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In time gone by

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You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you find
You get what you need
You Can't Always Get What You Want- The Rolling Stones.

Every now and then, Jotaro Kujo has the same dream.

He stands on the shore of a shallow river that snakes its way across the desert sand. The night falls crisp around him; it gleams like polished obsidian reflecting the light of a thousand stars that crowd around a full moon on a cloudless sky. For a while, he just stands in admiration, watching them shine down on the silent, arid landscape. It has been a while since he has seen stars like that, the orange veil that city lights cast every night always robs him of the experience. As he tries to remember when was the last time he has seen such a majestic display of nature, he feels his heart throb with sadness.

A gust of cold wind tugs at his old high school uniform. The sand whispers softly under his feet when he takes a few hesitant steps forward. His eyes scan the singing dunes that stretch into infinity before him and something stirs in his memory, a thorn buried so deep that it only hurts if he flexes the right muscles. He knows this place; he has been here before almost ten years ago in a different chapter of his life. And he was not alone.

A fire burns on the other side of the river.

He moves closer to the rocky shore, his heart fluttering in his throat. The orange light of the flames dances on the stones rising out of the sand like the teeth of a slain dragon. He sees a figure leaning against one of them, long slender fingers stretched towards the crackling logs in an attempt to ward off the freezing gale. As the fire bends and flickers under another breath of the desert, he catches a glimpse of its face.

Jotaro feels his mouth moving but the name dies on his lips along with the rest of any words he could have uttered. Kakyoin's polite expression cuts through him like a knife as he watches him step out of the shadows and wave a subdued greeting in his direction. Jotaro carefully lowers his eyes towards his abdomen, fearing the dreaded wound to gape at him like in his worst nightmares but this isn’t that sort of dream. In this one, his friend is not a vision of his leaden guilt; he is at peace and smiling as he stands on the other side of the river and raises his head to stare at the Milky Way spilling over the sky. For a few moments, Jotaro allows himself to do the same and leans against a crumbling rock letting his hat fall over his face. Some dry dust must be caught in its folds since he feels a burning sensation in his nose and an unfamiliar sting in his eyes.

His own fingers are rough as he weaves them behind his neck. They are no longer the hands of a renowned marine biologist but of a reckless high school student who has been in more fights than he cares to remember and has been roaming the Arabian desert for the last couple of days. His young body feels strange, like a long-forgotten suit at the back of a wardrobe that still strangely fits him. Past sensations and memories wash over him. He remembers doing this exact same thing a long time ago, sitting under a starlit sky, surrounded by people that he had met only a few weeks before but who he now felt as close to him as his own grandfather. He can still hear them talking and laughing and making fun of Polnareff as he haphazardly tried to guess the constellations hanging over them and in the end, making all of them up. He remembers Kakyoin trying to correct him and eventually giving up after sharing a defeated look with Jotaro, almost imploring him to take his side. Jotaro, however, had just shaken his head and continued to sip from his glass of chilled coffee.

“Good grief, who cares what their names are?” he said nonchalantly as Abdul and Joseph quickly replaced Kakyoin in his attempts to educate the Frenchman about astronomy. “They are still up there, aren't they? And they are still pretty.”

He was immensely glad that the rest of the gang was too busy arguing about the position of the Ursa Major to hear what he had just said. He felt his ears burning as he pretended to stir the nonexistent sugar in his coffee glass wondering what the hell has possessed him to say the last part out loud. His treacherous eyes darted over to Kakyoin who had put his dog-eared paperback aside and was looking at him with a strange, pensive expression. Jotaro stared back, not knowing what to make of it. He could usually read Kakyoin like an open book when danger was around and they needed a quick strategy but moments like these always threw him for a loop. Eventually, the ghost of a smile crossed his classmate’s face and he gave him a slight nod.

