Disclaimer: I really own nothing to do with Ocean's 11. Whatever I think.

A/N: For InSilva. Who asked for it. A very, very long time ago now. Apparently all things come to those who wait patiently. Anyway, its yours mate, and I hope you like it.

It took longer than he was expecting for the phone to be picked up and he found himself wondering whether Rusty had perhaps taken to screening his calls. Whether, maybe, Rusty had seen Linus' name on the caller ID and decided that this was the last phone call he wanted to take. It had been a few months, after all, since he'd seen Rusty and even if he thought he'd done, well, fantastically with the Benedict job in the end, and in the couple of jobs he'd worked with just Rusty afterwards, maybe he'd taken the whole "Call me anytime" thing a little too seriously. This would, after all, be the . . . sixth . . .call in three months. But it was good to have a reassuring voice and a reliable source of advice on the end of the phone. Still. Maybe he wouldn't blame Rusty for not answering, and he chewed on his lip and worried.

Then, finally, the phone was answered. By Danny. "Hey, Linus."

"Uh, hi, Danny," he managed, caught completely off guard. "Sorry, I must have hit the wrong number. I was looking for - "

" - he's in the shower," Danny told him cheerfully. "Will I do instead or do you want me to go get him?"

Did he want Danny to what? "No!" he exclaimed. Then he frowned and looked down at his watch. It was lunchtime. "He's in the shower?"

Danny seemed to understand the question. "Yeah. Slight accident involving a popsicle and some hair gel."

"What?" Less than thirty seconds and he was already absolutely confused.

"Don't worry," Danny assured him gravely. "Cameron Diaz was not involved."

Linus blinked and nodded and decided to move on. "I was actually just phoning to look for some help." Advice. He'd meant advice. He didn't want to presume.

"With what?" Danny asked and the levity had dropped from his voice. For the moment.

"Well, I've got this plan to get this painting." He hesitated. "Well, most of a plan. Some of a plan."

"All of the painting?" Danny asked seriously.

Linus frowned. "Danny," he complained.

"Sorry." And Danny did sound contrite.

"It's in this art business that specialises in the selection and supply of art for the corporate world." He was paraphrasing the marketing guys. "Halfmond Art Ltd - "

" - Halfmond?" Danny interrupted. "As in Jerry Halfmond?"

"Yeah," Linus agreed, surprised. "You know him?"

"Oh, we've met him," Danny's voice was rich with amusement. "We're not exactly on his Christmas card list."

"Well I was wondering if Rusty – or you, I guess – could just give me some advice . . ." He trailed off. Advice wasn't what he really wanted. What he needed was another pair of hands. Or two other pairs of hands. "Or, you know, since you guys have a history with Halfmond, if you wanted to get involved I guess I'd have a place for you." He managed casual. He was sure he'd managed casual.

Somehow, he didn't think that Danny had been fooled for a second. "Could be fun. Count us in." There was a noise in the background and a moment of distraction. "Oh, here's Rusty. You still wanna talk to him?"

Linus was still struggling with the fact that he'd just contracted Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan to his job. "Uh, sure," he said distractedly.

"I could even get him to put on clothes if it would make you more comfortable," Danny added helpfully.

That shook Linus out of his daze. "He's naked right now?" he blurted out. Images formed in his mind. Rusty, naked. Danny right there. Looking. Looking and on the phone talking to him. Calm and collected and cool and not at all concerned by . . . by . . . naked!

"Yes . . . oh, wait, he's put on boxers," Danny told him. There was a slight pause. "Do you want to know what colour they are?"

While he struggled to come up with any way of replying to that, sensible or not, coherent or not, he heard Rusty's voice in the background. "Who're we having phone sex with?"

"Linus," Danny answered, and didn't he know that the correct answer to that was that they weren't having phone sex? "He wants to rob Jerry Halfmond."

"Who doesn't?" Rusty said immediately. There was a pause and then Rusty's voice sounded louder in his ear. (And he was almost certainly, probably, maybe, still only wearing boxers, and Linus desperately wanted to yell at him to go put on a t-shirt or something.) "Hey, kid."

"Hi," Linus squeaked and cleared his throat. "Hey, Rusty," he said more normally.

"Jerry Halfmond?" He could hear the smile in Rusty's voice. "How far you got?"

He took a long look round at the piles of paper covering every available surface of the hotel room. "Oh, I got a lot," he said mysteriously. "Think that we should leave the what and the how until we meet in person, don't you?"

"Sure, kid," Rusty agreed, with too much damned amusement in his voice.

"Later," he said abruptly and chose to hang up the phone while he was still cool.

