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That Feeling You Can Only Say In French

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*

The whole thing really starts with Danny’s alarm clock. Rusty waits for him ten minutes in the car and finally heads upstairs to pound on the door.

There’s nothing for a minute, and Rusty hits it again, hard enough to make his fist hurt, because Bobby’ll skin them if they’re late. Again.

Finally, there’s a combination of sounds from behind the door, a series of thuds and swears that Rusty knows is Danny’s abrupt transition from sound asleep to awake. Sure enough, the door flies open to a Danny with half-open eyes and hair sticking up.

“Whuhzuh?” He says, intelligently.

Rusty stares at him, thinks about being pissed, and instead grins.

“Morning, sunshine. Here’s a crazy idea, you feel like robbing some people today?”

Danny stands there for a second, then his eyes snap all the way open.

“Oh, shit,” and he’s gone. Rusty walks in through the still-open door, hearing the one to the bedroom slam shut. Six seconds later, the hiss of the shower starting.

Fortunately, Danny’s a fast dresser no matter the circumstances, and he reenters the living room doing up the buttons on his shirt not three and a half minutes later.

“Toss me my phone, Russ,” Danny says.

“Hot date?” asks Rusty.

Danny glares.

“Very funny. Telling Bobby we’ll be late, so he can get all his yelling out of his system before we get there. Even though I swear I put new batteries in that clock.”

“Yeah,” says Rusty. “Two years ago.”

“Oh.” It’s the equivalent of a shrug, even though Rusty’s wandered off. Probably (predictably) to raid Danny’s kitchen.

“If it’s growing something, don’t eat it!” Danny says, helpfully. He hears the buzz of the phone ringing, and finally Bobby picking up.

“What.” Danny thinks that sometime he really should give Bobby Caldwell some pointers on how to answer the phone properly, but now probably wasn’t the time.

“Hey, Bobby, it’s Danny Ocean. Listen, Rusty and I just hit some glass on the road, so we’ll be a while. Changing the tire and all.”

“Hey, that sucks,” Bobby says, sounding anything but sympathetic. “You seem to hit lots of shit while driving, Ocean. Shit that makes you late.”

“What can I say? This is why I usually let Rusty drive.”

“Yeah,” Bobby grunts. “Well, take all the time you want. The job’s scrapped. No good.”

“Why? What happened?” Danny asks; he usually wouldn’t, except they’ve worked a couple of jobs together, them and Bobby, and Bobby sounded… off. Tense.

“Eh, security got beefed, two of my guys out with the flu, lots of shit. Not worth the pain of it.”

“The flu sucks,” says Danny automatically, already three steps ahead of the conversation. Because this? Was odd. The job had paid over 5 million apiece, and Bobby’s saying it wasn’t worth it?

“Ocean, you still there?” Bobby says, sounding a little more pissed.

“Yeah, sure,” Danny says. “Sometimes it falls apart. No worries. You give me a call if you hear anything worth hearing, all right?”

“Sure.” Bobby’s voice drops off a little at the end, like he’d stepped away from the phone. In the background on Bobby’s end, there’s a muted drawn-out wail. A kid, crying. Bobby had a son young enough to cry like that, and in Bobby’s house, you probably didn’t cry unless you had a damn good reason.

Danny felt the beginning of a twitch work its way up his spine.

“Well, you take care, Bobby.”

“Yeah, Danny, you too. And Danny?”

“Yeah?” Danny has the phone propped on his shoulder. It’s starting to ache, he’s holding it so tight.

“Sorry about how it’s working out.”

Before Danny can say anything else, Bobby hangs up.

Danny hits the end button on his cell, stares at the phone for a minute.

“What’s up?” says Rusty, who appears in the doorway holding a jar of peanut butter and a spoon. Seems there was something edible in Danny’s apartment after all.

Danny walks over and sits down on the couch.

“Bobby as near as said the job was a waste of time.”

“So?” Rusty shrugs and scrapes the side of the jar with the spoon. “Not the first time.”

“Yeah,” Danny says slowly. “But then he apologized.”

Bobby?” Rusty somehow manages to sound properly incredulous around a mouthful of peanut butter.

“Yeah.”

