When more than three men, looking nothing alike, fly together, it can be real conspicuous to seat them all next to each other. After all, nothing says known associates like a bunch of chattering guys taking up seats A through J in a single row. So when Matsui calls with a job for nine, Rusty makes sure to spread them all throughout the plane-- he knows that Danny likes to sit up front, eyes as close to the first-class luggage as possible, that Yen hates sitting in an aisle seat, that Basher hates sitting in anything but an aisle seat, that the Malloys are better separated but not so far that they can’t keep tabs on each other, that Livingston will sit anywhere except for in the emergency exit row, that Linus has an aversion to sitting in the middle cluster of chairs, and that he himself likes to be at the back, keeping an eye on everything going on (but not too far back that he’s by the bathrooms). But alas, they only got a day to book tickets, and seats fill up fast, so he and Danny are both going to have to deal with back-of-the-plane bathroom smell. “Sorry,” Rusty says, clapping Danny on the shoulder as they pick out chairs at the gate. “Did my best.”
“No problem. Thanks for--”
“Well, if your old man eyes are going to get fatigued--”
“It’s not my fault that website has so many ads on it! And you’re only--”
“Two years younger, whatever. You just haven’t heard of--”
“I’ll age you gracefully,” Danny says, and it’s worded like a threat but Danny looks so cheerful about it that Rusty can’t help but laugh. “The others--”
“All taken care of.”
“You’re my favorite person ever.”
“Tess would be--”
“Well, sometimes marriages--”
“Yeah. You got lucky, no papers or anything.”
“Never deal on the right side of the law.” He always wonders why Danny got married in the first place-- adding anything to the file on one’s birth name has always seemed like a risky endeavour.
“Well, the first time we got hitched, it’s not like I could’ve stopped and told her,” Danny says.
“She wanted me to go straight. Don’t laugh at that.”
Rusty snickers anyway, and he earns a light shove for his troubles. “Well, I’m just saying.”
“No you’re not, you’re being--”
“Are you kidding? That one time in--”
“Don’t bring up Belize.”
Rusty puts his hands up, an innocent look fixed on his face. “Hey, I’m not the one who just said it.”
“Sometimes I wonder--”
“It’s ‘cause you--”
Can’t say it out loud?
“It’s ‘cause I love you.”
Rusty grins, and it’s one part loud teasing and one part secret warmth, and he says “You fall for that every time.”
“I’m just trying to be nice. After all, you do book the plane tickets for us.”
Their boarding call sounds through the terminal, and they stand up and get in line together. “You think--”
“Oh, he’s definitely gonna pay a visit,” Danny says. “Especially after last time.”
Rusty grins. “I wouldn’t be opposed to a little payback. I didn’t get to finish my nap, after all.”
“Horrific.” Danny smiles as they show the attendant their boarding passes, and as they walk through the tunnel, he asks, “You think--”
“You remember what Bobby Caldwell did to you the first time you were on a job with him?” Rusty asks. “It’s just--”
“Pre-cisely.” Rusty lets Danny walk ahead as they make their way to the back of the plane. “Middle or aisle?”
“He’ll probably just go to the bathroom if--”
“No sweat off my back.”
Danny nods, puts his bag up, and then-- “I don’t think that’s the saying.”
“I’ve heard it both ways.” Rusty heaves his own bag into the luggage compartment. “If you need to piss, do it now. Kid’s probably gonna wake me up again, I don’t want you waking me up too.”
Danny frowns-- pouts, really. I never wake you up.
And I’m a thief, too.
Double whammy. I still don’t wake you up.
“I was drunk and you’d had, like--”
“It was four.”
“Four Redbulls. Doesn’t count.”
“Who’s to say I won’t drink four Redbulls on this flight?”
“Your digestive system, for one. And judging by these--” a broad thumb comes up to brush the darkened skin under Rusty’s eye, and he leans into the touch-- “you haven’t slept for… thirty-six hours.”
“Thirty-eight, actually. But I applaud your attempt. Now can I--”
“Yeah. My bad.” Danny scoots into the middle seat, and Rusty sits down in the aisle. “Five says--”
“An hour? He’s grown up, a little. I’ll say between hour two and hour three.”
“I’ll take that action.”
They shake on it, and then Danny raises the armrest and they lean together.
Danny doesn’t say anything when Rusty digs his nails into his grey-suited thigh as they hit turbulence, so in return Rusty lets Danny sleep on his shoulder. There’s nobody in the third seat-- Rusty’s fairly certain it’s Danny’s handiwork, judging by the fact that Danny had stretched his feet into the third seat’s footwell before the plane had even finished boarding. That’s why he wanted the middle seat, Rusty realizes. He looks down at Danny’s sleeping face-- he’s still as serenely unbothered as when he’s awake, just with less crow’s feet lining his eyes, and if you were looking at him and you weren’t Rusty, he could be anyone off the street (but thirty years of love and friendship and finishing each other’s sentences have given Rusty a unique view of Danny that couldn’t be erased by anything but amnesia)-- and thinks, jackass.
