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Just A Little Parental

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"I feel lost," Jolyne mumbled softly, her toes catching on the rug as she walked towards him. She'd always dragged her feet slightly, and it was strangely endearing to watch her, with her toes facing towards each other like she was uncertain how to walk properly. Both Noriaki and Jotaro had tried, frequently, throughout her life to correct her posture and walking - admittedly, the latter was more stubborn about this - but it remained forever stumbly, even when she tried to be more intimidating in her poise.

Rohan gently lowered his book and placed it on the side table next to the couch, and swung his legs up. It had become automatic, after years of being a part of this family (regardless of whether or not he would ever be formally regarded as a parent) for Jolyne to curl up on the couch with him, when she needed comfort. Clambering over his legs in an ungainly manner, she sprawled out, half over his lap and half not, resting her head on his shoulder. Rohan had never considered himself a particularly physically affectionate man, and neither of his partners would describe him as such, but Jolyne had progressively shoved her way into his heart ever since the first time she had laid there with him, when she was young and sick.

When he was first introduced to Jolyne, her reaction had been lackluster, much to his displeasure. Even her response to him being her parents' boyfriend was just, "Oh okay". She, then, avoided him for seven months, only occasionally glancing at him or making glowering eye contact, despite encouragement from her parents and tentative offers of friendship. He'd even felt, godforbid, guilty - a deep guilt that ate away at him far more than he'd ever admit - that he'd somehow interfered in the perfect life she'd had with her parents, that he'd gone ahead and shoved a stylish heeled boot into her charming life and disrupted her happiness. And until the day she fell sick, this felt very much like the case, despite how much Jotaro and Noriaki tried to reassure him that wasn't true (while he scoffed and tried pathetically to convince them that he wasn't as affected as he really was - he wished he could persuade them as well as he could everyone else). Then, one day, she came down with a case of chickenpox. Luckily, they'd all had chickenpox before in their lives, and were extremely unlikely to be affected; unluckily, Jotaro and Noriaki both had full time jobs, and neither of them could take the time off to take care of her. They were already liberal with their vacations - benefits of being from a wealthy family, Jotaro said - and they didn't want to take off more time if they could help it. And, conveniently, Rohan worked from home. And was currently living with them. How convenient.

At first, he'd protested, and she had too. He argued that she wouldn't trust him, that he was busy himself, that he couldn't take care of a child, are they lunatics? Her protests were that he can't make good soup, he doesn't like my drawings, he doesn't like me dad! But either way, they both succumbed to the inevitable. Rohan agreed to keep an eye on Jolyne and take care of her as best as he could, and Jolyne agreed to acknowledge his existence as her temporary caretaker. It had gone as expected, at first: he gave her food and let her watch TV or read when she wanted, and she largely stayed quiet in her bedroom, recovering from chickenpox the only way possible; rest and "No scratching, Jolyne."

Then at lunchtime on the second day of Jolyne-watching, he was reading a book on the couch by himself, having given Jolyne her lunch already, when she had unexpectedly come through to see him. Her eyes were vaguely watery, but what most struck him was how tired she looked. Her strangely world-weary expression that strikingly mirrored Jotaro's after a long day of work would've been comical on such a young person if he hadn't seen the sincerity in her eyes; he absently wished, at the time, that he'd taken the initiative to sketch it. Then, without a word, she climbed over his legs and curled herself in the slim nook between his narrow legs and the couch, laying her head on his chest and tightly bunching her arms until she was almost in a foetal position. Lost for words, he hadn't responded when she'd uttered a quiet "I'm sorry" , only let her settle and eventually fall asleep before he'd put an arm around her shoulders in the best gesture of reassurance, affection and comfort that he could muster. They'd stayed like that for hours, and it took Noriaki arriving home for her to finally move, wherein she clambered back over and trudged to the door to give her returning parent a melodramatic groan before stumbling up the stairs.

