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Hoxton hears a WHAT

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Hoxton sighed and stretched, his limbs and joints popping in a way that was deliciously satisfying. 

 

No longer was he in prison, his every misstep monitored and punished by overzealous prison guards and angry inmates. Yes, as a member of the Payday gang he had to work within boundaries, getting the job done as Bain or the contractor in question wanted him to, but thievery and killing were things Hoxton not only excelled at, but enjoyed. To him, a good day was one where he disgraced and humiliated the authorities either loudly or stealthily, and then got to go home and be around like-minded individuals. Best of all was when those people didn’t give two shits about how fucking good it felt to get revenge, or kill, or swindle. Back in prison, even the simple act of stretching would be noted and commented on by others, ensuring that even Hoxton’s body was essentially under their control and not his own. So, yes - he took enjoying his freedom very, very seriously.

 

It had been another good day. He, Dallas, Wolf and Sokol had been on a quick but satisfying bank robbery, lifting money, gold and valuable trinkets from the vault. The job was done cleanly, each of the four men playing their part perfectly, professionally. It filled Hoxton with pride to be amongst such skilled individuals.

 

The rest of the day had gone nicely, too. Hoxton and Dallas situated themselves in their top-floor office space, working on their own projects and chatting from time-to-time. Dallas had left the Safehouse a short while ago, promising Chinese food and beer upon his return. Where the rest of the Safehouse’s occupants were, Hoxton wasn’t sure - but he knew that Sokol and Wolf were drinking and chatting in the top-floor dining area. Hoxton could hear their conversation as both men were now a few drinks in and speaking more freely, which for some reason meant they were being noisier. 

 

It was particularly endearing when he heard Wolf’s Swedish accent become more pronounced the more he drank, and noticed that Sokol’s Russian lilt also became heavier. Grinning, he stepped inside Clover’s security centre to peek in on their condition - it was a shorter walk than actually going out to them to take a look for himself, and Hoxton was feeling lazy. Besides, it might be funny to eavesdrop for a minute or two - Wolf said the funniest shit when drunk. 

 

The grainy screens showed the extent of the mens’ drunkenness. Wolf had stuck his bottle of Absolut vodka into a bowl full of ice cubes to keep it cool, and to avoid traipsing to the fridge to refill his glass. Hoxton’s grin widened, his scars pulling and stretching tightly across his cheek - judging from how he was sat, slumped slightly, shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbow and his tie nowhere to be seen, Wolf was definitely tipsy. He couldn’t be too sure about Sokol’s state by virtue of not knowing him well enough - but the Russian’s pale face seemed, even on the grainy camera footage, a little flushed. Not really thinking about what he was doing, Hoxton watched the screen and listened to the men’s conversation.

 

“So,” Sokol said, and Hoxton heard the distinct pouring of liquid into a glass, “is this the part where we talk about our love lifes?”

 

Sokol’s grasp of English grammar was not as good as Wolf’s, Hoxton noticed, never truly appreciating until that moment how Wolf was practically native-level in his second language. Wolf was one smart fella, alright. 

 

“What love lives?”

 

“Exactly,” Sokol replied sourly. Hoxton heard the Russian sigh, saw him slap a palm to his forehead on the live-feed. “In Russia, girls, guys - all over me! Here, I’m nobody.”

 

Despite himself, Hoxton smirked a little at Sokol’s complaints. Wolf didn’t respond immediately on account of him drinking from his own glass, before eventually commenting, “It’s impossible to have a relationship with someone on the outside of all this. I know Chains tried before. It, ah… didn’t go too well. I think he broke it off when she got suspicious about all the bruises and the weird working hours.”

 

Sokol grumbled, shaking his head. “That’s my problem. So that just leaves us guys!” Hoxton watched the grinder open his arms, the gesture undoubtedly indicating the Payday gang, or at least those in the inner circle of Crime.Net.

