Relationship Matters by InSilva

Disclaimer: didn't create and don't own.

A/N: thank you as always to otherhawk for the pre-read. I know just how lucky Danny feels. ;)

A/N: was going to ask if anyone wanted a recap but I think the recap might be as long as the fic. :D

Chapter Sixty-two: Reunion


A roulette wheel was spinning, the numbers blurring as a solitary silver ball raced round the inner edge. Hair close-cropped, dark and severe, she watched it intently as it travelled.

"They are together again," a voice stated.

She raised burnished eyes in his direction.

"Not yet," she told him.

"So tell me. What the fuck's been going on?" The rage inside Danny didn't give Rusty the chance to answer. "James Gallagher? Did you really think we wouldn't find out?"

Rusty's gaze slipped across to Rick and Danny slammed the flat of his hand down on the table, making the coffee cup jump and bringing Rusty's attention back to him.

"Did you really think you could hide from Rick and me?" he demanded, his voice, low and fierce. "Did you imagine that we wouldn't-?"

Danny saw Rusty's gaze start to slide across to Rick again and the white noise inside his head became impossibly louder.

"Stop looking at Rick like he's going to defend you!" he hissed. "Rick's as horrified as I am - he would never do what you've done!"

"Damn right," Rick muttered with feeling.

Rusty glanced again at Rick and then at Danny for a long moment, his eyes unreadable, and then he looked away, shaking his head with a soft laugh.

"Don't you dare dismiss him!" Danny said with a snarl, forcing Rusty to look at him. "Rick's everything you're not! All these weeks, Rick's been with me, looking after me. All these weeks while you've been notable by your absence."

Danny couldn't stop the hurt of abandonment flavouring his voice.

All these weeks…

There was something in Rusty's eyes then – a flash of guilt – and Danny's hurt faded away replaced by new outrage. How dare Rusty affect guilt? It was clear how little he'd thought of Danny. How little Danny mattered to him. How little he cared about Teresa.

"Bobby," he said harshly, answering the question that Rusty wasn't asking. "He's got so much shit happening at work – court cases, tip offs, some big weapons haul… He's parked all that to try and find you."

Because there were people – other people - who gave a damn about Rusty. His eyes told Rusty that he didn't count himself as one of them. Not even close.

"Instead, he found Alisha's body. We heard him telling Carter that the cops who were investigating came across a James Gallagher doing Alisha's job. Bobby and Carter haven't a clue that it's you."

Rusty's face remained impenetrable as Danny continued, the heat rising in his words.

"So what was going through your head exactly? Fuck the idea of waiting at Danny's bedside? Fuck the idea of - what was it? – "I won't deny you vengeance – I know how that feels"-"

"No one's dead yet, are they?" Rusty interrupted, his tone cool.

Danny ignored him.

"Tell me, what was the plan here? "Fuck this, I don't want to hang around, I'm off to work at Larner's"?"

Rusty spoke with quiet precision. "I didn't go looking for a job."

Danny heard Rusty's words and saw Rusty's cold expression and understood everything Rusty wasn't saying. Horror suddenly washed over him, dousing the rage. He hadn't thought…he'd seen Rusty insinuating himself into Larner's as an employee and that had been more than enough to open up the well of incoherence…this wasn't… Rusty had promised

"No…" Danny breathed. He shook his head in denial. "No."

Rusty's lips tightened. "Grow up, Danny. It was an easy in. The job was incidental."

"It stops now," Danny heard himself saying. His voice was rich with all the pain and anger that he'd felt the first time he realised what Rusty did to himself. "It stops now."

"It stops now."

(Something fundamental inside Rusty thrilled to the words. Everything he wanted. Everything he wanted to hear. Everything he wanted Danny to say. He pushed away all the things he wanted.)

The shockdelight of seeing Danny quickly melted as he'd sat and heard the ferocity and the fury, as he'd realised that Rick was taking the Fifth on this one, as he'd listened to the accusation rippling across the table at him.