It was two minutes before he realised and swore and called them back and told them the where and the when.

Half a day later and Danny and Rusty were looking relaxed and comfortable, slouched on the end of his bed. Rusty was looking through the plans, Danny was asking him for specifics. Linus wondered whether they really did get twice as much done that way.

"So you said you've got an in?" Danny asked intently.

"Uh, yeah," he nodded. "Chester Horne. Journalist doing a puff piece on the company. I've been in and out pretty much constantly for the last week. No one even gives me a second glance any more." Everyone liked Chester and everyone forgot him the moment he'd left their sight. But he didn't know how to say that without sounding stupid so he hurried on. "And I managed to get all the entry codes for all the inside doors."

Rusty looked up from the plans and the approval in his eyes gave Linus a warm, happy glow. "You did all this yourself?" he asked with a smile, passing the plans over to Danny.

"Yeah. Well," he hesitated. "I called Livingston for some advice with the surveillance." He didn't have the specialist knowledge. "Told him what it was."

"And you went with a David Copperfield," Rusty nodded. "Nice."

"Low tech," Danny approved. "Good call."

He couldn't help but grin. "Thanks."

"So," Danny picked up. "The way I see it, you've got two problems. How to get in in the first place, and how to set up the David Copperfield and be in the board room at the same time."

"Yeah," he agreed. That was about what he hadn't been able to figure.

"Three problems," Rusty chimed in. "Think we can assume that Jerry would recognise me and Danny. And so would . . . he still with Gregory?"

"Gregory Hart?" Linus asked surprised. "His business partner? I guess."

There was a definite tone of amusement in the room. "Business partner," Danny nodded. "Right. Right."

"What?" Linus demanded.

"They're a little closer than business partners," Rusty explained.

"A lot closer," Danny contributed.

Linus got it. "They're . . .really?" He thought about it. "They are not," he said. He was sure he was being played. "Gregory's built like a brick wall! He plays football! He wrestles!"

Rusty developed a sudden cough. Danny was straight-faced. "You can't tell by looking, you know."

He glared at them nastily. "Fortunately for you."

They grinned and the accusation didn't seem to touch them in the slightest. Maybe nothing could.

The next few hours passed in an exhilarating rush of planning and thinking and talking and he made suggestions, added his thoughts, but mostly he listened and learned and marvelled. It was only after they had established the graffiti and the painter and decorator set up, and laying the David Copperfield an hour early, and using Chester as a distraction that the thought occurred to Linus.

"Uh, guys? The painting's ten foot square. How are we going to get it out of the building?" He couldn't believe that he hadn't thought of that before.

He watched the expression of consternation flash between them.

He couldn't believe they hadn't thought of that.

The next few days passed like a dream. Almost like it had been back during the Benedict job when work and fun were the exact same thing. It was good being with them again. Made him feel part of something.

Danny and Rusty. They were everything he wanted to be. Brilliant and confident and effortlessly, artlessly cool. And they treated him like he was an adult, like his own person, not just Bobby and Molly's son. And they acted like they wanted to spend time with him. And there was just something about them that made him smile to be around them. Something more than just the fact that spreading happiness was very much part of their stock in trade.

And he wanted to impress them. Of course he wanted to impress them. He'd wanted to solve the problem of getting the painting out all by himself. So he'd contacted Jack Ogilvie who worked in shipping at Halfmond and he'd arranged a meeting in the bar without telling the guys, and he'd talked vaguely around the possibility of a deal, and Jack had been interested, had wanted more details, and he'd been so certain that he had the thing sorted.

Then he'd headed back to the hotel and Danny had been trying on fake moustaches and Rusty had been picking his way through a box of marzipan fruits, and he'd explained what he'd done and . . . to be fair to them they hadn't actually laughed. Not where he could see. But there'd been a long, shared look and they'd gently explained about the hidden compartment on the decorator's trolley. Explained that, really, they'd known how to get the painting out all along. They'd played him. Again.

Danny and Rusty. They were everything he wanted to be. But, God, they were annoying.

In the end the job went off without a hitch, aside from Rusty getting paint under his fingernails and complaining about it constantly from the moment they left the building to the moment they stashed the painting. Linus wasn't totally sure just what Danny said to shut him up. If it came to that, he wasn't entirely sure he wanted to know.

Still, the job had been a success, his job, their job, and they'd won, and the air had been crackling with energy and triumph and excitement and brilliance and he'd been smiling at them like he'd never stop and it hadn't seemed as if there could ever be anything wrong with the world.

Then, still grinning, he pushed the hotel room door open and they were confronted by Gregory Hart, four other men and a lot of guns.