“…He never apologizes.”

“Exactly.” Danny is already dialing a new number. Rusty stares for a minute, thinks of all the stuff he could say that wouldn’t help, puts down the jar (spoon still in it) and walks to the window. Danny’s ear is still full of ring tone when Rusty speaks.

“Huh.”

“What?” Danny asks, not really sure he’s going to like the answer.

Rusty gestures past the curtain, at something Danny can’t see. “Three guys, blue pickup, just passed the apartment. For the second time. Another guy out on the corner looking a little too nervous to be sight-seeing.”

Danny is quiet, but when Saul picks up he says, “Somebody’s putting the squeeze on Bobby and we’re being watched. Who’d we piss off?”

Across the line, he can hear Saul sigh.

“The Tyler brothers.”

Danny swears, then looks up to meet Rusty’s eyes across the room. He mumbles “Bo and Art Tyler”, then smiles grimly when Rusty swears too.

“Guess they still aren’t big fans, huh, Saul?” Danny sinks down onto the couch, trying to keep his voice light.

“Dammit, Danny, you two sneaked off with several million and change belonging to them and theirs two months ago. Were you hoping they’d forget?” Saul snaps.

“They were sloppy!” is Rusty’s amazingly on point contribution to the conversation he can’t hear. From Saul’s wordless grumble, he hears it, and agrees.

“Either way, they’ve decided that you and Rusty need to be taught a little lesson, and seeing as they have enough money to convince some not very nice people of the same, it’d probably be safer for you two to take a vacation.”

“A vacation?” Danny says, and he must have said it a little too loud because Rusty comes over and stands next to him, making furious gestures with his hands that Danny tries to decipher before finally handing him the phone.

“No way, no way, it’s stupid to run from these idiots,” is out of Rusty’s mouth before he’s even that close to the phone. “We outsmarted them once, why not again?” He’s silent a minute, apparently listening. “But-” he stops, pulls the phone away to glare at it. Then mutters, “Fine, we’ll go. Fuck you, too” and hangs up.

Rusty tosses the phone on the couch next to Danny, then sits.

“What’d he say that made you change your mind?” Danny asks. He’s never heard of anything that would talk Rusty out of something that quick.

Rusty covers his face, leans back, mumbles something.

“He what?”

Rusty moves his hands.

“He. Quoted. Sinatra. At. Me.” Rusty says with a groan. “He said, ‘don’t say a word, just run away’. I might have to kill him.”

“You can’t kill Saul.” Danny shakes his head.

“True,” Rusty sighs. “He’s buying our plane tickets.”

“To where?”

Rusty grins.

“How’s your French?’

*

Fortunately, Rusty and Danny have been smart enough (and still young enough in the business of taking without permission) that their passports don’t pop at Customs. Danny’s not quite sure if Paris was Saul’s idea or Rusty’s; they’ve been friends for a long time, but Danny’s no psychic. At least he knows enough French to fake it, and a smile will take care of the rest.

On the airplane, Rusty strikes up a conversation with the man across the aisle, and halfway through slips into French, seamless, near-fluent goddamn French. Danny glares at him and mutters, “you sneaky bastard”, which Rusty appears not to hear. Though he does start smiling wider and gestures theatrically with every new sentence.

Rusty continues his not-so subtle showing off by charming the hotel clerk as they check in. As she leaves to get their room keys with a bright smile and a joyful flood of French, Danny leans over to whisper, “I’d kill you, but I don’t think I know enough French to get out of the country.”

“Danny, Danny,” Rusty says with an exaggerated sigh. “You mean you didn’t learn anything in high school French class?”

“I learned to trust the scruffy kid sitting in front of me when he got hold of the midterm answers.”

“And you don’t know the phrases I had to learn to get my hands on those answers,” Rusty says with a nostalgically wicked grin. “And I wasn’t that scruffy.”

“My mother still calls you ‘that sloppy dressed boy you run around with’,” Danny says with an attempt at solemnity.

“Your mother loves me,” Rusty protests. “They all do. I have an honest face.”

Danny drums a hand on the hotel counter, out of habit slipping the pen there into his jacket pocket. “Seems to me that Jane Albertson’s mother would disagreed with you.”

