Danny raps the fingernails of his left hand against the tabletop oncetwice, so Rusty pauses in his epic quest through the basket of warm tortilla chips for one with something of an edge to maximize the salsa scooping effect, to look up at him. Sort of. He raises his eyes, even if he can't really see Danny all that well through his hair.
"It's easy," Danny says, and is smirking in the way that has long ago stopped making Rusty want to throttle him. You know, mostly.
"For you," Rusty mutters darkly, and curls the fingers of the hand not in the chip basket in his napkin. The paper is thin and damp from the condensation sliding down his glass of water. It's sticking under his fingernails and tearing, even if he's not twisting. "For me it's like getting a real job."
"It's a lot of money for one of those."
Rusty snorts, and looks down again, goes back to his quest, because flat chips just don't work with chunky salsa when they're this thin. "It's not much more than I'd be demanding if I were—"
"—really doing this. Which I could, if you're doubting. I've got a great sense of color."
"As we all see evidenced by your shirt," Danny says, around something that sounds suspiciously like a grin. Rusty isn't looking up to say for sure, but maybe he peeks at his shirt. It's brown, or red, depending on the angle of viewing. He doesn't see the problem.
With the shirt, he doesn't see the problem, and he's very sure to clarify that to himself. Because, well. Danny's got a jacket on that's wool and brown plaid, so he's got no room to talk about anything. "Your mocking of me will not change the fact that your plan sucks, my friend."
"It's seven figures each, easy, I fail to see—" Danny stops, suddenly, in the middle of his sentence, as the waitress sits their drinks on the table. He cocks an eyebrow at Rusty's margarita. Probably because it's giant and blue. "You should be able to pull this off without a hitch."
"You fail to see that how much isn't the issue," Rusty says, and nods to the waitress before she turns on her heel to walk away without taking their order. He loves this place. "And don't bring your stereotypes to the table, Danny," he adds, with a click to his tongue that he may've always used when imitating Danny's mother. If he'd ever done such a thing.
"Is this the part where you try and pretend that you don't like getting into the costumes, because you know that jig was up after the nurses—"
"It's a stupid plan," Rusty says, and Danny grins stupidly because they know each other too well. Rusty bites down hard on a chip just for the furious crunching sound it makes. "A really, really stupid plan."
"Mrs. Loudon," Rusty says, three days later in the painfully pink laced confines of her sofa, which he takes as concrete proof that money cannot buy taste. (It feels like concrete anyway.) "Thank you for meeting with me about this project, it's an honor to know that out of all the—"
"You were recommended to me by Saul Bloom, Mr. Ryan, he's the one you should thank for this opportunity," she answers, her mouth pinched tight and her eyebrow raised slightly like she doesn't trust him. The nerve.
"I'll have to send him a bottle of wine," Rusty says softly, the corner of his eye phantom-twitching with the urge to narrow. He's not going to like this at all. The place smells like old, flower scented lotion and too much perfume. She's not old money, that's for sure. Her eye shadow is thick, bright blue and uneven. "Of course, my job is always easier when I've got a nice structure to work with," he says, about a second before the silence is officially too long. "You've got a fantastic home, Mrs. Loudon."
"I've got four fantastic homes," she answers, her nose stuck just a little further in the air, like she's insulted that he'd not just assume. He knows, of course, but this is the one they're interested in. The others collect dust, this one houses her late husband's collections. "Of course, they're not quite this—" and her mouth twitches with the word as her eyes take in the room.
"Pink?" he asks, with a smile.
"Old-fashioned," she answers, and smothers what looks like a smirk behind her small, blue and white china teacup. "Never let your daughter redo your house just because she feels the sudden urge to enter into interior decorating." She taps her fingernails on her cup as he laughs, her fingers thick knuckled with arthritis.
"I'll be sure to keep your warning in mind," Rusty says, still grinning.
Doris Loudon—in the brash, carelessly pointed manner that has made her so well talked about in the circles she doesn't quite fly in like the size of her bank account should allow her to—sits down her teacup and says, "We know this isn't an interview, we're both aware that you've got this job just because of who recommended you to me, so let's stop wasting each others' time, shall we?"
It's almost disappointingly easy, really, and he may never forgive Danny for that.
"Only you," Danny says, and picks up a ring of fabric swatches between his thumb and index finger and holds it out in front of him like something particularly disgusting, "could possibly find this much joy in paint chips."
