Preface

Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at http://archiveofourown.org/works/3360305.

Eight Day Week (Jojo-Spotting)

Summary

In another time, in another world, in another life, eight cousins all named Jojo live a relatively normal existence. For the very first time, all eight Jojos are spending New Years as a family. Johnny has an announcement to make before midnight, with Gyro's life possibly at stake.

Notes

Eight Day Week (Jojo-Spotting)

Eight Day Week (Jojo-Spotting)

In another time, in another world, in another life, it happened thusly.

9:30 AM

December 31st

Boyle County, just outside of Danville, Kentucky

"We're almost there," says Johnny Joestar, leaning back and pointing out the window, past a brick wall covered in vines and sleepy, ancient storefronts. "I remember that old water tower. We can't see it now 'cause of the trees, but when I was, like, eleven, my cousin Josuke was eight and I bribed him with some candy to climb the fire escape on the building right next to it all the way up to the top. He got stuck and we had to call the fire department to get him down again."

Beside him, Gyro Zeppeli laughs, throwing his head back, long dirty-blonde hair spilling out over his shoulders. "So you've been a brat all your life is what you're saying."

"I think you'll find, Julius, that all Joestars are kind of brats," says Caesar Zeppeli, who rebuffs Johnny's extended middle finger with one of his own and makes a neat turn at a stop sign. "Oh, do shut up, Johnny. What kind of guy makes someone sit in the back with him just so he doesn't get bored on the way to his own house but a cold-hard brat?"

"Okay, one: don't call me Julius, especially in front of the Joestars. And two: for your in-for-ma-tion, Caesar," Gyro says smoothly, sweeping his arm back to drape over Johnny's shoulders in an eerily good parody of Caesar's smarmy schmoozing, "No one can make me do anything I don't want to. I'm sitting back here so I can force Johnny to give me a game to play. We're making a bet."

From the rear-view mirror, Caesar shoots them both a Look, a Please-Don't-Let-It-Be-A-Gross-Bet type Look.

Johnny leans back into the warmth of Gyro's arm and rolls his eyes. "It's about… well, you know. I was wondering if I should announce the thing. Before midnight on New Year's. I personally think that's lame as hell. This motherfucker, on the other hand-"

"-thinks it's a grand idea. So the deal is that I get a game and if I win before midnight, he makes the announcement. If I don't, he waits until some other, less cool opportunity."

"Which reminds me," Johnny suddenly says, remembering. He reaches in front of him to extract his hard-bound Moleskine notebook from the driver's-seat pocket and flips through until he finds the right page. Leaning to the side so Gyro can't see, he starts to write. "I'm almost done with it."

"You promised not to make it too hard."

"Melodrama's for theatre. If you don't stop trying to peek I'll tell everybody as soon as we get there."

Gyro raises his hand to scratch the back of Johnny's head affectionately, just under the edge of his soft blue beanie. "It's so charming how pigheaded you're being right now."

"If pigheadedness is charming, Gyro, you're a prince right out of a goddamned Grimm-"

"I've told you once, I'll tell you again, you outrageous little boys. No flirting in the new Lancia," interrupts Caesar smoothly. "You'll have plenty of time for that once we get to the Estate. Thank heaven for New Year's and eight whole days of doing absolutely nothing. Are we headed in the right direction?"

Johnny looks up from his notebook and is met with the edge of town proper, where the remote vintage offices and apartments trapped in a bygone time dwindle and die, spindly rays of sunshine glinting through a bushy verdant tree-lined avenue like so many soft golden needles pouring from the heavens.

"Yeah," Johnny breathes, quietly. He hasn't seen this road in years, but that's the thing about hometowns. They can change all they like but they always somehow still look just a tiny little bit like home, even if just in your dreams. "Just- just keep going down here. We'll hit Polestar Street soon, and then it's all the way up the only dirt road that goes left."

Gyro stretches languidly like a cat as he cranes his neck to grin delightedly at the passing trees that grow thicker and thicker the more they climb up the quote-unquote historic hills. "So this is where you grew up? It's very different from your New York apartment."

Ugh. Johnny blinks, and shrugs, letting himself babble about nothing. Better than letting everyone in the car know exactly how tense he is. "I actually didn't grow up here. Just stayed for summers sometimes. But fuck me if I'm going back to my father's estate up north, or making any of you suffer it along with me. I always liked this place better."

As his seating partner nods, the driver pokes at the radio, decides there isn't anything good on, and turns it off with a sigh of what sounds like disappointment in American music, and especially the local hillbilly trash. "So why didn't you move in here after you started racing?"

"Nobody stayed except Jonathan. It might have been kinda cool to have all our own bedrooms in a big honking estate like that, hanging out whenever the family decided they'd give the whole being civil thing another try, but then the fire happened and after a while we just sort of… drifted off. Did our own thing. I didn't want to hang around that empty house, so… The second I started earning my own money, I bought my first apartment up in Sparta and only came back when somebody else was staying here too."

Caesar makes a little sound like he's suddenly understood something. "Jojo said the same thing to me, once."

Johnny knows he means Joseph, and nods, half in acknowledgement and half in realization. "This is going to be the first time since we were little kids that we're all going to be in one house at the same time. That's really fucking weird to think about." He could say more about it, but frankly, he doesn't want to, and it's morning and he's a little cranky and more than a little nervous so he brushes it off his metaphorical shoulders as brusquely as he is able. He taps his pen to his mouth, trying to come up with a better final entry than the one he's got, but comes up blanker than Gyro's vacant early-morning wake-up-face and he supposes that's it, then. "Well, I'm done with the game, at least."

Gyro makes to steal the whole notebook but Johnny yanks it out of his wiggly grabby fingers. Mock-pouting, the thwarted thief asks, "And what in the Madonna's name took you so long to write down?"

"Cheat sheet." Johnny neatly pens in the last check box, folds the sheet over at the perforated line with a neatly trimmed nail and tears it out, handing it over to Gyro half-folded over.

Jojo-Spotting

Jonathan Joestar

Twenty-four. Ripped British nerd who talks like a BBC actor. Very very nice.

Do: Pet the dogs, ask about Erina (wife, in Japan with the fam), help around the house.

Don't: Try to suck up to him. It makes him feel like he's more of an uncle.

Spot: When he tries to explain some weird habit of his as a "gentleman's duty".

Joseph Joestar

Twenty-one, I think. Looks like a big dumb jock. Warning: He isn't actually dumb, like, at all.

Do: Play games, talk about comics, make fun of Caesar with him.

Don't: Believe a word he says. They're all lies.

Spot: When he guesses what someone's about to say before they say it.

Jotaro Kujo

Believe it or not, he's eighteen. Face like a murderer. Don't worry, he's soft deep down inside… Deep, deep, deeeeeeep down inside…

Do: Nothing. Maybe ask about dolphins, but only if he doesn't look all that murderous today.

Don't: Touch the hat, provoke him, talk to him more than you have to.

Spot: "Give me a fuckin' break."

Jolyne Kujo

Seventeen. She was in juvee for a while. Twice. Three times. My favorite for a thousand reasons.

Do: Sing, talk about music. Her dad's in a band.

Don't: Ask about what got her in jail in the first place, make an Orange is the New Black joke.

Spot: "Give me a fuckin' break."

Josuke Higashikata 1

Sixteen. He's the kid with the stupid hair. I think you might like this one. Fun kid.

Do: Hang out with him! He may be weird but he's also kind of a great friend.

Don't: Say a word about the hair, make a bet with him.

Spot: Just wait, because someone will inevitably make fun of his hair. Watch for the reaction.

Josuke Higashitaka 2

Tall, short hair. I don't remember how old he is. Nineteen? Maybe?

Do: Ask him for trivia. Guy knows half the encyclopedia. Also: he can to tongue tricks.

Don't: Ask him anything else.

Spot: He's definitely going to mention a girl named Yasuho. (That's his not-so-secret crush.)

Giorno Giovanna

????

Freebee if you say hello.

It only takes a moment for Gyro to skim over the whole page front to back, and he makes that odd little rolling laugh at the back of his nose as he gestures widely over the entire thing. "Okay. This whole thing- everything. It all needs explaining."

Johnny knows he sounds smug and doesn't care a whit. "The name of the game is 'Jojo-Spotting'. Like birdspotting, but way more useful. See, it's half a game, and half a catchy way for you to memorize who's who at my house. Think of it like, 'gotta catch 'em all'. You win if you can catch all seven Jojos in the house doing something really fucking typical of them before midnight strikes and rings in the new year- basically 'spotting' a habit."

Gyro whistles between his teeth delightedly. "I have to admit, Johnny, this is actually genuinely clever. And none of this is a lie?"

"Not a word. My family's fucking weird."

"You wrote 'Josuke' twice."

"We have two Josukes. It's complicated. You can call the taller one 'Gappy', if you like. 'Cause his teeth. He doesn't mind."

"And what's with this one?" Gyro asks, pointing to the seventh entry. "It's just question marks. Giorno… Giovanna."

Ah.

The dreaded question.

Up front, Caesar suddenly goes very quiet, and Johnny steels himself, core suddenly tighter. Feigning a casual swagger, Johnny pretends to take a look and then tilts his head back. "Oh, that's the new cousin. I ain't ever met him before."

"New cousin? A baby?"

"Nah. The Joestars are a real big family. The, uh, the whole Dio thing broke up the guy's parents a really long time ago and we didn't know there was even a kid involved until just recently. So this is the first time any of us are meeting him face to face."

"Oh. Momentous occasion."

"…Seems so, huh?"

"It's funny," Gyro murmurs, peering down at the paper almost suspiciously. "I didn't know you had any Italian family."

Despite himself, despite all of the rolled eyes and hushed plans with Caesar in preparation for the forthcoming moment, despite all of his former willingness to just tell Gyro from the get-go and make him deal with it, something deeply embedded in Johnny (deep, deep, deep behind his first and foremost proudly unpleasant personality) feels a hitch of guilt.

"We, uh, we don't."

Gyro points to the seventh name on the list of Jojos. "Giovanna is an Italian surname, little Johnny."

"Apparently his birth name was 'Haruno Shiobana'. We almost didn't find him because he'd legally changed it by the time he was four or something."

"Hm. Oh. Wow. That's funny," says Gyro, and to Johnny's intensely rising discomfort, he starts fingering the paper's edge with a bit of a distant look in his eyes. "Hey, do you remember that boy I told you about, back home? Marco? Did I ever tell you that the men who eventually freed all of the unjustly imprisoned was the new boss of the local gang?"

Johnny wills himself to remain stony-faced. "Oh. Really."

"That's why I can't go back to Naples anytime soon, you know. Even the street rats know that I lost the Steel Ball Run and that my deal was settled by the Don himself. I owe that man for Marco's life. Imagine. Owing something like a life to a Mafia boss."

"That's- that's a really random and really creepy thing to just spit out all of a sudden, Gyro."

Gyro shrugs, gesturing with the paper half-folded between his fingers. "I only thought of it again just now because that was his name too. It was whispered all through the streets. His name was Don Giovanna. Funny coincidence. The whole thing scares my shit out. "

"The phrase is 'scares the shit out of me'," says Johnny, but the words stick to his throat and after a moment of stillness, Gyro turns to him and says, eyes narrowing, "You've been sounding odd for a while."

It is then that Caesar just barks out from the driver's seat, voice tight, "Just tell him, Johnny."

The atmosphere suddenly turns very, very cold.

Gyro's head snaps up to stare very hard at the back of his cousin's head (Caesar's knuckles are very, very white on the steering wheel) and then turns immediately back to Johnny, long hair draping over his shoulders. Johnny can't bear to meet his suddenly frantic eyes and averts his gaze, staring hard at the worn-out star pattern on his arm warmers and almost wishing that he hadn't lied in the first place.

"Johnny."

"I'm... sorry we didn't tell you sooner, Gyro," Johnny starts, and then trips on his words. "We thought you wouldn't want to come if you knew."

"Knew? Knew what? Caesar. Johnny." Gyro backs up hard into his seat. "What? Tell me. What is this?"

It's all a little funny, but funny in the way an execution is. Fate is weird like that. If Fate were a person, Johnny thinks to himself a little wildly, that person would be a damn ugly motherfucker. He'd punch that bitch right in the face. It's all a little funny. Funny in the way that makes Johnny laugh humorlessly at his knees.

"You ain't going to believe this, Gyro, but that's the same Giovanna. Turns out, Giorno Giovanna, the guy that runs Naples, is my cousin."

There is a very, very long and frigid silence after that, and when Johnny can't take it any more he raises his head and starts to mutter, "I- He won't kill you, Gyro, he's only here for the family function. I swear we won't let him touch you-"

"LET ME OUT OF THIS CAR!" Gyro all but screams, almost lunging forward to scrabble at Caesar's face, and Johnny has to launch himself at Gyro's neck and sandbag him down with all of his weight to get him back into his seat amidst Caesar's yelps. Gyro thrashes against him, almost comically spooked, shrill and tight-limbed. "The one man! The ONE person who has every right to take my life- the minchia fucking Don of Passione- and you INVITE HIM TO YOUR HOME!?"

"Calm the fuck down!" Johnny hisses, fighting the urge to smack Gyro upside the head. To be fair, he does have a point. No one knows anything about Giorno Giovanna, and the man very well could be coming to the Joestar residence to collect his due, but, well, Jonathan had been adamant- and everyone had agreed to keep Gyro in the dark about it all. In hindsight, a bit of an error, but at least they're all in the car now. Johnny bodily pins Gyro's arms to his sides, draping himself over his torso to act as a human straitjacket, and grits between his teeth, "Jonathan says that he promised to leave his bodyguards back at his hotel. Mr. Will's bringing him."

Gyro's panic visibly slides into bewilderment and stung betrayal. "You sons of bitches planned it all behind my back. You kept me in the dark until it was too late. And to think, Caesar, that I once called you family!"

From the driver's seat, Caesar mutters sourly, "I didn't know that a harmless trick would be grounds for disownment."

"Zeppelis are supposed to have honor!"

"They do. And so do Joestars," Johnny says firmly, pushing himself off of Gyro's chest to look him dead in the eyes. "No matter what he does, he's still one of us. He hasn't collected his due yet and he won't, not ever. And even if he tries, we won't let him touch you. Now stop overreacting."

Gyro's hair has shaken loose in his little fit of hysteria and he glares down at Johnny through his curtain of dirty blonde. "You lied to me, you little stronzo."

"I'm sorry."

"You aren't."

"I am!"

"Johnny, my starlight love," Gyro groans, head in his hands, "If this was your idea, I'm going to offer you up to the Don instead."

Caesar shakes his head as he briefly looks back at his passengers while making a turn onto a narrower road, lined with buildings that get steadily older and older. "What a relaxing vacation this is going to be. Oh, wait. No, it's not. Not with you two around."

"Maybe you should have thought of that before you tricked me," Gyro mutters, licking his teeth. "I should have worn my grills. To look tough."

"No fucking way," Johnny says, lightly hitting the back of his hand into Gyro's chest. "It ain't just Giorno Giovanna you're meeting, remember? It's my whole family. How's about, you know, trying to make a goddamned good impression? They've seen you on TV, so they think they're meeting a celebrity, not some wannabe rock star."

From the front, Caesar gives a single short bark of a laugh. "Josuke says that he is, in his own words, 'excited to meet a racer he isn't related to'."

Johnny wrinkles his nose. "He would."

"That's not your Jojo, is it? I don't remember." asks Gyro distractedly, rubbing at his eyes as he unfolds the Jojo cheat sheet and scans it.

"No, mine's Joseph. Huh. It's weird you haven't met any of the Jojos before- but very strange that you haven't met Joseph. I'd have thought I'd introduced you two before."

Gyro considers this and leans back. "Didn't you say that you and Joseph were in Naples together a month back? Couldn't I have met him then?"

Caesar huffs through his nose. "Well, uh… That's when the whole thing happened. It was actually Joseph and Jotaro who found him. Giovanna, I mean. Visiting me was just the ruse. They were tracking down their old friend, some guy named Polna-something from their little adventure in Egypt, when they heard that he was involved in some shady Mafia business. And typical Joestars they are, they meddled. Things started to connect and converge and make sense. Put two and two together, voila. One big strange family reunion." He makes a left at the dirt road that diverges off of the well-beaten concrete, and suddenly Johnny's closer to home than he has been in a very long time. Caesar risks a look back to cock an eyebrow at his passengers. "You Jojos are always looking for trouble."

"Oh, shut up, you big flaming ex-punker hypocrite," says Gyro, though it's entirely without malice, as he is staring deeply into the trees outside the window, drifting off into what would be a comical melancholy (if the actual situation weren't so serious) and possibly considering writing a last will and testament. With his lip stuck in an upset little whorl, he snatches Johnny's pen from where it's clipped onto the cover of his notebook and starts to scratch some notes onto his Jojo-Spotting cheat sheet. "I may blame myself for the outcome of the race, but you two are to blame if I die tonight."

Johnny says dryly, watching the hedgerows swim past the windows, "Caesar, a punk? Says the guy who had to be forced to leave his green lipstick behind."

"Hey, I was defending you."

"And I'm probably going to have to make the announcement tonight just for your sake, so shut your ass up. Stop worrying. I'm going to take care of you while you're at my place."

It comes out a lot sappier than Johnny meant it to sound, so he keeps his suddenly burning face firmly turned away even as Caesar snorts involuntarily.

Gently, Gyro hums (though everyone can tell from his voice that he is smiling his little heart out) and sings, "That's only if I can spot all eight Jojos by midnight."

"Eight? No, there are seven Jojos on the list."

"See for yourself," says Gyro, and Johnny turns to look at the cheat-sheet he holds up. There is one last entry scribbled in Gyro's unintelligible scratching at the bottom.

Johnny Joestar

Nineteen. Face like an angel, mouth like a demon. Eyes like a killer. Sarcastic, mean little carogna.

Do: Kiss!

Don't: Not kiss!

Spot: When he makes a kissable face!!!!

Johnny can feel his face go even hotter as he growls, "I don't count, you idiot-"

"And I've got one check already!" Gyro crows, laughing his irritating, infuriating, stupid rolling laugh, and leans in. Johnny only kisses back to hide his reddening face behind his hair, and pushes him away by the shoulder when Caesar laughs.

As Gyro gleefully makes one flourishing check mark on the paper, Johnny scowls and mutters, "You're going to scare off the new cousin if you keep doing that."

"He may be your cousin, piccolo, but he is also a Mafioso who settled my life debt, and I won't go near him until you make sure it's safe."

"You can hide up in my room when he gets here," says Johnny irritably, but then something else dawns on him.

His room.

Shit, his room.

Johnny gulps, commands his pride to heel for just a moment, and mumbles, "Hey," reaching out for Gyro's hand where it rests on the seat beside his numb, buzzing thighs. Almost immediately, Gyro takes it and threads their fingers together in a wordless question, leaning in, morbid dread already forgotten.

"My room was- it's right next to Nicholas's old room."

Gyro blinks and then immediately swipes his thumb over Johnny's knuckles, eyes softening in understanding. "I see. I don't mind if we bunk downstairs on top of a couch-"

"No. No, we're staying in my room. Obviously. Just- I- don't leave me alone up there. When we're upstairs, just don't-"

"I won't," Gyro says, more gently than Johnny had expected, and Caesar nobly stays silent with his eyes fixed firmly on the dirt-and-stone path as he leans forward to press his forehead against Johnny's.

