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Ballroom Blitz

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“Yo! Jolyne!” someone shouted from down the hall, accompanied by running footsteps. Jolyne recognized the voice just in time to jump sideways and turn what would have been a full-blown tackle-hug into a mere headlock. She gritted her teeth and threw her hands up to fend off the knuckles descending toward her skull.

“Josuke, I swear to god if you fuck up my braids I’ll climb in your window at night and steal all your hairspray,” she hissed furiously, shoving his arm away. She could practically hear him pouting as his grip relaxed.

“Fine, fine!” he said, releasing her, though he kept his arm slung around her shoulders. She made a token attempt to shrug it off but ultimately let it remain.

“Anyways, did you hear the news?” Josuke pressed, nearly vibrating with excitement. She glanced up at his ear-to-ear grin and nearly had to squint against the brilliance of it. She had not, in fact, heard the news, but she could make an educated guess based off his expression alone.

“Is it… the new fall pl-”

“It’s the new fall play!” he cried enthusiastically, verifying her assumption before she could even finish the sentence. She rolled her eyes, though not without fondness. There was a lot Josuke got excited about, but the plays the theatre department put on every semester held a special place in his heart. “They just posted the sign-up sheet for auditions, come on, let’s put our names down!”

Jolyne groaned. “Josuke, you know I think it’s great that you’re so passionate or whatever, but I wasn’t planning on-”

“Don’t even try,” he cut her off, waving a finger in her face. “Joseph already told me the counselor’s making you and Jotaro do it no matter what! If we don’t sign up now, somebody else will get the best audition times!”

Jolyne groaned again, louder, but let herself get towed along. “I bet you didn’t make Jotaro sign up like this,” she grumbled.

“Jotaro’s, like, half a foot taller than me!” Josuke protested. “He’d gut me if I tried!”

“Coward,” she said, despite knowing full well that it was an entirely reasonable fear. Josuke made an offended noise and she had to duck to avoid another grab at her hair, followed by an elbow to the side, which made him wheeze for a moment.

“Besides,” he managed once he’d regained his breath. “Okuyasu told me the stagehands are going to be helping set up the new speakers and everything today, which means if you sign up for an audition time soon, you’ll get to see Hermes carrying heavy stuff around...”

Fuck. He knew her too well. One drunken game of truth or dare and five minutes of rhapsodizing about her roommate’s biceps were going to be held against her forever.

Fine,” she eventually ground out.

Because he was a terrible person, Josuke laughed at her furious, defeated expression, and then softened. “Cheer up,” he said. “It’ll be great working with all our friends again, won’t it? Feels kinda like, I dunno, getting the family back together or something.”

Jolyne allowed herself a slight smile. Cheesy as they were, the words did ring with truth. She relaxed against Josuke’s side. Last semester, the first time she’d been forced to participate in the theatre program thanks to her counselor’s hopes that it would ‘improve her attitude,’ she’d actually… had a lot of fun. More than she would ever admit out loud.

Yeah. Getting the family back together. There was a thought.

 ---

Supplena Community College wasn’t a particularly remarkable school, nor was it located in a particularly remarkable city. Although it wasn’t outstanding academically, it had a decently large budget and a thriving student population. All in all, it was in every way on the better side of average.

There was only one thing that was really remarkable about Supplena Community College, in truth, which was its theatre program. That was almost entirely due to its director, Elizabeth Joestar (‘Director Lisa,’ if you valued your life).

Five feet and nine inches of designer sunglasses and perfect posture who invariably managed to be the most intimidating person in any room despite being ostensibly physically non-threatening, Director Lisa was a force of nature who ruled the theatre department with an iron fist wrapped in a silk glove. She was a walking paradox; a very serious person, but one who also always seemed to be laughing at some private joke. No one knew quite how she managed it, but she consistently managed to secure both excellent scripts and reliable funding for her department.

In other words, she was the polar opposite of her son in almost every way. Joseph Joestar was twenty-one and built like a brick wall, but with the temperament of a golden retriever puppy on a perpetual sugar high. Said son was also, at the moment, in the process of attempting to pick the lock to his mother’s office, attacking the keyhole with a borrowed bobby pin. The original owner of the bobby pin, standing behind him in the hall, was pacing back and forth as she fretted.

“Jojo, I think I hear someone coming!” Suzie said, wringing her bandana between her hands. “We should go… what if it’s your mother?”

Joseph waved a dismissive hand before pulling another bobby pin from between his teeth and trying to lever the first against the tongue of the lock. “Don’t worry, Suzie-Q,” he said lightly. “It’s not her. You’d never hear her coming.”

Unsurprisingly, these words failed to be comforting. Suzie made another whimpering noise of uncertainty. “You do know how to pick locks, right?”

Joseph paused in his work to glance over his shoulder. “Look, this was your idea! Don’t be a chicken. We’re just gonna take a peek at the script. I know you want to know what the play is even more than I do.”

“Not enough to risk getting in trouble with Director Lisa!” Suzie protested, hands still fidgeting. “I can hear somebody getting closer, come on-"

“No, no, I’ve almost got this-“

The footsteps rounded the corner and came to a stop, accompanied by a slight squeak from Suzie. A shadow fell over Joseph’s head, blocking out the bright sheen of the university’s fluorescent lights on the brass doorknob. He slowly looked up and met the dark blue eyes of one Jonathan Joestar.

Jonathan looked deeply disappointed in that specific way of his that made the weak-willed rethink their entire lives. Joseph attempted a guileless smile, which he thought he pulled off impressively given that he was kneeling in front of a doorknob with two bobby pins still sticking out of the keyhole. Jonathan just looked even more disappointed, if that was possible.

“Hiiii, Jonathan,” Suzie said nervously from behind them, moving one hand in a little fluttering wave.

“Hello, Suzie,” Jonathan said without turning around. He had his arms crossed. Joseph suppressed a wince. “Joseph…” He even sounded disappointed. That wasn’t fair.

“Before you say anything,” Joseph said, “what are the odds that my mom doesn’t have to know about this?”

Jonathan sighed. “I’ll give you a half-hour head start before I tell her.”

“I’ll take it!” Joseph cheered, bouncing to his feet. “You’re the best, Jonathan. C’mon, Suzie!”

“Huh- oh!” Suzie might have been about to say something else, but was abruptly interrupted by Joseph bodily hoisting her off her feet, scooping her up bridal style, and sprinting off down the hall, green and yellow scarf waving behind him like a flag.

“It was nice to see you, Jonathan!” Suzie yelled over Joseph’s shoulder at Jonathan’s rapidly receding form, waving enthusiastically. “See you at auditions!”

Jonathan watched until they rounded the corner, Joseph’s momentum nearly carrying them directly into the wall. Once they were out of sight, he leaned against the door, rested his head in his hands, and laughed helplessly.

 ---

The signup sheet was posted conspicuously on the wall outside of the auditorium that served as the theatre department’s focal point. There was already a small cluster of people crowded around it, either enthusiastically signing their names or lingering and deliberating over it.

“Aw, yes! New play!” Narancia cheered as he and his group of friends approached, chatting among themselves.

“What the fuck are you so excited about?” Fugo asked sourly, glaring sideways at Narancia. “You’re not even going to be in it.”

“Well, duh,” Narancia said with a dramatic roll of his eyes, utterly unfazed by Fugo’s scorn. “Why would I want to? Memorizing lines is hard. What I get to do is way more fun!”

“You know, the lights are supposed to follow scripted cues as well, Narancia,” Giorno said mildly as he wove through the crowd of people to write his own name in, the words lightly flavored with his soft Italian accent. Once finished, he passed the pen to Trish, who signed her own name with a looping cursive flourish.

“I know!” Narancia said defensively. “Bruno even makes me a list of who the spotlight’s supposed to be on every time so I don’t lose track. That doesn’t mean I can’t have any fun with it!”

“Just don’t drop glitter on the crowd during the final show again,” Abbacchio said flatly. “It took weeks to get it all out of my hair.”

Trish finished writing her name down and handed the pen off to Mista, popping a piece of gum in her mouth. “I thought the glitter was fun,” she said. “It made me look like I had really intense highlighter on for, like, a week. My cheekbones were poppin’.”

Narancia tapped a finger against his bottom lip thoughtfully before lighting up. “Water balloons?”

No,” Abbacchio, Fugo, and Giorno all said immediately, in unison.

Mista scribbled his name down, then turned away from the signup sheet, pausing when he seemed to remember something. “Hey, Bruno is stage managing again this year, right?”

“Of course,” Abbacchio said, crossing his arms. Who else would have the patience to wrangle all you brats wasn’t said, but it was strongly implied.

“Actually, he has help this year,” Giorno said. “A freshman communications student volunteered to split the duties with him. Hirose, I think.”

Trish brightened, breaking the facade of her faux disinterest. “Oh, Yasuho? I’ve seen her around. She’s cute.”

“Gay,” Narancia said, sounding delighted.

“Bi,” Trish shot back. “And also, none of us are straight? And also, fuck off.”

Narancia raised his hands in surrender.

“You all done?” Fugo asked, glancing with vague unease at the growing press of people surrounding them as more and more curious students migrated over to look at the signup sheet. “Can we go now?”

“I mean, unless you or Abbacchio is going to sign up,” Mista said, offering the pen with a shit-eating grin, eyebrows raised. Fugo looked at his outstretched hand with utmost disdain, then turned around and walked away without a word. Mista wheeled around to look at Abbacchio instead, only to be faced with the older student’s retreating back.

“They don’t know what they’re missing out on,” Narancia said confidently, offering a fist bump to nobody in particular. Trish obligingly knocked her fist against his own.

“It’ll certainly be interesting,” Giorno said with a slight smile, glancing back at the audition sheet. It was already growing crowded with names.

Jean-Pierre Polnareff, Joseph Joestar, Josuke Higashikata, Jolyne Cujoh, Weather Report, Suzie Quatro, Caesar Zeppeli, Erina Pendleton, Jonathan Joestar, Muhammad Avdol, Jotaro Kujo, Smokey Brown, Daiya Higashikata, Hato Higashikata, Kyo Nijimura, Lucy Steel, Mikitaka Hazekura.

 ---

“Come on!”

“No.”

“Pleeeeease?”

“No.”

“Aw, but it would be really fun if it was all four of us-“

“No.” The voice was flat, unimpressed, and immovable as a boulder. Hot Pants folded her arms after speaking, as if to emphasize her point, and stared down at Gyro with enough concentrated disdain to fell a full-grown elephant.

“Johnny signed up!” Gyro tried, gesturing towards the man in question, who was watching the exchange with an expression of supremely bored exasperation.

“You signed Johnny up and he’s too much of a weakling to tell you ‘no-’”

“Johnny’s right here and can speak for himself, thanks,” Johnny snapped. “Also, fuck you very much, HP.” Neither of the people arguing paid him any attention. Diego leaned against the handles of his wheelchair, propping his chin up on a casual hand like he was watching a show, the weirdo. Johnny shifted the direction of his ire to glare up at him.

“Shouldn’t it be your job to convince her?” Johnny asked irritably.

Diego examined his fingernails. They were filed to points and painted sapphire blue, and in Johnny’s humble opinion, looked incredibly tacky. “I’m not sure what you’re referring to.”

“You can’t keep pretending you’re not fu-” Johnny started hotly, only to be cut off when Hot Pants, her impressive stores of patience apparently depleted, kicked Gyro in the shins with enough force to make him crumple to the floor.

Diego winced exaggeratedly. “And there’s why I wasn’t the one to try to win her over,” he said. “Oooh, she wore her steel-toed boots today, too. That’s gotta sting.”

“Johnny,” Gyro wheezed from where he’d curled into a loose ball on the floor. “I think she broke my leg. I’m gonna die.”

“You’ll be fine,” Johnny said, flatly and without any hint of sympathy.

“How can you be so cavalier?” Gyro wailed, staring up at him with a look of pure betrayal. Johnny was going to kick his ass. “This could be a serious injury! I might never walk again!”

“Oh, boo hoo,” Johnny snapped, “I can’t imagine how terrible that would be- you’re not going to die from a broken leg, you pussy-”

“How do you know that?”

“Wh- you’re a medical student!”

Hot Pants, doubtlessly imagining a future where Gyro was a licensed surgeon, muttered “God help us” under her breath and made the sign of the cross.

Gyro eventually pulled himself to his feet, shooting an exaggeratedly hurt look at Hot Pants as he did so. She met it with a flat stare of disapproval.

“You do this every time,” she said. “And every time I say no. I am not participating, and I never will.”

“Not even if we put on the Sister Act?” Gyro asked cheekily, and Johnny snorted despite himself. The Sister Act was, infamously among their friend group, Hot Pants' favorite movie, and this from a woman who usually decried anything even remotely traditionally feminine (with the exception of the color pink).

“Yes,” Hot Pants confirmed, shutting him down ruthlessly. “And if we’re finished here, I’d like to go riding before evening classes start.”

Johnny perked up. So did Diego, his facade of bored amusement visibly cracking. “I’m in,” they said at the same time, before immediately glaring at each other.

Gyro, his grievously injured leg suddenly and miraculously fully recovered, jumped to his feet and grinned with all his hideous gold-grilled glory. “Let’s go!”

 ---

“Soooooooo?” Reimi asked, dragging the word out teasingly and wiggling her eyebrows. Rohan took a sip of his smoothie in lieu of answering.

“So what,” he eventually said, when Reimi’s eyebrows looked in serious danger of jumping off of her skull.

“So what’ve you been up to?” Reimi prompted, scooping up a spoonful of her own strawberry parfait and pointing at him with the heavily laden spoon. “It seems like we never talk anymore!”

“We had brunch here a week ago,” Rohan said, gesturing around at the smoothie shop’s patio. “We have brunch here every week. And besides, if anything actually interesting had happened in my life, you’d already know. It’s a pointless question.”

“Well, maybe I don’t care if it’s interesting!” Reimi said, unfazed. “I want to hear about your life! And besides, a lot can happen in a week, you know.”

Against his will, Rohan considered it. “That Yukako girl’s been lurking around our dorm again,” he finally said with an irritated huff. That was a mild inconvenience to him, which meant it was probably the sort of thing Reimi would class as ‘interesting.’ “I’ve suggested Koichi get a restraining order, but he won’t.”

“That’s because he’s a nice person,” Reimi said wisely.

Rohan narrowed his eyes. “Are you trying to make a point?”

“I just think it’s good for you to have a roommate who’s capable of normal social interaction,” she said with a smile.

“Social interaction is an unfortunate necessity and a hindrance to productivity,” Rohan said.

“See! See, that attitude right there is exactly what I’m talking about,” Reimi said, jabbing her spoon in his direction. “So you still haven’t made any other friends, hm?”

“Why would I want to?”

Reimi fixed him with a severe look.

Rohan sighed. “No. Because most of the people here are downright intolerable. Especially the people in theatre.”

Reimi brightened, looking intrigued. “Rohan! You didn’t tell me you were in theatre!” she scolded.

Rohan waved a hand dismissively. “Just as hobby project I’ve taken on in my spare time. They needed someone to paint the sets. Last year they were unacceptably messy, so I volunteered out of the goodness of my heart.”

Reimi beamed. “That’s great! I’m happy for you!”

“Perhaps,” Rohan said, expression still slightly pinched. “I recently was told that this time I’ll be working with another artist, and I never work at my best when I’m forced to collaborate,” he said, spitting it out like it was a dirty word. “It usually means having to compromise my vision for the sake of someone else’s sensibilities.”

Reimi made a noise of disagreement. “You won’t know until you try!” she said brightly. “What about the other people in theatre with you? I bet they’re nice.”

“Disgustingly so,” Rohan said, swirling his spoon in his smoothie. “It’s terrible. They never shut up. Production on the next play hasn’t even begun yet, I don’t know what everyone is so excited about. Auditions begin tomorrow.”

“What’s the play?” she asked.

Rohan shrugged. “I haven’t been told yet. Last spring it was Grease, so hopefully it’s something less juvenile.” That stupid musical had given him enough experience painting lockers for a lifetime, not to mention he’d had to tolerate Josuke playing the lead.

“Well,” Reimi said, smile unchanged, “Whatever it is, I’ll definitely be in the audience on opening night!”

 ---

“I’m ho-ome!” Yasuho called in a sing-song tone as she stepped back into her apartment, kicking the door shut behind her with a sturdy tennis shoe and dropping her bag unceremoniously onto the floor. “Oof, that’s heavy- anyways, sorry I was so late getting back. There was a lot of last minute work to do with the casting call going up today.”

She started towards the bathroom, then paused, turning back to look at her roommate over her shoulder. “Oh, hey, I forgot to ask! You’re going to sign up, right?”

Josefumi blinked, looking up from his agriculture textbook for the first time. His purple eyes had a vaguely deer-in-the-headlights look as he processed the question. “Oh. Um. Do you think I should?”

“Yeah, of course!” Yasuho said, turning the rest of the way around and leaning back against the doorframe. “You’d be great! I mean, I figured, cause your voice is so nice-”

“I don’t know how good I’d be with a bunch of people looking at me, though,” he hedged, shrinking back behind the textbook on his lap slightly. “That sounds… intimidating. And I’ve never been in a play before.”

“You should do it,” Kira broke in, blunt and factual as ever, without looking up from his laptop. Both sets of eyes in the room swiveled over to him.

“Are you going to sign up?” Yasuho asked eagerly.

“Maybe,” he said with an absent shrug. “I have a lot of work to do, but Kyo’s signing up, so. Maybe.”

“Well… I hope you guys decide to give it a try!” Yasuho said with a slightly forced smile, fiddling with the edge of her rose-studded skirt with anxious fingers.

The movement didn’t go unnoticed, and Josefumi frowned, lowering his textbook. “Yasuho-chan, are you… nervous?”

Yes!” Yasuho burst, ducking her head before scrambling to elaborate. “I mean… it’s a lot of responsibility, isn’t it? And I’m just a freshman, and I barely know anybody, and I just… think it’d be better with a few friends there, that’s all. But you shouldn’t feel obligated, or anything-” she hurried to add as Josefumi and Kira traded a look.

