A/N: Uh, hello. I... have somehow, suddenly seem to have gotten back into O11. I used to be quite active on here a little more than three years ago (when real life took over) and then I went MIA and I'm really sorry about that, especially in hindsight. Checked this section the other day and I can't accurately describe my joy to see otherhawk and InSilva so well and active and creative and astonishing (I actually got very emotional) and I must now get around to reading and reviewing, obviously. But I thought I'd share this, first of all. I'm not feeling very confident about it after all this time but nonetheless...
I've put this as 'Rusty and Danny' although Linus's part is just as big. It's just... it's always RustyandDanny.
'The only thing you've got to promise', Danny said, 'is to not get involved unless you're sure it's an emergency.'
Sitting on the desk, Linus nodded and spoke at the same time: 'Danny, I-'
'That's all you need to know, Linus. It's a last minute thing, we're very grateful you were able to come in from Paris and-'
'Eh!' another voice from across the room and Danny turned around. A hand held two ties through the doorframe, one in a dark blue, one looking like something straight out of an Arabic exhibition at the V&A (and Linus wouldn't put it past them).
'With the beige shirt?'
Danny sighed. 'Ochre.'
'That's the one.'
Linus scratched his knee and raised the corners of his lips when Danny turned to face him again. In the doorframe right behind his left hand, the ties danced like marionettes.
'The left one, Rus.'
'Gracias.' The ties disappeared, then: 'Your left or mine?'
Linus rubbed his neck and shifted a little, hoping to meet Danny's eyes again, which had wandered off to the side. 'Danny, I did so well in Vegas and I thought maybe this time... and you two wouldn't have to risk getting split up until tomorrow' and there was a reaction there, for a second, and he knew he wasn't playing fair and he knew Danny knew and there also was something else so he quickly went on: 'I could just... I can handle...'
His voice was somewhere up in his throat and he ignored that Danny was triple-checking his name tag and not-quite-frowning. 'I've got experience, I'm not, honestly, I'm not that young or naive or shy, you see, I mean...', louder now: 'Danny, I had it all going for me then, I can do this again, I'm not just some silly teenager who blushes at the first...'
'If I didn't know any better I'd believe you didn't think me quite up to the task...' The door to the bedroom fully opened and Linus stood up, apology on his lips, but Rusty, all golden and radiant, flashed him a smile and turned to Danny while straightening the knot. 'Too much red in the pattern?'
'You own it.' No smile.
'Technically, I don't.' Rusty grinned and grabbed the suit jacket on the bed before looking at Linus again: 'You okay, kid? Good.'
Their driver called him 'love' and Rusty quickly adopted it on the way past St James's Park. Linus rolled his eyes and tried to look at Danny in the passenger seat and didn't see a smile, only squared chin and slow blinking and the Strand moving past outside the window as the car slowed down and stopped. Then: 'Time's 9.27. Rusty.'
The door opened, Rusty slid out and Linus thought he saw his right hand rest on Danny's shoulder just as he was moving past him (and then there were slight creases near Danny's collar that hadn't been there before) and then the door closed and they turned their heads and Rusty was standing on the island in the middle of the road and then a bus went past saying THERE'S PROBABLY NO GOD and then Rusty was gone as latecomers rushed into the theatre next-door.
Silence and more silence. Their driver was playing around on his phone. Danny was still staring at the entrance. Linus traced the patterns on the seat with his left hand.
'You've got your card and ID.'
'Yes.' Of course I do, Linus added silently. Seven years and still... 'When were you planning on giving me a layout? I should...'
'No, you shouldn't,' Danny said, and his voice was firm and this wasn't like Vegas. 'You go in, you make sure you've got the alarm covered, that's it. Meeting at Waterloo Bridge at midnight.'
Danny nodded to their driver (Mike? Mark?) as he opened the door and Linus took his cue from him. He followed the dark figure next to him across the road towards the shining lights of the Savoy.