It's been years, but a dead brother is a dead brother and Johnny will never be over it. Something stings, and if he hadn't cried himself dry during the race he'd shed a tear now, in the privacy and safety of Caesar's car, but Johnny owes it to Nicholas and to himself to be strong. Johnny clenches his jaw and lets himself rest in Gyro's heat, feeling long locks of sandy yellow slip over Gyro's ears to brush across his own cheeks like a caress.

"You'll be fine, my little asshole gattino."

Johnny swallows and mutters dryly, "Of course I'll be fine."

"You will. You'll be with family, after all," says Gyro warmly, and then Caesar turns past a tall, winding oak-

And in the warm yellow American sunshine, the Joestar Estate stands tall and proud in a grassy clearing teeming with a thousand dragonflies and surrounded by a sea of rosebushes. It would look like a cheesy postcard if Johnny weren't kind of still in love with it. Even though in his logical mind Johnny knows that half of it has been reconstructed after the fire so many years ago, somehow it still looks like it used to when he was young, when he could run free.

Some things may be gone for good, but if Johnny's learned one thing with Gyro Zeppeli at his side, it's that what he still has is worth staying strong for.

'Joe Kid' Joestar, the cocky racing prodigy, the arrogant asshole on the front page news. Jonathan II, the stupid, crippled, useless idiot, the son who should have died. Johnny, a nineteen-year-old who has made peace with his father at long last, who finally has a friend he trusts beyond all logic and reason, who is moving forward even when he has to crawl. Somehow, all of these are the same guy. It's confusing trying to be himself when he doesn't even know who that is anymore. But he's home now. After the longest, tensest car ride of all history, even facing his past doesn't seem all that bad compared to the thought of not facing his future at all.

Gyro whistles low as he leans his head past Johnny to stick his tongue out at the estate. "Your house is fucking big, like in a movie or something. No wonder you act so spoiled."

"I'll kill you in your sleep."

"Calm down, assholes. Get out here so I can steal Joseph's usual parking spot right there behind the fountain," says Caesar, stopping just halfway around the main driveway, and Gyro doesn't stop to let Johnny protest, opening the door and all but swooping out in one smooth motion that looks suspiciously practiced. Johnny knows that they mean to save him a nasty long trip rattling over the cobblestones, but can't really find any words to thank Caesar other than a vague mumble, head down as he waits for Gyro to unfold his wheelchair from the trunk. (The everyday wheelchair, not the sports wheelchair. The next eight days are for relaxing.)

He doesn't let him help climb into it, though. Someone might be watching from a window. He's got no choice but to let Gyro push him up the shallow stairs to the front door, but Johnny doesn't intend to show anybody any weakness tonight, for the entire eight days that they will be staying under one roof. He's still got some pride, even after everything.

After all, this is his house. This is his past and his family, and his turf- and after all that Gyro's looked out for him, it's Johnny's turn to be the man now.

He sucks in a breath to get ready to ring the buzzer, but the door flies open before he can even raise his hand and two bodies nearly leap right on top of him, enveloping him in a crushing hug. Johnny tries to scream and gets a mouthful of hair for his trouble.

"Guh- fucking come the fuck on- guys!"

Josuke Higashikata has gotten taller over the past year (infuriatingly) and he overshoots a bit, squishing Johnny's face into his broadening teenage chest. "We've been waiting since morning!"

"You're late, Initial D!"

"Fuck off, All That Jazz."

"Oh, yeah, like I haven't heard that one before," grouses Jolyne Kujo, who nonetheless squeezes Johnny hard around the neck, with a tighter grip than she probably means to give.

The aborted scream turns into an exasperated little snort as Johnny reaches up to pat his younger cousins on the back. "Okay, okay, that's enough. Let go or I'll run over your toes." The cousins attempt to untangle, but Josuke's arm is trapped under Jolyne, whose braided buns are somehow stuck around the brass badges in Johnny's beanie. There is some yelping, but Gyro reaches over to undo the Jojordian Knot and receives a thank-you punch on both shoulders for his help.

Josuke slicks back his pompadour, grinning up at Gyro, though he bites at his lower lip in his eagerness and apparent sudden bashfulness. "And you're Gyro Zeppeli! Y-you were pretty cool on Top Gear that one time!"

Gyro, the massive fuckhead, has the nerve to strike a bit of a pose even as he sneakily consults the cheat-sheet. "Why, thank you… Josuke, right? Cool hair. You look like a classical movie star!"

The boy visibly preens.

"Aren't you also a doctor or something?" says Jolyne, smirking down at Johnny even as she leans in closer to Gyro, inspecting him with her hypercritical teenage eyes. "You're way too cool to be stuck being Johnny's personal trainer. I mean, two-time Grand National Series Champion's great and all, but European rallying must be something else-"

Johnny is halfway poised to reach up and snap Jolyne's bra strap when someone calls from the top of the stairs, "Is that Johnny?"

The brats part like the Red Sea to let Johnny crane his neck up to greet Jonathan Joestar with the closest approximation to a grin as he can give. The eldest cousin's answering smile radiates heat like the sun, and he dusts off his hands before kneeling to embrace Johnny in his arms. Johnny hugs back as much as he is able. Jonathan is the man he was named for, and he carries the name with pride, because under the plush, soft rolled-up sleeves and gentle eyes Jonathan has the strongest heart Johnny has ever known, bar none, and he feels safe here.

"Welcome home."

Johnny breathes in deep- the years may have passed, but the Joestar house still smells the same. Warm honey, roses, old books, tea, family.

"It's good to be back."

"And you must be Gyro. Thank you for taking care of Johnny," says Jonathan warmly, offering a hand to Gyro when he straightens up to let Johnny wheel further into the hall. "Your uncle William has been my mentor and dear friend for a very long time, and no Zeppeli should ever feel out of place here. Please consider our home your home as well."

Gyro's a little stiff and silent as he shakes it firmly, but Johnny doesn't have to turn around to know that he's staring at Jonathan, starry-eyed. Everybody gets a little starry-eyed around Jonathan.

Like a real Victorian-bred man, Jonathan only smiles and nods with almost inhuman decorum and looks around.

"Where's Caesar?"

"Parking the car. On Joseph's space, too. Where's everybody else?"

"Joseph stepped out for errands. Jotaro's upstairs, and Gap- er, I mean, the other Josuke is out in the back." Jonathan laughs a little, exuding the kind of charm that Johnny once found deeply annoying, but now secretly kind of envies. "We have so many Jo-s in our family, it's honestly getting a bit difficult to keep track."

Jolyne rolls her eyes. "Our parents are kind of lame like that."

Jonathan only chides her with a Look and gestures out the door. "Go make yourselves comfortable, you two. I'll go and help Caesar unload your things. It's a gentleman's duty, after all."

Behind his back, Josuke stifles a laugh and Jolyne mouths something like an oh-my-god. It's only when Gyro jumps a little, fishing Johnny's pen out of his pocket to make another check on his Jojo-Spotting cheat sheet, that Johnny remembers something.

"Hey, Jonathan?"

"Hm?"

"Can I ask you something? In private?"

It only takes a Look from Jonathan (a look that Johnny would never in a million years call 'stern', exactly, but one that is halfway between 'firm' and 'kingly') to make Jolyne and Josuke scatter like rabbits, but not before sticking their tongues out at the new arrivals impetuously. Johnny slowly wheels out of the entranceway and off of the tiles of the foyer, knowing he's furrowing his brows and unable to do much about it.

He looks up at Gyro even as he addresses Jonathan, but not for encouragement or support. For confirmation, maybe.

"I… I think I'm gonna make an announcement tonight. Maybe before midnight. Is that cool or do you not want me to make any drama? I don't wanna look like an asshole in front of everybody."

He's done enough of that already.

Jonathan regards him for a moment before kneeling again to look at Johnny at eye level. Somehow, it's not patronizing when Jonathan does it. It just feels natural. Calmly and carefully, he asks, "If it's something of a… tragic nature, I must ask you if you could tell me first."

"Nah, nothing crazy. I just really wanted everybody to know something. Besides, it ain't really even for me. It's… for Gyro."

"And you're not ill? Do we have anything to fear?"

"No, no, nothing like that," says Johnny, huffing through his nose. "Stop worrying about me, Jonathan. I'm not a fu- I'm not a kid anymore. It's kind of a happy thing… and in any case, I might not even make any announcement at all. Okay?"

After a while, Jonathan finally agrees, "All right," getting up. "Oh, and take off your hat while you're in the house."

Johnny shoots back, "You probably didn't make Jotaro take off his hat, though, right?"

"Touché," says Jonathan, laughing easily and nodding his head to Gyro on the way out the door, closing it behind him like a proper gentleman.

In the corner of his eye, Johnny can swear he sees a little puff of carefully moussed black hair poking out from behind the banister, but when he swivels to peer closer, it's gone. Beside him, Gyro lets out a long, gusty breath and leans an elbow heavily on Johnny's chair, groaning. "Your older cousin is so cool."

"Eh, he's all right. He's just a big cheesy nerd."

"And the younger ones seem sharp, too."

"They're seriously such brats, though-"

"Johnny, I want your family to like me."

That stops him. It isn't unlike Gyro to be so candid, but something catches in Johnny's throat anyway. Gyro stands beside him, straight-backed in his all of his six-foot-two glory- resolute, like he is declaring some sort of battle plan as he takes in the house, morning sun filtering through the tall windows and casting the childhood home of his lover in a golden glow. Johnny doesn't know how it looks to Gyro, but he suspects, maybe, that in a weird way that his past means something for Gyro's future. Their future.

Johnny knocks his head back against Gyro's stomach roughly, suddenly needing to break the moment of stillness. He says firmly, "Just like we said. We'll be fine. We're with family. Joestars and Zeppelis, right?"

Gyro only looks down at Johnny fondly, his head tilted to the side, hair falling over his cheek. He smiles that odd, toothy smile of his, though an almost imperceptible knot of tension loosens from his broad shoulders, backlit by sun. "Right."

"Come on. I'll show you the house."

The 'tour' of the western half of the Joestar Estate is brief and frankly a little boring. The reconstructed hallways (financed almost entirely by the suddenly booming Speedwagon Foundation) superficially look more or less identical to the original layout of the house, but it's just different enough that it's creepy in the way that a recurring nightmare is creepy. Just a shade off, like a marionette that moves just a little too smoothly or a shadow that ought to shift one way but darts another. Like bad animation in a cheap CG film. Like they built the goddamn house back the wrong way.

Jonathan keeps a few housekeepers in employ, but with the entire staff gone for the extended holiday and Johnny's various aunts and uncles (and Jonathan's wife Erina) staying back in Japan at the Kujo house, this half of the house is effectively useless for the week. Johnny doesn't want to drag Gyro through endless dusty libraries, galleries and studies for any longer than he has to and he's glad to direct him back to the eastern side. He wheels himself over the familiar carpets slowly, taking it all in again. Even the creaking of the floorboards under his chair sounds the same.

It's all simple angles and warm togetherness here. The windows stand tall and proud down wide corridors that Jolyne used to rollerskate through, lined with framed pictures, half of them of ancestors and extended family that Johnny has never even met, and even a few modest portraits. The soft, lemony yellow winter sun filters through and bounces all around, casting everything in a glow that almost recreates the nostalgia, and the good memories.

Eventually Johnny and Gyro find the two house dogs sleeping in a patch of sun in an oriel window, and spend more care than absolutely necessary in sneaking around them. Danny's so old that he's going blind and a little deaf, and Johnny, frankly, loves him far too much to wake him up in the middle of what looks like a good snooze. Iggy, adopted from Egypt, barely older than a puppy but somehow still the moodiest and most antisocial dog that Johnny has ever met, is curled up between his legs as if he's standing guard, and as Gyro tiptoes around them, he opens one eye to stare at the passing intruders until they're a good enough distance away, and then goes right back to sleep.

Really, the dogs encapsulate what the house really means. The age-old, looked after and cared for by the new, existing in a strange and unbalanced equilibrium. Even the photos in their brass frames speak of the past and the present in a harmonizing clash. Most of Johnny's childhood pictures are stiff and postured studio shots, hay-gold yellow hair gelled back, and after that are editorial portraits from the track. It ought to make him feel uncomfortable about it all, but as Johnny rolls right up to a glossy shot from just before his accident, he realizes with a start that his father or any other person almost certainly didn't put it up. Jonathan must have done it himself.

These portraits have been curated by Jonathan. Of course. No one else would keep the pictures of Nicholas up there too, not out of stubbornness but out of love, and sorrow, and perhaps acceptance.

Here, time is not a straight line, but something a little more like a hazy midday dream, like memories drifting side-by-side and making up a story that spans lifetimes. In one photo, Jotaro, who was once capable of smiling, grins with three front teeth missing at a bowl of fish won at a festival. Right beside it, he's sixteen and standing beside Aunt Holly in front of their house, hands in his pockets. In another, Joseph and his friend Smokey look up at the Statue of Liberty, the New York sun burning in the sky between them. Jolyne, four, cries over a dropped ice cream cone. Nicholas, ten, wins an award for perfect attendance. Johnny, two, runs a plastic race car over the porch in nothing but his diaper.

Maybe that's what's going to happen this week. Maybe Johnny's just going to spend the next eight days in a state of constant reminder, 'then' blurring into the edges of 'now'. Maybe that's just what being a Jojo is like, constantly burdened by what has happened before, the only option being to forge on ahead. Maybe he ought to be more embarrassed about the whole affair, but Johnny can't muster up a feeling that isn't just a deep, easy quiet. It's hard to truly be rude about it all. It's a great house.

"I hate this stupid house," Johnny gripes anyway, as Gyro whistles low at a black-and-white picture of Joseph's mother in a backless gown. "Y'know, whoever came up with the idea that country houses need stairs was an ableist douchebag. I'll show you the second floor before dinner, but fuck me if it won't be annoying climbing up and down that thing all day."

"We should install a stairlift, but mostly because I want know what it's like to ride one," someone says from the other end of the hall.

It's Josuke Higashikata (the other one), who is somehow inexplicably covered in dirt from the elbows down, completely barefoot, his cap askew as he closes the mesh double doors to the veranda and back garden with one hand and shakes loose clumps of soil from a bundle of carrots in the other. Who digs around a back garden for carrots on the last day of December?

Well, he's always been a little odd.

"Hey, Gappy."

"Hi, Johnny," Josuke answers. "What is it?"

At first, Johnny doesn't know what he's going on about until he sees that he's not speaking to him, but to Gyro, staring pointedly at him, gaze inscrutable. At his side, Gyro points down at where something is crawling just under the hem of Josuke's trousers. "I was about to introduce myself properly, but you have a snail on your foot."

Josuke looks down and appears to regard the snail thoughtfully, muttering, "Cornu aspersum," before he crouches down and gently plucks it off of his foot by the shell. He swivels on a heel, opens the mesh door, puts the snail down just to the side of the pavement, and shuts it again, rising as if nothing happened. After a long moment, he nods his head, like he's approving of something only he was looking for. "You're probably an okay guy."

"I try," says Gyro, grinning. "You're probably an okay guy too. I'm Gyro. Can I hang around here?"

"Yeah."

"Cool. What's with the carrots?"

"I'm going to help Jonathan with dinner," says Josuke simply, knocking off most of the fresh earth and gesturing towards the kitchen. "Come and see." The entire conversation, much smoother than Johnny could have anticipated, makes about zero sense to him and he suspects that perhaps Gyro is more in tune with Gappy's wavelength than he is. Josuke leads the intrepid explorers down the wide corridor, lined with bright, tall windows that let in the cold, lemony winter light in sparks and beams that gently tread across the floor in Johnny's stead.

The kitchen is open and clean, more comfortable than modern- Johnny has always thought that it fits Jonathan's personality to a tee. Sometimes he idly remembers being young here, stealing apples from the counter and arguing with Nicholas over who gets to kill the last of the cereal in the mornings when racing was a dream, not his everyday. Being here in the flesh makes it all less of a meandering nostalgic daydream and more like something rude and unwelcome that suddenly appears in the mail, like an eviction notice (not that Johnny's ever had one of those) or jury duty (not that Johnny's ever actually gone). Life wasn't exactly better then, but it was good, just like how life nowadays is good, and the fresh wave of memory doesn't bite and sting like he expected it to. It's more like how Johnny sometimes wakes up with the vertebrae just above his ass throbbing for no apparent reason. It's just something he deals with, now.

The beginnings of dinner are spread out over the counter like a little root vegetable war zone. There's a package of long noodles for toshikoshi soba sitting just beside an enormous chicken pie, a cultural stalemate of sorts, as the other foodstuff soldiers look on in horror. Most of it's Japanese, some of it's Kentucky soul food, and the whole thing is finished off with what looks to be Will Zeppeli's customary gifts of pasta and pastries straight from Naples. Half in a wordless salute to Nicholas's spirit and half so he can escape from Gyro and Gappy's chatting about shit that makes no sense, Johnny uses a particularly long carrot to knock an apple off of the counter and eats about a good clean third of it in one bite.

Josuke sticks both arms entirely under the sink and scrubs away at the grime, and when they're suitably clean (revealing that one of his arms has a light dusting of freckles and the other does not), he raises his leg like a wonky flamingo and washes his feet under the tap, one at a time.

Fucking weirdo. Johnny can't help the fierce rush of fondness he suddenly feels for him.

"How's, you know, life been?"

"I still don't remember much, if that's what you're asking," says Josuke matter-of-factly, like he's commenting on the weather, "but I just registered for school in Morioh and everybody's being really nice to me and Yasuho and I are going to Tokyo to watch her baseball team play at the Dome in February. I hope she has fun."

Gyro curbs his reaction, but Johnny sees his eyebrows shoot up as he fishes the paper out of his pocket to make another check mark. Johnny waves his arms to get Gyro's attention, makes a motion as if to say, 'Later,' and finishes the apple with as much ostentatiousness and noise as he can, down to the core. He tries to lob it into the waste disposal on the other side of the kitchen, misses, curses and mutters his thanks when Gyro picks it up and throws it away for him.

"Don't even worry about it, Gaps. Nothing hotter to a girl than sports."

"Oh. Really? I thought it was being a handsome movie star."

"Eh, that too, but sports are hot universally. Maybe take her out for racing, too."

"Sure. You doing okay?"

"Psh. Me? I'm obviously doing way better."

"Did you hear about the new cousin?"

"Giorno Giovanna?"

Beside him, Gyro makes a keening noise in the back of his throat. Johnny glares up at him.

Gappy pays the both of them no mind and dunks an armful of backyard, Joestar-grown produce under the sink. "Yeah, the Mafia guy. I'm really excited to meet him today. It'll be cool having another new Jojo around."

"Speaking of Jojos. Where's-"

"You're back."

Gyro freezes beside him, and Johnny can just make out the low, muttered "¿¡Che cavolo!?" he spits under his breath.

Backlit by the light of the now open refrigerator, Jotaro Kujo spares Johnny and Gyro but a single, highly disinterested glance before turns he starts rooting around inside for god-knows-what.

Unlike Jolyne, sporting a fashionable top that looks about four sizes too small for her and Josuke, who is drowning in the kind of jeans that would have been fashionable in the nineties, for some inexplicable reason, Jotaro is still wearing some sort of formal Japanese uniform instead of the kind of clothes one might reasonably expect for a casual family gathering. It isn't the same high school uniform he wore nearly daily for the past few years, but damn if it isn't close. He gets bigger and bigger every year, and damn if his recent trip to Egypt hasn't left him with a bit of a tan, but somehow Jotaro just behaves like the same old Jotaro as always.