“If you sign up, I will too,” Kira eventually said, looking back down at his laptop again.

“Deal,” Josefumi agreed, clapping his textbook shut before hesitating, glancing uncertainly over at Kira. “Er, now?”

“Yes. I just need to finish this paper,” he answered absently, fingers flying across the keys.

Yasuho sniffled, immediately drawing the attention of both of her roommates. When they looked up, she was beaming, a little teary-eyed. “You guys are the best,” she said. “You’re so sweet.”

Josefumi turned bright red. Kira rolled his eyes. “I am not,” he objected, though without much conviction behind it. “It just makes sense, if you two and Kyo are all going to be involved, for me to do so as well.”

“Uh-huh,” Yasuho said teasingly, even as something inside her melted in relief, something imperceptible clicking back into place. Stage managing was intimidating, but… it couldn’t go too badly, so long as her friends were there to back her up.

Maybe everything would be okay after all.

Chapter Text

“The conditions of the audition are straightforward, and the same as previous years,” Lisa Joestar declared in a voice that rang throughout the half-empty auditorium. She was seated in one of the cheap, plush red seats with all the decorum of a queen on a throne.

Next to her was Stephen Steel, one of the theater program’s most significant donors and fundraisers. He was clicking a pen nervously open and shut, tapping it irregularly against the clipboard on his knees. His adoptive daughter, Lucy, sat primly at his side, big blue eyes watching the stage with rapt attention. The students auditioning were perched in seats around the auditorium, or leaning up against the walls in a haphazard queue.

“Those auditioning,” Lisa continued, “will present a minute-long monologue. As the play this year is a musical, applicants may also be prompted to sing a few lines from a song of their choice.”

Whispering broke out among the applicants lined up at the side of the room, silenced by a sharp look from the director. Jotaro rolled his eyes. “If you intentionally sing badly to avoid a singing role, I will know. Auditions will continue for the next two days. All those auditioning must be signed up for a time slot beforehand. If an applicant doesn’t show up for their time, it will be opened to anyone.”

She settled back into her chair, velvet-gloved hands folded over her lap. Steel fumbled his clipboard, flipped a page back and adjusted his glasses to squint down at it. “A-ah! First up: Jean-Pierre Polnareff.”

Polnareff pumped a fist excitedly, then held it up for a high five, which Jotaro met with a flat, unimpressed stare. Undaunted, Polnareff turned to Avdol, who graciously gave him a pity high five, then turned and jogged up to the stage.

“Bets on him doing his monologue in French to show off?” Kakyoin asked under his breath, as Polnareff ascended the staircase and blew Director Lisa a kiss.

“I’d like to say he learned his lesson about that after last time,” Avdol answered, wearing an expression of slightly weary amusement, “but I wouldn’t bet on that.”

“Five dollars on Three Musketeers.”

Avdol hummed thoughtfully. “I’ll take that bet. It’s a musical. He’ll go Les Mis.”

“Deal,” Kakyoin agreed.

“Good grief,” Jotaro muttered. “Shut up. He’s about to start.”

“Monsieur Javert, I beseech your mercy,” Polnareff began onstage, and Kakyoin surreptitiously slipped Avdol a five dollar bill with a nod of concession.

Jotaro suddenly remembered something and frowned. “Wait. Kakyoin. You’re not auditioning.”

“Yes, so?” Kakyoin confirmed.

“So why are you here.”

Kakyoin snorted, nodding at the stage, where Polnareff was now collapsing to his knees, pleading desperately for mercy from the inspector. “You think I’d miss this?”

“Yes,” said Jotaro, who could not imagine a scenario where anyone would actively choose to be subjected to Polnareff’s acting.

“What are we whispering about?” a familiar voice broke in at a volume that barely even qualified as a whisper. Jotaro groaned, not bothering to hide it, and pulled the brim of his cap down in a futile attempt to avoid the intruder as Joseph Joestar shouldered his way into the conversation.

They were saved from having to answer by Caesar (Jotaro’s favorite of the two by the sole virtue of his competition being Joseph), who clapped a hand over Joseph’s mouth from behind. “Shut up, Jojo.”

Joseph gave him a betrayed look, which Caesar returned with a glare of his own. “Lisa will hear,” he hissed. “You want to be cleaning out the house for ‘character building’ for a week?”

A long silence dragged out, broken when Caesar blinked and asked, “Did you just lick my hand?”

Joseph wiggled his eyebrows. Caesar yanked his hand away with a sound of disgust.

There were about three things Jotaro knew about Joseph and Caesar. He counted himself lucky that it was only three. Even though he really couldn’t have cared less, gossip had a way of worming itself into even the most stubbornly apathetic of minds. That went double when one was friends (despite their best efforts) with both Polnareff, who had a tendency to seize onto juicy pieces of information and then chatter about them to everyone he knew, and Joseph himself, who Jotaro was fairly certain had never kept a secret in his life.

The things he knew about Caesar and Joseph were the following: they both lived with Joseph’s mother, Caesar used to be homeless, and they were definitely hooking up.

Onstage, Polnareff finished his audition with a dramatic bow. A scattering of uncertain applause greeted him, led by an enthusiastic Lucy Steel. Director Lisa didn’t participate, instead making a quick note on her clipboard as Polnareff sauntered back down the stairs.

“Trish Una,” Steel called, and a girl with a swirl of vibrantly pink hair and an aggressively revealing crop top hurried up to the stage. Jotaro recognized her, vaguely. He was pretty sure she played one of the bitchy girls in the last play they did.

“On our very first day at Harvard,” she began, without hesitation or a hint of anxiety, “A very wise professor quoted Aristotle, ‘The law is reason free from passion.’ Well, no offense to Aristotle, but-”

Jotaro tuned out both Joseph and Caesar’s whispered bickering and Trish’s high, clear voice, and leaned up against the wall. He’d put his name down for a later timeslot in the hopes that most of the other applicants would already be gone by then, and maybe Director Lisa would already have found all the cast members she needed, but he was beginning to wonder if that had been a mistake. Maybe he should’ve gone earlier, gotten it over with, instead of having to sit through everyone else’s auditions.

Trish sang a few bars from some old nineties pop song when prompted, then jumped down from the stage with a self-satisfied smile. Another note was made on the clipboard, and he thought he saw Director Lisa nod ever so slightly in approval.

“Y-yoshikage Kira,” Steel called, stumbling slightly over the Japanese name. Jotaro glanced up and narrowed his eyes.

The student climbing the stairs to the stage now wasn’t one he’d met before, which in itself was only a little odd. Sure, most of the people at the auditions were returning faces from the last time, but there were bound to be a few new faces. Sign-ups were open to all. Nonetheless, something about the guy… bothered Jotaro. He resolved to keep an eye on him.

With a nod from Director Lisa, Kira began. “I live in the American Gardens Building on West 81st Street on the 11th floor. My name is Patrick Bateman. I’m twenty-seven years old. I believe in taking care of myself, and a balanced diet and a rigorous exercise routine.”

Jotaro gritted his teeth and waited for the audition to finish. Not that he was enjoying any of this stupid spectacle, but this audition in particular was grating on him. Maybe it was something to do with the measured, flat way the lines were delivered. He was weirdly relieved when it was over and Kira stepped down from the stage.

Another note on the clipboard, another name called. “Josefumi Kujo.”

Jotaro straightened, frowning. Kujo?

“Hey, Jotaro,” Kakyoin said, evidently thinking the same thing Jotaro was. “Is that guy…?”

“We’re not related,” Jotaro answered. He was sure of it - he didn’t have any siblings, and even though his father had always been pretty absent, his mom was in contact with her in-laws enough that he felt comfortable saying they weren’t cousins. “Never seen him before.”

“Huh,” Kakyoin said thoughtfully. “Weird.”

Kira and Josefumi shared a nod as they passed. As Josefumi stepped into the spotlight and began giving a speech Jotaro didn’t recognize in a soft voice, Jotaro got a good look at his face and felt even more certain they weren’t related. The surname must have just been a coincidence.

The auditions continued, one after another.

Diego Brando, wearing a smartass grin that made Jotaro want to punch his teeth in for some unplaceable reason: “I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here: it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step.”

Avdol, calm and scholarly but with a hint of humor beneath his demeanor: “Yes, the actual Ten Commandments. The original stone tablets that Moses brought down out of Mount Horeb and smashed, if you believe in that sort of thing. Didn’t you guys ever go to Sunday School?”

Josuke Higashikata, the excitable kid with the weird hair who’d played the lead in the last play they’d done, stopped by to fist-bump Joseph before ascending the stairs to the stage when his name was called. Apparently, they were friends or something. Maybe they’d just bonded over being obnoxious.

“Dear Mr. Vernon,” Josuke announced, “We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it is we did wrong, but we think you’re crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are-”

Jotaro knocked his head against the wall behind him. It felt like the parade of auditions was never going to end. He couldn’t believe there were even more days of this yet to go, and then felt fervently glad that he wouldn’t need to sit through those too.

“Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club,” Josuke finished with a brilliant grin.

“Jolyne Cujoh,” Steel called, and the girl in question approached the stage with her thumbs hooked into her jean pockets. Josuke gave her a double thumbs up as he passed and she gave him a flat look in exchange. She had a distinctly sullen don’t-want-to-be-here teenage slouch that Jotaro recognized from the mirror. He’d met Jolyne once or twice, but never interacted for more than a few minutes.

Jolyne popped one hip to the side dramatically, and said in a passable New York drawl, “My sister, Veronica, and I did this double act and my husband, Charlie, traveled around with us. Now for the last number in our act, we did these twenty acrobatic tricks in a row-”

 ---

As soon as Jolyne’s name was called, Hermes dropped the amplifier she was holding to the carpeted auditorium floor with a muffled thump and paid immediate attention to the stage.

“Careful!” Koichi yelped, just barely wrangling his voice back down to a whisper as he hurried over to inspect the fallen sound equipment. “These are expensive, Director Lisa will be so mad if we break anything-”

“Hey, it’s Jolyne,” FF observed a few seconds later in a slightly delayed reaction. Hermes was already leaning across the rearmost row of seatbacks, watching the stage, and FF joined her.

“Are we taking a break?” Okuyasu asked, dropping his own armload of microphones to watch the stage as well, eliciting another pained noise from Koichi. “Oh, hey, I think Mikitaka’s up next.”

“Mikitaka?” Hermes asked, glancing over at him questioningly. The name was unfamiliar, and a little weird.

“Yeah, he’s pretty cool. Studies astronomy- y’know, planets and shit. Josuke and I met him a while back, I think Koichi’s met him too. He’s president of the conspiracy club or somethin’.”

Koichi frowned a little. “I met him, but I… didn’t know this school had a conspiracy club?”

“President and only member,” Okuyasu amended.

“I like him,” FF interjected abruptly. “He’s an alien, you know.”

Okuyasu lit up and whipped around. “So you think he really is?”

FF shrugged. “He says he is. Who am I to question an alien?”

Okuyasu looked thoughtful, or at least as thoughtful as Okuyasu ever got. “That’s true. But also, aliens aren’t real.”

“How do you know for sure?” FF asked.

Onstage, Jolyne snarled, “It wasn’t until I was washing the blood off my hands that I even knew they were dead,” and Hermes grabbed onto the seat in front of her for strength. FF gave her a supportive shoulder pat.

Jolyne sang the chorus of the Cell Block Tango when prompted (she had a really good voice, fuck), then stepped off the stage to be replaced by Mikitaka.

“We are but visitors on this rock,” he started, his voice taking on an almost eerie, otherworldly quality. “Hurtling through time and space at sixty-six thousand miles an hour, tethered to a burning sphere by an invisible force in an unfathomable universe. This most of us take for granted.”

“See,” FF said in a poorly-hushed aside, “would someone who’s not an alien say that?”

Okuyasu stroked his chin in consideration. “You have a point.”

 ---

Diego walked out of the auditorium with a distinct swagger in his step, obviously pleased with how he’d done in his audition. Hot Pants, leaning up against the opposite wall, glanced up to meet his eyes, and her purple-painted lips twisted into a slight smirk.

“Incoming,” she said, and Diego had a bare moment to blink in confusion before a fourteen-year-old girl collided with his back in a flying tackle.

Diego stumbled forward, nearly face-planting the tiles, before managing to find his footing. “Whoa, fuck-”

HP gave the newcomer a nod, making no move to help him steady himself. “Lucy.”

“Hi, HP!” Lucy called back with a bright smile, peering over Diego’s shoulder without loosening her death grip embrace around his chest. He wheezed. “Hi, Dio! Where’s Johnny and Gyro?”

“They’re home, their auditions are tomorrow,” Diego said. “Hey, kid, are you gonna… let go, or…”

“No way! I never get to see you guys. Can I come see Johnny and Gyro with you?”

“Sure,” HP said with a shrug before Diego could respond. “If it’s okay with your dad.”

“It’ll be fine! He trusts you guys.”

“He shouldn’t, we live like crackhead hoarders,” Diego muttered. HP elbowed him.

“Will you give me a piggyback ride?” Lucy asked.

“You’re fourteen, the last time I did that was when you were ten-”

“I’ll do it if he’s too scared,” HP interrupted, perfectly reversing Diego’s attitude on the matter in seconds.

“No, fuck you, I’ll do it. Hop up, kid.”

Lucy clambered up onto Diego’s back without needing to be told twice, settling her arms around his neck. He staggered for a moment under the sudden added weight but quickly readjusted. HP fell into easy step beside them as he started for the door. It helped that Lucy was pretty small for her age still, just a little slip of a girl.

“So, Lucy, are you going to be in the play again this year?” HP asked mildly, and Diego felt Lucy’s weight shift slightly as she shrugged.

“I don’t know! Probably. Stephen says it’ll depend on how all the other auditions go and what spots are left over. If not, I’ll at least be in the chorus.”

Diego perked up as something occurred to him. “Hey, speaking of which, has he told you what the play is?” he asked, trying to sound less curious than he was and mostly failing.

“Nope! I’m as much in the dark as any of you,” Lucy answered cheerfully, blissfully ignorant of Diego’s mutinous frown at the news.

“I don’t see why you’re so desperate to find out,” HP said. Her magenta hair caught the sunlight as the mismatched trio left the building and stepped out into the late afternoon. A warm September breeze was blowing over the campus. “You’ll find out in a week or so regardless, won’t you?”

“But I want to know now,” Diego said, acutely aware of how childish he sounded and not caring.

“Well, you can’t,” HP said bluntly.

“Stephen told me a senior got in trouble for trying to break into Director Lisa’s office to find out what it was,” Lucy offered. “I remember, cause he had the same last name as Johnny. Joseph?”

Ugh,” Diego said. “I’ve met him. He’s annoying. Never shuts up. He was chattering away at the auditions, too.”

“Yes,” HP said, her voice flat, words dripping with sarcasm. “Cocky Brits who never shut up are just the worst, aren’t they.”

Hey.” Diego scowled and hitched Lucy up higher on his back as they turned the corner towards their apartment building, crossing the border off of campus and entering into the city proper. They made a strange trio walking down the street, but they didn’t get many stares. Florida had seen much weirder, after all.

“Are they related?” Lucy asked, after a long enough silence that Diego had lost the thread of conversation completely. He glanced up at her.

“Who?”

“Johnny and Joseph,” she clarified. “Joestar’s not a very common name, is it?”

“They’re not,” HP said. “Johnny doesn’t have any living family aside from his father.”

“How’d you know that?” Diego asked, a little suspiciously. Something about this conversation felt a little familiar to him, but he couldn’t place it.

Hot Pants answered his skepticism with a deeply unimpressed look. “He gets weepy about it whenever he’s drunk.”

“...I don’t remember that,” Diego muttered after a moment, glancing away.

“That’s because if Johnny’s drunk, you and Gyro usually are too. There’s a reason I’m the only one of us with a license.”

“I could get one if I wanted!” Diego complained, moving to throw his hands up before remembering that his arms were currently supporting Lucy’s legs and frantically aborting the motion. “And at least I’m capable of having fun. Did leaving the church actually make you more uptight?”

“You’ll never know,” HP said.

Diego was preparing to hammer the insult home when he finally remembered what had been bothering him earlier. “Shit, Jonathan’s a Joestar too! That’s right, that’s where I remembered it from.”

“Jonathan?” HP asked.

“Yeah, y’know, kinda bluish-black hair, killer baritone, ridiculously built? I have a few classes with him since he’s an archeology major and that’s got a lot of crossover with paleontology, and he’s in theater, too. His last name is Joestar. I think he’s British too, actually. Maybe there’s just a lot of them around for some reason.”

Lucy made a little delighted noise. “Do you have a crush?”

Diego blanched, nearly dropping her to the sidewalk. “What- what, no, why-

HP snorted. Traitor.

“No. No. No, no, no.”

“Methinks the lady doth protest too much,” HP said. There was a smile teasing at the corner of her lips - god, she was enjoying this way too much.

“Hey, that’s Hamlet!” Lucy said. “Did they finally win you over?”

“I can appreciate theater,” HP answered. “I just have no interest in participating.”

“Look, everyone’s a little in love with Jonathan. It’s not that weird. I bet you would be too.”

“Doubt it,” HP said. “I have demonstrably bad taste in men.”

Hey, go fuck yourself,” Diego said, rolling his eyes. 

 ---

“Jojo,” Director Lisa called, and Joseph pouted.

“She can’t even call my full name?” he whined.

Caesar snorted, crossing his arms. “Maybe when you stop acting like a child, she’ll stop treating you like one.”

“I think that should be an if, not a when,” Lisa called without looking over at them, and Caesar immediately had to muffle laughter at the insulted look on Joseph’s face. He couldn’t even be surprised that she’d heard. “I don’t have all day, Jojo.”

I don’t have all day, Jojo, Joseph mouthed sarcastically to himself as he climbed the stage. By the time he stepped into the light, though, the irritation had melted away to show a bright, mischievous grin, and he rubbed his hands together.

Caesar realized abruptly that he didn’t know what Joseph's planned monologue was. He was pretty sure that Lisa didn’t know either. He smiled with something between excitement and mild dread and leaned back to watch the fireworks.

