NOTHING-BUT-TEETH

“I just want him all to myself, and now I feel like the whole world is let in on the secret brilliance of Chris Pratt…. He’s a talented rap artist, like to a scale that people don’t know about. He can do anything and everything. He’s like a real live superhero. I’m like his wife: I support him. I dress him. I make sure there’s nothing in his teeth.”  Aubrey Plaza

6

I really like the idea that the crew all have a tattoo for each other, of essentially the same symbol, but all in different styles, and they all get them at different times over the years, for different reasons and without any real discussion.

Like, when Ray ends up laid up after their first big pre-fahc shootout Michael lets him draw a spikey little sticknpoke rose on his foot. Fast forward in time and Geoff doesn’t realise until later what prompts his choice when he adds an old school traditional rose tattoo to his sleeve one day after Ray’s sniping saves his life in a deal gone wrong. Jack intentionally joins the club with a rose made of $100 notes after partnering with Ray on one of the bigger heists, Ryan commemorates a particular R&R mission with a ring of rose petals and thorns around his wrist and at some point Gavin ends up with a water-colour rose splashed across his heart like his blood almost was.

No one picks their own symbol (ray claims that technically he did) though some just come obviously - they groan but there’s no mistaking the skull in Jack’s new jolly roger, or the one grinning up from the grenade on Michael’s shoulder. Gavin values the look on Ryan’s face when he saw the flower-crown wearing skull on his wrist almost more than the kidnapping rescue that put it there.

Geoff is quietly sure his is going to be a crown, or booze, so when Ray turns up with a douchey hipster tattoo of his moustache on his finger he tries to fire him on the spot. Two months later all hope is lost when Jack gets Geoff’s terrible old handlebar moustache. For a week Ryan has them all half convinced that his is actually on his face, under the mask and the face paint, and Geoff’s sigh of relief when he realises its not sends Ryan into helpless laughter for hours.

They all get them in different orders - sometimes they don’t even realise a symbol has been ‘picked’ until the second person gets their tattoo, and Gavin’s comes together last. There just hadn’t been that perfect moment, or the perfect symbol, no one had had that instant connection yet. He wasn’t bothered, not really, and by that stage they all joked about what it would be - a giant nose, the queen. No one is laughing when Geoff comes home with a white bandage covering golden sunglasses, shattered from when Gavin intentionally drew fire to buy the rest of them time. The next reveal is far less sombre, Michael proudly showing off the horrendous golden groucho glasses immortalised on his hip.

They don’t often need to, but when the Fake’s leave a calling card, claim a crime or issue a warning, they all leave the same image, the logo of the crew. It started, years ago, as a joke more than anything. A ridiculous idea they all relentlessly mocked Geoff about, using it only to amuse each other, but as their reputation grew the symbol gained power.

It became synonymous with the crew, the fear-inducing emblem it was always meant to be, and while Geoff is still too annoyed to use it himself the others latched onto its new purpose and never looked back. They each have their own twist on it, little preferences which through accident or design clearly indicate exactly who is responsible for each mark.

If the logo is scratched or carved it’s a sign from the Vagabond. Ryan carries a old knife (he’s not about to ruin one of his good ones thank you very much) and doesn’t hesitate to use it on anything from doors to walls to corpses. Depending on the medium his tag is often pretty rough, crude even, but always clear enough to make out.

Michael, Ray and Jeremy all favour spray paint, though each of their styles are decidedly distinct. 

Michael freehands the logo, large, messy and loud, and as often as not accompanied by vulgar insults or the clear image of a hand flipping the bird. Ideally Michael likes the message to be as destructive as possible, gleefully targeting flat-screens, priceless art and fancy cars as the canvas for his work.  

Ray uses a stencil, quick and efficient, and has on more than one occasion ghosted into the occupied bases of rival gangs and left a tag right out in the open without being noticed.

Jeremy turns a basic image into an art piece, totally different every time but always so outlandishly detailed that the others often have to drag him away. When Jeremy knows he’s going on a job they’re going to claim it’s not unusual for him to bring a backpack stuffed with supplies.

Gavin prefers markers, everything from chunky paint pens on walls to fine tipped sharpies on cooling skin. Gavin’s tags are rare, and often only left when a job has gotten personal; stark ink sharply intentional, elegantly simple, and always, of course, in gold.

