Tess by InSilva
Summary: Danny and Rusty meet Tess. One-shot.
Disclaimer: Own nothing of an Ocean's nature.
A/N: This is a companion piece to "Finding Out" and "Found Out" and while I hope it reads OK as a standalone, you may find it helps to read the other two.
Danny is late. It's nothing to worry about. Nothing to start launching a search party about. But Danny is late.
Reluctantly, Rusty eyes the sports pages and sips his second coffee. Then he mutters wordlessly to himself and opens the paper. Enough people have told him patience is a virtue for him to think about trying it once in a while. He can try it. Doesn't have to like it.
He has just read the report on the Knicks' latest win when the door to the café bar opens and he looks up to see Danny holding it open for someone. Rusty's words of greeting die on his lips as he realises that Danny is with the someone. A female someone. He drops his eyes back down to the paper, attention focused very much elsewhere.
Danny and the someone draw level with Rusty's table, Rusty's peripheral vision picking up legs he recognises and legs he doesn't and he hears Danny saying, "Why don't you let me take you somewhere a little more classy?"
"Alright," comes the answer and Rusty can pick out tones of warmth and laughter in just the one word.
As they turn to go, a tiny, screwed up piece of paper lands on Rusty's table. Rusty's hand covers it immediately. Only once they have left, does he unfurl it.
It reads: "Don't wait up".
Staring up at his bedroom ceiling, Rusty wonders why he can't settle. It is obvious what has happened. Danny has been casing the gallery and has picked up a little unexpected company. Company which he has decided to keep. It isn't unusual and it isn't as if he needs to ask Rusty's permission.
But reading people is something Rusty can do with ease, something he cannot turn off. And even though he has only glimpsed Danny and this woman together for a few moments, even though he has only heard one exchange between them, he has picked up an undercurrent that troubles him.
The door to the apartment goes and he automatically checks the time. It's gone two. He keeps his breathing even as Danny pauses at his bedroom door, listening. There is a small sigh and then the sound of Danny heading for his own room. Danny knows he is still awake, Rusty is sure of it; it is just the way the two of them work.
He is up and dressed by the time Danny emerges from his room the next morning. He pushes a cup of coffee in Danny's direction, still trying to work out whether his instincts are correct. For once, he hopes he is mistaken. One glance at Danny sets all his senses on high alert.
Dressing gown wrapped round him, Danny shuffles over to the breakfast bar and takes the coffee with a nod of thanks. He isn't meeting Rusty's gaze at all and Rusty bites his lip. He waits.
"Her name is Tess," Danny says, sipping the coffee. Hiding behind the coffee: they both know it. "She works at the gallery."
So far, so plausible. This might still be part of the job. But Danny still isn't looking at him and reassurance is nowhere near. And then finally, Danny does look at him and Rusty finds himself wishing he hadn't. There can never be secrets between them, not for long, anyway, and he can see immediately that this woman – this Tess - has left ripples in Danny's pool of calm.
"I like her, Rusty," Danny says simply. "I like her a lot."
So not part of the job – not just part of the job; not a casual affair; something more. How much more?
"What about--?" he begins, thinking that if Danny says the job is still on, it isn't that serious.
But Danny cuts right back in with, "Have to have a rethink" and Rusty feels his blood chill. That serious.
"Find me when you've thought," he says and leaves.
Rusty heads for the gallery and stands outside on the street with a phone pressed to his ear, having an imaginary conversation, peering through the window.
He sees her at once.
Tess is engaged in conversation with a customer and he has the leisure to observe her. She is physically attractive but Rusty discounts that. Beauty alone will not hold Danny. As he watches, though, he can see her face light up as she discusses a painting and he registers the impact she has on the customer. She has a charisma, he realises, in a shadow of the way that Danny has charisma and Rusty knows how that feels. It is infectious and you want to experience it again and again.
She is more dangerous than he thought.
