Actions

Work Header

Jojo's Timely Adventure

Chapter Text

After their tiring battle with Wheel of Fortune, the group thought they’d gotten a break when they piled into his car. So much so that, once they’d sent Anne on her way, they’d opted to keep the car instead of trading it in for something more reliable.

They hadn’t expected it to break down no more than twenty miles from where they’d started.

Needless to say, it had only tired them further.

“I told you we shouldn’t have relied on that stupid car,” Polnareff complained.

“There was no present need,” Avdol said, eyes closed and tone even.

“‘Present need?’ The fact that that car was shit on wheels without Wheel of Fortune powering it isn’t a ‘present need!?’”

“It’s in the past, Polnareff,” Joseph said. “Besides, it’s still daylight. There’s plenty of time to get to the next town.”

Kakyoin gave a low chuckle. “I would have thought you’d be less against whatever Avdol has to say, considering how much you cried over him.”

“Hey-! You thought he was dead, too!”

“For only a minute,” Kakyoin said. Turning to Avdol, he added, “Still, it was lucky that you tilted back at that time. I wish you could have rested longer.”

“If my assumed death is what spurred Polnareff into continuing his journey with us, then I believe I got all of the rest I needed.”

The frenchman didn’t have much else to say to that, only letting out a huff and continuing their walk.

At least, he would have, if it hadn’t been for the soft sound of music playing nearby.

“Do you hear that?” Jotaro asked, prompting the group to nod.

“Where is it coming from?” Kakyoin asked.

“There’s probably a nearby town,” Avdol said.

Polnareff let out a thankful sigh. “Thank God- less walking than I thought it was going to be!”

“There’s something strange about it, though,” Joseph said. “No one is talking over it, it’s just the music playing.”

Jotaro’s eyes darkened at that, though he still followed the group as the turned towards the cliffside the music was coming from.

“There must be way up that isn’t so steep,” Kakyoin said.

“No no, it’s not coming from up high,” Polnareff said, pointing towards a small canyon that cut through the desert. “It must be coming through there.”

“A town built in a canyon,” Avdol mused as they walked, “How quaint.”

That feeling vanished as they grew closer and closer to the source. Finally, they’d turned a corner into the canyon, finding that what they’d been seeking out wasn’t a town at all.

Instead, a lithe man sat on a rock, all music halting as soon as they laid eyes on him. It was as if it was building up to his reveal, only for the deadpan of finding him to prompt a laugh.

Of course, no one was laughing now.

“Hey!” Polnareff said, waving up at him, “Do you know where that music was coming from?”

“Music?” the man asked, his voice deep and thick as he tilted his head to the side. “What music?”

“The music playing through this canyon,” Avdol added, though he kept his arms crossed and himself at a distance.

Polnareff did not, leaning towards the rock the small man sat on, fist clenched as he implored the man to tell them the source.

“Oh! That? That was just a little composition. I was thinking of playing a celebratory tune… at your funerals. Nyeh ne ho ho ho!” His laugh was shrill, soon followed by a chorus of snorts and gasps for air. All the while, his hand was neatly posed near his face, as if it was supposed to be regal.

“Hey, come down here if you’re going to run your mouth,” Jotaro said, clenching his teeth.

“Hm…” his eyes rolled up and a finger came up to his chin, as if he was really considering it. “No! I think I’ll just let my stand do the talking.”

He brought out a seemingly wooden club from his back. It was thick and primal in its shape, as if it were straight out of the stone age. Around the thickest part, set into the wood, there was a gold band with a man’s face carved into it. The core of the club’s handle was hollow, a small hole coming through the top.

Jotaro smiled “You’re going to beat me with that?”

“Careful,” Kakyoin said, stepping behind him, “There’s always some trick to it.”

“‘Trick?’” The man’s eyes widened before he let out another laugh. “Oh you just hit the nail on the head. You see, I am Lancaster. With my stand, Dancing Wand, I suggest the Suit of Wands.”

Now it was Kakyoin’s turn to laugh.

“Yet another one of Dio’s henchmen,” Joseph grumbled, his voice more tired than anything.

“You called it! Now, prepare yourselves, Joestars as I wipe you out of existence! First, the younger…”

He laughed again, bringing the club’s handle to his lips as he began to blow.

The music started up again, Jotaro falling forward with a surge of pain in his chest. He struggled to speak, eyes drifting up the rock to Lancaster and his Dancing Wand.

“Enough!” Polnareff yelled, already summoning Silver Chariot to float up the rock’s face, lunging forward.

The man was knocked to the side, playing a sour note that caused Jotaro to glitch momentarily out of view.

Joseph pulled a face, straightening in shock. “What the-?”

Kakyoin surged forward to Jotaro’s side, grabbing onto his arm to steady him. “Jotaro- Jotaro, are you-” he was cut off with a gasp as he too began blinking in and out of sight at an increasingly rapid pace.

“Now look what you’ve done,” Lancaster said, rising up and facing the stand. “Look upon your friend and know that you did this!”

“Shut up!” Polnareff exclaimed.

“Polnareff, wait!” Joseph laid his hand upon his shoulder.

In the time Polnareff took to look at Jotaro and Kakyoin, a few notes began stringing themselves together once more, Lancaster’s delighted hum just under the music’s tone.

Without thinking, he let out a snarl and Silver Chariot was back on the attack, this time sticking its sword through the center of the club, just under its band.

This caused the instrument to let out a high-pitched whistling noise, Jotaro and Kakyoin yelping in pain before vanishing completely, their voices cut off as soon as they were out of sight.

Lancaster looked down at where they had been, nursing his side as blood trickled from both his wound as well as the corner of his mouth. It was that same mouth that creeped upwards into a blinding grin.

“Ha! Ha- I did it! I killed Jotaro Kujo! Nyahk Nyah ha hee!”

Joseph ground his teeth, shifting his leg back in preparation for a strike.

“You- you!” An honest growl erupted from his throat. “Hermit Purple!”

Lancaster squawked, his limbs locked to his sides by the thorns that dug in from all sides.

“What have you done- what have you done to my grandson!?”

The stand user thought quickly, holding the club to his mouth and blowing again. The hole in its side produced an odd note. It appeared to get the job done though, as Lancaster was soon free of the vines, having disappeared as well. This time, the exit was cloaked in a crackling blue light.

Tears formed on the sides of Joseph’s face, his arms waving out in an attempt to find his grandson in the thin air.

“Where are you!?” he screamed, unsure if he was talking to Jotaro and Kakyoin or the stand user that had stolen them away.

“Hey- he just disappeared too.” Polnareff’s voice cracked as he spoke. “Maybe his stand can just teleport people!”

“They might be somewhere nearby,” Avdol said. “Whatever he was planning on doing, it didn’t look like he accomplished it. At least, that he was sure that he accomplished it.”

“Jotaro,” Joseph said, his voice barely above a whisper. “Where is….”

There was a beat of silence following that. Polnareff’s hands curled into fists, his jaw as tense as the air around them.

“Mr. Joestar,” Avdol finally said, “we have to persevere. Even if they are- ah- even if they’re not with us, we still have a mission.”

Joseph took in a deep breath, falling to his knees against himself. He slammed his prosthetic hand against the ground so hard that he felt as though it would break.

Polnareff turned to them, his voice hallow as he asked, “Do you really think that they’re alive?”

“It’s a nice thought,” Avdol said, not specifying as to whether or not he believed it.


 

The night was reflected on the ocean’s waves, along with the lights from the building behind two figures sparring on its shore.

One blow landed deafly on Caesar’s right arm, which was he had been holding to block the incoming attack. The second blow was avoided entirely, as he had ducked under Jojo’s leg.

“Wow you sure are quick today, Caesarino.”

That brought a low growl from Caesar’s throat, driving him into the offense.

He rose up before kicking out, intent on misleading Jojo into defending instead of jumping to the left.

Of course, Jojo read him, as he almost always did. He held ups his arms to guard his face anyway, jumping directly upwards with a bit of Hamon for extra height to avoid the kick. He came down hard, leg outstretched towards Caesar’s head.

Jojo had barely missed, still catching Caesar’s hair and the side of his head in one stride.

He landed in a somewhat graceful spin, turning back on Caesar by swinging his weight around and placing his hands on the ground.

“Not quick enough, I see.”

“Hey!” Caesar clenched his fist as he shouted, “I still dodged you!”

“Tch- barely!”

“It still counts, idiot!” he yelled in italian.

“Oh, come on! If you’re going to call me names, at least let me understand you,” he whined. When Caesar didn’t budge, closing his eyes and smirking down at him, Jojo returned with a grin of his own.

His leg swept out, tripping Caesar and causing him to fall to the side.

He’d saved himself with a cartwheel, not bothering with balancing himself on his hands before snapping forward and nearly landing on Jojo, who pulled his body out of the way. The same could not be said for his right leg, which was now pinned under Caesar’s foot.

He twisted his heel, causing Jojo to wince.

“Hey, Caesar! Come on, come on I give!” he said, hands folded in front of him. “Please, just let me go, alright?”

He relented, lifting his foot with a deep laugh. “You see, Jojo, this is why you can’t afford to mess ar-ow-ow-Oah!”

He was cut off as Jojo leaned up, hands burrowing into the lapels of his jacket. No sooner had he latched on did he roll backwards, laying his knee across Caesar’s stomach and pushing him up to fall on his back.

Pain coursed through his body, teeth clenching together to avoid hissing in pain.

When he opened his eyes, Jojo had rolled onto his elbows, his face hovering inches above his friend’s.

“Cae-sar-i-no,” he sounded out, tapping him lightly on the nose. “How was your trip?”

“I won,” he said. “You caved.”

“If this were a real fight,” Jojo rose to his knees, still staring down at Caesar, “I might have a broken leg. But you?” He splayed his hand over Caesar’s throat. “You’d be dead.”

“You cheated.”

Jojo laughed and pulled his hand away, standing up and offering his hand.

Caesar took it, allowing Jojo to help him up. Once they were both standing, he tightened his hand, causing Jojo to tighten his own.

They let this continue, all the while not looking away from one another.

“Jojo!” Lisa Lisa said, bringing their attention to where she stood on the balcony. “I’ve considered it and decided that, if it’s what you truly want, I will allow you to re examine yourself against the Hell Climb Pillar. Meet me at the pillar’s mouth.”

Caesar stared after her, dropping Jojo’s hand at his side.

“Jojo,” he said, turning towards him, “you’re doing it over?”

“Yep!” he punched his own hand with a grin. “Best way to see how far I’ve come, right?”

“Ah,” he crossed his arms, “I’m just surprised to see a slacker like you putting in the extra work.”

Jojo laughed at that, laying a hand on his shoulder. “You know, if you wanted, I’m sure Lisa Lisa wouldn’t mind us both having another go. Just, if you wanted to have a bit of a friendly competition.”

“Ha- no thank you,” he brushed the hand from his shoulder, “I reeked of that oil for days.”

“No no, don’t feel like you have to make excuses,” Jojo said, waving his hands dismissively. “I won’t ask why you’re scared.”

“You really think you can goad me into anything, huh? After two weeks of training together?”

“Oh come on- do it with me? For old time’s sake? It’ll probably be the last time I’m in that god forsaken pit.”

“No, Jojo. Go do your reassessment, or whatever, I’m going to bed.”

“Ugh- then the least you could do is send me off.”

Caesar was about to turn him down once more, but then he noticed Jojo’s face form into a pout.

And so he let out a sigh and said, “Fine.”

“Great! Let’s get going,” he wrapped his arm around Caesar’s shoulders, “I know you’re probably tired.”

“Always.”

He gave a stiff laugh, but allowed himself to be lead up to the Pillar’s Mouth. It looked so different at night, with the oil inside seemingly glowing from the starlight’s reflection. A lot of the windows had been closed, leaving the room stuffier than usual, but the windows behind where they’d entered were open, allowing the drapes to move with the cold air.

“Caesar,” Lisa Lisa said. They would have missed her had it not been for the glint of her shades, which she’d elected to wear in the middle of the night. “I didn’t know you wanted to join Jojo again. I thought you’d had your share of the Pillar.”

Jojo’s grip on Caesar’s shoulder shifted forward, forcing his head down as he said, “I guess he hasn’t.”

“Jojo-,” he began, quietly at first while trying to pull his head away. It wasn’t until Joseph leapt forward, his arm still wrapped around Caesar’s torso, did he properly yell, “Jojo!”

Of course, it was hidden under Jojo’s chorus of laughter as they plummeted into the oil.

Lisa Lisa didn’t move to stop them, simply sighing before taking a seat. She’d have to move her work into here for the next few days to keep an eye on them, should they emerge early.

She wasn’t doing such a good job at present, as she didn’t notice when the two of them had blinked out of existence.

Chapter Text

It was with heavy hearts that the three remaining crusaders made  their way to the mouth of the canyon they’d been conned into entering. A sick feeling had coiled itself in the pit of Joseph's stomach, and he couldn't bare to even pick up his head.

That is until, once at the mouth of the canyon, he heard a familiar voice ask, “Where are we?”

His eyes snapped wide open immediately, telling himself that the assumed speaker couldn't really have been there.

And yet there he was his back facing him with those same wings sticking out from either side of his hair.

Caesar.

The name rang in his head as the sick feeling was mixed with a new emotion, one that was warmer and still wary of the world around him.

"Look at this place," the Italian said, neither him nor his familiar companion noticing the trio. "It looks dead."

After spending almost a month training on an island, swimming along its shore, bathing in its shallows, and basking in its humidity, they were now faced with a stretch of desert larger than either of them had ever seen.

“I think we're back in Mexico?” the younger Joseph-Jojo- said, only glancing at Caesar.

“What do you mean ‘back in Mexico!?’ The ocean washing us all the way down to Africa is more likely.”

“Well if you’re so smart then why did you even ask where we were?”

“Because I figured you’d give me a sensible answer, not ‘Mexico!’”

“Oh my God…”

They both turned around at hearing the voice.

There three men stood, two of them poised to strike, obviously wary of the strangers before them after their most recent battle, if one could even call it that. The third and oldest man, the one who had spoken, was stuck staring at Caesar and Joseph. Tears had formed in the corners of his eyes, his right hand stretched out as he shifted his weight forward.

He wanted to reach out, but the fear of what stood before him held him back.

His younger self and the friend he’d buried, now young and alive as if fifty years had been sponged from his past.

“Hey, Gramps,” Jojo said, raising a hand in a semi-polite wave, “do ya mind telling us where we are?”

“Ah,” Avdol returned to a normal standing position. “We are at least thirty miles from a proper city.”

Jojo scoffed, folding his arms behind his head. “Now this is gonna sound crazy, but we kind of meant the country?”

“Are we north or south of Italy?” Caesar asked, eyes wide and posture stiff.

“Ah, ‘Italy?’” Polnareff tilted his head to the side. “This is India.”

The two straightened up for a moment before Jojo let out a few barks of laughter.

“Okay, gents, if you’re just gonna mess with us, we’ll be on our way. Cheers!” He grabbed Caesar by the arm. “Let’s go.”

“W-Wait!” Joseph said. “Hey!”

Jojo kept walking, Caesar following him stiffly.

Furious, Joseph straightened himself out and raised his chin, saying, “Joseph Joestar.”

Only then did the two of them turned around.

“Sorry,” Jojo laughed. “Did I hear you right? What did you say?”

“Mr. Joestar,” Avdol laid a hand on his companion's shoulder, “Are you alright?”

“No no, I’m Mr. Joestar, and now I want to know who you three are.”

He took a step forward, eyes dangerous and locked onto Joseph as he moved forward.

The older man didn’t blink or hesitate to say, “I’m you, fifty years into the future.”

Jojo didn’t stop smiling, though his eyes did widen as he nodded in an attempt to process what was being said. Caesar, on the other hand, didn’t take this claim lightly.

“How do we know for sure?” he asked.

“Oh come on, Caesar,” Jojo laughed, “you can’t take them seriously.”

“We’ve seen a lot of things this past month, Jojo,” he said. “We don’t know if he’s lying for sure.”

“Oh come on, this geezer doesn’t look anything like me!”

“G-Geezer!” Joseph growled.

God- Why was I such a rude little punk!?

“Mr. Joestar,” Avdol whispered in Japanese, “are you sure this is truly a younger version of yourself and not the work of an enemy stand?”

“I’m sure.”

“How?”

His eyes landed on Caesar. What was he supposed to say? Dio could never have known about him, was the only thought running through his mind.

Eventually, he settled on, “I just know.”

Avdol pulled a face, but leaned back.

“Hey if you want us to be all friendly, you might want to start speaking some English around here, got it?” Jojo said. “Can’t trust someone you can’t understand, right?”

“There’s a lot to explain,” Joseph said, “about where we are and how we got here. If you’ll follow us to the nearest town we could-”

“Nope,” Jojo crossed his arms. “We’re doing this right here. I want to know how we ended up in the future. Or, how you ended up in the past?”

“I know this sounds unbelievable, and I know that it’s only going to get worse.” Joseph stood up and prepared himself. “You see- ah, Joseph- er, Jojo, yes, Jojo, do you remember when Speedwagon finally told you of my- our grandfather? How he took down a vampire named Dio?”

“Yes.” Jojo’s eyes narrowed.

“The cause our grandfathers died for,” Caesar pitched in, eyes glinting with interest.

That same glint made Joseph’s mouth dry as he tried to work out the best thing to say next.

The only thing he could manage to think of was, “Well, he failed.”

Jojo’s eyes widened, his mouth pulling back as he ground his teeth.

Caesar, on the other hand, remained seemingly composed. The only thing that gave away his fury was the way his hands balled into fists.

“A small while back, a coffin was pulled from the ocean, containing Dio’s head… only it was now attached to our grandfather’s body. Ever since, we-” he took a breath, “I have had this power known as a Stand. We’re on our way to Egypt to find Dio and kill him, if only to prevent someone very dear to me from being killed his influence.”

“So let me get this straight.” Jojo scratched his head, taking a side-step toward Caesar and putting more distance between them and the crusaders. His eyes were clouded with an unknown emotion as he stared down his older counterpart. “You’re an older version of me, here on some quest to destroy a vampire where you’re the only Hamon user?”

“That’s pretty much it,” Joseph said, giving a stiff nod. “But you don’t believe me.”

“Ha- not for a second! You said it’s only been fifty years, which means you’re far too old to be me.”

Caesar’s face lit up as he said, “That’s right- Hamon rejuvenates the body! Constant use should have kept you young for decades.”

Joseph gritted his teeth at that and glared at the two of them. “Augh!” He crumpled forward with a sigh. “That was the plan, until you got lazy!”

“Now that sounds more like you, Jojo,” Caesar sniggered.

“Maybe he got lazy with it. Me? I worked my ass off for the level I’m at right now, and I only plan on getting stronger! Besides, even if I had stopped using Hamon, that only makes it more suspicious that you’re out here by yourself! Could have at least grabbed Smokey to watch your back, no need to rope new people into this.”

“Smokey is in politics now,” Joseph said. Gesturing to those behind him, he added, “Besides, this is as much their fight as it is mine.”

“And what about me?” Caesar asked. “You’re just going to take on a league of vampires with people who can’t use hamon and didn’t think to ask me for help?”

Joseph stiffened, a cold sweat running down his neck.

“It’s complicated,” he said.

“Complicated how?”

“Can it, Caesar!” Jojo stepped in front of him again. “I’m done hearing this old bastard talk! We have less than a month to take those clowns down back in Italy. If these guys want to mess around,” he shifted his foot forward in the sand, “then let’s humor them.”

Caesar followed his lead, dropping into a stance of his own.

Joseph reared back, eyes twitching as he considered the fight ahead of him.

“How do we proceed, Mr. Joestar?” Avdol asked, once again in Japanese, his voice low as he came to Joseph’s side.

“Try not to use your stand,” he whispered, “we don’t know what seriously injuring my younger self could do to the past. We’re gonna have to take them out as calmly and safely as-”

“Hey, less talking!”

The last word was said with a grunt of effort as Jojo launched himself forward. His body was glowing with the raw power of his Hamon as he aimed a kick at Joseph’s head. The older man caught him by the boot, reacting just quickly enough to catch his other foot, which was preparing a sneaky kick for his stomach. This seemed to catch him off guard, as Jojo grunted when he saw the block. Joseph spun his legs, propelling him away from his own body to twist and land on his feet in the sand.

“Hamon Bubble Launcher!”

The cry was followed by a spray of bubbles, all of which shot out at the trio.

“Don’t let them touch you!” Joseph said.

Polnareff nodded, summoning Silver Chariot. The sword-wielding stand popped the bubbles with ease, small sparks flying out as they vanished in the sky.

“M-My bubbles!” Caesar said. “They shouldn’t be popping at all!”

Joseph looked at him to say, “Maybe it’s the heat,” before focussing on Avdol and circling away from him.

“No, they should be able to survive greater temperatures than this.”

“Quick, while they’re talking,” Joseph mumbled, “Polnareff, you take care of Caesar while Avdol and I restrain me. Er, myself.”

Avdol reached out, robe twisting in the wind. “I don’t wish to harm you, Joseph Joestar,” he said, “but understand that this situation is far more delicate than you realize.”

“Delicate Shmelicate- you gonna fight me or not? Actually,” he leaned to the side, peaking around Avdol to where Polnareff was stalking towards Caesar, “on second thought, how about we trade, huh?”

“Trade?”

The moment of confusion stunned Avdol long enough for Joseph to leap clean over him, landing more so beside Joseph before sprinting towards the frenchmen. He pulled out one of his clackers, swinging it at his side as he ran.

“Caesar, you get the Egyptian guy!”

“I can take this man,” he said, already preparing a swarm of bubbles. “Don’t tell me you’re afraid to go one on two?”

“It’s not that,” he said. “This guy is the one that burst your bubble! Hamon Clacker!”

He tossed it upwards, avoiding Polnareff entirely as the clackers wrapped around Silver Chariot’s sword. They crackled with bolts of Hamon for a while before falling powerlessly to the ground, as if nothing had been there at all.

“Just as I thought,” Jojo said. “They’ve got some invisible tricks up their sleeves! I knew it when I saw this guy lean forward, right before your bubbles popped.”

“I see,” Caesar nodded. “So these guys haven’t been playing fair.”

“Invisible?” Polnareff asked.

“I wasn’t a stand user in my younger years,” Joseph said. “They can’t see our stands.”

“Mr. Joestar, I fear that this may become dangerous if we allow them to carry on much longer.”

“I know Avdol, I’ll think of something.”

Damn, Joseph thought to himself. It’d be a lot easier to deal with Caesar’s bubbles with Silver Chariot. Mixing the fire from Magician’s Red with the bubble launcher will probably only result in disaster.  Not to mention that Avdol is still healing. I need to find a way to split them up.

That was when he saw Jojo rushing at Polnareff and Caesar diving past them.

The two had made up their minds, taking on the crusaders using Jojo’s strategy.

“Let’s try this again- Hamon Bubble Cutter!”

Joseph stuck a hand in front of Avdol, warding him from using Magician’s Red.

Instead, he sent out a vine, swinging it in a fan-like motion. Due to their velocity and nature, the bubbles did not blow away, though they were popped when they made contact with the thorns. Each pop sent a jolt of electricity down Joseph’s arm as he held onto the vine, bringing it as quickly as he’d deployed it.

A few bubbles had snuck past, whizzing by their heads in the fight, and his arm stung with a familiar soreness.

The Hamon- it traveled through my stand!

There wasn't much time to think on that, as Caesar was now on the attack, stalking toward them and already preparing another batch of bubbles with his hands moving towards and away from each other. He had his eyes locked on Joseph's and a snarl on his lips.

“Caesar,” he held his arms out. “Come on, you don’t have to do this.”

“You took us from our quest to avenge our grandfathers and may have effectively doomed the world,” he said. “This I will never forgive!”

“No see this as a chance to truly avenge your grandfather,” he said. “Dio is still alive and well, don’t you want to-!”

“Enough of your lies.”

He began circling them to the left and fear struck Joseph as he was forced to turn and keep him in view, now unable to have his eye on Polnareff.

The frenchmen was waging his own war, stalking around Jojo in a circle. The latter was seemingly having a blast, twirling the clackers around his fingers with an ease and dexterity that Polnareff found hard to look away from.

Jojo smirked when he noticed that, rushing forward with a yell.

Polnareff leaned back but didn’t step away from the attack. Thus, he was hit by a spray of sand as Jojo kicked it up into his face.

“Ack!” He grabbed his face and coughed. “Damn- my eyes!”

Jojo went to follow up with a blow to the head, only to be knocked back by the hilt of Silver Chariot’s sword.

“Damn it,” he hissed.

These invisible weapons are gonna be tough- how did he hit me while holding his face? He looked up to see Polnareff wiping the sand from his eyes. More importantly, how am I supposed to read an opponent who I can’t even see?

His eyes widened with a dangerous realization.

“Caesar! Do you remember the Noone Maneuver?”

Noone Maneuver? Joseph asked himself, arms raised in front of him. The name sounded familiar, but they’d created so many minuscule strategies to use against the Pillar Men under the assumption that they’d be fighting together. He could hardly remember all of them, it having been so long.

Of course, for Caesar, it was less than a month ago. He nodded with a grin, winding up and landing a kick on Joseph’s arm.

He has to know I’m intentionally blocking and that he’s not really hurting me, he said to himself, There isn't even any Hamon behind them- these kicks are distractions, but for what?”

“They don’t want the Egyptian guy attacking you,” Jojo said, dodging around Polnareff. “Take out the old man first!”

“Noone Maneuver?” It was a Greek reference, right? Most of them were…

Caesar went in for another kick, this time dodging behind Joseph. He couldn’t turn around fast enough, not being nearly as athletic as he used to be, thus he was left entirely open when Caesar yelled, “Bubble Barrier!”

Thus he was consumed by a large bubble, reinforced with Hamon, of course.

He was taken back to that day by the fountain, and through there he finally remembered something else. It was Loggins, rubbing at his eyes with a shrill shriek while he and Caesar dove behind him and-

His eyes.

“Avdol!” he said. “Cover your-”

But it was too late. A spray of soapy water jumped out of Caesar’s hand with a jolt of Hamon, catching Avdol in the eyes before he could think to summon Magician’s Red.

To his right, Jojo was throwing one of his clackers toward the ground, snaring Polnareff’s feet and causing him to fall into the sand, still blinded by the previous sand attack.

“Let’s go, Caesarino!” Jojo yelled.

Caesar ran after him, the two disappearing into the desert while Joseph suffered inside of his familiar prison.

“Avdol!” he cried. “Avdol, are you alright?”

He pulled himself off the ground, leaning forward and placing a hand on Joseph’s bubble.

“Mr. Joestar, your younger self… he’s not a very honorable fighter.”

“You’re unfortunately right, Avdol,” he said, looking after them as they ran into the sand.

Very unfortunate, indeed.

Chapter Text

Jotaro’s bones felt weaker than they ever had, a metallic taste filling his mouth. It was as if he had just fallen from a great height. Beside him, he heard Kakyoin groan with effort.

At least he hadn’t fallen alone.

When he finally gained sensation in his limbs, he felt something that he hadn’t before.

It wasn’t a wetness persay, but it was some sort of thick, warm liquid, which was confirmed when he heard a roaring slosh from where Kakyoin had groaned.

“Tch, what is this stuff?” he asked in Japanese, pushing himself up entirely as he looked over his assumedly ruined clothes.

When he turned towards Kakyoin, he saw that they were in a pit of some sort. It was indeed filled with some sort of liquid, Jotaro only managing to avoid drowning in his shocked state thanks to his landing in a more shallow area. Kakyoin had landed on his back, the splashing noise made when he sat up.

Now he was free to lean forward and sniff his sleeve in an attempt to name the mysterious liquid. Jotaro watched, holding back a retching noise when Kakyoin ran his tongue over his own arm.

“Don’t lick it, dumbass.”

“I think it’s oil.”

“I don’t care if it’s the richest chocolate syrup money can buy, you shouldn’t go around licking strange liquids. Especially not the kind that we’ve been sitting in for God knows how long at the bottom of some pit.” He looked upwards. “So, what is this place anway?”

“Maybe we’ve contaminated someones oil press.”

Jotaro didn’t agree, but nodded anyway before standing to his full height. The oil weighed down his jacket, sucking him backwards as he waded through the mixture.

“Hey!” he called upwards in, “Hey! Is anyone in here!”

“Very impressive, Jojo,” a woman’s voice rang in English

The same woman peaked over the edge, face stern where it was hidden behind a thick pair of sunglasses.

“But you were the one who wanted another shot at doing the Pillar properly, so asking to be let out won’t work, even if it is in Japane-” she stopped, leaning downwards to get a closer look at the man speaking. “Uh- ‘Jojo?’”

Jotaro ground his teeth, closing his eyes before saying, “Yes,” in english this time.

“You’re not Jojo,” she said. “Where did he go? Where did you come from?”

“Perhaps we could talk about this up there?” Kakyoin asked, coming to stand beside Jotaro and laying a hand on his shoulder. “We are a bit confused as well.”

The woman sighed.

“I suppose it can’t be helped.”

She disappeared from view, startling them both for a moment, before somersaulting over the edge with one leg stretched out to break her fall. He heard a breath of awe from Kakyoin, even before she landed delicately on the oil’s surface. She set the other one down with the same grace, a flower-like pattern shaping itself in the waves from where her heels pulled together.

She walked closer, still not dropping into the oil as she leaned forward to inspect Jotaro’s face.

“Hmm, you have his eyes,” she said, adjusting her sunglasses. She turned to Kakyoin. “So, if this is ‘Jojo,’ who are you?”

She said the name “Jojo” like it was a foreign word that was harsh on her tongue.

“Noriaki Kakyoin,” he said with a smile. “Pleased to meet you, miss?”

“Coach,” she corrected, “Coach Lisa Lisa.”

“Alright,” Jotaro grumbled. “Can we exchange pleasantries once we’re out of here?”

Lisa Lisa’s blank expression was turned on Jotaro. She held it there for some time before relenting with a quiet nod.

“Very well.” She offered both of her hands. “Hold on to me, I’ll take you out of here.”

“What the-?” Jotaro clicked his tongue. “Just show us the stairs.”

“The only way up the Hell Pillar is to climb it.”

“‘Climb it?’” Kakyoin parrotted, “How do you climb something that’s slick with oil?”

“With Hamon, of course. Now, are you going to take my hands? Or will you stay down here to die?”

That’s all it took for Kakyoin to latch onto her left hand, leaving Jotaro to grit his teeth and reach for her right.

“How are you going to climb without your hands?” Jotaro asked.

“With Hamon,” her scarf flicked up around her, forming a halo that soon broke apart to latch onto the wall, the right side of it wrapping around her arm, “of course.”

She began pulling the two upwards, her scarf used as both a rope and a makeshift harness, though it wasn’t wrapped around anything. Instead, the tips that met with the wall radiated a bright yellow as she hoisted them.

“Ah, you’re stronger than you look,” Kakyoin punctuated his compliment with a nervous laugh.

“I know,” she said as they neared the top. “This climb would usually take days for the average trainee. But, just for you,” she tossed them over the edge, allowing them to land harshly on the tile floor above, “it will make an exception.”

When Jotaro turned around, her scarf was no longer glowing. It instead laid flat against her expensive pantsuit.

“Now,” she said, “What were two non-Hamon users doing in the Hell Climb Pillar?”

“We were hoping you could answer that,” Kakyoin said, pushing himself off of the ground. “The last thing we remember, we were in the desert and-”

“The desert,” her eyes narrowed behind her glasses, “Are you sure that you meant to say ‘desert?’”

Jotaro wondered what she was getting at, only to be suddenly hit with the seabreeze as it passed through the room they were in.

His jaw clenched as he turned his head towards the window. The view of the ocean reflecting the night sky so soon after suffering the desert’s heat was off putting, to say the least. He didn’t allow himself more than the previously clenched jaw.

Still dripping with oil, he turned to Lisa Lisa and asked, “What country are we in?”

“We’re off the coast of Italy,” she said. “Which begs the question, just what desert were you in?”

“That doesn’t matter anymore,” Jotaro said, standing up.

“I disagree. You see, I asked a question. So,” her scarf raised around her, once more giving off its yellow light, “allow me to rephrase. Where did you come from?”

Jotaro steeled himself, though neither he nor Kakyoin even opened their mouths to speak.

“Tch, wrong answer.”

She raised her hands, causing the scarf to surge forward, wrapping themselves around Jotaro. Before they could constrict, however, Star Platinum was summoned, pushing apart the ends of the fabric.

Lisa Lisa seemed shocked, if the way that she parted her lips in a quiet gasp was any indication, at the way the sparks ran through the air without touching anything.

Jotaro was the one literally shocked as Hamon ran through Star Platinum and into him, shaking him and causing him to lean forward with a shuddering breath.

She retracted her scarf, widening her stance slightly.

“Who are you?” she asked, allowing the fabric to fall flat around her once more.

“A stand user,” Jotaro growled. It wasn’t a question as he glared up at her from under his cap, though it was meant to be directed at the woman rather than himself.

She didn’t understand, saying, “‘Stand users?’ Is that similar to Hamon? Is that how you managed to deflect my attack? No wait a moment,” she brought up a hand to grab her chin in thought. “No, you didn’t deflect it. You’re wounded, after all. Could it be that you foolishly sent out your Hamon through the air? That weakens it, you know, it can only travel on water vapors and makes it easier for direct attacks to pass back into you.”

Jotaro growled, his eyes trained on Lisa Lisa.

“Don’t get cocky with me you-!”

Kakyoin moved forward, throwing an arm in front of Jotaro to stop him from talking.

“Coach Lisa Lisa,” he said, “We mean no disrespect, and we don’t want to start a fight. We are just confused. You see, the moment before we appeared in your Hell Pit-”

“The Hell Climb Pillar.”

He flinched at her correction, but smiled as he corrected himself. “Hell Climb Pillar. Before we arrived down there, we were in an Indian desert, on our way to Egypt.”

“To Egypt, huh?” She folded her arms and tilted her head. “And you ended up in Italy by mistake?”

“Coach Lisa Lisa, if I may,” he gestured to the pit they’d just emerged from, “I don’t believe you’re a stranger to the supernatural.”

She shifted her jaw, biting the side of her cheek while pulling her chin to her neck.

“I suppose you’re right,” she said, “So what exactly transported you here?”

“That’s what we meant by ‘stand user.’ You see-”

Jotaro stood back to full height, cutting him off as he said, “We’ll hold off on the full explanations. Afterall, we don’t know if you had something to do with us ending up here in the first place. And that scarf of yours makes me think you know exactly what a stand is, ya?”

She tilted her head to the side. “I don’t know what gives you that idea,” she said. “What moves my scarf is Hamon, a power born from breath itself.  I believe I’ve said that a few times now.”

“It sounds familiar,” Kakyoin whispered, “Didn’t Mr. Joestar mention Hamon before?”

“Who cares?” Jotaro asked, not bothering to drop his voice. “We don’t trust every stand user we meet because they just so happen to have the same power as us, Hamon shouldn’t be any different.”

“I can speak Japanese.”

Both of their eyes widened at the simple phrase.

“My father trained me in many languages as a child. To be honest, I didn’t think that would come in handy until now.”

“Ah, I apologize for the secretive-”

“Enough,” she cut Kakyoin off. “What do you know of the Joestars and Hamon?”

Jotaro dropped into a fighting stance as he asked, “Are you hunting the Joestars as well?”

“Oh, is that what you’re here for?” She allowed herself a small laugh, her scarf flaring to life once more. “I should have you know that I killed the last man who dared to ‘hunt’ my family.”

“Your family?” Kakyoin croaked. “Woah wait,” he stepped between the two just as a pair of purple fists began to manifest by Jotaro’s arms. “If you’re an ally of the Joestars, then this is all a big misunderstanding among future friends!”

Her scarf fell.

“What do you mean by that?”

“This is Jotaro, he’s a-”

“Kujo,” Jotaro interrupted, “Jotaro Kujo.”

“Yes,” Kakyoin said through gritted teeth, “but you’re a Joestar by blood.”

“Doesn’t matter, I don’t need to rely on supposed allies, especially not some woman who’s threatened me more than twice in the past minute.”

Lisa Lisa didn’t move, standing calmly with one foot poised in front of the other.

“Jotaro, she’s just as confused as we are- imagine waking up to someone suddenly inside of your kitchen with no explanation as to how they got there, what would you do?”

“Turn around,” Lisa Lisa said.

Jotaro’s eyes narrowed.

“What’d you say, bitch?”

“Cut the language,” she said, “and turn around, Jotaro.”

There was a long pause where Kakyoin thought that he was going to have to break up another fight. The air grew thick with an invisible energy, the salty wind still pushing through with only the sound of the oil dribbling into the pool to serve as background noise.

Finally, Jotaro let out a sigh, saying, “Good grief,” and doing as she asked.

“Can you take off your coat?” she asked, stepping forward.

He hummed disapprovingly, considering turning around and just pushing her back into the oil pit.

Then he made eye contact  with Kakyoin, who nodded pleadingly for him to just submit.

That had him taking off his coat with another exaggerated sigh, shoulders falling as the heavy material met the ground with a dull thud.

He didn’t know what this was all for, nor did he know why this was being asked of him.

He was beginning to feel like, whatever Lisa Lisa had been looking for, it just wasn’t there. Then he heard an honest sob come from behind him.

Turning quickly, he saw the cold Coach holding her hand over her mouth with wide, dizzying eyes, now uncovered as she had removed her sunglasses for a better look.

“You…” she paused, “Another Joestar.”

Chapter Text

After what felt like hours on foot, Jojo finally began to slow as they came to the rim of a valley. In the center, a town became visible through a dense fog. It's dark buildings, which he would have called gloomy any other day, signaled progress and a place to rest in this harsh desert, so he welcomed the sight with a large grin. His slowing triggered Caesar to follow suit, but not before jogging a few feet ahead of him. Then they stopped, both of them doubled over and panting with Jojo reaching out to lean on his shoulder while Caesar kept his hands on his knees.

“Who were those people?” Caesar croaked, throat dry and rough with effort.

“Dunno,” Jojo said. “Ugh, that was strange though- the entire group, I mean.” He finally stood up, running his fingers through his hair. “The old man really knew about Hamon. No- it was more than that, he knew all of your tricks. Did you see the look on his face when you put him in that bubble? That wasn’t surprise or shock- that was a man who knew what he was looking at like a- ‘Oh yeah, I know this place.’”

“Jojo, slow down,” Caesar sighed, standing up as well. “You were probably just imagining it. I’m more worried about how they knew our names than our attacks.”

“I suppose anyone who worked with our grandfathers could know our family history,” Jojo mumbled. “From there, anyone they told would also know. I guess it isn’t that surprising that at least one of them would know about that. Their whole vibe was just- just weird. It was like they were totally normal human beings, but those powers were on a whole other level.”

“Definitely,” Caesar nodded, winding his shoulders back as if preparing to pitch. “I say we head to that town for now. Once we know where we are, we’ll find a police station or post office, then we could send a message to Coach or Speedwagon to help us get home.”

“Sounds good,” Jojo said, punching his own palm with an energetic grin.

That grin remained, even as a thousand contradictory thoughts ran through his mind.

Could they have been in league with the Pillar Men after all? No, probably not. Those clackers were charged with Hamon when I took that guy down. If he was a Pillar Man, then they would have burned him at least, not to mention they were out in the sun, so that’s not likely either. Of course, if they’d happened to get their hands on the stone-

He dispelled the thought with a shake of his head.

No no- don’t be ridiculous! Lisa Lisa would be here if they had. Not to mention, compared to my first fight with them, that went over easy.

He looked down at his hands, clenching them into fists with a scowl.

I’m not that much stronger, and I know it. Those were just men- men with invisible weapons that could withstand Hamon. If we see them again, we can take them just as easily.

“Jojo,” Caesar’s voice interrupted his thoughts, “what is that?”

He was pointing at a large pike which had skewered the body of a dead dog.

The two of them tensed at the sight of it, Caesar’s eyes narrowing as the mist swirled around them. It quite literally clouded their vision, though it did nothing to erase the dog from Jojo’s mind.

“Let’s keep moving,” he finally said.

Caesar nodded. “On second thought,” he said as they walked, “it’s probably some gang’s way of warning others away from their territory. Leaders usually put one up in front of someone’s door, condemning them to death.”

“Wait- there are dead dogs all over Italy!?”

“I didn’t say they were all over!” he shouted. “And they were usually fish or just pig blood, not dogs. And that was only in poorer areas where the groups didn’t have an actual building or front for their crimes to send the messages to.”

“So this town’s condemned to death, is that what you’re sayi-eeh!”

He had to focus to keep himself upright, narrowly avoiding tripping over something he hadn’t spotted in the fog.

When he looked down, he immediately spotted the leg of a man lying on the ground and began growling in anger.

“Hey!” he said, “Don’t just lay around in the street, man!”

The “man” didn’t respond, even as his face became more visible through the fog.

“Hello-? I’m talking to you!” Jojo said, waving a hand in front of the man’s face.

“J-Jojo,” Caesar said, “I don’t think that man’s breathing. Look at the fog around his face, it’s not moving.”

He was right. The fog sat undisturbed around the man’s face, prompting Jojo to lean in and wave his hand in front of him again. As soon as he did, the man’s head dropped forward with a worrying limpness.

Jojo snapped up at that, turning around in the street yelling, “Hey! Hey, we need a doctor over here!”

Caesar dropped to his knees behind him, running his fingers along the man’s neck.

“I can’t find a pulse, and his skin is freezing . He’s dead, Jojo.”

He ground his teeth, looking around to find anyone who’d even looked out of their houses at hearing his cries.

“Hello!?” he called out into the fog. “There’s a body!” Still, no one came to help. This only caused Jojo to clench his fists and turn back down to the body. “What the hell is with this town? It’s like no one’s here.” His anger dulled at the sound of rustling from below him, and his eyes flicked down to see Caesar rummaging around the corpse’s pockets. “Aee- what are you doing?” he whispered harshly, leaning down with his mouth pulled back into a frown.

“Trying to see if he has an ID,” he said. “If he lives nearby, we can find his family and- ah!” He pulled a wallet from the man’s pocket. “Fantastico! Now if we just- huh?”

“What, what is it?” Jojo asked, leaning over his shoulder so that their faces were touching. “Huh? What language is that?”

“Persian, I think,” Caesar said, opening the wallet further, taking interest in a colorful stack of bills. “Hm, and these aren’t lira.”

“Those are rupees,” Jojo said.

“What?” he looked over his shoulder, “How would you know?”

“I used to travel with Speedwagon when he went on business trips and I was out of school,” he explained as he stood, Caesar following him with his eyes. “We went to India maybe, twice? I think? The point is I know what a rupee looks like.”

Caesar turned back to the wallet with a grimace. “So the old man wasn’t lying. We are in India.”

“Well, yeah maybe everything he said was true, or we’re still in Italy and this guy was a tourist, or- or we are in India but that doesn’t make him an older version of me. Come on Caesar, don’t be stupid.”

He was about to snap back, but they were interrupted by the sound of wood against stone.

It was a hollow, sharp clack that filled the alley they stood in. If Jojo didn’t know any better, he might have described the way the mist moved around them as the town breathing.

The sound of the noise was a small, elderly woman. More specifically, it was the sound of her cane against the road as she walked toward them.

Caesar gasped, surging in front of the body.

“You might want to stand back,” he said to the woman.

“Oh?” she said, voice high and questioning. “And why is that, young man?’

“There’s something horrible over here,” he said. “Could you direct us to the police?”

“Oh my, the police?” she pulled her hand up to her face. “You want to call the police?”

Jojo stepped forward, “Yeah- now. If the station’s far away then just point is in the right direction.”

It couldn’t have been too hard to find in the small town.

“Aren’t you nice boys, I’m sure this man’s family will thank you for being so concerned! Come right with me, we’ll straighten this out no problem.”

They followed her through the winding streets, noting the crumbling and sifting structures around them. Each loose bit of cobble stone that shifted under their feet or creeking shutter that flapped in the wind didn’t stand out as an issue to either of them. That is, until they reached their destination. It was a large, rotting building not unlike those they’d past aside from the fact that its front lawn doubled as a cemetary.

Jojo looked back when the sound of footsteps grew quiet, finding that Caesar had stopped entirely, his eyes stuck on the building. More specifically, the graves littering its entrance.

“What’s wrong, Caesarino?” he asked.

“N-Nothing,” he said, looking down and closing his eyes as a cold sweat formed on his face.

“Oh come on, you’re not scared of a little cemetery, are you?”

“Of course not.” He sounded more confident this time, even as his hand jammed itself into his pant’s pocket.

“Your rosary’s in your breast pocket.”

Caesar’s eyes snapped open, his cheeks even redder than usual. “Whatever! Just walk with your thumbs in your hands if you want your grandmother to be alright.”

“Wow, we are superstitious, aren’t we?”

“Shut up,” he growled, eyes dark before he looked over Jojo and said, “Ah, signora? What business do we have at a church?”

The woman who’d lead them here had so far been silent as they bickered.

“This isn’t a church, young man,” she said, “This is my hotel.”

Caesar stiffened even more at that as he thought, It’s not even hallowed ground!?

“Hotel?” Jojo asked, voice as high as he was incredulous. “I thought you were taking us to the police!”

“I’ll call them from the front desk,” she said. “I thought you boys might be tired, there aren’t a lot of towns nearby and you came in on foot, after all.”

“You have a phone in there?” Jojo asked, pointing to the seemingly ancient structure.

“Of course,” she nodded.

“That’s very nice of you,” Caesar said, “but i’m afraid that we’re just passing through, and we have no money to rent a room.”

“Oh consider it on the house. I’d rather have your company than your money. It gets so lonely up here on my own, and I’d love to help a pair of strapping young travelers, such as yourselves.”

Jojo hummed in thought, pulling his arms behind his head. “Well, I don’t see why not. What do you say, Caesarino?”

“Stop calling me that, and I’d really rather not,” looking over Jojo’s head, he smiled as he added, “but thank you for your generosity.”

“Oh come on,” he leaned closer and slung an arm around Caesar’s shoulders. “We can stay the night and ask her where we can send a message back to Lisa Lisa tomorrow!”

Caesar pulled a face at that.

“We can find another place to sleep that isn’t hidden behind a bunch of corpses. They’re not even buried properly- their graves are just sticking out and pointing their feet every which way- it’s wrong, Jojo.”

“Sorry that you’ve never been out of Italy,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Maybe that’s just how they do it in India. If that’s the case, then every graveyard in the country must look like this. In that case, are you sure you want to stick around any longer than you have to?”

Caesar stopped, eyes widening before he clicked his tongue and relented. “Fine.” Reaching into the inner pocket of his coat, he managed to retrieve his rosary, which he held over his chest as he made his way into the cemetery as he mumbled an exasperated, “Mama Mia.”

“Alright! Thanks, lady! We’ll be glad to take you up on your offer!”

“Oh what a relief, Jotaro!” she said, clapping her hands together. “Come on in and I’ll-”

“‘Jotaro?’” he asked.

“Yes?” she asked.

“That’s not my name,” he said.

Her eyes widened and her mouth snapped shut in apprehension.

“Ah- well then,” she laughed, “I’m so sorry, ah, could you tell me your name then?”

“It’s Joseph,” he said. “You can call me Jojo, of course.”

Her eyes narrowed, though the smile remained on her face.

“Of course of course!” she said with a laugh. “I must have heard this young man call you Jojo and assumed, how careless of me! Ha ha! And what is your name?”

“Caesar.”

“Caesar and Joseph,” she nodded, hobbling up to the hotel door. “And are you two traveling alone?”

“Yep!” Jojo said. “Oh, right- and your name is?”

She grinned.

“Enya.”


“Come on,” Joseph said, holding his hat down to blot out the sun as he continued the march, “we have to find them before Dio does.”

“Ugh, don’t worry so much. They handled us well enough,” Polnareff said. Half joking, he added, “I think we should let them storm through the next few stand users for us.”

“They may have managed to escape this time,” Avdol said, “but you’re forgetting both my weakened state as well as our hesitation to cause serious harm. The stand users we face attack with the intent to kill.”

Joseph grunted. “I really don’t want to think about what would happen if my younger self died.”

“Do you think this is the work of Dancing Wand?” Avdol asked. “Perhaps the extra holes Polnareff stabbed in the wood messed with its intended effect, instead bringing those two into the present.”

“Then what happened to Jotaro and Kakyoin?” Polnareff asked.

“Well I have one theory,” Avdol said, “but there’s no evidence for it, only a hunch.”

“Let’s hear it,” Joseph said.

“I believe that, if these two were sent into our time, Jotaro and Kakyoin may be in your past, Mr. Joestar.”

The older man stopped, spinning around. “You think they’re still alive?”

Polnareff smiled, relief running through him at the idea that he hadn’t killed the younger crusaders.

“I do,” he said. “As I said, there is no evidence of this specific theory, but I can’t believe that their stories would end so soon. With the appearance of your younger self and his companion, I think this is most likely.”

“Good enough for now,” Joseph said. “We need to keep moving somehow. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to tell Suzie- Hell, I don’t know how I would tell Holly- that he,” he cut himself off, unable to continue as his hands clenched into fists at his sides. A harsh growl left his mouth as he turned back to the direction Jojo and Caesar had run off to, moving forward with his eyes fixed on the ground.

They didn’t move much further before Polnareff let out a gasp.

“Look,” he said, pointing down the canyon side they’d just scaled. At the base of the wall, there where a small town with only its tallest buildings reaching out against the fog that was flowing out of it. “Do you think they’d head down there?”

“It’s the only town for miles,” Avdol said, “I think it’s a good bet.”

“Then let’s go,” Joseph said, starting towards the town.

They continued along the cliff face, the pathway wide enough for a car to drive one way down the road.

This was proven by the sound of a vehicle coming up behind them. If it hadn’t been for Polnareff grabbing him by the arm and pulling him against the wall, Avdol would have been run over.

“Hey- watch it!” Polnareff yelled after the car with one hand cupped around his mouth and the other shaking angrily above his head. “Tch- asshole.”

“Must have been in a hurry,” Avdol said, though his voice was heavy and tense.

“Yeah, well so are we,” Joseph said. “Come on.”

As they made their way towards the town, none of them could have predicted the evil that already lay inside.

At the moment, said evil was shaking with anticipation, hand on the phone beside her as she watched the two men go upstairs.

She didn’t have time to injure them and turn them into her tools, not at that moment anyway. If she should be found by the Joestar gang with a pair of bodies at her feet, or with their corpses inside of her hotel, they would be sure to suspect something.

For now, she had to be polite.

First she would make sure that those of the Joestar bloodline were dead and that Polnareff was squirreled away for his eternal punishment, one that he deserved on account of killing her son. After that was over, she could celebrate by taking out the men up stairs.

She smiled to herself, taking her hand off of the receiver with a sigh.

The phone didn’t actually work, of course, neither did any of the televisions or radios in the rooms. That was why it was such a shock when it roared to life on the desk.

Scrambling, she picked it up and brought it to her face, where the phone crackled to life with a quiet voice only saying, “Enya, how good it is to hear your voice.”

She quieted, mouth pulled into a grimace. “D’Arby,” she said, “it’s just you.”

“Yes, ‘just me,’” he said. “I can tell by your tone that you don’t want to hear my important information after all. I see how it is. Anyway, I need to alert the others so-”

“Stop your whining you egotistical bastard. Just tell me why you called.”

“Ah yes. According to one of the Minor League, the young Joestar and one of his stand users has died. As you are the closest to where they were, Lord Dio would like you to make sure of that.”

Her jaw tightened, eyes bulging at the information.

No, she thought to herself, imagining Polnareff’s useless corpse collapsing to the ground without her having heard his cries. Those brats-! Those last minute pests that forced themselves into Lord Dio’s court… If I find that they took that pleasure away from me, then I will-

She cut her thoughts short, closing her eyes to focus.

“Do you know which of them died?”

“Nope,” the smile rang in his voice. “Our Lord didn’t press and the poor bastard didn’t know what the rest of them looked like. All he knew was that, which ever ally it was, he called the Joestar ‘Jotaro’ before he died.” He chuckled. “They’re such a disorganized bunch. The full reports never reach all of them, if any. Thank goodness you serve as the head of your group. Then again, I guess all of that information didn’t get any of you closer to killing any of their group, much less one of the Joestars. It’s sad, isn’t it? At this rate, my brother and I will be left out of the fun and they’ll get all the credit for our loyalty. Oh well. At least there’s two less problems on our Lord’s plate.”

“Yes,” she said, forcing her voice to remain steady. “I’ll call back if I see the remaining Joestar.”

“You do that,” he said. “Goodbye, Enya. Oh, and I’m so sorry about your son.”

He hung up after that spiteful addition, causing her hand to shake as she slammed the receiver back into place.

“Bastard,” she growled.

She would have to continue letting her anger fester, if only for a moment more. It wouldn’t be a very long moment, as she already felt guests begin to enter the town.

This time, she hoped that they were truly with the Joestars.

Her frown deepened as she corrected herself.

Joestar.

She shuffled off to meet them before they too discovered the corpse she’d hastily left behind.

They’d walked past it upon arriving in town, too focused as they scanned the area for a sign that Jojo and Caesar had been there at all.

“They could be anywhere in this town,” Avdol said. “How do we begin to look for them?”

Polnareff looked up and down the road, originally intent on finding someone to ask if the two had passed through, when an idea struck.

“Mr. Joestar,” he said, “where would you go?”

“What?” the older man asked, looking at Polnareff over his shoulder.

Avdol’s face lit up. “He’s right! Regardless of age, he is still you, Mr. Joestar. He’s sure to think similarly.”

He clicked his tongue and let out a dark chuckle. I know you couldn’t understand, he thought, why that would be hard to hear.

“I’d probably try to find a phone,” he said before gritting his teeth, “I mean, if I was trying to contact someone in the same country.” Did mom ever have a phone?

“Perhaps a telegram service would have been more practical?” Avdol asked. “We could try to find the post office.”

“Good idea,” Joseph mumbled, eyes scanning the area for an indication of where they should go.

Having just done so before they’d struck up conversation, he was surprised to catch sight of a figure facing away from them on the road. A short woman who wasn’t walking away, but rather facing a wall with her arms at her sides.

“Sir,” he called out, “could you direct us to the post office?”

The woman didn’t so much as turn to acknowledge them.

Polnareff, spotting her as well, stood and made his way over with a polite wave that the woman, with her back still facing the group, couldn’t see.

“Pardonnez-nous, madame,” he purred. “My friends and I are travelers and were hoping that you could help us find a post office?”

Still she didn’t turn around.

“Again, we’re so sorry to trouble you, however,” he laid a hand on her shoulder, “it is important that-”

She let out a bloody screech that filled the road and put all of the crusaders on edge, causing Polnareff to flinch away. As he did, she dropped down to all fours and sprinted, not once showing her face.

Testing the silence that followed, Joseph waited a moment before saying, “Okay.”

“‘Okay!?’” Polnareff repeated. “What part of that was ‘okay?’”

“Perhaps there is an illness spreading through town,” Avdol said, “that would explain why there aren’t many other people around.”

“Yeah,” Joseph nodded, “must be. Whatever it is, at least it’s mostly quiet. It’ll make it easier to find them and get out of here.”

Just gotta follow the sound of my big mouth.

“Are you looking for someone?”

The voice came from behind them, prompting them to turn and see an old woman with a walking cane taller than her own body staring up at them expectantly.

“Yes,” Avdol said, turning his full body towards her. “Could you point us in the direction of the post office?”

Ignoring the question, she provided one of her own. “Might I ask who you’re looking for?”

“Two men- a blonde and a brunet- both wearing long scarves,” Avdol said.

“And the blonde would have birthmarks on either side of his face,” Joseph said before he could stop himself. It seemed like such a small detail, but one that stuck out no matter how long it had been since he’d seen Caesar’s face.

And it was that detail that caused the old woman’s smile to drop, her eyes clouding over.

“Pink birthmarks?” she asked.

“Yes!” Joseph said. “Have you seen them?”

“Oh yes,” she gave a short, drowning laugh. “They’re currently guests at my hotel. If you’re planning on meeting up with them, you could find them there.”

“Oh madame, that would be fantastic!” Polnareff said, coming to stand just behind the old woman with a hand on her back.

She forced out a chuckle to match his own.

Don’t touch me, murderer, she thought without a hint of irony. What she said out loud was, “Anything I can do to help. The hotel is just this way, gentlemen.”

She lead this group down a similar path. The sight of Polnareff had put a wide smile on her face, aiding her in her deception. It was easier to act warmly towards others when you were so happy.

If that boy isn’t Jotaro, she thought, Then what tie does he have to this group? Could there have been another Joestar that neither I or even Lord Dio could see?

She allowed herself to look over her shoulder as Polnareff talked her ear off in strings of compliments that she didn’t care for. There she found the face of the Joseph she’d expected to first turn up at her illusion of a town.

He could have been related to the younger man. If she saw them standing next to one another, she could have guessed that they were grandfather and grandson, or even father and son if the lighting was right.

Did Jotaro have a brother, or an uncle? She shook her head at the thought, knowing that Dio’s resources would have both known and told them if there were any other Joestars.

Then she remembered the younger men saying that they were traveling alone.

Do they suspect me? She turned her eyes back on the road to hide her worrying look. In that case, I can’t let them meet up just yet- not while the older Joestar is still alive.

In the end, she resolved that it didn’t matter if the younger man was a secret Joestar or not. At least, it didn’t mean anything bad for her or her Lord. An extra Joestar captured and killed only meant another enemy piece off the board in this century old game of chess between her Lord and the Joestar bloodline.

Her smile grew at the thought.

They entered the building without issue, Joseph immediately looking around, as if either Jojo or Caesar would immediately give in at seeing that they were spotted. Avdol was more guarded as the doors closed behind them, balling his hand into a fist in the sleeve of his robe.

He knew that, if it came down to it, he wouldn’t be able to put up a fair fight, but he wouldn’t again take the young Joestar lightly if another fight broke out.

Polnareff didn’t react to the building either way, still chatting up their hostess with a charming grin.

“Here we are,” she said, standing at the front desk and sliding over a registry with a bandaged hand.

“Mimiere-!” Polnareff gasped, taking her hand delicately into his own. “Whatever happened here?”

“Oh I just- ah- burned it while stoking fire last night,” she said as she pulled her hand back to her chest. “It’s clean and taken care of, but it’s still quite tender, so-”

“Pardon-moi, I did not know! The idea that you manage this hotel on your lonesome brings a tear to my eye.”

“I think the solitude does me well,” she said, watching as Joseph wrote down his name.

“Now,” he said, setting the pen down with a little more force than necessary, “where did the two men go?”

Her eyes widened. “Oh, they should be back soon! They went out, I think maybe to get something to eat? They didn’t say- anyway! I’ll give you the rooms right beside theirs so, when they come back, you’ll be the first to know!”

Joseph’s stare hardened.

“Polnareff, come with me. Avdol, could you stay here and wait for them if they beat us back?”

“Mr. Joestar,” he whispered, “I think it would be best if I wasn’t left alone in the event of an attack.”

He brought his hand to his forehead, not needing to say much more for Joseph to nod.

“Fine, Polnareff, you stay here, and remember,” his eyes shifted to the smiling elderly woman before he leaned in and murmured, “don’t let em get away, but go easy on em, ya?”

“No need to worry,” he said. “I’ve got this!”

Joseph nodded as if to say, “We’ll be counting on you then,” before leading Avdol out of the building while Polnareff began moving up to their rooms.

None of them noticed the crooked smile on Enya’s face. In the same vein, none of them knew, even as Joseph and Avdol made their way through the cemetery gates, that the men they were looking for were only a staircase away.

Jojo and Caesar, the former of which was occupied with the room’s TV, were equally unaware.

“Look at the size of it!” Jojo said as he gestured to the box.

“Yes, so you’ve been saying,” Caesar said, sitting on one of the twin beds with his legs crossed in front of him.

