There are dead and dying agents in the halls, alarms blaring and they’re down to backup power that won’t last much longer now because Gavin’s a thorough son of a bitch.
Better than anyone here gave him credit for because he’s managed to fool all of them, hasn’t he.
Played the part of the charming British agent over from MI6. A bid to foster good will and strengthen ties with their allies that should have been a good thing. (Ryan’s own agency on shaky ground given the multiple investigations it was under, desperate enough to snatch up the offer without bothering to read the fine print)
And they’d all fallen for it hook, line and sinker because Gavin was just that good.
The right amount of charming and funny, self-deprecating sense of humor. Even Ryan had fallen prey to it, lowered his guard even though he should have known better. Allowed Gavin to get close to him and he’s paying for it now, that lapse in judgment.
They’d fallen for Gavin’s act, and it’s costing them as agents and security throw themselves at him hoping someone will be able to stop him.
Headed for the heart of the agency, planning to take all it’s secrets, and clearly wiling to do anything to do it. (Anything.)
Ryan feels sick at the thought and shakes his head to clear it because he can’t think about those stupid, naive could have beens he’d imagined for them.
Ryan’s head snaps up at the sound of gunfire down the hall. Hears a body hit the floor checks his own weapon before creeping closer. He can hear muffled yelling coming from one of the storage closets and no sign of movement down the hallway.
For a moment Ryan considers moving on, but the building is on fire and there’s too much chaos around them for him to think anyone else will come this way in time.
There’s a chair tucked under the doorknob - low-tech but surprisingly effective. When Ryan opens the door, he’s greeted with the familiar faces of office and cleaning staff. A mail-room worker.
Non-combatants, all shoved in here to keep them out from underfoot when Gavin could have just as easily killed them. (Should have, when it’s the smarter option.)
Ryan ruthlessly quashes that tiny sliver of hope lodged in his chest because locking them in here saved Gavin bullets. Created a distraction for anyone pursuing him and buying him time. (Efficiency and strategy and nothing more.)
“Peters,” Ryan says, grabbing the shoulder of the only one of them who looks like they have their head on straight. “Get them out of here. He’s headed to the data center.”
And Ryan’s going to stop him.
Peters looks like she wants to protest, but Victoria from reception lets out a choked sob and Ryan can see Peters’ priorities shift. Looking after her people in a crisis the way she’s always done, trusting to the agents to do the same.
“Take the service route,” he tells her, and slips out of the storage closet before she can say anything.
He stops down the corner to listen. Waits until he hears her coaxing the cluster of people into the hallway and towards safety before moving on.
Ryan comes across a pair of agents a little further down where they must have confronted Gavin. Sharpe is dead, and her partner is sprawled brokenly across the floor, choking on his own blood, but they managed to hit Gavin at least once.
Blood spatter on the wall and a trail leading away, glistening in the dim lighting.
Ryan hesitates, but Gavin knows Ryan’s coming for him – can’t not, after everything he’s done – and the bullet Ryan puts in one of his own is mercy. (Tastes foul, black and bitter and weighing Ryan’s soul down, down, down.)
A few feet on and there’s a bloody hand print on the wall, little smears where he must have leaned against it before pressing on. The blood trail stops at the elevator bank, but Ryan knows where Gavin’s headed. (No need to follow breadcrumbs to get there.)
Ryan takes the stairs, leery of being caught in the elevators between the dwindling power and Gavin’s deviousness. When he reaches his destination, he doesn’t bother with the main doors, bolted and locked down as they are when there’s an easier path.
Remembers Trumbull bitching to Newbern about major security vulnerabilities surrounding the data center and server room. Valid concerns that had been dismissed in light of more immediate matters. (After all, how in the world would anyone be able to get that far in a building full of trained government agents?)
There’s an old conference room down the hall from the data center that hasn’t been used for official agency business in years, decades, maybe. Turned into something of a storage area for the techs, a perfect spot for a clandestine meeting and all too often overlooked.
