|The more things change
Author: otherhawk PM
Series of random incidents in the lives of young Danny and Rusty. Chapter 48 'Crooked Game'Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship - Danny & Rusty - Chapters: 48 - Words: 337,281 - Reviews: 537 - Favs: 138 - Follows: 120 - Updated: 02-24-13 - Published: 10-21-07 - id: 3849158
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Been a while since I updated this. And here is Halloween fic which is a few days late, but in my defence I didn't start writing it until Wednesday. So there.
1. 'In the beginning' Parts 1 and 2 (Chapters 13 and 14) Rusty is seven, Danny is nine.
2. 'Neverending Conversation' Parts 1 and 2 (Chapters 15 and 16) Rusty is seven, Danny is nine.
3. 'Growing Together' (Chapter 44) Rusty is seven, Danny is nine
4. 'Trick and Treat' (Chapter 34) Rusty is eight, Danny is ten.
5. 'Matilda and the Werewolf' (Chapter 23) Rusty is nine, Danny is eleven.
6. 'Something more than it should be' (Chapter 10) Rusty is ten, Danny is twelve
7. 'The humiliation of Norris Carrol' (Chapter 20) Rusty is ten, Danny is thirteen
8. 'Four Day Interlude' (Chapter 5) Rusty is ten, Danny is thirteen
9. 'Remember the first time' (Chapter 4) Rusty is ten, Danny is thirteen
10. 'Sunshine, smiles and sweet, sweet words' (Chapter 17) Rusty is ten, Danny is thirteen.
11. 'Lie, Cheat, Steal, Play' (Chapter 24) Rusty is ten, Danny is thirteen
12. 'View from the outside' (Chapter 12) Rusty is eleven, Danny is fourteen
13. 'When we were young' Part 1, 2, 3 and 4 (Chapter 25-28) Rusty is eleven, Danny is fourteen
14. 'And we won't get it back when we die' (Chapter 29) Rusty is twelve, Danny is fourteen
15. 'Walk before you can crawl' (Chapter 2) Rusty is twelve, Danny is fifteen
16. 'Other Nightmares Parts 1 and 2 (Chapters 8 and 9) Rusty is twelve, Danny is fifteen
17. 'Unseasonal' (Chapter 36 37, 38, 39 40, 41, 42 & 43) Rusty is twelve, Danny is fifteen
18. 'The more things change' (Chapter 1) Rusty is thirteen, Danny is fifteen
19. 'Different Roads' Part 1-3 (Chapter 31-33)
20. 'Words and Silence' (Chapter 22) Rusty is thirteen, Danny is sixteen
21. 'Six months of roses' (Chapter 18) Rusty is thirteen/fourteen, Danny is sixteen
22. 'Two stories with some understanding' (Chapter 21) Rusty is thirteen, Danny is sixteen. Falls within time of 'Six months of roses'
23. 'Life Lessons' (Chapter 7) Rusty is fourteen, Danny is sixteen - falls within time of 'Six months of roses'
24. 'The lies we live' (Chapter 3) Rusty is fourteen, Danny is sixteen
25. 'All Fun and Games' (Chapter 45) Rusty is fourteen, Danny is sixteen
26. 'If the fates allow' (Chapter 19) Rusty is fourteen, Danny is seventeen
27. 'This is our decision (to live fast and die young)' (Chapter 6) Rusty is fourteen, Danny is seventeen
28. 'Such a perfect day' (Chapter 11) Rusty is fourteen, Danny is seventeen
And sequels after they move away!
'Adjusting' - two months after they leave town, Rusty is 15, Danny is 17
'Time to regret' - shortly before 'Learning Curve'
'Learning Curve' - eighteen months after they leave town, Rusty is 16, Danny is 19
'All in the family' - shortly after 'Learning Curve'
'Outward Ripples' - Rusty is 18, Danny is 20
'Eye for an Eye' - Rusty is 18, Danny is 20
'Chasing Echoes' - set after O11.
'Reconstruction' - set after movies.
