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And He Wore His Mask

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Chapter 1

               They all tumbled in, happy as ever, laughing and yelling and playing and smiling. Michael grabbed Gavin’s neck, putting him into a tight headlock as he wrestled him to the ground. He said something that Gavin did not pay attention to, but it didn’t matter. They were having fun. They were playing. Jeremy came around and knocked Michael over, yelling to Gavin and hoisting him up. Gavin didn’t mind being yanked around, a plaything for the others. They were happy and safe in the high rise apartment. Ray lazily walked in behind them and lit up a dab. Gavin didn’t tell him that he hated the smell of weed, because even if he hated that smell he still loved Ray and he loved Michael and Jeremy too.

                And then the air shifted in the room.

                A dark cloud, rolling and heavy as he was. Vagabond. Big as a brick house and silent as the night. Never a word spoken, not even to the kingpin. His presence was easily forgotten by most, not because he was forgettable per say, but because their minds would be better off- safer- without ever remembering their encounters with him. Dangerous and cold he glared to others through the slits in his mask made for his eyes; the only bits of skin that he ever showed, and the only reminder that there was still a human left in the shell of the monster.

                “Gav?” Jeremy’s voice rang.

                A snap back to reality. By the time his eyes went from Vagabond to Jeremy and then back again the mysterious man was already gone. Ever an enigma to Gavin. The blond then turned his attention back to Jeremy, who had since moved to the other side of the room with Michael, both messing with something on the counter.

                Jeremy smiled, though less enthusiastic than before. His tone was calm and welcoming to Gavin. “You havin’ a drink?”

                Gavin nodded, getting up and grabbing whatever it was that Jeremy offered to him. But Michael, who had known Gavin for a long time and was always keen on his ticks, noticed the slight pause before Gavin decided to drink.

                “God, he sure knows how to take the mood down, huh?” Michael said, and noticing the questioning look Gavin gave him he gestured towards the hallway. And despite how the man in question was no longer around, Michael’s voice still lowered to but a whisper. “Vagabond. It’s like everything stops being fun when he’s around.”

                Jeremy replied, agreeing with Michael. But Gavin stayed quiet. He didn’t like to joke around about the Vagabond, not like everyone else did. Because he was scared, he supposed. Not many have been as safe near the Vagabond as they have.

                He was a mercenary, hired as an extra gun for them during a mission. Something happened, and Geoff had to compensate for an injury that the masked man had sustained on the field. However, much to the shock and horror of everyone around, as he was being stitched up by Lindsay and Jack in the warehouse’s makeshift medical ward he never even once flinched. In fact, he never even took off his shirt. He made the two work from the hole that the bullet had created. After his wound was hastily cleaned and stitched, he got up and made his way towards Geoff’s office like nothing even happened. A few hours later and bam, the Vagabond was a core member of the feared Los Santos gang: The Fake Achievement Hunter Crew. It happened years ago, but Gavin still remembers the look on everyone’s faces as Geoff told them about their new addition. According to Geoff, the man didn’t even speak throughout the whole meeting, forcing Geoff to ask “yes” or “no” questions that the man would gesture his head in response to. And even now, no one has heard his voice or seen his face, despite working on a close-knit team. He was an illusion, a puzzle, something Gavin never wanted to solve.

                Again, Jeremy’s voice caught Gavin’s attention from his thoughts. “Are you okay, Gavin?”

                “Yea,” He said. “Been wonderin’, though, do any of us even know his name?”

                There was a pause in the conversation, Michael and Jeremy both gaining an inquisitive and thoughtful look on their faces as they pondered the question that the Brit asked. Michael responded, “I actually don’t know.”

                Ray then chimed from his position on the couch, “Hey, do y’all wanna come take a seat and get out of the way of the TV?”

                Gavin laughed, forgetting his previous thought and taking a running start towards Ray, eventually leaping onto the sectional next to him. “What’re you playing now?”

                Jeremy and Michael sat then, picking up controllers from the coffee table and joining the match in the game that Ray had started. “It’s the new Halo game. I haven’t gotten a chance to play it yet so I’m gonna break in Geoff’s copy. Hope he doesn’t mind.”

                The blonde shrugged, debating on whether or not he wanted to play as well. But he was never any good at those games. He was an easy target, exploited for points by the other guys. “He’ll probably be fine with it. I mean he barely plays the games he has anyway.”

                The match began, filling the once quiet room with the sound of echoed gunfire and running soldiers. Gavin watched, content with idly commenting on the match every now and again. It seemed as though Ray stopped trying halfway through, knowing well that the other boys would never be able to overtake his position in kill numbers. Soon the game became: “Let’s both find Ray and kill him.” And at that point the bickering and taunted increased significantly. Gavin never liked the bickering, especially not when it was once a calm environment. Out on the field, when tensions were high, Gavin could excuse the arguing every now and again. But in their own apartment in their own little corner of the universe that was supposed to be reserved for “good times” as Geoff put it, Gavin could do without the arguing. So in order to escape it, he decided to go and look around for Geoff.

                The sun was setting, which made for incredible lighting in the corridor leading to Geoff’s home office. Gavin couldn’t help but stop for a moment and admire the view. Downtown Los Santos, right outside this window. The orange of the sunset mixed with the pink and blue of the sky around it and created a heavenly painting. The clouds rolling noticeably yet also slowly, leisurely masking parts of the sky. Golden rays eventually shown through them, causing many of the grand towers to cast visible shadows on the shorter buildings. A fond smile flashed across Gavin’s face as he spotted the Maze Bank Tower. The seven main crew, idiots the lot of them, trying to rob that bank on a Wednesday. The only day it’s closed. Of course, after finding this out, they robbed a nearby convenience store and led police on one of the most fun car chases Gavin had ever been on.

                Gavin took his phone out from his pocket and faced away from the window, holding his phone up and preparing to take a selfie in front of the beautiful view of Downtown Los Santos. But before he could hit the button a hand clapped around his shoulder and a smiling bearded face appeared in frame. Gavin smiled wider and took the photo.

                “This one’s a good one.” He giggled.

                “I think you blinked, but whatever.” Geoff shrugged, chuckling lightly. “Hey, listen, go tell the other Lads that we’re having a meeting in the warehouse tomorrow morning; ‘round 9:30 okay?”

                Gavin nodded, and with that Geoff gave the Lad another pat on the shoulder before circling back and entering his office once more. Gavin turned back to the window. The sun, big and golden, continued to sink behind the towering, busy city. It looked like shit out there. It smelled like shit out there. The people were shit out there. But he’d be goddamned if he didn’t call it home. Gavin took the time to appreciate it, really pondering and looking out into the horizon before turning to make his way back to the living space. But as he turned he noticed a figure walking in his direction. Before he knew it, the Vagabond was pretty much directly in front of him.

                Time slowed down for Gavin. He never made direct eye contact with the significantly larger man. His gaze was locked onto the floor. But he felt his presence. Though it lingered for only a second in real time, it felt like ages. The Vagabond gently brushed past Gavin, a faint breeze on his shoulder. A ghost passing through the shadows. He didn’t know why, but he had the most pressing feeling that the Vagabond was staring him down. But Gavin didn’t dare look. Those milliseconds ticked by in Gavin’s head like years and the only thing Gavin could hear was the intense sound of his heart beating. Nervous and shy, but only around the one man that he ever truly feared.

                The world resumed, Gavin no longer frozen with fear. He slowly turned his head to look back at the beginning of the hallway, but saw nothing. No trace of the illusive figure that they all called the Vagabond.

~*~

                It was too early. Gavin’s coffee wasn’t even half gone by the time he needed to leave his apartment, causing him to barely keep his eyes open on the road. But he was still making his way towards the warehouse. A beachside shipment lot just outside the Pacific Bluffs that was long forgotten by the people of Los Santos. The crew had everything they needed: A large garage area for their vehicles, a dock for their getaway boats, and multiple warehouses on the lot used for medical bays, lodging, interrogation rooms, or any other purpose the boys needed from them. But Gavin needed to go to the conference room, located closest to the entrance. He parked his bike and made his way inside.

                “They still got you on that clerical work then?” He told Lindsay as he passed the reception desk.

                “I mean I can’t complain; it’s better than going out there and getting shot at. Can’t risk hurting the baby.”

                “Oh!” Gavin exclaimed, stopping in his tracks and seemingly waking up completely due to Lindsay’s remark. “Can I see?”

                Lindsay nodded, turning her chair and allowing Gavin to come around the side of the counter and see her stomach. Gavin happily pressed his hand down, trying to feel the kicking. She laughed and moved his hand away. “You’re not gonna feel kicking yet. Maybe in another couple weeks.”

                “Aw,” Gavin huffed. “Got me all excited. You know if it’s anything like its dad it’s gonna kick hard. Better be prepared for that.” This invoked another laugh from the redhead, who then put her head back down and continued typing on the computer in front of her, never losing the sweet grin she always sported.

                “They’re all waiting for you in the conference room.”

                “They’re all here?!” Gavin yelled, immediately booking it down the narrow hallway.

                As he burst through the door he realized that yes, they were all, in fact, waiting for him. And the minute he came through the door like he was the LSPD he received six pairs of eyes glaring at him. Michael was the first to speak, screaming something about waiting for half an hour. Gavin could only help but think about how doomed that baby’s temper was gonna be. He made his way towards an empty chair and by the time he sat down the whole crew was poking fun at him. Well, aside from the ever-silent exception.

                Geoff eventually calmed them down, raising an eyebrow at Gavin. “Listen, as much as we all love to make fun of him, we have actual important things to talk about today.” He turned and flipped a page over on the presentation board, revealing a map of Los Santos, specifically a map of the Vinewood area. “Anyone wanna tell me what this is?”

                “Vinewood!” Jeremy shouted.

                “Good. Anyone wanna tell me what this is?” Geoff slapped an area on the map with his extendable pointer.

                “A map!” Ray shouted, causing a laugh from the table.

                Geoff rolled his eyes, trying to suppress a smile that they could all see anyway. “Alright smart ass, what’s the location I pointed to?”

                The group remained quiet for a moment, but then Jack answered with, “Is that City Hall?”

                Gavin squinted at the map, but it was no use. He had no idea how to read maps. So to him, it all looked like random lines and bullets and jargon that may as well have been an abstract painting in a museum. But Jack seemed to understand.

                She was always one of the smarter in the bunch. A well-rounded woman with years of experience in many different fields. She was unlike all of them in that respect. Many of the crew had expertise in specific fields; Michael was the demolitions expert and a bit of a gun nut. Him growing up a scrappy teen in Jersey made him especially akin to violence. Ray was their designated sniper. Geoff actually picked him up after a recommendation from Michael, and after asking about his experience with organized crime Ray simply answered: “I played Hit Man: Blood Money a while ago.” Jeremy handled most vehicles, except airborne ones. He particularly enjoyed monster trucks and was the kind of guy to go over the top when making a getaway from police. Gavin himself was the tech expert of the bunch, hacking and sabotaging from the inside. Jack was around when needed, and boy was she needed a lot. She could find her way around a computer or a gun, it didn’t make a difference to her. But her favorite and most valuable skill was in piloting. She was a pilot in the air-force, at least to Gavin’s knowledge. She was also the earliest crew members, save Geoff. He was their leader, their commander, their rock. He was a good man and a smooth talker. He could convince a king out of all his coin, which was what made him top boss.

                Then there was the Vagabond.

                Gavin took a glance in his direction, just a single second to look. And somehow he was already looking Gavin down with his icy, lifeless eyes. Creepy bastard. Gavin thought. But they needed him. He was their muscle. Their heavy lifter. He was the fear and the bones and the blood. Gavin had no idea where he was from, or even how Geoff found him. The crew liked to spread their own outlandish theories, one of Gavin’s favorites being the most simple “Craigslist.”

                “Gavin, pay attention,” Geoff said, tapping the table. Gavin shook his head, trying to focus on what Geoff was saying. “This is important, guys, really.” Geoff took a position at the front of the room, taking a second to glance in between all of the members of the A team.

                “This is our next heist, and it looks to be our biggest one yet.”

                Everyone went wild. Immediately hands flew in the air, five people talking over one another to try to get more information out of Geoff instantly because how big could this heist really be? When will this heist take place? What’s so valuable at City Hall? What is going on?

                Geoff rose a hand, and almost immediately the room calmed down back to how it once was. “Please, just let me get through this. I’ll answer questions after, okay?” Everyone began to nod, bringing themselves closer towards the edges of their chairs and eagerly awaiting what Geoff had to say.

                “Does anyone have any idea what event is happening at City Hall in precisely a month?” Geoff asked, already aware that no one knew. “No? Well, none other than a ball hosted by our one and only Mayor, Mister Tony Jay Garcetti. And what do you know? We weren’t invited.”

                Jack laughed at Geoff’s inflection, obviously a mocking and condescending tone. “What’re we gonna do about that, Geoff?”

                “Well, Jack, thank you for asking!” Geoff comically flipped over the next page, revealing a detailed bullet point list with side information that Gavin assumed was not relevant to him. “We’re going to teach him a lesson. But not our usual guns a-blazing act.” Michael and Jeremy both sighed at this. “Don’t worry, there will be guns, but not for a while.”

                Geoff straightened up, fiddling with his cufflinks and taking time to look each person in the eye. “We’re all needed for this mission, aside from B team. So it’ll be just the A team for now. This party is a big gala event, lots of big names will be here. And not just Vinewood celebrities. We’re talking major delegates from not only American cities, but countries in Northwest Europe and East Asia. I have no idea why such high officials are meeting here, or what this party is even about, but we’re going to find out. And, while we’re at it, we’re going to steal a big portion of that son-of-a-bitch’s money.”

                Michael raised a hand, to which Geoff gestured towards him. “Wait,” Michael began, “Why can’t we just go in there and shoot ‘em all? Who cares?”

                “We don’t want international trouble, Michael.” Their kingpin sighed. “We’ve been lucky enough that the police here in Los Santos and the surrounding areas can’t tell their elbows from their assholes, but mixing in other outside government forces isn’t going to pan out well in our favor. And I don’t suppose the Japanese government is gonna take a bribe from a Los Santos gang anytime soon. Besides, they’re probably going to have major artillery set aside just in case we decided to show up in that fashion. The Mayor knows us well enough by now.” Michael nodded at Geoff’s explanation, content in the reasoning. That was one of the biggest reasons why Geoff earned Gavin’s respect so quickly. Other bosses Gavin had worked for had all been hard-heads, money hungry, and disrespectful towards lower ranking employees. But Geoff treated everyone he encountered with respect, so long as it went both ways. God help anyone who dared disrespect him, though.

                “We need to take a more cautious approach to this heist, at least in the early stages. Take out their reinforcements slowly and in certain areas.” Geoff then flipped the paper again, revealing a close-up map of City Hall and a few surrounding areas. Gavin had no idea how Geoff could have gotten his hands on this, but Geoff was a man of high regard in this city. Anything was possible with him. “But what’s most important is getting inside. We need access to his information on these delegates and party, as well as bank and safe information. We’ll also need airborne and land vehicles for safe transportation of those who infiltrate the party. We’ll need distractions, too. But let’s go step-by-step.” Ray quietly hummed the Step By Step theme beside Gavin, causing a slight chuckle from the blond.

                The paper was folded back over to the detailed plan, which Geoff then promptly ripped off and pinned to the bulletin board on the wall behind him. He then switched the paper on the presentation board back to the City Hall map. “First, let’s start off with pre-heist requirements,” He began, “We’ll need to secure invitations to this party. Two, to be exact. One for Doctor Howard Chamberlain, a renowned surgeon from England, and the other for his bodyguard, Richard Cole.” As Geoff said these names, he gestured from Gavin, who would obviously be playing the part of the British surgeon, to someone sitting behind Gavin. And as he turned to look, expecting Jeremy to play the bodyguard, to his horror Vagabond was the one being pointed to. The room stopped cold for a moment, and then another outburst occurred.

                “No!” Was the first word out of Gavin’s mouth.

                “Wait, why not me?!” Jeremy cried.

                Michael grabbed his hair. “What in the fuck is going on?”

                Even the Vagabond looked visibly upset. His usually cool and mysterious demeanor replaced with wide eyes and a defensive position. He was also slightly shaking his head “no” and staring daggers at Geoff. He even went as far as to look at Gavin, look at Geoff, and then wildly gesture his hands in confusion. Honestly, if he didn’t absolutely scare the shit out of him, Gavin would have found that pretty funny.

                Not even a raise of Geoff’s hand could stop the group from rambling on. Jack’s voice raised above everyone’s, “Why are we sending the Vagabond on a mission that relies heavily upon socialization? Why don’t we send Jeremy or I to be the bodyguard? Hell, even Michael would do a better job.” She turned to the Vagabond. “No offence.”

                Bold of her. Gavin thought. She’s always been pretty fearless though.

                “If we’re all done?” Geoff looked pretty annoyed as he waited for the group to finally settle down and let him talk. “All of your specialties are needed for later parts of the mission. I’ll explain more in detail when I get to them, but basically: Jeremy, we’re going to need multiple escape vehicles on ground set in different locations, as well as arms on ground in case things go bad. Jack, we need airborne vehicles to airlift anybody that gets caught. Ray is going to be set near City Hall a block or two away, sniping anybody who gets too close to Michael or Jeremy. Michael, we need you to secure at least three and a half dozen sticky bombs and plant them in sensitive areas near city hall.”

                Michael laughed out loud, a gut reaction that seemed to stem more from shock rather than humor. “Three and a half dozen?! What, are we blowing up half of Los Santos while we’re at it?!”

                “Wait, then what about you?” Ray asked.

                “They know me too well by now. Even though this party is apparently a masquerade ball, my voice and tattoos give me away in a second. Besides, I doubt I’m as quick on the draw as Vagabond is, and he’ll need to be on the ground floor protecting Gavin as he tries to access high-security rooms. Also, he doesn’t even need to speak. Gavin could just say he’s mute. All they need to do is socialize for a while, establish a few major names, and then slip out of the party somehow.”

                Jack nodded, followed by Jeremy and then Ray. Michael still seemed to be annoyed by not being chosen to bodyguard his friend. Gavin just sat in disbelief. How in the world was he going to spend the majority of the evening at a social event with a man whose body count is probably in the thousands? Gavin looked to the Vagabond again, whose mood was actually quite different than it was moments before. He was leaning back in his chair, arms folded, looking to Geoff with a glint in his eyes. What was it? Disdain? No, it was softer. Was it trust?

                Before Gavin could form another thought, the Vagabond flashed a look to him. It was cold once more. Gavin let out an audible gulp and raised his hand. “I don’t think I like this plan.”

                “He’s not gonna kill you.” Geoff laughed.

                “You don’t bloody know that!”

                Geoff looked to the masked man. “Vagabond, you’re not gonna kill him, right?”

                The Vagabond didn’t move.

                “See?” Geoff grinned.

                Gavin groaned and leaned back in his chair. Geoff then continued on with the plan, talking more about vehicles that needed to be secured and who goes where and why. But Gavin couldn’t pay attention. His stomach became tied in knots and the feeling of dread that overcame him was a feeling he couldn’t shake. Normally during heists he and the Vagabond weren’t near each other. And the last few times they were it was a disaster. But Gavin didn’t like to think about that last heist. It was still a major point of contention between him and the crew.

                Gavin snapped back to reality right as Geoff’s speech was coming to a close. “Now, remember, the information we're going to obtain from this party is still unknown, but we'll also be hitting the mayor in his wallet and we all know how rich he is. So I expect us to make a total of a near half a million. This means that, split up between us and the B team, we’re looking at around $60,000 per person.” This caused a couple different people at the table to whistle and Jeremy to fan himself with his hat. But Gavin was still weighing the pros and cons. Sixty thousand dollars was a lot of money. But in order to receive that money he’d have to spend hours on end with the Vagabond. So he was conflicted, to say the least.

                Geoff cleared his throat. “Now guys, if this heist goes south for some reason, your main goal is to protect yourself and whoever you’re with and get to the nearest safe house. We don’t want a repeat of last time.”

                Though he stared at the floor, Gavin could feel the stares. Not stares of judgment, but pity. Gavin did not need their pity, nor did he want it. He wondered why they all just wouldn’t drop it. It was months ago and they still brought it up. The Brit just wanted to forget about the past and move on to the next heist with no complications.

                Geoff gave a few more details on the plan before clapping his hands and retracting his pointer. “That’ll probably do it for this meeting, but we have many more over the next month. We’ll have to work fast, call who we need, and get things ready in advance because City Hall will be swarmed with police at least a day or two before the event to secure things.  I’ll be calling you in my office individually in order to prepare you and then in your teams to give you the final run down.” Everyone began to get up and leave then, filling out individually. “Hey, keep your phones on you! And you better answer me immediately once you get a text from me! I’m lookin’ at you, Ray!” Ray was on his 3DS, walking out the door, but gave a yell of affirmation that he understood.

                But Gavin couldn’t get up. He didn’t want to get up. He wanted to skulk in a corner until he died. How could Geoff knowingly pair up little ol’ Gavy with the biggest, meanest, scariest member of the FAHC? Gavin would have preferred taking someone from the B team over the Vagabond! Gavin took a quick glance over his shoulder to see that the big guy had already left, despite Gavin never hearing him get up. But the weight that was weighing on Gavin’s shoulders let up almost immediately. Maybe the brute was off to go tell Geoff (in his own silent way) that pairing him up with Gavin was a big mistake. The Vagabond never really did care for his presence, and Gavin assumed that his distaste for the golden boy only tripled after the last mission. Yes, Gavin was sure that the Vagabond was giving Geoff a piece of his mind right at that very moment.

                At least, Gavin hoped he was.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

               After a long week littered with meetings and planning, Gavin was finally relaxing in his own apartment with a bottle of wine, a sci-fi movie on the TV, and his phone in his hand scrolling through the latest happenings on Twitter. Tonight was the night that Gavin would be able to lounge around, stress free, not having to think about the heist or work or even crime itself. He was home, safe and sound.

                I should call up a bird then? Gavin thought, scrolling through the hundreds of contacts on his phone. But, really, he didn’t feel like a lay at the moment. Frankly, he just felt like doing nothing. He didn’t even care if that classified him as lazy. Gavin supposed that he just wanted the night to himself after the chaos of the previous week, knowing that the following weeks were going to be much more hectic.

                He threw his head back against the sofa, shutting his eyes tight and dropping his phone on the cushion next to him. Pure boredom and lack of focus was a concoction that Gavin did not want, but it was exactly what he got. It created a wandering mind, and a wandering mind was a constant threat to him. Memories brought up from the back of his mind that he tried desperately to repress for good. Voices and people and regrets.

                Loud gunfire all around you. You almost got him killed. Look at what you’ve done. And you run. Gavin’s eyes snapped open at that thought. The vivid colors and motions that overtook him for a second caused his breathing to increase rapidly.

                “So much for a good night.” He sighed.

                As he made his way towards his bathroom, planning on taking a shower as part of a last-ditch effort in having a peaceful night, he glanced out his apartment window. He had a view of downtown Los Santos; not nearly as good as the view from Geoff’s apartment, but a good view nonetheless. As he peered into the deep night sky thoughts of England crossed his mind. That was the one thing his old town had on this city: the night view. He remembered the stars vividly there. Swirls of stars and space dust and a clear shot of the Milky Way that distracted Gavin for hours on end at night. But here the sky was completely clear, and any time he thought he could see a star it turned out to just be an airplane. It saddened the Brit at times, but he didn’t often like to dwell on the past. Besides, he had a new family here in the FAHC. He liked being with them. He trusted them.

                But do they trust you now?

                Gavin covered the bridge of his nose, frustrated and tired and just wanting to stop the incoming thoughts if only for a second. He quickly walked back into his living room and grabbed the bottle of wine from the couch. As he did this, he noticed a notification light up his phone screen. It was a message from Geoff that read:

                Meet me in my office at the warehouse at 9 am sharp. Don’t be late this time, Gav.

                A groan escaped Gavin’s throat as he chucked his phone back onto the sofa and removed the cork from the wine, tossing it away as well. He didn’t have the energy to deal with this. All he wanted to do was drink the entire bottle of wine in the shower and then promptly pass out alone on his king bed. Which is exactly what he did.

~*~

                Geoff was messing around with papers on his desk while simultaneously drinking coffee that Gavin knew must have been hotter than the sun. Gavin could only take a few sips of his before it burned his tongue and ruined the taste of the rest of the coffee for him. So there he sat, exhausted and de-caffeinated at Geoff’s desk waiting to hear the more intricate details of his role in the heist.

                Finally Geoff laid out a few papers before him, audibly slurping down the rest of his coffee and putting the mug to the side. “There’s some of the information you’ll need in order to hack into the Mayor’s guest list and invitation information. Get yours and Vagabonds names on the list, using the fake names obviously, and then make sure to get two physical invitations for the both of you.”

                Gavin’s stomach churned, which only doubled how nauseous he felt originally; having a hangover plus no food in the stomach really did a number on his body. But the thought of pairing up with the Vagabond made him even more sick. How on Earth did Geoff expect this heist to be pulled off when Gavin and the Vagabond were on a team together? Also, to Gavin’s surprise, it seemed as though the Vagabond didn’t talk to Geoff about disbanding their pair. But Gavin was going to bring it up. No way in Hell would he be working with that maniac.

                “Geoff,” Gavin started.

                “Gavin, I really need to get through this. Can you save your questions for the end?” His eyes were weary. Tired. The bags underneath them were the worst Gavin had ever seen on him, and the wrinkles on his forehead and near his eyes seemed much more prominent in that moment. Gavin could see the years of difficulties and stress on Geoff’s face and the feeling of empathy instantly overcame Gavin.

                Then Gavin realized: He always put his Geoff in trust before this moment, and Geoff had never lead him astray. Every decision Geoff had ever made had always been towards the betterment of others, and Gavin felt a twinge of guilt for doubting in Geoff’s plan of pairing him up with the Vagabond. Sure, Gavin didn’t like the idea. But Gavin also knew that Geoff loved him, and that he wouldn’t force Gavin to do something he knew the other was uncomfortable with unless it was absolutely necessary.

                Gavin nodded, and Geoff nodded in response. He seemed a bit relieved, which made Gavin feel better too. “Thanks. It’s been a long week, so forgive me if I’m tired during this meeting.”

                “No, I understand, Geoff. You’ve been working hard.” Gavin locked eyes with Geoff, wanting to communicate properly exactly what he felt. That had never been an easy thing for him, but with Geoff it just felt natural. “I trust you, Geoff. Implicitly. I had my doubts at first; and even if I’m not a big fan of some of the ways that we need to do this, I know that you know what’s best.”

                Gavin almost cried on the spot at the look Geoff gave him. He could visibly see Geoff’s shoulders relax, and the wrinkles on his forehead immediately lessened. Geoff shut his eyes for a second, but opened them and made eye contact with Gavin once more. He began to nod tiredly. “Thank you, Gavin. That means a lot.”

                Geoff leaned over, pulling his desk drawer open and handing Gavin a computer hard drive. “Here, that’s something else you’ll be working on today. That contains a lot of the code that you’ll be encountering when trying to gain access to more sensitive information during the heist. I need you to practice and practice and only stop once it becomes a second language to you.”

                “Already is.” Gavin grinned.

                Geoff’s face didn’t shift. “Please, Gavin. This is important. The outcome of this heist depends on you. You’re our way of getting both information on Garcetti and his money. If you fail, a lot of bad things could happen.” A silence settled in the room. It was uncomfortable and lasted far longer than Gavin was okay with. But he felt like his throat was closed up. He wasn’t sure why. “I know you’re upset that I paired the Vagabond with you. And the reasons I listed at the first meeting were all legitimate. But the main reason why I picked him to go with you is because I know he can and will protect you. We can’t lose you, Gavin. Not for this mission, and not for any other mission. I know you’re still shaken about last time, but if anything, what happened then should go as further proof that he won’t hurt you.”

                That was the major click that Gavin needed. It all made sense. At first, Gavin thought that maybe Geoff had paired them up as a form of redemption for the golden boy. But Geoff was worried for him and wanted above all else for him to be safe. Gavin wasn’t strong enough to hold back tears. He could feel one begin to form in his eye, but before he could let Geoff see it fall down his cheek he put his face down into his hands. A lump still sat in his throat, but Gavin tried his best to will it and the tears down before Geoff could get more concerned. It took a moment, but eventually Gavin croaked out: “I can’t put him in danger like that again.”

                “He knew what he was getting into.” Geoff stood up from his chair and circled around to the front of the desk. He then sat on the edge and turned himself towards Gavin. “We’ve talked about this before, Gavin. None of us blame you for what happened. But we can all tell that you’ve not stopped thinking about it. Gavin, the minute we all let it go is the same minute you decide to let it go yourself.”

                “You can’t speak for everyone, Geoff. Especially not for those who never speak themselves.”

                A frown spread across the kingpin’s face. Gavin knew that Geoff had no idea how the Vagabond felt, nor would he ever. Though Gavin may have had the utmost respect and trust for Geoff, the Vagabond was a wildcard and Gavin wasn’t sure he wanted to gamble his luck anymore.

                After a moment Geoff nodded, standing up. “You’re right. I don’t speak for him. But don’t you think that if he really wanted to exact revenge on you he would have done it by now?” Geoff then placed his hand on Gavin’s shoulder and bent down slightly towards him. “I need your head in this 100%, Gav. We can’t have you half-ass this job and die.”

                Gavin just gave Geoff a slight nod, holding the hard drive close to his stomach, which still felt like it was going to turn inside out at any moment. “I should probably get to work on these then.” He grabbed the papers off of Geoff’s desk and started to make his way out of the door before Geoff stopped him.

                “Hey, I know you’re under a lot of pressure. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But know that we’re all here to help lighten the load and help you. You’re not doing this alone.” Geoff smiled. Even though it was only a little, what Geoff said did help. It was nice to be reassured that he didn’t have to be by himself. Gavin nodded and smiled back to his boss. As he was leaving he heard the other man call out to him, “Also, if it makes you feel any better, the Vagabond didn’t seem to mind that he was working with you when I met with him a few days ago.”

~*~

                Later that same day, Gavin found his brain becoming mush inside his skull. He had been staring at the computer screen for eight and a half hours, trying desperately to get himself to remember certain strains of code perfectly on the first try. But the tricky thing with code was how sensitive it was; one character wrong and the whole thing is lost. And this mission was particularly strained on time, so there was no room for error. But sitting in front of the screen for so long was beginning to take a toll on his mind, eyes, and general emotional well-being. If he saw the error code line one more time he thought he might actually have an aneurysm right there at his desk.

                He leaned back far in his chair, raising his arms above his head and stretching as hard as he could. He could hear the cracking in all his joints as he did so, and it felt particularly satisfying after not moving from a certain position from hours on end. He also realized at that moment that he was unbelievably hungry. In one swift motion Gavin got up from his desk, grabbed his phone, and started making his way towards the kitchen. But he was greeted with pitch black. Not a single light was turned on in the rest of the building, and the only thing illuminating the hallway was the light coming from the office Gavin had just left. He cursed the rest of the crew silently for leaving without warning him, but he probably needed that bit of time alone to just focus on work.

                He didn’t bother to flip lights on as he walked towards the kitchen, at that point his eyes had adjusted to the dark and he felt like his eyes would burn if he was under the fluorescents any longer. Besides, he wouldn’t be out in the kitchen for long. He’d make himself something quick to eat, take a moment to recoup, then get back to working on that code for another hour or two.

Nothing really in the fridge. Barely anything in the cabinets. We make bank in most heists but can’t afford some popcorn or granola? He thought.

                Suddenly, a footstep.

                Gavin whirled around, his hand instinctively reaching for his gun even though he did not have it on him. “Hello?” He called out.

                As he took a look around he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, but he got a suspicious feeling in the pit of his stomach that began to bubble up. It felt as though he was being watched. Gavin turned back to the counter and grabbed the nearest weapon he could find, which happened to be a standard kitchen knife. The sudden silence of the room pressed down on Gavin’s temples in a way that didn’t before. He knew he heard footsteps. He was well familiar with sounds of people sneaking by. Peering into the darkness, Gavin tried his best to listen closely, no longer trying to rely on his eyesight as his main sense.

                Another footstep. Was it coming from the office?

                Gavin crouched lower to the floor, moving his feet slowly and quietly. He was never a pro at being stealthy, but practice makes perfect. And he’d rather not be killed in the office while everyone else was gone. As Gavin crept up on the office door he could see the light seeping through the crack where the door didn’t quite shut all the way. Gently he nudged the door open, just a little bit wider, in order to see who was in there.

                “Michael!” Gavin stood up straight, opening the door completely and forgetting all about the threat that he thought was here moments ago. “Why are you sneakin’ around?! You gave me a heart attack!” He waved the knife as he spoke, partially due to the fact that he forgot he was holding it.

                Michael just scoffed at him. “Sorry. Thought you heard me come back in. I was just grabbing my coat.” He lifted his arm, showing the jacket. But he stopped for a second after putting his arm back down to look at Gavin quizzically. “Were you really that scared?”

                He didn’t need a mirror in order to know that his cheeks flushed. He could feel the embarrassment hot on his face. “Well we’ve got loads of enemies! You could’a easily been someone here to murder me!”

                “Well I already wanna murder you constantly in the day, why would I wait ‘til after work to do it?”

                Gavin rolled his eyes. “Well give a guy a warning next time you come back in. Geez.” With that Gavin turned and made his way back to the kitchen, flipping on lights as he went. He could hear Michael follow him out, but was too annoyed by the other man to want to continue talking to him.

                But it seemed as though Michael had something he wanted to say. When Gavin eventually met his eyes he could see that Michael was acting quite serious.

                “What?”

                “You’ve been pretty…” Michael paused, either trying to find the right words or debating on whether or not he wanted to tell Gavin something. Gavin hoped it wasn’t the latter. “Jumpy lately. Are you… Are you feelin’ okay, bud?”

                A sigh escaped Gavin as he looked away from Michael and instead chose to focus on the cupboards and finding any food item. He knew where Michael was going to take this conversation, and he didn’t want to go there. Sure, Michael was his best friend, but they’d had this discussion before. “I’m fine, Michael. Promise.”

                “That’s bullshit,” Michael walked around and slammed the cupboard closed that Gavin was rummaging through. “And you know it is. We all saw how you reacted when Geoff picked the Vagabond to be your partner.”

                “Well, I’ve come to terms with it. I trust Geoff and if he says something needs to happen then it obviously does.”

                “There can always be alternatives!” Gavin scoffed at Michael and shook his head, causing the redhead to move with him and try to regain eye contact. “You should have a say in this, Gavin. I trust Geoff too. Hell, he’s the first and only person I’ve ever looked up to. But the needs of the many don’t have to outweigh the needs of the few. We’re a team, man. If you’re uncomfortable with something, we can find a way around it.”

                “And I told you, Michael, I’m fine.” Gavin locked eyes with Michael finally, wanting to convey to him that he just wanted to be left alone. But Michael wasn’t budging. “I’m not going to make the same mistakes over again.”

                “That’s not what I’m worried about. None of us are worried about that. I’m worried that you’re not gonna be able to keep yourself safe because you’ll be fuckin’ worrying about the Vagabond the whole time!”

                Concern was the main emotion that read on Michael’s face, Gavin could see that clearly. Gavin wasn’t upset with him, he knew that Michael cared about him. But it was frustrating to him that no matter what he did or said, it seemed to cause someone in the group to disagree. He doesn’t work with the Vagabond? Geoff gets upset. He works with the Vagabond? Now Michael gets upset. It started to feel like a never-ending cycle to Gavin. He desperately wanted to prove to everyone in the group that no matter the decision he made, they could count on him to do his best. He wanted a redemption. He needed one.

