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Seven Nationed Army

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“Why did you let us catch you?”

“Oh man, that’s good. I’m going to use that on my superiors and maybe they won’t straight up execute me.” The witty response is not appreciated. The young man, far smaller and far younger than anyone else in the room, is consequently struck hard in the stomach with a solid fist. He doubles over as far as the chair he’s tied to will allow him before quickly throwing himself back again, smiling through split lips and bloody teeth. “You can hit me a lot harder than that, Michael Jones.”

Continuing to be unappreciated, he is hit again, much harder this time. He gasps, blinking through the pain before squinting his eyes shut and nodding mildly.

“Better,” he breaths between heaves. Michael steps away enough to give his boss room to face the intruder head on. The older male leans over the chair, hands rested on the arm rests in the typical domination movement. He’s seen it many times before. It’s always so easy to try and assert fear in the form of dominance over the smallest person in the room. Yeah, the guy who looked like he was going to fall into a coma at any moment and smelled of cheap whiskey and beer was going to intimidate the hell out of him.

“Look, kid-” He’d never heard that before. “Either you can tell us what you want or we can get Ryan.”

“What would I want with you, Geoff Ramsey, small time mob boss with accidental connections and unwanted supplies? You think people like me break into places like this for something so- dumb? Maybe I’m here to take the Brit back where he belongs? Gavin Free, right?” he smiles in a friendly fashion.

“What do you want with Gavin?” Michael snaps suddenly. He glances over, watching the angry man flex his fingers again. His knuckles are bruised slightly less than his victim is. Not that, that says much, really.

“That was the joke,” he replies simply. “I don’t care about him, or you. Or Jack Pattillo, boyfriend extraordinaire. I guess you’re all kind of jerking each other off, though, huh? Criminal polyamory; I've definitely seen weirder.”

“Get Ryan,” Geoff says firmly. “And find me a price on this asshole’s head.”

“I wouldn’t suggest getting Lindsay or Steffie to help you,” he speaks up as the pair of them head to leave. “If you want them to stay alive.” And he’s left alone in the dark where he remains, quietly.

Ryan is gathered up easily, though with some complaining. He never likes to be pulled away in the middle of a job but at the same time, he sure as hell would prefer torturing someone over robbing some no named convenience store. Real surprise there. Still, they opt to hold off on doing anything else for the time being. There were two things wrong with this situation and that was a; people didn’t just break into their warehouses and b; people didn’t break in and then immediately get caught.

It wasn’t necessarily that their warehouse was impossible to break into, either. If that was the case, this would be something entirely different. Rather, there was nothing important enough to break in for. There was no information, or goods, or really anything. It was, originally, going to be a safe house but that obviously wasn’t going to be the case anymore. They had thought some sort of animal had triggered the alarm at first.

So to recap, a heavily armed man with a government identification card broke into an empty safe house and triggered the only alarm in the entire building. Suspicion at it’s finest.

Ryan removes his mask as he approaches, the finely painted thing already splattered with blood, and opens his arms pointedly. In the middle really did mean in the middle. The situation, admittedly, is a bit concerning and it’s obvious by glance alone.

“Well?” Ryan questions. Geoff nods his head toward the door, gesturing him to do his thing. He had already been informed of the important parts; there was a person and they wouldn't talk. What more did he need?

“Loosen up!” Ryan insists, grinning and patting Geoff's shoulder heavily. He places his mask back on, cracking his shoulders as he walks between them to get to the door. He opens the door, pauses for a moment, and then backs out quicker than his feet can keep up with. He snaps the door closed with urgency, fumbling with the lock as if suddenly unknowing of how to work it. “You need to let him go, Geoff.”

“What?” is the only acceptable response. The sudden change does not go unnoticed. Ryan's cheeriness shuts down like he's been informed his cow died.

“What the fuck are you talking about, Ryan?” Michael snaps back. Ryan backs away from the door nervously and into the hall wall all at once, startling himself a bit.

“Do you know him?” Jack asks, slightly more understanding of the sudden fear. Ryan hesitates for a moment before slowly pulling at the collar of his shirt. He drags it down to show the embossed scar that sits upon his chest, just fractions from his heart. They've all seen it before but never had known its cause. In a business like this, no one asked questions about scars. Even scars that shouldn't be scars and should be cause of death.

“I don’t know what he’s doing here,” Ryan says quickly. “But he needs to leave.”

“He knows our names, Ryan,” Michael is quick to point out. “He knows where we live.”

