Usual disclaimer applies, I don't own anything from O11 world
This entire story is most definitely for InSilva, who has, intelligently, diplomatically and brilliantly, dealt with a lot of my worries and plot problems with this one. Though I doubt she'll thank me for it when she reads it.
Rated, incidentally, for violence and profanity.
It wasn't a number he recognised. That was the first thing that got his attention. Though, to be honest, he was bored out of his mind and by that point just about anything different would have interested him. Danny wanted to stay in the city. Close to home. Close to Tess. And Rusty understood that completely, and wasn't in the slightest bit annoyed – but after just three months, they'd both agreed that Rusty possibly wasn't capable of staying in one place for that long, and so for the first time in well over a decade, he'd started pulling solo jobs. Small stuff, mostly, but around the country. Hell, he'd even wandered over the Atlantic once or twice. Always returning to New York, whenever he got too bored or whenever Danny called to say 'I've got a great idea'.
(Because they both meant 'I miss you'.)
And he'd been away for nearly six weeks this time, in London, hanging out with Basher and nearly making several irreplaceable national treasures go 'boom'. Now his restlessness had pretty much died down, and he was thinking about heading home, though he'd been eyeing the Tate yesterday and thinking a number of interesting thoughts. So, maybe a few more weeks, if Basher was amenable.
And then, the phone call. From a number he didn't recognise.
"Yeah?" he answered it, cautiously.
"Rusty? It's Tess." She'd been crying; he could tell immediately, and his heart froze in his chest.
"Tess? What's wrong?" he asked, and his voice didn't tremble in the slightest.
"Danny's a thief." And that was unexpected. And almost a relief. "Danny's a thief, and so are you." He kept silent. Let her do the talking. "I read something I shouldn't have, and you know, I don't even know why I didn't put it together before. But I have now and I left him. I left him, and now I don't know what to do."
Rusty caught the first flight back.
Danny studied the plans in his hand and tried to pretend to himself that he was giving them the same attention that he always would. He told himself that he was accounting for everything. That the details would sort themselves out. And he told himself that he was telling himself that he was just being paranoid when it felt like he was being watched.
He looked at the phone, and thought about calling Tess. And he thought about calling Rusty.
But Tess had hurt him, and he wanted to show that he wasn't going to change who he was just because she laid down an ultimatum. He'd pull this off. That would show her.
(But there's one sure way to hurt the one who loves you. And that's to hurt yourself.)
Danny didn't seem in the slightest bit surprised to see him. But then, he never did.
They talked over a pizza; Danny gave him the sordid details. The yelling. The accusations. And the ultimatum. Her or the job. And Danny never gave in to that sort of pressure, even when it was killing him. Even when, maybe, he wanted to.
"So what are you going to do now?" Rusty asked.
"Nothing. She'll come round. And in the meantime, I'm going to keep my nose clean."
"Uh huh." Casually his eyes travelled to the pile of plans he'd spotted the moment he came in.
Equally casually, Danny put the empty pizza box on top of them. "Want to catch a movie?"
They met at a Chinese restaurant. Tess' idea; she wanted somewhere anonymous. Neutral. And she didn't want Rusty at Jillian's house, not least because she couldn't help but remember her wedding, and the way that Jillian had been quite so insistent that it was her duty as matron of honour to sleep with the best man. Not that she'd got anywhere.
Of course, she should have realised that Rusty would try to eat everything on the menu.
"I think he's planning something." she said abruptly, once the waiter finally got a chance to clear the plates, and Rusty signed the check, and she just about managed to resist the temptation to see whose name he was signing. "Something reckless."
Rusty hadn't looked in the slightest bit surprised. He'd nodded and given his full attention to eating his fortune cookie.
Tess couldn't help but feel a little rejected. "If he goes to jail I'm not taking him back." she snapped.
At that, Rusty did look up and, after licking the last of the crumbs from his fingertips, asked "Otherwise you're going to?"
"I don't know." She looked away, pulling at the wrapper of her own cookie. "I still love him."
"I know." Rusty said gently. "So does he."
"But he lied to me." she said, desperately. "Can't you tell him – "
" – I'm not carrying messages between you, Tess." Rusty's voice was hard. "If you want to talk to him, pick up the phone."
"And what'll you tell him if he asks about this?"
Rusty shrugged. "The truth. I can't lie to him. He always knows."
She hesitated. "Does he know when I lie to him?"
He looked at her, and she remembered that however much they might understand each other, Rusty had never been her friend. "I don't know. What lies have you told him?"
Flushing, she clenched her fist around the cookie. "Well, when you tell him all about this cosy little chat, tell him if he walks away, I'll take him back."
Apparently he found that amusing. She threw the cookie at him. "Here. Wouldn't want you to get hungry, would we?" Not the best exit line she'd ever thought of, but he didn't say anything as she swept off.
Carefully Rusty unwrapped the remains of the cookie and picked out the message inside. He traced his finger along the Chinese characters and smiled humourlessly to himself.
'He does love you. But in the end that will not be enough.'