“Let me have your attention for a moment,” Joseph started, the snappish, Wall Street tone of his voice slightly undercut by the barely-restrained laughter visible on his face. “So you’re talking about what? You’re talking about, bitching about that sale you shot, some son of a bitch that doesn’t want to buy, somebody that doesn’t want what you’re selling, some broad you’re trying to screw and so forth.”

Lisa Lisa brought a hand up to her mouth. It was probably to muffle a cough. Probably. Caesar didn’t bother trying to hide his own laughter as Joseph continued, gestures only growing more expansive and ridiculous as he went on.

“Put that coffee down. Coffee’s for closers only,” Joseph finished. He winked at Director Lisa, then decided to forgo the stairs entirely and jump straight off the stage and onto the carpeting.

“Thank you, Jojo,” Lisa said, an unreadable smile on her lips. At her side, Steel was unsubtly checking his phone. “Caesar, you’re not going today?”

“Tomorrow,” Caesar said. “Suzie and I are going together.” Suzie was bubbly, enthusiastic, and had even played the leading role in the last musical as Sandy, so he didn’t know what she was nervous about, but he’d caved fairly fast when she’d asked him to sign up with her. It was incredibly hard to tell Suzie ‘no.’

Lisa nodded. “Then the only one left is Jotaro Kujo.”

Caesar glanced over at the last auditionee of the day. Jotaro, a massive silhouette in a bulky coat and shredded hat, was sitting in one of the cushioned seats, his feet propped up on the seatback in front of him. When his name was called, Caesar thought he saw him heave a sigh before he unfolded himself and stomped up to the stage.

“Ready to go, Jojo?” he asked as Joseph jogged up next to him.

“Absolutely not,” Joseph said gleefully, wheeling around to watch the stage as Jotaro took his place. “There is no way I’m missing this.”

Jotaro could not have looked more keenly uncomfortable if he was standing on a bed of nails. In fact, he looked like he would prefer the bed of nails to the slightly weathered stage.

“Whenever you’re ready,” Lisa prompted, as it rapidly became apparent that Jotaro was not going to begin on his own.

Jotaro grimaced, but started, “Father, I wish to confess.”

Oh my god!” Joseph hissed, grinning widely. Caesar made a zipping motion, keenly aware of Lisa glancing towards them, and Joseph shut up, but his grin didn’t fade an inch.

“I wish to confess. I saved you. I saved this city. All your worthless lives,” Jotaro continued, gaining momentum. He sounded utterly pissed, but it actually worked perfectly with his chosen monologue, and Caesar saw Lisa nodding to herself as she made a note on her clipboard.

“I should have let Stannis kill you all. Yes, Father, I’m guilty. Guilty. Is that what you want to hear? I didn’t poison the king. Of that, I’m innocent. I’m guilty of a far more monstrous crime. I’m guilty of being a dwarf. I’ve been on trial for that my entire life. I did not do it. I did not kill Joffrey, but I wish that I had. Watching your vicious bastard die gave me more relief than a thousand lying whores. I wish I was the monster you think I am. I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you. I would gladly give my life to watch you all swallow it.

“I will not give my life for Joffrey's murder. And I know I'll get no justice here, so I will let the gods decide my fate.”

“I demand a trial by combat!

As soon as his speech was done, Jotaro stormed off of the stage and out the doors without a backwards glance. Joseph, likely out of whatever dim sense of self-preservation he possessed, politely waited until Jotaro was out of earshot before collapsing into laughter.

 ---

Stephen Steel checked his phone yet again as he followed Lisa Lisa out of the building, their duties for the day complete. There was a new chain of texts on the screen, and his face lit up before tightening into a frown as he read them.

“Is something the matter?” Lisa asked, politely concerned, as she pulled a cigarette out and lit it.

Stephen sighed and shook his head. “Lucy went off with those college friends of hers again. Brando, Joestar, Zeppeli, and, er… Pants.”

Bright, unreadable blue eyes flicked up to him. “Pants.”

The problem with talking to Lisa Joestar, Stephen thought, was that you never knew if she was laughing at you or not. “I- look, I don’t know her actual name, she goes by Hot Pants, that’s all.”

“I see,” Lisa said, bemused.

He sighed and shook his head. “It’ll be fine. I trust them with her, they’re rough around the edges but they all adore her. My concern is just that every time she spends time with them she comes home with an entire dictionary of new swear words.”

Lisa laughed under her breath. “She was bound to learn them eventually. I’ll see you back for auditions tomorrow.”

Auditions continued in a blur over the next few days. Name after name after name was called and note after note after note taken down on the clipboard, until finally, she had a cast list compiled.

And it was a good one, in her humble opinion.

 ---

“Sup, bitch,” Sheila said.

“Fuck you,” Fugo replied automatically, absently kicking the dorm room door shut behind him. His attention was focused on the girl hanging by her knees from the upper bunk. “What are you doing here?”

“Chilling,” she said, seemingly unbothered, eyes focused on whatever she was typing out on her phone. Her long braids, currently dyed electric orange, brushed the floor.

“You don’t live here,” Fugo felt the need to point out.

“Don’t I?” she challenged, glancing away from her phone long enough to leer at him.

No, you don’t-

“Hey, Sheila!” Narancia chirped from the hallway, having finally caught up. He ducked under Fugo’s arm with barely a pause to wriggle into the room.

“Hey, Nara,” she said with a lazy grin. “Fugo’s trying to kick me out.”

Narancia immediately turned to Fugo with a scandalized look. “What? Why?”

Fugo pressed his fingers to his temples. “I’m not kicking anyone out.”

“Good, cause I’m not going anywhere.”

Narancia clambered up the frame of the bunk bed like a monkey, not bothering with the ladder, and tossed himself down next to Sheila, leaning at least half of his body over the edge of the mattress in an effort to see what was on her phone screen. Fugo felt anxious just watching him, despite knowing full well that Narancia had walked away from harder blows to the head than a five-foot drop onto carpeting anyways.

“Whatcha doing?” Narancia asked, clinging to the bed frame in order to avoid falling from his vaguely precarious position.

Sheila grinned. “I’m seeing if anybody will pay me for pictures of Fugo’s script.”

Fugo’s gaze immediately went to the bag he’d left propped up on one of the chairs and groaned, gritting his teeth. Sure enough, the buckles were undone, and he could see the corner of the script he knew he’d buried at the very bottom peeking out of the half-open mouth.

“Sheila,” he gritted out.

She waved a hand. “Relax, I didn’t say it was your copy. Director Lisa’ll never know. And hey, I’ll split my profits with you. You’re like, my accomplice.”

“I don’t want to be your accomplice- I wrote all over those pages, they’re probably not even legible-”

“Then you should hide your shit.”

“It was hidden,” Fugo snapped, striding over to the half-open back and pulling the script out. He waved it irritably in her direction for emphasis before flipping through and checking that none of the pages were missing. They were indeed thoroughly marked up with blue pen, the results of Fugo’s editing work. This was one of the first copies of the script that had been printed, straight from Director Lisa.

“Hide it better,” Sheila replied, unbothered. Narancia’s gaze bounced back and forth between the two. He didn’t even bother to hide his immensely entertained smile. Fugo ground his teeth together.

“How much are you selling them for?” he finally asked, successfully fighting off the beginnings of a stress headache.

“Ten bucks if I can swing it,” Sheila answered. “If anybody’s dumb enough to actually pony up for something we’ll all be getting in like a week anyways, we can get takeout or something. I’ve got Hato Higashikata interested, I think.”

“Takeout?” Narancia asked, perking up, then turning a pair of hopeful eyes on Fugo.

“No,” Fugo said.

Takeout,” Narancia said insistently. “C’mon, Fugo. I’m hungry.”

“Yeah, Fugo, come on,” Sheila said. She was still grinning.

Fugo groaned. “Fine.

 ---

Jolyne hip-checked her dorm door open and, once through, kicked it shut behind her, feeling the impact shudder into the walls. The room was dark, with the lights off and the last glow of evening fading outside. She threw herself bodily onto her bed, breath whooshing out of her lungs, and buried her face in her pillow in a flimsy attempt to suffocate herself.

“Are you okay, Jolyne?” a small voice asked from across the room. Jolyne moaned into her pillow in lieu of answering coherently. The quick pitter-patter of hurried footsteps across the floor approached her bedside, and a hand shook her shoulder carefully.

“Jolyne?”

He actually sounded nervous that time, and she didn’t want that. She forced herself to lift her head and turned to look into Emporio’s worried golden eyes, bright in the darkness of the room. “Hey, kiddo,” she said, shoving herself up into a sitting position with one hand, rubbing at her eyes with the other. Emporio hopped up onto the bed next to her. “Nah, everything’s fine. Just… a long day. They’re posting the cast list for the play the day after tomorrow.”

“Oh,” Emporio said, drawing his legs up to his chest and leaning into her side, gaze intently focused down into his lap. “Right.”

Jolyne frowned, glancing down at him. “Hey, something wrong?”

“No,” he answered, too quickly to be convincing. Jolyne frowned.

“That sounds like bullshit,” she said bluntly. “What is it? Did somebody spot you in the hallways? If you’re worried about getting ratted out for living here, just tell me, I’ll go find ‘em and kick their-”

“It’s not that!” Emporio said hastily. “I’ve been really careful! I don’t want to get you and Hermes into trouble.”

“But it is something,” Jolyne deduced. “C’mon, spill.”

“I don’t,” Emporio started, stopped, hunched his shoulders up even further around his ears. “I don’t want to… you’re happy.”

Jolyne blinked, brow furrowing in confusion, and pulled her legs up onto the bed, resituating herself to face him fully. “Yeah, of course I’m happy. Why wouldn’t I be?”

Emporio swallowed hard, head bobbing. He still wasn’t meeting her eyes. “That’s- the problem. Everything’s okay now. And there’s something that if I tell you… it might ruin all of this. But… I think you’d want to know anyways.”

Jolyne wracked her brain, trying to think of what he could possibly be referring to. Some piece of information broad and devastating enough to ruin everything? If it was anyone else, she’d think they were being overdramatic, but Emporio wasn’t the type to exaggerate. Really, if anything, it was the opposite. He’d denied that his broken ankle was a problem with complete sincerity the first time she met him. If he said something was bad… it probably really was.

“Tell me.”

Emporio’s lips pinched into a thin, anxious line. “Don’t hate me, okay?”

“Hey now, I could never,” Jolyne said, scrubbing a reassuring hand through his golden curls. She’d need to remind him to wash his hair again- he had a tendency to forget he had twenty-four/seven access to hot water now.

He nodded, breathed out. “Okay. Okay. None… none of this is real.”

“None of… what?” Jolyne asked slowly.

Everything!” Emporio exclaimed, making a gesture to encompass the room, Jolyne, the world outside the dorm window. His hands were trembling. “This school, this world, it’s all wrong. I don’t know- why it happened, this isn’t the universe that Made in Heaven made, it’s, it’s something different-“

“Made in Heaven…?” Jolyne echoed quietly. The name hit on something in her brain, something familiar she couldn’t quite recall, but Emporio barely seemed to notice, his words growing even faster and more frantic.

“But there’s- people here who shouldn’t be here, and people here who shouldn’t be alive, and you’re Jolyne instead of Irene and you’re alive and Hermes and Mr. Jotaro and Weather Report are all back and that’s good but it’s wrong!”

Something uneasy was crawling into her stomach, something she couldn’t exactly place. What Emporio was saying didn’t make any sense at all, but in some way that she couldn’t put her finger on and didn’t want to think about, it did. She just didn’t know why. “Slow down,” she said. Her voice came out sounding strange.

“If I can remember,” Emporio said, and he sounded desperate now, staring up at her face searchingly. She couldn’t tell what he was looking for. “If I can remember, you should be able to too. But… you don’t, do you?”

Jolyne was shaking her head. “I don’t know what you mean,” she said plaintively, even though that uneasy, familiar feeling in her stomach was stronger now, more palpable.

“Jolyne,” Emporio said, “what’s your father’s name?”

Jolyne frowned, a little taken aback by the strangeness of the question and the obviousness of the answer. “It’s-”

-what was it?

It wasn’t a hard question. It shouldn’t have been a hard question. She knew her father’s name, of course she did. It was-

It was right on the tip of her tongue, the edge of her mind, just within arm’s reach, frustratingly near, and she knew she knew it, but for whatever reason, she couldn’t reach it. That sickening feeling of disorientating discomfort intensified until it was nearly unbearable. He was right, something was wrong, something was so wrong.

“I don’t know,” she eventually said, the words sounding weak and miserable even to her own ears. “I don’t- why don’t I know?”

“You do know,” Emporio said urgently. “You just need to remember. Green Dolphin Street, Father Pucci, Whitesnake, Cape Canaveral- Stone Free.”

Stone Free.

Something that had been missing fell back into place, with such weight and impact that if Jolyne hadn’t already been sitting she would’ve staggered. Her fingers dug into the blankets tightly enough to turn her knuckles white, because-

because-

because-

-she remembered.

“Jotaro Kujo,” she heard herself say. Her voice sounded distant. “My father’s name is Jotaro Kujo.”

Emporio made a little noise, followed by a wet sniffle. When she pulled herself out of her shell-shocked reverie enough to open her eyes again, he was crying. The tears were coming thick and silent, and they rolled down his cheeks and dropped to the bedspread as he tried in vain to wipe them away, screwing his face up and scrubbing futilely at his eyes.

It was a moment longer before she realized she was crying too, tracks of eyeliner running down her face. Emporio gasped out an achingly relieved sob, turned and buried his face in her chest, and she was hugging him too tightly for comfort before she could think.

“Emporio,” she said, lost and overwhelmed by the flood of memory that had rushed over her, and thinking of a sanctuary preserved in the middle of a prison, an acid-riddled bone that had saved her life, a hopeless last stand to buy a chance for this boy to live. “Where the hell are we?”

“Don’t know,” he mumbled into her shirt, the words rendered blurry and almost indistinguishable. “But it’ll be okay. Right?”

He sounded so young. It was easy to forget he was just a kid, one who’d never even had the luxury of knowing his birthday. Jolyne’s head was spinning with knowledge and recollection and there were so many people she needed to see- Hermes, FF, Weather, Dad- but for the moment all she did was tighten her grip.

“Yeah,” she said, her voice soft. “It’ll be okay.”

Chapter Text

Giorno Giovanna was an early riser. He rose with the sun and had ever since he could remember. It had started because he liked to creep downstairs to make himself breakfast before his mother woke and continued after he left home. He liked the quiet solitude of the early mornings and enjoyed having the luxury to prepare for the day ahead.

So it was very unusual for him to sleep in later than either of his roommates, both of whom had sleeping patterns which could be charitably called ‘irregular.’ And yet there he was, halfway between sleep and consciousness, someone shaking his shoulder vigorously.

He blinked his eyes open blearily, squinting up from his pillow, and for a moment, nothing seemed real. A veneer of uncomfortable wrongness was laid over the room; like he was looking at a world built out of cardboard and plastic that could come tumbling down with just a push.

“Giorno, wake up. Giorno! C’mon, boss, you’re gonna be late to class.”

Those words managed to strike a chord, breaking the odd spell of unreality. Giorno clumsily shoved himself up into a halfway-sitting position, propping himself up with one arm and using the other to rub the sleep out of his eyes. “Mista?”

Mista grinned. “Hey, there he is! Buongiorno!” he said, looking incredibly pleased with himself despite having used the exact same joke at least twenty times before.

“What time is it?” Giorno asked, glancing towards the window and getting a lance of bright white sunlight directly into his eyes for his trouble, forcing him to flinch away immediately.

“Nine thirty,” Trish said, glancing up from her phone. “We’ve been trying to wake you up for like ten minutes.” She paused, then amended, “Well, Mista has. I was doing my makeup.”

He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d woken up later than eight. “My first class is in fifteen minutes.”

“Yup,” Trish agreed. “Better get a move on. You might even need to forgo the hair curlers for today.”

Giorno nodded, slightly stunned, and dragged himself out of bed, nearly face-planting when he got tangled in the blankets. He must not have slept easily at all, he supposed, which was odd, given he couldn’t even remember what he’d dreamed about beyond a few fleeting, abstract images. No time to worry about it, though.

He rushed through his morning routine with impressive speed, while Mista and Trish loitered by the door and shouted occasional encouragement. They were absolutely no help at all, and he didn’t know what he’d do without them.

As Trish had predicted, he did wind up having to forfeit his hair for the day, to his dismay, but otherwise managed to have himself reasonably presentable within ten minutes. Mista gave him a companionable slap on the back that nearly made him stagger as they walked out the door of the dorm building.

It was a beautiful fall day, the sun beaming down as the three walked to class. And yet, something was bothering him, some niggling background feeling he couldn’t quite shake. “Mista,” he said, voice slightly detached. “When you woke me up earlier. What did you call me, again?”

“Huh? ‘Giorno’?” Mista asked, raising an eyebrow.

That wasn’t it. Giorno frowned slightly. “No, there was something else.”

Mista and Trish exchanged a bewildered look before Mista looked back at Giorno with a helpless shrug. “I got nothing.”

“Hmm,” Giorno hummed absently.

Trish shot him a sideways look of concern. “You feeling okay, Giogio? You kinda look like you’re still half asleep.”

“Yeah, man, you look like a zombie,” Mista added. “Is this what happens when you don’t have two hours to do your hair?”

“No,” Giorno said. “I just… feel like I’ve forgotten something.”

“Your phone?” Trish asked. Giorno blinked and patted down his pockets, then hissed several nasty words under his breath in Italian. Trish laughed.

They made it to class (English, required core course for all freshmen, especially Italian students for whom English was a second language) with seconds to spare. As soon as the professor started talking, though, Giorno felt himself start to drift again, his focus drifting back to the last night.

What had he dreamed about?

The snatches he could remember were bizarre and unhelpful: a Venetian mask with an ornate arrowhead in its mouth, a plane plummeting from the sky in pieces, a flash of sunlight on gold bright enough to blind. He pressed one hand to his forehead in a useless attempt to fend off the beginnings of a headache and glanced out the window beside his seat.

