Danny and Rusty were a bit of a legend.
Not in the way that most people would consider legend; only a handful of people had ever heard of them. Those people knew they were good - they were very good. Not only that but they had something other people didn't. Between the two of them, they had both imagination and some common sense.
It got them far enough, in the past, that people were more than willing to answer the tentative feelers they'd extended, wondering who was able for a job.
"Did you get word from--"
Rusty was stirring his coffee. "Last night. No go."
"Got caught last year. Jesus, I thought you kept up back east."
"Come on." Danny was amused, not offended. "We'd better get those plans."
Danny and Rusty were legends in their own right; they'd pulled enough jobs all over the country and never been caught - not before Tess walked, anyway - to show they had luck. They had impressive resumes. But the real legend lay in where they'd come from - they came from real history, working with Saul when they were still green. They were under the *best*.
Only in the car, where no one else could hear, did Rusty ask, "you really think we can pull this off?"
Danny shrugged. "Probably." It was as good an assurance as anyone got.
"I saw you before you even got up this morning."
Rusty didn't cringe, years of poker making it impossible to be caught unawares. Nearly unawares - Danny Ocean at a table full of movie stars had jarred him, it was true.
It was also probably true that Saul had seen him, metaphorically, that morning, last night, whenever the gossip got around that Danny and Rusty were back together, and planning a job, a big one. News spread fast enough and out of the game didn't mean out of the loop. Maybe Saul had had Danny's parole date circled on his calendar as the day they'd come to find him.
They didn't need Saul. It was a perfectly reasonable job to pull without Saul; half a dozen people could have done the job and nearly as well. The truth was, he and Danny both felt more comfortable working with Saul, having met him when they were still green themselves.
"Guys like us stay sharp or they get sloppy, Saul, we don't change."
Rusty didn't even know what he was saying anymore, just spewing words and sucking down fruit cocktail. This was the guy that saw him throwing up after too much Schnapps into a toilet in Brazil at twenty two. Rusty was playing the game, but only out of affection, not from any hope of actually winning. Saul would either do it or he wouldn't; Rusty couldn't change that.
"You're either in or you're out. Right now."
He'd actually met Linus Caldwell one before, at his father's house; an insurance scam in Chicago. He and Rusty came over for dinner and Linus, at fifteen, was quiet and more interested in his Nintendo than anything else.
"Oh, he's good," Bobby had said, and he wasn't so bullheaded that he'd hype up his son for no reason. "He's good, but he's green. You'll have to treat him differently."
Green translated less to untested than unsure; Danny would have to either coddle him or manage him carefully. "He'll get it done," Bobby had said, "but he's like Rusty was at twenty," which told Danny everything - the kid didn't know people would use you. He'd have to tread softly, and worst of all, he'd have to show him the way of the world. Their world. Danny would have to break him in.
Linus said, "What is it?"
For someone else, Danny would have played the show, would have gone back and forth. He'd bet at Frank Kattan's blackjack table, for chrissake. "It's a job offer," he said, very seriously. Linus wouldn't know how to deal with that kind of game, so he had to reign it in. Eventually, Linus would be able to recognise people and situations for what they were; until then, Danny would have to maneuver him.
He didn't mind, really; it was this or go talk to Saul, an unenviable task. Rusty had called that morning and said he'd do it. "He tell you when he's flying in?" Danny had asked.
Rusty was at the airport, a red-eye flight from Palm Springs to Nevada. "He'll do it," he had repeated, which meant that Saul hadn't said shit.
If Rusty said he'd do it, he would.
Back before Danny actually got caught with a boatload of expensive ancient artifacts, Rusty had been quite the fixture at the Oceans' residence in New York City. Tess thought Danny was a stockbroker at the time, or in trades; she accepted the bald-face lie and enjoyed paintings at the Museum of Modern Art.
Rusty had come over for dinner one time, and Danny was out. He didn't like to come by when it was just Tess home. Not that he wasn't invited, there was rarely open hostility between Tess and him, despite their constant competition. Just that they both needed Danny as a buffer for their awkwardness.
