Chapter 1: Ask For Arin
CONDOMINIUM AVAILABLE FOR RENT
Triton Condominium Complex
Two-Bedroom, Two Bathroom, Utilities Included With Rent
Occupied by Owner
Student Tenant Preferred
Recently inherited from previous owner. Current owner is a student, looking to rent to a fellow student. Renting one room to a maximum of two same-sex persons. Residency gains rights to common areas of the complex, including swimming pool and roof access. Residency does not grant right to permanent parking space. Mattress already provided. No additional furniture allowed except in rented room. Laundry and dryer machines provided. Tenant expected to clean up after themselves.
NO PETS OF ANY KIND
Interested Persons Should Ask For,
Triton Condominium Complex
Chapter 2: In Name Only
International students must get tired of introducing themselves.
"How do I pronounce that?"
A teacher stumbles over the foreign lilt of his name, and as Kujo Jotaro responds with what is decidedly not an American accent, he's suddenly the highlight of the week. An oh-so exotic international student.
So, asks the top contender of annoying questions in his life, where you from?
He pulls down his hat.
So, asks the clerk handing him his schedule, where'd you come from?
He thinks of his last 'field trip', involving sand, sun, and excessive punching. At least Avdol took him to see the pyramids the second time around. The shifty eyes of the Sphinx seem less so when not viewed through the lens of a low-res tourist card.
What's your accent, says a girl scooting her desk closer than he would like. It's so exotic, where's it from?
He thinks of the sprawl of Joestar Manor, yet to be seen in this time, in this world. In the tide between battles, Jonathan's voice drifts in vaulted ceilings. The unpolished brogue of his grandfather's shouting ricochets deafeningly in the walls of a small turtle.
Where's your folks from? It's a cluster of boys in deceptively casual high end clothes, doing an 'ice-break' by having them all answer questions. He can't tell if they're trying to make friends or show off their fancy upbringings- he doesn't know all the fancy American neighborhoods, but the faux-casual namedropping and appropriately raised eyebrows suggest the latter.
He thinks of Caesar's measured voice handing down recipes. He remembers Lisa Lisa's long hair flowing in the seaside breeze of Air Supplena. His mother's idle words, colored with Italian.
"How do you say it?" Marina Cugino, his new landlord and roommate, leans over a kitchen island.
(It's only a paring knife in her hands, but the coy, lazy arc of its blade bleeds a paranoia that keeps Star Platinum on edge).
"It's on the paper. You can read." At least his hands aren't shaking this time. Keep it brief, you'll be fine.
"Nooo," her face scrunching at his apparent unhelpfulness. "I don't want to be like those shitty substitutes who can't do peoples names right. I want to hear how you say it."
"Ku-jo, Jo-taro." She tests the name to herself a few times, like a kid who just found a new favorite food. "When you say it right, it really is a nice name, after all. Jo-taro."
"Yare yare da, don't wear it out."
"You can't stop me. But what I really want to know," she asks, paring knife forgotten, "is where that pretty name is from."
So Kujo Jotaro thinks of ripped school caps. Sprawling wood houses, leaves falling into his mother's garden. The rare awkward footsteps of his father.
Chapter 3: Liar Liar
Moving men, am I right.
Marina's 'friend' has concerns about the whole renting business.
She drops in unannounced to Marina Cugino's apartment, because that's the power of a spare key and girlfriend privilege. It's a good privilege. But no amount of Girlfriend Privilege, patent pending though it be, can save anybody from the consequences of friends unprepared for guest arrival. Two wide steps later, Irene Romano, esteemed manager of the Tampa, FL Waffle House, flops over a box. She can imagine the headstone now- died as she lived, tripping.
Or at least she would have, if some random hand hadn't roughly grabbed her collar to stop the fall, picking up the offending box and briskly walking up the stairs. There's at least four more selfsame boxes, each roughly caged with two thick cords and covered in what she will choose to assume is Chinese. Two oppressively generic white suitcases have already parked themselves near the guest-room. Awfully rude moving man, not so much as an apology for the trouble.
Wait. Moving man. The implications move slowly through Irene's head as Marina bolts from the living room to fuss over the near death-by-box spectacle in her apartment, but her uninvited guest doesn't hear a word of it.
Because a moving man means somebody moving into Marina's little condo.
Someone is moving in to Marina's guest room.
Marina, good old live my myself Marina, rented out her guest room.
Marina, college freshman who lives completely alone and has no experience with renting out, has rented out. God-damn.
"Babe," Irene takes a deep pausing breath, "what the fuck."
The girl has at least the decency to look a little scolded, even under the excuses. "You know why. I can't keep this place and pay for classes. I'd be pushing it even if I dropped out!"
"Then move out! You are literally surrounded by apartments!"
"I can't just-"
"You don't even need to look that hard." Irene drops to a whisper. "You could stay at mine, or we could find a better one together."
A raised eyebrow, a sardonic tone. "Ah yes. Two single girls with jobs renting a place together and never dating or marrying men. Getting joint bank accounts. Gals being pals."
"You know it, babe." Ah, accidental pleading tones, how Irene has missed them escaping her. "It's still a month before term. There's still time to refund the tenant and sell the place-"
Whatever carefully improvised plan she could have spun next is squarely interrupted by the hollow sound of something whacking into a wall. The two girls sprint up to the guest room, and Irene sees the silent moving man, unapologetic as ever, notching some kind of little wooden altarpiece into a wall, facing a low table. The mattress, rudely propped next to the door, has made way for some kind of barebones sleeping blanket atop a thick straw mat. A small shelf is already filled with textbooks, and in the amount of time that it took for the both of them to take in how borderline spartan it all is, the man has switched task to methodically cutting open the boxes he's brought up.
Marina takes charge. "You didn't nail that in, did you?"
"I didn't." He doesn't even look up, eyes obscured by a white field cap and my god that's a dolphin pin. He pauses, box halfway gutted. "I can... put it somewhere else-"
"Nonono, its fine, I'll just, leave you to it..."
Naturally, as awkward as ever. She leaves the door open to her embarrassed smile, and as they go back down to the couch, stubborn determination swiftly replaces it.
