Actions

Work Header

Dance With The Devil

Chapter Text

College classes were over with for the summer and Ray had finally scraped together enough money to buy a luxury he usually couldn’t afford: a video game.

 

One of his only friends, if not his only friend, Gavin, had tagged along. He only had half a year left until he would get his diploma, so he was a bit more giddy than Ray was about the break. Man, being a Freshman sucked.

 

The trip was cut short with a sudden call from Ray’s mother, asking for him to be home by dinner. No one can defy Mama Narvaez when it came to her son, so there was no ifs ands or buts about it.

 

“Well. Guess that’s that. I’ll be off to home by tomorrow.” Gavin was from England, so he would always fly out to see his relatives over long breaks. That also sucked for Ray. He had his mom, but...that’s about it. No one to really hang out with. Which is why he was so good at video games. The typical loser-loner sob story.

 

“Alright man. Text me when you get there,” Ray held out hand for a fist bump, which was returned almost immediately with flare and some sounds via mouth.

 

“I will. Stay safe.” Gavin swiveled on his heel for a moment, before he turned back with a devious grin. “ Watch out for Mad King .” He tried to make his voice sound a little spooky, but he ended up sounding more like a perv than anything.

 

Ray rolled his eyes at the old saying. A Los Santos legend, the ‘ Mad King’ was apparently a guy who went around in a skull mask robbing banks and stirring up terror for the pure fun of it. He was supposed to have cold, dark eyes, void of any emotion. Under his mask, some serious third-degree burns. Some say he’s an escaped patient from the mental hospital--or some padded room out in Georgia.

 

There were people who have sworn on their lives they've seen him before, but it was all a pile of horse shit to Ray. It was all just a hoax to keep kids off the streets at night. Not that that worked anymore.

 

“Don’t gimmie that bullshit, Vav. Go back to your room and start packing,” Ray muttered. Gavin just laughed.

 

“You never know when he might strike, X-Ray.

 

Everyone knew Los Santos, outside of Mulholland, was a fucking death trap at night, Mad King or not. Muggers, pickpockets, gang members, drug lords--you name it, Los Santos had it. Fifty shades of murder, rape, and crime.

 

As Ray was about to make some sort of sarcastic comment about how Gavin was a bigger target than him, a low rumbling shook the concrete under their feet. Ray felt his chest rattle more than it did when bass booster speakers drove by him. There was a shatter of glass, a few startled cries, and a cloud of thick, black smoke rising in the air. The bank’s alarm--which sounded like an old school bell--was ringing violently from a block down. Pacific Standard was, without a doubt, being robbed .

 

Ray’s dark eyes darted to Gavin and they exchanged equally shocked expressions, before turning their attention back down the street.

 

Only a few moments later, another explosion erupted. There was more glass shattering, and a few car alarms started to screech out of sync. People began to panic and run in the opposite direction, or of course, pulled out their phones to record from a semi-safe distance.

He felt a strong grip on his wrist. It was Gavin, trying to drag him into a store for safety.

 

“Bloody hell Ray! Move!” Gavin was not about to just abandon his best friend on the sidewalk when there was something seriously dangerous and illegal happening.

 

Fuck . Ray hated being so curious. He wanted to see this, but he also really didn't feel like having his dick blown off. The logical side of his brain was screaming for him to move, find shelter, just get out of the goddamned way , but his body was still as stiff as a statue.

 

A few gunshots ripped through the air, and then--silence. There was a lump stuck in Ray’s throat, his eyes glued on Pacific Standard. His blood was pumping, heart racing; but not out of fear. Adrenaline .

 

A guttural cackle echoed and sliced through the tension of what was probably everyone on the street watching, waiting to see what would happen next

 

Soon, three men burst out the front doors of the bank, all carrying something in their arms, and all sprinting as fast as humanly possible . As they grew closer, the frantic thumps of their feet were becoming louder and louder.

 

He heard the first man in the line shout, “Why did we park more than two blocks away?!” It sounded annoyed more than panicked. His voice was harsh through the holes of what looked like a hockey mask as he zipped by.

 

“Ryan, you crazy motherfucker! ” The second man screeched, trailing after Hockey Mask Guy. There was a tone of enjoyment in his voice past the absolute rage. It almost sounded like he was about to break into a fit of joyous laughter. His mask was latex, and wrapped around his head. It was in the form of a generic anime school girl with eyes the size of the half of their head. Ray was able to see the wild, auburn curls sticking out from his head as he passed. This guy was younger. Ray could just tell by the way he carried himself. A lot more reckless, free-willed in his movements, and a hell of a lot more energized.

 

Gavin let out an involuntary squawk in fear as he felt an elbow graze the fabric of his shirt.

 

Another deep chortle arose. It was from the last of the group. He was in a black skull mask that wrapped all the way around his head like the previous guy. On his shoulder was a duffel bag held with a tight grip in one hand. The other hand was curled around a rectangular block with a bunch of wires and shit sticking out of it.

 

...A bomb? Not only that, Ray was pretty fucking sure that was a sticky bomb . A motherfucking sticky bomb. What sort of action movie bullshit was this?

 

It took Ray’s brain a minute to process. That mask.

 

No. Fuck off. He doesn't exist. He absolutely does not exist.

 

When skull-mask began to pass him, Ray felt time slow almost to a complete stop. The man turned his head and stared at Ray. Well. More like... acknowledged him. It was too quick to really say he could’ve stared. It might be just his imagination, but he swore that he could see the Mad Man’s eyes through the mask.

 

Ray’s breath caught in his throat. He stumbled a foot or two back, watching them turn the corner and disappear from sight. Police sirens started to echo in the distance, far too late to catch up to them as the tires of whatever the hell they were driving squealed away.

 

Finding his feet heavy, Ray was only able to do a half-turn to his friend, lips parted slightly in disbelief.

 

“How about...I walk you to your mum’s?”

“Yeah. Uh, good idea.”

 


 

 

Gavin ended up staying for dinner--not out of his own will, though. Mama Narvaez stuffed him with an amazing stew, and then gave them both a bowl of strawberry ice cream to top it off. But, eventually, Gavin said his goodbyes and left to pack, leaving Ray to kick back and pop in his new video game.

 

He loved being home with his mom. The dorms felt empty and sort of soulless compared to here. Home sweet home. As soon as he took one step in, warmth flooded out the door and wrapped around him, inviting him in with open arms. When it didn’t smell like food, the scent of cinnamon and soap filled the house. It was faint, but always there.

 


 

 

By the time Ray looked at his phone again, it was way past two in the morning. Already? He was trying to get those achievements.

 

As he got up to turn off his computer, he heard a thud from the kitchen. Oh god. What? He figured something fell off the counters, but after what he saw...the paranoia got to him. Was someone in their house? Ray knew he should probably call the cops, or wake up his mom, but--

 

Ray decided to fuck the logic and went straight to his closet, stealthily grabbing his old baseball bat from it. He made sure not to make a sound as he creeped barefoot to the kitchen’s arched entrance, poking his head in. What he saw made that feeling from earlier return.

 

The Mad King was standing in his mom’s kitchen .

 


 

 

In hindsight, tossing a sticky bomb or two to make a clean getaway might’ve been a stupid idea. They could have easily taken the guards out with their guns.

 

But that was no fun, now was it?

 

Everything had gone as planned until the stupid cops started firing. Jack, the driver as always, had to swerve and make sharp turns to try to get them off their tail, making it hard for Michael and Geoff to get any clear shots on them despite their practice out back.

 

Then, they got cornered. At the west end of town, in a storage unit lot. They had to be throwing bullets back and forth for a good hour before they were able to make off on foot, but that's when it really went downhill.

 

They had split up, telling each other to lay low until most of the searching died down. While it seemed to work for three of the four...Ryan had a fuckup. He had a cop on his tail, and had to find a place to hide. Lucky for him, there was a little beat-up shed he was able to cram into, courtesy of someone’s dried out, unused backyard. The cop had ran right past him in the dark. But that was now the least of his problems.

 

Being in downtown Los Santos, everyone had a gun, or at least a knife on them at all times. So, when daddy came home from work to look for his stash back in the good ‘ol shed, and found a scary tall man in a skull mask, he took no time to ask questions. And well, here he was.

 

Bleeding out from a shot to his shoulder from a trigger happy druggie, wandering the streets of Chamberlain Hills. This is not how his death was supposed to be. His death was supposed to be in style. Like a big heist gone wrong--a fiery explosion that no one would forget.

 

He needed to call Geoff.

 

Ryan did a quick pat down of his pockets before he realized that he had lost his phone. Great .

 

Well, it wasn’t anything special. Just a burner phone. But--a burner phone that had his only contacts in it. Geoff had recently changed numbers again, so Ryan didn’t have enough time to memorize it, or any of the others’. He was fresh out of luck.

 


 

 

Ryan eventually found a house that looked not-so-shady compared to the rest surrounding it on the block. He could probably find a first aid kit or something in there. He yanked his knife from his pocket and began to make his way to the side of the house, finding a window without a blind over it. Looked like the kitchen.

 

Carefully, he began to shimmy open the old lock with the blade of his knife, slipping in over the sink with an unfortunate thunk. He froze. There was a light coming from the living room. Shit, shit, shit .

 


 

 

He never thought he would have something so batshit insane happen to him. Twice . Was this guy armed? His back was turned to him, but he could see something shift underneath the leather jacket, against the motion of his body. It was probably a gun. Okay. Just keep the bat at your side, Ray. He won’t shoot if there isn’t any threat.

