Chapter 1: The Ace of Spades
They make it to a hotel for the evening, just as the dark clouds that have been chasing them for the past hour finally close in. Rain streams from the sky, and Jotaro watches from the safety of the hotel lobby as the streets run thick with water and turn to mud. The last few stragglers—a couple of kids—shriek and go running for cover, their clothes soaked through.
“The clerk says it’s supposed to be a pretty nasty storm,” Joseph informs them, as he returns from checking in at the front desk. “Part of a monsoon that just swept through India a few days ago.”
“Will we be able to travel in this kind of weather?” Avdol starts to ask; a roll of thunder drowns him out.
Joseph’s brow furrows. He peers out at the downpour, which seems to have only gotten worse in the few minutes that have passed. “It’s hard to say. We’ll have to keep an eye out. Depending on the state of the roads, we may be stranded here for a day or two.”
“Oh, great,” Polnareff mutters, slumping down against the wall. “I love being trapped in a hotel, bored out of my mind, with absolutely nothing to do.”
Kakyoin rolls his eyes. “I’m sure you’ll survive.”
Jotaro accepts the key that Joseph hands him. He supposes he should be more upset about this news, that their journey has been indefinitely postponed for the next several days. But his feet are aching, and his body throbs with too many bruises from too many fights already, and the thought of having time to himself for just a little while brings a sense of cool relief.
“We’ll have to partner up for the night, though,” Joseph explains. “I could only get three rooms.”
“Avdol and I will stay together, of course,” Polnareff says immediately.
“‘Of course’?” Avdol repeats, rather bemused; Polnareff winks.
“Jojo?” Kakyoin offers him a tentative smile. “Do you want to room together again?”
As if you ever need to ask, Jotaro wants to say, and very nearly smiles back; instead, he shoves his hands into the pockets of his coat and stares at the floor.
A stormy, quiet night, just him and Kakyoin together. Jotaro bites down hard on the inside of his mouth to keep from grinning like an idiot.
Polnareff can whine all he likes. To Jotaro, it sounds like it’ll be a perfect evening.
Or at least, it should have been the perfect evening.
It starts off promising enough: Kakyoin dumps his bags the minute they’re in and hurries off to claim the shower. Jotaro curls up on his bed with his book on marine biology; he’s just found the page where he left off when Kakyoin emerges from the bathroom in a wave of steam, his face pink, his hair twisted up in a large towel balanced precariously atop his head.
Jotaro watches him over the top of his book. “That’s a good look for you.”
Kakyoin pretends to sniff haughtily. “One does what one can for the sake of beauty.” Jotaro raises an eyebrow; Kakyoin bursts into laughter. “My hair is terrible. I have to try and manage it somehow.”
“Your hair isn’t terrible.”
“Ha. Thanks.” Kakyoin smiles sheepishly, his face going pinker—it’s extremely cute, and Jotaro retreats behind his book once more. He tries to concentrate on the words on the page and not Kakyoin as he moves about the room, the heat of the shower and the smell of his shampoo trailing after him.
He still hasn’t fully nailed down what it is about Kakyoin that makes him…different. Why he’s the only person that Jotaro always wants to talk to, and at the same time the only person that never fails to make Jotaro trip up on his own words. It’s such a stupid feeling, an embarrassing one, and Jotaro’s not sure he’d ever be able to explain it, how much of a relief it is when Kakyoin’s around, how good it makes Jotaro feel. But he likes to pretend sometimes, on a night like this one when it’s just the two of them, that he could be brave enough; that he could find the right way to tell Kakyoin, how every time Jotaro looks at him it feels a bit like he’s drowning, but in the best way possible.
“Is there something on my face?”
Jotaro nearly jumps out of his skin; Kakyoin is watching him from across the room, halfway through unpacking his suitcase.
“Oh. Well. You’re staring.”
“No, I’m not,” Jotaro says, looking back down at his book, the tips of his ears burning. Kakyoin lets it slide, resumes unpacking as he sings tunelessly under his breath; Jotaro curls in on himself, around the warm feeling in the center of his chest at the sound of Japanese, at Kakyoin’s steady voice. He shouldn’t wish for it, but a small part of him hopes that the storm lingers through tomorrow. He could spend another night like this, tucked away from the rest of the world. He puts his book aside.
“Hey,” he says.
Kakyoin looks up eagerly. “Yes?”
Jotaro opens his mouth—and the door to their room flies open with a bang.
“So, I’ve been thinking,” Joseph announces, stomping his way inside. “I’ve decided we should bond. I brought cards. We’re going to play poker.”
“How the hell did you get in here without a key?”
“I broke the lock with Hermit Purple. Are we playing or aren’t we?”
Jotaro looks his grandfather over, and then returns to his book. “I’m busy.”
Joseph responds in a totally rational manner and hurls himself into the nearest available armchair; the playing cards scatter in every direction, spilling across the floor. “Oh, God! Jotaro, how can you be so cold? Don’t you want to learn how to play poker? It’s a basic life skill—you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t know how to gamble properly.”
“You’re making a mess.”
“Joestar-san,” Kakyoin begins, “I really don’t—”
“Don’t pay any attention to him,” Jotaro interrupts and turns another page. “If you don’t encourage him, he’ll just go away.”
“My own grandson,” Joseph moans aloud to nobody in particular. “My only grandchild and he doesn’t want to spend any time with me! How cruel! How awful! What did I do to deserve this?” He buries his face in his hands, lets out an awful, rattling sob.
It doesn’t take more than a glance from Star Platinum to see that Joseph’s eyes are entirely dry; that he’s peeking out at them from between his fingers, and that his lower lip is quivering not in a sob but a barely repressed chuckle. It’s a cheap, stupid ploy befitting of his grandfather. It’s working too: on the next bed over, Kakyoin fidgets nervously.
Joseph’s weeping ratchets up an octave higher.
It is a very lucky thing, Jotaro thinks, that he loves Grandma Suzy so much, or else her husband would already be dangling by his ankles out the hotel window. He heaves a disgusted sigh and slams his book shut. “One hand,” he growls, “One hand and that’s it.”
It ends up being three hands, but Jotaro wins all of them, along with nearly fifteen Egyptian pounds. It’s a rather pleasant surprise to find that, even with crap cards, he’s got an excellent poker face to make up for it. The only thing better than winning is watching Joseph get increasingly more agitated with every victory.
Jotaro represses a smirk and finishes dealing out their cards. “What do you think, old man?
Joseph wrinkles his nose. “I’ll see you,” he says, throwing another bill onto the pile of cash between them.
Jotaro glances at his own hand as well. He’s only got a two pair; on the other hand he’s pretty sure his grandfather doesn’t have shit.
Kakyoin clears his throat, catching his attention; he’s been sitting patiently by thus far, watching their game with a politely bored expression but now he shifts closer. His hair is still tucked into a massive towel; their shoulders bump against one another. Jotaro obligingly tilts his hand, allowing Kakyoin a better view of his cards. “Your grandfather’s bluffing, you know,” Kakyoin murmurs in Japanese.
Across from them, Joseph curses furiously under his breath. Jotaro quirks an eyebrow. “No kidding.”
“If I may?”
Kakyoin plucks two cards from his hand, discarding them; he draws two new cards, tucking them back into Jotaro’s hand and suddenly his two pair has become a full house.
Kakyoin looks pleased. “I guess I’m your good luck charm,” he says, nudging Jotaro lightly with his elbow. Jotaro flushes, nudges Kakyoin back.
“If you two are quite finished?” Joseph says, glowering. “Show me.”
Jotaro does so. He tries—unsuccessfully—not to savor Joseph’s look of horror and grabs the additional five pounds he’s just won. “Looks like you’re not as good at this as you thought.”
Joseph’s face twists into a scowl. “You only won because he meddled!” He jabs an accusing finger at Kakyoin, who looks genuinely startled by the outburst.
“I’m—I’m sorry. I just wanted to—”
“Well, don’t! Be quiet, and stop sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong!”
“You’re being rude,” Jotaro snarls. He throws down his cards, his hands balling into fists.
“It’s fine, it’s fine. Don’t worry. I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it.” Kakyoin’s tone is mild enough, but there’s an underlying edge to it: a threat, shrouded in the guise of politeness. “Isn’t that right, Joestar-san?”
Joseph doesn’t answer. He sits back on his heels; his previous frustration is suddenly nowhere to be seen. Instead, he’s watching Jotaro, with an oddly calculating gleam in his eyes that Jotaro’s not so sure he likes. Joseph is a blustering idiot, or at least he pretends to be. When he drops the act, though—that’s reason to worry.
“Just let it go,” Kakyoin is saying to Jotaro now. His hand is on Jotaro’s shoulder, squeezing lightly. Jotaro lets out a huff of annoyance but he makes himself uncurl his fists and pick up his cards again, if only for Kakyoin’s benefit.
“I’m sorry,” Joseph offers at last. “That was uncalled for.” He sounds sincere enough, but he’s still wearing that same strange expression that sets Jotaro’s teeth on edge. He picks up the cards, begins to shuffle them. “Shall we continue?”
Jotaro narrows his eyes. He’s about to point out that they’ve already played long past the one hand he promised when the door to their room crashes open for the second time that evening.
“Oi, Jotaro!” Polnareff cries, dragging a rather exasperated looking Avdol behind him. “So Avdol’s no fun and the rain is depressing me. What do you say we—?” He stops short; his eyes bulge slightly as he takes in the scene before him.
“Oh, damn,” Kakyoin hisses.
“I knew it! So, that’s how it is? You guys are having a party without us?”
“Er,” Avdol says, sagging in Polnareff’s grip. “Please let go of me. I can’t breathe.”
“Do you see this? Can you believe it? I can’t! I’m wounded, I’m offended is what I am!”
Someone in the next room over begins pounding on the wall in a plea for silence. Polnareff releases Avdol, only to fling himself dramatically into Avdol’s arms; the two of them careen about the room, Polnareff still wailing, Avdol struggling to remain upright under Polnareff’s bulk.
“Comfort me in my time of need!”
“For the love of—let go—”
The pounding against the wall intensifies.
“Good grief,” Jotaro grumbles.
“So you were just playing poker, eh? How boring.” Polnareff doesn’t bother to stifle a yawn. His anger dissipated about ten minutes after his arrival, and he’s quickly made himself comfortable, sprawled out along their floor.
“Nobody asked you to be here,” Avdol replies primly, the only one of them still sitting on the bed. The rest of them have migrated to the floor along with Polnareff. It feels a bit to Jotaro like some kind of demented slumber party: he’s the only one not already in his pajamas; Kakyoin is huddled at his side, clutching a pillow to his chest, lips pursed in annoyance; Polnareff is sticking his tongue out at Avdol.
Outside the rain is coming down harder than before, beating against the windows and blurring the world beyond their cramped little hotel room. Normally Jotaro likes rainy days: he likes the excuse to stay inside, to sit alone at his bedroom window and read and watch a storm go by—the keyword being alone, and he’s got a sinking feeling that there’s no chance of that happening anytime soon tonight, because apparently the universe hates him.
Polnareff stretches his legs out as far as they’ll go, his toes poking into Kakyoin’s shin.
“Do you mind?”
“Not at all,” Polnareff replies lazily, and seems to enjoy the irritated look it earns him.
“Look, are we going to keep playing or not?” Joseph starts to shuffle the deck once more. “I’ve lost a lot of money tonight. I’d like to know if I have a chance at winning it back.”
“As if you could,” Jotaro mutters under his breath. Joseph’s upper lip curls into a sneer; he looks as though he’d like nothing more than to strangle Jotaro with Hermit Purple.
Polnareff drums his fingers against the floor. “Poker’s just so cliché,” he whines. “Can’t we at least make it a little more interesting? I mean, we should at least be drinking while we play, or—” He sits bolt upright, letting out a stream of excited, furious French. “I’ve got it! You guys, I’m a genius.”
“I doubt that,” Kakyoin says wryly.
Polnareff ignores him, his whole face lit up in manic inspiration. “We’re going to play poker,” he announces.
Kakyoin lets out an uncharacteristically loud snort. From his perch, Avdol sighs. “Poker. Yes, Polnareff. Groundbreaking idea.”
“Non, non, non,” Polnareff’s mouth splits into a wide grin. “I’m not talking about average, boring-ass poker. I’m talking about playing strip poker.”
“No,” Jotaro says. And that’s that, as far as he’s concerned; he folds his arms across his chest and waits for the others to jump in and agree with him.
Except that nobody does. Kakyoin stirs, his expression skeptical. Joseph and Avdol seem bemused. But nobody else is saying no and Polnareff’s grin keeps getting wider and wider.
Jotaro’s stomach gives a nasty wrench. “No,” he tries again. Nobody pays any attention to him.
“It’ll be fun! And it’s easy to play. Look, we’ll all throw a bit of money into the pool. If you win a hand, you get to keep your clothes on. You lose a hand, though, you lose a piece of clothing. The one who’s still mostly dressed at the end takes the pool home. What do you say?”
“I said, no. It sounds stupid.” And yet he’s still the only one protesting; his eyes dart to Kakyoin, to Avdol, to even his freaking grandfather, all of whom look like they’re genuinely considering Polnareff’s proposal.