Trish was wrong. It wasn’t just his phone. He had forgotten something. Something important.

He just couldn’t remember what it was.

There was a light impact against his shoulder, and he turned around to see a paper airplane tumble to the floor beside him. He picked it up and unfolded it to see a message written inside.

you look super spacey
take your notes or i can’t copy off them later

Giorno twisted around to glance at Trish sitting two rows behind him. She gave him a conspiratorial thumbs up.

She was right, questionable as her motives might have been. He’d had his notebook open in front of him with a pencil out for the past half hour, ever since class had started, and yet he hadn’t written a single word. He’d barely even heard the professor talking. He stared at the blank page like he could will the notes into existence, but it remained stubbornly empty.

What had he forgotten?

A Venetian mask, a falling airplane, a flash of gold. He tapped his pencil against his leg irregularly, irritably. Whatever it was, it was important. He knew that as a certainty. The minutes slipped by fluidly, and the professor was still lecturing, saying something now about metaphor, but Giorno was lost inside his own head, utterly occupied by a problem he couldn’t define.

Something caught his eye on the windowsill, and he looked down.

It was a ladybug, meandering slowly across the varnished wood, red carapace spotted with black dots. Without really knowing why, Giorno stretched out a hand, gently nudging the little insect onto his fingertip. It crawled down his finger and came to rest on one of his knuckles, bright as a ruby in the morning sunlight.

His false memories burned away like fog at sunrise, and he remembered.

The professor’s rambling oration was interrupted by a sudden squeal of chair legs scraping against a floor, and it wasn’t until everyone looked his way that Giorno realized he was standing, chest heaving, palms flat against the surface of the table.

“Did you have something to say, Mr. Giovanna?” the professor asked, looking up at him with undisguised irritation.

“Ah- mi dispiace,” he said. His voice sounded too high and loud in the silent lecture hall, so he made an active effort to force it back to calmness. The professor was still looking at him uncomprehendingly and oh, English, right. He was in Florida. Why was he in Florida? “I mean- my apologies. Dovrei andarei- I need to go-”

He collected his things with jerky, uncertain movements, slinging his bag over his shoulder and hurrying towards the door. Mista was already half out of his seat, concern writ large on his face, and Trish looked moments away from doing the same. Giorno wanted to say something to reassure them, but the words tangled in his thought, caught between lives and languages, and all he could do was shake his head mutely before bolting out of the room.

 ---

Unread Messages: [ “narancia no” - Bruno Buccellati, 2kAlways ]

Trish
@Giorno @Giorno @Giorno
where are you?? what the fuck was that?

Mista
@Giorno yeah dude where’d you go?

Bruno
Wait, what happened?

Abbacchio
what did giovanna do now

Trish
he was acting kinda out of it all morning??
and then a couple minutes ago he suddenly just got up and sprinted out in the middle of class

Mista
i think he lost his english for a second too
so he was seriously shook about something

Bruno
You didn’t follow him?

Trish
look, one more absence from this class and im f ucked

Fugo
College stress breakdown.
Happens to the best of us.

Narancia
and also to fugo

Fugo
Go fuck yourself.

Bruno
Hold on, aren’t you in class?
You’re ALL in class right now
Why are you all texting in class?

Abbacchio
arent you also in class

Bruno
TA privileges

Trish
i’m worried
can any of you go look for him?

Narancia
i can!
this class is boring as shit and im right by the window, i have an easy escape route, just say the word

Bruno
Don’t climb out the window!

Mista
do it ghirga

Narancia
its only the third floor, i can land it easy

Bruno
That isn’t the problem here!

Giorno
I’m fine.

Trish
giogio!!

Mista
hey what the fuck dude!

Giorno
Sorry for not responding earlier.
I went back to the dorm to get my phone.

Bruno
Giorno, are you sure you’re alright?
Why did you run out of class?

Giorno
Realized I forgot I had an essay to finish for my next class.
I’m sorry for worrying you all.

Abbacchio
““all””

Bruno
Leone

Narancia
shiiiit if giorno is forgetting papers now there’s really no hope for the rest of us is there

Fugo
There’s never been any hope for you.

Narancia
lol fair point

Giorno
Actually
Do you guys want to meet up later? All of us?
We can check the cast list together and then get pizza or something.

Mista
hell yeah, pizza
i’m in

Trish
ughhh american pizza suuuucks

Fugo
If you don’t want to come, you don’t have to, princess.

Trish
u kidding of course im coming

Bruno
That sounds nice!
We can meet by the list outside the auditorium when it’s posted after class.

Giorno
See you all there.

 ---

As soon as Yasuho got out of her last class of the day, she practically sprinted off to the auditorium, sneakers pounding against the concrete and sending satisfying jolts up her legs. Nobody had told her that college involved so much sitting. She was the sort of person who did best when she was always on her feet, on the move. It was one of the reasons she’d volunteered to help with the stage manager job.

Even if that wasn’t the case, though, she would have run anyways, because the cast list had been posted up at noon, and she would finally get to find out just who and what she’d be managing.

She was not, to her slight surprise, the first one there. There was a person with a sleek black bob of hair already reading the listing, and Yasuho skidded to a halt beside them, quickly looking over the list. The title jumped out at her immediately.

Supplena Community College Fall Play Cast List: Hamilton

“Oh, yes,” Yasuho muttered, eliciting a laugh from the person next to her. She flushed slightly - she hadn’t meant to say that aloud - but continued reading.

Roles:
Alexander Hamilton: Josuke Higashikata
Aaron Burr: Giorno Giovanna
John Laurens: Joseph Joestar
Marquis de Lafayette: Caesar Zeppeli
Hercules Mulligan: Jotaro Kujo
George Washington: Jonathan Joestar
Eliza Schuyler: Erina Pendleton
Angelica Schuyler: Jolyne Cujoh
Peggy Schuyler: Suzie Quatro
King George: Jean Pierre Polnareff
Phillip Hamilton: Josefumi Kujo
Maria Reynolds: Trish Una
Thomas Jefferson: Diego Brando
James Madison: Johnny Joestar

Ensemble Roles:
Charles Lee: Guido Mista
Samuel Seabury: Muhammad Avdol
George Eaker: Yoshikage Kira
James Reynolds: Gyro Zeppeli
Dolly and Martha: Hato and Daiya Higashikata
Chorus: Lucy Steel, Weather Report, Kyo Nijimura, Mikitaka Hazekura, Smokey Brown, Sheila Erinni

Below the lengthy listing of names was a note that the first rehearsal would be in a week.

Yasuho grinned at the list. She hadn’t really expected any of her friends to get major roles, and especially not Josefumi - she’d been worried his anxiety might make him choke up during his audition. But it looked like she’d been worried about nothing. She glanced up at the person next to her. “Are you one of the cast members?”

They laughed a little and shook their head. “Oh, no. I’m actually the stage manager. Bruno Buccellati.” He had a soft accent that reminded Yasuho of Tonio, a restaurateur from her hometown.

Yasuho’s eyes widened slightly. “Oh, you’re Buccellati! I’ve heard a lot about you- I’m Yasuho Hirose, actually, I’m going to be your assistant?”

“Ah, yes! Lisa told me I’d be having help this year. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Yasuho,” Buccellati said, extending a hand to shake. Yasuho shook it, aware she may have been a little starry-eyed. She may never have met Buccellati before, but she’d heard enough about him to admire him.

“Nice to meet you, too!” she said with a smile. “I just came down here to look for my friends’ names and, well, find out what I’ll actually be doing.”

“So did I!” Bruno brightened and ran a finger down the list, pointing a few names out. “Giorno, Trish, and Mista- they’re all mine.” He sounded proud.

“Cool! My friends are Josefumi, Kira, and Kyo.” She paused, then added, a little reluctantly, “Hato and Daiya too, I guess.”

Bruno laughed, raising an eyebrow. “You don’t get along?”

Yasuho made a face. “They’re friends of Josefumi’s. They’re not mean, they’re just… rich. You know?”

“I think I understand,” Bruno said, still smiling. “My friend Trish, she is from a wealthy background as well, and she has a tendency to rub people the wrong way.”

“Yeah… hey, can I ask, all those names are Italian, right?”

“Yes, we’re all international students,” Bruno confirmed. “We- well, I suppose Giorno is actually Japanese, but he grew up in Italy. I’m planning on meeting them here soon if you’d like to meet them, though I warn you, they can be a little…”

He trailed off, but it wasn’t hard to guess where the sentence had been going. Yasuho laughed and shook her head. “Thanks, but I should go find my friends and tell them about the castings.”

“Oh, of course,” Bruno said agreeably. “Still, it was very nice to meet you, and I’m sure I’ll be glad to have the help on a production of this scale. Should I give you my number?”

“Sure!” Yasuho said, passing over her phone for Bruno to add himself as a contact. He typed it in quickly and handed it back with a nod as she waved and turned away.

“I look forward to working with you,” he said.

“You too!”

 ---

“I’m home!” Erina called with a wide smile as she breezed into the apartment. “Did you hear?”

She didn’t need to clarify what he would have heard about- they’d been talking about it ever since their auditions. As soon as the cast list had been posted, it had spread like wildfire, between texts and Snapchats and excited, half-coherent phone calls (one of which Erina herself had received only minutes before from a shrieking Suzie).

Danny trotted up to her as she closed the door behind her, and she bent down to rub his face, cooing. He was getting up there in dog years now, approaching middle age with his muzzle flecked with white, but still spry and friendly as a puppy.

A pair of strong arms closed around her chest from behind, and she broke into helpless laughter as her fiancé effortlessly picked her up and whirled her around their living room. “I did! Congratulations!”

“I should be saying that to you,” Erina countered once there was solid ground beneath her feet again, turning around to beam proudly up at him. “Mister President- I’m so proud of you!”

Jonathan blushed slightly. “I just hope I can live up to the role.”

“You’ll do great,” Erina promised, standing up on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. “There’s no one better.”

She rocked back onto her heels, glancing around. “Is Robert home yet?”

“He’s catching up on sleep,” Jonathan said, nodding towards the couch. A hand popped up from behind the armrest, tossing a clumsy salute their way before flopping back down out of sight.

Erina pressed a hand to her mouth to muffle a laugh. “I’ll be sure to be quiet, then,” she stage-whispered. “Anything in particular you want for dinner?”

“Whatever you want is fine with me,” Jonathan said.

“Spaghetti it is,” Erina said brightly, walking into the kitchen, already rolling her sleeves up. “I have a recipe I’ve been meaning to try.”

As she gathered her ingredients and measuring cups from the cabinets, she started humming to herself under her breath.

Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now.

 ---

Giorno was a good actor. He always had been. In the original world, the real world, he’d become an expert at coming off as earnest and harmless, the exact kind of disposition most likely to make someone underestimate him. Since joining up with Passione, he’d made an art of it, had bluffed Cioccolata to his face, had not only survived but thrived in the mafia, a business where any hint of weakness was pounced on and torn to shreds.

Giorno was a good actor, but he was pretty sure his friends- crew- subordinates- dammit-

He was pretty sure they knew something was wrong.

He was three days into realizing the world was false, fundamentally so, and he thought it might drive him insane. When they’d all met up at the cast list that first day, he hadn’t been able to stop staring at Buccellati, at Narancia and Abbacchio. All alive. He’d been obvious enough about it that Abbacchio had snapped at him, asked what the hell he was looking at, and he hadn’t had an answer, because-

Because how were you supposed to tell your friends that you’d seen them die, that everything they thought they knew was wrong, that they weren’t really bored college students and petty criminals, but members of the most powerful crime family in Italy?

How could you even be sure of that yourself?

Giorno had seriously considered the possibility that he’d just had a stress-induced psychotic break, but he couldn’t bring himself to believe it. The things he remembered were so real, so visceral, that they felt like they couldn’t possibly be fake. He couldn’t believe that something like the feeling of sawing his own hand off with the shattered glass of an airplane window had come solely from his own mind.

And how did you act normally in the face of a revelation like that? He supposed it helped that even in this universe, they were all still a little fucked up, and what most people would consider ‘weird behavior’ was pretty standard for them, but they knew him. They could tell when he was hiding something.

He kept fumbling his English, kept reaching for Gold Experience to find nothing there, kept staring at friends who should have been dead. This wasn’t sustainable, he was self-aware enough to realize that. He needed to talk to someone, and soon. Bruno, maybe. He would at least listen, though Giorno had no hopes that he would actually be believed.

He turned a corner, lost in thought, and three things happened in very quick succession.

First: he ran into a girl with intricately braided, bi-colored hair who’d been stomping down the hallway, hands clenched into fists at her sides.

Second: said girl whipped around and immediately, automatically, punched him in the face hard enough to make him momentarily see stars. He stumbled backwards, back hitting the wall behind him, and brought his hands up to cup his nose.

Third: something cleared from her eyes, which were a startlingly bright yellow-green, and she blinked.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, I’m sorry!” she said, cheeks turning bright red. “I didn’t mean to- fuck, it isn’t broken, is it?” she asked, anxiously trying to peer through his fingers.

He checked quickly- he knew very well what a broken nose felt like- and shook his head. “It’s fine, really,” he said, voice slightly muffled by the blood clogging his nose. “I was distracted. Though, I must ask, do you greet everyone like that?” He wiped a slow-dripping drop of blood away.

She shook her head vehemently. “No, I swear, I’m not, like, a lunatic who goes around punching random pretty-boys, I swear, I’ve just been- really twitchy, these past couple days, and you caught me off guard, that’s all.”

“Pretty-boys?” Giorno repeated under his breath.

She ignored him, offering him a hand. “Come on, I’ll take you to the kitchens and get you some ice for that.”

Giorno accepted her hand, and she yanked him up from where he’d fallen half-slumped against the wall with surprising strength.

“So, uh,” she said, once they’d started in the direction of the kitchens, “what’s your name? I feel like I’ve seen you around.”

“Giorno Giovanna. And yours?”

“Jolyne Cujoh,” she said.

He blinked, tipping his head slightly to one side to look at her more directly. That surname was familiar. He’d seen it on the audition sign-up sheet, of course, but also heard it long before that, in the midst of a lengthy explanation from Koichi about who had sent him to Naples in the first place. “Are you by any chance related to Jotaro Kujo?”

If he hadn’t been looking at her when he’d asked, he might have missed it- the little tremor that ran across her features, the way her eyes widened. “I… no,” she said. “No, I’m not. No.”

She wasn’t a bad liar, necessarily, but she’d said it about three times too many to be convincing. But what did that mean? That they really were related? Why would she feel the need to hide that?

“Hmm.”

She looked at him sideways with a suspicious expression just a few degrees shy of a glare. “What?”

“Earlier you mentioned you’d been very on guard recently. Is there a particular reason why?” he asked.

“I could ask you the same question,” she shot back, conspicuously not answering. “You said you were distracted, didn’t you?” She paused to pull them down a different pathway between two housing buildings. “This way. We’ll get to the back entrance into the kitchens easier, they never lock it.”

“Do you do this often?” Giorno asked, a little bemused, both by the clumsy conversational redirect and the implication that she raided the kitchens for ice on a regular basis.

“I get in a lot of fights,” she said briefly.

“Why?”

“I dunno, lots of reasons,” she said, reaching the door and wrestling with it for a moment before it clicked open. Unlocked, just like she’d said. “Sometimes people are being shitty to my friends. Sometimes people are just being shitty.”

“Well, you clearly know how to punch,” Giorno said agreeably, rubbing absently at his throbbing face, still deep in thought. It was true. Giorno had been in a lot of fights. He knew the difference between an inexperienced, scrappy brawler and someone used to fighting for their life on a regular basis, and Jolyne Cujoh fought like the latter.

Jolyne led them into the kitchens. With no food being prepared at the moment, they were quiet and empty. She grabbed a hand towel from one of the big industrial sinks and pulled an ice drawer open with her other hand, and a blast of cool air escaped, along with a light dusting of ice powder that melted almost immediately. She grabbed a handful of ice in the towel, then passed it over to Giorno.

He took it, feeling the soothing cold radiate into his hands through the thin fabric, and pressed it to his face. The throbbing immediately began to fade.

“Thank you,” he said. “You didn’t have to.”

“I kinda did,” she objected, leaning against the countertop. “You shouldn’t need to go around with your face all swollen up because I can’t manage my stupid panic reflexes.”

Giorno smiled slightly, laughed softly under his breath.

Now or never.

“You know, you’re much nicer than your father.”

Jolyne’s head snapped up, vivid green gaze suddenly boring into his skin, and at that moment, he could see the family resemblance.

She didn’t speak at first, and for a terrifying second, he thought that maybe he had guessed wrong.

Then she said, her voice slightly hushed and deadly serious, “What do you know?”

“What do you know?” he asked back, lowering the icepack away from his face to meet her eyes fully and tilting his head innocently.

Jolyne’s expression didn’t waver, and she stabbed a finger threateningly towards his chest. “Don’t fuck with me. I asked first.”

He nodded, struggling not to smile. “As you say. Shall we re-introduce ourselves? My name is Giorno Giovanna. We’re family, I believe. My Stand is- was,” and there his voice wavered, just for a heartbeat, “called Gold Experience, and three days ago I remembered a world that is not this one. And… I suspect the same happened to you.”

Jolyne was still staring at him. Neither of them had moved, but her chest was heaving as though she’d just sprinted a mile. “Yeah,” she eventually said. “Yeah. Okay. I’m Jolyne Kujo. My Stand was… Stone Free. My dad doesn’t know who I am. And, about a week ago, I remembered dying, and the universe ending. And now I’m here.” She let out a long sigh, like she was finally exhaling after days of holding her breath, then looked up at him again and blinked, looking taken aback. “You’re crying.”

“Am I?” Giorno asked, genuinely surprised. He reached up and felt his cheek. His fingertips came away wet with saltwater. “Ah. My apologies.” He swallowed. “I’m quite relieved to know I’m not losing my mind.”