Jack, forever prepared, has somehow managed to get fucking stickers printed, artistic things she always seems to have on hand just when she needs them, seeming to pull them out of thin air in the perfect size for any situation.  

nothing can kick me in the teeth quite like those posts that are essentially “here is a woman doing a really cool thing! what a cool thing! isn’t it great that this woman is doing this cool thing in the world?”

and then someone has added a comment to the effect of “AND she is traditionally attractive/feminine doing it!”

nothing quite reinforces that doing cool things is not enough, but that you must also look good doing it, like those posts

In the extremely unusual occasion that a run in with the FAHC results in an arrest rather than an all out firefight an argument could be made that the members of LSPD are even more displeased than the criminals themselves. It’s not just that many feel the crew members don’t even deserve the luxury of an arrest, think the world would be a better place if they were shot on sight, but also the fact that the interrogations themselves never go to plan. The possibility of being the one who brings about the downfall of the FAHC sours in the face of the intangible feeling that the arrest was intentional, that getting one of the Fakes into an interrogation room is still somehow playing into their plans.

Neither Pattillo nor the elusive Brownman have ever made it to the station, the few occasions which have come close getting cut short before they get any further than the squad car. Pattillo is unerringly polite even while effortlessly knocking out arresting officers, while Brownman is utterly relaxed, putting up no resistance and complaining loudly about losing the chance to sleep away the afternoon in custody when his crewmates drag him free. Dooley, on the other hand, seems to turn up at the station with alarming regularity; the FAHC’s newest member wandering in for anything from paying off minor traffic tickets to reporting petty crime. Its infuriating, the man exuding nothing but appropriate respect and utter sincerity, and without any evidence, without anything but street knowledge of his involvement, they can do nothing but treat him like a regular citizen.

When Ramsey is brought in he is calm, judgemental and obnoxiously sure of himself. He proclaims his innocence, his ignorance, his life as a simple businessman with just enough of a smirk to make it clear he is laughing at them, never once even hinting at anything incriminating. Interrogating the man is always a race against the clock; through bail or legal intervention he’s out of their hands almost as soon as they get him. Once, and only once, a detective tried to go the unethical threatening route, claimed other members of the crew were in unrecorded rooms having one-on-one sessions of their own, that if Ramsey cared about them at all he would just confess and save them all the trouble. It was months before they got all the blood off the walls, and the mysterious failure of every camera in the interview room had the station caught up in internal investigations while Ramsey walked away scott free.

Where interviewing Ramsey is always too short to be satisfying, no detective can be done with Jones fast enough. At first the fact that he doesn’t shut up seems like gift, his rages an easy way to trip him up, trick him into revealing information, but its not. Jones will curse you out, run his mouth about the precinct, the cheif, your mother, his own mother, and the competence levels of his crew but he never says anything of use. Even when they wise up to his methods, realise he is waiting out his time as efficiently as Ramsey in his own way, there is still no directing him; his rants and rages as genuine as they are frustrating.

The observant would note that the vagabond was never once arrested before the force gets a photo of his face, fuzzy and still obscured by face-paint but finally mask-free. When he is brought in, silent and looming but disturbingly amiable, the first thing they take is his mask. Then promptly wish they could put it back on, piercing blue eyes amused and unconcerned as the Vagabond’s smirk only twists his face-paint into more grotesque obscurity. Despite staying utterly silent, being securely chained the the table and making no aggressive moves three separate detectives leave his interrogation room in a near panic, two more refusing to even enter in the first place. Mask or no mask there is no lawyer alive who could argue for the Vagabond’s freedom, but a convenient explosion grants enough distraction for the empty cuffs to be left neatly on the table, a box full of contraband disappearing alongside the familiar black skull.

Interviewing Free feels a lot like signing up to the crew’s personal watch list. He doesn’t have the presence or deniability of Ramsey, doesn’t rage like Jones or ooze threat like the Vagabond. Instead Free is all smiles and winks and cheeky flirtation, derailing the interrogation to ask questions of his own, from opinions on sea monkeys to the statistical likelihood of extra-terrestrial life. For those detectives who play along he will answer questions in turn, talking fondly about the most dangerous criminals in the city, never actually helpful but close enough that it almost feels like a victory. For those who don’t, the detective’s who’s interrogations are aggressive and underpinned by something nastier, Free’s demeanour doesn’t change, but his careless questions do. He asks about their money problems, their monthly AA meetings, the not-always-figurative skeletons in their closets. He’ll ask, still smiling despite the rising tension, about each of their family members by name.

There was a point, during The Rise, when it became abundantly clear to the disreputable denizens of Los Santos that unless drastic measures were taken the Fake’s were going to succeed in their play for the city. Some of those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, who wanted the city for themselves or at least the patches they’d carved out as their own, negotiated a deal. A temporary truce between a handful of the biggest names in the area. An alliance to bring down the ragtag upstarts before their unprecedented domination completely took hold.

It was a bloody uprising that had taken them all by surprise. The FAHC had slunk into Los Santos, established themselves well enough to bully their way into a modest little bit of territory but not nearly enough to draw attention, to cause alarm. Wouldn’t have been any different from any of the dozens of little gangs that rise and fall on the fringes of the godforsaken city if not for their leader. The infamous Geoff Ramsey, fallen so far from grace. 

