Every so often, when his mother called to check in or his father made some remark about small-time cons, Linus wished he was someone else. Maybe not someone who wasn't related to them, but someone else inside. Someone who didn't let that shit get to them. Someone who'd laugh it off, or who didn't even invite the sort of passive-aggressive bull that the Caldwells made into an art form on a twice-weekly basis.
Someone like Rusty Ryan or Danny Ocean. Neither of them would give a damn.
But mostly? Linus wanted to be one of them because they were a pair. A team. The sort of pair that stuck together through whatever cons they pulled. You didn't see that much. You saw teams that broke when enough heat came on. You saw in-fighting and backstabbing (literally) and grudges born of deals gone sour. You didn't see two guys who fit so perfectly together that they knew each other's plans before they'd even been made. Well. You did, but it never lasted.
Linus figured it was because they were sleeping together. Not that he'd seen it but it seemed pretty obvious. And not that he wanted to sleep with either of them. Or any of the guys he'd worked with; he didn't swing that way. But when someone grabbed the wrong blueprints, or botched a fake ID, or wasn't where he should have been for a hand-off Linus tamped down the irritation and jealousy into one single thought: Rusty and Danny wouldn't pull this shit on each other. Not no way, not no how. Because they were a team.
SAUL AND REUBEN
"You got a nice place here," Saul said. It was true. Reuben's new place was classic Vegas from the vintage bars in the suites to the revamped slots in the casino. Reuben's own rooms were a little over the top as far as Saul was concerned but hey, not his problem. If Reuben wanted to live the rest of his life looking at stylized crowns and creepy gold statues of himself then that was his choice and Saul wasn't about to go picking on the guy.
Well, maybe a little.
"Maybe a little too much gold..." he began, smirking when Reuben spun around and pointed his cigar at Saul.
"Too much gold? Too much gold!? Saul, let me tell you something. You've been around a long time, you oughtta know these things. When you build a casino, when you do it right, the way it should be done, the way it used to be done you don't do it by halves. This is The Midas. Of course it's covered in fucking gold."
Saul laughed and shook his head. "Yeah, sure Reuben, whatever you say. I told you it was nice. It's nice, okay? What more do you want?"
Reuben shook his head and sat down at his desk. "Nothing. Not a God damned thing. What more could I ask for?" He gestured around the room at the heavy gold and silver brocade drapes, the gilt-edged doorways and the hideous carpet Saul had been ignoring since setting foot in the place.
"Right, of course. So you're not retiring any time soon, I take it?"
"Not on your life, Bloom. I'm back in the game. What about you?"
Saul shrugged and leaned back in his seat. "I only got back in for the boys." The 'boys', right. Danny and Rusty, with names that made them sound like a couple of kids. But for Saul and Reuben they were kids. Always would be.
"Yeah, the boys. You hear from them at all?"
"Once. Daniel told me he was retiring. Getting out of the game for good."
"Bullshit. Guys like Danny don't retire. They just take vacations."
"This might be it," Saul warned. "He's too attached."
"To Tess?" Reuben looked distinctly skeptical about that, as well he should be as far as Saul was concerned. Danny'd reacted with a vengeance when Reuben needed help, Tess be damned. Though she was a very nice girl, of course.
"Of course not. Tess isn't the problem. Daniel always worked around Tess before."
Saul rolled his eyes and shot Reuben a look. For a sharp guy he was pretty dull sometimes.
"Who do you think? Rusty, that's who."
In the world Terry Benedict inhabited nothing was as simple as so-and-so dating such-and-such. There were relationships and there was convenience and status. There were engagements and there was business conducted in rooms off the Strip. There were always bits and pieces of private lives that were meant to stay truly private. Things no one wanted anyone else to know, but not because it might be shameful somehow.
This was Las Vegas. There was no shame in Vegas.