“He knows a lot more than that and he needs to leave right fucking now. He’s fucking insane. He- he-" Ryan collects himself. "He’s a lot more dangerous than he looks. You're not going to win this fight. And I’m telling you right now, that room is not going to hold him,” he speaks quietly and carefully but quickly. They’ve certainly never seen Ryan like this before.

“Who is he, Ryan?” Gavin murmurs softly. Ryan’s fear is infective and for good reason. The door creaks and begins to fall outward, slowly at first and then heavy with its own weight. It hits the ground with a vibrating thump. Ryan bumps against the wall he’s already backed himself into.

“Ray Narvaez Jr. I would have said so earlier, but you were kind of busy kicking the shit out of me,” he says with a small shrug. Michael is the first to react, the solution appearing simple in his mind. He draws his pistol with ease and the empty clicking sound triggers several times in quick succession. Ray holds up a magazine.

“This must be yours,” he muses. Geoff pulls his own gun upon this realisation with the same results. Ray shifts his thumb, the magazine duplicating in the small movement. “Which makes this one yours.”

“How did you-?” Gavin gestures mildly, more bemused than startled, and Ray glances towards him curiously. Jack moves slowly, as if to remain out of vision in the distraction, but before he can reach his gun, Ryan grips his arm forcibly and holds him still.

“Don’t,” he says stiffly. Ray looks back to them.

“Ryan-” Jack begins, unknowing of what to make of this.

“He’s not wrong,” Ray points out, twirling the finger of his empty hand loosely. A pin of Jack’s grenade dances at his side, soft noises of the metal hitting against itself clear between the six of them. “Why the hell are you wearing those things around?” He tosses both magazines into the room behind him, delicately wrapping the nearly invisible line around his index finger as he walks closer. Jack carefully keeps his arm away from the string.

Ryan backs up again, only hitting the wall that remains far too solid. Ray reaches out with his free hand, removing the mask from Ryan's face carefully and throwing it off to the side. He searches over the colour drained features without a word.

“Ah,” he says suddenly, twisting the string and causing Jack to freeze again. “You wanna reach for your gun again, asshole? Go ahead. Do it.”

“You’ll go with us,” Michael growls.

“That’s the idea,” Ray replies, but his eyes never leave Ryan, pinning the man in place in a way physical binds could never do. “It’s been a while, Ryan.”

“Four years?” Ryan murmurs but his voice gets caught in his throat.

“Six, actually,” Ray corrects. “Every since you left.”

“You shot me,” Ryan replies instantly. It doesn't sound as strong as he wants it to.

“You were leaving before I shot you,” Ray says blandly. Ryan remembers. He'd never forgotten no matter how much he wanted to.

“I wasn’t going to leave you,” Ryan insists through ground teeth. Ray’s finger dances around the string and Jack holds his breath.

“No,” Ray agrees. “You just took all the money and said ‘well, there doesn’t have to be two of us’.”

“I-” Ryan says slowly. “Did do that.”

“Ryan,” Michael sighs from the sidelines. He's not the only, either. Ryan adjusts slightly under Ray’s smaller, more intimidating form, focused entirely on him alone. This is a place he absolutely doesn’t want to be.

“And then pointed your gun at me,” Ray reminds him. He presses a finger to Ryan’s chest, accurately applying pressure to the scar and making the man flinch his eyes shut. “But I guess you’re different now.”

“Yes,” Ryan growls, steadying himself. Ray was right, after all. He had already reaped his consequences. “What do you want? You’re not here to kill me. You would have done that a long time ago.”

“You owe me a favor,” Ray says calmly.

“Do I though? I think we’re pretty even,” Ryan insists.

“I didn't killed you,” is the cutting reply as he presses firmer on the scar. Ryan scowls a little, regaining his courage in familiarity.

“You tried to.”

“I got fired,” Ray says. Ryan’s courage flees the building. This is not what he thought he knew. “You know what that means. It gets better; I got fired for selling Republica secrets.”

“You?” Ryan manages out. “Why the fuck would you do that?”

“I like the challenge,” Ray replies simply. It's sarcasm at it's finest. “Why the fuck do you think?” is the sudden and violent follow up that startles Ryan. That's new. Ray touches Ryan’s face with his fingertips, curving them down to grasp his jawline and everyone makes a small jerk forward before thinking better of it.

“You want us to hide you,” Geoff speaks into their private bubble. Ray glances to him out the corner of his eye for a split moment before focusing on Ryan again. “What’s in it for us?”

