In all, joining the Fake AH Crew was Ryan’s best career choice so far. He didn't think he’d ever enjoyed a job so much. The pay was great, the heists exhilarating in their absurdity, and none of his coworkers had that attitude of taking themselves too seriously that tended to lead to feelings getting hurt and people getting shot.
There were but very few things that caused him grievous annoyance in his day to day life: the couch he was forced to sit on to do paperwork because Ramsey was an asshole who refused to buy him a desk, the plans that involved far too many parachutes to be reasonable-
And Gavin fucking Free.
“Our resident twink,” to Geoff and Jack, “My boi,” to Michael, “Vav,” to Ray, “Ramsey’s brat,” to most of the Achievement City criminal underworld, and “Asshole extraordinaire,” to Ryan, who quite frankly did not believe the man had any redeeming features whatsoever.
“He grows on you,” Michael had said when he caught Ryan shooting Gavin filthy looks one day, to which Ryan could only respond, “Mould grows on things.”
In his head, of course, because that was before he knew Michael all that well and was unsure exactly how sacred the bond of boiship was between the two of them, and he liked Michael enough to not want to get into a fight.
Honestly, though, it had been eight going on nine months by now, and the only thing that had been growing was Ryan’s desire to fucking throttle the other man.
This vehement irritation was not unfounded; rather, it was the result of a series of incredibly unfortunate bad encounters Ryan had had with him since first joining the crew, all of which had left him with one thing: an abiding, immovable dislike of Gavin Free.
Case 1: The horrific first impression.
The thing was, their first meeting hadn’t even started off that badly. Ryan was actually excited to get to know the Fake AH Crew; they were, after all, the biggest names in Achievement City. Ryan himself had reputation to spare and no lack of nicknames - Mad Mercenary, Vagabond, Black Skull - he was pretty much the most notorious assassin in the country at the moment. It was no wonder that when Ramsey heard he was in the area, he’d offered him a job.
Ryan usually worked alone but he was no fool; Ramsey’s empire was only growing and his crew’s exploits were simultaneously hilarious and impressive. Of course he wanted in.
His first day on the job coincided with a small bank robbery Geoff had planned - “To see how you fit in,” he’d explained, when telling Ryan when and where to meet them - and Ryan was almost nervous when he showed up.
Not about the job, never about the job. He was confident enough in his own skills to know he could pull it off.
But the Fake AH Crew were a close-knit bunch, he knew that much, and he felt a little too much like the new kid on the block. For all his fearsome reputation, part of him really, really wanted to make a good first impression, so naturally-
Naturally he showed up mask-on, semiautomatic in hand and dressed completely in black leather, so as to look as fucking menacing as possible.
(Not a safety blanket. Not a safety blanket at all. It was theatre, that was all - he knew what they were expecting and he had to dress the part. If the costume was something reassuring to hide behind, well, that was just a bonus.)
As it turned out, the Fake AH Crew were lounging about in their safe house looking far more laid-back than he’d imagined; Narvaez was perched on the edge of the table eating Wicked Wings and merely raised an eyebrow at Ryan’s get-up when he walked in, before licking his fingers and giving him a casual sort of wave. Ryan was taken by surprise and then rather awkwardly waved back.
And they were… nice, surprisingly; Geoff introduced him to everyone, these people he’d heard so much about but never met in person. Jack, pilot and getaway driver, who shook Ryan’s hand with a firm grip and a welcoming smile, not put out at all by the fact that he was standing there all in black looking like the Grim Reaper.
“Kinky,” Michael Jones said when he saw all the leather - Ryan raised an eyebrow at him under the mask; the FAHC’s main muscle was looking at him appraisingly, but with something friendly in it, and after a moment he continued, “So whose funeral is it?”
“I guess we’ll find out,” Ryan replied, and Michael laughed, nodding approvingly. Ryan decided he liked him immediately.
And then, of course, there was Gavin, Ramsey’s infamous thief, responsible for planning the most complicated of the robberies, the ones that involved more than just going into a bank guns blazing. He was sitting cross-legged on the floor sharpening a knife, and when he looked up at Ryan and waved, Ryan wasn’t quite sure what to think. The other man was wearing a pair of gold-rimmed sunglasses despite the fact that they were indoors in a fairly dark room, and without being able to see his eyes Ryan couldn’t read his face.
