Well, this was finished the day before yesterday, but ffnet was being weird and wouldn't let me post it. Sorry about that.
Waking up to the feeling of Danny's arms wrapping tighter around him was probably one of the better experiences of Rusty's life – even if both of them were fully clothed. A quick glance told him that Danny was still asleep. Good. By the looks of him last night, he hadn't been getting enough rest.
Without thinking he snuggled in closer to Danny's chest. OK. That was nice. In fact, that was better than nice, that was everything he'd wanted for the last couple of decades, but he had to be more careful. Last night had been . . . well the circumstances had been unique. Hopefully unique. And Danny had been really drunk. It was just possible that he might have a lot of explaining to do this morning.
Best to take advantage of it now while he could claim that he'd been sleeping.
He closed his eyes, revelling in the warmth, and the feeling of Danny's heart beating against him. Everything he'd ever wanted.
It was a couple of hours before he felt the need to get up. He disentangled himself as gently as possible but Danny still shifted and stared up at him with bleary eyes.
"Go back to sleep." he said, gently.
Danny turned his face into the pillow. "Light." he complained.
"It's morning. I can't turn it off." Hung-over Danny was always fun.
"Uhhh." That honestly didn't convey much to Rusty, but nothing else seemed to be forthcoming.
He'd found the spare robe in the bathroom. As he put it on he mused on exactly how bad things must have been that it hadn't found its way into Danny's luggage already. There were some traditions that it was almost sacrilege to mess with. Still at least it meant that it was here for him to wrap round himself before he ventured out onto the balcony.
Difficult to believe that less than twenty-four hours ago he'd been in Venice searching desperately for the best cannoli in the city.
He'd been quite pleased to spot Roman sitting at the corner of the street side café, behind a large latte and a laptop. Having finally finished negotiating with Whittaker, he'd been at something of a loose end. Again. Seeing someone he'd recognised; well, he'd figured he'd be able to kill at least half an hour before he had to seriously start plotting his next move.
Roman had looked shocked when he'd slid into the seat opposite. With hindsight, it was obvious why, but at the time he'd just assumed he'd interrupted something semi-critical. And his injuries were likely to get a bit of attention.
Affecting not to notice was pretty much an instinctive response. "Hi, Roman. Mind if I sit here?"
"Not at all." Roman had watched him carefully for a few moments, eyes narrowed. "I have to admit, I'm surprised to see you, Rusty." He hadn't sounded surprised. In fact his tone had been pointedly neutral.
In return he'd kept his voice casual while inwardly wondering if he had offended Roman in some mysterious way that could only possibly make sense to a Brit. Or, slightly more plausibly if Danny had - they tended to get the fall-out from each other's mistakes after all. "Yeah, I'm over here tying up a few lose ends. That thing you got me worked perfectly by the way." Compliments nearly always garnered some sort of reaction from Roman.
"Of course it did. Though obviously not everything went so perfectly?" He'd been looking at the cast. Rusty had, in a brief flash of frivolity, considered asking if he wanted to sign it. Three girls had already tried to write their phone numbers on it that day.
He'd smiled easily, thinking that perhaps all the weirdness was merely Roman's way of showing concern. "It looks worse than it is. I'm fine, really."
Roman had spoken very slowly and softly, watching him carefully until he had taken a sip of his newly-arrived coffee. "Well, that's good. That's very good. Because I was at your funeral two days ago."
Of course, he'd spat the coffee out all over the table. "What?"
Roman had relaxed ever so slightly then, handing him a napkin. Thinking about it, maybe he'd been worried that Rusty had been trying to fake his own death. "Apparently you were murdered by – "
He'd already figured that part. " – Roy Blake. Fuck."
"Oh you do know him? Well that's something I suppose." Roman had smiled, casually adding "I understand he's not long for this world."
By that time Rusty had been thinking of more important things. " . . . Was he there?"
"Who?" Roman had asked innocently.
"Roman." There had definitely been an edge to his voice at that point.
Roman, naturally, had carried on regardless. "Oh, are you by any chance referring to Daniel Ocean? Your best friend and partner since before the dawn of time? The man you lo – "
"Of course he was there." There had almost been an expression of sympathy in Roman's eyes at that, concealed beneath several layers of superiority and condescension, of course. "You might want to think about telling him you're not dead."
