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The Replacement

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“Hey Boss.”

“Ray?” A pause, and a click. “Is that you, buddy?”

“Yeah. Hi.” Ray bit his lip. “I just wanted you to know… I’m on my way through LS.”

“Oh.” Another awkward pause. Ray fiddled with the strings of his hoodie “Did you… want to come say hi to the crew?”

“...sure,” Ray agreed, his stomach dropping out. “If you’ll have me, that is.”

“Of course, of course!” Geoff hurried to reassure him. “You’re always welcome to stop by, you know that.”

“Do I?” Ray said lightly, aiming for a joke. The silence stretched, and he cleared his throat. “If you need me for anything…”

“Oh, yes! We could always use your help, you know how reckless these assholes are.”

“Yeah.” Ray’s lips quirked up, and he took a deep breath. He wanted to ask, but- “Have Vav send me the details. I’ll be there by the end of the week.”

“Alright,” Geoff agreed easily. “It’ll be good to see you again.”

“I guess.”

I hope.

 


 

Los Santos: the city to achieve your dreams… if you didn’t mind getting your hands dirty.

Ray stared out the small oval window of the plane, tuning out the single mother next to him arguing with a man one row ahead. It’s been years since he’d been here, and he didn’t care to think about that. The past was in the past, and he would leave it there. Except… well.

He’d called ahead to let Geoff know, of course. Common courtesy to the kingpin of the city. Especially if he used to be your boss.

Ray bit his lower lip. It wasn’t like he left on bad terms with the crew. They’d grown and changed since, sure, finally cemented their place at the top long after he’d gone. There was no bad blood or grudges to worry about, not really. He’d kept in contact, somewhat, mostly talking with Vav every other month, whenever he could. Had let them know if a hit was out on one of them big enough to reach him all the way across the country.

And it’s not like he wanted his spot on the crew back. He was just there to… visit.

He shouldn’t be nervous, and yet, he thought to himself ruefully as he grabbed his baggage from the drop-off. He watched dispassionately as the TSA agent searched his trunk and backpack. They’d never find his sniper, not with how long he’d been in this business.

“Reason to come here?” the agent asked brusquely, and Ray forced himself to smile.

“Reunion,” he replied dryly. “Hoping to see some old friends again.”

“Went to the local high school, eh?” the agent said, before offering Ray his backpack. “Well, have fun then. You’re clear to go.”

“Thanks.”

Stepping out of the airport felt like stepping back in time. Jesus, how often had they broken in here to lose the cops in the air? Ray shook his head, hailing one of the waiting taxis. He should head to the penthouse first, meet with Geoff to see if the man had anything for him. He really should call at least.

Should should should.

So he did the one thing he shouldn’t, giving the driver the address to an apartment complex instead of the penthouse or a hotel. Because why bother with common sense this late in the game?

Ray watched buildings pass in silence, trying to figure out what to say. It was an exercise in futility, really. He hadn’t made any progress since he bought the plane ticket.

Hi honey, I’m home!

I’m sorry. But I’m back now!

Nothing really seemed to feel… right. Nothing really had since he left.

“We’re here, Mistah,” the driver drawled, snapping Ray out of his brooding.

“Right. Thanks.” He shoved three hundreds at the woman. “Keep the change.”

The mailbox and bell sign still read ‘E. King’. Ray swallowed. So far so good.

The apartment building seemed no different since he’d last been here. The elevator was out of commission, the sign faded and ripped, and a wave of nostalgia hit Ray as he walked up the stairs. He couldn’t remember a time the old contraption had worked, no matter how much they’d joked about complaining to the super. A working lift just wasn’t a viable escape route for a criminal.

Ray wore the key on a string around his neck. It seemed like a fitting metaphor.

The locks hadn’t been changed.

The apartment was familiar and different at once. A dark jacket on the hook, a pair of unfamiliar boots. The little black skull ornament he’d gotten Ryan for their three month anniversary still sat next to the key bowl. Ray took that as a good sign.

There was empty Chinese takeout boxes on the couch table, right next to a weapons kit. The couch seemed more worn than he remembered, and he could’ve sworn the pillows were green, not blue. Ray shook his head, pulling his trunk up against the wall. Ryan didn’t seem to be home, and he wasn’t sure if he was disappointed or relieved-

Click. The sound of the safety switch on a gun.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” an unfamiliar voice drawled, and Ray froze.

That wasn’t Ryan.

Slowly, Ray raised his hands and turned around.

“Easy, dude,” he said in his most innocent, laid-back tone. “‘Sup?”

The stranger was tall. That was the first thing he noticed, before he took in the dark hair, the clean shaven chin and suit, the steady grip on the service pistol. Shit. A cop? Had the apartment been burned since he’d left?

“You just broke in,” the stranger pointed out incredulously.

“I have a key,” Ray disagreed, dropping one hand to lift the string up. The key dangled and turned, dark and tarnished. “I live here.”

Dark eyes narrowed.

“Pretty sure it’s my apartment.”

Was that a ruse for him to give up info on Ryan? Ray blinked slowly. Better not risk it.

“I’ve been away for awhile. Business. Can’t blame him for subletting, I suppose.”

“I don’t think that’s what’s going on. He would have told me if we were expecting guests.” A pointedly raised eyebrow. “With that in mind, what might you really be doing here?”

Not good. Trepidation crawled like a cold shiver down his back.

“Just to be totally clear here,” Ray said coolly, dropping his hands. The last thing the cops would know was the Vagabond’s middle name. “We’re both talking about Ryan.”

Dark eyes gave him a sharp look.

“Yes.” A pause. Calculation flitted across the stranger’s face. “Ryan gave you that key?”

