Of course I do not own anything to do with the Ocean's films. I just like playing in someone else's universe.
Note to people who may be waiting on another chapter of Shell Game: Um. Yes, well, I got the chapter two thirds done. And it was crap. Complete and total mince. So yeah, look for the next chapter coming to an internet near you, as soon as I'm capable of producing a version that isn't completely balls.
Question 1: What do you expect to get out of your future career?
Danny blinked, then stared back down at the form in front of him blankly. It still said the same thing. Right. OK. He could do this. He had to – Mrs. Leitner said that if he didn't hand it in by tomorrow, she was going to fail him and call his mom. Again. Taking a deep breath, he picked up his pen. Inspiration failed to strike. He sighed loudly and kicked the leg of his desk.
It didn't help, but it made Rusty look up from his customary position, sprawled over Danny's bed surrounded by textbooks, pages of notes and candy wrappers.
"What's up?" he asked.
Danny half-twisted round to look at him. "What do I expect to get out of my future career?"
Rusty blinked. "Money? A job? A deep sense of personal satisfaction? Company car, dental plan, pension, a wife and 2.4 children?"
Danny pulled a face. "I'll take the money, I guess." He wrote a couple of Rusty's suggestions down, more or less at random.
"Is that the thing?" Rusty nodded at the form.
"Yeah." Danny answered, simply.
"And you didn't . . . "
"No." he said, firmly. He hadn't done it last week. He hadn't wanted to. He turned his attention to the next question, but something was bothering him. "You can't get children out of a job." he pointed out suddenly.
"It was more sort of a whole lifestyle deal." Rusty told him, absently. That made a certain amount of sense, though it did make him wonder how much daytime TV Rusty had been watching lately. "What was the next question?"
Danny looked down at the form. "Would you like to work in an office?" he read. "I said no."
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Rusty nod. "Good. What's a twelve letter word for tight with money?"
"Parsimonious." he said immediately. "Are you doing an English assignment or a crossword?"
"I'm not sure." The frustration in Rusty's voice sounded familiar.
"Oh yeah, you've got Mr Wishaw this year, haven't you?" He winced internally at the memories.
"Yeah." Rusty did not sound happy.
"Have you - ?" he began, curiously.
Rusty interrupted. "Mind-mapped the entirety of Romeo and Juliet? Oh yeah. Last week."
Ouch. "You should've said. I would have given you my version." He'd had to do the exact same assignment three years ago.
He could feel Rusty staring at him. "Wasn't that the time that you made an argument for Romeo being a child-molester and ended up in detention for a month?"
Danny grinned. Good times. "Yeah."
"No thanks. Some of us have to work to pass English class you know." But Danny could tell that Rusty was smiling too.
They both continued to work in silence for a while.
"It's not that there's anything wrong with working in an office." Danny felt compelled to say suddenly, returning to their previous topic of conversation.
Rusty said nothing.
"I mean, lot's of people work in offices. My mom works in an office. It can't be that bad, right?"
Rusty still said nothing.
"You think I'd be bored, don't you?" Which he would be, he was sure, but he felt the need to justify himself anyway. "Can you imagine going to the same place, day in and day out, seeing the same people and doing the same things?" It sounded like hell to him.
Rusty continued to say nothing.
Danny sighed. "Yeah, I guess maybe all jobs are like that. Maybe I don't want one at all?"
"What's the alternative?" Rusty asked, at last. But Danny didn't have an answer.
Question Six: Would you want a job that required you to use your creativity?
Danny sighed, heavily. He was really hating this survey. "Define creativity." he said, annoyed.
"The state or quality of being creative; the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc." Rusty said, without looking up. Danny knew without looking that there was an open dictionary beside him.
"Funny." he scowled thoughtfully.
"What's the question?" Rusty asked. Danny told him. "Huh."
"Exactly." Danny agreed.
"Well, do they mean – "
"I have no idea." He paused. "If they mean singing or art or whatever, then that's not me."
"Right." Rusty agreed, a little too quickly for Danny's tastes.
"Hey, I can be artistic. I was in the photography club, remember?" Nearly two years ago, for about two months, but it still counted.
"Firstly, we were only in that club for the darkroom." Rusty began. "And secondly, we were kicked out, remember?"
"We weren't kicked out, we were asked to leave. Politely. And it wasn't because of any lack of artistic talent." It made a difference.
"Right. They just thought we were doing something illegal."
Actually; "I thought we were doing something illegal."
Rusty shook his head. "Surveillance photos aren't illegal. No actual crime was committed. At that point. Or ever, as far as the photography club know."
Oh yeah. He could trust Rusty to know what he was talking about. He glanced back down at the form. "So, assuming they mean creative thinking, do we – "
" – you – " Rusty interjected.