 

“Why the fuck are you in my house?” Ray heard his voice waver, but wasn’t about to let that get to him. He could do this. The King turned around and stared at Ray, carefully holding up his hands. Ray’s eyes immediately went to the blood shimmering on his jacket and hands.

 

“I don’t want to hurt you,” He slowly began, his voice deep and even. “I was shot. I need help. If you give me something to help stop the bleeding, we can forget all about this . Alright?”

 

Ray clenched his jaw, looking from the wound to the mask. Don’t demand too much of him. It will just piss him off. Keep it simple, get him what he wanted, and never speak about this to anyone again. Even Gavin. It was his best, safest option at that point. Either that, or he would throw an urban legend out on the street and get bent over later.  “...Go sit on the couch.”

 


 

 

Ryan looked around the room, noting two windows and a front door, all easy access. The kid, who was probably no older than twenty, had given him a towel to stop the bleeding for now. He glanced at the TV and saw a game on a laptop that had been tossed aside, paused. There was a shelf of about thirty other games for different consoles neatly lined up in rows. He also saw a few framed pictures here and there--one with the kid and some guy who was decent looking, with a big nose. Baby pictures, pictures of an older lady, probably his mother, but--no father. Not very uncommon, of course.

 

For some skinny gamer kid, he was pretty calm with all this stuff. Ryan couldn’t help but wonder what sort of fucked up shit this kid saw to make him so calm in the face of a living, breathing, urban legend bleeding out on his floor.

 

Soon, the kid came back with a first-aid kit in his hands. Pretty heavy duty stuff, too. Ryan arched his brow at it, but said nothing for now.

 

“Okay. I’m gonna--try to help you. So I’m gonna hurt you, probably. Not on purpose, though.” His ramblings did put Ryan at ease. Just a stupid kid who probably couldn’t hurt a fly if he wanted to.

 

“I’m not as trigger happy as you would think.” Ryan half-joked, though his tone ended up being pretty flat.

 

“It went right through your shoulder, so I don’t have to pull anything out, I don’t think.” He muttered, pouring some alcohol onto some paper towels. “The uh--bleeding has stopped for the most part, right?”

 

Ryan peeked behind the towel, nodding. “Yeah. Listen--I’ve done this to myself plenty of times, kid. I--”

 

“Shut up. You broke into my mom’s house. You’re using my mom’s supplies. I’ll do it myself.” He snapped, obviously on edge. Ryan held back a laugh and nodded.

 

“Alright, then.”

 

“You gotta take off your shirt and shit.” The kid mumbled. Ryan knew that meant taking off his mask, so, being the loophole guy that he is, he slipped only his injured side out of his jacket and shirt sleeve, managing to give the kid room to work without any risks to his identity.

 

He was a little clumsy with the cleaning at first, but his hands got steady by the time he began to stitch the holes up.

 

“How do you know how to do this, kid?”

 

“I’m not a kid.” He paused, tying off the wire and clipping it. “And my mom’s a nurse. I’ve gone to work with her plenty of times. I’ve seen some gross shit, and she taught me a few pretty useful things. Not that I really had to use them until now.”

 

“That explains why you didn’t freak out, I suppose.”

 

“Yeah, well...” He trailed off and grabbed some bandages and gauze to wrap everything up neatly, very obviously not wanting to overstep his bounds any more than he already had.

 

“You aren’t going to ask anything stupid like, ‘ do you really have a messed up face ?’ or ‘ how many people have you killed ?’” Ryan had to ask, turning his head to stare at him.

 

“I’m a college student, not a white suburban mom looking for answers to local gossip.” His tone was so dry and deadpan that Ryan couldn’t help himself. He laughed at the figure of speech, the stitches tugging at his skin making him stop a bit sooner than he would have liked.

 

“Wow, alright then. Fair enough.

 

There was a moment of silence as the kid began to pick up the mess he made, packing the wire and extra gauze away.

 

“You uh--need a ride somewhere?”

 

“I don’t think that would be a good idea. Some pain killers would be nice, though. And maybe a quick phone call.”

 

“Wow, want me to suck your dick too?” He didn’t wait for an answer as he pulled out his old Galaxy phone, unlocked it, and handed it to Ryan.

 

“Maybe later.” He dryly said, knowing he could probably get a call through to someone to send him a new bike. Ryan didn’t dial until the kid had disappeared to get the meds, making it quick, sweet, and to the point.

 

Within five minutes, his motorcycle was parked down the block by one of the graveyard shift workers.

 

“Thanks for the help, kid.” He would remember him, for sure. Dark stubble, cowlicked hair, glasses, tan skin, scrawny frame. Seemed pretty ordinary and forgettable to most, which was actually hard to come by in his crew. He might be able to use him one day. Maybe.

 

“Yeah. Just don’t come here again.” He tried his best to sound stern, but Ryan wasn’t exactly scared.

 

“Don’t plan on it.” Ryan tossed the phone back to the kid, opening the front door, and slipping into the night.

Chapter Text

“So let me get this straight,” Ray began, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You missed your flight because you fell asleep in the fucking waiting room.”

 

“Yep.”

 

“And you just wanna stay here and play video games for like, two weeks because you already took off work.”

 

“Basically, yeah.”

 

Sweet .” Ray held out his knuckle for a fist bump, and it was happily returned by Gavin.

 

“X-Ray and Vav?”

 

“Fo sho, mofo.”

 

He was being completely selfish when he admitted this, but Ray was glad that Gavin was here. Partly because he had no other friends, and mostly because now he had someone who was less experienced at games to make him feel like a fucking pro.

 

Nah, just kidding. He fuckin’ loves the idiot.

 


 

 

And so, on a gorgeous day, the two of them sat down on the couch, curtains drawn shut, lights off, playing Minecraft. Ray counted at least ten deaths within the first half hour of them playing. Just for Gavin. The mid-morning was filled with frustrated squawks from Gavin and the occasional chuckle and dry joke from himself. Ray did occasionally yell when a creeper came along and blew him up, but other than that, Gavin was the one making all the sound, asking stupid questions, and dying in the stupidest possible ways.

 

“So...you would get half a million quid.”

 

“Is that it?”

 

“No! Um--” A small smile crept onto his face. Ray didn’t even need to look to know. He could hear it in his voice. “You get half a million quid, but...but for the rest of your life, you would have vaginas for nipples.”

 

Ray didn’t even hesitate. “Hell yes. Four ways with guys just got a whole lot more doable.”

 

Gavin guffawed, shaking his head and turning to stare at Ray. “ Seriously?

 

“For half a mil? Fuck yes. I would do that for less. I’m poor as fuck.”

 

“Well--okay. Good point.”

Silence.

 

“Okay. I’ve got one now,” Ray piped up.

 

“Shoot.”

 

“Million bucks.”

 

“Pesos?”

 

“Sure. Million pesos, but you can only speak in my native tongue the rest of your life.”

 

“Your native tongue? What, you mean dumbass?”

 

“Oh, gotem. Got me .”

 

“Oh--” There was a brown-out for a moment, but the lights flickered back on.

 

And then…

 

Black.

 

Gavin let out a cry in agony as the power went out, Ray just tossing his controller off to the side with a scoff.

 

“Well, fuck me,” Ray grumbled, his tone one of a broken man.

 

“We just had the roof of our house done!” Gavin whimpered.

 

“God dammit. Now I have to actually call a guy.” Ray got to his feet and began to open up the curtains, wanting to look less like a shut-in loser virgin, and more like a normal person playing video games with his best guy friend in his mom’s house.

 

...scratch that.

 


 

 

The repairman came half an hour later. Right in the middle of an intense game of uno. Mama Narvaez was working, so Ray would have to handle everything.

 

“Door's open,” Ray called out from where he laid, feet up in the air, head dangling off the couch. Did he mention they were also seeing who could last the longest upside down? Yeah, that’s what happens when two very bored college students who also happen to be gamers have no power. 100% guarantee. No money back.

 

“Y’know, not to be rude, but living in this part of town and having your door unlocked isn't the best decision.” They were expecting some overweight Mario-esque fucker with a comb over. What they got was not exactly something they--well, mostly Gavin--would complain about.

 

A guy in his early to mid twenties with messy auburn curls, glasses, and what Ray could only explain as biceps for dayz . He had some sick-ass tattoos on his arms, and a voice that sounded like someone from a cartoon. Not in a bad way, though. It was just. Shit. What's that word?

 

Unique. Right. Good job with your vocab, Ray. This is why you almost failed English.

 

“We’re almost done with this game. Could you give us a few?” Ray’s slightly blurred vision (his glasses were falling off his face and onto his forehead) focused back on his cards after a one-over of the guy.

 

The Electrician let out a snort, shutting the door behind him and setting down his toolbox. “Not like I give a fuck.”

 

Gavin had been too busy focusing on his cards to look up. He slapped a card down on the table, making the glass rattle. It was pretty goddamned hard to reach the table from that angle.

 

“Ha! Draw four, you mincey little prick!” Gavin announced.

 

“You f--” Ray cut off his words and slid four cards from the scrambled stack on the floor into his hand.

 

“Holy shit, a real life Brit!” The Electrician really didn't seem to have any proper etiquette around people his age. Which was pretty kickass in Ray’s book. Professionals were boring as shit.

 

“What--” Gavin craned his neck the best he could, wanting to see who the hell this guy thought he was with his nobby comments.

 

It ended in useless flailing as Gavin’s center of gravity failed him in utter shock, causing his legs to come plummeting to the ground. Over his head. He went down squealing, as always.