This cannot happen. He will not allow this to happen, because if there’s anything he doesn’t need in his life right now—more than fighting an army of enemy Stand users, more than battling a psychotic vampire bent on world domination—it’s playing fucking strip poker. His grandfather is sitting less than a meter away, with at least two cameras readily available; Jotaro can already imagine the welcome home party, his mother and Joseph giggling away over an array of humiliating photos. Not to mention Kakyoin—
The bottom of his stomach drops out. Kakyoin. If this happens, Jotaro’s done for. Crush over. There is no way he’ll be able to walk away from this looking like anything but a complete loser, no way he’ll be able to keep his cool if Kakyoin starts to lose his clothes, or if he ends up naked—
Jotaro’s brain momentarily short-circuits.
“Aw. Come on, Jotaro.” Polnareff’s lower lip quivers in a pout. “Don’t be like that.”
“I don’t want to.”
“You afraid you’ll lose?”
Jotaro’s face goes hot. “N-no,” he snaps.
He realizes, a moment too late, that every single one of them heard him stutter.
There’s a pause.
“Okay! Why not? I’ll play,” Joseph says, with a grin match Polnareff’s own.
“Fine.” Kakyoin swats Polnareff’s feet away from him. “I’ll play as well.”
“You too, Avdol. You’re included in this.” Polnareff winks.
“No, I’m not. As a Muslim, I cannot gamble. I’ll be happy to referee, however, to make sure that none of you cheat. Sorry to disappoint.” Avdol doesn’t look the least bit sorry; if anything, he looks downright smug. Polnareff’s triumphant grin shrivels up in disappointment.
“C’mon, Jojo.” Kakyoin nudges him gently in the side again. “Don’t worry so much. It’s just a game.”
Jotaro doesn’t say anything; instead he prays desperately for a lightning bolt from outside to strike him, for an enemy Stand user to burst out of the toilet and attack, for a hole to open up in the floor and swallow him. No such luck.
It’s official: the universe hates him.
It takes them several attempts to get the game started, because Joseph won’t stop trying to count cards—“I’m broke enough as it is, you can’t blame a man for trying!” he wails, and Jotaro very nearly hurling his cards in his grandfather’s face as he retorts, “This was your idea in the first place.”
And then because Polnareff won’t stop pestering Avdol—“Well, what if you just stripped in solidarity? You know, to show your support? As my dear, dear friend?” He attempts a winning smile; Avdol rolls his eyes.
And then because Kakyoin has to get up again to style his hair before it dries completely—“Right before bed?” Polnareff whines; Jotaro grumbling back, “Leave him alone, he can do whatever he likes,” because he is a decent friend and not at all because he’s hoping to delay the game further, or because maybe he likes watching Kakyoin play with his hair a little more than he probably should.
At long last, however, they fumble their way through a first round. Jotaro’s relieved to find that his hand is complete garbage. He folds immediately.
“I’m staying in,” Joseph says, after studying his cards a moment.
“I’ll stay in,” Kakyoin says. Jotaro tilts his head to catch a glimpse of Kakyoin’s cards. It’s a flush, which is pretty good. There’s something about the way his grandfather keeps fidgeting, however, that gives him pause.
“Careful,” he says in Japanese.
Their eyes meet. Jotaro’s mouth quirks in a faint smile before he can stop himself; his heart flutters when Kakyoin’s poker face gives, just for an instant, so that he can smile back.
“You think it’s a trick?”
“I think the old man is a piece of shit and would do anything to win.”
“Hey, hey! We discussed this!” Joseph roars. “No talking in Japanese. It’s not fair!”
“Neither is hiding cards in your sleeve,” Avdol says pleasantly.
“I’m pretty sure he’s only bluffing,” Kakyoin continues, ignoring Joseph’s sputtering protests. Jotaro presses his lips together in a thin line. He’s learned that his grandfather can be a lot sharper than he seems. And Kakyoin is smart, but he’s also cocky at times, and Jotaro doesn’t want to see him get bit in the ass for it.
“English! We said English only! Avdol!”
“Kakyoin,” Avdol says, stern.
“Win or lose, either way it’ll be fine,” Kakyoin says with a final reassuring grin, before returning his attention to the game at hand.
It really won’t be, but Jotaro keeps his mouth shut and tries to make himself relax.
“All right, everyone. Show me your cards.”
They do so: Polnareff’s hand is even worse than Jotaro’s was, but Joseph’s got four of a kind and a shit-eating grin to match. Kakyoin grimaces; under other circumstances, Jotaro might offer a quiet Sorry, or perhaps an I told you so, but unfortunately his throat is rapidly constricting and he’s finding it difficult to breathe.
Avdol frowns at Polnareff’s cards. “You didn’t seriously believe you could win with that.”
“Who says I’m trying to win?” Polnareff asks, as he yanks his shirt off, tossing it aside with a flourish. He laces his fingers behind his head, thrusts his chest out, twists his body a little to the right; Jotaro assumes it’s probably supposed to be some kind of seductive pose, but mostly it just makes Polnareff look a bit like a massive, overstuffed pigeon. “Like what you see?” Polnareff purrs, batting his eyelashes at Avdol.
“I may be ill,” Kakyoin mutters.
“Come on, come on.” Joseph snaps his fingers impatiently. “I won fair and square, for once. Take your shirt off.”
Jotaro’s heart misses a beat.
“Yes, yes.” Kakyoin rolls his eyes. His fingers trail along the buttons of his shirt. He unfastens one, and then another, exposing his neck and the thin line of his collarbone—Jotaro’s fingers twitch and he wonders, in spite of himself, what it would be like to reach out and touch, to run his fingertips across Kakyoin’s skin.
Stop, he orders himself fiercely. Calm down. Don’t be weird. Don’t be weird.
Another button undone.
Jotaro watches out the corner of his eye, trying not to stare so openly. He’s never really seen Kakyoin shirtless before, as much as he’s fantasized about it, and his gaze trails over the tautness of Kakyoin’s stomach, the hard lines of muscle along his chest.
He’s so pathetic, this is pathetic—he recognizes this, accepts this—and he can’t stop looking—
“Jotaro,” Avdol says suddenly, “you’re going to rip your cards.”
He is, indeed, about to do just that: His knuckles are white, and he’s gripping his playing cards so tightly that they’ve bent in half. “Oh,” he mumbles.
When he looks up again, it’s to find all four of them staring at him. Polnareff’s waggling his eyebrows mischievously, and Joseph’s expression is downright gleeful. Kakyoin has paused. His hands linger on the last button of his shirt, his mouth half-open as if he’s about to pose a question. There’s a curious gleam in his eyes that wasn’t there before.
“Hurry up already,” Joseph says. His words are directed at Kakyoin, but his attention is fixed solely on Jotaro.
“Yeah, hurry up, Kakyoin,” Polnareff chimes in helpfully.
“Yes. Sorry. Of course.” Except that Kakyoin doesn’t hurry at all. If anything, he moves slower than before. He pulls one arm from its sleeve, and then the other; he rolls his shoulders, his shirt slipping slowly to the floor. Kakyoin’s face and the back of his neck have browned somewhat under the constant sun, but the rest of his body is pale, all lean, wiry muscle.
Jotaro’s mouth has gone very, very dry.
“You know something?” Kakyoin says, sounding cheerful for the first time since the game’s begun. “This might be kind of fun after all. Good idea, Polnareff.”
“You can say that again.”
Help me, Jotaro thinks, at whatever high power might be listening; his only answer from above is a thud of annoyance, this time from the people in the room over theirs.
They play second round, a third, a fourth. Joseph wins each hand with ease.
A steady tic is going in Jotaro’s jaw; the room is far too warm and there’s sweat gathering on his forehead. He’s 98% sure he’s in the middle of having a heart attack.
“Avdol,” he croaks over Joseph’s cackling. “He’s—he’s got to be cheating.”
It takes every last inch of his willpower not to turn his head to the left; to sit on the hotel room’s cheap, smelly carpet and pretend that Kakyoin isn’t less than a meter away, currently stripping down to just his boxers.
Avdol shrugs, however. “I haven’t seen any cheating take place.”
“None?” Jotaro presses in disbelief. “Where are your eyes at?”
From across the circle, Polnareff lets out a loud sigh. He’s laid out on his back, his belt buckle undone, one hand toying with his zipper. “Mon Dieu,” he says in a pitiful whimper that’s fooling absolutely no one. “It appears my pants are next. I’m losing so badly, whatever shall I do? Soon I’ll be completely naked.”
Color rises in Avdol’s cheeks; just for a fraction of a second, his eyes dart in Polnareff’s direction.
“Liar,” Jotaro hisses under his breath. His hands twitch at the thought of seizing Avdol around the neck with Star Platinum and throttling him. He’s not only letting the old man get away with cheating, he’s helping him.
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” Avdol says, inspecting his fingernails with considerable interest.
“Jotaro!” Joseph snaps. “Leave Avdol alone and get your ass back in the game already.”
“You heard your grandfather.” Avdol’s expression remains stoic, even as his face continues to turn a truly impressive shade of red; Jotaro makes a mental note to sneak into Avdol’s room later and smother him with own pillow. He snatches up the cards that Polnareff’s dealt him, glowering. He’s only got a high card—the lowest of the low. Big surprise. He’s had nothing but shit hands all night, probably because his grandfather keeps stuffing the best cards in his shirt when nobody’s looking.
“I fold,” he starts to stay, but stops short as Kakyoin suddenly clears his throat.
“Can we change the rules?” he asks. His tone is polite—a little too polite, in fact. It’s a relatively innocent question, and it sends a shudder of impending doom racing through Jotaro.
“Why? What do you want?” Polnareff demands.
“I suggest we make it illegal to fold. Or if you fold, it’s as good as losing a hand. So clothes off.”
Jotaro’s entire body gives an involuntary twitch; his hand flexes against his will, crumpling his cards into a ball.
“Oh?” Polnareff taps his chin, weighing the idea. “I don’t know.”
“It’s only fair, don’t you think? Since you and I keep losing to Joestar-san. What do you say, Avdol? You’re the referee, after all.”
Avdol twiddles his thumbs; he gazes serenely up at the ceiling, avoiding the warning look that Jotaro throws at him. “I’ll…allow it.”
“Avdol’s word is good enough for me,” Polnareff says with a shrug. “You okay with this, Mr. Joestar?”
“Sounds perfect to me.” Joseph’s smile is pure malevolence. “You still want to fold, Jotaro?”
I’m fucked, Jotaro thinks faintly. I’m so, so fucked. “No,” he grits out, his teeth clenched so tightly that his jaw creaks under the strain.
“Then let’s see everybody’s cards.”
Jotaro lays down his high card with trembling hands; Polnareff has pure garbage as usual, but Joseph’s only got a high card as well. For a moment, Jotaro feels a burst of hope, right before Kakyoin lays his cards down on top of theirs. He has a royal flush.
“Oops,” Kakyoin says slyly.
“Would you look at that,” Polnareff crows . “Jotaro actually lost for once!”
“You lost too,” Avdol is quick to point out.
“I did, didn’t I?” Polnareff purrs; he hooks his thumbs in the waistband of his underwear and gives a slight, experimental tug. “Dear me.”
Avdol doesn’t have anything to say to that; he coughs weakly and looks back up at the ceiling with renewed interest.
“Okay, Jotaro. You lost.” Joseph looks disgustingly pleased with himself. “Now lose the clothes.”
“C’mon, now, Jojo. Those are the rules. We all agreed.”
We didn’t agree on anything, he wants to snarl but he doesn’t trust his voice not to give out on him. “The rules are stupid,” he mutters instead, glaring at the carpet’s hideous pattern of green and brown paisley.
To his surprise, Polnareff looks thoughtful. “They are, aren’t they? We ought to change them some more. After all, I’m still not totally convinced the referee isn’t cheating.”
“Polnareff, I don’t even have cards.”
“Not that we can see. We’re just supposed to take your word for it? You might as well strip, in order to prove that we can actually trust you. In fact, I demand it.”
“I’m denying your request.”
“What? How come Kakyoin gets to change the rules but I don’t? Avdol! Do you like him better than you like me?”
Avdol gives a long-suffering sigh.
“Come on, Jotaro,” his grandfather says, snapping his fingers at him—Jotaro reflects on how easy it would be, to break those very fingers with a single flick of the wrist from Star Platinum. “Hurry up so we can keep playing.”
He’s really not going to be able to worm his way out of this one. He considers bolting for the door, wonders how far he could get before they tackled him and dragged him back. They’d never let him live it down, either. Jotaro runs through each article of his clothing. His belt. He could take off his belt. Or maybe his shoes. And then as long as he keeps his cool, as long as he doesn’t lose another hand—
Someone tugs his cap off; Jotaro’s head rears back up. “Oi! You can’t just—” He chokes on the rest of his words.
“Can’t what?” Kakyoin asks and Jotaro wonders feebly, how the hell he can sound so innocent when he looks anything but innocent. He’s been trying so hard to avoid looking at Kakyoin for the last several minutes—to spare him the embarrassment, to spare himself the agony—but now he’s finding it difficult to tear his gaze away. Kakyoin’s boxers ride low on his hips; Jotaro’s eyes follow along the V cut of his abs, along the thin trail of hair that starts just below his belly button. His long legs are splayed out in front of him, spread slightly, and his inner thighs are pale and smooth. “Can’t what?” Kakyoin prompts, smiling slightly as he places Jotaro’s cap on his own head. He bites lightly at his lower lip; Jotaro’s stomach does a nervous little flip and he refuses—refuses—to imagine himself biting that same lip.
