1.

Meeting Ryan Hardy was most definitely not what Mike thought it would be. Mike had been idolizing Ryan for such a long, long time that he had unintentionally built an imaginary perfect picture of him in his mind. He was, however, nothing like that. To say Ryan Hardy was a mess would be an understatement. His breath reeked of vodka; he looked like he hadn't slept in weeks, maybe more, but his eye, that's what Mike noticed first. They were glazed - mostly from the booze - but under that Weston could see how numb and lost he was, so fragile on the inside that Mike was scared that if he said the wrong word, he'd crack him. Ryan looked older than he was, so exhausted from the time he'd spent with his own demons and indulging his vices, believing alcohol would dull the pain.

But Mike didn't judge him for the person he had become. He decided he'd try and get closer to him, get to know him better and be his friend.

2.

After weeks of working together, Mike finally found out it was naive of him to think that Ryan wanted any friends. He was doing his job, nothing more. He made sure to make this clear to Mike, who made such great effort to make small talk, bring him coffee to work every morning and ask him if he wanted to go for a drink in the bar in the evenings. Nothing worked so eventually, Mike gave up. He didn't feel like being the fool anymore.

He talked to Ryan only about work, nothing personal. He brought him coffee, but made no small talk while giving it to him. Ryan noticed, but didn't say anything at first. Mike was okay with the awkward silences between them. Until Ryan asked him one evening if he wanted to go for a drink. Mike was so surprised, he probably looked like an idiot for a moment, but then he nodded his head vigorously and agreed before it was too late.

After the fifth or sixth shot of whiskey, Ryan was more talkative. He spoke about Claire and the little time they spent together, no details, though and Mike was thankful for that. He felt a pang of jealousy in the pit of his stomach that this woman knew Ryan so well without even trying. Mike read his book, wrote a thesis on it and spent so much time idolizing him. In theory, he knew everything about Ryan Hardy - he knew where he was born and raised, where he studied, how he got involved in the Joe Caroll case and how he eventually managed to figure him out before anybody else. He knew all that, but he didn't know Ryan Hardy - the man.

So he listened to him talking. It wasn't much, but it was a start. Mike drowned two or three shots more after that.

When Ryan offered to drive him to the motel some hours later, because Mike was obviously too wasted to drive, Mike could only nod. He dozed off in the car and was woken up by Ryan's hand shaking his shoulder lightly and whispering to him that they've arrived.

In Mike's room, Ryan helped him to his bed, taking off his shoes and tucking him in. He left a glass of water on his nightstand and quietly went out, turning the lights off on his way.

3.

A few weeks passed and Mike found himself wondering when spending his evenings with Ryan became a thing. They regularly went to the bar, didn't get drunk though, just spent time hanging out. Mike told Ryan about his family, how they didn't want this life for him, how they thought it would be better for him if he had become a lawyer, or a doctor instead. He told Ryan that he wasn't scared for his life, though. He just wanted the Joe Caroll case to be done, to be forgotten. Ryan smiled bitterly from behind the rim of his glass, filled with whiskey, and in this moment Mike realized how stupid and young he must sound to him.

Later, when they were driving back to the motel, Ryan asked Mike, "So what are you afraid of, Weston?"

He didn't look at the younger one, just turned off the ignition of the car and waited in silence for an answer. Mike was frozen for a moment, but then muttered, more to himself than to Ryan, "I'm afraid of not being taken seriously". Weston stole a quick glance at Ryan and saw the guilty look on his face. Then he continued, "I have been working for the FBI for some years now so why does everybody treat me like a boy who doesn't know what he's doing? Just because I am young doesn't mean that I am incompetent, you know?" He finished, knowing not to expect an answer. Ryan, who is always so composed and comfortable, looked out of place and tense. Mike got out of the car, breaking the tension between them.

The ride in the elevator was silent, then Ryan walked Mike to the door of his room and in a moment of boldness Mike asked Ryan if he wanted to come in. Just to hang out some more, just watch some TV or whatever, nothing serious. Ryan looked uncertain for a moment, like he was weighing his options, but after the moment of contemplation, he shrugged and said that he had nothing better to do anyways. Mike took a deep breath and unlocked the door.

4.

In all honesty Mike never expected to share a bed with Ryan Hardy of all people. The thought had never crossed his mind before these few weeks. When they started spending time together, he considered it - only once – but he was too ashamed of himself to think of it again. It was just as he thought it would be, though. Ryan was all sharp lines and rough hands. He was uneven breaths and the smell of whiskey on his breath against Mike's lips, his cheeks, his neck. His lips were chapped but always gentle.

