BLOODY BAT ROMEO
Romeo had never called Jojo before, not even once. It was particularly strange to have this first call happen so late at night, and just a few hours after they'd so awkwardly parted ways.
“'Boss'? Who’s that?” Tama blinks, echoing what Jojo had just said.
Jojo presses the button to pick up the call but, to his surprise, it stopped ringing a second before he could.
“NO!!” He tries to dial back immediately. Tama just observes him curiously.
No answer. He tries again. No answer.
“Boss… Please… Pick up…!”
Tama watches him quietly, but after the third failed attempt he places a hand on Jojo’s shoulder.
“Hey, calm down. Maybe he dropped his phone?”
Jojo shakes his head quickly. “Boss isn’t that careless. Something must’ve happened to him…”
“Okay, then why don’t you try texting him instead?”
“Ah!” Jojo straightens up again. “Yeah, great idea!”
Tama beams at him as Jojo’s fingers rapidly compose a message. As he types, Tama silently examines the look in Jojo’s eyes.
“...Is this 'Boss' guy a friend of yours?”
“Yeah, he’s my best—” Jojo’s reply was almost instinctive, but the sudden memory of their earlier fight interrupts him He stops typing, looking heartbroken.
Jojo looks at him with teary eyes, startling Tama, and takes a deep breath before beginning his explanation.
“He’s a friend I had a fight with, s-so I thought he never wanted to talk to me again, but he called me, so maybe he doesn’t totally hate me!?”
“Oh!” Tama’s eyes immediately light up, his intense love for stories of friendship getting the best of him. “That's great, isn’t it!? Maybe he wants to apologize! Did you tell him to call you back!?”
Jojo nods. “I texted him saying I missed his call and to call me back… Maybe I should text him again.”
“Eh? You’re gonna text him again already? But didn’t you just—”
Before Tama can finish, Jojo's already sending text after text to Romeo in rapid succession, mostly one liners that just say ‘Boss’ in full caps, interspersed with messages asking why he’s not picking up, where is he, why did he hang up so quickly, hello, hello?
After dozens of texts, Jojo finally sees three little dots indicating that someone is typing on the other end. Both Tama and Jojo look at each other, excited.
Their happiness shatters instantly when Romeo's text arrives: a single text that reads “I called you on accident. Leave me alone.”
Jojo feels like an anvil just dropped on his skull, smashing him into a shapeless blob of clay. He wails sadly and hangs his head. Tama sucks in his teeth and shakes his head, patting Jojo’s back.
“Ouch. Looks like he’s still pissed at you, huh. Whatdya do to him, anyway?”
Jojo wipes his eyes with his sleeve, sniffling.
“I didn’t do nothin’ wrong! He’s the one that can’t be honest! I hate this! I’m—”
He reads Romeo’s text again, frustrated. There’s so much he wants to say about what happened, but if Romeo doesn’t want to talk to him, there’s nothing he can do about it. He sighs.
“...I’m just gonna go home.”
“Aw, really?” Tama crosses his arms behind his head and tilts his face to take a better look at Jojo’s expression, shrugging. “Okay. It’s pretty late, huh. I should get going, too.”
“Sorry about what happened with those scary guys earlier. My scar and my hair attract lotsa bad attention. I didn’t mean to drag ya into it…”
Tama snickers at Jojo’s sincere apology, shaking his head.
“Nah, it’s fine. It was kinda fun, really!”
“How the hell was that fun!?”
“Haha. You got my number, dontcha?” Tama cheerfully ignores the question, taking a step back. “Text me anytime, Jojo! Let’s hang out again and get more Macaron merch together, yeah?”
Jojo’s eyes shine more than usual, reflecting both his tears and the neon nights around them. He nods energetically, recharged with happiness.
“Yeah, I will! I wanna get good at crane games, too!”
“That’s the spirit!” Tama makes a fist with both hands and mimics his energy level. “Hang with me, my child, and I will teach you everything there is to know about it! Every single trick!”
Tama and Jojo joke around for a few a little while longer before they each part ways. But the moment he’s no longer with Tama, Jojo can feel sadness creeping in again, and it walks with him all the way back home.
* * *
Jojo skips class the next morning, but leaves his house as early as possible. He remembers Romeo mentioning he was going to look for the first of the Summer Fireworks, and feels like he has no time to lose. He considered texting Meru for help, but if Romeo wouldn’t even let Jojo come along, he imagines he’d be even less inclined to get Meru involved, too.
He puts his jealousy toward Meru aside for a moment as he runs as fast as he can down the street, taking out his phone to help him navigate.
“Tch. I gotta get there before Romeo does!”
* * *
Elsewhere, Romeo looks back inside before stepping out the door of a very run-down apartment.
“...I’m leaving, old man.”
No answer. Romeo seems unfazed by this, closing the door behind him.
He double checks the bandages around his bat before hiding it inside his coat again, rubbing his shoulder with one hand to undo some stress knots.
He remembers where he was heading, but he decides to double check the address he'd pinned just to be sure. The first thing he sees when he unlocks his phone is the unfortunate string of texts that Jojo left him last night before Romeo’s reply completely cut him off.
...Ugh. That dumbass is probably gonna go there too, huh.
As much as he hopes his threat from yesterday would discourage Jojo from coming along, Romeo knows the kind of person Jojo is: an absolute idiot. If anything, it’s good motivation for him to get to the other side of town first and get this over with quickly.
* * *
Around an hour later, Romeo finds himself walking through an unfamiliar part of town that's silent and eerily run down. According to the map, he should be only a few blocks away from the hideout of the first of the Summer Fireworks, but all he sees around him are quaint shops that look like they're from a different era. They're so empty, it’s hard to tell if there’s even anyone manning them at all.
It’s too quiet… I don’t like it.
For a moment, Romeo wonders if this is even the right place. From his experience, delinquent hideouts are usually loud and bustling with activity, but he can’t hear anything from where he stands— until he does.
He hears footsteps coming from an alley closeby and immediately reaches for his bat, pulling it out from his coat without removing the bandages just yet, in case it turns out to be just a local.
“...I can hear you. Come out.”
As if summoned by his voice, the steps get quicker and louder, and Romeo reaches to tug down the bandages off his bat in one swift motion, stopping the moment the figure steps out of the shadows.
Jojo, out of breath, holds onto the wall with one hand, looking at Romeo with a hopeful look in his eyes.
“Good… I got here in time… Haha…”
Romeo sets the bat over his shoulder, frowning.
“What are you doing here? I told you not to come.”
Jojo steps closer, yet keeps a fair amount of distance between the two of them. “But you knew I would come, Boss! I know you did!”
“...I did. And I also told you I would kill you if you showed up.”
“Boss!” Jojo takes one dramatic step forward. “Let’s think this through first—”
“ENOUGH!” Romeo’s loud voice echoes through the empty street. Jojo jolts, taking a step back, and Romeo points his bat at him.
“You’re useless and weak. You really think I'd let you drag me down? If you want to die that badly, I’ll grant your miserable wish myself before the Kappore even get a chance.”
Jojo’s voice cracks with pain, but the sound of dozens of steps from all different directions cuts him off. Romeo doesn’t lower his bat, only turning gaze towards the sound.
In a matter of seconds, a sea of unfamiliar delinquents have Romeo and Jojo surrounded.