“Geoff,” Ryan says, the short statement a warning on his tongue. Geoff doesn't realise what he's getting into.

“You couldn’t hide a rat in a sewer,” Ray comments off handedly. He stays quiet for a moment before pulling his hand away from Ryan all at once. Instead, he faces Geoff. Ryan touches his neck slightly as if to check himself, every movement slow and precise. “I’m going to help you.”

“Help us?” Geoff laughs. “What do you think you’re going to help us with?”

“Uh, I don’t know. Not die?” Ray offers pointedly. The laughing stops. Whether this is intended to be a threat can not yet be known. He faces Ryan again, less than interested in the others. “You didn’t get away, Ryan, and you’re wrong; I didn’t try to kill you. If I had wanted to, I would've. They’ll know you’re still alive any day now and they’ll come for you, too.”

“You covered for me?” Ryan asks, voice gentle. This was the important part he deciphered in that.

“So wait,” Gavin says from out of the blue. “Do you hate Ryan or not?” He breaks all intensity. Ray looks at him for a moment before turning back to Ryan.

“Still hanging out with the best of the best, huh.”

“They’re smarter than they seem,” Ryan claims with a small shrug.

“Yeah, like this motherfucker!”

Gavin chucks his knife suddenly, cutting the string holding them hostage and Michael makes his move. Before he can even begin whatever he’s planned out, likely an unwise tackle, Ray shoots him point blank in the chest. Michael hits the floor all at once, gasping out for air in pained struggles. Jack rushes for him, swiftly throwing any easily detonatable explosively away from his person and far down the hall. Ray looks at Ryan pointedly.

“I said smarter, not geniuses,” Ryan murmurs. Michael curses loudly from the floor, gripping his chest in both hands.

“They're wax bullets, don’t be a bitch,” Ray states over the unnecessary noise.

“I’ll show you a bitch!” Michael yells. He is ignored.

“Look,” Ray says plainly. “Either you can let me help you or I can take us all out right now and save Republica the trouble.” No one says anything. Minds race for alternate solutions and others for the pros and cons of the given solutions. They all end the same. Dead.

“Or,” Ray adds on. “You can leave Ryan and I alone. He deserves it. You can run as far as you can and never look back while Ryan and I sort out whatever we need to sort out. Winner goes back to the service.”

“I can’t go back there,” Ryan says immediately.

“I know,” Ray replies. It’s ominous and it’s meaning clear. Ray wasn’t going to lose.

“We’re not leaving Ryan,” Geoff states firmly. “If you want to ‘help’ us or whatever, then fine, but if you lay a hand on one of my men again, we’re going to have a serious problem.” He steps forward and Ray faces him once more. The agreement isn’t instantaneous, in fact there isn’t one at all.

“I’ll remember that,” Ray assures him. “And be sure to take you out first.”

- x-

“Ryan,” Michael snaps, shoving Ryan hard in the chest as they breach their room. Ryan stumbles a bit but remains on his feet and mostly unbothered. “Why didn’t you fucking tell us- tell us- whatever the fuck is happening?”

“Hello, my name’s Ryan and I have a long past with the who cares republic and an ex boyfriend who I might have tried to kill for a relatively small sum of cash,” Ryan says all with a sarcastic inflection. He yanks his jacket off, throwing it away from himself as he heads for the kitchen. Geoff grabs his arm.

“No dude, we need to talk about this,” he insists sharply. Ryan pulls his arm free, running his hands through his hair in a stressed movement. “We all have issues in the past, but our issues tend not to show up and nearly blow us all to hell.”

“Talk about what?” Ryan asks. It’s not dismissive, though. It’s a legitimate question and he’s ready to answer. Anything to make this go away. Unfortunately, no amount of answers would make Ray go away.

“What happened between you and, uh, señor cranky pants?” Jack questions, slightly more gentle with his curiosity than the others. He had seen how real Ryan’s fear was and he knows better than anyone else that there are not a lot of things in this world that can strike fear in Ryan like that.

“Uh, Ray was my partner,” Ryan explains, making for the kitchen again. He grabs a beer from the fridge. The less sober he was, the better. “I was the tech guy and he was the ‘keep all the bad guys off of us so we don’t die’ guy. We were-” he pauses, inhaling deeply as he cracks open his can. “Romantically and sexually involved.”

“Ryan the straight guy,” Gavin grumbles. Michael hits him in the stomach with a bit more force than strictly required.

