This was not how Johnny wanted his life to go. He was going to have it all. A successful career as a jockey, maybe retire at 40 and live the rest of his life off his inheritance. Maybe open a horse rescue, help mentor up and coming riders. A simple, quiet life. He didn’t need five houses and a yacht. Well, maybe a yacht would be cool but kind of impractical in the heart of Texas. Point was- he had it made. And now it’s all gone.
Here he stands- well, sits, staring up at the number plate of his new campus apartment, squinting a little at the information sheet he was given, gripping a duffle bag to his chest. Johnny took a deep breath and shut his eyes, attempting to calm his simmering resentment and anxiety. He heard noise coming from inside.
Was it… singing? He listened closer to the door. A boisterous tenor voice was belting out something… operatic? But slightly out of tune. He furrowed his eyebrows and looked off to the side, sighing. He wheeled back a bit out of the way of the door and turned the handle, pushing the door open.
In the back of the room he saw a lanky guy on the floor, singing obnoxiously in a language he couldn’t quite place. He was sorting through a box of what appeared to be clothes, putting them on hangers. He had long sandy blonde hair, tied up in a ponytail. He couldn’t see much else from this distance.
The man stopped singing as the door opened, but didn’t turn to look at him. He spoke, still quite loud. “ Buonasera! Piacere! I already picked my side of the room but I left the bunk choice up to you.” He gestured vaguely in the direction of a bunk bed off to the side. On a good day Johnny would’ve found this funny, but it was not a particularly good day.
He wheeled himself in, tossing his duffle bag on the bottom bunk. “Don’t really think I have a choice in the matter, but thanks.” Johnny said, dryly.
The man tilted his head in confusion and then turned around to look at him. Johnny could see the immediate look of guilt wash on the man’s face and smirked.
“Oh! They didn’t tell me that- uh… Not that they should’ve but…” He shook his head, avoiding eye contact, saying a word he didn’t understand but assumed it was a swear. “I’m sorry.” Johnny waved his hand a little, indicating his indifference.
“Don’t sweat it, I’ve heard worse.” Johnny pulled back the velcro on his fingerless leather gloves and stowed them in a side pocket of his chair.
Johnny took a moment to take in the man’s… unique appearance. He had thick dark eyebrows which made him wonder if his hair color was natural. His facial hair was shaved in alternating squares. Weird. He was wearing a simple plum button up, sleeves pushed up to his elbows, and khaki pants that weren’t quite skinny jeans. He was wearing glasses but quickly took them off when he looked back at him. Johnny looked away when he realized he was staring a little too long.
“Anyway, hi. I’m Gyro, it’s nice to meet you.” He sat up a bit and reached out a hand to Johnny. Johnny pretended he didn’t see the friendly gesture, opting instead to start unpacking as well.
In his periphery he saw the other man pout some and retract his hand.
After a few moments of awkward silence he realized Gyro was waiting for a reply. “Oh, uh, I’m Johnny.”
He started removing the various things he could carry in the holster bags of his chair, reaching around the back to pull out his backpack. He had some movers on the way the next day with the rest of his stuff. Not that there was much, but it’s not like he could get everything up here himself without it taking twenty years.
He stole a quick glance at the man’s side of the room. Gyro didn’t have a whole lot unpacked yet, but he did see a little teddy bear sitting on the window sill. He squinted and saw a flag on the little t-shirt the bear was wearing. Italian? Was that it?
“I thought gyros were Greek, not Italian.” Johnny mused after an even longer awkward silence, pulling his crutches out from their holster on the back of his chair, wheeling back then pushing off the chair and situating himself on the bed, setting the crutches aside.
“Haha, that’s a new one.” Gyro replied, sarcastically but still friendly. “It’s a nickname, I’ve heard it more times than my real name, so it may as well be my actual name.” Just as Johnny started to ask him what his real name was, Gyro held up a finger and tutted. “Don’t even try, a man’s gotta have some secrets.” He stood and went to pick up another box, resting it on his desk.
Johnny couldn’t really argue with that, he didn’t like to divulge more information than he needed to. He hoisted himself up onto the bed more, getting comfortable- well, as comfortable as an empty mattress with no pillows could be. He pulled his legs up to sit cross legged and pulled out his phone, absently scrolling.
“So, is this all you brought with you?” Gyro turned the chair of his desk around to face Johnny, sitting and leaning forward. “Cause, if you need something, I’ll share anything but my underwear.” He said with a goofy grin and a wink, punctuating his sentence with his pointer finger. His teeth were… gold? The man paused and thought for a moment, weighing something in his mind. “Well, maybe not everything .” Johnny wondered if Gyro’s cheeks were naturally rosy or if what he just said flustered him. He was certainly something .
“Uh, thanks but, I have some guys bringing the rest of my things up for me tomorrow. I appreciate the offer, though.” He looked back at his phone, then laid back on the bed, sighing and shutting his eyes, covering them with his arm. It hadn’t even been ten minutes and he was already socially exhausted. He listened as Gyro went back to putting away his things, blessedly not singing but humming occasionally. Johnny almost found it cute. Almost.
Gyro bothered him occasionally with idle chatter as he put his clothes on hangers. What’s your major? Equestrian studies? Interesting choice. I’m pre-med. Where are you from? Kentucky, huh? Hmm. I don’t really know where that is off the top of my head but it’s far from here, right? This went on a while until Gyro got the hint that Johnny wasn’t really in the mood to talk.
Minutes ticked by and he began to doze off, but right as he was going under, Gyro spoke up again.
“I was gonna order some pizza if you wanted some.” Johnny peeked an eye open at him, watching the man tap on his phone, raising an eyebrow. But before he could make a clever quip- “I promise I’m not a stereotype, it’s just that it’s quick and cheap.” Was this guy a mind reader or are Americans really that predictable?
“Um, sure. How much is-” He was cut off again.
“Nope! My treat. But if you wanna throw some tip money in, I’m sure the delivery driver will appreciate it.” Gyro was smiling at him again. “I was just going to order mozzarella and mushroom. Sound good?” He started dialing the number without listening for an answer.
“Yeah, s’fine.” He muttered, although it sounded like that question was just a formality.
After placing the order, Gyro looked over at Johnny. “Wanna exchange numbers? In case one of us gets locked out, or worse?” He grinned.
“Uh, sure, whatever.”