Walking towards the revolving door, Danny leaned in and for a second Linus thought he was going to kiss his cheek (and it would seem like part of the plan and he'd go with it (but be so confused) and he'd later learn that it hadn't actually been part of the plan (but just a joke) and he'd embarrass himself just like that time in Atlanta (or worse!)) but he heard a whispered: 'You're the lifeline, Linus. Remember this,' and Danny took off, the door swirling around and Linus felt his neck tense up and the ground swim beneath him for a split second because this obviously wasn't about training cats in handbags or about fixing fake noses.
9.45, Danny and the kid were inside now.
Just one second of distraction and back to control, back to the man in front of him who was sipping from a glass with golden liquor and a gold rim, eyeing him from the side. Rusty smiled. Edgar Colworth didn't.
'I am very glad we were able to arrange a date on such short notice,' Colworth said, eyes travelling lower and then shooting back up.
'The pleasure is all mine,' he said, and it wasn't a complete lie. They'd been waiting for him to take the bait for half a year. Recently, he had forgotten all about his – or rather Steven Hartville's – photo in the agency's book (Danny hadn't) but then the request had come in (and Danny hadn't told him for two days) and they'd miraculously been in Dublin already. And if this worked out – if it was true what they said about Colworth's way with personal assistants – then the job offer would be up again tomorrow morning. That, and a bounty on Rusty's head. But it was worth it (Danny had turned away from him when he'd said that) and it would be taken down once Colworth discovered all his secretly stored goods had disappeared, too and he had no funds to pay anyone for anybody's head. And that it was all a result of screwing over Saul (who he only knew as Zacharias Hegg anyway).
For a split second, as he blinked, Rusty wondered when it had become about payback and loyalties and dependence and love and ties that bound, only to realise he didn't mind all that much.
Keeping his gaze at the same level to meet Colworth's eyes, Rusty took a sip and slowly licked a drop off his lip.
Now he got a smile.
Linus had scanned the room and corridor for relevant fire alarms within five minutes and prepared for his jobs (which were amateur level – he had realised that as soon as he'd got to work). The invitation to the ballroom was safely in his pocket, introducing him as Anthony Sneider, a name that had originally been reserved for a certain Ethan that Danny knew 'from way back in Bangkok' and who had broken both his legs in a heist which Rusty had described as 'a Léotard that turned into a Lexington'.
He tried to recall the quickest way back outside and to Waterloo Bridge and figured it wouldn't be too hard. He wouldn't meet Danny on the way; he'd already have left the building to help Rusty down from the window. The rope ladder was in place anyway.
Easy. It all sounded perfectly simple.
The ballroom was beautiful, he could take in as much, but Danny's word were still lingering in his ear and he didn't even know where Danny was (he was wearing staff uniform and Linus was so confused because disguises weren't really Danny's thing and dealing with CCTV wasn't Danny's thing, that was all Rusty and why had this job seemed easy when he had been talking to Rusty and the worst idea ever when he had been talking to Danny)...
Both eyes on the screens in front of him, Danny absent-mindedly grabbed the mug to his right but put it back down instantly after just one sip. His coffee had gone cold, which was no surprise – it had been 45 minutes since he'd taken over from Thomas (who didn't want anything to do with it but who still owed him a favour for the thing with the Maserati in Lyon).
Colworth's hand had already been on Rusty's thigh and his eyes on his lips and Danny didn't want to imagine a scenario where his hands were a little higher and his eyes... and Rusty's lips and thighs...
Saul would never know the details and anyway, there wouldn't be any to share, it would be fine. Everything was in place and as one look at the screen on the left assured him, Linus was, too, doing one heck of a job looking uninvolved in the party going on around him.
'Why don't we take this up to my room, Steven?'
Colworth had already stood up from the leather seat and while Steven looked at him with coy intrigue, Rusty paid close attention to his own instincts and that of the man opposite him. Ten thirty and a little earlier than expected but that was all right. That was fine. It wasn't unusual and it had been coming up anyway and he'd spotted the camera to the side and as he got up he looked directly at it (at Danny) and gave him a quick grin.
It was fair enough, really: Steven Hartville had given off every signal to make Colworth understand that he was well aware that the emphasis was on personal whenever the tycoon hired new PAs. And that he was aware of the type.