“He was,” Ryan says stopping again only to think of the appropriate words. “Different than me. You all think I’m nuts, but you also know that I’m no worse than the rest of you. I just- play it up, I guess?” He sits himself on the couch, running a hand through his hair again a bit more shakily. No one sits directly next to him, but they all gather around within hearing range. “Ray’s not like that.”

“We got that feeling, yeah,” Geoff scoffs.

“He’s not usually like that, though,” Ryan explains. “He’s small and he’s- he smiles and he gets people to like him. Working with him you start to think that it’s this weird persona he puts on or something but it’s not.” He shakes his head, slowly leaning his face into his palms. “Cruelty is, well, it's embedded in him. He wants to like people, and he wants them to like him, but he knows when that’s not an option. And he knows how to judge his options without bias. I-” He has to stop again.

“Ryan,” Jack ushers him on, reaching out to touch his leg before deciding against it. This was important for far more reason than just Ryan.

“I didn’t know that,” he admits. “I thought that eventually he was going to turn on me too. Remember those documents? From when we met,” Ryan directs the question to Geoff who doesn’t have to think on it particularly long. He nods but doesn’t speak. “I tried to shoot Ray over those. He was quicker than me and I was left to bleed out in some god forsaken shit hole.”

“But you didn’t,” Gavin points out.

“I woke up two weeks later in the hospital. The thing is, though, I hadn’t been in the hospital for two weeks. I’d only been there two days,” Ryan explains. “I don’t know what happened those twelve days.”

“And now he’s here. Great,” Michael finishes unpleasantly. “And he’s pissed.”

“Earlier you said he wasn’t someone we couldn't win a fight against,” Jack reminds him. Ryan nearly laughs.

“You saw what he did. When I said I was the tech guy, I meant I was the break into the Pentagon level tech guy,” Ryan admits. “Not once in the two years we worked together did Ray ever let anyone close to me. We’re talking entire militaries, top agents, criminal masterminds. If he couldn’t stop them, he could slow them down.”

“We’re so fucked. We’re so fucked!” Michael is sure to let them know loudly.

“Well wait, he said he wanted to help us,” Gavin is swift to remind.

“Help us into an early grave!”

“Ryan,” Geoff says carefully. “Do you trust him?”

“Fuck no,” Ryan scoffs back. “But if he says he’s going to help us, he’s going to help us. He wants something, I just don’t know what it is.”

“Is it you dead?” Michael questions. “Because that’s something I would like after someone tried to shoot me over some fucking files.”

“It wouldn’t be out of the question,” Ryan mumbles. “I haven’t known him to do something- like that, but-”

“No one’s ever done what you’ve done to him,” Jack finishes when Ryan finds himself unable to articulate his words. Ryan nods weakly. “Not that we have much of a choice. If Ray is telling the truth, then some very powerful people will be coming for Ryan.”

“Without Ray, they will find me and they won’t hesitate to kill all of you if you stand in their way. I didn’t exactly leave them with the greatest taste in their mouth,” Ryan sighs out. “If I leave, though-”

“Shut up,” Geoff deadpans instantly. “So Ray stays, fine. Here’s the deal, at no point is Ryan to be left alone. If Ray’s in the room, two people have to be near by.”

“You understand that it won’t make a difference, right?” Ryan muses carefully. He appreciates the thought, but not if it’s going to get them killed. “If Ray’s going to kill me, nothing is going to stop him.”

“Shut up, Ryan,” Michael echos sharply.

“No more grenades. In fact, no more explosives. That last thing we need is to give him an easier way of killing us all at once. Keep your guns on you and as much extra ammo in as loud of a location as possible. Try not to let him behind you. We sleep in shifts now. Ray’s not allowed in this building, period.”

“This all seems a little excessive,” Ryan comments.

“Gavin don’t- just don’t.”

- x-

“Can we talk?” Ray says with little inflection. It’s a voice Ryan's not too accompanied with being directed at him. Other people? Many. But never him. Still, Ryan is aware he deserves it and only takes solace in the fact that this is currently all he’s getting. His life could easily become a living hell and he knows it. Ray sits beside him, a little close for comfort. It’s been a long time and still Ryan’s feelings have not wavered. “I want to set some things straight.”

“Whoops, ‘cuse me,” Gavin cuts in immediately. “If I could just-” With some pushing and prodding, he wedges himself between Ryan and Ray and keeps them well separated.

“You serious right now?” Ray insists with some agitation. Gavin wraps an arm around Ryan’s waist, holding him snugly.

“Pretty serious,” Gavin assures him.