Ryan uses a filing cabinet to give him a foot up, and pulls himself up into the small space, careful where he rests his weight as he moves toward the data center. He’s almost there when impatience and desperation combine and he misjudges how much weight he can put on a support.
Feels it start to give under his foot, but he’s too slow to move and he crashes through the ceiling tile to land in an ungainly sprawl. Gun jolted out of his grip, pain screaming through his shoulder and side head rebounding against the cold tiles, stunning him.
The sound of someone crossing those same tiles until they stop a foot away from him.
When he opens his eyes, Gavin’s standing over him.
The sleeve of Gavin’s arm is dark with blood, tie wrapped messily around the bullet wound there, courtesy of Sharpe and her partner.
“Hi, Gavin,” Ryan says, anger and frustration beating against his ribs, fury howling in his mind at this person who’s brought his world crashing down like this.
Gavin tips his head to the side, oddly birdlike.
There was a time Ryan would have said Gavin wore his heart on his sleeve. Gave too much of himself away and that he should take more care, what with the way the world is.
Not with the way Gavin’s looking at him. Eyes colder than Ryan’s ever seen, expression so perfectly blank and unreadable.
Not the Gavin he was partnered with all this time.
The one he laughed and joked with. The one he shared more of himself with than anyone else because Ryan’s a hypocrite. (Trusts too easily, too quickly, when he allows someone close.)
The one he -
“You were supposed to be in DC.”
Ryan laughs, imagines he’s choking on things like regret and guilt and self-recrimination rather than the smoke rising from the back of the room.
Too late to stop Gavin then, because that’s become a trend with him. (Too late to see what had become of the agency he thought he loves enough to sacrifice for. Too late to argue Newbern down from his conviction that partnering with Gavin’s agency would save theirs. Too late to stop himself from falling helplessly in love with Gavin.)
“We wrapped up early,” Ryan says, staring at the hole in the ceiling. Broken and jagged and crumbled bits of ceiling tile drifting down on him. “I wanted to surprise you.”
Ryan pushes himself to his feet, and because he’s just that stupid, he lifts his hands and does the world’s saddest jazz hands.
Gavin’s eyes narrow, a muscle jumps in his jaw, and Ryan stares at him while the agency’s servers burn.
Years, decades, of information and secrets (Jesus Christ, so many of those), turning to melted plastic and metal and fouling the air. (Fitting, considering the agency’s slow, painful decline from nearly noble to what it is today.)
“Why?” Ryan asks, even though he knows he won’t like the answer. “Why do all of this?”
Why go along with the subterfuge of some bizarre agent exchange program? Why put up with the humiliating cases they were handed to keep Gavin from getting too much of a glimpse of the way the agency operated? Why -
Gavin’s eyes go to the door when the sound of voices reaches them. Noise of running footsteps and barked orders. Something heavy impacting the doors that Gavin’s blockaded with useless server racks and filing cabinets.
“Why us?” Ryan asks, and it must be the smoke drying out his throat that the words come out so cracked and brittle.
Gavin looks at him as the doors rattle under another impact. The blockade shifting with the sound of metal scraping against tile, and again, and again.
One last push to stop the traitor in their midst.
Gavin’s lip curls, hand steady as he aims his gun at Ryan.
“There was never an us.”
Ryan wants to say he sees something like regret in Gavin’s eyes. Deep down, under that terrible blankness, but that would be another lie to tell himself, wouldn’t it?
Ryan grunts as the bullets hit him, breath punched out of him and pain blooming bright and sharp across his chest as he falls.
He sees Gavin hesitate before tucking his gun away, and moving to grab a bag off the floor nearby. Watches helplessly as Gavin pulls himself into the ceiling just as the agents break through his blockade to spill into the room.
He tries to follow, stop him, but his body’s already shutting down on him, pain and stress dragging him under as the agents open fire on the ceiling where Gavin disappeared, gunfire sounding loud as thunder.