By the time he'd said that though, Rusty had already been on his feet, scanning the streets in search of a taxi.
It could be arrogance, but the moment he'd heard that he was presumed dead he'd been – worried – about Danny's reaction. He couldn't help but imagine how he would feel if Danny were dead. Unfortunately he'd always had a very good imagination. That was why he'd raced to the airport and bought the last seat on the next flight home. It had been in Economy and he hadn't even scammed or flirted his way into a free upgrade. It wasn't as though he was a snob, but the last time he'd flown Economy had been . . . actually he didn't think he'd ever flown Economy. By the time they'd been making enough to look at air travel as a serious option, Business had been the only way to go.
He'd spent the entire journey trying to convince himself that he was overreacting. That Danny wouldn't have fallen apart. That they really were different enough that his death wouldn't end Danny's world in the way that Danny's would end his.
Sometimes it hurt to be wrong.
A series of muffled thumps from inside the room attracted his attention. Danny must have woken up.
"Rusty!" Sounded urgent.
"Out here." he called back.
Danny burst through the door a couple of seconds later, still dressed in the clothes he was wearing yesterday, hair sticking up all over the place. He skidded to a halt and stared at Rusty for a few moments. "I wasn't – "
"Freaking out?" Rusty supplied.
"Yeah." He joined Rusty leaning against the barrier. "I wasn't doing that."
They stood in silence for a few minutes; Rusty wondering what the cost of making a move would be if everything was off.
"I thought you were dead." Danny said finally.
Rusty looked round but said nothing. He couldn't quite see where this was going but he already felt guilty.
Danny stared out over the edge. "This morning, I thought you were dead."
OK. That wasn't good.
"I woke up and you weren't there, and I thought . . . " he shrugged.
Without thinking Rusty reached out and placed his hand on top of Danny's. "I'm alive." he said quietly.
Danny turned round and smiled at him and Rusty's heart skipped a beat. He felt like he was sixteen again. "Good. And just so we're clear? You're not allowed to die again." And then he leaned forward and kissed him and Rusty knew that everything was going to be all right.
"Oh jeez." Wasn't that Linus? That sounded like Linus. Stepping back from Danny for a moment, he looked round. Yep, Linus was standing on the next balcony along, looking pointedly away from them.
"Morning, Linus." Danny said smoothly.
Rusty grinned and waved.
"It's not that I . . . I mean, you know I'm not . . . " Linus seemed to be struggling. "Can't you get a room?"
"This is our room." Danny pointed out.
Well, actually it was Danny and Tess' room, but Rusty didn't feel like pointing that out. "Actually it's a balcony." he said to Danny, loudly enough for Linus to hear.
"Well, I don't think – " Danny began
Rusty shrugged. "Sure, if you want to look at it like that."
"Yeah, I do." Danny nodded.
"Well then. Breakfast?"
"As long as you put on something more than that bathrobe." Danny headed to the door. "See you later Linus."
"Bye." Rusty grinned. Linus was still staring at them.
Dressed in yesterday's pants and the only shirt in Danny's wardrobe that didn't offend his own unique sense of aesthetics, Rusty studied the hotel restaurant's breakfast menu. The moment they'd sat down a waiter had brought Danny what looked like a quadruple espresso. He carefully hadn't commented. He knew Danny after all. He knew, without asking, about sleepless nights and the lengths they were prepared to go to preserve normality.
It had been a relief when Danny had asked for a cappuccino instead though.
"I need to go shopping today." he commented, before ordering the greasiest fry-up on the menu. So many ways to play with hung-over Danny.
Danny simply raised an eyebrow and didn't comment on his choice. "I think it looks good on you."
He smirked. "Better than it does on you." he teased.
Danny just shrugged slightly. "Where are we going to hit first?"
"Haven't had time to study the list too much, but I noticed one place in Italy. Guy's got a couple of Turners, a Da Vinci sketch and a Goya."
Danny looked surprised. Rusty couldn't blame him; that would be some haul. "And he's not supposed to – "
"Nope." All of those pieces were officially somewhere else.
"No repercussions." Danny mused.
"No legal repercussions." he corrected. Always an important distinction to make.
There was something he had to find a way to lead into. And he really didn't want to. He caught himself rubbing at the corner of his mouth. Had to stop doing that – Danny always noticed. "Tess likes Goya, doesn't she?" His voice sounded a little too casual to him.
