However selfish it may be to make somebody else’s misfortune and suffering about one’s own feelings, Jotaro silently noted to himself that Josuke’s hospitalization was taking a toll on him.
Besides worrying about Josuke and feeling guilt over his condition, he felt burdened with tasks he really did not enjoy fulfilling.
First of all, he felt it was his responsibility to make sure Josuke’s mother and his own grandfather wouldn’t cross paths on the corridor. He carefully arranged the situation so that the old man and Shizuka stayed in the secluded playing area of the downstairs lobby, not forgetting to pay off two nurses (separately) to make sure that he stayed there for an hour or two after he took a quick look at Josuke, and could rest assured that he was okay. Well, as okay as one could be fighting internal bleeding and the pain of quite a few broken bones.
Okuyasu demanded to peek inside as well, despite the orders of the doctors and nurses, which was a tough fight to win with the boy’s temper. Once that was done, Jotaro also had to make sure Okuyasu wouldn’t stay behind and linger around the room where he might meet Tomoko, lest he blabbed his dumb mouth about something she wasn’t supposed to know.
Walking up and down the building, dealing with petty feuds, listening to doctors, explaining the family ties again and again, scheming, calculating and arranging things between family members and hospital workers started seriously pissing him off .
He was playing chaperon for everyone else involved while a mix of fear and excitement about his own home chewed him up inside, and started screwing a nail of sharp pain in his temple.
Jotaro thought of his own family at home, of his wife and his daughter, and felt uncertain about how he would be welcomed back, while also feeling euphoric about the possibility of seeing them again after all this time. A confusing and dangerous cocktail of emotions swirled as a dizzy fog in his mind, and as much as he cared for Josuke and his family, he just wished the whole thing would be done with already, so he could retreat and deal with his own business. He attempted calling home whenever he had a minute of privacy to himself. Nobody ever picked up.
Being the adult of the situation while he was battling his own problems inside tired him beyond exhaustion, making him feel snappy and sleepy, more so than he remembered ever feeling, but he was forced to stay around for hours to come.
“What is this?”
Jotaro was standing on the hospital’s balcony, staring back at Okuyasu. He brought a dozen small snacks and a carelessly balanced plastic cup of coffee machine slop with him. He seemed just as shaken as Jotaro was, constantly asking about Josuke and making noise with tapping his feet and his fingers on every surface he found in his nerves. As understandable as his behaviour was in the situation, Jotaro couldn’t help but feel frustrated with being stuck with him.
“That’s excessive,” he grumbled as he frowned at the products in the boy’s hand. “I won’t eat all this.”
“I just thought,” Okuyasu started to explain himself, to no success.
“Why would you buy all this?” Jotaro reprimanded him, secretly happy to be able to snap at someone, and have it be justified. “I asked you to-”
“Yeah, I know it’s too much, I’m not stupid!” the boy interjected, defensive and frustrated. “I just thought I dunno which one you’d like, so I’d buy a bunch of them, and the rest you can take home!” He sucked in his lips and spilled everything from his arms onto the edge of the balcony where Jotaro was standing, and hopped up on the thing at the opposite end, his arms crossed. He looked down onto the city below them with a defiant pout.
Jotaro watched him.
“Alright,” the man said finally. He took deep breaths and poked at the small baggies, realizing that Okuyasu chose the most edible things a hospital’s vending machine could realistically offer, with something almost resembling actual nutrition.
“That does make sense,” Jotaro said as he took one in hand, and opened it up with ease. “Thank you, Okuyasu.”
“Hm,” the boy huffed in front of himself, his head still turned towards the city.
“Tell you what,” Jotaro started as he tossed two or three snacks towards him on the surface of the balcony’s sill. “I’ll drink my coffee and I’ll have this one, and you take the rest home with you to eat. Deal?”
The boy peeked at him from the corner of his eyes. “Alright, Jotaro-san.” He took one little bag in hand and started working on opening it up. He must have been starved, Jotaro supposed. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me.” Jotaro smirked at him. “You insisted on buying it with your own money.”
“I did,” Okuyasu replied with rare dignity and pride.
They chewed on the plastic-y snacks together in silence. Jotaro placed his phone next to himself and glanced at the screen from time to time with impatient obsession, but the fucking thing didn’t want to beep. He kept his eye on the boy as well, noticing that he was smiling to himself from time to time.
“What do you keep smiling for?”
Okuyasu’s head snapped up. “Huh?” His expression betrayed that he felt caught red-handed. “Sorry!”
Jotaro frowned at him, curiosity perking up inside him. “No need to apologize for smiling,” he told him.
Okuyasu hung his head again, thinking hard. “I'm…” He stared in front of himself as he sucked in his cheeks. “I dunno if I should say it.”
“That's okay,” Jotaro reassured him, secretly the tiniest bit curious what could be so fucking delightful about this day.
“It's not just my business, you know,” Okuyasu insisted, seeming almost guilty over not answering the man, and stirring his curiosity even further instead of soothing it.
“Alright,” Jotaro offered him, making sure to sound disinterested.
Despite his words, it didn’t look like Okuyasu was done yet, as if something was about to burst through from him. “Me and Josuke…”
Jotaro lifted the plastic cupful of dishwater coffee to his lips for a sip with disgust showing on his tired face. “Take your time, Okuyasu.”
“I guess we are boyfriends now.”
Jotaro choked on his coffee and coughed up some of it onto the lapel of his white coat and onto his designer trousers. He lifted his hand to his lips to wipe drips of it off his burning face. “Alright,” he whisper-said once he realized he was supposed to react somehow.
“Unless I misunderstood somethin',” Okuyasu added, playing with another snack’s packaging, as if he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to open it.
Jotaro watched him, past the point of caring about his ruined clothes. “What makes you think you did?” he asked him, wrapped in feigned disinterest again.
