It was Sunday. They had been driving through India for days now. The sun beat on the roof of their little truck and made the very air feel oppressing with its heat.
Even Jotaro had shed his usual black gakuran after hours spent in the crowded car.
They were all silent, lost in their own thoughts, it was simply too hot to really do more than that.
Even Polnareff was quiet, though he might have been sleeping too. Jotaro couldn’t see him from this angle and he wasn’t inclined to move his head to check on Polnareff.
Avdol was in the passenger seat, but since they had to drive along the road anyways, there was no reason for him to play guide, so he was simply watching the landscape pass by the window.
Beside Jotaro, Kakyoin was reading in some book he had picked up at their last stop.
Jotaro’s grandfather was driving, idly tapping with his prosthetic hand against the steering wheel, creating a sort of rhythm to an unheard tune.
Despite the heat, the silence in the car was a sort of companionable silence of a group of friends that could simply exist next to each other without the need for conversation.
Jotaro wondered when his mind had shifted to consider this group “friends”. It had happened so gradually, but he couldn’t find it in himself to really care about it.
He, too, was considering drifting off to sleep in the heat and comfortable silence, when they passed by a sunflower field.
Jotaro didn’t need Star Platinum’s keen senses to pick up on the change in his grandfather immediately. Even if all the other passengers in the car didn’t seem to notice anything amiss, Jotaro could almost feel the shift in the atmosphere around Joseph Joestar.
He could sense it in the way that Joseph almost snapped to attention as if ripped out of his thoughts the moment he registered the field in his vision, how his focus sharpened and lingered on the golden flowers for just one moment, how he didn’t quite stop his tapping hand on the steering wheel but certainly skipped a beat, how his leg minutely twitched towards the brakes.
It was just one moment.
Then it was gone.
The tapping continued its monotone rhythm and Joseph focused on the road again, the slight tension bleeding out of his shoulders as if it had never even been there in the first place.
Still, Jotaro got the distinct feeling like the strange atmosphere around his grandfather prevailed. As if his very breathing had somehow changed to something deeper, much more charged . Sending something like an invisible ripple across the very air. But nothing else betrayed that fact and Jotaro wondered whether he had been imagining things all along.
Besides, no one else in the car had seemed to have noticed anything out of the ordinary and the silence still held strong around them.
If it had been an enemy stand user, Joseph surely would have remarked on it, so it couldn’t be anything too much out of the ordinary.
In the end, as with everything bothersome, Jotaro chose to ignore it for now and settled down for sleep.
Sadly, he didn’t get much sleep in the car because, after only an hour or so more drive, Joseph loudly declared that they could stay in this inn just on the side of the road. And after having spent the entire day (not to mention the days before) cramped up in the hot car, all of them were inclined to agree.
So, they parked their car in the shade near the inn, gathered their meager belongings, and checked into the inn. As always, Kakyoin suggested that he and Jotaro share a room and Jotaro didn’t protest.
By now, after so many days of travel, it was routine. Though this time Joseph booked himself a single room, leaving Avdol and Polnareff to share.
Jotaro glanced at his grandfather one more time before they went into their respective rooms, but he couldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary in his behavior.
Only the vague sense of change in his breathing still lingered, but nothing Jotaro could quite put his finger on, so he shrugged it off and followed Kakyoin into their room.
It was Monday. And it was way too early for anyone to be vehemently pounding on their hotel room’s door.
Jotaro was not a morning person and the others knew that. They had learned it the hard way during their time of travel. He didn’t know why anyone would pound on their door so early.
Jotaro buried himself back into bed. Kakyoin had apparently been up for some time now, judging by the way he sat fully dressed on his bed, reading his book. Jotaro let him deal with the door situation.
But Jotaro didn’t get the peace he wanted to go back to sleep.
Instead, Avdol burst into their room as soon as Kakyoin answered the door.
Jotaro grumbled and pulled the blanket over his head.
“Have you seen Mr. Joestar?” asked Avdol agitatedly.
“Not since we went to our rooms last night,” said Kakyoin, and Jotaro really didn’t want to deal with the situation, but Avdol sounded urgent. Maybe there had been a stand attack.
“We haven’t either,” continued Avdol. “And he wasn’t answering the door, so we went into his hotel room to check up on him, but he wasn’t there! There was no sign of him ever having stepped foot into the room! No sign of a struggle either, but we can’t find him anywhere.”
