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Shooting the Moon

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It’s gotten to the point where Danny and Rusty can give Linus an order without it feeling like one. In the beginning, back when they were still planning how in the hell they would walk off with Benedict’s cash (or at least, Danny and Rusty planned the real way, and in the meantime sold Linus a line of solid gold bullshit) he’d get sent out for coffee or junk food or on other pointless errands and he’d do it, too scared of being called a screwup not to, but it always felt like he was a kid to them, not the one who tagged along saying “play with me!”, but the one who was just smart enough to be conned into doing the real crap jobs.

But he did it, and sit was worth it to learn that Rusty’s favorite thing in the world to eat was well done toast with ketchup. Hard to really be that nervous around him, after learning something like that.

Now that they’re here, sitting in a hotel room almost a year later and heading out for Europe in the morning, the itch of nerves that had been playing along Linus’ spine back then is long gone, and when Rusty says, “Hey, Linus, you going out?” he heads to the deli down the street without commenting. Even though he hadn’t really been going anywhere.

He knows what to buy without even asking: peanut M & Ms for Rusty, coffee and a turkey sandwich for Danny (lettuce, mayo, no tomatoes), and he picks up a bag of chips that he knows Rusty will steal half of.

Linus gets back to the room and dumps the food on the table, hands Danny the coffee. They’re sitting on the couch, in parallel slouches, side by side and staring at the tv, but it’s not on. Which is funny, because they’re still staring at it, but after knowing them as long as he has, Linus knows that Danny and Rusty do that, sit without talking, ‘cause it’s really just talking without actually speaking.

It used to either creep him out or annoy the hell out of him, but he’s long since gotten used to it.

“So, what are we doing?” Linus asks, puling open the bag of chips and barely glaring at Rusty when he sticks a hand in.

“Basher and Livingston are off messing with all the hotel's wiring…” starts Danny.

“…which either means we’re gonna get free porn tonight or the FCC will be on our ass by check out tomorrow,” finishes Rusty. “Yen’s teaching Turk and Virgil some kind of meditation thing in their suite…”

“…which means we’ve either started world peace or Yen will commit double murder by morning,” says Linus, just to get in on the act, and can’t help but feel proud when Danny grins.

“Saul and Reuben are downstairs in the bar, no doubt remembering when they invented the Stanford Shuffle or something,” says Danny.

“They invented that?” Rusty says with mock amazement, and Linus can tell from his wince that Danny must have kicked him under the coffee table. “And Frank is…”

“…getting his nails done,” they all say simultaneously.

Rusty stretches in a way that seems to defy having a backbone. “So we’re waiting for the free porn?” he asks, and it’s gotten to the point that Linus doesn’t even really blush when Danny shoots Rusty one of his looks for that.

Shifts his weight, maybe, but not much. But he sees Rusty smirk and knows he noticed.

“How about cards,” Danny says, with a grin in his voice which means he saw it too.

“What are we playing?” Linus asks, has to ask, because Rusty is already staring at Danny and grinning, still in the half cat stretch where he is all muscle and no bone. Grinning because he already knows, somehow.

Rusty leans over and takes the cup of coffee from Danny’s hand with an ease that shows Danny was expecting it. After he swallows, he slants a smile up at Linus.

“Hearts.”

*

There’s not enough room on the couch for all three of them, not without close quarters that Linus knows would have him, at least, thinking too much about the warmth of breath and shared leg space between them, so he’s not too surprised when Danny stands to find some cards, and Rusty heads to the room's table and pulls out a chair.

“Don’t we need four people for Hearts?” Linus sits two chairs over, bringing the bag of chips (even though he’s not really that hungry anymore).

Danny sits in the chair between Rusty and Linus, setting down the bag of M and Ms with a soft rattle.

“Traditionally, it’s four,” says Rusty, with the tone that says traditionally, things are way less fun. “But three is more… exciting.” Danny chokes a laugh into his coffee.

Danny cuts the cards, slides half to Rusty, who cuts that, shuffles it, and pushes it back to Danny before he’s finished with his stack.

“Showoff,” Danny murmurs, before dealing out the cards into three piles.

Linus picks up his cards, feeling his fingers slide over the worn plastic. Usually, he’d already be sorting and palming, trying to find an edge in the game.

It’s almost a relief to just put them in order by suit.

“Two of clubs starts,” says Danny, and Linus wonders if it’s for his benefit. “Just in case you’ve forgotten, Russ.”

“Funny, funny.”

“And pass three cards to Linus.”

Rusty mutters something nasty and gives Linus three cards, nothing that bad: Queen of diamonds, two of hearts, and… King of spades. Shit. But at least it makes him feel better for foisting the Ace of spades off on Danny.

“Thanks, Linus,” Danny says, and kicks him.

“Play nice, boys,” says Rusty, and he lays the two of clubs in the middle of the table.

Linus plays an eight, and isn’t very surprised when Danny plays his ace to take the trick. For a moment, he wishes he’d played the King that he’d been given, but somewhere in there is the Queen of spades, and suddenly Linus remembers sitting on a splintery bunk bed at summer camp, rain dripping off the roof, trying to shoot the moon and con Jimmy Banks out of the rest of the money his mom sent him.

“You nervous about the flight?” Rusty asks, gathering the trick he won and setting a new card.

“At least it’s not to Vienna,” says Danny, which must mean way more to Rusty than it does to Linus, because Rusty laughs and steals Danny’s coffee again.

If now were before, LInus would ask about Vienna, but he long ago realized that this is the way Danny and Rusty are, the way they fit, in years of hotel rooms and city names and worn playing cards. So he just smiles a little.

“First blood,” he says with a grin, giving the Jack of hearts to Rusty.

“Are you speaking English?”

Linus looks at Danny, who shakes his head, smiling, and keeps on smiling as he slips the Queen of Spades, the Black Lady, into Rusty’s attempt to play an King of Diamonds and get away with it.

Rusty groans, even though Linus knows he saw it coming a mile away, and he call tell the moment that Rusty kicks Danny again under the table, because Danny’s smile just gets bigger as he reaches over to steal some of Rusty’s M and Ms.