                “He’ll keep me safe,” Gavin said, his voice much quieter and definitely less argumentative than it was before. “Geoff’s assured me. But Michael? I’ll keep him safe too. We all need to keep each other safe.”

                His words received a nod from the other man, who backed up a bit to lean against the counter. It was quiet again, a contemplative silence between two friends who didn’t know quite what to say to one another next.

                “Okay,” Michael finally spoke. “Just so long as we all do our best on this mission.” A smile flashed on his face then, a small laugh escaping him. “Gotta get those big ones and put it towards the little shit’s college fund, y’know?”

                Gavin cackled. “It’s not even born yet and you’re calling it a little shit?”

                “Its gotta learn its place sometime!”

                The two boys laughed together, idly talking for another hour about life and the baby and things that put a smile on their faces. No more talk about the heist, no more talk about the Vagabond. Just Michael and Gavin enjoying the company of one another like two regular folks. And Gavin was happy. He was safe and happy with his boy. What else could he need?

                He worked alone for another three hours after Michael left, so exhausted that he eventually fell asleep on his keyboard.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

               It was the first time in a long time that Gavin got to wander around the beach outside of the warehouse. Geoff had assigned him the task of checking up on contacts, but Gavin finished that job hours ago. Everyone else was busy, so he wandered outside to sit and contemplate things for a while at the shoreline.

                Hot sand beneath his feet kept him grounded, he thought. And the beautiful golden sun just beginning to set beyond the horizon grabbed his attention. He took a few pictures but ultimately decided that this moment was worth savoring in real time. His eyes shut softly as he took in the sounds of the waves and seagulls. Eventually, his breathing went in time with the crashing of the tides, and every once in a while the waves got just close enough to touch the soles of his feet. The warm ocean water mixed with the rays from the sun created a fiery sensation within Gavin that radiated throughout his whole body. Healing, relaxing, a calm moment in his stressful life. He never wanted it to end.

                Ocean water no longer hit his feet, and the sun was no longer in its prime position for lounging. But it was fun while it lasted.

                He made his way back to the shipping yard and started to patrol around. The vehicles in the garages were all parked, some gathering dust. It had been a while since they used some of these. He noticed Jeremy’s monster truck parked behind a few other cars and smiled. Maybe Jeremy would be up for taking a joy ride soon. But after reminiscing on the fun times they had rampaging around in Jeremy’s truck Gavin heard the faintest sound of suppressed gunfire. Curiously he made his way over to where their personal shooting range was. It was getting late, and surely most of the crew would have been heading out by then.

                To his surprise, it was the Vagabond. Gavin had come from the side and was still a fair distance away, but he could tell that the Vagabond was intensely focused on his targets and that he was hitting them dead on each time. Bottles, wood planks with targets painted on, and mannequin dummies were scattered throughout their makeshift shooting range and were all littered with bullet holes. Most of them being from the mysterious man, Gavin assumed. The Vagabond held his semi-automatic rifle close as he fired round after round at his targets. That’s when Gavin noticed another peculiar thing: Something was swinging in the middle of the course that he had never seen before. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be a bit of driftwood tied to a rope and hung by a crane hanging overhead. Vagabond must have been using it as a moving target practice. Gavin was impressed, to say the least. The thin bit of driftwood had clearly been blown to shreds numerous times, and judging by the other pieces of driftwood on the course it wasn’t the Vagabond’s first time practicing with them.

                The Vagabond. As Gavin looked away from the course he peered at the mysterious man. Thing was, the man had noticed Gavin standing near the shipping crates and stood stone-like, peering at the smaller man. It made Gavin’s blood run cold. The terrifying tower of a man didn’t move or break eye contact. Was he waiting for Gavin to approach? Did he want Gavin to leave? Regardless, Gavin’s first instinct was to tuck tail and scurry away, which he promptly did.

                Inside was actually much warmer than outside. The warehouse being the only properly insulated building on the whole lot was both a blessing and a curse at times. Gavin looked around the office, checking to see who had already gone home and who was still there. In the main office where most of the bigger tech was found was where Gavin had found Jack. She sat at her computer, happily typing away and presumably sending emails to try to finesse her way into securing aircrafts for the heist. Gavin walked in, knocking on the door as he entered.

                “Hey Jack,” He smiled. She beamed back to him, greeting him as she spun around in her chair. “You workin’?”

                “A bit,” She said, slightly turning her head back to her computer but then disregarding it in favor of looking to Gavin. “But I’ve been emailing people all day. Thanks for the updated contact list earlier by the way.”

                Gavin nodded to her taking a seat and spinning slightly in it. As he rocked back and forth he decided to ask her, “Hey, you’re pretty bold sometimes when talking to the Vagabond. Why aren’t you scared of him?”

                Her smile remained, though softer than before. It took her a second to respond as she thought of an answer. “Well, I’m a little bit scared. He’s killed a lot of people, but he’s also been hurt too. He bleeds like the rest of us.”

                Remembering that was difficult at times. He always concealed himself so well, and never once let any of the members know anything about him. So the disconnect between the Vagabond and humanity was prominent in the group, especially for Gavin. Jack was smart, though. She could read people very well.

                Gavin chuckled. “Remember when I first got hired here and you called me a punk kid?”

                Jack laughed heartily. “I was right though! You were a punk kid,” Her cheeks were a rosy red and she seemed to smile at Gavin with her eyes as well as her mouth. “You’ve grown a lot since then, Gavin. We’re all really proud of you.”

                This made the Brit blush, grateful to have such a motherly figure in his life. “I was angry at the time, but looking back you were right about a lot of us.” He paused. “So, what do you think’s the matter with the Vagabond?”

                “I think,” She started, “That deep down he’s just cautious. He seems reckless on the field at a passing glance, but if you study him he’s actually a pretty careful guy. I think that his cautiousness extends to not only his work life but his personal life too.”

                This caught Gavin entirely off-guard, mainly because it all made sense. But the rest of them were open with one another about their pasts and presents and futures, their backgrounds and families, their thoughts and fears. They were a family. And the Vagabond had been with them for years. Maybe he felt excluded. At that thought Gavin immediately became sad, and his heart ached for the man. They were all so busy being afraid of him that they never even thought to try to break his shell.

                Gavin was about to speak right as Geoff entered the room. “Oh, finally, there you are, Gavin.” Geoff walked over to them, greeting Jack and Gavin and leaning against a desk. “Hey, I need you to go and train outside with the Vagabond. I’ll need you two to practice accuracy and stealth, maybe try to sneak up on one another or something, I don’t know.”

                Gavin nodded. “For the heist, right?”

                “Well yeah, you’ll both need to be extremely quiet with your kills if you want to go undetected in City Hall. But it’s also just good general skills to have.” Geoff gave Gavin a pat on the shoulder. “Go on, now.”

                It was much darker outside when Gavin stepped out. The sun was set now, and the lights around the shipping yard created a very creepy environment. Gavin felt like he was about to be jumped at any minute. But he repressed his fears and made his way towards the shooting range.  There he saw the Vagabond, leaning against the wall of a shipping container while looking up at the sky. The moon was partially covered by big gray clouds, dark and gloomy with their edges slightly illuminated. It reminded Gavin of Halloween. He shivered.

                The Vagabond noticed Gavin walking up and stopped leaning against the wall. By the time Gavin had gotten next to him, he handed Gavin a gun. He then showed his own gun to Gavin, and released the clip, showing Gavin that it wasn’t loaded. He then held the gun in the air in front of him and tried to fire; it clicked over and over, and Gavin nodded to the Vagabond, aware that it was completely unloaded. He gestured to Gavin’s gun. The Brit followed the same steps, making sure there was nothing in his gun.

                “So, uh,” Gavin looked down, away from the Vagabond. He fiddled with his pistol. “Um, er, I mean- Sorry if I, uh, scared you earlier. When you were, uh, shooting.” He glanced up to the Vagabond, who just stared blankly back at him.  Great. Things were now extremely uncomfortable for the smaller man. He shifted his feet around and looked back down to his pistol, taking the magazine out and putting it back in over and over again. Its clicks were loud and piercing in the silent night air.

                “I guess we should start, then.” Gavin looked up once more. The Vagabond nodded to him. “I’ll go over there,” He pointed behind himself. “You can go over there,” He pointed across the lot behind the Vagabond. “First I think we should see if we can sneak up on one another. Is that okay?” The Vagabond nodded once more. “Okay.”

                The two went their separate ways. Gavin’s footsteps echoed in his mind heavily. Talking to the Vagabond really got his blood pumping and heart racing. He was so nervous, scared, and unsure of how to talk to the man. Gavin turned around, waiting to see it he was ready. But he saw no sign of him. Oh. Guess we’ve started then. He thought.

                Cool night air hit his face hard when he ran behind a storage crate nearby. The shooting range was quite big, and consisted of many storage crates scattered about. Gavin didn’t necessarily care for this kind of practicing. He was never exactly light on his feet, and a bit bad at locating others when they hid. Even as a kid, he sucked at hide-and-seek. But he needed to do well here, and he needed to do well on the heist itself, he just needed to prove that he could do this and anything else that the crew needed him to do.

                Luckily for him, the moonlight was bright enough to illuminate the ground in front of him but darker than the lampposts around the outside perimeter of the lot, so it worked well for a more stealthy atmosphere. He poked his head out from around the corner and scanned the area in front of him. No sign of the Vagabond. But as Gavin retracted back to his hiding space he realized that he was relying too heavily on one sense at a time. So he closed his eyes and tried hard to focus in on one sound. It was incredibly difficult; the ocean waves crashed in the distance, drawing his attention even though he tried desperately to drown it out. After a few more seconds Gavin got frustrated and instead of remaining a sitting duck he continued forward, tucking and rolling behind another shipping container.

                He held his pistol close and tried once more to listen out for the Vagabond, but it was to no avail. But he was quickly approaching the area where he told the Vagabond to go, and even though Gavin knew that the other man had surely moved away from there by now, he also knew that it was a good reverse-psychological tactic. The Vagabond knew that Gavin knew that the Vagabond was no longer there, so there would be no way that the Vagabond would check there.

                Wait, Gavin thought. But what if he expected me to know that? But then what if he expected that I knew that he knew that? He shook his head and tried to sustain a laugh. Even while training for a high-stakes mission he couldn’t be serious?

                 As he rounded another corner he felt slightly disappointed that he couldn’t see the Vagabond. It was then that he decided to peak around another corner. He was a few feet away from the shooting ground now, and could see closer the carnage that the targets had undergone. Most of the targets were blown to bits, and the mannequins looked completely wrecked. The rope was no longer up, but bits of driftwood were still scattered throughout the course. One thing Gavin noticed, however, was how most of the targets were hit in the direct center, and most of the mannequins were hit in their faces. His accuracy was something to be feared in and of itself.

                But his train of thought was stopped because an arm was suddenly around his neck. A strong arm that placed him in a headlock and dragged him slightly to the side. He was about to let out a startled yell but then he felt cool metal pressed against his temple. A soft click then came from the barrel of the gun and finally he was released. His knees hit the ground completely now, just hovering above it a few seconds before. His hand instinctively went to rub at his neck where the Vagabond had held him. Gavin looked back and up to see the other man towering over him. He couldn’t bring himself to look the Vagabond in the eyes, fearing that he would just see a disappointed look on the others face.

                Instead Gavin got up and turned his back to the Vagabond. “Again.” He said, and then ran to the other side of the shooting range.

                Gotta focus this time. Gavin thought, catching his breath and turning around. To his surprise, the Vagabond was still standing there, staring at him. Gavin then raised his hand and gave him a thumbs up, which made the Vagabond step slowly behind the shipping crate. Oof. Still creepy though.

                Determination filled him as he made his way around his first shipping container. But as he tiptoed, he realized how horribly loud his shoes were. He had to make a snap decision, and that decision was to actually remove his shoes. He slid them off, as quiet as he could, and continued on his way.

                He then thought he heard a snap of something. Quickly he whipped around from behind a storage crate and pointed his pistol up in front of him. Nothing. He withdrew back and tried once more to listen closely into the night, but there was no point. The Vagabond was a silent being; like smoke he seemed to appear and disappear without a sound. But Gavin wasn’t going to give up.

                He turned around, doubling back to where he just came from. That’s when he caught a flash of something. Dark and quick, but it was something. He pressed his back against the storage crate and steadied his breathing. As quick as he could he rounded the corner and drew his weapon once more. He pulled the trigger without thinking, and a click sounded in the air. But there was nothing in front of him like he expected. He was just about to make a run for it when he felt the barrel of the gun tilt his head forward slightly. Click.

                “Shit.” Gavin whispered as he turned around. He saw the Vagabond standing inside one of the shipping containers, gun pointed at his face. Even though Gavin knew it was unloaded and that he wasn’t actually trying to kill him, it still absolutely scared the shit out of him. The image of the Vagabond shrouded in darkness with his arm outstretched, gun pointed between Gavin’s eyes, was an image that was probably going to haunt his worst nightmares. “I’m not very good at this, huh?”

                The Vagabond lowered his gun. And then he looked down to Gavin’s feet. Even in the darkness and behind a mask, Gavin could tell that the look the Vagabond flashed to him after looking back up was an inquisitive one.

                “I, uh, thought it might be quieter.” He rubbed the back of his neck. It felt hot underneath his hands, which were slightly clammy. “But I, er, guess I can’t really do that during the, uh, heist.” God, why was he stuttering his words so much?!

                The Vagabond didn’t move, just looked back down to his feet and back up again. “Right. Er, wait. Where did they go?” Gavin looked around him. “Shit. Sorry.”

                They spent the next few minutes trying to find his shoes. It was dark and his shoes were black. Taking them off, in hindsight, was probably a horrendous idea. But at the time it was great. Eventually he felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to see the Vagabond holding his shoes in front of him. As he grabbed them, he found that he didn’t want to look the Vagabond in the eyes. He was still scared. Even after doing something nice for him (because even Gavin knew that he didn’t have to spend that time looking for his shoes) Gavin was still nervous to look at him. But that thought settled poorly in Gavin’s mind, and a moment of bravery overcame him.

                “Thank you,” He said, looking the Vagabond directly in his eyes. His eyes looked like a reflective gray in the moonlight, and looked slightly curious at him. Suddenly all that confidence drained from him and the back of his neck immediately began to feel hot again. “I, er, I mean… You didn’t have to do that.”

                The Vagabond just shook his head, pulled his gun out, and walked across the shipping lot. Gavin slipped his shoes back on and took a deep breath. Back to it.

~*~

                Code filled Gavin’s screen, and though his eyes were locked on his mind was elsewhere. His leg bounced up and down and his fingers tapped rapidly on his desk. Gavin could only think about the training he did with the Vagabond the night before. Towards the end of their practice, it actually became quite fun for him, almost like a game. They actually began to keep score, Gavin tracking it on his phone. Though he lost most rounds, there were a few times where he managed to sneak up on the brute. One highlight was climbing on top of one of the crates and then jumping down in front of the Vagabond. It was the first time he had seen him genuinely shocked. By the time they parted ways, Gavin actually found himself wanting to do it again. Something completely foreign to him. But it was nice. For the first time ever, he saw something in the Vagabond. A glimmer of personality past dangerous and scary.

                Why were his cheeks so warm all of a sudden?

                Geoff then came into Gavin’s peripheral and the Brit lost his train of thought. He smiled wide at his boss and received a tired smile back. This heist was taking a lot out of their kingpin, and Gavin hoped that he would take a long vacation just for himself after it was all over.

                “Hey, Gav, let’s go over a few things in my office real quick.”

                Gavin happily complied, jumping up in a heartbeat and leaving behind the mountain of coding that needed to be reviewed.

                But his excitement drained when he walked into Geoff’s office and the Vagabond was sitting in one of the chairs. He turned his head to look at Gavin, and Gavin noticed that his eyes were actually a bright shade of blue. It was hard to notice, as the mask concealed quite a bit, but Gavin somehow managed to get a good look. He instantly became nervous. It felt different being around the Vagabond in the daytime, lit under fluorescent lights instead of the soft moonlight.

                “Hey,” He took the other seat in front of Geoff’s desk. “So what’s this about then?”

                Geoff sat down and started going through papers. His desk was a complete disaster. Papers and empty coffee mugs littered the surface and even overflowed out onto the floor. Gavin also noticed a pile of dirty clothes crammed into the corner of the room and lots of empty plastic water bottles. Along with that was a blanket and pillow that were sprawled across the sofa that sat against the other wall. Had Geoff been spending the nights here?

                “So today I need you to secure those physical and digital tickets. You have to make sure that the digital list gets there first, so prioritize it.” Geoff was very matter-of-fact at the moment. The stress of this heist was apparent both in himself and his surroundings. “Is that going to be a problem?”

                “No, sir.”

                “Good. Now onto something a bit more fun,” Geoff leaned over and grabbed something from beneath his desk. Curiously Gavin tried to peak over to get a better look, but as he did Geoff slammed a briefcase down, nearly taking his nose off. He undid the latches and spun it towards the two men.

                “Masks!” Gavin exclaimed.

                Geoff laughed. “Yeah. I said it during our first meeting but I don’t think anyone listened. It’s a masquerade ball, so you’ll both need to dress nice.”

                It was then that Gavin noticed the Vagabond’s mask: It was very similar to the one he wore currently. In fact, it was nearly identical. But the new mask sitting in the briefcase was only the upper half of the mask he wore at that moment. The Vagabond saw it, leaned back, and shook his head.

                Geoff sighed. “Please, you can’t wear the full mask. I had this custom made to look like the one you have now, to make you a bit more comfortable. But you’ll freak out the other guests if you wear your full one.”

                The Vagabond responded by crossing his arms.

                Pinching the bridge of his nose, Geoff let out a more exasperated sigh. “You don’t even have to put it on in front of us. You can put it on right before you get there if you want to.”

                The Vagabond then turned his head slightly towards Gavin, the latter of whom nearly jumped out of his chair when being noticed. Geoff saw this and turned to the Vagabond. “We only have about another week to get the rest of our shit done. We don’t have time to debate this. You need to wear this mask, and that’s final.” This was the most serious that Gavin had ever seen Geoff, especially when talking to the Vagabond.

                The Vagabond looked back down to the mask and after a moment of hesitation he picked it up and put it in the inside pocket of his leather coat.

                Nodding, Geoff looked to Gavin. “You like yours?”

                Gavin didn’t even take the time to look at his properly because he was so intrigued by their back and forth. But as Gavin picked his up he realized that much like the Vagabond’s was personalized to his aesthetic, Gavin’s was personalized to his own.

                Gold shined bright into Gavin’s eyes as he slowly turned the mask back and forth. Hypnotic, almost. The edges of the mask were lined with a darker golden color that fanned into the shapes of feathers, but it still remained reflective and metallic. The whole mask came to a pointed beak that was quite protruded. Gavin laughed at how bird-like it was.

                “You trying to say something, Ramsey?”

                “Eh, maybe.” Geoff smirked.

                “I love it.” Gavin stopped for a moment. “Am I allowed to pick out my own outfit?”

                Geoff nodded. “Yeah. You’re allowed to do the same,” He said, glancing to the Vagabond. “I’m glad you like it though. Hey, also, your phones aren’t going to be of much use in this heist until maybe the end. So keep your ear pieces on because that’s where most of your information is going to be coming from. It’ll take us a while to prepare our vehicles and getaway path, so I estimate that you’ll spend at least a half hour to an hour schmoozing with guests. Hopefully that won’t be much of an issue.”

                “Nah, it’ll be fine.” Gavin didn’t mind talking to people. Social events were fun for him, especially when he could show off his nicer things. They didn’t call him the golden boy for nothing. “I’ll do the talking for both of us.” Gavin leaned a bit towards the Vagabond, not really feeling daring enough to touch him.

                “Right,” The briefcase was latched back up and put underneath Geoff’s desk once more. “Vagabond is going to have the map of City Hall and memorize it to the best of his ability. You, Gavin, need to follow his every move closely. I didn’t want you to have to remember too much stuff, we only need you thinking about your job hacking.”

                “I should probably get back to doin’ that then?”

                “Yeah, both of you should be doing something productive instead of shooting the shit in here.” Geoff waved his hand in the air flippantly and both Vagabond and Gavin got up at the same time, turning towards the door. “Oh, and send Ray, Jeremy, and Michael in here once you see ‘em.”

                Gavin shut the door behind him and looked up to see that the Vagabond was already making his way down the hallway and a bit away from him. “Wait!” Gavin stepped forward and grabbed the attention of the other man, who was looking back at him now.

                Wait what? Gavin thought. His brain stopped functioning all of a sudden. Why did he want to talk to him?

                “I, uh,” He stuck his hands in his pockets and cringed visibly at his own sudden shyness. “Thanks for, er, for training with me last night. I appreciate it.” No movement from the Vagabond. Just eyes gazing down to Gavin. “We need to do that again. I need to do better next time.”

                The Vagabond’s tone shifted. He nodded to Gavin and had something approaching a sympathetic look in his eyes. Human.

                Just as the Vagabond was about to turn and walk away Gavin reached out, almost touching him, and the Vagabond noticed. Gavin retracted his hand as fast as lightning, grabbing it as though it had been nearly torn off. “Sorry, I just,” He stared at the ground, an incredible wave of embarrassment washing over him. “I never apologized. Or thanked you. For what happened in the last heist. You d-”

                A hand clasped over Gavin’s mouth. It was surprisingly gentle in its touch, and Gavin nearly melted at it. The Vagabond stared at him and slowly shook his head no. He then retracted his hand, turned around, and left. Gavin could feel where he had touched his mouth for the rest of the day, and it felt like fire.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

                Dark and fast is how it all happened. The pair were running through a back alley, hearing the sirens blaring behind them. Footsteps marched closer, closer, closer. Fast heart rate, shaking hands. The Vagabond was practically pulling him along by his coat because halfway back his legs gave out from fear. It was the first time a SWAT team had ever been called on them, and the SWAT had come prepared. They could hear rounds blazing past their heads and the adrenaline was starting to wear off for Gavin.

                And he fucking fell.

                It’s how it happened in the horror movies. You wonder how they could trip over nothing. But Gavin no longer wondered that. The mind starts to psych itself out and defeat seems inevitable. He watched from the ground as the Vagabond had tried furiously to pick him back up, yanking and tugging.

                “Just go,” Gavin had yelled. He knew that the SWAT team was close behind. Beginning of the alley. Surrounding all sides. Gavin didn’t want to die. But he didn’t want to take a teammate down with him.

                “We’ll be there soon!” A voice said in their earpieces. “Hold on!”

                A lot happened in a short time then. Dragged to the brick wall by his shoulders and then without warning Gavin’s whole view was blocked by the Vagabond’s wide frame. He could see the rise and fall of the other's chest as he breathed heavily, but Gavin could also tell that he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

                “No,” Gavin managed to squeak out past the fear. But the lump in his throat was too big to talk past now, and his heart beat a mile a minute and he could only sit and watch as the Vagabond risked his life for their golden boy.

                Seas of bullets came at them fast, most going around them. But Gavin could hear the ones that bounced off of the Vagabond’s vest.

                One drop. Two drops. Blood trickled onto Gavin’s face. Another drop.

                The Vagabond had been hit on the arm. And then the leg. And then his shoulder. But the mountain of a man didn’t move. Gavin heard the slight, quiet, shaking gasps of pain and shock come from the other man. But he didn’t fucking move. Gavin watched in horror as his teammate was shot over and over. For him?

                Gavin couldn’t stand it. He couldn’t watch it. What propelled him up was fear and denial, and what made his legs run was the thoughts of a funeral held for a man that they did not know. He had slid out from a gap that the Vagabond had made and took off back down the alley. He heard the footsteps behind him, he didn’t know who it was from. He didn’t want to look back, just in case he were to see the lifeless, bullet-riddled corpse of the Vagabond.

                Awoken in a dazed and sweaty state, his own heavy breathing was the only thing Gavin could hear. It was ragged and sharp, and his chest felt tight. As he gripped his heart he could feel it beating extremely rapidly and hard. Like it was right there in the palm of his hand. His eyes began to water, blurring his vision and stinging his cheeks as they rolled down. His room started to spin around him, and his breathing got caught in his throat.

                Gavin had tried to get up from his bed, but the room was still spinning fast and his knees buckled underneath him. He only made it a step or two towards the bathroom when he had to stop and sink down to his knees. He shut his eyes tight, still gripping his chest close and trying to clear his mind which was fuzzy with fear. Nothing felt real around him; the dream was too accurate. Too clear. He could feel the blood on his face again.

                It took thirty minutes for him to regain his composure. After his episode, he collapsed into his bed but did not fall asleep. He was afraid to dream again.

~*~

                In a moment of pure joy, Gavin bounced up from his desk with his fists raised high in the air and let out a series of noises that were completely unfiltered happiness. At this Michael and Jeremy began to laugh, the both of whom were at their desks quietly doing their own work.

                “Somethin’ good, Gav?” Jeremy asked.

                Gavin fell back into his chair, spinning slightly as he did so. “It’s officially been forty-eight hours since I had my last error message on screen!” He pulled himself closer to his desk. “I’m really getting the hang of it!”

                Michael smiled a real genuine smile. “Hey, good job, man.”

                “Yeah, that’s good. Especially since this whole heist depends on you!” Jeremy laughed.

                At that, Gavin rolled his eyes. He then tucked his knees up to his chest and rested his feet on his chair. “I know that. I really think I’ll do a good job though.”

                “Well just don’t fuck it up, alright?” Michael chuckled. “You know how different it is when you’re actually on the job.”

                “Yeah, but it’ll be like a calm environment. Lots of dancing and food.”

                “Can’t drink though.”

                “Yea that sucks a bit,” Gavin titled his head and looked at the two men, who officially abandoned whatever they were working on in order to talk to the Brit. “Speakin’ of what I’m doing, what are you all doing? I haven’t heard much of anything.”

                Jeremy glanced at Michael and gestured his hands for the other to speak. “Well,” Michael started, “I gotta take out security that’s around the perimeter for a while and make sure that Jeremy can put our getaway cars into the correct positions. Ray I think is gonna be posted a couple buildings away and across the street and try to snipe people that get too close or something.”

                Jeremy nodded. “Yeah and I think Jack is going to try to get a cargobob or buzzard or something. Geoff might be with her?”

                “I don’t know. I think we’re gonna have another group meeting tomorrow for all of us since the ball in is like three days.”

                Oh shit. Gavin thought. Is it really that close? He turned back around in his chair and stretched.

                “Should probably get back to work then. Don’t wanna get too confident.” But immediately after those words left his mouth, he caught a flash of a figure move by the doorway. When he glanced up, nothing was there. Gavin took a peek over his shoulder to see both Michael and Jeremy staring back at their screens, continuing to work. Gavin quietly got out of his chair and went into the hallway.

                He caught another flash of a figure turn round the corner at the end. So curiously Gavin made his way down the hallway. Was it the Vagabond? Wasn’t he supposed to be with Jack today?

                As Gavin turned the corner in the hallway and got about halfway through the next, he heard a voice from the break room.

                “-think that he’ll be fine.” It was Jack. Gavin could hear decently clear her voice but noticed how whoever she was talking to didn’t respond back. She started talking again. “I mean you’ve been practicing with him, right? Is he doing that bad?”

                She was talking to the Vagabond. And they were talking about Gavin? He pressed his back casually against the wall near the break room door and listened more closely. A bit frustrated that he couldn’t see the Vagabond’s visual responses, so he had to use context clues to assume the man’s responses from what Jack said next.

                Jack hummed for a second. “Well, we’ll all be waiting on standby in case things go bad. I’m picking up the buzzard tomorrow afternoon after our meeting, and Jeremy’s getting the limo while we’re at it. Michael’s I think getting…” Jack stopped talking suddenly. What was happening?

                “You alright?” She asked. A few seconds passed. “Look, I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me.” Another few seconds. “Don’t get upset at me. You might be a creepy motherfucker but you’re not gonna intimidate me. We’ve been working together for too long for all that shit.”

                Holy shit. Gavin thought. I should probably be more scared of Jack than the Vagabond, to be honest.

                “If you’re really that concerned about your safety, or his safety, or whatever, then bring it up with him. I don’t know how far you’ll get in that conversation, though. I guess I’m one of the few who can actually hold a conversation with you, huh?”

                After a few seconds, Jack let out a laugh. Gavin so wished he could just see what they were doing. What the Vagabond was gesturing. But then he thought, why not? Why not go in there and be bold?

                So he had a plan: Go in there, explain that the Vagabond had no reason to be worried and that everything was gonna be fine.

                Too bad the minute he went to open the door it opened on him and hit him right in the nose.

                “Oh crap!” Jack exclaimed as she turned to set her coffee down and then reach out to Gavin’s face. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know you were there!”

                “Yeah,” Gavin said, holding his nose. “I was just about to walk in there.” Gavin then glanced over to the Vagabond, who was actually sitting looking a bit shocked and concerned.

                Jack nudged Gavin’s hand away a little bit. “Aw, it’s bleeding. Does it hurt?”

                Gavin took a quick glance at the palm of his hand, which had bright red blood pooling in the center of it. But as he was looking napkins were placed onto it, and then more napkins replaced the hand on his nose. It was the Vagabond who held them there, looking at Gavin with that same concern.

                “You wanna take him to Trevor and make sure it ain’t broken?” Jack said, receiving a nod from the Vagabond. “Sorry about that, Gav.”

                “Eh, ‘s alright.”

                He pinched the napkins over his nostrils and completely closed them off, trying to stop the bleeding. As they were walking towards the medical hangar, Gavin started to tilt his head back but promptly had his neck grabbed by the Vagabond, who then tilted his head straight forward. Gavin looked at him, and the Vagabond simply shook his head no. The Vagabond also took the napkins from Gavin’s nostrils and moved them up slightly to pinch the bridge of his nose instead of the nostrils themselves.

                “Oh,” Gavin realized. “I was doing it wrong.” The Vagabond nodded, pushing Gavin’s back slightly and guiding him to Trevor.

                The medical hangar (all makeshift, mostly with stolen medical equipment looked after by a man with an aerospace engineering degree and whose only knowledge of the medical field was handfuls of Wikipedia articles) wasn’t that far away, and the two made it there before Gavin even realized it.

                Trevor was bent down, examining supplies in his cabinets and checking things off on a clipboard. He turned his head slightly when he heard the pair come in, but didn’t realize something was off at his first glance, so he ended up doing a big double take that Gavin nearly laughed out loud at.

                “Woah!” Trevor said, walking towards Gavin but clearly hesitating. He then looked behind Gavin at…

                Oh right. The Vagabond.

                “Don’t worry, he’s alright,” Gavin stepped forward towards Trevor. “He’s helping. Jack actually did this one.”

                “Did she?”

                Gavin turned around to the Vagabond. “Thank you for taking me here. You don’t have to stick ‘round if you’ve got things to do though.” With that, the Vagabond nodded and left and Gavin actually felt a bit sad to see him go. But, wait, why?

                Trevor sat Gavin down on one of the beds and then quickly turned back to the cabinets to grab some things. “How bad does it hurt?”

                “Doesn’t hurt at all, really.”

                “Good!” He came back with a few plugs and band-aids, but after moving the napkins that Gavin had pressed on the bridge of his nose, he put the band-aids aside. “Well good news is that it doesn’t look broken. Just big.”

                “Watch it.”

                Trevor laughed and put plugs into his nostrils. “Keep your head forward. The bleeding should stop soon.” He then went back to organizing and checking equipment in his cabinet. “What’d she do, anyway?”

                “She hit me with a door, no big deal.” Gavin looked at Trevor. “Hey, are you scared of the Vagabond?”

                “Isn’t that the general consensus? That we’re all scared of him?”

                “I guess, but why does he scare you?” He frowned. “What did he do to you, or anybody else on this team?”

                Trevor stopped for a moment and raised an eyebrow to Gavin, but after a moment he slowly started to put things back on the shelf. “You feeling okay, Gav?”

                The comment actually frustrated Gavin a bit. “Yeah, I’m fine. I just… I don’t think that the Vagabond is that bad. If you spend a little time with him, you can see how careful he is. I think…”

                Silence lingered in the air for a moment as Gavin thought to himself, slowly coming to a conclusion about the other man. Trevor now turned his body completely towards Gavin and was becoming increasingly more concerned. “Gav?”

                “I think he’s scared,” Gavin looked Trevor in the eyes, but he was no longer really talking to him. “I think he might be scared of letting other people in so he creates this monster that scares people off without him having to try.”

                Silence again. Extremely uncomfortable. But Gavin didn’t care about that at the moment. He really wanted to talk to the Vagabond. He wanted to tell him something. He didn’t exactly know what he wanted to say at that moment, but in typical Gavin fashion, he was off to go open his big mouth and say whatever was on his mind at the moment. He called out to Trevor as he was already out the door; “Thanks for the nose plugs!”

                “You’re,” Trevor watched him leave, entirely confused and wondering if he should have checked Gavin for concussion symptoms. “Welcome.”

~*~

                The one thing about the Vagabond that Gavin was frustrated by at this point was his ability to seemingly appear and disappear without a trace. Gavin had spent the whole day previous looking for him after he came to that conclusion in the medical ward, but for the life of him could not find the Vagabond. But in a way, it was a blessing in disguise. After sitting on it for the night and most of the next day, Gavin decided that the situation would probably not have played out exactly as he had hoped.

                “Vagabond!” He would’ve said. “You don’t have to hide who you are anymore! I know you’re just afraid to let people in! It’s okay! We’re all a family here!” Then as he would lean in for a hug the Vagabond would insert a knife into his abdomen, most likely.

                So not forcing him to open up was probably for the best.

                Geoff came into the office space then and rounded up the troops for their final meeting before the heist. Everyone was a bit nervous, on edge, not really paying attention. It took their boss about ten minutes to finally get his things in order to that they could begin.

                “Right,” He said. “Well, I think we’re all feeling a bit anxious. We’ve all gotta double and triple and quadruple check things before the heist, which is the day after tomorrow.” Geoff then cleared his throat and took a look over the crew. “I’m really proud of you guys. This has been a really stressful couple of weeks, and you’ve all been working really hard. I’d like you all to take tomorrow to finish a few loose ends up, but take the night to relax before the heist. We want to be in our best shape for it.”

                Everyone nodded and Gavin could hear Ray sigh behind him. This caught Geoff’s attention, who gave Ray a tired look. “I know, Ray. But hey, think about what’s really important here,” Geoff rested his hands on the table and leaned in close, not talking for a moment. A couple people leaned in closer to him too, eager to hear what he said next. But Geoff popped up and smiled, yelling, “The money!”

                Jack laughed and started to clap, making a few others at the table clap too. After it calmed down Jack asked, “Are we going to go through it now? Like how it should go?”

                “Yeah, we should also go over our fail saves in case one of us fucks up, which is inevitable.” Jeremy said.

                Geoff turned to the whiteboard and uncapped a marker. “We will, and it’ll take a while, so pay attention.”

                It did take a while. In fact, it was over forty-five minutes of details and questions, all of which Gavin only paid half his attention to. His mind went in and out of listening to Geoff speak, and while it wasn’t listening it was thinking about the party itself and how the evening would go with the Vagabond. Over the past few weeks Gavin had actually grown very comfortable with him, no longer fearing to be in the same room or looking at him. There were times, yes, when Gavin would feel a bit creeped out by the other man, and he knew that the Vagabond was strong and dangerous to most, but he found that the Vagabond was actually quite passive when around the crew. Crazy how when you actually take the time to get to understand people they begin to make sense.