Danny watched with carefully hidden impatience as Leo inspected the silverware like he was expecting them to have suddenly turned to solid gold.
"Very nice," Leo said at last. "How does fifty dollars sound?"
"It took us a lot of effort to get them," he countered, leaning back against the bar. "So let's say eighty."
"Eighty, huh?" Leo smirked. "You sure learn fast, kid. Alright, let's say sixty five."
"Done," he agreed and Leo counted out the money agonisingly slowly.
"So, where's Rusty today?" Leo asked idly.
"He's sick," Danny answered with a casualness that came from seven years of practice.
"Oh, that's too bad," Leo said sympathetically. "He was sick last month too, wasn't he?" He laughed shortly. "Maybe if he didn't keep trying to eat his own weight in candy, am I right?"
Danny smiled. "Right."
Leo nodded, and the money was in his hand, and he was still making conversation. "You must be looking forward to Halloween."
"Of course," he said easily. Truthfully, he didn't care, and he didn't think Rusty did either. They had much more important things to worry about right now. Having fun was way down his list of priorities.
Leo handed over the money and Danny took it thankfully.
"You've been bringing a lot of stuff to me lately," Leo commented as Danny was turning to leave. "You needing cash or something?"
He tensed. He didn't want to have this conversation. Not with anyone. "Yeah. Well. You know how it is," he offered with a disarming shrug.
Leo smiled sympathetically. "Yeah. I remember being a kid. Money never seemed to stretch far enough." He hesitated. "Look, I shouldn't do this, but a client of mine wants a certain clock. Apparently it's in the old theatre in town. My usual guy isn't available...there's another couple of guys I'd normally ask but if you're interested, I could give it to you instead."
Huh. The old theatre? He knew it well, he'd been dragged there several times as a kid. Immediately the ghost of a plan was alive in his head. "What's the clock look like?" he asked.
With a smile, Leo dug a couple of sketches out of his pocket. A gold carriage clock with all the clockwork showing and little gold horses balanced around the edges. "It's kept upstairs," Leo told him. "Apparently it's all under dustsheets now, but it's the getting in that would be the problem. It's locked up tight and well guarded at night."
The edges of the plan grew a little clearer. "Mmm," he said thoughtfully, wondering. Was it worth the risk? They hadn't tried anything this big since...
"Your cut would be five hundred," Leo said persuasively.
He smiled charmingly. "We'll need to talk it over. I'll let you know."
Right now he needed to get home to Rusty.
Mom's car was outside when he got home. He sighed. She'd been away since Friday. He had to admit, he'd been hoping...
The living room door was open when he came in, and he paused in the door way, seeing Mom sitting there with her book. "Hello, Mom," he said softly.
She didn't look round. But her knuckles were white where she was holding the book, and he knew she'd heard him. She just wasn't answering him. God. How long could she really keep this up?
"I'm just going upstairs," he said steadily, and he waited a few seconds for the acknowledgement that never came. "I'll see you later."
When he got upstairs, Rusty was still lying in his bed, the covers pulled up to his head.
He sat down on the edge of the bed and gently reached out and put his hand on Rusty's shoulder. He wasn't really intending to wake him, he just wanted the contact, but Rusty stirred a second later, the smile pulling painfully at the bruises around his mouth.
"You see Leo?" he asked with sleepy hoarseness.
Danny swallowed hard and nodded. "Yeah. Sixty five dollars. I'll put it in the bank tomorrow." They needed more though. If they were going to leave next year, they'd need enough for an apartment, for college tuition, for bills and food and books, and other things that he couldn't even think of. This was the most important thing he'd ever done in his life, and he couldn't afford to screw it up.
Rusty blinked up at him thoughtfully. "Alright. What's wrong?"
He gave a half-grin. "Can't hide anything from you."
"Why would you even want to?" Rusty returned immediately, struggling to sit up with a soft hiss of pain, his arm wrapped around his ribs.
"Easy," Danny said softly, reaching out and helping him settle against the pillows. "Leo wants someone to steal a clock from the old theatre for him. He's willing to pay five hundred."
