin?”

“Clearly not,” Kakyoin said, peeling away the bandages Joseph had haphazardly wrapped his wounds in, then tugging aside the ripped cloth of his gakuran, showing the intact skin underneath.

Intact but now scarred. The Hamon had healed the wounds but not erased the traces. The scars over his eyes were still there, too.

“Not only are you still alive but you’re also still human,” Joseph noted, relieved. “Nice!”

Kakyoin raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”

“If you’d healed completely so there was no sign that you’d been injured, I would’ve assumed that Dio had done something to you and turned you into a vampire like him,” Joseph said.

“But I thought Hamon killed vampires?” Kakyoin said. “If I were a vampire, how would I have survived the treatment, much less used Hamon myself?”

“Uh,” Joseph said, scratching at his beard. “A trick?”

“Could someone please tell me what’s going on?!” Polnareff wailed.

“I’m healed now, you can let go of me,” Kakyoin said.

“I taught him Hamon,” Joseph explained.

“I totally still don’t even understand what that is,” Polnareff said, but he let go of Kakyoin’s shoulders, Kakyoin immediately sitting up and starting to push himself to his feet.

“We’ll explain more later,” he said, “but right now we need to—” and then he collapsed towards the ground, and would’ve hit it had Polnareff not caught him, holding him up.

“Oi oi oi!” Polnareff cried, distressed. “I thought you said you weren’t dying!”

“I’m… not…” Kakyoin said weakly, eyes wide and sweat beading up on his face, but Joseph could see that he was fighting to keep his breathing even. “I’m not…”

“You may have healed your wounds, but that doesn’t change the fact that you lost a helluva lot of blood,” Joseph pointed out. “You need to eat and rest or you’ll just pass out.”

“I can’t…” Kakyoin said, teeth gritted, eyes determined even as he trembled slightly. “Jotaro’s still fighting Dio, I need to…”

Polnareff looked torn between a vengeful anger directed at Dio and concern for Kakyoin. “Kakyoin, we need to get you somewhere safe to rest. Then Joestar-san and I will go after Dio and Joseph. You can count on us! But we need to get you somewhere safe first, because if you end up dying I’ll never forgive myself!” Polnareff shook his head vehemently. “And you! I’ll never forgive you!”

“No, I can’t,” Kakyoin said, trying to push away from Polnareff to stand on his own two feet, weak as the attempt was. “I have to—there’s no time to waste—Dio’s The World—I need to—”

Kakyoin’s eyes suddenly widened. “Joestar-san, Polnareff—I haven’t told you! Dio’s Stand’s power, the power of The World—The World can stop time!”

Polnareff’s jaw dropped. “What?!”

And unfortunately for them and their projected lifespans, that solution to the mystery of Dio’s power made everything make sense. In fact, that had to be the answer—it was the only thing that possibly could be.

“A Stand that can stop time?!” Joseph said, hands to his face. “That’s dangerous! That’s way too dangerous!”

“We need to help Jotaro,” Kakyoin said, pushing himself away from Polnareff.

Only to nearly keel over again.

This time it was Joseph who caught him.

“Whoa there!” he said, hands steadying on Kakyoin’s arms. “You’re not going to be much help to him in this state, now are you?”

A Stand that could stop time, huh?

Kakyoin was sweating, his eyes desperate. “I…”

They were so screwed.

“Polnareff, do you still have my wallet?” Joseph asked calmly.

But being screwed had never stopped them before.

“O-oui,” Polnareff said, pulling it out of his pocket. “It’s right here.”

They’d figure something out.

“We’re going to get Kakyoin something to eat and drink so he doesn’t pass out on us,” Joseph said, meeting Polnareff’s gaze. “And then we’re going after Dio. All three of us.”

It wasn’t like they could’ve stopped a determined Kakyoin from going, anyway.

“Oui!” Polnareff said.

“Thank you,” Kakyoin murmured.

Joseph just nodded. “Let’s go.” He forced a grin onto his face, then: his favorite tactic, right after running away. “Dio won’t even know what hit him!”

 

Jotaro had only been able to twitch his fingers, but it had been enough. As small as it the movement was, Dio had seen it, and fortunately Dio had more than enough strength and self-control to stop his arm mid-strike. “Wha—”

Almost have to hand it to the guy.

Using every ounce of his strength and concentration, Jotaro managed to twitch his fingers again.

This time Dio leapt backwards, shrieking, “Nani?! He just moved!”

The expression on Dio’s face was hilarious. Like a cat when a door was slammed. The way he’d jumped like that, too. The yellow of his widened eyes was also more animal than human.

“He… impossible!” Dio looked totally freaked. “His finger just moved!”

If it weren’t so damned hard to move, Jotaro might’ve actually laughed at the guy.

Yare yare. He really gets freaked out easily, doesn’t he?

Dio had looked like his mind was racing wildly for an answer, and now his eyes widened, realization and horror coming over his features as he seemed to find the answer. “I-it can’t be. It can’t be!” His eyes moved between Jotaro’s Star Platinum and his The World. “They’re… the same?”

Bingo.

Even if he gets freaked out easily, he’s still sharp. He’s still dangerous. I need to—

Jotaro managed to get his fingers to twitch again.

Dio’s face really was funny. Jotaro wished Kakyoin were there to see.

“The World and Star Platinum are the same type of Stand?!” Dio said, flipping out, and Yare yare, you’d think the world were ending, or something.

Dio seemed to calm down and get a grip on himself slightly, looking closer to peer suspiciously at Jotaro’s eyes. “Can he see me? Or is he moving his hand subconsciously?”

Well, it’s not like I can move my eyes at this point, anyway. I can’t get my hand to move again, either…

“Tsch,” Dio said, making a half-grimace. “Time’s up.” He stretched his right deltoid, clearly preparing for the resuming of their fight, before moving out of Jotaro’s field of vision. No doubt circling around behind him.

Time restarted, snapping back into motion like a rubber band that had been stretched too far.. It was mildly disorienting, the lag-time it caused between his body and mind, as Star Platinum continued for a moment with the motions of punching where The World had been even though he’d seen Dio and The World move in stopped time and knew they weren’t in that location anywhere. It simply took a moment for the rest of him to catch up.

The lag was like playing that damn baseball video game again.

I’ll get used to it.

He turned around, looking behind him to see Dio floating there, standing slightly askance so he was glaring at Jotaro over his shoulder.

“Hmph.” So he did move behind me. And he’s keeping his distance. He must still be freaked out.

Dio turned to face him. “Could you see me?” It was a demand, and an imperious one at that. Dio’s someone who isn’t used to being challenged or disobeyed.

So naturally, Jotaro didn’t say anything. Just stared at him. Disobeying and challenging him at the same time.

Dio’s face twisted into an expression of fury. “I asked if you could see me, Jotaro!”

Good. Jotaro tilted up his chin, making sure to look down at Dio. This’ll drive him nuts. “Who knows?” he said, cryptic and aloof. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Dio.”

I should be able to do that flame thing he’s doing, as well. It’s probably just a matter of projecting the Stand power rather than restraining it.

Jotaro let his self-control slip slightly, and flames of energy roared to life around him.

There we go.

Dio looked totally pissed, so of course Jotaro thought, I should piss him off even more, and shot up into the air, flipping around and then diving back down towards the street to pick up momentum. This way Dio had to chase him, and he’d be distracted, which was what Jotaro needed for this to work.

I can probably move for a moment in stopped time. As long as he’s close enough, a moment is all I’ll need. The only problem is that he’s suspicious as hell right now. He won’t be getting close enough.

So I need him to think that I can’t actually move in stopped time. I need him to think it was a trick.

He’s wearing metal bracelets. The magnets from my wallet I had Star Platinum pull apart in my pocket should stick to those. The other should stick to one of the metal buttons on my sleeve. When he notices he’ll conclude my fingers only moved due to the magnetism.

Now I just need to get the magnet on him without him noticing.

Jotaro was heading for a building. Perfect.

When Star Platinum hit the wall with its fist to change his course of direction, Jotaro left the other magnet in the divot Star Platinum had left behind. If Dio wants to follow me he’ll have to hit that exact spot. The magnet should attach to his bracelets then. Jotaro clandestinely attached the other magnet to his sleeve.

It was a bit of a gamble that this would work. Dio was cautious and attentive enough that he would definitely discover it—so long as the magnet actually succeeded in attaching to the bracelets on Dio’s wrist. But there was no way Dio would be wearing bracelets that weren’t genuine metal, and the magnets in Jotaro’s wallet had never failed him.

And besides, Jotaro had discovered during the trip to Egypt that he was actually quite good at gambling.

“Very well!” Dio was calling from behind him, following close on his tail. “It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter if you can see me during stopped time or not!”

Jotaro heard the crash of The World hitting the wall to change Dio’s course of direction to follow him.

Perfect.

“If you can move the same way as my The World,” Dio called, “then let me see you moving!”

And perfect timing, too. It sounds like he’ll be using The World’s power any second now.

Good. I’ll be ready.

“I, Dio, had truly surpassed all forms of life and all Stands!” Dio called. “And now, I can stop time for five seconds, and longer and longer intervals each time!”

Yare yare daze. He sure does like to gloat. Is he trying to intimidate me?

It doesn’t matter how long he can stop time. All I need is a moment.

“Jotaro!” Dio called from behind him. “I shall see just how powerful you truly are!”

Here it comes.

Jotaro was ready.

“The World!” Dio called. “Stop time!”

And then time stopped, the world turning gray-scale as it froze. For whatever reason. It was like Joseph man had snapped a picture with one of his cameras.

You better have gotten Kakyoin to the hospital, old man.

If he weren’t mostly unable to move, Jotaro would have tightened his jaw even further than it was already clenched. Kakyoin.

He kept seeing Dio stabbing him.

Dio. I’m going to kill you.

And all I need to do that is a moment.

Before Dio had stopped time, Jotaro had turned in the air so that he was flying slightly sideways, which would allow him to be able to watch Dio approaching him out of the corner of his eye.

And sure enough, Dio was gliding towards him cautiously. Watching him keenly for the slightest movement.

I need him to notice the magnets.

Jotaro concentrated all his power on making making his right hand twitch; the same hand he’d gotten to twitch last time, and the sleeve he’d attached the magnet to. He got it to move slightly.

Dio made a slight noise of perturbation, drifting carefully closer.

Now I just have to wait…

Dio exhaled audibly. Cautiously, he extended his own hand towards Jotaro’s, glancing at his wrist as he did so.

Did he see the magnet? In any case, I need this to work—

As Dio’s hand got closer Jotaro forced his own into movement, getting it to move even more than before. Perfect.

I’m getting the hang of this.

Dio pulled back his hand, and Jotaro let his still.

And then Dio started laughing, a dark chuckle that escalated quickly into wild guffaws before he calmed himself just as quickly.

Good. That means he noticed.

Jotaro was able to watch as Dio reached with his right hand to pull the magnet from the bracelets on his left wrist, reaching out with it held between his fingers and letting it attach himself to the magnet on Jotaro’s sleeve.

“You had placed that magnet on me,” Dio said, looking arrogant and self-possessed again. “Tch.” He glanced down at his left wrist, surmising: “When we were testing each other’s strength earlier?”

Good. That’s what I need you to think.

Dio looked back at Jotaro, expression contemptuous. “It looks like a magnet taken from a wallet or a pocket planner,” he noted.

Well, he’s not wrong. Though I wouldn’t have taken him for someone who used wallets or pocket planners.

“Hah.” Dio said, and his demeanor shifted, becoming grim and deadly. “You completely fooled me. I can’t take my eyes off you for a second.” He rose higher into the air.

Any moment now.

Jotaro was ready.

“But!” Dio said as he shot upwards into the air, gathering distance for momentum. Then he started diving back down, gloating: “If you’re using a trick like this, that proves you can’t move during stopped time!”

Perfect.

Jotaro was ready.

“You only added a few more seconds to your life!” Dio was calling as he descended. Good. His speed will make almost impossible for him to dodge or stop himself when I make my move.

Any moment now…

“This time you will…” The World had emerged from Dio’s body. “Die, Jotaro!”

Now!

And then Jotaro was forcing his hand into motion, manifesting Star Platinum, the Stand making a fist and punching it through the gut of The World.

That’s for what you did to Kakyoin.

Unfortunately, punching Dio’s Stand through the gut and turning around to face him was all that Jotaro were able to do before he froze again. But it was enough.

“Nani?!” Dio cried, looking down in absolute horror at the large hole that was now in his gut. “H-he… really can move! Only for a moment, but he can move!” He looked back up at Jotaro, eyes wide with shock and realization. “The magnet wasn’t to trick me into thinking he could move… but to trick me into thinking he couldn’t, and lure me closer!”

Yare yare. Give the guy a prize.

It’s annoying, though. I just punched a hole through his gut but he can still talk. Tch. That definitely wasn’t enough to kill him.

But it should give me an advantage.

Though of course, it was Kakyoin who allowed me to do this in the first place. I’ll have to thank him properly for that later.

He better be alive to receive it.

One second until time starts moving again.

 

Who knew, Kakyoin thought, that Hamon would be as easy as breathing? He could’ve laughed.

But as it was, he was too focused on breathing, too focused on gathering Hamon, on coaxing it into healing his body.

Fortunately for him, since Dio had been using him as a hostage, he appeared to have purposefully missed all of Kakyoin’s vital organs, including his heart and his lungs.

He could feel his body stitching itself back together. He kept breathing, kept focusing on concentrating the energy on healing himself.

But even as he did that, his mind was wandering; thinking; ruminating; calculating.

Joestar-san also uses Hamon as a weapon. I should be able to as well. It should just be a matter of projecting it outwards instead of inwards. And I should be able to use Hamon with my Hierophant Green, as well, the same way Joestar-san was using Hamon with his Hermit Purple.

Which means I have another tool I can use against Dio. And Hamon is supposed to be especially effective against vampires. So assumably it will be especially effective against Dio. If that’s the case, I might be able to use Hamon to even the score against The World’s powers to stop time…

But according to Joestar-san, Dio has survived Hamon before, though it nearly killed him and he had to take the body of Jonathan Joestar. And someone like Dio would undoubtedly be extra careful with Hamon now, and might even have come up with a way to counter it. If he sees it coming.

So if I could use Hamon against him in a surprise attack… but how do you surprise someone who can stop time?

His body was almost completely knitted back together.

I have to figure something out. But right now Jotaro is fighting Dio alone, and I need to—

Having determined that he was healed enough to move and fight without being at risk of bleeding out or organ failure, Kakyoin started sitting up.

—be there—

Except that he was immediately pushed back down. “NO,” Joestar-san said, glaring down at him. “You’re not an idiot are you?! Your insides have been totally messed up, even if most of the bleeding is now stopped—”

“I know myself very well, thanks,” Kakyoin said coolly, and sought to push Joseph away so he could sit up. “That Hamon is incredibly useful and versatile. I’ve already healed my organs—”

“How could you do that when you couldn’t even see what the damage was?!” Joestar-san demanded, interrupting him.

What a stupid question. “It’s my body, isn’t it” Kakyoin pointed out, annoyed. “ I think that—”

And then he was interrupted again, this time by Polnareff.

“I have the TV!” Polnareff cried, leaping over the edge of the roof and bounding over to Joestar-san’s side, brandishing a brand new TV.

“Great!” Joseph said, and gestured to the ground beside him. “Put it right there!”

So he planned to use Hermit Purple on the TV to view my organs so he could heal them, the same way he let us view the inside of his brain so we could fight The Lovers. It’s a perfectly logical sentiment and I’m grateful for it, but I don’t need it.

I have to get to Jotaro. I have to help him.

“I’m sorry,” Kakyoin started, trying to be polite, “but there’s no time to waste—”

And then he was interrupted yet again. This time by Joestar-san. Again.

“You are not going anywhere until we’re sure you’re not going to die! Polnareff, hold him down! He keeps trying to sit up! He’ll reopen his wounds again—”

I’m sorry, but I think you’re the one who needs to be interrupted, Joestar-san. “I won’t—”

Except then Polnareff interrupted him. Again.

“Got him!” Polnareff cried, and then he was pushing down crushingly on Kakyoin’s shoulders. One of his hands was pressing over where one of the stab wounds had been, and Kakyoin carefully hid a flinch; that injury hadn’t been life-threatening, and in order to save time he’d let it stay slightly bruised. It could hurt a little bit; it didn’t matter.

I mean it, Jotaro is at far more risk of dying at this moment than I am! “I don’t need—”

But he was interrupted yet again, this time by Joseph crying, “Hermit Purple!” as he used his Stand on the TV. Kakyoin was getting pissed off, an anxiety gripping his chest.