                Maybe after the heist, Gavin could host a party for him and the boys and invite the Vagabond over. It would be a good idea to sit down the others and explain that he wasn’t really that bad of a guy once you were around him for a while. It did take some getting used to, but Gavin could picture it: Michael and the Vagabond going shooting together, Jeremy and the Vagabond taking joy rides, wreaking havoc. Even the thought felt fun. Having everyone together as a big happy family. He so desperately wanted the Vagabond to be included. A lot can happen in a short time.

                Once Geoff concluded the meeting, he actually brought out some food for the crew to eat that he had hidden away. “A treat” as he put it. Eating, laughing, talking, playing, they all sat around and talked about games they played recently or places they went. Connection, real human connection, was a healing tool that Gavin never realized he had at his disposal. He loved these people and cared about them, all of them. Even the Vagabond, who was sitting quietly, listening to everyone else talk amongst themselves. A few times he would look at Gavin (who would always be the one who stared first) and nod slightly, acknowledging that he saw him. Those little moments meant a lot to Gavin. Compared to the harsh glares and crossed arms, watching the Vagabond lean back and actually listen carefully to the others at the table was a welcome change.

                “Oh!” Gavin exclaimed, hurriedly reaching for his back pocket. “Let’s all take a photo!”

                And they did. They all squeezed in tight, ducking and getting close to one another in order to fit into the frame of the selfie that Gavin would take. Their faces were all lit up, smiling and happy. They were safe and playing and laughing with one another.

                Upon closer inspection of the selfie later that night, Gavin noticed that the Vagabond’s eyes were closed shut; and maybe, just maybe, he was letting out a big smile being the mask that he wore.

~*~

                Unsurprisingly, it was Jeremy’s idea that they all go out and get completely shit faced. After shopping for a few hours for Gavin’s suit (a nice white tux with gold accents, picked by himself with no help from the other lads) Jeremy thought that it would be the best idea to get absolutely plastered the night before the heist. He ensured the group that they would all be hangover-free by the time the actual heist rolled around, which was late that next night. This obviously excluded Ray, who did not drink and was willing to be the designated driver for the night, so long as they didn’t throw up in his car.

                But Gavin had no idea that he would get that wasted. He didn’t remember exactly how many drinks he ended up having, but he knew at the time that he should’ve stopped long before he did. But watching Jeremy and Michael drink too and then encourage him to drink more was just too much fun. They could always handle alcohol better than he could though.

                But despite how drunk he got, he could still remember things that happened. Though it was more like chunks of things. He didn’t remember walking from one place to another, or exactly what people said, but he remembered key plot points of the night. Or, rather, the one major thing that happened.

                Jeremy had gone off to find a girl to talk to and was left with Michael. But Michael was talking way too much and Gavin just wanted to dance. He remembered the music being way too loud and the bass shook his chest and feet, and he could tell by the look on Michael’s face that the other boy did not feel like dancing, so Gavin went alone. He was on the dance floor then, and it wasn’t the same song (or was it?) and all of a sudden he felt a hand on his hip. Gavin turned then to see a much older man with a salt and pepper beard smiling at him. He remembered that his breath smelled like rotting food, cigarettes, and alcohol and Gavin absolutely did not want to dance with him, so he slurred out some kind of excuse and moved to a different part of the dance floor.

                But lo and behold, the man was back shortly after and began to yell at Gavin about something. The stench of his breath triggered Gavin’s gag reflex, which was already bad to begin with, and next thing he knew he had thrown up on the man’s shoes. But then after that, he was on the ground staring up at the ceiling and the man began swinging wildly at him. He couldn’t feel a single one of the blows, but he could tell that he was getting hit. Gavin did, however, remember the feeling of trying to swing back but being too drunk and incoherent to move his limbs hard enough.

                A blur swept by and tackled the man off of Gavin and to the ground. Gavin’s first thought was that Michael was the one who retaliated, but surprisingly Michael had come up from another side. He moved his mouth, asking a question. What was it though? Then Jeremy came up next to Michael. But who was the one who tackled the man to the ground?

                He turned his head slightly to the other side and saw a big figure with a black leather jacket rearing up his fists and pounding down onto, presumably, the old man but he was blocking Gavin’s view. Then the bar started to spin, and Michael and Jeremy’s faces began to spin too.

                And then he woke up on his couch.

                The drastic change from being on the bar floor and being very drunk to being on his sofa and being very hungover had immediate effects; meaning that the moment he turned his head he threw up. Thankfully for him, one of his friends must have moved a trashcan near his face during the night, as only very little actually made it onto the couch or floor. But Gavin heard footsteps then walk towards him, and a pair of big black boots came into view.

                He didn’t feel like looking up, not because he was scared of who was there, but because he knew that the lights would be bright and that either Jeremy or Michael would talk too loud in his face. So Gavin covered his face with his forearm and flopped back onto the couch.

                “Please, let me sleep for a while,” He grumbled out.

                Whoever was there turned and walked away, not vocally responding to him. This caught Gavin’s attention more than words ever could. He moved his arm away and flung his eyes open. His first instinct was to bounce right up but he knew that if he did that he would’ve thrown up, fell down, or both on the spot. Instead, he carefully propped his body up and looked around the room.

                Sitting there at the breakfast counter was the Vagabond. Mask, jacket, boots, all of his usual attire still on. Seeing him in Gavin’s apartment felt almost unreal, and for a moment Gavin wondered if he was still passed out. But the Vagabond stood up after seeing that Gavin was fully awake. He didn’t say anything but leaned against Gavin’s counter with his arms folded.

                “What are you doing here? Who let you in?” Gavin croaked out.

                The Vagabond pointed to Gavin.

                “Oh,” He looked down at his lap and shut his eyes tight. Yup, the lights were way too bright, much like he thought. He swung his legs around the side of the couch and wiped at his eyes. “Wait,” He glanced back to the Vagabond. “Were you the one that beat the deadbeat off of me last night?”

                The Vagabond nodded. Though tempted to ask what he was doing there at the bar even though Gavin knew damn well that neither he nor the lads invited the mercenary, Gavin decided that it would be best to keep his mouth shut. In fact, there were a lot of things he wanted to ask. But he kept quiet.

                After finding his phone he checked the time. eleven in the afternoon. He also noticed an unread text from Geoff that said: “Meet at the lot by 4, then we break and get into positions.”

                Gavin fiddled with his phone for a moment and looked up at the Vagabond. “You get the text from Geoff?” The other man nodded. “Right. Well, thanks for getting him off me. And taking me home.”

                A brief moment of silence occurred between the two, and Gavin was unsure of how to continue. “You have your outfit ready for tonight?” The Vagabond nodded again and blinked tiredly. “Right, right.”

                But Gavin realized after a moment, why did he have to make small talk? He didn’t want to. He thought back to when everyone was at the meeting table the previous day. The good time they all had indulging in the thoughts and feelings of one another. He wanted that again. He wanted that with the Vagabond.

                “Hey,” He said, looking the Vagabond in the eyes. “I had a nightmare the other night. Keep havin’ ‘em. Of what happened on the other heist.” He could see the Vagabond shift, but Gavin stood his ground. “I ran, and I shouldn’t have. I know that it might make you feel like you can’t trust me, but know that you can depend on me. You can depend on all of us.” Gavin didn’t realize that his hand was clenched into a fist. He unclasped it and began to nervously mess with his phone again. “We’re a team. And even if you feel like you can’t tell us stuff, or say anything at all, you can trust that we’re on your side. And I’m sorry that we haven’t been treating you like a person. We only really saw you as a mercenary; a means to an end. That’s on us. And I’m sorry.” The Vagabond looked nervous, stuffing his hands in his pockets and rocking slightly. Gavin chuckled slightly, becoming embarrassed by his outburst. “Heh, sorry. Guess I wanted to get that off my chest.”

                But the Vagabond still looked uncomfortable, and still stared at Gavin. There was a certain gleam in his eyes, but Gavin couldn’t quite pinpoint what the other was feeling. Though he had never been very good at that. To try to ease the awkward tension, Gavin laughed again. “By the way, after the heist, I’m thinking of throwing a party. You’d better come, alright?” Gavin then waved his fist in the air, similar to a punching motion. But he was a bit too far away and still a bit too timid to touch the Vagabond, who simply rolled his eyes and shook his head at Gavin’s gesture.

                The Vagabond then checked his phone and nodded to Gavin, waving as he left. Gavin watched him go, a weight lifting off of his shoulders. Hopefully, the Vagabond would feel safe during the mission knowing that Gavin had his back.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

                Almost everybody looked fresh as hell. Clean black suits were found on almost every member of the crew. The reason the “almost” is located in those sentences is because Ray showed up in his usual attire: A purple hoodie and cargo pants with checkered slip-on Vans. “I thought only Gavin and the Vagabond would be dressed up!” He shouted, to which Michael responded by calling him a dumbass.

                Gavin was the only one of the suit-wearers that wore white, but the crew still complimented him on his outfit. “At least you look nice, even if you stand out like a sore thumb.” Geoff teased.

                “I just wanted it to match my mask well!” Gavin was going to comment on Geoff’s attire, but after seeing Geoff in his usual suits for so long Gavin actually recognized that Geoff was wearing a brand new suit.

                They all sat around, waiting for the last few members to show up. Trevor and Matt arrived at the same time, both looking particularly stressed. Trevor then came up to Gavin and said, “Hey, I assume they’re going to be keeping the money in a separate security area than the delegate information, so make sure you specify to me which one you access first.”

                Gavin smiled a bit pitifully at the frazzled man. “Sure thing, Trev.” The man nodded and continued on towards the warehouse with Matt.

                Because he was talking with Trevor, he didn’t quite notice the motorcycle approach. So when he looked back to see the Vagabond on a motorcycle wearing a very well-fitting black suit, he almost tripped on nothing. He had no idea that the Vagabond would look so sharp. Broad shoulders accentuated his triangular body shape well, and he looked particularly strong, somehow looking stronger than his usual leather jacket and jeans apparel. It caught Gavin entirely by surprise and he could feel the blush spread across his face as he watched the Vagabond dismount his vehicle.

                “Wow!” He exclaimed, walking towards the Vagabond. “You look great!” He wasn’t looking at the Vagabond’s face, but he could tell the other was probably rolling his eyes.

                “You both look great,” Geoff said, coming up behind Gavin and putting an arm around his shoulder. “Are you not wearing the bulletproof vest though?” The Vagabond shook his head.

                “I assume it’d make him stand out a bit,” Gavin suggested, receiving a quick nod from the Vagabond.

                “And hey, where’s the half mask?” The Vagabond opened his jacket and slid the mask slightly out of the pocket. “Right,” Geoff rolled his eyes. “Just make sure you put it on before security sees you.”

                “As much fun as it’d be to sit here and play charades with the Vagabond,” Michael snapped as he checked his watch. “I gotta go with Jeremy to pick up my car and then grab some extra guns.”

                Geoff nodded and then turned to the pair. “You guys will probably be here for another hour or two before Jeremy comes back with the limo. Then once you guys step out and enter the party, the heist is on.” Geoff then glanced to Ray. “Ray, you’re gonna wanna take your own vehicle there and park it a ways back. Let Matt know once you’re in position.”

                The group stood before Geoff, and he looked upon them, beaming to the brim with pride. “Alright,” He clapped his hands. “Team OG is getting the buzzard, team short temper has the vehicles and guns, and team…” His voice trailed off as he looked to Gavin and the Vagabond.

                They didn’t have a team name. It wasn’t entirely necessary, but Gavin did want that special name to make their duo official. He didn’t take the time to think, as he blurted out the first words in his head, “What about team love ‘n’ stuff?”

                Laughter erupted from Geoff and Ray almost immediately, and it took both Jeremy and Jack a second longer to laugh. But Michael just stood there snickering into his hand while muttering something about how stupid it was. But Gavin actually didn’t feel embarrassed by his nickname. He thought their new dynamic should have a softer name. Geoff still howled from laughter, but only laughed harder when Gavin said, “I’m the love and he’s the stuff.”

                “Fucking stop,” Michael laughed. “You’re gonna make Geoff collapse a lung.”

                “Yeah and he’s,” Ray pointed to the Vagabond. “probably gonna fuckin’ stab you.”

                “Nah, he likes the nickname,” Gavin smiled to Vagabond and nudged him slightly. “Right?” The Vagabond held his arm where Gavin had nudged him, which also made Gavin realize that he had just touched the Vagabond for the first time. Not having his arm be broken for that really put a smile on his face, and the smile only widened when he saw that the Vagabond didn’t protest to the team name. “See? He’s alright.”

                “Whatever,” Geoff continued to laugh. “Alright, team love and stuff is going to infiltrate the fancy party. Code names from now on, everyone. Let’s heist!” The group all cheered.

                It was a nice moment they had. Standing around laughing, playing, safe with one another. But as they all went their separate ways Gavin could feel pieces of himself leave with them. This wasn’t a safe mission. It was risky, and undeniably so. Gavin recalled many of the close calls they’ve had over the years, and the last heist buzzed in his mind like a swarm of angry bees. He glanced to the Vagabond, who was sitting beside him looking out into the ocean as they had been for the past half hour or so. Every once in a while Trevor would update them on everyone else’s progress, but otherwise it was quiet and still on team love and stuff’s end.

                Gavin pulled his feet up onto the chair and grabbed onto his knees, tucking into himself. “Heh, ‘m a bit nervous. Are you?” He glanced to the Vagabond.

                The other man looked over to Gavin and shook his head, and then he did something that Gavin would have never expected: He placed a hand on Gavin’s shoulder and squeezed slightly. It was comforting and strong. He looked into the eyes of the Vagabond and saw so many emotions, and all of them being new and soft ones that he had never thought he’d ever seen from the Vagabond. Granted, he still knew next to nothing about the Vagabond, but progress was progress. No longer having the overwhelming feeling of dread when he stood nearby the Vagabond and instead feeling at times quite at ease and safe was a nice change. But still, Gavin would have sooner thought that he would’ve had his throat slit by him before he actually opened up and showed a more sensitive side, but he supposed anything can happen in their profession.

                As the Vagabond pulled his hand away, Gavin released a breath of air that he didn’t realize he was holding in. A cold breeze brushed his shoulder where the Vagabond once held. But he didn’t focus on it; he instead continued to stare out into the calm ocean waves with the other man in a comfortable silence while awaiting instructions from the rest of the group.

                Trevor chimed in their ears around twenty minutes after that. “Rimmy is about ten minutes away from the lot. Wait at the front of the lot for him to arrive; enter the limo and he’ll escort you to the target.”

                “Right,” Gavin replied over his earpiece. “We’ll be right over.”

                Once Jeremy pulled up, he rolled his window down and shouted for Gavin and the Vagabond to get in. “It’s about a 20 minute drive, maybe 30 if the traffic’s gotten bad, so sit back.”

                “Can’t believe I’ve got my own chauffeur!” Gavin laughed.

                Jeremy laughed too, glancing at him through the rearview mirror. “Hey, hey, just for tonight. Keep that shit up though and you’re running out of the party, not hitching a ride with me.”

                Gavin laughed, but stopped and frowned. “So, wait, where exactly are the exits where you and Mi- uh- Mogar will be parked at? And wait, how many exits even have cars anyway?”

                “You shouldn’t worry about that,” Jeremy took a bit of a sharp turn and Gavin bumped into the Vagabond slightly. “Sorry ‘bout that. But anyways, Vagabond’s gonna be taking you where you need to go in there. You should only be focusing on getting us the information and money, alright?”

                “I know, but I’d like to know where I’m going.”

                “Well does the Vagabond have a map on him?”

                The Vagabond shook his head. “Hm,” Gavin groaned. “Well if he gets us lost then it’s not my fault.” The Vagabond raised an eyebrow and shook his head slightly.

                Maybe he was upset that Gavin and thought that the golden boy didn’t have faith in him. But it wasn’t that. Gavin was just nervous about being left in the dark. One wrong turn and the mission could go South quick. He didn’t want all of the pressure to be on the Vagabond’s shoulders, and he didn’t want to be extra weight on the Vagabond’s back. He couldn’t, he absolutely wouldn’t, repeat what happened on the last heist. There was no way he could put the Vagabond in that amount of danger again, not after Gavin had just grown fond of the bastard.

                The rest of the ride went smoothly, though. Gavin had put on his mask about halfway there, and was going to remind the Vagabond to put his own on, but didn’t press it. Jeremy stopped a building or two away from City Hall, “To make sure no one sees my face” he said. But Gavin was sure he wanted to torture Gavin by making him walk when it wasn’t necessary. But one thing Gavin did notice was how the Vagabond still did not switch out his full mask for the half mask. At least, not until they were out of the car.

                Jeremy pulled away from the pair, who were nearby a dark alley. The Vagabond stepped towards it, back to Gavin, and pulled something from his coat pocket. Gavin couldn’t exactly see what he was doing. Looking around nervously up and down the street, he was hoping that the Vagabond wasn’t doing anything that could draw a lot of attention to the pair.

                But then as Gavin looked back to the Vagabond, he was greeted with the new mask. More importantly, the lower half of the Vagabond’s face. He had thin, pink lips and short facial hair that seemed to not be properly groomed, more an afterthought than anything else. His jaw line was wide and strong, and slightly clenched. That’s when Gavin realized that he was staring. “Oh!” Gavin blushed. “It looks good, Vagabond,” But Gavin then shook his head and pulled two tickets out of his coat pocket. “Or should I say, Richard Cole.” He handed the Vagabond his ticket and then started to make his way towards City Hall.

                He was surprised when he didn’t feel nervous talking to the doorman and handing him their tickets. He even made casual conversation and laughed a bit with him. It wasn’t that it was out of the ordinary for him to do well during social aspects of a heist, but how casual and calm he was during the interaction. Especially when in the car he bounced his leg quite a bit from the nerves. Maybe it was the Vagabond’s ever-stoic presence that eased his anxiety. Regardless, any remaining nerves he had exited him once he got a look at the inside of City Hall.

                Grand was the first word that came into his head. High ceilings and an open marble floor, all lit by soft golden lighting that came from diamond chandeliers high above their heads. Gold lined the eggshell white walls and accented old renaissance paintings hung from the neoclassical walls. Beautiful women and fancy men dressed to the nines stood around drinking and talking and dancing with their eccentric masquerade masks. Waltz music filled the room and Gavin noticed the live orchestra performing from a corner of the room. Elegance, class, everything radiated an energy that was all too expensive for Gavin to bear. It was a bit overwhelming, but in that moment Gavin thought how much more overwhelming it must have been for the Vagabond, who was far less a social being than Gavin.

                “Hey,” He leaned over to the Vagabond and whispered as they made their way towards a buffet table. “Are you doing okay?” The Vagabond nodded to him, but his lips remained pursed and held in a frown. “If it gets to be too much just let me know and we’ll find a quiet corner, okay?” The Vagabond clenched his jaw, but nodded anyway.

                That was when a woman approached the two, and right as Gavin was about to indulge in some chocolate covered strawberries, too. “Hello,” she curtsied ever-so slightly. She was wearing a beautiful dress, big and red. Everything about her appearance was perfect, but Gavin could only wonder how much more money she had than him. “Excuse me, but have we met before?” She was English.

                Perfect. “Perhaps,” He bowed slightly back to her. “Doctor Howard Chamberlain, ma’am.”

                “Emilia White,” She smiled brightly. “You’re the orthopedic surgeon, correct? I believe you operated on my sister, Margaret White, just a few years back.”

                Gavin smiled, trying to contain a laugh. Rich people were such excellent liars, always trying to fit in with one another. “I actually remember her! It was the spine, right?”

                The woman nodded. “Yes! I’m surprised you were able to remember! So what are you doing at this party? And who might this be?”

                Gavin glanced over to the Vagabond, who stood silently, watching the woman intensely. “Ah, I was invited by Mister Garcetti himself. I performed an operation on a cousin of his a few years back. Suppose this was his way of thanking me. And this was a bodyguard hired by my division. Richard, I think his name was.” Gavin glanced to the Vagabond and then back to the woman in red. “Hasn’t spoken a word to me since he was hired.”

                “Maybe he’s shy.” Emilia smirked. “Well, I should probably go say hello to others. It’s been nice, Doctor.” She bowed her head slightly.

                “Ah,” Gavin raised his arms. “Come here,” He embraced her in a hug. She smelled of an expensive rose perfume. And luckily she was too distracted to notice Gavin reaching down to her purse. As he pulled away he let his hand linger on her shoulder for a moment. “Give Margaret a hug for me as well, and that I hope she recovered well.”

                The woman nodded once more and smiled as she left. As Gavin turned around to the Vagabond, he noticed a clear frown on the others face. Maybe it was something Gavin said? “Hey,” he leaned in close to the Vagabond. “Don’t be upset, we’ve made a bit of money already.” He flashed a cheeky grin as he held the woman’s wallet up to the Vagabond. The other man widened his eyes and jaw dropped slightly, reaching out and taking the wallet. As he looked back to Gavin a smirk crossed his face and he shook his head. Gavin’s heart raced slightly, as it was the first time he had ever seen the other smile. It suited him well.

                The two lingered around for a while, saying meaningless hellos while enjoying the music and sparkled water in fancy glasses. Gavin must have looked a bit silly, as he stared straight up at times with wide eyes, admiring the glass and diamond chandeliers from the ground. “It’s all so beautiful,” He whispered, not really talking to the Vagabond in particular. Just getting his thoughts out. “I had no idea that a building like City Hall could look like this.”

                “Because it wasn’t originally a city hall,” A voice rang out from behind the two, startling Gavin. As he whipped around he was greeted with a significantly taller man who was quite clean and handsome. “It was built around 1860, and used as a theatre for public arts. Though it was repurposed for city official use after a fire burned down the old City Hall.”

                “Wow,” Gavin was actually slightly impressed. “You know a lot about history, then?” Or maybe he just knows how to use Wikipedia.

                “I should hope so,” The man laughed. “I am a history professor at ULS, after all.” He smiled to Gavin and then took the others hand, bowing slightly. “Professor Leonardo Moreno.”

                “Doctor Howard Chamberlain,” A bit stricken, Gavin couldn’t help but smile dumbly at the man. Why were rich people so charming at times? “A pleasure to meet you.”

                The man then continued on about the history of the building and the city itself, seemingly trying to impress Gavin with his knowledge. But the shtick got old quick, and Gavin soon found himself trying to maintain a fake smile and slight nods every once in a while to insinuate that he was still paying attention. But eventually a question did catch his attention and surprise. “So,” The professor leaned in a bit close and touched Gavin’s elbow. “What’s the deal with the silent man beside you? Is he your date?”

                Gavin’s face went a bit red, both at the question and the physical contact. “Ah, no,” He tried to keep his focus on the man in front of him, and even found it a bit difficult to not glance at the Vagabond. “He’s my bodyguard for the evening.”

                “Ah,” Leonardo stood up straight. “You must be important then.”

                “Just about as important as anyone here, I guess.” Gavin laughed. The man went back to rambling on about history, and eventually Gavin began to feel uncomfortable. But almost on cue, the Vagabond took Gavin’s elbow and leaned down close to his ear. He didn’t say anything, but Gavin could tell what he meant. As the Vagabond leaned away, Gavin turned his head fully to Leonardo and smiled. “Ah, we’ve got to go greet a few more guests. I’ll see you around then?”

                The man smirked to Gavin and took his hand. “I hope so,” Judging by the shit-eating grin on his face, Gavin could tell that this man was making a move. So Gavin took the opportunity and leaned in for a hug, getting embraced by the man in a heartbeat. “See you later.” He winked. Gavin shivered, entirely uncomfortable.

                He turned to the Vagabond, who was looking more and more visibly frustrated by the second. Gavin himself must also have looked a bit disgusted. “Eh,” He shrugged, flashing the Vagabond the man’s wallet and then stuffing it in his coat pocket. “At least I’m up to eight wallets now.” This seemed to lighten up the Vagabond’s face a little, but not much. Both of them were wearing a bit thin.

                Then, an angel appearing with a miracle, Trevor’s voice rang in through their earpieces. “Hey,” He said. “Get ready to depart from the party. Wait ‘til I signal you. It should be a few more minutes.”

                Gavin sighed in relief and pressed his earpiece. “Roger.” He then looked up to the Vagabond, and as he did a new song was starting to fade in. An idea. “Hey,” He leaned towards the Vagabond. “Let’s dance.” The Vagabond looked a bit hesitant. “It could get us out of another conversation.” The other’s eyes opened wide, and he offered his elbow to Gavin, who happily took it.

                Strange. Gavin thought as the pair made their way onto the dance floor. This feels so unreal. Like a dream. But what did feel real was the sudden arm around Gavin’s waist that pulled him close to the taller man, who peered down at him with bright blue eyes. Normally, Gavin would protest about not leading, but there was something about the Vagabond’s gaze that hypnotized the Brit. They started to move to the music, but Gavin’s feet were on autopilot. He let the Vagabond sweep him away into a full waltz, and Gavin could only be held and danced around like a doll while he looked onto the Vagabond in complete shock. Who is this man? Gavin thought, but promptly disregarded that thought in favor of looking back into the eyes of the Vagabond, who was now fully moving the pair in the most dexterous and elegant way possible. His heart skipped a beat, and then two, and then Gavin was unsure if his heart just stopped working, but it didn’t matter. He felt delicate and safe in the arms of the Vagabond, who gripped him tight, close, tucking him into the safety of his broad chest. Gavin melted into it. And as he continued to look into the Vagabond, he could feel a smile slowly creep onto his face. He was met with a big, genuine smile back from the other man. There were the heartbeats. Fast now. Thumping outside of Gavin’s chest. The whole world could have fallen apart in that moment and Gavin would not have noticed. He would have just been there in that moment still: Happy, light, and secure in the arms of his protector.

                “Everything’s ready,” Trevor suddenly said into their earpieces, but Gavin didn’t even flinch or acknowledge the words. “Whenever it’s safe, make your way to the back rooms.”

                Gavin heard it. He knew the Vagabond heard it too. Funny thing was, neither of them let go of one another or stopped dancing until the song was over.

~*~

                Sneaking into the back was actually quite easy. Just tip security off about a “shady figure” in the party (AKA anybody that got a bit too drunk) and suddenly doors to the higher floors were easily accessible. It was so easy Gavin nearly blew their cover by laughing.

                But the upper floors themselves weren’t exactly the most easy to navigate. More than once the pair peeked around a corner to find more than one guard patrolling around. Eventually the two actually sat in one spot for so long that they learned a few of the rotations of the security. Another guard passed by. Gavin looked to the Vagabond and nodded, the latter of whom started to sneak out from their spot in the shadows and come up behind the guard. Gavin got a good view from the side as the Vagabond popped up, put the guard in a headlock, and eventually choked the guard out silently. The muscles in his arms looked tight from beneath the shirt and jacket that the Vagabond wore, and Gavin found himself thinking: Hot. But dropped the thought afterwards, rendering it completely inappropriate for their current situation and also a thought that he didn’t have the time or energy to analyze. After the Vagabond dragged the body to a nearby storage closet, the pair waited for the next rotation before continuing on.

                “Alright,” Gavin kept his voice to a low whisper. His face was so close to the Vagabond’s that he could feel the others breath on his face. “Next room will probably have a guard or two in here. We rush in, close the door behind us, and then shoot whoever’s in there before they can call it in.”

                The Vagabond nodded, and that was exactly how it went down. The pair were so fast (Gavin thanked the training he had done with the Vagabond for that one) that it was a bit sad for the other guards. They never saw it coming.

                Gavin took a seat at one of the computers in the office space and, luckily for him, the encrypted files were pretty much exactly on the same level of code that Gavin had been studying so diligently all those weeks. He encountered a few errors, and with each one came a side-eye from the Vagabond, who stood close by but mostly kept watch on the door, but ultimately Gavin got in. “Alright,” He didn’t bother reading all of the files. There were way too many. But he did recognize names on the list. A few of the people they had met. “Hey I think we stole their wallets.” He remarked, earning a chuckle from the Vagabond. He downloaded the files onto a flash drive he had tucked away and in just a few more minutes the pair found themselves back out in the hallway. They had to work quick. It would only be a matter of time before other security guards found the bodies of their victims.

                It was all quite exciting. Gavin knew there would be a certain amount of anxiety that came with this mission, but he definitely didn’t expect to be having this much fun. Exploiting his newfound abilities in stealth was one thing, but he couldn’t seem to get his mind off of the dance he shared with the Vagabond. He was a bit sad that it was only one dance, though. Perhaps he could convince the Vagabond to dance with him once more, maybe at his party after the heist? But no, there was no time for those thoughts. They were literally sneaking their way through the halls as he thought all that. There would be time for that later.

                It was going smoothly, however. Much more smoothly than Gavin thought it would. They managed to get beside the next room quietly. A swift hand motion from Vagabond meant to sway Gavin towards one particular guard was all it took for the lad to spring up and pistol whip the guard in the nape of the neck. He went down quickly and quietly. As Gavin turned to the side he saw the Vagabond continuing with the same arm lock maneuver that he had seemed to do so fluently and perfectly each time he did it. He was so impressive to Gavin, every little thing about him. His rough side, killing and bloody and dark, was all intense. A high that Gavin had once been so terrified by but now he was starting to strangely (and sickly) enjoy. But the soft side, the smiles and the dancing and the way that the Vagabond seemed to help Gavin at every turn, filled Gavin’s heart with a certain pride that made him want to show off the Vagabond’s friendship to the world. He remembered back a few weeks when the Vagabond helped Gavin find his lost shoes in the dark. And before that, the heist, where the Vagabond actually risked his life for the golden boy. He had been on Gavin’s side from the beginning, and it made Gavin a bit upset that he never realized it until recently. But perhaps by doing well on this mission he could earn more respect and trust from the Vagabond. He just needed to stay on track and make sure he didn’t mess anything up.

                The computer itself was actually quite easy to hack. Gavin didn’t even need to get too far into the code in order to realize that the Mayor’s password was a bit stupid. “It’s his last name and birthday combined. Can you believe that?” Gavin scoffed, glancing to the Vagabond. But the other man watched the door intently, not even sparing Gavin a passing glance. Right. Time to get serious. “Whoa, wait,” Gavin’s breath caught in his throat in disbelief for a second. When he got the Mayor’s bank information open, he never expected that many zeroes. There were a lot. An overabundance of zeros. A lot more than he thought Geoff realized. Gavin made a split second decision. He pressed the side of his earpiece and whispered to Trevor, “The mayor has a lot more money than I anticipated. I’m transferring about double what we originally talked about.”

                “What?!” Trevor yelled into Gavin’s ear, making the other flinch slightly. “That’s way too much!”

                “Trust me, it won’t even dent it,” Gavin carefully sent the money over. Step by step. Every click was deliberate and precise. “Just make sure you get it.”

                “Holy shit,” Trevor said. “Yeah, I got it. Wow. Alright, I’ll transfer it to the correct accounts and make sure it gets dispersed between us, but I gotta talk to Kingpin. Double check to make sure that you didn’t leave digital tracks and then meet Rimmy out by the West exit.”

                “Roger,” Gavin released his hand from the trigger on his earpiece and typed about on the computer a bit longer. Though the Vagabond caught his attention from the corner of his eye. He shifted a bit, walking close to the door and putting an ear up. Everything sat still for a moment. Then the Vagabond rushed back and crouched down, taking aim at the door. “Shit,” Gavin said, ducking a bit and hurriedly finishing up on the computer. Because of his angle, he didn’t see who came through the door, but he heard a few shots fire off. He decided that whatever he had done was good enough, and that he needed to escape with the Vagabond before things got too bad.

                His head shot up, and as it did, everything moved in a slow motion that made Gavin’s stomach churned. A guard took aim at the Vagabond, who was rushing to move in front of Gavin, and shot. Though a silencer was clearly on the gun, it rang out in Gavin’s head like a canon shot. But Gavin didn’t think. He just moved. In an instant he tried using his whole body weight to push the Vagabond away, but the Vagabond was too strong. A tree with great roots planted firmly in place. But he did manage to sway the Vagabond slightly.

                Too bad the Vagabond still got tagged.

                Blood splattered from the wound in his upper left shoulder, and Gavin saw red. He snapped around and fired his own pistol at the guard who shot, not realizing that the Vagabond was still up and also shooting. As the guard was practically pushed physically back by the gunfire, Gavin turned all of his attention to the Vagabond. Whatever shock or anger he was feeling drained away when he saw blood shimmer slightly in the faint glow of the office. It stained the Vagabond’s nice formal coat and dripped down onto the carpet beneath them. But the Vagabond was still up. He looked barely phased, but Gavin knew that he was bleeding, and quite a bit at that. The Vagabond was only human, after all.

                “We’ve gotta get you outta here. Jeremy’s at the West exit, let’s go,” Gavin put a hand on the Vagabond’s other shoulder and held slightly. “Do you need any help?” But the Vagabond just shook his head and started to jog lightly out of the room.

                That’s how the two made it for a while. Jogging lightly and shooting whoever came into their peripheral view. It seemed like there were an endless supply of guards. Gavin tried his best to make sure that they were on the right track, but eventually he knew that even the Vagabond had no idea where they were. So Gavin was just trying to look for a stairwell down and out. Anywhere but inside here. They were sitting ducks. He heard gunfire throughout other parts of the building, however, and assumed that it was their distraction. Thank God their other teammates were out and alive, causing chaos and a good means of escape for team love and stuff.

                Gunfire shot right by their heads at times. Gavin could hear the whirring and feel his heart beating faster with every step they took. They rounded a wrong corner: Guards. They killed the guards: More guards. His adrenaline was still high, but he couldn’t help clinging onto the Vagabond every once in a while. Maybe to remind himself that the other was still with him, fighting and alive. Safe, so long as they had each other.

                Eventually, the two found a stairwell down and out into an alley. Dark, smelly, the faint sound of sirens and gunfire in the distance a street over. They couldn’t stay long. Gavin could hear the familiar sounds of footsteps marching closer. Closer to their alley. Closer to the already wounded and tired man who had already risked his life too many times for the dumb blonde.

                No fucking way he was letting the Vagabond die here.

                He quickly holstered his pistol and got beneath the Vagabond’s right shoulder, hoisting the arm around his shoulder and allowing the Vagabond to lean weight onto him. “I’ve got you, I won’t let anything happen. We’ve got to run, though.” He felt himself choking up, fear at the base of his vocal chords. The Vagabond tried to resist for a moment, but there was a bit of relief felt by Gavin once the Vagabond leaned into him. The pair took off running down the alley.

                Guardian angels must have somehow looked over the pair, because they managed to sneak through a few back alleys without a single detection from the cops. They had seen the sirens blare past them frantically multiple times, but they were always safe in the shadows of the grimy Los Santos alleys. After a few more minutes of wandering the two stumbled upon a ghostly parking lot with only a few cars. No sign of any life. Gavin let out a sigh and turned to the Vagabond.

                “We’ve got to ho-,” Gavin began, but as he was about to finish his thought he Vagabond was already bashing in the window of a car nearby. He unlocked the door, sat in the driver seat, and took a miniature tool wrap out from his coat pocket. Who did he think he was, MacGyver? But he did manage to start the car and then shift his head violently at Gavin. Taking the hint, Gavin practically leaped into the passenger seat and buckled up. The pair were on the road in no time. But the route the Vagabond was taking didn’t seem familiar to Gavin.

