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Love at First Something

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Jeremy was, understandably, nervous about moving up from the B team. Joining the main crew would be good for his career and his wallet. But it would involve a lot more pressure and working along people he’d idolized for so long. It would be entering a whole new era of his criminal career, but since he’d joined, he’d made many friends and connections. He had established good working relationships, and friendships, with most of the main team. He also had learned a lot, gotten better at all the skills he had been brought in for, and had been groomed by higher ups in the organization to take his place on the team, so he wasn’t super worried about the work stuff. Mostly he didn’t want to humiliate himself in front of his heroes. And he didn’t.

His first night with the main team in the penthouse they had a big celebratory dinner with all the main players and some of his friends from the B-team. It was also the first time he met Gavin. He’d of course seen the Golden Boy. Met him in passing and worked with him from afar on jobs. But this was his first real experience with Gavin. No gel in his hair,wearing a graphic tee and terrible shorts instead of his usual razzle-dazzle.

If you had asked Jeremy when he was young, when he still had stars in his eyes and was easily dazzled by the glamour of crime, before he got caught up in the knitty gritty, the grimy bloody hands on stuff that surrounded him now, he probably would have told you that he believed in love at first sight. He didn’t know when he was very young that sight is just one sense in one moment and tells you more or less what that person wants you to know. A single fake side of a person. But the Jeremy who sat one person over from a messy, tired Gavin, who himself had just gotten back from a long undercover job, he didn’t believe in love at first sight. He did believe in love at first laugh, though, which was perhaps just as naïve. Current Jeremy thought that getting someone to let their guard down enough to genuinely laugh in a moment, surrounded by friends, was enough to know them, so Jeremy thought he was falling for Mr. Free.

Jeremy felt it, a spark lighting in his chest when something he said made Gavin, the Golden Boy, Geoff’s absolute favorite and the shiniest prize in all of Achievement City, laugh so hard he squeaked and wheezed and almost fell out of his seat. Gavin told Jeremy how funny he was. How clever. And Jeremy shone under his praise, spending the rest of the evening trying to make Gavin laugh again.

But the dinner ended. And the crew was busy. Jeremy never saw Gavin for more than a few passing moments, but he wanted, so badly he wanted, to be noticed by his glamorous hero. Gavin’s public persona was everything Jeremy had dreamed about as child and out of public eye Gavin was a fun and silly friend who was finally letting his guard down around Jeremy, everything he wanted in a boyfriend at this stage in life. So he started scheming to get Gavin to spend time with him. Maybe if he could get Gavin to know him a little better, Gavin would fall for him, too.

One night Gavin was heading out with an associate from the Cockbites, Barbara, around the same time that Jeremy was heading out with all his friends from the B-Team.

“Hey, guys! I don’t know if you were planning on going to dinner, but there’s a new burger place down the street that just opened and we were gonna check it out if you guys wanted to, I dunno,come eat with us? We’d love to hang out with you guys?” Jeremy started kicking himself about halfway through that awkward invitation as Matt, a step behind him, tried to disguise his snickers as a cough. They both continued soaking in Jeremy’s awkwardness and misery as Barb and Gav made eye contact and then Gavin paused to speak, he was however, awkward so as he tried to formulate Barb answered.

“We’d love to! I was hoping to get to know you guys better!”
“Oh... okay,” Gavin said, following the group after a moment’s hesitation.

So they went out to dinner. At first the conversation stumbled, trying to find the right balance. Gavin kept glancing at Barbara and fidgeting with his napkin as Jeremy struggled to bring him into the conversation, to get his attention. But as the evening went on they all started to loosen up, and Jeremy felt real friendships forming. So they all went out again.

And again and again Jeremy would invite Gavin and whoever was with him, sometimes Michael and Lindsay or other members of the main team, more often Barb, to join him and the B-team out. He and his friends started getting invited out by the main team and others which created many new groups of friends. Nearly every combination of people found something to do together which quickly became ‘their’ thing. Jeremy, would join Michael and Gavin as ‘Lads’, for all kinds of, frankly, immature shennanigans which often involved a lot of explosives. Jeremy would go on missions with Ryan and sometimes Gavin to assassinate people which often involved them almost getting caught and going to elaborate and silly measures to get out without being spotted. Gavin would go out with Trevor and Alfredo to do, something? Jeremy and Lindsay began to bond over their mutual love of chaos. And of course each combination of people needed to have their own team name to the point where Jeremy was thinking of making a chart to remember who worked in what group. Jeremy also noticed Gavin hanging out more and more often with the Cockbites, working on all kinds of projects.