Danny ignored him. " - want a job which uses creativity?"
Rusty shrugged. Danny sighed and wrote down 'Only in the sense of creative thinking and planning' and moved on.
Question eleven: Are you a people person?
Danny rolled his eyes. "I hate that phrase." he said turning to Rusty, who was just coming in the door clutching two glasses of soda and a bag of chips that Danny hadn't even known was in the kitchen. His mom had probably hidden it. She kept trying to convince the pair of them to eat healthily.
"What phrase?" Rusty asked, setting one of the glasses down in front of Danny – right on top of the form as it happened. Oh well, considering some of the answers he'd given so far, a couple of wet stains couldn't possibly make it worse.
"'People person'" he answered.
Rusty flopped down on top of the bed, somehow not spilling any soda on his own work. Bastard. "Ah." he said, eloquently, reaching for his books. The chips had mysteriously vanished.
Danny sighed. "It's called sharing, Rus'."
Rusty produced the packet from under a cushion. "They're mine. I found them."
Danny raised an eyebrow. "Just lying around, as it were?"
"In my kitchen." Danny pointed out.
"Property is theft."
"So is stealing. Keep eating like you do, and soon you won't be able to fit into that god-awful shirt."
Rusty looked down at the shirt. There was a long pause. "This was the first new shirt I ever bought." he said, in a small voice. "Don't you like it?" He looked up at Danny, eyes huge, bottom lip wobbling ever so slightly.
Danny swallowed. Things suddenly seemed slightly out of control. "I'm sorry." he said, helplessly. "I didn't mean . . . look, I don't want any chips. Keep them."
"Great." Rusty grinned, immediately brighter, and tore open the packet.
Danny closed his eyes. "Oh for . . . " he groaned. "You have no pride."
"Got plenty of that, actually. I have no shame."
He shook his head. "I hate you."
"No you don't." Rusty said, between mouthfuls.
"I hate that shirt then." he snapped. Rusty just grinned.
He turned back to scowl at the form for a few moments, but Rusty was actually less annoying.
"It's just one of those stupid phrases that doesn't mean anything in particular, except that the person using it is a moron." he burst out. "I mean, do they want to know if I'm good with people, or if I like people, or what?"
"Uh huh." Danny could tell that Rusty thought he was over-thinking this. But the vagueness of the questionnaire was really annoying him.
"And anyone who describes themselves as a 'people person' is almost certainly into conning people for whatever they can get." he continued.
"You con people. We both do." Rusty pointed out.
Danny shrugged. "Well, yeah, of course. But we wouldn't describe ourselves in a way that makes it sound like we do, would we?"
"The shark swam by like a bored fridge."
Danny blinked. "What?" he asked carefully. He was pretty sure that that had come out of nowhere.
"The shark swam by like a bored fridge." Rusty repeated.
Danny turned round, slightly concerned that his friend might have lost his mind. Rusty was staring at the page in front of him, with an unfamiliar look of complete puzzlement on his face.
"I'm supposed to explain that simile." he said, helplessly.
Danny tried to think of something sensible to say. "Does it have a context?" he asked at last.
"Not so much, no." Rusty sighed.
"It doesn't make sense." Danny said in wonderment.
"Why – "
"Look just don't ask." Danny suggested.
" - would a fridge –"
"There's no answer." he warned.
" – be bored."
"I have no idea." he finished, glumly.
They stared at each other for a few moments. "Say that you are a people person." Rusty said finally. "People like you, you like them, and you can talk almost anyone into almost anything. Whatever they mean, you qualify."
That made sense. He scribbled his answer down, then turned back, with a grin. "Almost anyone?"
"I'm immune." Rusty claimed, deadpan.
"Right. Then how come you did my French translations last week." Danny asked, smugly.
Rusty grinned, slightly unnerving Danny. "Oh, that's just 'cause I'm your friend." he said, in a matter-of-fact tone.
He couldn't help but grin back. "So it's not my extraordinary charisma?"
"Nope." Rusty said happily.
"Good to know." And it was.
Question fourteen: Are you happy working outdoors?
"That's wrong." Rusty said, leaning over Danny's shoulder, donut in hand. "You should put 'no'."
"I don't have a problem working outdoors." Danny protested.
"Yes you would." Rusty answered, wandering back to lie on the bed.
"We're out every Saturday, feeling up shoppers for pocket money." he pointed out.
"No, that's outside." Rusty answered. "Outdoor implies, I don't know - grass. Trees and shit. You know, nature."
"Oh. Oh." Danny considered this for a few minutes, then scribbled out his answer. "You're lucky you don't have to worry about this sort of stuff yet."
"Yeah." Rusty answered flatly.