 

“X-Ray wins!” Ray rolled carefully onto the ground, sitting up to make it rain in celebration, his remaining uno cards fluttering to the ground into a mess. “I told you I always win the game of my people.”

 


 

 

Man, these guys were a riot. Ray’s dry sense of humor was just destroying this guy’s chill, and made him get super uncomfortable. Geoff would have a fucking field day with the duo if they met.

 

Being around people his age usually made Michael's day job go by faster in general, but these guys were fucking gold .

 

Ray looked to his friend with a grin, as if noticing something important about him. “So. Gavin. I sorta need to take a dump,” he began, lifting himself to his feet and brushing off his clothes. “You mind taking him to the electrical box for me?”

 

“Oh, uh, sure.” Gavin replied, eyes narrowing a little. Oh, so it was a little bit of a set-up. Michael wasn't stupid. He noticed little things all the time, but this was practically being thrown in his face.

 

Might as well humor the guy. “Alright then,” he began, bending his knees a little to swoop up his tool box. “Show me the way--Gavin, right?” He flashed a bright smile at him, his cheeks dimpling.

 

“Um. Yeah. I’m just a guest here, so I might not be able to answer some questions about the uh...stuff, but I’ll try my best.” He replied with the stiffness of a board, turning on his heel as Ray slipped into the bathroom for his alleged dump.

 

Gavin almost tripped on his feet twice on his fifteen-step walk to the Electrical box out back. Oh god. What an idiot.

 

“Well--there’s the uh. Thingy.”

 

“Yes. The thingy.” Michael repeated, a smirk tugging on his lips.

 

“I’ll um...just stand back and leave you to it, then.”

 

“I may need you here to relay questions over to Ray for me. Considering--” He made a vague gesture with his hands, Gavin giving an awkward nod.

 

“Uh, yeah. Considering.” Gavin stupidly answered, crossing his arms over his chest. There was a small silence in which Michael was thinking about his chances, and if he really wanted to fuck with this guy.

 

Who was he kidding? This was gonna be fucking funny more than anything.

 

“I’m Michael, by the way.” His cheeks dimpled again, and he could see Gavin’s reaction in his shining eyes. Michael stuck out his hand, which was apparently a surprise to the guy. Hesitantly, he reached out to shake his hand, wetting his lips quietly with his tongue.

 

“Oh. Nice to meet you.” He worked a smile onto his face in return.

 

“Anyways. Let’s see how things are goin’ back here.” Michael muttered, opening up the fuse box only to grimace. “Fucking hell…”

 

“What?” Gavin curiously leaned over Michael’s shoulder, only to jump back in disgust. This guy was good at making sounds that didn’t sound human. “Oh, bloody hell! Are those cobwebs?”

 

Michael took a step away and pushed a hand through his curls in frustration. The whole thing was a death trap. It looked like something had been living in it for years. “This’ll…take a while.”

 

“I should leave you to it then.” Gavin awkwardly scooted away, biting down on his lip anxiously.

 

“If you want, you can hand me some things for me.” Michael raised his eyebrows at Gavin through his glasses, the corners of his mouth curling up. “It would really help things move quicker.” (Because he was a lazy fuck who really didn’t want to bend down every five minutes, even if that would give this guy a taste of what he could never have; a piece of Michael Jones)

 

“Oh--alright,” Gavin said maybe a bit too enthusiastically, standing by for any orders. Easy.

 

Every time Michael needed something, he would say ‘pass me the ___’ and it would be done in seconds flat. Well. For a few of the basic things. He would have to explain everything to Gavin like he was a fucking five year old. No, not that. It's bendy and has a--no, you moron!

 

The best he could say about Gavin was that he was more stressful and tedious than working with a live wire. The guy was clumsy, air-headed, and couldn't even speak without messing up his words one way or another. He asked really fucking stupid questions, got a snarky response out of Michael, then would whine about it. There was absolutely nothing appealing about him at all. Michael found himself too frustrated to even think about leading him on.

 

Yeah, no. That's it. No catches, no ‘the way his eyes glimmered in the light caught him off guard’, no nothing. This wasn't a fucking romance novel. This was real life, without any sort of magic hand touches that made his butt tingly, no blushing, no laughs were shared that weren't Michael laughing at him, and definitely no glorious handy in the heat of the moment bullshit.

 

And with one last flip of the switch, the power returned to the house. Michael raised his hands, feeling victorious in his fine work.

 

“Fuck yes! Who’s good? I’m good!” He packed up his things and found his way back inside, Gavin following after him with a snort.

 

“Why are you surprised that you did your job?”

 

“Shut the fuck up, dude.”

 

Lo and behold, Ray had been lounging on the couch when the lights flickered back on, so he was already starting up Minecraft again. Damn, he worked fast.

 

“Everything should be good now. I re-wired--”

 

“I’m just gonna stop you there, because I have no idea what you're gonna be saying. So I’ll just say thank you and we can move on.” Ray turned around and held out his hand to Michael, which he took and shook with a lighthearted laugh.

 

“Fair enough.” Michael paused, dropping his hand down to his side. “I’ll be right back with my nifty clipboard to discuss the payment.”

 

As soon as the word ‘payment’ left his mouth, he could see Ray wince. Michael could only be sympathetic--he had been there too. With his dad. Single parent, working their ass of for a shit house just so their kid can have a roof over their head. fucking sucked, really.

 


 

 

As the Electrician brushed past them to the truck outside, Ray sighed heavily and scratched the back of his head, trying to keep the subject away from money around Gavin, who had rich parents, and probably never had to deal with this sort of stuff before,

 

“So, you fuck up miserably?”

 

“Nah, the guy’s a total knobhead. He was really yell-y and...rude.” Gavin muttered bitterly. “I’ll start mining again, you go um--” He cleared his throat and lowered his gaze to the ground.

 

“Yeah. I don't think I can pay in leftover spaghetti and video games.” What a shit-sucker. He knew this would ruin his mom’s day. Fuck.

 

Ray dragged his feet into the kitchen, phone hovering over his cheek as he let it ring out.

 

-

 

Michael returned just as Ray slipped into the kitchen. He heard the soft speaking--and saw pacing. Oh no. Don't you dare, Michael. Not again.

 

“I know, mom. I’m sorry. I think we just used a few too many plugs. What? No, I uh--don’t know how much it will cost yet. He’s getting stuff right now.”

 

Gavin, who was on the couch, slumped down a little, a frown forming on his face.

 

God dammit.

 

Michael slipped out the door only to return with something tightly curled up in his fist. He stepped into the kitchen, clipboard in one hand, odd fist swinging at his side.

 

Ray looked down at it, arched his brow in slight suspicion, but said nothing as he hung up his phone.

 

“Sorry to intrude, but I do have another job to get to.” With a swipe of his hand, the hidden item had disappeared. He played off the motion by reaching up to scratch at his scalp.

 

“Uh, yeah. Sorry. So--we obviously can't pay in cash, if you couldn't tell by the location. So--”

 

“You sure about that?” Michael eerily suggested, his brown orbs flickering to Ray’s back pocket.

 

“Well. Let’s humor you. I don't even have--” as he pat his back pockets he froze, a look of confusion twisting onto his face. He pulled out a rolled up stack of cash and stared at it. “What the fuck.”

 

“That looks like enough, right?”

 

Ray looked from the cash to Michael, his eyes narrowing. “Seriously?”

 

“What?” Michael innocently asked, fluttering his eyelashes at Ray.

 

“Did you--”

 

“What? No. Don't be ridiculous.” Michael made a fart sound with his mouth, taking the cash and counting out enough for the job. “Looks like you have more than enough, soooo here’s my payment, and the rest is all yours.” He held at least ten twenties to Ray, a toothy grin on his face. “Right?”

 

Ray looked absolutely dumbfounded, but he wasn't one to take down this offer. He gratefully took the money from Michael, nodding his head. “...thanks, man.”

 

“Just doing my job. Hopefully, if you take care of that fuse box, I won't be back here. So, have a nice day, and a nice life!” Michael didn't stick around much longer, and was out the door before Ray could offer a lame way to say thanks.

 


 

 

“What, did you suck his dick too?” Geoff gave Michael a playful shove, watching the snarl form on his crew member’s face form as he fell back.

 

“Fuck off. I know how it feels to be in a bad way like that. It's embarrassing, and it really is no big deal that I gave them some extra cash to have.” Michael was totally justified in his actions in his mind. “I would pay the guy at least a twenty for having to put up with a friend that fucking stupid too.”

 

“What, you overuse your Michael Jones charm?”

 

“Jesus Christ, I didn’t have to! I couldn’t even think straight! The guy was bumbling around all puppy-eyed from the second I walked in the door! Then I was stupid and made him stay with me and hand me tools, which I thought was a simple task, because my back is being a bitch, and I didn’t want to hurt it more, but I swear to god , I almost had a goddamned aneurysm right there! ‘Micoo, which one is it? Is it this one? With the bendy bit?’” Michael did a terrible, high-pitched British accent, making Geoff completely lose his shit in a fit of laughter.

 

“He was British?”

 

Yes, ” He groaned throwing his hands up lazily, “and if all people from England are like that, we are never hiding out in London after our big heist. I don’t give a shit if Jack wants to see Big Ben!”

 

“Oh my god man, that sounds amazing.” Geoff ran a hand over his face, shoulders still shaking with silent giggles. “Was he at least decent looking?”