Because of the increased contact and overlap, Jeremy and the B team spent hours speculating as to the relationships of their new friends. They were reasonably sure that Michael and Lindsay were married, they thought Ryan might have something going with Geoff and Jack, and Barb and Gavin were either best friends or a couple. Matt, Alfredo, and Andy wanted to know so they could declare the winner of some kind of betting pool, but Trevor and Jeremy were a little more personally invested. Trevor liked Barbara, and Jeremy had started this all because he had fallen for Gavin. So the B team whispered and debated. They made bets and compiled lists of evidence. They observed and reported back to one another on the doings and interactions of the main crew, trying to figure out who was dating who. And in all this none of them thought to just ask.

That is until one night, when, after going to a karaoke bar and getting wasted trying to go shot for shot with Funhaus and challenging them to a Queen (and inexplicably a song called ‘Mothers Be Aware’) sing off, the B-team, including its newest members, Felix and Mica, and the Lads all went to Matt and Jeremy’s appartement and decided to play spin the bottle. At this time, Michael informed them that he and his wife (who he confirmed was Lindsay) had an agreement that drunk kissing party games are allowed and don’t count as cheating as long as he sends Lindsay a picture every time he ends up making out with Gavin, which was apparently often. Even after Michael shared this, Gavin didn’t mention his relationship with Barb. Which gave Jeremy (and, yeah, Trevor too or whatever) hope. Maybe Barbara and Gavin weren’t together after all.

Sitting on the floor of Jeremy and Matt’s living room they all put their fate in the hands of the slightly uneven floor and a marginally cracked mostly empty bottle of wine and they all made out with one another. Jeremy was playing a dangerous game. Kissing Gavin meant that he got to kiss Gavin, but it also meant that he had to know what it was like to kiss Gavin but knowing, deep down, that while it meant everything to Jeremy, it meant nothing to Gavin.

It started off slow, with Michael spinning and landing on Gavin, of course. Jeremy was nervous the first time he spun the bottle and it landed on Felix, one of the new guys. It had been a while since he had kissed someone. But it went over well, even if Felix was kind of aggressive. Then Felix spun and landed on Michael and so on and so forth. Gavin and Michael mostly kissed each other, like every time it was one of their turns, until finally Gavin spun and it landed on Jeremy. It was amazing. And heart breaking. Part of him thought there was something special in the way the golden boy kissed him. Beautiful and spectacular and all the while down to earth like Gavin was. Jeremy spun and got Matt, which had less weight behind it, though it was unfortunate for the old friends, who did not want to do it, and swore they would only kiss again if there was some serious money going to a charity for children for it. Jeremy was going to need to buy a lot of toothpaste after tonight.

At this point Gavin started to impart unsolicited wisdom. “You should never ever play party games like this with someone from a rival crew. Because one minute it’s all, ‘I dare you to steal that cop’s takeout’ and the next it’s ‘Was it really your crew who stole our heist after we did all the groundwork?’ And you can’t lie in truth or dare, so the next thing you know you’re at war with Funhaus. Again.” They all laughed uproariously. Until a few minutes later. “You should also never ever play games like this with someone you have feelings for, because then you’re just setting yourself up for heartbreak.” Everyone murmured in agreement except for Trevor and Matt who gave Jeremy identical looks of sympathy. Jeremy’s heart sank. Not only was he ignoring Gavin’s very good advice, but the fact that Gavin was saying this meant that he probably didn’t have feelings for Jeremy. Unless he was covering up his feelings by saying this. Which meant he probably wasn’t dating anyone and he might like Jeremy. Drunk Jeremy felt a little reassured at this logic.

After much making out and many regretful decisions, the night ended. The next weekend, Jeremy went away on a job for a few weeks. During that time, he and Gavin texted constantly. Matt and Jeremy were convinced that Gavin, friendly lovely Gavin who charms and befriends everyone with dumb questions and engaging hypotheticals, was flirting back by responding to Jeremy’s messages. Jeremy would send selfies with the cats he met and Gavin would respond with ‘aww cute!!!’s. Felix pointed out that Gavin was probably referring to the cats, but Trevor assured Jeremy that he was cute in those pictures too. Jeremy would text about the annoying people he was working with and make jokes about rival crews and Gavin would respond with ‘lol’s and strings of emojis which often included at least one heart and one smiley face, which they were assured by Mica meant that Gavin liked Jeremy. Matt also asked Gavin -- for Trevor of course-- if he and Barbara were together, or if they were both single, you know, for Trevor’s sake. They were not. Matt learned, and relayed to the ‘get Jeremy and Gavin together Groupchat’ which was just the B-Team groupchat which had been renamed and then had Michael added to it, that Barbara and Gavin had been good friends for a long time and had tried dating, and then very soon after decided to break up. (“I could’ve told you that!” Michael had helpfully added, and then changed the groupchat name to ‘A bunch of Dumbasses who need michael’s help’). Their first date had actually been interrupted by Jeremy and co. inviting them to dinner with them that first time, all those months ago.