Rusty could feel the cold wrath building within him, winding tightly around his soul layering up with innate self-control and the certain knowledge that he needed no one.

What gave Danny the right to judge? To tell him what he should do? So he'd gone back to Larner's. Back to Alex. He'd done a good reconnaissance job, hadn't he? They were so much further along than they would have been if he'd waited. That was the whole point.

And Danny was complaining that he hadn't been in touch. Well, that worked two ways. He didn't remember Danny picking up the phone either. There was no wire in Danny's mouth and his hands looked like they were working.

"It stops now."

Everything he'd wanted Danny to say. And no way Rusty was going to agree.

"Have you finished?" he asked, his voice deceptively soft.

Danny blinked at him and his jaw set. "I doubt I've even started."

"Well, I'm going to speak anyway. Do your best to listen. I've spent the past few weeks getting under the surface of Larner's. The result is that I know how they operate. Not just the money-laundering and the auctions. I mean how the drugs and the rest are smuggled in. I mean how it works at the very top between Constantine and Alex and the others. I mean how Mr Fitzwilliam plays them. There's more than enough there to bring the lot of them down."

Danny's eyes glinted darkly. "What do you want - a medal?"

Rusty's chin lifted fractionally. "What I want is for you to understand that I've built up a good picture of the operation. Like I said, no one's dead. Well, Mason is," he admitted. "And Wes is as near as damn it but neither of those were down to me. Power struggle at the top. The point is," he went on, "I waited for you. And I chose to use that time wisely."

"Wisely?" Danny nearly choked on the word. "Rusty, what you're doing-"

Oh, no. Not the pity or the horror or the disgust. He couldn't allow any of that.

Rusty's mouth twisted. "You hold on to those fine morals, Danny. The rest of us will just get on with living in the real world where sex is all about the transaction."

Danny's face closed down at that. Rusty pressed on.

"Why don't you ask your partner what he thinks about it?"

Rick started as he was drawn into the conversation and fixed by two unblinking stares. He sat up in his chair and licked his lips then gave a half-shrug.

"It's not like he's hurting, is it?" he said to Danny. "Alex treats him alright, doesn't he? And after all, he's used to it. This is what he does, Danny."

Danny squeezed his eyes shut momentarily and then turned back to Rusty.

"Is any of that close to being true?" he whispered. "Is Rick right about you?"

The words bit deep and Rusty was silent for a moment, burying the reaction. Then he replied, his voice steady.

"I'm not hurting. Alex treats me alright. I'm used to it. This is what I do."

"See?" Rick was full of the smug.

Danny frowned as if he was trying to see the lie that wasn't there. Rusty let him search and then Danny slumped back in the chair.

"I know where and when the drops are going to be," Rusty continued. "I know how the exchanges are made. Between us, we can tear down the whole set-up. Just like you planned an age ago."

Back when Ed was alive. Back when the world was brighter. Ed. This was all that mattered.

Danny shook his head.

"This isn't what I planned," he insisted hoarsely.

"Sure it is," Rusty shot back, his voice matter-of-fact. "You just didn't have the details to make it happen. And now I can give those to you. With that kind of information, we can really start to hurt them."

Danny looked like he still wanted to argue and suddenly all Rusty wanted was for Danny to leave and take his misplaced sentiment with him.

"Meet me back here at two o'clock. I'll bring you all the drops for the next few weeks."

Rusty resisted the urge to glance at Rick. Rick already had most of those specifics. Wasn't like Rick was going to admit that.

"You'll bring-"

"Don't have it on me," Rusty interrupted. "It's back where I'm staying."

Danny looked at him hard and Rusty returned the stare steadily, even though he could feel the tension rippling up through him. He kept his face impassive and his eyes cold: emotion didn't come into it.

"Come on, Danny," Rick murmured. "Let's hear the guy out at least."

Danny's gaze dropped down to the table.