Cracked ribs and a mild concussion on top of other unimportant injuries make Ryan just one of many casualties.
One who could still walk, no matter how unsteadily. Wasn’t actively dying, so they sit him down in the ER’s waiting room while seeing to those more critically injured.
Mind clearing after the second hour of waiting, Ryan realizes the precarious situation he’s in. What was bound to happen when the dust settled and people started looking for convenient scapegoats. (Newbern’s flunkies keeping an eye on him and the other wounded feeling more ominous as time passes.)
Hospitals are easy enough to get lost in if you try hard enough. It’s easy to slip the unformed police officers. Newbern’s chosen trying so hard to look concerned for their fellow agents and not what secrets they might spill to the wrong people.
It occurs to Ryan as he’s packing essentials, ghosting through the city withdrawing money from his bank accounts and preparing to disappear, that he’s been building up to this for a long time, now.
Without attachments (Gavin), it’s painfully easy to cut ties with his life here. Too much of his life put into his work, thinking he was doing the right thing and blinded by what had happened to the agency he loved so much. (Chipping off pieces of himself bit by bit until he was barely recognizable anymore.)
Ryan’s learned a lot, working for the agency. Knows exactly where to go where he won’t be found, the kind of city that won’t mind another lost soul.
He knows the money he managed to bring with him won’t last, and things are still too dangerous for him to look for a respectable job, not that he wants to.
Angry and bitter and he’s really only been good for one thing, Newbern and every other superior he’s ever had taking advantage of that, and honestly, that should have been a warning sign in and of itself.
Still, Lost Santos is the perfect kind of place for someone like him, and he starts building a reputation for himself there using what the agency taught him.
Good at killing people and keeping secrets he wants to keep. Good at surviving things that should have killed him a dozen times over.
Eventually, he catches Geoff’s attention, and when Geoff comes around and asks if Ryan wants to work for him, he says no.
Ryan’s not looking to throw his lot in with another organization, never forgets what happened the time he did.
He says no again a week later when Geoff tracks him down to the bar Ryan likes to go to every now and then. Grabs a booth in the back and sips his diet soda while he watches the patrons, keeps his skills sharp.
Geoff drops down in the seat across from him with a shit-eating grin and asks Ryan if he’s reconsidered since the last time they talked. As though Ryan wasn’t very clear about things, didn’t make himself heard.
And he keeps doing it, finding Ryan wherever he goes, little grin on his face as he asks if Ryan wants to join the Fakes, like it’s some kind of club instead of a dangerous criminal organization.
Ryan tells Geoff no a dozen times in as many weeks, until he gets tired of it and says yes, just to see the look of shock on Geoff’s face.
“One job,” Ryan says, firm, unyielding. “Then you and yours leave me the fuck alone.”
It doesn’t work like that, of course.
Not with these assholes.
Geoff’s already gotten under his skin, but the job Geoff brings Ryan in on is a big one. Requires weeks of prep, and that’s when the others get their claws in him.
All of them bitter bastards who have been fucked over by life one way or another, this look to them Ryan knows.
Jack’s the most upfront about things, no reason not to be when Ryan goes with him to steal a Cargobob and it comes out he used to be military. Flew special ops team on missions that never happened until Geoff came along and things got even more complicated, because Geoff’s good at that.]
Little things the others let slip, old habits they haven’t quite broken and he knows he’s the same. Quirks and oddities from the life he’s left behind that – ironically, hilariously – make him a better criminal than the agent he used to be.
In spite of himself, Ryan sticks around when the job’s over. Claims he’s interested in another haul like the one they just made, but they all know he’s full of shit. (Breaking his own rules all over again like it didn’t end badly the first time around, but Ryan’s that kind of stupid.)
Ryan likes them, thinks he could learn to trust them, given time.
And honestly, they make a good team, this crew.
It takes six years and a broken down warehouse in Los Santos before Ryan comes face-to-face with his past.
What’s left of it, anyway. His old agency ripped wide open and all its secrets laid bare in the aftermath of Gavin’s betrayal.
