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Fields of Heaven

Chapter Text

I never considered myself to be the luckiest guy around. In fact there were days that I swear whatever God was watching was having his laughs as he tossed me around.

A day off. Something you’d think I deserve for everything I gotta put up with. But now I’m here on the couch of this small-enough apartment, dealing with my daily hell: curled up on one end of the sofa, trying my fucking best to not be touched or brushed up against while Diego and HP were going at it on the other end.

Groaning to myself, I tried my best to ignore the pair and just watch TV. I couldn’t exactly rush out of the room in my state, and doing so would take time and way too much effort. So for now, I just had to hope my mental screaming reached the asshole and made him go to his own room.

He knows damn well just how much this shit pisses me off from the last five times he pulled this shit. I know that Diego just wants to keep this up for as long as he can, hoping that I’ll storm off and leave them alone.

What a fantastic roommate the Lord gifted me with.

Either way, Brando wasn’t going to have his way this time. Grabbing two pillows that I was leaning on, I clamped them on my ears, trying my best to block out the noise.

Shit, it was still leaking through!

The pair was doing nothing terrible, mind you, but enough for me to cower against the end of the sofa like a mouse with the pillows pressed against my ears like I was trying to turn into a sandwich.

I swear, I could feel the damn couch move
under me like a water bed, it was getting that bad.

I thought I would be able to just sit there and wait for Diego to just surrender and move to his room. I swear, I swear, I was so close to that point! But then I heard HP grunt something in that stoic voice of hers that made me lunge for my wheelchair and roll to the building’s elevator.

“Quit biting so hard.”

Not what I needed to know, guys. Thanks a bunch.

A cool breeze greeted me as I wheeled outside.

I cursed myself for not having the mind to grab a sweater as I pulled my tattered hoodie closer to my chest.

However, after coming outside I realized; I didn't have any set destination in mind. Going back upstairs would be suicide and it would be too much work to take a bus to anywhere interesting. My only options were to roll around town until the chill got to me or just find something to do.

No sweater meant no money and no money meant that the only place left to go was the park. The area’s full of nice restaurants but as soon as you're not interested in going to one, you got nothing but the parks and buses to get you the hell out.

Either way, not wanting to deal with the hill, I decide to make a left, crossing the street then the next block to just go to that tiny little park for just a breather.

Crossing the next street to get to that little area with the benches, I noticed two guys playing handball between themselves against the brick wall. Deciding that I might as well watch and kill time, I wheeled myself over beside one of the benches when the guy with the big hat and long hair missed his pass.

It’s true what they say about time slowing down in times of trouble right before your eyes.
Like when I saw their handball fly right past the guy’s hand, increasing in size as it spun my way.

It was then, as that dark green rubber ball smacked me right against the temple onto the ground, that I found something to make the gray days just a bit better.

Not by much, but I can’t complain.

Chapter Text

A day off on a saturday. Just as God intended and as I preferred it. Unfortunately, this wasn’t always the case, as the life of a nurse is as unpredictable as they come. In one minute, I could be taking a shower to get ready for my free day. Then, a phone call later, I’m hopping onto my beautiful Valkyrie and booking it for the hospital to fill a shift or answer an emergency. But nothing interrupted my sleep that day, meaning that I was hopefully in the clear!

Planning to enjoy my sacred weekend, I rose from my beautifully messy bed at about...noon? Yeah, noon.

Well, I did my best to lie around in my little piece of heaven for as long as I could. It was probably another 15 minutes until my stomach was screaming at me to get something.

Dragging my feet over to the kitchen/living room, I heard my crappy phone blaring on my counter where I left it charge. The tune going off was one that I saved for a certain wildcard, so I made sure to steel myself. Checking it out as I scouted out my fridge for something to make as a breakfast-lunch combo, I noticed a missed call from that buffone, Pocoloco.

I met Loco about a month back in the hospital I work at. This crazy bastardo fell off his balcony on the third floor, somehow. Luckily for him, the tree beside his building managed to break his fall enough so that he walked away with only a broken arm.

After hearing something that crazy, I decided to talk to the guy when the doc wasn’t looking and, good God, the guy is even crazier up close. Now a smart man would have probably backed away after the first minute...but he made my sides go numb within the first thirty seconds, so we stayed in touch.

I called Mr. Rabbit’s Foot while pulling out the box of donuts from the night before. He picked up soon after.

“Yo! Yo! Gyro!” That was loud enough to wake me up better than any alarm. “I know for damn sure that you ain’t got nothing to do!”


I’d be offended if that wasn’t true.

“So let’s meet up and knock around the handball, get some food, whatever!” Poco continues.

Slumping over on my couch with the box open in my lap, I take a bite out of one of the cold snacks before saying anything. “Sure, sure. What time can I expect to see ya?”

“Funny story about that…” I heard him shoot back. Judging from the tone alone, I groan, preparing myself for another patented Loco excuse.

“My ride’s not exactly on me at the moment...and I’m stuck here with an empty metrocard. So…” I hear him say with an expectant whistle.

I really shoulda stuck to my guns, but shit, he was right about that nothing to do bit. Plus, I hadn’t been able to bounce the ball around in a good while.

“You’re a real lucky bastard, you know that?” I shot back, finishing the donut as I heard him laugh. “And the parking there in Kew ain’t exactly a picnic either, Loco, so you better make this up to me!”

As if. The most I could probably expect was a free meal. And it would probably be Chinese.

“Fine, fine, one of your parks. So which, the actual park or the one that’s more of an oversized corner of a room?”

After setting everything up, I hang up and sank back into my couch. Taking a deep breath and processing the fact that my day off was just planned out in a matter of minutes by someone else, I exhale again. Sitting up on the sofa, I finish up the other 5 donuts quickly, almost choking a few times. Crushing the box to get it ready to be recycled, I drop it in a basket with the rest of the papers before rushing into my room to pick out what I needed to wear.


The phone said 10 degrees Celsius- I still have no idea how the hell to read this Faren-whatever thing the Americans use- so a sweater to go along with the tank top and pants would be best. First a clean up, of course. After all I had 2 hours to head to Kew Gardens. Stepping into the bathroom, I hang up the clothes on the towel rack and quickly get cleaned up, dried out, polish my pretty little grits, and get changed.


Still got an hour and half left, might as well try to eat a bit more. I can make something out of this leftover ramen right?

Heading out with time to spare, I go to the building’s parking lot and see her again. My pride, cara mia, shiny and chrome.


My Valkyrie.


Slipping on my goggles, I pat my pretty little bike, always happy to know that she’s in working order and clean. Then I turn her right on, listening to that engine purr before riding my way out of the Hills and for the Kew, laughing the whole way there, finally awake!

You know, you’d think I should have known that he’d be late. Hell, by the time Loco finally showed his face, I could feel the little bit of energy that Cup Noodle gave me starting to empty out. I tried to chew him out for that but, what do you know? Another overly detailed excuse that just made me tell him to shut up and forget about it.

Either way I take out my lucky green ball and we walk up to that wall. Taking the first shot, I bounce that sucker off the rotting wall and Pocoloco passes it back like nothing. The bastard’s either been practicing or just flexing his luck again.
So we’re going back and forth, scoring points back to back and getting tired, or at least I was. As we kept going and going, I had to take a quick break to take off that sweater and tie it around my waist; I sweating enough to make me forget the cold. We got right back into it after I was ready again, although I really shouldn’t have considering that I really getting hungry. And I dunno what happened, but Loco just does this really HARD lob. Not really feeling 100% anymore, I stumbled and missed, letting my ball just fly past my hand. I cursed cause I gave up another point until

Smack

      “Guh"

         Rattle
                 CRASH
                       Bounce, bounce, bounce.

I dunno where the hell this kid popped out from. But by the time I’ve turned around, I see this hat-wearing kid on the ground with his wheelchair at his feet. A double whammy of guilt.


Cursing like I never have, I run to the guy’s side and put that nursing education to use while Loco’s losing his shit behind me. Once I got a pulse and confirm that he wasn’t bleeding, I wait for a minute or two. If I got nothing after that, I’d have to assume a concussion and rush him to a hospital.

The minute felt like it was a damn hour but he finally starts to move and wake up.


More relieved than anyone could imagine, I grin at the kid and laugh my worries away.


“Hey, you're awake. For a second, I was scared that I was gonna add a new statistic to deaths: wiped out by handball.”

Now his face might have said that he was pissed, but I knew that he was laughing in the inside. Yeah.

"So kid, what's your name?" I ask, brushing through his hair for a quick check. A bruise is starting to form but it doesn't look too serious yet.

The kid winces away from my hand, holding his palm to the side of his head. I wonder where I could find an ice pack as I wait for the kid’s reply.

"Why do you need to know something like that?" He snapped in response. A lively one.

"Just making friendly conversation, nyoho." Not my most convincing lie, but at least with the small response the kid gave me I could tell he wasn't delirious.

"...Johnny"

"Ciao, Johnny. I'm Gyro and the nutcase behind me is Pocoloco. Do you know where you are right now?"

He scoffs. "The floor?"

I chuckle at such a sarcastic response. If he had enough of a mind to crack a joke then I knew he should be mostly fine. Still, I wanted to keep an eye on him until I was sure he was in the clear. I picked up the wheelchair lying next to him and knelt to pick him up.

"I'm not a child I can do it myself!" Johnny snaps at me again, trying to knock my hands away when I got too close.

It wasn't uncommon to see disabled patients fighting over the littlest acts of independence so I shrugged my shoulders and took a step back as he moved himself back into his chair. He was still holding the side of his face glaring at me as he slowly climbed onto the chair.

However, my duties as a nurse weren’t done just yet. Grabbing the handles of the wheelchair, I kept Johnny in place as I whistled at the relieved Pocoloco to run to the grocery store a block down and take some of their ice and paper.

While he ran off, Johnny turned in his seat and I swear I saw fire in the boy’s eyes.

“Let go, you’ve done enough!” He yelled at me, punching at my arms and stomach as I could do nothing but just take it. His upper body strength was more than I accounted for, hell I almost lost my grip after the first blow to the stomach.

“N-nope. Ain’t gonna be that easy.” I manage to grunt out as I hold Johnny’s chair still. Not saying another word, I just try to focus on waiting for Loco to get back with that damn ice pack while I have to stay with the flailing cat.

His punches start to slow down as I see Pocoloco approaching carrying a grocery bag with him. Meno male! My grip was already starting to loosen and I was far too hungry to deal with this much longer.

“See, gattino? I'm not trying to hurt you, I'm trying to help you.” I say as I grab the ice out of the bag. I turn to hand it to Johnny only to find he’s already wheeled a few steps away. Annoyed and trying to comprehend how the hell he managed that so quietly.

I walk over to him, grabbing and holding his chair in place with my free hand.

“I'm a nurse, you got nothing to worry about! So how about we stop trying to sneak out?” I ask in a sterner tone than I meant to have.

That only seemed to annoy him more as he took another jab at my arm. He was lucky I’m a kind nurse and man altogether, despite what some others might say.

“I don't need your help.” He practically hisses at me, still trying to wheel the hell out of there. Looks like tiny Johnny here was fiercely independent, which ain’t a bad thing unless you’re a nurse trying to do his job.

Trying my best to ignore his hissy fit, I start to apply the ice while just trying to talk, calmly this time.

“You seem pretty angry. And you know what always makes me happy when I’m angry?” Johnny glares at me in silence, leaning slightly into the ice pack. At least he wasn’t hitting me anymore. “A good meal of course!”

A bewildered expression crossed his face, contrasting the angry look he’d been giving me the whole time.

“I feel bad about hitting you,” I continued “and Loco over here owes me a meal anyways, right Mr. Lucky?”

I turned to Pocoloco to see him looking away, feigning ignorance at my comment.

Cheap bastard.

“Well, either way, you get a free meal and I wouldn’t turn that down if I were you.”

Now I’m not really the kind who goes around inviting every person I see out for lunch but Johnny’s attitude worried me. I couldn’t tell how severe his condition was and he wasn’t cooperating with me in the slightest, so I figured a meal would make him lower his guard enough so I could make sure there was no real damage.

Plus I was starving.

After a drawn-out pause, Johnny lost that fire in his eyes. Letting out a sigh, he finally just groaned.

“Fine, fine, if that’ll make us even!”

Laughing with victory, I wheel Johnny towards Pocoloco. At first, Johnny tried to fight it, but after explaining that rolling him over was a part of our agreement, he just groaned again and let me. After all, the kid might try to roll out on me if I let go.

Rolling the sulky Johnny, I followed after Pocoloco to lead us to lunch.


Well first I had to catch the madman after he tried to run off.

But once I did get the bastard to lead us, guess where he took us? Well call me a prophet, cause it was the Chinese place!

Cheap little…

Either way we entered the tiny restaurant with little complications, beside the occasional Johnny-scowl. But by the time we got there, Johnny boy was sulking silently in his chair as we made our way to a table, Pocoloco going up to the counter to order. It was unnerving how quickly tiny Johnny went from fiery little devil to a lifeless husk. I leaned in closer in my seat over to check and make sure he was still alright. He was staring blankly ahead but then he noticed my staring, turning his head to give me a questioning look.

"Something on my face?" He asked quietly, his eyes still holding a bit of suspicion.

“Besides a big bruise? Nothing." I responded with my best grin.

His suspicious look quickly becomes an angry glare as he shifts the ice pack on his face, trying to hide the bruise. "And whose fault is that?"

Well he wasn't lifeless anymore but making him angrier was the exact opposite of what I was trying to do. Time to change the subject.

"So what were you doing in that park anyways?" I asked quickly.

He sighed and leaned back on the cushioned seat, looking up at the ceiling for a minute before answering, still focused on the ceiling like he could look past it.

“Just needed time to myself. My apartment’s too crowded at the moment and...ugh, why am I explaining myself to a stranger?!” Johnny interrupted himself, sounding like he was more frustrated at himself rather than me.

He slumped against the table again, using his arm to support his head.

“I shoulda just stayed there and dealt with it…” Johnny sighed, finally smacking his head down against the wooden table and staying there. I guess he forgot about his bruise, ‘cause I heard a muffled, slow groan after the smack.

Feeling awkward, I tried my best to take in what he just told me, trying to make sense of his situation.

First off, ‘overcrowded’? That was a foreign concept to me. Living in a large family has made lots of noise and lots of people in one place a standard. I couldn't begin to understand the feeling. But regret? That was one I knew far too well.

"You know it's alright to vent every once in awhile, it's healthy even." I started in as serious a tone as I could muster up. "Leaving ain’t bad either. Sometimes life throws you one too many hardballs and you've gotta take a step back and say 'not today, not right now'. Sometimes the right thing to is to just let things run its course."

He shifted slightly and I hoped that meant he was actually listening to what I was saying.

"And besides, if you hadn't come out you wouldn't be enjoying this quality time huh?"

Johnny shifted his head up just enough for me to see the top part of his face. The look in his eyes was new. Not the fiery glares or looks of bewilderment he's shown me up until now. It was something...softer. As I looked back into his eyes, unable to say anything right away as I tried to read his face, I felt the tension in the room slowly fade away. But before Johnny could actually respond verbally, Loco came back carrying out food on a big tray completely ignoring the atmosphere. Immediately upon Loco's arrival, he tucked his face behind his arms again, forcing me to wonder what had just happened.

Without another word Loco sat next to me, diving right into his food. My stomach was quick to remind me that I had barely eaten so I took my portion, still glancing in Johnny's direction in between mouthfuls of white rice and cheap ribs. He still hadn't moved from under his arms but he was tapping his fingers against the table.


He wasn’t budging from his position and that worried me, so I think for a minute before flashing another smile. Taking one of my ribs, I wave it around his head, whistling like I was calling over a pet, hoping the smell would make him change his mind. Johnny tried to smack my hand away without looking up, but I kept trying until I got what I wanted: a cute little grumble from his stomach.

Glaring up at me with flushed cheeks from embarrassment, he snagged the rib from my fingers and ate it.

“God, you’re annoying!” He grunted as he downed the food.

I could only laugh as I watched him, turning my head once I noticed Loco suddenly stand in his seat.

Now I didn’t see anything, but apparently, the man saw some girls that gave him that look. Considering his luck, he probably wasn’t even lying, either. A minute later, Poco’s out the door, leaving me and Johnny all by our lonesome in that restaurant.

I continued to eat in silence, quickly glancing up to notice johnny with a confused face. Oh yeah I forgot not everyone is used to the typical Loco Madness.

“Yeah that’s typical Pocoloco. Don’t worry about it, he probably just saw some girls.” I said sliding his portion over to him. He started picking at his food as I continued. “He’s real lucky with girls, well lucky with most things actually.”

“And so he just decides to up and leave? Doesn't that bother you?” He says in between mouthfuls of food.

I chuckle in response. “Nah I’ve known Loco too long to be bothered by something like that. Besides he’s lucky enough to actually get somebody, Hell, if I had his luck, I wouldn’t let anyone besides Cristo Himself stop me.”

Johnny casts a suspicious look. “If that’s true then you must be pretty jealous.”

“Jealous?” I answer back, crunching and gagging at the terrible broccoli.

“Of his luck, the way you put it sounds like you’re the complete opposite,” Johnny states, his eyes blankly fixated on his eggroll.

“Nyoho, you couldn’t be further from the truth, gattino.” I laugh in response, finally getting to my fortune cookie.

Johnny scoffs in response “And how are you lucky?”

“Well if I wasn’t lucky, today wouldn’t have happened.”

“Tch, yeah ‘cause hitting a stranger and taking them to lunch is so lucky.” He says in a mocking tone, but there was no fire in his eyes and his words didn’t hold the same bite they had before. I was starting to think that maybe Johnny thought the same way.

Grinning as I read my fortune, I glance at Johnny. “No matter how you slice it, this moment is all the proof I need.”

That seemed to shut Johnny up, as he finished up his cheap meal, giving me just a tiny glance.

Letting out a satisfied sigh, I pat my stomach before flipping my fortune over as I ask for a pen from the counter. Johnny looked confused at first, but I just held up a finger for him to hold off on his thoughts as a pen was brought my way.

“Like I said before, I’m actually a nurse…” I mention as I scribble down my number. “...so if you start to feel real bad after getting home, like nauseous or a headache, just text or call me up, alright? And if ya just need someone to talk to, the line’s open for that too, nyoho!”

I flicked the strip of paper Johnny’s way, which he promptly caught before it could hit the table again. When he read the paper and fortune, the boy just arched his eyebrow before pocketing it.

“Whatever, whatever. Are we done here?”

I nod and stand. I was about to go over and wheel Johnny out but...maybe I should give him back that independence I sorta took for a while there.

It looked like Johnny noticed the gesture, as I saw him give me a look, as if pleasantly surprised at me backing off. Letting Johnny wheel himself out of the restaurant, I followed behind him before tapping him on the shoulder, smiling.

“Alright, well take care of yourself. And remember what I said before, a’ight?”

Johnny nodded silently, turning himself to go home. 


But not before he gave me one last look before turning the corner.

Walking over to where I parked my bike, the fortune of that cookie came back to me.

Hopping onto Valkyrie, I smiled and repeated it to myself.

“‘The shortest path was the detour’, huh? I like the sound of that.”

Chapter Text

Oh God, you’d think he’d get better with time. With Diego still all over me on that crowded couch, I kept thinking that over and over as I just patted his blonde head against my neck. Oh wait, you had someth-and it’s gone. There it- shit.

Holding in a sigh, I remember Johnny storming out of the apartment and couldn’t help but feel bad all over again. I was a guest, and just cooperated in forcing the poor kid out of his own home. I wanted to call him back and offer to leave, but was interrupted by someone’s laughter. Yeah, I gave blondie a good smack for that, but here we are, still going. Normally it feels better than this but I guess that pesky conscience is louder than I thought.

Drumming my finger against my lip to think of a good excuse, I casually mention, “Oh, you think SM is getting hungry by now?”

Looked like that was more than enough. With a sharp wry- God, I still don’t know if I wish he stopped that or if I found it cute- Diego’s off, running off to his room to check on his beloved lizard.

He was out so fast, I almost felt insulted, as there wasn’t even a moment of hesitation. Just say ‘Scary Monsters’, and he assumes the worst and is the first one to his side.

Adjusting my shirt, I pray I won’t have to wear a scarf on the way back home as Diego walks back into the room, young bearded dragon in hand. If someone were listening in on this, they’d probably think that Diego was cooing at some baby- as if he’d come close to any child. But here he was, petting and baby talking the lizard right beside me. Granted, I thought the thing was cute in his own right, but why does he have to be competition for attention, I’ll never know.

“I think he’s ready for some space.” I say, raising an eyebrow at the drowsy looking reptile.

“Nonsense, HP.” Blondie responded, holding Scary on his forearm. “He’s always been a playful little dragon!” He chuckled. Yeah, sure.

Watching the manchild play with his pet, I glance at Diego’s cheek, being unable to help myself but laugh. I press a finger against his flaking cheek, scratching at it.

“I think you need that lotion again.” I point out with a laugh, getting a good jolt out of blondie.

He hands me SM to look after before dashing off again to the bathroom. I gotta admit, I found his weird skin condition to be off-putting at first, but after generally getting used to it as well as seeing how sensitive blondie gets over it, I started to look forward to pointing it out. It’s the best when we’re outside or in public, watching him scramble for the nearest place with a bathroom. Normally, I wouldn’t toy with my boyfriend like that but...if you met him you’d understand.

Waiting as Diego was probably double and triple checking every inch of himself for flaking skin, I slump against the couch, letting Scary Monsters crawl along my arm before setting his down on my lap.

“You’d better not get sick anytime soon,” I say to the bearded dragon as if he could understand me, much less respond. “The last thing I need is to be an emotional crutch for a solid half-year.”

I look at his beady little eyes and just sigh, patting a finger against his head.

“Fine, fine, and you’re pretty cute. And you have a personality blondie can learn from.”

Taking my phone out, I snap a picture of the lizard and forward it to Lucy. She didn’t really like Diego at all, but mentioned that she thought that SM was cute after she saw him the one time. I’m sure I’ll be getting plenty of emojis in a few minutes.

As I feel my phone vibrate wildly from the responses, blondie finally enters the room again, lotion covering the spot on his cheek. He places his hand on his hips, moving his face around.

“Any other places?” He asks, expecting me to check his face again after I’m sure he’s already done so at least 4 times by now.

“Haven’t you already-” I let out a sigh and just mutter, “All over your face.”

Diego got the hint and touched his chin, letting out a sigh of relief before leaning over to pick Scary off my lap. I was tempted to record him baby talking the lizard again but knew that even that was too much...and because I would be spotted. But before I could do anything like that, blondie carries Scary back to the tank in Diego’s room.

By the time blondie’s back, I’m checking the time and the countless messages little Lucy sent. I thought that I should probably be heading home. It was starting to get dark outside and a part of me didn’t want to have Johnny catch me still in here by the time he got back. Not that it mattered to Diego, as he sat right back down next to me. Practically on my lap, blondie moved towards me as if he was gonna try all that neck crap again.

About to jab at lizard boy’s chest with my elbow,the door clicked open again. Figuring it’s probably Johnny, I get my apology ready in my head, pushing Diego off so we could seem at least somewhat presentable.

I begin to see the familiar sight of Johnny rolling in, head low.

"Hey Joh-" I'm cut off when I see Johnny picked his head up, only to reveal a huge bruise on the side of his face. "What the hell happened to you?!” I cry out, more than understandably concerned.

I hear blondie let out a sharp laugh next to me, obviously noting the injury. Johnny glowers in turn rolling himself inside enough to slam the door behind him.

"Shut up, flaky! It's not like your face is any better!" Johnny shouts, tugging his hat down in an attempt to cover the bruise.

Diego, wrapping his arm around my shoulder, clearly took the jab at his proud face to heart as he clicked his teeth. But recovering soon after, blondie stuck out a finger at the kid and laughed.

“Look who’s talking, Joestar! But at least now your face looks as busted as your legs are!”

Alright, no.

Wrapping my arm around Diego’s neck, I pull him forward as hard as I could. Launching him over my shoulder, I slam the cocky blonde on the hard wooden floor, putting him in a deeper sleep than Scary Monsters.

After the hard slam and red covering my sight finally fades, I let go of Diego’s neck. Scooping up the surprisingly light guy in my arms and dropping him on the couch, I walk over to check on Johnny. Judging by the stunned look on his face, I figured that I may have overdone it and would have to apologize to the landlord on the way out.

Taking advantage of the kid’s frozen state, I kneel down and tilt his head so I can get a clear view of the nasty bruise on the side of his face. I didn't even touch it because it looked painful enough.

The touch snapped Johnny back to reality, as he reeled back from my hands.

“H-hey, I'm alright!” He insisted, trying to smack my hands away when I tried to pull him back.
Knowing how stubborn the kid could be, I just shrugged and sighed.

“How the hell did you even manage this? Did you fall on your face?” I asked. The moment of silence that followed was enough as an answer.

Breaking the silence, Johnny scoffed and rolled his way past me and into the bathroom.

“I'm alright now, so don't worry.”

Before he entered the bathroom to wash up, Johnny looked back at me and the unconscious Diego. Smirking a bit, the kid gave a quick nod before moving on, closing the door behind him.

I couldn't help but laugh at the subtle gesture. Now that I had clearly overstayed my welcome, I carried blondie to his room and dropped him on his bed. I swear, he's too damn lucky that I'm too soft. I give Scary another wave before exiting the guys’ apartment, withdrawing cooly.

Chapter Text

Two days.

It's been two days since one of the most bizarre days of my life.

I let out a loud sigh as I sink deeper into the bed. Reaching over to nightstand I grab my phone for the hundredth time today. I notice the ugly bruise on my cheek, darker than two days before with purple splotches throughout, shown in the distorted reflection of my phone. I cautiously prod at the edges of the mark, flinching at the sharp pain.

Give me a break.

At least I'm not the only one with an ugly mark on my face. I can’t help but chuckle to myself, remembering Diego's futile attempts this morning to cover the huge bandage on his forehead with his messy bangs. I really have to actually thank HP for that when I see her again.

Despite how much time passed, still I can't get that weird nurse, Gyro, out of my head. With his overbearing personality and odd looks, I would have thought I would be glad to never have to deal with him again and yet...

"Goddammit, this is so stupid," I complain to the air, tossing my phone onto my pillow as I sit up on the bed.

Trying to play games or watch TV was a waste. It would only be so long before I would get frustrated again, unable to fully concentrate on anything. With nothing to do I stared out the window, counting the clouds passing by.

My mind starts to drift back to Gyro when my count got about to cloud 54. Angry at myself again, I flop down back onto the bed.

Was I really that starved of outside interaction that I was obsessing over some weirdo I met only a few days ago? Christ, that’s pathetic.

I grab my phone once more, determined to actually do something instead of wallowing around in bed all afternoon.

I open up my contact list only to realize that I've never actually put Gyro's number in my phone. I twirl my phone in my hands as I try to remember where Gyro had written his number down. I know he gave it to me somehow but I could have sworn he had just entered it into my phone.

Seriously though, who even writes their number down anymore?

And I thought taking me out for Chinese as an apology was weird enough. At the thought of the Chinese place, I finally remembered the fortune that the weirdo gave to me.

I reach over to the drawer of my nightstand. I always dump whatever's in my pockets in there when I come home and if I couldn't find his number in here, then that was that. After a good minute of rummaging through junk, I find the little slip of paper neatly folded under some loose change.

I unfold the paper, looking at the numbers written neatly in black ink next to the fortune's ‘lucky numbers’ and a small passage explaining the proper way to pronounce rat in Chinese. I never really cared for cookie fortunes. Cheap mass-produced cliches printed with the intention to only make the reader feel better about themselves were never my thing. It was such a silly thing to write your number on, it made me wonder if Gyro was one of those kinds of people who took these ‘fortunes’ seriously. My curiosity peaked, I had to know what dumb fortune was printed that would have made Gyro decide to give me his number on it. When Gyro had first given me his number two days ago I was more focused on what he was saying than the slip of paper so I had only quickly glanced at the fortune, barely reading the words printed.

Flipping the paper to the side with the fortune printed I prepared to find something horribly cheesy. If it was something like ‘a new friend awaits’ or ‘golden opportunities are presenting themselves’, I was gonna call him just to tell him what a dumbass he was. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw next.

I read the small words printed in blue in my head as I found a more comfortable position on the bed. 'The shortest path was the detour.'

"...Lesson number five"

Blood so much blood.

The deep ache in my chest.

"...why..?!"

Hot stinging tears.

"Why did you suddenly..."

The cold harsh ground beneath me.

"...Say lesson number five..."

My heart pounding loudly. Too loud. It's deafening.

"...Before..."

Gyro!

I jump up with a start.

Nausea clawing at my stomach making me hunch over myself. Trembling hands desperately clutching at my sides.

I can't breathe.

Hot tears well up blurring my vision.

I can't breathe!

Trying to suck in bits of air in between sobs.

My whole body is shaking under the weight of itself.

I can't move.

I can't breathe.

I can't do anything.

The darkness is creeping in from all sides.

Only one thought in my mind.

‘Gyro’ is repeated over and over, like the screams from the damned in hell.

I can't breathe.

"I'm dying."

My heart beating so fast I feel like it's about to burst.

"I'm dying."

My breathing's too loud.

"I'm dying."

I can hear the hum of my blood in my veins.

"I'm dying."

Clawing at my sides for some relief.

"I'm dying."

Sucking in more and more air. Why isn't it enough?!

I can't breathe.

My head throbs.

"Gyro."

I breathe again.

My breathes begin to slow as I come back to myself. I'm still quivering but I don't feel as horrible as I did before. I try to focus on the patterns on the floor as my body calms down. My head is pounding.

What the hell was that.

My breathing returns to normal and I begin to move again. I feel empty, numb. Slowly uncurling, I rub my aching sides. I lift my shirt to assess the damage. Countless scratches line my sides and chest. Some are bleeding but I'll live. My head is still pounding, however.

What is my head trying to punch into me? Or what is it trying to suppress?

Thinking about it only makes the aching worse.

"Was that a nightmare?" I think aloud, tugging at the sheets as if they'll give me an answer. I've never had a nightmare that intense. No nightmare has ever felt that real. As I move around, readjusting, I notice the cookie fortune still clutched in my hand, all but crumpled in my fit.

Quickly flipping the fortune over, I stare at the black ink before grabbing my phone. Punching in the numbers with a sense of desperation, I feel my fingers start to tremble as I hit call. The ringing sounds like the dark toll of funeral bells.

I don't think about what I'm going to say, the pounding in my head, or why I'm even calling. None of that matters. Finally after what feels like an eternity, I hear a voice on the other line.

"Pronto." I hear a tinny voice say on the other line. I feel a wave of relief wash over me and let out a breathe I didn't know I was holding in.

"Gyr-" I start to say only to hear a voice too high, too shaky, too choked up to be my own. I feel a lump start to swell in my throat.

"Huh? Gattino?"

That stupid pet name, with a meaning I still don't know, makes my heart swell as I stubbornly scrub away the tears starting to form.

"Yeah..." I respond, still annoyed at the sound of desperation in my voice.

"Are you alright? You don't sound well. Is it the injury? Did you blackout?" He responds, shooting out a series of concerned questions.

"No, no!" I start finally having my voice cooperate with me again "It's just..."

Just what? I was thinking of you? I had a nightmare about you? I had to call you to prove that you were still fine?

All of those responses sounded dumb and I ended up dropping into silence again.

"’Just’? Are you in pain?"

"S-sort of." It wasn't a lie. My head was pounding, though that faded as time went by.

"What's wrong?" Gyro was starting to sound more and more concerned.

"It's just a headache" I finally respond, trying to calm him down.

"Just a headache? Tell me where you are right now."

"Calm down! It's nothing major." Hopefully that would get him to cool down.

"Of course it's major! You could have internal bleeding. Just let me check!" I guess not.

"Fine fine, I'm at my place." I say, raising the white flag.

"Text me the address I'll be there as soon as possible." With that he hung up.

I held my phone in my hands, frozen for a moment. I felt so much better just hearing his voice. To think a nightmare affected me that badly.

I mull over whether I should meet Gyro in the lobby or outside as I type in the apartment building’s address and send it to Gyro. Almost immediately I get a response.

[Be there in 10]

Well now I’m forced to decide. I quickly fix up my shirt and sweats before slipping into some socks and shoes to try and look like I didn't just roll out of bed. I grab the nearest sweater, tossing my phone and keys into the front pocket as I put it on. I drag my wheel chair closer to the bed and set myself on. With no time to waste I head to the lobby to meet Gyro halfway.

Chapter Text

Monday was here, which meant that I should treasure the little free time I had left.

That's what I thought as I aimlessly wandered my apartment.

I had spent most of the day enjoying my time off and the rest of it preparing for work tomorrow. I wasn't expecting anything big to come out of my day.

That is until I got the call.

Having just settled down on the couch and trying to figure out what to watch on the TV, I heard my phone start to ring next to me. Unknown number. Curious as all hell, I pick up.

It was Johnny. I hadn't heard from him in two days and figured he just tossed my number by now. I wanted to be happy but the kid sounded terrible. I tried to figure out what was wrong with him before the kid goes and tells me he has a headache. As if I wasn't worried, enough now a hundred different possibilities were racing through my head! Thankfully, I managed to convince Johnny to let me come by to check on him. 

As soon as I got his address, I’m rushing outside, almost forgetting to grab my keys as I head downstairs to where Valkyrie is parked. Johnny’s place is close to Pocoloco’s so I had a general idea of where I was headed. Running a few lights and going a couple kilos, or miles, or whatever, over the speed limit, I make it to Johnny’s place with time to spare.

I start looking around the block unsure of which building was Johnny’s. I input the address into my phone to get directions to the building, coming to the front of an arch that connected two large apartment buildings together. I quickly park Valkyrie and make my way over to the apartment, walking under the big arch. Before I can call Johnny, a small figure becomes visible through one of the glass doors.

My first instinct was to just pull the door open before I was reminded that most apartments are locked on the outside as the door refused to budge. Johnny seems to notice my struggles but doesn't do anything so I pull at the door a few more times to tell him to hurry up and let me in.

The kids rolls his eyes at me as he finally rolls closer, opening the door.

“Relax, Hulk. Keep pulling at the doors like that and you'll end up breaking it.”

Figures that the first thing little Johnny would say to me while I'm worrying over him is a wise ass remark.

“And you're paying for it if it does.” He finishes, rolling back to give me enough space to step inside.

The kid sounded a lot better, that's for sure, but I wasn't going to let him off that easy. I hold his wheel chair in place with one hand as I lean closer to examine him.

That must have surprised him, ‘cause the kid froze up.

“How's the headache? Did you feel nauseous or faint as you were waiting here? Has your vision worsened in any way?” I start asking quickly.

It's a bad habit that I developed from working so long in a hospital. Too little time and too many patients makes for lots of fast questions.

“My headache is already gone. Hell, it was fading by the time I called you. I told you it was nothing major.”

I nod in response although I didn’t really buy it. I tilt his head towards me with my free hand for a better look. It was upon closer inspection that I noticed something was off.

“Gattino, your eyes. They're red.”

At that remark he quickly slaps my hand off his face, jerking his head away.

“I’m fine, okay?! I just got some dust in my eyes before. And it’s hayfever season so allergies have been screwing me over!!”

An obvious lie. I’ve seen it enough times to be able to tell when someone’s been crying. It wasn't only the redness of his eyes, but the dried streaks on his cheeks.

Johnny was crying not too long ago, but why?

Was that the real reason behind his call before?

The thought of Johnny miserable and alone, trying to find some comfort in something as simple as a phone call sprang to mind.

I didn’t like it.

Didn’t like the nagging ‘what ifs’ hanging in the back of my mind either. Sometimes my imagination was too good in the worse ways.

I tried to think of what had made him so upset. It was then that I realized how little I actually knew about Johnny. I know it’s hard to know a lot about a stranger, which Johnny technically was to me at that point, no matter how weird it was to refer to the kid as such. But there was so much more I felt like I was missing out on, simple things like his favorite foods, his job, or his birthday. Shit that anybody should be able to know in the first conversation. Hell, I didn’t even know the kid’s last name.

It upset me but there would be no point in prying. Johnny was stubborn. Prodding into his personal life would only result in him closing himself off more. The only way to get him to say anything was to wait for him to get comfortable enough to open up on his own. In that way and in others, the kid was like a cat. I really had chosen a fitting nickname.

“Johnny, why did you call me?” I asked. It should be a harmless question. Definitely better than asking him why he was crying. I figured since I couldn't approach directly, I could use some more roundabout ways to get my answers.

“You were the one who invited yourself over here. I didn't ask you to come.” He snapped back. Ouch.

“That's not what I’m asking, gattino. You called me first I just want to know why.” I pointed out.

“You sure ask a lot of questions.”

“I’m a curious person.” A quick smile to win him over.

Silence was all I got.

We spent a solid minute just standing- or well, sitting in Johnny's case- waiting for the ice to break.

“I don’t...know what you want me to say.” He finally responds, fidgeting in his chair and refusing to make eye contact. 

I sigh. I guess even that was too much to ask for.

“Nothing, Johnny. Just forget it.” I spat out in frustration. It looked like I wasn’t going to have any results asking questions. Maybe leaving would have been the best option, I figured. Giving the kid some space seemed to work before, even if it took two days to get a call back.

“I’ll see ya around.” I whip around towards the exit.

“What? You just got here!” An actual reaction?

“Well you were right it was nothing major. So I can just head home now, right? Ciao Jo-” I start to say my goodbyes until I’m suddenly stopped. I can feel the kid gripping my arm.

Suddenly words start to fly out from Johnny’s mouth at a mile a minute.

‘Kilometers a minute’ doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue as nicely.

“Wait! Wait! Look it's just… fuck! I-I'm just lonely, alright?! My roommate's out for the day with his girlfriend, though it’s not like that ass would give any good company anyway. I called you because no one else was home alright? Just don’t… just…” The kid’s tripping over his words, looking like he’s struggling to say what he wants.

It gets quiet again. The kid’s words seem to get caught in his throat, prompting him to swallow hard before talking again.

“Don't leave.”  He looks completely shaken holding onto my arm with a death grip. “Please?”

As if I could leave after that.

“Johnny…” I turn to face him, making the kid relax a bit. His grip loosens as he stares up at me.

Wanting to break the ice and make the kid comfortable, I flash a grin before starting.

“Why didn't you just say you wanted to hang out! I knew you couldn't resist my Italian charm, nyohoho!” I pull my arm from his grip, walking closer to wrap my hand around his back, giving him a few playful smacks.

The surprised look on his face is priceless.

I'm no fool, mind you. I could still tell that something was up. Something that Johnny wasn’t letting on, but was disguised by saying that he wanted company.

But! 

An opportunity is an opportunity.

Not only to learn more about Johnny, but to also get him comfortable around me.

“So since you're so lonely why don't you invite me to your place!” I said still beaming at him. It would be better than waiting out in the dim lobby all day. And I'll admit I was curious about where and how Johnny lived.

I’m preparing myself for an angry response at the suggestion or Johnny changing his mind and shoving me out the door himself. Then he starts to roll himself further into the lobby, leading me to think that this was his way of telling me, ‘get out’.

Right as I began to sulk, Johnny turned his head back towards me.

“Come on, we have to take the elevator to get to my place.” He said casually, as if I was supposed to know he agreed to my suggestion just from his actions alone.

Perking up, I quickly caught up with him, happily surprised with the turn of events. Maybe the kid was already starting to warm up to me.

As he hit the button, a million possibilities sprung to mind.

Was his place shitty or ornate?

Was it decorated or plain?

Cramped or spacious?

Mostly his or this mystery roommate?

What made this roommate so much of an ass?

Thinking of all these things was great, but I know now that the reality would be greater than anything I could imagine.

Chapter Text

"Here it is.”

Not the most glamorous way to announce your place, but my apartment wasn't really all that glamorous anyways. I wheeled further in, dropping my keys on the side table as I passed by it. Gyro followed closely behind, closing the door behind him.

He looked around for a bit before letting out a low whistle of appreciation.

“You’ve got a nice place, gattino.” I gotta remember to ask him what that nickname means.

I shrugged in response. The place wasn’t horrible but I don't think it was deserving of any praise. It certainly wasn’t as large as the country home I lived most of my life in. Even the ranch upstate was fancier than here. But it wasn’t as bad as the shitty motels I had to spend my first weeks in New York in. Overall I’d say it was more okay than nice.

“Hey!” Gyro suddenly exclaimed before making his way over to the coffee table.

“Is this the mystery roommate?” He asked pointing to a picture of Diego in front of the unisphere in Flushing Meadows. Hot Pants took that picture of him a few months ago and Diego kept joking about how he was the true holder of the world the whole day afterwards. As if he was the only tourist who had cleverly taken a picture at an angle where it looks like they were holding the big metal globe.

What an ass.

I thought I had tossed that picture, but I guess Diego fished it out of the trash.

“Yep, You’re lucky you don’t have to meet ‘im”

“What makes him so awful anyways?”

“Everything. Trust me, you spend five minutes with Diego and you’ll be fixin’ to jump off the nearest bridge.”

Gyro chuckles in response before resuming his snooping. It felt weird to watch someone else wander around the apartment. Thinking about it now, he was probably my first guest. I didn't have anyone before this that I could have invited over anyways.

“Oi, Johnny, which room’s yours?” Gyro asks from the other side of the room. While I was lost in thought, Gyro had made his way over to the hallway connecting the bedrooms to the kitchen/living room area.

“None of your business. And stop poking your nose where it don’t belong and get back over here.”

“Now I have to know.” Gyro responded, already reaching for the handle to the door on the left, which unlucky enough was my room.

“Don’t make me come over there!” I reached over to the couch and grabbing one of the pillows.

“Come on, what can you be hiding? I just want a quick look.” I hear the door click as the handle is turned. But because of my more than decent aim, he wasn’t able to open the door before the pillow hit him square on the face. Good job, Johnny.

“That’s mean, gattino.” Gyro pouted before making his way back to the living room area. Good thing he gave up so quickly because that pillow was the only one on the couch. Not that I was gonna let him know that.

“Didn’t anybody ever teach ya how to behave in someone’s home?” I said while settling myself onto the couch.

“You can’t blame me for being curious. It’s not like you’re hiding a dead body or something in your room right?” He said, sitting down on the couch next to me. I was tempted to point out that there was an empty armchair right next to us.

“Yeah. And you were about to become it.” I pushed my wheelchair out of the way so I could have a clearer view of the TV. I wasn’t sure how to go about this whole ‘hanging out’ thing. I had ’friends’ when I was a jockey, but we only spent our time in expensive restaurants and clubs. I searched for the remote, figuring that if Gyro had any ideas on what he wanted to do, he would have said so by now. There were a couple of series I wanted to catch up on anyways.

“I’m guessing this is yours.” Gyro said, waving the remote in front of my face. I quickly snatched it, shooting a quick glare his way.

“Hey gattino, you got Netflix?” Gyro said, ignoring my look as I switched the TV on.

“Yeah, why you got something in mind?”

“Nah, I don’t have it so I was curious.”

“Well we could watch that then.” I shrugged.

“Good thinking Johnny.” From his tone I could tell he was planning on that all along.

“What do you want to watch?” I scroll through the various titles, nothing really catching my eye.

“Hmm, hmm, hmm… how about that one?” Gyro points at some B comedy movie about zombies.

“That looks horrible.”

“Right?!”

“You enjoy bad movies?”

“Who doesn't? A good movie makes you think deeply and all that good stuff, but a bad movie makes for great comedy.”

“You must be a rubber necker then.” I say, starting the movie up, I couldn't think of anything else to watch anyways.

“Che cosa?” Gyro asks giving me a bewildered look.

“What?” I shot a confused expression.

He rubbed his palm against his neck, as if something was stuck on it.

“Oh, rubbernecker? It's like when you pass an accident and you slow down to get a good look.”

“Mhm! I get that. Rubbernecker.” He repeats the phrase a few times like an excited child learning his ABCs. “Your English is funny. It's not like what they teach.”

I scoff, turning my attention to the movie. “You speak funny, Mario.”

He laughs in response.

The movie is horrible. The plot’s all over the place, the characters are forgettable caricatures, the ‘comedy’ is full of bad jokes only a frat boy would enjoy. And yet it was one of the greatest movies I had ever seen. Not for the movie itself but for the company. We spent the first half of the movie cracking jokes and pointing out how horrible the script was.

“I’m rooting for the zombies at this point.” Gyro said snickering at the fake screams of the lead actress on the screen.

“Ugh! I know what you mean.”

“Move over a bit.” He says pushing me off to the side. As we watched the movie we both moved gradually closer to the middle until we were lying right next to each other. I hadn't even noticed it until Gyro was pushing me aside. He got up from the couch and I had to adjust my legs before pausing the movie.

“You got any snacks?” Gyro asked from the kitchen area opening the fridge.

“Probably. Check the cupboards” I said as I started taking my sweater off, not really thinking.

It was getting hot in the apartment and as nice as my sweater felt half an hour ago, it was now unbearable to wear any longer.

“Diego’s usually got something hidden up th-”

Before I can finish my sentence, I’m pushed down onto the couch. I couldn't really understand what was happening as I looked up to see Gyro staring down at me, lifting up my shirt. The sight only made me more confused and almost made me panic.

What the hell was Gyro doing on top of me?

Why was he lifting my shirt?

My heart rate quickened as thoughts raced through my mind. ‘We had only just met,’ was the first thing I thought of. Followed by ‘Why is Gyro doing this?’. This was all going too fast for my liking and I opened my mouth to protest, only to be cut off by Gyro’s next words.

“What the fuck is this?” He asked sharply.

He's asking me what the fuck? I should be the one questioning his forwardness! I didn't even know what he was referring to. He’d just pinned me down and now he’s interrogating me? What kind of weird stuff had I gotten myself involved into?

“What the fuck are you talking about!?” I shouted angrily in response. Suddenly he runs a hand along my side. I flinch in response, my body reminding me of the scratches I had caused only a few hours ago.

Oh.

Shit.

“These, Johnny. What have you been doing to yourself?”

“I haven't been doing anything!”

“These marks say otherwise.” He said, lightly jabbing at one of the scratches. I cursed at the sudden sharp pain.

“Johnny, what’s wrong? Why are you doing this to yourself? Are there any more?”

“There's no other marks! And stop jabbing at me!” I was pissed.

He had no idea what I've been going through and now he's just gonna assume I’m doing horrible things to myself on purpose. Like I haven't been through enough shit in my life.

“You think I did this shit on purpose? Let me tell you something, jackass, If I wanted to do real damage, I wouldn't do something as fucking small and stupid as scratching myself up! I'd have been gone ages ago if I was that weak, so get off, asshole!” I shoved his hands off me, trying to drag myself up the couch and away from Gyro.

Gyro leans back, giving me some space. Good choice because I was 2 seconds away from punching the fucker on his face. He doesn't have an angry look on his face anymore instead it's an expression of concern. I'm too angry to even register it as that, however. All I see is a look of pity, the expression I hate most of all.

I look away to try and calm myself down. Not that I didn't want to fuck up Gyro for his accusations but getting into a fistfight was really not something I wanted to be doing on a Monday evening. Long, grueling minutes pass before Gyro speaks up.

“Johnny... I know we just met and I have no right to be saying these kind of things, but I don't like what you're doing to yourself. I’m not asking you to explain yourself just yet. I just don't want you to deal with whatever this is by yourself. Can you just let me help you? Just this once?”

I noticed I was shaking again. I hate help and yet I'm overwhelmed by someone saying they care about my well being?

I'm more pathetic than I thought.

I continued to stare at the floor while I contemplated Gyro’s words. My mind was screaming at me that it was all just bullshit, that Gyro didn't really give a fuck, just like no one really ever gave a fuck about me when it came down to it. Just a nurse’s pity for some twisted, broken mess.

My mind told me that if I let him ‘care’ this one time that it would really be the only time. My mind was telling me to kick him out, block his number, cut him off before he had the chance to toss me away.

But I was so tired of listening to myself.

“Okay.” I hated the way I sounded, just like on the phone call before. All meek and shaky.

My mind was telling me what a horrible decision I had made. But the way I figured, one more bad decision couldn't make my life any worse. I finally turned back towards Gyro, unsure of what I was supposed to do. Just then he gets up from the couch leaving me to blankly follow his movements with my eyes. I started hearing that same ringing in my ears that I had when Gyro had tried to leave in the lobby. My chest starts to tighten as I desperately search for the right words to try and get him to stay, only to see he's heading closer not further away.

“Where's your first aid kit?” Gyro asks leaning over to pat my head softly.

“Oh? U-uh... the bathroom. It's the last door... in the hallway.”

“Grazie.” He quickly says before making his way over to presumably fetch the first aid kit. My scratches weren’t really bad enough to warrant the use of a kit in my opinion but arguing with Gyro would be pointless. A part of me didn't want to argue anyways, just revel in the attention. I tried to suppress that part as best as I could. Not long after, Gyro came back with the kit, sitting back on the couch before opening it up.

“Tsk, you really need to keep this better equipped.” He started taking out a few things before pointing at my chest. “You're gonna need to lift your shirt so I can get to the wounded area.”

I nodded in response, though not actually moving to do anything.

“Well if you want me to do it, nyoho!” He jokes before closing the kit.

I quickly shake my head no before lifting my shirt up. I was accepting his help but I didn't need to be coddled.

“Good work. I'm going to disinfect the scratches and then bandage any open wounds okay?”

I nod in consent, preparing myself for the sting of the swabs. Thankfully, he was gentler than I thought he would be, although the deeper cuts still hurt like a bitch. Fast on his feet, Gyro kept making references to the shitty zombie movie the whole time, which helped to calm my nerves.

“Oh Johnny! I just thought of an original gag.” He suddenly said as he was applying the first bandage. “Pay attention, alright? Because it's not gonna be as funny if I do it over again.”

He quickly reached for the first aid kit again taking out adhesive tape. He turned back to me with a wide grin.
“Looking at you with your shirt off, I gotta say I’m impressed! If only I had this all on tape!” He stretched out the strip from its wheel.

Really, God? This is what you send me?

“That was great Gyro.” Wow. “Really funny.”

Gyro looked so pleased, I just didn't have the heart to tell him I was being sarcastic. He put the tape away and continued applying the bandages, mumbling the joke to himself and snickering every time.

I hated to admit that I was enjoying this. The fact Gyro’s gentle hands and joking manner was making me feel good, especially. I warned myself that I had been through enough to know that getting caught up in these feelings would only make everything hurt worse later. But Gyro gave me another dumb smile and I just didn't want the moment to end.

But it eventually did.

Gyro finished bandaging the cuts and left again to put the first aid kit back where it belonged. I was unsure of what to expect to happen next.

Was he just gonna leave now?

I hoped not and then chastised myself for thinking such things. I didn't get that horrible sick feeling at the thought of Gyro leaving, so I really had no reason to force him to stay. If he didn't leave, I couldn't think of what I was supposed to do next anyways.

Gyro reentered the room and wandered back to the kitchen, grabbing a bag of chips that was hidden in one of the cupboards.

“Gyro.” I started to say before he abruptly sat back next to me, moving us back to our previous position in the couch’s center.

“You don't have to say anything.” He popped open the bag and downing a few chips.

I was shocked. He had been so prying before and now he was content with just leaving everything that just happened as it was. I was grateful that he wasn't being as demanding as before but I hadn't started to speak for no reason.

“I appreciate what you did.” I finish saying.

He gave me a confused look before flashing another big grin. “Figurati, gattino. Now come on and play the movie! I gotta see how this dumb thing ends!”

I played the movie but I stopped paying attention to it along time ago. I just wanted to see how this was gonna end.

Chapter Text

Wow that was shit.

“That deserved an academy award.” I say flashing a big grin at my small companion. Johnny gave no verbal answer, shooting a- shit how do I describe it? Incredulous? Yeah: he just gives me this incredulous look for my comment.

“For worst movie of the year of course.” I finish.

Johnny’s features soften as he picked up on what I meant, becoming amused. He didn’t exactly smile, mind you. Actually he never does, fully at least. The kid would tilt his head a certain way, squint his eyes or the corner of his lips would tug up briefly and that would be his equivalent of a smile or grin. It was hard to figure out at first but by now, I feel like I could easily understand his minimalistic expressions.

“Agreed.”

I was enjoying this. It certainly wasn’t planned, but sometimes life’s best moments came out of the blue. This time with Johnny was fun even if I still didn’t know what was wrong with him. I felt like we had gotten closer anyways. In more ways than one, nyoho. 

I reached for some more chips only to realize I emptied the bag. Damn. I was still hungry but I was in a pretty comfortable position and didn’t want to get up. Johnny picks up the remote and starts flicking through the various titles again. I wasn’t really in the mood to watch another movie so I didn’t make any suggestions. Johnny apparently couldn't think of anything because he dropped the remote on the table and leaned away, disrupting my comfy position. Well at least now I could get up.

“I’m hungry.” I said stretching as I stood up.

“How could you be hungry? You just downed a whole bag of chips.”

“You helped me with that bag and chips isn't real food anyways.” I walked over to the little kitchen area and tossed out the empty bag. Popping open the fridge, I started looking for something more filling. There were plenty of drinks and some microwavable snacks but nothing that could constitute as a meal by itself. “Do you have anything to cook?”

“Nah, I don’t like cooking and Diego couldn’t tell a pancake from a frying pan, so we mostly order out. Oh actually if you’re hungry there is a pizza place not too far from here. We could probably order out.”

Pizza certainly sounded like a good idea, but I've been careful to avoid ‘Italian’ food since I came to America for a reason.

“That doesn’t sound like the best idea.”

“What? Aren’t you italian? I thought you guys like lived off pizza and pasta.”  

I couldn’t help but scoff. “You Americans don’t appreciate fine cuisine.”

“Do you want to order food or argue with me about the nuances of cheeses, Mario?”

Cheeky little- “Isn’t there anywhere else we could order from?”

“There’s the chinese place and a D&D, which I’m sure doesn’t do deliveries. Everywhere else is probably closed.”

I just had chinese so I wasn’t in the mood for it and I didn't want to walk to get cheap donuts. “Alright fine, order from the pizzeria.”

Johnny nods and pats around the couch, probably looking for his phone. He must have forgotten that it was in his sweater. I was gonna tell him but his frantic searching was kind of cute. I must have let out a laugh because Johnny quickly turns to me with a glare.

“You order it.” He snapped, clearly frustrated.

“I don’t have the number.”

Johnny points to one of the kitchen drawers. “It’s in there. Anyway, you're the one who wanted food.” With that Johnny turns away, picking up the remote to resume his browsing.

I open the drawer Johnny was talking about to see it’s just filled with takeout flyers. Looks like Johnny wasn’t kidding about ordering out all the time. I had to show this kid a nice homemade meal one of these days. I flick through the pamphlets until I find the pizzeria. I take my phone out of my jacket and begin dialing the number. It was a bit too hot to continue to comfortably wear the thing so I shrugged it off as the phone started to ring.

“Oh when’s your roommate coming home?”

Johnny shrugs. “No clue, why? You asking to split before he gets back? I didn’t think I was that good at making someone sound so horrifying. Not that I’d be wrong, of course.”

“Just wanted to know how much I had to order.” Just then a worker picks up the other line introducing themselves. Without really thinking I start ordering in Italian but I’m pleasantly surprised when the worker responds back. Looks like this place actually has authentic Italians working there. There was hope.

I finish ordering and hang up, tossing my phone and jacket on the nearby armchair as I sit back down next to Johnny.  

“Now I know why they don’t have Mario talk in his games.”

“I hate the fact that that was funny.” I couldn’t help but shoot back.

Another quick and subtle grin.

“Either way, I’m not really that hungry so you’re gonna end up eating most of it.”

I shrug at that.

‘Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco.’ I thought to myself. If the food’s good, I wouldn’t mind that anyways. If it was bad and I was stuck with it, then that was that.

“So what are we gonna do for 30 minutes?” Johnny asks, twirling the remote in his hand. I guess he also really wasn’t up for watching anything else.

“30 minutes, eh?” I repeated aloud, trying to think of something. In order to stall while my brain tried to rack something up, I decided to see if I could have some fun with the kid. Catching him off guard, I press Johnny’s head against my shoulder by hooking my arm around the back of neck, my palm resting on his shoulder. His arm was harder than I would have thought. I guess when you’re in his position you gotta work up the upper body.

“Nyoho, there’s plenty we can do for 30 minutes! Repeatedly in fact!” I chuckled, giving his arm a quick squeeze after a flashy wink.

It was a little mean of me to tease the kid like this. But he generally had such a cute reaction to it that I just couldn't help myself. Predictably, he froze up upon contact. But then after a moment he seemed to calm down and relaxed into the touch. 

"O-okay?" He softly replied, glancing at the hand on his shoulder. I was expecting him to bat it away or to make some kind of snappy remark. I guess he was already immune to my teasing. That's no fun. I took my hand away and leaned back before speaking again.

"Yeah, we could play a game!"

He looked confused at first, touching his shoulder like my hand was still on it. Regaining his composure, Johnny finally responded. "If it’s truth or dare, I’m running you over with my chair."

"No, nothing like that. It's a game of skill actually."

Johnny’s brow rose with interest and I knew he was really going to enjoy this. I had recently learned this game, but it was a true battle of wits like no other. This game divided the weak minded from the strong. It wasn't even right to call it a game, it was more like an experience. I cracked my knuckles for dramatic effect.

This was gonna be good.

I held out both of my index fingers in front of me. "Well Johnny, let’s play."

… 

There’s a moment of silence and a look of disbelief on the kid’s face.

"You're kidding me."

Huh? 

"I'm not playing chopsticks."

"Chopsticks is it’s name? That's so cool!" Apparently it was already well known.

"What are you, 12?" Ouch.

"What 12 year old do you know with a lovely beard like this?" I couldn’t help but rub my chin with pride.

"16, then. And is that really a beard or more of a weird morse code?”

I had to breathe in and out for the disrespect towards the beard.

"I'm not that young gattino but I'll take that as a compliment."

Johnny leans back in his seat, ignoring my increasingly sore index fingers.

"So what's your real age then? 20?"

"Close, 24 actually." I grunt, giving up and cracking my fingers.

"No way! You've got to be lying, let me see your license."

"Go ahead if you want but I'm not kidding."

"Where's your ID?" He asks, shifting to try and reach for his wheelchair. I didn't want to make the kid get up for it, so I got up again towards my jacket. I take out my wallet and search through it, finally grabbing the card and tossing it towards Johnny boy.

"Wow really?" The kid whistled after reading it over.

"I told ya."

"What kinda name’s Zeppeli?"

I quickly snatch the ID card out of his hand at that. "Hey, I only told you to read the birthdate and nothing else."

"Is Zeppeli even Italian?"

I rub my brow and sigh. "Of course it is. Oi, now let’s hear Mr. Johnny’s family name for snooping around my stuff!"

“You’re the one who tossed your ID at me.”

“But you asked for it!”

“Did you really think I would ignore some words right next to your birthday?”

I couldn’t even answer coherently, just bite my knuckle and grunt.

"Fine, fine. If you're gonna be a baby about it. My name’s Joestar. Jonathan Joestar technically but nobody calls me Jonathan."

"Huh...  ‘Jo’ and then ‘Jo’? That's kinda funny. Anybody ever call you JoJo?"

"You want tire tracks on your back?"

A compelling argument.

“So no ‘JoJo’ then, gattino?” 

“What's with you and the nicknames? What does that other one even mean?”

“‘Gattino’?” Johnny nodded in confirmation. “Well I can't tell you that, stellina. A man’s gotta have his secrets after all.”

“What the hell do you mean, ‘a secret’? I can literally just go to goog- wait was that a new one?”

I give him a big grin.

“Forse.”

I ignore his glare that’s burning a hole in the side of my head. Just as I get ready to tease him some more, my phone rang inside my jacket. I picked it up to find out it was the pizza place.

“Alright I gotta go downstairs to go get the food and I'm gonna leave the door open behind me. I'll be right back, gattino, so don't worry.”

Johnny scoffs and waves me away. “Don't get too big for your britches, Gyro.”

I had no clue what he just said but I didn't have time to question him. Snagging my wallet, I took off for the lobby. Getting the pizza and bringing it back was easy enough, though the delivery boy didn't respond to my Italian, which worried me. But I suppose the delivery kid isn't the one cooking.

“I'm back and I brought offerings.” I say upon my return, waving the box in front of Johnny's face. He gives a look of approval and reaches for his wheelchair.

“Ah that's hardly necessary, stellina! I can give you your slice.”

He rolls his eyes at that but took the hint, resting back into his couch. “Are you gonna feed me too?” He asks in a clearly sarcastic tone.

“Well if you insist...” I start to say putting one of the slices on a plate.

“You better not!”

I chuckled at that. It's just so easy to get Johnny worked up, I just can’t help myself!

I walk over and hand him his slice. He grabs it hungrily and begins scarfing the food down. And he said he wasn't hungry, eh? I walk back to the rest of the pie, grabbing a slice for myself. Now that the pizza was actually in my hand, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread. I didn't want to try a possible butchering to my people’s food… but starving sounded worse at the moment.

After a long minute I finally gave in, taking a bite.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, to my surprise. Definitely not the best pizza I've had, but not the worse thing in the world. I slowly eat the slice, trying to decipher the bland seasoning that was insulting the rest of the slice. Leave it to the Americans to mess with something as simple as pizza. What's next, they're gonna mess up spaghetti aglio e oglio?