“Good to have you here, Haywood,” Geoff announced, clapping his hands together. “If it all goes well today I’m excited to see what else we can pull off together.”
It was funny sometimes having such a fearsome reputation; all of them knew a hell of a lot about each other just from the stories, but Ryan knew things were always quite different in person. As it was, he just nodded - a little guarded still, wanting to scope out what they were all actually like to work out how he could fit in here.
“And you,” Geoff added, pointing warningly at Gavin, “Stickyfingers, no robbing the new guy.”
Gavin crossed his heart then kissed the tips of his fingers, but Geoff continued to stare sternly at him.
“I mean it. Hands to yourself or he’ll probably cut them off.”
“Nah,” Ryan piped up, amused. “I mean, there are funner things to cut off a guy than hands.”
Michael and Geoff crowed with laughter; Ray and Jack chuckling as well, and Ryan couldn’t help feeling oddly warmed.
The bank heist went very well at first. The people in there were rightfully terrified when the Fake AH Crew strode in - but when they noticed Ryan with them they went dead silent, all eyes falling away from him, barely daring to look up off the floor.
He knew that this first job was Geoff making a statement. The Vagabond’s in town and he’s with us now. They didn’t even make an effort to avoid the security cameras, and Ryan, catching on to Ramsey’s intentions, made a point of looking at every single one of them.
Still. Where the others had been jokey before, actually seeing him in action subdued them a little, especially in the shootout that ensued when the police rocked up. He caught Michael and Ray shooting him wide-eyed glances, Geoff with his lips pressed together looking impressed, all of finally seeming at least a little daunted by his prowess.
(He supposed he couldn’t blame them; maybe he did show off a little - it was probably a bit unnecessary to shoot someone with a flare gun and set them on fire, but, you know. Theatre.)
And he was enjoying himself, more than he had in a long time - he’d worked alone for the last few months, the last few years pretty much, and there were a hell of a lot of reasons why he preferred to do so. But these guys - these guys were something different; the earpieces were full of banter and they were obviously close enough that there was no chance of someone double crossing the rest of them. He was having a surprising amount of fun-
Until Gavin smoke-bombed him.
They were wrapping up, half the police taken care of but the rest closing in, although the crew were still well in control. Ryan had moved away from the others a little and was taking careful aim at the fuel tank of one of the cop cars, half paying attention to the rabble in his ear.
“-made a dog’s dinner of that guy,” Gavin was saying, followed by a loud retching noise and then a laugh from Michael.
“Yeah, grenades do that to people.”
“Time to fall back everyone,” Geoff announced. “Haywood, you too - there’s a getaway car through that alley near you, get moving.”
“I’ve got some smoke bombs left,” Gavin piped up, “Should cover us.”
“Go for it,” Geoff said.
Ryan took the shot and the car exploded in a ball of fire. He moved out from behind the wall he was crouched behind and turned towards the alley only to flinch when something clattered at his feet. He looked down and barely had time to register the grenade before he was suddenly engulfed in a cloud of black smoke.
“Fuck!” he yelled, stumbling back.
His eyes were stinging so badly that he couldn’t even open them; was forced to stagger blindly out, coughing and choking, his chest seizing up so badly that it hurt.
“Oh shit,” he heard Gavin say, and then-
“Haywood, what’s wrong?” Geoff.
A bullet whistled past, close enough to nick the skin on his neck, and he spun around and fired wildly. Heard a yell as the cop who’d shot at him dropped to the ground.
He took two steps but he still couldn’t breathe and dropped to his knees, breaking into a coughing fit. Tears were streaming down his face, sticky and greasy as they took half his face paint with them, and all he could smell was the smoke, thick and acrid, making his head pound and his throat close up-
He needed to take his mask off.
He couldn’t fucking breathe and without thinking about it he reached up and ripped it off his face, sucking in gasps of fresh air as he fell forward, bracing himself against the ground. He couldn’t stop coughing, and his eyes were still stinging like hell. He forced himself to push through the pain, squinting, and saw a blurry figure rush towards him.