                He pressed a finger to his earpiece. “Hey, we’re okay, TC.”

                “Thank fucking God, where are you?!”

                “I don’t know,” The Vagabond then took his earpiece out from his ear and pulled the car to a slow stop. “Hold on,” Gavin said. The Vagabond had shifted his body towards Gavin and flicked his earpiece off, looking to Gavin with a desperate look.

                “What happened to the Vagabond? Why did his earpiece disconnect?” Trevor was extremely worried, but whatever the Vagabond needed was too important for Gavin to ignore.

                “He turned it off, and I gotta turn mine off too. I can’t explain why now just know we’re safe.” Gavin took his earpiece out, but could hear faintly the sound of Trevor protesting from the other line. “I’ll contact you as soon as I’m able!” He shouted and then turned his earpiece off. The Vagabond snatched it from his hand and chucked both into his coat pocket. He then pulled out his own phone and took both the battery and sim card out. Gavin followed. This seemed to relieve the Vagabond a bit, who took both phones and also put them away in his coat pockets.

The ride was an incredibly awkward silence. Tension filled the air, and Gavin nearly had to bite his tongue off in order to not pry and ask the Vagabond if he was okay. But he could tell that the blood loss was slowly starting to take its effects. The adrenaline had long since worn off and the pair were visibly sweaty and shaky. Gavin had never seen the Vagabond like this. So tense and scared. His mouth was twisted into a frown, and occasionally he winced when a corner was turned too hard.

                After a while, Gavin couldn’t even recognize where they were. At first, he thought they were somewhere near Rancho, but there weren’t actually any people out on the streets like Rancho normally had, and the houses looked a bit too nice for Rancho territory. But not nice enough for the Vinewood houses that surrounded areas near city hall. It was strange. In the low light, it all felt creepy. Like they were driving through a ghost town with no direction. But the Vagabond had to have a clear destination in his head. All of his turns were thought-out, and this neighborhood was too specific for it to be a random decision.

                It wasn’t until they turned into a lonely cul-de-sac and pulled up to a modest (yet quite sad) looking house that Gavin knew the Vagabond came here for a reason. All of the lights in the street were out. Not a single noise could be heard, save the sound of typical traffic noises far off in the city. It was also a cold night out, and Gavin retracted in on himself in order to keep warm and keep calm. He heard a door open behind him and saw the Vagabond standing in the doorway of the little home in the cul-de-sac, gesturing Gavin inside. So he went.

                As he entered the Vagabond slammed the door behind him, causing a huge echo that rattled inside Gavin’s brain. A headache that singled out his temples and immediately caused a feeling of distress to rise within him. He watched as the Vagabond turned on a light in the living room and kitchen and then lean against a counter for balance. But the minute Gavin tried to reach out to help him, the Vagabond raised a hand in the air that stopped Gavin dead in his tracks. He turned his face slightly towards the shorter man and then pointed harshly towards the couch that sat near the bay window in the living room behind him. Without hesitation, Gavin sat and watched the Vagabond disappear into a dark hallway.

                What in the world. Gavin took a moment to examine his surroundings from the couch. Again, it was a modest home. A TV hung to the wall and game consoles, movies, and video games lined the entertainment center. The furniture in the living room seemed clean, very little dust was around. The coffee table even looked a bit dirty, a few faint rings from cans being visible at certain angles. But one thing Gavin did notice was the lack of personal touches in the home. No family pictures, general house clutter, or even nice décor. Gavin didn’t know if it was intentional or if a person had just moved in.

                But then the thought crossed his mind, Who’s fucking house is this? He started to panic internally. He was worried that an old lady would come hobbling out of her room in the middle of the night to find a grown ass man lounging on her couch wearing a white suit and gold masquerade mask like some kind of shitty Victorian-era vampire looking for a quick crash.

                After around twenty minutes of sitting still on a sofa in a strange home, he heard footsteps from down the hall. Holy shit, He thought. I’m about to scare the shit out of whoever lives here. Hopefully they won’t press charges.

                A man, tall and solidly built, came out from the shadow. He wore plain clothes; a navy blue t-shirt and jeans. His hair looked a bit damp and demeanor seemed tired. He walked slowly to the counter, and right as Gavin was about to burst up and erupt into an apologetic monologue, the man spoke. “Gavin,” A chill ran up Gavin’s spine, causing him to visibly shake on the couch. The man’s voice was low and raspy, almost sleepy. The low grumble was full of bass that Gavin could swear he could feel in his chest. But wait, did he say Gavin’s name? “Listen to me. Before you say anything, let me explain.”

                If there would have been a light bulb sat above Gavin’s head, it would have lit up at that moment. And the other man could see it in his eyes. Gavin jumped up like a fool and bellowed, “Holy shit! Are you the Vagabond?!”

                The other man shook his head slowly and pinched the bridge of his nose. He didn’t even respond, he just stood there, leaning against the counter on his left side while holding his head in one hand. But Gavin didn’t particularly notice, he was too focused on this shocking revelation.

                To be honest, he didn’t look a thing like Gavin was expecting. The lads had always taken bets on how mutilated the Vagabond’s face must have been. A horrendous burn scar caused from acid, Joker-like scars on his mouth causing a permanent and devilish grin, or maybe a series of unfortunate birthmarks. But none of those were present. In fact, the man was quite handsome. Gavin saw his lower jaw better now, and absolutely should have noticed it first thing since he spent all night looking at it. But the rest of the Vagabond’s face was handsome too. Without thinking, Gavin blurted out and interrupted the silence, “But you’re like… You’re like a DILF.” Okay, ouch. Maybe not the best thing he could have said. But it was true regardless. The Vagabond had a very dad-esque face and body that was actually quite attractive to the younger man. His forearms were big and the muscles slightly bulged through the t-shirt sleeves, and Gavin couldn’t help but stare. He felt incredibly embarrassed, and could only imagine how the Vagabond must have felt, but there was no point in trying to hide his utter shock.

                “Gavin,” He spoke again, causing another shiver to travel up Gavin’s spine. He really liked the Vagabond’s voice, despite only hearing him speak a few words. “Please. Sit down.” He did. The Vagabond shook his head and shifted his body so that his back was leaning against the counter. Gavin noticed the wince from the Vagabond and saw how his right hand instinctively came up to support the left arm.

                Gavin remembered the shot. “Are you okay? We need to get you-,”

                “Stop,” The Vagabond rose his voice, causing Gavin to instantly shut his mouth. “I’d just- I’d just like to say a few things.”

                Gavin was a bit nervous to say okay, so he just nodded his head and looked to the Vagabond with eager eyes.

                “First, if you tell anybody about the way I look or where I live, there will be consequences.” Gavin nodded hard immediately, still a bit afraid to speak actual words. “Second, the shot went straight through and didn’t hit any major arteries. I stitched it up myself; I should be fine.” This caused a sigh of relief from Gavin that the other man nodded at. “Third,” He started walking over towards Gavin, who fought off the urge to flinch. But after the Vagabond sat down beside him and got eye-level with Gavin, any amount of fear or anxiety that he had melted away. “Thank you. For everything, Gavin.”

                “No problem, Vagabond.”

                The Vagabond chuckled, his eyes shutting closed when the grin flashed across his face. Gavin’s heart stirred in his chest. “Please,” He looked back to Gavin. “When we’re here, call me Ryan.”

                Whoa. Lot to unpack there. Gavin’s mind nearly exploded. He had so many questions. Like how the Vagabond seemed to imply how Gavin would be there more than once, or why and how he trusted Gavin with such sensitive information. But instead of bombarding the Vagabond with all that, Gavin just nodded his head gently. “Ryan.”

                “But Gavin, you cannot say my name outside of this house. Ever. Even if you think we’re alone out there and nobody else could hear you can’t-,” Ryan’s eyes looked genuinely worried and he leaned a bit closer to Gavin to say this. But Gavin interjected.

                “I promise,” He stared back into Ryan’s eyes. “I promise harder than anything I’ve ever promised in my entire life.”

                This seemed to ease the Vagabonds- Ryan’s- mind. He sank back into the couch and closed his eyes. “Do you wanna get us some drinks? We can watch TV if you want. We’ll be here for the night.”

                Gavin happily got up and walked over to the fridge. He heard Ryan shout out that he wanted a Diet Coke, which Gavin chuckled slightly at. He grabbed himself a beer and Ryan the soda. “Why stay here though?”

                “I don’t want to risk getting caught, not while I’m like this. I’ll get dressed back up in the Vagabond attire tomorrow morning and drive you back to your apartment.”

                “Well,” Gavin walked back over and put the Coke gently into Ryan’s hand and sat down onto the sofa, maybe a bit closer than before. “I don’t got much to do tomorrow. I feel like we deserve to sleep in.”

                Ryan laughed hardily. It made Gavin laugh too. Seeing him like this; comfortable, relaxed, a drink in his hand and a smile on his (completely unmasked) face, it filled Gavin with such strong emotions that he nearly busted at his seams in happiness. Ryan chuckled when he saw the look on Gavin’s face, “I agree,” He held his Diet Coke up and tapped it against Gavin’s beer. “To a heist well done.”

                “Well done, lovely Ryan.”

                Ryan nearly choked in his Diet Coke laughing, and Gavin found himself getting a bit red in the face from giddiness. He didn’t care if what he said was a bit embarrassing, making Ryan laugh and smile was the most amazing feeling in the world. Gavin never wanted it to stop.

                Luckily for him, he continued to laugh and joke and smile with Ryan the rest of the night. They were playing. Happy. Safe with one another in their own little bubble in that modest little house in that lonely little cul-de-sac.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

                Awoken by the morning light and a faint smell of something good. Gavin’s head immediately started to pound the minute he opened his eyes, most likely a result of all of the chaos from the previous night. But he wasn’t focused on that. Instead he lay there on the comfy couch smelling something sweet and savory while listening to a man’s quiet hum in the kitchen close by. It filled his heart in a strange way, and only then did he realize how fluffy he had been feeling lately. And all towards the Vagabond. Wonder what it meant.

                Gavin got up and turned to see the Vagabond- no, Ryan- with his back turned, making something on the stovetop in the kitchen. It smelled absolutely enchanting. As Gavin looked out of the bay window behind him, he realized how much different this neighborhood looked in the daytime. It all seemed peaceful. A lot less sad than the night before.

                “Morning,” Ryan chimed from the kitchen. “I made some breakfast if you want it.”

                “Thanks.” Gavin yawned as he stretched, hearing all of his joints pop one by one. His leg muscles burned from the running and his arms felt like they were going to give at any second, but he still managed to get himself up and towards the kitchen. He looked at the breakfast quite stunned. Pancakes, coffee, bacon, toast, a generic American breakfast. It smelled amazing. An angry growl came from Gavin’s stomach and the lad didn’t hesitate any longer, he grabbed a plate and immediately began to fill it with food. “So,” He didn’t look at Ryan, instead focusing on his food. “You know how to cook too?”

                “Yup.”

                “You’re a jack of all trades, huh?”

                “Thought we already had one of those.” Gavin looked up to see a big grin on Ryan’s face.

                Gavin shook his head in disbelief, laughing lightly. “And you’ve got jokes. Where’ve you been?”

                Ryan’s smile began to fade, and as he looked back down to his plate his jaw tightened. It was another moment before he spoke, “Here,”

                Gavin glanced around. The house was really empty. Even more so now than when he examined it last. There really were no personal touches, aside from the games on the entertainment center you’d think the house had been moved out of, not moved in to. No photos. No colors. No plants. It felt a bit like a mental institution. Gavin heard the clink of a fork hitting a plate and turned back to Ryan, whose head was down cutting up some pancakes. It was a bit awkward, Gavin wasn’t going to lie to himself. Not anything like how it was last night. They had a great time talking and laughing with one another, not really paying any mind to what was on TV but instead talking about the heist and the stupid rich people at the party. It was then a thought popped into Gavin’s head.

                “A million dollars,” Ryan’s eyebrow raised curiously at the blond man’s words. “But for a whole year- no, wait, two years- your feet and hands swap places.”

                Ryan laughed. It came from deep in his throat and may have sounded to someone who didn’t know him like it was malicious, but the way his eyes lit up and paired with a genuine smile on his face, Gavin knew better. He liked his laugh. “Um… I don’t know. I work a lot with my hands. I don’t think I could do it.”

                “Ah, reckon I could.”

                “Yeah?”

                “Yeah,” Gavin smiled, taking a quick bite of his food. “I mean I’ll just be out of work for two years. A million dollars goes a long way.”

                “But you’d get bored. And people would think you were weird.”

                “People already think that I’m weird!” Gavin laughed. He saw Ryan’s eyes flinch a little, but his smile remained. Gavin realized that his words probably hit close to him. “But being weird’s good, innit? I mean all of our friends are weird. And they’re the best people ever.”

                Ryan nodded slowly, taking a long sip of his coffee. Gavin tried not to focus on the way his pronounced adam’s apple bobbed with each swallow. His neck was actually quite long, from that angle, and the scratchy beard really suited him. It gave him a “just rolled out of bed” look that Gavin actually thought was really handsome. He felt his cheeks flush a bit and quickly looked down to his food, but he was still smiling.

                Casual conversation filled the room after that. They spent about another hour eating and talking before Ryan stood up and took their dishes to the sink, placing leftovers in the fridge. “I’ll go get dressed and then take you back to the warehouse.”

                “Aw,” Gavin couldn’t hide the disappointment in his voice. He really enjoyed spending time with the other man. But Ryan probably had things to do. Gavin really shouldn’t pry or intrude. And he was sure after the heist that Ryan would want a long break from the FAHC. “Alright. Was fun though.”

                “Yeah…” Ryan’s voice trailed off. But soon he turned the sink off and turned towards Gavin. “But the rest of the crew is probably worried sick about us. We kinda did cut them off. I just didn’t want them to track us back here.”

                Gavin so badly wanted to ask why. Why did Ryan hide all of this from them? He seemed like a genuinely nice man, and Gavin really wanted to connect with him. Be with him. Be with him? In what context? Gavin’s heart fluttered a bit, but he shook the feeling off. He didn’t want to pressure Ryan into talking about anything. Gavin was sure that even having the golden boy in his home was probably too much for Ryan to bear at once. But he didn’t want this to be the last time he saw him like this. Ryan. He didn’t want to go back to only knowing the Vagabond. The stone-cold killer who all of Los Santos feared. He wanted to know the friendly looking man who wore t-shirts and danced and cooked and drank Diet Coke too. He wanted the best of both worlds. Strong and soft. He felt safe around both personas. But Ryan wasn’t a persona. No, this was just him. A dorky man that sat and talked about something that Gavin didn’t pay attention to because he was too busy looking at the wide smile on his face. Oh shit. Gavin thought. Might be in too deep.

                He looked to Ryan, who was staring a bit concerned at him. “Are you okay?”

                “Huh?” Gavin shook his head and stared at Ryan with a blank expression.

                “Are you even listening to me?” A smirk and raised eyebrow told Gavin all he needed to know: That he was accidentally ignoring the other man.

                “Oh! Er, uh, no. Sorry. Can you repeat it?”

                Ryan just laughed. Not annoyed or angry at him. I guess he knew Gavin well enough to know that the other spaced off from time to time. “I asked if you wanted to borrow some clothes so that you don’t have to be dressed in all that when we get back to the warehouse.” Ryan eyed Gavin up and down. Right, he was still dressed in his suit. It did feel very uncomfortable, after running and sweating and sleeping in it. Gavin became self conscious at how he might have smelled.

                “Yeah, that would be top if I could borrow something.”

                Ryan just nodded and left the room, returning in a minute or two with a leather jacket on and skull mask in one hand and some clothes for Gavin in his other. Gavin could feel his fingers brush against Ryan’s as he took the clothes. What cliché movie shit when his hands got hot from the contact. He squeezed the soft t-shirt slightly, avoiding eye contact as he asked, “So, uh… Um… Last night, when you said to call you Ryan here, what did that imply?”

                Ryan stared at Gavin blankly for a moment, and then tilted his head, a shadow of a grin crossing his face. “What do you think I implied?”

                Was that a rhetorical question? Gavin wasn’t sure how to answer. Was he supposed to laugh and brush it off? Why did he even bring it up? Apparently his silence was long enough for Ryan to answer himself. “Gavin,” He began. “I…” He shook his head and walked over to the couch, sinking down slowly. He then looked to Gavin and gestured for him to take a seat also. Gavin complied. “I have my reasons for being so closed off. Those reasons aren’t important right now. What is important is that… Well I saw you making an effort. I knew you were scared of me.”

                Gavin just sat, staring at Ryan as he talked. He seemed a bit nervous, avoiding eye contact and rubbing the back of his neck. That was one thing he seemed to lack skills in. Socializing with others.

                “When we were assigned together, I got nervous. Whether I was nervous for me or you, I don’t really know. But I saw that you were scared. I didn’t… I didn’t know how to tell you that I wasn’t going to hurt you. Because I won’t, Gavin.” He smiled slightly, but it seemed like he was holding something back. Like there was something on the tip of his tongue that he didn’t want to let out. Regardless, he definitely took some time to think and choose his words carefully. “But then, I don’t know what happened. You just… That first time we trained together. You still seemed nervous but, I don’t know, it seemed like you wanted to be more comfortable with me. You were trying. I really appreciated that. More than you could ever know.”

                Gavin really didn’t know what to say. The man who, just a day before this, had never spoken even a single word to him was seemingly pouring out his feelings to Gavin. Though it was mostly rambling, Gavin knew that this type of thing didn’t really come easy to Ryan. How could it? He wondered when the last time Ryan spoke to someone like this was. He didn’t want to ask.

                “I told myself that I didn’t want to be with people. Have friends again. Or family, or partners, or whatever.” A slight rose color tinted Ryan’s cheeks. Curious. “But seeing you make that effort to try to be nicer to me, and in your apartment yesterday morning, when you said all that stuff about being a team, it really made me realize.”

                Yesterday morning. When he woke up drunk on his sofa with the Vagabond standing beside his kitchen counter. It seemed so long ago. A distant memory that Gavin had to dust off from the back of his mind. It felt like an eternity since then. He noticed how time passed by differently when he was with Ryan. “I…” Ryan cut himself off. He was really holding back whatever he was wanting to say. Gavin felt like he should probably interject before he said something he regretted.

                “I know, Ryan.” Gavin held the clothes a bit tighter subconsciously. “I meant it, though. You’re a part of this team. Even if you don’t feel comfortable opening up to everyone else, we’ll still be with you. Always.” Gavin tried his best to convey sincerity. Truth was, he didn’t speak for the whole group. But he also knew that if the Vagabond announced that he was leaving the group everyone would object. Ryan knew that too.

                Ryan chuckled a bit, the rose on his cheeks getting a bit redder. “I guess, what I’m trying to say, is that I want a better connection. With you. All of you.” That last part seemed to come out a bit late, Gavin thought. But he didn’t want to read too far into it. “Uh… So, whenever you feel like coming over. Shoot me a text or something. I’ll pick you up and we can play games. Just text my regular number. Normally I wouldn’t've taken your phone, but I just, uh, didn’t wanna risk it last night you know? Just in case.”

                “Yeah, I understand that,” Gavin had never really texted the Vagabond, and the Vagabond never really texted anyone, as far as Gavin knew. Ray apparently wanted to teach the Vagabond how to use emojis, but chickened out after Michael said that once he got the hang of it he’d only send one knife emoji and it would be to Ray. “But why can’t I just drive here myself?”

                Ryan cringed a bit. “I uh… No offense, Gavin, really, but I don’t trust that you’d be vigilant enough to check if you were being followed.”

                “Fair play.” Gavin nodded, laughing. Ryan’s smile returned when he saw the smile on Gavin’s face too. It was silent then for a minute or two. Or was it longer than that? Gavin didn’t really mind. It was comfortable. He could hear birds in the trees outside shouting for one another. The light was reflecting off of Ryan’s forearms so nicely from Gavin’s point of view; it seemed to highlight his strong muscles in a glowing halo. He looked up to Ryan’s face and it was the same. A nice face illuminated by a golden halo of light. Gavin quickly got up and looked away, fearing the feelings that overcame him. He definitely needed to think about some things once he got home. “I’ll get dressed and then we can get back to the warehouse.”

                “Right.” Ryan nodded, getting up as well.

                Gavin made his way down the hall and into the bathroom, which was also quite barren inside. It made Gavin a bit sad. He needed personal touches to his home.

                The clothes were very comfortable and soft. A bit big on Gavin, but he wouldn’t be wearing them all day. Even if he wanted to.

~*~

                Ryan had given him back his phone and earpiece in the car. Which was still the stolen vehicle from last night. Though before they left (and before Ryan adorned the Vagabond mask) he assured Gavin that the car would be returned. The minute Gavin turned on his cell phone it may as well have been the equivalent to a virtual atomic bomb going off. Instantly notifications lit his screen up and made the phone ping about eight hundred times, causing an annoyed side-eye from the Vagabond. That made Gavin sigh. He was back to being silent, hidden behind his mask. Gavin missed the casual conversation they had at breakfast. But he decided to focus instead on calling Michael back, who had managed to blow Gavin’s phone up with around fifty missed calls and fourteen unique voicemails, all with new and inventive synonyms for idiot.

                “Gavin fucking Free!” Michael yelled into Gavin’s ear, causing Gavin to wince. “Where in the fucking hell have you been?! We’ve all been worried sick!”

                His Jersey really came out when he yelled. “Sorry about that. The Vagabond and I had to hide out somewhere and he didn’t want anyone to track us or something.”

                “What, he blow your back out while you were there or something?! Why didn’t you tell us!”

                Gavin blushed furiously. “Michael! Stop that! He obviously didn’t say anything to me and I don’t want to get on his bad side!”

                “Well where is he now? Where are you now?” Michael still yelled. He had mad vocal chords, Gavin gave him that.

                “Right here beside me. He’s driving me back to the warehouse.” Gavin heard multiple different voices on the other side of the call and then Michael yell at them to shut up. “Oh! Put me on speaker!” Gavin giggled.

                “No, you fucking moron. Just get here quick, okay? Geoff has something to say or whatever.” And then Michael hung up. No goodbye. But that was no matter. One look and Michael wouldn’t be mad anymore. He had that affect on the other lad.

                He glanced to the Vagabond, who was giving him a questioning look. Gavin only responded with a shrug and slight shake of his head, which the Vagabond returned.

~*~

                As he stepped out of the car and into the afternoon light, he was immediately greeted with a hard punch to the arm. It stung. He didn’t even need to look at who it was in order to know. “Hey, boi. Good to see you too.” Gavin giggled.

                Michael embraced him in a full hug then, which Gavin giddily returned. Lindsay came up beside them then too, and then Jeremy. They sat hugging for a second before pulling away and exchanging a few hellos, Michael using a few more obscenities in his greetings. Geoff came up to Gavin then and gave Gavin a bit of a tighter hug. He hadn’t seen Geoff smile like that in a while. Jack, Ray, and the rest of the squad watched on and waved to Gavin, greeting him once he got closer. Gavin saw everyone there, but still turned to Geoff and asked, “Was anyone hurt?”

                “Nah,” Trevor chimed in. “Are you guys okay? I was really worried. We all were.”

                Gavin turned quickly to the Vagabond, who caught Gavin’s eye. He slowly nodded his head yes. Permission to talk about it. “Yeah,” Gavin turned back to the group. “We’re okay, but the Vagabond got shot. He patched himself up though.” A few of them shot the Vagabond a concerned glance, but the quiet man just remained there; silent and unmoving. The crew decided to drop it.

                Instead they all talked idly amongst themselves for a minute or two before Geoff made them all gather round and pay attention. “Listen,” Geoff clapped his hands together and stood in front of the crew. His eyes shined, he looked proud. “I wanna make this quick. Jack and I have a flight to Cabo waiting for us in a couple hours.” Jack cheered lightly behind them, causing the group to laugh. “But I wanted to say good job. That heist went really well, even if certain aspects didn’t go exactly to plan.”

                Michael yelled. “The bombs would have went off if Matt hadn’t been so fucking slow to tell me when!”

                Matt sighed, immediately raising his voice to Michael, though he had a smile on his face. “I had like three people yelling in my ears! Give me a break!”

                “Welcome to my world,” Trevor shook his head.

                “Alright,” Geoff held a quick hand up and then smiled to the group. “But Ray, good job with the headshot on that asshole from Poland. And Gavin, seriously, fantastic work with the extra money you grabbed. I had no idea he was that loaded.” Geoff ran a hand through his beard. “And thanks to that generous transfer, we all got about a hundred grand in our bank accounts.”

                The group cheered so loud that Gavin wouldn’t be surprised if the LSPD showed up at the warehouse doorstep a minute later. A few of the crew members tugged Gavin around for a second, and the lad ate up all the attention. Especially the fatherly look that Geoff was giving him.

                “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m taking the whole month off. Do whatever you want in that span. But I’ll be kickin’ it at the fucking beach.” A couple of the crew members laughed. “Don’t get too comfortable, though. It was a lot of money, but you’d be surprised at how much it can be drained in our profession. We’ll be back to heisting before you know it.”

                Jeremy let out a whoop and then a cheer from everyone else followed. Except the Vagabond, who sat a little ways away from the group and listened to Geoff silently.

                Gavin took a moment to speak up. “It’s all thanks to you, Geoff. You got us here. Thank you.”

                “I know!” Geoff laughed, slapping Gavin on the shoulder.

                The crew stood around for a little longer, but eventually one by one they filed out of the warehouse and went their separate ways. Trevor and Matt at first, then Ray, then Jeremy, then Michael and Lindsay (who thanked Gavin and told him that he needed to come to their place to play Mario Party that night), and eventually it was just the Vagabond, Gavin, Geoff, and Jack. Standing around and saying their goodbyes. Jack took a while to say her goodbyes to people, which Geoff always hated. “I do Irish goodbyes,” Geoff would always say. Geoff would have been first one out after his speech if Jack hadn’t actually physically dragged him back by his shirt collar.

                As Gavin was talking and (still) saying goodbye to Jack, he noticed Geoff talking to the Vagabond out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head just slightly, but they were a bit too far away for him to tell what Geoff was saying. Whatever it was, it was fast. Geoff said something, the Vagabond gave him a nod, and then Geoff went back towards Gavin and Jack. The Vagabond caught Gavin’s eye and nodded to him, and then turned around and left. Just like that.

                “We should head off now,” Geoff said to Jack, who smiled at him and agreed, turning to him and giving him maybe about the tenth hug that she had given him since she started saying goodbye. But that really was the last one, as she turned and went inside the warehouse after the hug. Gavin looked to Geoff, who was looking at the warehouse where Jack had gone inside. He had a small, innocent smile on his face. He looked smitten, almost.

                Gavin looked to the warehouse doors too. “So… Jack, huh?”

                Geoff laughed and shoved Gavin’s shoulder lightly. Not enough to push him or hurt him. “Shut up.”

                “Well, have fun. Take pictures.”

                “I will,” Geoff beamed. He looked so happy. It was so relieving to see him like this, after all the stress that the heist had put him under. He hoped that his vacation would be a time of healing. Of relaxation and resting. Then the thought of Geoff and Jack hooking up flashed in his mind and he immediately cringed and wanted to peel his brain apart. They were like his mom and dad. If they ever did and said anything he might actually crawl into a hole and die. Apparently Geoff saw the look on his face and raised an eyebrow. “You okay?”

                “Ew,” Gavin’s disgusted look grew, and he stuck his tongue out and wrinkled his nose. “I just thought about you and Jack having sex and now I want to die.”

                Geoff busted out into laughter and lucky for Gavin when he said that Jack had come out of the warehouse as well, so she began to laugh at Gavin too. Through his laughter Geoff said, “Oh we’re so gonna bang!”

                That was enough to get Gavin to cover his ears and groan, giving a yell of a goodbye before rushing to one of the cars on the lot. But he took a quick glance back at the two, who were both still laughing at him. But they waved to him, and Gavin could see the bright smiles on their faces as he got into the car and started making his way back to his apartment.

~*~

                It was very different being in his apartment than it was being in Ryan’s house. For one, there was so smell of good food or light shining in from a bay window. There was no Ryan, or his face lighting up with a smile and laughing at something Gavin had said.

                Gavin trucked to his room and flopped down onto his bed. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on his breathing and nothing else. But it was hopeless. Thoughts of Ryan slipped into his mind. Ryan and his Vagabond persona. The firm grip he had on Gavin’s waist as they danced with one another. He remembered the smell of the Vagabond’s simple and clean cologne. It was faint, but Gavin was so close. He kept close to the Vagabond the whole night, a bee to honey. A flash of blood trickling down the Vagabond’s shoulder after he had been shot. Again. Trying to protect Gavin.

                With a groan Gavin covered his face with the shirt Ryan had loaned him. It still smelled faintly like Ryan’s cologne and Gavin felt like he could get high off of the fumes. He had to force himself to take the shirt away from his face and sit up in his bed. Why on Earth was he so infatuated with Ryan? Of all people? He was scared to death of him just a few weeks ago. He didn’t even know his name until last night. And, what, he thought he was hot?

                But no, it was more than just finding him hot. Though Gavin did, very much so. His conventionally attractive body and face were certainly not a downside. But Gavin liked what he saw past the Vagabond persona. Even back when he had first started to meet him. The sharp eyes and carefulness of his actions, never hurting his teammates even though they knew nothing about him and did not care to. But even during the heist, the Vagabond killing guards left and right, it was no longer how Gavin once saw it. No longer was it chaotic and brutal. It was methodical and deliberate. Every muscle in his body moved with a purpose and that sole purpose, Gavin learned, was to protect him. To protect everyone in the group. Gavin didn’t mind the death or violence. He had killed his fair share of people too. Everyone in the crew had. None of them were good or merciful people. Coming to terms with that fact was easy for him. They all had baggage and bodies and pasts. But they also had each other. He supposed what set the Vagabond apart was that they knew nothing about him. But Gavin was starting to know him. He was starting to like him.

                Really like him. The thought rolled into his head. A slow lull that became a repeating tone, loud and buzzing in his brain. He didn’t want this thought. He didn’t want to look at the Vagabond the way he had been or thinking about him the way he did. At first, he thought that maybe he could get over it. Perhaps it was just a side effect of getting to know someone that was, admittedly, quite great the whole time. But then he was introduced to Ryan, even before he knew the name. There were glances and touches and trust. It was those slow weeks before the heist that showed Gavin so much more to the Vagabond than the years that he was on the team before. But it wasn’t the Vagabond’s doing- it was entirely Gavin’s. He was the one that had been scared of the Vagabond and didn’t put as much effort towards protecting him as the other did for Gavin. But Gavin had that thought at first. That maybe he just felt bad for excluding the Vagabond. However, the further he had gotten in his trusting the Vagabond, the more he felt like he was being drawn towards him in a haze of infatuation. He didn’t know if he what he felt was terrified or excited. He knew the Vagabond was dangerous. He had watched the mercenary kill with his bare hands and be coated in blood from people who had crossed him. He was dangerously talented at what he did.

                A shiver ran up Gavin’s spine. He pulled the shirt back up to his face slightly, his eyes fluttering shut when the smell of Ryan’s home hit his nose.

                When are you coming over? The message from Michael lit up Gavin’s phone. He tried to not focus on how his heart raced when he read the message and the disappointment immediately after when he realized it was Michael asking about Mario Party.

                Gavin got up and removed Ryan’s clothing while trying to simultaneously type out a message. Gimme like fifteen.

                If you’re not here in fifteen minutes I’m gonna strangle you and your stupid neck.

                Gavin chuckled and typed one last message before getting ready completely and rushing out of his front door. Fair. See you soon boi.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

                Spending a few days alone was what Gavin needed. He remained in his apartment, decompressing. His version of decompressing was eating, playing video games, and idly texting with the lads group chat. He didn’t feel like going out. He didn’t feel like blowing his money on booze or strippers. It was different. He thought back to just a few years ago, how he would have acted if he had scored this big on a heist. He would have gone fucking insane with the things he bought. But things have changed.

                Though there was one in the group still young and dumb enough to want to blow his money.

                Come on! Jeremy’s messages were frantic and coming in multiple separate messages, spamming the group chat. I’ve saved up enough for this already that hundred grand was just enough to put it over the edge! I was going to get it anyway!

                You’re a fucking moron. Michael’s name popped up. Gavin shook his head, watching but not typing. He could see the dots from both Jeremy and Ray appear and disappear a few times before Ray finally messaged.

                You know I’d agree with Michael, but to be honest who cares. Let him be an idiot. A slight pause before Ray messages again. Besides, he’s probably already convinced.

                Yup!

                Fuck. Michael’s typing bubble appeared for about a full straight minute before disappearing. He was always a bit of a pushover when it came to the people he cared about. Like when Lindsay said she wanted a cat but Michael said no and they came to a mutual agreement to not get a cat only for Lindsay to go out and adopt one later that same day. Michael complained, of course he did, but he never threw the thing out like he threatened he would. Whatever. He eventually said. Gavin let out a slight chuckle again. Do whatever you want, Lil J, but know it’s a stupid idea that I don’t approve of.

                I think you might approve of it once we’re all out riding! :D

                Typing from Michael for a moment, and lo and behold: Will you let me drive it?

                Michael? Hell yeah.

                Alright I’m in.

                Gavin finally picked up his phone and slammed on his keyboard. Lil J’s gettin’ a monster truuuuck!

~*~

                Jeremy had texted the group a few days later, telling them to meet him outside the city lines of Sandy Shores, to which Michael replied: Absolutely no fucking way am I driving out into the middle of Desert, Nowhere just to watch you drive your stupid fucking monster truck for five minutes and then crash. But Lindsay was excited to see it and agreed that the both of them would spend the day with Jeremy in the desert driving around. Gavin wasn’t too surprised, she was always one for chaos. But she would definitely have to be careful as she was, what, five or six months pregnant? And she still wanted to go out and watch cars crash and rampage around? Again, Gavin wasn’t surprised. Just concerned. Ray eventually decided to go once he heard that Lindsay and Michael were also going, and Matt was an absolute to go (probably being dragged along by Jeremy). Trevor responded with a flat no, however.

                But Gavin wasn’t entirely convinced himself. He wanted to go for a minute, but once he started to think about it, he realized that he didn’t exactly want to go if he wasn’t going to see the Vagabond. And Gavin was unsure if they invited him or not, but he was leaning towards the not. He texted Jeremy later that same day,

                Hey Lil J, mind if I invite- He started to type an r but quickly erased it. Vagabond? He seems to like the car chases we go on, and I think it would be cool to watch him do some crazy stunts.

                It took Jeremy a little while to respond, but eventually Gavin received the notification. Really? I mean, he can if he wants. Wow you two really are getting along now huh?

                He’s got a lot more in common with us than you might think.

                So long as he doesn’t run us all over I’m fine.

                Gavin wanted to be annoyed by the distrust Jeremy had in the Vagabond, but he was too happy that he was given the go ahead to invite him. Wasting no time, he quickly went into his contacts and scrolled down to find the Vagabond. To his surprise, it actually took him a while to figure out how he wanted to type the message. He had never felt more like a teenage girl than in that moment. Typing and then deleting, reading over and over trying to figure out if it was too forward or seemingly like a date. It wasn’t. It was a casual day with friends. He wanted the Vagabond to bond with the others and to show them that he was cool. But the excitement of seeing Ryan again made Gavin’s cheeks flush and he couldn’t wait to spend some time with him after not seeing him for a while.