“That’s—you can’t just—that’s not fair.”
“Yes it is. I won. You lost. You had to take something off. I thought I’d help.”
Jotaro makes a desperate grab for his hat; Kakyoin easily evades him, and Jotaro realizes that his lunge has only moved them closer to one another, and he can smell the sweet, cherry-scented bath gel that Kakyoin likes to use, can see that he has a scattering of freckles on his left shoulder—
He jerks back, his face burning. “Avdol,” he begins, in a strangled voice that sounds nothing like him.
“I’ll allow it.” Jotaro can hear the smirk in his voice.
“What’s the matter, Jojo? Do you want to keep me undressed or something?” Kakyoin asks, looking up at him from beneath his eyelashes.
Fuck Dio. Seriously, fuck him, because Jotaro’s already seen the true face of evil tonight, and it’s unexpectedly cute—he couldn’t have predicted the cherry earrings either.
Jotaro scuttles back to his side of the circle; he can feel himself getting redder and redder with every passing second.
“Oi, Jotaro,” Polnareff drawls. “You’re looking a little hot and bothered over there.”
“I don’t like this game.”
“Oh, lighten up.”
“It’s—” He wracks his brain for the proper word in English. “It’s indecent.”
Polnareff scoffs. “Jojo. Please. You’re overreacting.” This, coming from the man who is now completely naked, apart from a pillow strategically positioned over his crotch.
“It’s—it’s lewd. And it’s ridiculous,” Jotaro maintains. It’s some small comfort that he manages to keep his voice relatively calm, even as the flush in his cheeks gives him away. “Japanese people don’t do things like this. It’s not—not refined.”
“Kakyoin doesn’t seem to mind it.”
“Are you calling me unrefined, Jojo?” Kakyoin’s eyes go wide with hurt.
Jotaro’s brain comes to a screeching halt. “N-no? I’m just—I wouldn’t—” And now his voice is shot, too, trembling and utterly mortified. Somebody needs to kill him, somebody needs to put him out of misery this very second because he is literally incapable of shutting his goddamn mouth. “I was—but—I didn’t—”
“Jotaro, breathe,” Joseph says; on the floor beside him, Polnareff curls up around his pillow, tears streaming down his face. They’re all laughing: Avdol, a hand over his mouth to stifle it, even as his shoulders shake; Kakyoin practically bent double, the corners of his eyes crinkling, his cheeks flushed.
They’re laughing—but not at him. It’s as if the bizarreness of the game, of the situation as a whole, has finally hit them and none of them can hold back any longer.
He should be annoyed. He is. And yet as he sits there, watching the four of them, it occurs to Jotaro that it’s been well over a week since any of them have laughed like this, and far longer since they’ve laughed all together on this journey of theirs.
His face is still burning but his initial burst of anger fades, slips away, disappears.
Kakyoin crumples against him. “Jojo,” he gasps, “I’m sorry—you should have seen the look on your face.”
Jotaro feels himself break into a smile, despite his very best efforts, and he immediately buries his face in his hands. “Shut up.”
“Now, now,” Joseph says, still sounding a bit winded as he collects their cards and reshuffles them. “Game’s not over yet, boys.”
A fourth round. A fifth. A sixth.
“Thank God you’re finally taking off that stupid school uniform,” Polnareff remarks; now that he’s got no more clothes to shed, he’s become a suspiciously decent poker player. “I didn’t think the day would ever come.”
Jotaro complies, defeated as he slips his shirt off over his head. His jacket, shoes, and belt sit in a crumpled heap. The coolness of the hotel room raises goosebumps along his skin. He can feel Kakyoin’s gaze on him and Jotaro folds his arms across his chest in a feeble attempt to shield himself.
He comforts himself with thoughts of revenge, plotting each of their demises one by one.
Polnareff, he’s decided, will be first. His death will not be swift.
“Well! In my opinion, tonight has been lovely!” Joseph staggers to his feet, pockets stuffed full of all the cash he’s won; he’s the only one of them, apart from Avdol, who’s still fully clothed. “A good game to you all. We ought to do this again sometime.” He offers his hand—as if any of them are seriously going to shake it—and the ace of diamonds slips from the sleeve of his shirt, fluttering to the floor.
They all stare at it a moment.
“I’m going to kill you,” Jotaro snarls. Star Platinum bursts forth and Joseph scuttles out the door, cackling madly as he goes and leaving a trail of various playing cards in his wake.
Avdol rises from the bed, stretching his legs. “I must agree with Mr. Joestar. That was fun, but I think we ought to be going—”
“I’m coming for you next,” Jotaro says, rounding on him. The color drains from Avdol’s face.
“Run for it!” Polnareff howls; he and Avdol lunge for escape at the same time, Polnareff stumbling and struggling not to drop his clothes or the pillow that’s he’s still clutching to his crotch. The door slams behind them and the only thing that keeps Jotaro from chasing them down the hall is the fact that he’s currently wearing nothing but his jeans and he doesn’t need anyone else seeing him in this state.
“Well,” Kakyoin says at last, grinning. “That was…interesting.”
Jotaro starts to glance at him, before remembering that they’re both half-naked. He promptly looks away again. He can’t trust himself to meet Kakyoin’s gaze; that all the excitement and embarrassment and arousal he’s felt this evening won’t show on his face. Kakyoin sees through him so easily sometimes, and it’s thrilling—and terrifying.
“Jojo.” Kakyoin’s voice is suddenly somber. “You’re not…angry at me, are you?”
“I wasn’t making fun of you. None of us were, really. You know that, right? We just got a little carried away. Well. Maybe a lot. I think we just always want to make sure you enjoy being with us. Sometimes it’s…it’s hard to tell if you are.”
Jotaro scuffs his foot against the carpet. “I…I always enjoy myself when I’m with you guys. Tonight was… fun.” He’s surprised to find he means it.
“I’m glad to hear that,” Kakyoin says. Jotaro continues to stare at his feet. “I had fun too. You’re surprisingly easy to mess with, though.”
“So you admit it,” Jotaro says wryly.
“I do. I guess I couldn’t help myself. You’re…cute when you blush.”
He starts to smirk—except that Kakyoin isn’t laughing, and the words hit him suddenly, like a punch to the gut.
Oh, Jotaro thinks.
He should probably say something back. But his mind is blank and the right words aren’t coming—they never do. The silence stretches between them. Jotaro feels his face grow warm again.
Movement at the corner of his eye; Kakyoin is closer now. “Sorry,” he murmurs. “Looks like I made you do it again.”
“It’s—it’s okay,” Jotaro says weakly.
The air conditioning the corner clicks on, filling the room with a cool blast of air. Kakyoin shivers and Jotaro takes the opportunity to step back, putting distance between them. He stoops down and grabs his clothes. Before he can fully analyze what he’s doing, or why, he hands Kakyoin his coat. “Here. Don’t catch a cold.”
“Aw, Jojo. You do care.”
Things would be so much easier if he didn’t. Thunder rumbles in the distance; through the window, Jotaro glimpses a tongue of lightning as it splits the sky in two.
Kakyoin pulls the coat on. “How do I look?” he asks.
Jotaro’s gaze cuts to him and he manages—just barely—to repress a squeak. Nothing about this night has been fair: Joseph’s incessant cheating, Polnareff’s awful ideas, the way they’ve all teased the hell out of him and now—the most unfair thing of all—Kakyoin standing in front of him, dressed only in his underwear and Jotaro’s clothes, looking better than any person has the right to. Jotaro’s jacket is just a little too big for him; the cap sits crooked on his head, mussing his hair. He looks disheveled, his cheeks flushed.
You look fucking hot, Jotaro wants to say. You always do. It is impossible for you to look anything other than hot, to the point where sometimes I cannot physically stand to look at you.
He could say it. He could. He opens his mouth; all that comes out is a sort of panicked wheeze.
Kakyoin looks vaguely alarmed. “Jojo?”
“I have to go.”
Jotaro has never been one to retreat but he needs to leave, right freaking now, before his head implodes. “I have to go. To—to the bathroom.” He turns on his heel and walks straight into the wall. Kakyoin is staring; Jotaro prays for a quick and painless death. “Anyway,” he says, groping for the door handle. “Anyway.” He flings himself into the bathroom, locking the door behind him.
If Kakyoin didn’t think he was a total loser before, he certainly does now.
Jotaro stands in the shower for twenty minutes with the temperature turned to the coldest possible setting. He presses his forehead to the slick wall and forces his mind to go blank.
When he finally reemerges, the room is dark. Kakyoin is already asleep. Jotaro changes into his pajamas and slips into bed.
“Goodnight, Kakyoin,” he says softly, as he pulls the sheets up around him.
“Goodnight, Jotaro.” Kakyoin’s voice is slurred with sleep. Jotaro shivers a little at the sound of his name on Kakyoin’s lips. He shuts his eyes tight.
When they wake up in the morning, he tells himself, everything will be normal again.
Chapter 2: Have A Drink On Me
Ack, well I'm a little late with this update. Sorry about that. Anyway, here is the next chapter, as I continue on with this silly story. Thanks for all the really nice feedback!
Chapter title credits to AC/DC.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He wakes, not to the sound of his alarm clock, but a clap of thunder. Jotaro blinks into the darkness of the early morning. It’s just past seven o’clock, but it might as well be midnight, there’s so little light streaming into the room. He drags himself out of bed and over to the window, yanking back the curtains.
The city is a gray blur; water streams down the glass, melting the view. The sky overhead is a deep, ugly gray. The storm didn’t pass in the night—if anything, it’s only gotten worse
There’s a quiet shuffling behind him; Kakyoin is suddenly at his shoulder. They peer out at the rain together, bleary-eyed. “Damn,” Kakyoin says at length.
Damn is right.
“I anticipated this,” Joseph admits over the phone. The connection in the hotel is bad, and Jotaro keeps missing his grandfather’s words over the occasional burst of static. “The front desk says that the roads are flooded. Even if we could find a car, it’d be impossible to travel in weather like this.”
“What do we do?”
“Lie low for another day, I suppose. That’s all we can do.”
Jotaro bites his lip. Another crack of thunder rings out, like a gunshot. It looks like he got his wish about the storm lasting another day after all. “Okay,” he says.
Kakyoin is sprawled out across his bed, propped up on one elbow. He raises a questioning eyebrow as Jotaro hangs up. “What did he say?”
“We’ll have to stay here for another day. See how things go after that. If it stops raining by this afternoon, maybe tomorrow the roads will clear.”
“Maybe.” Kakyoin looks doubtful.
“At least we have some more time to sleep.” Jotaro sinks back down onto his own bed. His stomach gives a faint rumble of hunger but the mattress beneath him is soft and inviting. He didn’t realize how well and truly this trip has exhausted him until just now.
“And to relax. Doesn’t sound so bad to me.” Kakyoin grins suddenly. “And it could always be worse, you know. You could be stuck rooming with Polnareff.”
An actual chill rises along the back of Jotaro’s neck at the thought; his horror must show on his face because Kakyoin laughs. “Exactly my point. I consider myself lucky. There’s nobody I’d rather spend the day with.”
What a thing to say. So much for things being normal in the morning; Jotaro’s fingers knot in the bedsheets. He avoids Kakyoin’s eyes, listens a moment to the spatter of raindrops against the window. “Yeah.” But it sounds too dismissive, too gruff and that’s not what he wants. He clears his throat. “I feel the same,” he admits.
When he looks up again, Kakyoin is grinning. He has such a nice, easy smile and Jotaro feels a quiet rush of pleasure, knowing that he’s responsible for making Kakyoin look that way.
He should say something else, seize the moment. There are a million different things he could say, comments and compliments and admissions that have gotten piled up in his head over the weeks, cluttering up space, making it difficult to think straight. You’re pretty amazing, perhaps. Or I love being around you. Or Please don’t think I’m weird.
He should say something. But it’s just like last night, just like every other time he tries to be honest: a long silence that draws itself out, widening the gap between them. A faint ringing starts in his ears.
Say something, he orders himself furiously. Say something, you fucking idiot.
Jotaro snaps back to himself. Kakyoin has risen from his bed, drifted over to Jotaro’s. He’s picked up the marine biology book from the bedside table. “This is…kind of out of nowhere, but…well, I was looking at your book the other day.” He begins to flip through the pages. “It’s really interesting, but there was this one passage on…where is it…hammerhead sharks? It was a little confusing. I was wondering if maybe you could explain it to me?”
“Uh, sure,” Jotaro says, startled into answering.
Kakyoin sits down next to him on the bed. Their shoulders are nearly touching.
“It says here that hammerhead sharks…they go tanning?”
“Younger ones. They like to stay close to the water’s surface.” Jotaro takes another deep breath, easing the tight, anxious feeling in his chest somewhat. “They often turn black from being in the sun for so long. But they never get sunburned.” Another breath; the ringing in his ears dulls. “Scientists are studying them, to learn how to treat skin disease.”
Kakyoin smiles up at him. “So cool.”
