Disclaimer: I don't own any Ocean's 11 characters
A/N: Set during the prologue of 'Falling like Dominoes'. Therefore almost but not quite a prequel.
The conversation had moved seamlessly from the bar to the bedroom and to bed, and he had lost himself in every last fleeting moment. All about the brief moment and the little, wonderful details, and the knowledge that none of this would ever happen again. (last times) She was very beautiful and very charming and she'd responded feverishly to his enthusiasm.
"Eat, drink and be merry," he whispered, as he kissed her neck and she fumbled with the key, desperately trying to get her front door open. "For tomorrow I die."
"That's not quite right," she began to tell him, and the door opened and he kissed her and the rest was far from silence.
Afterwards she lay in bed, looking up at him. She didn't speak and he was oddly grateful for that, and he studied her for a long time, imprinting every perfect detail onto a perfect memory.
"Thank you," he said sincerely, kissing her softly, and sitting up.
"We've got all night," she whispered enticingly.
He smiled. "Good as that sounds...." The smile faded and he sighed. "I don't have time."
She watched him silently as he dressed, and as he fixed his collar he looked back at her and hesitated. "I'm sorry I won't call you. But I can't."
She didn't look surprised. Just sad. "Why not?"
He met her eyes. Just once – just this one time – he wanted to say it out loud. To someone who didn't know and couldn't stop him. "Because in twenty-four hours I'm going to prison."
The house was quiet when Rusty pulled into the driveway. He sighed, staring at the darkened windows, absently trailing his hand over the hood. Looked cold and unwelcoming.
He let himself in. Walked through to the living room. Dark again. Dark and cold and...
"Danny," he said softly and after a second, Danny blinked and looked up at him.
"Rus'," he said, smiling with an effort.
He turned the light on. Didn't say anything about Danny brooding in the dark. He didn't have to, after all, and he felt Danny acknowledge his worry, his concern. It had been nine days now since Tess had left.
(Danny would give anything...)
There was a moment of understanding that almost hid all the ways they were lying to each other, and Rusty grinned and went to find the wine.
A moment later, as they sat on the sofa together and he concentrated on pouring, he could feel Danny looking at him.
"This the part where you tell me that something...came up?" Danny asked, smirking.
He could groan for the James Bond pun. But it was nice to play. "That is a really creepy super power," he told Danny sternly. He hesitated a moment. But only for a moment. "I got plans tomorrow night," he added as casually as he knew how. It wasn't a lie. It wasn't. Not really. He was just letting Danny draw his own conclusions.
There was no doubt in Danny's eyes, only relief. He wondered just how Danny had been planning on making sure that Rusty wasn't with him tomorrow. Wondered if Danny had thought up his own not-lie. Wondered if a Rusty who didn't already know would have fallen for it.
And Danny was frowning now, concern moving away from dull apathy. "Rus'? You okay?"
He smiled reassuringly and leaned his head against the back of the sofa, coincidentally finding himself much closer to Danny. "Feeling old," he said truthfully. Old and tired. And after tomorrow there was no tomorrow.
Later and the bottle was empty and the next one almost so and he'd fallen asleep somewhere in the middle of 'Conspiracy Theory' and woken up at the beginning of 'Steel Magnolias', his head on Danny's shoulder.
He didn't bother sitting up.
(Last times. Last night of Danny)
"Mel Gibson's gone blond," he commented, yawning, as Dolly Parton walked across the screen.
"I should've handled it better," Danny said softly, and Rusty was listening. "I could've explained it better. When she found out. There must have been something I could have said. Something better."
He reached across. Laid his hand on Danny's. Said nothing.
"Maybe I should never have lied in the first place," Danny went on, not looking at him. "But I thought...I was sure...She wouldn't have understood. She didn't understand."
He squeezed Danny's hand gently.
Danny went on blindly, pain and anger in his voice. "She left, Rus'. She left and didn't even look back. Like it was easy. It hurts. It fucking hurts and I want her to know that."
"She loves you, Danny. I don't think it was easy," Rusty said, and Danny wasn't listening.
"I wish I'd never met her," he said violently.
"You don't mean that," Rusty said, with absolute, inevitable certainty.
Danny glared at him stubbornly. "I wish I'd never met her," he said again.
Given time, Danny would come round. Rusty knew that. Given time, Tess would come back. Rusty was almost sure of that. Given time....but there was no time. Danny was committed, wrapped up in his own self-destructive plan, and Carson was coming for him no matter what, and all that left was an ending.