Blond, male and easy on the eye.
(Lazy smiles, slow nods, naive looks.)
Rusty had grinned at him (really grinned) and Danny felt like kicking something and like rushing upstairs and like screaming and like swearing (and yet he was endlessly grateful). It was early. Far earlier than expected. He bit his tongue as he watched the two figures walk up to the foyer, up to the elevator doors. One hand was grabbing the staff pager to his side to send Thomas the pre-written text ('Leaving now. Appreciate it. D.') and the other one was holding on to the card that would get him out of the hotel through one of the embankment exits just off to the side to be there in time for Rusty to climb down from the window (Just like in Belize. Just like in Anaheim. Just like in fucking Monterrey).
His pulse was quickening. Taking the extra route to avoid the security and staff rooms would take a while. Ten minutes, maybe some extra. Minutes that Rusty had to wait on the ladder, waiting for a black-collared barbet to call out of the night and give the all-clear, Colworth's cards in his pocket.
Danny rushed out with one last glance at the closing elevator doors.
The elevator doors had just closed (they'd agreed that Danny had to use the time it took for him to go up to the sixth floor to get outside) when Rusty felt a hand on his back, travelling down, pressing in and...
'I hope there is no misunderstanding, Steven.'
(Danny was gone.)
Steven shuddered and Rusty leaned in, met with a short, quiet laugh from behind and a stroke. Keeping his eyes off the mirrored walls (reflecting every move, echoing every sigh), he turned his head to the side, towards Colworth only to be
grabbed by both hands
slammed against the wall
(Still hoping against all trust that Danny had truly left.)
crushed and bitten and lips on his mouth and hands rubbing and hot breath penetrating his skin
(One hand grabbing and stroking and pulling and one hand diving into Colworth's pockets with flitting fingers and this was perfect and nothing else mattered and brushing against hard plastic and flying back into his own pockets and he couldn't believe the way this was working out surely only two more seconds until the sixth floor and then only the two documents they knew he'd left in his room after dinner and then bathroom, window, out, Dan-)
'Basement 1. Ballroom', a serene voice said.
A gasp and 'ah fuck' and Colworth pulled away and at least this wasn't some kind of sham and happening on purpose (relax, he told himself, Colworth's not part of that world), at least he, too, hadn't paid attention to the elevator heading down (and he really shouldn't have missed it and what if Danny hadn't missed it and had been watching, confused and bewildered and had kept watching), at least he, too, was staring at the display (and Rusty's stare met his own in the mirrored doors and the dishevelled hair and the red marks and the drop of blood on his lip and Colworth was panting like a bull) and the doors opened and light and music flooded into the cabin and all the way through the foyer there was Linus staring back at him.
Linus blinked and yes, yes certainly, that was Rusty – shirt reflecting the light and mirrors reflecting the shirt and Rusty somewhere in the middle of it all – in the elevator and next to him a man he'd never seen before... thin gold around his broad neck and surely also on his wrist... Linus stopped: where was the wrist, where was his hand, what was he... Rusty... hips too close and flushed faces and Linus almost dropped his glass.
Not moving his head and not wanting to leave Rusty's eyes (and Linus tried to mouth something but his mind was whirling), Linus caught sight of the man on the very left of his vision: a snarl on his face, he leaned over and pushed a button and Rusty's eyes flickered to the screen to his left and back to Linus, opened slightly wider, mouth a little thinner (was that blood?) and Linus tried to move his lips, but Rusty moved first and opened his hand as if to wave at him and Linus frowned, but the elevator door closed and only saw Rusty's calm, collected blink and his face spoke of composure and controlled urgency and Steven Hartville and then he was shut away.
Five. Not six.
A different room.
An entirely different floor.
The hand still rested at the very top at the back of his thigh and Colworth's breath was sticky and sweaty in his neck, but Rusty's mind was working in overdrive as the voice said: 'Fifth floor' and Colworth drew back, cleared his throat and marched through the opening doors.
He could leave right now. Let the doors close before the other man had realised what was happening and go back to the foyer, back down, grab the kid (had Linus understood?) and run.