Then again, I was way too hungry to toss the thing. Again, not the worst thing in the world, so I just had to keep my complaints under my breath.

“Hand me another slice.” Johnny demanded, suddenly making grabby hands at the box.

“Already? I just gave you a slice.”

“And I ate it. Come on, you’re closer to the box.”

“Alright, alright fine.” I put down the remains of my slice and fetch Johnny his second helping. Just like before, he begins scarfing down the food.

I watched him for a moment, putting two and two together.

“Johnny...did you eat today?”

He suddenly stops eating, staring at the TV in front of him.

I guess that’s a no.

“That’s not good for you you know.”

“Shut up! I just wasn’t hungry alright, so fuck off!” He resumes eating at that. This kid had some real worrying, self-destructive tendencies.

I hoped that this wasn’t a regular thing.

I finished off what was left of my slice and threw the paper plate in the trash before heading over to the washroom to clean my hands. When I came back, Johnny was already finished with his second slice and was giving a wistful look to the pizza box. I walked over to the pizza and just gave the whole box to Johnny. The look on his face was so sincerely grateful… it was almost sad.

“I didn’t realize the pizza was that good.” I said as I watched him hungrily tear into the slices. “Ay, gattino, Don’t eat so fast or you’re gonna make yourself sick.”

“Don’t… tell me… what… to do!” He said in between mouthfuls.

Not even ten minutes later the kid is curled up on the couch, whining and holding his stomach.

“Told you.” I say patting his head.

“I hate stomach aches. I hate that damn pizza joint.”

I laugh at that. “It wasn’t that great anyways.”

“Fuck pizza. Fuck Italians too.”

“Hey, hey don't take your anger out on Italia now. It’s your own fault for not listening.”

He lifts his hand and I think he’s gonna bat away my hand again. I start to move my hand away before he grabs it with his own and lifts his head to look at me intertwining our fingers. My breath hitches for a moment as he gives me a look of pure affection.

“Fuck you in particular.”

I slap his hand away. “So mean, gattino.”

Damn, I couldn’t hide my grin.

He gives a quick smirk at that and goes back to his curled up position. I sigh and lean back in the couch. I glance out the window and see it’s near pitch black. It sure does get dark fast here. Out of curiosity I look over at the clock next to the TV. Mierda, it was a lot later than I thought.

“Johnny… how’re you feeling?” 

“Fine, my stomach doesn't hurt that bad.” He uncurls from his position, turning to me. “Why do you ask?”

“Well I have to head out soon, but I’m not gonna leave if you’re really sick.”

“Oh.” The kid hesitated for a while before responding again. “I… I really am fine. You can go. Don't worry about me.”

I got up from the couch, grabbing my phone and putting my jacket back on. “I’m gonna trust that you’re not lying to me, but if you’re really not feeling well, then you should take some medicine for your stomach and rest for a while.”

I lean down to give him a quick peck on the cheek like we do back home. He gets a surprised look at that, which confused me, but I didn’t really have the time to question him, so I shrugged it off. 

“Ciao, gattino!” I call as I exit the apartment.

The ride back home was quiet. Unnerving, even. My apartment wasn’t any better.

As I got ready for bed, I realized how big my place was for one person. I fell asleep to thoughts of the stupid movie, shitty pizza, and most importantly, Johnny.

Chapter Text

 Drained.

Drained, drained, drained.

I suppose that's the best way to describe my state at the time. As her alarm went off with a terribly annoying blare, I cracked my eyes open as my body turned.

As soon as my body made any attempt at movement, I could feel every sore joint, muscle, and bone in my body scream. HP went way overboard.

Again.

Doing my best to ignore my body’s complaining, I managed to turn around to face the awakening Hot Pants. God, even pressing my elbow against the mattress attacked my nerves. But I just had to know what time it was, because the sun was barely u-6:30?

Really, woman?

Slumping against the bed again, I let out a groan of exhaustion and annoyance, trying to fall back asleep. Thinking that HP was like any OTHER sane person and would hit the snooze button for a few more minutes of rest, I closed my eyes for a second before they shot open again.

Feeling the mattress move underneath me, I whip my head around to look at the rising HP, instantly regretting my decision as I groan with pain again.

HP wasn’t only getting up, but with little to no effort!

Well, there went some of my pride.

“I'll make breakfast.” She stated in that damn near monotone voice of hers. “You can rest up until I'm done. It'll probably be roast beef sandwiches to go plus my coffee. Then I'll come back to wake you up.

She spoke like a bloody cop reading off a list of charges.

Turning over to my side, I retreat into the covers like a cozy turtle and just give her a grunt. Enough for her to know that I understood.

The mattress moved again as she retreated further into the apartment, leaving me time to rest.

For about 30 minutes.

I’m awoken by the sound of the door opening again. I was about to let out a groan of frustration until I heard the lock click.

Wide eyed, I ignore the pain in my body and force my body to sit up against the headboard.

And there she was. With that look in her eye.

Like a damned snake with its cornered prey.

“Wait you don't-”

She took a step forward.

“How about something l-light, HP?”

The mattress shifted under her weight.

I wasn't off the hook just yet.

***

I awoke with a start as the car hit a bump. Looking around, I saw that I was in the shotgun seat of HP’s car, herself at the wheel.

“Oh, you’re up? About time. Here.” She spoke robotically like always, drawing a paper bag that was resting on her lap. “Breakfast.” HP said matter-of-factly, keeping her eyes on the road.

She places the warm bag in between my legs. With shaky hands, I manage to peer inside to find a big roast beef sandwich. I glance at the cupholders in between us and note an untouched cup of coffee, capped off with a top with an open slit.

“The...the sandwich is ok. But I don’t think I can handle coffee.” I groaned out, dead tired.

“You’ll find a straw in the bag.”

I give a tired and annoyed grumble.

“Bendy straw.”

I reached into the bag despite my body’s advice, taking out the straw and sticking it into the open slit of the coffee cup.

Grumbling to myself, I move my creaky muscles and joints, slowly sipping from the cup and chewing on the sandwich.

“You really, really worked me ragged, HP.” I start.

No answer.

“You’d think I’d least get a hug or kiss, not a goddamned pouncing!”

“Fine! Then don’t expect me to put on those damned things agai- ohhh, wait a minute…”

I felt a hand run through my hair, curling my well groomed locks around its digits. The fingertips rubbed against my scalp as I felt my body melt against the warm, leathery seat.

HP kept on patting and scratching my weak spots, practically drawing out a sigh of relief from my chest.

Shit, as much as I hated to admit it, but these rare signs of affection from HP- although always after she dragged me down to bed- did make it all... sorta... worth it.

“Better?” I hear the hand’s voice cut through the noise of the running engine.

I turn my head to the side, feeling blood rush to my cheeks.

“Sh-shut up and get the back of my head.”

The voice chuckled, complying to my well deserved request.

Ah, god.

The rest of the drive goes by quickly. The pets seemed to have done wonders as I was able to finish up my breakfast before HP pulled up in front of my apartment building.

“Alright, out you go.”

Wait what?

“Wait what?” I asked. “Come now, HP, you can’t expect to get up there in my condition. Why not help me up?” I say with a smile, trying to work my infallible charm.

“No.”

Ow. Again to my ego.

“I got work to do and I know that if I go up there, I’m gonna be late. So...shoo. Scram. Skedaddle. Crawl.”

I feel the pain set in, now accompanied by a full stomach.

I try to rack my brain to find someway to get HP to help me up to my apartment. Granted, there was the elevator, but even that sounded daunting.

Leaning forward, I purse my lips into a pout.

“You know I love you, right?”

I heard a chuckle, lips coming into contact with mine before quickly pulling away. “You know I do too.”

“You what?” I asked, wanting to hear her say it.

With a sigh and roll of her eyes, HP looked up to God before back to me. I often forget how big and dark her eyes are. “Yeah, I love you too.”

Thinking that I’ve won, I was waiting to hear her door open until I was promptly corrected in my assumption, feeling Hot Pants’s foot against my chest. “Bye.”

“W-wait, wait, I get it, ok?! I’ll go!” I yelled out. I don’t think HP knew that I wouldn’t fly out of the car like some comic book character, but just slam against the locked car door.

Or maybe she did.

Shit.

Popping the car door open, I look at my needed path. I didn’t remember the sidewalk looking so long.

Turning back to HP, I felt the need to get the last word in, as I damn well deserved to.

“You think if I invited Johnny down, we could race to see who could crawl the fastest? I imagine he’d win, considering he has experi-”

The next thing I know, I’m against the pavement. I can hear the car drive away as I’m left to my own devices. 

“No one appreciates dark humour.” I grunt, forcing myself up while dusting off my clothes.

Beginning my trek, I managed to reach the building’s lobby entrance as I dragged my hand against the wall for support. When the door shut behind me, I was ready to just drop right there. I open my eyes, chest heaving heavily, only to see the worst news I could see all day.

Elevator. Out of order.

***

Drained...drained...fucking drained…

Yes. That’s a good way to describe it.

My legs having gone all Johnny by the second floor, I crawled up the stairs, finally reaching the third.

Wheezing, dying, grunting...all of these perfectly described my state. But so did determined.

As if I was gonna let HP’s idea of a joke make me, Diego, quit.

As if I was going to let some stupid neighbor catch me, Diego, lying in the hall.

And I certainly wasn’t going to have Joestar help me, Diego , into my apartment!

Finally reaching the bottom of my door, I scrape my nails against the wood, crawling up to desperately fit my key into the knob. Drenched in sweat and aching, I turn my wrist and hear that wonderful click.

I fall into my apartment and quickly pull my key out, kicking the door shut behind me.

Dragging my mostly limp body by my knees, I feel the hard wooden floor transition into the carpet of the living room.

I couldn’t help but choke with laughter. I let that chuckle grow until it was cut off by a wheeze.

Digging my nails against the carpeted floor, I declared my well deserved triumph!

“Hot Pants! The one who was victorious…

...Was me!”

That was all I remember before falling asleep on the floor.

Chapter Text

Waking up to the sounds of screeching wasn’t uncommon when you live with an asshole like Diego.

But it sure as hell never stopped being annoying.

Having my precious sleep interrupted, I turn with a groan to check on the time.

8:30?

It was too damn early for this shit. I wait for a minute for more noises and hear nothing. Either Diego’s gone to bed or he’s dead. Both options sound good so I shrug it off and go back to sleep.

Warmth.

The fire causes our shadows to dance as I look out the window. The snow doesn’t look like it’s letting up anytime soon. Good. The cold can’t reach us from inside our shared room. We’re trapped in our perfect white world. I lean closer. I don’t want this to en-

THUNK

God fucking dammit.

Now it was 10:15.

I screamed into my pillow before trying to go back to sleep one more time. After 15 minutes of nothing I give in, pushing away the covers as I feel anger replace exhaustion. I still don’t hear any noise coming from outside my room as I get ready for the day. Maybe Diego came in quickly and left?

I’m looking forward to a Diego-free-day until I roll into the living room to find none other than the aforementioned asshat collapsed on the floor. That must have been the noise I heard before. Thanks a lot, HP, for just dumping your trash on my floor.

I contemplate rolling over him to check and see if he’s still alive, deciding against it a moment later. If he’s dead, the last thing I want is to be blamed for the crime. I roll into the kitchen and hear a weak ‘wryyy’ from the floor.

He’s still alive.

Damn.

I look over to see Diego weakly trying to get off the floor before collapsing again. I decide to be merciful and grab a cup of water from the fridge, rolling over to him with the glass over the blonde brat’s head.

“What happened to you?” I ask partially out of curiosity, partially to see if his brain was still functioning.

“M-my legs got all ‘you’ and stopped working.”

All ‘me’? It took me a second to figure out what he meant.

‘Me’?

This mother...

“Funny.” I snapped back before chugging the glass. That’s what I get for trying to be nice to this shit. He shouts in protest and I toss the paper cup down next to him. “Whoops, guess you're gonna have to get that yourself, huh?”

He swipes his hands at me but realizes the distance is too great and lies back down on the floor. Seizing at the opportunity, I make my way back to kitchen running over his extended hand… ‘accidently’. Diego lets out another screech.

Mmm, it’s like music to my ears...

“Do me a favor and give me a warning before you die. I wanna have the morgue roll your ass out of here as soon as possible.” I grab myself some breakfast and toss it into the microwave as I look over to the Diego clutching his hand and rolling on the floor.

“Oh you’re a real comedian, Joestar. Why don’t you make yourself useful for once in your life and help me up?” Diego snaps back before grabbing the cup at his side and tossing it to where I am. Of course it missed.

“Sorry, I’m too ‘useless’ to help.” I say with a lazy shrug before grabbing the cup and tossing it out.

The microwave lets out a high pitched beep, telling me my food is ready. I reach over and grab my meal before rolling back into the living room. Diego flinches back, covering his arms with his torso. Like that was going to prevent me from running over him chest or legs instead. Luckily for him, I wasn’t up for it, yet. Watching him struggle was enough fun on its own.

“You hungry?”

“No and I’m not in the mood to chit chat, either. Either help me up or get out of my damn way.”

“Out of your way? And where are you going, Columbus?”

“To my room, Roosevelt. Now shoo!”

What a jerk. I should have just continued with taunting him. But the idea of Diego struggling to go to his room came to mind. I rolled back to the couch, moving myself onto it before getting comfy.

“Alright Diego. Go ahead.”

Dinner- er, breakfast- and a show! What could be better than that?

Blondie crawled only a few feet before he gave up. He kept glaring at me the whole time, but it was some of the greatest entertainment I could have asked for.

“Bravo! Encore!” I mocked clapping my hands in fake enthusiasm.

“I knew you would enjoy a imitation of yourself.” The bastard replied with a sly grin. “Of course nothing beats the pathetic original.”

He suddenly gets up at that. He wobbles for a bit but doesn’t fall back down, unfortunately. Leaning against the furniture and using the wall for support, he makes his way to the kitchen and opens the fridge. He grabs the water jug and, to my disgust, starts chugging straight from the source.

“Hey! They’re other people who need to drink around here besides you, asshole!”

“Oh? Really?” He says wiping away the stray drops from the corner of his mouth. “I don’t see any other people here. Just myself and a little worm.”

Now he was really getting on my nerves.

“Go out and buy a new jug!”

“Or else what? You’ll shout more? You’re not scary, Joestar. You’re just like a bleating lamb in the face of slaughter.”

“Do you always have to make dumb comparisons?”

“Oh, forgive me! I thought you would understand my terms. I didn’t realize you were so uneducated, Joestar.”

I scoff. “You’re just as ‘uneducated’ as me then, idiot. We both were privately tutored.”

“American tutors hardly count.” What a pompous ass. I roll my eyes and get up to throw out my trash. Diego makes his way to the armchair after putting the remains of the water back in the fridge. Gross.

“Did you have to put it back?”

“Of course, there's still water in there.” He says nonchalantly while turning on the TV. I hear the background chatter of news anchors as I grab myself some juice to drink. When I situate myself back on the couch I see Diego has switched the channel to some dumb foreign news station. Again.

“You can't even understand what they're saying.” I groaned, shooting a glare Diego’s way. He always did this when he was in a bitchy mood. Passive aggressive asshole.

“Maybe I’m learning...” he hesitates trying to figure out what language the anchors are speaking. “...Spanish, jackass. Not everything is about you.”

Now I don’t know spanish so I couldn’t correct him right away. But the little tagline under the newscaster said they were somewhere in brazil and last time I checked the language they spoke there wasn’t spanish but portuguese.

I'm ready to start another argument over this for the hundredth time when suddenly a sharp melody cuts through the air. We both exchange a confused look. Diego lowers the volume on the TV and looks around. The melody plays again.

“Is that your phone?” I ask looking around the couch for the source of the noise.

“Can't be.” Diego stated, taking his phone out of his pocket and waving it at my face.

“Is it my phone?”

“How the hell am I supposed to know something like that?”

“Ugh, Diego can you go check?”

“Oh sure, since you so kindly got me some water when I needed it, right?”

“It's easier for you, asshole.” I didn't want to spend the rest of the day arguing so I gave in, grabbing my chair and making my way back to my room.

Who the hell could have been messaging me? Especially at a time like this? It couldn't be Lucy, she would be in school right now and she's not the type to text in class. Hot Pants never messages me and Diego’s in the other room so it couldn't have been him either. And even if it was from him, it would probably just be some grocery demand or reminder to pay a bill.

I grab my phone off the charger curious and annoyed at the mysterious caller.

[Didukno? If u get sick at the airport it could be considered a terminal illness ;)]

Oh. Puns. Only one person was evil enough to send me puns.

[Shouldn't you be at work?] I sent back

[I am at work :V I'm not busy rn. Did u get the joke?]

I shake my head. If this is what the staff was doing, I sure as hell didn't want to be admitted to his hospital.

[Yeah it was really good. Amazing even. I nearly fell off my wheelchair.]

I didn't get a response so I assumed he must have gone back to work. I plug my phone back in and leave it alone, praying not to get another pun for at least the next hour.

As I wheel out to the living room, I see Diego has moved from the armchair to the couch. The asshole was lying horizontally, taking up all the space.

“Who was that? Mortician saying you could come in early? You don't have much of a life to live anyways.”

“I wish. That would save me the trouble of having to see you everyday.”

“Oh if you're that willing to die, I could gladly help.”

“I don't need your help asshat, now move.”

“The armchair’s right there.”

“You're taking up the whole couch!”

“And we have another chair. Last time I checked, your name wasn't on the couch.”

“...Dickweed.” I gave in again and went to the armchair. I made sure to leave my chair in front of the TV just to spite Diego.

The shit got up to kick my chair out of the way. I couldn’t be bothered to curse him out anymore so I just stuck my tongue out towards him. It’s immature, I know, but Diego doesn't deserve maturity anyways.

Diego returns the gesture and then plops back down onto the couch, still taking up all the space like a dick. He resumes watching TV, flipping through various channels. My mind starts to wander as Diego leaves the channel on an episode of Price Is Right. Normally I would be watching along but the episode was a rerun I had already seen twice anyways. My mind went where it always seems to be running off to nowadays. Gyro. I wondered whether he was that bored to send a bad pun or whether I should be expecting that to be a regular occurrence.

I shuddered at the thought of the latter. The last thing I needed in my life was more horrible puns. I’ve heard enough of those in childhood I don't need it to be torturing my adult life as well.

“Who the bloody hell would pay $120,000 for that piece of shit car?!” Diego shouts suddenly, bringing me back to reality. Before I can respond, he switches the TV over to the history channel. There’s some documentary playing about dinosaurs- oh goddammit.

Yeah, we were going to be watching all of this as long as Diego had the remote. I start watching along out of boredom but find myself drifting off halfway through the film.

“I’m gonna take a nap.” I say reaching over for my chair.

Some days were like this.

I just felt so exhausted with no real reason why. The best thing to do was either go outside to wake myself up or to just give in and sleep. I didn’t want to go anywhere so the latter won out.

“Please don’t wake up.” Diego says in a hopeful tone, never looking away from the TV screen.

“I’m counting on it.” I reply before rolling back to my room. Once inside I check my messages again and am surprised to see a new text.

[As expected from the best!! If u thought that was good wait until u hear what I happened while I was dealing with this kid who swallowed a handful of quarters.]

[What happened?]

[Well there hasn't been any change yet :DDD]

[Wow how unexpected! You completely threw me off guard. What a great joke.] End it all now.

I rolled my eyes at the phone before laying down on my bed. Sleep was calling me and I sure as hell wasn’t going to force myself awake for puns. As I laid down on my side, an odd feeling in my stomach reminded me of the bandages still there. I reached down and started picking at the sides of one.

[Naturally stellina B)) I’m a joke machine but ill be careful, dont want u to split ur sides again]

I immediately stop messing with the bandages when I read the text.

It’s almost like he knew what I was doing but that would be impossible.

Still he’d scold me if he found out. I didn’t need to pick at my wounds to pass the time when I had him around anyways.

I sighed, trying to think of a good response but my eyelids were getting heavier and heavier, making it harder to remember to send out a response before I knocked out.

I swear I wasn’t smiling no matter what anybody says they saw. And I sure as hell wasn’t looking forward to more dumb texts, even if I did fall asleep cradling the phone in my hands.

Chapter Text

The leaves haven’t started turning yet?

“Ms. Steel.”

It’s already the last week of September. The leaves should be all sorts of different colors by now! At least a couple of reds and oranges, but there’s nothing outside but an endless sea of green. Green is fine after the dead winter, but there’s something so wonderful about the waves of different colors fall brings, as if the trees were slowly being set on a slow flame; one that wouldn’t make the leaves drop until the cold set in. Easily, the best thing about fall is the leaves- well that, and the relief my nose gets. Allergies are the worst.

“Ms. Steel!”

That piercing shriek brings me back to reality. I was so busy daydreaming I didn’t even notice Sister Mary Anna asking me a question.

“Ms. Steel, the answer please.”

“Um,” I look around desperately for an answer but none of the kids are offering any help. “Can you repeat the question?” I plead hoping for some mercy.

Sister lets out an annoyed sigh. “Will someone else in the class please refresh Ms. Steel’s memory?”

“Oh! Oh! Sister, I can! You were asking why God had chosen Mary to mother Jesus. It's ‘cause she was a virgin right?” Some other student pipes up. Aren’t they just so likable?

“That is correct.” I’m safe for now. “Ms. Steel I will be seeing you after class.” Or maybe not. A couple kids snicker and one lets out a loud ‘ohhhh you're in trouble!’

It’s not my fault it’s hard to pay attention in this class. It’s religion! I’ve lived my whole life learning christianity, I don’t need another class in it. I know doodling in class is wrong but honestly, I’ve heard the story of Mary so many times I don’t really need to listen. Plus it’s my least favorite story. Mary’s a great mom for baby Jesus, but something about the way Mary is chosen because she’s so pure just...bugs me.

Before I know it the bell rings and the other kids start packing up. I walk in shame to the front of the class. I hate being yelled at, but I knew there was no getting out of this one.

“Ms. Steel, is everything alright?” Sister Mary Ann takes a seat in her desk. She gives me a troubled look that only makes me feel guilty.

“Everything’s fine sister, I was just a bit out of it! I haven't eaten lunch yet, after all.” I say as sweetly as I can.

“I hope this doesn’t become a regular occurrence. I would hate to have to call your guardian about this.”

Anything but that! Stephen has so much to worry about that I don’t need to add onto that.
“It won’t happen again, Sister, I promise.”

“Alright. Now run along. I don’t want you to be late to lunch.”

And with that I’m finally free. I really hope Sister doesn’t bother Stephen about this little mishap. The last thing I want is a scolding from him.

I quickly pack up for lunch and head to the cafeteria. The thought of poor Stephen still lingers in my mind until I’m in the lunchroom, the smell of fresh food occupying my senses now. I get my usual lunch: a cheeseburger with snapple tea and a candy bar, and sit at the front of the lunchroom eating my meal in relative silence. I’m done with my meal soon and sit around waiting for the teachers to let us out for the short recess.

“Well, well. Look who's here all by her lonesome again.” A familiar voice says behind me.

“Hot Pants!” I quickly turn to face her, feeling the smile that sprang up on my face at the sound of her voice. Hot Pants is my old babysitter and I’ve known her since I was 10. She doesn’t babysit me anymore but she’s still my best friend. Actually, her job here as a disciplinary TA was one of the main reasons I came to this school! Not that I’d ever tell her that, of course.

“Why are you sitting by yourself again? These kids aren’t really that bad.” I knew that tone too well.

“I like eating by myself. I don't wanna eat with kids.”

She lets out a soft chuckle at that. “You're still a kid you know. Just because most of your friends are older doesn’t mean you can ignore people your own age.”

“I’m not ignoring anyone, I’m just eating.” I gave a slight pout.

“Whatever you say Lucy. Oh actually, I came over here for a reason.”

Uh-oh.

“I told Sister I wasn’t gonna do it again!”

She gives me a confused expression, her squint that followed immediately after letting me know I’ve officially blown my cover.

“What were you doing?” She said in full TA mode. That’s what I get for running my big mouth.

“I just started daydreaming a little, it wasn’t that big a deal...”

“Hm... well if you're not paying attention to your studies, I may have to retract my offer.”

“W-what? Wait, what offer?”

“I was going to take you with me over to Johnny and Diego’s place today but…” HP starts to move like she’s going to walk away!

“No, no, take me with you! I’ll work extra hard in class, please, HP!” I give her my best puppy eyes, hoping that would work. I haven’t seen Diego or Johnny since school started. I haven’t even been able to text Johnny because of all the schoolwork I’ve had to do! I miss talking to Johnny, heck I even miss talking to Diego even if he is a bit of a… just ‘a bit mean’ works, I suppose.

“Alright, alright, I believe you, tiny. I’ll meet you in the cafeteria after school. Make sure it’s okay with Stephen before we leave.” She gives me a smile and pat on the head before she goes off.

I’m so excited! I don’t remember much about the classes after lunch but, thankfully, I don’t get yelled at again. So many thoughts are racing through my head, I can barely keep up! I’m definitely gonna beat Diego in mario kart this time. I really hope Johnny has started watching Once Upon a Time like I told him too, it's such a good show but I don’t wanna spoil anything.

The closer it gets to the final period, the more I’m buzzing with joy. Hanging out with the boys is exactly the kind of break I needed from school! When the final bell rings I’m the first one up, rushing to my locker. On my way to the cafeteria I call Stephen begging for him to let me go, although I didn’t really need to as he gave in immediately, only asking that I have HP drop me off home. I rush over to the cafeteria to see HP waiting patiently.

“You all set to go?” I give a big nod, bouncing on my toes. “Then let's go.”

HP has a big car, so much so that I have to move the seat up in order to sit on the passenger's side. I'm still getting used to sitting up front- only a year ago I was forced into the back. Now I was up front which meant I had control over the best part of any car ride: the radio. I skip through the various stations until I find one playing early 2000’s pop. I'm jamming out to a Matchbox Twenty song when HP starts speaking again.

“I didn't tell the guys we’re coming over so they'll be surprised to see you. And don't point out Johnny's face when you see him.”

“Huh? His face? What happened?”

“He fell or something, there's a big bruise on the side of his face but he's fine now.”

Now I was worried. Why wouldn't Johnny tell me he got hurt recently? I've been busy with school but not busy enough to forget about one of my friends! When I get there I’m gonna make sure he tells me everything that's happened.

The rest of the car ride goes by quickly. I toy with my new power and rapidly switch through the radio stations, trying to see if I can form a complete sentence with the right timing. Hot Pants doesn’t appreciate my game and switches off the radio. I hum songs to myself until we reach our destination.

HP has keys, which means we’re easily able to get inside the apartment and head up to the guys’ apartment.

Apparently I got so excited that I started bouncing and giggling with every step! Not that you could really blame me, but HP still turned, holding a finger to her lips.

“Shhh, settle down. We want to surprise them, remember?” HP whispers as we ascend the stairs.

“Sorry.” I whisper back, covering my mouth with both hands to prevent any more noise. I hoped both Johnny and Diego were at the apartment. I couldn’t wait to see the looks on their faces.

After taking forever to sneak up we make it to the apartment. HP uses her keys to unlock the door. I want run tight inside, but I know better and trail behind HP as we go in.

“Johnny!” I yell out as I run up to the couch and give Johnny a big hug. He freezes up like usual but I don't care; I'm so happy to see him again! Diego's here too, laughing at me hugging Johnny before he notices HP.

“I didn't realize we were babysitting today.” Diego says giving HP a fake sympathetic look. I don't need a babysitter anymore, he knows this. I don't like it when he taunts me, saying I'm still a little kid... but Diego's mean to everyone so I don't let myself get upset. I do stick my tongue out at him though.

“Gah- You're gonna suffocate me!” Johnny gasps, finally over his shock. He isn't acting any differently, even though we haven't talked in a long time, though I’m not sure whether to be glad or upset over that little fact. When I let him go, I pull away to get a better look at his face. HP wasn't kidding about there being a big bruise on his face. It was a big green and purple blotch that covered his cheek.

“How's school?”

I shrug. I was more interested in talking about what had happened to Johnny recently. HP was still in the room so I couldn't ask him about the bruise without her getting mad. She's talking to Diego now but she's still close enough to realize if I go against her orders.

“Oh, Diego! Where's Scary?” I haven't seen the little lizard in a long time too. He deserves a proper hello too.

“He's in his cage. Don't bother him, SM hasn't eaten yet. You know what they say about hungry lizards, little Lucy.” A wide, almost sharp toothed grinned cracked along his face. “They'll devour little girls like yourself whole.”

“Diego.” HP warns. She doesn't really need to that I know Diego’s just being mean but I appreciate the thought anyways.

“I just wanna say hi to him.” I call out, already leaving everyone for Diego’s room. Normally I'd ask permission but I'm only gonna be in there for a few minutes. And It's not like I'm gonna snoop around! Much.

“Don't you dare touch anything!” Diego calls after me as I go inside. I nod in agreement and stick out my tongue again before heading inside.

Diego's room is neater than it usually is. Must have been laundry day or something. I walk over to Scary’s terrarium after finishing up my brief tour.

“Hi there, Scary.” I coo at the lizard inside. He's laying down on top of his basking rock. He must be starting to feel the chill too, poor baby. There's a half eaten cricket in his food plate still. “You should eat your food, that way you'll grow up to be a big dragon!”

Suddenly, Scary starts to actually move! He must understand me! He crawls to his food bowl and pokes the half eaten cricket with his nose. I nod in approval, almost clapping for him. I've never actually seen Scary eat before so I continue watching him, thinking that today would change that.

He lifts his head!

And then lies down next to the bowl.
I wait for a minute for him to move again, but it looks like he's sound asleep. Guess I'll have to see how he eats another time.

“Night night scary.” I whisper before leaving Diego’s room, shutting off the lights.

When I return to the living room, Hot Pants and Diego are missing.

“Where's HP?” I ask Johnny as I sit in the armchair.

“She left with Diego to go get some food and for his walk. Oh yeah, she said you should text her what you want from Wendy’s.”

I text her quickly before turning my full attention to Johnny, plopping down next to him. What a perfect opportunity; now I could ask Johnny about anything I wanted without having to worry about HP scolding me. Provided that he doesn’t tell.

“How'd you get that bruise?” I quickly ask, eyeing the purple splotch on poor Johnny’s face.

“Oh... this? Uh, well, it's kind of a long story.”

“I've got time!” I pipe up, giving my best smile.

Johnny’s quiet for a moment, looking like he’s trying to decide what to say, if anything. Finally he responded. “Well... the short version is I went to the park and some dude hit me with a handball.”

I gasp. “It wasn't on purpose, right?”

“Nah, nah, he apologized and all that.” Suddenly his phone buzzed. “Speak of the devil.” He scowled at whatever message was sent before putting his phone away again.

“Huh? You have his number?” I tried to get a good view of the screen to at least get a name.

“Yeah, well... like I said, it's a long story.” Johnny sighed again, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Well then tell me everything!”

Johnny took another look at me, and I could tell that he knew I wasn’t gonna give up! And if he refused, I was prepared to whine until HP came back!

“Alright, alright, you win!”

I couldn’t help but let out a giggle, folding my legs as I gave Johnny more attention than I did to any of my teachers all day.

With a soft grunt, Johnny inhaled before starting. “Alright, so... it all started last Saturday…”

It took a long time for Johnny to get through the whole story. It doesn't help that this mystery man keeps texting Johnny, interrupting the story. It was strange. Every time Johnny read what was sent, he’d roll his eyes and let out an almost annoyed groan before continuing.

“... And now he's been texting me for the last two days. It's all horrible puns or asking how I'm doing. I'm seriously considering blocking him but he does know where I live, so he'd probably just come over anyways.” That explained the eye rolling.

It's a weird story in general and I have a feeling Johnny left out some things that happened. But the weirdest part is Johnny’s reaction. He's been smiling practically the whole time. Not a real smile, but the half-smiles he gives when he's rarely happy. It was so uncommon that the only people I've seen him half-smile at are HP and I.

Johnny’s complaining all about this ‘Gyro’ guy but with that smile, there's no way he's as annoyed like he's claiming. Gyro sounds weird too. I can understand wanting to help someone you just hurt, but wanting to hang out with them afterwards is a completely different story. Plus there's other things he's done that just don't seem to add up.

“Gyro really kissed you?”I tried to ask it as calmly as I could, although my mind was running rampant with visions.

“D-don't say it like that. It was just on the cheek! It's probably just an Italian thing, anyways.”

“Maybe, but you guys barely know each other. I thought kissing on the cheek was a family thing.” I mentioned.

“They probably do things differently in Italy. I don't know why you're so focused on that. I'm more concerned with how to get these damn puns to stop!” Just then his phone buzzes again and he groans before picking up his phone again.

“Give me the phone. I wanna see if it's really that bad.” I pipe up, excited to see one of this Gyro’s infamous puns.

He tosses the phone to me. “Knock yourself out, but don't tell me I didn't warn ya.”

[I can't find my favorite TV show. It must be Lost. ;3c]

It's a great pun just like the ones Stephen tells! My laughter at the joke only makes Johnny groan again. “Not you too!”

I start scrolling through the texts. Gyro really does send a lot of puns, but Johnny always responds so enthusiastically in his messages.

“Why don't you tell him you don't like the puns?” I asked, giving Johnny his phone back.

“Well, he gets really happy when I say I like them. I think he'd be pretty bummed if I told him I was being sarcastic.” Johnny scratches at his tummy before flinching. I found the reaction weird, figuring out that he was hiding something.

“What happened to your stomach?”

“W-What? How did you know? I didn't tell you anything about that!” Got him.

“I knew you were hiding something! Come on, come on, tell me please?”

He groaned again, knowing that he was cornered. “I just got scratched up a bit, okay? It's mostly healed now but there's still a few cuts left.”

“Who scratched you? Was it a cat? Was it Gyro?”

“What? No no, Gyro helped me with the scratches. I got them by accident, alright? It wasn't anybody's fault.”

“Helped you?”

“He put some bandages on it. You know, typical nurse stuff.”

“You asked him to put bandages on it?” I kept prodding him with questions until I could get the full picture.

“No, of course not. He just found out about it and I agreed to let him help me with it is all.”

I want to pry more but then HP and Diego come back. With food, though! I dig into my meal and watch what Diego puts on the TV. He put on the cartoon channel to taunt me, but I like the show anyways so I don't complain. Diego could call me a baby all he likes it's a funny show.

“I should have picked up a change of clothes for you. It must be uncomfortable in that uniform.” HP says to me from the kitchen area.

“No worries, I'm fine like this!” I answer with a grateful smile.

As everyone’s finishing up their burgers in general silence, Johnny’s phone starts to act up. Now it’s ringing constantly: a phone call. Wondering if it’s the mysterious Gyro, I try to sneak a peek at the screen before Johnny gets on his chair and shuts himself off in his room.

“Aren’t you at wor-” Is all I managed to hear before the door closed behind him.

HP and Diego look at each curiously and shrug. I guess they didn’t know about Gyro? Did this mean I had a secret to protect?! Oh no, I’m not good with secrets if HP starts to pick up on something! She learned to completely read me after only a week after babysitting me, and she hadn’t lost her touch since!

Thankfully, HP excused herself to the bathroom, leaving before she could see the nervous look on my face that I knew was there. Now I was left alone with Diego but thankfully, that didn’t last long as well.

Once HP shut the door behind her, Diego let out a soft chuckle, turning to me with a finger to his lips.

“I need to get even.” He whispered before slowly making his way over to Johnny’s room.

Uh oh.

Listening as Diego entered the room, I heard Johnny’s conversation over the phone stop sharply.

“The hell are you doing here?!”

Next came Diego.

“Just hear me out, Johnny because I just had to tell you a joke I heard before I forgot!”

“The only ‘joke’ is how shitty your jokes usually are!” Johnny snapped back before speaking into the phone again. “One sec…”

Unfazed, Diego began. “What did the five fingers say to the face?”

There was a moment of silence. I tried to think if I knew the joke from somewhere, but it sounded like Johnny did.

“You wouldn-”

SLAP

Moving out of the way as soon as I see him again, Diego zooms past me out the door, closely followed by an enraged, rolling Johnny, now sporting a new mark on his good cheek.

“That was for the water, Joestar!” I heard Diego cackle as he ran down the stairs, forcing Johnny to resort to elevator.

Once the two are gone, I hear HP stomping out of the bathroom, in TA mode, 200%!

“Diego Brando, I told you to let that go!” She almost roared, glancing around to see that she was too late.

Rubbing her hand against her temples, HP let out a hard sigh, patting my head as she passed by to rest on the couch.

“I’ll wring his neck one of these days, I swear.” I hear her groan, as it looked like we could only wait for them to come back.

Wanting to be helpful, I look towards my close friend. “Why not give one of them a phone call?” Phone call?



Johnny’s phone call!

HP lets out a sigh, just closing her eyes as she lied back against the couch.

Perfect.

“I’ll be using the bathroom, too.” I mention before getting up, hearing her let out a groan of acknowledgment.

Turning left rather than walking straight down the hall for the bathroom, I entered Johnny’s room, shutting the door behind me.

I look at his bed to see the phone, still in an active call, like I thought.

I could hear a tiny voice call out from it repeatedly. The caller ID said ‘Pun Nurse’, making me a bit nervous to finally talk with the infamous joker. Holding the phone to my ear, I finally spoke up.

“I-I’m sorry, Mr. Gyro, but Johnny had to step out for a moment.”

It sounded like my voice caught him off guard, as he suddenly got quiet. Speaking up again, Gyro said, “Is this...Johnny’s little sister?”

Now it was my time to get caught off guard. Did he really have to say ‘little’? Not even just ‘sister’?

Huffing my cheeks, I responded.

“No, no, I’m just a friend visiting with Hot Pants.”

“Who’s that?”

Did Johnny not mention any of us?

“Also I heard Johnny cursing and a hard ‘smack’ sound. Was that...Diego by any chance?”

Ah. Well he would mention him. Diego annoys him all the time.

“I-I’m afraid so, Mr. Gyro. They’re currently running aft-”

“Wait, how do you know my name?” Gyro asked.

Getting a bit nervous from his suspicious tone, I managed to answer, “O-oh, well Johnny was...well we talked about you two earlier today.” I admitted, unable to think up of a good lie.

He was quiet for a second before letting out a strange laugh.

“Nyoho! So he’s talking about me, eh? Hopefully good things, though! Like my jokes!”

Perking up, I couldn’t help but smile and let my voice rise a bit higher than I should have allowed it. “Oh, I’ve read some of your puns! They’re all wonderfu-”

A sharp knock on the door behind me causes my hair to stand on end.

“Lucy? Why are you in Johnny’s room? And who are you talking to?”

The knob begins to turn.

"Eep!"

“‘Eep?’” I heard the man repeat in confusion.

Before I could answer, I stand upright, hiding the phone behind my back as HP entered the room, hands on her hips with that TA look all over her face.

Shoot.

Chapter Text

God, why must you test me so?

As Johnny and Diego were, I’m sure, chasing each other around the block, I was left on their couch with a growing migraine. Trying to massage my temples, I was about to ask Lucy if she wanted to go out and find them until she suddenly excused herself to the bathroom.

Just letting out a noise to let her know that I heard her, a loud sigh left my chest as my mind wandered. Hopefully those two weren’t killing each other too badly.

I heard the door close behind Lucy, presumably the bathroom, and sit upright to look through my phone. Nothing interesting except the continuing presidential campaign. Valentine was still gathering more and more of a crowd, although I wasn’t sure what to think of that. The man seemed to make good points and cared deeply for the country. But his proposed actions and policies were a bit… intense.

Before I could put any more thought into the matter, I hear the familiar squeaks of Lucy’s voice. Why would she be talking the bathroom? Unless she was making a quick call to Stephen, perhaps?

I dismiss it, thinking that perhaps the girl’s guardian was just making a check-up call.  That was until I hear that voice rise in certain intervals, grabbing my attention a bit more. Either Stephen made another bad joke or something was up.

Getting up from the sofa, I peered down the hall to see the door to the bathroom wide open and after walking down the path, I looked to the left and Johnny’s room’s door shut tight. I know I remembered his door left open when he chased after Diego, so the only answer was Lucy. But what was she doing in Johnny’s room? If she needed to talk to her guardian, she could have just done so in the bathroom, not just waltz into Johnny’s room without permission or just saying so!

As I near the door, I’m able to hear more Lucy much more clearly. She wasn’t speaking to someone she knew very well; her tone was much more reserved and held back, as if she was trying to be polite to someone she wanted to make a first impression with. With her friends or Stephen, you couldn’t stop the little motormouth when she got started, always chirping on about whatever pleased or rubbed her the wrong way throughout the day.

“Lucy? Why are you in Johnny’s room? And who are you talking to?” I ask sternly, turning the handle. Thankfully, it wasn’t locked, letting me walk right in to see Lucy scrambling to hide something behind her back. I squint in suspicious and hold my hips, already looking through the sweating girl’s facade.

“What’s behind your back?”

“Oh, hummmm…” The girl glances at her feet, trying to think up of something on the spot, something I learned to pick up while babysitting Lucy when she was even tinier and perfected through my job. Either way, the fact that she didn’t answer right away meant that it was something she shouldn’t have.

A muffled series of light thumps fill the room as I tap my foot against the carpeted floor, waiting for an answer.

“Thought of something yet?” I asked, feeling my lips grow tight and purse to show my impatience for this. Fortunately, Lucy surrenders, giving a full pout as she shows the phone behind her back, still in an active call with a tiny voice still speaking in confusion. 

Maintaining eye contact with the flushed Lucy, I take the phone and hold it up to my ear.

“Who am I speaking to?”

I hear the voice, male, let out a grunt of surprise when I spoke before finally answering.

“O-oi, how many of you guys are there? Anyway, the name’s Gyro. I’m a pal of Johnny’s!”

Well that was certainly the first time I ever heard the name, so I wasn’t sure whether to buy it.  

“And would you care to explain how you and Johnny met, Mr. Gyro…?”

“Uh, Zeppeli. Gyro Zeppeli.” He finished for me.

Letting out a brief sigh, I take another glance at the nerve-wracked Lucy standing besides me. Feeling myself grow soft, I take a seat on Johnny’s bed, bringing Lucy to sit besides me as I intended to learn more about this mystery Gyro man. I lay my palm against the side of Lucy’s head and pull her against my shoulder, letting her know I wasn’t raging at her. Although I did give that girl a quick pinch on the cheek to let her know she wasn’t off the hook, inciting a tiny yelp from her.

“So uh, who’s this? A friend of Johnny, too?” The man asked carefully, obviously testing the waters.

“My name is Hot Pants, and I- What?” I’m interrupted by a strange noise Gyro makes in response to my name.

“O-oh, man, I’m sorry just...that’s a pretty cool nickname! I was wondering who that girl was talking about. But I thought I misheard her!”

I didn’t even dignify the stupid comment with a response, patting Lucy’s head in an attempt to stop myself from just hanging up on this man.

“Moving on, you still haven’t answered my question.” I crossed my legs as I tried to move onto the point.

“Question?”

“How do you know Johnny?”

“Oh that! Well the little girl- ah what was it… Lucy? She said Johnny was talking about me so I assumed that meant he told you as well.”

“Well as you can tell he didn’t.” I snapped back, shooting a glance at the girl besides me.

“Yeah, I don't know why he wouldn’t. Pretty odd, if you ask me. I mean he told the little one after all.” Gyro begins to ramble before catching himself. “Well, the short version is I bumped into him a while ago and we’ve been chatting since.”

Well you couldn’t get more vague than that. Looks like I was going to have to go to my go-to source for information. Lucy seemed to pick up on what I was going to do as soon as I fully turn to her. I put the phone on speaker and she started to look even more worried.

“Lucy, how did Johnny meet this man?” I ask making sure to hold the phone so this Gyro could hear what we’re saying. I didn’t know him well enough to trust anything he was saying, and his general goofy manner was off-putting. It seemed too phony.

“H-hey didn’t I just answer that?” Gyro’s voice chimed in, clearly nervous. Good. He should start to realize that I’m not messing around. The last thing I would want is for Johnny to get close to some scumbag he met off the street only to get his trust destroyed. Johnny was a good friend and even if he wasn’t, he didn’t deserve something like that.

“Oh, uh well.” Lucy started trying to stall, waving her hands around in exaggerated motions.

“Lucille Steel.”

“Johnny said they met a while ago at a park.” She paused for a moment before speaking again. “He helped Johnny out!” She beamed, she seemed to be trying to make a good first impression for Gyro. The reason why I couldn’t tell yet.

“Helped?”

“Yeah Johnny got hurt, r-right Mr. Gyro?”

“Yeah I helped to patch him up.” Gyro responded lowly. He still seemed nervous. Was Lucy hiding something about that particular event?

“How did he get hurt? Don’t lie.”

“Oh that. Well, it’s kind of um…” Stalling again. I only have to click my tongue once before she gives in. “Gyro... sort of gave him that bruise.”

I could feel my grip on the phone tighten and my heel beginning to kick against the bed.

“Did you have to phrase it like that?!” Gyro suddenly interrupts. “Look, it was an accident, don't get the wrong idea. I helped him with it! Even got him a free meal afterwards.”

Before he could say anymore, I shot back. “Exactly how did the bruise happen?” This had better be good.

The man on the other end lets out a gulp audible enough for me to hear over the phone before answering. “A friend and I were playing handball...one of us missed the shot and, ah…” A sharp exhale before finishing. “Johnny was in the line of fire.”

I pinch the bridge of my nose, trying to picture the scenario. “Is that what made that bruise? Even if hit off guard, I find that hard to believe for a bruise that big.”

There was another, even louder gulp this time. “Well...the ball didn't cause it but…the pavement did.”

Lucy let out a squeak, thinking I was about to crush the phone between my fingers by the way I was holding it after hearing THAT. Losing all inhibition, I had to point a few things out. “He could have snapped his neck for all you know!!Or cracked something particularly important, you damned...ugh!”

Taking a deep breath, I cracked my neck and tried to calm down. Trying to bring it back down a few notches, I tried to use a more neutral tone. Apparently I didn't do a very good job, as my voice was shaking, itching to rise back to 11. Not only that, but Lucy wasn't on my arm anymore, but sitting in the center of the bed, almost to the corner of the room. Poor thing hadn't heard me yell like that in a long time. I guess I still got it.

“I hope you realize just how lucky you got with Johnny only getting a bruise, Mr. Zeppeli.” I waited for another witty or nervous response but was greeted with silence. “Gyro?”

After a moment, the man answered at last. I guess my yelling made him lose his nerve for a moment there. Good.

“L-look, like I said, I took full responsibility for it all, alright man? I even made multiple calls and a visit to make sure the kid didn't have a concussion or lingering injuries! You gotta give me credit for that, at least, right?!”

Again with the ‘man’ comment. I guess he was one of those guys who just threw around ‘man’ or ‘dude’ at anyone.

And as much as I hated the arrogance of that last sentence, I let out a grunt, unable to argue with him. “Don't ask for praise for something you're supposed to do, Mr. Zeppeli. But…” I let out a heavy sigh, uncrossing my legs. “Thank you for helping Johnny out when you could have just ran. And checking up on him after the fact…”

There was a moment of silence as the tension in the air thinned. As Lucy crawled back over to me, the man finally spoke. “So, ah...it’s alright if Johnny and I keep talking and hang out?”

I clicked my tongue and tried to think. The man still irked me in general, but I couldn't deny the fact that he actually cares for Johnny. Plus I couldn't exactly filter out all of Johnny’s friends. God knows the poor kid needed more, although I'd still be there for him to sniff out any undesirables. Patting Lucy’s head again, I chose my next words carefully.

“Talking is just fine. But for meeting him… what did you have in mind?”

“Oh! Uh...well I already went over to his place.”

Ech.

“So I was wondering if I could take him out for a bit to eat or just hang around! Like the mall, or something.”

He was probably talking about the QCM.

Chewing on my bottom lip, I needed a moment to ponder the request. I glance over at Lucy for her thoughts, only to get a bright smile and nod. Ugh, cornered at both ends. But I wasn't going to just let this happen without some compromise.

“You let me know when is good for you. If it's on a day or time I'm able to be here, you'll come to Johnny’s apartment so I can at least get a look at and talk to you personally.” Just in case I needed give a description to a police sketch artist.

The man let out a strange laugh unlike anything I've heard, responding right away. “Deal, my man! Just give me your number and I'll text you as soon as I got a date down!”

Rolling my eyes at the ‘man’ comment again, I gave Gyro my number, finally deciding to end the call.

“Gyro really isn't that bad. He’s real funny too! You can just see the texts he’s sent to Johnny so far.” Lucy reached over to grab the phone and show me Johnny’s messages. She pouts when she realizes the phone is now closed leaving her unable to do anything since neither of us knew the passcode.

“Lucy, have you met this man before?”

The girl gave a few shakes of her head, swinging her blonde hair back and forth.

“Then why do you keep defending him?” I asked, reaching over to move the blonde strands behind Lucy’s ears and away from her face.

“Well, you only heard a small part of the story and you didn't even see Johnny's side of things. When Johnny was talking about Gyro, he just seemed happy. And seeing Johnny happy does the same for me! After all, if anyone deserves a little more happiness in their life, it’s him.”

She did have a point. I didn't know Johnny's point of view. Lucy may have a certain idea of Gyro but Johnny had actually been around this man.

“What are you two doing in here?” Speak of the devil.

Johnny sits in the hallway outside his room, glaring at the two of us. Lucy hides behind me, not wanting to be yelled at again, even though Johnny has never yelled at her before.

“You left your phone on.” Lucy says holding her hand out slightly to show the locked phone.

“My phone?” He rolls over grabbing his phone. “What-oh fuck, Gyro.”

“It's okay we were talking to him. He knows you ran out after Diego.”

At the mention of Diego, I look around. Johnny doesn't have any more injuries and I don't see Diego anywhere. He must have run off. Well, he wouldn’t get far before crawling back. Then I’ll have something for him.

I start getting up to go look for him when Johnny speaks up again.

“Oh God, you two were talking to him?” He sighs “Guess I don't have to worry about any more puns, at least.”

“Actually,” I interrupt. “He's planning on meeting up with you again soon. I have to see him first of course.”

“You have to see him first? What are you, my ma?”

“I don't trust him, he's suspicious. Why would you invite a stranger into your house anyways?”

“How do you even- Lucy, how much have you told her?”

She glanced at her feet meekly, swinging them back and forth. “Not that much.”

“I was telling you, not her. Ugh, I guess there's no point in arguing about it. I invited him in because he wanted to hang out. I didn't realize I needed a permission slip.”

Sassy little thing.

I cross my arms across my chest, letting out a heavy sigh. “Well what’s done is done. All that’s left is for Mr. Zeppeli to get in contact with me so we can arrange the time and day of the meeting.”

“‘Mr.’? HP, I know you’re serious and all, but trust me, he doesn’t deserve the ‘Mr.’.” The boy piped up with a raised eyebrow.

Standing from the bed, I walk over to Johnny and kneel to his level, keeping his head straight so I can reexamine the bruise. Now that I knew what caused it, I was terrified yet relieved to know that only a bruise came out of it. I gently let go of Johnny's face as he glared at me. Stubborn as ever, even when I'm trying to help. I stood back up and weighed my options.

I couldn't just do nothing as I waited for Gyro to text me. I could go looking for Diego, but it's not like he really needed my help coming back. I didn't want to just sit around with Lucy even if I could get more information from her. The best option seemed to be the one Lucy suggested earlier. Getting Johnny's point of view on the matter should help me realize exactly who he was getting involved in.

"I want you to tell me everything that's happened." I say as I look down at Johnny, who starts to move his chair back to his bed so he can sit on it.

"I thought you heard everything from Lucy already."

"Lucy hasn't told me everything and it's best to get information from the original source."

"Straight from the horse's mouth, huh?" He gets off his chair and hops back onto his bed next to Lucy. He stares at the both of us for a long minute. "You're not gonna budge on this are you?"

"No, so you might as well get it over with now." I move my hands to my hips, shifting my weight to my left leg as I waited for a response.

"This is the last time I'm telling any of you about my life. I swear you're all more trouble than you're worth." He grumbles just loud enough for us to hear. "Fine, but it's pointless! Nothing really exciting happened."

"But first." I interrupt, sending a look Lucy's way. "Lucy, go back to the living room."

"What? But I've heard the story before." She pouted

"Exactly why you need to go. I just want Johnny's viewpoint. I already know your agenda, young lady."

She looks over to Johnny for help and he just shrugs in response. She looks back to me with pleading eyes but I know better. I tap my foot on the only floor five times before she finally gives in. She gets up quickly, pouting and huffing her cheeks the whole time before she leaves the room. Little Lucy closed the door behind her but not before shooting a kicked puppy look to the two of us. She could pout as much as she wanted for now; I would make it up to her later. If she stayed there, I know Johnny would omit certain things on her behalf. I needed to get the whole story.

I sat down next to Johnny with enough space between us so he would be comfortable.

“Start at the beginning.”

He sighed. “Well you see, there was this Guy named God and He wanted to make earth so-”

“Johnny.” I warned, not in the mood for his sarcasm.

“Fine fine, the beginning.”

I could see what Lucy was talking about as soon as he starts with the story. Though it's laced with sarcasm and he easily throws insults towards the strange man, he seemed to be enjoying the tale.

“Why did you call Gyro?”

“I just, I wasn't feeling well. I don't know, I guess ‘cause he was a nurse?”

He wouldn't give me full details everywhere even without Lucy being there. He just would say he ‘had a bad dream’ and wouldn't give more information than that, no matter how much I pried. Things started to get really strange when he started talking about the night Gyro came over to his apartment. He started fidgeting and refused to look me in the eye when talking.

“So what happened after the movie?”

“W-we had pizza and then he left.”

My ass.

“What about during the movie?”

At the question he shoots a quick look up at me before looking down and hiding his face in his beanie.

“We talked, it's not that big a deal.”

“Johnny. I can tell you're hiding something.”

“Ugh, can't you just let it go?”

“No. I want to hear the whole story or else I'm not going to allow you to see Gyro.”

“Not allow me to see him? You're not my ma, HP!”

“But I am your friend and if this man hurt you in anyway-”

“No, no, it's not anything like that. It's just fucking embarrassing, alright?! I mean I don't even know why he did it.”

“Did...what exactly?” I heard my knuckles cracking as my left hand balled into a fist underneath my other crossed arm.

“I've already said too much. Can we just move on?”

“You can tell me, Johnny. I promise I won't tell anyone else if that's what you're worried about.”

“Why are you so stubborn?” Look who's talking.

He shifts around for a bit, still reluctant to say anything. I reach over and lift his beanie enough to get a clear look at his face. This was a new expression. Johnny was...blushing?

The new look quickly turns to a scowl and he moves his head away. He stares at the wall while speaking, clearly embarrassed.

“We were watching the movie and then he got up to go get snacks or something. It was hot so I figured I would just, um, take my sweater off. I guess he saw something cause the next thing I know I was pinned down to the couch.”

Did I just hear that right? I can feel my blood start to boil and my other hand ball up into another fist, but keep myself under control enough to let Johnny continue.

“Then he started uh lifting up my shirt-”

“He did what!?” I shout, unable to keep myself contained any longer “This scumbag took advantage of you? That miserable piece of trash doesn't deserve to be anywhere near you!”

Johnny looked shocked; he's less exposed to my temper than Diego and Lucy so it was only natural. “Nothing happened! You didn't let me finish.” He says trying to calm me down but I was too pissed for that to work.

“He assaulted you!”

“No, it wasn't like that! I was starting to think he was coming onto me at first, too, but he really wasn't!”

“Than what the hell was he doing?” I asked sharply, needing to hear what kind of explanation Johnny could possibly offer.

“Like I was saying, he saw something: there was wounds on my stomach and he noticed that. That must be why he pinned me down.”

“‘Must be’? So you don't even know why?”

“I didn't ask him about it! But after he lifted up my shirt, he pointed out the wounds. I swear he didn't try to do anything else.”

“How do you know he wasn't assaulting you first and then noticed the wounds?”

“I don't, but he helped me with them afterwards. If he really was jumping me, I don't think a couple of scratches would have deterred him.”

“How'd you even get scratches, then? Was it him again?”

“No, it was an accident. Gyro wasn't even there when I got them.”

I slowly come back to myself though I’m still seeing a bit of red. I wasn't going to just let this slip. Looks like Mr. Zeppeli and I would have a lot to talk about when we meet.

“I'm not letting this go, this only makes him seem more suspicious. Was this the only time?” Johnny shoots me another nervous look. That was all of an answer I needed. “What did he do?”

“He was probably just messing around…”

“Jonathan Joestar.” I say sternly; I was not going to put up with any more stalling or lies.

“We were waiting for the pizza and I was asking what we should do and he got-” he pauses to gulp his cheeks flushing again. “Really close. Than he made a sort of joke I guess. But it wasn't anything ‘cause right afterwards, he moved away again and everything was normal.”

“What did he say?” I asked, biting down on a corner of my lips as anger began to bubble up inside me again.

“Well I'm paraphrasing, but something along the lines of, ‘30 minutes gives us plenty of time to do...things’.” I feel my anger peak and Johnny must have noticed. Stammering as he spoke quickly, the boy tried to explain himself further. “He never explicitly said sex or anything! It could have just been me thinking he was flirting for all I know. W-well not flirting, per say, but... y'know what I'm talking ‘bout!”

I'm ready to start yelling again when I suddenly hear a noise from the outside. It almost sounds like a giggle. There's only one person who that could be. Without any warning I get up from the bed and walk towards Johnny’s door. Johnny gives a panicked look but I press my fingers to my lips to let him know to stay quiet. I swing open the the door into the room, bringing Lucy tumbling in with it. Busted.

She now looks as panicked as Johnny did before, if not, moreso. She tries getting up to run off but I grab her shirt collar and bring her inside, closing the door behind me. It slams harder than I meant, causing both Johnny and Lucy to jump. Recognizing she has no escape route, Lucy instead runs over to Johnny's bed and hides behind him.

“Lucille, didn't I tell you to wait in the living room?”

She lets out a soft yelp at her full first name. She knows by now that I only use that when I'm very mad. She hides further behind Johnny before speaking. “I know, but I had already heard the story. I just wanted to make sure Johnny was telling you everything. E-even though he told you things he didn't tell me.”

She giggles again before zipping up after a sharp look, reminding her that she's in trouble.

“Even so I told you to wait and you didn't. You even tried to sneak behind my back by hiding against the door.”

“Hot Pants, wait, Lucy had to hide behind your back you wouldn't let her stay.”

“Don't try defending her Johnny.”

“I mean it's stuff she would have heard about eventually.”

“That's a lie and you know it.” I snapped.

“Come on, let her off this time. Please.”

I sigh, knowing I'm only gonna end up arguing with Johnny for hours at this rate. Lucy usually listened to me and Johnny sort of had a point.

“You're not completely off the hook.” I warned Lucy before returning to my previous spot. It would be pointless to try kicking her out again. And I've already heard enough to draw my own conclusions.

“So,” Lucy starts to say suddenly in a sing-song voice. “Gyro likes you.”

That startled the both of us as we both turn in unison towards Lucy.

“What the hell are you on about?” Johnny says scowling.

“I mean it's obvious, isn't it! You missed out on the best part anyways.” She turns to me with a sly look “After they hung out, Gyro gave Johnny a good night kiss!” I had to practically chew on my tongue to prevent myself from losing it.

“Stop talking about it like that! It was on the cheek, you're getting it all twisted!” Johnny shouts before I can get a word in.

“People who've met each other twice don't kiss, Johnny. Even on the cheek.” Lucy reminded him.

“Not in America, but he's foreign.” That explains the odd accent I noticed earlier.

“That's a lame excuse. Even without the kiss, he was for sure flirting with you! Like the joke he made with the tape: he complimented your body.”

“What, how did you even get that from that awful joke?”

“He said ‘you look good with your shirt off I should get this on tape’; that sounds flirty to me.”

“It was setup for his dumb joke, there's no way he actually meant that.”

“Well he still pinned you down.”

“That was to look at the scratches!”

“I don't know, HP had a point about him trying to pin you before he noticed the wounds.”

“Ugh, don't get HP involved in your madness too.”

“And that's only scratching the surface! There's also his non-stop texting you and wanting to hang out. Gyro’s got a big crush on you the evidence all points to it!” She finishes with a big grin, like she had made a successful case to a jury. Just instead of a jury there was a very flustered Johnny and myself. “Even HP can't deny it, right?”

At that, both of them turn to me. Johnny looks the most embarrassed I've ever seen him while Lucy is wearing a smug little smile. She really believed in her idea, didn’t she? I know she approved of Gyro, for some reason, and believed Johnny would be happy with him. But I had to chew over what she said. I looked out the window for a minute, choosing my next words carefully. After a long while, I turn back to the two having after having reached my conclusion.

“I don't like this Gyro guy,” I start to say looking between the two “But Lucy has a point. All the events point to him liking Johnny. Even though I completely disapprove, there’s too many things he's done to say it's just coincidence.”

Lucy celebrates while Johnny groans into his hands. I wasn't happy with it either but if Mr. Zeppeli was interested in Johnny like that, it only made it more important that I meet with him first. I was tempted to ban Johnny from meeting him at all, but I couldn't control what Johnny did when I wasn't here. I needed to put the fear of God into this man. No way was I going to let him hurt Johnny or take advantage of him.

