Rusty needed a girl. At least that's what Tess and Danny said while they were sitting in the back of Rusty's car on the way to a nice remote airport. He'd made a quip back, sometime about a women's prison but didn't give it any real thought.

He was in a bar in Pittsburgh when it hit him. Some chick walked up to him and in one glance he knew. Right then and there he could tell you what she liked, what she disliked, her political views, everything about her. Hell, he could probably get her name in five guesses and her birthday in two. It was all written right there, out in the open, plain for the eye to see if the eye knew which way to look. Clothes, hair, jewelry, stance, make-up, expression, those were the parts of a woman. He didn't need a girl.

Problem was, he'd had girls. They were boring. He knew women too well, could slip in and out of their head like nothing. He knew them so well he thought he was becoming one. Taking a drink he glanced down his shirt. Yep, still flat. Good. Maybe he'd had enough to drink for the night.

"Hey, handsome, can I buy you a drink?"

"Sure." One more never hurt. He smiled and he played with the girl, asked her questions like he was trying to get to know her when the only thing he really wanted was to prove himself right.

Yep, got it in one. Name was easy too. Cheryl. She looked like a Cheryl. So if he didn't want women, what did he want?

He was on the road to Arizona when the answer came to him. Middle of a pouring rainstorm, he stopped, pulled his car off to the side of the road, rolled down the window and thought. The smell of rain always cleared his mind. That's why he liked this side of the state. The rain never felt so cold out here.

Rusty reviewed his points. One, Danny and Tess thought he needed a girl, and he agreed. He needed something. Two, he, Rusty, did not want a girl. There was no challenge in getting a girl and frankly he doubted any kind of girl would work well with him. No, girls were for when he was in town and he spent too much time in too many towns for one girl to work. But he needed something. Three, there was only one option other than girls, namely boys. He didn't mind boys. He'd been with a few, they were alright. Still had a few numbers he could look up if he wanted to give that a try again.

He was in Cleveland, oddly enough looking up another guy he knew, when he started to get an idea of who in particular he wanted. He'd thought about dropping in a couple other times, because Chicago was on the way to New Jersey. It was also on the way from California to Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh to Arizona, and well, if he was in Cleveland, Chicago was only another 5 hours, just the other side of Michigan. But he always though, maybe he's busy or he's got something to do. He knew he hadn't moved. Rusty had kept tabs on all the guys, just in case. Besides, he liked to keep in touch.

This time he thought, hey, what the hell. You only live once, right?

Shifting his bags, Linus tried to balance everything on one arm while he dug his keys out of his pocket. He smiled to himself as everything stayed in place while he inserted the key in the lock, twisted and he was home free. He pushed into his apartment with his arms full of groceries, only to come to a dead halt as he finally lifted his gaze off the floor.


The man in question lifted a hand and waved jauntily. One of the old issues of Sports Illustrated Linus had left on the coffee table was spread across his lap. "Hey, Linus."

Dropping his bags beside the entrance, he shut the door and turned to Rusty with what he hoped wasn't too blatant concern written across his face. "What are you doing here? Did something happen?" Something of course referring to Danny Ocean and Terry Benedict and the Belagio. What-ifs flitted through his head as he waited for Rusty to speak, spinning around in his mind and making him dizzy with suspense.

"No, no. Everything's fine. I just stopped in to say hi."

"Oh," he said, the word falling flat as all the tension drained away. Then another thought came to him and he glared at Rusty in accusation. "You broke into my apartment."

Rusty just shrugged that easy shrug of his, like it was nothing to casually pick the lock of a friend's apartment. It was a good lock too. One of Linus' dad's friends had come by to put it in for him a little bit after he first moved in, so it's not like it was just some casual thing.

A smile split Rusty's face. "It was cold out so I figured you wouldn't mind if I waited inside."

Linus couldn't help but chuckle at that. Yeah, that was Rusty. Picking up his bags he moved around the apartment putting things away, trying to seem casual while his attention still jittered over the fact that Rusty had come to see him. He couldn't help but wonder why Rusty would come see him of all people. After all, wasn't Danny out? Shouldn't he be off seeing him? Or maybe he doesn't want to get in the way of the Danny-Tess thing, assuming Tess was still around. He'd never really heard anything but he thought his dad had mentioned something he'd heard around, about Tess and Danny moving off to New England, last time Linus had been over for dinner.

"You want to go out for a burger? My treat."