They exchanged phones to put in their respective contacts.
“Gyro… Zeppelin? Like Led Zeppelin?” Johnny inquired after looking over the new contact. There was a cowboy hat emoji next to the name.
“Ughhh.” Gyro groaned and muttered something in Italian. “It’s Zeppeli. Autocorrect doesn’t respect my marvelous lineage. We were here before Led Zeppelin, damnit!” He hit his desk in mock anger, unable to keep a straight face. Johnny smirked and updated the name.
While they waited for their dinner, Johnny got up with his crutches and took his backpack with him over to his new desk, starting to unload his textbooks and supplies.
One of his papers slipped from his fingers and it slid across the floor. He waited a few moments, expecting Gyro to get it for him. But surprisingly, he ignored it. He was leaning back in his chair with his boots propped up on the desk ( Cowboy boots? Really? ), tapping away on his phone, looking bored. Johnny was so used to people bending over backwards to help him, forgetting that he was a fully formed, mostly functional adult. This was refreshing.
Johnny got up and carefully limped over to the paper. He eased himself down on his knees and grabbed it, using Gyro’s desk to pull himself back up. It was embarrassing, but not as embarrassing as someone treating him like a helpless child. He caught a glance of Gyro’s shiny green belt buckle on his way up- two hands pointing down and center. Johnny purposely looked up and away, feeling an uncomfortable warmth in his chest.
He got back into his chair and wheeled across the room to his bag. He pulled a few singles out of his wallet and wheeled over to Gyro, setting the money down on his desk and turning on a dime to head towards the door. “I’m gonna go out for a few, don’t wait up.” Johnny waved absently, not waiting for a reply. He pulled open the door and wheeled himself to the elevator.
Sitting outside in the cool evening air, he shut his eyes, breathing in deep. It’s just a year. We aren’t guaranteed to keep the same roommate every semester. It’s going to be fine. He’s not that bad. It’s fine. He repeated these thoughts in his mind like a mantra to keep his anxiety at bay.
About twenty minutes passed and he saw a car pull up by the dorm building. He watched as the delivery person got out with a carrying bag and passed him. He waited for them to leave again before going back inside.
They spent the rest of the evening sitting together and eating. Gyro propped up his laptop on a couple boxes in front of the bunk bed so he and Johnny could watch some Netflix. It was nice.
The next few days passed uneventfully. Johnny got the rest of his possessions moved in and put away, although taking a bit longer than Gyro. His roommate helped him move a few boxes but other than that, Johnny was more or less left alone. His first few classes were a breeze, his homework load was significantly less than he thought it would be. His unease slowly died away.
Johnny rode the elevator up to his floor, rubbing his bleary eyes. It was the afternoon, but he was already exhausted. He had a hard time sleeping in an unfamiliar room with an unfamiliar person. He wheeled his way to the door but stopped abruptly when he saw a hat hanging off the door knob. A cowboy hat. Odd. He put his ear to the door, wondering what on earth this could mean. He heard a quiet rhythmic creaking, and someone who sounded short of breath.
Realization washed over him and he wheeled back, startled, face flushing. He was about to leave when he remembered what he came up here for in the first place. His flash drive with one of his assignments, due for his next class in a half hour. Uh oh.
-Gyro was singing The Prayer by Andrea Bocelli, specifically the lines
“E la fede che hai acceso in noi
sento che ci salverà.” x2 at the end of the song.
-My headcanon for the boys’ appearances are based on the fanartist Marion! Their art is spectacular, please check them out. https://traildust.x.fc2.com/home.html
Chapter 2: But It's Hard
I managed to get this chapter finished sooner than I thought I would! I hope you all like it. c:
Johnny started to panic a little. He didn’t know who Gyro was with or when they’d be… done. But he needed his flash drive. He heard a low groan and a sigh, a sharp inhale and a moan. Johnny covered his blushing face, feeling mortified.
He listened to the lewd sounds a little longer than he probably should’ve, blush on his face deepening. He didn’t think himself to be a voyeur but, here he was. The hair on Johnny’s arms were standing on end, jolts of electricity passing through his veins and he shivered.
He shook his head and wheeled back some, out of earshot, getting his bearings and breathing out deeply. He pulled out his phone and wrote a quick text. Hey Gyro, I know you’re busy but can I come in real quick to grab something for my class?
He waited several minutes for a reply, compulsively looking at his watch. Nothing. He had maybe twenty-five minutes before his next class. He moved out of the way as one of his neighbors walked by, sighing, rubbing the back of his neck.
Johnny took in a shaky breath and pressed the call button next to Gyro’s name in his phone. It rang a couple times before abruptly going to voicemail mid-ring. He made a face, puzzled. He wheeled up to the door and leaned in, calling again. He heard a quiet ringtone and an annoyed groan, the call going to voicemail yet again, quicker this time. He tried one more time but the call went to voicemail immediately.
Wow, okay then . He was starting to get perturbed. But the sounds he heard melted his anger away, being replaced by a confusing mixture of embarrassment and arousal.
He looked up at the ceiling, almost praying to God that this wouldn’t come back to bite him in the ass. He lowered his gaze to the doorknob. The voyeuristic pervert inside him almost considered barging in unannounced, just to see the look on their faces. But no. He shook his head, scrunching his eyes shut before raising a hand and knocking a couple times.
He paused for a few moments and then knocked again, louder this time. “Gyro?” He called.
“Kinda busy in here!” Johnny heard from inside the room.
“I know but I need in the room for something. Please?” No response. He rolled his eyes and knocked again, louder and not stopping.
“ Cristo! ” The man inside exclaimed, followed by a long groan/whine that sent a cold shock up Johnny’s spine. Goddamn. He thought to himself.
He heard a string of angry Italian followed by “ Una momento ,” which was the only thing he could understand. He heard an impact on the floor inside and a door opening, the bathroom faucet turning on and then off after a few moments.
Johnny waited patiently, face still red and embarrassed. He wrung his hands, worrying his lip.
A few moments later, the door swung open. Gyro was wearing a robe, his hair down, slightly disheveled on his shoulders. Johnny took a few moments to take in the sight, cursing himself for liking what he saw. Gyro’s expressionless face and what little of his chest peeking out of the robe was flushed and dappled with moisture. He was breathing seemed heavier than normal. Fuck.