But he was no stranger to anxiety or to controlling it, and his breathing was perfectly even. “Jotaro’s still fighting Dio isn’t he?” he said pointedly, and tried to shove Polnareff away from him and sit up. “We need to—Iagain, and he really was pissed off now—up until he registered what Polnareff was saying.

Because Polnareff was yelling, “I’m not losing anyone else! Iggy, Avdol—they’re both dead!” and his fingers were clenching painfully into Kakyoin’s shoulders, his eyes were wild and glistening, his chin crinkling like he might start bawling “I’m not losing you too!”

Oh, Kakyoin thought, his eyes widening. That’s right. I have friends now. “I…”

Fortunately he didn’t have to think of an answer, because at that moment Joseph cried, “Oh my God!” and gestured disbelievingly at the TV. “Your internal organs are all healed!”

That’s exactly what I was trying to tell you. Kakyoin was feeling annoyed again. “I told you—”

“How did you even do that?!” Joestar-san demanded, interrupting him yet again, and Kakyoin was really annoyed now.

“I just used the Hamon you taught me—”

But then he was interrupted yet again. He was officially pissed now. We’re wasting time. At any moment, Jotaro could be—

“You had like a minute of instruction!” Joestar-san cried, and pointed accusingly at him, as if he’d cheated at something. “And you’re telling me that you managed to heal all your internal organs within like five minutes of that?!”

Five minutes? It had felt like hours. “Was that only five minutes? That felt like a lot longer—”

And Joestar-san interrupted him again, dramatically throwing up his hands with a: “Hell if I know! I was trying to save your life, not paying attention to the time! I might be exaggerating! But my point still stands!” And he pointed at Kakyoin accusingly again. And Kakyoin had never been interrogated by the police—not because he’d never done anything, but because he’d never been caught—but he imagined that this would be what it would be like, as Joestar-san demanded: “How did you manage to heal yourself like that after so little instruction, and when you were nearly dead to boot?!”

It was a stupid, pointless question, and Kakyoin was not feeling the least bit cooperative. “Hell if I know,” he said coolly. “I was just doing what you told me.”

“No, you were doing more than what I told you!” Joseph cried, gesturing dramatically.

And what does it matter? I’m alive, aren’t I? “Time is of the essence right now,” Kakyoin bit out, frustrated, trying to sit up despite Polnareff still holding him down. “Jotaro is—”

“What the hell is going on?” Polnareff interrupted him. Again. “You’re not dying, Kakyoin?”

“Clearly not,” Kakyoin said, frustrated, annoyed, trying not to panic. This isn’t getting anywhere. There’s no time!

And in order to prove that he was fine, he peeled away the bandages Joseph had haphazardly wrapped around him, then, interlaly wincing at the damage that had been done to his garkuran, pulled aside the ripped cloth to show them the intact skin underneath.

The wounds were completely healed, though it appeared he now had more scars. I already had the ones over my eyes. What’s a few more?

It was somewhat embarrassing, though. To have gotten those scars form Dio. To have failed in such a way. But that didn’t matter in the least right now. Jotaro is fighting Dio. Even Star Platinum won’t stand a chance against him with his ability to stop time. We need to go, now!

But neither Joestar-san nor Polnareff seemed to share his anxiety, Joestar-san going off ridiculously about him possibly being a vampire and Polnareff continuing to hold him down even though he was clearly fine.

Except that when Joestar-san finally stopped freaking out and Polnareff finally, finally let go of his shoulders so he could get up, it turned out that he was not, in fact, completely fine.

Because he tried to stand up, but he’d hardly managed to push himself to his feet before his vision scintillated like someone was holding sparklers in front of his eyes and the ground tilted sideways beneath him, and it was like someone had pushed him and he was crashing towards it—

But he didn’t hit the ground, because Polnareff caught him, crying, “Oi oi oi! I thought you said you weren’t dying!”

I’m not. He tried to say it aloud. It wasn’t working.

The words weren’t coming. Thinking was like trying to hold onto a fish. They kept slipping through his grasp and swimming away. His vision was gathering dark clouds, his eyelids trying to rain. Every time he forced them open it was like kicking open a video-game treasure chest.

He’d thought he was fine. The Hamon. He’d thought it was fine. “I’m… not…” his voice wasn’t working. Hamon. He needed to breathe. “I’m not…” I’m not dying. I’m not! I’m okay!

So why was everything dark and swimming and thoughts slipping through his grasp?

I have to get to Jotaro.

“You may have healed your wounds, but that doesn’t change the fact that you lost a helluva lot of blood.” Joseph’s voice.

Kakyoin tried to focus his gaze on him but couldn’t. In his vision there was just Polnareff’s shirt. Thing. Shirt-thing. What even was that garment. Some kind of French thing perhaps. Kakyoin had never been to France.

But he knew how the French said ‘thank you very much.’

Merci beaucoup.

“You need to eat and rest or you’ll just pass out.” Joestar-san’s voice.

Bloodloss. That’s right. But eat and rest? There isn’t time! “I can’t…” it was still hard to talk. Damn it! “Jotaro’s still fighting Dio, I need to…!”

“Kakyoin, we need to get you somewhere safe to rest.” Polnareff’s voice. “Then Joestar-san and I will go after Dio and Joseph.”

No! I have to go! I have to be there! The way to defeat Dio… I need to…!

“You can count on us!” Polnareff was saying.

I know. But I can’t. Actually. With this. I need to go. Please understand. It’s not that I don’t trust your determination or your abilities, but this is Dio—

“But we need to get you somewhere safe first, because if you end up dying I’ll never forgive myself! And you!” Polnareff’s voice was so loud. “I’ll never forgive you!”

“No, I can’t,” Kakyoin said. He tried to push away from Polnareff, stand on his own despite the way the world was dark and tilting. Please understand. “I have to—there’s no time to waste—Dio’s The World—I need to—” Dio can stop time, Jotaro could already be dead, why are you wasting so much time—

Oh. Kakyoin’s eyes widened in realization. They don’t know. They don’t know Dio can stop time!

“Joestar-san, Polnareff—I haven’t told you!” He forced his eyes to focus on their faces. “Dio’s Stand’s power, the power of The World—The World can stop time!” Please understand, we need to go!

Shock on Polnareff’s face. “What?!”

Joseph’s eyes widened, realization lighting them as his hands flew to his cheeks, his reactions as dramatic as ever: “A Stand that can stop time?! That’s dangerous!” He was shaking his head vehemently side to side. “That’s way too dangerous!”

Now you understand. We need to go! “We need to help Jotaro.” His voice was working properly again and the shadowy, scintillating figures had stopped holding a moshpit in his vision, the world once again more or less steady beneath his feet.

I’m fine now, he thought, and pushed himself away from Polnareff, taking a step—

Only for the ground to drop out from under his feet like a playground swing that had had one of its ropes cuts, the moshpit of scintillating shadows to crowd back into his vision like that scene with the susuwatari in Hayao Miyazaki’s anime film Tonari no Totoro.

Again he was caught by strong hands before he hit the ground.

“Whoa there!” So it was Joestar-san this time. “You’re not going to be much help to him in this state, now are you?”

This is humiliating. Will I be forced to wait on the sidelines yet again? My eyes, and now this—

No! “I…” I have to be there! I have to help! We need to find a way to get around The World’s ability to stop time and destroy Dio—if we don’t then I’ll be dying anyway, so it doesn’t matter what shape I’m in right now. I’m not sitting this one out!

“Polnareff, do you still have my wallet?” Joestar-san was still holding him upright.

“O-oui.” Polnareff. “It’s right here.”

“We’re going to get Kakyoin something to eat and drink so he doesn’t pass out on us,” Joestar-san said, his hands reassuring on Kakyoin’s arms. “And then we’re going after Dio. All three of us.”

“Oui!” Polnareff said.

Joestar-san… Kakyoin could almost have cried from gratitude. “Thank you.”

The susuwatari had cleared enough for Kakyoin to make out Joestar-san’s nod. “Let’s go.” Joestar-san grinned confidently. “Dio won’t even know what hit him!”

Yes, Kakyoin thought, the cogs in his mind turning—slowly and haltingly, but turning nonetheless. The only way to defeat Dio is to do something that he won’t see coming… at least, not until it’s too late…

But the matter of time—

Jotaro, are you—?

 

Jotaro’s fingers twitched, and Dio felt his blood run cold.

He stared at Jotaro’s fingers, his heart beating faster. Faster than it had beat in a long time. “Wha—”

Jotaro’s fingers twitched again and Dio leapt backwards. “Nani?! He just moved!” Dio’s heart was pounding wildly, his breathing shallow, an imperceptible tremor running through his body. “He… impossible! His finger just moved!”

It was like something pristine had shattered, been broken and violated, dashed to the floor to be replaced by a copy.

A copy.

That look that had been on Jotaro’s face. “So it’s the same type of Stand as Star Platinum.
Dio’s heart was beating even faster, sweat breaking out on his skin. “I-it can’t be,” he said, his eyes widening, breath catching. “It can’t be! They’re…” the world was starting to shatter around him, spiderwebbing with hairline cracks, “the same?”

Jotaro’s fingers twitched again. As if to confirm.

The pieces shattered, raining down, reflecting pieces of memories in their descent.

Dio hadn’t felt like this since that time Jonathan had first beaten him: had recovered from his kick, grabbing him, headbutting him, punching him again and again, knocking him to the ground, standing above him.

A shattering.

How dare he—!?

Shattering.

“The World and Star Platinum are the same type of Stand?!”

Shattered pieces everywhere.

He could pick them up. Reassemble them. Into something different, something even more deadly. He’d done that against Jonathan. He could do it again.

Dio’s breathing started evening, his heartbeat started slowing. A new strategy. He just needed to know the extent of Jotaro’s ability to move within his stopped time.

He looked closer, at Jotaro’s eyes. They seemed to have retained their color, while everything else but Star Platinum had turned gray. Aside from Dio, Stands were usually the only things that retained their color in his stopped time. The fact that Jotaro’s eyes had retained their color was concerning indeed.

“Can he see me?” Dio mused, looking at him, but Jotaro’s eyes remained fixed and motionless, focused on where Dio had been before time had stopped. “Or is he moving his hand subconsciously?”

He could feel the strain of time as it was about to start moving again, like a seismic shift before an earthquake.

“Tsch,” Dio said, lip curling in a sneer, right eye closing in a grimace. “Time’s up.” He crossed his right arm over his chest, bending his left arm up and pulling his right arm against him, stretching his right deltoid, before moving around Jotaro to hover a few meters behind him, away from where Star Platinum had been punching.

Time restarted, Star Platinum completing his punch at where Dio and his Stand had been, before he stilled.

Jotaro turned slowly, calmly to look at him, his expression more contemptuous than alarmed. “Hmph.”

Dio narrowed his eyes. He’d been standing in the air slightly askance, but now he turned to look straight at Jotaro. “Could you see me?”

Jotaro just looked at him hatefully, like a recalcitrant child, staying silent.

Dio felt something in him snap. “I asked if you could see me, Jotaro!”

Jotaro tilted up his chin, looking down at him, disdainful. “Who knows? I don’t know what you’re talking about, Dio.”

And then Jotaro became enveloped in the same flames of power as Dio—their stands really were the same—shooting up into the air, flipping around and then diving down towards the street.

Dio wasted no time in diving after him, a terrible sneer curling his lips and narrowing his eyes. He was burning with an anger that was threatening to consume him.

His temper had always been a problem. He needed to restrain it, to control himself. Years of practice in self-discipline and self-possession would not fail him now.

Star Platinum knocked against a building to change Jotaro’s course towards the street, Dio’s eyes following him. “Very well!” Dio said, getting a reign on himself. He was in control. Jotaro couldn’t perturb him with his cryptic answers and avoidance. “It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter if you can see me during stopped time or not!”

All that mattered was how much Jotaro could move during that stopped time.

The World also hit the building to change Dio’s course towards the street, and he shot after Jotaro, his lips curling. “If you can move the same way as my The World, then let me see you moving!”

It was six months ago when he had first stopped time. In order to test out his Stand’s power and speed, he’d had one of his servants fire a shotgun at him, while his back was turned, his eyes closed. (If he couldn’t do that then he wasn’t strong enough. If, his back turned and his eyes closed, the gun only a meter away, he couldn’t catch the bullets before they hit him, then he deserved the pain. He needed to be stronger. Stronger than anyone.)

And then, as he’d gone to catch the pellets… for a moment, it had looked like everything had stopped. That was when it all began.

At first, he’d thought it was an illusion. Trained boxers and those who were in accidents felt each moment as if it were several seconds or minutes… he thought it was something like that.

But as he’d looked at The World over his shoulder, he’d watched as The World stepped around the pellets that hung suspended in stopped time, reaching out and taking one between its fingers, holding it to its face, examining it.

It wasn’t an illusion.

“Dio-sama! You will surely be able to control time!” Enya the Hag had told him. “You must believe with more conviction that you can move within stopped time! It must be like breathing. Like being able to snap an HB pencil in half with your fingers! You must believe it’s a perfectly natural thing for you to do. What’s important is to recognize it as such. You must believe that it’s natural for you to do it!”

It had seemed so uncanny to him, then. To be able to stop time and move within it. The only creature alive who could. Like it was his own world, of which he was god and ruler, able to do anything, and no one had the ability to counter him. He could do anything.

If he could learn to control it at will, then the possibilities were mind-numbingly endless.

It was truly uncanny. All that power. Could he really…? Something like that, it almost felt too good to be true. It was hard not to doubt the possibility of such an overwhelmingly powerful ability. The power of a god.

“You are the emperor of this world! It’s only natural for you to control time!”

Dio would be the best. The highest level of existence. That had always been his goal. (As far away as possible from the wretched life that had once been his, the wretched situation he’d been born into, the wretched father he’d been born to. Dio would rise high above all that, would become the best—)

So he’d practiced. Again and again. And then one day, he’d felt the wheels of time truly enmesh themselves with The World. It was like a beam of light piercing the darkness; it was truly a magnificent feeling.

“I, Dio, had truly surpassed all forms of life and all Stands! And now, I can stop time for five seconds, and longer and longer intervals each time!” Laughingly he turned in the air, flying upside down, tilting his head back to look at Jotaro flying ahead of him. “Jotaro! I shall see just how powerful you truly are!” He flipped around again, crossing in front of his face, before throwing them out, activating his Stand’s power. “The World! Stop time!”

And time stopped, the world gray and frozen, Jotaro frozen in the air.

Dio glided towards him cautiously, watching him with narrowed eyes.

As he approached Jotaro’s fingers twitched.

“Hn.” Dio’s eyes narrowed further and he carefully glided closer, stops in front of him. He exhaled. Joestar still hadn’t moved anything more than his fingers. And only of the one hand, the same one which had been moving last time.

Something about it seemed odd.

Dio extended his own hand, but not before glancing down at his wrist, noticing a black magnet sticking to his metal bracelets. A magnet? Then…

He reached the hand towards Jotaro’s, which twitched in response, even more than the times before.

Dio pulled back his hand, and Jotaro’s own hand stilled.

Dio started laughing. To think he’d been fooled by such a childish trick.

He pulled the magnet off his bracelets, reaching out with it, letting it jump itself to the magnet attached to one of the buttons on the sleeve of Jotaro’s jacket.

“You had placed that magnet on me,” Dio observed. “Tch.” he glanced down at his left wrist. When had Jotaro done it? “When we were testing each other’s strength earlier?”

He looked back at Jotaro, his hands relaxing, fingers curling. “It looks like a magnet taken from a wallet or a pocket planner,” he noted. A common magnet anyone might have on them. Something so simple. “Hah. You completely fooled me.”

And Dio did not appreciate being fooled. “I can’t take my eyes off you for a second,” he noted, rising higher into the air. “But!” And he shot upwards, gathering distance for momentum before flipping around and diving back down. “If you’re using a trick like this, that proves you can’t move during stopped time!”

The shattered pieces were clicking back together, forming a solid, stable whole.

Dio had been worried over nothing. Now he could kill Jotaro in peace. Jotaro couldn’t do anything against him. He, Dio, was truly the only one with control over time, superior to everyone.

“You only added a few more seconds to your life! This time you will…” The World emerged from within him, readying to destroy the Joestar, and Dio’s lips pulled triumphantly away from his teeth, eyes widening slightly in anticipation. Finally, finally he would— “Die, Jotaro!”

The World was bearing down on Jotaro when Jotaro’s hand moved.