"I will not get an apartment. I will not refund the tenant, and I will not sell my grandfather's condo." Marina almost sounds angry, but her next words are more gentle. "I know you're trying to help out. I get that. But it's not your decision to make."
A resigned sigh. "Will you let me beat 'em up if it turns out a bitch?"
"You know it, babe." And Irene takes the compromise for what it is.
"So when's the tenant showing up, anyway? Might as well meet 'em so they know I'll be around."
"You just saw him upstairs."
"...Well at least I never said I was smart."
Chapter 4: Class Cryptid
Just your average after class club.
THE NEXT CLASS CRYPTID WILL BE HELD
at 7 A M
SCIENCES BUILDING Auditorium Rm. 1
IN DISCUSSING CURRENT DATA
(we have donuts this time thnks kat)
The Man Possessed by an Evil Spirit? Discuss
Data- Writing Speed
He takes really fast notes? Like really fucking fast. There's no way someone can write like that.
As per our investigation, I got him to write something for me (said I needed Bio Anthropology help) for observation. He turns the paper sideways and writes top-bottom left-right. First of all, what the fuck.
He did drawings.
(A notebook paper drawing of a fully rendered Neanderthal skull, complete with labels.)
It was like watching a printer.
His wrists were locked straight the whole time. That is no where near enough hand and wrist movement to draw a complete and labelled Neanderthal skull in 10 seconds.
Clarifications. Japanese writes top-bottom left-right, so he's probably more comfortable that way.
(A sample of Japanese handwriting, with directional labels. It is obviously traced.)
Although if he's writing English like that, he must have been informally home taught since he's not trained in English style writing.
The locked wrist thing is something art students get trained to do. Lessens hand strain and sketches faster. But that's still not accounting for the speed and no one is ever taught to write like that.
So the ghost(?) might be the one doing the writing and he's moving his hand as a cover.
(A diagram of a fully rendered forearm, with an unrendered forearm slightly overlapping it, holding a mechanical pencil.)
Data- The Invisible Hand
Motherfucker he just did that shit in broad daylight!
(A crude drawing of a person with a book next to them and the words 'THE AUDACITY!')
Sapph, lass. what the fuck. Use your words.
Also, your late. Put your name on attendance.
During the break, I saw him taking notes from the textbook. The textbook propped up by thin air. And the pages being turned.
Why is the theory saying he's possessed. Could be psychic.
He doesn't seem to have full control over it? Like with the book thing, he adjusted the book with his hands a few times. If he was the one propping it up he wouldnt need to.
I've seen him make eye contact with literal nothing. Not staring, actual eye contact- there's a difference.
(A rudimentary chart about eye positioning.)
It's consistently somewhere really close to him. It varies, but once he was staring like there was somebody leaning their head over his shoulder.
I had to buy him lunch to pay for the notes (RIP my beer budget) and he set aside a bit of every kind of food he got (except the drink). He didn't even look at it but when we were done it was eaten.
The ghost is a hungry boy? Wow, I am love.
So recapping- it's really fast, has no personal space, and eats.
Bad thought. Is he even consciously aware of it? He acts so desensitized that pretty much nobody except us has actually noticed. Thats kinda concerning. If a spook is following him around, shouldn't he show more awareness of it.
Is that bad though? Maybe it's a good ghost.
Oh, man, he always seems zoned out too, except when he's answering questions or doing work with people. Even taking notes its like he's. Not There? He just does all the work really fast and then clocks out his brain for the next hour or leaves. He also has like one(1) facial expression and voice tone.
Also, it looks like he has no friends? He never has any weekend plans and never talks to people in class? He even sits out of the way of other students when he can too. The most willing non-academic interaction I've seen from him is all the secret drawings he does of the other classmates.
I see what you're implying and I very don't like it. I really don't. Fucking hell.
Some guy in our classes is actually fucking possessed. What do we even do with this information?
We can't panic and we can't confront him.
And why the fuck not.
We would be walking into this completely blind. We don't have a full story and certainly no context for how or why this happened. And there's also the ghost. The ghost we have no way of detecting and have no idea of its capabilities. The ghost that would likely be there if we confronted him. Even if nothing happened to us, we moght just end up putting the guy in danger.
And your solution.
Gather more data, and draft an intervention plan. That can be hashed out next time, but the first step starts with bringing him into our study group.
Chapter 5: Tis Naught But Licorice, You Coward
Several things happen at once.
Arin had picked Irene up from work and driven them both back to the condo, cryptically shoving a pack of licorice straws into her still slightly grubby hands.
"Why am I holding this." Not that Irene would drop the thing, of course. She has dignity, or at least some vague pirated essence of it. As well as appreciation for the simplicity of cheap shitty candy.
Marina opens the door after three(3) tries because she's Terrible With Keys Like That. "If he's not awake, I'm throwing the whole pack at his head for being a jet lag wimp."
Oh. The roommate. The condo roommate. The condo roommate that's also Arin's tenant. That guy.
He's on a swivel chair that Irene knows for a fact came from upstairs, ever-present hat pulled over his face while an open notebook teeters on the edge of his lap. The margins of methodical sideways-written notes are covered in doodles of sharks and whales. Legs drag uselessly to the floor, like the display in front of them was merely a haphazardly placed child's doll and not an actual human man who may or may not be sleeping off a drunken bender while AC/DC's Back in Black drifts at the lowest possible volume from the half worn earbuds of a Walkman.
Somehow, three(3) oranges are perfectly stacked on his head.
God, what a fucking weirdo.
Arin gives Irene a little kiss, snatching the licorice out of her hands and immediately punting it across the room. It sails for a good few seconds. Actually pretty impressive, in its absurdity.
The licorice fest never actually hits the guys face, and triggers a quick set of Happenings:
a) Somehow, in his sleep, his hand flies in front of his face to catch the incoming object.
b) His brain catches up to that, and he wakes up.
c) Wake up apparently means stand up.
d) Stand up he did, except his legs weren't in the proper position to stand up, and therefore he fell over.