"Huh," Rusty regarded him for a long moment. "And you know how we could get it," he stated.
"I know how we could get it," he agreed.
"So what's the problem?" Rusty asked.
He sighed and pulled himself up onto the bed beside Rusty, lying close beside him. "You really think we should? If we get caught - "
" - since when do we worry about getting caught?" Rusty interrupted lightly.
Since they had been caught. Since he'd watched Rusty spend a night in a police cell. Since they were still dealing with the consequences of that. He reached out and very, very lightly brushed his thumb over the bruises on Rusty's lip. "If we get caught," he repeated in a whisper.
Rusty reached up and took his hand. "We won't," he promised, looking him straight in the eye.
They gazed at each other for a long moment, then Danny sighed softly. "We won't," he agreed, and he smiled brilliantly. "Alright. First, we have to organise a party."
Lunchtime the next day, they slid into the table opposite Mike and David. "So," Danny said brightly, ignoring the way Mike's eyes lingered on Rusty's bruises. "We hear there's a problem with the Halloween party this year."
Mike and David exchanged a long look. "It's Julian," Mike explained gloomily. "He's taken over all the organisation, and it sounds like it's going to be awful."
"It's all planned out to the last second," David added. "And he was talking about having dancing lessons and balloons and jello and silly hats."
"I like jello," Rusty said, to no one in particular.
"Sounds like a kids party," Danny commented. "Sounds like people will be leaving early."
"And you like silly hats," Rusty added.
Danny didn't even glance at him. Not for a second.
"It's going to be awful," Mike said again. "It's just...embarrassing."
"That's about what we heard," Rusty agreed, leaning forwards across the table, just subtle enough that he looked like he was trying to be discreet, just obvious enough that everyone in the tables around them started listening in. "So we were thinking - "
" - we were thinking," Danny joined in. "That maybe someone ought to organise a different party."
"An alternative party," Rusty nodded. "Someplace outside of school."
"Someplace different," Danny suggested. "Someplace we can make - "
" - scary," they said in unison.
"Sounds brilliant," Gina said from the next table, her eyes shining.
"Count us in," the Hulk rumbled from behind them. "I never wanted to go to the stupid school party anyway."
Mike was gazing at them with a mix of amusement and resignation. "Alright then. What do you need?"
Getting the use of the old theatre for a Halloween party was easy enough in the end. They just took a group of kids along to see the Mrs Lauriston, the owner, made the right noises about good for the community, and all proceeds going to charity, and they had the run of the ground floor. Of course, they'd be heavily supervised, and the upper levels, where the clock would be, were all locked off. But locks were no problem, and with the right distraction, no one would notice them sneaking off.
And they were working on a lot of distractions. He just hoped it would be enough.
"Penny for your thoughts," a voice said behind him, and when he turned round he found himself looking at a seven-foot tall demon.
"Fuck!" He nearly jumped out of his skin.
Rusty appeared from behind it, grinning.
He glared. "Can't you be serious?" he asked, regretting it in an instant.
For a second, Rusty just looked at him, his lips pursed. Then he nodded slowly. "Locks on the back staircase shouldn't be a problem," he said neutrally "I brought the glass cutter...you said everything's covered in dustsheets so as long as we don't make any noise the theft shouldn't be discovered for a few days at least. We just need the right moment of distraction. Which is where Pazuzu here comes in."
"You couldn't have picked something from a better movie?" Danny asked, the lightness a sort of apology.
Rusty grinned. "I'm still trying to figure out how we can have an invasion of locusts."
"We want people distracted," Danny warned. "Not terrified."
"It's Halloween," Rusty pointed out. "Terrified is fun." He leaned the mannequin down on the floor, wincing slightly as he did, his ribs still hurting him. He looked at Danny thoughtfully. "We got music, we got a ton of food, we got things that go bump in the night and we've got a brilliantly stupid plan on top of all that. Why aren't you having fun right now?"
He sighed. "Don't you think we have more important things to worry about? In the circumstances?"