"Alright," Danny agreed and his voice was emptier somehow. He stood up and Rusty saw the walking stick appear in his hand. "Two o'clock. But this isn't over."

Danny squeezed in between the tables and walked wordlessly away. Rusty exhaled slowly and rubbed his fingers around his mouth. That had been…

"Are those rope-marks?" Rick's voice broke into his thoughts.

Rusty lowered his arm and pulled his sleeve down.

"Don't tell Danny," he said jerkily and he didn't know whether Rick would or not but he didn't want Danny knowing. More questions, more accusations and he wasn't ready for round two just yet.

Rick made a derisory noise. "Fucking faggot." He shook his head and left.

Rusty stared down at two cold cups of black coffee.

Danny hadn't made it far when Rick caught up with him.

"Come on, Danny." Rick hailed a cab. "You look like you're going to pass out."

Danny got into the taxi without argument and Rick scurried round to the other side of the car and clambered in. Danny looked like he was running on fumes. Well, Rick hadn't slept well either. Hearing Rusty's alias casually announced like that last night… Rick had realised at once that Danny would get it and he'd watched as Danny's face had drained of colour.

And in the instant that Danny found out, he knew that he couldn't tell Danny he knew. Danny disapproved and right now, all of that was focused on Wonder Boy. Rick didn't to complicate matters.

Rick had lain in bed and gone over it all in his head. There was nothing to tie him in. Except maybe Rusty opening his mouth. Well, if that happened, he'd bluff it out. Danny had known him longer. Danny trusted him more. In any case, it wasn't like he'd decided to go and play happy families with the Taylor brothers.

Sitting in the diner, he'd grown more and more certain that Rusty wasn't going to share the fact that he, Rick, had been in on this. And that was good. Rick glanced at Danny, still shell-shocked. Very good indeed. Seemed like Danny's eyes were well and truly being opened and Rick didn't want to get in the way of Golden Boy freefalling down to earth.

Rusty walked the streets, blindly. Seeing Danny again. The incandescent anger had been one thing but the look in Danny's eyes when he'd realised what Rusty's undercover role was fully about… No one looked at him like that. No one but Danny. It felt like a barbed knife digging deep under his skin, making him feel…making him feel. And now that Danny was gone, now that he was on his own, there was an ache where that knife had been. It shouldn't hurt like this. All the people he'd slept with, all the times he'd allowed himself to be used…it shouldn't be so raw.

His mouth twisted. Somewhere deep inside, he'd been imagining Danny riding up on a white charger to rescue him. To…to do what exactly? To gather him up in his arms and carry him away from it all? Pathetic. He gave a sudden bitter bark of a laugh and a mother passing by glared at him and pulled her child to her. Danny was Tommy Reiss too late to stop this.

"Cheap and easy…"

That was what Danny thought of him. Exactly the same as Rick did. (Exactly the same as he thought of himself).

Well, let him. He didn't need Danny's good opinion for this to work. He just needed Danny to be good at what he was good at. Yes, there'd been a part of him so close to throwing his cards on the table and asking Danny to sort out the mess. So close. But there was no way he was going to do that, not now, not ever. Pride was always going to triumph over self-pity. In any case, this was about the bigger picture.

Abruptly, he found himself standing outside Larner's and felt the familiar sensation of dread. Who knew bricks and mortar could be so intimidating?

Davey, who was manning the elevator, let out a startled yelp when Rusty stepped out on to the level with the living quarters. Rusty pushed past him, intent on heading towards the suite to get himself cleaned up. Next time he saw Danny, he wanted to be looking his best.

He hadn't got more than a few steps when Constantine walked out of his own room, saw him and did a double-take. Rusty saw relief and anger flash on to his face and off again.

"James. My suite. Now." Constantine held the door open.

"I wanted to-"


Constantine's imperious tone wasn't taking no for an answer and reluctantly, Rusty did as he was told.

"Sit down," Constantine instructed.