Dio barely had time to widen his eyes before Jotaro had made a fist with Star Platinum’s hand, the Stand emerging from his body to slam its fist through the gut of The World, the same wound tearing through Dio’s body.

“Nani?!”

The pain wasn’t bad. He’d experienced far worse, from being burned alive to chopping off his own head; pain was simply part of the life of a vampire. This was nothing.

What staggered him was the shattering. Sharp, refractive pieces falling everywhere; the feeling of being stabbed blind and pushed into freefall, the ground crumbled away, right and left and up and down whirling wildly, unable to see where he might land or where he might catch himself.

Dio could only stare at he gaping wound in his torso, watching it bleed, his thoughts careening. “H-he… really can move! Only for a moment, but he can move!” He looked back up at the now frozen Jotaro and Star Platinum, realizing: “The magnet wasn’t to trick me into thinking he could move… but to trick me into thinking he couldn’t, and lure me closer!”

And he’d fallen for it.

Jotaro had turned to face him before freezing again, and now he was staring at Dio with teeth clenched, expression one of fierce anger and determination—but not like Jonathan, Jonathan’s anger had always been heated, pained and conflicted, but this Jotaro’s was anger was cold, decisive and unfaltering—of course, he was willing to sacrifice even the person who was supposed to be his dear friend—

“You must believe it’s only natural that you can stop time!” Enya the Hag had told him. But it hadn’t been an easy thing for him to believe, not at first.

And yet of all things, this descendant of the Joestars had invaded Dio’s world of stopped time. And he’d done it so easily. So uncompromisingly. Just as he’d let that Kakyoin fall.

This Jotaro really wants to kill me, Dio realized, and almost laughed at the irony of having such a thought. A great many have wanted to kill him. It had never bothered him. And no matter the intensity of their hatred for him or their determination to beat him, it had never done them any good.

It was just that he’d realized also that Jonathan had never really been one of them—the people who wanted to kill him.

And yet, it was Jonathan who almost had.

(And wherefore was that?)

But Dio never made the same mistakes twice.

 

Sometimes Polnareff couldn’t help but wonder if he was destined to survive and watch everyone around him die.

His sister, first. His beautiful, beloved little sister.

And then Avdol—and Avdol had up and died on him twice! Okay, so the first time it turned out he wasn’t actually dead, but still! Twice! And both times to save him! And the second time Avdol had promised that he wouldn’t! So why—?!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, then Iggy had gone and died to save him, too. Why did everyone keep saving him?! And why did they have to keep dying while they were at it?! He wasn’t worth it! So why didn’t they save their damn selves?!

Stupid Avdol and his stupid damn hypocrisy. Stupid Iggy and his stupid damn pride.

And now Kakyoin was dying, too—why did everyone keep dying on him?! It wasn’t okay! It was not okay!

At least Kakyoin hadn’t died saving him too—wait no, that was a horrible thought! Kakyoin wasn’t dead yet!

But he was dying. And what could they do?

This was all Dio’s fault. DIO.

Polnareff was going to kill him.

He’d wanted to, when he and Monsieur Joestar had turned the corner and seen Dio above them with Kakyoin’s limp and bloodied form held to his chest—Kakyoin had looked dead. And Polnareff had wanted to kill Dio so badly.

But M. Joestar had stopped him, luckily, because yeah, the guy was right—if Jotaro wasn’t attacking Dio, that meant that Kakyoin had to still be alive, and Dio would probably have killed Kakyoin right there if Polnareff had attacked him.

So they’d followed M. Joestar’s plan and crept silently forward without letting themselves be noticed, and then Jotaro got Dio to drop Kakyoin and then M. Joestar was able to catch him, so now Kakyoin was still alive.

But he was dying. And there were like nine knives embedded in his body plus two other freely-bleeding stab wounds, and there was So. Much. Blood.

His sister’s battered body. Avdol’s dismembered arms. Iggy’s bloody, broken form. And now Kakyoin lying deathly pale in a pool of blood with knives sticking out of him.

Dio needed to die.

And honestly, he probably would’ve chased after Dio and Jotaro, but M. Joestar stopped him again, ordering him to go to a drugstore and get a first-aid kit and as many bandages as he could carry. Which meant that M. Joestar thought that there was a chance they could save Kakyoin, and as long as there was a chance to save him Polnareff would do anything to help—he wasn’t going to be losing anyone else. He couldn’t!

And when he got back with the first-aid kit and bandages, he found M. Joestar with his Stand wrapped around Kakyoin and it looked like he was, like, shocking him with Hamon energy or something, but if M. Joestar said that that was to save Kakyoin’s life then it was probably super important. Polnareff didn’t understand that Hamon stuff at all.

And then M. Joestar ordered him to go get a TV, no doubt to use Hermit Purple to see what damage had been done to Kakyoin’s internal organs, so he was supposed that that Hamon-stuff was healing Kakyoin or something, and so he ran off to get a TV.

And when he got back—he’d been as fast as he could, but it had still taken much longer than he would’ve liked—apparently Kakyoin was fine? Somehow he was fine—when M. Joestar used Hermit Purple on the TV it showed that Kakyoin’s internal organs were healed, and when Kakyoin pulled off the bandages and pulled aside his blood-soaked gakuran, his flesh that had most definitely been stabbed and bleeding was now healed, with scars that looked like the wounds had been months ago.

And Polnareff didn’t understand it at all—what the hell that Hamon stuff was or how it worked, they said it was some special way of breathing or something, but what the hell? How was that supposed to work?—he was just glad that Kakyoin wouldn’t be dying on him, too.

Although then Kakyoin kept collapsing, and apparently Dio’s The World could stop time—which meant that that thing where Polnareff kept moving down the steps when he was trying to walk up them, Dio kept stopping time and moving him down the steps each time?! Que se passe-t-il?!—and so Jotaro was in grave danger, because what could you do against someone who could stop time and then do whatever they wanted to you while you literally could not do anything?

(Dio could’ve killed him several times over, and all he’d done was move Polnareff down the steps?!)

And yeah, of course they needed to go help Jotaro, but Kakyoin was like, trying to kill himself doing it, the idiot. What was with everyone?! All of them getting themselves killed, or trying to, while he had to stay alive and fucking deal with it!

Stupid selfish assholes, all of them.

 

When time restarted, the force of Jotaro’s punch sent Dio flying back, down towards the ground and through the window of a shop. That was somewhat satisfying, but it was unlikely to be enough.

Jotaro dropped down, catching himself on a building sign. “I could move for a moment,” he observed. “Just a moment.” It was enough to save my life, at least. “But…” He looked over at the store with the broken window where Dio had crashed. There was the sound of a woman shrieking inside. “Yare yare,” he said, frustrated. “It was only enough to get one punch in.” Even if I punched a hole all the way through his gut, that’s unlikely to be enough to kill the guy. What with him being a fucking vampire and all.

Jotaro dropped down to the street, standing up to see Dio standing there with the hole in his gut already closed up. His fingers were dug into the neck of a woman who had probably been in the store, maybe the owner or at least someone who worked there. In any case, she was now dead.

Dio was smirking.

Jotaro narrowed his eyes. “I guess I have to bash your head to pieces, or it’ll be like nothing ever happened,” he said. “Tch. You’ve already recovered your energy. Because that hole I put in your gut is closed up now.”

No matter how badly I beat him, if he can get to even one person to take their blood he’ll be good as new. And it’s not like I can do anything about all the people everywhere. Somehow I have to defeat him all at once. In a single blow, if possible.

That’s gonna be tough.

Dio’s smirk widened. “Hoh,” he said, and tossed the dead woman aside, taking a single step forward before the world went gray and Jotaro found himself frozen.

So Dio can activate The World’s power without actually bringing out his Stand or making that ridiculous gesture. The hell was all the dramatics for, then? That ridiculous outfit, too. He clearly had it designed to match his Stand.

He’s not like the guys I’m used to fighting. He’s dangerous as hell, but he’s no thug. He’s more the Student Council President type. Stuck-up bastards.

Dio smirked as he quite literally swaggered past Jotaro. Yare Yare. He’s acting like one of those runway models on that ridiculous show Holly likes to watch.

Holly.

She’ll die if I don’t defeat Dio. Here and now.

She and all the others. Kakyoin. Polnareff. The old man.

Tch. I don’t have a choice.

I’ll just have to do whatever it takes.

Dio swaggered past him, and Jotaro braced himself, ready to move if Dio should attack. He’s cautious enough that I don’t think he will, but…

“Three more seconds,” came Dio’s voice from some distance behind him. Yeah, as I suspected. He’s keeping his distance.

I only have a moment in which I can move in stopped time. The key will be the timing.

“Two more seconds,” came Dio’s voice.

He said he can stop time for five seconds. Though seconds of stopped time don’t seem to be the same as seconds of regular time. Rather convenient of him to count down for me.

If I can just get a gauge of the timing, maybe…

“One more second,” came Dio’s voice, and Jotaro used all his concentration and willpower to turn his head, looking at Dio over his shoulder

Unfortunately, that was all he could do before his body froze again.

Damn it.

“Oho.” Time was still frozen and Dio was smirking maddeningly at him, floating up and backwards to land on top of a street sign and balancing there.

Apparently I can’t even move for an entire second. Only a fraction of one.

But these are some damn long seconds.

Jotaro finally felt the solid stillness that held his body in place start to crumble and the next moment time restarted.

Dio smirked even wider. His eyes looked utterly mad. “Your eyes followed me in the world of stopped time,” he said, like he’d made some brilliant deduction instead of just having stated the obvious. “So you truly can see my movements, Jotaro.”

Yare yare. Jotaro turned his body to face him, holding his gaze unflinchingly. “Seems so,” he said dryly.

Dio smirked at him. “Your dear Kakyoin did quite well for you,” he said smoothly, clearly taunting. “Because he figured out the secret of The World’s powers, you were able to figure out that you could move during stopped time, and so, you were able to invade my world. It’s all thanks to your dear Kakyoin, isn’t it? And yet you repaid him his efforts by letting him fall to his death.”

He’s trying to bait me. Jotaro’s fists clenched. His blood was boiling. And it’s working.

Dio smirked wider. “I would’ve never thought that a member of the Joestar family would sacrifice anyone, much less someone they cared about.” he said, and laughed, eyes bright and glinting like those of a fucking maniac. Which he was. “I underestimated you, Jotaro-kun.”

Jotaro’s teeth were gritted. If his anger was a bomb then the lit fuse was now only a centimeter away from making the whole damn thing blow.

Dio’s gonna REALLY regret pissing me off.

Of course, then Dio stopped time again. Seemingly just because he could, and to rub it in Jotaro’s face, because he didn’t even try to do anything.

The world went gray and frozen and Jotaro thought Shit and readied himself to defend against a coming attack, but all Dio did was move from the sign over to the roof of a building behind Jotaro, higher up and farther out of his reach. He was forced to use his moment of movement for turning his head to keep looking at Dio.

Well, not like I can do anything else when he’s this far away, anyway. Shit. I need to lure him closer somehow, or else…

Dio seemed to be toying with him, because he didn’t say anything until time had restarted again and Jotaro had turned to face him fully, glaring with the full force of the anger he was keeping bottled up inside, churning beneath his skin.

I am going to KILL you, Dio.

Dio smirked down at him from the roof, his animal-yellow eyes lit like those of a madman. Which he was. “Which makes me think: just how long can you move within my world of stopped time?” he asked, and started counting on his animal-clawed fingers. Which either grew out black or else he’d painted them black, and either way it was weird.

Not that Jotaro would’ve usually noticed something like that, except that Dio had been taking every damn opportunity to exhibit the damn things.

And Jotaro just kept seeing those damn claws caressing Kakyoin’s face and neck, threatening to tear him apart.

I am going to make you regret every decision you’ve ever made that brought you here.

“Two seconds?” Dio asked, and he was smirking like he already knew the answer. Which he probably did. It wasn’t like it was that hard to figure out. “Three? Or perhaps you can move five seconds, just like me, and you’re just pretending that you can’t? And so on.”

Jotaro’s stomach twisted. Just a little bit. He knows I can only move for a moment. I’m at a distinct disadvantage.

Dio looked down at him and laughed. “Well?” he asked, and his smirk widened, the madness in his eyes brightening. “How about it?” He looked like he was about to try something.

This isn’t good. I could move longer with some practice, but right now, a moment is the best I can do.

Dio looked down at him smugly. “I believe that you can only move for a moment now,” he said. “But since you have invaded my world of stopped time, it would not be wise to underestimate you by getting close. Even when I still have an overwhelming advantage.”

Shit. He’s too careful. I’m not going to get my chance if he doesn’t come closer.

And then Dio grinned madly and declared: “Therefore, Jotaro, I’ve decided how to kill you such that it doesn’t matter how long you can move!” And in a dramatic gesture he revealed handfuls of knives with even more stuck in the front of his belt which Jotaro was sure hadn’t been there before, but now suddenly they were and he hadn’t seen how. But it was clear enough what he planned to do with them.

Bastard! How the hell does he come up with stuff like this?

Jotaro grit his teeth. He’s dangerous.

I hope those magazines I stuffed in my shirt and cap work. They’re damn uncomfortable to move in so they better be worth it.

Dio’s shit-eating smirk widened. “You’ve gone pale,” he smirked. “When you saw these knives,” he gloatingly displayed them, “you realized that you face an even more horrific fate than that dear dead Kakyoin of yours.”

Jotaro’s fists clenched. He kept seeing those knives embedding themselves into Kakyoin’s body, Dio taking the blades and twisting.

Bastard, you better HOPE that Kakyoin isn’t dead—

Suddenly Dio’s eyes widened and the smirk dropped clear off his face as he shot into the air, whirling around to look at where he’d just been, and Jotaro braced himself.

Polnareff?

But no, the person who came into view on the roof wasn’t Polnareff. And it wasn’t the old man, either.

Luckily Kakyoin’s hair was distinctive, because if it hadn’t been Jotaro might not have recognized him in the clean black pants and long-sleeve white shirt he was now wearing instead of his green gakuran.

“I beg to differ,” Kakyoin said. His gaze was on Dio as he took his battle stance, his voice ringing out over the square. “Who ever said I was dead?”

And Jotaro’s breath caught.

 

Kakyoin had felt significantly better after he’d ingested something and changed into clean clothes. He was very lucky to have Joestar-san and Polnareff with him.

Joestar-san had pressed a bottle smoothie into his hands and instructed him to drink it slowly, rambling about blood loss and blood sugar and how much vomiting sucked, and Polnareff had run off to grab him a clean outfit, returning with plain black pants and a plain white long-sleeve shirt, neither of which fit very well.

The pants were big and slipped down on his hips, and he had to roll them up at the ankles so he could walk without stepping on the hems, and the shirt was too small and stretched uncomfortably tight over his skin.

“These don’t fit,” he’d said intelligently after he’d put them on, looking up at Polnareff blankly. There was still fog in his mind making a sun that should’ve been yellow look red; a sand-castle confusion of trying to form identifiable towers and defensible walls in the dark while the ocean waves kept washing away his progress and turning it to piles of slush; like staring at the equation 2 + 2 = 5 in the answer section of his textbook and trying to figure out that was correct. “I can’t wear these.”

“You can and you will!” Polnareff said, shaking a finger at him. “You have to think these things through carefully! It’s all about psyching out your opponent!”

But 2 + 2 did not equal 5. “Having a terrible fashion sense equal to your own is supposed to psyche Dio out?”

“Oi!” Polnareff said, and shook his finger in Kakyoin’s face. “I do not have a terrible fashion sense! Also, you obviously have to wear a white shirt that’s too small! How else is he supposed to see that you’re not injured anymore? Just think about it! When he sees that you’re perfectly hale and whole he’ll flip his shit! Because like, that shouldn’t even be possible, you know?!”

Perhaps it was more like the equation 2 + 2 = 22. Not entirely logical but nevertheless somewhat comprehensible.

It was about that time that the smoothie started having an effect, and the fog was clearing up, the sand-castle starting to stick together as the lapping waves receded, the sunlight breaking through and illuminating the writing in the sand.

Dio. Jotaro. The World.

Hamon?

It was like looking down to see Baby Stand carved into his arm, except that recollections were returning with the words as well, and it was like gears that had been frozen finally burst into motion again.

“We have to go!”

And then the night was brightened as if by a large burst of flame and there was the sound of a large crash and shattering glass from across the street and down a ways, and all three of them jumped and pressed themselves against the wall of the store on either side of the open door, peering around the doorframe at the street beyond.