“Why can't I win today?” Johnny groans with his face still buried in his hands. I pat Johnny on the head quickly as a condolence before walking out of the room. My phone was still in my bag in the living room. It had been long enough and I was sure Gyro had sent me a date and time by now.

Just as predicted, when I unlocked my phone I saw several texts from an unknown number.

[hows this Sunday? At around 1 or 2 o'clock.]

After that were a few texts asking the same thing and if I had gotten the message.

“Johnny are you doing anything this Sunday?” I asked when I walked back to the room just in time to see the kid lying down, apparently screaming into his pillow as Lucy teased him.

“First comes love, then comes marriage-oh look you already have your date set up!” Lucy says as I come into the room and ask my question.

“Don't call it that!” He jumps up to shout before turning to me “I have no say in my own hang outs?”

“Of course you do. That's why I'm asking whether you're free.” I reply

“That's hardly a say.” He sighs and pushes his head quickly into his pillow again mumbling something about moms. “I'm free.” He groans after his little fit is finished.

I nod before sending my own text to Gyro.

[Sunday is fine. 1:00 would be best for myself. I will see you then, Mr. Zeppeli.]

I save Gyro’s number under “Suspect” and put my phone away. I walked back to the couch in the living room. I grabbed the remote and sat on the couch. Now that that nonsense was dealt with I could finally relax.

As if the Devil heard my blood pressure start to relax, the door swung open.

“I'm back, Hot Wheels! Looks like two legs are much faster than an angry kid on half a gurney.”

Oh and I’ll find a way to deal with you in due time.

Chapter Text

Sunday at last! After a long week of way too many screaming kids and headaches, I was looking forward to hanging out with my little gattino!

“Viola o blu?” I mumbled to myself glancing around my closet interior. I like looking good to begin with, but for that day, I really needed to make a good first impression with Johnny's friend. I have a feeling he doesn't like me, but my charm was sure to win him over!

I tossed the purple shirt to the side; Johnny wears blue a lot so he must like the color. I wanted Johnny's friend to like me so there wouldn't be any problems, but at the end of the day I was hanging out with Johnny so I had to prioritize his interests first. I take my phone out to check the time. I still had a half hour before I should leave, giving me more than enough time to select the rest of my outfit. Hopefully.

***

With only ten minutes to spare I finally had my look together. I gave myself an appreciative glance over before heading into my kitchen. I munched on some leftover waffles from a diner some of the other nurses dragged me to. Once I finished my makeshift breakfast, I toss out the remains and head out the door.

Cavolo, I almost forgot my helmets again. I don't usually wear any but I figured might as well seem like as much of an upstanding citizen as possible. Hopping onto Valkyrie and putting on my helmet, I send a quick good morning text to Johnny. He doesn't respond and after a minute I decide to head out anyways. If I had to drag him out of bed myself, I would rather do it on time.

Balancing the spare helmet while riding throws me off so I'm forced to take it slow on the road. Thankfully I make it to Johnny's place before 1 o'clock. Looking around, I notice Johnny’s small figure outside his apartment. I wave at him while taking off my helmet but his nose is buried in his phone so he doesn't notice. I take my shades off my jacket and put them on. Time to have some fun.

“Stellina! What are you doing here all by your lonesome?” I shout as I walk up to him. He blinks up at me like he was awakened from a trance. I quickly lean down to give him a peck on his good cheek. “How are ya, Johnny boy?”

He looks just as confused as he did the first time I kissed him. It's just a greeting, it shouldn't incite such a scandalous look. You would think I had assaulted him or something by the look he gives.

“Why do you keep doing that?” Johnny hisses, glaring at me. Ah, I missed how easy it was to rile him up. Even if I didn't do anything this time.

“The kisses? It's a greeting ‘cause you're my friend! I would kiss your other cheek but it's still bruised.” Actually looking at it now I realize the bruise is almost completely gone, so it should be fine to touch. I lean down and give him a kiss on the other cheek which incites a small yelp of surprise. “Looks like I can greet you properly now!”

“S-so it's just a foreign thing?” Johnny says when he regains his composure.

“Foreign? I thought everyone did this.”

“Nobody objected before?”

“No...well, Pocoloco freaked out and told me to stop but he's Loco. I don't usually use him as a model for normal human behavior.” Johnny breathes out a sigh of relief for some reason. “Do you want me to stop too?”

Johnny gives me another shocked look. Geez, I don't really push Johnny to do that much. A simple offer like that shouldn't shock him.

“Nah it's- it's fine.” Johnny finally says after a long pause.

“Can I have a kiss whenever I like then, nyoho?”

“You most certainly cannot.” I heard a foreign voice say from behind me. I spin around to see this pink haired dude accompanied by a small girl. “You must be Mr. Zeppeli.”

“And you must be Hot Pants.” I walk over and extend my hand for a shake. This guy sure has a strong grip, almost like he was trying to break my fingers or something.

“Hi Mr. Gyro!” The little girl beside Hot Pants says waving at me.

“Ah, Lucy right? Ciao.” Now that I have chance to really look at her, she reminds me of Johnny. I thought she said they weren't related. “You sure you're not Johnny's kid sister?”

She shakes her head furiously and pouts. “I'm not a kid! Even if I was Johnny’s sister I wouldn't be his kid sister.” Looks like she's as easy to rile up as little Johnny. Must run in the family, nyoho.

“Why'd you bring Lucy along?” Johnny says, rolling up to Lucy, who leans down to give him a quick hug-hello. If hugs aren't considered weird, then why are kisses? I'll never fully understand Americans.

“I didn't really bring her along... it's more like I was forced to take her with me.” Hot Pants responded.

“I drive a hard bargain.” Lucy replies with a cheerful smile. Well there was the biggest difference between that could be used to say Johnny and Lucy weren't actually siblings: Lucy smiled a lot while it was a gift to get so much as a semi-smile from Johnny. “I wanted to see Gyro too.”

“Well aren’t I popular? What kind of things have you been saying about me?” I say it in a joking manner but Johnny turns his face away. Lucy gets a real nervous look and Hot Pants’ static expression twists into something fierce. What the hell has he been saying about me to get this kinda reaction? Not wanting to deal with an awkward atmosphere I quickly change the subject.

“Oh look at what I got, gattino!”

“Besides those things?” Johnny said before I could leave, pointing at my awesome shutter shades.

“You'll see, it's even cooler than these.” I quickly run over to my bike to fetch my helmet and head back. Showing off the decal on the back, I start talking again with a big grin. “It's brilliant right?”

‘Dreamy G.Z.’ Is written in a big bubbly font on the back. I figured if I had to wear a helmet the design should at least be something cool. Johnny gives it a long stare before looking back to me.

“That's really genius Gyro. Wow. It even rhymes.” Johnny says in his usual monotone. Now I'm on cloud nine. Johnny likes my jokes and my awesome logo! It couldn't get any better. I barely register Lucy giggling until I see Johnny turning to glare at her. Wonder what that's about.

“I got a spare for you, too. It used to belong to, uh, someone else... so it doesn't have anything on it. It may be a bit big on you though.”

“Mr. Zeppeli, before the both of you run off, I’d like to talk to you.” Hot Pants suddenly almost-barked. Lucy gives a scared look and moves closer to Johnny. That's not a good sign.

“Go ahead.” I reply. Well, I knew I was gonna have to talk to this guy eventually. Might as well get it over with now.

“Alone.”

Merda. That's never good.

I look to Johnny for some way to get out of this but he just shrugs. Looks like he's not gonna bail me out of this one. I look back to Hot Pants who is now tapping his foot impatiently like I'm some kid. I beat down every urge telling me to say ‘vaffanculo’ to this guy and just leave with Johnny. But I am trying to make a good impression, after all. Bracing myself for the worst, I give one last wave towards Lucy and Johnny, feeling like a prisoner walking to his death sentence.

“After you, pantaloni!” I say with my best smile.

He doesn't seem very impressed, though. The man just scowls but heads off into the other direction, walking a few steps before sharply turning his head and staring at me. What, did he expect me to follow after him like an anatroccolo? I look to Johnny again but he's already turned his attention to Lucy. I wonder if this is a normal occurrence for little Johnny or if he really just doesn't care. I give in for the sake of avoiding an argument and start following behind HP.

Once we’re out of earshot the guy stops dead in his tracks and turns to face me. He's wearing such a serious expression, it's just killing my mood. What has Johnny gotten me into?

“First of all, take off those things.” He starts in like a drill sergeant, waving at my shades. I bite my tongue for the moment and remove my glasses, putting them back on my jacket’s collar. “I want to make sure you're listening to me Mr. Zeppeli.”

This guy really did think I was a kid, huh?
“First off,” ‘First off’? Oh good, he had a list prepared, “I want you to explain to me how you plan on getting Johnny to the mall.”

I feel my eyebrow rise, glancing from the hot-pink haired man to my Valkyrie, then back. “M-my bi-” Before I can even finish, I see the wrath of God behind those eyes.

“On a death machine?” The question itself wasn’t loud, but said so firmly that I felt the air tense up and my knees almost buckle. In fact, I swore that I heard a few birds fly away for somewhere safer.

But I wasn’t going to just take this lying down with my tail between my legs. With a deep breath, I start to present my case. “Ok, now I know you might be mad ‘cause I didn’t mention having a bike.”

“Oh, are you just figuring that out now?” Another stabbing comment.

“But in my defense, you never brought it up, so I thought it was cool. Besides, with me driving, there’s nowhere safer for Johnny to be!” Before I can let out a little laugh, I feel the man jabbing at my chest with his index. Man, if Lucy and Johnny weren’t right there...

“If anything, and I mean anything happens to Johnny because of that death machine, I’m coming after you before bothering with the police. Are we clear?”

Biting my tongue for now just so Johnny and I can get the hell out, I nod before I can say anything of of impulse.

HP loosens up, folding his hands over his chest now. “Second off: curfew. I want you two back here before eight.”

“Eight?! What are we, children?!”

“Don't raise your voice at me, Zeppeli. Eight is perfectly reasonable.”

Again, talking down to me like I'm some kid. At that point I just couldn’t take it any more; as much as I wanted to get on this guy's good side, I wasn't gonna be a doormat.

“Hey, man, listen. All this stuff you’re shooting at me? It’s gotta stop. Stop talking to me like I’m some kid, alright? I'm the same age as you if not older. We can talk like adults.”

“‘Adults’?” He repeats, sounding very pissed off. I instantly regretted not shutting up. “If you didn't act like some horny teenager then I could treat you like an adult.”

HP wasn’t loud, but spoke sharper than a knife.

The comment itself threw me off guard so much that my angry mood quickly dissipated.

“What are you talking about?”

“Don't play dumb with me, Zeppeli. I'm referring to your actions with Johnny.” Now I was even more confused. Before I can ask what he’s talking about, HP continues. “I just saw you asking if you could kiss him, so don't dare pretend to be innocent.”

Is that what this is about: my teasing? Did it really bug Johnny so much he sent this pit bull after me?

“I'm joking with the kid. I don't mean anything by it, alright? It’s just funny to see how he reacts! If he had a problem with it, he could have told me instead of making you ‘talk’ to me.”

“Johnny didn't ask me to do anything.” The pink dude was quick to stop me. “I am talking to you because, frankly, I don't trust you. And I don't take kindly to your ‘jokes’, either. They're immature at best. And if you're lying to me and you really do have some kind of ulterior motive with Johnny, there will be hell to pay.”

So much for winning this guy over. Looks like whatever Johnny told him really set him off. I didn't like that last comment either. Usually that kind of threat would just piss me off, but with the tone this guy said it, I could tell he was being serious. The more I argued with him, the deeper I was digging my own grave. If words didn't work with this guy then actions would have to do.

“...Eight’s early. Can it at least be 9?” I switch the conversation back to the stupid curfew to avoid a fight. The faster I could get this over with, the better.

“You're in no position to make any demands, Mr. Zeppeli.”

Cazzo, talking to this guy was like pulling teeth. “I'm not demanding anything. I'm just trying to compromise. Coming back at 8 only leaves Johnny and I about 5-6 hours to hang out once you factor in the drive to and from the mall. I’d like to spend as much time with him as I can.”

I tried to keep my voice level but I could tell that my anger was slipping through.

He bristled with anger for a moment. I expected the guy to start yelling at me but there's nothing but an uncomfortable silence. He's just glaring at me the whole time. I can't tell what he's thinking behind those dark eyes, but it's probably nothing good. Finally he speaks.

“You're really trying my patience.” He lets out a harsh sigh and looks back towards Johnny and Lucy. “Fine. 9. But let me warn you Mr. Zeppeli, I am giving you one chance to show me I can trust you with Johnny. I want you back here at 9 exactly. No touching, no ‘teasing’; don't even think of Johnny in an inappropriate way. If I hear of anything happening, not seeing Johnny will be the least of your worries. Are we clear, Mr. Zeppeli?”

At that he extends his hand. I go to quickly shake his hand and flinch at his grip, even tighter than before. He really was trying to break my hand before, wasn't he? Thankfully he lets go before I have to self amputate. My hand’s throbbing but at least that nightmare’s over with. Without another word I rush over to Johnny, wanting to get the fuck out of here.

“Can we head out now?” Johnny groans. Lucy's laughing about something and Johnny looks as ready to go as me.

I nod in response and start heading over to Valkyrie with a quick wave to Lucy. I put my helmet down for the moment and turn to Johnny with the spare in hand.

“Does that fold?” I ask, pointing to his chair with my free hand. He nods and starts looking around. Oh...he would have to sit somewhere else wouldn't he? Valkyrie was parked so he could sit on her for now.

I put down the helmet and go to pick him up from the chair before I hear a loud cough. I look up to see none other than the pink menace glaring at me. Little Lucy is right by him looking curiously at us. You've got to be kidding me.

“I have to pick him up to put him on Valkyrie.” I say to Hot Pants.

“Pick me up? I can get on your bike just fine without your help!” Johnny shouts suddenly. I forgot about that fierce independence of his. It's usually cute but right now it was just a bother.

“Johnny I don't want you to tip over Valkyrie or bring her tumbling down on you. It'll only be for a second.”

He huffs in annoyance. Looks like he's not gonna budge on this any time soon. I couldn't exactly just pick him up with Hot Pants breathing down my neck. Guess the kid had to learn for himself.

“Go ahead, gattino.” I stay close enough to the bike so if anything goes sideways I can catch him or Valkyrie.

He goes next to Valkyrie and looks between her and myself for a second. Then he tries to climb up before losing his balance and going back into his chair. He glares at poor Valkyrie like it's her fault and then tries again. It's not until the fourth unsuccessful time that he turns to me.

“You done?” I ask, ignoring his piercing glare. I tried to hide my grin but Johnny just looked more annoyed.

“I still don't need your help, jerk.” Ouch. Before I can protest he turns to the pink menace. “HP can you...you know.”

He nods and quickly puts Johnny on Valkyrie. Johnny stuck his tongue out like he'd proven his point. He did realize that I would have to help him up later right? I shake my head and give him the spare helmet to hold for now.

I turned to the chair quickly detaching the wheels and folding the base. I notice there's a bag on the back of the chair which must be where I put the base. Once I turned back to Valkyrie, I realized there was no way I could fit the tires on the back.

“Oh, the wheels fold.” Johnny says as if he could tell what I was thinking.

“Oh! You got the fancy wheels, eh?” I lean down, now noticing the latch and fold the wheels with no problem.

“You've dealt with them before?” Johnny asks as I put the wheels and base in the bag.

“I’m a nurse, Johnny. You're not the first person I've seen with them. They are pretty high tech, so not exactly common though.”

Johnny nods in response and just like that it looks like we’re back to easy conversation. Until I hear a high pitched laugh from behind me.

“Mr. Gyro’s just perfect for the job huh?” Lucy says in a sing-song tune.

“Why are you two still here?” Johnny shouts back. I didn't understand the joke but whatever it was made Johnny very flustered. Lucy just giggles at him.

“Come on, Lucy.” Hot Pants starts to lead the girl away from the two of us. Lucy gives a goodbye wave which Johnny returns, though he seems annoyed with her. I put the bag on the back and wait until they're out of earshot to speak again.

“Your little sister seems nice but your brother is a dick.” I joke. He gives a very confused look so I explain myself. “I know they're not related to you but man do they act like it.”

“Brother?”

“Hot Pants. He gave me a whole speech just now. Oh yeah you've got a curfew, 9.”

“You're kidding me.”

“I wish. The dude almost broke my hand.” I whine and present my still throbbing palm. Like the little jerk he is, Johnny swipes at it, making me flinch again. I pull his bandana down over his eyes in retaliation. He gives a Johnny smile and tries to swipe at my hand again while the bandana is on his eyes. I laugh and pull his bandana up again. He's pouting but there's no anger in his eyes.

He was so close and completely unguarded. It would be so easy to just lean in and...pinch his cheek.

He yelps when I do exactly that.

“Nyoho, that's what you get for leaving yourself open like that.” I tease and let him give me a light punch on the shoulder.

We continue our little poke war for another minute before Johnny decides it's time to go, letting me know by impatiently tapping on Valkyrie.

“Before we head out,” I start and pick my helmet back off the ground. “I've never had a passenger on Valkyrie, so it'll take me a bit to readjust to the added weight. I'll go around the block a couple of times before heading anywhere. If you're not feeling well or anything just tap me on the shoulder twice and I'll pull over, okay?”

“You sound so official.” There’s such a coy tone behind that observation.

“Well I'd rather not have us end up as a ghost story.”

He gives a slight smile and nods. I get on Valkyrie and turn back to Johnny. He still hangs at the back, looking down to his helmet.

“You can come closer I'm not gonna bite.” I said as I revved Valkyrie up. The added weight was already throwing me off and Johnny being so far back was just a recipe for disaster.

“Why should I?”

“It makes it easier for me to drive. You stay like that there's a higher chance I'll crash.”

At that he moves himself closer. No arguing? I guess he doesn’t want the both of us to die. He's still a little too far for my tastes so I grab and move him until he's against my back. He shouts in protest as expected but I wave it off.

“Put on your helmet before Hot Pants bites my head off.” I say as I put my own on. I move Valkyrie slightly and he quickly grabs onto me. It's a good thing my helmet hides my face or else he would probably hit me for laughing. I turn to him one last time and am glad to see he put his own helmet on. I give him a thumbs up which he mimics.

The rode wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked it. And the extra weight didn’t help. But I really didn't mind. That extra weight against my back as we rode through. I didn't mind it at all.

Chapter Text

The cool wind rushing past us. The blurred cars are falling behind. My heart’s pounding like a drum being played on a tune that’s calling for an increasing rhythm. The vibration of the seat underneath me is shaking my entire body to life. The sharp smell of leather and gasoline keeps my senses on edge.

It was all so addicting.

I was five years old when I fell in love with racing. There’s tons of typical reasons why someone might share this love, but for me, there was one that really made me want to just keep doing it with no end in sight.

Nothing could touch you when you were riding.

My father's words and my mother's gentle cruelty fell behind me just like the dirt kicked up by my horse. Life off-horseback meant nothing to me after experiencing that just once.

Now it was easy to see why people loved riding motorcycles. The absolute freedom, the rush of adrenaline. It was just like racing.

The loud purr of the engine was calming. A nice contrast to the euphoria rushing through my veins. I focused on the constant hum of the bike and the sight in front of me.

'Dreamy G.Z.' Gyro was so ridiculous. His goofy personality was almost charming in its over the top absurdity. Well, as long as he wasn’t making puns through the trip, I guess just the visual proof of his goofiness would be alright to deal with.

As I calmed my beating heart my mind drifted to our destination.

The mall...Why had Gyro even chosen there of all places? A Sunday meant it wouldn't be as crowded as usual, but there would still be people there. I wasn't in the mood to deal with any pitying looks. I could stomach it when I had to go to get something, but aimless wandering? Sounds annoying more than anything. I listened to the hum of the bike as I thought on what to do next. Gyro had to have some reasoning behind the destination. Talking to him like this would be pointless. I could barely hear my own thoughts over the wind and engine much less carry a conversation.

I quickly tap him twice on the shoulder signaling him to pull over so we could talk. Almost immediately he catches on, getting off the highway and pulling onto a side street. When we’re parked Gyro takes off his helmet and turns to me.

“What's wrong? You feeling si-” He stops himself when I take off my helmet. He looks completely stunned. Before I can ask him what's wrong he leans in and grabs my cheek. “Gattino! You're so cute! Why don't you smile more?”

Smile? I hadn't even registered that I was smiling until he said so. I even had to feel my own cheeks in disbelief. When did they start aching like this? I slap his hand away and rub at my face until my features feel normal again. Gyro whines disappointedly but I ignore it in favor of asking my question.

“Why are we going to the mall?”

“Why are you asking? You're not banned are you? Or are you afraid they'll see that adorable smile and confuse you for one of the teddy bears?”

I roll my eyes at his joke before responding. “The mall just seems like a boring place to hang out. I want to know why you want to go there.”

“It's not that boring. They have lots there.”

“Like?”

“Chipotle.” He says confidently like he made his case.

“You want to go to the mall...for Chipotle?”

“Don't say it like it's a bad thing.”

“This is the same guy who complained about a pizza not being authentic Italian right?”

“You shut it. Spanish food’s different.”

“As if. Any other reason for going to the mall?”

“...Not really.”

I shake my head. No way was I going to the mall just for a fraudulent fast food joint Gyro could get anywhere. That didn't leave many ideas on where to go. There was no way we could go back to my place with Diego and possibly Hot Pants being there. Wait, that meant that they may have the place to themselves until 9. Well, Diego seemed to displease HP as much as myself after that little ‘joke’ of his, so I didn’t think I’d have to worry about finding some unpleasant evidence once I got home.

Either way, I wasn't in the mood to hang out in the park. Especially with a certain someone’s track record with park-hangouts.

“Let's go to your place.” I say before I even register the words coming out of my mouth. It just happened to be the first thing to come to mind.

Gyro seemed to mull over the idea for a while before speaking. “Why there?”

“I've never been. You've been over to my place so it's only fair I see yours.”

“Your brother would kill me if he found out.” Again with the brother comment. At first I had thought Gyro was just being mean and calling HP a guy, but this time he sounded deadly serious. HP wasn’t exactly the type to wear ‘feminine’ clothing, hell she was just wearing a pretty heavy looking coat when she came to meet Gyro. But could Gyro really not tell by her voice or face? Or did they also help in fooling him and I was just too used to HP to notice it? Not only that, I don't know why HP hadn't corrected him yet. I could correct him for her. But where would be the fun in that?

“I’m not gonna tell HP. I'd get in trouble too. I'm the one suggesting it after all.”

“I doubt that, you seemed to be fine telling him about everything before.” Now he looked annoyed with that huffing pout. HP probably yelled his ear off for him to give me such a dirty look.

“I didn't have much of a choice when Lucy and HP had me backed into a corner. They're the ones who got everything all mixed up. I know you weren't trying to do anything to me...right?”

“Of course! I'd never take advantage of you. I'm not that much of an asshole.”

Not that much of one, huh? “Then you have nothing to worry about. I won't say anything and you'll die if you say anything, so we can just go to your place with no problem.”

He stays silent for a while before sighing and I know I've won.

“You're gonna get me killed one of these days, stellina.”

There's a sharp pain in my heart after hearing those words but I barely have time to register it before Gyro puts on his helmet and motions for me to do the same.

The ride melts away the aching feeling in my chest. Though the tight grip I have on Gyro definitely helped.

***

“Here we are.” Gyro says, suddenly bringing me back to reality. I had gotten caught up in another adrenaline rush and didn't even notice we were parked. I can still feel my blood buzzing as I take in my surroundings. It's a nice neighborhood but it doesn't look too upscale. I take off my helmet and almost forget my limited movement when I go to get off the bike, suddenly reminded by my unmoving legs. Damn, I hadn’t felt that alive in so long. Gyro seems to notice my failed attempt when he gets off the bike with a chuckle.

He walks to the back and takes my chair out the bag and begins reassembling it. The silence is surprisingly comfortable as I lean down on Gyro’s bike, watching him. Once the chair is back to normal, Gyro looks over to me.

He takes a sharp inhale before moving over to grab Valkyrie. Guess I surprised him? “Fuck, gattino, warn a man before you do that!”

Huh? Was I causing the bike to tip without realizing? I quickly move back up and give Gyro an apologetic look.

He just shakes his head and points to my chair. “Can you get on from there?” 

“Of course.” I swing my legs over and move off onto the floor. He looks panicked but I explain myself. “There was no way I could have jumped onto the chair without hurting myself. It wasn't that high a drop anyways.”

“I could have just picked you up.”

“Like hell.” I say as I move myself off the sidewalk onto my chair.

“So stubborn.” I can hear the jingle of the keys as they hit Gyro’s pockets. The helmets are in his swinging hands as he leads me in.

The walk to his apartment is quiet except for Gyro humming along with the elevator music.

“Benvenuti a casa mia!” Gyro says as he opens the door to his apartment, myself following closely behind.

One word comes to my mind as a look around: empty. Gyro’s place doesn't look like how I expected at all. It doesn't look like it belongs to anybody. There's no decorations anywhere, no distinguishable pieces of small furniture, not even a picture. This place didn't even look lived in.

“Are you a squatter or something?”  I chirped up.

Gyro gives a look of confusion. “Squatter?”

“Homeless people who live in abandoned houses and stuff.” I explain. I was joking but his reaction worried me.

“Oh, ‘squatter’. What an American term.” He goes back to his business before sharply turning back to me.  “Wait. Was that an insult? Of course this is my place! You just saw me put the keys in, didn’t you?”

“You could have stolen those.”

“Johnny, stop messing around this is my place, seriously. My name’s on the lease and everything.”

“Oh? How long have you lived here?”

“A year.” Gyro swore. I took another look and cocked my eyebrow.

“And your place looks like this?”

“My place is nice!” He swore with raised arms.

“Too nice.” I distinctly remember wearing a smug face, though I tried to hide it with my hand.

“Well if you don't believe me than you can go in my room and you'll see my stuff.” He points over to a side room and sets down his things on a counter. “Just don't go into my drawers or anything!”

I nod and head over to the room. I wanted to see Gyro’s ‘proof’ that this place was really his. I got the bonus of satisfying my own curiosity as well.

I opened the door to his room and rolled inside, looking around. This room is such a sharp contrast to the living room area, it made my head spin for a bit. The room wasn't a complete mess but it wasn't exactly organized either. There was a disarray of clothes across the floor and bed. When I looked closer at the bed I noticed a small lump underneath the sheets. I lifted up the covers to find the most shocking thing I've seen all week.

A teddy bear.

I picked up the small toy and looked around the room again in disbelief. Now that I noticed the first, I also saw the other three bears around the room. Two were on the nightstand and a big one was on top of his closet. Now I was definitely thinking this wasn't his place. Bear in hand, I rolled over to Gyro who was sitting down on his couch messing with the remote.

“What's this?” I ask shoving the bear in front of his face.

“Hm? Oh, buonasera Zitto!” He leans over to give the bear a quick pat on the head before turning back to me. “I see you two haven't been formally introduced. Gattino, this is Zitto! Zitto this is my friend Johnny.”

I couldn't believe my ears. This bear was really his? It even had a name. Another weird quirk of his but somehow, it seemed to fit.

“There were others in the room.”

“That's his siblings. Not including Dolce, of course; they're dating.”

“Uh huh…”

“Don't give me such a scandalous look! I like bears! They're cute. I don't even have that many.”

“Well now I believe that the place is yours. Only you would be so weird.” I sighed.

He flicks my cheek at that. “So mean.”

I poke at Gyro’s side in response before sitting by him. The little bear sits between us until Gyro reaches over to seat it on the opposite side of him.

“So you got anything you want to do? I've got games in my room but I don't have any movies on hand.”

“What kind of games?”

“A couple games for the PS4 and I've got a 3DS, but we can't both play that.”

“So pretty much nothing.” I pointed out with a sigh.

He laughs. “I guess. Nothing for two people at least.”

“You don't have many guests over do you?”

“Johnny, usually when I have people over, there's only one thing we’re doing.”

“Gross, I was just in your room. I don't need to know that. And your goddamned bears are right there. I want you to think about that the next time. Monster.”

“Hey, you asked.” He chuckles.

I grab the remote from him and start flicking through the channels. A cop reality show catches my eye so I leave it on. We watch an episode in comfortable silence before Gyro suddenly gets up, leaving the little bear where he was sitting.

“What are you doing?” I ask, leaning over the couch to try and get a better look.

“I'm getting hungry so I'm grabbing something from the fridge. You want anything?”

“I don't want your leftovers, Gyro.”

“I wasn't going to give you leftovers.” He laughs. “I have stuff here to make.”

“Microwaveable stuff?” I guess logically.

“Mostly.” Got it.

I hum in acknowledgment. I wasn't that hungry but I figured a snack wouldn't hurt. He grabs something out of the fridge and throws it into the microwave before I can even see what it is. I silently pray for the best as Gyro sits back next to me, moving the teddy bear over. We resume watching the TV until the microwave goes off, telling Gyro know to retrieve and return with two hot pockets for us.

“Really? This is what you consider a meal?”

“It's just a snack.” Gyro says in between chomps.

I shrug and munch on my own before Gyro grabs the remote, switching the channel to a comedy network. I get bored halfway through the first show and start leaning against Gyro just to see how far I could go without him getting annoyed. To my surprise he didn't even say anything until I ended up laying across his lap.

“Are you feeling alright?” Gyro asks, not taking his eyes off the TV screen.

“Yeah I’m just getting comfy.” A bullshit lie but Gyro doesn't seem to notice or if he did, he doesn't care.

“Alright just don't lay on me too long. I don't want my legs to fall asleep.”

“What a tragedy that would be.”

“You know that's not what I meant.” He pulls my bandana down and ruffles my hair as a mock apology. He doesn't pull his hand away afterwards, though.

He's still watching the TV, so he probably doesn't even notice that he's playing with my hair. It's calming the way he runs his fingers along my head. Petting was never something I thought I would like but here I was, perfectly content just laying down and reveling in the attention. We watch a few more shows like that before Gyro notes the time.

“Cazzo, it's five already? Well I guess it's time to get up then.”

“Up?”

“Yeah we're gonna go for a walk.”

“What why?”

“There's somewhere I wanna go with you.” And he doesn't say anything else than that before moving me aside to get up. He tosses out our trash and starts getting ready to head out. I shrugged to myself, deciding to follow Gyro. I didn't know where he was leading us but it wasn’t like we would be missing much by just hanging around the apartment.

He hums along with the elevator again as we head down. I couldn't tell if he was doing it on purpose or if it was just another quirk of his. Well, I was already in too deep to question what he did.

The wind hits us immediately as we exit the building so I pull my hoodie closer to me, cursing at the sudden cold. In a futile attempt to get warmer, I take my bandana off my head and wrap it around my neck.

“How far are we walking?” I ask as I follow Gyro further away from the warmth of the apartment.

“It's about 10 to 15 minutes from here.” Gyro responds.

Well I could survive 10 minutes in the cold. I’ve been through worse. After 5 minutes of silence, Gyro starts humming. The tune is familiar but for some reason I can't quite place it. I end up humming along with him which earns me a big smile.

We hum various tunes and before I know it we’ve arrived at our destination. As soon as I see the place I turn to Gyro and try to look as disappointed as possible. In front of us is none other than a Chipotle. Son of a...

He gives a smile and shrugs at my reaction. “What? I said I wanted it before.”

“I can't believe you dragged me out into the cold for crappy Mexican food.”

“Hey, hey, don't think of it like that! Think of it as a bonding experience.” I give him my best glare instead of bothering to list all the things wrong with what he just said.

“Let's just go and get this over with.” I mutter as I roll into the place.

Once inside, I head to the closest table and move the chair out of the way so I could sit next to it.

“You want anything?” Gyro says already getting his wallet out.

“Real food. But a burrito will do.”

I stare out the window as I wait for Gyro to come back with the food. There's a surprising amount of people walking around for a Sunday evening. We’re not that far from a TGI Fridays. So if the food is really crappy I could just drag Gyro with me there.

“Buon Appetito.” I hear Gyro say as he places the food on the table.

“Isn't that French?” I ask as I grab my meal and start eating. It's pretty much what I expected, but it isn't so horrible I want to eat something else.

“That's ‘bon appetit’, gattino.” He scoffs like he was personally attacked.

“Sounds about the same.”

“‘Cause you're American. It's two completely different languages.”

“Yeah of course: spaghettios and snails.”

Gyro shakes his head and tries to hide his smile. “So mean.” He mumbles to himself before going to eat.

I'm almost done with my food when Gyro starts pointing out the window.

“Wanna play a game?” He continues speaking without even giving me a second to respond. “Sure you do. Well here's the rules: you gotta point out all the white cars that pass by saying ‘bianca’. If you point a white car first, then you get one point. Yellow cars are worth two points and you say ‘giallo’ for them. The first to ten points wins.”

“I'm eating.” I make a lame excuse but I was kind of interested in playing Gyro’s game. It was probably my competitive spirit telling me to play along.

“You're almost finished and I'm done with my food.”

“...Alright I’ll play. But just one round.”

“One round’s all I need to win, nyoho!”

Oh now it was on.

I end up winning the first round because Gyro got distracted by some oddly dressed party passing by. He demanded a rematch, which turned into best out of three, which turned into best out of five, which went on until neither of us remembered who was winning anymore. It was a silly game that ended up being a lot of fun to play. Plus Gyro’s face when he lost a round was priceless. In a spur of the moment decision, I decided staying in one spot to play the game was no fun and it'd be more challenging if we were moving.

“That car was gray, not white!” Gyro whined as we walked down the street.

“It was white. You're colorblind and a sore loser.”

“Says you! You argued with me over which shade of yellow counts as ‘true yellow’.”

“Taxis don't count!”

“Of course they do, they're yellow.”

“They're more orange than yellow.”

He shakes his head and laughs. “Alright fine, you get that point. But I'm kicking your ass next round.”

“You wish.” Ah, my cheeks were hurting again. Was I smiling again? If I was I'm surprised Gyro didn't point it out or tease me.

“My feet are killing me.” Gyro groans as we make another loop around the block.

“Wanna switch spots?”

“What no I-” Gyro stop himself when he sees the look on my face. “Was that a joke?”

“Of course.”

“I think you should leave the jokes to the professionals, stellina. Points for effort though.”

I shake my head at his comment. At least I didn't rely on lame puns like a certain self appointed ‘professional’.

“Come on, let's head back.” I say turning my chair back in the direction we came from. “It's getting dark out.”

“Whatever you say, gattino. I'll take your surrender as a victory.”

“There is no surrender. It's just cold and dark and I'd rather spend time in your apartment than out here.”

“Excuses, excuses.” Gyro sing-songs, earning himself another punch on the arm.

Just like before, when we're almost halfway there, Gyro starts humming that familiar tune again.

“What song is that?” I ask giving up on trying to figure it out.

“Heh, the funny thing...is I don't actually know.”

“How can you be humming something you don't know?”

“I just got the tune stuck in my head recently. I don't know where it's from but it's catchy, right?”

“Yeah.” I respond but I still feel like I'm missing out on some vital clue.

We end up back in the apartment before I can solve the little mystery, so I give up on trying to figure it out for now.

“7 already? This curfew thing is such a pain in the ass.” Gyro grumbles as he sits down on the couch, not bothering to take off his coat.

When I go to sit next to him, he gets up suddenly, confusing me.

“I forgot to put Zitto back in bed.” He explains quickly, retreating into his room. Of course the teddy bear got his attention.

As I wait for Gyro to come back I look around the apartment more. Gyro was right, it was a nice place and in a good area too. It just didn't make sense that it was so barren. Gyro was so loud and proud, it was odd that his place would look so formal. It gave me the impression of someone who rarely spent time at home, but that didn't make much sense. The only other reasoning I could think of is someone hiding something.

Before I could think deeper on that Gyro comes back out and resumes his previous position next to me.

“Y’know, for a second I was gonna offer you to stay here for the night. Then I remembered the stupid curfew so looks like that idea was a bust.”

“You wanted to have a sleepover?” I almost laugh at the idea. Gyro was so childish sometimes. “You only have one bedroom. Where did you expect me to sleep the floor?”

“Of course not. I’ve got a big bed.” My head starts flooding me with graphic images. Christ, Lucy’s words were starting to get to me. Of course that's not what Gyro meant, right?

I don't have time to ask him as my phone suddenly vibrates. I was expecting to get regular check ups from HP but I hadn't heard anything from her until now. Even more surprising I haven't gotten a single message from Lucy. I was expecting a constant stream of messages asking how the ‘date’ was going. Either HP told her not to call or she was waiting until the next time we meet for me to say everything

[Get back to your apartment soon.]

Of course, it was about the curfew. It was still only 7:30, but I guess she didn't trust Gyro to remember when to head back.

“Who is it?” Gyro asks, peering over my shoulder to try and get a look. I push him away before responding.

“Hot Pants. Looks like we should get going.”

“Are you kidding me!? We still have a while before we need to go anywhere.” Gyro pouted.

“We might as well follow it. I mean there's always next time right?”

He smiles at that. “I know, I know, it's just annoying. It's nice having you here.”

“Of course it is. Your place is empty.” I tease.

His expression gets serious suddenly and I wonder if I've hit a nerve. It quickly turns into a soft smile as he reaches over to ruffle my hair.

“Yeah, you're right.” He says aloud but it sounds more like he's speaking to himself than me. I can't begin to understand what's going through his head right now. He doesn't say anything else when he gets up to get ready.

Gyro stays silent when we leave the apartment and get to his bike. Just then I realize I can't get up on Valkyrie by myself. Well no way around it, I was gonna have to get him to help.

“Gyro can you…?” I ask quietly. It was annoying having to ask for help with things like this.

He gives a big grin. “With pleasure, Gattino.”

He picks me up and I expect him to drag out the process but he quickly puts me on Valkyrie and starts disassembling my chair without a word.

When he's done with the chair he hands me my helmet and puts on his own. The goof gives me a thumbs up when I put on the helmet and just like that we were off.

The ride wasn't like before. It was still enjoyable, but unlike the other times, it was more relaxing than blood pumping. I counted the white and yellow cars we passed by and felt my mind drifting farther away.

I knew we reached our destination when I felt something tapping my shoulder.

“Back from space?” Gyro whispers. I wonder why he's speaking so low until I see Hot Pants only a few feet away, staring Gyro down. Gyro’s already off the bike and was starting to reassemble my chair. I must have really been out of it not to notice. I take off my helmet and wave to Hot Pants, who is still glaring at Gyro.

“We made it on time. I don't know why he wants to kill me this time.” Gyro mumbles shooting a glance back to HP.

“Did you say anything?”

“Just ‘Hey, fancy seeing you here’. I didn't realize jokes were illegal now.”

Gyro finished with the chair and got up, heading back towards me.

“I gotta admit, I feel a bit like a bad boy stealing away the choir boy next door, nyoho.” He whispers when he's close enough.

“Ew, don't call me a choir boy.”

He chuckles “You're fine with boy next door then?”

“It's better than choir boy.”

He smiles and leans in quickly placing a kiss on my cheek. “Since your brother would strangle me if he saw me kiss you goodnight, I’ll give you one now.” He explains.

Shit, I forgot he does that.

I can feel my cheeks burning up. It's just the cold, I tell myself as he grabs and sits me down in the chair. It happens so fast I don't have time to protest.

“Didn't I say no touching?” Hot Pants scolds, walking over to stand in between us.

“If I let him get off on his own, he would have just jumped onto the pavement.” Gyro tries to explain himself.

HP just scowls at him before extending her hand. He takes it and HP doesn't exactly shake his hand more like she's trying to crush it. “Good night, Mr. Zeppeli.”

“Yeah, n-night.” He whimpers before his hand is released. He gives a final wave goodbye before driving off into the distance.

“How was it?” Hot Pants asks, looking very concerned. Surprisingly Lucy isn't hanging around anywhere. HP must have dropped her off earlier, which meant I was going to have to deal with that problem sooner or later.

“It was... nice.” I say and I wasn't lying for once. I find myself looking over to where Gyro just was moments ago, holding my hand to the cheek he just kissed.

Lucy was definitely getting to me, that's why I was wondering what Gyro was thinking. Lucy's constant teasing was twisting my perception. A ‘good night kiss’ was just a foreign greeting. Gyro even said it himself.

Yet, a part of me was agreeing with Lucy’s words. I had barely noticed that voice in myself, but it was getting harder to ignore. It was hoping she was right.

Chapter Text

HP really needed a new couch. I keep telling her that, but the would she listen to me? Of course not. Now I’m sprawled out on this hard ass hunk of springs and whatever the fuck, waiting for the woman to get back home.

 

I thought it was weird at first, but then again, HP’s asked me to wait for her at her apartment before. She knew that I knew where the spare key was and that I could easily look after the place until she arrived.

 

But why did it bug me this time?

 

If I had to pin it on something, it was definitely the tone. It wasn’t the woman’s normal, casual-stoic voice. There was weight behind it when HP called me during work. Like she was commanding officer calling me in for a mission, or something. But with nothing to prove that I wasn’t just being paranoid, I of course went right for the apartment after work. It was probably gonna be tiring, but fun is fun, right? Of course right.

 

That being said, I always hated waiting for HP in her place. There was the TV, but that meant putting up with that god-forsaken couch. I wasn’t allowed in her room unless she was there first to tidy up- and she would know if the slightest thing was out of place. Hell, I was only allowed to  drink the water in the house, unless I was willing to pay up for whatever else I consumed or promised to take her out soon.

 

Hurting my back and ass on that couch, I flipped through the channels of the TV, trying to get in hundreds of different positions to find something comfortable. I didn’t. After an hour of waiting, I contemplated raiding the woman’s fridge until my phone gave a quick vibrate. Thinking it was HP, I of course gave it a look right away, only to almost gag when I saw who it was from.

 

I couldn’t believe that piece of shit would try to contact me after all this time. Especially considering the fact that we were never on the best of terms. I didn’t even want to open the damn text but I knew I’d have to; it could’ve been some emergency or a message about a visit, god forbid.

 

Or just him bragging. Choices.

 

Having my mood for TV sapped right out, I shut it off so I can stare at the phone’s screen. God dammit, I didn’t wanna open the fucking text, but...shit.

 

Right as I was about to swipe and open up the phone, as  if God was watching, the door snaps open and in walks in HP. It happened so damn suddenly, I pocketed the phone right away before she can notice. That was a can of worms I really didn’t need opened for a bit.

 

Running up to see HP in, I forget the text for the moment so I can get a good look at her. I wasn’t sure if I had made this clear before, but she looked damned good in her work clo- wait, she had some kind of weird black bag in her hand. From some store that I knew I’ve been to before but couldn’t remember at the moment. Either way, I go to peck at the woman’s cheek, only to get blocked by her finger on my lips.

 

“Hold up, cowboy. I gotta get changed into something less annoying than these clothes before I do anything.” She explained bluntly.

 

Pouting and moving to the side to let Hot Pants pass by, presumably to change, the woman tosses me her bag.

 

“Don’t peek until I’m out of your sight.” She ordered with a...grin? Oh God, what the hell did she have in here?

 

I hear the door shut as the woman slips into her room, leaving me standing there by the entrance with that bag in hand like a confused moron. Squinting and sticking my tongue out- now that she couldn’t see- I figured I might as well see what’s got her in a good mood.

 

Taking a seat back on that shitty couch, I peered into the little black bag, rummaging around inside to see what the hell she bought. I manage to make out various shapes but I’m still confused regardless. It’s not clothing or groceries. Not even electronics, or rather none that I’ve seen before. Figuring that it’s probably just because of the poor lighting with the sky outside starting to darken, I turn on the room’s lights, finally able to see what exactly was inside that bag.

 

As soon as I see the wicked bag’s contents, I dropped it out of instinct, losing my footing right away. My face burning for God knows what reason, I backed up against that damned couch, all I could remember was the pounding against my chest, as well as the hurricane of emotions and thoughts going on inside me.

 

‘Why the hell...why the fuck would she get something like this? When did we ever talk about doing something like… oh shit we did mention before, didn’t we?! But, just, like, once! And I said I was on the fence! So why would she just get this out of the blue from… shit, I knew I’ve seen that store before! This is because I smacked the life out of Johnny that week and something ago, isn’t it?! Dammit, it was funny to me though, so why do I gotta suffer for it?!’

 

Yeah, those types of thoughts.

 

But it was all fine, I told myself. If I didn’t wanna go through with it then-

 

“All you gotta do is just say that word.”

 

As if she could read my thoughts, HP speaks out exactly what I was thinking, watching me react to the damned bag with her arms across her chest. Shit, I wanted to be mad, but she looked good in her casual clothes.

 

“I...you...where did…” Eloquent as ever, I try to voice out my opinion on the matter while my eyes dart from HP to the bag and back again. Processing just what she meant, I realize that she’s right. Just say it, and I’m in the clear-

 

“I mean, it’s no big deal. I just had to add this Gyro guy to my list of growing worries of work, Lucy and Johnny safety, and- oh what was it again? Oh right: you behaving.”

 

Oh shit.

 

“In addition to all of your elaborate ways to make things just a tad more difficult for me, you cross a line by actually hitting Johnny after I told you throughout the day to just let it go. And if you just told me ‘I make no promises’ or a simple ‘I’ll see’, I wouldn’t be half as mad. But what did you say? Go on.”

 

Feeling my mouth suddenly go dry, I offer my best smile, suddenly recalling what I said. “‘It’s all in the past, don’t worry’... oh, right.”

 

“And after you proved to me that it was indeed not ‘all in the past’, you taunt the poor thing into chasing you around the neighborhood, risking another damned injury on top of the ones he’s healed from!”

 

With a heavy gulp, starting to feel hot under the collar from the judge listing off my crimes. Or what she considered to be crimes. I preferred to call it my homage to Tom and Jerry.

 

“God, why do I put up with you?!”

 

“Because I’m cute as all hell?”

 

Hot Pants glares at me, only to be greeted by another wide grin. Her face is a heavy scowl but loosening up with a roll of the eyes. I still got it.

 

“Well there is something good that came out of your little...stunt.”

 

I tilted my head, trying to figure out what she meant.

 

“I don’t know if it was just luck or divine timing, but you moving Johnny out of the apartment and from his phone let me stop that Gyro creep in his tracks. Or at least from proceeding without any supervision.” HP grumbled. I didn’t know what it was about this ‘Gyro’ guy that got her ticked off whenever she mentioned him, but all I could gather that had something to do with Joestar… or something? I didn’t really pay attention when HP went off on her rants about the guy, just waiting for keywords or expressions that told me to nod as if I was listening.

 

“So because of your little bit of unintentional help…” Oh shit, I almost drifted off there, too!

 

“Let’s just… try out that thing we talked about. It would just… dammit, look, it would really help, ok?!” HP exclaimed, obviously trying to find the right words.

 

Remembering the contents of that menacing black bag, I start to chew on my lip, trying to think it all through. This is what I get for mentioning that little interest half-assed.

 

“I mean you’re the one who brought it up, so I thought you-”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I know, I know!” I cut her off. Tapping a finger against my temple, I breathed in and out, regaining my composure, completely over the initial shock of it all. I hoped.

 

“You could have… warned me beforehand, is all.”  I mumbled as quietly as I could, trying to avoid any eye contact. Fuck me, my cheeks were feeling warmer. Can’t have her seeing that.

 

When I took another look at the woman, I knew that I failed in that department. HP’s face was holding an extremely rare expression for her, and it was the one I hated to see the most: smug. Trying to bury my face against the cushion of the shitty couch, I can feel her hands on my shoulders, chin resting on the top of my head.

 

“Don’t you worry, it’s something new so we gotta be extra careful.” She cooes like I’m some damned brat. Tilting my head upwards to give her a right glare, I reach my arms up to hook my fingers around the back of her neck, pulling HP in for a kiss I damned well deserved.

 

It lasted for a good while, as all good ones do. Once I let go of the back of her head, HP turns to pick up the black bag. Wiping my chin, I stood back onto my feet, still staring down on that bag that gave me such a scare. HP must’ve noticed as she flicked my nose, getting my attention right away  as well as another hiss.

 

“You really gotta check out that weird ‘wrryy’ thing you say when surprised. It’s not normal at all.” She laughed. Did I really say that again? I didn’t even notice.

 

Either way, I let out a heavy sigh, making my way to the bedroom for the inevitable. A part of me was nervous as all hell… although the rest of me was just excited that the shit was actually happening.

 

On the way there, HP takes my hand in hers, probably to… comfort, I guess? I mean, I don’t think I need  it. Sure as hell doesn’t mean that I’ll reject the contact.

 

“Osborni.” Hot Pants said out of the blue, making me think for a minute that I shouldn’t be intertwining our fingers.

 

She seemed to notice, raising a hand to correct me. “No, no, I’m just… sorry I should’ve warned, huh? I just wanted to ask… why did you choose that word?” HP titled her head slightly.

 

Gripping the strong yet soft hand with my own again, I held the index of my free hand against my chin, trying to remember why exactly. As we sat next to each on her bed, I finally remembered the very simple reason.

 

“Saurolophus Osborni. That’s the full name of probably my least favorite dinosaur on the basis that it just looks so fucking lame. Saurolophus was a bit too long and sounded like it could be interpreted as a mumble, so Osborni was the better choice. What I wanna know is why it took you so long to ask.” I grinned, resting my chin on the woman’s shoulder as I faced her.

 

Cocking an eyebrow, HP turns her head to face me, bumping our foreheads together while maintaining her stone-like gaze. “Guess I never saw any reason to. All I knew was what to say and to look out for while getting right on top of-”

 

Enough of that. Trying to shut her up from saying what I knew she was gonna say, I planted another firm kiss on HP, hoping that it’ll make up for my lack of a different topic to transition to.

 

It probably lasted for another minute or so, but all I knew for sure is that when we pulled away, I had to exhale several times to catch my breath. I dunno if it was because of the length or that I knew what was to come.

 

Speaking of which, I see the corner of HP’s  lip curl upwards ever so slightly as she held up that little black bag. Well, now or never.

 

“We take it easy at first, remember?”

 

“Of course.” She cooed, uncharacteristically gentle. The calm before the storm.

 

I stayed silent for a minute, finally relaxing my shoulders as I slumped on the back against the bed. At least it was soft, unlike that fucking couch.


A moment later, HP is on my chest, laying on her side against me. With my face buried against the top of her head and arms hooked around the slender waist, I just stared up at the ceiling, listening to nail-polished hands rummaging for the first item of the night. Well, at least she smelled and felt all nice and soothing like that, though that would probably be as calm she would be for the next few hours.

Chapter Text

Poor little guy.

 

Diego managed to last for about 1 and a half or 2 hours before having to finish it off with the standard stuff. I shouldn’t be surprised at all, though; we were crossing into some new stuff after all, so trying to push it could’ve hurt the poor thing if I wasn’t careful. Either way, after it was all said and done, I gotta say that it  was pretty damn...well it was a nice change of pace.

 

But since we finished off with normal stuff, Diego had plenty of energy in the morning- or at least compared to when I actually go all out on him. Hell, even if I hold back a bit he’s tuckered out, needing all kinds of caring for in the morning. He talks a lot but needs to work on his stamina. Like a glass cannon.

 

When morning came, Diego got up before me since I didn’t have  to work for the day. I heard him trot on over to the bathroom, followed by a sharp curse.

 

“Skin acting up again?” I called out.

 

“Where-”

 

“I got your bandages on the top cabinet behind the mirror.” I know him too well, don’t I?

 

Getting my shirt on by the time Diego gets out of the bathroom, I notice that he’s wearing a square bandage next to his lip as expected. It had been a while since I’ve seen him like that. I’ve almost missed seeing it, although I sure as hell was never gonna tell him that.

 

I made the whiny blonde a sandwich to eat on the way to work, since he seemed to be running short on time. He almost didn’t thank me on the way out before I pulled him back by that mullet of his. So there were times where long hair comes in handy, after all.

 

After a peck, I kick the bum out, determined to enjoy the rest of my Sunday. Sunday...ah, right, Mass. I checked the clock and realized that I didn’t have too much time left, either. Scurrying to dress my best in what was probably record time, I head over to to the church, ready for the productive hour ahead.

 

***

The Mass went by as usual. The singing, listening to the priest, occasional tearing up, the works. I swear, I have to drag Diego here one of these days, but he always manages to slither out like the snake he is. If he didn’t like it after the first time, fine, but he’s told me that he hasn’t been to even ONE session of Mass! But he can’t slip out of grasp forever. I’ll get him in here soon enough, I swear to Go- oh, can’t say that here.

Swear to gosh.

 

***

 

When I got back home, it was around half past noon, as usual after that particular Mass. I felt a bit hungry but before anything else, it was  time to get into something actually comfortable. I toss off my dress, wiped and washed my makeup off ASAP, and put on the first things I pulled out of my drawer. Well, not really. I put on the SS Brown shirt I snagged, but the first pair of pants I found were some hot pa-

 

Yeah, sticking to sweatpants.

 

Remembering the stomach’s needs, I work on making myself a roast beef until I hear my room buzzer go off. It was a Sunday so it couldn’t be mail. And Diego should be at work and even if he had gotten out early, he had a key. And Lucy knows to call me ahead of time.

 

I hit the call button and lean over, hoping it’s not someone I’d have to dress up for to meet if they wanted to see me.

 

“Who is it?”

 

“Ah, it’s me.” The hell? Diego? It certainly sounded like him, but he sounded a bit… indifferent. Certainly a tone he never used with me. And either way, he just left and had a key with him, so why the fuck…

 

“You skip out or there was a change in shift, or something? And why can’t you just use your key?”

 

A moment of silence. What, did he have to think on it?

“Ah, yeah, it turned out that I got the shifts wrong, or something. And I lost my key somewhere, sorry about that.”

 

 

He wasn’t serious, right? No way he could have been serious. Hell, was this even Diego that I was talking to, or did Johnny or Lucy perfect some kind Diego-impression and was trying to test it out on me? Or did something really bad happen to Diego that I’ll have to pry about?

 

Tentatively, I let him in.There was nothing to be gained by shutting him out and he was being suspicious as all hell. Either with my words or hands, I was gonna get to the bottom of this.  

 

To pass the time while waiting for Diego to come up, I rushed over to my room to at least put on a bra underneath my tee. While waiting for the bum, I can’t help but wonder what the fuck’s his deal. In the span of 2-3 hours, he managed to go from a controlled asshole to a complete asshole. I don’t even think he was this bad when we first met, and he was an untamed little fucker back then. He was practically a completely different person.

 

Could it…

 

Before the thought could board the station, I heard a knock on my door, as well as a bored little “Oi” from the other side. Oh, how I was tempted to just leave him out there at this point, but curiosity and the need to smack this kid was too strong. Trotting over to the door, I swing it open with a hand on my hip.

 

As soon as I see the bum,  I can tell that it wasn’t just his tone that was completely different. His posture, mannerisms, the look he gave: it all irked the fuck out of me. But it looked like that the bum went home to change, since now he was in some seemingly over-priced sweater and jeans. The bandage on his cheek was gone too, with no evidence of the flaking on the area where it once was, something that would never happen after only a few hours. And...wait he actually got a haircut? I mean, it was getting to my ‘too-long’ length, but I hadn’t even mentioned it yet. Normally, I’d have to pull him by the mullet for months until he finally took the hint.

 

“Well?” I shot at him, waiting for some explanation to his weird behavior. But what I got instead really disgusted me. Just for a second, the ass looked at me from head to toe as if it were for  the first time. But it wasn’t accompanied with that toothy, dopey grin that he would wear; it was a smug, arrogant, shit eating smirk that made my backhand itchy.

 

“What?!” I finally shouted, wanting to snap that asshole look off his face.

 

It seemed to work, as Diego’s eyes seemed to widen as his body jolted. Almost normal except for the lack of ‘wry’, which I never thought I would miss.

 

“Oh, sorry. You just looked so good, Hot Pants.” Slimy little… and what was up with saying my full name?  He only really does that when he’s upset or whining about something.

 

“Right… so are you gonna explain  what the hell’s up with you?” I asked before entering my apartment, leaving the door open for the ass to follow.

 

He was quiet for a minute, as if he needed a moment to think. “Oh, was I acting weird? I suppose I’ve been out of it and all.”

 

“But still stable enough to go home and change and get a haircut? In about 3 hours?” I shot back. None of this was  adding up at all, and I was going to be sure to let him know that I was catching on to his bullshit.

 

His brow  twitched just a bit, as if I had caught him in the middle of a big lie. However, the ass seemed to recover somewhat by walking forward, hooking his hand around my arm.

 

“Come now, you’re acting as if it takes a bunch of effort to change into something more comfortable. Or to tell some loser to do his job. I’ve just been in a strange mood, that’s all. Nothing debilitating, Hot Pants.”

 

Even when trying to make excuses, the little ass was far from convincing. Diego always thought himself to be a better than others, but always said it in a way that was...agh, I dunno how to describe it. Funny? He for sure wouldn’t call his barber a ‘loser’ or something like that. And it was all made worse as I felt his grabby little claws all over my arm. It even felt unfamiliar, for fuck’s sake.

 

I allowed the contact just for now, although I refused to make eye contact with the jerk. As I felt him get closer and closer, I felt a particularly concerning thought become louder and louder within my mind. If it was true, then I had no choice but to resort to my absolute last attempt.

 

“Osborni.” I said out of the blue, finally locking eyes with the blonde brat.

 

He lifted an eyebrow and cocked his brow, looking at me as if I had two heads. “Uh, bless you?” ‘Diego’ responded, starting to wrap an arm around my waist without hesitation.

 

Yeah, even if this WAS Diego, he’d be deserving of this. But I was 95% sure that my thought was correct, so there was nothing to worry about, right? Of course right.

 

In one swift movement, I’m behind ‘Diego’, wrapping my arms around his waist so that I can lift up his fairly light body off the ground. I did it so suddenly that I’m fairly certain that the bum didn’t register what I was doing until he was off the ground, beginning to flail and curse incoherently. It was too late, though, as I pulled the asshole up and swung back down against the carpeted floor, smashing ‘Diego’ with a slamming suplex!

 

God that felt good. I’d been out of practice, though, since I hadn’t had to suplex my Diego in forever. Either way, I stand upright, dusting off my hands while looking down at the groaning and writhing little shit.

 

“Urgh, crazy bitch, have you lost you-” He starts to yell before I interrupt, cracking my knuckles.

 

“Dio, right? Yeah, you’re a horrible actor, by the way.”

 

At the sound of his real name, Dio stands up nice and tall, smirking freely now that he didn’t have to worry about concealing himself. Dio Brando, the shittier twin to my shitty Diego. From the little I’ve heard of him from Diego, if anyone had ever thought that Diego was an asshole had clearly never met Dio. Although they had similar mannerisms and attitudes, this little shitlen before me was everything bad about Diego made whole, with none of the charm or restraint. Christ, the next time I see Diego, I’m gonna trap him in a hug tight enough to turn him into an blueberry.

 

“Well, I was getting bored of acting like that shitter anyway. What gave it away?”

 

“You want me to start with when you came through the door or ignored the safe word?”

 

He cocked an eyebrow, shifting the weight of his hip to his right said. “‘Safe word’? So you two are like that, then?”

I felt and heard my wrists pop and crack as I rotated my hands, eyeing down the little shit.

 

“Well, either way, it looks like I can cut the facade then, eh?”

 

“If you wanna call it that, then sure. But it was seriously so bad, I thought I was watching a sketch show. Now then, how about you tell me how you knew my name and where the hell I live before I knock you down and peel your dick like a bana-”

 

“Alright, alright, relax, alright? I can’t afford to get any more scruffed up than I already am.” Arms went up to present exposed hands. His way of raising the white flag, I suppose.

 

At first he eyed me again, giving quite the stink eye for such a little runt. Was he going to try and counter for the suplex?

 

“You’re gonna try something or start talking? I’m ready either way.” I shifted my body weight and positioning, moving my right side a bit further back from Dio to show that I was  ready to fight if it came to that.

 

As expected, the little rat backed off, taking a step back towards the door.

 

“No, no, no. You forgot my question. My name. My address. How did you get it?”

 

The blonde shit rolled his eyes and pulled out his phone, scrolling through his messages.

“You know he talks about you a lot, right? My brother that is.” Dio mentioned all of a sudden.

 

With a squint, I take in the statement, waiting for an elaboration before I made any judging thoughts.

 

“Always, always. Everytime we text or call, the bum is bragging about his amazing girlfriend. ‘She’s too fucking tough, man! So strong. Smart. Like everyone’s mom. Looks damn good, too. No matter what outfit she’s wearing!’ Shit like that, every time.”

 

After the elaboration, I felt my heart jump a bit and had to bite the inside of my cheek to maintain the steely composure. So… Diego’s goddamn lovestruck when I’m not looking, huh? I… I guess I don’t mind that. I mean like it’s not like he’s saying anything but praise about me, after all. I’d have to keep this in mind the next time we were alone…

 

“Of course, I didn’t believe him. I mean a tiny lizard like Diego getting someone like you? So I taunted him a bit. Teased. Asked him more and more questions to make sure he wasn’t just making up some girlfriend to get me jealous over.”

 

Uh oh.

 

“I couldn’t convince him to provide a picture…”

 

Whew.

 

“But I did get a description that matched you, as I can now see.”

