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hook, line, and sinker

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Johnny takes the bait.

Valentine keeps up his end of the deal, even goes so far as to find a Gyro taking his own deal a million universes away - a bloodied, eviscerated Johnny pale and motionless in the Neopolitan’s arms. All it takes is some careful wording - I have a Johnny looking for you - and that world’s Gyro steps through the space between worlds with a snarl, tears still streaming down his face.

Lovers were fun, Valentine mused. Always so willing to do the dirty work. Accept deals so they wouldn’t be alone.

The base world’s Johnny still has a finger trained on Valentine, still has blood running from the stump on his right arm, still has a vigor in his eyes that’s draining fast alongside his life’s blood, but then -

Gyro steps out of the ground, eyes darting around until they land on Johnny. He steps forward once, twice, like he’s unsure, but a heartbeat later his arms are around the smaller man, pressing kisses to his temple, his neck, his lips, and oh , that’s interesting.

This world’s Johnny isn’t moving now, his mouth open in shock. Valentine’s still dying, still being unmade, but this is a welcome distraction from the pain, the agony of being split again and again and again.

“Time for you to hold up your end of the bargain,” Valentine wheezes when the pain becomes too much, and Johnny’s attention snaps back to the President with a ferocity that makes his blood boil. It was almost like Johnny still expected him to double cross the former jockey.

Which, if he was being honest - what with the gun burning a metaphorical hole in the back of his slacks - he absolutely was. But hey, he had a soft spot for young love. And he’d already sworn on his father’s handkerchief, and the horrid story that came along with it.

He watches Johnny mount his horse - Slow Dancer - and take the roundabout way back to Valentine, lining up the shot as the horse’s movements enter the perfect rotation for his spin.

Johnny shoots, but his mouth is a thin, hard line, and as the shot connects Valentine can already tell something’s terribly wrong.

“I lied.” Johnny snarls, and Gyro watches the President of the United States come undone for the final time.

 

-----

 

In another universe, Johnny doesn’t take the bait.

In that universe, Valentine makes the same offer every time, appearing at Johnny’s side every few weeks as he begs for release, offering a Gyro that has no memory of the race, a Gyro hopelessly in love with Johnny, a Gyro desperate to see his best friend, his lover, his husband again -

And each time, Johnny’s nail bullet finds its place in between his eyes. Each time, Valentine feels himself die, begging D4C to find another, begging Johnny to let him live, let him thrive.

At some point, Johnny stops shooting him, and he stops offering Gyro up like he’s the best bait Johnny could find.

Instead, he starts to offer Johnny other things: when Valkrie eventually passes under his care, a living reminder of his dead friend. When Lucy and Steel are assassinated a few months later, a copy of them so close to the original that Valentine can’t really tell the difference.

Eventually, Johnny gets older, more nostalgic, more sentimental, and Valentine strikes gold.

“How about a world where he never died?” Valentine asks coolly, despite his hands falling apart in front of his face. Johnny pauses from where he’s sipping his tea, setting the cup into the saucer with a force strong enough that the teacup shatters.

“A world where the two of you met naturally, developed naturally. No Steel Ball Run, no corpse, no Valentine. Just the two of you, living together in Naples.” Valentine punctuates his offer with a click of his deteriorating nails on the hardwood table in Johnny’s kitchen. It’d taken him countless iterations to find this particular world - a world in which Gyro wasn’t the eldest son, a world where he grew up carefree and happy and traveled and met a young jockey in America he took too much of a liking to.

He fails to mention that that particular Gyro isn’t much like the one Johnny knew, the one Johnny loved. Valentine reasons that that’s unnecessary information, given what he’s trying to achieve.

Johnny mulls the thought over with shaking hands, eyes glazed over and distant. Valentine had waited until the fifth anniversary of Gyro’s death to bring out the metaphorical big guns and it shows in the way Johnny condenses into himself, arms wrapped around his abdomen like the action will scare the vanishing man away.

“Give it some thought.” Valentine chokes out as he dies.

 

“There’s no one left for you, you know.” Valentine laughs. It’s been ten years now, ten years since the showdown on the coast, ten years since Valentine unloaded his gun into Gyro’s stupid, disgusting face. He’s spent too much time trying to woo Johnny to the possibility of having Gyro back in his life, has spent too much time speaking with other Gyro’s and formulating a list of those that would be willing to take the dead one’s place.