Danny frowned. "Yeah, why?"
"Thought she might like it as a present." There. Casual, sincere and not at all insecure. He leaned back in his chair with his very best air of disinterest.
Danny stared at him with his very best air of incredulity. Difference was, Rusty was pretty sure Danny's was genuine. "Well, I can see two problems with that." he said at last. "Firstly, Tess doesn't want a stolen painting." Hmm. He hadn't thought of that. Mostly because since neither of them had ever had a legit job, everything that Danny had ever given Tess had been stolen, or bought with stolen money at least. "And secondly," Danny continued, "I'm not getting back together with her."
"As your friend I think I should be talking you out of ending your marriage on the basis of one drunken kiss." He tried to look into Danny's eyes, like he would if he was selling any other line to any other mark, but he found himself staring down at the ink lines on his forearm instead.
There was a silence. He could feel Danny watching him, but when he looked up, Danny had glanced away. "I should have kissed you twenty years ago." he said offhandedly.
He felt a grin spread slowly across his face. That was something he could accept.
The waiter brought their food over. Rusty looked from his full plate to Danny's half-grapefruit and smirked. To his amusement, Danny looked a little bit ill, and a little bit envious.
Ohhh, that tasted good. Just what he needed. He closed his eyes; those eggs were amazing.
Danny was staring at him.
"What?" he asked innocently.
"You normally only make those noises over dessert." He sounded amused.
Rusty shrugged and reached for a napkin. "Been a while since I've eaten. I missed dinner yesterday. And lunch come to think of it. In fact, by the time the plane landed it was lunch again, so I missed it twice."
"Glad to hear I mean so much to you." Danny actually sounded sincere and Rusty gave him a reassuring look before continuing.
"The last thing I had was that cannoli. And I didn't finish it. Actually, I didn't pay for it. I left Roman with the bill."
Danny shook his head sadly. "You know he's going to add that on the next time we pay him."
"With interest." He had a vivid mental image of Roman demanding ten thousand dollars per day, plus twenty-two and a half cannolis.
Danny chuckled, seeming to share the same thought. There was a brief silence.
"He said he was your partner." Danny said suddenly.
Well, they weren't talking about Roman anymore. "He was a mark." Rusty pointed out.
Danny nodded, but still seemed unsettled. "I've never – "
"I know." he interrupted quietly. "He said it, not me."
That was one lie he'd never told. That was one lie he never could tell.
The silence stretched out.
"Look. If he thought he could replace – " he made a vague gesture, knowing that Danny could see it encompass everything " – then he was an idiot."
"He shot you."
"And he shot me." Rusty agreed. He leaned forwards and looked Danny straight in the eyes. "I didn't know he was going to shoot me."
Danny didn't look convinced. "But you wore the vest."
"Would you rather I hadn't?" He winced internally at the brief flash of devastation that crossed Danny's face. "Shit, I'm sorry." He paused to gather his thoughts. "I didn't know for definite that he was going to shoot me. I set him up to double cross me, because I needed Ramirez to drive the price up."
Danny looked like he didn't quite think that was reason enough.
"I knew he had a gun. I was expecting him to threaten me into handing the list over, but just in case I wore the vest. Which was fortunate, because the idiot shot me in the back while I was driving, then ran away from the wreck."
He didn't mention that when the bullet hit the Kevlar it had felt like he'd been hit in the back with a sledge hammer. He certainly didn't mention that when he had woken up, slumped over the steering wheel, it had only been the pain that had convinced him he wasn't dead.
"So I got patched up at the nearest ER and headed to Venice."
As he had staggered away from the car, his first thought had been to call Danny. The only reason that he hadn't was that his cell phone had been smashed beyond repair. He could have saved Danny a lot of anguish if he'd just kept with his instinct; used a payphone at the hospital or something. Even if he'd been a bit less cautious and had used his own name for the flight, or at the ER. They could have tracked him. They could have known he was alive.
"And that's about it." he shrugged.
Danny looked at him for almost a full minute before saying quietly "You crossed the line."
"I know." He did. This whole thing with Whittaker and Ramirez – it wasn't the way he would have played it if Danny had been there. With nothing important hanging in the balance – when the only stake was money - well, there was a limit to how far even they should go. But when Danny wasn't there, when he was alone and bored, it got harder to see just where the line was.
