Not all hotel rooms in Marseille had balconies, but this one did. Avdol toyed with the latch to the door, silently praying it would open. When it did, he let out a cry of joy, and swung the rickety, wooden door wide open. He inhaled the fresh sea air that flooded the room, which was now being gradually freed from its stale smell. Now satisfied, he began to unpack his humble belongings. Normally, he wouldn’t have bothered doing so, but he would be staying in Marseille for at least a week, maybe longer.
Avdol took in the room; it was on the third floor of an old building that had been only partially renovated. While the furniture and bathroom seemed to be brand new, the walls, doors and windows left much to be desired. The old, thick wallpaper was peeling off the walls, revealing the bricks behind it, while the wooden window frames were cracked, threatening him with a splinter if he so much as touched them.
Regardless, he could get used to it; the hotel was charming, and his room was spacious, bright and well-equipped. It came with an antique wooden desk and a large armoire that turned out to be perfect for storing his clothes and books. And there’s even a TV , he thought, looking at the blocky piece of equipment in the corner of the room. He most likely would not turn it on during his stay, unless Polnareff came by and insisted on watching something.
Right, Polnareff. It was why he was here in the first place.
After the battle in Cairo, and the near brush with death the entire group had, they all went their separate ways, but not before vowing to meet up again. Of course, Joseph told both him and Polnareff they were welcome to tag along to New York with him, where they would be offered comfort and luxury. You’ve done more than I could have ever asked for, Joseph had told them both, saying that if they so wished, they would never have to work a day for the rest of their lives. Of course, they had both respectfully declined; their pride did not let them accept such a generous offer. Plus, Polnareff wanted to go back to France. Joseph reluctantly respected their wishes, but not before he made them promise that if they, or their family, or friends needed anything, that they would tell him.
Joseph. The name sounded so strange to Avdol. He had known Mr. Joestar for years, but it only sounded right to refer to the older man with an honorific of sorts. But, if Mr. Joestar explicitly told him to call him Joseph, he would, especially after the ordeal they had gone through.
At least none of us died. He sighed, and put the last of his clothes into the armoire before closing it. They did survive, but at what cost? They had all been deeply traumatised. While life had already taught him, Polnareff and Joseph how to deal, he couldn’t even begin to phantom how deeply Kakyoin and Jotaro had been influenced by the tragic events. He hoped that Jotaro would accept therapy; at least he knew Kakyoin would, as he had gratefully accepted Joseph’s offer to put him and his family under the care of the best psychologists Japan had to offer. But Jotaro? He wouldn’t be surprised if he went back to his home and locked himself away. Still, there was a glimmer of hope; he had seemed to grow fond of Kakyoin, so maybe, just maybe, Jotaro would be influenced by the young boy’s open demeanor.
Avdol shook his head. No, this wasn’t the time to think about such things. He came here to see Polnareff and rest, and that was what he would do. Perhaps he’d start with a nap; the bed looked inviting, and he had a lot of time left before he was supposed to call Polnareff. Maybe he should shower first? No, he’d just close his eyes for a minute, and then go wash up.
Soul-crashing darkness and despair. Nothing, nothing at all could be seen. A tragic, wailing void that dragged one deeper and deeper. No meaning, no soul- death and pain for miles.
Avdol woke up with a frightened gasp. He had been having the same terrible nightmare ever since he had set foot in Egypt together with the rest. Foolishly, he had expected it to stop after Dio's defeat, but even after all these weeks, the nightmare continued to haunt him.
Maybe this week of rest would help him find peace. If he had to look for a silver lining, it was that the nightmare wasn't occurring as often as it used to. Nowadays, he could count on at least 3 nights a week of undisturbed rest. What alarms me is that it happened during a short nap , he thought as he stepped into the bathroom. After a shower he felt better, although the mental disquiet was still there.
Right, Polnareff. He fished out the small piece of paper he had put in his breast pocket, and dialed the correct numbers on the old, bedside phone.
The phone rang only once before it was picked up.
“Polnareff?” he asked. The question was just a communicative courtesy; he was sure it was him.
“Avdol! Finally I’ve been waiting for hours, where the hell are you?”
He smiled; Polnareff’s French accent when speaking English was unique. “In my hotel room, where else?” he replied.
“Oh good, I’ll be there in 15 minutes.”
Wait what? “No, no we can meet outside, I’m sure-”
“Knock it off! Are you not excited to see your friend? Hm?”
Avdol could just see the accusatory gaze directed at him. “No, no, it’s not that, I mean, I’ve just showered, I’m not properly dressed, and-”
“As if that matters! I’ll be in the lobby in 15 minutes, bye!” And Polnareff hung up.
Well, he certainly was excited. Wait, he was too, right?
No no, of course he was excited. But he was also nervous. They were meeting as friends, on personal terms, to relax, catch up, and visit the city. He hadn’t done that in a while with anyone, really. A very long while. And Polnareff…..he went from being a somewhat annoying companion to a trusted friend and ally, someone that, despite being very different than him, had grown close to his heart.
After the battle with Dio, just a few days after they had all split up and went their separate ways, Polnareff called him. How’s it going? he had casually asked, as if they hadn't stopped an immortal vampire last week.
It was funny, but he really didn’t know what to answer back then. He had just blurted out a confused “Why are you calling?” , completely taken aback by the sudden call. Thank god Polnareff wasn’t phased by his momentarily rudeness, and began talking about how he just wanted to see how his friend was doing, and that he had just gotten off the phone with Kakyoin, and that he had talked to him for over an hour, and that he himself was doing fine all things considered, but now he needed to catch up with his other friend who was supposed to buy him a fancy dinner.
Avdol was silently grateful for Polnareff’s persistence. Since that day, they called each other regularly, usually talking for more than an hour, sometimes even two or three. Today’s meet-up was the result of all these calls. If not for Polnareff, he would be wallowing allow in his small, humble home in Cairo.
Well, he had no time to waste- he should try to look his best.