“They are pretty, yes.” he said glancing towards the wide open sky again and Jotaro felt himself cringing in embarrassment. “But they are so far away, most of them are dead now. When their light stops reaching us, they’ll need names so we know that they were there once.”

The memory of those quietly spoken words rips Jotaro apart. It burns behind his closed eyelids, threatening to spill over his cheeks. He remembers an odd thought skimming over his uncomfortably exposed mind back then as he held Kakyoin’s unusually pensive gaze. Treasure this, it said, savor it and try to retain as much as possible because it’s not going to last forever and when it’s gone, it will be as hard to find as a missing star.

He had and yet, here he stands, feeling small and lost as the stars above blur and flow into one another. They say that you cannot enter the same river twice but he feels the same currents of time flow around him, the same sinking, fluttering sensation of the earth moving under his feet as when Star Platinum first held a few seconds still in the palm of its hand. Kakyoin’s silhouette distorts at the edge of his vision, then swims back into focus as another mad thought skims over the surface of his mind. Perhaps whoever said those words never had access to a supernatural being with such a power. Perhaps the dream returns to him for a reason.

He throws his hat off his head in cold sweat and turns to look at Kakyoin, catching a glint of mutual understanding in the purple eyes.

There’s a small wooden bridge laid over the dark gleaming water.

For a moment, he is pretty sure his heart has stopped beating just like ten years ago on a deserted street in Cairo. He stands still, frozen in time and space, the hair on his arms and neck standing on end. Around him, the world waits with bated breath as the dream becomes a memory and the memory becomes a frozen moment in time. Inside him, Star Platinum stirs awake for the first time in years. He feels his forgotten power flow in his veins again, liquid electricity that warms him to the core and makes his body burn like a furnace in the cold night. The feeling is as overwhelming as it is terrifying. Right there at his fingertips, lies the power that any person would die for and yet he trembles in its presence like a child because he has seen what it can do in the wrong hands. To Dio, time was a toy to amuse himself with, but to Jotaro, it’s an undefeatable opponent, one that will continue to torment him with hope until it takes him from this world once and for all.

The desert air turns to silver glass as he makes his move. Slowly, very slowly he moves towards the wooden bridge and stretches a hand towards Kakyoin.

His classmate’s skin feels cold as his fingers close over his hand. Jotaro grips him tight feeling the world plunging into infinity and softly flaking away. His vision fades and he wonders if Star Platinum feels that too or whether the queasy sinking feeling is just a side effect of being human. His memories swirl like fragments of colored glass in a kaleidoscope tube tossed in the air. They slip and slide over one another, changing shape and hue and Jotaro wonders what shape will they take once they settle down.

The strength in his friend's hold wavers as he takes another small step towards him and stops. Jotaro looks up through a mist of recollections and sees uneasiness cloud the purple eyes.

For a second, he almost wants to pull him close and swear on his own life that everything will be okay; that there’s nothing that Star Platinum and him cannot achieve together, even cheat death and rewrite history. His hand tightens around Kakyoin’s as he pictures Polnareff’s shocked face once they both walk through his door and his grandfather rubbing at his failing eyes at the sight of them. His heart soars at the possibilities that the ever flowing future offers. He cannot wait to show him the Speedwagon Foundation’s Headquarters, the old man’s expanding collection of comic books and his own research on the marine life around Morioh Bay. He imagines him slamming his hand over his face in exasperation once Jotaro tells him about Josuke. He fights a small laugh rising in his throat as he thinks about introducing him to his daughter.

The memory of a tiny, smiling face framed with blond hair bubbles up in his mind and sends his heart crashing to his feet.

The bright, glowing feeling burning within him drains away and dies. He suddenly understands the doubt in Kakyoin’s eyes and the realization makes him sick to his stomach. He stumbles back wide-eyed, frantically trying to concentrate on the flurry of memories as they slowly spiral down, locking into their invisible places in time and slipping through his fingers like water. Inside him, Star Platinum lets out a roar of frustration and rage. Its cold eyes stare at the dizzying torrent of images and faces trying to grasp, something, anything of what the future might hold. Maybe things would turn out okay after all. Maybe he doesn’t have to lose her.