Tess has been…surprising. Nothing he has gone looking for. Nothing he has ever anticipated finding. She has bumped into him and he has been almost certain it was an accident. And then conversation has followed; words falling from both of them, mundane and matter-of-fact while their eyes have started down an entirely different path of communication.
It has been intense. It has been immediate. It has a little addiction all of its own.
Rusty has been at the back of his mind all the time he and Tess have stood still and danced with each other in the gallery. Rusty will be waiting. Rusty might start worrying. With not too much difficulty, he has persuaded Tess into accepting a date and has managed to engineer communication with Rusty that will stop him searching for him.
He hasn't thought about Rusty for the rest of the time he's in Tess's company.
Tess has been…overwhelming. Magical. Bright and quick with flashes of funny that have him laughing, genuinely, heartily. And she looks gorgeous and she is confident and comfortable with it. Danny has felt himself smiling inside and out.
When he says goodnight to her, it is with regret. And as he turns to walk back to the apartment, the picture of Rusty flashes through his brain and he has to stop around the corner from Tess's place and lean up against the wall to catch his breath.
He hasn't thought about Rusty.
There has not been one occasion all evening when something has happened that he needs to tell Rusty about immediately.
He hasn't once missed sharing a moment of quiet amusement with him.
He hasn't once thought about Rusty: and that hasn't happened since forever.
When he gets back to the apartment, he listens at Rusty's door, wondering if Rusty will call out and ask him about his evening and wondering what he will say if Rusty does. But all that he can hear is the steady, even breathing that could mean Rusty is asleep or could mean he is wide awake: Danny would put money on the latter. And if he is faking, Danny has a nasty suspicion that Rusty has already leapt several steps down the path that he himself is avoiding thinking about.
Danny has dozed fitfully. Somewhere in his head, the optimist is telling him he can have Rusty and Tess in his life. The rest of him is awfully afraid it is going to be a choice.
Things are still in turmoil when he gets up and knows he has to face Rusty. He knows for certain when he stands at the breakfast bar that Rusty has an idea of how serious this is. And he has tried to explain and he has tried to ignore the hurt that is ebbing from Rusty whether Rusty likes it or not. And still, the memory of Tess is too strong, too new, too demanding for him not to say the wrong thing.
Danny finds him in the park in front of the fountain and stands next to him as the water plays. He knows that they need to talk; more accurately, he needs to talk and he needs to make Rusty listen. To both the words spoken and unspoken.
"I'm as surprised about it as you are," he says.
It just happened.
She's not you. But she's…
"I don't want-"
Don't ever want to hurt you, to lose you.
"I don't know-"
What to do.
He hopes Rusty has heard everything and as Rusty straightens up, he braces himself.
"I can't see a good ending, Danny," is what Rusty simply says. "However many times I play it through in my head."
And detail man that he is, he has been doing just that, Danny realises.
"I watched her. I went in to the gallery and I listened to her and I watched her. You want my opinion? She is straight as a virgin die."
Tess is. Danny feels it too.
"I could-" he begins.
"No," Rusty smiles, "you couldn't. Any more than I could. It would kill you." He sighs. "How long do you think it can last?"
And Danny starts to panic. Because for the first time in forever, he is not sure what Rusty means. How long can what last? Being with Tess? Working with Rusty? He sees the shock on Rusty's face because for once their telepathy is flawed and it is all down to him, Danny. Disbelievingly, Rusty opens his mouth to elaborate but then Danny finally gets it.
"The pretence," he mutters with relief. "How long can I pretend."
Exactly. He hears that loud and clear.
"I want to try," Danny says desperately. "I want to try and make it work."
Rusty has spent the past few hours in chaos. There has never been anyone who has come close to throwing them into disarray. And he is surprised at the vehemence of resentment that is running through him, eating away at him.
Danny and Rusty. DannyandRusty. No gaps, no spaces, no room.
The very idea of someone else, the very thought of a third, looming over their relationship, threatening to seep insidiously around them till Danny is somehow separated and he, Rusty, is left marooned and alone…
He has gotten angry with himself. Angry at the irrational and the selfish and the ridiculous because how can he and Danny ever stop mattering? He has tried to tell himself that there must be a way to make it all work but try as he might, he just can't find it.