"Sorry," Rusty smiled. "Wrong room."

The guns were cocked and Linus had never been this frightened. There were guns pointing at him, pointing at his friends, and that had never happened before. That was never supposed to happen. "I don't think so," Gregory snarled, and with a gesture, one of his men slammed the door shut behind them. His eyes narrowed and he stared past Linus at Danny and Rusty. "Here, don't I know you?"

"Oh, no," Danny said pleasantly.

"We definitely haven't been introduced," Rusty agreed. "I'd remember that nose."

Linus winced and silently started chanting "Shut up, shut up, shut up," in his head. But Danny and Rusty weren't frightened and that was good. That meant that all this couldn't possibly be as bad as it looked. Didn't it?

Gregory's eyes widened. "You're the fuckers who stole our warehouse!" he howled and Linus wanted to ask, really, really wanted to ask.

Danny smiled at him. "Not really the time or the place," he suggested.

"You think we're going to let you get away with this twice? You really thought you could get away with this? You think we wouldn't notice when you started trying to bribe our people? You think we didn't put a tail on your little friend the moment he stepped out that bar?" Linus winced and Danny and Rusty didn't react in any way. But they must be blaming him. He was such an idiot. Gregory grinned unpleasantly at them. "You're coming with me. So we can discuss it properly."

"As long as it doesn't take too long," Danny sighed.

"We've got tickets to the game," Rusty added.

"Good ones," Linus found himself saying. "Front row."

He'd swear he could feel the grin he couldn't see.

They were dragged into the basement of the Halfmond building and Linus had his wallet and watch and phone and keys taken from him and he watched as all that was taken from Danny and Rusty, plus an assortment of tools, sunglasses, junk food, pencils and -

" - duct tape?" he asked involuntarily, and he gritted his teeth as the heavies started pawing through their things, pocketing anything that took their fancy. He had to bite his lip as his watch vanished into a jacket, along with Rusty's lockpicks. He liked that watch.

Danny smiled over at him. "For emergencies," he explained.

Right. Something else not to ask. He should really start making a list. With a grunt, Gregory had his men shove them into a little, empty, storage room. "You wait till Jerry gets here!" he threatened gleefully.

"Look forward to it," Rusty sighed, smoothing out his suit.

The door shut behind them and, pointlessly, despite the fact he'd heard the lock click, Linus examined it and pushed at it. And maybe that was just because he didn't want to turn round. Didn't want to face them.

"Kid?" Rusty's voice.

"Linus?" And Danny.

He turned round slowly and he still didn't look at them. "I'm sorry," he said miserably. He'd screwed up. He'd been made. He'd been followed. And he must've led them right to Danny and Rusty and then, after the robbery, they'd known exactly who and exactly where. "I'm sorry."

"Not your fault." And Danny was definite.

"My fault," Rusty added just as firmly.

He looked up in time to see Danny frown and argue. "Mine - "

" - ours," Rusty finally decided. "We shouldn't have - "

" - stupid - " Danny agreed.

" - unprofessional - " Rusty suggested.

" - but it was us, not you. We played you, and none of us saw the rest coming." Danny said, and every word had seemed sincere.

He swallowed and nodded a couple of times and felt a little better. "I'm still sorry."

"Next time, try not to be followed," Rusty said lightly. He nodded again. He wouldn't be. Not ever again.

"So what happens now?" he asked. "They going to call the cops?"

There was a long silence and he saw the look that Danny and Rusty exchanged.

"You know, just because I don't understand when you do your thing, doesn't mean I can't see it," he snapped irritably.


"They're not going to call the cops."

"That's not how this is going to play."

He'd known that. On some level he'd known that. "They going to kill us?" he asked, very, very quietly.

Another look and Danny leaned forwards and regarded him seriously. "No," he said firmly. "That's not going to happen. We're not going to let that happen. Far too dangerous. For us."

Linus blinked. "Being killed is dangerous?"

"Yeah," Danny nodded seriously. "Do you have any idea what Bobby would do to us if we let you get killed? Halfmond wishes he was that scary."

"You're worried about Bobby?" Rusty chimed in, sounding amused.

"Yeah," Danny said, in a tone that sounded closer to 'Duh.'

"Huh. You're missing the big picture," Rusty told him.

Danny frowned. "What - "

" - Molly," Rusty said simply and Danny froze.

"Oh. Oh. Oh, she's going to - "

" - oh, she's going to." Rusty agreed.

Linus found himself smiling in spite of everything. "You guys are scared of my mother?"

"You have met your mother?" Danny asked, with a grin and Linus laughed and shook his head.