“This is amazing! I haven’t even seen a TV since Granny and I began the move from England. She didn’t like it too much, so it’s not like it was the first thing we got in our new house. I wonder if she has one now.”

“Lisa Lisa has a TV.”

“Yeah in her office that she never lets us watch.”

“That she never lets you watch.”

“The news doesn’t count.”

Caesar ground his teeth, his eyes screwing shut as he calmed himself.

“Sorry that I care about current events and not just numbing myself.”

“Just listen to the radio or read the paper then, so you can do something else while you do it.”

Jojo didn’t mention that he couldn’t watch the news with Caesar even if he was allowed, due to the language barrier. Instead, he just kept fiddling with the television.

“Where are the knobs?”

“How should I know?” Caesar asked, sighing as he opened the nightstand.

He sifted through it for a moment, finding a brochure that depicted some old castles at the edge of a marsh.

What is this doing in a desert hotel? he wondered, but when he opened it, he found that there was nothing inside to explain  what had been on the front.

“Looking for a bible?”

When he looked up from the pamphlet, he found Jojo staring down at him with a smirk, his arms crossed over his chest.

“Bibles don’t exist in this forsaken place.”

“Oh lighten up, will you? It’s another country! Just a place to explore and find people different from you, besides this could be the vacation we needed after training nonstop for the past few weeks.” He walked away as he spoke, flopping down on the opposite bed with a sigh. “Would be nice to get back before I die of poison, though.”

“Yes, that would be ideal,” Caesar said only half sarcastically, standing up only to sit down on Jojo’s bed. Pulling one leg under him, he stared down at him with a sigh. “We need to be careful while we’re still here. I don’t even remember how we got here in the first place.”

“Neither do I,” Jojo said, raising his eyebrows and staring at the ceiling while laying his hands on his stomach. “I think the last thing I remember was us jumping into the Hell Climb Pillar.”

“You mean you jumping and then pulling me in, even after I said I was tired,” Caesar said.

“Oh relax, we lived! But what happened after we climbed out?”

Caesar shook his head. “I don’t even remember climbing out.”

“Neither do I.” Jojo tapped his fingers together for a while before sitting up with a gasp, startling Caesar into laying against the headboard when Jojo leaned into his space. “Maybe this is a dream! I fell onto my back with you on top of me, right? Maybe the impact knocked me out!”

Caesar looked upwards in thought. “I was on top of you, right? So how does that explain me being asleep?”

“It doesn't! This is my dream.”

“Idiot, I think I would know if I wasn’t real.”

“Not if you were trying to trick me into thinking this was real so that I would stay in a coma to heal- I’ve read medical journals where that happened, you know.”

“Okay, wise guy- then why would you dream up an older version of yourself in the middle of nowhere?”

Jojo leaned back to a normal seating position and then backwards on to the bed once more.

“I’m still trying to figure that one out.”

Caesar sighed. “Whatever, I’m going to see if I can get some water.”

“Yeah, good luck.”

Resisting the urge to chuckle, Caesar picked up their roomkey and headed into the hall. Before the door closed fully, he said, “We only have one key, so if you leave before I get back, you won’t be able to get back in.”

“Okie dokie, Caesarino!”

More to himself than Jojo, he grumbled, “Don’t call me that,” and closed the door with a sigh.

Once downstairs, he set his eyes on the now empty front desk.

Damn, he thought. I don’t want to just rummage around. I can’t even read these signs.

A gunshot sounded from the door left of the reception desk, bringing him to frown as he made his way to the door.

Hesitating with his hand hovering on the knob, he pulled back and knocked twice. His other hand was already charged with Hamon, ready for a fight if what he heard had been real.

“Ah, just a minute!” Enya’s voice said through the old wood.

There was the sound of something being dragged, and Caesar pictured this small old woman who he’d just forced to get out of her chair and answer the door.

His guilt was soon overshadowed by curiosity and the sense that something still wasn’t right.

Then the door opened and out stepped the woman in question, eyes as wide as her smile.

“Oh! Caesar, yes yes, what can I do for you?”

“I was coming down and I heard a loud noise,” he said, honestly. “It sounded like a gun.”

“A- A gun? Why, where would someone be firing a gun?” she laughed a little too hard, clutching the door frame as well as her cane.

“That’s what I was worried about,” Caesar said. “Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine,” she said. “Now, did you need any-?”

“You!”

He turned around at the accusatory voice, stomach sinking at the familiar man standing before him.

“So we finally found you,” Polnareff laughed. “Where’s the other guy?”

“Walk out of here right now,” Caesar said, stringing his hands together to make a bubble wand, “and I’ll let you keep your life.”

“What?” he heard Enya say behind him.

“Hide,” he said over his shoulder, “This man is dangerous.”

“Non! You’re the ones who attacked us without hearing us out.”

“You kidnapped us and dragged us half way across the world,” Caesar said, “Sorry if I wasn’t up for your indoctrination.” He punctuated his sentence while tossing a spray of bubbles toward Polnareff.

The other quickly summoned Silver Chariot, popping them with ease before moving him forward.

No point in prolonging this, he thought as his stand’s arms closed around Caesar’s shoulders.

It wasn’t a particularly strong stand physically, not when compared to Star Platinum or Magician’s Red, but it was strong enough to hold Caesar down as he shifted uselessly in the embrace.

“What the-?” he didn’t finish his sentence, continuing to fight the seemingly invisible arms. He only stilled when he felt something pierce his cheek, leaving the tiniest of marks on his flesh.

Polnareff smiled, stepping closer as Silver Chariot leaned forward, forcing Caesar into a half-kneeling position. Crouching down to eye-level, he asked, “Where is Joseph?”

Desperate, Caesar unleashed a bout of Hamon all over his body.

Reservations be damned, he wasn’t going to be the one that got them captured.

The pressure on his body disappeared as Polnareff let out a cry. This surprised them both, as he hadn’t even been touching him when he dealt the blow.

Breathing heavily, he inched forward, raising his bubble wand once more.

“I told you that, if you left, you could keep your life. Now, Hamon Bubble L-!”

There was a blast of white light as pain blossomed from the back of his head. After that, he felt nothing, slipping into a deep sleep with a worried Polnareff as the last thing he saw.


 

The darkening sky did nothing but spur Joseph on as he continued the search for his younger self. The streets were still quiet around them when Avdol insisted on their return to the hotel, his eyes dark and sympathetic.

“What if they left already?” Joseph asked, “And we’ll have been wasting all this time.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Joestar. Though I may not be certain, I have a strong feeling that we will find them, no matter where they are now.”

“I hope you’re right, Avdol.”

They entered the hotel again, this time ascending to their rooms just a certain young man was debating leaving his.

Caesar’s been gone for like, an hour, he thought to himself. Is he that thirsty?

Jokes aside, Jojo knew that something had to have gone wrong. At twenty and thirty minutes, the risk of not being able to get back into his room when it was already so late at night was enough to keep him at bay. Now he didn’t care, he’d drag Caesar back key in hand and then they’d get some sleep so that they could put this whole nightmare behind them.

Opening the door, he noticed that his vision seemed cloudy and unfocused before realizing that the hall itself was actually clouding up, a faint fog seeping through the building.

A door closed around the corner, audibly slamming.

He started towards the noise, only to be pulled back by the rattling of another door.

His eyes trained on the knob as it shook uselessly at him. When he got close, about a foot away, whoever had been having trouble stopped trying it, seemingly giving up.

In an attempt to shrug it off, he turned towards the first door slam. That turn probably saved his life, as a sharp, needle-like appendage jammed its way through the keyhole.

He yelped, jumping back with his eyes again locked on the rattling door.

This time, they managed to get it open. “They” being about three people of varying ages and heights who were now reaching for him as he scrambled down the hall. Turning the corner, he made it to the top of the stairs when one of the doors along the stair way opened to reveal the man who’d started it all.

“Ah- H- Hey!” Joseph yelled.

“Don’t look at me- look at them!” he pointed at the zombies, jumping onto the stairway railing and zipping down as soon as the old man looked away. Sticking the landing, he turned around, looking in every direction.

“Caesar!” he called. “Caesar- we’ve gotta go!”

The following silence clawed at his throat, his eyes widening despite his attempts to remaifn calm. He may not have understood everything that was going on in that moment, but he knew panicking wouldn’t solve anything.

Just as his mind began to race, he felt as though something were watching him from behind, judging him and preparing to pounce.

He fixed his eyes on his own shadow, noticing the much smaller bump appearing beside his. He waited, seeing it spring upwards before turning around and landing a Hamon-charged kick to his attacker.

She spilled to the ground, wind knocked out of her as the following shocks wracked her body. Beside her was a large pair of sewing scissors, open and sharp with their ominous blades glinting in the light of the lobby.

“Wait-” he took a step back, “the old lady!? Why are you attacking me?”

“Shut up!” she yelled, pulling herself to her knees. “I was going to wait until they were all taken care of first, but now I see- I see that you also pose a threat to Lord Dio.”

“Please tell me you’re not talking about the same Dio I’m thinking of…”

“I’m certain we are, after all,” she picked up the scissors from the ground. “There aren’t many who don’t know his of his radiance.”

Jojo ground his teeth, flinching as a muffled yell met his ears.

“Caesar!?”

“You and that brat come in here,” she continued, “and try to take my vengeance away from me!? Is there no justice for the grieving?” Her sorrow turned into a small laugh. “No, wait, I suppose there is.”

A skull formed in the fog behind her, as if composed of the air itself. The doors to the hotel exploded beside Jojo, bursting open to reveal even more of the human-like creatures that had chased him down the hall.

He decided against taking them on, instead leaping upwards. Using his Hamon, he reached the chandelier hanging over Enya to land beside her front desk. He opened the door to the left, almost punching out when he saw a figure waiting for him before noticing that it was a tall man in a cowboy hat. From the way he fell to the ground in pain without having been touched, Jojo guessed he wasn’t one of the monsters that dared to move through the room.

He leapt over him, pulling his limp body into the room and locking the door.

“Hey,” he said, slapping him gently on the cheek, “Focus- Have you seen a blonde guy with pink things on his face?”

He shook his head, letting out a “No,” that was more implied and airy than an actual word as he leaned forward onto Jojo’s shoulder.

“Come on- focus!” he insisted, shaking the man lightly.

Both doors to the room flew open at once, the one from the lobby and another leading to a hall. Another man who’d been tracking them, the one with odd hair, stood in the doorway, struggling to pull himself free of some invisible bond.

What Jojo noticed next was Caesar struggling beside him, his head being pulled back by the same force.

Before he could think about what had happened, he turned revealing a hole in his right cheek that exposed his teeth as he ground them with the effort to pull away.

More fog seeped into the room along with the shambling monsters, Jojo standing over the man he’d dragged to safety not a moment before.

“Now now,” he laughed, “I’m sure we can all talk this out.”

Enya appeared beside her creations from the lobby, a wicked smile taking over the same face Jojo couldn’t believe he ever thought looked helpless.

It looked as though she was going to come for him next, and then a booming voice said, “Magician’s Red!”

The sheer power behind the battle cry seemed to shake the building and Jojo was almost brought to his knees as the room swelled with a sudden heat.

The creatures from the lobby evaporated, letting out individual cries of pain as they disintegrated behind their leader.

Enya didn’t seem too worried, though she did back into the room, arms out as she pinned herself to her desk.

Joseph and Avdol took her place in the doorway, the two of them unable to fit through the doorway at the same time. The older man looked to Jojo, a smile twitching onto his lips before he turned to his left, finding Caesar and Polnareff in their own batch of monsters.

Enya, who had climbed onto her desk at this point, cackled and raised her bandaged hand. Cotton ribbons flowed upwards in a swarm of mist, revealing that she had two right hands.

“Look upon your executioner, Joestar,” she said, directing her comment to the older man while Jojo stared in awe. “This is my stand, which suggests the card of the same name- Justice!”

The mist swirled over head. This time it formed a more solid skull, one that served as the stand’s actual face, as neither Jojo nor Caesar could see it.

“You did well destroying my zombies when it was just a group of them in an open space, but are you so confident with your flames when you could risk killing your own comrades?” She cackled at seeing the way Avdol’s face twitched into a displeased expression, her chuckles and screams growing in volume as they unsettled those ensnared in her web. “Oh, what a wonderful way to end the trouble you’ve cause for me and my Lord Dio?”

Caesar’s eyes widened, but Jojo didn’t have time to care about that, nor the implications of what she’d just repeated from earlier.

Breathing quickly, he noticed the mist and realized something that should have been obvious from the start.

He smirked.

“What’s that?” Enya asked, pointing down to him. “Might as well wipe that grin off your face right now- You poor man, you don’t even know the evil that’s looking down upon you, do you? No- you and this arrogant bastard,” she gestured to Caesar, “charge in here without the aura of a stand user to back you up, thinking you can over power me?”

“You’re talking pretty big for someone surrounded by mist,” Jojo said. “You see, I don't know what all of this ‘stand’ business is about- in fact, I’m pretty clueless as far as this whole situation goes. But one thing I do know is that this room is starting to feel a little,” his eyes shifted to both Caesar and the older man. If the latter really was who he claimed to be, an idea that was growing on him, he’d understand what came next, “energetic, don’t you think?”

Caesar immediately picked himself up, forming a bubble barrier with the appropriate shout around himself, pulling Ponlareff in with him.

Once inside, it as as if that force pulling them back disappeared, the frenchman now able to close his mouth while the skin around Caesar’s mouth fell into place.

Joseph moved just as quickly, whispering something to Avdol while summoning Hermit Purple at his side.

In that split second it took for them to prepare, Jojo took in a deep breath and held his hands together in front of his face, as if he was about to dive off of something. He turned his still touching hands so that they were laying horizontally.

“Hamon Vapor Blast!”

Enya didn’t know what hit her, the power flying through the bits of her stand that she thought were safe, if only for their components as water vapor. Of course, that also made them the perfect conductor for his Hamon. The power rippled through her stand, causing her to twitch and spasm as she felt both its pain as well as that she would have felt from just touching the mist that now swirled around her body.

The man at Jojo’s feet had been laying down, so he protected from the unnatural mist that rose rather than falling along the ground. Caesar, as stated had been safe along with Polnareff in his Bubble Barrier, while Joseph had wrapped Hermit Purple around himself and Avdol just in time, the stand swirling back and forth to blow the mist away from them.

Their defense had worked, though Jojo couldn’t see how Avdol and Joseph had saved themselves from his indiscriminate attack. The mist vanished along with the old woman’s will to stand. She fell backwards off of the desk once the energy had dissipated, and the monsters that had just been reaching for Caesar and Polnareff inside of their bubble fell apart to a collection of bones on the hotel floor.

Finally the building itself gave way, walls vanishing to reveal what had once been an ancient town was now a desolate graveyard with not a familiar face to mourn.

Taking a deep breath, he wandered over to the bubble, which Caesar deftly popped. He landed with grace while Polnareff fell to the floor, the ground under him being taken out in an instant.

Jojo grabbed him by the head, turning his him around as he examined the hole.

“Hey- Jojo!” he said, reaching up and pulling at his hands.

“Stop it! I’m trying to see if you’re bleeding!”

“Calm down- it’s just a scratch!”

“You have a gigantic hole in your-” The wound began covering itself up, flesh merging back together as Caesar finally pushed him off, rubbing at his face with a sigh as Jojo weakly finished his sentence with, “face.”

“The Justice card,” Avdol said, crossing to the old woman’s side and bending to one knee. “Mr. Joestar, she’s still breathing.”

Jojo opened his mouth to respond, cut off when Joseph said, “Good. Let’s bring her with us- we can ask her about Dio on the way when she wakes up.”

Caesar’s eyes narrowed, “That bastard really is alive.”

It hadn’t been a question, but Joseph nodded anyway, crossing the room to put his left hand on Caesar’s shoulder with his right on his younger self’s upper arm.

“I know this must be hard for you two to take in. It’s a lot to spur on you at once, but after all of this, you need to know that we’re on the same side.”

Caesar scoffed, smacking Joseph’s prosthetic hand away, cringing at the unexpected noise while raising his chin. He leaned close to Joseph’s face, inspecting it for a moment before pulling back and crossing his arms.

“How we got here,” he said, “Does that have to do with these powers?”

“They’re called stands, and it’s the most likely culprit,” Joseph sighed, pulling his other hand away from Jojo. “Right before you appeared, we met a stand user who used an instrument-like weapon to teleport things around. We don’t know where he is, or the full extent of his abilities, but it was only moments before we met you in that desert canyon.”

Jojo nodded, smiling and holding his hand beside his face.

“Hmph, then I guess we have no choice but to follow you around until you find this guy so that we can kick his ass and get ourselves back home.”

He covered his doubt, even as he drowned in the emotions and endless questions that being stuck in the future brought to him.

Joseph, looking into a mirror of his younger self, saw through the facade but didn’t speak on it.

“If that’s the case,” Avdol stepped forward, “I suppose we should properly introduce ourselves.” He offered his hand, shaking both of their hands as he said, “I am Muhammad Avdol.”

Polnareff grinned as well, shoving himself into the group and offering his own hand, “And I’m Jean-Pierre Polnareff! It’s a pleasure to get a fifty year headstart on our friendship, Mr. Joestar.”

Jojo went to meet his hand, only for Caesar to shove his hand back down.

“Neither of us are shaking your hand until you find somewhere to wash it,” he said.

Polnareff’s face reddened, shock coming over him only to give way to realization as he began tearing up.

“Ah- We, we were both under her control! You know as well as I that that wasn’t a choice I made for myself!”

“I don’t care,” Caesar backed away, “I’m not shaking hands with someone who just licked a toilet.”

Joseph began to chuckle while Jojo unabashedly exclaimed, “He what?”

Avdol began to chuckle along with Joseph as Polnareff struggled to defend himself to the constantly retreating Caesar who remained just out of arm’s reach.

“You know,” Avdol said, once his own laughter had died down, “It would be a bit confusing to call both of you ‘Joseph’ or ‘Mr. Joestar.”

Jojo stopped laughing, eyes widening as he shrugged.

“Well then, just call me Jojo!”

 

Chapter Text

“How is this possible?” Lisa Lisa asked, composure returning as she hung her sunglasses in the cleavage of her suit jacket. “I was under the impression that the Joestar family had been wiped out, with the exception of Jojo and his grandmother.”

Jotaro’s eyes narrowed as he pulled his coat back onto his shoulders.

“Do you mean ‘grand father?’” Kakyoin asked

“No, I don’t.” Though she answered him, her eyes were locked onto Jotaro’s.

“This is gonna sound nuts,” Jotaro said, grabbing onto the brim of his hat to block out her gaze, “but would you mind telling me what year it is?”

Lisa Lisa tilted her head, raising her chin as he turned away from her.

“Nineteen thirty-nine.”

Kakoin gritted his teeth together, biting back the protests and refusals that threatened to bubble out into the conversation.  First, he examined Jotaro’s reaction, or lack thereof. He was standing there, eyes dull as if he’d expected to hear that it was fifty years before their time.

At seeing Kakyoin’s shock, Lisa Lisa straightened further.

“I’m done playing games. Where are Jojo and Caesar?”

“No clue,” Jotaro said. “Come on, Kakyoin, let’s get out of here.”

She stepped in front of him as he tried to leave.

“You’re not going anywhere until I know where Jojo and Caesar are and that they’re okay.”

“I can’t answer either of those questions,” Jotaro answered. “It’s not like I kidnapped the old-” He stopped, realizing the slip up only a moment too late. “The bastard.”

“Allow me to put this in perspective,” she said. “It’s late, and very few ships stop by this island through the day . You’d be hard pressed to have a boat pass by you if you decided to swim for it at this hour. By the way, just know that stronger men than you have tried doing just that and failed. Of course this is all assuming you’d manage to get passed me, which would require a fight. Judging by the performance of your ‘stand’ ability in our previous altercation, I can’t say that my bets are on you.”

Damn this bitch is annoying, Jotaro thought, careful to maintain his level-headed appearance as he carefully pulled his hand into the pocket of his slacks, if only to hide the way it was beginning to clench into a fist.

“How about we start over,” Kakyoin suggested, his face contorted into the picture-definition of discomfort, even as he tried to force a smile.

His attempt to step forward was cut off as Jotaro let out a suffering sigh, mumbling something under his breath as he continued to hide behind the lip of his hat.

“Alright, listen closely, cause I know this is gonna sound batshit, but I’m only gonna ask this once.”

Lisa Lisa nodded, her arms crossing over her chest. Though she seemed calmer, both of them knew she was by no means open to attack. Still her expression was level and her mouth was pulled into an emotionless frown.

“Are you Joseph Joestar’s mother?”

She gave a small nod, the only betrayal of her emotions being the way that her right hand dug into the sleeve of her suit, fingers twisting in the fabric.

“Well then,” Jotaro sighed, “Kakyoin, I’d like you to meet my great grandmother.”

A smirk crossed her face. “Is that the lie you wanna go with? You’re definitely a Joestar, but there’s no way you're my grandson.”

“I said great grandson.”

“Oh and that makes it better!?” she laughed boldly now, hiding her smile behind her hand as any anxiety from her earlier admission washed away. “You expect me to believe that my son of barely nineteen years, has an older teenage grandson?”

“That’s the crazy part,” Jotaro nodded, “but you were the one who said we were in nineteen thirty-nine.”

“Oh ho, so you’re time travelers?” Her tone was one of amusement, though her face remained level and she lowered her hand back to her arm. “How did you even know I was Jojo’s mother? I’ve never even told him that.”

“You do, after you defeat those things. What were they called? The vampires.”

Kakyoin’s eyes widened. “There are more vampires? More than just Dio?”

Lisa Lisa placed her hands on her hips, one foot angled behind the other as if she was prepared to sprint forward. “What do you know of ‘Dio?’”

The silhouette of her scarf fanned out behind her and Jotaro himself somewhat mimicking her stance.

The similarity only went noticed by Kakyoin, whose eyes were darting back and forth, examining  the way they cheated away from each other with their shoulders back, Jotaro’s hands in his pockets and Lisa Lisa’s on her hips. Though he couldn’t see past her sunglasses, it was easy for Kakyoin to imagine Jotaro’s glare being mirrored one her own face as narrowed eyes threatened to stab at one another in the dim room.

“I really don’t want to fight,” he said, throwing a look at Jotaro. “I understand, Coach Lisa Lisa, that you’re confused by all of this, but we are too. What makes falling out of time more unbelievable than appearing in a different country?”

“I guess that would depend on what sent you here.”

“We don’t have time for this,” Jotaro said.

“Oh but you can time travel.” Lisa Lisa smirked. “Wouldn’t that mean you have all of the time that you need?”

“We’re not the ones that sent ourselves back,” Kakyoin said.

“So now you do remember how you got here?”

“It was a stand user,” Jotaro said, his voice low. “A guy with a-”

“There’s that term again, ‘stand user,’ let’s start with an explanation of tha-”

“Damn it- if you’ll listen then you’ll get all the-!”

His outburst was cut off as something pulled on his leg, face almost slamming into the ground if Star Platinum hadn’t caught him by forming something of a push up just before he hit the floor.

To Lisa Lisa, it appeared as though he were floating.

This didn’t seem to bother her.

“I said to watch the langage,” she reeled her scarf back, both Jotaro and Kakyoin a bit ticked that they hadn’t noticed it snake out from behind her. “That ability you’re using, is that your ‘stand?’”

“Yes,” Kakyoin said as Star stood, bringing Jotaro to stand up straight.

His composure remained for the most part, but Kakyoin, who was at his side, could see under his hat and met his eyes. A fire burned behind them as he glared at Lisa Lisa’s direction, as if he could see through the lip of the hat at the woman’s stern expression.

“So they’re physical, and I can’t see them, yet they are susceptible to Hamon,” she said wistfully. “Interesting, very interesting indeed.”

“They can do more than break someone’s fall,” Kakyoin said. “They can have different abilities, such as casting a bolt of fire, gathering information, and most recently, sending someone back in time.”

She lowered her chin to her neck and turned, as if to look over her shoulder in thought.

“I’ve spent years studying ancient arts,” she said, “and I’ve never heard of anything you’re describing. Yet i find it hard to not believe you. There’s a raw energy leaking off of you, but it’s so different from Hamon. I wonder where these ‘stands’ originate from. I also wonder what has become of my pupils.”

“The only thing I can think,” Kakyoin raised a hand to his mouth, “is that, since we took their place in that pit- in your time- that they took our places in our own.”

“So they’re alone,” her smile dropped as her jaw clenched shut. “They’re alone in the middle of Egypt in the future?”

“Unless they met up with the rest of us,” Kakyoin nodded.

He imagined for a moment Mr. Joestar meeting a younger version of himself. He imagined Avdol having to deal with them both. Finally, he imagined the team thinking that he and Jotaro were dead.

“I wonder if our presence here will affect the future,” he said, bringing a hand to his mouth.

“You’re serious about this.” Lisa Lisa looked down again with a sigh. “I’ll secede for now. Of course, if you’re going to be taking your,” she faltered, “grandfather’s place here, then I expect you to take responsibility as well.”

Jotaro stiffened.

“I’m sorry," Kakyoin said, "I’m sure Mr. Joe- Joseph had something very important that had to be done, but we have a mission of our own to complete. We have to find a way to get back to our time as well."

“So this ‘stand user’ that sent you back, did they come with you? Wouldn’t they be in The Hell Climb Pillar, the same as you were?”

Kakyoin’s eyes widened as he turned to peer down into the pit, finding nothing but the glittering waves of oil staring back up at him.

“If not,” she continued, “then I suppose the only thing you can do is hope that your friends and my pupils are finding a way to bring you back to where ever you came from. In the meantime, there’s a more pressing threat. In less than two weeks, this island will come under siege. I’ve been working to ensure that my pupils were ready for this attack. Thanks to you, that preparation has been wasted. If there’s no one here to help against this attack, humanity will fall. More than that, when your grandfather returns, he will most likely die from a poison embedded in his body. If we want to prevent this tragedy, you’ll need to acquire the antidote for him.”

“We don’t know anything about taking down vampires,” Jotaro said.

“And yet you planned to take on Dio? I mean, if you and I are thinking of the same monster, you’d have to be at least a bit prepared. And this stand of yours, it’s similar enough to hamon to allow my energy to travel through it.”

“You’re willing to put us up against those guys on a hunch that we might be effective?” Jotaro’s glare deepened and he allowed himself to stand a little taller, and allow her to see his face. “Are you insane?”

“It’s the last chance we have. If you’re both telling the truth, and want a future to go back to, then I expect you to do as I say and take responsibility.” She huffed. “Of course, I’d rather have my student of four years and the other of a month than two trainees I’ll only have two weeks with. In the end, I supposed that beggars can’t be choosers. We’ll discuss this more in the morning.”

“Coach Lisa Lisa,” Kakyoin tried, stepping forward, “you need to understand that we have a battle of our own. Dio is still alive in the future, and he-”

“He will be dealt with by your companions, whomever they may be, and my pupils, who now accompany them. If Jojo and Caesar could take on the Pillar Men and live, I have enough faith in them to end this tiresome feud between Dio and your blood.” Though her tone was even, her fist tightened where it had fallen from her hip. “That coward, hiding in the shadows while the aftermath of his crimes follows the Joestars. I don’t want to believe he’s still alive, but that sounds the most likely of your tall tales. If there’s any truth to them, then that’s it- the bastard’s alive.”

Her expression hardened and she had to work to quell her anger.

Images floated through her mind of a putrid sack of decomposition at her feet. Only seconds before, that same mound of flesh had been disguised as a respected man. Years later, his ghost still haunted her.

Years later than that, it would be haunting her great-grandson.

“If you want to help them carry out your duties in the future,” she continued, “then you need to take care of the responsibilities they’ve left behind.”

Jotaro stiffened, looking like he was going to back out again, but Kakyoin stepped forward with a nod.

“These things, I’ve never heard of them, but if they compare to Dio at all, I guess we have no choice.” He turned around, a smile playing on his lips. This one was more genuine, eyes neutral and calm. “Right, Jotaro?”

That made Jotaro look away, chain jingling from his collar as he moved. He knew that, if he still refused, Kakyoin would drop out as well and that they’d eventually escape Lisa Lisa’s wrath. If that happened, and this issue of time and where the younger version of his grandfather had disappeared wasn’t solved in a timely manner, then the world would be doomed.

I have no idea what’s going on, he thought, eyes shifting to Lisa Lisa as he remained turned away from her. But neither does she. This is all just a front of some kind. Why’s she acting so cocky- like she knows how all of this is gonna end? I fucking hate that she’s right. If we don’t finish this in a month, or Gramps doesn’t go back to the time we left off from and handle it himself, then he’ll die.

Jotaro couldn’t remember it at the time- why a month mattered so much in his grandfather’s stories growing up. The deadline had just been such a prominent feature in those stories, something that Jotaro remembered long after the story itself had dulled.

Then it clicked.

“You said something about a poison?” he asked Lisa Lisa.

“Yes. Why? Didn’t Jojo ever tell you about the rings?”

“Sorry I don’t remember some fucking fairy tale from ten years ago,” he growled. “Not like the old man makes it over a lot.”

She looked like she wanted to say something about that, but settled on tilting her head to the side, as if shelving the thought for later.

Instead, she said, “Whatever you may or may not remember, the threat of the Pillar Men still reigns over our heads. Will you take your grandfather’s place as my pupil? Or doom this earth long before you are introduced to it?”

Jotaro sighed and shifted his body forward, leaning back on his haunches.

“Do I really have a choice?”

“Perfect.” Though she didn’t smile, every ounce of her partially conceited happiness dripped from that one word as she stalked towards them both. “Of course, I would never- how did you put it? I would never risk your lives on a ‘hunch that you might be effective.’ No, I’m not risking my great-grandson’s life to monsters without knowing that he’s properly equipped.”

“We don’t have Hamon.” Jotaro shrugged. “Neither did my mom, sorry.”

He didn’t have to smile to let her know he was happy either.

“Nonsense.” She crossed her arms over her chest her hands hovering above her shoulders. “You Joestars are rich with life and the power to wield Hamon from birth. It’s just a matter of awakening it that power of you. There may be some like Jojo- Joseph- who were born with the ability, but some just need a little push. It was the same for your great-great-grandfather, you know?”

“And how exactly do-”

Jotaro was cut off when he saw Lisa Lisa raise her leg through Star Platinum’s eyes. She may not have had a stand, but he could feel the energy pooling off of her. With Star’s speed, the second she kicked outwards turned into ten. Still, when her leg met with Star Platinum’s stomach, Jotaro felt the wind get knocked out of him. He was falling forward, unable to let out even a groan as he squabbled for air.

Kakyoin wasn’t nearly as quick, the follow up kick landing on his physical body and producing more or less the same effect.

“What the hell-!” Jotaro finally gasped as he stood, Star Platinum forming behind him instinctively as he prepared a physical punch.

She raised a hand and said, “Focus on your breathing.”

Jotaro followed through on the punch, and she raised her scarf to block.

While the energy still traveled up his arm, it didn’t burn nearly as badly as before. In fact, he almost found the power comforting and realized that the aftershock of the kick had left him and he now felt better than he had in weeks. It was as if the fatigue of his trip had been zapped from him, leaving him relaxed once he took the time to look himself over.

Turning back to Lisa Lisa, he found her smirking with her eyes visible over her sunglasses.

“Now,” she rested a hand on Kakyoin’s shoulder.

He was still hunched over, coughing slightly.

“I apologize,” she said, “It was more of a gamble when I struck you. I have no clue of your lineage or capability.”

“No no,” he said, standing with her hand still on his arm. “I- I feel better now I-” He let out a deep breath and Jotaro swore he saw a spark appear on his lips. “You just caught us off guard is all.”

“Well I can’t expect you to stand there and let me kick you in the diaphragm, however necessary that strike may be,” she said, smile dropping back to her calm expression and arm retracting from his body. “I’m sure you’re beginning to feel Hamon’s effects even now.” She turned to Jotaro. “That punch you landed, how bad was the recoil from my scarf?”

“I barely felt it,” Jotaro said, clenching and unclenching his fist.

“Good,” she said. “That means that your Hamon is strong, perhaps even as strong as Joseph’s. Hmph, maybe you’re my great-grandson after all.”

He didn’t comment, only grinding his teeth and digging his hands into his pockets.

All he and Kakyoin could hope for was that their companions could figure out what had happened to them, and that the young Joseph Joestar was really still alive in a distant future, ready to return any moment.

Chapter Text

Kneeling in the rubble, Jojo’s hands searched over the face of the man at his feet as he stirred to life once more.

“Hey, what about this guy?” he asked, “How are we gonna carry him and the old lady?”

“What ‘guy?’” Joseph asked, coming to stand beside him, eyes widening in recognition. “Get back- that’s a stand user!”

Jojo didn’t even get to turn around before the guy on the ground whipped his arm out from under him, cowboy hat sitting lopsided on the crown of his head. His face was streaked in dirt and debris and he carried a mad look in his eyes, one that inflicted Jojo with the feeling of danger. He panicked for a moment as an arm snaked itself around his neck and the man’s hand hovered by the side of his head.

“Hol Horse,” Avdol said with a sigh, “What are you doing out here?”

“Y-You’re supposed to be dead! How in the Hell-”

“It’s a bit of a story,” Polnareff said, stepping forward and cracking his knuckles. He had a snarl printed into his face, eyes drooping with rage as he approached the man on the floor.

“Get back!” he exclaimed, “Get back or I’ll blow this asshole’s brains out!”

“With what?” Caesar laughed, prompting Jojo to look to the side and see that the man was merely holding his hand as if he were holding a gun to his temple.

He laughed too, about to smirk and take care of this guy himself before he could feel something like cold metal pressing into his skin. Only when he remembered that almost everyone he’d fought that day had some sort of invisible weapon that the moment was decidedly not funny at all.

“You wouldn’t really shoot him,” Joseph said, inching forward with both of his hands raised. “You only have one hostage right now. If you kill him, there’s still four of us to take you out, right? Wouldn’t be too smart.”

Jojo’s eyes widened.

He doesn’t seriously think that’ll work, right? How can I be so stupid?

The man’s grip on his neck tightened and he was hauled to his feet.

“Hey!” he said as he was pulled backwards. “Calm down, will ya? You’re seriously gonna use my life as a bargaining chip after I saved yours? That’s little rude, don’t you think!?”

“Let him go,” Caesar sneared, preparing a bubble wand, “I’ve dealt with enough of this horseshit for today.”

“Sorry that you had to get caught up in this, boys,” Hol Horse said as he stalked around Joseph and Avdol and towards the door. “But I’d put that stand away, if I were you.”

He was breathing hard, his arm burning and slick with sweat where it wrapped around Jojo’s neck. They were in what used to be the hotel lobby now, Jojo looking at Caesar as the two of them tried to assess the situation full of so many unknown variables.

“Do as he says, Caesar,” Joseph finally said. “He can’t get far, I promise.”

Now almost out of the building’s remnants entirely, Jojo began to squirm. “You’re not gonna let him run off with me, are you!?”

Hol Horse laughed. “It’s not like there’s much they can do to stop me.”

“Alright- that’s it!”

He stuck his leg back, bringing it to the side and effectively tripping his captor just as a loud gunshot rang through the room. At the same time, Jojo could swear he felt something stir his hair. He jumped to the side as Hol Horse fell to the floor.

While he was standing up, Avdol yelled, “Get away from him, now! He can use his stand to still shoot you!”

Not wanting to think twice about how that worked, Jojo somersaulted backwards and onto the staircase with nothing more than a “ Hup!” of effort as he felt something whizz by his head.

Hol Horse didn’t seem too keen to stick around, running through what remained of  the hotel’s entryway.

The lack of a wall on the left side of the building left the group able to see him as he ran through the graves to a wagon that Joseph and Avdol had noticed but not bothered with on their way back into the hotel.

Another gunshot rang through the air as Polnareff began to take off after him. No sooner had the frenchman made it to the door way did the man’s invisible bullet make with the horse’s reins.

He slung himself over its back and kicked off the remaining wood without missing a beat before taking off.

Polnareff stumbled as he neared the bottom of the slope from the hotel, throwing his arm out after the horse with a shout that Jojo was too far away to hear.

“Damn it,” Joseph said, stepping out of the office’s remnants to stand beside below the railing that Jojo had escaped onto.

“Wait,” Caesar said, “He was able to form a gun just by holding his hand in the shape of one?  How are Jojo and I meant to fight enemies with weapons we can’t see?”

“He’s the only one with a gun,” Joseph said.

“And that makes it better!?” Caesar shrieked.

“It is unfortunate that you two can’t see stands,” Avdol said, “but now that Hol Horse has escaped, he’s certainly told Dio of your existence. You’ll have to travel with us to ensure your safety from his minions.”

Jojo let out a huff of laughter, jumping from the banister into a crouch. “I thought we already agreed on this.” With one leg stretched out to the side, he brought a hand under his chin in an “L” shape. “Of course we’re coming along. Why pass up the opportunity to take down my family’s nemesis?”

“Absolutely,” Caesar said. “It will be nothing but my pleasure to free the Earth of his presence.”

“I don’t doubt that,” Joseph said, “and it’s good that your Hamon seems capable of harming stands, but you shouldn’t go off without us as long as you can’t see them.”

Avdol huffed before Caesar could respond, saying, “I still don’t know how it’s possible for you to harm stands in the first place.”

“Hamon can interact with itself,” Joseph said, bringing a fist to his chin in thought. “Seeing another manifestation of the soul controlled by breathing affected by it isn’t too much of a stretch.”

“You mean you haven’t tried Hamon on stands before?” Jojo asked. “Sounds like you’ve been at this for a while, thought that’d be the first thing I’d do.”

“It’s not like I’ve really had to. I know my own Hamon can travel through my stand, but other than that, it’s not really built for combat.”

“What? Wait, you said you can see it, right, what does it look like? Bet it’s something cool!”

“Not really,” Joseph sighed, “It’s just a bunch of purple vines.”

Jojo balked. “We can control plants?”

“We’re not talking about this,” he said. “Right now, we need to focus on moving. We’re on a bit of a schedule and it looks like our only means of transportation just got stolen.”

“Can’t you just have your stands pull it?” Jojo asked.

Avdol shook his head. “The use of stands truly exerts its user. I have only just left a hospital, Mr. Joestar’s stand isn’t really capable of pulling more than the user or objects towards him, and my own stand currently lacks the strength to move six people and a wagon.”

Jojo’s hand moved to his jaw. “What if there’s some other kind of car hidden in town?”

“Why would there be?” Joseph asked.

“We found a body almost as soon as we walked in,” Caesar said. “He looked recently deceased, and I don’t think that many people are quick to hike through this desert.”

“It’s worth a try,” Joseph said, clapping his hands together and walking over to one of the ruined walls to hurdle over it. His hands rose and his shoulders flexed back as he said, “Hermit Purple!”

Vines sprang forward and into the sandy earth, Jojo, Caesar, and Avdol crossing the room to join him. Both of the former seemed to be shocked while the latter only smiled at their child-like wonder. A map of the town was forming at Joseph’s feet, and he wouldn’t deny his own satisfaction at the fact that it seemed to be out of nowhere for his younger self and old friend. In fact, he swelled with pride as the piece was completed, stooping down to jab a finger at the “x” down the alleyways and near the back of the town.

“There we go,” he said, “My stand sees a car, just over here.”

“Wait- ‘sees?’” Jojo said.

“Yeah, it’s essentially a little fortune teller,” he said as if it were nothing, dusting off his hands as he stood. “Again, nothing really cool or anything.” He raised his chin anyway, pride seeping into his voice.

Caesar rolled his eyes. Though he had to purse his lips to keep from forming a smile, he couldn’t do anything about the blush on his cheeks. Jojo didn’t try to hide his own amazement, jumping over the same wall to stand in front of the older man.

“When do I get these powers?”

“Not until you’re a lot older, I’m afraid,” he began to stroke his beard. “Now, let’s go find that car.” He looked down the hill to where Polnareff was trudging back up to the hotel. “Polnareff-! Can you grab the old woman? She’s gonna be coming with us.”

“Monsieur-” Polnareff gasped as he neared, “this woman is dangerous! You really want her to come with us?”

“We have no choice,” he looked down at Enya’s unconscious form. “We’ll need the specifics on Dio’s whereabouts and the nature of his stand.”

“Wait- Dio has a stand too!?” Jojo said. “Does everyone!?”

“We’ll talk about it more on the way,” Joseph said as Polnareff began holstering Enya’s still form on to his hip. “Come on, men, we’ve got ground to cover.”

So they moved out, making little conversation as they found the dead traveler’s abandoned hatchback parked haphazardly behind a small chain of ruins.

Sorting themselves out, in the unfamiliar machine, it ended with Enya in the trunk area, Avdol, Polnareff, and Jojo in the center middle, and Caesar joining Joseph in the front.

Joseph had raised a brow when the italian took the seat, but didn’t say anything as Avdol and his injuries didn’t seem to mind sharing a row. In fact, he picked up a conversation with Jojo, who was all too eager to hear a description of the unseen forces he’d had to deal with up until this point.

“So,” Caesar finally said when the town was far behind them, his voice low enough to go unnoticed by those from the back seat, “what am I doing right now, while you’re down here risking your life?”

Joseph’s hands tightened on the steering wheel.

“It’s complicated,” he grumbled.

“So you said,” Caesar said. When Joseph didn’t continue, he let out a chuckle. “Come on, how bad can it be? Did I not end up getting one of these ‘stands’ so you decided to leave me behind?”

“No, no,” Joseph said, glancing at him worriedly. “It’s just… complicated.”

“What aren’t you telling me Jojo?” He asked, leaning over with the familiar nickname thoughtlessly rolling off his tongue. “Don’t tell me we actually went our separate ways after taking care of those rings.”

Joseph stayed silent.

“Did we have a fight?”

His hands tightened further, and he worried his mechanical hand would actually dent the wheel.

“So we did,” Caesar grinned. He closed his eyes, leaning against the consul with a small laugh. “Go ahead, tell me what you did so that I can help you fix it. I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as you think.”

“Caesar please,” he said, “drop it.”

He looked as though he was going to argue, but turned away and leaned against the car door instead with a huff.

The conversation in the back had gone silent, as Joseph had raised his voice.

He met eyes with Avdol in the rearview mirror. He looked away almost as soon as contact was made, forcing Joseph to turn back on the road.

“So,” Jojo poked his head forward between them, one hand on either seat, “just who are we heading out to save?”

Polnareff sat up, seeming all too ready to explain as he said, “Monsieur Joestar’s daughter!”

“Polnareff,” Joseph growled over the seat, but the damage was already done.

“I have a daughter!?” Jojo screamed, hands pulling at his own face. “You were going to keep that from me- from you!?”

“The less you guys know about the future, the better,” Joseph said with a huff as he turned back to the road. “We don’t wanna go around changing anything, right?”

“Especially not if I have a daughter,” Jojo laughed. “Come on, I bet she’s gorgeous, just like her mother, am I right?”

“I’m surprised you managed to find any girl willing to marry you,” Caesar said, his tone notably lighter.

“Hush up,” Jojo said, now in between the seats so that he could lean on Joseph’s shoulder and pester him. “Come on- do you have a picture of her around? I’m sure you do- what with all these fancy cars and abilities- you guys have to have improved a bloody camera by now, huh?”

“Not now,” Joseph said. “Sit down.”

Jojo narrowed his eyes, glancing downwards. He sprang forward, tilting the wheel slightly and causing the car to turn erratically to the right. They weren’t driving too close to the edge of the cliffs, but Joseph still panicked at the jerk, righting the car before taking in a few deep breaths.

“Why would you do that!?”

“Well you would have noticed me nicking your wallet otherwise,” he said, leather already opened in front of his face. It did nothing  to hide his grin. “Oh my God- it’s in color!”

He leaned forward, showing it to Caesar.

“Look look- the picture’s in color!”

Caesar did look, his eyes widening at the sight. “Did you get this colored, or did the camera do that?” he asked, holding it close to his face. “It looks so real.”

“Give me that!” Joseph said, reaching for it, only for Jojo to snatch it away, falling into the back seat and almost on top of Avdol.

“Mr. Jo- er, Jojo,” he said, remembering to avoid confusion, “I really think it would be best to keep as many mysteries about your future as you can.”

“Said the fortune teller,” Polnareff said, rolling his eyes. “Come on, let me see, too.”

Joseph relented with a sigh, knowing it was too late to hide the picture of him, taken almost ten years prior with his daughter, wife, and grandson at his side, though Jotaro was somewhat blocked by the edges of the photo sleeve.

“Hey she looks familiar, doesn’t she?”

“She should,” Joseph sighed. “That’s my wife and our daughter, Holly.”

“She looks really  familiar.”

“Let me see again,” Caesar said, reaching back.

“Here,” Jojo said, taking it out of the photo sleeve.

“Be careful with that!” Joseph said.

“I am. Wait a minute,” he unfolded it, tilting his head at the man who was revealed on the folded flap. “Who’s the gent?”

“My bastard son in law,” Joseph growled. “Forgot that I didn’t just cut him off.”

Jojo shrugged, not commenting past raising his brows as he passed the photo ahead to Caesar.

He narrowed his eyes, leaning over it before shooting back up with a gasp.

“You’re married to Suzie Q!?”

Joseph groaned and put his face against the steering wheel.

“What!? That’s not Suzie- she’s like, old! Way too old!”

“Yeah well you’re not exactly frozen in time either!” Caesar said, holding the photo in front of Jojo’s face. “Look, that’s definitely her- look at her eyes!”

“No! Not Suzie Q!” he whined.

Caesar ground his teeth and wound back. “What do you mean ‘Not Suzie Q?’” he asked, his fist raised in front of him. “You should be glad that she lowered herself to your standards!”

“But she’s so ditzy.”

Joseph turned over the seat, both him and Caesar yelling, “Don’t you dare talk about her like that!” and causing Jojo to back into the seats.

“She’s a wonderful woman!” Joseph turned back to the road, “and you’re lucky to have her! Now will you shut up and give me back my damn wallet!?”

Taking the picture back from Caesar, intent on placing it back where it was, he finally noticed the young boy sitting on Holly’s lap. “Wait wait- you didn’t tell me about the other one! What’s the little kid's name?”

Polnareff’s eyes sparkled, grabbing the photo a bit too roughly to look it over. “Ah~! Is that Jotaro? He’s so little!”

“But still not smiling,” Avdol grumbled.

“‘Jotaro?’” Jojo asked, tilting his head before realizing the name was probably Japanese. “So he’s my grandson!?”

“Yep. Holly ran off to Japan and started her family there.” Tears welled in his eyes. “Leaving her poor papa behind.”

“Mr. Joestar, the road!” Avdol said as the older man began to wipe at his watering eyes.

Caesar lunged for the wheel, cursing under his breath and steering them out of the way of a cactus his outburst had almost crashed them into.

To think of all of the disruptions that evening, his mourning over Holly would have been what got them killed.

He pulled himself together, though Polnareff took the wheel this time with Joseph in the passenger’s seat, Caesar in the middle and crowding into Jojo as they looked over more of the photos found in the wallet sleeve.

“That’s my grandson, alright,” Jojo said, a proud smile taking over his face as he held up what was probably Jotaro’s most recent high school photo. “ Look at the size of him!” He turned the picture back to study it. “Shame he isn’t smiling though.”

“Never thought I’d see a Joestar without a grin,” Caesar said.

“Yeah, he’s a bit of a stick in the mud,” Joseph swiped at his nose. “Just a phase.”

Hopefully one he’ll get to grow out of when he gets back.

“So, does Dio have Holly locked up somewhere?” Jojo asked. “Is that where we’re going to save her?”

“It’s a bit more… complicated than that,” Joseph said.

He was already kicking himself for the word before Caesar said, “How ‘complicated?’”

“It has to do with our stands,” Avdol said. “Mrs. Kujo’s stand is attacking her body. The only reason she, or Mr. Joestar for that matter, have these stands is through Dio. We hope that by killing him, their stands will be removed.”

Caesar’s eyes darkened. “So these stands, they’re like the powers from the masks?”

“We don’t know where they truly come from,” Avdol confessed, “but not all of them stem from Dio, nor any known source of evil. Polnareff and I grew up with our stands, and I used mine for my trade in Egypt.”

“So you are Egyptian.” Jojo smirked. “I thought that was an ankh on your earrings.”

Avdol gave him a warm smile.

They talked more of it on the way- Joseph’s brief interest in anthropology and Avdol of his hometown and the symbol’s meaning- as they came up to a city bustling from end to end with traffic and business.

At the sight of a food stand, Joseph grinned and turned the car off, launching himself from the driver’s seat.

“I see you haven’t lost your appetite,” Caesar mumbled.

“Still a growing man with a growing appetite.” He waved the wallet with a smirk. “And a growing family.”

He got out of the car next, following his older self to the stand to hand over the money.

Caesar leaned back against the seat, crossing his arms as he glared at them.

Seeing them next to each other, he noted they were the same height, though the older’s back had begun to curl with age. Jojo was also more animated, even something as simple as his hair flicking around as he spoke, while Joseph talked almost plainly. When he did move, it was with a lot more movement than necessary, waving his arms in large circles only to place one on his hip and the other on his chin. Even having missed out on fifty years of his life, Caesar could read the movement.

The man was lying.

Not just to the street vendor either.

It was obvious that he’d been lying to Caesar and Jojo, at least partially.

Just tell me what you did, Caesar wanted to scream, remembering the guilt that flashed in Joseph’s eyes when he’d asked about the argument he’d definitely had with his older self.

How long could it have been if you really think it’s impossible to fix it? Did you really just- just pick up Suzie and head back to America?

His fingers dug into his arms.

“Don’t worry about it.”

Avdol’s voice cut through his thoughts, his hand coming over Caesar’s shoulder.

He looked up, his piercing blue eyes meeting Avdol’s calm brown.

“Mr. Joestar hasn’t mentioned you prior to me before, but I’m sure you have a loving family somewhere, one that prevented you from coming on our journey.”

“Having a family didn’t stop him,” Caesar spat, looking ahead.

“His situation is different.” Avdol removed his hand. “Mr. Joestar’s family is what drove him to complete this mission.”

“And it would have driven me, if given the chance. If he’s keeping Dio’s survival a secret to keep me from coming,” he narrowed his eyes, “I’ll never forgive him.”

All Avdol had to say to that was, “I’m sure he has his reasons.”

And Caesar thought, I’m sure he does.

“We have food!” Jojo cheered, coming back to the car. He poked his head in and handed Caesar a skewer of something, holding his hand around the stick as he whispered, “What an idiot- we got to under half the original price for them!”

He laughed, eyes closed from the force of his smile before opening his eyes. Then he opened them wider, pulling away from the car.

“The hag!” he said simply, pointing just behind Caesar’s head.

He turned around along with Avdol, both of them seeing the old woman peeking over the seat.

She leapt over where Jojo had been sitting with more vigor than they thought she was capable, her hands scrambling into the street and bringing her onto all fours. Thinking she was making a break for it, Jojo stepped forward, only to freeze when she looked past him.

“S-Spare me!” she cried.

He whirled around to see that she was not talking to the older Joseph, but rather the mysterious vendor they’d just been talking to.

The man was laughing, a crude thing that had evolved from his ominous chuckle. He cast his robes on the table behind him as his volume peaked, eyes trained on the frightened old woman as she forced herself to remain still.

“Sorry, Enya,” he said, running a hand through his thick black hair. “First you attack one of your fellow stand users, then you fail to kill the remaining stand users on your own when a fucking kid managed to take out two of em’, and now you’re in cahoots with the enemy? Yeah- that’s strike three, right?”

“No no!” she said, “I haven’t told them anything- I swear!”

“Hm, I’m gonna need more than that.”

“I’ve been studying them.”

Joseph’s blood went cold, trying to remember if he’d said anything important in the car. Surely she’d be able to connect the dots about this being his younger self how could Dio use that against him? The fact that Caesar and Jojo couldn’t see stands, had that come up?

“That kid is another Joestar!” she said, a bony finger directed at Jojo.

The man’s eyes widened, and Joseph resisted the impulse to sag with relief.

“‘Another Joestar,’ huh?” he parrotted, eyes narrowing over the ends of his smirk. “That’s good, Enya. Really good.”

She nodded hurriedly, sitting on her folded legs like a dog awaiting permission to eat.

“I’m sure Dio will be glad when I tell him about this. He might even award me.” He laughed. “Thanks for that, hag.”

She winced.

Before anyone could do anything else, she jolted upwards with a geyser of blood spewing into the sky.

Jojo stood there, shocked before turning to Joseph.

“Did he just hit her with one of those stand things!?”

“No,” Joseph said. “At least, I didn’t see anything.”

Caesar’s jaw tightened and he finally left the car, Avdol stepping out of his own door and looking over the hood while Polnareff flung himself out to look over Jojo’s shoulder.

“Is she..?” Jojo began, staring at the motionless body.

She jerked to the right then, rolling onto her side with a wet cough.

“She’s alive,” Avdol said.

“You bastard,” Caesar yelled at the man, a hand clenched in front of his face.

“Yeah, she may have been an evil witch,” Polnareff said, “but wasn’t she your comrade!?”

“‘Comrade?’” He pronounced the word carefully, as if hearing it for the first time, before raising his chin in a boisterous laugh. “I’m only doing as my lord orders me to.”

The old woman let out another cry as small, tentacle-like appendages sprouted from her nose, mouth, even from under her eyes. They grew every which way, muffling her screams of disbelief.

“Nah- no!” she shrieked. “My Lord- My Lord would never do this to me!”

“Those tentacles,” Avdol said, coming around the back of the car, though not trying to get too close, “are they some sort of stand?”

“No,” Jojo said, “we can see them, right Caesar?”

He nodded in confirmation as he returned to watching the threatening vendor.

“It must be Dio’s flesh bud,” Joseph said.

“It’s Dio’s, huh?” Jojo snickered, moving forward and making a grab for one of the writhing tentacles. “Then let’s just-”

“Mr. Joestar!” Avdol cried as he shoved him away from the floundering woman. “Please, refrain from touching the bud at all cost! It is extremely dangerous and has already possessed several people who attempted moving it.”

“But is it part of Dio or not? Why not just blast the thing with Hamon?”

“Doing so while it is still implanted in her brain could kill her faster than whatever this man is doing.”

Said man laughed, Joseph ignoring him as he removed his hat and fell to his knees at the old woman’s side.

“I’m sorry about this,” he said, “that you’ve been manipulated to your end like this. Have revenge for yourself, for your son.” Polnareff flinched but didn’t interrupt as Joseph continued. “Tell us the abilities of Dio’s stand.”

“Lord Dio,” she croaked, tongue darting out to wet her lips, though it cought on one of the tentacles as it flailed in the air. “I could,” she wretched forward with a cough as another appendage shot out of her mouth. Her voice sounded broken around the tendrils as she finally said, “I could never betray my lord.”

And loyalty did nothing to buy her more time, her body giving out with one final tremble. Blood bursted out of every orifice, and her eyes combusted as the tentacles around them finally squeezed  and popped them forward.

Joseph set her down with a grimace, replacing his hat as the man laughed behind them.

“Wow,” he said, wiping at his face, “could you believe that he never had to pay her a dime? That all of that genuine loyalty to his cause- he just had to ask for it? Maybe our Lord Dio really is a god. A wrathful, unforgiving god.”

As Enya had spoken the name with reverence, the man only spoke with greed. Mirth glinted in his eyes as he sized up the men before them, eyes landing on Caesar as he neared.

His hands wrapped around the man’s lapels and brought him to his face.

“What was that about, you bastard? You get off on beating up old ladies, huh!?”

“Woah waoh, easy there, tiger!” the man laughed. “You seem like the protective type, right? I’d hate for that to backfire on you. I sympathize though! This time, let’s pick out a younger target.” He formed a finger pistol, lazily trailing it over the other men before landing on Jojo. “What if I were to, ya know, pew!”

No sooner did he tilt his hand to mock-fire at the younger Joestar did Caesar’s eyes darken. He pulled his hand back, allowing a fully-charged Hamon punch to land against the man’s face.

He landed on the sidewalk, his breath shallow and wheezing. It was nowhere near loud enough to drown out the pained groans behind him.

When Caesar turned, both Josephs, young and old, were splayed out against the sidewalk.

“What the Hell!?” Jojo cursed, already back on his feet.

Joseph was slower, holding his middle with a wet cough.

Caesar whirled around.

“What was that- your ‘stand!?’ Do you enjoy using your cowardly attacks on anyone nearby?”

The man laughed, standing up and dusting himself off. He took the time to fluff out his hair with a bright, insufferable grin.

“You hot heads, you always take the most trouble to get through. I’ll try to be quicker than your temper though, you got it?” When Caesar didn’t move to punch him again, he chuckled. “I guess I picked a good target after all. Though, I have no idea why the old man flew down like that. What is it, Joestar? Did you slip? Pop your hip out maybe?”

“Can it,” Joseph said.

“Ah, you don’t want to hear my explanation after all?” He looked back at Caesar with a smirk. “Maybe I don’t want to tell you anyway. Maybe I’ll let your little friend here beat me senseless.”

Caesar stiffened, dropping down to coil for another attack when a hand grabbed his wrist.

“Enough,” Avdol said, joining him in staring down the man as he tossed Caesar’s wrist back to his side. Then, still looking at the man, he asked, “Who are you?”

“Hmph, finally, someone’s asking the right questions. Not very fun though, are you, Avdol?” When he didn’t respond, the man continued. “You can call me Steely Dan. Don’t bother looking for my stand, it’s not like you’d be able to spot it. Tch- even if you did still have that perceptive Star Platinum still hanging around. I really can’t believe that brat managed to kill Jotaro.”

Jojo’s glare dropped into a dull expression. He looked to his older self, who didn’t meet his eyes and his hand flexed into a fist. No one could have moved quickly enough to stop him before Dan was on the ground again. Jojo went down once more as well, harder this time as pain bloomed through his left cheek- the same side he’d struk Dan on. He cradled his head, vaguely hearing Caesar shout something while he saw the blurry shape of Polnareff comfort an elderly figure on the ground.

It was the sight of that figure that kept him there.

“Damn it!” Dan yelled, standing back up and wiping hurriedly at the corner of his mouth. “What the hell!? Do you know what kind of situation you’re in!? I know everything right now, and you know nothing! So do yourself a favor and listen up, you piece of shit.”

He spat at Jojo before turning around and addressing the rest of the group.

“Listen up- my stand is imbedded in this guy’s brain! Any attack on me, is gonna hurt him too. I’ll tell you what though, I might let it up- might pack up my things and split if you can tell me why the old man’s freaking out, too.” He straightened up, bringing one foot behind the other and cheating his body away from them. “What is it? Was Enya right, is this another Joestar?”

Avdol stepped forward and gritted his teeth, “You’d never really leave, not while you still have the upper hand.”

Dan smirked. “I guess that would be pretty stupid of me. Almost as stupid as any of you trying to attack me right now, huh?”

Polnareff growled as he helped Joseph to his feet, the old man allowing his help while his eyes remained fixed on Steely Dan.

Finally, Caesar’s arm was released and Avdol backed away from the dangerous man in front of him. He walked in a full semi circle around him to help Jojo off of the ground. He didn’t appear to be physically hurt, neither did Joseph, but he was still holding his face and shooting daggers into Dan’s bag. Caesar had seen the man fight giants with a smile, and now he was condemning a mortal man with such a hateful glare.

He wasn’t the only one who was furious, but that didn’t make Caesar feel any better about not being able to act on it.

Then Jojo smirked, and Caesar suddenly felt sick.

He grabbed Avdol by the arm, any semblance of pain gone as he laid a hand on Caesar’s shoulder, tossed him a wink, and left him behind.

“Come on!” he yelled, “If we get far enough away, he shouldn't be able to hurt us anymore!”

Joseph turned to Polnareff, nodding before the two followed him and Avdol over the street and far away. Caesar’s feet shifted towards them just before Jojo turned, hands cupped around his mouth as he continued to run backwards.

