Something was shifting around in the bed. It moved the blankets, groaned, and removed its weight from the mattress. Shuffled around in the room, muttering something, moving fabric from place to place. Opened the balcony doors, letting in the summer air. Rustled some papers. Cursed under its breath. Groaned again.
Kakyoin was slowly coming to terms with the fact he wouldn’t be sleeping any longer, no matter how discreet and quiet Jotaro tried to be. So with a sigh he stretched a bit, still laying down, and let his limbs fall back on the bed, taking a deep breath and then exhaling. Mornings were so bad. Plain disgusting.
“Sorry,” was all Jotaro said. There was grogginess in his voice, amplified by his apparent struggle to find his shirt from the pile of clothes that rested on the sofa. Kakyoin smirked a bit as he pulled himself up, his expression sleepy, before he saw the alarm clock and the numbers it displayed. It wasn’t even 7 in the morning yet.
“Why the hell are you up so early?” he asked, looking at the time like it had just disrespected his whole family and dumped a can of Pepsi on his shoes.
“The starfish,” Jotaro replied. “Wash up in the morning. Gone before the afternoon.”
Kakyoin stared at the man for a bit, zoning out to his backside more than he cared to admit. But he shook himself out of it fairly quickly, getting out of bed at last. Kakyoin still found it strange to just... stare at Jotaro, for the sake of appreciating him. Or let himself experience vulnerable emotions regards to him, in general. Get lost in the concept that was Jotaro’s entire existence or something romantic like that? Feelings were weird, they’d probably be weird for a while, but at least they were mutually weird. Kakyoin held on to that thought while changing out of his pajamas, receiving a curious glance from Jotaro in the process.
“You going somewhere today?” he asked.
“Nah, but I’m not falling back asleep anytime soon, so I might as well join you on the beach,” Kakyoin replied.
“It’s not that exciting.”
“I don’t care.”
“I just take notes.”
“I’ve sat through entire SPW staff meetings on multiple occasions, I think I’ll manage,” Kakyoin jabbed back. Jotaro snorted and chuckled, more eccentrically than he normally would have, probably because he had just woken up and had yet to assume his usual menacing neutrality. It made Kakyoin feel a number of distinct things: joy, because Jotaro was being straight-up adorable right now; honor, weirdly enough, because Jotaro felt comfortable enough to be vulnerable in Kakyoin’s presence; confusion, because Kakyoin really didn’t think he had been that funny.
“Fine,” Jotaro smiled, pulling on his coat. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though.”
“Don’t worry, I own up to my mistakes.”
It turned out researching starfishes for a thesis project was actually really, really boring, and Jotaro had not been exaggerating this fact - if anything he undersold it. The beach was cool and breezy, the sand glowing in the morning sun, and the horizon looked equally lovely with the few clouds sauntering by, but the novelty died down fairly quickly when Jotaro kept squatting down, observing the little sea creatures on the sand and writing down chicken scratches in his notebook. And, of course, he flung the things back into the ocean after he was done. With Star Platinum. Because of course Jotaro would use his all-powerful stand to save the little lives of little starfishes by launching them far into the horizon, never to be seen on the shores of Morioh again. Kakyoin desperately wanted to find some kind of a deeply beautiful angle to the scene, but there simply wasn’t one. Jotaro just was like this.
He flung out another starfish, and Kakyoin watched as it flew through the air, until it disappeared into the horizon along with the rest of its comrades. Another teeny tiny life would get to burn on bright like a star in the depths of the ocean. Poetic.
“Hm?” Jotaro hummed, scratching down more of his illegible notes.
“How many have you saved?” Kakyoin elaborated.
“Lost count ages ago. Probably shouldn’t have, but -” Another starfish became a shooting star. “- I’ll just estimate some number for the profs. They don’t care.”
“You know you can’t save them all.”
“I can try.”
The waves crashed against the shore, washing over some of the starfishes, and pulling them back to the embrace of their home. Jotaro threw out another one. The routine continued as expected as the men walked along the shoreline, one occupied by his notes and the starfishes, and the other by his thoughts. Kakyoin sort of zoned out into the horizon while Jotaro observed a small pile of the familiar sea creatures.
