sharp men

6

ユーリ!!! on Ice - TV & BD/DVD Comparison | episode 2

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The FAHC hear about Dan long before they meet him. Gavin rarely speaks about England, deflects questions of his past with practised ease, but what stories he does share are invariable entwined with Dan. The best friend from back home, childhood guardian, family of choice. Quite literal partner in crime.

The way Gavin tells it he and Dan had each other and little need for anyone else; a perfect partnership that carried them from childhood mishaps to petty crimes to full scale felonies. The story is never really told in full but it doesn’t take a genius to piece together that the two grew a little too adventurous for their own good, a little too cocky and sure of of their abilities, and someone took notice. Things got too dangerous so Dan signed up and shipped out and Gavin went remote; moving most of his dealings online, where he eventually caught Burnie’s eye, moved to the US and made his mark in Los Santos. It’s a simple enough conclusion if not a particularly glamorous one, and Gavin is still in regular contact with his old friend, occasionally sharing various updates with them all.

They know Dan’s ex-military, know he’s apparently an establish mercenary these days with a reputation of his own, but all this knowledge is hard to take seriously when it’s filtered through Gavin’s stories of loveable, puppyish best buddy Dan. The man who always followed Gavin’s lead without question, who’s never really been the brains but has always had Gavin’s back, who has Gavin chattering away on the phone at top speed, accent thick and unintelligible with a strong undercurrent of affection.

It’s hard not to feel some amusement when Gavin tells them all about Dan’s latest adventures, the wacky disasters and embellished-sounding achievements; it’s not that they think it’s a lie, exactly, but everyone knows how easy it is to be blinded by adoration and warm nostalgia, and by now they’ve all got a certain kind of image in their minds. Dependable sidekick Dan, friendly backup muscle Dan, maybe we should make sure someone over there is looking out for him Dan.

So when Gavin announces that Dan is finally visiting, buzzing about the penthouse like a hummingbird on speed, it really doesn’t cross anyone’s mind to be in any way concerned. To be anything other than mildly pleased at the chance to finally put a face to the name. Whenever Gavin spoke of him he’s been Dan or B or, when Gavin is particularly snippy, Daniel. Gavin’s never offered a last name and no one has ever pushed for one; other than the offer to keep an eye on the man, which Gavin laughed off, there’s really been no need.

An oversight Geoff quickly comes to regret when the man who turns up is definitely not what they were expecting. He’s got a nice face, sure, all smiles and laugh lines, no doubt flirting up a storm with every pretty girl he sees, but he’s physically intimidating, as tall and broad as Ryan, comparatively enormous when he squeezes Gavin into a bear hug. Anyone who’s looking can see all the tells of a very dangerous man, and Geoff is never not looking. He’s not the only one, Jack’s spine snapping ramrod straight while Michael and Jeremy hover closer to Gavin than strictly necessary, Ryan tensing in a flash of recognition that has him muttering a name at the same time as Dan introduces himself.

Not for one moment had anyone considered the possibility that Gavin’s Dan might turn out to be be Daniel Gruchy, the only known half of the SMG, the UK’s infamously untouchable fixer crew; known as much for their secrecy as for their skills in everything from the acquisition of delicate information to the acquirement of misplaced items and individuals.

Geoff is pretty sure there are some unsubstantiated rumours suggesting the crew has connections to a few of Europe’s more influential disappearances but he doesn’t know, had never really looked into it – wouldn’t have even known about SMG at all if not for the necessity of monitoring the balance of powers anywhere he does business. He hadn’t thought it was something the FAHC would ever have to worry about. Doesn’t rightfully know if they have to worry about it now, with an unknown mercenary in his hallway and his oblivious, emotionally-compromised frontman bouncing about half incoherent with excitement.

That is until Gavin pauses to take a breath, catches sight of Geoff’s shocked expression, and grins, sharp, smug and utterly vindictive. Of course. Of course Gavin is not only fully aware of what his friend does for a living but has intentionally withheld that information to leave the crew blindsided by the realisation. Chances are he knows exactly what kind of unflattering assumptions they’ve all been making about Dan’s character and this is merely his usual underhanded flavour of revenge. Perfect.

