...Happy Summer, Bones fans! I hope the hiatus is treating you well - it at least it gives me time to work on this special summer project, finally released from the word processing documents of anthrodia's computer! Before you read, I just want to give you a little background knowledge: firstly, I'm going to be updating weekly, every saturday/sunday. Feel free to spam me with PMs if I forget to put something up, especially since I already have a few chapters in my reserves to get me started. Secondly, this will most definitely be rated M, now for language and later for the smut. You know you love it ;D Thirdly, the Eagles song is indeed an inspiration for this fanfic, so only by listening can you gain some insight into what's going down in the future. Lastly, this fic is completely AU, set in a world where Booth and Brennan don't exist as we know them, and instead, along with the entire team, are part of the Las Vegas undercover op. explored in 2x08, "The Woman in the Sand" - only this time, everything is real. I'll do my best to stay true to the characters and certain elements of the show we love, (like keeping certain parts of people's names in their new identities, etc) but it's fanfiction, so you can guarantee it's gonna be a little different.
All of that said and done, if you even read any of that, I hope you enjoy Life in the Fast Lane!
A long draw at a cigar accompanied the gruff statement, and the rattle of chips signaled the end of another game. A group of men, hunched and visibly exhausted after a hard day's work, huddled around a table at Boomer's Coliseum Casino, easing the weight of the day with alcohol and poker. Currently, they were the casino's only patrons, as the nighttime rush had yet to begin. The bartender stood idle, purposelessly cleaning glasses with a greasy dishrag, and the dealer made no attempt at conversation as he reshuffled the deck. The atmosphere was filled with apprehension, and the youngest player was the first to dare make a comment as he gathered his hand.
Clearing his throat, he surveyed the cards. "So... what's got ya'll so social today?"
The man sitting across from him lifted a bushy eyebrow at his sarcasm. Only after raising the previous bet did he reply. "Needin' gossip, Susie?"
The first man colored slightly. "Jus' wonderin', is all."
"Lay off, Brent," reprimanded an older gentleman. He took a swig from his bottle before glaring at him reproachfully. "Charlie ain't the only one who's wondering. Hey, Scottie?"
The dealer, standing quietly aside, looked up. "Hmm?"
"You got some background on what's going on? Why's the place so empty?"
A few moments passed in silence, the occasional shuffle and swallow penetrating the thick, uneasy quiet that covered the casino. Smoke drifted aimlessly around the flickering neon lights of the ceiling, and the bartender resigned himself to waxing the bar with a new cloth. Then Scottie gave a last, shifty glance around before leaning down towards the table. "You all heard about the new owner, right?"
Charlie spoke up again. "That what's botherin' ya'll? We known for weeks 'e was comin."
"Yeah, but it ain't that he's coming that's go everyone worked up. It's who HE is, and that he's coming today," replied the dealer with a waggle of his eyebrows.
"So soon?" asked the small blind.
"He was more than a little eager to get started."
Brent chuckled darkly. "I heard 'e was pullin' at the bit to get to the races."
"Pretty rich boy is a colt. It's gonna take more than cash to play with the stallions," scoffed another.
"Good thing I'm a Scallion, then, eh?" a voice calmly remarked from behind the group. Those who had jeered beforehand stiffened as the unfamiliar, amused tone registered in their ears. Slowly, they made the awkward turn to face whoever it was that had spoken - and their suspicions were confirmed.
He didn't look like the pretty rich boy they'd mentioned earlier. His face, though handsome, was shaded with stubble, and the rugged chin and calculating brown eyes hinted at a darker, tougher nature. His stance oozed self-assurance, and the cocky way with which he extracted a poker chip from his pocket and flipped it in his palm caused a few of the customers to shift uncomfortably - this was the man they'd criticized so easily?
"See you boys have met Tony," announced Boomer, the previous owner of the Coliseum Casino, who was standing by the door. He massaged his thick neck as he strode over to the table and clapped a hand on Tony's shoulder. "I'm just showin' him the ropes tonight, but tomorrow the place is his."
A satisfied smirk lit up the new man's eyes as he surveyed the room. Mine. The word meant a lot to Tony, who'd started out as a farm hand in Utah. Slowly building his 'empire' around various floating bets, he'd struck luck during a game of Craps and come into the big time. From there he'd moved to Vegas and struggled in the world of the big guys with the small casinos he established in quiet towns. Coming across Boomer and his need to sell - fast - had been the greatest moment of his life. He'd cunningly made a few bets, ones he was certain to win even in the uncertain world of gambling, and at last he'd had enough to take the place off Boomer's hands. A contract, a signature, and bada-bing, bada-boom...
...it was his.
"'Ey, Tony, earth to Tony. Come in, Tony."
The man's dark eyes snapped back to Boomer's. "Sorry, Boom. Just lookin' around."
"You'll have plenty of time to do that later," he chuckled. "For now, I want you to meet the guys. These are the regulars, so get to knew 'em. Ya know..."
"...for business," Tony finished, a twisted smile accompanying the answer.