No, you kept secrets because otherwise the information could be used against you, and you kept other people's secrets so you could one day use that information against them. Terry had a filing cabinet in his office, protected with a key pad, a two key padlock and a thumb print sensor you couldn't even see to plan to foil it. Inside that cabinet were files with those bits and pieces he found most interesting and thus most useful. Bits like Willy Bank's unfortunate youthful run-in with the Mob and what he'd done to get out of it. Pieces like Franois Toulour's ex-wife's phone number and the amount he paid to keep her quiet.
There were two files in the cabinet that were almost empty: Daniel Ocean and Russell Ryan. Oh, they had information. Everyone had secrets, Ocean and Ryan included, but the secret he wanted proof of he just didn't have, and that was galling.
If he'd had proof that Danny and Rusty were more than just friends, more than just insanely good at anticipating each others' movements, more than what they showed the people around them, maybe he could have done something with it. Maybe he could have shown Tess that Danny Ocean wasn't what she thought he was. Maybe he could have gotten them back for that Camp To Belong incident.
Proof of a relationship between Daniel Ocean and Russell Ryan, however, proved elusive and thus, so did vengeance and Tess and anything else it might have gained.
TURK AND VIRGIL
"Bullshit." Turk shoved Virgil's feet off the desk, not so much because he needed the desk as because he hated how smug Virgil looked when he sat like that. Turk turned back to work on the engine he'd been refurbishing, knowing that as soon as his back was turned Virgil's feet would be right back up on the desk.
"It is not bullshit," Virgil insisted and yeah, he'd just put his feet up again. Turk heard it. "It's true, I swear."
"How the heck do you know? You're pulling my leg." Turk shook his head and reached for his socket wrench, which wasn't where he'd put it. He turned around and saw Virgil playing with it. "Come on, douche, hand it over."
Virgil tossed the wrench to Turk and got up. "I know cause I saw them."
"You saw Danny and Rusty going at it?" Turk shook his head. "Bullshit," he repeated. "Total bull."
"It is not. I saw them three times."
"What the heck were you doing? Spying on them? Oh yeah, Virgil the ninja spy! Dress up all in black! Climbing windows!"
"You're an idiot. I wasn't spying on them. I just saw them a couple of times, kissing." Virgil turned on his computer and started tapping away at the keyboard.
"I am not an idiot. Shut up." No answer from Virgil, just more typing and then silence. Turk let it go for a while, glad to have a few seconds without Virgil being a pompous ass, as if they hadn't grown up together and he was so much better somehow. Asshole. Finally, though, the silence got to him. Virgil was up to something.
"See?" Virgil said, turning the monitor to Turk. On the screen was an email from Linus.
"Of course they're together. Can't you guys ever stop arguing?"
Turk frowned and reached forward to delete the message. "I still don't buy it. What does Linus know? Anyhow, he didn't mention names. You could have asked him about Danny and Tess. You probably did. You're such a tool, Virgil."
BASHER, FRANK, ROMAN AND THE AMAZING YEN
Roman didn't often bother showing up when Yen sent one of his invitations out but what the hell, right? He'd been in LA and he'd had a couple of hours to kill. There were worse ways to spend time than a couple of hands of poker with a few of Ocean's friends.
"Last hand for me, I'm afraid. Duty calls," Roman said as Frank dealt the cards. "Sorry Yen."
Yen shrugged and sat back. "Mei guanxi1."
"So soon?" Frank asked. "But I haven't cleaned you out yet! Where's the fun in that?" He grinned and tossed his chips in.
"Yes, well, unlike some people I do still work occasionally." Roman smiled at the rest of them and checked his cards. Rotten hand but he'd make do with it. After all, he could afford to lose a few, to keep these three as friends. Unlike Frank, Roman really did still work. Highly specialized jobs, of course, and not terribly frequently, but he did work. He'd never been in on the 'make a bundle and retire' scheme with the rest of them after all. It left one feeling a bit the outsider.