His nervousness quickly turned into happiness when he saw Polnareff waiting for him on one of the lobby couches. “Polnareff!” he called out, grabbing the man’s attention. He knew Polnareff was excited, but he did not anticipate that Polnareff would jump up and run to him at full speed while joyfulling calling his name. Polnareff practically collided with him, and wasted no time engulfing him in a tight hug.
“Avdol, it’s so good to see you,” he said, sounding tearful.
That in turn made Avdol emotional. Memories of all that happened came rushing back to him, and he realized just how lucky they were that they were both alive. He hugged Polnareff back as tightly as he could, not minding the fact that they were probably making a bit of a scene.
It was a long while before they parted. Polnareff clapped him on the shoulder excitedly, and looked him up and down. “Wow, you look good.”
Well, he had put in effort. He figured he should settle for a more European look; he left his traditional wear behind, opting for simple black slacks and a shirt in a deep red color. He didn’t however discard his signature hairstyle or earrings, and had taken his outer robe with him in case it got cold. It was autumn, after all.
He then realized that Polnareff wasn’t exactly wearing his signature outfit either. “I could say the same thing about you,” he said, patting Polnareff on his shoulder. The man looked….handsome, to say the least. For one, he had trimmed his hair, and while the style was the same, it was more toned down, something Avdol thought worked better for him. Second, he had put on blue jeans, a black T-shirt and a leather bomber jacket which gave him a relaxed, casual look.
Wait, weren’t they supposed to go out for a fancy dinner? He asked as much.
“No no, come on, today I’m showing you Marseille, we have dinner reservations for tomorrow,” Polnareff said, urging him to follow.
Avdol laughed. “So you already made some for us?”
“Yes, but you-” he pointed at him, “-you are buying.”
Of course he was.
There was a pleasant breeze when they stepped outside. They began walking the streets, taking the round way about, so as to enjoy the city in full.
“Tell me again,” Avdol asked, “Your family town is not far away?”
Polnareff nodded. “About a three hour drive, but still, I decided to take a room in the city. I won’t be driving back and forth after all.” Polnareff waved his hands around.
“Hm, yes that would be a nuisance,” he replied. A part of him was curious about Polnareff’s home, but he didn’t dare ask about something so personal. Instead, he inquired as to where they were going.
“Well, since we’re close, we’ll go to Le Panier, and then to the Vieux Port, we can also go drink and eat something along the way.”
That sounded good to him. It was surprising how well Polnareff looked; he walked with a bounce to his step, seemingly at ease and happy. After all, he had been severely injured, and undergone great physical and mental stress, just as he had.
Just as he was about to inquire about to ask Polnareff how he truly was feeling , a white Samoyed ran up to them. The dog jumped around them, as if it were eager to play.
“Aren’t you cute?” Polnareff asked the dog in French, patting it on its head. The dog seemed satisfied, and looked at Avdol, clearly hoping to receive the same treatment.
Avdol indulged the adorable creature. He crouched down and began to pat the soft, white fur. He noticed the dog had a collar; hopefully, its master was somewhere close by.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” a young woman called out to them. She was running towards them, a leash in her hand.
“I’m so sorry, Montagne got away from me,” the woman said. She put her hand on her heart, took a deep breath, and re-attached the leash to the collar.
Avdol laughed. “It’s not a problem, she’s….?” he asked in French. The woman nodded, confirming that the dog was female. “She’s a lovely dog,” Avdol continued. “Still a puppy, I assume?” he asked.
The woman laughed. “Yes, still. She’s very wild, it’s a good thing I got her tag engraved with my phone number last week. She keeps getting away.”
Avdol smiled, and bid the woman a pleasant evening as she continued on her way, but not before he pet the dog once more.
It was then he realized Polnareff was staring at him speechless, eyes wide.
“You, you, you speak French?!” he exclaimed in English.
“ Oui, ” Avdol replied, sticking to French. “It’s not perfect French, but it’s more than conversational. I’d say I’m at a semi-advanced lev-”
“I’ve known you for months! Months! And not once did you mention you knew French!” Polnareff was practically yelling now.
“I do believe I said some words in French when we first met,” he sheepishly tried to explain in French, “I just gravitated to English since we all-”
“I thought you were mocking me back then!”
Well, to be fair, he sort of was. But that was water under the bridge. He laughed. “Sorry, do you want to switch to French? I wouldn’t mind,” he asked, still in French.
Polnareff huffed, and turned his back to him. “Let’s stick to English for now. It feels weird talking to you in French.” He paused. “Your accent is awful,” he grunted.
Ah, that would be Polnareff's way of getting back at him. “Have it your way,” he said, now in English, trying to hide his amused tone.
“Any other languages you know?” Polnareff asked, sticking his hands into his pockets.
“Well, aside from English, French, and Arabic, I know Spanish at an intermediate level, Japanese at an advanced level, and of course I can read and write in Latin fairly well.”
Polnareff snorted. “Here I thought I was fancy for just knowing English.”
Avdol laughed, and put his hand on Polnareff's shoulder. “Knowing any additional language is impressive. You know me, I’m a self-assigned scholar.”
“Hmph, guess you’re right.” Polnareff was already lighting up.
Their conversation gradually shifted to casual topics, and once they reached the centre, they already had graviated to catching up on what had happened in their lives in the past few weeks after Cairo. Even though they both knew what the other had been up to, Avdol gladly repeated it all.
“It’s different when you talk in person,” Polnareff said, lighting up a cigarette. They were sitting outside at a small, picturesque cafe, drinking coffee and having some pastries.
Avdol could agree to that. “It truly is.” Months ago, he wouldn’t have imagined that he’d be here, at this very moment, in the middle of a beautiful city with a dear friend, enjoying the peace and quiet. Yes, it wasn’t over, it never truly was, but for the time being, he could let himself enjoy a bit of happiness. It is what he and Polnareff deserved.
“Okay, let me ask honestly,” Polnareff said, tapping his cigarette against the ashtray, “how are you, really? You said you went back to work as a fortune teller?”
I should be asking Avdol thought. But for now, he'd reply. He reclined against the comfortable seat and crossed his arms. “I have. Business is good, clients are favorable. Cairo has gotten some of its life back.” While his home country was still in a state of political unrest, things had suddenly taken a turn for the better, no doubt due to Dio being defeated.