 

Michael made a wavering gesture with his hand, before he shrugged. “Nose was a little big, but okay, I guess. The guy, Ray, was actually pretty chill, though. I’d buy him a drink.”

 


 

 

Ryan had been sitting, silently half-listening to the conversation as he typed on his laptop from his thinking chair. Sounded like quite the journey, but he really could care less. Even if that was the guy who fixed up his shoulder, the information was irrelevant, so he just kept on typing.

 

“Where was it, anyways?” Geoff kicked his feet up on Ryan’s coffee table, earning him an intense glare. He didn’t move. Geoff was never housebroken, apparently.

 

“Uh, Chamberlain Hills.” Michael shrugged his shoulders. “I felt really bad for the guy and his mom. I saw like, college books and shit that were all stacked up, so I guess they put the last of their money into that bullshit.”

 

Geoff scoffed. “Fuck college. I didn’t go, and look where I am now.” He expanded his arms out to his sides, gesturing to the very roomy, top-floor apartment.

 

“In my apartment,” Ryan corrected, quirking an eyebrow at him.

 

“Well, you get the point, asshole.”

 

“Yeah. That you like to freeload off of me at the worst of times.”

 

“Okay, that was once, you prick. How the hell was I supposed to know you had someone over?”

 

I told you about it in a week’s advance! ” Ryan argued.

 

“You know that any important information goes over my head when there’s a glass of whiskey in my hand.”

 

Well now I do. ” He growled. It had been an important business exchange, which really, really shouldn’t have been interrupted because Jesus, they could’ve gotten a whole new set of artillery, but the only thing they got after Geoff waltzed in and dug into Ryan’s fridge like he wasn’t banging someone on the couch was a firm notice that she didn’t want to be contacted again for any such case.

 

“No big deal. We have a bunch of other connections anyways.”

 

Ryan didn’t reply. He just glared at Geoff with grit teeth.


Michael cleared his throat and got to his feet, clasping his hands together loudly. “Oh-kay then. Ryan, how’s your shoulder doing?”

 

“Sore, but I’ll live.”

 

“Thanks to that kid, right?”

 

“Yeah. It was a miracle I was lucky enough to stumble up on that house. Blah, blah, blah, I get it. What do you want me to do? Send him flowers?”

 

“Well--” Geoff’s phone rang before Michael could be a smartass. They both turned to their boss and listened, hearing the faint murmuring of what was probably Jack’s voice on the other end of the line. After a few minutes, Geoff hung up with a smirk.

 

“We have a job to do, bitches.”

Chapter Text

“That vacation fucked me up…” Ray slurred out his words, Gavin only being able to imagine that this is what he would sound like drunk. Ray had only taken one swig of beer in his life before he spit it out onto the asphalt of a 7/11’s parking lot, claiming it tasted like ass.

 

“Your fault for playing Minecraft all night.” Gavin murmured, leaning forward onto the wooden checkout desk. It was a week after their summer break. Ray had several classes throughout the day, giving him little to no time to sleep to please his fucked up schedule he had formed again. Gavin, who had already learned his lesson from doing the same thing his Freshman year, fell asleep on the couch by eleven at the latest every night.

 

There was a distant rumble of thunder that interrupted Ray’s low groan of a response. Great. A storm too?

 

And now, Ray was forced to study for an upcoming exam at three in the morning. He hasn't slept in probably more than twenty four hours. Gavin had volunteered to take the late night shift for the librarian while she went to go grab a bite to eat. He had become friends with a lot of the staff.

Before Ray came around, he never really had anyone who would stick around. He had his one night stands, his occasional hey can you help me with this people who never spoke to him again, but...no one really there for him. Well. He was lucky he had Ray now.

 

Gavin poked his home screen button on his phone, checking the time. “One more hour, X-Ray. You’ve got it in you.”

 

“It’s gonna fucking rain isn't it?” Ray murmured irrelevantly, slamming his head down onto his text book.

 

“Oh Christ , I heard that.”

 

“I don't feel anything right now…”

 

Gavin hopped over the counter and slapped the back of Ray’s neck. Hard. That sure gave him a jolt. His head shot up, his immediate response being to jab Gavin in the gut. Gavin let out a squeal in pain.

 

“The fuck, dude?!”

 

“Well it woke you up, didn't it?” A cheeky grin rose to Gavin’s face as Ray just stared at him for a while, eyes half-lidded, mouth pursed in an irritated line.

 

“This is why you don't have friends.” He finally replied in a dry tone, before returning his attention to his book. Of course, they both know that he didn't mean what he said. Probably.

 

As the night wore on, and the rumblings grew closer, the door opened to reveal a man who was far past his college years. He had probably the most cartoonish moustache Gavin had ever seen, droopy, puffy eyes, and a pair of old, worn out jeans stained with paint. He smiled tiredly and approached the counter, rattling his hands on the desk. Jesus, he had tattoos all up and down his arms, down to his fingertips.

 

“Uh, can I help you?” Gavin asked politely, though he really couldn't help but be wary.

 

“Yes. Actually, my phone lost signal and I was wondering if you could give me directions to uh-- shit. I forgot the name of the hotel.” The man scratched at his scruffy cheek in thought.

 

“Oh, well, there are at least five around this area, if you want I can look it up on my laptop.” Gavin offered.

 

“That would be great. Thank you so much, man.” He flashed a smile at Gavin.

 

The guy wasn’t exactly prince charming, but there was definitely something...there. He was charming enough to turn his odd looks into something he could proudly flaunt.

 

“Let’s see…” As he tapped away at his laptop on the desk, the rain began to pour down in buckets.

 

“Shit, that’s some bad weather. Thought it was supposed to be clear tonight.” Oh. Small talk while typing wasn't Gavin’s strong suit. He had to take a few moments before replying, looking up and out the window.

 

“Yeah, well, the news people around here don't know what the bollocks they're doing.” He mumbled, not exactly paying any attention to the mustachioed man in particular.

 

“Gaaaaviiin…” Groaned a small, defeated Ray from a few feet away.

 

“Hang on, Ray.” Gavin warned. “Sorry about my friend. He hasn't slept in a while.”

 

“Ah, youth.” The man dryly joked, rolling his eyes. Gavin soon list off the Hotels in the area, but by the look the guy had on his face, he doubted that it was right.

 

“...nope, those don't seem to ring a bell.”

 

“Alright, then maybe up North?”

 

“Oh yeah, that might be it.”

 

-

 

“Oh fuck me,” Michael hissed out, his voice echoing through the vents.

 

Every inch he crawled made some sort of creaking, popping, or groaning erupt from the old metal. Damn, these felt like they wouldn’t hold him at all.

 

“You alright?” He heard a voice in his ear--Jack. They had a bluetooth setup--tiny earbuds in their ears, courtesy of their boss.

 

“My fucking knees hurt, but I’m almost there.”

 

“Good.”

 

“So, what’s so special about this stupid ass painting anyways?”

 

Ryan took over, knowing a bit more about the job than Jack.“Just something a collector wants. It’s a lot of cash that we sort of need.”

 

“Why the fuck would they hide it in a college library?”

 

“I don’t know. I guess no one would really think of looking in a college.”

 

“This is so stupid .”

 

There was some fumbling on the mic as Jack cut in again. “What, you want me to take your cut? We can totally do that, if you really don’t want anything to do with this.”

 

“Fuck off.”

 

As the creaking grew more stressed, Michael began to take up more gentle movements, but by the time he realized that it wouldn’t help, it was too late. He felt the cold surface below him give out. There was a burst of cool air, his stomach flipped, and… thud. He landed on the hardwood floor of the library, pain surging through every inch of his body.

 

He let out an extremely enraged FUCK as he laid there. Oh yeah. He definitely just broke a bone.

 

-

 

Ray, Gavin, and the man all jumped at the sudden loud thunk that shook the building.

 

“The fuck was that?” Ray shut his textbook and stumbled to his feet, looking up at the gaping hole that had just opened up over the balcony reading area.

 

Gavin slipped out from behind the desk, putting his hands on his head in shock. “Bugger me, was that a person ?!”

 

The man waiting on directions cursed under his breath and yanked a pistol from the back of his waistband, clubbing Gavin over the head. He let out a yelp that was cut short. Ray backpedaled away from his chair and held his hands up.

 

“Uh--listen, dude. I don’t know what’s going on, but if you need money, you’re in the wrong place. We’re flat fucking broke.” His tone was oddly calm, despite the circumstances. “Y’know. College students.”

 

The guy looked at Ray with almost some sympathy before he slammed the butt of the gun into the left side of his head, leaving both of them unconsciously sprawled on the ground.

 

-

 

The rain wasn't stopping. There was thunder rumbling loud enough to rattle in Geoff’s chest. He watched as Jack finished tying the two college students up, wrists and ankles now firmly bound together. He was careful to have the bindings tight, but not too tight.

 

Geoff pushed a hand through his thinning brown locks, letting out a heavy sigh to relieve some of the stress building up in his chest. “Well, this sucks dicks.”

 

Michael had eventually dragged himself downstairs, his forearm slightly bent in the wrong direction, and was sitting in one of the old, wooden chairs that occupied an empty table. “No shit Sherlock!” He snapped. “--And where the fuck is Ryan?”

 

“He’s making sure our van is locked up tight while we deal with this.” Jack replied, steadily getting to his feet.

 

“At least they don't know Michael is a part of this.”

 

“I don't know exactly what to say in this situation, but there is one thing I do know.” Jack eyed Geoff, a smug grin tugging onto his bearded face.