Ray shrugged faux-casually. “We both got a copy when we first rented this place.”

Hesitation. His aim wavered. “He didn’t say anything about you coming back.”

“He doesn’t know.” Ray glanced away, uncomfortable. That wasn’t really something he wanted to discuss with a stranger of all people. “Didn’t really plan much beyond getting here.”

“Impulsive, hm?” The stranger finally dropped the gun. “You wanna do introductions? I mean, I can guess, but in this business…”

“Better safe than sorry,” Ray agreed wryly, shaking the offered hand. “Brownman. Sniper for hire.”

“Treyco,” the other replied, before squeezing a little harder than necessary. “Ryan’s boyfriend.”

Ray froze, hand going limp in Treyco’s grip. He thought- What-

“Boyfriend?” he echoed, shocked.

Treyco hummed affirmatively. “You’re the Fake’s ex-sniper. Ryan’s ex… sniper.”

Fury flashed through Ray, and he took a moment to grapple it down. The emphasis on ex was not lost to him.

“Yes. Ryan’s,” he agreed blandly. “Sorry for the intrusion. I was just going to see if Ryan was home.”

“I’ll let him know you came by,” Treyco retorted dryly. His face remained eerily blank.

“Well.” Ray blindly reached for his trunk, eyes not leaving Treyco’s. “Nice to meet you and all, but I think I better leave for my hotel room.”

“Yes, I suppose that’s for the best,” Treyco agreed, his tone whimsical. Ray already hated his voice.

He left without another word.

 


 

“X-Ray! You’re back!” Gavin crowed, jumping him from behind and wrapping his arms over his shoulders.

“Vav,” Ray replied dryly, shrugging him off. “Air.”

Gavin ignored him blithely, grabbing his arm and dragging him through the door unapologetically.

“Wait until the others are here! It’s gonna be a grand surprise!” He rubbed his hands together eagerly, smirking. Ray snorted.

“I’m sure,” he agreed easily, looking around the living area. Michael was watching him with heavy eyes, sprawled over the couch. “‘Sup, dude.”

“Hey, Ray,” Michael greeted him, keeping his tone deceptively light. He sat up, staring at Ray. “Could have called once in a while, asshole.”

Ray shrugged halfheartedly. “Been busy.”

“Been, or kept?” Michael bit out sharply, before taking a deep breath and visibly letting the matter drop. “You need a place to crash?”

“Got a hotel room for now.” Ray kept his face carefully blank. “I wanted to talk to Ryan first.”

Gavin winced and shared a long look with Michael.

“Yeah, probably not the best idea,” Gavin offered hesitantly, and Ray turned to him with a raised brow. The blond squirmed under his regard.

Serves him right for keeping secrets, Ray thought viciously.

“Why not?” He let the silence linger for a moment. “I get that we didn’t part on the best terms, but that’s never been a problem before-”

“Dude,” Michael interrupted, giving him an incredulous look. “It’s been three years. Ryan moved on.”

“Two,” Ray corrected him absentmindedly, still staring Gavin down. The lad started to fidget. “What’s he mean, moved on?”

“Look, Ray,” Gavin started defensively. “I didn’t give Ryan anything you told me, and I didn’t give you anything about him except he’s alives. That was the deal.”

Ray narrowed his eyes at the lad, before glancing over his shoulder at Michael. He wasn’t getting anything from Gavin anytime soon.

“What’s he trying to avoid saying?”

“Ryan’s got a new boyfriend,” Michael answered blandly, but his eyes were sharp and accusing. “Trevor. Hooked up about two years ago.”

“Trevor,” Ray echoed flatly.

“He’s part of B-Team! I told you all about B-Team,” Gavin pointed out insistently, crossing his arms. “About Mica and Steffie and Kdin and-”

“Jeremy, Trevor and Matt,” Ray finished for him, frowning. “I remember. Didn’t you say they work as a team?”

Gavin shrugged one shoulder. “They did, before Jeremy got promoted up to main crew. You remember Jeremy, right?”

“Vaguely. I’ve only met him briefly before…” Ray trailed off. Before he left. Before everything changed. Before he returned home to be met by a stranger with a gun. “What’s he like?” he asked, abruptly.

“Who, Jeremy? I don’t know, he’s short, shorter than even you-” Gavin rambled, but Ray shook his head sharply.

“No. This… Trevor.”

Gavin and Michael exchanged a long look.

“Are you… sure you want to know?” Gavin asked carefully, brow slightly furrowed. “It’s not- Maybe it would be better-”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Ray interjected shortly. He needed to know.

“I’m just saying, maybe-”

“Vav.” Ray grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him to face him. “I’m certain.”

“Your funeral, dude,” Michael decided loudly, flopping back down on the couch. “Come sit down, assholes, before I strain my neck.”

“Budge your fat ass over, then,” Ray retorted instantly, a grin slowly forming on his lips. This, at least, was familiar. Some things just didn’t change. This were the lads as he remembered them, bantering and bickering and pushing each other, but never past their limits. It felt like coming home.

Ray’s heart twisted.

Like how going home to Ryan should have felt. How nothing should have changed between them. How Ray had tried to change for the better for him, for real this time. They’d picked up the pieces so often, why not this time? What was different between now and all those past times they got back together?

Trevor. He pushed the thought away.

“Rude,” Ray complained when Gavin went sprawling half over him, half over Michael. “Manners, Vav.”

“Screw you, X-Ray,” the lad replied cheerfully, poking his side.

“Language,” Michael laughed, tickling the arch of Gavin’s foot. The blond flinched.

“Michael! Bloody-”

Ray cleared his throat, kicking Michael lightly in the shin. “I seem a little out of the loop, despite someone who was supposed to keep me updated.”