"I'd rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special," Julia Roberts assured them, and Rusty knew just how she felt.
Later still and Danny was asleep.
Clearly he'd drunk too much to even consider driving home. So, if, in some strange alternate universe he needed an excuse to stay at Danny's, he was covered. As for why he was in Danny's bed, well, they'd never really needed to explain that one either. Danny was lonely. Rusty was miserable. Together was comfort. (Last times.) But he wasn't sleeping. He wasn't trying to sleep. Instead, he was watching Danny sleep, listening to Danny breathe, wishing.
Maybe he was wrong. Maybe when Danny found out, the morning after, when Danny realised what he'd done, maybe it wouldn't be the end of everything. Maybe Danny could forgive him. He didn't know for sure, after all.
Yeah. He closed his eyes for a moment and imagined how Danny would feel when he slowly realised that Rusty had carefully and deliberately destroyed their world. Yeah. What he knew was as close to 'sure' as made no difference.
He opened his eyes and stared fiercely at Danny's face and imagined himself shaking Danny awake. Imagined whispered words and pleas.
"Promise me you'll always love me. No matter what. Promise me."
He imagined the look in Danny's eyes; confusion and wild fear. Imagined Danny holding him tightly, imagined Danny asking the questions, getting the whole story. Imagined Danny going to Carson before Rusty could. Imagined Danny arrested, imprisoned.
Never gonna happen. Not while he could help it.
Instead, he moved closer, melted into Danny's arms, and Danny sighed in his sleep and held him tight.
Close to forgiveness as he was going to get.
He didn't fall asleep again, thankfully. So little time left. He wanted to live as much of it as possible. Wanted it to matter. So little time...
It was still dark when he crept out of bed, careful to wake Danny in the process.
He looked down at sleepy and vulnerable and tried not to see the soft, unspoken don't leave and the I need you.
"Just gotta run a few errands," he said lightly. "I'll see you this afternoon. Buy you dinner."
A little more awake and there was a flicker of panic in Danny's eyes. "Thought you had plans."
"Not till later," Rusty said, heart breaking just a little. "We've got time." Danny was planning on hitting the museum a little after ten. An hour after the shift change. Two hours before the external security sweep. Half an hour before Carson would move in. Forty minutes before Rusty would be arrested.
"Okay," Danny accepted, smiling happily.
Rusty squeezed his shoulder gently, barely able to restrain himself from anything more, from the overt and the sentimental and the emotional that would scream to Danny that something was wrong.
It was five in the morning. Seventeen hours before he lost Danny for good. Seventeen hours before Danny lost him. And Danny didn't even know. Far as Danny was concerned, this was just any other day.
"Go back to sleep," he said to Danny, his voice barely steady.
Danny smiled up at him, asleep and oblivious, and Rusty turned and walked away and fiercely blinked back tears.
Not what this was about. Didn't matter how much he was going to miss Danny, didn't matter how much Danny was going to miss him. Point was, Danny was not going to prison. He knew what that was worth.
Two hour drive. By the time he got into the office it was almost light. Fortunately he'd only been waiting a quarter hour when the door opened.
"Hi," he said, smiling charmingly, and Catherine shrieked and almost dropped her pile of files on the floor.
"Rusty Ryan," she sighed, when she recognised him, laying the files down on top of the filing cabinet instead. "Get out of my chair."
He obliged, and passed her over a take-away cup of coffee in passing. "Just the way you like it," he promised, slouching down in the chair on the other side of the desk.
She smiled at the coffee. Smiled at him. "I suppose I shouldn't ask how you got in."
"You really need better locks in this place, Catherine," he warned her seriously. It had been a little too easy for his liking.
She shook her head. "You know, one of these days, I'm going to be standing in court, and someone is going to ask me 'Do you have any reason to suspect that the defendant is of the criminal persuasion?' And I'll need to say something that could get me disbarred."
"Don't worry," he said lightly. "I'll take the court-appointed option." He would.
Fortunately she didn't notice if there was anything odd in his tone. She was too busy staring at his milkshake. "What is that?" she asked, revulsion in her voice.
He glanced down at the brown-and-pink. "Strawberry. And chocolate."
"How does it taste?" she asked.
"Not bad," he said, surprised, taking his first sip.
She was staring at him.
He shrugged. "Day for trying new things." He'd always wondered.
