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unconventional happiness

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Troy wouldn’t say that he lives the most exciting life in Los Santos. From the stories he’s heard, he can take a pretty safe guess and say his life is far from what a lot of other citizens would deem ‘exciting’. He has his jobs, nice cars, his friends, a colorful collection of acquaintances; enough to lead a more than interesting life. But in Los Santos, a city filled with so much crime, a normal interesting life is hard to seem like enough.

But he has his own things to spice up his life. Troy has his job at Burgershot, and there is rarely ever a dull moment. Whether it be from his coworkers like Sherry or Jimmy, or from the revolving door of eclectic customers, there is always something to fill his days. There’s also his best friend, Steven. They’ve had their ups and downs, but in the end, Troy knows he can count on him. Now, at least. He can count on him now. 

The fight they had over Grognak when they first became friends was … Oh, it got nasty at times. Nearly deadly, even. But in the end, they buried the hatchet with a hug and the promise to respect whatever Grognak decided on. But sometimes, late at night, Troy swears he can still feel Steven’s embrace, can still feel the other man’s heart beat against his own chest. Sometimes he dreams of every look, every accidental brush of hands, every smile, every of the many compliments and jokes. They play on repeat in his head and they just refuse to stop.

Troy packs those feelings quietly away, refuses to let them properly blossom in his chest. His heart belongs to Grognak the Destroyer, Attorney at Law. If he entertained those feelings, what would he do then? He’s worked so hard to win Grognak’s affection, to really win it, but any stray feelings for anyone else had the potential to completely destroy what they currently have. 

And Troy loves Grognak, he really does. When she smiles at him, it feels like the world rights itself. She’s so inquisitive and curious about everything, even when explanations at times seem simple. She’s wonderful, beautiful, fun, chaotic, everything Troy has been chasing for so long now and she’s finally within reach. But sometimes... sometimes those other feelings creep their head around the corner and it all makes Troy feel so frustrated. Why does it not feel like enough? Why does hearing his friend’s familiar phone greeting make him smile so much? Is it him, is there something wrong with him? 

He zones out as he makes fries in the back of the main Burgershot location. The feelings make his head spin and he can’t think, not quite. He stares down at the fries and does his part like clockwork. Repetitive motions, though comforting to Troy, are an easy way to drown in his thoughts, this spiral that he’s fallen into again and again. And they’re overwhelming, he feels like he’s been caught in the undertow. Or like he could somehow be on the precipice of something, like he’s hanging on the edge of a cliff. 

The world comes sharply back into focus as he hears a familiar voice sputtering from the counter. His friend is talking, tripping over his own words, stuttering and rephrasing. Troy follows the sound like it’s a siren calling out to him. 

In his head, it feels like slow motion. The door swings open in front of him and he stares at the sight of Grognak, his dear beloved Grognak the Destroyer, Attorney at Law, and his friend Steven. Steven is desperately giving excuses as to why he needs to stay at Burgershot, while Grognak is desperately convincing him to go.

In his heart, in his mind, he feels like he can’t pass this up. Troy tells himself that it’s just because they both mean a lot to him, and nothing else. He ignores the smile that lights up his features and the way his heart speeds up in his chest. Troy’s eyes soften behind his sunglasses as he watches Grognak talk to Steven, pointing at him with her arm outstretched and then pointing more insistently outside. 

It’s not everyday that Grognak is running around outside in Los Santos, so Troy really is genuinely thrilled to see her. Sometimes he doesn’t get to see her for weeks, on hellish occasions months. During those times, it's so hard to stop thinking about her. He can’t stop imagining her voice, her earnesty, her kindness. Because of that, whenever Troy sees Grognak running around and laughing and talking with her friends it feels akin to the feeling he gets when he watches the sunrise over the ocean on the east end of the island. It pulls all the breath out of his chest and he’s unable to tear his eyes away. 

He greets her first. “Hi Grognak,” Troy greets, sneaking up behind Steven and making him exclaim in surprise. He smiles more wryly at his friend, a chuckle bubbling out of his mouth at the other man’s surprise, “Hey Steven.”