"In the circumstances," Rusty repeated, an uncertain flicker in his eyes. "You having second thoughts? Because - "
" - no," Danny interrupted with a savage intensity that meant nothing less than never. "'s just...this is important. We're only going to get one shot. And we've got less than a year." Less than a year to turn their life around. And in that time they still had to go to school, they still had to earn enough to live on, they still had to deal with everything Rusty's Dad did. "It feels like we shouldn't be wasting time - "
" - having fun?" Rusty asked, his head tilted to one side.
Danny hesitated. That wasn't exactly what he'd meant, was it?
"Danny, this whole plan relies on people having fun," Rusty pointed out persuasively. "We have to organise a party, we ought to make it the best party we can."
He looked straight at Rusty and he could see the confidence and the determination, and beneath that the worry for him.
"I'm just tired," he said, with a brief smile, in answer to the question Rusty hadn't asked.
"Uh huh." Rusty's eyes called him a liar. "Way I see it, we got one chance to scare all our classmates to death. And I intend to take it."
In spite of himself he found himself grinning. "And that's the true meaning of Halloween, huh?"
"That and candy," Rusty nodded seriously.
Danny glanced over the the bags of chocolate, taffy and candy apples Brady had brought by. "Think he have enough," he said, before catching sight of the look on Rusty's face. "Huh. Okay, we'll get more."
He reached out and grabbed the demon's arms. "Where do you want this thing anyway?"
Rusty shrugged. "Was thinking at the buffet table."
"Mmm." Danny looked at the demon for a long second, seized with a sudden impulse. "Think we could - "
" - oh, I'm sure we could," Rusty caught on instantly, his eyes sparkling with an answering mischief.
"We got Mike working on the sound recording," he said thoughtfully, as they carried it over, him doing his best to subtly take most of the weight. "And Ami's doing the slides."
"I called in some favours and we got enough people bringing in food," Rusty added. "And we got Doug, Unity, Gina and the football team working on spreading word of mouth."
Danny nodded, hefting the demon mannequin into the place at the head of the table. "How about drink?"
Rusty shrugged, laying the thing's claws down on the table. "Gonna need some wire or something," he commented.
"I saw some in the back," Danny remembered.
"I gotta few crates of soda," Rusty told him. "And apparently David's Mom is going to make a barrel of punch."
"We should get something to spike it with," Danny commented thoughtfully. "People will expect - "
" - no," Rusty said firmly.
Danny raised an eyebrow. "No?"
"No," Rusty repeated. "There's going to be a bunch of kids from my class coming. We're not gonna let fourteen year olds drink."
Danny looked at him silently.
"We're not gonna let any other fourteen year olds drink," Rusty suggested instead. "I'll go get that wire."
"We're going to need costumes," Danny said as Rusty disappeared.
"Taken care of," Rusty called back from somewhere in the darkness. "Stopped by the costume shop and picked up a few things."
"Uh huh." Danny squinted after him, lost in deep suspicion. "Am I gonna like this costume?"
"It has a false moustache," Rusty told him cheerfully, re-emerging with a ball of clear wire. "You're gonna love it."
Actually, it did look pretty good. He looked in the full length mirror in one of the old dressing rooms. Elegant looking evening dress beneath a swirling dark red cloak, a pencil-thin moustache and a discreet pair of red velvet horns. As embodiments of evil went, he was looking good.
They'd decided not to head home to change. He didn't want to face Mom again at his place and Rusty's place...well, that was just a non starter.
Talking of Rusty...He turned to see how he was getting on and found him applying the last touches of face paint, which had the handy side-effect of completely covering the bruises. He was dressed in black, in an outfit that showed through the torn, ragged grey sheet he'd draped himself in. His hair was plastered to his head and looked wet to touch, and his face was white with a ghastly bluish tinge with dark circles around his eyes. He looked dead. Danny resisted the urge to shudder.
"Ghost?" he asked.
"Spectre," Rusty corrected. "Drowned spectre."
Danny pursed his lips. "That different from a ghost?"
Rusty looked at him. "Maybe now you've seen what you look like in a moustache you'll manage to grow one of your own."