Danny wakes up, as if compelled by some supernatural force, exactly one hour after they take off. He takes Rusty’s wrist (gently, like it’s a bar of gold or something) and checks the stopwatch they have running. “Has he…”
Rusty shakes his head. “Middle seat, huh?”
Danny just grins, unrepentant. “The reason I gave you wasn’t a lie.”
Rusty rolls his eyes. “Just go back to sleep, Ebeneezer.”
Danny’s (warm, and dry, and a little calloused) hand goes up to Rusty’s face again, and this time it’s his index finger that runs against Rusty’s left under-eye bag. “Aren’t you--”
Danny shrugs. If that’s how you wanna play it. He settles back against Rusty’s shoulder, like it’s the most natural place in the world for him to be-- and it is.
Two hours post-takeoff is when Danny’s head slips off Rusty’s shoulder and into his lap. Rusty considers propping him back up. He starts carding his fingers through Danny’s hair instead.
Two hours and four minutes is when Linus stands up from his seat next to Basher. Rusty grins; then grins wider as Basher (clearly, he was sleeping) swears in a not-quite whisper upon Linus’s exit from the row. Rusty schools his face into a neutral expression as Linus makes his way to the back, and not once does he take his hand out of Danny’s hair. “Hey, Rusty-- oh. Oh. If you’re busy--”
“No, no, what’s up?” Rusty asks, taking the blanket off his own shoulders and wrapping it around Danny. Underneath his hands, he can feel Danny wake up. I was right, Rusty thinks. You owe me five bucks.
Linus is blushing, now. “I mean, I just-- well, I’ve been in the business a while now, and surveillance-- well, that’s kind of-- I mean-- it’s not that I’m not grateful you guys called me, but-- well, I’ve really been developing my talents, and-- no, no, you don’t have to wake him--”
Rusty looks up from where he’s leaned over Danny’s head. “No, it’s fine, I’ll just tell him real quick and we’ll discuss it more when we land.” He turns back to Danny, his lips two centimeters from Danny’s ear. “Danny. Danny, I think we can get Linus a bigger part in the job this time. He’s been developing his talents, Danny.”
Thirty years of criminal activity, and none of it has been as hard as stifling his laughter right now.
Danny rolls over so he’s face-up, and now it’s his lips that are two centimeters away from Rusty’s, and his eyes are still closed. “Y’know what? You’re right. It’s been over a decade. Thanks for bringing it up, Rus. You’re so smart.” And then he leans up and kisses Rusty on the mouth (Rusty’s suddenly very warm and very close to smiling; he puts the feeling aside, gently, like it’s made of spun glass), and Rusty really wishes he could take a picture of how goddamn wide Linus’s eyes are, and then Danny rolls over again and goes back to sleep. Rusty is so ready to burst from laughter that he barely remembers to start finger-combing Danny’s hair again.
“Uh. So. You guys are-- you’re, like--”
“I guess. You have a problem?” Rusty asks innocently.
“No! No, God, no, it’s just-- I didn’t-- Isabel?” Linus squeaks.
“Oh. Well, you know how relationships are.”
“Yeah. Yeah. Totally.”
“Okay. So we’ll get you a bigger role. Is that all you wanted to ask, or…”
“Yeah! No, I’m-- I’m good! Bye!”
He turns around, walks down the aisle, takes his seat (Basher swears much quieter this time), and only then does Rusty start to wheeze. “Danny. Danny, I think I’m gonna go into cardiac arrest,” he says, leaning down.
Danny rolls over again, his grin oh-so-close to Rusty’s once more, and when he opens his eyes Rusty sees that tears are literally streaming forth. “Isabel?” Danny whispers, mimicking Linus exactly. “Sweet Christ do I love that kid. Oh, God.”
Rusty thunks his forehead against Danny’s, laughter still shaking his body. “What did we do to deserve him?”
“Haven’t you heard? He’s--” and Danny hasn’t even finished his sentence before Rusty is full-on wheezing again-- “been developing his talents.”
“Shut up,” Rusty whisper-cackles, “or I’m gonna give us away. Oh, Jesus. Jesus.”
Beneath him, Danny is practically trembling with quiet laughter. “Aren’t-- aren’t you glad you got the aisle seat now?”
“His eyes were so wide!” And with that they devolve into silent hysterics.
Around the three-hour mark, they trade places; Rusty takes a nap with his head pillowed in Danny’s lap (he looks so peaceful, and Danny reminds himself to make Rusty sleep more in the future) while Danny reads the in-flight magazine. Four hours and thirty-seven minutes past takeoff sees Linus coming to the back again, and Danny fights to keep his grin under control. “Can I help you?” Danny asks pleasantly, re-tucking Rusty’s blanket so it’s tighter around him (he doesn’t even stir, and Danny resolves to reclassify Tunisia as a one-time thing).
“You guys were messing with me,” Linus says. “That’s-- I mean, c’mon, guys. It’s not--”
“It was very funny, actually. And don’t wake him up.”
Linus frowns. “So you are…”
“If you want to put a label on it.”
“Well-- am I at least going to get a bigger role?” Linus asks.
“Of course. You have been developing your talents, after all.”
Linus blinks. “Oh, come on!”