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Never Fall In Love

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It all started with a shootout. 

 

More like The Vagabond wiping out a whole crew with no problems, but a shootout nonetheless. He got hired to put on a presentation of sorts , show some smaller crew to not get too proud, to try things they shouldn’t. It turned into a full-blown attack, Ryan walking through the warehouse, minigun lighting up the floor with blood. He was told no survivors, so no survivors it is.

 

And now, Ryan stands, sweat dripping down his face as he leans against a wall, cleaning the place out of anyone who might have ran, might be hiding. No one ever lives to tell the tale of the Vagabond. He winces slightly, one of the “skilled” ones getting a shot on him, a little skim in his side, not enough to be worried about but it still hurts. 

 

He continues on, gun in hand, last clip of bullets already in, ready. He kicks down doors, finding nothing, and moves to the next, repeating the action. 

 

He kicks another door in, stopping in his tracks. A man faces him, wide eyes as he straightens up from hunching over a computer. He raises his arms, hands out to Ryan.

 

Ryan is holding his gun eye-level with the man, looking him over. Lanky, unkempt dirty-blonde hair, large nose. And a bright white smile, Ryan notices as the man smirks at him. 

 

“Well this is right awkward,” he says, british accent thick. Ryan’s silent, still pointing the gun at the mans head, andwhy hasn’t he shot him yet? “Listen-.” 

 

The guy’s cut off by the sound of the computer, both of them moving their eyes to screen, loading bar full. He looks at Ryan again, giving him a sheepish smile. 

 

“Listen,” the man starts again, smile getting even wider, “I’m not with these blokes. I’m actually stealing their info,” he nods his head at the laptop, Ryan’s gaze trained on the guy. “So I’m no threat to you. I mean, we’re technically on the same team, right?”

 

Ryan’s finger hovers over the trigger, the man shrugging before smiling again, hands still in the air. After a moment, the man seems to give Ryan a once-over, smiling to himself. 

 

“The mask’s a bit much, innit?” 

 

Ryan tilts his head, flabbergasted. Is this guy stupid?  

 

“Are you an idiot?” Ryan asks, voice low and harsh, the man just shrugging. 

 

“Eh, probably.” 

 

Ryan sighs, mentally face-palming, but there’s something about the man, something in those green eyes that makes Ryan lower his gun (only slightly) and step out from in front of the door. The man’s eyes go wide. He slowly reaches for the flash drive and walks past Ryan, grin getting wider as he realizes Ryan isn’t going to hurt him, going as far as to give him a wink and salute as he passes. 

 

Alone in the room, Ryan laughs softly and continues on his search, catching a blonde head disappear down the hall. 

 

----

 

Ryan was taking odd jobs. 

 

He was trying to grow his reputation, but Vice City was weird - something he got used to, very, very fast. (You have to.)

 

He’d done some stakeouts, some robberies, some intimidations. Those were easy. It was when employers wanted to test him, wanted to see how scary he truly was, when they hired him for torture.

 

Now see, Ryan is good at it. He puts on a show, not only frightening the tortured, creeping out the onlookers around him, but also, impressing the person that hired him. He follows orders, makes a performance of the gore, but he doesn’t enjoy it. He’s not psychotic . (Maybe.)

 

And though Ryan preferred intimidation or plain just wiping out a crew, he wasn’t surprised when people asked him to do some ‘personal scaring’. 

 

Ryan gets a call on one of his free days, burner phone in the kitchen, vibrating violently on the counter. He sighs, sliding a bookmark in his book before shutting it and setting aside, lazily making his way over to the phone. He picks it up - a text with a location - before snapping it in half and tossing it into the trash, grabbing his mask and jacket, slipping out the door. 

 

----

 

He pulls up to an abandoned grocery store, sighing as he dismounts his bike, making his way inside. 

 

“Vagabond.” 

 

As soon as Ryan walks in, Edgar approaches him, beaming brightly, yellow teeth making Ryan’s skin crawl.

 

“Remember that problem I’ve been telling you about? The little pest with his fingers in my business?”

 

Ryan nods, though he never really listens when Edgar talks to him. Though Ryan’s no saint, Edgar is awful, smile on his face as livelihoods are demolished at the snap of his fingers. He rules over Vice City, and as much as Ryan hates it, it wouldn’t be smart to go against the man. 

 

“Well,” Edgar continues, placing a hand on Ryan’s shoulder as he leads him through what once-were aisles, walking into a room in the back. The freezer. “We found him.”

 

Ryan stops as he walks in, one of Edgar’s goons standing by the door, Edgar standing to the right of Ryan - but his eyes are on the man tied to the chair in front of him.

 

The man looks up at him, recognition brief on his face. And though he’s all bloody, black eye and split lip, Ryan knows him immediately. Blonde, unkempt hair, (though dirtier now) , slightly larger nose, damn smirk.

 

“This is the little hacker that thought it was a good idea to mess with our data,” Edgar laughs, making a clicking noise while waving a finger at the man. “Dumb, dumb mistake.”

 

Ryan watches as the hacker winks at him, Ryan rolling his eyes in reply. The man’s arms are behind his back, and as Ryan looks him over, he sees the forced nature of his shoulders. As if he’s holding his arms behind his back himself. Ryan can’t help but scoff, of course he got out.

 

Edgar bumps Ryan’s shoulder, regaining his attention.

 

“Show him his mistake,” Edgar says in a low voice, handing Ryan a knife made completely of gold - blade, handle, everything. Ryan takes it, feeling the weight in his hand, Edgar’s grin getting wider, more sinister. 

 

“She’s my favorite,” he whispers, “and I want her to be soaked in his blood.” If Ryan were anyone else, he would’ve shivered, but, you know. He’s Ryan, so. 

 

Ryan looks at Edgar, nods, gets the knife comfortable in his hand, and approaches the hacker. The man’s smirk falls slightly, but it’s fully formed again in an instant.

 

“This is ridiculous,” he says, forcing a laugh. “You might as well just kill me yourself! Wot, you have a man in a mask, a bloody skull mask , do your dirty work for you?” The man laughs again, Ryan flipping the knife in his hand, over and over, smiling to himself. The guy really is an idiot.

 

“That’s a bit cowardly, innit?” The hacker continues, looking at Ryan. Flip. “Innit? Mob boss can’t even handle his own problems.” Flip.

 

“The man likes to talk,” Edgar jokes from behind Ryan as he gets closer to the hacker. Flip. “Well, Vagabond, are you-“

 

Ryan spins on his heel, throwing the knife right between Edgar’s eyes, blood spurting out. Before the guard can react, Ryan whips out his gun, putting a bullet in his skull. 

 

Ryan walks over to Edgar’s body, plucking the knife from his face, wiping it on his pants, facing the chair again. 

 

The man sits there, jaw dropped. 

 

“You- I thought you were- wot?” He stammers, Ryan tossing the knife into his lap. He looks down at it before meeting Ryan’s eyes again. He moves to pick up the knife, showing completely free hands, the rope falling loose behind the chair. “How did you know?” He asks, looking up at Ryan as he leans down, cutting the rope around his ankles. Ryan snorts, turning away and walking towards the exit of the freezer.  

 

“The skull mask isn’t ‘much ’”, Ryan says over his shoulder, smiling as he hears the man laugh behind him, walking out the door. 

 

----

 

“You’re looking at a few weeks tops,” the man, Lennie, says, smiling brightly at Ryan. 

 

“And I get half up front?” Ryan watches Lennie laugh, a genuine laugh, as he stands up from the table they’re sitting at. They’re in a small room, a conference room of sorts, with a white board on one wall and a single large table in the middle of the room, Ryan on one side, Lennie on the other. 

 

“Of course. I was actually going to give it to you after I showed you around. That is, if you agree.” He sticks his hand out, a kindness in his eyes that has Ryan standing, shaking his hand. “Awesome.” Lennie grins, walking towards the door to the office. “You’re going to love these guys. I mean, we’ve got some real good ones-” 

 

“Don’t expect me to be friends with them,” Ryan cuts Lennie off, Lennie’s smile never fading.

 

“Whatever makes you comfortable,” he replies, walking out the door, Ryan following him. “We have rooms here,” Lennie continues, voices getting louder as they walk down a hallway, “if you’d want to sleep here. For convenience or whatever it may be.” Lennie stops at the end of the hallway, turning to Ryan with a smile before facing the room again. “This is our main base of operations.” 

 

Ryan looks around, seeing the large expanse of warehouse, couches set up where machinery likely used to be, a kitchen in the far corner, some desks to his left. A bunch of men sit in front of a tv, cards laid out of the table in front of them. 

 

“I think you’ll like these guys,” Lennie pats Ryan on the back, smiling to himself. 

 

They’re silent for a minute as Ryan takes in the scene, watching the group of men laughing, attention glued to their card game. One of them looks up, making direct eye-contact with Ryan, face falling at the sight of the mask. The man whispers to the others around him, and they all spin to face the Vagabond , recognition evident in their stares. They all harden slightly, turning away but eyes over their shoulders as if Ryan would do something, as if they don’t trust him.  

 

“C’mon,” Lennie says, heading back down the hallway. “Let’s get that first half.”

 

Ryan turns and follows him, sparing one more glance over his shoulder, watching heads jerk away from him, returning to the cards on the table, voices low, and Ryan just continues down the hall, shoulders squared. If they expect the Vagabond in all his glory, so be it.

 

----

 

Ryan sits on one of the couches, cleaning his guns as the men watch TV, all crammed on the furthest couch from him. Fine by me, Ryan thinks to himself, their chatter a background noise as he focuses on the guns in his hands.

 

“Oi!”

 

Ryan’s head shoots up, eyes meeting another set that are oh so familiar , Lennie standing next to him

 

“And your office is in the corner,” Lennie points, the man not listening to him, in a staring contest with Ryan. A small smile grows on his face as he tilts his head, never looking away. 

 

“Coincidence, innit?” He says, smile growing wider as him and Ryan just stare at each other. Lennie raises an eyebrow, the silence causing the other men to turn and look, all confused faces and fast glances between the Vagabond and some skinny kid with a big nose. 

 

He starts to say something again but stops, still smiling as he turns to Lennie, “sorry, what were you saying? My desk is over there?” 

 

He heads in the direction Lennie pointed, everyone’s jaws dropped around him, and Ryan can’t help but snort at the interaction, returning his attention to the guns on the table, the blush on his cheeks fortunately hidden by the mask. 

 

----

 

Ryan wanders into the warehouse, silently shutting the door behind him at the lack of lighting, the night’s noises shut off with the close of the door. Ryan was out doing a stakeout, watching the crew they’re supposed to take down, scope of his rifle close against his eye. And now, here he stands, in the warehouse of the “crew” he’s working with, all asleep in their respective rooms, the area silent. 

 

Except a sound coming from the kitchen, Ryan hears, straining to pinpoint what it is. He clicks the safety off on his gun, crouching as he continues further into the warehouse, closing in on the kitchen. His shoulders relax as he sees the hacker standing at the fridge, the white light the only illumination in the base, the hacker juggling multiple things in his hands. 

 

The hacker, seemingly satisfied with the tower of food in his hands, turns around, jumping at the sight of Ryan. 

 

“Christ!” He yelps, the food in his hands falling to the floor. Ryan watches, ( amused), as the man reaches behind him desperately, flicking on a switch for some of the ceiling lights. Ryan squints at the sudden change but doesn’t show it, standing straight and tall as always. 

 

“Jesus Vagabond ,” the man says, hand on his heart, “you can’t just bloody show up in a mask like that in the dark! Can you imagine what that was like?” He continues to steady his breathing, a smile forming on his lips. “Well scared me, you right minge.” 

 

Ryan looks at the floor, spilled takeout boxes littering the mans feet, contents wasted. 

 

“You might want to clean that up,” Ryan says, the man’s eyes following Ryan’s glance to the floor. 

 

The man makes a noise of indignation, pointing a finger at Ryan. “ You scared me!” 

 

Ryan shrugs and spins on his heel, starting to leave the kitchen. 

 

“Wait!” The man says behind him, Ryan turning around to face him again. Ryan tilts his head, the hacker’s face turning red. “My names..uh... Gavin, Gavin Free. In case..you wanted to know or something.” 

 

Ryan nods and exits the kitchen, leaving Gavin standing alone, the mess at his feet, a smile on Ryan’s face. 

 

----

 

“If you flip a coin three times…” Gavin starts, Ryan closing his eyes, resisting the urge to strangle the hacker right there. Ever since that night in the kitchen, since Gavin told Ryan his name, he has been asking Ryan dumb questions and talking to him every chance that he gets.

 

And Ryan doesn’t hate it. 

 

He should, but he doesn’t. It’s kinda nice. The “crew” he’s working with doesn’t even look at him, so it’s not the worst thing that at least someone wants his company.

 

It’s not that he isn’t used to the cold-shoulder, no. Usually, when being hired to help out a crew like this one, the fellow mercs treat him the same way- no talking, tall stances, fingers hovering the trigger as if their life depends on it- it kinda does , but that’s besides the point. They never trust him. 

 

Which is fine. Ryan’s used to it- the feeling is mutual. 

 

And usually, he keeps to himself, only interacting when necessary, and gets his job done. It’s pure business. It’s boring.

 

At least Gavin’s dumb ideas and weird hypotheticals and mere prescence make things a little more interesting.

 

“You’re an idiot,” Ryan cuts Gavin off mid-explanation, Gavin spinning in his chair to look at him. 

 

“Is that how you talk to your friends?” Gavin smirks, Ryan giving him a look , Gavin’s smirk getting wider.

 

“We are not friends,” Ryan mutters, snorting under his breath as Gavin gasps. 

 

“Well, I guess you’re right,” Gavin grumbles, slouching in his chair. Ryan looks back over at him to see Gavin giving him a look of faux-anger. “A real friend would’ve been bloody listening to me!” Gavin all but shouts, crossing his arms across his chest. 

 

“Not like you were making sense anyway,” Ryan teases, Gavin shooting up straight in his computer chair.

 

“Well, you’re the one…” Gavin rambles on, Ryan laughing under the mask.

 

----

 

“I knew you had a soft spot, Vagabond,” Lennie says, leaning on the doorway to Ryan’s “room”. 

 

Ryan looks up at him from the gun in his lap, mask hiding the shock on his face. “What?” Ryan asks, coming out harsher than he means. Than he feels.

 

“The hacker?” Lennie shrugs. “You’re nice with him.”

 

“We...go back,” Ryan mutters, looking back down at his gun again. “I don’t know why it matters.” 

 

“It doesn’t,” Lennie smiles, relaxing in the doorway. “It’s just nice to see, I suppose.” 

 

“Glad you appreciate it,” Ryan rolls his eyes, Lennie laughing.

 

“Don’t worry,” Lennie continues, “your reputation is still intact.” Lennie laughs to himself, a small smile making its way onto Ryan’s face at his laughter. 

 

When Lennie eventually stops laughing, they fade into a comfortable silence, Ryan cleaning his gun, Lennie humming softly in the doorway. 

 

“Vagabond,” Lennie says after a few moments, Ryan looking up at him. “It’s nice to have a friend, isn’t it?” He asks, voice soft, before smiling and leaving the room, closing the door behind him, Ryan left staring at it.

 

----

 

“Do you know when to shut up?” 

 

Ryan stops in his tracks, hearing the loud voices coming from the main area of the warehouse. 

 

“I’m just saying-” Gavin.

 

“You’re an idiot. Know your place, hacker.”

 

There’s a yelp, then a thud. Ryan storms over and sees Gavin, flat on the floor, chair on its side next to him. Three “crew” members stand around him, smiles on their faces. 

 

“I can get him to shut up,” one of them laughs, the others joining in.

 

“No you won't,” Ryan booms, the men jumping before turning to face him, stances hardening. Gavin looks up at him from the floor, Ryan standing taller. 

 

“What are you going to do about it?” One of them says, smirking cockily at Ryan. Ryan nods calmly before aggressively reaching forward, and grabbing the collar of the guy’s shirt, lifts him off the ground, pulling him close to Ryan’s face. 

 

“I don’t know if you’ve heard,” Ryan growls, the man’s eyes widening, “but I’m the Vagabond. When I say something, I mean it. If you want to keep all your organs inside your body, you better listen when I speak.”

 

The other men around him step back, the merc in Ryan’s grasp swallowing harshly. Ryan gently sets him to the ground, the man frozen, Ryan straightening out the guy’s shirt. 

 

“I’d stay away from Gavin,” Ryan says, crossing his arms over his chest. The men look at each other for a moment before nodding, speed-walking to their rooms.

 

Ryan sighs and leans over, sticking out a hand for Gavin. Gavin takes it, smile on his face. 

 

“Thanks,” Gavin stands, reaching to fix his chair. 

 

“Uh, no problem,” Ryan mutters, rubbing the back of his neck, suddenly sheepish. “It’s what friends are for, right?” 

 

Gavin freezes, slowly spinning around to face Ryan, giant grin on his face. 

 

“We’re friends?” He starts, smile getting even wider. “We’re friends!” 

 

Gavin pulls Ryan into a hug, Ryan standing stiffly. 

 

“I regret this,” Ryan lies, Gavin stepping away and laughing, smile so bright Ryan can’t find it within him to look away. Not that he wants too, anyway.

 

----

 

“Alright,” Lennie looks around the room, everyone standing, listening closely. “This is it. Here’s the plan.” Lennie points to the board behind him, going through the plan, the attack.

 

Two months have led to this moment, and Ryan can’t help it if he’s feeling a bit sentimental. 

 

There’s a noticeable gap between Ryan and the other mercs, but Gavin’s pressed against his other side, shoulder to shoulder, despite the fact that there’s definitely enough room for him to scoot over, and Ryan doesn’t mind it.

 

He’s gotten close to Gavin in these two months, and he’s going to miss him. Kinda .

 

Ryan stands there and listens to Lennie, a man he’s learned to trust in these months, tell them the details of their plan, sounding more “boss-like” than Ryan’s ever heard him, and Ryan’s admittedly impressed.

 

Gavin bumps his shoulder, taking Ryan’s attention off Lennie and onto the man to his left, Gavin smiling up at him. He nods his head at the whiteboard, clearly holding back laughter. Ryan follows his gaze, scanning it before seeing the dick drawn in the corner, in gold Sharpie

 

He shakes his head as Gavin falls into him, laughing a little harder, Ryan looking down at him, smiling.

 

----

 

Ryan hops on his motorcycle, only the part of the crew that’s needed getting in their own vehicles, the rest standing at the entrance of the warehouse. Gavin stands with them, waving.  

 

Ryan rolls his eyes but waves back, speeding off, plan in action.

 

----

 

It started out exactly as it was supposed to. They all snuck in, making their way through the building. Silence was all around them. Someone said they should split up, so they did.

 

Ryan was with two other mercs, carefully making their way through the expansive hallways. The place was empty.

 

“Shit,” one of the mercs said, phone to his ear, turning to Ryan and the other man. “They’re at the base. It was a trap.” 

 

It was a trap.

 

Now Ryan is on his bike, riding as fast as he can to get back, one thing on his mind. 

 

The other men fled, the other men were cowards, abandoned the people they claimed to care about. And maybe, maybe, Ryan would have done that too, would’ve left and saved his own skin, but those green eyes make him get on the bike and head into danger.

 

----

 

Ryan has never been religious, but he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t thanking God when he saw Gavin hiding under a desk in his room. Ryan rushes over to him, Gavin crawling out from underneath the table. 

 

“Vagabond-” he starts, shock written on his face. 

 

“We have to go,” Ryan cuts him off, blood dripping off his mask as he checks the clip of his gun. 

 

“You came back for me.” Gavin whispers before wrapping Ryan in a hug, pressing his face against Ryan’s neck. “I thought I was a goner.” 

 

Ryan slowly hugs Gavin back, feeling the smaller man shake in his arms. He closes his eyes for a moment, relishing in the warmth radiating from Gavin, before pulling away, eyes serious. 

 

“We really do have to go,” Ryan nods at the door, gunshots heard through the thin wood.

 

“Okay,” Gavin barely manages, getting behind Ryan as he spins around, gun at the ready. He looks over his shoulder at Gavin, and Gavin nods, Ryan focusing on the door again. He opens it, leading the way down the hall. 

 

----

 

They creep along, Gavin jumping at closer gunshots, Ryan’s heart thudding in his chest. His eyes scan for any incoming baddies, halting in his tracks if something sounds too close, Gavin crashing into his back. Bodies litter the floor around them, the smell of blood strong in the air. 

 

Ryan feels Gavin grip the back of his jacket as he stumbles, Ryan turning around to steady him. Gavin looks down and gags, Ryan looking down to see what once was Lennie, now dead and split open. His heart stops, a sadness washing over him at the dead look in Lennie’s cold eyes, a man he actually started to respect in this business, still kind despite the harsh realities of their lifestyle, and Ryan reaches down, softly pushing his eyelids closed.  

 

He stands and gives Gavin’s shoulder a quick squeeze before starting to walk again, Gavin following him with a tight grasp on the back Ryan’s jacket. 

 

He can still hear Gavin gagging softly as they walk, so he stops, sparing a quick glance over his shoulder at him, Gavin giving him a nod that he’s okay. 

 

Ryan is about to look forward again but his eyes catch a knife in Gavin’s hand, the gold one that belonged to Edgar. The one Ryan gave Gavin. 

 

“You kept it...” Ryan whispers to himself, eyes on the knife.