Ryan’s been out of town helping Fakehaus with a little problem, when Jack calls him back to Los Santos because Geoff goes missing.
Something to do with a rival crew (there’s always one of those) getting a little too ambitious and Geoff being a little too Geoff.
Disappears somewhere between leaving the penthouse and meeting with one of Burnie’s people, and a phone call from the fuckers who took him just to gloat.
Getting back to Los Santos is a nightmare, pileups on the freeway that backs up traffic for miles.
By the time Ryan gets back to Los Santos Geoff’s been found after Burnie’s man went looking for him. Jack sends him the address in the industrial district where Ryan comes across a ghost from his past.
Six years since Ryan’s world came crashing down, and Gavin hasn’t changed that much.
Stupid frosted tips and obnoxiously gaudy sunglasses and douchebag ensemble aside, he knows Gavin. (Or did. It’s complicated.)
The beard’s new, along with the scar on his face bisecting his eyebrow.
There are bodies scattered around them. Members of the crew stupid enough to challenge them like this, and for a moment he’s back in the agency’s hallways, smoke and fire and blood all around. (The impact of the bullets and Gavin’s cold gaze on him.)
Michael, sounding startled as Ryan draws his gun and stalks toward the pair of figures in the center of the warehouse.
Geoff tied to a chair and goddamned Gavin standing over him.
He can feel Geoff’s eyes snapping to him at Michael’s yell. Pulling himself upright even though it has to hurt with the way he was curled down over his ribs.
Gavin turns to look at him. Clearly unfazed with the threat of the Vagabond pointing a gun at him and Ryan almost, almost, laughs at that.
Of course he wouldn't be scared of someone like the Vagabond, not when he’s a million times worse. Done things the Vagabond would never dare.
Six years ago Gavin burned Ryan’s world down, and now -
“Vagabond!” Michael yells again, hand on Ryan’s shoulder holding him back, grounding him in the here and now.
Jeremy’s beside him, gun drawn and head cocked to the side, question in his eyes. Ready to say fuck it all and back Ryan up here no matter what because Battle Buddies.
Jack walks up to the three of them, quiet and watchful and Geoff.
“Ryan,” Geoff says, doesn’t bother with calling him the Vagabond because Gavin must know who he is. (Or maybe he’s more worried about Ryan’s mental state than anything else at the moment, who can say.)
Beaten all to hell and still watching Ryan carefully, like he knows how close Ryan is to that edge he’s been teetering on for a long time now. (Six years, give or take.)
Gavin shifts, moves away from Geoff in case Ryan does snap. Does something he shouldn’t and doesn’t want Geoff to pay for it, get caught up in the crossfire.
Ryan drags his eyes away from Gavin to look at Geoff. Adrenaline buzzing through him and this bone-deep fear clawing at him because this stupid bastard gave back what Ryan thought he’d lost.
The only person he’s truly respected enough to follow since the agency burned. (Maybe before then, when Ryan was still lying to himself.)
Geoff’s gaze moves between Ryan and Gavin, and he can see the wheels turning in his head, filing information away for later.
He knows about the agency, knows Ryan’s story because they all have ones like that. Pasts where everything fell apart around them leaving them to pick up the pieces and carry on best they could.
“Get me the fuck out of here, buddy,” Geoff says. “I want to go home.”
Ryan tracks Gavin when they’re back at the penthouse.
Nods along when Jack and Geoff take him aside and tell him Gavin’s trustworthy, that he’s been one of Burnie’s most trusted people for years now. (That Gavin saved Geoff’s life.)
Makes little noises of assent when they tell him Gavin’s going to be working with them now, and or God’s sake Ryan, please don’t kill him or they’ll have the Roosters to deal with.
When they’re done talking, Ryan goes looking for Gavin, because he’s paranoid enough to worry about history repeating itself here. (Knows it would kill him this time around, too attached to these assholes to be able to go on if something happened to them.)
Six years is a long time, and not long enough.