The pottery shop across the way and down the street about half a block had a completely shattered window, and as they watched Dio walked into view, holding the body of a freshly drained woman in one hand, a large hole in his stomach closing up before their eyes.

Polnareff was about to rush forward, but Joestar-san put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him as Jotaro dropped down into the middle of the street, standing and facing Dio.

“I guess I have to bash your head to pieces, or it’ll be like nothing ever happened,” Jotaro said. “Tch. You’ve already recovered your energy. Because that hole I put in your gut is closed up now.”

Which meant that Jotaro had managed to badly injure Dio. Which meant that he had a way of fighting back against Dio even though Dio could stop time. Which meant that they had a chance.

“Ho.” Dio tossed the dead woman aside and then he was suddenly standing atop a street sign behind Jotaro—but Jotaro’s head was suddenly turned to look at him. Both things had happened with no time passing.

They’d both been in one position, and then they were suddenly both in another position, without seeming to have moved, and Dio was saying to Jotaro: “Your eyes followed me in the world of stopped time… so you truly can see my movements, Jotaro.”

Which meant that Jotaro could move in Dio’s stopped time. Which meant that they definitely had a chance. Jotaro had the power to defeat Dio.

Jotaro turned to face Dio and said: “Seems so.”

And Dio said: “Kakyoin did quite well for you. Because he figured out the secret of The World’s powers, you were able to figure out that you could move during stopped time, and so, you were able to invade my world.”

Which meant that all the pain and humiliation Kakyoin had gone through had been more than worth it. Polnareff was nudging him in the shoulder and Joestar-san was giving him a grin and a thumbs-up, and Kakyoin’s lips curved in reply.

And then, without any time passing, Dio was suddenly standing atop a roof and Jotaro was had turned his head to look at him, but he didn’t fully turn to face him until time had restarted, because they saw him make that motion. Which meant that he probably couldn’t move for very long in Dio’s stopped time. Which meant that they still had a problem.

And Dio confirmed that: “Which makes me think… just how long can you move within my world of stopped time? Two seconds? Three? Or perhaps you can move five seconds, just like me, and you’re just pretending that you can’t? And so on.” He was laughing. “Well? How about it?”

So Dio could move for five seconds within stopped time, and Jotaro could likely only move for a moment.

A conclusion which seemed to be confirmed when Jotaro unclenched and then reclenched his fists, the line of shoulders taught, and was further corroborated when Dio said: “I believe that you can only move for a moment now. But since you have invaded my world of stopped time, it would not be wise to underestimate you by getting close. Even when I still have an overwhelming advantage.”

Which meant a few things. Because it meant that yes, Jotaro could only move for a moment, while Dio could move for several seconds. But it also meant that Dio was nonetheless wary of him. Which meant that Jotaro had improved in rapid enough leaps that Dio didn’t know how much more he might be able to move the next time, which meant that Jotaro might be able to move for longer the next time.

But it also meant that, since Dio wouldn’t be getting close to him, and since Jotaro’s Star Platinum was a close-range Stand, he wouldn’t be able to attack Dio. But Dio’s The World was also a close-range Stand.

But if he threw objects, like the knives he’d thrown at Kakyoin, he could attack Jotaro from a distance, and if he had five seconds to throw everything he could and Jotaro only had a moment to try to knock as many of them away as he could, he would likely still end up severely injured, or maybe even dead.

Which meant that Jotaro also needed a long-range attack. But he didn’t have one.

But Kakyoin’s Hierophant Green did. But Kakyoin’s Hierophant Green couldn’t move in Dio’s frozen time.

And even as Kakyoin was realizing all this, Dio was saying: “Therefore, Jotaro, I’ve decided how to kill you such that it doesn’t matter how long you can move!” and revealing a whole collection of the same kinds of knives he’d used on Kakyoin.

And Kakyoin knew intuitively that he had to do something, because if he didn’t then Jotaro would likely die, and if Jotaro died then they would all die, because Jotaro was the only one who could move in Dio’s stopped time, Star Platinum the only Stand who could go up against The World in his realm of stopped time, just like Kakyoin’s Hierophant Green was the only Stand who could go up against Death 13 in its realm of dreams—

Death 13.

“I have an idea,” Kakyoin said to Joestar-san and Polnareff. “Stay here and trust me on this one.”

And then he was slipping out the door and shooting towards the rooftops with Hierophant Green, circling around behind the buildings so he could land on the roof behind Dio.

Dio, who was gloating at Jotaro: “You’ve gone pale. When you saw these knives, you realized that you face an even more horrific fate than that dear dead Kakyoin of yours.”

Kakyoin landed quietly on the roof behind him, straightening up, looking at him.

You didn’t expect that I’d come back alive, Dio.

And you’ll never expect that I’ve come back stronger.

He walked forward. “Oh? I beg to differ.”

Dio leapt up into the air and whirled around, looking at him in shock and alarm, something like fear and horror in his eyes.

Kakyoin could’ve smirked. “Who ever said I was dead?”

 

The hole through his torso. It was nothing.

When time restarted the force from the punch knocked him backwards, down towards the ground, through the glass display window of a pottery shop, a large shard of glass slicing off his left leg just above the knee. It was nothing.

He crashed into the floor, skidding, before coming a stop flat on his back, his left leg a few meters away and blood in his mouth and in his eyes. It was nothing.

He rose to a sitting position. This was nothing.

But in his head, his mind, the shattering—

The world of stopped time had been his. His. His and his alone.

And now this descendant of Jonathan had invaded it. Had invaded it and then dared to do this to him.

It was like something pristine had been violated, corrupted.

The woman in the shop was screaming. It was annoying. And his leg was on the other side of the shop. That was also annoying. To heal both his leg and the hole in his torso he was going to need to take someone’s blood. Which was aggravating.

But it seemed there was a convenient way to solve all three of those problems at once.

“You,” he said. “Woman.” He didn’t even spare her a glance, just pointed at his dismembered leg with is left hand. “Fetch my leg from over there.”

The woman making terrified whimpers. And not moving to fetch his leg. Incompetent human.

He turned his gaze on her, lips curling in a snarl and clawed fingers of his left hand curling in the monstrous portent of a fist. “Hurry up and fetch it!” Useless human. “Behave like a flight attendant, bringing a drink and caviar to a first-class passenger!”

Trembling and quaking all over, she walked over to his leg, picking it up by the boot and holding it out from her as if it were a piece of disgusting trash as she shakily and fearfully walked back over to him and how dare she. He was not like his father, he was not some filthy cur she could treat like dog-shit on the bottom of her shoe. He was Dio!

She held his leg shakily out to him, here eyes widened with horrified terror, and as he took his leg he pulled her down with it, curling his fingers into her neck and taking her blood as he reattached his leg, rising to his feet even as his wounds were still healing. They were nothing.

The woman was limp and dead in his grasp now. Sordid bitch. She should be grateful to have had her worthless life ended by his hand. To have had the honor of satisfying him with her blood.

He was standing there and waiting when Jotaro joined him on the ground, landing in a crouch and slowly rising to his feet, glaring at Dio with that delightful fury in his eyes.

“I guess I have to bash your head to pieces, or it’ll be like nothing ever happened,” Jotaro said, narrowing his eyes, teeth gritted and mouth pulled slightly in a frustrated growl. “Tch. You’ve already recovered your energy. Because that hole I put in your gut is closed up now.”

Dio’s lips curled. “Hoh,” he said, taking a predatory step forward and tossing the woman’s corpse aside like the piece of trash it was. Let’s see just how much you’re capable of in my stopped time, shall we, Jotaro?

He stopped time, the world becoming still and gray. Jotaro was frozen there with his feet apart and his shoulders squared, glaring at him.

Dio’s lips curled. He walked calmly, confidently past Jotaro, far enough to be out of range of Star Platinum’s firsts but close enough to examine Jotaro’s face.

As Dio walked past, Jotaro’s blue eyes followed him (greener and lighter than Jonathan’s had been), the only color to be found anywhere aside from Dio.

Dio walked past him several paces, then turned his head to glance over his shoulder at Jotaro,who hadn’t moved. But his eyes had. So was he just choosing not to move? Another trick, perhaps.

“Three more seconds,” he said, turning around fully, crossing his arms over his chest as he watched Jotaro. “Two more seconds.” What was with these stubborn Joestars? Tch. “One more second.”

Jotaro regained color for a moment, just long enough to turn his head and look over his shoulder and lock eyes with Dio before freezing and turning grayscale again.

“Oho,” Dio said, his lips curling as he floated up and backwards, landing lightly on the top of a street sign, far out of Jotaro’s range in case he tried anything when time restarted but affording Dio a perfect view.

Time restarted, Jotaro’s eyes still furiously holding his gaze, having moved to follow his movement to the top of the street sign even though he’d already turned his head and his body had frozen again.

Dio’s lips pulled further, just shy of exposing his fangs. “Your eyes followed me in the world of stopped time,” he purred, low and congratulatory. “So you truly can see my movements, Jotaro.”

Jotaro turned to face him, eyes tepid and gaze churlish. “Seems so,” he said dispassionately.

Dio’s lips pulled away from his teeth. “Your dear Kakyoin did quite well for you,” he purred, pitching his voice low and warm and deep and mellifluous as he brought his right arm to cross elegantly over his chest and pointing commendingly at Jotaro with his left hand, elbow bent and wrist and fingers relaxed. “Because he figured out the secret of The World’s powers, you were able to figure out that you could move during stopped time, and so, you were able to invade my world.”

Dio’s lips curved gently, his eyelids lowering. “It’s all thanks to your dear Kakyoin, isn’t it? And yet you repaid him his efforts by letting him fall to his death.” Dio’s fangs sliced into his smile. “I would’ve never thought that a member of the Joestar family would sacrifice anyone, much less someone they cared about.” A low, commending laugh. “I underestimated you, Jotaro-kun.”

Jotaro’s eyes narrowed even further, his jaw tense and teeth clenched, hands curled into tight fists at his sides, one foot sliding outwards slightly and weight shifting, readying for movement.

Yes, that was a nice look for him; right on the edge of snapping. Like Jonathan right before he threw a punch at Dio with all his strength only for Dio to dodge and then smash his elbow into Jonathan’s face, grinding it in.

Dio stopped time, freezing Jotaro in that position and expression, watching him amusedly as he pushed off from the street sign, floating over to the lowest nearby building and landing lightly on the roof, above and behind Jotaro.

Jotaro was forced to move his head to keep looking at him, but it wasn’t until time restarted that Jotaro was able to turn his body to fully face Dio, taking a step back as he did so and letting out a frustrated grunt.

“Which makes me think…” Dio continued, looking down at Jotaro on the street below, his lips curling. “Just how long can you move within my world of stopped time?” He held up his the index and middle fingers of his right hand. “Two seconds?” He added his thumb. “Three? Or perhaps you can move five seconds, just like me, and you’re just pretending that you can’t?” He spread all his fingers, displaying his long, sharp black nails, looking down at Jotaro through them. “And so on.”

Jotaro was looking up at him furiously from beneath the rim of his cap like a child who’d just been caught trying to sneak out of the house after curfew, and Dio laughed. “Well?” he asked, lips pulling away from his teeth. “How about it?”

Jotaro appeared to be trying to force his clenched fists to relax, but then as soon as he succeeded they immediately clenched again, giving away the anxiety he was feeling.

Dio framed his chin with his right hand, looking down at Jotaro with a gentle curve to his lips. “I believe that you can only move for a moment now,” he said. “But since you have invaded my world of stopped time, it would not be wise to underestimate you by getting close.” He removed his hand from his chin, lowering it to his side. “Even when I still have an overwhelming advantage.”

He’d always had an overwhelming advantage over Jonathan, and that had caused Dio to keep underestimating him, resulting in his defeat at Jonathan’s hands time and time again and landing him in the situation of needing a new body.

At least Jonathan’s body had been a suitable replacement. If Dio lost this body here, there wouldn’t be anyone’s to replace it with.

Dio would not make the same mistakes again. It was better to be safe than to be sorry.

After all, he planned on living for eternity.

“Therefore, Jotaro!” Dio declared, his teeth bared and his grin wide, wide, wide. After all, the world—and The World—were his. “I’ve decided how to kill you such that it doesn’t matter how long you can move!”

Dio brought his arms into an X in front of his chest before throwing them out and tucking them behind him and pulling his shoulders back, the movement a perfect combination of deadly control and flamboyant strength, carefully calculated to draw Jotaro’s attention to large collection of knives stuck in the front of his belt, and as soon as Jotaro’s eyes widened at those Dio took handfuls of the knives tucked in the back of his belt and then extravagantly brandished them in front of him for Jotaro to see.

Jotaro’s eyes widened and the color drained from his face, a horrified exhale escaping his careful emotional control, and Dio’s lips curled, pulling up and away from his pointed teeth.

“You’ve gone pale,” he observed, and crossed arms loosely in front of him, holding the knives in a lethal, artful display, left hand full of knives held with a relaxed wrist in front of his chest and right hand full of knives up by his cheek, tilting his head slightly to look down at Jotaro from around them, his eyelids lowering.

“When you saw these knives, you realized that you face an even more horrific fate than that dear dead Kakyoin of yours,” he said, his voice smoothed to a deadly purr, and Jotaro’s expression twisted delightfully, horror and fury fighting for control of his unemotional features.

And oh, this was going to be fun—

“Oh?” A familiar voice from behind him, and Dio up in the air in an instant, looking down to see who else but Kakyoin standing there on the roof, walking over to take the spot that Dio had just vacated, now dressed in clean and undamaged long black pants and a white long-sleeve shirt.

“I beg to differ,” Kakyoin said, looking up at Dio defiantly, left arm crossed over his midriff with thumb, index and little finger splayed middle and ring fingers tucked, his right arm crossed up over his chest with thumb and index finger pointing up and the rest curled. “Who ever said I was dead?”

In Dio’s mind there was that damn shattering again. Sharp and jagged and refractive. “K-kakyoin?!”

Kakyoin should’ve been dead.

 

Kakyoin was standing up there on the roof, the breeze in his pink hair, staring at Dio like Dio was a bug he was about to crush, and Jotaro thought:

I love him.

“Y-you!” Dio was pointing a clawed finger at Kakyoin. Dio looked like he was seeing a ghost. Maybe he thought he was. “How did you—?!”

“Oh?” Kakyoin said, insouciant and disparaging. “And here I thought you were familiar with Hamon, Dio.”

The old man, Jotaro realized.

“Joestar-san used his Hamon to heal me,” Kakyoin explained, gesturing to himself. The white long-sleeve shirt was stretched tight over his pecs and abs, clearly showing the absence of injuries. It wasn’t a bad look on Kakyoin, though Jotaro suspected the fashion choice was either Polnareff’s or the old man’s. Maybe more likely to be Polnareff’s; Jotaro had seen pictures from Joseph’s past, and if he’d picked out the outfit Kakyoin might’ve been wearing only half a shirt.

“Not a bad trick, is it?” Kakyoin continued, and his voice and expression were that combination of mocking politeness and contemptuous derision he used when he’d already check-mated his enemies and they just hadn’t realized it yet. “It makes me think maybe I should learn Hamon myself one of these days.”

Jotaro’s eyes narrowed slightly. Kakyoin. What are you planning?

What do you need me to do?

Dio was looking at Kakyoin like he wanted to kill him. Which he no doubt did. “Hah,” Dio said, and he started that damn smirking again. “Joseph saves you from the verge of death, and instead of hiding and preserving your life you come right back for more of the same treatment that put you on the verge of death in the first place?” Dio laughed. Did the Germans also have a word for a laugh that made you want to punch someone? “I wouldn’t have categorized you as such a masochist, Kakyoin-kun.”

“You have the wrong idea, Dio, I assure you,” Kakyoin said, still with that expression and tone of voice and adding in an insouciant gesture, and Jotaro was convinced that Dio was as good as dead. “I’m no masochist. I don’t intend to fight you again.”

Kakyoin smiled. Like a liar. “It’s clear that my Hierophant Green can’t beat your The World.”

Jotaro had the feeling they were both going to laugh about this later.

“However, I believe in Jotaro’s ability to defeat you with his Star Platinum,” Kakyoin said, and now his grin could best be described as shit-eating. “I just wanted to be here to witness it with my own eyes.” He flipped his bangs flippantly around his fingers, smiling, and everything about his demeanor said that he was up to something, and he wanted all of them to know it. “So you can think of me as part of the cheer-leading squad, if you will.”

Jotaro had to fight to keep from smiling slightly. Just let me know what you need me to do, Kakyoin.

Damn but I’m glad you’re alive.