The silence that followed could almost be described as uncomfortable. Almost
"It wasn't just you." Danny said suddenly. "Most of it was, but . . . " he shrugged.
Rusty recognised the tone. "You were bored." he stated.
"Retirement." Danny spread his arms helplessly. "She wanted me to change."
And he couldn't, Rusty knew. "Compromise is supposed to be the key to any good relationship." He'd read that in a magazine on the plane.
"She suggested I take up golf."
OK, that might be a compromise too far. "Three thousand people die on golf courses in a year." he said casually.
"Huh." Danny answered slowly, appearing to take this seriously. "How many die stealing pre-stolen art?"
He pursed his lips. "It's got to be less, right?" he finally answered.
Danny nodded "That's what I thought."
Rusty was distracted momentarily by the sight of Saul, Reuben, Linus and Basher walking up behind Danny. He was just about to say 'Hi' when Danny looked over at him, smiled teasingly and said in a low voice. "You know, I started to question my sexuality the first time I saw you crack a safe."
"Why am I always walking into these things?" Linus sounded slightly unhappy. Reuben, on the other hand, looked extremely happy judging by the amused smirk he was wearing; while Saul was glowering at them in a distinctly non-threatening manner.
Danny shot him a meaningful look. He offered a quick half-smile in return. It was a good thing that neither of them were prone to blushing. "Morning" he said, easily.
Basher slid into the seat next to Danny. "You know, that might be the worst line I've ever heard." he said, conversationally.
"Have you seen him working on a safe?" Danny returned.
"Good point." Basher agreed thoughtfully. OK. The way they both turned to look at him was a little worrying. As was the way Reuben was sniggering.
Linus was looking desperate to change the subject, something Rusty had full sympathy with. "Basher said you were flirting with me during the Benedict job." he blurted out. The kid really had to learn to think before he spoke, even when he wasn't working.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Danny's expression switch to impassive. He would have been worried, if he hadn't known full well that that particular blank look meant that Danny was trying not to laugh.
He gave Linus his full attention. "Well, I'm kind of seeing someone right now." he pointed out, with the full knowledge that Linus had meant nothing of the sort. "I'm flattered though."
"You know I wasn't thinking that." Linus protested. "It was just in my head."
"Definitely flattered." Danny answered laughingly, saving him the trouble.
Saul cleared his throat. "I'm heading home today."
"Me too." Linus said quickly.
"Yeah." Basher and Reuben both nodded. "I think most people are."
Made sense; everyone had put their lives on hold. "We're probably sticking around for a couple of days." Danny said. "They hadn't discussed it, but that had been what Rusty had been assuming too. Not least because he couldn't face the thought of another trans-Atlantic flight too soon.
"Where you hitting first?" Reuben asked.
Well, that was just great. "Doesn't anyone believe that I sold the list to Whittaker without taking a copy?" he asked, plaintively.
Saul snorted in disbelief. "No."
He grinned and shook his head. "Some place near Lake Como. Owned by a French aristocrat, if you can believe that. Some very interesting stuff."
"Won't be for a few weeks yet." Danny pointed out, with a meaningful look at his cast. Rusty met his eyes for an infinite, wonderful moment and found himself smiling like an idiot.
When he finally looked away, Linus was looking embarrassed while Saul was looking stern, and Rusty got the distinct impression that he was trying to figure out which of them to offer fatherly advice to and which to threaten. Reuben was still looking incredibly amused. Some things just don't change.
Basher shook his head. "That's going to take some getting used to." Rusty shrugged. Danny was looking non-committal. "I mean, things are going to change, right?"
"Of course." Danny said immediately. Rusty turned to look at him, surprised. He hadn't actually thought of things changing. Other than the fact that they now had an interesting alternative to watching TV. It wasn't as if he could possibly love Danny any more than he already did. "I mean" Danny continued with a grin "From now on, we'll only need to scam one hotel room."
Rusty smiled. Everything was going to work out perfectly.
And that, my friends, is finally the end. Well, apart from the bonus chapter I mentioned earlier.
I meant to say - I try to reply to all reviewers individually, but for those who I might have missed, or for anonymous reviewers - a HUGE thank you. You have no idea what it means to me that you take that time.