He finds Gavin talking to Matt. Looking over his shoulder as Matt talks him through this project he’s been working on for the crew. Gavin offering bits of advice and suggestions.
Matt’s grinning up at him, laughter soft and warm, and Ryan’s voice comes out sharper than he means to when he speaks.
Ryan likes Matt. This stupid kid who is braver than he thinks he is, and so damn smart. Full of potential, and Ryan can tell that Gavin already has him wrapped around his little finger.
That smile Ryan remembers too damn well, soft and harmless and no real threat, honestly.
Matt blinks up at him, confused little frown on his face.
Gavin gives Matt’s shoulder a squeeze, flashing him a reassuring smile.
“I think he wants to talk to me,” he says, like Ryan popped by for a quick little chat between friends.
“Uh, okay?” Matt says. “We can pick this up again later, I guess?”
Gavin tells him it’s a promise as Ryan turns and leads the way down to the shooting range. They’ll have something like privacy there, the others smart enough to stay away when Ryan’s off balance like this.
Gavin doesn’t say anything when he realizes where Ryan’s taken them. Tension in his shoulders, the way he watches Ryan carefully.
Just stands there and watches Ryan. Waiting for him to start things off, and it’s -
“Long time no see,” Ryan says, going for light and casual. Nonchalant as hell, because Gavin’s one of them now, isn’t he. On loan from Burnie for the foreseeable future and the thought of what that means terrifies Ryan.
“Six years,” he says, like Ryan doesn’t know.
If Ryan didn’t know any better that Gavin is nervous. (As scared about this as he is.)
Six years is a long time.
Gives you perspective on things you never expected, and that’s a bitch of a problem, isn’t it.
Before, Ryan wouldn’t have hesitated to put a bullet in Gavin’s head back in the warehouse, consequences be damned. He would have killed him then and there for what he did six years ago, what he might do now.
Now, though -
Ryan doesn’t fucking know.
Scared as all hell about Gavin being here, so close to the people Ryan’s come to think of as family. This life he’s rebuilt from the ground up, still a work in progress. (That raw, aching wound in his chest where Gavin used to fit so perfectly.)
He knows now, how bad things had gotten with the agency. How immoral and corrupt it had gotten without his realizing.
Too close to see the truth for himself, but aware something had shifted. This growing sense of unease he couldn’t explain, didn’t know who to go to about any of it.
It doesn't excuse what Gavin did because Ryan knows some of the people who died that day were just as in the dark about things as he was. (Doesn’t know why Gavin let him live, when others weren’t offered that mercy.)
But Gavin’s standing in front of him now, isn’t he. Waiting for Ryan’s questions, whatever he has to say like he’s been expecting something like this, so why not ask?
“Why did you spare me?”
Gavin breathes out a quiet little sigh, a laugh that’s anything but amused.
“Should have known you’d start with something like that,” he murmurs.
Ryan waits, lets Gavin get his thoughts in order.
“You know, don’t you?” Gavin asks finally. “What your agency was up to. You know.”
He’s spent a lot of time wondering what happened to send someone like Gavin to the agency. What horrible things they’d been doing to spur that kind of action.
So much of it in the open by the time Gavin was done, dirty little secrets and awful truths. Shady dealings and worse, the agency digging itself in deeper and deeper as time went on until they left agencies like Gavin’s no other option.
Discovered that the agency had quietly dealt with the agents and staff who’d realized something wrong was going on, had tired to speak out, go to someone who would expose the agencies crimes. (Secrets piling up and only matter of time until they spilled into the open.)
All the files the agency assumed were destroyed in the fires Gavin suddenly appearing in the hands of people who could do something about things. Make sure justice was carried out, or as close to it as possible.
He’d learned that Gavin hadn’t been from MI6, was working for an agency better at hiding its tracks than Ryan was at uncovering them. Ryan looking, and never able to find him again, no matter how hard he looked. (Never really knowing what he would have done if he had, and maybe it’s for the best he didn’t.)