"Hey, Taro. Pass me some pop if there is any."

Silently, Jotaro neatly tosses him two cans of Bepsi over his shoulder. His aim is far better than Johnny's and if that weren't annoying enough, he takes a can out for himself, pops the tab, closes the fridge door and walks out of the kitchen without another word.

Johnny only rolls his eyes as Gyro balks.

"That hulk is not related to you. He cannot be of your blood."

"He's my father's sister's son, and Jolyne's older brother," Johnny clarifies, passing the extra can to Gyro. "We don't look anything alike, though. 'Legacy of the Joestar blood', my ass."

"He is younger than you, and by a whole year, " Gyro hisses, looking both horrified and highly, highly entertained for a moment. "Merda, porca Madonna, that fucking enormous man isn't twenty yet…"

"He's actually only about an inch or two taller than you, man! He only looks that big because he's… well… Really fucking ripped. And y'know, Joseph's about the same."

"I think most of us are tall," says Gappy suddenly. "Except you. You're probably shorter than Jolyne."

"Okay, I was about to say that Taro was being a rude little shit just now, but you too?" snaps Johnny, who ends up having to slap away a torrent of shredded cabbage leaves being pelted at his head by his gleeful cousin and suddenly traitorous personal-trainer-slash-physical-therapist-slash-ex-competitor-slash-boyfriend-slash-best-friend.

It only stops when Gyro blinks and says, "Ah, but that one- Jotaro- wasn't being rude."

Johnny stops trying to run over Gappy's toes. "The fuck do you mean? He completely ignored you just now."

It's Gappy who points out, "He tossed you two cans," as Gyro wiggles his prize in front of Johnny's face.

"This one was for me. I'm going to take it as a welcome offering. I'm used to one Jojo being ten times that offensive and bratty everyday, so how could I hold a grudge?"

Johnny takes a whole head of cabbage off of the counter and does't bother to start shredding it, neatly pelting the entire thing at Gyro's head and feeling very gratified indeed when it hits the mark with a satisfying THWACK.

Leave it to Joe Kid Joestar to have the worst luck in the world, and the worst timing, and probably less of a knack for preplanning than the average human being.

Johnny and Gyro come full circle from the grand tour back to the den just as everyone's gathered back, Caesar chatting amiably with Jonathan about who-knows-what and Josuke toeing a cardboard box under a sofa.

"We've put your things upstairs," says Jonathan kindly when he spots them, waving them over. "You can go ahead and settle in right now. I'm afraid there's not much to do today but stick around until the... guests arrive from Naples later this evening."

Caesar does what would be a double-take if he weren't always so dedicated to being smooth. "You have something in your hair. Is that… cabbage?"

With some colorful cursing, Gyro shakes the remaining bits of leaf from his head and starts hissing something containing the words 'Mafia', 'debt', and 'afraid for my life' to Jonathan. Johnny's about to snap something mildly comforting when his eyes drift all the way from the very first step to the top of the second floor.

Ah. Stairs.

Fucking stairs.

More than anything, Johnny wishes he could just snap at everybody to turn away and ignore him, but that's the cowardly thing to do. And he's done with that.

"Gyro, could you go ahead? I'll catch up. My room's the third to the left."

The chattering dies down, and Gyro knows exactly what's going on. He gives him a thumbs-up and promptly salutes to Jonathan and Caesar, coolly withdrawing, treading heel-toe upstairs with swaying hips and an expression that betrays nothing.

All of a sudden, Johnny is acutely, keenly aware of the many sets of eyes on his back, and of the sudden jolt across the room at the realization that Johnny's going to climb. Up the stairs. On his own. For the first time, in front of everybody that cares to look.

He grits his teeth and lifts himself bodily off of his chair before he can change his mind, ass firmly on top of the third step up, and pushes his chair away to give himself something to look at without having to glare holes into the far wall. He grabs the hems of his jeans and curls his feet just under his thighs, takes a deep breath, and hauls himself backwards and up two steps in quick succession.

It's Jonathan that first approaches. To Johnny's intense relief he doesn't touch him, but he leans against the banister, brow furrowing with an emotion Johnny doesn't care to guess, shaking his head.

"Johnny, I know what you're going to say, but I would like to offer my help anyway."

"Yeah. Thanks, but no thanks. I can get up a flight of fuckin'- a flight of stairs on my own."

He doesn't mean it to sound so bitter, but it comes out a thousand times more tetchy and defensive than probably necessary and he would wince at the sound of his own voice if he weren't so concentrated on showing absolutely no emotion on his face at all. It's a genuine hassle to do this, the effort of dragging all of his own body weight up quickening his breath and drawing his face into a pinkish glow, but he continues, single-mindedly.

That's probably what it means to be the Johnny Joestar of right now. Seeing the task and going for it, abandoning all else, even ego.

Every few steps, he stops to pull his legs up by the ankles, ignoring the way Jonathan still hovers with one hand on the banister, undoubtedly trying to respect his space but also unable to tear himself away until he's sure Johnny will be all right. Johnny doesn't look up for anybody else's reaction. He doesn't want to know.

Johnny isn't really sure what he expected in the first place until Jolyne and Josuke appear at the bottom step, Jolyne brandishing her cell phone and showing Johnny a timer app. She presses the start button and a counter starts ticking obnoxiously.

"A-a-a-a-a-and…Go!"

"Go fuck yourself, Lyna!" Johnny nearly screams, half out of actual shock, half out of sheer habit, and another fucking half out of an intense gratitude that suddenly wells up inside him from out of goddamn nowhere. "Let's see you climb up all the way upstairs using only your arms!"

True to form, Jolyne sticks her tongue out at him like a fully-grown seventeen-year-old toddler. "I'd do it a lot faster than you, Chopstick-arms!"

"When I get back down, you're dead."

"Gotta get all the way up to come down again! Within this century!" teases Jokuke, propping his chin up on an arm. "I need to go get some games and stuff out of my room, man! If you don't hurry up I'm going to carry you up myself!"

"Touch me and I'll rip every little hair off your goddamn head," Johnny grumbles into where his hood rucks up around his neck, grateful for the cover. He's getting redder now, he can tell- from exertion, and from a creeping thankfulness for his younger cousins and their complete and total refusal to treat him any differently than before. He appreciates Jonathan's concern, but fuck, he's disabled, not comatose.

He hefts himself up, allows himself to rest for a few quick breaths with the remaining steps digging into his back, and carries on.

Josuke's heckling doesn't let up for a second. "Man, how long have I been here? I can feel myself growing a beard!"

"Go fall off a horse, shit-for-brains."

"Yeah, you would think of horses, country hick!"

"You're half-white yourself, you goddamn hypocrite-"

And just like that, as Jonathan leans against the railings with one hand over his eyes, shoulders shaking in silent laughter, Johnny's at the top, the back of his head hitting Gyro's legs where he greets Johnny with a smile.

Before he can say anything, Gyro reaches down and scoops him up in his arms, like a bride, like a prize, like a treasure. At this point, Johnny doesn't complain anymore. He calls down, "Stairs are free, assholes!" and Josuke gets up theatrically, dusting his ass off and pretending to stretch. Oddly, Jolyne forgets to stop the timer and call it out, staring up after Johnny where he's winding his arms around Gyro's neck.

Jonathan follows Josuke up, shaking his head.

"Little boys, all of you."

Both the master suite and Josuke's bedroom are further down than Johnny's, and he's intensely grateful for it. He doesn't want to be seen by anyone when he passes Nick's door. He doesn't know how he'll react.

Fear's gripping him like a vice around his neck, but Gyro's gripping him too, and the latter ought to be enough to cancel out the former, at least by a little bit.

It's there, closed, like a monolith, with the same single brass pushpin holding up a little keychain from Disney World that says 'NICKY' in proud but faded silver foil. Johnny figured that Jonathan wouldn't take it down, but it hurts to look at it anyway. The things inside have been carefully organized, packed and stowed away, but the furniture inside remains. It's just an empty room now.

Just an empty room. But it still hurts remembering that the keychain would tinkle every time Nicholas open and shut that door.

When Gyro carries him past the door, Johnny buries his face in Gyro's hair, holding his breath.

Gyro neatly sidesteps the luggage cases and sets him down onto his old bed, softly.

"Are you crying?"

"No."

"Don't cry."

"I'm not fucking crying!"

But it's a near thing. Embarrassingly so.

Gyro backs up. Slowly. Just slow enough that Johnny doesn't notice until it's too late.

"Just like I remember it. They didn't change a thing. Look, my old Senna poster is still-"

"AYAYAYAYA!"

With a good bit of a wind-up Gyro leaps over the floor and lands belly-first right on top of the bed. Johnny is nearly tossed into the air from the resulting momentum, Gyro bouncing slightly until he settles right into the thick quilt, hair splayed in a halo of dirty blonde. He looks a bit ridiculous, face down and ass up and just lying there with the mattress still quivering, and Johnny snorts.

"You aren't fucking six, Gyro."

"But that was very, very satisfying." Gyro giggles into the blanket, takes a very deep breath, then whines. "Aw. This blanket smells like mothballs."

"What'd you expect it to smell like, roses?"

"Like you."

Johnny tries very, very hard to ignore the sentiment, but his hand reaches for Gyro's face almost of its own accord and he brushes the hair back from his handsome, tanned-olive face. It's a fucking tender gesture and it should feel creepy, doing this on his old bed, but it doesn't.

"I haven't been back here in… well. Since then. It wouldn't still smell like me."

Gyro holds his hand before he can take it away and nuzzles against it, unshaven stubble itching against the edges of his arm warmers.

God fucking dammit, what's with today, and all these tears from Buttfuck, Nowhere? To hide his face, Johnny lays down beside Gyro, watching the dust filter into the sunbeams suspended in the air, and idly imagines tiny Hot Wheels cars running up and down the highways of light floating above their heads, like he did in his youth.

"What do you think so far?"

"Of what? Your home? Your family? You?"

Johnny gives Gyro a severe look. "I already know what you think of me."

"Ah, but you'll never know how much," Gyro teases, waggling his eyebrows.

"No, I'm pretty sure I do."

"No, you don't."

"Nah."

"Bite me."

"Now? Not with Senna watching," Johnny says, dryly, raising a hand to swirl the dust around in the beams of light, making them dance and spin in glowing ripples.

"Be a little kinky, Johnny," Gyro hisses delightedly, stretching out on the bed languidly like a cat. "Disappoint the image and spirit of your childhood hero with me."

"Stop avoiding the question."

Gyro laughs, "I love this house and your family already, gattino," and then pauses. "But, question. About your cousin Josuke. I mean the other one."

Ah.

Johnny rolls to his side and props his head up on an arm. "Okay, like. Don't. Don't tell anyone, okay?"

"… Promise."

Johnny sucks in his lower lip before leaning back and admitting, a little crossly, "He's… got amnesia. I actually don't know how Gappy's related to us. It's like, almost all my life I thought I knew how the Japanese side of our family worked, and then all of a sudden there was another Josuke and I kind of just went along with it."

Gyro frowns. "Do you… ever talk about it?"

"With Gaps? Sometimes. He's cool. With anybody else? No. We… don't talk about a lot of things."

"I see. But, you know, Johnny, you all seemed so close."

Johnny lies back down and breathes out, long and quiet. "Yeah. I know."

It's something that weighs on him, like stones sewn into the open wounds of his gut that don't ever really close, but keep bleeding from loose stitches that pull and rip with every breath he takes. He ought to trust his family, and yet he can't imagine ever bringing his baggage into this house and weighing everyone else down with his petty troubles. He doesn't want to talk about anything. They barely talked about Nick, after he died. How could he tell them about the Steel Ball Run? Especially when they won't tell him anything, either?

But he will talk to them about Gyro. Eventually. He knows that. He owes it to him, and them, and to himself.

Lying side-by-side next to Gyro, on his childhood bed and staring up at Senna, who smiles cheekily down at the men in front of a line of Honda V10s, feels a little surreal.

But not a bad surreal. Like a comfortable surreal.

About the same as lying beside him in their apartment bed in New York, or Gyro's home in Naples, and much better than collapsing in each others' arms in some dirty hostel after a long day of driving.

Johnny shifts a little on the bed, shimmying and edging himself closer until he can stretch his arm out and under Gyro's head, pillowing it. He's rewarded with a snort and a kiss into the side of his neck as Gyro rolls over and huddles close, throwing an arm over his chest and burying his face into the bit of hair that escapes from under his beanie. He contemplates leaning down and kissing him properly, but remembers that his family is just one door away and groans internally.

"Shit. What are we gonna do for eight days?"

Curled beside him, Gyro laughs his peculiar rolling laugh, affectionately.

"Kill time, wait for the Mafioso, and then hopefully spend the first week of the new year doing absolutely nothing."

Johnny takes a lock of Gyro's hair and winds it around his finger. In moments like these, he wishes he could still smile. "Just nothing?"

At this, Gyro's hand brushes at his sides, the pressure of his arms sliding over the skin of his ribcage where his shirt rucks up warm and soothing. In a low, devious voice, Gyro laughs and presses his words into Johnny's neck, the sound rumbling in his chest, "And fucking. Lots of fucking. In your childhood bed."

"…Gyro, I can't fuck you with Senna watching."

"Then take him down, asshole!"

"I can't take Senna down!"

The sudden voice carries all the way upstairs, much louder than the honking horn blaring from the garage just moments before.

"I SEE THAT CRAPPY ITALIAN CAR OUT THERE ON MY SPOT! THE HELL IS CAESAR!?"

Johnny can feel his eyes almost roll themselves of their own accord out of sheer habit. Gyro momentarily looks absolutely delighted, shooting him a hopeful look.

"Yeah, that's Joseph all right."

Say what you like about Joseph Joestar, but the guy knows how to make an entrance.

By the time Johnny makes it all the way back downstairs, shimmying back into his chair with Gyro in tow, one pompadour has been teased, one braid has been tugged, one tooth gap has been mocked, and presumably, one dolphin badge has been poked and one gentleman's honor has been tried very, very hard. In the wake of this trail of destruction and mayhem, Johnny tracks the path of affronted cousins like an experienced bushman hunter to the mostly unused secondary library adjacent to the equally bare breakfast room, where Caesar looks like he's either in a very tight and violent hug, or a chokehold.

"Sepp, let him go. He's turning blue."

Joseph grins down at Johnny without missing a beat, showing no sign of any intent to loosen his grip around Caesar's neck even as his shoulders are pounded, "Lil' Johnny-boy! Alright, mate?"

"If you kill your personal trainer, I ain't helping you hide the body. You willing to murder him in cold blood in front of his cousin?" says Johnny dryly, jabbing his thumb up at Gyro, who seems oddly less concerned for Caesar's health and safety than he ought to be and is actually grinning like he's watching his favorite show. Creep.

Joseph finally lets Caesar free when he notices the newcomer. The would-be-victim storms off in a huff, muttering darkly to himself as he flees, and the attacker crosses his arms over his massive chest and cocks an eyebrow at Gyro, looking him up and down, disheveled, flyaway hair flopping over his eyes.

"You know, you totally look nothing like Caesar, but I'd know a Zeppeli slimeball anywhere. You're Gyro, right?" In typical Joseph fashion, he fixes him with a cheesy, shit-eating grin and extends a hand outward, fingers wiggling before Gyro can even respond. "Yo, wassup? Happy, joy-ppy, nice-ta-meetcha-ppy!"

Gyro's response is immediate and completely unsurprising, squealing back as he takes his hand and grasps it firmly, "That's a catchy phrase, you gym-bunny-looking freak. It could be a song!"

To Johnny's intense irritation and rising horror, Joseph jumps in place excitedly, odd London-New-York-Kentucky-world traveller accent muddling even further in his enthusiasm. "Whoa, hey! That's what I've always thought!"

"Something like- happy, joy-ppy, nice-ta-meetcha-ppy! Happy, joy-ppy, nice-ta-meetcha-ppy!" sings Gyro, snapping and occasionally stomping a catchy beat, and Johnny waits exactly ten seconds until Joseph finds the melody and starts singing along to wheel right under their joined hands to take a leaf out of the sane Zeppeli's book and escape to the main den.

Joseph calls after him, "Is it to late to switch Zeppelis?" and Caesar's hand pokes out from around the corner to throw him a finger.

The hovering midday sun oozes blood-orange jelly light through the thick curtains and casts the Joestar parlor in a brilliant jewel wash, draping over the cousins that lounge aimlessly on the sofas, passing around chips and squabbling over the television. Johnny pulls up next to where Jolyne is furiously tapping out text after text, occasionally snapping up pictures of the various Joestars wandering about and sending them to who-knows-who.

Gyro and Joseph only return from their immediate and frankly deeply disturbing bro-out when they hear the Wii booting up, and soon everyone is screaming so loudly that Jonathan has to come back downstairs to check that nobody is dying.

There's Joestar traditions, like posing for a fancy photo at the end of every school year, and fancy dinners with Speedwagon a few times a year, and fancy formal announcements for every fancy formal occasion. Then there's Jojo traditions, like roaring themselves hoarse over Mario Kart.

Johnny would snap at them to shut up, but the deafening roar only reminds him of the track, and he easily wins game after brutal game with relish. Josuke is the most adept at the controls, and possibly a video game master in his own right, but very easily distracted with taunts and jabs. Joseph is clumsy with the controls and often goes down the wrong track, but he also uses every single item to his advantage, which only brings him ruin when he is bodily tackled by Jolyne for breaking out blue shells at exactly the most infuriating time. Caesar is a consistent second or third place, and while Jolyne may be a monstrously competitive player and somehow creepily akin to her older brother Jotaro as her vengeance mounts with every game, Johnny was an actual genuine professional racer in real life and he doesn't lose a single round.

The generating noise is enough to call Gappy out from the kitchen to watch the mayhem interestedly. "Give me a fucking break!" screams Jolyne as Josuke careens past her to steal third place once again, and Gyro snickers as he sneakily makes another check mark on his Jojo-Spotting cheat-sheet.

Funnily enough, when he takes the controls, Gyro's talent inside an actual rally car doesn't translate to the screen, and he consistently scores in dead last.

"This game is rigged," he mutters darkly, eventually borrowing one of Jolyne's elastic hair ties to sweep his hair back into a ponytail and hunkering down onto the controls like his life depends on it. After the sixth or seventh round, Johnny bows out. It's infinitely more fun to watch from the sidelines and occasionally heckle rudely while demolishing can after can of knockoff Bepsi than to actually play a game he can't lose. He heaves himself off of his wheelchair to give his spine a break and only gripes a little bit when Jolyne yanks his legs up on top of her lap to use as makeshift arm rests. With the pro racer out of the picture, the playing field is a lot more even and suddenly the game is more like a battle.

Especially when chores are on the line.

"Loser who ranks the least amount of times has to go out for more snacks!" yells Joseph when the collective Jojos eventually run out of chips. "I went alone last time and it was boring as shit. I hate goddamn Kentucky."

"I hate goddamn you," snarls Jolyne, and hunches over Johnny's legs to make a sharp turn. "Ora-ora-ora-ora-ora-ora-ora!"

At this point, Josuke's English dissolves entirely and he reverts to Japanese phrases that probably translate to something very, very rude.

Caesar's game doesn't last and he eventually bows out after a quick succession of losses by Josuke's practiced proficiency, Jolyne's temper-driven quickening reflexes, and Joseph's dirty, dirty cheating. The games end on an intense high. From out of nowhere, Gappy takes Gyro's controller and, without any evidence for having ever played a single game of Mario Kart, comes in first place, winning one out of one. The TV's nearly smoking in the aftermath.

