Chapter 1: One
"Wolf could've properly measured that C4 in his goddamn sleep! The hell did you need this little bastard for?" Dallas shook his head at the comment and glanced warily towards chains, who sat stiffly on the floor to properly care for Hoxton's injured leg.
"Look, I know how you must feel about this, but he knows what he's doing. None of us would've known that the C4 would-"
"The fucker was probably trying to blow my fuckin' head off to stay my replacement. I'm sure he's real proud he can replace little ol' me so damn easy, and nobody bats a fuckin' eye!" Dallas' face turns a bit red, eyes wide with offense. He wasn't sure what was worse, Hoxton accusing his brother of trying to kill him, or Hoxton accusing him of not truly caring. He choose to address the latter.
"We tried to get you out since you first got taken in! There were no oppurtunities, even though we looked for every possible way to bust you out! Hell, I would've stormed the damn place and gotten myself fucking killed if Chains hadn't stopped me!"
"Yeah, and then you replaced me completely with some dumb little twat who can't measure C4 or get his own fuckin' mask!" Hoxton hissed at Dallas, flinching as Chains tightly wrapped a proper bandage around his leg with an annoyed sigh.
"Look, he - Houston wasn't supposed to replace you, man. We needed a fourth person for heists, and we couldn't go quiet until we got you back - we didn't know how long it'd take! We just wanted Houston to help us out, right Hous-...?" Chains slowly trailed off as he glanced towards the now empty doorway, the ghost now missing from the room. Chains fell quiet and shook his head, making a mental note to find Houston after he finished checking Hoxton for injuries and tell him Hoxton didn't mean it.
Houston knew it was a well-meant lie.
Chapter 2: Two
Houston is on the fine line of feeling selfish and feeling entitled to anger, and it's an ugly struggle for balance.
Sorry it took so long I'm stupid tm
Houston took another long, solemn sip of his beer, eyes downcast and focused on the marble countertop his free hand rested on. It had been almost two weeks since they’d gotten Hoxton back, and things hadn’t gotten much easier for Houston since then. His self doubt was growing, despite knowing for a fact that he was a productive member of the team. He felt like he didn’t belong anymore, not with Hoxton’s snide remarks and Dallas’ disappointed looks when he shot back at the englishman. It was infuriating watching his brother picks favorites, and suddenly going to him with his problems was out of the question.
Going to Chains seemed like a good idea at first, but after a half hearted first attempt, Houston found that Chains often went right back to Dallas with anything he had complained about. It became clear that the only other person he could try talking to was Wolf, and it felt like a bad idea from the start. Wolf was Hoxton’s best friend, they had an unbreakable bond and Wolf had become far more happy after Hoxton returned - was he this cheery before Hoxton got caught? Houston realized his choices were to stay as miserable as he felt now, or risk getting lectured again. Neither felt like particularly good options, but Wolf was his last hope. Maybe he wasn’t seeing the big picture, and Hoxton had an actual reason for hating him. He downed the remainder of his beer and began his walk to Wolf’s workshop, heartbeat quickening a bit. What would he do if this didn’t work? The insults weren’t always particularly malicious to him, but he couldn’t lie and say that it didn’t affect him. Houston could only take so much mockery, and he could feel his patience getting thin with each jab thrown towards him. It was embarrassing how much he cared about something so small, honestly - that was one of the biggest reasons he couldn’t be honest with anyone. Houston was certain if he mentioned his feelings he'd be seen as a joke to the whole crew, and God knows what kind of mockery he'd endure then. If he was kept in the gang, that is. Houston shook his head in frustration and sighed as his footsteps stopped directly outside of Wolf’s workshop. For a moment he considered turning on his tail and pretending he’d never dared to approach, but his pride pushed him into the room and parted his lips slowly.
“Wolf.” His voice sounded strange, almost alien with how forced it was. Wolf turned to stare, a curious eyebrow raised at the ghost. Houston cleared his throat and slowly walked further into the room.
“You're not busy right now, are you?” What a stupid question, Houston thought. There wasn't a moment Wolf spent in that chair that was meant to be leisurely.
“I’m not busy,” Wolf said slowly, cocking his head to the side in dog-like confusion. “Do you need something?” Houston took a deep breath.
“Why is Hoxton such a prick?” Wolf blinked, eyebrows raised in surprise. Houston huffed and quickly raised his hands in defense. “Shit— I didn't mean that. Well, I did—” he stopped and took a moment to breathe and articulate his stupid thoughts.
“Okay. Why is Hoxton such a prick- to me. Me specifically. Like, a real reason, not whatever bullshit he talks about whenever I'm in fuckin’ earshot.” Wolf’s expression remained the same, still processing the words and the emotion laced behind them.
“Are you upset?” Wolf asked, and he sat up a bit straighter. When Houston glared, Wolf averted his eyes quickly and nodded. “You're upset.” He stood from his stool and took a moment to brush his clothes off. His shirt was wrinkled from slouching and greasy from his drill work, but it seemed to fit him more than clean white tees ever could.
“He doesn't mean it.”
“You don't say that shit for fun, Wolf.” Houston felt guilty watching his teammate struggle for words. He knew Wolf was bad at speaking and socializing in general, but he hadn't considered it coming down to dump all this onto him.
“Hox is havin’ a hard time, ‘s all. He tells me everything, but he won't tell me about...about this.” Wolf fidgeted. Houston stepped closer, eyes narrowing in confusion.
“He won’t tell you why he hates me?” Wolf shook his head sadly.
“He won’t tell me about prison. I only know what I've seen in TV shows, and even then it's not very nice.” Houston ducked his head. How had he not factored that in? He was definitely a selfish person, but how had he neglected to consider that Hoxton’s sour behavior had to do with his two years of prison time? He turned around and headed for the doorway. If this conversation had been a fight, he would have lost. Wolf was quiet until Houston was practically out of the room, but chirped up quietly while Houston could still hear.
“He doesn't hate you. I don't think he can.”
Houston couldn't sleep that night. He had a lot of thinking to do.