Jotaro sat up.
“Polnareff and I asked around, but no one has seen him leave either. And there wasn’t any commotion last night. If it was a stand attack, it is a very formidable foe.”
“What about Mr. Joestar’s luggage?” Kakyoin piped up.
“Still left in the car.”
“What about the car?” asked Jotaro. Kakyoin looked at him quizzically. Jotaro wasn’t usually this talkative this early in the morning. Or, well, Jotaro wasn’t really talkative ever, but especially not in the mornings.
“Our car is still where we left it yesterday, no sign of a struggle there either. We think he went back to it to grab his clothes and that’s why his room looks like no one has stepped foot in it. Someone must have snuck up on him then. But we still haven’t found any clue where he might have been taken.”
“Yare yare daze.”
“What should we do now?” asked Kakyoin. “Should we split up and search for him? We hardly have any clue where he might be and there’s nothing around this village for miles! How should we ever find him?”
Suddenly, Jotaro remembered the strange behavior of his grandfather the day before. There was nothing around the village for miles except for that sunflower field.
It wasn’t much to go on, just a hunch really. But over the course of this journey, Jotaro had learned to trust hunches, however small they were.
Still, there was something else about this.
So, Jotaro stood up from the bed. He was still dressed in his usual tank top and trousers since he didn’t have a pajama like Kakyoin. He shrugged on his gakuran and put on his shoes.
“We should split up and search for him. Leave the car though, in case he comes back and doesn’t find us.”
He strode out of the room without waiting for any confirmation.
In his leaving, he faintly heard Kakyoin suggesting that they should leave a note for Joseph by the car, so he wouldn’t go searching for them in case he returned before them. Jotaro pulled his hat down to hide a slight smile. That was a good idea. As expected of Kakyoin.
The old man hadn’t taken the car, so Jotaro didn’t bother with one either. His hunch told him he knew exactly where Joseph would be.
Still, an hour by car was quite a lot of distance to cover on foot and Jotaro was actually surprised his grandfather had managed that distance. Jotaro would have thought the old man couldn’t have gotten far without the car. Sure, he was awfully spry for an almost seventy-year-old, but it was still surprising to see every time Joseph pulled off some feat that should have been impossible for a man his age.
Instead of using a car, Jotaro let loose. He summoned Star Platinum’s strength in his legs and ran .
It was exhilarating.
The wind rushed past him, running through his hair, threatening to steal his hat, but Star Platinum’s hands held it firm atop Jotaro’s head. Jotaro grinned at the feeling of his stand’s strength beneath him, around him, inside him.
It felt different of course than how it felt after letting loose a barrage of punches. It was a different type of adrenaline running through his veins. But it was adrenaline nonetheless and it was nice, for once, not to leave a broken, bleeding body behind afterwards.
Jotaro reached the field of sunflowers far sooner than he’d expected, or at least far sooner than he would have liked, but he knew immediately that he had come to the right place.
The air felt charged around him and a strange energy ran over his body in steady rhythms. It felt like he was standing in the ocean and the air was ripples of water brushing against him. A surprisingly nice feeling.
The same feeling that had surrounded Joseph the night before.
His grandfather was indeed here.
Jotaro dismissed his stand and stuffed his hands back inside his pockets, schooling his face to make his wild, manic grin disappear, stuffing the sheer exhilarated joy deep down inside himself. He shouldn’t have let himself feel like that anyways.
He walked through the rows of sunflowers slowly, to let his breathing return to a normal level, slowly but surely following the ripples to their origin.
The sunflowers around him were huge and vibrant. Some even reached above his head and he was not a small person. They looked pretty in the sun’s shining light.
Joseph was sitting cross-legged in the middle of the field, his back to Jotaro, and didn’t even turn around to acknowledge his grandson, though something gave Jotaro the feeling that his grandfather had immediately noticed him.
Jotaro walked up behind him and stood there in silence.
A good few minutes passed before his grandfather spoke.
“It was a Monday too, that day,” Joseph said, not to Jotaro but to the air around them, maybe to the world at large. He said it very matter-of-factly as if Jotaro was supposed to understand what he was talking about.
Still, Jotaro didn’t ask and Joseph offered no other explanation.