Slumming it in Los Santos, Ramsey appears to have collected what could charitably be called a crew. The only other member of any notable worth is Pattillo; a powerhouse in her own right but too blindly loyal to see the sense in walking away from Ramsey’s downward spiral. The rest of the group is less inspiring. They seem to have contracted some nameless mercenary, a big guy who’s always wearing a ridiculous fur-lined coat and an ever-changing cheap plastic party mask like he thinks he’s some kind of Hollywood villain. That’s pretty par for the course with mercenaries though, melodramatic bastards.  

The other three unknown wonders appear to have been recruited right out of school; bright eyed, bushy tailed and babyfaced, a cacophony of garish bravado, unrefined talent and misplaced pride. Ramsey’s pet British import is a nosey brat with sticky fingers, the short-tempered Jerseyite can’t keep his cool long enough to let his perpetually bloodied knuckles heal, and the wanna-be sniper is more invested in feigning disinterest and painting his guns ironically vivid colours than he is in being more than a halfway decent shot.

Still, disaster or not, more than one group keeps and eye on them at first; Geoff might look down and out but no one just ignores a Rooster. The result of this surveillance is.. unflattering. A series of ridiculously low-level jobs with pitiful takes, messy out-of-sync teamwork, public arguments and complete disrespect; it’s pretty clear Ramsey has no idea how to run a decent crew, not even the kids seem to be scared of him. Even their base is a travesty; where the big gangs have bought up the penthouses of inner-city Los Santos, Ramsey and his menagerie are working with some sort of shoebox apartment somewhere out in the boonies. It’d be downright sad if it wasn’t so funny.

It takes a bit of time to confirm but eventually it is universally agreed that the FAHC were no kind of threat, that Ramsey had totally lost his touch. Eventually everyone stops looking any deeper than the occasional check in following some amusing flop, more a dose of schadenfreude than any true threat analysis.  

So when the ripples start no one thinks much of it; the Fake AH Crew take out and run off a couple of little gangs, not a big deal – the dregs are always snapping at each other, pushing for more territory, if anything the Fakes are overdue. It only makes sense that they’ve started to run bigger jobs, and no one notices the way they’re now pulling them off effortlessly, with no sign of their previous ineptitude, the way they’re starting to make waves.

It’s more or less a fucking tsunami by the time the penny drops, the FAHC crashing in on other crew’s jobs, taking out their warehouses, hitting their bases; maybe whatever dump they’re holing up in isn’t glamorous but the overcrowded rat’s nest of the outer sectors’ of the city prevent anyone from repaying the favour and trailing the Fake’s back home. They’re clawing their way up the ladder with alarming speed, expanding their reach so rapidly it’s nearly impossible to keep track, and Ramsey watches over it all. Dressed to the nines in an extravagant suit to match his shiny new attitude, reserved control and smug satisfaction, already patting himself on the back, celebrating his perceived victory.

Something had to be done. Individual attacks are mounted, of course, but the FAHC have grown wily, have revealed themselves to be more of a threat than any had anticipated. The trust-fund baby stops fumbling and shows his fangs, their loose canon gets his hands on a seemingly endless supply of explosives and out of nowhere the questionable sniper never misses a shot. Indisputably the worst reveal of all, though, is the mercenary. Dropping his ridiculous fur coat and plastic masks for a jacket he wears like a second skin and a skull no one could mistake, his name whispered all over the city like a collective gasp, a shared curse; Vagabond.

So all of a sudden those in power in Los Santos found themselves with a hell of a fucking problem on their hands. It was getting out of control, they were losing everything, so they band together. Four of the most influential groups in Los Santos’ underbelly, usually at violent odds over contested territory but prepared to set it all aside until this matter is dealt with. Until the Fake AH Crew have been taught exactly what happens to upstarts in their city.

The plan, when they settle it, is a basic as can be: divide and conquer. If they can seperate the group, keep the two in charge occupied then tell the rest their leaders have fallen it will all be over. Clearly Ramsey’s got something of the Roosters in him still, and Jack is a goddamn demon when she’s protecting her boss, but the remainder of the crew will surely crumble under pressure.

As horrifying as he is the Vagabond is still a mercenary, is still driven by nothing more than money at the end of the day, and when he hears that his payday is gone his facsimile of loyalty is sure to follow. After that the kids won’t last long, cocky little shits or not once they’re all alone they’ll flee the city with their tails between their legs or die trying, and there there will only be two. Ramsey might have more bite left in him that they’d thought but he’s made no friends in this city, has no nearby allies to fall back on, and veteran’s of the business or not two people can’t hold up against entire gangs for long.