“Remember when I said ‘smarter’?” Ryan notes. “Well, I thought I was going to die and didn’t think I would need to provide proof for that statement.”

“Look dude, I was actually trying to have a conversation with Ryan,” Ray says, trying to talk the man into leaving them in private. This, obviously, goes over Gavin’s head one way or another.

“You don’t talk like one of those bloody suit wearing bastards the CIA or whatever has,” Gavin points out. “I thought you all were supposed to talk all posh and dress like someone just died or something.”

“You’re for real right now,” Ray nods slightly. “Okay.” He wraps his arm around Gavin’s neck, bringing him in close for a moment. “I think it’s time for a nap.”

“I don’t think so,” Gavin answers simply, pushing at the wrist by his neck. Ray doesn’t loosen his grip even remotely.

“It’s nap time,” Ray promises, tightening his grip. “Go to sleep.”

“Ray,” Ryan says quietly, a passive attempt at stopping him that goes unheard and unheeded. Gavin squirms a bit, trying to detach himself with little success. Ray stiffens his grip, moving with the lad to prevent too much of a struggle.

“Go the fuck to sleep, Gavin. Close your eyes. Stop talking. Just shh,” he whispers quickly, kneeling to the ground as Gavin goes down. Ray only releases when he’s sure Gavin is unconscious and gently rests him on the hard, concrete floor.

“You didn’t need to do that,” Ryan assures him pointedly, but he doesn’t look at the smaller male and quite frankly, would like to pretend this whole thing isn’t happening. Gavin will be fine, there’s no question about that. This wouldn’t be the first time he had to physically be put to sleep. Maybe it was time he learned that someone putting their arm around your neck didn’t want to be friends. “Like Gavin’s smart enough to repeat anything you say around him.”

“They’re smarter than you’re trying to lead me to believe,” Ray murmurs. Ryan nods somewhat reluctantly. It’s not like they can hide something so obvious from him. “They’re also a lot stronger than they’re trying to make me believe.”

“Yeah,” Ryan agrees again. “You wanted to ‘set something straight’?”

“I’m not going to apologise,” Ray says. Ryan laughs. He expected a lot of things, but an apology certainly wasn’t one of them. “You knew what would happen if you attacked me. I don’t want an apology, either. Whatever happens now is new.”

“Is that all?” Ryan questions gently.

“Yep,” Ray replies.

“Okay. My turn. I don’t know why you’re here, or why you covered for me for this long, and I appreciate it, I really do,” Ryan nods, mainly to himself. He turns to face Ray, acknowledging him physically finally. “But you need to listen to me. I am different. I have four boyfriends who I love very much. Whatever we’ve had in the past is history. I know you’re not here to just ‘help’ us and that’s fine. Do whatever you need to get whatever you want. I owe you that much. But you won’t hurt my crew.”

“Then don’t hide behind them,” Ray murmurs. He returns the favor of not looking Ryan in the face.

“Ray,” Ryan says firmly and they catch eyes for the first time since this conversation started. “If you do anything to cause them harm, I will kill you.”

“Not so different after all, are you?” Ray says and he smiles slightly but he doesn’t make any response to the threat on him. It’s not missed, either.

“I am,” Ryan assures him with a grin of his own. “I got better at what I do.”

“Yeah,” Ray agrees. “Me too.”

- x -

“Move Ryan,” Ray’s voice is clear. Ryan can hear it in his head bright as day. It comes out of no where. Ray isn’t supposed to be here but Ryan knows better than to think he wouldn’t show up anyways. He had never thought otherwise, but even then he had needed to speak with their ‘target’ privately. Something just felt wrong about this. In doing so, he knows that he has done nothing more than lead her to her own grace.

“Ray, wait.” The effect of this leaves everything to be desired. Ray does not wait. He doesn’t hesitate and he doesn’t show any remorse. The first shot doesn’t resonate with Ryan immediately. He falls before he really understands what’s happening, his knee giving out on him all together. Slowly, he kneels, blood pooling around him.

The second shoot drops the woman behind him dead. Ryan has forgotten anything about the woman and his suspicions about her. He’s not sure he ever knew anything about her now. At this moment, he only cares about his partner. His partner that, apparently, had no qualms with shooting him.

“You shot me,” Ryan murmurs when Ray approaches him. It's all he can really manage between the pain and adrenaline.

“You were in the way,” Ray answers simply, offering a slight shrug. “Dude, you were doubting and she was a notorious runner. If she got away, we wouldn’t have had another chance. It’s not even that bad.”