Okuyasu exhaled with a frown, his thin brows almost meeting. “'Cause I'm dumb as shit.”
Jotaro cracked up laughing, realizing late that he was being rude, for which he curtly apologized. He considered how involved he was willing to get into this whole mess, and finally decided to ask the boy further. “What happened exactly? If I'm not too presumptuous.”
Okuyasu shrugged his sagging shoulders as he sat at the other end of the balcony. “I dunno. Just now, when I went it... Guess we confessed and kissed.”
Jotaro stared at him with his eyes wide, shocked at the boy’s unashamed honesty. “O-... Okay,” he agreed reluctantly, then cleared his throat. “That... That sounds quite straightforward.”
He eyed Okuyasu, and realized that the boy’s feelings seemed just as mixed and ambivalent as his own were throughout the whole ordeal at the hospital. “You look worried,” he told him.
Okuyasu exhaled loud and deep as he looked down onto the city under them, like some tortured heroine in a historical drama would. “I dunno,” he said, and scratched at his neck. “I just think he deserves the best, and that ain't me.”
Jotaro knit his brows together with a smirk, half disapproving, half endeared.
It was amusing to him how different things looked from their perspectives. To him, the two boys seemed inseparable, and very much similar, though Josuke was smarter and quicker. Somewhat. Had the old man’s wit and mischief, and apparently his strategic tendency as well, something Okuyasu seemed to lack in his simplicity.
Still, it was funny for him to think that, to Okuyasu, the other boy was some shiny and pretty treasure, completely out of his reach. A hero deciding to throw a commoner a bone.
“You're a good kid,” he decided to tell Okuyasu. “Josuke is lucky to know you,” he added with genuine softness lurking in his monotone.
Okuyasu turned his head towards him with a weak smile. “Nah! I'm lucky to know him!”
Jotaro smiled back at him. “Maybe you are lucky to know each other.”
“It's so crazy how we met,” the boy mused, half to himself.
Jotaro glanced at his phone’s screen. Nothing. “How did you meet?”
“I... I guess long story short, Keicho wanted me to kill him.”
The man huffed out air through his nose. “That's romantic.”
“Yeah, it's funny,” Okuyasu agreed with his sarcasm with a stretch of his neck and a grin. “I dunno. Crazy that we became friends... Or I mean, crazy that he let me be his friend. He was so nice to me back then too!”
His tone changed after a short pause. “Keicho fucked me up so bad then,” he stated flatly.
Jotaro turned his gaze towards him, watching the boy without a word. He decided he would let him talk as much about this as he wanted, nothing more, nothing less.
“I think I went proper blind, you know?” Okuyasu continued without emotion. “Or mostly blind, I dunno if that's also called blind, when you just see shapes and shit. He fucked up my face and everything just went dark and blurry. And I couldn’t move anythin’ either.”
Jotaro listened to him without explaining to him what he most probably experienced and why, not interjecting with the medical term for the condition. He silently noted to himself what part of his nervous system the blow to his face must have damaged, and listened on in respectful, attentive silence.
“I remember trying and nothing moved, it was just dark and blurry and I just lay there,” Okuyasu continued sharing the details with the same precise, impersonal distance victims always use to recite what happened to them talking to police detectives during an investigation. “I dunno.” He shrugged. “Maybe I woulda died soon.” He glanced at Jotaro only to immediately look away. “I felt scared.”
“I'm sorry,” Jotaro offered curtly, hoping that he sounded genuine.
“Yeah.” Okuyasu smiled to himself, his tone and expression both changing along with the new direction he decided for his story. “And Josuke came and patched me up. He even got his hand fucked up 'cause of me, I remember that, 'cause I kept thinking after, why wouldn't the guy just fuckin' tend to his own wounds too?! That doesn’t make sense!”
“He can't use his stand on himself,” Jotaro explained.
“Yeah, he can’t!” Okuyasu agreed enthusiastically. “He told me, and I was so shocked that he would risk that for me! Me!” He huffed a laugh. “I was just some guy he didn't know who tried to hurt him, and he saved me! That's crazy!”
Jotaro’s lips curled into a smile as he watched the boy. “Yeah. Josuke is like that.”
“He's so nice!” Okuyasu chirped.
“He is,” Jotaro agreed with him.
Okuyasu chewed on his lips, and Jotaro could tell he had something he found very important to say. “That kid… Um, Kira’s kid… I mean, not his kid, but-”
“Kawajiri Hayato,” Jotaro offered.
“Yeah.” Okuyasu swallowed. “Said it looked like I died,” he said, getting to the point immediately.
“I’m glad you’re fine,” Jotaro told him.
He shook his head, still upset, still giving the impression that he hadn’t made his point clear yet. “He said Josuke just wouldn’t let it go.” Okuyasu looked Jotaro straight in the eye as his eyes filled with tears. “The kid said I slowed him down and he almost got killed ‘cause of me. ‘Cause he wanted to save me.”
“It’s not your fault,” Jotaro told him, and wished he could do more. “It was his decision.” He watched the boy as he dried his eyes, and wondered if he should be looking away. Okuyasu didn’t seem like he minded, something Jotaro just couldn’t wrap mind around. He willed himself to say what he was thinking. “He did it out of love.”
Okuyasu made a noise that was either a happy chuckle or a choked cry, Jotaro couldn’t tell. Maybe it was both. “I hope he will be alright. If he-”
“He will be alright,” Jotaro promised him, surprising himself once the words left his lips, almost of their own accord. He was worried for Josuke too, but didn’t want to let is show. He didn’t even have much reason to, he supposed. Logically, his condition wasn’t awfully bad. He probably was in pain, but there is medicine for that. He had injuries and wounds, but that can be taken care of as well. He didn’t show any sign of anything truly serious. Still, the nagging thought that it was somehow Jotaro’s fault, that he could have done more, could have come faster, could have prevented Josuke from even having to face Kira to begin with, maybe...