A lot had changed in the past few weeks. Or had it been a month? Kakyoin wasn’t sure. It was like time had stopped the moment he had gotten off the train in Morioh, and he was living in a familiar micro-cosmos again, where things just. Were. And it felt a bit fucked up in all honesty, doing work and thesis research and drawing in cafes and getting drunk, when there was a serial killer in town just waiting to strike down another victim. It was eerily similar to their journey to Egypt, where they had been doing the very same things while Holly was back home dying from a fever, while everyone had known things could come to a sudden end with terrible ease even before they reached DIO. And there they had been, playing poker or blackjack or whatever card game in Joseph’s hotel room, with Avdol’s tarot deck because they lost the regular playing cards at some point, Polnareff constantly cheating or trying to swoon Avdol to distract him, Jotaro eating a lit cigarette on a dare, Kakyoin stealing them cokes from the vending machine downstairs. And now Jotaro and Kakyoin were here, on a beach, tossing starfishes back into the ocean and being together and, well, in love or something, while there was a serial killer out there, eager to eliminate them and their friends at any price.
Things could come to an end at any time with no warning. With no care for words that had yet to be said. It was a lot to take in and deal with, almost too much still.
“Noriaki,” Jotaro called for him, done tossing the starfishes in his reach. Kakyoin blinked.
“Since when have you called me by my first name?” he asked, still somewhat lost in thought. Jotaro shrugged carefully.
“It... felt appropriate,” he said. “You’ve been calling me Jojo lately.”
“You like it?”
“I’ve heard worse ones.”
“Should I keep it up?”
“I don’t mind.”
They walked a few steps, before Jotaro crouched down again, observing the small freaky tentacle creatures that squirmed on the sand. There was something profoundly sad about them, but Kakyoin couldn’t put it to words. He couldn’t put a lot of things to words. And he was actively getting sick of it.
“What are we?” he suddenly asked.
“You... well, it’s love, isn’t it?” Kakyoin went on. “So what does it make us?”
Jotaro was quiet. The starfish at his feet curled its limbs.
“I think you know already.”
“Jojo, we’re both 28.”
“We can use our words.”
“It’s fucking hard, isn’t it.”
“It really is.”
Jotaro picked up the starfish and handed it to Star Platinum, who flung it away. Kakyoin could’ve sworn he saw the creature make a splash as it landed to the water this time.
“Gay,” he said. “That’s what we are.”
Jotaro didn’t respond, but stared into the horizon with Kakyoin.
“Your grandfather is too. And Muhammad and Jean.”
“So why is it so hard to talk about?”
Jotaro was quiet for a second.
“They never tried to pretend they were anything else,” he said slowly. “But we did.”
Kakyoin crouched down to pick up a starfish. It curled on itself, as if it had the ability to be afraid of the massive creature that had raised it from the sand. A force stronger than it could ever even dream of, capable of crushing it without a second thought. A weak and futile little creature in the face of an unforgiving shorebird who had survived for decades and decades. Kakyoin’s expression twisted, and he threw the starfish as far to the ocean as he could. It wasn’t very far, but he was comparing himself to the likes of Star Platinum instead of being reasonable about it. He went to pick up another one.
“What if we just. Died tomorrow,” Kakyoin asked, sort of, as he flung away the new starfish, and went to pick up yet another one. “What if this was the last day we had on this earth.”
“What if everything ends before we actually get to live our lives,” he went on, his voice flavored with agitation. “If there’s no ‘after this,’ and every ‘when’ is actually an ‘if,’ and everything ends in Morioh. Do you think that’s why they kissed back then? In front of DIO’s mansion?”
“Avdol and Polnareff.”
“Yeah. Because we could have died. We all could have died there that night and they wanted to die without regrets.”
Kakyoin threw out one last starfish, clearing the nearby area of them with a huff. He turned to look at Jotaro, his brows somewhat furrowed.
“We could die tomorrow,” he repeated himself. “I mean, we probably won’t, but I also don’t want to go back home and keep regretting everything.”
His eyes locked with Jotaro’s.
“So I love you, yeah?”
There. He said it. He might’ve been tired as all hell and not quite in his element right now, but Kakyoin said it out loud, finally, and it was one thing off of the list of things he would lament over at 3am when he couldn’t sleep.
Jotaro’s expression and its default neutrality began to crack, allowing a careful, uncertain smile bleed through instead.
“You’re... so much more than I’ll ever be,” he said.
“So it is mutual?”
“But can you say it for me?”
Jotaro pulled down his hat. Kakyoin wasn’t going to stop him - the gesture was a comforting one, both to him and Jotaro.
“...I love you.”