 

Hrm…

 

“Not giving the picture made his case all the more unconvincing, however. So I kept asking and asking, and eventually- because the kid’s pride is just oh so sensitive- I got what I needed for my surprise visit.”

 

Without another word, I snatched the phone from his hand, scrolling through with my hand on his forehead to keep Dio from getting close.

 

 

Shit, he was right.

 

[Dio: I bet you cant even give a real sounding address for your imaginary gf]

 

Which was followed by… yep. Even my goddamn room number, which was how he knew to buzz for me.

 

[Genetic Mistake: There. Anything else to say or u convinced]

 

I scrolled up a bit more.

 

[Dio: And wats ur ‘gf’s’ name?]

 

[Genetic Mistake: HP]

 

[Dio: VI. See, I can put two random letter together too. So you gonna gimme an actual name?]

 

[Genetic Mistake: Hot pants, ok??]

 

[Dio: … ]

 

[Genetic Mistake: WHT]

 

[Dio: why must you share my name?]

 

Yeah, I think I’ve seen enough. Diego and I needed a talk. The long kind. But first for the rat in my apartment.

 

Tossing him back the phone with a bit more force than needed, I pointed at the door, thoroughly done for the day. The week probably.

 

“Whatever. Leave. Nowish. Before I swing you out of here by your overpriced sweater. And if I ever see your smug ass on my block again, I’m tying you down and branding your name on your cheek so I can tell you two apart.”

 

Sticking his phone and hands right into his pocket, Dio turns for the door, looking back at me with another unbearable, slimy girn.  

 

“It’s a shame you got shit taste in brothers. Oh well, can’t be helped, eh?”

 

I start to approach with my foot raised, aimed right for his ass before the rat scampered away, yelling down the halls then staircase.

 

“You’ll be seeing me around, HP! We should all get together sometime! Minus Diego, if possible!” And with a witch’s cackle, he was out, but not from my life, unfortunately.

 

As I trudged back to my living room on a couch that suddenly felt as uncomfortable as Diego described it, I grabbed my phone, texting him to head back over to my place as soon as he was out from work. Waiting for the remaining 5 to 6 hours until then, my mind was completely fucking fried, just… just done.

 

I needed my Brando bum.

I needed a better couch.

I needed a break.

But what I really needed?

 

That damn sandwich.

 

***

 

With the apartment growing dark with the setting sun, I couldn't find the energy to do anything but lie down in my bed, head buried in the nearest pillow. Is this how Johnny feels? All the time, too? I gotta hug the kid the next chance I get.

 

Stewing in my own crappy attitude, I heard the jingle of keys and the click of my front door coming unlocked. About damn time.

 

“HP? HP! Hot Pants!” I hear Diego call out. Why was he so worried? Nothing about my text should have been enough to make him freak out like that. Unless… did he know that something would happen beforehand? Or learn about it during work?

 

“Mmmph…” Was all I could manage from my situation, face against the pillow and all.

 

The stomps of work shoes rumble through the apartment before Diego lands right on me, nearly knocking the wind out of me. It was cute, the way the runt wrapped his arms around me, but give a girl a warning, right?

 

“That hunk of shit didn't do anything, did he?! C’mon, dammit, look at me!” A panicked hand turns me over on my back, letting Diego see the scowl on my face.

 

“E-eh?”

 

Pulling on his ear, I bring blondie’s head down to get the full brunt of my yells.

 

“So you knew ALL about that little shitlen’s visit then, huh?! And it didn't crisis your thick fucking head to warn me for just a second?! Or maybe you two were in on this together! Trying to get a good chuckle or two from a reaction?!” I know I was probably overreacting, but God, I needed to let out this shitty feeling in my chest that that bastard Dio left me with.

 

“O-Oi! Oi! Oi! HP, let up and let me talk, please!” He pleads. I give him 30 seconds to explain himself, sitting on my bed with arms crossed against my chest.

 

Twiddling his fingers oh so nervously, Diego swallows hard.

 

“W-welllll, to be honest, I got the text from Dio last afternoon…”

 

His arms go up as my fist rises in the air, taking aim.

 

“B-but I only saw that he sent something! I never got the chance to actually read anything! Cause right then, you came in with the bag and that took priority and… and…”

 

Cripes, he was starting to fumble on his words. And even if he was telling the truth, the damn coincidences made it all too sketchy.

 

“And… I didn't get the chance to even remember the text until you sent me one and reminded me of his. And when I read his… I got an idea of what he planned to do."

 

 

"You're ok. Right?”

 

Dammit, he couldn’t even let me have the pleasure in being mad at him, could he? My body relaxes a bit, unable to take the damned softy’s words.

 

“Yeah… yeah, I’m ok and all. Just…” God I didn’t want to lose this good angry streak, but one look into the runt’s face and...ugh.

 

“Just make sure to be extra careful and warn me next time, alright?” Was all I managed to say.

 

There was a quiet nod, followed by the feeling of a dimwit wrapping his arms around my waist like a boa constrictor. His head pressed against my chest before rising higher and higher. When our faces passed each other, Diego showered me with several hungry pecks, finally ending it by pressing my head against his torso this time.

 

I responded promptly, burying my head against that runt’s chest and pinching a spot of his.

 

“H-Hey! Don’t tell me you… want to already?” He gulped, his heart picking up in rhythm.

 

I shook my head, speaking honestly. “Maybe later. I just… just let me stay like this. Alright?”

 

I’m almost surprised by a low chuckle, as well as Diego’s fingers spreading out on the back of my head and torso to pull me into a gentler hold. “I wouldn’t mind that, that’s for sure.” He cooed. “It’s a Sunday. For all I care, I could fall asleep like this.”

 

For the sake of not saying anything embarrassing after that, I kept my face buried against Diego’s chest and held him right by me. As the world outside of our window became darker and darker, the point where it became hard to see without any source of indoor lighting, I felt a new surge of emotion for the dope in bed with me.

 

Gratitude.

 

Gratitude for being willing to be there for me when it really counted. For doing his best to improve on his worst aspects whenever I pointed them out. Which was often.

For being something I can depend on as support as well as backup for a fight.

 

And for not being Dio.

 

Suddenly I remembered something, feeling a small smile creep along my lips.

 

“So… you brag about how amazing I am to your family and friends then?”


I spent the next 5 minutes trying to pull a red-faced Diego Brando from my pillow.

Chapter Text

I was starting to hate weekdays. Even more so than before.

 

Granted, a given weekday was no different from a weekend for me since I was unemployed. This never bothered me before but now…

 

I stared down at the last message I sent to Gyro, rereading my question over and over again as I awaited some sort of response.

 

[why are you asking all these questions anyways?]

 

It all started a day after Gyro and I snuck over to his place. Usually he just sends me bad puns and checks on how I'm doing but this time, he sent me a question. It was harmless, just a simple ‘what's your favorite color?’ I answered out of boredom and ever since then he would send random questions alongside his check ins and bad jokes.

 

Again, the questions themselves didn't bother me. They were all typical, like I was filling out an online profile or something. Naturally I shot back questions of my own, usually just repeating what he asked.

 

It was a nice way to pass the time even if Gyro was really annoying with certain things. The second the questions got personal, he would change the subject or act like he never got the message. Even questions like ‘do you have any siblings?’ just got a vague ‘yeah a couple’ in response.

 

As much as I enjoyed our little question game, the fact that there was such a limited time slot to play it frustrated me. Gyro’s work schedule meant he really only had Saturday to Monday off, after all. Sure he had Wednesdays off, but he always so exhausted and busy preparing for work the next morning that I was lucky to get any texts at all.

 

I sent him my last message yesterday, Monday night. Which meant I had to play the always fun waiting game. Either I was going to get a response when he had a break during work or I’d have to wait all the way until Friday night to get a reply. Or even worse, the jerk could have seen the message and just decided to ignore it.

 

It's not like I could even talk to Lucy since school restricted her time even more than Gyro. Not that talking to her would be any good unless I wanted her pestering me about what Gyro and I did on our ‘date’. You’d think she'd get over it after a week of me not saying anything.

 

With a sigh, I rolled myself over on the couch to face the TV. I guess I was just hoping something could take my mind off the dumb nurse.

 

Before I could reach for the remote, a loud slam brings my attention to the door.

 

Looks like I got my wish for a distraction. Unfortunately, I forgot how sadistic God is towards me.

 

What the fuck was Diego even doing here?

 

“Oh ‘ello.” Diego says with a cheeky wave. He didn't even warn me he was coming back early, the jackass.

 

“Don't slam the door, asshole. Other people live in the building.”

 

“‘Course, sorry luv. I don't even know my own strength sometimes.”

 

‘Luv’? Was this jerk trying to insult me or did he finally lose his marbles?

 

When I looked over he seemed normal. His hair was cut and he was wearing nice clothes for once, so Hot Pants must have dragged him out. Huhn... he never mentioned that when he was leaving.

 

Well, I just tried to shrug it off. I don't really care what Diego's doing in his free time and I'd like to spend as little time looking at him as possible.

 

As if he could hear my thoughts, Diego comes walking in, blocking my view of the TV. Of course.

 

“Get out of the way.” I say not really wanting to deal with him this early. I mean, yeah, it was 1 in the afternoon, but anytime was too early to deal with Diego.

 

“You're taking up an awful lot of space on the couch.” Ugh looks like this was gonna end in a fight no matter what I did.

 

“Yes ‘cause I live here, jackass. Go sit down on the arm chair.”

 

“That's hardly necessary when we can just share.” ‘Share’? I don't think I've ever heard those words come out from Diego's mouth before.

 

In pure shock and confusion, I look up and wonder about what the hell Diego is thinking. The expression that greets me is not like anything I've ever seen before. Whatever it was just made me feel like crawling out of my skin. I duck my head, wanting to avoid looking at it any longer but ended up raising my fists instead. Something about that look just made me want to keep that asshole as far away as possible.  

 

“Go sit on the fucking chair.” I say with as much force as I can muster. As uncomfortable as it is, I lock eyes with the jerk to let him realize how serious I was. We haven't gotten into a real fist fight since our first month living together, but I could deal with Hot Pants yelling at us again if it meant keeping him away.

 

That slimy look quickly changed to confusion before he shrugged his shoulders and sat down on the chair with a smirk. I could just punch him for toying with me but that was wasting too much effort on the bastard. I settled with sitting as far away on the couch as I could, keeping an eye on Diego. He didn't make any moves but he was instead looking around the apartment, almost as if it was the first time he saw it. I flicked on the TV, choosing to ignore Diego's weird behavior because he was staying away.

 

“So, dear, what are we watching?” Diego suddenly speaks up. He still had a smile on his face though it was nothing like that gross look from before.

 

“Don't call me that. I’m watching Dogs 101. You can shut up and watch it or leave.”

 

“What should I call you then?” Christ he really wasn't going to stop bothering me today was he.

 

“My fucking name for once would be nice.”

 

“Your name’s boring. There's nothing wrong with ‘dear’.”

 

“There's nothing boring about Johnny, asswipe. At least I don't have a stupid name like Diego.”

 

Instead of the reaction I was expecting, anger and a bad comeback, Diego just smiled wider.

 

“Hm you're right.” What? “Johnny's not a bad name at all. Diego isn't very interesting either. Dio fits better, don't you think?”

 

Christ, he was acting really weird. He uses that nickname a lot but never said anything like this before. I reached for my wheelchair, tossing the remote over to Diego with the other hand. I was starting to get too freaked out to even stand being in the same room with Diego.

 

“Oh wait, where are you headed?” Diego questions, suddenly getting up and walking closer. “Have I offended you, Johnny?”

 

That was the final straw. Diego never calls me by name. Whatever the hell was wrong with him didn't concern me as much as getting away from the shit. Diego seems to notice this and he grabs my wheelchair, moving it out of reach.

 

“Really, and we were having such a nice chat too.” He says with a pout. I raised my fists again, which thankfully made him take a step back. Just as I get ready to punch this asshole, a sharp melody starts to play.

 

My phone.

 

I'm saved!

 

Making sure to keep one fist prepared, I reach over to grab my phone and quickly glanced over to see who was texting me.

 

[cant get groceries tday. Make urself useful and grab us milk.]

 

As soon as I read it, my heart dropped into the pit of my stomach.

 

A text.

 

From Diego.

 

The same Diego that was supposedly standing right in front of me. Was it a delayed text? But if that was the case, Diego would have came home with the groceries or told me to go get them. Just in case, I hit the call button next to Diego's name.

 

The ‘Diego’ in front of me only watches curiously making sure to keep his distance. The phone starts ringing but I don't see ‘Diego’ reaching for his phone or even hear it ringing. Just as I start to question if he lost it, I hear a voice from the other end.

 

“What the hell are you doing calling me, Joestar? I'm at work, dumbass. Can you not understand a simple text?” Yeah, that’s Diego. But that meant that whoever was in front of me was not what he seemed.

 

“Why the hell is there someone who looks like you in the apartment?” I cut Diego off, glaring at the intruder.

 

The imposter finally realizes the situation and sighs to himself.

 

“What? You're fucking kidding me! You let Dio into the apartment!?”

 

“I didn't do shit! He came in here using a key! Who the fuck is ‘Dio’?”

 

“My twin, you idiot. Fuck- just get him out of there!”

 

“Don't have to tell me twice.” I say hanging up on Diego. Dio has taken the time to move out of hitting range which just makes my fist tremble.

 

“Seems I can't keep up the facade for very long with you lot. Well that makes things easier at least.”

 

“Don't speak to me, asshole.”

 

“No reason to get so hostile, luv. If I introduced myself right away, you would have been more suspicious. I just wanted to see why Diego was keeping this hidden away from me.” He says with that slimy look from before. “You must be available. It just isn't fair for Diego to have all the toys.”

 

I was gonna knock this fucker’s teeth out. I could feel my vision clouding with anger. Who the hell does he think he is, talking to me like that?

 

He must have noticed because he raises his arms. “Relax, Johnny I'm not going to hurt you.” He moves my wheelchair closer as some kind of peace offering. “The long game’s more fun anyways.”

 

I bring my chair closer but still keep a firm seat on the couch. I didn't trust this asshole enough to let my guard down and there was no way I was gonna just run to my room with this jerk still here.

 

“Hm, still staying there? Fine then, if you're so determined, I'll take my leave.” Dio began to make his way to the door. “Don't worry, Johnny, this won't be the last you see of me. I’ll look forward to speaking to you again.” And with a final wave he was out of the apartment.

 

I quickly got onto my chair and rolled over to lock the door. Now that he was gone, I felt the sick feeling return in full force. Fuck! I wanted to puke just thinking about his words. Why the hell did Diego not warn me about his fucking twin?!

 

I rolled to my room, too disgusted to even be in the living room anymore. When he came home I was gonna strangle the asshole. As I rolled into my room I turned to close the door behind me, still feeling quite shitty with a side of rage.


Now we gotta change the locks. No wait, he has to.

Chapter Text

Saturday was a blessing after a very long and very stressful week of work.

I had barely seen the inside of my own apartment in between sleep and rushing to the hospital and I still wasn’t going to be seeing much of it today. However this was for a much better reason than work.

Last night Johnny called to invite me to hang out with him and his friends. Usually I’m the one arranging any plans, so I was more than excited and agreed right away. The poor kid must not have been used to it; he sounded so nervous when he was trying to explain who was going to be there and what we were going to do. Sure, I cut him off a few times but I had already gotten the gist of it. Johnny’s friends and his roommate were going to be there and we were going to watch a few movies. Nothing hard to understand about that! Sure, I would have preferred to hang out with him alone but at least I would still be seeing the kid.

The meetup was fairly early but I guess they wanted to be able to watch as many movies as possible. That train of thought reminded me of a question for Johnny, so I sent him a quick text asking what his favorite movie was while I got dressed. When I was finished I checked my phone again but there was no reply. Odd... he always replied to my questions before. I shrugged it off, figuring I could just ask him directly when I see him.

I grabbed my keys and didn’t bother taking a helmet. It’s not like Johnny was going to be getting on and the extra weight just threw me off. Valkyrie blessed me with a quick and smooth ride so I was at the apartment in no time.

I got out my phone to call Johnny when I noticed two figures in front of the apartment. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was none other than little Lucy and the pink haired pitbull.

 

“Ciao! Looks like I came here at just the right time.” I called out as I walked up to the pair. Lucy gets a happy look on her face when she hears me while Hot Pants neutral expression quickly changes to a scowl. He knew I was going to be here and he’s still being an ass? There’s no winning with this guy.

“Hi, Mr. Gyro! You’re early! Did Johnny give you the wrong time?”

“Nah, I just figured I’d rather be early than waiting around.”

“Wanted more time with Johnny, huh?” Lucy suggested, barely suppressing a giggle. She was right, but I didn’t really understand the reaction so I chose to ignore it for now.

“Would the two of you like to chat out here all day, or are you coming inside?” Hot Pants spoke sternly, holding the door open and impatiently tapping his foot. Huhn, I didn’t even realize that he opened the door.

Lucy mumbles a quick apology and rushes inside. Hot Pants lets go of the door but I’m quick enough to catch it and head inside right behind him. Jerk.

“So what movie are we seeing?” Lucy asks as we ride up the elevator. I can't tell who the question is directed to until I notice her staring at me.

“I dunno. Johnny didn't say.”

“They haven't chosen anything yet.” Hot Pants interjects. If he knew the answer then why did he not answer the question first? I'm not the one on babysitting duty.

“Hmmm, I just hope we watch something funny.” Lucy sing songs as we exit the elevator.

Surprisingly, Hot Pants has a key and uses it to open the apartment himself. Lucy goes inside first and I hear her saying hello to Johnny. Hot Pants goes inside next letting go of the door. Again. I suppress the urge to curse out the jerkoff as I catch the door and walk inside.

“Oh, Gyro here's too? Actually, you're all here so early.” Johnny commented, sitting on the armchair.

“I like coming early and Gyro wanted to spend more time with you!” Lucy replies with a mischievous smile. There must be some kind of joke involving me I'm not aware of. Whatever it was only caused Johnny to glare at Lucy.

“Where's Diego?” Hot Pants asks, looking around the apartment.

“He's out getting popcorn and stuff. Like I said, you guys are early.” As Johnny replies, I take the opportunity to sit on the part of the couch closest to the chair.

I ruffle his hair quickly as a hello which earns me a quick and rare Johnny-smile. I would kiss him like I normally do but I don't want Hot Pants to bite my head off. Just ruffling Johnny’s hair got me a death glare.

“Did you guys choose what to watch, yet?” Lucy asks, plopping down on the couch.

“No, we’re waiting until everyone's here so we can avoid any bitching.”

“You and Diego will argue no matter how long we wait.” Hot Pants states matter of factly.

Johnny solemnly nods in response. I knew the kid didn't like his roommate but it seemed like their rivalry was even worse than I thought. Even though I didn't like seeing Johnny upset, I was pretty curious to see how the two would interact.

“Oh HP, since we’re early, can we go get ice cream?” Lucy asks with a pleading look.

“You won't be able to eat dinner if you fill up on junk, you know.” Hot Pants reminds her. This guy really did act like a big brother to the others. It made me wonder if he had any younger siblings or if he just was naturally like this. Or even a kid?! He looked young, but you can never be sure these days...

“Please! I promise I won't eat popcorn if I can get some!”

“We have ice cream in the fri-” Johnny tries to help before he is cut off by Lucy.

“I really want a shake! I've been thinking about it all day...” The girl pouted.

“Fine, fine. But you better eat all your dinner.” Hot Pants sighs giving in.

“I will!” Lucy cheers, getting up and heading towards the door. Hot Pants leaves first and before Lucy exits, the girl turns and gives Johnny a quick wink.

“What was that all about?” I ask chuckling.

“She's just being ridiculous.” Johnny replies, shaking his head. Well, even if I didn't understand the exchange, I got what I wanted: some alone time with my little gattino.

Suddenly, Johnny holds out his arms, waving them around impatiently.

“You okay, stellina?”

“I'm fine. I just want to get on the couch.”

“And you're waving your arms because…?”

“So you can pick me up. It's easier than getting on my chair just to move a little bit.” Johnny says looking at the floor, clearly embarrassed by his request.

Shit, he was so cute. No way was I going to pass up on an opportunity like this.

I got up and picked him up carefully. I’ll admit, I was dragging out the process. I mean, I wasn't going to be able to do this again for Lord knows how long, so I should enjoy myself. Unfortunately Johnny flicks my ear when he realizes what I'm doing. Can't get anything past this kid.

I sat down on the couch still holding Johnny, so he ended up sitting on my lap.

“I said to move me onto the couch, not onto you.” Johnny says with a small smirk of amusement. He really had become immune to my teasing, but that was fine. It just meant I could tease him more.

“We are on the couch though, nyoho!”

He shakes his head and moves himself to sit next to me instead. “You're just lucky Hot Pants isn't here.”

“I only did it cause he isn't.”

“What a rule breaker.” Johnny says in his usual monotone voice.

“You didn't answer my question you know.” I reminded, getting comfy on the couch and wrapping an arm around Johnny.

“I didn't have an answer for that one. I like a lot of movies, but there's no movie I can say is my absolute favorite. You didn't answer my question either.” Merda, he picked up on that.

“I didn't get any questions, gattino.” I lied.

“Bullshit. Well, if you're gonna play dumb then you have to answer the question now. Why are you sending me questions out of the blue?”

I went silent for a moment after that, trying to think up of what I wanted to say that I was scared to answer with before. I realized how creepy it must have seemed after the third or fourth question, so I was dreading the event of Johnny confronting me about it.

“I just wanted to know more about you. If it bothers you that much... I'll stop.” That was only partially right. I did want to know more about Johnny but it wasn’t just that.  I just… I couldn’t get the kid out of my head. I didn’t just want to know the simple things like his favorite color I wanted to learn everything about him. But Johnny’s too stubborn for that. So I just went with the little questions that occupied my mind the most. I thought they were harmless.

My behavior seemed odd even to me. I mean, before Johnny, I never really snooped into anyone's business or never really cared to. There was just something about the kid that really captured my attention.

Shit, but why? The more I thought about it, the more reasons I thought up of why this really shouldn't affect me so much like it has. Yet here I was, having an emotional rollercoaster for little Johnny, whom I haven't even known for that long! It boggled me to no end as I tried to search for an answer that was taking its sweet ass time in making itself known.

Suddenly, I'm broke out of my haze of thought by stellina’s words.

“It doesn't bother me it just came out of nowhere. I like the texts, and all.” He says leaning on me. I almost sigh in relief. So Johnny liked the texts. I wondered how much I could pry before he would snap at me or run away. Even if I could get him to tell me everything I could want to know, it sure wouldn't stop me from still talking to him. If anything it would make teasing him easier.

I could have asked him more but he looked so content curled next to me. Just watching him like this made me feel good, as if Johnny’s calm demeanor was contagious.

I didn't get much time to enjoy it as I heard the door open again, allowing reentrance to Lucy and Hot Pants. Lucy was sipping on some colorful shake and when she noticed Johnny’s position she gave a big smile and a thumbs up. That made Johnny scowl and move away from me, which was for the better since the pink pitbull looked like he was this close to murdering me.

“Oh, I forgot to ask if you guys wanted anything.” Lucy pouts before sitting down on the arm chair.

“Like I was saying before, we have ice cream and I didn't want anything, anyways.” Johnny replies.

Hot Pants makes his way to the kitchen while the two were conversing and grabs a drink from the fridge before sitting on the far end of the couch.

“Do you know when Diego will be back?” Hot Pants asks before taking a sip.

“Didn't ask ‘im. I'm sure he'll be back soon enough.”

As soon as Johnny finishes his sentence a loud knock comes from the door.

“Let me in.” A voice called from outside. I didn't recognize it, so it must have been Johnny's roommate.

“Are you kidding me what is he doing here so early?” Johnny hisses.

“I don't know. Probably wanted to cause trouble.” Hot Pants replies, sounding annoyed.

“The door isn't soundproof you know. Now let me in. I can't find the spare key.”

“That's ‘cause I got rid of it...” Johnny mumbles to himself as Hot Pants gets up to open the door.

“See? That wasn't so hard was it?” The man says before coming in.

He's short like Johnny but that's the only thing that really catches my attention. I didn’t feel like introducing myself- not that he seemed to notice me either way.

“Oh good, you're here, luv. Where's that rubbish heap I am so unlucky to be related to?”

“Fuck if I know.”

“Perfect. Looks like we get some time without Diego after all.” He grinned, making eyes at Hot Pants. Wait, isn't he Diego?

“Just because Diego isn't here doesn't mean I won't crucify your ass.” Hot Pants growls before making his way into the kitchen again.

The guy who I assumed to be Diego followed behind him trying to make small talk as Hot Pants starts to look more and more aggravated.

Johnny notices my confusion and explains the situation. “That's not my roommate. It’s his asshole twin Dio.”

“When did he have a twin?”

“Always apparently. I only met the bastard last Tuesday.” And never said anything to me about it? Just when I was starting to think Johnny trusted me...

“Well he's talking to Hot Pants now, so it'll be okay.” Lucy chimed in, trying to reassure Johnny.

“He’ll still come over here sooner or later and I sure as hell don't want to talk to him again.”

“He was pretty mean to you before but it's okay, you're not alone this time.” So he told Lucy about it and not me? Great.

“Hold on, what happened?" I ask, not liking the whole ‘left in the dark’ position.

“Doesn't matter.” Johnny replies. So he was that unwilling to say anything.

Wait, he's not the only one who knows what's going on. He told everything to little Lucy.

Almost as if she could tell what I was thinking, Lucy gives a smile and hops off the chair before going into the kitchen.

“Be right back.” I say quickly giving Johnny a small pat before I follow Lucy.

I was so focused on Lucy that I didn't notice Dio had left the kitchen and was in the living room area now. Hot Pants was rubbing his temples, so he must have threatened Dio to go away.

“Oh, HP can you see if Scary is awake? I wanna try feeding him before Diego comes back.” Lucy piped up, bouncing on her toes.

“I'll go look, but you're not feeding him without Diego’s permission. You don't want to stuff the poor thing.”

“Then call him and ask for me? I don't have his number.”

Hot Pants sighs and walks away leaving the two of us alone.

“You're quite the little manipulator.” I say once Hot Pants is out of sight.

“I have my ways.” Lucy replies with a shrug. “Now to business, you have info I want and I got info you want, right?”

I laugh at her serious tone. “You sound so formal for a little girl.”

“I'm not little! I'm 14 so I'm a teenager; not a little kid.”

“14, really? Wow, you're practically an adult.” I say in the most sarcastic tone I can muster.

She sticks her tongue out at me like the little kid she is. “I'm not gonna tell you anything if you're a meanie.”

“Nyoho, then I'll stop being in your ‘oh so mature’ words a ‘meanie.’”

She gives a pout before speaking. “What did Johnny and you do? He won't tell me anything and I've been asking him for weeks.” Ah so that's what she wants to know. So there were things even she was left in the dark about?

“I don't know if I could trust you with that. I mean after all, the first time you found out about me, I nearly got my hand crushed. Twice.”

“I'm not going to tell HP a thing, I swear!”

Well I could throw her a bone if it meant getting to know what Johnny was hiding. “We went out for Chipotle.”

“That's it?”

“Sorta.”

“No fair, you're lying! Come on, just tell me.”

“Yeah, I'm not Hot Pants or Johnny. Your whining doesn't really affect me.”

“I gave you alone time with Johnny before! Come on.” She did have a point there.

“Fine, I'll tell you a little more. We watched a few shows.”

“How could you do that at the mall?” Cavolo, I gave away too much.

“You have to tell me what you know first.”

“Dio came here when Johnny was alone and made Johnny really mad. Now tell me where you guys really were.” So he made Johnny mad? Why was Johnny not saying anything about it then?

“Not the mall.”

“That's unfair! I'm telling you all I know.”

“No you're not. Johnny wouldn't hide it from me if it was something that simple.”

She whines before continuing. “Johnny just told me that Dio made him grossed out. He didn't tell me exactly what happened! Now spill the beans, where were you guys?” Grossed out? Well it was better than nothing.

“My house.” I reply quietly. Lucy earned an answer and I just couldn't come up with anything else other than the truth. She made a huge gasp that would have definitely caught the attention of anyone nearby. “Shh! Don't say a word to Johnny or Hot Pants. Either one of them would kill me if they knew I told you.”

She makes a childish zipped lips motion and beamed at me. I regretted letting her know as soon as I saw her reaction but there was no way I could take it back now.

I start to leave the kitchen, ready to ask Johnny exactly what Dio did to gross him out. Turned out that that question would be unnecessary when I saw what was going down in that living room.

“Don't you worry, Johnny. You may not be able to do it on your own, but I'll make sure to lock your legs around me when I come back after the films.” Dio chuckled to stellina, leaning on one end of the couch.

“Don't even fucking try it.” Johnny hisses from the far end of the couch, fists raised. The kid had fire in his eyes like he was ready to kill Dio. Even when he was mad at me, he never looked that pissed.

I hear a small yelp from underneath me. Feeling a sudden weight in my arms, I realized I had walked over and picked up Johnny without thinking.

There was no way I was going to let some gross cretino stay near him. Not just Dio, but any coglione who had the nerve to speak to stellina like that. Johnny could even yell at me later all he liked. All that mattered is that he was safe in my arms.

“Vaffanculo. He’s not interested.” I hear myself snap, as if my emotions were in control of my voice. I didn't have any authority to say what Johnny was feeling, but he sure didn't look like he was happy. So hopefully he wouldn't mind too much, right?

I mean, who does this asshole think he is talking to my gattino like that? Sure, I could understand wanting to flirt with Johnny. I mean, he was ridiculously attractive! I'm guilty of teasing him myself, but I've never gone further than he was comfortable with! If Johnny reacted like that to my advances, I would have immediately backed off. But then this testa di cazzo didn't even seem to be mildly put off by Johnny's reaction.

Dio didn't even seem threatened by my own response. He just gave a look of mild surprise before going back to a grossolano smirk.

“Well, that explains the hostility. You should have just told me you were taken, luv! Such a shame that you have such bad taste.” Now I was feeling like punching him. “No matter, taken or not doesn't affect me. My offer still stands whenever you decide to change your mind.”

“Fuck. Off.” Johnny growls. His reaction got a smile out of me. Johnny really wanted nothing to do with Dio and that fact delighted me in the oddest way.

The bastardo actually laughs. “Such passion!” He walks away, going towards the bedrooms and I finally feel Johnny relax in my arms.

I put Johnny down back onto the couch and sit next to him. Now that Dio was out of sight I felt myself start to calm down too. I didn't know why I was the one feeling so angry when it was Johnny who was being flirted with.

I was concerned...but for what? Johnny looked like he was able to handle Dio on his own. I mean, he did it before when they first met. It's not like Johnny was even showing any interest in Dio. And that thought alone sent chills up my spine.

The idea of Johnny actually liking Dio back made my stomach turn worse then Johnny's actual disgusted reaction. I told myself it was because Dio is a gross asshole who shows no respect to Johnny but that just didn't seem to make any sense as an excuse for why I was so concerned. I tried thinking about anyone flirting with Johnny and every time it would get me upset.

Why did it make me so angry to think of Johnny with anyone else?

What was I trying to prevent?

What do I want from Johnny?

“Thanks.” Johnny murmured, laying his head on my shoulder. As soon as I feel the contact all my worries melt away.

Wait. Shit.

The answer was staring me in the face the whole time.

I wanted Johnny. Not just information about him. Not just to protect him.

I wanted to be the one to flirt with him.

I wanted him to stay close to me.

I didn't just want him on my mind constantly I wanted to be with him.

I wanted his lips, his body, everything.

He fit into my life so well like he was always meant to be there. It was hard to even imagine life without him anymore.

Oddio, I was in love with the kid. I was helplessly in love with him and never even realized it before. I've had crushes before, but nothing felt as strong as this.

I was just more aware of how close he was. Cazzo, how the hell have I managed to contain myself around him.

“What happened?” Hot Pants asks, entering the room. Little Lucy is right on his heels so she must have ran off to get him.

Hot Pants wasn’t glaring at me, surprisingly enough considering how close I was to Johnny at the moment. I almost wished he would yell at me to move away. It’d give me some relief. Though after that mess I wasn’t too fond of the idea of moving too far away from Johnny, either. 

“Nothing, Dio was just being a dick.” Johnny says with a heavy sigh, still curled next to me.

I sure as hell wouldn’t have called that ‘nothing’. Dio only stopped harassing Johnny because he thought Johnny and I were together. Thinking about it, neither of us corrected him. I felt my heart quicken at the thought. Now I really didn’t want to correct him.

The door clicks open and someone, who must be Diego by his appearance,walks in with a grimace.

“What the hell is everyone doing here so early?” He groans as he walks in, dropping a grocery bag on the kitchen counter. He pauses for a moment to give me a confused look. Oh right, we’ve never met.

I give a quick wave trying to use the movement to get Johnny off but it only worked in making him come closer. I tried to focus on Diego instead.

“I’m Gyro, Johnny asked me over.” I say as a quick introduction.

Diego stares at me then at Johnny before nodding and continuing to go about his business. That went easier than expected.

“Dio’s here too. I think he was heading to your bedroom.” Johnny mumbles, still not moving off. Christ, was he always this attached to me? I felt like I was gonna scream if I had to withstand this torture for longer.

“Fucking hell, doesn’t that prick have anything better to do?” Diego sighs. Seems like nobody liked Dio. Good.

“Apparently not.” Hot Pants murmurs in a voice barely audible enough for anyone in the room to hear.

Diego picks up on it easily enough and turns to him as if he just noticed the other’s presence. He walks quickly over to Hot Pants and gives him a quick peck. On the lips. So they were dating?

Huh.

Johnny never told me anything about that. I expect more but Diego runs off probably to go confront his twin.

I finally can’t stand anymore and just pry Johnny off me. He pouts but I start to speak, trying to act like I didn’t notice his reaction.

“You didn’t tell me you were gay.” I say to Hot Pants. It must have sounded a lot worse than I thought because both Hot Pants and Lucy turned to me with a completely baffled look. Johnny was trying to hide a smile in his hands. Wait, did he see this coming? Was he looking forward to this reaction? What did he just get me into?

“Excuse you?” Hot Pants says calmly but the anger is seeping through, his face giving that away.


“Well, not gay exactly but you know... into men. No worries, I’m fine with it.” I say trying to clarify my point. I wasn't trying to offend. “I mean, I’d be a huge hypocrite if I wasn’t.” I added quickly, trying very hard not to look in Johnny’s direction.

“But wouldn’t liking girls make her gay?” Lucy chimes in confusing me this time.

“Do you think I’m a man!?” Hot Pants shouts. What?

“You’re not? I just assu-”

I don’t get the chance to try and apologize as a loud snap gets my attention. Hot Pants has taken off his-er her belt and is now wrapping it on the kitchen doorframe like a noose.

“Alright, Mr. Zeppeli, I am now going to hang you. Come here.” She orders with a voice filled with a quiet, terrible rage.

I hold up my hands innocently, seeing right away that she wasn’t fucking around. “N-No need to get hasty now! It was an honest mistake, really!”

“Mr. Zeppeli. I would advise you come here if you would prefer a quicker death. Because if I have to go to you, I cannot guarantee such a thing.”

Cavolo, I really pissed her off.

“HP doesn’t seem manly to me.” Lucy commented, puzzled by my mistake.

“You’re not really helping Lucy...” I say through gritted teeth.

She offers an apologetic smile

“You might wanna hurry ‘fore she comes over here.” Johnny sing-songs. This kid really was going to be the death of me one way or another.

“Shush, this is your fault.” I whine.

“Don’t blame Johnny for your mistake.” Hot Pants hisses still holding onto her makeshift noose. 

“No, no, he’s right. It is partially my fault, after all.” Johnny surprisingly chimes it. “He called you a guy and I never corrected him.”

“Why the hell did you do that?”

A good question, but Johnny only responds by shrugging and looking down at the floor. Looks like he had no excuses.

Hot Pants continues to glare at the both of us for a long minute before sighing. She lets go of her iron grip on her belt and unwraps it. I get to live another day.

“Don’t ever call me a man again. Understand?” Hot Pants threatens pointing a finger at me.

“I won’t, I swear!” I promise with all sincerity. Hot Pants didn’t need any motivation to hurt me. I sure as hell wasn’t going to give her the okay to kill me.

“And you. Don’t use my life for your games.” Hot Pants barked, now glaring at Johnny.

“I’m not gonna...” Johnny murmured, finally looking up from the floor.

Hot Pants lets out another heavy sigh, rubbing at her temples. She walks back into the kitchen, mumbling something about how she didn't deserve this.

“Consider that ‘thanks’ for before.” Johnny says, attempting to lie back on me. It would be way too suspicious to move him off again, so I allow it. I look up at the ceiling, ignoring the soft feeling of Johnny against me.

“You’re the reason I was even in trouble.” I reminded with a soft exhale.

“Still counts.” He says poking a finger at my side. Naturally, I look down to retaliate but am too caught off guard by Johnny’s rare happy face to do anything. This kid was going to ruin me and he didn’t even know.

Lucy giggles at the exchange and sits on the armchair. I really gotta figure out what’s the joke between Lucy and Johnny. Especially since it has something to do with me. Hot Pants comes back from the kitchen with yet another drink and shoots another lethal glare at Johnny and I before sitting on the other end of the couch.

“I wasn’t even doing anything.” My least favorite bastardo whines as he walks into the living room, closely followed by an angry looking Diego. I feel Johnny tense up next to me but I rub my hand at his back, which quickly calms him down.

“You’re not allowed in my room, no matter what you’re doing.” 

“Oh please, it’s not like you have anything that would be worth looking at. Even your little salamander is boring.”

“Scary Monsters is a bearded dragon, you dumbass.”

It was like watching someone argue with the mirror. Their voices were almost exactly the same, even. I silently thanked God that my youngest siblings were fraternal twins. I was already getting a headache just watching these two. Luckily I didn’t have to suffer for long because Diego decided then to take a seat on the couch next to Hot Pants. That meant Diego and Johnny were next to each other but it seemed that their aggression was too focused on Dio to notice.

“Oi, you lot took up all the space. Where am I supposed to sit?” Dio whines.

“The floor.” Hot Pants replied grabbing the remote.

“Funny. How ‘bout I sit on your lap instead?”

“Try it and you'll be missing your berries.”

“He isn’t holding any berries, though.” Lucy states. How did she manage to stay that naive?

Diego laughs at Lucy’s response, which gets him a confused look from Lucy and a glare from Hot Pants.

Dio huffs before getting a stool from the kitchen and placing it in the living room so he had somewhere to sit.

“You better put that back afterwards.” Diego says, to which Dio only rolls his eyes.

“So what movies are we choosing from?” Hot Pants asks, fiddling with the remote.

“Ah, about that... when I said we didn’t choose anything, I meant we didn’t even narrow anything down.” Johnny replies.

“It's not my fault. You kept arguing about which movies were actually worth watching.”

“You're the only one who wants to watch 5 hours worth of dinosaur documentaries.”

“Just because you have shit taste, Joestar, doesn't mea-”

“Alright, I heard enough.” Hot Pants interrupts, switching the TV station. “Let's just choose something from Netflix.”

Lucy suddenly lets out a gasp and runs over to the kitchen. Oh yeah, the popcorn. Johnny makes a motion with his hand like he wants to get up and help her, but his wheelchair is too far for him to reach. This could be a perfect opportunity for me to collect myself, I thought. I grab the chair and move it closer so he can get on.

While Johnny and Lucy are in the kitchen getting snacks, Hot Pants and Diego browse through various titles trying to pick one out. I don’t make any comments as I'm more focused on relaxing. Now I felt calmed down enough to be able to deal with Johnny on me for the next 2-3 hours. Dio will occasionally make a comment and get shot down immediately, which always brings a smile to my face.  

“Can we watch something funny?” Lucy calls from the kitchen.

“How about we watch Saw? The screams are pretty funny.” I suggested with a grin.

Lucy pouts. Teasing her was way too easy. “HP... I don't want to watch a scary movie.” The gal whines.

“We're not going to. Ignore him.” Hot Pants says, still looking through the selection.

“How about we watch something fantasy related?” Johnny chimes in, surprising me again. He had said he enjoyed westerns, but I never picked him for enjoying a genre like fantasy.

“Fantasy? Does this have to do with that kids’ show you and Lucy watch?” Diego groans. Johnny never mentioned anything about that. I reminded myself that if it was something he and Lucy did, it really was none of my business.

“Nobody was talking to you, dickwad.”

“Okay so fantasy and maybe comedy.” Hot Pants states, trying to distract attention from the bickering.

“Oh look, Labyrinth’s here! That's a classic.” I exclaimed, just noticing the title when Hot Pants is flipping through different films.        

“A classic? Really?” Dio snorts in mock disbelief. I could really wipe that smug look off the stronzo’s face. If only Johnny wasn’t here.

“I haven't seen this movie in a long time.” Hot Pants mumbles to herself. I’m surprised she enjoys Labyrinth, but then again I did think she was a man until a short while ago so I’m not really an expert on her.

“What's Labyrinth?” Lucy asked, walking back with a bowl of popcorn. 

“Some movie with David Bowie, I think. Never watched it.” Johnny explained as he rolls back to the living room with chips.

“How have neither of you seen it?” I say in utter disbelief. I mean it wasn’t my all time favorite movie or anything, but it was still a good movie that I was sure up until now everyone has seen.

“It's way before Lucy's time and I just never saw it.” Johnny huffed as he situated himself back on the couch.

“Well, we have to watch it now!”

“If you say so.” Johnny shrugs before munching on some of the chips.

“Well, if we're all in agreement-” Hot Pants starts to say.

“I didn't agree.” Dio interjects.

Hot Pants sighs. “It's majority rules so shut up and watch.”

“How is that majority? Diego didn't even say anything.”

“I never saw it either, so I didn't argue.” Diego shrugs.

Realizing he’s been beaten, Dio grumbles to himself before Hot Pants starts the movie. 

I end up spending most of the movie watching Johnny and Lucy’s reactions. It being their first time, I wondered how they would feel about the movie and, thankfully, they both seemed completely engrossed. I wondered how many of the movies I grew up with Johnny never saw. I would have to find out and show him them. When I glanced over to Diego, he seemed bored because he was poking at Hot Pants. Well, can’t do anything about that.

When it was over with, Lucy started going on and on about her favorite parts and different things she noticed. Johnny sat on the edge of the couch carefully listening to her and saying his own thoughts. I would guess that their show watching went like this as well. It was pretty cute to watch.

“Can we start the next movie now?” Diego groans, although mostly to Hot Pants since Johnny and Lucy are still caught up in their discussion.

“First, let me get more popcorn.” Hot Pants grunted as she got up to go the kitchen.

By the time Hot Pants comes back, Lucy and Johnny have finished up with their conversation and are patiently waiting for the next movie. Unfortunately for them, Diego gets next pick but the movie wasn’t that bad. It was some sci-fi movie that he clearly picked because it had dinosaurs in it. Seeing it reminded me of the zombie movie Johnny and I saw. Johnny must have thought of the same thing because he spent most of the movie whispering his commentary to me. I would sometimes burst out laughing at some joke Johnny made about the mediocre acting or shitty CGI, which earned me more than my share of glares from Diego and Hot Pants.

When the credits rolled Diego got up quickly saying something about his skin. Hot Pants shortly followed behind him, leaving Lucy to browse through the selection until the two got back.

Johnny took the opportunity to move closer, resting his head on the crook of my neck. It was incredibly distracting but he seemed to enjoy the feeling of my hand running up and down his back, so I didn’t move him off for now. I looked around the room trying to distract myself from the fluttery feeling in my stomach when I noticed Dio out of the corner of my eye.

He was staring at Johnny. His expression was blank, but it still annoyed me that he was continuing to oggle Johnny.

“Jealous?” I mouth dropping my hand down to Johnny’s waist. We weren’t actually dating and, technically, I had nothing to get protective over. But technicalities sure as hell didn’t stop me from getting pissed when Dio’s expression changed to another gross smile.

“Hardly. I’m not the one getting insecure.” Dio whispers, which I’m sure would have been loud enough for Johnny to hear as well but if he had heard him, the kid ignored it.

“Gyro?” Johnny asks moving one of his hands on my own. I got so mad at Dio’s words that I had started unconsciously gripping down on Johnny’s waist.

I was just about to let go of him and move him off when Hot Pants walked into the room. God really wasn’t on my side with this. As soon as she sees what's going on she snarls at me, forgetting any grudge she had against Johnny.

“Johnny get up. We’re switching places.” Hot Pants said still glaring at me.

“Huh, Why?” Johnny says moving himself up enough to look at Hot Pants.

“Fuck! Why?!” I can hear Diego call out in protest from the bathroom.

“Ask Mr. Zeppeli.”

“I was just about to move him off, actually.” I say to Hot Pants, ignoring Johnny’s confused look.

Hot Pants gives me a look that clearly shows she doesn’t believe me. Ignoring it, I move Johnny off and get up to take Hot Pants’ old spot.

Now Johnny is glaring at Hot Pants and tries to move to get closer before Hot Pants sits down, effectively blocking him off. He huffs in agitation and grabs his chair to roll into the kitchen. I didn’t expect him to get that annoyed, so I got up as well, following him.

“Don’t just do things like that without saying anything to me.” Johnny says when he notices my presence.

“‘Ey, I didn't want Hot Pants yelling at us again. She’s already pissed off plenty.”

“She has nothing to get pissed over. I’m an adult if I want to sit next to my friend, I’ll do that.”

“Fair point. Fine; if it bothers you that much, you can sit with me again. Just make sure to scatter my ashes somewhere nice.”

Finally, his aggravated look softens at my joke. “No, it’s not that. I just don’t want to be treated like some innocent kid she has to protect. I’m not Lucy. I appreciate the offer, though.”

I give him a quick pat on the head and he rolls back to the living room and sits next to Hot Pants. From the time we were speaking Diego reappeared and was sitting next to Hot Pants as well. I took a seat on the remaining space and we continued watching films.

We only managed to be able to watch one more movie: some suspense film Dio picked out Before we could pop on another, Lucy started complaining about being hungry. Hot Pants took this as her cue to head out and gave a quick goodbye to everyone before leaving with Lucy following behind. As soon as the two were gone Johnny moved back towards me lying his head on me.

“Why are you two still here?” Diego said glaring at his brother and I.

“Fuck off, asshat.” Johnny spat before turning back to me. “Gyro, let’s go get something to eat. Diego’s being a pissbaby.”

“You're nothing special, hotwheels.” Diego responded spitefully, turning on a dinosaur documentary.

“Oh, food sounds good.” Dio interrupts.

“Nobody was talking to you.” Johnny snapped, not even looking in Dio’s direction. I can’t help but chuckle. Johnny could be a real jerk when he wanted to be.

“I should probably head home, too.” I mentioned, not able to admit that I didn’t think I could handle being alone with Johnny right now.

“Then we can get food at your place.” Johnny points out. Shit. “Come on, don’t leave me here with these two jerk-offs!”

Said jerkoffs both glared at Johnny in unison. Identical twins sure are creepy.

I couldn’t exactly deny a request like that, but having him at my place would be much worse right now.

“Alright get up we’ll go get something quick.” I said, compromising more with myself than anything.

We walked to a nearby fast food joint and grabbed some burgers. We ended up playing the car game again to pass the time. Even after we finished the food, Johnny insisted on going to an ice cream store not too far away.

Halfway there, I figured out what was up.

“Why don’t you want to go back home?” I asked, interrupting Johnny's rant about how disgusting mustard was.

“You sure like asking questions...” He responded, moving further away.

“Is it Dio?”

“No, I don’t like the tool but I’m sure he would have left by now.”

“So what is it?”

“Tuesday’s going to come again.” He stated like it was some kind of important fact.

“Yeah, days...do that. Wait, why are you even worrying about that? It’s Saturday.”

“Exactly. Why are you even complaining? You don’t have work tomorrow.”

Work. That keyword lets me in on what was happening.

“It’s not that you don’t want to go home. You don’t want me to go home.”

“Ugh, don’t say it like that. You make me sound so sappy.”

“Tesorino, you should have just said something.”

“That's a new one.” He commented suddenly stopping in his tracks.  “What’s it mean?”

“It means I want to hang out with you, too.” I say, dodging the question. I had said the term without even thinking. “But hanging out isn't gonna prevent time from going on you know.”

“I’m not an idiot, Gyro. I know that. I just want to spend as much with you as I can, you whiner.”

“Nyoho, nothing wrong with that!” I leaned down to ruffle his hair again.

Yeah, I had it bad for the kid. So I allowed us to get ice cream and to walk in the park, complaining about the cold. I even allowed him to walk me to my bike before heading out.

“I’ll see you later, tesorino.” I chuckled, leaning on Valkyrie while not wanting to leave quite yet, but knowing if I dragged this on any longer I would only end up doing something so stupid.

“Yeah... see ya.” He replied but neither of us made a move.

I allowed him a lot so I allowed myself something as well. I leaned down giving him a kiss on the cheek. Johnny gave a soft smile.

“Are both people supposed to kiss the other?” He suddenly asked, completely throwing me off.

I was in no way prepared for a question like that. The right answer was yes, but I didn’t know if I could handle that right now. I allowed him so much already, I didn’t need to give myself more fuel for the fire burning inside me.

“Technically... yes, but you don't have to.”

“Like I would do anything I didn’t want to.” Johnny huffed before grabbing me by my shirt and pulling me closer to him.

I really told myself that I shouldn’t allow this but the message didn’t seem to reach my body as I stayed slack, waiting to see what happened next.

“So I won’t do anything.” Johnny said with a devilish smirk before releasing me.

A strong man would have laughed off Johnny’s teasing. Would have said goodnight and went back to his empty apartment and cold bed with a smile. Would swallow his desire like it meant nothing. Would put Johnny first. Would have never ruined any chance at friendship with the one person who was starting to matter the most in his life.

But I never claimed to be a strong man.

I was a very weak man as I grabbed Johnny and closed the distance between us. His soft lips were intoxicating. Whether in shock or on purpose he opens his mouth just enough to deepen the kiss as I delved into his mouth, unable to pull myself away. Distantly I could feel Johnny’s hands around my neck. He was so ridiculously warm. He still tasted sweet from the ice cream and it made my head spin. I lost myself completely.

It wasn’t until I felt a burning sensation in my chest that I was forced to finally pull away, panting. I could see Johnny in front of me, completely disheveled with wide eyes and bright red lips but it didn’t click with me what I had done until I finally caught my breath.

I mentally cursed myself with every name I knew in every language I could think of. There was no way I could just laugh that off. Not after how far I had gone. No amount of wishing could have made time reverse- though I still prayed silently like I thought it could.

“N-Night, tesorino.” I shot out as fast as I could before hopping onto Valkyrie. I wasn’t a strong enough man to deal with the consequences of my actions.

Johnny looked dumbfounded, understandably so, but he only nodded in response.

I continued to berate myself as I drove back home. Unfortunately and as expected, it didn’t stop when I entered the apartment and collapsed on my bed.

The scene just kept replaying in my mind. I touched my lips like I could still feel it.

“I really fucked things up this time.” I whispered as I finally let myself rest.

Chapter Text

Just one more week!

I’ve been counting the days ‘till Halloween since October started, and now there’s only a mere week left. I already went out with Stephen yesterday after school and got myself the perfect costume!

Even better, I was going to go trick or treating with Johnny this year! And maybe even Gyro, too, if Johnny asked him to come along!

I could barely contain my excitement, so I didn’t pay attention to the rumors going around the school. All the talk about some new student didn’t concern me in the slightest. I mean, when I had candy and my friends to look forward to, what else could take priority?!

When I took my seat, I was pretty sure that my classmates were still going on about the new student. Since it looked like that was all they were going to be going on about until class started, I just leaned against my hand, watching the leaves fall like little orange flames from long, withering hands.

Gosh, there were so many colors in the trees. It was always so pretty and a sight that I couldn’t get tired of. It was going to be so much fun to stomp around in the leaf piles with Hot Pants later.

“Class, listen up, please.” Our homeroom teacher, Sister Monica, announced, ringing the small bell on her desk.

It’s enough to grab my attention away from the window to Sister in front of the room, standing with a pale girl standing next to her.

“This is Ms. Sugar Mountain.” I seem to have a knack of meeting people with strange names. “She will be joining our school as of today. I expect everyone to give her the same respect you’ve all given me.” Sister then turns to Sugar, who is strangely still staring ahead blankly. “Do you need any help to your seat?”

“No, thank you.” Just then, I notice Sugar is holding a cane in her hand. From the way she moves it around while she’s walking, I can quickly figure out that she must be blind.

The rest of the class must have deduced the same thing because suddenly the room is filled with hushed whispers and the sounds of people moving their seats away.

It was horrible how people were treating Sugar without even knowing her, so I lifted my hand and spoke loud enough to be heard over the crowd.

“I have a free seat right next to me! You can sit here, Sugar.”

Now the whole class, including Sugar, is looking at me but Sugar begins to make her way over. The temporary embarrassment was completely worth it.

“Were you waving?” Sugar asks as she sits in the sit next to me.

“You could see that?”

“Sort of. I saw something that looked sorta like an arm waving and assumed it must be you.”

“So, you can see things?” I ask before thinking and silently chastise myself for being so rude.

“A little. It’s all a blur but it gets better when I’m closer.”

“Class, just because it’s homeroom doesn’t mean you all can be so loud!” Sister scolded, ringing her little bell as she usually does.

Sugar quickly quiets down while the rest of the class just laughs and continues their conversations in whispers. I don’t want to bother Sugar more, so I go back to my window watching.

I wonder how Johnny’s doing...I haven’t talked to him since last Saturday and it was already Tuesday. I have to ask him about his little date, but... how am I going to convince him without ratting out Gyro?

THUMP

The loud noise scares me and I look over to see that Sugar has taken out a hefty looking book and a pack of cards suddenly.

The book read ‘Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft’. I guess being mostly blind didn’t stop her from being a big reader, even if the book looked a little scary. The cards she pulled out weren’t any nicer looking. As if she could tell I was watching, Sugar turned to me, cards in hand.

“Have you ever heard of tarot cards?” Sugar begins to shuffle the cards, still staring blankly in my reaction.

“Y-yeah they're fortune-telling cards right?”

“Yes, they’re not the only method for fortune telling though. There’s also palm reading, horoscopes, numerology, bone divinati-”

“Why are you telling me this? Are you a fortune teller?” I’m trying really hard to not tremble but my voice gives away my fear.

Sugar responded promptly. “I don't believe in fortune telling. Well- actually, I am a sort of fortune teller, though” She continues before I can give a response. “I can't read the future, but I’m a great person reader.”

She lays the cards in front of her and turns back to me with a smile, picking up one of the cards.

“The Page of Pentacles. You’re someone who is young but very mature for your age.” She picks up another card before I can react. “The Four of Swords. You’ve heard some shocking news recently, but are staying calm about it.” Her smile only widens at my gasp. “See? I could have said as much without the cards but it’s more fun like this.”

“Wow, you're like a magician.” I whisper, completely astonished.

“I can tell when someone is lying, too. That’s what I’m best at.”

“That’s so cool, but...you still haven’t told me why you told me all of this.”

Sugar gave me a curious look, only to break it with a soft smile. “‘Cause you were nice. So I’m giving you a warning. It’s fun to get a reaction out of people.”

“You’re gonna do Tarot readings to our classmates?”

“Not only that, all the other stuff I told you about too. I can rat out the teacher’s when they lie too. ‘Though they never like that.”

“Can I watch?” I couldn’t hide the excitement, even through my hushed whisper.

“Oh, I was only warning you about it. You don’t have to watch.”

“But I want to! It’d be so cool to see you do your magic.”

She smiles wide for a second before turning back in her seat, putting the cards away.

“No, that...wouldn’t be wise. I tend to get a reputation for performing my tricks. You’re nice. I don’t want to drag you down with me.”

I’m going to protest when the teacher calls out, cutting me off before I can say anything.

“Ms. Mountain, you may leave the classroom early. Do you know the way to your next class?”

“Yes, Sister.” Sugar nodded, getting up.

It’s only ‘cause I’m watching her closely that I notice Sugar leaving a card and a piece of paper on Sister’s desk while she’s leaving.

I wonder what she left. But I got the feeling that it wasn’t exactly good.

Sister’s shriek right after she reads the note tells me it must be something really shocking. As expected.

I can’t read it when the bell rings five minutes later, since Sister got upset and threw the note and card in the trash. I just hoped that wasn’t Sugar’s only version of whatever card she put down.

Sugar has to tell me what she wrote to the teacher next homeroom! It’s all I can think about as I walk to my next class.

“Ms. Steel, please hurry into the classroom, we have no time for daydreaming.” My English Professor, Brother Mike, calls from the doorway.

Oh no, I don’t want to be late!

I rush inside and don’t notice there's someone standing in front of the room until I knock into them, causing us both to tumble down. The rest of the class erupts into laughter as I apologize and help the other student off the floor.

“Sugar!” I shout as I notice exactly who I bumped into.

“So the two of you are acquainted? How lovely. Now if you could sit in your seat, Ms. Steel, I have a class to teach and I don’t want you running over any other students.”

I offer an apologetic smile and quickly sit in my seat before Brother can yell at me more.

Just like before, Brother introduces Sugar as a new student and asks her to go find a seat. This time though, Sugar comes over to where I am and takes the seat in front of me.

“Psst, Matt, can I swap seats?” I whisper to the boy sitting next to Sugar.

“Yeah sure, whatever, man. Just hurry up, I don’t want to get in trouble with Brother.” He whispers back.

As soon as Brother’s back is turned, make the exchange. It was so fast that it's a wonder that he didn't trip up.

“Hello again.” Sugar whispered when I’m seated next to her.

“I didn’t know you were in this class.”

“Neither did I.” Sugar responded, getting out a recorder. Oh she must not be able to take notes. “Can I see your schedule?” She asks before turning on the device.

I nod, forgetting she can’t see it and hand her the slip of paper with my schedule on it. I hope it’s on big enough print she can read what’s on it.

Class starts and I start taking notes, forgetting about Sugar, who is still studying my schedule.

Right before class ends, she clicks her recorder off and taps me on the shoulder to get my attention.

“We have the same classes.”

“Really?” I managed to whisper in the most hushed excited voice I could muster. I can barely contain my excitement and get another glare from Brother.

“You can leave the class now, Ms. Mountain.” Brother says walking over to wrap up the lesson. This is the second time that’s happened. Is sugar allowed to leave early because she’s blind? I dont have the opportunity to ask her as she leaves for the next class.

Sugar wasn’t lying; we do share all the same classes!

For the rest of the morning classes, I made sure to scout the room on the lookout for Sugar. Once I’d find her, I’d ask someone beside her to switch so we can go on with our little talks. Although I didn’t have many- if any- friends my age, I wasn’t on bad terms with anyone, either, so getting them to switch was no problem.

That being said, the more I talked to Sugar, the more I realized why I didn’t have friends of my age group. She was so much fun and strangely mature for her age, that it was like I was talking to Johnny or something! Definitely a better experience than when I would talk to my other classmates. And I’m sure HP would be happy to know I made a friend my age, too!

Lunch rolled around and I took the opportunity to invite Sugar to my area of the cafeteria. It felt weird not sitting alone for once.

“You don’t have to sit with me you know.” Sugar murmured, only taking small bites out of her homemade sandwich.

“I want to! You know, since we’re in all the same classes you should let me see you mess with the kids in the school.” I exclaimed in between bites of my own burger.

“I already told you, I don’t want to ruin your reputation. It’s fine, I have Candy.”

“I don’t care about my reputation; you’re much cooler than any of the kids here. Wait, Who’s Candy?”

Sugar leans into her bag- she’s the only student I noticed who’s allowed to bring their bag to lunch- and pulls out a patchwork doll.

“Did you make that yourself?”

“Yes. I started to make her as a voodoo doll until I decided voodoo is too serious to freak people out with... and harder to pull off.”

“Voodoo sounds scary.”

“Candy’s nice, though, right?”

“That’s good, but you can be friends with Candy still if we’re hanging out, you know.”

“Oh! You’re right…” Did she not know that before hand?

“So... then we can be friends?”

“...Give me your hand.”

“Huh? What does that have to do wit-” She shakes her empty hand at me and I can’t finish my sentence, instead placing my hand in hers.

“Mhm just as I thought…” She murmurs, running a finger along one of the lines.

“W-what? What does it say?” I ask looking down at my hand like I thought I could see whatever Sugar was seeing.

“It says,” She lifts up her finger quickly flicking my nose. “You're gullible.” She finishes with a smile.

I pout even though she can't see it, and go to move my hand away but she holds onto it.

“And...I’d like it if you would be my friend.”

Now it was my turn to smile.

“Then it’s settled! I’ll give you my number and you can invite me to see your tricks! Or we can just hang out if you want.”

She smiles and continues her meal after we exchange numbers.

I talk to Sugar any time we’re free in class, and it’s so much fun! She tells me about the creepy book she took out in homeroom and different tricks she uses with the tarot cards. I’m having so much fun, I don’t even notice that the day is over until we’re saying goodbye.

“See you tomorrow?” She asks, holding Candy in one hand and her cane in the other.

“Of course, you still gotta tell me what the High Priestess means after all! Bye Sugar!” I call out before running over to Stephen.

“You seem very happy today. Who was that girl you were talking to?” Stephen asks after I give him a hug.