Warily, Rusty sat, acutely aware of the dishevelled and unshaven look he was sporting. Constantine ran a cursory gaze over him, his nose wrinkling as he did so. Rusty bit his lip hard and resisted the urge to run a mile.

Constantine lit one of the thin cigars he favoured and started pacing up and down in front of him.

"My little brother is currently going out of his mind with worry," Constantine said eventually, the coldness bleeding through his voice. "Walking out like that after-"

"I didn't mean to-" Rusty began.

"Did I say you could speak?"

Rusty blinked.

"Did I?"

Rusty held his gaze and the comeback burned on his lips. Then James slowly shook his head.

"Damn right." Constantine took a long drag on the cigar and then leaned in and blew smoke into James's face. Rusty didn't give him the satisfaction of reaction and Constantine's eyes narrowed.

"Where the hell were you?"

"I just wanted some time to myself," James replied.

The question was shot back at him, quick-fire. "Were you with another man?"

"What?" Rusty's heart skipped a beat. Had he been followed? Had he led them to Danny?

"Last night," Constantine rapped out. "Were you cheating on my brother? Were you screwing another man?"

"No!" The word ripped out of him.

Constantine's gaze was piercing and Rusty returned it with full force. Eventually, Constantine seemed satisfied and straightened up.

"Have you any idea what Alex has been going through?" he asked and his tone was still chilly. "After the incident with Trey…"

Scaring Alex hadn't been his intention.

"I'm sorry," Rusty said truthfully.

Constantine obviously sensed his sincerity. His manner became less stiff and he sat down opposite Rusty, rolling the cigar between his fingers.

"It's been a stressful few days, James. While you and Alex were away, we had an…unexpected supply chain issue."

The words were full of anger and Rusty wondered…

"Then you come back and get yourself abducted, get released and immediately go missing." Constantine shook his head and took another drag on the cigar, releasing the smoke into a graceful plume.

"I didn't mean to worry anyone," James apologised. "I-"

"-wanted some time to yourself." Constantine nodded. "And do you feel you've had enough of that?"

There could only be one answer.

"Yes. I just needed to get my head straight."

Constantine nodded again. "Good. Because things are getting serious, James. I told Mr Fitzwilliam about Trey kidnapping you. He was not impressed. He likes you, James."

Rusty suppressed the shudder. He wasn't sure that being liked by Mr Fitzwilliam was necessarily something to be happy about. Some of the doubt must have shown on his face because Constantine smiled.

"Trust me, it's a good thing." The smile faded away. "Not such a good thing for Trey, however. Mr Fitzwilliam was very clear on that point."

His dark eyes fixed on Rusty's and Rusty could read the absolute satisfaction in there. Constantine did not like being challenged: retaliation was sweet.

Constantine sat forward in his chair.

"Things are getting serious, James. I need you to be strong. I need men around me that I can trust. I can rely on you, James, can't I?"

Another promise demanded. Well, he was good at giving people the answer they wanted.

"Yes, sir," James said, respect bleeding through his voice.

Constantine studied him for a moment and then gave a curt nod.

"Good." He stood up.

It was a dismissal. Rusty got to his feet.

"I'll go and find Alex and send him to you," Constantine said. He ran his eyes again over Rusty. "Make sure you're presentable."

Rusty stripped off and stood under the shower, soaping away the visible dirt, watching it disappear down the plughole and wishing... His knuckles were white as he gripped the soap. Wishing didn't do a thing.

Towel round his waist, he'd just finished shaving and was rinsing his face when the bathroom door opened and there stood Alex. Funny, but he'd thought Alex might have arrived sooner. He guessed that Constantine hadn't rushed with the news that he was back. It had bought him some time to clean up.

Alex was staring at him like he hadn't seen him in years, the look on his face full of an ache and a hunger and a desperation that was almost tangible.