And then Danny appears at his side and Rusty hears the apology and the entreaty and still he isn't hearing Danny say anything about not pursuing Tess. He tries to tell him. And it is all he can do to stop himself from laughing out loud when Danny suggests he might go straight. As if.
The disjoint in communication shakes him to the core. And he is just getting over that when Danny says, "I want to try. I want to try and make it work".
Have his cake and eat it. Anger burns through Rusty again but this time it is focused on Danny. For supposing. For daring to imagine. For contemplating for even one second endangering what they have.
"Alright," he says, tight-lipped. "You try. I want you to try."
A frown appears on Danny's face.
"What are you-?"
"I'm going to make it easy for you. For both of us. I'm going to go away and give you a little breathing space.
Rusty ignores him. "You taste this other life."
"You taste it and you make your mind up whether it's worth it. And then you call me and let me know."
Danny catches hold of his arm and Rusty shrugs him off. Blue eyes lock with dark.
"Don't even think about coming after me."
He means it. He knows Danny can tell he means it. And he walks away from Danny by the fountains without a backwards glance.
Identities run through his fingers like sand. Disguises, too. He is Adam Whitbread and Jim Rowlands and Andreas Regoczy and Klaus Hartmann: blond and brown-haired and bearded and bespectacled. He stops nowhere for long. He runs and runs and runs and he hides in places where Danny can't find him if he tries and he doesn't want to think about the fact that Danny might not be trying.
He hurts so much.
Life on his own and it isn't even the worst that he can picture of Danny dead and buried. This is with Danny still in the world. Still alive and functioning and they aren't together. Agony to contemplate. Agony to live. The loneliness, the separation burns him from the inside out and every now and then he wonders if it is killing Danny as much as it is killing him. Guilt flashes through him and then he pictures Danny with Tess, laughing and joking and the bitterness twists up through him again.
Eventually, he stops in Central America. It is a good place to hide. It is a good place to get drunk and to forget about the wonder and the beauty of what he has thrown away. What he has thrown away.
There are cards. There are women. There is drink. Food loses its interest. Sleep becomes less important. One night, he gets so outrageously drunk that he sleeps solidly for a day and a half before waking up naked with a painful left arm and finding that he has been a little less coherent in his thought process than he perhaps should have been.
Head aching, he looks at himself in the mirror and smiles because he likes it and also, because Danny is going to kill him. And then the smile fades. Because maybe Danny is never going to know.
After three months, he can't stand it any longer. They have never been apart that long since they met. He turns his phone back on and when it rings a couple of hours later, he almost cries. He answers it and there is silence the other end.
"Danny," he says.
"Rus." And there is such suffering there that Rusty wants to start apologising and never stop.
Danny speaks over him.
"Come and meet her, Rus," Danny says and the plea is naked and Rusty is sure Danny is crying.
He wants to say no. He wants to turn the phone off again. But he can't hide forever. Not from Danny. Not from himself.
"Where?" he sighs.
"This is Rusty Ryan. Rusty, this is Tess."
Introductions over, they all sit down at the restaurant table like good, little civilised adults. Rusty is doing his very best not to advertise the devastation that separation from Danny has wreaked on him and he is willing to bet that Danny is doing the same. He hopes Danny is doing the same.
Rusty smiles at Tess and Tess smiles back at him from the opposite side of the table.
"I'm an old friend of Danny's."
"A very good friend of mine."
"You must know lots about the skeletons in Danny's closet."
He grins. "More than you can possibly imagine."
Tight control of emotions. Tighter than ever. Focusing on Tess because a single glance into Danny's eyes and he will be lost.
"What line of business are you in?" Tess asks politely and Rusty's smile grows at the pleasantries. Just like any normal conversation. Not at all as if what is at stake is at stake.
"Didn't Danny tell you?" Light, amused. He can do this.