“I did! I totally did!” Gavin protested immediately, tickle fight forgotten. “You know that Mica’s our new sniper, and about our hacker, Matt, and I even told you about the heist we pulled last week!”

“The one with the animal masks,” Ray clarified.

“Oh God, he didn’t,” Michael groaned, covering his face. “Dude, it was hilarious.”

“Sad I missed it,” Ray admitted blithely, before turning the conversation in the direction he wanted it to go. “Trevor?”

“Lockpick, thief, safe cracker,” Michael rattled off, shrugging languidly. “Basically, you need to get into somewhere or something, you ask him. If it’s an electronic lock above his pay grade, he works well with Matt. They make a good insertion team.”

“A thief, huh?” Ray muttered, bitterness seeping into his voice. Figured Trevor would be a boyfriend-stealing thief. “How did that happen, then? He and Ryan. Thief and Vagabond doesn’t really seem all that… obvious”

“Don’t be a ninny,” Gavin admonished, scrabbling over Michael to turn onto his stomach, kneeing Michael in the side in the process. “We all work together, you knob. They met, they got to talking, at some point they started dating. You know the crew rules, Ray: if the relationship doesn’t interfere with work, it’s none of our business.”

Like what you were doing was your business went unspoken.

“What he said,” Michael grunted, rubbing his side. “They’re actually pretty well-matched. Trevor is one sassy bastard, and you know Ryan has always loved sarcasm. Case in point.”

He gestured in Ray’s direction, who put up one finger in silent response.

“You should try to get to know him, first,” Gavin said as he perked up. “I think you’d get along swimmingly, actually! You’re pretty similar, in some ways, that could work out really well.”

“...right.” Ray eyed him skeptically. “Exactly what I want to hear.”

“Just don’t be a dick to him, Ray,” Michael advised, nudging him with his foot. “Trevor’s not all that bad.”

“Yeah, just give him a chance, X-Ray!”

“We’ll see,” Ray said evasively.

No way in hell, he thought privately.

 


 

The lock clicked and the door creaked open. Trevor reached for his gun again, wary. For a long moment he held his breath, before purposefully heavy footfalls signaled the entrance of whoever’s at the door.

“I’m home,” Ryan called out, and Trevor relaxed, exhaling slowly.

“Welcome back, hun,” he replied, hiding the gun under the kitchen towel. “How did the deal go?”

“Boring,” Ryan complained. The sound of a bag dropping to the floor and the rustle of a jacket. “No one even tried to take pot-shots at us. Really, my presence was entirely unnecessary.”

“I’m sure Geoff disagrees,” Trevor hummed, brushing his hands off on the apron he was wearing. Ryan stuck his head through the kitchen door.

“Geoff is a chicken,” he pointed out dryly, reaching out to cup Trevor’s face and pull him into a soft kiss. “Hello, my dear. And how was your day?”

Trevor chuckled, and it came out sounding all wrong. “Feeling domestic, are we?”

Ryan leaned back, frowning quizzically. His eyes narrowed, flickering sharply over his face, his clothes, his posture.

“What happened?”

“Oh, you know, planted the false evidence early this morning, then got the code to Matt - he should have something for us in a day or two, he said - got back home, decided to do some lovely baking, your ex broke into the apartment, and oh, we really need to buy more laundry detergent.”

“I’ll keep an eye out next time I go shopping,” Ryan promised distractedly. His eyes dropped to the gun-shape under the towel. Then the words sank in and he froze. “Wait. Someone broke in?”

Trevor smiled brightly up at him. “Yup! Oh, I’m supposed to let you know he’s in town, too. Whoopsie, almost forgot.”

“Trevor,” Ryan growled.

“Rye-an,” Trevor drawled, stretching the syllables. “You didn’t tell me your ex was dropping by. So rude. I would have made cookies or something if I’d known.”

“I thought the oven was your sworn nemesis,” Ryan teased, but his expression was heavy. “My… ex?”

“Everyone needs a hobby,” Trevor hummed, untying the apron. “I will conquer baking yet. It can’t be harder than astrophysics.” He paused, apron slung over one arm. “And yes. The sniper?”

Peering at Ryan from under lowered lashes, Trevor watched as the emotions flickered across his face before it settled into a stony mask. Hurt. Confusion. Anger.

“Ray was here?”

“Mhm. Wanted to say hi. I think we may have started off on the wrong foot, what with me pointing a gun at his face,” Trevor continued mildly, fussing with the apron absently.

“He broke into the apartment,” Ryan stated flatly. Trevor tilted his head, giving his boyfriend a look.

“Funny story, that.” He tossed the apron over the back of a chair and folded his hands in front of him, leaning in to whisper conspiratorially, “Did you know? He had a key. To our apartment. Crazy, am I right?”

Ryan took a wary step back. “Trevor…”

“A key to our apartment,” he repeated icily, also taking a step away from Ryan. “Which, by the way, you promised was safe. We have a state of the art security system, Ryan, and you just hand out the key?”

“I didn’t realize he still had it!” Ryan protested, holding up his hands. Trevor paused.

“You didn’t realize…? Ryan!” Trevor made an exasperated noise. “Please tell me you changed the locks after you broke up!”

The sheepish expression on Ryan’s face said it all.

“Ryan!” Trevor sighed, rubbing his hand over his face. “I cannot believe you, oh my God.”

“Look,” Ryan started, crossing his arms. Taking a defensive stance. “I wasn’t… thinking straight, after. At first I thought he’d come back and- I don’t know. It wasn’t unusual for him to run off after a fight, but- Well. He didn’t come back. Not really.”

Ryan’s shoulders slumped and he dropped his arms so he was hugging himself more than anything.