Steven gives him this helpless little look. His eyebrows turn upward, but he doesn’t stop doing the wide gestures he always does when he’s talking. “Mr. Troy! It’s great to see you!” He briefly turns his attention back to Grognak and Troy feels it in his chest when he turns away, “Look Grognak the Destroyer, Attorney at Law! Mr. Troy is here and would probably be,” He laughs nervously mid-word, “more than happy to take you off to do whatever it is that you want to do.”

“Troy!” Grognak gushes, ecstatic and mushy in that way only she can pull off. To Troy, it sounds like her voice is as sweet as honey and dripping tangibly with affection. She places her hands firmly onto the counter and leans just a little forward. “Oh, Troy! It’s been so long since I’ve seen you! For a moment, I thought I forgot you, but I didn’t! Amnosia is quite a confusing illness. Contagious, too. You might want to get tested for it at some point, Steve.”

“Oh god,” Steven mutters, absolutely horrified. He bangs the side of his wrist against his head a few times, as if it will help him keep his memory. Impressively, the hat doesn’t fall from the top of his head. Troy watches them interact with this fluttering, happy feeling inside of him. It’s near the sensation of butterflies, but rather than in his stomach it’s right inside his chest. With every beat of its wings is another beat of his heart and eventually the feeling moves upward and out his throat as laughter. He moves one of his hands to cover his mouth and Steven sends him a disapproving, pouting look.

“Come on, Steven. You too, Troy!” Grognak straightens back out. She spins around, arms wide out as she twirls herself around in her pair of bright red stilettos. “There’s a whole wide Los Santos out there! I’ve barely seen any of it!” She sets her hands on her hips, and there’s a crease in her face, a tightening that would mean a furrowing of her brow bone. She brings one hand up and begins to count off of it. “I’ve seen Burgershot, the pier, the apartments, the top of the crane, the top of Mt. Chiliad,” She trails off as she thinks. Under her breath, she mutters a few more places Troy can’t quite make out from his vantage point across the counter. “Point is,” she veers back on topic, “I’ve barely seen any of this city. Unlike Steven, who’s probably been everywhere. Leave me have a go at it, Steven!”

Steven rubs the back of his neck quite sheepishly. “Leave you have a go at what? Do you want us to leave?”

“Yes!” Grognak motions out the door with great over-exaggerated deliberate movements. “I want to be shown around the city.”

Troy gives a helpless little smile at her. While his two … - While Steven and Grognak begin to argue about regional dialect, the city, anything they could really, Troy just watches them. Completely enraptured by their interaction. There’s something about watching them interact that just seems so natural to him. For a minute he feels like he’s being left behind, like they’re going to move on without him and he just can’t handle that. So he butts in and makes himself known before he could be forgotten, “I, uh, I don’t know, Steven. I think that we should take her to see some of the sights.” 

Steven and Grognak turn to him nearly in sync. Grognak looks delighted, her features on her face brightening up instantly. “Troy!” She exclaims, “Thank you!”

Steven also looks fairly grateful for the intrusion. “Well, this is perfect! Mr. Troy could show you around the city, Grognak the Destroyer, Attorney at Law!” He turns away from Grognak and lowers his voice down a few notches. He sets his hand on Troy’s shoulder and shakes it a little, and Troy tries his hardest to ignore the warmth that seeps through his hand and into his bones. “Plus,” he whispers, “this would be a perfect time to take Grognak the Destroyer, Attorney at Law out on that date.”

Troy brings his hand up so he can hold his chin as he thinks. “That’s a good point,” He turns his head back to Grognak now. She is now talking to another person in the Burgershot, occasionally pointing at the two men behind the counter. “It would be a good time for that date. Since I didn’t get to go on it last time.”

The edges of Steven’s lips quirk upwards. His eyes narrow, just a little, and it reminds Troy of a hunter animal that’s found it’s prey. Troy feels completely caught by it. “Exactly, Mr. Troy,” Steven rumbles with that smooth voice of his, “exactly.”