“Jesus Christ, Haywood,” Geoff said, crouching beside him. He wrapped an arm around Ryan’s waist and heaved him to his feet, dragging him through the alley and towards the car.
“Fuck, are you okay?” he heard Ray ask - couldn’t find the breath to answer him. Geoff opened the car door and he clambered inside, Ray getting in after him. They sped off - he could hear the others in his ear, demanding to know what was going on, but tuned them out.
Ray handed him a bottle of water and all he could manage was a nod of thanks. He took a few slow sips - nearly choking a few times - and finally the pain in his chest subsided a little. He reached up and swiped away the tears in his eyes. His hand came away smeared with paint and he froze as it hit him that his mask was off.
His mask was off-
His mask was fucking off and Ray was staring now, Geoff too, and he went very, very still.
He hadn’t revealed his identity in years. Somewhere along the line it had become... comforting, to know that no matter what he did, what people thought of him, at the end of the day he could get home and take his mask off and no one knew who he was.
And maybe it was also because he’d never had friends here - most people in this world were cruel, self-serving, would stab him in the back as soon as hire him. And given all he’d heard about Ramsey, there’d been a hope there, that this time would be different considering how tight his crew was - maybe most of Ryan’s excitement had come from the tentative possibility of having a place to fit in, of maybe one day being able to want to take the mask off-
But now that choice had been ripped from his hands and he felt suddenly vulnerable under their gaze. Scowling, he moved to put it back on only to realise with horror that he’d left it on the ground back near the bank.
Jesus Christ. This was getting worse and worse.
“You okay?” Geoff asked slowly, meeting his eyes in the rear view mirror - Ryan looked up and fought not to flinch as he glimpsed his reflection. He certainly didn’t look okay; his eyes were teary still from the stinging smoke, his facepaint was smeared horribly. He looked pretty fucking awful, and humiliation burned hot in his gut.
“I’m fine,” he snapped. His voice sounded terrible, like he’d swallowed broken glass. He reached up and thumbed blood from his neck where the bullet had nicked him. “How the fuck did that-”
“Is Haywood okay?” Gavin butted in, over the earpiece - they were in another getaway vehicle, Ryan realised.
“I said I’m fine,” he repeated.
“Good,” Gavin said immediately. “I’m really sorry, I didn’t-”
“What are you sorry for?” Ryan asked, only to remember that the thief had been the one throwing smoke bombs - he’d assumed it’d been a cop, but-
“I got a bit excited and when I saw someone move I… I didn’t think; I’m used to only keeping tabs on five of us,” Gavin explained. There might have been something tight and sheepish in his tone, but Ryan couldn’t really tell over the earpiece.
“He’s gonna kill you,” Michael cut in flatly.
“It was an accident,” Gavin squawked.
“He’s definitely gonna kill you,” Ray added - looking at Ryan now, who realised that his fists and jaw were clenched tight. He let out a slow exhale of breath, annoyance simmering in his gut.
It was an accident, he told himself, just a fucking accident. But still a stupid, stupid one, because Jesus fucking Christ what if that hadn’t been a smoke bomb? He’d’ve been blown to smithereens because Ramsey’s fool thief apparently couldn’t count past five, and even now-
Even now here he was, exposed and injured and forced to reveal far more of himself than he’d ever wanted to at a first meeting, and they must all think he was pathetic, big scary Vagabond just human after all under the mask. Something hard and defensive closed over him; he glowered at Ray, then at Geoff, and didn’t deign to respond to Gavin, just folded his arms and stared out the window, letting his anger fester inside.
The others had returned first and were waiting when they arrived. When they realised Ryan hadn’t got his mask on their eyes widened in surprise, and he grit his teeth in irritation.
“You look like a painting that got rained on,” Gavin blurted out, seemingly without thinking. Ryan turned towards him slowly, letting his face fall into the most cold and menacing expression he had.
He was angry at himself for being weak, for taking his mask off, for feeling so embarrassed - but by God was he ten times madder at Gavin for putting him in this fucking position in the first place. An intense dislike rose up in him, only fuelled by the other’s senseless comment, and it took all his self control not to go over and punch the idiot in the face.