The thought scared Avdol. How far had Dio’s influence reached? It was no secret that the wretched villain had traveled, alot, and there was no way of telling who he had recruited, who he had possessed, and if any of his underlings were still stubbornly carrying out his evil wishes.
“So why do you suddenly look sad?” Polnareff asked.
Avdol shook his head. “I just worry.”
“You know what.”
Polnareff sighed, and took another drag from his cigarette. “I knew you wouldn’t relax. How much have you been staying up late at night and researching?”
He had given Polnareff far too little credit- the man had noticed. “As much as I can manage, really.” It’s not like sleep came easy to him.
''Well, do me a favor and stop for at least this week,'' Polnareff said. ''Enjoy the city, enjoy my terrible company,'' he laughed.
Avdol scrunched his nose. Sure, Polnareff was something, but his company was far from terrible, at least to him. ''Don't say that,'' he murmured. ''Your company is comforting.''
''Hm?'' Polnareff hadn't heard him.
Avdol wasn't going to repeat that. It would be embarrassing. ''Nothing, just that you're right, friend. Let's try not to reminisce about the past or the future. Instead, let's dwell on the now.''
Polnareff raised his eyebrows, and threw the cigarette butt into the ashtray. ''You always talk so fancy,'' he teased, getting up from the chair. ''Come on, let's go down to the Harbour.''
It was late evening when they reached the lines of docked boats. The sun had begun to set, casting a warm, pleasant light. ''Can I ask how the others are? Specifically, how are the young boys?'' Avdol asked. As much as he considered Jotaro and Kakyoin dear friends, he found it awkward to contact them just out of the blue. Knowing that Polnareff was in touch put his mind at ease.
''Better than I expected,'' Polnareff said, ''Both caught up with school, and from what Kakyoin says they will be going to University.'' He was walking with his hands in his pockets, a lazy, calm stride to his steps.
''Both?'' Avdol asked. A strong breeze came from the sea, finally coaxing him into putting on his cloak on.
“Yeah,” Polnareff snorted. “Apparently, Kakyoin is living at the Kujo estate now. Mrs. Holly is delighted, she says the house feels less empty.”
Avdol raised his eyebrows. Now that was something he wasn’t expecting to hear. “Really? Why is he living there now?”
“Transferred schools.” Polnareff shrugged. “Let’s be real though…..”
“It was about being with Jotaro.” Avdol finished the sentence and laughed, his shoulders slightly shaking. So the boy had gotten to the young, cold Jotaro. “I have no doubt it was a relief for Kakyoin to meet someone his age, also with a stand.”
“Oh that’s a factor, for sure,” Polnareff said. Just then, Silver Chariot materialized, partially phasing out of his left side. Avdol wandered if the action was subconscious.
He never had said it outright, but he liked how dignified Polnareff’s stand looked. It was a knight in every sense of the word, clad in silver, strong, holding a sword which was sometimes wielded hastily, but nevertheless with honor and good intentions. Just like Polnareff himself.
“Polnareff,” Avdol began. They stopped at the end of a pier, the sun just beginning to disappear behind the horizon.
“Hm?” Polnareff stood on his heels, waiting for him to continue.
The breeze turned into a cool wind, howling gently. It slightly messed with Polnareff’s hair, but not to the point the style came apart.
“Now let me ask, and tell me honestly, how are you?”
Polnareff looked away. He sighed, forced a smile and said that he had been feeling great.
''You know I know it's not true,'' Avdol said.
The smile faded away from Polnareff's face. ''What do you want me to say? Of course it's not easy. I can't sleep, I wander around my empty home, missing her.''
Avdol took a deep breath. ''I'm sorry, I'm just-''
''-worried? I know. But it really isn't as bad. I'm managing. No, what was that word? I think it started with a k….''
''Coping,'' Avdol said. That’s what it was. “I’m sorry I brought this up.We’re supposed to be resting, like you said.”
Polnareff gently shook his head. “You’re a good friend. Trust me, I’m coping .” Polnareff stressed the word with purpose, and gave him a slight nod, as if to reassure him.
“That’s good then,” Avdol said, deciding to abandon the matter for now; what was important was that Polnareff knew he was concerned and ready to lend an ear, should the need arise.
Then, he decided to add something. “I also want to say thank you.” Polnareff gave him a puzzled look, so he explained further. “I’m happy you invited me, and I’m glad to be here with you now.” He knew he sounded sappy, but he needed to get those words out.
He wasn’t expecting Polnareff to hug him again, but he certainly didn’t mind it. “I am too,” Polnareff replied, squeezing him that much tighter. Avdol nestled his face into Polnareff’s shoulder, accepting the hug with all his might.
It was a while before they unlocked themselves from the comforting embrace.
“Hey, Avdol,” Polnareff began. He still had his hand on Avdol’s shoulder. “Would you maybe want to come to my hotel room? I’m not far from your hotel, and I could walk you back later.”
It was a nice suggestion, but the thing was, Avdol wasn’t sure what they would be doing there. Talking more, certainly, but wouldn’t it make sense to eat something? He voiced his concern, but Polnareff said that he had room service, and that to-go food was an option.
“Ah, but it is a beautiful evening, don’t we want to walk around more?” Avdol asked. He truly wanted to enjoy the good weather, especially if he could do so in the company of a dear friend.
Polnareff’s smile faded for a split second before it made its way to his face again. “No, no, you’re right, of course, let’s keep on strolling.”
Satisfied, Avdol turned to keep on walking, Polnareff’s hand sliding down his shoulder. He noticed that Polnareff lingered behind him, but soon, the man caught up, and they resumed their casual conversation.
They spent the next two hours talking and enjoying each other’s company, even finding the time to stop and try some choice street food.
Unfortunately, they soon realized it was very late, and that tiredness was beginning to take hold of them both.
They began to walk in the direction of their hotels. “I am taking you tomorrow to a fancy restaurant, right?” Avdol asked.
Polnareff grinned. “Only if you intend to keep your word.”
Of course he did. “If I said I would pay, then I intend to do so,” he said, shooting Polnareff a serious look.