 

“Vagabond!” Gavin shouts, Ryan spinning around just in time for some guy to shoot him in the shoulder. Ryan stumbles but recovers quickly, easily getting a headshot on the guy.

 

The man falls to the ground, Ryan’s gaze turning down to his shoulder, hot pain shooting throughout his arm. 

 

“Are you okay?” Gavin hesitates, moving next to him, Ryan meeting his eyes.

 

“We have to go,” Ryan says through gritted teeth, Gavin nodding, following him the rest of the way in silence. 

 

----

 

They duck behind a car, the shooting getting further and further away, the target on Ryan’s back bright and glaring. People would do anything for the chance to take down the Vagabond.

 

Ryan looks beside him at Gavin, dirt and scratches littering his face but otherwise unscathed . The burning in Ryan’s gut lessens slightly, Ryan taking a moment to look around before ramming his hand into the window of the car they’re crouched behind. 

 

“What are you-” Gavin gasps, Ryan cutting him off. 

 

“Can you drive?” He asks, unlocking the card door and sliding into the seat, ripping the plastic off from under the wheel. 

 

“Vagabond-”

 

“Can you drive ,” Ryan interrupts harshly, eyes on the wires in his hands, car alarm still blaring loudly. Ryan can distantly hear shouting, and thundering footsteps, and gunshots , but he feels it get closer.

 

“Yeah...” Gavin trails off, Ryan starting the car and hopping out, practically shoving Gavin in. 

 

“Drive safely,” Ryan says as he shuts the door. And he means it.

 

“Wait,” Gavin leans out of the window, eyes wide. “What about you?” 

 

“Go, Gavin,” Ryan frantically looks around, Gavin continuing to stare at him. Ryan meets his eyes again, Gavin’s face falling, eyebrows furrowed, the stomping of bone-crushing boots getting closer, closer.

 

“But-” 

 

Go. ” 

 

They stare at each other for another moment before Gavin nods, facing forward and pressing the gas, leaving Ryan on the sidewalk, alone.

 

---- 

 

Moving to Los Santos wasn’t hard for Ryan. He didn’t have anything keeping him in Vice City, and Los Santos had more opportunities. 

 

Gavin moved to Los Santos immediately after what happened with Lennie, Ryan finding a note on his apartment door saying Gavin was thankful for him, and Ryan always has a friend if he decides to move. (how Gavin knew where he lived is still a mystery to Ryan) . But Ryan stayed, finished some jobs, worked for months without running into the little hacker again, and some part of him was hoping to see him, hoping to hear his laughter again, catch a glimpse of him behind a monitor, to have his voice in his ear through the coms, but he didn’t

 

So packing up and hightailing it to Los Santos provided some excitement for him. Some part of him thought, maybe, maybe, he’d see Gavin again. But also, another part of him told him he was making a mistake, he had a hold on Vice City, who knows what would happen in Los Santos. Who knows if he’d see those green eyes again.  

 

He made the right decision.

 

Ever since moving to Los Santos, his reputation just kept getting bigger and bigger. His mask became known, people cowered at the mere mention of the Vagabond , and he got to pick and choose his jobs. It was nice.

 

He got offers all the time. “Join our crew,” was something he heard daily, but something about this most recent offer was different. 

 

One, it was a letter. Most contact people had with him was through burner phones or fake emails. But when he was getting on his bike, taped to the seat was a note.

 

Two, it had a seal. (A seal!). The seal was green, a definitive duck in the center. And as Ryan headed up to his apartment, note in his pocket, he couldn’t help thinking about what this meant. 

 

The Fake AH Crew wanted him.

 

Ryan didn’t really know what to do. Technically, he hadn’t read the letter yet. It could say anything. 

 

But Ryan wasn’t an idiot, he knew what it said. It was just deciding whether he’d want that or not. 

 

The Fake AH Crew is powerful . Extreme heists, fancy cars, a grip so strong on Los Santos that not even the LSPD can shake it. You don’t want to get on their bad side. Not only do they bring in millions, can destroy buildings with a flick of the wrist, but they’re also fiercely loyal.

 

Ryan needs that. 

 

Ryan’s the Vagabond for a reason - he doesn’t do crews. But, only because of betrayal , of a lack of trust . Working in groups is better, even he can admit that- it’s nice having someone watching your back, but only if you can trust them . And trust is vital for the FAHC.

 

Ryan opens the letter after staring at it for a few hours, reading the words carefully. 

 

“Vagabond, we have a strong interest in your abilities. Meet at the pier at midnight, no funny business.

 

-hope to see you, Ramsey.”

 

Ryan looks up at the clock on his oven, 9:30 blinking bright red. Well, he’s got time.

 

----

 

Ryan pulls up to the pier, vacant of tourists and carnival-goers in the peak of Los Santos’ winter, the wind causing Ryan to pull his jacket a little closer to his body. There’s a few brave souls scattered around, but Ryan’s looking for someone specific

 

His eyes catch a man at the edge of the pier, arms behind his back, facing the cool water below. Ryan parks his bike and walks over to him, joining his side against the railing. 

 

“You came,” he says, still staring out at the water. 

 

“It’d be dumb not to,” Ryan replies, sparing a glance at the man. The black suit, the handlebar mustache, the smirk on his face. 

 

Ramsey steps back from the edge of the pier, nodding at Ryan.

 

“I was told the mask was more frightening in person,” he jokes, smiling to himself.

 

“I don’t do crews, Ramsey,” Ryan crosses his arms, leaning his back against the railing.

 

“One heist,” Ramsey offers, shrugging. “If you don’t like it, you can go, no harm. If you do like it, well, we can go from there.”

 

They’re silent for a moment, Ryan looking around the pier, seeing the people in the shadows, catching a glimpse of a wolf’s face on someone’s back. They’re here to protect him , Ryan thinks to himself, looking at Ramsey’s relaxed nature. He trusts them to.

 

“Just one.”

 

----

 

Ryan follows Ramsey into the elevator, his fingers lingering on all the buttons before deciding on the top floor, the penthouse.

 

They ride up in silence, Ryan looking around at the interior of the room. A soft jazz plays as Ryan takes in his surroundings, gold accents decorating the larger-than-normal elevator, Ryan raising an eyebrow at just how wide it is. Ramsey’s still beside him, but Ryan can hear him softly humming along to the music. 

 

After a few minutes of awkward silence, the door of the elevator opens, revealing a separate hallway, also unnaturally wide, with even a little seating area. Ramsey walks forward, typing in a passcode on the wall next to the door, pushing it partially open upon hearing a resounding click!   but stopping. 

 

“Just letting you know,” Ramsey turns to Ryan, a fondness to his tone despite the look on his face, “you’re going to walk in on chaos. You get used to it.”

 

And as they stepped in, Ryan understood why Ramsey had warned him.

 

Loud screaming was heard throughout the living room, the sounds of feet thudding on the clean wood floors hitting Ryan as soon as he steps in, Ramsey unfazed to the noise, shaking his head and heading further in. Ryan spares a glance over his shoulder, at the now closed door behind him, and sighs, following after Ramsey. 

 

“You IDIOT!!” A man screams, coming from down the hallway, and then there’s laughter, and Ryan slows his speed, eyebrows to his hairline. What is he getting into?

 

“Alright,” Ramsey enters the room, Ryan hesitantly on his tail, “everyone fucking chill out. We have a guest.” 

 

The room looks up as Ramsey says this, a guy with curly brown hair standing straight, the wolf just barely catching Ryan’s eyes as the man turns around, a woman pulling out a seat, bright floral shirt on. 

 

Ramsey turns to Ryan and nods, pointing to the one in the floral shirt. “That’s Pattillo, my right-hand man,” he says, the woman - Pattillo - rolling her eyes

 

“Right-hand woman ,” she corrects, the man with the wolf jacket snorting as he sticks a hand out towards the ground, Ramsey just shrugging. 

 

“That,” Ramsey points to the wolf-jacket guy just as he pulls someone off the floor, green eyes catching Ryan’s, “is Mogar. And that is-” 

 

Time seems to freeze, Ryan’s eyes locked with Gavin’s, watching his shocked face fade into a small smile, Ryan grinning underneath his mask. 

 

“Gavin,” Ryan interrupts, still watching Gavin, Gavin watching him, Mogar rolling his eyes. 

 

“Finally Gavin can shut up about you,” Mogar snorts, Gavin turning and facing him with wide eyes. 

 

“Sod off!” He exclaims, blush on his face as he smacks Mogar’s arm. “He’s an old friend,” Gavin continues, his attention back on Ryan, small smile on his face, Ryan’s heart pounding in his chest at the way Gavin smiles at him. 

 

Sod off!”  Mogar mocks in a over-dramatic british accent, Gavin squawking before shoving Mogar. Mogar smiles devilishly and jumps at Gavin, tackling him to the ground.

 

Ryan looks away, meeting Pattillo’s exasperated eyes. She rolls them dramatically, Ryan fighting to hold back a snort. He glances at Gavin again to see him laughing as he runs around the room, Mogar yelling at him about something, and Ryan can’t believe his luck. Maybe it wasn’t just trust he needed.

 

----

 

“So, you’re apart of crews now?” 

 

Ryan looks up from the floor at Mogar, his head facing forward, and shrugs, knowing he can see it in the reflection of the elevator.

 

“You’ve really got a reputation, you know,” Mogar speaks up again, Ryan continuing to be silent. “I bet you’re not too happy about this.” 

 

Mogar spares a glance at Ryan in the elevator before facing the doors again, foot tapping on the floor. 

 

“Having someone come get you from downstairs, is what I mean,” he continues when Ryan doesn’t say anything. “ The Vagabond getting watched like a child.” 

 

“I don’t feel like a child,” Ryan shrugs, Mogar groaning audibly. 

 

“So now you talk.” 

 

“I talk when I feel it's necessary,” Ryan explains, eyes wandering the elevator as it ticks upwards, gaze landing on the wolf on Mogar’s back.

 

“Yeah, I’m asking Ramsey to never make me retrieve you again,” Mogar grumbles, crossing his arms over his chest. “You’re an ass.

 

Ryan doesn’t say anything, just hums, eyes tracing the stitched lines of the wolf on Mogar’s jacket, the brown leather showing years and years of wear but repair , wolf eyes staring back into Ryan’s.

 

“But Gavin seems to like you, for whatever reason,” Mogar pipes up after a moment, voice low. 

 

Ryan looks up at that, Mogar turning away from the door, pushing a finger into Ryan’s chest, stepping to him despite the fact that Ryan is marginally taller than him. 

 

“If you ever hurt Gavin,” Mogar grits out, face hard, “the last thing you’ll feel is a fiery explosion starting in your gut.” Ryan watches the fire flash in Mogar’s eyes before he turns away, doors to the elevator dinging open. 

 

Mogar speeds out, Ryan standing in the elevator for another moment, ghost of his finger still lingering on Ryan’s chest. Duly noted , he thinks, following Mogar into the penthouse. 

 

They walk to the meeting room in silence, Mogar looking over his shoulder every few moments at Ryan, checking to see whether he’s still following him or doesn’t have a gun to his back, Ryan isn’t sure. 

 

As they enter, Mogar makes his way to the other side of the table, taking the spot next to Pattillo, intimidating glare behind his glasses. 

 

Ryan stands taller, meticulously sliding out the seat in front of him and sitting in it, focusing on Ramsey at the front of the room. 

 

He has his arms crossed behind his back, eyes scanning the room for something.

 

“I see you made it here in one piece Vagabond,” Ramsey says, catching Ryan’s eyes before looking at the door again. 

 

“Was I not meant to?” Ryan replies, voice flat, and Ramsey shrugs, turning his attention to Mogar. 

 

“You never know with him.” 

 

Ryan follows his gaze, to see Mogar leaning back in his chair, casually cracking his fingers, something dangerous in his stare. Ryan can’t help but roll his eyes, Pattillo snorting from her seat. 

 

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Ryan smiles, pulling a knife from its sheath at his hip and flipping it in his hand, turning his attention away from Mogar. Two can play at this game .

 

Ramsey sighs from where he stands, but there’s a small smile on his face. “Alright, enough with the dick measuring contest. Where the hell is the Golden Boy?” Ryan raises an eyebrow at the name as he slips the knife away, but Pattillo speaks up before he can say anything. 

 

“Gav said he’ll be late,” she answers, “so we should probably just get on with it.” Ramsey whines, literally whines , and deflates, something so childish about it that has Ryan looking around. The other two seem unfazed, and is this how he runs things ?

 

“Fine, we’ll just start without him,” Ramsey grumbles, straightening up again. “Okay, so this is a simple job. We’re gonna get into the jewelry store on Fifth Ave,” he points to the map behind him, right on a circled building. “Mogar, you’ll be,” his finger moves to further down on the map, in an area circled in red, “here, wrecking havoc and causing the police to be on your ass.”  

 

“What do you want me to do?” Mogar asks, and Ramsey shrugs. 

 

“Whatever you want, just get the police on you.” 

 

Mogar grins dangerously, a glint to his eye, and Jack snorts from her seat next to him. 

 

“Vagabond and Pattillo,” Ramsey continues, moving his finger back to the jewelry store. “You guys will be on the outside, waiting ‘till I give the all clear and come in, guns blazing.” 

 

Ryan meets Pattillo’s eyes, and Pattillo nods, Ryan nodding back. 

 

“I’ll,” Ramsey points to himself, “will be a mere customer inside the jewelry store, and I’ll join you guys once you enter. Gavin will-” 

 

“I’ll be what?” 

 

Gavin pushes open the door, box in his hands, and Ramsey groans, rolling his eyes. 

 

“Speak of the devil and he shall appear,” Pattillo says under her breath, Gavin taking the open seat next to Ryan. 

 

“I was saying,” Ramsey continues, “that you’d be on cams. Why the hell are you late?” 

 

“I got donuts!” Gavin exclaims, lifting up the box before setting it on the table, opening it up. “The kolaches are for the Vagabond, but everything is fair game!” 

 

Ryan spins in his chair, fixing Gavin with a look behind the mask. 

 

“V, don’t you remember?” Gavin raises his eyebrows, Ryan’s heart stuttering at the nickname. “You said they were your favorites?” 

 

Ryan nods after a moment, hesitantly reaching forward and taking one out of the box. 

 

“Oh!” Gavin starts laughing, slapping at Ryan’s shoulder. “And then you went to cut it open and it leaked out all-” 

 

“Gavin,” Ryan’s eyes widen, the rest of the room watching them, grins creeping on their faces.

 

“-over your shirt! And then you tried wiping at it-” 

 

Gavin ,” Ryan repeats, desperately this time, Mogar already bent over laughing as Gavin is unaware of the glare Ryan is sending him. 

 

“-and you just kept spreading it!” Gavin wipes at his eyes, smiling brightly at Ryan. “Man, that was so bloody funny! I couldn’t hold myself together.” 

 

“Aww,” Pattillo smiles, tilting her head at Ryan, “the Vagabond is a dork !” 

 

“I’m not a dork,” Ryan grumbles, causing everyone to laugh, Mogar chanting about Ryan being a big dork , a smile forming on Ryan’s face under the mask. He looks at Gavin next to him, who only smiles, sending Ryan a wink, and Ryan shakes his head, blushing brightly, but he’s not that mad about it.

 

----

 

“Alright,” Geoff announces through the earpiece, Ryan adjusting it on his ear as he gets himself into position, crouched side-by-side with Jack. “You guys know the plan,” he continues, the crackle of audio barely heard as Ryan checks his guns again, Jack watching. 

 

“Nervous, Vagabond?” She asks, smirk on her lips. 

 

“‘Course not,” he mutters, looking up at the sound of her giggling. “Oh shut it, would you?”

 

“I just think it’s funny that the Vagabond is nervous ,” Jack shrugs, smile taking over her face as she sits back, leaning against the wall.

 

“Whatever,” Ryan replies, and Jack hums, their conversation over. But he is nervous- even he can admit that to himself. 

 

It’s not that he’s worried he won’t perform well, no. He’s good at what he does, that’s not the problem. It’s just been a while since he’s worked with a team, and he doesn’t want to screw up.

 

This is a chance to work with people he actually doesn’t completely hate- for Heaven’s Sake he’s already on first-name basis, (but that’s entirely Gavin’s fault. He can’t follow codenames to save his life.)

 

Regardless, clearly the crew trusts him already. If he doesn’t work well with them, or they don’t like how he works, well.

 

Opportunity gone.

 

So yeah, he’s a little nervous.

 

“Vagabond?” 

 

Ryan’s head snaps up to meet Jack’s next to him, and she taps the earpiece. Shit , he was not paying attention.

 

“You say something Geoff?” He attempts, forcing nonchalance, getting a snicker out of someone on the headset, sounding a lot like Michael , and a deep sigh from the man.

 

“I was asking ,” Geoff grumbles, Michael continuing to laugh softly, “if you guys were ready to go, but you were busy brooding .”

 

Michael’s laughter gets louder, Ryan’s face flushing under the mask as he meets Jack’s eyes again, a hand covering the smile on her lips.

 

“I wasn’t brooding,” Ryan mumbles, crossing his arms.

 

“Give him a break Geoff,” Gavin jumps in, Ryan’s heart stuttering a little at hearing his voice. “He was probably just tuning out your unnecessary repeat of the plan,” he continues, a smile making its way across Ryan’s face as he hears Geoff make noises of indignation.

 

“Maybe he was contemplating why he ever put up with you, Gavin,” Geoff argues back, faking anger, “much like I am now.”

 

“Hey!”

 

Ryan spares a glance to his right to see Jack shaking her head fondly as they continue to bicker on the headset, and she meets his eyes, giving him a what can you do kind of shrug, Ryan rolling his eyes.

 

“Can I blow this entrance or what ,” Michael complains into the headset, effectively cutting off the argument, Ryan snorting at his tone.

 

“Alright,” Geoff huffs, and Jack looks at Ryan again, bumping his shoulder with a wild smile on her face, which he returns, the nerves suddenly gone, something more like excitement making him jittery, ready to start. 

 

“Let’s heist!”

 

----

 

“Where you headed Vagabond?”

 

Ryan spins around, hand the doorknob, to see the crew all out in the living room, in clean clothes and excited smiles on their faces. 

 

“I’m..going home?” Ryan says hesitantly, the crew watching him, Michael lifting an eyebrow.

 

“You’re not comin’ to the bar with us?” He asks, voice flat, indifference radiating off of him.

 

“Nah,” Ryan shrugs, grip tight on the doorknob. I just want to go home . “I’m good.”

 

“Oh c’mon,” Gavin pleads, stepping forward slightly, stumbling with his step, “you gotta come! It’s fun for everyone!” 

 

“I don’t drink,” Ryan admits, looking up at them again. They stand there, all watching him, different looks on their faces. “Really,” Ryan continues, opening the door slightly, “I’ve got some stuff I’ve got to do.” Adrenaline I’ve got to get rid of, scars to patch up

 

Michael shrugs and nods, walking off further into the penthouse.

 

“Your loss,” Geoff jokes, turning and settling onto the couch, grabbing his shoes off the floor and sliding them onto his feet. 

 

“Don’t get into too much trouble tonight,” Jack calls as she walks back into her room, getting a laugh out of Ryan. 

 

“I could say the same for you guys,” he mutters, shaking his head, turning and facing the door. 

 

He steps into the hallway and sighs, turning to face the penthouse one more time, seeing Gavin through the doorway, still watching him. “You alright Gavin?” Ryan can’t help but say, concern lacing his tone.

 

“Are you sure you don’t want to come?” Gavin asks, Ryan smiling softly behind the mask. 

 

“I’m sure Gavin.” They stare at each other for another moment for Gavin nods, sending Ryan a forced smile. 

 

“Have a good night then,” he states, stepping forward and shutting the door. Ryan watches it close, feeling like he missed something.  

 

----

 

The Zentoro pulls to stop as Ryan’s foot rests gently on the brake, shoulders sagging as the car shuts off, Ryan leaning his head against the steering wheel.  

 

Shit. Maybe taking a job all the way in the desert versus a gang by himself wasn’t a good idea. 

 

How could he know that he’d accidentally shove a guy out the window and onto the hood? (He can’t find it in himself really regret it though. It looked bad-ass.)

 

“Shit,” he whispers to himself, sighing as he slips out of the driver’s seat, softly closing the door with more care than he ever has. This is his baby , for Pete’s sake. 

 

“Shit,” Ryan mutters louder that time, slipping the mask off his head to squeeze the bridge of his nose.

 

“You good Vagabond?” 

 

Ryan shoves his mask back on before spinning around, spotting Jack at the entrance of the garage, shoulder against the doorframe, arms crossed over her chest. 

 

“You guys don’t happen to have a repair guy, do you?” Ryan asks, looking back over his shoulder at the car. “Some asshole jumped out of a window onto my car.” 

 

“I’m sure he ‘jumped out’,” Jack rolls her eyes, walking over to where Ryan stands. 

 

“I had a guy in Vice City,” Ryan admits, sighing loudly. “I haven’t had time to find one here, yet.” 

 

“I can look at it,” Jack says, strutting past Ryan and to the hood. “Jesus. Yeah, the guy definitely jumped . ” Jack turns to face Ryan, giving him a look with a raised eyebrow. 

 

“You can fix it?” Ryan can’t help but sound surprised, Jack showing offense in her expression. “I’m just saying,” Ryan continues, “I didn’t expect that, you know? I figured you guys would have someone on that or something.” 