“Newbern found out about me,” Gavin says. “My cover was blown, and I had to finish my mission. Couldn’t risk him deleting anything that would incriminate him or the agency, and it all went pear-shaped on me.”
It sounds like regret in his voice, because a lot of people died that day at Gavin’s hands.
“The agents who broke into the sever room,” Gavin says, eyes darting away from Ryan’s. Talking around the matter of Ryan laying on floor at Gavin’s feet, bullets in his vest and cracked ribs. (Gavin shooting him.) “Do you know who they were?”
Newbern’s favorites. Handpicked and loyal to him before anything else.
“Yeah,” Ryan says, flexing his hands because he remembers all too well.
“They would have killed you,” Gavin says, meeting Ryan’s eyes unflinchingly. “They would have killed you if they thought you’d known what I was up to. If you were working with me.”
Six of them and Gavin had been on the run for almost half an hour by then. Tired and injured with every able-bodied agent available sent after him, and in no condition for a gunfight.
“That doesn’t answer my question,” Ryan says, and that sliver of hope he’s never been able to fully shake is still there.
Gavin smiles, this little thing sitting crooked on his lips.
“I’m not that good of an actor, Ryan.”
”You’re smart. You can figure it out,” goes unsaid, but Ryan thinks he knows what Gavin means anyway.
His own disaster of a life aside, Ryan leans in, because he has more important things to worry about now.
“Hurt any of them, and I’ll kill you.”
It’s not a threat, no.
It’s a goddamned promise.
“Wouldn’t expect anything else,” he says, and it comes out sounding fond of all things. “I’m not here to cause trouble, Ryan.”
That remains to be seen.
Gavin settles into the crew well enough as time goes by. Ryan’s both amused and touched at the way the others take care to make sure the two of them are never left along together after that moment in the warehouse.
Someone always around to run interference, worried Ryan might snap and go after Gavin again or vice versa, it’s never really clear.
And Gavin -
Gavin’s too much like the person Ryan remembers from all those years ago, and a complete stranger at the same time.
So many of the old habits, quirks, Ryan remembers and a whole slew of new ones that wreak havoc with what Ryan knows about him, or the things he thought he knew.
He watches the way Gavin interacts with the others, the easy friendship that develops between him and Michael, something a little more complicated with Jeremy. (Damned bizarre with Matt, the way they snap and snarl one moment and conspire like idiot kids the next.)
The sheer chaos that results when he’s around Lindsay, not to mention Trevor and Alfredo.
Watches Geoff treat him like the idiot son he never wanted. Learns to dread the times Gavin and Jack get paired up on jobs because it either turns out to be the best idea Geoff’s ever had or the worst, depending on the day.
This Gavin is more awkward, uncertain, and Ryan’s all too aware of the slow slide into something close to okay again when it comes to him.
Just as Ryan’s watching Gavin in all this, Geoff’s watching him.
Looking out for crew as always.
He doesn’t know the full story surrounding Ryan and Gavin, but he’s smart – clever – enough to piece things together.
Decides Ryan needs to know a few things, when it comes to Gavin.
Waits until the two of them are in a drafty after a heist and Geoff’s stitching him up to bring it up.
Tells him about this kid Burnie picked up a little over six years ago, or really this kid who went to Burnie.
All hollowed out by life, beaten down by it, and he’d heard about Burnie and his Roosters. Went looking for them because he didn’t have anywhere else to go after leaving his life behind.
Soft and quiet and just this little tidbit of information he drops on Ryan like it’s nothing. Inconsequential chatter while they’re stuck here waiting for the heat to die down before heading back to the penthouse.
This idiot kid who sought Burnie out and wormed his way into his good graces. Became an integral part of the Roosters before Geoff stumbled over him and realized he had this look to him like he was thinking of running. Didn’t trust himself around the others, like he thought it was a bad idea that had gone on too long.
Geoff convincing him to give Los Santos a try. See if there was something there for him, city like that.