“What the fuck, Ray?”

“You thought I wouldn’t shoot you?”

Ryan awakes with a bit of a start, phantom pain lancing through his upper thigh. Not a nightmare, unfortunately. That had been a long time ago, though. As he recalls, however, that’s not exactly how it had gone down. Still, the memory is at the front of his mind all too suddenly. Michael snores against his chest quietly and his presence certainly helps keep him grounded.

He’s not sure where Gavin or Jack has gone, but if he were to guess, he would assume they were up with Geoff. Sleeping in shifts continued to be unnecessary, but Ryan had been unable to talk Geoff out of it. Sure, Ray was probably still awake, his habits unusual and pretty unhealthy, but it was incredibly unlikely that he would do anything during the night.

Unless Ray had changed that much in the short six years they had been apart, Ryan is certain that the little mercenary is currently several hours into some video game and at the very least a gram of weed down. He’s not going anywhere.

With Ray showing up out of the blue, Ryan expected some odd dreams. Though at this rate, any dream would be odd for him. It’s not until he's had a dream that he realises he hasn’t dreamed in years. He’d never thought much of it.

Ryan still remembers that night. He remembers a lot of nights that he’d gladly forget if he could. That was the night he realised Ray felt no remorse for shooting him. It wasn’t that entirely that had bothered Ryan, though. In their line of work, it wasn’t unusual to have to make difficult choices and had it been for a better reason, Ryan would have understood. Instead, it was the idea that Ray hadn’t hesitated about it.

Ray, hardly eighteen at the time, hadn’t even flinched. This had been a man Ryan had loved and thought had loved him and to have been through something like that and not even receive an apology for it had not been comforting. That was when Ryan had began to doubt Ray. Thinking back on it, though, he can see all the fine details that he hadn't seen up close.

An apology in the form of tender kisses and soft touches. Trust in the small things; drinking from a glass he hasn’t had his eyes on all night, being high in the company of someone who very much isn’t, faith in unchecked backs. And Ray's love? Not attempting to kill him over their payments.

All things Ryan hadn’t noticed when they were happening to him.

It felt weird to regret it, though, not when it lead to where he is now. It was even weirder to think that this was better than what he had with Ray. He had loved Ray, of course, and admittedly perhaps even still held some feelings for him, but Ray hadn’t made up his whole life the same way Michael, Geoff, Jack, and Gavin don't. Ryan forces himself not to think about it.

Carefully, he shifts from under Michael, making sure he remains asleep, and Ryan pulls the covers up over him as he moves from the bed. He does his best to remain quiet as he dresses again, pulling on day old pants and a shirt that doesn’t fit quite right to be his. Michael remains asleep as he exits the room.

Unsurprisingly, Ryan is correct and Gavin and Jack have settled into the living room with Geoff. Gavin is fast asleep on the couch, his head tucked into Jack’s lap and the rest of him not nearly as neatly tucked into the couch. Geoff and Jack play a game on the television that Ryan doesn’t get the chance to make out.

“What’s wrong, Ryan?” Geoff asks, glancing at him. He looks tired but surprisingly passive and unruffled. They’re all handling this better than Ryan thought they would. To be fair though, seeing Ray had immediately triggered the worst scenario possible; their swift and unquestionable deaths. Barring that, inconceivable torture was also pretty horrid. So, considering neither of those things happened, anything was better.

“Nightmare,” Ryan murmurs with a slight shrug. While it’s not entirely the truth, it’s not exactly a lie, either. It’s a dream he wished he hadn’t had of a situation that distressed him greatly; a bad memory. Jack lets out a soft huff with the potential to be a laugh but it's weighed down with tiredness.

“Us too,” he agrees. Maybe they weren’t handling it as well as he thought. Geoff looks him over once more, slightly more attentive this time. He looks away again.

“Where you heading?” he questions. Ryan considers lying. It would probably be the best choice, all things aside, but ultimately he decides against it. Now would be a pretty bad time to lose any of his boyfriends’ trust.

“I’m going to go talk to Ray,” Ryan explains. Ray not being allowed in the building quickly turned into Ray letting himself in and refusing to be removed. Fairly, no one had really tried to make him leave. There was an air about him that stopped them from doing anything that would potentially end poorly. Perhaps this is entirely due to Ryan’s reaction to Ray or perhaps it is Ray himself. Ryan would be unable to answer such a question.

“Uh,” Geoff replies. “No?”