All these thoughts kept coming back despite whatever he was telling himself, but he tried not to let it get to him, especially when Okuyasu was with him, somebody who seemed to worry just as much, and showed less stability.
His composure seemed to reassure Okuyasu somewhat, and he wished he could be consoled by someone the same way. He glanced at his phone’s dark screen, and wondered whether he should try calling his wife again.
“I think nobody is actually looking for the best,” he decided to say after a short silence between them. “I think everyone is searching for whoever is best for them , you know?” He brought the device closer to himself on the balcony’s balustrade, as if scared that it would fall into the abyss stretching under them. “Someone who's a good fit.” Jotaro looked up at Okuyasu with almost a smile. “You two seem to get along well.”
“Yeah, I guess,” he answered with sudden glee, and opened up another snack.
“You seem like two peas in a pod,” Jotaro continued.
“Huh?” the boy hummed at him with a blank expression.
“There are many similarities between you,” he explained.
Okuyasu almost recoiled. “Us?! No! I’m not as cool as Josuke!”
Jotaro restrained himself from scoffing. “You think so? I bet most guys would say you are cooler, even.”
Okuyasu’s eyebrows jumped upwards, confused, and maybe suspicious that he was being made fun of. “Me?!”
Jotaro got out his cigarettes and lit one up with a snap of Star Platinum’s fingers, blowing cold air at his own hand afterwards to cool the hot sensation on his skin. “Josuke is lucky he is so strong and striking,” he told Okuyasu. “Otherwise he’s the kind our kind picks on.”
The boy blinked at him, visibly surprised and bashful over being included in some sort of grouping also involving the man. “I’d never pick on Josuke,” he said, confusion lurking in his voice.
Jotaro smirked against the cityscape with his cigarette hanging off his lips. “Alright.” He looked at the boy again. “People would never assume that of you, you know, that you’re…”
“That I’m gay?” Okuyasu asked bluntly, surprising him with how unaffected his tone seemed. “I don’t really care.”
“Really?” Jotaro raised a mocking brow towards him in disbelief. “Don’t you?”
Okuyasu lifted his brows and pouted out his lips as if he was thinking hard, considering the question. “Nah,” he concluded. “If someone gives me trouble,” he said and lifted up both hands to box hooks into the air, “I’ll just fuck ‘em up!”
Jotaro chuckled a deep laugh around his cigarette. “That’s a good attitude to life, actually.” He puffed out smoke as he watched the city under them. “Being yourself and all that.” He peeked at the boy through squinted eyes. “You will have to ask Josuke about this. How open you can be about it.”
Okuyasu’s demeanor changed immediately, donning that of a kid being told off by a teacher. “Oh, sure, I only told you because…”
“I know, I’m family,” Jotaro told him with a smile, and he smiled back at him to agree. Jotaro looked at his cigarette between his fingers, reminded of the time he first started wasting his money and lung cells on this bullshit . He left the habit behind years ago, but the town seemed to trigger old, bad habits in him. “People used to be so afraid of guys like you when I was young. ‘Cause of the whole-”
“You are still young, Jotaro-san!” Okuyasu interrupted him.
Jotaro smirked at him, amused by the compliment, and somewhat glad that he didn’t have to explain what he meant. “Thank you.” He exhaled without smoke escaping his lungs. “I guess I’m still a fucking student, so…”
Okuyasu widened his eyes. “A student?”
“In university,” he explained. “I still need to hand in my thesis to get my doctorate.” Jotaro’s expression turned more bored and sour, and his voice went dry. “And I’ll have to defend it, and-”
Okuyasu interrupted him again, looking like a lost puppy dog. “Your th-...?”
“My thesis,” he repeated, realizing that he had to describe what he meant. “It’s this... Long thing you write about a subject of your choice. Dreadful.”
“It must be hard to write a lot!” Okuyasu tried empathizing with him, much to his amusement and delight. His annoyance couldn’t have been less relatable to the boy, and he found it charming how he tried to say something relevant and appropriate anyway.
“It’s not even difficult if you’re not a moron,” he replied, “but it’s arduous to actually go through the process. Loathsome to sit down and bother with it.” He felt like spitting off the balcony, but stopped himself. “And then I’ll have to listen to criticism by old fucks who know less than me, questioning me about shit I know better. Can’t wait.”
Okuyasu seemed like he was searching for something to say or ask. “What’s the subject?” he asked finally.
Jotaro shot him a smile that almost seemed mischievous. “I was considering writing about this starfish I found here. Since my field is marine biology.”
“Cool!” Okuyasu exclaimed with genuine enthusiasm. “That would make us proud too!”
Jotaro swallowed a laugh and took his cigarette to his lips again. “That’s nice to hear.”
“You’re so smart!” Okuyasu told him as he chewed on his food. “I can’t imagine ever going to university!”
“Not everyone has to. It’s fine not to,” Jotaro told him, and meant it. He turned towards him again as he breathed out smoke. “Never say never, though,” he added.
The boy sighed loud, then made a disgruntled sound a dissatisfied old cat would. “I dunno what the fuck I’ll do with my life.”
Jotaro smirked again, and felt like going up to him to squeeze at the poor dumb boy’s shoulder. He didn’t. “That’s alright. You will figure it out.”
“I’m kinda scared of ending up poor,” Okuyasu confessed, and Jotaro could tell he meant it. “Just fuckin’ starving to death.”
“Just stick by Josuke and he will take care of you,” Jotaro attempted to joke to lighten up the mood.
The boy turned towards him with his thin brows knit together in confusion, his hand full of sweet pastries stopping mid-air, and the biteful of it almost dropping out of his open lips. “Huh?”
“Him being a Joestar heir and all that,” Jotaro explained.
Okuyasu blinked. “Heir?”
The man glanced at the golden pins on the boy’s jacket and chuckled deep again. “You haven’t thought about that yet?”