“Ste-eee-ven,” Grognak suddenly yells, obviously frustrated at how long they’re taking. Both Troy and Steven jump at how loud she’s projecting her voice, “Steven, come on! We have things to do!” She turns back to the person that she’s talking to, a sigh coming from her as she shakes her head. “You have to forgive Steve, he can be so stubborn sometimes.”

Troy glances at his friend. “It seems like, uh, like she really wants you to go.”

Steven screws his eyes closed for a few seconds and lets out a long-suffering sigh. He tilts his head back and looks up to the ceiling of the Burgershot. “Why does this always happen to me? What have I done to deserve this?” He closes his eyes again, digs the heel on his palm into his eyes, and lets out a long breath through his nose. His shoulders slump a little as he looks back down at Troy. “Alright. But we’re not taking the Cheburek,” He sniffles as he ducks his head a little, “My poor Chebby has been through too much hell.”

Troy laughs as he leads him through the back of the Burgershot. “That’s fine, Steven! We can take my taxi.”

When they come out from behind the counter, Grognak grins at them. It feels like coming home to Troy, as nice as breathing crisp, fresh air. He smiles back unwittingly. He walks up to her, staring at her like she is the moon in the sky. “We’re ready, Grognak.”

Grognak’s brow bone raises in an amazed surprise. She claps, obviously delighted. “Great job, Troy!” Her praise makes Troy warm from the inside out. He feels a little like a teenage girl, pining over his long term crush. “I was afraid I was going to have to go back there and drag Steven out myself. I can do that! I work here.”

Troy gives a timid, yet exhilarated laugh. “He’s coming with us, don’t worry Grog. We’re going to be taking my car, though. Steven said his car is off limits.”

Grognak pouts a little and peers around him, over at Steven. Troy really loves all of her expressions, adores everything about her honestly. She just seems so free spirited and alive. Her life is so colorful with shades and hues deeper and he’s ever seen. Troy wonders if her colors would rub off on him, too. “Aw, but your little car is so cute, Steven,” She nods, seeming to comprehend his reasoning, “I understand, though. You are so irresponsible with it.”

Troy laughs as he leads them all out to his taxi. He gets in the driver’s seat, with Grognak at his side and Steven in the backseat. It feels nice, and natural. Everything about this does, for some reason. He pulls slowly out of the parking lot of Burgershot and starts down the road that would take them all down to the pier. He rolls down the windows so that they can feel the ocean breeze on their skin and smell the scent of the sea salt in the air. He speeds down the highway and he can hear Steven’s occasional screaming and Grognak whooping and hollering and Troy feels so alive and invigorated. The evening is fresh and his mind feels so clear.

He has a plan. Though it was haphazardly formed when he got in the car, it’s slowly becoming more realized. It would be a long drive, but he wants Grognak to see one of his favorite things in the city. He wants to share that with Steven and Grognak- Or, um, just Grognak. The person he has been pining over, Grognak. He really wants to share the sights with her, and it could just be as simple as that. (It isn’t that simple, not really, but Troy can deny anything else. That would be the easiest solution, anyways, so he tells himself it's the right one.)

Troy can hear some song on the radio, about running away with the people important to you. Grognak leans forward and turns the volume all the way up. Her singing voice as she croans the lyrics is nicer than Troy thought it would be, he can see why she believes she has such a good chance in the music industry. Idly, as if she wasn’t even thinking about it, she slides her hand into the hand Troy isn’t using to drive and intertwines their fingers together. Her touch feels electric and he feels bright, bright, bright.

If Troy listens intently he can hear Steven humming the song along with Grognak. She spins in her seat and grins at him. Troy’s eyes flicker to the rearview mirror long enough to see Steven flush and smile back at her. There’s a feeling Troy can’t place correctly. Well, he can actually. There’s a small bit of jealousy that makes him inhale deep through his nose. But he can’t place why he’s feeling the jealousy or what it’s toward.