A part of Jotaro wants to go running for the bathroom again. Something keeps him still, however, and he’s glad for it as Kakyoin shifts on the bed, pressing closer. He’s so warm and small at Jotaro’s side.
They’re quiet again but it’s a different kind of quiet than before. Comfortable. Thunder continues to grumble distantly; the lights are low and yellow. It gives the room a hazy, dream-like quality.
“My favorite chapter is actually the one on tiger sharks,” Jotaro says abruptly. “Did you know that they actually have six senses instead of five?”
Jotaro takes the book from Kakyoin and flips to the appropriate page. “Right here. It explains.” He turns the book so that Kakyoin can see better. With effort, he clears his throat and begins to read aloud: “Perhaps most fascinating is the tiger shark’s abilities when it comes to hunting its prey…”
Kakyoin leans in, his hair tickling Jotaro’s neck, and for once Jotaro carries the conversation.
It’s surprisingly easier than he thought it would be.
A knock at the door interrupts them halfway through an episode of some old American soap opera rerun. Kakyoin seems to be enjoying it but Jotaro’s having a difficult time following as is, and the Hindi subs along the bottom of the screen aren’t helping in the least bit. Something about an evil twin and an arranged marriage—he’s not entirely sure and he doesn’t really care either. The knock therefore is a welcome relief.
“Wait! We don’t know if Carolina is going to end up marrying Jacob or running away with William,” Kakyoin protests as Jotaro struggles to disentangle himself from Kakyoin’s long legs, thrown across his lap; he scrambles off the bed, nearly tripping over the various trays of food they ordered from room service earlier.
“I’ll survive,” he replies and opens the door without checking the peephole first. Mistake #1.
Polnareff, his grandfather, and Avdol are standing out in the hall. His grandfather is waving a pillowcase above his head in a makeshift flag of surrender. Polnareff has a large, unmarked brown bag clutched to his chest. “So,” he begins cheerfully, “we’ve been thinking.”
Jotaro slams the door in their faces.
A muffled howl rises from out in the hall.
“Who was that?” Kakyoin asks.
“I heard that,” Polnareff screeches.
“Nobody at all,” Jotaro says, raising his voice in an attempt to block out his grandfather’s audible cursing. “And anyway, they’re leaving.”
“You’re the worst, Jojo.” A kick rattles the door.
“You break the lock again and Star Platinum breaks your nose.”
“Jotaro.” That’s Avdol finally, sounding more than a little desperate. “Please. Don’t leave me alone with them.”
Jotaro folds his arms, simmering with frustration. Of course. Of course they have to come barging in when everything is going so well. Between Polnareff and Joseph, they have all the timing and grace of a goddamn wrecking ball. From the bed, Kakyoin sighs, looking trapped somewhere between annoyance and guilt. Jotaro squeezes his eyes shut and braces himself for an impending migraine. “You have five minutes and then I’m throwing you out.”
“So,” Joseph begins once they’re all inside. “I personally thought last night was a rousing success.”
“Please, define success,” Kakyoin fires back. He and Jotaro are still sitting together on the bed, the other three crowded around in order to cut off any potential escape routes. It’s unfortunately clever of them, Jotaro thinks, as he edges away from Kakyoin and avoids Joseph’s questioning looks.
Polnareff flaps a hand, dismissing the question. “I thought, since we’re stranded here for at least another night, we might have some more fun.”
“Define fun,” Jotaro interjects. Kakyoin smirks.
Polnareff plows on, determined. “It turns out that this hotel has an extensive open bar. Mr. Joestar and I have already secured the goods.” He reaches into the bag and pulls out a large bottle of whiskey. With a flourish, he presents it to Jotaro.
Jotaro raises an eyebrow. “What the hell am I supposed to do with that?”
“Uh, drink it, obviously. Try and keep up, Jojo.” Polnareff produces a bottle of vodka and a bottle of brandy in quick succession.
“How did you buy all of this?”
“My winnings from last night, of course.” Joseph looks pleased with himself. Jotaro represses a sigh. Good. What a totally responsible, mature decision. Spend their traveling money on booze. Sometimes he’s not sure whether his grandfather is the chaperone on this trip or if he is. “Kakyoin and I are underage,” he says instead.
Polnareff groans, with more exasperation than Jotaro feels is entirely necessary. “For crying out loud! Live a little, why don’t you? C’mon, I have another game we can play.”
“Jotaro! You’re so boring!”
“You can’t force anybody to drink if they don’t want to.” Avdol says, joining the conversation at last. “That would be wrong.” He glares at Polnareff who, despite looking sullen, keeps his mouth shut for once. Jotaro dares to feel a glimmer of hope that he may yet find a way to get out of this. Mistake #3. A critical one.
“Well, anyway. It was just an idea.” Joseph heaves a sigh, his face crinkling up in disappointment. “Just a way to pass the time.”
“And after I went through all the trouble to find something each of you guys might like,” Polnareff adds. Avdol shoots him another disapproving look; undeterred, Polnareff reaches into his bag once more. “I saw this and thought of you, Kakyoin.” He produces a bottle of bright red liquor. “Cherry schnapps. To make it taste good.”
“It’s delicious and nutritious,” Polnareff says, as he waves the bottle back and forth temptingly.
“You think I’m that pathetic?” Kakyoin retorts, but his eyes follow the bottle’s movement closely.
“Are you accusing moi of manipulation? Would I do a thing like that?”
“Not that anybody’s pressuring you,” Avdol tries to cut in.
“Not at all,” Polnareff agrees. He drops the bottle back into the bag. “If you don’t want to hang out with us, though, we’ll just leave.”
“You do that,” Jotaro starts to say, but Kakyoin’s hand on his arm stops him.
“What game was it that you wanted to play? Not that I’m…you know. Not that I’m really that curious.” Kakyoin tries and fails to look disinterested.
Polnareff grins. Jotaro nearly puts his fist through the nearest wall.
About ten minutes later, they’re seated on the floor again in a vague approximation of a circle. Kakyoin and Polnareff already have a glass of the schnapps in hand; Joseph seems intent on drinking straight from the bottle of brandy.
“Don’t you need a glass?” Jotaro demands.
Joseph snorts. “Certainly not. What kind of Joestar would I be if I couldn’t handle my alcohol?”
A sober, fully-functioning one perhaps. Jotaro is about to say as much when Polnareff shoves a glass into his hand.
“Here! You seem like a vodka guy to me.”
Jotaro glances down at his cup, filled to the brim with clear liquid. It has a sharp, medicinal smell to it and he nearly gags. Despite his delinquent reputation and his fondness for cigarettes, Jotaro has never really been all that interested in alcohol. A beer or two, perhaps, stolen here and there from the convenience store, but not much beyond that. He doesn't particularly enjoy the way it makes his focus slip, or his head start to spin, just a little. The only reason he’s even participating now is because he refuses to let Kakyoin drink alone with these maniacs. He doesn’t trust Polnareff any farther than he can throw him—which actually, with Star Platinum’s assistance, would be pretty far now that he thinks about it. His metaphor is getting confused. The point is: fuck Polnareff.
“You really don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,” Avdol says again, for the fifth time that evening. He’s deigned to join their circle, and he leans over and pats Jotaro once, awkwardly, on the knee. His concern is annoying but it’s also appreciated. Jotaro shrugs him off and tries to ignore the stench of vodka as it hits his nose again.
“Stop nagging and get yourself a drink,” Polnareff butts in good-naturedly. “If you’re joining us this time, Avdol, you have to be drinking something. Otherwise you can’t play! It’s against the rules!”
Avdol gives him a long look. “Polnareff,” he begins with practiced patience. “Do you know anything about Islam?”
“Not especially.” Polnareff’s grin turns wicked. “Why? Are you offering to be my teacher? Because I’d just love to learn under your...guidance.”
“In that case, as a Muslim, I not only can’t gamble but I can’t drink either. That would also be against my religion.”
Polnareff’s whole face falls. “You’ve got to be kidding. You’re not going to play with us? With me?”
“Oh my God. Quit your whining and let’s get on with this damn game you’ve been blathering about.”
“But—but—” Polnareff’s lower lip begins to wobble uncontrollably. “But—” His eyes go wide with longing; Avdol folds his arms, studies Polnareff’s puppy dog pout. His expression is as unreadable as ever, but Jotaro can tell he’s wavering. Takes a loser to know one, Jotaro supposes, and pretends that Kakyoin isn’t smiling shyly at him from across the circle.
At great length, Avdol sighs. “I’m still not going to drink. But I’ll play your game, if that’s allowed.”
Polnareff’s pout melts away instantaneously. “Of course! I’d bend the rules for you any day.” He inches a little closer to Avdol. His grin is lecherous. “If you get my meaning, that is.”
“I get it.”
“You see, because I’m talking about—”
“I get it, Polnareff.”
“Now that’s done, can we get down to some serious drinking?” Joseph snaps, already struggling to remove the cork from his bottle.
“All right! It’s very simple. Everybody put up ten fingers.” Everyone but Jotaro complies. Polnareff glares at him. “Just do it.”
Jotaro grudgingly sets aside his drink and puts ten fingers up in the air. “This is stupid,” he remarks, to nobody in particular.
“Now. We go around and say something that we’ve never done before. For example…” Polnareff thinks fast. “Never have I ever been able to speak Japanese. But if anyone in the circle has done that thing—in this case, if you can speak Japanese—you have to put a finger down. And take a drink.”
“But,” Jotaro begins, furious, “that’s not a fair question.”
“Who said the point of this game was to be fair?”
Jotaro stews a moment. He looks to Kakyoin, who only shrugs. “Bottom’s up?” They both hesitate, though, much to Jotaro’s relief. Kakyoin offers him another reassuring grin and, encouraged, Jotaro takes a quick sip of his drink. The vodka hits his throat and he fights back a cough. He wants very badly to spit it back into the glass, but that would be childish and everyone is watching him as it is. He makes himself swallow; the liquor leaves a trail of heat all the way down into his stomach.
“This is disgusting,” he says.
Polnareff looks appalled. “That is Gray Goose, you heathen. How dare you.”
Across the circle, Kakyoin licks his lips, inspecting his glass with interest. “This cherry stuff… it’s not bad.”
“I want what he has,” Jotaro demands.
“You’ll take what I give you and you’ll like it. Mr. Joestar, it’s your turn to ask a question next!”
Something slides against Jotaro’s elbow; a single coil of Hierophant Green has sidled up next to him, to deposit an empty glass and the bottle of cherry schnapps. Polnareff is too preoccupied, bickering with Joseph about hogging the bottle of brandy (“By the time I start drinking it, it won’t be brandy so much as it’ll be backwash!”) Nobody notices as Jotaro fills his new glass. His fingertips brush against Hierophant Green in gratitude; he hears Kakyoin shiver quietly.
“All right, all right!” Joseph takes another tremendous gulp of the brandy, much to Polnareff’s intense aggravation. “I’ve thought of my question. I’ve never…sung karaoke before.”
Kakyoin groans. He puts down a finger and takes another sip.
“Were you any good?” Avdol asks.
“No, definitely not. It was a one time thing. It was on a middle school trip. My classmates made me.”
“What’d you sing?” Jotaro asks, unable to stop himself. To his amusement, Kakyoin’s grin vanishes. It’s his turn to look embarrassed and it shouldn’t delight Jotaro as much it does. This is vengeance for the other night. It’s far sweeter than he expected it would be. “What did you sing?” he asks again. Hierophant’s tentacle thwacks him hard on the leg as it retreats.
“I don’t have to say if I don’t want to.”
Jotaro looks immediately to Polnareff, who—to his immense satisfaction—is actually on Jotaro’s side for once. “Shall we take a vote?”
Everyone’s hands rocket into the air. Kakyoin glares at each of them in turn. “It was…Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean.’ Okay?”
“Did you try and do the moonwalk too?” Polnareff asks. Kakyoin turns a shade of red to rival the color of his hair, which is answer enough. Polnareff and Joseph collapse into peals of laughter and Jotaro finds it impossible to hide a smirk of his own.
“I thought you didn’t even want to play this game,” Kakyoin says accusingly.
Jotaro shrugs. “It might not be so bad, after all.”
“Kakyoin,” Avdol cuts in. “It’s your turn.”
“Never have I ever smoked a cigarette.”
Jotaro frowns. “That’s cheap.”
“I thought you liked this game?” Kakyoin fires back, but there’s no real edge in his voice. Jotaro sighs and takes a sip of the cherry schnapps. Kakyoin wasn’t wrong: the schnapps stuff isn’t bad. The taste is sticky-sweet and it reminds him a little of the sweets that his mother would buy him on their weekly grocery shopping trips, or the cough medicine he had as a child. There’s the faint bite of alcohol underneath but it’s better than the vodka.
He takes another sip, even though he’s not supposed to. Polnareff doesn’t notice: his attention is back on Joseph already, who despite not putting a finger down, is chugging away at the brandy once more. He manages to guzzle nearly a quarter of the bottle before Polnareff and Kakyoin wrest it from him—“Leave some for the rest of us, you greedy geezer!”— Joseph gasping with indignation—“Geezer? Geezer? Listen here, you frog—”
Next to Jotaro, Avdol is massaging his temples. His eyes are squeezed shut, as if that will somehow block out Polnareff’s and Joseph’s screeching.