“Not really,” Okuyasu confessed honestly.
Jotaro knit his brows together at him. “Yeah. I think he didn’t have time to fully process it either.” He puffed out smoke in silence before continuing. “The old man is the most powerful man in New York,” he started explaining. “They have been rivaling with Trump for that spot for years now. He’s been annoyed lately because the guy is creeping up on him.” He made the same disapproving sound Okuyasu had before. “Greedy old fucks.”
He watched the boy. “Josuke will inherit one third of all that. He said he doesn’t want it, but… That’s not how this works.” Jotaro cracked up laughing. “Also, I bet he does.”
“Oh. That’s cool,” Okuyasu blinked, lost and confused, and bit into his snack again.
“Yeah. Kinda cool ,” Jotaro mocked him gently. “Will that influence you?” he asked him as he watched his reaction through squinted eyes, all the stiff suspicion hiding in a rough around the ages detective from a TV show and a strict father combined.
“Influence me?” Okuyasu asked with his mouth full. He furrowed his brows once he understood the man’s words. “I care about money, but not like that.” He dropped his hands into his lap and sighed against the slight breeze of air blowing from the city’s direction. “I love him.”
Jotaro smiled and touched his phone on instinct. “That’s nice. I believe you.”
Okuyasu inspected the snack he was working on, probably to keep his hands busy, and his gaze cast downwards. “I didn’t even know I liked guys,” he confessed to his unwilling audience as he rolled his food around in his hand. “I always liked girls a lot, so I don’t really get what’s up now, but… I won’t worry about it,” he declared with tranquility. “I’ll just roll with it.”
Jotaro felt somewhat uncomfortable with the topic and the boy’s raw honesty alike, but he had to admit that his simple attitude felt kind of refreshing to witness. “That’s a good plan,” he told him, and meant it.
Okuyasu smiled and continued, feeling encouraged. “I didn’t know you could like both! Sounds like made up bullshit, but… Here I fuckin’ am.” He shrugged. “I dunno. Maybe I’m just confused. Maybe it’ll go away,” he said, sounding somewhat disheartened at the thought. That made Jotaro want to laugh, but he stopped himself. It was surreal to observe the boy going through something so alien to him, but also kind of charming in his naive openness.
“I highly doubt it will go away if you seem so depressed by that idea,” he told him, and saw him smile.
Jotaro sat down onto the cool surface of the wide, concrete balustrade he had been leaning against in an attempt to get more comfortable. He leaned his shoulders against the wall at the end, one foot bouncing in the air, but still almost touching the ground due to his height. “Maybe you just like pretty people who are nice to you,” he told the boy. “I don’t relate, but I guess that makes sense to feel.”
Okuyasu looked up and smiled at his unexpected kindness. “Maybe!” He scratched at his nose. “You two look a lot alike, you know,” he blurted out.
“Yeah, tall and mixed race,” Jotaro said, almost absentmindedly, while he was eyeing another bag sitting between them, and wondered if it would be embarrassing and childish of him to go back on his word and take another one. He felt the deep hunger one feels when they are lacking sleep and rest, his worn-out body and nerves searching for energy from any source they could get. He didn’t reach out for one.
“Nah,” Okuyasu chuckled. “You can totally tell you two are family! It’s not even just looks, too. You make people feel the same way.”
That got Jotaro’s attention. “What, confused ?” he asked with a smirk, and saw Okuyasu blush. He was perfectly aware - painfully aware - of the effect he had on women, so it would make sense for a boy like Okuyasu to feel something similar. The thought made him uncomfortable, but if he could deal with talking to Josuke’s mother after all that happened, this should be alright as well, he supposed. Between the two of them, Okuyasu was the one being more appropriate, anyway.
“No!” Okuyasu protested loudly, “That’s not how I…! I don’t…”
“It’s okay.” Jotaro grinned, deciding to light up another cigarette, and hoped that would sooth his hunger and his nerves as well. Despite all his embarrassing chit-chat, Jotaro felt relief for not having ditched the boy as he initially wanted to, realizing that his dumb nonsense provided the perfect distraction he needed at the moment.
Okuyasu didn’t give up. “I’ve been talkin’ about this with Koichi, and he’s not…”
Jotaro lifted one brow as he looked over at him, curious where this was going. “With Koichi?”
“Yeah! How you both have this, I dunno... Thing where you make people feel at ease and like, inspired and everything,” Okuyasu explained. “Like, I’d follow you into battle and stuff.”
Jotaro smiled as he finally understood what the boy meant. “I guess you did,” he told him with as much emotion in his voice as he was willing to give off to people as close to him as they were.
Okuyasu chuckled, almost a giggle, looking relieved that he got his point across. “Yeah, I guess! You’re, um… Leaders, I guess?” he continued. “You say somethin’ and I trust it. And you are good people too, I’d never think you wanna cause any harm or anythin’!”
Jotaro smiled again. “Thank you, Okuyasu. That’s very flattering,” he told him before taking another drag of his cigarette. “You’re a very honest person. I admire that.” He reached out for his phone, and considered excusing himself to attempt another call, or at least call the Foundation, and make them check on his family in secret. “I don’t know how good I am at being honest,” he told Okuyasu.
That seemed to surprise the boy, making him protest, and he declared that he could never see Jotaro lying. Jotaro’s brows twitched forward, and he glanced down at his phone. “You’d be surprised.” He caressed the silent screen as if he was trying to call it to life before he looked up again. “Besides, I’m not good at saying things out loud, unlike you. Concealing facts is a form of dishonesty as well, don’t you think?”
Okuyasu blinked in confused silence, and looked unsure of what would be an appropriate response to what he had just heard.
Jotaro noticed, and decided to change the subject. “You would have liked the old man when he was younger,” he told Okuyasu. “In another life, maybe you two would have become good friends.”