                Hey, it’s Gav. Jeremy’s riding his new monster truck out in the desert and I think there’ll be like cars to destroy and stuff. Wanna join?

                No response for a solid minute. And then two. And then ten. Gavin was beginning to get anxious. But a thought crossed his mind and he pulled out his phone to text Ryan once more.

                I’ll buy you a case of diet coke?

                Another ten minutes went by before Ryan texted back a simple: Deal.

~*~

                Light pink clouds dotted the sky, swirling in the baby blue sky overhead. It was early morning, and Gavin enjoyed the sunrises and sunsets as they appeared in the desert skies. The air was clean, less heavy and polluted than the city Gavin could now barely see in his rearview. He probably shouldn’t have left so early, but he didn’t mind too much. He enjoyed feeling the cool air brush his arm that was extended out of the window, and he loved having the road almost entirely to himself. His GPS still said that the destination was still around another hour away, so he turned the radio on and prepared himself for the drive ahead.

                “Gav’s here!” He heard Lindsay yell once he started to pull up to the deserted location about an hour later. He could tell even from being parked ten feet away that she was very pronouncedly pregnant. He could also see Michael’s arm hanging around her shoulder. His heart started to swell. How lucky were they that they could find love in this career path? Though, Gavin thought, who else would be crazy and wild enough for them except one another?

                “You’re all here early,” Gavin said as he exited his car. Matt was with them too, leaning slightly against the backdoor of the car. “Didn’t Jeremy say nine?”

                “Yeah but we thought it would be cooler if we came out here now.” Michael said.

                “Is everyone there?!” A disembodied voice came from somewhere off in the distance. Gavin could tell it was Jeremy.

                “Not yet!” Lindsay yelled back.

                Gavin just shot Michael a confused glance, but the other just shook his head and giggled slightly. It was about twenty more minutes before Ray came. Gavin was beginning to get a bit nervous. It came as no shock that Michael had picked up on his shifting and finger tapping, however slight they might have been.

                “You okay?”

                “Yeah,” Gavin smiled. It was the truth. He was fine, just a bit nervous that Ryan wouldn’t actually show. He had been debating on whether or not to text Ryan, but ultimately decided to send a simple one.

                You still comin’?

                A minute or two goes by, and Gavin can see the others start to get antsy. His phone chimes out and a text from Ryan illuminates the screen: I’ll be a bit late. You don’t have to wait for me, I’ll just jump in once I get there.

                Even if he did feel a bit guilty starting the day without him, Gavin decided that it would be best course of action to just give a thumbs up. At the gesture Lindsay nodded and turned her back towards the group, cupping her hands around her mouth and yelling out, “We’re ready!”

                Matt turned to Ray and said, “He wanted his big entrance to be a surprise.”

                The other chuckled. “Stupid.”

                And a surprise it was. A monster truck came flying over the hill fifty feet away from them with Jeremy in the driver’s seat swinging a cowboy hat around wildly. His ear-piercing screams of “I am monster truck” seemed to reverberate in the valley around them and immediately the group started to double over in laughter. Jeremy nearly crashed but managed to save it and come around to the front of everybody. His engine was loud and the giant wheels kicked dust up into their faces. Jeremy eventually cut the engine and jumped onto the ground in front of the group.

                “So, whadda guys think?” He leaned casually against the tire of his monster truck (which was actually only about an inch taller than him), took his cowboy hat off, and grinned wide, relishing in their amused gazes at his new vehicle.

                Gavin was actually quite impressed by the size of it. It was slightly bigger than Jeremy’s last monster truck, but the color was drastically different. “Why’s it so ugly?” Gavin giggled.

                The younger man just rolled his eyes and laughed. “You’re such a prick, Gav!” Jeremy put his hat back on and stood up. “Those are Rimmy’s colors! Come on!”

                “I call first ride!” Ray jogged over to the front seat, and Michael groaned.

                “Don’t worry,” Jeremy’s smug face told Gavin everything he needed to know before he even said it. “I’ve brought two of them!” He cackled. Sure enough, Jeremy had brought the Liberator from the FAHC garage. Stupid American print plastered onto its side and everything, shining brightly in the Senora desert sun.

                That’s how they spent their first half hour out there. Michael and Matt in one monster truck and Ray and Jeremy in the other, the two groups ramming into one another and crushing obstacles that they had set up. I found these cars in the junkyard, they’re already broken! Jeremy had said.

                Lindsay, still very much pregnant and not wanting to take too many risks, had decided to watch from a safe distance. She took pictures and videos every now and again, waving to whoever waved back at her. Gavin had decided to stay with her, partially because he didn’t want her to be alone but also because he did still feel a tad bad for not waiting for Ryan. He knew the other wouldn’t mind- Ryan was used to the crew doing things like this without him. But now that Gavin wanted him to be included, and knowing that Ryan too wanted to be part of their shenanigans, it made him a bit sad knowing that others were having fun without him. Lindsay had noticed Gavin’s uncharacteristic quietness and nudged him slightly.

                “What’s up, Gav?”

                He shrugged. “Nothin’. Waitin’ for, uh, the Vagabond.”

                Lindsay just gave a content nod and looked back to the monster trucks in the distance. “I think it’s nice that you’re trying to include him.”

                “Yeah? You not scared of him?”

                “I mean, I am,” Lindsay instinctively recoiled at Gavin’s question, her eyes squinting slightly. “I mean I watched him not flinch at all as I took a bullet out of his back. And I know for a fact that I wasn’t gentle because I had no idea what I was doing. I know what he’s capable of. I think we all do.”

                Gavin couldn’t help the annoyed sigh that escaped his throat. “Well we’re all capable of bad things.”

                “Yeah,” She held a hand close to her stomach. “I think it’s just that we don’t know much about him. He doesn’t seem real. He’s like a robot kinda.”

                Gavin’s glance lingered on her stomach. “But he’s human, Linds. And he’s actually really cool. We’ve just gotta give him a chance. I mean, how would you feel if you were treated like how we treat him? Like he’s just a robot?”

                She was quiet for a while, but eventually looked at Gavin with a smile on her face. “That’s a good point. I,” Before she could finish, her attention was drawn to a car that was approaching them. Her hand went to her thigh where she had her gun strapped in, but once she saw the Vagabond’s masked face her hands went back to her stomach. He stepped out of the car and slowly approached the two, and thankfully Lindsay had greeted him with a smile and hello, though Gavin could see her slightly clutching her hands a bit tight.

                “Hey, glad you’re here!” Gavin beamed. He noticed the Vagabond’s eyes glance past them into the distance, towards where the others were riding the monster trucks around. “Ah, yeah they’ve been out there for a while. I’m gonna switch out with Michael. You wanna join?”

                Lindsay laughed when she saw the Vagabond nod his head. “Team love and stuff’s back?”

                “Ah, never left!” Gavin chuckled.

                After a while the boys had parked their monster trucks and jogged out to where Gavin and Lindsay talked idly while the Vagabond listened. “Hey,” Jeremy nodded to the Vagabond, who nodded right back. “Matt and I are gonna start cooking up some burgers, who wants some?”

                Michael immediately raised his hand, followed by Lindsay. They all did, and to Gavin’s surprise the Vagabond raised his hand too. Jeremy looked a bit confused, but still smiled and said that they would be ready shortly. That’s when Gavin remembered. “Oh!” He exclaimed and hopped up off the hood of Lindsay’s car. “I’ll be right back!”

                The cooler that had sat in his trunk was no longer full of ice, but instead filled with water and diet coke cans floating atop it. They weren’t cold, but Gavin was glad that they didn’t explode in the heat. He grabbed as many as he could and came back around to the group. “I brought diet cokes!”

                “Oh, cool.” Lindsay took a few and stuck them into her cooler, which was more readily prepared with ice. “Thanks, Gav.”

                “Do you wanna drive one of the trucks now?” Jeremy turned to him and the Vagabond.

                “Oh, hell yes.” Gavin’s face flashed with a wide grin. “How about we,” Gavin turned to the Vagabond. “Have a competition? Whoever knocks the others truck off the hill first wins?”

                The Vagabond seemed to sit and contemplate the challenge for a minute. But there was a glint in his eyes that Gavin could clearly see. He was intrigued, and Gavin knew his answer before he gave it. The Vagabond shrugged his shoulders and stuck his hand out, to which Gavin laughed giddily and shook it.

                “Ray! Wanna ride with me?”

                “X-Ray and Vav, baby!” Ray high-fived Gavin immediately.

                “Ah,” Gavin turned to the Vagabond, who was closest to Michael. “You two have got to ride together!”

                Michael shrugged. “I mean we’ve driven together before. He’s fucking crazy during a car chase.”

                “Team crazy mad?” Lindsay chimed, causing a laugh from Gavin.

                “That’s perfect!”

                “Alright,” Michael said as they made their way out on top of the sandy hill they were racing around on. It was flatter on the hill than Gavin had thought, and a bit further away too. The trucks looked like toys almost from where he had been watching safely, but up close they were so much bigger than he remembered. It was intimidating, but he saw how excited the others were and couldn’t say no. Michael turned to the three others that were with him. “We’re only gonna knock off around that area,” He pointed to somewhere behind him. “Because over there is where we all parked and back there is a big drop off that’s kinda dangerous.”

                They all nodded and Gavin looked around a bit to assess the damage. There were still remnants of cars and other junk that they had already crushed, and a few cars formed a barrier around the cliff Michael had pointed out. It was also quite a lot hotter in the truck itself and Gavin realize this once he started to clamber up into the monster truck.

                “Right,” Ray said once he saw Gavin settle down in the driver chair. “The wheel only turns the front tires, Gav. Next to you there’s a switch that turns the back ones. Your break is there.”

                “I’ve got it, Ray!” Gavin laughed.

                Ray just shook his head and buckled up. “Just don’t fucking kill us.”

                It was one of the most powerful moments in Gavin’s life. Being so high up and in a machine that was designed to destroy and crumble others. He couldn’t make out the others in their monster truck, the windows were tinted too dark to tell. But he wondered if Ryan felt as powerful as he did. As strong and big.

                But those thought immediately left him once his whole body jerked forward with massive force. It took all the air out of his lungs and it took more than a couple seconds for him to gather his bearings. All the while Ray was shouting in the passenger seat next to him to just ram the fuck into the others. So Gavin obliged.

                It was fun, for a while. Whenever the truck would get rattled around every bone in his body would rattle too. It was exhilarating and exciting. Feeling so energetic that he couldn’t even really focus on the pain. It reminded him a lot of when he was new to the crew and would go on car chases. He refused to buckle up back then, saying it would give him more room to move. He would always come out of those chases with a bruised up body and flipped stomach, and he had a feeling that this would compare to that.

                He was quite good, though, at herding the other car towards the edge. But he couldn’t quite tip them over. Eventually he had them backed up so far, he could tell that they were teetering over the edge. But the bastard wouldn’t move. Their engines were loud in his ears, so loud, and Ray’s hyped yells of excitement weren’t helping the pressure that was building up in Gavin’s head. Gavin released the gas slightly to back up and then plow forward once more, but he wasn’t anticipating them to blast up so quickly. He was unprepared.

                Then he saw the sky. Bright blue, puffy clouds scattered throughout the horizon. Then he saw the ground. Then the sky again. They were flipping around, and suddenly Gavin felt the crashes. It felt like a roller coaster, almost. His stomach jumped to his throat and his head started to spin with the car. It felt fast and slow all at once, and his mind only came back to his body once the crash had stopped. Rubber banded back to his body. Muscles sore and something dripping down his face. He turned to see Ray looking at him from the passenger seat. His eyes were wide and his glasses were gone.

                “Holy shit, are you okay?”

                Gavin took a moment to check himself. He could feel all his limbs. They hurt, and he could feel the shock in his body, but they were there. His head hurt as well, and whatever was dripping down his face he could tell that it was probably bad. But he didn’t feel any awful pain. “Nah, I’m good. I’m good. Are you okay?”

                “Yeah, I’m alright,” Ray unbuckled his seat, found his glasses, and opened the door. “Good thing we landed straight up.”

                Gavin got out as well and could see Michael and the Vagabond booking it down the cliff towards them. It was a long ways down. “Guess we got a bit too close to the edge.” Gavin said to Ray as he came around the front of the truck.

                The Vagabond came towards Gavin first. Worry in his eyes his hands immediately jumped to Gavin’s face to trace where the blood was coming from. Something flurried in Gavin’s heart to see genuine concern in the Vagabond’s bright blue eyes just for him. But he didn’t wanna worry him, not too much. Gavin just smiled and moved the Vagabond’s hands. “I’m alright.”

                The Vagabond removed his hold on Gavin’s head and started to shake his head, covering his eyeholes with his hands. Michael came up behind him then, nearly out of breath.

                “Holy shit!” Michael looked to Gavin and Ray, but after noticing the blood on Gavin’s face he stepped closer towards the Brit. “Holy shit! Are you two okay?”

                Ray nodded and came up next to Gavin. “I’m alright, but I think Gavin just got cut on the glass that shattered on his side.”

                “Bollocks,” The window was nearly completely gone, minus the few shards of glass that clung to the bottom. “Hopefully there’s none stuck in my head.”

                Matt and Jeremy poked their heads up from the top of the cliff and yelled down, making sure everyone was okay. And they were, for the most part. Ray was feeling slightly dizzy but that was most likely just from the initial shock of it all. However on their trek back up the cliffside Gavin noticed the Vagabond sticking slightly closer to him than usual, the worry still apparent in his eyes. No matter how much Gavin tried to assure him that he was fine the Vagabond didn’t seem to be at ease. I mean, technically it was his fault for Gavin being catapulted over the cliffside, but it was an accident in all fairness.

                Jeremy eventually drove the Liberator back up towards the hillside and managed to make it back in time for food. He gave everyone servings and only when Gavin had the burger in his hands did he realize how hungry he was. He happily accepted the food and beer that were offered to him, as did everyone else. Though when offered a beer, the Vagabond held out his hand and shook his head no.

                “Oh,” Jeremy frowned. “You don’t drink?”

                The Vagabond shook his head and leaned down to the cooler where the diet cokes were.

                “Shit, that makes two of us,” Ray grabbed one from the cooler as well and cracked it open. “Lindsay?”

                “Yeah,” She took one from Ray’s hand.

                They all seemed to wait for a moment, and Gavin knew that they all wanted to see what the Vagabond would do with the food in front of him. He seemed to debate it in his mind, watching the food on the plate as though it would jump away at any second. Eventually he pulled his mask up slightly, revealing his jaw and mouth, and began to eat. The others, upon seeing this, didn’t comment. But Gav could see the surprise in their eyes. He didn’t want them to gawk, though. He wanted this to be natural, fun.

                “So, did it at least look cool?”

                “Oh it looked so fucking cool,” Michael shook his head and a wide grin came across his face. The others laughed and Lindsay got out her phone, showing Gavin the pictures that she took moments before the truck got flipped over. “Scared the shit out of me, though.”

                “Yeah,” Gavin shrugged. “Can’t believe team crazy mad won, though. Bullshit.”

                They all laughed and talked. Happy and content with one another now that the calamity of the crash was behind them. Gavin could still see the guilt on the Vagabond’s face as he watched the group talk with one another.

                “Vagabond,” Gavin smiled. “Do you own any bookends?”

                Everyone stopped and stared at Gavin, and Michael let out a slight chuckle. The Vagabond too seemed to look a little confused, and once Lindsay asked what he meant Gavin started to laugh. “I’m just trying to think about what your house might look like! It’s like painting a picture.”

                After watching the Vagabond shake his head no and a slight grin flash across his face, the rest of the crew started to ask one another about what they owned as well. Jeremy asked Michael if he owned a stud finder, Matt asked Lindsay if she ever owned a Tamagotchi, Michael asked the Vagabond if he owned hedge clippers. They went back and forth, laughing and eating while asking one another ridiculous questions. The whole time the Vagabond kept a small smirk on his face while nodding his head yes or no at the questions. Gavin couldn’t believe it worked. Simple questions, yes or no, so that the Vagabond wouldn’t have to speak. But engaging enough that they all kept the conversation going. And the Vagabond seemed happy and content to be involved in the conversation with the rest of them. It filled Gavin with a sense of pride to see him that way, and he could feel color rush to his cheeks.

                But the day was winding down. Michael and Lindsay left at around three in the afternoon, Ray leaving shortly after them. Jeremy and Matt stayed behind for another hour, choosing to ride the monster trucks around a little longer before ultimately waving goodbye to Gavin and the Vagabond, who had both sat near Gavin’s car while Gavin chatted peacefully. He thought for a while that he should not talk as much, that maybe it annoyed the Vagabond, but the other man seemed to be so genuinely interested in what Gavin had to say. It was different. Even though he didn’t respond, Gavin felt content just being around him. At some point he had talked a bit about his life back in England, which Gavin never really talked about. Not that it was anything personal, just not exactly relevant to his current life.

                It took everything in him to prop himself up from the hood and turn to Ryan to say, “I guess I should head out now. Gonna be sunset soon.”

                Ryan took a glance around them and then nodded slightly. “Yeah,” He spoke softly. Gavin’s eyes widened and he glanced around them. They were completely alone, but Gavin still felt vulnerable. In the middle of nowhere but still as though a thousand eyes were on them. “It’s okay, I think we’re good.”

                “Well then why’ve I been talking so much without a response?” Gavin laughed.

                Ryan let out a small smile, his mask still uncovered from the mouth down. “I like listening to you talk.”

                He couldn’t quite help his goofy grin and pink cheeks. Nor could he help the look that he had given Ryan, or how he shifted slightly towards him. “Idiot,” Gavin shook his head and leaned against the hood of his car once more. “I’m glad you came today, though.”

                “Me too. I’m just sorry I almost killed you.”

                “Ah, ‘m fine,” Gavin laughed. “Besides, you’ve probably been wanting to do that for a while.”

                Ryan let out a hardy laugh, rubbing the back of his neck slightly and avoiding eye contact with Gavin. “Well, I mean when I first came into the crew you were kinda…”

                “Annoying?”

                “Yeah,” They both chuckled. There was something lingering in the air. Something unspoken that dared to be brought up. Gavin could feel it. “But you’ve changed a lot since then.”

                “Could say the same about you.”

                “I suppose,” The Vagabond nodded slowly. “Can I tell you something, Gavin?”

                Gavin stopped for a moment. Ryan still wasn’t making eye contact, instead looking up at the sky. Was he nervous? “Yeah, of course.” Gavin spoke.

                “I’ve been thinking. You said you wanted to throw a party; invite all the crew. I assume this party will take place after Geoff and Jack get back?”

                “Correct.”

                The Vagabond held his diet coke close and pressed his thumb into the aluminum softly, popping a dent in and out. Fidgeting. “Maybe I should just… Show up. No mask. Mingle with everyone.”

                Gavin wanted to freak out and say yes, yes, of course absolutely he should. But it was about baby steps. Control. “Well, if you think you’re ready to. I’m sure everyone would love to talk to you.”

                “Yeah that’s why I’m considering it,” He finally turned to Gavin. What nice eyes he had. “Today, when everyone was asking questions and talking with me, they were all so nice. I… I want that again.”

                “Again?”

                Ryan’s smile fell, his jaw did clench up, and he squinted one eye as he looked back up to the sky and away from Gavin. “We’ve all had things that have happened to us before the FAHC. People or places that aren’t around anymore.”

                “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

                “I appreciate that, Gavin,” His voice was still barely there. So soft. Like he was nervous about letting anybody but Gavin hear it. His hand came up to Gavin’s head, just below his hairline, where the cut on his head was starting to bruise and scar up. “I’m sorry, by the way. I didn’t realize how far back you were.”

                Gavin gently brought his hand to Ryan’s and moved it down, smiling to him. “It’s okay, it was an accident. Could’ve easily happened to anybody else.”

                “I don’t like being the person responsible for hurting you, though.” His frown was still pressing on his face.

                A pressure started to make itself known on Gavin’s hand, and when his eyes glanced down he noticed that his hand was still inside of Ryan’s. His hand was so much bigger than Gavin’s. Strong and calloused, and so tight and steady in its grip. The golden light of day shining down on them and the heat that Gavin felt could only be partially to blame from the sun. Ryan eventually noticed Gavin staring at his hand and immediately retracted his grip, instead choosing to put his hand onto the hood of Gavin’s car behind him. Gavin could still feel the press of Ryan’s fingers on his own and grabbed his own hand gently.

                He got it after a minute. The guilt that weighed itself on the Vagabond’s shoulders like entire buildings. “Why do you feel so guilty? If anything I should be the guilty one. I… I mean I almost got you killed.”

                “I got us lost during the last like three heists we were on together,” Ryan shook his head. “It ended with you almost getting shot and me actually getting shot.”

                “Well you’re not the best with directions, sure, but I mean we’ve all gotten each other into trouble,” Gavin was about to comfort him some more, but it seemed like Ryan wasn’t having it.

                “No, you don’t understand,” He started kicking up some dust with his foot. “I used to be so good at what I did. In and out, only leaving bodies behind. Something’s different now. I’m different now.” Ryan looked up to Gavin and removed his mask. His face looked so soft and kind, it took Gavin’s breath away for a moment. “You’re different.”

                “What?”

                “I just,” His face went red and Gavin decided that this was how he liked him. Cheeks slightly red and face all flustered. “I think that, before, I didn’t really care. About what happened to me or any of you guys. It was just a job, you know? And I think that it made me do better. Kill without consequence. Focus on all the bad outcomes less.” There was a pause, and Gavin could feel his heart beating out of his chest. “I have something to lose now.”

                “You’re not going to lose us.”

                “I wish we could be sure about that.” So sweet. Gavin could hear Ryan’s voice like honey and feel the ghost of his touch on his hand like silk. He craved more. Anything. More of his voice or his touch or to be even an inch closer. Ryan must have noticed something on Gavin’s face or body language, because he let out a soft chuckle and got off the hood of Gavin’s car. “You should come over sometime, Gavin. Just let me know when and I’ll pick you up.”

                “Yeah, that sounds nice,” Just so long as I can talk to you some more, he caught himself thinking.

                Ryan pulled his mask over his face once more and waved Gavin a goodbye. He then entered into his car and pulled away, leaving a cloud of dust in his wake.

                But Gavin stayed there in the desert for a while. After the sun had set over the valley and the stars scattered themselves in the sky. He could hear the nighttime animals all around him, he could see in the distance the city of Los Santos, with its high rise towers and busy civilian life. Gavin was feeling all types of ways. He didn’t like thinking about it. But all alone, out in the desert, sitting on the hood of his car gazing in awe of the beauty of the stars, everything did seem a bit easier.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

                I’m gonna be at the warehouse today training in the gym. Ryan had responded after Gavin texted him to ask if he was busy. You can come by the warehouse though and head back to my house with me if you want.

                His response was a surefire yes.

                He hadn’t seen or spoken to Ryan since the other day, back in the desert when he flipped the monster truck, and truth be told he was practically coming out of his skin to see him again. He kept reminding himself that the Vagabond was probably straight. That he liked Gavin and appreciated Gavin as a friend and only a friend. And Gavin was fine with this. He was content with the knowledge that nothing romantic or sexual would come from this. So long as he could put a smile on Ryan’s lovely face, give him an ear to listen to and a person to trust in, everything would be fine. He wanted to be there for him, regardless of how the other felt.

                But he’d be goddamned if he didn’t want to ruin it all after seeing Ryan like that.

                Mask on, but workout clothes on as well. Sweating heavily, pumping iron in the back of the makeshift gym on the shipping lot. The shirt he wore was tight and dripping with sweat, and Gavin nearly drooled at the sight of him in gray sweatpants, the outline of his bulge ever so visible. If Gavin had even the slightest less self control than he did, he would’ve been on his knees begging for Ryan to just kill him and put him out of his misery at that moment.

                Luckily, he did have self control. And despite the bright red shade his face turned, he still managed to squeak out a hello and sit down at the nearest bench. He had no idea what time the Vagabond would be done, nor did he want to ask. He didn’t even want to look at the other man. Was he really so pent up?

                A few minutes went by (or was it hours?) and eventually Gavin could feel the shadow of a man nearby him. When he looked up, he saw the Vagabond looming over him, his icy eyes staring at Gavin, piercing his soul. It sent a shiver down Gavin’s spine, and he wasn’t sure if it was fear or something more intimate. Or both.

                But then the Vagabond shifted near him, past him, reaching for something that Gavin was sat in front of. And the Vagabond was so close to him that Gavin could smell the sweat on him. He could see the fluorescent lights reflecting off of the shiny, sweaty pale skin of the Vagabond’s arms. He could practically taste that salty skin beneath his tongue and suddenly it got just a bit too hot in there for Gavin. However the Vagabond had retrieved his bag and left to wash off in the bathroom, and from his perspective Gavin probably just looked wildly uncomfortable. Which wasn’t entirely inaccurate.

                A few minutes later, which consisted of Gavin all alone trying desperately to compose himself, the Vagabond came out of the bathroom and shot Gavin a look. A question.

                “I’m ready when you are.” He smiled to the Vagabond. Who nodded at him in response. He was getting really good at reading what the Vagabond was trying to communicate.

                The pair walked across the lot to the garage and Gavin watched as Ryan’s hands deftly spun his key ring around and around, moving it between fingers and flicking it back and forth. He paid what his hands did no thought as he looked ahead to where they were walking. He seemed so nonchalant. So relaxed after what seemed to be a heavy workout. Gavin liked watching his hands work. Whether they were typing or twisted around the barrel of a gun, gripped tightly on the steering wheel of a vehicle going over ninety or strained around the neck of someone he was aiming to kill without a sound, Gavin enjoyed watching them work. They could be so harsh, so strong. Especially around his own hand, much like before. Gavin subconsciously joined his hands together and touched where Ryan had held.

                The garage was full of vehicles, which was saying much because of how big the garage actually was. Custom made to fit their ground vehicles, but at this point it was getting too small. At one point they had anticipated losing a car every week, but they were getting better at keeping their assets.

                Gavin sat looking at the liberator for a moment, looking at the busted out window that Jeremy had put clear packing tape over. He should probably reimburse Jeremy for the damages.

                A loud engine startled Gavin. He distinctly recognized it as a motorcycle engine and in the blink of an eye he saw the Vagabond slowly make his way towards the front of the garage on his daemon. Gavin loved that bike. He loved to watch the Vagabond ride it and he always wanted to take it for a spin himself, but he was always too scared to ask. But now, as the Vagabond was extending a helmet for Gavin to take, excitement was the only thing he felt.

                He wasn’t sure what to do at first; he knew that the Vagabond didn’t want Gavin to say his real name, he didn’t talk in front of anyone, and he didn’t show his face. He was stone-cold and, to everybody else outside of the crew, he may as well have been an emotionless, heartless killing machine. So touching him was always off limits in Gavin’s mind. Even then he hesitated, because he knew he needed to be latched onto something, but there had to have been something behind him or beside him to grab onto, right? Then he felt leather gloves on the backs of his hands guiding him around the other man’s waist. They were held there for a moment before Ryan moved his hands away and onto the handlebars.

                Freeing. Flying down the road without a care. Grasping onto Ryan’s sides and pulling himself as close to the other’s back as possible. Wind hitting his collarbones and the glaring eyes of those on the sidewalks as they sped by. They could crash into the side of a building and die and Gavin would be content.

                The ride was over too soon, in Gavin’s opinion. Ryan cut the engine and then hit a button on his key ring, closing the garage door behind them. Gavin realized that he still was holding onto Ryan’s sides rather tightly, and upon the realization released his grip as though Ryan were an open flame. Instead of dwelling on the embarrassment that was rising in his gut, he took off his helmet and laughed to Ryan.

                “I absolutely love that bike!”

                Ryan removed his mask and smiled. His hair was tousled from the mask and Gavin watched closely as his fingers ran through the thin brown hair, fixing it without even looking. “Whatever happened to your bike?”

                “Bloody wrecked it like the week I got it.”

                Ryan chortled and held out the door for Gavin, beckoning him inside. Gavin happily bounced in, looking around at the bare white walls and plain décor. He should get Ryan a houseplant or something. “So what’s on the agenda?”

                “Was thinking that maybe later I cook up stir fry and we watch a movie?” Ryan crossed his arms and leaned against his kitchen island, raising an eyebrow to the Brit. His arms looked so strong, especially after he had worked out. Gavin could make out the individual veins and something stirred inside him. His eyes flicked back up to the older man’s face, who was giving Gavin a questioning glance.

                “Sounds good to me,” He casually made his way over to Ryan’s sofa and reclined. Hands above his head and body resting horizontally, feet kicked up over the back of the couch and nearly touching the bay window. Light poured in from the outside. It was a bit later in the afternoon and the room itself was entirely lit by the sun from outdoors. It was peaceful in Ryan’s house. Nothing like his high rise apartment above downtown Los Santos. Busy and loud and cluttered. This was a home. Granted, not the most decorated or visually welcoming home, but with Ryan there Gavin felt so at ease, like it was the most comfortable little area in the world.

                His legs were shifted and before he knew it they were spread across Ryan’s lap, who had lifted the Brit’s feet away from the window and sat down on the sofa. Gavin was about to move his legs, but at the same time Ryan had moved his torso closer to Gavin and over his legs, effectively trapping him there. He was leaning to give Gavin a bottle of beer.

                “Thanks!” Gavin accepted the beer and then set it down on the coffee table a foot away from him. His legs were no longer trapped under Ryan’s strong torso, but Ryan also wasn’t moving his legs away. So he did the bold, the impossible, and stayed relaxing in his position. Ryan’s hands were above Gavin’s legs, nursing a diet coke in one and a remote in the other.

                “I’m probably not gonna start making dinner for a while,” He said. “Do you wanna watch something?”

                Gavin just shrugged and pulled out his phone, swiping idly on some social media app. Ryan’s silence made him pause his actions, though, and when he looked up the other man was just sweetly looking at him. A small smile on his face and a soft gleam in his eyes. Embarrassed, Gavin hid his face slightly behind his phone and laughed, asking why Ryan was staring.

                “You’re a strange one, Gavin,” Ryan said. “You do a lot of things that surprise me.”

                “Just trying to keep everyone on their toes I guess.” Gavin laughed.

                There was a shift in the air then. Ryan’s smile left and now he stared at Gavin more seriously. “You’ve never seemed to mind the killing.”

                “Eh, ‘s part of our job, innit?” This answer didn’t satisfy Ryan, who continued to just stare at the Brit. Gavin looked away and tapped around on his phone, trying to give any excuse to not make eye contact. “It bothered me, but only at first. Geoff told me that we really only oughta kill the ones that deserve it.”

                “Does it come as a second nature to you now?”

                This question took Gavin aback. What exactly was Ryan trying to get at? “Well, I guess. In a way. I try to be ask questions then shoot, but most of the time we’re in a rush. When it comes down to it, it’s either us or them. I’ll always choose us.”

                Ryan nodded slowly. Gavin was unsure if he was content with the answer or just processing it. A thought came into Gavin’s mind, a question, a question he’d wanted to ask for a while. Ever since he had first met the Vagabond. But he was too shy, too afraid. “Ryan,” He said. But his voice sounded so quiet. He wasn’t sure why. “Do you like to kill?”

                Again Ryan considered for a moment what the lad said. Eventually he took a sip from his diet coke and then turned to Gavin. “Sometimes,” He looked to Gavin, and Gavin could feel all the muscles in his body tense up. He knew the power of the Vagabond. He had seen the Vagabond kill before. So many times, so many years, so many ways. Gavin knew that if Ryan so wanted, he could break Gavin in half right then and there. But Gavin also knew that he wouldn’t. That he was friends with the monster that all of Los Santos knew. Yet he was no monster. He was a man drinking diet coke, lounging with another so helplessly infatuated by him. “Do I scare you?” His voice was low. Gravely.

                “Used to,” Gavin’s voice was low too. He didn’t have any control over it, nor did he care. “Now, to be honest, I like to watch you work.”

                This caused Ryan to raise an eyebrow at Gavin and a small smirk appear on his face. But it wasn’t kind, and it wasn’t humorous. Menacing, maybe? “Like how?”

                “When we went to city hall, that was the most fun I had on a heist in ages. Not just the stealing wallets or dancing,” Though I wish I could dance with you once more. He thought. “But sneaking around and stuff. It was dangerous and fun.”

                “Guess our training came in handy.”

                “Guess so.” Gavin smiled, looking back down to his phone and flipping it around in his hands.

                What a strange feeling it was, to be there with him. Gavin’s stomach did flips so much more intense than when he was crashing in the monster truck. Every nerve end in his body was telling him to run far, far away and never look back at the man he reclined next to. He was dangerous, vicious, the boogeyman to those unknowing. Yet Gavin was always one to test his luck. To push things too far. He didn’t mind danger; in fact he knew that in order for him to feel secure and safe, there needed to be a balance. And Ryan was the perfect amount of balance for him.

                His train of thought was interrupted by a buzzing on his phone, and at that same buzz Ryan smiled and took another drink out of the can he was holding and turned his attention to the television. It was a text from Michael.

                Where you at, boi?

                Gavin was in the middle of typing that he was at Ryan’s house, but then he caught himself. Quickly deleting the message he typed and sent a better one. Out with a friend. What’s going on?

                Why so vague? Hiding something?

                Maybe! :-)

                Prick. Michael’s speech bubble was still typing, and while he was Gavin took another quick glance at Ryan, who had put his arms across Gavin’s leg. It felt so natural. Another ping of Gavin’s phone. Lil’ J wants to hold up a liquor store. Maybe ride police around a bit. You in?

                Gavin looked up to Ryan. He really loved laying there with him, watching him absentmindedly flip through Netflix looking for something to put on in the background. So comfortable. So domestic.

                But Gavin was also itching to ride with the daemon again, and itching to see the Vagabond with a shotgun in his hands.

                “Hey,” He said, tilting his head at Ryan and tapping his foot lightly. “Lil’ J and Michael wanna hold up a gas station or summin’. Do we wanna join?”

                Ryan took a deep breath in and out, maintaining eye contact with Gavin. “What do you feel like doing?”

                “Mm…” Gavin put his phone onto his chest and raised his arms above his head, stretching his whole body out on the couch. “I’m content either way, to be honest.”

                “Well we have some time to kill before dinner.”

                Let’s do it! He texted to Michael.

~*~

                Stop by the warehouse and grab guns and also meet up with Michael and Jeremy. Check. Plot out which liquor store they hadn’t hit in a while and also the route to lose the police. Check. Yet one part of the plan was still being hotly debated by Michael and Jeremy, who made the four of them wait in the garage while picking out a car.

                “I’m telling  you, Michael, we take the shafter, I stay out in the car and watch for cops, then once you guys get the money we get back in and head south down Prosperity. We can ditch the cops somewhere near the canals.”

                Michael just shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. “The shafter is too expensive to take on a joy ride like that! It’s more than what Lindsay and I made on that last heist combined! And I’m sure as fuck not reimbursing Geoff for that. We take the sultan, you wait outside, then we continue heading west down San Andreas, then go north and try to lose the cops on Red Desert.”

                Jeremy was starting to get annoyed, and Gavin could tell that the bickering probably wouldn’t be resolved soon. He glanced to the Vagabond, who stared back down to Gavin while rolling his eyes and shaking his head slowly.

                “Guys,” Gavin stepped up, trying to mediate. “Let’s just take the premier and go through a few back alleys. It’s cheaper than the other cars and if we get into a spot we can just ditch it.”

                “Do we even still have the premier?”