“Dude,” Jack says plainly, exposing his disappointment in a single breath. A small moment of silence grasps the air while Ryan tries to figure out exactly why he’s going to talk to Ray anyways. He’s certainly going to, regardless of the over protectedness of his lovers, and it’s probably not going to go great. Jack speaks again, vocalizing Ryan's inner altercation. “What could you possibly have to say to him, anyways?”

“Come on,” Ryan argues. “You think I don’t have anything to say to someone I tried to shoot and then who proceeded to make sure I wasn’t murdered outright for six years?”

“Yeah, there’s no way he hide you from republicans so he could assure your slow, painful death himself,” Geoff says sarcastically.

“Republica,” Ryan corrects fleetingly.

“Whatever,” is the curt response. It’s not that Geoff doesn’t have a point, Ryan had already considered it himself, but it seems like a very unlike Ray thing to do. Ray was about getting things over with quick, or if discouraged, not at all. If either of these things had happened then the situation would have been drastically different, but that wasn’t the case. That only drove Ryan crazy, though. Why had Ray covered up for him all this time, then? Furthermore, was that what had gotten him kicked out of Republica?

‘Selling Republica secrets’ sounded an awful lot like ‘did something Republica wasn’t happy about’.

“I’ll be back,” Ryan assures them, dismissing their reluctance for his actions.

“No,” Geoff says sharply as Ryan makes for the door. That’s all there is. No. That’s all Geoff thinks he needs.

“Would it make you feel better if I brought my mic?” Ryan offers.

“A mic isn’t going to stop you from getting shot,” Jack points out.

“He’s not going to shoot me,” Ryan says. There’s no question about it. Whether Ray was here to seek revenge or not, it would not be through shooting him. There had already been far too many times for that to have happened. Besides, that directly conflicted with Geoff’s ‘here to torture you’ theory.

Geoff eyes him for a short few seconds. Whatever he sees, and Ryan can’t imagine it’s much, satisfies him.

“Fine,” Geoff grunts. “Gets yourself killed. I don’t care.” He doesn’t mean it. Ryan knows that. Jack lets out a heavy sigh, but he makes no comment on the final decision. Geoff understands, after all, that Ryan makes very fine and precise choices. He wouldn’t willingly put himself in danger knowing that his lovers were concerned about him.

As he leaves, Ryan picks up his mic from the designated table where everyone empties their pockets when they get home. He fixes it onto the inside of his shirt collar. It’s not well hidden, but it’s not meant to be. Ray cares little of formalities; he’ll say whatever he wants regardless of the situation. Yeah, Ryan remembers the issues with that.

He tries not to think as he makes his way down to one of the lower floors. If he thinks too much he knows he’ll only end up making a choice that is, in fact, dumb. Ryan can pretend that he only makes good choices to fool Geoff, but they all know that is far from the truth. Ray has made himself at home in one of the apartments on the second floor, far below where the crew lives in their sky rise.

Ryan taps on the door lightly with one knuckle. The response is immediate.

“I told your boyfriends, I’m going to be here all night,” Ray calls out. “Don’t you guys ever sleep?”

“It’s Ryan,” Ryan calls back.

“Yeah, I know,” is the plain reply. It’s clear that this doesn’t change his statement. Ryan understands that there is a slim chance that Ray will actually let him in. Even with Ray being as high as a fucking kite, there’s no way Ryan would be able to best him in a fight. It would take a lot more than some weed to bring Ray down to his level. Still, that’s not how Ray sees it.

“Can I come in?” Ryan asks.

A pause.

“Don’t you have a dick to suck or something?” Ray answers. Yeah, that was definitely the Ray he knew.

“Our last ‘talk’ might have been a bit crass,” he admits through the door. “And it’s possible that maybe that was slightly my fault. Or entirely.” He understood that Ray was willing to start over again, whatever that meant to him, but Ryan couldn’t do that. After everything that they had between them, starting over simply wasn’t an option. If he could only keep the good, then he would, but he couldn’t and knowing that, his family came first.

He would like to say he didn’t mean to come off as aggressive as he had, but that isn’t the truth. Ryan needed Ray to understand that his boyfriends were not a weak spot to be pressed upon; it was a suicide button.

That didn’t mean he didn’t want to try again, though. They could be friends. Except they couldn’t and Ryan knew that as much as Ray did. As far as dumb ideas went, giving this a chance was by far the worst of them.

The door opens a crack and nothing more. Carefully, Ryan pushes it open a bit more finding Ray’s back already facing him as he returns to the console set in front of a small television. The apartment is practically bare. Ray seems to have set himself up strictly in the living room, the couch made up for him to sleep and his equipment settled around in a particular pattern. That was different.