He put together the best disguises he ever had. Kept a far greater distance than he normally would. And he was able to follow Danny without Danny ever noticing. Fuck. If nothing else that told him that Danny was doing worse than even he knew. Incan Matrimonial Headmasks? What was that?
But as much as part of him wished Danny would turn round, sense his presence like usual, he was glad when it didn't happen. Because it gave him the museum basement. It gave him the second entrance. And it gave him the fence, who talked so eagerly to the other man following Danny.
Rusty had spotted Danny's second shadow within twenty minutes. The guy was good, but he wasn't looking for Rusty, and it was easy enough to lift and return his wallet.
Agent Harry Carson, FBI.
They sat on the sofa, drinking wine and watching old movies, like they had a thousand times before in a thousand different places. And they were both a little drunk, or at least Danny thought they both were.
"I'd give anything to get her back." he said as Humphrey Bogart kissed Ingrid Bergman one last time.
He should have been paying more attention.
Breaking into FBI offices wasn't exactly a new experience for Rusty, but to be honest, it never got old. Fastidiously he flipped through files and photographs, noted names and dates. Realised that Carson had an interesting habit of not recovering the money. Or at least not for the rightful owners. Corruption in the Bureau, who'd have thought?
He realised almost immediately that it was all far too late. They already had too much. There was nothing he could do; someone was going down for this.
And even as he heard the door click open, even as he heard a voice say 'Freeze!' he was smiling. Because he could see the pattern. He could see the chain of consequences falling forwards like dominos, one after another after another. And he wasn't afraid.
"Agent Carson?" he turned round slowly, still smiling. "How would you like to make a deal?"
There was a tiny part of Tess that would have liked to get a little more reaction from Rusty at being invited into her bedroom. Even if it was just a hotel room she'd moved into when she couldn't take any more of Jillian's squabbling children.
But he looked perfectly comfortable, sat on her sofa, even if his gaze did keep travelling to the waste paper bin.
"You were right." Rusty said, suddenly. "He is planning something. And it's not going to work."
She blinked. "Well, stop him."
"I've tried. He won't listen to me." Rusty paused. "He doesn't want it to work."
The suggestion in his voice was obvious. "I'm not going to be the first to climb down."
"Tess." Rusty said quietly. "Someone is going to prison for this."
She paused and glanced over to the waste paper bin. He followed her gaze. "I can't see my husband go to jail."
Rusty smiled. Suddenly. Brilliantly. "You won't." he promised, and she believed him.
Later, she took the empty wrapper from the pregnancy test out of the bin, and threw it down the garbage chute and told herself again and again that if he'd only asked, she would have told him that it was negative. It got less convincing with each repetition.
He stood outside the second entrance as the sirens got nearer and considered that it was just a little bit harder to be caught in the act than he would have imagined. Certainly Carson seemed to be taking his sweet time. Though he'd seen Danny run, as soon as he'd heard the fire alarm Rusty had activated to go with the silent alarm that Danny had tripped. (And honestly, hadn't he even glanced at the plans? Wanting to be caught was one thing, being sloppy was something else.) That was the main thing, anyway. Danny would be safe.
And the five million dollars that Rusty had made sure that Carson would 'recover' would make sure that the man wasn't looking for anyone else. That was the deal they'd made, even if Carson didn't understand it yet. Okay, so he hadn't actually had five million dollars, embarrassingly enough. But somehow, out of everything he'd done in the last few weeks, Rusty doubted that Danny would kick up a fuss about a couple of million taken from his bank account.
As the cars screeched up and the headlights picked him out, Rusty hoisted the bag containing the head masks and made a run for it. He got all of twenty feet before they tackled him to the ground and he tasted concrete.
And as he was twisted round, as the flashlight was shone in his face, as he blinked and saw Carson's look of absolute bewilderment – because he was never who the Agent had expected to see here, after all who made a deal to set themselves up? – he felt a fierce kind of joy swell up inside him.
It was the next day before he heard. Unsurprisingly, whoever Rusty had used his phone call on, it hadn't been him.
His first thought was to rush down to the police station. Confess everything. Tell them that Rusty was – for once – completely innocent. But the moment he stepped outside, two men bundled him into a car – gently – and explained – kindly – that he had an alibi. An airtight alibi. And that Rusty had been caught red-handed, and had made a full confession.
Of course, he could still go to the police. But they wouldn't believe him. Rusty had thought of everything, and Danny cursed him. The men apologised very nicely for the inconvenience and let him out.
And he wondered; if he'd been trying to punish Tess by getting caught, what was Rusty punishing him for?
The first night that Rusty spent in prison, on remand, he realised that it was likely that this would destroy him more completely than any simple death.
He still didn't regret it.
The room was blank and empty, apart from the table, two chairs and them. The money that Danny had paid to have the guards sent away and the security tapes erased would be enough to put several people's kids through college.
Rusty leaned back in his chair and looked straight at him, open and unconcerned and Danny had never felt so angry. The jumpsuit was bad enough. The handcuffs were an obscenity. And the fact that Rusty was smiling was just rubbing salt on fresh wounds.
"Take it back." Danny said, voice low.
Rusty sighed. "Danny. It's done." His voice was patient, like they'd had this conversation a million times before. Which they probably had. He just hadn't been there for any of the previous times.