 

“What’s that?” He humored.

 

“If we take the British guy with us, I think Michael will go insane.”

 

Geoff let out a loud laugh. “I don't think we’re gonna keep either of them.”

 

“You're talking about them like they're homeless kittens or some shit,” Michael pointedly stated.  “The Brit has to be around my age, but the other guy is like...maybe nineteen ? We can’t just...” He trailed off, staring at his feet. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet. “I’m not a monster.”

 

Michael exchanged a conflicted glance with the two, a heavy silence falling between them. They jumped to attention, however, when the front door opened. They were armed to the teeth ready to shoot first and ask questions later.

 

But--it was just Ryan.

 

“Alright, now what--” Ryan stopped in his tracks, staring at the two tied up. “You’ve gotta be shitting me.”

 

“What?” Geoff and Michael both asked.

“That’s the kid!” He pointed at the Puerto Rican student, whose head was slumped against his shoulder, spine digging into the back of the bookshelf he was propped against. “That’s the fucking kid who stitched me up!”

 

Are you fucking with me ?” Geoff’s voice went an octave higher, his blood pressure spiking.

 

Before they could put some sort of bag or blindfold on the kid, he started to stir.

“God dammit! What the fuck is this bullshit?! We can't just let these fucktards go now!” Michael gestured to them with his good arm. “If you fucking hit him in the head again he’ll probably die! He’s tiny as fuck!”

 

“Well, he didn’t see my face, but he’s seen Geoff’s, so basically…”

 

“We’re fucked.”

 

“Maybe.”

 

“Maybe? We can’t just fucking disappear from plain sight, he--”

 

They all froze as they saw the kid’s eyes flutter open completely. It was too late.

 

-

 

Oh fuck, his head hurt. That’s the first thing he could think of--the throbbing in his left temple. Ray could only hear the muffled sound of arguing through the ringing in his ears. His head felt heavy, but he tried to lift it the best he could, blinking his vision clear. As he tried to move his arms, he felt something dig into his skin. He looked down and saw the ropes, mustering up a frown.

 

Why was he tied up? There was a guy asking for directions, and then-- oh. Right.

 

There were four guys he could make out. One that was a little overweight, with a thick, orange beard. The guy with the moustache, and...his electrician? There was no mistaking that was him. But, he was definitely yelling and conversing with them like they were on good terms.

 

As his brown eyes scrolled to the left, he saw him . The Mad King.

 

Fuck this. He was not about to be murdered in a goddamned library. Before Ray could even think about the consequences, he began to make his struggling look very panicked. Well, hopefully this was convincing enough. That one play he did in fourth grade was enough acting experience for a lifetime, right? Totally.

 

Well, faking a panic attack wasn’t exactly hard when he knew what a real one felt like.

 

Ray made his breath shallow, forcing a pretty pathetic whimper out of his dry throat.

 

“--uh. Vagabond?” The Electrician--Michael, right? Michael. He had pointed at him, drawing the attention of the other three. “The fuck’s wrong with the kid?”

 

Ray’s eyes, wide with fake panic, darted to each of them individually. The guy with the bigass beard looked like a softie. Maybe?

 

“Yo kid, calm down.” Moustache muttered. But Ray had other plans.

 

“I--I can’t--” He rasped out, yanking frantically at the bindings. “I--”

 

“You can’t move, yeah. There’s a reason for that.” Moustache let his head snap back to look between Michael and Beard, who gave him a disapproving look. “What?”



“He’s having a panic attack, you idiot,” Michael muttered, returning his arm to the position of cradling the broken one.

 

“Claustrophobia?” Beard guessed.

 

“He’ll get over it.” Moustache lamely tried, apparently not having any sort of sympathy for Ray. Dammit, come on. I’m fucking adorable.

 

“Dude. That’s not how that works.” Michael nodded to Jack lightly. “Just cut him loose. I don’t think he’ll make it very far if he does try to escape.”

 

“Michael no. ” Ryan warned in his deep, calm voice. Shit. Did he catch on?

 

“Please, please --I-” Ray felt his voice crack. Oh. Not intentional, but alright. He’ll take it.

 

“Let ‘em go, Jack.” Michael muttered.

 

Jack nodded to Michael and pulled a knife out of his pocket, crouching down to cut off the bindings. There was some relief that washed over him when his limbs could fully move again.

 

Okay. Here goes nothing.

 

When the tiny Puerto Rican felt like his guard was down, he snatched the knife from Jack, hooked an arm around his neck, and pressed the blade to his throat. Was this really fucking happening?! He couldn’t even fathom this himself, and when he saw the faces of the other three, he was sure they were just as surprised as he was.

 

Holy shit !” Michael shouted, yanking his gun clumsily out of his waistband.

 

Jack wasn’t struggling at all, knowing that Ray might be a little too jittery to safely get away from without a cut to his neck.

 

“Good job, you fuckers! You didn’t take into account that the guy might actually be smart enough to try something. Now look what you did!” Moustache had to yell over the rumbling of the thunder.

 

“Well, who the fuck would even think someone would try to fake a panic attack?! It’s not something that someone just does! ” Jack argued, only raising his voice due to the sudden rise in the storm

 

“I did! And you didn’t listen to me !” Moustache squaked.

 

“You didn’t say that !” Jack shot back.

 

“Yes I did!”

 

“You said ‘he’ll get over it’! Not ‘hey guys, he might be bullshitting, let’s wait ’!”

 

“It was implied!

 

“It obviously wasn’t!”

 

As the two bickered, Ryan let out a heavy sigh, his breath muffled by the mask. His eyes flickered up to meet Ray’s--It sent a shiver down his spine. He was the only one not freaking out. Not doing anything about his friend, as if he knew this would happen, but didn’t have the energy to say I told you so .

 

Ryan was taking the safety off his gun with a light click. The finger on the trigger was growing tense. He was planning on shooting, not caring who he hit in the process.

 

“This is fucking ridiculous! When the other guy wakes up, we’ll be double fucked, and now that Jack is being held fucking hostage by a teenager, we’re triple fucked!

 

Ray was watching Ryan tensely, clenching his jaw. No way. He wouldn’t shoot through his friend to hit him, right?

 

As he saw Ryan’s finger curl around the trigger more and more, he started to have his regrets. Oh fuck him. This was going way too downhill for his tastes.

 

The arguing grew worse, and so did the thunder. The rumbles were becoming more and more in sync with the lightning. It was practically right on top of them now. Gavin was waking up. He was running out of time. Before Ray knew it, there was a deafening bang , everything went blindingly white, and that blinding white became nothing .

Chapter Text

Ray awoke with a start, lungs taking in air as if they never had before. His head was pounding violently, arms weak as he tried to sit up. It felt like his stomach was rising up into his throat.

 

He crawled to the library’s nearest trash bin and threw up the bagel and milk he had eaten earlier in the night. Throat burning, he spit a few times to clean out his mouth and stumbled to his feet.

 

If this is what a hangover felt like, Ray was even more turned off of drinking.

 

Ray tried to recall what had happened before inexplicably passing out.

 

Oh right. He had been taken hostage. By The Mad King and his crew.

 

Ray felt a cold sweat on his brow, brown eyes looking at five bodies sprawled on the ground. His hands tensely pushed through his hair, a new wave of confusion washing over him. Were they dead? If anything, he should be dead. There was a gun pointed at his head.

 

They all looked unscathed. Gavin was still slumped over and tied up in the corner. Ray stumbled over to his friend and checked his pulse and breathing. Alive.

 

He checked Ryan. Alive. This one, that one--all alive. Ray should’ve been panicking more than he was. He found himself removing everyone of their knives, guns--anything that could cause harm. Gavin was untied and carefully propped up in place.

 

While they were all breathing, they were also pale and clammy. Ray had felt the same way when he first awoke.

 

He had no idea what to do. What would happen if they all woke up? If they didn’t?

Ray felt his chest ready to burst. He just needed a hint of hope. A single beam of light--

 

And he got it. Gavin’s choking breath. Ray stumbled to his side, patting his face desperately. “Gav? Gavin? You okay?” He wasn’t surprised to hear how hoarse his voice was.

 

Gavin awoke with a jolt, eyes shooting wide open and darting around the room in a panic. Face pale, Ray shoved a trash bin in front of his face. If he puked, Gavin would puke ten times worse. He was infamous for his weak stomach.

 

“Ray--” Gavin heaves into the bucket between words.

 

Ray lowered his voice. “I don’t know what the fuck is going on, but we need to figure this shit out. Now.” Gavin’s hand wavered from the brim of the basket, gesturing to Ray himself. Confusedly, Ray spun on his heel. “Yeah, I know. They’re knocked out right now. Can you--”

 

“Your head--”

 

“My what?” Ray furrowed his brow and felt a pinch on his forehead. He winced and pressed his fingers to it, feeling a cold lump.

 

Fumbling around for his phone that had been left somewhere on the mess of their study table, he flipped open his front camera and--

 

There was a bullet. Or what looked to be one, indented in his forehead.

 

“Oh hey. I always wanted a body mod.” Ray tried to hide the fact that he was having an internal panic attack. He laughed nervously and tugged on the round edges, testing how much it hurt.

 

Okay, yeah. That hurt.

 

To be fair, not as much as he thought being shot in the fucking head would.

 

This felt... wrong . And he wasn’t about to pull it out himself. Sure, dig a bullet out of a wanted criminal? No prob. Pull one out of yourself? Fuck no.