Linus paused and looked over his shoulder. It didn't really matter who treated considering they both had over 30 million, but that didn't seem like the point here.

"Sure." One more night without having to cook or do dishes was always appreciated. But that still didn't answer why Rusty was here. So, he asked him.

"What are you doing here, Rusty?"

The man shrugged, folded the magazine and tucked it back into its spot in the stack on the table, and stood leisurely. "I was in town, thought I'd stop by and see a friendly face."

Oh, that was it. He relaxed, finally not thinking about mobsters and men with guns in any corner of his brain, and let himself smile. "There's a place down the street that makes some pretty good burgers."

"Sounds good. Let's go." As he let himself relax into Rusty's company he found it wasn't such a bad thing. Kind of enjoyable really, just the two of them. So when the night wore on and Rusty started saying how he should be getting back on the road, Linus found himself grabbing a pen from the waitress, jotting a number down on a napkin and slipping it across the table saying that if Rusty was in town again, he should give Linus a call so they could get together again.

He knew he shouldn't, told himself that every time he started making excuses to go by Chicago. They were lame excuses really. There were thousands of quicker ways he could go that did not involve Chicago. But then he wouldn't have an excuse to stop by, grab a bite to eat and listen to Linus babble. And the more Linus talked the more Rusty realized he was just a kid, he didn't get it. He had no clue why Rusty kept stopping by, missed all the subtle innuendo that managed to sneak out without Rusty meaning to.

He was too young, Rusty told himself. Too pure, too innocent, to mess up with a guy like him. But then he reminded himself that Linus wasn't that young. He'd done well with the Bellagio thing, very well, and from the glimpses Rusty had caught of Linus' latest work, the kid was getting better. Linus was used to people like him. He was Bobby Caldwell's kid after all, probably grew up around them.

For each argument there was a counter-argument, driving his brain in circles as he tried to figure this thing out. It was a simple yes or no. He knew what he wanted but he had only the barest of clue what the kid wanted. Recently there had been an inkling of maybe, that the kid might be inclined that way too, and as he thought about it he remembered something. A call the kid had gotten during the Belagio job, when they were in the warehouse, and it had sounded suspiciously like a break-up call. The other guys had teased him about having a girl and Linus vehemently protested that he didn't, it wasn't like that. Rusty had been inclined to agree because he'd been closer at the time, had heard a male voice on the phone. He hadn't thought anything about it at the time, wasn't any of his business, but now he remembered it and he thought yeah, maybe the kid really did swing that way.

Only one way to find out for certain, he knew. So he waited for the kid to get home, a piece of paper in his hand. Time to throw his chips in and raise the stakes a bit.

Linus wasn't even surprised anymore when he came home to find Rusty tucked away on his couch, always the same spot that Linus was starting to half-think of as Rusty's, solely and proprietarily his, mostly 'cause no one else ever really visited Linus here. Then he looked closer because Rusty wasn't sitting there reading like he normally was. He had a little piece of white paper in his hand, folded over twice, and a serious look on his face as he glanced up at Linus.

"Something wrong?" Something had to be wrong, the way Rusty was looking at him, and he got all nervous again. Was it Danny? Did Benedict know? Were they in trouble again, or was it personal?

Rusty stood. His look was cold, burning straight through Linus and he was afraid to move. Was it something he'd done? Was Rusty mad at him? He didn't know why because... "Do you know why I keep visiting?"

"Huh?" That was a complete left turn. Linus had no idea how to respond to that.

"Do you know why I keep coming here to visit you?" Rusty asked the question again, slowly.

Linus shrugged, his feet still rooted in the same spot, and he tried to blow the question off casually. "Because you were in town, right? I thought that's what you said."

"That's what I said," Rusty nodded. "But do you know the real reason why?"

He shook his head, no clue where Rusty was going with this.

Then Rusty approached, crossed the room in quick sliding steps and Linus still couldn't move. A hand was placed at the back of his head, fingers slipping into his hair as his head was tilted just slightly and he was kissed. Rusty was kissing him. The thought itself was weird, though the action wasn't. Somehow Linus' mouth had fallen open and Rusty's tongue had slipped in and it was good. Damn good. Probably one of the best kisses he'd ever had, not that he'd really had too many. He was too scared and confused to move, to do anything really. Not because this was a guy, he'd done things with guys before, but more because this was Rusty, here, kissing him.

Rusty pulled away, slowly, and he couldn't help but be more than a little disappointed as the kiss ended. Instead he focused on remembering how to breathe, on the look on Rusty's face as he pulled away, the fleeting flash of want and hunger and guilt that was there and then gone in a flash.