 

“We do,” Jack shrugs, tilting her head as she looks over the damage. “His name’s Matt- he’s a good kid. But Gavin crashed the Fagio again , and Matt is spending his time on that , for whatever reason. Maybe Gavin brought him donuts.”

 

Ryan can’t help but smile at the image of Gavin begging an overworked mechanic into fixing his bike with a box of donuts and a wide grin on his face. 

 

“Yeah, I can fix this,” Jack says, effectively shaking Ryan out of his trance. “I used to have a car shop, you know.”

 

“Really?” Ryan asks, following Jack as she wanders over to a chest of tools. 

 

“Before all this,” Jack waves a wrench in the air, Ryan taking a glance around the massive parking garage, “that was my job. That’s how I met Geoff.” 

 

“You fixed one of his cars?” 

 

Jack sighs, unbuttoning the floral shirt she’s wearing, Ryan averting his eyes. He hears her snort and looks back over, Jack wearing a gray tank underneath. 

 

“Idiot,” Jack chuckles, grabbing a towel off a rack by the tool chest, swinging it over her shoulder. “And no,” she starts, making her way back over to the Zentoro, Ryan on her heels, “we didn’t meet because I fixed one of his cars.” 

 

Ryan watches a Jack grabs a stool, dragging it right in front of the hood, hopping onto the seat. 

 

“But that’s a story for another time,” Jack continues, reaching out and pulling her tools closer, tipping the stool as she does. Ryan moves to catch her but steps back as she quickly gets back to four legs on the floor, face relaxed as she gets to work. 

 

Ryan grabs a stool and pulls it over, sitting just out of the way so Jack can work, but close enough to hear her whisper to herself, eyes wandering the damage Ryan did to his car. He settles in and pulls out his phone, clicking through the apps.

 

“So you’re an old friend of Gavin’s?” 

 

Ryan glances up from his phone to Jack, her head turned towards him before facing the car again. 

 

“I mean, we’ve run into each other a few times.” 

 

Jack hums at his response, Ryan taking that as a signal to look back at his phone, scrolling through his news app. 

 

“He said you saved his life, multiple times.” 

 

Ryan sighs and looks up again, Jack’s attention on the Zentoro in front of her. 

 

“What do you want, Jack?” Ryan can’t help but sound annoyed, the stress of the job finally wearing him down, not to mention the damage to his car, his baby . Jack sits back on the stool, giving Ryan a look.

 

“I’m just making conversation, Vagabond,” she replies, brushing off his annoyed tone. “So, Vice City, huh?” 

 

“And I thought Gavin talked a lot,” Ryan mutters, earning a gasp out of Jack. Ryan rolls his eyes and looks back at his phone, the sound of rumbling coming from near Jack before a towel hits Ryan’s mask, Ryan throwing it off his head to see Jack, off the stool, hand on her hip. 

 

“I’ll have you know,” she says, free hand holding another towel, swinging it wildly with each gesture, “ no one talks as much as Gavin, thank you very much.” 

 

Ryan chuckles at that, tossing the towel back, a smile lighting up Jack’s face as she marches back over to the stool, getting back to work. 

 

“I don’t know if he ever told you,” Jack speaks up again after a few moments, Ryan sighing and looking up at her again, seeing sincerity on her face, “but thank you. For saving him.” 

 

Ryan’s frown falls, (not that Jack could see it anyway), and Jack gets back to work, the clink of metal on metal the only sound in the garage. Ryan continues to stare at her, awestruck . She just thanked him for saving Gavin’s life, something she’s probably done a million times (with Gavin’s luck). 

 

Ryan shakes himself out of his trance, forcing down his pride and scooting closer, Jack’s attention still on the the Zentoro. 

 

“So you were a mechanic?” Ryan hesitantly asks, and Jack’s head shoots up from her work, eyes meeting Ryan’s, Ryan using everything in his power to seem genuine.

 

Jack smiles after a moment before shrugging, turning back towards her work. 

 

“Well, it all started when I moved here when I was 15…” 

 

----

 

“Why am I here?” 

 

Ryan looks at Geoff across the table, voice just barely heard over the loud music, Geoff laughing. 

 

“I can’t be the only one to take care of those idiots!” 

 

He points to the rest of the crew, Gavin and Michael out on the dance floor, Jack headed their direction with a tray of shots. 

 

“So,” Ryan faces Geoff again, relaxed in the booth they’re sitting in, located in the corner of the bar, smile widening as Jack gets closer to the table. “You force me to meet you here for a ‘job’, and that ‘job’ is babysitting?” 

 

“Don’t think of it as babysitting,” Jack says as she approaches, setting the tray on the table, sliding into the booth next to Geoff. Geoff puts an arm around her, Jack leaning into his side, Ryan raising an eyebrow but putting it into the back of his mind for later. “Think of it as,” Jack continues, moving her hands around as she gathers the words, “hmm.. Team bonding. Yes, think of it as team bonding.

 

“What Jack said,” Geoff nods, and Ryan rolls his eyes, slouching in his seat. 

 

“I heard Team!” Gavin bounds over, Michael on his tail. 

 

“I see shots!” Michael exclaims, reaching forward and swiping one off the tray, downing it within the second.

 

“We we’re talking about how this is team bonding,” Jack turns to Gavin, and Gavin smiles, bumping Michael’s shoulder. 

 

“We’re a team, aren’t we boi?” 

 

“Hell yeah!” Michael nods, swinging an arm around Gavin’s shoulders. “Team Nice Dynamite for the win!” 

 

“Team Nice Dynamite?” Ryan can’t help but ask, Gavin looking at him with a gleam in his eye. 

 

“Yeah, V! Michael boi is the dynamite, and I’m the nice!” 

 

“Right,” Ryan says, sparing a glance at Geoff, who only laughs. 

 

“Ooo V!” Gavin slides into the booth next to Ryan, warm body flush against his side, “we should have a team!” 

 

“Oh yeah?” Ryan indulges him, Gavin nodding excitedly, earning a laugh from Ryan. “What’s our team name then?” 

 

“Oh, uh,” Gavin pauses, brows furrowing as he thinks it over, Michael sliding him a shot. Gavin takes it without hesitation, eyes widening as he grabs Ryan’s arm. “Oh, V, I’ve got it! We’re Team Love ‘n Stuff!” Michael bursts out laughing, Gavin giving him a look. “What’s so funny boi?” 

 

“What the fuck is the name ‘Team Love ‘n Stuff’!” 

 

Gavin puts an arm around Ryan, tugging him closer, Ryan sitting stiffly as Gavin glares at Michael. 

 

“It’s mine and the Vagabond’s team name, you mong!” 

 

“I’ve made a mistake coming here,” Ryan says to Jack across the table, who only shrugs. 

 

“You like the name, don’t you V?” Gavin turns his head to look at Ryan, mere inches from the mask, and Ryan freezes, feeling everyone’s eyes on them. 

 

“Uh...sure?” 

 

“See Micool ,” Gavin exclaims, squeezing Ryan’s shoulders. “Vaggy boy here likes it!” 

 

Geoff bursts out laughing, Ryan’s face bright red under the mask. 

 

“Absolutely never call me Vaggy boy again,” Ryan demands, Gavin smiling and booping his nose on the mask.

 

“You’re so cute when you’re mad, V,” he beams, Michael handing him another shot. They clink glasses, Jack reaching out and taking them from their hands. 

 

“Hey!” Michael whines, Geoff continuing to cackle from where he sits. 

 

“You guys are definitely way too drunk,” Jack says, rolling her eyes. 

 

Ryan continues to will away the heat from his face as he watches Michael grab a new shot from the tray each time Jack takes one out of his hands. 

 

“V,” Gavin whispers, placing a hand on Ryan’s arm again. 

 

“Hm?” Ryan looks at him, eyes meeting Gavin’s green ones, swallowing harshly at how the lighting hits him just right , something sizzling in his gut. 

 

“Havin’ fun?” He asks, sincerely, and Ryan takes a moment, looking around at the club, at Geoff losing his mind, face red with laughter, at Jack and Michael escalading to now drinking as many shots as they can, at Gavin sitting next to him, a warm body pressed against his. 

 

“Yeah,” Ryan smiles, Gavin’s grin getting wider. “I am.” 

 

----

 

“This is the place?” 

 

Ryan looks down at the coordinates Geoff texted him, glancing back up at the building in front of them.

 

“Yup.” 

 

An ‘Open 24 hours’ sign blinks brightly in the night, the shady pub’s door swinging open as a couple stumble out, overly intoxicated. 

 

“Why does Geoff want us watching this place?” 

 

Ryan turns his head to face Gavin, his arms crossed over his chest, sunglasses sitting on his nose despite it being night outside. 

 

“Apparently there’s supposed to be some sort of meet up here tonight,” Ryan shrugs, dimming the lights in the car. “Geoff wants us to make sure his information is correct.” 

 

“Bor- ing ,” Gavin whines, scooting further down in the passenger seat. 

 

They’re both silent for a moment, Ryan lazily watching the couple wander over to a car, the guy dropping his keys on the ground. The girl bends over laughing, the guy stumbling as he crouches to grab them, standing and finally unlocking their car.

 

The crinkle of a bag of chips has Ryan whipping around in his seat, Gavin’s hand halfway to his mouth, Dorito held between his fingers. 

 

“What?!” He exclaims, shoving the chip in his mouth. “These things take forever! I brought snacks!” 

 

Ryan continues to stare at him, Gavin swallowing before reaching into the bag at his feet and when did he bring a backpack in here?

 

“Look,” Gavin reaches around, pulling out more chips, “I brought some for you! I even brought some drinks!” 

 

“I…” Ryan starts, taking a deep breath. “Don’t make a mess in my car.” 

 

“I won’t!” Gavin makes an X over his heart, beaming brightly at Ryan. “You want a Redbull?” Ryan shakes his head, Gavin shrugging and digging around further in the bag, pulling out a Dr. Pepper. “Soda? You seem like the type to like soda.”

 

“That’s alright,” Ryan says, facing forward again. “I like diet Coke anyway.”

 

“Oh, okay,” Gavin shrugs, putting the Dr. Pepper back into the bag and zipping it up, relaxing against the seat. 

 

Silence takes over the car again, the only sound is Gavin’s chewing, Ryan tuning it out. 

 

Ryan feels a poke on his arm and begrudgingly faces Gavin again, seeing him fully turned in his seat to look at Ryan. 

 

“I’ve been trying to get your attention, Vagabond,” Gavin groans, smile forming in an instant. “I wanna play a game.” 

 

“Sounds stupid,” Ryan mutters, Gavin sqwauking in idignation. 

 

“You haven’t even heard it yet! I wanna play 20 questions.” They’re both quiet for a moment, Gavin eagerly smiling at Ryan, before sighing. “Look, we could be here hours! At least it’d give us something to do.” 

 

Ryan thinks for a moment, shaking his head but relaxing into the seat. 

 

“Fine.” 

 

“Yay!” Gavin yelps excitedly, rearranging in his seat to cross his legs. “Okay, I go first.” 

 

“Why do you go first?”

 

“I suggested it, I go first.” Gavin smiles proudly. Ryan rolls his eyes, knowing Gavin can’t really see it through the mask but he laughs anyway, continuing to smile. “Okay, we’ll start off easy; what’s your favorite color?”

 

“Really, what’s my favorite color?” Ryan turns his head to look at Gavin, Gavin nodding earnestly. “Okay, it’s blue.” 

 

“I thought it’d be black or something.” 

 

Ryan looks over at Gavin, who raises his shoulders. 

 

“Wot?! That’s all you wear, like all the time. ” He points a hand at Ryan, panning down his body. 

 

“Fair,” Ryan shrugs, laying back in the seat. “Okay, Gavin...what’s your favorite movie?” 

 

“Easily any of the Bond movies,” Gavin smiles, tapping his feet on the floor. “This is fun! So, V, hmm.” 

 

“What?” Ryan looks over, Gavin tapping his chin. 

 

“I’m thinking of a good one!” He pauses again, smiling and looking at Ryan with a gleam in his eye. “Okay, I got a bloody good one. Why do you call yourself the Vagabond?” 

 

Ryan pauses, thinking over his answer, Gavin watching him earnestly. 

 

“I didn’t come up with the name,” Ryan muses, tilting his head as he thinks about it. “I had an employer once, and he noticed I worked alone. Made a joke about me being a loner, a Vagabond. I guess it kind of stuck.” 

 

“Ah,” Gavin nods to himself. “I guess that makes sense. Too lazy to change it?” 

 

“Actually,” Ryan corrects, Gavin giggling, “I actually kind of like it. It sounds scary, puts the fear in people when they hear my name.” 

 

“You’re a creepy bastard V,” Gavin shivers, Ryan laughing. 

 

“Yeah, I know.” They pause for a moment, Ryan adjusting in his seat to face Gavin. “My turn. Gavin, why do you call yourself the Golden Boy?” 

 

“Sounds badass, innit?” Gavin starts, Ryan rolling his eyes. “Oh c’mon V, when you think of the Golden Boy, you think of someone untouchable, right? Someone that thinks of themselves as higher than anyone else.” 

 

“I…” Ryan thinks, eyebrows furrowing. “I guess that’s kind of true.” 

 

“See! And that’s kind of my point. I’m cocky, I’m bendable but I don’t break, I’m better than you. I’m invincible. ” 

 

“That’s a lot more thought than I thought possible for you,” Ryan teases, Gavin smacking at his arm. 

 

“Don’t be a prick V!” Suddenly, Gavin freezes, eyes widening. “My turn! What’s your real name?” 

 

Ryan stiffens, glaring at Gavin. 

 

“Pass.” 

 

“V!” Gavin reaches out, Ryan leaning away slightly, Gavin’s face falling. “C’mon, you can trust me.” 

 

For some reason, Ryan does trust Gavin, can feel the urge to tell him his name, to hear Gavin say Ryan instead of Vagabond, but he bites his tongue. 

 

“It’s not that Gavin,” Ryan mutters, Gavin watching him. “With your track record, everyone in town would know my name in minutes.” 

 

“Wot! That’s not true!” Gavin squawks, Ryan leveling him with a look. “Oh c’mon, it would just be crew.” 

 

Ryan’s silent again, facing away from Gavin, out the window. 

 

“Oh,” Gavin whispers, something understanding in his voice. “It’s about them, innit.” 

 

Ryan doesn’t reply, and he can hear Gavin turning in his seat, hears his feet rest on the dashboard.

 

“You can trust them, you know,” Gavin says after a moment, Ryan turning in his seat to face him. Gavin’s face is forward, eyes on the night sky in front of them.

 

“I…” Ryan starts, sighing and turning forward again, leaning back in his chair. “I know, Gav. I just..I have rules.”

 

“Rules,” Gavin repeats, scoffing. “You have rules. ” 

 

“Yes, Gavin , I have rules, alright? Something that keeps me in line.” Keeps me from getting hurt.

 

“That’s dumb,” Gavin shrugs, Ryan spinning to face him. 

 

“Oh?” He asks, Gavin opening his mouth to speak, Ryan cutting him off. “Is it dumb when the people you care about die , Gavin? Is it dumb when the people you trust abandon you? Hm?” 

 

“Well, no,” Gavin mumbles, Ryan nods, aggressively facing forward again. 

 

“Exactly. My ‘ dumb’ rules prevent that shit from happening.” 

 

They’re silent, Ryan closing his eyes, taking a few deep breaths to calm down. 

 

“It’s okay to be scared,” Gavin says softly, Ryan opening his eyes. “I’m scared practically everyday. But you...you can’t just not care about people, V. You’ll never enjoy your life if you keep isolating yourself.” 

 

Ryan twists to look at him, stunned, Gavin playing with the hem of his shirt. 

 

“You’ve got to let people in,” Gavin faces him, and Ryan freezes. 

 

“That was oddly deep of you Gav,” he murmurs, Gavin shrugging, a twinge of pink on his cheeks. 

 

“It’s true though,” he replies, and Ryan nods. 

 

“I guess you’re right.” 

 

They’re quiet again, and Ryan sighs, sticking a hand out. 

 

“Can I have that Dr. Pepper?” 

 

Gavin laughs before reaching into is bag, scrambling around whatever is in it before whipping out the can, setting it on Ryan’s open palm. 

 

“It’s warm,” Ryan opens the can anyway, Gavin sending him a look. 

 

“Wot, am I just gonna bring a cooler in here?” 

 

“Next time,” Ryan says without thinking about it, and pauses, Gavin reaching over and bumping his can of Redbull against Ryan’s Dr. Pepper. 

 

“Next time indeed.” 

 

----

 

“So that didn’t go so great.” 

 

Ryan looks at Geoff across the room, sitting stiffly on the couch, having just put down his phone. 

 

“No,” Jack muses from the kitchen, eyes on Michael’s shoulder as she stitches him up, “it didn’t.” 

 

Ryan feels blood drip from his shoulder, looking around the unfamiliar safehouse for an extra first-aid kit. 

 

“How long are we going to be here,” Gavin whines, laying upside down on the couch beside Geoff, swinging his feet close to Geoff’s head. 

 

“Soon as the police are off our ass,” Geoff replies, rubbing his face with his hands. Gavin continues to swing his feet, an inch from touching Geoff’s temple. “Gavin, if you put your feet near my face one more time I won’t hesitate to put my foot up your ass.” 

 

“Sorry Geoffrey,” Gavin spins around, sounding not sorry at all , planting his feet on the floor. “I’m just bored.

 

“If you’re bored , you can grab me a Coke from the fridge.” 

 

“I do everything in this crew,” Gavin grumbles, jumping off the couch and walking over to the fridge. 

 

“What was that?” Geoff asks, Gavin straightening where he stands looking in the fridge. 

 

“Nothing boss!” 

 

Ryan rolls his eyes, walking over to Jack and Michael, Michael hissing in pain. 

 

“Shit Jack,” Michael groans, “that fucking hurts.” 

 

“Do you wanna get infected?” She asks, taking a step back, and Michael stares at her with wide eyes, shaking his head. “That’s what I thought.” She gets back to work, Ryan standing awkwardly nearby. 

 

“Why are you just standing there like a freak,” Michael glances at him, and Jack looks up, meeting Ryan’s eyes.  

 

“You alright?” 

 

“Where’s a first-aid?” 

 

“There’s one under the sink in the bathroom,” she says off handedly, eyes widening. “Are you hurt? As soon as I’m done with Michael-” 

 

“I like doing it myself,” Ryan cuts her off, the room going silent. 

 

“Oh,” Jack says, and Ryan isn’t sure which hurts more: the cut on his shoulder or the knowing look in her eyes. “Okay, well, the bathroom is the first door on the left.” 

 

“Okay,” Ryan nods and heads that direction, feeling everyone’s eyes on him as he walks away. 

 

----

 

“On your right,” Michael says into the earpiece, and Ryan spins around, dropping the guy to the ground with a silent bullet, Ryan nodding at Michael. 

 

They move forward, inching their way through the warehouse, silence stretching over them. Ryan spots two guards standing at the door to the main room of the warehouse, engaged in a conversation with each other. 

 

“You get one and I get the other?” Ryan turns to Michael, Michael nodding. They both lift their silenced pistols, getting the aim. 

 

“One, two, three,” Michael whispers into the headset, the bodies dropping at three. Ryan can’t help but look at Michael, who’s eyes meet his, a small smile on his face. They can hear chatter as creep over to the door, Ryan and Michael positioning themselves on either side of the doors. 

 

Suddenly, the talking stops in the room, Ryan and Michael sharing a look before bullets stream through the open doors, Ryan rolling his eyes.  

 

“Come out you fucks!” Someone from inside yells, Michael breathing a laugh. 

 

“I think they know we’re here,” he says, and Ryan nods, sliding his pistol into the holster on his hip, flipping his rifle onto his chest. 

 

“Then let’s make some noise, shall we?” Ryan lifts up his rifle just as Michael pulls a grenade out of his jacket, Michael raising his eyebrows. Ryan can’t help but laugh, Michael grinning, holding his own gun in his other hand. 

 

“We shall,” Michael replies, pulling the pin from the grenade and throwing into the room, pulling his arm back as bullets fly past. Ryan and Michael sit there for another moment, waiting until the grenade goes off, and then charge into the room, both laughing. 

 

----

 

“Get your keys!”

 

Ryan looks up from his phone and is immediately met with a face in his, a very distinct set of eyes staring into his.

 

“And why do I need to get my keys?” Ryan asks, tilting his head, smirk on his face hidden by the mask.

 

“We’re racin’,” Michael says next to them, Gavin scooting back slightly to look at Michael, immediately returning his attention to Ryan. 

 

“Let’s race, V!” Gavin excitedly yells, Ryan wincing but laughing none-the-less. 

 

He looks at Gavin, to Michael, back to Gavin, and stands, stretching as Gavin claps happily. 

 

“Yay!” Gavin rushes over to the door, swinging it open. “Ooo, this is gonna be great! Maybe I’ll finally get some competition,” he teases, Michael rolling his eyes. 

 

“Your tires are bulletproof right?” Michael disregards Gavin, turning to Ryan as they exit the penthouse. 

 

“Yeah,” Ryan nods, brows furrowing behind the mask. “Why?” 

 

“We race dirty ,” Michael winks, walking ahead with Gavin into the elevator. 

 

Ryan stops for a moment before sighing and following them in. 