Maybe if things had turned out differently. If he didn’t feel the way he does.

Jotaro's stand roars again under the strain he is forcing on it. Its incredible speed and perfect recall had saved him so many times before but this isn’t counting cards in a poker game or remembering entries in a diary word for word. Time and space offer an infinity of possibilities and no matter how powerful Star Platinum is, it’s just a reflection of his will and he is only human. There’s no way he can play God and walk away unscathed. Dio had wanted to be a God among humans as well, to prove that time did not apply to someone like him. Staring at his friend on the bridge, so close to the other side of the river, Jotaro realizes that he has two choices: take the same path as his family’s sworn enemy did all those years ago and damn the consequences or walk away and pretend his heart is not breaking in half.

He thinks of a lazy summer in Florida, of smooth, porcelain skin and soft brown eyes that lit the night whenever they settled upon him. He had been genuinely happy back then, the world had seemed a quieter and easier place. It hadn't been the passionate whirlwind romance that grandma Suzie and his mother liked to describe when explaining their eventual splitting up but it had been real love, the kind that had been allowed to grow and develop. His time with Marea had been an oasis in the middle of a storm that had been brewing around the Joestars for centuries and he could not drag her into it, especially not now that the truth about Enya's bow and arrow had come out. She was better off not knowing anything about his stand, or Dio or anything that had happened in Egypt, there were too many things that could go wrong. For some time, he had considered disappearing from her life entirely but Jolyne's surprise arrival had changed everything. Her, he could not bear to stay away from. If she had to bear the Joestar legacy like him, he wanted to be there every step of the way.

Would she even get to exist if he went through with this?

Two lives collide in him, two timelines contradicting each other and he raises his eyes towards Kakyoin. He had been very young when he had met him and his feelings had been young as well. There had been no mutual warmth between them, no softness and gentleness but there had been a spark, a connection that had burned bright as a firework and needed no words. He wonders what it could have led to if they had been allowed to return to Japan together on that cold January morning. Whether the purple eyes would still smile when he walked through the classroom door, whether they would play videogames together. Whether, in the end, he would have been able to formulate the tight feeling in his chest into coherent words or whether it would be left hanging in the air and he would have still left for the United States to meet Marea's brown eyes and snow-white skin and lie in her warm embrace under the salty ocean breeze. Whether it even mattered as long as he was alive.

Whatever the answer is, he knows it's too dangerous to try and find out.

And yet, there’s a foolish ray of hope that blinds him, that taunts him to gamble it all and take his chances with destiny. The cards on the table have not been yet turned over, the future still hangs around them in myriads of frozen images waiting for his decision. It could still work, he thinks in a delirious frenzy, his fingers slick with sweat as they grip Kakyoin’s hand like a lifeline. It would be suicidal but it could still work.

The cold hand slips in Jotaro's grasp.

He isn't sure whether it is him or Kakyoin who lets go first but when he loses hold, he can feel his face twist in a horrified expression. His heart beats like a drum against his ribs as he sees his friend's sad smile reflect his own fears. The realization is nearly enough to make Star Platinum's scream burst through. He knows this isn't right, they both know that and yet he cannot move from this spot without trying one more time. Fate had been generous enough to let him decide between two roads and he cannot even bring himself to make the choice. Instead, he just stands there, watching the tide of time flow back as Kakyoin throws him one last sympathetic look. His lips move silently against the blood rushing in his ears.

Take care, Jojo.

He waves him a short goodbye and steps back on the wooden bridge, away from the crackling fire and into the shadows. Jotaro thinks of Euridice, slipping back into the world of the dead on her own accord and tries to fight the deafening silence between them but he knows it is no use. The words never came out when he was alive, there’s no point in them coming now. Time had moved on and changed him in the process and no matter how hard Jotaro tried, he could not change time.