“What do you need so badly that you need to interrupt my private time?” His accent was thicker than it normally was, still catching his breath somewhat. He didn’t really sound annoyed, mostly just deadpan. Which was honestly worse, considering how chipper Gyro was usually.
“I, uh… Look. I’m really sorry. I forgot my flash drive in my computer and I need it for my class.” Johnny looked off to the side, gripping the wheels of his chair til his knuckles turned white.
Gyro was quiet for a moment, eyebrow quirked and staring at Johnny. He backed up a few feet and opened the door the rest of the way, stepping off to the side with a grand, sarcastic gesture beckoning him in.
“W-Wait, what about- uh, I don’t want to-” Johnny glanced inside before he could stop himself, looking up at the top bunk to see who was there. Except… it was empty…? “Oh. Uh. Forget it. Never mind.” He mumbled and wheeled in, feeling stupid.
Somehow this made him even more uncomfortable, knowing Gyro was just… he gritted his teeth as he turned on his computer. It was taking wayyy too long to boot up.
Johnny looked back at Gyro, who was leaning back against the ladder of the bunk bed, arms still crossed, eyes shut. His hair was tucked behind his ears, looking a little less ravished now. His breathing was steady, face looking almost serene. Johnny couldn’t help but feel relieved that he wasn’t angry, or at least, he hid it well.
He turned back to his computer and ejected the flash drive, shutting down the computer and wheeling back out of the room, avoiding Gyro’s gaze.
He was going to leave Gyro without saying anything, but he felt guilty suddenly. He glanced over his shoulder, watching as his roommate was pulling the hat off of the door, looking dejected. Johnny called to him from down the hall. “Uh… just so you know, I have class until six tonight so…” he trailed off, facing forward again. “Just text me when it’s okay to come back.
Johnny hesitated before looking back again. Gyro was watching him, his green eyes intense. His mouth slowly curved into a little smile. “Noted!” he said cheerily, eyebrows wiggling a bit, putting the hat back on the door and shutting it behind himself.
Johnny’s eyes went a little wide and he looked back forward again, mind flooding with images that he’d rather not think about right before class. He was suddenly uncomfortably aware of the straining in his jeans. “God…” He bit his knuckle, forcing himself down with his other hand and then wheeling toward the elevator.
He couldn’t focus at all the rest of his classes. He kept his backpack in his lap the whole time while trying to remain nonchalant, practically clinging to it.
His mind wouldn’t stop wandering back to the incident earlier. He couldn’t quite understand why it bothered him so much. I mean… he thought to himself, clearly there’s something about him that does it for me. This was the last thing he needed to worry about right now.
While eating dinner in one of the nearby campus restaurants, Johnny got a text notification. It was a simple okay sign emoji from Gyro. He quirked an eyebrow when he glanced at the time at the top of the screen. 6:47. Boy, he must’ve been enjoying himself. He flushed ever so slightly and sighed.
He wrapped up his dinner and headed back to the apartment.
Johnny wheeled up to the door, noting that the hat was gone now. He hesitated, hand hovering over the doorknob. He was afraid things would be even more awkward than their initial encounter earlier. But what could he do?
He knocked a couple times as a courtesy before opening the door, slowly. He saw Gyro, sat in his office chair in front of Johnny’s TV (that they now shared), his bare foot propped up on a moving box. He was very carefully painting his toenails black, apparently watching a trashy telenovela, no subtitles. Weird. Gyro looked even weirder.
Gyro was wearing the same robe, albeit wearing a shirt and apparently boxers underneath. His hair was french braided, kept out of his face with a hairband. His face was covered in what almost looked like hummus, but the overwhelming smell of mint ruled that out. The weirdest part is that on top of the face mask - or under it, he supposed - Gyro also had a full face (partial face?) of makeup. Eyes smoked out, thick eyeliner, curled lashes, lipstick, the whole shebang. It was a lot, to say the least.
Johnny looked off to the side, almost asking him what he was up to before he thought better of it. He carefully maneuvered his chair around Gyro, as so to not disturb his paint job. He wheeled up to his desk and started unpacking his backpack. He tossed his leftovers into their tiny fridge and turned on his computer. There was no way he had enough juice in his social battery to deal with this right now.
Gyro spoke up suddenly.
“The classes I was supposed to have today are taught by one professor, and he was out sick. So because my free time is few and far between, I decided- Gyro, you’re going to pamper the hell out of yourself today. You deserve it. Or at least that’s what I tell myself to justify it.” He capped his nail polish and stretched his leg out, wiggling his toes while he waited for them to dry.
“Anyway,” he continued, sighing shakily, “I’m sorry for being an ass earlier. I probably should’ve been more up front about that with you. But you were already out, and your schedule said you wouldn’t be back til later, and it’s been a while for me, uh- it’s hard finding time to be alone with a roommate, so…” His run on sentence trailed off. His face was covered but he could’ve sworn he was blushing.
“You don’t gotta explain yourself, man. I get it.” Johnny replied. There was a short awkward silence. “Uhh, I mean, med school seems… rough.” He added, rubbing the back of his neck. He wasn’t blind. Gyro barely spoke to him the whole time he’s lived with him because he was always at his desk, studying. They would have small meaningless conversations every once in a while, but for the most part he kept to himself. He never went to bed before Johnny did.
“To say the least.” Gyro laughed. “A-Anyway,” He coughed a little. “I kinda went a little overboard… I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to fuck around with makeup or use some face mask.” He gestured to his face, wiggling his fingers. He looked so stupid, but Johnny liked it for some reason. His eyes looked even more intense with all the makeup.
“There’s no way I’m going out tonight, so I thought, screw it. Do both. I think it makes me look like a spoiled princess.” Gyro sat back in his chair, crossing his arms, looking smug and satisfied with himself.
Johnny felt slightly envious. He never really bothered to treat himself like this. What was the point? What good would it do? A pedicure and a day in jerking it wouldn’t fix his legs, or alleviate his low self esteem. He didn’t deserve it to begin with.
“Hey, do you want me to do your nails?” Gyro suddenly asked.
Johnny looked over at him, raising an eyebrow. “I mean, if I wanted my nails painted I’d probably just do it myself.” That wasn’t a lie, but he had a sneaking suspicion that he’d have a hard time painting in the lines.