                “It’s parked in the back,” Jeremy nodded. “I’ll bring it around.”

                Michael just shrugged and whipped his gun bag around to the front of him. He then rested it upon the hood of one of the cars in the garage and rifled through it. “Gav, you have your pistol?”

                “Always.”

                “Vagabond have a gun?”

                “Give ‘im a shotgun.”

                Michael raised an eyebrow, still rifling through the bag. Eventually he picked up one of the sawed-off shotguns and tossed it to the Vagabond, who caught it effortlessly in one of his hands. Soon everyone was packed into the little sedan, Jeremy and Michael in the front seat and the Vagabond and Gavin in the backseat. Gavin fiddled about with his golden pistol, the hype of the crime starting to get to him. He always loved these little missions. The ones where nothing really went wrong and they came out with a few hundred bucks.

                “Alright we’re coming up. Get ready.” Jeremy said from the passenger seat.

                Gavin’s nerves were still on high alert in his body. Tingling from his head to his toes, anxious in his gut and head swirling around from all the excitement. He wasn’t a good person. Good people don’t feel this way about robbing places like this. But he didn’t care. He loved the feeling of rushing in, listening to Michael give bellowing shouts of warning for everyone to get on the ground. He loved watching the Vagabond hold his shotgun point blank to the quaking cashier. He loved the feeling of the smooth glass bottles beneath his fingers as he practically skipped throughout the isles, plucking all types of alcohol from the shelves and stuffing it into his duffel bag.

                “Just put the money in the fucking bag, asshole.” Michael lowered his voice. “Boi, watch this fucker. I’m going in the back.”

                “Right,” Gavin smiled. Too happy. Too much of a genuine toothy grin on his face to be intimidating to the cashier. But the Vagabond next to him, a brooding tower house of might and fear, that’s what got the man’s eyes wide. His forehead sweaty. His hands shaky as he tumbled all of the money from the cash register into the plastic bag.

                As he put the plastic bag onto the counter and slid it towards Gavin, Gavin could see the clear fear in his eyes. Would it be his time? Perhaps. He watched as the Vagabond picked the plastic bag up and stuffed it into the duffel bag slung over Gavin’s shoulder, tucked neatly along with the alcohol. The cashier thought Gavin wasn’t looking. But he was oh so wrong.

                “He’s reaching!” Gavin laughed, drawing his pistol quick and firing off a round towards the cashier’s hand. It ricocheted off of the counter beside the cashier, causing him to jump nearly a mile in to the air from surprise. “Ah, no good, love,” Gavin whispered, leaning close over the counter as the man held his hand close to him, the shock of nearly losing it still eminent on his face. “That wasn’t very polite. Whadya suppose we do with him, Vagabond? Let ‘im get away with trying to pull a gun on us?”

                Gavin gave a quick side eye to the Vagabond, who slowly shook his head no.

                The man’s eyes widened even more, which Gavin didn’t think was possible. Hilarious.

                “Then I guess do with him what you will, darling.”

                A loud shot right near Gavin. Thank God he was wearing his ear plugs. He could’ve hurt his head. Much like the cashier, whose head was no longer a part of his body, but instead art on the wall behind him. Painting the liquor and cigarettes a fine shade of red. Gavin hummed, turning to Michael once he came out of the back room carrying another bag of money.

                “Ew,” Michael cringed as he looked to the scene. “Alright, everyone else out!” He shot a round off from his own pistol into the ceiling and two people booked it out into the streets.

                “Think we might be able to just drive off, haven’t heard sirens.” Gavin said, hopping back into the sedan and nodding to Jeremy to drive off. Everyone began to reload their weapons.

                Jeremy nodded to Gavin from the rearview mirror. “Got some blood on you.”

                So he did. He turned to the Vagabond to see that he as well had blood peppering his black leather jacket. Tough to see but apparent if you knew where to look. Much unlike the blood that stained Gavin’s white t shirt and denim jacket.

                “Shit, here come the pigs,” Michael rolled his eyes and pointed up the street. “Turn there, Lil’ J. Lose ‘em on Red Desert.”

                “Sure thing. Just keep ‘em off me.”

                Gavin rolled down his window and immediately winced at the foul smell of the city. He didn’t even get his gun out of the car before he heard the shots from his team mates. Gavin propped his upper body out of the car and then began shooting as best he could at the driver of the cop car following them. Gavin wasn’t the best shot, but that was something he already knew. The shaking of the car and the bumps on the street paired with his already shit aim was making it so that plenty of his shots were straying far past the cops windshield. And he didn’t particularly want to kill a random civilian, so he instead he ducked back into the car and grabbed the money from the front seat, dividing it up equally between the members.

                Gavin kept the money close for a moment after hearing a loud crash from outside the car. Michael and the Vagabond soon were back into the car and Michael was laughing like a madman.

                “That was fucking awesome!” He chuckled while turning his whole body around in the seat to face the Vagabond. “How did you do that?! I didn’t know they could spin that out of control!”

                The Vagabond just shrugged and let out a low chuckle from beneath the mask. Michael laughed in response and then turned to Gavin. “Where’s the money?”

                “Here,” Gavin handed Michael his small portion and then leaned towards the front seat to put Jeremy’s in the cup holder. “There was enough for two hundred each but there was an extra eighteen bucks that I didn’t know what to do with.”

                “Give it,” Michael swiped the extra money out of his hand and pocketed it, causing a laugh from Jeremy and a cry of opposition from Gavin. But truth be told he didn’t really care. They already lost the cops and they hadn’t even gotten onto side streets yet.

                Everything just felt so easy. Laughing with his boys in the car, thumbing his fingers through the bills in his hand and looking out the window at the brick and steel buildings passing by. Eventually the Vagabond leaned over to him and carefully grabbed his own money from Gavin’s hands. The lad just smiled at him, gladly handing it over. What a success. Gavin was so light. Just another cloud, like the ones in the sky. The ones that danced around the sun that was starting to sink lower behind the sparkling Pacific ocean water.

                The car ride didn’t feel long at all, and in no time it seemed like Gavin was saying goodbye to Michael and Jeremy and hopping back onto the daemon with the Vagabond. His arms slithered around the Vagabond’s waist and held tightly. And sure, Gavin knew that his wildest fantasies of becoming intimate with the Vagabond were unattainable. He had come to terms with it. But there was nothing wrong with holding onto the Vagabond and resting his face against the other’s strong back, drowning the sound of the motorcycle and city bustle out.

~*~

                As they stepped through the threshold of the garage door and into the kitchen, the Vagabond slid his mask off and chucked it onto a counter nearby. He took one look at Gavin and then back down to himself, laughing and then raising an eyebrow. “You were intimidating back there.”

                “Ah,” Gavin rolled his eyes. “Only with you there. If I was by myself he woulda pulled on me for sure.”

                “Good thing I was there,” He smirked. His eyes seemed to travel Gavin’s body for a moment, and for a second Gavin thought he caught the small smirk grow a bit darker. But perhaps that was just his eyes playing tricks on him. “Though bloody clothes is a good look on you, I think we should both change.”

                “Right,” Gavin let Ryan lead him to the master bedroom and Gavin was unsurprised at how dull this room was as well. “Ry, why don’t you decorate this place more?”

                The other man hummed. “To be honest, I never thought I’d be here for this long.” He began to dig around in his dresser drawers, and Gavin could see from over his shoulder that he was actually a very organized person.

                Gavin giggled and plopped himself down onto the bed. Soft. The comforters beneath his fingers reminded him of England. “Guess we were just too good and you fell in love with us.”

                “Yeah,” Ryan huffed out a laugh. “Something like that.”

                Gavin leaned back then, stretching his arms far above his head and shutting his eyes, taking in the smell and feeling of being there. What was it about Ryan’s house that made him so comfortable? The golden light seeping in through the translucent white curtains which flowed ever so softly at the wind from the ceiling fan. Clean and warm and safe and ever so at ease around Ryan.

                At the silence in the room Gavin opened his eyes slightly to see Ryan looking down upon him from the edge of the bed. God how the light his face. Illuminating the brown locks in a glowing halo. His features so soft and so kind to Gavin. He couldn’t take it, his heart was too full. Too loud in his ears and Gavin knew that he would fall forever down the well of Ryan’s gaze so long as it was just him at the center of the other man’s attention. There was a pang in his chest, something that told him that this is not how friends look at one another. That friends don’t longingly gaze and secretly hope. He was probably misinterpreting Ryan’s look to him. That was it.

                He swung his feet around the edge of the bed and stood up, taking the clothes from Ryan’s hands and thanking him before changing in the bathroom.

~*~

                He wondered if Ryan minded the way that he held onto his torso.

                He wondered if Ryan ever thought that Gavin was coming on too strong. Too friendly. But Gavin had no ulterior motives. He truly knew that he had a snowball’s chance with the Vagabond, so the playful flirting and friendly jests were all good natured. Really.

                The night had gone really well. They ate and played games and enjoyed one another’s company. Gavin was left unsurprised that Ryan was better at a lot of the games they played. Truth be told Gavin didn’t care. He’d fuss and whine and bicker with Ryan about the win (You so cheated!), but it was fun. All part of the game. He craved that attention from Ryan. Those laughs and snide comments. Though he’d always been one for attention.

                They approached the warehouse and came to a rolling stop. “Thanks,” Gavin had to stop himself from saying Ryan’s name aloud. He hopped off the motorcycle and removed his helmet, placing it carefully behind Ryan. The other’s skull mask was on, and he remained quiet, but he did give Gavin a slight nod. “We’ll have to do it again sometime.” Gavin turned around to start the walk back to the garage.

                A hand on his? Whose?

                Gavin glanced down and to his surprise the Vagabond had held Gavin’s hand in his. His grip was firm. Unmoving. Confusion filled Gavin’s face as he glanced back up to the Vagabond.

                The Vagabond pulled his mask slightly over his face rather quickly. He then leaned over while simultaneously tugging Gavin a bit closer to him.

                Then he kissed Gavin.

                Gavin was too shocked to return the kiss. He broke away and stared wide eyed at the Vagabond, who just pulled his mask over his face, nodded to Gavin, and drove off into the night.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

                In secondary school, a girl had passed a note to Gavin. Gushing about her crush on him. At the time, he thought it was funny. That she could develop a crush so strong that she had to express it in the form of a note. That she couldn’t just tell him to his face. And she didn’t even know him. They had maths together for half the year and never talked once, yet she had feelings for him?

                But as he sat on his phone during a restless night, trying desperately to type any kind of cohesive message to Ryan, he understood. He understood the embarrassment and the fear and the low grumble in his stomach that only thought of the negatives and the rejection. But it wasn’t secondary school. They were all adults.

                Ryan wasn’t drunk. He wasn’t high. It wasn’t the adrenaline from the robbery, as they had spent hours and hours with one another after the event.

                Straight vodka tasted like nail polish remover. Typically Gavin couldn’t stand to drink things plain, but tonight he couldn’t be bothered to mix anything. He wanted to scream. Had he just been oblivious the whole time? Was Ryan really interested in him? He had to have been. The kindness, the loyalty, was any of that from a perspective of infatuation?

                Gavin remembered the dance they shared at the ball. How the Vagabond had held him so fucking close. How on Earth could Gavin have been so blind?

                Let’s do that again sometime. Too forward. Delete.

                That was nice. Too vague. Delete.

                I like you. Too stupid. Delete.

                Type. Delete. Type. Delete.

                How ridiculous. He was a high-profile criminal in one of the most infamous gangs in the states. He could resolve this with words. This little silly thing.

                Yet his hands couldn’t quite type right, and he was starting to feel too dizzy. He’d talk to Ryan later, tomorrow, sometime when he was clear in the head.

~*~

                He had awoken to a few new texts from multiple people, though the migraine that rattled his brain was too intense for him to ignore. He was getting older. He wasn’t in his early twenties anymore. His body no longer could withstand the excessive alcohol or loud music or lack of sleep. The bags under his eyes spoke volumes, and the exhaustion in his bones and muscles screamed at him to take a minute to do something substantially positive for himself.

                He wondered what the others saw in him sometimes. Loud, annoying, and a constant need for attention and validation that has been around his whole life. Yet they hadn’t ditched him yet like he assumed they would have his first year in the FAHC.

                Gavin raised a hand to his bearded cheek and ran his fingers through it gently. Even the gentle morning light that peeped in through his bathroom window was too bright. He had to do something, though. Change something. He took out his razor and went to work on his face. A notification on his phone caught his attention about halfway through his shave. He picked up his phone with one hand and scrolled through the other notifications he had received through the night.

                Geoff – 13 hours ago: [Attachment: 2 Images]

                Michael Boi – 10 hours ago: Lil J said to tell you that you owe him $300 for the window

                Lads! – 8 hours ago: X-Ray: [Attachment: 1 Image]

                Lads! – 8 hours ago: Michael Boi: lmao

                Lil’ J – 30 minutes ago: Did Michael tell you about the window?

                Lil’ J – 28 minutes ago: Where are you?

                Vagabond – 1 minute ago: Hey Gav, you free today?

                The images Geoff had sent were pictures of the beach. It looked beautiful. Jack was barely visible in frame for them, but still there. Relaxing and smiling at something past the camera. Gavin typed out a hasty reply to Jeremy and Michael. Ray had sent a meme to the group chat. But the message from Ryan lingered on his screen and he found himself nervous to respond.

                He wanted to see Ryan. That was an absolute. But he was worried that whatever Ryan was going to say was not what Gavin wanted to hear. That he acted on impulse, or that he wasn’t looking for anything serious. At the end of the day, Gavin didn’t know what he wanted either. He knew he liked Ryan, and that the other made him feel so happy and safe while simultaneously being the most interesting and thrilling person he had ever met. He found himself wishing he knew more about him. A last name, a favorite color, where he came from, any information big or small would be another colorful stroke on the painting of a man that Gavin already admired. But he also had the thought of if the Vagabond would even feel the same way. The Brit was already such an open book; not really caring about the details of his own life or his past. Could someone as interesting and strong really be interested in some do-nothing hacker?

                You never know unless you try though, right? And Gavin wasn’t getting any younger.

                I’m free.

                I’ll be over in an hour.

~*~

                There had been only one other time in his life where Gavin had cleaned so thoroughly and so quickly in such a short time span. Though he didn’t know why he was thinking so much about the past. He never used to think about the past this much. A lot changed. Ever since Geoff had first told them about the heist on City Hall, the dynamic of the crew changed. Gavin had changed. And all of that change, in Gavin’s mind, gravitated around Ryan. The Vagabond. A sun and moon altogether, a heavenly eclipse that all but blinds Gavin in so many ways. His judgment in particular.

                It definitely wasn’t the first time in that first half hour he had questioned himself and his decisions. He probably went in for a hug at first and then I moved and now it’s awkward. Gavin thought. Honestly? If I open the door and he stabs me? That’ll be the way to go.

                And as he changed the trash and did the dishes that overflowed the sink, the thoughts came never ending. Thoughts of how, even if they were to both reciprocate shared feelings, it would never work out. How could it? The Vagabond was supposed to be a mystery; a dark chaotic energy that killed without hesitation. No feelings, no thoughts, just actions. Ryan made sure to protect the Vagabond’s identity so securely that Gavin wasn’t even allowed to say his real name aloud in public. So how on Earth could they have a healthy or functioning relationship? Especially in their profession. Where friends get killed at the drop of a hat and if you don’t get killed you get isolated from the rest of society for the things you’ve done.

                In a different life, maybe it would have worked out. Maybe Gavin would have gone into I.T. and worked for some office and met Ryan while fixing his computer at his bland cubicle. Would he have even given Ryan a second thought? Without the constant lingering of the Vagabond, would Gavin have found him to be as enticing? And without the snarky comments and golden persona, would Ryan have brushed Gavin off as well? The thought of that life made Gavin a bit sick to his stomach. A life without the crew may as well be the most dull and worthless life to live.

                Another half hour of folding the clothes and making the bed and vacuuming and making sure he looked halfway decent and Gavin was sure he was about to explode. He had checked his phone without much a thought and saw that a few of the others in the crew were texting him, but they weren’t Ryan, so he put his phone down. Eventually he just had  to physically sit on his hands while on his couch in order to not have the urge to get up and do something. His mind raced a million miles an hour and to just sit still was a whole task in and of itself.

                Eventually, thankfully, a knock rang throughout his apartment. But the apprehension of seeing Ryan suddenly filled the pit in Gavin’s stomach and he was unsure if the feeling in his stomach was dread or a positive anticipation. Either way, with a quick sigh under his breath in an attempt to calm his nerves, Gavin got off of his couch and opened the front door. He expected to see the Vagabond; dark skull mask and dark leather jacket adorned. Yet instead, he was met with the friendly face of a handsome man. Oh.

                Gavin’s blood ran cold for a moment and he glanced around the hallways past Ryan, worried that perhaps something was wrong. But Ryan saw this and let out a light chuckle. “It’s okay,” He seemed hesitant. His smile seemed sympathetic. Gavin himself was unsure of how to feel, but he knew the sudden rapid heartbeat was most likely just from anxiety. “I needed to see you like this.”

                “Uh,” Gavin stood by his doorway, gawking at Ryan with wide eyes. It took him a moment to remember manners and step aside slightly to invite the other in. He could feel his face turning red.

                Ryan wandered in and stood near the breakfast bar for a moment, back to Gavin as the other shut the door. Jesus. For as strong as they both were on the field they sure were nervous around one another. The thought alone made Gavin chuckle slightly, which in turn made Ryan glance to him and raise an eyebrow. Gavin shook his head, smile still on his face. “I just,” He let out a nervous chuckle and rubbed his wrists. “You’d think for people that actually kill others we’d be a bit more brave.”

                A low laugh came from deep in Ryan’s throat. Gavin really liked his laugh. “I suppose,” After a moment Ryan’s smile fell a bit and he exhaled a bit loudly. “Listen, I’m… Not great with words most of the time. I’m more a man of action.”

                “Could tell.”

                “Right,” His eyes averted Gavin’s. “I’m sorry if I overstepped a boundary, or if I misread actions of yours. I… I acted on impulse.”

                Just right to it then, huh? He really wanted to kiss Gavin that much? Of course, Gavin wanted it just as much. But Gavin, despite being a reckless force, always had just enough resolve as to not cling himself to Ryan each time he saw him. Even now, it took every ounce of willpower in him not to kiss the idiot standing in his living room. He knew it would be a bad idea. “I,” The words seemed to get caught in Gavin’s throat, but even after clearing it he could still feel a lump there. “I don’t, uh… I just, I’ve only been able to think about how dangerous it all is.”

                Ryan’s brows furrowed and a frown spread across his face. But it was a knowing look. Gavin could tell he had considered it as well. The Brit couldn’t bring himself to look into Ryan’s eyes as he continued his thought. “You’ve got an identity to protect and, beyond that, I don’t know if I could take losing a partner on the field.”

                After a moment Gavin looked up and could see Ryan’s jaw was clenched, but his eyes remained soft. “But as it stands now, if I died tomorrow, would you feel just as bad?”

                Before even thinking, Gavin was nodding and his voice escaped his mouth very quietly. “Yes.”

                “I was alone for a really long time, Gavin,” Ryan spoke slowly, but firmly. It sent a shiver up Gavin’s spine to hear his voice so low and so serious. “I had that connection with someone once, a long time ago. And I never knew what I had until it was gone. And up until these past few weeks, I’d forgotten what that felt like. But after all of those years of complete solitude, I’m one hundred percent certain in the fact that being in danger and being around people I care about will always be worth more than being safe and being by myself.”

                There was a small part of Gavin that still had his doubts. That had fears and awful little voices that told him that this was a bad idea. But Ryan’s words were at the forefront of his mind and hit him like calming waves. He knew he was long gone when he looked into the other man’s eyes and could feel his body wanting to move towards Ryan’s. Yet he still remained in his place, swaying softly on his feet.

                “Again, if I misinterpreted things then I’m sorry. I just,” He shook his head softly and a loose grin flashed on his face. “I really like you, Gavin.”

                If Gavin was ever asked to pinpoint a specific moment where he knew for the first time that he loved Ryan, it would forever be this one. How the other stood awkwardly shifting in his place with a red tinge across his cheeks as the words of affection clumsily escaped his lips. He could be a scary man. A ruthless killer with bones and blood between his hands. Yet this was Ryan: A dorky guy with a soft heart. Caring eyes and a weird sense of humor. Odd facts about things that didn’t matter and a love for obscure hobbies. So sweet and gentle and Gavin could feel himself get more and more lost each time he was around him.

                Gavin was really tired of holding back.

                In a moment of bravery, or perhaps just plain impatience, Gavin took a few big steps and closed the gap between him and Ryan and kissed him. It took Ryan aback for just a moment, but after a second Gavin could feel the other return the kiss and place his hands gently on Gavin’s neck and cheeks. And although it was a quick kiss, a chaste kiss, Gavin had never felt more alive and more loved in his entire life. Especially once he moved away and opened his eyes and could see the adoration and care that the other was giving him, he all but melted into the hands that still cupped his face.

                He was so safe there. With Ryan. Under his guidance and protection and affection. And Ryan was safe too. He hoped Ryan felt safe. He hoped Ryan knew that Gavin would take a bullet for him without hesitation. Yet, at the same time, Gavin knew that the next time they’d be in danger, in the midst of excitement and explosions and gunfire and all things that came with the thrilling end of their job, that Ryan would be right there beside him to share that danger.

                Ryan’s hands slipped away from Gavin’s face and a cool draft hit him. He knew the stupid grin on Ryan’s face was also probably matching a similar one on his own. He definitely waited too long. “Well, I didn’t come here just to get all… Gushy,” Gavin raised an eyebrow. “I wanted to ask if you were free to go out for dinner tonight.”

                “Oh,” Slightly embarrassing, as he thought Ryan was insinuating something else. But, to be honest, the prospect of even going out in public with Ryan as himself and not the Vagabond was enough to get Gavin extremely excited, so he smiled brightly and nodded enthusiastically. “Yes! Yeah, absolutely. Now?”

                Ryan laughed once more, running a hand through his hair while he did it. “Well, no not right now, it’s like noon. I’m thinking I’ll pick you up at like seven. Does that sound okay?”

                “Perfect.” Ryan could have said midnight and Gavin would have agreed.

                “Alright,” Ryan stood there for a second just looking at the shorter man. “I’ll see you tonight.”

                Their goodbye took about another half hour. They were too busy talking and laughing and enjoying each other’s company. But eventually, once Ryan did leave, Gavin felt a lightness to him that he hadn’t felt in a very long time.

~*~

                He had texted Ryan to ask a few questions about the date. Was he allowed to say Ryan’s name? Yes. Was there to be any talk of heisting or crime? No. What was the dress code and where exactly they were eating? But Ryan didn’t give him specifics on that one. He said to wear something nice and that the restaurant was nice, but not overly fancy. Gavin was used to nice things; He wore nice clothes, lived in a nice apartment, and drove nice cars. But for some reason going to a nice place with Ryan made him feel a bit weird. It was just different, he supposed. So different from just lounging on his couch and arguing about how funny Ryan pronounces certain words.

                But one thing that lingered in Gavin’s mind throughout the whole process of getting ready was how far they were going to go. He’d definitely beat off before thinking about Ryan, and was absolutely attracted to him sexually, but he didn’t know if sleeping with him after the first date was moving too fast. He knew that their profession would make this whole process difficult and dangerous. But he wanted something at least kind of normal. However they were going out to eat, and Gavin didn’t know where, so perhaps planning for an intimate night was already out of the question. In the end he decided that he’d have to rely on his willpower and just go on a romantic date and sleep alone that night.

                When did he get so old? The bags under his eyes, which were prominent before, were somehow even more noticeable in his nice button up shirt and slacks. He knew that soon he would be too old to participate in missions. No more mayhem or murder or stealing or car chases. No more crazy and dangerous times with his best friends. He hoped that he wouldn’t have to stop because of an injury. He hoped that he could go out his own way. Geoff was aging in this business gracefully; Gavin only hoped that he could be half the man Geoff was by the time he was his age.

                A knock at his door pulled him from this thoughts and Gavin was sure he was about to explode from excitement. Nervous, energized, happy, any and all emotions swirled inside of him and he could physically feel himself shaking when his hand touched the cool metal knob on his front door.

                Ryan stood there, a big smile plastered on his face. He had adorned a very nice outfit; a simple sweater and nice slacks. He looked so civilian. Like Gavin could see him in the grocery store and not bat an eye. But this was Ryan; his lovely Ryan that filled most of his thoughts and feelings on his day-to-day. And Gavin thought he looked stunning.

                Apparently the other thought just the same, as he stepped closer towards Gavin and let out a slight laugh. “You look… Fantastic,” He beamed.

                Good Lord, he was going to be the death of Gavin.

~*~

                “No, I’m saying that if you have three fifty-fifty chances,” Gavin started, laughing while he yelled, but Ryan quickly cut him off.

                He didn’t even look at the Brit, instead focusing on the road but gesturing wildly with the hand that didn’t grip the steering wheel. “No! You’re implying that the other two times you flipped the coin influence the third outcome and that’s not correct!”

                “That’s not what I’m saying though!” Gavin continued to laugh and turned his whole body towards the other man, who Gavin could also see was laughing and smiling like a fool. “I’m saying that if you flip three coins there are eight outcomes, and the chances that you get another head,”

                Once again Gavin was cut off, “That outcome is just as improbable and equal as any other outcome! You don’t have better chances of getting another head!”

                “Idiot!”

                “Cunt!”

                They both laughed, and Gavin was out of breath by the time they got to the restaurant. He loved talking with Ryan. Even their arguments and little bickering was still fun for Gavin. He never before had someone in his life that got him so riled up in these little hypothetical situations. Michael would more than often tell him to shut up, Geoff would just laugh and give him a quick answer, but Ryan would sit there and consider it. Ponder what his questions meant and applied reason to them. Most of the time he would disagree with Gavin (don’t even get him started on the question about running down a mountain), but it didn’t make much a difference. Gavin still loved listening to him. He could tell that Ryan was formally educated; in what exactly he wasn’t sure, but he was smart in both the ways of math and science, so Gavin assumed maybe he went to school for engineering.

                There was so much about him that Gavin didn’t know. But he wanted to know everything. But what to ask? What would be too far? What’s information that Ryan would be comfortable with sharing?

                “What’s on your mind?” Ryan asked as he opened the car door for Gavin. He stepped out and started walking up to the restaurant, which looked very nice and warm compared to the cool night breeze.

                Gavin just shrugged and let out a giggle. “Just thinkin’ about stuff.”

                Ryan’s brows pushed close together and he gave Gavin a questioning look and sideways grin. He didn’t ask for further explanation though until the waiter sat them down at one of the double tables inside. It was tucked away in a far corner of the restaurant, and for that Gavin was thankful. Everyone that dined there looked a bit older and further up the class scale than Gavin, and he would have prefer to not get judging stares from strangers.

                “I guess,” Gavin stopped his train of thought for a moment to nod briefly at the waiter that dropped menus off. “I’m just thinking about you.”

                Ryan hummed thoughtfully, and though he held his menu near him he didn’t actually look at it, instead looking at Gavin with a soft gaze. “What about me?”

                “I just… Uh…” Why did he feel so nervous all of a sudden? He just didn’t want Ryan to feel pressured into talking about himself. “I want to know more about you, I guess.”

                Gavin could tell that Ryan felt uncomfortable at the prospect. The way he shifted in his seat and cleared his throat with a prominent frown made it apparent that he didn’t want to talk about something. But Gavin didn’t mind. They all had their secrets.

                “Nothing that you don’t want to share,” Gavin quickly interjected. “I’d be happy with anything. Your favorite color?” He cursed how his voice sounded. So hopefully and desperate. But truth be told, if Ryan asked him to bark he probably would.

                His words seemed to ease Ryan, however. And the man’s shoulders immediately dropped and he went back to scanning the menu. “Dark blue.”

                “Ah,” Gavin smiled. “I like blue too.”

                The waiter came back and Gavin just ordered whichever pasta was first on the list, Ryan ordered some lamb or other kind of meat, but Gavin wasn’t exactly paying attention. His mind was still buzzing because wow he was really on a date, huh?

                “I, uh, I haven’t done this in a while.” Gavin laughed.

                Ryan just smiled back to him, nodding. “Me either.”

                “Kinda hard for us.”

                “Definitely.”

                After a pause, Gavin rested his head on his hand and looked back up to Ryan. “It’s a twelve percent chance that you’d get three heads, Ry.”

                This caused Ryan to burst out a big laugh, and a few heads turned to glare at the source of the loud noise. But Ryan didn’t seem to care. He just continued to laugh, now into his hand, and shake his head at Gavin. “Awful,” Gavin just laughed too. This was more like it.

                “How old are you?”

                “Thirty eight.”

                Gavin smiled and nodded. He’d always pegged Ryan to be older. Maybe it was just his fatherly demeanor and knowing eyes. He seemed to have too many years of wisdom under his belt to just be only eight years older than Gavin. “What’s your last name?”

                “Haywood.”

                “That your real one?”

                A sly grin with a flash of teeth. “As far as you’re concerned.” Gavin just chuckled and took another drink of water. While he did Ryan leaned towards him. “So, Gav, you’ve been telling me a lot of stories from when you lived in England,” Gavin hummed in response. “Do you wish you could go back?”

                “Never,” The answer was so quick off of his tongue. “I’m happy here.”

                “You are?”

                “Never been happier. If I went back I wouldn’t have Michael or Geoff or you,” The waiter brought them some water and Gavin thanked him softly. He took a sip and then continued. “England was nice. Good place to grow up. Had a nice family. I think it’s better this way, that I’m out here.”

                Ryan’s smile faded and he cocked his head to the side. “Is your family still alive?”

                “Last time I checked,” His fingers grazed over the shiny metal fork at the table, though he didn’t pick it up. “But that was… What, ten years ago? Haven’t talked to any of ‘em since.”

                “Why?”

                “Well, ‘s dangerous, right?” Gavin didn’t really want to say that it didn’t bother him. That he was never particularly close with his family to begin with. That the FAHC was more of a family to him than his blood family would ever be. That would be a bit too big of a downer. “They’re safer if I don’t talk to them. People can’t track them.”

                Ryan nodded slowly, also taking a drink of his water. “Yeah. That’s something a lot of us figure out the hard way, though.”

                Shit. Gavin really didn’t want this first date to turn out poorly. He wanted to see Ryan smile again. Laugh again. Gavin tried his best to power through. He smiled to Ryan and shrugged. “We don’t have to talk about this.”

                “I really appreciate you giving me leeway, Gav. I really do,” His smile wasn’t exactly the same as before. It was rather sympathetic. “And I want to open up to you. God, I just wanna tell you everything. But I… I just gotta pace myself.”

                “Then whatever you’re comfortable with. I want to know everything about you.”

                A toothy grin from the other and Gavin was hoping that their conversation would remain light now. “Um, I went to college,”

                “Oh! Can I guess what for?”

                “Be my guest.”

                “Engineering,” Ryan shook his head no, but Gavin could see a glint in his eye. Ryan loved a challenge, didn’t he? Gavin just leaned back in his chair and thought for a moment. “Math and statistics?”

                “Theatre,” Gavin laughed aloud. “And computer science.”

                “Absolutely no way. Theatre?”

                “Is that so hard to believe?”

                After thinking on it for a moment, Gavin realized that the Vagabond was actually a bit theatrical. Such a brooding and dark force that didn’t speak and only killed. Like he was plucked straight out of some dark musical written by an edgy theatre major. Gavin shook his head and continued to move his fingers around the silverware at the table. “You’re strange, Ryan,” Gavin laughed. “I really like you.”

                “I like you too, Gav.”

~*~

                He wondered, if he went back in time and told himself just a few months ago that he’d be making out with the scariest and most dangerous man in the whole of Los Santos, would he have just laughed? Told himself to fuck off? Yet there Gavin was, in the passenger seat of Ryan’s car, with his hands twisted in Ryan’s sweater, holding on for dear life and losing breath rather quickly because it was being sucked down by the other. Gavin could feel his life energy being disposed into that kiss and he would’ve happily given it all to Ryan.

                Ryan’s tongue curiously danced on Gavin’s lips and the other was more than willing to open his mouth and let the older man deepen the kiss.

                His large hands that grabbed at Gavin’s neck and pressed lightly were making Gavin’s insides already flutter and dance and he could immediately remember telling himself just a few hours before that he would absolutely not be a lay on the first date but this was all too much and he knew that he’d walk backwards into hell if it meant he could spend the night with Ryan.

                Yet, after a minute or two, Ryan broke the two apart but still had a grip on Gavin’s neck and jaw. Gavin’s little whimper was, in his own mind, pathetic; but it seemed to stir something inside Ryan, who gave a devilish grin to the Brit. The shine on Ryan’s lips and the red that had spread on his face was making Gavin lightheaded and he thought that if Ryan’s hands weren’t on his face holding him there in the moment that he’d just spin out of control into an abyss.

                “Want to come inside?” Gavin’s voice was just barely a whisper. Desperation dripped off it and he hoped, he prayed, that he was alluring enough to want to spend the night with.

                Sadly, Ryan pulled his hands away and his tone shifted to be much softer. “As nice as that sounds, I wanna try to pace myself.”

                “Then why’d you just make out with me?”

                “I believe you made the first move, Free.”

                Gavin sat back and cursed himself silently. Yeah, he definitely did. The minute Ryan parked in front of Gavin’s apartment complex he all but threw himself onto Ryan. But it was Ryan’s fault for being so handsome and kind and considerate. Gavin told him this, and to it the other just laughed and leaned over to kiss Gavin’s cheek. “Don’t take this as me not wanting to sleep with you. I absolutely do. But I want to take things at a semi-normal pace, at least,” He smiled. “I mean only like a few months ago were you scared shitless of me. I… I just… I wanna be with you, Gav. I want to have something normal with you. Something that exists outside of the crew.”

                “I want that too,” Gavin looked down to his hands. His fingers twirled together nervously. “Whenever we’re at your place, it just feels right. I dunno. Like I’m supposed to be there.”

                This seemed to put the biggest grin on Ryan’s face, and Gavin could tell that Ryan felt the same way before he even said it. “That’s it, Gav. I want to keep my space away from work; a hideaway from the bloodshed and crime and all that bullshit. But I want you there too.”

                “But,” Gavin stopped for a moment, looking away from Ryan once more. “What about everyone else?”

                “I want them to know me too, but not as…” Ryan’s voice trailed off and he took a moment to find the right words. “Intimately. I wanna keep you safe, Gavin.”

                Gavin could definitely defend himself. He’d been part of the crew for a decade and he knew his way around guns. But he also knew that Ryan obviously had a past; the context clues were so glaringly obvious to Gavin that it was incredibly hard to ignore. To brush Ryan off with an “I can take care of myself” would have been, frankly, insulting and ignorant. So Gavin just nodded and smiled to Ryan. They’d keep each other safe in their own ways.

                “Thank you, Ryan.” Gavin leaned over and gave him one last kiss before telling him good night and heading back into his apartment.

~*~

                Geoff – 1 hour ago: We’re back in town. Let’s hang.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

                “I’ve known your for ten fuckin’ years,” Geoff was lounging on his large sectional in his penthouse with Jack close nearby. Gavin himself was sitting on a beanbag nearby with a beer in one hand and phone in the other. He had been watching the couple play video games for a while, chatting here and there but mostly listening to them gush about their trip. How beautiful Cabo was and how they wished they could have spent more time there. But Geoff picked up on Gavin’s silence relatively quickly and began to hound him on what he thought was going on. “I know when something is up with you.”