"Never fucking mind about making a good impression, I hate all you assholes," grins Gyro, standing up and cracking his shoulders. "Somebody come with me and tell me how to get to the convenience store. I don't know the area."

Because literally nobody else can be trusted to keep Gyro on-track, Johnny's about to lift himself off of the sofa when Jolyne presses him back down with messily lacquered talons. It's Josuke The Other who ends up standing up with a raised hand. "I'll take you."

Caesar fans himself under his shirt and sighs, "Wait, Gappy, you won that last one. You don't have to go."

"Oh. But I want to."

"Wait, you're sending the guest out for errands? Y'all are such absolute shits," Johnny sighs, leaning back even as he eyes Jolyne suspiciously. "And I approve. I want barbecue chips, okay?"

Gyro smiles down at him sweetly, but sings in farewell as he fetches Caesar's keys, "And you can go fuck yourself, my little gattino."

"Don't get lost on the way over," says Johnny loftily, but he keeps an eye on Gyro's back as he and Gappy exit with a wave.

And then it's quiet again.

It's only when she's sure that Gyro and The-Other-Josuke are gone that Jolyne peers down at Johnny and says frankly, "He's cute."

"Oh. Yeah?"

No response. Everyone's starting to cool off from the sudden activity, lounging like a house full of cats in the lowering sun, and no one is willing to move from their comfortable positions on and against the circle of couches. Johnny considers getting off of Jolyne's legs and back into his chair, but it's just too relaxing, lying there, staring up at the dust floating in the beams of light filtering through the curtains. He almost loses the train of thought when Jolyne adds, "And he seems like a great guy. Kind of a weirdo, but hey, we're all weirdos."

"… Yeah?"

"I dunno," says Jolyne, shrugging, her Florida-burnt shoulders rolling under her fashionable cropped top. She doesn't really look him in the eye and if that weren't suspicious enough, she says flippantly, almost too quiet to hear, "All I'm saying is that you did good there-"

It's all a little too weird. "Wait, wait, what are you saying-" Johnny starts, starting to shakily sit up, but they're interrupted by a loud and obnoxious yawn.

"Oh, man, I'm beat," Joseph whines, leaning bodily against Caesar (who grumbles but doesn't shove him off). "Whose bright idea was it to waste our precious daytime energy on games?"

"Better than lying around doing nothing while waiting for midnight," says Josuke, checking his hair in the window's reflection. "We'd better spend the next New Years' at our place. Morioh knows how to party. Every kind of osechi you can eat, cuties in kimonos, amazake and fortune-telling for Hatsumode at the shrine. I still can't believe you don't air Kohaku Uta Gassen in America."

"I don't miss any of that," says Jolyne airily, crossing her arms, and she ignores Johnny completely even though his legs are still completely draped over her lap and he's practically glaring daggers into the back of her neatly braided head.

"Just wait 'til you kinder-kiddies hit 21. Then we'll all go out and do an American New Years' the way it should be done."

Caesar says dryly from under Joseph's arm, "You mean with beer, don't you?"

"Hell yeah, with beer! And jaeger and vodka and tequi-i-i-i-i-i-i-ila!"

The captive seems to take this in stride until he sits up, pointing at each Joestar cousin in turn, obviously calculating it all in his head. "I often forgot how young you all are."

Joseph snorts at this. "Don't be fooled by their adult-like faces, Lil' Caesar-chan. The difference between me and them is that they pretend that they aren't total brats. Me, I own it." A few couch cushions are thrown at him haphazardly, and he deflects all of them with exaggerated kung-fu noises that ought to be irritating but somehow aren't, in the post-game cool down haze. Joseph takes one of the cushions and props it between his head and Caesar's, the both of them sinking into the floor lazily.

"You're the biggest brat of them all, Jojo."

"I'm so not. Once, Johnny-boy was, like, six and he stole Taro's hat and planted it under my bed just to watch him try to beat me to death."

Johnny blinks once, twice, staring up at the ceiling, where a hinged and bolted brass plate is the only reminder that back when Uncle George used to rule the roost here, a large crystal chandelier floated high above the living room like an overly fancy storm cloud. "Oh. Oh man, that was so long ago. I totally forgot about that. Man, that was funny."

"It wasn't funny."

Everyone turns. Jotaro arrives from wherever-the-hell he's been, his coat somehow still whooshing behind him even indoors, hat still firmly pulled over his brow. Is it a different hat? The same one? Honestly, it's so covered in patches and pins that Johnny can't tell.

At least he has a can of Bepsi for everyone in his pockets, like a peace offering or some sort of token or gesture, the meaning of which escapes Johnny completely. How does he even do that swooshing thing with full pockets, anyhow?

Jolyne, interestingly, nods and smiles. Jotaro nods back.

That's unusual enough to be surprising. Since when have they become close?

"It was funny as hell," Johnny says lazily, trying to grin at him, but unpracticed and rusty, his muscles turn out something more like a grimace than an actual smile. "Y'know, I wonder who would win if you two fought right now."

True to form, Josuke perks up. "Is that a bet?"

"No more bets," screeches Joseph, scrambling to hide behind the long-suffering Caesar and making sweeping shoo-ing gestures to Jotaro, who only grumbles under his breath and steals the last remaining seat on the couch. "And you, you little buttwipe, owe me big time for the last one, remember? Where's the goods, man?"

"Hey, actually. Now that you mention it, I brought them down a while ago." Josuke leans forward and pushes a cardboard box full of what look like paperback books out from under the couch with a foot. "Don't ever say I don't pay my debts. Higashikata Josuke is an honorable guy, you know. Pink Dark Boy Parts I-IV, Volumes 1-46, every single one autographed with a personalized greeting to you."

Joseph… The only way Johnny can describe the action is 'pirouettes'. The big lug leaps right over Caesar and nearly steps on Jolyne's toes to dig through the box gleefully.

"Awright! Score! You're a good kid, Josuke."

"The next bet, I'm going to win."

"Yeah, no."

"I dunno why you wanted these. It's not like you couldn't have gone and bugged the guy yourself."

"What, when you literally live right there? No fucking way, not when I can call in my favor."

"Why are you reading the ones at the bottom, anyway? Isn't that a spoiler?"

Joseph waves away Josuke's words like he's swatting flies, engrossed in the book. "Even if I can't read the dialogue, at least I get to check to see if he figures out who the traitor is yet! Pink Dark Boy ain't ever gonna be translated into English, right? Well, the online fan translators are slow as shit so America's always, like, ten volumes behind."

"Oh, wait, I know about that," says Josuke. "My friend Okuyasu told me that the most famous translation is by this one Chinese group that fucks up so bad it's funny."

"You're so fucked-up, it's funny."

"Tell that to my face when I'm beating your ass on Rainbow Road!"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. I'mma go put these up in my room so nobody touches 'em." Joseph swiftly turns around, over-long scarf dragging behind him, and hefts his box of winnings upstairs under one arm, still reading.

And then it clicks. Johnny frowns, turning to Josuke. "Hey, wait. Pink Dark Boy? Even I know Pink Dark Boy. That guy's famous as hell. Not that I care, but how'd you get those?"

Jotaro goes very still, can of Bepsi balanced on one knee, but Josuke only cocks his head to the side and grumbles, "That's Kishibe Rohan. He lives in my hometown. I guess me and him and my friends got into some shit together a while ago and… now we're not exactly friends, but we aren't enemies, either. He really likes my friend Koichi but I think he'd seriously kill me if he thought he'd get away with it, so I have to beat his ass if I need anything out of him or whatever."

The whole room stares at him. It's Jolyne who finally furrows her brows at him and demands, "What the hell have you been doing this year?"

Interestingly, Josuke immediately blooms into a fascinating shade of red as he averts his eyes and throws his arms across the back of the old couch. His feet shuffle under the hems of his over-large jeans.

"Uh. Uh. Just… y'know. Hanging out with my school friends! Normal hanging out! Right, Jotaro?"

He receives little more than a grunt in response and Josuke just shrugs, his shoulders about twice as big as Johnny last remembered. The whole thing would be suspiciously casual if not for the sheen of nervous sweat that starts to glisten over the bridge over his nose, making it all just plain suspicious.

Johnny narrows his eyes. "What kind of 'normal hanging out' involves bothering a famous comic artist?"

"And hey," Jolyne sudden straightens up, snapping her fingers. "Wasn't there, like, this weird thing going on in Morioh about some freaky serial killer or something? I saw it on the news-"

"I don't know anything about that!" screams Josuke suddenly, who then laughs nervously and coughs. It convinces nobody, but something in the way that Jotaro's hands tighten around his can of pop tells everyone that it isn't going to be a discussion for today. Josuke pulls at the collar of his thin, worn Dragon Ball Z tee-shirt and stutters, "So, um, the mangaka. I practically had to break into his house to get him to sign those."

Jolyne fixes Josuke with a steely look. "What, like you can't just, oh, I dunno. Ask?"

"It's useless trying to have a normal talk with that guy!" says Josuke emphatically, slamming a fist down, his normally rather light Japanese accent thickening in frustration. "Every time I see him, either he tries to beat me up or I end up beating him up!"

Joseph's nose is still buried deep into the latest volume as he jumps down the stairs, but he peeks over the cover and cocks an eyebrow at Josuke. "Wait. For serious? Mr. Kishibe doesn't seem like he'd be a violent guy. Especially the kind of guy that wastes his time beating up random high school kids."

"Don't let the manga fool you. He's really just an arrogant asshole."

"Josuke."

Nobody jumps at Jotaro's sudden words, but it's a very near thing.

He fixes Josuke with a look. It's not Jonathan's kingly Look, but it's just as firm and twice as steely.

Once, in the quiet dark just before sleep, Gyro whispered into Johnny's neck that he sometimes had a black fire burning in his eyes, like death, like nothingness and rage and starlight, and that it scared him and awed him at the same time. Johnny doesn't really believe it, but it seems more true when he sees something blinking in Jotaro's gaze, something like a thousand never-ending punches right into one's soul.

Jotaro says, sternly, pinning Josuke's broadening shoulders down with that look, "He's your friend. Speak of him like you would Okuyasu."

At that, Josuke sputters, sucks on his lower lip, and glares daggers, reddening again. Johnny could swear that his hair bristles even through the buckets of product. "I wouldn't say he's my friend. But we went through a lot of trouble together back in Morioh and… maybe he isn't as bad as I say he is."

"'Trouble' this, 'some shit' that," Jolyne says suddenly and sourly. "What, so you can't tell us what you've been playing hooky for?"

"It's not like you're going to tell us whatever you were doing out in Florida, Jolyne," retorts Josuke, crossing his arms and then un-crossing them, as if he realizes how childish it must look. "And Taro, didn't you and Joseph go to Egypt last year? Why don't any of us know about what happened there?"

Silence, from both accused parties.

Josuke isn't done. He whips his head around, a curl loosening from his pompadour in his indignation, and gives Johnny a dirty look. "And nobody's seen you around here since the Steel Ball Run. Why is this seriously the first time all of us have been back here at the same time since… I dunno. Forever?"

That hurts.

A lot.

Suddenly Johnny's mouth is dry and he can't look Josuke in the eye- or anyone else. A lifetime ago he would have spat some horrible things, lashed out in anger and stormed off, but in this moment even if he could just stand up and leave he wouldn't, too pinned-down by the sudden shame. It isn't as if he was ever running, especially from his own family, but…

His father. The fire. Nick's death. The accident. Meeting Gyro. The race. Almost losing Gyro. Losing the race, but winning his love. New York. Italy.

Through it all, Johnny was always too preoccupied with himself, too self-pitying and arrogant and alone to put aside his pride and open up to anyone, not even the people he trusts despite everything, the people who may have needed him when he needed them in turn.

It's shaming and it hurts.

If being a Jojo is going to be like this, stars only visible when it's darkest, Johnny doesn't know if he likes it very much.

Jolyne's obviously biting back something stinging, but Jotaro gets up and puts a hand on her shoulder. She seems to search him for something, and then breathes out, like she's comforted, somehow. How does she understand what Jotaro's trying to convey? His expression never changes. It's just scowls dialed up or down in intensity depending on the situation. Once in a while it becomes apparent that Jotaro genuinely thinks he's emoting and that any miscommunication or misunderstanding is the fault of other people- like Vulcans- and that would be uproariously funny if it weren't such a genuine problem.

It's the loudmouth that says it in Jolyne's stead- "We should be able to talk to each other about shit. So why can't we?"

"Stop being such a goddamned hypocrite, Joseph. You're the worst of all of us," Josuke says, though he's lost his energy by now. He sinks back into his couch, unable to keep up the anger. He's always been a respectful kid, deep down.

Everyone knows what he means, though.

For a chilling moment, some time ago, everyone had been sure that both Joseph and Caesar were dead, and nobody knows why.

Probably subconsciously, Caesar shifts a little so that he and Joseph are pressed side-by-side again.

It's clear that everyone wants to leave, but nobody is willing to get up first.

In the mother of all badly timed entrances, this is when Gyro and Gappy return with a pallet of soda pop and two large grocery bags full of cheap snacks.

Gyro is silent, but Gappy cocks his head to the side and says bluntly, "It got really quiet here."

"Nah," Johnny mutters bitterly. "We're just peachy-keen."

Jonathan finds Johnny in the gallery hall, watching the sun draw slowly down like liquid honey, Danny dozing in his lap and Iggy gnawing on a piece of coffee-scented rawhide in Gyro's, eying his wheelchair like it's a contraption of torture. He reaches down and scratches each of them behind the ear, and Danny snuffles, possibly dreaming of younger days.

"Hey, you two. Mr. Zeppeli just called me. They've just hit Polestar, and Giorno Giovanna's going to arrive very soon."

Gyro makes a face and Johnny says shortly, "And?"

"And… I was hoping you two would come greet him with me. Especially you, Johnny. You're calmer than everybody else. Er… mostly. We have to keep the others in check somehow."

"Mr. Joes- I mean, Jonathan, I know you have a rule against underage drinking in this house, but I am twenty-four and I think I'll need about seven beers after meeting the Don of Naples," Gyro mutters, gently putting Iggy down beside Danny back onto the windowsill.

At the front of the house, a real-life reenactment of the root vegetable stalemate is underway, petulantly loitering cousins held unwillingly prisoner for fear of leaving Jonathan alone in this endeavor. They lurk about awkwardly in the foyer antechamber, never exchanging more than a few stilted words at a time. Jolyne snaps her gum furiously, but the silence is thick like plasma, like a purple jelly that seeps the warmth out of the room like the early December sunset draining out the curtains. Jonathan sets a small tea set onto the coffee table in the parlor, readying an unlit candle under the pot, uncomfortably silent. It's more upsetting than it ought to be.

Johnny is about to go mad from the silence when Joseph leans his hip against a fancy display cabinet and whines loudly and obnoxiously, nearly breaking it from his weight, "Oh boy, the circus must be in town. Check out this big-ass elephant."

Jonathan, to his credit, doesn't drop the tea, but for a moment there, he looked like he was going to.

Only Gappy frowns and tilts his head to the side. "… Circus?" His face screws up and then lights right back up again as the other Josuke makes a scratchy, nervous sort of laugh. "Oh. 'Cause of the 'elephant in the room'."

Joseph waggles his eyebrow at him, resting his head on a hand. "Damn. You're quick."

Gappy fixes him with a Look. It's a little severe and Johnny briefly wonders if Gappy picked it up from Jotaro. "It wasn't a very funny joke. American slang is weird."

It's Josuke, of all people, that whacks both Joseph and Gappy on the arm. "Be serious, both of you. We do need to figure out what to do when You-Know-Who gets here."

"I'll tell you what we aren't gonna do," says Jolyne, spitting her gum into the trash without even wrapping it up first. Ugh. "We aren't gonna panic, we aren't gonna assume anything, and we aren't going to make it out like we think he's some bad guy. All right?"

"Yeah, 'cause we're so sure he ain't some freak with a gun here to execute our guests," Johnny says wryly, while Gyro audibly gulps next to him. "What, Jolyne, did you think we were gonna jump the guy?"

"I meant that you're all seriously socially stunted and-"

Jonathan cuts in, sounding odd, "Giorno Giovanna has come all the way from Naples just to visit our home, alone, without any security detail, as a gesture of faith. I trust you all to treat him with respect, and therefore trust you to speak with him honestly about anything. But as a favor to me, I'll ask that you all not mention the name Dio tonight."

That nips the emerging fight right in the bud.

If it's confusing being Johnny Joestar, it must be hell to be Jonathan. Dio Brando, who was once like a brother to him, still visibly weighs on his shoulders, and though the memory of the man- no, the demon- who tried to burn down their house and individually ruin each and every one of their lives in vengeance-fueled hate fills everyone with fear and revulsion, it is Jonathan who shoulders the guilt. The guilt for letting it come to this, as the head of the household of a haunted, stalked and hunted family, must be crushing.

The reality is that none of it was Jonathan's fault at all. He knew of Dio's insanity from the very beginning, and fought him at every opportunity. But that won't stop him from shouldering the burden. It's in his nature to go down in flames with what he perceives to be his own sins. It's up to the ones with darker souls to protect him, as he protects them.

"We won't," Josuke the Other promises fervently, and Jotaro, who is hanging in a dimly lit corner with the brim of his hat casting dark shadows across his face, says plainly, "You know we wouldn't."

"Thank you," Jonathan says, drawing up, back straight once more, the fires of his heart fading down to low embers, and that's when the sounds of tires crunching across gravel approaches, and twin headlights cut through the deep blue dark across the courtyard and through the windows. It's almost comically ominous.

Jonathan doesn't run, but he gets to the door in an awful hurry, and this is when Gyro's tanned olive hand comes down and braces Johnny's shoulders tightly.

"Johnny."

Gyro is not a cowardly man.

When Johnny first met him, he was cocksure, all flamboyant with lime-green lips and rolling Italian accent. At first he was a stranger, the relative of a friend of a relative, someone to follow and dissect and use and nothing more. And then he became Gyro Zeppeli, a man who drove with him all across America, and even after they were disqualified they crawled across the finish line together. And then he became Gyro, who held him in the dark, who quieted his tears, who melted into his side and never left. And beneath all of that he is Julius Zeppeli, a boy who was expected to kill a lot of people and defied fate by saving one person.

Gyro is not a cowardly man, but he is a man whose trust is not easily earned, someone who hides his fears and deep-set disenchantment with the world under a gold veneer like grills over milk teeth, who willingly left that veneer behind to face the past and the future with Johnny.

Even when he has every right to let Johnny take the reins under this roof, he is still trying to stand up proud and be the strong one between them. At a certain point, Johnny lost track of who is really following who- but tonight, he's shielding Gyro. This, he knows.

"Go ahead and hide upstairs if you really need to."

"I'm the type of guy who runs headfirst into danger, Johnny," Gyro says, gritting his teeth and running his tongue over them as if he's sorely missing his grills. "I don't need the rest of your family judging me as I duck for cover from Giorno Giovanna."

"Gyro." Johnny wants to yank him down by the roots of his hair and kiss him, but he makes do with a hand wrapped around his wrist. "I'll call you down once I make sure he's okay."

Gyro looks down at him, mouth set. "Real men don't hide. It's a tactical evasive maneuver," he insists, but he gently pulls away, hand brushing against Johnny's as he does. "This doesn't mean I forfeit Jojo-Spotting, though!"

