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?”
Many thanks to fornhaus, cecisthebest, davvseaworth, some-fantastic-url-name, teastainsandpaintbrushes, gotmogared and Angelology for their help with this <3
My mix for this fic. :')
WARNINGS FOR ENTIRE STORY: cheating, unhealthy relationships (not between Ryan and Gavin), dub con kissing and emotional manipulation in the context of 2 people both attempting to deceive each other by maintaining a relationship to cover up ulterior motivations.
The last place Ryan had expected to find himself was sitting in a roadside McDonalds with Gavin at two in the morning, looking over the other man’s shoulder at pictures on his phone.
“His name’s Peter Riemer,” Gavin said, scrolling through his gallery as Ryan looked on, bemused. “We met like… a year and a half ago? And we’ve been together for just over a year now- oops, that’s a dick pic.”
“Respectable,” Ryan murmured, pulling a face, and Gavin glanced over at him.
“You don’t have to be nice. We both know much bigger nobs exist,” he replied, something a little venomous in it. He deleted the picture with a vicious jab of his thumb and Ryan raised his eyebrows.
Honestly, he was still reeling a bit from the strange turn this night had taken. Hell, he’d had no idea that Gavin was even in a relationship, let alone a long-term one.
One that he apparently now wanted to end in the most violent way possible.
He looked down at the photographs again. Peter Riemer was a young man, late twenties perhaps. Tall and whippet-thin with fine features - cheekbones that could cut glass, pale blue eyes, dark blond hair that had been gelled into oblivion. If he’d thought Gavin went overboard with the hair spray this guy took it to a whole new level.
“He doesn’t smile much,” Ryan commented, observing the way the man’s thin lips were pressed together in every photo.
“That’s just his selfie face.”
“I see.” Ryan raised his eyebrows and turned back to the phone. Smiling or not, in the pictures the two of them certainly seemed happy, relaxed in each other’s company. Gavin seemed to take a lot of photos - some of the boyfriend at various locations, across the table at restaurants or sitting on their couch at home. Selfies of the two of them - Gavin not wearing his signature sunglasses for once.
It was funny, Ryan thought, he literally never saw the other man outside of work and rarely without the shades on. He looked younger in the pictures somehow, wearing a softer sort of smile compared to the wild grin he gave when proposing an outrageous heist plan or pulling the trigger on some explosives.
He glanced over at Gavin, who was staring down at his phone with a blank face, jaw a little tight. Then back at the photographs, taking in Peter again. They certainly looked a matching set, slender and fair-haired, though Peter was particularly striking, unfortunate selfie face or not.
“I know,” Gavin said then, with a huff of a laugh. “He’s the hot one. Soon to be even hotter when I send him to hell, there in his own grease to fry.”
He turned his phone off and shoved it in his pocket, turning to suck noisily at the straw of his drink. Ryan watched him, frowning a little.
“So you want to kill him,” he said slowly - Gavin nodded - Ryan’s frown deepened.
“Has he hurt you?” he asked carefully, and Gavin stared at him for a moment before shaking his head.
“Only my pride,” he replied, and sighed, leaning back in his seat, glancing around at the rest of the McDonalds. At this hour the place was empty, a sleepy-eyed, spotty teenager texting behind the counter, vague noises coming from the kitchen as the drive-thru served truckers and late night travellers passing by. They were a ways out from the city and it felt a little surreal, to be sitting here at this ridiculous hour surrounded by clinical white tiles and the smell of grease and disinfectant, with Gavin of all people, Gavin who he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen outside of crew work.
“He’s a freelancer,” Gavin said finally. “Self employed, so sometimes he works for the gangs around here, or individuals, or companies - anyone who needs a forger or conman. Geoff and I brought him in last year for a job - stealing this painting, right - except some other guys were after it too and things went a bit sour. He saved my life. We stayed in touch after that.”
Ryan listened in silence; Gavin wasn’t looking at him. He had his hands out in front of him, the tips of his fingers pressed together, eyes trained on the glass window in front of them and the road outside. His voice was very controlled, very calm.
“He’s English as well,” Gavin replied. “Comes from old money. Came over here to make even more. Very intelligent. Very sort of… proud, arrogant, you know. God, I couldn’t stand him at first.”
“I thought conmen were supposed to be charming,” Ryan spoke up, and a small smile tugged at Gavin’s lips.
“Oh, he can be when he needs to. We had him over to do forgery, not a con. But most of the time he has this act he puts on - well, it’s sort of an act. The aloof genius. Plays the gruff tough guy but shows just enough of a soft side to make you want to break that shell. Makes people want to get close to him, to get him to open up. The Mr. Darcy effect, y’know? Tends to work on people.” He looked away, fiddling with a paper napkin, tearing it to methodical shreds as he muttered, “Guess it worked on me.”
“What’s he like with you then?” Ryan asked, still trying to scope this out.
Gavin raised and lowered a shoulder.
“Nice,” he said. “Funny. He’s a riot when drunk. We kinda bonded over both not being from here and then found out we like a lot of the same things. He has strong opinions about stuff. It puts most people off but I used to find it well funny. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly.”
How the hell does he put up with you, then, Ryan thought, a little uncharitably.
“But he was sweet, under it all,” Gavin continued, and then gave a bland sort of smile. “Until I found out he was cheating on me.”
That was honestly where Ryan had thought this was going. Gavin was looking at him expectantly and even with both of them unmasked, faces bare, Ryan couldn’t quite tell what he was thinking.
As it was, he raised an eyebrow.
“He’s cheating on you and you want to kill him for it,” he replied, leaning back in the seat and folding his arms. “That’s remarkably cold-blooded of you.”
“That’s not all,” he replied. “For the last few weeks I was under the impression he was working a con with an insurance company. After investigating in order to work out the extent of his… affairs… I found out that he’s not on that job anymore. Without telling me he’s instead infiltrated some weapons dealers - you knows those explosives guys that Michael uses for most of his stuff? Them.”
“What’s he want with them?” Ryan asked, sitting up a little. That group was the main supplier of their ordnance.
“You know that other crew in the area? Run by that Glasgow guy?”
“Of course I know them,” Ryan replied. “We’re on the verge of war. Any wrong move will set them off.”
“He’s working with them. Became one of their contacts with these weapon’s dealers. He’s gonna try and turn them from supplying us to supplying Glasgow. If it works out we’re gonna be left with our weapons supplies frozen. Peter knows we’re in a fishy position with these guys,” Gavin said, voice tightening, “He’s deliberately taken their side in this. He knows if this goes wrong the Fake AH Crew will be dragged in and it won’t make things pretty for us.”
“How the fuck does he know we’re in a bad position with them?” Ryan snapped, and Gavin glanced away, suddenly very interested in his chicken McNuggets. Ryan stared at him for a moment before scowling.
“You told him?” he demanded. Gavin’s guilty glance up was all the confirmation he needed, that familiar annoyance with the other man rising up quickly. “Jesus fucking Christ, are you stupid? What the hell else does he know about us?”
“I don’t know,” Gavin spluttered. “‘Course I told him things, he’s my fucking boyfriend-”
“Yeah, who’s about to sell us out because you couldn’t keep your idiot mouth shut. I can’t believe this.” He slammed a hand down on the table and Gavin flinched before glancing over his shoulder at the counter.
“Keep it down,” he hissed, “You’re making a scene.”
Ryan looked over as well, but the cashier was still occupied with her phone. Still, he forced himself to relax a little, to lower his voice and reduce his anger from full-boil to simmer.
“Anyway,” Gavin continued. “He’s fucking like two different people from that gang and he’s gotta know that taking this job is gonna put us in hot water. He obviously doesn’t care about me anymore, so. I’m going to take care of it.”
“Okay,” Ryan said stiffly. “I mean, that would probably be a good idea!”
Gavin started to scowl at him, his first proper sign of anger all night, but he almost immediately calmed himself again, seeming to remember that he was the one who’d asked for Ryan’s help in the first place.
“I need you,” he continued patiently, “To help me out with this. It has to be discreet. Geoff can’t know about this and he sure as hell can’t get involved. If Glasgow’s crew thinks we had anything to do with offing one of his contacts it’ll be war for sure. So I need your help. You specialise in…. y’know… murdering people. You know how to do it quietly. Make it look like an accident or whatever.”
“I do,” Ryan said again. God, this night had gone from weird to weirder.
His lack of a proper response seemed to have Gavin nervous.
“I mean, I can pay you,” he continued, almost babbling. “If you want. But this does help the crew so we kinda have to-”
“I don’t need money from you,” Ryan said coldly, and then sighed, reaching up to rub at his temples. Christ, okay, it seemed like they were going to do this. Not the way he’d expected his weekend to turn out, and he wasn’t exactly looking forward to working in close quarters with the one guy he found most annoying in the entire universe, but Gavin was right; this could mean big trouble for them, and he sure as hell didn’t trust Gavin to deal with it himself.
“Alright. When did you find out about all this?” he asked, and Gavin’s shoulders relaxed a little, seeming relieved that Ryan had agreed to help.
“The cheating, two weeks ago,” he replied. “The rest of it a couple of days later.”
“And you’ve given no sign to Peter that you know?”
“No,” Gavin said, shaking his head. “He has no idea. And hell, he thinks he’s so clever, acting like he hasn’t been completely fucking me over. I’d never have known if I hadn’t accidentally seen his phone. Suppose it’s his job to pretend things.” He snorted, and gave another tight smile. “Well, guess what, I’m good at pretending too.”
“Keep it that way,” Ryan replied. To be honest, he was rather less concerned with Gavin’s personal dramas than the threat to the crew. “How long do you think we have until he closes the job?”
“God, I don’t know. Probably a few weeks at least.”
“That’s good. No need to rush. You guys live together?”
“He use the same car for everything?”
“Car and motorcycle,” Gavin replied, then added, a bit sourly, “And he doesn’t let me use them.”
“No fucking wonder,” Ryan couldn’t help but mutter, remembering rather bitterly the usual effects of Gavin’s driving abilities (or lack thereof). “What’s he doing this weekend?”
“‘Working,’” Gavin replied, with dramatic air-quotes. “Or so he says. Why? You think we can do it that soon?”
“No,” Ryan said. “But if he’s out of the house I’ll come over and have a look around. See what chances we might have to stage an accident. Bug his car, that sort of thing. And you can tell me more about where exactly he’s been going to work.”
“Oh! Sure, sure, he won’t be in,” Gavin said. He seemed nervous now - or excited, Ryan couldn’t quite tell - at the prospect that now that Ryan was on board, things were going to move along quite quickly. “Yeah, you can come over - do you know where I live?”
“No,” Ryan replied, “Why would I know where you live?”
“I don’t know,” Gavin replied, looking a bit flustered now. “All the others do. In case something happens. I guess I don’t know where you live either.”
“No one knows where I live except Geoff,” Ryan said, although now that he thought about it, he did know rather more about everyone else in the crew than he did about Gavin. He knew Michael and Ray lived in the same apartment building and he’d even been over a couple of times to pick them up. He’d met Jack on the weekend a couple of times to go over plans, the same with Geoff.
Gavin he’d barely seen, and now, in the span of a few hours, he knew all about his boyfriend - was plotting to kill said boyfriend - and was about to go over to his house.
Gavin nodded, seeming a bit embarrassed now. “Okay. Well. I’ll text you the address. Come over like, ten or eleven, he’ll definitely be gone by then.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Ryan replied, and finished the rest of his soda before standing up. “Come on then. It’s late, I want to get at least some sleep after today.”
“Sorry,” Gavin said, a bit awkwardly, and bundled up his rubbish before getting up as well. They headed out into the dark car park in silence. It was a warm night with summer rolling in and Ryan quite liked it out here, some distance away from the city. No other buildings in sight, just the highway stretching out into the distance and car after car roaring past and disappearing, endless strings of travellers on their own journeys.
He’d driven Gavin out here and would have to drop him back off at the base before he could head home. They got into the car and set off. Ryan turned the radio on but the only talk shows on at this time of night were grating, all the music too loud, and every station annoyed him enough that he turned it off almost immediately, leaving them in a slightly tense silence.
Ryan half expected Gavin to break it with some stupid comment or another, but he didn’t. After a while he looked over at the other man. He was leaning his head against the passenger window, head tilted back and staring out at each streetlight as it went flashing by. He looked tired; his glasses up on top of his head for once, the dark shadows under his eyes highlighted by the glowing red lights of the figures on the dashboard and clock. Ryan had never seen him so quiet, and it unsettled him a little. Part of him wanted to say something himself, but Gavin seemed lost in thought, and it felt suddenly awkward to rouse him from it.
Finally they arrived back at the base. It was dark and closed up with all the others gone, and it felt strange to be there at night alone. Ryan pulled up outside and Gavin sat up a little as though stirring from sleep.
“I’ll, um,” he said, and made an awkward motion towards the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow then, I guess?”
Ryan nodded. “Send me the address. I’ll be over around ten.”
“Okay. Uh. Bye then.”
He clambered out of the car and headed over to where his own motorbike was parked, the only vehicle in the car park with everyone else gone. Ryan started to drive off before pausing, unsure quite why he suddenly felt compelled to wait. He watched as Gavin put on his helmet and got on the bike, only to pause, leaning forward with his elbows resting against the handlebars and covering his face with his hands. He sat there for a long moment and Ryan frowned, watching him, before he finally sat up, shook himself, and drove away, thankfully at a rather more legal speed than Ryan had seen him take before.
Suddenly feeling very tired, Ryan leaned back in his seat and rubbed at his eyes, letting out a long breath. His apartment wasn’t too far from here but after such a long day - and now, thanks to Gavin, staying up half the night as well - he didn’t feel like driving much more. He thought of Gavin, heading back to wherever his house was. To a boyfriend he’d greet with a smile and probably a kiss too, all while knowing that the man was unfaithful, that his smile was just as fake-
And that tomorrow Ryan would be coming over so the two of them could plot his God damn murder.
Christ, it was all pretty fucked up.
He couldn’t stop thinking about how strange it had been seeing that other side to Gavin in the photographs. And hearing about Peter - an entire side to his personal life that Ryan had had no idea about.
The guy was obviously a grade-A douchebag, to not only cheat on his partner but screw him over in a deal that quite literally might threaten his life. Ryan disliked the man already - but that being said, Gavin had been pretty damn calm back there. In the span of two weeks he’d already jumped straight to the murder-plan, to considering him a liability to the crew who now had to be taken care of. It was remarkably cold-hearted, Ryan thought, despite everything. He might have been with this guy a year but he was about to literally kill him. He couldn’t possibly care about him all that much.
Sighing, he shook his head and put the car in gear. No sense in overthinking things tonight. He’d have more than enough time to consider the situation tomorrow.
The address Gavin had given him was a little way out of the city, in an affluent, hilly area where the houses were spaced some distance apart, with expansive grounds. It was an area where many of the richer residents of the cities resided, most of them, if not straight-up criminals, still corrupt enough to have no qualms about rubbing shoulders with neighbours who were.
He pulled up a few streets away, walked to the particular house and looked up at it; it wasn’t quite as large and grand as many of the others in the area, but still had a big yard and a large garage nearby. The garage door was half-open and he could see a number of vehicles within. Probably Gavin’s collection of cars and bikes, he thought, not that any of them ever lasted very long.
He walked up to the doors and knocked sharply, having already texted Gavin when he got close by. The other man must have been waiting because he opened the door almost immediately.
“Hi,” he said quickly, sounding a bit awkward.
“Hi,” Ryan replied, and felt very uncertain himself suddenly as he realised this was the first time they’d met outside of work. He wasn’t wearing his mask, or his face paint, but was still dressed in his usual leathers. He saw Gavin’s eyes flick up and down him before relaxing a little, seeming almost more at ease by the fact that Ryan was in his usual business-mode from work.
Gavin himself, on the other hand, was so dressed down that if Ryan hadn’t known this was his house he might not have given him a second glance on the street. Apparently the twenty-four seven sunglasses wearing didn’t extend to within his own home; they were nowhere to be seen, and neither were the expensive shirts, replaced by a hoodie and faded t-shirt.
“Your hair is very flat,” Ryan blurted out, without really thinking about it; it took him a little by surprise since he didn’t think he’d ever seen Gavin without a quiff that was at least three inches high.
Gavin gaped at him before reaching up and running a hand through his hair.
“It’s called product, Ryan,” he replied, sounding a little taken aback. “I just washed it and didn’t put any in yet.”
“Right,” Ryan said, and Gavin opened the door wider and ushered him into the house. There proceeded to be another very awkward moment in which Ryan noticed that there were a lot of shoes by the door, that Gavin wasn’t wearing any, and suddenly wondered if he should be taking his off as well.
Gavin, of course, noticed him staring and shuffling his feet slightly uncomfortably. And then laughed.
“You can take them off if you want,” he replied, “I promise I don’t leave Lego lying around or anything. Although we’re probably going outside again soon anyway if you wanna look in the garage.”
“I’ll leave them on,” Ryan grunted.
“Although speaking of potential hazards around here,” Gavin said, glancing about, “Watch out for the Roomba. I haven’t seen it in days and I have no idea where it’s gone, but it may or may not have a knife attached to it.”
“...okay,” Ryan replied, looking around warily.
“Um. Come on through then,” Gavin said, and headed off down the corridor. Ryan followed along, feeling a bit out of place despite himself. It was one thing to traipse around through banks or warehouses or any of the locations the Fake AH Crew barged its way into, another entirely to be walking through a co-worker’s home. Especially when the carpets were light beige and his boots were kind of muddy and oh dear, maybe he should have taken his shoes off after all.
Gavin led him into a sitting room and Ryan couldn’t help but stare around. Truth be told, some wildly over dramatic part of himself had imagined that everything would be made of gold and outrageously expensive. But it looked like a normal house, a place that had been lived in and made a home. The couch a little worn at the edges of the armrests, comfortable looking pillows stacked up around the sofa and armchairs. A mess of remotes and magazines and a half-finished mug of tea on the coffee table. Disorganised DVDs stacked up on the bookshelves.
It was strange to think of Gavin coming back here every day after work. Sitting on that couch and kicking back to watch TV. Or play Xbox - he could see a number of consoles and controllers by the screen. His gaze moved over to a dartboard on the wall and he raised his eyebrows as he noticed that someone had taped a picture of Gordon Ramsay over the target.
Gavin looked over and snorted.
“We got well annoyed the other day when he kicked someone out on MasterChef.”
“Right,” Ryan replied, faintly amused despite himself. He turned to look at the other side of the room. The one rather extravagant thing he could see was a large traditional fireplace taking up most of the opposite wall. Hanging above it was a large oil painting, quick, broad brush strokes depicting what appeared to be a naked figure, though there was little detail in the image itself. The face looked a bit like it was melting with its lopsided eyes and streak of a nose.
“That’s kind of horrifying,” he commented, and Gavin barked out a laugh.
“Excuse you, that’s worth over a million dollars,” he replied. “Or it would be if it wasn’t a forgery.”
He stepped up next to Ryan, tilting his head at it. “Pretty damn good one if you’ve seen the original. Peter’s good at the abstract-y stuff. Figurative art or what bloody ever.”
“Hm. He ever paint you?” Ryan asked, curiously, and turned to see Gavin snort.
“Tried a few times,” he replied. His tone was still light, but his smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Can’t ever get the nose right.” He turned back towards the other room. “Can I get you a drink or anything?”
Ryan shook his head, snapping back to attention. “No. Let’s get started. I’ll look around, see if there’s any way we could kill him in the house. It’d be ideal to do it here - no witnesses - but we need to make it look like an accident.”
Gavin nodded, and followed quietly behind Ryan as he went to look about the place.
The problem was, by all accounts Gavin’s house was actually pretty safe. He didn’t have a swimming pool. There were mats all over the bathroom floor so it would be pretty damn hard to slip. There was a second storey, but the entire staircase and the floor below was carpeted, so falling down it was not likely to kill.
“We could poison him,” Gavin piped up when they reached the kitchen. Ryan opened the fridge and several cupboards, not that there was any real need to - part of him was just oddly curious to see more of what was in his co-worker’s house, the answer apparently being a lot of weird English snacks.
“I don’t like poison,” Ryan replied, shaking his head. “It’s never reliable. You can’t be certain it’ll kill and if it doesn’t it puts them on their guard.”
“What about that one that looks like you just got sick?”
“It was on Breaking Bad and all,” Gavin said, and Ryan rolled his eyes.
“Yes Gavin, let’s just cook up some meth while we’re at it, make some extra dough for Geoff.”
“It was just an idea Ryan,” Gavin replied, and bit his lip. “Fine. Not poison then.”
Ryan opened his mouth but before he could reply something nudged up against his legs and he looked down, alarmed for a moment before he realised it was a cat. He scooted back, startled, and the cat darted out of the room at his sudden movement.
“No! Cat, come back cat,” Gavin said, running immediately to the door and crouching down, where he proceeded to hold out his hand and make a variety of kissing noises. “Lloyd, little Lloyd-bor, come back here.”
Ryan could only stare as he managed to coax the cat back over, where he proceeded to vigorously scratch its head before scooping it up in his arms and wandering back over to plonk it on the kitchen counter.
“He yours or Peter’s?” he asked finally.
“She is mine,” Gavin replied, picking the cat up again when she made to jump off the counter. He cuddled it close to his chest, petting it again. “Do you like cats Ryan?”
“I mean, I prefer dogs,” he said, just to be contrary. After months of rivalry with Gavin it came nearly automatically to just refute everything he said.
“Well I love cats,” Gavin announced, and leaned in to plant a kiss squarely on the cat’s head before finally releasing it. Ryan watched in bemusement as she ran out of the room, Gavin leaning down to pick some stray hair off his clothes. When he looked up he caught Ryan staring at him and Ryan quickly flicked his gaze away.
“Let’s go look at the bedroom,” he said.
“Don’t fall down,” Gavin piped up as they reached the top of the stairs.
It took a moment for it to register, and Ryan turned to him with a glare. It had been so different here, outside of work, that he’d nearly managed to forget all the reasons he disliked Gavin. But his annoyance with the other man came flooding back now at the stupid joke.
“That stopped being funny a long time ago,” he grunted, and Gavin raised his eyebrows.
“Only to you,” he joked, but faltered when Ryan continued to frown at him. He closed his mouth and glanced away, looking awkward as he shoved his hands into his pockets. Ryan turned away and strode up the rest of the stairs in silence.
The bedroom was up the stairs and at the end of the hall. When Ryan stepped in he was met with a pleasantly expansive room, an ensuite bathroom and large walk-in closet to one side, the other covered in dressers and bookshelves. The double bed in the centre of the room was under a large window, and this early in the afternoon and in the summer, sunlight was streaming through where one side of the curtains were open, painting a bright stripe across the duvet and onto the floor.
Lloyd had run up here and was sunning herself on a warm patch of carpet, barely casting them a lazy glance as they entered. Ryan looked around and raised his eyebrows at the mess on the bedside table - which included what looked a hell of a lot like a gun and a handful of rounds - and then at the clothes and underwear scattered on the floor.
“Er,” Gavin said awkwardly, darting forward to pick them up. “Sorry, I didn’t have time to clean-”
“Doesn’t fucking matter,” Ryan cut in. “It’s your house. It can be messy if you want. I’m not a guest, Gavin. We’re here to work.”
“Right,” Gavin said, quietly. And then - something almost tentative in it, something genuinely curious - “Is your house messy?”
Ryan blinked a few times. “I… my flat is, a bit, I guess. Not very. It’s easy when you live alone to just pick up after yourself. Especially when you’re out a lot, like I am.”
“That makes sense,” Gavin mused, wandering over to the drawers to put the clothes away. “Do you have a Roomba?”
“You should get one. They’re top. Ours is called Princeton.”
“It’s called… okay,” Ryan replied, rather bemused. Gavin was tidying up the nightstand now and Ryan wandered over to the cat and crouched next to it, reaching out to scratch its head. “You named the Roomba.”
“Why not? What would you name a Roomba if you had it?”
“But if you had to, Ryan,” Gavin insisted, turning to him, and Ryan rolled his eyes.
“Edgar,” he replied, the first name that sprang to mind, before straightening up and going over to the window. It was a long drop to the garden below, but there was a fly screen over it, so there was no way they could push Peter out. “You got a balcony?”
“No,” Gavin replied. He was attempting to clean up the book shelves now, trying in vain to stop the books from falling over onto their sides. “God. We need bookends. You got bookends in your house, Ryan?”
“I don’t,” Ryan said. Maybe part of him should have been annoyed that Gavin was being so suddenly nosy, but something felt different here, in Gavin’s house, outside of work. Like they weren’t quite themselves and it felt easier to talk.
Gavin hummed. “Weird. I would’ve thought you had bookends?”
“Why is that?”
“I dunno. You’re smart. Seems like you’d have a lot of books.”
“I’m smart,” Ryan replied drily, assuming Gavin was being sarcastic - but when he looked over at him, he looked quite sincere.
“Yeah,” Gavin said. “You’re always, like, quoting Shakespeare and stuff.”
“When did I ever quote Shakespeare?”
“The other day! You left your mask hanging up on the wall and when you went over to get it you were all alas poor Yorick.”
“Oh. I guess I did.” No one had laughed so he’d assumed it’d just gone over all their heads, which had, you know, been a bit awkward. “Anyone can quote a bit of Hamlet. Doesn’t make you smart.”
“Yeah, well, you use big words and all. I dunno. Fine, if you don’t think you’re smart, that’s your problem.” Gavin turned away, seeming a bit flustered, and Ryan felt a little bad for brushing him off. Considering how many times Gavin had laughed at him for flubbing said big words, he hadn’t thought the other man considered him smart. Dangerous maybe. Capable, certainly. But some sort of literary whiz; that was definitely new.
He turned away from the window. Gavin had finished his attempted cleaning and was now teasing the cat by dangling a sock in front of it. Ryan quickly refocused on their task here.
“You keep guns around?” he asked, glancing back at the side table.
Gavin nodded, dropping the sock and coming up next to him again.
“Yeah, we both do. Got some in here and lots in the study as well.”
“We might be able to stage a misfire. But that’s a last resort. It’d put suspicion on you as well. I think, right now, we might not be able to make it look like an accident. Might just have to get him far out from the city and put a bullet in him. Does he have many enemies?” Ryan asked, and Gavin pressed his lips together.
“Enough that that might be believable.”
“You’d have to sell it, though. Act like you’re upset he’s dead. Probably start investigating a bit before giving up. Make sure it doesn’t look like it was the crew that did it.”
Gavin nodded, and they fell into a slightly strained silence. Ryan looked over at the bed. Whoever had made it had done so pedantically, tucking the corners of the sheets right in and smoothing them down flat. He could tell quickly who had which side of the bed, since Peter’s bedside table was covered in sketchpads and pencils.
“Who the hell sleeps on three pillows,” Ryan muttered. “Wouldn’t that hurt your neck?”
Gavin’s lips twitched a bit. “I’m sure some people do. But he puts one under his feet.”
“That’s… that’s even weirder.” Ryan shook his head, turning away. “You moved in together really quickly.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Gavin said sharply. “A year’s a pretty long time to know someone, innit.”
“Hmm,” was all Ryan said in response to that, and Gavin scowled, obviously sensing his disapproval.
“Got a problem?” he demanded. “How long do you reckon you should know someone then before moving in with them?”
“I think you should know them well at least.”
“We do know each other well,” Gavin said defensively. “We got close very quickly.”
“Really? Because, I mean, given the situation we’re in now, your judgement of him was pretty damn poor, wasn’t it?” Ryan pointed out with raised eyebrows.
There was silence from behind him, and when he turned to look at Gavin he found the other man staring at him, eyes wide and almost hurt before his expression shuttered back down into annoyance.
“You’re a real asshole, Ryan,” he snapped, and turned away, storming back over to the dressing table where he flung the drawer open. “Let’s go look in the garage. He only took the bike out today. Where’s he keep his car keys?”
“You should know, he’s your boyfriend,” Ryan replied stiffly.
“They’re somewhere.” Gavin slammed the drawer shut and moved to check another one.
“Don’t you keep them in the one spot?” Ryan asked, and Gavin glanced over at him.
“I do with mine. But believe it or not, of the two of us I’m the organised one.”
“There’s a terrifying thought,” Ryan muttered. He opened the drawer on Peter’s side table, discovered a variety of condoms, and quickly shut it again.
They’d only been searching a few more minutes when there was a sudden noise from outside and they both froze, straining to listen. It sounded like someone pulling up in the drive - and sure enough, moments later came the sound of the door opening downstairs.
“Oh God,” Gavin hissed, “He’s back!”
“You told me he’d be out!”
“He was! He fully went to work like an hour and a half ago! He’s not meant to be back until this evening - why the hell is he here?” Gavin flailed about for a moment before rushing to the door and peering out. “You have to get out of here.”
“How?!” Ryan demanded.
“Climb out the window!”
“There’s a fly screen!”
“He can’t find you here. He’ll know something’s up.” Gavin shut the door quickly, looked furiously around the room, and then ran over and opened the closet door. “Get in here!”
“You want me to hide in there?” Ryan hissed, and Gavin nodded, grabbing his arm and yanking him forward. Ryan grit his teeth, annoyed, and snatched his arm away, but there were few other options in the room and he stepped into the closet, struggling not to trip over the mess of shoes on the floor.
“Stay quiet,” Gavin whispered, and shut the doors. Ryan was plunged immediately into darkness, pressed up against coats and jackets and shirts on hangers.
There was a thin crack between the closet doors and he held the doors shut as he pressed his eye to it. From here he could just see the bed, and as he watched Gavin sat down on it and pulled his phone out, tapping aimlessly at the screen. After a moment Lloyd jumped up next to him and stretched out in the line of sunlight on the bed.
Ryan held his breath as he heard footsteps coming up the stairs, and then, moments later, the bedroom door opening. On the bed Gavin looked up, lowering his phone, and smiled at whoever was standing in the doorway, just out of Ryan’s line of sight.
“Hello love,” he said. “What are you doing home?”
Ryan held himself very still, careful not to make a noise as he stood in the closet. It was uncomfortable; he had to crouch slightly due to the low roof, and there were hangers jabbing into his back, but he had hidden in worse positions before on far more dangerous jobs than this. That being said, he definitely didn’t want to be discovered.
It would be very difficult, after all, to explain to Gavin’s boyfriend what the hell he was doing in their bedroom.
He shifted slightly and pressed his eye to the crack between the doors again. Gavin was smiling up at Peter from where he sat on the bed, and Ryan heard the other man shut the door behind him, though he still didn’t move into Ryan’s line of sight yet.
“I forgot something I needed back here,” Peter replied, and Ryan couldn’t help but stiffen a little at hearing his target’s voice for the first time. It was pleasantly deep; English but with a different accent to Gavin. Something posher, like he’d stepped straight out of Downton Abbey.
“So you came all the way back?” Gavin asked.
Ryan heard Peter step over to the dresser and open a few drawers, rummaging about.
“It was my USB,” Peter said. “Pretty important. I need the stuff on there.”
“For that insurance job, right?” Gavin asked - his voice didn’t so much as waver, even as Ryan watched him closely.
“Yes,” Peter replied, without missing a beat. Ryan heard the drawer shut. “What are you up to? I thought you’d be out.”
“Nah, I’m really tired. Not bothered to go anywhere.”
“You should take a nap then,” Peter said, a touch of amusement in his tone. Finally he stepped up to the bed, Ryan stiffening as he entered his field of vision. He looked just as sharp as he had in Gavin’s photos, all slicked back blond hair and perfectly clean shave. It was a warm day outside and he had the sleeves of his expensive looking shirt rolled up to just below his elbows. He was obviously the sort of annoyingly pristine person whose look could remain entirely unaffected even after riding a motorbike back from the city on a hot day.
Ryan’s fingers twitched where he was holding the closet doors shut as he took in the man, already sizing him up. He was tall - Ryan’s height maybe - but a lot slimmer. More of a swimmer’s build. He made a mental note to ask Gavin later about the guy’s combat skills; they’d aim to take him by surprise but if it came down to it Ryan thought he could take the guy in a physical fight, unless he had some sort of secret martial arts skills Gavin had neglected to tell him about.
His gaze ran over Peter with the cold impassivity that he nearly always felt for his targets. Not anger so much as determination; this man was a threat to the crew, so he had to go. Gavin was watching him too, as he reached out to pet Lloyd. From this angle Ryan couldn’t see either of their faces as they both scratched at the cat’s ears and rubbed her stomach.
Peter seemed to grow bored of that quickly; he turned back to Gavin and gave him a small smile. As soon as Gavin looked up at him he stepped up closer to the bed and leaned in, one hand reaching to tilt Gavin’s chin up and press their lips together.
Ryan glanced away a bit awkwardly for a second before looking back. He felt a bit creepy watching from the closet like this, something uncomfortably voyeuristic in it, but the rest of him was seized with curiosity as to how Gavin would react. Just how far he’d be willing to go to keep Peter from suspecting anything was wrong. That he knew what he’d been up to.
As it was, Gavin didn’t so much as hesitate before kissing back, leaning into Peter’s touch as his own hand came up to rest on the other man’s shoulder. There was no hint of tension in his body, and when they pulled apart a little he looked up at the other man with open affection. Ryan was a little taken aback, to be honest; if he hadn’t known the reality of the situation he’d never have been able to tell that something was up in the first place.
It was a little strange, to be honest, looking at Gavin sitting there in home clothes, hair all flat, smiling up at his boyfriend - it was a far cry from the crew’s Gavin, plastic Gavin, million-dollar Ken doll Gavin who Ryan had never thought capable of looking at anyone like that except, perhaps, his own reflection in the mirror.
Peter grinned back at him - apparently he was capable of smiling, just not in photographs - before leaning in again, pulling Gavin in for another kiss. Gavin giggled a bit as their lips met, but Peter kept pushing in, forcing Gavin to lean back until he had to catch himself against the bed, barely sitting upright as Peter brought one knee up to rest on the mattress as he leaned over him.
From this angle they were right in his line of sight, and Ryan glanced away again, feeling a little awkward. It was hot and stuffy in this closet, especially since he was wearing a leather jacket, and he could feel sweat starting to trickle down his back. When he looked back Gavin was barely sitting up on his elbows and Peter was just pulling away only to shift up over him and start kissing his neck.
Gavin barked out a flustered sort of laugh, reaching up and steadying himself against Peter’s shoulder again.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I barely saw you last week,” Peter replied, voice a little muffled as he mouthed at Gavin’s jawline. “What time did you even get in last night?”
“Like four a.m.,” Gavin said, sounding a bit strained. His elbow gave out under him and he fell back against the mattress. Peter straddled him properly and the movement blocked most of Gavin from Ryan’s view. He frowned as whatever the man did made Gavin let out a soft gasp. All Ryan could see from here was Peter’s ass aimed right at the closet doors, and his tight jeans were not leaving a great deal to the imagination. He looked away, jaw clenched, rather unimpressed at ending up in this situation.
“We’ve been preparing for that last heist so much,” Gavin continued. “Too much to do.”
“Night owl,” Peter said, voice teasing. He caught Gavin’s hand and Ryan saw him press a kiss to his palm before pinning it back against the bed. “Come on, I miss you.”
God, he sounded so sincere even Ryan might have believed it. He couldn’t see Gavin’s face, but the other man relaxed for a moment, his other hand coming to rest on Peter’s waist, before he let out another laugh.
“Pete, you’re meant to be at work. Cheeky.”
“We have time.” Peter’s head ducked to his neck again. “Never knew you to pass up a quickie.”
For a horrifying moment Ryan thought they were about to go ahead and fuck right in front of him. Something shifted deep and uncomfortable in his gut, not just at the awkwardness of being stuck here watching but at the thought that, no matter what was going through Peter’s head, there was little way Gavin could want to be doing that. And no matter if he was pretending or not, if it was a necessity in this whole messed-up business, that - that wasn’t right, and Ryan half-wanted to burst out of the closet just to interrupt them.
But his fears were unfounded; a moment later Gavin brought a hand up to Peter’s chest and pushed him back a bit.
“I’m really tired,” he said, “Come on, not right now. And you should be going back to work.”
He pulled his other hand free from Peter’s grasp and the other man got the message; he sat back a little, letting Gavin up, before leaning in and kissing the top of his head instead.
“Okay,” he said, getting up off the bed and straightening his shirt. He glanced over at Gavin and reached out to chuck him under the chin. “You do look exhausted. You really ought to take a nap.”
“Will do,” Gavin replied, with a mocking salute, and Peter smiled.
“Want to meet me in the city tonight and we can go for dinner?”
“Nah, we need to catch up on Game of Thrones!”
“Ah, right.” Peter nodded sagely. “How could I forget? I’ll bring something home then.”
“I saw spoilers.”
“No don’t tell me. Stop going online before we catch up. You just keep ruining it for yourself.” Peter shook his head exasperatedly, but there was something fond in the way he rolled his eyes, and Gavin was laughing again, grinning up at him.
Ryan could only watch, transfixed. For a moment he nearly couldn’t believe that there was anything wrong between them at all. The way they were talking and laughing together was effortlessly casual and startlingly domestic in a way that Ryan found suddenly very foreign. He’d been alone for a long time and they kept their personal lives well out of crew work, so he didn’t see a lot of this; couples interacting in the space of their own home.
Peter started to move back out of sight and Gavin jumped up off the bed and grabbed for his arm.
“Where are your car keys, by the way?”
Peter turned and walked back over, coming right up to Gavin and straightening the hood of his jacket.
“You’re not driving my car, sweetheart,” he said pleasantly, and Gavin snorted, batting his hands away.
“You’re mean. But chill, I don’t want to drive it. I just left my iPod in there.”
Peter snorted. He walked towards the closet and Ryan stiffened, pulling back away from the doors, worried that he was going to open them to get the keys from the pocket of a garment inside. But he didn’t; he just paused, adjusting his cuffs, and Ryan realised that the outside doors of the closet were mirrors and he was inspecting his reflection in them. He held his breath, leaning back away from the crack, and relaxed when Peter finally finished fixing his hair and moved away. He heard a drawer open and then the jingle of keys as he tossed them over to Gavin.
“There you go then. Promise you won’t drive it?”
“For God’s sake, I have no interest in your crappy old car.”
“Crappy old- it’s vintage,” Peter spluttered, and Gavin laughed at him again. Ryan heard the bedroom door open and their voices and footsteps grow faint as Gavin walked him out.
He relaxed once they left the room, but stayed in the closet even as he heard the front door open and then shut downstairs, and the roar of a motorbike’s engine pulling away outside. He only emerged when he heard a single set of footsteps enter the room, and Gavin came up to the doors.
“Ryan?” he said, pulling them open. “He’s gone.”
Ryan stepped out of the closet and stretched his back, stiff from being hunched over in the low space for so long. After the darkness in there the room seemed too bright, the sunlight streaming through the window lighting the walls up white and nearly making his eyes ache.
Gavin made a little noise beside him and Ryan turned to see him wiping his hand against his opposite sleeve. As he watched he started rubbing at his neck as well. If he’d been relaxed before, he certainly wasn’t now, his shoulders hunched up and tense.
“He’s good, isn’t he,” he said, voice carefully blank, and Ryan blinked at him a few times.
“He’s a good liar.” Gavin glanced up at him and gave a humourless smile. His eyes were hard and cold and Ryan couldn’t quite tell what he was thinking. “Guess he has to be with his job. But to look at him you… you wouldn’t think that he’s cheating, would you? Sometimes it almost makes me second-guess. But I know. I saw. I can’t ignore it now.”
Ryan stared at him, a bit unsure what to say. After a moment Gavin looked away and slowly his shoulders relaxed and he appeared to be calm again, his face settling into something blank and almost bored.
“You’re good too,” Ryan said finally, still a bit taken aback by what he’d seen. He couldn’t help the way his eyes flickered to Gavin’s lips, a little reddened from the force of Peter’s kissing, and he didn’t quite look away fast enough. Gavin glanced over and caught him, and gave a wry smile.
“Because I kissed him? That’s easy. Anyone can have a good snog; it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s… it’s the rest that’s hard. Looking at him and talking to him.”
He trailed off into an awkward silence and Ryan suddenly didn’t quite know where to look. Gavin’s voice was flat but after everything that had just gone on there felt something very intimate suddenly about being here in this room with him. And there was something too vulnerable about seeing him standing there, staring down at his hands, seeming to struggle to keep the blank look on his face.
“It’s infuriating,” Gavin continued then. “How he….”
“What?” Ryan prompted, when he didn’t finish, but Gavin just shook his head.
“Doesn’t matter,” he said, and gave a tight smile. “He’s dead in a week anyway.”
Ryan raised his eyebrows, but Gavin was turning to him now and seemed to have quite recovered himself. He lifted the keys and spun them around his finger.
“Let’s go down to the garage then,” he said.
Ryan had to admit, Gavin’s current collection of motorbikes was pretty fucking impressive - although he shuddered to think how many more must have met unhappy ends at the hands of his terrible driving. For a few minutes he just paced around the garage inspecting the ones that were currently still in working condition.
“Some of those are Peter’s,” Gavin piped up, from where he was sitting on the hood of one of the cars picking at his elbow.
Ryan glanced over at him. “He has good taste at least.”
“‘Course he does, he’s dating me,” Gavin began, jokingly, only to falter a little as he seemed to remember just why they were here. He cleared his throat and pointed to a car at the far end of the garage. “That’s the one he uses a lot.”
Ryan looked over and let out a low hum of approval.
“Is that a vintage Camaro?”
“Yep,” Gavin replied, popping the p. He wandered over to join Ryan. “Are you a car person then?”
“More of a bike person, but I know a good car when I see it. No wonder he doesn’t want you driving it,” he added, and Gavin scowled.
“Piss off. I have a license.”
“You ignore stop signs!”
“I do it for fun Ryan, I can drive when I need to. I’d be dead by now if I couldn’t.” He proceeded to immediately devalue this point by picking a giant scab off his elbow that Ryan was positive he’d gotten from falling off his bike, and then staring at the wound underneath as though confused as to why it was bleeding.
Ryan could only watch in a sort of horrified fascination before shaking his head and turning back to the car.
“I’m gonna put a tracker and a bug on here,” he said. “We need to know more about where Glasgow’s crew is; where he’s been going to meet them. Then we can work out the best time and place to take him out. If I show you how to do this, you gotta track the bike he mainly uses as well when he gets home.”
“Okay,” Gavin replied, unlocking the car and getting in on the passenger side as Ryan slid into the driver’s seat. Despite the mess in their bedroom and the rest of the house, it seemed his vehicle was the one thing Peter kept clean, although the whole interior smelt rather strongly of some sort of expensive cologne.
“So you’re gonna be listening to everything he says and does in here,” Gavin said, and Ryan nodded.
“It’ll feed back to my computer. I’ll sift through it after work each day. Just in case he takes one of the crew for a ride; might let us know more about exactly what he’s doing with them and how on-track his plans are, since I doubt you’ll be able to keep sneaking looks at his phone and laptop every night.”
Gavin bit his lip and nodded. He paid attention as Ryan explained how to set up the tracking device, but then fell into a pensive silence as he planted the bug.
“What if he shags someone in here,” he said abruptly, and Ryan glanced over at him.
“What if he shags someone in the back of the car,” Gavin said stiffly, and Ryan raised his eyebrows.
“Then I’ll know more than I ever wanted to about what your boyfriend sounds like in bed. Honestly, Gavin, I’ve seen worse in this line of work than sex. I’m far more concerned about how close he is to freezing our ordnance on us.”
Gavin nodded, but he kept glancing at the backseat and after a moment Ryan sighed.
“I know for a fact he fucked one of them back there.” The words came out too quickly, like he’d been waiting to tell someone. “I saw in his phone. He was pretty much sexting one of them.”
“Not very careful, is he?”
“Well it’s not like I usually ever go through his stuff. I saw by accident.” He shifted in his seat, teeth worrying at his bottom lip, and for a moment Ryan couldn’t help feeling almost sorry for him.
It had to be fucking with Gavin’s head, knowing what he did when - as Ryan had seen - Peter was still so affectionate with him, was keeping up such a wonderful pretence that he wasn’t a complete lying scumbag.
“Maybe they’re paying him a lot,” Gavin continued then. “They must be, to have convinced him to go against the Fake AH Crew. He knows how dangerous we all are. If they paid him enough...”
There was something almost hopeful in Gavin’s voice, and for some reason it irritated Ryan slightly. Was it really all about money with him? That and the fact that it was his big mouth that had put the crew in such a vulnerable position; losing their explosives would put them in some deep shit.
“Either way it doesn’t matter,” Ryan said sharply. “We’re fucked if Glasgow’s plan works. Like you said, in a week he’ll be dead anyway. This is why we don’t get close to people outside the crew, Gavin. You think you can trust them but you can’t. They fuck you over and then we all get put in danger.”
Gavin flinched and then looked away, chastised, his jaw clenched tightly. Ryan stared at him, and after a moment his annoyance faded a little. Gavin seemed upset, even if he was trying to hide it, and while Ryan would usually have no qualms about telling him off for putting the crew in trouble, sitting here in the car with him - just the two of them, and Gavin looking so far from his usual brash, confident self - it was easier to be sympathetic. He felt a bit mean suddenly - not enough to apologise, but enough to reach out and poke Gavin’s arm.
“Hey,” he said, a bit awkwardly - and steadily feeling even more awkward when Gavin didn’t turn to look at him - “We’ll deal with it. And if you don’t want to, uh… actually pull the trigger. I’ll do it. It’s what I do for a living anyway.”
For a moment Gavin didn’t answer, just stared out the car window. But then he let out a huff of breath, shoulders slumping a bit, and nodded.
“Thanks,” he said quietly, and Ryan nodded, feeling a bit awkward. They got out of the car and Gavin locked it up again.
“Guess we’re done here,” he said, glancing up at Ryan. “When are we gonna work out when to do it?”
“When we’ve started tracking where he goes,” Ryan replied. “That probably won’t be until next week.”
“In the mean time,” Ryan said, “Keep an eye on him. Let me know if anything changes. And for God’s sake don’t let him suspect that we’re onto him.”
Gavin nodded, pressing his lips together, determined now. They stood in silence for a moment before Ryan gestured towards the garage door.
“I’ll be off then,” he said.