Jolyne snorted inelegantly and discreetly swiped at her eyes with a hand. “Same. Do you have any clue what happened? Cause I sure as shit don’t.”

He shook his head. “I assume it must be the work of a Stand, but beyond that, I have no idea.”

“Hell of a Stand,” Jolyne said, tipping her head back. “Dad and I fought one once that could trap people in dreams. This is a little like that, but on a whole different level.”

Giorno nodded along. “This feels far too real to be a dream. And if it were, you’d think we would have woken up once we realized its falsehood, no?”

“Exactly,” Jolyne said, snapping her fingers and pointing at him. “This is way more real than any of those dreams were.”

“So do we have any information to go on?” Giorno asked, a little impatiently. He hated not knowing what he was up against. It reminded him too much of Diavolo, his obsessive air of mystery and systematic obliteration of any clues.

“Well,” Jolyne said, “we got one thing. It’s targeting Joestars, right? I mean, there’s me, my dad, Jiji- uh, Joseph, Jonathan, Uncle Josuke, and Grandma Suzie, and Nonna Lisa. Not sure how Johnny’s related to us, but he probably is somehow. Same for that other Kujo guy. And you, of course.”

Something about being so casually included in Jolyne’s listing of her family caught him off guard, but not in a bad way. “Me?”

“Sure. You said you were family, right?” Jolyne said before pausing. “Actually, how are we related?”

Giorno winced. “It’s, ah… complicated.”

“The Joestar family tree can handle complicated,” Jolyne said with a wave of her hand. “Y’know Josuke Higashikata?”

“Of course, the lead in both this play and the last one.”

“Yeah. He’s my great-uncle, and he’s like ten years younger than my dad.”

“Point taken,” Giorno conceded, but he still hesitated a moment longer before explaining. “I’m the son of Dio Brando, after he stole Jonathan Joestar’s body. Which would make me your- great great great great uncle, I think.”

“You’re Dio’s kid?” Jolyne whistled. “You’re right, that is weird. Your dad’s boyfriend murdered me, you know.”

“I’m sorry,” Giorno said. “Your father killed mine, too. But I’ve been assured he deserved it.”

“You’re not evil, are you?”

“No,” he said, then paused. “Well. I am in the mafia, though.”

“Kickass,” Jolyne said.

Giorno decided he liked Jolyne.

“So neither of us know anything about what’s happening or why,” he said, “but someone else might. One of your family members.”

“Our,” Jolyne corrected him. “And yeah, I figure a Joestar is at the center of this. We almost always are. Unluckiest family in the goddamn universe. We just gotta work out which one.”

“And get them to remember, presuming they don’t,” Giorno added. “And then find the Stand user and defeat them.”

“Right,” Jolyne said, sounding a little winded by the enormity of the task ahead. “Easy. Fuck.”

 ---

Joseph had one arm around Caesar’s shoulders and the other around Suzie’s as she rambled excitedly away into his ear about the musical, and he was smiling ear to ear. They were cutting diagonally across the quad on the way home; Suzie technically didn’t live with them, but she might as well have given how often she stayed over and how much she helped around the house.

“It’s so exciting!” Suzie was saying. “I do wish I had more lines, but I know Erina will be great as Eliza, and that Jolyne girl as Angelica, too! And of course, I’ll get to dance with you.”

Joseph flapped the hand that was resting on her shoulder dismissively, grinning down at her. “Aw, Suzie-Q, I’ll dance with you any time you want.”

She flushed at the playful nickname, giggling. “Quit it, you’re terrible.”

“You didn’t know?” Caesar asked, leaning around Joseph to raise an eyebrow at her.

“I’m being attacked,” Joseph declared. “My boyfriend and my girlfriend are ganging up on me.”

“You deserve it,” Caesar said, smirking a little.

Attacked.

By the side of the path, there was a little girl messing around with a bubble wand and a bottle of soap. As they approached, she swirled the wand around in the solution, then brought it to her lips and blew, filling the air with a swarm of iridescent bubbles just as they passed.

Suzie gasped and clapped, delighted, and reached out to touch a large bubble floating lazily by her face.

Joseph paled. “Don’t-”

The bubble popped, and Joseph flinched backward, his grip around Suzie and Caesar’s shoulders tightening to almost crushing for a moment.

“Jojo, what-” Caesar started at the same time Suzie said, “Jojo, that hurts.” Joseph didn’t seem to register what either of them said. Instead, he released Suzie to turn around fully and take Caesar’s face in his hands, running his thumbs over the pink birthmarks over his cheekbones.

Caesar grabbed Joseph’s wrists and pulled his hands away from his face but didn’t let go, holding them in the air between them.

“Jojo, what’s wrong?” he repeated, green eyes bright and alive with concern.

“Nothing,” Joseph said after a long, shell-shocked moment. “Nothing… nothing’s wrong at all.”

Chapter Text

Rohan watched with detached interest as his pencil danced across the page. He was having a particularly inspired day- in fact, a particularly inspired week. He’d gone through nearly half of his latest sketchbook in just the past few days, pages and pages of rough sketches springing from some bright place in the back of his mind.

He didn’t know where the ideas were coming from exactly, nor what had started this wellspring of creativity, but he was not interested in investigating it. What mattered was putting pencil to paper and drawing as much as he could.

He put the final touches on the drawing he was working on, then frowned and examined it with a critical eye. It didn’t look like anything he’d ever seen before; features more feline than human, with no nose and slitted eyes, arms crossed across its chest and ending in gloved fists. Odd. Maybe it would make a good villainous… something when he next delved into a more fantastical project.

He checked his watch and was caught off guard by the time. He’d been drawing for longer than he would have guessed. Rohan cursed himself for wasting so much time doodling instead of working on any of his many unfinished projects. He would also need to start getting to work on the sets, now that Director Lisa had finally deigned to let them know the play and cast.

He was going to have to deal with Josuke as the lead again. Ugh.

There was no time to go back to his dorm and drop his sketchbook off before meeting with Reimi, and he wasn’t particularly inclined to do so anyway. When caught in the midst of a creative burst like this one, it was important to always have drawing materials on hand just in case a new idea came to mind.

When he arrived at the smoothie shop, sketchbook held protectively under one arm, Reimi was already waiting for him with both of their regular orders. The day was windy, though still Florida warm, rustling the leaves on the trees and keeping the heat from turning stagnant. He sat down without bothering with pleasantries, setting the book on the table in favor of grabbing the smoothie and taking a long drink.

He hadn’t realized how hungry he was. It took him a moment to remember he hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning. He’d been busy sketching out a gruesome scene of a man’s back peeling open like a book, a shadowed creature reaching out of the wound. He thought it would make a good illustration for the half-finished horror story he had sitting around somewhere.

“Any news about the play?” Reimi asked hopefully once he set his smoothie back down on the table.

Rohan rolled his eyes. She was actually more invested in the stupid play than he was, and she wasn’t even in it. “If you’re so curious, why didn’t you audition yourself?” he asked, an irritated snap in his voice.

“Oh, I can’t,” Reimi said. “That’s not how this works, unfortunately. But I think it sounds really fun!”

“Not how what works?”

“It doesn’t really matter,” Reimi said with a wave of her hand. “I’ll tell you later.”

Rohan squinted at her suspiciously, but let the matter slide with the fully intent on prying it out of her later. Maybe if he gave her what she wanted, she’d elaborate. “Fine. The play is Hamilton. Cast list was posted a few days ago, rehearsals start later today. I’m headed there after this.”

Reimi clapped. “How exciting! When are rehearsals? I’d love to stop by and see one sometime.”

“After classes every weekday in the auditorium. I doubt there’s much entertainment value to be found there. Most of them sing about as well as cats being strangled.”

“You’re so negative,” Reimi complained. “You’d be happier if you tried to see the best in people instead of the worst.”

“I doubt it,” Rohan said flatly. “I’m not interested in deceiving myself. I see people as they are.”

“Yes, you do, don’t you,” Reimi mused, digging her spoon into her ice cream. As she did so, a gust of wind stronger than the others blew across the patio, scattering the napkins stacked on the tables onto the ground and blowing Rohan’s sketchbook open, invisible fingers rifling through pages and pages dense with pencil and pen.

A few moments later, the wind settled. Halfway through smoothing down her choppy pink hair, Reimi’s eyes caught on the exposed pages of the sketchbook and widened.

Rohan followed her gaze down and saw the drawing she was staring at. It swallowed an entire page, sketchy and rough, done freehand in ballpoint pen. Most of the page was blotted out with scribbled black ink, growing thicker as it approached the center of the page. From the darkness emerged dozens of white, grasping hands, caught in the act of reaching toward the surface of the page.

“Tell me about this picture?” Reimi requested, not looking away from the drawing. The pen lines were deep and angry enough to almost rip the paper in places.

Rohan opened his mouth to answer, then stopped when no words came to his lips. He blinked and pressed a hand against his forehead. It was a struggle to remember where he’d gotten the idea, which was impossible. His memory was perfect. Something about an alley…? A mailbox?

Yes, there’d been an alley, hadn’t there- one that wasn’t supposed to be there, that’s what it was, but why-

“You’ve almost got it, Rohan-chan,” Reimi said encouragingly.

Rohan-chan. A final puzzle piece fell into place in his mind, and suddenly the full picture became visible, carrying with it all the locked-away memories of Morioh, of Josuke and Koichi, of Reimi, of Kira.

“What,” he started, then stopped. His voice had cracked embarrassingly on the word, throat suddenly too dry to speak, and he waited until he could compose himself before speaking again. Important things first. “You’re back.”

“Yes.”

“Why.”

“To look after you all, of course,” Reimi said, resting her chin on a hand and smiling warmly. “It’s the least I can do, and besides, I could hardly resist the chance to see you all again.”

Next priority. “And if you’re here, does that mean he is too?”

Reimi shook her head, getting his meaning immediately. “Oh, no! No. Well… hm. You’ll see. But no. Yoshikage Kira as you knew him is gone.” She tapped a finger absently against the drawing of the alleyway hands.

Immediate concerns sorted, Rohan nodded once before proceeding to his other question. “Then-”

Reimi held up a hand to silence him, her face turning more serious, and it was an indicator of the level of respect he held for her that he actually stopped. “Before you say anything else, know that I can’t answer all your questions. Or even most of them. This world has rules, and the price for my existing here as an observer is that I can’t tell you the script.”

Rohan hated being denied answers to his questions, and Reimi obviously read the frustration on his face, because she moved to encourage him immediately. “It doesn’t mean you won’t have answers, just that you need to find them yourself. Knowing you, that won’t take too long.”

“Tell me where to start,” Rohan demanded. Find them himself? He had no idea where to even start, not when everything in the world was wrong. The frustration of not knowing was already itching at his skin. “I need a starting point.” This is too much.

Reimi smiled softly. “Talk to your friends,” she said, pulling the open sketchbook over to her and flipping through the pages. Rohan recognized his own drawings, now, even from his flipped perspective: Cheap Trick’s snickering grin, Kawajiri Hayato’s face peeling open under the effects of Heaven’s Door, Arnold the dog standing by the roadside with his throat ripped open. “I think you’ll find a lot of allies in that theater program.”

Right. All the idiots from Morioh were there, weren’t they. The plastic spoon in his hand bent under the pressure of his fist suddenly tightening. “My friends?” he sneered.

Reimi smiled, unbothered by his acid tone, and pushed herself to her feet. “You know what I mean. I’ll leave you to it, I think. But don’t worry, I’ll be around.”

And just like that, she was gone, and Rohan was left staring at an empty chair, at a completely uncharacteristic loss for words.

 ---

Jonathan Joestar was looking forward to the first play rehearsal. They would just be going over lines and practicing keeping time with the music for the first few rehearsals, then they would move on to choreography and blocking - some of the hazards of putting on a musical that was nearly entirely sung through.

Jonathan arrived early and sat down in a seat near the stage to page through his script, looking over his lines. He was glad to not be playing the main character, if he was honest with himself. The sheer amount of memorization Josuke was going to have to do was intimidating even to him. He was happy with the role he’d been assigned.

Besides, he may not have been the main character, but he was certainly major. There were at least two or three songs that were all about him, which was an intimidating prospect. He pulled out a marker and started marking off the pages he would need to memorize, highlighting his lines, holding the marker cap between his teeth.

History has its eyes on you, huh? He smiled a little. That was a thought.

Someone sat down next to him, the cheap auditorium chair squeaking a little, and he startled slightly. Whoever it was had moved quietly enough that he hadn’t noticed their approach - or maybe he’d just been more lost in thought than he’d realized. He looked up.

In the seat beside him was a young man - a freshman, or perhaps a sophomore - pinning him with an oddly familiar blue-eyed stare. When their eyes met, the boy’s expression changed, a cordial smile quickly sliding over his face and wiping away the strange assessing look he’d worn moments before.

“Ah, hello,” the boy said. “Jonathan, yes? I don’t know that we’ve met. I’m Giorno.”

“Oh, nice to meet you!” Jonathan said. There was something nervous about the boy’s mannerisms - nothing blatant, but he held himself almost too stiffly, shaped his words too precisely. Jonathan couldn’t tell if it was how he acted all the time, or there was something specifically anxiety-inducing about this day, but either way, he wasn’t about to make an ass of himself by calling him on it. “You’re in the play, right? As- ah-” he hastily flipped back to the cast list inside the cover of the script - “Burr?”

“Yes,” Giorno confirmed, dipping his head in a nod. He was, Jonathan was quickly discovering, exceptionally hard to read, but he thought he looked pleased.

“You look familiar,” Jonathan blurted. “Are you sure we’ve never met before?” Because he knew that Giorno was right, that they never had, and yet, something about this boy was very familiar. The eyes, or maybe the hair. The mental connection was there, but it slipped right through his grasp like smoke.

“Quite certain,” Giorno said, then fell silent for a moment before changing the topic, too-familiar blue gaze flicking thoughtfully up toward the stage. “Are you excited for the play?”

Jonathan chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck with a hand. “Yes… a little nervous too, I suppose. I’ve played quite a few leading roles in my time here, but I’ve never had a big role in a musical before. So I’m a bit out of my comfort zone. I just hope I won’t let anyone down.”

“I don’t think you need to worry about that,” Giorno said immediately before scrambling to elaborate, looking away. “I mean- I hope I’m not overstepping my bounds. I think you’ll do excellently. You have a certain- what’s the English word… magnetism, I think. Authority.”

Jonathan blinked, surprised. There was a level of sincerity in Giorno’s voice that caught him off guard. “Oh, I’m not sure about that, but- thank you!”

Giorno smiled, the first time Jonathan had seen him do so. It was small, but it changed his face completely, lighting up his eyes, and that vague sense of familiarity tickled at the back of Jonathan’s mind again. Giorno pulled his own script out of the bag at his feet and settled back.

“Do you mind if I sit here until rehearsal starts?” he asked. “I don’t want to bother you if you’re busy.”

“Of course I don’t mind,” Jonathan said.

 ---

There was something up with Joseph.

It wasn’t hard to tell. Caesar wasn’t stupid, and more importantly, he knew Joseph. Knew him better than maybe anyone. Even if not for Joseph doing... whatever that had been in the park, his behavior ever since had been just a little off, seeming distracted and lost in thought.

Caesar had known Joseph for years now, since even before Elizabeth Joestar had dragged him home with her, and they were rarely apart. He’d never once seen Jojo act like this before.

Suzie was walking arm-in-arm with him to rehearsal, seemingly her usual cheery self, but he could see her eyes darken with concern when she looked at Joseph, walking a few steps ahead of them. So she’d noticed too. He wasn’t surprised. She was probably the most level-headed of the three of them, even if she sometimes acted dumber than she was. Usually to bother Joseph. Caesar wondered if he would ever stop falling for it.

He squeezed her hand to get her attention and nodded towards Joseph with a question in his eyes. Do you know what’s wrong?

She shrugged a little, lips pressing thin, and shook her head. No idea.

Joseph grinned and threw the swinging auditorium double doors wide open before striding through. Caesar and Suzie shared a look that was both fond and concerned before following after him, Caesar catching one of the doors before it could swing the rest of the way shut and holding it open for her.

He stepped inside after her, and then-

Whoa! Hey! Caesar! I’m glad you’re not dead!” Caesar, caught thoroughly off guard, blanked for a second before tracking the loud, exuberant voice to a kid perching on a nearby seat, dressed in black and orange, waving enthusiastically.

Caesar squinted, only peripherally aware that all eyes in the auditorium were turning towards them. “Wait… Narancia?”

“You remember!” the kid cheered, bouncing to his feet and turning to glance at the stage manager, who was leaning against the nearest seat and looking vaguely defeated. “He remembers!”

Buccellati sighed. “Hello, Caesar.”

“You looked way more like a thug last time I saw you,” Narancia said brightly, and Joseph cackled loudly.

Caesar pinched his temples.

Of course he remembered. It would have been hard to forget the kid with the bandaged eye who’d talked his ear off in the hospital waiting room the night Lisa had dragged him there by his uninjured wrist after he’d tried to rob her.

(In one way it had been a grave mistake, in another it had been the best choice he ever made.)

He’d stonewalled Narancia, angry at both himself and Lisa and not in the mood to make conversation with anyone, but that apparently hadn’t mattered much to him. He remembered Buccellati, too, or at least he remembered the tired-looking teenager who’d brought Narancia in. He remembered wondering where their parents were.

Director Lisa chose that moment to enter, striding into the room with the same sort of effortless authority that accompanied every move she made. She walked down the aisle and, to Caesar’s vague horror, paused in front of Narancia and Buccellati.

“Hello again, Narancia,” she said. “I see your eye’s all healed. Good.”

Narancia straightened, beaming. “Thanks, Director!”

 ---

Fugo had a headache. He was in the back of the theater, notebook folded open in his lap, half his attention on the notes he was studying and the other half on the cast and crew messing around. Technically he didn’t need to be there - after editing the script his part in the production was more or less done, barring any sudden emergencies - but it wasn’t like he had anywhere else to be.