Basher was carefully examining his cards as if somehow one of them might change into something else if he stared long enough. Roman sighed inwardly. The man was an expert with explosives but he wasn't really a card shark.
"Anyone hear from Danny recently? Rusty?" Basher asked. He tossed in a few chips. All around the table heads were shaking. Seemed no one had heard from the infamous duo.
Roman smirked. "Too busy with each other, I take it." He waited for that to sink in. Basher got it first and shook his head.
"You're having us on, mate."
"Certainly not," Roman insisted. "They're practically joined at the hip."
Yen looked thoughtful but that might have been about his hand. Frank wasn't buying it, that much was clear, and Basher really should have known better.
"Come on man, I know you've known 'em for a long time and all but there's no way. They're Danny and Rusty! What about Tess? Danny put us all on the line for her and I'm not sayin' she ain't worth it but you weren't there. Yen? What do you think?"
Yen shrugged. "Tian xiaode2."
"Don't give me that, you've gotta have an opinion."
"Guan ni ziji de shi3."
Frank gave up on Yen and turned back to Basher and Roman. "Okay, hotshot. Put your money where your mouth is. Ten says it's nothing."
"Twenty says I can get them to admit it next time I see them," Roman countered.
"Rusty's dated half the women in Vegas," Frank added.
Roman laughed. "And who's to say he hasn't dated half the men as well? Are we betting?" The cards and chips were all but forgotten on the table now, which had been part of Roman's aim in the first place. He really had gotten a crap hand dealt to him.
"Not me," Basher said, backing away from the table. "I'm out, mates."
"So how are we settling this?" Frank asked.
"I'll have one of the lads call you to confirm," Roman assured him. He stood up and gathered his things. "Do have a good evening." And if he was wrong about Danny and Rusty, well, he'd simply let them in on the bet and surely one of them would find it amusing enough to pull one over on Frank. Rusty, perhaps. It seemed like his sense of humor.
As Roman let himself out he heard Yen from the other room.
Ah. He must have checked Roman's cards.
1. That's okay, it doesn't matter. 2. Heaven knows. 3. Mind your own business. 4. What terrible luck!
When you worked the surveillance detail you saw stuff. Livingston had found that out the hard way right after getting into the business. The first time he caught a couple having sex he'd been so embarrassed that he'd set everything to remote and had to go get a drink of water and take a few deep breaths. Afterwards he got a stern talking to from his boss for not keeping a closer eye on things. Something could have happened, no matter how distracted both parties had looked at the time.
Then they'd all had a good laugh at Livingston's expense. After that he made a point of never leaving monitors unattended, no matter what, or who, was on them. Which is why he'd been watching when, during a rare quiet moment when neither Rusty nor Danny had anything that needed doing right that second, Danny had shoved Rusty against the wall and given him one heck of a kiss, not to mention a grope. Or two.
That had been during the Benedict job. Usually there was someone in the suite with Livingston, sometimes Basher, sometimes Frank, all too often Linus, but there'd been no one else that day. Linus was out tailing Benedict, Basher had tossed out something about knickers and hurried off, and Frank was working. Everyone was busy except for Danny and Rusty. Sort of.
Later on, during the other jobs, Livingston had seen them again. They weren't usually all that involved but it was obvious they wanted to be. When all was said and done he'd taken the files from those moments and done a quick edit. A splice here and some tinkering there and no one would ever know.
Of course they knew he'd seen. They had to know. And after the last time Livingston was sure they did it on camera on purpose. Rusty had even given a wink to the camera while he tucked in his shirt and Danny had waved. They knew. And they knew he'd never say a word.
DANNY AND RUSTY
The thing about Rusty was he had an oral fixation. He always had to have something in his mouth, be it a straw or a hot dog or his own thumb, licking off ketchup or nacho cheese or chocolate sauce. Which meant he was fucking amazing at giving head.
"Bet you think you're the best I've had," Danny commented.