"Only you." She shook her head, amused. "So what can I do for you? I take it this isn't a social call."
"No," he agreed. "I would have made an appointment but I didn't have time. Figured I'd catch you as soon as you got in." And he'd wanted to be sure there was no chance of Danny finding out. He took a deep breath and found that he couldn't quite look her in the face. "Those papers we had you set up. The next of kin, power of attorney...all that stuff. I want them taken back."
She was staring at him again. But her expression was completely different. He could feel the shock and the disbelief and the incomprehension. "You want what?"
He swallowed and defiantly looked her straight in the eyes. "I want to be certain that Danny doesn't get any information about me in any circumstances."
"Are you in trouble, Rusty?" she asked softly.
"No," he told her simply. Then he sighed. "It's complicated. You can do that, right, Catherine?"
"Yes, of course," she nodded absently. "There's a couple of things I'll need to get you to sign - "
" - fine," he agreed. "And you won't tell Danny." Wasn't a question. He knew she wasn't allowed to.
She looked like that was killing her. "No," she said quietly. "I won't."
It all took about an hour or so to wrap up. Paperwork. He hated paperwork. Dull beyond belief.
But it was done and he signed the last signature. Legally cut himself out of Danny's life for good.
His hands were shaking. "We finished?" he asked brightly, smiling at Catherine.
"Yes." There was fear and pity in her eyes. "Rusty, tell me what's happening. Please."
He stood up and headed for the door. "Goodbye, Catherine."
Two hours to Catherine's. Another two hours back to his apartment. He'd spent an hour there. He had twelve hours left.
Stupid way of thinking about it. He wasn't going to die. But things were never going to be the way they were.
He didn't know how long he'd get. But it would be years. And when he got out.... He knew Danny was going to be angry. Furious. He thought that, probably, Danny would never forgive him. When he got out, he wasn't going to have anything to go back to. No more Danny. Not ever.
Not something he could afford to think of. No point screaming over a tomorrow that might never come. After tonight, it was going to be all about survival. Prison was going to be bad, he knew that. Locked up and no escape....he shivered, like he could already feel the bars constrict his soul. Caged and frightened. Well, he was going to have to deal with that. And the rest...he bit his lip, imagining the rest, violence and frustration, and he'd always looked like an easy target.
Probably it wouldn't be as bad as the worst he could imagine. But that didn't mean it didn't have the potential to be bad. Well, he'd deal with it. As long as he kept his head down, stayed in the background, he'd get through okay. And he was good at that. He'd made a career out of being unobtrusive. Of course, he could also be pretty fucking obtrusive when he wanted to be...And that was good too. Worst happened, he wouldn't make it easy for them.
Danny. All there was and all that mattered. He wasn't afraid. Not really.
Twelve hours. He'd make 'em count.
He was lying on the floor in the middle of his apartment, a tumbler of whiskey beside him. Early to be drinking, but it didn't seem to matter today.
He drained his glass. Okay. First phone call and the bastard took his time answering.
Special Agent Harry Carson. Rusty hadn't been able to find out much about him. Normally, if he was dealing with an FBI agent, he'd go to Bobby to ask the questions. But, in this case, that would probably set off some alarms. And Bobby would try and stop him, if he knew. So all he had with Carson were instincts, not facts. But his instincts were screaming at him; Carson was dangerous and not to be trusted.
"Yes?" Carson answered at last.
"Agent Carson," Rusty said lightly. "I hope I didn't tear you away from your elevenses."
"Well, well," Carson sounded delighted. "I was wondering when I'd hear from you, Robert."
He frowned. "Did you get the money, Harry?"
"Oh, yes," Carson assured him. "Our little deal is on."
Good. Carson would want a simple ending. He could work with that. "Then I guess we've got nothing else to talk about."
He could hear the smile in Carson's voice. "Goodbye, Robert. When I lock Danny up and throw away the key, I'll be sure to give him your fondest regards."
He grinned. Oh, Carson had no idea..."Fuck you!" he snarled, in his best impression of helpless rage, and hung up. He couldn't let Carson have any idea. Not until it was far too late to do anything about it.
Second phone call. And Tess answered almost immediately. "Hello?" she sounded tired. Sounded miserable. Just like Danny.
"It's me," he told her quickly.
"Oh," she said, the disappointment evident. Yeah. He wasn't Danny. "Is...is he...He's not been arrested?"