Besides, his friends were here, and maybe the idea of leaving them made him a little unreasonably anxious. He tried to pin down why he felt that way, since it wasn’t like they’d be going anywhere, and couldn’t.

He just liked to keep his eyes on his friends. Right then, his eyes were on Narancia making an idiot out of himself in front of Director Lisa, who, to her eternal credit, humored him adeptly before raising her voice to catch the attention of the rest of the cast and beginning to talk about the play and how rehearsals would proceed.

Fugo tuned her out, not needing that information, and instead picked out the rest of his friends in the crowd. Buccellati was easy - as stage manager, he was off toward the front of the group, clipboard under one arm. A rose-haired girl Fugo didn’t recognize was at his side, taking hurried notes on her phone. That must have been his new assistant.

Mista was in a chair, feet up on the seat in front of him, leaning forward enough to rest his elbows on his knees, like he was too lazy to get up but was still paying rapt attention to every word. Trish had an elbow propped up on Giorno’s shoulder, who as one of the leads was sitting in the very front of the crowd.

Abbacchio… wasn’t there. Of course he wasn’t. It made sense for him not to be there. He wasn’t involved with production at all, had always shown nothing but irritated disdain for the very concept of it.

He pressed his knuckles to his forehead, trying to concentrate. There was nothing to worry about. He could just focus on his notes. All his friends were there, and fine, and happy, and-

I’ve had this dream before.

The thought was quiet and weirdly nonsensical, and he wasn’t sure where it came from. He tried to shove it away, but it refused to leave.

-dream dream dream dream dream-

“Stop it,” he muttered to himself, one hand tightening on the armrest. The words went unheard, camouflaged amidst the clamor of rehearsal as Director Lisa walked the cast through their basic staging for the first scene.

Buccellati murmured something to his assistant under his breath, and the slightly overwhelmed look on her face smoothed out. Narancia was in the midst of a very enthusiastic conversation with Joseph.

It’s not real it never is you know it’s not-

Fugo screwed his eyes shut, jaw tightening. His head was pounding.

Something snapped, and he remembered.

He immediately wanted to forget again.

He blinked his eyes open slowly, half-expecting to find he’d fallen asleep in the middle of organizing Passione’s income sheets again and Mista or Giorno had shaken him awake. Instead, he was still sitting in a threadbare theatre seat in the back of a community auditorium, in America, watching his friends run rehearsal for a musical.

A few shards of plastic hit the ground, and he realized his right hand was splattered with black ink. He’d broken the pen he’d been holding.

There was a rule. When he remembered, he woke up. That was how it worked. This was just- cruel. He stood and stalked out of the auditorium unseen, shoving his way out of the door. He waited until it swung shut behind him to collapse to the floor, back against the wall, put his head between his knees, and start practicing deep breathing.

In for seven, hold for seven, out for seven.

He just needed to wake up. He just needed to wake up and forget about all of this and he’d be fine.

He just needed to wake up.

“Fugo?” a familiar voice said, sounding concerned. Fugo looked up. Giorno was standing over him, golden head haloed by the shitty fluorescent hallway light above him.

“Everything’s fine,” Fugo said. “I’m just having a nightmare. Maybe a breakdown. Nothing new. Go away.”

Giorno, probably unsurprisingly, didn’t go away. He had that thoughtful, watchful look in his eyes that always set Fugo a little on edge. He sat down next to him, seemingly uncaring of the scratched-up and dusty flooring. “A nightmare?”

“Yeah, we can go with that,” Fugo said bitterly. “Doesn’t really matter. Doesn’t matter if I tell you this, either, since none of this is real anyways.”

He glanced sideways and was caught off guard by Giorno’s expression. His eyes were widened, just a fraction, an expression of shock - maybe recognition? - almost too fleeting to catch. “Tu ricordi?

You remember?

Fugo froze. “What?”

Everything,” Giorno said, looking at him searchingly. “Passione.”

Fugo’s chest tightened, and for a moment he couldn’t breathe.

“You tell me, Don Giovanna,” he managed, the words coming out hoarse and scratched, catching painfully in his throat. “If this isn’t a dream, then what is it?”

“A Stand,” Giorno said. “I think.”

Fugo nearly choked on a caustic laugh, tipped his head back against the wall and stared directly up at the hallway lights. “Right. Of course. Of fucking course.”

Giorno was quiet. Fugo could feel his worried gaze prickling at his skin. His fingers were still sticky with drying ink.

In for seven, hold for seven, out for seven.

God.

“If this is a Stand,” he said, still not looking at Giorno, then stalled. He didn’t want to voice the next thought, but he needed to ask. “Then all this… is temporary.”

Giorno exhaled. “Most likely.”

“Including…?” Fugo trailed off.

He could hear the grimace in Giorno’s voice. “We must assume so.”

He knew he needed to hear the words, needed to hear them from someone outside of his own head, and if anyone had to say them he knew it was for the best that it be Giorno because Fugo trusted his word more than just about anything, but.

They still hurt.

He breathed in, breathed out.

Uno, due, tre, quattro, cinque, sei, sette.

“I don’t want this,” he heard himself say. “I don’t- want to see this. I don’t want to have this and then lose it all over again.”

“I know,” Giorno said. “I’m sorry.”

Fugo squeezed his eyes shut tight. “So what now?”

“I’ve been talking to Jolyne,” Giorno said. Fugo nodded, only half-listening as he spoke but glad for the distraction of the words nonetheless. “She remembers how things are supposed to be. Others may as well, but we haven’t found them yet. We’re trying to figure out who did this, and why. There must be some motive here. Perhaps it’s paranoia, but I can’t imagine this is something benevolent.”

That was Giorno - always relentlessly rational. In a way it helped, to hear the situation broken down to its facts.

He heard the door of the auditorium swing open, accompanied by a painfully familiar voice: “Giorno? W- oh, hi, Giorno! I was looking for you.”

“I could tell,” Giorno said, sounding bemused. Fugo didn’t dare look up, fixing his gaze on the patch of carpeting between his shoes.

“Director Lisa wants you since you’re in the first few songs- whoa, Fugo, you okay?”

“Fine,” Fugo told the patch of carpeting tersely.

“I’ll be right there,” Giorno promised, and the footsteps retreated. A few moments later, the door swung shut again, signaling that Narancia disappeared back into the auditorium.

Giorno sighed. “You’re not going to be able to avoid him forever,” he said, pushing himself to his feet. “You’re roommates.”

“I’ll deal with it,” Fugo said, acutely aware that he’d never dealt with anything well in his life.

“Do you need me to stay?” Giorno asked. Fugo shook his head. A hesitant moment later, Giorno’s footsteps retreated, and Fugo was alone with his thoughts again.

In for seven, hold for seven, out for seven.

 ---

Jolyne had never been very good at paying attention. She’d always come up with her best plans on the fly, anyways. She knew, factually, that this wasn’t a good strategy when it came to memorizing carefully planned choreography, but she couldn’t help but glance away as Director Lisa’s instructions dragged on.

She ended up glancing backstage, where one of the set creators was straining on his tiptoes, trying to affix a rope to the top of a lumpy wooden panel that was probably going to be a background once it was painted. There were red bangs hanging in his eyes and what looked like a pair of thumbtacks in his mouth. Jolyne glanced back at the rest of the cast, verifying that they weren’t going to be doing anything for at least a couple minutes, then shoved her hands in her pockets and started towards him.

“Hey, you need some help with that?” she called, sauntering up to him. He was a little familiar, but she’d never met him before - maybe that was one of the reasons she approached him. She couldn’t stand having her dad look at her without a hint of recognition. Maybe that was why she’d been gravitating towards Giorno and other people she’d never met in her real life. It hurt less.

The redhead shrugged a little, passed her the rope. “Sure, but-”

Jolyne grinned before he could finish speaking and nimbly scaled the side of the set, hooking one foot into an indent in the side of the wood and boosting herself up to the spot he’d been trying to reach. The redhead whistled and casually steadied the set with one hand.

“I admit,” he said, “I didn’t think of that solution.”

Jolyne smirked down at him and held out a hand for a thumbtack. He passed one up to her. “Let’s be real, dude, you’d absolutely topple this thing,” she said, starting to fasten the rope to the wood.

“Careful,” a familiar rumbling voice suddenly said, and Jolyne twitched violently, her hands spasming and dropping the rope to the floor below her. She swore under her breath, her chest tightening up, and bit her lower lip.

She’d been doing great at avoiding him.

“Jotaro,” the redhead said, sounding pleasantly surprised. “Shouldn’t you be with the rest of the cast?”

There was a noncommittal noise and the shifting sound of a shrug. Jolyne forced herself to look down from where she was straddling the setpiece as her dad picked up the fallen rope and held it up. He was tall enough to easily reach the place where the rope needed to be pinned down.

“You should be careful,” he said again. “You could hurt yourself. I’ll do it.”

Jolyne gritted her teeth. Anger was easier and more familiar than the mess of other emotions in her chest, and she seized onto it. “I can handle it, Dad,” she ground out, grabbing the rope out of his hand and stabbing the thumbtack into place with a sharp, furious jab. She flicked her gaze sideways to her father as she said it, hoping - but there was still no recognition there. It felt like a blow.

She heard the sound of a sheaf of paper hitting the ground and a soft ‘oh my god,’ as she finished pinning the rope down in a few other places, ignored it, and scrambled down from the setpiece, her work finished. She pointedly didn’t look at the observer who’d drifted over from the main group.

“Well,” the redhead said, breaking the silence as Jolyne dropped back down to the floor, “this took a hard turn for the confrontational. You two know each other?”

“No,” Jolyne and her father said at the same time, Jolyne folding her arms tightly across her chest.

“Oh-kay,” the redhead said. “Well, thanks for the help, in any case.”

“Sure,” Jolyne said tersely, before immediately feeling bad about her tone, but not bad enough to apologize for it in front of her father. “No problem.”

Her father looked at her a moment longer, unreadable, before turning away. That, at least, was nothing new. Jolyne glared at his back for a moment, ruthlessly fighting back the urge to cry, before huffing irritably and starting back towards the rest of the cast.

Someone abruptly grabbed her shoulders and steered her away from the crowd, toward one of the auditorium’s side doors. She instinctively jammed an elbow backwards, aiming for the person’s guts, but they must have sidestepped, because all she hit was air.

She broke away from the grip on her shoulders and whipped around, hands curling into fists, to meet the turquoise eyes of Joseph Joestar.

She blinked. He stared back.

“Ji-Joseph?” she said, catching her mistake and correcting herself halfway through the childish nickname. “What do you-”

She was cut off when her great-grandfather grabbed her in a hug, tight enough to lift her a few inches off the ground. “Jolyne!”

Jolyne was frozen in shock for a moment or so before the pieces came together in her mind. “Jiji?” she asked, her voice cracking a little bit.

Joseph laughed, the sound rumbling in his chest, and Jolyne threw caution to the wind and wrapped her arms around her great-grandfather’s shoulders, clinging tightly to his neck. It made her feel like a little kid, but she couldn’t bring herself to care about the childishness of it.

Eventually, Joseph set her down again, putting his hands on her shoulders and looking her up and down. It was weird to see him like this - far younger than she’d ever known him, practically the same age as her, his hair brown instead of grey and his face free of wrinkles.

She’d never had the closest relationship with her father’s family, with her grandmother in Japan and her great-grandparents living in New York and too old to travel often by the time she was a teenager, which meant the only times she saw them were on the rare occasions her father brought her to visit.

But oh, was she glad to see him.

“You’re here,” Joseph said, and it wasn’t really a question but she nodded anyway. “And- you remember-”

“I died,” Jolyne said in a rush. “I died, and Dad died, and now we’re here, because of some- fucked up Stand or something, I don’t know.”

Joseph glanced over his shoulder. It wasn’t hard for Jolyne to follow his gaze back to his boyfriend - Caesar - and Grandma Suzie, whispering at the edge of the crowd. A strange expression crossed his face, almost like he’d been stabbed.

“We’re not the only ones,” Jolyne blurted. It suddenly seemed important to make sure he knew that. “There’s- Emporio, this kid who lives with me, he remembers too, and Giorno Giovanna, I’ve been talking to him a lot. Dad… doesn’t. But… I’m betting everyone could remember. If they got, y’know, pushed.”

“Right,” Joseph said, and then again, “right.” He grimaced, but the expression quickly faded, replaced by a smile, and he hugged her again, tightly. “Your Nonna Lisa will be mad if she notices we’re gone too long, but we’ll talk later, okay?”

Jolyne nodded mutely, feeling cold once he stepped away, and followed after him. “Okay.”

He paused, turned back. “Hey, Jojo,” he said, “everything’s gonna be okay. Alright?”

She couldn’t resist a slight smile at the certainty in his voice. “Alright.”

 ---

“That was weird,” Kakyoin said, looking after the corner that Jolyne and Joseph had disappeared around.

“Hm,” Jotaro answered.

“Shouldn’t you be back with the rest of the cast?” Kakyoin asked, picking up his paintbrush again.

Jotaro shrugged, leaned against the nearest unpainted set. “I don’t care.”

“I’m just saying,” Kakyoin said, “if you have to be in the play, you should at least know what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Jotaro rolled his eyes. “I will. Fuck off.”

Kakyoin shrugged, unfazed. When one had been friends with Jotaro long enough, one learned to shrug off most things. “Sure you will.”

Jotaro was about to respond when a sharp elbow was abruptly driven into his ribs.

“Move it, Kujo,” Kakyoin’s set painting coworker - Rohan - snapped. He was balancing a tray of blue paint in one hand, using the other to make futile attempts at shoving Jotaro away from the set he was leaning against. Jotaro let him tire himself out for a moment before stepping away.

“Do I know you?” he asked.

Rohan cut an unreadable look sideways at him. “You tell me.”

Jotaro narrowed his eyes at him for a moment, then looked away, fast losing patience with the staring match. Rohan made a ‘tch’ sound under his breath and stepped up to the set, starting to decorate it with sweeping brush strokes.

He didn't know him. He was pretty sure they'd never even met. Jotaro wasn't a social person. He remembered the people he talked to. He'd definitely remember someone as abrasive and obnoxious as that. Wouldn't he?

 ---

“Hey, Josuke,” Okuyasu said, stopping on the way out of the auditorium and turning to bend over. They were some of the last to leave after rehearsal, having hung around backstage to bother an even-more-pissy-than-usual Rohan for awhile. “Somethin’ just fell outta your bag.”

Josuke blinked and turned around. “Really?”

“Yeah, looks like a piece of paper. Kinda crumpled up, hang on a second,” Okuyasu muttered, smoothing out the balled-up sheet of paper against the floor before straightening, holding it and squinting down at it. “Huh.”

“What is it? Old homework assignment?” Josuke asked, walking back to Okuyasu’s side to look over his shoulder.

“Nah, it’s like… a drawing? Of some sorta… fuck if I can tell, but it looks sorta familiar,” Okuyasu said, handing the torn sheet of paper over to Josuke after squinting at it for a moment longer. “Looks a little like Rohan’s comics.”

Josuke took the paper and a bolt of cold familiarity immediately struck down to his core. The page had ragged edges, where it had obviously been torn out of a sketchbook, and was covered in sketchy pencil drawings. Dominating the center of the paper was a vaguely-catlike drawing, slit eyes glaring up at him.

“Weird,” Josuke said. Looking at the drawing made an unexpected starburst of blurry, colorful images blossom behind his eyes, and he blinked a few times to clear them. Maybe he shouldn’t have stayed up so late last night. Or drank so much Five Hour Energy to stay awake that morning.

Well, those were problems for slightly later Josuke. Current Josuke needed to figure out where he’d seen this picture before - because he had, he was certain of it. Okuyasu was right that it did kind of look like Rohan’s style, if a lot more sketchy and messy than his usual stuff, almost like whoever had drawn it had done so with shaking hands.

He looked at the drawing, really looked, and heard a voice ringing in the back of his mind, thick with pain and rage, snarling, Higashikata Josuke…

His own voice answered, words he couldn’t remember ever speaking: Bring out your-

“Killer Queen,” he said aloud.

“Huh?” Okuyasu asked, crowding up against his shoulder to look at the paper himself, like it might reveal what Josuke was saying if he looked at it hard enough. “What’d you say, Josuke?”

Josuke didn’t answer for a long moment, too busy staring at the drawing and trying to place the memory it had struck in his mind. He didn’t remember saying those words, but at the same time, he knew he’d said them. He registered Okuyasu’s words belatedly, glanced up to meet his eyes briefly. “What?”

“I said, what’d you say?” Okuyasu asked again. “Somethin’ about a queen?”

Josuke blinked. “Did I?”

Suddenly, someone snatched the drawing out of his hand, snapping him back to reality - which was really just as well, because his thoughts had hit an utter dead end. It didn’t stop him from frowning and reaching out to grab it back, startled and annoyed. “Hey!”

Joseph held the paper up to one of the hallway lights, leveraging his height to keep the drawing safely out of Josuke’s reach as he examined it. “Where’d you get this?”

Josuke considered kicking him in the knees to make him double over, but that seemed unmanly. “Give it back!”

“I will, I will,” Joseph said, making absent-minded calming motions with his free hand. “I just need you to tell me if you know what this is.”

“Uh, a drawing?” Okuyasu offered, making his own grab for the paper.

“Yeah, but a drawing of what?” Joseph persisted, flapping the paper a few times for emphasis. “C’mon, Josuke, I know you know this.”

“I was trying to figure it out,” Josuke said, aggrieved. “Anyways, it’s probably not anything. Rohan draws all kinds of weird shit, he must have just forgotten this one backstage and it got into my backpack.”

“I’ll give you a hint,” Joseph said, grinning, “Starts with ‘S’ and ends with ‘tand,’ and has ‘psycho serial killer’ somewhere in the middle.”

S-tand. “Stand?” Josuke said aloud, and then-

“Stand!” he exclaimed, eyes suddenly lighting up with recollection. He grabbed Okuyasu’s shoulder and shook it excitedly. “That’s Kira’s Stand!”

Joseph snapped his fingers and pointed at him. “And he’s got it.”