Jotaro’s voice was soft, and the breeze almost carried his words away. But he had said them, before the fabled point of ‘too late,’ and Kakyoin had heard them. And though he had known, always and even before he had come to terms with his feelings, it still filled him with so much emotion, just the fact it was said out loud at last. Kakyoin didn’t have the energy to dissect the specifics of what he was feeling right now, but it didn’t really matter.
He reached out for Jotaro’s hand, and the man returned the gesture, linking their fingers together yet again. And they stood still, watching the horizon, as Star Platinum continued picking up the starfishes and sending them back home.
Arguably seeing a bunch of sea creatures fly across the sky wasn’t the most romantic thing in the world, and Kakyoin was beginning to realize that coming to a beach with Jotaro would likely always result in something absurd like this, one way or another.
Little shooting stars of sea life.
Okay, that was semi-poetic. A victorious smile cracked on Kakyoin’s face.
The Thursday had been largely uneventful after the morning. Jotaro and Kakyoin had returned to the hotel, consumed by thesis work and regular work, with some sketchbook procrastination thrown in for good measure (Jotaro could draw a mean starfish, all right.) Joseph and Shizuka stopped by to share a late breakfast, and Kakyoin, with his newly found ability to construct his thoughts into words, had finally grilled the old man about topics like ‘why didn’t Jotaro know I worked for SPW’ and ‘next time maybe ask before arranging possibly painful reunions between people.’ The SPW employee supplying them with possible leads to the killer stopped by after midday, and Jotaro, Kakyoin, and Joseph too to some degree, investigated the documents they were given and compared the information in them to maps of Morioh, pinpointing locations where people had gone missing. Nothing pointed out to any particular neighborhood that would’ve been at risk, and some victims hadn’t even been locals to begin with. At the end of it Jotaro had decided to visit these locations personally on the off-chance they housed even the most insignificant lead or clue. Kakyoin had tagged along, naturally - he would procrastinate on writing his report to the SPW for as long as he could. Jotaro didn’t mind.
It was already past 6pm when the sleuth duo had arrived to the first neighborhood. Jotaro had a feeling they wouldn’t make much progress tonight as some of the locations were on the other side of town, and the feeling of leaving things unfinished bugged him. But there wasn’t much he could’ve done about it - two trips would have to be made. Hopefully at least something of use would come out of them.
“Huh,” Kakyoin muttered, breaking Jotaro’s attention away from the documents he had been idly reading. Jotaro raised an eyebrow.
“Nothing,” Kakyoin brushed it off. “Some kid just ran by. Almost bumped into me.”
“Kids do that,” Jotaro said. “Jolyne does, anyway.”
“Runs you over on the regular?”
“Used to tackle me when I went to pick her up from the kindergarten,” Jotaro smiled. “I pretended to fall over and she had a blast.”
“Wow, didn’t know you were a gold star dad,” Kakyoin chuckled.
They arrived to the apartment complex, and Jotaro checked the address one last time. This was the place - a woman had gone missing here about a month ago. Her apartment had been locked, nothing indicated she had been planning to travel, and no signs of foul play had been found, she had simply left her flat one day and never returned. It fit the bill quite perfectly, if Jotaro had any idea how Killer Queen worked.
He looked at Kakyoin from the corner of his eye, noticing his strange expression.
“Nothing, just...” Kakyoin sighed. “I live in one of these.”
“Lots of people do.”
“Yeah. Makes me miss my parents’ house.”
“You don’t visit them?”
Kakyoin was quiet, staring at the building absentmindedly. And yet there was a fierce emotion in his eyes, burning through what Jotaro detected to be another facade of his. Guess those were still a thing.
“Not really,” he finally said, walking ahead. The conversation was over. Jotaro figured the topic was off-limits even to him, and made a mental note to not pursue it further in the future.
They walked up to the third floor, searching for the correct apartment. The area was eerily quiet, the only sounds being a dog barking somewhere in the distance and Jotaro’s and Kakyoin’s footsteps echoing off the concrete walls. There was a distant smell of burning lingering in the area, but Jotaro brushed it off as his sinuses acting up again. He seriously had to quit smoking, even if it had gotten reduced to a shitty coping mechanism rather than the full-blown addiction it had been in his earlier 20s.
He suddenly stopped in his tracks as he noticed an open door ahead of them. Had someone gone out and forgotten to lock it? Or perhaps... Jotaro walked up to the door, his hand reaching out to grab the handle, when Kakyoin’s own lunged for his wrist and halted the motion.
“Don’t,” he whispered, sending Hierophant Green’s tentacle for the task instead.
“What?” Jotaro asked, vaguely irritated.