"I told you I wasn't going to let that happen, Tess," he reminded her gently. "I wasn't lying."
"...thank you," she said in a small voice.
"He's not doing well," he admitted, into a silence that stretched out a moment too long.
"Well, neither am I," she snapped.
Right. Who was? He took a deep breath. "You love him. He loves you - "
" - that's not always enough, Rusty," she interrupted, voice wavering.
He stared blankly up at the ceiling. No. It wasn't. "He'll need you tomorrow," he said quietly.
"...tomorrow?" Her voice was a whisper. She knew what he was planning, he knew she did. But he was almost certain that it wasn't real for her. He didn't think she knew what it meant.
"Yeah." His eyes were closed now. "He's going to be alone."
She sounded frightened. "I'm not sure - "
" - you want him back - " he insisted.
" - I'm not ready," she said quickly.
He sympathised. He really did. But tomorrow Danny was going to be destroyed. Abandoned by everyone he loved. "He's going to be alone, Tess."
She didn't say anything, but he knew she'd heard. And he knew they understood each other.
He sighed. "I've got to go."
"Right." He could hear the beginnings of tears. "I'll see you later, Rusty."
"I seriously doubt it," Rusty told her before he could stop himself, and he listened to her soft gasp. "Goodbye, Tess."
He didn't wait for her response. Hung up instantly, pressing the phone against his forehead. God. Still, he was certain she'd go back to Danny now. She wanted to. And he knew Danny wanted. And the baby. They could be happy. Danny could be happy. Without him.
Third phone call. And the first had been difficult and the second had hurt. This was purgatory.
"Hi, Saul," he said, the moment the phone was picked up, before Saul had even had a chance to say anything.
"Rusty." Saul sounded pleased to hear from him. "Good morning." His tone changed abruptly. "What's wrong?"
Fuck. He forced a smile and kept his voice light. "Can't be a social call?"
Saul snorted. "From you? In the morning? Fourteen years, I've known you, Rusty."
"Okay, okay." He didn't risk trying to laugh. Fooling Saul was difficult at the best of times. But even though he couldn't say something, he couldn't stand to leave without saying something. He thought fast, trying to come up with a story Saul could believe in. "You know anyone who knows anything about fake antique furniture?" Something he and Danny had been thinking of a couple of months back. They'd set it aside in the absence of a good forger. But it wasn't an unreasonable thing for him to be asking Saul.
"Hmmm." He could hear Saul thinking. "There was Paulie in San Francisco, but he retired a couple of years ago now. Klein is unavailable. Johnny Forbes isn't good enough for you...." He sighed. "I will have to get back to you," he announced. "Let me think?"
"No rush," Rusty said truthfully. "We got something on tonight. Thinking about the next thing."
"That's a very bad habit," Saul warned disapprovingly. "You get distracted, next thing it's all over."
He let his head fall back against the floor, smiling ridiculously at the scolding. "Yeah, I know. So what have you been doing?"
He lay and listened to a story of Eustace Dollar and the money he made from bogus charity drives, and the money he'd been happy to give to Saul to sink into expenses for the new society for the advancement of the race.
So easy to laugh appreciatively at the end. So easy to lose himself in the story and in the warmth of Saul and forget what was coming. "He figure it out yet?"
"He's still waiting for the mail drop," Saul told him seriously. And Rusty just couldn't stop smiling and it hurt a little. He was going to miss Saul. But he couldn't risk Saul figuring it out. Because Saul would be angry and Saul would try and stop him. And that meant he wasn't going to see Saul for a very long time. Not until everything was over.
"Rusty?" Saul began, gently, casually. "Is there anything I should be worrying about?"
Apparently he hadn't managed to keep everything quite at the right level of normal. "Everything's fine, Saul. Thank you." The 'thank you' slipped out without him even noticing it. And it was gratitude for far too many things. Far too many years. Had far too much finality about it. He went on quickly before Saul had time to think too much about it. "I'd better go. Got a couple of guys to talk to before tonight."
"You will be careful, won't you Rusty?" Saul asked, and he'd definitely picked up on something, because while the worry was never uncharacteristic, the way it was actually being expressed was.
"Aren't I always?" he asked, lightly. "Bye, Saul."
"Goodbye, Rusty," Saul said, and after he hung up Rusty found himself staring fiercely ahead of him, not moving, not thinking until the threat of tears had faded away.