They laugh and Rusty's insides jolt because that is how Danny and he started, long ago and far away.
"Danny said it was all a bit hush-hush."
"I thought you must be a spy or a thief."
"Stealing secrets or just stealing? Should I be offended?" Smiling to show that he is not.
The wine waiter interrupts and Danny orders and Rusty knows that Danny's gaze has not left his face for a second. Not from the moment he has walked into the restaurant. It is killing Rusty not to look at him. He won't look at him. He can't look at him. His mouth feels dry and he drinks water. It doesn't help. It is hot and unbearable and he makes another excuse to himself and shrugs his way out of his jacket.
"What is that?" Curious.
He feels Danny's eyes follow Tess's down to his left arm, to the mark showing through the sleeve of his shirt.
"A tattoo," he says and he feels the surprise rolling his way from Danny.
"Really, you're very brave! What is it of?"
"Well, I asked for a snake." His eyes stay on Tess. Peripherally, he can see that Danny gets it. "But the tattooist suggested something more abstract."
"How far does it go?" she wonders aloud.
"Pretty much all the way," he replies.
"It must have been painful."
This time, he turns and looks at Danny.
"Agony," he says and is pleased to see Danny drop his gaze to the cutlery in front of him.
"Was it worth it?" Tess wants to know.
"Time will tell," he answers, focusing back on her. He isn't thinking about the misery in Danny. He isn't thinking about how he himself has caused it. He isn't.
The meal is coming to an end.
Danny has not said very much: Tess and Rusty have been getting on just famously. She excuses herself and goes to powder her nose. Danny and Rusty are left alone.
"You've been quiet."
"Tattoo threw me."
"It was meant to." It sounds petty but that is how he is feeling.
"Rus…" And Danny's eyes are begging him. Open and raw and wretched.
Rusty's right hand clenches into a fist and he buries his mouth in it, squeezing his eyes shut, squeezing away the indelible memory of the pain in Danny that he, Rusty, is responsible for. He feels Danny's fingers lock around his left hand tightly. So tight. Like Danny never, ever wants to let him go again. Oh, he has been missed. As if he could ever think otherwise. He lays his right hand on top of Danny's as if they are playing some children's game.
They rest like that for a moment and Rusty opens his eyes and looks at Danny and silently, steadily, connection is re-established and wavelength is retuned.
Eventually, Danny says it.
"Are you asking me to-"
Rusty holds up a hand. He has wanted him to choose, of course. Every bit of furious hurt inside him has wanted him to break it off and make things the way they were. But even this evening as he has sat full of rage and made small talk, Rusty can tell that Danny is completely smitten with Tess. And that is something he cannot close his eyes to. Any residual anger dies in a heartbeat because what would he be if he ignores the truth about how Danny feels.
"Look, I like her," he says. "Not as much as you do, obviously."
"But she's funny and quick and I can see why you…" he tails off with a sigh. "I'm sorry, Danny," he says quietly. "I still can't see how this will play."
Danny just looks at him and Rusty can see he is coming to a decision.
"The only way it can," he says.
Separation from Rusty has been more painful than he has ever thought possible. He has told himself that he needs to respect what Rusty wants, that he needs to give Rusty some space. Inside he is screaming at himself to run after him and find him and apologise endlessly.
He doesn't because he knows with certainty that what Rusty has told him to do, he needs to do. He needs to try to live without Rusty. He needs to try this life with Tess. Because if he doesn't, he will be wondering what might have been and that would be crippling; and somewhere along the line he might wind up blaming Rusty and that would be unthinkable.
So, he watches Rusty walk away from him. He goes back to an empty apartment. He accepts a life devoid of Rusty. It kills him.
Except there is Tess. And Tess is still this amazing woman. This brilliance shining into his life in a way he has known only one other do. He spends time with her and the more he spends time with her, the further into normal life he falls.
No cons. No lies. He sees himself in another life. And he wants it. He wants to be with this woman. And he ignores his instincts and the cynical laughter inside him. He can do this.