Ryan wants to ask why Geoff bothers to tell him any of that, but he doesn’t. (He’s not that stupid.)
The timing of things could be something, Ryan thinks. Gavin leaving his agency so soon after destroying Ryan’s, if he just knew why.
“He wanted to leave, you know,” Geoff says, annoyed slant to his mouth as he ties off the last stitch. “No one knew to warn him about you, a few days after the warehouse that little asshole came to me. Said he was very sorry, but he didn’t see things working out – ‘didn’t want to cause trouble’ with my crew.”
Ryan’s eyes narrow, because that’s news to him.
“And then you and Jeremy came back all fucked up from dealing with Vickers leaving us down two idiots. We needed him to stick around until you idiots were back on your feet, and it just never stopped. ”
Things never stop for them, just go from one situation to another and on and on and on until the day they can’t keep up and everything falls apart.
“Geoff - “
“If you want him gone, he’ll go,” Geoff says. “The only reason he stayed this long is because we were short-handed. If you honestly can’t work with him – and I get it, Ryan, I really do – we’ll sort things out.”
Ryan sighs, because it’s too fucking late for that, isn’t it.
Gavin’s taken up the empty spaces in the crew they didn’t even know were there. Fits in with them like he was meant to be there, and on the good days Ryan thinks maybe it can last. (Maybe it’s supposed to be like this.)
“It’s fine,” he tells Geoff, which isn’t quite a lie because it will be, one way or another.
Whether Geoff intended for it or not, Ryan looks at Gavin differently after that.
Notices the way Gavin’s been careful to give Ryan the space he needs. Going out of his way to make sure he doesn’t cause problems between Ryan and the others.
It makes it easier for Ryan to work with him. This little pang in his chest the first time he volunteers for a job with him and Gavin throws him a startled look as though he hadn’t expected that.
They work well together on the job, but they always did.
Gavin’s changed, or maybe Ryan’s finally seeing the real him, but some things are still the same.
Ryan knows the others are surprised when the two of them go back to the penthouse. Whole and unharmed and successful job in the bag. (Money passing hands because there’s a pool on the two of them killing each other one day.)
Things evolve from there, bit by bit. Ryan learning to trust that Gavin isn’t going to turn on the crew, which is when Agent 14 calls them up.
Has a little proposition for them. (A little heist, just between friends.)
He knows too much about the crew for them to just ignore him, and when they meet with him it’s obvious he knows exactly who they are. (Who they were before they ended up here in Los Santos.)
Ryan’s skin crawls at the way Agent 14’s gaze lingers on Gavin and himself, seemingly surprise they haven't killed each other yet.
The way he looks at the others, eyeing Geoff and Jack with this little arrogant grin, and a sly smirk for Michael. Wonders at the flicker of regret on his face when he looks at Jeremy.
Tells them all about this little problem of his, and how their help would be greatly appreciated, if they know what he means.
It’s not a blatant threat, with what he knows about them, it doesn’t need to be.
Geoff tells him they’ll think about it, and they head back to the penthouse to figure out what the hell they’re going to do now.
Michael and Jeremy grab beers from the fridge as Jack putters around I the kitchen for a bit. Reappears with diet sodas for Geoff and Ryan, and something a little stronger for himself and Gavin.
“So,” Geoff says, staring down into his glass, nervous and fidgety and strung tight with this unspoken threat hanging over them. “What do you guys think?”
The Fake AH Crew is big enough now that they don’t have to worry so much about every little threat that comes knocking on their door, but Agent 14 is another thing entirely.
Possible ties to the FIB, although from the way he was acting Ryan thinks 14 might be IAA, and either way, they’re not up to that kind of fight just yet.
Michael scowls, not eager to be dragged into some shady government dealings like this, and Jeremy shrugs his shoulders. Unhappy with the state of things, but willing to do whatever Geoff and the others decide.
Jack looks annoyed, and Gavin -
It’s impossible to get a read on him as he sets turns his drink round and round in his hands, seemingly lost in thought.