He left his apartment for the last time about noon. Wasn't absolutely certain that Carson or whoever would search the place – there really wasn't any paper trail connecting him to his home, but it was always better to be safe than sorry.
It was with that in mind that he'd swept the place clean. Methodically burning all the fake IDs, all the false papers – anything that could connect him with anything illegal. That had been easy. The part where he'd gone on to destroy everything he didn't want anyone else seeing – everything that he cared about, everything that spoke of sentiment and emotion – oh, that part was hell.
He'd watched the photos of him and Danny burn. Wasn't like he was going to need them anymore. Wasn't like Danny would want them.
He'd known Connor and Lewis for about a year and a half. When he'd met them they'd still been working for Duncan Townsend. And it didn't matter that he'd paid them for the information, and what he'd done for them had never been the point of the whole thing, they still felt that they owed him some sort of debt.
This was the first time he'd considered calling it in.
But they didn't know Danny and Danny didn't know them, and that made them the best possible option.
After Duncan Townsend's business came crashing down, they'd left all that behind them and started their own courier company. Didn't mean they didn't still remember the finer points of kidnap. And that left him being very definite on a few of the details.
"You will not hurt him," he emphasised again. "Not in the slightest. Not even a scratch. Understand?"
Connor nodded. "Yeah. Honestly, Rusty, we got that the first five times you said it. No pain."
"We'll treat the guy like he was our own brother," Lewis promised sincerely.
He gazed at them sharply. Really, he believed them. Just that this was going to be completely out of his control, and, necessary as it was, the very idea frightened him. He sighed and the tension in his body was making him so fucking tired. "Yeah. Thanks, guys. You know what you've got to say?"
"He's got an airtight alibi and you've made a full confession," Lewis sing-songed. And they'd been over that more than once too. Just that Rusty didn't like things being left to chance.
"Don't hurt him," he said again softly. Danny was going to be hurt enough already.
It was mid-afternoon and he was starving. He was almost amused. Mundane and everyday and time was passing so fucking quickly. Still, he found himself parking outside the diner near his apartment that served the very best blueberry pie he'd ever tasted, and he drifted inside and ordered some.
Still tasted like heaven. He closed his eyes and enjoyed and wondered what prison food was like. Somehow, he seriously doubted he was going to enjoy it.
"That is an unbelievably nice ride," Joey said enviously from behind the counter.
Rusty's eyes flew open and he glanced at Joey. The kid always seemed to be working here whenever he came in. Mostly late at night, mostly when the place was empty, and they'd talked a few times. Nice kid, working his way through college. And he liked Rusty because he liked the Mustang, simple as that. Commented on it every time. Even now he was staring out the window.
It was an impulse. The sudden realisation that the car wasn't going to be any more use to him from tomorrow. He grinned and laid the keys down on the table. "Take it. 's yours."
Joey stared blankly at him and laughed uncertainly. "Yeah, right."
The grin spread, wild and ridiculous exultation. "I'm not kidding."
Now Joey looked a little frightened and a lot confused. "Why....?"
He took his last mouthful of pie and glanced down at the pile of history books that Joey kept beside the counter. Ancient Roman history. "We who are about to die salute you," he said at last. "Thanks for the pie."
Joey was still staring after him as he left to find a taxi. He had no idea whether the kid would keep the car or not.
Didn't really matter.
Danny smiled when he saw him. Smiled, like seeing Rusty was just the highlight of his life. Smiled like the weight of the world had just been taken off his shoulders. Smiled like everything was going to be alright now.
Getting through this evening was going to take every ounce of skill that Rusty possessed. Every ounce of courage.
He tried to shove the little screaming voice to the very back of his mind - (This was the last time he would ever see Danny smile like that. This was the last time Danny would think of him without anger. The last time. The last time) – and he smiled back at Danny, open and unconcerned, nothing showing inside his head, just like he'd smile at a mark.
Danny blinked slowly and the smile faded in an instant. "You okay?"
Fuck. Not good enough. Not nearly good enough. He shrugged. "Saw a couple of people I didn't want to," he said shortly, silently suggesting that he didn't want to talk about it, that Danny should just leave it.
Thankfully, fortunately, miraculously, Danny accepted. And maybe there was just a hint that it was a temporary acceptance, that Danny intended on coming back to it later, but that really didn't matter. There wasn't going to be a later.
The thought hit him again and he found himself wanting to throw his arms around Danny, to hug him tightly, bury his face against Danny's shoulder and pretend, just for a moment, that everything was going to be okay.