"I'm scared," he admitted after a moment. "They can't . . . I mean, they can't really hurt us, can they?" There'd be consequences for that, surely. It was . . .he wanted to say it was illegal. But he just couldn't imagine anything really bad happening. Not to him. Not to them.

"They can," Rusty told him gently. "But they're not going to."

He managed to smile. "Somehow, I doubt they're scared of Mom."

"No," Danny agreed. "But - "

" - nothing is going to happen to you," Rusty finished.

"We promise." And Linus had never heard Danny sound so serious, so sincere.

Footsteps echoed down the corridor, coming closer, coming towards them.

"Listen," Danny said urgently.

"We know these people," Rusty continued.

"We know how they think - "

" - what they want."

"The best thing you can do - "

" - for all of us - "

" - is to keep your mouth shut - "

" - and your head down. Okay?" Rusty finished, staring at him. He nodded slowly.

"Okay," he agreed.

"And no names," Danny added in a whisper, the second before the door was flung open and Gregory smiled in at them.

They were led out of the storeroom and stood in front of Halfmond, Gregory and their henchmen. Henchmen? That couldn't possibly be the right word. This wasn't a movie, whatever Danny and Rusty might think. People. Thugs. Heavies. Something like that. At any rate there was eleven of them and they were all large and muscley and armed and Linus was none of those things.

Halfmond was smiling. "We all know why you're here."

"You're having a clearance sale?" Rusty suggested brightly.

The backhanded punch that crashed into his mouth was quick and vicious and Linus could see a drop of blood forming on Rusty's lip and they'd hit him and they'd hit him and this was real and this wasn't a game.

"Got any other smart answers?" Halfmond asked mildly.

Danny sighed. "He does. Trust me, he does."

"I want my painting back," Halfmond told them calmly. "I want my painting back now."

"Painting?" Danny asked innocently and the punch sent him reeling and Linus hated himself for the tiny whimper that escaped him at the impossibility of seeing Danny hurt.

Halfmond glanced over at him and smiled. "Cute kid," he said in a way that Linus didn't like and he could feel himself bristling. "Haven't learnt that it's every man for himself yet, have you?"

"Not going to," Linus said, his teeth clenched and Halfmond smiled wider and stepped closer, stepped closer than Linus was even remotely comfortable with.

"Oh, you will, boy,"he promised. "Now, why don't you forget these two losers and tell me where my painting is? It'll go better for you in the long run. Its good to expand your horizons."

"That what you said when you caught Gregory in bed with those dancers?" Rusty asked.

There was a deafening silence. Halfmond turned round very slowly and stepped away from Linus, towards Rusty.

"Oh, that's right," Rusty grinned. "Sorry, I was forgetting. You didn't catch him, did you? I did."

"Jerry, let's get real here," Danny interjected hastily. "You can't do anything as long as we're the only ones who know where your painting is."

Halfmond turned back to Danny and nodded. "That's right," he agreed. "I can't, can I? Unless . . . well. I don't need all three of you, do I?"

Linus was helpless. Powerless. It all happened too fast for him to have a hope of understanding in time, let alone stopping it. Halfmond pulled the gun out of his waistband, spun round and fired and Rusty crumpled to the ground and the only thing that registered in Linus' mind was the sound of Danny screaming.

Without even thinking about it – while being about as far from being able to think as he'd ever been in his life – Linus threw himself forward, trying to get to Halfmond, desperate to hurt, to punish, to kill. And immediately there was an assortment of hands on him, grabbing him, holding him still. He fought, angry and desperate.

"It's okay, kid." Rusty's voice. He froze. Impossibly, it was Rusty's voice, calm and steady. Slowly he turned his head and Rusty was sitting up, his hand clamped against his upper arm and Linus could see the blood trickling between his fingers. "It's just a flesh wound," Rusty said, "Barely scratched me," and he wasn't looking at Linus, hadn't looked at Linus once. His eyes were fixed on Danny. Danny who, when Linus turned to see, was being held back by even more men than Linus. Danny who was a little paler than Linus would have thought physically possible. Danny who was sagging in his captor's arms, staring at Rusty as though he had no idea there was anyone else in the world.

Linus swallowed and looked back at Rusty. Somehow, it was easier. "You're okay?" he asked anxiously.

Rusty flashed a brief smile. "Peachy. Jerry's a good shot, aren't you Jerry?"

"I try," Halfmond said modestly.

Nodding, Rusty looked down at his arm and groaned. Not with pain. It should have been with pain, he'd been shot, Linus couldn't understand why he wasn't screaming, why he wasn't. . . "Look at that. You had to shoot through the shirt?"