“Cops,” was the answer. “They’ll see your fingerprints and that’s enough for them. Take off your shoes while you’re at it.”
“All cops are bastards, Jojo,” Kakyoin hissed. “You don’t fuck with them.”
Kakyoin let out a short, but heavy sigh.
“...I’m not having you go to jail for a breaking and entering you didn’t commit.”
There was genuine concern in his voice. As if this had happened before. Jotaro opted to not continue the argument, and took off his shoes, giving them to the Hierophant who was already holding Kakyoin’s sneakers.
The two of them stepped inside.
A studio apartment. The lights were off, and everything seemed normal for the most part. A white purse laid on the floor, as if thrown there in a hurry. Dirty dishes in the sink, probably from a rushed morning. On the floor... Star Platinum’s eyes focused to the corner of the room. A small bloodstain that could’ve easily been overlooked - had it not been fresh.
Jotaro crouched down next to it, his finger already approaching it, before a green tendril slapped his hand. Jotaro glanced at Kakyoin, who shook his head. Fine, he knew more about criminal activities and cops than Jotaro did, he’d let him have this one.
“You know what this means, though, don’t you?” Jotaro said out loud.
“How recent do you think it is?”
“I thought you were the crime expert here.”
“Crimes, sure, but I don’t specialize in murder.”
Jotaro took another look at the stain, allowing Star Platinum’s nuanced vision to tell him what he needed to know. It still had some buoyancy to it, keeping it in the shape of a drop to some degree, and the color was bright as ever. This was new. Very new.
“Can’t have been here for longer than an hour, at most,” Jotaro muttered, and stood up again.
“Fucked up timing we have,” Kakyoin replied. “Not sure if I should be glad we didn’t leave sooner, or not.”
Jotaro decided not to respond. He was too conflicted between the possibility of having saved this person’s life, and the possibility of him ending up the body instead - or worse, Kakyoin. It was not a dilemma he wanted to address right now.
“Ow, fuck!” Kakyoin hissed from between his teeth. Jotaro stood up sharply, and turned to look at him.
“What is it?”
“I stepped on something... shit’s sharp,” the redhead muttered, crouching down on the floor to locate his new enemy. Kakyoin’s finger glided on top of the floor, careful not to touch it, until he found his way to the culprit.
“What the hell is... this,” Kakyoin arched his eyebrow. “They’re like... thin and curved? Are they splinters?”
“No, but they bend... are they organic? What?”
Kakyoin pulled his hand away like he had been holding it against a hot stove for a minute too long and rose up. Jotaro could see it was taking all of his self-control to not yell in disgust. His composition was remarkable.
“...Fingernails,” Kakyoin repeated, blinking a couple times.
“We... figured out that Kira has a thing for them,” Jotaro said. “So, um. Congratulations for finding more proof.”
“Thanks. I want to die.”
“Josuke did too.”
Star Platinum’s hand carefully picked up the nail clippings from the floor, and brought them to Jotaro, placing them in the small plastic bag the man was holding. They could have Kira’s DNA in them, so if SPW could run some tests on them... It was a bit of a long shot, but worth a try. Anything to get them closer to him.
Jotaro gave one last look to the apartment. There seemed to be nothing else of worth around, any other evidence had been taken care of - likely by Killer Queen. There was nothing left but a silent, haunting apartment, that might remain in this state until the neighbors noticed the eerie lack of life, or an open door where it should have been closed. A place that had belonged to someone, who had had a life and goals and ambitions and loved ones. Who had collected memories to store here, memories that would now go forgotten. Objects that held significance once were scheduled to become nothing but Things again. Things that meant nothing to anyone, not in the way they should have. Not in the way they had meant something to this person, whoever they had been.
Jotaro’s expression must’ve changed, because he felt Kakyoin’s hand on his shoulder. The man was looking at the apartment with him, his face somewhat apologetic.
“We should go,” he said. “Someone’s gonna notice the door and call the feds on us.”
Jotaro pulled down his hat, nodding, and turned around. Kakyoin was about to remind him about the door, but Jotaro was one step ahead of him, pushing it open with Star Platinum instead of his hand.
“You’re learning,” Kakyoin smirked. Jotaro chuckled lightly in response as the Hierophant handed him his shoes. But despite Kakyoin’s attempt at lightening the mood, a distinct sense of dread still lingered in Jotaro’s heart. A color of sadness that coated his thinking, and reminded him of their conversation from the morning.
‘We all could have died there that night and they wanted to die without regrets.’