They let more silent moments pass.
Jotaro didn’t know what they were doing, but couldn’t find the right words to ask. He had found his grandfather and there was no fight, not even a sign of struggle. What was Jotaro supposed to do? He couldn’t very well drag Joseph back to the hotel, and he did not look like he had any intention of leaving this place anytime soon.
“Have I ever…,” his grandfather started, after a time, but he trailed off. Jotaro didn’t interrupt his train of thought.
“Have I ever told you,” Joseph tried again, “about Caesar?”
Jotaro had heard the name, of course, multiple times, but never from Joseph’s mouth. He had heard it from his grandmother Suzie, from his mother, always whispered, always quiet, always hesitant, always coupled with nervous glances in Joseph’s direction, even if the man wasn’t even physically there. As if they had expected Joseph to burst out of whatever room he was in and bring down vengeance upon them for even uttering the name.
Jotaro had often wondered, as a child, who the name belonged to, who it was they were speaking about with such caution. But he had never asked. Never felt like he had a right to really know.
“No, no I suppose I haven’t,” Joseph answered his own question, tilting his head to look at the sky or maybe the sun or maybe the flowers surrounding them.
Jotaro was still standing, still silent, waiting for something he could not put in words.
“He liked sunflowers,” his grandfather said, in a voice that trailed off strangely at the end as if choking on the very words. The ripple of air around them pulsed, once, twice, and then returned to its steady rhythm.
“He liked sunflowers and bubbles and collecting lighters, even though he knew smoking was bad for him, for his breathing, his Hamo-...,” he stopped again, swallowing the words on the tip of his tongue, swallowing the feelings down with it and Jotaro could understand somewhat, could relate a bit.
Then, his grandfather took a deep breath and his voice sounded so different, calm and collected, strange and unfamiliar now, none of his usual bravado, but also none of the deep, all-encompassing sadness it had held just moments prior.
“I suppose I should tell you about DIO first, about Dio Brando and the Joestar heritage. Come, sit, I should have told you a long time ago. Or at the very least, at the start of this journey. But I’ve always been known to… run away from things.”
Jotaro sat down beside Joseph silently, mimicking the cross-legged posture but Joseph didn’t turn to face Jotaro, just kept staring at the world around them and Jotaro could still see the sadness in Joseph’s eyes that he had heard in his voice before.
Jotaro made no other move to disrupt the atmosphere between them. Something strange was hanging in the air, along with the rippling energy still washing over his body like a wave. It felt too fragile and too sacred to disturb. So he just sat and waited, hoping that it would all make sense soon.
When Joseph started speaking, his voice was calm and even, as if he was reading from a textbook, but somehow the words still captivated Jotaro and he found himself listening with rapt attention.
Joseph spoke of Jonathan Joestar and Dio Brando and Erina Pendleton and Robert Speedwagon and Baron Zeppeli and rivalry, friendship, betrayal, trust, death, and life. He spoke of a stone mask that created vampires and the energy of Hamon that was the only thing that could defeat them. He spoke of two brothers engaged in a fight so fierce that its consequences would come to haunt their family even after a hundred years of rest on the ocean’s floor. He told again the story of how Dio Brando became DIO and why their destiny was so intertwined with his.
Jotaro had never heard the story in full. He had known bits and pieces, of course. It was hard not to when he was told stories when he was just a boy. When his whole family spoke of Jonathan Joestar as if he was a legend. When other kids were told to turn to the police if they had trouble, while Jotaro was told to ask for the Speedwagon Foundation instead. When Dio Brando was the whole reason they were on this crusade to Egypt. He had never heard the story in full though.
With it, a few things suddenly made a lot more sense. Jotaro had known Speedwagon when he was a child, and he had always wondered why he would dedicate an entire Foundation just to the aid of one family. Though it was hard to reconcile the sweet old man he had known with the Speedwagon in Joseph’s story.
But even when Joseph ended his retelling of their family’s history, Jotaro felt no step closer to understanding. Still felt like too many things were left unsaid.
Joseph had not uttered the name Caesar once in that entire story.
“You have not told me what you needed to tell me, Jiji,” Jotaro finally broke his silence and Joseph sighed beside him as if he had been dreading that unspoken question. He probably had.