"It should've been your head," Gregory snarled and Halfmond shot him an irritable look.

"Well, if you'd given me some warning I would have taken the shirt off first," Rusty offered.

"I bet you say that to all the boys," and Danny's voice was impressively steady, spectacularly light.

Rusty grinned. "I mean, look at this," he complained. "If I'd known I was going to be shot I'd have worn a different shirt. Red just doesn't go with tangerine."

"Looks more like satsuma to me," Danny opined.

"Like you know," Rusty shot back. "You can't tell the difference between cerise and hot pink."

Linus cleared his throat. "What do you wear to get shot in?" he asked, just trying to join in, just trying to keep up the pretence.

"Kevlar," they said in unison, and he rolled his eyes.

"Next time," Halfmond cut in, "I will not be aiming to wound. So, I ask again, where is my painting?"

"It'll be in the last place you look," Rusty smiled. "So I'd look there first, if I was you."

Halfmond sighed. "I think I shall have to have Gregory hurt one of you," he said regretfully, as if he hadn't already, as if everything that had passed was nothing, insignificant, and it was all Linus could do to keep his trembling inside.

Halfmond looked at him and smiled. "The boy," he decided.

The sense of relief was immense and immediate and Danny and Rusty weren't quite quick enough to keep it off their faces and it hurt so much.

Linus bit his lip and felt alone and betrayed.

"Leave the kid alone," Danny said immediately and he sounded as if he wanted to mean it, as if he was really trying to mean it.

He stood still. Kept his face impassive. He wouldn't beg and he wouldn't blame and he'd take it, god, he'd take it and he wouldn't tell them anything. If only he wasn't so terrified. If only he wasn't so alone.

Halfmond was looking puzzled, obviously slightly more aware of the atmosphere in the room than any of them had expected. "That's not what you're afraid of, is it?" He laughed. "Obviously the boy is a better man than either of you." He glanced between Danny and Rusty and Linus seemed forgotten and he didn't know if he was relieved or frightened. "He isn't one of you, is he? Does he even know?"

There was a flicker of something on their faces. It looked like shame. Halfmond laughed again. "I won't waste my time. Now, who to choose?" He looked from one to the other, tapping his fingers on his chin pensively. He glanced at Rusty's arm, still bleeding. "Blondie seems to be tougher than he looks . . . " he mused quietly. "Which leaves . . ."

Danny's eyes widened with fear. "He isn't!" he said wildly. "He's a wimp. A coward. He doesn't even know anything, I just keep him around as decoration. He's eye candy, he'd tell you everything if you threatened to muss his hair."

"I would not," Rusty claimed indignantly, and his voice was higher than usual, shaking a little, and when Linus glanced over he was swaying slightly where he stood, trembling, and the pain was obvious on his face.

Halfmond didn't spare him a glance. "Yes, the older one," he decided. "I'm afraid that we don't have all the . . . equipment that I'd like, tonight. And we have a prior engagement which I'm not prepared to miss. Not for the likes of you. Still. A little taste of what's to come and a long night to think about what we'll do tomorrow. How does that sound?"

It sounded . . .it sounded . . .

"What time's breakfast?" Rusty asked and Linus glared at him.

Halfmond smiled and made a gesture and all three of them were grabbed, held, and Linus tried to break free and he knew that Danny and Rusty were too, and then Gregory stepped forwards, stepped towards Danny, and he was grinning and Danny was grinning . . .

"Let's get this over with," he said and the fist crashed against his cheekbone and the noise of it cut through Linus like a knife.

Again. And again. And again. Endless punches, and Danny was gasping, and Danny was bleeding, and Danny was hurting and Linus bit down on the inside of his mouth to keep from crying out, to keep from begging them to stop.

He only dared look at Rusty once. The expression on Rusty's face, the tight anger, the helpless misery, it was too much to bear.

Finally, Halfmond looked at his watch and sighed. "Gregory, that's enough." Gregory didn't stop. Didn't look round. "Gregory, if you want to get changed . . . "

"Sorry, Jer'," Gregory said sullenly and Halfmond was looking at him strangely again.

They were released and Danny fell to the ground, and despite the fact that he was still so angry with them, so hurt, Linus immediately went to him, and, surprised that Rusty wasn't there, he looked up to see Rusty glancing wildly between the heavies and the door.

Linus watched uncomprehendingly as Rusty made a run for it, away from him, away from Danny, and he saw the nearest heavy step out and he saw Rusty punch him, saw him try to shove past. As though that was going to work. Like a house cat trying to bring down a buffalo. And then Gregory caught up, and he dug his fingers into the hole in Rusty's arm, and Rusty gasped and turned pale, and Gregory forced him down to his knees, obviously eager to continue what he'd started. After a moment Halfmond interrupted.