 

Wolf tutted and drank. The Swede could put away a fair amount of alcohol before reaching his limit, becoming sick and incapacitated the following day, but even Hoxton was surprised at how much his friend was putting away. Was Sokol a bad influence on him? Was he trying to cover some unfortunate feeling, something that had upset him? Hoxton frowned, but was ultimately unable to think of something that could have disturbed the precarious balance of things inside Wolf’s head.

 

Hoxton tuned back to what was happening in real-time as Sokol began talking again. Excitement made him speak more quickly, and his words were slightly slurred.

 

“Okay okay, so - if you had to date anyone in the Safehouse or from Crime.Net… who would it be?” Sokol’s tone was light, playful. It wasn’t supposed to be a serious question - it was the kind of thing teens ask each other in starlit fields, clutching half-drunk bottles of cheap and sugary alcohol and sharing cigarettes. The Russian’s grin indicated that he was not expecting a heartfelt reply.

 

Wolf however did not interpret the question in a lighthearted or carefree way. In fact, his head bent, and a sad look swept the drunken pleasure clean off his face. Clearly, this issue was something the Swede took incredibly seriously, and had Hoxton been sitting with the two men, he might have intervened, taking the pressure off his friend to reply.

 

If he had, he wouldn’t have learned Wolf’s secret.

 

“Hoxton,” Wolf said quietly. In fact, it was so quiet, the Brit wasn’t sure he’d even heard the man correctly, but a gasp and noisy exclamation from Sokol of, “Hoxton?!” immediately followed by a swift hand clamping over the Russian’s mouth confirmed it, and his stomach lurched with a rush of pleasant surprise. 

 

He’d always been fond of Wolf, of his smart mind and handsome looks - Hell, he’d been working towards asking him out for drinks (and maybe more, Hoxton admitted to himself with a smirk) before imprisonment derailed his entire life - but to have true confirmation that those feelings were returned after the two year interlude was news to him. Not only that, but prison had changed Hoxton both physically and mentally, and the Brit had slowly realised that this would impact his relationships going forward; and yet despite all this, Wolf still had feelings for him. 

 

In spite of himself, Hoxton smiled, and shook his head at his now seemingly unnecessary trepidation in the matter. He’d killed the Rat, Hector, some time ago, and had wanted some time afterwards to himself to recover, to understand who he was now that the source of his imprisonment was dead - but the days and weeks had stretched into months, and still he hadn’t made a move. Practically daily him and Wolf spent time together, and had even flirted both openly and subtly - and still they hadn’t gone beyond the occasional drunken cuddling (although Hoxton enjoyed this very much, he wanted their relationship to deepen, and he would be lying if he said he didn’t want to learn exactly what made Wolf tick, what would make him squeeze his eyes shut and moan and cum).

 

Amidst these thoughts, Hoxton’s eyes flicked back up to the monitors - Wolf’s hand was still covering Sokol’s mouth.

 

“Not a fucking word,” Wolf warned, eyes full of meaning. He waited until Sokol nodded frantically under his hand before sitting back in his chair, having stood to clap his hand over the other’s mouth, and wiped his hand on his trousers with a grimace. 

 

Sokol, for his part, looked contemplative. To Wolf, it seemed that Sokol’s English was good enough to follow the conversation and make contributions, but these deeper, more intimate topics were far more challenging for him - most likely due to a lack of practice. 

 

It didn’t stop the younger man from trying.

 

“So why you haven’t asked him out?” Wolf made no reply, and Sokol continued, unprompted, “because when I first came here, I thought you were together already, so I asked Dallas, and he just looked at me like I’m crazy and said no.”

 

If the pain on his face was anything to go by, Wolf was regretting sharing his feelings with Sokol. He poured another large shot of vodka into his glass, and then  added something else that looked like lemonade (Hoxton hoped it was, or Wolf would be too hungover to function tomorrow). “Was it the nicknames?” he asked sullenly, staring into the glass. “Everyone always asks me about the nicknames.”