There were so many, so goddamn many, and so many fucking Johnny’s , but only one of them had mastered the infinite rotation and he’d been completely unhelpful the last decade.

Too many Gyro’s willing to cross over and build a life with this self martyring bastard, and Valentine wondered for a moment if this was what hell was truly like: playing matchmaker for a recalcitrant thirty year old paraplegic.

“It’s been so long since everyone left you behind,” he wheezes out as his legs uncoil. “Surely you must be tired, haven’t you thought about moving on already?”

Johnny doesn’t look up from where he dutifully shines his dead brother’s shoes. Valentine hasn’t gotten a word out of him in three years.

“Maybe I’ll just bring one here without telling you, let him roam free and die , and haunt you with the story -”

The nail bullet between his eyes is almost welcome, at that point.

 

True to his word, he takes a Gyro over to the base world, leaves him right outside of Johnny’s cabin. This Gyro lost his Johnny a decade ago too, and Valentine tamps down the brief flare of hope he has for his eternal rival. Probably something to be said about the situation, probably a form of stockholm syndrome, but when Johnny opens the door and his eyes fall onto the older visage of a battered, weathered Gyro -

Valentine can’t help the small smile. He’d always been a sucker for true love.

Johnny doesn’t react the best way, but who could blame him? Gyro’s frozen in place, mouth open and eyes watering, and he only barely dodges the nail bullet Johnny fires at him from his wheelchair.

“Johnny.” Gyro says, and his voice is a lot deeper, so much more worldly , and Valentine thinks for a moment that he’s won.

But Johnny only shuts the door in his face, and it’s only because Valentine’s between worlds that he hears the stifled sob coming from inside.

 

The next time he reforms, they’ve started talking. Gyro takes one look at the mass of pink and blonde before shooting him dead then and there, and Valentine screams the entire way to another dimension. The Valentine there isn’t too impressed.

 

He catches glimpses of how they progress - the infinite rotation hasn’t slowed so much as sped up, so his moments of consciousness are fleeting, strange, and he sees them laughing late into the night, eyes burning into each other -

Brief touches over tea, Gyro’s insufferably gold smile offset by the pink in his cheeks -

Johnny sick, Gyro hovering over him and pressing a kiss to his temple when he thinks the other man is still asleep -

Their first kiss, rough and demanding, Johnny’s hands working their way up, up, up -

Valentine often wishes he couldn’t see the rest.

 

He materializes fully for the first time in thirty years, staring down a small girl with pigtails in her hair, and when she sees him she screams.

Notably, for her papa and daddy.

Johnny wheels himself into the room with a bang, brows drawn tight in a way that accentuates the wrinkles forming at the creases of his eyes, the corners of his mouth. Gyro isn’t far behind, his trademark grills gone in favor of what seems to be a simple ring adorning his left hand.

“Oh.” Valentine says. “Disgustingly domestic.”

Johnny gives him a solid once over before bursting into laughter. Gyro’s already scooped up the girl, murmuring low into her ear and setting her down on the other side of the doorway. When Valentine looks around the room for the first time he recognizes some elements - a strip of wall that used to house tools and hunting equipment, a rug that’s seen better days but he swears he was there when it was brand new - but the room seems to have been outfitted for the purpose of raising a child.

Two beds, he notes. Children .

“You look like shit,” Johnny says. Gyro chuckles into his hand.

“Not like I can look any other way, Joestar.”

Johnny cocks his head. “That’s true.” He kicks around for a second, and Valentine’s surprised to see his legs working in his favor again.

“Should we thank him?” Gyro whispers in a faux aside, and Johnny shakes his head.

“Nah. He’s an asshole.”

Valentine’s nose scrunches up. “I resent that.”

The choice of words make Johnny break out into more laughter, and Valentine feels the familiar splitting pain again, the feeling of being unmade. Gyro claps him roughly on the shoulder, and he’s surprised to find he doesn’t really mind.

“Thanks,” Gyro murmurs, low enough that Johnny can’t hear. “Not that you probably want to hear it.”

He does, actually. He feels warm despite the pain, chalks it up to his steadily growing case of stockholm syndrome and not the fact that he's pretty sure he's coming undone for the last time. Valentine takes the thanks, bundles the feelings that come with them up next to his father's handkerchief, and dies.