“That’s no fun.” Gyro leaned over, carefully testing the polish on his toes before scooting over to Johnny’s desk in his chair, clapping a hand on his shoulder. “Come on. I feel guilty luxuriating myself in front of you like this.”
“Is that what they’re calling it these days?” Johnny smirked, then realized the gravity of what he just said. He flushed and looked away, fidgeting with his fingers. Surprisingly, Gyro started laughing, nearly doubling over. I guess that’s better than him being offended. “But, uh- If you really want to-” before he could finish, Gyro clapped a bit and then rolled over to his desk, rummaging through one of the drawers.
He pulled out a plastic case that almost looked like a tackle box. He opened it and looked through it, pulling out bottles of nail polish, apparently trying to decide which one to use.
Gyro eventually settled on a sky blue polish with little star shaped flecks in it.
Getting his nails done was a much more complicated process than he realized. Bottom coat, two layers of polish, top coat. It took forever. Johnny almost regretted agreeing to it, but he kind of liked the way his nails looked with stars all over them. Reminded him of his hat. That’s probably why he picked it out, he mused to himself. Weird. Thoughtful. Cute. That was Gyro in a nutshell, he supposed.
The rest of the night was uneventful. They settled down on Johnny’s mattress to watch a show. They eventually settled on a weird cartoon about cowboys. It was nice.
As Johnny settled down to sleep, he stared at the bottom of Gyro’s bunk, mind wandering to places it should probably stay out of. Fuck.
Johnny and Gyro eventually settled into a routine as the first few weeks of school came and went. Gyro would normally be gone before Johnny woke up; Johnny would use the small window of alone time to shower, scroll on his phone, or… do whatever else one might do when left to their own devices. After that, Johnny would go to class, get most of his work done at the library, then wheel home. Gyro would always show up late, usually with an obnoxious (but endearing (not that Johnny would ever admit it)) serenade and some sort of food to share.
If he was going to be later than normal, he’d message Johnny to let him know, and vice versa. Not that Johnny ever had anywhere to be.
Gyro usually messaged something along the lines of: out with a friend! dont wait up
Or: spending the night studying with my classmates, wont be home til tmrw
The nights Johnny where was left alone were usually spent laying in bed, absentmindedly wondering what his roommate was actually up to. He was reasonably certain that Gyro wasn’t always just with a friend, or just pulling all-nighters with his classmates.
So, naturally, his mind would jump to the conclusions that made him feel the worst.
Gyro was probably going out on dates, or spending the night with a cute girl. A cute guy? A cute someone that wasn’t Johnny. He didn’t want to admit it - hell, he couldn’t even acknowledge it on a surface level - but it tore him up inside. It was something he was going to have to accept, as hard as it might be.
He’s lived that life before- being fawned over by pretty much anyone who met him. It was intoxicating. Of course Gyro would be popular. Of course Gyro would reciprocate. He already established his need to… blow off steam.
No. No no no no no STOP IT. ENOUGH. He shut his thoughts down abruptly, his inner voice nearly startling him in the process. Fretting over his roommate’s hypothetical sex life was pointless. There’s no way he’d ever be interested in him, anyway.
He had to get over this… whatever it was.
There came a night where their routine was broken. A Friday. Johnny had been working at his desk, checking the clock every five minutes or so until Gyro got home. But he never showed. Hours ticked by, and before he knew it, it was nearly two in the morning.
He sat in bed, compulsively checking his phone with a frown. It was probably nothing. Maybe he got wrapped up in his training. Johnny forced himself to push away any other possibility that would just make him feel miserable for the remainder of the night.
Shoving on his headphones, he laid back in bed, pulling the covers over his head and playing some loud music to drown out his irrational fears.
Why was he so concerned? He didn’t really know Gyro. They talked a lot, but never about anything real, or about anything personal. Johnny didn’t mind that; he was grateful that Gyro never bugged him about his injury or his personal life. But there was something dark hiding in the back of his mind that made him feel like he wasn’t even worth the time for Gyro to get to know.
He wiped his hand over his face, groaning and rolling over in bed. He was in for a fitful night of sleep.
Johnny didn’t like to use his alarm on the weekends. He used the time away from school to get a little extra sleep, if he could, but Gyro was an insufferable morning person who would wake him up with a bad joke he came up with in the shower, and some coffee. So it was odd for him to wake up to see his phone clock read 12:48 PM.
He rolled onto his side and looked around blearily, memories of the night before slowly floating to the surface of his consciousness. “...Gyro? You there?” He called out, a little raspy.
He pushed the covers off himself and sat up, chewing on the inside of his lip and swinging his legs over the side of the bed. He felt gross after a night of sleeping in his hoodie and jeans. He tore his hoodie off and flung it across the room with more force than he intended, the metal drawstrings clanging against the screen of his TV. He winced, then turned his attention back to the matter at hand.
Gyro, everything good? He typed out, pressing the send button. He rested the phone on his lap, brushing his fingers through his sleep tangled hair.
… No immediate reply.
He got up with his crutches and sat his phone on his desk, forcibly separating himself from it while he changed his clothes.
After washing his face and brushing his teeth, taking longer than he needed to, he staggered out of the bathroom, nearly toppling over as he hurriedly made his way back to his desk. He flipped the phone over and checked his messages as he settled into his chair. Unread. He rested his crutches against the desk and sighed, despondent.
A few failed phone calls - all going to voicemail; he’s feeling agitated. He wasn’t awake enough to scold himself for being so irrational, he needed to figure out where Gyro was.
Johnny opened his laptop and started looking up other numbers he could call. Gyro’s professors, the hospital where he trains, the college’s administrative office. Anything.
The effort was in vain, however. It was a Saturday, so the professor’s and the admin office’s phones both went to voicemail. The hospital office said they couldn’t disclose any information about employees or students without the right paperwork. He said a quiet thank you, hanging up and tossing the phone aside, frustrated.
There wasn’t much he could do beyond that. Unless he wanted to go search for him himself. He half considered calling a rideshare to take him to the hospital, but it’d probably be a waste of time and money. Gyro could be anywhere, after all.
He’d just have to be patient.
And if Gyro didn’t show up by the end of the weekend, he’d call someone about it.
Luckily for Johnny, by the end of the day on Sunday, Gyro finally called him back.
“Hey, can you come get me?” His voice was quiet, monotone, and his accent was thicker. He sounded tired.