“Stay with him, Caesar! Make sure he doesn’t try anything funny until we figure something else out!”

His face fell, and he watched after them as they ran. It took a moment to fight against the impulse to follow, but it was easier once he remembered another time Joseph had run away. He’d come back then, put his trust and life on the line. Sure it had been for Speedwagon too, but it was Caesar who he pulled out of harm’s way and gave a chance at redemption.

So he stayed behind and resisted the urge to punch the man who slammed his palm on to Caesar’s shoulder.

Dan squeezed, demanding attention as he smirked.

“They won’t be able to run away from me, you know,” he murmured, dropping to Caesar’s ear. “My stand has the farthest reach on the earth. There’s no way they’ll be able to get out of range. Even if they could, they didn’t bother sticking around to hear about the other gift I left for them.”

He let out a maniacal laugh as Caesar turned, brushing his hand off with a growl.

“What do you mean ‘gift?’”

“The same one that was ever-enjoyed by our good Enya, over there,” he nodded his head to the chilling corpse. He leaned forward, inches from Caesar’s face. “A flesh bud, courtesy of Lord Dio.”

Caesar’s glare sharped and he flinched forward, having to take a step back to stop himself from bashing his forehead against Dan’s. He still went through with the motion, prompting him into a mock-chuckle.

“Don’t be like that! Come on, he called you Caesar, right? Caesar? Like the salad? What kind of bitch decides on a name like that?”

He flinched again, his hand raising into a fist that never shot out to punch the man, no matter how much he trembled with the want to do so.

“You’re Italian, right? I’m just guessing based off of the accent.” He began to walk around Caesar in an even, measured circle that was just within arms length. “I guess that would explain the stupid name, and the fact that you’re so cowardly.”

Caesar turned around to face him, fist raised but still not daring to move.

“Oh come on, I know you want to. How about wrapping your hands around my throat,” he brought his hands across his collar bones, as if to demonstrate. “My stand amplifies the sensation you know. I bet it would feel like you’re choking them just by touching me. Don’t think too much about that though!” He brightened with a sharp inhale. “I know!” He laid on the ground, placing his head against the sidewalk. “Go ahead,” he pointed to his head, “stomp my brains out. That seems more like your speed. I’ve seen plenty of Italian films- your people like to kill people like this, right?”

Caesar reached down, wrencing Dan from the ground and holding hip up by the arm.

“Hey hey, remember what I said about that being amplified?” The man laughed at Caesar’s outburst, gingerly rubbing his shoulder for emphasis. “I bet it feels like their arms are being yanked out of their sockets right now.”

Eyes widening, Caesar released him, only for his face to grow red as the man continued to laugh.

“You really have no conscience, Caesar Salad. Imagine that poor, poor friend of yours and his… grandfather? Uncle?” His questioning tone turned playful as he leaned forward on the balls of his feet, his face a breath away from Caesar’s. “How’s he related to the Joestars? You can tell me.”

“Eat shit,” Caesar grumbled.

Dan’s smile fell and he leaned back.

“Now that wasn’t too polite, goombah. How about you start paying me back with whatever’s in your pockets, huh?”

Caesar stepped back before he could touch him.

“I don’t have any money.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.”

When Caesar stepped away again, Dan rose with a sigh.

“Why are you making this so difficult?” With the final word, he slammed his hand onto the table behind him.

The noise wasn’t particularly loud, but it made Caesar flinch all the same.

“Now,” he straightened out the lapels of his jacket, eyes closing as he pulled himself together, “remember that, no matter how much punishment I may be able to take, or even that mystery Joestar, that the old man probably won’t be able to handle many shocks like that. So,” he raised his hands and approached Caesar, “let’s try this again.”

Caesar sagged, head down as Dan leaned into him and began rummaging around his pockets. When he came up with nothing, he drew a long face.

“I told you, I don’t have any money.”

Dan smirked and reached for Caesar’s chest, his smile only widening when he felt something inside of his jacket pocket.

He took his time undoing the clasp and pulling out a gold locket.

“Might not be money yet,  but I’m sure that it’s worth something. What do you have in here, anyway?” Caesar didn’t have to answer as he pried it open with a bit more force than necessary to reveal a young woman with several children clambering over her person. “She’s hot. Could do without the rugrats running all over her though.” He took a closer look, peering at the tallest child behind the woman’s shoulder, spotting the familiar markings on his cheeks, only now washed out in a sepia tone. “Awe- is that you?”

He narrowed his eyes as Caesar refused to respond.

“Answer me, Caesar Salad.”

“It is,” he snapped, a growl on the edge of his tone.

“Hmph, must have had an old camera.” He pinched the picture directly over his mother’s face, plucking the photo out as it bent into his grip. Then, without another thought, he flicked it onto the ground. “Let’s go.”

He walked away, Caesar only picking up the discarded photo once his back was turned. Then, while Dan was still focused on walking away, he put his hands together.

“Bubble Barrier!”

Dan flinched, unable to do much more as he was absorbed into the bubble’s center.

Caesar laughed as he approached, leaning on the bubble’s surface and causing it to flicker with traces of Hamon.

“There we go, now you won’t be able to hurt yourself or anyone. You can stay in there until they figure out how to destroy your stand.”

Dan watched him impassively, eyes neutral and lips pursed. Then his face shifted into something of a twisted grin, raising his left hand and methodically pulling one of his fingers back until it let out a sickening crack.

Caesar’s face fell, knowing that on the other side of the city, Jojo and Joseph would know that he was failing at keeping them safe.

Of course, it was a little hard for either of them to think that at the moment, considering the blinding pain that shot up their respective left arms.

“Holy shit!” they exclaimed in unison, Joseph’s hand flying in front of his face where he removed his glove.

“Ah- my hand!” Jojo screamed at the sight of the metal appendage, holding his still burning hand closer to his chest. “Does this mean mine will have to be amputated!?”

“Calm down!” Joseph snapped. “It’s been missing for a while- I just can’t figure out how it’s hurting when its not even there!”

“Please, Mr. Joestar, this will all be over once we get his stand out of your brain.”

“I thought we were trying to get him away from the user,” Polnareff said.

“We don’t know how long the range is,” Joseph said, forcing himself to stand as he held onto his arm by the elbow. “Besides, judging from how surprised he was to see me go down too, I’m guessing it’s only in your head.”

Jojo blinked at that, placing his hands on his head with a laugh. “Wait a minute- what if I just pulse Hamon through my brain? It’s my Hamon, so it won’t hurt me, right?”

“His stand reacts almost instantly. It’d be better if we could see it before we shock the shit out of it,” Joseph said. Through the crowd that was beginning to filter into the busy street, he saw an electronics store with a set of televisions displayed on the front. “Come on, I have an idea on how to do just that.”

He brought them over to it, placing his hands on the glass to display an image of the inside of his brain, shouting “Hermit Purple!” just before the image formed of a yellow, beetle-like figure moving around what looked like cords inside of a fleshy room.

“Wait- is that a stand!?” Jojo asked, “Is that what they all look like?”

Polnareff’s eyes widened, “You can see it?”

“It’s a projection, Polnareff,” Avdol said, “not an actual recording. Now focus, we have to attempt to shrink down our stands to enter Jojo’s head.”

“Ah- enter my head!? I can see it now, so I can blast it, right?”

“First, let us attempt to subdue it,” Avdol said.

“But- but can we shrink our stands?” Polnareff asked.

“Yeah aren’t they like- weapons or something?”

Avdol shook his head. “They’re essentially psychic manifestations. We should be able to shrink them and enter your head without issue. Now, come on, Polnareff, we shouldn’t waste time.

The frenchman nodded, summoning Silver Chariot alongside Magician’s red to enter through Jojo’s ear.

“Alright, whenever your ready,” he said, sinking against the shop wall to sit on the sidewalk.

“We’re already inside,” Avdol said, eyes focusing past the group to see through Magician’s eyes.

“Wha-!? I didn’t even feel it! Are you sure?”

“See for yourself,” Joseph said, nodding to the television.

When Jojo turned around and looked, he was welcomed by the sight of the previously invisible enemies.

“Woah- who has the cool suit of armor!?”

“That would be mine,” Polnareff said, allowing himself to smile as he got used to the strain of shrinking his stand and maintaining its size.

“And Avdol has the… chicken?”

“Jojo, please,” Avdol said.

“Just relax,” Joseph said, his metallic hand still trembling from the building pain in his finger. It was too similar to the feeling from fifty years ago, when he’d lost a lot more than a finger in that final battle against Kars. Still, he had to ignore it, along with the seemingly impossible nature of that sensation, and ignoring it wasn’t easy when he wasn’t able to focus. “There’s not much you can do, so just sit back, breathe, and let us take it from here.”

Jojo brought his hands down, crossing them as he sighed.

“I’ve had enough of people telling me to ‘breathe,’” he grumbled more to himself than the others.

At hearing that Joseph finally realized what was wrong with his younger’s face.

“Wait a minute- where is that god forsaken contraption!?”

“Oh the breathing mask? It got smashed up. Lisa Lisa said it would take a while to fix it.”

Joseph first remembered the last time he wore the mask- veins of boiling blood shooting at his face. That cursed mask had saved his life that day.

But then he thought more on it- the idea of Lisa Lisa going to fix the mask, and thought of a more cheerful time- an incident on the water.

“Ugh, I remember now,” Joseph shook his head in frustration. “You really shouldn’t have pissed Caesar off like that.”

“What!? He was the one who lost!” He sat back with a huff. “Didn’t have to go and hold me under like that. Then Lisa Lisa blamed me for it getting waterlogged- I almost drowned!”

“Oh you were fine,” Joseph laughed, the memory of saltwater in his mouth more pleasurable in hindsight.

He opened his mouth in protest, unable to speak before he let out a yelp and grabbed either side of his head.

“What is it?” Joseph asked. “Is it the stand?”

“No, that would be us,” Polnareff said, throwing an apologetic shrug Jojo’s way.

“We had to enter your blood vessel by force in order to access your brain,”  Avdol explained.

“Hey! You be careful in there!” Jojo said. When neither of them responded to that, he only glared at them and flopped back against the wall. “So, is his stand in your head, too?”

“Most likely not,” Avol answered for Joseph. “My guess is that, due to stands and their somewhat-metaphysical nature, Dan’s stand directly interfering with your brain and physical reactions to a pain that doesn’t exist are affecting Mr. Joestar as well. Either that, or the lasting effect of his stand in your head, since it has not been corrected, is assumed to be permanent  and a future version of his stand is actually in his head. Of course, those are just theories.”

Jojo leaned forward, lips pursed as he attempted to act like he understood even half of what Avdol had just said.

“So, basically, he does have another stand in his head?”

“Perhaps,” Avdol conceded, eyes still locked ahead as he and Polnareff moved through an unseen blood vessel. “But that hypothetical stand will disappear once we remove the initial stand from your head.”

“Oh, good!” Jojo said, throwing in a small eye roll before the wind was suddenly knocked out of both him and Joseph.

He fell from the window he’d been pressing his hands against, joining Jojo on the ground as both of them wheezed. Pain sparked from their right knees and both forearms, tears pricking at the corner of Joseph’s eyes.

The source of this pain was from Dan who was now on the ground, nursing the dulling pain of his finger. The wound had been self-inflicted, but it was also necessary. This man- this foreign bastard- had just tried to outsmart him? Absolutely not.

“I wouldn’t be getting any ideas like that again, got it?” he growled, shaking off the hands that came to help him up.

Caesar stepped back, eyes wide and hands raised. “I’m sorry,” he choked around the forced apology, “it won’t happen again, I swear.”

“Make sure that it doesn’t,” he said, standing up and making sure that Caesar noticed him putting pressure on the injured hand.

“I’m sorry,” he said again, this time a bit more sincere. “Allow me to take a look at it-”

Dan snatched his hand away with a smirk. “Just what can you do about it? What’s even the point- your friend’s gonna die anyway. Might as well let him feel something first, right?”

Caesar bit his lip as Dan’s leg came into contact with a metal post in the middle of the sidewalk, his hands forming into fists.

“Please, Signor,” he said, “I’m sure that, as much pleasure as you may get from knowing that they’re suffering more than you are, that you wouldn’t want that finger to stay broken forever, no? Allow me to set it.”

Dan unfolded the hand from his chest. His expression was once again narrow and cold, his lips pulled into the slightest of frowns.

“Alright,” he said, offering his hand, “But hey- no funny business, go it? Unless you hate those guys more than I thought.”

“Of course,” Caesar grumbled, taking the man’s palm as delicately as he could manage with a deep breath. Then, holding it close to his chest with both of his hands, he quickly put the break into place, cringing at the feeling of the unnatural way it moved in his hand before the warmth of inflammation was replaced with the glow of Hamon.

Dan’s eyes widened, but he didn’t try to take his hand back until the deed was done, turning it over as he examined it and brought it up to the sun.

“Nicely done,” he said. “Was that your stand’s ability? To heal?”

Caesar lowered his chin to his neck, staring up at Dan from under his lashes as he fought the urge to scowl.

“Do I need to repeat myself? I mean, isn’t this little temper tantrum getting old?”

“Yes, it is my stand,” Caesar finally said. “I can heal people. Now you know my secret.”

He didn’t back down as Dan stared at him, eyes dark and daring him to so much as flinch. It was as if he knew Caesar was lying.

Either truly believing him, or with no way to prove what he knew, he smiled. “Tch- too bad you weren’t quick enough to heal Jotaro, or that other pal of yours that died with him. Hell, that sounds like a powerful stand- but it’s useless against one like mine that doesn’t leave physical damage when I use it against someone. Hear that, Caesar Salad?” He winded his arm back, landing a punch that Caesar didn’t even try to dodge. “You’re useless.”

He kept his head down as Dan straightened out the collar of his shirt.

“Come on. There’s a jewelry store I wanted to browse in before I checked in with Dio. Since you’re broke, I guess we’ll have to find another way to pick out something nice for myself.”

He took a single step forward before curling in on himself with a gasp. Shuddering and picking himself up, Caesar was at his side in an instant, worried about possible internal injuries that could have been affecting Joseph and Jojo at that moment. When he did so, he noticed that there wasn’t just pain on Dan’s face, but a twinge of fear.

“Everything okay?” he asked as he raised his chin and retracted the hand he’d raised to comfort the bastard.

“I’m fine,” he said, barely holding back the snarl in his voice. “Let’s get going.”

Caesar could spot the forced confidence and knew that they were on the offense without even seeing the grin on Jojo’s face as he pressed himself against the glass of the electronics store.

“Rein in the fire, Avdol,” Joseph said worriedly.

“Awe who cares, he’s being careful!” Jojo said, waving a hand dismissively as he continued watching the stand battle. “Man, and this is going to happen a lot? And I won’t be able to see it!?”

“Unfortunately,” Joseph said, eyes narrowing as he scrutinized the figures on the screen.

“Man- I wish Caesar could see this at least once. Could you guys do something like this when this is all over? You don’t have to get hurt or anything, just use a TV to show them off a bit?”

Joseph turned towards him with a lopsided grin, intent on answering him when Polnareff shouted, “Monsieur- are you seeing this?”

When they looked back at the screen, they were greeted with the site of the same bug-like stand Polnareff and Avdol had just been beating down. That same stand was now surrounded by several rows of doppelgangers. Magician’s Red and Silver Chariot floated precariously over the sea of yellow claws as the wave laughed.

“What!? He gets more than one? Can you guys do that?”

“I don’t think it’s truly more than one stand,” Avdol said. “With the way that they sprouted from the bodies of those imposters, it’s more likely that they’re husks made to throw us off.”

“How do we know which one to attack?” Polnareff asked.

“Just light em’ all up,” Jojo offered, “end this now.”

“Wait a minute,” Joseph said, “He’s probably smart enough to expect that. It’s possible that his sta-ah- ah!”

Where Joseph was readily screaming, Jojo had all of the wind leave his body and felt as though he may never breathe again.

“He’s going deeper,” Polnareff realized, spotting one of the yellow forms disappear through what he was hesitant to call a “hallway” inside of Jojo’s brain just before Joseph released his hold on the television, thus blinding him.

Magician’s Red moved towards Silver Chariot, guiding him after Lovers with a hand over his forearm.

“We have to keep moving,” Avdol said, lowering his voice so that the two writhing men couldn’t hear. “Did you see what I saw? The tendrils along the floor?”

“A flesh bud?” Polnareff asked, though he already knew the answer.

Avdol nodded. “I’ll continue guiding Chariot, you need to take Mr. Joestar’s wallet, purchase one of the TVs. Then we can begin to move somewhere with fewer prying eyes.”

A small, half-sympathetic crowd had formed around them, murmuring questions and losing their patience as Jojo regained his strength.

“A pair of seizures?”

“They look like they might be related.”

“Bad genes?”

“No I bet they’re faking for money, like that other tourist who supposedly had the bum leg?”

“Yeah- what are the odds they would both seize at the same time?”

“I don’t know, weren’t they watching something?

“Those TVs aren’t even plugged in!”

Avdol felt his face heat up as he listened to their scrutiny, understanding that they were being watched and desperately wanting Joseph and his younger self to pull themselves together if only for these people to leave. Of course, he knew they were not acting of their own free will, that the way they were shuddering and gasping on the sidewalk was out of their control.

All he could hope for was that Caesar, this stranger he’d met less than twenty four hours ago, wouldn’t make things any worse.

That was all Caesar could hope for as well, standing between Dan and the man he’d attempted to pickpocket. The stranger had shoved him hard in the chest before wrenching him up by the lapels of his jacket, demanding to know who he was and what made him think he could take advantage of him like that.

He’d eventually gotten Dan out of the man’s grip, but the way he tenderly rubbed at his chest worried Caesar, even as he had redirected the man’s anger towards himself.

“What’s the big deal? This your friend?” The man dropped into a defensive position and Caesar tensed.

“I’m sure we can work this out,” he began, taking a step back and bumping into Dan.

“Are you denying that I’m your friend, Caesar Salad?” he whispered into his ear. “Because I think a real friend would be a bit more eager to defend me against slander.”

“Slander?” the man growled, “I caught you with your hand in my jacket!”

“He’s still going,” Dan laughed. “Why don’t you show him what happens when he talks back to one of your friends?”

Caesar winced as he was pushed forward, ducking down as the man swung at him.

It was far too easy to dodge, the middle aged man slowed by his age and Caesar already on edge. What got him was the way that Dan leaned into it, allowing himself to be knocked to the ground.

Damn it! This bastard won’t settle unless I actually defend him.

It wouldn’t be hard, but he didn’t want to hurt the stranger either.

Five years ago, in his time, he’d promised to only use Hamon for good, and never against those who didn’t deserve it. Remembering this promise, he allowed the man to hit him, stumbling back and running back at him to take the brunt of another attack. He did this again and again, eventually being forced onto his hands and knees

When the man finally had his fill, having forgotten the one who’d instigated the attack, he spat on Caesar and let them be. As he picked himself up, he couldn’t ignore the wicked grin on Dan’s face.

Thus the tone was set for the rest of the day, Caesar taking lumps from every passerby, even being lead into a jewelry store where he’d been caught stealing a bracelet on Dan’s behalf. When those men were done with him, the bracelet long forgotten where Caesar had dropped it inside amongst the shattered glass, he was laying a few feet away from the door.

Dan gloated over him, hand pressed to his mouth in a half-assed attempt to muffle his laughter that only accentuated his glee.

“Jesus, those guys really did a number on you, huh?” he asked, leaning over Caesar as he pressed himself against the ground. “Why don’t you just fight back, huh? Get in one last hur-ah of free will before your friends die and I turn my stand on you! Go on, it shouldn’t be too hard! I’d even let you use that stand of yours if it would stop you from looking so pathetic.”

He raised his leg to bring it down on Caesar’s back before being thrown back, a spout of blood raining out of his chest as he fell on the ground.

He cringed around himself, shuddering on the ground as his previously-assured expression devolved into one of shock and anger. His brows were drawn together in confusion as he gritted his teeth.

Now it was time for Caesar to smirk, standing up and rolling his shoulders to shake the dull pain from his back.

“Who’s pathetic now, coward?” Caesar asked. “I don’t know much about these stands or how you control them, but the look on your face is telling me that you’ve lost the high ground.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Dan said, sliding onto his knees with a gasp. “Your friends are far away, and none of them have the reach that my stand does to get to you in time!”

Caesar shot up, summoning a bubble barrier without really thinking of Dan’s implications. He was glad for the impulsive decision, seeing a flick of energy spark along the bubble’s edge. Folding towards the spark, he used Hamon to keep the bubble’s surface tension while breaking it open, only to encase it around the air next to him.

Just as he’d hoped, the bubble soon sparked in many different areas, as if a flea was hopping around its inside, trying to find an exit that would never appear.

He panted for a moment, ensuring that all was well before turning on Dan.

“What was that about your stand?”

Dan cringed, skittering upwards and sprinting through the street.

Caesar was stuck for a moment, wanting to chase after him but not trusting his bubble to remain untouched with the curious looks from every passerby.

He raised his arms, “Hamon Bubble Launcher!”

The same crowd gasped at the cloud of bubbles now flying towards Dan. They cut around him, knocking him to the ground once more.

He took a step forward before remembering his battle with Polnareff. He’d shot Hamon through that invisible weapon- Polnareff’s “stand-” and how that had hurt the Frenchman. Taking a gamble, he laid his hand on the bubble and sent a pulse through it. Faintly, he could make out the outline of a small creature at the bubble’s base. He wasn’t too focused on that, however. Instead, he was drawn to Dan.

He floundered on the street as the crowd that had formed around him separated, some of them looking away and not knowing what else to do.

He remained on the ground as the silhouette inside of the barrier disappeared, Caesar allowing it to pop with a sigh.

Did he retract it? Is it gone? he wondered, stepping towards his ruined form.

Footsteps thundered toward them, and he turned to the side with a smirk as he spotted a familiar green scarf.

“Caesar!” Jojo gasped, slamming his hands on his shoulders. “You should have been there! I actually got to see the stands in action- this guy,” he pointed to Avdol, “can control fire! Not just produce it, but actually control where the flames go! Isn’t that amazing?”

“Where’s Dan?” Joseph asked, forcing his youngerself out of the way.

Caesar nodded towards the ground where Avdol was already studying Dan’s body.

“He’s still breathing,” he said, standing up with a scowl. “But he’s very weak, as if his stand’s energy was rapidly depleted.” He turned his scowl on Caesar, cocking his head as he asked, “How did you manage this kind of psychic damage without a stand of your own?”

Caesar raised a hand, allowing Hamon to dance between his fingers.

“I think it’s safe to say that the bonds between Hamon and Stands may be a bit closer than you thought. When I used Hamon on Polnareff’s stand in the hotel, I was able to hurt him, too.”

“At least we know you’re not defensless against stand users then,” Joseph laughed, clamping a hand on his shoulder. “Way to go, Caesarino!”

“Oh don’t you start.”

Chapter Text

Jotaro awoke, expecting to be pleasantly surprised by  the site of an open desert sky or, better yet, the light cascading through the screens of his window over the unfinished homework he’d left on the desk at home.

Either one would have been better than the dark, stone walls and a window that lead out to a near endless ocean.

“Did you wake up?” Kakyoin whispered.

Jotaro didn’t respond.

“Hierophant Green can see that your eyes are open, you know.”

“Can we talk in Japanese when it’s just us?” Jotaro asked.

“Yeah, no problem. Just didn’t think it would help that much, since she could be listening in either way.”

“I don’t care about that,” he said as he sat up with a sigh. “I hope gramps and the others smash that bastard’s face in with his own stand.”

“Come on, it’s not that bad.” There was a shuffle as Kakyoin stood from his own bed and crossed in front of the window. His arms folded over his chest as he gazed out at the ocean with a light smile on his face. “Kind of like a break, right? Until everything snaps into place, at least.”

Nodding, Jotaro focused on the sound of the waves as he found himself looking around their sparse room. Lisa Lisa had taken their clothes, as they had been slick with oil, and left them with sets of night clothes from his own grandfather. The shirt was a bit baggy around the shoulders, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as Kakyoin, who was draped in the running fabric.

The castle smelled of wet stone and conjured a memory of an English shore with his father urging him to stay out of the water, as they were on their way to some sort of award event for rock musicians and he’d wanted Jotaro to keep his suit jacket dry and clean.

Now it was Jotaro who wanted his jacket.

He reached for the brim of his hat, something he’d only been allowed to keep after staring down his long-dead great-grandmother, and thought of other things he wanted.

These were all things he was going to get.

It wasn’t a spoiled mindset, but rather a determined one.

If Jotaro wanted something, he was going to get it.

And right now-

“I wanna get out of here.”

“I know,” Kakyoin said with a small smile, “but we have no say in when or how that happens. Until then, let’s get some practice taking out vampires, huh?”

Again, Jotaro didn’t respond. Instead, he curled his fingers into his palms and rested them on his knees.

Kakyoin waited until the sun came up to try walking into the hall. Jotaro stayed behind, opting to take time to himself where he could get it.

Though he knew he’d wanted to leave, he didn’t really know what he was looking for. They’d been lead to their room in the dead of night, Kakyoin assuming that the walls were entirely closed off throughout the halls.

Walking back down the hallway right of their room, he realized that there were large windows not too far from their room. Their curtains were previously down, blocking the faint light from the land in the distance and leaving them dependent on Lisa Lisa’s lantern. Now they were open, the castle breathing in the sea air.

After weeks of trudging through the desert for weeks, constantly cleaning sand from his person and feeling his skin tighten in the heat, he was quick to welcome the cool breeze.

Of course, he had to ask himself, who opened these curtains?

Did this castle have actual servants?

Descending the stairs and turning down a few more halls, he found the answer to both questions.

She was a small woman, patting down the thick curtain she’d just tied back. When she’d finished, she froze mid-turn upon spotting Kakyoin in the hall.

Backing against the nearest pillar, she lowered her chin to her neck and let out a small whimper.

“Um, hello?” he said, putting on a polite smile. When she didn’t respond, still staring at him with her wide, blue eyes, he ran through his memory, trying to find the Italian word for “Hello,” as he was sure he’d heard it at least once before.

Before it could come to mind, she squeezed her eyes shut and let out a loud scream.

“Lisa Lisa!” she cried, her voice almost a high-pitched whine. “There’s a stranger on the island!”

Kakyoin approached her as calmly as he could, unsure of what she was saying in Italian as he raised his hands to reassure her that he wasn’t a threat. She began panting, opening her eyes again to watch him as he neared.

“Hey, just a minute, I think that there’s a misunderstand-”

“Ah! Joseph, Caesar- someone please!”

She sobbed out the last word as she took off down a hall, racing away from him.

He took after her, not thinking of the implications, even as she looked over her shoulder. She appeared small and docile, so Kakyoin had thought that he would catch up to her in no time at all. It appeared that her delicate frame was disguising an athletic quality, one that kept her a good distance away from him as she cried and sprinted down the hall.

“Please- wait!” he yelled. “Ma’am, everything is fine if you’ll just let me expl-!”

She sobbed again, effectively cutting him off.

Just when he thought it was a lost cause, when he considered giving up, both of them were stopped by large figure jumping in through one of those same balconies.

He held a hand out to guard the woman, dropping lower to face Kakyoin.

“Sorry Suzie, is this guy bothering you?”

“L-Loggins!” She said, holding a hand over her chest. “He was up by the guest rooms! I asked for Caesar and Joseph to help but- but they didn’t answer. I’m afraid they-”

“I can explain everything,” Kakyoin said quickly, already backing away from the confrontation.

Loggins stood, bending his neck to the side and punching his fists together, causing a spark to fly out from the impact.

“Don’t worry, Suzie, I’ve got this.”

Kakyoin cringed, remembering how Jotaro had been so easily stunned when Hamon had been charged through Star Platinum. Unable to use his stand, Kakyoin knew he’d be near useless in a one-on-one fight. This was especially so against someone like the wall of muscle that had apparently just taken a break from scaling the side of the building.

So, without taking his eyes off of the man- this “Loggins-” he backed up to the window and coiled a segment of Hierophant Green around the railing before leaping off.

He heard Suzie let out a scream and saw Loggins’s surprised face as he used his stand to swing towards another window and back into the building, this time at a noticeably lower floor.

We did get here pretty late, he thought, Lisa Lisa probably hasn’t gotten the chance to tell anyone we’re here. Well, as long as there aren’t a lot of other people living here, I might be able to find her and get her to let them know that I’m supposed to be here.

While he and his thoughts ran, the former through the halls and the latter through his mind, Jotaro had long-since been disturbed by Suzie’s scream. Sticking his head out into the hallway with a concerned glare, he tilted his head curiously when he couldn’t see anyone.

He wanted to ask for Kakyoin, but the tense air got caught in his throat.

He wasn’t scared, of course- Jotaro didn’t get scared. He was cautious, however, in this strange place where he only knew one person and had only known said individual for less than a month.

There were too many variables floating around, chief of which was where he was at that moment. He remembered trudging up a cylindrical staircase in the dead of night, but the halls looked different when they weren’t illuminated by Lisa Lisa’s torch.

He was stuck there for a while, eyes fixed on a lower part of the wall as he considered where to go.

That choice was decided for him when Lisa Lisa appeared from the left hallway.

“Good morning, Jotaro,” she said, “Are you and your friend ready to meet your trainers?”

Jotaro scowled, “I thought you were going to be our 'coach.'”

“It was a thought, considering the new time constraints, but I figured it would be better if you were to take after another pair of my pupils.”

“Well, Kakyoin left earlier. Then I heard screaming.”

Lisa Lisa tilted her head.

“That was him?”

“Nah, sounded like a girl.”

“I thought so as well. If my guess is right, he probably ran into Su-”

A sob ripped through the halls and they were both on alert now, facing the right hallway as the scream echoed through the castle.

“Is that normal?” Jotaro asked.

“No,” she said, patting him on the arm before she began sprinting through the hallway.

He followed, using his stand to propel himself off of the walls rather than run at Lisa Lisa’s side. He didn’t know if she was using hamon specifically, but he did know that he wasn’t exactly a runner anymore and keeping up with her without his stand was going to be more of a pain than anything.

Using Star Platinum again, he grabbed onto the railing of the spiral staircase mid- drop from the highest step to cushion his fall to the ground floor. Lisa Lisa, however, stopped at the third floor and began her search there.

Jotaro turned to look around, not really sure if he was trying to find Kakyoin, the source of the scream, or preferably both.

Imagine his surprise when one of the things he was looking for ended up finding him instead.

First came the sharp gasp, paired with the clattering of a platter against the ground. Then there was a warm pair of arms wrapped around his torso from behind. He knew he’d felt the pair of arms somewhere else before, if not in the same position. For some reason, he pictured the same pressure over his shoulders- the same somewhat painful press of those boney fingers digging into his chest before curling over each other under his chin.

“Jojo!” the person cried, “I’m so glad to see you- there’s a scary guy running around upstairs, and when you and Caesar didn’t answer when I called you for help, I thought you were dead and- hey is your hair darker?”

The arms loosened and he turned around slowly to find his worst nightmare staring back up at him.

Wait, did Lisa Lisa say there was a “Sue” living here? he thought, thinking back to just before that cry had interrupted them earlier in their search.

Of course, she’d been in the middle of saying something else.

The full name-

“Suzie,” Jotaro said, trailing off as he looked at the younger form of his grandmother.

She yelped, hands flying up to her face as she backed away from him in terror, realizing that he wasn’t who she thought he was.

“H-How do you know my name?”

He didn’t answer, backing away from her as well to avoid startling her any further. Truthfully, he didn’t know how to answer that question. He didn’t want his grandmother to worry about him, or anyone else for that matter, but it seemed she was doing just that as she examined the clothes he was wearing.

“Those are Jojo’s. They’re…” Her eyes flicked with life, becoming determined as she said, “What did you do to Jojo and Caesar you- you thug!?”

Jotaro was frozen, only daring to purse his lips slightly

His grandmother had never called him a thug before.

When she took a step forward, he took one back, causing her to let out an annoyed huff and place her hands on her hips.

“Hey- don’t back up from the tiny woman you just scared to death- face me like a man!”

“S-Sorry,” he mumbled, not really sure what to do with himself.

He could see the confusion in those familiar eyes and it hurt to know that he’d made her this way.

“Joseph is fine,” he said abruptly, straightening up into his old persona.

“Well then where is he?”

“He’s… he’s with my grandfather.” He had to think quickly. It was hard, knowing that he couldn’t lie to his grandmother. It just wasn’t something he was capable of, he never had been. “We’re relatives.”

Her face relaxed into a look of curiosity, and she leaned forward to peek under his hat. It appeared that she was throwing caution to the wind, approaching this stranger with delicate steps. She walked around him at first, coming to stop in front of him.

Her bracelets jangled as she reached up to his face. Before she touched him or his hat, she looked at him and lowered her jaw questioningly.

Making eye contact, he nodded once.

That was all the permission she needed to remove the hat and examine his face in its entirety.

She hummed as she did so, pulling her empty hand to her chin.

“Weird lips,” she said. “But, you do have his eyes.”

Jotaro pursed his lips again, straightening further.

“Can I have my hat back?”

“Huh? Oh- of course,” she handed it over, allowing him to replace it on his head. “So, was that a friend of yours earlier? The one that chased me through the halls?”

“He what?” Jotaro asked, eyes darkening.

“It was so scary,” she held her wrist as she remembered the event, though her voice didn’t sound shrill or exaggerated. “I just saw this strange man I didn’t know wearing Caesar’s clothes in the middle of the castle, and then he started chasing me after I ran off to find Lisa Lisa.”

“What did he look like?”

She didn’t have to answer, as said “strange man” dropped down the stairs. Instead of hopping down railing by railing, as Jotaro had, he wrapped Hierophant Green around the middle pole, unraveling the stand as he went until he reached the floor.

He ran right by Jotaro and Suzie, the latter of which squeaked as she backed away from the chase.

They both watched as another pair of men in matching outfits followed suit, latching onto the same center pole with a burst of energy between them and sliding down.

“Loggins, Messina, wait!” Suzie said, jogging after them.

She began tugging on Messina’s vest, being pulled a good few feet with her heels skittering over the floor as he barely noticed her extra weight.

“Suzie, are you okay? Loggins told me what-”

“It’s misunderstanding- I’m fine and- Loggins let him go!”

Loggins was holding Kakyoin by the front of the large shirt, the smaller man half-way out yet another window, this one directly over the ocean. He’d been preparing to jump into the water, of which he did not know the depth, temperature, or what creatures could be lurking underneath, when his pursuer had wrenched him back inside. Now he sat there, one leg in the window sill and both arms plastered to either side of the arch as his chest heaved.

“Don’t you worry, Suzie,” Loggins said. “We’re gonna make sure this guy can’t-” he looked over her, spotting Jotaro, who was hovering around the staircase, stuck between helping his friend and upsetting his grandmother. “Who the hell are you?”

Kakyoin took advantage of the moment and his shirt’s baginess, slipping out of it and wrapping Hierophant Green around one of the more distant pillars to slide himself away from the two men.

Loggins marched towards him, Messina held in place by Suzie as she now fervently tried explaining the situation to him.

“There you all are,” Lisa Lisa shouted as she descended the staircase. She did not jump, she did not slide- she walked, and it was enough to command the attention of everyone in the room amidst the early-morning chaos. “Now, just what is going on?”

Loggins, Suzie, and even Kakyoin began shouting out various versions of the events, Messina and Jotaro confused and silent respectively.

“One at a time, please,” Lisa Lisa said, the room stuck standing still as she walked further down the stairs. Standing before Suzie, she placed a hand on her chin and guided her gaze upwards. “Suzie Q, you were involved in this start to finish. Please explain to me what happened this morning.”

She nodded, releasing her iron grip on Messina as she spun the tale.

From the beginning of her shift- First I gathered the curtain ties and brewed coffee- to seeing Kakyoin in the hall- He was so scary, and I knew Jojo hadn’t gone out last night- to Loggins finding them and then going downstairs- Loggins followed him through the window you see- finding Messina in the entryway and telling him about the intruder- I guess he found Loggins too- and finally seeing Jotaro come down-

“And- hey- why didn’t Jojo tell us he had someone coming to visit?”

Loggins’s eyes widened, looking to Kakyoin. “You’re with Jojo? Why didn’t you just say that.”

“I tried to tell you that I could explain everything,” Kakyoin said, still leaning on the pillar beside him for support.

“Thank you, Suzie Q. I see that your story seems to be corroborated through everyone else.” She snuck a look at Jotaro, who averted his gaze. “I suppose this is will be as good of an introduction as any. Messina, Loggins- allow me to introduce our new students. This is Jotaro Kujo- an aforementioned relative of Joseph. He has only recently come into his hamon abilities, but I can vouch for its strength. I believe he will be a quick learner.”

Jotaro turned his cold gaze onto the two coaches, both of which only provided a pair of shallow nods.

“And I believe you’ve already met Noriaki,” she said, tilting her head towards Kakyoin, who was beginning to catch his breath. “He too has been gifted with hamon.”

That was all she said, easily making Kakyoin feel more than a bit inadequate.

This only continued when Loggins rubbed the back of his head and approached him, tugging him onto his feet by his hand.

“Sorry about that,” he said. He held their hands between them with a grin. “Noriaki, right?”

“Ah, right,” he said, uncomfortable with the use of his first name but understanding of the cultural barrier. Turning to Suzie he added “I’m sorry for startling you, ma’am. I didn’t want your hurting yourself trying to get away from me, was all.”

“No, I should have asked who you were before screaming like that,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. “Though it wouldn’t hurt to not chase after scared women you don’t know.”

“Good, now with that out of the way,” Lisa Lisa said, “Jojo and Caesar have gone off on a very important mission. They’ll be unreachable for the foreseeable future.”

“Does this have to do with those men from the rocks?” Suzie asked, clutching her hand to her chest.

“I can’t say,” Lisa Lisa said, “not until they get back, at least. In the meantime, Jotaro and Kakyoin will be working in Joseph’s place to get the antidotes for the poisonous rings. I once said that I did not care if he lived or died, and now I’m saying that his life is in all of our hands. Noriaki- excellent evasion tactics, but your breathing is sloppy. We should have a remedy for that tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” he said, unsure if it was the right response.

Lisa Lisa took it, turning back to Jotaro. “Jotaro, you’ll be with Messina for the rest of the day. I’m sure that he’ll be able to properly assess your current skill level. Oh, and I should mention that, in order to get the most out of this training, you two should do well to avoid relying on your abilities while you’re in the midst of things.”

“Ah, ma’am,” Suzie reached up to grab her arm, politely demanding her attention for a moment. “Perhaps we could push assignments until after breakfast.”

“You’re quite right, Suzie Q,” Lisa Lisa turned with the small woman on her arm, muttering, “What better way to follow up on an early morning chase?”

The newly assigned students and teachers remained in the entryway, Kakyoin clinging to himself before Loggins handed over the forgotten shirt.

Then he and Messina left, Suzie Q following them and Lisa Lisa with little more than an apologetic grin.

Mouthing a final “Sorry,” she and the others eventually disappeared from sight.

This left Kakyoin replacing the large shirt and walking over to Jotaro.

“I understand we’re not the closest friends,” Kakyoin said, “but forgive me for asking- were you just going to stand there and let me get pummeled, or did you know Lisa Lisa was coming?”

“I didn’t want to upset her,” Jotaro said, eyes shifting to the side.

“Upset who? Lisa Lisa?”

“No, Suzie.”

“What does she have to do with anything? I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s cute, and obviously has a big heart, but-”

Jotaro narrowed his eyes. “She’s my grandmother.”

Kakyoin straightened, lips pursing as he kept his hands uselessly at his sides.

“Ah,” he eventually said. “Your… grandmother?”

“Yeah, I didn’t know the old man met her all the way back here. Come on, we should follow them, unless you want to get lost again.”

“Yes.”

They trailed after the retreating group, not knowing what they were in for alongside their expectantly awkward breakfast. As grateful as he was for the quiet as they walked, Jotaro couldn’t help but steal a glance at the unusually silent Kakyoin.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked, against his better judgement.

“Nothing nothing- it’s just interesting, you know. Your grandfather is ‘Jiji,’ not ‘Oji-san,’ your mother is either a ‘bitch’ or a ‘shrew,’ but never ‘okaa-san’ or even ‘haha.’ So, to hear you call your grandmother the full ‘Oba-san’ is a bit strange.”

He said it all with a smile, which only grew when Jotaro hid his face under the lip of his hat.

“My grandmother is different- always has been. End of story.”

Kakyoin took it for what it was.

They continued their quiet walk.

They ate their quiet breakfast.

There was hesitation as they broke off to being their respective training, Kakyoin having to force himself to refrain from flinching as Loggins clamped a hand over his shoulder.

Of course, he was never truly alone with the man- not while Lisa Lisa was watching over them from one of the tower rooms. She could see the unsteadiness in Kakyoin’s movements as Loggins tried to breed any sense of rhythm into his breathing.

She didn’t even need her binoculars to see that Jotaro was somehow miraculously landing hits without touching Messina in their spar.

She wondered, for a moment, how the younger coach was processing these hits.

When the moment was gone, anger took over.

Lazy, she thought, just like his grandfather.

The thought sent a shiver up her spine- still unable to imagine Joseph as a father, much less an older man whose children had children. In an instant, she felt as though she was an even greater failure as a mother.

She’d consider this her second chance, starting with getting that boy to stop using his stand.

Perhaps he needs to understand what he’s going up against- why he needs to do more than charge hamon in battle.

Turning, she flung open her door and called for Suzie Q.

She’d need a letter sent to the Speedwagon Foundation at once.

Chapter Text

Fresh out of their business with Steely Dan, the group had made their way one town over, not wanting to risk another encounter with the stand user. They still weren’t sure how long it would take a stand user to recover from having their power entirely depleted, and it wasn’t their intention to find out.

When Joseph pulled himself out of bed, he examined the hotel room he had to himself, since Avdol and Polnareff had opted to share and of course his younger self would be staying with Caesar.

They didn’t quite trust them yet, not for a lack of trying. Then again, from the day before, it seemed that Caesar was at least willing to fight for a Joseph he hadn’t seen in fifty years.

“Oh Caesar,” he mumbled, raking his hand over his face before letting out a deep groan.

This wasn’t the time to be mourning the past, nor was it the time to worry about what their presence meant for his future.

But if that was true, then when would be the time?

When would be an appropriate time to realize that, if Caesar lived, that his life could be radically different? Would he have still had to recover in Suzie’s care? Would he have still truly fallen for her, past her being someone he wanted to impress and protect?

He truly loved his wife and daughter, and couldn’t imagine a world without them, but this whole event was making it more and more plausible as he realized how many things could have been different if Caesar hadn’t-

Joseph’s hand tightened around his prosthetic, his jaw clenched and eyes vacant as he struggled to attach it.

Dressed and as rested as he was going to be, he was ready to leave when there was a knock at his door.

For a moment, he was so busy trying to figure out who he wanted to see least that he was surprised at how happy the man standing there made him.

“Avdol!” he said, already stepping out of the way and ushering him inside. “Everything alright? You look upset.”

“Perhaps ‘upset’ isn’t the right word,” he said. “However, I was curious about something.”

Joseph closed the door, pursing his lips and keeping his eyes trained on his friend.

“Does this ah- ‘something’ have to do with Caesar or, well, me?”

“Perhaps both,” Avdol sighed. “What exactly are you keeping from him?”

Joseph opened his mouth, half-intent on answering before clamping his mouth shut.

Avdol’s eyelids dropped as he calmly looked anywhere but Joseph’s face.

“He aided you against the Pillar Men, correct? The beings who indirectly gave Dio his powers?”

“Yeah he uh,” Joseph’s breath caught in his throat as he rubbed at the back of his neck. He rapidly tried to remember what he’d told Avdol when questioned on Dio’s history, on the history of vampirism itself. He didn’t think Caesar’s name had come up, but then again- “I don’t think I could have done it without him.”

Still avoiding eye contact, Avdol gave a slow nod, hands folding over each other under his sleeves. His mouth was pulled into a straight line as he thought carefully about what he was going to say next.

“When he asked you about his future, were you afraid to tell him that he didn’t have one?”

Joseph’s eyes widened as they finally met Avdol’s, and that was an answer enough. He raked his hand through his greying hair, sitting on the edge of the hotel bed and lowering his head.

“Perhaps it is best if you tell him,” he said. “He could work to simply avoid whatever killed him.”

“No, he can’t,” Joseph said with a sigh. “At least, I’m not sure if I-” he stopped, voice cracking as he realized the horror of what he’d been about to say.

Avdol cocked his head to the side, removing his hands from his sleeves as he swooped down to sit next to Joseph on the bed.

“Mr. Joestar, if I may, how did he die?”

Joseph’s lower lip quivered with the need to answer before he bit and ground it between his teeth.

Something between a sob and a laugh left him and he leaned back to keep tears from melting into his beard.

“He was right, you know. We did have a fight. We had a fight because we were young and stupid. I said some harsh things, and then he left and died trying to do one nice thing for me. Me- the ungrateful bastard that roped him into that mess.” He ran his fingers through his hair as he leaned forward. He could feel something drip down his nose and he didn’t know if it was a tear or sweat. “God, Avdol, I’m a horrible person.”

“Mr. Joestar, while I’m not entirely sure of the circumstances, I can’t believe for a second that this is entirely your fault.”

“No,” he sucked in a shuddering breath, “but it’s going to be.”

Avdol squinted at that, pulling away from the older man.

“I… don’t believe I’m following.”

“I know it sounds terrible,” he said, eyes tired as he searched Avdol’s face, “but I don’t think… if he was alive, I don’t think my wife and I would have gotten married. It definitely wouldn’t have been at the same time that we did. And if it wasn’t at that time, we wouldn’t have had Holly. She wouldn’t have Jotaro. This is my family, Avdol.”

“Mr Joestar, are you implying that you’d allow someone, someone that you consider a friend, to die?”

This time, Joseph found that he was the one unable to meet Avdol’s gaze, his real hand curling into the fabric of his pants.

“You don’t need to tell me how awful I am. I’ve been telling myself that all morning. Hell- since I saw him, I’ve been thinking it over. I just- I can’t risk it.”

Avdol stood quickly, arms flailing out to his sides. “You can’t be serious. Forgive me for- oh damn being polite in this situation- what you’re talking about is insane!”

“Keep your voice down, please,” he begged. “This isn’t your choice to make.”

“And you think that it’s yours?” he said, though he lowered his voice. “You think that you have the authority to say who lives or dies? The idea that you wouldn’t marry your wife- the same wife that I’ve seen you drop everything for- or that you’d give up your daughter- who you’re traveling halfway across the world to save- you think that’s even remotely possible?”

“Please, Avdol, things are- things are complicated.”

“I’m not interested in hearing any more excuses.” He turned, making his way for the door before he stopped, body shaking with unbridled rage. Then, calming himself as much as he could, he looked back at Joseph. “I have more than half a mind to march over to their room- to tell them the truth in your place.”

Joseph nodded, his entire expression numb. Though he was obviously advanced in his age, the man had never looked what Avdol would call “old.” Perhaps he had grey hair and a few harsh lines on his face, but the man was still youthful and full of energy. At least, he usually was. Now he looked ancient and tired, his gaze vacant and fixed on the floor.

Pity smothered Avdol’s anger, bringing him to a simmer as his shoulders dropped.

“But,” he began, “I know that, if I tell him, and nothing should change for the worse, you’ll have to live with the idea that you’d have killed your friend for nothing, were it not for my intervention.”

Joseph shuddered.

“So instead, I will give you the chance to tell him yourself. Rest assured, I will not allow them to go back to their time without a warning of some kind. I may not know the specifics, but a reassurance to be mindful of others’ feelings could go a long way for them both.”

“I just,” Joseph held his breath for a moment, wondering what he could even say for himself before letting it go in a final, defeated sigh.

Avdol walked over, placing a hand on his shoulders. “I myself may not understand, Mr. Joestar, but I know that you will come to and do the right thing. Just know that the window of time to do so is limited.”

Joseph reached up, grasping the hand rubbing his shoulders with his own as he leaned into the touch.

They weren’t left like that for long, pulling away at the sound of yet another knock on his hotel door.

He cleared his throat, crossing the room to answer it.

At first, Jojo just stood there, scratching the back of his neck as he leaned on the wall beside the door. When he realized that said door had been opened, he perked up and took note of not only Joseph but Avdol sitting behind him.

“Oh- great! Everyone’s up then? Sorry, Caesar and I were just wondering when we were going to get this show on the road.”

Joseph cleared his throat with a cough, holding his chest as he said, “Yeah, I was about to head down to the car.”

“Cool cool,” Jojo said, raising a brow as he leaned an inch away from Joseph’s face. “Oi, you alright? You look as though you’re about to throw up.”

Always saying things without thinking.

“Yeah I’m fine,” he laughed, rubbing at his face with a dramatic groan. Turning over his shoulder with a somber expression, he said, “Let’s not keep em’ waiting, Avdol.”

He rose from the bed with a nod, wordlessly following as both Josephs grabbed the elder’s bags and flooded into the hall.

“Ugh, I know it’s probably a pain toting these everywhere, but a change of clothes would be nice,” Jojo said.

“You could probably borrow some of mine,” Joseph said, “I haven’t changed a lot over the years.”

Eyeing Joseph, Jojo scrunched his face and said, “Physically, no, but what’s with the khakis?”

He balked in surprise. “At least I’m wearing a full shirt instead of a glorified bra.”

“Oh no, you sound like Granny,” Jojo whined.

“I don’t sound like Granny Erina!” Joseph said, almost catching himself before he slipped back into his old accent.

“Ugh, but you do. When did we start sounding like a grandpa?”

“We are a grandpa!”

“Yeah but I always thought I’d be a cool dad, ya know? The kind of guy that’d teach my son how to gamble proper, and to hold his liquor.” He sighed, hoisting the suitcase in his hand over his shoulder. “I guess having a daughter changed that, huh?”

Joseph laughed. “Being an actual dad changed that. It’s different, ya know? You can’t just be a friend, ya gotta set an example- make sure they turn out better than you did.”

Jojo examined him for a moment before letting out a small “Hmph.”

“I think we turned out alright enough.”

Joseph smiled at him for a moment, eyes shifting behind them to where Avdol silently watched the encounter. His jaw was clenched, but his expression wasn’t as dark as it had been previously. The threat of disrupting their peace was still there, but Joseph could relax for now.

At least, until they spilled into the hotel lobby and he was once again faced with a ghost.

“Hey! Turns out they were already up,” Jojo said, approaching Caesar and dropping the suitcase he’d been carrying on top of Polnareff’s rucksack.

Spotting the treatment of his luggage, he said, “Eh- be careful! Don’t just throw things wherever you want.”

“Oops, sorry,” Jojo said, eyes widening in genuine apology.

Polnareff seemed ready to let it go, but not before huffing as he said, “Yeah, you better be.”

“Hey, I said I was sorry,” Joseph said, surging forward and jabbing a finger at Polnareff’s chest. “You might wanna be nicer to me, considering I am the guy that saved you from licking toilets for the rest of your life.”

“I just removed a parasite from your brain yesterday.”

“Alright, enough,” Joseph said, working between the two. “Let’s just get out to the car, we have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it. We’re going to have to get more food and water. The boat we’re taking isn’t going to be taking won’t be providing anything.”

“Another boat?” Polnareff groaned.

“Yes, only to get us through the Persian Gulf,” Joseph said. “The Speedwagon Foundation did a background check on the captain, but he won’t wait for us to board if we’re late, so let’s split off to get this done faster.”

“Wait, the Speedwagon Foundation is still around?” Jojo asked. “Woo! Uncle Speedwagon’s going to be so happy to hear that?”

Caesar narrowed his eyes and grinned. “You’re going to tell him we went to the future when we get back?”

“Well yeah, I was thinking about it. Wouldn’t be the most unbelievable thing he’s heard of.”

“Please,” Joseph said. “Focus. Now, I was thinking I could take Avdol out to-”

“Mr. Joestar,” Avdol stepped forward, “perhaps it would be best if you and I, as the two most familiar with traveling in Pakistan, were to divide our strength.” Joseph stiffened as he grabbed Polnareff’s arm. “Come along, Polnareff, I’m sure it won’t be too hard to find someone selling water nearby.”

Unmoving, Joseph watched this subtle act of defiance with a blank expression as an arm came around his neck.

Jojo squeezed, smiling and winking as he said, “I guess it’s just us then, gramps!”

He let out a groan in response, but smiled and patted his younger self on the back. This prompted him to let go, a goofy grin still plastered on his face.

They gathered up the bags, including those that Avdol and Polnareff had left behind, to tuck them into the back of the car before going on their way.

“I’d like to get enough food to get us to Cairo,” Joseph said as they began moving through the coastal town, “but I know that’ll be hard to maintain. We could probably keep a lot of it in the car, though.”

He caught movement in the corner of his eye, darting his eyes over to see Caesar staring at him. It appeared that he was shameless for a moment, eyes calm and expression giving nothing away before he turned back towards the road.

“What?” Joseph asked, against his better judgement.

“Nothing, it’s just odd to see you so,” he paused, humming as he tried to find the word, “thoughtful? Just, thinking about things before you do them and taking other things into consideration- that’s what’s odd.”

Joseph straightened up with a chuckle.

“Guess I’ve really grown up, huh?”

Caesar took his turn to laugh.

“I guess so. I just wish you’d done it sooner.”

Joseph followed his mournful gaze as it fell on Jojo, who was half-crawling over the counter of a poor vendor to better see what he was selling.

“Shit,” Joseph grumbled, jogging over to the stand and pulling Jojo away from the man. “I’m so sorry about my- er- grandson! He’s very excitable.”

The vendor just glared at them as they shifted away, Joseph rolling his eyes in the process. Caesar laughed as they returned to him, poking Jojo in the forehead.

He continued laughing as he asked, “Can’t you stay out of trouble for a moment, Jojo?”

Huffing, Jojo slapped his hand away with the same amused smile as he said, “I saw this radio behind him, it was really cool looking but I was trying to listen to the music. Then he just opened the front of it and took this little box out and put another one in to play a different song!”

Caesar raised a brow, pulling his head back. His hands slid onto his hips as he turned to Joseph for an explanation.

“Oh yeah.” He rubbed at his chin. “It’s weird thinking about how far technology has come in only fifty years. I almost forgot you guys didn’t have cassettes.”

“What are those?” Jojo asked.

“Like records, I suppose,” Joseph held his pointer fingers a few inches from each other, “but smaller, and square.”

Jojo whistled, eyeing the size between Joseph’s fingers. “How long do we have to wait for those? Man- that’ll be so much easier to lug around. Think about it, Caesar, you could have listened to half-decent music by now.”

Before he could respond, Joseph laughed and brought a hand to his face. “You know, I can’t really think, did you guys have video tapes yet? No those had to of come out later.”

“Of course we have video tapes,” Caesar rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, but not VHS.”

“What’s a VHS?”

Joseph took in a deep breath and then slowly released it.

“We’ll talk about it later,” he said. “Let’s just focus on getting what we need, and maybe some spare clothes for you two if you need em’.”

Jojo perked up at that, packing away his burning questions about the future in favor of following his older self. Annoyed, Caesar also trailed behind them.

“I don’t really need anything,” he said.

“Oh come on, no need for all that,” Jojo said, turning to talk to him as they walked. “It’s just me, Caesar.”

“Yeah, let me treat you for once.” Joseph laughed. “Would make up for dragging you into the future, if anything.”

Caesar huffed. “I must decline, Jojo.”

“Fine, then help me pick something out,” Jojo said, grasping Caesar’s shoulder and squeezing it once before scampering in front of Joseph to begin talking his ear off in the meantime.

South of where they were, Polnareff and Avdol were already waiting for their water, the latter of which standing against the building they’d spent a few moments haggling in. Though usually calm and even pleasant through their trip, he was now glaring at the ground. His hands were carefully hidden in his sleeves, under which they were held together.

He may have been able to hide his hands, but even the usually dense man beside him could notice the tension in his jaw and the way his brow pinched together.

“What’s got you so down, mon ami?” he asked, tilting his head to the side.

“I’m not ‘down,’” Avdol said, forcing himself to relax. “I’m just in thought.”

“Ah, about our new comrades? Or could it be about the ones we are missing?” When Avdol didn’t respond, Polnareff sighed and climbed onto the wooden fence behind him.

It was a simple thing with two rungs in each segment, though he couldn’t see what it had fenced in. Either way, it served as a nice perch while he examined his friend, who was currently looking anywhere but Polnareff himself.

“I think about them a lot,” he went on. “I know that I didn’t say it at the time but, so soon after I’d thought you’d died and… and I go and do something stupid like that.”

Avdol’s eyes widened, and he turned towards him to ask, “Like what, exactly?”

“Like attacking that stand user- that Lancaster guy. His stand was obviously the problem, but I didn’t think. My emotions got the better of me again, and then I was the reason they disappeared.” His hands tightened on the fence. “If Jotaro and Kakyoin are dead, or if Monsieur Joestar and his friend can’t get back in time, and Jotaro is never even born, it will be my fault.”

Avdol returned his gaze to the ground, though he truly looked thoughtful this time as he pondered what his friend had just said.

“Do you fear that, Polnareff? Jotaro not being born?”

“Of course, he’s our friend!”

Avdol looked back at him. “I know, I know. But what if you never met him? Would you still care, not knowing what you know now?”

Polnareff leaned back and stared at the sky. “I don’t know,” he said honestly. “I suppose, had it not been for him and his stand’s precision and the removal of Dio’s fleshbud, we wouldn’t even be talking right now, huh?”

A lump caught in Avdol’s throat at that realization, almost jumping out of his skin when a man rolled a large, tin barrel behind him and said, “You’re order’s ready, Mr. Avdol. The other one is still inside.”

Before he could thank the seller for bringing the tub, a voice rang out:

“‘Avdol….’”

They turned to see a figure cloaked in white, one hand tucked to their stomach and the other dropped down, both of them hidden in long sleeves.

“You wouldn’t happen to be Muhammad Avdol, would you?”

He swallowed, already noticing that this person had to be a stand user. He stepped forward, putting a hand in front of the water man. Said water man was already backing away, eyes flicking between the two of them.

“The man behind you,” the figure reached for their hood, bringing it down to reveal the long face of a woman, “he’s Jean-Pierre Polnareff, correct?”

Polnareff chuckled, hopping from the fence and running a hand up the side of his hair.

“I see you’ve heard of me,” he said, leering at the woman before him. “Ah but, mademoiselle, may I ask why you’ve sought us out?”

“To kill you,” a sword dropped from the arm at her side.

Polnareff nodded slowly, eyes wide though lacking any trace of fear. “I was hoping you’d say anything but that.”

“I’m sure you were.”

She dropped the rest of her plain, white robe, revealing a loud outfit. While the polite few may have claimed it to be “colorful” and “unique,” Polnareff’s first thought was more along the lines of “garish” and “gaudy.” Along with the disastrous onsomble, which was complete with a pair of puffy shorts that really added to the clownish garb, she revealed the hand that had been folded over her stomach. Inside of it was an ornate clip that she used to tuck back her previously-unrestrained hair.

All at once, the simple looking woman had become a flamboyant opponent fitting of their journey.

“I fight for the honor of Lord Dio, for I am his servant, as well as his sword.” She brought her blade up to her face. “My stand, Split Decision, is my weapon as well as my shield in my quest to complete his word. Consider my very being an extension of his truth, as I stand in for both him as well as the suit of swords!”

Polnareff nodded for a moment, pursing his lips before saying, “That’s cute, very nice, but I can see that you aren’t entirely under his influence, being that you don’t have a….” He pointed to his hairline, tapping the place his own fleshbud had been for a moment as he squinted at her, only to drop his hand and wave her off dismissively “Oh, you know. Anyway, you could just walk away right now, if you wanted to. It’s not like I’m going to force a woman to fight m-”

He cut himself off as she charged, summoning Silver Chariot wordlessly and darting down to block her attack with the speed that had once rivaled bullet. A hair’s moment before he moved to block, however, she leapt up and over him to land at his back and hold her sword to his neck.