Nights when he isn't with Tess are numb. He lies and listens to no one. He thinks about dazzle and daring and delight and dreams of Rusty. His heart aches. A real physical ache. And he wonders how long he can balance the yearning for the normal and the unavoidable knowledge of what he is and the absolute hell of what he might lose.
He tries to phone Rusty and there is no service.
He tries to phone Rusty and there is a foreign voice telling him he cannot be connected.
He tries to phone Rusty and the phone is switched off.
He tries every day.
When Rusty answers and says his name, he weeps silent tears.
Seeing Rusty again twists him up inside like he would never have imagined it could. He watches him all the way through dinner. He sits drinking in Rusty's face and voice and he thinks it is lucky that Rusty has kept Tess engaged because otherwise, she might just start to wonder: and explanations are going to be tricky.
Rusty has been hurting. Raw and bleeding and sitting the other side of the table, a few feet away and yet it could have been miles.
The tattoo…the tattoo is… He has missed out on it. A significant and permanent event and he has missed out on it and all he can think is that he doesn't ever want to miss out on anything else again.
And when they are on their own, he can bear it no longer. He can't take the distance and the distress and he has seen the utter misery reflected back at him and he needs to reach out and hold on to Rusty. Even if Rusty…oh, he can't think that thought.
The relief. The absolute relief of being reunited.
And they are back to where they started.
Tess reapplies her lipstick and smiles in the mirror. She has never been happier.
Since Danny danced into her life all those weeks ago, she feels as if her feet haven't touched the ground. Handsome and witty and charming and he makes her feel so wonderful, so alive.
There's been something… She hasn't understood what, but there has been something. Times when they are due to meet and she has seen him first and there has been something… And then Danny would look up or look round and see her and his face would light up and she'd basked in the warmth. Oh, she never wants this to end.
And tonight. Tonight, Danny has introduced her to Rusty and she knows that this is something special, something important. "An old friend," Danny has said eventually when she asked about Rusty. This is about approval. She knows it and she is ridiculously nervous. But Rusty has been everything charming and wonderful and she can't imagine what she has been worried about.
Everything is going to be alright.
Tess comes back to the table and takes her seat and Danny wastes no time.
"Tess, I've got something to tell you."
The smile starts to fade because Danny is serious and across her face runs "I'm already married", "I'm gay", "I have a terminal illness".
"I'm a con man."
The words are out and spoken and naked and vulnerable.
"The reason I was in your gallery was because I was casing it for a heist."
The smile starts up again as she looks for the punchline that never comes. Her face hardens.
"And is this part of the con?"
"No." Definite. Honest. "I didn't mean for it to happen."
Her lips are tight and she is full of hurt and reproach. She glances at Rusty, intuition seizing her.
"You're part of this, aren't you?"
"It's me, it's only me," Danny insists, bringing her attention back around to him. "Tess-"
She stands up, whitely furious.
"Danny, I'm so disappointed."
And with that, she is gone.
Danny sits back and studies the back of his hand for a moment then looks across at Rusty.
"That's that, then. Let's go."
They walk casually side by side back to the apartment, not closer than normal but at the same time, closer than ever.
They walk in the absence of words never needed.
Neither of them remarks on the absolute and essential that being together is.
Neither of them mentions Tess.
The door closes behind Danny and Rusty is already heading for the whisky and the glasses. He turns back to see that Danny is still stood in front of the door.
"My arm? You want to discuss-"
Rusty stares at him for a moment then places the glasses on the side and pulls off his jacket and shirt. The lights from outside the window lights the room: an artificial yellow glow reflecting through the apartment. The dark marks on Rusty's skin are picked out, inky and definite. Danny draws closer, eyes fixed on the lines. His fingers reach out with an unusual hesitation and trace the pattern. With difficulty, Rusty resists the urge to shiver.
"It's…" Danny tails off. His fingers drop away. "You know for someone who makes a living out of not being memorable, you have some ridiculous ideas at times."