 

Gavin had managed to pull himself together, wiping his mouth on his sweater sleeve before he got another taste of his own vomit. “Bloody hell,” he blurted out, looking a little pale in the face. His eyes were blatantly fixed on Ray’s wounded forehead.

 

“Okay, okay-- stop looking at my gross forehead, we have bigger issues here.” Ray hissed through his teeth, violently swinging out his arm to the direction of the passed out gang members.

 

Somehow, Ryan was scarier passed out than he was awake. Some sort of impending doom hanging over Ray head.

 

Then Michael began to shift. As soon as he began to tug on the ropes, they let loose and Ray felt the color drain from his face. He never learnt how to tie proper knots. He was too poor to get into boy scouts.

 

The curly-haired faux electrician sprung to his feet, reaching to his back for the pistol Ray had snagged earlier. Once he realized it was gone, he pat down his pants. Nothing.

 

His eyes lit up, darting from his fellow crew members conked out at his feet, then to the two idiots standing there, staring at him slack-jawed.

 

“We didn’t do it,” Ray immediately said, holding his hands up in defense. Gavin was still piecing everything together.

 

“Isn’t that the electrician?”

 

“He’s not an electrician,” Ray remarked, carefully taking a few baby steps backwards. Any distance he put between them was golden.

 

Michael looked genuinely offended. “Fuck you, I turned your lights back on!”

 

“Touche.”

 

Michael quickly cut the banter short. “Hey, kid. Where’s my fucking pistol?”

 

Ray shrugged stiffly. “Y’know. Around.”

 

Michael clenched his jaw and began bouncing on the balls of his feet, ready to start swinging fists. Before he could even get two steps forwards, Gavin slid between them, arms crossed clumsily over his chest.

 

Michael blew out a tense breath, puffing out his chest and staring down Gavin. “Get outta my way,” he growled.

 

-

 

He had to handle it to the gangly British prick, he had some guts. Stepping between Mogar and his target was the worst mistake. Someone had knocked them out. And it sure as hell wasn’t these two bean poles.

 

“The fuck is going on here?!” Michael’s voice was a roar at that point. He was angry, confused, and more importantly, angry.

 

“That psycho over there shot me in the head, ‘s what happened!” Ray yelled back at a surprising volume, throwing his arms in the air. “Look at my fuckin’ forehead, man! This shit stings!”

 

Michael’s attention was directed to the odd circle protruding from Ray’s forehead. Obviously, Michael had seen plenty of bullets in his life. It was a bullet, for sure. But…

 

Logically speaking, that wasn’t possible. It should’ve gone clean through him, if it was the one that Ryan shot.

 

Ryan. That motherfucker. Michael knew from the start that he would turn on them. He messed with the wrong family.

 

Michael took a small step back, looking between the two students. They looked scared as fuck, but Ray had managed to fake a panic attack. “How am I supposed to trust you?” Michael questioned, eyes dead set on Ray. If he tried something funny, he had to be ready.

 

“We just woke up, dude! I’m not fucking stupid enough to leave the armed criminals...armed,” Ray took a step back, keeping his hands up in plain sight. “We’re just as confused as you.”

 

-

 

Ray had to hope to god that michael believed him. Hell, he was being as honest as he could.

 

Michael swatted Gavin out of the way and stomped towards Ray, and it was only then did he realized he was backed against the librarian’s desk.

 

All Ray could do was close his eyes tight, waiting to get punched in the face.

 

Instead, he got an stinging pain in his forehead. He yelped and slapped a hand over the source, no longer feeling the cold metal. Ray frowned and opened his hues again to find Michael, inspecting the crunched bullet between his fingers, inspecting it.

 

“Huh,” Michael started, perplexed by the odd phenomenon, “you some kind of superhero or some shit?”

 

Gavin gawked at Ray as he dropped his hand from his forehead. The dent the bullet left was slowly fixing itself, leaving his best friend unscathed.

 

“Not that I know of,” Ray muttered, pulling his phone out of his pocket to check his state and--it was indeed, as if he had gone untouched.

 

This was too much bullshit in one day. He wanted to call in sick and go home to sleep for a solid twelve hours.  Ray could feel his legs wanting to give out on him, so he quickly made his way to a table and sat himself down.

 

Gavin followed, obviously worried about the state of his friend. “Are you okay?”

 

“Physically? Yes. Mentally? Not at all.” Ray kept pressing his fingertips to the long lost wound, making sure he wasn’t imagining things. He should be dead. On the ground. Brains everywhere.

 

Michael, in the meantime, had untied the loose ropes around two out of three of the guys. Once he got to Ryan, he looked as if he was contemplating tying him up tighter.

 

Though, it was in vein. Ryan’s legs had begun to move, his hands immediately pulling out of what was left of the binds. Michael scoffed, kicking Ryan hard in the leg.

 

“Get up, you fuck,” Michael muttered.

 

Ryan’s low voice let out a grunt, his masked head still slumped as he made for a swift kick to Michael’s feet. Michael stumbled and took a few steps back, a fiery spark in his eyes. “Is that any way to treat your fellow crew member?” Ryan grumbled, as if he hadn’t a care in the world how he mysteriously lost consciousness.

 

“You aren’t anything to me but a pile of trash,” Michael spat.

 

Ray sure as hell didn’t want anything to do with that quarrel.

 

Hell, he wanted nothing to do with The Mad King in general. The dude was obviously off his rocker, to say at the least.

 

Ray’s eyes followed Michael as he kneeled next to the guy who had knocked them out the first time--mustache man.

 

With an oddly soft touch, Michael pat his face. “Geoff. Geoff? You gotta get up so you can kick Ryan’s ass. C’mon.” He frowned at the unresponsive man, and dug into his pocket to pull out a flask.

 

Ray had found it earlier, but figured taking away some dude’s booze wasn’t going to help them in any way.

 

Michael opened the lid and took a whiff. “Really? Whiskey on a heist?” He scoffed and pocketed the flask himself.

 

“Ray,” Gavin hissed, pulling Ray’s attention away from the odd scene.

 

“What?” Ray asked. Gavin looked from Ryan to him again. Ryan was staring at them. At him. Not with anger, but with...a calm curiosity.

 

“Is that--”

 

Ray’s body was frozen in place. He felt like a rock had just sunk in his stomach. All he could do was move his lips and speak through his dried throat. “Yeah.”

 

“You’re having a laugh!” The brit’s voice went up an octave in disbelief, eyes going wide with horror.

 

Ray watched closely as Ryan yanked off his latex skull mask and shook out his hair, that was dark and thrown in a neat ponytail low on his head. His face was caked in weird face paint that made it rather impossible to distinguish any of his features. The most concerning part of it all was the three black lines running down his lips and chin, and the giant black raccoon circles around his eyes.

 

What the fuck?

 

Gav grabbed Ray by his shoulders and tried to shake him out of the trance. “That guy’s absolutely mental, Ray. And apparently real! Why are you not freaking out about this?”

 

“I uh. May have met him before?” Ray had to admit, the encounter was hard to forget. His feelings about The Mad King were pretty conflicted. On one hand, the guy seemed normal to talk to when he was being patched up, but on the other hand, said same guy attempted to shoot a bullet through his own teammate to kill him.

 

Ryan tried to kill him , too. Hell, he had the bullet to prove it.

 

Oh god, Ryan was standing up. And was heading straight for him. Ray found himself standing as well, pushing the chair back in with his foot.

 

Ryan didn’t have the raw power feel that Michael did. Hell, it was like he had no presence at all. Maybe that’s how he got around so easily…

 

“No hard feelings, right?” Ryan stuck out a leather-gloved hand, his cyan hues watching Ray carefully.

 

Ray stared at the hand. “You’re joking, right?” Ryan retracted the hand. “You shot me in the fucking head.”

 

“You’re still alive, though.”

 

“Yeah,” Ray pulled the bullet Michael had plucked from his forehead out of his short pocket, rolling it in his palm. “But you still tried to kill me. Even after I saved your ass, too.”

 

“Yeah, sorry about that. You kinda had a knife to my crew member’s neck.” He gestured to the bearded man who seemed to be slowly coming to, with the help of Michael.

 

Ray pressed his tongue against the roof of his mouth, not really having much of a defence for that.

 

“Which is, may I add, rather impressive. I figured maybe Geoff would be your target because he’s smaller, but you sensed Jack’s soft side.” Ryan grinned and tapped his temple with his finger a few times. “I saw your brain working.”

 

Ray might to re-think his life choices if he was getting compliments from the Mad King. He was practically speechless. If Ray were in Ryan’s spot, he sure as hell wouldn’t be complimenting at a time like this.

 

“Hey!” Michael snapped his fingers at Ryan to get his attention from afar. “Get the fuck away from him. We have shit to talk about.”

 

Ryan calmly threw up his hands and backpedaled, seating himself a few tables away.

 

Eventually, Geoff and Jack were fully awake. Mustachio gave a formal apology to both Ray and Gavin, to which they bregrudingy accepted for the time being. Apparently his name was Geoff, and the bearded guy was Jack. Geoff seemed to be the ringleader of it all.

 

Somehow, they all ended up sitting around a table, like it was some sort of friendly get together between co-workers or some shit. Ryan listened in from a few tables down, apparently having no permissions to get any closer.

 

“Listen,” Geoff began, pressing his fingertips to the polished wood, “I don’t blame you for doing what you did. Hell, it was pretty smart. But in all reality? You have two options.” Geoff wet his lips, preparing himself for what was to happen. His sunken eyes sluggishly shifted from the Brit to the Puerto Rican.