"That's m'boy," Boomer replied with a wink, before heading to the bartender with the excuse of checking up on some last minute details. Tony was left to turn back to the table, eyeing the motley crew of men that stared up at him expectantly. When he stared right back, they coughed and shifted again, obviously uncertain under such a direct gaze. The act gave him a small pleasure. His personality had a distinct edge that had given him a boost in the dog-eat-dog-world of Las Vegas. Even now, it seemed, it'd be a help running his own place. Nice guys didn't get too far in this town. Make a note of that, Scallion.
He also made sure to take note of every face that was introduced to him, cataloguing their personalities even from what little information he gathered. Tony was a shrewd guy, and he knew it'd come in handy to know that, say, Charlie was the young but intelligent fellow who'd be easy to impress, and therefore, use; or that Brent looked like a burly alcoholic who'd probably give the place a bad rep if he was constantly starting drunk trouble. People were tools to be used, and in his climb to the top, he needed all the help he could get. But he put on that casual charm, the one he exuded without thought, and even with his arrogance he was cordial and chatted with them all. He could be friendly, and he would be, and that would be the way that place got started. With these guys, the regulars, behind him, he'd hit the ground running. And soon, this place would take off.
After a few minutes chatting, Boomer returned. "Well, it was nice seein' you boys, but it's time to show Tony around. We'll catch up some more later, yeah?" They agreed, a few raising their drinks in acknowledgement. Tony nodded and gave a brief smile in farewell, before turning to Boom, who jerked his head towards the bar. He followed with eager steps, those of a puppy behind his master. Tony had many acts, and the excited student was just one of the tricks up his sleeve. Brown nosing was something he hated, but he saw no problem with the occasional teacher's pet persona. Boomer saw right through that, and was vaguely amused by the whole thing, but he let him carry on - a man with wisdom far beyond his years, he was content to let the kid learn in his own way what would stand in Vegas. Still, he needed to show him how to run a business like the Coliseum, and that was the least he could do.
He rubbed his hands together, then gestured towards the bar. "This is where it's at. All the foodstuffs are back in the kitchen. But here, you got your wines, your pops, and your good hard liquors all stored up, for both your straight drinks and as the ingredients for all the crazy combos people ask for. I've got 'em organized with the ones people ask for most closest to Lance here - Lance being Lance Sweets, your bartender." Sweets, hearing his name, lifted his eyes from the bar he was rubbing down with some wax, eyebrows raised slightly as he, too, measured up the new boss. At last he smiled, and Tony gave a half-smile back to the kid as Boomer continued. "You can change all that up, o'course, but the system works just fine, right, Sweets?"
Again Sweets found himself in their conversation, and he nodded. "Yup. Totally." There was a stony silence where the bartender simply stared for a few moments before returning to the task at hand. Boom and Tony exchanged a glance before heading for a new part of the casino.
"Not much for talking, is he?" Tony whispered as they turned to make their way to his new office.
Boom snorted. "He's just assessing you. He's got this thing about just...watching, at first. Kinda unnerving, but he's a good worker, and eventually he warms up to just about everyone. Then you can't get him to shut up."
They chuckled all the way to the back room, where Boomer then introduced him to the worse parts of working a casino. "Finance can be a real pain in the ass, so stick to your guns, boy," he advised as he went over spreadsheets and charts of advances and spendings of the past year. "These are a loose guide, but I didn't give you the job for nothing - I think you got sense, so use it in your investments." They spent a long while analyzing and making plans for the future, Boom coaxing his replacement through the process until he could stand on his own. By that time, Tony was confident in the business, and with that little push in the right direction he was ready to begin. And it was a good thing, too, because the hands on his Rolex - won in a game of pool about a year ago, and probably the bet he was most proud of - were fast approaching nine, and that was when the real nighttime rush began. He thought he was ready, but this would be the real test.
Boom caught the glances he kept making to the watch and straightened, eyes closing tightly as he stretched his back. "Shit, that is way too long to be standing over a desk. Luckily, you don't have to do too much of that here."
"I think I'll get the general idea of what this is really all about tonight."
"Yessir. Night is when we casino owners rule. We've got everything everybody wants - booze, gambling, and women."
"Women? I ain't seen any 'round here yet," Tony laughed, fingers sliding over the poker chip in his pocket in anticipation.
"Well, then, son, tonight's gonna be your first taste of a lot of things. Let's get out there and get started. You need to meet the staff and such, but I think they all know you're coming. Your reputation proceeds you," he said, feigning a haughty air and bowing mockingly.
Scallion huffed, shaking his head with a wry grin. "That tends to happen."
Boom laughed, and for the first time Tony understood the nickname. "Cocky bastard. We'll see if you keep that up after your first night at Boomer's Coliseum Casino."
"Won't be Boomer's for long," he said cheekily, and the older man rolled his eyes.