Rusty shakes his head.

“Hey, if there hadn’t been that whole term paper scandal, ah, merci, madmoiselle. Bonne journée, merci beaucoup. I swear she was warming up to me.”

Danny grins, picking up his suitcase and heading towards the elevators (and thank God Saul was springing for an actual hotel, Danny was in no mood for a walkup with dim-lit corridors and endless stairs).

“She said that if she saw you again she’d call the cops, the school board and your mother,” Danny reminds him, tapping the button to close the elevator doors.

“It’s just part of my unique charm, don’t be jealous,” replies Rusty, and Danny makes an annoyed face at him that lasts until their floor.

Rusty knows that Danny isn’t actually mad at him, but decides not press his luck. Who knows how long they’ll have to hide out, and man, the whole idea of running makes his skin itch enough like failing that now he’s starting to feel annoyed at absolutely nothing.

“Going out,” he offers as he slips a room key and a handful of francs in his pocket. He’d hate to sink this trip before they’d been in the country less than an hour.

Danny mumbles something agreeable around a mouthful of bottled water, brain already focused on clean sheets and a few mindless hours of dubbed television.

Rusty heads down a nearby street and finds a small café which is eerily similar to every other café that Rusty has ever seen in Paris. He orders an espresso in flawless enough French that the waiter is almost polite in that European way that means he will leave Rusty alone even if he doesn’t order anything else. When it comes, he enjoys the bitter sharpness of it as he swallows, wishing for a second that he had a newspaper, even though watching who came and went, stood and spoke, gestured and looked around (those must be tourists, two tables over clearly locals) was almost starting to relax him.

Not so relaxed that he didn’t note where that man was carrying his wallet (front pants pockets, sloppy) or where this woman was holding her passport (one of those tacky belly packs that weren’t any harder to get into if you knew what you were doing); Rusty was pretty sure he hadn’t been that relaxed since... he was six.

Of course, also because he’s watching he notices the men wearing suits that particular kind of shabby that only French detectives seem to cultivate carefully circulating the tables at the extremely identical café across the street. Curious.

If Rusty wasn’t sure that Saul wouldn’t have sent them to Paris only to be caught up and thrown in the Bastille (though his inner Danny argues that no one actually gets thrown in the Bastille anymore, Russ, who do you think you are, Victor Hugo?) he would have thought there was definitely something hinky going on. Maybe when Danny woke up, they could put out feelers. Vacations are supposed to be fun, after all.

Any thought of pursuing that thinking later evaporates rather dramatically as a man, about twice again Rusty’s age, suit more European but not native, slides into the empty chair at Rusty’s table.

Rusty started to open his mouth, but the man smiles and quickly says, “it’s a shame that they think it’s any harder to liberate a passport when you carry it around your middle. And so unfashionable.”

“True,” Rusty responds only a tad too slow. Most of his attention is still focused across the street, watching the policemen politely but firmly cluster around tables occupied by middle-aged men alone. Curiouser and curiouser. “I always find they break up the line of my suit.”

“Now that would be a tragedy.”

“Not as tragic as those policemen’s attempt at subtley,” Rusty offers, and the man’s smile sharpens.

“Glad to know the reports I’d heard were true,” is all he says, and Rusty is about to break the rules of their little cryptic exchange to ask what the hell is going on, but before he can, they’re interrupted.

“Good afternoon, gentlemen.”

A bland-faced man stands at Rusty’s elbow. Well worn suit, scuffed shoes, a slight pull to one side of his jacket where his gun no doubt hangs. Apparently the detectives are multiplying. Rusty’s brain also less helpfully offers up that the man is carrying his wallet in his right hip pocket, but he quells the impulse to relieve him of it.

“Might we help you, monseir?” Rusty’s new companion asks, with just enough accent to his French to mark him that he either learned it here or is an excellent mimic.

“We’re following up on reports of some disturbances in the area and are asking passersby if they have seen anything suspicious?”

“I was running late and only got here,” the man answers, though Rusty is sure that the detective knows as much. “I have seen nothing strange, unless you mean how unseasonably warm it is this afternoon.”