After, Mike laid next to him, afraid to get closer because he had no idea what this meant to Ryan. He didn't even know what this meant to himself yet. Was Ryan freaking out? What if he was freaking out? Were they going to hang out again tomorrow or the day after that or will Ryan become distant like before?

As if he sensed his silent wondering, Ryan cleared his throat and told Mike he was going to go take a shower. Mike nodded, not trusting his voice in such a moment. He didn't want Ryan to hear how disappointed he was. He should've known that the older man wouldn't want to spend the night or hold his hand or something as cheesy as that. They were both grown men and sex was just sex, no emotions involved. Not to mentions they worked together. He should've known. This was a one time thing.

When Ryan went out of the shower, he found Mike sound asleep, curled on his side and clutching the pillow tightly in his sleep, frowning. He got dressed quietly, not wanting to wake the younger man up. Before he walked out of the room, he tucked him in, just like that first night, when Mike was drunk. He hovered over his sleeping form for a few moments and looked at Mike's youthful face. Ryan wanted to remove that frown, but he didn't know how. He felt guilty for giving in and sleeping with Mike because he knew nothing good would come out of it. He was afraid Mike would get hurt - physically or emotionally. Ryan was and always will be trouble. He left a feathery kiss on Mike's forehead and left without looking back.

5.

The first thing that Mike thought of when Roderick and his little gang kidnapped him was that Ryan would find him. He only had to be patient and not lose hope. He would make it out alive, he trusted Ryan with his life. It didn't matter that they were ignoring each other and were back to the start after that one night in the motel. Ryan was a professional and would find him, no doubt.

That's what he kept on repeating to himself, like a mantra, while he got beat up by a bunch of psychotic murderers. He was angry, furious even. He didn't deserve this. Mike tried to fight back, but he was weak and on his own against them.

His body hurt, he was scared. He was mentally screaming to himself to give in. They only wanted to know where Claire was, nothing more. And then the pain would stop. They would stop hurting him. Claire was no one to him personally. She meant a lot to Ryan, he knew that and he would be lying if he said he wasn't jealous of her. He could tell them her location, but then Ryan would hate him. He would never forgive him for betraying him like that. It was stupid of him to even consider that option. And the rational part of him knew better - they would kill him nonetheless. Mike was just a pawn in their game. He didn't matter to them, why would they keep him alive? They would probably kill him just for the fun of it.

So he kept quiet, he protected his pride as best as he could, all the while praying for Ryan to find him.

Just when he thought, that's it, it's over, he heard gunshots. He was lying on the cold floor, bleeding out and on the verge of unconsciousness. He smiled weakly because he knew that it was Ryan, he had found him. Mike couldn't fight the pain anymore, so he closed his eyes, relieved, and let go of the fear.

The last thing he felt before he blacked out was somebody's warm arms around his freezing body holding him close.

6.

Mike knew where he was even before he opened his eyes. Every hospital had this distinct smell that he couldn't ever mistake. It smelled of death concealed with the stink of bleach. He wanted to grimace because of it but his face hurt too much to do that. Slowly, he opened his eyes as much as he could. They felt swollen and raw. He looked to the right and then to the left where Ryan was sitting on a chair, asleep. He looked so uncomfortable; his neck would probably kill him when he woke up. Mike wondered how long Ryan has been sitting by his hospital bed.

"Ryan," he croaked. "Ryan," he tried again and this time it sounded a little bit better.

The older man reacted slowly, but when he realized Mike was awake he started in his chair and grabbed his cold, unmoving hand in his warm palm. He squeezed lightly.

"You're awake," he looked at him like he saw him for the first time and Mike felt his heart doing weird things in his chest.

"I didn't tell them," he felt the need to inform Ryan that he didn't betray him; he was on his side the entire time.

"Shh, I know, I know, but you need to rest now, Mike," Ryan was whispering and it felt so intimate, because of the vulnerable look in his eyes and all the raw, unhidden emotion in his voice. Mike's chest felt heavy. He closed his eyes once again; he knew he was safe as long as Ryan was watching over him.

"Don't leave," he murmured.

"I won't, I promise," Ryan answered just as quietly and leaned over Mike's beaten body to kiss his forehead. Then he settled in his chair, still holding on the younger man's hand.

Mike smiled, knowing everything was going to be okay before he relaxed and drifted off.