There is anger in his voice that Rusty has longed to hear and his lips twitch. Danny catches the movement.
"You think this is funny? You don't think that this might just make you stand out from the crowd?"
Danny's eyes are flashing and Rusty's expression is immediately apologetic if unrepentant.
"I like it," Rusty says quietly.
Danny's eyes look down again at the permanent and the identifiable and up again at the forever and the never-fading.
"I like it too," he says. "It suits you." There is a beat. "Just never do anything so fucking stupid again."
Rusty's mouth opens and closes and three months of hurt that they have both hated lie in the open between them.
"I'm certainly not planning to," Danny smiles.
Danny is good, Rusty will give him that. He is adept at camouflaging emotions and at keeping his true feelings in check. But he should know it will never, ever work on Rusty and Rusty can see that Danny is thoroughly miserable.
He pauses for a moment outside the gallery. He doesn't need to go in. He could go back to their apartment and pick up the life they lead. But Danny means more to him than that. Tess spies him entering and marches forward.
"You have a nerve!"
"Can we talk? Please, Tess."
They are seated in the café bar opposite, the very same café bar in which Rusty first saw her.
"He loves you," he says quietly.
She laughs derisively.
"He loves you, Tess," he repeats. "I have known him for a very, very long time and he has never felt this way about anyone."
She looks at him disbelievingly.
"Is this part of your repertoire? Say it with charm, say it with conviction. Tell a person what they want to hear?"
It is, of course, and he mentally gives her points for her astuteness even though on this occasion, she is wrong by a million miles.
"Danny is a complex man. Where he falls down is the detail."
She is silent and he is grateful that she is at least hearing him out.
"He didn't plan to meet you, Tess. He didn't single you out as a mark. It just happened. And he liked you enough at that first meeting to spend the whole evening with you. And to want to spend more time with you. And that is the idea that consumed him. Consumes him," he corrects himself.
She opens her mouth and shuts it again.
"Like I said, Danny falls down on the detail. I told him I couldn't see how his life could sit alongside a relationship with you. Because I know people, Tess, and I can see that you are clean. And Danny will try to be what you want him to be. He loves you enough to do that. He will try to change and he will be miserable."
"I wouldn't want him to change," she begins and he smiles.
"Yes, you would, Tess. With a passion. A lot of things would have to happen for you to accept him as he is."
He sits back in the chair.
"But what's the alternative? Danny carries on without you, safe in the knowledge that he might have met his soulmate and passed her up."
"He's got you," she says unexpectedly and he applauds her once more for her intuition.
"Yes, he has. And till now that's been fine." He looks at her with a tight, little smile and adds, "But now he's met you, Tess, I don't know if I'll ever be enough."
He stands up and hands her a card.
"Think about it. Here's where you can find him."
Danny is sitting by the fire in the hotel lounge. It is deserted. Shoppers have not yet returned and theatre-goers have already left. He looks up to see Tess approaching and he gets to his feet, for once on the back foot.
"I think, Danny Ocean, that I may be in love with you," she announces. "You may be everything I want in a man and more."
"I'll change," he says quickly. "I will stop this minute."
"Rusty says you can't."
Rusty. Of course, Rusty.
"He's wrong. If you want something badly enough you make it happen."
"So what will you do?"
"I'll be with you."
Tess looks at him searchingly. "You better know what you're doing."
It's a rare evening when Danny isn't expecting to see either one of them till later. Rusty is waiting for Tess as she leaves the gallery and they find themselves sat with coffees in front of them.
"You're happy, Tess," Rusty says and by answer, she breaks into radiance and Rusty smiles back at her.
"Danny's happy too," she replies and wishes it didn't sound quite so much like a question.
"Danny is very happy," Rusty agrees. "Caught him singing in the rain the other day."
"Well. The shower." Rusty's face sobers up. "Tess. I just want you to know that…that this is a big step for Danny."
Tess feels her heart leap. Danny must be thinking about proposing. She flushes and tries to keep the joy from her face. She does not imagine she is that successful.