“Dio!” That was Polnareff, and Jotaro glanced at him out of the corner of his eyes, not willing to turn his head away from Kakyoin and Dio. Polnareff was pointing at Dio like he was about to give the guy a fierce scolding. “My only regret is that when Jotaro’s done with you there likely won’t be anything left of you for me to beat the crap out of!”

Polnareff. Are you in on Kakyoin’s plan too?

“Whoo!” the old man cried, cupping one hand around his mouth and pumping the other one in the air, like someone watching a sports game or something. “Jotaro go! J-O-T-A-R-O! Jotaro! You can do it, we know you can! Go kick Dio’s ass in!”

Jotaro felt mortified. “Old man…” he grit out. He would’ve ducked his gaze beneath the rim of his cap, except that he didn’t want to lose sight of Dio lest Dio tried something. Why was family so embarrassing. His grandfather and his mother both. The family resemblance was uncanny. Luckily he at least appeared to have escaped the Joestar foolishness genes. Had his great-great-grandfather Jonathan who’d started this whole mess been so ridiculous, too? Yare yare.

However, thinking about his family and his mother Holly reminded him of why he was here fighting Dio in the first place, and his fists clenched, his gaze fixing back on the vampire. Or whatever the fuck kind of monster he was.

“Hah!” Dio looked down at them all, smirking that maddening grin. “So you all came here to die, huh? That’s fine. That suits me just fine.” He made an unnecessarily dramatic gesture, throwing out his arm. “As soon as I destroy Jotaro, I’ll celebrate my victory with the deaths of the rest of you!”

But Jotaro’s attention was dragged to Kakyoin, who was moving, leaping down from the roof and swinging to the ground with his Hierophant Green, landing lightly just a few steps from him, straightening and meeting his gaze.

Byzantium. That shade of purple was Byzantium. And those dark, vertical scars.

Those eye injuries may have nearly blinded him and taken him out of the game for a couple weeks, but the scars they’d left sure looked cool. They made Kakyoin look even more intense.

“I apologize in advance for how hackneyed and blatantly sentimental this is going to sound,” Kakyoin said, tone subdued and gaze serious, “but I trust you, Jotaro. With not just my own life but also with the lives of everyone here, and the life of your mother and all the other people who will die if Dio triumphs.”

Jotaro squared his shoulders, holding Kakyoin’s gaze. What do you need me to do, Kakyoin?

Kakyoin’s expression was unreadable. “Do you trust me as well?”

“To the end of The World,” Jotaro said immediately. He didn’t even have to think about it. “And far past that.”

Kakyoin’s lips curved slightly, and his eyes said, I knew you’d say that as he stepped forward, right in front of Jotaro and into his personal space, reaching up a resting his warm hand against the side of Jotaro’s face, his cheek and his ear.

Jotaro felt almost as if he were frozen, as if time had stopped and Kakyoin was the only one in the world who could move.

“Then take this with you,” Kakyoin murmured, circling his hand around to the back of Jotaro’s neck and tugging him down.

And then Kakyoin’s lips were on his and Jotaro’s eyes widened.

K-kakyoin—

 

Kakyoin was there. Not an illusion. Probably not an illusion. There were no Stand users among them who could create illusions. Dio would have to be going crazy. Dio was not crazy.

Besides, no illusionist would have Kakyoin wearing an outfit that was so unusual for him and which he was clearly uncomfortable wearing. The long black pants that were slightly too large, slipping down his hips and rolled up at the cuffs. The white long-sleeve shirt that was slightly too small and stretched tight over his skin, tight and transparent enough for Dio to see that not only were there no bandages wrapped around where he’d stabbed him, but there weren’t even wounds anymore, either. Just dark scars.

That was impossible.

That was completely impossible. There was no way Kakyoin could heal so fast.

But he had. Or else Dio was crazy and seeing things.

Dio was not crazy. And if he was, it wouldn’t be Kakyoin he’d be seeing.

(It would be Jonathan.)

He’d never seen Jonathan. He was not crazy.

Which meant that somehow Kakyoin had healed himself. But that was impossible.

“Y-you!” Dio pointed at him, fingers and arm tense and bent, shaking minutely. “How did you—?!”

“Oh?” Kakyoin looked at him, tilting his head back slightly so he could seem to be looking down at Dio, even though Dio was above him. “And here I thought you were familiar with Hamon, Dio.”

H-hamon?!

“Joestar-san used his Hamon to heal me.” Kakyoin gestured to himself gracefully with both hands, expression utterly complacent, nothing like Jonathan had ever looked—like looking in a mirror— “Not a bad trick, is it?” he said, and Dio him. “It makes me think maybe I should learn Hamon myself one of these days.”

Dio was going to kill him. And this time he was going to make completely sure that he was dead. No Hamon would be saving him from that.

“Hah,” Dio said, and his lips were pulling away from his teeth again, because this was hilarious. This was absurd. “Joseph saves you from the verge of death, and instead of hiding and preserving your life you come right back for more of the same treatment that put you on the verge of death in the first place?” The laughter bubbled up darkly in Dio’s chest. “I wouldn’t have categorized you as such a masochist, Kakyoin-kun.”

It was like he wanted to die by Dio’s hand. Like Jonathan had.

(I keep thinking I killed you, Jojo. But you just keep appearing before me, begging for more.)

And just like with Jonathan, Dio would be perfectly happy to oblige him.

“You have the wrong idea, Dio, I assure you,” Kakyoin said smoothly, mannerly, and he wrapped his left arm back around his midriff and rested his right elbow against it, curving the fingers of his right hand against the bottom of his chin. “I’m no masochist.”

Kakyoin smiled slightly, polite and diffident. “I don’t intend to fight you again. It’s clear that my Hierophant Green can’t beat your The World.”

Kakyoin. Dio narrowed his eyes. What are you doing?

Dio had to be careful of him. Kakyoin was the one who’d figured out the secret of his The World, after all. It was his fault, that Jotaro had been able to invade Dio’s world of stopped time. Dio would make sure he paid for it. For making Dio experience that damn shattering.

“However,” Kakyoin continued, and now he was smiling self-consciously and spreading his hands in a gesture of self-effacing coyness. “I believe in Jotaro’s ability to defeat you with his Star Platinum,” he said. “I just wanted to be here to witness it with my own eyes.” He reached up to nervously twirl his long bangs around his fingers, his smile becoming kittenish. “So you can think of me as part of the cheer-leading squad, if you will.”

Dio’s eyes narrowed further. This wasn’t like Kakyoin at all. Was he up to something?

“Dio!” There was a shout from below, and Dio glanced down to see that fool Polnareff pointing up at him, looking furious and self-righteous. “My only regret is that when Jotaro’s done with you there likely won’t be anything left of you for me to beat the crap out of!”

What a fool. Dio should’ve killed him earlier just to shut up his annoying yapping.

And then there was that pathetic grandson of Jonathan, Joseph, who was now cupping his hands around his mouth and shouting, “Whoo! Jotaro go!” and punching one of his fists into the air. “J-O-T-A-R-O! Jotaro! You can do it, we know you can! Go kick Dio’s ass in!”

Dio grit his teeth. He should kill off that foolish human, too. Then maybe take his blood, since he was a Joestar, after all.

Although, somewhat amusingly, Dio wasn’t the only one who was irritated. Jotaro was also glaring at Joseph. “Old man…” he muttered darkly.

Heh. If he was annoying Jotaro as well, maybe Dio would let him live for now.

“Hah!” Dio laughed, sweeping his gaze over the four of him spread before him, like an elaborate buffet spread before a king. “So you all came here to die, huh? That’s fine.” His lips curled up and away from his sharp teeth. “That suits me just fine.” He swept out his arm, like an emperor sweeping his arm to gesture at all the world in front of him, all of it conquered and under his power. “As soon as I destroy Jotaro, I’ll celebrate my victory with the deaths of the rest of you!”

Polnareff looked furious at the declaration and Joseph looked nervous, but Jotaro wasn’t even looking at him. He was watching Kakyoin, who had jumped down from the roof, using his Hierophant Green to swing to the ground, just a few steps from Jotaro.

So not only was Kakyoin healed, but he could use his Hierophant Green again.

Hah. No matter. Dio had already proved that Hierophant Green couldn’t do anything against him.

Kakyoin was looking at Jotaro, holding his gaze. “I apologize in advance for how hackneyed and blatantly sentimental this is going to sound,” he said quietly, though not so quietly that Dio’s superior hearing couldn’t pick up his words, “but I trust you, Jotaro. With not just my own life but also with the lives of everyone here, and the life of your mother and all the other people who will die if Dio triumphs. Do you trust me as well?”

It was indeed hackneyed and sentimental. It wasn’t like Kakyoin at all.

Dio could’ve rolled his eyes, if he weren’t so wary. Kakyoin was not to be underestimated and he seemed to be up to something. Dio needed to be cautious.

Kakyoin and Jotaro were staring at each other like Jonathan and that country girl Erina had stared at each other.

“To the end of the world,” Jotaro stated, with the same stoic severity with which he seemed to do everything. “And far past that.”

And Kakyoin stepped forward, reaching up to rest a hand against the side of Jotaro’s head, his thumb brushing against Jotaro’s cheek. “Then take this with you,” he said, and stood up slightly on his toes as he tugged Jotaro down slightly, pressing his lips against Jotaro’s.

Even from where he was hovering several meters above them, Dio could see the way Jotaro’s eyes widened slightly in surprise.

The others didn’t seem to be any less shocked. That fool Polnareff was stuttering like a mechanical toy that had gotten its gears jammed, while Joseph’s eyes blew wide, his jaw dropping, before he started obnoxiously catcalling.

It appeared that this truly was the first time. And Joseph and that fool Polnareff hadn’t even realized that Kakyoin and Jotaro were infatuated with each other? Well, they were both quite dense, so Dio couldn’t say he was surprised.

Though the fact that Kakyoin was willing to kiss someone who’d been ready to let him fall to his death… but Dio supposed that must’ve been a bluff on Jotaro’s part, and that he must’ve seen Joseph and Polnareff arrive and known they would save Kakyoin.

Tch. And Dio had fallen for it.

Jotaro had closed his eyes and now he was leaning into the kiss as well, his hands having come up to wrap around Kakyoin’s waist. Dio supposed he had to commend them for how readily they’d accept their feelings. Most men became extremely uncomfortable and disoriented and violently disturbed when they found themselves attracted to another man, something Dio had often used to his advantage. Including against Kakyoin.

Well, Kakyoin had clearly changed a lot from several months ago. It was somewhat commendable, Dio supposed.

In any case, as amusing as this whole scene was—like that ridiculous scene between Jonathan and Erina when he’d had to convince the stupid girl to leave him and save her own life—it had gone on for long enough.

Dio smoothly tucked the knives away in his belt started clapping slowly. Kakyoin and Jotaro pulled apart to look up at him, their eyes narrowed.

Dio’s lips pulled up and away from his teeth. “ Congratulations! Your first and last kiss. I’ll enjoy the looks on your faces when you realize that that was your final farewell.”

Kakyoin looked at him listlessly. “Is that so?” He leaned closer to Jotaro, watching Dio out of the corners of his eyes as he brought a hand up, cupping it at one side of his mouth as he whispered in Jotaro’s ear, apparently under the impression that Dio wouldn’t be able to hear: “Dio’s dangerous, and he’ll try to piss you off and make you act without thinking. Be careful when you decide to open your mouth.”

Like that advice was going to be able to help Jotaro any.

Jotaro though nodded once, expression serious, before stepping away from Kakyoin and walking forward, his Stand power flaming up around him as he rose into the air, rising till he was level with Dio, though still several meters away.

When Dio had threatened him with the knives, Jotaro had looked alarmed and horrified, but he didn’t look that way anymore. Even though Dio had the knives back in his hands with more still in his belt, Jotaro didn’t look worried in the least. If anything he looked more confident than ever, his eyes cold and determined but not murderous, his shoulders square but not tense, his fists clenched but not white-knuckled.

“Well well,” Dio said, lips curling. “Feeling braver now that your friends are here?”

Jotaro didn’t say anything, just looked at him with determined, narrowed eyes, and Dio’s lips pulled away from his teeth. “Useless! They won’t be able to help you!”

Jotaro launched himself at Dio, Star Platinum emerging from his body, fists clenched and pulled back.

Dio could’ve laughed. “Muda muda muda!” He crossed one arm over his chest and brought the other up by his cheek, the knives in his hands glinting. “The World!”

And time stopped, the world going gray and still. Jotaro and his Star Platinum were frozen in the air.

“It looks like you’re truly on your own on this one, Jotaro,” Dio said, lowering his voice to a deep purr, subduing his smile so it archly exposed only the tips of his sharp teeth. “You can only move for a moment here. You really believe you can do anything against me?” And then his smile widened, exposing the fully glory of his fangs. “You’re completely at my mercy.”

The World emerged, smoothly taking two handfuls of the knives from Dio’s belt.

Dio grinned. Jotaro was finally going to die. And Kakyoin, Jonathan’s grandson, and that fool Polnareff would be next. “Five seconds!”

The World flung the knives at Jotaro. They froze in the air just decimeters from him, about thirty of them altogether.

“Once time begins to move again, I wonder if even your Star Platinum can manage to deflect so many knives,” Dio mused. Maybe Jotaro thought he could with the amount of knives there were now, but he certainly wouldn’t by the time Dio was done.“Four more seconds!”

The World took the rest of the knives from Dio’s belt, flinging those at Jotaro as well, circling around him so that the knives were coming at him from all sides. There were now over fifty knives altogether.

There was no way Jotaro was getting out of this one, and Dio laughed. This was even better than what he’d done to Kakyoin. “Being able to see this must be all the more terrifying, Jotaro!” he said, grinning wide, wide, wide.

The fear and consternation that was going to make itself apparent on Jotaro’s face as soon as he made to move. “Three more seconds…” Dio said, and grinned wider when Jotaro still didn’t move. “Kakyoin’s going to be so disappointed in you.”

Dio flung the knives that he’d been holding in his hands. Now there were at least seventy knives surrounding Jotaro.

Finally Jotaro moved slightly, his eyes shifting to pin on Dio’s face. But that was all he did, and after that he was fully frozen again. More frozen than when Dio had evaporated the moisture in Jonathan’s body and encased him in ice. And this time there was no sword, no fire, no heat, no Hamon, no blood in his victim’s veins that he needed to keep flowing, no flawed tactics.

Dio grinned. Grinned grinned grinned. “Just two more seconds…” he held up two fingers. Sharp teeth in his smile. The sweet aftertaste of blood when he swept his tongue over them. “So what are you going to do?” Laughter. It permeated his chest like the smell of roses.

Free. He was almost free. Jotaro was as good as dead, and none of the others could do anything. Kakyoin, Joseph, Polnareff. He was so close. Soon they’d all be dead, and he’d be free. His reign would last for centuries.

Victory tasted like blood and smelled of roses.

“How does it feel to know that without any time passing for them, you’ll suddenly be dead?” he asked the unmoving Jotaro. Jotaro was frozen but his eyes were fixed on Dio’s face and Dio grinned, blood and roses and the warm buzz of drinking red wine, something he hadn’t experienced in over a century.

“Should I tell you what I plan on doing to Kakyoin this time, to make sure he stays dead once and for all?” Dio asked, purring, eyelids lowering. “This time I’m going to punch him all the way through his abdomen, just like your Star Platinum did to The World.” Laughter. Laughter like red wine.“What do you think of that, Jotaro?”

Jotaro remained frozen, but Dio knew he was watching, listening, hating his guts, and he grinned, grinned grinned grinned and raised his right hand, elegantly holding up a clawed finger. “One more second…” he purred, tilting his head, watching Jotaro for movement. There was none. “Still nothing?” he grinned. He could feel the sharpness of his teeth. “Don’t tell me you already used up your moment of movement when you moved your eyes?”

Jotaro was glaring at him, completely frozen. Time was almost up. It looked like Jotaro wouldn’t be moving after all.

Hah! Useless. It had been useless for him to try to struggle against Dio. Dio was far superior.

The taste of blood. The scent of roses. The buzz of red wine. The life gone out Jonathan’s dark blue eyes.

Dio folded hand into a fist, counted down: “Zero.”

And time re—

 

Polnareff’s jaw dropped and Joseph’s hands flew to his face, his eyes blown wide: “Oh my God!”

Because one moment Jotaro had been flying at Dio with clenched fists and Star Platinum beside him and Dio’s hands were full of knives—

and then the next moment it was like fireworks exploded around both of them, and Dio was suddenly screaming, careening smoldering towards the ground.