The detective expression doesn’t warm and he turns his attention to Rusty.

“And you? Anything unusual?”

“No, nothing,” Rusty says, which also has the benefit of being true. He hopes that is it but the detective still hovers.

“Forgive me, gentlemen, but we are especially looking for a suspect traveling alone, and I couldn’t help but notice that you,” he gestures, “joined this table rather abruptly. Might I see your papers?”

Where are we, Casablanca? Rusty thinks to himself, but decides that there is no point in becoming memorable and obligingly pulls out his passport.

“Certainly, I was late meeting my nephew,” says the stranger.

Rusty is surprised to say the least, but offers up quickly, “one café does look like another.”

“Indeed, my boy, though I doubt this fine policeman appreciates our little jokes about his fair city,” the stranger (now Rusty’s “uncle”) slides over fairly new looking passport of his own.

“My apologies, Monsiur Robert Ryan and Monsuier… George Lambert. Your uncle,” the detective says, eyes snapping from the papers to Rusty’s face.

“On my mother’s side,” Rusty supplies with a polite smile then glances at… George. “She sends her love, by the way.”

“Now if only she had sent her award-winning cookies,” the man says jovially and at last the attempt at country charm forces the detective to smile slightly, wish them both a pleasant afternoon and slip off to join his fellow officers in harassing someone else.

Rusty waits until the detective is out of earshot to say dryly, “My mother’s not much of a baker, Uncle George. I should tell you about the attempt at gingerbread last Christmas.”

The man chuckles.

“Pity. Though I’m sure you could steal some Parisian confection to make up for it, no doubt.”

“Do you frequently adopt strangers and accuse them of theft?” Rusty asks, letting his annoyance harden the edge of their banter.

The man dips his head in acknowledgement.

“Gaspar LeMarc, at your service. I thank you for allowing that little subterfuge before. It would be distressing to be bothered, especially when our meeting creates such a lovely opportunity.”

“That would be distressing,” Rusty agrees with the same snap of annoyance in his voice. “I always find the police to be very bothersome. Though I’m now having a hard time believing in the coincidence of this meeting.”

LeMarc raises his hands innocently.

“Trust me, while I freely admit I simply seized the opportunity to escape those friendly fellows’ notice, I believe we have a friend in common, a Mr. Saul Bloom?”

Rusty sighs.

“I’m sure there’s a story behind that.” Pause, then he decides hell, all in. “Rusty Ryan.”

LeMarc looks even more delighted.

“Ah yes, I have heard of your exploits with Danny Ocean. How excellent to have you both?” Rusty must twitch, thought he’s trying not too, because LeMarc nods, decisively. “Excellent, to have you both here in this fair city. I believe you can help me.” Shit, now Danny’s in it too, whatever it is.

“What help could we possibly give you?” Rusty asks, attempting to flatter, not to mention stall.

LeMarc grins.

“The situation requires that I call in outside help, as it were. I want you and your friend to steal something for me.”

*

Of course, Rusty’s not an idiot. He’s heard stories about LeMarc, everyone’s heard stories about LeMarc, with the volume of stories you’d think he’d been pulling three jobs a day for the past fifty years and signing autographs afterward. Though, seeing as Rusty was propositioned in a Paris café, it’s no more ridiculous than some of the bullshit he’s heard around at a bar after a job, the kind that always starts “you think this was a crazy job, well let me tell you…”

After Rusty’s heard the story twice, he pulls out his cell.

“Mmyeah,” is Danny’s answer, voice sleep rough and on the wrong time zone.

“So our vacation is more exciting than previously advertised,” Rusty says, trying to ignore LeMarc’s smug silence next to him. “I’ve found us some entertainment.”

“I leave you alone for two hours and you always find trouble,” Danny says, sounding only barely more awake. To be fair, this is the second time Rusty’s woken him from a sound sleep, and that was just counting today.

“Trouble found me,” Rusty replies. “Besides, it’s been too long since we’ve pulled a Monte with a side of smash and grab, and even I can’t do that by myself.”

“You’re enough trouble for two people,” Danny says dryly. Then, “all right, what’s the play?”

“There’s this café that you should really check out, they have the best espresso.”