“Did you want to eat something before you go?” Gavin asked. It was about lunchtime by now. Ryan shook his head automatically and fancied Gavin looked a little disappointed, though he couldn’t think why. It had been his understanding that just as he avoided spending time with Gavin at all costs, the other man also did not want to hang around him any longer than was absolutely necessary.
Gavin walked him out to the front drive. He’d parked a few streets away and was glad for it now; it’d have been bad news if Peter had seen his car there.
“Remember,” Gavin said then, “Don’t tell Geoff about this. We’re not ready for a war with Glasgow yet.”
Ryan nodded. “Understood.”
“I guess I’ll see you at work then,” Gavin said, and Ryan nodded before turning and walking off. By the time he glanced back over his shoulder Gavin had returned inside.
He got back into his car and sat for a moment before sighing.
That had certainly been an experience.
Since joining the Fake AH Crew he hadn’t really taken any jobs on on the side, and it felt a little odd to be doing this without running his plans past Geoff the way he usually did.
It felt even stranger to be working on a hit with Gavin. Assassinations weren’t the other man’s forte and heists and robberies were the only things they really did together. Even so, strangest of all had been seeing him in his own home, and he still felt a little unsettled by how oddly normal it had all been. This entire weekend so far seemed a little unreal, and he was still struggling to reconcile the Gavin he’d left back at the house with the dolled up brat that he saw every day at work.
Well, was all he could think, as he put his car in gear and got ready to head home, Monday would certainly be interesting.
Peter took his car out for one drive on Sunday. Ryan tracked it but all he did was head out to a nearby shopping mall, and when he listened in on the bug Gavin was in the car too and all they did was completely ruin the latest episode of Game of Thrones for Ryan, who still hadn’t seen it.
He felt a bit strange walking into the base on Monday. The whole situation had been playing on his mind the entire weekend - he always felt that way on slow jobs, like he should be doing more to actively go after his target, but right now there was little they could do but wait for more information.
He was meant to be working with Ray today, but the other man wasn’t in yet when he got there, and he headed into the board room to wait for him. Michael was already in there, sprawled out in a chair tapping away at his phone, and he looked up and grunted at Ryan when he saw him. Ryan grunted back, taking his own seat and taking out his knife to sharpen it. They sat in companionable silence for a few moments before Michael finished whatever he was doing and put his phone away.
“Do much this weekend?” he asked, leaning forward to look at Ryan.
You don’t know the half of it, Ryan thought, and shook his head.
“Nah, not really. You?”
“Not much. Always feels weird after a heist having nothing to look forward to,” Michael said, and Ryan nodded.
“What are you doing?” he asked, and Michael leaned back in his chair again.
“Waiting for Gav,” he replied. “We’re together today. He’s late, though.” He snorted. “Probably still off doing his hair.”
Ryan smiled a bit. He took his mask off, feeling a little stifled - it was hot outside, in the middle of summer, and even in the base with the air conditioner on it was a bit too warm to be comfortable. He’d foregone facepaint today, only putting enough black around his eyes to keep his mask looking menacing, and he was undergoing the difficult process of trying to scratch his eye without smudging it everywhere when Gavin entered the room.
“Good morning lads,” he cried as he entered. Ryan looked up at him, unsure why he felt oddly eager to see him.
He thought maybe something ought to have changed over the weekend. But Gavin looked exactly the same as he usually did; spiked up blond hair, sunglasses covering half his face, expensive shirt unbuttoned far enough that Ryan was getting a good view of his ample chest hair. He was grinning widely as he sauntered in, pulled out a chair and straddled it. Ryan could have almost thought that the Gavin he’d met on the weekend had been a dream - except, a moment later, Gavin turned towards him and his grin faltered slightly, replaced for a second by a smaller, more genuine smile before he turned back to Michael.
“Look at this Michael, I stole a taser.” He dropped the device into Michael’s lap and Michael caught it with a yelp before it could hit his crotch.
“Where’d you get this?”
“Some cop who was waiting to get coffee.” Gavin grinned proudly as Michael raised a hand for a high five.
“You lifted from a cop? Nice, boi.”
“Let me zap you with it as a reward.”
“That’s going a bit far. Maybe later,” Michael replied, dropping the taser on the table. Ryan reached out to take it, turning it over in his hands. Gavin looked over at him and Ryan glanced up, but it was hard to meet Gavin’s eyes behind his sunglasses, and after a moment he turned away again.
“Oh, Michael, also. I just found out there’s gold in the museum,” he said. “They have this whole mineral section and there’s a big chunk of gold in there. I want it.”
“You want it?” Michael asked, and laughed. “I swear to God, Gav, you’re like a magpie. If it’s shiny and valuable you just have to have it.”
“How top would that be, though? A massive big chunk of just pure gold? Besides, it’s in the museum, that makes it all cultural, right Ryan?”
Ryan put the taser down and nodded sagely.
“It does add a certain elegance to the whole business,” he said, and Gavin grinned smugly only to pause as a thought seemed to strike him. He let out a sudden gasp.
“Oh my God. I’ve just had the best idea.”
“Do share,” Michael said, sounding very amused.
Gavin leaned in, ushering the two of them close, before whispering, excitedly, “Let’s steal the dinosaur bones in the museum!”
Michael cracked up immediately and Ryan could only shake his head, suddenly unable to help his smile.
“I mean it! How bloody awesome would that be?” Gavin cried. “The dinosaur bones, Michael-”
“That is too much,” Michael choked out. “How - how the hell would we get them out?”
“They have small dinosaurs there too! Ryan, don’t you think that’s the best idea, Ryan?” He looked over at him again and despite himself Ryan couldn’t help but laugh. It was stupid, yes, but funny in the way all their preposterous plans were funny.
“The Jurassic Heist does have a nice ring to it,” he said, and Gavin grinned wide.
“Who would we fucking sell them to,” Michael pointed out.
Gavin shrugged. “I don’t know. The evil scientists?”
“Right.” Michael shook his head fondly. “You’re terrible. I swear you’d steal a lollipop from a baby if the mood struck you.”
“I would not. I’m not that mean,” Gavin protested. He folded his arms over the back of the chair and rested his chin on them with a sigh. “You just don’t appreciate my genius.”
Michael responded to that by reaching out and messing at his hair, Gavin squawking as he nearly fell off his chair in an attempt to get away. Ryan could only watch in bemusement from where he sat. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t seen the two mess around a hundred times before but it was usually accompanied by some undercurrent of annoyance, usually at Gavin for mucking around and wasting time.
That was absent today. For whatever reason the other’s usual antics were more amusing than anything else.
Ray walked in at that moment, causing both of them to stop and look up at him.
“Nice gamerscore over the weekend,” Michael said right away, and that devolved into some sort of conversation about gaming and achievements as Ryan watched, waiting patiently for them to finish up so they could get going. He wasn’t expecting to be included until, abruptly, Ray turned towards him.
“You play Halo too don’t you Ryan?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Ryan replied - he’d talked to Ray about it a couple of times on stakeouts.
“Wait, you do?” Gavin asked abruptly, turning to him - Ryan nodded, and Gavin stared at him for a long moment, seeming quite flabbergasted by this new information.
Before he could say anything, though, Ray glanced at his watch.
“Shit, I’m later than I thought. We should get going.”
Ryan turned back to the table to put his mask back on. When he turned back Michael and Ray were already heading out, still talking about something or other, but Gavin was lingering a bit awkwardly. He waited for Ryan to start walking before heading out beside him, glancing up at him continually. With his sunglasses on Ryan couldn’t tell what he was thinking, but Michael and Ray were too close by for him to say anything about their plans and he settled for just raising his eyebrows at him.
“Your weekend alright?” he asked, casually, and Gavin hesitated before nodding.
“Everything was fine,” he replied, and Ryan nodded.
They had a busy day lined up and all thoughts of the murder were quickly pushed from Ryan’s mind.
Especially when, you know, he was hit by a fucking car.
The job he was on with Ray was meant to consist of just a few discreet assassinations, but things rarely ran quite so smoothly in their business and a series of misfortunes led to the police getting involved. They couldn’t shake them and in their escape they ended up stuck out in the middle of the road after their own vehicle’s tires got shot out.
To be fair, he was only hit by the cop car because he was tackling Ray out of the way of it, and it hit him at a glancing angle. Enough to send him skidding a few metres down the road, dazed for a moment, head spinning and staring up at the sky a bit confused as to how he got there, only to be even more stunned when seconds later there was a massive explosion nearby as Ray seemed to decide that desperate times called for grenade launchers.
They got out - barely - Ray heaving Ryan up and dragging him several streets away until he finally shook off the shock and managed to walk himself. His side killed and his head was pounding but he was pretty sure he hadn’t broken anything, and he’d had worse - he was tough enough to walk it off, adrenaline fuelling him until they were in the clear and managed to steal another car.
The whole debacle didn’t put him in a very good mood and it was late afternoon by the time they got back to the base, exhausted and aching and sweaty and with two of their targets for today having gotten away.
“Need Caleb?” Ray asked, as they pulled up outside the base.
Ryan shook his head. “I can patch myself up.”
“You sure? You flew like six metres through the air dude,” Ray said. His voice was flat, almost sarcastic, but Ryan could see the concern in his eyes.
He shook his head again. “I’m fine. If things feel off I’ll give him a call. You should go brief Geoff on what happened.”
Ray nodded, and Ryan limped into the base on his own, heading straight for the infirmary. He pulled his mask off, wincing - it hurt a bit to raise his arm - and struggled out of his shirt, looking down at himself with a grimace.
His entire left side was mottled with bruises and the skin was badly grazed where he’d slid along the road, but after some inspection he determined that no ribs were broken and he was probably just sore. Still, it’d be a bitch to clean up - some of the grazes were deep and bleeding sluggishly - and he tiredly moved to grab one of the first aid kits before leaning against the counter and tearing open an antiseptic wipe.
He’d been working in silence for a few minutes when he heard the door open behind him. He turned a bit too fast, wincing as the movement tugged at his side, only to pause when it was Gavin who slipped inside, shutting the door behind him.
“Hey,” he called out, and Ryan scowled.
It came automatically to feel annoyed; Gavin had a bad habit of pestering people when they were trying to get things done and he was the last person Ryan wanted to see now, when he was sore and exhausted and really just wanted to stop himself bleeding so he could sit down. He settled for just giving him a noncommittal sort of grunt and returning to swabbing at a nasty scrape on his side.
Gavin came right over to him, and Ryan grit his teeth - him hovering was the last thing he needed - and sucked in a little breath.
“Ouch. Need any help with that?”
“I can deal with it,” Ryan said shortly, and Gavin looked a bit taken aback. He’d already been reaching out to help.
“Okay,” he said quietly, and hoisted himself up to sit on the table nearby, watching. Ryan ignored him, focused on what he was doing, but when he moved to rinse out the cloth he was using and looked over at Gavin, he’d taken his sunglasses off and hooked them into the front of his shirt. With his face uncovered Ryan could see full well how awkward he looked - glancing quickly at Ryan and then back again, biting at his lip in a way that seemed worried more than anything else. And tired, too, dark creases under his eyes that were usually hidden by the shades.
Ryan relaxed a bit, his irritation fading a little now that Gavin looked less like his usual self.
“That looks painful,” Gavin observed when Ryan started wiping his side and arm again.
“I’ve had worse,” Ryan grunted. He felt awkward suddenly, self conscious with Gavin staring at him. “Do you need something?”
“No,” Gavin replied, sounding a little flustered. “I heard you got injured so I came to see if you were okay.”
He sounded sincere enough, but it was unlike him to care, and Ryan hesitated. The sudden creeping doubt hit him that the only reason Gavin was bothering was because he needed him in good shape to help him get rid of Peter. That he only cared because Ryan was useful to him. It was a nagging sort of insecurity that for the most part he thought he’d gotten over; he’d worked alone for so long and been seen as little more than a faceless assassin by so many people that it had been a bit of a struggle to get used to being part of a crew where everyone genuinely cared about each other. And while he was close friends with Geoff by now, and all the others, Gavin was the one stand out who he still didn’t quite know his place with.
Worrying about that made him feel weak in a way that he disliked, and he didn’t bother to answer, moving to pick up a bandage. He struggled to get it open with one hand to stick on his opposite arm and after a second Gavin sighed and slid off the table, walking over to him again.
Ryan glanced at him suspiciously, but in all honesty it was more awkward having Gavin sit there staring at him than it was to let him help, and he lowered his arm and let Gavin take the plaster from him.
He held out his arm, struggling not to go stiff at having Gavin stand so close to him when usually he made a point of avoiding the other man as much as possible. With Gavin’s head down, concentrating on sticking the bandage smoothly over the scrape on Ryan’s arm, he had free reign to stare.
From afar Gavin had always seemed untouchable, an implacable mass of hairspray and gold jewellery and designer clothes. Even when he got a bit dishevelled after a heist there was something deliberate about the chaos, a confidence that let him still manage to pull it off.
Up close, though, he could see the imperfections, the little cracks in the surface. A few threads sticking out at the seams of Gavin’s shirt, places in his hair where the blond had faded to a dull muddy sort of colour or patches where his roots were growing out dark. The little scab across the bridge of his nose where he’d gotten grazed in the heist last week. His eyes tired and a bit bloodshot. Little things that suddenly reminded him of how Gavin had looked at home, away from the base. Human, not plastic.
“I planted the bug and stuff,” Gavin said, suddenly enough to make Ryan nearly jump. He didn’t look up from where he was bandaging away. “He has no idea.”
“Good,” Ryan replied, and Gavin glanced up at him briefly before reaching for the first aid kit again.
“I also snuck a look at his phone again,” he continued, “And I think he’s having trouble with the con. Getting the weapons dealers to come around enough to drop our business. It buys us some time, but… Peter’s good. He’ll get through to them eventually. He can be pretty persuasive.”
“We’ll take care of it before anything like that can happen,” Ryan grunted, and Gavin turned back to him, a little container of ointment in hand.
“Yeah,” he said quietly.
He seemed almost relieved to be talking about it, and Ryan thought again that it must have been pretty awful being at home with Peter the entire weekend having to keep what he knew to himself. There was nothing worse than having to stay quiet about something, to keep a secret like that while having to smile and pretend everything was alright. For all his theatre experience, Ryan was not a particularly good liar himself. It was part of why he liked to wear the mask. There was so much bullshit in their business you had to try and brush off, whether it was making deals with people you disliked or putting on a brave face to keep your reputation intact. Covering his face meant he didn’t have to bother pretending too hard; it was much easier just to let people think you didn’t feel anything at all. Safer, too, sometimes.
They fell back into silence, Gavin busying himself with rubbing the ointment over Ryan’s grazes. Ryan couldn’t help but tense again, clutching at the edge of the counter he was leaning on. He wasn’t particularly tactile with any of the others and Gavin least of all, and the other’s cold fingers running down his chest and over his sides made him shiver. Gavin’s touch was light and careful even as he rubbed the ointment in in careful circles. A pickpocket’s touch, Ryan thought, only to squirm back a bit when Gavin pressed against the worst bruise.
“You got this saving Ray,” he said, looking up at Ryan, who could only nod.
Gavin’s brows furrowed a little and he drew his hand back slowly, still staring at the injury.
“He said you jumped in front of a car to save him.”
“Of course I did,” Ryan replied. “Did you expect me to just leave him?”
God knew he didn’t care what Gavin thought of him - of course he didn’t - but he didn’t know why he felt a slight pang of hurt at the insinuation that he didn’t care. That Gavin would really think he’d just leave Ray to be injured without trying to help him. Because he did care - too much, probably.
“I take care of my own,” he added then, a touch defensively, and Gavin gave him an odd sort of look that he couldn’t quite decipher before smoothing another bandage over Ryan’s side and turning away to wash his hands.
Ryan picked up his shirt but part of it was ripped and it was so dirty that he didn’t really want to put it back on. He was rummaging in one of the cupboards to find a spare when he glanced back over his shoulder to find Gavin staring at him.
He knew the other man was looking at his scars - there were a number on his back, from various accidents and injuries, and they weren’t exactly pretty, but as he turned back around he caught the other’s eyes flicking almost appreciatively up over his torso before he looked away, coughing slightly. Ryan raised his eyebrows but pulled his shirt on quickly, a little confused and half convinced he’d been imagining the way the other’s gaze had lingered on his shoulders and chest.
He cleared his throat. They were done here but he suddenly felt like they should be talking more, now that they had the chance to be alone together and plan. Gavin was shuffling his feet, fiddling with the cuffs of his shirt. He seemed reluctant to leave the room and suddenly Ryan was too. After the disasters of today there’d be a lot of follow-up and he felt abruptly exhausted. Not in the mood to jump right back into the hustle and bustle of crew work just yet.
“Peter go out today?” he asked, and Gavin nodded, almost too eagerly, like he’d been waiting to bring up the topic again.
“Yes, he did. Even told me he’d be back late, so hopefully that’ll give us something to work with.” He was fidgeting, fingers toying nervously together, and Ryan tilted his head as he looked at him, scrutinising.
He still couldn’t quite work out exactly how Gavin felt about this whole business. If he was excited to get down to killing the man, or nervous - or reluctant, perhaps. If so, he was hiding it well.
“You know,” he said carefully, “It’s surprisingly ruthless of you to jump straight to taking him out. I mean, you’ve been together a year, and even if he is cheating, a lot of people might have tried talking about it first. Seen if there’s another side to the story.”
Gavin’s face hardened a bit.
“He is literally trying to get us killed,” he said flatly, and Ryan raised his eyebrows calmly.
“You don’t know why he took the job. Why he’d suddenly decide to turn against you.”
“He’s bloody well cheating on me, Ryan,” Gavin snapped. “He obviously doesn’t care about me anymore.”
“Was that a surprise to you?” Ryan asked.
Gavin froze, seeming startled at the question, and Ryan folded his arms, still watching him carefully. Truth be told he was genuinely curious about the other man’s relationship. Having known nothing at all about Gavin’s personal life, he was interested in how close, exactly, they had been. How much they cared about each other.
And, for whatever reason, trying to gauge just how much Gavin cared.
Ryan’s initial assumption had been that he didn’t, much. That maybe it was more of a physical relationship and they lived together for convenience’s sake, or that they were together for the show of it - thieves and forgers could be very useful to each other, after all, and it never hurt your street cred to have an attractive man on your arm.
But after seeing the two of them in that bedroom, both pretending as hard as they could-
Both making such a realistic show of it-
And a year. A year was a long fucking time to be together and not end up genuinely caring about someone.
Gavin was still staring at him, seeming a bit lost for words. He looked a bit pained, now, and after a moment he shook his head slowly and looked away.
“Maybe it should have been more of a surprise than it was,” he muttered, and Ryan blinked a few times, not quite sure what that was supposed to mean.
After a second Gavin shrugged. He grinned, though it looked very forced, not reaching his eyes - but a second later he put his sunglasses back on and in a second it changed back into that cocky look that Ryan so despised. He frowned a little at how quickly his perception of the man could shift based solely on whether the top half of his face was showing or not.
“Anyway,” Gavin said, “It doesn’t matter. He’s a threat to the crew so he has to go. Gotta take out the trash and all that.”
“You care about the crew more than your boyfriend?” Ryan couldn’t help asking - and was surprised by how quickly Gavin nodded.
“After he cheated on me? Of course I do. And even if he hadn’t I… maybe I would have tried talking to him but… he’s putting Geoff and Michael and all the rest of you in danger. Like you said,” he added, with a funny sort of smile, “I take care of my own too.”
“You and Geoff seem really close,” Ryan commented. It was something he’d been wondering about for some time. There was no doubt that Gavin was useful to Geoff but their relationship obviously ran far deeper than that and while Ryan had observed it, he’d never really found the right moment to ask Geoff exactly how they’d met.
As it was, Gavin smiled again, and even with the glasses on Ryan could tell this one was wide and genuine.
“I’ve known Geoff for ages. I watched him build up this crew even before I came to America full-time. There aren’t many people like him, y’know. The Fake AH Crew is… it’s different, and a lot of that’s down to him. That kinda makes it special, you know?”
I know, Ryan thought - it was what had drawn him here in the first place. The trust between the whole crew that made them work together so seamlessly, even when pulling off the most madcap of schemes.
“I lived with him for a while when I first moved over here,” Gavin continued. “We’re really close. So yeah, I’d do anything for him. Almost anything. And for the crew, too,” he added, with a fierce sort of loyalty that took Ryan aback a little.
Most of his interactions with Gavin so far had been on planned jobs, and being so new to the crew there was a lot he’d missed out on. This whole business with Peter was actually the first proper outside threat they’d gone up against.
It was surprising - but pleasant - to realise that the one link in the crew he’d doubted was, indeed, just as loyal as the rest of them.
Maybe not just in it for the money after all.
He didn’t realise he’d been staring thoughtfully at Gavin until the other man shifted a bit awkwardly and then clapped his hands together.
“Anyway! I didn’t know you played video games,” he said, and Ryan blinked a few times, startled by the sudden change of topic.
“What did you think I do all day when I’m not at work?” he asked, amused, and Gavin shrugged.
“I don’t know. Shoot stuff.”
“Or sit around reading Shakespeare, apparently,” Ryan said, and Gavin barked out a laugh. He reached behind him to grab Ryan’s jacket from the table behind him and passed it back over to him, the corners of his mouth turning down when Ryan winced a little as he stretched to pull it on.
“Does it still hurt?” he asked, and Ryan shook his head.
“I’ve bounced back from worse.”
“That’s good,” Gavin murmured, brushing past him to pack away the first aid kit. Ryan glanced at the other man’s hands again as he clipped the case shut, eyes tracking him as he stretched to reach the high cupboard to put the kit away. He could have patched himself up, probably, but it was always nicer somehow when someone else did it. They tended to do a better job of it, and Gavin was neat and efficient with his hands. He supposed that came with the territory of constantly picking locks (and pockets).
“Anyway,” Gavin said, moving to hold the door open for Ryan. “I have some stuff I still need to do for today so we can… talk later, if you want. About the Peter stuff.”
“I’ll see what he’s been up to when I get home tonight,” Ryan agreed, heading out into the corridor. Gavin trailed along next to him, nodding.
“Okay. I won’t be home until late either. Got a lot of planning to do with Geoff.” He paused, then looked up at Ryan with a mischievous grin. “You do think my dinosaur idea is good right?”
“Yes,” Ryan replied, feeling another tug of amusement. “It’s very… unique.”
“I think it’d be so funny,” Gavin said, and Ryan couldn’t help but laugh. It was the sort of outrageous plan that he liked himself, part of what made the Fake AH Crew’s heists and jobs so fun. Their plans were always unlike anything he’d seen other crews pull off.
Also, who didn’t like dinosaurs?
“If you find a way to make it work I’m definitely in,” he said, and Gavin’s grin widened.
“Top. Talk to you later then,” he said, and Ryan nodded, watching him head off down the corridor. He turned away, running a hand through his hair.
Well. That had certainly been interesting. And over the course of the last three days he’d certainly gained a lot to chew on.
Gavin was evidently not as clear-cut as he’d assumed. He liked gold and expensive things, sure. But he also apparently liked cats a great deal. His heist plans, it appeared, were not just about getting as much profit as possible, but about the silly stories they could get out of them, the excitement of stealing something as ridiculous and outlandish as possible. And his relationship with the crew ran far deeper than Ryan had expected. Apparently he didn’t just care about himself after all.
It felt strange to be seeing another side to him so suddenly - but equally strangely, he found that he didn’t mind it. If everything he’d learned so far had made Gavin more tolerable - well, he supposed, that could only be a good thing.
Either way, things were in place with Peter now, and he knew as the week progressed and they started planning in earnest he was going to be seeing a hell of a lot more of him.
This and the next chapter were originally one long one; I have broken it up because I thought it was inconsistent with the length of the other chapters in the story aha~
Ryan settled back on his couch at home, pulling his laptop up in front of him. Peter had made several trips during the day in his car that Ryan now had tracked, along with a number of hours of sound recorded on the bug.
He put his headphones in and set to listening. There was a steady spike of loud soundwaves early on in Peter’s first trip and Ryan perked up, thinking he might have picked someone up, only to deflate when he realised the man had just turned on his iPod. He pulled a face immediately.
Ryan might have approved of Gavin’s boyfriend’s taste in vehicles, but his musical preferences could only be described as Eurotrash.
The tracker marked Peter’s car as he drove out through the city to stop at the warehouse district where Ryan knew their weapons supplier worked from. Here he paused for several hours before returning to the car and making several stops throughout Achievement City, presumably meeting contacts under his guise of working for the dealers. He was alone in the car every time and Ryan was forced to sit through several hours of some sort of ABBA knockoff just in case at some point Peter started villainously monologuing (he didn’t).
Still, he’d sat through more boring things, and he perked up when at five o’clock Peter returned to the warehouse before driving off again - but not back in the direction of his and Gavin’s house. He stopped at some point in the city and Ryan sat up, alert, when he heard someone else enter the car.
“Hey,” Peter greeted.
“Hey,” a feminine voice replied. They set off driving again, Ryan listening intently.
“How was your day?” Peter asked after a moment.
A sigh from what Ryan assumed was a woman.
“Tiring,” she replied, with a little laugh. “Dull. Nothing exciting. How about you?”
“About the same. I don’t know how much progress I’ve been making the last few days. They’re iffy about turning away the FAHC since they’re their biggest customers. But I’ll get them there.”
“I know you will,” she replied. “You’re the best at what you do.”
“Well, now. Anyway, we can talk about that when we get back to base,” Peter said, and Ryan cursed as conversation devolved off into discussion of where they would go for dinner.
He was a little surprised, to be honest, by how friendly Peter was being with this woman. He assumed she was one of his affairs, but Gavin had led him to believe that Peter was cold, aloof, callous, except with him - but he was being quite charming and affectionate towards this passenger in his car. Then again, considering his job - and personality - Ryan couldn’t exactly tell whether he was being authentic or not.
He hoped that they might head back to Glasgow’s base, but it soon became apparent they were going to get food together first. He tuned back in when he heard them bring up the job again.
“I’m pushing to convince them Glasgow can pay better,” Peter said then, and sighed. “Anyway. The key to these things is not to rush them.”
“And Free still has no idea?” the woman asked.
Peter laughed dismissively.
“He’s totally oblivious,” he replied. “You don’t have to worry about Gav, trust me.”
“I’ve heard the stories, but I know he’s not actually stupid,” the woman began, but Peter shushed her.
“I mean it,” he said, “You don’t need to worry about him. He has no idea. He thinks I’m still working an insurance job. Besides, he’s been so busy lately he barely has time to notice what I’m doing.”
“Busy with what?” she asked, sounding a little alarmed.
“Nothing to do with Bork and the rest of you. Just heists and things. The usual.”
She hummed suspiciously. “Still, see if you can find out Ramsey’s plans to do with our crew from him.”
“I’ll try,” Peter said, and changed the topic.
Ryan frowned as annoyance spiked through his chest, followed by a flash of vindictiveness. He was meanly sort of pleased at the nasty shock Peter would get when he realised that Gavin had known all along. And that he’d likely get frustrated when Ryan warned Gavin not to let anything slip and he either got nothing or was fed false information on the crew’s plans. Normally Ryan was quite impartial to all his targets but there was something slimy about this man that he disliked intensely. He wondered again just how the hell he and Gavin had started dating. Who had made the first move.
And, given both of their predilections for lying, if it had ever been real at all.
To his disappointment, after they went for dinner the woman seemed to head off back to the base on her own, and Peter returned to his and Gavin’s house. By this point Ryan had caught up and was watching it happen live. The recording fell silent as soon as he exited the car, and Ryan closed his laptop with a frown, wondering what had happened after that.
If Gavin was already home when he arrived.
If Peter was even now getting undressed and if he’d wash his hair once he got in, if he’d take off the costume that to some extent they all wore at work. The costume but not the mask. If he’d kissed Gavin when he got in and asked him about his day just the same way he’d asked the woman.
He sighed, reaching up to rub at his eyes. The movement made his bruised ribs twinge a bit and he grimaced, hand going to his side and the bandage Gavin had put on him. Hopefully within the next few days he’d get a sense of Peter’s routines and could work out where best to take him out.
Ryan was working on a number of different things the next day, but he dropped by the base between jobs to go and find Gavin, snagging him by the arm when he caught him leaving his office and pulling him back into the room.
“What’s going on?” Gavin asked, seeming a bit startled as Ryan shut the door behind them.
Ryan turned back to him. They hadn’t seen each other all day and again Gavin looked like his usual self, sunglasses on, hair all spiked up - but something was different, a bit off, and Ryan realised that since this whole business had started up the other man had been quieter, less obnoxious, less inclined to cause trouble. Normally he would have been glad for the peace but now it just felt wrong, somehow, especially since he knew exactly what was preoccupying him.
“Peter ask you anything last night about how Geoff’s feeling about Glasgow’s crew?”
“No,” Gavin replied, eyebrows rising. “Why? He say something on the bug?”
“Went out with a woman from the crew.” He saw Gavin stiffen, but continued. “She was worried you might be catching onto them. He brushed it off - thinks he’s got you fooled - but be careful. He might start asking questions, trying to scope you out.”
“Right,” Gavin replied, frowning a bit. “Don’t worry. I’m keeping up appearances.”
“Good. Don’t text me anything about this stuff from now on, just in case he checks your phone.”
“He’d bloody well better not get near my phone,” Gavin said, sounding very annoyed. “But fear not. If there’s one thing I’m good at,” he added, with a little grin, “It’s playing dumb.”
Ryan rolled his eyes. “Did he say where he was going today?”
“Just that he’d be out late again. Hopefully he goes somewhere interesting. Then we can work out how to get him.”
Ryan nodded, giving a little grunt. “I’ll keep monitoring. When I got home last night he was still driving around. Saw him get home.”
“Yeah, he got back before me.” Gavin hesitated suddenly, then asked - cautiously - “Don’t suppose I can come over and have a look too?”
“What?” Ryan asked, and Gavin bit his lip, but pushed on.
“I told him I’d be out late too. I dunno. Might be easier if we just plan together after work instead of you doing everything and then having to come back here and find a moment to let me know. I don’t know,” he said again, sounding a bit sheepish now. “Just thought it might be simpler than trying to find time to meet up during the day.”
Ryan stared at him. Geoff knew where he lived and had dropped by once, but apart from that none of the others had ever really been over to his apartment. And he’d certainly never expected to be inviting over Gavin of all people.
But it made sense. He wasn’t always working at the base and it was a hassle trying to keep meeting up - and unless he started bringing their planning in to work to do at the base after-hours, they’d have to start meeting up at other places.
“Okay,” he said slowly, and Gavin perked up.
“Really?” he asked, seeming surprised Ryan had agreed.
“It makes sense,” Ryan said. “I’ll come back here and pick you up when I’m finished for today.”
Gavin nodded. He still seemed a little shellshocked that Ryan was actually going to let him come over, and as they parted ways and Ryan headed back out to his car he paused.
Am I really that mysterious to them still? He wondered. Half the time he didn’t bother with the mask anymore and he spent as much time laughing and joking around as the rest of them. He’d figured that by now they didn’t see him as some great secret, brooding figure any longer.
Well, maybe the others didn’t. He’d kept it up around Gavin, half for his own amusement and half as an attempt to intimidate the other man into being less annoying (not that that had really worked). Either way, he thought with a wry smile, if Gavin was expecting some sort of villainous lair or secret torture dungeon, he was about to be bitterly disappointed.
Ryan finished his job later than expected and it was on the verge of getting dark by the time he got back to the base. Everyone else had gone home, it seemed, but Gavin was sitting on the ground outside the front doors, earbuds in and listening to something on his phone. When Ryan’s car pulled up he jumped to his feet and hurried to get in.
“Job ran late,” Ryan explained, but Gavin just shrugged.
“S’fine. Weather’s nice out anyway,” he said.
The weather was indeed nice out. Summer this year wasn’t too hot and at this time of evening with the sun just going down it was a pleasantly mild temperature; not warm but not too cool either.
Beside him Gavin was struggling to untangle a knot in his earphone cords. Ryan glanced over at him and snorted.
“By the way, your boyfriend has shit taste in music.”
Gavin started laughing. “Oh my God he does. Was he playing his weird Danish songs in the car?”
“Yeah. It’s been stuck in my head all day.”
“Dude. Welcome to my life.” He shook his head, still sniggering, and Ryan couldn’t help but smile a bit. They settled into silence as Gavin got himself under control, and they were a few streets away from Ryan’s apartment when Gavin spoke again.
“It’s weird you call him that.”
“What?” Ryan asked, glancing over at him.
“That you call him my boyfriend.” Gavin shook himself a little, lips twisting into a wry half-smile. “I mean, I guess I do too, since I don’t really know what else to use. ‘Ex’ seems wrong because we never really broke up. But in my head we’ve been over since the second I realised he was cheating. It’s funny, too, there’s no need to have a proper break up now, is there? He’s gotta be over me as well or he wouldn’t be doing this. So nothing’s real anymore. He’s pretending, and I’m pretending, and we’re both just hoping the other one doesn’t find out. It’s all just… theatre, really, innit?”
Ryan was not quite sure how to respond to that. It was good, he thought, that Gavin had apparently already divorced himself from the idea that he and Peter were together. It would make it easier not to hesitate when the time came to kill him.
He opened his mouth to say so, but when he looked over at Gavin again the other man had turned away and was staring pensively out the window, jaw tight. Ryan faltered. For all that it was the reason why they were both there, it suddenly seemed almost insensitive to bring up the murder.
“That makes sense,” he said instead - Gavin looked over at him again - “You may as well call him that, for convenience’s sake, but he ended things the second he betrayed you.”
“Exactly,” Gavin replied. He sounded tired. By this point they had arrived at Ryan’s apartment building, and he was glad of the distraction as he pulled into the parking lot.
“This is a really normal place,” Gavin commented, as he trailed after Ryan up several flights of stairs towards his flat.
There it is, Ryan thought, smiling a bit.
“We can’t all live over in the rich people district,” he replied, and Gavin snorted.
“Fair play. Michael’s like that too. He doesn’t care much where he lives. Or Ray, s’long as he has his Xbox.” He glanced back down the stairs. “Where do you keep all your cars and bikes and things?”
“I only have the one car. The bikes I keep in a separate garage,” Ryan replied. “That’s the one thing I don’t like about here, that I can’t have them all close by. But it’s not too inconvenient.”
“Nice,” Gavin said. They’d reached Ryan’s door by now and he hesitated, suddenly, with his key at the lock. It did feel terribly strange having someone over for the first time since he’d moved in here.
That was probably a bit sad, he thought suddenly, feeling almost embarrassed. It wasn’t as though he was some lonely friendless person, after all, just - private, and liked his space, particularly outside of work.
But that’s all it was here, he reminded himself, work, and with that purpose in mind he unlocked the door and stepped in.
Gavin fell silent as he followed Ryan in. It was dark inside - Ryan moved to switch on the lights - and when he turned back around Gavin was taking his sunglasses off and staring around with unabashed curiosity. Ryan rolled his eyes, already familiar with the other man’s incessant nosiness, and headed into his room to get changed into something more comfortable. He’d been running around in his leathers all day and he wanted to properly wash his face at least.
When he headed back out it was to find Gavin picking things up off his bookshelf. He cleared his throat loudly and Gavin jumped a mile, nearly dropping whatever it was he’d picked up - just some Xbox game, Ryan realised - before he spun around guiltily.
His mouth was open to say something but he did a double take when he saw Ryan.
“What?” Ryan asked, feeling a little self conscious at just how much Gavin was staring at him.
“You know when you have a teacher at school that always wears a suit and then one day you see them in casual clothes and it’s like, whoa,” Gavin blurted out.
Ryan blinked at him. “…what?”
“It’s like that. Seeing you in jeans an’ all.”
Ryan looked down at himself. “But… you’ve seen me in casual clothes before?”
“Yeah, but that was on heists and stuff. It was like a disguise. I dunno. It seems different.” Gavin seemed a bit flustered now. He turned back to the bookshelf, seemingly seeking distraction, and then added, “You’ve got Of Mice and Men.”
“I mean, it is an American classic,” Ryan pointed out, somewhat bemused by the way the conversation was jumping about.
“I like that book,” Gavin replied. “Did it at school one time. It’s sad at the end, isn’t it, when he kills his friend. But he had to do it.”
He trailed off a bit awkwardly and Ryan, taking pity on him, just nodded.
“Good book,” he agreed. “Shall we get down to it?”
Gavin nodded, and they moved to sit down at the table. Ryan had bought food on the way over to the base to save time and they started eating as he set up his laptop.
Peter had taken a very similar route to yesterday; beginning at the warehouse and making stops around the city. What they were really waiting for was to see if he would go back to Glasgow’s base at the end of the day.
“We could always take him out while he’s on a job,” Gavin piped up, as they watched Peter driving back towards the warehouse. “Make it look like it went wrong.”
Ryan nodded. “That’s a possibility. We just need to get a sense of his routine then we can work out the easiest way to do it.”
“Worse come to worst I could ask him to drive me somewhere. Take him out into the countryside near where we live and slot him there.”
“That puts suspicion on you,” Ryan pointed out. “We need to make sure Glasgow doesn’t come investigating what happened. It has to look like someone else did it. Which means you should be looking into what particular enemies he has, see who we can pin the blame on.”
Gavin nodded. “Guess that’s my homework then.”
Ryan turned back, watching intently.
“Come on, come on,” he said, as Peter began to drive off again. They’d caught up with the end of the recorded section and were now watching him, live, a little blip on the map as the car moved along. “Go to Glasgow’s base… or at least to the house of one of his crew. Then we can track them too.”
“There’s an idea,” Gavin said, and Ryan glanced over at him.
“You said he was cheating on you with two of them,” he began, and Gavin nodded, something flickering in his expression as he slowly lowered his fork.
“Yeah,” he said. “The woman. And one other guy.”
“Both of them? How’s that work then?” Ryan questioned. “Do they both know?”
“I think so… I don’t know. I didn’t look all that closely.” Gavin seemed a bit flustered now. “Does it matter?”
“It matters,” Ryan said. “If they care about him, they’re gonna go investigating.”
“I don’t know that they care about him,” Gavin said tightly, and Ryan turned towards him.
“The fact is, right now we still don’t know exactly what’s motivating him here. Why would he suddenly turn on you? He’s not just cheating, Gavin, he’s actively working against us here. Is it just for the money? Is fucking these two people a means to an end - does he want to join Glasgow’s crew and thinks that’s a way in? Or does he genuinely like them, are they close?”
“I don’t know,” Gavin snapped. “Maybe he’s just bored of me.”
“Pretty dangerous way of alleviating his boredom,” Ryan said. “See if you can find out more about these two.”
“I don’t think it’s as complicated as you’re making it out to be,” Gavin grumbled, stabbing viciously at a piece of chicken with his fork. “Why does anyone cheat? He’s an asshole. He wants something new. Peter’s an attractive guy, maybe those two just want some fun. There’s this thing called casual sex, Ryan, maybe you’ve heard of it.”
“Anyone worth their salt in this business knows not to shit where they eat and mix up work with relationships,” Ryan said, and Gavin frowned.
“He’s a consultant. It’s different.”
“He’s a consultant who’s in a relationship with one of Ramsey’s closest. That’s someone you normally don’t want to mess around with.”
“Not for much longer,” Gavin said darkly, and sighed. “Do we have to talk about this right now? Gonna put me off my dinner.”
Ryan glanced down at Gavin’s food, which he seemed to have been methodically tearing apart with his fork more than actually eating. He pressed his lips together and turned back to the screen.
Peter had stopped off now at some place in the city, and Ryan couldn’t tell what he was doing there. He quickly honed in on the map, but he had parked in a street near a number of things - shops, buildings, houses - and he and Gavin got down to investigating the area to find out which, exactly, he may have gone into.
Ryan got up after a while to stretch and grab a charging cord. As he returned over to the table he paused in the doorway to the living room, struck by just how strange it was seeing Gavin sitting there in his flat when he was so used to being here alone. The other man was hunched intently over the laptop and for a moment Ryan stared at him. Even dressed as he was, there was something different about his demeanour outside of work. Back at the base there was a laziness to everything he did, whether it was his easy grin or the way he seemed to sprawl out in his seat and spread his things out everywhere, taking up as much space as possible. But now he sat quietly, one foot tucked up under him on the chair, shoulders hunched up as he worked away.
Ryan shook himself, coming back over. Gavin looked up at him and rubbed his eyes, stifling a yawn.
“He just left. Looks like he’s going back to the house. I checked all the businesses around but none of them are affiliated with Glasgow. He must’ve been in one of the houses.”
“Could be a safehouse, then, or one of the crew lives there. We can look into it. See if it’s some place he goes regularly. Either way, it looks like everywhere he’s going is in the city. It’s hard to assassinate someone quietly in a populated area,” Ryan said, and Gavin nodded, sighing.
“Still,” Ryan said then. “We keep looking. We’ll think of something.”
Gavin nodded again, covering another yawn.
“I should head home,” he said. “Gotta feed the cat.”
“Do you need a lift?” Ryan asked, but Gavin shook his head.
“I can get a cab.” He got up and began packing up his things, Ryan watching him carefully.
“In the mean time,” he said, as Gavin shrugged on his jacket, “Find out more about his enemies. We need someone solid to pin this on if we can’t make it look like an accident.”
Gavin nodded. “Will do. I know he’s mentioned a couple of them before but I’ll find some way to bring it up again.”
“Make sure he doesn’t get suspicious.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be careful.” He ran a hand through his hair, hesitating suddenly, then sighed.
“God,” he said tiredly. “It would be so much easier if we had just broken up. If he was just cheating then I could have just ended things then and there. Wouldn’t have to act like I don’t know a thing about it. Feels like I’m betraying him, too, when I’m kinda doing the exact same thing he is. Trying to get information from him so we can off him.”
“You’re not betraying him,” Ryan said sharply. “It’s different. He made himself our enemy.”
“I know that,” Gavin sighed. He slowly took his sunglasses out of his pocket but didn’t put them on, just turned them over in his hands, toying with the legs. “And it’s not gonna stop me doing it. I just… I dunno.” He shut up then, turning away, and Ryan hesitated. Half-waiting for him to say more - but it seemed he already thought he’d revealed too much. He put his glasses on and clapped his hands together briskly.
“Well! The show must go on, and I’ll play my part until the end.” He huffed out a bitter laugh. “There won’t be a dry eye in the house.”
Ryan stared at him silently and Gavin laughed again before making an aborted sort of motion towards the door.
“I’ll, ah, head out then. See you tomorrow, Ryan. Keep monitoring him and we’ll meet up again once I have something solid.”
“Be careful,” Ryan replied, and Gavin’s lips twitched a bit before he headed out. The flat seemed suddenly very quiet after the door shut behind him, even though they hadn’t been talking together all that much when Gavin was there, Ryan suddenly acutely aware that he was alone in a way he never had been before. He shook it off, telling himself he was glad to be done for the day, and turned away to pack up the equipment.
Over the course of the rest of the week and the following weekend, Ryan and Gavin didn’t meet again outside of work - the majority of their time was focused on getting a continued sense of Peter’s routine through Ryan tracking his movements, and Gavin playing his part by continuing to look into what enemies he had that he might be able to frame.
They kept each other up to date on what they were doing in little moments they could snatch between work, or quick meetings in Ryan’s car outside in the evenings before they both left for home, but other than that it was business as usual.
Still, Ryan found it odd, looking at Gavin at work - both of them pretending nothing was going on - watching him interact casually with the others when at night Ryan would get home and sit down and continue to listen to his boyfriend’s conversations.
During the week Peter took several more trips with the two members of Glasgow’s crew that he was cheating with. While he divulged little relevant information about his progress on the job, Ryan did get something more of an understanding about his relationship with them all.
They definitely both knew the other was having sex with Peter, and seemed to be totally cool with that. The man was more chatty than the woman. Ryan sat through he and Peter exchanging stories about various past crimes, Peter proudly telling him about his old forgery jobs and the man lavishing praise on him for it. Ryan had to listen to them making out for a good fifteen minutes after that, half-concerned that Gavin was right and they were about to fuck in the backseat - but to his great relief they were interrupted by some parking inspector coming along and continued on to wherever it was they’d been going.
They seemed close.
Peter and the woman - whose name, Ryan had learned in the course of his eavesdropping, was Alana - were rather less openly affectionate with each other, at least while in the car - she did, at one point, bring up the idea of him working with them more after this job finished.
“We could use an actor,” she said, but Peter made a noncommittal humming noise.
“I normally work freelance,” he replied. “I need my independence. Prefer being self-employed.”
There was a moment of silence before he added, “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to see each other after this job. I wouldn’t mind working with Glasgow again. Just not full time.”
“You ever work with the Fake AH Crew after that first job?” she asked, and Ryan stiffened, straightening up.
Peter laughed. “God no. Have you seen them? Not my thing.”
She started laughing as well and Ryan frowned, unsure quite what he meant, but rather insulted anyway.
The man never brought up Gavin, or the fact that Peter was cheating on him. Alana did, now and then - whenever they made plans, asked each other to come over to their place tonight, or meet earlier tomorrow.
“Gavin won’t get suspicious?” she’d ask, and Peter would give his tutting laugh.
“You don’t need to keep worrying about that, love. He has no idea.”
“You stay out late so many nights. He’s gotta wonder.”
“He stays out late too. And really, it’s easy to stop that one worrying, he’s so desperate for affection. Give him a kiss and a cuddle and he turns to putty. I’ve been keeping it up at home - hell, he probably thinks we’re closer than ever.”
You are in for a big fucking surprise, buddy, Ryan thought, and paused, realising he was clenching his fists and his stomach was churning suddenly at the other man’s flippant words. At the way Alana laughed afterwards and Peter did, too.
That made it even worse, somehow; that Glasgow’s crew hadn’t just hired Peter at random to work for them. That they obviously knew he had a connection to Gavin and were out not just to ruin Ramsey’s crew but to personally hurt its members.
Perhaps the most uncomfortable thing was to listen to Gavin and Peter continue to lie to each other’s faces whenever they were in the car together over the weekend. Honestly, they both deserved a fucking Oscar because even knowing that they were both putting on a complete act, Ryan would have been hard pressed to tell anything was wrong between them.