“Are we having fun yet?” Jotaro asks, only a little snide.
“Shut up,” Avdol grumbles back.
“I have never…” Kakyoin pauses, carefully. “I have never been arrested.”
A collective groan rises around the circle, as Joseph, Polnareff and Jotaro all put down another finger. Jotaro swallows a mouthful of schnapps and frowns down at his hand. It’s only been a couple rounds or so—he’s pretty sure, anyway—but he’s only got five fingers left.
Only five. That’s probably not a good thing. He keeps getting nailed by questions, one after another—Avdol, who has never broken a bone, Polnareff who much to Jotaro’s surprise has never ditched a day of school in his life, Joseph who has never pierced his ears—and now Kakyoin.
Perhaps he should start lying about his answers. Polnareff has yet to explain what happens if someone runs out of fingers to count on. Maybe the game ends. That would be the best possible scenario (and also the most unlikely one.) But even if he loses, it’ll mean getting Polnareff and the others out his room that much faster.
Except…their company isn’t unpleasant. Obnoxious. Loud. Exhausting. But not unpleasant for some reason. Maybe it’s the alcohol, but despite the noise, Jotaro feels unusually warm and comfortable. He can’t remember the last time he felt this relaxed. Months, maybe.
“Jotaro, it’s your turn.”
He licks his lips. His mouth feels coated with sugar. His head is spinning a little. “Uh…I’ve never…been to a live concert.”
Polnareff looks profoundly disappointed. “Is that the best question you could come up with?” he asks, as he finishes what remains of Jotaro’s vodka.
“Ask a better one, then.”
He wishes he’d kept his mouth shut, because Polnareff smiles—and Polnareff smiling is never, ever a good thing. “Don't mind if I do.” He surveys the circle at large. “Never have I ever…worn a dress.”
Joseph puts down a finger and takes a drink.
Jotaro’s jaw drops. “You—wait—when did you ever wear a dress?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know? I looked quite nice in heels too, by the way. They emphasized my shapely calves,” he remarks, rather proud.
“Ah-ah!” Joseph waggles a finger. “You already took your turn. Now it’s Avdol’s.”
“Ask a good one,” Polnareff hisses.
“All right. Well—”
“And by good, I mean make it dirty.”
“If you’re quite finished?”
Polnareff wriggles around in his seat, unable to contain his excitement. Avdol sighs, thinks a moment. “I’ve never…uh…I’ve never flashed anyone before?”
Polnareff cackles and proceeds to chug what remains of the vodka.
“Does last night count?” Kakyoin asks weakly.
Both Kakyoin and Jotaro do so. Avdol elbows Polnareff in the side. “I may regret asking this, but when did you flash somebody?”
“At a football game. We were playing Germany and one of those assholes was trying to bad mouth my team in a bar beforehand. So I bent over, dropped my pants, and showed him what I thought of him. And then I—I punched him in the goddamn throat. Vive la France!” Polnareff yells suddenly. He tries to leap to his feet and falls immediately on his ass, his glass sloshing vodka over his pants and the carpet. Avdol grabs his shoulder to steady him, and Polnareff seizes the opportunity to lean in close, until he’s practically sprawled across Avdol’s lap. “I could perform a private reenactment if you’d like,” he offers, with a none-too-subtle wink.
“Tempting. I’ll pass.”
Polnareff grumbles something vague about “playing hard to get” under his breath.
“I’ve got a question,” Kakyoin offers helpfully. “I know it’s not my turn, but—”
“By all means.” Joseph waves him on, mostly because it gives him another opportunity to gulp down his brandy. He’s down to half the bottle now.
“Okay. Well. It’s not very dirty, but…anyway.” He chews at his thumbnail. “Never have I ever kissed a woman.” Jotaro’s not sure if it’s the alcohol or the statement itself but Kakyoin’s face flushes with color.
Polnareff puts a finger down, as does Joseph.
“So you’ve never been kissed before?” Polnareff smirks at Avdol.
“Not by a woman, no,” Avdol replies simply. Polnareff blinks.
Jotaro swirls his drink, watching it slip back and forth along the bottom of his glass. Never kissed a woman. He wonders what that’s supposed to mean: if Kakyoin has never been kissed period or if he’s only ever been kissed by other men. That last part shouldn’t bother him so much. It’s none of his business, after all. He doesn’t have a right to demand an explanation. After all—it’s not like they have anything together.
Jotaro’s tongue feels thick from the alcohol. There’s an unfamiliar, sick sensation churning in his gut. How much has he had to drink already? It can’t have been enough to put him in this state. He's only taking shots, so how can it be hitting him harder than a couple of beers would? Is this normal? He has no clue.
Why would Kakyoin ask something like that anyway? Unless… His brain struggles to process, sluggish. Unless maybe Kakyoin’s as curious as Jotaro is. But if he’s curious, then—
“Jotaro.” Polnareff jabs him in the knee with the vodka bottle. “It’s your turn. Ask a question.”
He looks down at his fingers again. His hands feel too big, too clumsy. He’s talking before the words register in his own brain. Five fingers left. “Well, I’ve never kissed a man.” He tries to smirk, to pass it off as a joke, but his face feels numb, lopsided.
Polnareff puts down a finger. So does Avdol. So does Joseph, who catches Jotaro staring at him. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “What?”
“Nothing.” He looks away, his head spinning faster than before. Even though he didn’t put a finger down, Jotaro takes a gulp of his drink. Kakyoin didn’t put a finger down either, he notices. So that means…
Jotaro grips his glass a little tighter.
“Awww. So neither of you guys has ever been kissed?” Polnareff chuckles, toppling over onto his side. “That’s cute. Sad. But cute.”
Jotaro’s gaze darts to Kakyoin, who’s going red and muttering something very nasty in Japanese about Polnareff. That ringing is back in his ears. Jotaro licks his lips and they taste like candy.
A thought crosses Jotaro’s mind: if he leaned forward and kissed Kakyoin right now, right here in front of everybody else, would he taste like cherries? Would he push Jotaro away? Or would he kiss back?
His heartbeat quickens. He’s vaguely aware of his grandfather giving him a funny look; Jotaro sets his glass of schnapps aside and beckons for the brandy instead. “Gimme that.” To his surprise, Joseph doesn’t protest and hands it over. Jotaro takes a swig from the bottle: it hurts to drink but it drowns out the taste of the schnapps and thoughts of Kakyoin’s mouth on his own.
“Mr. Joestar, it’s your turn.”
Joseph hums to himself. “I’ve never…” He smiles suddenly, with an expression that Jotaro can only describe as utterly sinister. “I’ve never had phone sex before.”
Polnareff immediately puts a finger down; Avdol lets out a bark of surprised laughter; Jotaro nearly spills the brandy all over himself. “That’s—you can’t just say things like that.”
Joseph snickers. “Why? You got something you’re hiding from me, Jotaro?”
A wave of nausea rolls through Jotaro; he is not going to have this conversation with his grandfather. “Stop.”
“I lied, by the way. I’ve definitely had phone sex before. You know, when I was younger, I had to travel so often, and because your grandmother was always back home—”
Jotaro is definitely going to be sick now. He drops the bottle, slamming his hands over his ears. “Stop.”
“Jojo! That’s like 20 francs of Hennessy you just spilled!” Polnareff launches himself face first into the carpet.
“Polnareff, calm down,” Avdol snaps. “It’s only—”
“One time,” Joseph continues loudly, over Polnareff, “I got stuck in England for over a month, and Suzy and I got so desperate that she actually mailed me a set of—”
“Stop,” Jotaro snarls; Polnareff continues to scrabble at the carpet, apparently trying to scoop up the brandy in his cupped hands; his grandfather laughs raucously; Kakyoin and Avdol exchange pained looks.
Jotaro’s got two fingers left. He’s pretty sure. Although he may have lost count. He licks his lips again and stares down at his hand, his vision wavering slightly.
He’s pretty sure he’s got two left. Although it could be one finger. It is entirely possible he could be seeing double. His head sloshes from side to side and everything in him feels warm and comfortable and—
I’m drunk, he realizes with mild surprise. This is actually being drunk. I am drunk.
“Joooooojoooo,” Polnareff moans, brandishing the now empty vodka bottle in a threatening manner. “It’s your turn.”
Jotaro takes a shaky breath and then another. His stomach twists in on itself. He probably shouldn’t have had so much of the schnapps—or maybe it’s the brandy that’s making him feel sick. He struggles to get his thoughts and words in order.
A question. He has to ask a question.
“I’ve…never had…uh.” He loses his train of thought; tries again. “I’ve never been anywhere except Japan.”
There. Polnareff and his grandfather only have one finger left, so that should knock them out of the game altogether and, hopefully, end this whole thing. He’s not sure how much more he can drink. Jotaro looks expectantly around the circle. Kakyoin puts a finger down; the others don’t move at all.
Jotaro narrows his eyes. “Don’t lie,” he warns. “I agreed to play your stupid game. You have to answer my question.”
Still nothing. Joseph’s eyebrows are raised; Polnareff and Avdol exchange a bemused glance.
From his side of the circle, Kakyoin bursts into a fit of giggling.
“What’s so funny?” Jotaro demands.
It takes Kakyoin a second to compose himself; he’s laughing so hard he’s begun to hiccup. “Jojo. You’re drunk.”
He scowls, his face hot. “So are all of you. Why is that funny? What’s so funny?”
“They can’t understand anything you’re saying.” Kakyoin hiccups again. “You’re speaking Japanese. You didn’t realize?”
Jotaro sways a bit, looks back at his grandfather and Polnareff and Avdol, all of whom are struggling to contain their own laughter. “I see,” he says, his eyes going slightly crossed.
“I think,” Avdol says gently, “we’ve played enough for one night.”
The others show themselves out one by one; Joseph attempts to sneak away with several bottles hidden under his hat.
“Are you sure you don’t need any help?” Kakyoin asks.
“Oh, I’m just fine!” Joseph insists, as he clinks and staggers his way out the door.
Avdol has hauled Polnareff to his feet, one arm wrapped around his waist, the other around his shoulders. Polnareff won’t stop squirming and it’s with a great deal of effort that Avdol drags him away. “I’ll make sure he gets plenty of water,” he explains. “He should be all right. Will both of you be all right?”
“We’re good,” Kakyoin says.
Polnareff chuckles, lurching in Avdol’s grip. He pokes Kakyoin hard in the chest. “You are good. You are so good.”
“Come along,” Avdol says wearily. He lugs Polnareff out into the hall.
“Awwww, Avdol. Don’t be jealous. I’ve only got eyes for you.”
“So it would seem, unfortunately. Come on. I’m taking you to bed.”
“Oooh! I thought you’d never ask.”
The door shuts behind them with a soft click.
They’re alone again. At last. Such a shame, Jotaro muses, that he can’t seem to pick himself up off the floor. “I think I’m really drunk,” he announces, as Kakyoin moves to stand over him. “Drunk is…is what I am.”
“You don’t say.” Kakyoin smiles, peering down at him. He’s so very far away—too far, Jotaro decides.
He flops one arm about, uselessly. “Help me.”
“What’s the magic word?”
“Jerk.” Kakyoin laughs, however, and leans down to take Jotaro’s hand. Their fingers lace together and Jotaro pulls hard, trying to sit upright. Instead there’s a squeak of surprise followed by 65 kg hitting him square in the chest, as Kakyoin collapses on top of him. An elbow digs into Jotaro’s ribs, and stars explode in front of his eyes from where Kakyoin’s hand smacked him across the face. “Ow.”
“It’s not my fault you’re a giant.” Kakyoin rolls off, so that they’re lying side by side on the floor—Jotaro has to stop himself, not to reach out and pull him back. “You really are a mess right now.”
“I can’t help it. How are…how are you still sober?” It takes a disgusting amount of effort to move his mouth around the words. Jotaro feels faded at the edges, like right before he falls into sleep. He keeps his eyes trained on Kakyoin’s face, forces himself to concentrate.
“I didn’t drink much during the game. I didn’t have as many fingers to put down as you. I guess I’m just boring like that.”
“You’re not boring. You’re…” Amazing. Beautiful. “Fine.”
“Wow. ‘Fine.’ Stop. You’ll make me blush.” Kakyoin’s tone is wry; Jotaro’s mouth twists into a grin.
He realizes, blearily, that they’re still holding hands. Such a simple thing, but it makes him tremble a little, all the same. Jotaro turns his face into the carpet, inhales the faint, mildew stench. “It’s not fair.”
“What’s not fair?”
“That I’m…I’m like this.”
“It’s not.” It takes so much effort to speak. He sounds so much more pathetic than he wants to. His vision goes dimmer still and Jotaro lets his eyes close. What he wouldn’t give to be able to curl up right here, to fold his arms back around Kakyoin, and have them fall asleep together. It’s a nice thought and it makes him dizzy. “I don’t like looking…dumb in front of you.”
“I promise, you don’t.”
His cap slips sideways, off his head. Fingers trail through his hair, down along his cheek. Jotaro leans into their touch. “I just want you to think I’m cool,” he admits.