He could feel the prick of cold steel jabbing into him, not daring to turn around to look at her.

“My name is Imelda Tristán, and I assure you that no one will be ‘forcing’ me to fight against a second-rate swordsman, such as yourself.” She pulled back her blade and made a big show of twirling it as she held it across her chest. “That was a warning- my way of telling you to not underestimate me. You will not be receiving another one. Am I understood?”

“Yes.” Polnareff looked briefly over his shoulder. “But, promise me one thing, Mademoiselle Tristán.” He again summoned Silver Chariot. “That you won’t take things too hardly when you lose.”

She gave a slight nod, closing her eyes as she smiled.

When Chariot struck, she was already leaping into the air, her eyes still closed as she balanced on his thin blade.

He responded by pulling back in shock, to which she landed gracefully on her feet and brought an arm behind her back.

Though her sword was uniquely thin, it was by no means a fencing blade. She still fought as if it were, eyes unopened as she forced Polnareff to remain on the defence.

He backed up, letting her come at his stand and stepping off to the side with the intent of just grabbing her while she couldn’t see. Before he even reached out, Tristán standing directly in front of him, she whipped her arm out in his direction, forcing him to jump back with a shout of surprise.

She smirked, not even pretending to be put off by the sound of her sword clanging against Chariot’s own blade as it snapped back to defend its user.

Finally, she opened her eyes and looked at Polnareff, her hand brushing her hair back and under the portion that had been clipped back. That same clip glinted almost as brilliantly as her smile.

“Your stand is interesting- a stand with a weapon that can take damage with no cost to you? Few could be so lucky.”

Polnareff gave a humph in response, himself unsure of its meaning.

Having had enough of watching his friend struggle against the cocky stand user, Avdol’s voice boomed, “Magician’s Red!” as fire sprung from the stand behind him, wrapping around Tristán’s sword and causing her to cry out in pain.

The steel fell to the ground, half-melted with the intensity of Magician’s flames.

She flinched, turning around to see the man who’d nearly seared off her hand.

Letting out an honest growl, she weighed her options before looking at Polnareff and deciding the odds were no longer in her favor.

As this was the case, she dodged another thrust of Chariot’s blade before bounding towards her discarded cloak and running clear out of sight.

“Ah- Hey!” Polnareff yelled, reaching out towards her.

“Let her go,” Avdol said. “We have a small window of time to meet up with the ship this afternoon, we have to get both of these barrels of water to Mr. Joestar and the others before then, and warn them about this stand user before she finds them. It looks like her stand was an object, similar to Strength.” He picked it up, using his sleeve to guard his hand from the still-cooling hilt. “If we take it with us, she may not be able to retrieve it once it recovers.”

Polnareff nodded, determined as he turned to the now-shaking water vendor.

Clueless to his companions’ brush with death, Joseph was busy running through his mental checklist as he examined the items in his cart- a seemingly necessary purchase he’d made when he realized feeding five men for more than a few days was going to be a challenge.

A challenge he met with rice, and maybe more beans than anyone could stomach, but a challenge all the same. They’d spent a few hours gathering everything, even Jojo becoming quite bored with the process of running through stalls and haggling for the best price on whatever they were there for, most of the time leaving with more than they’d intended to get.

Now, however, it appeared as though their quest was coming to a close.

“I think this is everything,” he said. “Everything we can grab, anyway. You boys might have to ride with some rice bags on your laps once we get to Saudi Arabia, depending on how much we eat on the boat, but it won’t be too much for,” he paused upon turning around and discovering that they’d disappeared.

“Oh no,” he said, muffling the groan that followed with both of his hands.

Hope flared in his chest when he heard a familiar, near-forgotten sound.

Caesar’s laughter carried through the murmuring of the bustling crowd as he lead his wagon through to find the source. It wasn’t his prideful, borderline-cruel laugh that he usually let out to emphasize a snide remark or when someone had done something stupid. Instead, it was his delightful laugh, one that meant he was genuinely pleased with whatever he was looking at.

Joseph could almost picture his face when he laughed like that.

Of course, he didn’t have to imagine for long, catching sight of the young man delicately covering his mouth as his birthmarks creased with the delighted squint of his eyes. The way his downturned nose trailed into his laguhterlines didn’t go unnoticed, nor unappreciated by Joseph as he found himself smiling.

Curious as to what had brought his friend such joy, he peeked around the corner to find Jojo tying a long-sleeved shirt around his waist and removing a tube-like hat.

“Okay, okay,” he said, breathless from his own laughter as he threw a scarf around his neck and donned a pair of shades from their rotating stand. Schooling his expression into one that was borderline serious, he raised his pitch and began, “‘Caesar, I am very disappointed in you, you were only able to hold your breath for twenty-point- four minutes, when I explicitly said to hold it for twenty-point- five. Forty years in the pit of shame.’”

Against his restraint, Caesar barked with laughter, holding out his hand to stop Jojo as he got closer.

“She would kill you with only her pinky if she saw you do that.”

“Yeah, she would be upset to know that I pull off the ‘mysteriously sexy’ look better than she ever could.”

Caesar actually snorted at that.

He never did that before, Joseph thought as he stared at the pair. He never… did he?

“Not to mention that my calves look way better. Oh- do you think we can find some heels?”

“Not in your size,” Caesar rolled his eyes.

“You’d be surprised. Did I ever tell you about-?”

And that was Joseph’s cue to step in, clearing his throat and causing the two to shoot appart like a pair of scolded children.

They relaxed upon seeing his smile, Joseph laughing as he asked, “Did you two find stuff you liked? Besides the uh, skirt?”

Jojo glanced himself over, expression bored as he pulled his shades down to look at Joseph. “I would get an actual skirt, if I thought my grandpa would let me.”

“Har har,” Joseph said, stealing a worried look at Caesar.

The devout catholic and embodiment of Italian “machismo” had never learned of his history with drag, and it was Joseph’s intent to keep it that way.

When he looked back at Jojo, he noticed for the first time that his legs appeared bare under the shirt tied around his waist, both of them ending in an unfamiliar pair of mountain boots.

Blinking back his surprise, Joseph asked, “Uh- where are your pants?”

“Oh, well,” Jojo beamed, untying the top to reveal a pair of ridiculously short jeans that only shortened as they creased around his thighs. “I found these, and they had a changing area, so I just-”

“No,” Joseph said. “Put them back.”

“What!? Why?”

Joseph’s face was beat red, lips pursing to restrain himself. Oh my God, I am Granny Erina now.

But that was fine with him, if only channeling his grandmother would get his younger self into a proper pair of pants.

“The clerk really did say he could try them on,” Caesar offered. “It’s not like he just stripped down in the middle of the store.”

“He may as well have,” Joseph grumbled, his voice rising in pitch before he reined himself in. “Jojo, please, this is advice coming from yourself from the future- don’t make me buy you those.”

Jojo’s eyes narrowed, a smirk rising under them. “What’s wrong? Jealous that you couldn’t rock these now that you’re older?”

“Not even close. Go find a proper pair of pants.”

“Come on- are you embarrassed to be seen with yourself?”

“Since when have you had shame, Jojo?” Caesar asked.

“Yeah, seriously, when did we start caring about what other people think, huh?”

“Since fifty years ago, now go find something that at least goes to your knees.”

“Come on- not even Caesar cares and he’s always embarrassed to be seen with me, right Caesar?”

“Yeah, well, nothing could really top the time you accidentally led us into that bar.” He turned to Joseph. “You remember? In Palemero?”

Joseph did remember, he also remembered stating that it was silly of him to have made such a mistake, insisting that he had no idea it was a homosexual hot spot that he had definitely not scoped out weeks before hand in preparation to ask a frequenting member if he knew enough English for Joseph to drag him out of there and into-

That was enough of that memory.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Jojo rolled his eyes. “What’s the worst that could have happened? Mussolini himself found us?”

“You shut your mouth,” Caesar snapped.

Jojo did shut up, if only long enough to bring his hands together, his tone a mocking plea as he looked upwards. “‘Oh no, Mr. Fascismo- don’t send us out to an island where we’ll be forced to work all day and-’ Oh,” he looked back at Caesar with a comically blank expression, “wait.”

“Okay- enough!” Joseph forced a bark of laughter, shoving Jojo back towards the clothing store, “Put the shorts back!”

Jojo opened his mouth to protest, cut off when he noticed the colorful character watching them from the corner of their vision. When he turned to look at her, Joseph turned with him, both stilling at the sight of her and, most pressingly, her large sword. She needed two hands to hold it, and hold it she did with a defiant glare.

“Joseph Joestar?” she asked.

Both men immediately and numbly questioned, “Yes?” hoping for an explanation.

The woman’s eyes widened before setting back into her glare.

“Oh. That is, interesting. I’m sure Lord Dio will be very happy to hear that I’ve uncovered the identity of his ‘secret Joestar.’”

“Wait, ‘Lord Dio?’” Jojo said, the following sigh transforming into an exaggerated groan. “Not another one of you.”

“The next thing you’ll say is, ‘If this keeps up, it’s really going to get on my nerves.’”

“If this keeps up, it’s really going to get on my nerves.”

Jojo stood in shock for a moment, the woman allowing a coy smile to play at her lips.

“Hey- that’s my trick! Who do you think you-!?”

“I am Dio’s sword, Imelda Tristán.” She swept her leg back, balancing herself out as she held the sword before her. “I’ve already tested the strength of your designated swordsman. How will you- two non-stand users and an old man- compare to him?”

Polnareff, Joseph thought simply as he wound back, halfway between worrying for their own safety and the safety of their companions.

“Oi,” Jojo leaned in to whisper by Joseph’s ear, “is her stand out right now?”

“I’m sure it’s her sword,” he whispered back. “If she fought Polnareff’s stand with a sword, then she must have been able to hurt Silver Chariot with it. A normal sword wouldn’t be able to do that, even if the wielder was a stand user.”

“But we can see it!”

“Sometimes, normal people can see stands.”

“Wait, stands can be just like- normal things!?”

“Enough talk! Fight me, Joestars!”

She leapt forward, Caesar pushing himself in front of Joseph to shoot a blast of bubbles at her legs.

She stepped back as soon as the bubbles left his palm, cutting around their path and raising her greatsword over him.

“Hermit Purple!”

Caesar seemed surprised when the unseen vines wound under his arms and tugged him back, allowing him to narrowly escape the falling blade.

Tristán only grinned, her eyes flicking to look up at Joseph being his only warning before she shifted her weight and swung around to bring the sword across his abdomen.

He leapt out of the way, thinking Jojo would do the same.

Instead, the younger man cockily held up his hands, waiting for the blade to pass between them to press them together.

With a deep breath, he sent a charge of Hamon through the sword, Tristán, flicking it back out of his hands only a hair too late to avoid the surge.

One of her hands flew off with a cry, the other unable to support the heavy sword on its own as it fell to the ground.

“What the-!? This ability, what is it?”

Jojo only grinned, adjusting his fingerless gloves, which were now dangerously gouged on the palms. It was a miracle that he didn’t have fingerless hands, what with how abruptly she’d pulled back. Jojo wasn’t one to be shaken by things that could have gone wrong.

Instead, he relished in having gotten the upper hand on the swordswoman who was now struggling to gather up her sword.

“‘Hamon,’ huh?” she said, breathless as she ducked out of the way of a snare Joseph had aimed to wrap around her head. She fell back, using her still-falling sword as leverage to twist her body and land back on her feet. Then she was holding up the blade again, turned on all three men.

“Let me go,” Caesar growled, calling attention to the fact that he was still being held back by Hermit Purple’s thorns.

Joseph perked up, averting his eyes as he said, “Sorry,” and retracted the vines.

As they did this, Tristán laughed.

“I initially wondered how Lancaster, with his seemingly non-combative stand and simple reasoning, managed to take down not one but two of you. Now, it only seems too easy!”

“Says the bitch that I was able to throw off with only a jolt of Hamon,” Jojo said, clenching his fist and sending a ripple through his arm.

She grimaced at that, face screwing in displeasure as she tried to think of a witty retort. When she found herself unable, she relaxed with a sigh.

Her sharp gaze then turned onto Joseph.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

His eyes widened, jaw clenching in apprehension.

“Wouldn’t do what?”

“You were just thinking of if you could make it out of here- of how you could possibly signal to these two that you were thinking of retreating if only to see if your subordinates were alive. Tell me, Joestar, does that sound horribly smart to you? Turning your back on an opponent, the abilities of which you know nothing about? What if I could control my sword like Avdol’s flames, or if my athleticism is ascribed to my stand and I come down on you as soon as you show weakness?”

Joseph lowered his head. “I’d never run from an enemy,” he lied. “Especially not one that needs to play mind games just to get by.”

“Oh, but I thought you were fond of mind games. At least,” her eyes flickered to Jojo, “your younger self is.”

All three of them were taken off guard, Jojo turning towards her and raising his other fist with a growl.

“H-Hey!” he shouted. “Just wait a second, what are you trying to say?”

“Don’t play dumb and tell me something stupid, such as that you’re actually his grandson or nephew of some kind.”

Seeing that their cover was blown, if it had ever existed, Caesar stepped forward next, preparing his bubble launcher.

“I’m not sure who you are, but I’ve never been too fond of hitting a woman, so maybe it’d be best if you step out of here while you still can.”

“It is quite bold of you to assume you could hit me at all,” she said, reaching behind her back and drawing an ornate blade from her colorful shawl.

Looking past her for a moment, Joseph noticed the fearful face of a passerby, a man ushering a child behind him as he backed into a closing shop.

Other strangers were doing much of the same, as if to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

We have to get out of here before someone gets hurt.

“I’d be more worried about yourself,” she said, sliding her foot forward. “Young and old.”

“Aren’t you forgetting someone?”

Caesar’s voice was accompanied by a barrage of bubbles spraying out from his gloves.

His Bubble Cutter, as Joseph remembered it, was a homing attack that could follow its opponent. This made it harder for Tristán to dodge, and her eyes widened as she seemingly realized this for herself. She leaned back and doubled forward as they cut over her, one of them nearly knocking her to the ground as it met the back of her head as the others grazed the top of her hair.

“That was the most ungraceful thing I’ve ever seen,” Jojo said with a small laugh. “I suppose it got the job done, but you’re not a very skilled fighter, are you?

“Shut up!” She looked up with a growl. “You got lucky is all!”

“Really? I don’t think that’s what happened at all,” he said, faux shock dancing across his features only to disappear with a smirk. “Did you even really fight Polnareff?”

“You can’t make me angry, Joestar, I know that’s your angle. You try it on every opponent and-”

“And just how do you know that? How did you know what I was thinking? It’s not that you can read people, you can barely read attacks. What, are you half-assed at fighting and fortune telling?”

“I told you to shut your mouth.”

She charged Jojo, sweeping to the left. Her eyes flicked over to Joseph just before his vines ensnared her sword He pulled her to her right, causing her to perform a spectacular flip that could have been considered as her wiping out to anyone who saw it. Anyone other than Jojo, that is, who saw the way her teeth caught the light in her smirk. Then she was spiraling towards Joseph with purpose, feet landing squarely on his chest and knocking him to the ground while she took his place between Caesar and Jojo.

The former made a grab for her arm before she jumped over him and to the side, allowing him to half-heartedly tackle into his friend. It was that same friend who quickly shoved him, allowing him to spin out of the way over her dagger as she came back for an attack. Then it was Jojo reaching for her, only managing to get his hands around her wrist before she kicked him in the stomach. In his haze of pain, stubbornly holding onto her arm, he saw her eyes light up in panic.

“Hamon Bubble Launcher!”

Jojo remembered the way her eyes had widened before the attack was announced and filed it away. At the moment, he was a bit busy trying to stop her from pinwheeling with the use of his own arm to avoid the bubbles.

Oh no you don’t! I’ll lean into her to keep her in place and then-

His thoughts were cut off as, instead of pushing him off, she moved forward as the bubbles came rushing forward. Their number had increased, but the homing-attack function vanished, thus she was able to avoid them by leaning forward and pulling Jojo off balance.

His fingers uncurled in a panic as he tried to catch his balance, just before the bubbles hit him and knocked him back into the clothing shop where the cashier was hiding behind the counter.

“Jojo!” Caesar called, stepping forward only to stop when Tristán turned on him.

As she did so, her wild expression tamed itself into a delighted sneer.

“I’ll be honest with you,” she said, “I originally intended for you to be in a smaller group than this. I always found larger groups harder to handle with my stand’s abilities. So, seeing you all fall so easily- Well, it’s nice to know that my team will only provide more good news for our Lord.”

Caesar lowered himself into a fighting stance, eyes flickering to where Jojo laid on the ground before Tristán leaned back abruptly, the hands still clutching the knife dropping it as she gave a cry of anguish. She was tugged harshly by a seemingly invisible force to look down at the ground. Caesar followed her gaze, finding Joseph as he struggled to sit up and catch his breath.

“The only good news Dio is hearing,” he began, pausing to suck in a breath through his teeth, “is that we’re on our way to end his sorry life.”

She growled, pulling away and reaching behind her again.

“Looking for these?”

Her eyes widened before she looked up to find Jojo holding two more daggers.

“Really you had a whole arsenal to fight us? An old man and two people who can’t see stands?” He tossed the knives to the side. “I suppose that wouldn’t be much of an advantage to you, though, considering you can’t even use your stand to fight.”

“That’s what you think,” she hissed, tugging fruitlessly at Hermit Purple, its thorns digging into her flesh.

“You would have used it by now to cut my vines,” Joseph rose to his feet, “unless you can’t use it to cut anything at all.”

She stammered for a moment, unable to find words amidst her humiliation before letting out a desperate, animalistic cry as she pulled back.

“What’s wrong?” Jojo leaned down, now inches from her face as he locked onto her with a triumphant glare. “Can’t read my mind when you’re too angry to focus?”

Her expression went blank, eyes flooding with a shocked expression that was soon mirrored by both Joseph and Caesar.

“Of course!” Joseph said. “That’s how you knew we were the same person just by looking at us!”

“So you can read our minds,” Jojo lowered his eyes, “but once we distracted you, you were easy to take out. Now we just have to figure out where your actual stand i-”

He was cut off when she head butted him and abruptly tugged on her restraints once more, if only to gain enough slack to bring them downwards as she fell to the ground along with the younger Joestar.

In a fluid motion, before Hermit Purple had the chance to tighten, she’d picked up one of her daggers and brought it to Jojo’s throat.

“Release me!” she cried, “Or do you think this shop could use a new coat of paint?”

Jojo raised his neck, taking a few heaving breaths as his eyes flickered wildly between Joseph, Tristán, and the blade at his neck.

“Stop!” she screamed suddenly, “Stop trying to think of ways to stop me, ways that you can avoid letting me go! I have you by the throat!”

Joseph gritted his teeth, his thoughts spinning around until they came to a sudden crash.

He couldn’t risk his younger self, not when Holly and Jotaro’s lives depended on it. And so he released Tristán, who grinned at the sight of her unbound wrists.

Then, ruthlessly, she pulled her blade across Jojo’s neck.

A choked noise left Joseph’s mouth, hidden under Caesar’s yell as he fell to Jojo’s side. In the same movement, Tristán stood. She glanced between them for a moment, as if debating to take out Caesar while he was distracted. Instead, she opted to retreat, seeing the dangerous look in his eye as he made a similar choice- to help his friend cling to life or aveng him.

“Let her go,” Joseph said, scrambling over to them and pulling Jojo’s head into his lap. “Quick, Caesar, have you two learned how to heal with Hamon yet?”

“Yes but- but he needs to be breathing, and-”

“Look closely,” he examined the grizzly state of Jojo’s neck, “the windpipe is thicker than a vein- she didn’t get him that deep- it’s the blood that’s the problem. He’s losing it, fast. I haven’t been able to do this in a while, so it’s up to you to generate enough Hamon to save him- to save us- got it?”

“I,” he trailed off the feeling of being powerless sinking into him as he remembered another man he’d been too powerless to save, one that had sunken into a stone that Caesar himself had almost fallen prey to. “I’m not sure. I haven’t actually done it myself on-”

“Caesar,” Joseph rested his hand on his shoulder, commanding him to meet his eyes, “I know that you can do this. After all of these years, I still trust you with my life.”

His gaze fell to Jojo. The bastard was grinning at him, even as blood pooled from his neck and onto the khakied lap of the man under him.

He focused on that grin, raising his hands and pulling in a deep breath of air just as a pair of men came up behind them.

“Mon dieu,” Polnareff gasped, bringing a hand to his mouth.

“M-Mr. Joestar!” Avdol said.

Joseph raised his hand to silence them as Caesar placed his hands on either side of Jojo’s neck.

Jojo himself had dropped his smirk, closing his eyes and steadying his breathing himself. A glow radiated from the wound as it steadily sealed, the veins first snapping back together, natural sutures that the skin would soon wrap around.

“Hold on a second, Caesar. Stop for just a minute. Avdol, can you come over here? You too, Polnareff, I need you to pull yourself together.”

Jojo stiffened reaching up and grasping at his older self’s wrist with a strangled noise. His throat was still open, though a majority of the bleeding had subsided. That meant nothing, of course, as he wanted it closed.

“While we’re here, we might as well assess this issue,” Joseph said, sighing as if preparing himself to do some dirty dishes. “You know, it’s weird to actually see the fucker in person. Not just on an x-ray or something.”

Caesar was about to ask what he meant, to demand to know why he wasn’t finishing putting Jojo back together, then he caught a glint of something other than blood at the man’s throat. There, coiled around his windpipe, was a familiar ring, one whose presence had slipped Caesar’s mind until just then.

“I was thinking,” Joseph said, “Polnareff could slice it off.”

“Are you crazy!?” Jojo said. “Why are we going to slice anything else in my throat.”

“He’s talking about the ring,” Caesar said. So that’s how he knew his windpipe wasn’t cut.

“What!? The one filled with poison? Do I go off the deep end when I get older?

“Monsieur.” Polnareff’s voice quaked as he brought a hand over his mouth, averting his gaze without fully turning away. “Did that maniac do this?”

“If you mean the stand user, no, she just slit his throat,” Joseph said.

“Oh yeah- just slit my throat, no problem there! Stitch me back up, Caesar, I’m done with this.”

“Hey we need to get those rings out of you as fast as we can,” Joseph said. “If you guys are from before the final exams, you probably don’t have much more than a week before they burst.”

“I’m not sure if I’ll be much help,” Polnareff said. “I’m normally fine with blood, but seeing your insides all throbbing and gushing it’s just- ugh! Disgusting!”

“Mr. Joestar, I only see one ring, where are the others located?”

“There’s only one more- around my heart.”

“Oh no, don’t even think about cutting me open any more than I already am! We’re not performing open heart surgery in the middle of a bloody market!” He let out a swooning noise, tipping his head back and causing his neck to let out another spurt of blood. “Ugh, I’m getting woozy just thinking about it.”

“Pull yourself together,” Caesar said, slapping him lightly on the cheek as he thought, So much for grinning through the pain earlier.

Avdol hummed in thought, straightening himself out. “We can worry about this later. If need be, Polnareff and I will shrink our stands down as we did before with the stand in your youngers' head. For now, we must focus on finding Tristán and not missing our boat.”

“What do you mean finding her?” Jojo asked as Caesar finished the ministrations with a tired sigh. “She slits my throat in broad daylight and you want to look to see if she’s up for round two? I don’t think so!”

“If we let her run off now, she could find us again. We have to make sure that she’s dealt with, or at least neutralize her stand.”

“It has to be an object,” Joseph said, standing up as Jojo rose from his lap and into a sitting position. “I didn’t see anything come off of her, but I could feel the stand’s presence. It was different from Strength, the way the ape could control that ship… I don’t think she can do that.”

“Indeed,” Avdol nodded, pulling out the blade he’d stored in his robe. “She had this sword on her. Chariot was unable to cut it, so we believed it was her stand.”

“Yeah, well it wasn’t,” Jojo said, Caesar hoisting him to his feet and steadying him as he swayed.

“Take it easy, Jojo,” Caesar said, anger flavoring his tone rather than concern. “You lost a lot of blood.”

“Yeah and these guys want to hunt down-”

“Jojo,” Joseph hissed, eyes flicking over to the still cowering cashier.

The man’s gaze was fixed on the five towering men, one of which was still coated in his own blood, but more concerning was the phone in the man’s hand and the hurried way he spoke into it.

Joseph placed a hand on the back of his younger’s back, giving a harsh squeeze just below his neck and ushering them out of the marketplace.

“Let’s get going. By the way, Avdol,” he turned to him with a tired look as they walked, “She knows who they are now.”

Avdol nodded. “Then it’s best if we find her first, before she can report to Dio.”

“I wouldn’t worry too much about that,” he said, “I have a bad feeling that she’ll find us before the day is over.”

The wagon, nearly forgotten in all of the excitement, was escorted to their car, near abandoned in the hotel parking lot. Avdol and Polnareff had long dropped off the water, leaving them to pile the food inside. It was a tight fit, but they managed to pack everything away. This included the surviving barrel of water, which had been separated into several smaller gallons.

“I’m having some trouble understanding,” Caesar began turning to Polnareff. “Did you not try just phasing through her sword? Can’t your ghost do that?”

“They’re called stands,” Polnareff hissed, “and my Chariot’s blade can normally cut through objects, hence why I thought it was part of her stand.”

“So you just didn’t try going over her?”

“She was good, okay!? Anyway, now that I know that it isn’t a stand at all, I also know that she can’t hurt Silver Chariot. So the next time we fight, I don’t have to hold back.”

“I don’t understand why you want to fight her again,” Jojo said from where he’d been lounging in the shade of the car, which was growing as the sun ticked down behind him. “Wouldn’t it just be better to keep moving towards Dio? Even if you wanted to keep her from reporting back to him, he could just look in on us at anytime, right?” He looked at Joseph. “You said he already knew everything about you guys because he did that, right?”

“We don’t know what Dio is or is not able to see,” Avdol said, stepping forward. “We know that, in the past, stand users have claimed to receive information about us through him. However, every stand user who has met you two seems curious about your connection to the Joestar bloodline. From that, we can deduce that Dio is unaware of your status as Mr. Joestar’s younger self.”

“And we better keep it that way,” Joseph said, “or else you’re gonna be their primary target.”

Jojo squawked, hands flying everywhere before jabbing a finger at himself and asking, “What!? Why me?”

“It’s just simple strategy,” Joseph said. “If they take you out, then I die, too. That’s probably why Tristán left as soon as she slit your throat, thinking she’d killed us both.”

“Oh, Jesus.” Jojo gripped his head as he looked down. “Now I have four immortals who want me dead!? Is this some cruel joke? Why am I always getting caught up in all of this ‘end of the world’ business!?”

“Well it is your grandfather’s fault,” Caesar said, leaning against the car.

“Hey, watch it,” Joseph growled at him. “I thought we put that all behind us after the fountain.”

Caesar sputtered as he began to laugh. “You thought my hatred for your grandfather wouldn’t return full force after hearing that he squandered my own grandfather’s sacrifice when he failed to kill Dio? Not a chance. Besides, all that was settled was my admittedly unfair grievance with you as his descendent.”

Jojo rolled his shoulders non committedly, slouching against the car and crossing his arms as he said, “Works for me.”

“Hey, that’s our grandfather he’s talking about!” Joseph said.

“And?” Jojo asked, opening an eye to peak at his older self.

“And you should take more pride in your family! I thought we got over that, too!”

Jojo snapped his head to the side to glare up at him. “You’re telling me the bastard left Granny to stuff herself into a coffin on her own in the middle of the atlantic only for Dio to make it out alive anyway?”

“It’s not like he had a choice!” Joseph forcibly calmed himself, taking a deep breath and pinching the bridge of his nose.

The air grew uncomfortably stale between them. Jojo lowered his chin, eyes still dark and dangerous from where they met Joseph’s. Behind the car, Polnareff was busy pretending to not have heard any of the family drama while Avdol retracted himself from the situation all together.

“I think,” Joseph finally said, “that you need to stop looking at this as a ‘You vs. Me.’ We’re the same person, and we have to work together.”

Jojo sighed, standing up and dusting himself off. “Fine, I guess.”

“You guess?”

“Well it’s not like I have much of a choice, do I? If we want to tag along and help you finally gank the bastard, get back home, or better yet- do both- then we’re gonna have to move past this, huh?”

Joseph narrowed his eyes. “‘Move past’ what exactly?”

“Nevermind,” he said, letting out a groan as he stretched his arms upwards. Gasping, as if with a sudden realization, he looked downwards. “Wait a minute- I left my pants at that clothing store!”

Joseph’s groan was met with a laugh from Caesar, who had to turn and put a hand over his mouth to keep from absolutely screaming.

As he continued to laugh, Joseph found a small smile spreading over his face.

Huh… he does snort when he laughs.

“Mr. Joestar,” Avdol said, coming over to place a hand on his shoulder. He nodded to the right, silently urging Joseph to look over at the end of the parking lot where a familiar figure was currently coming towards them.

“Don’t worry,” he said, bringing up his hand to cross over his friend’s, “I’ve got this.”

He squeezed Avdol’s hand reassuringly before turning his entire body towards Tristán.

“So you’re alive,” she yelled, still a good distance away from the group.

“No thanks to you!” Jojo returned.

“That Hamon,” she trailed off, reaching behind her head to unsheathe yet another blade, “is really something.”

She dropped the sword to the ground, as it was long enough to reach with her hand still on the hilt.

“She’s staying just out of Chariot’s range,” Polnareff whispered to Avdol.

“She probably doesn’t have another sword that can withstand your own,” Avdol said.

“I won’t need it!” she called. “Once I eliminate the Joestars, Lord Dio will surely give me the authority to govern the rest of his stand users! Then I’ll be able to come back and finish off your group once and for all. No longer will I be confined to the humiliating rank of ‘Minor League!’” She raised her blade in front of her face with a wicked grin. “Still, I do not blame my Lord, for I know he would not give me more or less than what I can stand and deserve. He was testing me, and it is with your deaths that I pass.”

“You really do care about Dio,” Joseph said, tilting his head to the side.

“Have a problem with that, Joestar?”

“You already know the answer to that,” he said, shrugging as he grinned.

It’s a shame that your loss is going to cost him so much, then.

Her face screwed, lips pursing as if she’d tasted something sour.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“What’s what supposed to mean?” Polnareff asked, only for Avdol to shush him.

“I didn’t say anything,” Joseph said.

I can’t let her win. All we have to do is get whatever her stand is, and we’ll be able to read the minds of future stand users too. Then we’ll know the secret to Dio’s Stand.

Her eyes widened, and Joseph knew he had to keep himself reigned in, less she know that he noticed. This was confirmed as her hand flinched back from her sword, as if to reach up to her hair, before slamming back down on the hilt.

“No- no! You can’t fool me like this! I know that I won’t lose!”

“You already did,” he said with a smirk, causing her eyes to widen even further.

Just as he thought of telling her the true nature of the game he’d just played, her mouth formed into a snarl.

“You- You underhanded asshole! You just wanted to know where my stand was!”

“That’s right,” he said. “And judging by the way you reached up to your head just then, I bet it’s the clip in your hair, right?”

She let out a choked noise, color rushing from her face as she backed away from the group.

“You see, Tristán, I don’t need a stand to read minds, especially someone who’s so bad at hiding what they’re thinking.”

“Shut up!”

“You anger so easily, mademoiselle,” Polnareff said, shoving himself forward. Tristán backed away, step for step and maintaining her distance. “If he’s wrong, why not try your luck with us, huh?”

She gritted her teeth, grip tightening on the hilt of her sword.

“Hold on a second,” Jojo said, “If Caesar and I were to actually get our hands on that hair clip, we might be able to see stands!”

“That’s a good point,” Polnareff said.

Avdol gave a nod as he added “And all together another reason for us to not back down now.”

Jojo leveled a glare at him but wisely kept his mouth shut as Tristán let out a growl and ripped the clip from her hair.

“You think you’re so smart,” she said with a hiss, flinging the trinket to the ground. Raising one of her pointed, mismatched shoes, she offered a wicked grin. “Then did you predict this!?”

The only noise that followed was the abrupt crack when her foot met with the clip.

After a short pause, Jojo let out a wail.

“What!? I thought only stands and Hamon could hurt stands! Did she really just crush it with her foot?”

“Yes,” Avdol said. “I’ll admit, though I’m a bit of a professional on stands, I’m not entirely certain of how these object stands work. I would have thought the utter destruction of any stand would leave a devastating amount of psychic damage, but it appears as though she’s unaffected.”

“Look again, friend,” Polnareff said, patting him on the shoulder as he pointed at their strange opponent.

At least, if she could still be considered that.

Tristán swayed where she stood, sword falling from her hand before she herself followed. When her back met the ground, her light weight allowed her to bounce off the ground once only to again splay out against the concrete like a rag doll.

“Oh, well there goes our chance to see stands,” Jojo said, biting back a sigh.

“Is she going to be alright?” Caesar asked.

“She probably won’t be moving for a while,” Avdol said. “Much like with Steely Dan and Enya, I predict her recovery to take a few months. Though, that is assuming she is placed under hospital care as quickly as-”

A sharp cry broke out across the parking lot.

Soon enough, a man and woman, the latter being the source of the noise, wove between the cars to inspect the fallen body of Tristán.

“There’s a woman on the ground!” the man called out to seemingly anyone who would hear. “Someone- help!”

“I guess we won’t have to worry about that, huh?” Jojo said.

“We should probably get out of dodge before the police show up,” again. The last word went unsaid as Joseph sighed and pulled the lip of his hat over his eyes.

“I’d agree, especially considering our near-forgotten time constraints,” Avdol said. With a sigh, he pointed back to the couple as he added, “However….”

A police officer was already running towards the couple from the mouth of the parking lot, presumably drawn by the woman’s screams. He had his eyes on the men in an instant, striding towards them while barking an order for the man to keep a watch on the barely-breathing Tristán.

Ever the articulate and concise man, Joseph announced, “Shit,” as he thought, We’re never gonna make it to Egypt.

Chapter Text

The next morning was luckily calmer than the previous, even if Jotaro didn’t feel any better about waking up in a strange room. He and Kakyoin had been separated the night before as well, leaving him alone in the too large and too foreign space as he rolled onto his stomach and pulled the blanket over his head.

He took a deep breath and faced the headboard with the threadbare pillow pulled under his chin. Through all of this, he knew he’d have to get up eventually. Part of him was surprised that he took to waking up so early as well as he did, considering the time difference between Italy and Japan. He knew how temperamental his internal clock could be, so it was a pleasant surprise that he would have no trouble getting up at a decent hour. It wasn’t too early nor too late.

That is, if he could stand up and get moving in time to meet up with Lisa Lisa.

His thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door and a quiet, familiar voice asking, “Hello? Can I come in?”

He sat up quickly, looking at the bed that had belonged to Kakyoin where he’d laid the coat from yesterday. He threw it on along with his hat as he mumbled, “Yeah.”

“Sorry,” the same voice said, Suzie Q’s head poking into the room. She had a basket in her hands, which she brought with her as she closed the door with her hip. “I won’t be long, don’t mind me.”

“I don’t,” he said, internally wincing at the nervous look she threw him. “I’m-” he paused when she looked at him and his eyes escaped her gaze, “I’m sorry. I guess I’m still getting used to being around here.”

He saw her smile out of the corner of her eye, her shoulders dropping and becoming less stiff as she turned her back to him and set the basket of clothes on the bed.

“Don’t be sorry. It must be pretty scary, hearing a family member you care for is sick.”

“Sick?”

She turned to look over her shoulder, examining him with wide eyes. “You didn’t know?”

“No I knew he was in trouble,” Jotaro mumbled. “I just didn’t know how much you knew is all.”

“No thanks to him,” she scoffed, “or anyone else for that matter. It’s not like anyone tells me anything around here. You probably know more than I do about what’s been going on for the past month.”

Jotaro tilted his head, hiding his eyes as he faced her.

“What do you mean?”

She sighed as she pulled a shirt from the basket and began to fold it across the bed.

“Well it’s obvious that you’re worried about Jojo, wherever he is or whatever he’s doing.”

“It is?”

“Mhm!” She laid the shirt onto the growing pile of clothes before turning to him entirely. “You don’t have to say anything- I’m very good at reading people, you know.”

He remained silent, staring at the wall just past her as she went back to her clothes.

“Still, you wouldn’t happen to know exactly what’s going on with Jojo and Caesar, would you?”

“I don’t know who this ‘Caesar’ guy is.” That wasn’t a lie, and it was still a good misdirect.

One that she took bait and all as she whirled on him with a loud gasp. “You don’t know who Caesar is? Did you even get to meet with Jojo before you left? Or was Caesar not with him?”

“No, we missed them coming in.”

“Oh that’s too bad, especially if you haven’t seen Jojo in a while. Though you must have come in a rush if these were all the clothes you brought with you.”

He looked up as she spoke, seeing her already tiny, pale hands further dwarfed and bleached by his black coat. She held it reverently, a calm smile painted on her face as she met his gaze with a smile.

“It was tough getting the oil out of the wool,” she confessed, “but I think I managed well enough.” She folded it over her arm with a tender touch, sweeping up the collar in an attempt to smooth it out. “I have the pins too, but I had to take them out to clean. I hope you don’t mind. It’s such a cool jacket, and Lisa Lisa said you’d be wanting it back soon, so I made sure to take good care of it.”

He took it with both arms, hands twitching up the sides of the material as she ran her hand over the sleeve one last time.

Taking in a few deep breaths, he considered that this was the first time he really thought that he could handle just existing with everything that had happened so far.

Apparently he was silent a little too long as Suzie soon took a seat next to him. She delicately strew the heavy gold chain across her apron lap and folded her hands on her knees.

“Clothes are important, you know,” she said. “They’re a part of us and how we choose to present ourselves to people around us, so I get having a favorite piece.” She sighed, raising a hand to her cheek. “Even if I don’t think I could ever wear the same thing every day.”

An amused huff escaped him as his hand tightened around the lower part of the jacket.

“Yeah, I don’t think I could see you doing that either.”

She shot him a soft smile, pulling out one of the gold pins from the jacket’s collar.

“You want some help putting things back?”

He accepted with a nod, cheating his body towards her.

The ease that they soon settled into with limited conversation, most of which was provided by Suzie herself without any expectation of Jotaro holding up his end, may not have been expected by any hypothetical prying eyes who had just seen the two interact for the first time.

For anyone who knew Jotaro, should they have stumbled upon the scene, been asked what they thought would happen between him and the excitable woman, this result would have come as a shock. They wouldn’t have been wrong in their assumptions, however, when one considered how he treated most everyone else.

Then again, as far as he was concerned-

His grandmother always had been different.

With his coat mended and himself feeling more complete, it was time for the second day of their training. Kakyoin had expressed interest in more Hamon-specific techniques. Jotaro, on the other hand, wished that all this “training” involved was hitting. He was good at that, always had been. He’d been something akin to happy when Messina, his “coach,” asked him to spar again. He was sure the bastard was ready to show him up in some way, to use a trick of some sort to earn respect where had failed the day before.

That time, with Lisa Lisa watching in the distance, Jotaro had the sense that it had only been a test of his strength. Today wouldn’t be.

So, when Messina went in for a kick from a few inches too far away, Jotaro didn’t take the extra distance for granted and backed away as if his leg was coming from only a foot in front of him. This caught Messina off guard, as did his use of Star Platinum to grab the man’s leg and flip him onto his back.

He got up with a laugh, rubbing his leg tenderly for a moment as Jotaro came to stand over him, Star’s fists raised on either side of his head.

“Wait wait! I give,” Messina said, continuing to laugh as he stood. “You got me. Geeze, only someone related to Jojo would be such a quick thinker. Did he tell you that you can use hamon to stretch your limbs? Or did you know that already?”

Jotaro stared at him for sometime, remaining silent.

Messina gave up, turning away with a dismissive wave. “Nah, wait- Lisa Lisa said you’re a beginner, right? That was the truth, right?”

He once again neglected to answer. “Aren’t we here to train? All I’ve seen you teach so far is a class on how to get my ass kicked.”

“Oh-ho!” Messina mockingly laughed. “Eager, aren’t we?”

He looked over his shoulder to where Loggins and Kakyoin had disappeared previously, eyes narrowing for a moment before turning another grin on Jotaro.

“Lisa Lisa did say you’re stepping in for Jojo now, right? You know what he’s up against? What you’re in charge of?”

“Something about poison,” Jotaro said with a shrug. “I guess I don’t have a lot of time to fuck around, huh?”

“Two weeks. That’s how long he has until that poison kills him. Not sure how it works myself, but unless Lisa Lisa sent him after those bastards himself, I’m guessing she expects you to be ready to take the fight to them.”

Jotaro lowered his head in a solemn nod.

“Don’t be worried or anything! With Caesar watching his back, I’m sure your cousin will be just fine.” He pulled a face. “Or- is he your brother?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Jotaro said. “Come on, let’s get back to training.”

Bastard. I just wanna stop hearing about this friggin deadline already. The tension in his jaw melted away as he lazily followed Messina to wherever the couch was leading him. No point in worrying, anyway. It’s not like I can tell when he’s gonna get back. His eyes trailed behind him where Star Platinum’s precise vision could see Lisa Lisa examining him from her balcony. Dunno how she’s sitting pretty. Does this guy think she’s worried?

“So, about Elizabeth-”

Messina stiffened, rounding on Jotaro and doing his best to stand over him.

“Watch it. How do you know about that?”

“Know about what? Her name?”

The older man’s eyes narrowed, his mustache twitching as his lip turned upward. “I thought Joseph didn’t know about all that stuff.”

Oh yeah.

“He doesn’t,” Jotaro sighed, cheating his body to the side as his eyes met the ground. “Sorry if it’s some trade secret or something, I don’t even know why you’re all calling her Lisa in the first place.”

“It’s Lisa Lisa,” Messina hissed, “and you know her real name and who she is but you don’t even know the story behind it?”

“I guess my grandfather never let it slip.”

Messina leaned forward, forcing Jotaro to once again meet his gaze. “Just how are you related to Jojo, again?”

“Cousins.”

“Huh, that’s funny. I heard his grandfather died after having one son- who’s also dead.”

“Distant cousins- his grandma found us after Jonathan kicked the bucket.”

“Then why say ‘cousins?’”

“Didn’t know you wanted specifics,” he replied cooly, leaning back and raising his chin. “Are we gonna stand around and let me draw out a full family tree? Or are you gonna teach me how to get the antidote for the ring in Jojo’s neck? Do you really think Lisa Lisa would be stupid enough to let in someone she didn’t really know was related to her own son?”

His eyes widened before his expression fell back into a barely contained sneer.

“Alright,” he said, “Maybe it’s time for you to kick it up a notch.” He patted Jotaro’s shoulder, ignoring the sharp glare that formed as he did so. “Come on, Loggins and Noriaki are by the shore on the other side of the island. We’ll meet them there.”

“It’s Kakyoin,” he said sharply.

“Lisa Lisa said it was Noriaki.”

“Kakyoin.”

Messina looked back at him as they continued to walk, eventually turning away with a huff. Jotaro’s fist clenched in his pocket. He was usually pretty bad at reading people, but he knew that gesture. He’d seen it before on assholes who thought they could end an argument whenever they felt like.

No, that would imply that Kakyoin’s name was an argument in the first place.

He wished the other crusader would just tell them he didn’t feel comfortable with them using his first name- something about understanding that that just wasn’t the norm in Italy. Jotaro called bullshit. It wasn’t like they chose to come here, the least people here could do was treat them like people.

They should quit calling him Noriaki. Quit touching them like they were old friends. Quit talking around them like they knew anything about who they were and why they were there.

These people didn’t know anything, and Jotaro was more than ready to prove that.

His rage simmered when they came to the top of a cliff on the other side of the island, spotting Kakyoin at the bottom of the steep slope with his coach. The former was smiling calmly at Jotaro, the tail of his mullet pulled into a uselessly small ponytail. He was still clad in either Joseph’s or this ‘Caesar’s’ clothes, which made Jotaro curious as to whether Suzie hadn’t returned his school uniform yet or if he simply chose to wear these foreign clothes.

“Messina!” Loggins called up with a wave, “Good to see you! Are you joining us for today?”

“Yeah, ended up thinking it over,” the other coach laughed. “Come on, Jo-to-”

“Not my name.”

“Jojo then,” he clapped him on the shoulder and placed his feet against the sandy wall. He slid down then, balancing himself on the mass as if riding a wave. When he reached the bottom, he glanced up. “There, you try!”

Jotaro’s teeth ground together before he could stop them, digging his hands further into his pockets before putting one foot down the slope. Before he could think to summon him, Star Platinum was already laying down behind him, grasping into the ground as he slid down and tethering their bodies together to keep Jotaro upright.

Interesting, Jotaro thought as he slid. It’s like how I’m tied to my stand can be used as a rope. He briefly wondered if he could use such a technique to climb using his stand’s strength.

This thought was cut short by Messina’s low whistle almost directly into his ear as the man once again wrapped an arm over his shoulder. 

“Nicely done! You have great control over your balance. Joestars must just be naturals, eh?”

“Must be,” he grumbled, pushing the other man away.

Kakyoin looked at him apologetically over Messina’s shoulder, as if he had anything to do with the overbearing man’s lack of personal space. Jotaro met his eyes for a heartbeat before looking away with a quick nod.

“Now let’s begin,” Loggins said. “Hamon oxidizes all of the body. This can cause a lot of wear on the user, if not done properly. That’s why consistent breathing is important, among other things.”

“Jotaro’s already pretty good at keeping his breathing even,” Messina offered to Loggins. “Which I guess is a good thing, since we only have one mask.”

“Mask?” Jotaro asked, stepping forward.

“Yes,” Loggins said, shrugging off the sack on his back and pulling out a strange, metallic contraption. “Joseph wore this up until a few days ago. The plan was for him to wear it until his final exam. Tch, until he skipped out that is.” He looked up to Kakyoin, offering it to him. “Here, Noriaki.”

Blinking a few times as he tried to process what was happening, Kakyoin finally brought himself to ask, “Can I ask what it’s for?”

“As I said, regulating your breathing is important. This mask will help train your breathing to a decent pace.”

After the loose explanation, Kakyoin reached out for the mask and took it into his hands. Before he could take it away from Loggins, Jotaro stepped forward.

“Hey, don’t just put it on without knowing what it does.” Turning to the coaches, he added, “Besides, he can’t be doing too bad if you already want to take us to the next level.”

“We’re only teaching you at all because of the circumstances Lisa Lisa and Joseph have been placed in. You two are replacements and need to learn fast,” Messina said, “this mask is the only way to speed things along properly.”

“It’s fine, Jotaro,” Kakyoin said with a half-honest smile. “It’s part of our training, so I better just get it over with, right? We won’t be here for more than a week, so we really should do everything we can to improve..”

Jotaro found himself staring past Kakyoin’s head as the other boy turned back to the mask. When he was about to pull it to his face, Jotaro turned away with a grunt.

We shouldn’t be here at all.

He was now brought out of his thoughts by another whistle. This one, however, was more choked, ending on a harsh noise that mad Jotaro’s eyes widen as he looked at Kakyoin clutching the mask that now covered the lower half of his face.

“Kakyoin,” he said, taking a step forward only to be blocked by Messina’s arm.

“Let him figure it out.”

“He can’t breathe! your damn mask is choking him!” Jotaro said, shoving past him and now into Loggins’s torso.

“He’ll be fine, he just needs to find a rhythm, and the mask will let him breathe just fine. We fixed it yesterday, and it’s all in working condition.”

You designed something to limit someone’s breathing, and it can break?

Jotaro had enough.

Star Platinum pushed the coach down, Jotaro’s hands still firmly rooted in his pockets as he marched towards Kakyoin. The other boy was almost on his knees now, hands moved down to his throat and away from the mask’s vents.

“It’s fine,” he wheezed, “Jotaro.” A series of coughs interrupted him as a hissing noise sounded from the mask itself, signalling that it had begun to cut off his air once more.

Star Platinum shot forward, intent on breaking the mask off of Kakyoin’s face before the other boy stood of the stand’s reach. He put the back of his arm over his mouth, as if his lingering coughs wouldn’t already be blocked by the mask that caused them.

Eventually, he settled down, wiping away the tears of effort before Jotaro got a good look at them. Then he was smiling behind the piece, even if the only indication of it was the small wrinkles that formed around the air-tight seal.

“I’m fine, just had to catch my breath.” Keeping his gaze calm, he turned to the coaches.

Jotaro turned to glare over his shoulder at the men, Loggins still pulling himself from the sand.

“You didn’t even touch me,” he said, Messina standing taller behind him. “How did you move me?”

“It must have been your imagination,” Kakyoin said, voice rough from the mask’s torture. “Even I could see him throw you.”

“No, his hands didn’t leave his pockets until he got to you,” Messina said. “So how did you do it?”

“Isn’t it obvious, Messina?”

They turned up to the voice, spotting the poised silhouette of Lisa Lisa against the bright sky. She stepped out of her heels, placed one bare foot in front of the other, and used the cliff like it was an elevator as she commanded it to take her down. Her feet didn’t sink into the loose sand as she walked along the shore, as if she weighed nothing at all. 

“He sent off a Hamon pulse. A stupid thing to do, really,” she pulled her sunglasses from her face and tucked them inside the cleavage of her suit, “as I’ve told him before.”

Though she looked at Loggins and Messina as she spoke, Jotaro knew that last bit was directed towards him.

She turned to Kakyoin. “Was there an issue with the mask?”

“Just had to get used to it,” he assured.

“Why does he need it?” Jotaro asked.

She peered over her shoulder to address Loggins.

“Did you not discuss this with them?”

“So what if he’s not breathing your way, it’s good enough to fight.”

“If it can be improved at all, it could drastically encourage development of his Hamon. If you go through your training and he’s only able to tap into a fraction of his full potential due to us not focusing on his breathing, that will be on my ability as a coach. If that happens, and I have addressed the issue, then it’s on him as a student. Do you know where your place is in his learning, Jotaro? As a fellow student?”

Jotaro tilted his head in a silent, casual question.

“No where.” She turned on heel and stalked back to the cliffs, where she turned to look out at the ocean. “I will be overseeing today’s exorcises. Oh, and Jotaro, do take care to not use any more of those pulses. It’s best to break bad habits right away.”

He glared but kept his tongue as he turned back to Kakyoin.

A smile was still visible behind his calm eyes, so Jotaro was content to tilt his head down, effectively hiding his eyes behind the bill of his hat. Of course he could do nothing to block Kakyoin’s view of his clenched jaw.

It seemed that, at least in the presence of Lisa Lisa, Loggins and Messina were willing to drop their assault in favor of getting their training underway. They quickly explained the exorcise: To remain underwater for as long as possible.

Jotaro didn’t mind the task too much as he stepped up to the water. He had nothing but good experiences with the ocean, disregarding the battles with Dark Blue Moon and Strength. Even when pitted against the former, the threat of drowning never weighed too heavily on Jotaro’s mind.

“You must have the Joestar lungs!” Joseph had said after Jotaro pulled himself from the defeated boat captain, slapping him on the back with a laugh.

Kakyoin, on the other hand, examined the water with scrutiny.

“Will the mask not let me breath when I come up?” he asked. “Even after not breathing for so long?”

“No,” Lisa Lisa said. “That mask works by opening and closing valves in a steady rhythm, forcing the wearer to breath in the same rhythm or be denied air. When the mask senses pressure from the outside- be it water, sand or something of the like- the valves will remain closed. As long as you don’t rapidly dunk your head in and out of the water, as the mask’s last owner did, you’ll be fine.”

Must have been the old man, Jotaro thought, blinking before looking back at Kakyoin.

“Did you want to take off your coat?” Messina asked. “It probably won’t be too comfortable when it’s wet.”

“I’m fine,” Jotaro said.

He was more worried about losing his hat in the ocean, but not too worried to actually remove it before calmly walking into the water.

The island appeared to be on a shelf-like mass, allowing him to drop off into the ocean without going too far from the shore. That was comforting to Jotaro, as he wouldn’t have too swim too far to get back in the case of emergency.

To Kakyoin, however, it was more than disconcerting to see Jotaro so suddenly disappear under the waves.

Still he followed, cringing when the cuffs of the too-large shorts grew wet. Then he was taking the plunge.

He found Jotaro on the side of the continental shelf, hands gripping at the rocks there to keep from rising to the top. They shared a rare moment of eye contact before Kakyoin gripped the wall beside him with a smile. 

Star Platinum soon emerged, blinking stoically at Kakyoin before it opened its mouth, Jotaro’s voice coming through in Japanese.

“We can talk through our stands without using air.”

Kakyoin’s eyes widened before he nodded and brought forth Hierophant Green.

“Oh yea, you told us about that after you fought Dark Blue Moon.”

“Yeah, I’d kind of not like to think about that right now.”

“That’s fair.” Kakyoin fixed his gaze onto the rocks, scratching at them absently. “ I guess seeing this mask get put on me was a little scary, huh? If it shook the Jotaro Kujo that much.”

Star Platinum scoffed and leaned against the shelf as if it were a wall. Kakyoin couldn’t help but think how like Jotaro the mannerism was, while also thinking the gesture was unlike Star Platinum itself.

“I don’t get how you could just let them muzzle you like that,” he said.

“It’s not really ‘muzzling.’ I can still talk, even without my stand.”

“I know that but-” Star stopped, turning its face away from both of them. “You breathe fine- fine enough to use a stand as powerful as Hierophant. What do they mean it’s not good enough for Hamon?”

“I don’t know,” he confessed, turning his head up to look at the light fluttering through the ocean above, “but maybe my breathing is worse than the average Hamon user. I know I get winded easily, and it’s not like the mask really hurts,” past those suffering moments when I first had it on.

The last bit went unsaid as the sunlight shifted along the waves.

“I guess it’s just something I have to do if I want to get on the same level as you and Lisa Lisa, right? If I want to be useful.”

“You’re already useful,” Jotaro shot back. “That bitch- those arrogant ‘teachers’ too- they just don’t know that we’ve already been through Hell. It’s not like you and I haven’t fought super-powered assholes before.”

“True, but just what are these ‘Pillar Men’ anyway?”

“Vampires.”

Kakyoin’s eyes widened as they locked onto Jotaro. “‘Vampires?’ Like Dio?”

“Worse, if anything the old man talked about was true.” Jotaro, and thus Star Platinum, sighed. “And I guess it was, if they actually exist. They drink blood through their hands, so kind of like Dio, I guess. Gramps said they were massive- always changed how big they were from the size of trucks to entire houses, but they were always big. They could shapeshift and command air- one of them had literal fire in his veins, I think.”

Unease dripped from Kakyoin’s face as he asked, “How can you say that so calmly?”

“Dunno, guess it’s just more of a pain than anything. I always just thought it was the old man being theatrical, same goes for Dio, actually. I never thought they were real. After finding out about him, this all just seems like the next logical step in a way.” He groaned, Star Platinum lazily laying his head against the shelf. “Even if it’s fucking disturbing.”

Kakyoin was about to respond when Hierophant faded away from his side, leaving him mute in the deep water. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Star come away from the wall and float behind Jotaro, the latter’s eyes locked onto him.

“Looks like you’re running out of air.”

Kakyoin nodded, his hands tightening around the shelf as he resisted looking at Jotaro. Distantly, he wondered how long he could hold out down here. It seemed like he’d been under water for hours while he was fighting Dark Blue Moon. All the while, Kakyoin had been useless on a boat just above him- just out of reach.

Even as he eventually let go of the shelf, gently swimming to the top, he swore he’d learn how to hold his breath twice as long as Jotaro if it kept him from being useless again. Today though, he’d respect his own limits and surface. At least, that was the intention.

As he neared the glittering surface, the water became thicker, like a heavy gel that he had to force his hands through. By the time he reached the top, he wasn’t able to break through it at all, and found himself panicked and slamming his hands against the surface as fast as the thick, stagnant water would allow. The waves had long settled, leaving him with the impression that was now under a sudden sheet of glass or ice, if the temperature had been cool enough.

Below him, Jotaro noticed the struggle and called up through Star Platinum to ask, “What’s wrong?” not knowing that Kakyoin didn’t even have enough oxygen left to summon Hierophant to answer back. 

Seeing him continue struggling rather than breaking through the surface, Jotaro swam up to join him, tucking his arm around the other to forcibly drag him up. That was when he found the barrier.

Pulling himself away from Jotaro, Kakyoin grabbed at his own throat as a slight choking noise managed to reach Jotaro’s ears, even in the water.

Jotaro reached upwards to graze the surface again, as if to test it. When he did so, he noticed something he hadn’t before- faint sparks trailing after his fingers as he raked his hands over the undersides of the frozen waves.

“That bitch,” he growled. “She must have increased the surface tension to keep us down here- probably trying to increase our lung capacity by force or some shit.”

His eyes trailed back to Kakyoin, who’s expression was now one of slight panic with his eyes locked onto the surface.

Jotaro could already picture the questions racing through his mind- things like: She wouldn’t really let us die down here, would she?

From her reaction to who she thought was her own son calling for help at the bottom of an oil pit, Jotaro already knew the answer.

Of course, he’d need Kakyoin’s help getting out of this, and he couldn’t do that if the other boy drowned.

So Star Platinum moved from behind him, grasping at the mask and crushing it with a deafening “ORA!”

There wasn’t time to figure out how to unlock it, after all. Then the stand was moving out of the way, saying the words, “Breathe in,” just before he disappeared entirely. Jotaro took his place in front of Kakyoin, brushing the shrapnel out of the water around them while wrapping a hand around Kakyoin’s upper arm. With his other hand, he guided Kakyoin’s chin up to seal their mouths together, forcing a mouthful of air into his lungs.

Kakyoin’s arms hung limply at his sides as he focused on doing what Jotaro asked and actually breathing instead of wasting the air he was given by living out the shock of the situation.

Jotaro let go without warning, resulting in Kakyoin taking in a bit of water, which he swallowed rather than coughing or releasing it and chancing giving up any of the air he was just gifted.

Summoning Hierophant, he quickly said, “Thank you,” in the steadiest voice his very soul could manage.

“Don’t thank me yet,” Jotaro said, looking upwards. “We still have to get through, and I don’t think I have enough air to do that again.”

Part of Kakyoin didn’t want to believe it was Lisa Lisa- that perhaps a stand user had managed to follow them throw to this time with the oddly specific ability to increase the water tension. But no, for once in his life, Kakyoin truly believed that an instructor hated him.

And honestly, as the realization that he truly could have died if a few more moments had passed sank in, he was becoming more and more okay with that.

“Jotaro, yesterday, Loggins told me about positive and negative surges of Hamon,” he said. “If she’s increasing water tension, she must be using the positive surge of Hamon. If we can manage a powerful surge of negative Hamon in response, maybe it’ll weaken the water.”

“How do we do that?”

“From what little Loggins told me, it seems as though the positive or negative aspect of Hamon depends on the surge’s use. Positive Hamon attracts and negative Hamon repels, so the user has to visualize the surge and its purpose.”

Jotaro nodded, not really understanding the whole of what Kakyoin was saying, but knowing the gist of it was probably the best he was going to get.

He placed his hands against the surface and focused on releasing some of that same energy he saw so readily flow from the three coaches. No matter how hard he tried, however, he found himself unable, the only Hamon flicking through his fingers being that of the water’s surface.

“Here,” Kakyoin said after some time, Hierophant making a ring of its coils around Jotaro’s body. The rings were forced upwards into a slinky-like shape against the surface. “I’ll send out Hamon through Hierophant, then you can use Star Platinum’s strength to keep it open long enough for me to get through.”

Jotaro nodded, waiting for that telltale yellow light to begin shimmering through Hierophant’s translucent body. Soon enough, the surface began to give way, and Jotaro didn’t waste a moment breaking through. He used both Star Platinum and Hierophant Green’s own body to pull its stand user through the hole made in the water.

They were met with clapping as Jotaro rested Kakyoin against the still-frozen water.