 

----

 

Ryan’s grip tightens on the wheel, taking a sharp turn, Gavin’s bumper just ahead of him. Ryan looks in his rearview and spots Michael’s face in concentration, blue and red lights somewhere behind him. 

 

“Why did we race on the streets again?” Ryan asks into the headset, looking in his rearview mirror again to see Michael laughing as he replies. 

 

“The cops add a factor to the race Vagabond,” he chuckles, something excited in his tone, and Ryan faces the road again, biting his lip as he presses the gas pedal harder, inching closer to Gavin’s car. 

 

“Get back here Gavin,” Ryan grumbles, Gavin giggling in reply, taking another sharp turn. 

 

“You’ll never get me V,” Ryan can hear the smile in Gavin’s voice, and he presses the gas even harder.

 

“Sprunk him Vagabond,” Michael yells into the headset, coming up on Ryan’s rear, and Ryan’s car inches closer. He smiles devilishly under the mask as he turns his wheel, Gavin repeatedly saying no, no V no , just bumping the back of Gavin’s car. 

 

Gavin spins out, Ryan and Michael racing past him, Gavin’s cries of offense just barely heard over the cackle of Michael’s laughter, and Ryan sits back, resting his head against the back of his seat, and smiles.

 

----

 

Ryan’s feet land with a resounding thud on the table as he leans back, hands linking behind his head, the room filling with the crew. Geoff stands at the front, hands crossed behind his back, map taped to the whiteboard. 

 

“You know Geoff,” Michael slides into the seat across from Ryan, leaning back in his chair, “you could just get a projector or something.” 

 

“I think he likes how cheap it looks,” Jack jokes, pulling out the chair next Michael. 

 

“Cheap?” Geoff exclaims, face offended. “It’s efficient. It does exactly what it’s supposed to.” 

 

“So you’re admitting you’re just too lazy to get a projector?” Ryan pipes up, Michael bursting out laughing as Geoff turns to Ryan, pointing a sharpie at him. 

 

“I’m not lazy!” 

 

“Yes, you are, Geoffrey,” Gavin smiles, taking the seat next to Ryan, scooting his chair closer, Ryan aware of the look Jack gives the two. 

 

“Can we just get on with the meeting? We do have a heist to go over,” Geoff glances around the room, Ryan watching as Michael mimes zipping his lips, holding back a laugh.

 

Seemingly satisfied, Geoff smiles, extending the once threatening Sharpie to the board, aggressively tapping the building circled in red. 

 

“This is the White Stars Casino,” he announces, “and we’re going to rob it.” 

 

“We’re going to rob a casino ,” Michael rolls his eyes, Geoff turning to face him with a faux scowl. 

 

“Will you shut up and let me speak?” Michael leans back in his seat, hands up, and Geoff nods, smiling wildy again. “So, as I was saying, we’re robbing the casino. They’ve got an estimated 3 million in a vault under the building, so we’re going to get in, steal as much as we can, and get out.” 

 

“And how are we gonna do that Geoff?” Jack yells, the boys bursting into laughter, Ryan watching as Geoff pinches the bridge of his nose. 

 

“I can’t believe I hired you fuckers,” he sighs, looking at Ryan. “Do you see what I deal with?” 

 

“Just get on with it then Geoffers,” Gavin groans, Michael snickering from his seat, Geoff’s mouth opening and closing like a fish. 

 

“I fucking hate you guys,” he mutters, returning his attention to the map behind him. “So, Michael and I will be sneaking in as normal casino goers, making our way to the basement. Vagabond, you’ll be with Jack, silently wiping out the guards throughout the building. As soon as you guys give us the all clear, and Gavin gets through the system, Michael and I are stuffing our bags full. We’ll leave with the pairs we’re in, alright?” 

 

“Sounds clear cut,” Michael admits, leaning back in his chair. “How much do you think we’ll make out with?” 

 

“I don’t want to make out with any money, sounds gross,” Gavin jokes, Michael throwing a pen across the table at him. “Hey!” 

 

“I’m thinking a good 1 million?” 

 

The room is silent, Ryan looking at all the shocked looks on their faces, before Michael jumps up, pounding his hands on the table. 

 

“We’ll be rich!” He howls, Gavin cheering along with him, Jack looking at Ryan across the table. 

 

“This will go well.” 

 

----

 

It didn’t. 

 

Ryan shoves open the door to the apartment, blinking harshly at the lack of light throughout the room. 

 

Everyone was at the safehouse. He was alone.

 

He trudges into the living room, throwing himself onto the couch, shoulder screaming in pain. Somehow, in the escape, he got separated from Jack, and lost his earpiece.

 

God, he hoped they were okay.

 

He starts taking off his jacket, pausing as he realizes what he just thought. He hoped they were okay. He hadn’t realized how much he cared about this group, and that shocked him. 

 

Shaking his head, he returns his attention to the task at hand, peeling his jacket off and setting it next to him, racking his brain for where Jack put the first-aid kid. 

 

There’s one under the sink , he remembers her telling him, but please restock the gauses. There’s been too many times when I’ve opened it and seen none when I needed it most. Ryan laughs under his breath at the memory, nodding furiously at the look Jack gave him before sending him a sweet smile and walking away. 

 

He stands up, wincing as he lifts pressure off his right ankle, landing on it wrong as he jumped over a fence, and starts to hobble his way into the bathroom. 

 

“Vagabond?” 

 

Ryan looks over to see Gavin standing in the hallway, sweatpants and oversized hoodie and hair a mess. Gavin gives him a once over, eyes widening as he rushes to Ryan’s side. 

 

“Oh my god you’re hurt,” he says hurriedly, getting him back onto the couch. “I heard someone enter but I thought everyone was going to the safehouse.” 

 

“This was closer,” Ryan shrugs, wincing as a pain shoots through his shoulder. “I got shot-” 

 

“I’ll get the first aid,” Gavin starts to walk away, Ryan standing from the couch.

 

“I can do it myself-”

 

“Sit back down,” Gavin interjects, face stern. “Let me help you, for all the times you helped me.” 

 

They stare at each other for another moment before Ryan hesitantly sits on the couch again, Gavin rushing into the bathroom. Ryan watches him for a moment but shakes his head, stripping off his shirt. 

 

Gavin returns in a hurry, halting in his tracks as he looks at Ryan’s bare chest, raising an eyebrow. 

 

“Your chest hair is a skull ,” he snickers, laughing softly to himself as he sits on the coffee table across from Ryan, scooting the table closer, meer inches from Ryan’s face. 

 

“It’s a part of the look,” Ryan explains, only causing Gavin to laugh louder, shaking his head, Ryan’s breath hitching at their proximity. 

 

Gavin takes a deep breath after a moment, Ryan watching as he closes his eyes, before he begins wiping of Ryan’s shoulder with a wet rag. Ryan winces as it tugs at the wound, Gavin giving him looks of sympathy, hands gentle against Ryan’s skin.

 

“I’m gonna stitch you up now,” Gavin says as he sets down the rag, getting into the first aid. He begins threading a needle, his hands steady, and Ryan watches, mesmerized. Gavin sticks his tongue out as he focuses on stitching Ryan up, Ryan focusing the concentration taking over Gavin’s face instead of on the pain, something endearing about Gavin’s gentleness and care

 

Gavin looks up at him, meeting Ryan’s eyes, and for a moment, they just stare at each other, Gavin giving him a smile before looking down at Ryan’s shoulder again.

 

“Alright,” he says after a while, reaching into the first-aid kit to grab some gauze, taping it to Ryan’s shoulder, “you should be okay now.” Gavin closes up the kit, not scooting back from Ryan like he thought he would, instead, just sitting there, looking into Ryan’s eyes. 

 

“I didn’t realize your eyes were so blue Vagabond,” Gavin says after a moment, voice soft, both of them just watching each other, Ryan’s heart pounding in his chest.

 

“It’s Ryan,” he blurts, Gavin raising an eyebrow.

 

“What?”

 

“My name…” Ryan stutters, face flushing under the mask, “it’s Ryan. I’m Ryan.” 

 

“Oh,” Gavin sits back, a smile making its way across his face, “ Ryan.

 

Ryan swallows, his gut igniting at the way Gavin says his name, as if it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. 

 

“Ryan,” Gavin says again, giggling to himself. “I like it. You don’t look like a Ryan though.”

 

“I don’t look like a Ryan?” Ryan repeats incredulously. “What do you mean?”

 

“Well, the mask! I just...” Gavin starts to laugh, an awkward laugh, and it causes Ryan to smile. “I just thought you’d have a scarier name, like Vincent or something. Ryan’s too normal.

 

“Too normal?” Ryan says hesitantly, and he can’t help but chuckle a little, which causes Gavin to laugh too, and soon, they’re both just giggling, and if anyone had seen them, a man in a skull mask with his shirt off and a skinny kid in sweatpants sitting across from him, you’d think they were crazy, and honestly, they kinda were.

 

And after a while, once the laughing stopped, they relaxed into a comfortable silence. Gavin had gotten up at some point and made them both tea, and Ryan had put back on his shirt, and they sat there, quiet in the dim penthouse, waiting for anything from Geoff and the Crew. 

 

“Uh, Vaga- Ryan,” Gavin corrects himself, Ryan meeting his eyes, having been staring at the cup of tea in his hands, raising an eyebrow. 

 

“Yes, Gavin?” 

 

“I was just-” 

 

Gavin’s cut off as his phone vibrates on the counter next to him. Gavin looks at Ryan, and Ryan nods, so Gavin picks it up. 

 

“Geoff?’ He whispers, visibly relaxing as there’s a response, and Ryan smiles behind his mask. “You’re all okay,” Gavin says, nodding, eyes closing. They shoot open immediately, and he looks hesitantly at Ryan. “Uh, yeah...he’s here,” Gavin mumbles, setting his gaze on the floor. 

 

“Let me talk to him,” Ryan offers, hand out for the phone, and Gavin says something into it before handing it over. Ryan places it as close to the mask as he can get it, sighing.

 

“Vagabond?” Geoff asks, voice laced with concern. “What happened to the rendezvous point?”

 

“I twisted my ankle and was shot,” Ryan admits, giving a glance down to his ankle, watching Gavin getting up and heading into the kitchen from the corner of his eyes. 

 

“So you’re at the penthouse with Gavin?” 

 

“Yeah,” Ryan looks up just as Gavin walks over, setting a pillow on the coffee table. Ryan gently lifts his leg up and sets it on the pillow, Gavin placing an icepack on the swelling. 

 

“Well, we’re all glad you’re okay. Once the heat dies down, we’ll head back over there, okay?” 

 

“And uh, Geoff?” Ryan hesitates, Gavin giving him a confused look.

“Yeah, Vagabond?” Ryan can hear the concern in his voice, something in it that causes Ryan’s shoulders to relax just a bit. 

 

“It’s Ryan,” Ryan says, Gavin staring at him with wide eyes, a smile stretching over his features. “You can call me Ryan.” 

 

“Uh, alright,” Geoff stutters, mumbling something to someone off the phone. “I’m glad you told me, uh, Ryan.” 

 

Ryan turns to Gavin, and sees him give Ryan a thumbs up, smile wide on his face, and this is definitely something Ryan can get used to.

 

----

 

They all pile into the penthouse, a chorus of cheers and excited yells sounding as they enter the room, Ryan watching the crew laughing with a smile on his face. 

 

“Bar to celebrate?” 

 

Geoff looks at everyone, who yells excitedly, Ryan slinking back, heading towards his room. 

 

“Where are you going?” A hand on Ryan’s shoulder stops him, and he slowly spins around, face-to-face with Jack. 

 

“My room?” Ryan says hesitantly, Jack shaking her head. 

 

“Oh no you’re not,” she rests a hand on her hip, “you’re coming to the bar with us.” 

 

Ryan looks at everyone’s faces, all staring at him expectantly, and he swallows.

 

“But I-” 

 

“Sorry Ryan,” Geoff calls from the kitchen, washing his hands in the sink, Ryan distantly seeing the water turn red, “if Jack says, you go.” 

 

“That’s how it works,” Michael shrugs, Gavin smiling brightly. 

 

“Yeah Ryan! Come out and have fun with us!” 

 

“Isn’t it a crew thing?” Ryan can’t help but ask, and Jack rolls her eyes, grabbing his wrist and pulling him into the kitchen and out the door. 

 

“As a member of this crew,” she starts, shoving him into the elevator, the rest of the crew piling in with them, “I invite you out with us.” 

 

“Yay!” Gavin exclaims, squeezing Ryan’s arm, Ryan flushing at the contact. “Rye-bread is gonna come drinking!” 

 

“Rye-bread?” Ryan asks under his breath, turning to look at Gavin. “And I don’t drink. We’ve gone over that.” 

 

“Neither do I buddy,” Geoff points out, fixing the tie of his suit. “But you’re coming with us, regardless.”  

 

Ryan sighs but lets himself get dragged into Michael’s Roosevelt, squished into the middle with Gavin and Michael on either side, their chatter filling up the time as they head to a bar downtown. Ryan watches as cars seem to swerve out of the way for them, letting it slide as Gavin says something that has Michael reaching across Ryan to hit him, their hands completely blocking Ryan’s view as they slap at each other. 

 

They finally pull up to the bar, Ryan begrudgingly following behind the crew as Geoff walks straight up to the bouncer, the guy looking over his shoulder at Ryan in all his Vagabond glory

 

“He’s with me,” Geoff says, and the bouncer pauses before nodding and letting them in, Gavin and Michael immediately rushing over to the pool tables. “I’ll go get us some drinks,” Geoff says to Jack and Ryan before heading to the bar. 

 

“Let’s get a spot then,” Jack smiles at Ryan and walks into the bar, the patrons not batting an eye at Ryan and his mask. 

 

“This place is weird,” Ryan notes, Jack chuckling as she slides into a booth, Ryan sliding in beside her. 

 

“We’re regulars here,” Jack explains, eyes catching Geoff’s as he wanders over with two diet Cokes and a beer. “These people are kind of used to us.” 

 

“That’s Los Santos for you,” Geoff shrugs, opening up his can, sliding the other to Ryan, a straw resting on top. Ryan smiles softly as he opens the can, sticking the straw in. 

 

They can hear the sound of a pool stick breaking, all of them turning to see Michael wielding the jagged-end in Gavin’s direction, swinging it around as he yells, Gavin bent over laughing .

 

“Shit,” Jack starts, moving to slide out of the booth, Geoff holding up a hand. 

 

“I’ve got it,” he smiles, walking off, Jack rolling her eyes as she settles comfortably into the booth again.

 

“You know,” Ryan says after a moment, looking up from the coke in hands, leaning into Jack’s side to be heard over the music and chatter of the bar, “I’ve never done this kind of stuff before.” 

 

“Gone to a bar?” Jack raises an eyebrow, Ryan rolling his eyes. 

 

“No, Jack,” Ryan sighs, “I mean like… do stuff outside of work with my coworkers. Hang out.” Ryan waves his hands around the bar, then points to Gavin, Michael, and Geoff where they now stand at the dart board. “Do whatever this is.” 

 

“We’re different,” Jack muses, looking over at the boys. “We’re not like every other crew you’ve ever worked with, are we?” 

 

“God no,” Ryan laughs, and Jack laughs with him, bumping her shoulder against his. “You’re certainly not.” 

 

“You say that like it’s a bad thing Ryan,” Jack teases, taking a drink of the beer in her hands. 

 

“Hell,” Ryan looks at her again, “you guys even know my name.” Ryan freezes suddenly, eyes widening at the realization. He’s much closer to them than he thought.

 

“You alright Ryan?” Jack asks, actively shaking Ryan out of his stupor. “Something on your mind?” 

 

“Just..” Ryan stops, furrowing his brows, Jack waiting for him to reply. “Just thinking about how all of this is new to me.” 

 

“A good new I hope,” Jack smiles, softly, and Ryan nods, looking over at the boys again, eyes meeting Gavin’s. 

 

“A good new indeed.” 

 

----

 

A light music float up from the city as Ryan stares out over it, arms on the railing of the balcony, chin resting on his forearms, mask a comforting weight on his head. 

 

It keeps the distance , he thinks, closing his eyes. As much as he doesn’t want to admit it, he cares about this crew, this little family of theirs. The idea of any of them hurt , in danger- Ryan’s heart rate picks up slightly, and he takes a few deep breaths. 

 

He’s not used to this- he’s cared about people, sure, but that was a long time ago. And maybe, every now and then, especially before he really got his reputation, he made a few friends. But, everything changed when he met Gavin . And maybe, maybe he’s not so mad about it.

 

Scared, sure. But ever since meeting Gavin, and having this weird relationship with him where he kept saving him and saving him, he’s been happier. Even Ryan can admit that. But he’s terrified. He’s the Vagabond . He’s supposed to go solo, he’s not supposed to have friends, have a family. Caring about people is a liability, it’s something that can be held against you. And Ryan - Ryan is so, so afraid.

 

“You alright, Ryan?” 

 

Ryan snaps his head up to look directly at Jack, who stands in the doorway to the balcony, a silhouette against the bright light coming from inside. 

 

“You’re missing game night,” she continues, laughing softly. “Gavin’s been looking everywhere for you.” 

 

They’re silent for a moment, Jack’s laughter fading, and Ryan looks away, back at the city. He hears the door close and suddenly Jack’s shoulder is pressed against his, resting her elbows on the railing. 

 

“When your name started popping up around Los Santos,” Jack speaks up, Ryan’s eyes still trained on the city, “you should’ve seen Gavin. He was begging Geoff to hire you the second he saw The Vagabond on the news.” 

 

Ryan looks over at Jack, her face to the sky, a smile present on her lips. 

 

“He just got so excited , he couldn’t stop talking about you. Michael was so close to strangling him,” She continues, turning to face Ryan, the cars honking below feeling much further. 

 

“Why?” Ryan can’t help but spit out, Jack tilting her head, giving a shrug. 

 

“Maybe it’s because you saved his life. Maybe it’s because he thinks you’re a good mercenary. Maybe you’re one of the first friends he’s had in a long time.” 

 

Ryan looks away, at the glass door to the penthouse, seeing the boys gathered around the table, Gavin’s head back laughing, smile wide on his face.

 

“I don’t know what it was like for you,” Jack whispers, Ryan catching her turning her body towards the door, resting her back against the railing, “but we all went through shit. But Gavin, Gavin didn’t have someone for a long time. And then you came along.” Jack turns, then, placing an arm on Ryan’s shoulder, Ryan moving his gaze to her. 

 

“I know you’re not an official member of the Fake AH Crew,” she starts, Ryan watching her intently, “but you’re just as important to us as anyone else. Especially to him.” 

 

Her eyes move to Gavin inside, Ryan’s following, as Gavin stands from the table, smiling wide as he notices them outside, rushing over to the door. 

 

“Don’t forget that Ryan,” Jack whispers just as Gavin slides open the door, grin spread across his face. 

 

“Ryan!” He calls out, turning to Jack. “You found ‘im!” 

 

“I did,” Jack nods, chuckling as Gavin jumps up excitedly. 

 

“You gonna play with us Rye?” 

 

Ryan spares a look at Jack, who smiles and walks over to Gavin, slipping past him back into the penthouse. He glances back at the night sky, and the city buzzing below, and smiles behind his mask, turning to fully face Gavin.

 

“I don’t see why not.” 

 

Gavin squeals excitedly before reaching forward, snagging one of Ryan’s hands and pulling him inside, Ryan flushing under his mask, closing the door behind him.

 

----

 

“Can we talk?” 

 

Ryan leans in the doorway, Geoff looking up at him from his desk, focus on the laptop in front of him. 

 

“Of course,” he says, sticking a hand out. “Take a seat.” 

 

Ryan slowly closes the door, hesitantly making his way over to the chair. Geoff watches him, concern filling his face. 

 

“Are you alright Ryan?” He asks, Ryan sighing as he sinks into the chair. 

 

“I don’t know how to start this,” Ryan mumbles, Geoff leaning on his hands. 

 

“Is there a problem?” He asks, Ryan shooting up in his chair.

 

“No!- Uh..no,” Ryan flushes under the mask, scratching the back of his neck. “I just wanted to say that I…” He stops, tapping his fingers on the armrest.

 

“You what?” Geoff asks, Ryan taking a deep breath and sitting up straighter in the chair. 

 

“I’d like to be officially a part of the crew.” 

 

“Oh, yeah, sure,” Geoff muses, shrugging. Ryan stares for a moment, eyes wide, as Geoff glances back at his laptop. “If that was all-” 

 

“If that was all?!” Ryan bursts out, jumping up from his seat. “This is a big thing for me, Geoff, and you’re just gonna act like it’s no big deal?” 

 

“I didn’t say that,” Geoff laughs, Ryan dropping into the chair again. 

 

“You didn’t have to,” he grumbles, getting another laugh out of Geoff. 

 

“Look, Ryan,” Geoff smiles, reclining back in his seat, “Calm the dramatics, I just knew this was going to happen. Honestly, I just assumed you already were apart of the crew.” 

 

“You thought I was already apart of the crew?” Ryan can’t help but sound smaller, confused look on his face hidden by the mask. 

 

“Well, duh,” Geoff shrugs, standing up from his chair, walking towards the door. “With how well you are already getting along and all the shit you do exclusively with the crew, I just assumed you were one of us.” 

 

One of us.  

 

Ryan sits there, staring as Geoff opens the door, swinging an arm to indicate leaving. 