"I thought…" he began. "I thought you…"

"Hey," Rusty said soothingly. "Hey-"

He got no further. Alex practically leapt across the divide and wrapped his arms around Rusty, his lips urgently seeking Rusty's mouth. The kiss reminded him of… Rusty couldn't stop the small moan escaping. Alex broke away, panting and there was an unsteady look of downright lust in his eyes.

There was a half a half second – He was strong-ice-untouchable - and then James smiled. "I missed you too."

Later, and they were lying on the bed, limbs entwined, Alex's fingers idly brushing through James's hair. The relief when he'd stood in the bathroom doorway and seen James standing there had been overwhelming. He'd spent last night convinced that James had run away to this man Carter's arms.

"You don't want to hear what I said to Constantine after you'd gone. I thought he'd driven you away for good. I thought I wasn't going to see you again."

Alex's fingers moved to trace over his face like he was committing it to memory.

"I'm sorry," James said quietly. "I didn't intend to worry you. Think it was a bit of delayed reaction to everything that happened with Trey."

Alex winced. "Understandable."

"Am I forgiven?"

"Nothing to forgive."

James caught hold of Alex's fingers and kissed them. "I'll make it up to you."

"You came back," Alex said softly. "That's all you needed to do."

James leaned up on one elbow, putting a little distance between them. "So what did I miss? Constantine implied things have been lively. Something about the supply chain?"

Alex sat up and leaned back against the headboard with a sigh. "Yeah. While we were away in Niagara, a huge weapons shipment was confiscated by the Feds."

James's eyebrows raised. "Really? Did they trace it to Larner's?"

Alex shook his head. "The paperwork's clean. Still. It shook things up a bit."

"I can imagine."

"Then some cops came round asking about Alisha." Alex drew his knees up to his chest and hugged them. "They found her body."

James was silent for a moment and then said, "Yeah. Jennie told me."

"Just awful," Alex murmured, thinking back to when he'd found out from Constantine that Alisha had been killed. Constantine had been so matter-of-fact about it. Like Alex should have realised. Like Alex should be tough enough to make these kind of decisions himself. And he was, wasn't he? He could do that, couldn't he? He tried so hard… And even when he thought he'd done something impressive, something that would put a spark of pride in Constantine's eyes, Constantine just acted like it was nothing. Maybe he'd never see that pride.

There was a gentle squeeze of his arm and he flashed James a grateful smile. He never had to prove himself to James.

"Doesn't stop there," Alex said heavily. "Wes died in hospital last night."

Tony had been silent and upset. Constantine had been vocal and furious.

James made a little neutral noise and Alex nodded absently.

"Yes, we'll all miss him. Can't believe we're not going to see him or Mason again. Trey's a damn fool kicking off like this." He couldn't stop the anger in his voice. He hated conflict. "Mr Fitzwilliam said as much to Constantine. He was really worried about what happened to you, you know. He likes you."

There was a flicker of something on James's face that Alex couldn't identify and then it was gone.

"Constantine said that too."

"Then it must be true," Alex grinned. The grin died away. "Constantine's keeping something from me. Something to do with Mr Fitzwilliam. He thinks I can't tell when he's hiding stuff from me." Alex snorted. "I've known him all my life."

"What do you think he's hiding?"

Alex frowned. "I don't know. I think maybe something happened when you went to see him."

He looked down at James questioningly but James shrugged.

"They didn't say anything in front of me. Why would he keep a secret from you?"

Why not? Constantine liked the power kick. Alex considered the question.

"I think he's still mad that I punched him," he said eventually adding quickly, "not that you aren't worth it. I'd do it again in an instant."

James smiled up at him. "I don't know if I deserve you."

Alex stroked James's face again. Exactly how he thought about James.

Rick had come through again. Danny found himself sitting in a suite of an upmarket mid-town hotel with a shot of whisky in his hand.

"You look like you need-" Rick said, breaking off as Danny drained it. Turned out he did.