“You,” he growled, striding closer and looming up over the other man. Gavin stared up at Ryan, and all he could see was his own dishevelled reflection in the other’s ridiculous sunglasses. “You can consider yourself God damn lucky that I’m not killing you on the spot for what happened back there. A fucking accident - accidents like that get people killed.”
Gavin swallowed hard and nodded, and Ryan turned away, fuming.
Accidents and embarrassments aside, they had a good haul from the bank, and as soon as they’d divided the money Gavin made himself scarce, everyone except Geoff following after him. Ryan finished counting his own cut and looked up to find Ramsey offering a glass of whiskey.
“Sorry about that,” Geoff said. “Gavin’s an idiot but he doesn’t mean any harm by it.”
“I don’t think this is going to work out,” Ryan replied flatly; he was already making plans to leave, to head off all the way across the country where no one would know his face. Maybe disappointed under it all that this opportunity he’d been so looking forward to hadn’t played out.
Geoff shook his head frantically. “No! Come on, Haywood, before Gavin’s fuck-up things were going well. Fuck, I’ve never seen someone take down cops like that. The rest of the guys were seriously impressed, trust me. We could really use someone like you on the crew.”
Ryan looked down at his drink, still unsure. But Geoff was astute and seemed to catch on to the reason for his hesitance.
“I get it, okay, you wear the mask for a reason and having to show yourself to people you barely know sucks. But no one here is gonna sell you out. The Fake AH Crew is like a family. I trust those boys with my life.”
“I don’t,” Ryan muttered, and Geoff laughed a bit.
“Gav’s not usually that careless.”
“We all make mistakes. Look, tomorrow we start fresh. Forget today ever happened. How about a week’s trial and if things don’t go well then we part ways amicably.”
“A week’s trial,” Ryan repeated, then nodded - he could do that - and Geoff grinned widely. He seemed so genuinely excited that Ryan had agreed that he couldn’t help but feel a little warmed.
A week turned into two weeks turned into eight months, and despite the awkward start they’d got off to Ryan quickly found his niche. He fit in well with the others; they were good humoured and appreciated his dark humour, not to mention his skills with a blade or gun.
He’d been looking for a place, a team he got on well with, and it seemed that here in the Fake AH Crew he’d found one. All was going well - and knowing that they had all seen his face already, he even found himself wearing the mask around them less, which only helped in starting to get along with all of them more.
Except, of course, there was Gavin.
The first few days after the incident it was awkward; Ryan was still pissed at him and Gavin avoided him, seeming nervous. But as days wore into weeks wore into months, it was inevitable that they let go of it.
Gavin returned to his usual obnoxious self, even around Ryan, who began to wonder whether he even still remembered what he had done, or if he’d let it slip away amongst all the other chaos and catastrophes and accidents he caused, seemingly heedless of who got hurt.
And while he himself wasn’t holding a grudge over the specific incident, it had got them off to a very, very bad start, and soured his impression of the other man. Even if things had turned out alright now, it didn’t matter. Maybe he wasn’t angry at Gavin anymore, but he still found him intensely annoying.
And over the next eight months he certainly found plenty of reasons to be annoyed.
Case 2: The fact that he was a Class-A Rich Bitch.
It was inevitable, given their line of work, that they all had rather a lot of money. And sure, Ryan splurged sometimes, on guns or nice bikes and fast internet, but for the most part it all sat unused in a bank account. And fuck, he didn’t exactly care what other people did with their cuts from heists and robberies, but Gavin-
Gavin was on a whole other level.
They all had money, yes, but Gavin made it obvious that he had money, in perhaps the most obnoxious way possible. He flashed it around in big expensive watches and overpriced sunglasses and designer shirts. Even worse, he was careless with them; didn’t bother trying to take care of a thing because if it broke, he could just throw it away and replace it immediately with a new one.
The expenses bordered on ridiculous, too. Like the gold plated gun. The gold plated fucking gun - who even needed one of those?
The others all found it hysterical, but Ryan wasn’t amused-
(And maybe, maybe he would have found it funny too, if he wasn’t so sour about Gavin after the bad start they’d gotten off to-)
It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen people splashing around their money before. Hell, it was part and parcel of being a mob boss. You were rich and you showed off that you were rich.