"I think not, Gregory." He nodded down to where Danny was just sprawling on the floor, struggling to sit up and Gregory smiled.

"No!" Rusty objected, getting to his feet, making to stand in front of Gregory, and Gregory pushed him aside, dragged Danny to his feet and, with careful precision, punched him another five times. "No!"

"We really are going to be late," Halfmond sighed. "Take them back to the storeroom, would you boys? I'm sure they have a lot to talk about."

There was nothing that Linus particularly wanted to say.

Danny was leaning on Rusty's good arm. Looked as if Rusty was supporting most of their weight, and some part of Linus was busy imagining the pain, busy wincing for them. The rest of him remembered that they'd wanted it to be him. He walked in sullen silence a little behind them, a little ahead of the men with guns and after they were shoved back into the little room, after the door locked behind them, he walked to the opposite corner from them and tried not to look as they got themselves settled in a corner, and tried not to listen. It proved impossible.

"I think you got heavier since the last time we did this," Rusty said and his hand was on Danny's face, tilting Danny's jaw, looking at the bruises. "Tess' cooking get better?"

"You wanna talk to me about food?" Danny asked, and he was trying to pull Rusty's sleeve up, trying to see the bullet wound, trying not to hurt.

"Well, we could talk about food. Or we could talk about the part where you called me a bimbo." Linus saw him grimace at whatever he was seeing on Danny's jaw. "Fuck, is Gregory Superman or something?"

"Don't think he's the one wearing the tights," Danny smiled. "You going to let me look at this?"

Rusty sighed and pulled his shirt up. Danny's mouth tightened and he tore a long piece off the bottom of his own shirt and carefully, wincing with pain with every movement, started to bandage Rusty's arm.

Rusty grinned. "Like Valeria Golino - "

" - Hot Shots Part Deux. Yeah," Danny agreed. He finished the make-shift bandage and sighed. "You still haven't learnt to dodge."

"A bullet?" Rusty shook his head. "What do I look like, Keanu Reeves?"

Danny looked at him carefully. "Nah," he said at last. "Not wearing enough leather."

"Oh, I bet that's not the first time you've said that," Rusty said immediately.

"Hush," Danny smiled. "You're scaring the kid."

They both looked at him and there was something he couldn't read in their eyes, and he glanced away.

Why shouldn't he be angry? He'd been scared and they'd . . .they'd lied. And now they were talking lightly, making jokes about movies, acting like it was all just a game, like they didn't care.

(Their hands lingered on each other just a little longer than they had to, every touch was just a little more gentle, just a little more meaningful, and they looked at each other like they were one person, one world, one soul.)

He had every right to be angry. Okay, he understood, on some level. He didn't think it was so much a matter of them wanting to protect themselves as it was them wanting to protect each other. He could understand that. He could pretend to understand that. But they'd promised everything would be fine, and it was no thanks to them that . . . he was sitting here without a scratch on him . . .while they were . . . oh. Oh, fuck. He was so stupid.

It was all thanks to them that he was sitting here without a scratch on him while they were bruised and bloody and he thought of Rusty taking the attention away from him, and he thought of Danny pretending to be the easiest target, and he felt sick and stupid.

He closed his eyes. "I'm sorry."

They didn't pretend not to know what he was apologising for. "It's okay," Rusty told him levelly.

"We couldn't let you know it was an act without letting them know," Danny added, with an apologetic grimace.

He glared at them, tired of being treated like the kid, of not being an equal. "You shouldn't have - "

" - well, we did. Always would," Danny said firmly.

"Not just for you," Rusty added. "Anyone. Well, anyone - "

" - that we like," Danny nodded. "Just the way things are."

They made it sound simple. Obvious. He sighed. "But they hurt you," he protested and he made himself look – properly look – at the bloodied mess that was Danny's face.

Danny caught him looking. Of course. And the smile looked painful "It's nothing. You probably got beat up worse in high school."

He couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at the assumption. "I never got beat up in high school!" he protested and Rusty actually looked a little surprised.

"Thought everyone in the marching band got beat up."

Linus fumed a little. "No, we didn't," he snapped and then he paused. "Wait, how did you know I was in the marching band?"

Danny laughed slightly. "We know your parents, remember?"

Wait, what? "Mom and Dad told you about me?"

"Extensively," Rusty said, grave-faced.

He frowned. "But Danny didn't recognise my name in Chicago," he pointed out.