He didn’t mean to say that out loud. But the brandy and the schnapps buzz in his veins and he thinks that maybe it’s important after all, that he says it, that Kakyoin hears it. He’s not used to this: to speaking so casually, when most of the time he’s so careful with what he chooses to say and chooses to hold back.
He holds back so much. He’s forgotten what it feels like, to share a part of himself with somebody else.
Kakyoin’s fingers trace along the shell of Jotaro’s ear. His hands are cold and it feels good against Jotaro’s heated skin. “You don’t have to try so hard around me, you know.”
Except that he does. Because Kakyoin is always so steady, so collected, and all Jotaro ever seems to think about any more is ways to impress him and it’s exhausting but it’s also so much easier than trying to tell him how he really feels.
Jotaro has never felt this way before about another person and he doesn’t trust himself enough to speak, to do something about it. And so the only solution is to say nothing, to do nothing. Because then at least there is nothing for him to fuck up.
He couldn’t forgive himself if he ruined this.
Kakyoin squeezes his hand gently. His fingers smooth Jotaro’s hair back from his forehead. “Jojo.”
“Mmm.” Jotaro’s eyes are still shut. He can feel himself slipping fast.
“Can I tell you a secret?”
Only if I can tell you mine, Jotaro wants to reply, but his body is heavy with sleep. He loses himself in the sensation of Kakyoin’s fingers, still combing through his hair.
“Jotaro? Are you still awake?” A pause; a quiet sigh. “Never mind.”
He just wants to stay like this. Together. As long as possible. Jotaro tucks himself close against Kakyoin and just to have this is good enough, he decides right before he falls unconscious.
This is good enough.
Fun fact: my beta reader for this fic doesn't know much about Jojo's beyond the basic plot and what I've ranted to her about, so she took it upon herself to google what each of the characters looked like. I got a text yesterday night that was like, "Wow. Uh. That was...not what I was expecting at all." And I could only sit there and reply, "Yup. I'm in love with a show about fashion disaster beefcakes. I make no excuses for myself."
Anyway, I should be able to finish this off within the next week (or so...) In the meantime, thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it!
Chapter 3: Play the Game
Ack, I'm sorry it took me so long to get this written/posted. Life...got in the way. As it does. (Idk how people consistently write multi-chapter fic, y'all are champions and don't ever forget it.) Anyway, but thanks for sticking with me and letting me finish out this goofy, random-ass story. I hope you all enjoy the last chapter.
Title credits go to Queen and their song "Play the Game." Because it always comes back to Queen.
He wakes up alone.
Jotaro squints against an unexpected ray of sunlight creeping through the blinds. His head is pounding. His mouth is dry. He nearly turns over and pulls the blankets back over his head—and then realizes that he is in bed.
His brain is fuzzy, as are his memories of last night. But he doesn’t remember actually getting into bed. He remembers being on the floor. He remembers closing his eyes for a second. And Kakyoin…
Jotaro sits up, a little too quickly. Everything in his body shudders and for a moment he feels like he’s going to be ill. His vision blurs, clears again. He stares at the empty bed across from his. It’s already been made and there’s a note resting on the pillow. Jotaro stumbles to his feet.
The note is brief. Kakyoin’s handwriting is neat and sharp.
Weather has cleared. Avdol and I have gone to find a car. Should be back by noon.
Jotaro licks his lips. His stomach gives a faint wrench. Maybe from the alcohol. Maybe from hunger. Maybe from apprehension.
He rereads the note twice more and then folds it carefully and tucks it into the pocket of his jeans.
He can’t shake the feeling that he missed something important last night.
It takes him a solid half hour before his head stops pounding long enough for him to venture downstairs. He needs to eat, even though the very prospect of food makes him shiver with revulsion.
When he does eventually make it to the lobby, he finds Polnareff’s already beaten him there. He’s tucked himself into the farthest corner of the hotel’s complimentary café and surrounded himself with a collection of plates. He’s yet to touch any of his food. Polnareff spots him and offers him a small wave. Jotaro drifts over.
“Where is everybody?” he asks, as he takes a seat. He’s surprised at how rough his voice sounds.
Polnareff pushes a large mug of coffee across the table. Jotaro accepts it, the smell of it almost overpowering. “Your grandfather’s still asleep. Must be hungover pretty bad. Serves him right for drinking all the brandy,” Polnareff adds waspishly. He stabs at his eggs. “Avdol and Kakyoin left early to see if they could get a car.”
“I got a note.”
“It’s a good sign. I guess the rain’s finally cleared up. We should be able to leave this place in another day or so, once the roads aren’t as bad.”
Jotaro shifts a little in his seat. “So…what happened?”
“I literally just told you. How hungover are you?”
“I meant last night. With you and Avdol.”
“Aah. That." Polnareff picks up a piece of toast and begins aggressively buttering it; Jotaro looks on, wary. "Well, it was excellent, of course.”
"Yup. We got back. I took his hand. I looked deep into his eyes. And then I ran into the bathroom and puked everywhere. Nothing says 'Take me, I'm yours' like vomiting your guts out in front of the guy you like, am I right?" Polnareff chuckles.
Jotaro represses a wince.
"Anyway, it's fine," Polnareff tosses aside the toast without bothering to take a bite. "It's not the first time I've humiliated myself in front of Avdol. It's definitely not going to be the last." He grins, but there's something slightly forced about it. "Enough about me. What about you guys?"
Jotaro shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “I fell asleep on the floor."
"Bet that made him swoon even harder than Avdol. Man. We're a couple of smooth operators, aren't we?" Polnareff says, laughing again.
Jotaro takes a sip of his coffee without tasting it. He eyes the lobby at large, his gaze landing on a young couple just checking in. Newlyweds, probably: the girl keeps giggling, and the man won’t stop blushing as he accepts the key from the clerk. He watches them and despises their happiness, and how easy they make it look.
"Hey. Listen to me for a second." Polnareff shoves his various plates aside. He reaches across the table and grabs Jotaro's wrist, dragging him back into the conversation. "Kakyoin looks at you like you're the sun and the moon and the stars. Do you know that? Like you're the whole damn universe to him. I see it all the time."
Jotaro stares at the table cloth, at his shoes, at his mostly untouched coffee—anywhere but at Polnareff. He can’t speak, and he sort of wants Polnareff to be quiet too because Jotaro doesn’t know what the hell to do with that sort of information.
Polnareff shakes him lightly. "Hey. You get me? You hear what I'm saying?"
“Good. Then make a move already. For my sake. Or I’ll kick your thick skull in.” He finally releases Jotaro’s wrist and leans back in his seat.
Jotaro searches for something to say in response. "I'm gonna go check on the old man," he says at last.
Jotaro gets to his feet. Pauses. The words fight their way out of him: “Avdol…cares about you a lot too. I’ve seen it.”
Polnareff is poking at his eggs again. His lips purse but he doesn't give any other sign that he's heard. Jotaro's hand twitches and he nearly reaches out and touches Polnareff's shoulder. He doesn't, though. He turns on his heel and heads for the elevators, leaving Polnareff to mull it all over.
Joseph is hanging sideways out of his bed when Jotaro enters the room, after a bout of careful lock-picking from Star Platinum. He lets out a crow of delight at the sight of Jotaro. "If it isn't my favorite grandchild!"
“I’m your only grandchild.” Jotaro picks his way carefully around the several bottles—now empty—that Joseph smuggled away last night.
“Even so.” Joseph’s eyes well up with tears. “Even so, you’re my favorite. I don’t tell you that enough. But you are. You are.”
He’s still drunk. Jotaro sinks down onto the edge of the bed. “Old man—”
“Shhhhh.” Joseph slams his hand over Jotaro’s face. “Don’t ruin the moment.”
With some effort, Jotaro pries Joseph’s hand away. “Good grief.”
Joseph half-laughs, half-moans, and curls up on the bed again. His breath is so bad, Jotaro nearly gags. “I might have had too much to drink.”
“You’re so cold,” Joseph snaps. He flails about, tangling himself up further in the bedsheets. “Go away. I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”
If he leaves his grandfather like this, there’s a good chance he’ll end up strangling himself with the blankets. The idea is tempting. Granny Suzy probably wouldn’t approve, though. “Don’t move,” Jotaro says, and begins to work on the sheets that have already knotted themselves around Joseph’s ankles.
Joseph, surprisingly, goes limp. Jotaro works fast. Keeps a watchful eye on his grandfather. Tries not to think about last night. Tries—and fails—to ignore the questions bubbling up inside him. His hands still. “Oi.” Joseph heaves a grunt of acknowledgment into his pillow. “About what you said.” Jotaro hesitates. He probably shouldn’t ask; he probably doesn’t want to know. “So…you’ve kissed a man.”
Joseph sighs. He props himself up on his elbows so that they’re face to face. “What about it.”
“Just. Didn’t know.”
Joseph snorts. “You don’t know much about me at all.” The amusement in his voice fizzles out. “I…s’pose that’s my fault.”
“What…was he to you?” Jotaro grumbles, and then clamps his mouth shut. He really shouldn’t ask.
Joseph flops back down onto his back. “My boyfriend, I suppose? Yeah. You could call him that. He and…and your grandma Suzy, I loved them. Love them. Both of them.” He chuckles humorlessly, slurs something under his breath that Jotaro doesn’t quite catch. “What about it,” he asks again.
Jotaro makes himself take a breath—he can’t seem to get the proper amount of air into his lungs. “So,” he begins. His head pounds. He sort of wishes he’d done this when he was drunk. If he’s lucky, maybe Joseph’s impending hangover will block this whole conversation from his memory. “So. You think people could have girlfriends or…boyfriends.”
Boyfriend. Boyfriend. The word feels foreign, almost frightening to say out loud.
He’s startled by a loud groan from Joseph. “You must be joking. Jotaro, I don’t give a damn what you do or who you screw.”
Jotaro’s face goes hot. “I’m not—”
“Being with someone is a…it’s a real pain in the ass. You know? Why make it more difficult? Don’t worry about what other people are going to think.” Joseph yawns, and then gives a loud belch.
Jotaro studies the comforter’s flowery pattern. He wonders what his parents would say.
Joseph flails, struggles to sit up. He seizes Jotaro by the shoulders, looking more serious than he has in all the time that Jotaro’s known him. “I just want you to be happy. Me, and your mother both, we just want you to be happy. Whatever it takes. So hurry up and get happy already, you miserable little bastard.”
It can’t be that simple. How the hell was he supposed to anticipate any of this? That he’d be sitting here in a dingy hotel room with his grandfather drunk off his ass, as Jotaro grapples with a crush that he never saw coming.
Joseph releases him. “You’d better get going,” he slurs, jamming his heel into Jotaro’s side. “Wouldn’t want to keep Kakyoin waiting.”
Jotaro, rising from the bed, falters. He looks back at his grandfather but Joseph’s already asleep, his mouth hanging open, hat pulled down over his face.
“Sleep well, you old prick.” He leaves a wastebasket beside the bed.
When he returns to his own room, Kakyoin isn't back yet. His watch tells him it's only 11 in the morning.
An hour until he returns.
Two weeks ago, Jotaro would have killed for the chance at a room all to himself. It feels so empty now, though. Too many open spaces. Too much silence.
He fingers the note in his pocket.
He and Kakyoin were talking last night, he's pretty sure. And he might have said some things he didn't want to. Nothing like a confession. He knows that much. It's almost unfortunate, because maybe being drunk would have made it easier. Maybe he wouldn’t have had to overthink everything, the way he always does. Maybe the words would have come more smoothly.
But at the same time, he’s glad that he didn’t.
Because Kakyoin… Kakyoin deserves better than that. He deserves so much more than Jotaro can offer, it’s pathetic.
A memory stirs at the back of his mind: a voice and a hand in his own.
“You don’t have to try so hard around me, you know.”
All Jotaro wants is to be good enough, even though he has the sinking suspicion that he could try for a hundred years and never come close to being good enough. Not for someone like Kakyoin.
But it might be so very nice. Just to try.
It’s a frightening prospect. To let down his guard. To make his feelings so painfully clear. The fear doesn’t have to stop him, though. He's many things: a foul-mouth, a brawler, an asshole. But he's not a coward.
Jotaro curls his hands into fists to keep them from shaking.
His watch reads 11:10.
Fifty minutes left.
Jotaro takes the elevator down to Polnareff’s room. He knocks, cautious at first, and then faster when there is no answer. Maybe Polnareff is still at breakfast. Or maybe he’s unconscious. Either way, there isn’t much time and the longer Jotaro hesitates, the greater chance he’ll lose his nerve.
Star Platinum’s fist flies out, slamming hard against the door. The wood creaks dangerously. The lock slides back and Polnareff rips the door open, a tic going in his jaw. “Are you trying to kill me? My head is about to explode. What do you want?”
“I want to play another game,” Jotaro announces. If he were in a different mood, he might feel a little vindicated at the nervous look that crosses Polnareff’s face. But the clock is winding down and if this is going to work, he needs some backup.
Polnareff shakes his head. “I’m not sure my liver could survive it.” He seems intrigued, though.
“One more game.”
“You got a plan or something?”
Polnareff sighs. He slumps against the doorframe. “I don’t know, Jojo. I’m tired of playing games.”
“One more. We have to.”
The “For them,” goes unspoken.