 

“It was everything !” Sokol exclaimed, as if it were obvious, and Hoxton felt his ears redden on Wolf’s behalf. “You hang out together always, talking in some corner or watching some movie together. When you look at him you just have this look on your face, like he’s the greatest, most handsome guy ever. Then the nicknames-”

 

“Fine, fine, fine,” Wolf said, irritation and drunkenness blurring his voice somewhat. His cheeks were flushed somewhat from the alcohol and the embarrassment of the situation. He rubbed the bridge of his nose with a hand and groaned. “It’s just - well - prison, you know?” Wolf said, and Hoxton felt his heart stutter at the sentiment - Wolf hadn’t taken things further because he was worried about him ? “I don’t know exactly what happened… and if he doesn’t want to tell me, well… that’s okay. But I don’t want to rush him. And besides… Maybe he doesn’t want a relationship. With me. Or with anyone.” Wolf’s face was pensieve, thoughtful. His head tilted slightly. “And, erm. Y’know. He could have anyone he wants, he’s a handsome guy.” Wolf frowned, clearly lost in thought. Then he gathered himself, and returned his focus to Sokol.

 

“So what about you?” he demanded, in a  tone Hoxton recognised as the one he used when ordering civilians around: “Same question to you. It’s only fair. Safehouse and Crime.Net. Who.”

 

If Hoxton were a good man, he would have considered the ethics of eavesdropping on his crewmates, leaving the security centre once realising the frankness with which the two were talking and the private nature of their conversation; but Hoxton’s curiosity was overwhelming his conscience, so he continued hunching over the monitors and listening carefully. His fingers steepled together and he rested his chin on the tips. He’d already received confirmation of Wolf’s feelings and was riding the subsequent triumphant high - why not stick around for Sokol’s confession? The Brit had nothing to lose by listening in - and could potentially use the information as leverage later if he ever needed it, because if prison had taught Hoxton anything, it was the ineffable value of a good intel horde. 

 

Sokol thought about it for a moment, and his reply shared the seriousness that Wolf had used when he had given his answer. “Dallas,” Sokol said in a stage whisper, then giggled. 

 

Wolf blinked then leaned back from the breakfast bar, shaking his head with a smile, and the hockey-player started. Sokol used his hands a lot when speaking, Hoxton noticed idly, watching the Russian gesticulate on camera. “What? He’s handsome guy. Nice face, cute laugh, great ass.” Wolf shook his head again, but still clearly smiling at Sokol’s hands splaying, shaping Dallas’ butt in the air.

 

In the background, Hoxton heard footsteps on the metal stairs leading up to the top floor office space - it was Dallas, back with their food and drinks - and he snapped back to the reality of what he was doing. 

 

Shit . He hadn’t spared the older man a thought since eavesdropping on their crewmates, and he had precious few seconds to act if he wanted to maintain his sneaky activity. 

 

Making a snap decision, Hoxton darted out of the security centre and locked Dallas in a tight hold. Pressing the heister close to him to stop his squirming, Hoxton clapped a hand over Dallas’ mouth, and dragged him into the security centre. 

 

Dallas was not going along quietly; he wasn’t sure who grabbed him, after all. He thrashed about in Hoxton’s grip, alternating between biting and licking in an attempt to free his mouth. Somehow Hoxton maintained his grip on the bucking mastermind, maneuvering him so they were face-to-face. When the older man realised who was grabbing him, Dallas’ face shifted from angry and focused to confused and annoyed. His eyebrows pulled together so tightly they almost met, and Hoxton relaxed his hold a tad.

 

“Not a word,” he mouthed, and beckoned the other man into the security centre. Dallas sighed exaggeratedly as his mouth was freed, and Hoxton rolled his eyes. “Fucking drama queen,” he muttered under his breath, wiping his hand disgustedly on his trousers. He indicated the monitors to Dallas, pressing a finger to his lips as he did so.