Seeing Rusty again. Seeing Rusty who hadn't even tried to defend what he'd done. What he was doing. Seeing Rusty who hadn't even mentioned Teresa's funeral or why he'd missed it. Why he'd chosen to miss it. Danny was going to have to invent new words for anger.

Rick pushed a plate of club sandwiches in his direction. "You need some food too."

Mechanically, Danny chewed the bread and meat and saw Rick nod to himself before sitting down opposite and biting into his own sandwich.

"Fucking faggot, right?" It didn't sound like it was a question. "Told you, Danny. His sort, they don't care what they do or who they do. He doesn't care, Danny."

…"Is Rick right about you?"…

Rusty hadn't denied it.

"Did you smell the booze on him?" Rick asked.

Yes, he had. Waves of it.

"Looks like he was partying last night," Rick said contemptuously.

That wasn't it. That surely wasn't it. (Had Rusty chosen a good time with Alex over paying his respects to Teresa?)

"I tell you, Danny, he's a fucking whore. He'll climb into bed with anyone."

He should have said something. Done something. He should have made Rusty see how a hundred and fifty shades of fucked up this was except…

"This is what I do."

Rusty didn't see anything wrong with it. And yet…Danny thought about the beach (and God, that seemed like a lifetime ago), he thought about the truths shared and the truths revealed. Just because Rusty didn't see anything wrong didn't mean Rusty enjoyed it, whatever Rick might say.

A thought struck him. Maybe, without Rick there, he could get through to Rusty. Maybe he could make Rusty see sense.

"Maybe I should see him on my own."

He raised his gaze and found Rick staring at him like he'd punched him. Shit. He tried to explain.

"Maybe I can make Rusty listen. You two…well. You've never exactly been the best of friends, have you?"

Rick's face was pale.

"Don't cut me out, Danny." Rick's voice was hoarse with emotion and it might be as close to begging as he'd ever heard Rick – Rick who was always so confident and strong. Danny remembered how hurt Rick had been when Danny had insisted Rusty run the auction and he sighed.

"Oh, Rick. Never."

Rick's shoulders sagged with obvious relief. "We need to stick together, Danny. Now. Always."

Yes. Yes.

Danny ran his fingers over suddenly tired eyes and down through his beard.


"You look beat," Rick said softly.

Danny's mouth tightened. Not by a long way.

"You're going to work?" Alex couldn't keep the astonishment out of his voice.

Rusty smiled at Alex standing behind him and straightened James's tie in the mirror.

"Back to normal," he said lightly. "I guess we could all do with a little of that, right?"

Whatever normal was.

Alex reached out and caught James's right wrist, running his fingers lightly over the rope marks.

"Whatever normal is," he sighed and Rusty could only hope that he didn't hear his sharp inhalation of breath.

"And tonight, why don't we go out somewhere?" James suggested. "My treat."

Alex pulled him round to face him. "That would be nice."

James leaned forward and brushed his lips against Alex's cheek. "I still want to make things up to you."

Alex's smile was wide.

Danny sat on the bench outside Larner's and stared at the auction house. Rick dropped down by his side.

"We don't want to be hanging round here, Danny." Rick was saying and Danny could hear the nervous in his voice. "We ought to keep clear…"

Rick was still talking but his voice tailed away, a faint noise in the swirl of emotion running through Danny. Rage had receded to the level where he was at least able to function but the feelings of betrayal and hurt were as live as ever.

He remembered all the long weeks of dark fantasies of revenge: of explosives delicately set, of bullets fired with a sniper's precision, of just damn well wiping Larner's from the face of the earth. And then the wild fantasies had gradually crystallised into an actual plan to destroy the individuals involved one by one, to look them in the eyes and tell them precisely why they were about to die. Eventually.

He'd always figured he'd leave Lloyd to Rusty. He knew he wanted Nelson to himself.

To make that happen though, he needed Rick and Rusty. He couldn't exact punishment alone. And while Rick's loyalty went without saying, Rusty had just… Danny squeezed his eyes shut. The anger threatened to overwhelm him again. Rusty had made and broken two promises that showed Danny exactly what Rusty's word was worth-

"Danny!" Rick was shaking his arm. "Snap out of it!"