"That's why." If Rusty's voice was a little hoarse as he spoke, Linus pretended not to notice. The paper was pressed into his hand. "I'll be back in an hour," he said quietly and then Rusty was gone.

Slowly Linus unfolded the note, almost laughing aloud as everything was laid out before like a multiple choice quiz. What does he want from Rusty, the paper asks, and he skims the choices, short but detailed. A) Sex with no strings attached. B) Sex with strings attached. C) Continued friendship, nothing else. D) Rusty will just go away and leave him alone.

Linus drops down to sit on the sofa, same spot Rusty had been in and it's still warm, and he thinks.

Linus was waiting for him when he came back, the piece of paper still clutched in his hands. He shut the door behind him, locked it just in case and walked over to hover near the couch. He didn't say anything, just waited, giving Linus a bit more time in case he needed it. The boy refolded the paper carefully, set it aside on the table, and stood slowly. He didn't look at Rusty. Linus seemed a bit nervous, the way he was shifting his weight from foot to foot and he looked down, though Rusty thought he caught a hint of a blush on Linus' face.

"I chose B."

Rusty smiled widely. He'd been hoping Linus'd pick that option. One step and he was there, touching, and he pulled the young man to him. His lips tasted sweet, like peppermint, strong and addictive, and Linus was kissing back this time, no longer a frozen block of wood but something alive and liquid. Rusty pushed them back, towards Linus' bedroom, and pieces of clothes started to fall loose along the way, casualties to wandering, exploring hands. He pushed until he had Linus pressed against the side of the bed and kept going until he had the boy dangling half on, half off the bed, his hips at just the right height.

Pesky pants were pulled off the boy, exposing him but Rusty didn't look. If he looked he'd be tempted and he needed to keep things slow, just in case, because he didn't know how much experience the boy had. Rusty pulled a tube out of his jean pocket. He'd come prepared, not hopeful but just in case. Linus' legs slipped around his waist and he thought maybe Linus was a bit more experienced than Rusty thought. Okay, so Linus was a lot more experienced than he thought judging from the eager hands that were opening Rusty's pants and pulling him loose. He kissed Linus harder as he slipped a slick finger in, felt the tight flesh relax around him, inviting him in. Then there was more than just hands on Rusty's cock and he pulled away to look down at Linus with an amused grin.

"Thief." He hadn't even felt Linus reach into the same pocket the lube had come from to pull out the condom he'd put there.

Linus just smiled, his expression a little distracted as he rolled the rubber over Rusty's erection. With a grin, Rusty added to that distraction, pushing two more fingers in and watching in delight as Linus gasped, his back arching as he pushed into those fingers.

"More." It was halfway between an order and a plea and Rusty honored it gradually. He hooked his arms under Linus' knees, spreading his legs wide and lifting them higher. One push and he was in. He held himself there, watching Linus' face as the boy shuddered in obvious pleasure. Linus pushed back, an obvious signal, and Rusty took it, starting out slowly.

"Faster. Please. Rusty."

He could do that too. Linus' hips rose to meet him as he pushed forward, sliding Linus' legs up to his shoulder so that he could grab onto solid hips and pull the boy towards him in a quick thrust. The reaction was instant. Eyes open wide, Linus moaned, pretty pleas falling from his lips as he begged Rusty for more. Their bodies came together hard, fast, almost bruising as his hands dug into Linus' side, holding on for sanity as Linus squeezed around him, hot and tight and so welcome it felt like home. It was over quick, Linus coming into his hand after barely more than a touch, shouting ecstasy as he tightened around Rusty. That sent him over the edge and he followed Linus, spurting into the warmth around him.

He let Linus' legs fall as he leaned forward as he slipped out and slumped against the lightly muscled chest beneath him. Almost absently he let his lips kiss haphazardly along a bare neck as he waited for Linus' breathing to calm.

"So, wanna go out for a burger?"

Linus turned to look at him, his eyes flashing incredulity for a second before he turned into Rusty's arms, laughing so hard his entire body shook.

"Yeah, sure. Shower first?"

"Sounds good." There were twenty-three different ways to have sex in the shower, Rusty had discovered. He started off with number one, bracing Linus' hands on the wall as he fucked him into the tile. As they were cleaning up he let his hands wander with his thoughts as he tried to come up with a good excuse to be back in Chicago next week.

[Continued in Playing Your Hand