 

Dallas stared at Hoxton like he had grown an extra head. “I could’ve fucking shot you!” he grumbled, wiping the back of his mouth on his sleeve. Taking out a beer from his shopping bag (he’d held onto it in hopes he could use it to thwack whoever had him captive), Dallas watched the screen with irritated disinterest, until he began listening to the conversation properly. Hoxton’s eyes flicked between the screen and Dallas’ face, amused. He had no idea whether Dallas cared for the Russian or not, but wanted to see his reaction anyway for the laughs.

 

Sokol was taking another generous swig from his glass, and afterwards Wolf poured him some vodka absent-mindedly. Still the grinder was talking. “... when I first came here from Russia, I knew nothing, I knew nobody. I had no friends, no family, no fanbase. Nothing. Nothing .” Sokol swayed on his seat, as if the memory had him reeling, but then a smile of fondness replaced his sorrow, and for a fleeting moment he looked like a starstruck teen: “But Dallas , he was nice to me. So kind. He always talk to me.” Sokol straightened his back, wearing a concerned expression and affecting a poor American accent, “oh, hiiii Sokol, how’re you today? Did you sleep okay? Did you eat yet? Do you want drink Starbucks? Do you want to suck my dick?”

 

Wolf’s sudden bark of laughter drowned out Dallas’ surprised exclamation. Hoxton tutted, shushing him - but if either Wolf or Sokol heard, they didn’t react. Dallas quieted himself quickly. The Brit couldn’t tell exactly what was on the older man’s mind, but there was a smugness in his eyes that hadn’t been there before. Hoxton wriggled his eyebrows as if to say, “Nice one, mate,” and Dallas grinned, now watching the screens more intently. If the closeness with which Dallas was listening in was any indication of his interest in Sokol, it was clear that the older man did not find the attention unwelcome.

 

Meanwhile, Wolf had recovered from his giggling fit. “He didn’t say that.”

 

Sokol’s look turned wistful. “I wish. But everything else he said! He was friendly, and you know what, Wolfie-” Sokol’s face became demonstratively more serious, leaning forward in his seat, “-I’m tired of young men and women. They all want attention, all yelling ‘look at me!’. No-” Sokol waved a hand, “-I want someone who can give me some attention, y’know. Someone older. Someone who can take care of me for a change.”

 

Wolf nodded, understanding. He fiddled with his glass. “Makes sense. It’s tiring taking care of other people like that.”

 

Sokol grinned. “Plus he has great ass. You can’t deny.”

 

Wolf groaned, shaking his head again, whilst Dallas suppressed another laugh of his own. Hoxton copied Wolf’s movements, before indicating the beer and food - should they join them? Dallas thought about it for a moment, before nodding and making a ‘zipping’ motion across his lips - not a word. Hoxton smirked - he liked Dallas’ thinking. They could have some fun teasing the chatty drunkards. And why not? The two men needed to be more careful about where they chose to have intimate conversations. They were practically begging to have a move made on them. Soft twats. 

 

The effect of the two men emerging from inside the top-floor office space was immediate. Sokol was facing towards them so saw Dallas and Hoxton first, and his face dropped in surprise and panic. Seeing the look on his friend’s face, Wolf turned to look, and then whipped himself back around to face Sokol with flushed cheeks and a horrified expression - had they heard anything? Before he could communicate with Sokol using surreptitious sign language, Hoxton and Dallas had sat themselves down at the breakfast bar, and both Wolf and Sokol made a serious effort to school their expressions into something less salacious and more sober. Wolf actually sat up straighter in his chair, and Sokol clutched his drinking glass like it was a grenade. The suddenly serious faces of the two men brought to Hoxton’s mind his school days when his friends would try to look as casual as possible after a teacher caught sight of their rule-breaking, so he smirked as he opened one of Dallas’ beers.

