Disclaimer: Look, if I owned Matt Damon I certainly wouldn't waste my time writing this. See the logic?
Chapter One – Saul is smug, Danny is annoyed, Rusty is interested and Linus is…very young.
"… and for God's sake, under no circumstances are you ever to…"
"Rust? Could you come here a minute?"
Saul had sounded too smug… he should know better. If he wasn't careful he'd spoil everything. Rusty inwardly counted to fifty before glancing back. Linus Caldwell sat on the edge of a chair in a crisply boring suit, looking older than Rusty had thought was possible. It was 15 minutes before he would be going in to face Benedict, and the kid was practically shaking. He was slumped, and had his head in his hands.
Damn. "Put a bit of pressure on him", Danny had said. He should have known better to listen to Danny about this… his little speech must have been a bit too much.
Rusty sighed inwardly. As always, he would have to be the one to sort this out. Walking over, he sat down next to him. Linus didn't react.
"You ready then, kid?"
Linus looked up with a wide eyed expression that made Rusty Ryan seriously doubt Danny's claims that Bobby's son was twenty four.
"I can't do this, Rusty." Linus's voice was low and tinged with panic.
"You've lifted from harder marks. The codes won't be a problem, and you've researched everything you need to know about this guy. All you have to do is keep your cool."
Biting his lip, Linus shook his head and stared at his feet.
"I'm not good enough. I'll screw it up again, for everyone. I don't…"
"Kid, how old are you?"
The question seemed to throw Linus for a moment, and then he visibly deflated.
"I'll be twenty one in a month." His reply was barely a whisper.
Twenty one. Jesus. What the hell was Danny thinking? Rusty leaned forward and gently pushed the kid's chin up, forcing him to meet his eyes.
"When I was twenty one I wasn't half as good as you are, and Danny could barely lift a free sample from a supermarket counter. You've got the skills. The confidence will come with experience. Ok?"
Linus nodded mutely. Rusty abruptly realized how uncomfortable his intimate gesture must have made him, and pulled his hand back as he got up to walk away. Linus's gaze didn't leave him as he did, and bizarrely, that made him nervous. Rusty Ryan, disturbed by an amateur barely out of his teens? He covered by pulling a half-eaten biscuit out of his pocket and taking a bite.
As he headed up to the room Livingstone had commandeered to put together his various cannibalized piles of wire, switches and screens Rusty found himself joined by Daniel Ocean himself. The silver haired man was as smooth as ever, but long years meant Rusty could see the agitation underneath. Danny was taking this job very personally.
"Not twenty four. He turns twenty one in a month."
"Shit! That little…and his mother confirmed it…Christ, imagine how much she must have been laughing at me…"
"The kid's scared. Why are you pushing him, Danny?"
"Why? One, because he can do it. I saw him work in Chicago – he's goddamn talented. Two, because he needs this. And finally, because for all he is the greatest con I've ever known, sometimes Bobby Caldwell is full of shit."
Rusty just raised an eyebrow, knowing an explanation would come. Danny readily obliged.
"It's Bobby's philosophy that he should let Linus make his own way. Not letting him cash in on the family name is understandable, but apparently it also extends to no help, no advice and practically ignoring the kid no matter how impressive his achievements. He's trying to prevent his son from a swollen ego, but he's overcompensating. Linus has it hard enough as it is – he's starting in this game with a Bobby Caldwell sized handicap. He's got to surpass his father just to get noticed. This job will fix that."
Rusty noted the almost paternal note of protectiveness in Danny's rant – though come to think of it he shouldn't find it all that surprising. Linus could easily be Danny's son.
"So you're taking the poor, talented, disadvantaged child under your wing then, are you?"
Danny flashed him a devilish grin.
"It worked with you."
Rusty Ryan deliberated for a second whether to give a cutting reply or finish his biscuit. The biscuit won. It had chocolate chips.
At the door Danny stopped and turned to leave for the casino.
"Off I go. Wish me luck, eh?"
"Since when has luck ever needed encouragement to favour you? Go on, or you'll miss Tess."
In the monitor room screens were humming into life. Rusty wandered over to where Saul was leaning against the wall. The older man studied him curiously.
"What had you and Danny so deep in conversation?"
"The Caldwell kid."
"Ah. I have a lot of sympathy for him. Those that have the most to prove also have the most to lose."
"That's pretty much what Danny said. Can he do it?"
A loud screech filled the air; Livingstone darted forward and fiddled with some speakers, swearing under his breath. He pulled on his headset and started saying something that Rusty couldn't quite make out.
The screens were suddenly full of Benedict – it was time to go. Even Rusty was mildly impressed by the way Linus snapped into character, but the test would be whether he could keep it up. Everyone in the room leaned forward, the atmosphere tense. Not that anyone would admit to being nervous. Saul blinked short-sightedly at the screen.
"I guess we'll just have to watch and see…"