Polnareff waved him off. “I know I know, don’t take offense.” He paused, and bit his lip.
Avdol furrowed his eyebrows; was his friend worried about something?
“I’ve been thinking, maybe I could stop by your hotel room for a while?” Polnareff shyly asked. “Even better, I’ve been thinking about getting a room in the same hotel as you.” The nervousness was clear in his voice.
Confused as to why he was flustered, Avdol replied with a shrug. “It’d be nice, certainly, but haven’t you paid for your lodgings? Also, my hotel is nowhere near as good as yours, I assume.”
“Oh that’s not a problem, I was just thinking….” Polnareff scratched his neck. “Like, we have only a week together, and who knows when we’ll meet up again in person.”
Avdol nodded. Polnareff’s reasoning was sound. Plus, his friend’s close company would keep him from researching and reading- he’d rest as he was supposed to. “You’re right. Find out then if you can come to my hotel-it’s not much, but it’s cozy.”
At that, Polnareff visibly lightened up.“Yeah! I’ll let you know tomorrow!” He clapped Avdol on the back. “We need to make up for lost time.”
Avdol smiled. “We do. However, it is a pity we can never get back our money for our phone bills.”
Polnareff let out a frustrated noise. “God, okay, let me tell you, these guys keep overcharging me! Listen, just before I got here…
It was strange, but it was somehow comforting to listen to Polnareff rant about his phone company. Avdol politely listened all the way to the hotel, offering a sympathetic ‘mhm’ every now and then.
The next morning, Avdol woke feeling rested and refreshed. He had not had the nightmare, but what was more, he had been able to fall into a deep, soothing sleep, and not wake up a single time throughout the night; frankly, it was the first time he had slept soundly in weeks.
It was all thanks to Polnareff. Walking with a close friend through a picturesque beach and talking about everything and nothing did wonders for him. It was decided; he’d not only treat Polnareff to a fancy meal, but he’d buy him whatever he liked.
As he stepped out of the shower, he heard a knock to his hotel door. “ Oui ?” he called out. It had to be hotel staff- who else would bother him this early?
“It’s me!” Polnareff’s joyful voice sounded from the other side of the door.
Avdol stopped drying his hair. He glanced at the clock hanging above his bed; it was a little after 9 AM. How had Polnareff gotten here so fast? What time had he woken up?
“Aaaavdooooolllllll,” Polnareff called out again.
“I, I’m not dressed!” he shouted back, scurrying around looking for his clothes. Sure he had a towel tied around his waist, but he was nowhere near presentable-
“Put on a robe then!” Polnareff called back.
Well, this hotel didn’t have robes. Avdol sighed dejectedly. To hell with appearances. It’d take him a good few minutes to get dressed, and he wasn’t about to tell Polnareff to wait outside.
He quickly tied a towel around his waist, and let Polnareff in.
“Oh….” was all his friend said. He didn’t miss how Polnareff’s eyes went up and down, and then quickly back up again. “You’re….”
“Well-built? Of course I am,” Avdol said with amusement. “So are you, after all.” He beckoned Polnareff inside.
“Well, yeah, I, that’s true,” Polnareff stammered out. He closed the door behind him a little too forcefully.
Why was he acting so strange? Polnareff was awkwardly standing near the door, looking at him with what would constitute a fairly shy expression. In what was probably an effort to break the silence, Polnareff laughed awkwardly and pointed to him. “Haven’t seen you with your hair down.”
Oh, true. “It looks better tied up, doesn’t it?” Avdol asked. When it wasn’t tied into neat knots, his hair at the top of his head tended to curl chaotically, as if it wanted to be dreads, but at the last minute decided that perhaps it wasn’t the best idea. Then there was his hair at the nape of his neck, which did not curl but kept itself fairly straight, going from a black at the nape of his neck to a dark brown at the tips of his hair.
“No, I mean, it looks good,” Polnareff began fidgeting with his hands.
Avdol wasn’t sure what to make of that. So he shrugged, and went into the bathroom. “Sorry, it will take me some time to do my hair, I had to take the knots out because I’ve had them in for over a week-”
“Why don’t you just let your hair curl like that?” Polnareff asked. Avdol heard him sit on the bed.
Well, he hadn’t thought of that. If he put on his headband it wouldn’t look too messy, especially if he tamed the hair with a comb and a small amount of curling cream. “Alright, I’ll listen to my new stylist, Mr. Jean Pierre Polnareff,” he teased.
He heard Polnareff snort. “It was just a suggestion, but since you’re listening, make your ponytail into a braid.”
Avdol laughed. He hadn’t braided his hair in ages, but if Polnareff wanted him to, so be it.
While he did his hair, Polnareff decided to come watch him. He casually leaned against the doorway, a relaxed expression on his face. He was wearing his outfit from yesterday, but he had put on a different pair of earrings; not his signature half heart ones, but long, dangling silver ones. They suited him well, and emphasized the shape of his face.
Polnareff began to make small talk, and Avdol indulged him; but while they were discussing their plans for the day, a thought began to bounce in the back of Avdol’s mind. Rather, it was a realization.
He had gotten very comfortable with Polnareff. And not just that; his personality had grown softer and lighter around him. People always knew him as serious and dignified, but somehow with Polnareff, these barriers would come down. He would joke, laugh, and indulge in silly conversation, one that his younger, haughty self would deem a waste of time.
Perhaps he had been too hard on himself. He deserved unrestrained joy and fun, especially if it came with the assistance of a joyous Frenchman.
The rest of the day was spent sightseeing, after which they went into their hotel rooms to change into elegant clothes. Avdol put on a simple black suit, pairing it with a scarlet tie and scarf to match. Once dressed, he knocked on the door of Polnareff’s room; in the end, his friend had managed to get a room next to his.
When Polnareff opened the door, Avdol was rendered speechless. His friend was wearing a suit, but not any suit; it was an unusual, dark navy three piece, patterned in elegant swirls which were a shade darker than the base material itself. When Avdol finished admiring the outfit, he realized that Polnareff had put his grey hair down. He had given it only a little bit of height at the top of his head, combing the rest back into a long, long ponytail that was tied with a strand of blue ribbon at the nape of his neck.