“And then I thought… he’s not coming back again. So why bother?” He shrugged half-heartedly. “Didn’t really think about it. Just… tried to forget.”

Trevor swallowed. He stepped closer, laid a hand on Ryan’s arm. “Hey.”

“I don’t-” He made a frustrated noise. “It’s been three years. What’s he doing here, Trevor? I just-”

Trevor carefully pried his arms open and pulled him into a hug, wrapping his arms around Ryan and rubbing soothing circles on his back.

“I know, big guy,” he murmured, and Ryan buried his face in the crook of his shoulder. “Hell knows what he thinks he’s doing. He was certainly surprised to see me here.”

“Are you alright?” Ryan inquired, pulling back a little to look at Trevor. He sounded alarmed, like the danger had just occurred to him. “You’re not hurt, right? He didn’t hurt you?”

“I’m fine,” Trevor replied drily, swatting Ryan’s arm. “I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself.”

“Sorry.” Ryan pressed his lips to Trevor’s cheek. “I’m not… at my best right now.” A frustrated noise. “I thought I was over this.”

“It’s okay. The break-up hurt, it’s normal for it to take time to heal.”

“It’s been years,” Ryan objected, gripping his arm tight. “I have you. I should be over him.”

“Then maybe he hurt you deeper than you want to admit,” Trevor offered gently. Ryan let go of him as if burned, turning his face away. Trevor reached out and squeezed his hand. “It’s okay. I’m not mad or anything.”

“Why did he keep the key?” Ryan frowned, staring at the floor. Trevor’s chest tightened. He sounded so lost. “Why would he… Why didn’t he throw it away?”

“Sentimental value, maybe?” Trevor hazarded, shrugging. “I don’t know the guy, you tell me. I doubt you’d have ‘forgotten’ to change the locks if he were the type to kill you in your sleep, you paranoid bastard.”

Ryan snorted. “If he wanted me dead, it’d be a bullet through the head before I could notice.” He shook his head. “Sniper, remember? Safer, too. We were always pretty equal in a close quarters gunfight.”

Trevor shuddered. “Yeah, let’s not talk about that.”

Ryan shot him an amused look. “Wouldn’t help to keep you out, either, if we ever broke up. You don’t need a key to get in.”

“True enough.” Trevor smiled. “Are you breaking up with me, Ryan?”

“Christ, no. You’re the best thing to happen to me in ages. I’m not letting you slip through my fingers.”

Something in Trevor relaxed, a knot of anxiety he hadn’t even noticed. Ryan and Ray’s on-again off-again relationship was infamous among the crew, even though it was taboo to bring it up with the main group. Trevor hadn’t really expected Ryan to welcome Ray back with open arms, but the thought was there, buried deep.

“Well, I’m not giving you up that easily, either,” Trevor teased, squeezing his hand again. Ryan squeezed back.

“Alright. Got any plans for food?” Ryan changed the subject, and Trevor let him. There really wasn’t much more to say on the topic. Not now, at least.

“Well, I was about to make a pie, maybe cherry-” Trevor started, but Ryan interrupted him hastily, speaking over him.

“Takeout, what do you think? Or we could skip down to that new Chinese place you’ve been meaning to go, we haven’t eaten out in a while-”

“I’m hurt, Ryan, my love. Don’t you like my cooking?”

“Your cooking is fine, very fine, it’s your baking I worry about.”

Trevor pouted. “That’s mean, Rye.”

“It’s the truth,” Ryan insisted. “I love you very much, my dear, but your latest hobby is going to end with me dying of food poisoning. So, takeout?”

“Well, I suppose I could always bake another time.” Lips quirking up at the corner, he brushed his mouth over Ryan’s. “Takeout’s fine. Unless that was your attempt of asking me out on a date, hm?”

“I don’t know,” Ryan grumbled, but his eyes were shining brightly. “Maybe I don’t feel like it anymore, with that threat of future pie.”

“I’ll make sure to bring it to headquarters and you won’t even have to eat a slice,” Trevor huffed, chuckling. “Jeez, you know how to make a guy feel special.”

A hand grabbed his wrist as he stepped past Ryan, whirling him around to come chest to chest with his boyfriend.

“You are special to me, you know that, right?” he asked seriously, and Trevor melted into him.

“I know.” Their noses brushed. “Now, let’s go freshen up so you can spoil me on that date. If you’re very nice, I might even let you get to second base.”

“Second base, huh?” Ryan chuckled, kissing him sweetly. “Sure, sounds good.”

 


 

Ray picked the cabinet in the corner to perch on during the meeting instead of sitting down. He had a good view of the door and the whiteboard, while also able to leave quicker if he needed to. Michael paused in the door to shoot him an incredulous look, but let Gavin drag him over to the same corner. The lads took the chairs in front of him, and Ray relaxed a little. Next came Jeremy, who took a step towards the other two, before he noticed Ray and froze. He did an awkward shuffle, nodding to Ray and grabbing the nearest chair. Ray arched an eyebrow at him, but nodded back.

Geoff entered several minutes later, arguing with a long-haired man. He gave Ray a distracted nod, ushering the guy to the front with him. Long-hair dude traded looks with Jeremy and shrugged.

But Ray was distracted by the sound of a familiar voice, bantering with someone. Jack answered with a hearty chuckle and a few quiet words Ray couldn’t quite make out, before he stepped in and sat down in the chair by the door. Ryan was right behind him, eyes sweeping across the room and face hidden under that blasted mask.

He didn’t even look at Ray.

With a nod to Geoff, the Vagabond settled comfortably against the door and crossed his arms. Ray drank him in like he was starving, from the dark smudges around bright eyes to the creaky old leather of his favourite jacket. It wasn’t until Michael pinched his leg that he managed to tear his eyes away and at least pretend to pay attention to the heist planning.