This time, Rusty had needed a place to stay for a week, because his hotel had evicted him and the cover story was the firm was sending him to Acapulco next Friday. He was going to Mexico next Friday, at least, so it wasn't much of a lie.
"I really appreciate all of this, Tess. I know how disrupting it is to your life to keep putting me up like this--"
"It's not going to work."
"What are you -- what do you mean?"
She had tilted her head, smiled briefly with that bright red lipstick. "I'm not stupid. And I'm telling you it's not going to work."
A pause, and Rusty cycled through his mind the thousands of things they were hiding from her. Christ, he knew she thought he and Danny were having an affair; it was a common rumour, and was near enough to fact. Rusty waited a calculated beat. "You warning me?"
"Yeah, I guess I am." It had been contemplative, like Tess barely believed it.
"Didn't think threats were your style, Tess." Cordial, pleasant, same mild smile as ever. Underneath it all, a bit of fear.
She had touched his cheek, softly, and smiled for real. "A warning isn't always a threat, Russ."
Rusty just sat down on the spare bed, loosened his tie. He had sighed. He and Tess, they didn't really need to lie to each other. She could have thought that Rusty was a threat to her relationship with Danny, but Rusty knew she didn't, and irrationally liked her for it. "I appreciate it, Tess."
One time in Belize, the first time they'd been, Danny had made a mistake. Now, no one knew about it because the kinds of mistakes you can make in Belize outrank the kinds of mistakes you can make in the United States of America, and you can get away with nearly all of them. Rusty managed to pull Danny out of the car in time, and they'd never spoken of it again.
In the morning before they had to get on the plane, Rusty woke up and found himself actually annoyed to be alone. He decided a while ago that it was the point in his life things started to alter, not for the better. Danny had already known Tess almost a year, so why that particular trip was it Rusty wasn't sure. He just knew it was, knew it like he knew when someone was bluffing at the table right before he took their money.
When Danny told him he wanted to convince Tess to come back, Rusty nodded. "No kidding," he said. "How?"
"We'll set her up a little demonstration," Danny told him, gleam in his eyes. "The video surveillance, I think."
Rusty nodded again. "Okay," he said. "Let's use Linus."
He didn't tell Danny not to, because telling Danny no was the equivalent of telling the sun not to shine in Nevada.
Saul wasn't completely on his game. "Tess is with Benedict now? She's too tall for him," he exclaimed, and Rusty looked up sharply. Oh, shit. He was out of character. Maybe he'd been out of the game too long, maybe there were just too many factors in this job that couldn't be controlled. Tess was a walking time bomb. All she had to do was see him in the casino and they were completely fucked.
They played the act for Linus well enough, and Rusty knew he'd do it. The kid was good. Some day he'd be able to sit around a table with a bunch of guys and tell them how he worked with Saul, Danny, and Rusty all at once. The stuff legends were made of.
Maybe they'd all been out of the game too long. "You made it my call," he said, and it probably didn't convince Saul but then it didn't have to, just the green kid sitting beside him and jesus, the kid would believe anything. Danny wasn't out of the game too long. He gave a perfect performance.
Rusty should have known.
He always knew what Danny wanted, and he should have known. Tess in that skirt, that hair. Danny would look him in the eye later, and ask him how she looked, he knew it. And Rusty was going to have to tell the truth. There was no point in lying to Danny, not because he didn't want to, or even that he couldn't. It just didn't serve a purpose. Letting Danny know the truth and not letting Danny know the truth equaled, in Rusty's life, the same damned thing.
"Her name is Tess," he said to the kid. If it were anyone else but Linus, they would have picked up on that nuance, on that - anger, yes. Rusty had anger. It would fade before anyone else saw him, thank god. Rusty answered the kid automatically.
Linus asked, "You suicidal?"
Rusty thought about it only for a second, but he gave his usual reply. "Only in the morning."