A small voice in the back of his mind registered that somewhere, something had gone terribly wrong and that this could easily be a trap but that was not the issue.
The issue was that he didn't have the documents yet and Colworth would notice the missing cards and be prepared and it would all have been for nothing. Even worse: they wouldn't be getting this chance again.
So he stood right behind Colworth as he slid the card into the reader and he walked into the suite and saw the lights go on and heard the door close behind him and once again he was against the wall and the hands were everywhere and he gave a groan while he scanned the surroundings over Colworth's shoulder. They were still in the suite's own hallway and pushing towards the bedroom to the left and he just needed a glimpse of the door – fifth floor wasn't too bad, he could climb, maybe he'd be lucky enough to be close to the ladder coming down from above...
'You're exquisite', the man grunted against his head and bit into his earlobe and Rusty steeled himself against it and he had to keep him going, had to keep him kissing and groping and touching, and they moved through the door and there, right there on the nightstand was the letter with the bank's seal and his heart leapt
and he pressed the inside of his knees against the bed
and he pushed against Colworth's hands on his belt
and he pulled at the brown silk tie
Ravenous eyes looked straight at him and thick, pink lips said: 'I am going to fuck you' and Steven Hartville gasped and fell backwards into the cushions and Colworth's hands were on Rusty's hips and Colworth's eyes were shut against the sweat flowing from his forehead and dripping down on Rusty's lips and Colworth's knee pushed between Rusty's thighs and Colworth's mouth was leaving trails on Rusty's neck.
And Rusty's hands were free and his right fingers touched the envelope and grasped it and pulled it nearer and slowly, quietly, calmly folded it up as neatly as possible and pushed it into his sleeve while his shoes were being ripped off and belt was being opened and his shirt pushed up and his trousers pulled down and Colworth muttered 'You only applied because of this didn't you' and laughed and then he pulled away and stood up and looked down on him and his eyes said both 'perfection' and 'slut' and Rusty saw the bathroom door right behind him.
'Let me just say that for this to continue, I may need a minute', he said, voice pitching on 'this' and sounding more breathless than he was, and Colworth laughed with a hard, barking sound and his eyes were wild and he didn't step back when Rusty sat up, carefully stepping over his clothes on the floor, carefully keeping his right sleeve out of the other man's sight. His left hand rested against Colworth's groin as he walked past, making sure to leave creases in the trousers – and before he could enter, before he could breathe, his face was against the doorframe and Colworth was holding his neck, shoving and grunting against him, against his back and he could feel him and Colworth was laughing again and he could smell the vodka and then the whisper said: 'I'll be ready, pretty boy' and he let go and Rusty stumbled into the bathroom and remembered to raise his eyebrows and wink as he turned around and shut the door and locked it and turned on the light.
The walls closed in.
Colworth's heavy breathing seeped inside from the other side of the door.
There was no window.
A light shower had started just as Danny had stepped outside and it had taken him decidedly longer – some Chelsea had asked him if he knew where Pedro was and he had had no idea but his name tag said: 'Security and Surveillance' and she had really needed help with her chip card for the finance wing and he would know so he had to talk to her, and now it was raining and there was no light in the bathroom window and this wasn't good at all. It had taken him fifteen minutes and the metal rope ladder hung in place as it should but there was no sign of Rusty and he reminded himself that patience was a virtue and that they'd done this before (Belize. Anaheim. Monterrey).
Linus's hands were trembling. He had left the basement and was sitting in the lobby, holding a newspaper and staring at the words and letters.
Danny should know, he thought, and then bright lights exploded in his mind somewhere near his ears and muffled all sound because Danny knew. This was the plan. This had been the plan all along.
He couldn't think, didn't know what to think, only that this all made sense and yet none of it did and he wished – so wished – this were the senselessness of Vegas and seeing Danny again after Danny had been kicked out of the operation. And yet, keeping his breathing on one level, he wanted to think, he needed to think, because something had been wrong, something had been happening and he'd seen but it hadn't registered.