He blinked and shot Rick an apologetic look. None of this was Rick's fault.

"I shouldn't have walked away," Danny said heavily.

"What?" Rick wasn't following this conversation.

"We should have gone back to his place with him," Danny elaborated. "Why the hell did we let him out of our sight?"

"Well, we couldn't. Go back with him, I mean," Rick said, looking up at Larner's. "Not like Alex is going to welcome us with open arms."

It was Danny's turn to look uncomprehending. "What?"

Rick started and turned back to him, mouth slackly open. "I mean…I mean isn't it obvious? Golden Boy's living with him."

Rusty carried out James's duties efficiently, smiling gently every now and then at Alex as he caught James's eye. Constantine was prowling round the dealer floor too. He waited till James had finished with a customer and then leaned across the desk.

"You made it up with Alex?"

James nodded.

"Good," Constantine grunted.

Rusty watched him stride away and then checked his watch. Nearly time to leave. He drew a piece of blank paper towards him and wrote down in neat script the details that Danny needed to know. He folded it neatly in two and slipped it inside his jacket pocket and stood up.

"Going out to grab some lunch," he murmured to Jennie at the next desk who waved a hand of acknowledgement.

Rusty headed out of Larner's and back towards the diner. This morning, he'd been caught unawares. This morning, he'd been weak and he'd shown it. Now he was focused and determined and most importantly, ready to face Danny again.

Two o'clock couldn't come quickly enough. As Rick went to the diner counter to buy drinks, Danny walked over to the table at the back, doing his best not to put too much weight on the stick. Rusty was waiting for them, sipping a cup of coffee, the remains of a sandwich on a plate in front of him. Danny frowned involuntarily. There was a difference in Rusty from this morning.

Oh, not just the fact that he'd bothered to shave and that as Danny sat down opposite, he no longer caught the whiff of alcohol. This was still a Rusty without the shine but he seemed to have a harder edge. Danny's jaw set. Well, he could match that.

"Rick has this crazy idea," Danny began, going on the offensive, "that you are actually living with Alex at Larner's."

Rusty didn't even blink. "That's right."

Said like it was the most natural thing in the world.

"You're…" Danny stared at him and Rusty held his gaze.

"He's what?" Rick asked, putting the coffees down on the table.

Not the man Danny'd thought he was.

"You were right," Danny said, keeping the emotion out of his voice. "He's moved in with Alex."

A handful of weeks and Rusty was… He stared at Rusty looking for a sign that Rusty saw the horror in it all. There was nothing.

"Of course he has," Rick nodded as he sat down, adding pleasantly, "time for a quick fuck before you headed back to join us?

Rusty didn't answer but Rusty didn't have to. Danny could see the truth there in his eyes and it was all suddenly undeniable; all suddenly real. He felt his stomach turn.

"Christ," he muttered, looking away.

When he looked back at Rusty, Rusty's expression was closed and controlled. Sex was all about the transaction. Right. Danny thought savagely that Rusty would have understood Teresa's step-father perfectly.

"I don't have much time." Rusty produced a folded piece of paper sliding it across the table to Danny who automatically picked it up to study. "Here are the movements for the next few weeks for the diamond shipments. The drugs as well. There's a very short overlap time with the couriers – the details are all there. They swap the money and the goods in yellow rucksacks." Rusty's eyes slid across to Rick. "I'm sure Rick can source some."

Danny bridled at the dig at Rick's competence. "I'm sure he can," he snapped. He stared back down at the list. "What about the guns?"

"I've got an angle going on that. Tip offs to the FBI."

Danny raised his head, getting it immediately. "Bobby's weapons haul?"

Rusty nodded. "The paperwork doesn't implicate Larner's but a missing shipment still screws things up badly for them."

He straightened up. "Now, you've got the information. Let's take the fight to them, Danny."