“Are you okay? What happened? Are you hurt? Where are you?” The words tumbled out of Johnny’s mouth; he couldn’t suppress the concern in his voice. As one worry left him, new ones cropped up.
“Jo-” Gyro began, interrupted by Johnny’s endless barrage of questions, “Johnny,” he sighed, waiting for him to quiet down. “I’m fine. I’m at the hospital. I’ll tell you about everything when you get here. Call me when you arrive.” He gave him the address.
“ Ciao .” And with that, he hung up.
Johnny balled up his fists, frustrated. He hated when people were vague, especially when it was about something important. He took a few minutes to breathe, then called for a ride.
Johnny’s cab pulled up to the front of the hospital about a half hour later. The driver pulled his chair out from the trunk and rested it next to the car. He maneuvered himself into the chair and waved the cabbie off, telling him he’d meet him in the parking lot shortly.
He fumbled with his phone, searching for Gyro’s number and thumbing the call button.
“I’m here,” Johnny said into the receiver once Gyro picked up, “I’m out front.”
“ Bene . Give me a minute, I’ll be down soon.” He sounded more alive than earlier, which was a good sign. He thought so, anyway. But Johnny still had no clue what happened to him over the weekend.
Sure enough, a few minutes later, the automatic doors parted and he appeared.
There was something… off about him. He was only wearing plain scrubs and sterile shoe covers on his feet. His hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail, and he looked dreadful. Pale, dark circles under his eyes, gauze taped to his inner elbow. It was like the life was sucked right out of him.
Johnny stood straight up out of his chair. And proceeded to fall forward and onto the checkered pavement, scraping his palms and forearms as he broke his fall.
Gyro’s eyes went wide and he ran over to him, kneeling down in front of him. “Whoa, whoa, Johnny, are you alright?” He looked as if he didn’t know what to do with his hands, holding them up slightly. “Ah… do you need help?”
Johnny didn’t know what came over him. His body moved on its own. He shook his head, sitting up and looking down at his hands, rubbed raw by the concrete. “Shit…” He sighed, cheeks beet red, and he climbed his way back into his chair with little issue, aside from his stinging palms.
Gyro watched him for a moment, a smile pulling at his lips. “Listen, Johnny, I know I’m a doctor and I have a very heavenly presence, but I haven’t learned how to faith heal just yet.” Gyro said with a dumb grin, getting to his feet. He paused, thinking for a moment, then shook his head, expression falling into guilt. “Alright, that was kind of fucked up, I apologize.”
“... Nah, that was pretty clever, actually.” Johnny replied quietly, avoiding his gaze and rubbing his wrists. If it were anyone else, he’d probably be irritated by it, but Johnny teased him enough that it was only fair that Gyro got a jab in now and then. And it was funny. He was just too mortified to laugh.
“So, uhh…” He pulls on his gloves, gripping his wheels and turning toward the sidewalk, heading the parking lot. “What happened?” He asked, over his shoulder.
Gyro walked up behind him, then moved to his side and slowed his pace. “Well…” He opened his mouth, then closed it, shaking his head. “Someone’s brought their kid into the ER because she had a high fever. Turns out, she had measles, and they’d been in the waiting room for a few hours. So all the staff that’d been in there had to be quarantined.”
Johnny grimaced, but said nothing, listening for the rest of the story.
“... It was all blown completely out of proportion, I think. All of us had to refresh our vaccines before we could even work in the hospital. But they had to make sure. It was a whole ordeal.” He waved his hand, huffing out a sigh.
Johnny pulled up to the cab and opened the door, using the hand grip to pull himself in. He glanced up at Gyro, who was already folding up his chair and putting it away. Thoughtful . He walked back around the car and slid in next to Johnny.
“Thanks.” He said, looking out the window. “Uh, just take us back to where you got me.”
They sat in silence on the drive back, Gyro fidgeted with his hair, taking it out of its ponytail and brushing through it with his hands. When they were almost to the dorm, Gyro leaned forward and said, “Hey, could you drop us off at that corner store down the way? We can make it the rest of the way ourselves.” The driver nodded and pulled over.
Johnny raised an eyebrow but didn’t question the decision, handing the driver his card to pay while Gyro got his chair.
They made their way into the shop, Gyro making a beeline for the front counter to get some cigarettes. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” He said, immediately going back outside to light one up.
Johnny followed him back out, mildly amused by his antics. Weird .
Gyro leaned against the brick wall, slowly sliding down into a sitting position while he smokes. After a while, he glanced up at Johnny and smiled sheepishly. “I know, I know. Smoking kills. I’m a hypocrite. But this weekend was fucking miserable.” He snubbed out the embers and lit another one, exhaling a large cloud of smoke. He did look better, there was more light in his eyes and color in his cheeks.
Johnny put on his parking brake and leaned back in his chair, looking out at the street, watching the cars passing by. “Something, something, Hippocrates pun.” He muttered, rubbing at his sore wrists.
Gyro slowly turned to look at him, mouth agape. “... I am so proud of you. Weak attempt, but good job all the same.” He tugged on his sleeve and grinned giddily. “I see my humor is rubbing off on you.” He stood up, sticking his cigarette butt in the ashtray beside the front door.
“Dude, you might have measles, I don’t want your humors anywhere near me.” Johnny waved him away, feigning disgust.
“... Alright. You can’t just upstage me like that, JoJo.” Gyro whined, struggling to keep a straight face and cracking up into laughter soon after. “And besides, I was cleared to leave, so you’re safe. For now.” He poked Johnny’s cheeks.
He swatted his hands away, pushing him back. “I don’t wanna take any chances. And don’t call me JoJo.” He pouted a little, crossing his arms.
Gyro took a step back, shrugging. “Suit yourself.” He crossed his arms and beamed down at him. He walked back toward the shop, patting Johnny’s shoulder. “Let’s go get some snacks, after that god tier pun, you’ve more than earned it.” He held the door open for him.
“Fine, but you’re paying for mine, too.” He replied, stubbornly as he turned himself around and wheeled inside.
“ Si, certo. ” Gyro chirped, following him inside.
They paced the different food aisles, Gyro piling various snacks and candies onto Johnny’s lap. Gyro handed his wallet to him, deciding this was enough. “Go ahead and pay for these, I’m gonna see what kind of shitty wine they have.”