But the Fake AH Crew was meant to be different - yes, Geoff wore nice suits and Michael had an expensive car and Ray liked to custom-design all his weapons in various horrifying shades of pink, but at the core of it they were more down to earth than any other gang Ryan had ever been in - more in it for the excitement and adventure than the money, which was part of why they were all so close.
And Gavin showing off like he did reminded Ryan all too much of the gang leaders of the other cities, the reason why he’d worked solitary for so long. Maybe he wouldn’t have cared so much if he wasn’t already set against the other man. But every time Gavin came prancing in with another extravagant gadget or silk tie or various other object gratuitously made of gold it made his hackles rise a little more.
If he had to see the brat waving around one more ‘grenade launcher of pimps’ he refused to be held accountable for his actions.
Case 3: The Great Coin Argument, and other debacles.
Part of the fun of sticking with one crew for so long was that they all got to know each other well enough for the comms to frequently be full of banter. And hell, Ryan enjoyed it, whether he was taking part or just listening in to the others.
Gavin was the chief contributor of the stupidity.
Maybe Ryan was just looking to pick fights. Who could blame him. But he would frequently chime in to point out the scientific and biological impossibility of most of Gavin’s would-you-rather questions. Winning verbal sparring matches against the other man gave him immeasurable satisfaction.
But while their first encounter had informed Ryan that the other man was… mathematically challenged, to put it kindly, he could not have fathomed the depth of his ignorance until one day, on the way back from a heist, they somehow got onto the topic of flipping three coins.
There was an immense amount of shouting. Punches were nearly thrown. Ray took out his earpiece and snapped it in half just to avoid listening to them. Ryan didn’t think he’d ever been more annoyed in his life.
It wasn’t just the fact that Gavin was wrong, it was that he was so fucking insistent that he was right, and the whole business worked Ryan into greater and greater levels of frustration until he eventually stormed out of the base and the entire topic of probability was thereupon permanently banned by Geoff.
The coin argument was one thing. But Ryan was also growing steadily more annoyed by the fact that Gavin kept stealing things.
It was stupid. He was a fucking thief, of course he was going to take stuff whenever possible. But honestly, it was growing excessive. Whenever he went out with Michael and the two of them got drunk he would come back with pocketfuls of useless crap. Other people’s wallets and car keys and sometimes entire vehicles that Geoff then had to dispose of before the police traced them back to their hideout.
The sticky fingers didn’t just extend to the general public, however. Two deals with other gangs had been ruined by this point because Gavin couldn’t keep his damn hands to himself and got caught swiping shit from their hideouts. Geoff told him off but laughed about it, but it only fuelled Ryan’s irritation.
Despite his warning at their first meeting, he was pretty sure Gavin had robbed him a few times as well, only to put the items back for some reason - probably after Michael or Ray caught him and told him to. A knife went mysteriously missing after he left it lying on a table, one of his guns too. The keys to his motorcycle. All of them appeared back where they had been a short time later, and he never caught Gavin doing it, so he couldn’t call him out on it.
Still fucking annoying.
Case 4: The time Ryan fully stacked it.
It was on heists, at least, caught up in the thrill of adrenaline, that Ryan was most likely to forget about his grudge; he did have to work with Gavin after all. And he had to admit that aside from that first incident, for the most part Gavin did his job well. The robberies he was in charge of were meticulously planned and often produced some of their biggest hauls, and he wasn’t afraid to do the dirtiest or most dangerous parts of an operation, like crawling through sewage tunnels or parachuting off buildings.
The one time Geoff paired the two of them for a job, Ryan was hesitant, but inclined towards professionalism. They were to head out the back of the museum together and leave on the getaway bike, the others taking different exits.
Things were actually going pretty well; they’d gotten into an argument about history, but it was verging more on friendly banter than proper irritation. Ryan liked a verbal challenge and he couldn’t deny that Gavin was fun to go up against. And they had the object they were stealing in their grasp - some sort of ancient map, worth millions, that was part of a current cartography exhibition - and were heading out when Ryan stupidly, stupidly, was so distracted by correcting Gavin on matters of the Italian Renaissance that he didn’t realise they’d reached the stairs.