Avdol liked it. He loved it, in fact.
Polnareff smirked at him. “Do I look that good?”
“You do.” The words were out before Avdol could stop himself.
They stared at each other for a long moment, one that Avdol felt lasted ages, before they somehow awkwardly broke their way out of the trance, muttering over each other about needing to hurry up so as not to be late.
For a brief while, Avdol wandered if they perhaps had overdressed, but when they entered the restaurant, he realized that when Polnareff said fancy, he had meant it in in every sense of the word.
The outward elegance of the venue was one worthy of a three star Michelin restaurant. The restaurant was heavily baroque in its appearance, with gold and white dominating the interior. A deep scarlet, much like his scarf, was the secondary color, splashes of it appearing here and there. In the corner of the restaurant, a young man played the piano on a round stage, adding to the calm, quiet atmosphere. He didn’t recognize the tune, but it was pleasant, no doubt. Everything was completed by heavy curtains and odd statues scattered against the restaurant walls. All the staff were dressed in formal, black-tie wear, their hostess wearing a smart, black dress. Their table, like many others in the restaurant, was set at lighting speed right before their eyes, no doubt a deliberate display of just how well the staff was trained. Once the golden tablecloth was adjusted, the dishes set, and the vermouth poured, they were left to read the menu at their leisure.
However, before he decided on a dish, Avdol had to take in their surroundings once more. It was an incredibly fancy and beautiful place. So fancy in fact that he was afraid of looking at the menu.
“Hm, now, what to choose…..” Polnareff mumbled, flipping through the menu. It seemed like he had been here before.
Avdol took a deep breath, and opened the leather-covered book. He would be buying, after all.
To his surprise, it wasn’t nearly as expensive as he feared. He could even afford some side dishes with the main course, and perhaps, even dessert.
“Surprised it’s not that expensive, huh?” Polnareff grinned at him. “This restaurant is famous for that; quality food, quality prices, and thousands of loyal customers. This place has been functioning since the 20’s.”
“How did you come to find out about it?” Avdol asked.
He regretted asking the question. Polnareff’s expression dropped, and a bittersweet smile appeared on his face. “I wanted to go somewhere special to celebrate my sister’s 12th birthday.” He closed his menu. “She loved it here.”
Avdol made sure to poignantly nod. He turned his attention back to the menu, hoping he didn’t sour the mood. “Well, perhaps you could recommend me something?” he asked, hoping to lighten the conversation.
It did. Polnareff excitedly recommended him a number of dishes, and finally, Avdol decided on the restaurant's Bouillabaisse, due to it being a staple regional dish.
He did not regret his decision. It was one of the most magnificent meals he had the honor of experiencing, made all the more wonderful thanks to Polnareff’s presence. Time lost all meaning, and all that mattered was the two of them. Avdol hadn’t felt this good in months, perhaps even years. He was safe and sound, and dining with a close friend.
No, Polnareff was something more than a close friend. A brother in arms, a handsome knight, a beautiful human being, a- Avdol lightly shook his head, trying to will his infatuated thoughts away. He was getting ahead of himself.
Polnareff noticed, and laughed loudly. “Had enough?” he asked.
They had moved on to dessert, and suffice to say, they were both tipsy. “No, no, I suppose…..I’m just realizing how happy I am to be here with you, at this moment.” The piano played languidly in the background.
Polnareff’s breath hitched. “Yeah, same here,” he said quietly. Their eyes locked. There was a heavy moment of silence between them. Everything faded away: the music, the clatter of dishes, the footsteps, the sound of people chattering.
It all rushed back when their waiter approached them, asking if they would like anything else.
“No, no thank you, yeah, I think we will be going, right Avdol?” Polnareff asked.
Avdol nodded. He had defaulted to wiping his mouth with a napkin to hide how flustered he felt. What had just happened?
Their bill was promptly brought, and he paid it all, despite Polnareff’s insistence that he would chip in too. “No, I promised, and I will be keeping that promise,” he said. He didn’t know why he felt so warm. He wanted to say it was the alcohol, but logic whispered to him that alcohol was not the only thing responsible for his state.
Polnareff raised his hands in defeat at his insistence, vowing to cover it all next time. “Maybe we could take Jotaro, Kakyoin and Joseph here one day,” he said.
“You know that Joseph would pay for everything,” Avdol said as he stood up. He grabbed onto the back of the chair to stabilize himself.
“I mean, I would hope so,” Polnareff replied. He stood up much more gracefully. “But you know he would order the poor pianist to play some jolly American tune.”
They began to laugh, perhaps a little too loudly, and Avdol quickened his pace so as to leave the restaurant as soon as possible. He rarely let himself get tipsy, but when he did, he knew himself to be loud.
“Shall we walk?” Polnareff asked. It was already late, and the moon was high up in the sky.
“I would not mind,” Avdol said. The fresh sea air would help him sober up a bit. They walked next to each other in silence at a calm, unhurried pace.
Eventually, Polnareff insisted they walk to the nearby beach. “I stole a bottle of wine from the restaurant,” he whispered, holding up a narrow red gift bag.
Avdol slowly turned and narrowed his eyes. ''I do hope you don't mean that literally.''
''Of course not. Come on, let's sit down here.'' Polnareff plopped himself down on the sand, not minding his fancy outfit.
Avdol liked to think of himself as more careful. He took off his red jacket and laid it horizontally on the sand, then offered Polnareff a seat beside him. The man eagerly accepted.
''You know, I didn't think we would get to do this,'' Polnareff said, pouring the fancy wine into a white plastic cup and handing it to him. “I was sure I would die somewhere in Egypt.”
Avdol hummed in agreement. Their travels had been full of immense peril, and there were many times he thought it would be the end either for him or for one of his companions. ''The cards did say we would survive, and they were right,'' he said as he took a sip. It was a delectable wine, the plastic cup far too unworthy, but it would have to do.