Not very subtle.
He grinned instead. "So. Dinner?"
"Don't you ever think of anything else?" Danny asked, and he was trying too, trying too hard.
"Nah," Rusty said, shaking his head. (Last meal with Danny. Last meal outside of prison. Last meal without being told where and what and when. Tomorrow...God...tomorrow...) "It's all about the food. You want to go out or stay in?" Difficult to say which would be worse. Out in public and the act wouldn't be as hard. But at the same time he wanted to be alone with Danny. Wanted to enjoy every last impossible moment.
Danny frowned uneasily and Rusty already knew the answer. Not like they'd gone out since he'd come back from London. Danny wanted to hide and pretend the world didn't exist. "You just want to get pizza?"
"Sure," he agreed, like it mattered.
They didn't talk much. Easy silence. Comfortable. Comforting. Danny so close by and the TV played in the background and he was absolutely certain that neither of them had the slightest idea what was on.
He wondered, not for the first time, if he should've left Danny a note. Wouldn't have been that difficult, after all. Connor and Lewis would have been happy enough to deliver it. And Danny would have read it. It was just that he had no idea what he'd say.
There was nothing he could say that would make Danny believe he was right. There was nothing he could say that would ever make Danny okay with this. A letter wouldn't answer any of Danny's questions. That would be all "Why?" and "Please!" and "Take it back!" and there was nothing he could say to that. Nothing that wouldn't make Danny hate him all the more.
Danny wasn't getting a choice in any of this. And Rusty would never get a chance to make it right.
Fifteen years. (Fifteen years, three months, two days and a handful of hours.) Who'd have dreamed it would end like this?
The dead of winter and the Davenport's place in the Hamptons. Marcus, the spoilt, boorish, soon-to-be college drop-out that he'd spent the last three weeks befriending. Arriving at the mansion, all of seventeen, trying not to openly stare at the wealth and the opulence surrounding him. He'd been pretty sure that the apartment he'd grown up in could fit in the bathroom. And then dinner. Looking across the table and the moment when time had simply stopped. The moment when he'd found himself looking at inescapable charisma and hundred-watt confidence and warmth and perception and understanding and everything he had never dreamed to look for.
Funny. In that moment, somehow, he'd been certain that this would last forever.
Dimly he'd been aware of being introduced to Wyatt Filmore, financial whiz-kid and City prodigy, and he'd looked at the man opposite and he'd grinned to himself and thought You don't belong here and somehow, he'd seen, he'd understood, the answering flash of joyous amusement and the Neither do you.
They belonged everywhere.
Later, flashlights and peanut butter cookies and midnight meetings .
"Wyatt Filmore?" he asked at last, sitting cross-legged on the bed and nibbling on his cookie.
"Danny Ocean," Danny corrected simply. "Joseph Kale?"
"Rusty Ryan," he said, and giving his real name was the easiest, safest decision he'd ever made.
Two easy, baby cons had been abandoned, and the plan that had taken their place had been glorious and unthinkable and just because it hadn't run smooth didn't mean he – they – hadn't been certain that this was what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives.
He hadn't thought it would end like this.
He looked sideways at Danny. There were so many things he longed to say. So many things he couldn't risk saying. Goodbye. He didn't dare. "You remember Marcus Davenport's self-portrait?" he asked suddenly.
Danny smiled just a little. "I remember pulling you out of that damned swimming pool," he said.
Rusty remembered that too. Rusty remembered everything.
He'd never thought it would end like this.
Of course, there'd been times – mercifully few and far between – when he'd thought that it was ending. When he'd thought he was going to die or, far, far worse, when he'd thought Danny was going to die.
But he'd never imagined this. Never imagined that it would be him leaving Danny behind. Never imagined that would be the right, the only choice.
(And he might die.)
Two hours. And Danny was looking at his watch uneasily and just for a moment Rusty imagined what would happen if he just stayed a little longer, if Danny didn't get a chance to go to the museum that night. If he suggested that they put on 'Ghostbusters' and open a bottle of whiskey and just forget the world.
Except what would actually happen was that Carson would come and arrest them both tomorrow. Evidence of conspiracy and crimes had been planned and maybe that wouldn't mean as long a sentence but he still couldn't let that happen.
He stood up, stretching lazily to cover his very real fear that his legs wouldn't hold him. "I'd better go," he said regretfully. "Don't want to keep him waiting."