Ray swallowed hard. So… this was it. Fuck.

“-Trevor got me. Pretty sure I can work out the algorithm with this list,” the long-haired dude was saying. The mention of that name caught Ray’s attention. Something hot and ugly rose in his chest, stealing his breath. Trevor. If it weren’t for that dick- Ray took a deep breath. Not now.

“-the bug he planted yielded great results already,” Jack was saying, and Ray forced himself to focus. “Steffie’s compiling a list, but there’s an astonishing amount of blackmail.”

“Good. Great.” Geoff carded his finger through his hair, looking up to Ryan. “Where is Trevor, anyway? He was supposed to be at this meeting.”

“He ran into trouble on the way out this morning,” Jeremy piped up. “We had to split. He’s lying low on the East Side until the heat dies down.”

“Alright. Ryan, check on him, if he’s got no way out in an hour you go bust him,” Geoff ordered, and Ryan nodded shortly. Ray scoffed, and for an eternal second, Ryan glanced his way. Brilliant blue eyes pierced through his very being, and Ray lost all his breath. His heart beat in his throat, and he couldn’t tell if it was danger or lust shadowing Ryan’s gaze. It sent a shiver of anticipation down his spine.

The next moment, Ryan was looking away again.

Ray exhaled sharply, trying to get his breathing back under control. After all this time, Ryan still had that effect on him. Fuck, dammit, he’d missed him. He was half-hard after a single fucking look. For several long seconds, he couldn’t even recall why he’d stayed away for such a long time, if he could have had this.

But could he have really?

Hooked up about two years ago, Michael had said.

Two years. If he had stayed, would things really have gone differently? They’d been fighting daily about everything, tearing into each other. Knew the other too well, knew where to dig in to make it hurt. Argued about the unimportant stuff instead of facing the real issue, not after...

“-so it’s a good thing Ray’s joining us on this one,” Geoff was saying, nodding to him. Ray nodded back on auto-pilot. “Welcome back, dude. Glad to have you here.”

“Happy to be of service, Boss,” he drawled, giving Geoff a quick, dry grin. Geoff’s gaze lingered on him, sharp eyes seeming to notice his preoccupation, before he turned back to the room at large.

“This is gonna be big, assholes, so we’re gonna need all hands on deck. I want everyone in top form.”

“We won’t actually be able to meet as a whole group, so heist prep and planning is split into the different operations,” Jack explained. “I’ll send you a schedule. We need to be aware of what everyone is doing, but with this much prep left that close to the heist, we can’t lose working hours trying to cram everyone in. Matt?”

“The algorithm should be ready next week,” the guy with long hair spoke up, tapping his fingers against the table. “It should be able to crack the vault code up to a month from now, but only if they don’t figure out we got the list of past codes. And, I really shouldn’t have to point this out, but the longer we wait, the longer the safe will take to crack.”

Geoff nodded, seeming to expect that by the look on his face.

“We’re gonna try for two weeks from now. We’re only missing two key components. Gavvers?”

Gavin stirred. “I’m going to close the deal with Ellis later today, the shipment should be here next week.”

“Excellent. The guard pattern?”

Michael shrugged. “Hard to say. Lil J and I are gonna hit up our informants tomorrow, put a bit of pressure on ‘em. I’ll call you when we know more.”

“If we want to insert our own among the guard, this needs to happen quick. We need to know who’s on duty on any given day,” Geoff snapped. Jeremy held up his hands.

“Easy, Bossman. We’re doing the best we can, swear.”

“I know, I know.” Geoff rubbed his palm over his face. “Alright, assholes, meeting adjourned. Keep me updated. Ray, stay a moment, I want to go over the details with you.”

From the corner of his eyes, Ray saw Ryan grab for the door the second Geoff dismissed them. Running to see if Trevor dearest is fine, he thought derisively. Such a good criminal, can’t even get out without the Big Bad Vagabond showing up to help him.

Gavin patted his knee before he left. Ray stared after them, lost in thought until Geoff cleared his throat.

“Look, Ray, I’m glad you’re back and if you wanna stick around after, you know you always got a place with us,” he started. Ray shrugged.

“Haven’t decided yet, but probably not.” He caught Geoff’s heavy gaze. “Love you guys, cross my heart, but you know me. Gotta keep moving.”

Geoff hummed doubtfully. “This wouldn’t have anything to do with Ryan, would it? Don’t think I didn’t catch the tension there.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ray denied it immediately.

“Uh huh. Sure you don’t.” Geoff sighed, sitting down heavily. “Look, kiddo, you know I don’t get involved with relationship drama. Whatever happened between you and Ryan is between you two. But I won’t have it mess with this heist.”

“It won’t,” Ray promised, before adding drily, “We’re professionals.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Geoff muttered. He scrutinized Ray for several, long moments. “I want you to talk to him. Clear up whatever is going on. No, I don’t care-” He held up a hand when Ray opened his mouth. “-just fix it before the big day. Am I understood?”

“Crystal clear,” Ray bit out, crossing his arms and slumping back.

“Don’t pout, it doesn’t suit you.” Geoff waved him off, sitting up with a grimace. “Look. Last time you two were on the outs was nearly a disaster for the crew. I don’t know why you left and I’m not gonna ask, but things have changed while you were travelling. I need both of you to move on and be able to work together.”

“You gonna talk with Ryan, too?” Ray inquired, knowing he sounded petulant. Geoff arched his brow.

“If it becomes necessary.” He pushed his chair back, legs scraping over the floor. “Don’t mess this up, Narvaez.”