“Well done!” Messina said.

“I didn’t expect you to remember my lecture so thoroughly, Noriaki,” Loggins. “Thought for sure we were going to have to fish you two out ourselves.”

So it hadn’t been Lisa Lisa directly, but she’d still watched as these coaches held them underwater.

Jotaro bided his time, concealing his anger as he and Kakyoin slumped back onto the shore. He kept up that cool exterior, even as he finally cracked his fist against Loggins’s jaw.

“It’s Kakyoin,” he hissed, spitting into the sand. Then he turned to Messina, raising his fist to do much the same to the other coach.

He was prepared, however, rearing back and intending to kick Jotaro while simultaneously flipping backwards. Of course, his kick never landed as one of Hierophant’s tendrils wrapped around his ankle and just brought him to flop uselessly on his side.

“I let you put that thing on me,” the usually level-headed teen said, “and then you force me into a situation that you yourself said could get me killed?”

“We weren’t dunking you, it was a procedure to increase your lung capacity! Caesar and Jojo did this daily.” Messina’s tone dripped with confusion at his and his colleague’s rough treatment. 

“Did you keep it a secret what would exactly happen to them when they would try to resurface?”

“The first time, yes, or else they would try to break through before they almost ran out of breath! What is this!? Did you two come here to learn Hamon or not?”

“Seems more like hazing to me,” Kakyoin said, “and I don’t take that lightly.”

“Enough,” Lisa Lisa said from where she lingered beside the cliffs.

“Stay out of this!” Jotaro spat. “We’ll get to you in a second.”

“No, Jotaro, I think we’re even,” Kakyoin said, assessing the coaches. “This has already gotten too out of hand. We’ll just handle the Pillar Men ourselves.”

Lisa Lisa’s laugh was a cruel, cold thing that broke out past the hand she’d delicately raised over her mouth.

“And how do you expect to do that? Messina was able to tell me how long it took for you to begin sending out the proper waves of Hamon. Not bad, for a first time, but considering it was the two of you working on it-”

“It was just Kakyoin,” Jotaro said. “He did it by himself.”

“So then you weren’t even able to work up a surge to help him?”

Jotaro stopped mid-step towards the woman, his head turning down as his glare sharped under the bill of his hat.

“You have more to learn from us if you even want a chance of defeating those monsters. Even Joseph, who had more talent with Hamon than either of you could ever hope to attain, needed to come here and learn from these coaches and I to improve. Hardheadedness and determination mean nothing in the face of technique. Remember that, Jotaro and Noriaki.” She scoffed, turning her head to the side as her hands found her hips. “Of course, if you wish to continue learning on this island, it will be at the mercy of your coaches. Though I cannot speak for them, I expect that they’ll be wanting an apology before you move on as student and teacher.”

Jotaro sneered.

“Over my dead body am I apologizing for being drowned.”

“The same goes for me,” Kakyoin said, turning to the coaches. “I think that I’ve been more than patient with your unconventional training methods, Loggins. I even considered the nature of yesterday’s exercises to be necessary, but this?”

“We wouldn’t have let you die,” Loggins said.

“So that makes it okay!?”

“I think you’re missing the bigger picture here,” Lisa Lisa said. “You have two weeks maximum to learn Hamon- an ancient art that has taken more determined men years to properly master- and you want us to take it easy on you?”

“Just stop- stop-!” Jotaro couldn’t find the word.

“Stop treating us like children and at least prepare us for what we’re in for,” Kakyoin pushed.

Lisa Lisa sneered.

“Is that what this is about? You feel as though you’re entitled to be on the same page as us, who have far more on the line than you ever could?”

“Jotaro’s life is on the line,” Kakyoin leaned in to hiss, “I think that’s enough. We’re on your side. Why treat us like we have to be beaten down?”

She examined him for a while before shifting her gaze to Jotaro.

Before she could speak further, a squeak sounded from the top of the cliffs.

Looking up one last time, the group saw Suzie Q attempting to scale the steep, crumbling rock face in an attempt to get to the group.

“Lisa Lisa-!” she cried, voice bordering on a whine as she tugged her foot back to her body in an effort to keep it from following a piece of the cliff that fell away out from under her.

“Suzie,” Lisa Lisa near grumbled as she stepped towards the cliff.

Jotaro, though he walked past her, was still under the dangling maid in an instant, arms outstretched in silent permission for her to fall. Whether or not she saw him was up for debate, as she did fall, but she also let out a startled cry before she found herself safely deposited in his arms. This was due in part to Star Platinum, who’d delicately guided her there from where she’d been falling slightly off center.

“There has to be a safer way down here,” Jotaro said to no one in particular when Suzie wouldn’t stop staring at him.

She wasn’t allowed to settle into his arms for long, as she was soon dipped onto her feet. There she found that her right highheel, which she was certain had slipped off of her foot, was back where it belonged like nothing had happened.

“Grazie mille!” she said, turning to him as she clapped her hands together.

And Jotaro said, “Prego,” somehow managing to sound stiff while performing the act on autopilot.

Kakyoin’s eyes widened at the gesture, both not knowing that Jotaro knew any Italian and that he continued being so polite with his unwitting grandmother.

Not nearly as stunned, Lisa Lisa pushed forward and asked, “Is there something you needed, Suzie Q?”

As if just remembering her coming here for the first time, Suzie lit up and said, “Ah-! Yes, Lisa Lisa. Apparently the Speedwagon Foundation intercepted the letter you’d penned last night and sent an immediate, emergency telegram back. Mr. Speedwagon himself is coming right away.”

“What?” Lisa Lisa’s eyes narrowed. “I didn’t ask for him to come himself- I asked him to look into something for me.”

“Yes, well, he wrote more.” She made her way through the stand, ignoring the way her heels sank into the shore as only a girl who was raised along it could. When she neared Lisa Lisa, she whispered, “But I don’t suppose you’d want me talking about that here, no?”

Lisa Lisa glanced at Jotaro ahead of her for only a moment before closing her eyes and letting out a suffering sigh.

“That’s enough. Loggins, Messina, settle this with your students however you please. I have to make plans for tomorrow. Jotaro, after you’re done training- should Messina choose to continue with you- come see me in my office.” She shoved past Suzie Q, leading the girl around the cliffs, presumably to find an easy way out of the cove-like area.

Jotaro only watched as they disappeared, knowing he was being left at the mercy of the two coaches.

He couldn’t truly leave this island, not if the vague details of some attack in his grandfather’s stories reigned true. He couldn’t leave his grandmother behind.

Still, as Messina, Loggins, and even Lisa Lisa weren’t clued into Suzie Q’s relation to him, the ball was in his court. Even knowing that Joseph- who was probably in more apparent danger than Suzie Q- was his grandfather, Lisa Lisa was still under the impression that Jotaro could care less.

They needed a Hamon warrior to step in for his grandfather, and he needed to protect his grandmother, future mother, and himself from the wrath of time.

Eventually, they settled on a compromise:

Jotaro and Kakyoin wouldn't apologize, and Messina and Loggins were given free reign to implement whatever intense training regimens they saw fit. So long as they were dictated with proper disclosure, of course. The last bit was only agreed upon when Kakyoin and Jotaro made it certain that they wouldn’t be holding back in their quest to grow stronger.

"By the way," Messina said when they were all happy with the agreement, "what happened to the mask?"

Jotaro sneered and held up a fist, gesturing for Messina to open his hand. Jotaro pressed something into his palm, leaving him to look down at the jaw of the mask- the only piece left of the breathing apparatus.

Well, it wasn't like they'd be needing it anyway.

So they continued with their training for the day, Jotaro taking greater care to watch as the others actually used Hamon so that he could replicate whatever they did. At one point, Kakyoin managed to keep a small ball of water rigid in his hands for a little over a minute while focusing on the rhythm of his breathing, now without the apparent “help” of the mask.

Eventually, Jotaro realized he wouldn’t be able to fake out using Hamon outside of a one on one fight using Star Platinum. This Hamon did a lot more than directly help one fight, aiding them in walking on water and turning mundane liquids and fabrics into lively weapons.

Jotaro was good at hitting-

and little else.

So he thought about how best to handle this as he waited outside of Lisa Lisa’s office for Suzie Q to emerge, waving him “Goodnight” after letting him know that the Coach from Hell would see him now.

She sat at her desk as he walked in, wheeling her swivel chair away from the oak peace and gesturing for him to stand in the middle of the room. Her sunglasses had returned, covering her eyes in the dim light of the office where they’d been missing in the blistering sun.

“Well Jotaro, I’ll give you credit: You’re definitely not anything like your grandfather.”

Jotaro’s eyes narrowed at her, waiting to see where she was going with this.

“Joseph was confident, some may say overly so, but I’d never call him ‘cocky,’” she continued, carefully crossing one leg over the other. “He was willing to accept instruction once he saw that he had something to learn. Something he needed to learn, at that. So here I am, trying to just drill it into you that you can’t win against these foes with your current strength, but that’s not going to work, is it?” Her neutral expression sharpened into a glare as she yelled, “Because you’re an arrogant bastard!”

Jotaro only stood taller.

After a moment, he opened his mouth, intent on saying, “Is that all you brought me in for, you bitch?”

He didn’t get the chance when she brought up her hand to yell, “Shut your mouth! I don’t wanna hear whatever line you think is suited to a supposed tough guy like you. I don’t want to hear why you think you’re above training and bettering yourself, however it may puzzle me that a seemingly smart young man like you can’t realize when he’s in over his head.”

“The only ‘tough guy’ I see around here is you, lady,” he hissed. “Ordering people around when you barely know them, just because you think it’s in their best interest-”

“So you think it’s not?” She barked out a laugh. “And just how do you intend on taking on the Pillar Men without proper instruction on Hamon?”

“You have no idea what we’ve been through. Kakyoin doesn’t need to be drowned and muzzled by some sorry excuse for a teacher to know how to fight, and neither do I.”

Lisa Lisa threw herself forward to her feet, standing up from her chair in a vein attempt to reach eye level with the insolent man before her. “Your great-great-grandfather needed a mentor, your grandfather needed me- what makes you think you can survive on your own?”

“Because I’m not them!”

She backed away slightly, calculating her great-grandson’s face from his tense jaw to the crease of his brow.

“What did you just say?”

His eyes widened, as if he only just realized what slipped out. Quickly, he turned to the side, clamping his mouth shut.

Jotaro was good at that, and so was Lisa Lisa.

So she too remained silent, allowing him to leave the room with a loud slam of her office door.

For her, the actions were calm and calculated. He didn’t want to talk anymore, so he left. It was as simple as that.

Perhaps somewhere in Jotaro’s head it was still that simple.

The rest of Jotaro’s mind was in chaos, thoughts on fire as he charged down the hall.

He didn’t know where he was going or what he was really feeling, just that he had to get away from Lisa Lisa before he did anything he might regret. That didn’t mean hurting her, per say. 

It was actually that “per say” bit that worried him the most.

He hated not knowing what he was capable of, what was going on, or what he would do next.

When he reached where he’d apparently been heading, he kicked himself for not being able to predict that sooner.

Standing in the hall, his hand trembled where it reached for the knob of Kakyoin’s door.

He stopped for a moment, remembering to bring his hand up to knock.

Before the door even opened, he heard an immediate call of, “Jotaro?” Then there was a bout of uneven steps before the door finally cracked open, a lone violet eye staring out into the hall.

“Hey,” Kakyoin said with a small grin, “Lisa Lisa finally let you go to bed?”

“Uh, yeah,” Jotaro said, hating how his voice caught on itself. “Didn’t realize it got so late.” 

It was a stupid thing to say in hindsight. The halls were almost entirely blacked out, what little light there was to illuminate them both coming from a lantern inside of Kakyoin’s own room.

“Well that’s fine,” Kakyoin laughed, opening the door to wordlessly welcome him in. “I couldn’t sleep anyway.”

Jotaro dipped his head in thanks, crossing the room to rest on the edge of the bed with a sigh and pulling out a crumpled cigarette.

“Where did you get that?”

“For someone that cares so much about breathing properly, Lisa Lisa has quite the collection. Thought I’d help myself.” He shifted his gaze towards Kakyoin. “Mind if I smoke?”

Kakyoin shook his head and said, “No, I don’t mind. But uh, how are you gonna light that? Didn’t you forget your lighter?”

Jotaro almost smiled at that, placing the piece between his lips as Star Platinum emerged. He handed the stand a tassel he’d pulled from one of the curtains by Lisa Lisa’s office and a twig he’d snagged from a bush outside.

A grin broke out over Kakyoin's face as the stand wrapped the string around the piece, using its speed to rapidly pull the string back and forth. Thus it was able to gain enough friction for the wood to light.. 

An impromptu match.

“Clever,” he said as he finished drying his hair. “Though, I think Avdol would have something to say about proper stand use.”

“Avdol’s not here,” Jotaro mumbled around the cigarette while his stand held the flame to it before taking the lit piece into his own hand and shaking it out. Releasing a drag from the cigarette, he said, “If he was, I’d make him light it.”

A grin overtook Kakyoin’s face as he sat on the other bed, one leg crossed over the other at the ankle.

“How’d the mask feel?”

Kakyoin blinked at the question, as he’d been expecting Jotaro to relax in silence for a moment rather than insist on conversation.

It didn’t take too long for his eyes to grow half-lidded as he stared at the ground. How had the mask felt?

“It was tight,” he said, “Kind of like putting your lips into a bottle or cup and sucking all of the air out so that it sticks.” He chuckled, looking back up to Jotaro. “Don’t suppose you ever did that as a kid, though.”

Jotaro’s eyebrows knit together as he released another puff of smoke. “Only once,” he finally confessed. “It was a cup though. I had a big red ring around my mouth for a few days.”

Kakyoin snorted, bringing his hand over his mouth to stop from bursting into laughter. “I’m sorry I-”

“It’s fine.” Jotaro shrugged, hesitating to meet the other’s eyes. “It’s kind of funny looking back on it, I guess.”

“Yeah,” Kakyoin said without really thinking. “I’m kind of glad that you got it off. Don’t really like how that happened, but I’m glad that it’s gone.”

“Sorry about that, by the way. I was just trying to help you breathe. Guess I wasn’t really thinking.”

Kakyoin examined him for a moment, cocking his head to the side before his eyes widened with realization.

“Oh, no! Thank you for that, actually, I just meant the drowning bit! The rest of it where you saved me was actually pretty,” he cleared his throat before croaking out the words, “pretty nice.”

Jotaro huffed, laying back on the bed with an arm tucked under his head. He took another drag.

“I guess.”

He slowly released the smoke.

Kakyoin smiled, laying down on the opposite bed with his body turned towards Jotaro.

“Did you want to sleep in here tonight?”

“Lisa Lisa-”

“Oh like you care what Lisa Lisa wants us to do. Besides, if they’re gonna torture us during the day, we can do what we want at night, right?”

Jotaro looked at him out of the corner of his eye, his hat having slipped off of the top of his head and partially into his face from when he laid down. Finally, he smirked around his cigarette, closing those cerulean eyes as he shrugged.

“Sure, why not.”

He released another drag of smoke, flicking a few of the ashes off the side of the bed. “Polnareff would kill us if he knew we were snubbing our noses at our own rooms.”

“Let him try.” Kakyoin yawned, rolling onto his back as he reached up with Hierophant to the lamp to shut it off. “I’m going to sleep. Just be quiet leaving and coming back in if you want to get your clothes or something.”

“I’m fine,” Jotaro said. Then, after a moment of thinking, he added, “Thank you, Kakyoin.”

Chapter Text

Lancaster shook in the phonebooth, cursing its glass walls for leaving him exposed to any prying eyes that could be sizing him up. He was, of course, not worried about just any eyes.

The Joestar group was still out there, and had been in this town no longer than twenty-four hours prior. In the hospital, across the road from where he stood, the unconscious form of his would-be leader laid as a testament to that. He’d already been on the other side of their murderous glares. He’d seen them glimmer with a thirst for revenge, and he’d do anything to avoid going through that again.

Unless, of course, his “Lord” had other ideas.

He hoped that wasn’t the case as the phone was finally answered.

“Ugh- T’Arby-!” he whined with a semi relaxed sigh. “This is the last of my change- why couldn’t you answer sooner? Oh my God, this is bad. Those Joestar guys could be anywhere and you didn’t tell me Tristán was actually in a fucking coma. The police were talking outside of her room when I snuck in- I heard them mention a hair clip they found like something hit her in the head- they smashed her stand! I tried telling her that these guys were bloodthirsty bast-”

“Lancaster…”

The damn purr that erupted from the other end of the phone sent a ripple up his spine and silenced his ramblings.

A dark laugh ended that silence.

“What’s wrong? You seemed so chatty before.”

“L-Lord Dio! I’m sorry for bothering you! I thought this was T’Arby- D-D’Arby’s phone number.”

“‘T’Arby?’ What an adorable nickname, I’m sure he hates it.” He let out another, rich laugh. “And he would have answered for me, but it’s so late, and I can’t expect him to stay up with me in these lonely hours. He is only human, after all.”

Lancaster swallowed.

“That’s very kind of you.”

“It’s efficient,” Dio corrected. “You can’t work a horse day and night, or else its legs will go out. If it’s an average mule, then that is no problem. When it comes to a good horse, though, one you know would make it well worth your time to rest and take care of them, then it’s only a natural investment. A break to avoid them breaking, if you will. Now tell me, Lancaster, are you a common mule? Or are you a prized thoroughbred?”

“Ah well-”

“I see. Well, you are the only one of any of my stand users to have actually killed two members of the Joestars. Though, you should know that two more have popped up in their place.”

Lancaster balked. “Two more!?”

“I see, so Tristán failed to relay that information. Do me a favor and tell the other two about that as well. D’Arby- or T’Arby, as you’ve so delightfully called him- has already taken over what was left of the major tarot.”

“Is he taking over our group too, my Lord?”

“I don’t see why he should.”

“Well, um, with Tristán gone, we’ll need someone else to-”

“Did you misunderstand, Lancaster? I asked you to relay information to them. Was that not clear enough? Did you think there was a formal ceremony one must go through to serve directly under me?”

“N-No, my Lord! I just wanted to make sure.”

“Good. In that case, know that there are two more companions as part of Joseph Joestar’s group. Oh, and that one of them is somehow related to him. If your stand users are unable to at least kill them all, then the identity of the mystery Joestar is the next priority.”

Now that was interesting.

Dio had knack for knowing things he shouldn’t. Information that Lancaster was certain he’d never let slip, like the nature of his stand, was all fair game to the ancient and terrifying man. So the fact that these Joestars had pulled the rug out from underneath his Lord…

It caught Lancaster’s attention.

“I understand, my Lord,” he said.

The one who could acquire that kind of information… what kind of reward would Dio have in store for them?

“One more thing, Lancaster, I should let you know how glad I am to have handled your call personally.”

“You are?”

“Of course. How else could I finally know the question that’s been plaguing me since I first heard of your... victory.”

Some time passed before Lancaster readjusted his clammy grip around the phone and said, “You can ask me anything, my Lord.”

“The ally of Jotaro- the one who died with him- what did he look like?”

“Ah, tall. He was tall with wide shoulders and-”

“Something specific.”

“His hair!” Lancaster paused after spitting it out, a choked noise caught in his throat before he pierced the silence to elaborate, “He had bright red hair.”

“I see,” Dio said. “You’ve done well, Lancaster.”

A smile broke out over the nervous stand user’s face, his eyes flicking down bashfully, as if his Lord could see him.

“That means a lot, Lord D-”

“I hope you continue to do so. For your own sake.”

Then he hung up, leaving Lancaster feeling no more comfortable than he had been on the Pakistani streets.

A bit north and to the west of him, the Joestar band wasn’t feeling much better.

The elder Joseph Joestar was feeling especially exhausted as he sat with both of his legs nearly crushed between his seat and the steering wheel. Of course, he had the most room in the cramped car, as the driver. Jojo sat on the hump between him and Avdol, volunteering for the position before anyone else could think to draw straws. He didn’t seem to mind too much, knowing that the middle seat in the back was needed for supplies.

Of course, that was until the early hours in the morning as they crossed the Iran border.

“Can I just lean against the dashboard?”

“No,” Joseph sighed, “We’re already five strange men- two without passports- and one American trying to move through a foreign border. Let’s not push our luck with you looking like we’re hiding something.”

“Come on,” he groaned. “What if I lean back then?” He flopped himself backwards with an exaggerated movement of his legs, laying against the assorted goods.

“Not on the rice!” Joseph said as he watched his younger self in the rearview mirror. “The bag might leak and then we’ll never be able to get it all out.”

“Alright, I guess I’ll just have to find another pillow.” He moved about a foot over, stretching himself over the middle seat entirely with his legs over Polnareff’s lap and his head in Caesar’s.

The Frenchman didn’t mind, proving that he was able to sleep anywhere, even with a pair of legs pressing a box into his thigh. Caesar, on the other hand, took notice from where he was resting his arms on a suitcase beside him on the seat.

“You know,” he gestured to the suitcase, “I put this beside me so that I wouldn’t cut off the circulation to my legs.”

“Oh? How considerate of you! Just how did you know that I’d need them later?”

Caesar rolled his eyes and placed a hand against Joseph’s jaw, gently forcing him to tilt his head back.

“Don’t you always need something, Dumbass?”

Joseph grimaced at his soft tone, slamming a foot on the break and causing everything to shift forward for a moment. There was a slightly louder snore from Polnareff as Jojo scrambled to keep from falling onto the floor. This went on for a while only for him to give up and land at Caesar’s feet as they both worked to keep the supplies from falling onto him.

“Woopsie! Clumsy me,” Joseph laughed. “Foot must have slipped on the break- sorry fellas!”

He threw in a few more laughs, even as Jojo glared at him from the back seat. Still, his younger self said nothing as he wedged himself uncomfortably between the potatoes and rice on the floor.

Joseph allowed himself a smile, which fell when he glanced at Avdol in the passenger’s seat.

Hands locked calmly in his sleeves, he didn’t appear too shaken by the sudden stop and start of the vehicle. So that meant that he was glaring for a different reason.

Joseph swallowed, his hands adjusting their grip on the wheel as he again locked his eyes onto the road.

Avdol turned to look out the window.

“Once we get farther into the country,” he said, “our goal will be finding a merchant or someone local who can provide us a boat across the Persian Gulf. It’s very unlikely to find someone who does regular runs across the water, especially with a ship that could accommodate all of us and their goods. In fact, it’s very likely that we’ll have to leave the car behind.”

“Ugh!” Jojo rolled his eyes. “Then why are we bringing all of this stuff anyway?”

“We already payed for it,” Joseph said. “Besides, best case scenario, we can find someone who can take the car with. We’ll need the supplies to cross the water.” Joseph let out a thoughtful hum and stroked his beard. “Then again, it will be a shorter distance across, won’t it Avdol?”

“Yes, that’s precisely the reason why I think we’d make it without supplies at all. Still, the ‘best case scenario’ would be to have clean water and food of our own while aboard the ship. We don’t know if we can trust someone we just met to provide food and water for us at this point in our journey.”

Caesar’s eyes narrowed at the insinuation. “Would the same men who can use such amazing powers really stoop to using poison?”

“If a user’s stand is more passive or supportive, such as Tristán’s was, they may have no choice but to rely on tricking us.”

“That would have been smarter.” Jojo sighed, putting his hands behind his head with a sigh. “Good thing she didn’t think of that, or we might have been in trouble.”

“Yes,” Caesar rolled his eyes, “thank goodness you only had your neck slit open.”

Jojo let out a choked noise, his hand flying to his throat. “Sh-she just got lucky!”

Joseph said, “We’re the ones that have been getting lucky,” which was followed by a drawn, weary sigh. “Every one of these stand users keeps coming at us harder and faster than the last. Different powers, different faces…” he smiled over the shoulder of his seat, “we keep getting lucky, though,” and then back to the road. “Just a bit longer. I can’t help but feel like we’re so close.”

“Well,” Avdol leaned back, examining the ceiling as he thought. “We should only have seven stand users left to face, assuming Dio and his stand users continue to be themed after the Arcania.”

“Nine,” Joseph corrected, his hands tightening around the steering wheel. “That bastard Lancaster is still out there. So is Hol Horse, but he seemed like too much of a coward to come back after us. That is, if Dio hasn’t already killed him for leaving us alive.”

“Is this ‘Lancaster’ the one who brought us into the present?” Caesar asked.

Avdol nodded. “His stand is another object, meaning that you’ll most likely be able to see it. It’s an odd bugle, of some sort. When he plays it, it seems to be able to transport people.”

“But how did he bring us into the future?” Jojo asked. “This all sounds like something out of a comic book.”

Joseph rolled his eyes. “You have no idea.”

“Ugh, but I guess that’s just what our family has to deal with, right? Oh yes- speaking of family- where is our grandson right now?”

Joseph sat as straight as he could with the current placement of his chair at the realization that neither of them had learned the price of them coming here in the first place.

“Ah...” He paused, not knowing how to go about explaining this. “He’s taking care of Holly.” He opted for a lie.

“You see,” Jojo started, absently scratching at the back of his head, “I originally thought he was back home with his mum- maybe he’s younger than I thought, but then that Steely Dan guy said he was dead, remember? But you don’t seem too torn up about that, so I’m guessing he’s alive somewhere.” His expression was completely void of emotion as he watched his future self’s adam’s apple bob in the rearview mirror. “Where is he?”

“He,” Joseph stopped talking as soon as he started, eyes darting to the side.

“He is most likely back in your time,” Avdol finally said with a sigh. “Lancaster caught him and a boy named Kakyoin with his stand. Before we found the two of you, we assumed they were simply lost.”

Jojo’s eyes darkened. “You mean dead.”

Caesar snapped his head to the side at his friend’s desolate tone.

“So, if you’re right, they’re back there with the Pillar Men.”

Joseph grimaced. “It’s not like they’ll have to fight them.”

“Uh, I sure hope they do!” Jojo yelled. “I’m gonna need those rings as soon as I get back, at this rate. Not to mention I’m out here saving his mum, the least he can do is save the world while I’m gone.”

“Really?” Caesar snorted. “The world?”

“Yeah, actually,” Joseph said, throwing in a small, nervous laugh when he met Caesar’s glare in the rearview mirror. Swallowing, he added, “Kars eventually got a hold of the red stone and he-”

“‘Red Stone?’” Caesar tilted his head. “What stone?”

“Ah it’s this rock Lisa Lisa had- God, I forgot you didn’t know what that was until she told me too. Uh, let’s see- it’s this powerful rock that increases the output of Hamon. Once Kars got it, it allowed him to walk out into the sun and do a bunch of weird shit. Like- turn into piranhas.” A shudder rippled through him at the memory. “I still have nightmares.”

Jojo let out a low whistle. “Well, I’m sure Jotaro has a good grip on the situation. Don’t know a lot about him, but the kid seems like he has a good head on his shoulders.”

“And you got that from a picture?” Joseph asked, a smirk working its way onto his lips.

“Yep,” Jojo said simply, popping the ‘p’ as he did so. “It’s the eyes.”

Caesar grinned and propped an elbow on the suitcase beside him. “The eyes, huh?”

“Yes, the eyes. Just like how when I saw your gorgeous eyes, I knew you were an arrogant bastard with nothing behind them.”

He let out a short whimper when Caesar kicked the back of his head, causing Polnareff to finally stir.

“Mon dieu, can you assholes keep it down?” he whined with a low yawn, eyes still closed as he burrowed his face into the box on his lap. “It’s too late for this.”

“Polnareff, look around,” Avdol laughed. “It’s still midday.”

“Are you sure?” Caesar asked. “It does feel as though we’ve been traveling for hours.”

Joseph shrugged, turning over his shoulder.

“Jojo, can you reach into my pocket and get my watch? I’d do it myself, but this position is a little-”

“Yeah yeah, give me a sec.”

He clambered over the consul and dug out the watch with little more than a few pained grunts from his older self. With the piece finally in his hands, he fell back against the seat and opened it. Upon examining the time,a grin broke out over his face.

“Uh, Grandpa,” he laughed, “I think you forgot to change it for middle eastern time. Pfft- it’s at least five hours late.”

Joseph stilled, sneering in disbelief as he looked into the mirror. “Really? That shouldn’t be right. I know I at least set it while we were in Pakistan. I had to ask the receptionist for the time at the hotel we were at, remember?”

“Uh, well it says it’s seven. Are you sure your old geezer brain isn’t just playing tricks on you?” Jojo’s smile grew.

Avdol’s eyes widened as he dug out his own watch.

“My watch also says seven o’clock.”

“And just what does that mean?” Polnareff asked, still waking up as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Maybe Iran just has longer days, like some countries up north do.”

“I don’t think that’s it,” Joseph sighed, leaning forward to examine the sun’s position out the windshield.

When he initially did so, and saw the placement of the sun over them, he was fine. When he leaned back and noticed the edge of it in his windshield, he was not.

“Mr. Joestar,” Avdol said, lowering his voice to almost a whisper, “if I’m right in what I think is going on, we might be in a great deal of trouble.”

“Hey, is it getting hot in here?” Jojo asked, slumping forward over the console. “I feel like it just shot up.”

Joseph ignored his younger self, eyes scanning the area outside of the car even as he addressed Avdol to ask, “What’s going on, Avdol?”

“I don’t think I have to tell you that this may be the work of-”

He was cut off when the car began sputtering, columns of smoke pouring out from under the unlatched hood.

Avdol sighed, his brow tense with unease.

“... an enemy stand.”

 

Joseph nodded grimmly as the car slowed to a stop.

“Wait there’s a stand user around here!?” Jojo squawked, half-standing up in the car as he put all of his weight onto Avdol’s seat. “Where?”

“Some stand users have a wide range.” Avdol continued examining the flat, seemingly endless horizon. “Though they tend to be physically weaker as the range increases.”

“Hey, aren’t we worried about the car smoking like that?” Polnareff asked, leaning around Jojo and over the supplies in the middle of the car.

“It’s rapidly overheating,” Avdol said simply, bringing a hand to his mouth. “The water in the radiator must be evaporating in the intense heat.” He opened his door and swiftly stepped out, the others wordlessly following him. “Let’s try to stay around the car. We don’t know when or if we’ll need to make a quick escape.”

Jojo let out a squawk as he was trapped under another bag that slid off of the seat, offering a pathetic look to Caesar, who laughed at him for a moment before offering him a hand.

Joseph watched, eyes narrowing slightly before he turned back to the sun.

“It looks like it’s setting,” Polnareff said.

“I’m afraid it is,” Avdol said. “Though not in the traditional sense.”

“It’s getting closer!” Caesar gasped when Jojo was free.

“Yes, that would be more accurate.”

“Is that thing a stand!?” Jojo asked. “Someone’s power is to control the entire sun!?”

“Not quite,” Avdol said. “The actual sun has long since set. This is a mock sun that’s not nearly as large but still has the same intensity. The stand is called ‘The Sun’ after the card fo the same name.”

Jojo scoffed. “Original.” He cracked his knuckles, rolling his head from side to side. “Alright, so we just have to hit it with Hamon, right? Just like the first two actual stands who came after us?”

“Jojo, please,” threw out his arm, “let us be cautious. It may not be the actual sun, but it still burns with the same intensity. You can’t just touch it!”

“Avdol,” Joseph said, “Can Magician’s Red somehow manipulate the Sun’s flames?”

He nodded as a silent promise to try, stepping forward and summoning his stand with a yell of, “Magician’s Red!”

The half-bird stand let out a falcon’s cry, one that managed to send a chill up Caesar’s spine, though he and Jojo were unable to hear it.

The stand moved forward with its somewhat limited range, Avdol not wanting to stand too close. Its hands came up toward the sun, then lowered to sit straight out from its shoulders.

“I’m going to attempt to detect the stand user,” Avdol said as his stand produced an ankh of flame.

“Woah!” Jojo said, shaking Caesar on the shoulder. “That’s what he was doing inside of my head the other day!”

Avdol smiled, turning to face him. “This is a different type of attack- one that is meant to simply detect signs of life. Specifically, their heat source.”

“Good thinking, Avdol,” Polnareff said with a nod. “I didn’t know you could do that!”

“I’m sure there are many things we don’t know about each others’ stands. I only fear that the Sun’s presence may throw off the detection’s potency and I may have to recast it. Until then, how about I see if I can affect this st-”

“Avdol!”

Joseph’s yell was matched by the strands of vines that branched out to pull Avdol and thusly Magician’s red closer to the group before the Sun’s fiery snare that had been reaching for the stand user’s leg could reach its target.

Trying to steady his breathing from the rush of adrenaline, Avdol quickly pulled Magician’s Red out of danger. He wasn’t nearly quick enough, the stand’s screech cutting through the air as the Sun’s heat lapped at its back and sent it toppling towards its stand user.

At the same time, a light flared up seemingly from the opposite side of the desert.

Avdol, how had fallen to the ground when his stand was struck, worked through the pain to force his eyes open, scouring the area for where his ankh had gone.

“Where did the ankh go!? The stand user must be where it’s heading!”

Joseph, who was now kneeling at Avdol’s side, kept his friend in a nest of thorns as he too scanned the desert.

“There- there are two of them!” Polnareff squawked.

“No way,” Jojo groaned, shielding his eyes from the increasingly bright light. “Did they multiply?”

Avdol shook his head as the ankhs suddenly went up in a blast of light on opposite ends of the ring surrounding the Sun.

“That’s impossible!” he said. “Even if the ankhs could separate, they should only be set off when they reached another source of life! There’s nothing there!”

“Can you make another one?” Jojo asked. “Maybe an attack split it in half.”

Avdol managed a weak nod, Magician’s Red bringing its hands together before dissipating with a weak cry, its user falling back into Hermit Purple’s thorns.

“Avdol, stay down,” Joseph said. “I knew we should have let you rest after dealing with Hol Horse.”

“No, Mr. Joestar,” he gasped, “I’ll be fine- I just need to-”

“That’s enough! Everyone, get back in the car! We’re gonna try and outrun this-”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea!”

Polnareff’s yell was followed by him sliding between the two men on the ground and the car they’d long abandoned. Said car was now sporting pillars of ever darkening smoke that caused the hood to bubble and creak as the internal pressure forced it upwards.

“That doesn’t look good,” Jojo said, his voice sporting a light whine as he pulled Caesar away from the smoking vehicle. “Is it so hot out that it’s gonna explode!?”

“No way- that only happens in movies,” Joseph said defiantly. “The heat would kill us before it made the gasoline combust.”

“Yeah the gasoline won’t get hot enough on its own,” Polnareff yelled, “but the radiator with the engine still on might!”

As he said that, the car seemed to implode, what was left of the radiator’s white smoke getting lost in the detonating engine’s flames as dark, ashy plumes rose to take its place.

Bits of debris spanned out, Silver Chariot striking at its top speed to bat away shrapnel while Jojo and Caesar, who were too far away, dove into the now blistering hot sand. Still bits clawed at their arms and cut at their clothes. Once the initial blast was done, Joseph ran past them, pulling them up by their collars as Polnareff helped Avdol behind them.

“That won’t be the end of it,” Polnareff said, looking over his shoulder at the blazing remains of their car and supplies. “That was too small to be the actual engine.”

“And just how do you know so much about car explosions!?” Jojo asked.

“Not the point right now,” Polnareff said. “We need to find shelter in this desert and fast!”

Avold shoved himself away, raising his hands as he again summoned, “Magician’s Red!”

The bird came forth, this time without a signature cry as it focused on its predetermined task: Create a shelter.

A great ball of fire was formed between its talons, one that it soon heaved at an empty patch of earth, kicking up a large cloud of dust before Avdol again fell back onto Polnareff’s side.

“You idiot!” Joseph said. “What did you do that for!?”

“Look!” Caesar said, pointing at the place that Magician’s Red had struck.

There was now a large pocket in the sand, shaped by a bowl of glass.

“He was making a spot for us to get down!” Jojo said, already sliding down the side and into the base of it. Holding his arms up, he shouted, “Come on- slide him down, then! It’s a lot cooler down here!”

Joseph tensed, looking around as best he could in the cloud of sand. He was finally spurred to follow his younger self when the car gave a loud pop.

Caesar was already down as well, ready to help ease Avdol’s near-unconscious form into the base of the shelter. When they were all inside, Joseph took the time to put a hand on his shoulder.

“Am I still an idiot, Mr. Joestar?” Avdol asked, a smile painted on his face as he took in a ragged breath.

“Yeah,” he sighed. “Dumb kids.” His hand slid from his friend’s shoulder.

Caesar watched the scene with an angry confusion, eyes narrowing at the gesture as Polnareff shouldered past him to Avdol’s side.

“Will he be okay?”

“Yeah, I just think he wore himself out mentally,” Joseph said, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. “Summoning a stand in his condition… it probably took a lot out of him.”

“What’s wrong with him anyway?” Jojo asked, folding his arms over his chest as he leaned against one of the walls.

“He was hurt in a fight.” Polnareff sighed. “I rushed into something without thinking and he took a bullet for me.”

Jojo thought he was being metaphorical until Polnareff pulled up Avdol’s headband to reveal a bloodied piece of gauze being held there.

Joseph hissed sympathetically as he batted Polnareff’s hand away. “He opened the wound again. He needs to see a doctor soon.”

“Then we can’t just sit down here,” Caesar said, standing up with the intent of peeking out of the glass shelter. “If I use my Bubble Launcher, I can probably hit it from here.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Joseph said. “Hamon transmits oxygen with it. That’s why when you use it actually depletes your breath faster than if you were just breathing normally. Not to mention the fact that your bubbles are essentially balls of compressed air.”

“And?”

Joseph ran a hand down his face. “If you pump compressed oxygen into a ball of fire it’ll explode! That’s why I didn’t want Avdol to use his stand against you when we first fought.”

“Wait- oxygen explodes?” Jojo asked. “Is that why when you snuff a candle, it goes out?”

“Yes.” Joseph sighed. “I really do forget how far we’ve come in fifty years.”

“Oh like you were such a chemist!” Caesar snapped before letting out a sigh of his own.

Jojo, on the other hand, only brightened as a smile overtook his face. “What if we snuffed out the Sun then!? By taking its oxygen away?”

“How would we do that?” Joseph asked.

“The same way a fan or propeller works!” Joseph said, holding one of his fists in the air. He took his other hand up, swirling his pointer finger in a clockwise motion around the fist, simulating his plan as he explained it: “We could swing something around the Sun. Then, like a propeller, it’ll suck the wind out of the center and at least weaken it long enough for us to make a break for wherever the user is!”

“But where is the user?” Joseph asked.

“It’s an open desert, he shouldn’t be hard to find,” Caesar scoffed. “Do you have a pair of binoculars?”

Joseph handed them over before Caesar turned to Jojo. “Give me a boost.”

“Why do I have to give you a boost?”

“Just do it,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Glass doesn’t conduct Hamon so I can’t use it to stick to the walls, I’d have to use both hands to hold on.”

“Ugh, fine.”

He kneeled down without another word, allowing Caesar to climb onto his shoulders. They rose up soon after, Caesar turning around to peak at his surroundings before flinching back from the binoculars. In the split second after his eyes were away from the device, the lenses were sawed in half by a projectile. The sudden jerking motion brought Jojo to stumble back before reaching up to grab Caesar on the torso, shifting him back onto his shoulder stop properly dismount.

Joseph grimaced.

“Well that was a waste of time.”

“What’s your problem?” Jojo asked as he stood back up. “It was a solid idea! Do you have a better way to get a peek outside?”

“I think I might,” Polnareff said, Silver Chariot rising behind him.

The stand disrobed itself of its armor, taking a larger piece into its hand.

“I take it your ghost thing is out?” Jojo asked, following his older self’s line of sight to where the invisible comrade had risen.

“Yep,” Polnareff said. “I’m going to use its armor like a mirror. Even if something comes at us, I should be able to see what angle it’s coming from in the reflection, and it should just pass through the plate.”

“‘Armor?’” Caesar asked.

“Oh yeah he’s got a knight,” Jojo said. Pointing to Avdol, he went on, “And he has a chicken.”

Caesar’s face dropped into a borderline mortified expression as he mouthed the words, “A chicken?”

Polnareff gasped.

“What is it, Polnareff?” Joseph asked.

Another small gasp erupted from him before it turned into a snort and then a boisterous laugh.

“What? What is it!?”

Joseph was ignored for a moment as Chariot handed over the plate of armor. Forming Hermit Purple over his hand to grasp at it, Joseph rolled his eyes. Still he held it up where Polnareff had, squinting his eyes at the reflection.

After a while, he too began to laugh, leaning forward as both of the stands dissipated to lean on Polnareff’s shoulder.

“Joseph,” Caesar whispered to Jojo, “I think you’re witnessing the moment your future self loses himself to old age.”

“Oh shut up,” Joseph said through a final spurt of laughter. “It’s a reflection.”

“Yes, you explained that part,” Caesar said.

“No no, that’s why there were two ankhs,” Joseph said. “You’ll see when we get out of here.”

“But what are we going to use to remove the air from around the sun?” Jojo asked, placing a fist under his chin as he thought. “We’d need something fast to keep the force necessary to suck the air out of the center, or something strong to throw it.”

“I don’t know about ‘throwing,’” Polnareff said, “But Chariot’s blade is fast enough to move like a fan on its own. We could use it from this angle to keep something moving around the Sun.”

Joseph nodded. “But how do we keep it from losing momentum?”

“My Bubble Cutter!” Caesar offered, stringing the soap between his hands in demonstration. “I can control the trajectory around the Sun to keep from losing it on the other side, but we’d have to work quickly before either the Hamon dies down or the soap holding the bubbles taught dries out.”

“We're going to need to work quickly then,” Jojo said. He turned to his older self. “Gramps- you think you can use your stand to toss me out of here while the Sun is dimming? Then I just gotta hit the guy when I see him- should be easier to see a mirror with the Sun getting brighter and dimmer.”

He scoffed as he said the last part, bringing Joseph to laugh as he brought his hand onto his younger self’s shoulder.

“Alright- then this Sun is going down!”

Caesar rolled his eyes, though a wry smile worked its way onto his lips as he shot off the Bubble Cutter.

The plan went into place flawlessly, the soapy blades fanning out to create a wider satellite around the Sun and sucking out the most air at a time with both their own speed and Chariot’s help.

As the Sun’s flames began to shrink, fiery limbs that once eagerly flailed and lapped at the air around them becoming stubbier as the constant roaring that had once emanated from the stand began to dull.

“Alright,” Joseph said as Jojo felt the invisible tendrils wrap around him, “your turn, kid.”

Jojo smirked down at them as he was raised out of the pit, “You can count on me, Gramps!”

Then he was exposed to the desert air.

Glass didn't’ just insulate Hamon. It was also good against heat, and it had kept the pit cool. There was a good second where Joseph had to blink in the light around him before blindly charging past the Sun to find the Stand User. Judging from where Polnareff had been looking, he could determine that the bastard was hiding on the other side of the Sun. Running under it, even with their plan to weaken it in motion, was no small feat.

Now that he was looking for a mirror image, it was easy to see where Magician’s Red’s tracker  had been reflected before against an identical pair of rocks.

Then it was a matter of deciding which one was the fake.

He waited until the bubble cutter came around the side, seeing it appear twice in the air- once beside him and once from another angle on the identical rock.

He prepared his clackers.

Bingo.

The clackers soared through the air, and with a deafening crash, he knew he’d one even before the Sun was blotted out.

“Success!” Polnareff cheered as the Launcher whized overhead of their abandoned pit.

They clambered out, Polnareff slinging Avdol’s arm over his shoulder.

Together they took a moment to breathe and feel the waning heat of the desert, now radiating from their skin.

“How did you figure out which one was the mirror?” Caesar asked.

“I guessed,” Jojo lied with a smirk.

“You guessed!?”

Jojo laughed, slapping him on the back before leading him to the remains of the mirror.

“Come on, it worked didn’t it- look!” He gestured to the incapacitated man now lying on the ground with a pair of clackers by his head. “The man behind the curtain.”

“We may as well be dealing with wizards,” Caesar sighed, crossing his arms and allowing Jojo to further wrap his arm around his shoulders. “This future is so strange. It’s nothing like I would have thought it was.”

“Well it’s not like your life was super normal to begin with,” Jojo offered with half a shrug. “Walking on water? Fighting with bubbles?”

“Yes, but Hamon was something I could understand on its own. First we fight a cloud of fog that can use us as puppets, then you’re worrying about a parasite that can share pain between you and another man, a hair clip that can transmit thoughts like radio waves, and now a literal sun? Ridiculous.”

Joseph scoffed as he and Polnareff approached. “Yeah, well, I guess it’s not something you really get used to. It’s more like something you expect at a certain point. Now come on, we have to get Avdol to a doctor, and then it’s back to crossing the Persian Gulf.”

“Aye aye!” Jojo said with a mock salute. He dropped his arm from Caesar’s shoulder, but not before giving one last squeeze. Then he was with Polnareff, helping to keep Avdol off the ground. “Come on, big guy! No one’s making any heroic sacrifices on my watch!”

It was said with a lightness Joseph originally couldn’t place, but it still made him sag with a melancholy smile. He stole one last look at Caesar before they again made their way through a moonlit desert.

He was just glad that Avdol wasn’t awake to judge him for it.

Chapter Text

The next morning was more welcoming than the last, and Jotaro felt some gratitude for Kakyoin letting him share the room with him. Instead of opening his eyes only to rapidly blink in the early light, he was greeted with the sight of rain dripping down the glass. It was coming down hard. The only sign that it was in fact morning was Jotaro’s own internal clock, which he’d never doubted before.

Still, he didn’t stand up, instead opting to roll over and face the other bed. There Kakyoin lay, his side slowly rising with each breath. Every now and again, his chest would jitter, as if even in sleep his breathing lacked rhythm. Jotaro’s eyes narrowed as he wondered if this is what Lisa Lisa and the other coaches had meant when they pointed out his breathing the day before.

His mouth twitched up in irritation.

Stands required breath to maintain as well, so he didn’t see why this should be an issue. Kakyoin would be fine.

Besides, he had cracked the mask open the day before, so it wasn’t like there was any going back to it.

His eyes wandered and he stared past Kakyoin, though still in his direction as he lost himself in thought.

He tried to remember more about the Pillar Men- what his grandfather had told him about them. It was a good way to waste some time and still feel productive, which is more or less of what he needed right then.

It was hard to recall details, however, and he’d already spoken much of what he did remember to Kakyoin.

Well, that wasn’t true.

He hadn’t talked about what he’d remembered most about those stories: How his grandfather would always spend the night crying in the guest room right next door.

Even if Jotaro had fallen asleep before the old man, he could tell if he’d been crying in his sleep by the way his grandmother would smile sadly at him.

“Don’t worry about your grandpa, cucciola,” she’d say, “he wasn’t feeling well last night.”

As if Jotaro was the one who asked to hear those stories in the first place.

The first few times, he supposed he hadn’t considered them bad stories. Then he could only link them to the crying.

It was only after being sent back to when they supposedly happened did he consider why that might be.

They were real.

They happened.

His grandfather had killed three gods.

He lost his hand to one of them, he thought with a frown, absently grabbing at his own wrist as he thought of his grandfather’s prosthetic.

What else had he lost?

He tried wracking his brain, trying to put a name out there. It couldn’t have been his great grandmother, as she must have revealed who she was only after this all happened. That is, if her reaction to Jotaro saying who she was was any indication. His grandmother was out of the question for obvious reasons.

One of the coaches, perhaps? Both of them?

Jotaro faintly remembered his grandfather skimming over the details of how one of the monsters had attempted to invade the castle, Joseph killing them before it had the chance.

He didn’t even know his grandfather had a coach other than Lisa Lisa. At least, he couldn’t remember her.

One name he definitely hadn’t heard before though was-

“Caesar.”

“What?”

His eyes widened as they flicked back to properly settle on Kakyoin, who was now awake with a neutral yet calculating expression.

“What?” Jotaro shot back, causing Kakyoin’s lips to curve into a dangerous smile.

“I asked you first.”

“I didn’t say anything. I was just talking to myself.”

“So you did say something.” He tilted his head to the side, rolling his shoulders as he adjusted himself to lay differently on the bed. “What’s on your mind, Jotaro?”

“Nothing important.”

“Come on, who am I going to tell? And if it is on your mind, then it is important.”

Jotaro blinked twice at that, processing it before sighing and rolling over to face away from Kakyoin. “It’s something my grandma said, and that crazy coach.”

“You mean, when she asked you to meet her last night?”

“No, that was just a stupid power trip. I’m talking about when we got here,” he rolled again, this time onto his back, “when she brought us out of that oil pit. She wasn’t just asking about the old man, she mentioned someone else- a guy named Caesar.”

“So someone else probably went into the future with your grandfather,” Kakyoin said. “That’s great for them, especially since we found out that Hamon works on stands. Now we know that they won’t be at a disadvantage without us.” 

“Yeah, but then, when my grandma found me after you chased her down-”

Kakyoin sat up, leaning towards Jotaro as he spat, “She siced that coach on me without even asking who I was!”

Jotaro rolled his eyes. “Whatever. The point is that she saw my clothes and asked me if I hurt ‘Jojo and Caesar.” Then yesterday, she told me that it was weird that I didn’t know who he was- as if the old man should have told me about him.”

“Maybe they’re close and she thought it was weird he didn’t mention him?”

“But why didn’t he mention him?”

Kakyoin stood with a laugh. “Because he’s not really your grandfather. At least, not the same guy who lives, eats, and trains with the same four people every day.”

“He never mentioned him in his storied either.”

“Maybe they grew apart.”

“Maybe he died.”

“So what if he did?”

“Then it’d just be another person dying because of something my family did.” Each word only made him angrier as he said it, fist clenching with a strength that made his arm shake. “The old man didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me his name. What about the people on that plane that got taken down? Yeah, we cared about it after the fact, but we should have thought about it sooner. Even my mom got affected by this stupid mission that the Joestars have been trying and failing to to…” He stopped, bringing himself back in with a breath and turning his head away again. “Just makes me think, what would have happened if the old man and I hadn’t found Avdol? Would I make sure other people knew what he did for us? Or if Polnareff died? Or…”

The finishing “you” was silent, filling the room with its weight.

Kakyoin blinked rapidly for a moment, taking a moment to pause before moving forward and sharing a look with Jotaro. The other boy moved over in his bed in silent permission for Kakyoin to join him.

He rested on the edge for a moment, his back to Jotaro as he began, “Jotaro, I’m not afraid of dying.”

Jotaro grimaced, a sneer forming as he barked the words, “Don’t say that.”

“I’m not,” he said with a laugh as he looked over his shoulder. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to die. I’ll do everything I can to make sure I don’t die, but it’s not because I think the life I’ve had has always been worth living.”

Jotaro sat up, sliding back against the headboard as Kakyoin turned towards him, pulling one leg onto the bed.

“This past month has been the most exciting time of my life. And I know it’s strange- almost shameful- to be thankful for right now out of all of the times I’ve been safe and warm. My parents have always tried connecting with me, but it always felt like they were just trying to compromise with me existing. They didn’t push me to be more social- to engage with the world around me- unless I fell behind in something. My classmates were never angry with me, but I could never connect with them either. I always thought I’d never be able to connect with someone the way others seem to, because none of them could see him.”

He didn’t have to specify, even if Hierophant green hadn’t chosen that moment to form in a spiraling motion from Kakyoin’s back. The stand bobbed from side to side before floating to Jotaro, glancing up with its hollow, yellow gaze as if to inspect him. It almost felt wrong for Jotaro, who’d only ever seen the stand used to fight, allowed to glide so freely about the room.

Still, he trusted it as he trusted Kakyoin, again finding the other boy’s eyes.

“What does that have to do with wanting to die?”

“I’m trying to say that I don’t care if me dying means something to someone else as long as it means something to me.”

“Well say it differently then,” Jotaro grumbled. “Because what you’re actually saying is that your life only matters now that it’s in danger.”

“No Jotaro, that’s not it-”

“Then what is it? It only matters because you met me?”

“Jotaro-”

“Because that’s basically the same thing.”

Kakyoin’s eyes widened, his closed mouth pursing in barely controlled anger as Jotaro made a move to stand. He was stopped, Hierophant’s tendrils pinning him down as Kakyoin himself slithered up to the headboard to meet Jotaro’s eyes.

“And just what is that supposed to mean?”

“Come on- forget I said anything.”

“Oh but Jotaro, you usually say so little.” He smirked, shuffling his body up so that his hip rested against the pillow and his elbow was propped up on top of the headboard. “Don’t get me wrong- my life doesn’t have a meaning that revolves around  you,” he said, “I’m not stupid enough to link my whole purpose to another person. That wasn’t what I was getting at. No, I was going to say that learning how to connect to other people and realizing that this, ‘Oh but they could never truly know me because they’d think I was crazy’ thing was actually just my way of avoiding how to connect to other people. Now that I’ve realized that, I can say that dying doesn’t scare me because I’ve made a difference in myself and that I will know I have meaning. Now, what was it that you were going to say?”

“Get off of me.”

Kakyoin rolled his eyes. “I don’t think that was it.”

“Come on- I already explained it to you! The Joestar family gets people killed. That’s it! You heard the old man tell you how his old man died, and even his dad is the one that started all of this! We just ruin lives.” His head flopped back against the pillow Hierophant had pinned his arms to. “Even our own.”

Kakyoin’s smile fell. Hierophant faded as its user took its place to look down at Jotaro.

The sensation of his bang laying against his forehead was foreign, yet surprisingly not unpleasant as he forced himself to meet understanding, orchid eyes.

“Ruin my life then,” he said, lowering himself so that he was laying directly against Jotaro.

“You’re not gonna tell me I’m being dramatic?”

“Nope.”

“Or that I’m nothing like my grandpa?”

Kakyoin snorted. “We’ve both met your grandpa- you already know you’re nothing like him.”

Jotaro nodded dumbly, folding his hands over his stomach.

“Then what about-”

“Jotaro, aren’t I usually the talkative one?”

“This is a fucking lot, Kakyoin.”

He shifted his head back so that he was more or less laying on Jotaro’s arm when he met his eyes and said, “You know, I think it’s about time you called me ‘Noriaki,’ don’t you, Jotaro?”

“Don’t do that. Isn’t it just- just bullshit that we have to clean up some hundred year old mess?”

“It is bullshit,” Kakyoin said, again looking away from Jotaro while he remained on his arm. “But there’s no use worrying about it now. We’ve just gotta process what’s going on one step at a time and be there for one another.”

And that time, Jotaro didn’t say anything. Instead, he allowed himself to relax into the bed and let Noriaki’s weight ground him in that moment while the rain continued to accost the outside of the castle.

Eventually, they both got up, not saying much more than Noriaki’s, “See you later,” and Jotaro’s affirming grunt as he left the other boy.

As soon as Noriaki’s door was closed behind him, Jotaro heard a sharp gasp from the end of the hall. Turning, he found antoher frendly face greeting him for the second day in a row.

“Jotaro!” Suzie Q laughed as she approached him. “My my, are you always up so early?”

He nodded.

“Oh you really aren’t anything like your cousin.” She rested her hand on her face with a polite grin. “I wonder how he’s doing with your grandfather. Jojo must be feeling so lucky right about now. You know, he didn’t even think he had any family left, aside from his grandmother.”

Maybe that’s why the old man is so batshit about family.

“Oh! I almost forgot, Lisa Lisa wanted to see you in her office again!”

“No thanks.”

She blinked at that, a large grin still present on her face. “Scusi?”

He flinched at the word, but insisted, “I talked to her last night. What does she wanna talk about now?”

“Oh, well it’s not really her, persay.” She leaned up, inches from Jotaro’s face as she said, “I’m not supposed to tell you that, so you’ll have to keep it between us, capisce?”

He nodded, allowing her to rock back onto the floor.

“He’s a man named Mr. Speedwagon, I think you heard me mention him yesterday?”

“Yeah. Lisa Lisa sent a letter to him or something?”

“Yes! She was trying to get more information on something supernatural, no doubt. Usually, it’s the other way around, since the Speedwagon Foundation specializes in such things. Of course, you probably didn’t know that, since they’re more known for their oil industry.”

Jotaro blinked at that. He’d never considered that a man named “Speedwagon” ever existed. In the back of his mind, he supposed he’d always thought his grandfather had just brought the name out of thin air to avoid it being associated with Joestar Real Estate. Not only that, but they were more well known for their medical advancements in his time.

“So, this Speedwagon guy, does he know Joseph Joestar?”

“Huh? Of course he does, silly! Oh wait, I guess if you didn’t know Joseph personally you might not know this- but he’s basically the closest thing Joseph had to a father.”

Jotaro narrowed his eyes.

“Sorry, how long have you known Joseph?”

“Hmm… about two weeks before he left. Why?”

“Nothing.”

“Oh- is it because I know so much about him?”

Hesitation, Jotaro nodded.

“Ah! That must just be because we worked so well together. You see, people always say I’m easy to talk to, and Joseph loves to talk!” She huffed, crossing her arms. “I could never get him to tell me anything important, though.”

So that’s still the same, Jotaro thought with a huff of his own.

“So, why does this Speedwagon wanna talk to me?”

“Oh! He’s just super interested to meet another Joestar! Jojo wasn’t the only one who thought he was the last one out there. Your branch of the family must be pretty well hidden!”

“You could say that.”

“Still named ‘Jo,’ though.” She glanced up thoughtfully before again looking to him with a gasp. “Wait, you’re Jo taro Joe star?”

“No.”

“Then what is your full name?”

“Jotaro Ku-” he paused, his stony exterior carefully hiding his panic as he spat out, “bota.”

She tilted her head.

“Jotaro ‘Kubota?’ Oh, so you and Kakyoin are both Japanese, then?”

He sighed internally, collecting himself as he said “Yep.” His connection to his grandmother was going to be the death of him.

As they began walking down the hall, Jotaro briefly reflected on the irony of mentally calling his grandfather out for concealing the more dangerous aspects of his life from his grandmother. 

This is different, he thought, if she knows I’m her grandson that could change things about the future. Worse- she might freak out when she thinks she has a grand daughter instead. Not to mention she might not let me go after the Pillar Men at all, or she might not get with the old man if she tries to force it.

“It’s really too bad that you don’t have a second ‘Jo’ in your name,” she said with a sigh. “I guess that means that your mother was the Joestar then? Or does it go up higher than that?”

“No, my mom was the last Joestar.”

“Oh? And which one of your parents taught you Italian?”

He stopped, sliding to the side so that he faced her dead on as he simply asked, “What?”

“Oh you know, silly billy,” she said, patting him on the arm. “Yesterday? You said ‘Prego’ when you caught me!”

“Just because I know one word doesn’t mean I know Italian.”

“I’m sure you know more than you’re letting on.” He must have made a face at that because she only laughed and said, “Knew it! So who taught you?”

He averted his eyes, hiding under his hat as he grumbled, “My grandma.”

“Aw!” she cooed, reaching up to straighten out his collar before they continued walking. “That’s adorable- so you’re Italian then?”

“A quarter, yeah.”

“So only your grandma then? That must be hard for her, living in Japan with out any of her family around? Probably isolating.”

“She doesn’t live in Japan.”

“Oh, sorry! I just assumed, since she was around to teach you and all.”

He opened his mouth and quickly shut it, realizing what she was doing.

“So that’s how you knew so much about Joseph,” he said.

To which she giggled, raising a hand as she responded, “Guilty!”

They finally made it to Lisa Lisa’s office, Suzie opening the door for him before leaving him with a quick brush of her hand on his shoulder. As she closed the door behind him, Jotaro’s attention was called to a man who was sitting in a chair with his back to Jotaro. Lisa Lisa wasn’t in sight as the man rose, turning to reveal a scarred, starry-eyed expression as he looked Jotaro over.

The look of awe fell into one of mirth as he walked closer. Though Jotaro wanted to move away from him, he remained where he was and allowed the man to approach.