He crashed like a meteorite, Jotaro lowered down casually and unhurriedly, and Kakyoin watched all of it without so much as a surprised flicker of his eyelids.

And all Polnareff could do was gape and all Joseph could think was: “Hooooly shiiiiiit!”

 

—time didn’t restart.

The five seconds were up, but time hadn’t restarted.

At first Dio thought he’d improved again, and that he could now stop time for longer than five seconds, maybe up to six seconds.

Except that—

he couldn’t—

move.

“N-nani?!” He couldn’t move. He couldn’t move his body. He was frozen. H-how—?! It could only mean one thing. “J-Jotaro, you—!” Jotaro had frozen time at the five-second mark.

You—!

Spiderwebbing fractures. In his mind. Spreading cracks. Spreading.

And Jotaro—Jotaro was unfrozen, and he straightened in the air, looked at Dio and—

Yawned. Jotaro yawned.

And in Dio’s mind everything shattered.

Because there in Jotaro’s open mouth was a flash of green, two gleaming eyes, and then out of Jotaro’s mouth shot a burst of Emerald Splash, knocking the knives surrounding Jotaro out of the way as they shot straight at Dio.

Hierophant Green?! Kakyoin?! I-impossible…!

The burst of Emerald Splash froze in the air decimeters from hitting him.

Dio’s heart was pounding. The shattered pieces in his mind—he was scrabbling to stick the shards back together.

Puzzle pieces. A game of chess.

When Kakyoin kissed Jotaro, he hid Hierophant Green in Jotaro’s body, so when Jotaro moved Hierophant Green could move?!

King and Queen and Knights and Pawns.

The pieces were clicking together. Black and white square tiles. Left, right, straight ahead, diagonal.

Hah! No matter! Hierophant Green’s Emerald Splash can’t do anything against me, after all. As soon as time starts moving again I’ll simply knock them all away. And even if one or two get through it won’t do anything.

Useless useless useless! This just proves how desperate they are!

I must admit, though, it was a clever trick—to think Kakyoin would figure out a way to let his own Stand move in my stopped time—but ultimately it has only delayed they’re deaths another few seconds.

And time—

time restarted again.

And Dio moved to knock the Emerald Splash away—

and he screamed.

It BuRNs iT bURnS iT BUrNS IT BuRNs—

The Emerald Splash hit him, everywhere, all over, boring into him, and he was melting, disintegrating, burning away, it was eating him away, he was burning, falling, crashing, falling apart, disintegrating—

He knew this feeling.

Hamon—?!

Jonathan slicing that Hamon-infused sword through his head, his chest.

“H-hamon?!” He was disintegrating. It BuRNs. “I-impossible!” He was disintegrating. IT bURnS. “H-how—?!” He was disintegrating.

It BuRNS.

A Hamon-infused rose impaled in his eye.

Kakyoin was standing over him, looking down at him. “I lied earlier. When I said I was thinking of learning Hamon. I’d already learned it.”

Dio was disintegrating.

iT BUrNS.

Jonathan using that Hamon-infused sword to slice off his arm.

“Joestar-san taught me Hamon when he was using it to save my life from all those wounds you gave me,” Kakyoin said. Looking down at him. “I have to thank you, Dio. If you hadn’t stabbed me the way you did, I would never have figured out the secret of The World, nor would I have learned Hamon.”

Dio was disintegrating.

IT bUrNS.

Jonathan using a flaming, Hamon-infused fist to punch him through the chest.

Jotaro’s shadow fell over him. “Here, you need to take this back.” Jotaro was kissing Kakyoin.

Dio was disintegrating.

iT buRNS.

Jonathan hugging Dio’s severed head to his chest, flames all around them.

“Fa-farewell…”

Dio was burning.

“J-Jojo! L-let me go…!”

Jonathan smiling.

“Like you said, Dio. Our fates are truly one and the same.”

Jonathan’s head sagging forward, eyes blank and dead, flames everywhere, burning, burning them, burning him, he was BURNING, and Jojo—

wouldn’t—

let—

him—

go—

 

Kakyoin was kissing him.

Jotaro’s eyes were wide, staring at Kakyoin’s face. Kakyoin’s eyes were closed. The dark vertical scars traced over his eyelids.

Kakyoin stood up higher on his toes, pulled Jotaro’s head down lower, pressed his lips harder to Jotaro’s, tongue pressing warm and wet and insistent at the crack between Jotaro’s lips.

Kakyoin, what are you—?

Kakyoin opened his eyes slightly, slivers of Byzantium. Determined. Waiting. Uncompromising.

“We’re finally in Egypt!” Polnareff said. “And Jotaro just defeated the High Priestess. That means we’ve defeated all the Stands except for Death 13 and The World, right? Wonder which one’s Dio’s.”

“I’d assumed Dio’s was The World,” Avdol mused, “but it could be Death 13.”

“It’s not,” Kakyoin said. With absolute certainty. “Dio’s Stand has to be The World. We already defeated Death 13.”

“Huh?!” Polnareff cried. “When did that happen?! I don’t remember this! Did you guys hide yet another thing from me?!”

“Wait, I don’t remember this either!” Joseph said.

“To be more accurate, I already defeated Death 13,” Kakyoin said. He waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Wait! Wait wait wait wait!” Polnareff wagged a finger at him. “When did this happen?!”

“When you guys were asleep,” Kakyoin said, looking at them. His expression dead serious. Uncompromising. “We won’t have to worry about him. You can trust me on that.”

“Whaaa?!” Polnareff cried.

“If Kakyoin says he defeated Death 13, then he defeated Death 13,” Jotaro said. He turned around and kept walking. “Now come on. We still have to defeat Dio.”

And Kakyoin fell into step beside him, smiling slightly.

“So what happened?” Jotaro asked eventually, after they’d been walking in the desert for a few hours, having fallen several paces behind the others, Joseph and Avdol leading the way with Polnareff hovering around them.

“Death 13 existed in a world of dreams,” Kakyoin shrugged. “Which is why you weren’t there. Or rather, why you don’t remember it. One of the dangerous things about Death 13 was even though he could kill you in your dream, and you could avoid getting killed if someone or something woke you up, you couldn’t wake yourself up, and as soon as you awoke you forgot everything that happened in the dream.”

“So that’s what you meant when you mentioned that we’d visited a dream,” Jotaro realized. He looked sidelong at Kakyoin. “So how did you do it?”

“You couldn’t use your Stand in Death 13’s dream world,” Kakyoin said. He looked at Jotaro and smiled. “So you were completely helpless against him. Unless you’d summoned your Stand before falling asleep. Then you could bring it with you. So I did that.”

“And because you were the only one who’d summoned your Stand before falling asleep, you were able to defeat Death 13, and you’re also the only one who remembers it,” Jotaro concluded.

“Exactly,” Kakyoin said.

And Jotaro looked at him. “It was the baby, wasn’t it? Death 13’s Stand User.”

Kakyoin looked at him. His lips were curved but his eyes were guarded. “And what if I said it was?”

Jotaro looked away. “We didn’t believe you.”

“You didn’t,” Kakyoin agreed.

Jotaro didn’t say anything. They kept walking.

“Next time…” Kakyoin started. He stopped.

Jotaro didn’t say anything. Just kept walking. Kakyoin walking in step beside him.

“Next time,” Kakyoin said, and turned to look at him, “when I ask you to trust me. Do you think you could?”

Jotaro kept walking. Kakyoin in step beside him. “Yeah,” he said, staring out over the expanse of desert ahead of them. “Yeah. I’ll trust you.”

And Jotaro realized: This is more than just a kiss.

Kakyoin’s tongue pushed insistently and Jotaro closed his eyes, wrapped his arms and tugged Kakyoin closer and pressed into the kiss, parted his lips, opened his jaw slightly.

Something slithered into his mouth. It wasn’t Kakyoin’s tongue.

He knew what it was. Kakyoin’s Hierophant Green. “My Stand can reach farther than yours, but it doesn’t like open spaces. It prefers to hide within something.”

Jotaro could feel it coil inside him, then go still. Waiting.

“You couldn’t use your Stand in Death 13’s dream world. So you were completely helpless against him. Unless you’d summoned your Stand before falling asleep. Then you could bring it with you.”

Kakyoin’s lips were warm against his.

 

Someone started clapping slowly.

Kakyoin lowered back down to his heels and stepped back, Jotaro mirroring him, and they both turned to look up at Dio who was clapping and leering down at them.

“Congratulations!” Dio drawled, smirking like a bastard. Which he was. “Your first and last kiss. I’ll enjoy the looks on your faces when you realize that that was your final farewell.”

Kakyoin was looking at Dio carelessly. “Is that so?” he said rhetorically, before leaning closer to Jotaro.

He brought his hand up to cup around one side of his mouth as he stood up slightly on his toes to whisper in Jotaro’s ear: “Dio’s dangerous, and he’ll try to piss you off and make you act without thinking.” Kakyoin’s breath was warm. “Be careful when you decide to open your mouth.”

Hierophant Green was coiled inside him. Still and waiting.

Kakyoin lowered his hand and pulled back, stepping so he was standing with his back towards Dio, meeting Jotaro’s gaze and then glancing down only with his eyes, not moving his head.

Jotaro followed Kakyoin’s gaze. Kakyoin was looking down at his hand, which was curved palm-up in front of him. Gold light sparked around the tips of his fingers.

Hamon.

So Kakyon’s already learned it already.

And Dio doesn’t know.

Kakyoin looked back up at him, expression carefully unreadable, and Jotaro nodded at him. He understood.

He stepped around Kakyoin and walked forward, letting the power from his Stand flare up around him as he rose into the air, floating up until he was level with the smirking Dio.

Jotaro looked at Dio, his eyes narrowing. He knew exactly what he needed to do.

He just needed to wait for the right moment.

Which meant putting up with listening to all of Dio’s gloating first. Yare yare daze.

“Well well,” Dio smirked. “Feeling braver now that your friends are here?”

Dio could monologue all he wanted. Jotaro wasn’t going to be opening his mouth to say anything.

Dio was smirking and his eyes were mad. “Useless!” he gloated. “They won’t be able to help you!”

Yare yare. Let’s get just get this over with already.

Jotaro launched himself at Dio, manifesting Star Platinum out of his body to fly beside him, clenching its fists and pulling them back as if it were about to pound Dio to a pulp. Not that it would get the chance, but he just needed Dio not to suspect anything and to hurry up and stop time.

Dio smirked wider, clearly not suspecting anything. “Muda muda muda!” he said, flashing the knives in his hands like fans again. “The World!”

And then time stopped and Jotaro was frozen in place.

Dio can stop time for five seconds. I only have a moment, but if I can stop time at the end of his five seconds…

“It looks like you’re truly on your own on this one, Jotaro,” Dio gloated, smirking. His voice was low and self-satisfied. “You can only move for a moment here. You really believe you can do anything against me?” He smirked wider. “You’re completely at my mercy.”

Yare yare daze.

The World emerged from Dio’s body, taking two handfuls of knives from Dio’s belt as he did so.

“Five seconds!” Dio declared, smirking.

Still five full seconds? The hell is with this stopped time.

The World threw the knives at Jotaro. Luckily this was stopped time so they froze in the air before they hit him. There were about thirty of them, but there were still more in Dio’s belt and held in his hands, and Jotaro had a feeling that before Dio’s five seconds were over all the knives would be thrown at him.

Yare yare.

“Once time begins to move again, I wonder if even your Star Platinum can manage to deflect so many knives,” Dio smirked. “Four more seconds!”

The World threw the rest of the knives that had been in Dio’s belt at him, even going so far as to circle behind him so the knives would come at him from all directions.

Yare yare.

Dio was laughing. What a sick sense of humor.

“Three more seconds…” Dio leered at him. “Kakyoin’s going to be so disappointed in you.”

Yare yare.

Under other circumstances the knives would probably have made him anxious and the jeers would probably have gotten to him, but right now Jotaro felt no concern for either.

He had Kakyoin Noriaki on his side, after all.

And Dio, as he smirked and threw the knives in his hands at Jotaro, just seemed pathetic.

Dio was watching him.

He may be gloating but he’s still cautious as hell. If I don’t make any movement at all he’ll get suspicious. I think I can risk a slight movement.

Jotaro exerted his power to move his eyes, fixing his gaze on Dio’s new position before letting himself freeze completely again.

Dio smirked at him. “Just two more seconds…” He held up two figures. As if Jotaro didn’t know how many two was. “So what are you going to do?”

Dio laughed. His eyes didn’t look entirely sane, and Jotaro wasn’t sure if Dio starting to lose it would be to his advantage or disadvantage.

“How does it feel to know that without any time passing for them, you’ll suddenly be dead?” Dio gloated, and he grinned even wider.

Yare yare. These are the longest five seconds of my life.

Which is pretty ironic, if you think about the fact that this isn’t even happening within time, so technically no time is passing at all.

“Should I tell you what I plan on doing to Kakyoin this time, to make sure he stays dead once and for all?” Dio’s taunted. He was smirking widely and his eyes were mad. “This time I’m going to punch him all the way through his abdomen, just like your Star Platinum did to The World.” And Dio laughed. “What do you think of that, Jotaro?”

And now Jotaro was really pissed.

How many more seconds of this do I have to put up with, damn it?

Dio smirked at him and held up a single finger. “One more second…”

Finally.

Nice of him to help me out by counting down like this.

Dio was watching him. “Still nothing?” he asked, and he’d looked slightly suspicious for a moment but then he just smirked again. “Don’t tell me you already used up your moment of movement when you moved your eyes?”

Good. You think that.

And Dio, smirking widely, closed his hand into a fist and said helpfully: “Zero.”

Thanks for that.

Time started to give and Jotaro summoned all his power and energy, forcing time to freeze around him again even as he broke himself out of its hold.

He had a moment.

He looked at Dio, who’d already started to realize what was going on as his body froze to a halt, his eyes going wide with alarm. “N-nani?!” He moved his mad yellow eyes to glare at Jotaro. “J-Jotaro, you—!”

Dio was frozen and Jotaro had a moment.

I just have to open my mouth, right? This is almost too easy.

Jotaro yawned.

Not that I’m complaining.

He’d felt Hierophant Green stirring inside him, and now Emerald Splash was shooting out of his mouth towards Dio, and Dio’s eyes widened even further in shock and alarm before relaxing again. Probably he thought he’d be able to just knock away Hierophant Green’s Emerald Splash. He didn’t know that Kakyoin had imbued the Emerald Splash with Hamon.

Which, okay, technically Jotaro didn’t know that for sure either, but he could deduce that that was what Kakyoin had done, based on what Kakyoin had said, the spark of Hamon around his fingers, and that Hamon-particular sunlight-like warmth he could feel from the Stand inside him.

Dio’s dead and he doesn’t even realize it.

It was somewhat uncanny to be having the same kind of thoughts that Dio had probably had.

This is one long moment. Either I’ve improved and have managed to stop time longer than the times before, or time within stopped time is just really messed up.

Probably both.

And then time snapped back into motion, and Dio’s knives were shooting at Jotaro and Hierophant Green’s Emerald Splash was shooting at Dio, and Star Platinum and Dio were both moving to knock the projectiles away.

Hierophant Green had knocked most of the knives away with its Emerald Splash, and the rest of the knives were no problem for Jotaro’s fast and precise Star Platinum.

Hierophant Green’s Emerald Splash would’ve been no problem for Dio.

But the first few he tried to block blew holes in his arms, and then the entire force of the Hamon-infused Emerald Splash hit him and he screamed, chunks blown out of his body. The holes glowed bright shifting shades of orange like lava, which seemed to be spreading, devouring more of his body and he was knocked out of the air, sent crashing to the ground.

Jotaro dropped to the ground in a crouch, standing and looking over at Dio, who was sprawled on the ground and disintegrating, those glowing lava-like injuries spreading over him.

“H-hamon?!” Dio gargled out, his animal-yellow eyes wide with terror and agony. “I-impossible! H-how—?!”

Kakyoin appeared beside Jotaro, looking down at Dio’s disintegrating form. Kakyoin’s expression was utterly unfeeling.

“Joestar-san taught me Hamon when he was using it to save my life from all those wounds you gave me,” Kakyoin said simply. He brought a hand up over his chest but his expression was unemotional and unreadable. “I have to thank you, Dio. If you hadn’t stabbed me the way you did, I would never have figured out the secret of The World, nor would I have learned Hamon.”