Danny stood up too. Walked him to the door. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"I won't," Rusty promised. He hesitated, staring at Danny for a long time, memorising forever. "You going to be okay?" he asked as casually as he could.
Danny sighed and grinned and shook his head. "Think I can manage on my own."
Rusty's smile didn't falter. "Good to know."
This was it. Last times. Last moments. And he didn't say anything.
(I love you. Forgive me. Forget me. Live well. Be happy.)
He walked away like he didn't have a care in the world and inside he was screaming.
(That might well have been the last time he'd ever see Danny. That was the last time he'd ever see Danny smile.
He wasn't sorry.
So far so good and, despite everything, the exhilaration was rushing through him. The plan was working. Danny was safe. Carson was furious.
He'd been dragged from the back of the cop car into the police station, his feet barely touching the ground as Carson's burly underlings hauled him along corridors and down staircases, and all the time he'd been looking at Carson's back, saying what a pity it was that Carson hadn't had a chance to look round the museum properly, because really the Chinese calligraphy exhibit was well worth a look.
Tension and anger. Exactly what he wanted to see.
And then he'd been dragged into the interview room and shoved to the floor, forced to his knees, his hands cuffed behind his back, and a second later the door had slammed shut and he'd been left alone.
Huh. Probably giving him time to think things over. Be intimidated. He got to his feet carefully, looking round the room. Concrete walls, concrete floor, a table bolted to the floor. No chairs though. Which was strange. Large one-way mirror. He smiled cheerfully at it. Never knew who might be watching. CCTV camera in the corner, red light flashing below. As he watched it stopped. Huh. So this wasn't being filmed. Somehow, seemed like that probably wasn't a good sign.
He wandered to the wall opposite the mirror and leaned back, staring at the glass, open and unconcerned and as annoyingly nonchalant as possible. It was ten minutes before Carson put in an appearance, sauntering into the room, holding a bag of fruit..
Rusty grinned. "Into healthy eating, Harry? Think it's going to take more than fruit."
"Vitamins are important, Robert," Carson told him, and the amusement in his voice was paper-thin.
"Why not just take vitamins?" Rusty wondered aloud.
Carson ignored him and started peeling an orange. "So, Robert. Are you going to tell me what you think you're doing? Because, right now, I have to admit I can't see exactly what you think you've achieved. Did you think our deal meant I'd let you go? Did you think you'd escape? I caught you red-handed, Robert. You're going to prison."
The grin faltered a little. "I want my phone call."
"Oh?" Carson raised an eyebrow knowingly and popped an orange segment in his mouth. "And who do you want to call, I wonder?"
"I'm not saying anything without my phone call," Rusty insisted stubbornly.
Carson sighed, dropped the orange on the table and signalled to the two silent thugs. In an instant they'd grabbed him by the arms and were hauling him to the door.
"Hey, watch the suit," he complained. "It's new."
"You're going to look nice in prison overalls," Carson said softly behind him and Rusty shuddered inside.
"Bet they itch," he said lightly.
"Mmmm." He could feel Carson staring at him. "You're going to have lots of time to find out. And so is Danny."
No. Not Danny. He stared at the phone unblinkingly for a second. Then he smiled brightly at Carson and lifted up his hands behind his back. "You mind?"
Wordlessly Carson unlocked the handcuffs.
"Thanks," Rusty said and turned his attention towards dialling the familiar number. Two rings and he got an answer. "Hi, I'd like to order a large pizza with pepperoni, extra cheese and - "
With a snarl, Carson grabbed the receiver out of his hand and slammed it down. "Enough!" he snapped and in an instant Rusty was in handcuffs again, being dragged back to the same interrogation room, and when he was shoved forwards he couldn't save himself.
He hit the floor hard and lay blinking for a moment and a second later there was a large, meaty fist in his hair and he was being dragged upwards by the gorilla behind him.
Carson was in his face. "Harry!" Rusty said, sounding surprised. "How nice to - "
It was a slap, not a punch. Open handed. Stung, but it wouldn't leave any mark. He licked his lips thoughtfully. Well, everything still seemed to be going according to plan.