“Well, they’ll definitely have the best criminals,” is Danny’s reply. He finally sounds awake.

“Bring your autograph book,” Rusty says with amusement. “But try to act natural, don’t embarrass me.”

“Too late,” Danny says, then hangs up.

Rusty shakes his head and looks at LeMarc.

“All right, we’re yours. Though I still think this is a lot of work for something you could grab yourself without breaking a sweat.”

LeMarc raises an eyebrow.

“This plan will have less repercussions if I am not personally involved in the minutiae. While I could accomplish the task myself, our chance meeting and… relationship,” here he smirked, “has serendipitously given me a new course of action. Or,” he continues, seeing the dubious look on Rusty’s face, “think of it as merely an intellectual exercise, or an audition.”

Rusty raises an eyebrow in return.

“I don’t know if Saul would appreciate our going international without his permission.”

LeMarc smiles.

“You worry too much. The situation might be delicate for me but unless the reports I have heard were greatly exaggerated, you will have no trouble.”

“When people say there won’t be trouble is when I start getting nervous,” comes from over their shoulder and Danny is now at their table, with the smile on his face that means he’s unsure (Rusty is practically fluent).

“Ah, Mr. Ocean,” LeMarc says with a smile and an offered hand. “Welcome to the bank heist.”

*

7:00am

Credit Republic will open in one hour. The night security guard is happy to see that while the usual guards had once called out sick (punk kids, probably too much partying the night before) their normal replacements re on time and seemed on top of things.

With the easy comfort of having done this a hundred times, the day guards settle in with a quick check of the security monitors, a glance over the slow progress of the cleaning crew finishing up with a final mop down and tidy of the front lobby, the hallway by the safe deposit boxes, the corridors that led to the private vaults.

They are, as usual, done in plenty of time for the clerks to settle at their counters, behind their desks, ready their smiles for the first customers of the day.

Later, one of the clerks heads out for a smoke break and finds the back door lock stuck a little more than usual. She thinks to remind her supervisor to tell the cleaning staff. But by the time her cigarette was done, she has already forgotten about it.

 

 

4:10am

The night security guards have a fairly regular sweep, which is sloppy but effective. The two men were hired for their punctuality and calm demeanors—the Credit Republic was not worried about bank thieves.

If they had been, they might have noticed that when Victor went right and Sebastian when left, there was a two minute window in which someone could walk through the camera blindspot and into a little used supply closet. And in that supply closet just happened to be where they stored the extra cleaning supplies... and extra security uniforms.

A careful tilt of a security camera widened that window to six minutes flat.

“It just makes you weep for modern security,” Rusty murmurs to Danny as they slide along the wall.

“I’ll try to contain myself,” Danny offers back. “And I’m not sure if this counts as a smash and grab if we don’t actually have to smash anything.”

“Picky, picky.”

 

5:30am

The cleaning crew arrives with their usual chatter and clatter of bins. They are all cousins, or other complex relations, and so their attention is equally divided between catching up on what Vivienne’s no good boyfriend was up to last weekend and the quality of mopping on the tile floor.

They have always paid little attention to the security guards, so if there seem to be more guards than usual (or the usual day guards, Fracois and Gregor, seem to have turned dark-haired and blond, respectively, instead of the other way around) it is of little consequence.

“This is why I told you it was pointless to think of a backstory about why I was wearing this uniform,” Rusty complains as he slips a key into the vault of safe deposit boxes.

“You’re just mad because you lost an hour of sleep over it,” Danny says.

“It was an excellent story, all right? It involved a lost bet with a cousin and a bit with a dog.”

 

6:13am

The Monte had come in a great deal earlier and involved several passes through the bank and a quick drop of a bag easily explained away as trash on one of the cleaning crews carts. While most traditionally (Danny had been clear to explain this in great detail to Rusty the night before, even as Rusty had complained that he could truly care less) the Monte was a three man con, the real point was to have enough moving pieces in the con that the mark, which in this case was the security camera, wouldn’t be able to track what was really going on.