He scowled. "Remember the summer? What would you call that?"
"A patch of fuzz," Rusty answered promptly, and he laughed.
A scream rang out and the turned to gaze at the door.
"Guess our first guests have arrived," Rusty remarked.
"Guess so," he agreed, and they wandered out towards the stage.
Trish, Louise and Helen were standing gathered at the entrance, dressed like a gaggle of mini-skirted witches, giggling nervously. "I felt something breathing on my neck as we were coming down the hallway there!" Helen exclaimed.
"I felt it too," Trish insisted.
"Really," Danny said nonchalantly. "Well, they say this old place is haunted. Why don't you girls come in and have a drink?"
"You're lying," Helen said uncertainly. "You must have done it somehow."
He smiled, trying to look as devil-like as possible. "Now, would we do a thing like that?"
There was a rumble of thunder from above them. With Mike's help they'd programmed the sound system to play a number of creepy effects at random intervals. Judging by the way the girls jumped, it was quite effective. Rusty grinned.
And then they turned the corner, and they caught sight of the stage with dozens of candles flickering away, and the demon sitting at the head of the table, staring straight ahead, its sharp teeth gleaming in the low light.
Louise screamed and jumped a foot in the air, clutching at his arm.
He caught Rusty's eye and smiled. Okay. Even with Mrs Lauriston still lurking between them and the stairs, this was shaping up to be a fun sort of evening.
A couple of hours later and the party was in full swing. A lot of their little surprises had already been discovered...the werewolf masks hanging from the wall on the way to the restrooms like grizzly trophies, the series of mirrors concealed among the curtains, catching the reflections of fake skeletons that made it look like they were all being watched, the creepy laughing jack-in-the-box that Uncle Harold had given him years ago, and Dad had put away in the attic as soon as Christmas was over...Enough that people were properly scared, and then they had music playing over the tannoy and people were talking and laughing and dancing. By the looks of things, if college didn't work out, they could probably start a party planning business instead.
Buzz Fairley shuffled up to him in what was probably supposed to be a surreptitious manner. "Danny."
"Buzz," Danny responded, with a politeness that sounded forced to his ears. No matter what the reasons, some things were impossible to forgive. And hitting Rusty was one of them.
But Buzz didn't seem to notice or react, just narrowing his eyes and whispering "Blue moon."
Of course. Danny nodded and quietly produced the bottle from nowhere and poured a generous measure into Buzz's waiting glass.
Rusty was right, this was way better than just adding it into the punch. Gave all the kids who wanted to drink a bit of a thrill and a sense of danger. Plus it meant that they, and a few others whose judgement they trusted, could decide who should be drinking.
They might be encouraging underage drinking, but damnit, it was going to be responsible underage drinking
"Thanks," Buzz said quietly, almost drowned out beneath a bloodcurdling scream that cut through the sound of Blondie nicely. Mike was having way too much fun with the sound effects.
With a sigh he wandered along the edge of the dancefloor, ignoring several looks inviting him to come do some dancing and maybe a little more. Nice though that thought normally was, it wasn't what he was in the mood for tonight.
And there was why. "Hi, Pat." He turned and smiled at her, and managed to resist the urge to apologise all over again. She looked good. She was dressed as a vampire, in a long, old-fashioned white dress, rose petals twisted into her short brown hair.
"How've you been?" he asked, like he didn't see her in class most days.
"Good," she said with a bright smile. "I've been good."
"Oh, that's...good," he said, wincing a little at how awkward he sounded. "You enjoying the party?"
"Oh, yes," she said, smiling. "I love the decorations."
"Thanks," he said. He took a deep breath. "Do you want to - "
"I got you a drink, Patricia," a voice said, and Danny turned to see a tall guy who must be at least eighteen glaring at him and holding a glass out to Pat.
"Thanks, James," she said, smiling up at the guy in a way that made Danny's heart ache. "Oh, this is Danny," she added, like she'd suddenly remembered, like he was an afterthought. "Danny, this is James."