After what felt like twenty minutes of Johnny waiting by the front door, idly playing games on his phone, Gyro approached the front counter with two wine bottles. Johnny held his wallet out to him just as he was about to ask for it. “Thanks.”
They eventually made their way back to their apartment, Gyro pushing Johnny as he held their horde of treats in his lap. Johnny usually hated being out of control of his chair, but he was already emotionally exhausted, so this was a welcome respite.
Once they were back, Gyro instructed him to set out all their snacks and order takeout while he took a much needed shower. He once again left Johnny his wallet, but, feeling guilty, he went ahead and paid for their food himself.
Johnny picked out a cherry lollipop from the pile of candy on his desk and made himself comfortable on his bed, waiting patiently. A wave of calm passed over him as he listened to Gyro sing in the shower, relieved that he was okay. He did his best not to dwell on the embarrassment he felt for being so irrational.
They spent their night stuffing themselves with Thai food and snacks, watching a weird anime and cracking more terrible jokes. Gyro drank almost a full bottle of his wine before he cut himself off, laying back on Johnny’s bunk and yawning. “Just… let me rest a moment.”
Out. Instantly. Dead to the world. Cute.
Johnny watched him, pursing his lips. He weighed his options in his mind as he changed into his pajamas, but decided it would probably be best to leave him there. The last thing he needed was to haul Gyro’s ass back to the hospital because he hurt himself trying to climb the bunk ladder.
“Alright, big guy, scoot over.” Johnny pushed his shoulder, forcing him to lay closer to the wall. Gyro grumbled something but complied. He laid down beside him, nearly off the edge to avoid touching him.
He was sure he wouldn’t be getting any sleep tonight, purely because of the discomfort, as well as his nerves. But… having a warm, breathing presence beside him, his worries dissipated, and soon enough, he was gone.
sorry this took so long, but this chapter is a little longer than normal, so hopefully that makes up for the wait!!
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Chapter 4: I Won't Hold My Breath
Sorry this took so long, I just moved to a completely different state and everything's been crazy, haha. But this chapter is longer than usual, so, enjoy!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Consciousness came to Johnny slowly, his mind evidently still trapped beneath a warm, comforting layer of dreams. He exhaled deeply through his nose, scrunching up his face and yawning. What time was it, anyway?
He blinked his bright blue eyes open, rubbing away the sleep and letting them refocus before giving his surroundings a quick once over. The room was dark; the curtains were still drawn shut from the night before. He patted his pockets and next to himself to feel for his phone, his palm making contact with something warm and soft. Johnny froze. He cautiously looked over to see Gyro, still asleep beside him.
Johnny let his touch linger there for much longer than necessary, then pulled his hand back carefully from Gyro’s side; his shirt must have rode up while he slept. He was laying on his stomach, arms tightly hugging his pillow as he slept soundly, breathing deeply. Johnny couldn’t help but stare for a while. Gyro’s hair was ruffled, but still silky, partially covering his face. Without really thinking, Johnny reached out to tuck it back behind his ear.
Just as he pulled his hand away, Gyro began to stir, and he froze once more, starting to panic. He laid back down carefully, pulling the covers back over himself, and pretended to still be asleep.
He held his breath and prayed Gyro would go back to sleep. Unfortunately, his bedmate turned over onto his back and stretched as far as his long limbs would let him in the tiny bunk, groaning in a way that made Johnny’s face heat up. He heard him mumble something unintelligible as he sat up. There was a silence. And then -
Gyro went quiet, and after a few agonizingly long seconds, Johnny felt a finger stroke his cheek. He instinctively flinched, startled, and Gyro immediately pulled away. There was some hesitation, but he felt the touch again, first on his cheek, then along his jaw and under his chin. And, just as Johnny had done, he tucked a lock of hair behind his ear. He whispered something he couldn’t quite make out, presumably in his native tongue. Johnny shivered a bit, hoping to God he didn’t notice.
Gyro rested a hand on his head and leaned forward, pressing his lips to Johnny’s forehead. His hair tickled his cheek. Was he imagining this? He peeked up through his eyelashes for a split moment, just before he pulled away. This had to be some weird not-quite-wet dream, right? Damp dream? Johnny bit the inside of his lip, willing his body to keep still and breathing to stay steady.
He muttered a few more words he didn’t understand, sighing, then carefully crawled over Johnny and out of the bed. He clenched his fists beneath the covers when Gyro hovered over him, if only momentarily. The man radiated heat and even a second of close proximity was enough for Johnny’s composure to falter.
Johnny laid there, stiff as a board, for a few more minutes. He heard Gyro’s bare feet pad around the room against the linoleum. He heard the click of a phone unlocking, followed by a string of swears both in English and Italian under his breath. There were a few moments of silence, before another sigh. His footsteps receded and the bathroom door opened and shut. He listened for a few minutes longer until the shower turned on.
Johnny sat straight up, sucking in a deep breath before dissolving into a coughing fit.
What the fuck was that?!
His face was flushed with embarrassment, eyes scanning back and forth, unseeing, as he tried to process what had just happened. It wasn’t a dream… was it? Why did Gyro do that? Johnny knew he should’ve felt more creeped out by it, but...
Reaching a hand up to touch his forehead, skin still burning beneath his fingers, he considered all the possible explanations.
Johnny wasn’t really a stranger to dissociation or weird dreams. After his accident, he was more or less left alone with only his mind to keep him company. His parents avoided being around him unless it was absolutely necessary - during meals and when accompanying him to physical therapy, et cetera. They were probably too overcome with disappointment for his wasted potential. He couldn’t really fault them for that - it was his fault he got shot, after all.
Whenever he dreamed, it was always wishful thinking. He dreamt of riding; he dreamt of winning. He dreamt about his friends, his partners, both of whom would never speak to him again. Worst of all, though - he dreamt of Nicolas. He dreamt all the things he wished he’d said and done before he was gone. Those dreams had already haunted him well after he passed away, and only increased in frequency when he was left in isolation. He missed his brother. So much.
These sorts of dreams happened so often that it made it hard for him to believe that what had just occurred was real.
Johnny screwed his eyes shut, grounding himself. This is real. You’re awake.
But what do I do now?