“Really?” he asked, seeming just as glad to talk about something else as they waited for the developments of Josuke’s visit together.
“Most of what you think is senility,” Jotaro said as he stirred circles onto the air around his temple with his index finger. “That’s just him.”
Okuyasu hid his mouth as he laughed, sensing that making fun of the old man was somehow inappropriate. “That’s funny!”
“Yeah,” Jotaro said with a weak smile. “He’s a funny guy. He’s a very good person, despite all this,” he added, aware of the image the boys must have had of his grandfather, based on what they knew about him. “He’s not perfect, but… I can see how Josuke inherited his goodness from him,” he concluded, and wondered why he couldn’t say that out loud to the old man’s face whenever the thought occurred to him in his presence.
“I guess I can still get to know him!” Okuyasu chirped gleefully. “If he wants me to,” he added, sounding a bit more careful.
“Yeah.” Jotaro looked at him. “He won’t have any problem with this, you don’t have to worry about that. If you choose to tell him, that is,” he added, and hoped the boy got the message that their secret would be safe with him, even from the family.
“Oh, okay,” he said in a tone that was difficult to read even for Jotaro.
“He’s open-minded and kind,” he insisted.
“That’s nice,” Okuyasu said with a smile, and turned towards the city’s breeze again.
“Yeah,” Jotaro replied, and smiled to himself as he thought of his grandfather, and imagined him playing with little Shizuka downstairs. “It’s nice.”
Okuyasu peeked at the man from the corner of his eyes. “Jotaro-san!” He shimmied closer on the balustrade’s surface. “Can I try one of those?” he pleaded as he pointed at the lit cigarette between the man’s fingers.
Jotaro frowned hard at him, and saw him almost flinch at his expression. “Absolutely not!” He said and pulled his hand away the way he placed dangerous or stupid things out of Jolyne’s reach. “It's the dumbest habit. Try it of your own volition if you want, I’m not taking responsibility for it!” He touched his pocket, and spoke quieter as he added, “Besides, I don’t even have that many left on me.”
“Why’s it dumb?” Okuyasu enquired with a hurt pout. “You do it and you're super smart!”
“Maybe this is my break from being super smart sometimes,” Jotaro scoffed. He grimaced. “First you start doing it because it looks cool, and then you become its slave. It takes over, and you catch yourself thinking of lighting one up at random times. It's an obsession.”
Okuyasu exhaled a long sigh through his nose as he surrendered, turning away with a resigned expression. “Like love,” he said in a dramatic tone that would have made Jotaro crack up laughing - or want to throw up - at any other time.
“Yeah,” he said. “Love makes you stupid too.”
He took his phone in hand again, feeling determined. “Can I ask a favor of you, Okuyasu?” The boy looked up at him, ready to jump to action at once. “Could you please bring me another coffee?” Jotaro asked him, and Okuyasu was out of the balcony entrance a minute later.
Jotaro waited a beat, feeling hesitant again. “What the fuck am I doin’,” he whispered to mock himself, and dialled fast before he could change his mind.
The phone rang once, it rang twice, and he almost gave up just before his wife’s voice greeted him. “Hello?” she said, repeating it again as he listened on in stunned silence.
“It’s you!” he declared finally in lieu of a proper greeting.
“Yeah, it’s my phone,” she replied, and anyone else would have said she sounded bored, but Jotaro could hear the nervous tension in her voice.
“Of course!” he agreed, almost tripping over the simple words. He didn’t say anything else.
“You kept calling me,” she stated.
“Yes!” he agreed again, his baritone a tad higher as his voice showed uncharacteristic nervousness and enthusiasm. He sounded awkward and embarrassing, and knew it. He did not care.
“So?” she interrogated him, like an impatient policeman would.
“I’m going home!” Jotaro blurted out, realizing that he hadn’t said anything substantial so far.
She took a second to reply. “Are you?”
“Yes! It’s certain now!” Jotaro sang.
She sounded exhausted and broken. “Is it, Jotaro?”
He blinked, trying to find meaning in her words. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know if you should,” she said, her voice almost a whisper.
Jotaro’s mouth hung open. He swallowed, and his throat still felt dry when he finally spoke. “If I should?! What does that-”
“Let’s not talk about this on the phone, alright?” she interrupted him, her tone still as gentle and calm as ever, even in her impatience.
“This,” Jotaro scoffed.”What this , about what?! I’m going home!” he insisted, frustrated and confused, fearing the worst.
“Let’s talk when you get here, alright?” she promised him in her gentle voice, and he wanted to kiss her for being so dove-tender even when she threw horrible threats at him.
“I miss you,” he whispered into the phone as he cupped it closer to his ear, as if the shield he formed of his palm could protect her and the moment they had together, even if it only happened through the phone, even if she hated him now.
She took a beat to reply again. “Jolyne missed you too,” she attempted to scald him, not saying anything else.
“I missed her too!” Jotaro rushed to say, and hated himself for not mentioning her sooner. He wondered if his wife thought he wasn’t even missing their child, and the thought made him shudder. “Can you tell her?” She didn’t reply, so he asked again, pleading. “Tell her, please!”
“Sure,” she agreed, her gentle voice hiding exasperation.
Jotaro smiled to himself. “You know, I-”
“I have to go now,” she interrupted him, shutting him up at once. “Call me before you’re boarding your plane,” she instructed without any overt emotion.
“What if I call you sooner?” Jotaro attempted to tease, already missing her.
“Goodbye, Jotaro,” she said and hung up, not waiting for him to say it back.
Jotaro stood in stunned silence. He lowered his phone and stared at it in his hand, as if the screen could provide him with any answers. 1:10:50. About one third of it silence.
He felt his throat burning up in his frustration and he felt his arm lifting, the muscles tensing and releasing of their own accord. Before he could think it through, he hurled his phone at the nearest wall, and saw it leave a dent, some of the paint falling to the ground from the force of his childish anger, the shattered bits of the expensive device lying on the floor.