He heard Gavin regale Peter with his dinosaur plan, which he was, apparently, indeed serious about, and Peter laugh a great deal before enthusiastically encouraging him to do it and offering tips for infiltrating museums.
They’d both do the quizzes on the talkback radio and make rather offensive comments on the intelligence of Americans when the people who actually called in couldn’t get the answers right. Gavin would ask him the stupid would-you-rather questions he always pestered Geoff with and Peter would give sarcastic answers.
Worst of all, though, were the little affections. The way Peter would act like Gavin was still the only one in the world for him when Ryan - and Gavin - knew far better.
“You’re cute,” he’d murmur, after Gavin gave some sort of rambling monologue about cameras that Ryan didn’t quite know where had come from, or-
“That’s for you, my sweet,” after picking Gavin up from a job in the city late at night and going out of his way to get him a coffee to drink on the way home, or-
“You are quite brilliant, you know that,” when Gavin told him one of the thefts he was planning - Ryan had to grit his teeth through that one, disliking the fact that their plans were being revealed to a traitor, but he supposed it was a way of keeping up appearances, and Gavin was probably changing details anyway.
It was all rubbing it in further and further that this was definitely a proper relationship. Not something just for show, or for convenience, but something based in care - based in trust.
And, apparently, proof that Gavin was capable of proper emotions after all.
“I have some names,” Gavin said the next Monday. They’d just finished a group meeting and all the others had left the boardroom.
Ryan glanced over at him. “Come over and we can discuss them?”
“To your place?” Gavin asked, sounding a little confused, and Ryan nodded, only realising afterwards that it was probably odd how readily he’d offered.
Still. That was how he found himself driving Gavin over to his apartment for the second time. It was less awkward this go-around, both of them knowing more what to expect, and Ryan once again went immediately to get changed.
When he emerged from the bedroom he expected Gavin to be at the table working, but there was no sign of him. Ryan paused, confused, when he heard a noise in the kitchen and moved to investigate.
He walked to the door quietly and stopped, staring in confusion at the sight of Gavin taking cutlery out of his bag and putting it in back into Ryan’s kitchen drawers.
“What the fuck are you doing?” he snapped, and Gavin jumped a mile, spinning guiltily around.
“Uh,” he said awkwardly. “Nothing?”
Ryan strode over and grabbed the fork he was holding from his hand, glancing between the bag and his drawer. “Oh my God. Did you steal my fucking silverware last time you were here?”
“Steal is such a harsh word,” Gavin said, weakly. “Is it really stealing if you put it back-”
He broke off with a yelp as Ryan snatched his bag and took the rest of the knives and forks and spoons out, putting them back where they belonged.
“Jesus fucking Christ, I can’t believe this. You stole my fucking cutlery.” He rounded on Gavin with a glare and the other man backed up a step, grinning sheepishly.
“Sorry?” he offered. “Look, I felt bad about it, alright, so I brought it back. No harm done.”
“No harm? Who the hell steals a man’s cutlery? What did you expect me to eat with?”
“I didn’t take all of it!” Gavin protested. “Besides, you live here on your own, technically you only need one of everything! Not like you have guests around on the regular, is it?”
“Maybe I like to switch it up now and then,” Ryan snapped. “Maybe I like using a different fork every day.”
“But they’re all identical!”
“No, they’re from two different sets- why the hell am I defending myself here?” Ryan realised, and thrust the bag back at Gavin, who caught it with a surprised grunt. “Here I am helping you out with your mess; I let you into my fucking house and you rob me?”
“Look,” Gavin defended himself, “Sometimes I just… take things. It happens.”
“What does that even mean? You’re a grown man. Exercise some self control.” He slammed the drawer shut and rounded on him again. “Did you take anything else?”
“No,” Gavin replied, and ran a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, alright? It’s a bad habit, I just take stuff sometimes, without really thinking about it. I was never gonna keep it.”
Ryan stared at him. Gavin didn’t look particularly apologetic, but he also didn’t look like he was taking the piss, and after a moment Ryan sighed, running a hand through his hair, putting the whole thing down to Gavin’s usual annoying tendencies. At least he’d brought them back, after all.
“Have you always been like this?” he asked, and Gavin shrugged as he followed Ryan back over to the table.
“You literally just steal stuff. It’s not even stuff you want, since I assume you have your own cutlery at home.”
“I know,” Gavin agreed. “Like I said. It’s been a problem for years now. Jack says it’s because I want attention, I dunno. Anyway, comes in handy on jobs, doesn’t it? That I can sneak stuff without people noticing?”
Ryan just rolled his eyes. He pulled out a chair for Gavin before sitting down himself. “Stay here where I can see you.”
“Ryan,” Gavin protested. “I’m not gonna rob you again!”
“I didn’t think you’d rob me the first time!” Ryan cried, and Gavin pulled a face.
“Fair play,” he said, so mournfully that suddenly Ryan wanted to laugh, and it was a struggle to keep his face composed as they set to working.
What they were doing today - looking into a bunch of people who had beef with Peter - was a good deal more interesting than just sitting around listening to the recording and tracking the car, since it was significantly more active. Gavin had rounded up half a dozen names, ranging from past employees to people Peter had stolen from, and they set to investigating where they were now and how they might set about framing them.
Given the nature of their work there were always dramatic and action-packed stories behind everyone in the business, and Ryan couldn’t help but get drawn into swapping tales with Gavin about both the people they were looking at now or others he’d heard of before. Gavin knew a lot of thieves, Ryan knew a lot of assassins, and there was little enough crossover that they both found each other’s anecdotes interesting.
And while initially he’d wanted to just get down to work and get Gavin out of his house as fast as possible, well… he liked stories, and couldn’t help but get chatty.
“Holy shit. There’s no way that’s true,” Gavin said, staring rapt at Ryan after being regaled with the, to be fair, rather horrifying tale of an assassin he’d known back in Georgia who used his unfortunate past experience as a butcher in his new line of work as a bounty hunter.
“Yes,” Ryan said smugly, unable to help feeling pleased by Gavin’s wide eyes and the way he was hanging on his every word. “One hundred percent true. People say he was just an urban legend now, but I met the guy. He’s been offed since then, though, this was a good five years ago.”
“Bloody hell. Sounds like something from Hannibal,” Gavin muttered, and Ryan laughed.
He was lounging back in his chair now, work forgotten as he got caught up in his story. He felt much more casual here in his own home than he did at work, and it was making it much easier to open up and let himself relax.
“Most assassins are pretty cut and dry, to be honest,” Ryan replied, and Gavin’s eyes flicked to him again. “No time to get creative. But now and then a real nasty piece of work comes along. Or sometimes people request that you make it messy. Make it look like a threat, not just a hit.”
“Jesus. That’s rather terrifying.” Gavin shook his head, shuddering. “Ugh. Give me thieves any day. We’re a bunch of liars and crooks but we don’t bloody well chop people up. I’ve met a lot of you assassins and you’re all mean and scary.”
“I’m not!” Ryan protested. “Ray’s not!”
“Ray’s different,” Gavin said. “You kind of are, to be honest. The whole Black Skull thing and all. I guess you kinda have to be, when your job is offing people. You’d all come across much less horrible and murderous if you wore, I don’t know, something else instead of the black leather all the time. Something nice. Like animal onesies maybe.”
“I… I think that would just be even more creepy,” Ryan pointed out, choosing to ignore the ‘horrible and murderous’ part, and privately wondering just what the hell was wrong with the black leather; he’d thought he looked rather badass.
“Good point,” Gavin said, idly scribbling at the piece of paper in front of him. After a moment he looked back up and said, grinning, “One million dollars but you have to do all your future hits in a bunny onesie. Would you take it?”
“Sure I would,” Ryan replied immediately. “I don’t give a fuck what I’m wearing as long as the job gets done. Give me the million right now, I’ll do it, I don’t give a fuck.”
“No, I was joking,” Gavin chuckled, as Ryan held out his hand. “You’d ruin the crew’s image.”
“You ruined our image a long time ago,” Ryan joked, but lowered his hand with a disappointed sigh. “God. What a letdown. Don’t make offers like that if you won’t follow through on them. I want my one million. Gotta buy more silverware.”
Gavin laughed, shaking his head as he turned back to his work, and even Ryan couldn’t help but find himself grinning as he got back down to it as well. Gavin had opened up a lot since arriving at his house as well, sitting more comfortably in his chair, and it was actually - maybe - kind of fun having someone over to plan with rather than sitting alone working in silence.
“Let me see your bag,” Ryan said, when it came time for Gavin to leave. He wasn’t all that angry about the theft any more, to be honest - it was just so ridiculous that it was a bit funny in hindsight - and Gavin spluttered a protest.
“I was sitting here the whole time!”
“You went to the bathroom. How do I know you didn’t take my soap or something.”
“I don’t want your mingin’ soap Ryan,” Gavin said, but sighed, handing his bag over for Ryan to check. There was a huge assortment of random shit in there, and Ryan was fairly certain that most of it was stolen, but none of it belonged to him.
Gavin rolled his eyes as he snatched his bag back.
“You want to pat me down as well?” he demanded, spreading his arms out, and Ryan rolled his eyes as well before reaching out and swatting him in the side. Gavin squawked, squirming away, and gave Ryan the finger before dancing out the door and down the stairs. Ryan shook his head, wondering how he still had so much energy this late at night, and shut the door behind him.
That day was a turning point, of sorts. It was hard not to feel more positively inclined towards someone when you were spending so much time with them, and Ryan had to admit, when he was out of the base and doing other things Gavin was a lot less obnoxious; hell, he was even pretty funny when you didn’t take him too seriously.
Over the rest of the week he came over several more times to continue their work and Ryan found himself not even minding it that much; Gavin never robbed him after that first initial occasion and each time it got easier having someone in his house - it was even nice, sometimes, having someone there to eat with him, and it was always more entertaining tracking Peter’s movements when Gavin was there too to make snide comments with him.
In-between, of course, they gave no indication at work of what they were doing.
That being said, it was inevitable that given that they were spending more time with each other, they were beginning to get along better. Gavin’s antics that Ryan had found insufferable before now took on some new amusement to him, and, in turn, Gavin seemed to have stopped avoiding him. It was easier to talk to him, to laugh with him, even to work with him when they needed to without finding himself in fits of irritation.
He thought, probably, he was just growing used to him. Desensitising himself the way Michael and Geoff and all the rest had probably been desensitised after three years alongside the idiot.
That being said, Ryan still noticed things.
Not the usual things that irritated him, like a new gold watch or scrapes and bruises from crashing his motorbike. But how Gavin was quieter than usual still. How he’d come into work annoyed and snappish for no reason and seem to force himself to calm down and grin at the others when he got in. How he picked at his lunch or skipped it. How he was tired a lot of the time; it was hard to tell, with his eyes hidden, but his movements would be lethargic and he’d doze off at his desk - yet he’d still find excuses to stay back and work late, or go back with Ryan instead of heading home to get some rest.
He was a good actor. He kept up his grin and his work ethic and if Ryan hadn’t known what was going on he’d probably never have noticed, or put it down to being hungover. But he knew that the whole business with Peter had to be wearing him down at home, and while initially his concern about the whole matter had been mostly regarding the threat to the crew and their weapons-
Despite himself, he couldn’t help feeling bad for him.
“Oh my God. You can’t say that.”
“I can say whatever I want,” Ryan replied smugly.
“You’re terrible! I won’t be able to unsee that now.”
Ryan couldn’t help his grin. To be fair he’d made a rather awful comment about how Peter, much like Tom Cruise, had slightly misaligned lips that meant when he grinned it looked asymmetrical; like he had one tooth in the very centre of his smile instead of two. The fact had had Gavin in fits of laughter - proper, genuine laughter, full of little squeaking croaking noises like he was genuinely struggling to draw breath in between.
It felt nice somehow, to be able to make him laugh like that, especially since Gavin had been particularly pensive all day.
When Gavin finally recovered himself he sat up, rubbing his side and reaching up to wipe his eyes.
“I’ll have to try not to laugh when I see him again,” he said. He couldn’t stop grinning. “The bloody monotooth. That’s all I’ll be able to notice now.”
“Good. He deserves to be made fun of.”
“It seems mean though. He can’t help his teeth.”
“What, he couldn’t afford an orthodontist? As if,” Ryan replied, and Gavin squeaked with laughter again.
“He has good teeth besides that though. Most everything about how he looks is perfect.” He sighed a bit and Ryan raised his eyebrows.
“Is that so?”
“Yeah?” Gavin replied, seeming a bit confused. “I mean, look at him. The way he looks, the way he dresses, it’s all pristine. It doesn’t… it doesn’t feel good sometimes.”
“What doesn’t feel good?” Ryan asked quietly. Gavin wasn’t grinning now, staring instead at the picture of Peter they had up on the screen before them.
“When we first met - I told you, didn’t I, that I didn’t like him? He was so uppity. He told me that I didn’t know how to be rich.”
“The hell does that mean?”
“That even though I had money I wasn’t classy, I guess,” Gavin snorted. “Which fair enough, I mean, I know I look really tacky sometimes. Sort of do it deliberately. But the way he said it was really mean. And, I mean, it’s true, isn’t it? He and I both dress expensive but he pulls it off better than I do. And like… he knows that he looks really good, and God knows I don’t give two fucks about what other people think of my appearance, but it… it doesn’t feel great, sometimes, when the person you’re with knows that they’re the more attractive one. Even if it’s true. It’s not like he rubs it in or anything but… I don’t know.”
He trailed off, looking a bit embarrassed - like he hadn’t meant to reveal that much - but Ryan couldn’t help but stare at him, a little taken aback by how suddenly insecure the other man seemed. Gavin always seemed so confident, strutting around with his big hair and his expensive sunglasses. And sure, Ryan thought sometimes - well, a lot of the time - that he did look pretty tacky, but under all that it wasn’t like Gavin was unattractive. They might tease him about his big nose but it suited him, Ryan thought. And he had nice eyes, when he wasn’t covering them up.
What the hell, he thought, snapping himself out of it. Gavin was still staring at the picture of Peter and Ryan quickly made a loud scoffing noise.
“Huh. Well, if it’s any consolation, I don’t think he’s all that. Like sure, he looks pretty conventionally handsome, but… not really my type.”
Gavin’s gaze snapped over to him.
“Thin and blond isn’t your type?” he asked - something odd in it - but Ryan shook his head.
“No, it’s not that - it’s like… the posh, ex-grammar-school thing. It’s a bit off-putting to be honest. And like you said. He’s proud. That’s not attractive. There’s a difference between confidence and arrogance and from what I’ve seen of your Peter, he’s inclined towards the latter. So… not my type.”
“Oh,” Gavin said. He appeared to mull over this for a moment. “I mean. I guess it’s not really mine either. Like I said, I didn’t like him until I got to know him more, but then there was, like… another layer. I don’t know. I thought it was just a shell. Or a mask. You know? And underneath he was actually really nice. He’s not like that at home, anyway.”
“Except it turns out he’s a sandwich?” Ryan asked, and Gavin blinked a few times before starting to laugh again.
“What on earth does that mean?"
“A sandwich, y’know, a sandwich,” Ryan insisted. “He has a third layer identical to the top one. Like the bread!”
“Ryan the metaphor guy,” Gavin said, shaking his head. At least he was smiling again, Ryan thought absently. “But yeah. I guess he is a sandwich after all.”
Their plans continued. They narrowed Peter’s enemies down to two they could potentially pin the blame on, but the hardest part remained finding a place to do it. Busyness at work also meant they had less time to plot, but Ryan continued monitoring Peter’s activity and it seemed he was still no closer to getting the weapons dealers to turn on them, so they had time, at least.
By the time the weekend rolled around again Gavin had been over to Ryan’s place a half dozen times and Ryan was starting to get used to it. Dropping back by the base to pick him up. Taking turns shouting dinner for each other. Gavin leaving his shoes by the door and bringing his own particular teabag to make a drink with later that night.
Sometimes they wouldn’t even work while they ate. After running around all day they needed a short break so they’d just sit, and talk, or watch TV. It was almost nice having someone around; Ryan hadn’t realised just how quiet it was living alone until after a few days of having someone else there.
And sometimes Gavin seemed to find excuses to linger, even after they were pretty much finished for the night. Once Ryan would have wanted him out of there as fast as possible, but when he knew Gavin was avoiding going home - avoiding having to face Peter with a fake smile - he couldn’t quite bring himself to kick him out. And pausing for one round of Xbox before he left didn’t hurt anyone; if anything, Ryan almost looked forward to it, to laughing at Gavin’s terrible fails while playing or actually getting solid progress done on Portal 2 since co-op mode was more fun.
Sometimes he’d pause, struck by how strange it was that Gavin of all people was sitting on his couch playing his Xbox, when usually they wouldn’t have given each other the time of day - but he shook it off; they worked together, after all, and were friends with all the others. No need to think about it too hard.
Before Ryan even knew it Friday was rolling around again. Gavin had told him that he and Peter had plans for tonight, and so there was little reason for him to listen in when Gavin would be there to monitor the other man.
But for whatever reason, when he’d gotten home and showered and was winding down, ready to play some Xbox before getting some well-deserved rest-
He glanced over at his laptop and suddenly felt oddly compelled to see what was going on.
The car was still at Gavin’s house, and Ryan started up his game, keeping half an eye on it. When he heard the distant sound of the house door slamming shut on the bug, he paused, turning his attention to the recording.
The car door opened and slammed shut and Gavin’s voice rang out, loud and angry. Ryan stiffened, realising immediately that something was wrong.
“-my God. I can’t fucking believe you.”
Ryan had never heard Gavin properly angry before, he realised suddenly. And realised, as well, that he didn’t like it; didn’t like how harsh and irritated his voice was.
He heard Peter enter the car as well, slamming his own door shut.
“You can’t believe me?” he demanded. While Gavin’s voice was trembling, emotion packed away in it, Peter’s was cold. Clipped and frozen like he wasn’t feeling anything at all. “You still haven’t given me a straight answer.”
“Because that’s not the sort of bloody question you can just ask someone,” Gavin snapped.
“It should be a simple answer,” Peter replied. The car started to pull out of the drive and Ryan heard Gavin give an irritated huff.
“What are you trying to make me prove?” he demanded.
“I don’t know,” Peter shot back, “Maybe that I actually mean something to you?”
There was a frozen pause.
“Of course you mean something to me,” Gavin said. His voice was tight, strained, and Ryan held his breath.
“Really?” Peter replied, frostily. “Because it doesn’t damn well feel like it right now. You’re out late every night-”
“So are you!”
“-and you still won’t answer my question.”
Gavin let out a furious noise and there was another awkward silence. Ryan realised he was clenching his fists and slowly forced his fingers open.
Keep it up, he thought, feeling a bit sick now - God, this was worst-case-scenario. A fight between the two of them would be messy, and he could only hope, hope, hope that Gavin had enough self control not to blurt out something that would give away what he knew. Come on, keep it up.
Finally Gavin cleared his throat.
“Is this because we haven’t had sex in a few weeks?” he asked, voice low. “Is that how you fucking measure how much I care about you?”
“Jesus Christ, Gav, of course it’s not about that,” Peter snapped, composure breaking a little. Sounding annoyed now. “Don’t put words in my mouth.”
“You’re the one putting words in my mouth,” Gavin cried. Ryan tensed again; he could hear the emotion rising up in the other man’s voice, and God, it must have been so hard keeping it all in the last few weeks. Arguing now - it must be hell to keep it all from bursting out, especially with Peter trying to take the moral high ground over whatever the fuck it was they were arguing about.
Come on. Keep it together. Just a little longer - don’t ruin it now.
“What are you trying to get at?” Gavin continued. “That I don’t care about you? Of course I do-” His voice faltered a little, but he pushed on - “What reason have I given you to doubt that? Why are you trying to make me prove things to you? I shouldn’t have to prove anything. What about you, then, huh? How busy are you that you come home late every single night as well?”
“Okay, calm down,” Peter said - of course, Ryan thought angrily, he didn’t want Gavin to start poking into what he’d been doing-
“Don’t touch me,” Gavin snapped. “What do you want me to say-”
“That you love me,” Peter burst out.
Silence fell in the car.
“That you care about me,” Peter continued - some tight desperation in it. “As much as you care about your crew. And I know they mean a lot to you but I don't have that, okay, I work alone. All I have is you. So of course it hurts when you’re out with them every night. When I can’t even tell if, if it came to it, you’d choose me over them. I’m not trying to make you pick.”
“That’s exactly what you’re doing,” Gavin began.
“You know that I’m not good at this.” There was something awkward in Peter’s voice now. “I just… need to know that I’m at least important to you as well.”
Another silence. The car had pulled up by now by the side of the road. Ryan didn’t know what to think. He could hear both of them breathing heavily.
Finally Peter sighed.
“Forget it,” he said, and the car door opened. “I’m going to buy the wine.”
The door slammed shut. Ryan heard Gavin sniff, then cough, clearing his throat.
“Oh my God,” he said, quietly. “Did you hear that?”
Ryan stiffened. It took him a second to register that Gavin was actually talking to him, probably assuming that if he wasn’t listening right now then he would later on.
“He’s lying,” Gavin said, voice tight. “He’s trying to get me on side. I don’t know what he’s planning but he kept trying to get me to tell him that I’d pick him over you guys if anything ever happened. Christ alive. I can’t believe he played the you don’t care about me card. God, I’d almost believe it. I don’t care about him? I don’t care about him?! He’s the one fucking two other people on the side!”
His voice was rising a little, distressed. All Ryan could do was listen, even as there was a thump as Gavin kicked at something in the car.
“I hate him,” Gavin spat, “I hate that I actually almost feel bad. Like he has a point somewhere. He just… lies, he just lies so much, all he does is manipulate people. I don’t even know what he wants any more.”
He fell into a miserable silence and Ryan bit his lip. He could pick up his phone right now and call Gavin if he wanted to. But Peter could enter the car at any moment and he didn’t want to risk it.
Finally Gavin sighed. When he spoke again his voice was more composed, like he’d forced himself under control.
“I’m going to kill him,” he muttered. “I could put rat poison in his tea tonight and get it over with.”
Ryan pulled out his phone. He texted Gavin, quickly - do not do that - and sent it off. Heard the vibration of the phone on the other end of the bug seconds later, and then Gavin’s startled laugh.
“God, you’re actually listening? Hi, Ryan. Dude, get a life, you shouldn’t be spending your Friday night listening to my drama.” He sighed, but there was something almost amused in it. Like the reminder of their plans was at least some comfort. “Don’t worry, I’ll wait. I won’t ruin all our plotting. God, he’s pissing me off though. You know what, he’s just started watching Breaking Bad. I’m going to ruin it for him. I’m going to tell him all the deaths.”
Ryan couldn’t help but chuckle. He broke off when he heard the car door open again and Peter get back inside. The clink of whatever wine he’d just bought as he set the bag down. They started driving again in a tense silence.
“I’m sorry,” Gavin said softly, finally, after nearly ten minutes of the two of them ignoring each other. “You are important to me. I’m bad at this as well, you know?”
Peter huffed out something like a laugh.
“I was being a douche,” he admitted. “We’re both just terrible at all this, aren’t we?”
“We make it work,” Gavin replied. “I don’t want us to fight, okay? I’ll try come home earlier more. I’ve just been really stressed lately. I didn’t mean to yell at you.”
“It’s fine,” Peter said, gently. There was nothing but care in his voice now and Ryan grit his teeth. “I’ll try as well. Work’s been hard for me too.”
And then, after a pause, “You’re right, let’s not fight. It was a stupid question anyway. I shouldn’t have asked. I know you love me.”
“Yeah,” Gavin said, so quietly Ryan could barely hear it. And then, at Peter’s expectant silence, “Of course I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Ryan hit mute on the recording and leaned back, rubbing his eyes hard. His stomach was churning and he didn’t quite know why.
You didn’t actually apologise, you asshole, he thought, furious at Peter suddenly. You should have fucking apologised as well.
He was getting entirely too worked up, he realised. Part of what made a good hitman was distance from your target. Peter was Gavin’s problem, not his, but listening to him lie and lie all the time was really getting on his last nerve.
That was the one thing he couldn’t stand about con men, more than anyone else in their business. The way they played people, made them not only believe their lies but feel things. Think that they had come to those decisions - those emotions - on their own rather than by any sort of manipulation.
Gavin was fine, he knew; he wasn’t about to bail on their plan. But the thought of the other man spending a whole weekend with Peter - probably having to work extra hard to make sure things were smooth between them after tonight’s tiff-
It was fucked up. They’d seen - and done - a lot of terrible things in their business, but something about how personal, how domestic this situation was, made it so much worse. Both of them lying to each other constantly. Manipulating each other - for a terrible end purpose - both of them kissing, touching, forcing themselves to say they loved each other when neither of them meant it-
It was unhealthy, and Ryan felt horrible about it suddenly, in a way no job had ever made him feel before. He wished to God that it didn’t have to drag on so long in order for their plan to work. But there was nothing to be done, and with a sigh he turned away to resume his game in some hope of distracting himself.
The weekend passed quietly. They all had to come in on Sunday to fit in some heist planning, and when Gavin and Ryan both entered the boardroom their eyes met in some shared recognition.
They didn’t talk about what had happened on Friday night.
After the briefing was done they both hung back in the room, but Ryan felt awkward about bringing it up - Gavin didn’t seem inclined to either - and after a moment he just asked, stiffly, “Is everything on track?”
“Everything’s fine,” Gavin replied calmly. He had his sunglasses on again. Ryan knew what that meant, anyway, that Peter was still none the wiser, and he relaxed a little.
“That art dealer we thought we might be able to pin things on just re-entered the country,” Ryan said then. “Flew in last night and I’ve got a copy of his itinerary. Look at this.”
He put the document on the table and Gavin took his sunglasses off and moved in to look at it with a sigh, eyes scanning over the list carefully, searching for any spot where they might be able to frame the man. It was a pretty tight list and Ryan hadn’t been able to come up with anything, so he was hoping Gavin might.
After a second, though, his gaze turned from the document to Gavin’s face, intent with concentration as he read. The other man looked even more exhausted than usual; lips pressed grimly together, dark smudges under his eyes like bruises. Ryan remembered the fight and suddenly thought, guiltily, that maybe he should instead have asked if Gavin was okay.
After a second Gavin sighed and looked up, only to catch Ryan staring intensely at his face. They both froze a bit awkwardly.
“I… I can’t find anything,” Gavin replied, sounding a bit startled. “This guy’s more likely to send a mercenary than kill someone himself, but even if he is in the country it’ll be hard to make it look like it was him unless we get him to make contact with Peter. But that’ll be hard to arrange.”
“That’s what I was thinking too,” Ryan said, and Gavin ran a hand over his face, looking away.
“God,” he said tiredly. “We’re just coming up with nothing, aren’t we? Two weeks and we haven’t got shit.”
“Hey,” Ryan said. “I’ve worked slower jobs than this. Trust me, Gavin, there’s always a way to kill somebody. It’s just having to be careful that’s making it hard here. But we’re going to do it.”
Gavin still didn’t look convinced, staring forlornly down at the file on the table, and before Ryan quite knew what he was doing his hand was reaching out to touch the other man’s shoulder. He didn’t quite know why. Some reassurance, perhaps - he still felt bad about what had happened on Friday, like even if they didn’t talk about it he should let Gavin know somehow, at least, that he had someone on his side against Peter-
But before he could make contact the boardroom door opened and they both jumped a mile, spinning guiltily around.
Jack froze in the doorway, looking surprised to see them.
“What are you two doing in here?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Ryan replied, quickly snatching up the file as Jack stepped further into the room. “Just… talking.”
Jack raised his eyebrows, glancing between them, and Ryan cursed a little. Of course it’d be weird for him to be seen with Gavin when usually they avoided each other. The others getting dragged into this was the last thing they needed. If they wanted to put off a fight with Glasgow, the Fake AH Crew couldn’t seem involved.
“Dinosaurs,” Gavin blurted out then, and Jack’s gaze turned towards him. “We were trying to work out the dinosaur thing again.”
“You’re still going on about that?” Jack laughed - he seemed to believe it, and Ryan’s shoulders slumped in relief.
“Dude, of course. I really think we can make it work.”
“God, the things you come up with,” Jack said, shaking his head. “Did Geoff give you the go-ahead on this?”
“Yeah,” Gavin replied with a grin. “Even if he hadn’t I’d still’ve done it though. Agilisaurus, that’s the one I’m going for. It’s a smaller one but it still looks well scary. And it’s got, like, the classic dinosaur shape. Like it stands on two legs and all.”
“Right. Because that’s the mark of classic dinosaur-ness,” Jack said, and exchanged an amused glance with Ryan, who smiled awkwardly back. “I hope you’re not pestering Ryan with this.”
“Nah, he’s fine,” Ryan replied, and Jack laughed again before grabbing a file from the table that he’d presumably forgotten, and heading back out again.
Gavin let out a relieved breath as the door shut behind him.
“We shouldn’t meet at work any more,” he said. “The others will notice.”
Ryan nodded. “Come over again tomorrow and we’ll start brainstorming anew. See if there’s something we missed.”
Late that night. Ryan sat on his bed, pensive, unable to get to sleep. He hadn’t had insomnia in a long time but tonight no matter how hard he tried he just couldn’t get his mind to settle down enough to let him rest. The apartment seemed quiet, lonely, the faint tick of the clock on the wall in the other room and the occasional sound of traffic passing by the only thing disturbing the silence.
He was messing about on his laptop, trying to occupy himself, when he noticed the car tracker moving. With a frown he checked where they were going - it looked like it was heading back home after Peter had gone out late somewhere - and he turned on the bug, listening.
Peter was ranting about something. He sounded a little different and Ryan thought he’d probably had a few drinks. It took Ryan a second to realise he was talking about someone at work - although, even tipsy, he was being careful to avoid mentioning the weapons dealers.
“-just not doing what I need her to,” he complained. “I’ve been nice, I’ve been mean, I’ve proven that I know what the hell I’m talking about. But nope, still going her own stupid stubborn way. I don’t know how she got promoted when she’s so stupid. She’s going to ruin half the deals we’re trying to make because she’s such a fucking idiot. Lazy, fat bitch who won’t listen to a thing other people say.”
A quiet noise that Ryan immediately recognised as Gavin.
“You can be so cruel,” he said, quietly, and there was a pause before Peter laughed, loudly.
“Speak for yourself, darling,” he shot back. “I can remember some awful things you’ve said about your friends.”
“I was angry,” Gavin replied. “You don’t mean things you say when you’re angry.”
“Yeah, well, I’m angry at this bitch too. She’s making this job drag on much longer than I want it to.” Peter scoffed after a second, continuing, “Cruel! God, Gavin, you’ve said some of the worst things I’ve ever heard come out of a person’s mouth.”
“Alright,” Gavin said softly, trying to shut him up, but Peter wouldn’t be stopped.
“Pathetic meathead who can’t think for himself, I think that was what you called Dan before you ignored him for three weeks.”
“No, we were fighting, alright, and he said some right awful things to me as well. But we’re allowed to do that, we’re best friends - that was ages ago, anyway!”
“And what did you say when Michael straightened his hair?”
“I was joking, alright.”
“And that Haywood who joined your crew last year? A maniac, that’s what you called him, and, oh, what was it… that’s right, you said he ‘seemed like the sort of person who’d stop by roadkill to get a better look.’”
Ryan let out a huff of breath, amused despite himself.
“That’s enough,” Gavin said, sharply, sounding properly annoyed now.
Peter laughed again.
“That’s not even counting the shit you’ve said about people you don’t know. You’re just as mean as me, sweetheart,” he said snidely. “You just won’t own up to it. That’s why we suit each other so well.”
Another silence before Gavin grumbled, “You’re meaner than I am.”
“Maybe,” Peter replied airily. “But I’m always lovely to you.”
Gavin didn’t bother replying to that, and after a moment Peter laughed again.
“Don’t look so disgruntled. I mean it. There are very few people I don’t hold in contempt. You should appreciate it.”
“Right,” Gavin replied, flatly, and Peter laughed again, seeming to think his annoyance was a joke more than anything else. They fell into a silence, eventually turning on the radio again, and Ryan turned the recording off and slumped back in bed.
He wondered what they’d been doing out so late. A party, maybe, if Peter had been drinking. It couldn’t have been fun for Gavin and it must be even worse with his boyfriend pretending, still, that he wanted them to be together.
He felt helpless suddenly, stuck here listening. He hadn’t been lying when he told Gavin he protected his own and despite any initial resentment - Gavin was part of the crew too. You messed with one of them, you messed with all of them, but above all-
Above all, suddenly, Ryan just wanted to make sure he was okay.
There was nothing he could do now, though, but close his eyes, and try to sleep, and in the morning continue to work with Gavin to take this guy down.
“I think I have an idea,” Gavin said.
Ryan glanced over at him. They were both exhausted after staying up late last night and, having gotten frustrated after failing to come up with any new, solid plans, had rage-quit their work to instead go and play Xbox. It was funny, Ryan noticed absently, how much more comfortable Gavin was in his house now, sitting cross-legged on Ryan’s couch, easily slumped back against the cushions. Every time he shifted in his seat his knee would brush against Ryan’s leg and while Gavin didn’t seem to really notice, it made Ryan stiffen a bit the first few times, acutely aware of the casual contact. Now he didn’t even notice it that much.
“What?” Ryan asked.
“We need an opportunity to do it discreetly, right? But all the places he goes are within the city. So what if we stage a weapons deal that takes him out along some of the country roads? We make it look legit, something big that he’ll want to take on to gain his boss’ trust - he was telling me the other night that she still isn’t totally sold on him yet - and then when he travels out there to do it we jump him? We can still make it look like someone else did it, but that gives us a quiet place,” Gavin said. “Lot of those roads out in the hillside have barely any traffic.”
Ryan stared at him. It was a good idea - he didn’t know why they hadn’t thought of it sooner. Seemed obvious in hindsight.
“Well?” Gavin asked, a bit nervously, and Ryan grinned.
“Clever boy,” he said, and Gavin ducked his head, giving a surprised sort of smile. “That could work. Saves us trying to figure out a spot along his routine to do it.”
“We just need to plan the deal now and make it look legit,” Gavin said, and Ryan nodded.
“Yeah - I’ve done similar things before so it won’t take me too long to set up.”
“Top bananas.” Gavin raised his hand and Ryan didn’t hesitate to high-five him. Gavin was grinning now, looking more cheerful than he had all day, and it was contagious. Ryan couldn’t help smiling too and after a second he realised that Gavin was staring at him, seeming almost surprised. Feeling a little flustered suddenly, he turned away and picked up his controller again.
“Celebratory Halo match?” he asked, and Gavin quickly nodded, snatching his own controller up, seeming glad of the distraction.
“What are you two doing in here?” Michael asked.
Ryan spun around from where he and Gavin had met up in the armoury, to quickly discuss more of the plan before they both headed off to do separate work. Despite agreeing previously not to meet at work, it was just more convenient, since it was where they mostly saw each other, and Gavin had resolved to go home earlier this week so as not to raise Peter’s suspicions.
“Checking weapon supplies,” Gavin lied easily, and Michael didn’t question it.
“Geoff wants a meeting in twenty minutes,” he replied, striding further into the room. Ryan turned to face him properly, amused how - despite their initial shock - Gavin’s face had lit up when Michael entered the room. He was starting to see, now, why the two men got along so well. Michael wasn’t the sort who’d put up with Gavin’s shit and Gavin never took offence at his raging or scoldings. They suited each other well.
“Good weekend Gav? We didn’t meet up for bevs,” Michael said, and Gavin frowned.
“Sorry Michael. I was kinda busy. I want to though.”
“Too busy bleaching your hair?” Michael teased, and Gavin pouted, reaching up to adjust it. “You look blonder than usual.”
“I touched it up,” Gavin replied. He had, indeed, fixed his roots at some point. “Thinking of dyeing it a radical colour, to be honest.”
“What constitutes a radical colour?” Ryan asked, amused, and Gavin glanced over at him and grinned.
“I dunno. Blue maybe? I like blue.”
“Hmmm. Too recognisable,” Ryan replied. “Cops would notice you too fast, even with the masks we usually wear.”
“I could cover it with a hat,” Gavin pointed out, and shrugged. “I dunno, I want a change. Might do it.”
“What does Peter think about that?” he asked, and Ryan stiffened, instantly alert, surprised at hearing the other man’s name come out of Michael’s mouth.
Gavin shook his head, rolling his eyes.
“He wouldn’t like it. He already doesn’t think I look as good with the blond. Michael, can you believe, Michael, he said it makes me look like a bimbo.”
“You are a bimbo,” Michael replied, and Gavin made a spluttered noise of indignation.
“You’re horrid. For real, though, he’d flip. But I don’t give a fuck. It’s my hair, I’ll do what I damn well like with it.”
“That’s the spirit,” Michael said, with a grin, and then yawned, stretching. “I need coffee before this meeting.”
He walked out and Gavin started to follow him, but Ryan caught his wrist and pulled him back. Gavin turned to him with raised eyebrows but Ryan waited until Michael had left the room before letting him go.
“Michael knows about Peter?” he demanded.
“Yes?” Gavin replied, sounding just as confused. “‘course he does. He’s one of my closest friends, and he was here when the crew worked with Pete. We’ve been out for drinks together a bunch of times.”
“I don’t… why…” Ryan was a bit lost for words.
Honestly, it made sense, now that he thought about it. If the rest of the crew knew Peter from the job, it was unlikely Gavin would have been dating him in secret. He just… hadn’t really thought about it, that they’d know him, that they’d know he and Gavin were together.
And one other thing.
“If he knows,” Ryan replied, “Why the hell did you come to me for help? Michael’s just as capable of arranging a hit, hell, Ray could have done it if you’d told him. And Michael would probably jump at the chance to help you. So why me? Especially when…”
He trailed off, suddenly reluctant to bring it up. When you don’t like me. When you know I don’t like you. Or at least, didn’t.
Gavin was looking away now, and when he glanced up at Ryan again there was something guarded in his face. His smile seemed forced, his hands clasped together and fingers toying nervously at his cuffs.
“It was easier to ask you,” he replied. Too casually, as though it made all the sense in the world. “I didn’t… I didn’t want to tell Michael. I mean, it’s kind of embarrassing, innit? That he’s cheating on me?”
“Why should you be embarrassed?” Ryan demanded, and Gavin shrugged, eyes flicking away again, wrapping his arms around himself.
“Because. I don’t know. I was an idiot, wasn’t I, to trust him? Like, I know about these two affairs, but… but how do I know there haven’t been more? That he hasn’t just been screwing me over this whole time? Makes me look a right fool, doesn’t it. Here I thought everything was fine when all along I… I wasn’t enough for him, and he didn’t like me as much as I liked him. It just. It is embarrassing, okay? It’s pretty damn pathetic. So I’m not gonna tell Michael, or Ray, or even Jack, and I’m sure as hell not telling Geoff.”
Ryan stared at him, feeling that horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach again that he couldn’t quite identify. Gavin’s voice was still calm, but artificially so, and Ryan could see him scratching at his arms where they were folded.
He felt like he should say something, because God, Gavin was wrong; Peter was the only person in this whole situation who had anything to be ashamed of - but when he opened his mouth he couldn’t find the words.
“You can’t just hide it from them,” he managed, finally. “Once we kill him what are you going to tell them? You can’t hide the fact that he died.”
Gavin seemed relieved that Ryan hadn’t made any attempt to console him - that any moment of weakness had been ignored. He straightened up, careless grin slipping back over his face. Even if it was a mask it made Ryan feel a little better to see it, even as Gavin declared, very confidently, “Dunno!”
“Dunno? What sort of plan is dunno?”
“It’s a problem for future-Gavin to deal with,” Gavin replied. “He’ll think of something.”
“You’re shocking,” Ryan muttered, and Gavin laughed, genuinely this time.
“Anyway,” he continued, and glanced at Ryan again, almost shyly. “I’m glad I asked you. You’re the best at killing people, after all. And it… it’s been kind of interesting getting to know you and stuff.”
“I’m surprised you trusted me enough to tell me about all this,” Ryan said, and Gavin snorted.
“It was easier telling someone I wasn’t close to,” he admitted. “Besides, of course I trusted you. You’re part of the crew, aren’t you?”
“But you…” Ryan trailed off, hesitant, suddenly, to admit his own insecurities and uncertainties - the fact that he’d been certain, certain that Gavin disliked him, didn’t trust him, saw him as nothing more than a remorseless killer.
Gavin seemed to catch on, and smiled a bit.
“I know I avoided you a lot,” he replied, and reached up, rubbing at the back of his neck. “We got off to such a bad start I was kind of scared of making it even worse.”
You succeeded in that, Ryan couldn’t help thinking, and Gavin must have noticed the look on his face, because he laughed again.
“I know, I know, it sounds stupid. But I’m always awful with new people. I get worried I’ve made myself look like an idiot in front of them. It’s different once I know them a long time. And you’re always so… so grim and unreadable. Michael and all the others kept telling me you were cool but like. I don’t know. It was hard to tell when you wore the mask. But after hanging out with you the last few weeks, I see why they like you. You’re not scary at all really.”
“Oh no,” Ryan said dramatically, “My fearsome reputation is ruined.”
Gavin let out another squeaking laugh and Ryan couldn’t help but grin.
“For real though,” Gavin continued. “I know I fucked things up right at the beginning and I could tell you don’t like me so I was like, shit, this is awkward, I’ve awkward-ed it up now.”
“You’re telling me,” Ryan said slowly, “That you were avoiding me because you were shy?”
“Basically,” Gavin replied. “Oops?”
Ryan rolled his eyes and Gavin grinned sheepishly.
“But yeah. I’m glad we could kind of… stop, with the avoiding each other. I dunno,” he added, a touch awkwardly, as though suddenly unsure that this was another relationship that he’d misjudged. That maybe Ryan didn’t feel the same way. Seeing that, Ryan was quick to nod.
“Me too,” he agreed, and felt a rush of warm gladness at Gavin’s relieved smile. “Turns out you’re not quite as terrible as I thought you were from first impressions.”
“Ryan,” Gavin protested, but he was laughing. He slapped at Ryan’s arm and Ryan caught his hand easily, laughing as well as he pushed him gently back towards the door.
“Come on, we should get going before we miss Geoff’s meeting.”
Gavin nodded, pulling his hand from Ryan’s and heading out. Ryan trailed along behind, mulling over this.
Well. All this time he’d thought Gavin disliked him when it turned out he’d just felt awkward about their horrible start. It certainly cast things in a new light, made even all his old interactions with the man seem somehow a bit less annoying. In any case, Ryan couldn’t help but be glad that now, at least, they were getting on. And that, now that these misconceptions had been cleared up, the entire crew felt a hell of a lot more like home.
“So what’s going on with you and Gavin?” Michael asked.
Ryan froze where he had been packing away their unused ordnance. It was just the two of them in the armoury - they’d just come in after a job - and there was something too deliberately casual in Michael’s tone.
“What do you mean?” he replied, carefully.
It felt odd to be keeping secrets - big secrets - from the rest of the crew. But aside from their still trying to keep things discreet, after what Gavin had told him the other day Ryan figured it would be a shitty move to tell the others about his personal business without his permission.
“You guys seem a lot closer lately,” Michael replied. He put his gun away and turned to Ryan, eyebrows raised. “And by ‘closer’ I mean you’ve stopped looking like you want to strangle him with his own intestines.”
Ryan snorted. “We’ve been working together on some plans. He’s… shown a more tolerable side. That doesn’t mean I don’t still find him fucking annoying.”
“Right,” Michael replied. He didn’t sound like he believed him, and Ryan raised his eyebrows further.
“Is that so hard for you to believe?”
“Nah,” Michael replied. “I know my boi. He’s funny when you get to know him. I’m glad you guys’re cool now. Just seemed to come out of nowhere a bit. I mean, you’ve known him a year and loathed him the entire time, and now suddenly you two are getting along.”
“Guess I misjudged him,” he replied, and this time it was Michael’s turn to snort.
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s a piece of shit. Just not as big of one as he lets people believe he is.”
“Right,” Ryan replied, a bit amused, and turned away to continue packing up.
Still, the other man’s words played on his mind, especially when he took Gavin back to his house that evening to continue their planning and the other man spent the entire car ride over fruitlessly trying to get his iPod to turn on.
“Does it just need to be charged?” Ryan asked, after listening to him curse at the damn thing for fifteen minutes straight.
Gavin shook his head. He gave up and rather carelessly shoved it back into his bag.
“Nah. It was fully charged when I dropped it in the shower.”
“When you - when you what?”
“Dropped it. In the shower. You know those little ledges you put your soap and stuff on? Had it on that but it fell off and into the water. Hasn’t turned on since then.”
“Why the hell would you bring an iPod into the shower? Of course it’s gonna be broken now,” Ryan asked incredulously.
“Because, Ryan, I wanted to listen to music in there. Lots of reverb in a bathroom. Especially in a shower cubicle. It’s because of the tiles an’ all. Science, Ryan.” He kicked mournfully at his backpack, lying in the footwell in front of him. “I’d only had that one a few weeks, too.”
“It’s your own damn fault for breaking it,” Ryan grunted.
Gavin shrugged. “I’ll just buy another one.”
“You’re real fucking wasteful, you know that?” Ryan snapped. He wasn’t annoyed, not really, but it was an ill reminder of one of the things he’d despised about Gavin in the first place; the spoilt-brat attitude and lack of care for anything he deemed replaceable.
“I know,” Gavin replied airily. “I normally try to be better about electronics, though. Only because Apple stuff is a bit of a rip off.”
“I mean it,” Ryan insisted. “I see you doing it all the damn time. Bikes and watches and everything. You should value your things more.”
“Oh, that’s different,” Gavin said. “Like you said. Those are just things. If I’ve got money I might as well use it for something. But I do have stuff at home I take care of.”
“What’s the most valuable thing in your house then?” Ryan asked, hoping that at the very least if Gavin had an expensive TV or another one of those bikes that he’d take good care of it.
“My little Lloyd of course!” Gavin replied immediately, and Ryan’s irritation simmered away at the genuine fondness in the other man’s tone. “She’s irreplaceable, she is.”