He swallowed, but didn't look away. "Take it back." he begged. "Take it all back. Tell them you lied."
"No." Rusty smiled again. Relaxed rather than resigned and Danny couldn't help but hate him. "Not going to happen."
And he knew that it wasn't. One card left to play. No bluffs left. "You do this and we're through, you and me. We're done. I won't be waiting when you get out."
For a long moment Rusty looked down at the table and Danny held his breath. Then Rusty looked up and met his eyes. "Then I guess we're done." And there was the resignation, and Danny realised that he'd seen this coming. He'd planned for this, just as he'd seen every other damned detail.
"Fuck you." he spat, and leapt out of his chair and banged on the door to be let out.
Later when he dreamt of that day – and he often, often dreamt of that day – he remembered hearing Rusty whisper an unfamiliar 'Goodbye' behind him. And he'd never be sure whether or not that had really happened.
Tess came back to him the day after the trial ended. Danny hadn't gone. Saul had, still bitter about the fact that Rusty wouldn't see him, still angry about the fact that Danny wouldn't tell him what had happened, but completely incapable of abandoning either of them. Danny listened desperately to every scrap of news, and pretended that he wasn't. When he heard the sentence, he threw Saul out of the house and spent the rest of the night huddled on the sofa, staring dry-eyed into space.
But Tess came back. She forgave him and she cried. Danny didn't.
And she asked him again to make a choice. To give up the job. For her.
And Danny said yes.
Two years passed. Danny had a job in insurance and made employee of the month eight months out of twelve. He could sell anything to anyone and his smile was in his voice and his mouth, it never reached his eyes.
His co-workers liked him well enough, when they happened to think of him. He made sure that wasn't often. Tess often said that he wasn't the man she'd married.
He didn't think about the past anymore.
Rusty didn't talk much anymore and couldn't really remember a time when he had.
He tried to stay out of everyone's way. Tried to stay unnoticed. Spent too much time staring at the locks and the bars, and the walls.
He was nearly always hungry.
(No-one sent cookies.)
He didn't think about the past anymore.
Tess left. It didn't come as a surprise. After a few weeks of brooding he quit his job and went back to work.
Everyone was pleased to see him again, and when he was planning a job, when he was riding that buzz, it was almost like old times and he could sometimes forget, for a little while.
After the first couple of slip-ups, people learnt not to mention his name when Danny was around. And it only took one mistake for the news to travel that asking what had happened between them three years ago was a near fatal transgression.
Still, with or without him, Danny was counted among the best. And when Bobby Caldwell's kid begged him for what he described as an internship deal, Danny said 'yes' with Bobby's full approval.
And so suddenly he had an apprentice, or a trainee or a protégé or a whatever. But not a partner. Never that.
Linus thought that Danny Ocean was the most amazing person he'd ever met. But there was so much that he just didn't understand about the man.
Back before the very first job that they'd pulled together, his mom, his dad and Saul Bloom had each, separately, grabbed him and warned him in the strongest possible terms not to ever mention Danny's old partner. And none of them had been amused when he'd pointed out that since he didn't even know the man's name, that wouldn't be difficult. He had no idea what the story was there, some old double-cross, he guessed.
And if Danny seemed sad or distracted sometimes, he had no trouble putting that down to the divorce and making allowances. Even if sometimes he wondered if it was really something else.
"You ever loved someone, Linus?" Danny had asked, in a deserted bar, after they'd both had a few more drinks than usual, to celebrate the successful parting of William Foxx from his fortune. "Really loved them, I mean. Like, loved everything about them, die for them in a heartbeat, world's brighter when they smile at you, finish each others sentences kind of love?"
He'd shook his head silently.
"It's amazing. And terrible." There was a strange sort of light in Danny's eyes and it seemed as if he was desperate to say something else. But he hadn't.
There'd been an uncomfortable silence. "You must miss her very much." Linus ventured at last.
Danny had looked blank. "Who?"
"Your wife?" Linus suggested, hesitantly.
"Oh. Tess. Yeah. Yeah, I do." But the animation had gone out of his voice and the light had faded.
Working with Danny was the most amazing thing Linus had ever known. It was always fun, it was always different and exciting, he was learning all the things he'd ever wanted to, meeting all the people. But he knew, on some level, that he wasn't what Danny wanted. Or needed. He was being held up to some impossible standard, and he was always, always going to come up short.
The blood tasted metallic in his mouth. He'd long since lost track of the boots kicking him. Instead he was concentrating on holding tightly onto the floor, because he couldn't help but worry that if he let go, even for a second, he was somehow going to fall off.
Possibly getting between them and Small Jimmy in the showers had been a mistake. But someone had to do something. Not that it mattered now. Because he had.
And he'd known then that they were going to hurt him.
And he knew it wasn't going to stop anytime soon.
And he knew he didn't care nearly as much as he should.
There was no-one waiting for him.
This was simply the prologue. The rest of the story will not be in this style, and will commence from roughly the same point as the movie. Except, obviously, significantly differently.
Anyway, I honestly have no idea what people are going to think of this. I can only hope that you like it.