Kakyoin’s demeanor was stone cold. Unsympathetic and uncompromising. His clothes were ill-fitting, one hand in the pocket of his black pants to keep them from slipping down his hips and his other hand reaching up to tug at the too-tight collar of his shirt, the flexible white fabric of which stretched each time he breathed. His pink hair was a mess, falling out of place and with patches caked and sticking together with blood.

He was beautiful.

That was reason enough by itself for Jotaro to kiss him, but there was also the fact that Hierophant Green was still coiled inside him and it felt weird.

“Here, you need to take this back,” he said, and leaned down to kiss Kakyoin, a hand circling around Kakyoin’s waist.

He kissed Kakyoin open-mouthed, and Kakyoin made a hum as he leaned into the kiss, wrapping an arm around Jotaro’s neck. Jotaro felt Hierophant Green slither out of his throat and mouth.

They pulled away, glancing over at Dio, who was writhing and gasping on the ground. One of his arms and legs were already burned away, the rest of him disintegrating fast, those molten injuries devouring him.

And Jotaro felt no pity for him, and he felt no compunction for destroying him, but the sight still made him feel slightly sick.

He was glad their fight against Dio was now over and that there would be no more casualties among them, but he felt no exultation or joy.

“J-Jojo!” Dio gasped, gargled out, reaching out a molten, disintegrating hand towards them but he was staring past them, his eyes blown wide and voice strangled with agony and abject terror. “L-let me go…!”

And then Dio let out one last pained, strangled cry, before his entire body disintegrated before their eyes, the molten wounds devouring him, crumbling him and turning him to ash that blew away in a gust of wind.

And then there was nothing left but the echo of his last strangled cry.

‘Jojo, let me go.’

And Jotaro got chills down his spine even as he realized: Those words weren’t for me.

 

“Y-you!” Dio snarled. His face twisted in stupefaction and rage.

It was satisfying.

Dio pointed a black-clawed finger at him, his hand trembling slightly. His expression was wild, discomposed, eyes wide and teeth bared like a cornered animal. “How did you—?!”

It was very satisfying.

Kakyoin could’ve smirked. “Oh?” He was going to rub this in Dio’s face. He was gong to rub this in Dio’s face until Dio could hardly see straight. “And here I thought you were familiar with Hamon, Dio.”

Dio’s face twisted in horrified realization and a dark, hundred-year old fury.

It wasn’t enough.

Kakyoin gestured at himself, and he was grateful to Polnareff now for picking out this uncomfortably tight white shirt, because he knew it was easily visible that he was completely healed. “Joestar-san used his Hamon to heal me.” He was going to rub this in in Dio’s face until he was blind. “Not a bad trick, is it?”

Dio would never guess that Kakyoin had learned some Hamon himself. But he needed Jotaro to know. And if he could accomplish that while continuing to rub Dio’s failures in his face, all the better. “It makes me think maybe I should learn Hamon myself one of these days.”

Jotaro would pick up on that. And it would just piss Dio off more.

Dio looked ready to snap. Kakyoin knew he wouldn’t, though. Dio had too much self-control. He could push Dio to the edge but Dio would catch his balance, like a cat, leap back onto solid ground.

That was perfect. That was exactly what Kakyoin wanted.

He watched as Dio’s wild fury was restrained, wiped out his face, replaced for the briefest of moments with a blank mask before it shifted into an arrogant smirk. “Hah. Joseph saves you from the verge of death, and instead of hiding and preserving your life you come right back for more of the same treatment that put you on the verge of death in the first place?”

Dio laughed, and he was leering now, trying to tip the scales, turn a situation where he was the one being taunted to a situation where he was the one doing the taunting. “I wouldn’t have categorized you as such a masochist, Kakyoin-kun.” He was voice was gentle. Warm. Familiar. It made Kakyoin feel nauseated.

He had been weak, once. Dio had been able to make him sink to his knees in fear. It was the most shameful thing in Kakyoin’s life, giving in to Dio. He hated himself for it.

But he was stronger, now. Dio could not ruffle him, could not perturb him, could not frighten him. Not anymore.

“You have the wrong idea, Dio, I assure you,” Kakyoin said, and he was perfectly calm. His mind perfectly clear. It was a natural movement to cross his arm over his chest and bring his fingers to brush against the bottom of his chin, casual and pensive, like all the melancholy portraits he’d studied in art class. “I’m no masochist.”

Dio narrowed his eyes at him, starting to get suspicious, and Kakyoin smiled. Because this was satisfying, to perturb Dio in such a way, and smiles always made people nervous. “I don’t intend to fight you again,” he lied. “It’s clear that my Hierophant Green can’t beat your The World.” And that was technically true. Hierophant Green couldn’t defeat The World—not by itself.

But there was Jotaro, and his Star Platinum. And sometimes it seemed like Jotaro could do anything.

And Kakyoin had Hamon now. And Dio didn’t know that. Would never guess that. Joestar-san’s shock at disbelief at how quickly Kakyoin had picked up Hamon had made that clear. Nobody, not even someone who was intimately familiar with Hamon, would guess that it was now the ace up his sleeve.

But Jotaro. Jotaro would know. Jotaro was just like that. Communicating with him was easy. Words weren’t even necessary.

Kakyoin was very lucky to have met him. Very lucky indeed.

“However, I believe in Jotaro’s ability to defeat you with his Star Platinum,” he told Dio, and he smiled still. This wasn’t a lie. “I just wanted to be here to witness it with my own eyes. So you can think of me as part of the cheer-leading squad, if you will.” A shout-out to Polnareff and Joestar-san.

Dio was watching him very suspiciously now, regarding him like the threat he was. It was satisfying. It was very satisfying.

“Dio!” Polnareff had picked up on his prompting, was now pointing a finger at Dio, ridiculously puffed-up and yet dead serious in a way that only Polnareff could be. “My only regret is that when Jotaro’s done with you there likely won’t be anything left of you for me to beat the crap out of!”

And Joestar-san had caught on as well, and as he did with everything he took it one step further, to a level just shy of absurd: “Whoo! Jotaro go!” he cheered, as if he were actually a cheer-leader. “J-O-T-A-R-O! Jotaro! You can do it, we know you can! Go kick Dio’s ass in!”

Dio’s expression of suspicion had changed back into a one of irritation and anger.

Kakyoin had never met anyone who was as good at annoying his enemies as Joestar-san was. It was truly a talent.

Jotaro, Polnareff, Joestar-san—and Avdol, and Iggy. Kakyoin was unbelievably lucky to have met all of them.

Dio collected himself again. The gloating arrogance was back, and he laughed. “Hah! So you all came here to die, huh? That’s fine. That suits me just fine. As soon as I destroy Jotaro, I’ll celebrate my victory with the deaths of the rest of you!”

Kakyoin wasn’t really paying attention, taking the opportunity to leap down from the building, using his Hierophant Green to swing down to the ground. Because he knew that would piss Dio off: when he was trying to be threatening but his threats weren’t taken seriously.

And also, Jotaro was down there.

Kakyoin landed close to him, straightened, met his gaze. Jotaro was watching him attentively. It made Kakyoin feel warm, that look. Those eyes.

Dio was a vampire and had enhanced senses. It was likely that even if he spoke quietly Dio would be able to hear him. Which meant that he needed to communicate his plan to Jotaro in such a way that Jotaro would figure it out but Dio wouldn’t so much as get suspicious.

It was better if Dio could hear him, actually. If he thought he knew exactly what was going on between them. Kakyoin’s plan depended on Dio thinking that this exchange between them was of no significance.

Kakyoin looked at Jotaro and felt warm. He’d spent so much of his life feeling cold. “I apologize in advance for how hackneyed and blatantly sentimental this is going to sound,” he said, voice lowered, for Jotaro’s and Dio’s ears only, “but I trust you, Jotaro. With not just my own life but also with the lives of everyone here, and the life of your mother and all the other people who will die if Dio triumphs.”

It was true. It was completely true.

And Jotaro’s gaze said:

Kakyoin could’ve smiled. “Do you trust me as well?”

“To the end of the world,” Jotaro said, without any hesitation at all, and Kakyoin could’ve laughed because he was pretty sure that when Jotaro had said that he’d meant Dio’s ‘The World’. “And far past that.” And that just confirmed it.

Kakyoin smiled. I knew you’d say something like that. Because of course Jotaro would already know that he had a plan.

“Then take this with you,”, Kakyoin said, as he brushed his hand over Jotaro’s cheek, Jotaro’s seafoam eyes wide and on him, and it was nice. It was really nice.

And Kakyoin curved his hand around to the back of Jotaro’s neck and pulled him down slightly, rising on his toes to kiss him. And Jotaro let him. Which just corroborated what Kakyoin had already suspected: that this attraction was mutual.

The kiss made Kakyoin’s lips tingle and a pleasant warmth spread through him. But neither of them had the luxury to enjoy this. This was an important part of Kakyoin’s plan. So this time the kiss was all business.

Which meant he needed Jotaro to open his mouth.

He brushed his tongue over Jotaro’s lips, trying to coax them open.

He wouldn’t have thought of this solution if Jotaro hadn’t kissed that nurse to pull Hierophant Green out from inside her. It had been a brilliant move; Kakyoin had had no idea what Jotaro was doing. Dio would have no idea what he was doing.

Jotaro probably had no idea what he was doing.

Kakyoin had closed his eyes, but now he opened them slightly, meeting Jotaro’s gaze. This isn’t just a kiss.

Jotaro’s eyes were already wide in surprise and confusion, but now they widened in realization, and then Jotaro was closing his eyes, pulling Kakyoin closer, kissing him deeper, opening his mouth.

I love you, Kakyoin thought. And his Hierophant Green slithered from his mouth into Jotaro’s, down Jotaro’s throat, curling up and hiding inside him.

The connection between a Stand and its User was interesting. Injuries to the Stand appeared on the User, the pain only slightly dulled. Injuries to the User affected the strength of the Stand, but did not actually appear on the Stand. Other sensations aside from pain were either not transferred between User and Stand at all, or only vaguely.

Whenever Kakyoin hid his Hierophant Green inside someone, though, it made him feel warm all over. It was one of the reasons he’d done it as often as he had (he’d always felt so cold).

But this was the first time Kakyoin had ever hidden his Hierophant Green inside someone without using it to control them.

Jotaro’s lips were warm against his, his neck and face warm beneath Kakyoin’s hands, his arms warm around him, his chest pressed warm against him, and Kakyoin felt warm all over. Like he wouldn’t ever again feel cold.

Someone was catcalling. That was probably Joestar-san.

Someone was clapping, slow and mocking. That was probably Dio.

He lowered back down from his toes and both he and Jotaro stepped back, turning to regard Dio.

Dio was floating there above them, looking down at them, eyes glinting gold and grin brimming with fangs. “Congratulations! Your first and last kiss.” There was cold cruelty in his gaze but his voice was so, so warm. “I’ll enjoy the looks on your faces when you realize that that was your final farewell.”

“Is that so?” Kakyoin said, regarding him. Once Dio had terrified him. Now he felt nothing. I’ll enjoy the look on your face when you realize that you’re the one who’s dying tonight, Dio.

Kakyoin was almost done. The rest would depend on Jotaro.

Kakyoin kept watching Dio out of the corner of his eye as he stepped back to Jotaro and stood up slightly on his toes to whisper in Jotaro’s ear. He wasn’t sure if Dio could hear him or not, but it was better to assume he could. Jotaro would understand him, even if he was cryptic.

“Dio’s dangerous, and he’ll try to piss you off and make you act without thinking,” he murmured; a useless sentence, meant only to frame and disguise the important information: “Be careful when you decide to open your mouth.”

Jotaro could move for a moment in Dio’s frozen time. And when Jotaro unfroze the time around and within him, the time around and within Hierophant Green would have to be unfrozen as well. And all Hierophant Green needed was a route to hit Dio with its Emerald Splash.

All Jotaro needed to do was face Dio and open his mouth.

Kakyoin stepped away from him, then, making sure to move so that his back was to Dio as he met Jotaro’s gaze.

Jotaro’s seafoam eyes were hard and resolute. I understand.

Kakyoin could’ve smiled. Instead he glanced down at his hands, knowing that Jotaro would follow his gaze, and sparked Hamon over his fingertips. His breathing was perfectly steady. He was not afraid. He was not even anxious.

When he glanced back up, Jotaro’s four-square expression had changed only subtly, in a way that Kakyoin couldn’t have put words to but which made him feel a warmth in his chest.

It was different than Dio’s warmth. Dio’s warmth was a sauna; Jotaro’s warmth was like drinking tea.

Jotaro gave a small nod and then stepped around him, walking past him. The hem of Jotaro’s long coat brushed Kakyoin’s too-baggy pants.

When Kakyoin turned around a moment later to look at him, Jotaro was already in the air, the same flames around him as had flared up around Dio.

Star Platinum and The World are the same kind of Stand, Kakyoin realized. He could’ve laughed. For crying out loud. No wonder Jotaro can move in Dio’s stopped time.

But Jotaro and Dio were now facing each other in the air, and Kakyoin had to pay attention. Jotaro only had a moment. Kakyoin had no idea what it would feel like, when his Stand was unfrozen within Dio’s stopped time.

They only had one shot at this. They had no choice but to succeed.

Dio’s demeanor as he regarded Jotaro was all god-emperors and jungle cats. “Well well. Feeling braver now that your friends are here?”

Jotaro’s demeanor was all soldier and stone.

Dio was on the verge of laughter. “Useless! They won’t be able to help you!”

And then Jotaro moved, launching himself and his Stand at Dio.

“Muda muda muda!” Dio spread the knives in his hands like a cat extending its claws, the glint of his eyes gold and predatory, his grin fanged and hungry. “The World!”

And then time stopped. It was like the world had been a movie and somebody had used the remote and suddenly pressed paused. And everything was frozen still and leached of color.

Except for Jotaro and Dio, hovering in the air above him, Jotaro surrounded by knives and Dio’s face twisted in alarm and horror. It was an ugly expression. “N-nani?! J-Jotaro, you—!”

And Jotaro just regarded him coolly through the curtain of knives and yawned—opening his mouth.

And Kakyoin was ready, Hierophant Green already having prepared its Emerald Splash, and now it shot it out Jotaro’s mouth, knocking away many of the knives as it went but shooting straight at Dio; Star Platinum could handle a few knives.

And just like the knives had frozen in the air before they hit Jotaro, Hierophant Green’s Emerald Splash froze in the air before it hit Dio.

You’re dead now, Dio. And you don’t even realize it.

Kakyoin thought he’d feel some kind of satisfaction at that thought. Some kind of triumph. But he didn’t.

He didn’t feel anything. It was just a statement. A fact. Completely neutral, with neither inflection nor emotion.

And when time started again a moment later, and the Hamon-infused Emerald Splash blew smoldering holes in him and sent him crashing and screaming to the ground, Kakyoin thought he’d feel satisfaction then. But he didn’t.

He might as well be sitting at a window watching it rain.

And when Dio writhed on the ground, burning away and disintegrating, shock and agony and horror and terror twisting his face into ugly contortions, and he Dio gasped out: “H-hamon?! I-impossible! H-how—?!” Kakyoin thought he’d feel satisfaction then.

He might as well have been sitting in front of a fireplace watching the flames flicker and dance.

“Joestar-san taught me Hamon when he was using it to save my life from all those wounds you gave me,” he explained. Because he’d planned on rubbing it in Dio’s face. He placed a hand over his chest in a gesture of mocking gratitude, recited the lines he’d written and rehearsed in his head: “I have to thank you, Dio. If you hadn’t stabbed me the way you did, I would never have figured out the secret of The World, nor would I have learned Hamon.”

He’d planned on gloating. On enjoying saying that. But instead it just felt like a chore, like helping to tutor his peers in math. Explaining what they’d gotten wrong on the test.

Jotaro was looking at him, had stepped closer to him. Kakyoin met his gaze.

Jotaro’s eyes were warm. “Here,” he said, placing his warm hand on Kakyoin’s cheek, “you need to take this back.”

And then he was leaning down and kissing Kakyoin, and his lips were warm, his hand was warm, his arm as it encircled Kakyoin’s waist was warm, and Kakyoin removed his Hierophant Green from inside him as he kissed him back, distantly hoping that he didn’t feel cold.

It wasn’t a long kiss. Dio was wasn’t yet dead, and he was emitting agonized, strangled noises as he burned away, and they pulled apart to watch.

Dio was repulsive in death in a way he’d never been in life. He’d been all deep-colored roses and twisting vines of thorned briar, but now he was all rot—terrified, helpless, pathetic. Just like Kakyoin had been, when he’d once stood before Dio, beneath that gentle smile and those jaguar eyes.