-d.1) His legs were also half hooked around the chair, which promptly fell down with him.
e) Remember the oranges? He certainly didn't, but gravity will reacquaint him.
This all happened in the course of a second and a half. Now he is laying on the floor, hat somehow still on his head, and he is clutching the licorice packet like it is a ticket to the last bus home, it's 11:45 PM, and every past Thanksgiving family reunion is flashing before his eyes asking if he really wants to face his Racist Conservative Grandpa first thing in the morning for the next five days.
Or maybe Irene just needs to work on her emotional projection problems.
"Why." His monotone rumble vibrates through the floor like a shitty drive-through microphone. "Why do you do this."
Marina Cugino smiles as brightly as ever, opening the packet still in the poor man's hand and grabbing a licorice twist.
"Because I've lost control of my life."
Irene wheezes with manic laughter for the next seven minutes. Arin's roommate is still on the floor, and his glacial eyes are dead with sleep deprivation and possibly despair.
AC/DC's Thunderstruck is playing.
Let Him Rest
Chapter 6: The Horse in the Hall
This is, after all, a Horse, loose on a college campus. Nobody knows what to do with it.
"If you bring the smoke inside, I'll break your teeth."
"Aw, don't be like that." A pause. "All right, all right. No need to tan my hide over it."
The rude crunch of a tossed cigarette offends Irene's ears while Marina's tenant walks in, followed by the clanking stomp of a man way too proud of his boots. Glacial eyes pass over her without comment, but the other guy, a carelessly tall blonde, loudly prowls through the kitchen.
"Can a guy get a drink in this house?" A long-haired, cowboy hat head emerges from fridge door, a calloused hand holding two cans of beer. "There we are. One for you too, darlin'."
Marina's tenant deftly grabs the can, wordlessly stabbing the bottom of it and shotgunning the whole thing, eyes never leaving the blonde prick for an instant. The can is trashed in under two seconds.
"What do you want, Hol Horse."
The blonde prick, Hol Horse, ticks up his hat. "Come on, Jotaro, ain't we buddies now? Hal's good enough for me."
"What do you want, Hol Horse."
"Can't I just check in on ya?"
Hol Horse, Hal, whoever the fuck he is, gives a sweeping, disconcertingly appreciative glance at Jotaro.
"And a good thing I did. You've gone and grown a bit, haven't you? The new colors are a good look for ya, sweetheart."
Jotaro's eyes are somehow even colder than they usually are. "If you can't get to the point, I'm breaking your gun with my bare hands."
Before Irene can process the fact that there's a guy with a gun, 'Hal' immediately goes on the defensive.
"No need to be so cold, sweetheart. I'm doin' you a favor, being here."
Jotaro merely ticks up an eyebrow the tiniest bit.
"Well I am, honest. Think about it. A monitored person breaking into an operative's house? They'll have to send somebody to follow up." Great, the guy's eyebrows are waggling, too. "A certain Frenchman."
Jotaro just gives him an inscrutable look.
Five seconds have passed. 'Hal's grin has a nervous edge, and Irene wonders if she's three steps from witnessing a murder.
She should have waited for Marina to get home first.
Jotaro leans back against the wall, pulling his white hat down. "Yare yare daze. Fine. You can live. Now get out."
The blonde prick is all southern smiles again, walking out backwards with an easy laugh. "I'll be in town. Don't be a stranger."
And he does, but not before giving a quick wink from the doorway.
Irene finally speaks up from her spot on the couch. "God, what a dick."
There's a hollow wooden crash from the kitchen, followed by what is most definitely some mixture of aborted Japanese expletives.
It takes all of ten minutes for Jotaro to stop looking like she's about to stab him.
Chapter 7: Man In White
A man in white is rather conspicuous.
If you went around university and asked about a man named Jotaro Kujo, the only people who would know the person in question would be his roommate landlord, and a select group of possibly well-intentioned students intent on keeping their mouth shut (who aren't nearly as subtle as they think themselves to be, and probably need safer, slightly more legal hobbies).
Ask about 'that tall Asian guy in white' and you'll get a different answer.
All day, every day, morning, noon, and night, there is a man in white. In a sea of varsity jackets and experimental fashions, a man in white is entirely conspicuous and borderline unsettling, and prone to making people question the validity of his existence.
He is, most days, wearing a sturdy white blazer coat, except for A Select Few Instances in an art room, where chairs do not exist, only horrid devices cruelly referred to as horses, and one could use every spare cushioning they could get. Everyone who had been there can assure you, underneath the blazer he is wearing More White.
Well. Not entirely white. His tops, frequently, wander into a tasteful Dark White, which is just a wooly sort of grey, but that is the exact wording he would use if someone had asked what color his sweater vest was today.
It does not matter that this is Florida, and prone to unreasonable mood swings of searing heat. He is wearing a sweater vest. Other times, he is wearing a buttoned shirt, or a sweater, or perhaps both. This man is entirely unhindered by petty mortal concerns such as climate. Once it was seventy degrees out, and one concerned teacher saw him wearing a scarf.
(He is also fond of other variations of Dark White, such as colors which could be called mild blues, purples, and wine reds, but are so desaturated and transparent that you can begin to understand the odd classification.)
He is always wearing a hat, which is also white, but at least it has a few golden pins. One of them is a dolphin. Another one is a heart. He is wearing earrings that match his pale eyes, and a nicely engraved bracelet. For anyone paying attention, his nails are painted. Black.
Objectively, these objects are very complementary and suit him entirely. Subjectively, they make people Wonder About His Preferences, And If He, You Know, Swings That Way. A man in white will just furrow his very dark brows in confusion, not answering. It hasn't yet occurred to anyone that perhaps the man in white is a foreigner with only a utilitarian grasp of English, and not good with slang words.
There are other people, also men, and also far less kind, who would have Very Strong Words about the man in white's perceived preferences.
They will probably never get around to it, because the man in white is rather like a statue- tall, well-muscled, uncaring of your particular opinions, and obviously unwise to punch if you want to keep your hands.
He also had a bike. The kind can fold up and be carried by hand. It is a very friendly sea blue, with whitewall tires. If it has a motor, no one has seen it. But surely it must, people had thought, otherwise how could it move so quickly even when its not being pedaled?