He steels himself and raises a hand to return his friend's farewell gesture. The fire on the other side of the shore flickers and goes out.

The desert yawns around him, dark and silent as a grave. Jotaro raises his head to look at the all the dead worlds peering at him from the sky and blinks in their light. After they returned from Cairo, his grandfather had told him to live life to its fullest and cherish the things it gives before they fade. He had a strange, faraway look in his eyes and Jotaro had just assumed that he was still grieving but then he had beckoned him closer to a dusty photograph album from the thirties and he learned about Ceasar Zeppeli, a very similar hectic trip through South America, family, friendship and loss. He had listened to his grandfather's voice going from excited and boisterous to quiet and solemn as he went from picture to picture and Jotaro had the strange feeling that all these people lived on in the old man's tales so it didn't matter what words were left unsaid because in a way, they were still there to hear them. He feels like he has met his great-grandmother and all the people that had shared their lives with a young Joseph Joestar all because the old Joseph has kept them alive. The least Jotaro Kujo can do for his fallen friends is do the same.

So for now, he stands alone under the cold stars and thinks about the past.

His pillow is wet when he opens his eyes.

He lies still under the half-tossed away covers listening to his own breathing as the world takes shape around him. Sunlight streams through the loosely pulled blinds and paints the hotel room black and gold. The radio on the nightstand sputters to life as a female newscaster talks excitedly about an upcoming festival before crashing into a loud and obnoxious pop tune marking the beginning of a commercial break.

He stretches an arm lazily and switches it off, sending the room into glorious silence. He can still feel the effects of his long flight despite sleeping almost ten hours since landing in Japan. His limbs feel wooden when he sits up groggily and rubs at his eyes. The dream still haunts him behind his eyelids but its memory is disintegrating rapidly in the bright morning light. He has no time to think of such things now. He has things to do. He has come to Morioh on a mission, to right his grandfather's wrongs and to follow the trail of Dio's evil. He still doesn't know which one will prove more difficult.

The telephone next to the radio tears through his gloomy thoughts. He picks it up, mumbles a quiet greeting and hears stunned silence in reply. It takes him a split second to realize that he had spoken in English and another one to correct himself and switch to Japanese.

He can almost hear the voice on the other side of the line sigh in relief. “Mister Kujo, you have a phone call. Would you like me to put it through?”

He mutters an agreement and waits as the line goes dead for a while, wondering who could it be. He hadn't told his mother that he would be flying to Japan but he was sure that grandma Suzie would pass her the information anyway. However, even grandma Suzie did not know where he was planning on staying. He had only told a few people in case an emergency arose.

The line comes alive again and the loud babbling of a child fills his ears.

He sits back on the bed and lets out a long sigh as he feels a smile form on his lips. His young daughter still has to master the concept of a phone so her already loud voice rises to deafening levels whenever she is on the other end of the line. He listens to her carefree prattling on and on about her new friends and how the neighbors next door have a giant dog and how she is going to Sea World with her mother next weekend and feels immense relief flood him from head to toe. She is still here, still with him and still a child, blissfully unaware of the shadow hanging over her, just for having Joestar blood. He can only pray that she never has to learn the true meaning of that.

“Hey, dad! Can you hear me? Heeey!! Dad?!”

Jotaro suppresses a short laugh as she bellows through the speaker. After four years he still isn't used to that word or all the responsibility it implies. He hopes he can raise her right, that she'll be happy and that she'll come to forgive him for the choices he had to make to keep her safe. He hopes that she doesn't lose the friends she makes and that her future will be a bright one. He hopes that she can be proud of her old man and that one day, he can tell her all the secrets he has kept.

But she's four and has barely learned how to write her name so he cannot tell her any of that yet.

So he holds the phone closer to his ear and says, “Hey, Jojo.”