When Jeremy got back he was more determined than ever to tell Gavin that he was interested and find out if Gavin felt the same way. So much that he told Matt and Michael all about it. Jeremy kept trying to work up the courage and failing, terrified of ruining their existing friendship. His friends were not as patient, so Michael worked things out so that a very drunk Gavin and a mostly drunk Jeremy were stuck alone on a rooftop, for over an hour, waiting for Andy to deliver a shipment (Michael conveniently forgot to mention that Andy and this week’s shipment were headed out of state). So Jeremy took a leap, figuratively.

“Gavin. Gav. Are you too drunk for a serious conversation?”
“Nah,” Gavin said. (He most certainly was)
“Gavin. I don’t wanna wreck this friendship we have but. I really like you. Like. Romantically. And I really wanna date you, but like. If you aren’t into me, that’s okay I don’t wanna make things awkward. but like. I really like you.”
“... Oh.”

To the credit of the golden boy, he let Jeremy down very gently. Very sweetly. He made sure Jeremy know he was valued as a friend, but after Barb he didn’t want to try a relationship for its own sake with a close friend. He didn’t want to ruin what they had. He just didn’t feel that way about Jeremy.

Maybe they were both too wasted and the conversation was horrifically awful, maybe it was incredible and super mature. But either way they both came out of the conversation believing that they had been horrible and the other person had been as good at the conversation as they could’ve been, drunk out of their minds at 2am on a rooftop. Set up by a mutual friend for this horrible trainwreck of a conversation.

So Gavin didn’t like Jeremy like that. Which kinda stung like a bitch. Jeremy spent several days trying to figure out where to go from here. How to get over someone like Gavin, how to get over this perfect and beautiful Golden Boy. Things were awkward and they tried to maintain a good friendship but often Jeremy found himself avoiding Gavin for a while. But time passes. People grow up.

Jeremy gave up trying to get Gavin to notice him romantically and just tried to be a good crew member and get the good friendship he had with the rest of them with Gavin. He put effort into being good and kind and hardworking and fun. Improving himself for his own sake instead of trying to tailor himself into something or someone he thought Gavin would like. And their friendship got better. And when Felix told Jeremy he was falling for Gavin just a few weeks after Gavin had rejected Jeremy, (which really should have told Jeremy something about Felix’s dependability) Jeremy smiled and told Felix not to pressure Gavin, but if Gavin was into him as well Jeremy would be happy for them. And he meant it. Mostly. And then the turf war got worse.

Ever since Jeremy had moved up from the B-Team, and even a little before then, there had been a turf war between the Fakes, and all of Cockbite’s associates actually, and a new shitty gang called the Birds of Prey, they started by infringing on their drug trade, and then brought human trafficking to Achievement City which was something no one at Cockbite or any of their associates would ever stand for. You don’t involve innocents and you don’t sell people. Not under the rule of the Cockbites. They were attacking every branch all over the country, so Burns rearranged everyone. Different fronts needed different people to help them. Somewhere in New England needed some people on the street and someone good with disguises and brawling to go undercover. Somewhere on the west coast needed a Hacker.

Jeremy and Gavin and the rest of the crew, Jeremy’s friends, his new family, spent months apart scattered across states each fighting individual fronts, out of contact for ages at a time fighting to go back home. They all tried to keep in touch. They all tried to maintain their family and tried really hard to get the opportunity to visit one another but things only got more difficult. One time things weren’t quite as lonely, there was a week where Jeremy, Gavin, Barbara, Matt, Mica and a few others were all holed up in different safe houses belonging to Cockbite with only cartoons and the telecom between the network of safe houses for entertainment. Talking with Gavin about cartoons was one of the highlights of Jeremy’s time in New England.

The war got worse before it got better, they lost some people, Felix turned out to be a traitor, which stung Jeremy more than most, because he and Felix had been kinda close, and Jeremy worked hard doing his duty, missing his friends, his home, and swearing to himself that when he got back he would be the best crewmember he could be and show all his friends how much he loved and cherished them. It was lonely and shitty. He realized how lucky he had been to find the Fakes.

Eventually the war was over.

They all went home. They all took their time settling back into their routines and rhythms of the crew in Achievement City. They all found their old haunts and social circles, they all found their old balances. Jeremy tried so hard to show his friends how much he valued them, but they were all still close family, so things didn’t change much.