“My new friend, Sugar! She’s really cool, she knows magic, and she’s like a living lie detector.” I began to ramble as I got inside the car.

“That’s very nice. Did you invite her to your Halloween party?”

I gasp when I heard that. I completely forgot about Halloween! “Oh no! I super messed up! Do you think Johnny will allow her over?”

“Now, now, you didn’t ‘super mess up’, as you put it. You can still invite her later after all. Johnny seems like a nice kid, so I’m sure he won’t mind.” He reassures, patting me on the head.

Stephen was always there for me when I needed him. I would have given him another hug as a thank you, but he was driving so I would just give him an extra big hug when we arrived home!

As I changed out of my clothes in my room, I wondered how I should ask Johnny. I didn’t want to bother him if he was busy, but I didn’t know how else to contact him except by phone.

God must have been on my side, because I suddenly heard my phone ring and saw the caller ID. It was Johnny!

I was excited to tell him about today and ask him all sorts of things. He couldn’t have possibly have had bigger news to talk about than what I did, right? Right!

Chapter Text

What...just happened?

My lips are tingling.

Gyro's talking again but I can't hear it.

And then he's gone.

My body works on autopilot, getting me back into my apartment and going to sleep while my mind tries to process the odd feeling bubbling in my chest.

I wake up Sunday morning with a start and one thought on my mind.

Gyro kissed me.

I was just teasing him the same way he always teases me.

And he kissed me.

And I liked it. I kissed him back, for Christ’s sake.

Those thoughts repeated in my head and I spent most of the day silently freaking out in my room.

Monday came and not much changed. I was able to function but I kept jumping up at every noise and constantly checking my phone. I don't know what I was expecting to hear but it didn't matter because no message ever came.

Then Tuesday came as it always unfortunately does. I finally felt calmed down enough to assess my situation.

Lucy was right. Or at least, somewhat. Gyro kissed me, that fact was undeniable. I didn't know what exactly was on his mind but the kiss was enough to prove that he liked me in some kind of sense.

I laid in my bed, trying to figure out what this meant. For us. For me.

I liked being kissed by Gyro. I wasn't a blushing maiden, hell, I've done much more than a simple kiss with plenty of people.

But this just felt...different. I could try and tell myself that it was because I haven't had anybody want me for a year. But that just seemed like a poor excuse.

It wasn't just the kiss either. The kiss just brought everything else about Gyro into focus. I liked being close to Gyro. It felt right  to have his arms around me or his hands on me. I couldn't stand being away from him for too long. Even today, I was still more annoyed by the fact that it was Tuesday than by his actions. I liked his dumb teeth and ridiculous beard. I was even starting to miss his awful puns.

I stared at my phone again hoping for some kind of message, but it was Tuesday so I knew not to get my hopes too high up.

He didn't contact me Sunday either, or even Monday. The thought occurred to me that maybe every day would be like this. I would be stuck waiting for a message that never came.

 

My heart quickens at the thought.

 

I didn't want Gyro to leave me alone. He meant too much to me now. My mind bitterly reminds me that him leaving was inevitable and it had warned me of this before.

I was an idiot for not listening to it before, but now there was nothing I could do. No matter what I told myself, I still felt like…this. I'd never felt something this strong before. Even with what happened all I wanted was to be able to talk to Gyro again and have him say something stupid and call me a weird pet name and hold me like he always does!


Lucy would probably say I was in love and I couldn't think of any argument against that. Fucking hell, I really couldn't.

Big surprise that I only figured out I was in love with Gyro after he was gone.

Wait. Lucy.

Maybe it wasn't over just yet. Lucy would know what to do. I couldn't think of anything better than wallowing in my own sadness but Lucy was good with these kind of things. It was better than nothing.

I turned on my phone and went to call her, only then noting the time. She should be out of school, right? If she wasn't, then I was back to square one. Luckily, I hear a voice on the other line.

"Hey Johnny! I was just about to call you." Lucy piped up, chipper as ever.

"What were you gonna call for?"

"You called me first, silly. I'll tell ya after you tell me what was so urgent that you didn't just send a text."

"It's long and...complicated. It'd be easier if we just got what you wanted to say out of the way first." It'd give me some time to think about what to say too.

"Well if you say so, but you gotta tell me everything then!" I made a noise of agreement, which Lucy took as enough to continue. "I made a friend in school today! Her name's Sugar and she's super cool. She's in all my classes and we even ate together!"

"Did you? I'm glad, and I'm sure Hot Pants will be happy to hear you're making friends with people your age, for once."

"She's not like the other kids in my school, she's really mature! She knows magic tricks too! You'll like her too, when you meet her."

"I'm sure I would. Maybe I can see her the next time I go with Hot Pants to pick you up."

"Well actually… I was wondering if she could come over to the Halloween party next week?" She asks so quickly I almost don't hear her.

"So that's what you're calling for? Of course you can bring your friend. Diego probably wouldn't care either."

There's a joyful giggle from the other end.


"Yay! Oh, I shouldn't have been so worried! After all you're bringing Gyro, too, so it's not like I'll be the only one with a guest."

At the mention of Gyro, I remember the reason I had called Lucy in the first place. "...About that, the reason I called you has to do with Gyro."

"Really, what happened? Did he finally confess his love?” She asked in a coy manner. I could see the smug grin from here.


"S-sort of." Suddenly all noise stopped on the other end and I worried that I had lost her. "Lucy you still ther-"

"What?! Johnny you have to tell me e-very-thing!!"

"I will, calm down! After you and Hot Pants left, we hung out for a while. And then we were talking for a bit before he had to go and I decided to mess with him for a bit, and he...kissed me." I had to quickly move the phone away from my ear to avoid the high pitched shriek Lucy let out like a train whistle.

"I was right! I told you!" Of course she would rub it in my face first. Despite how mature she could act, she still was a kid. "Did he use tongue?"

"Lucy!!" I shout at the question, feeling the blood rushing to my face. Who the hell asks that first?!

"Is that a yes? Wait,wait, wait... did he propose, too? When are you guys getting married? Can I be a bridesmaid? Are you going to move in with him at his apartment? Or are you going back to Kentucky with him? Oh no, you better send me postcards!"

I was incredibly thankful for my decision to call her on the bed because it gave me the opportunity to scream into my pillow. I was in no way prepared to deal with Lucy's barrage of embarrassing questions.

"Are you gonna adopt? How many kids are you thinking? Can I name on-"

"Lucy stop! It was just a kiss. I'm not answering any of those crazy questions."

"You're no fun! But wait, what do you mean 'just a kiss'? What happened after that?"

"Nothing. He said something and just left. I haven't heard from him since; that's why I'm calling you."

“Have you tried reaching out to him?”

“Well, no but-”

“No wonder you haven't heard anything! If you don't send him any messages, how is he supposed to know you're not mad at him or something?"

“Of course I'm not mad! Why the hell would I be mad at him for a kiss?"

"So you liked it then?" She asked smugly. She could barely suppress her giggles.

Hiding the way I felt wasn't going to get me anywhere. I took a deep breathe before speaking again. "Yes. I liked it a lot. I think I...have feelings for him. I want to talk to him again but I figured he'd call first. I've been freaking out since Sunday over this dumb guy."

Another ear piercing shriek. "Aw Johnny you sound so love struck! You two are gonna make an adorable couple." 

"So what do I do?" I ask ignoring my burning cheeks. 

“You should call him right now!”

“He's at work, I can't. Even if I could, I don't know what to say.”

Lucy sighed, like I was the kid here. “Just tell him how you feel. Speak from the heart and everything will work out!”

She's been watching too many romcoms. But fuck me if she didn't have a point. “If you say so.” I say feeling uneasy.

“Text him now and tell me everything that happens afterwards, ok?”

“Yeah, yeah... thanks, Lucy.” With that, I hang up and go back to staring at my messages.

How I feel, huh? There were too many things I was feeling; some I couldn't even place a reason for. It seemed like too much to just send in a text, so I just said the thing that was bothering me the most. 

[Its Tuesday again]

I sighed to myself and started to wonder how long it would be until I got a reply. If I got one that is. Suddenly, I hear a chime from my phone and jump up. 

[yeah it is]

Gyro responded? 

[I thought you were at work]

[I am. On lunch break] He sent an emoji of a hot dog at the end of his message which made me smile.

Now that I got a response, what was I supposed to do? There was no way I could just get out everything I was feeling through text, but I didn't want to just send him nothing.

[we should talk. In person] I quickly sent out before I could regret it.

[yeah you're right]

[is this Saturday good?]

[yeah I could meet up earlier if you like]

[no. I don't want to rush cause you have work the next day or cause you're tired]

[saturday it is then.] 

I toss my phone to the other side of the bed and scream into my pillow again. I felt so shaken. At least I got a date. Saturday. I just hoped it wouldn't be the last time I saw Gyro.


Did I say date? Oh god.

Chapter Text

Ow, fuck!

 

“Stop looking at that girl.” The voice is cold and unapologetic, despite the smack to the back of my head.

 

“What girl?! I've haven't been doing shit but walking with you!” And being dragged around the mall while Hot Pants searched for...whatever the hell she was looking for.

 

“The one that just walked by, dingus.” HP snapped at me. I actually wasn't even staring, but apparently the one I missed must have been worth looking at if she got HP so riled up.

 

“Hm? Sorry, didn't see her! But how about you point her out to me?” I grinned. Turning and scanning the area behind me, I set my sights for whoever it was that could have gotten Hot Pants so-

 

Fuck! She smacked the back of my head again!

 

“Try it again and I drag you home by your sack, Diego. Now help me find a store.” She snapped, leading me by the hand to wander around the mall, window shopping. The bane of my existence.

 

God I hate it when HP took the reins over parties. Which happened every single time, of course. So having to use my days off with her for shopping rather than just hanging out or being together was always oh so much fun.

 

Well, she said to consider this to be a ‘date’, though I still called bull on that.

 

“Why the hell are we even here for Halloween shit?” I whined. “For that sort of stuff, we oughta be at Party City or Spirit. Not here!”

 

I felt the hand around my own tighten, as if I had said something stupid. When really, for my money, I brought up something fairly reasonable.

 

“What, you didn’t know that Spirit opens up here when Halloween comes close?” HP sighed. I could see her eyes rolling up to God from here.

 

“Considering this is gonna be my first full year in the States…”

 

There’s a moment of silence. “...Right, sorry.”

 

I let out a smug little grin in response to  that, rubbing my thumb against the back of Hot Pants’s hand gently. “Make it up to me with those milkshakes.”

 

“It’s Starbucks. It’s not milkshakes, it’s coffee.”

 

“Don’t you bullshit me, HP. I know coffee, and that shit comes black or with some milk and sugar when you wanna take it easy! When you add whip cream or sweets to the shit, it becomes a milkshake! And their actual ‘coffee’ isn’t shit to begin with!”

 

HP scoffs from behind me. “Whatever, whatever, I’ll get you one from the stand.”

 

I grinned, marching happily towards hell.

 

***

 

“It’s snack shopping! Why have we been here for over an hour?!”

 

“Diego, don’t make a scene or else I’m gonna leave you here. Now I gotta check on the calories.”

 

I would bite at my sweater if my arms weren’t already occupied by two of the store’s snack filled baskets. And- yep- she’s adding more.

 

Kill me.

 

***

 

“Really? A nun?” How original of her.

 

As HP was going through the packaged costumes, she shot me a look. Suddenly, she grinned to hold  up a fucking good looking dinosaur costume.

 

I lunge to grab it, only for the woman to move it from my face at the last minute! I almost fell!

 

“Really? A dinosaur? That’s like, what everyone there is gonna be betting on you wearing.” HP’s voice was thick with sarcasm as she sneered.

 

I huffed and stood upright, snatching the suit from her hands. “I’m gonna be the cutest bitch there, so take that.” I grinned, leaning over to peck her one, which she thankfully returned.

 

 

“So…”

 

“Hm?”

 

“You’re gonna be a sexy nun, right?”

 

Smack

 

“Fu- I mean, it wouldn’t look bad on you at al-”

 

Bonk

 

“I don’t mean for  the party, either!”

 

Bink

 

“Wait, what do you mean?” HP asked right after the third hit to the  back of my head.

 

Rubbing the spot where I was hit, I look up to the high ceiling innocently, whistling out a little tune for an answer.

 

“You mean-”

 

Whistle.

 

“For after-”

 

Whistle.

 

Hot Pants grabbed the package holding the nun outfit, looming it over my head. Of course, being the curious soul I am, I tilt my head up to look at it and-

 

BapBapBap

 

My guess is that she said no.

 

***

“The fuck is an ‘expresso’?”

 

“Diego, I told you it’s-”

 

We’re near the front of the line of the Starbucks stand, looking up at the menu filled with cryptic and foreign words that I’m certain were only chosen to make it seem fancier.

 

“Or ‘grande’? What happened to ‘small, medium, and big’?”

 

“Would you just decide on what you want?”

 

“Ah...wait I told you already: the milkshake thing.”

 

“Ok, but what’s the name?”

 



The back of the line wasn’t happy with us for the next 5 minutes.

 

***

 

“Seriously, ‘black, with milk, half-and-half, decaf’, and some others that I’m forgetting. Point is: why does getting a cup of coffee require a foreign language course?!”

 

“Quiet and just drink your damned milkshake.”

 

I would have been pouty if I didn’t find the fact that HP surrendered to my vocabulary so funny.

 

 

We were standing by one of the railings of the upper floors that overlooked the one below. Or at least, HP was. I was sitting, leaning against the glass while HP stood besides me, elbows resting on the metal railing as she drank.

 

With our bags of costumes and party crap, I glanced at the floor below through the flat glass, making mental notes of whatever I found interesting with a straw in my mouth.

 

Girl, girl, weird dude, screaming kids, couple, guy in a wheelchair, tall guy, girl, gi-

 

Wait, I know that shitlen on the wheelchair.

 

Wait, I actually do know that little shitheel rolling himself around!

 

My face practically mushed against the glass screen, my eyes managed to catch sight of that bug, Johnny, glancing around. Finally, it looked like he found who or what he was looking for when some guy with long hair approached him.

 

Did I know the guy?

 

Gy-....Ji...ah, whatever the case, it looked like it  was pretty serious. Just from a glance at their body language, it was obvious that this was something over something pretty sensitive.

 

Wait, that’s the bloke that was over for the movie night! The one that stuck to Johnny like glue!

Jesus, and here they were together again? People were gonna get thoughts about the two of them if they kept doing that.

 

Either way, if I remember right, that tall bloke was also the guy HP’s been stressing over. Zeppelin, or something. All I knew was that he was some ‘sketchy influence’. If I were to tell her about this now...could be pretty funny, actually. Ruining their little get together, watching HP go run like a mad ox, myself rolling with laughter.

 

So very tempting.

 

But then again...if anything, I’d be dragged by the collar to keep close to HP as she charged, knowing her. Plus, it would be an immediate end to our date, that’s for damn sure.

 

...Fuck it, what business of it was mine? I have more important things on my mind.

 

Besides, if this guy really was a bad influence or whatever, and this blew up in Johnny’s face, that’s his mess. Just because he’s gloomy little shit won’t mean I’ll coddle him.

 

Almost done with the pseudo-coffee, I turn away from the scene, looking up at the ceiling  with a sigh. This seemed to catch HP’s- who I can see in my peripheral vision- attention, as she turned to look down at me.

 

As stoic and quiet as ever, she moved the elbow closest to me that was resting on the metal railing, reaching a hand down to idly pat me on the head.

 

Shit, it still worked as a weakness.

 

Instantly feeling better as slender digits ran along my scalp, I let out a different sigh, this one out of relief. We said nothing, just enjoying the first moment of peace we had all day. The only thing I did in response was touch the hand atop my head. Of course, not to stop its movements, but to just appreciate.

 

It was strong. She was strong.

 

But still soft to the touch.

 

Moments like this reminded me of that fact. And all I would always be filled with some strange feeling of gratitude.

 

I could almost nap like this, drowning out the buzzing noise of the passerbys.

 

 

“Is that Johnny and Zeppeli!?”


Can’t even let me relax for a minute, God?

Chapter Text

It was the first time I've ever dreaded a Saturday. I worked overtime yesterday just because I didn't want today to come. Not that it helped me in any way of prolonging the inevitable.

Which meant that I was exhausted as I got ready to meet up with Johnny.

This was my own fault, I knew that, but fuck I still didn't want to lose gattino. At least he was giving me the option to talk to him instead of just acting like I never existed. There had to be some way I could convince him not to throw me to the curb, but every argument I could come up with sounded stupid and desperate.

I looked up directions as I pinned my hair up. Not that I didn't know how to get to the mall but it gave me something to do instead of mentally screaming at myself.

"Why would he choose the mall anyways?" I mumble to Zitto who only stares in response as usual.

The mall was a very public place for a private conversation. Stellina even mentioned before that he doesn't like the mall. I can understand not wanting to meet up at my place, but I don't know why he wouldn't have suggested the park or something like that.

Mulling over it wasn't going to do me any good. With a wave goodbye to the Bears, I head out to Valkyrie and drive to the mall.

It was a small blessing that I didn't crash on the way there with how distracted I was.

The mall wasn't as crowded as I would have expected on a Saturday morning.

I could use a coffee. I think as I pass by a Starbucks. Though, the caffeine will only make me more anxious.

I could handle bloody injuries without so much as batting an eyelash. But getting dumped by someone who wasn't even my boyfriend was making me a shaky mess. I kept looking at my phone hoping the hospital would call me to work before I found Johnny.

I'm not so lucky.

I saw gattino before he noticed me. Christ, he was even cuter than I remember. Is it cause I haven't seen him in a while?

This could be the last time I see him. Might as well let myself take in the sight.

He looked even smaller in a crowd. He was messing with the hem of his sweater as he looked around with furrowed brows. His messy locks framed his face bringing attention to his eyes. And those lips. Cavolo, these kinds of thoughts are why I'm in this mess! Even when I knew the end was coming, I couldn't stop myself from wanting him. I really was screwed.

I took a deep breath and braced myself for the worst.

“Oh, hey.” Johnny says as he notices me coming closer.

“Hey…” Merde, this was so awkward.

“I thought you were gonna ditch me for a moment there.” I was considering it so he's not completely wrong.

“Are you hungry? The food courts not too far away.” I say trying to change the subject.

“No, I'd rather talk.”

“Figured you'd say that.” I mumble mostly to myself.

“Lets at least find somewhere to sit. We're in the way here.”

I nodded in agreement.

The walk was long and uncomfortably quiet. We find some benches to sit on thankfully. I make sure to sit as far away as I can. I still can't help glancing over to Johnny even in the thick silence. He's gone back to fidgeting with his sweater and I push down the urge to take his nervous hands in mine.

“I'm sorry. For Saturday.” I finally say looking up to avoid eye contact.

“Sorry?”

“Yeah… I shouldn't have done what I did.”

“Oh, that's how you feel about things.” Johnny said so low I almost didn't hear him. Merde, was he quiet because he was that mad at me? Should I have let him talk first?

“I fucked up. I realize that. I hope we can still be friends at least.” This argument was even worse than the ones I was coming up with this morning. No way was he going to listen.

“Friends...that's what you want. Of course, that makes sense. Don't know why I thought anything different.” Why is his voice trembling?

I finally look down at Johnny only to be greeted with a pained expression. Fuck, what was I saying wrong? I haven't seen Johnny like this since the first time I went to his place. That time was my fault too.

“H-hey, don't look so upset tesori-Johnny. I'll do what you want, really. If you want me gone, that's fine too.” That was one of the worst lies I could have thought of. Just the thought of never seeing Johnny again made me sick. But what else could I do? I didn't want him to look like that anymore.

“Why the hell would I want you gone?” Now he looked angry. Not what I wanted, but at least he didn't look hurt anymore.

“Because of what I did to you.”

“You make it sound like I'm a victim of a crime or something ridiculous. If you don't want to see me again just say that! Don't act like you're being nice when you're just looking for an excuse to leave.”

“That's not what I'm saying at all. I said I'll do what you want. Of course, I don't want to leave you. I kissed you for christ's sake!”

“You just said that you want to just be friends! Clearly, you kissing me before doesn't mean anything to you now.”

“I said that ‘cause I thought that's what you would want. Don't just make assumptions.”

“You fucking hypocrite. You shouldn't be assuming what I would want! How can you expect me not to make any assumptions when you're just spouting bullshit?”

“Don't get pissy with me, I'm trying to be nice!”

“Stop making excuses for yourself and giving me the fucking run around! What, you think everything will just fall in your lap if you try to just go with the flow?! If you want something, just go for it, even if it's me gone! Say what's on your mind or don't bother speaking at all!” Once Johnny finishes his rant, he turned, cheeks huffed as he avoided eye contact for the moment.

What a brat. Lecturing me when he's so much younger. Who cares if he had a point.

I stared at his back for what felt like an eternity. I didn't want to get into a fight with the kid. I really believed if I apologized that everything would go back to the way it was before. Seems I was too naive.

“Johnny, I-”

“Shut up.” He groans before digging his fingers into his arms in a self-hug.

I can't stand this anymore. I move closer and put my arms around him feeling him relax instantly.

Say what's on my mind, huh? Trying to avoid the subject was only hurting us both. Either way, I was going to lose the kid. Might as well go with no regrets.

“I don't want to leave, idiot. I kissed you because I've fallen for yo-.”

“Didn't I say to shut up!” Johnny suddenly shouts slapping my arms away and turning back to face me. “Don't bullshit me! You can't be in love with me because I'm...I have feelings for you.”

“Oh.” I said flatly.

“Yeah.” He replied calmly though his face was pink.

“Oh!” I repeated finally understanding what this meant. “We should date!”

“What? How do you jump to that?”

“It's a logical conclusion, I love you and-”

“Don't just say that so casually!” Johnny's cheeks get even redder as he protests.

“Nyoho, sorry tesorino.” I leaned in closer taking his face in my hands. “I love you.”

His flustered reaction was priceless. He pulls his head away from my hands in favor of burying his face in my chest.

“-date you.” I hear Johnny mumble underneath me.

“Hm? What was that, tesorino?”

“I said I want to date you.” Johnnys says picking his head up.

“That's great! Wow, we're dating. You agreed pretty quickly, tesorino.”

“What does that word even mean?”

“Tesorino? Well, since we're dating I guess I can tell you.” I take his hands in mine mostly for dramatic effect but also because I wanted to. “It means ‘little treasure’, my little treasure.”

“Oh.” And I thought his face couldn't get any redder. His blush only made his small smile stand out more. He was so cute I just had to kiss him.

I close the distance between us quickly. I forgot how good kissing him felt. And now I could do it whenever I liked. Johnny was mine to kiss and to hold and everything else. I broke away from the kiss to pepper small pecks along his jawline. His turtleneck was in the way of my intended path, so that had to be moved right out of the way. With a passionate tug, I indulged myself to the skin of his neck, enjoying the way his breath hitched when I found and relented on particularly sensitive areas. I couldn't believe life was so good to me.

“Mr. Zeppeli!” A very familiar voice called from behind me.

No, of course, life wasn't going to be that great to me. Of course.

“What the hell are you doing?!” The pink pit bull roared, looking more pissed than I'd ever seen her.

Not wanting to die just when I started dating Johnny, I pick him up and start running in the opposite direction.

I don't stop until I think I'm far enough away but even with this distance, I can still hear Hot Pants yelling.

“What was she doing here?!” I shout at Johnny.

“I don't know. She was here with Diego. I didn't invite them.”

“Cavolo, just when I was enjoying myself.” I groan looking around for someplace to set down Johnny.

“I can't believe you left my chair.”

“What? Oh, your chair. That uh was strategic, see she didn't chase after me ‘cause of it.”

“You forgot about it, didn't you?”

“I may have forgotten about it.”

Johnny sighs. “You know running away is only gonna make her more pissed, right?”

“Better than sticking around and waiting for her to make a noose again.”

“I probably could have calmed her down before that.”

“Bullshit.”

“So...what are we gonna do now?”

“Well, I can't leave you alone. I can't go back there either. So how about we head back to my plac-” I'm stopped by something hitting the back of my head.

“Don't bother finishing that sentence, Mr. Zeppeli.”

Fuck I didn't even hear her coming. I scramble to run again before I'm stopped by something else tossed at my back almost causing me to drop Johnny.

“Oi, I'm not target practice!” I whine finally turning to face Hot Pants.

Now I see that she was tossing empty cups at me.

“What the hell? Do I look like a garbage dump to you?”

“No, that'd be insulting to the trash.” Ouch.

She leans down to pick the cups off the floor and gives them to a pouty Diego.

“Hey Johnny, you still got something to calm her down?” I whisper to Johnny looking around for the closest exit.

“I mean I could try, but she's super pissed. You'll be fine for now. She can't hurt you if you're holding m-” He's cut off by none other than hot pants grabbing him off and dropping him back onto his chair.

“Oh shit.” Is the last thing I hear Johnny say before I get a fist to the face. It happens so fast I didn't have time to do anything but watch.

The hit disorients me enough that I don't hear what's said next. The next thing I know I'm sitting on the floor holding my bruised face with Johnny in front of me.

“-ting! So you can't try to murder him!” I hear Johnny shout when I finally come to.

“Cazzo, that hurt.” I groan. Great the last thing I wanted was a black eye.

Upon hearing me Johnny turns around. The poor kid looks so worried. I try to smile to calm him down but I only end up flinching at the pain it causes.

“How long has this been happening?” Hot Pants hissed, ignoring me for now.

“...a few minutes.”

“Lord save me.” Hot pants sighs rubbing at her temples.

“Look you already hit him. Can you let it go now?” Johnny begs.

“...Fine, but if he does anything to hurt you I won't let him off so easily.” She considered punching me letting me off easy?! This lady was crazy.

With a final glare in my direction, Hot Pants huffs and walks away with Diego in hand, who looks particularly smug.

“Are you alright?” Johnny asks softly.

“I could use some ice but I'm still alive. Thanks for saving my ass.”

“Don't mention it. Sorry, I didn't stop her before. I really didn't think she'd go that far.”

“It's fine. On the bright side, I could say I got this from something cool, like fighting a bear.”

“You wouldn't be that far off.” Johnny says with a genuine smile.

I get up from the floor still holding the side of my face with one hand.

“Let's go find somewhere that sells ice or something. I don't want this bruising up too bad.”

It took us almost 30 minutes of walking around to realize nobody was selling ice packs. Another 10 just to find somewhere we could get ice and a bag to make a makeshift pack. Once everything was together, we were sitting by the windows watching the people below as I tried to reduce the swelling on my cheek.

“Not even a day of dating you and I get disfigured. Just pretend I'm the Phantom of the Opera and only look at my right side from now on.” I joke.

Johnny smiles and leans in closer giving me a quick peck on my good side. “Alright, just don't expect me to start singing or something.”

“That makes me curious, nyoho. You hiding a great singing voice?”

Johnny scoffs. “Hell no.”

“Sounds like something someone with a great singing voice would say.”

“Shut up.” Johnny says with a roll of the eyes before leaning on my chest.

“You don't act like it at first, but you're really the cuddly type, eh?” I tease, hooking my free arm around his waist.

“Mhm. And you don't look like the type to run your mouth and yet here we are.”

“You like me running my mouth. You do love my jokes after all.” I point out, adjusting my ice pack to give my arm some relief.

“You got me there.” He deadpanned.

I smiled despite the pain. I never felt so lucky. Even with a bruised cheek and an aching arm, I felt great. It was worth it for this moment. Holding Johnny close and talking about stupid things as we watched the people below. Nothing could be better.

Johnny suddenly moves again in the middle of my sentence to kiss me. I move my free arm under his sweater and enjoy the soft feeling of his skin.

Well, I could think of one thing better as I deepened the kiss. But I’ll have to wait for that, nyoho.

Chapter Text

Halloween. A holiday I've known my whole life but barely celebrated. Not that no one celebrated in Kentucky, but my old man never cared to take me trick or treating and I only went a few times with Nicholas. My definition of ‘celebration’ during my jockey years was just boozing and getting laid. So there was nothing special about it to me besides the costumes.

 

Now... I was almost excited for that same holiday. It was always nice hanging out with Lucy. Plus, Gyro would be there…I guess it'll be our first holiday as a couple.

 

God, that was something I'd have to get used to. Although it didn't sound unpleasant.

 

I put on my costume- a cowboy outfit- while texting HP to see when she'd be here.

 

No reply. Odd.

 

Well, I wasn't gonna bother dwelling on it. I roll into the kitchen to fetch myself something to eat before everyone arrives.

 

“What are you supposed to be? A cowboy who got kicked by his horse? Or maybe you're one of those rodeo riders who got trampled by the bull.” Diego sneers from behind me.

 

“At least I'm not using the holiday as an excuse to be a scalie in public.” I reply giving his dinosaur costume a disgusted look.

 

“Fuck off, Hot Wheels. I look amazing in that and you're just jealous.”

 

“Don't you have a T-Rex to drool over, or something?”

 

Diego scoffs and rolls his eyes before grabbing a bagel, plopping onto the living room couch to eat. I finish getting myself some cereal when I hear a click from the front door.

 

I couldn't see who it was that came in, but a call from Diego let me know who it was right away.

 

“HP? What are you doing here so early?” Diego asked, mouth full of chewed up bread.

 

“Came early to help you guys with the decor.” She explains, coming inside the living room while carrying two heavy looking bags.  “G’Morning, Johnny.”

 

“Hey. Where's the girls?” I nodded, glancing behind HP.

 

“They're coming later. Stephen’s dropping them off. Oi, Diego, help me with this.” Hot Pants ordered, putting one of the bags on Diego’s lap.

 

“Tch. Why do I have to do it? Johnny’s just lazing about. Make him do it!”

 

“Johnny will help me later. Wait a minute, don't argue with me, Diego! Look, I'd like to have this done before the girls come, so move your ass before I turn you into a decoration.”

 

Damn, it was always funny to watch HP whip Diego into shape. Although I guess that the bum probably noticed my amusement by the death glare he gave me.

 

“You know, you didn't have to get decorations for us.” I mentioned to HP.

 

“Don't worry about it. I wanted to.”

 

“Oh no, I meant the girls aren't going to be here long since we're going trick or treating.” I reminded, thinking that she forgot.

 

“Hm? Aren't you aware of the plan? I told Diego to tell you.” She sighs. Big mistake on her part. “The girls are going to come here, get ready, then go trick or treating with us for a while, then come back here for the rest of the night.”

 

“Oh. So we're all going to go trick or treating?”

 

“Yep. You, Diego, and I will go with the girls so you don't have to be the only one looking after them.”

 

“Aren't you forgetting someone?” Looks like she was still mad at Gyro if she wasn't even bothering mentioning him. That could be a problem.

 

“No, of course not. Who else could there be? Now come over here and help me with this, please.” She says, waving a smaller bag of decorations in my direction.

 

With the three of us we working together, we ended up finishing quickly. It would have given us time to rest if Diego wasn't involved.

 

“Stop that.” Hot Pants warns Diego, who keeps tugging at her nun costume. Jesus, He's like a needy pup. At least a dog is lovable. I don't know how HP can stand dating him.

 

“Come on, we're done with the boring stuff. Let's ditch Roosevelt. My coworkers are throwing a party. We can be gone and back before the girls get here.”

 

“Why would we even go to that? Just relax for a min-”

 

The buzzer interrupts her.

 

“The girls are here already? I told Stephen to bring them later. Whatever, I'll go get them.”

 

“No, I've got it. It'll give me a break from Mr. Jurrasic over here.” I offered, leaving the room and heading downstairs.

 

Once I'm in the lobby, I can see it's wasn't the girls who were ringing our bell. It took me a minute to realize who I'm looking at because he's wearing a mask, but his goofy wave gives it away in a second.

 

“Gyro!” I shout, acting way more excited than I meant to as I open the door.

 

“Ciao tesorino! Did I scare ya, nyoho?” Gyro chuckled, entering the apartment and taking off his hood. His eye is still bruised but it looks better after a week.

 

“Uh, yeah, terrified. Why are you here so early?” I asked quickly as we enter the elevator.

 

“‘Cause I wanted to see you, of course.” He chuckled, flicking my hat up. He waits until we’ve exited the elevator to continue. “I figured we could get some alone time before the rest of the gang came over.”

 

“Yeah, about that…” I mentioned quietly as I opened the door. “Hot Pants is… kinda, already here.”

 

Gyro flinches just at the sound of her name and mumbles something in Italian.

 

“Welcome ba- oh.” Hot Pants started off in a light tone before a cold voice cut in when Gyro stepped in.

 

Diego is smiling wide once he notices Gyro. The sadistic shit laughed when Gyro got punched before. So he's probably hoping for the same thing to happen.

 

“You're early, Zeppeli.” Hot Pants spat with an icy glare.

 

“So are you.” Gyro replies with a shrug.

 

The tension was so thick I thought I may start choking.

 

“Gyro, come on.” I whined, tugging on his hand to try and distract him before another fight broke out. Christ, is this what it's like dealing with Diego and I all the time? I'd have to give HP a big thank you later. That is, if they could avoid a fight today of all days.

 

“Where are you two going?” Hot Pants asked sharply, now sharing that cold glare with me.

 

“...My room?”

 

“Absolutely not!” She barked.

 

“Well, I'm not going to keep him out here if you're going to fight.” I countered.

 

“Nobody's fighting. I was simply making a statement. However, I'm not going to allow him to be alone with you in your room.”

 

“Then we'll stay here.” I huffed, moving myself onto the couch. Gyro took the seat right next to me, as expected.

 

“As long as I can keep an eye on him.” Hot Pants sighs.

 

I can hear Gyro scoff beside me before I turned my head to face him

 

“Do they celebrate Halloween where you're from?” I asked, leaning closer to block his view of HP.

 

“Ah, sorta. Most places are starting to now, but it's mostly an American thing. Although, we do celebrate All Souls Day which Americans don't, weirdly enough.”

 

“What's that?”

 

“It's on November 2nd. It's like, well, a festival for the dead. You usually go visit the family graves after the big mass and leave flowers for the souls who passed away. Some places leave food too. It's fun, though, and there's a ton of good food to eat.”

 

“Sounds familiar.” I couldn’t help but murmur.

 

“Other countries probably celebrate something close to it. Though in Roma, couples announce their engagement, which is something I'm sure no one else does.”

 

“Isn't it a day for the dead? Not exactly the most romantic holiday to do that.”

 

“That's what I said!” He laughs.

 

I hear chatter behind me and turn to see Hot Pants and Diego are absorbed in their own conversation. Good, now there shouldn't be any fighting. Wishful thinking on my part.

 

“What are you supposed to be, anyways?” I asked, turning back to Gyro and poking at his costume.

 

“An executioner!” He replies with a goofy smile before putting his hood back on. “My family used to be executioners, actually.”

 

I rolled my eyes at that and scoffed. “Don't lie, Gyro. You're not gonna scare me.”

 

“Hey, I'm telling the truth!” He whines. poking at my side. He’s silent for a moment before continuing, barely loud enough to hear. “We still are, in a way.”

 

“What?”

 

“Hm? Sorry, this thing must distort my voice! I didn't say anything.” An obvious excuse. Damn it all- we’re dating and he's still being quiet about himself. “Your outfit’s cute by the way. You're a, uh, ‘cowboy’, right?”

 

“Yeah. I only bought the hat, though. The rest is my old clothes.” I answered casually, deciding not to pry.

 

“You still look the part. Quite nicely, too!” He pulled his hood back off with a smirk. “As a matter of fact, all you're missing is a horse! I'd be happy to help you with that, nyoho.”

 

“No, I've already got horses…although they’re too far away to use now.” That reminded me of Slow Dancer. It's been too long since I've seen any of the horses upstate or even the ones back in Kentucky.

 

“What? I knew you said you liked horses, but I didn't know you had any.”

 

“Yeah, of course. My family has a couple for racing.”

 

“Have you raced?”

 

“I was a jockey, Gyro. That's like asking a fisherman if they've fished. Hell, I've raced for most of my life.”

 

“...You never told me that.” He replied sheepishly.

 

“You never asked.” Speaking of needy dogs...

 

God, riding used to be my whole world. It almost felt crazy that Gyro didn't know that before. He barely knew me, once I really thought about it. And I barely know him. We’re dating. He said he loved me, but what if he's only in love with what he perceives me to be? When he learns about me, is he going to leave?

 

An awkward silence came between us as I got wrapped up in my own thoughts.

 

Luckily, another sound from the buzzer brought me back to reality.

 

“I'll get it!” I shouted hurriedly, getting up before anyone could protest.

 

I was more than relieved to see Lucy, waiting outside the lobby with Stephen and another girl beside her.

 

“Thanks for dropping them off, Stephen.” I say as I open the door letting the girls inside.

 

“It's no problem at all, Johnny. Now then, Lucy, remember to call me as soon as you and your friend are ready to come home, alright?”

 

“Of course we will! Now have fun at home. Love you!” Lucy replies waving goodbye.

 

“Your guardian is very kind.” The girl beside her commented.

 

“Yeah, Stephen’s the best! Oh, Sugar, this is Johnny! Johnny, this is Sugar: my friend from school.”

 

Sugar moves a bit and I noticed the cane in her hand. She taps it on my chair and gives a mild look of surprise.

 

“Lucy's told me a lot about you.” I mentioned gently.

 

“Likewise. Is your boyfriend here yet?”

 

“What? Lucy, how did you hear about that?”

 

“Oh my god, you two are dating?! You never told me!” I heard Lucy squeal.

 

“B-but Sugar just called him my boyfriend and-” Shit, I gave myself away again.

 

“‘Cause I told her how in love you two are! I didn't know you were actually dating, though. How could you not say anything to me?! After I helped you out, too!” She pouted, huffing her cheeks like balloons.

 

“I didn't say anything ‘cause I knew you'd start going on about it... like you are now.”

 

“Obviously, I’d react to it! Oh, Johnny, nevermind all that, I'm so happy for you! It must be great dating when you love him so much, right?”

 

“It's alright.” I sighed, trying to escape to the elevator before Sugar’s cane hits my chair. I stopped, turning my head to see what she wanted.

 

“That's a lie.” Sugar blurted out suddenly.

 

“Ohhh, Johnny's lying about his feelings! Come on, tell us the truth.”

 

“What the hell? I'm not lying!” I cried out.

 

“Another lie.” Sugar stated like it was simple fact, never missing a beat.

 

“Why does she keep saying that?” I cried out to Lucy. Already I had issues with this new girl.

 

“Sugar’s like a human lie detector! Ain’t it great? She can do magic, too, but first let's hear the truth.”

 

“Ugh, j...just let me go upstairs.” I felt exhausted.

 

“Not until you tell the truth!” Sugars hummed, poking her cane at my wheels.

 

“Lord save me- fine! It's great! I'm happy! Now let's go.”

 

“Another lie? How curious.” She was acting like I was an open book, which really wasn’t helping my mood.

 

“What, really? Why aren't you happy, Johnny? Did something happen?” Lucy asked with a shocked gasp.

 

“I never said I wasn't happy. Nothing happened.”

 

“Lie.”

 

“Does she have to do that every time?” I ask, aggravated with her friend for being able to read me so easily.

 

“As long as you keep lying? Yes.” Lucy replied with another pout.

 

There really was no way out of this, huh?

 

“I got upset when I was talking to him, ok?”

 

“Why?”

 

“I realized something. Now I'm sure he's going to leave me soon. Happy?”

 

Sugar suddenly puts a piece of candy on my hand.

 

“A reward, for telling the truth.” She explains with a small smile. As if she finds this funny.

 

“Johnny…” Lucy murmured, either ignoring her friend or not seeing a problem with her behavior.

 

“Let's go.” I sighed, finally entering the elevator.

 

The ride up is silent, thankfully, though I can feel Lucy's eyes on me the whole time. And that feeling didn’t go away when we got to the door of my apartment.

 

“The girls are here, good.” Hot Pants commented when she notices I've returned with the other two trailing behind me.

 

Sugar and Lucy's taunting got to me and I don't feel like sitting near Gyro anymore, so I headed right into the kitchen to fetch something to drink instead. I toss the candy on the counter when I'm inside.

 

“Hey HP! Sugar, just introduce yourself. I gotta do something real quick.” Lucy mentioned quickly before following me into the kitchen. Oh great. “You need someone to talk to?”

 

“I'm fine, Lucy. I'll get over it soon enough. Don't let me ruin your party.”

 

“But Johnny, I want you to have fun, too.”

 

“I will, I'm just getting something to drink. Go hang with your friend.”

 

She nods solemnly and heads back to the living room.

 

“Sorry, to keep you guys waiting. Did you meet everyone Sugar?”

 

“Uh-huh. Diego, Hot Pants, and Johnny’s boyfriend, well for now.” What the hell?

 

I turn around to see Hot Pants glaring at Gyro again. Gyro, on the other hand, looks baffled. If my mood was a bit better, I’d call it funny.

 

“I never said that.” Gyro says, giving Sugar a skeptical look.

 

“Well, it was clear to see. Diego and Hot Pants are close to each other and you're all the way here by yourself. Plus, Johnny stopped closest to you before retreating into the other room.”

 

There’s a moment of silence following Sugar’s annoyingly accurate observation before Gyro finally spoke up.

 

“Lucy must have told you. It's not good for little girls to lie, you know.” Gyro says with a roll of his eyes.

 

The corner of Sugar’s lips rose at that comment. “I never lie. Though your boyfriend is quite the liar, so you must be used to that.”

 

“Sugar!” Lucy interrupts. Suddenly, she’s looking around back and forth, flushed with embarrassment. “Uh, we're gonna go get changed in the bathroom!” She drags Sugar with her to the hallway and I lose sight of them shortly after.

 

As soon as I look back, I see Gyro’s eyes are on me. I pretend not to notice and go back to getting a drink. Fucking hell, why did Lucy have to get such a troublesome friend?

 

I grab myself a water bottle and resume my previous position on the couch.

 

“What was Sugar talking about?” Gyro asked.

 

“Don't know.” I lied, taking a large sip of my water.

 

“Is everything alright?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Did I do something?”

 

“‘Course not.”

 

The girls thankfully come back. Lucy's in a little devil costume while Sugar’s in a tattered witch outfit.

 

“Did your costume rip in the car?” I ask Sugar.

 

“Nope. It's supposed to be like this. I'm a witch who escaped one of the Salem Witch Trials.” Uh...

 

“She even has ashes but we couldn't figure out how to keep it on the costume.” Lucy replies as chipper as ever.

 

“Lucy, are you wearing a demon’s outfit?” Hot Pants says looking distressed.

 

“Yeah, I'm a little devil!”

 

“That's not acceptable at all. It's a good thing I had the foresight to get you a proper costume.” She says picking up a small bag that was in one of the larger ones.

 

“W-what? But I like this costume.”

 

“You shouldn't pretend to be the devil. Come now, I got you the perfect thing.”

 

“B-but-!” Is the last thing I hear while Lucy is dragged off by Hot Pants. Thankfully it wasn’t by the ear this time.

 

“Looks like the pitbull claimed another victim.” Gyro laughs.

 

“Pitbull is an interesting nickname. Hey, have you ever had your palm read?” Sugar asks poking her cane at Gyro’s leg.

 

“Uh, no, I don't believe in that.”

 

“Most don't. Until I've done it, of course.” She smiles and sticks her hand out. “Why don't you give it a try?”

 

“No way, kid. Wait until Hot Pants comes back or go bother Diego if you're bored.”

 

“Ah, you're upset ‘cause of what I said. Well, I can explain exactly what I meant if you give me a shot.”

 

“No thanks. I don't care about what you said.”

 

“Lie.” She says with a grin. Shit, she's starting up with this again?

 

“Excuse you?” Gyro asks through clenched teeth.

 

“Fine, if you're gonna be stubborn I'll give you a bit. Johnny’s hiding stuff from you.”

 

“H-hey! Don't talk about me like I'm not here!”

 

Gyro surprises me by placing his hand in Sugar’s. It was almost insultingly fast, considering the bait she cast. “Make it quick. I'm still not going to believe in any bullshit fortune-telling. Then afterward, leave me and my boyfriend alone.”

 

Sugar smiles and runs a hand on Gyro’s palm. Within a few moments, she’s listing different traits like a grocery store list, running the tips of her fingers along Gyro’s open palm.

 

“Hm... your children lines are barely there; you don't like kids and don't want any. You have a long life line. Lots of people depend on you. You have a calm personality. Well, on the outside, at least. Your travel lines are long. You've traveled around a lot. Probably running from something or maybe someone. Your hand’s rough. You keep a lot a secrets. Don’t want to let anyone in? Your heart line’s wavy; you have lots of relationships but have never gotten very serious with them. As a matter of fact, most of your relationships have ended badly, if not all. Poor Johnny.”

 

Gyro takes his hand back, openly glaring at Sugar who only smiles back.

 

“How'd I do?”

 

“Didn't believe you for a second.”

 

“Lie. But as promised I'll tell you the rest about dear Johnny.”

 

“I don't want to hear it, brat. Go play with someone else before I lose my temper.”

 

“Truth? How shocking. Here's a reward.” She tosses a candy at Gyros lap before walking away to the hall.

 

“Cavolo, I hate nosy kids.” Gyro groans rubbing his hands. He looks at the candy in disgust before tossing it into one of the candy dishes on the table.

 

I take Gyro’s hand in mine. He looks at me and I wish I had prepared something to say, but I can't figure out the right words. I lock our fingers together instead and hope he understands my meaning. I don't have time to find out before Hot Pants comes back in with Lucy.

 

“There, now we can go trick or treating.” Hot Pants says beaming at a miserable looking Lucy.

 

“Madonna? You had her change into Beata Vergine Maria?” Gyro says not even bothering to hide his shock.

 

“Sì, it is better than dressing as il Diavolo.”

 

“Parli Italiano?” Gyro asks nervously.

 

“Sì, correntemente, Signore Zeppeli.”

 

Though I don't understand the conversation Gyro’s look is enough to tell me that it's not pleasant.

 

I had to save Lucy from walking around like that and Gyro from getting hit again. Suddenly an idea came to me.

 

“I'll go trick or treating with the girls. By myself.” I offer hoping HP would take the bait.

 

“What? I can't have you dealing with them alone.” Hot Pants replies quickly.

 

“Then I'll bring Gyro.”

 

“I already stated how I don't want you to be alone with that delinquent.”

 

“You won't have to worry about it. If Gyro does anything wrong the girls will report it immediately.”

 

“Lucy likes him for whatever reason. I know she'd lie for you.”

 

“But sugar won't. She said it herself she doesn't lie.”

 

Sugar gives a smile catching on to my game. She really has a mischievous heart. Instead of fighting it I can use it to my advantage.

 

“You and Diego can rest while we're away.” Sugar joins in. “I promise if they try sneaking around your rules, I'll report them in.”

 

“Yes! And we can go to the party while they're gone.” Diego grins.

 

Hot Pants gives us all a long glare before sighing. “Fine I'll let you go, but only for 3 hours then it's straight back here.”

 

“Thanks HP.” I say moving back into my chair and rolling over to Lucy. “And you're welcome.” I whisper.

 

“You're the best, Johnny.” Lucy whispers back.

 

Within 10 minutes Hot Pants and Diego get ready and leave with a wave, well and a glare in Hot Pants case.

 

“Alright, Lucy go change quickly and we'll go.” I say grabbing the girls trick or treating bags off the table.

 

Lucy nods and rushes back into the bathroom.

 

“You're really a little rebel, eh?” Gyro chuckles.

 

“Mhm, it's why I've gotten into so much trouble over the years.”

 

“That and the self-hatred.” Sugar whistles. Hopefully, Lucy would deal with her while we were out.

 

“She's really getting on my nerves.” Gyro grumbles.

 

“People usually get upset when they hear the truth.” Sugar replies poking her cane at the couch.

 

“Don't let her rile you up. She's just a kid after all.” I say ignoring sugars words.

 

“Kid or not she's still purposely messing with us.”

 

Luckily Lucy comes back in her devil outfit and doesn't seem to notice the heavy atmosphere.

 

“Let's go get candy!” Lucy exclaims grabbing her trick or treating bag and heading outside.

 

We have to walk slowly because of Sugar and myself but the girls look like they're having fun.

 

“Hey get me a piece too!” Gyro calls after Lucy as she runs up to another house.

 

“No way! Get your own!” Lucy yells back sticking her tongue out at Gyro and nearly bumping into another kid.

 

“There's candy at home.” I say to Gyro who’s probably pouting underneath his mask.

 

“I know but she could share. I mean we're the ones doing all the heavy lifting here. We deserve a reward.”

 

“You'll get a reward when we go back to the apartment.”

 

“Really? I thought you were still mad at me. Or are you just flirty when the guard dog isn't around, nyoho?”

 

“What? I meant the candy. Oh my god, did you think I was offering myself as a reward?”

 

“You're sweet like it.” Gyro replies taking off his hood. I'm about to ask him what he's doing before he leans down and kisses me.

 

“I wonder how Hot Pants would feel about you kissing.” Sugar says walking back from the house.

 

“You’re blind. For all you know I was just looking real close at him.” Gyro says glaring at her the whole time.

 

“I can't see it clearly but it's obvious what you did just by your reaction. I'm surprised you can still kiss him knowing what he's like, Johnny.”

 

“The next house to the right is handing out a lot of small candies. Make sure to get one for Hot Pants, okay?” I reply.

 

She looks surprised before shrugging and making her way to the other house. Lucy notices her and quickly races to follow.

 

“How are you managing to stay so calm? Don’t her words get you pissed off too?”

 

“They do bother me, but there's no use in giving her the reaction she wants.”

 

“…Johnny, maybe we should talk.” I felt my heartbeat quicken and started to move to follow the girls. Gyro grabs onto my chair, however, stopping me from going anywhere. “Relax, I'm not breaking up with you or anything crazy like that.”

 

I stay quiet, trying to convince myself to believe him. With a sharp inhale and exhale, I look up at Gyro. “So what do you want to talk about, then?”

 

“Something I did bothered you, right? Don't say otherwise, because you've been acting weird since. As much as it pisses me off to admit, Sugar’s right. I'm not very good with serious relationships, but I don't want to fuck up with you. At least give me a hint.”

 

I look up at Gyro in silence for what was probably a solid half minute. That being said, it felt more like a damned hour. I felt the back of my teeth clench together as I searched for the right words. Something short, too, or else I was afraid that I'd start rambling. Fuck, even my palms were getting sweaty.

 

But no matter how nervous I got, I didn't break eye contact. And the more I found myself looking right into Gyro, the more I wanted to speak out. Breathe in and out, Johnny. And then...

 

“You don't know a lot about me.” Hopefully that was enough.

 

“I know that. I've tried to learn more, but in case you haven't realized, you're pretty stubborn.”

 

“I could say the same thing about you. You keep brushing off anything personal.”

 

“I'm not that interesting of a guy.”

 

“So why do you keep hiding?”

 

“It's easier like that.”

 

“What is?”

 

“Life.”

 

Lucy comes running back towards us ignoring the atmosphere once again.

 

“Mr. Gyro! Put your costume back on. I got your candy so you gotta at least pretend to be like a trick or treater.”

 

Gyro puts his hood back on and sticks his palm out for the candy.

 

Lucy giggles and places black licorice on his hand. She really is playing the part of a little devil.

 

Gyro doesn't understand the trick and lifts his hood enough to eat the candy before making a gagging sound. “What the hell is this? It's horrible.”

 

“You got tricked!” Lucy laughs and runs off in the opposite direction when Gyro moves like he's going to chase her down.

 

“Kids. I don't know how you put up with it, tesorino.”

 

“She can be fun. I thought you said you had siblings so surely you must be used to it.”

 

Gyro stays quiet. I guess even that is too personal for him. Fucking hell, I shouldn't have bothered saying anything.

 

I start to move to go get Sugar when Gyro suddenly spoke up again.

 

“I know, Johnny. I do know what that feels like and I was able to get used to it at certain times.”

I turned to show that I was giving Gyro my undivided attention. Anything to help him to keep on talking.

 

“But...dammit. I guess I never felt like a big brother to them. I was raised separately for most of my life since I’m eldest. I felt more like an uncle or cousin to them than a brother.”

I guess it was pretty personal, but I was glad that I was able to get Gyro to open up, even if just a little. Still, that was pretty heavy and I needed a moment to think before I could even respond. But before I can say anything, he walks away to go get Sugar himself.

 

I watched Gyro quickly walk away, thinking about what just happened again and what it meant.

 

He actually said something for once and it was a lot. Was Gyro starting to feel comfortable enough to show a bit about himself? Or maybe he was doing it just because he thought I was upset with him. Either way, I was happy with what I got. Maybe I judged him too quickly.

 

“Where's Lucy?” Sugar asks looking distressed for the first time.

 

“Gyro scared her away. She'll be back soon.”

 

“She only ran a bit I thought she'd be back by now.” Gyro says looking around.

 

“Okay. Can we stay here until then?”

 

“Don't you want to go check the other houses for candy?”

 

She shakes her head. “Not without Lucy.”

 

“Not without me what?” Lucy asks waltzing back next to sugar.

 

“Where'd you run off to?” Gyro asks.

 

“Sorry, I went a bit ahead. I saw this big house that was giving out lots of big candy so I ran over to get some. Here.” Lucy says taking sugars bag and dumps the candy in it.

 

“What are you doing that for?” Sugar asks in disbelief.

 

“The house had lots of steps. So I went over to get it for you since I know steps give you trouble. I mean I could have carried you but you were too far away.” Lucy says with a smile.

 

“You would have broken your back if you tried carrying me.” Sugar says though she's smiling.

 

“No way! I'm getting big and strong like Hot Pants.” Lucy flexes as if to prove her point.

 

Sugar touches her arm and ‘oohs’ before they both break out into giggles.

 

Seems even the little devil has a soft side.

 

“Come on guys. We gotta cover as much ground as possible before Hp comes back.” I say.

 

“Yessiree!” Lucy laughs before grabbing Sugar’s hand and walking forward.

 

Gyro leans down to give me another peck before following.

 

I can't help but feel lucky.

 

***

 

“I don't want to move anymore!” Lucy whines wiggling on the couch.

 

“You have to. If Hot Pants sees you in that we're all getting buried alive.” I sigh.

 

We walked as far as we could and visited every house along the way. It was fun but it left the girls and Gyro completely exhausted. Lucy spent most of the walk back crying about how sore her feet were. When we came back Gyro collapsed on the armchair and sugar and Lucy laid on the couch complaining about their legs.

 

“My feet have blisters!” Lucy cries.

 

“No, they don't. Blisters are visible.” Gyro mumbles making Lucy jump since it's the first time he's spoken since we entered the apartment.

 

“Just go quickly and then you can spend the rest of the night on the couch with Sugar.”

 

Lucy groans but finally gets up and makes her way to the bathroom complaining the whole time.

 

Sugar starts rummaging through her candy bag picking things at random and placing them on the table.

 

“What are you doing?” I ask.

 

“I can't see the labels very well. So I'm going to ask Lucy what each candy is. Then I'll give her the ones she likes.”

 

“I can help you with that.”

 

“You don't want to.”

 

“True, but it'll be easier than watching you make a mess of my table.”

 

She smiles and we start organizing the candy into piles until Lucy comes back.

 

“Oh, are we trading candy?” Lucy exclaims back to her normal attitude and looking at the candy on the table.

 

“Yep. I need to finish putting it into piles first.”

 

“I can help with that!” Lucy giggles and grabs the bag, picking out random candies and goes on to explain what they are before putting them in their respective piles. The girls seemed to be enjoying themselves so I left them alone for now, wheeling back to Gyro.

 

“Hey, tesorino. I remember you promising a reward for my good behavior, nyoho.”

 

I squint and gave out a little pout at the mention of that before sighing, turning my chair around. “Follow me, then.” I say rolling over to my room. I turn to see Gyro scrambling to get out of the chair and try to hide my smirk. Like a dog.

 

We eventually make it to my room, where I opened the door for Gyro as he followed closely behind.

 

“Your room’s a lot neater than I expected.” Gyro says as he walks in, closing the door behind him.

 

“Laundry day just passed.” I explained, climbing onto my bed.

 

Gyro looks around before he noticed my current position and climbs on the bed next to me.

 

“You're such a little daredevil.”

 

“Adrenaline keeps the blood pumping.” I go in for a kiss and get a sudden surprise when Gyro moves back. “What's wrong? We were kissing outside.”

 

Gyro pouted, rubbing the back of his head. “I know, it's not you. It's just- well- we're in your place and the pink menace could come in at any time.”

 

“So?”

 

“Last time I kissed you in her presence I got this.” He points at his bruise. “You can't blame me for being paranoid.”

 

Shit, I guess he had a point.

 

“I guess not...but if you weren't going to kiss me, then what were you planning?”

 

I noted a faint tinge of color on his cheeks as he told me. “I was just going to hold you.”

 

Hm, was that all? Well, I couldn't help but smile at the expression on his face, but I forced my mouth back into a neutral expression right after. “That's fine with me, I suppose.” I hummed, moving closer and letting Gyro move his hands around me.

 

Another moment of silence as our bodies got comfortable against each other. At first, I could feel Gyro’s racing heartbeat, even as I was leaning against him with my back. But as the seconds went on, it eventually calmed down to a steady rate, as well as the guy’s breathing.

 

“Are you still mad?” I heard him ask quietly.

 

“No, don't worry. But you could always ask Sugar if you think I'm lying.”

 

“No need, I believe you.” He responded quickly, probably dreading having to talk to her again.

 

“I'm the youngest in my family, you know. Only have an older brother. So I can't really relate to your upbringing but I appreciate you saying something.”

 

“You gotta tell me stuff too.” Gyro huffed.

 

I couldn't help but grin as I turned my head toward him a bit. “But I just did.”

 

“Oh right. Shit.”

 

I moved as close as I could enjoy the steady rhythm of his heartbeat. “Well, I guess I could give you a freebie. So ask whatever you’d like. Just don't blame me when you get sick of my sob stories and head for the hills.”

 

“You'd have to try harder than that to get me to go.” Gyro grinned, running a hand through my hair.

 

I would have loved to have just stayed like that for the rest of the night but God wasn't quite done messing with me.

 

“Zeppeli, I'd recommend you leave the room.” I hear Hot Pants growl behind me. Damn, I didn't even hear the door open.

 

“Are you kidding me? I wasn't even doing anything this time.”

 

“Truth, surprisingly. Here's a reward.” Sugar sing songs before tossing a candy onto the bed.

 

I move off Gyro and look over to my door to see Hot Pants, Lucy, and Sugar crammed in the doorway. Lucy gives me a wink and a thumbs up.

 

“Out. Both of you.” Hot pants warns before turning quickly and walking off. Lucy and Sugar follow behind. Diego finally shows himself as he rolls his eyes and goes into his room to feed his lizard.

 

“You heard the lady.” Gyro says with a smirk. I don't bother questioning him knowing I'll find out what he's planning soon enough.

 

“Really?” Hot Pants says as Gyro enters the room with me in his arms.

 

“You didn't say how we should leave.”

 

“Drop him Zeppeli.”

 

“Fine.” Gyro grumbles and places me in the armchair.

 

“I need to speak with you.”

 

“Planning on crushing my hand again?”

 

“Only if you don't come along.” Hot Pants snaps before moving into the hallway.

 

Gyro crosses himself and follows.

 

Gyro really wasn't doing anything this time. I have to make sure another fight doesn't break out. But my chair’s still in my room. I thank god that the armchair is close to the hallway and drop off moving as close as I can to hear them.

 

“Why are we sneaking?” Lucy whispers behind me making me jump.

 

“Christ Lucy. Warn me before you do that. I'm trying to listen in on the conversation to prevent a fight. Go back to sitting with Sug-Why are both of you here?”

 

“We want to know why you're sneaking.” Sugar replies sitting on the floor next to Lucy.

 

“I just said why. Now go away.”

 

“I can hear them talking.” Lucy whispers, ignoring me and trying to lean in closer to hear.

 

“Shhh. You don't have to leave, but if you blow my cover I'm going to be pissed.” I warn before leaning in to hear the conversation.

 

“-not going to hang you Mr. Zeppeli.” Hot Pants sighs. “I have no time for your wiseass remarks.”

 

“Then cut to the chase. You pull me over and start talking about how you and Johnny met and then everything sugar ‘reported’ me doing. I don't see where it's going.”

 

“Let me finish you impatient Neanderthal. Sugar told me you two were kissing but she said that's all you did to him. Which means you didn't break any rules yet. Johnny is a good friend. Naturally, I'm trying to protect him from you assaulting him again. I don't know what he sees in you. Personally, I can't stand you.”

 

“Really? And I thought we were becoming such great friends.”

 

“What did I say about the commentary?” She gives a heavy sigh before continuing. “I don't like you, but Johnny does. He's been happier with you than I've ever seen him. I would have wished he had better taste but there's nothing I can do about it now.”

 

“Are you…giving me your blessing?”

 

“Don't get too carried away. I'm saying while I don't approve of you I want Johnny to be happy. So I'm willing to put our differences aside for him.”

 

“So I can hold him without you yelling?”

 

“…Yes.”

 

“No more curfew?”

 

“Yes.” She groans.

 

“Can he come over to my place without you killing me?”

 

“Yes, though I still don't like the idea of him alone with you.”

 

“How about kissing?”

 

“As long as it's chaste.”

 

“What about touching?”