Mind still reeling, Johnny got dressed, grabbed his backpack and promptly left the room before his roommate was finished showering. As much as he’d love to surrender to his own desire to play hooky, there was no fucking way he could stay in that room. And class was a perfectly valid excuse to flee the premises.
It turned out to be a waste of time, however, because he couldn’t focus on anything else even if he tried; even if his life depended on it. His professor was already annoyed with him for showing up late, and mercifully ignored him as he stared out the window, fretting.
He loitered in the library after class until one of the librarians politely but firmly told him to leave. As they walked away, he rolled his eyes up to the ceiling and prayed for strength. He didn’t think he really needed to confront Gyro about what happened. Johnny wasn’t supposed to know, anyway. But it was going to take a hefty amount of resolve to act like everything was fine.
Gyro ended up staying home that day; he said he’d already missed half of his classes and was hung over enough that even the thought of being in a hospital made him feel sick to his stomach. Johnny wheeled into the room to see him lying on the bottom bunk, his bunk, a few hundred pages deep into a textbook with a bunch of highlighters piled on his lap. Did he have to study there of all places?
He perked up when he saw Johnny. He pulled off his headphones and gave him his usual greeting, beginning to interrogate him about his day. All Johnny could muster in reply was a shrug, lacking any desire to speak to him. Gyro regarded him with a small frown, but said nothing more, going back to his studying.
They shared a quiet night in. Johnny stayed glued to his desk, headphones on, playing games on his laptop and praying for the night to just end already. A little while later, he saw movement out of the corner of his eye, glancing over to see his roommate changing into his sleepwear. His eyes snapped back to his screen instantly and he clenched his fist on his mouse, bristling. He could’ve sworn it was like he was purposely messing with him.
He sighed. No, he wasn’t. Gyro was just oblivious. Probably. He hoped.
Johnny groaned as someone in-game took advantage of his moment of distraction and shot his character in the head. He shut his laptop with more force than necessary, not bothering to exit out of the game, and threw his headphones onto his desk haphazardly. They clattered against the hardwood and fell to the floor, a couple pieces of plastic breaking off and scattering across the room.
“Fucking really?” Johnny nearly yelled out of frustration. He leaned back into his seat, rubbing his face with both hands and gripping his hat. He was getting way too worked up over something that could just be in his head. Wishful thinking.
His inner turmoil would have to be put on hold, however, as he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder and nearly jumped out of his seat. He turned around and looked up to see Gyro standing there, watching him with a small worried smile. “Are you alright? You seem very... on edge today.” He felt the hand squeeze lightly, like it was supposed to be comforting. All it did was make his skin crawl.
Johnny gripped his hand forcibly and pushed it off his shoulder, crossing his arms and leaning away from him. “Just leave me alone, okay?” He cringed outwardly when he heard his own voice crack. Weak .
Gyro raised his hands defensively, taking a step back. “Message received.” He stood there for a few more moments and Johnny could almost feel his eyes burning through his hat into the side of his head. Mirroring him, Gyro crossed his arms and turned around with a sigh. “By the way, ah…” he began, over his shoulder. “Thanks, for yesterday.” He walked back to his side of the room. “Not sure how okay I would be if I was alone.” The last part was muttered just loud enough for Johnny’s ears to pick up.
He felt a tsunami sized wave of guilt, but he was too stubborn - and mortified - to look back at him.
Johnny straightened his shirt where Gyro’s hand was, rubbing it, as if attempting to brush away any remnant left of his presence. In his periphery he could see Gyro climbing the ladder to his bunk and settling down for the night. He was relieved to know he’d have his own bed to himself that night.
Johnny pulled off his beanie and tossed it aside, absentmindedly brushing his fingers through his hair. He scoffed quietly, noticing just how greasy his hair had become. Jesus Christ, when was the last time I showered? He thought about it for a moment, counting on his fingers until he realized he couldn’t actually remember.
Guess I’m doing worse than I thought.
Johnny pulls back on his parking brake and wheels over to his dresser, grabbing some clean clothes and heading to their bathroom.
He considered setting up his shower chair but decided against it and drew a bath instead. Maybe if he were lucky he’d end up ‘accidentally’ drowning, or something.
Johnny peeled off - ugh - his clothes and dropped them by the door, avoiding his reflection in the mirror at all costs. He slid out of his chair and hoisted himself over the side of the tub, careful not to splash water over the edge.
He turned over onto his back and sank down into the water, shutting his eyes and sighing deeply. He never really understood why it was so difficult to get himself to bathe sometimes. Aside from the annoying mobility aspect, he loved the feeling of hot water on his skin. It was comforting. An adequate substitute for human contact. Probably.
Johnny’s thoughts meandered for a while before wandering back to this morning, replaying the events in his mind. He remembered the whispers. What did Gyro say, anyway? He wanted to confront him about it, but he was terrified of what he might tell him, even if it was something he’d want to hear.
Opening his eyes, he studied the tiles on the wall while his mind continued to race. What had happened to him? Not too long ago, he was happy. He was confident. He was loved. Well - maybe not loved so much as desired , but there wasn’t much of a difference to him at the time. The worst thing was, then, he didn’t even care what people thought of him, or wanted from him. He never imagined there could be a time where he’d have nothing and no one.
He rubbed hard at his eyes as they welled up with tears, eventually giving up and letting them flow free.
Johnny sniffled and sat up a little, hesitantly lowering his gaze, looking over his body. His legs were so scrawny these days. He was more top heavy now from needing to use his arms so much. It’s amazing how his whole life, body included, got turned upside down. All because of one stupid mistake. He’d kick himself for it, if he could.
Get a fucking grip, Johnny.
Tired of sulking, Johnny busied himself with scrubbing his skin raw and washing his hair - twice. The water was murky by the end of it all, so he drained the water and reached for his shower chair so he could rinse off one more time.
He could only hope his self loathing would wash down the drain along with the filth.
Johnny draped a towel over his chair and climbed into his seat, wrapping the towel around his waist and grabbing another to cover his shoulders. Reluctantly, he pulled out his small standing mirror and sat it on the counter so he could get a better look at himself. Other than the bags under his eyes and some stubble, he really didn’t look all that terrible. Perhaps a little peaked from staying inside all the time; his usual freckles all but faded. Maybe he could invite Gyro out for a ballgame or something, get himself out in the sunshine.