Carson stepped back, staring at him, pacing round and round and Rusty looked straight ahead of him, disinterestedly. "Oh, very funny, Robert. You're a funny guy. You know what? I bet the courts go easy on you because you make them laugh so much." A hand gripped his shoulder tightly. He stared ahead of him and smiled and didn't look round as Carson spoke close to his ear. "You're pathetic. And you're going to tell me what Danny's planning here. What are you, a distraction? Bait?" He didn't answer and Carson stood back from him abruptly, pacing round and round. "You know your problem, Robert? You think you're untouchable. And you're not. I wish I could be there when you find that out. I wish I could be there when you're dragged through the mud and the filth."
Bingo. This was what he wanted. Carson, angry at him. Carson wanting to see him brought down. That meant there were bargains to be made. Games to be won.
He waited until Carson was standing right in front of him. Then he raised his head, looked Carson in the eyes and his voice was soft like honey. "So, here's the deal, Harry. There's two ways this can go. You know that, right? You can go after Danny - "
" - I can go after Danny right now," Carson pointed out and Rusty's face was blank.
He nodded with an effort. "Yes," he agreed. "And then, what? You have to admit to your superiors that tonight's little operation was not a complete success. You don't have as much evidence against Danny as you'd hoped. You've got me muddying the waters. Two lengthy trials. No guarantee of success. And, maybe somewhere along the line, someone mentions something about five million dollars that's not exactly yours."
"They wouldn't believe you," Carson said very quietly and there was an edge of anger and worry in his voice.
"Probably not," Rusty acknowledged. "But maybe they'd start an investigation. At any rate, after all that? The very best you can hope for is to look like an incompetent idiot."
"And the alternative?" Carson asked slowly and he was listening to Rusty now, curious interest on his face.
"Leave Danny out of it," Rusty said immediately. "Make like I'm the one you wanted all along - and don't tell me you can't sell that." He knew it was possible. "You get a signed confession. You get an easy trial. You get to keep the money. You get to look like the big man. Danny goes free. I go to prison..." He shrugged. "We all get what we want."
Carson was staring thoughtfully at him. "So that's what you're after, is it, Robert?"
"Do we have a deal?" he asked intently.
Carson turned away from him and walked towards the desk. He carefully opened a file and, to Rusty's carefully-hidden confusion, pulled out a long brown sock. "You interest me, Robert," he said conversationally. "Tell me. Did you ever hear people say that if you hit someone with a bar of soap inside a sock it hurts like hell but doesn't leave any marks?"
What...? "Do we have a deal?" he asked again. He'd risked everything on this. Everything on Carson taking the sensible, the easy option.
Carson turned round and smiled at him. "Did you ever hear people say that if you hit someone with - "
" - yes," he said impatiently. He'd heard that. "Do we have a deal?"
"It's not true, of course," Carson told him cheerfully, laying the sock on the edge of the desk and looking curiously at the bag of fruit. "What it does mean is that there are no immediate marks. The skin isn't broken. And the damage is so deep that the bruises take several days to show up. Meaning that it's very difficult to prove who was responsible. Especially if a man's been sent to prison in the meantime."
Rusty didn't react. "Do we have a deal, Harry?"
Carson ignored him, opening the bag of fruit and looking inside thoughtfully. "You get the exact same effect with oranges, of course. Not a lot of people know that."
"Do we have a deal?" he demanded again, urgently, as Carson sat on the edge of the table, swinging his legs and carefully stuffing the orange right down into the bottom of the sock.
Eventually, Carson stood up and smiled down at him, handcuffed and on his knees. "Yes, Robert. We have a deal," he said and he swung the sock, hard and vicious.
It struck Rusty across the chest and the pain blossomed outwards, dull and massive and unmanageable. For a second he was hunched in on himself. Then he looked up at Carson and smiled. "Thank you," he said.
"You're welcome," Carson replied sincerely, and he pulled his arm back for another swing.
The cell door slammed behind him, heavy and final and frightening. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath and, even over the physical ache, he could feel the pressure, the walls closing in around him, the trapped and the inescapable and the unremitting.
It was over. He'd won.
He opened his eyes and looked at grey concrete walls and unbreakable iron bars. Listened to the distant shouts of anger and frustration.
This was going to destroy him. Grind him down. Wear him away until there was nothing recognisable left.
A tiny, frightened part of his soul cried out. Danny.
He shoved the thought away as hard as he could. He'd made his choices. No more Danny. He was on his own. For the rest of his life, he was on his own.
It was done. It was over.
Now all he had left was survival.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed, please let me know what you think. And if what you're thinking is "What happens next?" I'd refer you to 'Falling like Dominoes'.