As Boomer began walking out ahead of him, Tony took a deep breath and relaxed his broad shoulders, rolling them to smooth away the tension that had built there over the last hour. It was a good tension, the kind the player has before he knows he's going to shoot the winning basket, or catch the winning touchdown - but he couldn't be distracted by that tonight. Tonight, he'd really have his victory. And for that, he had to focus. He took a deep breath, and then entered back into the main room.
In the mere space of an hour, the sprawling floor had been transformed: the beginnings of the crowd had started to arrive, taking their seats at gaming tables or atop the plush cushions in the lounges, a few grabbing seats at the bars or the dinner spaces. People of all types spread throughout the room to claim their territories for the night, practically vibrating with readiness for the fun to be had as they joked and laughed with friends and acquaintances alike. The dance floor was currently empty, but the stage was occupied by the professionals in their glittering costumes, their slender legs being stretched in warm up from beneath the garments and their faces practicing the pouty, sultry expressions they wore so well from behind veils of cosmetics. Men, only on their first round, had already begun to hoot and whistle from the seats nearest the stage, while the more dignified of customers looked on with vague interest. Above it all, the machines of the ceiling diffused a wafting smoke to give off a mysterious air, and the neon lights shining from above cast hazy shades through it all. Over the clinks of the ringing slots, music was thrumming through the speakers, tonight's track a jazzy rock mix. Altogether the atmosphere was one of murmuring expectation, and the real show was set to begin.
"Lookin' good, Vinny," Boomer called to the DJ, who'd also been in charge of coordinating the evening. He raised a hand, a Boom grabbed Tony around the shoulders and grumbled, "He's a vain little snob from 'across the pond,' as they say, but he runs the music and lights like no other." Tony nodded, another fact added to his endless supply of info on new employees. Tidbits on others were also compiled as they made a complete circle around the bar (which was the center of the floor) - he came to know the various servers and dealers - who he was sure all gossiped about him the minute he turned his back - and each of the performers, who he was sure did the very same thing. Maybe Boom was really telling the truth back there... if he was, he had a lot to live up to.
It was exactly nine, the start of the worst rush this part of Vegas, by the time they stopped, and already the Coliseum was bursting at the seams. The pounding bass of another track mixed with the chatter of hundreds of people, and Boomer, even with his special trait, had to raise his voice to be heard. "Well, I guess it's time to get this party started," he said with a mischievous grin and a smoothing of the sparse hair on his head. "Now that you've met everybody…" He paused, then slowly began again, quietly this time, "Oh, wait, no, there's one last someone you have to meet."
"Oh?" Tony asked quizzically.
"Mmm, not have to, but I think you'll want to," he mused slyly.
Realization dawned. "Ahh," he said, nodding his head slowly. "And just who is this 'someone'?"
"She's always fashionably late - likes the attention, ya know? - but she's the best damned performer we got; leads our little pack. You know the type - pretty, intelligent, the works, but she's got something else... She's a bitch of a firecracker, but with that one, getting burned is worth it." His tone was tinged by admiration, and with Boomer, that was no small thing. Tony wondered just who this evasive siren could be, and his eyes surveyed the room quickly, but landed on nothing unbelievingly striking.
He raised a skeptical brow. "You sure you're not exaggerating, Boom?"
The older man shook his head vehemently. "Naw, kid, you know I don't do that - hey, look, there she is now," he interrupted himself, lifting a finger towards the door where Tony had been gazing only seconds before. Immediately his head rotated back, and he craned above the crowd to get a good look.
And there she was.
The red lights of the door where she hovered cast a dangerous glare across her shadowed features, and set alight the fiery blaze of curled auburn hair that cascaded across her shoulders in tantalizing sensual suggestion. A red dress, even darker crimson than the hue she basked in, was molded to the exact flare of her hips before it veered into a bubbled layer that caught the light with its taffeta glow. His mouth grew dry as he watched her step forwards, emerging from the crowd with all the power of a predator, her movements smooth and filled with graceful calculation. Legs encased in fishnet stockings strode lithely towards the stage, flaming heels the exact same shade as her dress precise as they picked their way through the crowd with ease. Soon she was standing with the dancers, who all immediately parted to allow her into their midst - the queen had arrived.
He heard himself asking Boomer a question, though his world had suddenly gone fuzzy, a strange sense that he'd just stumbled across something that would...make him different...someone...who would...
"What's her name?"
"Roxie. Roxie Brennan."
Almost as if she'd heard her name, the woman turned from the giggling and whispering gossips around her, and he found himself immersed in eyes of a crystal so pure it defied every single notion the sinful dress would have him form. Plunged into their electrifying depths, his breath caught, again full of the feeling that somehow this moment was important. Tony Joseph Scallion was pierced straight to his soul by a magnetic draw that shattered the haze she'd put him in in the first place, and he was forever changed.
Chapter Two will be up next week! Your reviews are like Nutella - awesome.
A question to get you started: any ideas for the new name of the Casino? As Tony said himself, it's not going to be Boomer's for much longer...
Oh, and if any of you don't understand some of the gambling terms used in this fic, don't be afraid to ask! :]