“Whatever you say, Boss.”

 


 

“Hey, Trevor,” Matt called out when he slipped into their old apartment. They’d lived here together before they’d taken up with the Fakes, before they made enough rent for their own place each. Now it acted as a safe house slash Matt’s office. “I see you made it out.”

“Bad luck. The Blazes robbed the gas station down the block from my hideout, place was swarming with coppers.”

“Well, glad you’re back, buddy,” Matt said, pointing towards the couch where Jeremy was pressing his face into the cushions. “Maybe you can talk sense into him.”

Trevor raised both his brows in question, but Matt just gave him a flat, expectant look. So Trevor sat down on the couch arm and patted Jeremy’s back.

“Hey there, buddy. What’s wrong?”

“He hates me,” Jeremy groaned, voice muffled by the pillow. Trevor shot Matt a look.

“Who hates you?”

Jeremy mumbled something. Trevor poked him in the side until he rolled over with a groan.

“Ray,” he repeated, voice subdued. At Trevor’s arch look he continued, “He was at the meeting today. Didn’t say a word to me.”

“He didn’t speak with anyone the entire meeting,” Matt butted in, his exasperation writ clear in the lines of his face. “I don’t even know if he was listening. Had that whole thousand yards stare going on. Ugh, snipers.”

Matt scoffed. Trevor chuckled.

“Don’t let Mica hear you say that,” he joked.

“God, no, I value my life more than that.”

“He hates me,” Jeremy reasserted, giving Trevor a pathetic look. “He hates me because I took his place on the crew. I’m, like, his replacement.”

“He left,” Trevor pointed out reasonably. “That was his decision and had nothing to do with you.”

“Wouldn’t Mica be his replacement, if anyone?” Matt mused.

“She is our new sniper,” Trevor agreed. Jeremy groaned.

“You guys are useless.” He wrapped his arms around the pillow and pulled it up to his chest. “Just kill me.”

“Stop being a drama queen, you dork,” Trevor demanded drily, swatting his shoulder. He jumped off the couch and brushed off his shirt. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m off. Got a hot date waiting for me.”

“Keep bragging, asshole,” Matt said.

“No, that’s you, Matt,” Jeremy piped up, sounding more cheerful. Matt groaned. Jeremy sat up, catching Trevor’s eyes with a more serious expression. “How are you holding up with this?”

“Yeah, dude,” Matt joined in. “Ray and Ryan used to be a thing, right? Everything okay with you two?”

“We talked.” Trevor shrugged. “I’m not worried.”

“You know you can come talk to us if you need to, right?” Jeremy insisted, staring up at him encouragingly.

“Yeah, dude,” Matt agreed earnestly. “Even if it’s just to vent about the subpar sex, we’re here for you.”

“The sex is the furthest from subpar, I’ll have you know,” Trevor said haughtily, turning up his nose. Then he softened, giving them a small smile. “But thanks, guys.”

“Anytime,” Matt assured him.

 


 

“I’m not saying the food wasn’t good, I liked it! It was just a little spicy!” Ryan objected avidly. Trevor hummed his disbelief.

“Methinks the lady doth protest too much,” he teased, snatching one of Ryan’s hands from the air mid-gesture and entwining their fingers. “Someone, and I’m not naming names, but I think someone just can’t handle their spices.”

“That’s not-” Ryan sputtered, dropping their intertwined hands to swing between them as they walked. “I can handle spice very well! I like it hot!”

“I don’t know, it really doesn’t sound like it,” Trevor said skeptically, squinting up at him.

“There is hot and then there’s hot,” Ryan explained, waving his free hand about. “And this time it leaned towards too hot on the scale.”

“Ooh, baby, you can burn my world anytime,” Trevor singsonged, a shit-eating grin on his face.

“Yeah? You think I’m hot?” Ryan teased him, pulling on his hand until they stood chest to chest.

“Leaning towards too hot sometimes, as you would say,” Trevor agreed jokingly, poking his chest with his free hand and making a hissing noise like he got burned. Ryan chuckled, pulling him closer and capturing his mouth in a kiss.

“You know what else is hot?” he murmured, lips brushing over lips.

“What?” Trevor breathed, sounding half-amused and half-aroused.

“This night.” Ryan’s hands wandered down his back, squeezing his butt. Trevor nipped at his lip.

“Then maybe you should lose some layers,” he suggested, his own fingers digging into Ryan’s shoulders.

“Your exhibitionist streak is showing, dear,” Ryan chuckled, mouthing up his cheek and taking his earlobe between his lips. Trevor gasped.

“Well, we’re not too far from home,” he reasoned between breaths, fingers wandering up to graze along Ryan’s nape. “Maybe the elevator will get stuck on the way up.”

Ryan snorted, breaking off.

“Sometimes you’re just plain weird.”

“Says the weirdo with the skull fetish,” Trevor shot back, nails scratching lightly over his nape. “Lead on, Macduff.”

“That’s such a common misquote,” Ryan complained, disentangling himself.

“Nerd,” Trevor teased, bumping their shoulders together. “Be happy I know some Shakespeare.”

Ryan shot him a cross look. “Only because I’ve ranted about it at length.”

“See? I’m a good listener, I listen to what you say,” Trevor pointed out cheerfully. He stopped in front of the building’s door, waiting for Ryan to fish out his key. “Also, can I just say, you’re a cute drunk?”

“You’re an asshole, is what you are,” Ryan grumbled, but he was smiling as he held the door for Trevor. “After you.”

“Thank you most kindly, my good sir,” Trevor simpered, pretending to swoon. He pressed the call button for the elevator, ignoring the old ‘out of order’ sign. Ryan chuckled as the entrance door fell close behind them.