Ray sits himself on the floor, back leaned up against a dirty little coffee table that was likely already there when he arrived. Sure enough, the room smells heavily of marijuana and the smoke still lingers in small clouds visible in the dark. Ryan sits beside him, careful to keep out of the wide personal bubbles they each possessed.

“Your boyfriends are fucking dumb,” Ray mumbles. Ryan lets out an amused noise. “Three of them have been down here in the last hour.”

“It’s not them,” Ryan promises. “You make them nervous.”

“I just want to play Call of Duty,” Ray says tiredly. Not everything’s different, obviously. He reaches for a bag, a motion that makes Ryan stiffen a little instinctively, but Ray simply produces another controller. “You still play?”

“Yeah,” Ryan answers, taking the controller and unwinding the cord around it slowly.

“Fucking loser. You have four boyfriends and you still play C.O.D?” Ray laughs.

“Hey, if I’m a loser, so are they because they play, too,” Ryan assures him. He forces himself to relax a bit so Ray can do the same. It works a little on both of them.

“I know,” Ray says. “I’m friends with them on live.” For whatever reason, this doesn’t actually shock Ryan in any way. He had kept the same account he always had because really, what was going to happen? Maybe someone he wronged would get even in a game? No one’s ever bothered him over Xbox so far, anyways. He doubted anyone actually thought of things like that.

“Are you?” Ryan replies simply, fishing very obviously for more information. He sees Ray smile out the corner of his eye.


“Ah,” he sighs in all good nature. “I should have known.”

“Kinda,” Ray agrees pointedly.

They play in peace for a while. Ryan prefers his games on a slightly more heavy duty platform, but with four boyfriends and an ex-boyfriend who rarely wanted anything to do with a pc, his skills are very up to par. He knows Ray is probably itching to get his hands on those co-op achievements, anyways. The silence can only go on for so long, though.

“Why’d the RT Republic kick you out, Ray?” Ryan asks quietly. Ray doesn’t reply immediately and his cotton mouth gives him away. It’s a game of slights played under magnifying glasses.

“Selling secrets,” Ray says. “I told you.”

“Come on Ray,” Ryan coaxes, trying to pull the charm that he knows won’t work on Ray. It’s not the charm that gets him, though.

“Are you waiting for me to say that I got kicked out because of you?” comes the scoff of a reply. Ryan lets his silence speak for him. “Sorry to disappoint. I was trying to get information that Republica couldn’t give me.”

“Really?” This strikes Ryan as odd for more reasons that one. Firstly, ‘couldn’t’ and ‘wouldn’t’ were two very different words. The whole reason people couldn’t just leave Republica was because of the vast knowledge inside. People wouldn’t work with them if they thought their sensitive information was going to be exposed and the death clause when joining Republica was in bold lettering. The entire contract was in bold but that was beside the point.

Working with Republica meant unrestricted access to nearly anything and everything so while ‘wouldn’t’ was less unusual, ‘couldn’t’ was nearly unheard of. What could Ray have possibly wanted that the Republica didn’t already have? Which brought on the second; what had Ray gotten into? If it had been for a job, he wouldn’t have had to stoop to trading secrets, and Ryan found it hard to believe that Ray would go to such drastic measures for personal reasons.

“Yeah,” Ray says. He offers up no more information and Ryan finds no room for him to pry. He can’t push it right now; he has no right. “What about you? What did you do with those files?”

“Files?” Ryan murmurs, his thoughts lapsing at the worst of times. Ray answers before he can suck the question back in.

“The ones you shot me for?” he reminds pointedly.

“Right,” Ryan says with an uncontrollable pause. “I didn’t actually get any money for them. I gave them to Geoff.” It wasn’t exactly something he thought he’d have to explain later. Ray turns to him a bit.

“You bought a sob story,” he says. “You bought a one point two million dollar sob story.”

“Yeah,” Ryan replies. As much as he feels like he should have some grand story for the destination of the files he was nearly killed over, that very much wasn’t the case. Geoff had caught wind that he had them and approached him outright to explain that if he sold those documents, it would end badly for everyone involved. By now, Ryan knew that wasn’t quite the case, but at the time, for whatever reason, he had handed it over without taking a penny.

And here he was.

“Wow, I see it was worth it,” Ray laughs a little. It’s not altogether real sounding.

“It was,” Ryan assures him. Ray say nothing more.