Rusty grinned. "Mostly, Bobby refers to you as 'my son'."

"As in, 'My son just made the marching band'," Danny elaborated.

"'My son got 1540 in his SATs."

"My son's the youngest kid in the soccer team."

"My son was scalping tickets for Homecoming."

"My son sold his high school."

"My son blew up the art department."

"That kind of thing," Danny nodded.

"Actually, it was just the art cupboard," Linus explained ridiculously. "Though I suppose the smoke spread pretty far. And the glitter." He felt inexplicably warm and happy inside at the thought of Dad boasting about him, Dad wanting to tell Danny and Rusty about him. It was an image that had never even occurred to him. He frowned, suddenly realising that they had managed to completely distract him again. "But that's not the point. Danny you're . . . and Rusty got shot!"

"It's nothing," Rusty said immediately. "Won't even need - "

" - you're seeing a doctor," Danny said firmly.

"Seriously, it just tore through a little flesh. All it needs is - "

" - you even think the word superglue and there are going to be consequences," Danny warned, and this time Linus recognised the distraction. "I am not letting you do that again."

"I'm not going to fall for it," he said quickly. "I know you're playing me."

They both looked at him. Rusty was grinning. Danny wasn't. "We weren't," Danny sighed. "Genius here got shot in the side and decided that DIY was better than First Aid."

Linus blinked. "Wait, you really . . . you really superglued yourself?" He still wasn't sure he believed it. It seemed ridiculous.

Rusty shrugged. "It worked."

"Uh huh," Danny smiled unpleasantly. "You remember the part where your side turned bright red and you nearly broke your fingernails scratching at it?"

Another shrug. "There were a few side effects."

"You remember the part where Phil told Saul, and Saul - "

" - right," Rusty nodded quickly. "Not doing that again."

"Yeah," Danny agreed and he leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes. Rusty looked at him with obvious concern and settled down next to him, gently taking his hand. Linus looked away and left them to it.

It took a while, but he finally got up the courage to ask. "You really think we're going to get out of here?"

They both looked surprised. "Yeah . . . ohhh," Danny nodded in sudden understanding.

"Oh," Rusty agreed and reached into his pocket and produced his little wallet of lockpicks. "Sorry. Thought you'd noticed."

Linus stared wide-eyed and suddenly remembered. Rusty trying to escape. Rusty crashing into the heavy. Making the lift. He hadn't noticed.

"Thought they'd take it out on me," Rusty added, looking anywhere but at Danny.

Danny leaned forwards, made Rusty look at him, and Linus would never understand what was or wasn't said, but Rusty smiled after a moment and relaxed a little.

"Why are we here?" he asked after a moment.

"Why are any of us here?" Danny responded immediately.

"The Patriots are playing the Giants tonight," Rusty explained a moment before Linus expressed his frustration. Somehow it didn't help.

He sat. Waited. Patiently.

"That's where Jerry and Gregory have gone," Danny told him after a moment. "They always - "

" - not the most romantic date," Rusty cut in.

Which was all very well, but he still wasn't seeing the relevance. He continued to wait.

"There's also a widescreen TV and a crate of beer four rooms down," Rusty added.

"We saw it when we were being taken along the corridor," Danny explained. "If they're drunk and watching the game, they're not going to notice if we sneak out."

"So we just need to wait until the game's been on for an hour or so," Rusty added.

He blinked; surely there was a flaw there. "How will we know when it's time?" he asked.

Danny smiled. "Rus'?"

"We got exactly forty eight minutes," Rusty said without a pause.

Oh, come on. "You can't possibly know that," he protested. "What are you, a robot?"

Rusty grinned and carefully pulled something else out of his pocket and passed it over to Linus. It was his watch. The watch they'd taken from him. The watch his parents had given to him for his twenty-first.

He clutched it anxiously. "Thank you," he breathed. Rusty would never know how much it meant to him.

"Good rule?" Danny said casually. "If something's got sentimental value, you shouldn't wear it on a job."

He nodded. He wouldn't.

Forty nine minutes later and he quietly led them through the corridors towards the underground car park. Rusty was supporting Danny again, and this time Linus knew how much they were hurting and he wasn't in the slightest bit conflicted about hating every minute of it.

"Here," he whispered finally, pausing in front of a door and being so happy that he'd taken the time to really study the plans, learn every inch of the place the way they had for the Benedict job. He picked the lock – and who the hell locked a car park anyway? - and pushed the door open.

They stepped through and Linus closed the door behind them, wincing at the click, even though he knew that all the heavies were far down the corridor and, by the sounds they'd heard in passing, well on their way to being drunk.