 

“Don't push your luck. I'm being kind now but if you break his heart-”

 

“You'll kill me, yeah yeah I know. If I do that...I give you full permission.”

 

“Good.” Hot pants says and a clicking noise alerts me to the fact that they're coming back.

 

Sugar and Lucy quickly get up and collapse back onto the couch leaving me.

 

I try to move but I only make it halfway before I feel Gyro pick me up.

 

“You're lucky it was only me who saw that. So how much did you hear?” Gyro places me back on the armchair.

 

“Pretty much everything.”

 

“So then you know I can do this.” Gyro leans in closing the distance between us.

 

I was glad they worked out everything by themselves.

 

“I said chaste kiss!” Hot Pants shouts flicking gyro on the back of the head.

 

Well mostly.

 

After the abuse, Gyro refused to kiss me for the rest of the night. I ended up sitting in his lap on the armchair which got us a few cold glares from Hp. Still, it was nice. We watched whatever Halloween movie was on as the girls traded and ate their candy. Hot Pants ate the candy she bought sharing with Diego. Dinoboy was busy talking about his costume or eating candy so even his presence wasn't too horrible. I munched on my share of candy and shared commentary with Gyro on the bad movies as always. It was a great night overall.

 

Even after everyone left and I got ready for bed I felt oddly content. My phone chimed suddenly and I grabbed it off my nightstand.

 

[Goodnight love u ;*]

 

What a cheeseball. Way too lovey dovey. I shouldn't even justify it with an answer.

 

[night gyro <3]

 

Dammit.

 

I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I guess I was more tired than I realized. All I could remember before knocking out was how weird it felt to be happy again.


It really had been a long time.

Chapter Text

"Can't believe you're forcing me to shop for your girl." I groaned, looking over at the displays as we walked past different shops.

 

"Man, I deal with a lot of shit with you going on and on about your 'perfect' boyfriend every other day, so you could help me with one little thing." Poco shot back, shaking his head. Ech, I guess he had a point.

 

I like hanging out with Pocoloco. He's a funny guy and you never know what crazy things are going to happen to him. Even shopping with him becomes an experience, so when he asked to hang today I readily accepted. That being said, it did have its drawbacks. The smug bastard probably only invited me so he could force me to pay for lunch too.

 

"What kind of things is she into anyways?" I sighed as we pass by another store. Loco hasn't given me a damn clue about where we're headed. If we're even going somewhere.

 

"Nerdy shit. Like figurines and fancy comics. She's a big anime fan, too. I know you're sorta into that kinda stuff, so that's why I brought you."

 

"I'm not exactly an expert on that. I mean, I only watch the stuff when I'm bored. Don't you watch some stuff, too?"

 

"Yeah, but like you're a much bigger nerd than me. You be talking ‘bout the plot or the animation; like anybody watching anime for that shit."

 

"Not everybody watches it like it's a porno, idiota. There's more to it than cartoon girls with shitty anatomy for the sake of sex appeal."

 

"See? You care more about it than me. That's why I called you." He grinned. Smug little…

 

I couldn't help but roll my eyes. "So where are we even heading?"

 

"There's a store that sells that nerd shit nearby. We're going there and, hopefully, we can find something today. But I still got time, if anything."

 

"When's her birthday anyways?"

 

"Like a month from now."

 

"Merde, you think you're gonna still be with her by then? I think a month’s the longest you've stayed with a girl."

 

"Shut up. Yeah, she talks about boring shit but I ain't paying attention of what's coming outta her mouth. This girl’s a bad one, man. Wild where it counts, she listens to my shit without complaining, and she can clean. That's fucking wife material."

 

"Yeah, I'm sure your future wife would love to hear you talk about her like that. Totally wouldn't dump your ass. Make sure to keep your receipts, Romeo."

 

"Man, like I'm gonna take dating advice from you. I had to help you pick your stuff up from your last guy. In pieces."

 

"Cazzo, don't remind me. You know, I never did find those DVDs."

 

"He probably sold them. Or burned them, with how pissed he was."

 

"I mean if he was willing to give me back the helmet he could have given me my damn DVDs."

 

"Dude, he didn't 'give' you back the helmet. He chucked that shit at you."

 

"Well, it's in better hands now. Looks cuter on Johnny, too."

 

"Oh God, here we go again."

 

"You're just jealous of how happy I am with mio caro. Don't worry, Loco maybe one day you'll find a love as great as mine." I chuckle.

 

"Yeah, yeah, ‘cause you've got such an amazing track record, Casanova. How long do you think he's gonna last? Two months?"

 

"Don't say that, stronzo! I actually really like him."

 

"You're right...one month."

 

"Vuoi chiudere quella cazzo di boc-" I begin to shout before a voice interrupts me.

 

"Oi, you! You're that guy I've been seeing around my place, right?"

 

I look over to the source of the voice to see Diego. What was he doing here?

 

"We've met before, yeah." I reply before coming to a terrifying thought. For my safety, I begin looking around for the pink menace. I've never seen the two separated before, so it felt like a safe assumption. Johnny wasn't even with us but I wouldn't put it past that crazy lady to find some reason to start a fight. "Where's the pitbull?"

 

"...If you mean HP, she's not here. Back to more important manners. You've been over a lot and I'm going to need to know if I need to start charging you rent."

 

I roll my eyes and keep walking, motioning for Loco to follow. To my displeasure, Diego follows as well.

 

"I was making a joke, you sensitive ninny." Diego huffs.

 

"Don't you have something to do?" I groan.

 

"I already got what I need. I do have something I needed to ask you, hence why I stopped you in the first place."

 

"Then say it. I got stuff to do with Poco."

 

"Hmmm, he looks familiar." Diego mutters, finally noticing Poco now that I pointed him out.

 

"He doesn't live too far away from you. You've probably seen him before. Now to whatever you were going to say."

 

"Ah, yes. I noticed you and Johnny hang out a lot. Which is something I can't understand because he's so repulsively pathetic-"

 

"Get to the point." I snapped, not wanting to deal with Diego badmouthing Johnny to my face.

 

"Are you and Johnny- hm... how do I put this… an item?"

 

Both Loco and I stop in our tracks at the same time.

 

"Dude, please don't get him going on about Johnny again. I just got a break." Loco sighs.

 

"You were with Hot Pants in the mall when she caught Johnny and me together. Plus you saw me Halloween I don't think we were exactly being subtle. What kind of question is that?" I ask in pure disbelief. I was so shocked I didn't even register Poco's comment.

 

"Just answer it." Diego groans, like I was the one asking the stupid questions.

 

"Yes, we're dating. We've been dating."

 

"That explains why you've been around so often…though it doesn't explain what the hell is wrong with you."

 

"I answered your question, get lost."

 

“No, ‘cause now I'm curious where you're heading to.”

 

“We're going to Anime Castle. Getting some stuff.” Poco replies and continues to walk.

 

Diego must have taken that as an invitation because he continues to walk with us.

 

“I haven't been there in a while! What, are there some new figmas that are out?”

 

“Maybe, I'm not getting anything for me. My girl's birthday is coming up.”

 

“And she likes that stuff? Lucky. I have to force HP to watch even one episode with me.”

 

“I never figured you were into that stuff.” I say to Diego, giving up on making him leave.

 

“Well, I'm not obsessed or anything. Stuff like lizards, birds, or dinosaurs are always better but it can be fun to watch from time to time. Why are you coming with? Shopping for yourself?”

 

“No, Loco dragged me cause he thought I could help since I know a bit about anime. If you want to go shopping, run ahead. I don't feel like babysitting.”

 

“Tsk, I'm trying to have a conversation. We're all heading to the same place we might as well talk on our way there.”

 

“Then talk to Poco.” I sigh. I just wanted a day to hang out with my friend. I didn't ask for this.

 

Diego huffs but he does start talking to Poco instead. He was nowhere near as bad as his twin, but I still didn't want to hang with him. Unfortunately for me, since the two were stuck in their own conversation, that left me with nothing to do but look at the stores we passed by. Listening to their conversation was pointless since they were just talking about anime and their girls.

 

I got out my phone to text Johnny so I had something to do. Sure as well would’ve been better than this.

 

“Dude, for real, right now? You can't go one day without your man?” Loco scoffed as soon as he noticed my phone out.

 

“You're talking with Diego. I'm just passing the time. For all you know, I'm playing games on my phone. Don't just assume I'm messaging Johnny.” I counter but put my phone away.

 

“So what were you doing?”

 

“…Texting Johnny, but that's not the point.”

 

“Shit, man, that's exactly the point! Look, we here, anyway, so focus on the goal. Then y’all can plan your next date.” Poco sighs and enters the store with Diego following behind.

 

I've never been to the place so I took a second just to look at it before entering myself.

 

Once inside Poco, went straight to the aisle with the sales. The biggest sales. Cheap bastard. Diego was looking at the figures carefully so I decided to leave him alone for now.

 

“Oi you! You know about this stuff come over here for a second.” Diego shouts, waving in my direction.

 

“I have a name you know. Even told you it.” I sigh. “What do you want?”

 

“Check it out, there’s a model for RX-78!”

 

“...In English?”

 

Diego looks at me in disbelief. “Th...the most iconic Gundam? The original?”

 

I needed a moment to think before snapping my fingers. “Oh, yeah, yeah, the first one, yeah.” I wave it off, starting to move into the back of the store.

 

I stopped in my steps, however, at the sound of Diego’s irritating scoff. “You really don’t know shit, huh?”

 

The hell was he on now? “Sorry?”

 

“I say the words ‘RX-78’, and your first answer is ‘duh’? You probably only saw a single episode of the original series and felt really fucking smart and accomplished afterwards, huh? Well, I can’t say I’m completely surprised. I mean, I see your boyfriend and it all makes perfect sense.”

 

Turning on my heels, my body stomped right back towards the smug bastardo while my mind is trying to prevent myself from just seeing red. “Listen to me, porco cane, cazzo…” I started, using my curses to calm me down.

 

“Oh? Alright, so I suppose you have some fight in you, so hurry up, before I head into the back, myself.”

 

“First off,” I started, jabbing my index against the runt’s chest. “I said I only knew a bit of anime. A bit. So don’t go on talking shit just because I don’t know about some obscure nonsense.”

 

Diego retorted with a horrible scowl that I wasn’t even aware that he was capable of. Taking a step forward, the short blonde started to force me towards the merch-covered wall across the room, now jabbing his finger against my chest.

 

“Never, in your life, call the RX-78 ‘obscure’, ever again. God just when you think someone can’t possibly hit a new fucking lo-listen. You listening?!”

 

I couldn’t help  but give a quick nod, not used to the normally apathetic Diego be so fired up. If I was in a better mood I would have found it funny.

 

“Good. Now then, before I give your ass the judging that it so obviously fucking deserves; what’s your favorite mecha? Have you ever even seen an entire mecha?” Diego interrogated.

 

Now it was my turn to be annoyed. Again. The question itself was harmless, but I didn't like the brat’s conceited tone. “Even though I  haven’t exactly scoured for every last mech I could find, I have seen GL. That good enough for you or you wanna bitch more?”

 

“GL… is that all? Really? I mean, it’s got fun moments and all, but really? Just that and nothing else?” That attitude alone was enough for me to stay in this stupid argument.

 

“I’ll watch whatever the hell I want at my own pace, ok? Like I said, I’m just starting out and not that into it yet.”

 

Diego slapped my hand away and crossed his arms, thinking for a moment. “Well, it can't be helped, can it? Fine then. Consider yourself lucky, Zeppeli, for I'll have no choice but to arrange a list for you of things to watch. Including in what order, manga or animated form, length, and whether to see it in Japanese or English.”

 

I rolled my eyes, unable to believe what the hell was even going on anymore.

“I wasn't asking for recommendations. Even if I was you should just make it all Japanese. After all, English is something that I'm always trying to improve, so sticking to the subtitles makes it easier.”

 

Diego closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, as if that made it harder for him. “Then there’ll be some shows that I'll simply exclude until you're ready. Those are the ones you're better off never seeing if you don't watch it in English.” He affirmed like it was some big deal. Jesus, it was getting on my nerves; so much so that I kept forgetting why we even came to this tiny shop in the first place.

 

“Someone shoot m- fucking whatever, exclude them. Not gonna make a difference to me. If I catch them on my own and decide to watch in Japanese, I ain't asking for permission or some shit like that.”

 

Lizard fuck grit his teeth, he really was getting riled up over this nonsense. I braced myself for a rant, not about to let this rude fucker think he can just tell me off or order me around. Luckily God was on my side with this and Poco interrupts our conversation before Diego gets a chance to speak.

 

“Yo! Yo! Gyro! I invited you for a reason, goddammit, not so you could argue about dumb shit all day?” Pocoloco shouts looking exasperated. How long has he been watching us bicker?

 

“I’m coming, I’m coming. Calm down.” I sighed, giving a final glare in Diego’s direction before following Poco.

 

“Well, as long as you never watch Legend of the Galac…” Was all I heard Lizard fuck grumble before joining Poco.

 

“A’ight, so I was looking over here at the sales and you won’t believe what I found.”

 

With Poco around, I was pretty sure I could believe anything that happened but I motioned for him to continue.

 

“Blu-rays for her favorite show! Plus a little statue thingy of one of the characters.” He boasted proudly, waving the items in front of my face.

 

“I’m surprised you remembered her favorite show but good job, all the same.”

 

“She’s always talking about it, so how could I not? Now come on, let’s go pay for this thing and get something. I’m starving!”

 

We walked on over to the cashiers and I notice Diego is still looking around the shop. Though now he’s looking at the books. Good. Stay as far away from me as possible. I didn't want to deal with him anytime soon.

 

I’m busy staring out the store window so I don’t fully hear the cashier’s conversation with Poco until the cashier suddenly shouts.

 

“Congratulations! I wasn’t expecting anyone to get that, but you must be really lucky!” The cashier shouts, putting away some kind of jar.

 

“Wait what just happened?” I ask

 

“The shop had some kind of contest today. Guess the amount of soybeans in a jar. I took a crack at it and won!” Poco replies with a big grin.

 

“Well, what’d you win, Signor Fortunato ?”

 

“Why, our prize just so happened to be any blu-ray in the store for free or a figure for half off!” The cashier interrupts. Cavolo those weren’t bad prizes at all.

 

“I’ll take the free BD. The figure isn't that expensive.”

 

Loco pays for his stuff and we head outside. Shit, I have no idea where he gets all the luck. Is he, like, sucking it off of the people around him?

 

“Oi! How the bloody hell did you do that?” None other than the little lizard boy shouts, catching up to us.

 

“Cazzo, you really are getting on my nerves. What are you even talking about?” I ask.

 

“Not you, nitwit! Him!” He points at Pocoloco. “I was trying to figure out that jar before and you just guessed it in one shot like it was nothing. Did you cheat?”

 

Ah, I always forget not everybody’s used to the Loco magic.

 

“Nope, I’m just lucky like that.” Poco chuckles.

 

“There’s no way it was luck!”

 

I interrupted, holding up a hand to signal Diego to relax. “Trust me, it was. Loco’s just unnaturally lucky. Don’t bother arguing against it, you’ll just go crazy.”

 

Of course, the kid didn’t believe me, so he demanded proof. That is, until he walked for- oh, say- 5 feet, and Poco just so happened to spot a $100 dollar bill under his foot. That shut him up real quick.

 

For a minute.

 

Then he went on and on, asking Loco how it works and how long he’s been able to do that. After just a few blocks, I was getting a headache. Dinobrat even followed us to our lunch spot so I wasn’t even able to enjoy my meal. I couldn't take much more after that and said my goodbyes to Poco, leaving him with his newest fan.

 

I had always wondered what was so awful about Diego, but after spending almost a day with the guy, I was exhausted. So I couldn’t even dare to imagine how the hell little Johnny managed to keep it up for all this time. Well, tesorino did hate him.

 

I sighed leaning on Valkyrie. Why did everyone in Johnny’s life have to be so annoying?

 

Then again, the more I thought about that, the more a simple fact was made clear to me. I got real lucky in managing to get with him, huh? The best one out of that whole bunch.


Hopefully Loco Luck was contagious.

Chapter Text

 

“How much longer?” Lucy whines in the backseat. “What if Sugar’s already there?”

“I doubt she’d go anywhere without you. Just relax for a minute, alright?” Johnny sighs. He switches through the radio channels quickly, making a garbled mess out of the songs playing.


“Stop that. I’m trying to drive without incident, but if I hear much more, that might change.” I couldn't help but warn, quickly moving my hand to push his hand away from the radio before placing my own back onto the steering wheel.

He mumbles a quick apology and the car falls back into a comfortable silence again. As much as I enjoyed being with these two, driving with them was always annoying. Even worse than driving with Die...no I can't even call our drives any bad. Whenever I'm driving him, he’s usually all drained or behaving nicely because he knows better. Still, it really is my own fault for offering to take Lucy to the carnival but I figured a half hour of nonsense would be worth it in the end.

Lucy had been good with her studies recently so she deserved a treat. A carnival with her friends was a good reward for the both of us. Getting Johnny out of his apartment was just a bonus since I knew Lucy would be spending more time with Sugar than with myself.

When we finally arrived, Lucy runs straight out of the car and towards the entrance, impatiently bouncing on her toes as I helped Johnny down.

Lucy and I have been to the carnival before, but it was clear that Johnny hadn't by the cautious way he looked around before heading to the entrance himself. Johnny never spoke much about himself or his past, so I never knew what to expect when I brought him somewhere.

I walked to the entrance right after the pair and got us all tickets to enter, as well as an armband to ride the attractions all day for Lucy.

“You didn’t have to buy my ticket you know.” Johnny commented as we finally got in.

“I had the cash in hand. You can pay me back later by buying us snacks.” I reply with a shrug.

“Oh, oh, Johnny!” Lucy interjected,  waving her hands in front of Johnny until he looks over to her. “I know what you’d want from the food stand!” She said with a bright smile.

 

“What? I don't even know what’s ther-”

“A zeppole. ” Lucy sing songs before bursting into a fit of laughter.

I can't help but groan at the pun. Johnny on the other hand is speechless, just glaring down Lucy with a look of disbelief.


Once Lucy calms down from her fit, we continue to walk. Johnny still refuses to speak, though Lucy doesn't seem to notice as she searches for her friend. There are a lot more rides here than I remember. The place feels larger as well, but that might’ve been because we’re looking for someone.

“Sugar!” Lucy suddenly exclaims before running and nearly knocking over her friend.

“Hey, Lucy.” Sugar replies calmly, patting Lucy on the back with a free hand.

I look over to thank Sugar’s parents for dropping her off but don’t see anyone. I don’t even see any other adult watching Sugar. Strange...

“I got one of those armbands so we can play on the rides all day!” Lucy exclaims.

“I have one of those, too.” Sugar says waving her arm in front of her.

“Cool! Then we don't have to keep going back to HP and Johnny for tickets.”

“Ah, those two are here?” She thought Lucy would just be left here by herself? Then again, Sugar was, so I suppose it could be believable, in her eyes.

“Oh yeah! I forgot to mention it, sorry.” Lucy exclaimed and motions for Johnny and I to come closer.

“Hello again.” I greeted Sugar as politely as I could.

“Hey.” Johnny murmurs beside me.

“Are you two going to be on the rides with us?” Sugar asked nonchalantly.

“No, I can’t go on most of the rides and HP doesn't really want to. We’ll be watching you guys though.” Johnny let out with a sigh.


“Let’s go to the rides now!” Unable to wait any longer, Lucy grabbed Sugar by the hand and took off. “I saw a really cool one when we were walking in!” Was all I managed to catch as the two zoomed off.

 

“Make sure to check in with us regularly!” I shout after the girls, hoping that at least Sugar heard me. God knows Lucy had too much on her mind to catch what I said. Hopefully she’d remember since I told her to do so multiple times in the car. “And keep your phone on you at all times!”

But sure enough, they were already out of sight.

 

“Well...we sure got replaced quick, eh?” Johnny deadpans beside me.

I can’t tell if he’s joking or not, so I give him a quick pat on the head for reassurance.

“Let’s go get something to eat while the girls play.” I offer.

Johnny agrees and we share a funnel cake as we look around the carnival.

“Have you ever been to a carnival?” I ask helping myself to a large portion of the cake.

Johnny pouts. “I have been, but not to this one. Haven’t had all of my funnel cake stolen before, though.”

 

“I can get you another one.” I chuckle and swipe another large piece, getting a high pitched, angry cry from Johnny.

It’s been a long time since Johnny and I have hung out alone. I forgot how enjoyable the conversations could be with him... when I don’t have to deal with Diego being an ass or Johnny’s horrible...boyfriend. Ugh, just thinking about it made me angry, but this time wasn’t for them; it was for us. So I shook those thoughts away and reached for another piece of the cake, only to grab air instead.

Johnny moved away while I was busy thinking and was now sitting in front of one of the games, staring at it as if transfixed.

“What are you looking at?” I asked as I walked over to join him.

“The prizes.” He said simply before pointing up at a teddy bear on one of the racks. “I want it.”

“I didn’t know you like teddy bears.” I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of Johnny hugging a huge one while trying to sleep.

“I don’t.” Johnny shrugs and offers no other explanation as he wheels closer to the attraction.

It’s a water race game, the kind where you can compete against other people in the carnival and the more people that compete, the better the prizes.

“Hot Pants, come on, let’s play.” Johnny motions for me to take the seat next to him as he makes his way onto the chair in front of the attraction.

“You know these things are all rigged right?” I warned.

“Yeah, but there’s a better chance of us winning if there’s two of us.”

“...Alright, just one round.” I sigh and get onto the chair next to Johnny.

We both hand the carny our money and wait for more people to join in on the game.

  
“Yo! Caesarino, check this out!” A muscular patron shouts to his fellow fit friend, waving excitedly at the game.

 

“It's just a game. There's plenty of them.” The blonde friend sighs.

 

“I know that, idiot! I'm just saying it’s one of those competition ones, though! So I can kick your ass and win a prize for it.”

 

The friend scoffs. “And what about when I win?”

 

“Never gonna happen, but even if by some miracle you did, I still get a prize!” The large patron laughs and sits on one of the chairs.

 

“I'll make you eat those words, JoJo.” The friend hisses and sits beside the patron.

 

“JoJo?” Johnny mumbled to himself as the other two people pay the carny.

 

The carny deems four people as enough and starts up the game.

 

It takes me a second to remember how to work the game and by the time I get it together, the race is already over.

 

“Winner winner! Naturally, I'd win. I mean I'm amazing at making things squirt, right Caesarino?” The patron laughs right after making his horribly crude joke. Thank God Lucy wasn’t around to hear that.

 

Johnny looks a bit disappointed but he shrugs it off after a moment.

 

“Ugh, just pick your prize, cretino.” The friend groans.

 

“Hmm what to choose what to choose…” The patron turns to Johnny suddenly. “Hey, buddy what were you trying to win?”

 

Johnny scowls at the patron and turns away with a little huff.

 

“Joseph, stop being an ass and just choose something.” The friend says.

 

“‘Joseph’? I was just asking a question what are you getting mad for?” The patron apparently named Joseph whines.

 

“Because you're being a stronzo to the kid. We don't have all day.”

 

“I'm not really interested in anything here…I just wanted to kick your ass. Just let the kid have something.” Joseph waves to Johnny.

 

“Stop calling me a kid.” Johnny hisses. Uh oh. I place a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to calm him but he still continues. “I'm not taking your prize. I can win something on my own.”

 

“Tsk, I was just offering, so no need to get so up in arms.” Joseph snaps back.

 

“I don't need any offers.”

 

“Oh, you think you can win next time, hot shot?” Joseph chuckles.

 

“JoJo, I already picked something for you, so let's just go.” The friend groaned, already getting up from his seat with a plush dog in hand.

 

“No, no, I think the little guy wants a rematch.”

 

“I wasn't but if you're that eager to lose, then so be it.” Johnny spat right back, glaring at Joseph.

 

“Johnny, this guy isn't worth it.” I interrupt, squeezing Johnny's shoulder a bit to get his attention.

 

Johnny doesn't hear me though as he asks the carny for another shot. Joseph pays for himself as the friend just stands by, rolling his eyes.

 

The little competition begins and is over before I know it.

 

“No fair! The sun was in my eyes.” Joseph whines. Looks like he's a sore loser and a sore winner. Lovely.

 

“The bear, please.” Johnny tells the carny with a smirk, his eyes giving Joseph a side glance.

 

“Sorry kid, that prize is only if you play with four or more people.” The carny replies.

 

Now Johnny is back to an annoyed look.

 

“Come on, there are four people here.” Joseph surprisingly speaks up.

 

“Only two were playing, you can have one of the lower level prizes.” The carny says motioning to smaller plushies on the wall.

 

“How about you just pretend like the other two were playing this time? It's only one prize.”

 

“The rules are the rules. You want the bear, play again.”

 

“Okay…” Joseph replies quietly before he gets a wicked smirk.

 

“You just get something, HP.” Johnny sighed with a defeated tone, and not seeming to notice whatever Joseph was planning.

 

I choose a lizard plush, for Diego since I'm not that into stuffed animals, and move away from the game with Johnny. I tried to get us out of there ASAP as I was having a sneaking suspicion that Joseph and his friend were up to no good.

 

Once the two musclemen were out of sight and earshot, I decided to try and make Johnny feel better by getting him some fries before we continued to look for the girls.

 

“Johnny boy!!” A loud shout comes from behind us and I turn to see Joseph and his friend running towards us.

 

“What the-?”

 

“Here!” Joseph exclaims proudly, shoving the teddy bear in Johnny's face.

 

“The bear? Why are you giving this to me? I already said I don't want your prize.”

 

“It's not our prize.” The friend pants beside Joseph showing Johnny the dog they won before.

 

“Then…how'd you get this bear?” Johnny asks, grabbing the bear cautiously.

 

“With the Secret Joestar Technique, of course!”

 

“Joestar? What do you know about Joestars?”

 

“A lot, considering I am one!”

 

Both Johnny and I freeze at the reply. Was he related to Johnny? I've never heard of him before but by Johnny's shocked expression, it seems he doesn't either.

 

“What's with the faces? Wait could it be... you know a Joestar!?” Joseph asks excitedly.

 

“I'm...I’m a Joestar. Johnny Joestar.”

 

“Woah, another JoJo! Finally!” Joseph cheered.

 

“I was wondering when we'd run into one.” Joseph’s friend mumbled to himself.

 

“B-but I've never heard of you! I didn't even think I had any other relatives in New York.” Johnny eyed Joseph suspiciously.

 

“I know it sounds weird, but I’m really a Joestar.” Joseph turns around quickly and pulls his collar down enough to reveal a star tattoo. I didn’t understand the importance but as soon as Johnny saw it, his eyes widened.

 

“Y-You really are one! Oh God...but why did dad never tell me there were relatives here?”

 

“Don’t worry about that stuff right now! We got lost time to make up for and all that good stuff.”

 

“JoJo we shouldn't really be sticking around the carnival.” The friend warns, looking around.

 

“The guy’s slow, so don’t worry! I’m trying to have quality family time over here, you nervous nancy.” Joseph waves his friend off.

 

“What guy?” Johnny looks at Joseph’s friend curiously before quickly looking to the bear. “Oh no.”

 

“What is it?” I asked, now feeling nervous myself.

 

“I think I have an idea on how Joseph and his friend got this bear…”

 

“I have a name. Might as well tell you it since Jojo seems to have forgotten basic manners.” The friend sighs. Joseph sticks his tongue out at him in retaliation. “I’m Caesar, Caesar Zeppeli.”

 

Zeppeli?! Christ, there was more of them? Trying not to go directly into a blind rage, I took note of the fact that Caesar's personality was radically different from that delinquent.

 

“No way! Are you Gyro’s brother? He never said where his family was, but I assumed there were all in Italy. Are you the only one or are there others?” Johnny starts to ramble.

 

Caesar looks taken aback by Johnny’s reaction and shared a confused look with Joseph before talking. “I-I didn’t realize there was another Zeppeli here...I’m not this- uh- Gyro’s brother. He must be my… c-cousin! I also thought all of our family was still in Italy. H-haha.”

 

“Looks like we got a big family reunion, eh Caesarino? Where is this guy?” Joseph interrupts, roughly patting Caesar on the back.  

“Not here, thankfully.” I reply.

 

“That sucks. Well, we’ll always have next time, right? Now I think we should be heading out soon so why don’t we get your number so we can hang out?” Joseph asked, taking out his phone.

 

“Oh...er…alright…” Johnny replies uneasily but he ultimately end up exchanges numbers with Joseph and Caesar. I exchange numbers with them as well, just because I don’t fully trust them. Especially the rude Joseph. With a goodbye wave, the two run out of the carnival.

 

“Your family is nothing like what I expected.” I commented once the two are out of sight.

 

“Same here.” Johnny smiles for a brief second before he looks down at the teddy bear in his lap. “We should probably hide this…”

 

“Just when I thought we would get a nice break from the chaos.” A groan escaped my throat.

 

“No such thing as a nice break with this group.”

 

I sighed, unable to offer any sort of retort.

 

As the two of us quickly moved away as far from the bear’s carnival stand as we could, I remembered how annoying it could be when Johnny was right.

Chapter Text

I’ve been on plenty of dates with plenty of people. I’ve hung out with Gyro multiple times with no worry. Hell, I’ve even been to his place once before! Nothing about the situation should be nerve-wracking and yet…

Here I was, trembling on my bed as I was supposed to be getting ready for a date. My first date with Gyro.

 

He called me yesterday to ask me out. Naturally, I said yes and teased him for being a cheapskate when he told me it was going to be at his place. His reasoning for the location was still echoing in my head.

“We won’t have to worry about anyone interrupting us there, tesorino. I can take my sweet sweet time with you.” What he meant was obvious enough by his words. But the low rough way he said it almost made it seem like it was something...more. It was enough to render me speechless after I heard it the first time. And it was still stuck in my head now.

Dammit, Johnny, focus! Gyro already texted me to tell me he’s on his way and I don't even have my pants on! At least I had the teddy bear in a bag I had lying around. I didn’t want to give it to Gyro until we were back at his place. If I could even get to his place.

 

I shook my head hoping to shake off these nerves and started to get dressed quickly.

Luckily, I was ready by the time I received his text to head outside. Even though I had stopped physically trembling, my heart still felt like a jackrabbit hopped up on a gallon of coffee. Regardless, I grit my teeth and headed out to meet Gyro.

“Tesorino! You’re looking good, as always!” Gyro greets with a quick pat on the head me as I roll out the door.

“Thanks... you look nice, too.” I replied quietly, trying to keep my voice under control.

The coy smile he gives doesn’t help at all. “You ready to head out?”

“‘Course.” I respond quickly as I make my way to Gyro’s bike.

“Cute bag. What’s in it?” He asks with a grin, reaching over to try and sneak a look.

“‘Ey, get your hands off that! You’ll see it later.”

“Why do I have to wait? You could at least give me a peek.” The dork gives me a pout like that'll change my mind.


“Just wait for a bit, then you can see the whole thing.”

“Waiting around isn't my style.”

“Then hurry up so you can get it.”

“You’re so impatient.” Gyro whines as he picks me up to place me on Valkyrie.

 

I roll my eyes at his comment. He must have noticed, because he lets out a quick chuckle before he leans down to dismantle my chair. I take the time to grab my helmet- I mean the spare helmet, since it isn't exactly mine- and put it on. I keep the bag close to my chest as I try to regain my composure.

At least the ride to Gyro’s apartment is calming.

When we’re parked in front of the place, I take off my… the spare helmet and wait for Gyro to fix my chair so we can head inside. Instead, Gyro turns to face me after taking off his own helmet and puts his hand on mine. I interlock our fingers together, though I don’t understand what he’s doing. Just feeling a bit touchy feely, I guess?

 

With a soft smile, he brings my hand to his lips, kissing it gently before pulling my face closer for a deeper kiss. Our hands are still intertwined, I faintly note as Gyro finally breaks away.

“I didn’t greet you properly.” He explains in that same rough tone he used on the phone before. Great. Just when I thought I’d finally gotten myself together.

Thankfully, Gyro leaves it at that and gets off the bike to put my chair back to normal.

 

Closely following behind Gyro, my mind continued to race to thoughts on what might happen today. Rolling up into the elevator with him, I couldn't help but wonder if this was just gonna be some kind of normal, fluffy, hand holding date, or…

 

Fuck, I was so lost in thought, I didn't even notice the elevator stopping and its door coming open if not for Gyro patting my head and ushering me through the hall.


“Here we are!” Gyro announces as we enter his place.

Nothing has changed, I noted as I roll further inside. Gyro’s place is still devoid of any sign of him. The only difference is the kitchen looks like a bit of a mess with vegetables and seasoning strewn about the room. I place my bag onto the couch and headed back over to the kitchen to see what exactly the mess was for.

“Dinner’s gonna be ready in a moment.” Gyro states, slipping by me into the warzone. “I would have finished earlier, but I had to get you and I didn't want to leave the oven and stuff on. Would have sucked to come back to a burnt apartment.”

“At least it would have brought some color to the place.”  I mumbled, which I guess was loud enough for him to hear.

 

“Leave the jokes to me, gattino.” Gyro pouts before getting back to cooking. “You can go watch TV or something until I’m done with this.”

“No way am I going sit around the whole time. I’m no master chef, but I can help with something.”

“Fine, fine, you can chop some basilico e prezzemolo while I finish this.” Gyro waves towards the counter before turning back to the stove.

 

“...Can you repeat that in English?” I demanded more than asked.

 

“Che Cosa? Have they different names in English? It’s over there, the- uh- green leaves.”


Finally understanding what he was referring to I move over to the counter and grab the seasoning. It’s not until I reach for the closest knife that I notice Gyro’s phone is on top of the counter next to a speaker.

“Why’s your phone here?”

“Hm? Oh, that’s for the music. I like to listen to stuff while I cook. Makes the time go by faster.”

Now curious I lean over and press the play button on the speakers. A soft beat with a repetitious melody starts to play. A voice that must be the artists joins in with the melody talking with the rhythm.

“You listen to rap?” I ask genuinely surprised.

“Yeah, I’m a fan of this particular artist. What were you expecting?”

“I don’t know something more...Italian I guess?”

 

“Tsk, such American thinking. Just because I’m Italian doesn’t mean I listen to Madama Butterfly e Aida all day. That’s like me saying all you listen to is country music and rock and roll.”

 

“...Well, you wouldn't actually be wrong there.”

 

Gyro looks surprised for a moment before bursting into laughter. “You're a real American cowboy, eh?”


“Says you Luigi!” I turn my head to try and hide my smile.

“Aw tesorino, you're so cute.” Looks like I’ve been caught.

“Go back to cooking. You’ll burn the food.” I scold half-heartedly. I grab the knife and start to cut up the leaves deciding to let Gyro’s odd music stay playing for now.

A few songs later Gyro is finished with the food and proudly tells me to go wait on the couch for food. He complains about his lack of a dinner table and dining room as he turns off the music and adds the seasoning I chopped to the meal.

“Vermicelli con cozze e vongole.” Gyro announces placing a plate of some kind of pasta on the coffee table in front of me.

I dig in as soon as he’s finished speaking. The nerves made me hungry plus the food looked good. As soon as I get a good mouthful of the food I slow my pace just to savor the flavor. Damn Gyro’s a good cook. Or this dish is just good. Either way, I was glad I agreed to let him cook for us.

“See? That’s real Italian food, not that crappy stuff you get on the street.” Gyro states as he sits down next to me and begins eating the meal himself.

What was I even anxious about? It's so easy like this to just be next to Gyro sharing idle chit chat as we enjoy a meal. How strange it's almost like we've done this before. I get an odd feeling almost like I'm playing catch up with my mind. My heart has long since stopped trembling. There's still butterflies in my stomach at the thought of what's to come later but it's not the erratic beating I was feeling before. Now it's a like a gentle flutter, just enough to keep me on the edge of my seat.


“I can wash the dishes.” I offer as Gyro tosses away the paper plates.


“It’s only some forks.” Gyro shrugs. “You can help me with the rest of the kitchen if you’re that restless.”

With the two of us working together the kitchen is cleaned up in no time and I end up back on the couch before I know it.

“Before I forget,” I start to say as I reach for the bag on the couch and hand it to Gyro. “You can look inside now.”

“Oh! Orsetto! He’s so soft.”

“Well, I’m glad you like it. It’s for you after all.”

“A gift?” Gyro leans over to give me a quick peck. “Grazie tesorino.”

I move closer to Gyro so I can rest on his chest before speaking again. “‘S no problem.”

“I feel bad, though. You didn’t say we were exchanging gifts. I didn't get you anything.”

“It’s fine. It’s not like this was exactly planned I just saw it at a carnival and figured you'd like it.”

 

“Carnival? You won this little guy?”

“Not exactly...I had some ‘help’ from Joseph and Caesar.” At Gyro’s bewildered expression I remember that it was only Hot Pants and me who had met with the odd duo. “They’re two guys HP and I met at the carnival. Joseph’s a Joestar like myself and Caesar said he was a Zeppeli.”

“What here? I thought everyone was in Italia...I don’t think I’ve heard of a Caesar before either.”

“He was just as surprised to hear you were here too.”

“Weird, but I guess he must be a cousin or something. I don't know them very well.”

 

“That's what he guessed. I got their numbers so you'll probably end up meeting him later.”

 

Gyro shrugs. “Maybe, but onto more important things we need to give this little guy a name.”

 

“We? It’s your bear you name it. I'm no good with that stuff.”

 

“You got him so you have to help.”

 

“Uh, how about B.B?”

 

“B.B? What's the initials for?”

 

“Big...bear? I don't know the name just came to me.”

 

“That's cute! B.B it is then.” Gyro pats the bear. “I'm gonna put this little guy with the other Bears so they can get acquainted. Make yourself at home.”

 

Gyro rushes off to his room bear in hand leaving me alone in the living room. With nothing to do I grab the remote and turn the TV on. That scumbag, Valentine, is on preaching about the greatness of America again. I change the channel but he's on every news station. Annoyed I decide to just leave it on for now. It's not like I was going to be paying attention to what's on TV when Gyro comes back.

 

“Ugh, that guy.” Gyro scowls as he reenters the room. “I don't understand how Americans could let him run.”

 

Gyro moves closer to the TV putting both the Senator and Gyro in the same view. My chest starts to tighten at the sight. Fuck, what’s with this nauseating feeling of Deja Vu?

 

“Hopefully, he doesn't win. I don't want to see the day I hear President Valentine.”

 

A bargain like a deal with the devil. Except he's worse; much worse.

 

“But the Gyro you bring back here...It won't exactly be the same person.” How dare he promise such things so casually. “He would be from a world of a different dimension...he'll be a ‘different Gyro!’” Not my Gyro, not the one I've spent countless days and nights with. Not the one that changed my life. Not the one that the president...killed.

 

“Johnny Joestar...Do you think there's anyone who knows the future? Even if it's a different Gyro with a different past...or possibly one who's not your friend.” It hurts to even think of a world like that, but my aim stays firm as my heart pounds and shakes. “From this point forward, Gyro Zeppeli will walk the path of Gyro Zeppeli…” Dammit... dammit... dammit! Why can't I believe him?

 

My chest feels like it's about to burst. It's so hard to breathe.

 

I'm going to die. I can't breathe. Shadows are creeping in from every corner and blinding me. My whole body feels heavy. Like I'm drowning. No matter how hard I grasp for the surface, I just sink further. I can't keep going on like this.

 

“Johnny, stay with me.”

 

That familiar voice.

 

“I'm right here, relax.”

 

Those gentle hands on my back.

 

“You'll be okay.”

 

A single light in the darkness.

 

“Deep breaths. 1,2,3,4. 1,2,3,4.” Like a waltz.

 

Gyro. My Gyro.

 

I slowly come back to reality with a harsh sob. It hurts to breathe, but I keep going. I have to. My eyes feel so sore. My hands are twisted in the fabric of Gyro’s shirt. When was he holding me? He felt so far away before.

 

“Gyro.” I choke out a whisper the words sound like a plea, though I don't understand what I'm begging for.

 

“I've got you, tesorino.” Gyro hums, running a hand down my back.

 

I loosen my grip moving my shaking hands to dry my eyes instead. I swear I can hear Gyro sigh in relief.

 

“Welcome back.” Gyro chuckles as he attempts to move back. Before he can get too far I move my arms back around him.

 

“Don't. Don't go.” I beg.

 

“I'm not going anywhere. I was just trying to give you some space.” Gyro reassures me. I move just enough so I can see his face keeping my hands on him the whole time. His voice is so calm and gentle but his face gives away his worry in a second. He must notice how I'm looking at him because he steels his expression. “You've got a pretty strong grip.”

 

“My hands hurt.”

 

“You were grabbing at me pretty hard. Plus you were trying to claw at yourself at first.”

 

“My face feels gross.”

 

“That's probably from all the crying and hyperventilating. Do you want me to take you to the bathroom to wash up?”

 

I nod embarrassingly quick. Gyro laughs slightly and picks me up. I notice then that the TV is shut off.

 

Once we enter the bathroom Gyro leaves me on the edge of his bathtub and hands me a wet towel. As I scrub my face Gyro hovers close by humming to himself. Once I feel back to normal I hold the towel out to Gyro. He takes it and places a dry one in my hand.

 

“Better?” Gyro asks patting my head gently as I dry my face.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Good good. You want to stay in here?”

 

“No, I'm fine now.”

 

Gyro picks me up as gently as before and brings us back into the living room without another word.

 

“...Thanks.” I mutter. Gyro just kisses the top of my head in response.

 

I kiss him back on the lips, unsatisfied with such a small peck. He still tastes like the dinner. It's grounding. He's grounding.

 

I move my body on his lap, pulling him closer for another kiss. It feels so good to be with him like this. Mind numbing pleasure washes over me as Gyro moves his hands on me. The room is filled with our soft moans as I move against him, never breaking our kisses for long.

 

“Johnny.” Gyro groans in that rough, low tone. I want to hear it more.

 

I move my hands down his chest, just reaching his belt when my hands are snatched away from me. Gyro breaks away quickly, leaving me dazed.

 

“What's wrong?” I can't help but question. Didn't Gyro want this? Want me?

 

“I can't take advantage of you like this.”

 

“You're not. I kissed you first. I want you.”

 

“You're not in the right mindset, tesorino. You're still scared. You don't even realize what you were saying do you?”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“You kept repeating ‘stay with me’ anytime you weren't catching your breath.” Was I? My throat feels sore but I just assumed that was from the moaning. “I still want you but... I want you to be fully into it. Not just using sex to forget what happened.”

 

“But I…” The words catch in my throat. Any argument I can think of is just a lie to keep him on me. Dammit, why did he have to be so good now, of all times? I'd rather him use me than deal with this pain in my chest.

 

“I'm not going to go anywhere, tesorino. I just can't do that with you. Not until you're feeling better.” He reassures me running a hand through my hair.

 

I lie down on him instead of speaking back. Gyro seems to understand without any words as he readjusts himself so we're both lying on the couch. Slowly, my heart rate calms down as all the adrenaline from before leaves me. Now I just feel completely worn out. I close my eyes and begin to rest before a deep chuckle wakes me.

I look up at Gyro who’s smiling wide in a way that must mean he has some horrible ‘gag’ prepared.

 

“You look like a sleepy cat, gattino. It’s a good thing I’m here for you to rest on. Who knows when you would have gotten another ‘mewment’ like this?” He barely gets the words out, snickering wildly the whole time.

 

I almost groan at the bad joke. “That's a good one, you should write it down.”

 

“Nyoho, thanks, gattino. I always adore your pawsitive catitude.”

 

I kiss Gyro again just to shut him up, getting a wide smile. I lay back down on Gyro and hope his awful puns are over with. Another minute of silence passes before Gyro speaks up again.

 

“...I still have a freebie question, right?” Gyro asks, suddenly serious again. He waits for me to nod before continuing. “Then I want to know what that was about.”

 

I had to take a few moments of silence, just so I can find the words I wanted to give.

 

“I-I don't actually know myself.”

 

“You were speaking so fast I could barely keep up. If it's something I did tell me.”

 

“It's not you. I just...saw weird things. Like a nightmare.” Even though it felt so real.

 

“But something must have triggered that panic attack. This happened before, right? When I came over to your place and you had the scratches?”

 

“Yeah, but that was the only other time.” There really was no point in hiding anymore.

 

“What happened then?”

 

“I don't know I just read the fortune you gave me and…” Just thinking about it was causing my chest to tighten. Gyro holds me just a little tighter and it helps to me bring me back.

 

“We’ll figure that out later then. I've got you now so don't worry.”

 

I do have Gyro now don't I? Whatever those horrible nightmares tell me Gyro’s right here with me. And I'm going to make sure that it stays like that. I'm not a religious person but in that moment I offered up a single prayer.


Don't take him away from me. Not yet. Not...again.

Chapter Text

“I thought you'd be bringing your A-game after a date with your boy.” Pocoloco taunts me again, idly bouncing my handball.

 

Bastard only makes a big deal out things when he’s the one winning. If I was to ever slightly brag in the reverse scenario, I'd just get a slew of curse words in response. You would think because we’re at my home court he'd be more humble.

 

“First of all, that happened two days ago. And second of all, the date didn't even go how I planned.” Plus it was way too cold out to be playing handball in nothing but a sweater and jeans, but if Poco wasn't complaining about the weather, I wasn't gonna either.

 

“What you mean? Aw shit, did he dump you already?” Poco bounces my ball back to me and grabs his water bottle.

 

“Stai zitto! It wasn't bad like that... it just didn't follow what I had planned in my head.” My hand rubbed the back of my head as I mentioned that last part with a grumble.

 

“So you're sucking because you planned shit wrong?”

 

“I'm not ‘sucking.’”

 

“Oh yeah? Tell that to the 3-0 score, Romeo.”

 

“You're just lucky, stronzo. If you're gonna talk shit, how about a rematch?”

 

“Fine, if you're so eager to lose. Just let me finish this.” Loco resumes drinking his water.

 

I spin my ball to pass the time, seeing how well I could balance it on just one finger.

 

“Yo! You guys almost done?” A voice from behind us calls out.

 

I turn to see two huge, muscular guys waving at us.

 

“We're about to play. Go to another court.” I reply but the guys come closer anyways.

 

“What? That sucks, we always use this court.” The taller brunette whines.

 

“Really? I've never seen you two around before.” I reply.

 

“He must be thinking of somewhere else. Let's go JoJo.” The blond quickly interrupts tugging on his friend’s- JoJo, I guess- hand.

 

“Relax Caesar, we’ll just wait for these guys to finish.” Caesar? Why do I feel like I've heard that name recently? Enough for it to stick in my head, that is.

 

“We're probably gonna be here until this guy actually wins for once, so you should just go.” Pocoloco called out, ignoring my glare at his taunt.

 

“Non essere testardo. Possiamo tornare più tardi.” Caesar says to his friend.

 

I get so excited at the sound of my native tongue, that I can't help but reply. “Solo giocheremo uno di più gioco.”

 

“Sei Italiano?” JoJo questions. His accent is rougher and it's clear to tell his Italian is learned unlike Caesar, who spoke it so effortlessly.

 

“Sì! Che nazionalita 'sei e il tuo amico?”

 

“I'm a natural New Yorker.” JoJo replies in English, probably for his own convenience. “Caesarino was born and raised in Italy, though.”

 

“Che bello!” I reply with a wide smile. It was always nice to find other Italians.

 

Suddenly both JoJo and Caesar freeze up staring at me. After a second they share a confused look with each other before Caesar speaks up.

 

“What's written on your teeth?” Oh, my grills shocked them?

 

“It says ‘Go! Go! Zeppeli!’” I explain.

 

“No way! Do you know a guy by the name of- shit what was it? Johnny, I think?” JoJo asks excitedly.

 

How would they know Johnny? Wait, I remember him saying something on our date. Suddenly it hits me. “You're Joseph and Caesar! Johnny was telling me about you two.”

 

Pocoloco groans next to me, probably thinking I was going to go off raving about Johnny again.

 

“Woah, I didn't think we'd meet up with you so soon!” Joseph shouts. “Now it's a real family reunion, right Caesarino?”

 

Caesar looks very nervous for some reason and only nods at Joseph, avoiding eye contact with myself. Joseph pats him roughly on the back and makes a hand motion towards me.

 

“We're c-cousins.” Caesar explains fidgeting around.

 

“Yeah, Johnny told me so. Sorry for not recognizing you. I never exactly paid much attention to extended family.”

 

Caesar breathes a sigh of relief. “Yeah, me neither.” He chuckles uneasily.

 

He's acting a bit weird but it is awkward meeting family members you don't remember, so I let it slide for now. He wasn't nagging at me to go back to Italy like all the family I do know, so it was a plus.

 

“You know, I never asked Johnny how he knew you.” Joseph mentioned, clearly trying to steer the attention away from Caesar.

 

“Oh we’re dat-” I stop myself quickly. I didn't even know if Johnny was close to his immediate family much less his extended one. Hell, did he ever even come out to them? So just mentioning the fact that we were dating didn't seem too smart. “We’re close.” I explain instead, not wanting to lie about our relationship.

 

“Sucks how he's not here. We could have all went out for some grub after a few rounds of handball and caught up.”

 

“Joseph...we have plans later, remember?” Caesar asks with a glare.

 

Joseph looks confused before getting a nervous smile. “Right, right! That's why I was saying it's a good thing how he's not here! More quality time for us, heh.”

 

“Gyro we playing today?” Loco asks, looking bored out of his skull.

 

I give an apologetic smile and turn back to Joseph and Caesar. “You'll get the court right after this.”

 

“No problem pal, take your time.” Joseph replies.

 

Loco and I resume our game though I was admittedly a bit distracted by Joseph and Caesar chatting behind us. Still, the game was my main focus, so I only make out a couple hushed words in Italian like ‘boyfriend’ and ‘date’. Because of everything, I end up losing horribly... which Loco is more than happy to tell me.

 

“Dude, it's almost too easy! I feel bad playing ya now.” Poco chuckles.

 

I roll my eyes and motion for Joseph and Caesar to take the court. Caesar thanks me quickly and the two begin playing as Poco and I head out.

 

“Come on, I think the winner deserves a victory banquet!” Loco shouts, trying to drag me to the closest restaurant.

 

“No way! You're getting some sandwiches and then you're shutting up.”

 

“Tch, you cheapskate!”

 

“Look who’s talking.” I snap back before tossing a final glance towards Joseph and Caesar. They're quite the odd duo.

 

Even though I've been here for a year I haven't seen either of them before. Joseph said he was born in New York too...but finally I shrug it off. No matter who those two really are, they seem harmless. It's not like I was going to be seeing much of them anyways, right?

 

Chapter Text

I like to think I’m a good girlfriend. I mean sure, I’ll rough Diego up a bit… a lot... but that’s really only when he’s asking for it. Or when he’s done something to deserve it. But overall, I’m nice to him and I try to look out for the bum. So the bastard shouldn’t be looking so surprised when I showed up at the museum with some homemade sandwiches.

 

“Don’t you have work?” Diego asks stupidly, still looking just as confused as before even though we’ve since moved into the little cafeteria in the museum.

“How about a ‘thank you’ before you go interrogating me?”

“...Thank you.” Diego mumbled like he doesn't really care making my fists twitch. “Now about my questi-”

“I took a day off and figured I should visit my ungrateful boyfriend.” I stand up, clenching the bag holding the sandwiches to try and calm myself down. “A stupid decision on my part sorry.” I spat out, turning to leave.

 

“Wait, HP! I didn’t mean it like that. You just caught me off guard, that's all.”

 

After a moment of awkward silence, I heard the blonde finally follow up. “...Don’t leave.”

‘I shouldn’t turn around, just walk away to prove my point’, I thought to myself. Yet I still found myself turning just enough to get a glimpse of that sap’s face. Christ, it was too hard to stay mad at that dumb pout. With a sigh, I turn back and sit back down, still ticked off.

“Here’s your sandwich.” I mumble tossing the bag to Diego.

“Thanks.” Diego says properly this time. “You just didn’t give me any warning, it’s embarrassing for you to catch me in the middle of...that.”

 

By ‘that’ he must be referring to when I saw him working when I came in. He was rattling off different facts about the various dinosaurs on display and excitingly answering questions. I don’t see what’s embarrassing about that; it’s not like his love for dinosaurs is a secret. Or maybe he’s referring to when he made a bad dinosaur pun and giggled at his own joke. Either way, it was nice to see him so happy at his workplace.

 

“It’s your job and it’s not like you were doing anything crazy.” I reply grabbing one of the sandwiches from the bag.

“But you saw me in this getup.” Diego motions to his uniform. It’s simple and definitely not the most embarrassing outfit I’ve seen. Sure his name tag is written in a goofy font but that’s not even the silliest looking part. The T-Rex pin is his own personal flair. “And talking to all those dumb kids.”

 

“It’s cute.” I couldn't help but chuckle, taking a bite out of the sandwich feeling calmed down. Diego always got a bit snippy when caught in a bind. Which seemed to be the case the moment as it looked like my comment brought a bit of color to the bum’s cheeks.

 

It’s rare to see him blush, but always worth it. “I am not cute! I’m handsome for goddamn sure, but not cute!” He takes one of the other sandwiches from the bag and muches down quickly, still a bit pink in the face.

“I couldn’t find any pepper.” The sandwiches still tasted fine to me but with Diego, certain textures or flavors could ruin his meal so I had to warn him.

“It’s still good. You know, you should make these for me Thanksgiving so I’ll actually have something to eat.” He jokes.

“Won’t you be spending it with your brother?”

He cringes at the mention of Dio. “Hell no, that arsehole is going to be busy with his job that day anyways and I’d rather keep all my food in my stomach, blech.”

“He sure doesn’t seem busy now.” I sigh.

“What do you mean?”

“Well you know how I’m taking afternoon classes? The bastard keeps showing up in front of my theology class waiting for me. I haven’t talked to him and luckily Enrico is keeping him preoccupied, but still it’s annoying.” Although I sure as hell had no idea why Dio caught Enrico’s attention, but whatever. As long as it got the shit out of my hair.


“That jackass.” Diego grumbles. “Just kick his ass next time he tries that.”

“Well funny enough, last time I was going to but he left before I could even confront him. Maybe he saw me coming and decided to leave...but he did wave bye to Enrico before he headed off. I hope he’s not being a dick to him.”

“If the guy could handle conversation with him for longer than five minutes without trying to jump out the window, he’ll be fine.”

 

“Hopefully.”

“So back onto more important things, are you going to make me these sandwiches for Thanksgiving? ‘Cause I’m not kidding about the whole ‘not being able to eat’ thing.”

“Wouldn’t Johnny make something?”

“I’m not letting that jerk find an excuse to poison me. Plus he already said he’s not going to be there.”

“...What do you mean?”

“He’s planning on visiting his horses upstate instead. Makes sense that he’d want to eat in a stable, it’s where he belongs being a vegetable and all.”

I give Diego a good smack upside the head before resuming my meal. So Johnny already had plans for the holiday? That’s going to be disappointing for poor Lucy, but I’m sure Johnny can make it up to her another time. Stephen and I will be with her anyways. I should make Diego a little something before I go, since it’d be bad for him to starve.

 

...

 

Or maybe…

 

“Why don’t you come with me to Stephen’s this year?”

Diego is back to a look of surprise. “What about Lucy?”

“What about her? She wouldn’t mind having you over and Stephen would probably appreciate the company as well.”

“I can’t cook, though.”

“Nobody’s asking you to. You don’t have to bring anything over since you'll just be my plus one.”

“...I suppose it would be more entertaining than eating alone.”

“Good, I’ll pick you up then.” I reach for another sandwich and realize the bag is empty. Diego’s finished all his sandwiches as well.

“You still hungry?” I ask balling up the paper bag to throw away.

“No, those beef and egg sandwiches are really filling. In a good way of course.” Diego hums.

 

We both get up cleaning our table before walking back to the dinosaur exhibit.

“Maybe you should give me one of your tours.” I joke, laughing at Diego’s embarrassed expression before he turned away.

“Goodbye.” He groans, mockingly pushing me towards the exit before stopping to give me a small peck.

“I’ll see you later, dinoboy.”

I sigh as I exit the museum.

 

Everyone’s busy, huh?

 

I hope we can get another time to all eat together, even if it’s not on Thanksgiving. After all, I’m pretty attached to this oddball group of friends now.

Chapter Text

Just a simple hangout.

 

That's what I told myself as I waited outside the restaurant, browsing through my phone. Just one day with my “cousin” and his friend. Although I was starting to doubt Joseph’s relation to me more and more. After all, I’ve never had anyone in my family ever pester me this much or even acknowledge my existence...but nonetheless, if I didn’t agree to hang out with him, this time, I was afraid he was going to find my home and just drag me out with him. At least Gyro was going to be with me.

 

With a sigh, I put away my phone and breathe on my fingers, trying to warm them up. I needed to buy gloves, but that cost money, which was something I had less and less of as time went by.

 

Christ, I’m probably going to have to apply for disability soon or, even worse, get a job. Stupid me, I didn’t take enough money with me when I was running away. And there was no way in hell I could go back to Kentucky to ask my father for any. And I didn’t want to go back there just to see him fawning over fucking Nicholas.

 

Well, at least the anger was keeping me warm for now. Maybe I’ll ask HP if she has any spare gloves the next time I see her.

 

“Ciao, tesorino!” Gyro calls from behind me. I turn to see the big goof waving excitedly from across the street. He looks quickly for cars before running over. Once he's crossed, the dork leans down quickly to give me a peck before speaking again. “What’re you doing here so early?”

 

“The bus was on time for once and I didn’t feel like waiting around for the next one.”

 

“You took the bus? I thought the pitbull or your roommate would have given you a ride. You should have told me. I would have picked you up.”

 

I shrug. “It’s not that big a deal. Gave me time to people watch.”

 

“How long have you been out in this cold?” He grabs my hand, not giving me time to answer. “Tsk, stellina, you should have waited for us inside. Your hands are freezing.”

 

“It would have been boring to wait inside.”

 

Gyro doesn’t seem to hear me as he takes both of my hands in his, muttering under his breath. With his hands around mine like this, I really notice how much bigger they are. I mean, I know I’m not the tallest guy but being this close to Gyro just makes me feel so much smaller.

 

Gyro interrupts my thoughts, pressing a kiss to one hand and I feel my heart race quicken. Fuck, I’m like putty in this dork’s hands.

 

“We should call Joseph and Caesar to see how far away they are.” Gyro states calmly.

 

“Oh yeah.” I reply dumbly, I had completely forgotten about those two.

 

Reluctantly, I pull my hands away to get out my phone.

 

“Hey! You guys are early!” I hear just as I’m about to tap the call button. I look up to see Joseph crossing the street without bothering to look, earning a curse from Caesar who quickly follows.

 

“Look for cars, idiota!” Caesar scolds Joseph who only rolls his eyes before turning back to Gyro and myself. “Did you two get the right time?”

 

“Yeah, but I like to go places early and stellina took an early bus.” Gyro replies.

 

“‘Stellina’? That’s a cute nickname.” Joseph states.

 

Gyro gives a nervous chuckle before replying. “Yeah, it’s just a pun on his last name.”

 

I notice he’s moved away from me and is getting further away as the conversation goes on. Was there a problem?

 

“Oh, a clever nickname! Maybe it’s an Italian thing because Caesar has lots of nicknames for me, too. You should hear what he called me last night!” Joseph laughs before getting an elbow to the ribs.

 

“Let’s head inside. It’s freezing out here.” Caesar states quickly, dragging Joseph with him.

 

Gyro gives me a quick pat and holds the door open so I can get inside but says nothing to explain his weird behavior outside.

 

“Is a booth or table better for you?” Caesar asks as I roll closer.

 

“Table, but I can still sit in a booth, I’d just have to move my chair out of the way.”

 

Caesar asks for a table anyways and the waiter shows us to a small one in the corner of the restaurant.

 

“Sit next to me, cuz!” Joseph says as he sits on of the chairs patting the seat next to him.

 

I’m about to protest but Caesar and Gyro have already taken the other seats so I’m left with no choice. Joseph moves the chair next to him out of the way so I can just stay in my wheelchair instead.

 

“JoJo, they have one of those meal sharing deals.” Caesar states pushing the menu towards Joseph.

 

“Really? Sweet! Oh Gyro, you and Johnny should do one of those.”

 

“What, why?” Gyro asks nervously.

 

“It’s cheaper, and if you don’t want the appetizer, I can have it!”

 

“Oh... yeah, yeah that makes sense.” Gyro mutters while grabbing one of the menus. Why is he still acting weird?

 

I try to grab his hand for reassurance but he notices and quickly moves back before looking over to Joseph and Caesar, who are too busy in conversation to notice the exchange. Suddenly it clicks to me what he’s doing. Of course, I never asked him whether Caesar was aware that we were dating. By his behavior, I guess he’s still keeping it a secret from him and probably the rest of his family too. I can’t blame him but still, it sucks. I look for what to order instead of letting myself get too down about it.

 

Once the waiter comes over, we all order and get back to the conversation.

 

“So Johnny boy, what do you do for fun?” Joseph asks, playing with the sugar packets on the table.

 

“Not much, just watch TV and play games.” I answered simply.

 

“Really? You know, you should try exploring Queens more, you never know what you could find. Like maybe a cool alleyway.”

 

“You mean like a hole in the wall? No thanks, I don't trust shady places like that.”