He frowned in the mirror, averting his gaze as he remembered how badly he’d treated him earlier. He didn’t deserve any of that. Sure, Gyro was overbearing and maybe needed better boundaries, but he’s been nothing but kind to him. And respectful. That was hard to come by for someone like Johnny.
Johnny gave himself a quick shave, scrubbed his teeth, combed through the tangles in his hair and got dressed. Was that so hard? He mused to himself, rolling his eyes.
He climbed into bed and groaned, wrapping himself up tight in his blankets. He went over his plan in his mind a few times so he would remember.
He’d talk about it with him tomorrow, after class. He’d be honest, and ask Gyro to explain himself. They still had a whole five months stuck together in this room, and the last thing they needed was to resent each other.
Maybe the outcome would spin in Johnny’s favor.
Johnny had a difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep. His ceaseless worrying plagued his dreams that night. He couldn’t really remember them, but the anxiety he felt lingered after tossing himself awake.
He laid on his back and stared at the rungs of the top bunk, waiting for time to pass. He daydreamed about riding for a while until he heard birds starting to sing and saw the telltale signs of the sun rising through their window.
Shortly after, Gyro’s alarm vibrated on his desk and he hopped right out of bed. Literally. Just pushed himself off the bunk and landed superhero style with his legs bent and a soft grunt. He raised his arms in the air olympic gymnast style. Idiot.
Turning off his alarm, he flopped into his desk chair, sliding a little across the room into Johnny’s field of vision. He scrolled through his phone, humming softly to himself, spinning in his chair idly. How was he so alert and chipper just after waking? He’d probably never understand this crazy man.
Johnny pretended to be asleep whenever Gyro faced him, but other than that, he watched him as he got ready curiously. He was always asleep when he did, so now for once he got the chance to see how Gyro started his day.
Gyro sat the phone back down and stood up with a little jump, stretching till his fingers touched the ceiling, his back and shoulders popping with a satisfied groan. The sound honestly grossed Johnny out.
Gyro pulled back on his fingers to crack them as well while he walked over to their mini fridge. Johnny’s view was blocked, but he heard him fiddling with the coffee maker, leaving it to brew while he went to the bathroom.
Really? Another shower? Johnny supposed it was probably some sort of work requirement, but knowing Gyro, he’d use any excuse to be able to sing, and boy did he sing loudly in the shower. It was one of the few things that could wake Johnny up that early. Furthermore, he did seem like the kind of high maintenance person who needed to shower twice a day at minimum.
Gyro finished his shower, got dressed, grabbed his coffee, slung his backpack over his shoulder and left the room in a whirlwind. Maybe he was running late. Maybe he was just eager to get to class. Maybe he just wanted to get away from Johnny as soon as he could.
No more of that. That kind of thinking will get you nowhere. He sighed softly, forcing himself out of bed. He had more than enough time to sleep a little longer before class, but he knew that’d be a fruitless effort, so he dressed himself and went to get some breakfast.
The day went by much faster than the day before, to Johnny’s relief. And dismay. Because this just meant he was that much closer to having to confront Gyro.
Johnny pushed open the door to their room and rolled in, glancing around the room to see it empty. He worried his lip a bit, and just a moment later, his phone began to ring.
The caller ID flashed with Gyro’s name. Johnny psyched himself up and answered after a few rings.
“...Hello?” Johnny said with some hesitation.
“Hey, Johnny! Where are you right now?” Gyro’s ever pleasant voice replied.
“Just got back to the room… why? Is everything okay?” Johnny leaned back in his chair, hugging his waist with one arm.
“Oh, more than okay! I got invited to this, uh, party thing tonight. Last minute. Really fancy. There’s supposed to be lots of good food.” Johnny had to smirk. He swore that was all that man cared about. Aside from saving lives, of course.
Gyro laughed his weird little laugh and coughed, sounding a bit nervous, but continued, “Anyway, I was wondering if you’d like to join me, since I’m allowed to bring a plus one.” Before Johnny could get even one syllable out, Gyro cut him off. “Y-You don’t have to, though! I know you haven’t been feeling well. But I figured I’d at least offer.”
“I- Well-” Johnny stuttered a little, thrown off by this sudden curveball thrown at his plans. “You said it’s fancy? I don’t really… have anything to wear.” He left all of his event attire at home, knowing he’d probably never need to wear them again.
“Oh, not to worry. I’m just going in my scrubs because I frankly don’t give a shit, so you’d probably still look more put together than me.” Gyro snickered.
“I mean… Sure?” Johnny didn’t mean for it to sound like a question, but it didn’t really matter anyway.
“ Bene !” Johnny could hear the beaming smile in his voice. “I’ll text you the address. It won’t be until around 7. Anyway, Johnny - I have to go. I’ll see you soon! Ciao !” Click. Dial tone.
Johnny sat there with his phone still pressed to his ear, blinking as his mind processed the conversation. If you could even call it that. It was rather one-sided. But hey - that’s Gyro. At least he knows what he wants.
A few hours later, Johnny found himself in the apartment building elevator. His whole evening before leaving felt like a blur up to that point, as if he was running on autopilot. He managed to find a short sleeved blue button up and some dark jeans. His star patterned Chucks looked a bit tacky with the rest of his getup, but he took comfort in the fact that Gyro would probably look more shabby in comparison. Well, at least Gyro had a valid excuse. Oh well. He didn’t need to care about what the people there would think of him, he’d never see them again after tonight.
He watched the doors close and felt himself descend. He always hated that stomach dropping feeling when an elevator started to move.
There was a loud groaning sound of metal grinding against metal and the elevator stopped abruptly, nearly making Johnny fall out of his chair.
“Whoa whoa whoa, what the hell - ” Johnny said aloud, looking around the elevator carriage, as if he could see what was going wrong beyond those four walls. Four very cramped walls.
He rolled forward to look over the floor console, jabbing the open door button a few times with a shaky hand. No luck.
Johnny started to feel his panic setting in. He never liked being in tight spaces like this. Most of his life was spent out in open fields and race tracks. He could see around him for miles. Right now, all he could see was tacky red wallpaper, closing in around him.
He started to tremble, and his lungs struggled for air.
Thank you to Danny (@sophrosyns) and Dandy (@bicyclerace/razercola/gozeppy) for beta reading for me! Go read their fanfic!! Or else!!!!!
If you liked it, comments are appreciated!
ok thank u BYE