“Fuck,” was all he had time to get out before he was falling - stumbling to catch himself, but ultimately failing. It was a short flight of steps, but he hit the ground hard enough to knock the wind out of him, and worst of all, he heard the map rip - he’d been carrying it -
The fucking four hundred year old map, torn in two - for a moment all he could do was gape at it, on the ground next to him - his knee bruised, his elbow scraped and bleeding, sprawled on the floor in the most undignified manner-
And Gavin, squealing with laughter at the top of the stairs.
“Oh my God,” he gasped out between laughs. “Oh my bloody God-”
“What’s going on?” Michael demanded over the earpiece. “What was that sound?”
“Ryan… Ryan…” Gavin hopped down the stairs, noticed the map was ripped, and fell into silent convulsions of laughter so intense that he doubled over, clutching at his stomach. He was letting out nothing but squeaks at this point and Ryan could feel his face starting to burn.
Of all the fucking people he could have embarrassed himself in front of! O unhappy day.
“Ryan stacked it,” Gavin choked out finally. He glanced at Ryan and had to look away again, the mere sight sending him into hysterics. “Ryan fully stacked it down the stairs and tore the bloody map in half!”
“Ryan if you ruined that God damn map,” Geoff began.
Ryan picked himself up off the ground, grimacing a little as he picked up the remains of the map from the ground.
“It’s salvageable!” he protested. “Nothing a bit of sticky tape won’t fix.”
“You’ll need more than bloody sticky tape to fix that,” Gavin crowed. And then started giggling again.
Gavin did not let it go for weeks. Every time he looked at Ryan he’d start laughing. He issued dramatic warnings any time they were near stairs. It grew very old very fast.
Maybe the others laughed at it too. And it wasn’t like they didn’t all get their share of teasing, especially when they fucked up in spectacular ways where no one got seriously hurt. But it was Gavin who continually brought it up, and for all that Ryan was steadily growing closer to the rest of the crew, he still felt a little sensitive about his position as outsider, about what they must think of him, his reputation - enough that it began to wear at him, and every time Gavin brought up his humiliation it made his anger burn a little hotter in his chest.
Case 5: The tragedy of the Kawasaki H2R.
Ryan was pretty sure Gavin didn’t actually have a driver’s license. If he did, whoever issued it to him ought to have been fired on the spot, because he was the worst fucking driver Ryan had ever encountered, whether in a car or on a bike.
This, however, did not deter him from buying the most expensive vehicles possible, only to inevitably ruin them horribly.
Ryan couldn’t exactly complain considering he didn’t have the best track record with driving himself - mostly due to bad luck (no one exactly planned for a hurricane, after all). But he did have a deep appreciation - and respect - for motorcycles. It was probably his biggest hobby outside of crew business and the only thing he really spent a lot of money on.
So when he arrived at the base one day with Michael and Ray and laid eyes upon the most beautiful bike he’d ever seen parked outside, he stopped in his tracks.
“That’s a Ninja H2R,” he exclaimed - it was a terrible shade of purple, but even that couldn’t detract from its magnificence. “Whose is that? I didn’t think you could even get them yet!”
“Look at that fucking colour,” Michael snorted, “Whose do you think it is?”
It hit Ryan and his pause this time was one of abject horror.
“Oh God in heaven, no,” he muttered.
He could deal with Gavin crashing his sports cars or that stupid postman bike he was always going around on, but this-
This bike was a majestic beast, a thing of beauty. The thought of it in the hands of a careless rider physically pained him. Especially Gavin, who had a tendency towards poorly-attempted stunt jumps and sudden stops and turns. Oh God. She deserved so much better. He didn’t think he could stand it.
He was staring at the bike, pained, when Gavin emerged from the building and noticed what they were looking at.
“300 horsepower!” he declared proudly.
“You are going to die,” Ray said.
“But I’m going to die in style,” Gavin replied, and walked over to the bike, slapping a hand down on the seat hard.
Ryan’s heart was breaking slowly.
“Aren’t you sick of having permanent road rash yet?” Michael asked, shaking his head.