He breathed fast and shallow, and noticed Okuyasu from the corner of his eyes. He wondered when he arrived, and how much he saw and heard. “I’m fine,” he told him, almost shouting. “Everything’s fine,” he declared and sat down at the same spot he had sat before, right arm reached out for his coffee without a word, head turned away. His temple was throbbing, and he knew that coffee was the last thing his blood pressure needed at the moment. He downed the scalding hot monstrosity in one go, his tongue swelling with its temperature immediately.
He couldn’t tell how long they were sitting in awkward silence, without him acknowledging the boy at all. He considered excusing himself and breaking something in the backyard, then he changed his mind, feeling ashamed and ridiculous over even thinking of doing something like that.
“You shared a big secret with me today, right?” he asked Okuyasu instead, who seemed to be suffering in the tense atmosphere. Something like this was probably the worst possible environment to be in for someone with a past like Okuyasu’s, but Jotaro couldn’t care less at the moment, not yet.
“Wanna know mine?” he said, and got out his wallet. He offered him a photograph, and the boy reached out for it with a tentative hand.
“So cute!” he gushed over the child in the picture, and looked up at Jotaro for an explanation.
“That's my daughter,” Jotaro told him. Okuyasu blinked fast at him, but he was offered another picture before he could have found the words to express his surprise, or ask any more questions.
“Woah! Hot!” he marvelled at the picture of the pretty woman in the photograph, a timid brunette, petite and graceful, almost thirty.
“Yeah. That's my wife,” Jotaro explained.
“Oh!” Okuyasu’s head snapped up, and he handed back the photo at once. “Sorry! I meant…”
“It's okay,” Jotaro said as he took the picture from him, hesitant to put it away just yet. He did, and closed his wallet with more force than strictly necessary, sinking it back into his pocket. He breathed in and out through his nose, and couldn’t name what he felt.
“I wasn't supposed to be here for fuckin' months, you know?” he said with a cynical smile that hid no happiness, the sneer of a caged lion showing you its teeth. “This whole thing just... Kept escalating out of my control.”
Okuyasu chose his words carefully. “You miss them?” he asked tentatively, and got no reaction besides a single, strict nod from Jotaro. “I’m sure they miss you very much!” he risked to offer him, unsure how he would react.
Jotaro’s voice was gentle as he replied, almost pathetically so. “I'm not sure anymore.”
“They must!” Okuyasu insisted.
Jotaro huffed a small laugh. “It's not that simple,” he said and his eyes met Okuyasu, and noticed that his stare intimidated him. He wondered what he must have looked like, and was secretly glad he at least elicited no pity from him, at least none he would show.
“Imagine your husband saying that he needs to go on a business trip. For two weeks, maybe three,” he explained quietly, and searched for his cigarettes. “He disappears for months instead. Barely answers the phone.” He snapped his stand’s fingers twice before he could start a fire. “Your child gets sick, and you beg him to please come home, and he has the nerve to just say no.” Okuyasu didn’t react. “That's not normal,” Jotaro concluded for him.
“It makes me want to fuckin’ cry,” he confessed after a beat.
“Does she…” Okuyasu attempted finally. “Your wife. I mean, is she a-”
“Maybe you could still try and-”
“Out of the question,” Jotaro decided before the boy could even finish his sentence. “She can't know anything about this. Or Jolyne. The less they know and the less they are known of, the better. That’s why I hate talking about them.” He watched the boy and scoffed a cynical laugh. “You disagree.”
“Yeah…” Okuyasu said, his voice cracking, and Jotaro hoped he wouldn’t start fuckin’ cryin’ on him now.
“That's your opinion,” he told him curtly, hoping he sounded somewhat polite. “This is how I can protect them best.”
“I... I see.” Okuyasu murmured.
Jotaro got out his pack of cigarettes to check how much he had left, and considered sending the boy out to buy him some. “When she said Jolyne had gotten that fever...” he started, half to himself. “I'm so scared she got involved in all this.” He noticed that his eyebrow was twitching again, and wondered if it was doing that all day, without him noticing, and whether Okuyasu had noticed. “I hoped she wouldn't.”
“You mean the little girl might have a stand?” Okuyasu asked, receiving no reply, and took it as affirmation. “Yeah,” he said. “I also got a fever after Keicho…”
Jotaro noticed that he didn’t finish his sentence, and looked over at him, watching as he stared silently into the deep below them. It made Jotaro wonder whether he made himself shut up out of thoughtfulness for him, so as not to burden him with his own problems, or if he simply wasn’t ready to talk about the subject.
People can acquire stands in different ways, that much was scientific fact. It was also obvious that the Nijimura brothers weren’t naturally born with the ability. But Jotaro had no idea whether Okuyasu got his through somewhat natural means after his brother got his own, or whether Okuyasu was the test subject for his experiments. He had an idea which option he would be betting his money on, however.
“I’m sorry you have to see me like this,” he told Okuyasu, and hoped he sounded more stable now.
“Do you want to be alone?” Okuyasu asked him immediately.
Jotaro considered the question. “Strangely enough, I don’t care.”
“Okay,” Okuyasu agreed, reaching for a snack and then retreating his arm immediately, obviously unsure how to behave in the moment, or what was proper. Jotaro almost wanted to laugh at him for it. As if he hadn’t thrown any sense of normalcy or propriety down the balcony minutes ago
“Do you want to go?” he asked Okuyasu. “I would understand.”
“No. I can stay here with you!” he offered, and beamed at him. Jotaro stared at him, having assumed he would grab the opportunity and go. He silently marvelled at how different people can be from one another, how someone as aggressive and simple as this boy can be like a puppy dog, ready to serve and put others before himself, wagging his tail after you kick at his spine.