“That’s a good answer. I’ll accept that,” Ryan said, and Gavin glanced over at him with a grin.
There was a moment of silence before he spoke again.
“It’s not like I just splash my money around all the time,” he said, sounding a little put out by how quickly Ryan had jumped down his throat.
“That’s exactly what you do.”
“No it isn’t. At home I… there’s stuff I won’t throw out until it breaks. Like my cameras and some of my clothes and things. You should wear clothes until they’re at 50 percent, I always say.”
“That is a fucking lie and you know it. You buy new clothes constantly,” Ryan replied, and Gavin rolled his eyes.
“Work clothes Ryan, those are work clothes. You don’t get it.”
“Don’t get what?”
“The way I act at work,” Gavin explained, “It’s for show, really. I know what people think of me. I have a reputation too y’know. But I play it up a lot, the rich careless thing. Looking horribly, shamelessly tacky,” he added with a grin.
Ryan glanced over at him, processing this revelation. It made a lot of sense. He’d seen Gavin at home and his house certainly wasn’t some haven of luxury. And even at Ryan’s home, he acted differently, less excessively obnoxious. Obviously some parts of how he behaved were real - the confidence, the joking, the incessant curiosity - but everything he’d thought about Gavin at the start - the shallow plastic-ness…
That, he was starting to see now, was an exaggeration. As much a mask as what he himself put on.
“You know how it is in our job,” Gavin continued. “Everyone does it. Paper faces on parade and all that. Don’t you have an act you put on?”
Ryan bit his lip. For the most part his reputation was built on assumptions people made about his abilities, his silence - but he played it up too, he knew. The terrifying murderer thing. The mask was just one aspect of it. His stint with the Fake AH Crew had been the first time in a long, long time that people actually saw under his own pretences.
“I guess I do,” he replied, quietly.
Gavin gave him a small smile.
“Yours suits what you do,” he said. “And mine does too. Adds to the crew image and all. And it’s safer, innit, to act like you don’t care about anything? If people knew I did actually value stuff they’d have a way to get to me.”
“You really think someone would go after your cat?” Ryan joked.
“You never know, Ryan!” Gavin shot back. “Some people out there…”
Ryan couldn’t help but laugh.
“So that garish shirt you were wearing the other day,” he continued, “That was just for show, was it?”
“Not because you have no fashion sense,” he teased, and Gavin scowled.
“You have no right to speak! I’ve seen your jeans,” he cried.
“What’s wrong with my jeans?!” Ryan protested, and Gavin dissolved into a fit of squeaking laughter as Ryan tutted and shook his head, mock-affronted. Any trace of irritation had dissolved now, replaced but what he suddenly realised, with something like alarm, was a swelling sort of warm fondness. His grin faltered a little, startled by the depth of the feeling, and he shoved it away, trying not to dwell on it.
“What’s going on?” Ryan asked, slipping into Gavin’s office and shutting the door behind him.
He’d been out on a job since early that morning, his phone off, and had been alarmed to find several missed calls and texts from the other man when he was finished. Their planning had been going well - mostly setting up the false deal to lure Peter out of the city, which took a lot of slow background work, but had been progressing steadily along - so for something to happen suddenly was a bit concerning.
Gavin looked up from his desk and smiled at Ryan.
“You’re back! We have a bit of a situation.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Hopefully nothing too urgent,” Gavin said. “But I’m not sure. Peter told me he’s gonna be going out late tonight for ‘work business’ and his car went for an oil change so he wants to borrow one of mine. So we won’t be able to track him. I don’t know, it could be nothing, but best to check in case he’s made progress with the dealers and it’s a meeting with Glasgow or something to fuck us over.”
“That’s a problem,” Ryan agreed. “You can’t slip home now and put a tracker on your car?”
“He was calling me from home,” Gavin replied. “He’ll notice if I do.”
“So he’s left already?”
“No, he said he’d be leaving at six or so and asked if I’d be back before then. I said no because I was waiting for you to get back to see what we should do.”
“Hmmm. Okay,” Ryan said. “If we can’t track the car I guess we’ll have to tail it.”
“You want to follow him?” Gavin asked, sounding a bit surprised.
“Why not?” Ryan asked, and Gavin hesitated, then shrugged.
“I dunno. Aren’t you worried he’ll notice and catch on to us?”
“Gavin,” Ryan said, patiently, “I know how to tail a man. Unlike you I’m capable of driving without causing scenes of unfathomable destruction every time I turn a corner.”
Gavin laughed a bit.
“Okay then,” he said. “We should head out now if we want to catch him before he leaves the house.”
Ryan nodded. He was done for today anyway. Gavin packed up his stuff and they were heading out together when they ran into Geoff in the corridor.
“Where are you two rushing off to then?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Checking the armoury,” Ryan said - at the same moment as Gavin unfortunately blurted out, “Planning.”
Geoff’s eyebrows rose even further.
“Something going on here?” he asked, suspiciously, and Ryan reached out beside him and pressed Gavin’s wrist, hoping he’d get the hint to stay quiet.
“We’re checking if we have enough explosives left to run the next vault job,” he said. “If not we’ll have to revise our plans in case we can’t get more in time.”
It was not the most elegant lie he’d ever come up with, but it helped that he had his mask on. Gavin nodded, and after his initial alarm at seeing Geoff he’d relaxed, looking as nonchalant as usual. Geoff glanced between them again, but seemed to accept this.
“Run it by me before you change anything,” he said, and they nodded, watching as he headed off down the corridor and entered his own office.
“You need to decide what you’re going to tell them after all this is over,” Ryan said, once Geoff had vanished. “He’s gonna be pissed you didn’t let him know what was going on.”
“I know,” Gavin said quietly. “But I know Geoff. If he thinks someone hurt me he’ll go in guns blazing. We’re not ready for a war with Glasgow yet.”
Ryan bit his lip, but nodded. They headed back out to his car in silence.
“It’s six thirty and he still hasn’t left yet,” Ryan muttered.
They’d been sat in his car just around the block from Gavin’s house for an hour now, waiting for Peter to leave. Gavin had shot him a text when they arrived asking him to feed the cat, and he’d replied, so they knew he was still at home, but since then there’d been no activity in the garage or driveway.
“Probably doing his hair still,” Gavin replied. He didn’t seem too bothered - all he’d done the entire time was work his way through a tube of Pringles and get stuck continuously while playing Four Pics One Word - but he hadn’t taken his sunglasses off and Ryan knew he was probably tense, wondering what his boyfriend was about to get up to.
Ryan sighed, and reached to steal a Pringle. He glanced over at Gavin’s screen - he’d been staring at the same level for a good ten minutes now.
“It’s trunk,” he said, and Gavin gave a great cry of realisation as he typed it in.
“All becomes clear!”
“There’s a picture of an elephant, you fool,” Ryan said.
“The car threw me off! What’s trunk got to do with a car?”
“Do you not know what the trunk of a car is,” Ryan said incredulously, and Gavin spluttered.
“Of course I know. I call it a boot is all. It threw me off a bit.”
Ryan rolled his eyes. He caught a flash of movement in the driveway and snapped to attention, leaning forward as he watched the garage door open, then the gate, and a car begin to drive out.
“He’s moving,” he said, putting their own vehicle in gear. Gavin was already nodding, watching intently. Peter drove down the road perpendicular to the street they were waiting in, and Ryan gave him a few moments to get ahead before pulling out after him. The roads in this area were quiet so he hung back, not wanting to get too close to the other man and make it obvious.
“You really think he could be meeting Glasgow and the weapons people to make a deal?” Ryan asked after a bit.
“I don’t know. I didn’t think he was close enough to have convinced them yet. It might be nothing.”
“Better safe than sorry,” Ryan grunted.
It didn’t take them long to realise that Peter was taking a very familiar route. They’d watched him drive this way on the tracker several times before. Gavin went very stiff in the seat beside Ryan, and a tense silence came over them as Peter headed into the city, and then to the street where he usually picked up Alana.
Ryan hung back, watching as Peter illegally paused in a bus zone while a woman looked up from where she’d been waiting outside a small office building before running over and getting in the car quickly.
Gavin had fallen completely silent. Ryan cleared his throat awkwardly.
“Looks like he’s just meeting her as usual.”
“Keep following,” Gavin replied, voice very tight. Ryan looked over at him, a pang of concern twisting in his stomach. Gavin was tense in his seat, staring at the car ahead of them, and Ryan realised that this was the first time both of them had seen one of Peter’s affairs in person.
“Are you sure?” Ryan replied. “He’s probably just going to take her to one of the safe houses as usual-”
“We don’t know,” Gavin snapped. “She works for Glasgow. If there’s a meeting she’d probably be there.”
He was right. Ryan kept on, following Peter as he continued through the city. It was crowded here, especially with peak hour traffic, and he was hard pressed to stay behind him at a distance.
“She’s pretty,” Gavin spoke up after a moment - Ryan glanced over at him briefly, most of his concentration still on tailing Peter - and frowned at the carefully blank look on his face.
“She is,” was all he could manage in response, because it was true, and Gavin let out a little sigh, reaching up under his glasses to rub at his eyes before falling silent again.
Peter paused outside another building and Gavin let out a long groan as this time the male affair entered the car.
“Oh, fantastic,” he said. “Pravi’s here too.”
They’d found out the man’s name a little while ago and Ryan knew Gavin found him the worse of the two - mostly because he never shut up when he was in the car and Peter tended to react to his chattering with the sort of amused fondness that he usually reserved for Gavin. At least with Alana the two of them were less openly affectionate.
“He’s never met with both of them at once before,” Ryan said with a frown. “At least that we know of. It might well be a meeting.”
“They’re off to have raunchy group sex in the back of my car,” Gavin grumbled. Ryan couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. Peter took off then, and he followed.
There was an uncomfortable silence as they headed off after the vehicle.
“Okay?” Ryan asked finally, glancing over at Gavin, who had his arms folded and his chin tucked down. He must have known this was a possibility, but it seemed seeing the people Peter was cheating with in the flesh had been a bit of a kick in the gut. Ryan could hardly blame him.
“I’m fine,” Gavin muttered. “Don’t lose them.”
“How bloody convenient would it be if they got into a car crash right now. Off the lot of them in one go and we wouldn’t have to do anything,” Gavin said darkly. “Hey, there’s an idea, why don’t we just tamper with his brakes and hope he crashes?”
“Because we can’t be sure you won’t be in his car too when that happens,” Ryan replied.
Peter began to head out of the city and Ryan frowned, wondering where the hell he was going. Before long they were in the quiet outskirt suburbs and then heading towards the coast. There were long stretches of beach around Achievement City and it wasn’t unusual for smugglers to conduct their business there, but it wasn’t something Ryan had thought Glasgow was all that involved in.
Gavin had fallen silent again and as Ryan started to slow down so that Peter wouldn’t notice them on the steadily emptying roads, he let out a long, slow sigh and took his sunglasses off, covering his face with his hands.
“I know where he’s going.”
“Where?” Ryan asked, looking over at him.
Gavin didn’t move his hands from his face. “It’s not a meeting. He’s taking them to our spot.”
“Haven’t you ever dated someone, Ryan? Everyone has a spot. Let’s see and make sure.”
Still a bit confused, Ryan continued to follow Peter, but when he started to head up a winding cliff road it was too dangerous to keep going without being seen and they got out and went on foot up the hiking trail. By the time they reached the top Peter and the others had already gotten out of the car and were sitting at a tourist spot up on the cliffside. They had a case of beer and a blanket with them and Ryan’s stomach sank as he realised this was a date, or something to that effect. It was nice up here, in the cool summer evening, the sun beginning to sink down below the ocean horizon.
Gavin let out a low, angry noise next to him. The two of them were standing some distance away, watching them from the edge of the hiking track. Too far away to be seen, but they had a clear view of the goings on from here.
“This isn’t a business thing,” Ryan began, turning to him, but trailed off at the look on Gavin’s face.
He’d seen Gavin look a lot of things since this whole business started. Artificially calm, mostly. Blank. Even angry, now and then. But now - now he looked furious. Not just furious, but so terribly upset that it made Ryan’s heart sink. His face was flushed, lips pressed together so tightly they’d nearly turned white.
“This is our spot,” Gavin repeated, so quietly Ryan could barely hear him. His fists were clenched by his sides, so hard his hands were trembling. “Just after the job he worked on with us, I was doing this thing for Geoff planning to steal a boat, so whenever I finished for the day we used to meet up here. Down there,” he added, jerking his head towards the bottom of the cliff, “There’s all these rocks with heaps of pyrite. You know pyrite, Ryan?"
“It sounds familiar,” Ryan began, and Gavin attempted a tight smile, but could barely make his lips twitch.
“Fool’s gold,” he explained, and let out a strangled laugh. “He used to say we were right where I belonged because I’m a fool and I like gold. Classic Peter, am I right! Ha ha ha oh my God I’m going to throw up.”
“Jesus, Gavin.” Ryan grabbed his wrist and dragged him back down the hiking trail a bit. There was a bench some distance away and he tried to sit Gavin down on it, but the other man yanked his arm free and paced furiously for a few moments, heaving ragged deep breaths. Ryan stared at him in silence, feeling helpless, unsure what to do.
Any doubts he’d had about how Gavin felt for Peter were gone. There was a raw, desperate pain on the other man’s face now - in his voice - that he had obviously been holding back for too long. Peter wasn’t just a casual fling to him, or a relationship for appearances. Ryan realised, with a sinking feeling, that he had loved the man.
Maybe he had been trying not to acknowledge it for too long, just how messed up this whole situation was. His initial dislike for Gavin - and the awkwardness of being asked to help him - had had him focusing on the threat to the crew, on the practicalities of what they were doing.
But everything that had gone on recently - and the look on Gavin’s face here, now - was really driving it in.
Gavin’s boyfriend was cheating on him.
Gavin’s boyfriend had betrayed him, in the worst possible way. Was lying to him every second they were together. Was all the while not only unfaithful, but trying to kill him. And Ryan had tried not to think about it, and it had been easy to ignore when Gavin himself was remaining so calm and composed about it, but it hit him now with full force what a fucked up, fucked up, horrible thing this all was.
And Gavin wasn’t pretending any more.
“He likes them,” he choked out, pausing in his pacing to reach up and grip at his hair. “Why else would he take them both out here? He’s actually into them. Or maybe he isn’t. Maybe he’s just playing them like he played me. I can’t fucking tell any more - I can’t tell. I thought I knew him.”
“Gavin…” Ryan didn’t know what to say. He stood, stricken, watching the other man, arms hanging awkwardly by his sides. He wasn’t good at this.
“I don’t even know how long this has been going on for,” Gavin cried. “What is it? Did he meet these two and decide he liked them better? Or was it never… were we never… am I not good enough for him or what?”
“Gav.” He was pretty sure Gavin didn’t even hear him, lost in his ranting. Not even looking at Ryan, directing his words to the darkening sky and the ocean beside them.
“I guess that has to be it, doesn’t it. Stupid, tacky Gavin with his big dumb nose. Doesn’t know how to be rich. Just a silly little fool, right? Why would someone like Peter love that?” He threw his hands up. “Don’t have much going for me, do I?”
Ryan opened his mouth - to say what, he wasn’t sure - but Gavin came back over to him then and viciously kicked at the bench. Ryan stepped back and shut his mouth. After so long keeping all this bottled up it was probably better for him to let it out.
The wooden bench shook violently as Gavin’s boot drove into it, again and again. Finally he missed, and stumbled, letting out an angry shout before collapsing to his knees and covering his face with his hands. His shoulders were shaking, his chest heaving.
Ryan felt sick as he watched him. Under that, a burning anger, part of him wanting to run back up the hiking track and throw Peter over the cliffside then and there.
But he couldn’t. He stood, watching Gavin, helplessness weighing him down. It was awful, the sight of him down on the ground like that. Silent now, and terribly small looking.
After a minute Ryan worked up his courage and stepped over to him. He reached out as though to touch his back but felt awkward suddenly, and let his hand drop. After a moment he crouched down next to him.
“I should have seen this coming,” Gavin said, before Ryan could do or say anything. His voice was muffled behind his hands and Ryan had to lean in close to make out the words. “Right - right at the beginning, when we started to get to know each other? He told me he wasn’t good at this. The whole relationship thing. That he doesn’t really do it much. It’s hard, you know, in the sort of job he has. A job where he has to pretend all the time. Where he’s used to people either disliking him, or loving a lie. Letting someone else in, to see who he really is - it’s something he struggles with. So he never committed to anyone, not really.”
He lowered his hands then and stared at them, still not looking up at Ryan. “And, you know, I got it. Because I’m like that too, sort of. I have… I have trouble properly asking people out. It’s one thing to just hit on someone at a bar, right. That doesn’t matter as much. Still have trouble with that too though. But properly - properly wanting to be with someone. That’s hard. Because if you let someone you care about see who you really are and they reject that - that hurts, you know? So we were both… we were both really bad at it. We both didn’t really know what we were doing. But we thought - I thought - we liked each other enough to want to properly give it a try. And it worked. Or I thought it did. Guess I was wrong. So shame on me I suppose. Should never have trusted him to begin with.”
There was silence for a moment as Gavin rubbed at his eyes. Then he barked out a harsh laugh.
“I don’t know what’s worse,” he said bitterly. “If he played me for a fool and it was never real from the start. Or if he genuinely did try and then just decided it wasn’t worth it. In the beginning it - it was so real. So it’s probably the second one. And the stupid thing is, I still don’t know what happened along the way?” His voice wavered pitifully at the end and Ryan had to bite his lip at the wrench deep in his gut. “What did I do wrong?”
Ryan grabbed his shoulder then, unable to stand by any longer. Gavin jumped at the contact, turning to him with wide, reddened eyes, and Ryan reached up to grip his other shoulder too, squeezing gently.
“Nothing,” he said firmly, staring Gavin in the eyes. “You did nothing wrong, okay?”
Gavin looked almost comically surprised to hear those words from him, and Ryan faltered for a second before pushing on.
“I don’t know what your relationship was like at the start. But whatever happened, that’s on him. That’s all on him. No matter how he feels or doesn’t feel there’s no fucking cause to cheat on you. On anyone. It’s a fucked up, cowardly thing to do. If anyone’s pathetic here it’s him. And to continue to lie to you like that - it’s disgusting. There’s only one person here who isn’t worthy of the other one and it’s not you, okay? It’s not you.”
Gavin was still staring at him, wide eyed, and Ryan squeezed his shoulders again.
“Understand?” he asked, and Gavin, after a moment, nodded slightly. He seemed startled enough that the intensity of his upset had faded, and Ryan figured that was enough for now.
He let go of Gavin and then didn’t quite know what to do with his hands. Part of him wanted to hug Gavin suddenly - God knew he needed it - and if Michael or Geoff were there they probably would have. But, a little embarrassed by the sincerity of what had just come out of his mouth - especially towards someone he, before now, had not been all that close to - Ryan thought, suddenly, that Gavin probably wouldn’t want one from him, and instead reached out and - why the fuck he did this, he didn’t quite know - very awkwardly patted Gavin on the head.
Gavin stared at him. And then laughed - hysterically, but genuinely.
“What the hell was that,” he asked, and Ryan felt his face begin to burn.
“What?” he demanded gruffly.
Gavin reached up and touched his head. “Was that you being nice, Rye-bread?”
“No. Shut up,” Ryan said quickly, terribly embarrassed now. Gavin’s eyes were still red and his face flushed, but he was snickering - a little shakily - at what had just happened, and despite how flustered he felt Ryan couldn’t help but be glad at that. Glad that Gavin was laughing, even if at him, even if at something stupid, even if just as a way of distracting himself from what had just gone on.
Ryan shook his head, rolling his eyes.
“Come on,” he said, and rose, holding out a hand to Gavin. The other man gripped it and Ryan pulled him easily up to his feet. “Let’s go back.”
“Are you sure you’re alright to go home?” Ryan asked.
Gavin nodded, yawning as he reaching up to rub at his eyes before pulling out his phone to check the time.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I want to sleep.”
Since getting back to Ryan’s they’d had a quiet night, eating dinner together before hanging out and playing video games. They hadn’t done a jot of work but Ryan couldn’t bring himself to care. They hadn’t talked about Peter, either, or what had happened, and over the course of the evening Gavin had gotten somewhat back to his usual self.
But it was getting late now, and Ryan couldn’t help his continued, lurking concern at the thought of him going back to his empty house. Waiting for Peter to come back and knowing exactly where he’d been. Gavin’s little break down earlier had unsettled him and he was - worried, he had to admit. Not just about whether Gavin could keep up his act well enough for their plot to stay undiscovered. But about whether he’d be okay.
Gavin sighed, turning his phone off and shoving it in his pocket.
“No messages from him,” he said tiredly. “Guess he’ll stay out pretty late tonight.”
He stepped towards the door and Ryan followed, moving to unlock it. There was a slightly awkward pause, Gavin shuffling his feet, Ryan staring at him in concern.
“Sorry about before,” Gavin said abruptly.
Ryan stiffened a little. It was the first time Gavin had brought up what had happened all night, and he’d figured they were going to try and ignore it.
“Why are you sorry?” he asked, and Gavin shrugged, glancing up at Ryan, teeth worrying at his bottom lip.
“I dunno. I’m not… I’m not meant to do that.”
“What?” Ryan asked incredulously. “Have emotions?”
“I dunno,” Gavin repeated, very helpfully. “I know I… I usually brush off a lot of things, but…”
“Jesus Christ, Gavin,” Ryan said. “This isn’t something you can brush off. I don’t expect you to. God, I can’t even imagine what this must all be like. You’re allowed to be upset.”
Gavin stared at him and Ryan felt oddly embarrassed again, realising how out of character that must seem for him. It was the sort of thing he might think but wouldn’t usually say - especially to Gavin - but he couldn’t bring himself to regret the words.
Finally Gavin smiled.
“You’re being really nice today,” he said softly, and Ryan blinked a few times.
What, was I mean before, he couldn’t help but think, and again felt a bit bad about his lack of sympathy for this entire situation back at the beginning. He hadn’t known Gavin properly then - had thought, indeed, that he’d brush this off the way he seemed to brush everything off. He hadn’t seem to care much. But here they were now, Gavin looking up at him with a small smile, seeming so pleased by Ryan’s unexpected openness, that all he could do was shrug.
“Your ex boyfriend is an asshole,” was all he said, and Gavin nodded.
“He is,” he agreed. And then, “Thanks for helping me. I mean it. I know this all helps the crew as well, but-”
“It’s not just for the crew,” Ryan said, without even thinking about it. And it was true, he realised, a second after the words left his mouth. It wasn’t just about the weapons and Glasgow like it had been before. He’d meant what he said to Gavin; he took care of his own. This was personal now.
He saw Gavin’s eyes widen - then his smile break into a proper grin. After all that had happened tonight it was nice, seeing him smiling properly, and Ryan couldn’t bring himself to care just how unexpectedly personal he was being around the other man.
Gavin reached out and touched his arm, and Ryan looked down at his hand, fighting back the sudden little thrill he felt at the contact. It had startled him, he thought, that was why.
“I appreciate it,” Gavin said. And then, after a second, “See you tomorrow then.”
“Text me when you get home,” Ryan said automatically, and Gavin nodded. He pulled his hand back and left. Ryan watched him disappear down the stairs before shutting the door and leaning against the wall. He let out a long breath and rubbed idly at his arm where Gavin had touched him.
What a fucking day.
He felt oddly exhausted, emotionally wrung out from everything that had happened. Things felt a little unreal in the silence of his apartment, like there had been some strange and sudden shift and nothing would be the same again. He supposed it would be hard to forget seeing a member of his crew so completely lose control like that, and sighed, running his hands over his face.
Their plans were going well. He’d nearly finished setting up the fake meeting and soon the only thing left would be to set a date, figure out how they’d plant the evidence to frame another of Peter’s enemies-
And then do it.
It wouldn’t be long now. It had been funny, this whole time, meeting up with Gavin so frequently to work on this project. He was still the only one who knew the whole story, everything Gavin had done, and once Geoff inevitably found out about all this he and Gavin would be the ones who had to explain themselves.
But beyond that - they were friends now, he figured, or at least getting there. After all this was finished, they wouldn’t go back to how they had been before. They couldn’t. Things were going to change now.
They changed sooner than he thought.
When Gavin met him at work the next day, in the boardroom where everyone was holding their weekly group meeting, they exchanged a small smile, but didn’t speak of what had happened over on the cliffs.
Nevertheless, it seemed something had shifted after that, in the way Ryan looked at the other man with something softer, fonder, inexplicably protective. And in the way he caught Gavin looking at him, too, something genuine in his smile, the same way he’d grin at Michael, or Geoff, or Ray.
Speaking of Ray, the other man seemed to constantly be up at all sort of odd hours playing Xbox, and since Ryan often had trouble sleeping himself, since adding each other as friends they had begun playing together quite frequently. It wasn’t long after that that Ray started adding him to games with Michael and Gavin - sometimes Geoff and Jack too - whenever they had the time or were all online together.
It was nice. It felt more like being a part of the crew, hanging out with them after-hours even if they weren’t all physically in the same place. He felt much more a part of things, especially amongst the lads.
It changed things with Gavin, too. The other man seemed to take great joy in picking on Ryan in games, following him around or constantly riling him up. Whether they were on a team together or against each other he always managed to find a way to pester him. Maybe it would have infuriated Ryan once; now he couldn’t help but be amused, used to the others’ antics from the games they’d played together when taking a break from planning. He probably took a little too much fun murdering the other man back, or targeting him in Halo matches, or getting into ridiculous arguments with him if they were voice chatting (Geoff’s ban on the coin fight was not technically in place outside of work hours).
If anything those sessions solidified that yeah, he would definitely consider them friends now. Gavin was fun to be around - Ryan found he missed him if he wasn’t in at work that day, or if he couldn’t make a gaming session - things felt too empty, too quiet without his usual noisy presence.
He found himself watching the other man more. His form on a motorbike was terrible and he tripped over his own feet half the time but when he was out on a job - picking a pocket or infiltrating a museum - when he got focused and intense - there was something controlled, fluid, almost catlike to his movements that Ryan couldn’t help but admire. Couldn’t help but find himself drawn to.
Even distracted as he was by what was going on with Peter, at some point Gavin had apparently made a proper draft of his dinosaur plan, and he presented it to them in the board room one day. The others were snickering the whole way through but Ryan couldn’t help but watch with rapt attention - a silly smile on his face the whole time, he realised after the fact. With his mind on something else for once Gavin was more relaxed than Ryan had seen him in weeks, and there was something absolutely endearing about the little grin on his face, the way his voice was tight with suppressed laughter and he kept breaking off halfway through explaining the concept to giggle. How his eyes were bright and excited, a sheer glee on his face at the whole ridiculous idea that, quite frankly, no one else could possibly have come up with.
“How was that?” he asked Ryan afterwards, when the others had left the boardroom and he was packing up his numerous diagrams (along with a ridiculous number of printed out selfies that he’d taken of himself next to the exhibits in the museum that he wanted to steal which, okay, evidence much).
Ryan shot him a thumbs up. “The details need some work, but it’s coming along well!”
Gavin grinned. “When are you gonna plan a heist for us, Rye-bread?”
“Ehh, not really my domain.” Ryan moved to help him pack up. “I plan assassinations, not robbery jobs.”
“I think you could do it well,” Gavin replied, and Ryan glanced over at him. There was something too sincere in the other man’s tone and he felt oddly warm at it.
“Hah. Well, it’s Geoff you’ll have to convince.”
“If you wanted me to, I could,” Gavin said, and Ryan paused, then laughed.
“Maybe let me think of some brilliant idea first. It’s gonna be pretty hard to top this dinosaur thing.”
“Fair play.” Gavin reached for his final planning sheet at the same time as Ryan and their hands bumped together awkwardly. They both paused, pulling back a little, before Ryan picked up the sheet, rolling it up deftly before handing it to him.
“Thanks,” Gavin said, and Ryan just shrugged, grinning, unsure why there had been such a nervous pause.
Because it wasn’t like they didn’t touch each other now, far more than they had been. Ryan knew it was a product of Gavin getting more comfortable with him; he was ridiculously tactile with the others, always cuddling up to Michael or crawling and climbing all over Geoff and Jack. Before he had been a little more cautious with Ryan, probably worried about pissing him off since Ryan himself didn’t exactly touch any of the others that much - but now that their animosity had faded he wasn’t as careful.
He’d poke Ryan to get his attention, or slap him on the arm when Ryan teased him, or try to bump into his side to throw him off when they were sitting next to each other gaming. And Ryan found himself letting him, despite not generally being the most touchy-feely of people.
Sometimes he wouldn’t even realise Gavin’s leg was brushing against his, or that he’d grabbed his arm to get his attention and hadn’t let go, and would marvel later at how comfortable he must have gotten with it not to even notice. Other times, for whatever reason, he’d find himself hyper aware of Gavin’s hands on him. Not in a bad way, not so that he wanted to pull away. Just too conscious of it, and almost carefully tentative of how he behaved, like a butterfly had landed on him and if he moved too quickly or stiffened then Gavin’s light touch would slip away.
It went both ways.
Gavin was an awful jaywalker and if they went out in the city for a job Ryan found himself constantly grabbing his wrist, or the back of his shirt, to keep him from walking out into a road that was a little too busy. Sometimes he’d just tug him back, sometimes he’d hold onto him. Gavin would laugh every time, but not pull away.
Other things. Little things.
“Why is your mouth hanging open,” Ryan asked, when the whole crew had gone out on a meet and they were waiting around for Geoff to finish up the deal he was making.
“Too many blowjobs,” Ray, standing nearby, supplied.
Gavin snorted loudly. “No. I had a toffee on the way over here and now my jaw’s all tired.”
“You look stupid,” Ryan pointed out. It was too hot out here in summer, the afternoon sun beating down on them. Gavin had his sleeves rolled up and Ryan’s eyes kept drifting over to his arms and the giant gold watch that looked too big, too bold around his slender wrist. Normally he’d have thought it looked tacky but it oddly suited Gavin, the bright metal against his tanned skin. Then again the sun suited Gavin in general. He had the colouring for it.
“That’s mean Ryan,” Gavin said, and hung his jaw open further just to annoy him.
“A bug’s gonna fly in there in a minute,” Ryan said drily. “Oh God. That’s not attractive. No one wants to see your uvula.”
He stumbled over the last word and Gavin laughed at him. Mock-irritated, Ryan reached out and pushed his jaw shut again with one finger - Gavin’s laughter faltered; he’d flinched a bit at the touch but stood now staring at Ryan, who kept a hand on his chin for a moment holding his mouth shut before he realised everything had fallen silent and dropped his hand back to his side a bit awkwardly. He saw Gavin swallow hard before turning away, clearing his throat a little, and Ryan turned away as well - ignoring Ray watching them with raised eyebrows - trying not to wonder why the feel of Gavin’s sun-warmed skin had lingered on his fingertips.
It happened again just the next day, when there was something in Gavin’s hair and Ryan reached out to brush it away. This time the other man stood still, staring at Ryan with wide eyes while he let him pick out what turned out to be a bit of cat fluff. But Ryan was an observant man, and he couldn’t miss the way Gavin’s breath hitched and lips parted a little, even if he laughed it off afterwards with some comment about how Lloyd had been sleeping on his pillow.
It was strange, Ryan thought, because he’d seen Geoff manhandle Gavin around a hundred times before and the other man never batted an eyelid at it.
He couldn’t miss it, but he could try to ignore it, mostly because-
Because it was nothing, surely. Gavin was his friend. If they were close it was only in the way the whole crew was close - a family more than anything else - and besides, most of their meetings still involved, you know, the plot to fucking murder Gavin’s old boyfriend. A boyfriend who he was still very much hung up on, who had, Ryan knew, hurt him so badly - they both had a lot on their minds right now and the last thing Gavin needed was Ryan starting to get nonsensical ideas.
So when Gavin fell asleep next to him on Ryan’s couch after they were working late there one night, Ryan pushed down the warm swell in his chest when he moved to shake him awake and Gavin, half-asleep and drowsy, leaned into his touch until he was practically sprawled against Ryan’s side on the small sofa.
And when they stood close to each other in the boardroom, crowding up with the others to all try and look at Geoff’s laptop screen - when Gavin ended up by Ryan’s side, straining to see until Ryan put a hand on his shoulder and steered him up in front of him - he resisted the urge to drop his arm down across Gavin’s shoulders, and forced himself to ignore where Gavin’s side was pressing against his, warm, so close he could feel each of his breaths.
And when Gavin climbed on the back of his motorbike after a heist gone slightly wrong and they sped away, police sirens ringing out after them - when the other man’s arms pulled tight around his waist and Ryan felt his face press against his back momentarily before he turned to look behind them, letting out a loud whoop - he put the sudden exhilarating, electrifying nature of the other’s touch, the way it made his own breath catch and him have to suddenly suppress a full-body shiver, down to the adrenaline coursing through his veins and the excitement of being on the run.
“That’s a nice knife,” Michael said, entering Ryan’s office to find him sitting on his couch turning the weapon over in his hands. “Where’d you get it?”
Ryan laid it aside with a slight frown.
“Gavin gave it to me,” he said, and Michael’s eyebrows rose.
“He steal it?”
“I think so.” Ryan glanced over at the shelf nearby and Michael followed his gaze. Ryan saw the other man take in the assortment of things there - keychains, a pocket version of Hamlet, a truly horrifying cat shirt - before turning back to Ryan with a shit-eating grin.
“Oh man, you’ve really turned him around on you,” Michael said, and Ryan raised his eyebrows.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Michael wandered over to Ryan, perching on the arm of the couch. He leaned in with the air of a man about to bestow some great wisdom upon him.
“Gavin,” Michael explained patiently, “Is like a cat.”
“Cats bring you dead rats and birds and things,” Michael said. “Gavin likes to bring people stolen stuff. You’ve seen him do it with Ray and me, right?”
Ryan had, indeed, seen him do it with them. The trophies ranged from normal gifts to the ridiculous, anything that he’d picked up and pilfered from other crews’ bases, or pockets and handbags on the street, or stores - silly little things he’d present the others with that they usually threw away a second later, unless it was something particularly valuable.
“Are you saying he’s gonna start bringing me dead animals next,” he joked, and Michael rolled his eyes.
“God, I hope not. For real though, that’s pretty funny if he is giving you stuff. You guys must really be getting along now. He wants you to pay attention to him.”
“I see,” Ryan said drily. “Can I hint to him to get me a fucking desk? Is that how it works?”
Michael laughed. “You can only try.”
“That crew out west agreed to meet with us, talk about maybe setting up an alliance,” Geoff said, at their next group meeting. “Who wants to go have a chat? They specified that they don’t want Ryan, though.”
“Aw, that’s mean,” Ryan replied, as all head turned towards him. “I feel so rejected.”
He was joking, and obvious about it, but Gavin frowned anyway.
“Why not Ryan?” he asked, and Geoff shrugged.
“They’re a bit skittish. Think they find him scary. Which is good, we have something to intimidate them with if this doesn’t work out.”
“I’ll go,” Jack spoke up, and Geoff set to arranging it, leaving the rest of them to wander off. Gavin came up by Ryan’s side as they left the room. He was still frowning.
“It’s funny,” he said, “I forget that other people don’t know you sometimes.”
“I was kidding,” Ryan assured him, “I wear the mask for a reason, Gav. People thinking I’m a terrifying, cold blooded killer works to my advantage most of the time. Like you said. We all have an act we put on.”
“I know,” Gavin said, thoughtfully. “It’s just weird is all. That that’s your act when you’re not like that at all, really.”
“Am I not?” Ryan questioned, raising his eyebrows, and Gavin poked at his side, scowling.
“You’re not. Took me a good damn while to see it since you act so bloody creepy. But you really aren’t what I thought you were at the start, y’know?”
Ryan couldn’t help feeling oddly touched by that. And it had been a year, now, since he joined this crew, and God if it hadn’t been everything he’d hoped and dreamed - he’d never imagined he’d find people he was so comfortable with that he could completely drop his guard, could let go and have fun and leave away the very lonely, sometimes disconcerting experience of being just him and his mask, no one around to assure him that whatever gruesome acts he’d committed that day weren’t all there was to him.
Gavin’s lingering distrust had been part of what made him dislike the man - some resentment there - but with that gone, he couldn’t help but smile at his words now.
“I mean it,” Gavin insisted. “You’re… kind. If you can be kind in our business.”
He trailed off a bit awkwardly and Ryan couldn’t help but chuckle a little. He knew what the other man meant, that it was another clumsy way of thanking him for helping him out with the Peter situation - and taking pity on him, he smiled gently.
“Thanks, Gavin,” was all he said, and Gavin gave a quick nod, turning away hurriedly.
Their plans were put on hold for a little bit as the whole crew worked on a new job that came up - an attack on another gang who had recently acquired more explosives than they were comfortable with - everyone working such long hours in preparation that neither Gavin nor Ryan had any time to meet up after work to continue to plot.
The gang’s warehouse was a ways out from the city and the job ran without a hitch. They escaped into the hills afterwards, explosions ringing out behind them.
The whole crew had been into flares lately and with the job successfully done and the location too far out for police to make after them yet, they all set to firing them off into the distance after them, watching the bright pink and yellow lights arc and wheel against the night sky, clear and starry this far out from the city, not a cloud in sight with the summer weather as it was.
They stopped, exhausted, near the lake to wait for Kdin to come in the chopper and pick them up - all of them laughing, breathless and excited the way they always got after a job. It was a hot night, almost stiflingly so, and humid out by the lake. Ryan pulled his mask off, then his jacket. His face must look awful, paint smeared everywhere with sweat, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. They were all grimy and bloodied and smelling of gunpowder, and looking around at the others he felt a sudden terrible fondness for all of them.
Geoff had brought bevs with him - of course - and was offering them around. Ryan wasn’t a big drinker but he took a beer anyway, twisting the top off. As the excitement faded it seemed suddenly, surreally quiet and calm this far out from the city. Just the summer heat like a blanket around them and the croaking chirrups of frogs and cicadas about the lake bed.
The lads were still firing flares off, high into the sky before watching them drop to fizzle around in the lake, lighting the water up ridiculous colours. Ryan was standing a little apart from the others, arms folded except to occasionally sip at his beer, but after a moment Gavin came up next to him to join him. Ryan looked over at him and smiled; Gavin smiled back.
“Nice job today,” Ryan said. He’d seen the other man take down a few of the gang members; he was an impressive shot when he paid attention to what he was doing.
“Thanks,” Gavin replied, with a cheery grin. “Ha ha, your face looks really funny.”
“How dare you insult my terrifying warpaint.”
“It looks like a three year old’s fingerpainting.”
Ryan swiped at him and Gavin danced away, cackling. Despite himself Ryan couldn’t help his wide grin, especially at the sight of him, head thrown back, squeaking away. Gavin looked dishevelled after the job - hair all windswept from riding the getaway bike without a helmet, a smudge of grime down his cheek-
Yet somehow, Ryan couldn't help but think, spectacular.
He paused, stilling, eyes fixed on the other man. The pink and gold light washing over him from the flares the others still had firing into the air. All the tension gone from his shoulders in the relief of a successful job’s aftermath, leaving his movements loose and fluid as his chest heaved with laughter.
There was the notorious thief Gavin Free, Ryan thought, the Gavin everyone thought they knew, with his spiked up hair and silk shirts and gold flashing on every finger. And there was the Gavin he’d seen outside of work, dressed down, old-cat-lady Gavin, endearing in his homeliness. But this was their Gavin, the real Gavin, the best parts of both - being authentic but still embracing the life of crime that they lived - Gavin with his sunglasses shoved up on his head, that expensive shirt rumpled and tattered with sleeves shoved up over his elbows against the heat - Gavin turning to him now with a wide, broad grin, happier than Ryan had seen him in weeks.
He could tell, now, why the others loved him so much, when he injected so much life into the whole crew, seeming to lift them all up with him.
He must have been staring, because Gavin faltered a little, smile fading a bit as he seemed uncertain. He swallowed, one hand coming up to rub at his opposite arm - his gaze flicking over Ryan then, running over his shoulders and arms as he seemed to realise he’d taken his jacket off and was just in the undershirt he usually wore underneath.
A hand clapped down on Ryan’s back and he turned to see Jack, the other man starting to say something about what they’d pulled today. He turned his attention to him and by the time he looked back Gavin had gone, moving back over to Michael and Ray, and Ryan swallowed, shoving away the odd feeling of almost disappointment deep in his gut.
Gavin sighed as he pushed the laptop back across the table.
“He’s going out there again,” he said stiffly. “To the cliff with both of them. Back to our spot.”
Ryan pressed his lips together. The upset in the other man’s voice was making him feel helpless and angry all over again. With the other job now over they’d gotten back to work, Gavin over at his house once more, and Peter - who’d been mostly inactive the last few weeks, not even meeting Alana and Pravi that much but just continuing to work for the weapons dealers - had started up his adultery again, it seemed.
Gavin ran his hands over his face before getting up and leaving the table, throwing himself down onto the couch instead. Ryan’s gaze followed him. Lately Gavin hadn’t spoken much about what was going on at home. If he’d kept up the act well. If Peter had noticed anything was wrong after that first day when Gavin finally let everything he’d kept bottled up overwhelm him.
Now Ryan watched him carefully for any sign he was about to crack again. But when Gavin finally spoke up again his voice was dull. He was still lying on the couch and from here at the table Ryan couldn’t see his face.
“Do you think he really cares about them, Ryan?”
Ryan bit his lip.
“I don’t know,” was all he could reply.
“Why would he take them to our spot? He doesn’t know that I know so it - it can’t be to hurt me.”
“It’s a convenient spot. Remote.”
“Romantic,” Gavin shot back. “I think he must like them. They’ll be sad when we kill him.”
Ryan wasn’t quite sure what he was getting at. But Gavin fell quiet then, and Ryan frowned. He couldn’t help but think back to Gavin’s outburst, and everything he’d said. There was something uncomfortable about the other man’s silence now, something tired and very sad.
On impulse Ryan got up, walking over to the couch. Hearing him approach, Gavin sat up a bit, looking up at him, confused. He was dressed more casually today - it was so hot that he’d taken to t-shirts at work instead of button-downs - albeit quite a tight, white shirt that hugged his lean frame, and Ryan felt another tug in his chest at the sight of him, hair all flat where the couch had squashed it, still looking tired despite having taken off yesterday to rest.
“What you said before,” Ryan said. “At the cliff?”
He saw Gavin’s shoulders go stiff, but the other man didn’t respond.
“It’s not true,” Ryan said, crouching down a bit so Gavin wasn’t craning his neck to look up at him. “That you have nothing going for you? I hope you don’t really fucking believe that.”
He saw Gavin’s jaw tighten, but again he didn’t reply, and Ryan clenched his fists, a hot anger welling up in him at the thought that Peter, worthless Peter - Peter who Gavin had trusted, who was meant to love him - could have the other man so worn down and insecure.
“I mean it,” he said firmly. “It’s not true. You have plenty going for you. You’re one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. Smart, too - I know we joke about it but your heist plans are always… eccentric, but workable. You’re the best thief I’ve ever seen; you’ve pulled off some amazing shit. You’re pretty damn fearless. You’re not afraid to get your hands dirty. And you're fun, Gavin, you… it’s never the same when you’re not there. This job, the things we do, it can get dark. It can wear on you. But the Fake AH Crew is different - you know that, don’t you? - and part of it’s you. Even back when I found you fucking annoying,” he added, with a mock-irritation that had Gavin’s lips twitching - “You could still make me laugh.”
Gavin glanced away, looking a bit embarrassed, and Ryan shifted closer.
“I mean it,” he said. And then added, with a small grin, “And fuck what he says about your hair. The blond suits you.”
“You reckon?” Gavin piped up.
“Definitely,” Ryan agreed. “And I know we joke about it but your nose suits you as well.”
“Now you’re just having a laugh,” Gavin murmured, but his face was flushed and Ryan couldn’t help but smile.
“I don’t care how hot Peter is - or thinks he is - and I definitely don’t fucking care if he knows how to be rich or whatever it was he said - which quite frankly I think just means he likes to dress pretentiously. You can do way fucking better than him, alright? And he’s a God damn idiot for not holding on to you.”
“Alright, alright.” Gavin’s face was bright red now and when he finally looked up at Ryan there was something shy in it, uncertain, as though still not sure he meant what he said. Ryan stared earnestly back at him and Gavin smiled after a second, small but genuine.
“Got it?” Ryan asked, and Gavin nodded.
“Yeah,” he replied. He sounded flustered, but at least his earlier pensiveness was gone.
“I wasn’t just saying all that to be nice,” Ryan assured him, and Gavin nodded.
“Yeah,” he repeated, and then added, with another little grin, “Thank you, Ryan.”
“No need to thank me.” He held out a hand and Gavin grasped it, letting Ryan tug him up off the couch. As he stood up they caught each other’s eyes properly for a long moment and there was a frozen, tense sort of pause. The room suddenly seemed very quiet and Ryan became acutely aware of how they were alone here, in his apartment-
And how close they were standing-
And how much he had meant everything he’d just said.
Gavin was staring at him too, eyes too wide - then he blinked a few times, pulling his hand gently out of Ryan’s grasp. Ryan let him go.
Gavin cleared his throat a bit, turning back to the table. “We’re just about ready now.”
“We are,” Ryan agreed.
“We should go check out the road we want to do it on soon. Then solidify our plan for who we’re gonna frame. And then set a date.” Gavin swallowed, hard. “Doesn’t feel real. That it’s gonna happen so soon.”
“I told you I’d do it if you wanted me to,” Ryan spoke up, but Gavin shook his head.
“I’ll see,” was all he said, and Ryan nodded. Gavin turned and began to pack his things away, obviously planning on going home now, and Ryan stood and watched him in silence.
In an ideal world he’d shoot Peter before he even knew what was coming. Get it over with quick and clean. But in personal situations like this things rarely happened that neatly. He knew Gavin would probably want to confront Peter first. To ask him why. To get his questions answered.
That could get messy. Especially given how well Peter could manipulate people.
But Ryan would be there the whole time, he figured. He’d keep things on track.