“You must be Jotaro Joestar then!” He clamped one hand onto Jotaro’s shoulder as the other pulled one of Jotaro’s own hands into a firm handshake. “‘S good to meet you, boy! I’ll tell ya, the thought of the Joestar legacy having lived on this long is almost enough to bring a tear to my eye!”

Jotaro glared, shaking the man’s hand off of his own before reaching up and pinching either side of the one digging into his shoulder. He squeezed just below the knuckles, causing the man to hiss in pain as he was forced to let go.

“It’s Jotaro Kujo.” He threw the stranger’s arm down at his side before wiping his hand on the lap of his pants. “And just who are you supposed to be?”

Clutching his own hand, the man’s fearful grey eyes had long dropped their warmth in favor of a critical, cool gaze.

“Strong bugger, aren’t ya?” he asked with a lopsided grin before grabbing the lip of his hat to dip into a small bow. “The name’s Speedwagon. I’ve been helping the Joestar family for a few generations now. Pardon the assumption, it was just that… well, I must have misunderstood Lisa Lisa earlier when she said-”

“How did she tell you I was related to Joseph?”

Speedwagon’s smile fell entirely. “She said the strangest thing… That you were his grandson.”

Jotaro shoved his hands into the pockets of his coat, slouching towards the man. For a moment, he just wanted to see how Speedwagon would deal with the situation.

After a moment, he smiled again.

“Guess she wasn’t lying. Still, to think that anyone related to Jojo could be so,” he gestured to Jotaro silently, his hand raising as if searching for the right word.

Jotaro provided one: “‘Dickish?’”

Speedwagon froze, that damned smile cheapening yet still clinging to his face as he asked, “I’m sorry, what?”

“Nothing. Look, there’s a lot going on. I don’t know if you’re here to coach me on another area of Hamon or something but-”

“Hamon!? Oh no no no!” Speedwagon gave a sharp bark of laughter. “No- I could only ever dream of such a miraculous gift. You know, not many people are even able to learn Hamon?”

“Yeah, Lisa Lisa mentioned it.” He shifted his weight back and allowed his glare to meet Speedwagon's eyes. “She mentioned it right after gut-punching me and a friend of mine.”

Speedwagon damn near giggled, as if reliving a fond memory. “Yes yes, but at least your ‘gut-punch’ was fruitful. I’m afraid I didn’t have the chops for it.”

“You said that already.”

“Yes, well, I only repeat it in an attempt to let you know that I’m on your side in this whole thing. All I really want to do is get to know you, you see and-”

“Why?”

Speedwagon’s eyes widened over a vacant smile, his arms outstretched mid-gesture. Slowly, he brought them back to his sides, standing a bit straighter as he said, “Well, because you’re a Joestar, of course.”

“Kujo, and I don’t see how that means anything to you.”

“Oh- of course! Well, I’ve been with the Joestar family for well over fifty years now. A better part of my life has been spent watching over them and-”

“But what does that have to do with me?” Jotaro interrupted. “You’ve never even met me.”

“WEll I know I haven’t, but that’s why I’m excited right now! Isn’t it nice just meeting new allies, getting their opinions on things and seeing how you mix with them?”

“Is that why you came here?”

“Well, not entirely, no but-”

“Then why? Cut to the chase or I’m just leaving.” 

He already turned to leave, stopping as Speedwagon yelled, “No no- wait!” When he turned around, the older man let out a sigh.. “Allow me to start over then. That no-nonsense attitude… It’s hard to believe you even know Joseph.” 

Speedwagon laughed.

Jotaro did not.

Speedwagon gulped.

So he continued, “I’m the head of a budding, underground, supernatural investigation agency. We’ve spent a long time researching the stone masks. I’m sure your grandfather mentioned them?”

“Yeah. He said they were all destroyed.”

Speedwagon let out a dark chuckle. “Perhaps in the blessed future you come from they are. Here? They’re still around. The men who made them? Those would be the ones your grandfather faced.”

“The Pillar Men?”

“Yes.”

Jotaro tilted his head. “So you’ve seen them?”

“Yes, I have. And they’re dangerous beasts, Jojo. Ones that I hoped we could take care of even before they were ever an issue.”

“But you didn’t. So that’s why I’m here.”

“Yes- you and your ability. I believe Elizabeth referred to it as a ‘stand?’”

“Yeah.”

“Can I see it?”

Jotaro was about to say that he couldn’t even if he felt like summoning Star Platinum. Then the stand himself emerged, rising slowly from behind Jotaro and rolling his head forward as his eyes eased open. He moved towards Speedwagon, studying him carefully from all angles.

“Please,” the man begged, Star flinching away as he moved towards Jotaro. “She told me that you’re able to transmit Hamon through them, and that they might be controlled by breath. If they’re in any way linked to the Pillar Men, or the stone mask- even if it is a long shot, I have to know.”

Star Platinum did something Jotaro had never seen the stand do before-

It looked at him.

It looked at him.

He must have pulled a face because now Speedwagon was asking him what was wrong and Jotaro didn’t care, he just turned away entirely.

“You can’t see stands. Normal people can’t- even Lisa Lisa. So just forget it already.”

He felt Star Platinum fade away without even turning to see it happen.

“Hey now, Jojo-”

He whirled around on him. “And don’t call me that. It’s Jotaro. I know you knew Joseph, but don’t think that means that I automatically trust or like you, or anything.”

“No I should say it doesn’t,” he huffed back, pulling his own hat down as he leaned into Jotaro’s personal space. He jabbed a finger into his chest. “You listen here- I happen to be a fairly good judge of character, and I was willing to brush off your perceivable arrogance as unwarriness. Now I’m just beginning to think that you’re an arse.”

Jotaro blinked at the notable change in accent- like a man who’d grown up in a ruffer area and had put on the outward appearance of aristocracy for most of his life, but now he was slipping back into it. Good.

There had been Lisa Lisa, who composed her self when she looked down on him, much as a coy mother would talk down to her child. Messina and Loggins were pretty much only working past and burying their frustrations with him and Kakyoin for what they believed to be Joseph’s sake.

This man, even knowing who he was and what was at stake, was no longer interested in fronts.

“I didn’t come all the way up here for just some pleasurable chat about your powers, but rather to find out if they’re connected to the stone mask.”

“You said that already, get to the point.”

“If they are, then that means you may have less of an advantage against the Pillar Men than you originally thought.” 

Jotaro narrowed his eyes at that, assessing the man for a moment. Altogether, he allowed him to continue.

“Now,” Speedwagon went on, “you came here with a companion, yes? Does he have the same power?”

“Yeah.”

Speedwagon turned and began walking across the room, still talking to Jotaro as he asked, “And where did you get these abilities?”

“I’m not sure about him, but mine,” his voice slowed as Speedwagon pulled a cane out from behind a desk, “mine is a bit different.”

“Like a ritual?”

“I’m guessing, since she told you who I am, that she also told you what’s going on in the future?”

“Not quite, but I think I got the jist.”

Jotaro scoffed. “Do you even know who Dio is?”

All semblance of warmth fell from the man’s face, his wrinkles only adding to the pronounced horror of his expression. The way his hands shook as they gripped his cane was the only indication that he was about to fall, but it was apparently all Star Platinum needed. Jotaro blinked and he was standing beside the chair Speedwagon had been sitting in when they entered. He was there again, looking over himself before his hands clamped on either arm of the chair and he looked up to Jotaro.

“What was that?”

He didn’t bother opening his mouth to answer when he saw Star Platinum hovering over Speedwagon, looking the man over.

“Why didn’t you have your cane out when I came in?”

Speedwagon offered a lopsided smile. “She warned me you were a bit of a bastard, and I thought you might try to talk over me if you knew I was just some duddy old man. Considering you did that anyway, I wonder if you might have just walked out on me upon seeing this.” He held up the cane with a short laugh, which ended in a cough that brought him to lean forward in his chair. Star Platinum began patting him on the back, Jotaro feeling the warmth creep up his own palm.

Speedwagon batted at the side Jotaro was on, probably thinking the pressure was coming from him.

“None of that, none of that!” he barked, cut off by another, wet cough.

“You should go to a hospital.”

“Bah- don’t you start on that rubbish! Even Erina’s trying to get me on that. Bless her soul but I know full well what happens in those places to coots with too much money like me.”

Star Platinum rose up then, skirting to kneel before Speedwagon, as if wanting to ask something.

Jotaro watched his stand go, rolling his shoulders back before asking, “Who is ‘Erina?’”

Speedwagon’s eyes widened as he looked up to him, blinking a few times before saying, “Why she’s your great great grandmother. Did Jojo never talk about her? Come to think of it, did he never talk about me?”

Jotaro shrugged, trying to ignore the look Star Platinum was giving Speedwagon. The stand wasn’t usually expressive outside of combat, and even then he’d never seen the distant look of empathy pouring over his stand’s features.

“What are you staring at?” Speedwagon asked, bringing his attention back to the old man before him.

“It’s nothing. I need to go. This Hamon thing is kind of kicking my ass right now, so it’s become a number one priority for me. I have to get those antidotes before Joseph gets back, and I can’t do that talking to some old man.”

“Oh hush up, there will be plenty of time to train- I’m more interested in what you said earlier.”

Jotaro looked at him as a silent order to specify.

“You asked me if I knew who Dio was. Where did you hear that- that cursed name?”

Jotaro’s shoulders dropped. “Did you... know Dio?”

“Know him? Ha! I helped kill the bastard! At least, I’d like to say I did.” He looked ahead, his stare vacant and cold as it was turned onto the window that was still gathering rain. “I only wish I could have been there for Jonathan in the end. I’ll never know the true terror Erina must have felt… that night on the ship.”

“The ‘ship?’”

“Joseph really didn’t tell you, did he?” His expression was tired, and he closed his eyes, causing the tears that welled there to overflow. “Maybe that’s a good thing. That these terrible memories fall out of focus, I mean. I suppose he got something from me afterall.” He let out a broken laugh before putting his hands onto the top of his cane and leaning his mouth against them. “Jonathan Joestar gave his life to kill Dio on a ship to protect his wife, an infant she carried, and the entire world from his influence. God rest his soul, he was a servant of the Lord himself disguised as a man among men. It’s a shame that he should have been cut down so early on in his life… never able to meet his grandson, or his own son for that matter. Now,” he turned his darkened gaze onto Jotaro, “where did you hear that name?”

Jotaro straightened himself out, pulling his hat over his eyes.

“Dio didn’t die on that ship,” Jotaro said, “no matter how hard Jonathan Joestar tried. Dio managed to get out.”

“No!” Speedwagon yelped, Jotaro flinching at the volume of his voice. “He- he couldn’t have! That boat blew to smithereens in the middle of the Atlantic! He is dead!”

“Shut up!” Jotaro said, lording over him. He watched as Star Platinum moved from Speedwagon’s side, rising to instead stand beside the chair. “Gimme a break- I thought she would have told you about all of this, too.”

Speedwagon brought one hand to his face, raking it over his features as he continued to sob. His other hand clutched his cane on his lap.

“Well she didn’t! Oh Mother Mary, this is just dreadful! What would Erina say?” He shook his head, standing with a bit more effort than necessary. “No, no, of course I can’t tell her! She’d want to stop over to whatever snake den he’s taken shelter in and wring him out herself…”

“Let her,” Jotaro said, his amusement failing to slip into the expression.

Speedwagon laughed anyway as he turned towards him.

“She really would, you know. She became such a fearsome, respectable woman in her years.” He raised one of his aged hands before him, clenching it as he continued. “I, however, have become too weak. Weak of body, heart…” he shook his head rapidly, “but not my mind! After this Pillar Men nonsense is straightened out and behind us, we’ll rest up! Then we can all put the bastard to rest!”

“Good for you.” Jotaro rolled his eyes, turning towards the door as he prepared to leave the man behind.

“Wait! You didn’t tell me where Dio’s been hiding.”

“At the bottom of the ocean. They’re gonna pull him out of a coffin fifty years from now, unless you get to him first.”

Speedwagon smiled, looking away only to say, “Right where Jonathan left him,” before crossing the room to stand in front of Jotaro once more. This time, he did so with the help of his cane. “As sorry as I am that you had to bare this cross, I’m glad that you took it up, my boy. I’m sure Joseph is very proud to have a grandson like you. And I’m sure that Jonathan would be even more so to have a great great grandson like you!”

His half-joke flew past Jotaro, who could only manage to think, Yeah, the kind that cleans up his mess, as he spun away from Speedwagon’s hand before it could again clamp over his shoulder.

“I better go find Lisa Lisa, see what she wants us to do while it’s raining.”

Speedwagon scoffed. “Oh I’m sure you won’t be wanting for some challenging and Hamon related task while she’s around. Well- best of luck to you, my boy! Best of luck!”

Jotaro didn’t even nod as he made his quick escape. 

Descending down the stairs as if on auto pilot, he stopped when he saw Noriaki beside one of the balconies. The rain prevented him from walking out onto it, as the clouds were still thick enough to almost blot out the sun entirely, but he still seemed to be enjoying the view. It was that view that he looked away from when Jotaro neared. Noriaki smiled at first, that same smile falling when he looked just past him.

“Is there a reason Star Platinum is out right now?”

Jotaro flinched, turning around to see the stand hovering just behind him, giving him a comical tilt of the head, as if it had to wonder what Jotaro could be thinking. It only took one more glare from its use for the stand to dissipate, leaving him to let out an annoyed sigh.

“It started acting up when I had to meet with that old man.”

“What old man?” Noriaki asked, stepping forward to stand in front of him, their view of the outside as blocked by one of the pillars as the silhouettes of their faces were framed by it.

“Apparently, the original owner of the Speedwagon foundation basically raised my grandpa.”

Noriaki gasped. “So the same guy who started a secret supernatural agency wanted to talk to you about time travel?”

“No, worse. He wanted to know about stands.”

“Is that why Star Platinum was, as you said, ‘acting up?’”

“No. I don’t know why it did that. We didn’t even get to talk about stands before he said that he knew Jonathan Joestar, too. And Dio.”

Noriaki’s eyes widened. “How did Dio come up!?”

“I don’t remember,” he grumbled, shifting all of his weight to lean against the pillar. “I don’t even know why I’m telling you, to be honest.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

His tone wasn’t one of anger or accusation, though Jotaro did meet his eyes for a moment before shifting it to the floor with a scowl.

“Nothing. I guess I just wanted to let you know, since he’s probably gonna ask you, too.”

Noriaki nodded curtly before spinning on his heel and heading toward the central staircase.

“Thanks for the warning,” he called over his shoulder, not having to ask as Jotaro peeled himself off of the pillar and stalked after him.

As he did so, Jotaro shoved down every anxiety regarding the man he’d just met. He didn’t seem like a danger outright, but there was something about him that seemed almost familiar about him.

And just what was it that he brought out of Star Platinum that Jotaro had never seen before?

Chapter Text

With the Persian Gulf behind them, the neo-crusaders were finally back on track through Saudi Arabia. The climate was far more hospital, if not nearly cool enough as far as Jojo was concerned. And he was concerned. Though, perhaps not entirely with the heat.

Instead, his attention was near-fixed on his older self. He’d had to be explicitly careful to avoid suspicion since he’d thought it would be hard to hide just how smart he really was from his older self. Even Caesar was ever closer to seeing past his simple exterior he kept up for the purpose of keeping his opponents’ guards down. It seemed, however, that his older self had either forgotten this ploy.

Or, he’d gotten better at it with time.

Either way, where Caesar wore his anger and confusion regarding the lack of information they were afforded on his sleeve, Jojo had long taken to putting pins in questions like, “Where is Caesar?” He kept the running list to himself, skirting the more major topics and pressing smaller ones where he could.

“Jojo, what are you thinking about?” Caesar asked, his hand coming over the back of his neck to earn his attention.

He’d lost himself for a moment while the others were setting up for camp with what little they had in the sparse forest. He’d been so lost, that he hadn’t even noticed Caesar had returned and dumped the branches he’d gathered off by where Avdol was setting up a fire pit a few feet away.

“Oh nothing,” he crooned, grabbing at the side of his face with a sigh. “Just about my Granny Erina, I guess. I wonder if Lisa Lisa thinks we’re dead or something.”

That wasn’t a total lie, as concern over the news of his disappearance reaching his Granny had crossed his mind once or twice.

“Don’t worry about it,” Caesar said with a rare, reassuring smile as he took a seat on the stone beside Jojo. His arm readjusted itself around his shoulders as they brought either side of their foreheads together in what had become a practiced and friendly gesture. “I know you didn’t want to tell her about any of this in the first place, but I think she of all people will be glad to hear about how we killed Dio when we get back.”

Jojo sighed again. “Oh, I definitely can’t tell her about that- or any of this for that matter! Perish the thought of letting her know that, in our time, Dio is alive and waiting to strike at the bottom of the sea!” He shook his head, his own arm snaking around Caesar’s waist. “You know, she escaped in that coffin he’s resting in now. I wonder if he knew that, while he was in there… waiting with my grandfather’s body. Her sitting on top of him without another soul around to so much as hear her ask for help…”

Caesar was the one who shuddered, shifting to separate slightly and look him over. “I know your family lost a part of itself to that monster, too. I’m only glad you know about that now.” He looked down, the hint of a snarl curling his lip. “I honestly can’t believe a man I respected as much as Speedwagon would keep that from you for so long.”

“He probably thought he was protecting me,” Jojo laughed, joining Caesar as his own eyes met the stone. “‘The Joestar Curse,’ he called it… apparently my great-grandfather… well, Dio killed him too. I wonder if my own father’s death had anything to do with him.”

“Oddly introspective, for a man like you, Joestar.”

Jojo looked up, meeting Caesar’s waiting grin with one of his own.

“And you’re being an awfully good listener right now. For a hot-headed meatball-brain, that is.”

Caesar laughed as they put their foreheads together again.

Jojo could essentially count down the seconds to when his older self would interrupt them.

“Jojo!” he called, “Can I get some help clearing the brush over here?”

He got up with a groan of, “Sure thing, Gramps!” while disentangling himself from Caesar.

That was one thing he’d noticed: His older self’s need to keep him away from Caesar. His eyes met Avdol’s as he stalked beside the growing fire pit. Another thing he’d noticed was the way this other man, whom his older self seemed to trust very deeply, looked at him and Caesar. It was almost always with a smile, though one that was melancholic. 

Whatever Joseph was keeping from them, he’d told Avdol.

Whatever Joseph was keeping from them, it wasn’t good.

When they were more alone, he’d press for details. In that moment, he kept his mouth shut and smiled as he joined the older Joestar in moving some branches out of a way back to the road.

“Keeping off the road entirely is best,” Joseph went on. “We don’t want it to be too easy to find us out here, but it should be easy to find the road again if we have to make a quick getaway.”

“So you said,” Jojo shot back with a roll of his eyes. Only when they were a decent length away from the others, and well out of Caesar’s earshot, did he lean up and place his palm on the older man’s shoulder. “Hey, can I ask you something?”

His eyes were wide at first, most likely at his younger’s unusually pleading tone. 

Eventually, they softened into a warmer, if no less confused, expression, and he said, “Sure, what is it?”

“Just wondering why you’re so adamant about making sure Caesar and I don’t get close to one another.”

Joseph scoffed and rolled his eyes as either arm came to cross over one another.

And, well, Jojo hadn’t been expecting that.

“I think you know why I don’t want you two getting ‘close.’”

“Oh? I thought I grew up to deny it or something. So, what’s wrong with letting us have a go at it?”

Now Jojo had been expecting Joseph’s next reaction, which was to stand up as straight as possible, his face growing redder than Jojo knew was humanly possible.

“Have a-” He let out an indignant squawk, “We are on a journey to kill a hundred-year-old vampire to save your future daughter from dying! Is now really the time to-?”

“Oh please- you didn’t get onto Polnareff for hitting up those girls back in the hotel in Pakistan- or Caesar, for that matter.”

“I-I was focusing on the fact that you have a daughter- and a wife! You have a wife to look forward to, don’t you just want to wait for her?”

Jojo smirked, leaning against one of the stumpy road-side trees as he said, “I think we both know it’s a little late to wait for-”

“You shut your mouth,” Joseph harshly whispered before raking a hand over his face. “Look, when we get to the next town, you can literally find anyone you want- I won’t say anything! Just not Caesar, okay?”

“And why not?” Jojo’s eyes narrowed. “Does this have something to do with the fight that we have? The one that made him angry at us before he left forever?”

“No, it just-”

“Cause I don’t think he’d have a problem. I mean,” he tilted his head up, bringing a hand under his chin as he posed, “if how flustered he gets when I just tease him a little is any indication.”

“He’s not flirting back, he’s preparing to sock you in the mouth.”

“We both know that’s not true. Sure, maybe he’s never been with a man before, but there’s a first time for everything, right?”

Joseph nearly sobbed as he looked upwards, muttering the words, “I don’t want to hear this.”

In a dark, hushed tone, Jojo said, “Then stop getting in my way! Jeeze, you’re almost as bad as Speedwagon- even he was on my side through the whole thing!”

“Yeah, because he was a homosexual!” Joseph spat back.

A smile broke out over Jojo’s face. “He finally told us? On his own!? Did Granny know, too?”

Joseph took a deep breath, putting his hands over his eyes only to peek through the cracks of them at the others. None of them were even looking up from what they’d been doing.

He’d have to remember to keep it down.

“That doesn’t matter right now.”

“You’re right-” Jojo went on, “let’s get back to the matter at hand. You said I could have anyone in the next town we went to. Not any girl. This isn’t about some part of you that’s trying to forget that we’re attracted to men in general- it’s just Caesar. What’s so special about him?”

“He’s,” Joseph’s hands tightened around his face as he caught sight of the blonde turning to the side. Even only able to make out his silhouette from this distance and through the brush, Joseph felt his heart stammer at the movement. “He’s a good friend.” He pulled his hands away with a sigh. “I just don’t want you to ruin that.”

Jojo leaned forward. “Did we have a fight?”

About to say no, Joseph surprised himself when he let out a weak, “Yes.” He sounded ashamed.

“Was it about me coming onto him?”

“... No.” He sounded tired.

“Then what’s your real problem?”

“Jojo-”

“Come on- it won’t kill anyone to be honest and-”

“That’s enough!”

The others had definitely heard that. Joseph knew that even without seeing Polnareff jump and Avdol look up from where they were both tending the fire. Caesar, however, just stared at the pair of Josephs.

Again, the elder brought a hand over his face.

A loud honking shocked him out of his pity party, a large truck roaring past them and almost knocking Joseph into the roadside ditch in the process.

The driver yelled something- perhaps an apology- before backing up to get another look at the travelers. Said driver was a tall man who leaned halfway out of the window to examine them before letting out a whistle and turning to the woman in the passenger’s seat. He said something, to which she laughed.

She moved the bundle she clutched to her chest from one arm to the other, Jojo barely catching that it was in fact a baby, as she too leaned over her husband.

“He says you look like death,” she shouted over the car’s still rumbling engine.

Joseph forced as genuine of a smile as he could manage, leaning away from Jojo as he stooped to keep him standing in the midst of the shock.

“Thank you,” he said. “I’m sorry, is there a town nearby that you two are from?”

“No,” she said, turning to mutter something to her husband. She waited for his nod before looking back at them. “We have a farmhouse just past here. It’s just us.”

“Ah,” Joseph nodded. “Well, thank you then! Sorry you had to stop.”

The woman gave a wry smirk. “We didn’t have to do anything. Neither do you, though I do insist that you and your friends consider hopping in and letting us give you a place to rest for the night.”

At the prospect of sleeping anywhere but outside entered his mind, Jojo’s eyes widened. “Seriously?”

Joseph was more cautious, reaching out to his younger self.

He wasn’t able to say anything before the woman laughed. “Assuming there are no more than five of you? Sure! Why not?”

Her husband patted her on the arm, earning her attention before asking something. She talked back with him in a low tone as Jojo turned to Joseph to do the same.

“Come on old man- You were the one who said if we found any other place to sleep we would.”

“Yeah, but not some strangers’ house!”

“Oh you wouldn’t be sleeping in the house,” the woman said. “We have a small shed. It’s not much, but will probably work better than,” her eyes squinted as she peered through the trees. “a fire in the middle of some dead plants?” She looked back at Joseph. “You boys aren’t very smart, are you?”

“We cleared the brush around it,” Joseph muttered, to which she laughed.

Avdol, Polnareff, and Caesar, all of which had been on their way since the truck pulled up, arrived just as Joseph begrudgingly agreed, allowing them to pile into the back.

Joseph himself was the last to get in, his foot slipping against the wooden stilt on the side. He almost thwacked his head on the bed of the truck, only to be saved when Caesar reached down and scooped him upwards from under either of his arms.

“C-Careful!” he said as he pulled Joseph halfway inside. While Polnareff was telling their kind rescuers that they were all inside, Caesar was leaning partially against him and muttering, “You’re old now, can’t afford any spills.”

“Ha!”

It was a curt, immediate, and genuine laugh, one that brought Caesar to smile as he turned to look over the bed of the truck at the now speeding scenery of Saudi Arabia.

Grabbing the back of his hat to keep it from flying off, Joseph realized that he was closer to Caesar in that moment than he had been since him and Jojo had come into the future. At realizing this, his eyes met his younger self’s sharp glare. Only then did he recognize the suggested hypocrisy of his action. Confident that there was no subtle meaning behind what had just transpired- nothing behind the lingering touch of Caesar’s back being pressed against his side, nor was there any hidden pleasure he gained from it- he pulled the lip of his hat over his eyes. Then he too examined the scenery.

Anything to ignore the smirk that had suddenly sparked on Jojo’s face and the blatant judgment seeping from Avdol’s.

He still had to figure out a way to keep him from telling them about Caesar’s fate. At least, what he knew of it.

“This is very generous of you,” Polnareff said to the couple.

“Oh think nothing of it! I saw you and I just knew we had to give you a place to stay for the night. I’ve been thinking all day about how we get almost no one around here, how it would be good for us to not be so closed off. Oh! I nearly forgot to ask for your names.”

“Of course,” Avdol dipped his head. “I’m Avdol, the talkative one is Polnareff,” he turned to better gesture down the bed of the truck as he listed, “There is Caesar, and I believe you’ve already met Jojo, and Joseph.”

“Pleasure to meet you all. My name is Farafina, and this is my husband, Hagger.” He raised his hand in an attempted wave at the men behind him. “And this little guy is Fihr.”

She peeled away the blanket to reveal the face of a baby who didn’t do much but wrinkle his nose and squint at the men in the bed of the truck.

Caesar clambered forward, not having noticed the baby before then, and let out a sharp gasp.

“Mamma mia- he’s so big! A healthy, fat baby.”

Joseph cringed at the cooing, thinking no mother would like to hear that their baby is “fat” as the first thing out of a strangers mouth-

Then Farafina laughed, holding her baby close as she said, “Thank you! He’s quite a chunky little thing.”

“Very handsome,” Caesar pressed.

“It must be hard raising a kid out here all on your own,” Polnareff went on.

“There are times,” she laughed. “He really is a little angel, though. Sleeps the whole night through!”

“Oh that’s lucky.” He let out a sigh. “I don’t remember much from when my sister was a baby, but I remember my parents having to get up with her every night.”

“It’s very lucky. Especially since this one,” she shoved her husband playfully on the shoulder, “comes from a whole line of fussy babies.”

Hagger muttered something to her that sounded concerned, though he kept a smile on his face, to which Farafina shot something back and kissed him on the cheek.

They continued making pleasant conversation the entire way down to the couple’s farm.

“Our house is quite small,” Farafina said, “but our barn is large enough to accommodate you, and we’ll get you some quilts from inside.”

“I cannot thank you enough for your hospitality,” Avdol said, throwing in a slight bow before doing so again to Hagger and giving his thanks again in Arabic.

Hagger smiled, most likely at knowing not everyone in their group wouldn’t be able to understand him, as he said, “There’s no need for the formality out here- we’re happy to help.”

“And we’re happy to help any way we can in return.”

“Nonsense,” Hagger said, Farafina hanging on his arm.

She added, “We brought you here as guests, not as workhorses.”

The three laughed, bringing Jojo to pout.

“Does everyone speak another language but me?”

“I speak a bit of Arabic now,” Joseph said. “I think she just called us horses?”

“I have a feeling that your Arabic might not be as good as you think it is, Mr. Joestar,” Polnareff said with a laugh.

The ride to the couple’s farm proved to be the happiest car ride on their trip so far as they continued cruising past the miles of countryside it would have taken them hours to clear on foot in only a matter of minutes. Knowing that there was a sheltered place to lay down for the night was only a bonus.

When they finally stopped, the group spilled out of the back only to be immediately directed by Farafina who lead them over to a structure beside the small ranch house with her baby still cradled against her chest.

“This is our shed. We’d offer you the barn at least, but our crops are in there right now so I can’t think it’d be more comfortable. Not to mention it’s a bit of a walk from here.”

“This is lovely,” Avdol assured. “We can’t thank you enough for your hospitality.”

“Oh don’t thank us just yet,” Farafina said. “We were just about to make dinner. If you were genuine about wanting to help, then I suppose you could help me just put things together.”

Avdol offered a warm smile. “Absolutely.”

She returned with a smile of her own before letting out a dramatic sigh. “Now if only there was one of you handsome young men who would be willing to look after Fihr for an hour or so.” Caesar picked his head up. “Ah, but alas, I guess I’ll just have two little hands to keep track of in the kitchen.”

“Uh, Signora,” Caesar purred, “perhaps I could help to look after him for a while.”

“Ah? Are you sure?” she asked with a smirk. At seeing his slight pout, she broke into laughter and offered her son with a,  “I jest! I jest- here you go.”

He took Fihr into his arms without another word, turning as Jojo rounded over to his side and examined the baby himself.

“Lemme get a look at the little guy- wow! It’s like he’s got little fangs.”

The baby cooed, reaching upwards to grab at Caesar’s headband. Caesar allowed it, laughing as he brought the infant higher.

Joseph walked towards Caesar and his younger self, only to be tugged back by Avdol.

“Come along, Mr. Joestar. Polnareff has offered to help Farafina in my place. I thought it’d be best for you to go with him so that I can instead help Hagger with the chickens.”

“Chickens?”

He’d said it absently, jumping at the squawk from behind him as one of the birds in question ran past.

“Yes,” Avdol said with a laugh. “I used to tend to them, considered that Hagger may get lonely without many others to talk to, and thought you might need something to keep you busy. So that you’re not worrying over Jojo for a moment, I mean.”

Though he continued to smile as he walked away. Joining Hagger, he left Polnareff to energetically throw an arm over Joseph’s back and drag him into the house. Only then did he allow his eyes to catch sight of the younger Joseph Joestar wrapped around Caesar’s shoulders. A small smile graced his features as he hummed and got to work.

It hadn’t been a lie when he’d said that he knew how to tend to chickens. Still, he allowed Hagger to lead him over to the feeding area and show him the process he and his wife usually went through when maintaining the farm.

“You have a lovely home,” Avdol said. 

“Thank you,” he said with a small laugh. “It used to be my father’s, and my brother’s before him.”

“Do they live nearby?”

“No.” He looked up, eyes focused on something distant that Avdol couldn’t see, as if he was suddenly lost in a memory. “In fact, none of my family lives here anymore. It used to be a thing- that the family would continue living here long after they’d grown up and others would be moving out of their family homes. Then one day, everyone just decided to leave- said something had snuck up on them and they had to find a new direction in life.”

Avdol tilted his head at Hagger’s tone, watching as the man somewhat forcibly threw down a sack of seed. “Do you not believe them?”

“I believe that they thought that,” he turned his tired eyes onto Avdol, “but I’ve never been a prophetic man. No insult, of course.”

“None taken,” Avdol assured, his smile remaining until it fell into a look of surprise. “I’m sorry, but is there something about my appearance that indicated that I was?”

Hagger perked up at this, bringing a hand to stroke at his lightly bearded face as he thought. “No, I guess not. Lucky guess is all.”

“So you’re a man who believes in luck?”

“And that a man can decide if he has it or not? Yes,” he smiled, “yes I do.”

“Well, family nearby or not, I think you and Farafina are doing a wonderful job of maintaining this place yourselves. Still, I’m surprised that such a young couple would be so willing to invite not one or two but five complete strangers into your home.”

“Oh you can thank Farafina for that,” he grumbled with a roll of his eyes. “I’m glad for the help today, but she was the one who started talking about how she had this ‘feeling’ we should lend you all a hand. Don’t make me regret adoring and listening to my wife. Pass that on to your friends as well.”

“I assure you that I will keep them on their best behavior, and thank you again.”

He waved a hand dismissively before spinning out a small knife to begin cutting one of the bags open. As he and Avdol spread it over the yard, the chickens began pouring in from all corners of the field. Avdol continued spreading the feed as Hagger rushed out to close the gate behind them.

“So, is she spiritual then?”

“Very much so,” Hagger laughed. “When our son was born, he and my wife went into a long sleep. One week without any sign of waking up. The doctors told me, and my family who was with us at the time, that she wouldn’t make it. Then, once that week was over, she popped out of her ill-gotten dream and said an angel of all things said our son would wake up the next day.”

“An ‘angel?’”

Hagger laughed again as he lead him to the fence and helped him over one of the shorter portions. “That’s what she calls it. She was right though, so who am I to judge her? Perhaps God is just more talkative to frantic mothers than grieving husbands.”

Avdol didn’t know what there was to say to that, and silently followed him to the next task.

Of course, the image of a haunted Hagger at his dying wife’s side did follow him late into the night. Through the cheerful dinner, complete with Polnareff’s attempts at singing and Joseph’s recounting of how the Frenchman had almost caught fire preparing the meal, and past the exchanging of “Goodnight”s and Caesar finally handing off little Fihr, there was the thought 

of what exactly Farafina had seen before she’d woken up. What possibly could have so easily consoled the distressed mother with a week of her life missing?

Deciding he was going to need some help relaxing that night, he set up for some meditation before bed. It wasn’t something he’d attempted in the past month on their search for Dio, as he’d long thought his mind would be too loud to even hope for a successful session, but he figured it was now or never. Just as he was assuring Polnareff that he’d put out the small fire Hagger had allowed them in the shed himself, Joseph finally entered.

Peeking around for a moment, the elder saw that Polnareff was the only one other than him and Avdol accounted for and not so kindly asked, “Polnareff, can you scram for a second? I gotta talk to Avdol.”

“Can I ask what this might be about?” Avdol asked, not giving him a chance to leave just yet.

“It’s about something you said about Dio when we first met.”

Avdol narrowed his eyes. What Joseph lacked in tact, he’d always made up for in thinking on his feet.

Still, he went on, “If it’s about that, then don’t worry about my discomfort. I’ve already told Polnareff everything that I know about the man. Don’t disturb him on my account.”

“He hasn’t even settled in yet,” Joseph said. “I think the lack of an audience is exactly what a conversation like this needs.”

“And just what exactly is a ‘conversation like this’ going to entail, Mr. Joestar?”

“Like I said, it’s nothing serious- I just need some clarification on something.”

“Oh clarification? Are you sure there isn’t something else you’re going to ask of me?”

“If it comes to that, then Polnareff won’t have to know.”

“And who are you to decide what people do or don’t need to know?”

“The guy who knows how information can and can’t hurt somebody.”

The spat continued, neither of them noticing as Polnareff’s worried gaze flickered between them. Nor did they notice that he’d long slipped out of the shed doors until they slammed shut behind him. This left them to look over at the suddenly dark entrance until Avdol shut his eyes with a suffering sigh.

“Mr. Joestar, what is this really about?”

“You know damn well what it’s about!” he hissed, failing at trying to keep his voice low. “I already told you that I don’t want Caesar or Joseph knowing-”

Avdol flew up from the ground, pointedly throwing his arms to his sides as he said, “And I already told you that what you’re suggesting is not only horrible, not only unthinkably awful on all fronts- but that it is something I’m not allowing you to get away with!”

Joseph raked a hand down his face. “You don’t understand, Avdol.”

“I think I understand plenty. I understand that you’re scared of an impossible future in which you and your wife don’t end up together because of a crush you had in your teens!”

“No it’s not like- wait-” He flicked his head up to stare at Avdol. “You- You know about that?”

“Of course I know about that,” he spat, turning his head to the side. “And if that’s the reason you think you wouldn’t marry your wife… well, then I guess it’s not as complicated as you thought.”

Joseph pulled a face.

“Don’t talk down to me, Avdol,” he growled, age and gravel creeping into his voice. “You have no idea what our situation was. What my situation was-” I don’t think I really knew. “I’m over it, and I’m dealing with it now.”

“I don’t think taking it out on your younger self is dealing with it.”

“I’m not ‘taking it out on’ him! He has a wife, knows he gets married to her, and still wants to go after someone else!? What’s with that?”

“He just hasn’t had the opportunity to fall in love with her. I didn’t even know you met her while you were still taking care of the stone mask’s creators.”

Joseph picked up his head, face screwing in displeasure. “We didn’t really get to talking until after I’d taken care of them. She patched me up, got me back together and… and I started to realize that she wasn’t just some silly girl with a cute face. He just hasn’t had that yet. If he gets back and doesn’t even consider giving her a chance- if he isn’t battered to hell after fighting Kars- then…”

Avdol didn’t say anything, though he did turn his gaze downward as he folded his arms over one another.

“If I tell them what happens to Caesar now,” Joseph went on, “it might make them think irrationally- they might get together for sure if I don’t play my cards right. I need Jojo to get over him first. Besides, they might go back to the time after Caesar would have died!”

“We don’t know that that is how this form of time travel could work!” Avdol insisted. “We have to pray that Jotaro and Kakyoin will actually be snatched out of the beginning of your timeline, rather than that Jotaro will have to fight the enemies you once faced. If not just to prevent him from changing the future on his end, then out of fear that he might be dead before we can retrieve them at all. You’re assuming that time is moving at a linear pace on both sides, but what point was your younger self pulled out of?”

Joseph offered a shrug before bringing a hand to palm at the back of his neck.

“I guess- maybe two weeks before the world went to shit.”

“Our original route was estimated to last us a month. That month has passed. ‘Jojo’ has been with us for a week. That means, going along with your idea on how this time swap works, we have a week to meet with Dio or find Lancaster and send them back home. What if Jotaro does die? Then your mother or grandmother might be snatched out of your time to fill his place in ours!”

“Oh fooey- and you think my idea on how this time travel situation works is out there.”

“I’m saying, Mr. Joestar, that we cannot bank on the fact that they will avoid the danger entirely and you know that as well as I!”

“I won’t let him die, alright?” Joseph said, his voice lowered to more of a muted yell than an actual whisper. “I’ll- I’ll think of something but now’s not a good time.”

“As long as that time comes soon,” Avdol sat down on the mat he’d prepared earlier, “then you won’t have to worry about my intervention.”

Joseph tutted his tongue, shaking with some unknown urge to somehow strike out at his friend. Gaining control of his senses, he let out his frustrations with a long sigh and instead waved his arm downwards in a dismissive gesture. Then he stalked out of the shed all together, presumably to cool off. Avdol was just fine with that, settling down and instead choosing to focus on his breathing. There would only be a few precious moments to clear his thoughts before the others would join him and begin to cause a ruckus.

Only when they fell asleep would he be able to have a proper session.

It appeared that he had even fewer of those earlier addressed “precious moments” as the shed door creaked open and he looked up to find the younger Joestar blinking down at him.

“Uh,” he pulled the door closed behind him, the small fire’s dim flames highlighting his form as he approached. “Hey, is the old man hanging around?”

Avdol chuckled and shook his head.

“You know,” Jojo grunted as he slid down to sit next to Avdol, one hand balanced on his knee, “I say that to you and you laugh, but I don’t think I actually know how old you are.”

“I’m twenty.”

Jojo’s eyes shot open. “What!? I thought you were like- at least thirty or something! You’re so mature and kind and-”

“What is this about, Jojo?”

He went silent, mouth clamping shut as his hand came to paw at the back of his neck. After letting out a visible sigh, he met Avdol’s eyes with a more serious expression behind his own. 

“Well, it’s about Caesar.” His gaze grew dark. “I know you know what happened to him.”

Avdol’s breath caught in his throat and he could swear that a chill just swept through the closed room.

“Yeah,” Jojo sighed, his tone almost bored as he stretched his legs out in front of him and crossed them over one another. “It’s kind of hard not to know that you know when you’re so expressive. So, what happened? Were you there for it?”

Taking a moment to pause, Avdol wetted his lips and tilted his head forward to avoid Jojo’s piercing gaze. Beside them, the fire danced and filled the quieting room with the occasional pop or crackle of its flames.

“I think it’d be best if Joseph were the one to tell you.”

Jojo actually laughed, bringing Avdol to lift his head. His face contorted in a lack of understanding as he watched the young Joestar muffle his earnest laughter against his fist.

“Oh-!” he said when he was finally done, letting out a low whistle as he lowered his hand and shook his head. “We both know that’s not going to happen. He’ll send us back without having us know.”

Avdol leaned forward, his mouth opening to declare “I wouldn’t let that happen,” before snapping it shut. Something like that is too direct. He’ll know it’s something serious if I show too much interest.

“See? You know it, too. So why don’t you tell me?”

A rumbling groan grew in the back of Avdol’s throat as he again averted his eyes. “I don’t know any specifics. That’s why I want Joseph to tell you. I don’t want to just guess.”

Jojo tilted his head, his face almost neutral as he asked, “You don’t know any details? Come on, man, throw me a bone here!” When it didn’t appear as though Avdol was budging on the topic, Jojo dropped his arms into a lap with a sigh and turned towards the fire. After a beat of silence, he said, “He told me that Smokey’s in politics when we first met. Then we asked about Caesar and he didn’t say anything.”

Avdol swallowed, his hands turning over each other and absently spinning his bracelets as he tried to look anywhere but the disheartened Joestar at his side.

“I can’t betray Joseph’s trust,” he said defiantly, “especially when I’m not entirely sure of what exactly happened. Of course,” he twirled his hand as he brought out his tarot card deck, offering it to Jojo with a smile, “the cards know everything, and they’ve never made a promise to keep anything from you.”

Jojo grinned, cheating his body towards him on the mat before slapping his hands on either of his thighs in excitement.

“Alright! Now we’re talking! What do ‘the cards’ have in store for me, big guy?”

His joy was infectious, bringing Avdol to smile along with him as he shuffled. Offering the deck to Jojo, he watched as the deck was cut and then allowed him to choose five.

Only when Jojo was done did he ask, “Don’t people usually just do three of them? ‘Past, present, and future?’”

“It depends on the spread,” Avdol said, spanning the cards over his fingers. “This is a unity spread that can focus in on relationships. I trust that you thought of Caesar as you drew these cards?

“As if I’m thinking of anything else right now!”

“That’s good,” he laughed, leaning down as he set the final card into place. “Now let’s see,” the turned one over, “Ah the beginning of your time together- when you two met almost fifty years ago, in our time.”

“Feels like yesterday,” Jojo joked, throwing in a snigger.

“Ah but that’s strange. This is meant to be the beginning, but it starts with the five of wands. That kind of conflict shouldn’t have been able to progress into anything at all, much less a hardy friendship.”

“Yeah, it was kind of rocky at first. The future is what I’m worried about.”

Avdol scoffed, turning over the next card. “Two of cups. This is the state you’re in now. It’s a sign of unity and of partnership.” He pulled a face, looking up to Jojo. “I’m sorry, how long have you known each other?”

“Two weeks. Come on, let’s get to the good stuff! What happens to Caesar?”

“I’m getting there.” He flipped over another card. “This is where your road together is heading.”

“Six of,” Jojo paused, “sticks?”

“Wands.”

“Oh no,” Jojo whined, threading his fingers into his hair. “Five of wands was bad, right?”

“Yes, but you don’t have to worry about this one. Unlike the other cards, this spread has this one on its side. That means that the meaning of the card can be more abstract, but it can also just mean that it’s two sides of an undecided path.”

Squinting his eyes, Jojo examined the card for a moment, as if it would tell him directly what it was thinking. Then he turned up to Avdol.

“I thought you were going to tell me what happens to Caesar.”

“No,” Avdol said, “This is just a reading from a friend. We’re seeing if the cards can tell you what I cannot.” He turned the card so that it was upright for Jojo. “It seems that your time with Caesar can either end in a grand reward, one that pleases you both and you find yourselves content in your victory.”

“Or?”

“Or,” he turned it upside down, “it could spell out a disaster. It would be one that begins with a misunderstanding- a sense of arrogance or self importance that doesn’t let you see each other or where you stand. And it’ll be the end of it.”

Jojo’s shoulders sagged, his eyes again finding Avdol’s. He took a moment, tongue darting out to wet his lips before he asked, “And what does ‘the end mean?’”

“It’s not set in stone yet.” He turned the card so that it was once again on its side. “Understand that there is still time to decide what path you should take. For the best outcome,” he flipped over another card, “the cards advise you in the three of pentacles. This is a sign to collaborate with one another and build and understanding between the two of you. There’s something else that is holding you two back, something that has the potential to push you both over the edge. Be mindful of each other's feelings, and take care of how your words can impact the two of you.”

Jojo nodded slowly, taking all of the words to heart. At the same time, he asked, “Now, as much as I appreciate this, I don’t think I really get what you’re trying to say.”

“I’m not trying to say anything.”

“Tch- yeah, it’s ‘the cards,’ right?”

Keeping his expression level, Avdol simply stared the other man down until he piped up in shock.

“Wait- these cards were seriously all drawn at random? Seriously!?”

“I would never interfere with a tarot reading, especially not one so obviously important. You drew these cards in this order. I’m simply interpreting it.”

“Oh, I kind of thought that this was your way of telling me what happens without directly getting involved.” 

Avdol sighed.

“Sorry! I’ve never been very superstitious. You’d think growing up knowing vampires were real would mean different but,” he shrugged again, offering a small grin. When Avdol provided another sigh, he jabbed a finger at the remaining card. “What’s that one?”

“That’s more of an optional card just telling you what your next struggle is going to be on your journey.”

“Well flip her over then! Let’s see what fate’s got for us!”

Even though you don’t believe in it, Avdol thought with a roll of his eyes. Deciding to humor him, he flipped the remaining card over, eyebrows rising at the word printed there.

“Death!?” Joseph gasped. “What does it mean death? Is one of us going to die!?”

Careful not to flinch at the irony of the question, considering what had worked to get them to turn to the cards in the first place, he instead considered the death card in its own right.

Finally, with a shake of his head, he answered, “The death card speaks to new beginnings, the renewal of something. It’s just that, to see it as the next trial available, I wonder if it's in reference to your relationship specifically, or perhaps something more literal.”

Jojo sat up, crossing his arms with a huff as he said, “You mean those stand users. Tell me, are you all named after tarot cards? How do you collaborate that? Does Dio watch you guys and wait to make sure you haven’t named anyone after a specific card before assigning it to one of his own, or?”

Avdol let out a sigh, gathering his cards back into his sleeve. “I think I’ve answered enough questions for today. Are you content with the cards and their advice?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Jojo said. “I mean, you seemed to be really surprised by that death card, so I at least believe that you believe it. I just wish I didn’t grow up to be such a prick.”

That brought a warm chuckle out of Avdol as the younger Joestar stood to leave.

“I’m gonna go round everyone up. We’re probably going to leave early tomorrow. Again.”

He sighed the last word, Avdol waving him off before settling in to again prepare for a meditative state.

A couple of meters away, in the main house, one of their kind hosts was preparing to settle in in a different way.

Of course, none of them would know about that until it was far too late.

Joseph was the first to slip into sleep, and thus he was the first to awaken in a candy-colored amusement park. It was almost vacant, in that he couldn’t see anyone around, though he could hear the sound of distant children playing amongst the ever present circus tune that filled the space.

It was hard to get a good look at anything specific, especially since the world happened to be spinning as he woke. Eventually, he got a grip on the situation, and realized that he was the one spinning, seated in a large tea cup. He stood up before the force of it spinning around took him down. Back in his seat, he tried to collect why he was where he was when a familiar face appeared across from him.

“Caesar?” he asked. “Where did you come from?”

“Joseph?” Caesar shot back, looking over the edge of the cup as they continued to spin. “I don’t… is this a dream?”

Joseph thought on it for a moment, bringing a hand up to stroke at his beard.

“I suppose that isn’t too out there. It doesn’t feel like a dream, but it makes way more sense than anything else that could be going on. In that case,” he leaned back, spreading his arms over the back of his tea cup seat, “we could probably just relax.”

Caesar nodded, leaning back as well. “So, are you the real Joseph, and are we somehow sharing a dream? Or are you a figment of my imagination?”

Joseph smirked, again stroking his chin. This time the action was more deliberate as a smokiness overtook his eyes.

“Do you normally dream of me, Caesar?”

The Italian blinked, and then laughed, waving his hand up and down in dismissal.

“You must be a dream Joseph then. I can only imagine you saying something  that if you were fifty years younger!”

That made Joseph sit up, blinking at what he’d thought was a figment of his imagination had just said. He leaned in carefully, following the spin of the teacup as he inched closer to Caesar on the bench.

“You are a dream, aren’t you, Caesar? There’s no way we could be having the same dream.”

“Oh? And why not?” he damn near cooed, leaning further into Joseph’s personal space. “I don’t remember there ever being a rule about that. Either way, I know I’m the sleeper here. So if you’re the fake, we might as well have some fun, huh? Mamma mia, I do wish you’d at least be your younger self if I have to settle for you rather than some bellas I’ve happened to conjure in the night.”

“Hey now,” Joseph said, pulling away with an uncomfortable laugh, “I don’t think that’s the best idea.”

“Oh, and why not? It’s not even as if there is anyone else here,” his eyes darkened as he pulled both of his legs behind him on the bench to better crawl towards him, “and that’s including your future friends you apparently find so much more important than me.”

“What?” Joseph’s eyes widened as he shot to the other side of the wheel in the middle, the one that was spinning regardless of neither of them laying a finger on it. “It’s not like that!”

“No?” He tilted his head and then scoffed. “Oh well. It’s not like you’d be able to give me answers anyway. You’re just a dream after all.”

“Hey you two!”

The call brought them both to look over at another of the teacups. This one carried the younger Joseph Joestar, who was waving ecstatically at them. He too spun around, turning in his seat to continue making eye contact.

“Jojo!?” Caesar squawked. “What are you doing over there?”

“Dunno!” he shouted back. “The last thing I remember is going to bed in that shed. So what’s this about then? Did we all have some kind of group dream?”

“I think so,” Joseph said, scratching at the back of his neck. “This might be the work of a stand user.”

Jojo let out a cry, his fingers twisting into his hair as he looked at the ground.

“Not this again!” he said. “Can’t we just wake up before anything bad happens?”

“If you find a way to do that, clue us in,” Joseph said. He brought his hand up, twirling it as purple vines flew out from his fingertips. “Until then-”

Flicking his wrist to the side, Hermit Purple ensnared itself around the ride’s controls. Once he was sure the grip was steady, he twisted his hand to pull the vines taught.

Caesar and Jojo initially jumped at hearing the metal creak and give under Hermit Purple’s grip.

If I can just remove the controls, there shouldn’t be anything to direct power to the cups and they should stop, he thought to himself, only to be left gaping at the empty space left underneath the control panel when it was removed. Rather than stopping, the teacups then began to move even faster along the track, Caesar gripping onto the cup to avoid flying out.

“What the hell did you do!?” he asked.

“No way!” Joseph shouted. “Don’t you dare pin this on me! That should have worked- This kind of stuff only happens in cartoons!”

“Hold on a second there,” Jojo yelled, balancing himself as best he could as he proceeded to stand on the edge of his teacup. “I think I might have an idea.”

He held on until the platform the spinning cups were on allowed him to near where the platform had just been. Only then did he leap off, letting out a grunt as the metal railing met his stomach, coupled with the force at which the spinning cup threw him off.

“Caesar!” 

Hand stretched out in offering, he waited for Caesar and Joseph’s cup to come by. Caesar grabbed it without a second thought, launching out of the cup as well to stand at Jojo’s side.

“Jojo, hold on!” Caesar yelled to the older man as the cups seemed to pick up in speed.

Joseph tried to hold on, his metal hand almost digging into the thick plastic bench. Then, without warning, the hand folded backward, releasing his grip entirely.

“Oh no!” he cried as he was flung out of the cup and into the sky.

“J-Jojo!”

Joseph worked his core, forcing his body to turn midair before he attempted to summon, “Hermit Purple!”

Yet the stand refused to come out, leaving him to continue to scream as he sped towards the ground.

He thought for a moment that he was saved when he suddenly stopped, his shirt catching on something and causing him to choke as his polo dug into his neck.

“Lali-ho!” an impish voice said as he was turned, still scrambling at his shirt collar, to face his “savior.”

A tall, clown-like creature with a ghastly, hollow expression stared down at him. The smile permanently carved into their face only served to mock him as they laughed.

“Joseph Joestar, huh?” they said. “I’m not surprised you were the first one to end up here, since you’re so old. A grandpa like you probably would probably fall asleep in the middle of the day if everyone left you alone. Right now though,” the creature rose a scythe to his throat, “you won’t have to worry about anyone waking you up-” the tip of the scythe bit into his neck, “not ever again!”

They cackled as Joseph struggled in their grip, watching with wide eyes as something quickly rose behind the being’s neck, snaring from either side. He recognized it to be a pair of his old clackers, which glowed as they wrapped around the being’s neck. The scythe fell as they screamed, now scrambling at their own neck. Again Joseph was falling, though he was happier this time around to be sailing toward the earth rather than at the creature’s mercy.

There was still the worry of surviving the fall. That worry was answered with him soon being caught on a rather large bubble.

He rolled off of that bubble with a groan, Caesar soon standing over him and offering a hand to help him up.

“Thanks,” Joseph moaned, accepting the hand to pull him to the feet.

“What is this!?” the creature’s voice came, bringing Joseph and Caesar to look up at him as Jojo joined them across the park. The clown moved his hand up and down, watching in presumed awe as they moved. “Is this a stand?” They looked at Jojo. “You’re not allowed to bring stands in here!”

Caeser looked at Joseph. “Didn’t you use your stand on the teacups?”

The clown caught their attention again with a laugh. “That was just me! I’m the only stand that can exist here! Lali-Ho!” Their scythe reappeared in their right hand. “If you two somehow managed to go to sleep with your stands out, That’s gonna be a problem for little old me. I didn’t even think I could get hurt through Death 13… oh well! I guess I learn something new every day. It’s not like you’ll be able to do much once I take care of you.”

“Wait a minute, Death 13?” Jojo asked, swallowing around the lump in his throat. “So Avdol was right…”

“Avdol was right about what?”

They turned around at hearing the voice, shocked to see another familiar face.

“Polnareff!?” Joseph said, a smile growing on his face as he clamped a hand onto his shoulder. “Polnareff, do you remember falling asleep?”

“Huh, yeah? What about it?” he asked, blinking a few times before his face lit up. “Oh I get it- this is a dream!” He laughed, pulling away from Joseph in favor of getting a look around. “I wonder why you guys are here. Oh, then again, I guess spending about a month with the same guys wouldn’t leave much brain space for anyone else.”

“Polnareff, this is serious,” Joseph said. “Yes it’s a dream, but there’s also a stand user who’s trying to-”

“Oh no you don’t,” he said. “I’m not letting any dream be a nightmare while I’m aware of it. Now let’s see. If I’m aware, I can change the dream, right?”

“Wait!” Caesar piped up, “he might be onto something. What if we tried changing the dream? We might be able to wake ourselves up!”

“I don’t know,” Jojo growled, eyes flicking up to where Death 13 hung ominously over them. “They said this is ‘their world,’ right? I don’t think we’ll have much say in what’s going on.”

“We can try though,” Joseph said. “The important thing is that we stick together.”

“Lali- ho!” Death 13 began spinning the clackers around, rearing his hand as if preparing a pitch. “Good luck with that.”

He chucked the clackers down as they continued to spin. The group of four flew away from the impact zone, watching as they were separated by various walls that sprung up and around them. Walls of mirrors lined newly born corridors that lead in various directions, each of them turning around in experimentations as they considered their options.

“Your friend is exactly right!” Death 13’s voice boomed from seemingly everywhere at once. “I’ll say it for you one more time: This is my world!”

“Now this is not how I wanted to change the dream at all,” Polnareff groaned.

“This isn’t a dream!” Joseph snapped, slamming his hands on the mirror in front of him. “It’s a stand, Polnareff!”

“Okay okay,” he said. “I’m starting to believe you. So, how do we get out of here?”

“We can’t use our stands,” Joseph said. He threw an experimental punch at one of the mirrors, watching as it simply bent out of place into something more akin to a funhouse mirror. Looking at his distorted reflection, which now bore a comically large nose, he groaned. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to break ourselves out either- we’re just gonna have to try to find each other.”

“Right!” Jojo said. “Polnareff, try to find either Caesar or me- our Hamon can still hurt him.”

Joseph gasped. “That’s right! That’s probably why they separated us from you two- they’re going to go after us first!”

“Oh no,” Polnareff whined, stroking his hands over his face. “Come on, I just got here! I don’t want to die!”

“Lali-ho!”

He turned to see that one of the reflections was looking away from him before it turned around, now bearing Death 13’s frozen face.

“Then I’d start running.”

He screamed and did just that, bolting first in the opposite direction, only to find that it was a mirror. Nearly tripping over his own feet, he eventually gathered his bearings and tore down the hall.

Caesar was already jogging through his own portion of the maze, sensibly cutting around corners and trusting his gut to take the proper exit in this network of seemingly endless tunnels- and they very well may have been endless, since this stand user was the one who’d created them.

He continued moving forward anyway, knowing that anything was better than sticking around or allowing doubt to clog his mind and cause him to backtrack. That is, until he caught sight of a man in a red beret kneeling with his back facing him at the end of a hall.

Slowing to a stop, he inched closer, his breath stopping in his throat when the man stood and turned to the side.

“P-padre?”

If he was, he didn’t acknowledge Caesar. Walking to the right and seemingly disappearing into one of the walls.

“W-wait!” Caesar moved to follow, running full force into one of the mirrors and causing this one to bend.

The resulting reflection made him look so small.

As he gripped his head in pain, movement in the corner of his vision caught his attention, seeing his father’s form move through the mirrors along the wall, beckoning Caesar to follow.

And he did, silently following as the ghost of a man he knew to be long dead moved through the mirror pannels.

On Jojo’s side of things, he was hopelessly trying to track Polnareff’s screams through the maze. He did this in an attempt to find the man faster but only managed to get himself even more turned around than he was. Then, a brilliant idea struck him and he turned to the long scarf hanging from his neck.

He picked at the end of it, watching as it frayed and strung along the ground. Making sure to poor even more out as he went, he laughed to himself. Stupid stand users, they get so caught up in their special powers- I bet they won’t even think that I’ve found a way around this stupid maze game.

He looked up as he went, careful to keep track of any movement around him. When he turned a corner to see a light-haired figure in front of him that was decidedly not the same brunet reflection seen in every mirror thus far, he yelled and prepared a Hamon-powered punch, only to have his hand grabbed by his supposed attacker.

“Calm down!” Polnareff said, “It’s me!”

His voice was barely above a whisper as his eyes flicked about the small hallway. Jojo looked with him for a moment before grabbing his hand.

“Alright, let’s head back the way I came, we should be able to find a way to the others if we keep moving!”

“How are we going to find our way back?”

Jojo smirked, about to proudly display his unraveled scarf, only to squawk as he looked down just in time to see it springing back together, fully formed as if he’d never picked it apart at all.

“What in the!?”

“Lali…”

Polnareff shoved them apart just as Death 13 immerged from the mirror between them, striking their scythe downwards with the finishing cry of “Ho!”

Jojo charged Hamon into his hand, slamming it down on the side of Death 13’s head and knocking them to the side. Only then did he bound over them and rush over to Polnareff. He shoved him forward, urging him to, “Move, damn it!”

So they tore down the hall with little regard for the stand they left behind.

Oblivious to all of this was the man blinking in light just outside of the funhouse. And Avdol, once he got his bearings, was indeed staring up at the newly constructed building.