 

Dallas shared out filled plastic food containers with a benevolent smile, mid-explanation: “... it’s late, so we went out and got something - wanna share our food?” Then his tone turned soft, curious: “Do you like Chinese food, Sokol?”

 

Sokol looked at Dallas’ kind, open face with trepidation, as if the generous offer was a trap. “Errr…”

 

Hoxton couldn’t resist the chance to rib Wolf. He threw an arm around the Swede. “I know the Big Bad Wolf likes Chinese food,” he said casually, spying Wolf’s cheeks become inflamed in the corner of his eye. He noticed that his friend’s blue eyes were fixed on his glass of vodka as if looking away from it would end his life. Hoxton sorted through the boxes, and shoved one between him and the Swede. “Here ya are - it’s your fave, orange chicken. Don’t say I never do anything for you. Yer welcome.”

 

Wolf didn’t quite meet Hoxton’s eyes at first, but then he did and a broad, genuine smile lit up his face; it brought to mind what Sokol had said, and the Brit broke eye contact first. He was quietly grateful that the scarred side of his face was facing away from the Swede. He caught Dallas’ eye - who hadn’t heard Wolf’s confession, but clued in quickly as to what was going on - and gave a small, approving nod. Hoxton busied himself by snapping open the container and nudging Wolf encouragingly (“Better soak up all this booze you’ve been drinkin’, that vodka was almost full this morning.”).

 

As they were enjoying their little moment, Dallas was having more fun with Sokol.

 

“Are you eating enough, Sokol?” The Russian took a generous swig of vodka, grimacing. “You’re an athlete, you gotta get your protein in.” Dallas opened the remaining containers and doled out cutlery and napkins. He passed around the plastic lids to be used as plates, winking: “No washing up.”

 

Wolf and Sokol were still off their game, shocked by the sudden appearance of the men they had been gossiping about. Neither of them had anything to say, fearful of saying something that would even hint at their previous conversation, so they busied themselves as best they could. As a result, the table fell quiet as the first mouthfuls of takeout were eaten. Wolf snapped his chopsticks apart and began eating, and he hummed contentedly. Gratefully he glanced between Hoxton and Dallas, and the eavesdroppers felt confident that the drinking buddies had no evidence to confront them that their conversation had been hijacked.

 

Sokol was out of his element. He loathed being taken by surprise.

 

“I don’t know how to use those... things,” Sokol admitted, with a quiet air of desperation. He tried to put as much meaning into his wide-eyed glance at Wolf as he could, and the Swede took pity on the younger man. Perhaps if they spoke normally, like people who hadn’t been discussing their crushes as if they were teenagers, their embarrassment would die down and they’d be able to relax in the company of their aforementioned obsessions. 

 

That being said, Wolf was not exactly the best at making casual conversation, especially when he was sitting so closely to Hoxton, and he was so drunk.

 

“I bet Jiro or Jiu Feng would teach you. It’s not that hard.” Wolf stared at his own hands for a moment, contemplating. “I’m not, er, a good example. I hold them funny, apparently. I blame the accident.”

 

“What accident?” Sokol asked quickly. His question came out so rushed that Hoxton snorted, the younger man’s embarrassment amusing him. The younger man was deliberately avoiding looking anywhere close to where Dallas was sitting - an impressive feat, considering they were sat side-by-side. Had Dallas pulled his stool more closely to Sokol’s when they sat down? They appeared to be sitting more closely than what was considered socially typical. Dallas was a sneaky bastard, Hoxton conceded.

 

“Ah,” Wolf put his chopsticks down, and extended his arm across the table, holding out his thumb, “when I was two years old, my thumb almost got cut off. A door closed on it and, er, everything got broken. The surgeon said it was about... um, 80% severed.”