“I won’t fret over this,” Jotaro declared. “No use stressing over what you cannot change at the moment, right?” he asked, receiving a weak nod from Okuyasu. He wondered whether he found him cold or hysteric, and wasn’t sure which alternative he hated more.
“She told me to call her before I board my plane, so that’s what I will do,” he decided, determined to solve this whole mess he had gotten himself into. “I will go home and fix this.
I won’t keep stressing about this now,” he repeated, as if to convince himself. “Nothing is lost yet,” he said, and felt ridiculous for it.
He picked up one of the small vending machine snacks lying between them and handed it to Okuyasu, encouraging him to eat.
“Do you miss your brother?” he asked him, wondering if that was kindness, or just him picking at a scab. He would find out, he supposed.
“A lot,” Okuyasu replied as he dropped his head, seemingly to open the package.
“You're very loyal,” Jotaro told him.
“Yeah,” Okuyasu said with a modest shrug that seemed genuine. “I mean... That's my brother. Family is family.”
“Yeah,” Jotaro agreed, and watched him. “You keep saying you're dumb.”
Okuyasu’s head snapped up with a blank expression. “Huh?”
“You keep saying you are dumb,” the man repeated for him.
“Um.” Okuyasu seemed tentative and almost suspicious, unsure where this was going. “Yeah.”
Jotaro puffed out smoke and wondered if his stomach’s constant growling was audible, but found that he couldn’t care less anymore. “Don't do that.”
“That's called a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you fix your own limitations instead of pushing them, and they become your fate,” he explained to Okuyasu, certain that he wouldn’t understand what he meant if he didn’t.
He didn’t seem to know how to reply besides an empty “alright” and a “yes, Jotaro-san” that didn’t mean anything, so Jotaro continued. “Why do you think you have this dangerous stand?”
“Um,” Okuyasu scratched his nose, the tiniest bit bashful. “'Cause I'm trouble.”
Jotaro scoffed. “Yeah. Violent people tend to have stronger stands, that’s true. That’s why your brother went to a prison to recruit people. Somehow he knew that criminals show a much higher tendency to develop stands, he must have told you, that’s why you said what you just said.” Jotaro took a drag of his cigarette again. “That’s how he found Angelo. That’s also why Kira was so powerful.”
He watched Okuyasu as the boy played with the unopened bag in his lap, his eyes cast down, and he could tell by his always open expression that what he was telling him upset him.
“But it also has to do with how tough you are in there,” Jotaro added as he pointed at his own chest with a weak hand. “That’s what I was going to say initially.” He waited for Okuyasu to meet his eyes before he got to his main point. “You're a fighter, anyone can see that. You could apply that perseverance to learning.”
Okuyasu blinked, surprised at first, then grateful. “Th-thank you, Jotaro-san!” he said finally.
Jotaro shot him a weak smile. “You don’t have to become bookish, just… Think for yourself once or twice,” he explained. “That’s all I’m asking you.”
“Um. Alright,” Okuyasu replied with a frown, his voice betraying mild resentment at his wording.
He opened the snack at last and Jotaro reached out his hand for one as well. Okuyasu noticed and smiled, considering it a job well done. Maybe he even had it in him to be glad that the man wasn’t starving himself and looked out for his own health, Jotaro assumed.
“Sometimes I think The Hand is so embarrassing compared to Josuke,” Okuyasu confessed out of the blue, surprising Jotaro. “Keicho's stand was all I used to know, I mean, besides the random shit we sometimes managed to pull out of people, I guess,” the boy explained. Jotaro was endlessly curious about that whole process, but decided it was not the time to ask about it. “And he always told me how powerful mine was, and I was proud of it, but now…” Okuyasu shook his head. “I dunno. Crazy D's power is so nice. I mean, he can fuck you up too, but…”
Jotaro chuckled. “Yeah, I experienced that.” He bit into the plastic tasting, sugar-glazed, baby blue nonsense, and felt like it was the best thing he ever had. “The little fucker almost got me when we first met.”
“He's so strong!” Okuyasu declared with sudden vigor, sounding more proud than Jotaro ever heard him sound about himself. “But fixing shit is so nice!”
“It is,” Jotaro agreed with a smile.
“And healing people, too!” Okuyasu bragged. His love for Josuke was shining bright off his every word. It reminded Jotaro of things he did not want to think of at the moment. He tried to focus on what the boy was saying for awhile, to forget about his own problems he could not possibly work on yet.
“That's the nicest thing,” he told him.
“Yeah!” Okuyasu said before his mood seemed to suddenly drop again, and Jotaro wondered how common that was for him. “All I do is fuck shit up.”
“Well…” Jotaro wiped his lips clear of sugary powder. “That's what most stands do. Josuke is special.”
That made Okuyasu’s face light up again. “Yeah.”
“All stands are, in a way,” Jotaro explained. “That’s the beauty of them. That they are unique.”
Okuyasu moved the tiniest bit closer to him and leaned forward as he asked him, full of curiosity, “You've seen lots of stands?”
“Oh, yeah. More than I would have liked,” Jotaro said, sounding bored between the last bites of his food, and considering opening up another bag.
“Which one was the strongest?!” Okuyasu pried, a bit childish.
Jotaro took his time to wipe his mouth and his hands clean and put the wrapping aside. He answered with a mischievous smirk. “Mine.”
“Cool!” Okuyasu exclaimed.
Jotaro chuckled at him, amused. He decided to eat a third one of the vending machine snacks as they waited, and noticed how happy it made Okuyasu. He asked him to buy some water later and almost cracked up at how glad and proud it apparently made him to be given a task, however banal. He wanted to feel useful, Jotaro supposed. He handed him some cash, way more than necessary, and told him to keep the change.
“You know,” he told him before he would send him off. “If the two of us were to fight, and you could motivate your brain cells to activate for a minute or two, and you actually thought about what you were doing…” He quickly turned over the snack in his hand before he could happen to glance at the ingredients at the back. “I think you could take me out. Maybe. If I was having a bad day.”
