When he thinks back, Jotaro always looked like he came from the sea. His cheekbones are like half-shells and his hair so black that it looks wet. His eyes like fractured sea glass, the kind of bottles you find rolled paper messages in.
Kakyoin still remembers the first time he took him to the beach. They had driven out to Chiba when the weather was warm and everything was brighter. The day was saved. A medical miracle saved him. He remembers being self-conscious about the scars on his chest and the shiny, tender skin at his middle. Remembers wincing at how cold the sunscreen was on his stomach and back. They sat on their towels and Kakyoin closed his eyes to hear the beach noise. There’s a pleasant feeling about a crowded beach, he thinks. People who would never even look at one another or speak are mellowed by the sun and surf into a peaceful cohabitation. The noise is comforting--children shouting, waves crashing.
He remembers how Jotaro brought him into the ocean. Remembers kicking and thrashing in his arms, saying he didn’t want to go. How he felt being carried in his arms, seeing him crack a smile as he waded deeper into the surf. How he clung to him until, finally, he let go and dove into the waves himself.
“You belong in water,” Jotaro said afterwards, voice gruff and strained like he felt like he was saying too much. “You look better.”
He didn’t know what to say so he just grinned and bobbed back under a wave. Later, when Jotaro left to get them kakigori and Kakyoin was back on their towels with a book, this old guy, a tourist, came up and said, “Your boyfriend is fine, man” and Kakyoin wasn’t sure what to say. To say that he wasn’t his boyfriend and, even then, he wasn’t sure if this guy even clocked Kakyoin for a boy since his shirt was on. He told Jotaro when he came back but he didn’t laugh about it like he thought he might have (back then, he was always trying to get Jotaro to laugh). His eyes got kind of foggy and stormy and he looked out at the sea, at the crowd, at everyone but him.
Now, it’s different. They can go to the beach whenever they please. Kakyoin likes the Space Coast best since it’s more of a misfit than the Gulf. It’s got hard shelves of rock that scrape the bottoms of your feet and water that is sometimes more gray than blue. It’s taken a long time for him and Jotaro to find their way back here, back to each other. He’s waited for him to figure himself out. Helped him through the pregnancy, the marriage, the divorce. He’s felt like he’s crossed an ocean to be here. But he’s glad he has.
They’re almost alone. It’s a longer drive out here but parking’s free and only people in their seasonal houses and condos live around here so it’s nearly empty in July. Kakyoin misses the rush of beach activity. That feeling of disjointed community and noise that washes into the crash of the waves. The solitude is nice too, though. There are other families and couples scattered on the sand but they’re far enough away that Kakyoin can’t even hear them. Jotaro has Jolyne this week and they’re splashing in the water. She throws herself in the waves and runs back to Kakyoin shouting, “Did you see that?”
Jotaro wants to shield her from their lives but Kakyoin’s long since convinced him that freezing her out isn’t the way. Distancing himself from his daughter--this beautiful little girl with his eyes--won’t help. He loves her, too. Loves her as if she were his own.
“Play in the waves with me, Nori!”
Even now, salt water stings the scar tissue on his middle but he would do anything for her so he lets her pull him into the surf. It reminds him of Jotaro when they were teenagers. He watches Jolyne scream as she jumps into the waves. They wash over him, bobbing his body up and down. He feels Jotaro looking at him, watching them both. He takes Jolyne’s hands and holds her as the waves crash down on them. She jumps and clings to him, taking him down to his knees. She’s under him and the saltwater stings his eyes and nose. He struggles to pull himself up. Hierophant moves out and propels them up, breaking the surface.
“No, no, Jojo,” he says. “I’m not big like your dad. I fall over easy.”
She nods. “Sorry, Nori.”
Jolyne turns and jumps into a wave just before it breaks. Kakyoin feels a pair of arms slip around his waist, feels the press of a chin on his shoulder. Jotaro can be so clingy sometimes, holding him and dropping his weight on him. He doesn’t mind the closeness but having his massive, powerful frame leaning all the way on him is sometimes too much.
“I told you you belong in water.”
It’s spoken quietly, a mumble that’s almost lost in the crash of the surf.
“All those years ago. You...never mind.”
Kakyoin smiles. Jotaro remembers, too. Jolyne lets out a wild whoop as she leaps into a wave and pops up.
“Papa, Nori, can we get ice cream?”
Their moment is broken but he doesn’t mind.
“Yes, Jotaro, can we?”
He rolls his eyes and says what Kakyoin knows he’s going to say before adding, “Fine.”