A battered duffle-bag is abandoned near the front door as Gavin drags them all into the living room, shoving Dan onto a couch and flopping down next to him, bossily poking and prodding in a way that really doesn’t seem advisable, if not for the easy familiarity between the two. Because even seated and exuding exhaustion Dan carries that familiar air of danger, coiled strength and resting violence, relaxed but carefully alert in the same way Ryan is never really shut down. The same way any predator is always watching for potential threats, yet there he sits, almost comically placid as he complies with Gavin’s every whim, and in an instant something clicks in Geoff’s mind.

Michael and Jeremy have already succumbed to temptation, eagerly pressing Dan for mortifying stories of Gavin’s youth, but if Ryan’s huff of surprise and Jack’s quiet little ‘huh’ are anything to go by then the Gent’s appear to be as in sync as always. A silent exchange of looks is enough to reach an agreement, raucous laughter and squawking protest following them down the hall as they slip into the privacy of Geoff’s office, Jack immediately grabbing the laptop while Geoff and Ryan get on their phones, each reaching out to any and all contacts they have across the pond as they try to work out what the fuck is happening.

Because Dan is the more recognisable face of the SMG, yes, but everyone knows he has a partner, the strategist to his raw strength; the mercenary and the mastermind. The few claimed descriptions of the unknown man vary so widely it’s clear there is some kind of body double nonsense at play but the few that match up ring more than enough bells to confirm their suspicions; lean, chatty, fastidiously put-together and smooth enough to out-charm the devil.

Honestly it’s not like it was any great secret that Gavin had some serious extra income, nor had they missed the way he occasionally spent his free time hunched over a computer, hard at work on something entirely unrelated to the FAHC, but no one had imagined anything quite on this scale. Had never considered that Gavin and Dan could have totally unrelated, equally time-consuming lives on different continents without ever disbanding their original crew. And there is a crew, a close-knit collection of trusted friends recruited to carry out the majority of the necessary physical aspects of the work, whose loyalty is only further affirmed by their hefty paycheques. They fill in for Gavin and Dan to keep the crew running day-to-day, maintaining the mystique of the unstoppable duo, keeping themselves nameless to flit about unseen and undisturbed; the phantoms of the SMG.

It’s absolutely ridiculous but the mounting evidence is undeniable. For all the faces Gavin wears for the FAHC it seems he has more still kept seperate, another slew of facets reserved for another life. An entire empire they’d known nothing about.  

Back in the living room and Gavin is still lamenting his choice in friends, Michael is distributing beers, Jeremy’s pulling out the Xbox and Dan is looking right back at Geoff. One eyebrow raised, a half-familiar smirk tugging at his lips and Gavin tucked comfortably close underneath his arm; it’s not a challenge, exactly, but it’s definitely a statement. Recognition that he knows that Geoff knows and is no less blatantly amused by the stir he’s caused than Gavin was before him.

It’s blindingly clear he is really not the idiot they had imagined, and honestly Geoff should have known better, they all should have known better. Should have remembered that Gavin could be the brains in just about any operation, that recognising his absurd brilliance was more a sign of intelligence than it was a display of stupidity. After all, there’s nothing at all stupid about the way the SMG has been managed, not when every contact has the same things to say about them: they’re discreet, they’re efficient, they’re consummate professionals, and if you cross them they will ruin you.

The SMG have a clear policy – all clients are vetted before a job is taken, once the job is taken it will be completed in full, all sensitive material remains confidential, and if any client attempts to deviate, deceive or in any way undermine the agreement the penalties will be swift, and they will be severe.

It’s a carefully cultivated reputation establishing the SMG firmly in the grey, the Switzerland of gang-warfare; taking jobs from whomever they please without repercussion for taking sides, simultaneously loyal to all and none of their clients. An inbuilt safety net, subtly ensuring that any possible threat their considerable skills can’t handle alone will likely be taken care of by a veritable army of regular employers with a vested interest in their continued ability to work.  It’s fucking genius, really.

More compelling still is the unavoidable implications of their line of work - the unspoken fallback plan of their insurmountable mountain of blackmail material. Violence, fear, that’s leverage in any timezone, but knowledge? Secrets and scandals and the kind of information that makes and breaks empires? That’s true power, and the SMG have been collecting it for years.