Either way the date was looming ever closer. He kicked himself suddenly for the way he’d let his mind wander earlier. There was no denying that there was some tension between himself and Gavin; what sort he dared not think too hard about. Either way he felt like an ass and he didn’t intend to dwell on it, especially not now. Gavin was about to kill a man who'd meant a great deal to him. That wasn’t going to be easy, and the implications of it certainly wouldn’t just end with Peter’s death.
The last thing either of them needed right now were distractions and complications.
“So,” Geoff said. “You and Gavin.”
Ryan stiffened where he stood before Geoff’s desk. When he’d been summoned into the man’s office he hadn’t thought much of it - assumed he was being given a job - but now with Geoff staring at him scrutinisingly, almost suspiciously, he felt suddenly wary.
First Michael, now Geoff. Just great.
“You’ve been getting on well lately,” Geoff observed, and Ryan bit back a sigh, glad that with his mask on it was difficult for the other man to tell what he was thinking.
“He’s run some projects by me. I guess he’s not so bad.”
It was hard to lie to Geoff. Ryan liked him a great deal and he’d never quite been comfortable with the fact that they were doing this entire operation behind his back. Unlike many of the mob bosses around here, Ryan trusted him - trusted his judgment, his plans, even the morality (or what little consisted of morality in their world) behind the decisions he made. To be sneaking about keeping secrets from him didn’t sit right with him.
For a moment he was afraid Geoff would press the issue and he’d have to lie further. But Geoff just grinned.
“Asshole somehow wins everyone over eventually,” he said fondly. “Since you’re getting on so well, would you mind taking a little trip with him?”
Thank God, Ryan thought - so it was a job after all - he nodded.
“Nothing too big.” Geoff tossed a file across the table to Ryan. “He’s gonna run some jobs by another gang, but they’re an… aggressive bunch, and I wouldn’t ally with them if I didn’t need their help breaking into some weapons deals. Gavin knows one of the guys so he’s the one I wanna send, but you know how he is. He can get on people’s nerves.” A scoff. “Normally I’d ask Michael but I need him on something else. Just keep an eye on him, won’t you?”
“I can do that,” Ryan replied, and Geoff nodded, clapping him on the shoulder.
“Thanks Ryan,” he said, giving him a friendly sort of jostle. Ryan smiled a bit as he reached to pick up the file, feeling another pang of guilt at all the things he hadn’t told the other man. He’d seen the way Geoff interacted with Gavin and he knew if Geoff knew about Peter he’d probably want nothing more than to kill the man in some likely slow and painful way.
He would be annoyed if - when - the truth came out.
Gavin seemed terribly excited that Ryan was coming to join him on this job. He kept glancing over at him in the car, grinning and nudging at his side.
“Ryan, are you my bodyguard Ryan?”
“Apparently,” Ryan replied. Though he rolled his eyes he couldn’t help his little smile.
“I don’t think we ever worked together just us before,” Gavin mused. “On crew stuff at least.”
“That’s true,” Ryan agreed. They’d been paired on heists before but the others were always there over the earpiece and to meet them at the end. It was fairly novel to be out with Gavin, just the two of them, doing something that wasn’t related to Peter’s murder.
The other crew’s base was a rather dingy looking building in a rough part of town. Two of their members were hanging out in the entrance smoking when Ryan pulled up; thuggish looking fellows with scarred knuckles and scraggly beards. He grimaced a little; he’d learned from experience that the most dangerous people in their business were often the ones who looked the least like your stereotypical criminal, and these men - who scowled at them as they got out of the car, one of them hacking a gob of spit out onto the ground - seemed common, and not at all the sort that he’d ever choose to work with.
“How’s it going?” Gavin called out, as he clambered out of the car. The men glowered at him but he seemed unfazed, striding confidently towards the entrance.
Ryan hadn’t really seen him on any jobs other than heists or thefts, and it was quite interesting to watch. While his cocky smile was obviously deliberate, he knew Gavin well enough by now to tell that the confidence wasn’t feigned at all. Whatever his insecurities at home, he clearly knew what he was doing when it came to crew business.
Ryan, on the other hand, just shot the two men a very menacing look as he walked past them. They’d both stiffened when they noticed him get out of the car - probably expecting Michael, who, while intimidating in his own right, was also rather short, whereas Ryan had the advantage of both height and a terrifying reputation - and they flinched when he walked past them.
There were several other unpleasant looking men inside the base. Their leader was a particularly scraggly fellow; an older man with weathered features and nicotine stained teeth, and a churlish sort of look on his face.
“Where’s Keaton?” Gavin asked, looking around in confusion. “Thought I was meant to be having a chat with him.”
“Couldn’t make it,” the man grunted, dragging on his cigarette. “You can chat with me instead, boy.”
Ryan was probably the only one who saw Gavin’s shoulders minutely stiffen. It was never good news when plans changed suddenly, but Gavin just shrugged, still grinning away.
“That’s fine,” he said. “About that weapons deal, then.”
Ryan’s job, for the most part, was to stand around looming menacingly. The other men in the room kept casting him wary glances and he stared impassively back. He’d already sized up each of them, taking note of the knife hidden in one’s belt, the gun at another’s waist that would be a struggle for him to draw given how tightly it was strapped into its holster. He didn’t think things would go so wrong here that they’d get into a fight, but it never hurt to prepare.
That being said, Gavin was patiently explaining what Geoff wanted this other crew to do for them, but the man kept interrupting to talk over him. He was a brutish fellow, who immediately tried to push for a bigger cut, insisting on the difficulty of the job despite Gavin continually telling him it wouldn’t be as hard as that, managing to dodge all his attempted requests for more money without directly telling him that no, he wouldn’t be getting a 30% pay rise when he hadn’t even done a fucking thing for them yet.
Eventually the man grew impatient and testy, obviously not willing to let the issue drop. Petulant now, he turned to other insults.
“I don’t think you get how fucking hard this is gonna be,” he spat, cutting into Gavin’s fifth attempt to explain exactly what he was meant to be doing. “You look pretty damn green.”
Gavin’s eyebrows rose so high that they were in danger of flying off his face. Even Ryan had to hold back a snort. Green - Gavin had probably worked on more big jobs in the last year than this guy had in his entire life.
“Why didn’t Ramsey come over himself - or instead send someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about instead of some dumb kid.”
“Wow, okay,” Gavin said, and glanced over at Ryan, lips twisting in a can-you-believe-this-guy gesture.
The man followed his gaze and scowled.
“And what’s with Silent-But-Violent over there? You trying to threaten us by bringing the Vagabond here?” He scoffed, shaking his head. “You don’t know the first fucking thing about what it’s like in this business.”
“Oh my God.” Gavin was laughing a bit now, on an edge between awkwardness and annoyance, seeming a little taken aback by just how ignorant this guy was. “Do you even know who the Fake AH Crew is? Maybe we should wait for Keaton to get back.”
“What, I’m not good enough for you to make a deal with now?”
“That is absolutely not what I said.”
Ryan could see Gavin starting to not only get irritated, but show said irritation - he himself was beginning to feel testy. The way the man was looking down at Gavin with disdain was getting on his last nerve, and his fists clenched at his sides, itching to take some sort of action.
“I’ve been in this business for twenty fucking years kid, how about you listen to someone who knows more about what he’s doing than you for once.”
“For God’s sake, we’re the ones employing you.” Gavin threw his hands up. “You know what, if you’re going to behave like this, the deal’s off.”
The man’s face clouded over. He stepped forward and Ryan tensed, but the man didn’t go for his weapon - he just reached out and gripped Gavin’s face tightly with one hand, fingers digging into his cheeks. Gavin let out a muffled noise of surprise, staring up at the guy, who was sneering meanly.
“Consider this,” the man breathed, leaning in close. “You need us to do this job.”
The white hot anger that flared through Ryan’s chest surprised even him. He wanted to stride over, to rip the man’s hand from Gavin, to snap his wrist. He swallowed hard, forcing it down, and instead stepped forward menacingly.
“Consider this,” he said coldly - everyone in the room jumped at his suddenly speaking - “I will remove the entire fucking arm if you don’t let go of him right now.”
The man looked up at him and fear flickered in his eyes for a second at the sight of the mask, and Ryan’s hand on his gun. He released Gavin, who stepped back, reaching up to rub at his cheek before pulling a face.
“Fucking Fake AH Crew,” the man spat. “You think you own the whole damn city.”
Ryan laughed. He could laugh very evilly when he put his mind to it and he saw a few of the men take a step back.
“You just made an enemy,” he said, “Of the people who do own the whole damn city.”
The guy scowled, but Ryan wasn’t too concerned about what he might do, considering the rest of his crew were staring at their leader with horrified oh God just stop talking looks on their faces.
“Honestly,” Ryan tutted, shaking his head. “Have you never heard of Gavin Free? We can pull all the heists we want but who plans them? You think his other theft jobs don’t bring in more profits than the rest of us combined? That’s Ramsey’s money maker right there and you just laid your hands on him.”
The man clenched his jaw and glanced away, looking as though he was steadily regretting his life choices.
“If you hear from us again it won’t be for business,” Ryan said. “It’ll be because you made a very bad decision today. The deal’s off. We can find another crew.”
He turned away and Gavin caught at his arm, tugging him in close. The other man’s face was hard to read, especially with his glasses on.
“Ryan,” he said quietly.
Ryan knew he probably wanted to try and salvage this. And maybe they could - intimidate or threaten these men into submission. But that was messy, and he’d rather leave now.
“It’s fine,” he replied, and curled a hand around the back of Gavin’s neck, steering him out towards the door. He was not quite sure what possessed him to, not normally being anywhere near that tactile, just knowing that some hot anger was still burning in him and he didn’t like the way the men were staring and beginning to mutter behind them.
No one followed them out, even as they got into the car and headed off. The more distance they put between them and that grimy place, the more Ryan’s anger fizzled away until he was only vaguely simmering with annoyance. He glanced across at Gavin to find him staring at him, and unclenched his hands from the steering wheel a little.
“Alright?” he asked, and Gavin barked out a startled laugh.
“Jesus, Ryan, what the hell was all that back there?”
“He was an asshole,” Ryan said dismissively. “Didn’t want to work with him.”
“You know if Geoff had been here he’d’ve ripped that guy a new asshole,” Ryan said, and Gavin pulled a face, nodding agreement.
“Still,” he said. “We’ll need to find someone else now. I guess it’s for the best. I dunno who that guy was but he wasn’t the one I’ve worked with before. Anyway.” He glanced over at Ryan again and gave a small smile. “You were well scary back there.”
“I’m ‘well scary’ all the time.”
“No you’re not. Appreciate it though. But you do know I can handle myself, right?”
“I’m sure you would have,” Ryan assured him - it was true, for someone rather scrawny and unassuming he’d seen Gavin fight and he could definitely hold his own (he also fought incredibly dirty, which no one was remotely surprised about). “But Geoff sent me along with you for exactly that sort of thing.”
Gavin hummed and turned away to look out the window. Ryan felt a little flustered suddenly, almost embarrassed by his immediate and visceral reaction to the other crew’s actions. But when Gavin turned back to him he just grinned.
“Well, thanks. I do appreciate it.”
“It’s nothing,” Ryan replied, a little stiffly. “You’re part of my crew. Gotta have each other’s backs.”
“I know,” Gavin said, but was still smiling about it. After a second Ryan smiled back, and despite the mask he had on he was pretty sure Gavin could tell.
“Would you seriously have cut his arm off though?” Gavin demanded then, throwing himself back into his seat. At Ryan’s ominous silence, he made a shrill and horrified noise. “What the fuck, dude. That’s gross. Oh my God. You know what I can’t handle; I can’t handle seeing stuff detached. Even a piece of skin or something - if it’s hanging off it’s fine but once it’s off completely-”
He fell into a fit of gagging as Ryan stared at him in bemusement. After a moment he couldn’t help but laugh, watching him, his irritation replaced by a fierce fondness now.
“I’ve cut worse things off people than arms.”
“Stop. You’re gross. I don’t want to hear about it.”
Ryan pointed at the square on the calendar and turned to Gavin with raised eyebrows.
“You’re sure about this one?” he asked.
Gavin swallowed hard, his eyes fixed on the square, arms folded. After a second he nodded, and Ryan uncapped his red marker and circled the date. Just over two weeks from now. A Wednesday. That’d give them time to make sure everything was finalised in luring Peter out of the city, and Gavin was always so busy during the middle of the week that less suspicion would fall on him.
“There we are then,” Ryan said grimly.
It seemed terrible and final, that red circle the days were counting down towards. A day Ryan knew Gavin would never be able to forget, whatever went down in the actual killing. He sighed a bit, wondering why he felt oddly sick. No other hit had so affected him before.
He turned to Gavin to find him still staring pensively at the calendar, and bit his lip, unsure how to comfort him. There wasn’t much left for him to say. Finally, however, Gavin stirred, shaking himself out of it before turning to Ryan with a somewhat forced smile.
“We planned it so much. Hopefully it’ll all go smoothly.”
“Yeah,” Ryan replied. “Have you thought about what you’re gonna tell Geoff after?”
Gavin shook his head a bit sheepishly.
“Gavin,” Ryan said, sternly. “You gotta decide.”
“I know, I know,” Gavin replied. “You don’t need to worry about that, though. I’ve got it handled.”
“If you say so,” Ryan said dubiously. He turned away from the calendar and Gavin moved to begin packing his things up. Ryan made to open the door but Gavin paused suddenly.
“It’s still early,” he said. “Let’s go eat.”
Ryan raised his eyebrows. “What - order something?”
“No, let’s go out and eat.”
“It’s not that early,” Ryan pointed out, glancing at the clock. “It’s almost seven.”
“That’s not that late.” Gavin shifted, biting his lip and glancing at Ryan and back again quickly. “It’s fine, if you don’t want to-”
“Oh,” Ryan realised as it hit him suddenly. “You don’t want to go home.”
Gavin shook his head and Ryan mentally kicked himself, feeling like a complete ass.
“Okay,” he said, and Gavin perked up a bit.
“Really? If you’d rather not-”
“No, let’s go.” Ryan reached to snatch his jacket up and couldn’t help the warm swell in his chest at Gavin’s bright smile. The other man practically bounced down the stairs, Ryan following more slowly. He paused in the street outside Ryan’s apartment block.
“Let’s take the bike,” he announced, and Ryan raised his eyebrows.
“I’ll have to go back up and get the helmets,” he pointed out, unsure why they shouldn’t just drive - but Gavin gave him a pleading look and Ryan realised then that taking the bike instead would mean they didn’t have to talk. He nodded and headed off to get them.
The sun was setting as they headed out into the city centre. An odd melancholy came over Ryan as the streets darkened around them and they travelled in silence. Gavin’s arms were wrapped tightly around his waist, and despite how horrible his own driving was, the other man knew well enough how to balance himself. Ryan had to account for his weight a bit when turning, but Gavin wasn’t so heavy that it was a struggle. He focused on the road, the buildings and stoplights rushing past around them, rather than the warm press of the other against his back.
They ended up sitting in a diner. Gavin ordered breakfast food. Ryan had a very grisly steak. The bright, clinical lights felt a bit like a hospital - it was too warm in here, particularly given that it was summer and a hot evening outside anyway. It reminded him of all the meals he’d had before going off on a job alone when he wasn’t bothered to cook for himself. When he sat watching the people around him and letting their blurred, noisy conversations flow over him like rushing water, a nearly comforting background noise. Humans, everywhere, going about their dull, regular lives while he sat among them as disguised as he was when he put on his mask.
They didn’t speak much as they ate. The loud music of the diner would have made it hard, anyway. When they were finished they didn’t linger; Gavin paid for both their meals before they headed back outside.
“Let’s not go home yet,” Gavin said, as they stood out in the street.
“It’s getting late,” Ryan replied, but Gavin shook his head.
“Let’s go to the sky tower,” he said, pointing. The tallest building in Achievement City, it rose up above everything else, a lofty spire lit up with the bright fluorescent logo of one of the Corpirate’s companies.
Ryan followed his gaze, frowning a little.
“It’ll be closed,” he pointed out, and Gavin grinned a bit.
“I can get in still,” he said, waggling his eyebrows mischievously.
Going on some sort of nighttime adventure with Gavin had not been part of his plans for the evening. But he had little else to do - and whatever was going through Gavin’s head tonight, he wanted to support him.
“Alright,” he said, and was rewarded with another smile.
Ryan had broken into a lot of places. The sky tower was not one he’d ever expected to. Gavin had picked the lock on the door from the shopping mall to the section leading up here, and they’d deftly avoided security. Now here they stood, climbing up the stairs to the observation platform, the city spread out under them like a map of twinkling stars. Even with the office buildings dark and empty this time of night, there were bright advertisements and billboards all over AC, and from this high up the cars speeding busily by on the roads below looked like weaving strings of fairy lights.
He grimaced a bit as Gavin bounded up the last step and surged forward towards the rail, following close behind him. The rail was perfectly safe, but not quite high enough for his liking - especially since it was made of glass and even if he knew it was there, unless he was touching it the platform seemed open to the furious drop down to the ground far below.
“Don’t you like heights, Ryan?” Gavin asked, glancing up at him, having felt him tense by his side.
“Heights are fine,” Ryan replied, “But I’m not overly fond of how often we use parachutes.”
“Why not? They’re fun.”
Ryan hesitated, then admitted, “All it takes is one of them not opening for us to lose someone.”
Gavin stared at him, seeming taken aback. Then gave a small, almost touched smile before looking back out over the city.
“Don’t say that,” he said. “That’s sad.”
“You asked!” Ryan protested, but inched forward and looked over the rail as well. He had to admit, it was nice up here. As it got even later the night had cooled down and it was not quite so uncomfortably warm. It was a clear, brisk night, a Cheshire moon grinning down at them.
The sprawl of the city under him was a little dizzying and despite the rail he worried they’d fall. He reached out and loosely gripped at the back of Gavin’s jacket, and the other man turned to him with a grin before pressing in against his side. Ryan stiffened, startled by the sudden touch, but without really thinking about it he dropped his arm down around Gavin’s shoulders and tugged him closer, steadied by the feeling of another solid human body against his.
Gavin sighed a bit.
“We run all this,” he said. “This is ours. Don’t you feel a bit like a god looking over your kingdom?”
“Oh my God, Gavin,” Ryan replied immediately. “I’ve heard a lot of arrogant things come out of your mouth, but that one probably takes the cake.”
Gavin burst out laughing and Ryan couldn’t help but smile at having amused him when he had been so pensive this evening.
“You know what I meant!” he protested. “Our life feels a bit unreal sometimes.”
“I know,” Ryan replied, and leaned forward against the rail a bit, eyes scanning the city. “Hubris aside, you’re right.”
“You travelled around a lot before,” Gavin said. “Back when you didn’t run with a crew. Do you ever miss it?”
Ryan paused. He’d grown so used to the Fake AH Crew that he rarely thought anymore about before. About his life as the Vagabond. But after a moment, he shook his head.
“Drifting from city to city, town to town - even different countries, sometimes - it can be tiring, not having roots. Not having something to come back to. Achievement City might not be the prettiest place I’ve ever been, but… it feels good, sometimes, to have something familiar.”
Gavin nodded slowly. “I get that,” he said softly.
“Do you ever miss England?” Ryan asked. He didn’t think about it often, that Gavin had come from somewhere else. Somewhere very far away.
“Nah,” Gavin said. “Here’s home now.”
He stared out over the rail but Ryan’s eyes stayed fixed on him. The flashing Corpirate’s logo above them was making light wash over Gavin’s face one second before casting it into shadow the next. In each moment of light Ryan couldn’t help but memorise his profile; the sharp line of his jaw, a little stubbly after not shaving this morning. That unmistakeable nose that somehow suited him so well. How blue his eyes looked in every flash.
Gavin turned towards him and caught him staring. He stared back - Ryan froze - then after a second Gavin turned to face him completely. One hand clutched the rail, the other reached up to grip at Ryan’s arm as though steadying himself. Ryan didn’t pull away, unable to tear his gaze from Gavin’s as the other man looked up at him.
Up here, high and away from the rest of the world, things felt different suddenly. Funny and quiet and breathless.
“These last few weeks have been so shit,” Gavin choked out, abruptly. The words were raw and too vulnerable and Ryan could see everything wearing down on him. “I just - I hate this. I want it over with, but I… I also don’t want to do it. Once it’s over, it just - I don’t know what I’ll do next. It feels like everything’s gonna end.”
“It’s not,” Ryan began, softly, but Gavin just shook his head.
“It doesn’t matter. We have to do it. But it - it seems different up here, now. Away from it all. Everything’s so small down there.” He glanced down at the city again but looked back up at Ryan almost immediately.
“It feels better here with you,” he admitted - Ryan’s chest felt tight and nervous suddenly, his breath caught in his throat - “I wish we could just stay here. I don’t want to go down again. I don’t want to go back.”
Ryan didn’t know what to say. Everything had changed so much. For all that it felt like they were standing in the middle of the sky, empty air stretching out around them, all he could focus on was how close they were to each other, and Gavin’s warm hand on his arm.
And it feels better here with you.
It struck him, then, that this change went both ways - that at some point something had shifted - he was important to Gavin as well. Really important. The knowledge rose up, nearly overwhelming - but Gavin was still staring up at him, something too vulnerable in it, and struck by the need to comfort him somehow, Ryan lifted a hand and cupped his cheek, thumb stroking gently over his skin. It was a funny, too-intimate little motion, but Gavin didn’t flinch back. Just let out a little sigh and leaned into the touch, eyes slipping shut momentarily.
Ryan thought of his lonely, quiet apartment. Of the mask and how long it might have taken him to take it off if the horrible events of his first day here hadn’t happened. Of how much he’d let the others in - but how there was still some way to go. Either way, the last year had been a journey, but while his days with the crew were amazing, the nights he went back home alone, the weekends he spent with little but his own company - those reminded him too much of how he’d been before. Of the distance he still kept.
Here and now - he didn’t want to go back either.
“We can stay here for a while,” he murmured, and Gavin opened his eyes again.
“Thank you,” he said quietly - for tonight, Ryan knew, and for everything else as well - but he still looked sad, and on impulse Ryan dropped his hand from his cheek and pulled him into a tight hug. Something he ought to have done long ago, he thought - especially since all of Gavin’s usual support had no clue what was going on - for a moment he was almost worried, despite everything, that Gavin would push him away.
But the other man just made a muffled noise of surprise before hugging Ryan back, burying his face into his shoulder and clinging to him tightly. Ryan brought a hand up to the back of the other’s head, pulling him closer and nestling his fingers in his hair. These sort of soothing familiar motions didn’t come easily to him, but if there was something a little awkward in it Gavin didn’t seem to care, pressing into Ryan like he was touch-starved and desperate.
This was not where he had expected to find himself when Gavin came to him out of the blue, that night so many weeks ago. Hadn’t thought the job would take this long. Hadn’t thought they’d end up this close. Even now he didn’t know quite where things would end up - with everything changing so fast and his affection for the other man heightening at a pace that nearly frightened him-
But that didn’t matter, here and now and away from everything else, and he put it from his mind and let himself just hold Gavin close.
The next week turned out to be one of the busiest of Ryan’s time with the Fake AH Crew so far. Geoff put him on an assassination job - a mission to wipe out half a dozen members of another crew in the area. They were a skilled lot and it took a bunch of planning - and the crew split after Ryan took out the first few, meaning he spent a lot of time chasing them down and wasn’t even in Achievement City some nights, camping out in motor inns and truck stops as he went after his targets. It all meant that he was away from the base for a good number of days and so didn’t have time to continue to monitor Peter’s movements in the car - but Gavin had taken that over, and he knew the other man would let him know if anything popped up.
When there was finally a little lull in his movements - his lead for the last guy he was taking out had brought him back into the city and he needed to pause, and catch his breath, and wait for Kdin to get back to him with some information - he at last got a chance to finalise what he’d been sorting out with luring Peter out of the city, and so arranged to meet with Gavin early one day before work to consult.
Ryan was waiting with coffee outside the door of the base when Gavin pottered up. It was way too early - only just past dawn - but it was the only damn time Ryan had before he had to head out again. Gavin looked half asleep as he wandered up, waving at Ryan when he noticed him - he was in casual dress with a beanie shoved over his hair, and though he pulled off his sunglasses when he approached they weren’t his usual gold-rimmed ones. He looked exhausted as well and he made a beeline for the coffee in Ryan’s hand, accepting it with a grunt of thanks.
“Haven’t seen you in a while!” he declared, and Ryan huffed.
“Been busy, you know, murdering people.”
“Yeah.” Gavin reached up and rubbed at his eyes. “Sorry, I look a mess.”
“You look fine,” Ryan replied, automatically - Gavin glanced up at him and gave a small smile. He was staring at Ryan’s face and it took a moment for him to realise it was because he, too, didn’t have his usual work getup on. No mask, not even any paint - he hadn’t had time so early in the morning.
He went through the plan with Gavin quickly - there wasn’t all that much but it was easier to explain in person - and then they stood for a moment, drinking their coffee. Even though it had only been a week or so since they saw each other Ryan suddenly felt he’d missed an overwhelming amount, like they needed to catch up somehow.
But Gavin just sighed after a moment and crushed his empty coffee cup in his hand.
“Guess we really have finished planning then. One more week then all we have to do is… well, do it.”
“Yeah,” Ryan agreed.
“When’s this job you’re on finish?”
“Oh, tomorrow at the latest. If it drags on any longer I’ll bring Matt and Jeremy in to help.”
“Okay,” Gavin said, and nodded. “Okay.”
Ryan bit his lip. It must have been strange with him gone, even for such a short period. It would have left Gavin with no one to talk about the plan to.
“Has everything been okay lately?” he asked - Gavin looked up at him and seemed to realise what he meant. If Peter was still oblivious. If he was holding up okay as well.
“Yeah,” he said, and smiled a bit. “Thanks.”
Ryan smiled back. He drained his own coffee and watched Gavin stare off across the car park. Seeing him again now he hadn’t realised just how much he’d missed him - missed all the others, even after only a week away. Ray had been on the job with him and was the only one he’d seen in days beyond the occasional call with Geoff. Even that had been good - nice to have someone else to work with - made it more fun.
They headed into the base to get ready for the day ahead. Gavin had a bag on him, Ryan did too, and they moved into one of their locker rooms to get dressed, Ryan watching as Gavin laid out his usual outfit. Expensive shirt. Sunglasses. Golden watch. Can of hair spray. As he got his own leathers and mask out it felt almost comical, like they were preparing disguises for some sort of undercover mission.
He pulled his shirt off and didn’t realise Gavin was watching him until the other man let out a surprised noise.
“What happened to your arm?” he demanded, and Ryan looked down.
“Oh. Few days ago when we were taking out one of these guys he shot back at us. Bullet nicked me. It’s fine, just a graze.”
“It looks like it hurts.” Gavin came over to him and touched it, gently; the wound was covered by a slightly bloody bandage but the area around it was mottled and bruised. His fingers were warm from holding his coffee and even if his touch was soft it hit Ryan like an electric shock, making him fight back a shiver.
“It’s fine, Gav. I’ve had a lot worse.”
“Be careful out there.”
“Ray’s got my back.”
Gavin smiled a little. “That’s good. He’s solid that Ray.”
He still looked worried, though, and Ryan couldn’t help but be a bit touched by his concern. He finished dressing and got his paint out, moving over to the mirror where he started putting his face on. He had the pattern down to routine by now and it never took him long - but after a moment Gavin came up next to him, peering into the mirror as well before he scooped an overly generous amount of gel into his hand and started spiking his hair up. He kept darting glances over at Ryan, watching him - and Ryan, too, couldn’t help but look over at him in fascination as well. As unruly strands of hair were slathered down in place and his quiff rose steadily higher, his face seemed to harden a little, his exhaustion packed away behind the shit-eating grin that Ryan knew by now was distinctly different to his usual genuine smile. The grin he wore around clients, or when putting on a show - not when he was with the rest of them, the crew.
“Ryan,” Gavin said suddenly. “Can I paint a moustache on you, Ryan?”
“What?” Ryan asked, startled out of his staring - “No!”
“Please, Ryan. Oh my God. It’d be so funny. It’ll be under the mask all day anyway!”
“What if I take my mask off?”
“It’ll shock whoever sees it so much you’ll have time to kill ‘em. Come on Ryan. Don’t be a party pooper. You said you’d wear an animal onesie around, what’s a moustache compared to that?”
He looked so gleeful that Ryan could only roll his eyes and hand over the paintbrush. Gavin let out a delighted sort of squawk and grabbed it.
“Don’t put the - okay, you got the black in the red,” Ryan said, a bit helplessly, wondering how in the world his life had led him to this situation. He crouched down a bit so Gavin wasn’t leaning up as much and shut his eyes as the other man started painting on his upper lip, giggling away to himself all the while. When he stepped back he burst out laughing and Ryan glanced in the mirror and rolled his eyes at the sight of the handlebar moustache Gavin had bestowed upon him.
“I look like Geoff,” he said.
Gavin couldn’t even reply, too busy doubled over, cackling as though this was the most hysterical thing he’d ever seen. Seeing him laughing and looking so carefree was nice, after the last few weeks, and Ryan couldn’t help but stare at him, smiling fondly.
It was in that moment, that strange moment - ridiculously early in the morning, with a stupid moustache painted on himself and Gavin squeaking away at the sight of it - that it clicked. He liked Gavin both ways, he realised - messy carefree Gavin and polished up golden-boy Gavin - but most of all he liked Gavin happy like this, smiling - wanted more than anything for him to stay like that-
Liked him too much, probably.
It had been growing for a while, these last two weeks, but he couldn’t deny, watching Gavin now, that there was a definite attraction there. That sweet, silly Gavin, who liked cats and wanted to steal dinosaurs and who injected so much life into the crew if only you didn’t take him too seriously - had wormed his way into his heart somehow-
As suddenly as he had the revelation, it terrified him - for so long he hadn’t gotten close to anyone in their business - but even if things had changed now, if he had a place here to call home and people to call friends-
He couldn’t let this happen.
Not when Gavin was in such a fucked up situation, not when he was vulnerable and looking to Ryan as one of the few people he could lean on. And not when Ryan wasn’t sure himself - not when the very thought of caring about someone so deeply was still terrifying.
His smile had faltered and Gavin, sobering up now, noticed. His grin started to fade but Ryan quickly pasted his own smile back on.
“I look ridiculous,” he said. “If this ruins my reputation it’s on you.”
He pulled his mask back on over the top and grabbed his bag up.
“Let me go get this job out of the way. I’ll see you soon, alright?” he asked, and Gavin nodded.
“Alright. Be careful Ryan.”
“Always, Gav.” He left the room and paused just outside, taking a few deep breaths, feeling nervous and jittery of a sudden. This shouldn’t be a surprise. He’d felt it building a long time now. But finally acknowledging it was something else entirely, and he shoved the whole business from his mind.
Needed to focus. He had one more man to kill.
Saturday night. Ryan stood at his kitchen counter, slowly mixing a drink, hair damp from the shower he’d just taken and exhaustion written in his slumped shoulders and the bags under his eyes. He’d been up all night and only finally took out his mark this afternoon - the guy had given him a run for his money, so things had taken longer than anticipated. But it was all over now, and Ryan had popped briefly into work to let Geoff know before going home to sleep.
Now here he was, still a little groggy and aching from running around so much. He finished with his drink and took it over to the couch, sitting down with a sigh. He wasn’t usually a big drinker but tonight he felt odd and pensive.
He’d just killed seven people in the span of one week.
It wasn’t as though he hadn’t done worse before, and there had been reason enough for taking out these guys - and it wasn’t like they didn’t kill people all the time in attacks on other gangs, or on heists- but all that happened surrounded by the others and undercut by the thrill of whatever big job they were pulling. And it seemed different, somehow, when Gavin was squawking away at whatever chaos he was managing to cause, having some sort of friendly argument with Michael over the earpiece - when Geoff and Ray were exchanging sarcastic comments all the while - when Jack would laugh at whatever overdramatic tricks Ryan would pull.
This week had felt different, maybe because he’d been working only with Ray, maybe because they’d had to get it done fast and hadn’t had much time to fool about. Either way, it had him feeling a little unsettled tonight, caught up in remembering what it had felt like a year ago, when all he did was solo jobs. Just week after week of assassinations or bounties conducted alone.
The melancholy would pass, he knew. It just had him in an odd mood tonight. Letting out an annoyed grunt, he tipped his drink back down his throat and started to reach for the TV remote, only to pause when there was a sudden, thunderous knock at his door.
Ryan froze, already reaching for his gun. High-strung after having just gotten back from a job, his immediate thought was threat - no one should have known where he lived except for the crew, and he was already reaching to check his phone only to find no new messages.
Instantly alert, he got up from the couch, snatching up his gun as he went. He crept over to the door, peered out through the peephole and relaxed as he noticed familiar blonde hair.
“What the hell are you doing here, Gav?” he asked as he opened the door, wondering why he hadn’t texted or called first-
Only to freeze at the sight of the other man.
Gavin was leaning against the wall next to the door, hugging one arm, staring up at Ryan with desperate, red-rimmed eyes. His shirt and jacket were torn, blood dripping down his sleeve - one leg of his jeans ripped and bloodied as well. Ryan’s eyes widened, a shock of a surprise - then fear - then anger surging through him.
“We need to change the plan,” Gavin blurted out. He stepped forward and winced, favouring his left ankle. “We can’t wait a week. We have to do it as soon as possible.”
“What happened?” Ryan demanded, opening the door wider.
“We need to hurry it up,” Gavin continued, his words still coming out frantic and muddled. “I think he might be onto us. We just had a massive fight.”
Ryan’s eyes scanned over him, taking in the injuries, and his face clouded over. He took Gavin by the arm and gently guided him into the apartment.
“What happened?” he repeated, then added, coldly. “Did he do this?”
“What?” Gavin asked, blinking a few times, then seemed to realise what Ryan was talking about. He shook his head. “Oh. No, no - this wasn’t him.”
“Then how?” Ryan led him to the couch and sat him down - Gavin winced as he stretched his leg out, grimacing as the movement pulled at where his bloodied jeans were stuck to his skin.
“I was so angry coming over here. Took a corner too fast and low-sided.”
“You fell off your bike?” Ryan demanded, and Gavin nodded a bit sheepishly.
“Sorry I didn’t call first, I just. Kinda stormed out and left my phone in the house and didn’t want to go back to get it.” He bit his lip - he was shaking now, like he’d been running on adrenaline the whole way here and it was dissipating away now.
Ryan sighed a bit, his initial panic fading as the situation became clearer. He reached out and pressed Gavin’s shoulder.
“I’ll patch you up. Stay here a sec.”
Gavin nodded, and Ryan glanced at him once more in concern before heading off to get the first aid kit and some water. When he got back Gavin was picking gravel out of his palms.
“Can I get a drink?” Gavin asked, looking back up at him.
“No alcohol if you’re about to get painkillers.”
“I’d rather have alcohol.”
“Gav,” Ryan said sternly, and Gavin sighed. He started to shrug his jacket off, then his shirt, wincing as it stuck a little. Ryan hesitated, unsure if he should reach out to help. But after a moment Gavin managed on his own and Ryan fought not to stare, vaguely taking in the other man’s own collection of scars across his bare chest and back. His left arm was scraped horribly, bleeding in places, and Ryan reached out with a washcloth to start cleaning the blood away. For once in his life Gavin sat still, wincing now and then when Ryan brushed over a particularly tender spot.
“I know you make fun of me wearing leather all the time,” Ryan said finally, after a few moments of pensive silence. “But if you’re gonna keep falling off your bike you need to start wearing proper gear.”
“Yes, Mum,” he replied, and Ryan shot him a glare, though there was no real heat in it. After a moment Gavin sighed, tilting his head back to look up at the ceiling.
“He caught me looking at his phone,” he said bluntly. “Of course he was pissed. I tried to play it off like I was just trolling him by changing his lockscreen picture but he wasn’t having it. He accused me of not trusting him and, well. You can guess how I reacted to that.”
He gave a humourless laugh and Ryan frowned a bit.
“How suspicious is he?”
“Hard to tell,” Gavin replied. “I was acting like I hadn’t seen anything but he… he had a proper go at me. And then I got mad too and I - I didn’t say anything about the cheating but we really ripped into each other. I guess he must have a heap of issues with me or he wouldn’t be doing all this but… it was weird, hearing it come out of his mouth after he’s been pretending for so long as well. It got personal.”
Ryan bit his lip.
“This is gonna sting,” was all he could manage, before pressing a wipe to the wound. Gavin barely even flinched.
“I said some pretty awful things to him as well,” he replied, and gave a very tight smile. “We can both be terribly mean when we want to be.”
“I’ll find a way to move the plan forward, even if we have to stage a new job to get him out of town,” Ryan assured him, and Gavin sighed.
“It’s a right mess.”
“Hey. Complications rise up all the time in this sort of thing. We’ll deal with it.” He smoothed a bandage over the wound on Gavin’s arm and Gavin looked down at it, biting his lip as Ryan’s hand slipped off his shoulder.
It took both of them to get Gavin out of his jeans. The road rash on his leg was even worse and he’d sprained his ankle, but between them they stopped the bleeding and patched it up. The silence was a little uncomfortable at first - Gavin still fuming over the fight and Ryan not wanting to push him to talk about exactly what Peter had said - but as they worked in silence Gavin’s anger seemed to fizzle out a little. He was obviously still upset, but not quite as worked up as he’d been before. Ryan still felt vaguely sick at the whole situation - furious at Peter, concerned for Gavin - and still, under it all, exhausted himself from the job he’d just done and the notion that he was about to have to change most of their plans for this one.
They finished up and sat for a moment, Gavin adjusting the ice pack on his ankle as Ryan packed away the first aid kit. Finally Gavin cleared his throat a bit.
“Sorry again about barging in on you like this.”
“It’s fine,” Ryan assured him, but Gavin shook his head.
“No, really. You must be tired after that job. And now I’ve just created even more work for you by stuffing this up.”
“It’s fine, Gavin, really.” Ryan reached out and gripped his knee, squeezing gently. “We’ll sort it out. And I’d’ve been annoyed if you didn’t come to me tonight.”
Gavin gave a small smile, and Ryan rather awkwardly pulled his hand back.
“Want tea?” he asked, and Gavin nodded vigorously.
“Yeah - yeah. That’d be top, thanks. I might go wash up a bit.”
“I’d suggest you shower but that’d be hell on those wounds.”
Gavin pulled a face. “Yeah, I’ll pass on that.”
Ryan nodded and moved back off into the kitchen. After a moment he heard the bathroom door shut in the other room. He sighed as he put the kettle on to boil and glanced up at the clock - nearly midnight. This had been a long and strange night and Gavin showing up at his door so suddenly felt a little like some peculiar dream.
He finished making their drinks and moved to set them down in the living room. When he turned around he jumped a bit to find Gavin standing in the bathroom doorway, watching him silently. He’d struggled back into his jeans, it seemed, and his hair was a little damp like he’d been washing his face. Most of all, though, he looked upset - eyes red and lips twisting, like it had only taken being alone for a minute for him to come undone.
“Gavin?” Ryan asked carefully, turning towards him and taking a step forwards.
“I hate him,” Gavin choked out.
“I hate him so fucking much.” Gavin’s fists clenched and Ryan could see him shaking again, the night’s events rising up to overwhelm him. “It’s pretty pathetic, isn’t it? It shouldn’t matter what he says to me. I know he’s an asshole. I know I shouldn’t care anymore. But it still hurts. He knows how to do that. When you get so close to someone, you know what to say to hit them hard - you know?”
Ryan didn’t know what to say. He could only stare helplessly, and listen, and let Gavin vent.
“I guess I sorta hope that I hurt him too tonight,” Gavin said bitterly. “I said some shit. But I don’t know. Maybe that’s mean of me.”
“It’s not mean,” Ryan said. “Whatever he said to you tonight - it’s not true. Remember, he makes people believe things - believe lies - for a living."
“We all do, though,” Gavin muttered. “We’re all liars here.”
“Not you and me,” Ryan said, without really thinking about it. “Not when we’re with each other. Not the crew. We don’t lie, not like that.”
Gavin fell silent, seeming to think about that. He reached up, rubbing at his eyes miserably, and Ryan took another step forward.
“You deserve better than Peter,” he said earnestly. “You really do.”
For a moment he wasn’t sure Gavin had heard him. Then the other man dropped his hands from his eyes. When he laughed this time it was tired, a little startled - but genuine.
“I never thought I’d hear that from you a few months ago,” he mused. “Used to think I was the scum of the earth.”
“I judged too quickly,” Ryan admitted. “What can I say? Bad first impressions stick.”
“Me too,” Gavin replied. “I thought you were scary and mean and all. But you’re really not.”
“And I thought you were selfish and only cared about yourself,” Ryan said. “But I was wrong - really fucking wrong - you care a lot. And that only makes it worse that Peter’s such an asshole to someone who did love him so much.”
Gavin swallowed, hard - he was picking at one of the wounds on his arm and Ryan moved forward and grabbed his hand gently to stop him, his fingers folding around the other man’s. Gavin stared up at him, eyes wide and startled, lips parting a little like he wanted to say something.
“I was wrong about a lot of things,” Ryan continued. “There are so many amazing things about you and it - it makes me furious because I mean it, you deserve so much fucking better than someone who can’t see that.”
He let go of Gavin’s hand, another righteous rant rising up. Everything he’d noticed the last few months, everything he’d come to care so much about in the other man - everything he desperately needed Gavin to see in himself.
“I said it before and I’ll say it again-”
But before he got the chance to say anything, Gavin surged forward, reaching up to grip the front of Ryan’s shirt, and kissed him.
Ryan let out a muffled noise of surprise, so taken aback that for a moment all he could do was let Gavin push him back against the wall. Then he realised what was going on - stiffened in shock - and then, barely even making the decision, kissed back, hands coming up to steady Gavin at the waist.
It was too easy - too easy to let himself give in to what he realised, now, was something he wanted - oh God, did he want it - something he realised, now, that Gavin probably needed tonight of all nights. For someone to want him. There was something fierce and almost angry in Gavin’s movements - but even despite that it was so fundamentally Gavin. A little clumsy, a little desperate - but after a moment they settled into something like a rhythm, Gavin tugging Ryan into a better angle, lips working more fluidly against each other - Ryan’s eyes had fallen shut, his heart pounding, nearly overwhelmed by a human touch he hadn’t felt in so long-
And this was Gavin, Gavin. Gavin’s electrifying touch as his hand moved from Ryan’s shirt to settle on his shoulder, thumb brushing against the skin of his neck and seeming to make his entire body tingle. Gavin whose slight weight kept him trapped against the wall, Gavin who had his head nearly spinning, who he felt as though he was drowning in-
And then the fear slammed back in.
What am I doing?
It hit him suddenly that this was the first time in a long, long time that he’d kissed someone and felt something behind it - and for good fucking reason - what was he, after all? A killer. The fucking Vagabond, the nightmare of criminals and civilians alike across most of the country - hadn’t he just killed half a dozen people this week alone - hadn’t he kept himself away from others to keep himself safe but to keep them safe as well, wondering if he was even capable of caring, of loving-
And he’d thought, he’d hoped that had changed, in his time here with the men who had become like a family to him-
But had it changed enough?
Suddenly he feared it hadn’t. Suddenly the melancholy from earlier that night came back full-force - because this was Gavin, Gavin who needed someone he could be sure of. Someone who wouldn’t fail him. A sudden wave of self-doubt struck him, had him breaking the kiss and pushing Gavin back away from him.
In his panic he shoved him a little more roughly than intended and Gavin stumbled back, hitting the bathroom door with a startled noise. He rubbed his arm and then stared at Ryan, shocked and hurt - Ryan could only stare back, breathing heavily, heart slamming against his ribs so hard and fast he feared it would burst right out of his chest.
“I’m sorry,” he blurted out, voice shaking a little - “I can’t - I can’t do this.”
“What?” Gavin asked, voice small. “I thought-”
“This sort of thing.” Ryan gestured between them, helplessly - “I can’t, not with - not with who I am, it just doesn’t…”
“Who you are? Ryan…”
“It won’t work. It can’t work. We can’t…” He didn’t know how to say it, how to express every fear and doubt and worming, creeping thought closing in on his mind. But Gavin was staring at him now and he could see the hurt confusion in his eyes as he struggled to process it.
Whatever explanation the other man seemed to work out from Ryan’s words, it made his face shutter over cold and hard and angry as he straightened up, rubbing his shoulder where he’d knocked it against the door.
“What’s that mean? That after all this you’re still just the Vagabond? You still don’t want to care about anyone else?” he demanded.
“Gavin,” Ryan began, stricken - that wasn’t true, it wasn’t, or at least if it was he couldn’t find the words to explain why, and he was left to flounder helplessly, unable to think of what to say.
When he didn’t reply Gavin flinched.
“Wow,” he said coldly. “So that’s how it is. I guess I was wrong. You are heartless after all.”
It was Ryan’s turn to flinch. The words cut deep, stinging - and angry now, his first defence mechanism was to lash out in turn.
“Fuck you. That’s not what I said. It’s not about you. Of course you’d see it that way.”
Gavin’s mouth dropped open. Then he glared.
“I shouldn’t have fucking come here tonight. You’re horrid. You act all nice but it’s all a lie. You don’t care about anyone you monster-”
“I just said it’s not about you, you insecure, spoilt little brat!”
Gavin took a step back. His face would have been almost comically startled if this whole situation wasn’t so fucked up.
They both stared at each other, started forward with fists clenched, faces a torn mix of anger, and hurt, and horror - and it was a stupid situation, Ryan realised vaguely, because of course the last thing he wanted was to hurt Gavin and he knew - of course he knew - that deep down Gavin didn’t want to hurt him - but upset and confused and terrified as they both were, and after how the events of tonight had worn down on both of them-
They’d both been burned too often in the past for things to work out easily now. And here they were, lashing out to defend themselves against the very people they’d let themselves get so close to so quickly. Too quickly, perhaps.
And even now, in the face of this sudden threat, they both fell back on what was most secure to them - their masks; Ryan’s face going hard and cold, Gavin’s settling into a mean sneer.
“Well fine,” he said coldly, and limped over to the couch, shrugging on his jacket with such angry jerking movements that the graze on his arm began to bleed again, spotting through the bandage. “You know what, Ryan, you can fuck right off. I don’t need your help any more. I’ll do the rest myself from here.”
