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Let the Good Times Roll

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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.

“Okay.”

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.

“What? No?”

“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.

“What the—”

“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.

“Damn.”

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.

“Me too!”

“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’m indifferent.”

“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.

Another.

Another.

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.

Busted.

“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.

You—”

“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.”

“No.”

“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.

Jotaro loses.

He loses.

He loses.

“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?”

“Huh?”

“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.”

“What?”

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.