Polnareff shrugged. ''No offense, and I really mean it, but it's hard to unconditionally believe a bunch of weird cards you pulled out of a deck and then interpreted.'' He drank a bit, and sighed in satisfaction. ''I know you're one of the best-''
''Okay fine, the best fortune teller in Egypt and one of the best in the world, but you know what I mean.''
Avdol chuckled to himself and turned his gaze towards the ocean. The waves were hardly visible, but they could be heard; the sound of them crashing against the beach was pleasant to the ear.
During their travels in Egypt, he regularly read their future with the help of his tarot cards, hoping to obtain some kind of guidance or clues as to how to proceed, or at the very least what to expect. However, he rarely obtained concrete directions; the readings were vague, as most tended to be. There was, however, one motif that was always present - hope and love.
Polnareff cracked a bad joke, said something about the stars looking beautiful, and he then began to undo his hair, letting it gently fall down well past his shoulders.
It was then that it came to Avdol slowly, like dawn breaking on a beautiful summer day. He was most likely in love. And so was Polnareff. Why else had he been so nervous when proposing the trip, or even the hotel room change?
The readings had been much deeper in their meaning. He was now certain of it.
Polnareff let out a contented sigh, and brushed his hair back with his hands. ''I usually don't let my hair down like this,'' he said, ''but if you're doing something different, I will…… too. " He had noticed how Avdol was looking at him, lost in thought.
Avdol let out a groan from the pit of his chest, one which he reserved for when he was unusually satisfied. The few moments where he went from realization to acceptance had been enough to confidently reassure him that yes, this was what he wanted.
He tore away his gaze from Polnareff and looked up at the night sky; the stars were indeed bright, twinkling brilliantly.
''You've thought of something, you have that small smile on your face,'' Polnareff said.
Oh right. He was smiling. He laughed to himself, and in a move he found somewhat bold, he reached out to hold Polnareff's hand.
Polnareff froze; the paper cup in his hand trembled. All he could muster was a surprised ''oh'', one that Avdol hardly heard over the sound of the waves and wind.
Years ago, Avdol would have never attempted such intimacy. Now? He felt as if he not only should, but that he had to. His friend deserved his honesty, and the cards deserved to be fulfilled.
He intertwined his hand more, and put down his own cup, freeing his other hand to play with the strands of Polnareff's hair that was now blowing in the wind.
While Polnareff wasn't pushing him away, he looked stupefied, to say the least. ''Hey, uh, Avdol….'' he muttered, putting down his cup as well. ''Are you…..flirting?'' His voice quivered.
Avdol gave him a knowing look; it was dark, but he hoped that the light coming from the city behind them made his face visible enough.
''I'm flattered, but you know, girls are more my thing… "
The excuse sounded weak to Avdol' s ears, but he wasn’t going to blindly dismiss it. "I have no doubt.'' He didn't stop his ministrations."However, you have an interest in me, and you know it yourself.I can see it.''
A sigh escaped Polnareff's lips. His eyes, illuminated by the moon, filled with emotion. ''I'm….scared. I don't know why." He bit his lip.
"Intimacy is frightening," Avdol said. He made sure to sound serious. "Especially in a more experimental context. Have you ever….?"
"Been with a man? No." he laughed dryly. "Then again, never really been in a serious relationship with a woman. Just casual flings here and there."
Avdol hummed. He briefly moved his hands away, noting the disappointment on Polnareff's face.
''No, I, I don't mind-'' Polnareff began, almost panicked.
''I know.'' Avdol placed his hands on his cheeks, and moved his face closer, keeping his lips centimeters away from Polnareff's.
Polnareff breathed once, twice, and then closed the gap, pressing his lips against his. It was a slow, soft kiss, broken after a long moment. However, the second kiss was more passionate- clumsy, but passionate. Avdol hadn't really kissed anyone in years, and he assumed that for Polnareff, it had been a while too.
They parted with a gasp; Avdol's hand had wandered to Polnareff's neck, cupping it tenderly in his palm. Polnareff had shyly rested a hand on his shoulder, as if he were afraid to touch him anymore.
They said nothing, satisfied with just looking into each other's eyes. Avdol wanted to say he looked gorgeous, but at the moment, he was worried the comment would be too cliché . So instead, he leaned in again, with confidence, hoping to be accepted.
He was. Polnareff pulled him closer, and they fell with a thump onto the sand, kissing feverishly. The damn had been broken, and their emotions were set free. They did not pause, kissing each other as if there was no tomorrow. Polnareff grew bold, slipping a tongue inside his mouth; Avdol decided to match, noting with satisfaction that Polnareff stifled a moan in the back of his throat.
A particularly strong gust of wind stopped their affectionate ministrations, and they dragged themselves up with a shiver. ''We should head back,'' Avdol said. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, prompting Polnareff to scoff at him.
''You slobber a lot, Frenchman,'' Avdol explained.
He was awarded with a playful slap to his shoulder. ''And you don't know where to put your tongue,'' Polnareff said.
There was an awkwardness in the air, but Avdol knew it was something that came with the territory. It would dissipate soon enough. They gathered their belongings, and Avdol shook his coat free of the sand.
''So, I guess we like each other like that?" Polnareff asked.
"Yes. We do," Avdol said, a smile on his face.
"Man, it's good you did something. I would have been working up the courage for the next few months." He laughed awkwardly, and put his hand on Avdol’s shoulder. "Probably wouldn't have said anything even if you came back with me to my childhood home.''
Avdol stopped in his tracks."You say that as if you intended to invite me."
"I did. I wanted to actually, um-'' Polnareff coughed.''-invite you to stay for longer. Tonight, actually."
Well, that blindsided him. Avdol shook his head and resumed walking.''So what you are saying is this: you were anxious about admitting any kind of feelings towards me, but not only did you invite me to meet you here, you also moved into the hotel room next to mine, took me on a romantic dinner, and then you also wanted to invite me to come live with you?!" His intonation rose at the end.
"Yeah." Polnareff scratched the back of his neck.
Avdol sputtered and stuttered. "Let's…. let's talk more at the hotel. I cannot believe you sometimes."