“As if you’d be able to,” Ryan began, but Gavin just scowled at him.
“You’ve killed enough people for one week,” he said - it was a low blow and it hit Ryan like a punch in the gut - furious, all he could think to do was shake his head and sneer back.
“You fucked things up enough already. You’ll never manage it on your own.”
“Suck my dick Ryan,” Gavin shot back, eloquently. “I can and I will. I shouldn’t have bothered coming to you in the first place. I should have known this all seemed too good to be true. Well you can go fuck yourself. Don’t speak to me again until this is all finished with.”
He turned on his heel and hobbled furiously towards the door, pausing only to throw the ice pack back at Ryan - managing, to Ryan’s great displeasure, to hit him square in the face - before marching out and slamming the door shut behind him.
As soon as the door slammed shut behind Gavin, Ryan’s anger lasted about ten seconds.
Then, y’know. Instant regret.
He stared at the door for a long moment, not quite able to believe what had just happened. The words that had come out of Gavin’s mouth - his own snapped replies - the kiss -
And now the fact that he had been left standing, alone, in the empty room as a horrible silence settled around him.
The guilt set in quickly. They shouldn’t be fighting - anything that had been said just then he hadn’t meant, and he knew Gavin hadn’t meant what he’d said as well. And now the other man was out there alone, injured and upset.
“Damn it,” he hissed, and headed for the door. “Damn it!”
He sprinted down the stairs and out into the street, but there was no sign of Gavin or his bike. A spike of worry pierced Ryan’s chest at the thought of him riding off somewhere when he was already hurt and a reckless driver at the best of times (and given the events of tonight, apparently even more so when he was worked up about something).
“Gavin!” he called out, jogging down the street on the off-chance that he was still in the area somewhere. “Gav, for God’s sake come back!”
But the quiet streets around him were empty and silent, and he headed back into his apartment feeling heavy and sunken and sick, a lurking fear in the pit of his stomach.
It seemed too quiet inside now. He snatched his phone up from the table and started to call Gavin only to pause as he remembered that the other man didn’t have his phone on him.
“Fuck,” he hissed, and threw the phone on the couch. The cushions were spotted with blood where Gavin had been sitting and another wave of nausea hit him as he reached up and clutched at his hair. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
For a moment he let the emotions overcome him and kicked viciously at the foot of the couch. It hurt without shoes on but he ignored the pain, letting his energy burn out before he slumped down onto the sofa, exhausted.
“Okay,” he muttered, and took a few deep breaths. “Okay.”
Gavin had left. But he was a grown man, he could take care of himself, and he was probably sore enough after his first fall that he wouldn’t be able to ride anywhere too quickly.
He’d be fine.
He might be prone to rash decisions, but he wouldn’t have lasted this long in their business if he didn’t know how to keep himself alive. He’d probably head to Michael’s, or Geoff’s, or-
Or home, Ryan thought suddenly, and wondered for a hysterical moment if Gavin might be riled up enough to go right back and murder Peter then and there. To abandon the plan entirely and shoot him in their house.
“Damn it,” he hissed, and punched at the arm of the couch again. Short of driving all the way out to Gavin’s place, there was no way he could check. He’d just have to trust that the other man wasn’t so stupid as to throw away all their hard work like that.
It seemed there was nothing he could do about it now - not when it was so late and Gavin couldn’t be contacted. Besides, chasing after him, he realised, was probably a bad idea. After what had just happened Ryan was probably the last person he wanted to see right now.
The other man’s words came back to him then and he flinched, remembering them.
They’d cut deep. That was why he’d gotten so defensive, because Gavin had known exactly where to hit to make it hurt - and it had hurt. It had hurt a hell of a lot and even now some desperate, pitiable part of Ryan was struggling to comprehend it, especially after the week of jobs he’d just taken.
I’m not a monster.
It was too close to what he’d feared of himself back before he joined the crew. When he’d worked alone doing job after job, assassination after assassination - kill after kill-
It could wear on you. And too many people had seem him as nothing but that - it was why he’d struggled to get so close to the others. Allowing his reputation to define him had kept him safe, but letting Geoff and the others close had kept him human. And that was more important than he could say.
He didn’t mean it, he thought, and tried not to think of the look on Gavin’s face when Ryan had shoved him back. He was angry, and upset - after all you’ve done together he knows you’re not like that. He just wanted to hurt you.
And his own words came back to him then, making shame crawl down his spine. Insecure, spoilt little brat.
It had come too easily to let the words spill out, to want to make Gavin flinch after the other man had cut him too - to revert back to how he used to see the man, the act that Gavin kept up just as much as Ryan wore his mask.
It was like Gavin had said. When you got close to someone you knew the best ways to hit them hard. And the two of them had gotten very close.
He was so tired.
With the adrenaline fading away now he was exhausted, especially after how busy he’d been all week, and he dragged himself up off the couch and curled up in bed in the dark. But even then sleep evaded him, the events of the evening running over and over through his mind.
Gavin showing up at his door bleeding-
How panicked and furious he’d been at the thought that Peter had hurt him-
It seemed stupid now how he’d shoved Gavin back. He’d been scared and unsure and a cocktail of other things, but even now - despite everything - he couldn’t stop thinking about it. About the rough movements of Gavin’s lips against his and the warmth of his body and the feel of his narrow hips under Ryan’s hands.
And how quickly everything had gone wrong after that, so fucking wrong-
He got no sleep that night.
Thus proceeded one of the worst weekends of Ryan’s life.
He woke up the next morning with the odd sense that what had happened had just been some nightmare, some feverish vexation. Then he walked out into his living room and saw the blood on the couch, the ice pack melted on the floor, and realised with a horrible jolt that it had all been very, very real.
He didn’t hear from Gavin once that day, even if he compulsively kept checking his phone, waiting for a message. He still wasn’t sure if Gavin had gone home or if he was over at one of the others’ places. He didn’t want to call Geoff and ask, afraid it would raise too many questions or potentially ruin the plan if Gavin hadn’t already.
By midday he finally broke and texted Gavin. Where are you.
No answer - but maybe he still hadn’t gone home and collected his phone.
A few hours later, another - Just text me if you’re home or not.
Finally, that evening - I know you’re pissed. Text me a fucking frowny face if you want, just let me know if you’re home or not.
Still nothing. Ryan checked up on Peter’s car all day but it remained very firmly in their driveway, and the bike did too - so unless he’d taken another vehicle, he was still at home at least. Ryan hoped to God that Gavin hadn’t done anything stupid. He went to bed that evening with his phone close at hand and a vague fear churning nauseous in his gut.
On Monday Ryan technically didn’t have to go in to work, not after he’d just pulled such an intense string of jobs. He showed up anyway, vaguely nervous but hiding it under his mask and an air of stoic irritation.
Gavin wasn’t in when he got there, and Ryan held off on asking after him until he, Jack and Ray were driving out to make a deal with a client. As they pulled away into the outskirts of the city the distance actually helped a little, made Ryan feel like he was leaving some of the dark ugliness of the last week behind him.
As they drove Ray brought up another job that Michael and Geoff were working on that day, and it gave Ryan the perfect opening to ask - casually - “You know what Gavin’s on today?”
Ray shook his head, which was totally helpful.
“I think he’s actually over at Burnie’s,” Jack piped up. “He wants to work with Geoff on something soon so Gav’s doing some planning with him.”
“But he did come in today?” Ryan asked, and Jack nodded.
“Yeah - I saw him this morning and Burnie was gonna pick him up from the base.”
Ryan leaned back in his seat and tried to mask his intense relief. Gavin was safe, at least, and back at work. He’d seen Peter’s car leave the house this morning so it seemed Gavin hadn’t taken him out yet either.
“Vav’s been acting weird lately,” Ray piped up abruptly, and Ryan stiffened.
“I noticed that too,” Jack added.
“Weird how?” Ryan asked, carefully. It was to be expected, he supposed, that the others might have picked up on some of Gavin’s subdued behaviour. They weren’t stupid, after all - quite the opposite - and they were very close.
Ray bit his lip and then said, quietly, “I dunno. He seems kind of sad.”
Ryan didn’t know what to say. He settled for staring out the window, glad of his mask - Ray’s attention was all on Jack, anyway, who was fidgeting in his seat looking like he wanted to say something.
“What?” Ray asked him, reaching over from the backseat to prod at his shoulder, and finally Jack sighed.
“Gavin fell off his bike on Saturday while riding near my place, so he dragged himself over and stayed the night,” Jack said. “He’d had a fight with his boyfriend and seemed annoyed about it but he wouldn’t tell me any details. Wouldn’t let me give him a lift home, either, or tell Geoff.”
Ryan stiffened. “He was with you this weekend?”
“Overnight, yeah. He went back home Sunday,” Jack replied. “You’re right though, Ray, it’s a bit weird for him. Not sure what to make of it.”
“I’ll ask Michael later if he’s said anything to him,” Ray said.
Ryan sat silently, listening. Part of him was relieved that Gavin had spent the night over at Jack’s; he knew the other man would’ve taken care of him and Jack wasn’t the sort to push and pry if he could tell someone didn’t want to talk. But it was obvious that the others were growing increasingly suspicious and he had an odd feeling of dread suddenly, that things were going to come to a head very soon.
He remained in a pensive silence the rest of the drive and job. The others didn’t comment, seeming to put it down to his general irritation from earlier. As far as they knew, he wasn’t all that close to Gavin anyway.
That night Ryan still hadn’t heard a thing from Gavin. Peter’s car had returned to their house a little time ago and Ryan was beginning to grow antsy.
I’ll do the rest myself from here, Gavin had said. But when? How? Even if he’d effectively washed Ryan’s hands of the whole matter, Ryan still felt involved. Still desperately needed to know what was going on, what Gavin was planning. The other man was a lot tougher than they gave him credit for, Ryan knew. He’d killed before.
But this was different. The entire aim of this operation and why they’d taken so long about it was that to do this properly would require a great deal of stealth and discretion. And Gavin, while certainly no stranger to killing, was very much a thief, not an assassin like Ryan. His actual job wasn’t to plan these sorts of thing - not to mention the fact that he was so emotionally involved in the situation.
So Ryan was worried. Very worried.
So worried that he was more than prepared to suck it up right now and just call Gavin and apologise - except he was pretty sure the other man was ignoring all messages from him, considering there were still no replies to his texts.
He glanced at the time now - just past eight - and sighed before thinking fuck it and going to look up Gavin’s home phone number. He wouldn’t be able to tell who was calling over the landline and even if Peter picked up Ryan could just pretend to be a friend and ask to speak to him. That was probably a little stalkerish but desperate times called for desperate measures.
Number acquired, he was just reaching for his mobile and working himself up ready to make the call when he froze.
His laptop was open on the table next to him and out of the corner of his eye he noticed a flash as the tracker went active again. Sitting bolt upright, he dragged the computer over to him and watched with wide eyes as the car began to pull out of the driveway.
A sudden lurking feeling of unease came over him. Reaching out, he turned up the volume on his laptop and opened up the bug.
“-really tired,” Peter was saying. “You sure we gotta do this tonight?”
“Come on, love,” Gavin replied. “We haven’t been out there in ages. I need to get bevved but I also want fresh air.”
“Work was that bad, huh?”
A shiver ran down Ryan’s spine as he realised Gavin was in the car as well - and it sounded like he was taking Peter out somewhere. Oh God, okay. If he was planning on killing him tonight…
This was not part of the plan. The plan was for them to lure Peter out of the city and have him leave alone, and then take him by surprise when he reached the spot they wanted to kill him at. Not for any one of them to be with him on the drive out.
“You can bloody well say that again,” Gavin replied, and Ryan stiffened further. He sounded worn down and exhausted, the cheer in his voice very forced. Gavin was a good liar but everyone had a breaking point and Ryan had a sudden horrible feeling that this was all going to go terribly wrong.
He had to do something.
Jolting himself into action, he snatched up his gun, his jacket, his mask. Gathered up the laptop in his arms and ran out to his car. The route Gavin and Peter were taking, he realised with a glance at the dot moving along the map, led through the city near his apartment. He could catch up to them.
Forcing his fear down, he began to drive, trying to ignore the sickening nervousness in his gut. He kept the bug open next to him, listening to the others’ conversation as they drove.
“Nice night out,” Peter commented then, after a moment of slightly awkward silence. Even without being able to see them Ryan could tell there was some lingering tension after their fight over the weekend.
“Yeah,” Gavin replied. “It is, isn’t it. That’s why I don’t wanna be indoors.”
“You could have just gone for a ride.”
Gavin snorted loudly. “After that last fall I think I’m gonna avoid the bike for a bit.”
“That’s what you always say. You need to start being more careful.”
If Gavin sounded worn down, Peter did too. There was still fondness in his tone, but it was far more subdued. Ryan looked over at their route again and cursed as they took a turn he hadn’t been expecting. He was still quite far from where they were and quickly readjusted his own path.
After a second Peter cleared his throat a bit.
“I didn’t think you’d want to go out with me after our fight,” he said, and Ryan heard Gavin shift in his seat.
“I’m over it, Pete.”
“Are you? You barely spoke to me all of Sunday. We didn’t really talk about it.”
“It’s fine,” Gavin replied, but his voice was tight. “Shit happens in every relationship. Water under the bridge, right?”
“You didn’t come home until Sunday afternoon,” Peter continued, and Ryan bit his lip, not liking how much the other man was pushing the topic - especially since he usually tried to keep everything smooth with Gavin given that he was trying to keep him in the dark as well. “Where’d you stay? Michael’s?”
“Jack’s. It’s fine, Peter, I really am over it. Forgive and forget and all that.”
Gavin’s voice was shaking a little and Ryan knew that he had to be nervous as fuck if he was planning on killing Peter as soon as they got to wherever it was they were going. But he was so worked up that he was wavering and Peter was going to notice something was wrong. It was killing Ryan to be stuck here in the car unable to do a damn thing about it but listen - especially as, as he approached the outskirts of the city, he noticed a traffic jam up ahead and cursed as his car pulled to a halt amidst the other motionless vehicles.
“Fuck, fuck, not what I need right now,” he muttered, slamming a fist against the steering wheel.
Peter wouldn’t drop the subject.
“I felt really bad after you left,” he said. “You know I didn’t mean all that shit I said.”
“I said it’s fine,” Gavin insisted, and took an audibly deep breath. “I know. And I didn’t mean what I said either.”
They took another turn out of the city and Ryan frowned as he tried to work out where they were going. It wasn’t out towards the spot he and Gavin had chosen for the job. He was still stuck in traffic and he cursed under his breath, itching to get moving again as Gavin and Peter drew further and further away-
And then they turned in a very familiar direction, and Ryan’s breath caught.
The cliff. They’re going out to the cliff.
Of course. It would be easier for Gavin to convince Peter to take him to their spot than to raise his suspicions by suggesting a random drive out into the countryside. But this wasn’t good, this wasn’t good at all - the point was to stop Glasgow suspecting Gavin by choosing a completely random location, not one that he was so tied to.
Damn it, Gavin, why couldn’t you have just waited and let me help you-
“Remember how we used to come out here?” Gavin said abruptly. “I love it out by the sea. And in the summer it’s so pretty with the rocks all sparkling in the sun. We both like gold entirely too much, don’t we? Couple of rich bitches. Still. We were made for each other, you used to say. And that spot was made for us.”
“Gav,” Peter said slowly, carefully, and Ryan squeezed his eyes shut. “Is something going on?”
“No,” Gavin replied, but there was a nearly hysterical note in his voice now and Ryan could hear him slowly losing control, his voice shaking-
And he had been holding up the lie for so long, so long now, and this was the crucial moment when he needed more than ever to keep Peter’s suspicions tampered down-
But it had been too long. Too tiring. And Ryan could hear, now, even just over the earpiece, that he was struggling to hold up any longer. Not when he was alone, not when he was about to kill a man he had loved. Not after what had happened with Ryan just a few nights before.
“No,” Gavin repeated, and let out another shaky laugh. “I just miss you a lot, Pete. I really, really miss you.”
The traffic finally began to move again. Ryan took the first turn he saw, leaving the busy road and circuiting around. He began to speed, heedless of the cars around him - overtaking every chance he got, driving as fast as was safe and a little more - glancing now and then at the GPS as he began to draw out of the city too.
“This job I’m working on will be over soon,” Peter said softly. “Then we can take a holiday. Say, let’s go back to England.”
“Yes. Just you and I. You said you like the sea - we’ll go to Cornwall. Get away from it all. Lots of that fresh air you were after. And quiet, too. No distractions. Just the two of us.”
“We haven’t been to England together before,” Gavin mused.
“We ought to,” Peter replied. “The two of us, going back home together. Feels like something we should do.”
A long pause. Ryan had left the city behind by now, was out in the open areas east of Achievement City. Here in the empty, silent roads he could go as fast as he pleased, and drew ever closer to the dot where the other two were on the map.
“There are lots of things we haven’t done yet,” Gavin murmured finally - something sad in it - Ryan bit his lip, his unease heightening.
Peter had caught on by now, of course he had.
“Yes,” he replied, then immediately asked, “Gav, what’s wrong? You seem upset.”
“Heaps of things,” Gavin continued, almost talking to himself now. “That we talked about but never did. Like visiting the Met together, or stealing that painting in the Town Hall. Buying a yacht. Stealing diamonds and then taking them around on one of those posh Egyptian cruises like we were in an old Agatha Christie novel. We were gonna do all that.”
His voice trembled and when Peter spoke next his tone was tight, too-serious.
“Gavin, what’s going on?”
Ryan grit his teeth and sped up. They were in the lonely back hills leading out towards the coast now and there wasn’t another car in sight. He was fairly close to the others now but still couldn’t see them with the roads turning and twisting as they were, lined by trees and sparse forestry. It was dark out here, barely any street lamps lining the roads, but it was a clear night with a bright moon and everything was lit up dimly blue and melancholic.
“Nothing’s wrong,” Gavin replied, so unconvincingly that it nearly hurt to listen to. “Everything’s okay.”
“No, it’s not,” Peter said sternly. “I’m pulling over-“
He broke off too abruptly and Ryan’s stomach dropped at the total silence that took over the bug. He could hear them breathing but nothing else and an awful dread overtook him.
“Gavin,” Peter said, flat and quiet.
“Don’t pull over.” Gavin spoke so softly the bug nearly couldn’t pick it up. “Keep going.”
“What the hell, Gavin, what are you-”
The last words were yelled, so loud and shrill that the microphone on the bug could barely take it. Ryan’s heart was pounding and he still couldn’t quite figure out what was going on until, in the silence that followed, he heard the click of the safety on a gun and his gut twisted.
Hold it together, he thought urgently. They were far enough out from the city that a gunshot wouldn’t draw attention but he could tell from Gavin’s upset, nearly hysterical voice that he wasn’t about to kill Peter quick and clean. And this was what Ryan had been afraid of; for Gavin to be alone without Ryan there, calm, to back him up. Things could go wrong quickly when you were too emotionally involved.
“Gavin, love.” There was a desperate, confused plead in Peter’s voice and Ryan couldn’t tell if he was faking it or not. “Oh God, what are you doing, what’s wrong-”
“I said to keep driving.” The dot on the map had slowed and stilled.
“Gav, I don’t understand, what are you doing, why-”
“You don’t understand,” Gavin hissed, furiously - “You don’t fucking understand - I’m the one who doesn’t understand - I said to keep driving.”
“Just calm down, alright?” Peter snapped, voice tight. “Put the gun down. Just calm down and we can talk about it.”
The car came to a stop and Ryan looked over at the map. They weren’t far from him, just a few turns down the road away, and he continued quickly.
“Drive,” Gavin ordered again.
“No,” Peter replied. “Gavin. Tell me what’s going on-”
“You know perfectly damn well what’s going on, you bastard,” Gavin snapped. “I know. I know about everything.”
Another terrible silence.
“What?” Peter asked finally, and Gavin let out a furious noise.
“Stop pretending,” he cried. “I know. I know about Alana and Pravi. I know you’re not working on a bloody insurance job. I’m not an idiot, Peter.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about?” The confusion in Peter’s voice could’ve fooled Ryan, if he didn’t know what the man did for a living. “I don’t know what you think you know, Gavin, but there must have been a misunderstanding-”
“There is no fucking misunderstanding,” Gavin hissed.
“Gavin,” Peter said - pleading, patient, “Let me explain.”
“Explain what?” Gavin exploded, and there was a dull thud as something in the car was struck. “Explain how you’re fucking two other people? Explain how you’re planning to screw over my crew, to get my friends killed, me killed-”
“That’s not how it is,” Peter began, but Gavin just let out a hysterical laugh now-
“Oh my God, I can’t believe you!”
“Let me explain,” Peter repeated - still desperate but angry now, and Gavin quieted.
“Oh, go on then,” he sneered, mockingly. “Explain.”
Ryan was close now. He was near the dot on the map but couldn’t quite tell what turn they’d taken. The area was steep and hilly and there were so many trees around he couldn’t see their car. He debated getting out and moving on foot - it might be the only way to get to them. But he’d have to work out where they were first.
Peter took a deep breath.
“Bork Glasgow approached me with a job offer. He said I had to keep it on the down-low,” he said, voice calm, placating. “I was in too deep by the time I realised it was your crew he was trying to take down. By then I couldn’t get out. It was too late - but he’s strong, Gavin, you don’t understand how prepared he is for a war against you guys. I realised you were on the losing side and I… I didn’t know what to do. It was stupid, I should have come clean, but I thought even if the others got done in I could get you out. And I was going to, Gav - I was going to get you out, I swear, you have to believe me - there was nothing I could do for the others but-”
“How about not taking the damn job?” Gavin demanded. “How about being honest with me? Even now you’re still lying, Peter, I can tell, you’re spinning a story like you always do!”
“I’m not lying,” Peter repeated. “I could never hurt you, Gav, I could never kill you, Jesus Christ-”
“You’re lying,” Gavin cried again. “Alana and Pravi-”
“That was me getting close to the crew, making them think they could trust me,” Peter insisted.
Another silence. Both of them were breathing heavily, raggedly.
“…no,” was all Gavin replied to that.
Ryan stopped the car. He could see headlights dimly down the hill. Quickly he shoved in his earpiece, hooking it up to his laptop so he could still hear the bug, and gathered up his gun and knife before stepping out of the car.
It was uncomfortably warm out here and the grass around him smelled too strong and sweet. There was something sickening about it, like lying too close to someone else in a small bed on a hot summer night. Something sweaty and love-heavy that made him feel vaguely nauseous.
He began to jog down the hill just as he heard Peter start up again - switching tactics now, his voice annoyed.
“You’ve got it all wrong, Gavin. You’ve got it all turned around in your head. How fucking long have you been spying on me?”
“Long enough to know you’re lying now.” Gavin’s voice didn’t shake now, had gone tight and stiff. “Get out of the car.”
“Why? Are you going to kill me?” Peter asked, incredulous. “I can’t fucking believe all this, Gavin. This isn’t like you. You’ve assumed everything all wrong and now this? This overdramatic confrontation? I can’t believe you’d think this of me. I thought you loved me-”
“Stop it,” Gavin snapped. “Just stop. Stop trying to manipulate me. I can see what you’re doing. The safety’s off on this, Pete, I’m warning you. Get out of the damn car.”
Another pause. Then the sound of the car door opening.
Ryan had reached the road at the foot of the hill by now. It was lined with denser forestry here and he moved between the trees quietly, approaching the headlights. The car came into view and he ducked behind a thick trunk, watching as Peter clambered out - then Gavin, pointing the gun at his boyfriend. Even from this distance Ryan could see his hands shaking.
“Keep your hands up,” he ordered, and Peter obeyed with a stiff, jerking, annoyed motion.
“You wouldn’t shoot me,” he called out, far too airily for a man with a gun aimed at his head.
“Don’t fucking presume, Peter,” Gavin replied darkly.
Peter slowly came around from his side of the car, Gavin’s gun tracking him all the while. As he got closer whatever he saw in Gavin’s face made him stiffen. When he spoke again there was something very small in his voice, something vulnerable.
“God, God, Gavin, please. I’m sorry for whatever you think happened, but we can work this out. You and me, I swear, we can fix it. Come on, after all we’ve done together…” He reached out a trembling hand but dropped it when Gavin just jerked the gun down to his chest instead. “I know what you think happened but it wasn’t like that. I wouldn’t do that to you. I love you. You’re twisting it all around in your head because you’re insecure, okay? You know how you get and you’re seeing it all wrong-”
“Shut. The fuck. Up,” Gavin burst out. He stepped forward, still moving with a slight limp after his accident, the gun wavering between Peter’s head and chest.
“Insecure,” he continued, and a strained laugh wrenched out of his throat. “You want fucking insecure? Insecure is me realising that all along all your promises, all your pretty words were just empty. Insecure is me finding out that you’ve been cheating on me for God knows how fucking long-”
He broke off with something like a sob and something tore through Ryan’s chest because he’d never seen Gavin cry, not once - Gavin paused, collecting himself, and Ryan inched out from behind the tree, but Gavin was standing right in the way of Peter and he couldn’t get a clear shot. He stayed hidden - right now the one advantage they had was that Peter didn’t know he was here and he could take him by surprise.
“What was it, Pete?” Gavin demanded then, voice trembling but a little more under control. “I wasn’t enough for you? Why? Don’t… don’t lie to me, just tell me. What did they give you that I couldn’t? Why would you do this when I… I thought things were going well. I know it was hard for both of us at first given what we… what we do but. We were going to try.”
Peter stared at him for a long moment, hands still raised. He looked miserable, face drawn and shoulders slumped, and when he spoke his voice was very quiet.
“I swear, Gav. I never loved them, not like I loved you. As soon as Glasgow’s job was over I thought we could just start over in England. I promise, love, I was going to get you out-”
“No you weren’t,” Gavin said flatly, and took a deep breath, running his free hand over his face. Once he’d composed himself his aim was steadier, more sure, and in the glow of the headlights Ryan saw Peter’s throat move as he swallowed hard.
“You know this is hard for me,” Peter said then, apparently changing his story now. “The whole relationship, commitment thing - with what I do I… I have to get into the role I play and… it’s not easy sometimes-”
“Oh, you can fucking say that again,” Gavin shot back, not impressed. He shook his head and took another hobbling step forward. “Get on your knees.”
“You’re upset,” Peter tried, raising his hands higher, and Gavin laughed again.
“Damn right I’m upset-”
“No, I mean it, Gav. You’re not thinking clearly. I admit I fucked up by not telling you about this job but you have it all wrong. I promise, you have it all wrong, but we won’t get anywhere yelling at each other like this. Just calm down and let us talk it out.”
Gavin was silent and at the angle he was standing Ryan couldn’t see his face. But there was something raw and sad in Peter’s tone, and when he started to step forward Gavin didn’t move back.
“Please,” he continued then, gently. “Please, Gavin. You said it yourself - you’re insecure, you’re scared that I think you’re not enough for me - but it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s not like that. It’s you I love. It’s you I want; this whole time, I’ve just been trying to keep you safe. What if you realise later that you had it all wrong? You wouldn’t be able to forgive yourself.”
Gavin’s hands were shaking again and Peter was getting too close to him. Ryan’s heart was pounding and he longed to leap out and do something - but Gavin was still standing between him and Peter.
Don’t listen to him, Gav, don’t believe him - surely he couldn’t be so easily convinced.
Peter was only a step away from Gavin now, staring earnestly into his eyes.
“Don’t do something you’ll regret,” he urged. “Let’s work this out calmly. We can work it out. We can-”
And abruptly he lunged forward, snatching the gun from Gavin’s hand and smashing him across the face with the grip of it.
Gavin dropped to the floor with a surprised grunt and Ryan’s heart nearly leaped out of his chest. His finger was on the trigger in a second, moving to take Peter out - but the way Gavin had fallen and how Peter stepped forward now put the car between him and them. He’d have to move around to get a clear shot - and risk being seen.
Peter pointed the gun at Gavin. His hand didn’t shake as he sneered down at him. Gavin shifted on the ground, letting out a low noise of pain. His hand went to his mouth and came away bloody before he stared up at Peter with wide eyes.
“I can’t fucking believe,” Peter said, icily, “That you were actually going to kill me.”
“Pete?” Gavin asked, in a small voice. He stared at his red-stained fingers as though unable to quite believe what had just happened. “I… you…”
“You know, if you hadn’t pulled this little stunt I might actually have tried to keep you alive. I was considering it, you know.” Peter shook his head and sighed. “Sentimental value and all that. Oh, don’t give me that pathetic look. You know what it’s like in this business. Someone always has a better offer.”
Gavin was silent, still sprawled on the ground with the gun aimed directly at his forehead. Peter tilted his head, eyes scanning over him coldly.
“My God,” he said finally, voice laced with disgust. “You’re a wretched little thing.”
Gavin flinched. He pulled himself onto his hands and knees and started to get up, but Peter jerked the gun at him.
“Don’t move,” he ordered, and Gavin froze, on his knees now, staring up at him.
“I mean it, you know,” Peter said pleasantly. “I really was considering trying to save you. But this… this I didn’t expect. For you to be able to lie to my face for so long, to act like you didn’t know what I was doing - to plan to murder me - that’s impressive. I’ll give you that one.”
Ryan began to inch along the road, staying behind the trees. Slowly he began to work his way around, moving to the other side where he could shoot at Peter without worrying about hitting Gavin. Normally he’d be confident in his ability to make the kill, but in the dark and with both men acting so erratically he didn’t dare risk hurting Gavin by accident.
Gavin didn’t move from where he was kneeling, seeming small and crumpled down on the ground.
“I don’t understand,” he choked out, and Ryan’s fists clenched at how broken he sounded. God, he wanted to kill Peter. He wanted to flay him alive, set him on fire, crush his bones under his hands for hurting Gavin-
Peter just smiled condescendingly. He stepped forward and traced the gun tenderly over Gavin’s cheek - even from this distance Ryan saw Gavin shudder.
“Of course you don’t,” Peter said. “Sweet Gavin. You did try so very hard. And you know, so did I at first. I did love you once.”
He drew the gun back and Gavin didn’t look up at him - head hanging down now, bracing himself against the ground. Shaking.
“I’ll give you one thing,” Peter said, “You certainly make an impression. At the start it was… addictive. The thrill of stealing things. All the gold. It was novel, trying it out with just the one person. And, I mean, the sex was great.”
Gavin let out a low choking noise and Ryan’s blood boiled. He’d made it across the road and was working his way towards them now, sticking to the shadows between the trees.
“But some things can’t change,” Peter added then, and stepped back with a sigh. “Like me. You get bored playing the domestic life, you know? Need bigger and better things. Maybe we could have done them together. I don’t know. The problem is, you were always so tied to that crew of yours. We could’ve made like Bonnie and Clyde and shit. Gone around, doing our own thing. Kept it exciting. But nah, you were always off with Ramsey and the rest of his bitches.”
Gavin scrubbed at his face and looked up at Peter again. Ryan was close enough now to be able to see his face. The horror and disgust as he stared up at Peter as though still, despite everything, surprised by just how cruel he could be.
“How can you do this?” he choked out, and Peter sighed again.
“With great ease, darling,” he replied. “Like I said. There’s always a better offer. Even Glasgow - stupid, petty Glasgow with his ambitions and his crew - it’s just a way of getting on top, really. If it’s any consolation, Alana and Pravi are in just the same situation as you. They’re quite silly really. Letting their heads get turned by a pretty face and an accent. They’re great fun but there’s only so much they can give me before I need more. I don’t mind telling you this,” he added. “You won’t live long enough to tattle about it.”
Gavin glanced at the gun and then back up at him.
“You could kill me,” he said, “Just like that?”
“Unlike you, I have the guts to do it,” Peter replied, and Gavin let out an angry hiss and started to rise to his feet only for Peter to grab him by the front of the shirt and shove him back to his knees.
“You sick fuck,” Gavin cried out, struggling against his grip, heedless of the gun pointing at his head. “You absolute messed up bastard, how can you do that to someone-”
“You’re hysterical, dear,” Peter said mockingly, and hauled Gavin up before slamming him against the car, pinning him against the metal. Suddenly Peter’s back was to Ryan, Gavin trapped under him. He lifted the gun, lining up the shot.
Gavin was struggling under Peter and the other man kept him down with one hand and raised the gun with the other.
Ryan didn’t think. He moved forward and fired, aimed squarely at Peter’s head-
Only for Gavin, at that moment, to buck under Peter and bring a leg up, kicking the man hard in the knee. He stumbled backwards and Ryan’s bullet flew harmlessly through where his head had been moments before. The gunshot was deafeningly loud and both men jumped, spinning around to see where it had come from.
Fuck. Fuck. He’d given himself away now - and Peter, seeming to quickly realise that he was the one who’d been shot at, moved fast. He seized Gavin and dragged him in front of him, effectively using him as both human shield and hostage as he kept the gun jammed to the side of his head.
“Who the fuck is out there?” he demanded.
Well, shit, was all he could think - he couldn’t shoot again, not with Gavin in the way, and had little choice but to emerge from the trees, jaw clenched and wary.
When Gavin saw him his eyes widened, shock - then relief - spreading over his face. Peter went very stiff as he recognised the skull mask, and if he hadn’t been such a good actor something like fear might have shown in his eyes.
“Vagabond,” he said, voice very tight.
Ryan strode towards them, stopping a couple of metres away. He knew in the dark he must cut a menacing figure, with his mask and jacket and the sheer anger that he was sure was radiating from every pore. Right now that was all he had to use to his advantage.
“Riemer,” he replied, voice a low growl.
Peter shook Gavin roughly.
“The rest of your friends hiding out here too, then? Is this a group effort?” he demanded, but broke off when Ryan began to raise his gun. He jammed his own weapon harder against Gavin’s temple, making him wince.
“You put my crew at risk and now you’re threatening one of my team,” Ryan said. “I can kill you slow or I can kill you fast and it’s really gonna depend on what you do in the next few minutes.”
“You’re not in control here,” Peter replied, artificially calm. “I’ll kill him if you don’t put your gun down right now. Don’t think I won’t do it.”
Ryan glanced at Gavin, who stared back at him, eyes huge. Peter had an arm hooked tightly around his throat and he was struggling to breathe, unable to pull it away at the angle the bigger man was holding him at.
It was unlikely, Ryan knew, that Gavin would have told Peter the two of them had gotten so close. Not when they’d only started spending time together because of this murder plan. Rather, the last Peter heard of it, the two of them had been close to enemies.
“Right now my only priority is to eliminate you,” he said, still aiming his gun.
Peter seemed almost surprised. He didn’t let Gavin go.
“No,” he replied, not believing it. “You wouldn’t risk him. I know Ramsey’s sort. You’re all soft on each other.”
“You want to put that to the test?” Ryan demanded, taking a step forward, and Peter hesitated, gun automatically going to point at him instead.
In his moment of distraction Ryan met Gavin’s eyes. Peter still had an elbow around his throat but he’d let go of Gavin’s other arm to point his gun at Ryan now and Ryan knew Gavin could get out of a hold like that, especially now when Peter was preoccupied and probably underestimating him.
In the dark he just hoped Gavin could tell what he was thinking.
Peter opened his mouth again but before he could get a word out Gavin was slamming down on his elbow and bringing a leg back to kick him hard, wrenching himself free from his grasp and throwing himself towards the ground. The second he was out of the way Ryan fired, but Peter was fast, and dove sideways. The bullet shattered the car window behind him, an explosion of glass that made everyone cringe back a little.
Peter was quick. He was already shooting at Ryan and he was forced to dive to the ground too, sucking in a breath as two bullets whistled past too close to his head, the deafening crack of each shot in the silence sending a punch of adrenaline through him. The second there was a break in the gunfire Ryan lunged forward and charged Peter, tackling him - they both fell to the ground, Peter dropping his gun in the commotion. Ryan began to lift his own weapon but the other man was fast and in a second he’d seized Ryan’s wrist, twisting hard until he dropped his gun as well.
Right back when he first saw the man Ryan remembered wondering if he could take him in a physical fight. Peter might look quite slender but he was deceptively strong, and fury and adrenaline was lending him extra energy as the two of them tussled on the ground, struggling to get the upper hand.
It was vicious and brutal. Ryan had killed men with his bare hands before but never had he had so much motivation - after everything he’d seen and heard tonight some primal desire to hurt, to kill the man in front of him coursed through his veins like fire - he wanted to make him bleed-
He managed to get on top and drew his fist back, punching Peter across the face as hard as he could. Felt skin spit under his knuckles and teeth come loose - but Peter was strong, reaching up and striking Ryan hard in the throat as well, knocking the air out of him before he got a leg up and kicked him in the gut. Without body armour it hurt, and Ryan fell back, winded. There was glass on the ground and it cut at his hands; he snatched a piece up and slashed it at Peter as the other man surged up on top of him. He heard him cry out and felt the shard cut easily through flesh, hot blood spattering out over the two of them.
Despite his new injury Peter crawled up over Ryan, pinning him down against the ground. He grabbed at Ryan’s mask and managed to lift his head up before smashing it back down against the hard tarmac of the road. For a moment Ryan saw stars, his head swimming a little, and in his moment of distraction Peter’s hands came around his throat, squeezing tight. His arm was bleeding heavily, making his grip slippery and sticky, but his fingers dug in around Ryan’s windpipe and he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t breathe-
He flailed, his own hands coming up until he gripped Peter’s neck too. He tried to throw him off but couldn’t get enough leverage, settling for seizing his throat as well and choking him right back.
It was a stalemate, both waiting to see who would run out of air first. Ryan could feel blood rushing in his ears and his vision was just beginning to grow dizzy with black spots when suddenly Peter’s weight on top of him was gone, and there was air rushing back into his lungs as he dimly saw the man being thrown aside.
He sat up, blinking a few times, coughing and wheezing as he registered Gavin kicking at Peter on the ground.
“Fuck you,” he heard Gavin choke out, “Fuck you, fuck you-”
He kicked Peter again before collapsing on top of him and punching him hard across the face. Peter managed to catch him by the wrists and started to push him off, but Ryan was already snatching up one of the fallen guns on the ground and firing it at the ground next to his head. Gavin fell backwards and Peter stiffened at the gunshot.
“Don’t fucking move,” Ryan said - or tried to; his voice sounded awful, a deep croaking rasp. He cleared his throat a few times, ignoring the pain.
Peter stared up at him. His mouth was bleeding heavily, his head scraped and bleeding too, all that usual poise ruined.
It was time to end this.
“Gavin,” Ryan said - he didn’t take his eyes off Peter but reached around for the other man. His hand brushed against Gavin’s head and he glanced down to find Gavin sitting up near his feet where he’d fallen. He stayed kneeling on the ground even as he steadied himself and Ryan let his fingers settle in the other’s hair for a moment, a brief reassuring touch. Gavin leaned into it before turning back to Peter, breathing heavily.
Peter didn’t move. Just lay there, panting, licking at the blood on his split lip. There was something angry and defiant in his face, but it was fading slowly as he seemed to realise he was well and truly fucked.
“Gavin,” Ryan said again, and gestured towards the gun he was still holding, silently offering it to him. Gavin’s eyes widened.
“Gav,” Peter began, and Ryan’s head whipped back over to him.
“You shut the fuck up,” he snapped, and Peter fell silent.
Gavin swallowed hard and then shook his head.
“You do it,” he whispered.
Ryan looked down at him.
“Are you sure?” he asked quietly, and Gavin hesitated before nodding. Ryan didn’t ask again. He stepped forward until the barrel of the gun was pressed to Peter’s forehead, the other man staring up at him with wide eyes, something frantic and panicked in them now.
There were probably things Ryan should say to him. Go to hell or you deserve this or you won’t hurt him again.
But this had gone on for too long already, and in the end he just let out a tired breath - watched Peter’s eyes flicker shut as he flinched - and pulled the trigger.
The sound of Peter’s body crumpling to the ground was the only noise in the quiet road, followed by a sickening silence. Ryan stared down at the body, the spreading bloodstain across the dark tarmac. There was a lot of blood, Peter’s arm still leaking it profusely. The leaves scattered over the ground around him were dark and wet with it, the grass too. Ryan lowered his arm slowly, letting out a soft, shaky breath.
He felt too hot on this warm night, vaguely feverish and stifled under his mask. After a second he reached up and pulled it off, stuffing it into his pocket and sucking in deep breaths of the summer air as he felt his heart rate finally begin to calm a little.
It’s over. It’s finally over-
He turned towards him to find the other man still kneeling on the ground, staring at Peter’s body. He didn’t look up at Ryan or react even as the other man moved over to crouch next to him, until Ryan reached out and gently touched his shoulder.
“You okay?” he asked quietly. His voice was still an awful rasp and for a moment he thought Gavin hadn’t heard him. But then the other man shook his head minutely, and Ryan bit his lip. He had no idea what the hell to do. It didn’t help that he still wasn’t sure where he stood with Gavin after their previous fight, and despite the fact that Peter was dead now, he still felt that awful sense of helplessness that he’d had the entire drive over here.
“Are you physically okay?” he tried instead, and to his relief Gavin took a deep breath and nodded. He looked up at Ryan then and seemed a bit surprised to see him with his mask off. His face was starting to bruise and swell where Peter had hit him, and he looked wrecked, eyes red rimmed and surrounded by dark wells. But he reached out then and touched Ryan’s arm as well.
“Are you alright?” he asked, and Ryan gave him a small smile.
“I’ll be fine,” he replied, and cleared his throat a few times. It was only then, as the adrenaline faded away, that his aches and pains slammed back into him and he realised his hands were bleeding where he’d fallen on the glass. There were little shards stuck in them and they smarted and burned - his throat hurt, too, and he was bruised and sore from tussling with Peter. But he’d walked off much worse, and he squeezed Gavin’s shoulder now before standing up.
Sitting out here in the road would get them nowhere. It was better, he thought, to get on with things as fast as possible.
“We can’t stay here,” he said. “We need to move the body. Are you okay to help me, or do you want to wait in the car?”
Gavin didn’t answer, but he dragged himself to his feet and when Ryan walked back over to the body he followed. When he got close enough to see it - the blood, the bullet hole marring Peter’s handsome face, his dead, dead eyes staring sightlessly up at the sky above - he made a low, distressed noise and turned away.
“Oh, God,” he croaked out, and Ryan reached out and grabbed his arm.
“Wait in the car.”
But Gavin shook his head, forcing himself to turn and look - he was breathing too fast and Ryan tugged insistently at his arm.
“Wait in the car, Gavin.”
“No,” Gavin said, and took a deep breath. He crouched and reached out then, shutting Peter’s eyes gently. “It’ll be faster if we both help.”
Ryan bit his lip. He wasn’t used to this, to having someone so attached to one of his victims here by his side staring over the body with him. Every other kill he’d made had been remote, detached. No thought for the family or friends. He didn’t know what to do.
But Gavin was already reaching down to grab hold of the corpse, and Ryan shook himself out of it and moved to help.
It took both of them to lift Peter, injured as they were, and carry him over to the car where they deposited him in the driver’s seat. Gavin’s face was hard and stony and Ryan could see him struggling to keep his mask up, not to reveal any emotion. He himself remained silent, not sure what to say.
They were both breathing heavily by the time they slammed the car door shut. Gavin stood by watching as Ryan picked up Peter’s fallen gun, wiped it clean and put it in the car with him, then grabbed a can of petrol from his own vehicle and poured it generously over the blood and evidence of their fight before leading it in a trail towards the Camaro and covering that in gasoline as well.
It was only when Ryan stood back too and pulled a lighter from his pocket that Gavin stirred, clearing his throat a bit.
“I fucked up the plan,” he said quietly, and Ryan turned to him.
“We burn everything. It’ll be hard for them to tell who it was. Even if they do there’s no evidence that you came out here with him. That bounty we were setting up to make it look like someone else took him out - that’ll keep us in the clear. The fact that Geoff knows nothing about this and has been working on other things lately will help. It doesn’t matter now, Gavin. He’s dead already. We’ll handle whatever happens next.”
Gavin swallowed hard and nodded. He reached up and rubbed his eyes and Ryan could only watch him, miserably, unsure what to do or say to help.
“Why did you come here, anyway?” Gavin asked then, and Ryan bit his lip. But Gavin turned away before he could even think of a reply, and went to sit in Ryan’s own car. Ryan let out a deep breath before setting the petrol alight and getting in, driving them off in silence. Halfway down the road they heard the explosion of the Camaro’s petrol tank behind them and saw the bright flare of fire in the rear view mirror. Gavin squeezed his eyes shut and breathed heavily, arms wrapped around himself, but all Ryan could do was focus on getting them out of here, taking a looping arc back around the hills towards the city.
The flames faded away behind them as they headed for the coast, though the explosion was still ringing in Ryan’s ears. But they were far enough away by now that he pulled up by the side of the road and took a moment just to breathe and work things out.
He was still sore and aching and his hands were sticky with blood. He’d shoved the pain to the back of his mind but dragging the body around and gripping the steering wheel had pushed the glass shards further into his skin and they hurt like fuck now.
He was more concerned about Gavin.
The other man was curled up in the passenger seat, knees drawn up to his chest - hadn’t even bothered putting his seatbelt on - and he was shaking hard now and not looking at Ryan. It hurt to look at him, and God, Ryan had known this would be difficult but the way things had played out was worse than he could have imagined, and he knew that everything Peter had said had destroyed any chance of Gavin getting closure from all this. He was very obviously not okay and Ryan…. Ryan couldn’t stand it, didn’t know how to fix it-
And things were still so awkward between them after what’d happened Saturday night that he was scared to reach out to Gavin now, to touch him or offer anything like help. Afraid of just making things worse the way he already had by pushing him away before.
He cleared his throat and Gavin flinched at the sound. He didn’t look up but Ryan knew he was listening.
“Where do you want me to take you?” Ryan asked him quietly.
“Not home,” Gavin replied, almost immediately. He looked up and his eyes were red rimmed but Ryan was relieved, suddenly, to see that he didn’t look as wrecked as he’d thought when his head was hanging down. He looked exhausted, and a little shocked, and really fucking upset - but not broken, and that heartened him suddenly. It had been too easy to forget in the dark and the heat of the moment that Gavin was a lot tougher than they all probably gave him credit for.