“No,” Joseph agreed and the air around them felt even more charged. Jotaro now suspected that it was the Hamon Joseph had talked about, though he had no insight into why Joseph would be able to use it or why he was using it only now. “No, I haven’t. I’ve told you what you needed to hear since you came along on this journey. This tale has been a long time coming, but it is also the start of the tale I’ve been avoiding to tell you.”
“It still hurts, you see, even after fifty years. And sometimes… often… I think about what could have been, had it ended better. Had that one Monday gone different. February the 27th 1939. A lifetime ago.”
Again, Joseph let silence fall between them. By now the sun had gone well over its zenith and was now nearing the horizon. It would be a while till nightfall still, but they had been sitting in this sunflower field for hours already.
It was only then that Jotaro noticed how Joseph’s hands were playing with a small metal object, fidgeting with it in nervous fingers. It took Star Platinum’s sharp eyes to recognize what it was.
It was a small, silver lighter, beautifully crafted and its embossment was a single sunflower, surrounded by small, carved bubbles. Not like anything Jotaro had ever seen before. It was probably custom made, considering his grandfather’s vast fortune.
“He liked sunflowers and bubbles and collecting lighters,” his grandfather had said. And Jotaro was starting to understand.
“Caesar,” Joseph began and his voice was filled with barely concealed sadness, threatening to bubble over. “Caesar was arrogant, prideful, quick to anger, stubborn, a playboy, and an asshole. And…” He closed his eyes, but Jotaro had caught the shimmering of tears in them. “And he was my best friend.”
And once Joseph had started, it was like the words were just flowing out, spilling over, as if they had been bottled up so long Joseph almost burst with them. As if the words themselves needed to be said.
So Joseph told the second tale that day. He told of a young, loud, foolish trickster who had to stand against three ancient gods. He told of a boy who read his opponents like a book and loved to play with them, who never took a single thing seriously. He told of a trick and thirty days of hard, grueling training. He told of fear and bravery, of foolishness and intelligence, of diligence and negligence, of triumphant victories and one cruel loss.
But most of all, he told the tale of a Hamon prodigy with a brilliant mind and golden heart, the tale of Caesar Anthonio Zeppeli, with a tremble in his voice and tears in his eyes but a grin on his face.
Jotaro didn’t interrupt him once.
Joseph finished the story with the day he had crashed his own funeral, with a new ring on his finger and false bravado on his face.
“I had spent my days recovering and had only heard of the funeral days before we arrived. I had asked for my family and only heard that they were at a funeral and that’s why they hadn’t greeted me, probably why they hadn’t visited me in the hospital. I had thought Suzie had sent a Telegram, only found out later that she hadn’t. Expected it to be… his funeral. I was furious at first, that they hadn’t bothered to wait for me to be able to attend it. Then I thought they knew my last words to him had been too harsh, too cruel, that they knew he wouldn’t have wanted me there. Got on the plane anyways. I just… had to be there, even if he didn’t want me. In the end, it hadn’t been his funeral. It was mine. It was a bit of a shock, but better than if I had missed his. His was a few days after and none of his family were there. I doubt his siblings ever found out about what happened. For someone who had such a high opinion of family, he kept his at a distance.”
“I visit his grave, once a year. It’s in Italy, where his father and grandfather lie. I bring him sunflowers and blow some bubbles in his honor. It always looks so abandoned when I visit. Almost like an unmarked grave, forgotten and ignored… I hope this whole DIO business will end soon, for my dear Holly’s sake and so I won’t miss the date this time. It’s going to be the 50th anniversary of it. Not that I like calling it an ‘anniversary’.”
“It was good that your grandmother Suzie was there with me, back then. She helped me through it all. We helped each other. She had been like his little sister, had known him for much longer. It was… good… to have someone who had known him at my side... Sometimes..., I wonder whether I would have gotten together with her, had we returned from the fight with Caesar. I probably would have. 1939 was no place for two men to be together, or two women either. It was a sort of compromise, for both Suzie and me. Two kindred souls, even if we both would have preferred to not end up on that path.”