Treacherous ideas rose up in Danny's head: ideas that showed how they could cause chaos; how they could hit and hurt so much more than a handful of men…

It wasn't enough to keep Rusty in Alex's bed.

"It isn't enough," he said firmly.

Rusty gave a slow nod of agreement. "It isn't."

It wasn't. They couldn't be sure they would kill off the Hydra completely. They needed to destroy operations right at the top. He supposed he shouldn't be surprised that Danny saw it too.

"I overheard a conversation I shouldn't have," he told Danny. "I haven't got the date yet but next month, Larner's is playing host to a hot potato by the name of Luiz Marquez. Someone who can't be explained away to a customs official."

"Arms dealer?" Rick asked.

"Drugs baron," Rusty corrected. He looked Danny straight in the eye. "Only Constantine knows he's coming. Not even Alex has been told. We wait..what…four weeks? Five? And we can make sure they're crushed."

Danny didn't say a word. Rusty sighed inside.

"Alright. Let's level. I can't do this without you, Danny. I can't work both ends. Now this might not be as…clean a job as you're used to but this is the chance to absolutely tear apart the world of the bastards who tore apart our world. Tell me you don't want that. Tell me you don't want to strip every mortal thing away from them."

Danny was silent.

"Then for fuck's sake, pack away your bleeding heart for four weeks. Help me take them down."

Danny closed his eyes for a long, long moment and when he opened them again, they were cold, dark steel.


Rusty sat back in his chair, exhaustion swamping him. He couldn't let go. Not in front of Danny. He needed to hold on for a little longer.

"Alright," Danny said again and his voice was suddenly business-like and authoritative. He held up the piece of paper. "I'll take this away. We'll do some leg-work to find out anything this doesn't tell us. I guess we'll be ready to start in a couple of days."

"Let's meet back here-"


"I can't promise-"

"No," Danny said coolly. "You can't."

Rusty could feel the colour rising in his face. He spoke quickly to hide it.

"I can't say for sure I'll be here. I don't always get a say in what happens in my free time."

There was a loud snort from Rick. Rusty ignored him.

"If I can make it, I'll be here." Rusty offered crystal-blue assurance.

Danny's expression was neutral. "And if you need to speak to me in the meantime, you know my number, right?"

There was an edge in Danny's voice that he didn't understand. Like Danny was waiting for Rusty to say something.

"Yes," Rusty agreed. Yes, he did. And he knew that calling Danny was absolutely his last resort.

Danny still looked like he was waiting. Rusty stared him out. He wasn't a mind-reader.

"OK," Danny said eventually, standing up. "We'll check in with you Friday. We're staying at…"

He looked at Rick who supplied the name of the hotel. Rusty saw the look of silent thanks that Danny sent Rick: warm and heartfelt and the sudden hunger cut straight through Rusty. He forced all sign of emotion off his face.

"Well, enjoy the mini-bar," he said with a degree of lightness he didn't feel.

"You'd know all about that," Rick suggested, "way you showed up this morning. No prizes for what you got up to last night."

It stung in a way that it shouldn't and it snapped the quick rejoinder out of him.

"I suppose you two must have been at a church service."

Suddenly, Danny's eyes were skewering him to the chair. Rusty frowned and started to open his mouth to ask what was wrong but Danny cut him off.

"Friday lunchtime."

He turned on his heel and limped away. Still frowning, Rusty watched him go.

"Congratulations," Rick said, standing up. "Yesterday, he was burying his wife."

Rusty's head snapped round, shock all over his face. Teresa's funeral? He'd missed Teresa's funeral?

Rick smirked down at him. "What's the matter, hotshot? Didn't you get the invite?"

Rick hurried after Danny and Rusty stared after them both, wanting to call them back, unable to form words, unable to make a sound.

Neither of them looked back round.

A/N: thank you to everyone still reading this fic. :) Would be really reassured to hear what you think of this chapter.