Playa (formally known as Nicolæ “Nicu” Anghelescu, later not known as anything other than titles, as anything more than an extension, manifestation, figurehead, of the gang they love) joins the Third Street Saints at twenty-one years old. they aren’t so much consumed by the gang as they are made by the gang; the Saints don’t eat up their old identity, they fill in the vacant part of Playa and make then into a person for the first time in longer than Playa cares to imagine.
within ten minutes of attending the first gang meeting, Playa has seen Johnny Gat. lieutenant, enforcer, loan shark, the predictable force of a violent nature. Johnny Gat sees them and calls for them to get the shit beaten out of them to justify their presence in the gang, and that’s all it takes for Playa to fall head over heels in love.
Johnny Gat isn’t so instantly impressed. he needs to see more than just a cocky kid to get his attention. it takes him time, but eventually he sees a kindred spirit in Playa. they’re best friends by the time Johnny nearly sacrifices himself to let Playa escape, when Playa is risking their own life to save him, and they’re inseperable by the time the Vice Kings are stamped out of the city.
they love each other, but they are not in love with each other. Playa’s feelings are tightly bound secret that they put away, along with their voice and their past, in a place no one knows about, until even Playa can pretend none of it existed in the first place. Johnny is too busy in love with someone else, a girl he’s willing to change himself and his whole life for, for the chance to keep her.
they have a friendship born out of blood and the love of it, but Playa is ripped away in freak circumstances that no one could see coming other than the man who did it, and the two are separated. Playa is gone for longer than their friendship lasted, but Johnny doesn’t let go. five years is a long time to hold onto the memory of a few months in the spring, but as the empire he helped build falls down around him, he clings to it.
Playa doesn’t come back the same; the Boss arrives, and wants to continue where they left off. five years is a long, long time, but to Boss it was no time at all, and Johnny is happy to erase the lost time. to make those in-between years into nothing more than a bad memory.
it’s a long, blood-soaked summer as the Saints wage war. Johnny and the Boss are unparalleled equals. there is no questioning their friendship now. both think the other is the greatest, the best of the best. they love each other. they are not in love with each other. Boss is as good as hiding their feelings as they have ever been, Johnny is in love with a woman who he was willing to rewrite himself for. she’s made him into a better person. Boss would never do anything to destroy that.
in the end, Boss doesn’t have to. she dies, and then it is just Boss, and Johnny, and a great sadness neither of them will ever know how to fix, which will exist between them and hold them apart the more they pretend it isn’t there at all.
they take back their city and they sail onto victory with a bright future ahead of them. the past will never leave them, but they have the whole rest of their lives to worry about, and your whole life is a very long time to be alone. they have each other.
the Saints-Ultor partnership flourishes. the money and the support and the fame flows thick and fast. Boss never falls for anyone else. neither does Johnny. the space between friend and lover fades away and after a while its just them in the greyness of their relationship; two people who love each other but never say it, fuck but never admit it, live and work and sleep together.
they don’t talk about existing in the grey; they’re a couple but not a couple, friends but more than that. Boss will wake up in the morning lying in Johnny’s arms, Johnny will make them breakfast at 1 in the afternoon, they will go home together after a long day of work and just exist in the same place, because being together makes them happy. for half a year they’re like this, happy to pretend there is nothing still wedged between them, and then Johnny dies.
his death changes everything but at the same time, it doesn’t change anything at all. Boss stood there and listened as their entire world ended and the impossible happened, but from that apocalyptic event, things kept turning. they wake up every day afterwards and the earth is spinning, the sun is rising, life is going on around them when by all rights everything should have stopped the moment Johnny died.
there’s no one else to fill the space he left. there was no one before Johnny and there’s no one after, it’s just that now Boss can see he was completing a part of them they didn’t know was incomplete. he’s dead, but they never believe it. they see him sometimes; in their dreams, but around them too. sometimes it’s so easy to believe he just stepped out of the room, sometimes it’s so easy to believe he’s just about to come back, that they do believe it. they just let themselves believe.
and against all the odds, they’re actually right. Johnny comes back to the Boss, and after over ten years of being together and being apart and being friends and being in love, holding onto secrets and sadness and unsaid things, fighting side-by-side and always believing in the power of each other above all else, they are finally together, and there is nothing left between them.