 

“Don’t you have a drug cartel to meet up with?” Geoff asks, shaking Ryan out of his reservoir.

 

“Uh, yeah, right,” Ryan stands, walking out the door. 

 

“Good chat, Rye,” Geoff smiles, Ryan distantly giving him a nod. 

 

One of us.

 

“And welcome to the Fake AH Crew,” Geoff says, genuinely, before closing the door, Ryan left staring at it.  

 

----

 

“You guys don’t really need to help me.” 

 

Ryan stands at his car as Gavin and Michael reach into the back, Gavin turning around with a box in his arms. 

 

“Of course we do Rye,” Gavin explains, bumping Michael’s shoulder. “Right Micool?” 

 

“Jesus Ryan you have like 3 boxes,” Michael says instead, looking back at the now empty car. “Where is all your shit?” 

 

Ryan shrugs, picking up his suitcase off the ground. 

 

“I don’t have a lot,” he mumbles, noting the sad look in Michael’s eyes before he nods, walking further into the garage. 

 

“We’ll get you a bunch of stuff,” Gavin smiles, following after Michael, Ryan sighing and closing the back of his car with his free hand. 

 

“You’d just get him gold shit,” Michael scoffs, Gavin smiling even wider. 

 

“And what’s wrong with that, boi? I think he’d like the gold. Gold and black look great together, don’t they Rye?” 

 

Ryan follows them onto the elevator, Gavin turning to face him expectantly, Michael rolling his eyes. 

 

“Uh, sure,” Ryan supposes, Gavin whipping his head around to look at Michael.

 

“See, Micool, Ryan agrees with me.” 

 

“Why don’t I just leave the elevator so you can suck his dick then,” Michael teases, Ryan’s face flushing under the mask, Gavin squawking in indignation. 

 

“Micooll!”  

 

Ryan turns and watches as Gavin kicks Michael’s shin, Michael laughing loudly. Ryan tilts his head as he notices the tips of Gavin’s ears are bright pink, a small smile forming on his face. 

 

“Well, I guess since he lives in the penthouse now it’ll be convenient for you to-” 

 

“Mi- cool !” 

 

The elevator door dings open, the three of them stepping out. Gavin speeds past them, Michael looking over his shoulder at Ryan and giving him a wink, following after Gavin into Ryan’s new room. 

 

Ryan steps into the room, looking around at the the light-gray walls, black bedspread, dark oak desk, bookshelf, and a dresser shoved near the closet door.

 

“It’s pretty plain right now,” Gavin starts, setting the box on the bed. “But we’ll help you get it looking like home in no time!” Gavin sends Ryan a wide smile, Ryan nodding back, smiling under the mask.

 

“Well,” Michael takes Gavin by the shoulders, “we should leave you to unpack.” He walks Gavin out of the room, Gavin giving Ryan a little wave before Michael shuts the door, Ryan left alone, taking in his room. 

 

Like home .

 

----

 

Ryan closes the door to the penthouse just as something hits the wall next to him, a mere few inches from his head. 

 

“You didn’t call Moonball!” A voice yells out, sounding distinctly like Michael, and Ryan can’t help the smile that stretches across his face under the mask. He hums as he walks further into the room, backpack on his back and suitcase rolling behind him. 

 

He’s looking around the familiar space, eyes just barely catching a white cowboy hat across the room before there’s a weight on him, causing him to stumble back. 

 

“Ryan, you’re home!” Gavin squeals, arms wrapped around Ryan’s head, legs around his middle, and Ryan laughs, giving Gavin a pat on the back. 

 

“God, don’t kill him,” Michael laughs, Gavin clambering off of Ryan, smile wide on his face. 

 

“But he’s home, Micool!” Gavin says, eyes widening. “He hasn’t even met lil’ J yet!” Gavin exclaims over his shoulder as he rushes back into the living room. 

 

Michael rolls his eyes, giving Ryan a shrug. “So,” he smiles, “how was the trip?” 

 

“Honestly?” Ryan sighs, shoulders drooping. “I never want to do that again. 2 weeks of sleeping on a stiff hotel bed and I’m just ready to be back.” 

 

“Back to murdering I suppose,” Michael snorts, Ryan rolling his eyes. 

 

“Geoff was the one that said I should take a break. You use a minigun during a robbery one time-” 

 

“Ryan!” Gavin rushes over, dragging someone behind him, face beaming. “This is Jeremy!” 

 

He shoves Jeremy out in front of him, Jeremy tilting his head to look up at Ryan, swallowing harshly. Ryan looks him over- strong build, short stature, sunglasses hung on his low-cut tank and is he wearing purple and orange? Together?

 

“‘Sup,” Jeremy forces out, Ryan noting some sort of accent, Michael stifling a laugh behind his hand. 

 

“You’re wearing a cowboy hat,” Ryan says, voice low and dangerous , flicking the hat with his fingers. He crouches down slightly, folding his arms across his chest, watching as Jeremy’s forced smile shakes. “Aren’t you supposed to say... howdy ?” 

 

There’s a silence for a moment, Jeremy’s face losing all bravado, fear taking place in his eyes, before Michael bursts out laughing, Gavin reaching forward and smacking Ryan on the arm. 

 

“Don’t scare him like that Rye!” Gavin squawks, Ryan shrugging before sticking a hand out towards Jeremy. Jeremy stares at it for a second before hesitantly raising his hand up, shaking Ryan’s. 

 

“Jeremy, this is-” Gavin starts, Jeremy cutting him off. 

 

“Ryan, the Vagabond , I gathered that.” 

 

Gavin sputters, Ryan laughing and taking his hand away, clapping Jeremy on the shoulder, recognizing the accent as definitely Boston

 

“I think I’m gonna like you.” Ryan pauses, looking at the suitcase on the floor, weight of his backpack still on his back. “You know, it’d probably help if you…”

 

Jeremy follows Ryan’s eyes to the bag on the floor, nodding and picking it up. 

 

“Got it!” Jeremy smiles before rushing off down the hallway, Michael bent-over laughing. 

 

“Not nice Ryan!” Gavin yelps again, shoving at Ryan’s chest despite the smile on his face, Ryan laughing along with Michael.

 

“Oh, it’s good to be back.” 

 

“And just in time too,” Michael recovers, grin still plastered on his face. “You wanna throw a moonball?” 

 

“What’s a moonball?” Ryan asks, Gavin and Michael giving each other gleeful looks. 

 

“You’re about to find out.” 

 

----

 

The dirt of the airfield is hard underneath Ryan’s feet, his arms crossed over his chest, leaning against the hood of his car. 

 

“I have an idea,” Gavin pipes up, Michael rolling his eyes, Jeremy moving next to Ryan, looking up at him with a gleeful smile.

 

“This’ll be good,” Michael mutters, Gavin slapping his arm lightly. 

 

“It is! Since it’s lil’ J’s first race,” Gavin starts, Ryan looking down at Jeremy as he puffs his chest out, “we should do teams!” 

 

Teams, ” Ryan repeats, Gavin nodding his head excitedly. 

 

“Yup!” 

 

“I’m down,” Jeremy beams, Michael rolling his eyes before shrugging. 

 

“Alright, fine,” Michael turns to Gavin, “so what teams are we thinkin’?” 

 

Gavin taps his chin, Ryan taking a moment to look around at the abandoned airfield, the dirt road stretching into the horizon, the sun beating down on the four of them despite the chill in the air. 

 

“Well, we’ve been in the crew longer,” Gavin looks at Michael, facing Ryan and Jeremy. “So Michael and I are on a team.” 

 

“Putting the newbies together, I like it,” Michael rubs his hands together, smiling wickedly. Ryan rolls his eyes, looking down at Jeremy. 

 

“But you guys have a team name!” Jeremy exclaims, pointing at Michael and Gavin. “Ryan and I don’t.” 

 

“How about ‘Team Ridiculous Costumes’,” Michael jokes, Ryan sending him a look. 

 

“My mask is not ridiculous, Mogar .” 

 

“You got a problem with my name, Vagabond ?” 

 

Ryan and Michael step to each other, playful looks on their faces, Jeremy stepping up behind him. 

 

“I’ll fight you Michael!” He yells out, Michael sending him a look of shock, Gavin bending over laughing. “What?” Jeremy looks around, meeting Ryan’s eyes. “We’re on the same team now Ryan, your battles are my battles.” 

 

“Fucking battle buddies,” Michael rolls his eyes, Gavin still bent over laughing, and Ryan raises and eyebrow, turning to Jeremy. 

 

“How’s that for our team name?” He asks genuinely, Jeremy pausing for a moment, thinking it over. 

 

“The Battle Buddies,” Jeremy repeats, smile growing on his face. “That’s so much better than Team Nice Dynamite!” 

 

“Hey!” Gavin stalks over, crossing his arms. “Team Nice Dynamite is cool!” 

 

“We’ll see which is better with this race, won’t we?” Ryan looks around, everyone smiling. 

 

“The best team will win!” Michael whoops, rushing over to his car, Gavin right on his tail. 

 

Jeremy and Ryan share a look, Jeremy raising a fist. 

 

“Battle Buddies?”

 

Ryan laughs and raises his own fist, bumping it against Jeremy’s. 

 

“Battle Buddies.” 

 

----

 

“You never told me how you met Geoff.” 

 

Ryan lounges on the couch he brought down to the garage, tired of sitting on one of the metal stools, relaxing into his seat, watching Jack work. Jack sits in front of her bike, holding a wrench in her mouth as she screws in another bolt. 

 

“Hmph,” Jack places the wrench on the work table beside her, grabbing the towel off of it and wiping the sweat from her forehead. “I guess I never did.” 

 

“Well?” Ryan leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, Jack lit up by the bright light of the garage, Ryan watching as she turns and faces him, pursing her lips. 

 

“Hmm,” she hums, rolling her eyes and facing the car again. “Fine. You know how I had my own shop?” 

 

Ryan nods, Jack looking at him out of the corner of her eye before continuing, screwdriver back in her hand. 

 

“Well, he came in one day, needing a job.” 

 

“You hired him?” Ryan can’t help but sound surprised, Jack giving him a look. “What? He’s the boss.” 

 

“Yeah, well, at one point I was his boss.”  Jack smiles at the memory, laughing softly to herself, Ryan’s lips quirking up. “Anyway, a few months go by and he finally comes up to me with this idea, you know. For a crew, something much better than the dingy ones around Los Santos at the time. He wanted to do bigger, better things.” 

 

“And you said yes,” Ryan continues for her, Jack taking a deep sigh. 

 

“Actually, I said no.” 

 

There’s a pungent pause in the room, Ryan’s eyes widening. 

 

“What?” 

 

“I said no,” Jack breathes out, stopping her work to look over at Ryan. “But then I went to bed that night, and I thought about his face when I said no, so I called him. We started planning our first heist the next day.” 

 

“That’s a... interesting origin story,” Ryan muses, earning a laugh from Jack. 

 

“I’m sure yours was much more interesting,” she murmurs, focusing on the bike again, Ryan relaxing into his seat again. 

 

Ryan lets his mind wander, listening to the noises of metal-on-metal, Jack’s attention on the bike. Ryan remembers when he hightailed it from Georgia, leaving the home he grew up in, landing further on the East Coast than he thought he would, in a town of Liberty City. He remembers his job at a costume shop, sitting behind the counter one day, having no money, and someone came in to rob the store. 

 

He remembers watching the thief leave, shaking at the image of the gun to his face, and tilting his head, eyes catching a skull mask on the shelf. 

 

“It’s not, really,” Ryan finally says, Jack laughing under her breath.

 

“Took you ten years,” she teases, Ryan rolling his eyes. 

 

“I don’t think my life got interesting until I really got my reputation.” Ryan pauses for a moment, thinking about the nights after a job, sitting alone in his empty apartment, night after night. “Actually, I don’t think it was interesting until I met Gavin. ” 

 

“He’s really had an impact on you, hasn’t he,” Jack looks over, and Ryan lifts a hand to the mask on his head, feeling his chin. 

 

“He got me to join a crew,” Ryan laughs, shaking his head. “He even got me to care about you guys,” Ryan says before he can stop himself, Jack’s eyebrows rising. He freezes, Jack’s face fading into one of concern, his shoulders tensing.

 

“You alright Ryan?” 

 

“I..” Ryan stops, breath catching in his throat. Shit , Gavin caused him to care about this crew, this little family. “I just never thought I’d get here.”

 

Ryan thinks about those days in Georgia, just he and his dad, feeling alone everyday on that run-down farm. He thinks about sneaking out to go to theatre productions, finally having friends, and then his dad caught him one night and pulled him out of school, permanently . He remembers the long road to Liberty City, the tears streaming down his face as he drove his car, no destination in sight. He remembers coming home to that shitty apartment after a shift at the costume shop, not a single text on his phone. He remembers working with different crews, no one talking to him unless necessary. 

 

“Gavin’s a different kind,” Jack laughs, standing from her stool and walking over to the tool box, Ryan looking down at his hands. “He gets people to do things they never thought they would.” 

 

“Were you afraid?” Ryan lifts his head, Jack looking at him with a questioning look. “When you called Geoff and decided to make the crew, were you afraid?” 

 

“I was terrified ,” Jack admits, moving to take a seat next to Ryan. “I was scared about so many things. Scared we’d get caught, scared it wouldn’t work out, scared he’d get hurt . I was afraid for most of our first year working together.” 

 

Jack pauses, seemingly thinking over her words, Ryan watching her intently. 

 

“I remember this one close call,” she says softly, Ryan leaning in closer to hear her words despite the quietness of the garage. “We got back to my garage, and Geoff was bleeding everywhere. I was so scared , I couldn’t breathe, but I powered through and stitched Geoff up. As soon as he went to sleep, healing his wounds, I went onto the roof and sat there until the sun came up. Seeing him like that, someone I cared about like that, it scared me like nothing else ever has.” 

 

“I can imagine,” Ryan murmurs, and Jack smiles. 

 

“I thought about quitting,” she continues, taking a deep sigh. “But I’m glad I didn’t. I can’t imagine just being a car shop owner now, you know? This, this crew, that’s what I love. The adrenaline.” 

 

“What about when everyone gets hurt?” Ryan whispers, Jack turning her head to face him, smile still present on her face. 

 

“Oh, I’m still afraid of that. But, I’m also thankful I have such a good family here, you know? I can’t imagine working with a bunch of strangers all the time, even if I worry more about everyone’s safety. That’s a part of caring about people.” 

 

They’re silent for another moment, Ryan processing what she said, when Jack places a hand on his knee. 

 

“That’s what you’re afraid of, isn’t it?” 

 

Ryan nods numbly, and Jack gives his knee a squeeze.   

 

“Thought so,” she muses, turning on the couch to fully face Ryan. “You know it’s not a bad thing. To care about people. To worry for them.” 

 

“I’m just…” Ryan starts, Jack waiting patiently. “I’m unfamiliar. I haven’t had something like this in a long , long time.” 

 

“Well, I’m glad it’s us then.” Jack stands, giving Ryan a smile. “As much as I get the fear, Ryan, you’ve got to understand that life’s too short to worry about it everyday. And, the Fake AH Crew survives everything, haven’t you seen the news?” 

 

They both laugh, Ryan’s shoulders relaxing, Jack hopping back onto her stool. 

 

“So, Jack,” Ryan smirks, Jack looking over at him, “do you ever tell Geoff that you used to be his boss?” 

 

“Oh,” Jack chuckles, returning to her work, “I hold that over his head everyday .” 

 

Ryan laughs, content in listening to Jack ramble on about old stories with Geoff, worry gone from the back of his mind.

 

----

 

Ryan blinks open his eyes, groaning as he sits up, the room dark from the night sky outside. Ryan raises an eyebrow and turns to look at his bedside table, the clock reading 3:02. Why am I awake?

 

Ryan’s phone buzzes where it sits next to the clock, and Ryan reaches out, flipping it over. Jeremy’s face takes over his screen, the name reading battle buddy.  

 

“Jeremy?” Ryan croaks, wiping at his eyes with his free hand. “It’s three in the morning.” 

 

“Well,” Ryan can hear Jeremy’s heavy breathing, wind blowing harshly around him, “I’m at the beach and I can’t find my car.” 

 

“How-” Ryan starts to ask, Jeremy cutting him off.

 

“I’m also really, really drunk.” 

 

Oh, Ryan raises his eyebrows, that answers that . He sits up straight, rubbing a hand down his face. 

 

“Send me your location,” Ryan groans, standing up from his spot in bed, shivering at the sudden cold. 

 

“You got it!” Jeremy yells excitedly, Ryan wincing, taking the phone away from his ear for a moment before putting it back. 

 

“I’ll be right there,” Ryan grumbles, Jeremy thanking him, and Ryan hangs up, sighing.

 

God damn it.

 

----

 

“I was sleeping, you know.” 

 

Ryan looks over at Jeremy in the passenger seat, who’s feet are on the dashboard, tapping along to the song playing. 

 

“Sorry Rye,” Jeremy apologizes, sincere, feet stilling as he meets Ryan’s eyes, sad look on his face. 

 

“Stop looking at me like that,” Ryan pushes Jeremy’s face away, fighting the smile on his face. “And it’s fine, I’m glad you called. Better than you walking home.” 

 

“Me too,” Jeremy smiles, tapping his feet once again. “I knew you’d come and get me. You’re my battle buddy.” 

 

“I am, aren’t I,” Ryan laughs, stopping as they pull up a stop light, Ryan taking the time to give Jeremy a look. “You called me first?” 

 

“Well duh ,” Jeremy shrugs, bringing his knees to his chest. “I know I’m not that new anymore, but I’m still pretty afraid of everyone. Didn’t want to bother anyone else.” 

 

“So you bothered me,” Ryan faces forward again, Jeremy laughing. 

 

“You’re not bothered,” Jeremy points out, Ryan tilting his head, sighing. He really isn’t bothered, is he. “Plus, I trust you.” 

 

Ryan’s eyebrows raise, something warm spreading in his chest. 

 

“You do?” Ryan can’t help but sound shocked, Jeremy nodding, resting his chin on his knees. 

 

“You’re my first friend here,” Jeremy says, Ryan turning onto their street, slowing their speed slightly. “You act all scary and stuff but you’re a really, really , nice guy. Like Michael says, you’re kind of a dork.” 

 

“Thanks,” Ryan rolls his eyes, Jeremy sitting up straight in his seat, grabbing Ryan’s arm. 

 

“But in a good way,” he explains, and Ryan softens, smiling behind his mask. 

 

“Thanks Jeremy,” Ryan says genuinely, and Jeremy smiles, sitting back into the seat again. 

 

“We’re battle buddies Ryan,” Jeremy replies and Ryan nods, pulling into the garage. 

 

“That we are.” 

 

----

 

“Ry- an !”

 

Ryan sighs, clicking mute on the TV as Gavin comes bounding into the living room, clad in his Golden Boy attire. 

 

“Can I help you?” Ryan can’t help but say, something close to fondness in his tone, and damn, when did he get soft?

 

You’re coming with me on a job!” Gavin claps his hands excitedly, a wide smile taking up his whole face.

 

Ryan sighs and stands from his seat on the couch, glancing longingly at the Diet Coke on the table. 

 

“Doesn’t Michael usually go with you?” He asks, Gavin’s smile never fading as he steps forward. 

 

“He’s busy today, some boring job or another,” Gavin shrugs, tilting his head as he reaches and grabs Ryan’s jacket, flattening it against Ryan’s chest. Ryan blushes at his warm touch, red face thankfully hidden behind his mask. “So you , my good Vagabond, get to be my guard dog!” 

 

“Guard dog,” Ryan repeats, Gavin nodding enthusiastically. “Alright, whatever.” 

 

“Yay!” Gavin squeals, spinning on his heel. “Rye, we’re gonna have so much fun!” 

 

“Fun,” Ryan mutters, grabbing his keys, following Gavin out the door. “I’m sure .” 

 

----

 

Ryan pulls up to a warehouse by the docks, half of him happy to get out of the car after sitting in it for the last 20 minutes, the other half him upset that Gavin’s not barricading him with hypotheticals and dumb questions, but he’d never admit that.  

 

Gavin smiles at him as he gets out of the car, pulling his sunglasses from where they hang on his shirt and slipping them onto his face, his posture changing. He’s the Golden Boy now , Ryan muses, rolling his eyes. I guess everyone has their own mask.

 

Ryan follows Gavin into one of the buildings on the docks, watching as the man sitting at the table in the center of the room stands, smiling wildly as Gavin walks over. 

 

“Antonio!” Gavin calls, spreading his arms out before meeting Antonio’s in a handshake, wrapping his other hand around their clasped ones. “È bello vederti!”

 

Ryan stops in his tracks, head whipping to where Gavin and Antonio sit down, Antonio replying with a chuckle and is that Italian?

 

They continue to talk, words flying out of their mouths as if they’re old friends, Ryan’s eyes wide. Gavin knows Italian?

 

Antonio points to Ryan and Gavin laughs, head turning to look at Ryan for a moment, sending him a wink before facing Antonio again, saying something that Ryan doesn’t understand. But Antonio nods and smiles at Ryan. 

 

“Quindi sei l'uomo di cui parla sempre Gavin?”

 

Ryan tilts his head, and Gavin reaches forward, placing a hand on Antonio’s arm.

 

“Non sa parlare italiano,” he replies, and Antonio nods, Ryan catching the tips of Gavin’s ears turning pink.