"Whatever," Johnny mutters, but Joseph cuts in, jumping into the conversation like a thoroughly unwanted intruder.

"The hell's Jojo-Spotting?"

"Nothin'." Fuckin' limey.

Curling his lip up at him, Joseph claps Gyro across the back. "Don't sweat it about the whole Guy-Who-Owns-Naples-Might-Kill-Me thing, mate. Feel free to borrow the Joestar Family Secret Technique for just this one time only."

"And… what's that?"

Joseph bares his teeth. "To run the hell away!" he sings, pushing past everyone to try and get to the door first. Well, Johnny was a racer, after all. As Gyro hightails it out of there and up the stairs, Johnny pulls every dirty trick in the book to get to the front of the congregation beside Jonathan.

Slowly, one by one, everyone mills around the doorway- even Caesar, who's looking a little green around the edges, like he's almost willing to let his own uncle go without a family welcome.

The car parks neatly behind Caesar's Lancia, and Johnny can only think to snark, "Figures he'd drive a Lambo," before William Zeppeli exits out the driver's seat. For a moment, Johnny blindly assumes that Jonathan will side-step his chair to go and do a weird old-man hug until he nearly kicks- well, slaps himself. There's no way Jonathan would forget himself even to greet his Zeppeli. Not in front of Giorno Giovanna.

At first, it's eerily still, with Mr. Zeppeli raising his brick phone to his ear and rattling off a short and succinct message, and then he walks to the back of the car and opens the door.

A tiny little golden-haired thing steps out, and it's only after Johnny's stared into the back of the Lancia for a stupidly long time afterwards, expecting Giorno Giovanna to come out after him, that he realizes that beside him, Jonathan has gone very, very still.

"… Jonathan?"

Without taking his eyes off of the waif of a boy shutting the door behind him, Jonathan lays a warm, solid hand on Johnny's shoulder. A bit strangely, like someone's hit him upside the head with a chair, he whispers, "He's just so small."

And like that, it clicks. The tiny little golden-haired thing IS Giorno Giovanna.

He's about a mile shorter than Johnny had imagined, and a good half-ton smaller. With William Zeppeli beside him, the boy walks straight-backed up the dark driveway with his arms at his sides, expression unreadable under the yellow porch light. Backed by the darkening sunset, distant lightningbugs glimmering in the trees and flanking the Joestar estate courtyard in pinpricks like dancing stars, Giovanna is a walking, breathing Rackham illustration like in the picture books Johnny once shared with Nicholas years and years and lifetimes ago. Willowy and dark and mysterious. And unsettling. His eyes search around for who-knows-what, but fixes on Jonathan, who stands clearly at the front like a king leading an army, cautious and still like water.

The boy steps confidently onto the porch, the clean cut lines of his Italian suit sharp and pin curled locks glowing under the lamp, and bows his head towards Jonathan with one thin, pale hand curled over his narrow chest. "Good evening, Mr. Joestar. I hope you were not waiting long." His voice is clipped, high but strong, and his accent doesn't roll like Gyro's but undulates and sings.

The man of the house doesn't tense, but his breath halts a little. "Please. Call me Jonathan."

"Then I must insist that you call me Giorno," replies the boy easily, lowering his head and regarding the silent family under his lashes. "And may I extend my gratitude for your hospitality- I understand that I am intruding upon a family occasion."

Jonathan sweeps his broad arms wide and gently pushes Joseph out of the way, guiding the boy across the threshold, almost touching his thin, silken shoulders but not quite. "You would never be intruding into this house. So long as any of us are around, consider yourself welcome amongst us at any time."

Giorno Giovanna enters the home, and suddenly there are eight Jojos under one roof.

He nods and lowers his gaze demurely as each Joestar mumbles a cautious greeting to him, Joseph suspiciously and uncharacteristically silent, expensive-looking Italian leather shoes padding near-silently across the foyer. Giovanna's startlingly blue eyes peer at everything inscrutably, sweeping across everything, and glancing up more than a few times at something just beyond Jolyne's head. It creeps Johnny out like nothing else.

Is this kid seriously a Mafioso, the Boss of Passione, the Don of Naples?

Is he really family?

He doesn't even look human. He's a tiny murderer. Or a vampire. Or a marble statue. Or a gold fairy. Or somebody Johnny doesn't know. A stranger.

Oddly enough, he actually might look like somebody Johnny knows, but he can't put his finger on who.

Even more disconcertingly, William Zeppeli looks tired as he crosses the threshold and embraces Jonathan. Johnny doesn't remember the last time he's seen the old family friend so worn-looking, even as he braces all of the cousins across the shoulders and even produces a few souvenirs and oddities from his pockets and the inside of his loudly check marked hat for the younger ones. He's usually so strong, calm and undaunted in all things. This is the man that once told Johnny, "Courage is owning your fear!" And he looks worn out.

"My boy!" he calls out, enveloping Caesar in his arms, but quickly pulls away to gesture to Giovanna. "You all will have to excuse my absence from the festivities this evening. Dealing with the Passione and negotiating the security coverage of their young Don took more time than I had guessed, and because of a few… communication errors, I've been driving nearly all day."

"Don't worry about us," Jonathan insists, taking his hat and hanging it up. "Please, feel free to rest upstairs."

Giovanna watches his escort bow out with those eerie pale blue eyes, so Johnny can't exactly be sneaky about it, but before Zeppeli passes him by, Johnny takes his sleeve and gestures for his ear. When he leans down, Johnny mutters, keeping one eye on the tiny murderer, "Gyro's… hiding upstairs. Tell him he'll be okay, will ya, Sir?"

True to form, Zeppeli only nods, pats Johnny on the shoulder, produces a star-shaped pin from behind Johnny's ear, presses it to his palm, closes his fingers around it, and takes his leave with Caesar following. Staring at the unexpected present, Johnny wonders if he predicted that Johnny would pull him aside and planned the trick beforehand, or if he is actually that eccentric and keeps small gifts inside his sleeves to pull off sleight-of-hand tricks at any given opportunity, and decides that it must be both. In any case, he knows that all Zeppelis must be a little weird as a rule.

Turning the star around, Johnny finds a crowned head at the back of the badge, a hallmark of Italian silver. A piece of home, then. He'll have to remember to give his thanks to Mr. Zeppeli tomorrow. He pins it to his hat beside his lucky horseshoe and the stallion head from Nicholas, and follows the family that hovers awkwardly around Jonathan like a herd of sheep being introduced to a new, yellow-furred collie.

"We… have a lot to talk about," Jonathan says, composure steady. "Why don't we figure things out and get to know each other with introductions in the parlor?" If Johnny didn't know him so well, he would even go as far as to say that he looks perfectly unflustered. But Jonathan is the type of guy who shields his trusting and easily hurt heart by keeping it together and protecting those around him, someone who blazes with heat and doesn't realize that he is burning up to keep his loved ones warm. He might not know it himself, but he can't shoulder every burden. It weighs on him, and it hurts to watch. And no one who loves him is willing to watch him take on the battle on his own. They're all going to try, too. For the moment, their weirdness, their willfulness, their fear and wariness and doubt, is curbed in the wake of the priority- to receive the newcomer, and to alleviate the duty of being the strong one from Jonathan, who has, frankly, suffered enough.

"Living room's this way," says Jolyne, no-nonsense, leading everyone out of the foyer herself. Like clockwork, Gappy lights the tea light and everyone arranges themselves around the coffee table, with Giovanna accepting the single seat in the very middle, Jolyne at one side and Gappy at the other. Johnny parks next to Josuke and snaps in his wheel locks- it won't do to anxiously rock back and forth and freak out the Mafioso.

Jonathan pours him a cup of tea, which he accepts calmly, setting it down on top of the saucer after a polite sip. How old is he, anyway? What kind of kid drinks tea like that?

There are eight Jojos seating around the coffee table, ranging from the twenty-four-year-old Jonathan to the sixteen-year-old Josuke. Where does the new kid fit in, here? He wants to ask, but that might freak him out, too.

Except he's the one freaked out, along with everyone else, when Giovanna, blank-faced, wordlessly reaches up and starts undoing the buttons on his silk jacket.

"Whoa, whoa, wait," starts Joseph, waving his hand, but the boy doesn't stop until he's undone the top of his shirt as well.

Johnny realizes what he's going to do well before he's done it, but everyone's too shocked to do anything about it. The kid wasn't staring at something behind Jolyne. He was staring at Jolyne's birthmark, very, very visible under the thin straps of her tank top.

Turning a little, the boy hikes down his collar, past his bony shoulder, revealing a small, wine-colored splotch in the shape of a star that sits high upon his back. It's nothing Johnny hasn't seen before- he has one exactly the same, and so does everyone else- but it looks alien upon the skin of someone he's only just met. Without meeting anyone's eyes, Giovanna says, voice controlled and frank, "I've been informed that the direct kin of this family all share this birthmark. I'm sure that this will be ample verification of my identity, and though I cannot rightfully claim to be one of you, I hope I may be allowed to exist alongside you and to share in your lives."

And ain't that kind of genuinely the saddest thing Johnny's heard.

He just looks so vulnerable like that.

What kind of life has he lead if he thought that he'd need to strip in front of total strangers just to prove himself worthy of being around his own family?

"That- that wasn't necessary-" Jonathan starts to say, heartbreak apparent and raw in his voice as the kid silently pulls the silk back over his shoulder and buttons back up, but Josuke beats him to it.

"Dude… Don't even. Okay? You don't even need the star to belong with us. You're family, plain and simple. You've been family- you've belonged since the day you were born. We just took forever to find you, is all."

"That's right," Jolyne says firmly, reaching for Giorno's knee and holding it, as he stares. "This isn't an interrogation, okay? We aren't here to make you prove anything. We just want to know what we've been missing out on for so long."

Giorno looks at her, looks at everybody, and then a tiny Mona Lisa smile twitches in his face. He picks up his tea and sips.

"Thank you."

Joseph shrugs, nudging the silent Jotaro's side. "It's New Year's Eve, man. It's, like, the time to kick old shit aside and start some new shit. It'll be cool having another new guy to start that new shit with."

"The other new guy being me," says Josuke Higashitaka the Other. "Hi. I'm Josuke. I've got amnesia. So I don't even remember who I am, really, and no one in our family's really sure, either. Kinda weird, yeah. All we know is that I've got the star too, and that I've got to be related to the Joestars somehow. At least you were traced- I've got no proof that I even exist."

Josuke has never said any of this out loud to anyone before, and suddenly everyone's listening intently.

"You know, when I first woke up, I was just found sleeping on the ground by this girl, and she traced me to the Joestars. And when nobody could tell me who I was I was so afraid that I'd have nowhere to go. But… Everybody just accepted me. Just like that. I was never treated any different for not knowing who I was, and I've never been made to feel like I'm not family."

It's getting really tense and Johnny turns his head away in case he starts getting red in the face from the sudden wave of emotions that comes from out of Buttfuck, Nowhere. It's shameful, but he's cried over less, and there is no way he's crying in front of the new cousin within the first ten minutes of knowing him.

In all the time he's known him, Josuke's been calm, and adventurous, and sensible, and filled with the same burning drive that fuels every Joestar. It's this same flame that burns in Josuke that connects him to Giorno now.

"If I'm family, who's to say you're not? Weirdo like me, right?"

"…I'm a Mafioso, I hope you're aware..." Giorno says slowly, though the ice is cracking. "Perhaps that is too much weirdness. I'm technically a criminal."

"So am I," says Jolyne, candidly. "I've been in jail three times. Welcome to the club of weirdos."

"I'm a weirdo, too," says Joseph, lounging back, and punches Jotaro's shoulder lightly. "-and so's this big lug. All of us are dysfunctional as hell. Don't even worry about it."

Giorno leans back a little too, as if subconsciously mirroring Joseph, even as he visibly calms away from the natural instinct to argue against his own character. "… And we are all cousins here?"

Jolyne shrugs. "Eh. More or less. In terms of actual places on the family tree, Josuke's more of an uncle, but we call him a cousin- oh, I mean this Josuke. We have two Josukes. And come to think of it, we have two Jonathans, too. But we call that one Johnny."

Something seems to click in Giorno's eyes. "Could it be that we all have the syllable 'Jo' in our first names?"

Jonathan nods. He's come back to himself. "All eight of us. Jonathan, Joseph, Jotaro, Johnny, Josuke, Josuke, Jolyne… and Giorno."

Jolyne rolls her eyes again, and Johnny recalls the morning. "Our parents are kind of lame like that."

With a snort, Josuke leans forward, curling his lip at Jolyne. "Yeah, well, you keep saying that, but don't you think it's kinda cool, too? It's unique. I mean, yeah, it's weird, too, but there isn't much that isn't weird about us anyway, right? I've been called weird loads of times. But there's, like… pride in that."

Suddenly, Giorno says, "Like your hair?"

It's such an unexpected and oddball statement that everyone's startled. Johnny's blood threatens to run cold, and he tenses up, ready to grab the back of Josuke's shirt in case the kid loses his temper and starts stomping at the new guy, who Johnny still doesn't trust to not have a gun tucked somewhere where the sun don't shine. But thankfully, and completely uncharacteristically, Josuke only narrows his eyes and says, "What'dya mean?"

The whole room holds its breath.

Giorno raises his hands, in an oddly graceful way. "Oh, I meant no offense at all. I merely felt that… Your hairstyle, it's very distinctive. I know it to be characteristic of a certain period of Japanese history, a style that symbolizes toughness and rebellion. Am I mistaken in the assumption that it means something special for you to upkeep it?"

He remains wary, but Josuke's chest still puffs out in pride and perhaps a tiny bit of defensive posturing. "Yeah. I copied it off of this gangster back home who saved my life when I was a kid. This hair really means a lot to me."

Giorno nods, and fingers his own blonde braid. "I am half-Japanese as well, like yourself. My birth name was Haruno Shiobana. My natural hair is as black as yours, but I dyed it when I was inspired to become a gangster by meeting some in Italy, where I grew up. I suppose that what I mean was… I take pride in the uniqueness of my own hair as well, and that I am happy that I have something in common with you."

Josuke's back visibly straightens and he smiles, sheepishly rubbing the back of his head.

And just when everyone thinks they're in the clear, Joseph stands up, and now the situation is out of the frying-pan and into the fire.

If levels of insensitivity are measured on a scale from one to ten, Josuke's maybe a seven, but only because he's a fiery kid. Joseph's like a thirty. He breaks the scale. This is danger territory.

Joseph marches past everyone, horrifyingly, and gets right into Giorno's face. He doesn't back up, to his extreme credit, but his face closes up and for a terrifying moment, Johnny wonders wildly if all of their progress will be dashed to pieces in the blink of an eye.

"Okay, kid. Let's get one thing straight here."

Time stands still.

And then Joseph breaks out into the widest, cheesiest, Joseph-iest grin and jabs his finger right into Giorno's pale nose.

"Perk number one of being a Joestar? You don't gotta lie to spare this guy his feelings. It's okay. You can tell him straight-up his hair's actually shit."

Just like that, as he has a million times over and a million times again, Josuke leaps right out of his seat and roars, teenage voice breaking in a sudden fit of fury, "The hell'd you say about my hair!?"

"That it's shit, shithead!"

Obviously a little confused, Giorno slowly starts to say, "I don't think his hair is-" but Josuke cuts him off. Stomping right between them, Josuke swats Joseph's finger off of Giorno's face.

"You. Shut your goddamned face hole before I beat it in. And keep your gross hands to yourself, man."

"Why, want me to do this instead?"

Before Josuke can protect himself, Joseph's run his hands all through his hair, the perfectly gelled pompadour completely wrecked, glossy black hair flopping all down the front of Josuke's face and falling into limp, sad little waves.

"GAAAAARGH!" Josuke immediately screams, unable to pull away on time, pulling on Joseph's wrist and tackling him bodily. They both tumble to the floor, a scene as familiar as the back of Johnny's hand, and as Giorno's eyes go wide and he pulls his feet up off of the ground to make room for the impromptu wrestling match, everyone jumps into action. It's a perfectly choreographed play. It isn't the first time Josuke's been provoked into attack, and it certainly won't be the last. By feel, reflex and muscle memory alone, Johnny unlocks his wheels.

Jonathan immediately reproaches the both of them, yelling, "Hey, hey, break it up, you two!" but his face is smacked in the flailing brawl. He falls back, the crown of his head bumping into the coffee table, tea tray clattering.

As Jotaro jumps up after him to pin Joseph down with a knee and Gappy sits on his legs, Jolyne yells, "Fuck! Giorno, help!"

With no time to hesitate, Giorno joins the fray, helping her yank Josuke off of Joseph, who's panting and laughing his ass off of the ground. In their arms, Josuke scowls deeply and tries to kick him. "Let go, let go! I've known this guy for, like, twenty minutes and I already like him better than you, asshole."

"Then why can't ya hit me, ya buttwipe?"

Josuke screams again and struggles in their grasp, and it's up to Johnny, who wheels between them to make himself a solid barrier, to help them drag him further away.

The whole thing is actually… really, really funny.

"Ugh. Sorry you have to do this," Johnny calls out to Giorno, who's trying his best not to let Josuke free from his grasp. "Joseph's a dick."

And… and then, to Johnny's deep shock, Giorno's laughing, a little bit.

Not that Mona Lisa, not a little half grin. A real, big, full-on smile, eyes glimmering with stars. It's warm and human and it looks so much like Jonathan's that if there was any small, lingering doubt that Giorno is family, it's completely decimated in that moment. His laughter rings clear as one single curl loosens from his carefully pinned bangs in the struggle. The kid's stronger than he looks.

"This reminds me of back home in Naples. I'm used to breaking up fights everyday. You should meet my friend Narancia sometime- small, but wild. Compared to him, this is nothing."

In his arms, Josuke bellows, "Y'hear that!? You'd better hope so, Sepp, because if they don't hold me back I'm going to kill you!"

Jonathan's given up trying to shut Joseph up and he's laughing hopelessly too, wilting back against the sofa, head in his hands. The whole thing is just bizarre. Somehow, the tension is just… gone. It's completely gone.

Johnny leans back into his chair, rubbing his eyes tiredly and letting out his breath slowly so no one knows he held it in.

This feels like home. No awkwardness, no trying to be civil. This is what it means to be Jojo. Just a lot of yelling, throwing punches, holding punches back, generating noise and craziness. And there's only one way to logically get through it all- by accepting it, by accepting them as they are.

Just a bunch of crazies.

He's home.

Soon, the noise dies down, Josuke huffing and Joseph chastised into giving him a halfhearted apology. The energy seeps out of the room like helium out of a foil balloon, and while Jonathan murmurs quietly with Giorno, who peels off his jacket and rolls up his sleeves, Johnny listens for movement from upstairs and rolls beside Jolyne, who's re-tying her loosened buns.

She mutters, too low for anyone else to hear, "Classic Joseph."

"D'you think that was on purpose?" Johnny whispers back dryly, but the answer is apparent.

"What are you talking about? It's Sepp. Of course it was on purpose."

Josuke, too. Smart kid. Quick on the uptake, too, and probably much more intuitive than anyone could have given him credit for.

To an outsider, it might seem like any random fight that has magically and coincidentally eased the strain threatening to settle over the room. But Joseph's teasing is just a tad too overt, Josuke's anger just a shade played up. Everyone takes turns heckling each other and patting Giorno on the back of his fancy silk shirt, and with each playful jab, the kid's shockingly warm smile gets that much more apparent on his delicate face.