It suddenly registered with Josuke, after the rush of memory subsided, who exactly he was talking to, and he gaped for a second. “Wait. Wait, wait. ...Dad?”

Joseph smiled, a little sheepishly, and rubbed the back of his neck. “Hey, Josuke.”

At Josuke’s side, Okuyasu blinked out of his own little trance of remembrance and blurted, “You’re not deaf.”

Joseph put a hand to his ear. “Sorry, what was that?”

Josuke punched Joseph in the arm before Okuyasu could start repeating the last thing he’d said, but slower and louder. “Don’t!”

Joseph grinned. “I’ll keep doing it as long as people fall for it,” he said shamelessly.

“You’re the worst,” Josuke said. “But, uh, Dad, what…”

Joseph’s smile wilted, just a little, turning more serious, and he gestured for them to follow him. “Yeah, come on. I’ll fill you two in.”

 ---

“Alright,” Hermes said, “what the fuck.”

She watched as Jolyne tensed a little before glancing up at her. Yeah, something was definitely up. “What d’you mean?” Jolyne asked carefully.

“I mean,” Hermes said, slouching forward to rest her chin on one hand, using the other to gesture vaguely between Jolyne and Emporio, the latter of whom was wearing an expression like he’d just stepped in a bear trap. He couldn’t have looked more guilty if he tried. “What the fuck is up with you two? You’ve both been weird as hell, all twitchy and shit, I feel like I should be expecting campus police to storm in and accuse you of murder. So, what’s up?”

Both of Hermes’s roommates were really shit actors when it came down to it. They traded a slightly frantic look.

“Well,” Jolyne said, and then, obviously having not thought about how she was going to follow that up, “nothing.”

Hermes narrowed her eyes semi-jokingly. “Spill, bitch.”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Jolyne blurted. Hermes looked at her for a moment, then grabbed the nearest pillow and beaned it at her face. Jolyne snorted with laughter and swatted it away. “I’m serious!”

“Yeah, and so am I,” Hermes said, catching the pillow when Jolyne tossed it back at her and pulling it into her lap. “C’mon, babe. What is it?” she pressed. “I was bein’ facetious about the murder, but now you’re getting me kinda worried.”

“I- didn’t murder anyone recently,” Jolyne said.

Hermes squinted. “Okay, that’s not making me less worried.”

Jolyne sucked a breath in through her teeth, hands fiddling anxiously. “Uh, if I said I have memories of us all getting murdered by a gay priest in another universe and also maybe going to jail and fighting invisible zombies and turning into snails,” she said in a rush, “theoretically, what would you say?”

Hermes stared for a moment, then opened her mouth to say something- she wasn’t sure what, something like ‘Okay, what’s the real reason.’ She was just forming the first word when memory smacked her in the back of the head with all the charmingly blunt force of a two-by-four, and she jerked forward.

In an instant Jolyne was there, hands on her shoulders, steadying her, muttering rambling comfort under her breath. Hermes grabbed onto her slim wrists like twin lifelines and looked into her eyes.

She didn’t know how she ever could have forgotten anything about Jolyne.

She also remembered that she really, really wanted to kiss her.

So she did.

Chapter Text

“And you’ve got the grocery list?” Erina double-checked.

“I do,” Jonathan confirmed, flapping the piece of paper in the air to prove it with a laughing grin. “I’m capable of going shopping on my own, Erina.”

“I know, I know,” Erina said with a smile. She rocked up on her tiptoes, and he bent down at the same time, meeting her in the middle with a kiss. “Come home soon, Jojo.”

“I’ll be back in an hour,” Jonathan said once he pulled away. He flourished the paper and gave a silly little bow, winking at her. “Farewell for now, my darling.”

A bolt of cold lightning, bright with recognition, struck Erina down to her core. She watched as the door closed behind him, and slowly, painfully, the pieces of her smile fell away.

Darling.

She made a soft, broken noise.

My darling.

A burning ship, a wickedly triumphant laugh, a wailing child-

Farewell, my darling.

Her legs gave out underneath her, and she slumped to her knees, her heart hammering fast in her chest. All of a sudden, she didn’t know where she was. She wasn’t at home, she wasn’t in England, she wasn’t in New York-

“Erina?” Robert’s voice came from behind her, accompanied by footsteps, rounding the corner into the entryway. “Did you tell Jojo to get- what’s wrong?”

She was gasping, hugging herself tightly, failing to subdue the shuddering sobs wracking her body. There was an empty space between her arms where she felt, suddenly and nonsensically, a child should have been.

“Erina?”

“I need- Jojo,” she managed, once the panic had subsided enough to let her speak. “I need to- talk to-” But he was probably already out of the building, maybe at the store already-

There was a brief sound of rummaging behind her, and then Robert was gently pressing her phone into her hand. She stared at it, uncomprehending, for a moment. Oh. Right. She’d forgotten communication was so easy these days.

She found Jonathan’s number and brought the phone to her ear with shaking fingers. It was only a moment before he answered, and at the sound of his low voice, she felt the tension run out of her shoulders.

Erina! Did you forget to put something on the list?

“Come home,” Erina burst, her voice cracking.

Jonathan immediately sounded worried. “Are you crying? Erina, what’s wrong?

“Just,” she begged, “just come home, please? I need… I need to see you. I need to see you’re alright.”

What about the groceries?

“Forget the groceries! Just… please?”

Alright,” Jonathan said, and she closed her eyes, sighing in relief. “Alright. I’ll be right there.

“Can you…” she hesitated. “Can you stay on the phone?”

“Of course.”

 ---

“You did good at rehearsal today,” Josefumi said quietly, smiling at Yasuho. “I saw you taking a lot of notes. You seem like you’re really getting a hang of it.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Yasuho said, shoving her hands in her pockets and glancing away. “I wasn’t really doing anything, mostly just following Buccellati around and copying what he did.”

“Still, you were really nervous about it before, and it seems like you’re not as much now, right?”

“I guess,” she admitted. “It’s a little less scary now that I’ve met Buccellati. He’s really nice.”

“Good,” Josefumi said. “I’m happy for you.”

She smiled up at him. “Thanks, Josuke!”

“Of course,” he said, and glanced up at the sky. It was perfectly blue, like something out of a picture. “It’s really nice out today.”

“It is!” In fact… Yasuho grinned, playfully tugged on his arm. “Hey, you wanna go get some ice cream before we head back home?”

 ---

New Group Message: [existential crises are fun for the whole family]

[Joseph] added [Jolyne Cujoh], [Josuke Higashikata]

Joseph
hey kiddos!

Jolyne
hey jiji
oh shit wait
josuke?

Josuke
YO jolyne!!
you’re my great niece!!

Jolyne
god yeah I am
that’s so fucked up
@Joseph this is your fault

Joseph
:innocent:

Jolyne
anyways josuke
you remember everything? since when?

Josuke
since like thirty minutes ago haha
wbu?

Jolyne
since the end of auditions
so like a week now

Josuke
oh, shit
how’re you holding up

Jolyne
fine
i mean
all my friends died and the world ended
but other than that
...
also hermes kissed me, so
there’s that

Josuke
FINALLY

Joseph
niiiiice
get it jojo

Jolyne
oh my god

Joseph
so we should probably meet up and talk
josuke’s already at my place cause we were catching up
you wanna meet us there, jolyne?
you can bring your new gf and anybody else who remembers

Jolyne
hang on can i add somebody?
he’s family

Joseph
yeah of course

[Jolyne] added [Giorno Giovanna]

Joseph
what

Josuke
oh hey giorno!!
i didn’t know you were related to us!

Giorno
...ah
Hello?
Some warning would have been appreciated, Jolyne

Jolyne
shit
sorry

Josuke
can we go back to the part where giorno is related to us??
oh my god
dad please tell me you didn’t

Joseph
WHY IS THAT YOUR FIRST ASSUMPTION

Josuke
I MEAN
LOOKING AT YOUR TRACK RECORD

Joseph
okay that’s a valid point but STILL
besides he’s like italian or something

Jolyne
don’t u have a thing for italians though

Joseph
cmon jojo don’t do this to me
whose side are you on

Giorno
Actually, I’m half British, half Japanese

Josuke
yooo same as me!

Joseph
...please tell me you’re not my kid

Giorno
I am not, in fact, your son
Although the fact that you legitimately weren’t sure does raise some questions

Jolyne
he’s got u there jiji

Joseph
look
i’m like 90
i’m allowed to forget things

Giorno
An entire child, though?

Joseph
it’s been known to happen before!

Josuke
yup!!!
[hello_dog.gif]

Jolyne
anyways giorno, i guess we’re all meeting up at joseph’s place to talk
bring anybody you know remembers? i’ll send you the address

Giorno
I’ll be there.
A friend of mine recently remembered as well, I’ll bring him.

Josuke
do we have to invite like
everybody who remembers?

Jolyne
uh why

Josuke
just talking theoretically
if there was somebody who remembered but who was also, just, a massive douchebag
who hates me for completely inexplicable reasons

Joseph
OH is this about your artist friend
didn’t you burn his house down?

Josuke
okay look
first of all he’s not my friend
second of all that was COMPLETELY NOT MY FAULT
he left the magnifying glass right out there in the sun!!
the fire only started cause he was so crazy focused on trying to prove i was cheating him!!

Jolyne
uh, were you?

Josuke
well, yeah, obviously, but that’s not the point

Joseph
that’s my boy

Giorno
Is anyone in this family not a criminal?

Joseph
i resent that implication
my daughter holly has never done anything wrong in her life

Jolyne
okay yeah that’s true grandma holly is like the best person on the planet

Josuke
wait, what about director lisa?
she’s your mom right? she seems pretty upright

Joseph
she was an international fugitive on murder charges for awhile

Josuke
uh

Giorno
Well, then.

 ---

It was a nice day, all things considered. The sun was bright and warm but not unbearably hot, as it had been for seemingly every day for the past few weeks, and so Abbacchio was fulfilling his born duty as a goth by lurking in the shadows outside the entrance to the theater building, trying to avoid sunburn.

Generally speaking, he enjoyed rehearsal season. It meant all of the goblin children Buccellati had collected would be busy after class for multiple hours each day, and as such, would not be able to bother him. But he did, most days, come to the theater building to walk Buccellati home afterward.

Luckily, Abbacchio noted as Buccellati shouldered his way out through the swinging double doors and smiled a greeting at him, it looked like he was alone today.

“No gremlins today?” Abbacchio asked as he fell into step beside him, less because he genuinely cared where they were and more just for something to talk about.

“They’ve all left by now,” Buccellati said. “I had to stay behind and talk to Yasuho, and then I needed to talk to Director Lisa and the set painters- I hope I didn’t keep you waiting long.”

“Not really.” Abbacchio shrugged. “Yasuho- that’s your assistant, right?”

Bruno brightened. “Yes! She’s been very helpful so far.”

Abbacchio narrowed his eyes. “No.”

“What?”

“I know that look. No. You are not adding another child to your horde.”

“I don’t have a horde,” Bruno objected. “And you shouldn’t call them that, Leone.”

Abbacchio was opening his mouth to object to his boyfriend’s blatantly false statement when something crunched under his foot, and he paused midstep. At his side, Bruno also stopped, glancing down at the path beneath their feet.

It was scattered with shards of shattered green glass. A beer bottle, by the looks of it, carelessly dropped to the concrete by a drunken hand, but-

There was a mugging across the street last night. The victim got hit with a bottle.

He blinked.

Bruno poked at the larger shards with a shoe, frowning. “People should be more responsible with their garbage. Someone could hurt themselves on those. I wish I had a bag to clean it up…”

Abbacchio barely heard him. He took a shaky step back, and then another. Bruno looked up, his scowl shifting into a look of concern. “Leone? Are you alright?”

You’ve done a fine job, Abbacchio.

Half in a daze, Abbacchio pressed a hand to his chest. 

“Leone?”

“Fine,” Abbacchio managed, the word escaping in a slightly strangled gasp. It evidently wasn’t very convincing, judging by the fact that Bruno’s worried expression didn’t relax at all. He tried again. “I’m fine. I’m fine. Just. Give me a moment.”

Bruno fell quiet, watching as Abbacchio closed his eyes and slowly steadied his breathing again. His mind was racing almost as fast as his heart, trying to make sense of the influx of memories that ended abruptly with him broken and bleeding on a beach, and the jump from there to… here.

Here, standing on a college campus in a country he’d never even set foot in, Buccellati at his side, in a world that was entirely too good to ever be true. And he’d been on the last bus, no more stops, no line back.

“Please tell me you’re not dead too,” he muttered, not opening his eyes, not looking up at Bruno.

“I’m- what?” Bruno asked. “Of course I’m not. Why would I-?”

“Because I am,” Abbacchio ground out, pressing a hand to his forehead. “So if I’m here, and you’re here…”

“Leone, what on earth are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about the Boss. Sardinia. I saw- I saw his face, just for a moment, and then…”

He trailed off, because he couldn’t find words to describe the pain and sinking blackness, and after a moment of silence, he registered Bruno’s silence. He opened his eyes and looked around.

Bruno was staring at him, blue eyes wide and clear and haunted.

“Leone?” he whispered.

Abbacchio didn’t say anything. He couldn’t find the words.

“You’re alive,” Bruno murmured, and then, quieter, “I’m alive.”

“Did you die?” Abbacchio demanded.

Bruno looked almost sheepish, glancing away towards the ground. “...I died in the church, Leone. Everything after that was just… running on fumes.”

“Was there anyone else?” Abbacchio asked. Bruno didn’t answer immediately, and he repeated himself, sharper. “Was there?

“Narancia,” Buccellati said quietly. “And… I don’t know about the others. But I think they made it out alright.”

Abbacchio felt dizzy, off-balance, flooded with new information and standing in an impossible situation. “What happened?”

Buccellati bit down on his lower lip, and nodded towards a nearby bench, shaded by overhanging trees. Abbacchio followed him to sit down on it, still feeling half in a dream as Buccellati began to explain.

“The boss’s name,” Bruno said, “was Diavolo.”

 ---

Jonathan held Erina against his chest tightly. She felt fragile in his arms, birdlike. She’d thrown himself at him as soon as he stepped in the door, phone still pressed against his ear, and hadn’t let go since. She was shaking. He’d gently guided her back to the couch, where they’d collapsed into a heap, her body tucked up against him with desperate closeness.

“Erina,” he said carefully, “what’s wrong?”

She didn’t answer right away, just made a small, choked sound.

“Erina, please tell me what’s wrong.”

“I-” she gasped out, then swallowed, and when she spoke again her voice was firmer. “I don’t know. I just…”

“What?”

She shook her head. Her long blonde hair had been knocked out of the updo she usually kept it in, and it was spread in disarray across her shoulders and down her back. Her eyes were rimmed with red

“It felt like a nightmare, but… far too real to be a nightmare. It was like all of a sudden I had… this whole other life, in my head, and it was a life where I lost you.”

Jonathan blinked, not quite comprehending. “Lost… me?”

“You died, Jojo!” Erina shouted, bunching her hands up in his shirt, her clear blue eyes wide and overflowing with decades of grief much older than she was. “Dio killed you!”

Jonathan blinked.

All of a sudden, it was like the world had gone quiet, aside from his heart pounding in his ears. For a moment, he couldn’t breathe.

“...Dio?”

And then the world slammed back into place, carrying with it a whirlwind of thoughts and memories, of monsters and fangs and blood. Jonathan’s grip around Erina’s shoulders tightened convulsively.

“I remember,” he said quietly. She stiffened, inhaled sharply. “I remember. You… you lived, then? You made it out safely?”

“Yes,” she breathed. “I did. I raised our son, Jojo, and our grandson.”

“Good. That’s… good.” He rested his head on top of hers, closed his eyes. “I’m glad.”

 ---

Hermes shaded her eyes with one hand, and leaned back to stare up at the spires of the mansion.

“Holy shit,” she said. “Jolyne, is your family like… loaded?”

“Uh,” Jolyne said, “maybe? My dad always lived like an ocean hobo, but my great-grandpa is like a real estate baron or something, and apparently my cousin is a mafia boss, so like, who fucking knows.”

“I feel like I’ll get arrested if I step foot in this place.”

“Come on, cheer up,” Jolyne said. “Think of this as like, the weirdest meet-the-family ever.”

“That doesn’t actually make me feel any better, babe,” Hermes said.

“It’s fine. None of them are functional people. Besides, you’ve already met most of them, right? You just didn’t know we were related,” Jolyne said with a slight shrug, and reached up to knock on the door. Emporio’s grip on her other hand tightened fractionally, and she squeezed his fingers reassuringly.

The door swung open, and Joseph ushered them inside. “Hey, Jolyne! Jolyne’s girlfriend! Jolyne’s… kid?” he guessed, casting a questioning look at Emporio.

Jolyne snorted, stepping inside. “Nice try, Jiji. You’re still the only one of us with bastard offspring.”

“Jolyne!”

Right on cue, Josuke practically crashed into her, grabbing her in a hug. She returned it with one arm. “Hey, bastard offspring.”

“Hey!” Josuke said, bouncing back onto his heels to wave at Hermes. “Okuyasu’s here too, he’s in the living room.”

“Yeah, let’s head in there,” Joseph said, turning slightly more serious. “We’ve got a lot to talk about.”

In the living room, Okuyasu was sprawled on a fancy leather couch, eating Doritos by the fistful out of a bowl. There was a little girl, about five years old, sitting next to him, wearing a tiara and a fluffy purple jacket that was too big for her.

“Before you say anything,” Joseph said to Jolyne, “she is adopted.”

The girl stuck her tongue out at him.

“Why don’t you go jump on Caesar’s bed, huh, Shizuka?” Joseph suggested. Shizuka brightened, nodded, and scrambled out of the room, skipping up the stairs.

“Lisa Lisa, Caesar, and Suzie are all out right now, so I’m looking after her,” Joseph explained before slumping down on the couch.

Right then, the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” Jolyne offered, backtracking to the massive front door and pulling it open.

Giorno was standing on the front steps, hands neatly folded behind his back. Standing just behind him was a slightly taller boy with wild white hair, who was carefully not meeting her eyes.