 

“No no, I mean like an alley...you haven’t seen anything cool or weird around lately?”

 

“Not really.” I reply. What would be so cool or weird about an alley?

 

“Huh, guess it’s just us, then.” Joseph mutters to himself. “But anyways, what I’m really curious about is how you and Zeppeli number 2 over here met.”

 

“I was wondering about that too.” Caesar agreed, looking at me expectantly.

 

I gave them the short version, allowing Gyro to add in little side comments or details about his perspective.

 

“You hit him and then you took him out to lunch?” Joseph laughs.

 

“It’s not like I did it on purpose. I felt bad.” Gyro chuckled.

 

“How did you agree to see him again after that, Johnny?” Caesar asks.

 

“A few days later, I wasn't feeling well so I called him over to my place. And the rest, as they say, is history.” I say with a shrug.

 

“And I thought JoJo and I had a weird meeting.” Caesar chuckles, shaking his head.

 

“How did you two meet?” I ask, curious now that he brought it up.

 

“The short version is we got into a fight inside a restaurant. We both got kicked out for disturbing the peace and I thought I would never have to deal with the jerk again. Then I go over to my ma’s place the next morning only to see this smug shit in my living room. Turns out he was going to be staying there! It was the worst day of my life.” Joseph whines.

 

“Why? Are you studying abroad?” I ask Caesar.

 

“No, Lisa Lisa was kind enough to take me in after the unfortunate passing of my parents. She didn’t warn me about her bratty son, though.” Caesar groans.

 

“No warning could have prepared you for my greatness!” Joseph chuckles.

 

Our food and drinks come and we continue the conversation in between bites and sips. While chatting, I noticed that Joseph reminds me a bit of Gyro in a sense, what with them both being loudmouthed jokers. They actually have an easier time conversing than Gyro and his own cousin. On the opposite hand, while I do enjoy Joseph’s jokes- there were no bad puns- I find myself talking to Caesar more. By the time I’ve finished my meal, I actually found myself glad to have agreed to this little meetup. Joseph and Caesar may be a bit weird, but they’re enjoyable company.

 

“So what’re your Thanksgiving plans, Johnny?” Joseph asks as we wait for the check.

 

“I’m going upstate to the horse ranch.” I sighed, unable to keep myself from getting a bit happy at the thought of the ranch.

 

“Thanksgiving...is that the one where you have a feast?” Gyro asked.

 

“Oh yeah, I always forget they don’t get that in Italy. Yeah, it’s the one with the feast.” Joseph answered with a sip of his drink.

 

“I never understood that holiday; a family feast is just an average Tuesday in Italia.” Caesar jokes.

 

“Pfft, yeah, right? Americans make no sense.” Gyro scoffed.

 

“You're just jealous you don’t get a national holiday off to eat.” I grinned, smiling at Gyro’s pout. “What about you Joseph? Any special plans?”

 

“I’m going to just be spending it at my ma’s with Caesar and Suzi as always.”

 

“Who’s Suzi?” Gyro asks.

 

“Suzi Q: my girlfriend.” Joseph replies casually, throwing me off.

 

Caesar and Joseph bicker a lot but they had a certain closeness to them. Especially as we were eating, I noticed Joseph would occasionally grab Caesar’s hand or Caesar would make a reference to something they did in the past that sounded too intimate to be a normal hangout. Especially with all the crude jokes Joseph would direct at Caesar. I had assumed that they were the ones dating. I guess Lucy’s way of thinking rubbed off on me.

 

“You never mentioned her.” Gyro mentioned, sounding as surprised as I felt.

 

“Really? Don’t tell her that, she’d get pissed. She’s even worse than Caesar when it comes to that stuff.”

 

“Don’t talk about me like I’m not here.” Caesar scolds. “You can’t blame us for getting mad when you’re such a horrible boyfriend.”

 

Wait...

 

“I’m not! I just forget stuff sometimes. I’m the perfect boyfriend.”

 

Caesar rolls his eyes at the comment and the waiter drops off the check.

 

Joseph offers to pay for Gyro and I, but we turn it down. Though I regret it the second after I put my share of cash down. Now I definitely can't buy gloves. After everything is settled, we all head outside.

 

“We should hangout again sometime! Maybe after Thanksgiving?” Joseph asked, rubbing his palms together for warmth.

 

“Yeah, sounds good.” I agreed with a small nod.

 

I wave goodbye to the odd duo and look for the closest bus stop.

 

“Come on, I’ll ride you home...or we could go back to my place.” Gyro suggested, leaning down to take my hand in his again.

 

“Oh, now we’re affectionate?” I snapped, taking my hand away. He can’t just do that to me with no warning whether he had his reasons or not.

 

“Why are you getting mad? I was doing that for you. You never said if you told your family about our relationship.”

 

“What? Why would I care about that? I’m already disowned. I don’t give a rat’s ass about what my family thinks. I thought you were doing that because you didn’t tell Caesar about us.”

 

“Well I didn’t, but I don’t really care. My father’s already pissed off at me, anyways. You should have said something.”

 

“You should have said something.”  I snapped back.

 

“...Guess we both screwed ourselves over there. I doubt those two would care if they knew anyways.”

 

“Yeah, I really thought they were dating until Joseph said he had a girlfriend.”

 

“Same here! Caesar even called Joseph ‘caro’. Guess they’re just really close.”

 

That being said, the wording of some of their statements led me to believe something else was up. But I couldn’t come up with anything concrete, so I kept it to myself.

 

“Where’d you park?” I asked, looking for Gyro’s bike.

 

“A few blocks from here.” Gyro says, motioning for me to follow him.

 

“You know, you never said what you’re going to do for Thanksgiving.” I mentioned as we made our way over.

 

“I don't celebrate it. I have off, but I’ll probably do the same thing I always do.”

 

Feeling bold, I ask something I’ve been wanting to for almost a week now. “Why don’t you celebrate it with me?”

 

Gyro stops in his tracks and turns to me. “I thought you were going upstate...?”

 

“I am, but you can come along, too. It’s not that long of a drive, after all.”

 

“Isn’t your family going to be there?”

 

“The only people there are the ranch workers. I already said I don’t care what my family thinks, anyways. I was going to stay there for the weekend, anyways, so you could...spend the night with me.”

 

Gyro smiles wide and I know immediately he’s going to agree now. Sometimes he was so easy. “It’s a date.”

 

No, going over to his house is a ‘date’. This was… something else. Something that made me have to take a deep breath to accept once it registered in my mind that this was gonna happen.

 

After we took the usual steps needed to get me onto Gyro’s bike, I pressed my body as tight as I could against his before we even took off.

 

It was for warmth. Because I was a bit nervous for what was to come. And the fact that a lot happened today.

 

But as we took off into the road, my mind drifted off as my body seemed to be looking forward to the horses. The feeling of being on Valkyrie always gave me that nostalgic feeling. And at last, all those worries and excuses to hold Gyro were swept away by the bitter wind that ran past the two of us.

For warmth? To help me forget my troubles? As some kind of stress relief?

All decent reasons.


But at the end of it all, we were just together because it was as natural as breathing. It’s just how it was.

Chapter Text

“No way!”

 

“Lucy, I understand you're upset, but it's not your decision where Johnny decides to spend his holidays.”

 

Even so, I still felt so betrayed!

 

“But he was supposed to be here! We were even talking about what different things we like to eat on Thanksgiving just yesterday!”

 

“Now now, Johnny never said he was coming over. That's just what you assumed.” Hot Pants sighed.

 

I was so excited to have her over to watch a movie with me while Stephen was busy, but now that she brought this news, our hangout just feels sour.

 

“He’s practically family by now. Of course I'd want him to come over. Stephen does, too!” I whined before crossing my arms on my chest.

 

“Well, you have to think about what he wants to do. He's spending it with his own family.”

 

“No, he's not! He's spending at his ranch. Alone. Like always...”

 

“He’s not exactly alone on the ranch. He has his horses.” HP tried to reason.

 

“But no people! He can go to the ranch anytime, so would he choose Thanksgiving to lock himself away?”

 

“I don't know. Look Lucy, Johnny did this so I don't understand why you're getting upset with me.”

 

I suddenly felt bad and looked away, huffing.

 

“I'm not upset at you...I just don't get why Johnny would do this.” I sigh. Doesn't Johnny realize by now that he's our friend? Why wouldn't he want to spend time with us?

 

“Lucy, if you're really that sad ,then the one you should be talking to isn't me, it's Johnny. He already made his plans so you can ask him why.” She suggested, suddenly sparking the lightbulb in my head!

 

“That's a great idea! Then I can convince him to come celebrate with us instead!” I exclaimed, my spirits perked up once again. I grab my phone out of my bag while HP talked.

 

“You can try, but don't be surprised if he still says no.” I bet she was rolling her eyes, but I determined to prove her otherwise!

 

“There's no way he can say no to me. I'm too cute to say no to!” I bat my eyelashes to prove my point.

 

HP just laughs as I made the call.

 

“Is there something wrong?” Johnny says over the phone. We rarely call each other, just text, so it makes sense that he'd ask something like that first. But I still would liked at least a hello, too.

 

“No, nothing’s wr-” I begin to say before being cut off.

 

“Who is it?” I faintly hear another voice on the line.

 

“Just Lucy.” Johnny answers the familiar voice.

 

“Oh, your sister, nyoho.” The voice that I now recognize as being Gyro’s chuckled.

 

“Gyro’s with you?” I ask before remembering where I am and clasping my free hand over my mouth. I was too late, though.

 

“What? Where is Johnny? Are they back at the apartment?” Hot Pants starts questioning like mad, now fully engaged in my call.

 

“I- I don't know.” I replied quietly, feeling trapped.

 

“Is that HP?” Johnny asks over the line.

 

“Yeah. I'm at home with her.”

 

Hot Pants holds out her hand expectantly, confusing me even more. Unsure of what to do, I put my phone in her hands. Quickly she puts on the button to make Johnny’s voice audible to the both of us.

 

“You're on speakerphone. Johnny, where are you?” HP asked like a policewoman.

 

“Wha-  Are you seriously asking me where I am? I don't have a curfew, last time I checked.”

 

“Curfew? What’s Lucy talking about?” Gyro asks.

 

“‘S not Lucy. HP is talking, too.” Johnny replies.

 

Hot Pants’ fist twitches for a second at the sound of Gyro’s voice but she spoke calmly despite that. “Put the phone on speaker. I want to talk to Mr. Zeppeli as well.”

 

“I'm not putting the phone on speaker just so you can scold Gyro for something stupid. I'm at his apartment. Which I am allowed to do because we are dating .”

 

More twitching. I think I saw a vein. Oh yeah I did, plus a few more. “I never said you're not allowed to be there. I just wanted to make sure you were safe.”

 

“Thanks, but I'm fine.” He shot back.

 

“What are you and Zeppeli doing anyways?” Dangerous question, HP!

 

“I was taking a nap and Gyro was watching some Italian game of soccer-”

 

“Football.” Gyro interrupts but sounds much clearer now. Which means either Johnny did put the phone on speaker or Gyro is closer to the phone... or maybe just closer to Johnny.

 

“Whatever.” Johnny sighs and I swear I can hear him rolling his eyes through the phone.

 

“So you're over his house to sleep?” Another vein.

 

“No, I just got tired. Did Lucy just call me so you can check up on me?”

 

Oh right, the convincing thing!

 

“No, I called you about Thanksgiving!” I interrupt, glad that the conversation has steered back to what I wanted to talk about.

 

“Thanksgiving? What's that got to do with anything?” Gyro asked. So he heard me? The phone must be on speaker or else he's really close to the phone.

 

“Johnny’s going upstate for Thanksgiving, but I don't want him to go. He should spend it with me, HP and Stephen!”

 

“And Diego…” Hot Pants adds in quietly.

 

I look at her confused for a moment but I guess it does make sense that she'd bring Diego with her too.

 

“Sorry Lucy, but I already decided on this. We can hang out after the weekend is over.”

 

“The weekend?” Hot Pants asked, showing that this was news to her, too.

 

“I'm staying over there until Sunday night. Or Monday morning.”

 

“B-but you can do that any weekend! You can't spend Thanksgiving alone. I know you miss your horses, but you can see them anytime!” I interrupt.

 

“I'm not gonna be alone.” Johnny says matter of factly.

 

“You're not gonna be with any of us though! You should spend Thanksgiving with the people in your life right now, not just your horses!”

 

Johnny sighed. “I wasn't talking about the horses. I mean I'm going with Gyro.”

 

Once he dropped that last bombshell, I can hear Gyro shouting something in Italian.

 

“What?!” Hot Pants practically screams at the phone. My poor ears! “You're going to be spending a weekend with that cretin? Alone?! No way!”

 

“I'm alone with him right now, HP! I'm not a prince trapped in a tower or something ridiculous like that.”

 

“No, no! You should spend Thanksgiving with us. Lucy wants you here and it'd be unfair to her if you're gone for a whole weekend.”

 

“Well sorry, but I’m not changing my mind. I've been wanting to go back to the ranch for a while now. Lucy can hang out with me when I get back.”  Johnny spoke firmly, with way more force than I’ve ever heard him speak to HP before!

 

“I don't want to wait that long! I have off Thursday and Friday. I'm not gonna have many days to spend with you after this.” I whine.

 

“I'm going to the ranch, Lucy. Just spend Thanksgiving with HP and Stephen and we can see each other afterwards.”

 

No no! I don't want to spend the whole weekend without Johnny! Maybe I can understand not Thanksgiving but all that time is just too much! If only we could spend Friday or Saturday together...

 

But wait, Johnny just is set on going to the ranch. He didn't say anything about us not being able to come along…

 

“How soon afterwards?” I continue without letting Johnny answer. “How about that Friday?”

 

“Lucy I'm going to be at the ranch.”

 

“I know that! That's why I'm saying how about you coming to celebrate with us, we come over to you!”

 

Silence.

 

Then I start hearing Gyro and Johnny mumbling to each other. It's just barely loud enough to hear.

 

“I thought we were going to be spending the weekend together?” Gyro whispers, sounding distressed.

 

“We are still. They'll just be there too.” Johnny whispers back.

 

“But I thought you didn't want to spend it with them? Isn't that why you're going to the ranch?”

 

“Of course not. I don't mind their company, I just wanted to go to the ranch really bad.”

 

“But then that's a lot of people you'll have to deal with.”

 

“The ranch is big enough for them. They can even help out with some chores, if they're so eager to come along.” Wait wha-

 

“I don't think you should. You wanted to spend time riding, right? Not babysitting.”

 

“It's not babysitting. I can still ride. It's not your decision to make, anyways.”

 

“But tesorino, what about us?”

 

“We’ll have plenty of time together.”

 

Gyro mumbles something else in Italian that makes HP twitch again and Johnny speaks up this time, talking to us.

 

“Okay fine, you can come over Friday. HP, too.”

 

Perfect! I knew I could convince Johnny! And HP said he'll say no to me. Ha! Like he ever could!

 

“Lucy don't yell.” Hot Pants scolds motioning for me to calm down.

 

Oh, I was so happy I didn't even realize I was! I mumble an apology and grab my phone again.

 

“Text me the way to your ranch! We’ll see each other then! And don't worry, I'll make sure to save a plate for you!”

 

Johnny hangs up shortly after and a few minutes later I have the address to show HP so she can copy it down as well.

 

Great! Now I had two things to look forward to over break!

 

...But now my mind couldn’t stop swirling about thoughts over what Johnny and Gyro could be doing!

Chapter Text

The week had run by so fast.

It feels like just yesterday I was making plans with Gyro for Thanksgiving, and now here I am waiting outside his apartment.

 

Thanksgiving wasn't until tomorrow, but he suggested that we spend tonight together so we can just head upstate first thing tomorrow morning. I'm sure he has ulterior motives, but I wasn't going to object either way.

 

I rolled the two bags I had with me on the floor in front of me as I waited. Gyro must have just gotten home from work, so I doubt he actually packed yet. Maybe I’ll have to help him since he said he's never been to a ranch before. The idea’s so domestic, it feels strange.

 

“Ciao, tesorino!” Gyro greets me with a quick peck, making me realize he had already come down and opened the door.

 

“Hey- woah, you look exhausted.” He definitely just came home. He was still in his scrubs and his hair was a mess.

 

The bum tried to laugh it off before rubbing the back of his head “I am.” Gyro groans, motioning for me to come inside.

 

I try to put my bags onto my lap until Gyro notices and grabs one for me. I roll inside and head for the elevator.

 

“Why is there… um... two?” Gyro tries to ask. He really was tired if his English was failing.

 

“One bag is my luggage, like clothes and things. The other is food.”

 

“There's no food there?”

 

“There is, but it's the workers’. I don't expect them to cook for us, so I brought my own stuff so we don't starve.” I don't mention how most of the food is just the cheapest things I could grab from the market. It wasn't going to be a real Thanksgiving meal, but it was something.

 

“Why didn't you tell me? I woulda cooked.”

 

“You don't look like you're in any position to cook us a meal right now.” I tease.

 

Gyro pouts and leans against the walls of the elevator. “‘Should make you a key. It's too much work.” Gyro grumbles.

 

Of course, I'm shocked at him saying something like that so casually but he doesn't seem to notice my reaction.

 

“...Then I could just come into your place anytime.” I almost warn, scrubbing at my flushed cheeks.

 

“And? Would be nice to have something to come home to.”

 

“You're not thinking straight, you're tired.” I dismiss the suggestion.

 

I breathed out a sigh of relief when the elevator doors open, giving me time to get away from the topic.

 

Gyro grumbles something in Italian and follows, not saying anything else as he opens the door and tiredly plops onto the couch.

 

I suppress a smile and close the door behind me, rolling over to Gyro, who looks half-asleep already.

 

“You should shower and change out of your scrubs.” I suggest.

 

“Too tired. Can't move.”

 

“That uniform can't be comfortable, though. Come on, the water will wake ya up.”

 

“Hmm, how about you help?” He groaned in his dazed state.

 

Wh-

 

“Help you get undressed? Or help you shower?”

 

“Both.” Gyro chuckles. “Could use the company.”

 

My heart was practically pounding at my ribcage now.

 

“...I thought you were too tired to move?”

 

“Always have a little energy saved for you, gattino.”

 

“How sweet.” I deadpanned to the best of my ability.

 

“Speaking of sweets,” Gyro hummed as he moves into a sitting position. “Can you grab me a chocolate thingy from my bag?”

 

I look over to where he's motioning before grabbing what I guess is his personal bag. After a quick open, I peer inside to see it’s filled with miscellaneous papers and candy bars.

 

“I never knew you had a sweet tooth.” I commented before tossing a candy bar, which Gyro doesn't bother to catch; just letting it land on his lap.

 

“I don't. It’s just good energy when you can’t get coffee.” Gyro mumbled in between bites.

 

“So all you're running on is candy and coffee?”

 

Gyro chuckles and lies back down, tossing the wrapper onto the coffee table. “Pretty much.”

 

Rolling back to his side, I couldn’t help but let out a sigh as I now knew how reckless this bum could  be. And I thought pissing off HP was bad enough.

 

“Got enough energy now?” I ask prodding at Gyro’s arm.

 

“Yep, enough energy to do…” Gyro grabs me and brings me onto couch against him. “This!”

 

I let out an embarrassing shriek and jokingly push Gyro away, only for him to bring me closer as he’s planting small pecks on my neck and cheeks.

 

“Gyro! Go change!” I half-protest.

 

“Mm... ok, but can you wait for me?” He finally grinned after torturing me for way too long.

 

“I’m not going anywhere. We’re going together, remember?”

 

“That’s not what I’m talking about.”  He whispers low in that rough tone. “Wait in my room.”

 

!

 

I nod. It was all I could manage with my brain short-circuiting.

 

***

 

What’s the term? Like a lamb to slaughter?

 

That’s how I felt sitting on Gyro’s bed waiting for...I don’t even know.

 

I was filled with an uneasy mix of excitement, fear, and something indescribable. It was something I never had to worry about with my forgettable ex-lovers.

 

Maybe I was just getting worked up over nothing. Gyro didn’t say anything besides wait, after all. But the way he said it… it made me doubt he had innocent intentions.

 

I sigh and poke at one of Gyro’s teddy bears. What did he say was this one’s name again? Zeet-something?

 

Gyro better put these teddy bears away if we really were going to do something. I’m not too fond of an audience. Especially one with such judgemental eyes.

 

I lie down and notice a mostly-filled bag on the floor. So Gyro did try to pack. I grab the bag and bring it onto the bed next to me, careful not to spill the contents.

 

Looks like Gyro had packed all the essentials. Shirts, pants...underwear. He even had a toothbrush and toothpaste. Once I dug deeper, I noticed B.B was in here, too. Guess he didn’t need my help packing after all.

 

“Nosy, aren’t you?” Gyro asks causing me to jump. How long was he there?!

 

Shit.

 

Caught red-handed. I didn't even hear him come in. I look over to make up an excuse but the words catch in my throat at the sight of him.

 

He was just wearing sweats and a loose muscle tee that was sticking to his frame since he was still wet. His hair was down and dripping onto a towel he had hanged around his shoulders. I didn’t think I had a thing for the ‘fresh out the shower look’, but Gyro seemed to be proving me wrong. Or maybe it was just Gyro.

 

“What’s wrong, gattino? Cat got your tongue?” Gyro asks with a mischievous smile, casually drying his hair.

 

“You never told me what that means you know.” I mumbled, putting the bag back on the floor to avoid eye contact.

 

“‘Gattino’? Means kitten.” He tosses his towel on the floor near the bag and climbs onto the bed next to me. Fuck, his body is even easier to see this close.

 

“...‘M not a cat.”

 

“You’re very catlike.” He wraps an arm around my waist and ghosts his lips over a sensitive spot of mine. “See? You even purr.” Sneaky bastard!

 

Fed up with Gyro’s teasing, I pull him in for a kiss to properly shut him up. I can feel his chest vibrate with a chuckle but can’t hear anything. He’s still slightly wet from the shower... and so, so warm.

 

Gyro suddenly breaks away, making me whine before I try to tug him back down. But my hands are repeatedly denied.

 

I try to ask what he's doing but he cuts me off when his hands are moving me so I was right underneath him. He leans back for a second, just... looking at me. It makes me feel exposed, even though I'm still fully clothed. I turn my head away afraid to make eye contact.

 

It was just too intense.

 

Gyro leans down again and kisses my neck. “Don't hide from me, amore.”

 

Reluctantly, I move my head back. “I'm not hiding, I'm right here.”

 

“Don't move away, then.” Gyro corrects himself and pressed our lips together so I can't protest.

 

With him, on top of me like this, I couldn't move away even if I wanted to. I could feel Gyro pressed against me all the way down to my thighs. I can vaguely tell his hands are moving down my back.

 

But I'm more concentrated on his lips. His hands reach my waist and I freeze up.

 

Christ, this was really happening, wasn't it? This wasn't just flirting or teasing anymore. My heart races. I want this- no- I've wanted this, but now when faced with the reality of it, I can't do anything but stare. Gyro must notice my reaction because he breaks away and moved his hands back up.

 

“What are you stopping for?” I ask.

 

“You. What do you want Tesorino? If this is too much, we can just kiss or-”

 

“No, no, no! ...I want this.” I tug on his shirt, trying to get him back down.

 

Gyro hesitates before smiling wide. He puts his hand over my own. “You're right, Amore, we’re both wearing way too many clothes.”

 

He doesn't give me time to question him, just leaning back to quickly take off his shirt and throw it somewhere behind him.

 

Fuck, he shouldn't look this good. There's gotta be a rule against that.

 

It's dark inside the room, as well. The only light being the moon outside. It's barely enough light so the only thing I can see clearly is Gyro. With the dim lighting, I really get the feeling like it's just him and me.

 

There is no outside anymore.

 

Gyro leans down again, but only to hold me close before he’s pressing light kisses on my face.

 

It’s at this point where I could sense that something was wrong. Wait...no, not ‘wrong’, or...that is to say…

 

Different.

 

I suppose that’s one to put it. But it wasn't directly from my nervousness or anticipation of what was going on at this moment. It was like something had been building up inside me. Bubbling and boiling over like a filled kettle. But I never noticed until now, when I had the guy that just drove me...crazy...all over me.

 

And finally, it all clicked.

 

Everything.

 

It was pretty stupid of me to realize so late in the game. But now I knew!

 

It was like a weight was lifted from my chest after I made this revelation. Shit, I felt like I could do anything, even go through with this!

 

Even to not be shy to admit that I spent the night over!

 

Even to...

 

“I love you.” I suddenly blurt out.

 

 

Wait.

 

Wait wait.

 

Waitwaitwaitwait- that wasn't out loud, was it?!

 

I was so far in my stupid high that I let it all blurt out! Of course I find a way to fuck it right up!

 

I cover up my face right away. I fucked it up. My heart falls into my gut like a boulder as I knew that I just rushed right over the line. Gyro must've been so fucking awkward now. He was gonna pull away. He was gonna end this. He was gonna end us. He was-

 

There’s a husky chuckle filling the otherwise empty room now.

 

That wasn't the inevitable sign of abandonment I was waiting for.

 

Moving my hands from my face to get a good look at Gyro, I'm greeted by the sight of the goof looking right at me with a warm smile. “Ti amo anch'io. Voglio stare con te per sempre.”

 

“...I don't understand.”

 

I didn't understand any of this.

 

Gyro kisses me again, deeper this time instead of answering me.

 

I… I guess that was good enough for an answer.

 

Which meant…

 

He feels the same?!

 

Feeling that high again, I move my hands down to try and take my leggings off. Dammit, it's hard with Gyro on top of me and my legs are just refusing to cooperate. Gyro noticed, however, and moves off to help me.

 

As soon as it's off, he starts pressing gentle kisses to my thighs and spreads my legs.

 

There was a pause now.

 

Was he having second thoughts?

 

Oh Jesus Christ, please just say something!

 

Finally he spoke, his voice strained as if he was begging. “Can I make love to you?” 

 

My mind almost shuts down again but I manage to keep myself together. Who even says 'make love' anymore? It's too cheesy. But I'd be hard pressed to find anyone cheesier than Gyro.

 

Gyro looks up me with worry. Did he think I was going to deny him? Hah, like I would. As much as a dork Gyro was there was a certain charm in his soft words. And the way he was running his fingers along my hip. 

 

I lie my torso back against the bed, sucking a deep breath. I speak calmly though I can hear my heart racing.

 

“You know my answer's yes. So just...go on already."

Chapter Text

This was a sight I could get used to. And one I hopefully would be able to wake up to every morning.

Cazzo, he was so cute sleeping like this. I mean, it makes sense that he'd be worn out after last night, but he looked so…peaceful.

I reached over to move a stray hair out from his eye, careful not to wake him up.

Johnny hums in his sleep and I feel my heart skip a beat.

Calm down, Gyro. You already had your way with him yesterday. He looks so tempting with his legs still around you and his soft body so inviting, but you gotta focus on the bigger idea here. Don't ruin the moment and wake him up…

I move my hand down to the small of his back gently, trying not to disturb him. Just a little touch to keep me sated for now.

Johnny shifts closer under my arm and I sigh. It was so nice to have him close like this. I don't know how I survived all these days in bed without him. It feels surreal to even remember the past lonely mornings.

Ah, how sentimental. A nagging voice in my head tells me that I shouldn't be getting so emotional but I ignore it as always. After a year away from him, you would think my father's words would stop echoing in my head.

Getting upset, I try to focus on more pleasant things and move my hand further down. He squirms slightly in his sleep.

Oh. Oh no. I can feel the heat pooling in my gut. A boner wasn't how I wanted to wake Johnny. I do my best to will the feeling away with gross thoughts, but it seems I'm too late.

“Mm, Gyro.” Johnny mumbles low, his voice hoarse as his head’s nuzzling against my chest. Down, boy, down.

I give his forehead a small kiss before leaning my head back onto the pillow. “Morning, Johnny.”

Johnny looks up bleary eyed and slowly blinks awake. “Mo’nin’.”

I run my fingers through his hair as he seems to readjust to the light, letting out a quiet yawn.

“You been up long? Must have been boring.” Johnny hums, leaning into the touch.

“I didn't get up too early. And it's not boring. I like having you in my arms, Amore.”

“Good, cause I ain't moving yet.” He sighs and puts his hand over mine. I move my hand from his head to his chest and enjoy the feeling of his beating heart.

“Te amo.” I whisper and interlock our fingers together.

“Hmm, what's that word mean? You kept saying it last night.”

“It means ‘I love you.’”

Johnny looks up at me with tinted cheeks and nods slowly.

“Te amo.” He repeats gently. The pronunciation is off and his accent is too American, but the words still sound perfect.

I feel my heart swell again. How did I get so lucky?

He moves up suddenly, taking his hand away from me. Before I can protest, Johnny kisses my cheek and tries to wriggle out of my arms. Naturally, I tighten my grip and pull him back down.

“Where are you going?” I ask in between pecks to his bruised neck and shoulder.

“Gotta get ready.” Johnny groans and lazily tilts my head up, probably trying to stop me. “...your teeth...they’re weird.”

“I took my grills out, gattino. It was like this last night, too. Though I guess you were too busy to notice, nyoho!”

Johnny smiles, making my arms go slack for a second. The clever little thing takes the opportunity to wriggle a bit further but it just gave me easier access to his chest and cute stomach. I grip him again and kiss him everywhere I can reach.

“Stop teasing me. We have to go.” Johnny tries to protest but doesn't bother moving away from the contact. On the contrary he’s leaning into it.

“Says who?” I nip at his chest and get a squeak in response. “Stay in bed a little longer, tesorino.”

He hums instead of protesting more. Thinking I've won the fight I grind against Johnny, making him gasp.

“You can't possibly...wanna go again, right? Aren't you tired?” He looks at me in disbelief.

“Not really. I could get you screaming again, if you’d like. Multiple times even, nyoho.” I put my hands around his waist to emphasize my point.

Johnny pauses like he's seriously considering it before he just shakes his head. “We can't, Gyro. You said we could go first thing in the morning.”

“It's barely morning...” I groan. Cavolo, he must really want to go if he was protesting this much. I miss the cute Johnny who just begged me to do whatever I pleased with him.

Johnny pouts and I finally release my grip. He smiles and kisses me on the nose before sitting up. At least like this, I had a nice view of his back. And that grabbable...nevermind.

My eyes linger on the scar on his spine. I've seen enough wounds to tell it used to be a bullet hole but I don't know about the story behind it. Johnny doesn't seem ready to tell me about it, since he moved away so quickly when I touched it last night.

“Ugh, my shirt…” Johnny looks at the floor with a sigh. “It's cold too, damn it.”

“If you need a shirt. I've got plenty.” I give his spine a quick kiss- just above the scar- before I get up to retrieve one from my drawer.

I toss the first one I find to Johnny, who quickly puts it on. It's so big on him, it's adorable! He hums contently, messing with the hem of the shirt.

“Looks good on you.” I grinned. It was so nice to see him wearing my clothes. Especially with that… particularly messy look that he had from last night. Anybody who looked at him right now could tell he was mine and that thought made my heart race.

“Can you get my chair?” Johnny asks, not so subtly raising the collar to his face. “I want to go to the bathroom.”

Oh, of course, I was so excited I nearly forgot he wants to get ready. I hope that if I oblige him a bit, he’ll come to his senses and stay here. I pick Johnny up to carry him to the bathroom and he surprisingly doesn't protest.

“Think you can reach everything or you want me to help?” I ask as I place him on the edge the bathtub.

“It's not that high, I can handle it. Can you go get my toothbrush and stuff from my bag?”

I reach into the bathroom cupboard and pull out a blue toothbrush and toothpaste.

“Here, I, uh, have a spare you can use instead.” I offered, not wanting to admit that I went out and bought him a toothbrush in case he ever stayed over.

“Oh… thank you.”

I leave Johnny on his own and head back to my room to get ready myself. I picked up all our clothes from the floor and tossed it in the laundry basket, though Johnny's shirt might be beyond saving. I replaced the sheets and tossed the old one with the clothes. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my bag on the floor and put it in the living room next to Johnny's luggage. Even if I could get Johnny to change his mind, I didn't want to keep it here where it could be a tripping hazard.

I put on underwear and pants for now just because it was getting pretty cold. It wouldn't be hard to remove them if I needed to anyways. I open my closet and wave good morning to the Bears. I was a little rushed in putting them away, so they're piled on top of each other. I apologize for being so rough and place them all back where they belong. Finally, I lay back down on the bed until I hear Johnny calling my name.

“What is it, tesorino?” I ask upon entering the bathroom again.

“I'm finished. You can have the bathroom now. I can make it back to your room on my own.”

I don't listen to that last part and pick him up to bring him back to the bedroom. He's a bit wet and he smells like my soap, so he must have taken a quick bath. Though I notice he's still wearing my shirt and it's mostly dry. I place him on the bed and head back out after giving him a quick peck on the cheek.

I get ready as quick as I can, though I take the time to take a shower. I figured I might as well clean up even if we were staying. While I'm brushing my grills, I get distracted by Johnny’s toothbrush in the container by the sink. I smile to myself when I place my own next to his. It was a silly thing to be happy over.

I come back to find Johnny curled up with his hands lightly gripping my shirt. Merde, I didn't prepare myself for such a cute sight. Johnny notices I'm back and shifts himself back upright, though he keeps one hand twisted into the shirt.

“You enjoying yourself?” I asked with a grin, walking over and closing the distance between us. He tasted like mint.

“Mhm, and you're back to normal.” Johnny says motioning to my grills.

“Nyoho, and I thought you would prefer me without them.”

“I like your weird looks and dorky shirts.”

“I can see that much.” I chuckle and grip my hand over his clothed waist.

“You're…not getting this back.” Johnny admits low, putting his hands back on the hem like he was afraid I would take it away.

“That's fine with me.”

He breathes a sigh of relief and pressed our lips back together. I lean in to deepen it but Johnny moves back. “We still have to go.”

Cavolo, I thought he forgot about it. I nip at his neck in revenge and get a yelp before Johnny pushes me off.

“You're such a tease.” I complain. There really was no changing his mind.

He smiles and I can't stay annoyed at him. “Go get my bag. I still need pants and underwear.”

I grab his clothes for him instead and hand it to him. I lift his legs to help him and he hisses and bats my hands away.

“Gyro, let me get dressed.”

“I am, and I'm helping you.”

Johnny looks stunned before he shakes his head and pushes me away again. “I can do it myself. You're not gonna be much help.”

I roll my eyes and grab myself a shirt as he squirms around to try and get his clothes on. It would have been faster if he just let me do it.
But then again, I probably would have gotten distracted by his thighs… or his ass.

Okay, maybe he has a small point.

I decide to grab his chair from the living room while he's doing that. Once I come back, Johnny is done and fixing the shirt so it isn't falling off his shoulder. He has his back to me so I take the opportunity to sneak over and put my arms around him. He leans back into the touch. I move his head down and kiss at the back of his neck, enjoying his little noises of approval. He doesn't let me enjoy it too long as he wiggles out of my arms again.

“You ready to go?” Johnny asked quietly and brings his chair closer so he can get on.

“As ready as I’ll ever be.” I sigh and follow Johnny out to the living room.

He picks up one of his bags and I take the two others. I grab the keys and two snack bars on my way out so we wouldn't travel on an empty stomach.

Once we’re outside, Johnny starts looking around.

“You think we’ll be able to fit everything on Valkyrie?” Johnny asks.

“Oh, we’re not going to take Valkyrie. Like you said, everything wouldn't fit on her so I’m borrowing Poco's car.” I don't mention how now I’m in Poco’s debt. He didn't have to worry about any stupid favor I would have to do in the future.

“You can drive cars? I've never seen you in one so I just assumed you can't.”

“I can drive. I just prefer motorcycles. You do, too. I've seen the way you look on Valkyrie.” I talk while walking over to Poco’s car. I couldn't remember if this was the one he won in a giveaway or if it was the one he actually bought.

“It feels a lot like riding so it's nice. You'll see when we get to the ranch.”

I open the door for Johnny once we reach the car and put his chair in the back along with our bags. I buckled in and looked to make sure Johnny had done the same. Johnny leaned over to kiss me before turning on the radio.

I smiled and hummed along to the radio as we set off.

We both sang along to the radio and took in the scenery. We even tried playing the Bianca e giallo car game when we stopped to get something proper to eat. Johnny shared stories about his time on the ranch and his past Thanksgivings. So many of them were sad stories, but I held Johnny's hand and told myself that he wasn’t going to have anything like that again.

Not while I'm around.

Chapter Text

‘Maybe staying in the car wasn't the best idea.’ I couldn't help but think with a shudder. I'm curled up as best as I can against the seat, but the outside chill was still seeping in.

 

Gyro had stopped for a farm, of all things. He got excited over the sheep he saw when we were driving and insisted we check it out. There was nothing special about a bunch of petting zoo animals. Wasn't worth the time it took to get my chair ready or worth being carried as Gyro suggested.

 

I wonder what’s taking Gyro so long, anyways.

 

Click .

 

A flash of light accompanies the strange sound. Immediately, I look over to see Gyro leaning over the driver’s window with a nervous smile as he’s holding his phone out.

 

Busted.

 

I swipe at his phone but he backs up fast enough, although he ended up nearly tripping over himself.

 

Good.

 

I can feel my hand twitch in annoyance. “Have you been doing that the whole time?”

 

“No, I only got one! I forgot the flash was on.” Gyro admits sheepishly.

 

“I told you before I don't like it when you do that!”

 

“I know, but come on, gattino! I don't have a single picture of you.”

 

I rolled my eyes at the comment. He didn't need a picture of me. We see each other enough. Gyro was pouting and kept his phone out of reach. I could just make him delete it...but then he'd just try this again, wouldn't he? Lord knows how many times I've needed to take his phone away before.

 

“Why do you even want a picture so badly? You don't have any photos in your apartment and only a couple on your phone.” I groan.

 

“But I want a picture of you, tesorino. For...when you're not with me.”

 

Damnit. I have to hide my face in the collar of Gyro’s shirt. This dork always says romantic things with such ease. With a sigh, I turn back to him, hoping my cheeks aren't so red anymore.

 

“Fine, you can keep that one, but don't do it again.”

 

He smiles and comes back in the car, leaning over to kiss me. We both get distracted in each other's lips and a minute passes before he finally breaks away. Gyro turns the car back on again and I crank the heat up as soon as I can.

 

“You're cold?” Gyro asked, not yet moving the car. I nod and he sighs. “You should have told me.”

 

Gyro exits the car again before I can protest. I look to see him doing something in the trunk. At least he left the keys this time so the heat was still on. He comes back quickly with his jacket in hand. Was he cold too?

 

“Here.” Gyro says and tosses the jacket to me.

 

Oh, he wants me to wear it. I suppress a smile.

 

Aren't I wearing enough of his clothes already? I’m not complaining, of course. I put it on and pretend not to notice Gyro’s sly grin. Now I was much warmer. I pulled the jacket and shirt closer around me. It was nice being surrounded by a constant reminder of Gyro.

 

Gyro makes me put back on my seatbelt and starts driving again. We weren't that far away now. He puts back on the radio and a soft ballad was playing. It was in some foreign language, probably Italian by the way Gyro was singing along.

 

I let my eyes fall closed and just enjoyed the feeling.

 

***

“So this is what it looks like.” Gyro looks around the ranch in awe.

 

I move into my chair and hope the rough ground isn't too much for it to move. “It's a pretty sight, ain't it? Wait until you see the land out back.”

 

Gyro rolls two of the bags behind him as we make our way over to the small house where the ranch workers stay during the day and I used to live. It's been so long, yet everything seems so familiar. Even though I only spent a few months here, I still had fond memories. I would have made my way straight to the stables to see Dancer and the other gals, but I had to put our stuff away and get a key from the workers.

 

A loud, familiar whistle disrupts my train of thought.

 

“Well I’ll be. Johnny Joestar in the flesh.” Tim chuckles, walking over. “I damn near thought you got eaten by one of them sewer rats.”

 

“Sorry to disappoint.” I shrug. I was kind of surprised to see Tim, or Mountain Tim, as everyone around the ranch called him, was still working here. “What happened to becoming a Marshall?”

 

“Tsk. I tried it, but as much as I love helping folks, I can't stand being away from the horses. City life just ain't for me.”

 

“Anybody could have told you that much, cowboy.”

 

He scoffs and roughly pats my head. “Enough about me. How have you been? You look good.”

 

“I’ve been doing good.”

 

“That's great to hear. We was all so worried when you ran out that night. I almost choked on my spit when Beth told me you were finally coming back.”

 

I almost roll my eyes at the comment. Tim was a good guy but he was the only worker on the ranch that ever tried to talk to me. The other workers didn't care. I'm sure he didn't so much as bat an eyelash when I left, either.

 

Gyro coughs, suddenly bringing attention to himself. His smile is tight lipped. Oh! I forgot to introduce him.

 

“Tim this is Gyro, I don't know if Beth told you, but he’ll be staying with me. Gyro, this is Mountain Tim.”

 

“Howdy. Beth told me Johnny was bringing someone. Pleasure to meet ya.” Tim extends his hand.

 

Gyro takes it quickly and moves away almost as quick. “Ciao.”

 

“I don't know your relation to Johnny but if he considers you a friend than you're more than welcome to anything on the ranch.” Tim smiled before turning back to myself. “But that's enough chitchat. I'm sure you're dying to see Ol’ Dancer again. I know she's missed you.”

 

I nod, doing my best to hide my excitement. “How has she been? And all the other girls?”

 

“We been taking care of them. Come on, I'll show ya.” Tim moves towards the stables and motions for me to follow.

 

“We need to put away the bags.” Gyro reminded before I can move. I got so excited I completely forgot.

 

Luckily Tim didn't move too far away and turns back quickly, holding out the keys. “Of course! My mistake.”

 

He hands me the keys and walks us to the house. The doors open already, but I thank Tim anyways.

 

“Let's put our stuff in the room and then we can head to the stables.” I told Gyro after Tim leaves.

 

Gyro nods and follows me to my old room. It's just as I remember it. I'm actually surprised to see no one's used it since I left.

 

“You never said anything about that guy before.” Gyro mumbled as he dumps our bags in the closet. “You could have warned me about his dumb hat.”

 

I suppress a scoff. Gyro’s one to talk with that circus tent on his head. I just shake my head and make my way out the room. I wanted to ride, not talk about Tim or Gyro’s peculiar fashion sense.

 

As we got closer to the stables I could feel my excitement growing. Then, I saw her. If I could have ran I would have. Slow Dancer looked just as I remembered. She chewed on my hair as soon as I got close enough, just like always.

 

“I missed you so much.” I cooed, petting her ears just how she likes it.

 

Dancer neighed and bumped her head against mine.

 

“This is the happiest I've seen her since ya left.” Tim chuckled. Was he here the whole time?

 

Tim had my old riding equipment in his arms and must have noticed my shock at his presence by wide smile he gave.

 

“Don't worry, I'll be out your hair in a second. Just needed to fetch your stuff from the storage.” Tim starts putting Slow’s saddle and reins on.

 

“Do you have a saddle for Gyro too?” I ask, looking over to check and see how the other girls were doing. Gyro’s a newbie, so one of the more passive girls would probably suit him.

 

“He can borrow Ghost Rider. She’s already strapped up.” Tim points over to Ghost.

 

Gyro gave a nervous look when he saw Ghost looming near Tim. She was one of our bigger horses, so it made sense. She listened to Tim and myself very well but I've never seen her behavior with a less experienced rider.

 

“Are you sure? Gyro’s never ridden.”

 

Now Tim looked shocked and squinted at Gyro. “Never? Well, Ghost is fine with new riders but...really? I don't know how you expect him to keep up with you, then.”

 

“I'm gonna teach him. It’ll be fine.”

 

“Alright...but just holler if you need any help.” Tim gives Slow a final pat before he walked closer.

 

I motioned for Tim to stop once I realized what he was gonna do. He did always help me onto Dancer before. “Thanks, but I got it.”

 

Tim looked confused again before he glances over to Gyro and nodded. “I'll be inside if ya need me.”

 

Once Tim is out of sight I hold out my arms, trying to tell Gyro to help me up.

 

“Does he live here?” Gyro asks, not noticing my signal.

 

“Yeah, he's the only one, though. Everyone else just travels here during the day. Now pick me up.”

 

“Tsk, I thought we'd be alone today, at least.” He complains as he grabs me and held me in his arms.

 

“I didn't know he'd be here. He keeps to himself, don't worry.” I wait for Gyro to put me on Slow Dancer but he just pouts and moves me closer. “Gyro, put me on Dancer.”

 

“Hm? Oh, that's why you wanted to be picked up! Thought you were just being cuddly again.” Gyro finally places me on the saddle. I'm a bit crooked but manage to adjust myself.

 

I look back to talk to Gyro, but he's only staring wide eyed. There’s nothing strange on me or Dancer, so I don't understand what's with the expression. After a moment, Gyro seems to snap out of his trance.

 

“Sorry, I just got the weirdest case of Deja Vu.”

 

I shrug it off and go back to what I was doing. As soon as I take Dancer’s reins in my hand, she stomps and tries to start moving.

 

“Relax, girl, we can go soon. Gyro, get on Ghost.”

 

Gyro looks at Ghost Rider nervously and back at me. He makes a step towards her and jumps back when she neighs. I can't hide my smile at that. Gyro looks at me again and motions towards Ghost.

 

“It doesn't like me.” Gyro whispers likes he's afraid Ghost will overhear him.

 

“She likes you fine. She's just getting impatient. Just hop on her...you know how to get on a horse, right? You put one leg on the stirrup and swing your other leg around.”

 

Gyro cautiously approaches Ghost. He waits until she stops making noise to get on. Somehow, he doesn't trip or fall off. Once he's on, he grabs the reins and looks to me helplessly. Luckily, Ghost knows better than him so I whistle for her to follow Slow and I.

 

I figure just getting Gyro used to the feeling should be enough for now. I can just teach him how to control her on the way. Once we make it back towards the trees, I slow my pace and see how Gyro’s doing.

 

Surprisingly he doesn't look scared anymore. I guess it's ‘cause he's used to riding on Valkyrie. Then again, he also doesn't have any control over Ghost. Guess it's time to see how well he can handle her.

 

“Gyro, you listening?” He hesitates but nods. “You lean the reins to the left, she'll go left. Same for right. You want her to slow down, you lean it back. You want her to stop you tug it back quick. You want her to go, you nudge her twice with your legs. You want her to go faster, you make yourself lighter and squeeze her with your legs. Got it?”

 

“...Y-Yeah.”

 

I nod and whistle for Ghost to stop following. Immediately, she stops in her tracks, making Gyro nervous again. After a moment, he nudges her and she continues walking forward.

 

“Ease your grip, or she's just gonna tell that you're nervous and not listen to you.” I tell Dancer to move forward with a pat on the back. This way she could go without me instructing her and I could watch Gyro.

 

He does as I say and cautiously starts moving Ghost slightly to the left and right. Ghost hesitates each time he instructs her because she's not used to him but after a while, she gets comfortable enough to just follow his lead. Thinking that Gyro’s fine for now I look forward and pat Dancer’s back twice for her to listen again.

 

The leaves are changing even up here. The gentle crack of Slow's hooves against the ground is calming. It felt so good to be back. Even the crisp autumn wind is inviting.

 

A poke on my shoulder makes me turn and realize Gyro caught up.

 

“Fast learner aren't you?”

 

“It's not as hard as I thought it would be.” Gyro shrugs and stumbles when Ghost goes slower, suddenly. What a rookie mistake. He laughs and gets back to my pace.

 

“It's like riding Valkyrie, right?”

 

“Hmm, a bit. Valkyrie doesn't have a mind of her own, though. This horse could just kick me off if she felt like it.”

 

“Yeah, but I'd reckon you’d have to piss her off for that to happen.”

 

“‘Reckon’.” Gyro repeats trying to mimic my accent. “You know, your accent’s much thicker when you're speaking to Tim.”

 

“He speaks like me, it's natural. Your accent’s thicker when you're talking to Caesar, too.”

 

Gyro hums in agreement. “Hey Johnny, I just thought of the greatest gag.”

 

“If it's a beating the dead horse pun, I don't wanna hear it.”

 

“What? How could you even tell? Can you read my mind?”

 

“Hm, something like that.”

 

“What am I thinking about now?” Gyro asks excitedly staring at me intensely.

 

“Last night.” I murmur trying not to blush.

 

“Nyoho, you’re like the next Houdini!”

 

“Houdini never read minds.”

 

“He was still magic.”

 

“True.” I sighed, rolling my eyes despite the smile I couldn't shake off.

 

Gyro smiles and starts humming a familiar tune.

 

“It's a shame we couldn't come up here during summer time.” I mumble, mostly to myself.

 

“Why? It's nice out. If anything, there'd be a ton of bugs around during the summer.”

 

I bite my lip in an effort to not think about that and get distracted.

 

“Especially with all the mosquitoes that come out. Ugh, I always get bit all over. Maybe my blood's sweet or something, but if I'm ever out during summer without some kind of spray on, I’m bug chow.” Gyro continues complaining.

 

I make Slow stop quick as I can and bury my face in my hands. That was a mental image for later. I don't think it was the right time to tell Gyro about my fetish either. I hope I'm not blushing too much by the time I finally calm down and tell Dancer to move again. Gyro gives a curious look but, thankfully, doesn't ask anything.

 

We continue in a comfortable silence again. It was nice riding with Gyro. Almost nostalgic in an odd sense.

 

I occasionally quicken the pace just to watch Gyro scramble to catch up. Once we get to a flat meadow, I get Slow to gallop across and Gyro doesn't even bother trying to match my speed. I'm kind enough to wait for him at the end as he trots closer.

 

He’s maneuvering so much easier now. If I didn't know better, I would have said he was lying about having never ridden before.  

 

“This may sound weird.” Gyro starts once he finally catches up. “But you look...I don't know natural, I guess, like that.”

 

“Riding’s in my blood.” I respond, feeling pride at the compliment.

 

“Maybe I've caught your riding somewhere before and forgot about it. It just seems so familiar.”

 

“Maybe. Or maybe I was just haunting your dreams.” I joke.

 

Gyro chuckles and nods. “Probably.”

 

We continue riding just like normal after that. I slow down to show Gyro the prettier parts of the land as we talk idly. It got dark before I knew it and I led the both of us back to the house. Gyro got off with relative ease once we got to the stables, but he had a hard time figuring out how to take off Ghost’s gear. Once he helped me down, I showed him what to do and took my gear off Slow Dancer so she could rest. I gave her a scratch and promised her a sugar cube later before we left.

 

“You did pretty well for your first time.” I chuckled as we head back to the house.

 

“Thanks, but my back aches now. How do you even put up with that?”

 

“You get used to it. Don't worry, you can rest when we get back to the house and...” Shit, I completely forgot. “...eat.”

 

Gyro has the same realization after I do and slows his pace, almost to stopping. “Neither of us cooked. Cazzo, I hope we can make the stuff in your bag fast.”

 

Once we make it to the house I get my keys to open it, but find it's already open.

 

“Howdy. Enjoy the ride?” Tim greets us from the couch as we enter. Oh, Tim’s here. I forgot he said he'd be inside.

 

“It was good. Ghost didn't give any trouble. Is all the kitchen equipment still in the same place?”

 

“Yeah, though I just used a pot so that’s in the sink. Why?”

 

“We gotta eat.”

 

“Oh, I still got some leftover stew. It ain't exactly a Thanksgiving meal but it's better than starving.”

 

Gyro did seem pretty hungry. I mean, I could make him more later if he’s still not satisfied. Plus the stew would save me some work, too.

 

“Sure, why not.” Gyro replies, shrugging.

 

“It's in the fridge.” Tim says with a wide grin.

 

Gyro and I make our way over and chat while we reheat the stew.

 

“You ever ate rabbit before?” I ask.

 

“No...is that what's in there?”

 

“I don't know, I didn't ask. Don't worry, rabbit’s pretty good. It's just a bit chewy.”

 

Gyro makes a face that tells me he doesn't believe me.

 

The stew is ready before we know it and Gyro pours us both a bowl before putting the little leftovers away for later. We sit in the dining room and eat, going over the day’s events. Gyro doesn't complain about the stew like I thought he would. It gets harder to eat when Gyro keeps leaning over to kiss me. When we finish up, we wash the dishes quickly and Gyro practically drags me to my room. I'm barely able to get out a quick goodnight to Tim.

 

I insist that we at least take a shower before we get dirt and horse hair all over the bed. Gyro tries to get us to take one together, of course, but the tub’s too small for anything like that so I tell him to save it for later. I'm expecting to be pounced on again when I come back, but he just cuddles close and kisses me ‘till my lips hurt.

 

“You know, there's a Thanksgiving tradition,” I hum in between pecks. “Where you say what you're thankful for.”

 

“Hm... really?” Gyro asks and slides further down, mouthing at the hickeys he left on my neck last night. “So what are you thankful for, amore?”

 

“You're supposed to say it before you eat. We missed that opportunity.”

 

“That still doesn't answer my question. Meal or not, you still have something you're grateful for, right?”

 

I pause and close my eyes to think. Surprisingly, there was a lot to be thankful for in my life now. I remember saying I was thankful for Slow at my previous Thanksgivings. It was the only thing I could be thankful for in my crappy life. But now, I had a huge list. Thankful for Lucy being there to talk to. Thankful for HP looking out for me.

 

Thankful for friends, real friends.

 

I open my eyes slowly to see Gyro looking down at me with so much affection, it made me blush.

 

Thankful for meeting Gyro. Thankful for loving Gyro. Thankful for him...loving me back. Or at least seeming like he does.

 

“I'm grateful for my life bringing me to you.” I whisper, hoping that's a good enough answer.

 

The dopey grin Gyro gives is priceless. “Me too, Johnny. Me too.”

Chapter Text

“Are you sure this is the right place?” Lucy piped up curiously as she hops out of the back seat and looks around the area. “It's bigger than I imagined.”

 

“This is the address that Johnny gave us. The few ranches I've seen have been as big as this, so it's nothing peculiar.” I explained as I lock the car.

 

“Finally I can stretch my legs.” Diego whined, doing just that when he was out.

 

“Yeah, it was a helluva long drive. We shoulda stopped at that deli and gotten something to eat.” Pocoloco joins in on the complaining after locking his own car.

 

Complaining aside, we were here at the ranch at last. In a bizarre twist, it wasn't only Diego who came along uninvited, but Diego’s eccentric friend, Pocoloco, as well. Apparently he knows Gyro, too, but he didn't talk about him often on our trip. He really only mentioned that Gyro borrowed his other car for the trip and said that Gyro talks about Johnny all the time, which is more aggravating than it should be.

 

“Where's Johnny? Didn't you tell him to meet us outside?” Lucy piped up, bouncing on her toes in impatience.

 

“Tsk, Gyro’s probably keepin’ him busy inside. Let's just go before the lovebirds forget we’re here.” Pocoloco sighs and starts walking towards the house.

 

Lucy giggles and follows suit.

 

I send another text to Johnny to come out to meet us, silently hoping Pocoloco was wrong. Still, I found myself becoming more… accepting of Johnny’s relationship, but I still felt wary of Gyro. I could only pray that the days Johnny had to spend with him went without incident.

 

“Howdy! Are you all the folks Johnny was talking about?” A man, who I assumed to be one of the ranch workers, greeted us. “Could have sworn he said only two people…”

 

“Well, yes, that was the original plan, but Pocoloco and Diego decided to tag along. I hope that isn't too much of a problem?” I explained as politely as I could, gesturing at the two as I listed off their names to the worker.

 

“Nah, no problem at all! We got enough space to accommodate them, it's just…I'm a little surprised Johnny would allow Diego on the property.”

 

“You know Diego?” Oh God, what now?

 

I shot him a look, getting nothing but darting eyes and a nervous whistle in response.

 

“Well, we've never met in person before but Johnny never spoke fondly of him. Did you two patch things up?” The worker asks looking at Diego. Oh thank God, I was scared that Diego had been here before and caused… issues.

 

“Sort of.” Diego shrugs. A blatant lie, but I didn't want Diego to be kicked out, so I let it slide.

 

“Don't worry, we won't cause any trouble Mr…?” I interrupt.

 

“Oh where are my manners? I'm Tim, but you can call me Mountain Tim, if you‘d like. I work here.”

 

“It's a pleasure to meet you, Mountain Tim. I'm Hot Pants. You know Diego already. That's Pocoloco and this is Lucy.”

 

Just as I mention Lucy, Mountain Tim blinks before leaning down to her level. Flashing a smile and with a tip of the hat, the man gave the girl a more direct greeting. “Howdy there, little lady.”

 

“Howdy! Is Johnny inside?” Lucy beamed before glancing around.

 

Mountain Tim nods and straightens himself out. “Yeah, but he's coming out soon. Still, it's great to see that Johnny’s managed to make so many friends.”

 

“Hey, don't hog ‘em all to yourself now.” Johnny says rolling out of the house with Gyro following close behind him. Be calm, Hot Pants.

 

“Johnny!” Lucy yelled out right away, launching herself into his arms for a hug. “How's the ranch been? Did you go riding yet? Can I go see your horses? Did Gyro ride yet? What have you two been doing?” Like a machine gun, Lucy is letting out a barrage of questions.

 

“Lucy, one question at a time, Christ! I'm happy to see you, too, but you can't just throw everything at me at once.”

 

Gyro laughs at the display and looks over to us. When he sees me, he takes a step back.

Good. He looks confused at Diego’s and Pocoloco’s presence, though.

 

“Loco, what are you doing here? Please tell me you're not cashing in that favor now.” Gyro groans and walks over.

 

“I wasn't gonna, but now that you mention it…” Pocoloco chuckles and gets a punch to the arm.

 

“Dude, don't play. Seriously, you didn't seem interested when I was talking about it before.”

 

“I don't care too much about horses and shit, but I was getting bored out of my mind at home. Figured it'd be a nice change of pace.” Poco grins before lightly smacking the back of his hand against Gyro’s chest. “I'll stay out of your way, just make sure to warn me with a sock on the door or something.”

 

Gyro and Pocoloco laugh at the crude joke and I thank God that Lucy isn't paying attention.

 

“You guys should have told me you were bringing Poco along. I would have told the workers to prepare… a room.” Johnny starts to say but slows his sentence suddenly. I look to where he's glaring, wondering what caused the change just to see Diego looking smug.

 

Oh no.

 

“Surprised, Joestar?” Diego grinned. Ugh, why does he always have to cause trouble? Right after I told Tim not to worry, too.

 

“Johnny, why don't we go talk for a second?” I sighed, walking over to a more secluded area and motioning for Johnny to follow.

 

He glares at Diego for a moment longer but ultimately follows.

 

“What is he doing here?” Johnny asked calmly, though his anger is obvious in his eyes.

 

“I'm sorry we didn't tell you sooner, but I'm going to keep him on a tight leash. I didn't want to leave him on his own ,and he used to be a jockey, too so... I figured he wouldn't bother you too much.”

 

“No way.” Good start.

 

“He is not going anywhere near my horses. I don't know how much you know about Diego's jockey career, but he was infamous for his dirty tactics. I wouldn't put it past him to harm one of the girls just to get at me.” Johnny's fist was trembling slightly and I could tell he serious. “I'm not gonna make him leave, but I swear if I see him so much as touch the stable, he's out.”

 

I nod in agreement. I could probably get Johnny to loosen up in his terms later, but for right now it was better just to agree. I didn't want to ruin Johnny’s vacation and I could entertain Diego in the meantime.

 

Johnny takes my agreement as the end of our conversation and rolls away back to others. Gyro comes over to him and pats Johnny in what I guess is an attempt to comfort him.

 

I walk back to go talk to Diego but notice Lucy is talking with Mountain Tim and decide to make sure everything is alright there, first.

 

“I didn't know his brother was worried about him.” Lucy mumbles, looking sad.

 

“Yeah and Johnny won't even tell me where he is so I can at least tell Nicholas that he's fine. He refused to even talk with Nicholas on the phone.” Tim sighs.

 

“Why would he do that? He could just tell his brother he's happily living in Queens.”

 

“What's going on here?” I interrupt, looking at Tim with suspicion.

 

“We’re just talking about Nicholas, Johnny’s older brother.” Tim answers, not noticing my suspicion.

 

“Seems like an unpleasant topic.” I muttered just loud enough for them to hear.

 

“It is, for Johnny. I wish they could make up, but Johnny refuses to speak to him.”

 

“Well, if it upsets Johnny, let's not bring it up. It's his vacation, after all. Come on, Lucy let's go put our stuff away.”

 

Lucy nods and waves bye to Tim before following me back to the car to get our bags. Lucky for me, Diego is hanging around the car so I can kill two birds with one stone.

 

“Diego, you're not allowed near the horses.” I start bluntly so Diego couldn't try playing any games.

 

“What? This is a horse ranch, what the hell else am I supposed to do?”

 

Too easy.

 

Cocking a brow and crossing my arms, I just gave Diego a smirk to make him lose his composure for a second.

 

After he’s finished getting the blush off his face, he tries to hold his ground.

 

“S-Still! How the hell am I supposed to not ride when I’m literally sleeping by a stable?!”

 

I run a hand through my hair out of irritation and sigh. “You can spend time with me and the others. Look, just… just don't fight with me on this. Johnny was willing to let you stay as long as you meet that condition.”

 

“Tsk, he probably just doesn't want to lose to me again, the coward.”

 

“Diego.” I warn.