Danny affected not to notice. "All this 'So what are you going to do with your life?' stuff. My uncle actually pointed out that I'm not getting any younger the other week."
"Your uncle Ed?" Rusty sounded hopeful. Probably something to do with the twenty bucks he won off Ed the last time he visited.
"No, uncle Harold. The banker."
Rusty snorted. "He's not getting any younger either."
"No, but his girlfriends sure are." Danny smirked. Then he sighed. "My dad wanted me to go into business with him, you know?" He already knew that Rusty did. "Wanted me to get an MBA then join the company and work my way up. He kept talking about how great it would be to work side by side, father and son. Never asked me what I want."
Rusty stayed silent. Danny didn't look at him.
"Now my mom keeps dropping hints that I should be a lawyer. Saying how great I was in the debate club that time we were involved with the thing with Teddy Norman. Leaving all these college prospectuses open at pre law. She says I'd be good at it."
"You would be." Rusty said, noncommittally.
"That's not the point." Danny ran a hand through his hair. "I don't want to be a lawyer. I can't think of any job I do want. I mean, we're still young, right? Why can't we just drift along a while longer?"
"You can't think of any job you want to do?" Rusty asked curiously. "Not even the really unrealistic ones?"
"I don't know . . ." Rusty thought for a few moments. "Movie star?"
"Everyone would recognise you all the time." he objected. "It'd be really difficult to get anything done."
"Astronaut?" Rusty suggested.
"You need to be in the military first." he pointed out. "I couldn't take orders." And he was just a little bit afraid of heights, but that was another matter.
Danny grinned. "Too much effort." he admitted. There were plenty of things he was willing to work for. That wasn't one of them.
"Now you're just being silly."
Question 18: What are you good at?
"What am I good at?" Danny asked aloud.
"Well, according to Jenny Mitchell – " Rusty began, a smirk in his voice.
Danny interrupted hastily. "Where did you hear that?"
"While I was hiding in the girl's locker room." Rusty said, casually
Danny turned round. "Hiding . . . in the girl's locker room?" he asked, slowly.
"Not what you think." Rusty protested. He was blushing ever so slightly. It was kind of cute.
"I'm sure." Danny said, smirking and shaking his head.
"No. Remember two weeks ago, when we were getting that stuff from the lab for Lee, and Dr. Bickerstaffe came back early? I ran distraction – and the guy's faster than he looks."
"So you hid in the girl's locker room." Danny said, still smirking.
"In the air ducts actually, that's just where I ended up."
Danny shook his head. "Only you." he said, wonderingly.
They grinned at each other.
"I always meant to ask," Danny said, changing the subject, "What did Lee want with that stuff?"
"Science fair project." Rusty said, simply.
"Oh." Danny considered this. "You think we should open a book on the result?"
"First thing Monday." Rusty agreed.
"By the way," Danny began, hesitantly. "Which one is Jenny Mitchell."
Rusty rolled his eyes. "The blonde one, with the dimples and the big – "
Rusty paused and made a vague gesture. Danny smirked.
" – feet." Rusty finished finally, straight-faced.
Danny just about had a picture of her in his mind. "And I went with her?"
Rusty nodded. "Couple of times. Two months ago."
"Right." he said thoughtfully. "And what did I say about her?"
Rusty rolled his eyes again. "You said she was nice but she wouldn't stop giggling. Even when you were – "
"Got it." He remembered now. "And she said – "
"Huh. Kind of flattering." He thought about it for a few minutes. "But I don't think I can put it down on this form."
"No." Rusty agreed. "Mrs. Leitner might take it as a recommendation."
"Ugh." Danny pulled a face. "Not what I was thinking. Or what I wanted to be thinking. Just that it's not something that I can use in a job. So what are we good at?"
"What are you good at. It's your form. It's your life." Suddenly Rusty sounded annoyed, and for the first time in a long while, Danny had no idea why.
He kept his tone light. "You mean you're not planning on following me around for the rest of my life, keeping me out of trouble and being my social diary?"
Rusty sighed. "Danny – "
He cut in, his voice low and sincere. "Because I was going to do it for you." He knew, as sure as he knew anything, that Rusty could tell he was for real. They'd never learned to lie to each other.
"That's not how the real world works, Danny." Rusty sounded frustrated. He had to get to the bottom of this.
"Tell me." he ordered.
"In a year or so, you're going to go away to college." Rusty began.
Danny interrupted immediately. "We'll still see each other." How could Rusty possibly think otherwise?
"Sure." Rusty agreed readily. "At first. But people change, Danny. You'll . . . we'll grow apart. It just happens. By the time you're twenty, we'll just nod to each other if we pass on the street."