 

“Either you leave here, keep your mouths shut about what you saw today, and continue on living. No need to see us again. Or--” Ray’s stomach dropped at the sudden change in atmosphere. Geoff paused, slowly blinking before he continued-- “You can go to the cops, run your mouths, and no one will ever find your body.”

 

Gavin and Ray exchanged glances. Seemed pretty fucking obvious what option they should choose.

 

Gavin turned his head. “Okay, but what if--”

 

“Gav. No.” Ray slapped a hand over his mouth. “Yeah. Option one sounds good, thanks. Mama Narvaez didn’t raise no snitch.”

 

Gavin swatted Ray’s hand away. “What if I wanna join you lot?”

 

Geoff stared, unblinking. Ray was pretty sure everyone else had the same look on their face. “Pardon?”


-

 

“Alright, Gavin. When you don’t plan on shooting anyone, you know where to keep your finger?”

 

“Uh--off the trigger?” Hesitation was etched onto Gavin’s face, and it was freaking adorable. Geoff couldn’t help but grin, nodding down to Gavin’s tense hand.

 

“And where is your finger now?”

 

Gavin stared down at his hands, seeing his pointer finger curled around the trigger. “Oh.”

 

Geoff chuckled. “Don’t worry about it. Just try to change the wiring in your mind that wants you to fiddle with everything.” It had been a week since the accident. The lightning. The loss of his best friend. Of course, it was always in the back of his head, but…

 

This was better. He could pay off his loans in months instead of years. He didn’t need to visit England anymore. It was always so bland and cold, and well, his shit family was there . But no matter that. Today, he was learning how to use a pistol properly--to defend himself, mostly. Geoff said it would be a while before he was put into action.

 

“Might be a little hard for you to stand still from what I’ve seen, but all you need is practice.”

 

For the past week, he had been living with Geoff. There weren’t any formalities, or anything that left Gavin standing awkwardly in the middle of a foreign living room. It was more like, hey, make yourself at home, you’ll be here a while. It was like walking into Ray’s house; all welcomes and warm feelings. The the only ground rules with Geoff were don’t blow shit up and stay out of my whiskey .

 

No problem, of course.  He stayed on a very comfy pull out couch, which sat right in front of a kick-ass TV that had not only an Xbox and PS4 hooked up to it. So basically, he was set. With the kitchen a few feet away, it was like living the dream.

 

He heard a loud snapping in his left ear that made him jump to attention.

 

“Hey kid, you listening?” Geoff stared at him, unblinking. Gavin realized he was slack-jawed and immediately shut his mouth, nodding his head firmly.

 

“Yeah, sorry.

 

“What I say?”

 

“To keep my finger off the trigger.”

 

“Right. Now, when you shoot--” Geoff began to go into detail, carefully re-positioning Gavin’s shoulders and arms here and there. Geoff’s hands were warm on his skin and his breath was hot on the back of his neck.

 

He forgot that the rest of the crew was there. Michael generously reminded him  of that with five shots to his target, all penetrating only inches apart from each other. Gavin nearly jumped, the sound blaringly loud even through his earmuffs.

 

Michael craned his neck and stared at Gavin with a rage burning hot enough to melt the rims of his safety goggles. Gavin felt uneasy and tried to swallow a lump in his throat. He couldn't stare that guy in the eye. He was downright scary. Maybe even as scary as that Ryan guy.

 

Geoff quirked his eyebrow, but ignored the behavior and continued to talk Gavin through the aiming process.

 

-

 

Fuck Gavin. Fuck him and his stupid accent. Fuck his attention-whore-ass to death.

 

Who the fuck does that guy think he is? Why the fuck did Geoff offer to take him in so easily?

 

Every fucking ounce of him was on fire. He stared at the target in front of him and unloaded on the it at least three times over before he felt a hand on his shoulder. He slammed the gun down on the shelf in front of him and whipped around to see a very concerned Jack, his hands up at his sides in a sign of peace.

 

What? ” He hissed, really not appreciating the way Jack was acting like he was the fucking Hulk about to snap.

 

“You obviously have something on your mind. Let’s uh...step away from the gun for now.”

 

“Fuck off.”

 

Jack just shrugged, taking a step back. “This is why you're going to die of a heart attack before you turn thirty.”

 

“Good! I don't give a shit! Maybe sucking Satan’s dick will be better than sticking around here with you fuckwads!”

 

“Alright, drama queen. You're giving me a headache.” Without warning, Ryan approached and confiscated the gun from Michael, putting the safety on and shoving it in his waistband.

 

“Fuck off, Ryan--” Michael was violently cut off as he was thrown over Ryan’s shoulder and carried out the door of the shooting range.

 

“Stop your squirming, ” Ryan, who was much broader and much stronger than Michael, was barely able to hold on to the ball of rage as he kicked and punched at his captor.

 

“Then put me down, you psychotic fuck!”

 

“Okay.” Ryan dropped his hands to his sides and let Michael fall off his shoulder and hit the ground with a thud. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as it should have.

 

Michael got up from the dusty road and brushed off his clothes with a scoff. “I’m not gonna share my deep feelings with anyone, let alone you .”

 

“Take a few minutes to cool down. I have a favor to ask of you.” Ryan’s face wasn’t visible, but Michael knew he wouldn’t be able to get a read on the situation even if it was.

 

And what the hell sort of favor would Ryan need from him ? He usually went to Jack for favors, because he was way too easy to bribe. As long as the favor was up to his standards of sanity.

 

“Okay, what?”

 

“We have some initiation tests to run.”

 

“What, for the dickhead brit?”

 

“No,” Ryan shook his head. “for the Brit’s friend .”

 

“Who, Ray? But he said he doesn’t want shit to do with us.” Michael arched his brow, trying to figure out what the hell Ryan was up to.

 

“For now, maybe. But I have a hunch.” His hunches were never wrong, Michael had to admit, but still.

 

“The kid’s like...y’know. A kid. You sure about this?”

 

Absolutely positive.

 

-

 

Ray was getting along just fine without Gavin. He moved his Xbox from his mom’s house to his dorm room as a replacement, sort of. It was fine, really. He got through his whole high school career without a permanent friend, he could get through the rest of college without one. Instead of doing stupid shit with Gavin in his free time, he would just play first person shooters and Minecraft.

 

But it’s been a week and he was already getting sick of the stupid game. All of it was the same. Dig, smelt, dig, smelt, dig, smelt, go up for some meat, and repeat. He looked up achievements he could get, and did those when he felt up for it. Sometimes he would switch to some Halo, or Call of Duty, and at one point he did try to pick up where he left off in a Zelda game, but it was impossible to figure out where he was supposed to go, so that was out of the question.

 

Video games didn’t really do anything for him anymore. Which sounded cheesy as fuck, and stupid, and a little sexual, but it was the truth.

 

Was he a fucking idiot? Why did he just leave Gavin with a bunch of freaky criminals with tattoos and masks and explosives and guns? He could be fucking dead for all he knew. Was he being a shitty friend for not sticking with him through that?

 

“What if I wanna join you lot?”

 

Ray let out a sigh and tossed his controller aside, glaring at the time on his watch. It was getting late, but not too late for a walk. Good thing, too. He felt like he was suffocating in this goddamned room.

 

It got chilly at night in Los Santos, so Ray pulled on a hoodie and his old beanie before slipping out the door, down the hall, and through the main entrance of the dorms. The frigid air hit his face in a sheet of wind that made his eyes water.

 

When his room got too stuffy, like now, Ray would do a loop around Richman street and Picture Perfect Drive. He usually heard a dog yipping, or a distant wailing of a police siren, but tonight, there wasn’t really anything besides the sound of his shoes occasional scuffing the concrete. It was sort of creepy, really. Most cities were concerned when there were sirens, but for people who lived their whole life in Los Santos, it was concerning not to hear a cop car skidding around a corner somewhere.

 

Ray let out a sigh, watching his breath swirl in the air with satisfaction. Vape Nation.

 

As Ray breathed out hot air again, he heard footsteps. They were light, but growing louder. Probably a late night jogger or some shit. He did a little side-step to give the guy room, but instead of going around, they slammed right into him. They didn’t even say sorry. Wow, what a fuck--

 

Wait. Ray pat down his pockets, realizing his wallet was gone. There was like, five bucks and his student ID in it, but one of those things were kind of needed to get back into the building. God dammit.

 

Ray wasn’t much of a runner, but he was about to be. He called out after the guy, who looked like he had a hoodie on, and a baseball hat. Average height, not too big--so completely fucking generic and untrackable for the cops. Great.

 

Ray groaned and took off into a sprint. Somehow, his body was agreeing with the sudden exercise a lot more than he thought it would. It wasn’t like he was a guy who worked out regularly in any way shape or form, so the last time he probably did any sort of real workout (not counting climbing stairs) was in his high school gym.

 

Anyways, the point being he should not be this fucking fast. His feet felt light. His blood was pumping through his veins and throbbing in his ears and chest. He felt alive. Hell, he didn’t even know what he would do when he caught up with the guy, but that was part of the rush.

 

By the time he did catch up to the thief, he simply reached out and grabbed him by his hoodie, yanked him to an unexpectedly fast halt, and kicked out his legs. There was no thinking, just doing as he found his wallet, retrieved it, and quickly tried to make his way back down the street before he got attacked or something.

 

Turning his back to a mugger may have been a shit idea. Within moments, Ray felt a stinging in his back. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he whipped around and stared at thief-man, letting out a very annoyed “Um, OW.”

