A/N: On the fifth day of our advent calendar I bring to you an admittedly very short chapter of a brand new multichapter fic! Happy Christmas.

A/N2: An angsty AU of the Benedict job. Because there can never be too many of those, right? This is going to be a number of chapters long. Don't ask what number though. More than ten, less than a million.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything to do with the Ocean's 11 franchise.


10th July 2001

"This is just the best part of my day," Linus said with a sigh, and Rusty glanced at him with a vague feeling of exasperation. He'd had his doubts when Danny had said that their new recruit was Bobby and Molly's son, though so far the kid had proved useful enough. That should be all that he cared about, but unfortunately Linus also seemed too easily distracted, too inclined to lose focus. He'd be happier if he thought the kid understood how bad things could get.

Linus was still staring at the stairs with a rapt, moonish expression, and shaking his head, Rusty looked over to see the girl who had apparently captured Linus' attention.

The world stopped.

As Tess walked down the stairs, Rusty distantly realised that he had forgotten how to breathe.

Tess. Here. With Benedict.

Later, he was astonished that he had the presence of mind to duck out of sight. He had to though. After all, the last time he'd seen her...well, safe to say she wasn't going to be pleased to see him.

He watched her walk past and his attention was caught by the dress she was wearing, the shoes. Fuck, even the way her hair was styled was wrong. The dress was at least a couple of inches shorter than anything he'd ever seen her in, and the colour. His mouth was a thin line. None of this was her.

She'd been dressed to impress. Not quite trashy, he wouldn't go that far. At least not cheap and trashy. But Tess was all about the elegant and the understated, and right now, dressed up like a piece of overt and expensive decoration, she looked awkward and uncertain and his heart ached.

Someone else's taste and Rusty didn't have to guess whose. She walked onto the casino floor and she practically matched the decor.

Truthfully, there wasn't much need for him to stay out of sight. Tess' eyes were fixed vacantly on a point somewhere in the middle distance, and she never looked round. Never so much as glanced at another human being.

He'd seen her look like that before. Vacant. Disconnected. Like nothing was real to her except the pain living in her head.

The last time he'd seen her she'd been furious, but she hadn't been like this. God, what had happened? He should've watched her more closely. Should've found a way.

"I still don't know if we can use her," Linus said and Rusty's heart twisted at the thought and Linus was suddenly watching him intently. "Actually, I haven't even caught her name?"

There was a question there.

Rusty chose not to answer it.

"See you later, Linus," he said and the dismissal was pointed. "I've got some things to take care of."

He ignored the noise of strangled frustration the kid made. If necessary he'd make it up to him later. Right now there were more important things to do. Like tailing Tess.

As he ran upstairs to find an inconspicuous disguise, he wondered what he thought he was doing. Wondered if maybe he should be telling Danny that Tess was here. Wondering if maybe he should be telling Danny everything.

Wasn't the first time the thought had crossed his mind. Hell, right from the first time he'd seen Danny sitting down at that card game, the guilt had been overwhelming. It was almost surprising that he was able to look Danny in the eyes.

He knew what Danny would say. Could imagine the look on Danny's face if...when?...if Danny ever found out exactly what Rusty had been hiding from him.

More than that; he owed Tess. He had to know what was going on before he did anything. He grabbed the wig he'd been planning on using for the doctor, a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, and an uninspiring suit. Nothing Tess would associate with him.

Somehow he managed to get ready without ever meeting his eyes in the mirror.

Thing was, Danny already had to know, didn't he? About Tess anyway. About Benedict. Not about Rusty, obviously, at least he didn't think so. He didn't recollect Danny trying to kill him lately, so it was safe to say Danny didn't know the whole story.

So Danny knew what? Maybe just that Tess was with Benedict. That would explain why this job.

Maybe it would also explain some of the looks that Danny had been giving him. Perhaps it was just his guilty conscience that whispered that Danny's eyes were filled with doubt.

His fingers rubbed around his mouth distractedly. Danny's motives could be laid aside for now. Right now he had to focus on Tess and Benedict

He watched them through dinner and he didn't like what he saw. Not one bit. Maybe it would've looked like a normal dinner to the casual observer – certainly no one else seemed to notice anything wrong – but Rusty saw Terry ordering Tess around and Tess meekly submitting. He saw Terry reach across the table and grab Tess' hand, as though in warning, and fury snarled through him, wild and untameable and oh so familiar.

Seemed like she saw him then. For a moment. Certainly she turned round and stared, and he looked away quickly, hoping his disguise held, hoping she didn't give him away, because Terry having reason to notice him now wouldn't help anything.

With every frightened look, every nervous flinch, every last second of cowed and crushed, the urge to run across the restaurant and start punching grew stronger and stronger.

Safe to say Danny didn't know about this.

He sat in the restaurant for a long time after they'd left, staring blankly into a cup of coffee. What should he have done? What the hell could he have done? Cold reason told him that there was nothing. Benedict's behaviour might be odious, but publicly objecting in the middle of the Bellagio...well, it might not be the smartest move he'd ever made.

All he could do was wait and watch and try not to think about how much he hated that look of fear in her eyes.

He sighed, rubbing at his mouth. Right now he didn't want to go back to see the others. For a start, he didn't want to have to look Danny in the eyes and lie to him. But more than that, being around that many people...these days it was exhausting.

Nah, he'd go for a walk. Clear his head.

Think about how badly he'd failed.