This problem of Agent 14’s isn’t anything they should get involved in, but 14’s a shrewd bastard.
Knows how vulnerable their position is, and how easily accidents happen. (How the odd will increase if they turn him down now that they know too much.)
To his credit, he seems to favor the softer approach. Offering to pay them well if they succeed, and perhaps more work in the future if they’re amenable.
“Geoff - “ Jack says, angry and frustrated and hating Agent 14 for putting them in this kind of dilemma. Dragging them back into the kind of secrets and shady dealings they’ve worked so hard to leave behind. “This isn’t out business.”
Putting it out there, but his heart isn’t in it, because it’s not that simple.
“Jack’s right,” Gavin says, ignoring the looks he gets from Michael and Jeremy. “We’re not the last resort, Geoff. Just the easiest solution for him.”
Why not lay the blame at the feet of known criminals if things go wrong?
“True,” Geoff sighs. “But I don’t know if I trust these assholes to just go on their merry way if we refuse.”
They say yes, because they don’t have any other choice in the matter.
Ryan finds Gavin in the armory gearing up, hit by memories of seeing him like this before. Deciding in what weapons and equipment to bring with him, little frown on his face as he debates the merits of each one before making his decision.
Watches as Gavin passes over the body armor hanging up.
Ryan’s eyes narrow because Gavin’s always been careless when it comes to his body armor. Never cinches it tightly enough, like he thinks it won’t matter, and its always been -
They’re headed to McKenzie Field with Michael and Jeremy to...borrow a plane from the Vagos who aren’t exactly the Fake AH Crew’s biggest fans to start with.
Goddammit, Gavin,” Ryan mutters, going over to him because this idiot.
Gavin blinks up at him, startled at his sudden appearance.
“Always were particular about body armor, weren’t you,” Gavin murmurs, and when Ryan looks up, he sees -
Six years ago he thought he’d imagined seeing regret in Gavin’s eyes, but now he’s not so sure about that. Sees it plain as day right now, all bundled up with guilt and remorse and this aching thing Ryan’s all too familiar with seeing in his own reflection.
“Of course I am,“ Ryan says, has to clear his throat when the words come out rough, caught up on things he’s never been able to say because he’s always been a mess when it comes to Gavin. “It could mean the difference between coming home alive or in a body bag.”
He used to tell Gavin that over and over again, helping him with his body armor while Gavin humored him like it wasn’t important. Like Ryan wasn’t right. (Like Ryan didn’t wear body armor every time he went in the field, like he wasn’t wearing it in the server room that day.)
“I am sorry,” Gavin says, so soft Ryan almost doesn’t hear him, but they’re standing so close to one another it doesn’t matter. “I never meant for things to go the way they did.”
With Gavin, so much is in what he doesn’t say, in the things he does.
It would be so much easier to hold things against him, hold on to his anger and hurt, but -
Ryan’s tired of doing that.
Ryan wants to know where the lies end and where the truth begins, see if there’s anything to salvage (if there ever was), because he still loves Gavin. (Never stopped, and that’s what hurt the most.)
Ryan pulls the armor off its hangar and pushes it into Gavin’s hands. Helps him with the straps to make sure it’s snug and secure, will keep safe.
When he looks up, Gavin’s smiling at him, small and crooked and so very resigned like he thinks -
“I’m not that good of an actor, Ryan.”
Fucking Christ, the two of them.
“Yeah,” Ryan says. “Me too.”
Six years and change. New perspectives on things, and it’s still a complicated mess, but he’s working on untangling it. Thinks he might finally be making headway.
“We should talk,” Ryan says, gathering up all the bits of courage he has left to him for this, them. “When this is over. We should talk.”
Gavin stares at him, and for a long, terrifying moment Ryan’s sure he’s going to break his heart all over again, but then Gavin smiles, this little heartbreakingly hopeful thing.
“I’d like that,” he says.
It sounds like the truth to Ryan, and a damn good start.