But Kakyoin stood and looked down at Dio as he disintegrated, and Kakyoin didn’t feel anything at all.

 

Dio was dead, and Polnareff could not have been happier.

Well, unless he met and married the woman of his dreams. Or unless Avdol turned out to not actually be dead again.

But aside from those, like, two things, Polnareff could not have been happier.

He walked over to where Jotaro and Kakyoin were still standing there, staring at the spot where Dio’s body had burned away. The poor guys looked totally stunned, like they couldn’t even believe that they’d defeated him, and were just waiting for him to reappear and be like, “FOOLS! YOU THOUGHT YOU COULD DEFEAT ME, DIO?!”

But no, there was no way Dio was coming back from burning away like that.

“Good riddance,” Polnareff said, and spat on the cement where Dio’s body had lain. That death had looked painful as hell, and Polnareff hadn’t felt bad one bit—the bastard had gotten what was coming to him, and even that death had been less than he’d deserved.

But Jotaro and Kakyoin were just still staring at that spot all blank like they still couldn’t believe it. But of course Jotaro and Kakyoin defeated him! Polnareff had never met two guys more intense—not even Dio. Dio had been dangerous as hell, yeah, but he’d been a clown in comparison to Jotaro and Kakyoin.

And now Dio was gone and Polnareff was so happy, he was on the verge of tears as he slung his arms around Jotaro and Kakyoin’s shoulders, hugging them to him. “We’ve won! You guys defeated Dio!” and when M. Joestar walked over Polnareff pulled him into the hug too, crying and laughing. “We’ve finally won!”

And maybe that was what they’d needed—a little celebration, someone to voice it—because now Kakyoin was smiling slightly and Jotaro’s face was doing that almost-but-not-quite smiling thing it did when he was pleased, and M. Joestar was grinning and wiping the tears from his eyes.

“Holly,” he said, sniffling slightly, smiling through his tears. “My daughter Holly is safe now.”

Jotaro was silent but obviously in agreement.

“And we’ve defeated Dio!” M. Joestar said, making a fist and slapping it into the palm of his other hand, grinning. “That usage of Hamon was brilliant, Kakyoin! And Jotaro!” He clapped them both on the shoulders. “Who knew you’d be able to move in Dio’s stopped time like that?!”

Jotaro shrugged, and Kakyoin smiled, even as he subtly tugged up his pants that were slipping down his hips, and Polnareff felt a little bad about that. But hey, there hadn’t been that many choices in the store Polnareff had gone into, and he’d needed something fast! That tight shirt, though—it suited Kakyoin. Polnareff applauded himself.

“I’m just glad Dio’s dead now,” Jotaro said, simple and straightforward. Well, he was a simple, straightforward guy. Punch first and think about it later.

“Yeah,” Kakyoin said, smiling tiredly and brushing the hair out of his face. “It was quite the adventure, huh? I almost can’t believe I’m going to have to go back to high school after this.” And that was Kakyoin, always thinking ahead.

Jotaro grunted in affirmation and Polnareff snickered. They were so serious that he always forgot they were five years younger than him. “Sucks to be young!” he said, winking at them.

“Ugh, highschool,” M. Joestar bemoaned. “I do not miss those days at all! But!” He patted them on the shoulders and then flashed them a grin and a thumbs-up. “You can do it!”

Jotaro just stared at him coolly while Kakyoin smiled. “Thank you, Joestar-san.”

“Okay!” Polnareff said, clapping his hands together, all three of them turning to look at him. “Dio’s dead! We need to celebrate! But first! There’s still one problem!”

He pointed at Jotaro and Kakyoin accusingly, narrowing his eyes. “Since when have you two been together?!”

 

Since when?

Jotaro and Kakyoin looked at each other, meeting each other’s gazes. Seafoam blue-green and the purple of Byzantine. Scars and sweat and traces of blood.

Kakyoin descending the steps with a scarf wrapped around his arms and neck, cool contempt and confidence in his face and an elegantly-written threat on a handkerchief in his hand.

“Since always,” Jotaro decided.

Jotaro’s determined face above his, a study in line and color, holding Kakyoin’s head still while the tendrils of the flesh blood crawled towards his brain under his skin.

“As Jotaro said,” Kakyoin agreed, his lips curving. “Since always.”

Jotaro stuffed his hands into his pockets. “I knew there was a reason I risked my life to get rid of that flesh bud.”

Kakyoin brushed the hair out of his eyes. “And I knew there was a reason I joined you on this venture.”

“Wait! Wait wait wait wait!” Polnareff cried, waving his hands wildly, and they both turned to look at him. “You say you’ve been together since always?! Then why didn’t I know about it?!” He looked comically agonized and more than a little exasperated. “Why do you guys never tell me important things?!”

Jotaro shrugged. “It didn’t seem necessary.”

“It didn’t seem necessary?!” Polnareff exclaimed, his jaw dropping. He waved his hands emphatically. “You didn’t think I’d want to know that two of my best friends are banging each other?!”

Jotaro hid his gaze beneath the rim of his cap and Kakyoin covered a surprised cough with his hand.

“That’s not the term I’d use,” Kakyoin managed, smiling awkwardly.

“Polnareff,” Jotaro said, looking out from under his cap to glare at the Frenchman. “Didn’t you think that maybe this is why we didn’t tell you?”

“Hey, I wouldn’t be reacting like this if you’d just told me at the beginning!” Polnareff exclaimed indignantly.

“They couldn’t have told you, Polnareff,” Joseph said, and now all three of them turned to look at him. Joseph’s face was uncharacteristically sedate. “They didn’t know themselves.”

It was times like this he couldn’t help but think of Caesar. The things he hadn’t realized until after Caesar was dead and gone. Things he wished he could’ve told him, even just once. Things he murmured into the emptiness and the dark when none of the living were present to hear them.

Polnareff looked flabbergasted. “What?!”

And now Joseph grinned smugly. He was an old man now, and life had given him much to be grateful for.

Getting to rub his superior observation and deductive skills in the faces of the youngins was one of them. “Didn’t you hear Dio?” he said, grinning broadly. “He said: ‘Congratulations. Your first and last kiss.’” He spread his hands in an incredibly humble gesture. Yes, he’d noticed that. “And they’ve obviously loved each other for a while now, but they weren’t actually together.” He winked at them, grinning. “As a grandparent, I can obviously tell these things!”

Jotaro was obviously embarrassed, because he was glaring menacingly. “Old man…” he muttered darkly.

“Don’t worry!” Joseph said, waving his hands, winking again and flashing his grandson and thumbs-up. “Your family supports you one-hundred percent!” He’d be something of a hypocrite if he didn’t, now wouldn’t he?

Kakyoin had been having a difficult time following the conversation. There were swarming shadows of crows in his vision, and he felt light and faint, like he might get swept up with the beating of their wings in his ears. Logically, his brain told him that he was on the verge of passing out.

“Please pardon me,” he said, raising a hand slightly to get their attention, because if he suddenly collapsed without warning it would be terribly awkward, “but I think that… I…” What did he think? His vision was filled with ghostly black feathers.

And then Kakyoin’s eyes had rolled back and he was falling, and Jotaro had crossed the distance between them in a stride and caught him, an arm behind Kakyoin’s back and a hand on his far shoulder. “Kakyoin!”

“Shit!” Polnareff exclaimed, rushing over. “Shit shit shit! Is he okay?!” If it turned out that Kakyoin actually did die, Polnareff didn’t know what he was going to do.

“Oh shiiit!” Joseph said, hands to his face as he realized: “Yeah, he’s only ingested, like, one smoothie, and he used all that Hamon and his body did all that healing…” Kakyoin had been acting so normally that Joseph had kind of totally forgotten what he’d been through. “It’s a wonder he didn’t pass out earlier.” It was really impressive, actually—something he’d expect of Jotaro, or of himself, especially in his younger days.

Joseph grinned. Kakyoin would be okay. “Truly, he’s worthy of being a member of the Joestar family! Tough as nails and more stubborn the devil himself, every one of us!”

Jotaro just looked at him. This was not the time to be joking around. “Does he need a hospital?”

“Uh,” Joseph said, and scratched at his cheek. “He shouldn’t need any surgery or anything, if that’s what you mean, but they could give him an IV and that would probably help him out, yeah.”

And Jotaro picked Kakyoin up in his arms and started walking. “Then let’s go.”

 

“And I’m in the hospital again,” Kakyoin smiled embarrassedly as he gingerly sat up, careful not to jostle the IV in his arm. The others had crowded around him, Polnareff having shouted excitedly, “Kakyoin’s awake!” and effectively waking up Joseph, who’d been dozing off in his chair.

“Yeah, but this time you’re getting released today!” Polnareff grinned, clapping him on the shoulder. “No need to look so down! I mean,” and Polnareff’s blue eyes widened slightly, “without that freaky Hamon stuff, you’d be dead.”

“That’s true,” Kakyoin agreed.

“Kakyoin, I don’t know if this is my place to say this,” Joseph said, leaning forward in his chair and putting a hand on Kakyoin’s knee beneath the white sheets, Joseph’s expression sober and serious, “but I think you should continue your study of Hamon.” And then he grinned broadly and lifted his hand from Kakyoin’s knee to flash him a thumbs-up. “And I know just the people!”

“If I can do that without disrupting my studies at high school,” Kakyoin said. “I’ve already missed enough.” He ran a hand anxiously through his hair, his smile strained. “I wonder how much extra work I’ll have to do not to be held back a year…”

When Kakyoin had woken up Jotaro had sat up and put a hand over his, watching him with slightly widened eyes, but now Jotaro leaned back in his chair and crossed a leg over his knee, his eyelids lowering slightly. “They wouldn’t hold you back,” he said.

Kakyoin looked at him, amusement easing his features. “Are you offering to threaten them for me?” he asked.

“If I need to,” Jotaro shrugged.

“Mon Dieu!” Polnareff said, laughing. He looked at Joseph and nudged him with his elbow, grinning. “Young people, am I right?”

“Don’t steal my lines, kiddo,” Joseph said amusedly, wagging a finger at him. “You’re not all that old yourself. Leave those remarks for the geezers like me.”

“Yeah yeah, if you insist,” Polnareff grinned, waving a hand. He leaned towards Jotaro, nudging Jotaro’s boot with his own and hissing behind a hand: “Jotaro! Don’t you have something for Kakyoin?”

Jotaro blinked phlegmatically. “Right,” he said, and reached below his chair, pulling out a bouquet of pink tulips and holding them out. “Kakyoin. Polnareff gave me these to give to you and say they’re from me.”

“You weren’t supposed to tell him that!” Polnareff cried as Joseph burst out laughing and Kakyoin chuckled. “What the hell! Have you no romantic bone in your body?!”

“Thank you,” Kakyoin smiled as he took the bouquet, looking at Jotaro and Polnareff in turn. “Both of you.”

“Polnareff,” Joseph said, leaning forward in his chair, a hand thoughtfully rubbing his beard, “did you pick out those flowers so they’d match Kakyoin’s hair?”

“Oui!” Polnareff grinned, and nudged Kakyoin’s hand so the pink tulips were right next to his pink hair. “They’re the exact same shade, see? And since the shape of the tulips kinda resembles his cherry earrings, while the leaves are kind of resemblant of Hierophant Green!”

Joseph was laughing. “You’re right!” he grinned, while Jotaro hid his gaze behind his the rim of his cap and Kakyoin smiled embarrassedly.

“I was, uh, gonna go with roses ‘cause they’re romantic and all,” Polnareff said, “but then…” he looked uncharacteristically awkward as he ran a hand self-consciously up his gelled hair, chuckling nervously and without much humor, “ah, they reminded me a little too much of Dio…”

He and Kakyoin shared an understanding glance, and Jotaro and Joseph were quiet.

Kakyoin lowered the flowers to his lap and smiled over the top of the bouquet. “The tulips are wonderful, thank you.”

“Don’t mention it,” Polnareff said, waving a hand dismissively, though he looked relieved. He smiled, unusually subdued. “We’re all just really glad you’re alive, Kakyoin.”

“Me too,” Kakyoin said honestly, while Jotaro’s expression eased into an almost-smile and Joseph’s eyes looked slightly watery.

They’d defeated Dio, and they’d lost Avdol and Iggy, but the four of them were still alive. They’d won and they’d survived.

The silence stretched on for another moment before Polnareff clapped his hands together and declared: “So!”

They looked at him, Jotaro already looking resigned, Joseph sniffing slightly and rubbing at his eyes, and Kakyoin raising an eyebrow.

“So?” Kakyoin asked, tone cautious.

Polnareff through out his arms in exasperation. “Are you two going to kiss or not?!” he demanded, and when their eyes widened slightly he wagged a finger at them, tsking. “And don’t go getting all embarrassed now!” he said. “If you could kiss in front of both us as well as Dio in the middle of a public street yesterday, you can damn well kiss in front of us in a private hospital room.”

“Yare yare,” Jotaro muttered, pulling his cap down over his eyes.

An amused smile was playing around Kakyoin’s lips. “I’d heard the French were voyeurs,” he remarked. “Good to know that stereotype is now confirmed.”

“Oi!” Polnareff said, glaring at him. “I didn’t mean it like that! But seriously,” and now he was glaring at both of them, gesturing emphatically, “You almost died, Kakyoin, and Jotaro here’s been waiting by your bedside the entire time for you to wake up, and now Kakyoin’s woken up and he’s alive and miraculously whole, and you guys are lovers but you haven’t even kissed yet?! This is the kind of I’m-so-relieved-to-be-alive slash I’m-so-relieved-you’re-alive moment when lovers kiss each other!”

“I’ve never liked the word ‘lovers’ or ‘lover,’” Kakyoin remarked, utterly blasé. “But if you want to see a kiss, that’s fine with me. I’m not embarrassed by this.” He was looking at Jotaro. Not expectant or anxious or anything, just looking. More like he wanted Jotaro to know his stance than like he was waiting to hear Jotaro’s stance.

“I’m not embarrassed,” Jotaro muttered, looking out from under the rim of his cap to glare at Polnareff. “I just don’t like being told to do things. By anyone.” He glared, and Polnareff grinned sheepishly and spread his hands, and Joseph was snickering and Kakyoin looked like he was trying not to laugh.

“But fine,” Jotaro said, and he rose from his chair, leaning down over the bed, bracing a hand against the pillows as Kakyoin put his hand on the back of Jotaro’s neck. They closed their eyes and leaned in at the same exact time, as if they had some kind of psychic connection.

It was sweet, Polnareff thought, if not slightly uncanny. Like, they were that perfect for each other that they could be perfectly synchronized by their third kiss, and he hadn’t even noticed?!

“See?!” Polnareff said when they ended the kiss, just as simultaneously as they’d initiated it. “That wasn’t so hard, now was it?”

Jotaro sat back down in his chair, but he scooted it forwards closer to the hospital bed, reaching out and taking Kakyoin’s hand, winding his fingers in his.

Kakyoin’s eyes were slightly watery and he was laughing.

Jotaro looked at him. What is it? and Kakyoin just shook his head.

“It’s just funny,” Kakyoin said, smiling ironically. “Dio was terrible, but I have him to thank for the best experiences and the best friends I’ve had in my life. I…” Kakyoin’s smile softened slightly and he looked down, at his and Jotaro’s clasped hands, even as he blinked back the water in his eyes. No tears fell. “I’m glad. If that’s not too horrible of me to say. I’m glad this all happened. Even if Avdol and Iggy…”

“Yeah,” Polnareff said, subdued, looking down at the floor between his knees. “No, I know. You’re right.” He looked up at them all and smiled. His own eyes were watery now. “These past few months with you guys were the best of my life, too.”

“I think Avdol and Iggy felt the same,” Joseph offered, sober and meditative. “And they’ll always be in our memories. And, well, who knows if they’re watching.” He shrugged his shoulders. “But I think that if they were, they’d be happy, too. So we shouldn’t feel too bad.” He smiled slightly, meeting their gazes. “When someone dies for you, it’s because they want you to keep living. They wouldn’t want us to get stuck on the past.”

“Yeah,” Polnareff agreed, and he wiped at his eyes.

The window to the hospital room had been open to let fresh air in, but now a guest of wind slammed it closed with a bang that made Jotaro turn his head sharply, Kakyoin summon his Hierophant Green, Joseph jump to his feet, and Polnareff fall out of his chair to the floor.

They all looked at the window as it slowly swung back open, the trees lining the street outside rustling and blowing in the wind, and when the breeze slammed the window closed again with another bang they all started laughing.

This adventure was over, but they would keep on living.

 

Fin.