“I haven’t been in the city for a while,” Grognak comments while tilting her head at Steven. She squeezes Troy’s hand as she continues, “It’s good to see you.”

“Yeah?” Steven sounds so hopeful, and it pains Troy a little bit. He wishes that Steven would sound that hopeful to talk to-. No, what is he saying? He squeezes Grognak’s hand back and ignores the ugly fuzzy feelings in his chest. “Yeah, well! It’s good to see you too, my dear. You look nice,” Steven says, voice filled with some odd sort of affection. “I mean! It looks nice! The city! That’s what I meant the whole time, obviously!” Steven gives a loud nervous laugh. Troy can practically see Steven gesturing wildly with his hands, but he can’t turn around to check his hypothesis because he has to keep his eyes on the road.

Grognak’s free hand lands on Steven’s knee. “You look nice, too!” She rights herself in her seat and looks right at Troy. “Troy looks nice.” Troy grins to himself, feeling extremely giddy just from the compliment from Grognak. It’s as if her just saying anything to him could right all of the wrongs in his world.

Steven makes another nervous noise, but one of agreement this time. “I- Well, I suppose you’re right! Mr. Troy does look quite nice today. Quite, uh, quite romanceable if I do say so myself.” He clears his throat and Troy looks in the rearview mirror again to see him very visibly flustered. It makes Troy’s heart beat fast.

He feels so giddy and light and warm as he slowly glides his taxi into a small parking lot off the side of the highway. It’s commonly used as a starting point for street races, but considering it’s spot in the mountains overlooking all of Los Santos, Troy couldn’t think of a better place to take Grognak and Steven to see the beautiful sights of the city. Over to the west the sun is dipping down into the waves reflecting a bright, vibrant reddish orange into the water as it fades into a lighter hue - the shade of Grognak’s glasses - and mixes with pinks and eventually purples and then, furthest from the sea and highest in the sky, a dark blue. 

Beside him, Steven’s breath audibly hitches. “You know, Mr. Troy. All this time in Los Santos and I don’t think I’ve ever really stopped to look,” He turns to Troy, the warm light bathing the side of his face and the shadows are harsh but his face, his expression is so soft, “it’s beautiful.”

It is, but Troy doesn’t know if they’re talking about the same things. 

“Is it?” Troy asks, almost timidly, “You wanna be here right now? With Grog and I?”

“Ya ya ya,” Steven uses his iconic catchphrase to guarantee him. A genuine smile fills his face as he gestures to himself with his entire arm, “I can assure you, Mr. Troy, there is nowhere I’d rather be right now that with you and Grognak the Destroyer, Attorney at Law.”

In front of them, Grognak sits down at the railing and lets her legs dangle off the side of the mountain. She’s facing away from Troy and Steven, outlined in orange. She looks beautiful, like always, but there’s something about this lighting and situation that elevates that beauty into something ethereal and nameless. “Well isn’t this just lovely,” Grognak says breathlessly. Troy doesn’t think he’s ever heard her sound like that before; he wants to hear every faucet of Grognak’s voice, he decides at that moment. “I mean, not really what I meant back at Burgershot, but still a wonderful sight nonetheless!”

Troy doesn’t think there is anywhere in the world he would rather be right now. He could live one thousand different lives, go through a million different experiences and he would still remember today. Steven and Grognak and the sunset and the ocean breeze. They’ll be forever burned into his mind and soul and heart.

Steven looks between Grognak and Troy a few times in a conspiratorial way. He nudges Troy softly with his elbow. “I’m no expert with women, and I’m certainly no expert with Grognak the Destroyer, Attorney at Law, but I think that now would be a good time to confess to her.”

Before Troy can get out an earnest little ‘yeah, you think so?’ there is a loud gasp that interrupts him. Both of the men jump, and Grognak has turned to look at them. Her expression is unreadable. “Steven are you trying to confess,” She pauses for dramatic effect, and Troy hates how well it works to make his heart worriedly speed up, “to Troy?!”