Ever since that day, whenever she'd been home and he'd been there, he'd read every lunchtime, on the off-chance she might come over and sit with him for a while. Their relationship improved after that day too; it was like the step she'd taken had opened up a door, and now she was unafraid to treat him like part of the family. She'd come up to him and ask him things, talk to him, make fun of him, attempt to tickle him, steal his sketchbooks, etc. When he'd go back and forth to Japan, she was always the last to say goodbye, and the first to run over and hug him with bone-crushing force. And when he had surgery, she had even climbed onto the hospital bed and hugged him gently when no one else could.

She was nineteen now, recently "released" from prison. She had her own stand, a humanoid being that was remarkably iridescent blue in colour, and capable of turning her body into string. Her lean arms had scars they never did before, and her shoulders were hard and strong from carrying too many burdens. Her father looked even more worn these days - Noriaki liked to joke that they had matching scars, but Rohan knew that in the darkness they would quietly weep together. Sometimes he sat with them and shared their pain and grief; other times, he gave them the privacy that they granted him too, when nightmares and memories plagued his soul.

He was starting to show a bit of wear and tear himself these days, including, much to his despair, a few grey hairs (although, Jotaro has repeatedly reassured him that he looks just as handsome). Years of bending over a desk had given him an achy back, and his body protested as Jolyne's spidery limbs had navigated around his, as she'd settled herself down in the sliver of couch space. These days, he had to shift to the very edge to make room for her, but it was worth it. She was taller than him now, like all the Joestars, but she shrunk herself down in his hold. He didn't need to say anything: years of time with her knew that she'd speak when she was ready; so much like Jotaro sometimes that it hurt.

"I don't know what to do now, Rohan," she said in a tone barely above a whisper, "Here I am, out of prison, alive and well. My dad is safe, my friends - or, some of my friends - are safe. I have my whole life ahead of me don't I? So why do I feel like this? Surely, I should be doing something but... I just don't know."
Rohan snorted, and responded.
"You're nineteen. You spent the last several weeks in jail, and have been repeatedly delinquent on and off for years before that. It's no wonder you don't know what to do now."
He could feel the contempt under her skin, but continued regardless.
"Listen to me, Jolyne. Very few people - with the exception of myself - know what to do with their lives when they're only a teenager. And even fewer still never have doubts. There.... have been times when even I've wondered if I'm on the right path."
As warmly as he could, he gently patted the arm under his hand in a reassuring gesture.
"Give yourself a bit of a break. You don't have to figure this all out right now. You've got time. And you've got people willing to help you; your dads, your uncles, your grandparents, your friends - and me."

Jolyne sighed.
"That's all very well and good, but practically what do I do? I feel useless just thinking about things."
"Pick up a hobby. Occupy your time. Explore different things. Try stuff you've always wanted to try. Look at colleges. Look at jobs. Just do things. Even if they don't work out, do them. You'll find your way, just take your time."
Things fell quiet again. Jolyne let out a long, slow breath and tucked herself even closer to him. Although he wouldn't like to admit it, he felt a smile tug the corners of his mouth. He had never imagined himself with kids, but he could imagine himself with Jolyne.

She spoke again.
"You know you're family to me right, Rohan?"

He was silent.

"I know I don't say it. Maybe I've never said it. And I know, I… I make fun of you sometimes. And I don't always agree with you. A-and sometimes I think you're kinda ridiculous. But like….you're as much family as anyone else. Maybe more than some. I already have two dads, but...I can't picture my life without a Rohan."

She propped herself up on her arm then to look at him, her wide turquoise eyes glittering like jewels, full of emotion. He felt his lower lip wobble slightly but refused to let it show.

"All those years ago when you showed up with my dads, I…I couldn't picture you ever being what I considered family. But you are, as much as any of them and -" her voice cracked. Sometimes, she was nothing like Jotaro. Or Noriaki. "And I'd have been as terrified of losing you as I would dad and - and I need you to know that okay?"

Rohan bent his head a little and removed his glasses as she watched, tears now rolling down her cheeks. Then, cautiously he reached his arms out for her, before he gripped her tightly and buried his head in her shoulders.

"I know Jolyne. I know."