It was strange for Jotaro to hear the old man talk like that about his grandmother Suzie. He held great respect for his grandmother, but somehow, deep down, even as a child, Jotaro had known that while his grandparents loved each other and cared for each other deeply, they were not each other’s only love. It was easy to see how his grandmother always seemed to talk about pretty women and fashion more than about his grandfather, how his grandfather was always going on business trips without Suzie, and how he always kept a sunflower in his study for someone other than his wife. Still, even if Jotaro had suspected it, it was something else to hear it out loud.
And still, somehow, Jotaro found, he could respect the old man for this honesty.
Besides, while Joseph was not in love with Suzie - not like he had been with Caesar, as Jotaro could see as clear as day - he still respected her a great deal and made sure she lacked nothing she could ever wish for. He cared for her as he cared for Jotaro’s mother. Truly and with all his heart. And that was enough for Jotaro. So he kept his silence and let his grandfather work the words off his chest that he had buried inside himself for all these years.
When Joseph finished, the words trailed off into the sunset. Hours had passed with the tales of that fateful day so many years ago.
“He was my very best friend, and perhaps… perhaps even more than that. More than I ever admitted to myself, back then, more than I ever admitted to him. And now… now it is too late. Even if I now know for certain how much I loved him, love him, still. It was too late fifty goddamn years ago,” he turned to Jotaro and for the first time this day looked Jotaro in the eyes. They were wet with unshed tears, a look Jotaro had never seen on his usually cheerful grandfather, but filled with somber determination, fierce and bright.
“Jotaro, don’t make the same mistakes I did. You will regret it for the rest of your life. I did. Every day, every night, his last words run through my head and I thought up countless speeches of what I could have said instead. Countless scenarios in which I could have prevented it, could have saved him. But in the end, my biggest regret was… still is… that he never knew… how much he meant to me.”
“So please, Jotaro, learn from a foolish old man’s mistakes. Tell him. Now. You never know… you never know when it will be too late.”
Jotaro gaped at his grandfather.
He immediately knew what, or rather, who his grandfather was referring to.
He didn’t even try to deny it in his mind. He had already tried that, it hadn’t really worked. He couldn’t get rid of these feelings and he couldn’t deny it. So he had just chosen to ignore it, like so many problems of his life. But he hadn’t expected his grandfather to know about these feelings.
Or that he would drag them out into the open like that.
Joseph must have not liked the lack of reaction he got from his grandson because he scoffed.
“Don’t even try to play stupid. You aren’t and we both know it. There’s no denying it.”
“Yare yare daze,” muttered Jotaro under his breath.
“Don’t you ‘yare yare’ me, young man. I know what I’m talking about.”
Silence fell again between them, but this time it was Jotaro who broke it.
“Is it… that obvious?”
Joseph sighed and finally turned his intense cerulean gaze away from Jotaro and back to the golden flowers surrounding them. The flowers shone in the sunset’s light as if they all caught fire.
“Only to those who know what it looks like,” Joseph conceded. “Somehow, I doubt Polnareff would see it. But it is obvious to me. It reminds me of myself, so much it almost hurts. I feel the same emotions in the air. See the look in your eyes every time he isn’t looking at you. The same look I know I wore way back when. And all I can think of are the mistakes I made when I was in your shoes.”
Jotaro nodded, didn’t know what else to say. He hadn’t expected his grandfather to dig out his feelings.
“Just… whatever you do, remember: you will only ever regret the actions you didn’t take. If you do act, you will get closure, one way or another. But if you don’t, you will spend your whole life wondering what could have been. Take it from me.”
Then, Joseph abruptly stood up, brushed himself off and Jotaro could barely catch a glimpse of the lighter disappearing in his pockets.
“Well, that certainly was one way to spend the day,” Joseph commented in a bright and cheerful voice, as if a switch had been flipped, all the somber sadness gone in an instant. It happened so fast, Jotaro almost got whiplash from it, though he didn’t wish the heavy atmosphere back. “I really should have known when we drove past this sunflower field yesterday that today would go like this. My precognitive abilities are getting rustier with age, it seems.”
He grinned down at Jotaro, the setting sun catching in his hair, his eyes crinkled with the form of his laugh lines, and somehow, he looked younger than he ever had. Jotaro could almost see the young man who took down three gods at that moment.
Jotaro let his grandfather pull him to his feet, and brushed down his pants, too. His grandfather, meanwhile, rummaged around in his pockets and pulled out a knife. With a few quick and precise movements, he had chopped down a particularly large sunflower and stashed the knife away again.