 

“Really?” Dallas looked at the extended digit with mild curiosity. Hoxton, on the other hand, saw an opportunity and seized Wolf’s hand in his and raised it, examining it up-close - partly to investigate the accuracy in Wolf’s story and partly to have an excuse to touch the other man - and he spied a thin, white scar wrapping around the Swede’s thumb. He rubbed at the line with his own uninjured thumb.

 

“I can feel it,” Hoxton said, continuing to rub the small, thread-like scar.

 

Wolf flushed, but made no effort to withdraw his hand. “Yes.”

 

“Does it hurt?” Hoxton traced a finger all around the scar line. Wolf shivered, but still didn’t pull his hand back.

 

“No. Not now.”

 

“Hmm.” Hoxton gazed at the blemish, previously unnoticed and yet now so stark and obvious, even against Wolf’s pale flesh - then took the hand, squeezed it, and let go.

 

Wolf cradled his right hand in his left for a moment, as if hoping to contain the sensation of being touched by the other man, before picking up his chopsticks again. 

 

Dallas deliberately didn’t look at Hoxton, knowing he’d laugh if he did so. Hoxton was also one opportunistic bastard. “So how does almost getting your thumb cut off mean you hold chopsticks wrong?” he asked, now legitimately invested in Wolf’s obvious distraction tactic.

 

“Oh!” Wolf had forgotten why he’d brought it up in the first place, and his cheeks flushed again, “it’s just… a bit more comfortable to hold them how I do. I hold everything a bit weird. Chains and Wick always make fun of me when I’m holding a gun. So, yeah, anyways… ask someone else to teach you the proper way, if you want.”

 

Hoxton smirked one last time. “You’re not gonna tell us about the other funny scar story, are yer?”

 

“Nope,” Wolf spoke in a way that suggested the discussion was over despite the notable flushing of his cheeks, but Sokol filed away the information (and Dallas’ disappointed glance) for later investigation. Really, his main goal had been achieved; Wolf’s story - albeit random and unexpected - had helped to diffuse the tense atmosphere. The quiet that befell the foursome was comfortable, amiable, and they ate together for a time.

 

Unfortunately for Sokol in particular, Dallas didn’t want to keep things that way. “What about you, Sokol? Any cool scar stories?” Before the younger man could answer, he continued, a look of concern on his face, “have you eaten enough? Can I get you another drink? D’you want a beer?”

 

Sokol’s stomach squirmed uneasily, glancing at Wolf. The Swede looked about as lost as he felt. Sokol was almost certain that Dallas knew somehow, but didn’t have the evidence to accuse him of anything. Bastard. 

 

But then, a sly voice in his head suggested, why not take advantage of that? “Beer is good,” Sokol said at last, turning to face the older man, “but I want a glass. I don’t drink beer from bottle.”

 

There was a pause. For a moment, Dallas looked completely taken off guard, mouth slightly open in surprise at the downright brattiness from the Russian. Then, Dallas laughed, and the tension dissipated. “Alright.” Dallas did as Sokol asked, bringing a clean glass over to the Russian and pouring the beer into it for him, chuckling as he did so. If he was annoyed with the younger man, there was no outward indication of it.

 

“Can you get me a glass, Dallas?” Hoxton piped up, smirking.

 

“Fuck off, Jim,” Dallas snapped, good-naturedly.

 

Looking immensely pleased with himself, Sokol fingered the bridge of his nose. “This one was… hockey accident. Shitty headgear broke, sliced into my face. The club was always trying to cut corners by buying shitty knock-off gear.”

 

Internally, Hoxton patted himself on the back for holding his snarky comments about hockey inside, but he exchanged a knowing grin with Wolf, who’d heard enough of his rants about the TV in prison to have intimate knowledge of his opinion on the sport. Wolf giggled.  

 

Unusually, Hoxton found himself wanting to contribute to this topic. Enough time had passed for him to achieve some level of acceptance, and the time felt right. He jabbed a thumb in the direction of his face. “Chemical burns. Some dickhead in prison. Fucking agony, it was.”

