'I fuckin' hate selling out. Makes me wanna stab myself.'
Your hands are shaky. Have they ever been before?
It's 'cause you're drunk.
Shit, it's because you're on your seventh shot, and the process of getting hammered isn't an easy one—not even in a penthouse as massive as this.
You've gotten drunk in the past. Celebration, grief. Anger, disappointment.
Grief, grief, grief. So much of it, surrounding you as the blood of your brothers, your friends, fills the small room you are trapped in, and the puddle that once touched the tips of your toes has pooled all the way up to your eyes to the point where all you see, breathe and speak is red.
How many have died for this stupid fucking game of yours?
How many still do, and how many more are going to?
You've been shot before. Several times. The pain is always welcome to you; it's a thrill better than the cheap kinds like the drinks or the women, the men that occupy your bed for a night.
You've almost bled out before.
You've thought you're dying before, and you've imagined what it would be like, what you'd leave behind and what would succeed you in your absence.
The deaths of each of your friends breaks your heart little by little, and with each of their lives extinguished, you lose bits of control. Bits of morale.
Since when are gangsters empathetic? Your business is crime. Fuck everything. Make profit.
'...fuckin' hate sellin' out...''
Lots of new people wearing purple these days.
You're responsible for all them, and you wish you weren't, because each death deals the same kind of punch and your armor is cracked and you can only be their rock for so long.
If you're so strong, you shouldn't be sitting at the penthouse bar alone and drinking yourself into a blackout each night.
The Saints are in disarray; you are holding them up by sheer willpower, guiding and controlling and consoling Shaundi, who's as messed up as you've gotten.
No, no. Not just as messed up. She cried all the time. She was furious, but the redness of her eyes betrayed her often, even if she'd stubbornly try to blink it away.
You can't even cry.
Who ever saw you cry?
What, become the laughing stock of Steelport?
He would probably just grimace in disgust at the sight...
Not that this is exactly a more fitting coping mechanism, but it's better. The alcohol dulls the pain.
At least it's doing its best.
You still wish for stupid things, more so when the liquor seeps in along with the regrets.
Just buy whatever you want. Some expensive car. New clothes. Stop sulking in your fucking three-week-long-worn sweatpants and get some new fancy ass digi machine gun or whatever the fuck is on the market right now, take out the anger on the ones who've caused you all this confusion and fuckin' move on. 'Ain't nothin' a bit of violence won't solve', right, Johnny?
You swallow hard, staring at the whiskey glass in your hand.
Pretty sure you're gonna break it if you keep squeezing it like that.
Let go, and you'll have to watch your hand shake.
Pain or humiliation? At least the former will offer a temporary distraction from the reality of all of this.
You're drinking because you've lost your friend.
What's another dead friend? Another life lost to protect you?
You wish you'd just taken after your father and stayed in the military academy you'd been shipped off to as a teenager. Joined the army, died somewhere insignificant and for some stupid just cause.
Things would be so different then. Would the Saints even exist?
Would Shaundi have joined them?
Your relationship always was undefined. Bickered like siblings, bound like it's what you were.
Friends, but then not, because you liked her newfound sharpness and strength as much as it pained you to see so much sorrow in her eyes.
You used to be able to rely on her ability to talk you down, get you to chill out. Relax and breathe. Think for a change. The same worked for her, too. Safety net.
But this wasn't something you could be saved from, and neither could she.
A part of you is angry at her, for not realizing what a terrible loss it is to not have Gat here in the same way you were seeing it.
Her and Pierce; it's like they couldn't get it, get that you'd lost such a big part of yourself with him that you almost didn't even know who you are now.
He's always just kind of been there.
Murderous intent, whatever. Snarky comments, lack of patience for your initial shy silence, later mild annoyance over your senseless rambling.
You hated how stupidly stubborn he could be, and how he'd put himself in danger when you'd have gladly done it first to keep him safe.
Some of his jokes were awful.
The rasp in his voice never was.
You should've told him then, when you were both drunk and playing pool, and instead of focusing on the game, seeing how blatantly he'd been missing, you watched his arms flex, his expression grow tight with focus, his fingers curl and straighten around the cue he held.
Should've just went up and said it.
Gat had Aisha.
Way back then, he had a woman.
That's what stopped you. You couldn't tell what his reaction would be.
An amused snort, 'fuck off.'
A look of concern. 'Shit, how much did ya drink again?'
Annoyance at best. Anger at worst. 'What the fuck, boss. You know I don't swing that way.'
The words are fabricated by your own mind, but you can't shake the taste they leave in your mouth all the same.
Would've been humiliating, and your little ego is so fragile.
Plus, he could've just decked you in response. What the fuck does he care. You're not the boss of him.
Still, what if...
What if you weren't so fucking stupid, hah.
The sound is almost startling. It takes you a moment to even recognize the voice as your own.
"Hahahaha..." You throw your head back. The glass slips through your fingers, and breaks against the floor tiles. You can't even hear it shatter, overwhelmed by how it's you that fills the empty room with noise. "Ahahahah..."
Your laughter grows louder.
Your hands move to wipe at your eyes, fingers brushing against the damp skin of your cheekbones.
You're crying. You're laughing?
Missing him hurts more than any wound you've suffered, worse than the abuse your foster parents put you through.
"Ahah, what the fuck..."
You shift forward in your stool, and slowly fold your arms over the bar counter to lay your head in 'em.
Your laughter is dwindling down into something dry, something voiceless.
"What the fuck am I..."
The urge to bite, squeeze, claw or shoot or stab or kick or hurt is overwhelming to the point where your body trembles. "What am I gonna do without you...?"
You're nothing but a pebble compared to Johnny Gat. Your rock.
Your fuckin' idol. Best friend. Best friend.
Just come back, yeah? Just come back from wherever you ended up in this moment, regain composure, regain control.
You're not nothing, but you're not whole, either. Right now you feel like a hollow man sitting by himself in grief and anger, and it won't change unless you force it.
Can you? Will you?
Revenge should be the first step. Shaundi is right.
Yeah. Hurt them for how they've hurt her.
Do it for Shaundi, and Kinzie and Pierce and the Saints and all the others who depend on your stability to get them through all this in one piece.
You take the risks so they never have to. You'll take more now, so they can't get hurt even in the passing.
If you die in the process, at least you'll meet Gat in hell.
Maybe then you can tell him what you haven't been able to say for over fifteen years.
He can't kill you twice.