Rusty turns the page of a wallpaper book that he's really got no interest in and says, "Shut up," cheerfully around a cherry sucker.
Danny holds his hands up in surrender, dropping the fabric swatches onto the coffee table in the process. It's heavy enough to rock the table and make Rusty's Pepsi splash precariously close to over the top. "All I'm saying, is that you've—"
"Shut up," Rusty says again, and moves his sucker from one side of his mouth to the other with his tongue. "Do you think crème white or eggshell white would go better with the-- Why am I asking you, you wouldn't know the difference between charcoal and dark gray."
Danny blinks for a second, and then shakes his head. "You know, I'm starting to think that maybe this was a stupid plan."
"All you've got to do tomorrow is carry my stuff and look pretty, what are you worried about?" He taps the edge of the eggshell white chip against the book in front of him and makes a face. He tosses it at Danny's feet absently and crème white is quick to follow.
"Well," Danny says dryly. "I was worried about you getting carried away with this, but clearly that's not going to happen."
"Really," Rusty answers. "Shut up."
"Well, Mr. Ryan," Mrs. Loudon says, looking up the surgically thinned line of her long, long nose at Danny, because even in high heels that pinch her feet the top of her hair doesn't come to his shoulder. "This must be your partner. Saul mentioned him to me."
Rusty makes sure to keep his smile easy as his hands tighten around the strap of the bag he's carrying. "Yes, Mrs. Loudon, this is Danny. Please try not to believe everything Saul told you about him." He leans forward slightly, like he's got a secret to share, and whispers dramatically, "Most of the really good stuff was probably a lie."
"Nice to meet you." Danny smiles, and has more books in his arms than he carried all through school combined, so he sort of shrugs and inclines his head at her in greeting instead of shaking her hand. He always could just charm them with a smile.
Mrs. Loudon looks like she maybe wants to smile, her too-small mouth painted bright red and twitching. "You can just go sit those down, I'll let you boys get to work." And her eyes gleam with what can only be described as demented glee, when she stands next to Rusty and watches Danny walk into the next room. "That's a good view," she murmurs under her breath, and puts Rusty in danger of finding out if it really is possible to die from choking on a laugh. "If you need anything just let Amita know," she says, and walks away.
Danny raises his eyes when Rusty passes him a glass of water.
"I think she likes you." Rusty grins, and tries not to let any of the denture jokes actually be said. It's too easy, and besides, she'd probably be right outside the door if they were.
"I think I'm not the only one with stereotypes." Danny arches his eyebrow, and it says plenty. He forgets sometimes that Rusty does the details because he's good at them, not because it's more fun. He catches these things faster than Danny ever does, and Danny catches them pretty damn fast.
Rusty shakes his head ruefully. The thing about being the details guy is that he can roll with it when the plan changes, but he never likes it. He is, deep down, a stickler for organization. It's not something he lets out too often though, because he's smarter than to give Danny that much ammunition for free. "You think she'd let me knock out that wall?" he asks, and shifts closer to Danny when the maid walks in to dust because he can move with the plan when he's got to.
"What do you think?" Mrs. Loudon asks Danny, with a tilt of her head that gives her another chin. The question isn't because she's unsure, and they all know it, she just wants to ask him to see if it ruffles Rusty when she hesitates. Her fingernails are red today, and she's fresh from the salon, so her hair is too. "Knocking out a wall—"
"It's really Rusty's area," Danny says, with his old-lady-charmer smile firmly in place. "I'm mostly just here to carry things and look pretty." He winks and she laughs, loudly and sharp. All the lace in the room keeps it from echoing.
Rusty smiles, presses his fingertips against Danny's knee when he leans forward to grab a folder to show her, but she doesn't bother to look at it. Luckily. It's blank inside. "We'll need blueprints."
"I'll have them sent over to you by tonight. Why don't you two boys go home and get some rest. You've been at this an awfully long time for someone in your business."
Danny buys him lunch, for a job well done, he says, (Rusty claims that it was actually just his turn.) and watches Rusty for signs of obsessive compulsive decorating while they eat burgers and fries that are cold and stale.
Rusty still holds that it's a stupid plan, and also that Danny is going to have to stop wearing that jacket if they're ever going to pull it off.
"It's new," Danny says, finally. Even if Rusty wasn't asking or waiting, when he says it it's like finally.