Gavin just shrugged. “It’s worth it for the thrill. The thrill Michael.”
“I give it a week before you crash that thing,” Michael muttered.
“A week’s fucking generous,” Ray said, and rolled his eyes, heading inside. Michael followed after him, leaving Ryan and Gavin staring at the bike.
“You like, Ryan?” Gavin asked, turning to him.
“Just be careful on that thing,” was all he could manage, and Gavin nodded enthusiastically.
“Absolutely. I’m gonna head out to the airport to do stunt jumps later tonight. Give the old girl a spin.”
Ryan made a strangled sort of noise and had to turn away at that point. It hurt too much. Needless to say, the bike was never seen again, and Gavin showed up the next day with a sprained ankle and terrible abrasions all down his right arm and side.
By nine months in, Ryan would call himself a fairly good friend of Geoff’s. He worked extremely well with Jack and Michael. He got along tremendously with Ray.
Gavin he did not care for. And the thing was, he was pretty sure Gavin didn’t like him much either.
He only really talked to Ryan when everyone else was there or they were paired for a job, and even then it was only stupid comments or things related to what they were doing. He never asked Ryan much about himself, or invited him along to drinks when he asked the others.
Once Ryan was heading for the armoury when he heard Michael mention his name inside: “Gav, go get Ryan, won’t you? Gotta ask him about this ordnance.”
“Nooo,” he heard Gavin reply, “You go and get him.”
“Sheesh, dude, just go already. You always do this. Just fucking go and ask him to come here.”
“I don’t want to go near him.”
“You’re a fucking idiot. Why.”
“You know why. He’s scary an’ all.”
On the surface it was amusing - he certainly made no small effort to be intimidating around Gavin, especially when they argued - but in some weird way it hurt his feelings a little even as he crept back off down the corridor.
He pretty much only wore his mask around the others fifty percent of the time by now. And they knew a lot about him; his hobbies, his interests - he knew that they knew he wasn’t all that his reputation made him out to be. And while part of him still played up the Black Skull thing - the rest of him liked that he had people - friends - who saw him for who he was beyond the rumours.
So for Gavin to still view him as little more than that figure - it stung a bit, even if he wasn’t quite sure why.
But as it was, he shoved it aside - God knew he didn’t care what the idiot thought of him - and life continued on.
He grew closer to the others. He watched them and worked out their dynamics. Ray and Michael were very close. Jack and Geoff had known each other for years. Geoff and Gavin - a little stranger. They teased each other constantly and there was an open affection in the way Geoff treated Gavin, like he was a younger sibling or son. The same in the way Michael’s jeers at the other man never had much bite.
Maybe it was Ryan’s prejudice, or the fact that Gavin nearly constantly wore sunglasses, even indoors, and he could never really get much of a look at the other man’s face.
But it was hard for him to see past the designer shirts and the Dolce and Gabbana shades and the gelled up hair - Gavin had recently taken to bleaching and was growing blonder by the day - something about the man just never seemed quite human to him. He was like a little plastic Ken doll, defined by his clothes and material possessions, and for some reason Ryan couldn’t get past that, couldn’t quite get to who he really was underneath. Even the way he spoke to clients of theirs or other gangs in the area, loud and obnoxious and arrogant, seemed to have something deliberate in it, something Ryan couldn’t place but accepted at face-value as part and parcel of what Gavin was.
(And perhaps he didn’t make much effort to try, perhaps it was much easier to just stick with his first impression than put in the energy towards changing his mind-)
Either way, it was clear that Michael, and Ray, and Geoff and all the rest of the crew liked Gavin, for whatever it was they saw in him.
But based purely on what he saw when they were out on jobs or the rare times he was around Gavin back at the base, Ryan got the feeling that he didn’t seem to much care about anyone other than himself. That being said, he rarely saw Gavin outside of work or when they weren’t in the middle of planning. In fact, he had absolutely no idea about the other man’s life outside of crew-related business. But he latched onto this impression and it only heightened his annoyance.
What he loved about this job was the close knitness of the crew. He’d encountered enough selfish, careless people in the rest of their field to dislike what he saw in Gavin.