Meanwhile, in the distance, Kujo Jotaro is pedaling away from class.
He does not realize he is interesting, and does not care.
He has more important things to do.
Like wonder what shade of Dark White he should wear tomorrow.
jotaro's canon favorite color is 'transparent color' and his manga colors in 4/5 were white on white. He Has An Aesthetic
Did I waste an entire chapter dragging jotaro over his aesthetic. kind of
i wrote the word white so many times in this chapter it's lost all meaning to me
Chapter 8: And When You Love Someone
Jotaro takes a lesson in language.
Marina wakes up on a Sunday and Jotaro is there, carving into a peach pit. "Oh. You're back."
"Mm." He's still as vocal as ever, and given the small army of carved fruit pits scattered around the table, he hasn't slept, either.
"How's the trip? Everything alright back home?"
He actually pauses at that, looking up from his carving. "Things- I. It was... nice, actually." Large brows raise just the slightest bit, and he looks back down, a little more sure. "It was good."
He goes back to carving. The finished ones are borderline impossibly intricate- the coiled, textured bodies of various sea life. Marina squints at the action. "I could have sworn you had some kind of knife phobia."
"Not the knife." The pit in his hand is shaping up to be a whale shark, meticulously dappled by the tilted tip of the blade. "Just the people."
Her breakfast is a toasted chocolate-chip waffle. He doesn't ask for one, he never does, but she leaves a few next to him, and takes his acceptance for the victory it is.
The shark is still in his hands. The knife hasn't moved for a few minutes now. His gaze is focused, but only at the ceiling.
"How do you love people."
She almost doesn't realize he's spoken. "Sorry, what?"
"Tell a person you love them. But they will believe it. Remember it." The knife furrows at the air. "You know what I am meaning?"
"Like... showing someone you love them?"
"Something like that."
"Huh." She leans closer, still draped on the couch. "Well, haven't you loved somebody before? Like family, friends, that type."
"And there are things you do for those people, that you don't do for everyone else. That's a way of showing it."
His expression still edges toward a frown. "But... if I am very far away. All the time."
"Well..." Man, this guy's got a lot of questions. "You keep in touch. You talk to them. Make sure they know that you don't... forget about them. That you still think about them, even if you're not there. And when you are there... you keep doing those things you don't do for everyone else.
"But how do they know ?" The dead stare is gone. Now there's a subtle desperation. "How can they know, when it is love?"
Marina has to really think about it. She realizes- she doesn't have the words for this, not really.
But she remembers someone who did.
"My grandpa would say that love is... a language. Everyone speaks it differently, but everyone has it. And even if they show it a little different than most people, that didn't mean they were wrong- their love just had a bit of an accent, and you had to try and understand it. So, it wouldn't matter, if you were bad about words, or celebrations. As long as the people you care about can 'understand your accent', they will always know you love them."
"That makes sense, actually." For a single moment, pale eyes are completely clear. "You're pretty smart. Thanks."
It is a Sunday morning, and Marina Cugino is very tired. By the end of the day, she will not quite remember this conversation, but she will remember his eyes were lucid in a way they never were before, in that moment where he had asked her how to love, and something about that question had struck her as incredibly sad.
Kujo Jotaro will think of prison jackets and green sunglasses, and he will never forget it.
For anyone keeping track, this chapter happens right after Knock, Knock.
Chapter 9: Hungry Ghost
It's the wrong time of year for ghosts, but some can be persistent bastards.
Sapphire almost blows the whole operation and says, "You believe in ghosts?"
"Why." Kujo's tone is flat as his marker leaves the whiteboard. The 'study group' had been covering some math.
"It's the wrong time of year to be believing in ghosts."
Katerina's eyes are eager with her interjection. "No it isn't. Dia de los muertos was just a few weeks ago. There's always stragglers."
"Yare yare." Kujo finishes a polynomial with ludicrous accuracy. "Thought the Americans just finished that Halloween bullshit."
"Spanish, on my end."
Bran, probably feeling left out, asks when Japan's ghost time is.
"The ghosts are always here. Just the gates to the underworld are cracked in August."
"How absolutely horrifying," quips Lewis. "Also, your third point's coordinates are inverted."
"Please don't touch that."
Marina pulls her hand back. "Sorry, sorry!" The little wooden mount stays perched on the wall. "It's just... I don't want things nailed into the wall, you know?"
Jotaro simply removes the thing from its place, revealing the no-nails hooks underneath.
"Oh, that's alright then."
Irene just squints at the object. "What even is it? Some kind of... wall house?"
"Kamidana." It did look like a little house, arch draped by a fat cut of rope entangled with angular twines of paper. There was some kind of scroll, further within. "It's for kami."
"The fuck's a calmy?" Irene gets slapped upside the head by Marina. "What? I wanna know."
"Eh. Ah. Is-" He starts, then stops, not quite speaking. "Does not have American word, I think. But is like the American television there is wooden dead man on the wall, to protect them."
"Wow." Irene deadpans. "Jesus is alot creepier when you put it like that."
"Seikai, seikai. Iesu da." He points further inward to the little scroll. "And the name of the kami goes there."
"What's the name?"
"And the table?" The table is of normal size, but almost lacking legs entirely.
Jotaro just looks at the table, and back to Marina. "It's table."
"It's a bit short."
"Your tables are just tall." There's a tray with chips on it, being purposefully moved away from Irene's reach. "Don't. Don't eat the kami food."
"I dunno, my guy, looks kind of underwhelming for whatever holy sacrament thing you've got going."
"I understand none of those words."
Marina steps in. "It just seems a bit casual, for an offering."
"Food is food. Only need to be special for the holidays."
Star Platinum has its head on its arms, leaning on the table's edge. It stays still, ringed eyes still focused on him even as it practically vibrates with anticipation.
"Yare yare daze." Jotaro pulls his hat over his eyes. "You can start. Just don't leave crumbs everywhere."
A silent chuff, followed by rhythmic, fast paced crunches.
"Honestly. What are you a rabbit?"