“Not home,” Gavin repeated then, and took a shaky breath. “I can’t stay in that house tonight.”
“You shouldn’t be alone,” Ryan said. “I can take you to Jack’s again, or Michael’s-”
“No,” Gavin said, and sighed a bit, reaching up and running his hands agitatedly through his hair. “They…. they’ll have too many questions. I can’t deal with telling them what happened tonight, I just…. I can’t do it tonight.”
“Okay,” Ryan replied. “That’s okay. Then where do you want to go?”
Gavin was very silent - not looking at him now - obviously had something on his mind but didn’t want to say it. Ryan could only guess at it, and after a moment he asked, tentatively:
“Do you want to come over to my place?”
Gavin nodded hesitantly, and Ryan’s heart nearly broke at how unsure he seemed. After having come over so many times while they were planning this, to have that trust wrecked now after their last fight hurt. But he reached out now and when he touched Gavin’s hand gently, the other man didn’t pull away.
“Hey. Hey, of course you can come over. You can stay as long as you need to. We’ll go back to mine. Clean ourselves up and sort things out in the morning.”
“Thank you,” Gavin said softly, and Ryan managed a small smile.
“It’s no problem.”
“Actually, I do have to go back to the house first,” Gavin said, and then at Ryan’s questioning look, “I need to get my cat.”
Despite everything Ryan couldn’t help but laugh at that, a bit hysterically.
“Of course Gavin,” he said, and put the car back in gear, pulling out onto the road again. “We’ll go get your cat.”
There was something very surreal about driving back through the city and out to Gavin’s house. After what they’d done, with both of them smelling like blood and ash and gasoline, and the car cool with the air con on full blast compared to the stifling, breathless heat outside, and the radio quietly playing the mindless jabber of late night community radio shows and 90s Indies hits - the endless roads flashing by felt like something from a dream. It didn’t feel quite real that they’d done it, that it was over now, and Ryan kept half-expecting to wake up and get right back to planning like Peter was still alive.
They didn’t speak much, and when they pulled up in the driveway of Gavin’s house and Ryan reached and switched the radio off, he couldn’t help feeling concerned as he looked over at Gavin in the passenger seat. Now that everything was silent he became aware of just how still the other man was, staring blankly out the windscreen lost in thought. He hoped he wasn’t going into shock.
“Gav,” he said quietly. “We’re here.”
Gavin stirred. He blinked a few times, looked out the window, and at the sight of the house something very upset passed across his face before he resolutely shoved it away under another blank mask. Part of Ryan wanted to tell him to stop - that it was okay - that he could let it out and didn’t have to hide it - but he still wasn’t sure where they stood with each other. If Gavin was comfortable enough with him after their fight to let his guard down the way he used to.
“Do you want me to go get her?” he asked, but Gavin shook his head and opened the car door.
“No, I… I need to grab some stuff anyway.”
“Okay,” Ryan said uncertainty, and trailed behind him into the house.
It was only the knowledge of what they’d done that made the place feel like a funeral parlour as they stepped inside, even as Gavin switched the lights on. Knowing that one of the house’s occupants would never come back here - that Gavin would probably never live here again - the rooms seemed to mock them with their silent emptiness, and Ryan couldn’t help but notice how tense Gavin was, his shoulders up nearly around his ears as he resolutely didn’t look anywhere but directly ahead of him as he headed upstairs.
It was awful to get to the bedroom and see Peter’s belongings still all over the place. His side of the bed was rumpled where he’d presumably been sitting before Gavin asked him to come out tonight. A sketchbook open on the dresser beside it, a half-finished picture lying under a couple of pencils.
Ryan saw Gavin glance at it and his lips twist, upset, but he didn’t comment as he quickly went to the drawers and started shoving a few clothes into a duffle bag.
Ryan distracted himself going to hunt down Lloyd, grabbing the cat carrier and packing away a few bags of cat food and litter from the kitchen. It felt odd being alone in the rest of the house in a way it never had when he’d broken into places before. Some stupid part of himself kept expecting to turn and see Peter behind him - it was silly; he’d barely seen the man in his own home when he was alive, but his presence lingered too heavy in the house around them.
Lloyd was hiding in the study, curled up on a bean bag in the corner of the room. She hissed when she saw Ryan, probably thinking him unfamiliar, and Ryan ended up having to wrestle to grab her and shove her into the carrier. He frowned a bit as he made to exit the room and noticed picture frames on the book shelves.
There was one of a much younger Gavin with Geoff and Burnie. A couple of Peter on his own, in various locations - London, Paris in front of the Eiffel Tower - and quite a number of the two of them together, Gavin smiling brightly, naively - it made something ache in Ryan’s chest to look at, and he quickly turned away.
“I’ve got the cat,” he announced as he headed back up into the bedroom, only to pause.
Gavin had finished packing and was standing now in the middle of the room, staring at the bed. His hands were hanging limply by his sides, shoulders slumped, and he was too quiet - Ryan stepped forward, concerned.
“It doesn’t feel real.” He’d expected Gavin’s voice to sound raw, broken - but by contrast it was too calm now. Too dead and flat. “I just can’t get my head around it. It doesn’t feel like he’s not coming back. Like I’m never gonna see him again.”
Ryan bit his lip. He reached Gavin’s side but didn’t reach out to touch him.
“It’ll take time to sink in,” he said softly, and Gavin let out a long sigh.
“I guess,” he replied, and stepped forward, straightening the bed covers on Peter’s side of the bed. After a moment he reached out and brushed the pencils off the sketch book, closing that too before putting it in the drawer. “I… I should clean up.”
“Not tonight,” Ryan said firmly. “Come on. Let’s go home.”
Gavin hesitated, but then nodded. He scrubbed a hand over his face before turning towards Ryan and holding out his arms for the cat carrier. Ryan passed it to him with a small smile and moved to pick up the duffle instead. He couldn’t help but squeeze Gavin’s shoulder as he passed him, suddenly desperately needing to at least reassure him in some small way - and Gavin didn’t pull away from the touch. They headed for the car, Gavin walking up ahead. He didn’t look back even as Ryan switched off all the lights and locked up the house behind them.
Getting back to Ryan’s apartment felt very strange. Despite having been there only hours before, Ryan suddenly felt as though he was returning after a long time. The events of tonight seemed to have stretched on forever.
When they got inside Gavin lingered a bit awkwardly, seeming out of place in the room in a way he hadn’t in weeks now. Ryan suddenly felt a little awkward too, but he shrugged it off, gesturing for Gavin to go and sit down on the couch.
“Let me clean up your face.”
Gavin nodded. He promptly released the cat, who was making a marvellous racket in the carrier, before going to sit down, gingerly at the very end of the sofa. Ryan went off to get his first aid kit and when he returned sat beside Gavin, who stayed very still but didn’t flinch as Ryan gripped his chin in one hand and started wiping blood away with the other. His jaw was bruised and swollen where Peter had hit him with the gun and the sight of the ugly marks marring his face made something rise up angry in Ryan’s blood. He swallowed it down.
He’s dead now.
The silence wasn’t awkward, both of them too exhausted by this point to bother trying to make small talk. But presently Ryan realised that Gavin was staring at his torso, something odd in his face - and when he looked down he realised that the entire side of his jacket was stained dark with blood. Peter’s blood. He’d gotten so used to it over the last hour that he hadn’t realised here, in the cool clean air of the apartment, it smelt strongly metallic.
Pulling back from Gavin, he stripped the jacket off wordlessly and bundled it up, tossing it away where neither of them had to see it. Gavin’s eyes flicked up to his and he gave a small, almost-smile before looking away again. He was still sitting right at the edge of the couch, hands folded uncomfortably in his lap, and Ryan couldn’t help but remember the last time he’d sat here, Ryan patching him up. Both of them broiling and ready to kill Peter. And everything that had happened after that. He thought maybe Gavin couldn’t get it off his mind either.
Finally he taped a bandaid over the small graze on Gavin’s jaw before sitting back.
“Are you hurt anywhere else?” His voice sounded terrible by this point and Gavin glanced up at him and shook his head.
“No. I’m fine. Just sore from when I fell off my bike before. Do you need help?”
Ryan shook his head. He hurt all over but he could handle it.
“I’ll deal with it myself. You go shower or whatever.”
“Are you sure?” Gavin asked. “I can help you get that glass out.”
“I’m sure. It’s getting late, no point in both of us sitting here when I can do it on my own.” Ryan gave him a reassuring smile and after a moment Gavin nodded and rose, carrying his bag off into the bathroom.
Ryan sighed heavily. He spread out a clean cloth and methodically began patching himself up - tweezing the glass from his hands, checking his ribs where Peter had kicked him - bruised but fine - and mostly just wiping blood away from the little cuts and scratches he’d accumulated tussling about on the ground.
Lloyd had ventured out of her carrier by the time he’d finished up, and Ryan held out a hand to her. After eyeing him suspiciously for a moment she padded over to the couch and let Ryan scratch her head, eventually jumping up and curling up on the cushion next to him. Ryan couldn’t help but smile as he settled back on the sofa, idly stroking her.
He was so tired.
This entire business had left a bad taste in his mouth that he couldn’t shake. It was a bit unsettling because he’d thought that had worn off a long time ago. He’d done a lot of assassinations - hell, the last week working for Geoff had been pretty much an endless string of them - but none had left him feeling so drained as this.
But we’ll be okay.
It was like he’d told Gavin back up on the sky tower. Things weren’t going to end here. They were both alive, and they’d be fine, and they’d move on. For now the wounds were raw but soon Peter would be nothing but a ghost. It was just right now that it hurt. Right now that the shock was hitting them-
And truthfully, Ryan was a little surprised that it was hitting him so much as well. It was expected for Gavin to be affected, after all, but Ryan had never even spoken to Peter. Had barely known the man. Yet here he was feeling faintly sick deep in his gut like he should be… be grieving, or something. He couldn’t even bring himself to be pleased the man was dead, no matter what he’d done. It felt wrong when Gavin was so upset.
He sighed, leaning his head against the back of the couch and closing his eyes. Listened to the continuing rush of the shower in the bathroom nearby. His thoughts drifted, settling on vague worries - what if Glasgow works out it was us? - What are we gonna tell Geoff? - I didn’t forget to destroy any of the evidence back there did I - he barely realised he was dozing off until he jerked himself awake and realised the shower was still going.
Gavin’s taking a long time.
Worried, he got up and walked over to the bathroom door. He couldn’t hear anything but the rushing water, and bit his lip, hoping that nothing was wrong - that Gavin hadn’t slipped or passed out or was even just… freaking out in there, or… or crying, or something-
But moments later he heard the water turn off, and then the creak of the towel rack, and reassured, he walked back over to the kitchen to make some drinks.
The kettle had just finished boiling when he heard the bathroom door open. He turned to see Gavin emerging, in clean clothes now with his hair damp. He was wearing a big hoodie despite how warm it was out, and looked very small and sad with his head ducked and little bandaids stuck all over his face. His eyes were a bit red when he looked up at Ryan but he couldn’t tell if it was just from being under the warm water.
“Made you tea,” Ryan said, and Gavin gave a small smile as he came to sit back on the couch.
“Thanks Ryan,” he replied, and Ryan couldn’t help but frown at how quiet and listless he still was - although when Ryan poured the tea and turned back to Gavin to give it to him he found him hugging Lloyd and continuously kissing the top of her head while making cooing baby noises, so the cat was cheering him up at least.
“She’d better not piss on my couch,” Ryan said as he set the tea down on the coffee table.
Gavin released Lloyd and reached for the mug.
“I’ll buy you a new one if she does,” he said. And then, “Thanks again for letting me stay here.”
“It’s no problem,” Ryan assured him. There was another slightly strained pause as they again both didn’t seem to know where they stood; if the events of tonight had made up for the last terrible fight they’d had. If they could just fall back into their previous closeness or if things were still too unresolved. Finally Ryan mumbled about going to take a shower and went to clean up himself.
Washing the blood and grime away after a job was cathartic and it was no different tonight. By the time he stepped out of the shower he felt much less tense and mostly ready to just sleep for a thousand years - but less pensive, less glum than he’d felt before.
Gavin was sitting exactly where he’d left him when he came out, and Ryan went to make himself a drink before going to sit next to him.
“You want anything to eat?” he asked.
Gavin opened his eyes slowly; he’d been slumped over the armrest with his head resting against his elbow - not sleeping, it seemed, just deep in thought. Now he shook his head.
“No thanks. Don’t think I could eat right now.”
“That’s understandable,” Ryan said, but couldn’t help his concern. Gavin seemed to have calmed down by now but his face was terribly hard to read, and again Ryan wished he knew where they stood after everything that had happened Saturday. But now wasn’t the time to bring that up, so he settled for just sitting back and sipping his drink and watching as Gavin scratched around Lloyd’s ears where she’d settled herself in his lap. It seemed to calm him down; when the cat started purring Ryan watched as the tension leeched from Gavin’s shoulders and the little distressed furrow between his brows smoothed out a bit.
“You can have the bed if you want,” Ryan spoke up eventually. “You should rest.”
“I don’t know if I can sleep,” Gavin admitted. “I think I’m fine here.”
Ryan nodded, not wanting to push it. After a moment Gavin glanced up at him, something almost uncertain in it.
“Are you going to bed now?” he asked. “You must be well tired after that fight.”
Ryan hesitated. He was loathe to head off to his room and leave Gavin sitting alone on the couch out here - and Gavin was shifting now, one hand tugging nervously at the strings of his hoodie. Like he had been before in the car, it felt like there was something he wanted, but couldn’t bring himself to ask for.
“Might just sit out here for a bit,” he said cautiously - and when he saw a flash of relief cross Gavin’s face, knew he’d made the right call. Especially when - after a few moments of silence - Gavin leaned towards him a bit on the couch. It was not the most subtle move he’d ever made, and Ryan figured out what he wanted - and couldn’t help the relief that flooded him at the realisation that despite their fight Gavin still seemed to want to be close to him. Still trusted him. He slowly shifted towards him as well, until their shoulders were pressed together and Lloyd swished her tail lazily out, brushing against Ryan’s leg where it was close to Gavin’s lap.
Gavin let out a soft sigh and Ryan glanced down at him.
“Do you want to talk about what happened?” he asked quietly - but Gavin shook his head.
“Not right now,” he whispered.
“Okay,” Ryan replied, and didn’t push the subject. But after a moment Gavin moved so he was leaning right against Ryan, and then dropped his head down to rest against his chest. Before Ryan even thought about it he brought his own arm down to curl around Gavin’s shoulders, hugging him closer. It was too easy to fall back into the casual touches they’d shared before, and after everything that had happened it was nice, reassuring, to feel Gavin warm and alive against him, so close he was moving a little with every rise and fall of Ryan’s chest as he breathed.
Bright sunlight had Ryan stirring groggily awake. The first thing he registered was how much his throat hurt; a dull ache that burned when he swallowed. Then his sore ribs - an itching in his palms-
And it all came flooding back in. He sat bolt upright, grimacing a bit when everything hurt, and realised he was alone on the couch.
Fuck. I fell asleep. It was unrealistic, he knew, to have just sat up awake all night - but he felt oddly guilty somehow for just passing out on Gavin like that, especially since the other man was nowhere in sight. Ryan got up, groaning as he stretched and cracked his back, and looked around to see Lloyd tearing one of his throw pillows to shreds. He rolled his eyes before wandering into the kitchen.
Sure enough, Gavin was there, sitting at the table with his laptop open in front of him. He looked up at Ryan’s approach and gave a tired wave. He looked even worse this morning, pale with dark bags under his eyes, the bruise on his jaw a spectacular mottle of colours.
“Did you sleep at all?” Ryan asked, and Gavin gave a sheepish sort of smile.
“What are you doing?”
“Work,” Gavin answered, and yawned, shutting the laptop. “Good morning, by the way.”
“Good morning,” Ryan replied, a bit awkwardly. “Are you, um…”
He trailed off, but Gavin held his gaze - something calm in it, if tired - and Ryan finished, “Feeling any better today?”
Gavin pressed his lips together, but he just sighed, reaching up and rubbing at his eyes.
“I’m okay,” he said. “It still hasn’t sunk in a bit. Feels like last night was a dream. And it keeps feeling like it’s not over yet, y’know? Like we still ought to be planning it? Always feels like that after a job.”
“I get that,” Ryan said quietly.
Gavin ran his hands through his hair and sighed again.
“But I… when I think about it, I’m relieved I guess. That we’ve just got it out of the way now.”
He didn’t sound entirely convincing, but Ryan didn’t want to push. He crossed to the counter instead.
“Did you eat yet?” he asked, and when Gavin shook his head he put four bits of bread in the toaster before turning the kettle on and moving to sit opposite him at the table.
“What are you planning on doing today?” he asked.
“Going to work,” Gavin began, but Ryan was already shaking his head.
“I think you should call in sick.”
Gavin looked positively affronted at this suggestion. “But I don’t get sick! Ryan, you want me to bludge, Ryan?”
“First of all, the last time you insisted you ‘don’t get sick’ you passed your stomach bug to all of us. And secondly, yes. I don’t think you should go in today.”
“But I…” Gavin hesitated, then said, “I was thinking I should… should tell Geoff that Peter’s missing, right? I need to make it look real, like I don’t know what happened to him, so that we can pretend we’re only just finding the body…”
Ryan had been thinking about this last night and honestly he was really wishing that Gavin had just fucking decided what he was going to tell Geoff and the others earlier. ‘A problem for future Gavin to deal with’ - that wasn’t going so well now, was it, after their plans had changed so unexpectedly.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to lie to Geoff like that,” he said carefully, and Gavin stared at him.
“But he… he doesn’t know what happened.”
“I think you should tell him. You can’t just keep this a secret from the crew, Gav, even for the sake of making it look like we had nothing to do with it. I… I don’t want you to have to go through having to pretend to grieve. I know you’re a good liar and you could probably sell it but it… it wouldn’t be good for you.” He didn’t bother to hide the raw concern in his tone and Gavin looked away, picking agitatedly at his hands. “I think you should tell Geoff now exactly what happened.”
“They can’t know yet,” Gavin whispered, “I just… I left it so long and telling them everything that we’ve been doing…”
He trailed off into silence, looking upset now, and Ryan bit his lip. On impulse he reached out and pressed Gavin’s wrist; the other man looked up at him, eyes wide and searching. Despite all his protests, Ryan realised, he still wanted advice - for Ryan to help him with this.
“You’ve done enough pretending,” Ryan said quietly, and Gavin bit his lip, looking away.
“Can I think about it?” he asked, and Ryan nodded, letting him go.
“Of course! But if you’re not gonna decide yet then you really should stay home. Look, it’ll just be stressful having to… to put your face on for the others. Stay here, get some rest, have a think about what you really want to do here.”
Gavin hesitated, but then nodded, and Ryan gave him a small smile.
“Hell, you could even just text Geoff that you fell off your bike again and are too sore to come in. He’d believe it.”
“I might do that actually,” Gavin said, and smiled back a bit. Ryan nodded, and patted his hand before getting up to go and pour their tea.
“Just take it easy today. I know it was hard to plan before what you were gonna do once Peter was gone, but… now that we’re here, maybe things might seem different. I’ll help with whatever you decide to do.”
“Lovely Ryan,” Gavin murmured, but nodded, and pulled out his phone to contact Geoff.
Ryan hated keeping secrets. It was ironic, probably, because his identity - and face - were kept hidden every day. But for the most part he was just reserved more than anything, and keeping the details of jobs confidential was vastly different to deliberately withholding information from his crew.
He was with Michael most of today, setting up a few weapons deals. It was pretty routine work, but it just kept reminding Ryan of how Peter and Glasgow had been trying to take the Fake AH Crew down.
Michael wasn’t stupid. He knew something was on Ryan’s mind, and kept giving him measuring glances - but he didn’t pry. It was one of the things Ryan had liked so much about him when they first met. And Ryan himself, despite everything, couldn’t help wanting to tell him what was going on. There was something very steady about Michael, something capable and sure. He might have an explosive temper but if there was one thing he was good at, it was dealing with shit - no matter how hard, or messy, or stressful, he worked through it. And given how close he was to Gavin, Ryan couldn’t help feeling like he was the best person to help him. Like if Michael only knew what had happened he would know exactly what to do to make Gav feel better.
“Do you know what’s going on with Bork Glasgow lately?” he asked eventually, telling himself it was just so he’d have more info on how to go about covering the murder, but maybe, under it all, just needing to say something, to talk to someone.
Michael glanced over at him. They were driving to their next meet, Ryan at the wheel.
“He’s been quiet lately,” Michael replied. “But Geoff’s been keeping tabs on him - looks like he’s moving on a bit, starting to get more interested in those drug runners over in Kjellberg’s area than in taking over our territory. I don’t think Geoff’s too worried about him right now.”
“I see,” Ryan said, with an awful sinking feeling.
While the knowledge that Geoff was uninvolved with Glasgow at the moment would certainly draw suspicion away from the crew, it also meant they were unprepared if Glasgow did try something.
They definitely had to tell Geoff, and he was pretty sure Gavin knew that. But even if it was his problem more than Ryan’s, he couldn’t help feeling a bit tense about how their leader would feel about Ryan’s own involvement.
“You’re better off asking Gavin, though,” Michael added then. “I think part of his meeting with Burnie the other day was about what’s going on with the crews around here.”
“Hmmm,” Ryan replied. “He’s not in today.”
Michael snorted. “Yeah. Idiot fell off his bike again.” He shook his head, tutting. “I swear, he’s gonna get himself killed one day. We gotta stage a fucking intervention or something.”
Ryan snorted. But now that they were on the topic, he abruptly thought he might scope out Michael a bit. Gauge how he might react to when Gavin did tell him.
“Jack said the other day that he fell off on the weekend as well. Apparently he doesn’t learn from experience.”
“Have you met Gavin? He doesn’t learn, period,” Michael said, but there was a note of fond teasing in his voice.
“Seems like it,” Ryan replied. “Jack said he had a fight with his boyfriend.”
Michael raised his eyebrows, and Ryan grimaced. He probably could have segued into that one with a little more subtlety.
“I didn’t know he had one until we started talking more recently,” he continued a touch awkwardly.
“Yeah,” Michael said. His voice was very hard to read. “They’ve been together like a year now.”
“What do you think of him?”
Michael’s eyebrows rose further.
“What’s your interest?” he asked, and Ryan kicked himself. This was why he fucking hated secrets.
“If he’s close to Gavin then by extension he’s close to the crew. I know we can trust Griffon. Your Lindsay too, especially since she works with Burnie. But I know nothing about this other guy, and if they’re long-term then he’s gotta know things about us.”
Michael nodded, seeming satisfied with this.
“Fair enough. He actually has worked with us before - you weren’t part of the crew yet. Now he just does freelance stuff. Real talented forger and con man.”
“So he’s a good liar then.”
“I guess you could say that,” Michael admitted.
“But what do you think of him,” Ryan persisted, and Michael frowned a little, drumming his fingers thoughtfully against the armrest.
“He’s… he’s an interesting guy. I mean, he’s funny and charming but it’s… hard to tell, you know, with con men? I know he’s probably different with Gav at home than he is when we all go out for drinks together. Gav seems happy with him. But Peter can be… I dunno. They’re a bit of a strange match. He’s not really the sort I’d’ve thought Gavin would go for. So sort of… uppity and posh, y’know? I mean, look at Gav’s closest friends. Me, Geoff, Dan - you haven’t met Dan, have you - Peter’s just. Really different. But like I said - he makes Gavin happy. I’m not close to him, but I haven’t really seen him since the job except on group outings, so.”
“Do you trust him?” Ryan asked, and Michael gave him another measuring look.
“I trust Gavin,” he replied, and Ryan nodded.
“Right. You and Geoff are… pretty protective of him.”
“He’s a grown man,” Michael shot back. “He can take care of himself. I’m not about to police who he can date or not date. But sure, if Peter ever hurts him, I’ll fuck him up. Where’s this going?”
He was obviously suspicious by this point, and Ryan kicked himself.
“Nowhere,” he replied quickly. “Just curious.”
“Hmmmm,” was Michael’s rather dubious response to that.
I’m just digging myself in deeper here, Ryan thought, a bit unsettled by the fact that he was pretty much directly lying to Michael by deflecting the reasons for all his questions. Fuck.
It was obvious the other man knew something was up - and it wouldn’t take long for him to work out it was something to do with Gavin. Ryan knew it was only a matter of time until he found out, anyway - and setting it up here so that it wasn’t such a big surprise when the truth eventually did come out was probably a good thing. But it wasn’t his place to say any more - this was Gavin’s story to tell Michael, not his - so he dropped the topic then, turning away to concentrate on driving, Michael not pushing to ask more either.
It wasn’t too late by the time Ryan finished work, still very bright outside as he returned to the apartment. He’d texted Gavin throughout the day to make sure he was doing okay, but he still felt a bit worried as he finally got back to his place and headed inside.
“Gavin?” he called out as he entered. “I’m back.”
The curtains were shut, leaving the living room dim - after a moment Gavin’s tousled head appeared over the back of the couch.
“Ryan?” he asked groggily.
“Shit, sorry, I didn’t know you were sleeping,” Ryan said, wandering over - Gavin was curled up on the couch, rubbing his eyes now. He looked dishevelled and groggy, but the sleep seemed to have done him some good; he wasn’t as pale as he had been this morning. Ryan moved to switch on the light and frowned when he noticed Gavin rubbing at his neck.
“You could have taken the bed. That couch is pretty shit to sleep on.”
“I didn’t mean to fall asleep. I just kinda crashed by accident,” Gavin admitted, and stretched a bit before getting up. “Your voice sounds better.”
“It hurts less now."
“How was work?” Gavin looked a bit uncertain suddenly, as he added, “You didn’t… did you tell them anything, or-”
“I didn’t,” Ryan assured him. “That’s your call to make. But speaking of all that…”
Gavin sighed, but gestured for Ryan to join him on the couch. Ryan sat beside him, leaning forward earnestly.
“Geoff’s not stupid,” Ryan said. “He’s gonna realise something is up and now that the deed is done he needs to know what’s going on so that he can work out what he wants to do about Glasgow. Now that we’ve already killed Peter, you should tell him so that he can help us cover it up. The fact that he didn’t know we were going to do it means he probably has an alibi for the night it happened and credibility that he wasn’t actually involved.”
Gavin bit his lip. He didn’t look happy but he didn’t deny the truth of it.
“I was listening to the news on my way over here,” Ryan continued. “They’ve found the body, though they didn’t identify it yet. If you tell Geoff what’s going on, he can put on the show - ask questions, look around - and you can stay off-field for a bit like you’re grieving. You keep your head down while Geoff looks like he’s looking into things and Glasgow will think we’re investigating it too - he won’t suspect it was us.”
“Alana and Pravi,” Gavin began, and Ryan pressed his lips together - he’d nearly forgotten about them.
“I’ll keep an eye on them,” he assured Gavin. “Make sure they’re not poking their noses where they don’t belong. But Gavin, I think you really need to tell Geoff. Or I can, if you want.”
Gavin was silent. Not agreeing but not protesting either, and Ryan could tell he was torn - he reached out and squeezed Gavin’s shoulder and the other man looked up at him, eyes wide.
“Continuing to lie will only make this harder to cover up,” Ryan insisted. “I’ve got your back. I’ll help you tell Geoff, I’ll make it look like I’m trying to find out who killed him too. But I think this is the best next step in our plan. You asked for my help so let me help you with this.”
Gavin stared at him for a long moment and Ryan stared back earnestly, his hand not leaving Gavin’s shoulder. Finally Gavin sighed and nodded, glancing away.
“Okay,” he said quietly. “I… I’ll go in and tell him tomorrow.”
He seemed pensive and Ryan tugged at his shoulder until he looked back around.
“Hey. I’ve seen how Geoff treats you. He loves you, he’s not gonna be angry - and what you said a few weeks ago, about how it’s embarrassing for them to know? That’s not true at all. You have nothing to be ashamed of. We’re a team, aren’t we? We deal with shit like this together.”
Gavin smiled a bit - small, but genuine.
“Thanks Ryan,” he said quietly, and picked nervously at the sleeves of his jacket again. “You’ve done so much for me, I…. I know I’ve been asking a lot of you when we didn’t even know each other that well before-”
“Hey, hey,” Ryan said, and gripped his hand this time. “Don’t start that up again. I’m glad to help. I’m glad Peter got what was coming to him. It’s not a bother or anything like that, alright?”
“You’ve full let me stay in your flat and all though,” Gavin added. “Is that…”
“It’s fine,” Ryan assured him. “There’s room. Stay as long as you need. I’d rather know you’re okay than have you go back to that house alone.”
Gavin nodded, lips twitching again into another almost-smile. He still looked a bit despondent, though, sitting alone on the other end of the couch, arms wrapped around himself, and it hit Ryan again that they still hadn’t talked about this - that he still didn’t know what was going through Gavin’s mind in regards to Peter, or himself - and while he didn’t want to push the other man to talk about it before he was ready, he also didn’t want to leave things festering there.
But right now, after Gavin had just made the hard decision to tell Geoff, was not the time. And after a moment, before he could second guess himself, Ryan shifted closer to Gavin and pulled him into a hug.
He’d made the right choice; Gavin practically collapsed into him immediately, burying his face in Ryan’s chest and wrapping his arms around him tightly. Ryan was a bit taken aback, despite being the one to initiate it, but quickly brought one hand up to cup the back of Gavin’s head, the other stroking soothingly along his back. They didn’t say anything but he could feel Gavin’s chest moving against his as he breathed a little too fast, and squeezed him a bit tighter, holding him close until he felt him grow a bit calmer, a bit more relaxed.
Finally Gavin’s breathing slowed down and Ryan realised he himself had loosened up as well. He slowly released Gavin but the other man didn’t pull back very far - just enough to look up at Ryan, something oddly nervous in his face now as his teeth worried at his bottom lip. Ryan couldn’t look away, transfixed - even when he didn’t have his sunglasses on, Gavin rarely let anyone close enough that they could see every colour in his eyes the way Ryan could now.
“About… about what happened last time,” Gavin began - it took Ryan a second to realise what he meant, and then Gavin’s eyes darted over to the wall next to the bathroom and oh, Ryan realised, with a sudden nervous jolt. The fight, the kiss-
He didn’t know which Gavin was talking about and for a moment could only stare dumbly at him. They were sitting very, very close.
“I… I said things I didn’t mean,” he croaked out finally, and Gavin nodded, eyes dropping.
“Me too,” he said quietly.
“No, honestly, Gavin,” Ryan continued. “I mean it. I’m sorry. I was just… scared, but I never wanted to hurt you. I didn’t mean any of it.”
“Me either,” Gavin replied. “I’m sorry too. You’re not a monster, Ryan, I was just being stupid.”
“We both were,” Ryan assured him, and Gavin smiled a bit. He still seemed nervous, though - hesitant, like there was something else he wanted to bring up, and it wasn’t exactly hard to figure out what it was.
But Ryan didn’t want to discuss it suddenly. To talk about the move Gavin had made on him - his own reaction to it, both the good and the bad - it would leave them having to sort things out, and work out where they stood, and admit things.
And he had more than enough to admit. Because it wasn’t hard to see, now, exactly why he’d kissed Gavin back. Why he felt so protective over him, why even now he wanted nothing more than to hold him close and make sure nothing could ever hurt him again - why Gavin’s presence here in the flat was as much a comfort to him as the other way around after the stresses of the last few weeks-
He knew exactly what he wanted.
But he sure as hell wasn’t about to make a move on Gavin after all that had just happened. Not when Peter was still so fresh on both their minds, not when Gavin’s last relationship had ended with the guy saying the most God awful things to him and then trying to fucking murder him - and that had only been yesterday! The absolute last thing he needed right now was someone else making a pass at him.
So he didn’t say anything, and before Gavin could either he tugged him into another hug - Gavin let the subject drop, just wrapping his arms around Ryan’s waist again as Ryan stroked his hair.
They didn’t need to talk about it, Ryan thought - he could show his care here, and now, by keeping him safe and giving him a place to stay and making sure he’d be okay.
“We’re good,” he murmured - “We’re all good, Gav,” - and felt Gavin nod against his shoulder.
“I can tell him if you want,” Ryan said.
They were standing outside Geoff’s office - they could hear him inside, talking to Jack, and were waiting for him to finish up to avoid interrupting. But it was nerve wracking, having to stew in their own juices when the two men seemed to have been talking for over ten minutes by now, and Ryan could tell Gavin was getting antsy. He was quieter than usual, and jittery - knee shaking all over the place where he was leaning against the wall, hands toying with the legs of his sunglasses.
Despite that, he seemed to be feeling a lot better today. He’d actually slept last night - albeit very late, when he finally got drowsy enough that Ryan could just lead him to the bedroom and watch him pass out. But this morning he’d eaten more, and been chattier - though they still avoided speaking about Peter at all - and he’d even laughed a bit at Lloyd when she sat on Ryan’s treadmill and refused to move, preventing him from doing his morning workout.
It was reassuring, put Ryan at ease too - and seeing Gavin dressed neatly again, hair done up as usual, was reassuring too, even if he knew it was a mask of sorts.
Gavin shook his head now, casting Ryan a glance.
“No, I… I can do it. But stay in the room, please,” he added, and Ryan nodded.
“Course. I got your back.”
Gavin gave a small smile, but they both stiffened when they heard the scrape of a chair as Geoff and Jack presumably finished their conversation. Only moments later the door was opening and Ryan saw Gavin’s shoulders stiffen.
“-call me when you finish it,” Geoff was saying, but turned in surprise when he saw the two of them lurking outside. “Hey guys! Holy shit, Gav, what happened to your face? You get that falling off your bike?”
Gavin shook his head.
“No,” he replied. “I… I have to tell you some things, Geoff.”
Geoff and Jack glanced at each other and Ryan could see them snap into alarm at how oddly serious Gavin sounded - he wasn’t bothering to hide how upset he was and it had to be disconcerting. After a moment Geoff glanced at Ryan, confused - he wasn’t wearing his mask, but he wasn’t sure what the other man saw in his face before he nodded and reached out to squeeze Gavin’s shoulder.
“Come in,” he said. “What’s up? Are you okay, did something happen?”
“Yeah,” Gavin murmured, and Geoff bit his lip. Ryan could see just how worried he was - Jack too - and when Ryan started to follow them into the office they both looked quite confused, though their focus remained on Gavin as Geoff led him in by the arm.
“Gav?” Jack asked then, as he shut the door behind Ryan. “Can I help? What’s going on?”
Gavin hesitated as he realised Jack was still in the room, then glanced at Ryan for advice.
“Let him stay,” Ryan said quietly. “Better to tell both now than have to repeat the story a second time.”
Geoff’s eyes darted between them. He let go of Gavin to fold his arms instead.
“What’s going on here?” he asked.
Gavin swallowed hard. There was a long, tense pause as he seemed to be working up the courage to talk. Geoff and Jack waited patiently as Gavin took a moment to gather his thoughts before he sucked in a deep breath.
“Peter’s dead,” he blurted out, and the room went very silent.
The pure shock on Geoff and Jack’s face was incredible. Ryan watched the two of them seem to struggle to process it - and then, when they did, both of them look stricken, upset-
“What?” Geoff cried. “How, when…. what-”
“We killed him,” Gavin continued then, a bit hysterically, and Ryan couldn’t help but cringe a little because okay, could have phrased that a bit more delicately-
Geoff looked on the edge of having a stroke. Jack was just staring, still, it seemed, struggling to wrap his head around all this.
“What the fuck,” Geoff said then. “Oh my God, what’s happening?”
“Gav,” Jack said slowly. “Are you… are you okay, what’s going on here? What do you mean you killed him?” He looked over at Ryan then, standing beside Gavin, seeming to remember his presence suddenly. “What do you mean we killed him?”
Gavin had been looking at his shoes, but he glanced tentatively up at them now - shoulders tense, seeming worried they were angry - but he seemed to register the sheer confusion on their faces then and when he opened his mouth-
It all came spilling out then, everything, the words nearly tripping over each other in their haste. The cheating - Glasgow - how he’d brought Ryan in to help - the last few weeks spent meticulously planning out the murder. He stumbled to explain a few times, talking in circles and occasionally struggling to find the right words - but overall his voice was too tight and calm, carefully controlled the way it got sometimes when he was negotiating with a crew that was starting to piss him off.
“And then we did it last night,” he finished, and his voice finally shook a little. “We did it. He’s dead and we… we burnt the body to cover it up but the police found it yesterday. But they don’t know it was us. So it’s… it’s over now, it’s over…”
His voice croaked a bit and he trailed off into silence. His breathing was carefully controlled but coming in tight little bursts and Ryan, next to him, reached out and squeezed his hand, heedless of how the others were in the room watching them. Gavin leaned in against his side gratefully and Geoff could only stare at them, eyes wide as he processed everything.
“Jesus Christ,” he said finally, and ran his hands through his hair. “And this has been going on for weeks now?”
“Yeah,” Gavin began tentatively, only to let out a little surprised noise when Geoff reached out and yanked him forward, pulling him into a tight hug.
“Holy fucking shit, Gav,” he hissed out. “You shoulda told me. I would have killed the bastard.”
Gavin let out a relieved sort of choking noise as he brought his arms up to hug Geoff back.
“Couldn’t,” he said quietly.
“We’ve kept this under wraps,” Ryan spoke up then - Geoff looked up at him, arms still around Gavin - “We’re not ready for a fight with Glasgow yet. If he knew we’d killed one of his agents there’d’ve been trouble. We kept it secret so you wouldn’t be involved. As long as Gavin keeps his head down now, and you make it look like you’re looking into who killed his boyfriend, we should have our backs covered while we can build up against Glasgow.”
Geoff’s lips pressed together tightly. He brought a hand up, curling it around the back of Gavin’s head and pulling him even closer.
“Still,” he said, a touch grumpily. “If someone hurts you, Gavin, I want to fucking hurt them back.”
“So you’ve been in on this the whole time too,” Jack asked Ryan.
“Yes,” he replied, and couldn’t quite tell what Jack was thinking as the other man gave him a long, measuring look before turning back to Gavin. By now the other man had pulled back a little from Geoff, and he glanced over at Ryan now, meeting his eyes before licking his lips a bit nervously.
“Ryan helped me out a lot,” he said. “He planned the whole thing and cleaned up after and now he’s letting me stay over at his place and all. Don’t be mad at him.”
“I’m not mad at anyone except fucking Peter,” Geoff assured him, and squeezed Gavin’s arm one more time before slinging an arm around his shoulders and tugging him in against his side instead. “I just wish you’d’ve told me so I could have helped. Keeping it secret for that long must’ve been hellish.”
“I’m fine,” Gavin replied, but gave a weak sort of smile. Geoff leaned in and kissed the top of his head and Ryan watched them carefully.
“We were thinking you could start looking into things,” Ryan said after a minute. “Gavin can stay off-field for a while like he’s grieving. I’ve put a bounty out on Peter and if we go and ask some questions around some of his enemies it’ll look like we’re trying to find out who did it.”
“Sounds like you’ve got it all planned out,” Geoff said, and nodded. “But definitely. We’ll handle it from here, Gavin - all you gotta do now is stay out of trouble.”
Gavin nodded, and his smile this time was more genuine. Geoff let him go but Jack stepped forward to hug him then and Gavin moved readily to meet him. Ryan folded his arms, observing the two of them. It was a relief to have the truth out there now - to see Gavin getting the support he needed - he knew Geoff and Jack would handle this, and having other people around to keep an eye on Gavin and make sure he’d be okay took another weight off his shoulders.
“I thought you seemed sad lately,” Jack murmured as he drew back from Gavin a little to look at him. “I can’t believe you’ve been handling this alone this whole time.”
“Not alone,” Gavin replied. “Like I said. Ryan helped me.”
Geoff looked over at Ryan. Their eyes met and Geoff gave him a nod.
“Sorry again for not telling you,” Gavin started, but Geoff shook his head.
“Don’t you apologise for any of this. I know why you kept it secret. As long as you know we’ve got your back now - we’re a team. Hell, we’re a family. Got it?”
“Got it,” Gavin replied, and sighed, running a hand through his hair. “Should probably tell Michael and Ray now, shouldn’t I? ‘specially Michael.”
“He’ll blow a fuse,” Geoff said, and Gavin let out a huff of breath. “But yeah, you should. He won’t be happy about being left out of the loop.”
“Want me to come with you?” Jack asked, and Gavin nodded. They left the room, and when Gavin glanced over his shoulder at Ryan he started to follow, but Geoff grabbed his arm and tugged him back.
“I want to talk to you for a minute,” he said, and Ryan bit his lip, but stayed put as the door shut, leaving them alone together.
Geoff let him go and went to sit down at his desk. Now that Gavin was gone his smile had disappeared and his shoulders slumped, suddenly looking very tired.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” he huffed. “I can’t fucking believe this has been going on.”
Ryan watched him silently as he covered his face with his hands for a long moment, seeming to process things.
“I never liked that boyfriend of his,” Geoff said then. “I mean, I didn’t know him all that well. Thought he was a bit of a douchebag when he did work with us. But then he saved Gavin’s life and when they started going out…. I dunno. They seemed so happy, you know? And I… I thought everything was fine. Maybe he wasn’t my sort of guy but he made Gav happy and that was what mattered. So to hear that something like that could happen and I wasn’t there to stop it-”
“It wasn’t your fault,” Ryan cut in. It was a bit strange, Geoff opening up to him like this like he needed someone to hear it - “It came out of nowhere for Gavin too. The way I saw that guy acting, the whole way through… deserves a fucking Oscar, he was so damn convincing. No one could have known this would happen. Not when his job is fooling people like this. It’s not on you for not realising what he was like, or Michael - and especially not on Gavin. It’s just on Peter, and he’s dead now.”
“I know that,” Geoff replied, very tiredly. “But still. I’ve known Gav since he was just some idiot kid picking pockets back in England. He’s like a little brother, y’know? And you… you want to protect them.”
Ryan could only stare helplessly at him, and after a moment Geoff sighed again and looked up at him, eyes a bit red.
“Why you?” he asked, and Ryan stiffened a bit.
“I knew something was strange about you two getting closer like that. Because before that, I know you still didn’t like him. And Gavin wasn’t overly fond of you either. Used to think it was fucking hilarious, the way he’d complain about you all the time,” Geoff scoffed. “So why come to you for help?”
“My job’s killing people,” Ryan pointed out. “I was best equipped to do this.”
Geoff was staring at him measuringly, and Ryan couldn’t lie any more. He added, “And he… found it easier to admit what was going on to someone he didn’t know all that well. I guess he thought since I didn’t know Peter at all I wouldn’t judge, or something.”
“God damn it,” Geoff hissed, and Ryan stepped forward.
“I made sure he knows this wasn’t his fault. That there’s nothing to feel ashamed of.”
Geoff nodded. It took him a moment to gather himself. Finally he took a deep breath and stood up, steeling his face into his own mask - the confident, brash leader of the Fake AH Crew, ready to handle anything.
“Thanks for looking out for him,” he said, and Ryan nodded. “I mean it. You’re solid, Haywood. I don’t know what we’d do without you in this crew. It’s good you’re with us now.”
There was something too sincere in his voice, and Ryan felt a little flustered suddenly. He looked away with a small smile even as Geoff clapped a hand down on his shoulder.
“You’ll help me clean this up?” Geoff asked, and Ryan nodded.
“Thank you,” Geoff repeated, and then turned away with a scoff. “God, okay, I need a fucking drink after all this.”
Ryan scoffed out a laugh, and felt a lot lighter, then, as Geoff turned away. As much as he’d reassured Gavin that the other man wouldn’t be angry, it still felt good to get this out of the way. Like another step along the road to putting all this behind them.
Ryan let Geoff’s office shortly after that. He wandered off in search of Gavin and finally found him over in the shooting range where they tested weapons. He lingered, watching from the observation deck. Gavin was sitting on a bench, Michael and Ray either side of him. Their heads were ducked close together and they seemed to have been in close conversation for a while now, because Michael was quite calm - and Ryan was sure he wouldn’t have been earlier, when Gavin first told him. He had an arm around Gavin’s shoulders and even Ray was close enough that their knees bumped together. But after a moment, whatever Ray said made Gavin laugh a bit, and Michael smile, and Ryan turned away, relieved that they’d worked things out between them.
He jumped a bit when Jack suddenly materialised beside him, looking down at the three lads as well.
“Everything went okay?” Ryan asked, a bit pointlessly, and Jack nodded.
“Michael wasn’t happy. Wishes he’d got the chance to kill Peter himself. But he’ll be fine. Ray too. They’re both just worried about Gavin, but if anyone can cheer him up it’s those two.”
“Good,” Ryan said. And then, out of some morbid curiosity, “Did you know him?”
“Peter?” Jack asked, and hesitated before shaking his head. “Not well. I didn’t see him much after he finished that job with us, only now and then when we all went out as a group. But things like this… it affects all of us, you know? Seeing Gav hurt. Knowing what happened. I get why you guys kept it secret, but I just wish I could’ve known sooner. To help, you know?”
Ryan nodded. He felt bad for keeping this all hidden, despite the very good reason why - but under that… it was sweet, seeing how much the crew all cared about Gavin. About each other. How much they’d presumably care about Ryan, too, if he ever found himself in trouble. It only reinforced what he’d come to realise over the year he’d worked with them; Geoff was right, they were a family more than anything else.
He was glad he was here.
“But anyway,” Jack said, and moved forward to look down at the lads again. “He’ll be okay, Ryan. Gavin’s strong.”
Ryan glanced down at them too and couldn’t help his small smile at the sight of Gavin laughing and trying to squirm away from Michael’s attempts to give him a noogie, Ray’s only contribution to the wrestling being repeated attempts to pull Michael’s hoodie down over his eyes.
“I know,” he replied.
It was very strange going out with Geoff to continue covering up the murder. After so long working just with Gavin and trying to keep things on the down low, Ryan kept feeling as though he had to be careful not to give anything away to him.
As it was, Geoff did most of the work as they went around to some of the enemies Ryan and Gavin had identified earlier, making like they were looking into who might’ve killed Peter. All Ryan had to do was once again hang back looking menacing while Geoff asked all the questions.