"It is," Rusty agrees, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to his elbows and his tie loose, as he goes through fabric swatches again with I Love Lucy playing in the background. His apartment is nicer; the TV is bigger, and the kitchen chairs don't wobble when you breathe in the same room that they're in. He's not sure why they've been at Danny's every night this week—Danny isn't any fonder of this place than Rusty is—but he thinks he needs to make it a rule to not let Danny drive anymore, since clearly that's why he never even had a choice in the matter.
Besides, the couch is uncomfortable. One of those huge things that takes up half the room, with gaps in the cushions when you sit on it that can unexpectedly eat limbs. Rusty's foot is in the jaws of one such gap right now, bent at a funny angle against the arm.
The light in here sucks, just as a bonus.
"You don't wonder what Saul told her at all?" Danny asks in a rush—or a rush for Danny, anyway. He'd never been a big fan of moving quicker than his own pace. He's walking from one side of the room to the other, which is really all of six steps, in front of the couch Rusty's lying on. His collar is open, his cuffs undone, and his shoes are sitting in his bedroom. He's got a glass of wine on a stack of books on the coffee table that tips from one side to the other randomly when he steps on a certain board wrong, and Rusty keeps half an eye on it to make sure his popcorn underneath it is still safe.
"Do you remember Elisa Hops?"
Danny stops, finally, and that's what makes Rusty raise his eyes from the pieces of fabric in his hands. He's looking at Rusty pretty funny, actually, so Rusty just takes it as a point of pride that he can catch Danny off guard sometimes. "The girl you went to prom with?" Danny ventures, and it's really just a guess, Rusty can see it in the way he's standing.
"The girl you went to prom with, actually," he says, and then loses his place when he waves it off. "Point is this, Doris Loudon isn't the first person in the world to assume we're sleeping together. It's just the first time you've noticed and decided to play along."
"So you think Saul—"
"Nah. Saul said partner like he always has, from back in the day. From back when he and Arty were a tag team. And please don't make me think of Saul having sex, because that's just cruel. Anyway, he said it like grandmothers say girlfriend, without a thought to how it could be taken. Our dear Doris just has a daughter who likes Birkenstocks and Sandy."
"It's new," Danny says, again. "You said so before."
"Yeah, well, I lied." Rusty grabs a handful of extra buttered popcorn and figures this is as close as Danny'll ever get to freaking out.
By morning he's over it and Rusty has the blueprints memorized.
Danny has coffee, when they stop at the place on the corner, and watches over the rim of his mug in faint disgust as Rusty eats an egg-white spinach omelet with sausage. It's the lack of yolk in the egg that really makes Danny give him funny looks.
Mostly he's stopped with the odd looks. Or Rusty's just stopped noticing them. It's hard to say sometimes.
Danny's wearing one of Rusty's ties. It's black and shiny. It shimmers in the light. He'd even done it without really objecting. "How can you—"
"It's good, really."
"It's health food."
"Well," Rusty says, and swallows down a bite of wheat toast with orange juice, "Saul's been saying I should eat better." He smirks at his plate when Danny starts to squirm.
They watch a crew of workmen tear down a wall in Mrs. Loudon's house two days later, standing right in the middle of the room. Rusty's jacket is off, hanging over the back of the tarp-covered pink monstrosity that has been passing for a sofa since the place got a make over by an amateur, his sleeves rolled up and the blueprints in his hands. It's not so much that they needed the wall out as it is that the wall just had to go.
Danny's hand is at the small of his back, curved into an almost fist, his knuckles pressing against Rusty's spine through the silk of his shirt. "I think," Danny says, looking at the blueprints with him, even though they both know them as well as it's possible to, "that you're getting a little bit carried away."
He's close enough that every time he breathes it hits Rusty's neck, and forces him to have to do something really stupid like suppress a shiver. Rusty thinks back fondly on the days when Danny at least pretended to respect the idea of personal space and leans back against his hand just a little.
"I'm not getting carried away, I'm simply performing the task that you set in front of me with slightly more relish than usual."
"Otherwise known as getting carried away," Danny whispers, tauntingly, stupidly close to Rusty's ear.
"Keep it up and your place is next." Rusty snorts, and looks up from the blueprints just long enough to be sure that everyone is still doing their job. "Don't think I won't do it, either, because a nice—"
"Oy," Basher cries, when the two feet of wall at the corner has been broken through, "if you two lovebirds will consent to come and take a look, I do believe we've found a bit of buried treasure."