Elevator doors sliding to the sides and Rusty and the man (the target, Linus corrected himself, the target) and Linus took away the red drop on Rusty's lip and the tousled hair and the look on the man's face and what he saw was:
The man pressing the button of the floor his room was on.
Rusty checking the number on the screen (of the floor the man's room was on).
Rusty turning back to Linus and the lines around his eyes and lips hardening.
Rusty flexing his fingers. All five of them stretching out and...
All five of them.
They had prepared for the sixth floor.
The escape was from the sixth floor window.
Danny was waiting beneath the rope ladder dangling down from the sixth floor window.
And while his insides screamed and howled, Linus sat up straight and without a second thought headed downstairs, pulling Anthony Sneider's invitation out of his jacket. Time to get to work.
You are the lifeline, Linus.
Step-by-step, Rusty pulled the cards out of his jacket, the envelope from his sleeve, carefully scanning the room, not letting one thought slip away (leaving Steven Hartville behind, not registering the noises from the other side of the door, not imagining Edgar Colworth getting ready).
Not thinking about Danny.
The scale was perfect. Heavy and hidden in the shadow of the sink, and everything fit underneath without giving anything away. It would be safe there (safer than anywhere in his pockets when he stepped back into the bedroom, safer than in his jacket if he had to leave it here) until later. When it was over. When he could slip out.
(This wasn't the worst.)
Slowly rising up, he suddenly found himself facing the mirror and held still for second until slowly but confidently, Steven Hartville rose up, too, and then he looked at himself. It was good enough for Colworth.
Three steps around the corner and he flushed the toilet, let the water run from the tab for eight seconds, wiped his hands on the towel and faced the door, only hearing the sound of a finger and nail slowly sliding down on the other side and focussing on anything except that.
He took off the jacket and placed it beside the sink. He loosened the tie to hang loosely around his neck. He opened the top buttons of his shirt (Arylide yellow). Better to look prepared and willing.
He turned the key and opened the door and there was only one light in the corner. Colworth wasn't wearing anything anymore and his eyes were small, taking in Rusty's shape and following each step into the room and then he grabbed him and pulled at his tie and shirt and pants and Rusty thought of the cold marble of the scale on his fingers as a button was ripped off and his back hit the sheets and he turned to the side, wanted to turn around and Colworth held him, grabbed him, twisted his arm and he commanded himself to not feel it, not feel anything, not hear the 'I want to see your face' and the touches and sounds and then
one hand pressed down on his chest
one hand dove between his thighs
both hands gripped his hips and then
both hands pulled him up and the weight and the pressure and
Bright, piercing sirens went off and the red light of the fire alarm flashed above their heads. Colworth bellowed a curse and his hands turned into fists of rage and venom and frustration. Rusty felt them collide with his ribs and his jaw and stilled his body as the man stumbled backwards. People were screaming and running and Colworth wasn't even looking at him anymore, he was just grabbing a bathing gown from the chair next to the bed and still cursing.
Outside, people were knocking on doors and someone was knocking on their door and Colworth shot into the hallway to open it and yell and curse some more and he was gone from the room.
Slowly, very slowly, Rusty turned his head and a voice travelled in from the door which seemed miles away and warmth washed over him as he heard: 'Are you alone in your room, sir? We need you to leave the premises immediately. Please go ahead at this very instant or I will have to call security. Thank you.'
Linus had stopped (numbed) his concern up until this point, eaten up by efficiency and determination, running up the flights of stairs as the sirens had echoed through the hallways and people had rushed and panicked while he had been shrugging off his own jacket (carefully storing the fire alarm remote in his trousers) and slipping into the one he'd grabbed from the abandoned lobby chair that had an actual Savoy emblem and name on it (he was Ronan Lewis now).
Reaching the fifth floor he hadn't thought before banging against door after door and shouting 'Please leave the premises' in his best British accent, one after another had opened and people had looked outside and none of them had fit, none of them had been the bald man with the gold chain and so he had marched up to the suite on the end of the corridor and had knocked and knocked until the man had stared at him, shouting and not wearing much more than a bathrobe and that was when the concern had returned.