Except…

Gavin and Jeremy didn’t used to always have the same haunts, they didn’t used to gravitate towards each other all the time and spend the same hours in the penthouse. They didn’t used to have so much overlap in their day-to-day, and they certainly didn’t used to have the easy camaraderie of co-existence that after only a few weeks back home bordered on interdependent. It was hard to pinpoint exactly how it happened. Maybe it was that they’d both been lonely during the war. Maybe it was that they were both suddenly realizing how much they valued this family in the crew. Neither one of them really spent any more time in the penthouse, neither one of them really spent more time on jobs and doing work than before or really moved workspaces that much. But suddenly they were always together, easily working on their own separate parts of crew work as well as co creating projects and planning heists together. Who stepped forward? Who moved first? It was hard to tell. But soon they fit together in a way that made Jeremy happy.

He had found his family, his place, his home in the crew a while before, but this, this close friendship with Gavin and this lovely coexistence, this was like the final piece. His life here was built. It could still grow, still change, and he was willing to let it but he was happier than he could have ever imagined.

And then Michael had to go and ruin it. “You’re basically dating Gavin, you know.”
“No I’m not!” Jeremy said, maybe a little too quickly, a little too defensively. “We found out ages ago that he doesn’t like me like that. He’s not interested in me. And I’m over him.”
“Are you?” Michael challenged.
“Yes. Maybe. I was.” Jeremy paused to really evaluate how he was feeling and what he was thinking. “I think I was 97% over him but instead of making it that last 3% I’ve been. Stagnating. Backsliding. But it’s different. We’re different. And he’s not interested. So. I’m gonna give up that last bit of hope. And I’m gonna get over him. And we’re gonna keep being amazing friends.” He said with determination.
Michael snorted. “Good luck with that,” he replied, clearly not convinced.

Doubt found its way into Jeremy’s thoughts. And Jeremy couldn’t get his heart broken. Because it would be broken if he got his hopes up this time. Last time it had been a silly hero crush, but this time? He and Gavin were so close. He loved Gavin so much. If he let his feelings slip into romantic territory, he would fall in love with Gavin so quickly that he’d get whiplash. He needed to nip this in the bud. So he enlisted Gavin’s assistance as a wingman.

They went to bars and clubs and Jeremy asked Gavin to help him pick up men. And women. And non-binary people. Maybe it was because he lacked confidence, maybe it was because he seemed unattractive when he went out with Gavin for comparison. Maybe it was because is heart wasn’t truly in it, but for the life of him Jeremy couldn’t get a date. He couldn’t find anyone, which meant he spent ages in bars trying out pick up lines and practicing flirting with Gavin. Which just made everything worse. So he tried harder. He was determined to get the rest of the way over Gavin.

But there were whispers. Jokes he and Gavin couldn’t ignore. Geoff said that they should plan a meeting in the conference room and have it be an intervention for Jeremy and Gavin telling them that they were dating. Matt wanted to lock them in a closet and see what would happen. Michael wanted to make a heist entirely designed to prove it to them. There were discussions of cue cards and PowerPoints, constant teasing on heists and around the penthouse until Gavin finally decided he’d had enough.

“We are very nearly dating, aren’t we? How would we feel about it if we were.... actually. To date? How much would... change?” He asked tentatively one night as they drove back to a safe house where Andy was supposed to meet them to pick up the weapons they’d just purchased.

“I don’t know, Gav. And I’m kinda scared.”
“So am I. But it could be good. We could. Discuss it?”

And so into the wee hours of the night Gavin and Jeremy sat on the floor of the safe house waiting for Andy who never showed (he was kinda high and forgot about it) discussing their doubts, their fears, their hopes and their feelings. Jeremy realized that he hadn’t really loved Gavin way back then. That there’s no love at first anything.

Love comes in little pieces as you see every side of a person. Love is in every little moment and each good and bad thing until it’s undeniable. And then it keeps growing. It’s in conversations and meals shared. It’s in hugs and texts and cooperation. But love is also malleable. One shape of love is not inherently better. One reciprocation of love, while preferrable, is not superior. And so, this time, Jeremy knew he was in love with Gavin.

However, despite this revelation, and Gavin practically admitting he had romantic feelings himself, he was certain that Gavin was about to tell him that their love should stay platonic. And Jeremy realized that, even though he’d give almost anything for a romantic relationship with Gavin, he’d rather have some close relationship with Gavin then push on this and risk losing him all together.

Jeremy braced himself to be let down easy, once again, by the sweet talking charming tongue of the golden boy. But when it was all laid out on the table Gavin looked him in the eye and asked sweetly with an unpracticed, unfamiliar rawness in his voice, “Can I kiss you?”