He squinted at the sign above it, noting that it simply denoted the building as a “Fun House” as his eyes zeroed in on the clown head on the end of it.

It didn’t escape his notice that it was similar to the clown head on his own tarot card. He probably wouldn’t have noticed it at all if he hadn’t given Jojo that reading not even an hour prior. He pursed his lips, stepping up to the building’s doors and walking inside. Searching the halls of mirrors before him and keeping an eye on the waiting shadows, he moved forward.

Did I fall asleep while meditating?

It wasn’t impossible, as he was reasonably more tired than usual with all of their traveling, but it had never happened to him before.

So he remained vigilant yet calm. It was much harder to do the latter when the distant screams of the funhouse halls reached his ears.

Recognizing the voices, he called out, “Jojo? Polnareff!?”

“Avdol!” Polnareff shouted back. “It’s a stand! It pulled us in our dreams!”

“Try to find us or find Caesar!” Jojo yelled.

“Yeah, we haven’t heard from him or Joseph since we got split up! You can’t use your stand so Jojo and Caesar are the only ones that can hurt the bastard!”

“Stand user?”

As the words slipped past his lips, he could feel a dark energy crackle and rise behind him. In the mirror before him, he could see the same clown-like face that appeared on the sign outside come up and over his shoulder. The figure grew even taller, producing a large scythe, which they hung over his head.

“Lali-ho!”

Without even thinking, he spun around, watching in wonder as, against what Polnareff and Jojo had said, Magician’s Red emerged.

The clown flinched back, the scythe immediately going up in flames as it fell from their skeletal hands.

“Another stand!?” they cried, the clown mask spinning around where it attached to the stand’s head. “How are you all breaking the rules like this!? That’s not fair!”

Avdol looked down on the stand as his flames consumed the area around him, a grin growing on his face.

“So stands aren’t meant to exist in this dream space, are they?” he asked, looking around at the mirrors that reflected him as well as the clown on the floor. Though the glow of its flames remained, Magician’s Red itself was missing from every reflection, leaving Avdol to turn to the ground. “Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I’m not entirely asleep…”

Death 13’s face stopped, their expression upside down.

“Oh? Oh, I see… you’re sitting up.”

Avdol flinched.

“I can see you, you know? I’m not exactly asleep, either. Hoho-ho!” They continued to laugh as they rose from the ground. “I guess I’ll have to take out your friends first, then I’ll come back for you. It’s no fun playing fair anyway. Just to make sure you won’t get in my way-”

They skirted back, a mirror panel coming up in front of them. Avdol’s eyes widened and he turned just in time to see another panel close in on him, trapping him in a space only a few feet wide either way.

“I’ll just leave you here while I go get the others! Lali-Ho!”

The stand giggled as they left him behind, Avdol slamming his hands on the mirror and watching as it warped under his hands with each resulting thud. Eventually, staring at a newly distorted reflection of himself with significantly larger eyes, he began to grin. Then he sat on the floor, and took a moment to clear his mind.

This was in contrast to the mind of Joseph Joestar, who’s thoughts ran along with him down the mirrored halls, turning any time he didn’t see himself immediately reflected. This only lead him into walking into one wall. Stopping to nurse his nose, he looked the non-reflective portion of the wall over until he found a handle. Pulling on it, he opened it up to find a seemingly empty room. “Seemingly” because once he stepped inside, he slammed upwards and onto the ceiling. There he found that it was full of furniture, all of which was tacked there, just upside down.

“Joseph!” a familiar voice gasped, causing him to turn to see Caesar examining a bookshelf. 

He crossed the room, again offering a hand to help Joseph to his feet.

“Thanks,” the older man grumbled as he dusted himself off.

“No problem. Ah, if you don’t mind my asking, did someone lead you here?”

“No, I haven’t found Jojo or Polnareff yet. Wait- did you?”

“No, I uh,” he stopped talking, shaking his head momentarily before saying, “Nevermind, we can talk about this later. So, do you think we’ll be able to get out this way?”

“Maybe,” he grunted. “If this guy’s into secret staircases…”

“Well, we have seen some pretty childish methods of torture so far. I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“So, why did you close the door to here instead of leaving it open for someone else to find?”

“I didn’t close it.”

The answer to the unasked question of “Then who did?” came with the door shutting behind them. This time, it melded back into the wall, causing Caesar to panic.

“It didn’t do that before,” he said, eyes wide as his heart leaped into his throat.

“Shit,” Joseph grumbled. “Oh well, not like it did us much good being open anyway. We just have to hope that Polnareff finds me and that they can help each other until we somehow wake up out of this.”

“What if we don’t wake up?” Joseph looked up to see Caesar had turned his back to him, his hands on either of his arms. “What if this is what the stand does? It leads you into a deeper part of your dream that you can’t wake up from?”

“I don’t think that’s it,” Joseph said, though he wasn’t entirely sure himself. “Come on, you usually have a level head about these things. What’s got you so-” he spun him around with a hand on his shoulder, stopping when he saw the tears that had welled up in Caesar’s eyes, “... upset.”

Caesar sniffed, rubbing his forearm over his face as he put himself back together.

“Out there in the mirrors… I thought I saw my father.”

Joseph’s eyes widened in recognition as his hand fell away from Caesar’s arm.

As he stepped back, closing in on himself, Caesar calmly said, “So I eventually told you about him?”

“Yeah,” he lied, scratching at the back of his head. “Something like that. He sacrificed himself for you, huh?”

Caesar let out a broken laugh, gesturing to the empty room as he said, “He sacrificed himself for a stranger. I have no right calling the man I was then his son. He was too noble for that. His memory… it haunts me, but I push it back. That’s why I thought maybe this is just a dream after all. It’s a horrible nightmare that maybe… maybe I don’t deserve to wake up from.”

“Don’t say that!” Joseph said, maybe a little more angry than he meant to. “You still have to avenge him, right? Get back to your time and take out the pillar men, or kill Dio- one way or another, right?”

Caesar scowled at the ground as if it had personally offended him.

“Could that ever make up for the way that I was. I was selfish, and- and lashed out at someone who I never meant to hurt. Look what it got him! Look what I got him. And now-” his gaze lingered on Joseph, the smoldering remains of his anger lost in his eyes. “How did I hurt you so badly that you don’t even want to talk about it?”

“What?” Joseph asked, blinking at Caesar’s question as the other leaned into his personal space.

“What did I do!? Just tell me so that I don’t have to lose Jojo the same way!”

“Caesar- it’s not like that it’s- it’s-”

“Complicated!? Are you seriously going to tell me that it’s ‘complicated!’”

Joseph backed up, knocking into a small end table and causing it to fall to the floor. The vase atop it crashed, splintering into various pieces as the water from inside pooled and crept into Joseph’s socked feet.

Caesar looked down at the mess and then to his own hands.

“I- I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-”

“You died.”

The words left his lips before Joseph could think. He continued facing Caesar, but couldn’t bear to meet his eyes. Those frightened, blue eyes fell empty on Joseph’s face as they pleaded for him to continue.

“I- you died after we fought. You went after the pillar men yourself. I wanted to wait because- because I was a coward and stupid and… I thought you were doing it because you were trying to prove that you were stronger. But instead, you were doing it because you were.” He hiccupped as the tears began flowing, a haunted smile creeping onto his expression. “I tried to stop you but- but you went anyway and then by the time we got there- there- there was just blood everywhere and I could smell it from outside and I could feel it in my chest I could-” He sucked in a deep breath, coughing as he continued to cry into his hands. “I hated myself so much for just not believing you and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I just didn’t want you to-”

He stopped when two arms came around him, pulling him close against a body he’d never quite forgotten.

“Don’t you say another word,” Caesar angrily breathed, his own tears running down his nose and into the collar of Joseph’s shirt.

They didn't say anything else, just holding each other in that small room.

There’d be time for talking later.

The hope that “later” would come was now in the hands of an awake Avdol, who sat up from where he was hunched over and immediately got his bearings. His first instinct was to gather his comrades from the floor where they slept. That is, until he caught sight of a small form hiding by the partially opened doors of the shack.

“Fihr?”

The baby jumped when he spoke, confirming that he was far more intelligent than Avdol had initially given him credit for.

He glared as he stood, crossing the room to pick up the infant before stepping outside.

“To think Dio would recruit someone so young,” he muttered, shaking his head. “I trust that your stand is down?” Fihr didn’t motion either way, resulting in Avdol letting out a sigh. “I suppose it doesn’t matter. The fact that you had to come out to the shed yourself, something that I can’t imagine would be easy for an infant of your size, I don’t think your stand will be able to reach them once I return you inside.”

The baby began to move in his arms, rocking back and forth in an attempt to get back to the shed and out of Avdol’s arms.

“Now you stop that,” he scolded, holding the baby in his line of sight. “You’re not a killer, are you? What am I saying?” He let out an exasperated groan. “Look, I’m assuming you care a lot about your parents, yes?”

Fihr straightened up, his lips trembling.

“Calm down, I’m not threatening them. They’re very kind people, and I know that, given the time, they’ll raise you right. But how would they feel if Dio were to win this conflict? What would Dio do with kind people like them?”

Fihr lowered his head to the side, eyes falling to the ground.

“I may not be keen to hold them over your head, little one, but don’t assume that Dio will be considerate enough to do the same. Now,” he smiled down at the infant. “How did you get out of the house?”

There was a long silence where Fihr just scowled up at the man holding him. That silence broke with a tiny sigh. Then, the baby nodded.

“Good, I’m glad that you can see it my way.”

He began walking, only to be cut off with a shriek from his arms, then, struggling to look over his shoulders, Fihr pursed his lips and squinted at the shed. After he was done with whatever that was, Avdol only assumed it was recalling his stand, he fell back into his arms. There wasn’t time to press the mute infant for details as he began to direct Avdol towards a slightly open window so that Magician’s Red could deliver him back inside.

Still wary, Avdol remained awake throughout the night. He was envious when Polnareff finally awoke with an obnoxious yawn, sitting up until his back popped only to slump forward.

“I slept terribly,” he moaned. “I feel like I’ve been running a marathon!”

“You don’t remember anything that happened last night?” Avdol asked, cocking his head to the side.

“What? Why? What happened?”

He opened his mouth to explain, but then he closed it, eyes shifting to the side. “Nothing, actually. It’s not important.” Maybe it’s better this way.

He left the shed then, intent on seeing if Farafina or Hagger were up or had something for him to do.

It was only later when he would meet up with Caesar and Jojo again, hearing Jojo before seeing either of them. The young man was yelling about something that Caesar seemed completely dismissive of, the latter perking up as Avdol neared.

“Good morning you two,” he said.

“I wish it could be,” Caesar said, rolling his eyes. “This one kept talking nonsense about how I was in his dream last night.

“I’m telling you- it wasn’t just you! Old me and Polnareff were there, too! And- and this clown was stalking us through a hall of mirrors.”

Avdol’s eyes widened. “You r-” he stopped himself, cutting himself off with a cough. “Er, what else happened in this dream, Jojo?”

“It was crazy! The last thing I remember was the clown guy standing in front of me and saying ‘You better win!’ before grabbing me by the throat!”

“He did what?” Avdol asked, immediately consumed with worry that something had been done to the younger Joestar.

“Yeah like I said, it was crazy!”

“Completely unbelievable,” Caesar laughed. “Good thing it was a dream.”

“It wasn’t a dream!”

Caesar opened his mouth to respond before his eyes widened and he was cutting past them. When Avdol turned to follow him, he stopped upon seeing Farafina with Fihr on her hip.

“Good morning!” she chirped. “Someone was up and I had a feeling he wanted to say, ‘Good bye.’”

“Oh, bambino!” Caesar cooed. “Did you want to see us off?”

Now aware of his intelligence, Avdol could make out the slight sneer on the baby’s face. Still, he allowed Caesar to pluck him out of his mother’s arms. In fact, he even seemed rather pleased when Caesar produced a batch of bubbles from seemingly nowhere. When Jojo stood next to him, offering his clackers, however, he began to cry. Loudly.

Chapter Text

Noriaki wasn’t easily annoyed by the people around him. At least, he usually made an effort to hide if he was. It was easy enough with most people, especially if they were talkative. He could sit and listen to a talkative person for hours, even if he didn’t particularly like them or whatever it was they were talking about.

But Speedwagon, on the other hand, was a special kind of talkative.

He liked to ask questions and develop a conversation with the other person, which was usually all well and good. Noriaki could even learn to like a person like that. It was what he wanted to talk about- how Noriaki almost felt studied under his gaze. Like this man, who was so obviously used to observing others, thought that he could read Noriaki from a glance.

The worst part of it was that he was almost absolutely right.

“You seem like the quiet bloke who’s always got something cooking upstairs,” he’d say, and Noriaki would smile.

“You don’t usually instigate stuff with others, do you? Ah, but I bet you’re the last person to turn em’ away!” he’d laugh as he playfully shoved Noriaki’s arm.

“Carry a knife, do ya? Good lad. I bet you’re not shy when it comes to usin’ it, too!” he crowed, patting Noriaki on the back. “Keep up the good work!”

Still, Noriaki took it all in and steadied himself against the kind old man who always seemed to have new questions about his life-long invisible friend. Jotaro could only pray for that patience.

Finding a brief moment of relaxation amidst their rigorous training schedule, they intended to spend it together, hiding from the man they’d grown to abhor. They’d taken a moment to retire on the banister of one of the lower balconies that watched over the sea, boats passing by in the background as the salty winds whipped around them. Yet they remained in the window, legs crossing over one another as Jotaro turned his hat down just to rest and Noriaki pulled out a book he’d found after Suzie Q had shown them the library.

Then Speedwagon showed up.

“Kakyoin, are you- oh, I’m sorry!” He backed up with a nervous laugh, as if he’d just interrupted something significant rather than two students held up in a window sill together.

“Don’t be,” Noriaki laughed, sitting up a bit straighter, “we were just sitting here anyway.” Go away. “What do you need?”

“Oh well, I actually don’t need anything this time around,” he laughed, adjusting the grip on his cane. “Lisa Lisa was actually the one looking for you. I thought I’d lend her a hand and find you, since I’ve been staying up here, and all.”

Three days they’d been in Speedwagon’s company and three days they’d been suffering for it. So Noriaki eagerly slipped from the railing, pressing his book into Jotaro’s lap.

“Can you hold onto this? I don’t want it becoming a casualty if she decides to surprise me by dumping me into the ocean.”

Jotaro met his eyes as he nodded in confirmation, knowing that Noriaki caught the smirk on his lips. At the same time, Jotaro caught the way Hierophant Green stemmed out of his long sleeve to coil for a moment over Jotaro’s hand before disappearing entirely along with its user as Noriaki rounded the corner.

Yet Speedwagon remained, back straight as his eyes flickered between the two of them.

“Ah, Jotaro,” he finally said, “I’ve been meaning to ask something. Um, but before I continue, do you know much of England? I mean, what did Joseph tell you about the country?”

Jotaro’s eyes narrowed at the question. “I don’t know a lot. Is there something you wanted to ask specifically?”

“Oh it’s nothing much, it’s just that- well, if I could cackle with you for a moment- that you omies are so close and it doesn’t take my keen yews to vada that.”

Jotaro had never been great with English. Most of his understanding was centered around context clues in the first place. Of course, he was always good at acting like he knew what was going on. So that was exactly what he did at that moment when he shot back, “What are you trying to say?”

Speedwagon’s eyes lit up. “Ah, well, I’ve seen you offer him a vogue, once or twice, and you’d let him zhoosh your riah if your capello got caught up in a barney with Messina or Loggins.”

Cappello- he knew that meant hat.

“This has to do with my cappello?”

Why would he say it in Italian?

“Not just your capello, Jotaro, but your everything! Aunt nell- I know you’re bona omies, but it only takes one charpering omi to catch a chicken, am I making sense?”

No.

And yet Jotaro calmly sat back against the sill, resting Noriaki’s book on his knee as he said, “Yeah, I get it.”

“Fantabulosa!” Speedwagon said, balancing his cane on his leg to clap his hands together before he began to shuffle down the hall. “Oh, and just so you know, I’m rooting for you two! All the way!”

Jotaro nodded, causing Speedwagon to smile even brighter as he turned around and finally left Jotaro alone in the window sill.

The sun was going down. He could see the red-streaked across the sky, directing him towards the fading sun. With the night usually came a close to their training, though Loggins had told him that Joseph would work late into the night with enough energy to bounce right back in the morning.

Of course, he and Noriaki were nowhere near the level his grandfather had been. Even if Lisa Lisa had the thought not to tell them that almost every training session, Jotaro could feel the truth of the statement. He tried to remember the dumb tricks Joseph would do in the rare times he’d visited. Even those seemed far outside of Jotaro’s current level.

The ripple of energy that ran through his hand when he had destroyed the fleshbud from Noriaki’s head had seemed so effortless.

Pulling his own palm up, Jotaro sucked in a deep breath. He could feel the heat pool in his chest, trying desperately to get it to flow through his fingers. No matter how hard he tried, he hadn’t been able to get anything close to that glow that Lisa Lisa, his coaches, or even Noriaki could generate.

He dropped his hand with a sigh.

Would have been nice to be able to use this. Looks like all of this was for nothing. I’ll just have to make sure we don’t get into any fights late at night. If we could have destroyed Dio without Hamon, we can take on these guys, too.

It wasn’t optimism, per say, but it was better than the gloomy train of thought that had dominated the tracks of his mind for the past week. The past month, if he were to be entirely honest with himself. The recent week had just aggravated it.

“Kakyoin!” a small voice chirped out, bringing his attention back to the hallway. On the opposite end of it, Suzie Q rounded a corner, peering about until she spotted the young man in the window sill. “Ah- Jotaro! Thank goodness! You know where Kakyoin is, right? I’ve been looking all over for him.”

“You just missed him,” Jotaro said, standing from his makeshift seat.

“Oh darn, where did he run off to? Lisa Lisa wants to see him right away.”

“Speedwagon already told him.”

“He what!?” She stomped, crossing her arms with a scoff. “Oh that silly man- I keep telling him that it’s my job to do things for Lisa Lisa. He shouldn’t be running around and doing things like that at his age, anyway.”

Jotaro gave a huff of laughter.

“So, what does she want him for anyway?”

“She thinks he’s about ready for a final assessment.”

He gave a stiff nod, eyes narrowing as he turned his gaze toward the ground.

Suzie Q, upon seeing the dark look in his eyes, immediately gasped and began waving her hands. “No no- not that she thinks he’s better than you or more advanced! I’m sure she just wanted to hold your assessment tomorrow, or maybe in the morning! Or she wants to do it herself-!”

He put up a hand to stop her. “Don’t worry, I’m not hurt or anything. I already know Noriaki’s picking this stuff up a lot easier than I am.”

Her shoulders fell with a sigh.

“If it means anything, I don’t think she thinks he’s ready, either.” Her eyes drifted to the side as her arms crossed over one another. “She’s been speeding up your training even more than Joseph’s was all because of that stupid deadline. It usually takes years for Hamon masters to develop their skills. Lisa Lisa told me that she was trained by her dad when she was a little girl, so even she had to work at this her entire life to get where she is now.” She let out a small groan. “I was surprised when she said she wanted to hold Joseph and Caesar’s final assessments tonight, much less Noriaki. You should be happy that she’s not holding yours at the same time.”

Jotaro’s eyes widened as he leaned forward, grabbing her by the right shoulder.

“Wait, what did you say?”

“Uh- that your assessment will probably be later?”

“Joseph and Caesar’s final assessments, they were tonight?”

“Y-yes, she had me check the weather to make sure it was clear,” her voice shook, but her eyes made it clear that it was more out of confusion than fear. “Why? Is that a problem?”

Jotaro let go of her, his left hand clenching around the binding of the book Noriaki had handed him.

The night the Pillar Men had attacked Lisa Lisa’s castle had been the last night of his training.

“Where’s Noriaki?”

“Uh, well, the assessment would either be- oh gosh, the courtyard? No no, it’s um-”

“Where?”

She squeaked, eyes pinching closed. “E-Either the spiked arena on Fight Island or the Trial Grounds! At least, that’s where Joseph and Caesar were meant to have their assessments.”

Jotaro stood up, taking in a deep breath.

“I need to get down there.”

“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Suzie Q said. “Unless… is something wrong?”

“Don’t worry about it.” He pressed the book into her hands, offering the most reassuring look he could manage, which wasn’t much more than a moment of steady eye contact. “Stay near Lisa Lisa. Please just- just find her and make sure you stay inside.”

“Jotaro, what’s wrong?”

“I don’t want to scare you.”

“You’re already scaring me,” she said. “Tell me what this is about. Please.”

“I will,” he promised, swallowing around the sudden lump in his throat. “I just need to check on something first.”

He shouldered past her before she could say anymore.

He didn’t want her to worry, but there was no way to readily explain how he knew who was waiting for him on Fight Island. Either way, she didn’t follow him as he made his way down and to the main entryway.

“Jotaro?” another voice asked under the dangerous clack of high heels as their owner crossed the room towards him. “Where are you going?”

He turned around to see Lisa Lisa and for once found relief flow through him at the sight of her. “I need to get down to the training grounds.”

Her eyes sharpened. “You’re not ready for your assessment.”

“It’s not about that.”

“Well I’m sure Kakyoin will be just fine without you, if that’s the issue. Maybe you would have been able to join him if you hadn’t slacked off during your own training.”

Jotaro stood up straighter, his eyes darkening.

“What?” she asked. “Do you disagree with something I’ve said?”

“I’m not a natural, I get that-”

“You don’t have to be. I never asked you to be. All that I ever asked was that you try, and I haven’t seen you stop using your ‘stand’ even once. If Kakyoin could do that and try- if your grandfather could muster up the energy and try- then why couldn’t you?”

Shifting his jaw to the side, Jotaro felt the back of his throat grow tense. He wanted to say something, anything, but also knew it would be fruitless.

“That’s what I thought,” Lisa Lisa said, turning on heel and walking away. “You can still go out, if you want to see what a dedicated student looks like, of course, but-”

She was cut off when the tall entryway doors, which could take two men to close on the calmest of days, abruptly slammed shut.

Forget it then, he thought, I just need to get to Kakyoin, then we can take this guy on without her help.

He began shuffling there, remaining light on his feet while trying not to break out into a run. When he reached the bridge to Fight Island, he scrambled over it, his pace only slowing when he saw no one in sight.

He let out a suffering sigh, his eyes drifting to the distance. The Trial Grounds were at least somewhat visible from where he stood, and they were even more so when Star Platinum emerged over his shoulder. He borrowed his stand’s eyes, peering through them as if on autopilot to see what was going on along the towers.

There they could both see two figures dancing along the rope stretched between them, dodging over one another. Even in the dark and so far off, Jotaro could recognize Noriaki’s fluid movements and how deftly he would block before striking back.

A smile graced his lips and his shoulders relaxed before he moved towards the opening of the arena. He did so with the intent of leaving the space entirely, only to stop when he found his feet unable to move.

That wasn’t entirely true. He was able to lift his leg, even step back when he turned to see Star Platinum stuck where he’d been standing previously.

Five-meter radius.

“Come on,” he growled to the stand. No one else has to put up with this shit from you guys.

The stand looked to him, forcing a moment of eye contact. That brief glance caused Jotaro’s breath to hitch, but he refused to retract the stand again. Instead, he stared it down as one would a defiant dog.

It was as if Jotaro was staring himself down, an energetic warmth crackling under his skin at the eye contact. That energy persisted, even when Star Platinum averted its gaze, instead turning it across the arena.

Then it dissipated without Jotaro calling it back to himself.

He blinked, eyes shifting to where his stand had been looking. Then he knew why Star Platinum hadn’t wanted him to move.

There stood a tall figure cloaked in the shadows of a ruined pillar. Even from so far away, Jotaro could see a bright grin carve across his face.

At seeing that his cover was blown, he turned upwards to the pillar, scrambling to the top of it with the hurried movements of a squirrel. Once he found himself planted on top, he shouted down, “Where is Jojo? Did he send you out here to meet me instead? Or has he resigned to his own death?”

“Joseph Joestar stepped out,” Jotaro said with a shrug, “so you’re just gonna have to settle for me,” he stopped with a pointed step, turning toward the Pillar Man as he said, “Jotaro.”

Laughter rumbled from the figure atop the spire. He leaped down to the spikes, his feet letting out a wet crunch as he made no effort to prevent them from being pierced. The holes made there healed as soon as his feet left the barbs. He lifted them only to pierce them again with each step he took towards Jotaro, his large figure coming into view. Maybe he wasn’t as big as a truck, but he wouldn’t be able to fit in one comfortably. Swallowing sharply, Jotaro steeled himself with the hope that his size wasn’t the only thing his grandfather had exaggerated.

“Eisidisi, but I’m afraid I’ll have to skip further pleasantries,” he said, shifting his weight back to cross his arms. “I have already engaged myself to Joseph Joestar. I doubt that Wammu will disagree with me when I say that we don’t wish to waste any more time on another.”

“You wouldn’t even settle for his grandson?”

The beast’s eyes lit up with interest, his smug grin growing in size as he gazed across the pit at Jotaro.

“Grandson? Have humans really evolved that rapidly? To be able to have offspring at such a young age?”

“Something like that,” he shrugged.

“And you know Hamon well enough to have surpassed him?”

Again, he said, “Something like that,” as a small smirk played at the edges of his lips.

When he was only met with silence, Jotaro felt unease paw at the back of his mind. It wasn’t right. He had no base for how this kind of enemy would react, and not a lot of options in case something went wrong.

He doesn’t know anything about me either. I should have an advantage here. I’ll just summon Star Platinum to get a better look at things.

No sooner did he think that did he feel the stand swirl into the sky behind him.

Jotaro didn’t scare easily, but he didn’t think he’d ever been more terrified than when Eisidisi’s eyes looked up.

“Well well,” the Pillar Man cocked his head as his grin grew even wider, “what have we here? No one told me humans had evolved something like this.”

Star Platinum reared up, slamming its fists on its chest like a damn ape before letting out a booming “Ora!” at Eisidisi. For the first time, Jotaro felt emotion poor from the spirit on his back.

He felt anger and bravery, yet fear dominated them both.

He pushed forward anyway, stepping one leg out to the side as he tugged down the brim of his hat.

“So you can see stands? Does that mean you have one?”

“‘Stands?’” Eisidisi’s eyes widened and then he broke out into a sudden wave of laughter.

For a moment, Jotaro thought the very island was shaking. Those fears were laid to rest when he discovered it was just a tremor in his hand.

He steeled himself, not taking his eyes off of the Pillar Man as he scoffed.

“You seem pretty smug for a guy who’s only got a few minutes left to live.”

Eisidisi let out a low whistle, pulling his arms over his head to stretch.

“You aren’t coming out here to meet me on these spikes, yet your eyes are so dangerous- like a cat watching a bird through a window. Could it be that you can’t come over here? Is your ‘stand’ not the only power you have but can’t control?”

“You can’t bait me out there. I have no reason to come up to you like that. If you wanna get inside before the sun comes up though, you’re gonna have to come to me.”

Eisidisi’s smile fell for a moment before a more subdued laughter shook his shoulders.

“Fine then. You’re a fighter who wears everything on his sleeve. Well, aside from your fear, which you’re trying so desperately to hide. I have to give you credit, though. After all, a human wouldn’t be able to hear your heart beating out of your chest. An honest warrior who puts on a brave face, even on the eve of his death. If I was Wammu, perhaps you wouldn’t annoy me so. I might even take you seriously. As things are-” he launched himself into the air, folding his arms around his body “I just see this as a waste of time!”

His arms unfolded and vine-like strands whipped out to either side before shooting down to where Jotaro had been standing. “Had been” as he saw them just before they hit, darting to the side with a kick from Star Platinum to propel him further than his human legs could allow.

Knowing that he had to stay on the offense, Star Platinum punched out a brick from the training ground, Jotaro reaching down with his stand’s arms to fling the rock to where Eisidisi had landed. He could have brushed it off easily enough but took the time to catch the piece before crushing it in a show of strength.

Jotaro smirked, having used Star Platinum’s speed to get close.

Thinks I’m too afraid to get near him. Bastard- how else am I supposed to end this?

That thought crossed his mind just before he noticed that one of his appendages had wrapped around his ankle. 

Star Platinum grabbed it without Jotaro even thinking, pulling it apart until it gave with a snap. A thick, steaming liquid seeped out where it laid on the ground, Jotaro’s eyes widening as he realized it was boiling blood.

Fire in his veins…

His recollection was cut short as Eisidisi raised a fist with the intent to bring it down on Jotaro’s head. He raised his hands to block, crossing them in an “X” over himself. One of them fell downwards, not properly braced by the other. A sickening crack sounded from the arm and Jotaro yelled before he could help himself, going down and holding the arm to his chest.

Eisidisi laughed.

“Where’s that resolve from earlier, Jotaro?” He snickered as he circled him, veins dodging in the air about his head as if they were a sentient swarm separate of the Pillar Man rather than weapons born of his own body. “It’s almost tragic how quickly this had to end. Didn’t Jojo tell you anything about us? That our very bodies are too sturdy for an ordinary human to compete with? His Hamon was enough to keep him standing against us. Yours? Yours couldn’t even heal that flimsy bone I just snapped like a pencil.”

He raised his foot, slowly nearing Jotaro’s head.

He raised his good hand to grab it, which resulted in it being stomped down instead as Eisidisi’s other leg rounded up to kick him onto his side. There he lay, face pinned under Eisidisi’s sandal and glaring up at him as he laughed.

Star Platinum emerged again, standing over Jotaro as its sharp gaze landed on Eisidisi.

“Oh? Your stand is going to take me out now, is it?” He barked out another rich laugh. “Men tried using these things before, you know? I thought we’d definitely wiped them out before we moved south. Harnessing the power of the sky, sent to them by their primitive gods… but no matter how strong they were- what kind of tricks they had up their sleeves-” he ground his heel into Jotaro’s cheek, “it didn’t mean anything. Hamon warriors would be the closest thing we ever had to a real set of foes. These things? Party tricks.”

He laughed even harder than before, shaking from the force of it as Jotaro wondered why his stand was just letting it happen.

He wanted Star Platinum to rip this god’s face off.

He wanted Star Platinum to break his arm.

He wanted Star Platinum to do anything but just stand there.

Then, underneath Eisidisi’s laughter, there was a noise. The Pillar Man, hearing it too, stopped his bragging for a rare moment of silence, leaning close to examine the stand. Its gaze had long sharpened, lips pursed open as they proved to be the source.

Rhythmic breathing.

And then-

“ORA!”

Star Platinum lashed out with a flurry of blows, the gold highlights that lined and adorned its body shimmering as it beat Eisidisi back and off of its user. Its jabs were too quick to follow, even for Jotaro who could normally peer through its eyes.

Now he was left as a bystander, picking himself up. He was only able to rise to his knees as Eisidisi finally flipped backward and out of Star Platinum’s range.

The stance the stand took up at that moment was one that Jotaro had never seen before, its hands splayed rather than balled into firsts. Eisidisi was wailing now, actual tears streaming down his face as he clutched at his arm.

Jotaro stopped breathing when he realized that his hand had begun to melt, embers sprout out from underneath his skin.

By the time he came back to himself, Star Platinum was again at his side, kneeling to pull his own broken arm away from his body.

Jotaro gave a low hiss at the pain, biting back another cry for the sake of his pride. All the while, he wondered what the stand was up to. It sucked in another deep breath, the same golden glow emanating from its body to confirm what Jotaro had already suspected.

His stand could use Hamon.

It wasn’t like Hierophant, which Noriaki had to use more so like a wire to transmit Hamon, but rather an energy that Star Platinum itself generated . Jotaro could feel the energy travel up his arm, its calming warmth flooding into the broken bone in his forearm. His sleeve, which visibly and unnaturally bowed with the new shape of his arm, straightened out gradually to leave Jotaro testing his grip.

He was fine.

The bone was fixed.

As for Eisidisi’s arm-

“My hand!” he cried, causing Jotaro to sneer. “What did you do to my hand!?”  The last word trailed off into a wail that filled the arena only to spill out and crack against the waves as he continued to sob.

Guy wants to pick on me when he breaks my arm, then he goes and freaks out like that?

That train of thought crashed when Jotaro looked back at his hand. It was skeletal now, flesh having long melted away. Jotaro remembered the punches he’d landed. The Hamon he’d attempted to channel into them hadn’t been enough to even scratch him. Star Platinum, however, had ruined the limb, leaving it completely useless in his remaining grip.

As he watched the Pillar Man struggle, a lump formed in Jotaro’s throat. Rushing at the beast hadn’t worked, so now he was left to wonder if he should make a break for the exit.

Across the ocean, at the Trial Ground, Noriaki was waging a war of his own. Though, said “war” was certainly less deadly, that didn’t mean that Loggins was holding back by any means. Each strike, charged with bolts of negatively charged Hamon, was met with a block composed of positive Hamon to hold him off.

It was a strange thing, knowing that he had to win a fight against an opponent that wouldn’t hold back. At the same time, Noriaki knew he had to at least keep Hierophant Green out of the mix. He saw it as training with a set of weights on. Rather than increasing his speed, however, it would increase his overall strength rather than that with the help of his stand. 

He seemed to be able to keep up with Loggins, at least, as the coach struggled to hold him off once Noriaki saw fit to go on the offense.

He started off with bringing his fists down twice in quick succession, throwing in a third one but not following through. Rather, he jabbed upwards with his other arm, intent on landing on Loggins’s stomach.

The other man grabbed his hand, propelling himself upwards with a twirl to land unsteadily on the other end of the rope with a crooked grin.

He was panting with exhaustion.

Noriaki would have been smug if he couldn’t hear the faint wheeze of his own breathing just as clearly.

They ran at each other again, Kakyoin swooping under Loggins’s arm as he punched outwards, intent on going for his stomach once more. One good punch to the diaphragm would have knocked the air out of him. Loggins, responding to this, knocked him to the side with one hand and picked him up with the other. He held Noriaki under his arm like a barrel with one arm around his middle, swinging him behind him with the intent of letting him fall and perhaps forcing a surrender.

Noriaki, however, let himself fall past the point where he could reliably grab on, instead waiting for his shoes to brush against the tightrope.

When Loggins turned around, he was already walking along the bottom of the rope, sticking tightly with the help of his Hamon.

He reached up with a smirk, swinging the rope to the side and using the momentum to circle around and to the top of the rope.

Loggins, already thrown off by the site of Noriaki’s human-spider act, fell to the side, hands scrambling for the rope only for it to slip past his fingers.

Luckily, Noriaki’s hands enclosed around his own, holding him steady as the rope swayed back and forth before finally resting.

Both of them maintained their breathing, Noriaki’s eyes growing soft as he realized that he’d done it.

He’d overcome his coach.

“Alright alright, I give!” Loggins called, emphasizing that fact as he joyfully asked to be helped up.

Noriaki did so with a laugh, waiting until he was pulled up to stretch out.

“Well done,” Loggins said, clapping him on the back. “Now, let’s get back to the main tower so we can climb down. I’m sure Jotaro will wanna congratulate you.”

Noriaki pulled a face, flinching up as the sensation of movement caught his eye. Following it, he saw activity on Fight Island- another island Loggins had offered to him for his final assessment.

Seeing two figures there, he laughed. “Yeah, looks like Messina asked him to do his final assessment after all.”

Loggins pulled a face, squinting to see the two silhouettes against the grounds. Even in the stark moonlight, Noriaki could see his face pale as realization clouded his features.

“That’s not Messina.”

Noriaki, thinking he was joking, laughed slightly before he really studdied the coach’s expression. Then his smile fell.

“What?”

“He’s walking on the spikes- he knows Jotaro isn’t ready for that- he can’t even water walk.”

Noriaki turned back to the two figures on Fight Island.

“But- but that’s Jotaro! Look at the coat- and that can’t be Lisa Lisa!”

“I know,” Loggins said, voice hollow as he turned to the other tower. “Come on, we need to get back to the castle.”

“What’s going on?”

Loggins only stopped when he reached the tower, turning with a mournful expression on his face.

“Noriaki- that person out there with Jotaro, it can only be one of the Pillar Men.”

A shudder ran up his spine.

“But- but you guys said we had another week!”

“I know, but we never expected them to truly hold up their end of the bargain. Still, if one of them managed to corner Jotaro… the only thing we can do now is get back to the castle to defend Lisa Lisa and the stone she told you about before your assessment.”

Noriaki looked down, shallow breaths wracking their way through him. He couldn’t truly process what was going on, nor could he make a decision.

Then a cry broke through from Fight Island, forcing his head to pop up, as if he could see what was going on over there from where he stood on the ropes.

“Kakyoin-” Loggins hissed, begging his attention. When Noriaki turned to him, he wetted his lips and reached out. “Come on, let’s go. There’s nothing you can do for him.”

Noriaki looked down, lip twitching in frustration before he turned to the side and took the plunge. Down he fell to the water, deploying Hierophant and summoning enough strength to use his stand to walk along the water with the use of his stand’s tentacles.

Maybe he would have been too slow to make it if he were walking on his own legs or going the long way around on the Air Supplena. This way, cutting straight across the water on four quickly moving limbs, he had a better chance of making it to Jotaro in time. Even if that chance was only slightly greater, he would take it.

Speed still a major concern on Fight Island itself, where Jotaro decided to try escaping the arena altogether.

Inches from the entrance, he saw something coming from behind him through Star Platinum’s eyes, twisting around to see the stand catch none other than Eisidisi’s skeletal hand in its grasp as Jotaro himself fell to the ground with the sharp turn. The bones fell to ash with the slightest squeeze, leaving them both to stare up at the Pillar Man.

No longer were tears streaming down his face. Where his face had creased with grief, it was now pulled taught into a chilling smile.

“Where are you going Jotaro? Trying to give me the slip the moment I turn my back? Maybe Wammu wouldn’t like you, after all.”

Jotaro sneered, standing up once more as Star Platinum began to float, drifting out of his line of sight so that he could properly meet the eyes of his enemy.

“I don’t know much about this Wammu guy,” he said, face dropping into a more annoyed expression than anything, “but from what you’ve said, I don’t think he’d think too highly about you bawling all over yourself like a baby.”

“So says the man who turned white as a sheet when I merely broke your forearm. You, however, disintegrated my hand!”

He raised the stump displaying how it had stopped smouldering, having long lost its glow in favor of a light sheen against the monster’s skin.

“I suppose we’ve both learned to keep our distance,” he purred, more veins sprouting out from the stump. Blood seeped out of them, dripping steadily against the stone. “A healthy dose of fear never hurt anybody. Lucky for me, I don’t have to get close!”

He enclosed his hand around several of his veins, increasing the range on a spray of boiling blood.

Jotaro slid out of the way, knowing that he was just putting more distance between himself and the exit.

This isn’t good, he thought. I can’t count on Star Platinum to be able to do what he did before- especially not when he’s doing whatever he wants.

He jumped over a pile of debris, diving behind a large stone and working to maintain his breathing.

Desperation seeped through him as he felt the crackle of energy on his fingertips.

Star Platinum emerged again, reaching out and taking Jotaro’s hands into its own.

He snatched his hands away with a grunt.

“Don’t touch me!”

It was an odd sensation, as if he was somehow holding both of his own hands.

Star Platinum steadily reached for them, Jotaro barely catching the way that he flinched when he pulled his hands away again.

We don’t have time for this. We need to get close enough to Eisidisi to do some damage.

His eyes fell to the spiked pit and then up to Star Platinum, who tilted is head as he met its eyes.

He huffed, throwing another look over the rock.

From Eisidisi’s position, he knew there was very little he could do from his position. When Jotaro came out, he could get him with another spray of blood. Now he was the one between the human and the exit. He didn’t care about the stone at that moment. He’d missed out on fighting Joseph in their bedchamber. This fight, at least what he’d had of it so far, was more than making up for that.

Finally, he saw movement from behind the rock Jotaro had taken shelter behind. He was running out now, long black coat facing Eisidisi as he stepped out onto the spiked arena. Sparks flew from his feet where they met the metal pillars, footsteps unsteady.

So he could walk on them after all.

Just as he readied another spray of blood, Jotaro turned to look over his shoulder, the movement only betrayed by the movement of his hat. Then the coat fell all at once, leaving his coat and hat resting atop the spikes.

Eisidisi jumped, veins pulling back into his body as he immediately hopped down to the spikes himself to investigate. He walked around the edge, eyes remaining on where the coat laid.

By the time he recognized the movement behind him, it was too late. He’d already turned around just in time for Jotaro’s right hook met his chin.

It was enough to have him stumbling back, losing his balance on the spikes as his right foot slipped off of the spikes that had sunken into it.

Seeing his opening, Jotaro folded one hand over his fist, bringing them both down in the center of Eisidisi’s chest.

The Pillar Man fell, finding that his weight was enough to impale him in several areas on the spikes.

It would be difficult to get up, but not impossible.

His eyes flicked back to the abandoned coat in confusion, just in time to see the hat quirk up where the lip of it had caught on one of the spikes. The thing lifting it was none other than the head of Jotaro’s stand, who’d simply phased through the spikes.

The sight was enough to bring Eisidisi to laughter. It began bubbling in his chest, gradually building into a full belly laugh, even as boiling blood dribbled over the corners of his mouth. 

He gave a wet cough, sucking in a breath as the stand returned the coat to Jotaro’s hands.

“That was a dirty trick… Wammu won’t like you at all.”

“I don’t care,” Jotaro said, his stand replacing his hat.

Instead of putting on the coat as well, he kneeled down, laying it over Eisidisi’s legs. Or, what Jotaro could get it to reach from the ridge of the arena.

He took a deep breath, Star Platinum’s hands joining him as they too gripped the material.

Wool could conduct Hamon pretty well, if the way energy crackled up the fabric was any indication.

It crept through Eisidisi’s body, forcing his head to tilt back as he bared his throat. His mouth pulled open to scream as energy sprouted from his body.

Though he didn’t know why, Jotaro felt as though he was putting someone at ease by taking out the Pillar Man. Perhaps it was because he knew what the result of this would be: the golden ring that Star Platinum leaned down to pick up from where it landed around the tip of a spike once Eisidisi’s body was no more.

Jotaro smiled, folding his coat over his arm as the stand placed the ring into his palm. He flipped it like a coin, catching it with ease just as the sun crested behind him.

“Ora.”

The soft noise brought him to look up at Star Platinum, who was looking to the edge of the arena.

The stand faded away as he spun around to see Noriaki heaving himself up from the water. Hierophant’s tentacles spun out from underneath him as he looked up to meet Jotaro’s eyes.

“Jotaro-!” he gasped, scrambling to his feet as he jogged over. His face was red from the effort of water walking through his stand for so long. “I came when I saw you fighting- I heard you scream and I-”

“I’m fine,” Jotaro said, his voice stern against the smile that played at his lips. He held up the ring, offering it to Noriaki.

He took it into his hands, delicately turning it over before his eyes met Jotaro’s again. This time, they were wide with realization. “You killed one of them?”

Jotaro offered a slow nod.

“And you didn’t come get me to help you?”

“I didn’t know which island you were on with Loggins and Messina,” he said. “All I knew was that this guy was supposed to show up on the night gramps was supposed to have his final assessment. Lisa Lisa kept the night the same for you, and I didn’t know that until Suzie told me.” Jotaro tilted his head, eyes dropping as he asked, “Did you know you were going to finish your training tonight?”

Noriaki shook his head. “No, I didn’t know until I was downstairs. Then Lisa Lisa was telling me I was already late to meet Loggins out here.” His eyes fell. “If I’d just agreed to do the assessment here instead of the Trial Grounds, I could have been here to help.”

“Hey, it's fine,” Jotaro reassured, sliding his coat onto his shoulders. 

It laid uncomfortably against his back, causing him to shudder at the thought that there may have been some of Eisidisi’s blood soaked into the fabric.

Maybe Suzie wouldn’t mind washing it again.

“Let’s head back,” he said. “It’s been a long night.”

Chapter Text

After Hagger had taken them into the next town, Joseph was sure that they’d have an easy time finding a place to pick up a car and get on the move. This, as it turned out, was horribly wrong.

“Dealership?” Hagger had repeated to Avdol when he asked. “No no- not in this town. I’m sorry.”

Avdol thanked him anyway, as did the rest of the group as he drove off.

“Well this is great,” Polnareff groaned. “Are we gonna have to walk to the next town?”

Avdol sighed, though he managed to smile as he said, “At least it’s less walking than we thought we’d have to do.”

“Only by a  few miles,” Jojo grumbled, grabbing at the back of his neck.

Caesar threw a look at him, eyes narrowing as he assessed the area only to widen when a loud whistle cut through the air.

The rest of the group looked up at the sound of the whistle, a realization dawning on a few members of the group.

“We could take that train,” Polnareff proposed, “until we get to the next town.”

“No,” Joseph said, shaking his head. “We swore off public transportation after one of Dio’s stand users caused a plane to crash. We can’t risk the other passengers being put in danger.”

“What!?” Polnareff said, “We got on three boats! And a train!”

“Two of those three boats almost killed us, and the train ride was only a few hours long- we don’t know what the schedule is like.”

“What if we get on right here,” Jojo said, “and then we get off at the very next stop?”

Avdol hummed with thought, bringing his hand up to his mouth. “That would lessen the opportunity for enemy stand users to board.”

“Not to mention, from what Jotaro told me, it sounds like it was more so your bad luck, Mr. Joestar,” Polnareff said.

Joseph balked at that, scrambling when Caesar and Jojo eyed him curiously.

“Either way,” Avdol went on, “A decision as impulsive as this one could be enough to avoid an attack.”

So even you don’t want to walk to another town. The thought made Joseph smile, though that same grin fell as he weighed out how long it would take them to get to the next town on foot. Holly’s already so sick. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to call home about her.

There was a moment where he lost himself in that thought, though he soon shook it off with a low groan.

“Okay,” he said, much to the group’s relief.

And so they shuffled toward the sound of the whistles without a complaint between them, happy to find the train was in fact one that welcomed passengers rather than just being fitted for cargo.

“Where are we supposed to buy tickets?” Polnareff asked, examining the stalls that were closed.

“Over here!” a voice chirped, directing their attention to a young woman with a belt that displayed both a spool of tickets and a small money pouch, the latter jingling as she bounced towards them. “Hello! Our train is off the schedule, as we’re from a small passenger company in the area, so I’m afraid I’ll have to be your vendor.”

“‘Afraid?’ Oh no, signorina,” Caesar stepped to her side, holding up her hand delicately. “From where I’m standing, our meeting can only be considered a blessing, no matter the circumstance.”

She flushed, blinking at him for a moment before managing the word, “Really?”

Joseph chuckled, shooting a look back at Jojo who could only roll his eyes.

“We were only in need of five tickets, and there you are to answer our prayers. You have our thanks.” He took her chin between his thumb and forefinger. “If I may ask the name of our savior?”

“Ah,” she smiled softly, melting into his touch. “Richetta. Richetta Jones.”

“Ah, Richetta- If I may speak it again-” he closed his eyes as his voice dripped with reverence, “ Rich-”

“I’m sure once is enough,” Joseph said, swatting Caesar away to stand in front of Richetta. “Where is this train going, young lady?”

“Uh- oh! Of course-! We are on our way to the red sea.”

“So you’re going west?”

“Yes.”

“Perfect. Like he said, then,  five tickets, how much?”

“Yes, sir!” She shot up, humiliation tinting her face as she ripped off five tickets. “We rent out cabins as well. It’s two to a room, and it will be extra.”

“Will you be stopping later in the day?”

“No. We will not be stopping until at least noon tomorrow.” 

She went on, specifying the schedule from memory and the cost of a set of cabins and tickets. Settled with the information, Joseph agreed to the price. When she’d handed over the tickets, as well as three receipts for the room keys, she directed them to an area of the train where people were beginning to board.

“It’s strange that so many people are getting on,” Avdol said, “if the train isn’t on a schedule.”

“No, you’ve just never been to Europe,” Polnareff said, waving off Avdol’s concern. “Most of these people are probably passengers just getting back on after having stopped in town. The conductor tells them how long they have, they get off, buy some food and stuff if they need it- since train stuff is expensive- then they get back on before the train leaves.”

“Well I’ll go get our keys,” Joseph said, handing Avdol four of the tickets. “You guys can go ahead and find a table or somewhere to sit down. Hopefully, I can get three rooms next to each other and we can decide on room arrangements.”

“Sounds like a plan!” Jojo said, the group waving off his older self as they made their way to the entrance for passengers who either already had their cabin keys, or weren’t planning on staying in one.

“I’ve never actually been on a train before,” Caesar mused as they stepped on.

He gasped as Jojo swung his arm around his neck with a laugh.

“Oh really? You seemed to be very familiar when you were talking to that ‘signorina’ earlier.”

“You’re just jealous,” Caesar laughed, shoving him off as they began to make their way down the aisle. “I bet you’ve never even had a lady give you a second thought, much less willingly continued a conversation with you.”

Joseph scoffed, a light smile still on his face. “And you have?”

“Oh but Joseph, in order to give me a second thought,” he wrapped an arm around his shoulders to pull him closer, “she’d have to get me out of her mind first.”

He laughed at his own joke, Polnareff joining in.

“It really is good to have another man of taste around here,” Polnareff said. “Avdol’s great, but he’s not really one to shoot the breeze, if you know what I mean?”

“Glad to know you think that,” the man in question joked, with a roll of his eyes.

Polnareff sniggered, turning back to Caesar. “Really though, it’s a good thing you finally met someone who can really teach you how to pick up women.”

That brought Caesar to stop, turning the taller man around with an indignant look. “And what is that supposed to mean?”

“Oh nothing- just that I’m sure I could have gotten those tickets for free if I’d put on my moves first.”

He threw in a wink as he continued walking down the hall, Jojo gagging as he moved ahead to stand by Avdol, much to the latter’s amusement.

“Signor- you talk about women as if they are conquests,” Caesar went on. “They are no points in a system, nor prizes to be won. Make no mistake, however, if they were, I would certainly have you well beaten by now.”

“Oh, but who could compare the fairer sex to something as simple as points in the first place? Ah, that being said, I think you are the mistaken one, my friend. After all, I believe we all remember how I had those lovely girls eating out of the palm of my hand back at the hotel?”

“Do we? Was that before or after I finally managed to save them from your hound-dogging?”

“Pft- your attitudes are of the past, old man. People are a little more upfront here in the future. If you want to be noticed, you have to be upfront.”

“We get it, you two,” Jojo groaned. “Brie has finally met mozzarella- still a pair of cheese balls.”

Avdol laughed again, allowing them to continue their new banter as he led them to the cabin cars.

A short while later on the opposite end of the train, Joseph had just wrapped up grabbing the keys for the cabins. 

The worker had directed him to go around the actual cars to the other entrance, but he’d managed to squeeze past a family rushing up to buy their own keys to break through the rest of the train. It would be quicker this way, not to mention he could get a better feel for the train’s layout by walking it when it was clear like this. The short corridors were almost entirely open after that front room with the worker selling tickets, and the rooms were just as empty with only two rows of tables to line them.

When he finally hit a door, he studied it for a moment before coming to the conclusion that the area he was in must have been the dining area, which was cut off from the area with passengers in it while they were boarding.

He brought his hand up, Hermit Purple at the ready to begin switching open the lock and forcing his way through. Instead of opening the way to another lit car, this one was dark with piles of various items, ranging from clocks to jewelry and even full pieces of furniture, only half of which were covered to keep them from being damaged and all of which were in various states of decay.

He moved carefully through the room, but it was hard not to stumble over at least a few items. His foot eventually slipped against a cabinet, causing it to fall along with the items that sat on top of it. The deafening crash caused his eyes to squeeze shut before he cursed under his breath at the empty room.

When he opened his eyes, it was just in time to see a brass coffee pot roll across his feet.

Joseph groaned as he stooped to take the piece into his hands, turning it over to examine it for damage, as if it was the only thing he had to worry about in the mess of things that had fallen.

The slight reflection he got from the pot in the dim room was oddly shaped. Though he only appeared as a shadow, he knew that it was too large to just be his head. When he blinked, it seemed smaller, resulting in him peering closer before going over it with his glove a few times, as if trying to clear a smudge from the brass.

A laugh sounded from inside the spout, soon followed by a plume of smoke that left Joseph coughing into his elbow as it filled the room.

A stand!?

The thought shook him as a figure manifested in the smog, taking the shape of a man as a voice crowed, “Hail 2 U! Thank you, human, for releasing me from the lamp!”

“L-lamp!?” Joseph gasped, between coughs, surprised when a hand came over his back. He found himself soothed by the pats and circular motions that calmed his aggravated lungs, though he knew it belonged to the strange being before him. “Aren’t you a stand?”

“A ‘stand!?’ No no not one of those horrid things.” It pulled back its three-pronged hand, the metal of its claws glinting in the light of the room as its helmet-like head lifted up along with its arms. “I am the genie Cameo!”

Joseph blinked. “You have to be kidding me.”

“I am not, sir. Your wish is my command- one wish, to be precise.”

“One wish?” Joseph parroted, stroking at his beard. “I thought genies granted three wishes.”

“Ah that is the myth- but there are so many people to please in this day and age, and people usually waste their first two on simple tests. I like my masters to truly think about what they desire so that I can best serve their needs. You understand, don’t you, Joseph Joestar?”

Joseph’s eyes narrowed. “You know my name?”

“And I know about stands, and your daughter- I know about everything! All knowledge is mine and all knowledge can be yours,” his body twisted as he spoke, raising up to the ceiling with motion after motion of his arms. Then he glided back down to Joseph’s face, “should you desire it, of course.”

A smile showed on his face, glancing at the coffee pot that had long fallen to the floor. He was about to say that he didn’t need anything, or perhaps that he’d think about it before rushing the coffee pot to the cabin area to have the others examine it further.

Then his smile fell as a thought overtook him.

“I wish,” the words caught in his throat, his eyes falling to the ground.

“Yes?”

He forced his gaze back to the powerful stand before him. “I wish Caesar Zeppeli wasn’t dead.”

Cameo’s rich laughter filled the room.

“That I can do! Now, without further ado, Hail 2 U!”

It raised its arms and brought on a burst of smoke that quickly filled the car.

Joseph waved his arms wildly before coughing into one of his fists. When he finally pried open his eyes, the genie was gone.

He glared at the empty space it had once inhabited before turning away with a sneer. He rubbed at his eyes as they grew sore with the tell-tale sensation of tears forming.

Not here, he determined. 

There had been too much that he’d already suffered through to break down over this.

His daughter was dying.

His grandson might have already been dead.

Fate decided to dangle his dead friend in front of him.

He’d originally thought that perhaps Caesar himself was haunting him, but now it seemed only death was.

I should’ve wished for Jotaro back. I could have wished for Holly back, but my first thought was Caesar, he thought, his hand shaking where it gripped his jaw. I’m horrible- horrible and selfish.

He let out a wet scream into his palm, smothering it as both hands cradled his face, and he fell to his knees.

When he’d finally pulled himself together enough to pull his head away from his hands, he jumped at the sight of a man in front of him, shooting back and causing another cascade of random knick-knacks to crash down on him. A groan signaled that he wasn’t dead to the empty room as he stood, shaking off the pain that now swelled from his lower back before again falling. He landed on his stomach this time, prying his eyes open to see that the “man” in question was actually just his reflection in an old mirror peeking out from underneath the tarp that covered it.

A weak noise between a wheeze and a laugh escaped him at the revelation, a thought along the lines of Of course, pervading his thoughts. 

“Are you okay?”

The voice only served to embarrass him as he lay in the pile of antiques.

“Yeah, yeah,” he sniffed, wiping his forearm over his face before looking up just enough to see the hand that was being offered to him. “I just- I just had a scare, is all.”

“Oh, is that all?” the man asked, now hoisting Joseph to his feet. He began helping him brush himself off, letting out a chuckle as he said, “I can’t take you anywhere.

Now that caught Joseph’s attention, allowing him to take a closer look at the man, who was now dutifully wiping at the side of his khakis. His face was hidden under the brim of a boater hat, but the design of the ribbon that ringed it- triangles of alternating colors tessellating together along the strip- already told him what he’d find when the man finally smiled up at him.

Though his face was now wrinkled and a small, thick mustache had long claimed his upper lip, Joseph knew it was him long before his eyes found the colored triangles that creased over the corners of his smile.

“There we go,” he grunted with a laugh. “Should we go see the others?”

Joseph moved back, stumbling over some of the fallen pieces before falling himself. This time, the man caught him with a brief chuckle.

Against his chest, Joseph could feel the sigh move through him.

He was warm and solid under his hands. When he pulled away, Joseph whirled around, spotting that the coffee pot had disappeared.

“Jojo?” Caesar asked.

When he reached out, laying a hand over Joseph’s shoulder, the other flinched away, spinning around to look him over.

“You’re- you’re dead. No no, you can’t be here.” He grabbed at his head, eyes now locked onto the ground.

Caesar stepped forward, saying, “Hey,” in a low tone as he brought Joseph’s hands away from his head. “What’s wrong”

Joseph stared up at him for a moment, tears again threatening to spill over before he stood up straight and forced them back with a deep breath.

“Are you really here, Caesar?”

“Of course I am,” he scoffed.

It was only then that he caught how his voice wasn’t just like that of the younger man a few cars down. It was a bit weathered, much like Joseph’s own. There was still that twinge of an Italian accent, but he sounded like an older American man than anything.

“Joseph, I know it’s been a while, but I’m here now,” he said, laying a hand on Joseph’s shoulder. “Isn’t that enough?”

Joseph couldn’t say what it was to make him trust the ghost so readily. Perhaps he wanted to. After all, this is exactly how he thought Caesar would look if he hadn’t died too young.

There weren’t any tears. Instead, a dry sob escaped him as he pressed his forehead against that of his old friend.

“Caesar-!”

He hushed him, holding Joseph again and pulling his head to rest in the crook of his neck. The scent of stale air rolled off of his tweed vest as Joseph smushed his nose against it. It was is if Caesar was just waiting here, amongst the antiques and dust, and Joseph just had to find him.

When he pulled away, hand gripping the side of Caesar’s face as he studied it, Caesar’s own hands rested on either side of his torso, smiling up at him.

“Come on,” he insisted, reaching up to gently take Joseph’s hand away from his face. “They won’t wait forever.”

“Ah, wait- what will we tell them about-”

“We’ll tell them the truth,” he smiled, “that I just got here.”


 

Gathered at one of the various tables in a passenger car, the four remaining crusaders felt far more secure now that they had a place to sit in a smaller room. It wasn’t “their” room, per se, and the walls were made of glass so they weren’t truly hidden from anyone who might have past by outside. But walls were walls and separating them from the traffic outside put them at ease as they crammed themselves into the booth. As he settled in against the window, Avdol began to wonder if Joseph had somehow managed to get lost in a train. After all, the train had long started out of the town, and they were still waiting on the older man to make it back to them.

“Do you think he got kicked off before we left?” Polnareff asked.

Caesar let out a sigh. “It wouldn’t be unlike Jojo to get kicked out of somewhere.” he rolled his eyes Jojo scoffed, “but I don’t think it’s likely.”

The door on the opposite end of the car opened, revealing a familiar face. Avdol squinted at the borderline nervous expression, wondering just what had taken so long. He didn’t pay any mind to the stranger trailing after him, thinking he was just making his own way through the car. Then both he and Joseph stopped at their table.

“Gentlemen,” Joseph said, standing a bit taller, “I have someone I’d like you to meet.”

The man smiled, eyes glimmering as he looked down at Caesar and Jojo.

“I think introductions may be a bit redundant for you two, eh?”

Jojo shot up with a gasp.

“C-Caesar?”

The man’s grin widened and he brought his hand under his chin with a flourish. “In the flesh.”

Avdol just stared, eyes flicking over to Joseph before looking back at the stranger.

“Did you call him!?” Jojo asked.

Joseph opened his mouth, but was cut off when the older Caesar stepped in.

“The Speedwagon Foundation called me and sent me down here,” he said. “I guess they figured you could use another Hamon user in the mix, huh?” He threw a wink at Joseph who rolled his eyes.