Never let it be said that Rusty Ryan doesn't get the job done. And the really fun thing is that Mrs. Loudon is currently at one of her three other homes to escape the noise, and she never knew it was here to begin with.
"Okay," Danny says, and pushes Rusty forward with his hand on his back, and actually, Rusty's only pretty sure that Danny's let her leaving slip his mind. "Maybe you knew what you were doing."
"Say that when the place is done." Rusty sighs and moves to peek into the recently uncovered room.
"Seven figures, easy," Danny says, and that's after Basher and Saul get their cut. The crew is getting paid on Mrs. Loudon's dime. Danny seems almost awed, when the paintings are all spread out in Rusty's bedroom.
If this were a cartoon he'd have dollar signs in his eyes.
Rusty eats his way through a bag of Doritos while sitting in the middle of his bed.
The job isn't over yet. Saul—for reasons purely unaesthetic, as best Rusty can figure—really likes this woman. Possibly it's for her bank account. Either way, they can't fuck this up now because Saul would kill them, after everything they had to promise to get him to give them the in. So they're in until the place is done.
Besides, they never did find the rumored antique gun collection.
He's watching a paint crew with Danny's fingers curled just almost on his hip. Mrs. Loudon is back, and making noise about how much taking out the wall opened up the other room.
Saul is at her side with a sort of amused grin and a glower, because he's just picked up on the double meaning of "partner" when she came in and winked at the way that they were bent together over a set of plans laid out on a card table.
Rusty likes to think that the glowering is because Saul knows better than to allow Danny near a woman of any age, when her wealth will long outlast her lifetime. Not that Danny's ever really taken it that far; he just smiles like he could all the time.
"What do you boys think you're doing?" Saul asks when she leaves the room, and waves a cane he doesn't need at Danny's hand on the small of Rusty's back again.
"Playing to the crowd," Danny answers, with an arch of his eyebrow that would be a shrug from any other person.
"Daniel, I've seen how you are," Saul mutters, and this is one of those times where everything he says sounds like a threat. He's been doing his thing where he says this is his last job and he's quitting for about three months now, and it's starting to lose its impact. Rusty wonders briefly if maybe this isn't a job, really, but only briefly. "Don't think that you can con a con, my boy. You are not that good."
Rusty bites down on a sucker that Danny had hidden in the inside pocket of his jacket and raises his eyebrows. It's not so much a question as a hope that they don't drag him into whatever this is going to be all about. He knows them both well enough to know they'll at least keep it out of the game.
He turns back to the papers on the table in time to hear Saul say, sounding more amused than usual, "Or maybe you can."
Danny puts his hand on the back of Rusty's neck and slides his thumb under his collar, just this side of hard, so it's less of a caress as a lame attempt to ease the tension there. His thumbnail scratches along the bump at the top of Rusty's spine when he's bent forward.
If anyone else in the room notices it'd kind of surprise Rusty. No one has bothered to watch what they do in this house for a week.
The thing about knowing someone as well as he knows Danny is that they can't really surprise you anymore. Danny sort of sighs and rolls his eyes over his scotch at the bar in a hotel that, frankly, Rusty might be a little bit in love with, and Rusty knows that he's complaining about the waitress, in her black slacks and high heels and men's shirt and tie. Her name is Linda, or Lilah or something like that, and she's got eyes like she's been in the game plenty long enough to play it well. She smiles kind of dangerously and is one of those women who isn't used to taking no for an answer.
She keeps watching Rusty, and while he doesn't exactly not notice it, he'd learned to ignore the feeling of being watched a long time ago. So he chews a pretzel thoughtfully and licks the salt off his bottom lip before shrugging and smiling, just because it makes Danny's mouth do that thing where it thins and turns down a little at the corner with the urge to do something stupid that he actually knows is stupid.
It's usually more of a surprise that Danny does something Rusty didn't expect than whatever it is that he does.
This could be the exception, maybe, because they're fresh from a dinner party with Saul and Mrs. Loudon, where Danny spent most of the night with his hand on Rusty's thigh under the table, altering their history to give them a history. It didn't take a lot of altering, and this is the third time they've had to change it for Mrs. Loudon, so it's starting to become the truth through repetition.