 

They talk for what feels like hours, Ryan spending his time looking around the room, the men standing behind Antonio seemingly unfazed by the friendly nature between Gavin and their boss, their laughter filling up the room. 

 

It seems like forever before they both finally stand from their chairs, Gavin shaking Antonio’s hand and returning to Ryan’s side, nodding his head at the door. 

 

They walk next to each other towards the car, Gavin humming to himself. 

 

“That seemed to have gone well,” Ryan muses, turning his head to look at him, Gavin giving him a smile. 

 

“Antonio’s a good guy,” Gavin beams, sighing fondly.

 

“I didn’t know you spoke Italian, Gavin,” Ryan can’t help but say, Gavin shrugging as he goes around the car to the passenger side. 

 

“I’m a man of all trades, Rye,” is all he replies with, sliding into the car. Ryan follows suit, pausing as he buckles his seatbelt. 

 

“What did he say to me?” Ryan turns in his seat to face Gavin, Gavin looking at himself in the rearview mirror, sunglasses now resting on the top of his head. 

 

“Oh..he just wanted to know why it was you and not Michael,” Gavin lies, Ryan can feel it , but he doesn’t press on, facing forward again, shifting the car in gear. He hums as a reply, tempted to open his phone and translate what he remembers, but decides against it. Maybe it’s best he doesn’t know.

 

(He changes his mind later, laying in bed, thinking about the way Gavin’s smile took up his whole face, but the second he opens up Google Translate, he remembers the way Gavin’s ears turned pink, and puts his phone down again.)

 

----

 

“Ryan!” 

 

Ryan scoots back at his desk, looking over his shoulder at Jeremy in his door frame, Gavin standing behind him, both with excited smiles on their faces. 

 

“You guys are planning something,” Ryan sighs, Gavin mocking offense, placing a hand over his chest. Jeremy laughs, resting his head against the door jamb. 

 

“We are not,” Gavin exclaims, bursting into a smile again. “We wanna play Mario Kart!” 

 

“I suck at that game,” Ryan whines, Jeremy walking forward and pulling Ryan out of his chair. 

 

“It’ll be fun Ryan,” Jeremy walks ahead, dragging Ryan behind him. 

 

They enter the living room, Gavin excitedly running over and jumping on the couch, Michael looking up from the phone in his hands.

 

“Oh,” he says, looking at Jeremy then to Ryan, “Ryan agreed to play?” 

 

“I’d use ‘agreed’ loosely,” Ryan wanders over to the couch, earning a laugh out of Michael as he hands him a controller. 

 

“Let’s do the cup with Rainbow Road,” Gavin plops himself on the floor in front of Michael, Jeremy settling right next to him. 

 

“So the triforce cup,” Michael retorts, Gavin waving a hand behind him in Michael’s face, Ryan watching with a smile. 

 

“Yeah yeah, that one, you mong,” Gavin grumbles, Michael picking the cup anyway. Jeremy turns around to face Ryan, smiling brightly. 

 

“Good luck!” He says, Ryan shaking his head. 

 

“I’ll need it,” Ryan whines, the race starting up. He quickly falls to 12th place, watching as Michael and Jeremy race for first, Gavin trailing in fourth. At last minute, Gavin races ahead, beating the two across the line, winning first. 

 

“Yeah boi!” Gavin whoops, Michael shoving at him with his foot. 

 

“Oh shut up,” Michael mutters, no malice in it, Ryan crashing a few times before finally making it across the line. 

 

“Michael,” Jeremy turns around, facing Michael, “we have to team up and take down Gavin.” 

 

“Wot!” Gavin exclaims, Michael nodding. 

 

“Oh definitely.” 

 

“What if I win?” Ryan says, the rest of them looking at him before laughing. “Alright, now I know I shouldn’t have come play.” 

 

“You’ll do better this round,” Jeremy encourages him, Michael rolling his eyes. 

 

“Don’t give the man false hope like that J.” 

 

Ryan sighs as the new race starts up, watching as the rest of them get boosts at the beginning, Ryan already lagging behind. 

 

“I suck,” Ryan groans, Michael bumping his shoulder with his own, eyes on the TV as he races across the line. 

 

“Yeah, but if you weren’t here Gavin would lose all the time and we all annoying he can be,” he points out, Jeremy laughing from his spot on the floor.

 

“You’re just mad I won last round Micool,” Gavin smirks, Michael rolling his eyes and kicking Gavin’s back with his foot. 

 

“You got lucky , boi, alright. It was pure bullshit.” 

 

“There’s no cheating in baseball,” Jeremy says, causing Michael to laugh, Gavin squawking in indignation. 

 

“The saying is actually ‘there’s no crying in baseball’,” Ryan pipes up, Jeremy looking at him over his shoulder. 

 

“Ha! Jeremy, you idiot,” Gavin exclaims, Jeremy frowning as Michael grabs a pillow off the couch and smacks the back of Gavin’s head with it, both of them laughing.  

 

“Ryan, you’re my battle buddy,” Jeremy whines, a disappointed look on his face, “have my back.” 

 

“He’s just being his nerdy self,” Michael teases, Ryan mouthing sorry to Jeremy. “‘Course Rye-bread would know that.” 

 

“It’s a pretty common phrase-” Ryan starts, Michael cutting him off. 

 

“Nerd! Ryan’s a nerd!” 

 

“Don’t be a bully, Michael, that’s not nice Michael,” Gavin turns around, throwing the pillow back at Michael.

 

“You just called lil’ J an idiot,” Michael argues, fixing his glasses on his face where the pillow moved them, Ryan returning his attention to the game.

 

“Well Ryan didn’t even do anything,” Gavin says back, crossing his arms and turning around, Michael reaching forward and messing with his hair. 

 

“Sorry boi, I forgot you guys were sucking each other off-” 

 

Micool!”  

 

Ryan feels his face burn bright red, barely focusing enough to cross the finish line in 11th place, glancing over to see Gavin and Michael wrestling on the ground. 

 

“Ryan! You got 11th this time!” Jeremy cheers, sending Ryan a big smile, and Ryan shrugs, smiling behind his mask. 

 

“I’m guessing we’re done playing?” Ryan looks over again at Michael and Gavin, Michael pinning Gavin on the floor, and Jeremy laughs, standing up and walking over to Ryan. 

 

“I’ve got money on Michael,” he says. Ryan snorts, nodding in agreement. 

 

“Yeah, me too.” 

 

“Ryan!” Gavin cries, smile on his face as he reaches forward and tickles Michael, “we’re Team Love ‘n Stuff!” 

 

“Yeah,” Ryan mumbles to himself, smiling as he watches Jeremy join their wrestling match, ganging up with Michael on Gavin, “yeah. We are.” 

 

----

 

“Can we talk?” 

 

Ryan looks up from where his attention is on his gun in his hands, meeting Geoff’s eyes as he stands in the doorway. 

 

“This seems a little familiar,” Ryan jokes, setting the gun aside. “C’mon in.” Geoff enters the room, closing the door behind him. Ryan straightens up where he sits, scooting over on the bed. “Something wrong, Geoff?” 

 

Geoff sighs, settling in beside Ryan. “Listen, Ryan, you know that I care about you guys. You’re like my family.” 

 

“I know,” Ryan says, relaxing his shoulders a bit. “You’re like a dad to the lads, I know.”

 

“Well,” Geoff takes a deep breath, turning to face Ryan better, “then you know how much Gavin is like a son to me.” 

 

“Where’s this going Geoff?” Ryan can’t hide the confusion in his voice, and Geoff’s lips form a thin line before relaxing, Geoff placing a comforting hand on Ryan’s shoulder. 

 

“Listen, Gavin’s a good kid. And if you hurt him, so help me God-” 

 

“Hurt him?” Ryan leans away, body fully turned towards Geoff. “What do you mean ‘hurt him’? I wouldn’t-” 

 

“I’m not talking physically, Vagabond,” Geoff starts, hands out in a calming manner, “so pump the brakes. I’m talking emotionally.” 

 

Ryan doesn’t say anything, continuing to stare at Geoff buffudled. Geoff sighs and rolls his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. 

 

“Ugh, Ryan, I’m talking about feelings!”

 

Ryan’s eyes widen dramatically. “Feelings? What do you mean, Geoff?” 

 

“Look,” Geoff stands, starting towards the bedroom door, “I’m not saying anything. But there’s still so much Gav- we haven’t seen, I mean, none of us know what you look like!” 

 

Ryan’s silent for a moment, watching Geoff stare at him across the room, before looking down at his hands. He swallows harshly before looking up again, seeing Geoff’s expression soften as he steps closer, crouching to be eye level. 

 

“Just be careful, okay? And don’t worry, if Gavin hurts you, he’s got hell to pay,” Geoff threatens, earning a small laugh from Ryan. Geoff smiles and pats Ryan’s back, turning to exit the room again, Ryan sitting up straighter to watch. 

 

“And Ryan?” Geoff spins around, hand on the doorknob, Ryan tilting his head. “You know you’re my family too, right? Not exactly a son like the lads but….family.” 

 

“Maybe the creepy cousin who makes too many murder jokes,” Ryan mumbles, Geoff bursting out laughing. 

 

“Yeah, maybe,” he agrees, smile wide on his face. “But you know that, right? You’re family.” 

 

“I know Geoff, I know.” 

 

Geoff smiles, seemingly satisfied, and closes the door behind him, Ryan’s eyes moving from the door to the mirror on his closet, skull mask on his head staring at him.

 

----

 

“What happened?”

 

Ryan follows Michael, Jeremy and Gavin into the penthouse, seeing Jack’s concerned eyes as the boys stumble in, blood on their faces and hands. 

 

“Oh, you know,” Michael walks over to the sink, water running red, “Gavin was just being himself and started a fight, which we had to save him from, like always.

 

Ryan watches as Jack rushes over, eyebrows furrowed. 

 

“Jesus Gavin!” She exclaims, smacking the back of Gavin’s head. 

 

“Ow!” 

 

“What were you thinking?” She continues, scowl filling with concern. “You could’ve been badly hurt!” 

 

“The bloke was being a right prick!” Gavin defends, laughing to himself. “He deserved it.” 

 

“I’ll go get the first-aid,” Jack grumbles, walking out of the room. Ryan sighs, stumbling over to an empty chair, wincing as blood dribbles from underneath the mask. 

 

“How many were there?” Geoff pipes up, eyes still on the book in his hands. 

 

“About 8 or so,” Jeremy replies, sliding into a bar stool as Michael hands him an ice pack from the freezer. “But we got ‘em. No biggie.” 

 

“They got a few hits on us though,” Michael says, returning to his spot by the sink, dampening a rag. “One of ‘em even had brass knuckles! They came lookin’ for a fight.”

 

“He probably won’t be able to use that hand for a while anyway,” Ryan mutters, leaning back in the chair. 

 

“Well deserved it,” Gavin walks over to Ryan, taking a seat on the armrest. He looks down at Ryan, a frown taking over his face. “You got hit, Rye. You’re bleeding.” 

 

“Just a scratch,” Ryan waves off, closing his eyes. “It’ll just need a few stitches.”

 

“Alright boys, line up,” Jack announces as she enters, Ryan opening his eyes to watch Gavin slide off the seat, still facing him. 

 

“I’m sorry you got hurt, Rye,” Gavin whispers, frown still present on his face. Ryan reaches out, placing a gloved hand on his arm. 

 

“It’s alright, Gav, really. We’re a crew. If you start a fight, we’re here to help.” 

 

“Yeah Gav,” Jeremy adds, smiling brightly, busted lip gushing blood at the movement. “We’re a family!” 

 

“Enough with the sappy shit,” Jack jokes, shaking her head fondly. Ryan looks back at Gavin, who sends him a small smile before turning and walking into the kitchen, Michael wrapping an arm around his shoulders. Ryan stands from the chair, Jack opening up the kit on the counter. 

 

“Let me know if you’re missing anything in your kit, Ryan,” she says without looking up, Ryan humming a reply before heading to his room. 

 

It’s a small scar, a simple few stitches, Ryan can tell, gloved hand rubbing the spot on the mask where’s there's a sizable dent. Right on his cheekbone, right on his….face . He halts in his tracks, turning on his heel. Ryan takes a deep breath, clearing his throat, and Jack looks up at him, raising an eyebrow. 

 

“Everything alright, Ryan?” She asks, the boys turning their attention to him, confused looks on their faces. 

 

“Jack, you don’t mind stitching me up, do you?” 

 

They all stare at him, Jack’s mouth agape before she shakes herself, sending him a smile. 

 

“Of course I don’t, Ryan,” she shrugs, turning back to the kit. “Where do you need them?”

 

“My face.” 

 

The room is silent once again, Geoff even putting down his book, all of them watching Ryan. 

 

“Are..are you sure?” Jack hesitates, watching Ryan carefully. “You didn’t get a concussion, did you?” 

 

“No,” Ryan explains, swallowing harshly, all eyes on him. “I just think you’d do a better job. I’m too hyped up,” he raises his hands, a slight tremor to them. “See?” 

 

“Well, alright,” Jack says, slowly pulling out the sewing needle. She looks over her shoulder at Ryan, “and you’re sure?

 

“I’m sure,” he forces out, walking over and settling onto one of the barstools. “I’m sure.” 

 

Everyone is silent as Jack moves over to Ryan, laying the utensils on the counter beside him. She pauses, laying a still hand on one of Ryan’s shaky ones in his lap. 

 

“You don’t have to do this, you know. If this has to do with what Geoff told you...” She says softly, Ryan looking up to meet her eyes. 

 

He glances around the room, at the frozen looks on everyone’s faces, all watching him with shocked eyes. 

 

“It doesn’t,” he chokes out, taking a deep breath. “But he wasn’t wrong. And, like Jeremy said, this… this is a family, and family helps each other. I need your help.” 

 

“Okay,” Jack smiles, giving his hand a squeeze before stepping back, prepping the needle. 

 

Ryan takes a deep breath and lifts his hands, everyone’s eyes on his fingers as they slide under his mask, slowly pushing it off his face. 

 

It lands on the linoleum with a resounding thud, Ryan shutting his eyes, a gasp heard in the room. 

 

“Well shit Ryan, if I had known you were so attractive I would’ve hired you sooner,” Geoff laughs, Ryan opening his eyes to see the smiles on everyone’s faces, one breaking out on his own. 

 

“Yeah Ryan,” Michael pipes up, “were you a model? I for sure thought you’d be hideous under that mask.” 

 

“Like a ragged scar or something,” Jack says, attention on the needle in her hands, gaze flicking over to Ryan every few moments. 

 

“Or some wicked burn marks,” Jeremy agrees, walking over to Ryan and pushing at his shoulder. “But you’re hot!” 

 

Ryan’s face flushes, eyes catching Gavin’s across the kitchen, a soft smile on his face. 

 

“I’m glad you showed us, Rye,” Gavin murmurs, Ryan nodding slowly as Jack places a hand on his chin, holding him steady.

 

“Me too,” Ryan mumbles, closing his eyes. “Me too.”

 

----

 

Gavin and Ryan are at another negotiation. 

 

He’s been dragged to a lot of them lately, Gavin always giving him the excuse that Michael is busy or Geoff said Ryan should go or, Ryan, don’t you like coming with me Ryan?

 

And honestly, he does. 

 

This is a side of Gavin Ryan hasn’t really got to see before, the one that forces a smile, tongue dipped in silver and sharp knives, twirling people around his finger and grinning as he does, the flash of gold hiding the lies in his words. 

 

Ryan’s, well. Ryan’s impressed.  

 

Up until this point, Ryan’s only seen the hacker, the one who loves to ask hypotheticals, the one that trips on his own feet and stays up all hours to make sure everything is set up for a big job. But this, this is the Golden Boy . Clad in tight clothing, the top buttons on his shirt undone, sunglasses securely on his face, jewelry hanging off him on every spot available.

 

It’s mesmerizing.  

 

Ryan pulls the car to a stop, Gavin sliding out of the passenger seat, Ryan shutting off the car and following him in, the two entering a non-descript warehouse, a man and a few goons standing in the middle of a few boxes. Ryan’s yet to come to meet these guys before, but Gavin seems to know them, the way he struts over, hands clasped in front of him. 

 

“Where’s Harry?” Gavin asks, accent thick, eyes wandering the warehouse. 

 

“Couldn’t make it,” the one in front says, puffing his chest out as he spots Ryan behind Gavin. “So it’s just me today.” 

 

“Alright,” Gavin smiles, sickly sweet, putting his hands on his hips. “The usual then?” 

 

“No, I don’t think that’ll work.” 

 

It’s silent in the room, Ryan’s eyes flitting over to Gavin, Gavin’s shoulders straightening, his smile turning into a frown. 

 

“Beg your pardon?” 

 

“I don’t think that price will work,” the man says, crossing his arms over his chest, the goons behind him stepping closer. “I think we need something better, and we know some people willing to give it to us.” 

 

Gavin hums, nodding, tapping his finger to his chin. 

 

“Does Harry know about this change in plan?” He asks, Ryan raising an eyebrow. Are we giving in that easy ?

 

“He’ll be happy to know,” the man replies, looking back at the men behind him. “Right boys?” 

 

They all nod in agreement, hands on the guns strapped across their chests. 

 

“Yeah,” Gavin nods, smiling widely. “Yeah, that won’t work.” 

 

“Well,” the man smirks, hand going to his own gun at his hip. “Guess we’re done here, aren’t we.” 

 

There's another pause, Ryan stepping closer, Gavin putting out a hand to stop.

 

“Oh, Josh,” Gavin starts, stepping closer to the man, something dangerous in his voice. “Joshy Josh, that will not work for me.” 

 

In an instant, Gavin has a knife in Josh’s chest, the man falling to the ground, the guys behind him staring with wide eyes. Ryan must look the same, mask hiding the surprise on his face, eyes watching as Gavin bends down and pulls the knife out, looking at the goons expectantly. 

 

“Well?” He asks, eyebrows raising. “Make sure everything is ready to go!” 

 

The men nod and rush off, Gavin rolling his eyes as he wipes the blood off on Josh’s jeans, standing and spinning to face Ryan.  

 

“Is that the knife I gave you?” Ryan can’t help but burst, pointing to said knife in Gavin’s hand. The gold glints in the sunlight streaming through the high windows, and Gavin shrugs, a blush on his tan skin. 

 

“I guess it is,” he replies, and Ryan’s hand falls, mind blank. That was badass.

 

“Glad you think so,” Gavin giggles, Ryan’s face burning, did he say that out loud?

 

“Well it was,” Ryan tries to recover, but Gavin keeps giggling, and it’s taking every muscle in Ryan’s body not to whip out his gun and shoot Gavin right there for the way he’s laughing at him, at the Vagabond.  

 

“Did you see those plebs?” Gavin laughs, looking over his shoulder before returning to Ryan, Ryan raising his eyebrows at the use of plebs . “Their faces! Priceless .

 

“Well, I guess the Vagabond and the Golden Boy are pretty intimidating,” Ryan admits, Gavin tilting his head. 

 

“We make a good team, don’t we Rye?” He says, a smile on his face. 

 

Yeah, Ryan thinks as he follows Gavin outside, out to the truck where the goons are loading boxes in the back, I guess we do.

 

----

 

The door of the bar swings open, the lads waltzing in, Gavin gripping Ryan’s arm tightly. 

 

“Why exactly am I here?” Ryan asks, Michael turning to face him as they walk to a table. 

 

“Now that you’ve shown us your face, we can finally bring you to a normal bar!” 

 

“But I don’t drink?” Ryan says hesitantly, Jeremy bumping his shoulder. 

 

“Yeah, but we do! ” 

 

“I’ll go get us some shots!” Gavin squeals, squeezing Ryan’s arm where he grips it before speeding off, heading towards the bar. 

 

“I don’t know why I let you guys drag me to these things,” Ryan sighs, Jeremy swinging an arm around his shoulder. 

 

“We want you to get laid man,” Jeremy says, looking around. “There’s a lot of hot ladies around here.” 

 

“Well that sucks for me,” Ryan mutters, but Jeremy leans away, both he and Michael looking at him with wide eyes. 

 

“You’re gay?” Michael asks, and Ryan hesitantly nods, closing his eyes. A hand lands gently on his shoulder, and Ryan cracks an eye open, confusion taking over his face as they smile at him. 

 

“You’re not gonna yell at me?” Ryan asks, Michael and Jeremy looking at each other before bursting out laughing. 

 

“Dude,” Michael smiles, “we’re both gay.” 

 

“Yeah man,” Jeremy smiles, clapping Ryan on the back. “Well, I mean, I’m bi but whatever.” 

 

“Because you’re lame ,” Michael teases, Jeremy sticking a tongue out at him. “But for real though,” Michael says softly, “we’re glad you told us.” 

 

“Told us what?” Gavin asks, walking back over, Ryan seeing the tray of many , many shots in his hands as he sets it on the table. 

 

“That I’m gay,” Ryan says, Gavin’s eyes widening. 

 

“You are?” He gasps, a blush spreading on his face. “I am too!” 

 

“Yeah, that’s obvious,” Michael teases, Gavin reaching over and shoving at him.

 

“Sod off!” 

 

Sod off!”

 

“Let’s take these shots, shall we?” Jeremy hands each of them a glass, Ryan not even noticing the Diet Coke in the middle of them all, taking it and popping the tab. 

 

“To being gay!” Michael announces, the rest of them laughing. 