"Right." At the mention of his name, James glared at him even more, and honestly, it wasn't even like Danny could blame him. "Let's go find some food, okay?"
"Sure thing," she agreed, running her hand through her hair. "I'll see you later Danny, okay?"
"Later," he echoed, as she smiled at him and walked away, James' hand resting lightly on her shoulder. Felt like someone had just kicked him in the gut.
"He's her cousin," Rusty said softly behind him.
"What?" He turned round eagerly to see Rusty leaning against the wall. "You sure?"
Rusty nodded. "Pat told me herself. There was some trouble in his college and he's staying with them a few weeks so she offered to take him along tonight."
He felt ashamed of the relief he felt.
"Plus," Rusty added. "From what I hear, the trouble involved him being caught with a guy in his dorm room, so I don't think you got anything to worry about."
"Really?" Danny's eyes were wide and he tried not to stare after James. "Huh. That's...you'd really never know it from looking at him."
Rusty glanced at him. "What, were you expecting him to be wearing high heels or something?"
"Maybe," he said with a shrug. It was a fancy dress party, after all.
"Mmm," Rusty stood up abruptly. "Think that's about time, don't you? I'll go make sure Mike and Lee are ready."
Caught off guard, Danny frowned after him. There was something... But Rusty was right, after all, and it was time to put their plan into action.
He grabbed the bag from out the dressing room and headed through the back corridor towards the stairs. Mrs Lauriston was still standing by the doorway next to the stairs, glass of punch in hand. He could only hope that she moved when all the fuss started.
A short while later, Rusty appeared behind him. "Two minutes," he said softly.
Danny nodded. "Alright," he whispered back, and surreptitiously he edged closer to the corner to get a good view of the stage. He caught Rusty smiling at him and shrugged. Nothing wrong with wanting to see the show.
The two minutes seemed to last forever. Then, abruptly, the music cut off and the lights went off, plunging the theatre into total darkness. Several people screamed, and Danny grinned to himself. This was only the beginning.
"Everyone stay still," Mrs Lauriston called commandingly. "It must be a fuse..."
But even as she was talking, there was the sound of monstrous footsteps echoing around the hall, and slow, measured heavy breathing, like some awful beast.
"You should not have come here," a deep voice intoned, and if Danny didn't already know it was Mike, he would never, ever have guessed. "My curse will fall upon you all, unless you find my eye." It broke off into mocking, malicious laughter and when the lights came back on, there were more screams. The stage was covered in bloody writing. Cursed. Cursed. Find the eye. Damned souls, beware my wrath. Find the eye.
All done with a few overhead projectors and some red filters. But Danny had to admit, it looked suitably shuddersome.
Gina let out a piercing scream. "It's moved!" she said, pointing at the demon with a trembling hand.
The thing's head had turned and its hand was pointing out towards the dancers. One of its eyes was indeed missing. Immediately, inevitably, people started crowding around, laughing nervously and daring each other to touch it, and Mrs Lauriston hurried out onto the stage along with the rest.
Quickly, invisibly, they darted up the stairs and Rusty crouched in front of the door, lockpick already in hand, and it took less than five seconds for them to get it open and slip inside.
"I guess we should find this eye then," Mike said loudly from the stage, exactly like they'd asked him to. "It has to be here somewhere."
He grinned. That should keep everyone occupied while they worked.
Like they'd been told, all the furniture upstairs was under dustsheets. Would make concealing the theft easier, but first, of course, they had to find the thing. He looked around, lips pursed. "Like a needle in a haystack," he commented.
"Or a glass eye in an auditorium," Rusty answered cheerfully, in the midst of getting the window open. "You'll find it long before they're finished downstairs."
"Your confidence is an inspiration," he said dryly, heading towards what looked like some sort of display case. Seemed like a good place to start.
Rusty grinned at him before sitting on the window ledge and leaning out with the glass cutter, so he could cut the hole from the outside.