"Hey for your information, what I was doing, and what I intended to do, was out of friendship-''
''No, the connotation of inviting someone to live with you is more than friendly. ''
''Well, we French people are more emotive, with, like, our actions-"
"You panicked when I touched you and said you prefer women."
Polnareff let out a growl of frustration, making Avdol laugh and earning him another friendly thwack, this time across his back.
They'd figure it out. In many ways, the situation was new to them, but they had the time to adjust to it. Even if this did not end up in full-blown romance, Avdol had no doubt their bond would deepen significantly.
They arrived at the hotel room just after 11 pm. Polnareff did not even bother to go into his room; they entered Avdol's together.
''Why don't we sit on the balcony and finish the rest of the wine?'' Avdol proposed. There was a nice, three person garden swing on the balcony after all.
To his delight, Polnareff agreed, and after refreshing themselves and shaking off the rest of the sand from their clothes, they settled down on the swing with a blanket and the rest of the wine.
Much of the awkwardness between them was gone; now, they had both unbuttoned the top of their shirts, rolled up their sleeves, and sat facing each other, each of them leisurely holding a glass of wine. Polnareff had taken to tucking one leg on the swing, while the other pushed at the ground, effectively rocking them back and forth in a slow motion.
The cold air was different on the balcony. For one, they were shielded from the harsh gusts of wind, and could enjoy the softness of the cushions and the warmth of the fluffy blanket. One could not see it as much, but to Avdol, this was the most comfortable he had been in ages.
“So,” Polnareff said. He had downed the rest of his wine and propped his head up on his hand, his elbow leaning against the headrest of the swing.
“So.” Avdol smiled, and took a sip of wine.
“I wanted to elaborate on what I said, about inviting you to my home.”
Avdol hummed, indicating he was listening.
“I know you have your own business in Egypt, not to mention friends, acquaintances, family….” Polnareff trailed off.
“I do,” Avdol replied with a shrug. “But as I once told you, we are not too close. I see them once a month, at most.” Ever since his father passed away, he didn’t exactly have a reason to visit his distant relatives. Still, he tried to do so regularly, out of courtesy.
“Right, right,” Polnareff said. “Like, I don’t expect you to leave all of that, but you know, I’m on my own in my home, I’ve been trying to fix it up, and well, I’ve been thinking, you’re good with animals.”
“Animals? Well, I have raised and taken care of livestock.”
Polnareff snapped his fingers. “Yeah! That’s what I mean! I wanted to bring in some farm animals. A couple of cows, chickens, the works.”
Avdol laughed. “And you would want my help?”
Polnareff suddenly looked embarrassed. “It’s stupid, I didn’t think this through. You can’t just come-”
“I’m considering it right now.”
That stunned Polnareff into silence, something which Avdol was hoping for. He put down his glass a wine with a quiet smack of hi lips- it really was a good wine- and he extended his hand to rest it on Polnareff’s knee. He hummed, noting the pleasant warmth that was spreading through his body.
“You, you mean you’d come?” Polnareff asked, surprised.
“I need a break from Cairo. I wouldn’t abandon it entirely though. After all, my business thrives during the tourist season. But, I’ll figure that out once we get the details down.”
I should elaborate and be honest , he thought to himself. It wasn’t just about taking a break from the city. It was also about being with Polnareff, in every sense of the word. He really had feelings, and while he wasn’t sure about the extent of them, he knew that Polnareff made him feel happy. That every time he finished a phone conversation with him, there was a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach. No, he had to be with him. For his own sake, and probably, for his.
“Besides, we’ve paid far too much in phone bills,” Avdol quipped.
They shared a laugh. It was true, and it was a good point, but Avdol knew he should tell Polnareff why he really wanted to come with him. But that could wait until later; for now, he’d satisfy himself with a kiss, one which Polnareff accepted immediately
This time, their kiss was a lot less haphazard; it contained the kind of warm, slow passion that Avdol realized he had been missing from his life. The last time he had kissed anyone was a few years ago, when he went on a lovely date with a man from Greece; while the man had been a wonderful one-night stand, it had sadly not amounted to anything more.
Polnareff placed his hand on his cheek, and angled his mouth to kiss him as deep as he could, tongue slowly swiping inside his mouth. Avdol moaned into the kiss; he logically knew it was a stereotype that the French kissed well, but by god did Polnareff match that stereotype. He himself was hardly as skilled.
When they parted, Avdol found the courage to ask Polnareff where he learned to kiss like that.
Polnareff shrugged. “I fooled around a lot when I was younger. Plenty of practice,” he grinned, clearly proud of himself.
Avdol muttered a ‘huh’. Feeling bold, he slid his hand down Polnareff’s back, letting it rest just shy of his butt.
In response, Polnareff hummed and straightened up. He began to move closer, and closer, but just as Avdol was about to recline and pull him down on top of him, he suddenly sat back up.
“Yeah, I, I don’t know, I still feel sheepish,” he explained. He let his head hang low. Avdol wasn't sure if his cheeks were red because of the alcohol, the cold air, or embarrassment.
“We’re in no rush,” he said, “is it because-”
“It’s different when it’s with a close friend,” Polnareff said.
Oh, so gender was not the issue. That was, indeed, a relief.
“There is no doubt it will feel weird.” He kept his distance, but rested his hand on Polnareff’s shoulder. “We’re in no rush, and I’m happy to be with you. So-” he glided the back of his hand against Polnareff’s cheek. “-happy.”
Then, Polnareff blessed him with one of the most beautiful smiles he had ever seen. The light coming from the hotel room illuminated Polnareff’s features in a soft, warm way, while his hair was lightly tousled by the breeze coming from the ocean. Avdol’s breath caught in his throat. He was mesmerized. He wanted to hold and kiss him again, but he restrained himself, proposing they go back inside instead.
The smile did not fade from Polnareff’s face as he walked back into the room, and Avdol watched how he walked with a slight sway to his hips, and then gathered his messy hair and twisted it to rest on the side of his shoulder.
“A shower, perhaps?” Avdol proposed. God knows he needed one.
Polanreff laughed and nodded. “I need to go change too: I like this suit, but it’s uncomfortable.” He kissed Avdol’s cheek. “Meet you back here in 15 minutes?”