'Are you alone in your room, sir? We need you to leave the premises immediately. Please go ahead at this very instant or I will have to call security. Thank you.'
The words left his mouth and at the same time he shoved the man towards the stairway and pretended to turn to the next door (please, please leave, please leave right now) and he left, (thank God he actually left) and Linus rushed into suite 509.
The bedroom was to the left and he couldn't keep himself from just flying inside, a dozen silent pleas on his lips. As he stepped into the room, his eyes had to adjust to the low light and then he made out a figure sitting on the edge of the bed on the other side of the room, facing away from him, and he could only see the naked back, the shoulders, the flashes from the alarm above painting the hair red and he saw tie and shoes and shirt and trousers and pants on the floor and he didn't dare to speak up, he didn't know what to...
'Impeccable timing, kid.'
Rusty didn't turn around as he went on: 'Bathroom. There's a scale under the sink, what we need is under the scale. Get it. Don't forget my jacket.'
Linus silently stammered something before mentally stepping himself on the foot and making his way into the bathroom. No window (and the implications of that and the scene he had found resonated in his head but now was not the time)...
Sink. Scale. There were cards and an envelope with a seal and he stared at it all for a few seconds and let it slip into his inside pocket before he grabbed the fair-coloured jacket and turned around to the door again.
Rusty was straightening his tie when he walked into the bedroom and held his hand out for the jacket. Wordlessly, Linus handed it over and cleared his throat. 'Are you... Do you think you're...'
'Fine.' A blink. 'Let's get out,' Rusty answered and smiled at him (but Linus only paid attention to his eyes and he wished he hadn't) and then: 'Danny can't know about this, Linus.'
What?s and Rusty!s and I don't think Danny won't know...s were close (very close) to falling out of Linus's mouth but he kept them in and told himself it wasn't because of the quicker blinks and the hands holding on to the jacket (and the tie before that) to stop from shaking and the eyes only fixed on the open door and the almost completely veiled edge of desperate hope that Danny wouldn't know in Rusty's voice but just because this was still the night-of and you did what Rusty told you to do on the night-of.
The past fifteen minutes had been hell and guilt and fear and it had cost Danny every ounce of self-restraint and rationale to work up the strength to turn around because this was the emergency plan and this was a fire alarm that Linus had been setting up but why and how and every minute under the bridge had been quicksand of the more you think about it the quicker you'll drown.
Then two figures, only slightly taller than the other, appeared out of the darkness and noise and Linus held up cards and an envelope and said: 'Accomplished!' but his voice was a little too cheerful and he was wearing a Savoy jacket and Danny's eyes only sought Rusty's and Rusty smiled and tilted his head but his eyes weren't resting on Danny's and his lip was bleeding and his arm was close by his side.
Later, after they'd made the calls and Livingston had received the data he needed, Linus had nodded at them and said: 'Night' (to Danny) and: 'Rest well' (looking at Rusty), and the door had closed, Danny finally slumped down on the bed to face Rusty who had sat down in the chair by the window.
Rusty gave a small laugh, wiping his hand over his face and letting his finger linger on his lip, rubbing slowly, and Danny's hand shot out because there was blood again.
'You weren't in the bathroom.'
'Think he was upgraded. Just no window in...'
Danny felt his shoulders drop and he thought about reaching out for a second but the guard was still up and...
'The kid was fantastic. Impeccable timing.'
Rain drummed against the window and Rusty closed his eyes for a second and Danny could swear a sigh left his lips. 'Nothing happened.'
Danny sat still.
'Linus really had impeccable...' and suddenly it was all there and Danny leaned forwards and Rusty looked at him and smiled and shook and sank down to the floor and Danny was beside him and Sorrys mixed with the shells of a guard that had been carefully put up in Dublin when the agency had called.
Later, Rusty stepped out of the bathroom's unlocked door, towels and robe around him and a little later, Danny spilled red wine over the Arylide yellow shirt and yet later there were strangled sobs and hushed assurances and a text by Livingston saying 'All done! Great work!' and night-time TV and an early order for croissants and pains aux raisins.