Rusty hesitates and then carries on.
"You and Danny. It's special. He's operated so long without you in his life. This...it needs to be…"
"I would never hurt him," Tess assures Rusty. "And I know he would never hurt me."
She doesn't understand that that isn't quite the question. Rusty sighs. Tess looks at him shrewdly.
"Are you upset with me?" she asks.
"What?" And she feels certain he knows what. He's just stalling.
"Danny told me you two have been partners since forever. You feel like I'm taking Danny away from you?"
"No." Definite. Absolute. And she's not sure whether Rusty doesn't feel that or whether he wants to make it clear it isn't happening.
"We'll still want to see you, Rusty," she says, trying to reassure. "You're Danny's oldest friend. And I hope…I'd like to think you're my friend too. I know relationships can be quite exclusive sometimes." She did. A number of friends had suddenly dropped away just because they had found a fellow. "But you're not going to be on your own."
Rusty stares at her just a little too long before the smile reappears. "Thanks, Tess. That makes me feel a whole lot better."
The prevalent mood is blissful happiness and Rusty watches Danny bask in its glow. Birds apparently start to sing when Tess is near and stars fall down from the sky. The intensity of what has happened makes the courtship brief and Tess becomes Mrs Daniel Ocean in quick time.
Rusty is the best man, of course, and as the service proceeds, he tries hard not to think about how their lives are going to be with Tess entwined within them. Even though Danny has sworn off the con and he respects that oath – doesn't believe it, but respects it - he has made no such pledge and he can't think that Tess will be genuinely overjoyed to entertain him.
"They make a lovely couple," Saul says at the reception and Rusty knows Saul has been watching him as much as he, Rusty, has been watching Danny and Tess.
Danny and Tess dance by and Rusty smiles after them and at Saul.
"They do," he agrees.
Saul's eyes are sharp and questioning but Rusty stands up to the interrogation. Satisfied, Saul nods.
"Danny Ocean, married man."
"Life's full of surprises."
"Rusty Ryan, going it alone."
"Something to get used to."
Saul pauses and then says quietly, "Danny going straight?"
Rusty is silent and then looks over at the married couple, smiling and happy and inhabiting Elysian fields someplace.
"It's possible," he suggests finally, defensively, wishing he could be more vehement and Saul doesn't push the point.
Tess surprises. She is secure in Danny's love and security means that she trusts. She trusts Danny and therefore she trusts Rusty and their home is open.
But she isn't blind and she isn't stupid. As they settle down into marriage, there are moments when she wonders whether she is right to trust Rusty. Moments when she catches sight of Rusty watching Danny. Moments when she tries to understand every thing that she sees. All the little nuances of half-words and half-looks that talk of a life that she hasn't been part of. A life of crime, a life of together, a life of them. She wonders about a lot of things. She says nothing.
Danny loves. Both of them. Unreservedly. For all that he can imagine, he never imagined that he might be so lucky as to find Rusty: and having found Rusty, he never imagined he might be so lucky as to then find Tess.
Rusty. Tess. And a life spent playing the stockmarkets. And the only thing wrong with Utopia is the fact of who he is, of what he is. The straitjacket of living a life abnormal. Of walking into rooms of wealthy friends of Tess and (not) ignoring the angles presented. Of talking small talk that was only small talk, not a cover for roping in a mark. Of dying just a little bit more every time, killed by surburbia.
Seeing Rusty does not help. Rusty never stops working and working without him and Danny hates every aspect of that fact with a passion. Part of him is amused that the choice has turned out to be not between Rusty and Tess but between what he should be and what he is pretending to be.
Rusty waits. Every time he sees Danny, he sees the denial eroding. He knows the mundane is eating at Danny and that pains him even as he sees how happy Danny is with Tess and that pleases him.
Rusty is sure that it is only a matter of time before Danny gives in to what he, Rusty, has tried to tell him at the start. The con is in their blood. Oh, he isn't so crass as to talk about jobs in front of Danny but Danny asks idle little questions and Rusty sees the spark within and the self-imposed snuffing of the flame. Every time, the flame burns just a little longer before it dies.