The tray merely slides in his direction.
"Alright. If you insist."
The scroll reads 明星白金の世界(myojo shirogane no sekai)- literally 'star platinum the world'.
Chapter 10: The Horsecatcher
And that road has already passed us by.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, Jotaro waits a few for Marina to be done with classes, and she drives the both of them home. Its only convenient, and after the first three times she refused to let him pay any gas money, they settled on letting him by dinner instead. It's a day with classes he finds particularly tiring, so the little extra reprieve from having to bicycle his way back to their apartment afterwards is... not quite nice, but something close to it. She's nice.
It's almost like having friends.
Are they friends? He's not really sure- they live together without tearing each-other's throats out, and he's reasonably sure that if given the choice, she would not kill him in his sleep. She's not particularly draining to talk to, as he finds many people. She answers his questions about English and weird emotions, he picks things up from stores and tall places when she can't.
He knows what size pads she uses. People who aren't friends probably don't know these kind of things about one another.
He'd like it, if that was what they were- friends, or something. It's an odd thing for him, hoping something like that. He had never quite cared for the idea before- he'd mostly preferred his own company, and the posse of faux delinquents and giggling girls were never his friends.
(Mobile Task Force, SDC-Alpha, 1989, his mind whispers. You've gone and caught feelings, and now you're stuck with them forever.)
He must be pretty damn bored, waiting in the grass, if his meat brain has the means to get this maudlin.
Jotaro pulls his hat down over his eyes, wondering if he can fall asleep.
There's a boy with green eyes and frosted tips. If Jotaro had felt like standing, the guy would just barely reach his chest, and that's with the thick boots. But Jotaro doesn't feel like standing, electing instead to barely pitch up his hat and glance half-lidded with a single eye.
"Hi, yeah!" There was a blushing, breathless quality to the stranger's voice. "Uh, I was wondering, you know, if maybe-"
"JOTARO, MON CHER! I'VE FINALLY FOUND YOU!"
Yare yare daze.
"Marina, can we take this guy back with us?"
'This guy' was almost as tall as Jotaro, but even the gravity-defying, vaguely mohawkish hairstyle still came an inch or so short to Jotaro's natural height. A puffy bomber jacket exaggerated a wide, muscled chest and narrow waist. The man had almost no eyebrows, and seemed to be making up for it with a very expressive, mercurial face.
"Wow, rude. How dare you treat me in this way! I am your friend, and you call me 'some guy'!" He even had a fanny pack. And a French accent.
Jotaro looks off at nothing in particular. "He's visiting."
"So how do you two even know each other?"
They are sitting in a Denny's. She almost went to the Waffle House that Irene is in, but she's not exactly feeling nice enough today to deal with the enthusiastically abrasive atmosphere her girlfriend burns around Jotaro.
The guy, Polnareff, waves it off with a fork of bacon. "Oh, we work the same job."
Marina narrows her eyes a bit, back in Jotaro's direction. "Wait, you have a job?"
"I better not."
"Jojo's not really active at work right now. He gets to have a break while he's in school." A private grin marks his face. "Should have heard him in the early days. Such a rough voice, like a cat caught in his throat."
"So..." Marina presses, not knowing if she's allowed, "What kind of job is this, exactly?"
Polnareff splutters a bit. "Ah, well-"
Jotaro levels a heavy stare in her direction. "I legally can't tell you that."
Maybe Irene was onto something after all.
A Jean-Pierre leans back against the railings of an apartment balcony. The light of the building reflects only a little less harshly than normal, muffled by an oncoming sunset and the tint of glass on the door. There's a cheap American candy wrap in his hand as he lifts his face toward the sky, asking his question.
"You could have saved her."
A Jotaro sits catlike against the same railings, feet trailing over thin air. A hand grasps at the twisting bars like the inside of a cage, non-smoke trailing unnaturally from a thin white whistle of wood, its dragonshead sparking with the electric current of Hamon.
"Yes." There is no denial. No I did everything I could. A cold eye looks back at the standing man.
And Jean-Pierre doesn't quite respond at first, picking up their empty sodas. Silver Chariot is there in an instant, its large beaky teeth making quick work of the trash like some parody of a goat. Looking back to Jotaro, his face staggers through a number of emotions, settling for a sad neutrality and a sigh.
"You are- you are my friend. One of my truest friends, and I have trusted you with my life and my soul. So here... I will trust you again."
Jotaro's hand grips the railing tighter.
"I won't ask for the details. I kind of get why, I think." He pauses for a good minute, wondering how to continue.
"I won't ask you to bring her back."
That last bit swings Jotaro's head back to him, eyes wide with something nearing shock. It's not like the younger man to look so emotional- at any other time, it'd almost be funny.
"The fact that you were able to pull the stunt you did in the first place is a miracle, mon ami. I'm not going to look that gift horse in the mouth, you know? Besides," he adds bitterly, "it's not your fault what happened to her. Only that terrible man."
Maybe a nineteen year old Jipé, rife with angry tears would demand it, but that chapter of his life end with the point of Silver Chariot's sabre lanced through J Geil's body. Sherry Polnareff had been avenged and that was that.
The black expanse of sky flies above them.
"It's a pretty nice world you've made, this one. Don't go changing it on my account."
A Jean-Pierre Polnareff and a Kujo Jotaro look out at the last bits of sunset, fiery hues burned into the clouds.
gee polnareff, that was extra friendly with the endearments
Chapter 11: The Real American
We're gonna get to the bottom of this mystery, lads.
It's unfair. He hasn't even been here a whole day, and her brain can't take it anymore.
One Kakyoin Tenmei. Tall if you were Japanese, less so if you were American. Red wavy hair, and eyes such a light brown it passed into a golden color.
(The eyes were slashed with raking scars. Too symmetrical to be an accident. Too clean. She doesn't ask, and he doesn't tell.)
There is a sturdy cane leaning on the sofa chair that he and Jotaro somehow manage to share while their conversation whips back and forth in rapid Japanese. She's pretty sure Jotaro hasn't talked this much in the entire time she's known him. It's a little bit funny (read: absolutely hysterical) that he's just as flat sounding in his native language, while Tenmei absorbs it all with the weight of hearing an Shakespearean dialogue.