They're three weeks into the job, and they've already got what they came for but they're sticking around to clean up the mess. This is the longest Rusty has dated someone in years, and he's pretty sure that that should bother him more.
He's pretty sure of a lot of things, really. It's his business to be. So Linda arches her eyebrow at him in the mirror, and Danny grabs the back of his neck with his left hand again to tug him forward and Rusty is maybe a little bit surprised.
Danny kisses him and it's unexpected.
Rusty uncurls his fingers from the lapels of Danny's jacket very, very slowly. And sits back in his chair. "Well," he says when he's mostly caught his breath, "okay."
Danny smirks, and his bottom lip is reddened from Rusty's teeth. Rusty's eyes narrow slightly, like maybe he's finally catching up.
"Okay," he says again, and slides a twenty under Danny's empty glass as he stands up. "I'm going home now." Rusty sighs, half a step back from the table, watching Danny watch the flutter of the bill in the blast of the air conditioning. And he knows it's a stupid idea, but he's been smack dab in the middle of cleaning up another one for three weeks now. Or, well, for ten years now. Danny's full of stupid ideas, big dreaming that'll only end badly if he tries it on his own. "So you coming or not?" he asks anyway, and shrugs when Danny looks up at him.
Danny presses him against the door as it's closing hard enough to make it slam, hard enough to make his teeth rattle. He's got that desperation that all men get after three weeks of touches that are maybe never going to lead anywhere, and that flooding relief of getting somewhere that Rusty can feel sliding off of him, through his fingertips hooked around Rusty's belt. Rusty can't quite breathe, and can't quite bring himself to care that he can't, when Danny kisses him again, hard and desperate and relieved.
There's something to be said for knowing a person, he thinks, his fingernails sliding down the back of Danny's neck just this side of hard, in a way that makes him break the kiss off with a gasp and move closer. Like there's a way for them to get closer.
He hits his head on the door when Danny bites his jaw, gasping and gripping the sleeve of Danny's jacket in his fist. The scrape of teeth just gets harder, maybe, seems like, and he lets go of the fabric of Danny's jacket to just grab it again.
"This," Danny says, with absolute certainty against the soft spot just below Rusty's ear, where his mouth is hot enough to make Rusty actually shiver, "is new."
Rusty laughs, kind of stupidly breathless, and hooks his foot around Danny's calf, dragging him further in until it's mostly the door behind Rusty's shoulders holding up the both of them. Danny slips his hand around Rusty, under his jacket and presses the inside of his wrist against Rusty's spine, his fingers fanned out across to keep Rusty right where he is, maybe, or to move him, because Danny moves just a little to the left and they're both gasping, wet mouths falling open.
He slides his hand across Danny's jaw, his stubble soft-sharp against Rusty's palm, and it's really pretty girly, to be cupping Danny's face this way in his hands, to have Danny's arms around him as they kiss like an embrace. It's only going to lead to trouble. But he pulls back to breathe and Danny turns his head to catch Rusty's thumb in his mouth, teeth scraping the fleshy pad just hard enough to make his blood rush places that maybe it shouldn't. Maybe. He still can't breathe so it could be lack of oxygen talking.
Danny's jacket is on the floor before either of them really process it, and the main issue with that is all the not touching going on, because Rusty's undoing the buttons on Danny's cuffs with no small lack of grace, and Danny's complicating matters by grabbing a fistful of Rusty's shirt and pulling and it seems to take roughly forever before Danny gets his hands under Rusty's shirt, to press both of them palm-flat against his belly.
They're mouths meet too rough, almost with a crash, because Danny is off balance and Rusty's head is tilted a little too far back, and this really shouldn't be awkward, all things considered. They've always moved together better than this.
"Okay," he says, sighs almost, like it's the only word left in his vocabulary. Danny is wearing his tie again, the shimmery black that bleeds to gray when you touch it, so Rusty drops his sleeve to grab that instead. "This is a stupid idea," he says sternly—because it's only through sheer force of will that either of them are going to get out of this intact—against the curve of Danny's mouth open and panting, and he pulls.
Rusty hooks his finger under the buckle of Danny's belt, just for the sound that he knows Danny will make. It may've been awkward before, but it was still good, and Danny's hand slides to cup Rusty's hipbone in his palm, his thumb sliding down past Rusty's waistband, and it's only getting better. There's no way this will end well, but as long as they're fucking up they might as well do it right.