“Think that would fit in the car?” Joseph turned to Jotaro.
“Without the stem maybe.”
“Good point, though it is easier to keep alive with the stem.” Joseph hummed and shortened it to a size that could more easily be stored.
Around them, the air was still pulsing with the unseen rippling energy and the sunflower almost seemed more alive in his grandfather’s hands than it did in soil. Jotaro suspected that was the power of the infamous Hamon at work.
“I’m guessing you didn’t come by car?” his grandfather asked.
Jotaro shook his head.
“No, didn’t think so.”
Then, he turned to Jotaro again, a huge, mischievous grin on his face.
“You know, Hamon energy gives me much more power and endurance, it’s really useful like that. Master Lisa Lisa and Caesar would kill me if they knew I haven’t kept up with the training as much as I probably should have, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten anything! It’s no Star Platinum of course, but it does give me an advantage over normal people, not to mention normal seventy-year-olds. Maybe I should keep up with the training more, but I quite like my current silver fox look,” Joseph cackled.
Jotaro leveled his grandfather with a deadpan look that made him only laugh harder.
“What are you saying, Jiji?”
“Well, with my Hamon and Hermit Purple and you with your Star Platinum and no car in sight, what do you say to a little race back to the hotel?”
Jotaro felt his lips twitch up in a matching, manic grin. This time, he didn’t shove it down.
“You are at a serious disadvantage here, Jiji,” he mocked.
“Probably,” Joseph smirked back. “But that’s the fun thing about it! Ready?”
Jotaro didn’t bother with a verbal answer, but his grandfather understood.
“Alright, on three! One, two-,” and started sprinting, cackling maniacally.
Jotaro cursed loudly and summoned his stand’s power in his legs to go after his trickster of a grandfather a second later.
“I never said, I would play fair !” Joseph Joestar called over the rushing of wind in their ears. “That’s just not my style.”
They took even less time getting back to the hotel like this and Jotaro didn’t suppress his grin of exhilaration the entire time, saw it mirrored on his grandfather’s face. It felt good to let go like this. No danger, no threat, no real stakes. Just… for fun.
For an old man, his grandfather really put up a fight. He combined the endurance and extra strength with his stand perfectly, using it as a sort of grapple hook to cross the distances with much larger strides and jumps even faster. Jotaro on the other hand had to make do with sprinting the entire way.
Jotaro won their race in the end but it was a close thing and Jotaro had the sneaking suspicion that Joseph had let him win, even though he had no proof of that.
They stood in front of the hotel panting, Joseph leaning heavily on Jotaro’s shoulder who had bent over to catch his breath a bit when Avdol and Polnareff came running towards them with concerned looks on their faces.
“Oi! Mr. Joestar! Jotaro! Are you alright?” Polnareff shouted.
Joseph straightened up, already having gotten his breath under control, much faster than Jotaro.
“Well, I had suspected they might be worried about us disappearing the entire day,” Joseph said. “Go on, go to Kakyoin, I bet he’s in your room. I can handle these two.” Then he sauntered off to greet their friends and explain the situation to them.
Jotaro straightened up too, still with a tiny grin on his face.
“Oh and one more advice from your old and wise grandfather,” Joseph turned back to call over his shoulder. Jotaro lifted an eyebrow at the notion. “That look on your face when you think he can’t see you? Kakyoin has that too.”
Then, he left Jotaro standing at the side of the road, completely baffled.
Jotaro stared after his grandfather for a few minutes, before he shook himself out of his stupor, pulled his hat over his eyes, and muttered, “Yare yare daze.”
When Jotaro reached Kakyoin’s and his hotel room, Kakyoin was indeed there, like Joseph had suspected.
Kakyoin sat on the balcony with his book in one hand and what looked like a cherry cocktail in the other, still in his green gakuran.
“Oh, so you found him then,” Kakyoin asked, looking up from his book, obviously not having been worried about the old man in the slightest. “I take it you had a good day?”
Kakyoin smiled at Jotaro and Jotaro could feel his own smile soften to match it.
That look on your face when you think he can’t see you? Kakyoin has that too. The words of his grandfather echoed around Jotaro’s head. He thought he could see the truth in them now.
“Yes, I did,” he answered truthfully. “And I wanted to tell you something.”