None of this bothers her. It's when Tenmei opens his mouth in her direction to speak English.
Tenmei squints from past his thin glasses. "I do not understand?"
"You," she points, "sound nothing like him." They both look back to Jotaro. He's eating a chocolate chip toaster waffle. "Is it a regional difference or something?"
"Ah. That." And he laughs a bit at that, an undignified hyena sound. "It's very silly, really." A sly little side glance. "He's a bit of a mutt, you see."
"Imagine, if you will," as he almost guides her eyes to an unknown horizon, "A British mother, with an Italian parent, raised in America. Imagine her accent. This is his mother. This is who teaches him English. And then we go to school, and learn more English, from people who can't speak English properly."
A trainwreck. That is the imagining. An absolute trainwreck of an accent, which is exactly what Jotaro sounds like. Suddenly, she understands.
A bit of a sigh. "At least his Japanese escaped that fate. Mostly."
"Is that what all his weird metaphors are? Bad translations?"
"Not at all. Jotaro's just like that." He turns back to Jotaro. "You hear that, Jotaro. You are the trainwreck English."
"No." He doesn't even look up from the toaster waffle. "Not bad English if can understand fine. Fuck off."
"Jojo, your English is fucking horrifying." Tenmei grasps the other man's face with his hands. "It's horrifying, and I love it, but it upsets the Americans."
Jotaro's face stills, eyes blank.
"Don't. Don't you do it. Don't you dare."
Well, that's comforting. "What. What's happening."
"He's got that smug look on his face again."
Glacial eyes are cold, glassy, and impassive as ever. Maybe the expression is a little more stony. Nothing smug about it. Even so, Tenmei is two steps from clamping a hand over the guy's mouth.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Tenmei."
Oh, what the fuck?
It was almost Jotaro's usual monotone. Almost.
"I am sitting here with my normal American voice. Saying real American words. Because I am... real American."
Except for the fact that it planted itself firmly between the Transatlantic accent found exclusively in old movies and a cowboy in a spaghetti western.
"What," Marina asked, "what the fuck. What the fuck."
"Come to the circus," he intones flatly, toasting another waffle. "We have... elephant."
"Jotaro." Tenmei pleads. "Jotaro, how could you do this."
"Violence. Bang, bang. Gun-gun-gun. Knock your head off."
"Please, I am begging you to stop."
"It's high noon."
Tenmei is slumped against his chair, half falling out of it with sharp giggling wheezes. "Please let this die."
"I'm your huckleberry," Jotaro continues, voice muffled by a toasted waffle. "Howdy, howdy, howdy."
in retrospect i may have been thinking of matt mercer while i was righting this. just a little.
Chapter 12: Bundles Of Sticks Must Stick Together
They weren't asking you for a cigarette...
It was almost a good day.
No spilled anything. No broken dishes. Not a kitchen accident in sight. So far, only one screaming baby.
For a 24-hour establishment, a day like that can be a damn near fucking miracle.
It's around seven forty-five when Marina's overgrown cat of a roommate walks in.
There's a reedy, fox-eyed guy holding onto one of his arms, a sturdy cane at hand, a half stagger in the way they almost lean on each other, the both of them veering on the high of exhaustion. The weirdo's pastel white-tire mystery bike is parked outside, and the arm that isn't right up against his new buddy catches a bundle of assorted bags in a vice-like grip. The lunch-dinner menu somehow manages to look small in his big fucking hands. When they sit down, it's on the same side of the table, rambling on in rapid-fire... Chinese? No, no, Marina said he was Japanese.
Probably discussing the menu- she can pick out the trainwreck accented English of the giant man himself sounding out the names of dishes with varying degrees of comprehension. God, it's like watching a pair of tourists. How'd he even find this place? Marina, probably. Marina's great and all, but lately she's been making an effort to try and desensitize Irene to the roommate's existence. She probably even suggested him and his gangly fox friend eat here. Irene glares out to a bar seat, occupied by her scheming girlfriend. You're lucky you're so beautiful you sly fucker.
"Hey! You fucking ignoring me?"
Dear lord, give me strength.
"You too good t' answer me, you fuckinnnng pansies? I asked you a question!"
Fuck. It's the drunk guy. He stumbled in about ten minutes prior, and hadn't been causing quite enough trouble to get kicked out. But now he's sauntered over to the tall guy's table, sounding out in what he probably believes is a perfectly conversational tone of voice.
"I asked you... the fuck you doin' here 'f can't even speak English, huh?"
Coppery thin brows frown over delicate-looking glasses. "I am not sure what-"
"Answer my FUCKING question!" A spidery fist slams on the table, and the fox haired man leans back into Marina's roommate as he startles, locking their hands. The drunk catches the movement and leers at the two of 'em.
"Oh, I see how 't is. I geddit, I geddit... shoulda known better than try an' get a straight answer from a bundle a' Jap faggots."
The whole diner goes silent.
"Yeaaah you heard me. Innit that what you are? A pair of faggots?" The drunk's unshaven face swerves shakily towards Irene and good god, he must have been carrying alcohol on him because he looks even more drunk than he already was when he walked in. "Ey boss lady. You reall' gonna serve faggots here? What if somebody catches somethin', huh?"
"Yeah, no. I'm gonna have to ask you to leave."
The dumbass still snickers and leers. "Aw, what for?" He waves back at the two. They don't seem particularly insulted, angry, or even upset- mostly they just look kind of confused. "Lookit 'em! They're so retarded they don't even-"
And that's when Marina clocks the man in the back of his head. With her very heavy purse.
God, that's hot.
"What a dick." Grimacing at the dirt stain left on her purse, she calls out to the people sitting at the bar table. "Can somebody call the police for this guy?" She walks off, grabbing her roommate's arm and herding his friend back outside, with a promise to pick Irene up when the shift is done.
"Arin, where are you going?"
"I'm taking the guys somewhere else." She mutters darkly. "So the police don't get to decide if the dick was right or not."