Okuyasu giggled, clutching the cash in his hand. “Nah! Come on, don't make fun of me, Jotaro-san!”
“I mean it,” he told Okuyasu. “I think you could! You are younger, that's an advantage already. People say experience is, but... I don't know.”
Okuyasu hopped off the balustrade. “The Hand is really something,” Jotaro told him before he could go, and the boy stopped where he stood hearing that. “Makes me wonder what’s going on in that head of yours.” Okuyasu blinked at him, obviously not used to the attention he was getting in the past hour.
“You show potential. Maybe that’s what Josuke sees in you,” Jotaro told him, his voice gentle and calm. He huffed out breath through his nose as a silent laugh. “Or maybe he just finds you pleasant company and fun. That would make sense.”
“Thank you, Jotaro-san,” Okuyasu said with a blush, and leaned back against the balcony’s concrete railing. “I wouldn't wanna fight you though!” he added as an afterthought.
Jotaro smirked. “Maybe if you end up breaking Josuke's heart, I will have to fight you in the old man's stead. Like in some old movie.” Okuyasu laughed, and Jotaro added, “Because he is old and weak.”
“Yeah! That's funny!” Okuyasu told him, bright and giggly, obviously flattered that Jotaro was not only complimenting him again and again, but also willing to joke around with him.
“Yeah. It was a joke,” he explained, dry and factual.
“Y-yeah!” Okuyasu agreed, confused why the mant felt the need to spell that out for him.
“Because fathers used to do that, traditionally,” Jotaro explained further. “For daughters.” He cleared his throat. “I mean, not that Josuke is a girl. That’s not what I-”
“Yeah, I got it!” Okuyasu interrupted him, sounding impatient and almost offended at the excessive commentary. He stood there in silence for a beat, still not heading towards the vending machines’ direction. “Thanks for... I dunno,” he started, staring at his feet as he balanced his weight between his soles and the side of his shoes anxiously. “For talking about this like it's normal. That’s nice of you.”
Jotaro took a second to realize what he meant, and that fact about himself amused him. “I guess it is, once you come face to face with it.” He put out his cigarette, and didn’t light up a new one. “But that's rare,” he said, and thought to himself that he should choose his words carefully, while staying honest. “I suppose everyone's hiding it, for obvious reasons, so you don’t really get the chance to get used to it. I mean…” he added. “You see things on TV, or in the streets even, if you live in America, but... It's different when it's family or friends.”
“I see,” Okuyasu replied, seeming shy about it for the first time. Jotaro supposed your feelings and your very existence being made the subject of philosophical and political questions must weigh heavy on a person’s mind, especially if they are not prone to such grand discussions, if it’s someone simple like Okuyasu, just trying to get by and live his life.
“You two are just people to me, because I know you,” Jotaro told him. “I guess that's somewhat eye-opening.”
“Okay,” Okuyasu said, a bit more relaxed.
“Love is love, and all that,” Jotaro added with a smile, risking the cringe-worthy sentence in exchange for reassuring the boy.
“Yeah!” he agreed and beamed at him. “I hope things will be okay for you when you go home, Jotaro-san!” he blurted out with childish honesty.
“Thank you,” Jotaro said, and felt like he was thrown down the balcony without having seen it coming, grabbed back to reality with full force. Still, the boy’s intentions were good, and he appreciated it. “I know you mean that,” he told him.
“Yeah! I mean it!” he said to him, still smiling, and Jotaro wondered how all this blind enthusiasm and glee fits inside one young man, one who saw things that would break many.
“I appreciate that,” he decided to tell him. He had told Okuyasu that he wasn’t good at telling people things. Maybe it’s time to practise. “I'm good at telling when people are honest,” Jotaro said. “So is the old man. I mean, very good. I wonder if Josuke inherited that, you know?” He winked at Okuyasu. “Better be careful with him.”
Okuyasu laughed as he scratched at his neck, blushing again. “I’d never lie to him or anythin’, Jotaro-san!”
“That’s good,” Jotaro said, and turned towards the cityscape.
The end of the summer had already brought in the early sunsets of the cold months that were to come, smearing a warm orange hue over the city in the hour they spent up on the balcony. The darkening sky mixed with the lingering warmth of summer gave the impression of a soft, warm cover being wrapped over the city, a cosy blanket to protect everyone. Jotaro remembered how heavily it was raining a few hours ago, and thought that if he were prone to sentimentalism, he would surely see it as a sign of the small town being safe again. Maybe even a sign that his own fate would turn favourable.
“Can I say something disgustingly sappy?”
Okuyasu shot him a confused frown. “Sappy?”
Jotaro smiled, then turned to Okuyasu. “You're part of the family now.”
The boy laughed out, incredulous and embarrassed. “Me?!”
“Yeah,” Jotaro told him. “Josuke's girlfriend would be, so it logically follows that you are.”
“Ah, Jotaro-san… Th-thank you! That’s so… Kind of you to say!” he stuttered, scratching his arms and giggling like a fool. “I don't even know what that means! Can't remember when I last had a normal family!”
That made Jotaro crack up laughing as well. “Well, you won't have one in us either!”
“You're very nice, Jotaro-san! So wise and generous!” Okuyasu ranted, “You always know what to say and your heart is so open!”
Jotaro huffed a cynical laugh at that. “Tell that to my wife,” he said and noticed he reached for his cigarettes on instinct. He pulled his hand back. “Send her a recommendation letter,” he joked.
Okuyasu understood his worry, and didn’t laugh along. “It will be fine!” he told him, and looked like he was considering squeezing the man’s shoulder, but didn’t dare initiate anything like that.
Jotaro beat him to it, and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder with a weak smile. “Yeah. I hope so, Okuyasu!”