 

The look he got made it seem like Ray was the monster in this situation.

 

“What the fuck... ” The guy stumbled backwards a few steps before he booked it out of Ray’s sight, cutting across the grass to the next street over and beyond.

 

“Okay then. That was weird.” Ray shoved his wallet back into his pocket and was about to start walking again when he felt something warm trickle down his back. He frowned and reached behind to feel around where the stinging came from only to feel something large and blunt sticking out of him .

 

Ray’s heart leapt out of his chest as he felt around and, yes, that was definitely the hilt of a knife sticking out of his back . Was it the shock that made it easy to bare?

 

Could he just pull that knife out and be fine? Fuck , he needed someone. Anyone. Not his mom. She didn’t need to be pulled into this shit. Oh god , now his chest was hurting. He was starting to choke on his breath. His knees were going weak.

 

He just had to hope he would pick up when he called. One, two, three, four rings before someone answered. Ray was already on the freezing ground, his knees to his chest.

 

“Hello?” The voice made him instantly relax.

 

“Gavin--fuck. I’m sorry, man, I know you don’t want to hear from my shitty ass again but--”

 

“Ray? What’s wrong? Did something happen?” The concern in his voice was genuine. Somehow, after he screamed his head off at him, he still cared. Ray couldn’t even fathom that. God, he didn’t deserve this.

 

“There was a mugger, and I got my wallet back, but I could run super fast, and then I got stabbed but I didn’t feel it--”

 

You got stabbed ?!”

 

“It sure doesn’t fucking feel like it, but I definitely did. I don’t know what to do. Like, I’m not cut out for being Superman. I can barely take care of myself, y’know? And like- I can’t even drive a car. What’s up with that? That’s weak shit. And--”

 

“You were out for a walk, then? By the golf course-ish?”

 

“--yeah.”

 

“I’ll be right over.”

 

-

 

“Where are you going?” The sudden voice made Gavin leap a foot in the air. He had just grabbed his jacket, too. Bollocks .

 

“Um,” Gavin turned and faced Geoff, who was standing there in a pair of pajama pants with a glass of whiskey on the rocks in his hand. “Out.” Stupid idiot .

 

“Out?”

 

“Yeah. To see a friend.”

 

“You said you didn’t have any friends.” Geoff wasn’t one to let things slide, as Gavin found out. When he did, he would just bring it up later, which really didn’t count, seeing that nothing was really sliding by at all. It was just being stuck in a dog pen for later.

 

“Well, I do.”

 

“It’s the Spanish kid, isn’t it?”

 

“He’s Puerto Rican,” Gavin immediately retorted, wincing at his lame slip-up.

 

“That’s what I thought,” Geoff grinned and took a sip of his drink before he added on, “so he need something from you?”

 

“He’s in trouble.”

 

“What kind of trouble?”

 

“Big?”

 

“Oh, big trouble, huh?” Geoff said that as if it made everything much clearer. Gavin cocked his head to the side a little, wondering what he was getting at. “Alright then. We better make this quick, then.”

 

“We?”

 

Geoff downed the rest of his drink before he padded over to the living room’s ottoman and sat his empty glass down, wiping under his nose with a sniffle. “Well, you can’t drive, and it’s kind of a long walk to the College from here.”

 

“I don’t think he’ll really be happy seeing you again.”

 

“Well, tough shit. You’re gonna get my help if you like it or not.” As he said this, Geoff pulled on a hoodie from the front closet over his head, muffling the middle bit of his words.

 

“How many drinks have you had?”

 

“Not enough to fuck with my driving. C’mon.” With a quick trip to the key hooks in the kitchen, they were out the door.

 

-

 

Once they settled into the car and headed out onto the road, Geoff started asking questions.

 

“So, you said big trouble. What exactly would that big trouble be?”

 

“A mugger stabbed ‘em in the back, but he said he barely felt a thing. --and, something about superhero powers? I don’t know. I think he was having another panic attack.”

 

“So some of those things are real?”

 

“What? Of course they’re real!”

 

Geoff quirked a brow at Gavin, shooting him a quick look. “You really care about him, don’t you?”

 

“He’s my only friend.”

 

“Do I not count?”

 

“Well-no that’s not what I--”

 

Geoff snickered. “I’m just fucking with you, kid.”

 

“You’re a sadist, is what you are.” Gavin huffed and averted his gaze to his scuffed converse shoes.

 

“Maybe a little bit, yeah.”

 

-

 

Of all the things Gavin saw, the silhouette of Ray balled up on the ground with a knife sticking out of his back was one he really could never forget.

 

“Hey--X-ray. I’m here. We’re gonna figure this out, alright? Let’s--try to fix the issue with the um--” Gavin eventually just gave up and muttered yeah under his breath, carefully lifting Ray up (with the help of Geoff) up and into the car.

 

“Better not get blood on my seat.” Geoff grumbled.

 

“--it stopped bleeding a while ago.” Ray’s voice was hoarse and shaky as he spoke, no matter how much he tried to conceal it.

 

“Well. Let’s wait until we get into better lighting before we take it out. I need to see what the hell is going on back there.”

 

-

 

“Let’s just do this right here.” Geoff impatiently said, gesturing to the well-lit hallway. “I don’t wanna be stuck in here any longer. It smells like cheap beer and textbooks.”

 

“You okay with that, X-Ray?”

 

Ray mustered up a crooked smile. “Sure thing, Vav.”

 

“Alright, down we go…” Gavin crouched down to ground level and set Ray down with care. “Do you want me to uh…”

 

“Oh for fuck’s sake.” Geoff ran a hand over his face and squatted next to Gavin, staring at Ray. “Listen, kid. I’ve had to pull a lot of things out a lot of orifices in my life. I can promise you now this will go a lot more smoothly if you let me do this.”

 

Ray sucked in a breath and stared at Geoff, debating if he should let Gavin pull it out. Then again, Gavin could barely hold a knife as it was without hurting himself. So.

 

“Go for it.” He finally said. His tone was solid and even.

 

“Alright. Now--” Geoff scooted behind Ray and looked at the damage, wincing. “--oh, okay. Wow, Right by your shoulder blade. That’s fucked up. Anyways. I’ll count to three and pull.”

 

He pulled on one. And the only thing Ray felt was the blade slip between his skin. There was a tingling sensation, and then--

 

“Well fuck me, it just closed up on it’s own!” Geoff’s octave raised twice its tone as he ran a hand over the wound. “You feel anything there, kid?”

 

“Not a thing. Sorta tingly, but that’s about it.”

 

“Holy shit…”

 

Gavin looked from Geoff to Ray in amazement. “That’s...not normal, right?”

 

“Not on fucking planet Earth it’s not.” Geoff looked at the blade, which clearly had some dried blood on it. He was thinking. Gavin could practically see the wheels in his head turning. “Okay. Okay.” He repeated, eyes darting from the wound, to the knife, to his hand.

 

Gavin decided to let him go ahead and keep thinking while he spoke to Ray about some...things.

 

“You can just call me whenever you need to, alright?”

 

“Why the hell do you still like me? I treated you like shit and told you to fuck off.”

 

“Well, I mean, to be honest I would probably do the same. I don’t know why I chose to leave you like that, but…”

 

“You don’t regret it at all.” Ray finished, staring at him with some disappointment in his eyes. Gavin just scratched the back of his neck and nodded.

 

“I--I dunno. I feel like I belong with them, y’know?”

 

“No . I don’t know.”

 

Gavin opened his mouth to try to counter the statement, but Geoff interrupted their touching moment with a very...interesting request.

 

“Stab me in the hand.”

 

It took them both a few moments to process that demand before Gavin squealed. “ What? Are you having a wank?”

 

“What? No. Just stab me in the hand. With this knife.” Geoff pulled his own knife out of his pocket, flipped it open, and held it out handle first to Gavin. He wanted to make sure it wasn’t just the knife. Also, kinda would be fucking gross considering it was just in someone else. “Just do it.”

 

“No!”

 

“Okay.” Ray took the knife from Geoff and burrowed it deep into his hand without even hesitating because well, fuck that guy for taking his only friend away.

 

Geoff stared down at his hand, which had been stabbed clean through the back and his palm. The blade was even sticking out. He turned and examined it. Definitely bleeding, but… “Huh. That felt sort of like a bee sting. Hurts like a bitch, but not really bothering me too much.” His fingers were locked up, though. Probably damaged some nerves.

 

“Bloody hell, Ray! Why’d you do that?!”

 

He shrugged. “Cause he asked.”

 

“Gav. I’m fine.” Geoff pulled the blade out and stuck his hand in Gavin’s face, causing the Brit to gag and turn away heaving.

 

“Jesus Christ, no! Keep that away from me!”

 

“There’s nothing there to gag at! It fucking healed up! Look! There isn’t a fucking hole in my hand!” Geoff wiped the blood onto his pajamas and waved his hand around, watching Gavin very carefully peek again.

 

“Oh.” He relaxed after a few breaths, eyes widening as he noted that there really wasn’t a gash. Not even a scar . It was like nothing ever happened.

 

“Well, bitches,” Geoff got to his feet and began to clean off the blade on his pants, Gavin grimacing in disgust as the red fluid stained the denim. “I think we have some research to do.”

Chapter Text

Sorry about the lack of an update. I’m not confident with the current chapters I’m working on to the extent of releasing them. I have also been in a large slump and have no motivation to edit/write anymore of this story, so I’m taking a hiatus. I’m unsure when I’ll return, but I hope you all understand.

<3, JJ