“Oh, what?” Steven says.

“What?” Troy parrots.

Grognak pulls herself off the side of the cliff and approaches them. As she gets closer, Troy can see that she actually looks delighted. “Well, now would be a great time for it, Steven! I knew,” She raises her hand to shake her finger at them, a sly smile playing on her lips, “I knew that there was something going on with you two. I could see it!”

Troy shakes his head and takes a step closer to Grognak. “No, no, Grog-”

“Grognak the Destroyer, Attorney at Law.”

“Steven wasn’t trying to confess to me, he was saying that I should confess to you,” He finishes. His heart is beating out of his chest as he continues, trying his hardest not to trip over his words as he goes. “Because I, uh, well, I really like you. I think about you, like, all the time,” his words roll into a little bout of laughter, more out of nervousness than actually finding the situation comedic, “I would do anything for you, Grognak.”

Grognak’s amazement and delight melts a little. Her smile softens and she laughs. “I already knew that, Troy. It was very obvious.” She steps a little closer, “I like you too!” After a beat, though, she points past him, over at Steven. “But, I also like Steven! So if you liked Steven, that would have been the best situation for me, Grognak the Destroyer, Attorney at Law. And I figured, after you went on a date with Lil Cap and I, you would be open to going out with Steven and I.”

The cogs in Troy’s mind are trying their hardest to connect what this means for him. He likes Grognak. Grognak is aware of this and likes him back. Grognak also likes Steven, and if he hadn’t changed his mind, Steven likes Grognak. Grognak wanted to know if Steven and Troy wanted to date. She is not only fine with Troy's ambiguously romantic feelings toward Steven, she was actively rooting for this outcome. Grognak was fine with him liking Steven. There was nothing wrong with him this entire time.

Troy turns to Steven, breath caught in his throat. He can’t talk, not until he knows what Steven thinks. Steven looks between them a few times, eyes wide. He’s frozen like a deer in the headlights for a few moments. “I, I, I can assure you, sir, I had nothing to do with this! I had no idea she was going to do or say any of that and I- We-” He keeps starting and abandoning sentences and he’s not able to actually get anything out at all.

Grognak ignores it all and continues to try to pull a reaction out of him. “Well? What do you think about dating Troy and I? As a package deal,” She puts her arm around Troy’s waist, and he makes a high pitched nervous noise, “You can’t have one without the other.”

“Wel, I mean, I- Uh, well,” Steven tries again for a few more seconds before falling very quiet. “I would like that, I think. Dating you and Mr. Troy.”

And Troy’s whole world lights up. The sun has gone down now, the only actual light around them is coming from the lights from the city below them but Troy has never felt brighter and lighter in his life. He lets out a breath. “Yeah, yeah, I think I would like that too.” And he and Steven hold eye contact and it feels like he’s drowning a little, caught in the undertow in a completely different way than before. But he’s not going to resurface for air. “Honestly, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about Steven romantically.”

Grognak retracts her arm to clap at them. “Wonderful!” She cheers. “Then let’s go on our first date!” She herds her boyfriends into Troy’s car. Troy takes a moment longer to marvel at the sight of the lights of Los Santos below him. The ever present lights are twinkling like stars even despite the absence of any actual stars because of light pollution. “To Burgershot!” Grognak announces as they get back onto the highway.

“Mr. Troy and I do eat there for free, because we’re employees,” Steven points out, even though he probably knows that it will fall onto deaf ears. 

“Oh, perfect! Less money that needs to be spent!”

Troy smiles but keeps his eyes on the road and his hands on the wheel even as he asks. “So, Steven… How about that tutu?” It’s hard to keep his focus on the road, because he’s laughing at the long, loud, groan Steven lets out. 

His heart feels full and he feels so relieved. This was a better outcome than he could have ever imagined. Their dynamics have shifted, just a little, but it is a change that Troy is so, so, ready for. This make-shift, unconventional happiness is their and theirs only. And Troy wouldn’t have it any other way.