 

The others fell quiet - Hoxton seldom spoke about his face, and when he did, it was usually telling someone to fuck off and mind their own business. 

 

The Brit was undeterred by the silence of his friends and continued: “Took fucking months for it to stop hurting, and they fucked the healing up an’ all. I reckon a good enough doctor could’ve made it a bit less fucking noticeable.” He paused, then scowled directly at the others. “Not a fucking word about this to the others, alright? But… Bain’s asked if I want him to find me a surgeon who can fix it.”

 

Dallas and Sokol nodded to indicate they were listening. Their faces were open, understanding, caring. Wolf on the other hand frowned into his meal, but said nothing. 

 

Hoxton took another long drink of his beer, and finally said, “Told him I’d think about it.”

 

The gap between Hoxton finishing his sentence and Wolf beginning his own was infinitesimal. 

 

“You don’t need to fix it.” 

 

As soon as Wolf spoke, he looked as if he wanted to take the words and force them back in his mouth - his face had paled considerably, his mouth twisting as if it belatedly recognised the awkwardness and inappropriate nature of his interjection - and Hoxton’s face became unreadable. A dense discomfort manifested between them. Dallas eyed his friends warily, wondering if he’d be forced to jump between them to stop a fistfight, before Wolf started speaking again, “I mean. Um. There’s nothing to fix.” Wolf shifted in his seat, turning his body to face Hoxton more directly.

 

“I know it’s easy for me to say. And it’s not my face. But… it doesn’t need fixing.” Wolf was speaking in stops and starts, and his eyes were looking everywhere except at Hoxton. His mouth opened again, but then it snapped shut before he said anything more that he regretted.

 

Hoxton was not forthcoming with feelings that didn’t stem from sarcasm or aggression, making the thoughtful surprise on his face a rare sight indeed. It looked as if he too were searching for something to say. Pointedly, Dallas dipped his head, eating more of his dinner and nudging Sokol as surreptitiously as he could to follow suit. The grinder did as he was silently told.

 

The silence had continued for some time when, barely audible over the sound of chewing and drinking, Hoxton murmured, “That means a lot coming from you, Wolfie.”

 

Out of the corner of his eye, Dallas watched as Hoxton took Wolf’s hand again and squeezed it. He held onto it for some time, not saying anything, head slightly bowed. If Dallas wasn’t mistaken, Wolf returned the squeeze, clasping.

 

“I mean it,” Wolf whispered back. His voice was thick with emotion. Dallas kept his eyes trained on his food and hoped Sokol was doing the same. It felt as if he were intruding upon an extremely intimate moment, and if he felt that he could slip away unnoticed, he probably would have done so.

 

The moment held for a second longer, and ended with a loud sniff. The two men broke apart, and Hoxton turned away and rubbed at his eyes. After a short pause, with an unreadable - but not unhappy - expression on his face, Wolf busied himself with his chopsticks again, loading food onto Hoxton’s makeshift plate.

 

When Hoxton finally turned back, ready to eat, he found his tupperware lid stacked with the remaining slices of orange chicken. 

 

*

 

The rest of the night passed nicely enough. The conversation shifted to lighter topics and soon enough the group were roaring with laughter as each retold a random story from either their early heisting days, or from their lives before they had joined the gang. 

 

It wasn’t until the beers were all drunk and the food was mostly eaten that they considered turning in for the night. Sokol stood and stumbled slightly, making Wolf giggle. Dallas put a hand on the younger man’s arm to steady him, but did nothing more flirtatious - he filled a pitcher of water and gave it to Sokol with instructions to drink most of it before bed. Sokol gave a wonky salute in reply, before shuffling off to his bedroom, mumbling drunkenly in his mother tongue.

 

Wolf watched him walk down the stairs, slightly worried that he’d fall.