"You're way stronger than you look, kid."

Giorno shrugs almost imperceptibly. "Well, I am the Don of Naples. I didn't exactly rise to the top by sitting around and doing nothing. I'm glad that I can physically keep up with the rest of you, however. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't this."

It's Jotaro who asks, characteristically straightforward, "And you're not disappointed?"

Giorno shakes his head. "No. Of course not. But perhaps a little shocked. I've certainly never met anyone as large as you in Italy. I wonder if I'll grow to be your size!"

It isn't easy to surprise Jotaro, but that easygoing joke seems to do the trick. His face doesn't change, but he yanks his cap deeper over his brow and mumbles, "Give me a fuckin' break," into his collar.

Johnny only hears the sound of a distinctive pen click and the scribbling of a check mark because he is listening for it. Glancing up to the top of the stairs, he sees a single lock of blonde hair falling down from the ceiling and clears his throat a little.

"Hey, Giorno. Dude. I gotta ask you something."

The kid turns around to face him completely before asking, "What is it?" Polite kid.

"Hey, man. Before I say anything else. I've got no personal beef with you, okay?"

"Of course."

"You know Gyro Zeppeli, right?"

Giorno's eyes widen. "Yes. The famous racer. After the Steel Ball Run, which I understand you competed in as well, I took over Naples and settled the scores of everyone volleying for power above the law."

"Gyro Zeppeli's wager for a kid's life included, right?"

"… Yes?"

"Well, you know the guy that brought you here?"

"His name was William Anthonio Zeppeli, if I'm not mistak- oh."

Johnny scratches the back of his neck, the brass pins on his beanie clicking together. "Yeah. Well, turns out, the Zeppelis are our friends. After Gyro and I competed in the race together, he became my physical therapist and personal trainer… and best friend. He's upstairs right now. Your driver was his uncle- Jonathan's mentor, and we've got another Zeppeli in the house, too. Joseph's best friend. So, like…" He looks Giorno in the eye and says firmly, "This ain't about me not trusting you. This is because my duty tonight is to make sure that Gyro's gonna be safe. I don't care about life debts and shit. I'm just looking out for everyone under our roof. So I'm going to ask- no, tell you right now that you don't harm a hair on his head. Got it?"

Giorno's crystal-blue eyes blink once, twice, and then he nods, seriously. He puts his hand over his heart and bows a little. Maybe that's a Mafia thing.

"I vow to you, Johnny Joestar, upon my honor and my life, that I never intended to stake my claim over Gyro Zeppeli and that as long as I am the Don of Passione, he and all Zeppelis will forever be safe in Naples, and in my sight. This oath I swear as Giorno Giovanna, on this day, until the end of days."

It's real fuckin' formal, and something electric zips up Johnny's spine in knowing that he's probably just made some sort of pact with a literal Mafia boss, but it's what he needed.

"Thanks." Johnny cranes his neck back and yells, "Did ya hear that, Gyro? Stop fucking hiding up there and say hi to my cousin!"

Gyro sticks his head down, sheepishly, and then practically saunters vaguely downwards, with his hands in his pockets and hips swaying like he wasn't planning on holing himself up in Johnny's room all night, fleeing from a child. Eying the piles of Joestars on the sofas, he steps neatly over Joseph, leans on the handles of Johnny's wheelchair and bows his head towards Giorno.

"Buona sera, Don Giovanna."

"Buona sera, Dottore Zeppeli. ¿Come sta?"

Gyro looks down at Johnny. His lips twitch at the corners.

"Non mi posso lamentare, signore. ¿E lei?"

Giorno tilts his head to the side. "Va benissimo."

After another grand tour and several loudly complaining stomachs later comes the New Years' feast.

Dinner is what Jonathan refers to as a 'spirited affair', and Johnny as 'a fucking riot', and not even sarcastically at that. Josuke's hair is unfixable and it flops all the way down to his chin in the front, mussed curls constantly getting in the way of his food until Jolyne donates a spare hair tie. This quickly dissolves into more fighting when it breaks around Josuke's thick handful of hair, and Giorno saves the day by giving up the one tied around the base of the braid that runs down his back. With his hair tied back, Josuke suddenly (and frighteningly) resembles a young Jotaro to such a stunning degree that everyone breaks out into uproarious laughter.

To everyone's delight, Giorno is no stranger to toshikoshi soba and o-zōni, compliments the pasta warmly, and even takes a second helping of half of the spread when it's clear to everyone that he isn't used to heavy American fare. It dissolves into madness when the conversation turns into a bit of an interrogation, and now that the dam has broken and it's clear that the Mafioso is less Godfather and more Friendly Neighborhood Gang-Star.

There is that same impenetrable line that he is unwilling to cross that everyone else has, but he indulges the rapid-fire questions with twinkling eyes and questions of his own. It quickly becomes apparent that he only looks like a waif, and is in fact actually the most devious little bastard under the roof.

"How old are you?"

"How old do I look?"

"Um, sixteen?"

"Twelve?"

"Seventeen? You've got to be my age, right?"

"I'm fifteen years old."

"What? No way. Fifteen years old. You're probably the youngest Mafia Don ever."

"You're the youngest Jojo!"

"Only by a year. How long have you lived in Japan?"

"Most of my life, but we all speak English as a second language within the family."

"Same here. Taro and I lived in Florida half the time."

"What about you?"

"Oh, I merely picked it up along the way, with Japanese from my childhood and Italian in everyday life. I also speak Spanish and Chinese."

"…No way!"

"It pays to be able to communicate with the… competition."

From the secretive smile glittering in his eyes, it's crystal-clear that he means drug smugglers and Triads, and a collective shiver runs through the room.

Johnny allows himself to relax, letting Gyro prevent him from getting a third cup of coffee and instead helping himself to a third slice of cake. Legs thrown over Gyro's lap, he leans his head against Jolyne, the dining room light just low enough that he can make out the beginnings of starlight twinkling just past the trees. It isn't exactly quiet, with Giorno chatting amiably with the now-calm Josuke, looking interestedly at a little black notebook he holds up, probably containing another autograph or something. The notebook passes along a few hands, but it's all hushed, comfortable, and peaceful.

And yet Johnny still can't shake something.

"Man," Johnny gripes, low in his throat, resting his head on one arm and scowling in Giorno's direction. "Fuck, that's annoying. It keeps escaping me."

Jolyne cocks her head to one side. "Hm? What?"

"Giorno. Doesn't he look like somebody? I swear he reminds me of somebody. And I don't mean D-... You know. I mean… Ugh. Who does he look like?"

There's a bit of a silence, and when Johnny turns to look at Jolyne he's met with an odd stare.

"…What?"

"Johnny, he looks like you."

"Wait, wait-"

"You seriously didn't notice?"

Johnny blinks and then considers Giorno from across the room more carefully. It's like a sudden bolt of realization- Jolyne's right.

Johnny was always the smallest JoJo, even compared to the tall and modelesque Jolyne and the younger Josuke, with ash-copper hair in waves and a waist that just never grew. His jaw is thin, his cheeks soft. He's small and he knows it. It's been a very long time since he's really looked at himself in the mirror, possibly because he's afraid of what he'll see, possibly because he doesn't rightly care anymore, but mostly because craning his neck over the bathroom sink is too much hassle. But he remembers enough to know that Jolyne's words ring true- that Giorno Giovanna looks a lot like him.

He's too lost in surprised contemplation to notice that Jolyne's still staring until she says, quietly, "You've changed."

"Really?"

"Yeah. I don't mean in a bad way, though."

Johnny doesn't know how she means it, but he thinks about the bratty, rebellious, uncontrolled Jolyne of so many years ago, a pint-sized motorcycle thief and streetside vandal, and retorts softly, knocking her shoulder with his, "So have you."

She shrugs, retorting with a soft tap of her own. "We all have, a little."

She isn't looking at Johnny, but at Jotaro, who seems to hover just outside of the conversation, but not in the disinterested and callous way of before. It's more like he's being careful, but he's still listening, and he's always still a part of the conversation. Jotaro Kujo was never a friendly guy- Johnny would say that he's never even been polite, or overtly nice, and, admittedly, never much of an older brother to Jolyne, either.

But something must have changed since his adventures and his visits with family overseas.

He's still a distant, rude little fuck, but he's suddenly become a Jojo, if that makes any sort of sense.

And if Jolyne's happier now, Johnny can't help but feel that whatever happened, he's okay with not knowing the details for now so long as she's all right with it all.

"Hey, Lyna."

"Hm?"

"… Y'know what, never mind."

Jolyne snorts. "What, does Mr. Grand National Series Champion not know how to make up his mind whether he wants to say something or not?"

"You're such a polite and well-mannered young woman, Jolyne Kujo," Johnny deadpans dryly.

"Well, fuck you very much, Kentucky Derby."

"Yeah? Fuck you too, Jailhouse Rock."

"Oh, that's real nice, Speed Racer."

"You started it, Meatball Head-"

Jonathan cuts in, setting Jolyne's fourth piece of cake down in front of her, "Settle down, you two. I'm not going to stop any more fights today."

They still shove at each other halfheartedly, but mumble, "Yessir," mostly out of habit, and end up leaning back on each other instead of escalating.

The man of the house nods. "That's better." He sits beside Gyro and makes more hushed conversation, all heat and heart, a personified warm welcome.

Johnny doesn't want to think about how Jonathan must be feeling about all of this, picking up the pieces of a family that was once in fragments, shards scattered across the globe in the wake of someone Jonathan once perhaps considered a brother. It must hurt a little to watch Giorno Giovanna, who should have had a comfortable childhood, quietly stumbling into the love he should have had from the very beginning with a latecomer's trepidation. Knowing Jonathan, there must be guilt. And sorrow.

But in his eyes, calm as a sea after the passing of a storm, Johnny sees only a still comfort, the corners crinkling as he smiles warmly at his family.

Jonathan was always the strongest of them all, with a heart of the purest goodness capable by man.

Johnny doesn't expect Jonathan to speak again but he gestures to Giorno and says quietly, "Do you think he feels all right, with us?"

Jolyne turns and gives Jonathan a Look. She must be practicing. "Jonathan, he's fine."

Slowly, Jonathan nods. "I hope one day he feels comfortable enough to tell us of his life. Of his former life."

Johnny mutters into his sleeve, suddenly a little shamed in the light radiating off of Jonathan, "I doubt it. I can't even talk about the Steel Ball Run to everyone."

"'Yet'. You can't talk about it yet," Jonathan gently corrects, settling back into his chair. "We all have our pasts. But the important thing is that somehow, the eight of us are here together, and now we've got a chance to work things out as one. We've all had some pretty bizarre adventures. Maybe someday we'll know all of each other's stories. But for today, we're just family."

And somehow, with those words, Johnny feels much, much better than before.

Everyone's dying to know what a real Mafia gang looks like after the fifth or sixth tactfully worded passing reference.

"Do you have pictures? You know, any that you can show us without having to kill us after," pesters Joseph, dodging Jolyne's swat at his shoulder. "C'mo-o-o-on, show us!"

Giorno seems to consider it, and then lights up. "Oh. I've brought a copy of the picture I usually keep on my desk. It's in my suitcase, in the car Signore Zeppeli drove here. I'd be happy to show you."

"I'll go with you to get it, if you like," Joseph perks up, delightedly, but Caesar shakes his head, sticking his head out of the cupboard and looking supremely disapproving.

"You just want to look at the Lamborghini, don't you."

"There's shitty Italian cars and then there's Lambos, Caesar Salad."

"You say another word about my Lancia again and I'll kill everything you love, Jojo," Caesar replies smoothly.

Johnny could swear that he hears Joseph mutter darkly under his breath, "Then start by jumping off a goddamn bridge," as he follows Giorno out. He doesn't really know if Joseph understands what he has just implied, but chooses to keep absolutely silent on the matter. He really, truly does not want to know.

Johnny's still playing some sort of very addicting game on Jolyne's phone when Josuke pipes up, "Hey, wait. If his shit's still outside… Where's Giorno gonna sleep for the week, Jonathan? There aren't any more rooms in our hall."

Huh.

"The western half. I've fixed up one of the spare guest rooms," Jonathan replies, plucking some silverware out of Gappy's hands before he can try to do anything odd with it.

"Good. Then we don't have to fight for the bathroom in the morning."

"Oh yeah, that's right. Morning bathroom war," Jolyne mutters darkly. "I fucking hate boys."

"You're no spring rose yourself," Johnny counters, but his heart isn't really into the insult volley. The western half is lonely and bare, and he even feels a little bad about Mr. Will Zeppeli having to bunk there for the night. And Giorno's going to have to live there for a whole week.

The old Johnny, the callous and unfeeling Joe Kid Joestar, would have scoffed and said something like, 'Sucks to his assmar.' But he isn't that guy anymore.

There's a way out of this for Giorno. Johnny briefly wonders why Jonathan never brought it up with him. He would have thought of this solution, too. It's possible that he didn't think Johnny would care for it. But...

"Johnny."

It might hurt, though.

"Johnny-boy."

That's okay. He can do it.

"Johnny!"

Johnny's eyes refocus and Jolyne snatches her phone back from him. "You died and lost all your points and I just called you something super nasty. What're you thinking about right now?" She asks like she already knows, but Johnny doesn't respond and Giorno arrives with a starry-eyed Joseph that grabs Caesar's arm and starts gushing about cars.

He elbows him in the ribs. "Hey, asshole, you like sports cars but can't give a fuck about my F1 engines?"

"It's not like you'd ever let me take Slow Dancer out for a spin, you stingy little bastard!"

"Jojo, you crash every car you drive," Caesar sighs, but he slings his arm back around Joseph and they all crowd around Giorno's picture together.

Johnny's first impression is that of a wild pack of young part-time amateur models on nitrous oxide.

His second is that the Mafia must be pretty fuckin' weird in real life.

"This is literally the opposite of what I expected," Josuke announces, leaning forward and bumping heads with Gappy. "Where's the old guys in suits?"

Giorno laughs. It's still a controlled, quiet laugh, but no less dazzling. Johnny immediately becomes acutely and uncomfortably aware that if he ever regains the ability to smile, his would look just like Giorno's, and shoves that thought aside.

"My… Well, I call these people my family. They are, in more ways than one. My family is not the typical organization, especially in the long history of an old city like Naples, but we perform to a high standard and if anyone judged us by our ages and appearances, well. That would be very dangerous for them," Giorno says, eyes glittering, fondness coloring his even voice and proud shoulders.

Gyro makes a high laugh at the back of his nose, and subtly steps behind Johnny's wheelchair. "Giorno Giovanna, I don't think anyone would make that mistake."

Jolyne hums and taps the picture lightly with a nail. "You look real sharp in this shot, Giorno. This looks like a spring catalogue. This chick's wearing a cute bandeau, too."

Giorno says, regarding the picture fondly, "This was taken quite recently." He points around to each individual face. "This man used to be my boss until he fell ill during our takeover, whereupon I was handed the position and he took the position of consigliere. This is my capo bastone- afraid of nothing save, of all things, the number four. This woman is the- was the daughter of the former Don, who we… staged a coup against. And these are my subordinates…"

Of all the things that Johnny has learned about Giorno Giovanna, this is the most surprising of all- that he can be so full of love and yet so unaware of it himself. His words are clipped, curated and carefully chosen, never giving away more than he has to, but he is betrayed by his tone. Of course, he's still young, and he's absolutely seen more horror than he ought to. Hopefully, with more people by his side, he won't go colder, but instead bloom into someone who can exude warmth of his own volition instead of leaking it, his heat and light accidentally spilling from the gaps between his metaphorical petals.

Giorno makes to put the picture away inside of his jacket pocket, but Jonathan stops him.

"You said this was a copy, I believe. May we put this up in the gallery?"

Giorno blinks. "Would it belong on that wall?"

"Of course. Any family of yours is our family too. I hope one day we'll be able to meet them."

It's the way that Giorno lowers his head, face closing off as if to hide an emotion, and hands the picture over that cinches it. He flips Jonathan's hand over on the kitchen table, presses the photo into his palm, and closes his fingers over it, like it's a symbol of something. It is exactly the way William Zeppeli gave Johnny the star-shaped pin in his hat. A gift, a remnant of someplace very, very far away, but close to the heart.

Johnny clears his throat and says, "Hey, Giorno. There's… there's an empty room next to mine. You can have it."

Everyone stares at him, Josuke genuinely dropping the spoon in his hand, but he presses on.

"I don't just mean for the week. I mean, like… you can have it."

When he is silent, Jonathan places a hand on Giorno's bony shoulder, enveloping it in its breadth. "This house is big enough that we usually have our own bedrooms to keep in the eastern half. I meant to apologize about having to bunk you in the western half for the week because it gets rather lonely there sometimes, but the fate of that unoccupied room was always up to Johnny and I'm glad if you'll accept and sleep in the hall with the rest of us, if you'd like."

Giorno's eyes graze the floor, then fix Johnny with a serious look.

"May I… ask to whom it belonged in the past?"

Johnny doesn't care to fuck around with minced words. He looks Giorno in the eyes (and damn, are they blue as shit) and says plainly, "My brother Nick. He's dead. But he was your cousin too and he would have wanted you to have it."

Wordlessly, Jolyne closes her fingers over his arm warmers, and Gyro's fingers brush against the back of his neck, tickling the hair that spills from under his beanie.

Giorno searches him for something- what, Johnny doesn't know- but slowly, carefully, he treads into the pond that separates the past and the future and dips his hands into the water, tipping his head back and drinking gratefully.

"Thank you, Johnny. I'll gladly take the room."

"Okay, wow," Jolyne suddenly grouses, reaching up to pinch Johnny's cheek violently. Her rudeness breaks the still again, and he's grateful for it, even when his face stings.

"Ow, ow ow, goddamn! Fuck, Lyna! The hell's your problem!?"

"You've changed too much! Where's my real cousin, that selfish asshole!?"

Johnny scrabbles for her face, trying to pull at one of her buns in retaliation, but Jolyne, the clever little brat, pushes Johnny's chair with her foot and he rolls backwards and into the refrigerator, seething all the while. Gyro's too busy laughing his ass off to help, and when he tries to rush back for vengeance, the two Josukes push him back again, grinning.

"That's just bad karma, Johnny. Suck it," laughs the one with the ruined pompadour, sticking his tongue out like a toddler.

"What'd I ever do to you, fuckface!?"

Josuke doesn't answer to him, but leans into Giorno conspiratorially, "Once, when I was eight, Johnny said he'd give me a chocolate bar if I'd climb up this fire escape on this rickety old building next to the water tower just outside of town. I got stuck and we had to call Nick to get the fire department to get me back down. And since he was lying about the candy bar, Nick gave me three."

"Even I remember that," says Jonathan, head in his hands again, shaking with silent laughter. "Poor Nicholas had to cover for you so much in your youth, Johnny."

"You too, Jonathan? I'm so hurt," Johnny says dryly, sinking low into his chair. "Help. This is textbook bullying. Or character assassination. Or abuse."

"It isn't bullying if it's true."

"Just because you never bothered to raise hell when you were a kid doesn't mean we never took advantage of somebody looking out for us," Jolyne cuts in, poking Jonathan in the ribs. "But you're right. Johnny was the worst kid."

"Oh, yeah? That's nothing," Joseph grins. "Hey, Giorno. The first time Jolyne ever got arrested, she was twelve and forgot everyone's phone number except for Nick's, and he had to pick her up from the precinct!"

"Ugh, don't tell him about that!"