Polnareff shifts a little. Despite the dull exhaustion lining his face, he relents, smiles. “Aw, hell. Lemme hear this plan of yours, then.”
“I don’t even want to know what this is.”
Both of Avdol’s eyebrows are raised. He stands at the entrance to Jotaro’s hotel room, hands on his hips, Kakyoin peering over his shoulder. Polnareff and Jotaro have strategically positioned themselves on the floor, the same way they’ve done for every game before this one.
“Whatever do you mean?” Polnareff asks innocently.
“Have you been waiting for us?” Avdol asks. There are dark circles under his eyes, but Jotaro can see him struggling, like he hasn’t decided yet if he’s amused or annoyed.
“It’s a game,” Jotaro says.
Kakyoin snorts. “You wanted to play a game? With Polnareff?
“You should join us.”
“Kakyoin and I went through all the trouble of finding a car,” Avdol informs them. “The roads aren’t good, but they’re manageable. There’s no time to waste on this sort of nonsense.”
“The old man is still drunk.”
“He can sleep in the backseat, then.”
“You try dragging him out of bed.”
Avdol rolls his eyes. “This is so childish.”
“No arguing with you there.” Polnareff pats the open space on the floor beside him. “C’mon, Avdol. Take it easy for one more day. I got a game you can actually play this time.”
“Will wonders never cease.” But, grudgingly, Avdol shuffles over and settles himself on the floor with a slight huff.
Jotaro looks to Kakyoin, who’s still lingering in the doorway. His arms are wrapped around his torso and he’s watching Jotaro with…not anger. But there’s something in his gaze that wasn’t there yesterday. Resignation, perhaps. Jotaro’s mind scrabbles, hopelessly, at faded memories from last night. “You going to play?”
“I’m not sure I’m in the mood. It's okay. I think I’ll just read.”
He didn’t expect to say please. He doesn’t try to take it back, though: he lets it hang between them. Jotaro peers up from under the brim of his cap, allowing their eyes to meet; Kakyoin, startled, looks away first.
“What game are you guys even playing?” he mutters.
Polnareff chuckles. “How do you feel about a little truth or dare?”
Unsurprisingly, a small fight breaks out to determine who gets to go first—Polnareff sputtering about how he’s got the best questions anyway, and Jotaro resisting the urge to strangle him with Star Platinum because he was supposed to go first and this was not the plan they agreed on barely half an hour ago.
“Look, Jojo. Let’s be honest. You’re just not creative enough to kick off a decent game of truth or dare.”
Jotaro scowls. “I have good ideas.”
“I’m the master of truth or dare, okay? Ask anybody.”
“I’m going first.”
“You’re a little shit sometimes, you know that?”
“Say that again.”
“With pleasure, you—”
Avdol lets out a strangled squawk, sounding uncannily like Magician’s Red, and slams his fist against the floor. “I’ll go first,” he snaps.
Jotaro falls mute. Polnareff inches a little to the left, putting some distance between himself and Avdol. “In that case. Pick somebody.”
Avdol surveys their tiny circle. “Kakyoin. Truth or dare?”
Kakyoin sighs. “Really?”
“Truth or dare, which is it?”
“I don’t care. Dare.”
Avdol thinks a moment. “Hmm. Do you have an ice bucket in this room?”
“Of course. We should have one over—why do you ask?”
“I dare you to drop ice cubes down the back of your uniform. Five of them.”
Polnareff chuckles. Jotaro retrieves the ice bucket from the nearby table. He sets it down on the floor, the ice rattling around inside.
Kakyoin glares. “Don’t help.”
“Oh, get on with it already,” Polnareff says.
Grimacing, Kakyoin removes the top of the bucket. He pulls out an ice cube and, after a small bout of fidgeting, twists his arm behind his head and slips the ice cube past the collar of his uniform.
The effect is instantaneous: Kakyoin’s eyes go wide and he lets out a stifled squeak, and begins rocking from side to side—which only causes the ice cube to slip lower. He flails, helpless. Polnareff’s almost crying he’s laughing so hard; Jotaro barely represses a laugh of his own at how completely flustered Kakyoin looks. It is, perhaps, the greatest thing he’s seen in weeks.
“One down,” Avdol says. “Four more.”
“No,” Kakyoin hisses, his voice much higher than usual. “No, I’m not—”
“Are you trying to back out of your dare?” Avdol asks, ever so pleasant.
Magician’s Red sparks to life just over Avdol’s shoulder. Together, he and Avdol watch Kakyoin like a hawk about to seize hold of its prey. “If you can’t finish, I’ll have to help you.”
“You’re a fiend.” Kakyoin’s left with no choice, though, and he reaches, wide-eyed, for the ice bucket again.
“N-now that’s done,” Kakyoin says five minutes later, his teeth chattering. He managed to get to three ice cubes. Then he attempted to bolt, resulting in a minor scuffle between Magician’s Red and Hierophant Green, much to the eternal chagrin of the next door neighbors. Kakyoin’s face is bright pink and his hair is sticking up at odd angles. Jotaro nearly reaches over to smooth it back into place; somehow, he manages to restrain himself. “Now then,” Kakyoin says again, only slightly more composed. “It’s my turn.”
“Pick me!” Polnareff’s hand flies into the air. He wriggles about, like an excited four year old.
Kakyoin seems loathe to obey, but relents. “Oh, all right. Polnareff, truth or dare?”
Kakyoin taps a finger against his chin, his head tilted a little to one side. He smirks. “You have to let each of us write something on your face. And you can’t know what it is.”
To Jotaro’s bewilderment, Polnareff is grinning. “Now that is a dare. Challenge accepted.”
Hierophant Green’s tentacle slithers out, snatching one of the hotel’s complementary pens from the bedside table. Kakyoin uncaps it, in the same manner that he might unsheathe a knife. It’s a little alarming, as is the somewhat wicked gleam in his eye. “Hold still,” he says, as he advances.
“I’m so curious now,” Polnareff admits after Avdol has finished composing a small novel on Polnareff’s forehead. “I want to read it all. But I won’t spoil the surprise! Not yet anyway.” He twists around to face Jotaro, eyebrows waggling. “How do I look?”
Jotaro doesn’t have the heart to tell him that Kakyoin has neatly printed the words HUMAN FAILURE in both English and Japanese right across the bridge of Polnareff’s nose. Or that Avdol’s novel includes several references to a “big, blundering ox.” Jotaro’s contribution is far less inspired: a tiny scribble on Polnareff’s right cheek which simply reads, dumbass.
“You look all right,” he says, lying through his teeth.
“You bet I do. Also! Jotaro, it’s my turn. So, truth or dare?”
Jotaro takes a deep breath to steady himself. Here goes nothing. “Truth.” He doesn’t miss the way that Kakyoin stirs, surprised, at his side.
“In bed, would you rather be tied up or spanked?”
Kakyoin and Avdol burst out cackling. Jotaro’s face feels like it’s on fire; he almost lunges at Polnareff, because forget Star Platinum, he’ll choke him out with his bare hands. “No.”
“It’s my turn, my question—”
“Oh, all right. Sheesh. Where’s your sense of humor?”
Jotaro’s eyes narrow in warning. The plan, he thinks willfully at Polnareff. Keep to the plan, moron.
“Uhhhhh. Okay. Well. What’s something really embarrassing that you used to do as a kid and still do now?”
Jotaro weighs his answer before speaking. “I…like falling asleep with the lights on. If I can.”
“You’re afraid of the dark?”
Avdol and Polnareff share an obnoxiously knowing look. It’s the same kind of look that his mother gives her friends every time Jotaro curses her out in front of them. Somehow, Polnareff and Avdol manage to make it even more annoying than she does. Jotaro grits his teeth, though, and allows them to have their moment. “I just like being able to see when I wake up,” he says when they stop smirking.
“Right. So. You’re afraid of the dark.”
“No,” he maintains, but doesn’t bother arguing any further. It’s an old fear anyway, especially now with Star Platinum’s sharp vision and ever-watchful presence. When Jotaro was younger, though, he used to have recurring nightmares of drowning in black water. He still hates opening his eyes onto total darkness—the emptiness of it.
He’s aware that Kakyoin is watching him closely. Can almost hear Kakyoin’s mind ticking away, trying to add up the number of times they left the bedside lamp on.
Only twice. Jotaro knows that Kakyoin’s a light sleeper.
Jotaro turns to Avdol. “Truth or dare?”
Jotaro wracks his brain. It has to be a good one, if only to spite Polnareff for what he said earlier about Jotaro’s lack of imagination. “Avdol. I dare you to…” Inspiration hits him. “I dare you to sit in Polnareff’s lap for the next three rounds.”
Avdol’s mouth opens, closes, opens again like a fish desperate for air. Polnareff looks a bit like he wants to kiss Jotaro—which. No. That is also not according to the plan. The exact opposite of the plan, as a matter of fact.
“I’m not going to do it,” Avdol snaps when he gets his voice back.
“Those are the rules. You were the referee for the first game. So you know all about rules. Don’t you.” Jotaro keeps his expression completely neutral. Avdol is gaping at him. Revenge is so, so sweet.
Polnareff nudges Avdol in the ribs. “You nervous?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. What on earth do I have to be nervous about?”
“Then what are you waiting for?”
Avdol and Polnareff stare at one another; Jotaro has the sense that they’ve forgotten both he and Kakyoin are in the room. Avdol is glaring, even as he keeps getting redder and redder. Polnareff’s smile is stupidly happy. “I don’t bite you know. Much.”
“How enticing,” Avdol retorts. But something shifts between them, and at length Avdol, haltingly, moves over until he’s seated in Polnareff’s lap. “I’m going to get you,” he informs Jotaro. It’s hard to take his threat all that seriously when he’s practically the color of an eggplant.
“Comfortable?” Polnareff purrs. He tries to put his arms around Avdol’s waist and is promptly swatted away.
“Don’t get too cozy.”
They keep going. Avdol gets Polnareff admit that he knows all the words to every song on ABBA’s album Arrival (“Of course you would like disco.”) and they’re all promised a performance of “Dancing Queen” at some point later in the trip. Kakyoin is dared to lick Polnareff’s bare feet, and just barely succeeds in doing so (“It’s called basic hygiene,” Kakyoin mutters; Polnareff wiggling his toes with glee as he calls back, “Suck it up. Literally. Suck it.”)
And suddenly, it’s Jotaro’s turn again.
“Jojo. Truth or dare?”
“Truth,” he says.
Kakyoin is silent. Jotaro can feel the heaviness of his gaze. “Before this trip. Before Star Platinum. When was the last time you lost a fight?”
It’s a strangely underwhelming question, as far as Jotaro’s concerned. “Eighth grade. A guy in my class called my mother an ugly foreigner. I punched him so hard I broke a finger. Broke his jaw. His friends jumped me the day after. Five on one.” It was a messy fight. His height had barely helped, his bad finger bent crooked as he struggled and failed to beat them off. “I got detention.”
He smiles a little at the memory. It had been a good fight. A good day, actually. The school had called his mom and when she came to pick him up, they’d gotten ice cream.
He realizes that the three of them are staring, Polnareff incredulous, Avdol somewhat aghast.
Kakyoin’s face is smooth. Unreadable.
“Damn, Jojo,” Polnareff says finally. “You’re crazier than I thought.”
Jotaro’s brow furrows. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all. It’s your turn.”
Jotaro considers calling on Polnareff again. Except that three rounds have passed already and neither he nor Avdol have moved from their current position. They seem to have forgotten about the dare itself, from the way Avdol has relaxed a bit more, leaning into Polnareff’s chest; the way Polnareff’s arm has curled, loosely, around Avdol’s waist and Avdol has yet to make mention of it.
Jotaro turns his attention to Kakyoin instead. “Truth or dare?”
A pause. “Dare.”
Not the answer he’d been hoping for. “Fine,” he says, irritable. “I dare you to…”
But he doesn’t have a good dare. He doesn’t have anything, because he’d been sort of hoping that Kakyoin would finally choose truth. What Jotaro wants, more than anything, is to ask him more about their conversation last night, to prove to Kakyoin that he was listening, at least for a little while. He wants to apologize for falling asleep. That they weren’t able to stay up together.
Instead, Kakyoin’s been obstinate the whole game and it’s throwing a serious wrench in Jotaro’s efforts.
“I’ve got one!” Polnareff pipes up. “I’ve got a good dare. Call a random number. Any number in the hotel. Confess your undying love to whoever picks up.”
“I’m not going to do that.”
“You have to. It’s a dare.”
“It’s harassment, is what it is.”
“Are you chickening out?”
Polnareff clicks his tongue in disappointment. Kakyoin glowers. “If you feel so strongly about it, go right ahead. The phone is there.”
Polnareff scrambles to his feet—Avdol gives a grunt of annoyance as he’s jostled aside—and sticks an accusing finger in Kakyoin’s face. “Challenge accepted. In fact, I’ll do you one better.”
“You’re all talk,” Kakyoin retorts, slapping Polnareff’s hand aside.
Polnareff grins maniacally.
“He’s not going to do it,” Kakyoin says, for the third time in ten minutes. They’re on the second floor, draped over the banister, looking out over the hotel’s main lobby. Below them, Polnareff is marching toward the front desk. Various hotel patrons scatter from his path, a few of them squinting to read the words still scribbled all over his face.