 

“He’s a big boy, he can hold his drink,” Hoxton said. When Wolf turned to face the Brit, he was holding his own pitcher of water, and he handed it to the Swede with a small smile. “Now you do the same. Drink this or you’ll be fucked tomorrow.”

 

Wolf grumbled good-naturedly, but accepted the pitcher and retreated to his own bedroom. Hoxton watched him go, and Dallas began clearing away the empty takeaway boxes from the table and putting the dirty glasses next to the sink for Aldstone to clean in the morning.

 

“So,” the mastermind said conversationally, as Hoxton turned around, “I’m thinking… that the Russian kid is kinda cute.”

 

Hoxton thought about it and nodded as if conceding something. “He’s alright, I suppose. Prefer mine a bit more European, personally.”

 

Dallas grinned. “Good for you.” He’d been among the heisters convinced that Wolf and Hoxton would become an item after the breakout, so to hear that they were actually going to act on their evident attraction was a relief. 

 

Then Dallas’ face became serious, his body language somewhat more tense: “But damn, Sokol’s still so young. So how do I… how… do…” he struggled finding the right words, “Hox, how do I actually... impress him?”

 

Hoxton’s reply was immediate and somewhat annoyed.

 

“Dallas, mate, you’ve got the easiest fucking job in the world!” Hoxton was staring at his friend like he had told him he didn’t know the sum of one plus one. Upon seeing Dallas’ cluelessness persist, the Brit sighed and shook his head, exasperated. “Fuck me. You’ve either got no imagination, or you’ve just been out of the game for too long.

 

“He likes hockey. He’s always whinging about that shitty ice rink he’s got in the basement, and you’re in luck - there’s a massive outdoor ice rink downtown. Pay the owners enough money and you’d get the whole place to yourselves for a day. Take him there, dick about on the ice for a few hours, maybe buy him a new stick to play with, then take him to a nice hotel, and shag the night away. Easy .”

 

Hoxton’s disbelieving tone was so strong that Dallas wondered how he hadn’t thought of an ice hockey date himself. To shush the perplexed voice in his own head, Dallas confronted Hoxton: “Alright, alright, Mr Matchmaker,” the mastermind folded his arms, “so how’re you gonna woo Wolf?”

 

At this, Hoxton’s face became stony again. “That’s the thing. I ain’t got a fucking clue.” He raised a hand and ticked off the things one by one: “We’ve already gone out to all the best places in town for a meal - and to some of the worst, come to think of it. He’s got all the movies he could ever want and we always see whatever’s out what’s new. He can buy himself anything he wants. So... I’m a bit fucked really.” The man sighed, frustrated. It was like he’d been dating Wolf for a while already and had run out of thoughtful, original date-night ideas - the disadvantage of having dated-but-not-dated for literal years .

 

Dallas recognised the deep frustration Hoxton was feeling, and shrugged. “Honestly, Jim? The guy’s obsessed with you. When you were locked away… it was like it wasn’t really him anymore, y’know? And when you came back, he was back to his old self again. I was surprised he didn’t throw his arms around you and declare his undying love first thing after we broke you out.” Dallas waited a moment for Hoxton to process what had been said before continuing: “He’d probably be happy if you just walked into his bedroom wearing-”

 

“A smile?” Hoxton finished, grinning. For a moment, it looked as if he were seriously considering it, before waving a dismissive hand. “Nah. Gotta make it a bit fancy, especially since you’re renting out a whole fucking ice rink.” 

 

“Like that’s the plan I’m gonna go with,” Dallas snorted, knowing full-well that was exactly what he was going to do because he couldn’t think of anything better himself, “and besides, it’s not a competition.”

 

Hoxton’s eyes gleamed with mischief. “Oh, but Dallas mate, it so is.”

 

Dallas thought about it for a moment, then nodded. “Two days from now, we make our move.”

 

“Alright. But don’t forget who gave you the idea of ice skating in the first place, you wanker.”