But, of course, it doesn’t exactly work out that way. It’s all going to plan, almost textbook, but the one thing no one took into account was the ludicrous ingenious of Geoff’s ability to play the long game.

See Geoff wasn’t wasting those early months, tiny hauls didn’t bother him at all because the target had never been the money. Geoff had money for days, for years in fact, what he need was a crew. A crew who knew each other’s every strength, flaw and habit, who’d dealt with living on top of each other; forced through sheer proximity to start lowering walls. The little jobs let them feel each other out without much consequence, find their rhythm as a group, test relationships under pressure, boredom and frustration. Maybe they hadn’t looked like much, had been intentionally avoiding showing their true colours, but Geoff made himself a crew who not only worked as one but had come to actually care for one another, trust each other and were, above all else, loyal. That’s the kind of connection no amount of money can buy, no degree of fearful respect can fake, and no mere threat can shake apart.

So when they say Geoff and Jack are gone, torn away right at the precipice of everything they had been working for, the reaction is somewhat less than desirable.  

When the Vagabond hears he doesn’t cut and run, doesn’t consider himself duty-free, an impartial witness to the death of a client. Ryan thinks liars, thinks no chance in hell, thinks kill them anyway. His knee-jerk reaction is to leap into action, relish in the wholesale murder he’s been putting off for months, but he isn’t just the Vagabond anymore. Ryan’s got the Lads to think about, standing a few steps behind him in a move they’ll surely mock him for later but it’s second nature now, trying to keep them safe. For a given definition of safe. The FAHC has given back a part of himself that he’d thought was lost forever, shattered bone-deep loneliness and rekindled joy and security and meaningless affection. Ryan would die before losing that all over again; he might be more than just the Vagabond but Ryan has never been particularly forgiving.

There’s a choked off sound from behind him and in that split second Ryan has a choice to make. Geoff would call their bluff, demand to see the bodies; Jack would tell the Lads to be smart, to think about the flaws in the story; the Vagabond would execute the threat for their insolence before slipping off into the night, but Ryan just takes a deep breath. Smiles his nastiest smile and steps to the side, waving the Lads forward with a jerk of his head, bracing himself for the carnage.

Because rather than breaking their will, when the Lads are told Geoff and Jack are gone they flip their goddamn shit. Gavin loves this crew unlike anything he has ever loved, emotions so fierce he’s surprised even himself, the found family he’d burn down the whole world to keep. Michael breathes loyalty, has always done, but his devotion has never been unquestioning obedience and the FAHC is the first crew who have rewarded his refusal to be a blind pawn; for all he huffs and complains Geoff has always welcomed intelligent debate, no matter how irreverently it’s proposed. And then there’s Ray, who’s learning that having a crew doesn’t require the sacrifice of independence, that leaning on others won’t always be a let down and sometimes coming down from his perch and getting amongst the action is worth the mess; it’s a work in progress but he’s not ready to lose it yet.

It doesn’t matter how implausibly convenient the boasting sounds, how easily calm heads could pick apart the lies; the thought alone is more than enough to have all three seeing red. Things were going to get messy no matter what, but Ryan’s explicit blessing was fuel on an already considerable fire, and they don’t hesitate tear past him and into the fray. Ryan follows, of course, and there’s something almost cathartic in it, an assassin amongst a hurricane of fury, infinitely more efficient alone but surprisingly proud of their merciless bloodbath, an amused artist cleaning up after enthusiastic students.

It’s Ryan who gets them moving again afterwards, when street’s have fallen quiet and there’s no one left to punish, feeling very much the responsible adult as he herds them down the road, a shepherd with a particularly murderous flock.

It doesn’t take them long to track down Geoff and Jack, alive and well and just finished cleaning up their own mess. Geoff’s suit, proudly protected from all but the slightest singeing despite this ordeal of a day, is completely written off when he’s tacked into a filthy hug, Jack graciously allowing herself to be drawn into the mess despite grumbling about her aching ribs as Ray and Ryan stand to the side and share a look that is as much look at what we have as it is look what we put up with. They’re all bloody and bruised and strung out on too much adrenaline and too little sleep but they’re back together, they’re all alive, and it still tastes like victory. Like succession.

With the city’s former top dogs burning in the street, an irrefutable display of terrifying talent to overwrite all past assumptions and a ruthless reputation that’s spreading father in every passing moment, the FAHC couldn’t be in a better position to claim ownership of Los Santos. The infamous City of Saints, safe-haven of sinners, bowing under one supreme power for the first time in it’s less than illustrious history, newfound royalty slipping in like poison and bringing the city to its knees.

4

gif/graphic tag game: favorite dw female character + favorite outfit (tagged by cooltennant)
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