 

“And Ryan’s hot, hot face!” Jeremy cheers, and they all clink glasses ( and can of diet Coke) , the lads taking down their shots in one go, Ryan leisurely sipping on his soda. 

 

The night continues on, Ryan happily watching the boys argue and drink themselves silly, Michael holding back on his alcohol, downing a few shots before getting a beer and drinking in gingerly. But Gavin and Jeremy, they’re plastered.

 

Jeremy is fitting as many of the snack pretzels he can in his mouth, and Gavin’s filming him, laughing so much that the camera is barely pointed in the direction it’s supposed to be. 

 

Ryan’s talking to Michael when Gavin takes his hands, pulling him out to the middle of the floor.

 

“Gavin what are you-” 

 

“Loosen up Rye,” Gavin smiles, letting go of Ryan’s hands to dance. “C’mon, dance with me!” 

 

Ryan stands awkwardly as Gavin dances in front of him, surprisingly good at it , Ryan just watching him, his breath caught in his throat. The colored but dim lighting hit Gavin just right, a light sheen on his forehead as he thrusts his hip forward to the beat, Ryan swallowing harshly.  

 

“Ry -an ,” Gavin whines, grabbing Ryan’s hands, dragging him close. “Why aren’t you dancing?” 

 

“I-I don’t know how,” Ryan stutters, feeling his face heat up at their close proximity. 

 

“It’s easy,” Gavin says in his ear, breath tickling the hairs on his neck, placing his hands on Ryan’s hips. “You just,” he starts to move Ryan’s hips in time with his own, slowly grinding each other, “do this.” 

 

Ryan starts to move on his own, Gavin’s hands giving his hips a little squeeze before they travel up his sides, and Ryan feels lightheaded. They continue to move in time, and Ryan feels like they’re in their own world, Gavin the only thing he sees, he hears, he feels. Gavin closes his eyes, feeling the motions, but Ryan doesn’t dare look away. He’s beautiful

 

Someone bumps into them and Gavin stumbles, face filling with anger. 

 

“What’s your problem?” He yells over the music, shoving at the guy that bumped into them. The guy shoves back, and Ryan watches with wide eyes as they step closer together. 

 

“C’mon Gav,” Ryan whispers, grabbing Gavin’s arm dragging him away, Gavin stumbling along behind him. “Holy shit you’re drunk, Gav.” 

 

“I had a few shots Rye-bread,” Gavin smiles, lopsided and Ryan’s heart stutters in his chest. 

 

“Let’s get you home,” he says, walking back over to the table. “Michael, Gavin’s a little too drunk. I’m taking him home.” 

 

“Sure,” Michael winks, waving them off. “Be good,” he says to Gavin, and Gavin rolls his eyes. Ryan blushes even brighter before dragging Gavin away again, out into the cool night outside. Gavin wraps his arms around himself, chattering his teeth loudly. 

 

“Bugger me it’s cold,” he groans, Ryan way too hot in his jacket, sliding it off and wrapping around his shoulders. Gavin tucks into it, humming happily, smiling softly up at Ryan. “Thanks Rye.” 

 

“Let’s just get you home, okay?” Ryan forces out, still too hot from inside, from Gavin’s body against his, and holy moly his dreams are gonna be weird tonight. He pulls Gavin over to his Zentoro, opening up the passenger door for him and buckling his seatbelt. 

 

“A true gentleman,” Gavin mumbles, and Ryan hops into the driver’s seat, driving in the direction of the penthouse. Gavin’s silent the whole ride, Ryan left to his thoughts. 

 

He taps on the wheel, face heating up as he pictures the inside of that club again, the pounding in his chest, the way Gavin looked up at him from under his eyelashes, throat bobbing as he swallowed, and- Ryan freezes, his fingers stopping in the middle of the beat, Ryan recognizing it as the song that was playing. What’s wrong with me? Ryan thinks, shaking his head of his thoughts and continuing to drive, car still quiet. 

 

When Ryan parks, he looks over to see Gavin asleep in his seat. Ryan reaches over and lightly shakes his shoulder, Gavin drowsily opening his eyes. “C’mon Gav, we’re at the penthouse.” 

 

“Carry me,” Gavin sticks his arms out, Ryan rolling his eyes. Gavin continues to make grabby-motions with his hands, and Ryan sighs, getting out and going over to the passenger side, opening the door and wrapping Gavin’s arms around his neck, sliding an arm under his knees before heaving him up. Ryan grunts, lightly kicking the door closed, wincing as it slams, and walks over to the elevator, Gavin tucking his head under Ryan’s chin. 

 

Ryan stands as still as he can as the elevator goes up, Gavin a light weight in his arms, and he tries not to wake him as he steps out of the elevator, as he walks into the living room, as he maneuvers to open Gavin’s bedroom door, as he tucks him into bed. 

 

But as he’s walking out of Gavin’s room, he hears Gavin’s voice. 

 

“I had fun tonight, rye,” Gavin whispers, and Ryan spins around, sending Gavin a smile. 

 

“Yeah, me too,” Ryan opens the door, walking out into the hallway. 

 

“Goodnight Ryan,” Gavin calls after him, Ryan sticking his head in the crack of the door.

 

“Goodnight Gav,” he murmurs as he closes the door, smile wider on his face. 

 

(he found his jacket the next morning on the back of his chair with a sticky note, a giant smiley-face on it. He stuck it to his rearview mirror.)

 

----

 

Ryan sticks his tongue out of his mouth as he focuses on his reflection, sink littered with dye supplies and black smudges that may or may not come off with some cleaner. He’ll figure it out later.  

 

His eyes are on the top of his head, a brush painting black onto his roots, squinting at himself in the mirror. 

 

“I didn’t know you were blonde.” 

 

Ryan jumps, eyes moving to Gavin in the doorway, his hip leaning against the door jamb.

 

“Well,” Ryan sighs, returning his attention back to his hair. “Blonde isn’t intimidating.” 

 

He watches as Gavin gawks at him in the mirror, Gavin’s eyes widening. 

 

“You don’t think I’m intimidating?” Gavin asks, offended, Ryan choking out a laugh. 

 

“Sure, take it that way,” he teases, rolling his eyes. “I meant it’s not intimidating for the Vagabond. It works for the Golden Boy.” 

 

“I was about to say,” Gavin smiles, leaning his against the open door. “I bloody wish I was naturally that blonde. My natural is too close to brown.” 

 

“Maybe with your look ,” Ryan applies another streak of black, another blonde strip hidden. “But it doesn’t really work for me.” 

 

“I think it does.” 

 

Ryan meets Gavin’s eyes in the mirror, who only shrugs. 

 

“You look good blonde, Rye.” 

 

Ryan’s face flushes pink, and he looks away, focusing on his hair again. 

 

“It’s getting too long,” he moves past Gavin’s compliment, willing the blush off his cheeks, Gavin smirking at him in the mirror. “I have to keep re-dyeing my roots.” 

 

“Then don’t,” Gavin says, as if it’s that simple, and leaves the bathroom, and Ryan’s half tempted to wash all the dye out.

 

----

 

Ryan jolts up in bed, sweat dripping down his face as he takes deep breaths. It’s over, it was just a nightmare

 

He can feel the gun in his hand as if it were real, pointing at Gavin. They were there again, in that small, dingy room where they met, the computer ticking beside Gavin. But Ryan didn’t hesitate this time.

 

Ryan closes his eyes, shoulders shaking slightly as he rests on his elbows, shirt sticking to his chest. Gavin’s body drops to the ground, blood streaming down his face from in between his eyes, and Ryan walks away, continues like nothing ever happened.

 

“Fuck,” Ryan mumbles, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, pressing his elbows into his knees, head in his hands. You didn’t kill him, it was just a dream , he tells himself, breath catching in his throat. What if he had? Why did he hesitate that first time?

 

Ryan’s body is stock still, a wave of coldness running through his blood. “I need some air,” he says to himself, standing up from his bed, walking out into the hallway. He spots the light on in the kitchen, the distinct light-blue hue of the bar lights, and Ryan’s brow furrows, walking further into the room. 

 

With his back turned to Ryan, Michael sits at the bar, head in his hands. Ryan looks over Michael’s shoulder at the stove, the red light reading 2:38. 

 

“What are you doing up so late?” Ryan asks, Michael jumping around, hand on his heart, stumbling where he sits on the stool.

 

“Fucking christ Ryan,” Michael gasps, catching his breath. “I didn’t even hear you.” 

 

“What are you doing up so late?” Ryan asks again, walking around the bar into the kitchen, sparing a look at Michael over his shoulder. His phone is face down on the counter, a glass beside him with a drop of something Ryan recognizes as scotch left in it. 

 

“Couldn’t sleep,” Michael shrugs, placing his hands on the counter, tapping his fingers softly. Ryan hums and faces the cabinets, pulling out a mug, pausing, and then grabbing another, the one with the Minecraft diamond sword on it, turning on the Keurig on the counter. 

 

“Something keeping you up?” Ryan reaches into the cabinet, pulling down the box of tea, Gavin’s favorite , reaching in and pulling out two bags. He can almost hear the gears winding in Michael’s head, giving him privacy as he doesn’t look at him, attention solely on making the tea. 

 

“Do you ever wonder why you did something?” 

 

Ryan pauses, eyes widening as he places his hands on the counter, shoulders stiff. Jesus christ , he thinks, swallowing before continuing with the tea, setting a mug underneath the stream of hot water. 

 

“Alot,” Ryan answers honestly, hearing Michael’s hum from behind him. Ryan puts the other mug under and presses the button, the only sound heard is the hot water hitting the cool glass. “Something on your mind?” 

 

Michael doesn’t answer, and Ryan doesn’t expect him to, but his brows furrow anyway. What’s keeping Michael up? Ryan muses it could be anything, with their line of business. But then it clicks, and he spins around, meeting Michael’s eyes. 

 

“Is this about the heist?” He can picture it now, his heart jumping to his throat as screams take over the com, an explosion rocking the ground, eyes meeting Jeremy’s next to him, equally as concerned. But then there’s voices, Gavin complaining that Michael set off a charge too close to him, Michael yelling back that he shouldn’t be an idiot and be too close, Geoff cutting everyone off. He remembers the debriefing, making away with a quarter mil, Michael racing off as soon as he got the chance. 

 

Michael doesn’t answer, but after a moment, he nods slowly, head drooping. Ryan sighs, spinning around and grabbing the mugs, slipping the tea bags into them and walking over to the bar, sliding one of the mugs over to Michael, stopping right in front of where his head hangs. 

 

“I could’ve killed him,” Michael mutters, barely a whisper, but Ryan hears it, throat constricting. “I could’ve killed him ,” He says again, meeting Ryan’s eyes. “Why did I set it off? I knew he was close, but I thought….” He shakes his head, face turning angry. “I wasn’t thinking, fucking clearly.” 

 

“But you didn’t kill him,” Ryan points out, Michael sending him a look. “Listen, Michael, I’m not the best at... this ,” Ryan points to his mouth, earning a dry chuckle from Michael, and Jack would be so much better at this. “But,” Ryan continues, turning his gaze to the warm mug in his hands, “I know some stuff, so I’m just gonna tell you what I think.” 

 

He pauses for a moment, thinking about that gun in his hand, about Gavin’s smirk as he looked him over that first time, daring him to shoot. 

 

“We’ve all done some pretty bad things,” Ryan starts, and Michael doesn’t cut him off like he expects him to, something like well duh, Ryan, we’re criminals. But no, it’s silent, and Michael’s listening , breathing steady. “We’ve all had close calls, we’ve all hesitated when we shouldn’t have and didn’t shoot when we should have. But… I think everything happens for a reason. That things were meant to happen how they happened.” 

 

He looks up at Michael, at the open look on his face, a pang in his chest. “We all got out relatively unscatched,” Ryan continues, eyes locked with Michael’s, “and now you know what’s too close and not, right?” 

 

Michael nods numbly, and a small smile makes it’s way onto Ryan’s face as Michael wraps his hands around the mug in front of him. 

 

“You can’t...you can’t think about the what ifs, Michael,” Ryan sighs, leaning his elbows onto the bar. “Our lives are too short to think about what could’ve been, what could’ve happened. Especially in our... career .” There’s a hesitant tone in the last word, Michael bursting out laughing, something genuine about it that has Ryan laughing with him. 

 

“That’s one way of putting it,” Michael smiles, wide and bright, Ryan’s one matching. They are silent for a minute, Ryan taking a sip of his tea, smiling behind the lip as Michael looks down at the mug. 

 

“Thank you,” Michael says under his breath, glancing up and meeting Ryan’s eyes. “You, uh...you helped.” 

 

“Well,” Ryan shrugs, cheeks twinging warm, “just don’t tell anyone. I got a reputation to uphold.” 

 

Michael rolls his eyes, sitting up straighter, looking more like himself. “I think you threw that out the window when you quoted Hamlet when you were doing that interrogation.” 

 

“It was Macbeth!”

 

“My point exactly!”  

 

They both look at each other before falling into fits of laughter, the memory of the nightmare suddenly gone from Ryan’s mind, something happier taking it’s place.

 

----


The world is silent around Ryan’s Zentoro, the dim moonlight coming in through the windshield, just barely lighting Ryan and Gavin in the car, hours into their stakeout, the only noise in the quiet night. 

 

“My turn,” Gavin smiles, lifting his feet onto the dashboard, bag of pretzels crinkling in his lap. 

 

“Okay,” Ryan sighs softly, relaxing against his seat. “Shoot.” 

 

“What’s your full name?” 

 

Ryan turns in his seat to look at Gavin, Gavin turning to face him at the exact same time.

 

“Once again, this game is stupid,” Ryan says, facing forward again. 

 

“Oh c’mon Rye, it’s just your name. I thought you trusted us!” 

 

After a moment, Gavin pokes Ryan’s shoulder, Ryan not moving. “ Ryan. ” Gavin pokes his shoulder again, Ryan tilting his head at Gavin with a sigh. 

 

“James Ryan Haywood,” Ryan mutters, Gavin’s face lighting up before his eyebrows furrow. 

 

“Your middle name is Ryan? Why not go by James?” 

 

“It’s my turn Gav,” Ryan cuts him off, Gavin rolling his eyes but smiling nonetheless. “Okay, what’s your full name?” 

 

“Ryan,” Gavin starts, feet flopping onto the floor of the car as his sits up, turning to fully face Ryan, “you already know my last name! What’s the fun in that?” Ryan stares at Gavin, Gavin sighing audibly. “Fine, it’s Gavin David Free.” 

 

Ryan hums, letting the answer wash over him. “David, hm?” 

 

“It’s a family name,” Gavin explains, a wide smile taking over his face again. “Alright, my turn. Why don’t you go by James?” 

 

Ryan looks out the windshield, on the dark warehouse they’re supposed to be watching, taking slow breaths. He wishes he had his mask right now.

 

“My dad picked it,” Ryan continues to look out the window at the empty building, “but he was a racist, homophobic piece of shit from backwoods Georgia that didn’t know how to be a good person, let alone raise a son.” 

 

It’s silent in the car, Ryan hearing the leather adjust as Gavin sits back, facing the building as well. 

 

“I like Ryan better anyway,” he says, Ryan turning his head to look at him. 

 

Ryan’s hit with the memory of when he told Gavin his name, the way it sounded so foreign on his tongue yet so right.

 

“It doesn’t fit though,” Ryan can’t help but bring up, Gavin’s eyes immediately meeting his. “It’s too normal.”  

 

“What are you... oh ,” Gavin eyes widen. He pauses before leaning forward onto the center console, Ryan acutely aware of how close he is. “I didn't think you’d still remember that….Look, what I said...that was a long time ago. But, Ryan, it suits you, it does.”  

 

They stare at each other for a moment, Ryan’s face flushing as he turns away, eyes on the building again. 

 

“Thanks?” He attempts, getting a laugh from Gavin as he sits back in his chair. 

 

“Of course Rye,” Gavin says, the smile visible in his voice. There’s a lull in conversation, a nice silence, Ryan listening to Gavin breathing softly. 

 

“In England,” Gavin speaks up, Ryan looking over at him, “my parents forced me, when I was 8, to live with my Grandfather so they could travel the world. I never saw them again. I had to learn Italian just to speak to him, but he became my everything.” 

 

Gavin sighs, and Ryan reaches out, placing a hand on Gavin’s knee. He looks up at Ryan, and Ryan nods, signalling him to continue. 

 

“He passed away when I was 17, and I had nothing. I became a hacker, and well, after a few years, I messed with the wrong people. So I left, a one-way ticket to the USA. Ended up in a dumb place called Vice City, no money, no one I knew, a foreigner.”

“I’m sorry, Gavin,” Ryan says, and he means it. Gavin smiles, placing his hand on top of Ryan’s. 

 

“It’s okay, it lead me here. It lead me to you.” 

 

They’re both silent for a moment, just smiling at each other, the moonlight just lighting Gavin’s face so Ryan can see his soft smile, his heart pounding in his chest at their stacked hands.

 

“My mom died when I was young,” Ryan starts, voice quiet. “I was an only child, just me and my dad. He was a ‘man’s man’, and wanted me to be the same. When he found out I was gay…” 

 

Ryan closes his eyes, taking a deep breath, feeling Gavin’s fingers intertwine with his, giving his hand a squeeze. 

 

“When he found out I was gay,” Ryan opens his eyes again, Gavin watching him, “he threatened to kill my boyfriend.”

 

“Christ,” Gavin breathes, squeezing Ryan’s hand harder. “I got lucky,” Gavin mumbles, chuckling softly. “I got to experience everything freely in England. My grandfather didn’t understand much, but he wanted me to be happy.” 

 

“Must’ve been nice,” Ryan can’t help but mutter, turning to look out the window, “havin’ someone that cared about you.” Gavin tugs at his hand, Ryan looking at Gavin again.

 

“You do now, Ryan, even if we’re not blood. We’re your family.” Gavin squeezes his hand again, a warmth radiating through Ryan as he smiles, Gavin smiling back.   

 

“Ryan look,” Gavin whispers after a moment of just silently staring at each other, moving his hand to point out the windshield, Ryan following his finger to a light in the warehouse. “I guess it is being used. We should head back to tell Geoff.” 

 

“Yeah,” Ryan nods, moving his hand off Gavin’s knee and grabbing the wheel, putting the car in reverse, missing the warmth under his fingertips. “I guess we should.” 

 

Gavin pokes Ryan’s shoulder once again, and Ryan looks over, Gavin giving him a wide smile, Ryan returning one, and maybe he’s glad he isn’t wearing his mask.

 

----

 

“You’re cheating!” 

 

Jeremy reaches across the table, grabbing a fistful of Gavin’s shirt, Gavin just smirking at him. “Stop fucking cheating you little bastard!” 

 

The sit around a small, square, fold-out table, the one they deemed the “ game table” . There’s a ludicrous amounts of dicks and curses carved into the cheap plastic, Ryan’s diet Coke sitting close to a wide hole in the table, marking it as his side. Ryan smiles to himself as he looks down at it, remembering Geoff’s face as Ryan stabbed his knife through, Geoff’s eyes wide as he called Ryan a creepy motherfucker.

 

“Wot! I don’t cheat lil’ J,” Gavin smiles up at Jeremy, the Golden Boy leaking into his tone, “I wouldn’t, honest.” 

 

“Then how the fuck are you so good at knowing what my cards are, Gavin?!” 

 

Ryan spares a look at Michael, who’s just watching the two of them with a fond smile on his face, and looks back over, Gavin’s shoulders by his ears as he shrugs. 

 

“I’m sorry you’re just easy to read Jeremy ,” he says, Jeremy’s face getting redder with anger, “that sounds like a problem you need to work on.” 

 

“I’m gonna kill you,” he says, letting go of Gavin’s shirt, settling back into his seat. “I’m gonna fucking kill you someday.” 

 

“Join the club,” Michael huffs, Gavin looking at him with wide eyes.

 

“Boi!” He exclaims, Michael shrugging.

 

“Sorry boi, but sometimes I want to kill you.” 

 

“Geoff says that all the time,” Ryan pipes up, looking back at his cards. “I don’t know why you’re surprised people want to kill you.” 

 

“You don’t want to kill me, right Rye-bread?” 

 

“Well,” Ryan starts, Michael and Jeremy bursting out laughing at the look on Gavin’s face. 

 

“Ryan!” He cries, Ryan meeting his eyes. 

 

“Only sometimes!” Ryan explains, Gavin sinking down in his chair. 

 

“Man,” Jeremy says, setting down his glass, “I’m out of beer.” 

 

“I bet I could do more shots than you lil’ J,” Gavin taunts, Jeremy taking the bait and jumping out of his seat. 

 

“Oh yeah, let’s go then.” 

 

They both smile at each other before racing into the kitchen, knocking over a chair in their wake. 

 

“Why’d we get stuck with them while Jack and Geoff get to go to a party,” Ryan asks Michael, who sets down his cards and shrugs, popping his neck. 

 

“Eh, but I know you’re probably not too upset about it.” Ryan raises an eyebrow, Michael rolling his eyes. “Ryan, everyone sees how you look at Gavin, we’re not dumb.” 

 

Ryan’s face flushes, and he looks down at his cards again, setting them flat on the table. 

 

“Like how you look at Jeremy?” Ryan brings up, Michael sending him a look. 

 

“Let’s not change the subject, alright you little shit?” 