Danny bit back his immediate denial, and tried to imagine a world in which Rusty wasn't the first person he ran to if he was in trouble. When his dad had . . . and he'd burst into Rusty's chemistry exam. And they'd spent the rest of the day, and half the night, hiding on the school roof. A world in which he couldn't trust that if Rusty needed him, he wouldn't come over and throw stones at his window at three o'clock in the morning.
"Never going to happen." he said, finally. "Not in a million years."
Rusty smiled crookedly. "Sure, Danny." he said. Danny could hear the quiet disbelief in his voice.
"You're wrong, and you're stuck with me." He said firmly. He was more sure of this than he'd ever been about anything. Why couldn't Rusty see it? "Bet you anything you like."
Rusty laughed slightly, and turned away. "Look, it's not important or anything . . . "
"Yes it is."
They paused, both startled by the vehemence in Danny's voice.
"I'm serious." Danny continued, in a quieter tone. "I bet you a million dollars that by the time we're . . . " he tried to think of a suitably far off age " . . . by the time we're forty, we'll still be best friends."
"We're different ages." Rusty commented absently.
"Fine. By the time you're forty." That was even further off.
"A million dollars?" He sounded amused.
"Yep. One million dollars." Danny confirmed. He stretched, walked over to the edge of the bed, where Rusty was sitting and held out his hand.
Rusty shook it. "I'll be sure to track you down on my fortieth birthday."
Danny looked him straight in the eyes. "You won't have to." he promised.
There was a long silence.
Danny cleared his throat. "So what do you think I should say my weaknesses are?"
Rusty tilted his head back, thoughtfully. "Kryptonite?"
More years later than either of them would care to admit . . .
Even though he was supposed to be watching the doorway, for the last half hour Danny's eyes had been flickering to the clock on the dashboard. He'd been waiting for this for a long time, and it wasn't as if he was the only one pulling surveillance duty. Rusty'd spot anything he missed.
He stole a sideways glance and sighed. Rusty was investigating the bottom of a bag of cookies, looking for stray crumbs. If they messed this up because neither of them was paying attention, they'd never hear the end of it. Saul alone would . . .
Quickly he looked back at the entrance. Nothing was happening. Once again, his gaze drifted back to the clock, just in time to see it click over to midnight. Finally.
"Happy Birthday, Rus'." He said, now at last able to keep staring straight ahead. "You owe me a million dollars."
He felt Rusty staring at him. "What?"
"Remember that bet we made when we were kids? You said we'd drift apart." he allowed himself to smirk slightly. "You were wrong."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Rusty's expression change. Suddenly, Rusty looked vulnerable and . . . lost, chewing on his bottom lip. "You stayed friends with me . . . to win a stupid bet?"
Danny inhaled sharply. "Of course not!" he protested, shocked. "How could you think . . . " he paused suddenly, and shook his head in dawning realisation. "You don't think that at all, do you." he stated, flatly.
Rusty was laughing. "You're too easy Danny."
"And you have no shame."
"I know." Rusty agreed, happily
"I thought we agreed you were going to stop doing that when you hit twenty." Danny said, sternly.
Rusty shrugged. "What works, works."
They both stared out the windscreen, in comfortable silence for a few moments.
"The money went into your account . . . oh, about a minute and a half ago, now." Rusty said finally, glancing quickly at the clock.
"One million dollars?" Danny asked, surprised. He'd never expected Rusty to actually pay up. It wasn't like the money meant anything to either of them. Of course, he wasn't at all surprised that Rusty knew his bank account details.
"A million dollars, yes. It's not my million dollars. It's just one I found."
Danny grinned. "Sort of lying around, as it were?"
"Exactly." Rusty grinned back. "Remember how we bumped into Toulour at that thing last month?"
Danny blinked. "Oh, you didn't."
"Think he'll mind?" Rusty grinned
"Oh, I think he's going to hunt us down and try and make us pay. Again." But Danny couldn't stop laughing.
After a few more minutes of quiet staring, punctuated by outbursts of giggling, Danny leaned over to Rusty. "Wanna give it another ten minutes, before we call Linus to take over, and go and get your birthday cake?"
Rusty turned, and smiled at him warmly. "Thank you, Danny."
"You haven't tasted it yet." he warned, smiling back.
"Not for the cake." But he'd already known that.
He might have said something more, but that was when Victor Florentine came out the doorway and all hell broke loose. But that's largely a different story.
If anyone's interested, that line about 'The shark swam by like a bored fridge' appeared in an English exam when I was fifteen. I had to explain it. That was the lowest level of exam, and the question was only worth one mark. I went on to get straight A's in English in all subsequent school English exams, I'm now educated to an honours degree level. I still have no idea what that simile means. It's been bothering me for nearly nine years.
On a more relevant note, there's deliberately no real indication of exactly how old the boys are. Read what you like.
So, anyway, did you like it?