                “Nothin’s up,” Gavin smiled at his phone. “Just glad you’re back is all.”

                “Bullshit.”

                Jack laughed and leaned into Geoff, patting him softly on the arm. “If Gavin doesn’t wanna talk about it he doesn’t have to.”

                “Thank you, Jack!”

                “But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to persuade you. I’m dying to know as well.”

                “To know what?” Gavin threw his hands up in a bemused yet mischievous manner. “I’ve not got a thing going on.”

                Geoff continued to shake his head and Gavin could tell from his sigh that he was actually starting to get annoyed. “Look, if you really don’t wanna talk about it, I’ll drop it. But I like to know what’s going on with my friends.”

                The cool front of his phone was pressed hard against the palm of his hand. He didn’t even realize that his fist was tensed up so hard. Gavin softened his grip and then began to spin the phone between his fingers slowly. He did wanna tell Geoff, but that would be an invasion of Ryan’s privacy. His trust. The last thing Gavin wanted was to fuck things up with Ryan when they were going so well.

                They’d gone on a few more dates since Geoff had been back in town, and Gavin did feel a bit bad for not seeing Geoff until just then. Especially when the tattooed gent had been asking Gavin so nicely if he wanted to hang out. But when he was around Ryan things tended to get away from him. Like Ryan was the only thing in the universe that mattered and, honestly, Gavin’s heart started to race just thinking about him again.

                “There’s that smile again,” Jack squinted and tossed a chip at Gavin’s head. “Did you meet someone?”

                But what’s the harm in being vague? “Maybe,” Gavin couldn’t help his grin. He wouldn’t say anything about Ryan, but he did want to brag a bit about his wonderful and enchanting new partner. “Maybe you guys might meet him soon.” Ah, shit. Maybe a bit too far.

                Jack seemed excited though. She perked up and moved closer towards Gavin (much to Geoff’s discontent) and began to ask a flurry of questions. All of which Gavin answered vaguely, but he enjoyed it. Being sneaky and giving sly smiles all while Jack laughed and yelled. Geoff remained rather quiet, though. He just watched the pair with a neutral expression and only touched the game once or twice while Jack wasn’t totally distracted.

                “So long as he’s not an asshole,” His tattooed hands rubbed the controller and fidgeted with it while speaking. “And you’re happy. I’m fine with it.”

                “I’m really happy. And he’s great.”

                Jack put her hand gently on Gavin’s shoulder, even though that caused her to basically lean almost entirely off the couch. There were times Gavin was grateful that she was a touchy person, and this was one of those times. He really did miss them while they were gone on their vacation. He really needed a touch of fatherly and motherly wisdom, and judging by the look both of his elders were giving him, he knew he was in the right hands.

                “So, I’m thinkin’, for the party,”

                Geoff groaned at the mention of the word party, but Jack only laughed and shoved him playfully. Gavin knew that the older man wasn’t keen on the idea of parties, but Gavin needed to be surrounded by his family. He needed to see them all safe with one another having a stress-free, heist-free, completely joyous time. They didn’t get many of those, at least not all together.

                Gavin giggled a bit but continued, reclining his entire body into the beanbag beneath him. “We have it here at the penthouse and I make food instead of ordering it.”

                “You’re gonna make the food?” Geoff asked, dramatically incredulous.

                “Nah, I’ll get someone else too though.”

                At that Jack laughed again, throwing her head back and then picking up her controller where she threw it a few minutes before. Gavin watched the way she leaned slightly into Geoff, and how Geoff welcomed her weight and even leaned on her back. How subtle it was; how seemingly subconscious their affection towards one another was. His insides flurried about and he could feel his heart go light in his chest. That was love. That was trust.

                He wondered what Ryan was up to.

~*~

                Gavin had been on his own for a few days, planning a gathering of friends (he decided to avoid the word party to reassure Geoff that the clean up would be easy, unlike their parties in the past) and taking a few self care days. Being alone wasn’t perfect all the time, and after years of self-inflicted solitude Gavin decided that when he was alone it would only be because he truly needed it. Though his past issues and insecurities were still around, he’d nipped them in the butt long ago.

                But even though he knew that being on his own was all fine and dandy, he did still think that being with his friends would make him a whole lot happier. So that’s when he found himself lounging at Ryan’s place, listening to the other man hum softly in the kitchen while doing the dishes.

                He never thought that a sound could be so enchanting to him. So sweet to his ears. Though he’d been surprised with a lot of things like that lately. Like how Ryan’s laugh could make him laugh right back, or how he could listen to the other talk about nonsense jargon for hours. How his little fumbles with words were so fucking cute, especially coming from a man so intelligent.

                Gavin was also particularly surprised at just how hot he got at remembering all the horrors of the Vagabond. The blood and the killing and the way the veins in his hands tensed when he held a shotgun. Or the rumble of the motorcycle beneath them that sent ticks of excitement throughout every nerve in Gavin’s body. He had no idea that danger wound up him up so much. He always knew he liked it. He was keen on crime and thrills ever since he was a teenager, but he’d never thought that he’d enjoy risking his life just as much as he liked keeping it safe.

                He looked to Ryan as the other walked back to the couch. Smile plastered on his face as he looked back at Gavin. Safety in a strong arm that wrapped around Gavin’s shoulder and pulled him closer to the other man’s side. Yet the way the hand on his shoulder began drawing little circles sent a shockwave of anticipation through Gavin and made his stomach do flips.

                Waiting was something Gavin was never particularly good at. As he aged he became better at it. Better at weighing his options and focusing on potential outcomes. Yet it also wasn’t completely in his nature to be patient. He turned to Ryan and began to kiss him, and both knew that Gavin had clear intentions. The Brit propped himself so that he was sitting up and threw his body around Ryan so that he straddled the other, all while continuing the kiss. Though Ryan did laugh against Gavin’s lips. After a few seconds he pulled away and raised an eyebrow at the other.

                “I thought we were just gonna have a quiet night in?”

                “We are,” Gavin leaned towards Ryan, but the other pulled his head back. Gavin could see the grin on his face grow wider, and it only made Gavin smile wider too. “What?”

                “Nothing.” He then leaned back in to Gavin and pressed their lips together.

                Now, Gavin had kissed other people before. Many times. He’d been with his fair share of men and women and had plenty of partners throughout his adult years. Yet being with Ryan was incomprehensibly different than any past experience. Firstly, being with another so heavily involved in their ring of crime and mayhem was not only incredibly convenient but also extremely enthralling. But more than that, Gavin thought that Ryan was just so interesting and attractive and genuinely one of the most worth-while people he’d ever met. How he had been so scared of and opposed to the other just a few measly months before was beyond him. He also thought that, maybe, he was taking things a bit fast. That perhaps sleeping with him only after a few dates was over doing it.

                But the way Ryan’s strong hands gripped his thighs and rubbed slow circles just a few millimeters away from his crotch? All common sense and rationality flew out of the window.

                When he was younger, Gavin was never a fan of facial hair on men. But his tastes aged with him, and how he thought that there couldn’t have been any other feeling better than how it felt to rub his fingers along Ryan’s aw and feel the scratch of his stubble. And at the slight sound of Ryan panting when the kiss broke for a moment got Gavin incredibly giddy, so he moved himself even closer to the other man and shifted his hips slightly. Electricity traveled throughout his entire body at the feeling of a friction against his clothed crotch. He didn’t even pay any mind to the slight embarrassment of being kind of hard so soon. Not even when Ryan pulled away from him and laughed quietly at how Gavin looked.

                Now, what Gavin wanted to say and what he actually did say where very different. He wanted to be sultry, sexy, tell Ryan that he really needed the other to fuck him. But his words came out cracked, his voice was breathy and shaky as he whispered a quiet: “Please.”

                Gavin was glad, though, that this still seemed to stir something inside Ryan, whose eyes went a bit wide and jaw clenched up at Gavin’s words. “Bedroom,” He said, voice low but also a bit breathless, much like Gavin’s own.

~*~

                Morning had shone into the room through the light curtains that hung in front of the window. Somehow the light had seemed to heat seek out Gavin’s eyes and shine directly into them, but he didn’t mind too much, since now he was awake and able to watch Ryan sleep soundly beside him.

                Gavin’s thighs were sore, as well as his lower back. It’d been a hot minute since he’d slept with someone, especially in the labor-intensive positions that Ryan had him in. But the ache was worth it. Forever worth it.

                A light flutter filled Gavin’s chest the more he looked at the sleeping man. Was this what love felt like? Really? He hadn’t even known Ryan for that long. Though, he did always prefer things to be fast paced.

                A buzz nearby him caught his attention and when he made sure that it didn’t wake up Ryan, he turned over to grab the phone off of the end table. The digital clock nearby read eight a.m. and Gavin couldn’t remember the last time he’d gotten up so early on his own volition.

                Did you say you wanted us to meet at the penthouse tomorrow or today? From Geoff.

                Today at like seven p.m.?

                You’re gonna get like Lindsay to cook or something, right?.

                Probably. Gavin smiled and he sent the message. Finally, he’d get a chance to gather the whole crew once more and talk with all of his favorite people. His only people.

                “Morning,” A small and groggy voice came from beside him. Gavin turned to see Ryan, stretched with his arms over his head, smiling to him.

                Gavin leaned over and planted a small kiss to his forehead. Even that simple action was enough to get Gavin’s heart going. “G’morning.”

                “Who’re you textin’?” Ryan asked, propping himself up to that he could sit with his back resting against the headboard.

                “Geoff,” Gavin leaned his head onto Ryan’s shoulder and flashed his phone towards the other. “He’s asking about the party tonight.”

                “Oh, right…”

                Uh oh. What was that tone? His voice had seemingly trailed off, and truth be told Gavin was a bit nervous to glance up at Ryan. But he did, and the expression he got was exactly what he was afraid of. Ryan seemed to be looking off, his brows furrowed and lips pursed. Shit.

                “You still goin’?”

                It took a moment, but eventually Ryan did glance down to Gavin and smile, albeit a bit fake. “Uh, yeah. Sure.”

                “You know you don’t have to.”

                “I know,” Another pause. “I want to though.”

                Seemed like he didn’t. But that’s alright. Gavin didn’t want to hound him, and he especially didn’t want to make the other man uncomfortable. “Well, it’s at like seven. If you change your mind just let me know.”

                Ryan nodded, still pretty quiet. However in his head he was right now, Gavin was sure that it’d be a bitch and a half to pull him out. So instead he went into the kitchen and began to make breakfast for the two (something simple. He needed to save any ounce of cooking abilities for later that day).

                “I’m still shocked you don’t own a spatula.” Ryan teased, suddenly sitting at the table in the kitchen. Even when he wasn’t the Vagabond he still had the ability to appear and disappear in the blink of an eye, didn’t he? Gavin just chuckled and gave Ryan his food.

                “Never had need for one, I suppose.”

                Talking with Ryan in the mornings was one of Gavin’s favorite pastimes, he found out. It was so gentle there with him. So easy. Gavin had never felt more attended to and appreciated than when he was in the Ryan’s gaze. He so desperately wished that Ryan would perk up about the party. But he didn’t dare to mention it. That time was reserved for just them. Them and their breakfast and all the little things that nobody else cared to talk about except them. And Gavin loved every second of it.

~*~

                At four, Gavin didn’t think much of Ryan not texting him to confirm whether or not he’d be there. He was too busy cleaning the penthouse and listening to loud music by himself. Making sure that everything was nice and orderly for a nice little party with his friends. Rushing to the store to make sure that he had all the things necessary to snack on and decorate with.

                At five, Gavin was nervous that Ryan hadn’t texted him to let him know for sure that he was coming. But maybe Gavin was over thinking it. Instead of hyper focusing on that detail, however, he decided to have a good time in the kitchen with Lindsay.

                He’d never been much a chef himself, but he did enjoy helping others when they cooked. And Lindsay was having a grand old time telling Gavin what to do and fetching her ingredients and utensils. “I need two avocados, sous-chef!”

                “Comin’ up!” Gavin laughed, whirling around the kitchen and grabbing up two ripe avocados.

                “I still think you two are stupid for making all this,” Michael grumbled from the barstool across the kitchen. He sat with his head in one hand and a phone in the other, playing some mindless tapping game while berating the pair for cooking. “We coulda just bought this shit at the store.”

                “Well then it would be lacking the love, wouldn’t it?” Lindsay laughed.

                “Why so fucking early then?”

                “It’ll be easy to just pop the wings back in the oven once everyone’s ready to eat.”

                Gavin did start to get a bit annoyed with how negative Michael was being, but he was also determined to not let it spoil his mood. “Look, Michael, I just want things to be nice for everyone,” Gavin took it upon himself to start preparing a sauce for the wings that he planned on baking later. “I mean, it’s the first time we’ll all be together since the heist. I want this to not be as… Stressful.”

                “Getting Matt and Jeremy in the same room as Four Lokos is exactly the recipe for stressful, Gav.” Michael said through chuckles.

                “I told them not to bring any! If they do I’m gonna lose it,” Gavin laughed as well.

                The three of them talked and laughed in the kitchen of the penthouse high above Los Santos for another hour before both Lindsay and Michael left to change their clothes and get themselves ready for the party.

                At six thirty, he’d been hanging up a banner that he made (rather sloppily, but he knew that the others making fun of it would be funny) that read “FAHC Forever!” as well as scattering balloons and playing music and putting out some food and drinks for those who started to arrive. Yet still no word from Ryan. But it was okay. He’d text eventually. Or perhaps he’d just show up and surprise everyone. That’d be cool.

                At seven, Trevor was the first one to arrive. He brought a date, and said to Gavin that he wanted to pitch the idea of bringing this guy on for the FAHC because he was a really good shot. But Gavin didn’t really focus on that because wow they looked a lot alike.

                Jeremy, Lindsay, Michael, Ray, and Matt all came at the same time, bringing drinks and more food with them. Lindsay looked great. She was beaming and smiling and so happy to meet Trevor’s new boyfriend. Gavin just hoped that she’d be that excited when it came time to meet Ryan.

                Jack and Geoff came last. Both happy, but Geoff seemed actually the most excited to be back around his crew. Gavin knew it’d just take a bit of warming up to the idea to get Geoff totally on board.

                At seven thirty, they’d all eaten the wings and other various snack foods that Gavin had provided to them. They were all together in the living room. Warm. Safe. Playing games with one another and although there was lots of shouting and laughing and noise, Gavin was overwhelmed with the feeling of gratitude to be around his friends. His family. The only people on Earth that he cared about. And looking to Alfredo, looking to Lindsay’s belly, Gavin knew that this little family could only grow. That they’d all keep each other safe and happy and content. And he’d never felt more proud. Yet, there was still an emptiness that he couldn’t ignore.

                Ryan still hadn’t texted. Or called. Or gave any indication that he’d be there.

                It was dark outside. The large window in the living room showed him a scene of sparkling city lights and bright neon advertisements. But Gavin seemed to be the only one staring out of it. Granted, everyone else was pretty wrapped up in the game of Gang Beasts that they started. Ray and Michael seemed to form a tag team and kicked everyone’s asses, much to the dismay of the others. It was fun, but Gavin’s mind was a bit too focused on other things. Not wanting to bring any attention to himself, he gathered up the empty plates and went off into the kitchen to clean them.

                “Hey, Gav,” Jack said quietly as she approached him in the kitchen. “Those wings were good, man.”

                “Thanks, Jack.” He had his back to her, cleaning the plates intently. She could sense that something was wrong. She always could.

                So she grabbed a beer out of the fridge and leaned against the counter nearby the sink. Gavin could feel her stare on the side of his face. He didn’t want to talk about it, but perhaps she could offer some much needed advice. “So, I thought we’d be getting to meet your boyfriend tonight.”

                “I thought so too,” He sighed. “But I guess he couldn’t make it.”

                “Ah,” Jack took a sip out of her beer, but continued to look at Gavin. “Well, if I was him, I’d be intimidated too. We’re a rough bunch.”

                At this Gavin laughed. It was true, though. From the outside, anybody would be intimidated by them. But it was so easy to forget all of the things they’d done. Hell, he even sort of forgot that this party was to celebrate stealing nearly a million dollars out of the mayor’s personal account. But their crimes weren’t what Ryan was probably intimidated by. In fact, Gavin wasn’t sure why he was intimidated, if at all. Gavin could feel himself getting slightly annoyed. If he didn’t want to go, he could at least have the decency to text and let him know and not get Gavin’s hopes up.

                Jack and Gavin talked idly in the kitchen for a while before eventually joining up back with everyone in the living room.

                At eight thirty, His phone buzzing in his pocket caught his attention, and he was actually slightly shocked to see that it was Ryan calling. Curious, he excused himself from the others and locked himself in the penthouse bathroom. “Hello?”

                “Hey,” His voice sounded so shaky, but also very quiet compared to the sounds of cars and wind on the other end of the line. Was he walking to the penthouse? Was he on his motorcycle? What the hell? “I… I don’t know if I can make it.”

                “Ryan you sound weird. Is something wrong? Are you okay?”

                “Yeah, yeah,” He did not sound okay. “I’m uh… I’m okay.”

                “Where are you?”

                “The uh, the roof of your apartment complex?” His voice raised at the end. He sounded nervous, almost. Like it was a question he was asking and not a statement. But Gavin was too busy leaving the bathroom and rushing out of his apartment (with a smile and mouthing of the words “be right back” to Geoff to signify that nothing was wrong) to the stairwell to immediately run to the roof.

                “What do you mean you’re on the roof?” His footsteps on the metal stairs beneath him were loud and rung in his ears even harder than his heart which was seemingly beating out of his chest.

                “I’m alright,” His response was immediate, as though he just realized the impact of his words. Gavin stopped on the stairwell then and listened close for Ryan’s voice. “I’m not gonna jump or anything. I just… I… I needed air.”

                “Alright, well I’m comin’ up.”

                “Okay.”

                Gavin hung up the phone and sighed heavily. Holy shit. He had to sit himself down on the stairwell and breathe for a moment just to try to recollect himself. The thought of losing someone so close that he had just had the pleasure- the honor- of knowing intimately, someone he cared so much about, brought him to near tears and drained all of the air out of his lungs. But eventually he calmed himself down and made his way to the roof.

                It smelled like shit in the city. He hated it. Like exhaust and garbage. But the lights and cars and shimmery enchantment of the skyline that seemed to stretch out far in the horizon was one to beat.

                Gavin took a quick glance to his right, where he saw Ryan a few feet away staring out into the city. Cautiously Gavin approached, calling Ryan’s name softly. As Gavin got closer he noticed how hard Ryan was shaking. But he also held a small pocket knife in his hand, spinning it around and flipping it up and down.

                “Hey,” Gavin whispered, despite not exactly knowing why, he felt like he should.

                Ryan nodded, still looking at his knife. “Hey, Gav.”

                What was he supposed to say? Earlier he was feeling annoyed with Ryan. That he had spent all this time and energy on the party and hyped him up to the group only for him to skip out. But seeing him so anxious on the roof made all of those feelings dissipate. But he was at a loss for words, almost. “You’re not okay, Ry.”

                “I know.”

                “You wanna tell me what’s wrong?”

                Ryan was intensely quiet, and for a moment Gavin thought that he wouldn’t speak. But suddenly Ryan sighed hard and said, “You all think that I’m really strong. That I don’t have emotions and that the Vagabond is soulless.” Ryan took a deep breath. He seemed frustrated. Tired. “I’m not that strong, Gavin. And I do have feelings, however inconvenient they may be,” Ryan’s hands shook as he fiddled with his knife. The sharp blade getting ever so close to his fingers. Gavin noticed how he refused to make eye contact, instead choosing to gaze at the shiny metal in his hands. “I mean physically, sure. I guess I am strong. But I…” It was then he finally met Gavin’s gaze. Ryan’s eyes were glossy and Gavin even felt his own composure start to fade. He’d never seen Ryan cry before. Not when he was shot, not when he was talking about his past, not even in the most scary or intense situations.

                It was then that Gavin finally made the realization that he knew what was happening. The tremors that were visible throughout Ryan’s body, the labored breathing, and the tears that threatened to fall. Gavin had never had a panic attack in front of another person, and he assumed that Ryan hadn’t either, so he didn’t know how uncomfortable or embarrassed Ryan could be. But he did what he knew he had to; just be there for him. So he lowered himself down and sat on the dirty rooftop right next to Ryan and put his hand gently on the other man’s shoulders. When he did that Gavin could audibly hear the breath that Ryan released.

                “You don’t have to be strong all the time, Ry,” His voice was gentle. As gentle as he could make it. “I know this is… Well it’s all out of your comfort zone innit?” Both of them chuckled slightly, perhaps out of awkwardness, or perhaps out of acknowledgement of how overly dramatic the reaction to their situation was.

                Gavin scooted himself closer to Ryan and tried his hardest to even out his own breathing so that maybe Ryan could even out his. “I just haven’t been around people in so long,” Ryan’s voice was so quiet. Almost inaudible over the sound of the bustling city all around them.  “And I wanted to meet everyone, Gav. I really did. I was right at your front door. I was about to knock. But I just… I… I started worrying about all the possible negative outcomes of me showing my face.”

                Ryan began to laugh then. It was nervous this time. One that worked to fight against tears. Gavin could only feel sorry for him. “How fucking stupid, right? I mean you work for weeks getting us all together and the day of I just… I can’t. I can’t bring myself to do it.”

                “Oh,” Gavin felt his heart break in his chest. He moved his arms around Ryan and held tight. “It’s alright, Ry. I get that you’re anxious. I’m not mad. Not at all.”

                “I’m mad at myself, though,” Ryan brought one of Gavin’s hands down from his shoulder and instead took it into his own hand. Still, he looked away from Gavin while doing so. But the Brit understood his avoidance of eye contact. He didn’t blame him. “I don’t want to lose you. I lost my wife because I was careless with my identity. I built up the Vagabond for protection. I… I didn’t want that to happen again. I can’t let that happen again.”

                A wife. Gavin knew that it wasn’t the time to focus on that. He needed to be there for Ryan. To reassure him. Comfort him. Somehow. He didn’t always say the right things. And he wasn’t always the one to talk about deep subjects. But this was someone he cared about, someone that suffered quietly for so long and actually didn’t have another soul to talk to. And it hurt to see him so down on himself, especially when it was undeserved.

                Whirring blades of a helicopter passing by high above them caught his attention. The only little lights in the entire night sky. Just another noise amongst the sea of other sounds in the city. Gavin took a deep breath and leaned into Ryan. “We’ve gotta rely on each other to keep one another safe. I trust you, Ryan. And that means that I’ll keep you safe too. And make sure that I keep myself safe for you.”

                Ryan was quiet for a while, rubbing his thumb gently over Gavin’s hand that was still held tight in the palm of his. “I know I’m being… A bit mellow dramatic about all of this.”

                “I don’t think you are,” Gavin said. “When things change so suddenly like this, you’re gonna be scared about it. You’re not gonna always like it. And that’s fine. But you have to tell me when things like this make you uncomfortable so that I can help and not hurt.”

                Ryan’s eyes shut softly and he leaned his body weight into Gavin. “I’m sorry.”

                “Don’t be.”

                The two sat quietly with one another for a while after that. Their breathing synced and their body heat kept one another warm in the cold city air. Everything buzzed around them. A city changing and moving so often that at times Gavin felt like he would never catch up. And perhaps he never would. At a point he became content with going at his own pace, which changed rapidly between going too fast and too slow. Yet that was fine by him. He had his people to be there with him, going with that same flow. And now, he had Ryan. His lovely Ryan.

                Ryan and Gavin eventually did part ways, and Ryan never did gather up enough courage to show up to the party or show his face to the crew. But that didn’t matter. There would always be another party. There would always be more time.

                And for Ryan? Gavin could wait.

Chapter Text

But Behind His Mask

Chapter 1

                Smiling, playing, laughing, they all tumbled into the building before him. Michael had put Gavin into a headlock, always the stronger between the two. Jeremy defended Gavin, pushing Michael off and eventually wrestling him. Ray had strolled in behind them all, never the one for roughhousing. Ryan watched them from a safe distance. Recently he had liked to watch them all be happy together. Safe together. As a group. Away from him.

                But he needed to see Geoff. He needed to deliver what Geoff had asked him to retrieve. So he walked in after a minute, right past the lads, not even sparing a glance. But he felt the stares on his back. No matter where he went, there were stares. When you built up the persona he did, it tended to happen.

                “Come in,” He heard Geoff say through the door after he knocked. He opened the door and waited for Geoff to offer him a seat. He had always liked this office better than the one back at the lot. It felt more homey and had more personal touches that made it feel more like Geoff’s space, rather than a generic office space. But the Vagabond didn’t get hung up on the décor. He instead pulled a flier out from his coat pocket and set it down onto the desk. “Oh,” Geoff said, picking up the flier. “Good. This is exactly what I needed. Hopefully you didn’t have too much trouble getting it.” The Vagabond shook his head, despite indeed having a bit of trouble. He had no idea what the flier was about (he didn’t bother to really read it before handing it to Geoff) nor did he know what Geoff needed from City Hall, but whatever it was he was bound to tell the group eventually, so Ryan didn’t care too much.

                Geoff then got up and made his way towards the door, “You can go if you want, I’m gonna go tell the lads to meet in the warehouse by nine tomorrow morning. You be there too.”

                The Vagabond got out of his chair and left the room after Geoff, but stopped in the hallway once he noticed that Geoff was talking to Gavin.

                The golden boy. His nickname was all too fitting in that moment, his face and body illuminated by the golden light of sunset just outside the window. His hair looked like fire and skin a beautiful shade of gold in the rays of sunlight. Stunning. Smiling to Geoff and looking at him with those big eyes and rosy cheeks. Ryan could feel his own face get hot beneath the mask.

                As he saw Geoff turn back around and nod to him, he started to make his way down the hall. Gavin kept looking out of the window but turned last second right as Ryan started to walk by. He knew that Gavin didn’t have the guts to look at him in the eyes, so Ryan gazed at him as he walked by the lad. He stared at the ground, following Ryan’s movement with his head slightly. He looked absolutely terrified. A lamb at the feet of a lion. Clear shakes and wide eyes, full of fear. It frustrated the Vagabond a bit, mainly because the lad should have known by that point that Ryan was never going to hurt him. But if literally almost dying for the Brit still didn’t change the general opinion on him, then he assumed nothing would.

                On the surface, his initial thoughts, the quickest answer: He didn’t care what they thought of him. It was a job. But deep down, something he’d never even want to begin to admit to anybody (including himself), was that he was genuinely upset that everybody ran from him. That they were truly scared of him.

                But whose fault would that be but his own? Why else would he have created the Vagabond persona, if not to keep people at a far distance? His brutality and sharp glares were deliberate. So then why, why in the world did he feel so hurt by those that only reacted how the Vagabond intended for them to react?

~*~

                He liked to arrive early in the morning for multiple reasons. One: so that there was no chance that people would’ve been following him. Two: it would save him the anxiety of having people look at him as he entered the room. Three: he loved the feeling of the cool morning air hit him as he stuck his arm out of the car. It felt easy in the car. Nice. He liked riding by himself because it gave him time to think quietly and be content in the solitude. His coworkers tended to be quite loud.

                And loud they were when Gavin entered the room, almost exactly half an hour late. Ryan could see the pink rise to his cheeks. If there were ever a time he wanted to break his silence and yell at the blond boy, this would have been one of the most tempting. He had always found Gavin to be the most annoying of the group. His constant chirping and babbling noises grated at his nerves. Though it was rare that he actually heard them, as the man tended to quiet down when Ryan entered the room. But he’s heard the way Gavin talked to the other lads. Asking stupid questions and making stupid noises, prompting most of them to fire insults and please to just shut up at the Brit. But it was all a game, especially to Gavin. His gurgled laughter bubbling in his throat and escaping loudly once he got the attention from his crew members that he seemed to crave more than anything else.

                Though, despite him being a constant annoyance and grinding Ryan’s gears, he still found himself slightly drawn towards Gavin in a way he couldn’t explain. At first he thought it was purely physical; Ryan hadn’t been with anybody in a very, very, very long time. He didn’t trust anybody or have the time to indulge himself. So when he felt a low heat pool inside him whenever the Brit wore clothes a bit too tight or moved his body in a certain way, Ryan decided that it was best to just look away and forget about it. But spending years with the FAHC makes it difficult to avoid the members for long periods of time. So before Ryan knew it he was back with Gavin in some capacity, trying to keep his eyes from wandering Gavin’s body for too long. And it wasn’t hard, for a while at least. But those moments where Gavin was calm, behind a computer screen focused or listening intently to what a friend had to say, Ryan could see a quiet intelligence that he wondered if Gavin hid away because it didn’t quite fit his silly and carefree persona. Perhaps Gavin was a lot more like Ryan than he had anticipated. It would be so easy, wouldn’t it? To just talk to him, learn about him, watch those bright blue eyes stare back at him intensely while Ryan spoke.

                But Ryan didn’t like to think about those things. He constantly shut himself off and cut those thoughts away, regardless of how often they came back. No way could he blow all those years of seclusion and secrecy and safety away for, who? Some man in a gang that he had only been a part of for a few brief years? No way. Ryan was too strong for that. The Vagabond was too strong for that.

                He didn’t realize that he was staring at Gavin until the other had flashed him a quick glance and then just as quick turned his gaze back to Geoff, who had been talking the whole time. Hopefully Ryan didn’t miss anything important.

                “This is important, guys, really.” Oh.

There was a slight pause in Geoff’s voice as he glanced around the room. “This is our next heist, and it looks to be our biggest one yet.”

                The noise in the room was boisterous almost immediately. But Ryan remained calm. He knew City Hall had something to do with it, as he had been there the day previously retrieving a flier for Geoff. Though he would admit, the whole situation piqued his curiosity. Geoff began to explain things to the group, but they all seemed a bit too rowdy for Ryan’s taste. Cracking jokes and interrupting Geoff during certain intervals. It was slightly hard for Ryan to focus on what Geoff was saying, but eventually the group started to quiet down just in time for Geoff to start to go into more depth.

                “We’ll need to secure invitations to this party. Two, to be exact. One for Doctor Howard Chamberlain,” Geoff gestured a hand towards Gavin. “a renowned surgeon from England, and the other for his bodyguard, Richard Cole.”

                But, wait. No. That wasn’t right. Geoff was pointing at Ryan.

                It was only when the rest of the room started to yell and protest again that Ryan realized he was being serious. He couldn’t hold back. Ryan’s arms and face moved to their own volition. There was absolutely no way Geoff was pairing Ryan back up with Gavin. Not after what happened last time.

                Geoff had tried to calm them down, but only when Jack spoke above the rest was there a break in the conversation. She had thrown a comment to the Vagabond, but he wasn’t paying her any mind. His head was still buzzing from the idea that he’d be assigned with Gavin once more. He wasn’t angry. He wasn’t even particularly upset. He was confused. He knew he could continue to protect the golden boy, that much was for sure. But was the golden boy willing to trust him? He continued to be scared of the Vagabond, to the point of not even being able to look him in the eyes. How on Earth could Ryan expect Gavin to get this job done smoothly if the other man was scared shitless the whole time?

                But the look Geoff was giving Ryan while he was explaining to the group sent a message. He knows what he’s doing. Ryan thought to himself. He’d trust Geoff. The old man probably had a trick up his sleeve in order to get Gavin to relax around him.

                Speaking of which, Ryan felt the eyes burning through him and couldn’t ignore it. He flashed a look to Gavin; and although it was unintentional, Ryan could feel that it was a rather harsh stare. Gavin then said something to Geoff, but once more Ryan paid very little mind to the conversation. Whatever information he’d need would be relayed to him later.

                He didn’t bother sticking around for too long after. As he left he noticed Gavin staring at the ground. A look of utter anxiety ever apparent on his face. Of course. That lamb been paired up with the lion.

Chapter 2

                He didn’t particularly enjoy the scars around his body. He kept trying to convince himself that it didn’t matter. That no one would see them anyway. But he also knew that it wasn’t the ugliness of the scars that bothered him, rather it was the stories behind them. The carnage and pain that the scars left in their wake.

                Ten years ago. His first gunshot wound. Messy and nearly made him bleed out.

Two years ago. Stabbed while trying to execute a corrupt politician. Stitched it up himself before the crew even got to the scene.

                Six months ago. A handful of bullet wounds around his shoulders and sides. All of them benign, but were painful at the time nonetheless. He knew that Gavin didn’t have a bullet proof vest on. He knew that running away from the police would only make him a bigger target. He knew that Jeremy was close by and that he only had to hold out for a few more seconds. Gavin saw him. He was right over him, shielding him with his entire body. Yet he ran. Ryan nearly died. But he wasn’t upset at Gavin. The Brit was scared, overwhelmed; Ryan had gotten them lost in the building and they took an escape route unfamiliar to them. It was Ryan’s fault anyhow. Of course Gavin would run.

                Still frustrating, though.

~*~

                Unsurprisingly, he was the first Geoff had met with. Ryan could tell this by the untouched, neatly arranged, completely organized state of his desk. No doubt, within the next day or two, his entire office would be a disaster. It always was during heists. Only a matter of time before he began to sleep in his office too.

                “You’re probably wondering why I paired you up with Gavin,” Geoff began, sitting back in his chair and rubbing at his beard. Ryan picked up that it was a nervous tick long ago. Less a way to make himself look cool, more a way to release excess nervous energy. “Right?”

                The Vagabond didn’t move.

                “Listen, I’ll be honest,” Geoff leaned forward then, closer to the Vagabond. Ryan could see the seriousness in his tired eyes. “I don’t trust anyone else to keep him safe. Michael is his friend, sure, but Michael’s got a wife and kid on the way. I don’t think he’d be risking his life anytime soon.”

                Ah. So his actions in the previous heist influenced the decision Geoff had made. In retrospect he probably should have seen that one coming.

                “Don’t think this means that I believe you to be expendable. You’re not. You’re just as much a part of this team as Gavin. But I don’t think you’d be able to hack into what Gavin needs to.” He probably could. Maybe not as well as Gavin, but he still could. He didn’t speak up, though. He never did.

                Geoff leaned even closer. Something about his tone made Ryan just the slightest bit uncomfortable. “But I understand if you don’t want to work with him. If you’d like to be switched out with Michael or Jeremy, we could do so.”

                Ryan’s jaw clenched. He wished he could just tell Geoff straight up that he didn’t care. He understood that Gavin had no ill intentions on the last heist and that everyone bringing it up all the time was probably making the Brit feel like a piece of shit. To have your mistakes shoved in your face constantly was infuriating, and to see it happen to someone who didn’t deserve it made Ryan pretty upset. But instead of saying all that, Ryan slowly shook his head no.

                “Okay,” Geoff’s voice was solid and assured. With a nod of his head and a wave of his hand he gestured for Ryan to leave his office.

                The Vagabond stuck around on the lot for a while after that. He watched as people came and went, attending to their business. But as he peaked his head into the office that housed their high-end computer equipment he noticed that Gavin was focused intensely on his work. Ryan watched as his fingers danced around on the keyboard, and to some it could’ve seemed like he was smashing random keys. But there was a pattern to it, a rhythm that Ryan knew Gavin had on lock.

                He didn’t even notice Ryan standing nearby. And there was nobody else around. So Ryan watched a bit longer.

                He enjoyed watching Gavin sometimes. Whether the Brit was having fun or sitting at his desk much like he was then. He knew that the other could be loud and all too much, but at the same time there was a quiet side to him. The gentle remarks and contemplative expressions.