There is no fanfare. The world does not stop. Rusty's phone simply rings.
"Hey," he answers, staring at the bumper of the car ahead of him at the lights.
"Danny with you?" It's Roman.
"Nope. But I'm seeing him in less than twenty minutes, traffic allowing."
"Well…as you know he hasn't come to me directly and I'm sure he has reasons," Roman sounds as if the reasons had better be good ones and even then, he isn't sure he is ready to forgive.
"Mmm," Rusty replies noncommittally, not sure where this is going, but suspicion rearing its head.
"The thing is, I know who he's talking to and Rusty, they are in no way reliable. He needs to be careful. Speak to him, Rusty, will you?"
He hangs up and Rusty stares disbelievingly at the phone in his hand. The car behind sounds its horn and he sees the lights have changed. Mouth firmly set in a tight line, he pulls forward.
His finger jabs the doorbell. He has struggled to push the anger back down inside him and is aware he has not been entirely successful. Danny answers the door. It takes one look for each of them to know.
"Is that Rusty?" Tess calls.
"It is." Danny's expression is tight. "Come on in."
Dinner is manageable as long as he focuses on Tess, laughs at her jokes, listens to her stories; he is charm personified. Even so, he can see Danny, watching, waiting.
The meal over, the coffee drunk, Tess stands up.
"I'll leave you two to it. I'm sure you want to catch up without me around."
She kisses Rusty's cheek and Danny's lips and then leaves the room, closing the door behind her.
"Wait," Danny says, raising his left index finger in warning. Tess's footsteps climb the stairs and cross the landing. Their eyes track her into the bedroom above them and the door closes. As one, they look at each other.
"You've been cheating on me."
"How did you find out?"
They both speak at once and for once, the unspoken conversation is non-existent.
"Roman," Rusty says tightly. "Assumed that whatever you were involved in, I would be too. A not unreasonable assumption."
Danny's eyes drop to the floor.
"You swore off crime for Tess, Danny, and that was hard for me to live with but OK, I'll go along with it because I never thought that pledge would last. But this…"
"I need to work again," Danny says in a low voice.
"Of course, you do. So why not tell me?"
Danny is silent.
"Why?" Short. Sharp. Demanding.
White-hot with anger, Rusty decides he needs it spelling out.
"It is necessary for you to work without me."
Dark eyes don't meet his.
"It is necessary for you to work without me," he repeats, emphasising the last word and not even trying to hide the fury.
"Look. I want to be able to have you in my home. I want to be able to sit down at a table and have a meal with you."
He frowns, not comprehending and Danny goes on.
"I do not want us to have to lie to Tess," he lays emphasis on the "us". "I do not want us to have to con her. I do not want to make a choice between this life and that."
"That's exactly the choice you're making."
"Yes," he admits, "but this way, you and Tess are both part of the same life."
He fumes quietly, seeing the logic and hating it.
"Without me," he says finally, "who's going to watch your back?"
"I'll be careful."
"Who?" he demands.
"I'll be careful," Danny insists.
"Don't I even get a say?"
"What? My opinion doesn't count? All these years and nothing?"
"You sound like a wife."
"I'm your partner. That's much more serious."
"This is serious," Danny agrees slowly.
"So what am I from here on in? A friend?" The way he says the word, they both know the gulf between "friend" and what Rusty has been.
He tries again as nakedly as he can. "Please don't do this, Danny. Don't cut me out."
Danny finally turns unhappy but resolute eyes on his and they look at each other, neither willing to acknowledge that this could be goodbye. And then Danny's eyes grow steely and when he speaks, it's incontrovertible.
"It's happening, Rusty."
And Rusty feels the coldness and the strangeness of what Danny's choice means. Of what Danny's unbelievable choice means.
"Fine," Rusty says at last. "Good luck flying solo."
And he walks out and closes the door behind him.