"Oh no," Rusty said, looking up at Danny. "I'm sure you had plenty of fabulous bitches in the big house." He grinned and Danny grinned back and it was that simple. Not that Danny had laid a hand on another guy in prison. No one else was like Rusty. It would have been a let-down to go expecting this kind of action from anyone else.
No one else had a tongue like that, or could suck that hard. Rusty, however, had skills. Rusty was a pro. Rusty was exactly what Danny wanted. It wasn't love. Not the way it was with Tess. With Rusty it was what it was. Sex and a friend he could count on, no matter what.
At the moment he was counting on Rusty doing that thing he always did with his tongue. That thing that he did with ice cream cones to keep them from dripping felt fucking fantastic when applied to the head of Danny's cock and yes, there it was. And then he stopped. Danny looked down at Rusty.
"Is there a problem? Need me to go get some butterscotch or something?" Danny propped himself up on his elbows to see Rusty better just in time to catch a patented Rusty Ryan eye roll, complete with smug grin.
"Yeah, there is. But I was thinking salsa," Rusty stood up and stripped off his pants, his shirt having been discarded earlier at Danny's request who claimed the metallic monstrosity had been blinding him every time he looked at Rusty.
Danny winced at the suggestion of salsa. "What the hell did I do to you?" he asked as he watched Rusty check his pockets for something.
"Nothing. Yet," Rusty said, brandishing a small black tube. "What do you say, Danny? Haven't had a chance since Reuben's casino opened."
Danny considered that while he made room for Rusty on the bed. "It's not really that long, is it?"
"That's what you said the first time you saw it." Rusty quipped. Danny didn't bother dignifying that with a verbal response, instead turning over and pinning Rusty to the bed, shutting him up with a kiss while he lifted the lube from Rusty's hand like the light-fingered crook he'd started as. Which was probably what Rusty had intended.
Up to this point Danny had compared everything to Tess. Tess didn't have stubble. Tess was gentler. Tess didn't have a throbbing hard cock that was practically a third person in the room. Tess did make similar jabs and remarks but she didn't let things go. Tess didn't have a tattoo that screamed youthful indiscretion. But as soon as the aforementioned cock was pressed against Danny's thigh and Rusty's legs were wide open and Danny could taste not what Rusty had eaten last but Rusty, Tess was out of his head. That's how it always went with Rusty.
Getting down to business wasn't difficult once Danny was focused. Sex wasn't difficult, after all. It wasn't like trying to knock over a bank or a casino. But sex with Rusty wasn't easy either. It wasn't a pull from some businessman's pocket. It wasn't like theft at all. It wasn't like anything else.
Around the time Rusty bit Danny's shoulder hard enough to make Danny see stars all thought faded into the background and didn't return until they were both spent and breathing heavier than they had when they were younger.
"I thought I told you to keep the weight off," Rusty mumbled.
Danny laughed and moved enough to let him breathe. "I'll work on that."
"I'm sure Tess would appreciate it." Danny laughed again. He wouldn't have laughed at that from anyone but Rusty given their current positions but from Rusty it wasn't a challenge.
"Want me to mention it to her?"
Neither of them moved for a while. Why should they? Neither of them had anywhere to be for the rest of the night.
"Think they all know?" Danny asked finally. They'd never really talked about it, aside from when they'd decided to just go ahead and let Livingston know they knew he knew. Mostly to see what he'd do about it. Danny had won that bet when he'd put fifty on 'nothing'.
Rusty said nothing in reply, instead turning to stare at Danny intently.
"Okay, so Livingston knows."
Rusty was still staring.
"Virgil saw us a couple of times and if he knows, Turk knows. Linus probably figured it out. He's not stupid."
"Right, okay, Reuben and Saul too. And Roman. The rest? I don't know."
"Tess?" Rusty prompted.
"Tess has always known," Danny told him. "She's probably off making out with Isabel."
Rusty chuckled and gave Danny a sloppy kiss on the cheek. "Imagine the odds."
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