After maybe five minutes of searching, he found the clock nestled on a table in the corner. To his eye, it was sort of old-fashioned and ugly. But, there was no accounting for taste. Gently, he wrapped it and placed it in the bag, before putting the replacement in its place. It was just a cardboard box, but it was the same size and approximate shape as the clock and when it was under the dustsheet, the room looked exactly the same at a casual glance.
"Done," he said, looking over at Rusty, who was just closing up the window. There was a neat round hole, just large enough for a grown man to reach in and open the handle. And, when Rusty let the drape go, it fell back in front of the window, half-obscuring it. Once again, there was nothing that would show up to a casual inspection. Should be a few days before the theft was discovered. There was no way that anyone would associate it with the party. "Let's head back downstairs," he said. "I want to see how they're getting on with the search."
He couldn't help but respond to the smile on Rusty's face. Yes, alright. This was fun.
Downstairs, the hunt was still going on, amid many whoops and cries. Looked like fun, and they slid into the lighting booth, ready and waiting.
Another few minutes, and Doug Fletcher, rummaging through one of the boxes of candles, held up a glass marble with a cry of triumph. "Here!" He turned around, looking confused. "What now?"
"Put it back in its head?" Mike suggested hesitantly.
"Right." Even from here, Danny could see Doug swallow apprehensively, before he slowly walked towards the mannequin. "Here goes..."
He reached out, and Rusty hit a couple of switches with a confident grin. Immediately, the stage was plunged into darkness and an inhuman scream rang out. Danny was pretty sure he heard Doug scream as well.
Leisurely, he stood up and headed out towards the stage, feeling his way along in the dark, counting in his head all the time. On the count of thirty the lights came back up, and by that time he was leaning on the back of the demon's chair, smiling directly at Doug, who jumped a foot in the air.
"Well done," he said pleasantly. "You've won the prize. Two tickets to the Battle of the Bands competition at Silverpark next month." He held out the envelope, and Doug took it, stunned.
"Uh, thanks," Doug said, blinking.
"Well, then," he said brightly. "Let's get back to this party."
It was well after midnight by the time the party wound down, and after one by the time they'd cleared the theatre enough to think about leaving.
"We should go see Leo," Danny said, suppressing a yawn, and Rusty nodded sleepily, rubbing at his eyes and streaking the paint down his face. Danny smiled tiredly. "You should wash that off."
"Don't want Leo to see," Rusty pointed out, gesturing vaguely at his mouth. "Might tell Bobby."
Good point. Nodding, he grabbed the bag and they walked in silence round to the bar.
Luckily, Leo was still in the bar. "Boys! What's with the get up? Been trick or treating?"
"Something like that," Danny said, hefting the bag meaningfully.
Leo smiled knowingly. "Come downstairs. Paul! Get the boys a couple of cokes, will ya?"
Drinks in hand, they followed Leo downstairs.
"You really got the clock?" Leo asked intently.
In response, Danny pulled it out of the bag and handed it over. "Here you go."
"Man." Leo shook his head wonderingly. "I would never have thought you could pull it off. You're really something, you know that?"
"We have our moments," Rusty said with a smile.
"More than moments, I'd say," Leo said, counting out their cash. "I know guys twice your age couldn't have pulled this."
He tried not to let the praise go to his head too much, but inwardly he was smiling. "Thanks, Leo," he said, taking the money.
"Some Halloween haul, huh?" Leo laughed. "Don't spend it all in one place."
They wouldn't spend it at all. This was going straight in the bank on Monday morning.
"So," Rusty began, as they left the bar.
"So," he agreed comfortably. There was a long moment of expectant silence. Finally, Danny grinned. "I had fun tonight," he admitted.
Rusty smiled. "I know." He turned his head to the side and looked at Danny thoughtfully. "And it isn't a waste of time. So. Tell me?"
He sighed and closed his eyes for a second. "I'm scared I'll let you down," he admitted quietly.
For a moment, Rusty just looked at him. Then he laughed, softly. "Oh, Danny," he said. "That's never, ever going to happen."
He looked into Rusty's eyes and saw the depths of unshakeable faith and he couldn't help but smile. Right now, he felt like nothing could touch them.