“He is,” Jotaro replies.
Kakyoin drums his fingers against the railing. “He’s not,” he says again, but he doesn’t sound all that convinced.
On Jotaro’s other side, Avdol sighs. “Who exactly do you think we’re talking about here?”
“He’s not that stupid.”
Polnareff has reached the desk now. A woman has just finished checking in with her husband. She’s lugging her suitcase toward the escalator when the sight of Polnareff approaching stops her in her tracks.
“No,” Kakyoin moans in horror.
“Yes,” Avdol says, with weary fondness.
Polnareff drops to one knee, his hands grasping at the woman’s skirts. “BONJOUR, MADEMOISELLE—”
Which is about as far as he gets, before the woman’s husband decks him.
“We should probably do something,” Avdol remarks, as a fight breaks out.
“Probably,” Jotaro agrees.
None of them budge an inch.
“What did I tell you?” Polnareff asks, looking far more pleased with himself than someone with a black eye and the words HUMAN FAILURE written on his face has any right to. They were eventually forced to intervene, after the woman’s husband began throttling Polnareff. Avdol set a small fern in the corner on fire, which distracted everybody in the lobby long enough for Hierophant to seize Polnareff and haul him bodily back up the stairs. “What did I tell you?” he says again. “I’m the master of truth or dare.”
Nobody contradicts him. No one cares to: Kakyoin’s pinching the bridge of his nose, his eyes squeezed shut. Avdol’s arms are folded tightly across his chest. Polnareff leans over to nudge him again. “I owe you one for that fire.”
“I’ll start a tally.” Avdol’s mouth is turned down at the corners. He looks put out—probably from being shoved out of Polnareff’s lap. Jotaro notices this and shoots Polnareff what he hopes are an incredibly meaningful look and a subtle glance in Avdol’s direction.
The game is all very well and good. But it’s not the reason they’re here. He hopes Polnareff understands.
Lucky for him, the message seems to have been received. Polnareff’s grin vanishes, the color draining somewhat from his cheeks. But it doesn’t stop him from shifting around, until he’s looking Avdol dead-on once more. “Avdol. Truth or dare?”
“I’m almost afraid to play with you now,” Avdol admits. Polnareff waits, his jaw set with determination. “I’ll pick dare,” Avdol says at last. “It only seems fair after you went through all that.”
“He brought it on himself,” Kakyoin points out meanly.
Polnareff ignores him. “Okay,” he says. “Then, I…”
Jotaro waits: prays that Polnareff doesn’t back down, doesn’t turn it into a joke at the last second.
“I dare you to…to…”
“I dare you to…go on a date with me.”
He did it. He really did it.
Avdol tries for a smirk but it flickers and wanes. “Very funny.”
“Yes or no?” Polnareff is somber.
“That’s my dare.” He sounds brash and careless but his voice wavers, giving him away. Polnareff clears his throat and jerks his head toward the door, his earrings jangling. “So. So what. You wanna…go?”
Jotaro is holding his breath. If Avdol says no, that’s it. End of the game. He and Polnareff will both be done for.
Except Avdol doesn’t say no.
Except he smiles again. It’s small and fleeting. But he smiles, all the same, before his expression smooths over into one of boredom and exasperation. “What, now?” Polnareff straightens up a little further. “I suppose we could do that. Perhaps we could get lunch.”
“If you are.”
Polnareff looks half a second from bursting into tears. “You mean it?”
“I said yes, didn’t I? You think I can’t handle anything you throw at me?” Avdol cocks an eyebrow as he rises to his feet, his hand outstretched. Polnareff accepts it, scrambling up after him. “I don’t scare so easily, Polnareff.”
“Jean,” Polnareff says quickly.
They’re grinning at each other. Jotaro has the sensation, yet again, that he and Kakyoin have ceased to exist.
Polnareff hurries to get the door, holding it open for Avdol. “See you both later, I guess,” he says, casually enough. Only when Avdol is out in the hall does Polnareff throw Jotaro a final, frantic thumbs-up—and then he’s out the door as well, right on Avdol’s heels.
And just like that: they’re gone.
Jotaro utters a quick prayer to whoever might be listening, that Polnareff doesn’t fuck it up. That he’ll get it right. Ultimately, though, he’s on his own now.
They both are.
Jotaro glances at Kakyoin, who’s laughing in spite of himself. “Huh. Well. That was…unexpected. I guess we really won’t be traveling anywhere today.”
“Nice of you, to do that for Polnareff. He needs all the help he can get.”
“It was important to him.”
Their eyes meet. Kakyoin’s grin fades. He dusts off the front of his uniform and starts to get up as well. “I guess that also means the game’s over then.”
“We could…” Jotaro swallows hard around a burst of panic. He refuses to be outdone by Polnareff. “We could keep playing. The two of us.”
“You suddenly enjoy games now?” Kakyoin drawls. His tone and expression are perfectly pleasant.
Pleasant. Polite. Jotaro’s seen this wall go up before, when Kakyoin’s trying to distance himself from something that’s upsetting him. But Jotaro’s never been on this side of it before and it’s honestly unbearable.
“Just a few more rounds,” he says, trying not to sound too pathetic.
Kakyoin studies him. At length—to Jotaro’s relief—he sits back down again. “If you’d like.”
“Whose turn is it? Yours or mine?”
“You can go first.”
“All right then. Truth or dare?”
Kakyoin’s eyes narrow. “Why do you keep doing that?
“You’ve picked nothing but truth the entire game. Why?”
“Because.” Jotaro’s hands fist, his nails biting in against his sweaty palms. “Because I want you to know that you can ask me anything.” He’s not sure what to make, of the way Kakyoin’s face goes slightly pink.
“Fine, then.” Kakyoin clears his throat, tosses his hair. “That wasn’t my question, by the way. If I can ask you anything, I can certainly think of something better than that.” Kakyoin grins, sudden and sly. “How about this one? If there was one thing you didn’t want your mother to know about you, what would it be?”
He’s clearly expecting Jotaro to blush. There’s a gleam in his eye that Jotaro’s starting to recognize—Kakyoin, ever-curious, every pushing at boundaries.
It’s probably supposed to be a funny question. Not meant to be taken seriously. Jotaro could play it off, probably, let it go. But he’s never been very good at being witty.
“I listen in on her phone calls with my dad whenever he calls home.”
His answer is greeted with silence.
Jotaro studies his hands, knotted together in his lap. A self-conscious prickle starts up along the back of his neck. “I don’t hear his voice much. So, I listen. For a bit.”
He glances up again. Kakyoin appears stricken. “Oh. Jojo. You…you didn’t have to tell me that.”
“I wanted to.”
“Truth or dare?”
Kakyoin hesitates again. Jotaro can see him struggling. “Dare,” he says finally.
“Move closer to me.” Jotaro pats the space on the floor in front of him. “Sit right there.”
Kakyoin recovers from his surprise enough that he manages to arch a skeptical eyebrow. “Polnareff was right. You do have stupid dares.”
“Just do it.”
Kakyoin makes a big show of scooting forward, until he’s sitting directly across from Jotaro. Their knees bump against each other’s; Kakyoin is close enough that if Jotaro wanted to, he could reach out touch his face.
The same thought seems to have occurred to Kakyoin, because suddenly he doesn’t look quite as exasperated as he did a second ago. The tips of his ears are slightly red. “Earth to Jojo.” He flashes a fast smile; he has a dimple in his left cheek. “Where’s your head at?”
“I’m just…looking at you,” Jotaro admits.
Kakyoin’s smile vanishes. He ducks his head. He doesn’t fidget, though. He never does when he’s nervous. Instead, he seems to shrink inward on himself, compressing, trying to hold himself together.
They have that in common.
They have a lot in common. It’s such a strange idea, that he could ever have the chance to know someone else as well as he knows himself. That he would ever want someone to know him in the same way.
“Your turn,” Jotaro murmurs.
“Yes. Um. Of course. Truth or dare?”
Kakyoin is very still.
“Ask me a question.”
“I can’t think of anything—”
“Stop. Just. Stop saying my name like that.” He sounds so frustrated, but his ears are going redder and redder.
Maybe they don’t have to go any further. Maybe they can forget the game and just sit here. And Jotaro can keep looking at the funny, beautiful boy in front of him.
But he needs to speak. To tell the truth. For once in his life, he has to open his mouth. This matters. More than anything. This matters.
“Ask me anything,” Jotaro says.
Kakyoin’s voice is small when he speaks again: “How…do I make you feel?”
It’s Jotaro’s turn to hesitate. Words. Words are always so hard.
“It was a bad question,” Kakyoin says suddenly. “I take it back—”
“Kind of like I’m at the ocean.”
“When I’m around you. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m by the ocean.”
Kakyoin’s eyebrows knit together. “I don’t understand.”
The words come slow. Careful. But they come, nevertheless. “Whenever I’m there. I feel like I could sit on the beach and watch the waves for hours. Trying to memorize the way the ocean sounds. The way it smells. So I can keep it with me even after I leave. Being there makes me feel…stupid. But not in a bad way. Just because there’s so much of it I want to see, so much about it that I don’t know. That I’ll never know. But I still want to try. I want to stay there. And just…think. And watch the waves. And feel stupid. Because it’s…it’s one of the only times I ever feel good.” His voice twists up and Jotaro forces himself to stop talking.
Dumb. It was such a dumb answer.
“Jojo.” Kakyoin’s voice is warm, and trembling, and it breaks a little as he says Jotaro’s name. His eyes are very wide. His face is very red. “You’re…”
Jotaro’s breath stutters, speeds up. “Yeah?”
Kakyoin’s hands bury themselves in his hair. “It’s your turn.”
Jotaro fights a smile. “Truth or dare?”
Kakyoin’s own grin is crooked. “Dare.” Contrary as ever.
“Close your eyes.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
“Just for a second,” Jotaro insists.
Kakyoin does as he’s told. Jotaro pulls his cap off his head, setting it aside. He braces his elbows on his knees, ducks his head, leans in. “Your turn.”
“Truth or dare.
“Yesterday night. Before you fell asleep. What was going through your mind?”
How much you scare me, Jotaro thinks, but he can’t quite bring himself to say that part out loud. Not yet. “How happy I was,” he admits. “That the storm lasted. That I was with you.”
Kakyoin smiles slightly. Their faces are inches apart. Kakyoin’s eyelashes are so long, fanning out against his cheeks. “It’s been a second,” he whispers. “I want to open my eyes.”
“Not until I say so. Truth or dare?”
“Truth or dare?”
“Doyoulikeme?” The question flies out of him, tripping over itself. Kakyoin’s brow furrows, and Jotaro forces himself to say it again, slower. “Do…you like me?”
“Of course I like you. You’re my best friend.” But Kakyoin’s shaking. Just a little. Jotaro can feel it, from where their legs are still pressed against one another.
“I mean...do you like me?” Jotaro’s heart feels like it’s about to tear itself in two. “It’s okay if you don’t,” he starts to say, but Kakyoin’s hand is suddenly on his mouth, cutting him off.
“Don’t,” he says sharply. “Don’t do that. Don’t apologize. It’s… It doesn’t suit you.”
“Okay,” Jotaro murmurs. His lips brush against Kakyoin’s fingertips. He likes the sensation of it, the way it earns a faint gasp from Kakyoin.
They’re both quiet. But it’s that comfortable silence that Jotaro loves so much—the kind that only happens when it’s just the two of them, together.
“Ask me again,” Kakyoin says softly. His hand strays from Jotaro’s mouth to cup his cheek. Jotaro leans into his touch.
“Do you like me?”
Kakyoin’s eyes flutter but remain closed. He gives a small, helpless laugh. “Yes. I like you a lot.”
A strange, sharp feeling rises in Jotaro: a laugh of his own, or perhaps a sob. It’s embarrassing and he shoves it back down as hard as he can, stifling it. He leans in even further—is stopped by Kakyoin’s other hand, fisting in the front of his coat. “Truth or dare?” Kakyoin asks.
Kakyoin shakes his head. “No.”
“But…I said truth—”
It clicks together in Jotaro’s brain. “Dare.”
“I dare you to kiss—”
Their lips meet before Kakyoin can finish speaking.
Their first kiss. And it’s clumsy. And it’s wonderful.
Jotaro doesn’t realize he’s closed his own eyes until Kakyoin pulls away. He opens them, blinking in confusion; finds Kakyoin staring at him.
They study each other. Jotaro drinks in the sight of Kakyoin’s mussed hair and his flushed cheeks. “You opened your eyes before I said you could.”
Kakyoin laughs; Jotaro can’t help a grin of his own.
“So,” Kakyoin says.
“So,” Jotaro echoes.
“I guess this means we’re…not really friends anymore.”
Warmth floods through Jotaro, at the steadiness of Kakyoin’s hand still against his cheek, at the hope lighting up Kakyoin’s whole face. “Yeah,” he agrees.
Kakyoin’s eyes are bright; his smile is broad. “Are you going to kiss me again?”
Jotaro answers by pressing their mouths back together. Kakyoin makes a pleased, startled noise and Jotaro’s stomach swoops with giddiness.
This is happening, he thinks, as his hands moves to tangle in Kakyoin’s hair, as he takes the kiss deeper. This is real.
They’re not playing games anymore.