“Convenient,” Avdol said, “that you were able to find us  in this near-desolate town we weren’t even meant to stop in.”

“I’ve just been moving West on the straightest route through Saudi Arabia. It’s a good thing I caught you before you got on a train.”

“Yeah,” Avdol said, shooting a look at Joseph, “Good thing.”

Joseph swallowed, stepping forward and holding up the three keys.

“Ah, anyway, I managed to get those keys! Two of them are in the same car an the third is one over.”

“I thought it was usually four to a car?” Polnareff asked. “The cabins must be huge.”  

“Ah, no,” Joseph said with a grin. “The guy said they were filling up cabins in order. Booking an entire car would be extra, and I’d have to find that Richetta chick again, so I figured it was just easier to do what he said and just put a pair in the car where they’d be on their own, and the solo guy could be in the same car as two others. But now that Caesar’s here-”

The older Caesar grabbed one of the keys from Joseph as he said “- we can just take the cabin in the next car, and you guys can decide who will be with who in the car with four of you!”

“You’re rooming with him!?” Avdol asked as he flew up from the table.

His outburst caught the eye of more than one person in the passenger car, Polnareff shooting halfway across the booth while the younger Jojo and Caesar threw him questioning glances from where they sat next to him.

“But of course?” the dead man said, throwing the key into the air only to catch it. He snaked his arm across Joseph’s torso, hugging him around the bottom of his ribs as he said, “We have a lot to catch up on. You don’t mind, do you?”

Avdol steadied himself, preparing to say something that he didn’t even know how to begin to articulate.

A hand on his lower arm made him flinch before he looked down to see Polnareff giving him a questioning glance with his palm splayed against his forearm.

So Avdol sat down, mumbling, “No, not at all,” though his eyes flicked back up to Joseph.

“Good,” Caesar said. “Scoot down then, let’s sit for a moment!” He smiled down at his younger self. “I’m sure there are a lot of questions.”

Joseph swallowed, joining Polnareff in the booth as Avdol turned to the side with Jojo and the younger Caesar.

“Actually, can you two let me out? I think I need to lay down for a while. I didn’t sleep too well on Hagger’s farm.”

“Oh, okay,” Joseph said, holding out one of the room keys. “Are you sure you’ll be-”

“Fine?” He snatched it out of his hand. “I’m sure.”

He spun around then without looking back, exiting the passenger area entirely.

“Geeze, what’s up with him?” Polnareff asked.

“Who knows?” Jojo said. “He did just say he didn’t sleep that well. I don’t blame him, honestly.”

“Talk about your clown dreams later,” Caesar said, swatting him on the arm as he turned to his older self. “Where were you before the Speedwagon Foundation called?”

“America,” he said. “Ah, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you much more. I’m sure Joseph has been trying his best to keep his secrets.”

“Oh boy has he,” Jojo said. He let out a short sigh. “I’m going to be honest, I kind of thought you were dead.”

Joseph sputtered, choking on air as the older Caesar began to pat him on the back. The younger Caesar turned to Jojo with an incredulous look.

“What would make you think that!?”

“I don’t know- what wouldn’t honestly!? He was always being so secretive and kept throwing you all of these sad looks- it was really depressing.”

His Joseph coughed as he righted himself, sitting up and holding  hand over the one Caesar had laid on his shoulder. “Well-” he coughed again, “Well, I’m glad we don’t have to worry about that anymore.”

“You could have just told us he was in America, and I wouldn’t have had to jump to any conclusions,” Jojo said. “So what is it then? Why couldn’t you go grab him before now?”

Again, the older Caesar was the one who leaned forward to answer.

“Joseph and I had a disagreement a few years back,” he said. “It was stupid, in retrospect, but I may have thrown around the words, ‘Never show your face again,’ or something of the sort. Please don’t blame him for not calling me, as I surely couldn’t have left an impression that I was open to that.”

“And just what was this infamous argument about?” Caesar asked.

His older self scoffed, waving his hand dismissively as he said, “It’s in the past- certainly something that can be avoided now that you both know what’s at stake. I’m more curious about how this happened,” he gestured to the two of them.

“You mean how we came into the future?” Caesar asked.

“Don’t change the subject!” Jojo said. “Didn’t this guy tell you that a stand sent his- ugh, our grandson back in time?”

“He mentioned it,” he raised a hand to his face, eyes half-lidded as if he’d already grown bored with the topic. “Though that doesn’t entirely explain how you came to end up in the future. I certainly have no memory of this incident.”

Polnareff leaned forward. “Wait, Caesar-”

Both of them looked to him with a synchronized, “Yes?”

Jojo sighed. “That’s gonna get annoying.”

“Yeah,” Joseph said, stroking his beard, “we should probably come up with a nickname for one of you, like Jojo and I have.”

“Excellent idea,” the elder Caesar said. “I think, much as you are still called Joseph, it would only make sense for me to keep my full name.”

“Then what about me?” the younger asked.

Jojo shrugged. “We could call you Caesarino.”

“Absolutely not!” Caesarino said.

Caesar only laughed, holding a hand over his mouth as he began to shake with the effort of holding it back.

“Oh dear- I haven’t heard that nickname in a long time!”

Joseph threw him a lopsided smile that sat somewhere between melancholic and reminiscent bliss. When he looked back at Jojo, spotting the other’s curious smirk, his mouth instead opened with shock. His slightly parted lips quickly pursed as he looked down at the table and then the window- anywhere to avoid looking at Caesar.

“Well, Mr. Zeppeli then,” Polnareff said, now obviously addressing the older, “do you have a stand?”

“No,” Caesar said.

“But you’re old,” Jojo said, earning a slap on the arm from Caesarino. “Hey! I’m old too- not an insult, just an observation! He can’t be old and still be using Hamon!”

“I assure you, I’m still skilled enough to use Hamon. I just didn’t use it much after the Pillar Men is all.”

“But why stop using it at all?” Caesarino asked.

“Well, when the people around you start getting older, you don’t want them to leave you behind.”

The warmth of his palm suddenly spread over Joseph’s knee. They were hidden under the table, but it certainly didn’t escape Joseph’s notice as his eyes flicked down to Caesar’s arm. His eyes met Joseph’s again as he settled back in his booth, not even a ghost of his previous smile in sight.

Joseph only swallowed, more than pleased with the contact.

For the rest of the afternoon, he could just pretend that this was normal and natural. He could pretend that he was just spending time with the old friend who he’d been mourning for the past fifty years rather than a ghost of him.

When they finally retired to their rooms, Jojo and Caesarino went into the remaining room, the latter only turning to say, “It’s good to meet you. I’m glad we’ll be wrapping up this adventure with you around.”

“Same here,” Caesar said. Leaning in, he added, “Someone has to keep these Joestars in check.”

They laughed as Jojo quickly rose to his own defense, only to be quieted by the Italians, who were more concerned with other passengers who had already settled in to sleep for the night.

Joseph could only smile as he took in the scene, Caesarino eventually shoving Jojo into their compartment.

A disgruntled Avdol, waiting outside of his own room, wiped that grin off of his face.

“Hey, pal!” Polnareff laughed, laying a hand on his shoulder. “Get enough sleep?”

“Can’t say that I did,” he said. “I’ll join you in a minute, Polnareff. Mr. Joestar, if I could speak with you before you head to bed?” His eyes flicked to Caesar for the briefest of moments. “Alone?”

Caesar nodded, shrugging slightly as he moved past them. “I’ll be in our room then,” he twirled the near-forgotten key for emphasis as Polnareff closed the door to his and Avdol’s compartment.

When he’d finally gone into the other car, closing the door behind him, Avdol leaned inches away from Joseph’s face.

“How did this happen?” he asked in an angry whisper. “I thought he was dead.”

“He was.”

“Was!?”

“Avdol, please.” Joseph raised his hands, not touching the other but trying to soothe him as best he could. “I know this must seem- seem impossible- and crazy-”

“Oh ho- this is beyond crazy- what did you do!?”

“I didn’t do anything- there was this genie and-”

Avdol’s eyes widened as his jaw dropped. “A genie!?”

“I know how it sounds- but it’s real! He’s real! We only talked for a moment before I came to meet you guys, and he’s real,” tears formed in his eyes as he spoke, his hands coming up to grab at his chest that suddenly felt so hollow and light after years of being weighed down. “He knew things- things that only Caesar could know and he’s exactly how he would have been if he hadn’t-” He stopped, choking on one of his own sobs only to smother it in the crook of his elbow.

Avdol watched the display with the word “Pity” etched into his face. He’d long calmed down, straightening himself out somewhat.

“Mr. Joestar,” he said, “I think we both know that this is too good to be true. Bringing back the dead? Genies? These are things that, even in this fantastic world, could never happen.”

Joseph hid his face as his body continued to be wracked with sobs.

“What if it is though? I can’t take that chance Avdol- not after-”

“There isn’t a chance.”

His sure tone brought Joseph to finally look up at him, eyes red and searching, as if Avdol were about to give him every answer he’d ever needed.

Instead, the man sighed, and Joseph couldn’t help but think that he was too young to make such a tired noise.

“Tell me where you met this ‘genie.’ I’ll go up with Polnareff tomorrow. If we can verify that this isn’t the work of some enemy stand user- that this imposter isn’t some enemy’s trick- then we’ll go on with the assumption that he is an ally. Otherwise… I’ll make sure neither you nor our friends from the past have to see what I’ll do next.”

A shudder ripped through Joseph as he stared pleadingly at him.

He was about to say something, to beg for some other way to handle this. Then his mouth clamped shut.

He’s not an illusion, he thought. Once Avdol sees that, we’ll be able to move on. It’ll be okay.

And so he nodded and let out a small, “Okay.”

“Okay. Good night, Mr. Joestar, and try not to let your guard down. Remember, the closest thing to a living Caesar is in that car. If you are finally willing to come to terms with these feelings now, then perhaps once this stranger is taken care of, you should consider telling him the truth.”

Joseph watched as he entered his room before cradling his face once more. He had to get a hold of himself before continuing the walk to the other car where Caesar- alive and well- was waiting for him.

For tonight, even if he was a stranger, he could just forget.

He knocked on the door to the compartment, as the other had the key, jumping slightly when it opened to reveal that Caesar had long removed his outerwear and accessories, leaving him in a formal pair of slacks and his stark white shirt that ended at his elbows.

“Did your papa finally let you go to your room?”

Joseph rolled his eyes, stepping inside.

“It’s not like that.” He heard Caesar close and lock the door behind him. “He knows about you.”

Caesar remained calm as he strolled past him, taking a seat on the opposite bed. “You told him?”

“No no!” Why am I being so defensive? “I mean- I did, but only because he knew what happened to the real Caesar.”

He laughed.

“I am the real Caesar.” He waited for Joseph to walk in front of him to grab his hand. Threading their fingers together, he murmured, “You brought me back to life.”

Joseph smiled sheepishly, a pain rising in his cheeks as he grew more aware of how forced it was. Finally, he let it drop as he pulled his hand away to turn and thread his fingers through his hair.

“He doesn’t understand that. Probably doesn’t even believe me. Heh, who would believe it? An old man had a run in with a genie!? Probably thinks I’m senile.”

“Come now-” he heard Caesar stand before either of his hands came around his middle. “You’re not that old.”

Joseph jumped when he found himself melting into the touch, smacking the hands away as he whirled on Caesar. The man in question was no holding either of his hands up, a bewildered expression on his face.

“What were you doing?” Joseph asked.

“Nothing.” He gave a low chuckle. “You just seemed stressed out. I’m just doing whatever I think is right.”

Joseph looked to the side as Caesar’s arms wrapped around his neck, pulling him in for another hug.

“Tell me about everything. I’m here to listen.”

The next morning, Avdol woke up early, rocking Polnareff from his deep sleep.

“Polnareff,” he started, his voice a low hum under the other man’s snoring. “Polnareff…”

Still he didn’t come to, even curling tighter around his pillow.

Avdol’s eyes drooped in anger.

Taking in a deep breath, he leaned in and barked, “Jean-Pierre!”

This brought the other to jump into a sitting position, his eye mask still in place as he clutched onto the aforementioned pillow for dear life.

He gasped and shuddered before pulling the eye mask up. At seeing that the room was empty save for Avdol, he let out a groan.

“Damn it, Avdol!” he said, throwing the mask at him, “What the hell is wrong with you!? I thought there was a stand user or something!”

“There might be.”

“What!?”

Avdol shushed him, leaning in before sitting next to Polnareff on the bed.

“Look, Polnareff, I need your help with something today. You can’t tell Jojo or either Caesar what’s going on though, okay? Can you keep it a secret?”

“Yes yes,” he said, waving a hand at his friend. “Don’t treat me like a child, what is it?”

“Well, I don’t think the older Caesar we met yesterday was the real Caesar Zeppeli.”

Polnareff scowled at him for a moment before his hands fell into his lap. He let out a thoughtful grunt before he said, “Is that why you stalked off yesterday? You don’t trust Mr. Joestar to tell probably his oldest friend apart from an imposter?”

“The fact that he is his ‘oldest friend’ is exactly why I don’t trust Mr. Joestar’s judgment. I believe him to be blinded by wishful thinking.”

“Still, if Dio knows about Caesar and can have one of his stand users make a fake version of him, and he knows we have Jojo and Caesar with us- and he has that stand user who can make people time travel-”

“Exactly- it’s not a reach to say that he might know exactly who Jojo and Caesar really are. That’s why it’s imperative that we find out if this Caesar is a fake. Now, Mr. Joestar said that there was a- a figure of note ahead in a storage car who said he was a genie. We have to go up there today before the train stops at noon to see if there’s a stand user who may be responsible.”

“A genie? What kind of idiot would fall for something like that,” Polnareff asked, his smirk falling as he thought on it further. “Wait- Oh no . We let them sleep together last night! What if he’s already hurt Mr. Joest-”

“Don’t worry about that,” Avdol said, shaking his head. “Mr. Joestar is only a car over, he would have come here if he were in any danger, or sent Hermit Purple to get our attention.”

Polnareff nodded, looking down. “I suppose if Jojo and Caesar can see him, he must not be an actual stand, huh? Just an illusion of some sort?”

“That’s what I’m thinking.”

“Okay.” Polnareff began picking at the sheet of his bed. “And why can’t we tell Jojo and the young Caesar if Mr. Joestar already knows what you’re thinking?”

“We just can’t. Trust me, Polnareff, it would be a bad idea.”

“Okay okay, I believe you.” He slung his legs over the side of the bed with a grunt, scratching his arm while examining the room with a bored expression. “Tell me where my pants are, and I’ll head out with you.”

They wandered out in the hall, intent on keeping things quiet so as not to disturb the ones sleeping next door. 

“Hey.”

They turned around, jumping at the sight of Caesarino leaning against his own compartment’s door.

His eyes widened as he examined them.

“Why are you two sneaking around?” he asked.

“Sneaking around? We’re just trying to be quiet since it’s the crack of dawn.” Polnareff leaned in, jabbing a finger into Caesarino’s chest. “What are you doing up?”

He only scoffed, batting his hand away.

“Anyone would have a hard time sleeping in when they’re in an earlier timezone.” His face grew tired. “Well, anyone but Jojo, I mean.”

“We were just going to see if we could grab breakfast before we had to get off later today,” Avdol said, grabbing Polnareff’s shoulder. “But, if you’re waiting for Jojo to wake up then-”

“No no, I was waiting in the hall for you guys, actually. I was going to go with Joseph and myself when they came by earlier but,” he squinted for a moment, as if thinking of a good excuse, before he shrugged and said, “I just didn’t feel like it.”

Avdol didn’t press, more interested in the fact that, “Joseph and Caesar are already up?”

“Ugh, is that what Jojo’s been dealing with this whole time we’ve been traveling with you?” he asked. “Being talked to in the third person is so weird.”

Avdol’s eyes narrowed. “Are you feeling alright, Caesar?”

“Yeah. I think- no it’s nothing, it’s nothing.”

“Are you sure?” Avdol moved in front of Polnareff, commanding the other’s attention. “Does this have to do with your olderself?”

He pulled a face, looking down as he furrowed his brow. “It’s really nothing. I’ve just been thinking about my connection to my Hamon and how important it is to me. I know it may seem cruel, but hearing that I gave it up, even to grow with Jojo or even Suzie Q.… If someone had told me that a week ago, I don’t think I would have believed it.”

Polnareff laughed, holding up his chin proudly. “Ah, you must have just grown up and realised some things are just more important to you! Is that really all that’s bothering you?”

Not thinking much more on it, the Italian said, “Yeah, I’m fine otherwise,” in the most unconvincing tone. “Come on, let’s go join them then. Heh- join myself.”

Avdol’s concerned expression stayed where neither of the others could see as he followed them through the cars.

They eventually came into the dining area, not having to search long before they heard Joseph yell, “Over here!” from one of the opposite tables. There he sat in a round booth, Caesar at his side. He waved to them with the same enthusiasm, mustache curled upwards in his mirth.

It only served to increase Avdol’s worry. When he glanced at Caesarino, he was surprised to see a similar discomfort there. He let it pass as they moved over to the table, joining the two.

“Hey, Avdol,” Joseph said. “Feeling better this morning?”

Careful not to look at Caesar, Avdol only shrugged and said, “Not particularly. I suppose more sleep always helps. What about you two? I’m sure you needed a lot of sleep coming in from America, Caesar. Or, should I call you Mr. Zeppeli?”

“Either one is fine,” he dismissed with a laugh. “Avdol, yes? The Foundation told me a lot about you.”

Pretending not to notice the startled look on Joseph’s face, Avdol only smiled as he asked, “Really? All good things, I hope.”

“Oh yes,” he said with his ever present grin. “Only good things. Your stand is quite powerful. I only wish that I had the ability to see it.”

Avdol nodded slowly for a moment before perking up.

“Oh, I just remembered,” he said, turning to Polnareff. “Can you go find that steward from yesterday and see about that printed schedule he said he’d find?”

“Schedule?” Joseph asked. “I thought we all agreed to get off at the next stop.”

“We did,” Avdol said, “but this steward was very adamant that we should consider staying on board if we wanted to continue our journey to cairo.”

“Sounds like a way to squeeze money out of someone.” Caesar said, crossing his arms with a huff and leaning back in his chair.

Caesarino mirrored his pose with the same scoff as he said, “My thoughts exactly.”

Avdol sneered at the two of them for a moment before an idea came over him. “Yes, well, I just wanted Polnareff to go since he also said he could probably arrange a meeting between him and that stewardess. Ah,  ‘Regina,’ I believe?”

One of Caesarino’s eyes popped open as he began standing up from the booth.

“Then maybe I should go with you, just to make sure this guy doesn’t scam you.”

Polnareff whined. “But I don’t even remember what steward you’re talking about.”

Avdol jerked him down by the arm, eyes locked onto his as he ground out the words, “The one we met in the storage car.”

Finally appearing to get the hint, he was allowed to stand up straight, leading Caesarino through the front of the train.

Now alone with the two older men, Avdol wasn’t surprised when Caesar’s eyes locked onto him.

“Are they going to look for a stand user?”

Avdol’s eyes darkened as they flicked over to Joseph.

“So you did tell him that I know?”

Joseph sank, opening his mouth to defend himself only to be cut off by Caesar throwing his arm in front of him.

“Don’t feel as though you should say anything. I was the one who pressured you into it, after all.” He turned to Avdol. “It’s not like you didn’t already know that I was dead.”

“That Caesar was dead,” Avdol said.

The man’s smile didn’t so much as twitch. “What will it take to convince you that I am who I say I am? That I’m a- a correction? A miracle?”

Avdol sniggered. “I may be a superstitious man,” he said, “I may even be a holy one, but miracles are something that I’ve never believed in.”

Caesar nodded. “I guess I have my work cut out for me, then.”

While they were now free to openly discuss the nature of Caesar and him being alive without any further explanation to provide, Polnareff was having quite the opposite time up front.

“It’s right up here, Caesarino!”

“Don’t call me that!” Caesar snapped. “It’s one of Jojo’s stupid nicknames- certainly nothing I agreed to!”

“Okay, geeze,” Polnareff said. “Oh well, it’s not like we’ll need a nickname for you at all after a while.”

“What? Why is that?”

“Ah-!” He spun around, hands flying about as he tried to explain himself. “Well, you see- uh, I meant to say that we might not need a nickname for you!”

Caesar’s scowl deepened.

“And why wouldn’t we?”

“Because we won’t have to separate you from the fake Caesar. I mean the other Caesar! Oh shoot, here I go-”

“What!? Fake!? You think he’s fake?”

“Keep your voice down,” Polnareff mumbled through clenched teeth. Once he was sure the other passengers on the car they were passing through had gone back to whatever they had been doing. “Look, it was Avdol’s idea. Apparently, before Mr. Joestar met up with the ‘future you’ yesterday, he saw something shifty in a storage car. Avdol thinks Dio might have realized who you and Jojo are, so he made a fake version of the future you to catch us off guard.”

“And we just left him alone with Joseph!?”

“Calm down- Avdol’s with him and he probably has the physically strongest stand out of any of us right now. If that version of you is a stand, it won’t last long against Magician’s Red. Right now, we have to find that storage car and see if a stand user managed to stow away.”

Caesar nodded, putting his head down. He prepared to say something about how he wished he’d been clued in on this earlier, or perhaps ask if there was a reason Avdol immediately jumped to him being a fake, or even if it was Joseph’s idea.

A voice behind him interrupted his thoughts with a, “Pardon me, you two,” causing them both to turn around and find the stewardess from the day before. “Can I ask that you not block the isle in the dining cars? Thank you very much.”

“Ah, but of course,” Polnareff said, shuffling past Caesar to take Richetta’s hand into his own. “We’ll be on our way but, before we start again, could you tell us how many more cars are between us and say- a storage area?”

“A storage area?” Richetta asked, her large eyes blinking rapidly. Taking her hand from Polnareff’s, she said, “I’m sorry, sir, but this is a passenger train. We only allow stow away items like suitcases. Anything large that someone would want to move with them like- say- furniture or the like isn’t allowed aboard.”

“That’s not true.”

The group turned around to see an older gentleman in a pair of ruddy coveralls with a smear of black over his cheek.

“I’ve been running this train for as long as it’s been running. The old girl used to haul furniture and trinkets for the upper class folk who’d use her.”

“But we don’t have a car for that anymore, do we, Mr. Ocean?”

“You shut yer yap and get back to work,” he turned around, making his way to the front, “I’ll take these boys where they need to go.”

He gestured over his shoulder to encourage them to follow him, Caesar only stopping to pull up Richetta’s chin to gaze into her eyes.

“Pay him no mind, my dear,” he threaded a lock of hair over her ear.

“Oh okay,” she murmured as he left her. Last minute, she yelled after them, “Tell me if you find what you need!”

“I already did,” he said, throwing a wink over his shoulder. As he caught up with Polnareff, he didn’t miss the way she melted at his words. With a chuckle, he leaned over to the taller man. “Who was it that needs to learn how to pick up women, again?”

Polnareff rolled his eyes and kept walking.

This is bad, Avdol thought as he watched the two older men talk across the table. It would be better to have a long-range stand like Hierophant deal with the stand user while I’m back here, since Kakyoin could just call through him if he needed help. If we even had a more brute-strength stand like Star Platinum around to help deal with either this imposter or the stand user, I’d feel much better about this. I know better than anyone that Polnareff can hold himself up in a fight, but we know nothing about this opponent.

It seems lately that everything I know about stand users has been flipped on its head- illusions? The ability to make clones or duplicates of one’s stand? It’s like the time I’ve spent researching in my own practice and with Mr. Joestar has been for nothing.

His glare remained fixed on Caesar.

I can only hope that, if he is a stand that humans can see, that it’s not a strong one.

His saving grace walked into the dining car at that moment, Jojo stretching himself out as he glanced around, eventually straightening up when he spotted their table in the back.

“There you guys are! Caesar was missing this morning. Then I knocked on your door for like, ten minutes.” He moved to plop down next to Avdol, only stopped when the other held a hand up to block him.

“So sorry about that, Jojo,” he said as he stood. “I’m going to actually head out for just a second, if you want to sit down.”

“O-kay,” he sang, plopping down in the booth with a grunt.

“Where are you going?” Joseph asked.

“To make sure Caesar and Polnareff didn’t get caught up with that stewardess.”

They were, of course, far away from the girl now, having followed the presumed engineer throughout the train until he brought them into an empty car to face a closed door.

“This is the place,” he said.

“Thanks, but you really could have just pointed us in the direction,” Polnareff said.

He just laughed and walked away, leaving Caesar to roll his eyes as he examined the door.

“He didn’t even unlock it.” He scoffed. “Bastard.”

“Well what are we going to-”

Polnareff paused as Caesar reached up to his headband, unthreading a bobby pin from the piece.

“Don’t tell Joseph,” he said over his shoulder as he crouched down on the balls of his feet to jam it into the keyhole. “He’s been asking me how I attach them for the past two weeks.” He fussed with it for a moment, leaning against the door until he heard a click. Springing up, he replaced the clip. “I like keeping him guessing about something.”

He shoved the door to the side, revealing the dingy room filled to the brim with miscillaneous items.

“Ugh,” Polnareff sneered as they entered the space, a hand drawn over his mouth. “It stinks in here.”

“Come on, you’re French, aren’t you supposed to be used to this?”

“At least my people shower!” he shot back, kicking over a small table. “Hey, didn’t that guy say they used to carry furniture ten years ago? Why do you think it’s all still back here?”

“Dunno, don’t care,” Caesar said. “Maybe some people just left their stuff on board because their house was smaller than they thought when they moved, or they didn’t pay the right fees so the station didn’t release their stuff to them.”

“Or,” Polnareff gulped, “they died while they were on board, so they couldn’t reclaim them.”

A shudder ran up Caesar’s spine as he turned on him. “Don’t you start on that! That’s some bullshit Jojo would come up with to spook me, not something that would actually happen.”

“Are you saying you don’t believe in ghosts? After all we’ve seen?”

“Of course not,” he said. 

Demons though? Oh definitely.

He kept the thought to himself as he moved through the room, gingerly picking up tarps and the occasional tray or tub.

“I don’t know, Caesar,” Polnareff said, “This place is freaking me out.”

“Will you stop being such a-”

The door flew open, causing them both to scream as a figure seemed to take up the entire door way, its massive shoulders spanning from either side.

Polnareff summoned Chariot without thinking, its blade inches away from the figure’s face as he too screamed.

Though his scream was less terrified and more angry as he said, “It’s me! It’s me!”

That was when they both realized it was just Avdol.

Slamming the door shut, the man let out a tired sigh as he turned to Caesar and Polnareff.

“What is wrong with you two?”

Caesar, who had shrunken a bit behind Polnareff, cleared his throat to say, “We were just being vigilant. Polnareff said there might be a stand user nearby.”

Avdol sighed. “I guess he’s not here anymore, if it’s taken you this long to find him.”

“‘This long?’” Polnareff parroted only to throw in a scoff. “We just got here! I thought you were supposed to be back with Mr. Joestar and the maybe-fake-Caesar?”

“Polnareff,” Avdol hissed, gesturing to Caesar.

“It’s fine, he told me,” Caesar said, rolling his eyes. “You think Joseph mixed me up with some imposter, right? Well, I’m glad we didn’t find a stand user because that means he’s real after all, and we can forget all of this.”

Avdol wanted to relent to what he’d said, but straightened up as he realized something. “You just got here? But it’s only two cars over from where we were. What took you so long to get here?”

Again Polnareff scoffed. “Two cars? Try at least ten.”

“Yeah and none of the earlier dining cars we came through had a closed door,” Caesar said. “You shouldn’t have had to open one to get through them.”

Avdol shook his head, now turning around as he searched the room.

“No no, that can’t be right,” he said. “The train wasn’t that long and there aren’t even ten dining cars aboard before you get to the compartment sitting area and cabins. There wouldn’t be enough passengers to fill that many cars anyway.”

“Wait-” Polnareff stepped forward, “you don’t mean-”

“It can’t be anything else.” Avdol looked over his shoulder. “The train is a stand.”

“What?” Caesar squawked. “Impossible!”

“No, I’m afraid it’s all too possible,” he said, looking back at the door. “The user must be rearranging cars as we go to keep us separated from one another.”

“But wait, this doesn’t have anything to do with the older me, right?” Caesar asked. “You can’t have a stand that does two wildly different things, right?”

“That seems likely. Perhaps it was a genie after all,” Avdol said.

Caesar’s eyes snapped open. “A genie?”

The door behind them flew open suddenly, a shadow appearing in the glass as it began to slide closed.

“We can’t let the door close!” Avdol said. “We don’t know if it’ll open up into the same room!”

“Silver Chariot!”

The stand burst forward, flying across the room and jamming its sword in between the door and its frame.

“Nice one!” Avdol said, patting Polnareff on the shoulder as he moved past him.

“Thanks- now let’s go nab this ‘genie!’”

“Wait,” Caesar said, “what about Joseph and the other me- are they going to be okay?”

“Jojo was with them when I left so, even if the older you is somehow being manifested by this user, Joseph should be safe. I don’t see any reason why Joseph would leave them alone.”

Of course, he didn’t know that the Caesar on the other end of the train was currently standing to excuse himself.

“I’m feeling a bit of jetlag,” he explained, grabbing his head. “I think I need to lay down.”

“Oh okay,” Joseph said, “I’ll be up here with Jojo then.”

“You aren’t going to come back with me?”

Joseph felt his face grow hot, stealing a look at his younger self who only smirked at the question.

Looking up at Caesar, Jojo asked, “Is there a reason you want him to come back with you?”

“We just haven’t seen each other in a while.” He wrapped his arm around Joseph’s shoulders, leaning over the booth to simultaneously reach over his chest. “You don’t mind do you?”

Jojo’s grin grew as he made eye contact with Joseph.

“No, not at all.”

“See?” Caesar leaned into his line of view, still over his shoulder. “He doesn’t mind. Come on, let’s get some more sleep.”

Joseph threw a fleeting look at the table, but not wanting to make Caesar feel like he wasn’t wanted, stood to follow him. He shuddered when he felt the other’s palm stroke down his back, barely remembering to throw a “Good bye” to his younger self as they wandered down to their room.

“I kind of don’t like leaving him like that,” Joseph said when they were already walking down another dining area.

“He’ll be fine,” Caesar said. “He is you, after all.”

Joseph sniggered, taking comfort in that, even as he asked, “You really think that?”

“I know that.Now come on.”

They walked into another dining room, this one now empty.

“You know,” Joseph said, “I don’t remember walking through this many dining rooms.”

“Oh really? That’s probably just because they were full when we walked through them.”

“Yeah. Where do you think everybody went?”

“Probably back to their rooms, or at least the compartments to talk.”

Another empty dining room.

“Caesar…”

“Yes, Jojo?”

He looked ahead through the doorway. Spotting another empty dining room, he flung his arm out to the side to stop Caesar from moving forward.

“This isn’t right,” he said. “Let’s go back and get Jojo.”

When he turned around, he turned right into Caesar who grabbed his arm, holding it between their faces. He began clenching his forearm, fingers digging into the band around his arm.

“Caesar- ack-! Caesar, what are you doing!?”

“I’m just doing what you want me to, Jojo.” He leaned in close. “I’m just doing whatever I think is right.”

Back with the stand user, the dining car Polnareff and the others opened into was crowded, tables that were both full and also only bore single passengers.

“How are we going to tell which one is the stand user?” Caesar asked.

Spotting a steward in the corner of the room, Avdol lead the other two towards him.

The man sighed upon looking up to see the group, straightening up as he asked, “Can I help you?”

Straightening up, of course, did nothing to match the group’s impressive height. Still he didn’t seem even slightly intimidated by them as they closed in.

“You just might be able to, yes,” Avdol said. “Did you see any passengers enter this car just before us?

“Nope,” he said, popping the “p.” “Are you looking for someone specific?”

“Are you sure that you didn’t see someone just run in here and sit down?”

He rolled his eyes, placing a hand on his hips as he jabbed a finger at the door behind them. “Look, okay, that door that you came through? People aren’t supposed to be in there anyway. I don’t know how you guys got in there, but you’re the only one’s I’ve seen go in or come out after my shift started.”

Polnareff’s eyes widened. “Do all of the stewards walk through there?”

“Uh, you mean the staff cabins? Yeah,” he barked. “That’s where we sleep.”

Polnareff shook his head, stalking back to the door.

“Sir- sir-” the steward said, marching after him. “Sir, you’re not supposed to be in there!”

Polnareff had already made it, wrenching the door open to see rows of cabins just like the ones they’d slept in the night before.

“Sir-” the steward caught him by the arm, turning him around, “you can’t go there.” He slammed the door shut again, crossing his arms as he turned again to the men. “Am I going to have to revoke your tickets?”

Caesar scoffed, turning back to Avdol. “I don’t think he’s lying, but he probably wasn’t being too watchful either, if he didn’t expect the stand user to come through there.”

Avdol nodded, eyes scanning the dining car.

He searched the various passengers for a moment until Polnareff threw his arm in front of them.

“Don’t worry, guys,” he said. “I know who the stand user is.”

“You do?” Avdol asked.

“Yep,” Polnareff said, Chariot spinning out of his back. “Right over there!”

Chariot flung out, sword lunging for a target Avdol couldn’t decipher. It spun its blade mockingly, Avdol’s eyes widening in shock while Caesar stood there, looking around wildly for the source of his surprise.

Then, in the direction Polnareff had launched Silver Chariot,  one man stood up with a shriek, throwing himself under the table that was quickly split open above him.

Avdol’s eyes lit up.

“That was amazing Polnareff!” he said. “How did you figure out who the stand user was?”

“I didn’t,” he confessed with a light shrug. “Figured the rat would run if we shined some light on him. After all,” he walked over to the split table, the dining guests having long separated from the mess as well as the man underneath, “normal people can’t see stands, remember?”

The man murmured at his feet, hands coiled into his hair as he gripped at his scalp and shook with fear of the man now towering over him.

Polnareff crouched down, elbows balanced on either of his knees as he leaned forward.

“Tell me, friend, know anything about genies?”

The man began to sob.

There were a lot of tears shed that day between him and Joseph Joestar, who was finding it difficult to keep the strength in his legs as Caesar forced him to the ground by twisting his left arm, towering over him with each moment.

“Avdol was right,” Joseph growled, cut off by a scream as he dropped to his knees. “You- you aren’t Caesar.”

“Oh, tesoro mio- I’m better than anything he could be. I’m everything you wanted him to be and more. I was here for you when you weren’t there for them. I asked you to keep moving forward one more time- to trust me one more time- and you couldn’t do that, could you? You never trusted me, and now I’ll prove just how strong I am.”

He ripped the metal hand from Joseph’s wrist, causing his stump to spasm as the nerves were suddenly exposed where they’d previously been meticulously connected to his hand. A scream flew out of him at the same time the hand flew across the room, landing against the wall with a smack before lolling into one of the empty booths.

Joseph pulled the stump to his chest, guarding it as he forced himself to grunt through the pain and meet Caesar’s eyes.

“Hermit Purple!”

The vines ran out at will, coiling around the now-known imposter’s hands and neck, pulling him down.

Another form appeared behind him then, a pair of arms coming out to grab at the thorns only to fling Joseph to the side by his outstretched arm and into one of the tables that were firmly bolted to the train floor.

Caesar stalked over to him then, the figure behind him becoming more clear as he placed his hands onto his hips.

“You’ve made a lot of trouble for my user,” the “genie” said as he came further into view. “He can’t stall forever, and I know your friends are going to render him unconscious soon. So we’ll just have to finish you off quickly.”

Caesar leaned forward, balancing his foot on Joseph’s chest. He raised it again for only a moment, barely whispering the word, “Arrivederci, Jojo.”

Another thing came up behind him then, wrapping around his neck and pulling him back. When his body was arching back, both of Caesar’s hands going to get whatever it was off of his neck, Joseph was able to see his savior clearly.

“Jojo!?” Joseph gasped, sitting up as best he could as his younger self wrestled with the stranger.

He’d ensnared Caesar in his scarf, tugging harshly to the side to roll him across the floor.

“Is that the stand!?” he asked, Judgement coming up behind him.

Joseph lunged out, Hermit Purple wrapping around the stand. He sent out a few weak sparks of Hamon to signal where it was, the heat causing Jojo to turn around just in time to see the stand’s silhouette bleed into the room as the electricity around it caused something of a shadow to form in its place.

“Got’chya!” he said, winding up a punch.

Taking a deep breath, he lunged out. Judgement managed to break free just short of getting struck, resulting in Jojo nearly falling as his fist met with the air and he followed through.

He turned around when he heard the thump of the scarf hitting the ground.

Caesar was again standing, his head tilted unnaturally to the side before he reached up to snap it into place with a sneer.

“Jojo,” he murmured, “you know you were never as strong as me.”

“Caesar wouldn’t say that,” he said. “He admitted I was as strong as him the day after I met him.”

“You don’t really believe that, do you?” he asked, his expression that of pity as he leaned in. “I mean, I am just projecting what you’re thinking here, Jojo.”

“Oh, I am Joseph Joestar, but that man over there?” He pointed at Joseph. “No, that isn’t me.” He punched Caesar with a fistful of Hamon. “Because I-” another punch, “would never-” and another, “forget-” another, “him!”

The last punch knocked Caesar back, though not to the floor. Jojo’s fist still sizzled and sparked with the energy bubbling off of him.

Joseph recognized the seemingly cool demeanor for what it was-

Jojo was pissed.

Caesar looked up again, cackling even as a large gash had formed long his left eye.

“This power of yours- it doesn’t seem to fair too well against clay, does it?”

“‘Clay?’” Jojo asked tilting his head.

“Oh no- he’s made of dirt! Hamon travels straight through rock, remember!? It’s why you couldn’t defeat the Pillar Men when they were just stone!”

“Oh yeah, that’s right.” He looked down at his hands for a moment, flexing his fingers before clenching them tightly into a pair of fists. “If you’re made of clay- then maybe I can’t shock you with a blast of Hamon,” he dropped into a defensive stance, “but I can still break you.”

Joseph lunged, trying to get off of the floor to see if he could do something to help, when two hands came around his neck, pulling back on his head.

He trapped the massive arms holding him in place with Hermit Purple’s vines, its thorns digging in desperately as the stand’s echoing laugh filled his ears.

Jojo, meanwhile, was dodging a kick from the now crumbling illusion, dodging under his leg to rather get behind him, forcing him into a choke hold only for the other to drop his deadweight to the ground. This brought Joseph right down with him, Caesar scrambling to get around him and dig his fingers into his middle.

Then, with an ease and strength that the real Caesar could almost never possess, he lifted Jojo into the air with the intent of slamming him against the ground.

The other, noticing his situation, moved to fall out of his hands, hoping to control the descent better. That was when Caesar grabbed a hold of his belt, resulting in him flailing a bit more as he was brought to the ground.

The makeshift handle also made it easier to raise him up again, only to once more meet the ground.

There he remained, unmoving against the tile.

“Jojo-!” Joseph gasped, still clawing desperately at the arms threatening to snap his neck. It took every ounce of strength to keep them where they were. He wasn’t going to be moving the stand anytime soon.

Then, the arms stopped trying to move at all, going slack around Joseph’s throat.

He wondered why this was for a moment before he looked down and realized that the Jojo he thought was unconscious was actually very awake and laughing at Caesar’s feet.

“Now you see” he huffed out between  breaths as he held up the end of his belt, “the real Caesar would have known I was up to something.”

He grunted out the last word, tugging the belt to reveal that he’d managed to get it wrapped around the fake’s arm.

Then, swinging one leg over his torso, he mounted his back and brought his arm under his chin to keep him in place.

“Now- I may not be the best at Italian, but earlier, I think you were saying,” he grabbed under Caesar’s chin, pulling his face up to meet his eyes, “Good-bye.”

The head twisted off with a crack, Joseph ducking his head to look away just in time.

When he looked back, the husk had disintegrated into a neat pile of ash under Jojo’s feet as he turned his back on Joseph.

“Hey- is the actual stand still around? Or did you take care of it?”

Joseph blinked, realizing that Hermit Purple was just wrapped around air at this point, leaving him with his head cocked up without a hand to hold it in place.

Once he’d patted himself down and scanned around to make sure that the room was safe, he stood with a groan.

“Yeah,” he said. “I think they must have knocked out the user… wherever the bastard is.”

“Good. Now that that’s out of the way,” Jojo turned around, eyes cold as they locked onto his older self, “when were you going to tell us that Caesar was dead?”

 

Chapter Text

The sun had fully risen by the time they’d made it halfway back, Noriaki having to force himself to stay upright as they made it to the main island. He didn’t want to worry Jotaro by just being tired. This was especially so after the night the other had just gone through. It only took one look at him to know that he wouldn’t want to talk so soon after going head to head with the Pillar Man. He was obviously taxed in his own right, and Noriaki had to look away more than once to avoid Jotaro catching him examining the bruises forming on his face.

“So,” he finally said, “are you feeling okay?”

“Been better,” Jotaro said simply, offering a loose shrug as he jammed his hands into his pockets.

“You managed to generate enough Hamon to kill him, though. That’s more than I’ve seen you generate while you’ve been here. I’m surprised you’re still standing.” His eyes widened as he thought of what he’d just said, turning to him as he rapidly apologized. “I mean- Not that I thought you couldn’t ever generate that much power. Lisa Lisa always said that you had potential for it.”

“I didn’t do it.”

Noriaki stopped walking, forcing Jotaro to do the same and slowly turn to face him.

“What?”

“I didn’t generate the Hamon to kill Eisidisi. Actually,” he looked down at his previously broken left arm. I think I almost died. “Actually, it came from Star Platinum.”

Noriaki smiled at that, a chuckle escaping him as he leaned forward. “That’s still your Hamon, Jotaro. Even if you transmit it through your-”

“I didn’t say that it went through Star Platinum! I said that it came from him. His body was glowing, and I wasn’t anywhere near him at one point. Then- then he came back over and healed me.”

“Healed you?" Noriaki blinked. “Loggins told me that was possible, but he didn’t even try to train me to do that.”

“I didn’t even know Hamon could do that,” Jotaro said, “but he did.”

They stood in silence for a moment, Noriaki’s eyes trailing downward. “Do you think that’s a bad thing?” He waited for Jotaro to look back up at him before he elaborated. “We both knew you were having trouble with Hamon. We thought you’d be able to use Star Platinum to make up for that- his strength and precision… but if he can use Hamon- enough to kill one of the Pillar Men- then isn’t that a good thing?”

“You don’t understand.”

“Then can you explain?”

“You don’t understand because I don’t understand.” He didn’t pull down his hat, half-yelling as he ground out the words, “You need to breathe to use Hamon- to use your stand- but when he used it, I wasn’t breathing deeply enough to use it. He was. It’s not a stand anymore. At least, he’s not like the others. I think there’s something wrong with him.” 

Something wrong with me.

Noriaki studied him for a moment before reaching out, only to see Jotaro flinch away.

“I’m going to see Lisa Lisa. I left your book with Suzie Q, if you wanted to get back to that or whatever.”

“What?” Noriaki snapped, either of his hands closing around Jotaro’s to prevent him from leaving. “Come on, talk to me! You think I care about a book right now?”

He was about to continue when Jotaro took a step back and locked his cold eyes onto Noriaki’s. He stood directly over him with his hand crossed over his chest where the other still stubbornly held on, if with a more relaxed grip.

Then he ripped the arm away entirely and spun on his heel.

“We can talk later,” he said. “Right now there’s stuff to do.”

Noriaki didn’t say anything, his lips slightly pursed as he prevented himself from again yelling after his friend. In the end, he let Jotaro.

Not knowing what he wanted to say, Jotaro was glad for it.

He needed some time to process all of this and what exactly bothered him about his stand’s newfound ability to produce Hamon.

Wish he’d done it sooner, he thought before shaking the idea from his head. I just don’t like how damn human he is. Avdol can control Magician’s Red so easily, and I bet Noriaki’s never had a problem like this with Hierophant Green. I just wish he’d do what I want him to do and nothing else.

When he finally made it to the castle and up the stairs, he didn’t expect to find anyone walking around this early in the morning.

Of course, there was one person who always seemed to be roaming the halls.

The sound of his grandmother humming a familiar tune reached him before he actually saw her. The noise alone was enough to calm him down a bit.

Whatever progress it had on him was, of course, lost when she saw him. She immediately dropped the basket she was holding, both hands coming up to cover her mouth as she gasped.

“Jotaro!” Suzie ran down the hall to meet him. She grasped either side of his coat before reaching up to examine his face. “Your face- It looks like you’ve been burned!”

Jotaro stopped breathing for a moment, distantly thinking, I guess I look worse than I thought.

“I’m fine,” he barked, pulling away roughly.

She blinked for a moment before her face scrunched up in disapproval.

“Did Messina and Loggins do this to you!? I thought they would have been busy with Noriaki’s assessment. Oh- did you end up getting yours done, too?”

“Not exactly,” he said. “One of those Pillar Men came to the island. He’s dead now.”

Her eyes widened, hands covering her mouth. “Oh, you poor thing- how did you manage to keep him off you? Joseph almost died fighting one of those things!”

Jotaro pulled back, tilting his head to the side. “He told me that they ran away the first time he fought them.”

Suzie looked at him for a moment before breaking into laughter. “No no- he told me it was a neck and neck battle that he barely walked out of. Caesar told me he didn’t walk out at all… that Caesar and Speedwagon had to carry him.”

She reached into the pocket of her apron, pulling out a cloth napkin that she began delicately rubbing over his cheekbone.

Though he allowed it, he still avoided looking at her as she soon pulled it away with a pout.

“Come with me,” she said, taking his hand. “Let’s patch you up.”

He considered it but ultimately pulled his hand away.

“No thanks,” he said. “I need to talk to Lisa Lisa.”

A light glare tinted her features as she placed her hands on either hip, bent forward slightly, and tapped her foot.

Finally, she relented with a sigh. “Okay,” she said, “tell you what- Lisa Lisa is in the bath right now, so you can wait by her room. But, since you’re going to have to wait anyway, I’ll be up in a minute to finish cleaning those wounds, okay?”

He smiled, offering a huff of laughter before nodding in agreement.

“Good. Now, do you want me to take your coat to get cleaned later?”

His hand immediately snaked around the collar as he stared down at her, his hesitancy not escaping her notice.

“I’ll be quick,” she assured in a sing-song voice. “Come on, I’m doing laundry anyway!”

So he peeled it away and handed it off, much to her pleasure as she soon hung it over her arm and began delicately stroking it flat as if the thick material was in threat of wrinkling.

“Thank you,” he said.

“No problem,” she said before her eyes widened. “Oh- I dropped those clothes at the end of the-” when she looked over Jotaro’s shoulder, the basket was gone.

“Looking for this?” he asked, offering it to her.

It had appeared suddenly in his hands. He didn’t question it outright, though he could feel Star Platinum hovering behind him.

Five meter range my ass, he thought as she took it from him.

“Oh dear- are you Joestar men all magicians?” she asked with a laugh as she laid the coat on top. “Anyway, I’ll have this back to you later, okay?”

“Okay,” he said with a short nod, absently grasping at either of his arms.

Noticing this, she placed a hand on his shoulder with a grin.

“Everything’s going to be just fine.”

She nodded, a bounce in her step as she walked past him, turning the corner and leaving him alone to walk up to Lisa Lisa’s room.

Star Platinum interrupted him, sliding in front of him on the stairs so that Jotaro was looking up at him. He still didn’t like making eye contact with the thing, finding the sensation far worse than when it had previously tried to touch him.

“What do you want?” he asked, not surprised when the stand didn’t move nor speak. He was still annoyed by its inaction, letting out a sigh as he said, “ I don’t have time for this,” and attempted to shoulder past.

He was against stopped, this time by the stand holding out his hand. Clutched between his fingers was the antidote ring.

Jotaro sharply inhaled, realizing that he had forgotten it in his jacket pocket when he handed it over to Suzie Q.

He blinked at it once before snatching it out of the stand’s hand.

Then, through gritted teeth, he muttered, “Thank you.”

The thing smiled before disappearing entirely.

Finally, he was allowed to make his way up to wait outside of Lisa Lisa’s room. Then he could hand over the ring and get some well-deserved rest.

As it was, he already found himself collapsing in the windowsill by her bathroom door, resisting the urge to groan in relief at the feeling of warm sunshine spreading through his back.

He stretched, relishing in the privacy the hall would allow. Remembering the wetness he’d felt when he earlier donned his coat, he began to feel the material there only for a shudder to pass through him.

He pulled his hand back in front of him, hesitantly examining the goo that trailed between his fingers.

Shit, he thought. At least it isn’t blood. That didn’t stop him from feeling disgusting as he wiped it off on the sill behind him. Obaasan would have flipped if I’d just turned around and my entire back was red. Ugh- or if she opened it up and found it caked on the inside.

He looked up from where he was smearing the goo along the underside of the sill to see that one of the rare boats that docked at the island had stopped by. Peering closer, he thought, Gossip, and her shadow will appear, as a small smile traced across his face.

She was talking with the boatman as he took a package from her.

Jotaro studied them for a moment, still leaning over the window sill to watch as the man waved her off and again boarded the boat. Then he expected Suzie Q to turn back to the castle, possibly skip toward the doors.

What he wasn’t expecting was for her to look up.

She didn’t just happen to spot him as she examined the castle. Her eyes were locked onto his own, sending a sheet of ice through his body.

Still, he stared her down, Star Platinum offering its precise, distant vision to him as it appeared at his side.

Then she raised her hand in a painfully slow motion, her face schooled into an oddly stoic expression.

Just when he was thinking of waving back, her mouth opened, head tilting to the side as her mouth became too wide, the corners of it too sharp.

Her arm fell limply to her side, that same smile locked onto him.

She ran her tongue over her teeth.

All at once, her body snapped downwards. She was sprinting toward the castle at an inhuman speed in an animalistic posture, the sight of which caused Jotaro to fall away from the sill and onto the floor with a deafening thud as he worked to calm his racing heartbeat.

What the fuck was that!?

He jumped again when he heard another crash, this time coming from inside of Lisa Lisa’s bathroom.

So he stood, throwing himself onto his feet before stumbling over to the door, the knob of which was coated in that same slime from earlier.

He elected to ignore it, pushing the door open just in time to see Lisa Lisa wrestling with the demented Suzie Q.

 Without thinking, he rushed forward, Star Platinum letting out an “Ora!” as he punched the creature masquerading as his grandmother into the wall.

Knowing it couldn’t be her doing all of this, Jotaro was still briefly plagued with the thought of, I punched my Grandma I punched my Grandma I punched my Grandma I punched my Grandma-

“Jotaro, look out!” Lisa Lisa cried, shoving him out of the way just in time as a whip-like weapon struck the ground where he’d been standing.

Laying on the ground as his great-grandmother pushed herself up, he traced the “weapon” back to its source only to find out what it had really been.

A vein.

“Long time no see, Jotaro!” Suzie laughed in a horrid cacophony of her and Eisidisi’s voices.

The image caused Jotaro to shake with fury as he rose at Lisa Lisa’s side.

She clutched the long towel to her chest, even as she stared down the creature.

“Is that really Suzie Q?” she asked.

“Not exactly,” Suzie said. “Let me clear things up first though. This is her body. At least, it was before I took it over.”

“You bastard,” Jotaro hissed. “If you even think about killing her-” 

“Make no mistake,” Suzie went on, “she’s very alive- for now. Although, if you want to think about chasing down that stone, I might have to change that ‘for now’ to a ‘well….’” she ran her hands over her face, carving deep gashes along her cheeks, “‘she was.’”

She laughed again, Jotaro’s eyes flicking over to Lisa Lisa. “What stone- what is he talking about?”

“I told Noriaki about it before his trial last night,” she said. “It’s the key to defeating the Pillar Men-”

“More like the key to our future,” Suzie said. “With the Red Stone of Aja, we’ll be able to harness even greater powers! As if I had anything to fear from some foolish boy who doesn’t even know how to control either of his abilities in the first place!”

Jotaro stepped forward with a growl.“I knew enough to take you out the first time.”

“Don’t you mean your ‘stand’ knew enough!?”

Jotaro’s eyes widened as she continued to laugh.

“Thanks for the ride back, Jotaro,” she said.

The following laugh threw him off as if the unnatural way her wrists twisted as she scratched and pawed at her own face wasn’t enough. His hand tightened around a table as he anchored himself. He had to stop himself from blindly leaping forward to try to attack a threat he couldn’t in any way access.

“Jotaro,” Lisa Lisa murmured, “we have to take him out before he can use Suzie’s body to heal himself.”

“How are we supposed to do that?”

One look at her was answer enough. A series expression had tacked itself onto her face, pulling the corners of her mouth down in a mute concern.

“Lisa Lisa-”

“You know what we have to do,” she said, whirling her head to the side to land her eyes on him. “If you can’t- I will.”

Jotaro took one large step, pivoting his body to stand between her and the fragile, crying woman behind him.

“Please, Jotaro,” she cried in a voice so small and haggard that he could almost imagine her aged face as she spoke. “Don’t let her kill me. I know you can help somehow- you’ll think of something.”

“Jotaro,” Lisa Lisa said, “stand back and let me take care of it. Look away if you have to.”

“No.”

“You can’t be serious! That’s obviously not her anymore! It’s that thing- he’s taken over her body and-”

“I said ‘No!’ No one is going to hurt her, you’ve got that!?” he yelled, stepping towards her.

“What’s wrong?” a voice sparked, bringing Jotaro to look over his shoulder at Noriaki, who’d perched himself on the railing. “I heard the shouting and-”

He stopped, eyes widening at the sight of Lisa Lisa, who’d only just gotten her towel situated. Remembering that this was Jotaro’s great grandmother, he quickly averted his gaze only for it to land on his grandmother. The warped smile that threatened to split her face in two only widened as she made eye contact with him.

He jumped down with a dark expression, tentacles untwisting from where they’d spun around the banister to instead raise on either side of his head.

“Who are you really?” he asked. “I know you’re not Suzie Q.”

A twisted and mangled cackle left her throat with a second voice under it providing some gravel to the voice.

“I may not be,” she conceded, “but this body is! And what a body indeed. It seems that simply taking it over was enough to earn myself a sterling knight in shining armor!”

She cackled again, Lisa Lisa attempting to leap past Jotaro who stood his ground against her. He leaned forward swiftly, threatening to headbutt her, only for her to fall back.

“Jotaro- it’s too late for Suzie, but we still have enough time to save the rest of the world!” she said. “Would you fight this hard if it was Messina’s body? Or mine?”

“That doesn’t matter,” he hissed. “You’re not hurting her!”

“We’re not trying to hurt her,” Noriaki said, stepping forward. He stomped one leg in front of him in some kind of stance, his arms raised over his chest. “We’re just trying to hurt the thing inside of her.”

Though he didn’t move from where he was standing in front of Lisa Lisa, Jotaro did make a growl of warning as he looked towards his friend.

“Jotaro,” Noriaki said, “do you trust me?”

It was as though his heart had stopped, though that couldn’t be true, as he was just as sure that he could still hear it pounding in the deafening silence of the room. He wondered if Noriaki could hear it too- hear the way it evened out its pace as he calmed down enough to nod convincingly.

He had to assume that even if the other couldn’t, the emotion at least reached him, as a small smile was shot over to Jotaro before he turned his attention back to Suzie’s broken body.

“I’m not sure who you are,” Noriaki said, “but I am sure you have no idea about my history with possession. There’s not a lot that I can remember from it. That is, aside from what it feels like to have your own flesh clawing at your very soul. To have your body reject you as its owner.”

“Boo-hoo,” Suzie cried, her normally warm eyes spitting acid as she snarled and raked her hand down the side of her face. “Cry me a river, Hamon user! Your buddy over there won’t be happy if you go killing this girl, so I’d watch however you decide to handle this! Even Hamon can harm a human if they’re weak enough, and this girl isn’t very strong at all, is she?” She let out another cruel laugh. “I mean, just look at how easy it was to take her over!”

“Hamon can hurt humans,” Noriaki went on. “I have to concede on that point, but someone’s own Hamon won’t do that.”

“Weren’t you just listening, shitbag!? I said this girl was weak and fragile- do you think I’d even think of taking over a Hamon user!?”

“You possessing her isn’t a sign of her weakness. Underestimating her, however, was your first mistake. Do you want to know what your second one was?”

She pulled a bored expression when Noriaki paused. “What? Spit it out already!”

“Underestimating me.”

While they’d been talking, Jotaro had barely noticed Hierophant Green’s tentacles as they’d slithered along the ground. It appeared that Suzie hadn’t noticed them either, as she was soon ensnared, mouth pried open by the stand as its head slithered inside.

Jotaro’s eyes widened in horror as he held himself back- knowing what Noriaki was up to. Lisa Lisa, on the other hand, was frozen in shock.

“W-What’s going on?” she asked, grabbing at Jotaro’s arm in an attempt to push past him. “Is that Eisidisi?”

“No,” Jotaro said. Then, simply, “It’s his stand.”

Hierophant Green’s original ability: Possession.

Soon, Suzie was back on her own two legs, standing straighter and appearing more collected than she ever had been when she was possessed by Eisidisi.

Her shoulders rose as the sound of her deeply inhaling filled the room.

“But- wait!” Lisa Lisa said, “Suzie Q doesn’t have Hamon!”

“Everyone has life energy, Lisa Lisa,” Noriaki said. “Everyone wants to live and everyone has the potential to make the most of that energy- to live to the fullest. When you shocked Jotaro and I, all you did was unlock that potential. If, while my stand is inside her, I can do the same for Suzie-”

He cut himself off as Suzie mirrored his stance, pulling her arms to her chest as her hands formed into “pistols.” Her empty glare sharpened and she let out a cry, golden energy flowing out of her body only to weave back inside. It was as if she was the source of all Hamon, taking in more air than Jotaro thought possible. Just as he was wondering how much Eisidisi- or his grandmother for that matter- could take, the bastard emerged.

He was just a brain, though Jotaro hadn’t known that before. Seeing his veins flailing about as it scuttled along his grandmother’s falling body, he grew vigilant and shot forward. The intention was to grab the thing before it could take her over once more. Hierophant Green emerged first, snatching it out of the air and flinging it over and into the sunlight. So instead, Jotaro caught Suzie, lowering her to the floor as she bled and shook in his arms.

“J-Jojo-” She shuddered, her wide, scared eyes finding his own as she moved her right hand up to touch at his face.

He grabbed her hand, steadying it and holding it there against his cheek, even as he jolted at the feeling of her once-boiling blood on his skin.

“Obaasan,” he muttered, not missing the look of realization that soon clouded Lisa Lisa’s features.

That cloud of distress vanished upon her turning her gaze on Noriaki and the smoldering remains of Eisidisi’s brain.

“I won’t pretend to understand all of what just happened,” she said, eyes falling to Jotaro. “but I think it’s safe to say it was a bit of a shit show.”

Jotaro turned over his shoulder to glare at her. We can talk about this later, he thought, wishing that for once she’d understand him nearly as well as his grandmother, his mother, Noriaki- or Hell even the old man, who he’d never have considered to know him at all- understood him.

Whether or not his wish was granted, she didn’t say anything as he pulled his arm under Suzie Q’s legs. He held her close to his chest, which was tight with the breath he’d been holding.

Turning around slightly, he said, “Oh yeah, almost forgot,” and shifted Suzie to the side, careful not to flinch at the murmur she let out as he dug a hand into his pocket.

Lisa Lisa only watched, snatching the piece of metal that he flicked at her out of the air before she brought it up to examine it.

“That’s one of the rings you need to get the poison out of him. Give it to your son when he gets back.”

Then he turned, only giving Noriaki one more pleading look before he took Suzie Q down to one of the lower sitting areas to rest.

This shouldn’t have happened to you, he thought.

His face suddenly grew hot as a familiar, unwelcome tension formed just behind his eyes. Still, he kept his emotions in check. There were more important things to worry about.