“Never fear, fair lady!” he boasted, backing Trevor into the elevator just as it opened. He wrapped an arm around his waist and dipped him. “I’ve got you.”

“Oh my.” Trevor grinned, batting his lashes up at him. “So you have. Whatever will my knight do with me next, I wonder?”

Ryan leaned in, lips barely an inch from Trevor’s. “Ravish you, of course.”

Ryan captured his mouth, lips brushing against his firmly. Trevor wrapped his arms around Ryan’s shoulders. They lost balance, stumbling two steps, three steps before Trevor’s back hit the wall. He straightened, tilting his head down to kiss back at the new angle.

Ryan melted into him, one hand tugging his dress shirt out of his pants so he could press his palm against warm skin.

Trevor nipped at Ryan’s lip, mouthing along his chin and down his throat. He let his teeth graze over the thin skin there and was rewarded by a raspy moan. Encouraged, he started sucking on his neck, rolling the skin between his teeth, before going over to open-mouthed kisses along his shoulder.

Ryan started unbuttoning his shirt from the bottom, hands roaming over his stomach and then chest as he pressed closer.

The elevator dinged as they reached their floor, but they were too caught up in each other to notice. Only as the doors slid close again with a mechanical thud did they manage to break apart long enough to open the doors and step through.

Immediately, they were attached at the lips again, Trevor pushing Ryan up against their apartment door. He searched for the keys in his pockets, going for Ryan’s instead when the other’s hands kept getting into his way. He bucked up against Ryan’s thigh as he jiggled the door open and they stumbled through a breathless mess.

Ryan leaned in with a laugh, pecking Trevor’s lips as he maneuvered him around, pushing him down the short hallway to the bedroom door-

“By all means, don’t let me interrupt you,” a voice drawled, and Trevor froze. “You seem busy, so please, carry on.”

Trevor pulled back, their lips parting with an audible plop that seemed to echo loudly in the sudden silence. Ryan’s grip tightened on his hips for a second, before he dropped his hands.

“Ray.” His voice was sharp.

“Ryan,” Ray drawled in that same, flat voice.

“Trevor,” Trevor piped up, turning to look at the intruder. It earned him twin blank stares. “What? I was feeling left out.”

Ryan put a hand on his elbow, and Trevor glanced at him, seeing the turmoil of apprehension-amusement-exasperation flicker over his face before the expression smoothed out.

“Trevor,” he said, and there was nothing of the confusion-pain-love in his inflection.

“That’s my name, yes,” Trevor agreed blithely, pausing only for a second to glance in Ray’s direction before pressing a soft kiss to Ryan’s lips. “I’ll be in the kitchen. Call if you need anything.”

Ryan caught his hand and squeezed. “Thank you, my dear.”

“Always,” Trevor promised intently. With a nod to Ray, he stepped into the kitchen and closed the door. He counted to ten, then scrambled up the table and unhooked the grid in front of the air vent. It was a little dusty, he noted, but easy enough to squeeze into.

More importantly, it afforded him a good view of the living room.

Ray was sitting on their couch still, but he turned his head to follow Ryan as the other man paced in front of the TV. Neither of their faces gave away much of what they were feeling. Trevor steadied his breathing, listening intently. For a long moment, neither of them spoke.

“What are you doing here, Ray?” Ryan asked, turning abruptly to face the other man. Ray shrugged.

“Thought we should talk,” he replied, voice light and mocking as he cocked his head to the side. “Make sure we’re good. You know, before the heist and all.”

“We’re good,” Ryan said shortly. He stood there, tense, staring down at Ray. “If that’s all?”

Ray blinked up at him, lips quirking into a crooked grin. “At least try if you’re gonna lie, Rye.”

“I’ll take that under advisement.” Ryan’s eyes went flinty. “You would know, after all.”

The grin was wiped off Ray’s face instantly. He frowned.

“I wouldn’t be the only one, it seems,” he drawled, sprawling back against the couch. His eyes were hard. “I wouldn’t have expected you of all people to break your promises, and yet-” He spread his hands. “-here we are.”

Ryan growled. “That was three years ago. You left.”

“I came back.”

Three years, Ray. I can take a hint.”

Two,” Ray corrected sharply, sitting up straighter. “We hooked back up.”

“For less than a month,” Ryan retorted gruffly, “And then a week. Does that really count?”

“It was a good week,” Ray protested, eyes narrowing. “Don’t pretend it wasn’t.”

“It was sex and nothing more,” Ryan refuted.

“Good sex. Great sex,” Ray pointed out. He eyed Ryan quietly, searching for… something.

“And then you left,” Ryan continued, something sharp and fragile in his tone. He crossed his arms. “I woke up, and you had vanished. No note, no goodbye, no nothing.” His voice broke. “A month until Gavin mentioned hearing from you. You didn’t call once, you didn’t pick up your phone- two years of nothing and now you come here to- what?”

“To see you,” Ray said quietly. He seemed smaller, now. “To talk about… before.”

“To hook back up?” Ryan inquired causticly. Ray stayed silent. Ryan laughed. It was a dark, bitter sound. “It’s been three years since we really dated, Ray. Move on.” He paused, before adding softly. “I have.”

Ray grimaced. “I can see that.”

He looked around, eyes lingering on some of the decor. Ryan stayed quiet, watching him.

“This used to be home. Our home.” Ray’s voice wavered. Trevor wondered what he was thinking. “You didn’t move.”

“I didn’t see the need,” Ryan replied coldly. Ray shifted, standing abruptly. He pulled out an old twine string from under his shirt.

“You’ll want the key back,” Ray stated. His fingers were shaking.