Danny sagged back against the wall. "Find us a car, will you kid?" Rusty asked without looking round.

Linus didn't take offence. He walked away quickly and looked round the car park. Something inconspicuous. Something that might not be missed at a casual glance.

When he drove his selection over Rusty looked less than happy. "We're in a car park with . . ." He looked round. "A couple of Ferraris, a Lamborghini, a selection of BMWs and . . .is that a DeLorean?" He blinked and shook his head. "And you come back with a station wagon?"

"It's fine," Danny cut in. "Thank you, Linus."

"Is that really a DeLorean?" Rusty was staring.

"We are not taking the DeLorean unless you can honestly tell me - "

" - oh, they travel in time," Rusty nodded. "They really do."

"Uh huh," Danny smiled. "Give me a hand, will you?"

Rusty sighed and helped Danny into the backseat and sat next to him. He looked towards Linus. "Let's get out of here," he suggested.

Linus nodded. He drove for a very long time.

Somewhere in the middle of the drive the need to go and find a doctor had been changed into a need to find a hotel, watch 'The Blues Brothers', drink whisky and eat pizza. Linus had been carried along by a wave of assumptions and somehow he'd found himself lying on the spare bed in Danny's room, watching Danny and Rusty sprawled on the other bed, arguing amicably over a pizza box and an unidentified piece of topping. In the beginning Rusty had said it was an anchovy and Danny had claimed it was a mushroom. Somewhere along the line, somehow, the word 'pineapple' had become involved. He smiled at them absently. He hadn't wanted to be alone. He really hadn't. It was all over, they were all safe, and he was still shaking. Just a little. By the same token, he hadn't been ready to talk. Not quite.

He'd followed them into the room, his arms full of the shopping they'd had him get, and he'd stood and watched and listened as they treated each other's injuries, and they'd talked – to him – all the time. As though the whole thing was just a lesson for his benefit. The proper treatment of consequences.

The movie played and he sipped at his drink and picked at the pizza and listened to them argue and they didn't make an effort to include him, and they didn't even look at him when they thought he'd notice, and he could still feel their concern, and he was grateful. Time and space. He'd needed to try and get his head straight. And now. . .

"Were you scared?" he blurted out.

Immediately he had their full attention. They'd been waiting. "Linus," Danny sighed.

"Of course we were," Rusty said simply. "We're not stupid - "

" - or crazy."

Linus nodded. He'd never have guessed. "I've never been . . . " He struggled with what he wanted to say. "I've never felt not safe before."

They nodded and exchanged a long look. "You're in the business of taking things that belong to other people," Danny said after a moment.

"Often, the people aren't going to be very happy about that," Rusty added with a smile.

"And sometimes that means that they're going to call the cops - "

" - and sometimes it means they're going to hurt you - "

" - and sometimes it means they're going to try and kill you - "

" - or worse."

He nodded and swallowed and twisted his hands together. "Is it often like this?" he asked quietly.

Another long look. "Not often," Danny said finally.

"Not being caught is good," Rusty offered. "You have to - "

" - decide whether - "

" - it's worth it."

Sometimes it was difficult to know whether they were speaking in unison or not. Linus wondered if there was a pattern to it. He licked his lips. "I never wanted any other life," he said simply. "I know what I'm doing."

They smiled at him and the room lit up. "Good," Danny said simply.

He turned his attention back to the movie for a few moments. Danny and Rusty went back to their arguing and Linus fought to keep the smile hidden. Growing up, he'd always wanted a cool older brother. Now, somehow, in some ways, it felt like he had a pair of them. He glanced over in time to see Rusty win the argument by popping the possible-pineapple into Danny's mouth. Linus sighed. A pair of wonderful, annoying, sexually ambiguous, cool older brothers.

"Pasta?" Danny said, with a look of complete shock. Rusty frowned down at the pizza like it had betrayed him.

Linus coughed and wished he hadn't. He wasn't sure if he wanted to say. Not really. And they were looking at him. Waiting. "I don't know if I could do it," he said finally and stared down at his fingernails. He didn't know if he could get shot and stand up immediately and start making jokes. He didn't know if he could get someone to hit him, hurt him, to lure them away from someone else. He just didn't know.

"You can," Danny said immediately and with a strange, sad confidence. "We know you can."

Rusty nodded and his eyes were serious. "And we hope - "

" - more than anything else - " Danny added.

"That you never have to," Rusty finished, they finished and they were looking at him and he didn't know whether he was more in awe of the belief or the concern. The care. The affection.

It was wonderful to belong.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed. Please let me know what you think.