Soon after Victor checks the door to the security deposit boxes, Danny (who had been planning on explaining away his “Gregor” uniform with a handful of francs and a smile, why break with his usual plan) slides inside and makes the swap. He had argued that with the cleanest lock picking skills, he should be allowed to make the switch. Rusty, after a furious game of rock paper scissors, allowed that that Danny’s skills were… passable enough.

Rusty entertains himself by walking Sebastian’s route along the camera dead spots. He is ready to show himself out of sheer boredom when he comes across Danny on his third lap.

“I’m ready to go, unless you’d like to continue following your new friend,” Danny says. Rusty simply gives him a look and works open the side door (terrible craftsmanship, he gives the screws a tightening on the way by, never hurts to be helpful) and out into the Parisian morning.

He’s sure that Danny made the switch, but he can’t fight the urge to ask, “do you have it?”

Sure enough, Danny glares but slides the edge of a large envelope into view. Rusty waits for him to say they should open it, see what all the fuss was about, but knows Danny won’t. They might not have been doing this as long as LeMarc, but still, there are rules to follow. Those that don’t follow them don’t last long.

*

LeMarc meets them at a busy restaurant not far from the French Quarter. Rusty can hear the sound of waiters calling to tourists to come in, try the lunch menu, delicious! The cajoling voices carry up the street.

“I’m surprised you needed help, security was so loose we were practically given permission,” Danny says as he slides the folder over.

Rusty is sure that this is the end, that LeMarc will give them an amused smile or some charming anecdote and fold himself back into the crowds, but instead he turns the envelope over to open it. Danny looks surprised and Rusty’s face must mirror him, because LeMarc says, “you went through all this work to switch out the contents, don’t you want to see them?”

Rusty would be lying to say he isn’t curious, so he nods and leans forward, seeing Danny do the same next to him.

It’s a pile of papers, letters and other official looking documents, probably ten or so in all. The amount looks about as heavy as the decoy envelope Danny had been given, but it’s clear from LeMarc’s gaze that the real focus is the four photographs he pulls to the top of the pile. The only one Rusty can see clearly is of a young girl with LeMarc’s smile standing on a bridge in front of what looks like the Seine.

LeMarc gives the girl a fond look and then, after a moment, gathers all the documents back into the envelope.

“I had hoped she would leave these there. It had been so long… and it’s easier to steal from those not looking for it, which is why all the extra steps.”

“But won’t they miss the pictures?” Rusty asks, because sure, the rest of the envelope could be copies, but if he wanted the pictures so badly, these had to be the originals.

LeMarc shrugged.

“It’s an old account, I doubt my wife remembers it even exists. So it was a gamble, really, one that I’m glad paid off.” There was a long pause. “She’s my daughter. Her name is Isabel,” he says quietly, like he can tell Rusty wants to ask. Probably can, he’s that good. “She’s not much older than you boys, though I still remember her as six years old, always climbing trees and skinning her knee. Never cried.”

Rusty smiles at the idea, but doesn’t say anything.

“She thinks I’m dead. Her mother’s idea.”

“Must be tough,” Danny says, and Rusty’s impressed that it doesn’t sound patronizing, but sincere. Danny’s either getting smoother or he’s starting to like LeMarc too.

LeMarc shrugs.

“Life’s tough.” He tosses an envelope to Danny. Another hits Rusty in the chest a moment later. “Plane tickets. I’ve talked to the Tylers; you’re all in the clear.”

“We really appreciate it,” says Danny after a moment of stunned silence and slides the envelope into his coat pocket. “Let us know if we can return the favor at any point.”

Neither Rusty nor Danny mentions that LeMarc didn’t have to do that, nor that his payment far outstrips the job they’d done. An audition indeed, thinks Rusty.

Gaspar LeMarc shrugs, smiles at Rusty.

“It’s what family’s for.”

*

Danny finally gets Rusty to spill the story of his newfound “uncle” half-way through the plane flight, and they both have a great time at the stationary store buying the gaudiest, corniest card they can come Christmastime. They send it care of an address in London—tracked down courtesy of Saul—to Uncle George Lambert.

Rusty’s not too surprised that it gets returned. At least, until he flips the card over and notices it’s been opened and resealed. The inside, which they’d left blank, now reads:

Next time you’re in town, look up your cousin Isabel. She could use some more family.