 

“It’s not like Gavin feels anything towards me, anyway,” Ryan continues, Michael kicking his feet up onto Jeremy’s chair. 

 

“Ryan,” Michael starts, rolling his eyes. “Tell me you’re not this dim.” They’re silent for a moment, Michael’s eyes widening. “Oh, holy shit, you are that dim. I thought you were a nerd?!” 

 

“You’re the one that calls me a nerd,” Ryan says under his breath, sighing. “What are you even talking about, Michael? Gavin acts the same with everyone.” 

 

He looks into the kitchen, Michael following his gaze, Gavin on Jeremy’s back as they reach onto the cabinets where the Fireball sits, Jack putting it there for safe keeping. To keep away from the children , she had said. 

 

“Dude,” Michael starts again, sincerity in his tone, “Gavin has taken you practically on every job he’s done. You’ve noticed, right?”

 

“He said you’ve been too busy,” Ryan explains, leaning back in his chair. 

 

No , Gavin has been demanding you join. Geoff gives me and Jeremy jobs to do in the meantime. I’m never too busy. ” 

 

Ryan furrows his brows, looking back over at Gavin again, at the smile on his face as he finally gets the Fireball down.

 

“C’mon Rye,” Michael gets in his line of sight, rolling his eyes. “Goddamn, we’re all idiots. Look dude, just tell him how you feel.” 

 

“What if he doesn’t feel the same?” Ryan asks, voice small, and Michael grabs his drink again, taking a sip. 

 

“I thought you said not to think about the what ifs,” Michael points out, Ryan rolling his eyes. “Listen, Ryan, I’m not gonna sit here and convince you to tell Gavin how you feel,” Michael sighs, leaning forward onto the table, looking directly in Ryan’s eyes. 

 

“But I got a what if for you,” Michael continues, never looking away, something soft in his eyes, Ryan swallowing under his gaze. “Yeah, what if he doesn’t like you, but what if he does ?” 

 

Ryan freezes, Michael leaning back in his chair again, taking another sip of his beer. Ryan turns and looks into the kitchen, at Gavin and Jeremy laughing as they take shot after shot, the thought going through his mind. What if he does?

 

----

 

“Jesus Christ Gavin watch out!” 

 

Ryan looks over from his spot on the hood of his Zentoro to see Gavin run, head back laughing, as the spot he was running from is lit with flames, a firework shooting up into the sky. 

 

“Your dumbass almost got burnt!” Michael yells, no real malice in it, storming over to Gavin and giving him a light shove. 

 

“I wanted to film it coming out of the tube!” Gavin exclaims, waving his phone in the air. “It would look wicked in slo mo!” 

 

“Once again, you’re a dumbass,” Michael sighs, shaking his head before shoving Gavin again, Gavin bursting into squawks of indignation. 

 

“Micool!” 

 

“Stop being a dumbass Gavin,” Geoff says lazily from his lawn chair a few feet in front of Ryan, Geoff’s hand linked with Jack’s between their seats, Jack’s head tilted towards the sky. 

 

“Where are the orange and purple ones Michael?” Jeremy calls, rustling through a bag of fireworks by the cooler, Michael making his way over. 

 

“Well don’t just shake everything around,” he grumbles, pushing Jeremy aside. “There’s snap-bangs in there. Is everyone an idiot?” 

 

“Pretty much,” Jack replies, Geoff chuckling softly. 

 

“Rye-bread isn’t,” Gavin smiles as he sidles up next to Ryan, Ryan feeling his warmth as their shoulders press together. Gavin turns to him, holding a diet Coke out. Ryan takes it, giving Gavin a nod as he pops the cap, taking a sip. 

 

“It’s pretty innit Rye?” 

 

Ryan looks to his right at Gavin, who’s watching the sky as more fireworks go off, the different colors reflected in his eyes and the sunglasses resting on his head, genuine smile wide on his face. 

 

“I guess so,” Ryan jokes, facing forward again, Michael flipping him off as he rushes away from a just-lit firework. 

 

“Fuck you too Ryan,” he grumbles, taking a seat in his own chair. Ryan watches the firework sail into the sky, bursting into an array of orange and purple. 

 

“Rimmy Tim!” Jeremy screams gleefully, Geoff’s laughter making it’s way to where Ryan sits, a comfortable smile on his face. 

 

“You know,” Gavin whispers, leaning away just to bump his shoulder against Ryan’s, “Michael made that for Jeremy.” 

 

Ryan looks back over at where Michael sits, leaning out of his chair as Jeremy stands, eyes on the sky, Jeremy looking over at Michael with the biggest grin on his face. 

 

“Isn’t that sweet?” Gavin says, leaning back onto his elbows, Ryan returning his attention to the sky above them. 

 

“It is,” Ryan agrees, laying on his back, feet flat against the dirt ground of the mountain. Gavin follows suit, pressing his body flush against Ryan’s side, sending electricity through his veins. 

 

“I feel like I have you to thank for this, Gav,” Ryan says after a moment, Gavin turning his head to face him, Ryan following suit. 

 

“Whatchu mean, Rye?” 

 

“You’re the reason Geoff offered me a job, correct?” 

 

Ryan just barely sees Gavin’s face flush in the colored lighting of the fireworks, Gavin forcing a shrug. 

 

“You’re too good to pass up, you know.” 

 

“Well,” Ryan smiles, bumping his shoulder against Gavin’s, “thank you. I never got to say it before.” 

 

“You earned yourself the job, Ryan,” Gavin points out, Ryan sighing. 

 

“You always have to argue, don’t you?” 

 

They both laugh, falling into a comfortable silence as it fades. Gavin looks up at the sky again, Ryan not letting the conversation be over.  

 

“Thank you,” Ryan says again, sincerity in his tone, Gavin turning to be face-to-face, Ryan’s eyes watching Gavin’s. “You’re the reason why I have a family now, why I have people I can trust.” 

 

Gavin smiles, intertwining his hand with Ryan’s and giving it a squeeze. “Of course, Rye. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.” 

 

He smiles at Ryan again before looking up at the sky, but Ryan keeps watching him, heart fluttering in his chest, words on the tip of his tongue. 

 

“Gavin I-” Ryan starts, Gavin slowly turning to face him, cut off as Jeremy yells excitedly. 

 

“Gavin, you’ve got to get over here! Film this!” 

 

Gavin shoots up, Ryan and Gavin’s hands unlinking as he slides off the hood of the Zentoro, starting to run but stopping, spinning around to face Ryan again. 

 

“You were gonna say something Rye?” Gavin asks, genuine interest on his face, but Ryan waves him off. 

 

“Go film whatever they want you to,” Ryan says instead, Gavin nodding before hurrying off, fumbling to pull his phone out of his pocket. 

 

Ryan watches as Gavin joins Michael and Jeremy, Jeremy holding two sparklers in his hands, Michael begrudgingly lighting them for him as Gavin watches, pulling out his phone, the words lingering on Ryan’s tongue. 

 

I think I love you .

 

Ryan watches as Jeremy waves around the sparklers, drawing a dick in the air, Michael shaking his head and Gavin laughing, face behind his phone. Ryan’s gaze shifts over to Jack and Geoff, just catching Geoff lean over the armrests to press a kiss to Jack’s forehead, Jack resting her head on his shoulder. 

 

Ryan looks back at Gavin and feels an urge in his chest, a want , but he just smiles, watching the night sky for now.

 

“I think I love you, Gavin,” Ryan whispers, and he means it.

 

----

 

It all happened too fast. 

 

One second, Ryan is swinging around his minigun, Gavin is laughing beside him. The next, Gavin’s on the ground, and all Ryan sees is red.  

 

It was like time stopped, frozen in that moment, Ryan’s eyes on the wound in Gavin’s stomach, blood seeping the concrete around him, his face scrunched up in pain. All Ryan could hear was his own heartbeat in his ears, tunnel vision on Gavin, Gavin, bleeding and dying and-

 

Ryan moved in slow-motion, minigun still lighting up the cops around him, bodies dropping like flies, eyes only on the concrete where Gavin laid.

 

When the shooting stopped, Ryan was finally able to crouch down and scoop Gavin up, the voices coming back into his ears. 

 

“Vagabond, come in, what’s-”  

 

“He’s been shot,” Ryan croaks before he hears anything, Gavin a dead weight in his arms. 

 

“Get him to the van, Rimmy Tim you…” Ryan hears Geoff say, tuning him out as he spots the van, Jack hopping out and opening up the back doors, Ryan climbing in, settling Gavin in his lap. He feels the car moving, eyes tracing Gavin’s face, eyes closed and breathing ragged. 

 

He vaguely remembers getting to the penthouse, Caleb already waiting with a stretcher, Jack and Ryan maneuvering Gavin onto it, his breathing still ragged but there and alive. He watches as Caleb and Jack push the stretcher into the elevator, Ryan following them in, something clicking in the back of his mind. 

 

He follows them into the floor renovated as a medic ward, Steffie meeting Caleb and Jack, spouting words that fly over Ryan’s head as they taking Gavin into a separate room, Ryan left standing outside, alone.  

 

His heart starts thudding as he pictures Gavin on the ground again, all the blood , and he could be dying , he could die.

 

Ryan slouches into the seat behind him, gripping the armrests as his eyes stare at the glass window into the room, seeing them get Gavin onto a flat table, Jack walking over to the window, covered in blood, and closing the blinds. Ryan looks down at his hands, Gavin’s blood all over them, and closes his eyes. 

 

He opens them again when there’s a hand on his shoulder, Geoff crouched in front of him. 

 

“You alright, Ryan?” 

 

Ryan looks around, the night sky seen through the window to his right, his mask on the table beside him, wondering when he took it off. 

 

“Is he okay?” Ryan croaks out, Geoff’s lips forming a line. 

 

“He’ll recover in the next few days,” he says, standing from his spot and sitting in the seat next to Ryan. “Got him good in the gut, but he’ll be on his feet again in no time.” 

 

Ryan lets the breath he didn’t know he was holding go, relief being immediately washed away as guilt settles in his bones. 

 

“It’s my fault,” he states, Geoff turning in his seat to face him. 

 

“Ryan-” 

 

“No, Geoff,” Ryan meets his gaze, face serious. “It is my fault. We were together. I was supposed to have his back.” 

 

“You can’t predict everything, Ryan,” Geoff argues, Ryan shaking his head. 

 

“But I could’ve done better ,” Ryan curses, putting his head in his hands. 

 

“Look, Ryan,” Geoff starts, Ryan’s gaze on the floor through the cracks in his fingers, “I know it doesn’t matter how many times I say it, you won’t believe you when I tell you it’s not your fault. But Gavin doesn’t think it’s your fault either, and that’s gotta mean something.” 

 

“How do you know that ?” Ryan looks up at him, Geoff shrugging. 

 

“I just do.” They’re silent for another few moments before Ryan hears Geoff sigh, placing a hand on Ryan’s shoulder. 

 

“Ryan, buddy. Go to your room and take a shower, okay? Get some sleep. Gavin will still be here in the morning.” 

 

Ryan nods numbly, shakily standing from his seat and walking over to the elevator, seeing Geoff pull out his phone, getting comfortable in the chair, before he steps in, the doors closing. Ryan watches the numbers tick up as he heads to the penthouse, guilt heavy in his gut, and he’s never ran to his room faster.

 

----

 

“You’ve been ignoring me.” 

 

Ryan looks up to see Gavin in his doorway, arms crossed over his chest. Ryan sits up straighter, shrugging, trying to act nonchalant. 

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he mutters, standing up from his bed and walking over to his closet, mindlessly looking through his shirts. 

 

“I think you know exactly what I’m talking about Rye ,” Gavin grumbles, stepping into the room and closing the door behind him, Ryan’s eyes steadily on the clothes in front of him. “I’ve been looking for you for the past 3 days but you’re always busy . Busy doing a job for Geoff, busy cleaning up some mess, busy scoping out locations.” Gavin storms over to Ryan, stepping in his line of sight. “I know you were just making up excuses not to see me, Haywood.” 

 

Ryan rolls his eyes and backs away, heading in the direction of his bed. 

 

“Ryan,” Gavin grabs Ryan’s elbow, “talk to me. Why have you been distant?” There’s silence, Ryan still not facing him, his heart racing, and Gavin lets go, taking a step back. “Did I do something?” 

 

Ryan spins around at that, eyes wide at the look on Gavin’s face - crushed.  

 

“No, Gav, it’s not that,” Ryan assures him, reaching forward but deciding against it, taking a deep breath. “You didn’t do anything.” 

 

“Then what is it ,” Gavin steps forward, Ryan putting a hand up to stop him. “Ryan, talk to me. You know you can tell me anything.”

 

“You almost died , Gavin,” Ryan hesitates, taking a shaky breath. 

 

“That’s what we sign up for Ryan,” Gavin points out, Ryan refusing to look at him. “I mean,” Gavin continues, “ you almost die all the time. So does everyone else!” 

 

“It’s different, ” Ryan mumbles. 

 

“Why?” Gavin asks, voice soft, but Ryan can’t answer, can’t get the words off his tongue. Because the thought of you dying kills me. Ryan’s silent again, eyes on the floor, Gavin sighing. 

 

“Ryan. Ryan. ” Gavin huffs, Ryan shaking his head as he looks up at Gavin again. “Ryan, please, c’mon.” 

 

Silence

 

“For christ’s sake Ryan just-” 

 

“You made me break my rules Gavin! Don’t you get that?” Ryan erupts, Gavin’s eyebrows shooting up to his hairline, something so infuriating attractive in it that Ryan has to look away. 

 

“Rules? What rules, Ryan?” Gavin approaches him again, and this time, Ryan doesn’t stop him.

 

Ryan’s gaze is directed at the floor, hands tightly gripping his hair before sliding down his face, covering his eyes.

 

“What rules ?” Gavin asks again, serious but also curious , and Ryan uncovers his eyes, face burning red. 

 

“Fuck,” he whispers, shaking his head, Gavin staring at him in confusion. 

 

“Ryan-” 

 

“Goddamnit Gavin I’m in love with you! ” Ryan all but screams, the room eerily silent, Gavin’s face full of shock. 

 

Ryan turns away, taking a deep breath, before facing Gavin again. “I have a rule to never fall in love, and yet here I am, in love with you . I have all these rules and you caused me to break every. Single. One. Don’t you get that?” 

 

Ryan stares at Gavin for another moment before sighing and closing his eyes.

 

“You know what? Forget it.” Ryan pushes past a shocked Gavin, storming out of his room, slamming the door behind him.

 

----

 

Ryan sits on the roof, legs dangling off the side of the building, jacket stripped off and sitting beside him as the evening breeze blows gently on his skin. The ponytail is long gone from his hair, face tired but still burning from embarrassment. Stupid. Stupid! Of course he wouldn’t feel the same as you. Idiot!

 

A horn beeps down below him, the city alive and bustling, and Ryan envies it. He wishes he was down there, wishes he wasn’t apart of the Fake AH Crew for just a moment . He wishes he wasn’t a criminal, wishes he wasn’t in love with a coworker, wasn’t in love with Gavin.

 

Gavin, who stumbles over his own two feet, who frees his wrists out of zipties with just a shrug and a wink. Gavin , whose eyes are so beautiful , skin so soft , hair so golden . Gavin, whose laugh cures any pain Ryan’s ever felt, whose smile is comparable to the sun, who is so smart and funny and too amazing for Ryan. Too amazing to ever love him back.  

 

“Fuck me,” Ryan groans, burying his face in his hands. Jesus, everything is fucked up.

 

“At least take me to dinner first.” 

 

Ryan whips around at the sound, spotting Gavin at the door to the roof, arms behind his back, rocking on his feet. Ryan sighs and faces forward again, shaking his head. 

 

“What do you want, Gavin?” He asks tiredly, the sound of Gavin’s footsteps getting closer to him. 

 

“I think we should chat,” Gavin says nonchalantly, plopping down beside Ryan.

 

“About?” Ryan shrugs, closing his eyes. Let’s just get this over with.  

 

“Do you remember the Casino Heist? The one at the White Stars Casino?” 

 

Ryan looks over at Gavin, sees his eyes on the sky in front of them, face relaxed. 

 

“You were shot, and got separated from everyone,” Gavin continues when Ryan doesn’t say anything. “Remember? I had to patch you up?” 

 

“Gavin,” Ryan says tiredly. Gavin twists his body to face him, lips in a firm line. 

 

Ryan, ” Gavin warns, “let me finish. Do you remember?” 

 

“Yeah,” Ryan closes his eyes, willing the pounding of his heart away. Just tell me you don’t love me, Gavin. He feels Gavin place a hand on his, resisting the urge to turn over his palm and take Gavin’s hand.

 

“Ryan, look at me,” Gavin pleads, and Ryan’s eyes burst open, eyebrows furrowed.

 

Gavin takes a deep breath but doesn’t move his hand from Ryan’s, a gentle warmth. 

 

“That was the night you told me- all of us, your name. Do you remember that?” 

 

“Of course I do,” Ryan sighs, “what does this have to do with anything?” 

 

“That night,” Gavin swallows, looking at Ryan deeply, “I was going to ask you something. I.. christ, this would be easier if I was drunk.” 

 

Gavin closes his eyes, giving Ryan’s hand a squeeze, Ryan’s attention solely on Gavin, heart thudding in his chest.

 

“I was going to ask you why you saved me those years ago,” Gavin mumbles, looking away. “But Geoff called and I...I chickened out.” 

 

Ryan sits there, silently watching Gavin. Gavin twists to look at him, taking his hand away and fidgeting with them in his lap. 

 

“But I realized, now that I think about it, I don’t need to know why, because I kind of already know? Because, if I think about, it’s because that’s just who you are. I mean, you’re completely different from when I met you, but...not really? Like, the Ryan that spared me all those years ago...he’s sitting right in front of me, but he feels so much more like a person and not a mystery , now.” 

 

Gavin’s eyes trace Ryan’s face, Ryan watching him carefully.

 

“And as I started to think about all this,” Gavin continues, pulling his knees to his chest, “I thought about that night again. And how I was so scared. You walked in bloody and injured, and...I…”

 

He looks away again, Ryan placing a comforting hand on Gavin’s knee. Gavin’s eyes shoot up to meet Ryan’s, and Ryan musters a reassuring smile, heart in his throat as Gavin’s stress lessens. 

 

“I realized I love you too, Ryan. And I think I have for a while.” 

 

Ryan freezes, eyes widening, feeling as if the wind got knocked out of him. 

 

“I should’ve realized sooner,” Gavin pushes on, forcing a laugh. “And honestly, I think a part of me knew? I don’t want you to get hurt, I can’t imagine joking with anyone else, and I mean, you’re amazing. I thought it was just sexual attraction at first, and then a little crush, but I thought it would go away, but, it didn’t? My feelings actually got worse? Or..or stronger, you know. I just...I know that you mean more to me in a way that different than anything I’ve ever felt, and I know I’m not very experienced in the ‘love’ department, but my gut says that that’s what this is.” 

 

Ryan is barely listening, eyes staring into Gavin’s, same montra repeating in his head; he’s in love with you, he’s in love with you, he’s in love with you.

 

“Don’t act so surprised,” Gavin laughs, face flushing. “ You told me the same thing a few hours ago. We’re honestly both big, bloody idiots.”

 

“You’re in love with me?” Ryan blurts, so puzzled that Gavin busts out laughing, Ryan’s face burning red. 

 

“Yes, Rye ,” Gavin smiles, reaching out and giving Ryan’s hands a squeeze. “That is what I said.” 

 

“But,” Ryan stares at Gavin, beautiful Gavin, confusion taking over his mind. “Me? You’re in love with me.” 

 

“Oh my god Ryan,” Gavin giggles, taking his hands from Ryan’s and cupping Ryan’s face instead, pulling him into a kiss. Ryan relaxes into the kiss, grabbing the front of Gavin’s shirt, heart thundering in his chest. 

 

They pull away, out of breath, and Ryan can’t help the giant grin that takes over his face. 

 

“So you’re really in love with me,” Ryan repeats, the idea not processing in his head that someone like Gavin is in love with someone like Ryan.

 

“I guess I did have a few hours to unravel the mystery that is you being in love with me ,” Gavin muses, connecting his hands behind Ryan’s neck, “so I guess I’ll let you repeating it slide.” They smile at each other, Ryan savoring every inch of Gavin with his eyes, heart so full it feels like it’ll explode out of his chest. Gavin loves him too.  

 

“We really are idiots, aren’t we?” Ryan laughs, Gavin sighing fondly. 

 

“Maybe just a tad,” he mumbles, pulling Ryan in for another kiss.

 

----

 

“Havin’ fun?” 

 

Ryan looks over as Gavin approaches, a diet Coke in one hand and a beer in the other, handing the diet Coke to Ryan. 

 

Ryan glances around, leaning a little further onto the railing as the yacht sails, Geoff and Jack lounging on beach chairs together, hands linked, Michael and Jeremy splashing around in the hottub, laughter loud as they wrestle. The sun is just starting to set, a beautiful orange and pink sky as the wind blows lightly, the water rushing against the white sides of the boat, the scent filling Ryan’s nose. 

 

His gaze goes back to Gavin in front of him, an arm resting on the railing, tanned skin glistening in the soft sunlight, grin lighting up his whole face, a sense of warmth filling Ryan’s body. 

 

“Yeah,” Ryan smiles, looping an arm around Gavin’s waist, pulling him closer. “I am.”