Avdol nodded, and returned the smile. If he had his way, Polnareff could wear that suit everyday, especially if he had the shirt loosley unbuttoned like that, and the vest open, hanging freely from his shoulders-
The click of the door alerted him to the fact that Polnareff had left.
He shook his head and began to undress. He really, really needed a shower.
The shower was a longer one for many reasons, but once it was done, he noted that 15 minutes had passed. Polnareff had not come knocking on his door.
He waited another 15 minutes. Then another. And another. Nearly an hour had passed, and there was no sign of Polnareff. Just as he was about to go to his room, the phone rang.
“Sorry, Avdol. I accidently fell asleep on my bed, I think the post-alcohol drowsiness got to me.” He let out an awkward, fake laugh, and Avdol just knew it was an excuse. He wished Polnareff were more honest.
Still, he’d play along. “No, of course, let’s have breakfast together tomorrow,” he replied, doing his best to mask the disappointment in his voice.
“I’d love that,” Polnareff said. “ dors bien, fais de beaux rêves ”
Avdol smiled. “ À toi de même, Bonne nuit. ”
All in good time , he thought to himself as he hung up the phone . He may be disappointed, but he had been stupid to think that Polnareff would grow accustomed so quickly.
Figuring there was not much more to do, he decided to dress into his pyjamas- a loose, long white long sleeved shirt- and settle down for the night. But as he reached to turn off his bedside lamp, there was a knock on his door.
It was Polnareff. Avdol scrambled out of bed and swung the door open; Polnareff was wearing a loose T-shirt and shorts, and his hair was tied into a low ponytail.
“I lied,” Polnareff said, abruptly. “I wasn’t falling asleep. I was just nervous.”
Avdol didn’t say anything. There was no need to. He could see the glimmer in Polnareff’s eyes; anxiousness mixed with a spark of passion and deep emotion.
Avdol grabbed Polnareff’s wrist, pulled him inside, slammed the door shut, and kissed him, not bothering to wait for permission- he knew he would not be stopped.
Polnareff kissed him back with wanton fever, and Avdol felt a surge of joy rush through him. Maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t be sleeping alone tonight.
They fell onto the bed, tangling into the sheets. Finally, Avdol could feel Polnareff, pressed close against him; a gorgeous man, with a toned, beautiful body and a deep yet fragrant musk to him. He wondered if all French men smelled so wonderfully.
“Should we, I mean, maybe-” Polnareff stammered out between kisses.
“By all the gods, yes ,” Avdol gasped out against his lips. Should Polnareff be up for something more intimate, he was ready to lose all his clothes. He began to kiss at Polnareff’s neck, drawing out a heavy, pleasant sigh from the man.
It had been a while for him, but he’d manage, for sure-
“I, I haven’t really been with a man, so….” Polnareff trailed off.
Oh, right- that actually made sense. Instinctively, Avdol slowed down. “It’s not as complicated as you think,” he said, nipping at Polnareff’s collarbone.
“No, no I figure,” Polnareff replied. He was idly playing with Avdol’s ponytail. “Just, yeah. I’m going to rely on you.”
Avdol felt touched that Polnareff trusted him that much. “As flattered as I am, please know it’s been some time for me as well.”
Polnareff raised his eyebrows, and Avdol gave him a shrug in reply. “Things have been busy the past months.”
They chuckled. Surely, that was an understatement.
“Slowly, then,” Polnareff said. He kissed Avdol’s cheek. “But, I want to spend the night with you, that much I know.”
“Likewise,” Avdol whispered back. They sunk into the sheets, and Avdol stealthily sent Magician’s Red to open the balcony. While it was cold, he knew they’d start sweating soon.
It was well after 9 AM when Avdol opened his eyes. He had slept soundly. There had been no nightmares.
He turned to look at the sleeping man next to him. Polnareff was all curled up; his knees were pulled up to his chest, and he was clutching a pillow. Avdol brushed the stray strands of hair away from his face. Polnareff -no, Jean- looked so relaxed, and so handsome, especially in the soft, morning light.
They had spent the night in each other’s arms, kissing, stroking, petting, and exploring each other’s bodies. It was awkward at first, but once they got familiar, and remembered the moves and rituals usually associated with sex, it got easier. The first time was rushed, haphazard and a little weird; the second time was much better, albeit a little messy and still too quick for either of their liking. The third time was the best; they had worked through all the awkwardness, and finally found a comfortable rhythm, one which started as slow and languid, and then turned hot, heavy and passionate. Even though they had been incredibly tired by then, they still found the energy to whisper words of love to each other - it was then that Polnareff insisted he be called by his first name.
When they were falling asleep, Avdol tried to ask why, and Polnareff sleepily muttered something about how his sister used to call him ‘Jean’. The mention of that made Avdol emotional, and he gave Jean one last kiss before he fell asleep.
It was decided; Avdol would offer him the same courtesy. Although, he decided he would insist on Avdol- everyone and their mother was named Mohammed in Egypt, but his last name was unique, defining. Still, if Jean wished to call him Mohammed, he was free to do so.
He risked a kiss to Jean’s forehead, and the latter stirred, but did not awaken. Any doubts about him being in love were dispelled. He’d accept the invitation, and he’d live part-time in France, part-time in Egypt. There was no need for him to be in Cairo all year anyway.
It was funny how Jean had said it was lucky he had done something. But in reality, it was not him who was brave. He had not been the first to call- Jean had. It was him who had not forgotten his friends, and who extended his hand, showing how much he did, in fact, care. It was not just him after all- he had been calling Joseph in New York, and Kakyoin in Japan. Apparently, he even got to talk to Jotaro for a little bit. Moreover, he was planning to invite Kakyoin and Jotaro, on his own dime, to his home, once it was somewhat restored to its former glory.
Avdol had known it from the start, but it was only now that he was truly realizing it; Jean had a big heart, and a lot of love to go around. He could not wait to spend his years with him, and be with him for as long as he could.
He kissed him again, this time on the lips, and closed his eyes; now that the nightmares seemed to have gone away, he could sleep a little longer.