“Jolyne!” he said brightly, and quickly kissed her on the cheeks. “It’s good to see you again. Oh, and this is my friend Fugo. He is having a hard time right now. Fugo, this is my cousin Jolyne.”

“Hey,” Jolyne said, saluting with two fingers. Fugo hesitantly waved back. “Nice to see you too, Giorno- well, uh, come in.”

She led the two into the house and back into the living room where, in her absence, Joseph and Josuke had apparently preoccupied themselves trying to toss Doritos into Okuyasu’s mouth. Hermes was sitting on the couch with Emporio at her side, watching the spectacle with a bemused expression. They all looked up in unison as Jolyne ushered the Italians into the room.

“Hey, Giorno!” Josuke said with a wave. Giorno returned the greeting with a nod. Jolyne supposed it made sense they knew each other, given they were basically co-leads in the play.

“Okay,” Joseph said almost immediately once they were all settled in a rough circle, “First of all, I gotta know, before anything else. Giorno. How are you related to us.”

Fugo gave Giorno a look askance. “You didn’t tell them?”

Giorno looked defensive. “I told Jolyne.”

“Told Jolyne what?” Joseph asked insistently.

Giorno was quiet for a long moment, just long enough for the silence to grow uncomfortable.

“His dad is Dio,” Jolyne said bluntly.

Joseph leaned forward, eyes widening. “Oh, shit, really?” He stared at Giorno for a moment. “Yeah, I guess I can see it. Knew you reminded me of somebody.”

Giorno raised his eyebrows. “You knew him?”

“Yeah, of course, he killed me once,” Joseph said offhandedly.

Giorno blinked. “I’m… sorry?”

“Well, I mean, I got better,” Joseph said with a grin. “And it gave me a chance to play, like, the best prank ever on my grandson, so it’s all good.”

“You gave him trust issues,” Jolyne said.

“Please, he already had those,” Joseph objected. “But, so, wait, you’re Dio’s son but you’re related to us-”

“Through Jonathan,” Giorno said. “Since my father stole his body.”

“Right, yeah,” Joseph said, nodding along. “Do you have the star?”

“What?”

“Y’know, the Joestar star. The birthmark!”

Giorno blinked. “Ah- yes, actually.”

“Nice, good enough for me,” Joseph said, settling back with another handful of chips.

“Okay, so, hold on,” Josuke said, “Giorno’s Jonathan’s son, Jonathan’s my great-grandfather, because he’s Joseph’s grandpa, which makes Giorno… Joseph’s uncle?”

There was a long beat of silence.

Then Joseph said, “Wait, no. Wait. No.”

Josuke was grinning. “Yes. Oh my god. Karma.

Giorno leaned over to Jolyne and Hermes. “What’s going on?”

“Joseph’s a slut,” Jolyne said. “He had Josuke when he was like, sixty, so Josuke is my dad’s uncle despite being like a solid decade younger.”

“I see,” Giorno said.

“Hey, actually,” Hermes said suddenly. “Dio is the guy Pucci was obsessed with, right, Jolyne?”

“Right.”

“So, uh, remember, plane crash guy and cow suit guy? Weren’t they Dio’s kids too?”

Jolyne’s eyes widened. “Oh, shit, yeah, that’s right! I totally forgot! Uh, Giorno, you have half-brothers.”

“Had,” Hermes corrected.

“Had,” Jolyne confirmed with a nod.

“But, like, for what it’s worth,” Hermes added, “I only met you like a couple minutes ago, Giorno, but you’re already by far my favorite. Like, you seem really cool, and also haven’t tried to kill us at all, so.”

“The bar is low here, I see,” Giorno said.

“Basically on the ground,” Jolyne agreed.

“So!” Joseph clapped his hands and drew attention back to himself, having apparently gotten over his momentary crisis. “We should probably talk about what… exactly is actually going on.”

“Right, yeah,” Jolyne said, resting her elbows on her thighs and leaning forward. “Giorno and I talked about this some. Point one- it’s definitely got something to do with the Joestars, right? Like, we’re all here, even the ones of us who should be dead, or the ones who didn’t even know any of the others like Giorno.”

Joseph groaned and leaned his head back. “I’m tired of bloodline curses,” he told the ceiling. “One was enough, thanks. At least this one isn’t Dio too.” He paused, then lifted his head again. “Wait, it’s not, is it?”

“Dio’s dead,” Jolyne said. “He’s super dead.”

Emporio nodded at her side. “Pucci’s plan failed,” he said softly. “He didn’t bring him back. He’s gone.”

“But that’s what Giorno and I wanted to ask you guys,” Jolyne said. “If either of you had anybody you remembered fighting that could’ve caused this.”

Josuke shook his head. Joseph frowned. “I think I remember something about an age-regression guy, which could maybe account for us all being college-age suddenly? But nobody who could do this level of fuckery except maybe Dio, and like you said, he’s dead. Still, though, I wouldn’t put anything past that bastard.”

“And it can’t be Pucci, either,” Jolyne muttered. “I mean, Emporio says it’s not, and I trust him, but even besides that, he said he was gonna write us out of existence. If it was him, we wouldn’t be here right now talking.”

“Hm,” Giorno hummed. “I’ve been thinking- you all know what a Stand Arrow is, right?”

There was a round of nods.

“There’s an artifact called a Requiem Arrow,” Giorno explained. “When it pierces an existing Stand, the Stand- evolves, I suppose you would say, into an incredibly powerful form called Requiem. Both of the Requiem Stands I’ve encountered, one of them my own, had potentially world-shifting levels of power. One could puppeteer souls and shuffle them around, while mine could nullify any action taken against it.”

“That’s a fuckin’ terrifying power,” Jolyne said succinctly.

Giorno nodded. He looked a little proud. “I’m not sure, but I think the power of a Requiem Stand would be more than sufficient to create this effect.”

“We could ask Polnareff once he remembers,” Fugo said. “He’s the expert, after all.”

Joseph made an abrupt choking noise. “You know Polnareff?”

Giorno blinked. “Yes? He works for me. He’s my second in command.”

“In the mafia.

“Yes.”

“I just- Jean-Pierre Polnareff? Extremely French, vertical hair, wielder of Silver Chariot- I just want to be absolutely sure we’re talking about the same person.”

“We most certainly are,” Giorno said. “That’s him.”

Polnareff?” Joseph repeated incredulously. “And you put him in a position of power?”

“Yes?”

Why?”

Giorno shrugged and smiled a little. “I like him.”

“Oh god,” Fugo muttered under his breath. “There’s gonna be hugging when he remembers.”

“I’m sure you’ll survive,” Giorno said.

“Not if he cracks my spine.”

“I guess the best strategy is to just try and get as many people to remember as we can,” Jolyne said, “until we find whoever knows what did this. Then we can find them, and kick their ass.”

“I like this plan!” Josuke said, nodding.

Joseph, however, had his lips pressed together, looking uncomfortable. “Do we know what’ll happen when… whatever this is, is defeated? Like… will stuff just go back to how it was?”

He didn’t need to say exactly what he was thinking for everyone to understand what he meant.

Giorno sighed. “I’ve been operating under that assumption, yes.”

“So everyone who’s supposed to be…”

The statement trailed off into cold, unhappy silence, the room suddenly much quieter. In the hush, Jolyne found Hermes’ hand next to hers on the couch, and squeezed it.

“Right,” she said, and her voice only shook a little. “So. That’s me, Hermes, and Dad… FF and Weather too.”

“And Granny Erina, and… Caesar,” Joseph said. “Avdol and Kakyoin.”

“Narancia, Abbacchio, and Buccellati,” Giorno added to the list. “And- Jonathan, as well.”

“Well,” Josuke said uncertainly, breaking the depressive silence that followed, “we don’t- know if that’ll happen. Right? We’re just- guessing. It might not be like that at all. Maybe everyone will stay alive!”

“Yeah. Maybe,” Joseph said. He didn’t sound very hopeful.

 ---

Outside the doorway to the living room, hidden from the view of the room’s occupants, Elizabeth Joestar listened to the conversation in silence. Her face was unreadable.

Her shoulders were trembling. She inhaled, couldn’t seem to get enough air into her lungs. She should have been able to. She’d had perfect control over her breathing for decades, nearly her entire life. She shouldn’t be- shouldn’t be-

-shouldn’t be panicking like this.

She could only remember feeling like this three times before in her life- because she did remember, now. The first time was when the letter came about her husband’s death in action, the second when she stood with Jojo in the foyer of a rotting mansion and stared at the blood oozing from beneath a stone cross, and the third in the middle of an English graveyard, staring at her son’s gravestone.

No.

She had her family all back in one place again. She refused to lose any of them. She refused.

She brought a cigarette to her lips and lit it, and her hands didn’t shake.

 ---

“So,” Suzie said, pausing to pop another fry in her mouth, “when do you think it started?”

Caesar frowned, tapping a finger against the table. “It was right around when the cast list was posted, wasn’t it? I think it was the same day, when that weird thing in the park happened.”

“Oh, when he grabbed your face?”

“Yeah.” Caesar still didn’t know quite what to think of that moment. The memory of the look on Joseph’s face, in his eyes, the kind of desperate relief he’d seen there, still hadn’t left him. “And ever since then, he’s been all weird around me. He keeps staring at me.”

“I mean, that’s not really new, is it?” Suzie asked. “When you first moved in he didn’t stop glaring at you for nearly a week, right?”

“Yeah, but not like this,” Caesar said, waving a hand. “Lately he just looks… really sad. It’s weird. I have no idea how to deal with it.”

Suzie took a sip of her chocolate shake. “You could just ask him what’s wrong?”

“I tried that! He just keeps saying nothing’s wrong.” Caesar paused. “Why don’t you ask him?”

She shrugged. “He’s been weird with me too! Not to the same extent, but he keeps acting kinda… guilty? Or something. He keeps ducking out of conversations.”

“With me too,” Caesar grumbled.

Suzie nodded, still looking troubled, and drank the last of her shake before looking forlornly into the empty cup. “I want more of this.”

“Then get another one,” Caesar said. “Lisa Lisa’s credit card can survive the consequences of her son’s jackassery.”

Suzie giggled. “Good point.” She flagged down a waiter, ordered another shake. Caesar chimed in to order a burger. Once he was gone, she turned back to Caesar and leaned forward a little, looking serious. “You don’t think he’s like… cheating, do you?”

Caesar snorted. “On both of us? No way. He knows he’d die.”

“Yeah…” Suzie said slowly. “That’s true. He wouldn’t. If you were there.”

Something about her distant tone made Caesar nervous. “Suzie? Are you okay?”

She blinked, eyes clearing. “Hm? Oh, I’m fine. Just… felt like I got reminded of something for a moment there, but it’s gone now.”

The waiter returned with Suzie’s shake and Caesar’s burger, and she brightened, taking a long drink through the straw.

“Maybe Lisa Lisa knows what’s wrong,” Caesar suggested. “We could ask her.”

Suzie nodded. “Good idea. She knows everything.” She suddenly cringed and pressed the heel of her hand against her forehead. “Agh! Brain freeze.”

Caesar smirked. “You should slow down on that. Here, want a bite of my burger?”

“Sure!” she said, quickly recovering and reaching across the table to take the burger off of his tray. As she brought it to her mouth, however, her grip squeezed a trickle of hot grease from the patty. It dripped onto her hand and she squealed, hastily dropping the sandwich on the table and sticking the side of her hand in her mouth.

“Ow! That burns!”

Caesar blinked, freezing in the action of reaching out to hand her a napkin, and met her wide-eyed gaze. She looked just as shocked as he felt, and he knew automatically she was thinking the same thing he was. Remembering the same thing he was.

All of a sudden, he thought he understood why Jojo had been acting so weird, too.

He and Suzie held frozen eye contact for a moment longer before all of a sudden she was stumbling out of her seat and sprinting around the table to throw her arms around his neck, burying her face in the crook of his neck and sobbing. Caesar slowly brought his arms up to hug her, still feeling stunned and shocked.

“I missed you,” she mumbled, between deep, shuddering breaths. “I’m glad you’re back.”

“...yeah,” Caesar managed after a moment, hugging her tighter. “Me too.”

 ---

Koichi Hirose had a math textbook under his arm as he made his way out of the school building. The sunlight was starting to fade by then, and the halls were deep with shadows. Yukako was walking at his side, hands in her back pockets, complaining about how many of the cast members wouldn’t stand still for two seconds for costuming.

“Dress rehearsal is still a while away, isn’t it, though?” Koichi tried.

“Costumes take a long time to make! And if they’re not cooperating now, they won’t cooperate then either,” she huffed, folding her arms.

They passed a darkened doorway, and something moved. Koichi just caught it out of the corner of his eye, and he froze, fingers closing around the spine of the textbook he was carrying. Yukako took a few more steps before she realized he’d stopped and turned around, frowning.

“Koichi?”

A small, round, familiar shape rolled out of the shadows of the doorway, and immediate panic gripped Koichi’s brain before he could even have a chance to take a closer look at it. He brought the textbook down with all his strength, and heard the crunching sound of plastic breaking.

Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.

He held the book down for a moment, just to make sure, as the surge of fear and memory subsided, before, with shaking hands, he lifted it up.

He was looking down at a motionless disc of cracked black and grey plastic. There was an LED display in the center of its back that was now dark. A white skull had been painted onto it, and there was a piece of folded paper taped to the plastic.

Yukako, leaning over his shoulder, blinked. “Is that a roomba?”

Koichi didn’t respond, reaching down to pull the note free. Even before unfolding it, he felt sure he knew who it was from.

You’re welcome. Meet me in the dorm and I’ll explain. - KR

“I’m going to kill him,” Koichi said.

 ---

Polnareff was sprawled, dozing, on the couch of his shared apartment, when his phone buzzed. He groaned and rolled over, pulling a pillow over his head, but it insistently continued to sound, dragging him steadily to grudging wakefulness. After another minute, he reluctantly gave sleep up as a temporarily lost cause and grabbed the offending phone, scrubbing at his eyes with his other hand as he squinted at the screen.

Joseph
hey
hey
hey
hey
hey
hey
polnareff
pol
polllllllll

Polnareff
WHAT
Qu'est-ce que tu veux vous mal de tête

Joseph
i don’t know what that means so i’m assuming it’s a compliment!
so hey listen
have you had any weird memories or dreams lately

Polnareff
???
No? Why??
Well, besides the one about the armadillo
But I’ve had that one for awhile

Joseph
riiiiiight
i’m not gonna ask about that
but uh speaking of shelled animals
completely unrelated
how do you feel about turtles

Polnareff
Uh

Joseph
(your next line is ‘oh my god’)

Polnareff
OH MY GOPD
JOSEPF
I FORGOT MY KIDS

Joseph
your-

Polnareff
MY MAFIA KIDS
OH MY GD WAIT
AVDOL AND KAKYOIN ARE NEXR DOOR
BRB

 ---

(Avdol and Kakyoin were both sitting in peaceful silence on the couch, Avdol studying and Kakyoin working his way through a sci-fi novel, when the door was abruptly slammed open with enough force to rattle the windows and they were both tackled to the ground by one hundred and seventy pounds of sobbing Frenchman.)

 ---

“Well,” Joseph said carefully when no new texts appeared, “I think that worked. How did you know turtles would do it?”

Giorno’s lips were pressed tightly together in the manner of someone trying very hard not to smile. “It’s a long story.”

“He called you guys his mafia kids?”

God, again?” Fugo muttered.

“Yes, he does that,” Giorno said. He paused, then said, “I hope he doesn’t run into Trish or Mista before they remember. That could potentially be awkward.”

 ---

“I’m just saying-”

“You’re delusional, Zeppeli,” Diego said. “Bang your head on one too many doorframes lately?”

“Resorting to cheap insults will never make you taller, you know,” Gyro said with a grin.

“Oh, you can say goodbye to your shins, asshole-”

Anyways,” Gyro continued, raising his voice to talk over Diego, “Johnny will agree with me. Right, Johnny?”

And just like that, Johnny found himself in the terrible situation of having to choose between backing up Gyro’s objectively stupid and awful idea, or agreeing with Diego.

“What,” he said flatly, as though he hadn't been listening in silent irritation to the entire preceding conversation and argument.

“Don’t you think-”

“No,” Hot Pants interrupted monotonously, not looking up from her phone.

“-that, if I wanted to, I could write a good musical and get it staged?” Gyro stubbornly continued.

Johnny made his decision. The prospect of having to listen to Diego’s inevitable gloating was unappealing, but not nearly as much as the possibility of having to listen to Gyro attempting to compose. “Absolutely not.”

Gyro pouted. “Aw, but you don’t think-”

He kept talking, but Johnny had stopped listening, his attention instead drawn by a stand selling newspapers and magazines. He took his hands off his wheels, rolling to a halt, and reached out to grab one. TIME was blaring across the cover in blocky red letters, and then, just below it, Person of the Year.

HP, looking over his shoulder, scowled. “Ugh. Him.”

“Person of the Year?” Johnny muttered. “Really?”

“What’re you guys looking at?” Gyro called, he and Diego having finally noticed they were now walking alone and doubled back. Johnny held up the magazine wordlessly, and Gyro’s face crumpled in disgust. Diego grabbed the magazine out of his hands to glare at it, the scar that stretched up one cheek twisting as he grimaced.

“I can’t believe nobody’s killed him yet,” he complained. “You know, if it were down to me-”

“No,” HP said.

“I know you agree with me on this,” Diego said, pointing at her.

“Be that as it may,” HP said flatly. “We’re not going to kill the president. I can’t believe I actually have to say that.”

“He should die just for that hairstyle, really,” Gyro said. “But HP is probably right. He’s on thin ice, though.”

“Fine, fine, point taken,” Diego said, rolling his eyes and resuming his walk down the sidewalk, Gyro and HP falling in next to him. Johnny lagged back for a minute, handing the stall keeper a dollar for the magazine and glaring at it before tucking it away and catching up.

Fifteen minutes later, in his wheelchair in the middle of their apartment, Johnny froze as realization slammed into place.

“Motherfucker!”