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My Shangri-La

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My Shangri-La

It is Christmas Eve, and Rusty is sure that Danny is in the doghouse, or else he wouldn't be over here, across the country, nettling him about the hotel business. Nettling him while Linus attempts to act as though everything is completely normal and things weren't about to get interesting. He's a much better actor than he used to be.

Oh, Rusty knows that Linus knows that Danny knows about what he could have walked in on, given another few minutes to a half hour.

"No tree," Danny says casually.

"Needles get into the carpet," Rusty responds, maybe a little tersely, but it's still smooth as anything. He's holding a candy cane between his fingers and had been working on it steadily, as evidenced by the colors smeared together down the shaft.

Linus sits quietly, how he supposes he's expected to. The adults are talking.

Yes, Rusty's moved on from his failing enterprises, and Danny's still filching everything he can get his sticky fingers on. Tess still doesn't like it, but she's a smart woman and knows that if she wants her man to stay around, she has to pretend she doesn't notice the off-and-on income, the sudden additions to the bank account. At least it lets her keep up with her art hobbies, Danny says off-handedly. What she hadn't been happy about was deducing that some of that money went into something covered in bright colored paper. Like he'd stolen her present, she'd put it. Rusty listens, refills his glass a time or two.

Linus tries not to take offense. He is a much better actor.

Danny takes a taxi when he can tell he's not wanted.

Snow on the coast like this is rare (blame the climate change, he supposes), and Linus had been leaving up until he needed to borrow a shovel.

By the time he makes it back upstairs, Rusty has a cup of coffee in his hand, candy cane hooked over the edge and melting into the blackness. That minty-dusky aroma flirts around in Linus's nose until he nearly asks for a cup, then remembers his purpose.

No shovel in a condo. Rusty shrugs so smoothly that it nearly appears scripted and practiced. Why would someone need one with weather like this? That, Linus envies. Slip-ups, mistakes, failings -Rusty doesn't seem to have them, with how he plays it off.

"Come on in and I can call a tow truck, get you out of there," Rusty says, gesturing him in with his free hand.

"You knew nothing would be open," Linus says, leaning back in the chair and unconsciously emulating Rusty's pose.

"Got you back in here, didn't I? I knew it, you knew it."

Linus is at least happy that Rusty will say that for him. But when Rusty said it, Linus believed it. Believed that yes, Rusty did know a company. He feels... foolish now. And now he's in here as a result of falling for a ploy like that. In here isn't necessarily so bad, though.

He leans forward pensively and rests his elbows on his knees.

Rusty leans forward as well, but with his head up, as opposed to Linus, staring down at his shoes.

"Stay here until morning," Rusty says. "Can get your car out then."

That's a lie too. Any towing company that isn't open on Christmas Eve doubly won't be open on the day of.

Linus sees him lift the remains of the candy cane from the rim of his mug, coffee now much too low to benefit from it. The tapered end now hangs from Rusty's lips, red and green discoloring the corner of his mouth.

He leans forward more, and the ways the chairs are sitting, caddy corner to each other, Rusty is closer than Linus knows what to do with.

Linus definitely recognizes that uneasiness that he feels, but it's not the same as in the Bank with the diamonds. He hadn't liked that. This, though...

Well, it could go somewhere.

"Look a little warm," Rusty remarks, taking the candy between his fingers. "Coat can't be helping that," he says and holds out a hand for it. Linus shrugs out of it, left in the asymmetrically-striped button-down, collar starched and pressed.

Rusty chuckles as he walks over to hang it up, and Linus probably looks patently overheated. Now, this is where they had been before, perhaps, or at least close enough. No chemical accelerant this time, though...

He stands and walks over into the kitchen. "Is there any coffee left?" he asks, defeating his own motives with such a mundane question.

"Could be," he hears from the foyer, words a little malformed. Linus supposes that would be what comes of talking around something sticking out the corner of one's mouth. He finds the pot empty and simply stands for a moment. He could make some more coffee that he doesn't really want, that he just mentioned to fill the silence, or else he could go back into the room and attempt to act on his urges that he knows are going to come across awkwardly. No, he's not the charming type.

It's a good thing he can count on Rusty's smoothness as the man walks into the kitchen. "Looking a little lost there," he said. "Here, coffee's up here." He moves shoulder-to-shoulder with Linus, opening up the cabinet and taking down the coffee. The proximity is more than he can handle, but he won't sit here and crack under pressure.

The problem is that Rusty must be perfectly aware of what he's doing, because as he spoons the coffee into a fresh filter, he's leaning in closer than he needs be. Linus isn't charming, but Rusty surely is.

Linus opens his mouth to protest and stop Rusty. He hadn't really wanted that coffee, but Rusty stops him. "It'll get rid of the flavor of dinner."

That had been what he needed, Linus notices. Knowing that Rusty was up for this, he turns a bit and gives the man what he hopes is a look that's asking.

Rusty returns it, though more coolly. "Oh, baby, I've been flying," he says, and Linus would have recoiled, taken it as a taunt, had it not been for that open smile. Rusty's leaning on the counter from fixing the coffee, though he looks surprised when he hears the percolation, having not even put the water in. That grin widens, and Linus returns it.

"When I'm down, so down," Linus replies.

Rusty chuckles, tugs on Linus's collar to bring him down to the counter level.

"Oh, my baby, let me take you there."

Linus lets him.