                Being part of the team for all those years, he knew he’d be bound to change, and witness a change in his coworkers too. Michael had mellowed out a lot since getting involved with Lindsay, Geoff had overcome his addictive tendencies with alcohol; everyone grew, even if just a little. With Gavin, it was a maturity that could potentially be attributed to the fast-paced nature of their work. Gavin himself was in his early to mid 20s when Ryan first joined (he couldn’t remember off the top of his head) and almost immediately Ryan could see how different he was from his own self at that age.

                When Ryan was in his mid 20s he was already a widower and overcome with massive amounts of grief and rage that fueled his decision for becoming the Vagabond. He wasn’t happy or rich or surrounded by friends that loved and protected him. But Ryan wasn’t resentful at this. In fact, it was quite the opposite. He was glad that Gavin’s life was so different than his. Because he knew, past the annoying and seemingly selfish exterior, that he was actually a good guy.

                Continuing to type away on whatever project he was working on, Gavin still didn’t notice the Vagabond, even as the other made his way out the door. And when the Vagabond returned to the computer room early the next morning, he found Gavin face down passed out at his desk. He looked so exhausted. Ryan didn’t have the heart to wake him.

Chapter 3

                He’d grown up in Georgia in a particularly redneck-infested area. Though he personally preferred more science and math based areas of learning he still did enjoy hunting occasionally. That’s where most of his gun knowledge originally came from. From picking up an old hunting rifle and having his dad stand over him, quietly teaching him what to do.

                Sometimes, Ryan wished that his dad was still around. Even as old as he was, it would still be nice to get some fatherly wisdom every once in a while.

                Ryan unclipped the magazine from his gun and tossed it nearby him, drawing another from the table to his right and loading it into his gun. He liked the feeling of chambering his rifle. The click and drawing of it was loud, even past his ear plugs. He liked the feeling of countering the recoil and the kick weapon against his shoulder and centering his breath in order to actually concentrate on his targets.

                And yet, the last few shots he had missed for some reason. Were there eyes on him? He felt the clear impression that he was being watched. Who the fuck was even still there?

                Gavin. Standing fifty feet away, staring with wide eyes at the shooting range. Not even at Ryan himself. What was he looking at? Maybe he was impressed. Or maybe scared. Regardless, Ryan wasn’t exactly keen on people watching. After a few moments of intense glaring, Gavin finally noticed Ryan. There was hesitation, but ultimately Gavin fled the scene. Ryan thought that this would be his opportunity to continue his target practice, but less than a minute later Geoff came into his line of sight and motioned for him to remove his ear plugs. Once Ryan complied, Geoff reached to the table and swiped up Ryan’s handgun.

                “You and Gav need to practice silent running. I know you’ll be fine but…” Geoff unloaded the clip and looked the gun over before giving it to Ryan. “I’m not so sure about him.”

                Ryan placed his own rifle down and took the handgun that was given to him. There was something about Geoff’s tone that made Ryan curious. He wasn’t stressed, nor angry. Then Ryan got a look at Geoff’s face and he caught it: Worry. Slowly Ryan nodded and placed the handgun down onto the table.

                “Where’s Gavin, by the way?” Ryan motioned his head towards the warehouse, which made Geoff sigh. “I’ll tell him to come out here. Get everything ready, alright?” With a nod of Ryan’s head Geoff was off to find the Brit that had scurried away just minutes before.

                Though it was still about another fifteen or so minutes before Gavin even come outside, and by that point the sun that had hung so low in the sky had finally set, leaving the lot dark and cold. Ryan supposed that it was probably better that they practice in the dark. It was a full moon that night. Ryan enjoyed the look of it; big in the night sky, even though it was partially covered by dark clouds that warned of an unavoidable storm. A footstep nearby and Ryan was sure that Gavin probably wouldn’t be able to sneak up on him once during the session.

                Time for some charades. He gave an unloaded gun to Gavin and tried his best to show Gavin that his was unloaded as well. That they weren’t going to actually be shooting one another or using bb guns. That this was a test, and that Ryan wasn’t going to hurt him. Thankfully Gavin picked up on this and began to fiddle around with the empty gun, giving it a look over.

                “So, uh,” Gavin stuttered. His hands continued to mess with the gun that was given to him. “Um, er, I mean- Sorry if I, uh, scared you earlier. When you were, uh, shooting.”

                Wait. What? Ryan was confused. These were maybe the first few words Gavin had said to him in literal months and it was an apology? For something Gavin didn’t even do? What exactly was Gavin aiming to do?

                Apparently Ryan’s silence made the Brit even more uncomfortable than he already appeared to be, as his stuttering picked back up and he glanced around nervously at the lot. He then pointed for Ryan to get into a position for them to start training.

                No way he’d be focused enough to get anything done. Not when he was that shaken by being near the Vagabond.

                The Vagabond knew what path Gavin would be most likely to take; he’d over think things and most likely wander the lot without thinking, ending up near where Ryan started. So all Ryan had to do was wait in a little wedge between where two shipping containers almost met and…

                There he was. An antelope drinking straight from the lion’s waterhole. Gavin was so focused on the things around him that it would be so insanely easy to jump him. But just holding the gun in front of him wouldn’t be enough. No. Ryan had to snap Gavin out of this. Show Gavin that his actions mattered and that this training was important. Rough him up, just a tad.

                Perhaps the headlock was unnecessary, but it sure was fun in the moment. Ryan did feel a bit bad once he looked down upon Gavin though. The Brit seemed miserable. Embarrassed. Ryan hoped that this was the exact amount of heat needed to light a fire under his stupid ass. And maybe it was. Gavin stood up and without looking at the Vagabond said that they needed to do it again. He looked determined. Perfect.

                Still, though, sneaking around Gavin was the easiest thing in the world. Though Gavin was quiet, Ryan was even quieter. All he’d have to do was wait in the shadows and use any slip up the other man made to his advantage. And he’d seen Gavin, trying his hardest to stay low to the ground. May as well give him the opportunity to attack. So Ryan passed nearby and into the storage crate next to Gavin. Sadly the Brit didn’t check inside. Ryan pressed his gun into the back of Gavin’s head and pulled the trigger.

                After lowering his gun, his eyes lowered too. Right to the ground where Gavin wasn’t wearing any shoes. Where’d they go? With a question glance to the Brit, the other just shrugged and said that he’d forgotten where he put them. As much as he didn’t want to look, he knew that this all needed to get done and that the stupid Brit couldn’t do it without his stupid shoes. Except, when he gave the shoes to Gavin, he didn’t get nearly the same reaction he expected.

                “Thank you,” He said. His voice was so quiet. And his face looked so well illuminated by the full moon. Even his eyes were shining in a way that made it seem like they were plucked directly from the stars above them. And for the first time ever, he didn’t see fear in Gavin’s eyes when he looked at him. Ryan definitely ignored the twang in his chest when he noticed that.

                But soon Gavin was going back to stuttering and being scared of Ryan. Ah well. May as well get back to the training anyway.

                Shockingly, though, Gavin did a good job over the next hour or so. He even seemed to be having a bit of fun, Ryan would say. There was a moment where Gavin genuinely surprised Ryan. He came out of the sky, falling from one of the storage crates and looking to Ryan with the biggest grin. Like he had just won the greatest contest of all. To see Gavin so passionate and involved in this kind of work, it was different. But it was welcomed. Gavin could have drive and determination when he saw the fun in it. He knew that the hacker could work for hours upon hours uninterrupted in front of the computer screen, and revel in all of their car chases, so Ryan hoped, near prayed, that this attitude would carry over to the heist.

                Another part of his brain wondered what it would be like to see Gavin smile at him without the need of coercion via a competition. And though he tried to shake those thoughts away, the Brit continued to dance around his mind for days to come.

~*~

                Geoff expected him to wear a half mask? Revealing a majority of his face and allowing for others to make out his identity?

                Bullshit.

                No way. He pushed himself back in the chair and crossed his arms. No fucking way he’d risk everything he’d worked so hard to protect for one single heist. Geoff had mentioned how he didn’t even have to put it on in front of anybody. But Gavin was going to be with him the whole night. Gavin would see. He’d see and he’s not exactly the most quiet of the bunch. A look was shot towards Gavin, and as expected he looked incredibly nervous and uncomfortable watching Geoff and the Vagabond argue. If this could even be considered an argument.

                Eventually, though, Ryan had to submit. Geoff was getting fed up and there would be no way he would budge. But perhaps Ryan could find a workaround later. Maybe face paint? Another mask that he brought himself?

                He caught a quick glance at Gavin as the other examined the gold mask he was given. It did look rather expensive, but it matched Gavin’s golden identity quite well. And he seemed to like it. The way he lit up and smiled to Geoff and held the mask so carefully in his hands, like it was the most precious thing ever given to him. It was rare to see him so gentle. Ryan had to look away.

                After giving them a bit more instruction on what they needed to do that day, Geoff excused them from his office. Much to Ryan’s relief. He needed time to think. To form some sort of plan that could get him out of wearing that fucking mask. But a voice caught him from his thoughts. A soft voice, one that told him to wait.

                Wait?

                He turned and saw Gavin, right near him, glancing at the floor. Though his eyes were wide they were also filled with a sort of determination that Ryan hadn’t really seen from the Brit.

                “I, uh,” The Lad stuck his hands in his pockets. For a moment Ryan wanted to just ignore whatever he was saying and walk away. But there was no way he would’ve done that. Even back then, in the back of his mind, he knew he was too far gone. “Thanks for, er, for training with me last night. I appreciate it. We need to do that again. I need to do better next time.”

                Better? But he did fine, Ryan thought. He had definitely improved by the end of the night. Was he not proud of what he had accomplished?

                Then it happened. Gavin looked to the ground and mumbled, “Sorry, I just, I never apologized. Or thanked you,” Ryan didn’t want this. He knew what Gavin was going to say. The guilt was so apparent within him that he may as well have been carrying it around as physical weights on his shoulders. But Ryan didn’t want an apology. Ryan wanted Gavin to act as if nothing happened, return back to normal, to not speak to him and continue to be wary of him. Because the thought of him warming up to the Vagabond was a much scarier thought to Ryan than he’d like to admit. Because as much as he wanted it, he fucking craved it at times, he knew it was dangerous. For them both. “What happened in the last heist,” No. “You d-,”

                In a moment of panic, Ryan put a hand to Gavin’s mouth. He couldn’t bear to hear it. He couldn’t bear to hear Gavin’s voice reassure him and comfort him and bring back feelings that he’d buried long ago. But it was too late. He couldn’t get him off of his mind. And when he went home that night, he’ d never felt more empty.

Chapter 4

                They managed to secure a secondary aircraft for the heist, and it wasn’t the buzzard, but Jack was still happy to fly something that day. And flying in the helicopter with Jack as the pilot was always a highlight of missions for Ryan. Unfortunately, though, he knew that he wouldn’t be able to do it during this heist. So taking that helicopter back to the shipping yard would have to suffice.

                She was impressive. Definitely one of the members of the group that Ryan respected the most. She’d overcome a lot in her life, especially during her days in the military. Bits and pieces of information about her past had been told to him by her, as she was one for chit-chat during long trips. And she knew that Ryan wouldn’t tell another soul about the things she relayed to him. Out of both trust in his identity as the wordless Vagabond and trust in his mutual respect for her. Normally he wouldn’t be one for listening to others talk, but Jack had a very calming presence about her. Much unlike everybody else at the FAHC.

                “She was quiet,” Jack smiled softly as they exited the helicopter. “But she was sweet, too. Always listening to what I had to say.”

                Ryan noticed that even though she had been caught up in her story, she’d managed to land the helicopter near perfectly in the center of the helipad. Talented. Talkative, but talented. She continued to talk as they made their way throughout the building, but he checked out in the conversation about halfway after catching a glimpse of Gavin in the computer room.

                Their training. It had been so fun. But he was still nervous about how Gavin would actually perform on the field. Missions are nothing like training stress-wise. There’s nothing riding on you during training. Your partner would never kill you. But a security guard for a venue you’ve broken into? They’ll shoot without a second thought.

                And the way he’d tried to both thank and apologize to the Vagabond after the meeting with Geoff. He still visibly shook, and avoided eye contact, and stuttered near incomprehensibly. But there was a glimmer of something there; A strength that Gavin managed to muster up just so that he could talk to the Fake’s boogeyman. He didn’t have to. Lord knows he could’ve just ignored the problem (much like Ryan had been doing) and yet he took a step towards something approaching civility with the Vagabond. And for the both of them, it was terrifying.

                Jack noticed his absentmindedness, because of course she did, and closed the door to the break room behind them.

                “You worried about Gavin?”

                Ryan shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head slowly. He then began to take some of the styrofoam cups from the table and stack them on top of one another, avoiding eye contact with Jack.

                “You know, I think that he’ll be fine,” She’d poured herself a cup of coffee and was now blowing on it, leaning against the counter with her torso turned towards the Vagabond. Whatever nerves struck her when first meeting him all those years ago were nowhere to be seen now. Though Ryan was still unsure as to if it was a superiority thing or a genuine calm. Either way, he appreciated someone not being overly terrified of him. After taking a sip of her coffee she nodded her head. “I mean, you’ve been practicing with him, right? Is he really doing that bad?”

                Shaking his head no almost immediately, Ryan wondered if they all really had that little confidence in their hacker.

                Jack had continued to talk then, but it was no longer about Gavin or their training or how Ryan was doing. And frankly, he didn’t care about anything else. He didn’t know what he wanted to talk about. Maybe he didn’t want to talk at all. Maybe he just needed some time to think.

                But Jack sure didn’t appreciate the sudden shift in his tone. She raised an eyebrow and set her coffee down onto the counter behind her. “You alright?” He gave her a shrug and a shake of his head. “Look, I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me.”

                He didn’t know either. How could he? Never spoken a word and now he was supposed to convey complicated thoughts through a series of gestures? He didn’t mean to shoot her a glare, though, and did feel bad when she fired back at him something nasty. But after a moment she just rolled her eyes and went back to drinking her coffee.

                “If you’re really that concerned about your safety, or his safety, or whatever, then bring it up with him. I don’t know how far you’ll get in that conversation, though.” Ryan rolled his eyes and shrugged, now turning fully to Jack and leaning against his chair. “I guess I’m one of the few who can actually hold a conversation with you, huh?”

                Thank God for her calm demeanor, though. She easily laughed at Ryan shrugging his shoulders yet again. She gestured towards the door with her hand that held coffee and went to leave. Though, as she went to open the door, it had swung and hit something loud and hard.

                And Gavin was standing in front of them, holding his nose. Had he been listening to them or something?

                But it didn’t matter to Ryan either way, because blood was coming out of that (giant) nose pretty quickly. In an instant he had napkins in his hand and was putting them to Gavin’s nose. Gavin went wide-eyed at the contact, and carefully placed his hands over the napkins, allowing the Vagbaond to drop his hand. Even bleeding, Gavin managed to look so sweet. Wait, no. Shit. Why were his thoughts so annoying lately? Why couldn’t he be around Gavin without his thoughts going all soft?

                Suppress those thoughts. Listen to Jack and take Gavin to the medical hangar.

                As they walked to Trevor, Ryan wondered if Gavin only knew how to work with computers, as everything else he did tended to be done wrong. He tried tilting his head back, and even after Ryan (somewhat forcefully) jolted his head forward, he noticed that Gavin even held the tissues wrong. He nudged he napkins further up towards the bridge of his nose, and at the contact the Brit blushed something mad. He’d said something, but that wasn’t important.

                What was important was that Ryan needed to sort out his feelings and bounce immediately. Because the longer he stayed around Gavin, the longer he’d listen to that voice and look into those eyes and…

                Shit.

                He’d spent nearly all of that day and the next avoiding the Brit. Though that proved to be a rather easy task. However, it did make Ryan feel a certain type of way that Gavin did actually try to look for him. What exactly those feelings were Ryan didn’t care to explore.

~*~

                Look, he knew that following Gavin and the lads was creepy. He wasn’t invited along with them, but for some reason Ryan felt the compulsive need to hover around the Brit to just… Watch over him. Make sure he stayed safe.

                He supposed that there was a bit of guilt that remained within him for getting the Brit lost and nearly killed during their last few heists with one another. But another part of him bothered that thought. Because that wasn’t it. His little lonely world had been crashed into by Gavin long ago. And his orbit now revolved around the Lad, despite Ryan’s best efforts to break free.

                Getting people hurt was something Ryan found that he was proficient in. And the last person on Earth he wanted to hurt was Gavin.

                Outside the bar was cold. The early Autumn night air nipped at Ryan, even from beneath his mask. The sky above was a cauldron of thick black clouds, all moving with the wind at a steady pace. But his head was clear for the first time in a long time. Was it the air that did it? Or was it the solitude? No, it was Gavin. Ryan liked him. That was when he was ready to admit it to himself. That he liked Gavin a lot and that he had no chance with him. But from then on, he’d do everything in his power to protect him.

                Some man was getting close to Gavin. At that in and of itself was enough to get Ryan’s blood boiling. However, once he saw the man push Gavin down after he had been rejected? That was enough to get Ryan to nearly kick down the door to the bar.

                In the brief second before Ryan tackled him, he faintly saw the man swing a few times at Gavin. As it turns out, his fate had been decided in that moment. Ryan was going to fucking kill him.

                And as the blood came pouring out of the man’s nose and mouth, and as the bones in his disgusting face crunched and cracked beneath Ryan’s fists, Ryan could feel all the stress and worry and guilt and everything that had been piling up and piling up start to release. Even if just for a passing moment.

                He didn’t stop punching until Michael physically pried him off. But by that point the man had long since stopped moving. Ryan didn’t know if he was dead, or just unconscious, but it didn’t matter either way. Picking up the now passed out Gavin and putting him over his shoulder, Ryan ignored the protests of Jeremy and Michael. He carefully placed Gavin in the backseat of his car and closed the door, and by that point Jeremy had gotten right in front of him. Between him and the driver’s seat. And Michael stood close by him.

                “What the fuck was that?” Jeremy screamed. “Where’d you even come from?” He was drunk. Slurring his words as he yelled.

                Ryan didn’t have time for this. He didn’t care about what they were saying to him. He just rolled his eyes and moved Jeremy to the side.

                “Hey!” Michael held the car door, keeping Ryan from closing it after he’d gotten himself into the car. They were annoying. “Where the fuck are you taking him?”

                Ryan just glanced in the rearview mirror. Gavin looked so pitiful passed out in his backseat. Ryan actually didn’t even think it through. He didn’t exactly know where Gavin lived, but he knew the Brit needed to be taken home. And no way Ryan would risk his safe house for this incident. With a sigh of frustration and defeat, the Vagabond pulled his phone out of his pocket and pulled the GPS app up, handing his phone over to Michael.

                Somehow, the other understood. He, too, let out a sigh of frustration and typed in Gavin’s address. Before handing the phone back to Ryan, though, he let out a low snarl. “If you fuckin’ touch him, I’ll kill you.”

                Right.

                As if Ryan would hurt Gavin. 

                As if Michael could ever lay a finger on the Vagabond.

                He just rolled his eyes and got into his car, following the directions that the GPS read aloud every so often. His fingers drummed on the steering wheel and his eyes kept drifting to his rearview mirror to check on the incapacitated boy in his backseat.

                Eventually, finally, thankfully, they reached Gavin’s apartment complex. And as Ryan carried Gavin to the elevator and to his front door, his back and shoulders cracked. He was getting too old for all this shit. After retrieving the keys from Gavin’s back pocket, he let himself in and set Gavin down on the sofa.

                Gavin’s apartment wasn’t perfect. It was messy, and cluttered, but it was his. And it definitely reflected him well. Ryan put a trash can nearby Gavin’s face (he knew he was prone to vomiting after drinking) and a blanket across his torso.

                Early morning shone in through the little windows in Gavin’s living room a lot sooner than Ryan anticipated. He didn’t get a wink of sleep, instead choosing to watch Gavin and make sure the other didn’t choke on his own vomit. The soft snoring from Gavin every once in a while was enough to make it worth it; almost worth it, anyway.

                Gavin threw up immediately upon waking up, which didn’t surprise Ryan. Though what did surprise Ryan was that his first instinct was to reach out and comfort the other man. But right as his hand was about to touch Gavin’s back, the other man groaned and wished for more sleep. Slightly thankful for that, Ryan retracted his extended hand and went back to the breakfast bar.

                In retrospect, he should’ve just left. He should’ve walked away once he knew that Gavin wasn’t gonna choke and die in his sleep. He did all he needed to. Why did he stay?

                Gavin had sprung up after a moment and saw Ryan there. He looked completely shocked to see the Vagabond there, which, in his defense, was a perfectly normal reaction. They’d only been working closely together for the last few weeks. And although Ryan thought it was going pretty well, to see someone that you’re scared of in your house out of the blue must have been an unwelcomed surprise.

                After a moment Gavin piped up, “What are you doing here? Who let you in?” His voice sounded so hoarse. So weak. Did Gavin even remember what happened the night before? Why Ryan was even there in the first place?

                The look on Gavin’s face told Ryan that he was piecing it together slowly. And once he asked if Ryan was the one who beat the man off of him, Ryan gave him a small nod.

                That was his second opportunity to leave. After Gavin had thanked him for getting him away and taking him home. His third opportunity to leave was after Gavin had tried desperately to make small talk. But something kept him there. Perhaps he just needed Gavin to ask him to leave. To tell him verbally that he didn’t want Ryan around anymore. Ever.

                But instead, Gavin stood up and looked Ryan directly in the eyes. “Hey. I had a nightmare the other night. Keep havin’ ‘em. Of what happened on the other heist.” Not again. Ryan made a move, either to shut Gavin up or leave, he didn’t know. But Gavin wasn’t backing down.

                And that was the first time that Ryan noticed how bright Gavin’s eyes looked in the sunlight. How determined he was to make peace with him. To know him.

                “I ran, and I shouldn’t have. I know that it might make you feel like you can’t trust me, but know that you can depend on me. You can depend on all of us. We’re a team. And even if you feel like you can’t tell us stuff, or say anything at all, you can trust that we’re on your side. And I’m sorry that we haven’t been treating you like a person. We only really saw you as a mercenary; a means to an end. That’s on us. And I’m sorry.”

                Why was it so difficult to breathe all of a sudden?

                And when did Gavin get so mature? So articulate? And why on Earth was Ryan’s heart beating out of his chest? And, more importantly, why did he get the overwhelming urge to hug Gavin so tight and just forget that the rest of the world even existed?

                These were bad thoughts. Thoughts that got him in trouble. Thoughts that got people he loved killed.

                But it was as though he could feel the end of the finish line of the lonely race he’d been running all those years. And Gavin stood at the end, so ready to welcome him with open arms.

                He shouldn’t. He couldn’t. He left. After Gavin had asked him something else and smiled at him. He left because his heart couldn’t handle it.

Chapter Five

                Canceling was not an option. But to Ryan, neither was showing his face.

                Stop thinking about Gavin. Stop thinking about his kindness and his openness and his ability to make everything seem like it’s gonna work out.

                The suit fit him alright. But it was old. He hadn’t worn it in a long time.

                Stop thinking about how many ways this heist could go wrong. Stop thinking about how Gavin could be killed and if he is the whole world is going to crumble and burn around you.

                He knew that he was going to show up late. But after getting there and seeing actually every other crew member, he knew that his being late was a form of foreshadowing for what was to come. He could feel it in the pit of his stomach. Something was brewing.

                Stop thinking about how beautiful Gavin looks in the golden light, how his white suit makes him stand out even more from the crowd. Stop thinking about how his eyes are so full of trust when he looks at you.

                It’ll just make it hurt more when you fuck it up again. Like you always do.

                “Wow!” Gavin exclaimed, getting closer towards the Vagabond. “You look great!” His smile was wide and his body was so close. Threatening to touch Ryan.

                And he did. When he said his silly little team name for the two and everybody laughed at him. He kept smiling and nudging Ryan’s arm gently. Ryan touched where Gavin had nudged, just to make sure that it was all real. That Gavin was laughing and smiling at him, that they were teamed up, and that they were about to go on another heist.

                Just don’t fuck it up.

~*~

                Gavin was talking to him while they waited for Jeremy and the limo. Well, at him. Ryan didn’t respond. He never did. But somehow, Gavin was okay with this. He talked about the sunset, and the waves, and how he was excited that for once he was sent to a fancy party. Ryan drank in every word.

                Eventually he tucked his knees into his chest and curled in on the lawn chair. “Heh, ‘m a bit nervous. Are you?” He turned to the Vagabond.

                The light from the sunset that lit up the side of Gavin’s face reminded Ryan of every single depiction of angels that he had seen. And with Gavin’s slightly parted lips and groomed facial hair and that twinge of color on his cheeks, he may as well have been sent from Heaven. If Ryan had to pinpoint a moment where he knew he was in love with Gavin, it would have been that moment. And that moment would forever be ingrained into his mind; the loveliest picture he’d ever seen.

                With all too much caution and care, he reached out and put a hand on Gavin’s shoulder. He hoped that just this once, he could be there fully for Gavin. And have the other man depend on him without the fear of being led astray or shot at.

~*~

                Ryan didn’t much care for how Gavin stared at him when he adorned the half-mask. A look that Ryan knew well. Admiration, surprise, perhaps a bit of attraction. But that also could’ve been Ryan’s imagination.

                But he really didn’t like how expensive everything was once they got inside.

                A bourgeoisie’s wet dream. Everything gold and diamond and clean. Everyone dressed in elegant ball gowns and tuxedos. It made Ryan’s skin crawl knowing that these people thought that they were better than everybody else. How small their worlds were. How self-absorbed and arrogant.

                But Gavin seemed to be enjoying himself. So he tried to keep his glaring to a minimum.

                A woman in red had approached Gavin within the first ten minutes of them getting there. She was interested in him. She lied through her teeth about knowing him, then made some kind of comment directed towards the Vagabond. She was beautiful, actually. A slim brunette with a nice bust and voice.

                Jealousy? For what? Gavin wasn’t even interested in Ryan. And even if he was, things would never work out. This was a mission. They were here for business. And if Gavin wanted to sleep with pretty women then that was his business.

                Though, after she had left and Gavin turned back to the skulking Vagabond, his tone shifted. He could see that Ryan was frustrated. Overwhelmed. The Brit just smiled and flashed a cheeky grin at Ryan. And then the woman’s purse.

                Ryan’s eyes widened as he carefully took the purse from the lad. He forgot sometimes. That Gavin was a criminal. A capable one at that. One with sticky fingers and a mind for money and mayhem. Ryan couldn’t help but smile in disbelief. That they were actively performing a heist but Gavin couldn’t help himself and take wallets from poor, unknowing shmucks. He needed to have more faith.

                He watched Gavin take a few more wallets and pass them off to the Vagabond, who shoved them into his coat pocket. How smooth he was. How his fingers grazed so lightly over purses and pockets while his mouth and voice distracted whoever he was stealing from. It was so calculated, so careful. Ryan absolutely loved it.

                But there were other moments that Ryan loved too. How Gavin’s eyes were as wide as saucers as he stared into the diamond chandeliers that dangled far above their heads. How the mask was perfectly illuminated by the golden rays of light that shone onto him. He looked so fascinated by everything around him.

                Some douche started talking to Gavin then. At first it looked like the Brit was responding well to whatever nonsense he was spouting out, but soon even Ryan could see that Gavin grew bored of the conversation. However Ryan’s patience grew thin when he saw the dark-haired man lean forward and grab Gavin’s elbow, whispering something into his ear. Ryan couldn’t make it out, but it didn’t matter. Gavin’s face flushed red and his body stiffened. Ryan needed to get them the fuck away from people for a while. Both for Gavin’s sake and his own. After a second he leaned down to Gavin’s ear and prayed that Gavin got the message. Thankfully he did, and said goodbye to the man after giving him a hug. Ryan knew that Gavin only did it to get his wallet count up to eight, but it still annoyed him.

                Trevor’s voice rung in their earpieces, “Get ready to depart from the party. Wait ‘til I signal you. It should be a few more minutes.”

                A few more minutes. Too much time. Too much time for people to come up to them and bullshit with Gavin and talk about nonsense and touch Gavin far too much. Gavin must’ve noticed his growing discomfort, because he offered something particularly unusual.

                “Let’s dance,” He smiled. “It could get us out of another conversation.”

                Oh. Brilliant plan.

                It had been a while since Ryan danced. He knew the basics of the waltz, but nothing fancy. But the first thing he needed to do was get their hands in position. So he scooped up Gavin’s right hand and then placed his own right on Gavin’s hip. On instinct, Gavin’s left hand came up to the Vagabond’s shoulder, and he looked at Ryan with that same wide curiosity from before. A blush rose in Gavin’s cheeks and the younger man didn’t seem to notice his mouth hanging just slightly open out of surprise for this sudden flow of moment. Ryan tried to hold him as close as possible. Dance as smoothly as possible. Maybe this would be his way of impressing Gavin. Maybe Gavin looked to him like he was the most interesting thing in the world. No other man or woman at this disgustingly overboard party would ever compare. He wanted to be the only thing in Gavin’s world at the moment. No heist, no people, no money. Just a dance. One dance. If that’s all Ryan ever got, he’d be content.

                A smile came onto Gavin’s face and his whole body seemed to melt in Ryan’s hands. Was a lump forming in his throat? Was his heart beating so fast that it felt like it could never stop? Did he look at Ryan and feel the same way that Ryan felt when he looked at Gavin?

                His thoughts were pulled away from him when Trevor told them that they were all clear to continue their mission. But Ryan didn’t want to stop. Gavin didn’t either, judging by how he continued to cling to the Vagabond and dance like no words were even spoken to him.

                Feelings were an odd thing at times. They were dangerous as well. Ryan didn’t much care for them most of the time. But when it came to Gavin, he found himself not really minding as much.

~*~

                Killing people was second nature. A primal reaction. He was Cain. Hate and blood and fear. Partially enjoying the feeling of people choking out their last breaths beneath him. It even scared him at times. He wondered how Gavin might feel about that. Because Ryan wasn’t all dancing and calm and quiet. Ryan was the Vagabond. A force that people feared.

                But also, Gavin wasn’t just Gavin. Gavin was the Golden Boy, who was looking through a database of names and numbers and characters that even Ryan couldn’t decipher. Yet Gavin’s hands moved at a pace that was rhythmic and calculated. He’d done it a million times. He’d passed out at his desk and spent most of his free time throughout the past few weeks training for this very situation. He was their hacker. Of course he’d break through in just a few seconds.

                But something about the computer with the money account was taking a bit longer. He was talking to Trevor about something, Ryan couldn’t hear nor did he care to, because he could feel something coming. Things never go this smoothly.

                He was right, unfortunately. A guard whipped around the corner before he could react and, instead of aiming at him, aimed towards Gavin. In a split second, a lot happened. Ryan tried moving in front of Gavin, only to be met halfway by the lad himself, who tried desperately to push Ryan out of the way. How weird. That their first reactions would be to protect one another. So different than just a few simple weeks before, when Gavin would’ve left the Vagabond to die. But now? Gavin fired round after round into the guard who dared shoot at Ryan. It touched his heart.

                Though Ryan’s mind was more focused on the fact that he’d been shot in the shoulder. The initial shock of it was enough to mask the pain and usher Gavin out of the room, but as they made their way through the halls, killing more guards than Ryan knew what to do with, the pain started to course throughout his upper body.

                He didn’t know if it was the slight blood loss or just his own incompetence, but he’d gotten them lost. Again. The corridors were tight and narrow and twisted, and many rooms just led back in to places they’d already been. He couldn’t fucking believe it. That he’d managed to get himself shot and endanger Gavin by getting them lost. Again. For the fourth fucking time they’d been paired together. They were going to die and it was Ryan’s fault.

                Though, due to a miracle Ryan didn’t believe was possible, Gavin had somehow gotten the pair of them outside. Their luck couldn’t possibly last, though. As the cops were close by and the gunshots were getting less frequent. And this wasn’t an exit with a getaway car nearby because of fucking course it was.

                Determination, fear, strength, a flurry of things were apparent on Gavin’s face as he scooped Ryan’s arm over his shoulder. He was trying to get them both out of there. It was entirely unnecessary, as Ryan was capable of carrying himself, but Gavin looked so brave in that moment. So ready to get the both of them out of there. Ryan leaned into Gavin’s body and ran in step with him throughout a few back alleys.

                He knew the tool kit would come in handy. He used his elbow to bash the window in and began to hotwire the car with the little kit that he packed in his coat pocket. Though in the car, he could feel the blood pouring out of his wound slowly. And the sounds of sirens were still in places nearby.

                The shipping lot was too far away. The penthouse was too far away.

                Time was running out. Gavin was talking to Trevor and the man was asking them where they were and if they were okay. But Ryan couldn’t let them see him like this. Hurt and exposed. There was no other choice. He had to bring Gavin to his house.

                There was part of him that wanted to as well. But this was more urgent.

                Complying to Ryan’s gesture for his phone and earpiece, Gavin looked even more nervous than he did when Ryan was initially shot. But that didn’t matter. The blood coming out of him and the intense sharp pain around his bullet wound didn’t matter. Ryan was sweating and nervous because for the first time ever, someone was invading his home. And Ryan was letting him. Just opening the door for him and letting him in.

                He’d pointed desperately for Gavin to sit on the couch, which the lad did. But time was still of the essence. Breathing heavily, he made his way towards the bathroom and slammed the door shut, locking it behind him. First things first: Undress.

                He had to practically peel off his suit, as the blood was so caked onto his back and clothes that it created a sort of gluey, sticky texture. But once his clothes were off he ripped the mask off too and dug around underneath the sink for his emergency medical supplies.

                In his mirrors he could see both the front of his shoulder and back. The blood was a deep, dark red, and most of his back was covered. The smell of iron was strong and nearly enough to make him gag, but he kept it down and filled a nearby cup with water. It’d been a while since he needed to stitch up a bullet wound himself. A hiss escaped him once the water ran down his back. It stung like a bitch, but he needed to be able to see. Disinfect. A toothbrush with iodine around the wound and some rubbing alcohol. Stings again. Suck it up. Get the tools. Push the needle deep but not too deep, go through the wound and around it, wipe the blood away again, keep going. The shoulder sucks because he’d have to hold the end of the string with his teeth and nearly break his arm from putting it back so far. Still stings. More rubbing alcohol around the now closed wounds. Still stings. Slap a bandage over his front and back. Take some antibiotics and pain meds. Turn on the shower and think.

                He thought about how he got shot again. How Gavin almost died again.

                How Gavin had clung so close to him. So much trust in the Vagabond.

                Turn the shower off and wipe the steam away from the mirror.

                His body was riddled with past mistakes. Gunshot wounds and stab wounds and bruises and cuts. His finger grazed the new bandage gently. So desperately did he want to stop making mistakes.

                Gavin was out in his living room. Sitting quietly, hopefully. He didn’t want Gavin to be a mistake. And somehow, he knew he wasn’t.

                A deep breath in, a deep breath out. Get dressed.

                With a hand on the doorknob, Ryan was just a few steps away from leaving his lonely little island in the middle of nowhere. Finally letting someone in. That was about a million times more difficult than fixing a gunshot wound. You couldn’t suture an emotional wound. But Ryan felt like he wouldn’t have to. For as much trust as Gavin put into him, he put double into Gavin. Which, yeah, was asking a lot.

                Another deep breath. He opened the door.

~*~

END

~*~