 

“...Fine. Joestar’s horses are subpar, anyways.” Diego huffs. I give him a quick scratch and peck for agreeing quickly and ask him to help us with the bags.

 

When we come back, Johnny’s calmed again, though he refuses to look in Diego’s direction. Soon Johnny leads us into the house and shows us the guest rooms. We have to maneuver around a few workers moving back and forth but it isn't much trouble.

 

“Where are you and Gyro staying?” Lucy asks with a mischievous smile.

 

“My old room, it's down the hall.” Johnny answered nonchalantly.

 

“Knock before you come in.” Gyro adds, getting a laugh from Poco and a glare from me.

 

After some debate, we decide Pocoloco will be staying in a separate room, Diego and I will share one, and Lucy will sleep in her own room but will stay with Diego and myself most of the time.

 

“Can we go riding now?” Lucy asks, kicking her feet off the side of the bed as Diego and I put our stuff away.

 

“The workers looked busy. Go ask Johnny if we can first.”

 

“Okay!” Lucy bounces off the bed and heads to Johnny.

 

“Are you going to riding too?” Diego asks.

 

“Maybe. If you want me to stay, I will. I trust Johnny with Lucy.”

 

“You ever been riding before?”

 

“A few times when I was young. But you gave up quickly; did you want to even ride in the first place?”

 

“Not really. I'm a damn good rider and I'm able to tell horse's quirks easily, but I don't really care about riding itself. Dinosaurs grab my attention more. That's why I quit being a jockey to work at a museum.”

 

“And in America of all places, too.”

 

“Well I was already here in America. It was easier to just get a job here. Not like I'm missing anything in England.”

 

“Hot Pants!” Lucy comes back into the room suddenly. “Johnny said the horses were being fed so we gotta wait but he said I could go feed one, so can I? Can I?”

 

“As long as Johnny's with you then, sure.”

 

Lucy squeals in delight and quickly exits the room.

 

“‘Guess we're not riding, anyways.” I sigh.

 

After the long drive, I think I deserve a nap. I plop onto the bed and feel a sudden warmth next to my side. Diego curled next to me and was innocently playing on his phone. Sneaky. I scratch his head and let my body get some well deserved rest.

 

***

 

“This is hard.” Lucy whines, trying to move her borrowed horse, Ticket to Ride.

 

“You gotta nudge her harder than that if you want her to go. She's tough so you're not gonna hurt her.” Johnny explains, watching Lucy from the sidelines with the rest of us.

 

Surprisingly, Johnny wanted to teach Lucy the basics of riding before heading out with her and the others. Well, it was mostly Mountain Tim telling her what to do and Johnny making side commentary.

 

“Can't I just pat her, like you do with Slow Dancer?”

 

“No, I had to teach Slow to do that after I lost my legs. It'd be too much work to retrain Ticket.”

 

Lucy whines and tries again, this time getting Ticket to Ride to move.

 

“Good job, now try making her go left.” Mountain Tim instructed.

 

Lucy freezes up. “What?”

 

This was going to be a long training session.

 

***

 

In the end, Lucy decided she just wanted to ride with someone else. That someone else being myself. Diego was left pouting at the house, but I assured him I'd be back soon. I could just leave Lucy with Johnny, if I needed to.

 

I'm surprised by how easily Pocoloco learned to ride, but Gyro and Diego did say something about him being unnaturally lucky.

 

There was something strangely familiar about riding with this group but I guess it's just because of my past riding experience.

 

It was fun with Johnny talking excitedly, or well as excited as I've ever seen him. Lucy kept asking all kinds of things and pointing out stuff she saw along the way. Pocoloco would crack jokes and mess with Gyro. Even Gyro’s presence wasn't extremely irritating.

 

“It's getting cold quick.” Johnny complains.

 

“You should have worn my jacket, then.” Gyro replies casually. That's the fourth time one of them said something… incriminating. I told myself over and over I was just overthinking things.

 

Lucy giggles behind me. At least one of us was entertained.

 

Johnny lifts a hand to his neck, probably trying to get warm and that's when I see it.

 

A bruise, but no ordinary bruise. A hickey.

 

 

I was going to murder Zeppeli.

 

This was the final straw before it was just words but there is undeniable physical proof of what he did to Johnny. I can feel my eye twitching in aggravation. I get ready to speak but then something peculiar happened.

 

I suppose it was divine intervention. Out of the blue, Johnny moved closer to Gyro and poked his side. Once Gyro looked over Johnny gave him a peck on the cheek and galloped away smiling. What stood out to me the most was Gyro’s face after Johnny moved away. The lovestruck grin was… familiar.

 

It really hit me then what this meant. Johnny unfortunately cared for Gyro. And Gyro was infatuated with Johnny. No matter what I did, Johnny wasn't going to listen and Gyro wasn't going to leave. It pissed me off royally but it also gave me an odd sense of relief. Even though I didn't like Gyro, he was good to Johnny. Still, I was angry that Johnny would fall for such an asshole.

 

I stopped Ticket to Ride quickly.

 

“Lucy, I need a moment, so go ride with Johnny.”

 

Lucy knew my angry voice well, so she nodded and yelled for Johnny to come and pick her up.

 

“Are you alright?” Johnny asked as he got closer.

 

“I'm fine, just a little tired. Ticket to Ride and I will rest for a moment. I'll catch up with you guys in a minute.” I replied as calmly as I could, making sure to look away from his neck.

 

“Okay.” Johnny said and waited for Lucy to get on Slow Dancer before riding off with the others.

 

As soon as they were out of sight I got off of Ticket to Ride and walked to the closest tree. I cracked my knuckles twice before working off some steam.


I left a dent in that trunk.

Chapter Text

I woke up in the bed HP and I were bothering with only one thought running through my mind.

 

Go to hell, Johnny.

 

Seriously, what a goddamn coward he is! Imagine, barring a jockey prodigy like myself from racing! And it was probably because of jealousy and fear, not wanting to be embarrassed in front of his boyfriend by re-experiencing another loss by my hand.

 

Trying to force myself out of bed certainly didn’t help my mood, since my joints and muscles were practically screaming at me to get back under those covers. I shot a look at the still sleeping Hot Pants, wondering just how the hell she manages it.

 

Still, I managed to get up, taking it slow not only for my body’s sake, but to not disturb HP’s sleep. Lord knows that she’s good at waking up when she needed to, but one should never snap the woman from her dreams earlier than needed.

 

Doing some easy stretches, my mind was directed back to cursing out Joestar and the ground he walked on.

 

Honestly, what possible reason did the little shit have for not letting me touch his horses, beside spite?! Granted, I said that they were probably not up to snuff to be ridden by myself, but perhaps one of  the creatures had some sort of potential that Joestar was obviously unable to bring out? In that case, I simply have to at least get a look at them!

 

I grunted softly as various joints popped and cracked with the stretches.

Finally, a final thought crossed my mind. One that explained the brat’s mindset, somewhat. Did that manchild actually believe those vile rumors that were being spread around during my racing career? The bribes, the traps, the abuse to my own beloved Silver Bullet? Surely, not even Johnny could be that dumb…

 

 

That little fuck!

 

“Where’d th’ hell d’you go…?” I  heard a mumble from our bed snap me out of that thick cloud of rage. Turning on my heel toward the awakening Hot Pants, I crawl back to her side. I'm almost never the one to wake up first, so it must have thrown her off to not have someone to squeeze first thing in the morning.

 

Slipping my hands to interlock with her searching digits, I let out a sigh. “Yeah, yeah, I'm here. Just woke up a bit early, that's all.”

 

HP’s hands slip away from mine, as it looks like she would be far more content playing and tugging on my hair in her exhausted state. Ow.

 

“Did you not sleep well…?” She mumbled before I slipped back under the covers, pressing our bodies together for heat and attention.

 

“Well, I slept like a log after…” I felt my cheeks burning at bit and saw HP’s tired lips curl into a small smile. “Y-Yeah, that. But… yeah, I guess I have a few things on my mind and it woke me up a bit earlier than usual.” The admittance came with a slow sigh.

 

HP was quiet for a minute before lightly bonking my forehead. “It’s the horses, isn’t it?”

 

Shit

 

I try to lie, since I knew how firm HP made her point yesterday about Joestar’s horses and how I was barred from them. “N-Not at all.” That ought to work.

 

“You lie about as well as you can top.”

 

“WH-!” Was all I could manage to spit out before HP right out pinched my lips together.

 

“Either way, drop it. I already said that you can't go near those horses without Johnny’s go ahead. And considering how firmly he made his point, I don't think his mind will be changing anytime soon.” HP so eloquently reminded me with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer before pulling herself from bed.

 

With a scowl, I flop back onto the bed as HP starts doing some stretches. She starts to mention something about breakfast, but I can no longer pay attention. My mind was distracted… just lingering on her words.

 

Convincing Johnny, huh?

 

With a yawn and a crack of the neck, Hot Pants finally made one last comment.

 

“And I don't care if there’s going to be a race, you can't go near them.”

 

...Wait…

 

“...What?” I spat out. “There's… going to be a goddamn race?!”

 

HP brought her hand to her lips, showing a rare look of ‘whoops’. “S...still, the point still stands!” She huffed, pulling on a shirt.

 

Like hell. I was going to make Joestar bend and snap.

 

***

 

After being snapped back to reality by HP tugging on my mullet, we made our way out of the room for some breakfast. As it turned out, that man- Tim, I think- made us some pancakes, but it was such a measly amount that most of us had to fix ourselves something in the kitchen.

 

And by most, I mean HP heading to make sandwiches, Lucy tagging along. Gyro was about to pull Johnny along with him, but Joestar seemed way to focused on his unfinished pile of pancakes. After waving him off to walk after HP- from a safe distance- Johnny kept on eating, stuffing his face.

 

And Pocoloco was out God knows where, so...just me and the little shitlen himself.

 

Although I’ve always hated the fact that we live together, I must admit that it had its benefits. The main one being that I know exactly how to dig under Johnny’s skin.

 

Crossing one leg over the other, I made my presence known to Johnny with a simple statement.

 

“So there’s going to be a race, huh?”

 

Shooting up from his plate, Joestar almost went pale when he realized that we were the only ones left in the room.

 

“Fuck me, why are you the only one here?” He snapped, although I ignored the child’s ranting.

 

“I guess that explains it, then!” I shrugged with a laugh, watching for Johnny’s reaction.

 

“...Explains what?”

 

“Why you won't let me near your horses: you really are that much of a damned coward!”

 

Johnny’s face grew a bit red with rage. Good. “That's not it, you ass. But either way, I have no reason to explain myself to you!”

 

I kept going without missing a beat. “So I guess I can understand why you wouldn't want to embarrass yourself in front of your boyfriend like that.” I shrugged, taking a sip of my own drink. “Or...more like letting him see how incompetent you really are.”

 

He tried to ignore me now, although by the way Johnny was chugging at his coffee, anyone with eyes could tell what a bad job he was doing at it.

 

I could feel the tides turning in my favor already. Crossing my legs the other way, I leaned against my fist before continuing. “Was your last loss really all that humiliating, Joestar? After all, I thought you were always used to being second best, especially at home.”

 

I think I hit a sore spot. No, by the way Joestar slammed his palms against the table, I know I hit a sore spot.

 

Good.

 

“Want me to fuck up your face like you're fucking up my vacation, Brando…?” Johnny snarled under his breath. Really, it was like a growling weasel.

 

“How about you begin to act like a man for once in your life and just let me use a horse?” I snapped back, getting right to the point.

 

Running a hand through his hair, as if ready to tear it out, Joestar grimaced before responding. “I ain't gonna let a dirty cheat like you hurt one of my girls-”

 

Pounding my fist against the table, I figured it was time to correct this little shit right here and now.

 

“I would rather run the goddamn race barefoot than injure a horse, even if it's yours. The fact that would believe such goddamn lies goes to show how gullible you are, Joestar. Or maybe you're just looking for an excuse for all your losses?”

 

He grumbled before I kept going. “I'm just good, plain and simple. However...I don't exactly have Silver Bullet with me, right? So wouldn't it be to your advantage to let me use a horse that you're familiar with? And I haven't any equipment on me except what the stable can provide.”

 

Bait set.

 

And from Johnny’s quiet response, I could tell that the fish was circling the worm.

 

“So how about it? As equal footing between us as you could possibly ask for.”

 

The silence continued. Seconds seemed like tens of minutes and I was growing anxious of HP walking in and interrupting me.

 

It wasn't too long, though, until Joestar finally spoke out from the other end of the table.

 

“...We settle it like this, and you piss off, understand?”

 

Hook, line, and…

 

“But if there's any goddamn sign that you've injured the horse, you not only deal with me and HP, but Tim and the other ranchers, too. Am I fucking clear?”

 

I couldn't help but smirk. “As crystal. Clear as an unmuddied lake.”

 

...Sinker.

 

***

 

As if not to waste more time than needed, Johnny and I left the table right then after. I suppose he, like myself, really didn't want anyone else interfering. This was, after all, fairly personal and whatnot.

 

Heading out of the building and towards the stables, I followed the little knobhead to where the horses were. As soon as I stepped in...good God, the wave of nostalgia was almost intoxicating.

 

I love dinosaurs. The known and unknown factors grip me in such a way that it was enough to steer me away from horseback riding. But still...I could and would never disregard my love for the creatures. If I were so able, I'd keep one at home along with Scary Monster, as it is my opinion that they make for the perfect companions.

 

Dogs can be friendly and loyal, but far too dim for my liking, as they were even willing to lick at your boots. Cats are a bit higher up, as they seem to hold themselves to some self importance and independence, but almost too cold.

 

But horses? No other bond between man and beast could compare. The amount of control yet trust that is involved. To ride a creature that could easy bash your brains into the dirt simply because of that beautiful comradery between the two of you. An animal that has supported humanity so much all the way until the invention of the railroad and car. No, nothing else could compare. That was a fact I learned as a child, growing up in that filthy place with nothing but my loathsome brother and, of course, the horses. The few things that I felt like I could trust in this world.

 

Well, I must have been caught in some kind of dreamland, as Johnny had to right out jab at my back to get my attention.

 

“Are you fucking listening or what?!” He snarled.

 

Clicking my teeth and rubbing at the hit area, I sighed. “Listen, don't think for a minute that you hold priority than even one of these horses.”

 

He growled at that. “Just choose one of the girls already! I haven't got all goddamn day. And don't even look at Slow Dancer.”

 

With a scoff, I turn away from the goblin to face the horses again. As I passed each mare, I watched for their responses towards myself. Some were casual, some warm, few cold. But then there was one, a girl of strong stock that outstretched her head toward my hand. Being the gentleman I am, I of course obliged her with a pat.

 

“Think I found a winner.” I cooed, unable to do anything but smile when faced with such a powerful mare.

 

The sounds of wheels crushing at the dirt got closer as Johnny peered to see who it was that I hit it off with. I caught a glance of his face, curious but amused by the sudden look of shock that washed over him.

 

“S. S. Brown?! But… she's probably our wildest one! She won't even completely listen to Tim!”

 

My grin grew wider. “I think she just has particular taste, Joestar. That or higher ones than the others here.”

 

Johnny growled and starting to make his way out. “Just shut up. I'll let Tim know and you can ride around with her, then. Either way, you've got less than a day before the race.”

 

Barely a day? Well, it sounded a bit rushed, but not impossible. Of course, I'd have to learn all of Brown’s habits and tendencies, but...yes, I could manage it!

 

Johnny almost left me alone in the stable before calling back to me. “Hey! Who the hell said you can be alone with them?! Follow along or the whole thing’s off!”

 

With a roll of the eyes, I give Brown one more pat before heading back to the others.


HP was probably going to chew my head off for this, but I think 1st prize would be enough to prove my point.

Chapter Text

“Lucy, please try to calm down.”

 

I was so busy bouncing up and down from my seat in the benches that I almost didn't register HP’s ‘really ticked off’ tone of voice. Quickly making sure to quiet myself, I brought both hands to my hands, sitting nice and still.

 

I guess HP was still really ticked off by Diego’s entering the race. Almost all of last night, the two were argu...well, ‘arguing’ would mean both sides were fighting. It was more like HP was just tearing Diego’s head off while he tried to talk! Thankfully, she did eventually calm down some after Diego kept on insisting that he needed rest, but I guess she still hasn't simmered out completely.

 

I guess Mr. Gyro had a good reason to sit a few benches away from us. When he first saw HP this morning, I think he got the idea that any fight would be more explosive than ever.

 

Still, I was so excited to see the race get started! Imagine, to see Johnny at his best like never before! So many times I've heard about his jockey days, only to think that I'd never get the chance to see him go at it first hand! Thanksgiving may have passed, but I felt the need to be grateful again and again!

 

And- despite all the trouble that came with it- Diego was even going to be racing! Even though it looked like he went out of his way to annoy poor Johnny, I'd be lying if I said that the prospect the two finally going head to head wasn't an amazing idea!

 

Oh! I bet that would have sounded so rude! I mean, there were other racers, after all! Some of the ranch workers like Dot Han and Mr. Tim himself decided to join in on the fun. Even Pocoloco, who I had no idea even knew how to ride a horse, was going to try! Although I think he said something about it being more for fun, than anything else.

 

“I still can't believe he did that…” I could hear HP grumble, arms crossed around her chest as she eyed the track. I just hoped she would be able to find a way to enjoy the race once it got underway. But I had a weapon on my side, too!

 

Braving my way past Hot Pants’s cold mood, I forced an arm around hers, hugging HP’s limb tightly and refusing to let go! She stiffened a bit, at first, but with a sigh, I could finally feel her relax. Even HP knew nothing was going to stop me from trying to cheer her up!

 

Suddenly, the area started bustling with activity! The noises and clamoring were picking up as I moved away from HP’s arm, looking around quickly to see what all the commotion was!

 

With one look at the racetrack, I could see the racers getting ready, which certainly explained all the noise!

 

My eyes glazed over everyone, barely taking in the details of their attire or horses until I finally spotted Johnny!

 

Ahh, he looked so cute in that outfit! The mainly white short-sleeved hoodie, save for the blue cuffs and the heart on the shoulder. The white bandana with so many little blue stars. Those starry arm-bands. Even the weird, blue, and star littered leggings that just sorta worked as shoes looked so good on him! A bit unconventional for a jockey, but it just suited him, for some reason!

 

As if demanding for my attention, a flash of bright cyan caught my eye. At the sight of Diego’s rarely worn, cyan and gold-striped sweater, I really couldn’t take my eyes away. His pants were beige and had these weird protrusions coming from the side of the thighs. Were they puffy, solid, folded to be like that, or what?! Really, the last thing to be noticed was this cyan helmet...or maybe hat...of his.

 

“Why the hell is he wearing that sweater to this…?” I could hear HP sigh under her breath. “He tells me he loves it when I bought it for him, but wears it to a horse race, where it’s the most likely to get filthy.” After looking up to see where HP has here attention diverted to, it was obvious to see that she’s locked onto Diego, as if looking for anything wrong he may be doing, especially since there was only one racer between himself and Johnny.

 

“Maybe…” I tried to search my mind for a possible reason, if just to put Hot Pants at ease. “Because it’s a race and everyone is watching...he wants to show it off?” I offered.

 

HP blinked and looked down at me with a bit a surprise on her face. After another glance at Diego, I saw that he was looked right at her. Once their eyes locked, he patted at his chest- or rather the sweater- with a gloved hand and smiled before having to focus on his horse again.

 

It was getting to be too much for me! I looked back at HP, who was shielding her face with one of her hands. I tried to peek at different angles until I got just the right one, seeing a small smile on her lips and the extremely rare flush on her cheeks.

 

“Dumbass…” Was all she muttered before taking a breath to compose herself. That whole ordeal demanded another hug to HP’s arm!

 

Oh wait, speaking of the couples!

 

I quickly turned around, searching for Gyro before finally catching him in the Lucy-Line-o’-Sight! I didn’t even have to guess where he was staring at, and the goofy grin on his face did nothing but confirm the obvious!

 

Glancing back towards Johnny, I could see him locking eyes with Gyro, giving a small wave to top it off! This was too much for me! Much too much!

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen! Thank you for joining us at our l’il ranch’s race!”

 

The bellowing announcer’s voice cut through the clamor, drawing everyone’s attention to the track. Curious enough, I glanced around until I spotted Beth from the spectator’s booth, with a megaphone held up to her mouth. I wonder if she liked to use it when someone was ticking her off!

 

All of the racers were tensed up, holding onto the reins of their respective horses and gearing up for the starting mark. Even from my seat, I could see Johnny and Diego strike glances at each other. No, not glances...just daggers. The poor man in between them looked like an outsider between two armies!

 

As the starting point for closer and closer, the seconds only got longer, seeming like tens of minutes. My hands balled up, heart raced, brow began to sweat...this was too much!

 

In order to distract myself from the agonizing wait for just a moment, I looked back towards HP. Her brows were furrowed, but in a different way than how it was before. It was...hmmm, how can I put it?

 

Worried?

 

She was still transfixed on Diego, her features a bit more relaxed despite the concerned look on her face. But behind that was something else. It’s hard to put into words but, ahh...she almost looked as though mesmerized at the sight of Diego on horseback.

 

“Have you ever seen him ridden before?” I couldn’t help but ask.

 

HP didn’t hear me at first, her head snapping back to reality before she looked down at me. “U-uhm? Oh, sorry Lucy!” She stammered quickly, regaining her composure.

 

“To be honest, I haven’t, Lucy…” She began, resting a hand atop my head. “He’s talked about it plenty, but I guess I never took it so seriously to picture it in my head. But now that I see him, well…” HP scratched the back of her head, suddenly looking a bit sheepish. “I’m sorry Lucy, I’m rambling.” She sighed before I squeezed my arms around her waist.

 

“It’s fine, it’s fine, HP! Keep going?” I pleaded. It wasn’t often that I could listen to her talk so personally like this, so I figured there some thoughts she wanted to let out. I’d like to think we were getting even closer!

 

She was silent for another moment. Her worried gaze finally relaxed as HP looked down at me with a warm smile. Brushing pink hair behind her ears, Hot Pants looked back at the racers, to which I followed suit.

 

“He looks so natural up there. Both of them do.”

 

And as the starting pistol went off and fired its blank, I couldn’t help but completely agree with the thought.

 

And as soon as the gun went off, so were all of the racers! It was like the earth shook under our feet all in one moment as so many hooves pounded away at the ground!

 

It was hard to see through all the flying dust and dirt, but eventually we were able to see the current placements as everyone was already about a quarter around the modest track!

 

And right from the bat, Johnny was at the lead! Although it was pretty easy to tell with how loud Gyro was screaming and bragging over Johnny, acting as if it was him up there. It was so cute!

 

But still, Johnny didn’t look all too pleased; Diego was right on his tail!

 

Behind them were Tim, who didn’t really seem to mind his current placement, and all of the others… wait, Pocoloco was still at the starting point! His horse just didn’t feel like moving yet and he was getting all flustered over it! Poor guy…

 

Still, I had to make sure to stay focused on the rest of the race!

 

By the time I looked back, the racers had already finished their first lap, with Poco finally able to get into the swing of things. He was...actually keeping up pretty nicely.

 

Gyro was still hollering over Johnny, even puffing his chest and offering all sorts of cocky grins to the people nearby. He was just so proud!

 

Still, Diego really wasn’t letting up, getting closer and closer to Johnny’s side no matter how much Slow Dancer tried to leave him in the dust. Suddenly, he did something that I thought I must have completely imagined: he moved to the side slightly before Dancer did, as if he knew-

 

“He’s actually reading Johnny’s movements…” HP thought aloud, finishing my thought before I could actually think it!

 

“He can do that?!” I couldn’t believe it!

 

Hot Pants gave a slow nod, her eyes following Diego as the racers finished the next lap.

 

“He’s told me about it. He can read a horse so well that he can pick up on its habits. Once he knows that, Diego can work around them to pass through, even in the middle of a race. I thought he was just bragging as always, but now…” A small smile was shown on HP’s lips. She certainly wasn’t as loud or enthusiastic like Gyro, buuuuttt… I think it was safe to assume she was feeling that second-hand pride!

 

Focusing back onto the race, I felt my heart begin to pound! Diego and Johnny were right next to each other! Neck and neck! As if to drive the point home, I swore I could see Diego shoot Johnny a glance, grinning before placing his eyes back onto the track. And if Johnny was getting ticked off about it, then Gyro was absolutely fuming, now yelling words of blunt encouragement to Johnny and...some not-so-friendly sounding words in Italian. Probably to Diego!

 

Way too curious at this point, I made sure to take another look at the track before glancing back up at HP. Yep, still neck and neck! And Hot Pants looked real tense about it! Like- and I know the chances of this happening were practically none- she could just jump out of her seat and join in on the cheering!

 

Squeezing her arm, a thought came into my head. It was one that I had thought about before, but usually in some sarcastic inner voice. But as I saw HP look at Diego with such an excited look, I really couldn’t help but ask it for real this time.

 

“HP…” I began, tugging at her sleeve. Although her eyes were still fixed on the track, Hot Pants nodded once to show that she was listening.

 

“I really don’t wanna be rude, but… could you tell me why you like Diego so much?” Oh God, that totally must have sounded rude! “I-If it’s alright?”

 

HP looked surprised at the question and gave me a curious glance. I flinched, worried that she was going to be mad… until Hot Pants patted the top of my head again, pulling me in against her side before staring back at the track.

 

“It must be pretty weird, huh? Dealing with some guy that could act like such a spoiled brat like he does…” She sighed. Even though I agreed, I just  kept quiet, letting Hot Pants talk at her own pace. “Well, I really don’t blame you for asking me, Lucy. Any other girl would have ditched him after the first week. But… ugh, it’s so hard to try and explain…”

 

I smiled but stayed quiet. She could take all the time she needed, really.

 

With another sigh, Hot Pants started to talk again, although at a slow pace as if she were choosing every word carefully. “Before I met Diego… I guess you could say I was in a rough patch, Lucy. I was… thinking less and less for myself and questioning if I even deserved any luxuries, or even happiness. And when I first met Diego… oh man .” She said with an exasperated sigh. “He was so much worse. Out of control and just so full of himself. As if before me, no one’s ever challenged him so directly, to take him down from his pedestal and back down to Earth! It took a while to knock those delusions out of his head and I don’t know why I put up with it!”

 

The racers finished the next lap, with Diego hardly inching out ahead.

 

“But… I guess I stuck with it because I was seeing progress. Because it was a distraction from myself. And… it was good to see myself making something that I could consider to be a positive change.”

 

There was another pause. And during that pause, the stomping of hooves and the screams of the spectators were drowned out as I anxiously awaited for Hot Pants to continue. It took everything in me to not urge her to continue.

 

“And over time… I think Diego caught onto my self doubt. I can remember him urging me to be more selfish. To try and put aside other people for once and just do what made me happy…” Her eyes shone for a minute before Hot Pants looked down at me with a curious expression, as if she were realizing something.

 

I was already giving my pseudo big sister a smile, knowing exactly what she learned. “Selflessness and selfishness. You balance each other out nicely, HP!” I giggled, feeling so accomplished after hearing all of that! God, this was too much sweetness for my little heart!

 

HP laughed a bit from my comment, looking back at the race track. “I guess so. Still, he could stand to act a bit more sel-” Before she could finish, HP’s eyes widened, her body standing up suddenly. “The hell is this?!” She roared like a lioness!

 

Glancing back at the track, I saw exactly what was making HP and now Gyro go wild over: I don’t know how or when, but Pocoloco was way ahead of both Johnny and Diego, who both looked even more shocked than the rest of us! Oh well, I’m sure they had plenty of time to c- it was the last lap, too!

 

And just like that, the race was just… over. Still thoroughly confused, I looked back and forth between HP and Gyro, begging for an explanation as to what just happened! If my head were a kettle, it would have been boiling over at that moment!

 

“Congratulations to Contestant 7: Pocoloco! For first prize, he gets one of the ranch’s famous Derby Pies, topped off with a the cutest li’l badge made by our own Tim! Great job to the rest of our racers and thank you all of watchin’!” I’m pretty sure Tim was hiding his blushing face after being put on the spotlight like that!

 

Either way, as I watched a crowd gather around Poco to undoubtedly ask about his feat, I followed the shocked and exhausted Gyro and HP on their way to Johnny and Diego.

 

It wouldn’t be too long until we were on our way back to Queens.

 

But as we got closer and closer, I could have sworn I heard something incredible: Johnny and Diego agreeing on something! Granted, it wasn’t like they were friends all of a sudden. Honestly, it was just the two of them fuming over Pocoloco’s win, with Diego yelling foul and Johnny quietly burning with resentment. Not exactly all that wholesome and happy, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment that the three of us didn’t want to interrupt, just yet.

Chapter Text

Thursday.

 

Or Friday?

 

Christ it had been so long that I can't even exactly remember when it happened. I could only pray that Diego forgot as well or else he’ll be teasing me about it.

 

Regardless, what I do know is that it was summer’s day when we met those two years ago.

 

In Astoria practically only for the purpose of lunch, I entered the humble corner diner, nodding towards the employees that I had gotten to know through my repeated visits.

 

It really was so out of my way to travel to Astoria. I mean, the theater was fine and all, but it wasn't like I had anyone to go to the movies with at that time, so there was no point in it. Parking was an absolute bitch since the diner was smack-dab in the middle of a major shopping street. That usually relegated to me relying on the R Train, whose trains aren't always as up to date and clean as the F or E.

 

But the burgers over there? Oh gosh, they may be some of the best I've ever had. It was something I could only dream of replicating. Delicious, a single patty enough to fill you for the day, and relatively cheap, I always felt like the little trip was absolutely worth it by the time I was down to my last bite. It was time for myself to just try and relax and enjoy lunch.

 

Then that Thursday, Friday, whatever rolled around. I took my usual seat at the little table against the diner’s wall before waiting for the waitress to get my usual cheeseburger. It was during that time of my eyes lazily glancing around the tiny diner when I first saw him.

 

He was wearing some green shortsleeved polo at the time, blonde mullet a bit shorter than how he usually has it nowadays, topped off with a relatively bored expression as was hunched over his salad. I've never had anything other than the place’s burgers, but by the look on blondie’s face, it didn't look like I was missing out on much.

His eyes noticed my passive glance and the amount of time we spent looking at each other was probably only as long as a blink. We looked away just as easily as we caught each other, two strangers that would forget the other’s existence by the end of the hour.

 

I could feel a smile finally return to my lips at the sight of the waitress coming towards me with my dish. I remember my stomach absolutely growling as I must have really been looking forward to it. And I could see him out of the corner of my eye again, now glancing at my plate with far more curiosity than with me.

 

Strange, but I supposed it did look really good.

 

Either way, I just brushed it off, ignoring the stranger as I got ready to eat. Although my hands instinctively went for the burger- as they always do- my eyes glanced over to the steak fries. Gosh, even they just looked so good, and I knew from experience that they were the perfect way to finish off the lunch.

 

That said, I went on to chop up the half of the pickle set on the side of the burger- ok, restaurants need to stop doing this and just put the sliced pickles in the burger- and ate it at my leisure. It was a bit on the slow side, but I did want to savor the food, after all.

 

Eventually, I was unfortunately done with the burger, intending to finish off with the fries before heading out. The blonde stranger was still there, practically finished with his salad but was still just sitting there, sipping away at the free water refills that the place offered.

 

I still tried to block the weirdo from my mind, although alarm bells were already ringing. Before I could just finish off the  meal and just head out, I felt the need for the bathroom. Getting up as fast as I could to get this over with, I passed by him, noting our eyes making contact again. Like he was watching all along.

 

I did what I had to quickly enough to see blondie on his way out, getting out his money to pay for his meal, finally. He gave me a behind-the-shoulder look, although it seemed a bit...pensive…

 

One look at the fries told me exactly why that was. Now this might seem to be irrational to some...most people, but I have a fairly photographic memory when it comes to my food. If it’s something I’ve been looking forward to especially, I remember most of the details about it just from sight. And now, the sight of the fries on my plate wasn’t matching up with my memory at all.

 

Knowing that only one person was around at the time, my glare shot towards blondie, who was busy trying to slide out of the diner at a ‘calm’ pace, although he almost seemed to be speed walking.

 

My eyes were practically seeing red at this point. I quickly reached forward, grabbing the asshole’s shoulder and pulling on his green polo, much to his disapproval.

 

“Don’t pull on it you crazy-” Was he managed to grunt out before I brought him over to my table, showing the fries and not caring if we were making a scene.

 

“The hell are you doing!? Let go!” He tried to pull away, but wasn’t able to break out of my grab. Needed to exercise more, I suppose.

 

“The fries.” I said simple enough. “You grabbed a handful, didn’t you?” My voice was solid and booming as I intended it to come off as.

 

The man was quiet for a few second before scoffing. “Hell no. You got any proof or you liking throwing out random accusations as you ple- FUCK!”

 

Not willing to hear him run his dumb mouth off for another second, I pulled blondie’s arm around to his back, taking a close look at his fingertips.

 

“Now why would someone that had a salad have ketchup and salt all over their fingers?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

 

There another moment of silence, this one lasting a lot longer. “I...put weird stuff in my salads?”

 

I let him go after that, turning the man around to see his angry yet cautious expression. Getting a handful of his shirt, I kept him close.

 

“You’ve ruined my meal. That’s worse than just stealing the money I was going to use for the meal itself. You realize this, don't you?”

 

He was about to retort with something stupid, I bet, before catching another look at my face. I guess he got the message to stay shut.

 

I thought for a minute, trying to see exactly what kind of punishment to give this guy. Wait, first off…

 

“Your name.”

 

“...Eh?” He blinked, caught off guard.

 

“I want to know the name of the shitbag that tried to steal from me. That did steal from me.”

 

He smirked in a way that made me want to smack it right off him. I almost did. “Interested in me already? Not that I can blame you, of course.”

 

“Ok, then I’ll just call you shitheel.”

 

“...Diego works…”

 

I held a hand out to my ear, intentionally speaking in an exaggerated tone. “Huh? Didn’t quite catch that?”

 

Diego clicked his teeth and scowled. “Diego Brando. And who the hell are you?”

 

“Why the hell do you need to know that?” I shot back, only increasing the amount of frustration on blondie’s face. I could tell he wasn’t used to not getting his way.

 

“How the hell is it fair that you know mine but I-”

 

“Sorry you hear that? I thought it was sound of a trash-digging rat.”

 

Ignoring his snarl, an idea finally popped into mind. “In...3 days? Yeah, I should be free then.”

 

Diego cocked a brow, all the while trying to wiggle out of the grip of my hand holding onto his polo. “Oi, don’t fucking str-”

 

“We’ll meet here again. Same time.”

 

He almost smirked again before quickly hiding it again. “Are you asking m-.”

 

“You’ll buy me whatever I want. No implications or anything. That’s simply what you owe me.”

 

He rolled his eyes and tried to laugh, going to smack my hand away only to realize it wouldn’t budge. “Alright, lady, we’ve had our fun in playing around. I’ll just pay for your goddamned meal and be done with it!”

 

The fist tightened around the cloth. “Mr. Brando, I am giving you a very easy out for stealing something from me. It’s either this or we can try our luck outside and see how you fare. And when you pay me back, it’ll come out to being more expensive than what I had. Following along, or do I have to break down into even simpler terms?”

 

Diego looked like he was going to retort with something before realizing I wasn’t joking around about that ‘taking this outside’ part. “What makes you think I’ll even follow you up on that?”

 

Smirking, I pushed him away, letting the bum stumble back a bit. “By all means, run, duck, and hide from me. Whether you never come to this diner, neighborhood, or borough again, it’ll be fun to know that you’re looking behind your shoulder like the thieving rat you are.”

 

I could tell I cut into something deep, as the blonde man was about to run for the door before remaining committed to holding his ground.

 

“Or…” A hand moved to my hip as pushed all my weight onto one leg, casting Diego an indifferent glance. “Own up to your mistake like a man, get this over with as soon as possible, and we’ll be done with it. How’s that sound?”

 

He said nothing in response, just turning to stomp out of the diner.

 

Despite the fact that I didn’t particularly want to finish my fries after having them touched, the entire encounter was pretty funny, in retrospect. He was full of himself, I could tell, but a fun one to poke fun at, especially considering that he had it coming and honestly got away with a lenient punishment.

 

Although once I turned around to see all of the employees staring at me a bit dumbfounded and scared, I blushed from embarrassment, quickly paying and leaving.

 

***

 

When the three days passed, I found myself waiting in that diner again, feeling a bit stupid. “I should have just beat his ass or taken the money he owed…” I muttered to myself, glancing at the door each time it opened.

 

Just when I was getting ready to leave and promising myself to pay the blondie back with my fist the next time I saw him, Diego actually came in. His scowl was still ever present and it only seemed to grow when he saw me.

 

Making his way over begrudgingly, I felt a smile on my face. “I'm glad you made the smart move.” I hummed before making the order for the steak.

 

“I'm not about to be bugged about this anymore than I- Oi! What happened to just burgers?!” Diego growled.

 

“Didn't I say that it would be more expensive? Honestly you have such selective memory.” I exhaled, having a field day with teasing the bum so far.

 

As if to show spite, Diego just remained quiet all throughout the meal. Even as the steak came and was promptly eaten by yours truly, he didn’t say anything. He also didn’t order anything.

 

“Not eating?” I asked whilst my eyes were fixated on my food, although I noticed his own wandered towards the meat.

 

He scoffed before turning away, his elbow propped up onto the table. “I already had something…” And as if God was watching, Diego’s stomach let out a faint growl.

 

His face was buried against the table as my own was in my palm, shoulders violently shaking with laughter.

 

By the time I was able to recover, I saw that Diego was still hiding away his face. I almost felt bad for the sap, thinking his pride was gaining more and more cracks as this went on. So, of course, I thought up of something to add another crack.

 

Cutting out a piece of the sirloin, I tapped the top of the blondie’s head, pressing the warm meat against his lips when he raised his face to look up. “Here, you can have this.” I insisted, plopping the hunk of meat into his mouth before he could refuse.

 

“MMPH-!” It was a nice sound, being able to shut him up.

 

After pulling the fork away to finish up the rest of my steak, I finally heard him speak up after swallowing the chunk of the steak I forced into him. “Just what the hell is- shit, that was good- the hell is your deal?! It's like I can't get a read on you!” He snarled, much to my amusement.

 

“Oh? Are you used to being able to read and predict everyone you meet?” That earned me a scowl. “Never been stumped before? You dislike not having control? Well then, either everyone that you've met before were horribly boring… or you just need to go out more.”

 

Running his fingers through his hair, goldilocks said nothing, then pulling out his wallet to pay for the meal. Once he made sure it was even change, Diego walked out in a huffy mood, leaving me wondering if I pushed a sore spot.

 

Well, at least I got my payback. Besides, it was stupid of me to expect anything anything from this other than a full stomach. Everything would be the same as usual, no matter who I ended up meeting along the way.

 

 

So imagine my surprise when I returned a few days later, only to find some blonde bum loitering in front of the tiny diner, as if waiting for someone.

 

When he saw me, Diego looked away, the pouting scowl still on his spoiled face.

 

My natural reaction would have been to just ignore him and go in for lunch. But… Christ, I'll never know why, but I just smiled a bit from the sight of the huffy brat. And in that illogical state of mine, I just asked, “Kept you waiting long?”

 

Without looking at me still, Diego just muttered something I had to lean in a bit closer to catch. “You never gave your name.”

 

My hands went to my hips. “And why should you learn that?”

 

Finally his gaze met my own, although some sort of strength were behind blondie’s eyes this time. “Another meal sound good?”

 

I was a bit taken aback. “We’re already even.”

 

Walking towards the entrance, Diego pushed open the door, holding it for me to go in first. “I could stand to spoil you a bit more.”

 

I cocked a brow, shifting my weight to one hip. “‘Spoiling’? That's just what you owed me, so I'd hardly call it that.”

 

It looked like Diego thought it was his turn to grin. “Maybe, so let me start doing so now. Besides, even if it's laughing at me, your face looks a lot better smiling than it does in that stoic frown of yours.”

 

Chewing on the inside of one of my cheeks, I walked right in to hide slightly growing warmth in my face. After hearing the door shut behind Diego as he followed, I tilted my head slightly, looking just past a shoulder.

 

“Hot Pants. Don't you dare laugh or I'll hit you, but my name is Hot Pants.”

 

As one may have expected, I had to give the brat a good hit once he reacted to the name.

 

***

 

Recalling all of that, I realized something…

 

With one hand on the steering wheel and the other one the sore-loser’s head to comfort him, I spoke a bit louder so Diego would hear me over the radio.

 

“How long has it been… since we went to our diner?”

 

The groggy brat cocked a brow. “Our…?” Finally he caught on after a second or two. “Oh, where we- shit… maybe not since a month or two?” Diego seemed to catching on. It was sad to think about, considering how that became our frequent dating location. Burgers, teasing Diego, and a movie if anything good was on was usually how it went. But I guess as we just ended up going to each other’s places and eating there, the need to head to the diner seemed to be of decreasing importance. Still…

 

“How about… as soon as we get to New York, we head over there for dinner? I know we still have to drop off Lucy and would have stuff to unpack, but I guess I just miss the place.” I sighed with a scratch behind Diego’s head.

 

He sighed from the attention, leaning into my hand before responding. “I'm sure we’ll have plenty of time to go there considering how rushed we were to leave the ranch. I didn't even have time to show you S.S. Brown one more time before we left because of him .”

 

I pulled on his hair a bit. “Considering what you did, it would be best to not mention Johnny.” I reminded him. Still, it really was weird. For someone like to Johnny to look so in his element while in the ranch to just… go right for the car like that without a word?

 

It was so odd.

 

But it seemed far too personal for me to try and pry into now.

 

For now, I just wanted to get back to Queens as soon as I could. One of those perfect burgers, an actual date, familiar settings, it all seemed so good right now.

 

And… I guess by the way I was now holding onto Diego’s hand now, I guess the whole ‘spending the day with him’ was also looking pretty good.


Maybe I should let him spend the night over. Sleeping in the same bed for multiple nights in a row… I didn’t mind it as much as I thought I would.

Chapter Text

Squished against the corner of my room wasn't how I imagined spending my Sunday morning, but here we are.

 

Christ, I can still hear that disgusting jerk and his shitty brother from here. I grab my phone off the nightstand and send out a quick text.

 

[save me both assholes twins are here]

 

I sigh in relief when I get a text back only a minute later.

 

[on my way ;*]

 

I get dressed to leave quickly. I don't really have a good jacket, so I guess a long sleeve hoodie and thick shirt will have to do. Leaning back against the wall, I flip through my photos to pass the time. I stop at the newest picture, a dumb selfie Gyro insisted on taking before we left the ranch.

 

The ranch…

 

It's already been a week since we've left. A part of me still wonders how Slow Dancer and the other girls are doing, but I tried to push those worries to the back of my mind.

 

There were no goodbyes.

 

It's not like I gave any goodbye the last time I left, but Gyro still acted like it was weird when I went straight to the car after we finished packing.

 

The ranch was nice and God I missed riding even now, but I couldn't stay for that. The first time I left in a stupid feat of desperation. Almost ended up dying on the street for some attention from my father.

 

This time was different. I'm happy with Gyro and the others, as weird as that is to say. But I knew if I said goodbye… it would just hurt.

 

The ranch was the only good place I've ever lived before recently. Even if nobody wanted me there, a part of me still didn't want to leave. If, for some wild reason, Tim or any of the others asked me to stay I would have done it in a heartbeat. I suppose I was as stupid as ever for running away again, hoping for someone to beg me to come back. I still longed for my old life, as much as I hated it.

 

Commotion outside takes me away from my thoughts.

 

“What are you doing here?” Diego, or maybe Dio- their accents are too similar for me to tell- questions in annoyance.

 

“I'm here to pick up my things.” Gyro replies.

 

Gyro comes into my room and picks me up without a word. I don't protest but I can't help an eye roll at his dumb joke. I make sure to flip off who I'm pretty sure is Dio just before we head out the door. He winks and laughs which makes me shudder. In the hallway, Gyro readjusts me so I'm on his back.

 

“Where do you want to go, cuore mio?” Gyro asked as we enter the elevator.

 

I hum in thought against his neck, getting a chuckle. I hadn't thought that far ahead. I didn't want to go anywhere that required money since I was trying to save. There wasn't much to do around here, though.

 

“Let's just go to the park for now.” I finally answered as we're leaving the apartment.

 

Gyro nods and starts walking. I cling onto him tighter and can't help but smile at the way he laughs.

 

“That stronzo didn't give you any trouble right?” Gyro asks as we wait for the stoplight.

 

“No, he's not that stupid. He didn't actually talk to me when he came over, I just don't want to be anywhere near him.”

 

“So why didn't you just leave instead of calling me?”

 

“Because I missed you.” I sigh and kiss the back of his neck. “It's been so lonely.”

 

It was harder than I thought it'd be sleeping in my empty bed. I never loved my room but now I didn't even want to be there. Even the texts and calls we had didn't help for long. God, a week without him was too much.

 

“I know exactly what you mean.” Gyro mumbles.

 

I lean in to kiss his cheek and don't miss his frown turn into a soft smile.

 

When we arrive at the park, Gyro puts me onto a bench and tilts my head up so we can kiss properly. Gyro breaks away with a sigh, lingering against me for a moment before leaning back. Out of instinct, I reach for my chair so we could walk together but only grab air. Isn't my chair here? But didn't I roll here? No, I was on Gyro's back which means my chair is at-

 

“My apartment.” I say to Gyro's confusion. “We forgot my chair.”

 

“Oh, cavolo.” Gyro groans finally realize his mistake. “Do you want to go back for it now?”

 

“It'd be easier than you carrying me everywhere.”

 

“That's no problem for me, amore, but if that's what you want I'll go get it quickly.”

 

“What? By yourself?”

 

“Yeah, I doubt you want to see the twins again and I'll only be a minute.”

 

Well, we weren't very far from my place… “Okay.” I surrendered and toss my keys to Gyro so he can get in quickly.

 

“Don't go anywhere.” He says with a quick kiss goodbye before running off. Ha, like I even could if I wanted to.

 

I lean back and watch the leaves fall off the trees. Hm, maybe we could go back to his place. I do have to give him back his jacket...or take another.

 

“JoJo?” I hear a shout suddenly and my blood runs cold.

 

No.

 

No, no, no.

 

It can't be.

 

Against my better judgment, I look towards the park. I clawed for my wheels before remembering I was stuck on the bench. Fuck! God, what did I do to deserve this? I look away hoping he didn’t notice my reaction but it’s too late and he’s already coming over.

 

“JoJo, my God it really is you!” Nicholas laughs. That same nervous laugh he would always do when dad mentioned girlfriends or mom asked why we were covered in mud. It made me sick.

 

How the hell did he get here? Was this some kind of cruel joke? Just when I thought my life could be good for once. This is what I get for actually wishing for my old life. It's only natural something like this would come and ruin everything.

 

I freeze up when he hugs me suddenly. I fight back the urge to punch him and just push him away instead.

 

“Don't. Do. That.” I hiss and look back towards where Gyro ran off. Come on, I need an out already!

 

“I-I’ve been looking for you all over!” Nicholas cried and it’s easy to hear the strain in his voice. Was he trying to guilt me into pitying him or something? It'd be funny if it didn't make my blood boil so much. “I’m so so glad you’re here.”

 

“Shut up!” I shout and cover my ears hoping he’d take the hint and leave already. It was childish I know but Nicholas didn’t deserve adult manners anyways.

 

“JoJo… please just listen to me for a second. I know you're upset with m-me but I came all this way!” Fuck the jerk was still too loud to muffle.

 

“It’s not my fault you wasted daddy’s money and your time! Go away!” I shout back looking to Nicholas this time. His eyes were glossy. Shit, was he actually pretending to get teary? The asshole. Rather than start the crocodile tears like I expected Nicholas drops to one knee to be eye level with me and grabs my hand. He ignored my clawing at it. I guess his gloves prevent any actual damage.

 

“I didn’t use dad’s money! Look JoJo, let’s not argue about that. Your Nikki is here! We’re gonna go home, okay? We can even take Slow Dancer back home too.”

 

“I am home!” I yelled, tugging my hand away, finally.

 

“No, you’re not! you’re all the way out here in king- que- New York. We’ve all been worried about you back home in Kentucky!”

 

“Don’t you fucking lie to me, Nicholas.”

 

He flinches at the curse. “I’m not. We’ve all tried contacting you! But you must have changed your number or something.”

 

“I blocked you.”

 

He flinches again. “Blocked us, okay, that’s what you did. That doesn't matter, JoJo. Like I said, we all tried to call you, even da-”

 

“Don't lie! You didn't hear me the first time? I said I blocked you . Dad has never called me!”

 

The panic in his eyes is clear, but he’s quick to start again. Always the silver tongue. “Well, that’s because you always talked to me! He just figured you didn’t want to talk to any of us if I couldn’t reach ya.”

 

I had enough of his blatant lies. “How'd you find me?”

 

“Tim! You remember him right? He works on our ranch here he told me you came back there just a little while ago. I would have come to see ya sooner, but by the time I was on a plane here you were already off the ranch. Thankfully he knew where you were staying this time! Or well, the city. It took me a few days to find you, though.”

 

Tim? I’ve never said where I lived specifically. Shit, did Lucy or HP tell him? Or maybe Diego just to get back at me, the asshole. What the fuck is Tim doing telling Nicholas where I am, anyways? Either way, that proved my point that Nicholas was lying again. Not that I should be surprised.

 

“Dad knows exactly where I am.”

 

“W-What are you talking about?”

 

I pulled out my phone and showed him the texts I sent to our father’s cell. The first one was the day I ran away from the ranch I told him exactly what I did and that I was going to live in the city. The second one was when I first moved in with Diego; it had the address to the apartment and even the room number. The third and last was one I wasn't proud of. I got horribly drunk and sent a stupid plea begging for him to talk to me again, even if it was just to yell at me. Not a single reply.

 

Nicholas read the texts slowly and his fake smile went away. “JoJo...I never knew. You know how dad is.”

 

“An asshole?” I snarled.

 

Nicholas nodded solemnly. “Johnny, even though dad is being so stubborn y-you gotta come home. Things just ain’t the same without you. I miss my little JoJo.”

 

“No, you don’t.”

 

“Yes, I do! Haven’t I always been your Nikki? Who taught you to ride, Johnny? Who was there at all of your races? Even when dad found out I snuck out to watch you and yelled my ear off, I didn’t stop! Who always was trying to make you smile? Coming up with any pun I could just to make you laugh. Who was the only one who tried to visit you when you got yourself shot and became like this ?!”

 

Nicholas only seems to catch what he said afterwards, covering his mouth in horror and leaning back. It took everything in me not to swing at him right there.

 

“JoJo… I’m sorry. God, I… I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean-”

 

“No, Nicholas… you did. That’s your true colors.” My eyes are burning suddenly.

 

Fuck- no, don’t cry! I’m mad, not sad! I hate this. I hate him.

 

“Amore! Are you alright?” Is all I hear before I feel myself in Gyro’s arms again. I curled into his chest and didn’t even realize he picked me up again. I can’t even give a response with this lump in my throat. The safety I feel just from being with Gyro again just ends up making me lose what nerve I had left and I start crying harder into his shoulder. Pathetic, I know.

 

“Hey, I was talking to him! Oh, christ, JoJo don’t cry. I-”

 

“What the fuck did you do to him?” Gyro growls and I can feel him take a step back, making me guess that Nicholas tried to move closer.

 

“This is a misunderstanding. I didn’t do anything. I just said something bad. I’m trying to apologize, so please just put him down.” Nicholas babbled on, trying to negotiate the best he could.

 

“No way, stronzo! I don’t know who you are, but you’ve got some nerve ordering me around when you’re the one to make gattino like this!”

 

“Don't know who I am? Didn't JoJo say anything about me? T-that doesn’t matter right now. I’m Nicholas, his brother. Who are you, his bodyguard? Actually, don't answer that. Just let me talk to him please.”

 

“Vaffanculo! Johnny’s brother or not, I’m not letting you hurt him anymore!”

 

I lift my head to the surprise of both Gyro and Nicholas. I was so tired and my eyes still hurt but I wasn’t going to let this go on any longer.

 

“Gyro, put me down.” I said as calm as I could, even though my voice was still strained from crying.

 

Gyro looked bewildered but gently put me down on my chair. His eyes kept flicking back to Nicholas. Once I was seated well enough I adjusted myself so I was facing Nicholas. He looked relieved. Did he really think I was going to go to him after everything he’s done and said?

 

“Nikki…” I started and Nicholas almost cried at the sound of his old nickname. “Stop this. It’s over. Go home. I never want to see you again.”

 

He looked crushed again and opened his mouth to make more excuses. “JoJo, you don’t really mean that right?! I said I was sorry! I didn’t mean that- you know you’re my baby brother, I just got upset-”

 

I rolled backward interrupting his talk. “Goodbye, Nikki.”

 

Without another word I turned myself around and turned to Gyro. “Let’s go.”

 

He hesitated to glare at Nicholas in anger. I repeated myself and he finally turned around.

 

“Please.” It was so quiet. I barely heard it. Nicholas’s last plea.

 

I continued wheeling away. I already made up my mind.

 

Every other time I left without saying goodbye. ‘Cause goodbye meant no coming back. This time wasn’t running away.

 

It was leaving for good.

Chapter Text

Sunday.

 

Usually a time to rest. I was expecting nothing more than a simple date with il mio tesorino. How was I to know that his brother would show up and ruin Johnny’s day?

 

After the fiasco with Nicholas, Johnny didn't want to return to his apartment. He instead wanted to stay at my apartment. I had no objections, of course, and I could help Johnny better if he were with me anyways.

 

It wasn't until we got to my apartment and I laid him on the bed that he said he didn't just want to stay for the night. Johnny told me that Nicholas knew his address and he didn't want to see him anytime soon. I didn't overhear their conversation, I just saw Johnny sobbing but it must have been serious for him to not even want to be in his apartment. I reminded stellina that I wouldn't be here during the day but he didn't care about that. He just wanted to be away from his brother.

 

I liked having Johnny around so I agreed. It was nice being able to sleep next to Johnny again, even if it was for sad reasons.

 

Monday.

 

The start of a new week. Well, the work week. My first sight upon waking was Johnny's back. Naturally, I woke him up with small pecks to the odd tattoo on his neck and to his spine.

 

“Gyro.” Johnny murmured in his half awake daze.

 

“Morning, tesorino.” I hummed, tracing Johnny's ribs until he sat up.

 

Despite only sleeping here once before, Johnny adapted naturally to my morning routine. It took him longer getting from place to place on his own, so I decided to just carry him around.

 

“Why did you get that from, anyways?” I ask as I grab some cereal from the cabinets for us.

 

“Get what?” Johnny asked from the couch.

 

Walking on over to Johnny’s side with his bowl in hand, I answered by tapping at the star by the bottom of stellina’s neck. He placed his hand on the spot and seemed to finally understand what I was asking about.

 

“I didn't ‘get’ it. I was born with that. It's a weird birthmark everyone in my family has.”

 

“Huhn, this whole time I thought it was just a cute tattoo. So Joseph would have a birthmark like that, too?” I say as I take a seat next to Johnny and start digging into my own bowl.

 

“Yep, he showed me it when we first met, actually. It's always in the same spot too, for some reason. Everyone has their own theories about it. Even Nich-” Johnny cuts himself short at the sound of his brother’s name. Naturally, he's still upset about what happened yesterday, but he steels himself and continues. “He thinks it's something in our DNA. Like a mutation. I used to think it was a curse mark.”

 

“And now?”

 

“Now... it's just a birthmark.” He shrugs.

 

I couldn’t help but smile at that conclusion. No matter what kind of strife Johnny had with his family… referring to that adorable star as his birthmark was definitely heartwarming.

 

After our little breakfast, we decided to head out and walk around Forest Hills for a while. I was careful to keep the conversation away from yesterday and his brother. I still wanted to know what exactly was the deal with Johnny and Nicholas but it was too soon to pry into something that was so clearly a sore spot for gattino.

 

“Gyro, wait a second.” Johnny tugged on my arm, breaking me out of my thoughts.

 

“What is it, amore?”

 

“I was just thinking we should go get ice cream. So I put in the directions in my phone, and look.” He shoves the phone in my face, showing a restaurant.

 

“You want to go there?”

 

“No, it just got my attention ‘cause the GPS says it's across the street.”

 

I look at the direction Johnny's pointing. A couple of restaurants are lined up and at the far end, I see the one Johnny is talking about.

 

“I see it. Why point it out?”

 

“Look at the map. It says it's right across the street and in between two other stores. And when you check the street view, that's where it should be... but instead, it's over there.”

 

“So? Places get renovated all the time. Maybe it just moved next door and they forgot to update it.”

 

“Maybe, but neither the map or the street view says anything about an alleyway right next to it.”

 

Alleyway? I look over again and notice Johnny's right. Directly besides to the store is an alley that's mentioned nowhere online.

 

“You lived here for a while, so I thought you would know about it.”

 

“No… I've never seen that alleyway before. Hell, alleys in general are pretty damn rare in New York. Didn't even notice it before you pointed it out.”

 

Stellina sighed, taking a moment to think. “Strange…” Johnny whispered, looking curiously across the street. “We should go check it out.”

 

“What, why?”

 

“Why not? There has to be a reason it's not in the GPS.”

 

“It could just be new.”

 

“But why? What's the point of putting an alley where a store was? And no matter how hard I look, I can't see the end of the alleyway. How far does it stretch?”

 

Well, it's not like we had anything better to do and with all of Johnny's speculating, I'm curious about it, too.

 

“Okay, let’s check it out.” I sighed before heading to the corner so we could cross.

 

Johnny followed closely behind and before we knew it, we were standing in front of the strange alley. I actually walked past it the first time. Luckily, Johnny corrected me before I got too far.

 

“Can't you see it?” Johnny questioned with a shake of his head.

 

“I didn't eat much this morning, leave me alone.” I pouted and ruffled Johnny's hair for good measure.

 

There was something… odd about the alley that I noticed now that I was so close. A part of me actually wanted to go back. Johnny took a deep breath next to me and rolled inside before I could even suggest leaving. Left with no choice, I followed.

 

We only walked a few steps in but there was an odd sensation starting to form behind me. Like something crawling on my back. I focused on Johnny ahead of me and told myself I was just imaging things.

 

Johnny seemed to notice the atmosphere change as well by the way he was biting on his lip.

 

“This alley’s longer than I thought.” I commented, trying to cut the tension.

 

“Yeah… guess that's why I couldn't see the end.”

 

Just as I thought we were reaching the end, the alley shifted to the left. For some reason, heading back seemed like a bad idea so we followed the corner. As soon as we did, I saw something that I never would have believed if I wasn't there.

 

A row of houses, but not any houses I've seen before. It was like we weren't even in Forest Hills anymore. But that wasn't what really got to me.

 

No... what really freaked me out was the sight of the houses. All of them had odd symbols on the doors. Some even had writings, but it was all in a language I couldn't understand.

 

“What the hell?” Johnny whispered beside me.

 

I pet Johnny's head to reassure him and looked around. The houses were all fenced off. While the crawling feeling on my back was gone, I didn't want to head back. After all, we could just end up more lost. I'm trying to think of whether we should ask someone in one of these houses for directions that I hear a barking in the distance.

 

That catches Johnny's attention and he starts rolling towards the sound.

 

“The dog could have an owner. They could help us get out of here.” Johnny explained himself as we move forward. Johnny eyes the houses we pass but stays close to me in the middle of the alley/street/whatever this was.

 

We walk for a minute before a figure appears in the distance.

 

A dog. And right next to the dog is a young girl in a pink summer dress. Isn't she cold? I mean, it's practically freezing outside. Though now that I notice the temperature is a lot warmer than it was before we entered the alley.

 

The dog barks louder at the sight of us, getting the attention of the girl beside him. She quickly turns to us and smiles softly. She pets her dog to calm him down and waits for us to get closer before speaking.

 

“New visitors, Arnold! You two look lost.”

 

“Very. Can you give us directions out of, um, wherever this is.” Johnny replies with a sigh of relief.

 

“This is Ghost Alley. As for directions...that'll depend on where you want to go.”

 

“Out of here.”

 

“There's many different doorways to leave.” Well, if that wasn't cryptic.

 

“Just tell us the quickest way to leave.” I exhaled, earning an odd look from the girl. Before I can question her further, she reaches behind her and pulls out a box of candy.

 

She takes a chocolate stick out of the box and holds it out to myself.

 

“No thanks, I don't take candy from strangers.” She seemed a bit disappointed from that.

 

“Let’s just retrace our steps.” Johnny offered and is about to turn around before the girl shrieks and grabs his chair.

 

“Don't turn around while you're in ghost alley! This may not be a passageway for the dead anymore, but those creatures are still here.”

 

“W-what?” Johnny asks and pushes her hand away but doesn't continue turning around.

 

“I'll explain everything in a moment, but first, tell me who was the one who spotted this alley.”

 

“Why does that matter?” The girl was really turning on my danger signals at this point.

 

“I did.” Johnny spoke out, much to my surprise. “Now could you tell us what's going on? And who you are? You act too weird to be a normal girl.”

 

With a bright smile, the girl turned to face us completely. “Reimi. Reimi Sugimoto!” She announces proudly before pointing to Johnny. “And you must be JoJo number seven!”