It's an odd thing to think while in the middle of a casual chat about his dead brother, but Johnny thinks to himself nebulously that it doesn't hurt.

"You were too chicken to tell Aunt Holly about what happened, so you made him do it for you!"

"Shut up! Giorno, don't listen to him."

It… doesn't sting to talk about Nick like this. It's like the dull ache is being replaced with something else.

"Now I'm sad that I didn't ever get to meet Nicholas," Josuke the Other suddenly pipes up, hand under his chin. "He sounds like he was a much better person than any of you. Is it rose-tinted glasses or was he just better?"

"He was always better," says Johnny, automatically, but in a different way than he's always said it before. A little panicked, he looks to Gyro, hoping his expression says it while he cannot- that this is the first time he's ever spoken so candidly with his family about Nicholas since after his death, and that he isn't sad about it, and that he is afraid of why he isn't.

After a long look into his face, Gyro seems to nod, putting his feet up to rest on the edge of one of his wheels, and cocks his head at Josuke. "I feel the same. It's a shame we never met Nicholas. It's a good thing that Giorno's here to make sure that his memory will be honored. Because he'll be in his room, right? Not as a replacement, but as someone to share in that unbreakable bond with."

It's unexpectedly a beautiful thing to say, and something once dead and rotting in Johnny's heart comes twitching back to life from out of the vice of fear.

Everyone smiles at his words, and Jotaro suddenly says, not bothering to turn to face him but loud enough so that everyone hears, "You're right. And Johnny was right to give Giorno that room. He'll honor it."

The talk turns sleepy and warm, golden kitchen light seeping into the corners, fond memories chased back and forth with "do-you-remember-when"s leading into "remember-how-we-always-used-to"s and twisting into "that-feels-like-it-was-only-yesterday"s.

But when he thinks no one is looking, Giorno lowers his head and his expression becomes closed-off and distant once more.

Suddenly he isn't a tiny murderer, or a marble statue, or somebody Johnny doesn't know. Somehow, in the dusky glow of the Joestar terrace, with his leg hugged close to his chest and a bit of an awkward grin on his face, Giorno Giovanna suddenly looks like a fifteen-year-old boy who wanted to make a good first impression on his family, and doesn't know what to do with himself now because he didn't plan beyond that. He doesn't really look shy, exactly, or uncomfortable. He just looks overwhelmed, a little bit, as if the layers of professionalism and risk and stoicism that mask the loneliness have found no reason to stick around and have cracked and peeled back, exposing raw flesh to the air.

And Johnny once again feels that raw surge of affection from the deep pit inside him that he once thought was empty. He pretends to crack his neck and leans to the side, resting the back of his head on an arm and asks casually, "Hey. You okay?"

"Until one year ago, I had no idea what it was like to be around people who believed in me or cared for me," says Giorno shortly, just as blunt and to-the-point as any Joestar. With his chin on his knee, he says, honesty coloring his words into the dusky haze, "Forgive me if I seem standoffish. I am still rather unused to this."

What's he mean by 'this'? Acceptance? Togetherness? Not being alone anymore?

Perhaps he doesn't realize that he's just admitted to something very, very sad. In any case, it's even sadder that he's just so calm about it. Johnny's never been an empath, or even just compassionate (that's Jonathan's schtick) but something inside his burnt, brittle, once-dead heart snaps and he decides that Giorno is worth protecting, and even being a little sappy for.

Johnny dimly remembers what Gyro said in the morning. It was just a little thing, but it was comforting to hear, and it worked on Gyro too. It might work on Giorno.

"You'll be fine. You're with family, after all."

Johnny sees Gyro turn to look at him from the corner of his eye, and feels rather than sees his hand slip into his. Despite the crisp air, he suddenly feels warm. Giorno has undoubtedly noticed Gyro's reaction (he doesn't look the sort to miss anything) but he retains his decorum as he nods, perhaps looking a little bashful. "So I am."

The final arrival comes less than thirty minutes from midnight, with the whole family glancing restlessly at the clock and tarrying about the parlor like new butterflies, wings drying in the brisk air.

"Oi, where are my favorite moppets?"

Everyone jumps and rushes to the door, but Johnny was a racer, after all. He runs right over Joseph's toes to get to him first, and they all smother Robert Speedwagon in a many-armed hug like so many actual children. But there's no shame in it. Literally everyone loves Speedwagon.

"Speedwagon!"

"Robert!"

"Uncle Speedy!"

"Gerroff me, you wee ankle-biters!" he laughs, positively buried alive, but pats everyone on the back and when everyone's let him go, turns to give Jonathan a proper, hard embrace. He's cut his hair since the last time Johnny's seen him, but even all cleaned up in his new suit, Speedwagon still looks like a poor man in a rich man's uniform, and it's positively the best thing about him. He's humility and heart all rolled up into the shape of a human being. Making it big didn't change him, but Jonathan once did.

If Johnny didn't respect Jonathan first and foremost in the world, tied with Nick's memory, Gyro and Mr. Will Zeppeli out of obligation, he'd hold Speedwagon in his mind's highest regard.

"This is a surprise, Robert!" Jonathan says, clutching at his shoulders, beaming. "But a very happy one. I thought you wouldn't be able to come until tomorrow."

"I'm here to meddle, Mr. Joestar," Speedwagon says cheekily, removing his hat and layering it on top of Josuke's. "Just kidding. I was worried for you after I heard that you'd be looking after everyone on your own. But it looks like I'll be of no use after all! This looks like the celebration of a lifetime."

Jolyne insists, "It is, now that you're here," but her kind words are a little cheapened by the fact that she's wrestling with Josuke for the hat.

"You're never of no use," Jonathan says, pressing a cool drink into his hands. "And how many times do I have to tell you to call me Jonathan?"

"As many times as you'd like, but I'm still not doing it. 'S a matter of respect." And with this he addresses the only two faces he doesn't know, and half-bows to Giorno and Gyro, "You're making a face like you're wondering who I am. Robert Edward Speedwagon, at your service."

"Giorno Giovanna."

"And Gyro Zeppeli, at yours," Gyro answers easily, taking his hand and shaking it firmly. The friendly moment is cut short when Speedwagon is again tackled and buried in more hugs, nearly brought to the ground by Joseph's weight.

"You're late, man!"

"Oof- Joseph, really, you're getting a little big for this-"

"Your next line is, 'Or maybe I'm getting too old'!"

"Or maybe I'm getting too old… Hey!"

A chorus of laughter makes its rounds, but it's cut short by a sudden cry from out of nowhere.

"Aha!"

Everyone turns to stare at Gyro, who is waving his pen at Joseph, Johnny and the room in general in unbridled glee.

"There it is!"

"What, you big drama queen?" Caesar begins to ask, and then his eyes widen in realization. "Oh."

"Bingo! Goal! Score! ¡Tombola! Eight Jojos spotted!" Gyro says gleefully, and spreads the cheat-sheet wide against Johnny's chest. "I win."

And it's all Johnny can do but groan internally.

"… So you do."

"What's all this?" says Jonathan, a curious smile on his face. "Is it time for some news after all?"

"Yeah," Johnny mutters. "Yeah, I guess." He clears his throat and says loudly, willing himself not to sound nervous, "Hey. Hey, everybody. Over here a sec."

And all of a sudden, all eyes are on him. Joe Kid Joestar would have thought it a natural thing. The Johnny of New Year's Eve thinks it's just really, really stupid. But he's made up his mind, and he's going to do it. Gyro stands, biting his bottom lip in anticipation, face fluttering between excitement and smugness, a single strand of sandy hair escaping from behind his ear to brush against a high cheekbone.

"So… I ain't trying to be dramatic or whatever. Okay? So don't freak out. But I have something I need everybody to know."

He takes Gyro's hand, and squeezes it tight.

When Gyro lets go of Johnny's hand and starts to walk away, somebody goes, "Wait, what?"

Gyro counts out the paces from Johnny's chair to the wall, gently pushing Jolyne and Jonathan out of his path, leans against it with his arms crossed and gives the entire room a shit-eating grin. He gestures back to Johnny, sweeping his arm out like he's announcing the arrival of a star, and every head in the room swivels back again to see-

-than Johnny is staring at his knees, breathing deep, knuckles white on the arms of his wheelchair as he slowly, stiffly, unsteadily rises up.

Rises up on his feet.

The whole room is dead silent except for Joseph's tiny, muttered, "Oh. My. God."

Johnny does not believe in God, or any gods, for that matter, but in his mind he prays anyway- prays to luck, to hope, to Damn Ugly Fate that he will make it. Already feeling a little light-headed, he summons up all of his wavering strength to push through the pain and fear and sudden dizziness to take the first wobbly step.

Immediately a barbed, wringing, acute pain shoots up his leg but he grits his teeth, willing the threat of jerking knees and a nasty tumble away, and holds his arms just hovering at waist level, for balance, to- to keep everyone away. Certainly Jonathan has jumped to his feet, looking one escaped noise away from leaping to Johnny's side, with everyone else in the room following immediately after, but Johnny knows he needs to do this and he needs to do it on his own. He holds his breath to keep from making a sound.

The second step hurts even more, but the third step hurts less.

Halfway there, Johnny almost stumbles, and Jonathan does actually make as if to lunge forward, but Jotaro grabs him by the forearm, silent. The world is topsy-turvy for a moment but Johnny rights himself just before he loses his balance. He unbends as he goes, standing up straight as he can, shoulders rolling slowly back, the heat beneath his eyelids strumming red as a burning star.

Jolyne whispers, "Go, Johnny," and Johnny ignores the electricity firing up his spine, ignores his hips screaming at him to stop, ignores the darkest part of him that once truly believed that he was worth nothing, and makes it all the way to the end. Gyro stretches his hand out for Johnny before he even reaches for him, and they grasp hands for the final step.

He lets himself collapse into his warm, solid chest, Gyro's arm coming up to wrap around his shoulders and blood rushing through his ears as the entire room basically erupts.

It's less like a concert encore and more like a nuclear explosion.

Even as he shudders and wilts in Gyro's arms, his face pressed firmly into Gyro's chest and the both of them slowly sinking to the floor in a heap, the noise engulfs him like the radiation from the birth of a star.

"Shit! That was amazing!" (Josuke.)

"No fucking way! Holy fucking shit!" (Joseph.)

"MotherFUCKER, you didn't even tell me!?" (Jolyne.)

"How did you do that!? When did this happen!?" (Josuke.)

"Johnny…" (Jonathan.)

In the chaos, Gyro presses a small, secret kiss into Johnny's ear, and whispers sweet nothings, and it's only when he feels his legs run ice-cold and throbbing that Johnny finally registers that he's done it. He's too tired to properly blush but his face blooms anyway, without his permission. He peeks out from under the soft curtain of Gyro's sandy hair as warm hands suddenly crowd him, patting him on the back, scrabbling to hold him, everyone becoming one big pile of bodies.

Gyro eventually lets him go, only for him to be pulled bodily into Jonathan's grip, and Johnny faintly feels hot tears falling into his neck as he is held, and comes to himself just in time to know to hug Jonathan back as he shakes almost imperceptibly.

From over Jonathan's shoulder (where a pink, raised star-shaped birthmark becomes briefly visible from under his collar) he sees Jotaro cross his arms and smile down at him.

Ah. Now that's a shocker. So he can still smile after all.

"That was… good," Jotaro says. "That must have taken a lot from you. You did a good job of it. I'm proud."

"Thanks, Taro," says Johnny, and louder, "Thanks, everyone. Happy fuckin' new year."

When he finally parts from Jonathan, Gyro carrying him bridal-style and lifting him back into his chair, it's apparent that nearly everyone is crying, Joseph leaking snot onto Caesar's sleeve and Josuke's breath hitching. Speedwagon has left the room entirely, weeping on the way out. It would all be a little funny if Johnny weren't so dizzy.

Exactly as expected, the initial shock wears down to a volley of questions, one right after the other, and as the energy dissipates from a frenzy to a high-strung anxiety, several people try to leap up to Gyro's neck, either to strangle him or kiss him. Eventually, a happy medium is reached and Gyro is passed around the room for a series of viselike hugs. Under the scrutiny and touches and watery disbelief, all Johnny wants to do is to go upstairs and pass out for a century, but he knows he owes an explanation and he gives it as tersely as possible to the room as a whole, loathe to be expected to repeat himself.

"Yeah, I can walk a little, but it really fuckin' hurts and I'm not back on my feet yet. Gyro's been putting me through hardcore therapy since the race. I already know that I won't ever get perfect mobility back, but that just now was only the beginning. Just watch me. I'm going to get walking again if it's the last thing I do."

"Of course," Jolyne snaps, bottom lip wedged firmly between her teeth, obviously to keep it from wobbling. She looks furious. Speedwagon returns with a box of tissues, and she takes an entire handful like a greedy child. "Typical fuckin' Johnny."

Giorno carefully places a thin hand on top of Johnny's knee, probably mirroring Jolyne's gesture from earlier that evening, and gazes up to Johnny. "Am I to understand that this has been a long time coming?"

"Real goddamn long time," answers Johnny, his breath coming back to normal, the sparks running up his buzzing thighs easing and slowing to a dull, pounding ache. "I've been in this chair for the past two years. Didn't even know if I could do this today. But damn if I wasn't gonna try, you know?"

"I understand," Giorno answers earnestly, smiling his tiny, porcelain smile...

… and then it slides down the scale from angelic all the way to demonic in the span of a single heartbeat.

"Well, I suppose this means I win the bet."

Time stands still.

"… What?"

"Fuck, Giorno, shut up about that," hisses Josuke, suddenly looking pale under his ruined pompadour, hands stiffly making cutting gestures at his neck, but Joseph yanks out a small black notebook from the back pocket of his nineties jeans and flips through it amidst frantic yelping, "Aw, goddammit! Looks like everybody owes Giorno and Gaps. You shoulda told me the answer, Caesar."

"Not for the world," Caesar says smoothly.

"Nobody even knows what 'Secret Garden' means!"

"What?" Johnny says again, aware that his voice has gone low and deathlike, gripping the arm rests of his chair and imagining wringing Josuke's little neck with his bare hands. "You were all betting on me?"

Jolyne stands up and makes herself a human shield in front of Josuke, who's scrabbling back. "We… uh, overheard you talking with Jonathan this morning."

"And we didn't think that somebody would be such a total backstabbing blabbermouth," Josuke hisses, glaring daggers into Giorno, who looks so goddamn smug and downright evil in that moment that for the very first time that entire afternoon, everyone is totally sure that this boy is, indeed, a Mafia Boss.

Gyro snatches the notebook from Joseph and looks it over, and to Johnny's horror, actually turns a little pink. He passes it to him like he's getting rid of a bomb.

Josuke: Started Racing Again

Jolyne: Gay/Banging Gyro

Jonathan: Started Racing Again

Joseph: Gay/Banging Gyro

Jotaro: Started Racing Again

Gappy: Secret Garden

Giorno: Secret Garden

And staring down at that piece of paper, Johnny straddles a metaphorical horse, faced with haystacks of fury on one side of a fence and watering holes of embarrassment on the other.

He's tired and dizzy and his whole body's on fire and he's just walked all on his own in front of his whole family, and he doesn't even feel betrayed anymore now that he looks down at that piece of paper and sees how much they all believed in him.

He's laughing before he knows it.

It's an unfamiliar feeling, doubling over and shaking, peals erupting from his chest and threatening to burst him wide open at the seams. Johnny quivers with it, head thrown back, clutching his ribs from the pain of it. His face feels odd.

He's smiling. He must be. But he can't stop. A euphoria sweeps through him, coursing like the burning trail left behind in the wake of a shooting star, and tears escape from his eyes, clumping his lashes together and blurring his vision. Gyro's staring at him like a man possessed, unnerved and enraptured, and when his laughter subsides Johnny hiccups into the crook of his arm, "Come the fuck on. Et tu, Jonathan?"

"I wasn't aware that a stray comment would be taken as a bet," Jonathan says evenly, pinning Josuke with a Look that says 'Young man, you and I will have a chat about honor befitting a gentleman later,' but then shakes his head, smiling. "But what's so funny?"

Johnny's face hurts from the smiling, but he hasn't come down from the high yet, and through the adrenaline rush he announces, breathlessly, "Nobody wins, you goddamned assholes. Nobody wins today."

Gyro eyebrows jump clear to the roof.

"Well, no one except me, I guess. Y'all thought that the walking was the announcement? This, this right here is the goddamn announcement."

And with that he reaches out, grabs Gyro by the collar, and yanks him in for a bruising kiss, their teeth clicking from the force of it. Gyro's hands come scrambling up as his eyes blow wide, as if skirting the net's edge between automatically kissing back and dying from shock, but when Johnny hums triumphantly and throws up a single raised middle finger to his family, to a chorus of shocked roars, screams and wolf-whistles, Gyro melts into him.

When they part again, Johnny snatches the black notebook back up and rips out the betting sheet.

"When everyone's right, no one is. The correct answer was 'all of the above'."

Gyro's still loopy and reeling from the very public kiss, but he narrows his refocusing eyes and pants, voice subtly strangled, "Wait, everything? Even-"

"I've turned in the paperwork for a permanent modified throttle rig assembly and hand brake system for Slow Dancer. I'm going to compete in the next Grand National Series."

The noise begins to build up again, and Johnny silences it with a finger.

And the Look.

It's not going to be as effective as Jonathan's Look, but he tries to channel that fire Gyro once told him about, and it seems to work.

"So yeah. I'm racing again, I can walk if I really try, and Gyro's my boyfriend. But the only reason why I even bothered to let you all know about the first two is so nobody gets any ideas about why I keep him around. So listen up, shitstacks. Gyro's a motherfucking amazing physical therapist and trainer, and he takes very, very good care of me. And I asked him out first. So I'm not going to have anyone accuse him of taking advantage of his patient and track rival while I'm under this roof. Got it?"

In hindsight, it's all Johnny's fault for foolishly believing that everyone would take his speech seriously. Everything has led up to this moment and he's prepared for it all day but for all of his paranoia and cynicism the one thing he didn't prepare for was that his efforts would be so wholly, completely unnecessary.

"I take back my thanks, motherfucker. What have you done to our asshole Johnny?" Jolyne demands, grabbing Johnny's head and hugging him tight as if to protect him from an elderitch horror, or an unmasked traitor. "Why is he suddenly so noble?"

"Yeah, who is this strange knight in shining wheels? Why's he shining all of a sudden?" Josuke teases, poking at the bit of Johnny's face that can be reached from inside the cage of Jolyne's arms, and Johnny dimly realizes as he flails and suffocates that this was what Caesar was going through when Joseph first arrived at the Joestar house. It's a half-hug, half-chokehold, and another bloody half-cradle like he's something or somebody worth protecting.

Johnny barely bats Jolyne off, but the look on Gyro's face throws him even more.

The cocky, confident facade of a man is gone, replaced by the reality- a tall, awkward twenty-four-year-old boy meeting his lover's family for the first time. He dances around his words, but finds himself on time to mumble to his shoes to everybody listening, "I did nothing. The light is in his nature."

Since the day Johnny was born, he's known that he's the worst Joestar, somebody who doesn't shine but smolders into ash. The fact that Gyro doesn't seem to think so shouldn't be surprising, but today's just been full of surprises.

Johnny thinks that it's all done and over with when Gyro stands up and looks everyone in the eye, and suddenly he isn't on edge, but challenging.