She drives them back to the apartment with a bunch of McDonalds- a decisive downgrade from Waffle House, but a necessary one.
"Why was he calling us sticks."
"Bundle of sticks." Jotaro frowns a little, uncertain. "Cigar...ette? Smoke thing. Word that he is saying, over and over."
"Is it different in American English?" Tenmei wondered.
"Where on Earth does that mean cigarette- oh, the Brit mom, right."
The two still look at her expectantly, waiting for a proper explanation.
"So you... didn't know what he was calling you." Oh, jeez.
"...foreigner?" She shakes her head. "I got nothing." Tenmei catches the very uncomfortable look on her face. "Is it a very bad thing, what he said?"
She takes a deep breath. "It's... he was calling you a gay person... but as an insult."
There, it's done, out of the way-
"What is gay."
Oh no. Oh no. "Gay is a nickname for homosexual."
"Same... sex?" Tenmei squints a little, mouth thinned out, and Jotaro's face is blank with incomprehension. "Same gender... I don't get it."
Time to corrupt the youth, I guess. "It's when a man is sexually attracted to other men."
Then it clicks for Tenmei. "Oh! O-kama! I see. You don't like in this country?"
"I mean... it really depends on where you are. People are getting more okay with it, but it's still kind of a gamble, especially here in the Southern parts."
"And what about you," asks Jotaro. His eyes are even colder than usual, tone robotic. "What is your gamble."
Tenmei is tense beside him. She's going to have to be careful with this one, won't she?
"My gamble..." she admits slowly, "is that I'd be a hypocrite if I wasn't alright with it."
"Irene?" She nods.
A good nine seconds pass. "So that's why she's here all the time. I keep thinking someone stealing from the apartment."
"So are you two..."
"Gay? Probably." Tenmei raises his eyebrows in thought. "I'm pretty sure I've only liked boys."
"I don't care if someone's a boy or girl. Everyone is equally unappealing." Jotaro looks back to Tenmei. "Tenmei is different because I trust him."
Marina gives off a short laugh. "You're like, the only other gay couple I've actually come across. It's been kinda lonely."
"How lucky," deadpans Jotaro. "You'll stuck with me for at the next four years."
"At least we won't end up flirting with eachother." A sputtering wheeze leaves her. "Fuck. I was starting to worry if you were gonna, like, have a crush on me or something. Like, Oh shit, I got to give you the talk, you know? It's so stupid." She doubles back into laughter, Tenmei joining her.
Jotaro leans back on the couch, pulling his hat over his eyes. "Yare yare da. Don't even joke about that."
Chapter 13: And The Clock Tick-tick-ticks On
It'll have to be enough.
It will be enough.
Something's watching him.
Jotaro wakes up to Tenmei staring a hole straight through his head, and almost jumps back.
"Yare yare, don't freak me out like that. How long have you been watching me?"
No response. "Tenmei?"
Nothing but tense, shaking brows and shallow breaths.
He can't move. He can't see.
I can't breathe, I can't breathe, I can't-
Something moves his body, raising his head. The painful pressure in his lungs recedes a little, but the exploded feeling in his back remains.
Rushing, ghostly whispers as the clock ticktickticks on impossibly loud in his ears. The scars on his eyes seem to prick, tingle, stretch, swerve like something went and sliced them open all over again.
A voice, muffled and barely recognizable, but he knows that flat cadence and holds it in his mind like a lifeline. A weak, shuddering sound scrambles out of his throat.
Looks like you can still move your face a little... guess that's a good sign.
Blink twice if you can hear me.
Okay. Okay. He can't so much as twitch a finger at the moment, but he can do that at least, even if he overdoes it a little.
Two for yes.
Three for no.
Can you see me?
He narrows his eyes, trying to angle them in the direction of the voice, but there's a floating, all-encompassing quality to the sound. His vision swims with grayed-out, shadowy forms. He frustratedly blinks 'no', and hears someone let out a puffing, drawn out sigh.
Yare yare daze.
You kind of twitch wherever I touch you, so I'm going to assume you can feel that.
...I found you like this when I woke up. Body's not showing signs of strain yet, so it must of set in a few minutes ago at most.
You got any idea what's happening to you?
It's hard to remember anything past the miasma of pain and phantom sensations, but there's a vague memory of a doctor's words...
(-to be expected after injuries to the brain and nervous system-)
...so he blinks out a tentative 'yes'.
Do you need to go to the hospital.
Fuck the goddamn hospitals and the eye-searingly white walls and the blaring lights and the stupid annoying hell noise machine monitors that won't stop whining-
But since he can't say all that, he blinks 'no' with a little extra harshness than before, and hopes the message gets across.
Guess we just wait it out then.
Want me to let go?
Nonononono, please, you're the only thing that feels real right now-
Hierophant Green jerkily answers his desperation, reaching out blindly, grasping the voice's source tight and tugging as close as possible.
Oi, oi, oi. Everything's fine. I'm not going anywhere.
There's a strong gentle weight around him, and he lets the measured, quiet words wash over him.
Control comes back in short, staggering bursts. As his vision finally focuses, he can start to make out Jotaro's glacial eyes looking down at him, dimly glowing with Star Platinum's influence in the darkness.
"Jojo?" His own voice is still far weaker than he'd like. "How long was..."
"About seven minutes. Maybe ten."
" Felt like hours..." As his eyes sweep over his surroundings, Tenmei can properly take in how dim the room is. The fat digital clock reads 3:07 AM. "Shit. I woke you up, didn't I? 'm sorry."
"I'm sorry." A hand brushes down his head, and Tenmei realizes that Jotaro is still holding him, eyes bleary. "I'm sorry I couldn't help you."
"You were there," Tenmei insists. "You stayed. That was more than enough."
Tenmei reaches up for the hand on his face. It's roughly textured with spiderweb scars, like a piece of crackled porcelain. One day, they should sit down and put a name to all the scars they can't recognize on each-other.
They fall asleep exactly as they are- half curled around together, holding eachother's hand.
Chapter 14: Like A Crown Of Thorns
A Joestar family reunion.