The other man was good at it. Kept himself stern, aggressive - gave no indication that he knew exactly what’d happened to Peter, that all of this was an act. Ryan would never have been able to tell that he wasn’t genuinely looking for answers.
It seemed Gavin wasn’t the only one good at pretending.
Of course, no one had anything to tell them, and they managed to get through a good number of ‘suspects’ before heading back. It was quite late but everyone was still back at the base when they returned, working on small projects. Geoff called Gavin into his office with Ryan to let him know their progress.
“I’ll keep an eye on Glasgow,” he added, after briefing him. “Make sure he’s not suspicious. But we’ve got this handled, you just keep working from here.”
Gavin nodded. He looked exhausted, Ryan realised, even though he’d been at the base all day.
“Thanks Geoff,” he said softly, and Geoff gave him a gentle smile, reaching out to press his arm.
“I’m headed home in a minute, who are you going back with?”
“Ryan,” Gavin replied, and Geoff’s eyebrows rose, glancing over at him.
“You got enough room at your place?” he asked, and Ryan nodded.
“If Gavin wants to stay with me we’ll make it work.”
“My stuff’s still there,” Gavin said a bit awkwardly. “Might as well stay tonight to avoid having to cart it around.”
Geoff nodded, though he was eying Ryan curiously, and Ryan couldn’t help but wonder what was going through his head. It was obvious he and Gavin were friends now, but to go from rivals to willing to live together, even if only temporarily, was a pretty big switch. He was relieved when Geoff didn’t comment on it, just pulled Gavin in for one last hug before they left.
Gavin was oddly quiet on the drive back, and even all through dinner, barely saying a word. Ryan figured it must have been an emotionally exhausting day for him - he was feeling pretty drained himself - but he couldn’t help feeling a bit worried, especially when he finally emerged from the shower later that night to find Gavin sitting on the couch staring into space.
“You alright Gav?” he called out, shrugging a jacket on and moving to sit next to him.
Gavin glanced over at him and gave a weak sort of smile.
“I’m okay,” he said, but it didn’t come out very convincing, and Ryan frowned.
He knew this wouldn’t just be an uphill battle, but after seeing Gavin laugh and smile with Michael and Ray it was a bit jarring for him to deteriorate again so suddenly.
“It’s okay if you’re not,” he began, and Gavin’s smile faded away. He shifted, pulling his jacket tighter around himself.
“I’m a bit sad,” he admitted. “It’s stupid, I shouldn’t be, not after everything he did-”
He broke off as Ryan reached out and squeezed his hand.
“It’s not stupid,” Ryan said. “It’s not stupid at all. He meant a lot to you and after everything he did - and said to you, at the end there - of course you’re upset about it. And it’s even okay if you miss him, you know. You loved him for a year. That’s a long time not to miss someone once they’re gone.”
Gavin bit his lip, looking steadily more upset, though he didn’t pull his hand away.
“I do miss him,” he choked out, voice breaking a little. “I… I keep expecting him to call me. It’s weird. I keep like… forgetting that he’s gone forever and expecting him to call and ask where I am, or what’s for dinner, or… it’s just stupid but I can’t stop-”
“It’s not stupid,” Ryan repeated, but Gavin just shook his head. Now he pulled his hand away, pressing at his eyes and sucking in shaky breaths.
“I can’t stop thinking about it. I hated him for so many weeks at the end there so I… I’m used to that, I’m used to being angry with him, but… now he’s gone and I just still can’t quite believe it.”
Ryan didn’t know what to say. He reached out and rubbed Gavin’s back instead. He could feel him shaking and felt awful, wishing desperately that he could fix this, could do something, anything to just take away the pain. But he didn’t know how, wasn’t good at this - he could plan a murder, he could kill a man, but beyond that - how could he possibly fix this?
“I don’t know,” Gavin groaned then, and let his hands drop from his face, staring down at them in his lap. They were shaking. “I knew what he was like from the beginning… I don’t know if I ever thought it’d last. But I never imagined it’d end like this and I just… I can’t stop thinking about it. Every time I forget for one second it just comes back. Everything he did. All the things he said. Someone I thought loved me tried to kill me. How can I… how can I ever forget that? I don’t know, Ryan,” he said miserably, “I don’t think I can come back from this.”
Ryan’s heart dropped. The sheer hopelessness in Gavin’s voice nearly killed him and he reached out and gripped the other man by the shoulders.
“Hey - hey, don’t say that. It sucks, okay,” he said fiercely, “I can’t even fucking imagine what you’re going through. And it feels awful now, I know, but… you can come back from this. Of course you can. I’ve seen you. You’re one of the strongest people I know.”
Gavin scoffed a little.
“Come on,” he said quietly, and Ryan frowned, squeezing his shoulders until he looked up and met his eyes.
“I mean it,” he insisted. “I’m serious, Gavin. I know things are shit right now but they’re gonna get better. I promise. Look, he only died two days ago. Time keeps moving, right? You won’t realise it but things will change. It won’t hurt so much. Everything changes. So don't you dare give up now because this hasn’t ruined you. Peter is not all of you. It’s understandable that it’s affected you but it hasn’t broken you, okay? I mean, you still trust Geoff, right?”
Gavin stared at him, wide eyed, then gave a hesitant nod.
“And Michael?” Ryan asked.
Gavin nodded again.
“And Ray and Jack and me?”
“Of course I trust you,” Gavin whispered, and Ryan smiled.
“Bad things happen. They’ve happened to me too. Don’t push yourself to be fine right away - you’re allowed to be angry. You’re allowed to be sad. You’re allowed to hate him for what he did to you and you’re allowed to miss what you used to have together. But don’t ever think that what happened here the last few weeks is all that you are now, because it’s not. You’re so much more than that, Gavin.” Ryan paused, swallowing a few times, a little surprised by his own sudden passion. But he continued, “And we’ll all be here to help you take care of things while you’re down. And we’ll all still be here when you start to feel better, however long it takes.”
Gavin was staring up at him with wide eyes and Ryan suddenly felt a bit flustered.
“I know it feels like shit right now, and maybe you don’t even want to hear this,” he added a touch awkwardly. “Maybe you just want to let yourself be sad for now. That’s okay too. But just… know we’re all here, okay?”
He trailed off, slightly embarrassed. These sentimental outbursts weren’t exactly usual for him, after all. But after a moment Gavin gave a small, almost shy smile.
“Thanks Ryan,” he said quietly, and reached up, folding his hand over the other man’s where it still rested on his shoulder. “That… that does make me feel better. I do trust you guys.”
“Good,” Ryan said, and Gavin’s smile widened a little before he sighed.
“I think I’m just really tired,” he said. “It was a long day.”
“Right, right!” Ryan stood up quickly. “You should sleep. Come on then.”
Gavin squeezed his hand as they both got up before moving into the bedroom, where he’d slept last night. Ryan followed him in to grab his phone charging cord. He was rummaging about for it in the bedside drawer as Gavin got under the covers, a few moments of silence falling between them before Gavin abruptly spoke up again.
“What’s up?” Ryan turned towards him. Gavin was sitting up in the bed staring at him thoughtfully.
“I think I’d feel much worse if I’d been the one to actually pull the trigger,” he said hesitantly. “So thanks again for… for doing that, and everything else.”
“Anything I can do to help,” Ryan replied. He shut the drawer but Gavin spoke again before he could leave.
“Is the couch making you sore to sleep on?”
“I’m fine,” Ryan assured him, but Gavin grabbed his wrist when he turned away. He looked down at him - Gavin was tugging him towards the bed, eyes wide.
“Stay,” Gavin said - something very unsure in it. Ryan froze, uncertain - but there was something pleading and almost shy in Gavin’s eyes, like he was worried Ryan would refuse. They stared at each other for a long moment, Ryan running over the whole situation in his mind, not wanting to misunderstand - but Gavin let go of him then and shifted over in the bed, making room, and after a moment Ryan nodded and climbed in with him, switching off the lamp as he went.
It was a big bed but still a squash for two grown men to fit. A little too warm under the covers. At first they lay stiffly, side by side on their backs - but after a moment Gavin inched towards Ryan in the dark, and when he laid his head on his chest Ryan wrapped an arm around his shoulders, tugging him closer.
Maybe there should have been something too intimate about it, about being pressed up close against Gavin in the tight space, about feeling the warmth of his body and being close enough to smell his shampoo. But it was comfortable, suddenly, more than anything else - something innocently comforting about it - and any worries Ryan may have ever had about getting too close to someone else, about whether he, the Vagabond, could do this-
They melted away then, because as much as he was sure it made Gavin feel better to have someone close, especially at night in the dark and silence when it was all too easy for dark thoughts to creep back in - it was reassuring for him too. To know that someone he cared a hell of a lot about was safe as long as he was here by his side. To know that he himself wasn’t alone in all of this - to know that unlike a lot of other people in their business, the both of them still felt something, and still had something to rely on. And he’d never had an easy time sleeping, but here, tonight, Gavin pressed close and warm beside him, it was simple to shut his eyes and relax and let himself slip away.
And Ryan was right.
Life went on, it did. Time kept moving. A week passed, two weeks, a month - and things changed.
At first it felt oddly empty, not working on the murder any more. He kept finishing his jobs for the day and expecting to have to go home and monitor the bug, or meet up with Gavin to research, or stay back at the base arranging hits and bounties to draw suspicion away from them. Suddenly he seemed to have twice as much time on his hands and nothing to do with it.
They played a lot of video games. Almost every night Ryan would go home and turn on his Xbox and join a game with the lads and Geoff. It seemed to be a good distraction for Gavin, and hearing him laugh and squeak the way he used to when failing horribly or sabotaging Ray or Michael at something was warming. It was nice to fall back into their previous closeness, and even if some nights Ryan didn’t join in - wanted a retreat into his previous solitude, to distance himself from work, including the rest of the crew - for the most part he liked it, continuing to get closer to the others-
Including Geoff, who for the first few weeks he spent almost every day with, going around asking questions, still acting like they were trying to investigate Peter’s murder. It was tedious when they knew exactly who’d done it, when all they were doing was pretending day after day until they deemed enough time had passed to direct suspicion away from them. But Geoff was always good fun to hang out with, especially after the pensiveness surrounding the whole affair wore off a bit.
“I’m not mad at you,” he told Ryan after the first week, when Ryan had been cautiously quiet, wary of how annoyed and upset Geoff still seemed.
Ryan glanced at him carefully then; they were driving back to the base after another meet.
“I mean it,” Geoff insisted. “I’m not. I get why you didn’t tell me right away. I meant it when I said thank you for helping Gav.”
“It was for the crew as well,” Ryan pointed out, but Geoff shook his head.
“Not all of it. I know you’ve been keeping an eye on him even now that it’s all over. And I’ve seen the way you two act. Since you started helping him he’s been really happy around you.”
Ryan felt his face heat up and couldn’t help his small smile. It was true that despite everything that had happened, Gavin seemed the most relaxed in his company. Part of him put it down to him being the only one who knew the entire story, who’d been there every step of the way. But the rest was quietly pleased that it was his presence that Gavin seemed to seek out, that he - alongside the others, of course - could make Gavin smile again.
“I’m glad to help,” he said again, but Geoff gave him a very knowing look that made Ryan shift a little uncomfortably, wondering just how much the other man had put together. Thankfully he didn’t comment, but Ryan could see him watching them after that, when he and Gavin sat next to each other in the board room, or Gavin brought him diet cokes, or they left on the bike together after work to go and get dinner.
Gavin moved back in with Geoff a few days after telling him about Peter.
Geoff had insisted on it - Gavin had lived with him before he moved in with Peter, and he still had a spare room. Ryan’s own place was simply too small and could never be a permanent arrangement.
Even though sleeping on the couch had wreaked havoc on his back, Ryan couldn’t help but miss Gavin once he was gone. Even if he’d only stayed there a couple of days, Ryan’d gotten weirdly used to seeing him around and being able to keep tabs on him. Making him tea in the morning, or waking up to Lloyd curled up on his own chest - suddenly everything seemed empty and quiet without him.
Still. He checked in with Gavin via text a lot, and sometimes the other man would message him randomly out of the blue. To tell him to go on Xbox, or to ask how he was doing, or sometimes other little mundane things, like asking Ryan what he’d had for dinner, or silly would you rather questions, or complaining about whatever reality TV he was watching over at Geoff’s (Ryan had never watched The Bachelorette and certainly never intended to). Ryan replied every time, even if sometimes he ended up staying up for hours into the dead of night, his phone screen lighting his quiet bedroom up blue, texting Gavin long past midnight. He figured maybe the other man couldn’t sleep as well and needed a distraction, and Ryan was more than willing to stay up talking to him if that was what he needed.
And it was worth it, even if he was exhausted the next morning, to come into work the next day and see Gavin sitting there with a Red Bull looking just as tired but ready with a bright smile the second he saw Ryan. Some secret shared glance at the memory of how at four a.m. just hours before they’d been sending each other pictures of motorbikes, or bickering over triangles, or fighting a boss together in Dark Souls.
Those night time conversations always seemed a bit like a dream come morning, but Ryan would know they were real from the way Gavin looked at him, smiled at him, thanked him silently through buying him lunch or slipping some stolen trinket into his pocket for him to find later or squeezing his hand under the table when he sat down next to him for their morning meeting.
Even if Geoff and Ryan weren’t seriously looking for Peter’s killer, there were people who were.
Ryan continued to keep an eye on Alana and Pravi - who of course were the main ones Glasgow sent out to investigate who’d taken out his con man. He knew enough about their routines and hideouts by now to easily keep tabs on them, and while initially the two had a little poke into trying to find Gavin, after realising that Geoff and Ryan were going around asking questions, they seemed to drop the idea that he’d had anything to do with it.
It was strange, seeing the two of them now. Both of them seemed terribly upset about Peter’s death, going about their questioning with vehemence, even killing a few of the leads they thought were lying, bounty hunters or old enemies of Peter who might’ve had reason to take them out.
Ryan remembered what Peter had said about them, his sneering revelation that they were being played just the same way he’d played Gavin. That anything he’d felt for them was nothing but an act. The thought that Gavin had ever been with someone who could lie so easily and cruelly, who could use hearts as toys and manipulate people’s affections with disdain, made his skin crawl - but he had no sympathy for Glasgow’s two, not when they’d been so complicit in what Peter was doing to Gavin at the same time as it was unknowingly being done to them. He knew that when the FAHC eventually came up against Glasgow the two of them would be in the firing line anyway.
Sometimes Gavin asked him for updates on what the two of them were doing. Once he asked if they seemed sad. Ryan never lied to him and he was reassured by how well Gavin seemed to take any of his answers.
“We kind of inadvertently helped Glasgow by stopping Peter screwing him over later on, didn’t we,” Gavin mused one evening, when the two of them had stayed back late to work on some heist plans. “All he wanted was the money and if he’d stuck with them he would just have eventually done the same thing to them as he did to me. Apparently he was that sort of guy.”
“I don’t give a fuck about Glasgow,” was all Ryan said. “We killed him for you and for us.”
“Well then!” Gavin replied, with a startled sort of laugh, but Ryan eyed him closely.
“Don’t overthink it, Gavin. It doesn’t matter what might have happened if we hadn’t stopped him.”
“I know,” Gavin replied, his smile fading a little. “I guess that’s just where I’m at now. Thinking about all the different ways things might’ve gone.”
He sounded serious but not upset, and Ryan pressed his arm.
It took a moment, but when Gavin nodded his smile was sincere.
“I’m fine. I don’t think about it all that much, actually. It’s… it’s easier not to, now. I mean, it pops into my head constantly, I’ll just… be doing something and then suddenly remember what we did to him. But I don’t dwell on it.”
“That’s good,” Ryan said, and smiled back at him. “Progress, right?”
“Right,” Gavin replied quietly, and bumped his shoulder against Ryan’s before getting back to work.
Geoff might not have been mad at Ryan, but Michael was another story.
He hung around Gavin a lot nowadays, going out with him on the rare occasions that Gavin did go out on a job, or taking him out for drinks or lunch or dinner. Ryan didn’t often go along with them when Michael was there, but when he did the other man seemed to be avoiding talking to him, and he kept casting him strange looks that Ryan couldn’t quite work out.
When Geoff eventually did send the two of them out together to collect from someone who owed the crew money, the drive over there took place in a rather awkward silence before Michael finally spoke up: “So.”
“So,” Ryan replied carefully. He had his mask on and it seemed to have Michael on edge.
“S’been a few weeks since, y’know, you murdered my boi’s boyfriend behind my back.”
“You know why I couldn’t tell you,” Ryan replied, but not angrily; of course Michael was annoyed about it, he would be too if their positions were reversed.
“I know,” Michael replied, and sighed, running a hand over his face. “Just… I could’ve helped. I wouldn’t have told Geoff or any of the others. I haven’t brought it up with Gavin because I don’t want to upset him but why the fuck wouldn’t he ask me to help with it? He’s gotta know I’d be glad to take out anyone who hurt him.”
Ryan relaxed a little at that; it seemed like Michael was more worried about why Gavin hadn’t come to him than angry that Ryan hadn’t.
“It’s because he’s so close to you that he was scared to ask,” he replied, and scoffed a bit. “He picked me because he didn’t like me, to be honest. He didn’t care what I thought about him so it didn’t matter as much to tell me.”
“Still,” Michael replied. “That’s what all your questions were about the day before Gav told us. You’d already fucking done it and you were still lying to me.”
“I’m sorry,” Ryan said - and meant it - but Michael just sighed.
“Doesn’t fucking matter now, does it?”
“I wanted to tell you,” Ryan insisted. “I did. Both during the planning and after we did it. Gavin was… not doing great, and I thought if anyone would know how to help him it’d be you.”
Michael’s lips twitched a bit at that, but he looked over at Ryan and an odd look came over his face.
“The way things are going lately seems like you’re doing a pretty good job of helping him too.”
There was something in his voice Ryan couldn’t quite work out; he didn’t reply, uncertain if it was disapproval in Michael’s tone. Worried that maybe it was.
Later on he returned to the base and encountered Ray in the armoury; the two of them were getting along even better than before with all the gaming they’d been doing together lately, and he felt comfortable enough to ask Ray about it.
“Is Michael pissed at me?”
Ray looked over at him in surprise and Ryan was glad he’d kept his mask on; in any case he figured Ray would know. He and Michael were very close.
Ray stared at him for a long moment, seeming to puzzle out where this was coming from, before he gave a short laugh and shook his head.
“No, Ryan, he’s not. He’s just worried about Gav is all. He’s not angry with you. But,” he added, a little too casually, “We’ve both noticed how well you two get along now. Wanna tell me what’s going on there?”
Ryan swallowed, his mouth very dry.
He was just friends with Gavin. He knew that. They hadn’t talked about the kiss since and for the most part he tried deliberately not to imagine picking up where they had been going earlier. He felt almost guilty sometimes about wanting to take things further after everything that had happened. Was still giving Gavin as much space and time as he needed to heal from how badly his last relationship had ended.
The fact that the others had picked up on something was worrying, made him wonder if he was maybe coming across too strongly. As far as he knew he hadn’t tried anything with Gavin beyond offering support and friendship, and the other man certainly seemed to lap it up eagerly rather than being uncomfortable. But Ryan couldn’t help how he felt under it all, how his affection for Gavin seemed to be deepening by the day, how he longed to spend more time with him, how every new text or message from the other man had him going to open it immediately.
He hardly wanted to admit that to Ray now, though, not when he was still treading so carefully.
“Not really,” he replied cautiously, but to his surprise Ray just nodded.
“That’s cool,” he said. “I trust you.”
Ryan blinked a few times, oddly touched, and Ray grinned.
“I mean it, Michael and I aren’t trying to give you the shovel talk or anything, no matter what’s going on between you and Gav. Like I said, he’s not pissed or anything. It’s good you’re here Ryan. I’m glad you could help Gavin. We need all of us in this crew,” he added then, a little more seriously. “All six of us, that’s what makes it work. Especially Gavin, he’s so… bright, you know? When things can get so dark here. But especially you too. We work together a lot, you and me, and I always know you have my back. So it wouldn’t be the same without any one of us. That’s why we’re so protective of Gav - of everyone - I guess. But I don’t want you to feel like you’re not as much a part of this family as anyone else.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Ryan said quietly, and Ray smiled.
“Good,” he replied, and in a rare moment of open affection reached out and pressed Ryan’s arm before matter-of-factly returning to what they’d been working on.
Later that day Ryan was leaving the base for his car when he noticed Michael across the car park getting into his own vehicle. Their eyes met and Michael waved at him before giving him a wide smile; Ryan waved back, relieved. He thought Ray might have told him about what Ryan had asked him. Either way he was glad there were no hard feelings between them.
As time passed Ryan continued to keep a close eye on Gavin.
They all were, he knew - Michael and Geoff especially - but for the most part, it was Ryan who Gavin came to when he did need to talk about something. He thought it was probably because he was the only one who knew the entire story - who’d lived it alongside him - who’d seen the immediate aftermath and been involved in the death itself. And he was sure Gavin must go to Geoff a lot too, seeing as they were currently living together.
But when they were at the base, it was Ryan who he would seek out sometimes. Who he’d approach to talk with when he needed to rant, or just to sit with in silence sometimes, since he knew Ryan wouldn’t push him to talk if he didn’t want to-
Or to tell him little things, now and then, updates on how he was doing.
“I was about to text Peter today,” he said one afternoon, plonking himself down next to Ryan on his couch and nearly knocking a stack of papers to the floor. “I saw Game of Thrones spoilers and I literally pulled my phone out to tell him. Then I remembered he was gone.”
His voice was clear - not upset - something detachedly curious in it, though he had his sunglasses on and it was hard to tell what he was thinking. Ryan put his work aside and turned to him.
“It’s weird,” Gavin continued then, pulling out his phone. “Seeing his last text to me. Last thing he ever wrote. It’d be poetic, wouldn’t it, if it was I love you or something - though that’d be pretty damn ironic since I’d know he didn’t mean it. But it wasn’t. It was ‘Did you pick up my suit from the dry cleaners.’ How bloody mundane, am I right?”
Ryan scoffed a little, but reached out and put his hand on Gavin’s knee.
“It hasn’t been that long,” he told him. “It’s normal for you to forget sometimes.”
“Yeah,” Gavin replied, and sighed a bit. After a moment he shook himself and scrolled through his phone.
“Your last text to me was ‘What’s a finger up the ass between friends?’”
Ryan barked out a startled laugh.
“Context, Gavin. A million dollars is a lot of money. But it figures it’d be something stupid.”
Gavin laughed too - high and genuine, his eyes crinkling shut as his head tipped back, and Ryan could only watch him fondly, glad to see him smile-
And another day.
“I had a dream last night,” Gavin said, materialising by Ryan’s side in the garage where he was working on his bike. “And in it Peter was still alive. He wasn’t trying to kill us or anything. He wasn’t even a main character. He was just sort of… there. In the background.”
Ryan pulled himself out from under the bike, wiping his greasy hands on a nearby rag as he stood up. Gavin’s gaze had been fixed on the bike but he jerked his eyes up to Ryan’s now.
“Do you get bad dreams a lot?” he asked, voice genuinely curious.
“Sometimes,” Ryan replied quietly. “Not often, I don’t sleep a lot and when I do I tend to just pass out.”
Gavin nodded thoughtfully.
“It was strange,” he murmured. “Waking up and realising that it was just a dream. That he’s really…”
He trailed off, shuffling his feet, hands jammed in his pockets as he looked at the floor. He seemed so upset that Ryan stepped forward and pulled him into a hug; Gavin hugged him back eagerly, burrowing in against his chest, and by the time they pulled apart all he did was laugh at how Ryan’s dirty hands had messed up his expensive shirt and demand he pay the cleaning bill (which only resulted in Ryan flicking the rag at him and getting grease all over his cheek).
It wasn’t always sadness. One time Ryan went down to the shooting range to find Gavin firing, over and over again at one of the blank human-shaped targets. He was alternating between pinpoint accuracy at the target’s heart and wild shots that missed by a foot. Ryan watched him in silence from the doorway until his gun finally clicked emptily and he stood, panting, shoulders heaving.
Ryan pulled his ear muffs off and rapped on the doorframe as he entered. Gavin turned, pulling his off as well.
“You okay?” Ryan called off, and Gavin gave a small smile as he lowered his gun and walked over to him.
“I’m fine,” he replied. He moved to pack away the gun and close up the targets. “I just got really angry today thinking about it all.”
“It happens,” Ryan assured him. “Shooting’s helpful. It’s good to get that energy out sometimes.”
Gavin nodded. Ryan watched in silence as he finished packing away. The other man still seemed tense, a little furrow lingering between his eyebrows, and when he finished up Ryan reached out and poked him in the arm.
“We can box if you want,” he said, and Gavin raised his eyebrows.
“You think beating me up will make me feel better?” he asked, and then, at Ryan’s rather disgruntled look, managed a laugh. “I’m joking, I’m joking. That’s a good idea, actually. I want to tire myself out.”
“I won’t go soft on you,” Ryan warned, and Gavin laughed again, more genuinely this time.
“Likewise,” he replied, and Ryan raised an eyebrow, secretly quite pleased by the challenging glint in the other’s eye.
Despite his warning, Ryan couldn’t help but falter when it came to actually facing off against Gavin, mostly because he immediately felt bad about putting his all in when he already had a significant height and weight advantage. That lasted about two seconds before Gavin immediately started breaking every single rule, hitting and kicking and not even staying on the mat, and Ryan could only roll his eyes before fighting back in earnest. Despite everything they were careful not to actually hurt each other, and before long it stopped being boxing and became more a weird sort of wrestling. Maybe Gavin wasn’t getting his energy out in the way he’d expected but they both ended up out of breath anyway, from rolling around and trying to pin each other and laughing far too much.
They ended up finally with Ryan on his back, Gavin on top of him, hands flat against his chest - he’d even lost his damn gloves at some point - both breathless, panting, but grinning so hard that Ryan’s cheeks actually hurt-
“You didn’t let me win, did you?” Gavin demanded.
“Who says you’ve won?” Ryan asked, and couldn’t help but laugh at Gavin’s indignant squawk as he reached up and flipped them, keeping Gavin trapped against the mat with a hand either side of his head. Gavin giggled, wriggling a bit before giving up and just lying there, staring up at Ryan in a sudden silence, eyes wide, lips parted, breathing heavily-
Ryan stared back down at him for perhaps a moment too long, suddenly overly aware of how close they were pressed together, and how he could feel the warmth radiating off Gavin’s body and they were both too sticky from the exercise, and Gavin’s top was riding down off his shoulder a bit. He swallowed hard, mouth very dry, and quickly sat up, feeling awkward, offering Gavin a hand and heaving him back up to his feet. They didn’t talk about it, but Gavin wasn’t angry anymore, at least, and they quickly fell back into their usual routine after Gavin gave an awkward laugh as well and then suggested going to get Boost.
It went two ways as well.
Ryan came back one day upset and pensive; one of Geoff’s regular hired guns had just been killed out on a job with him, shot by the rival gang he’d been sent to take care of. He’d worked with her a bunch of times and while they hadn’t been close - he hadn’t ever even taken his mask off around her - they’d gotten to know each other a little, gotten comfortable exchanging jokes or just listening to the radio together in the car. It was part of why he’d worked alone for so long; alongside not trusting people around the city, not getting close to anyone meant he couldn’t get hurt when they died.
He felt like shit when he returned to base, kicking angrily at the leg of the boardroom table as he threw himself into a chair, waiting for Geoff to come in and debrief him. When the door opened he hunched his shoulders up angrily, not in the mood to talk to anyone - but it was Gavin who entered and silently came over to him.
He didn’t speak, just settled a hand tentatively on Ryan’s shoulder, a touch so light Ryan could barely feel it - but he didn’t pull away and after a moment Gavin reached out and pulled him into a hug, tugging Ryan’s head in to rest against his shoulder. Ryan closed his eyes and reached up to hug him back, a sudden exhausted relief taking over him at being able to lean on someone else just for a minute, to not have to pull himself together and pretend he was okay; he’d seen Gavin at his most broken down and it leant some closeness to him that Ryan didn’t have with anyone else in the crew, still wanting to put on some sort of stoic face for Geoff or Jack or any of the others. Gavin’s hand rubbing along his back was soothing and by the time he took a deep breath and pulled away and got ready to meet with Geoff he felt a lot better, giving Gavin a grateful nod, glad that the other man just smiled and went to wait for him outside and didn’t push him to talk.
So it was nice, Ryan realised later, having someone who understood so easily exactly what he needed - being able to pay him back in turn - someone it was so easy to check in with, who’d check in on him in turn, just to make sure each other was doing okay.
The dinosaur heist took place a couple of months later.
It was perhaps the most ridiculous thing Ryan had ever been a part of, and he loved every second of it. For all its silliness, a hell of a lot of work went into getting in and out of the state museum undetected, let alone making off with one of its major exhibits. Gavin was going for stealth more than chaos with this one, and in the weeks leading up to the hit he worked tirelessly arranging everything.
Half the time he seemed to be staying at the base the entire night, making phone calls or arranging meetings or poring over blueprints and layouts. Sometimes Ryan stayed back with him, doing his own work or bringing him tea or coffee. It was good, he thought, for Gavin to be distracted - especially by something that made him laugh so much.
When the night finally came they were all giggly and excited. Not everyone was going into the actual museum - Ryan was, though, in charge of incapacitating security while the others snuck in and got to work disabling alarms systems and bypassing the security glass and getting the bones out of their exhibit stand and out of the museum without damaging them.
Gavin was in his element, co-ordinating everyone to pull things off without any slip ups, getting past the alarms, keeping track of how long they had before the security cameras went back on. Ryan couldn’t help but be drawn to how focused he was, how intense - how confident when he knew exactly what he was talking about.
It was a testament to Gavin’s planning that things went off without a hitch and before they knew it they were all on their way out with a fucking dinosaur in hand - they couldn’t stop laughing, and Geoff wouldn’t stop tunelessly wailing an attempt at the Jurassic Park theme, and Ryan couldn’t stop grinning, filled to the brim with that incomparable, thrilling adrenaline that came with pulling off something like this.
“You’re magnificent,” Geoff said that night, as they sat about in one of their usual dives, drinks in hand. It was hard finding places that opened all night but this was where they usually came after a pull.
Gavin shot him a small smile; he looked exhausted, but had that glow to his face that they all got after a job.
“We stole a dinosaur,” Geoff continued. “A fucking dinosaur - what are they gonna think when they realise?”
“They’ll wonder what the fuck you’re planning to do with it,” Michael piped up with a grin.
“Skeleton army,” was Ray’s deadpan contribution to the conversation.
“Did you see all the other bones in there though,” Gavin spoke up. His voice was hoarse from talking continuously for nearly two hours as he ordered everyone around. “I wanna go for the stegosaurus next.”
“We should just continually take more and more exhibits,” Ryan suggested. “Try and make this become the most heavily guarded museum in the world despite the fact that there’s fuck-all in it.”
“Dinosaurs aren’t fuck-all,” Gavin protested.
“They have no good dinosaurs! The stegosaurus is missing everything except the tail!”
“They have a lot of taxidermy,” Jack mused. “Steal those and we can leave them in weird places around the city.”
“Not even going for profit at this point,” Ray snorted. “Just trolling the general public.”
“It’s what we do best,” Geoff said with a grin, and raised his glass. “To Gavin, in any case, who can now add ‘dinosaur thief’ to his extensive resume.”
They all laughed, but Ryan met Gavin’s eyes across the table as they toasted and gave him a small nod and a smile, hoping to convey how proud he was of him. Gavin flushed a little, nodding back before downing his glass.
Most of the others left shortly after that, tired out, and when Geoff went off to pay their tab it left Ryan and Gavin alone at the table.
“That was fun,” Gavin said, and Ryan nodded.
“Yeah. It’s funny; I know it’s exciting to win a firefight, or outrun the cops, or have to parachute onto a boat to get away - but somehow my adrenaline’s up just from sneaking in and out of there.” He rubbed his chest and smiled at Gavin. “Guess it’s the thrill of totally getting away with something.”
“Yeah, my stomach feels all buzzy too,” Gavin mused - Ryan couldn’t help but snort at that incredibly comprehensive description - “I guess that’s why some people like public sex and all, right?”
“Wow, okay. Way to make it weird, Gavin.”
“What!” Gavin cried, going red. “I didn’t make it weird! It’s a thing. Bloody exhibitionism or whatever, innit.”
“You seem to know a lot about it.”
“I’m just teasing,” Ryan laughed, and Gavin scowled and flicked a peanut shell at him.
“You suck,” he pouted, and Ryan raised an eyebrow.
“Maybe, but not in public.”
Gavin tried to glare but it was ruined by the laugh he couldn’t help, and Ryan grinned. He reached out then, pressing the other’s arm.
“For real though, you were amazing today. And you put so much work into planning this. You know we’re all really proud of you, right?”
“That’s too sappy Rye-bread,” Gavin said, but he was smiling, and after a moment he shifted so he could grab Ryan’s hand, squeezing for a moment.
Geoff came up behind Ryan then, clearing his throat loudly, and they both jumped. Ryan whipped around, alarmed, but Geoff was just watching them with a grin.
“Finished heaping praise on him yet?” he asked, and Ryan felt his face heat up.
“Think I’m about done,” he replied. “We need to stop now or he’ll get a big head.”
“That’d be good actually,” Geoff mused, tilting his head at Gavin thoughtfully. “Might balance out his big nose.”
“Hey!” Gavin squawked, but got up and gathered up his belongings as they prepared to leave. Geoff was still watching Ryan carefully, and Ryan tried to ignore him as he got up to head home as well.
Gavin came over to Ryan’s place now and then, despite not having to work on the murder any more. They’d watch movies, or play games, sitting side by side on the couch with their shoulders pressed together. Ryan had packed away all evidence of their planning and with every passing visit it wiped the memory of what they’d used to do there from their minds.
Gavin slept over sometimes. If they’d both been working late and had ended up going out to get food together, or if he’d come in on his bike and he stayed so late that Ryan didn’t want him trying to ride home in the dark, or if he’d pulled too many late nights and was so exhausted that he ended up falling asleep on Ryan’s couch while they were watching something.
If he fell asleep first Ryan would carry him to the bed and then sleep on the sofa himself. If Gavin was awake when he decided to stay he’d always insist on Ryan getting in the bed with him. Sometimes they’d lie awake talking until one or the other of them dozed off. It was cramped enough that Gavin always ended up with his head resting on Ryan’s shoulder, or the other man’s arms wrapped around him, but things never went further than that and they never really talked about it.
Ryan didn’t know what to make of it. He knew perfectly well where his own feelings were going, but Gavin was still terribly hard to read.
Perhaps he was being too careful.
It had been a couple of months now since everything that happened. Looking back on it was still strange - the time seemed to have passed very quickly; it still seemed to him like he’d only just killed the man. Glasgow had stopped looking, or at least slowed down.
And Gavin was doing well.
Every day Ryan would come into the base and see him grinning away as usual, laughing and smiling with the lads - and he knew him well enough by now to tell when it was genuine, and most of the time it was.
He was already planning another big heist, and causing his usual chaos stealing from everything and everyone that he came across. He’d bought a fucking gold plated bike and Ryan was pretending to be infuriated but honestly couldn’t help his fondness whenever he rolled his eyes as Gavin sped around on it like some dazzling ray of sunlight.
“I’m very happy today,” Gavin said one afternoon, when he and Ryan had finished their work early and gone out for lunch. They were in the outdoor seating of a quiet little Italian restaurant; it was a bright sunny day, a little hot but comfortable in the shade, and the weather had lifted everyone’s spirits.
“Are you?” Ryan asked. “That’s good.”
“No really,” Gavin said. “I just met with Burnie this morning and we were counting up all our territory and money and stuff and the crew’s doing so well. And it’s not about that, right, it’s not about the money but… we’re really growing strong and I was thinking how I came here from England and this is home now, right? With Geoff and you guys and everything. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. So I’m really happy.”
Ryan smiled; there was something too deliberate in Gavin’s voice, like he was overtly trying to let Ryan know that he was doing okay - but sincere, under that, and he was glad to hear it.
“That’s great Gav,” he said quietly. “It really is.”
Gavin hesitated, looking almost nervous for a minute as he twisted pasta around his fork.
“Are you happy?” he asked tentatively.
Maybe once Ryan would have hesitated too, at the thought of expressing so openly his affection for his job and these people and what he was doing here. But he barely even thought about it before he nodded now.
“I am,” he said, and the look of sheer joy on Gavin’s face wiped away any sudden alarm he might’ve felt at so readily admitting his emotions. “I’m really happy.”
Gavin smiled at him. He opened his mouth as though to say something but then looked away, seeming suddenly shy, and started eating again. Ryan watched him, wondering what had been about to happen, and the sudden warmth that flooded his whole body wasn’t entirely from the sunlight.
And then the day finally came that Ryan had known was approaching. He just didn’t think it would be this soon.
Geoff called everyone into the boardroom to announce it. It was a pretty sombre meeting - any sort of big attack on another crew was - but somehow, despite Ryan guessing quickly what was going on, he still wasn’t quite prepared for the words when they came out of Geoff’s mouth.
“We’re going after Glasgow.”
The first person Ryan looked over to was Gavin. He was standing at the other end of the table, arms folded and mouth set in a grim line. With his sunglasses on Ryan couldn’t tell what he was thinking, but he didn’t seem surprised, and Ryan figured that Geoff had probably been discussing this at home with him for some time now.
Geoff ran through everything quickly. The plan was still in its infant stages - was more an active declaration of ‘we’re gonna actually do this’ than anything else. Glasgow hadn’t directly bothered them in some time, but they knew from experience that he would plot against them secretly, and it was only a matter of time. Better to get on the offensive first.
It was already late in the day and by the time the meeting was over night was falling. Ryan saw Michael cross over to Gavin as soon as they were dismissed, leaning in close to press his arm and say something quietly to him. Gavin forced a smile for him as he replied - Ryan couldn’t hear what they were talking about - and after a moment he turned and went to wait for Gavin outside.
Michael exited the room first, casting Ryan a glance before reaching out and squeezing his shoulder as well.
“He’s fine, Ry. Kid’s tough.”
“I know,” Ryan replied, but couldn’t help his worry as he watched Michael leave before entering the boardroom again. Gavin was the only one in there, shuffling papers and looking pensive. Ryan opened his mouth but Gavin spoke before he could.
“Come for a ride with me?”
His voice was carefully controlled and calm and Ryan was startled for a moment before nodding, letting him take the lead.
Gavin put the papers down. He didn’t look at Ryan as he left the room, the other man trailing along behind as they went out to the bike. This time it was Gavin who got on first, Ryan sitting behind him; it was fairly novel, he was usually the one to drive.
Ryan was experienced enough not to cling to Gavin, but the other man drove pretty damn fast - more safely than usual, though, now that he had a passenger with him - and it was strange to be on the back for once, arms wrapped tightly around Gavin’s waist. For all his usual recklessness trying to do tricks, he knew what he was doing on the bike, and Ryan soon relaxed a little, watching the city speed by around them.
It took him a little while to realise where they were going. When they pulled up outside the sky tower he felt a pang of nostalgia, but didn’t comment as Gavin parked and they headed up in silence, Gavin breaking in with his usual ease.
It was different tonight to last time. The sun had only just set and the sky was painted streaks of red and purple, the city lights only just beginning to twinkle on. It looked like a fading bruise as the bright colours began diminishing into the dark velvet of the night sky.
Gavin stood by the rail looking out. He still wasn’t turning towards Ryan, but the other man didn’t push. Just stood next to him, enjoying the gentle breeze through his hair and the fresh air on his face without the mask or a motorcycle helmet on.
“This is kind of our spot, isn’t it?” Gavin piped up finally, and Ryan turned towards him.
“Sure is,” he replied, but carefully. When Gavin looked back up at him there was something very odd in his face.
“Don’t do that,” he said, and Ryan raised his eyebrows.
“Look at me like you’re sorry for me.”
“I’m not,” Ryan began, but paused, wondering. One thing that he knew had made Gavin comfortable with him was his lack of pity throughout everything - he felt bad for Gavin, yes, and sorry at what had happened to him. But full-on pity was embarrassing in their business and he loathed it himself.
“I’m not,” he repeated, but Gavin just smiled a little, and Ryan relaxed as he realised the other man wasn’t genuinely annoyed.
“You don’t have to be,” he said. “I’m fine you know. I knew this was coming. Geoff’s been telling me about it for weeks now. Bloody worrywart that one. He keeps asking if I’m okay too. And I am. It’s been months.”
“Months isn’t all that long,” Ryan pointed out.
“I know,” Gavin said, and sighed, running a hand through his hair. “But I want it to be. I want to get over this. I want to move on.”
“You don’t have to rush anything-”
“Oh my God, you don’t get it.” Gavin stepped towards him and Ryan’s breath caught - especially when Gavin grasped at the front of his shirt, leaning in towards him. Suddenly he was so close that Ryan could see the brown flecks in his eyes, could feel the warmth of his body and how he was trembling ever so slightly.
“I want to move on,” Gavin repeated - a breathless sort of whisper - Ryan swallowed, his mouth suddenly very dry, but in a remarkable act of self control, reached out and gripped Gavin’s shoulders, holding him back.
“Gav,” he said quietly. “I… you’re…. this is so soon, I don’t want to take advantage of you-”
“Okay, shut up for a minute,” Gavin said, and laughed a bit hysterically. “I get it. I really, really get it. The last few months I’ve been terrified, okay? I… I was grieving him for so long while he was alive, and then after he died I had to do it all over again. But even before we killed him you came along and you… you made me feel better, Ryan, you made me feel so much better than he ever did. I mean it, I… I didn’t know what to do. I never wanted to leave when you were around. When we just hung out, or went on those jobs together, I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to wake up and realise that my actual boyfriend was a piece of shit and that no one actually loved me. Not like it felt you did. And after I kissed you the first time, and these last few months when you’ve just been there for me and didn’t want a damn thing in return - I’ve been so confused.”
“Just listen, okay?” Gavin let out another huff of breath and pressed his face into Ryan’s shoulder for a moment; Ryan didn’t step back. “I told you I didn’t think I could come back from this. And it’s kinda fucked me up, I keep… keep wanting to let myself care about you and believe that you care about me and I do, okay, I do trust you but after what happened I’ve just been… scared. That it might all go wrong again. It’s always at the back of my head. And it’s still there now but I think I need this, okay? I don’t want Peter to hold me back. I don’t want to have his ghost there constantly. You think I’m not ready for this and… and maybe that’s true, but I don’t know, and I don’t want to keep waiting around just because I’m not certain. I don’t think I can ever be certain again, not at first. But I trust you, okay, and I want to try this and just… prove to myself that it’s real. That it’s not gonna happen again.”
“Of course it’s not,” Ryan replied, but couldn’t help the hesitation in his voice. But Gavin gripped his shirt tighter then and looked up at him with something very fierce in his eyes.
“We don’t have to make it official or anything,” he said. “And if you don’t want this, Ryan, I’ll never bring it up again. But things are about to get real shitty with Glasgow and I… I can’t do this on my own. I need someone I can trust for real this time. And that’s you, this whole time, you’ve been honest. Honest even about when you didn’t like me, and honest when you were scared after that first kiss, and… I don’t know, I just…”
He trailed off, starting to sound uncertain now, and Ryan stared at him for a long moment. Only the last shreds of lingering restraint were holding him back - but Gavin looked so very earnest now, and Ryan remembered, suddenly, how his own fear of not being ready for this - not being able - had been what fucked things up so badly between them last time.
And here Gavin was trying to avoid that.
And here he was, yet again the one who was too afraid - it snapped in him, then, and he stepped even closer to Gavin, making him look up.
“Okay,” he said - and the word was barely out of his mouth before Gavin was surging forward to press their lips together.
Last time all Ryan could remember was how the world had felt like it was spinning. Like how despite the sturdy wall pressed against his back and the steady weight of Gavin against him, he’d felt almost dizzy with sensations, swept away like he didn’t know which way was up.
This time, here they stood at the highest point in the city, nothing but empty air around them. With his eyes shut all he was aware of was the floor just under his feet; everything else open, the wind rushing against his cheeks and hair. And Gavin in his arms, the only thing he could cling on to in this hanging space. But despite that he felt remarkably stable, secure, rooted down by the now-familiar feel of Gavin’s warmth and chapped lips against his, the faint lingering tang of hairspray that seemed to accompany him everywhere he went. It electrified him, sent his blood racing even as it kept him frozen still where he stood, hands pressing Gavin as close to himself as possible.
When they finally broke the kiss Ryan’s heart was pounding and the wind felt too cold against his hot face. Gavin slumped against him and Ryan pulled him up, pressing their foreheads together, closing his eyes briefly for a moment; Gavin was so warm he nearly felt feverish and Ryan brought a hand up to cup his face, thumb stroking gently along his cheek.
“If you want this,” he whispered, “A partner in crime to have your back. Or someone just to remind you how fucking amazing you are whenever you start to forget it… you can have it. Like you said. We don’t need to make this official, not yet, but… if you want… we can try this. Whatever this is.”
Gavin closed his eyes briefly, huffing out a little laugh.
“I’d like that,” he murmured back, and opened his eyes, staring up at Ryan with such raw affection that it made something funny and almost shy flutter low in his stomach. “You’re pretty damn amazing yourself, Mr. Vagabond.”
Ryan laughed a bit, and let his hand slip down to the back of Gavin’s neck.
“You are gonna be okay,” he said, and the sheer relief that spread across Gavin’s face startled him.
“It’s good to hear someone else say it,” Gavin said, and Ryan couldn’t help but smile a bit. Gavin smiled back, and leaned in. Their lips met again - softer this time, a more certain grounding contact as the last streaks of bruised red slipped from the sky around them and the gentle night took its place.
Thank you so much to everyone who read, left kudos or especially took the time to leave a comment on this story, I really appreciate it and I hope you enjoyed the fic <3
I'm considering doing a tie-in showing Gavin's point of view of the story (it would mostly be new scenes but would only be a one-shot, not a story as long as this). Apart from that possibly happening, there will not be a sequel.
Thanks again to all those who helped me out with test-reading!