So he worked along with the others, and aside from when they were in a room with the rest of the crew he and Gavin didn’t talk much, if at all, and when they did on jobs it mostly consisted of Ryan snippily replying to his remarks.
The others caught on, of course they did, it was hard not to when Ryan made little secret of his dislike.
“The fuckwit is going to get us all killed,” when Gavin went point on their first armoured truck heist, and-
“I’d sooner set my bike on fire than let you ride it; I’m pretty sure that is a form of desecration. The motorcycle gods would never forgive me,” when Gavin wanted to go for a spin on his latest purchase and-
“Tell Eurovision over there to shut the fuck up,” when he came to work with a splitting headache from lack of sleep and for whatever reason found Geoff and Gavin in the middle of an extremely loud and extremely tuneless rendition of My Heart Will Go On while standing on the table in the middle of the boardroom - he couldn’t exactly tell off Geoff, but Gavin was another story; Michael rolled his eyes at that one and glanced between Gavin and Ryan with something far too amused for Ryan’s liking.
Overall, just… no. No. He didn’t like Gavin, and he was fairly certain Gavin didn’t like him, but he could put up with it because he liked the job, and the heists were fun, and he was getting closer to the others by the day.
One rich, spoilt brat was not going to ruin what was the best thing he’d had going for him in a long while.
And then one day, quite out of the blue-
It had been a long day. A long job. A trip to take out some rival groups’ warehouses, people who’d been bothering them for a while now. The guys had a hell of a lot of firepower and it had taken careful planning and a lot of effort, but they’d emerged unscathed and stolen half the ordnance to boot. A job well done.
They were all bruised and sore by the time they got back to base, but buzzing with the high of pulling it all off successfully. It was a Friday night and after all the excitement lately - they’d pulled a string of heists and spent a lot of time preparing for other jobs - Ryan was looking forward to a restful weekend.
“Great work today boys,” Geoff was cackling. He reached out and clapped Michael on the shoulder, then Ryan; he allowed the contact, grinning, even as he pulled off his mask, feeling a bit stifled. He smiled over at Ray - they’d had each other’s backs out there - and Ray grinned back.
“Drinks’re on me,” Michael spoke up then, and Geoff pumped a fist in the air, dumping his gear on the table and already heading out.
“Coming boi?” Michael asked Gavin, who shook his head. He was slowly unpacking his own kit.
“Bit tired, thanks though. I’ll text you later.”
“Alright. Come on then.” Michael headed out, Jack trailing along behind. Ray took the time to put his weapons away before farewelling Ryan and departing on his own.
Always one to take the time to do things properly, Ryan cleaned his weapons and packed them up. He was in a good mood, humming under his breath a little. Aching, but in a pleasant way, in the way that spoke of putting in just enough physical exertion for it to be a challenge without going too far. A hot shower tonight would be satisfying. Maybe order in Chinese.
He finished up and moved to pull his jacket on, grabbing up his car keys, and headed for the door when he heard someone clear their throat behind him.
“Hey Ryan,” Gavin spoke up.
Ryan glanced over his shoulder. Gavin was sitting cross-legged on the table, his own gun disassembled in front of him. He looked tired and dishevelled, a bandaid stuck haphazardly over a scrape on the bridge of his nose, bits of hair stiff with spray hanging at random over his forehead.
He had been oddly subdued the last few days - quieter, less inclined towards chaos and feats of uncontrolled kleptomania - and he’d done well today, following all Geoff’s orders without question and pulling off his parts of the job with ease. That combined with Ryan’s current good mood meant that he was much more pleasantly disposed to him at the moment, and he turned around properly, raising his eyebrows.
Gavin didn’t look up at him, his quick clever thief’s hands re-assembling the gun as he looked down at it.
“What are you doing this weekend?” he asked.
“Not much,” Ryan replied, a bit confused. He folded his arms, head tilting a little. “Why?”
With a click Gavin slotted the final parts of the gun together and put it on the table in front of him. Now he looked up at Ryan. For once he didn’t have his sunglasses on, Ryan realised vaguely, but he barely had time to take in Gavin’s green-blue eyes before the other man spoke again, something too deliberately casual in his voice as he said:
“Want to help me kill my boyfriend?”