“Keep it,” Ryan growled, taking a step back as if the key were a gun. “We’re changing the locks.”

“‘We’. You and… Trevor,” Ray said slowly, his face twisting.

“Yes.” Ryan’s voice was firm, not brooking any argument. Ray’s fingers clenched around the string.

“You promised,” he said, staring at the floor. “You promised you’d wait.”

“While you were in rehab!” Ryan snapped, throwing his hands up. “Which you lied about. You lied to me, Ray.”

The silence felt deafening. Ryan breathed heavily, his hands clenched into fists. Ray stared at him like a deer caught in the headlight. He licked his lips.

“I…”

“Don’t.” Ryan exhaled slowly, measuredly. “I don’t want to get into this again. Just… go, Ray.”

“Ryan…” Ray sounded lost. Hopeless. Trevor frowned. Something about this was niggling in the back of his brain, but he couldn't put his finger on what.

“No, Ray.” Ryan’s voice was soft. “There’s nothing left to say.”

Ray opened his mouth, then closed it. He looked away, staring in the direction of the kitchen. Emotions flickered across his face, too unfamiliar for Trevor to parse. Finally he nodded.

“Fine. Alright.” He swallowed. “I’ll leave.”

Ryan frowned, something catching his attention that escaped Trevor. “Ray…”

“No. You’re right.” Ray turned his back on Ryan. “There’s nothing left for me here.”

Trevor didn’t stay to watch him leave, squirming back out of the vent. He quickly cleaned up after himself, dusting off the table and his shirt. Then he busied himself starting a pot of coffee. It took Ryan a moment longer to join him in the kitchen. He looked… thoughtful and drained.

“Everything okay?” Trevor queried carefully. Ryan sighed, wrapping his arms around him from behind and burying his face between his shoulders.

“I guess.” Ryan rubbed his nose against his back. “I don’t know. Maybe?”

“One of those talks, huh?” Trevor turned in his arms as Ryan pulled back a little, giving him a squinty-eyed look.

“As if you weren’t eavesdropping the whole time,” he snorted. Trevor chuckled.

“Guilty as charged.” He eyed Ryan, considering his options. Ryan wouldn’t want to talk, not now. “What do you say, movie marathon and cuddles on the couch?”

“Sounds good,” Ryan agreed with a sigh, brushing a kiss against Trevor’s cheek. “I love you.”

“And I,” Trevor emphasized, bobbing his nose, “love you, you ridiculous man. C’mon. I’ll make popcorn. If you trust me to do that much.”

Ryan made a show of thinking about it. “Seems far enough removed from baking, I suppose.”

Trevor laughed, swatting at his chest.

“Everybody's a critic,” he lamented, pushing out of the embrace. “Go pick a movie. Not Sin City. We’ve watched that a million times already.”

“It’s a classic for a reason!” Ryan protested, grinning widely. “But fine. Tarantino?”

“I suppose there are worse fates,” Trevor gave in with a dramatic sigh. Ryan chuckled, leaving the kitchen. Trevor stared after him with a frown, then shook his head.

He’d take Ryan’s mind off things for now. They could talk about it later.

 


 

The hinges squeaked as the door to the rooftop was pushed open. Ray wondered if no one came up here anymore or if they just didn’t care. He resolutely didn’t turn around, staring off into the distance.

“There you are, X-Ray,” Gavin exclaimed. It sounded strained, like he was trying too hard for cheerful. “I was looking for you all over.”

“Sup,” Ray replied, staring at the lit skyline. The sun had set hours ago. Not much had changed since the last time he’d sat here, watching the sunset. Ryan had put his jacket around his shoulders and made a lame joke about romcoms and clichés- Except for the colours of the far away ads. Those were always changing.

“Nothing much. Been looking for you. Jack said he saw you coming in but you were nowhere in the penthouse.”

Ray shrugged one shoulder. “Needed some air.”

Gavin sat down next to him, carefully pushing the half-assembled joint away, out of Ray’s reach.

“I thought you got clean,” he stated, no judgement in his voice.

“I am,” Ray agreed, glancing at him from the corner of his eyes. “Doesn’t feel worth it right now.”

“Ryan?” Gavin inquired carefully. Ray hummed.

“I went to talk with him.” He looked down at his hands, thumb running over a scar. “Didn’t go well.”

“You’re not staying sober for Ryan, though,” Gavin pointed out, all reasonable. “You tried that and-”

“-and it didn’t work, I know,” Ray finished for him, rubbing his hands over his face. “God, I wish it had worked. Then things wouldn’t be all messed up.”

Gavin hummed noncommittally. “Why did you get clean, Ray?”

“Because I didn’t like who I was becoming. Because I don’t like being dependent,” Ray answered by rote. It had taken him a long time to accept that he couldn’t change for others - he had to want it himself. Harder still to actually change, but that was the first step. He dropped his hands from his face. “You’re right. Thanks, Vav.”

“Anytime.” They stayed quiet for a long while, taking in Los Santos by night. Sirens blared in the distance, the LSPD as busy by night as by day. “Where’d you get the weed?”

Ray shrugged. “Still got my stashes around the penthouse,” he admitted. Gavin tilted his head, slanting him a look.

“Want me to get rid of them?” he offered. Ray took a deep breath.

“Yeah. I- yeah. That would be for the best.” He gave Gavin a small grin. “Just sell them with the rest or whatever.”

“Sure thing, Ray,” Gavin agreed, bumping their shoulders. “Sure thing.”

It wasn’t like he’d need them once the heist was over. Ray kept his mouth shut, knowing better than to say that. Gavin sat with him until the early morning hours, quiet company and support. Ray would miss him, he supposed. But there was no way he could stay and watch Ryan be happy from a distance.