"I was once someone who had no dreams, no aspirations, and no future. But at Johnny's side, I… He… I swear I'll… If there are any objections towards my sex or my age, or my profession-"

"There won't be," says Johnny firmly, daring anyone to step in and say something, but somehow, deep in his heart, he knows that no one will.

Gyro takes Johnny's hand and faces the head of the household, the man that Johnny was named for, and declares in a way that would almost be too serious if the weight of his words didn't reverberate through the floorboards, spinning and dancing into the air and cutting through Johnny's heart, "I… I intend to stay beside Johnny for as long as he'll have me, so if you could find it in your hearts to accept-"

Gyro is pounced on in two shakes of a sacrificial lamb's tail and given more or less the same chokehold-hug treatment before Jonathan can properly embrace him like a gentleman. Joseph is distracted halfway by suddenly figuring out that Caesar's been keeping quiet the whole day, and turns to choke him instead. It would all be very well and good, but without any warning whatsoever, Jotaro stands up, takes everyone by the cuff and yanks them off of Gyro one by one, physically cows him into a corner, and threatens him with various forms of bodily harm if he ever does anything to harm Johnny while he draws breath. Nobody's strong enough to pull him off, and it quickly dissolves into another physical quarrel. Bound by his previous oath, Giorno is forced to step between Jotaro and Gyro, and this sparks another round of shoves and barely-pulled punches.

Everyone is so distracted by the fight that they completely miss the moment when the clock strikes midnight and the New Year rolls in.

Joestars and Zeppelis. Typical.

12:17

January 1st

The Joestar Estate

The terrace out back ought to be cold, but be it a result of global warming, a freak accident of nature or possibly the half-bottle of beer Joseph smuggles for Johnny in a Bepsi can, the first morning of the new year is just the right temperature for the gathered to trail outside, reclining on porch chairs with sweet iced tea and Speedwagon's gifts of pastries straight from London.

Jolyne, elegant as ever, stuffs a whole scone into her mouth and prods at Johnny's knee interestedly. "So you can kind of move your downstairs?"

"Only kind of. Watch," Johnny says, reaching down to loosen the laces on one shoe. He lifts his foot up to his lap by the leg of his jeans and, with a lot of effort, twitches his big toe.

Jolyne makes a face. "Wow. It's like Kill Bill. And it hurts?"

"Uh… It hurts. But it's mostly still numb anyway, so I'm fine. No cartwheels yet."

Gappy taps his chin like he's pondering something, stopping in the middle of his attempt to stack a dozen croissants on top of each other into a sort of baked-goods-Jenga-tower. "Y'know, Johnny, I'm going to go ahead and guess that you've never actually done a cartwheel in your life."

He nods. "True. And I don't ever plan to."

"Bo-o-o-oring."

"Hey, Gaps. Do a tongue trick. Show Gyro the thing."

"Aw, do I have to?"

Johnny raises his eyebrow at him. "Why, wanna be boring?"

Josuke the Other rolls his eyes, but obediently opens his mouth wide, the gap between his two front teeth glinting in the low light, and shows Gyro his tongue. Half of it is a darker pink than the other, and a half-healed seam runs from the back to the tip. It points up, then down, then side-to-side, and then the two halves flex apart, wiggling in the night air, and Gyro nearly yells in delight.

"¡Che cazzo, that's freaky!"

As Joseph shudders and Caesar groans, "Ugh, I don't think I'll ever get used to that," Gappy rubs the two halves together like he's showing off a little, and then closes his mouth with a snap.

"That's my only party trick, actually. But what about you, Gyro? You're a doctor and a racer, right?"

"And a physical therapist and personal trainer, too," muses Josuke the First, tapping his chin. "Do you do anything fun that we haven't seen?"

Gyro straightens up so fast that Johnny's head nearly spins. Smugly, he postures and swirls his iced tea around. "Actually, I do gags."

Oh, shit, shit, shit.

"Gyro, no," Johnny starts, sweet pralines souring and spoiling with the taste of dawning horror in his mouth, and he waves his hands wildly, trying to signal to everyone that this is the worst idea ever-

"I've actually just come up with a new gag today. Want to see it?"

Before Johnny can yank him back down and smother his face in cake, Jolyne sticks her tongue out. "Heh. I wanna hear it."

"Yeah, show us."

"I'd like to hear a gag too," Jonathan offers, and that's the last nail in the mass grave.

Delighted, Gyro swats away Johnny's flailing hands and brushes his long, soft hair back from his face. It's all Johnny can do not to sink into his chair. Being a supportive, protective and understanding boyfriend is one thing. But Gyro's gags… Well, Johnny doesn't actually have any faith that this won't ruin Gyro's hard-won respect with his family. He settles back, surrendering to fate, and waits for oblivion.

Gyro clears his throat theatrically and announces, "Okay. This one's called, 'Eight Day Week'."

He scoots to the edge of the patio chair.

"Sunday."

And he throws his shoulders back, head poised like a king, and shakes his fist into the air. "To act dishonorably is unforgivable! This is what it means to be a gentleman!"

Jolyne chokes on her drink and Speedwagon spits out a praline. Johnny is deeply shocked to the core. It's Jonathan to a tee. Beside him, Jonathan bursts into laughter, clutching his sides in surprise.

Gyro pays them no mind and smoothly transitions into, "Monday." He twists and poses theatrically, flexing his arms and grinning insolently. He points dramatically to the nearest victim, who happens to be Joseph. "And your next line is, 'Are you doing impressions of us, asshole!?'"

"Are you doing impre- Hey!"

And like this, he goes down the line of Jojos in random order, an unholy combination of a heckle and a series of genuinely accurate impersonations. No one escapes it, not even the ever-feared Mafioso and the lumbering hulk, and as the cackling passes through the gathered with each and every new victim, Johnny's pride gets whittled down notch by notch until it's a pile of splinters at his metaphorical feet.

And it's funny. Genuinely funny.

Johnny wants to smile.

The gag ends with a perfectly imitated, "And Sunday again. The hell did you say about my hair!?" and when Gyro receives a massive round of applause (and only a few empty cans chucked at his head), he stands and bows, and then looks to Johnny for his judgement.

Well, no use beating around the bush about anything. Johnny Joestar is done with milling about, wasting time on wondering the what-ifs and if-onlys. It's time to be a man again. It's time to be a worthwhile human. It's time to be brave.

It took bravery to start trying to walk again, and it took bravery to kiss Gyro for the first time, and it'll take bravery to start smiling.

No time like the present to get into practice. Courage is owning your fear.

Johnny smiles, a bona fide this time. It feels awkward on his face. He reckons it must work, though, because Jonathan does a double take and Gyro starts grinning back, as if it's contagious.

"Y'know what, Gyro? That one's actually one of my favorites you've ever done."

It's late. The stars wink down from up above, mirroring the eight identical birthmarks that sit upon the shoulders of the family tucked all around a stone veranda, roofed with white slats. Dim yellow lamplight eventually fades away, leaving everyone warm, sated and comfortable.

As if he's just realized something, Gyro cocks his head to one side, eyes twinkling. "Johnny."

"What?"

"So this whole time. Jojo-Spotting, your entire plan, this whole time. It was for me."

Jolyne pretends to gag and Caesar shakes his head, chuckling. Johnny debates pretending not to know what he's talking about, and then decides to just own up to it. Joe Kid Joestar would have walked for his own ego. But the only reason why Johnny can walk now is because he had Gyro- and Johnny walked for Gyro's honor.

He shrugs. "Like I said. While you're here, I'm going to take care of you."

Jolyne genuinely gags at that and Josuke the First crosses his arms and smiles wryly at Johnny, bowing his head a little as if in penance. "Y'know, man… You're actually way more… Romantic? No. Affectio- no. Human. You're way more human than I thought."

It shouldn't suddenly bring him to silence, but it does. Maybe it's because it's so late. Maybe it's because he's walked today. But he's tired and he doesn't have a snappy comeback left in him.

At his side, Jonathan chuckles, titling his head back. Even in the dark, Johnny can see the stars reflected in his eyes. "I think that Johnny's shown us all how to be a little more human tonight."

"Blimey, Johnny, I nearly died of a heart attack seeing you walk again," Speedwagon swears, awe and admiration pouring out of him like clasped hands overfilled. He beams, the old scar on his cheek melting into his face until it can't be seen at all.

But Jolyne rolls her eyes at that. "Leave it to Johnny to pull a stunt like that in the most straightforward way possible. Hell, Johnny, showmanship's one thing, but haven't you ever heard of subtlety? The next time you have a life changing announcement like any of that, do us all a favor and be way, way, way more gentle and roundabout with it."

Joseph's eyes light up like he's just thought of something, and he grins. "Hey. Roundabout." He wraps his arm around Caesar's shoulders and croons obnoxiously into his face, almost encouraged by Caesar's challenging look-

"I'll be the roundabout.

The words will make you out 'n out."

It isn't so terribly off-tune that nobody recognizes it. It's a classic, a song that they've heard on high since childhood, something familiar and affectionate. A collective groan runs through the gathered folk until from the other side, Jolyne grins and backhands Josuke's arm.

Her voice is the clearest of any of them, anyway.

"I'll spend the day your way…"

And that's what does it. That's what breaks the dam. The single drop spreads like a ripple over still water. It's the kind of song that only works when a whole group sings it together, the voices high and low meshing and weaving into something that is only passably a melody but is somehow still completely recognizable as good music. Horrifyingly, Gyro throws an arm around Johnny's shoulders and he's into it too. All at once, as if on cue, almost everyone joins together for the next line, drawing it out-

"Call it morning, driving through the sound and in and out the valley!"

Peals of laughter break out at how long they've dragged out the last word, and for a moment Gappy's eyes light up in the realization that he knows the words. He and Giorno glance at each other from across the table as if in solidarity, and they're the ones who get it going again, clapping to the beat.

"The music dance and sing.

They make the children really ring."

And here is the biggest shock of the night, bar none.

Jotaro starts singing along, too.

His hands are still jammed into his pockets and he won't look anyone in the eye, but there's no mistaking that deep, rumbling timbre.

"I'll spend the day your way…

Call it morning, driving through the sound and in and out the valley."

The whole scene is mismatched to high heaven. Everyone but Johnny's singing, swept up by the energy, the sudden intense sense of belonging. The British, the Japanese, the American, and the Italian, the wanderer, the criminal, the student, the racer, the marine-goddamn-biologist all muddled and mixed up into something so kindred that it's beyond the water of the womb or the blood of the covenant. It's the salt and stardust of everything.

"In and around the lake,

Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there!"

Johnny rolls his eyes, but it's comfortable. And it's dark. And it's the warmest morning of January the First that has ever graced Danville, Kentucky.

Amidst a sea of fireflies, with laughter and voices rising up around him, nestled under Gyro's arm and surrounded by the people he loves, Johnny can't really find it in him to be an asshole anymore. In another life, he reckons, he could very well be alone. Here, he is fine. He is with family, after all. The final layer of inhibition stripping away quietly, shriveling up and dying and dissipating into the night, Johnny sucks in a deep, stuttering breath and sings.

Surprising himself, he finds that he still knows all the words, even after all this time.

"One mile over, we'll be there and we'll see you.

Ten true summers, we'll be there and laughing too.

Twenty four before, my love, you'll see- I'll be there with you."

Before bed, Johnny takes the keychain that says NICKY down from the door of his brother Nicholas's old room, and suddenly it becomes his cousin Giorno's new room.

After a brief but heated volley of animated arguing and shit-slinging debate, Johnny and Gyro come to a happy medium by leaving Senna up on the wall, but draping a scarf across his eyes to spare him from accidental voyeurism.

No actual New Years' fucking gets done. Johnny's hips are still sore from the demonstration downstairs, and Little Johnny and the rest of the equipment aren't up to it. It's just one of those nights. Irritated and feeling slightly cheated, Johnny tries to hold Gyro down for a blowjob but he's easily flipped onto his back, pinned firmly against his own childhood bed by Gyro's stupidly impressive strength. He struggles, Gyro's bear slumping somewhere against the headboard from his unenthusiastic thrashing, but it's no use against Gyro's unyielding grip.

"Just kissing is nice tonight."

"Yeah, but I wanna suck you-"

"Kiss me, Johnny," Gyro breathes, cutting him off, never demanding but always firm. He dips down and swallows his words right out of his throat and Johnny drowns in his mouth, taut olive skin caressing and caging him from above, the heat enveloping him from everywhere. It's all Johnny can do to reach up, burying his fingers into Gyro's hair and pulling halfheartedly, but even this half-assed final attempt at seduction goes terribly wrong and Gyro chuckles into his mouth instead of moaning like he should.

Without his shirt and the buttons of his fly half undone, Gyro soothes him leisurely and steadily from all around him, running his broad hands down his sides, licking into the roof of his mouth, settling chest-to-chest. When they finally part, slowing into languid kissing and pulses finally calming into steady, synced beats, Johnny isn't even irritated anymore, and Gyro isn't hard.

Gyro always finds ways around obstacles. That's the difference between them. Johnny goes full throttle in one single direction and Gyro dances around the lane. Somehow, it's ended up like this, with Johnny surging forward and Gyro molding himself around him, twisting, holding, guiding, cherishing.

Watching Gyro straighten up to hum tunelessly to himself and gently knead the muscles in his thighs and calves, stretching the tendons with practiced care, Johnny realizes dimly that he is happy.

It's an odd, alien feeling to know it for sure, but he's been happy for a while now. Life has changed. For the better.

He has changed, for the better. Once, he was a fool, a child, someone not worth the breath he drew. Once, he was broken, less than a human, as empty as a night with no stars. But now he is Johnny, and despite everything that has ever happened or will ever happen, he lives.

"Hey, Gyro?"

"Hm?"

"…Thanks for coming with me. Here. To my home."

"And thank you for taking care of me while we are here," replies Gyro impishly, peering down at him, a sliver of starlight catching in his hair from the wide window, curtains nearly closed all the way shut, but not quite. "Your family is so surprising, Johnny. Did you know that? They're so bizarre."

"No, we're completely normal," Johnny deadpans.

"I doubt they'd react normally if they found us fucking just down the hall, anyway."

"Honestly? I just think we'd get a round of thumbs-ups."

Gyro massages his fingertips into the backs of Johnny's thighs, beautiful and strong and by far Johnny's favorite annoying little shit in the whole cosmos. He laughs through his nose and kisses his kneecap. "I don't think I'll ever understand what you're all really about, but I think that's the point of you Joestars."

That full, burning feeling rises back into Johnny's spirit, filling the void that used to contain nothing. It's probably love, the kind in the stories. Shit, Johnny's in deep. Good thing he's ready to start enjoying every minute of it. He arcs his head back and regards Gyro fondly, smirking. "Been tryin' to figure us out, have you?

"The conclusion I've come up with," says Gyro, propping himself up on Johnny's knees and grinning like the cat that ate the endangered-or-at-least-conservationally-vulnerable eagle, "All Joestars are violent, beautiful psychos with hearts that shine like the birth of a star."

"That's really poetic, Gyro. You should write a book," says Johnny dryly, but he reaches past his numb, dully buzzing knees to stroke his fingertips over Gyro's cheek anyway, and then Gyro's hand comes up to cup it against the warmth of his stubbly face. He smiles down at Johnny, gently, fondly, like he's gazing upon his very own priceless treasure, and slowly turns his head to press a kiss into his palm.

"Your eyes were on fire, when you stood up and walked in front of your whole family," Gyro whispers in the dark. "I was afraid we were all going to burn up. Thank you… for allowing me the privilege of watching you shine."

Johnny can't find the words to respond. It's all he can think of to gaze up at Gyro, kneeled between his legs, and murmur, "Gyro."

"Sei la mia stella polare, e come un raggio di sole hai illuminato la mia vita. Johnny. Johnny. Johnny."

That waterfall of hair tumbles from his shoulder, brushing over Johnny's raised knees, and even though he can't feel it yet, he might one day and that's enough.

"Are you crying?"

"Yes."

"Don't cry."

"I can't stop."

At first, he doesn't know why the early, lemon-yellow sunlight bouncing through his room instantly ignites a warning signal in his brain. He only groans a little, curling deeper into Gyro's embrace, breathing in the smell of his hair and luxuriating in the warmth of the cage of his arms, wishing the sun would just-

Oh. Oh God.

The sun.

It's morning.

Johnny's eyes snap open and he heaves himself up on his elbows, blinking away the sleep, frantically slapping Gyro's bare shoulder and hissing, "Gyro. Gyro. Wake the fuck up. We have to wake up now."

Gyro groans and turns over, finding his teddy bear blindly and tugging it over his screwed-shut eyes. "Merda. Fuck off, Johnny, it's New Year's Day."

"Pick me up and carry me to the bathroom."

Something about the unusual urgency in his voice must mean something to Gyro, because, even if obviously unwillingly, he peeks at him blearily and mutters, voice low and scratchy from sleep, "You'd better be dead or dying, darling."

"Put on a- where's your shirt? Where'd I throw your- Y'know what, screw the shirt. Pick me up. We're going to the bathroom. Now."

"Why, is it that much of an emergency-"

"Lesson number one of being a Joestar, you have to get the bathroom before Josuke or he'll hog it for half an hour to do his hair."

Gyro's entire face twists in confusion. "Okay, well, I know you guys have your weird competitive pride and all, but… This house is big. There have to be a dozen bathrooms here."

And he knows he's being ominous and dramatic but Johnny takes Gyro's face in his hands and smashes their foreheads together, shaking him for emphasis, "This house is old. The pipes don't carry hot water after the first ten minutes."

Gyro's eyes widen at that and they're out the door before Johnny can regret not putting on pants.

The door to the bathroom is open and a crisp rivulet of pale crystal light streams from the window above the sink, the prize at the very end of the eastern hallway. Just as Gyro thuds past their doors, Joseph and Jolyne stick their mussed heads out from their rooms and scream in unison, "Oh, come on!" Gappy evidently decides to make a rush for it, following closely at Gyro's heels, calling out after them, "Wait!"

But Gyro doesn't wait, he only laughs and carries on, Johnny clutched in his strong arms, and for a moment Johnny feels like he's in Slow Dancer again- engine roaring, marbles clattering past the screaming wheels, heartbeat thrumming in his ears, the finish line just inches away-

-and then Josuke appears just within sight from behind the door, shoulders thrown triumphantly back. Glossy black hair flops in loose waves all down the front of his face and one hand is already on the doorknob, the other holding up a fresh pair of red New Year's underwear.

"No!" Gyro howls, but Josuke only leers, a shit-eating, triumphant, gleeful, and infuriating leer, calls out, "Too slow, Mr. Two-Time Grand National Series Champion!" and slams the door shut. Gyro doesn't skid to a stop on time and the both of them cruise to a clumsy halt just outside of the bathroom door, crashing into a heap, with Gappy and Jolyne following immediately after.

"Fuck! God fucking dammit!" Johnny screams, pounding the door with clenched fists. Several more bed-mussed heads poke out from the corridor at the noise, including a wide-eyed Giorno and Jotaro, who, perplexingly, has somehow still got that hat jammed on his head. Does he sleep in it? When they all notice that the bathroom's been taken, all of them, even Jonathan, groan and raise hell.

Nobody's louder about it than Johnny.

"I hate this stupid goddamn house and everyone inside it!"

But everyone knows that that's a lie.

"It's too early for this shit!"

That one's truer than truth.

★★★★★★★★

In another time, in another world, in another life, there was a family of Jojos, and they were all inexplicably, wondrously, miraculously happy.

★★★★★★★★

Afterword

End Notes


Here's a AU Joestar Family Tree!!

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