On every piece of livable Joestar owned property, there's always a few empty spaces, whether reserved for use by the Speedwagon foundation, or personal family business. On one such property in New York City, Joseph Joestar lives in a penthouse suite- or more accurately, he lives in an entire damn penthouse floor. Considering the large spread of people he was about to host, it was probably for the best.
In truth, the Joestar manor back in England would have been far better suited and less crowded for the task. But Jotaro was in America now, and so everyone silently decided to make the trip easier on him. University work is often so stressful, after all.
(And anyways, Jonathan wasn't quite up for entertaining guests just yet. It hadn't even been a full year since he'd been reacquainted with his body. He needed to take it a little easy, too.)
So while Caesar and Joseph run like headless chickens trying to prepare everything back home, it's Suzie Q who picks Jotaro and Tenmei up from the airport, jumping slightly as she waves.
"Jotaro! Over here, Jotaro!"
"Yare yare. We can hear you just fine, nonna. No need to shout across the terminal."
Standing at her side is a formidable, statuesque woman, an elegant face hidden behind large aviator glasses. Elizabeth Joestar was a startling sight to behold even now, and Jotaro almost freezes in place. It hadn't really sunk in before that moment that she was someone he would have ever really met, and now here she was, removing her sunglasses to fix him with a stern, appraising expression that almost edged to fondness.
"Hmm." She scans him up and down. "You got tall." The sunglasses are firmly back over her eyes. "My son doesn't have the tact to explain things properly, but I got the gist it. We've met, but I suppose you wouldn't remember."
"Got it in one. Don't look too much different from when I saw you last, though."
"Such a charmer."
Identically pale eyes scrutinize each other stoically.
Tenmei laughs a little. "Good lord, it's like a mirror."
"Jotaro, was it?"
Gentler, a touch reedier than he remembered it, but the kind timbre of that voice was unforgettable.
"Oh dear. Did I pronounce it wrong? I was practicing it, but I'm afraid my talent for the Orient languages is... lacking," he laughs.
Jonathan Joestar is 121 years old and still as mountainous as a mastiff hound. The sides of his hair have all but grayed, and he's got a friendly looking mustache- it's a bit awkward looking, but Jotaro imagines that it suits the man perfectly fine.
"It's alright... grandfather." He hates that he can't keep the haunted edge out of his voice. It's Jonathan, not some kind of ghost. Except it is. "How have you been feeling?"
Jonathan looks well for the most part, he really does. But one doesn't just shake off five years without sunlight- almost a year later, the last traces of pallor still cling to his body. And even crisp shirt collar can't quite hide the maze of scars, choking at that broad throat like a crown of thorns. A few marks strayed down ever further.
Jotaro looks down at his right hand, covered in its own spiderweb of scars with Dio's last parting gift. He can guess what the rest of the other man's body looks like. The porcelain, burning crumbling of Dio- no,
Jonathan's body echoed in the edge of his eyes.
"About as well as can be, all things considered! From what I hear, I've got you to thank for that!" He smiles, all kindness and good nature, and it makes Jotaro feel sick.
"I..." He almost chokes on the words. "I did this to you. I..."
Jonathan's face falls. "No, no! I don't mean it that way!"
"No. You saved my life. I have no complaints." The reassuring smile he'd quickly slapped on turns sober again, more so than before. "I was supposed to die, wasn't I?"
"I'm not talking about Egypt." Jonathan's gaze is far away, now. "On that boat... on the boat, all those years ago, when I fought him for the last time." A reflexive clench of the hands, the memory of holding something in his arms. "I would have died there, wouldn't I?"
"But I didn't. Because of you. I lived. I hope you remember this."
Jotaro feels a sudden weight all around him, and he almost wants to run. But it's an gentle affirmation, asking nothing.
The smile on Jonathan's face is slow, subtle, wistful. "I got to raise my children. I get to grow old with my wife. I get to watch over my family with her. What more could I ask for?"
Jesus fucking Christ, he wasn't prepared for how many people would actually be here.
For how big the Joestar family really was, when everyone was brought together.
There's an older black man with his family. Miss Erina gave me a new life, he confesses freely. I'm always grateful for that.
Two Hamon users who teasingly regale tales of a young Joseph and Caesar. There's a large, gaping scar on one of the their throats.
A greyed, truly old Hamon user dressed in a sharp white suit and checkered top hat, expertly swirling wine, discussing the subtleties of flavor with Lisa Lisa. You know, I must be the first Hamon user in centuries that ever made it to old age! Fate's an odd thing, isn't it?
There must be about twenty people, sprawling like a loose chain all through every nook and cranny the suite had to offer. Joseph, Avdol, and Polnareff have started to dwell on each-other's prosthetics, while Iggy weaves between people's legs, playing cute for scraps. He wonders how many of these people here are alive because of him.
There's casual talk of the islands nation of Air Supplena, a country that most definitely did not exist before, and that's when the mulled wine someone foolishly allowed him to drink starts to grow uncomfortably warm in his throat.
Fuck. Not now. Please not now, of all times. Not again.
Harsh rubber rudely knocks against his knee. "You. Boy."
A wiry man with wild peppering hat hair thoughtfully scratches at his surprisingly neat beard, considering Jotaro thoughtfully from a seated perch in a wheelchair. A tartan blanket covers the legs, with a matching loose ascot nestled into the shirt. The man Jotaro had known once as Johnny Joestar was almost unrecognizable, but for the glass intensity of his eyes. The old man chews at some random collection of herbs, likely stolen from the nearest cupboard. Joseph would be furious if he saw.
"You're that boy that made the Foundation shit themselves, huh." Johnny roughly tilts his chair with thickly gloved hands, to share Jotaro's view of the window. "So what, are you God now? Am I gonna be expecting any more stunts and the like soon?"
Ah. He'd forgotten how god-damn ornery Johnny was. "Fucking hope not."
"Hah!" Johnny punches the sides of his chair. It's a bubbling, cruel laugh. He pokes a hole in two fancy sweet beers with the beak of his tiny Stand, chucking one at Jotaro. "Here's to fucking the universe sideways just to land a good punch. Welcome to the god club, mate."
This chapter happened after Irezumi.