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Plan A

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Somehow, when the mark had said "party," Mickey hadn't translated that as "homosexual orgy." But he should have, because that was where they were. The room was filled with naked men and a cacophony of slurps, moans, gasps, male laughter, and rocking furniture.

At least Danny was keeping his cool. He was leering around the room and saying things like "All right!" and "Fuck, that one's hung like the Trojan horse" to Charlie Fotherington, their mark. That was good, because all Mickey could think was that Charlie expected the two of them to have public sex with each other, and he had no idea how they were going to get out of it. Plan B, he told himself. What's plan B?

Danny grabbed his hand. "We'll have a look round, shall we?"

"I look forward to watching you enjoy yourselves," Charlie said with a wink, and Mickey felt sick. They needed this score, and they needed it badly. Accepting this invitation had been a major misstep on his part.

Danny dragged him off to watch a stockbroker enthusiastically tonguing an investment banker's arsehole. Mickey happened to know that the men were worth twenty-three million and seventeen million pounds respectively, and that they were both married. He briefly wished he'd considered blackmail as an alternative career. His hand wasn't sweating in Danny's--he was a professional, after all--but he suspected that his show of appreciation lacked a certain verisimilitude.

They needed to consult. He maneuvered Danny towards an unoccupied section of wall, leaned against it and pulled him in close. "We need a plan B," he breathed into Danny's ear.

Danny turned his head and nipped at Mickey's earlobe with his crooked teeth. The brat always had to do him one better. "Has something upset plan A?"

"Plan A was go to a party."

Danny pulled back to look at him. "You mean you didn't know what kind of party this was? Are you shitting me?"

Mickey raised his eyebrows, running his hand down Danny's back and cupping his arse. "Are you telling me you did?"

"Well, Fotherington wasn't what I'd call subtle." Danny ground against him with a surprisingly convincing low moan. "And he invited us after you'd been yammering on about how much you liked public sex, didn't he?"

"I said that to get him off the topic of threesomes," Mickey hissed.

Danny snickered. "You really didn't know?"

"I can't believe you did and you agreed to come anyway."

"I didn't agree!" Danny protested. "You did. I thought you knew, and it is a fantastic opportunity to shore up our cover. What'd you think I was going to say, 'Sorry, June, it's rough luck you needing that operation, but I'm too good to put Mickey's cock in my mouth so you'll have to do without'?"

"To put--" He stopped. "You've never even met June."

Danny's mouth twisted. He pinched Mickey's nipple; it hurt. "I thought we were family. Didn't realize that meant 'all family but Danny.'"

Mickey let his head fall back against the wall with a thud. "Sorry. I just--you were really planning to give me a blowjob."

"Seemed the easiest way to play it."

"Do you even know how to give a blowjob?"

Of course Danny took it as a slur on his skills. "You're bloody right I do! You're always doubting me, but I come through, don't I? If you're afraid I'll bite your privates off, you can just watch me go down on some other bloke."

"No," Mickey said. "These people are not practicing safe sex, and we don't know--"

"You didn't give a shit about me sleeping with that Russian hooker." Danny ran his thumb up the inner left seam of Mickey's trousers, and Mickey closed his eyes. "So I don't figure this is about me being safe. Look, we back out now, we lose the mark, right? So if you can't handle it, you say you're indisposed and go back to the hotel, and I'll stay here and take care of business."

That wasn't an option. Mickey could insist they both leave, but Danny was right. They'd lose the mark, and they had already invested a lot of time and money in him. They were professionals. They could pull this off. He opened his eyes. "We'll stick with plan A."

Danny grinned. "Good choice."

Mickey's gut told him that everything was about to go south, but it was a feeling he'd learned to ignore when he needed to. He grinned back.

Danny was good at reading people, when he bothered. "I know you're proud of getting what you want and still keeping it in your trousers. But you weren't always that good. You must've fucked marks sometime. And you made it look good, yeah? So do that. You want to think about Stacie or something, I won't take it personal."

Mickey raised his eyebrows. The day he needed tips from Danny would be the day he'd hang up his hat. "Who are you going to be thinking about?"

Danny's eyes glinted. "Oh, I'll have my mind on the job, just like you're always telling me." His knees hit the floor. Unfortunately, this gave Mickey an unobstructed view of the rest of the room. A lot of people were watching them. He could close his eyes, but that would leave him too vulnerable. The only other choice was to look at Danny.

Danny unbuckled Mickey's belt, tugged down his trousers and underpants, and all the while he was giving him that cocky grin as though this were nothing more than another stupid bet, one of their dangerous games of chicken. He took Mickey's prick in his hand, held it like he was weighing it. Mickey took calming breaths and didn't move.

Danny licked up the length of him, fast and wicked and dirty. His tongue flicked over the head, and he winked. To Mickey's dismayed surprise, blood rushed to his cock.

"That's a good boy," Danny said, and started sucking him. Mickey discovered two things very quickly: one, that Danny did know how to give a blowjob, and two, that he, Mickey, disliked strangers watching him have sex. If he couldn't find a way to get his head in the game, Danny was going to be on his knees for a long time.

He had to be the role. He had to turn himself into someone who wanted this. So, very carefully, Mickey tapped into the part of himself that had always been a little too fascinated by Danny's mouth.

Danny's mouth was wide and improbably expressive, and he could make it do whatever he wanted. It could be shy, obscene, rueful, sneering, pinched, generous--and it always looked perfectly natural, as if it had been that way from birth. It looked perfectly natural stretched around Mickey's cock and drooling a little at the corners, as if it had done this a thousand times and would do it a thousand more. As if it had been made just for this.

Mickey had never thought about it. He couldn't. The crew came first. But he'd watched Danny's mouth, mind carefully blank, and there they were when he looked for them, hundreds of high-resolution slides in some internal projector: Danny sucking butter off his fingers after nicking Mickey's fried slice, Danny sleeping with his mouth open, Danny biting his pen while he did a Sudoku, Danny laughing, smiling, frowning, yelling, pouting, drinking a pint, chatting up a mark, chewing gum, whistling.

All those images were superimposed on this one, on Danny's wet lips and the slurping noises he made, and everything snapped into focus. Mickey was in the role, he was turned on, this was hot, this was better than hot. Every fucking nerve ending in his body was feeling it. He thrust into Danny's gifted mouth and moaned Danny's cover's name.

Danny made an encouraging sound and began to jack him, hard and fast. Half a minute later, Mickey came in Danny's mouth in front of about forty people. Danny didn't swallow; Mickey felt unexpectedly disappointed, but then Danny got to his feet, wiping a very visible dribble of come away from the corner of his mouth and "accidentally" smearing it over his chin. The kid had a flair for the dramatic, there was no denying that.

Danny was hard in his trousers. Mickey didn't think about that as he tucked himself away and zipped up his fly. "Missed a spot," he said, and cleaned his come off Danny's face with his handkerchief.

"Mum always said I was a messy eater." They both scanned the room for Charlie Fotherington. He was watching them. He looked--convinced. An hour later they left the party with five thousand dollars of his money.

"We're bringing the convincer to his office," Mickey said when they were on the sidewalk.

Danny crowed with laughter. "I can't believe you didn't know what kind of party that was."

Mickey frowned. He should have known. It was obvious when he played back the conversation now. He had been distracted by their cover without realizing it, and that worried him.

"Listen," Danny said in a rush, "I, uh--it was good, yeah?"

Mickey stopped. "Danny--"

"So, y'know, maybe we could go again sometime. I mean--not to one of Charlie's parties. Just, you know, have another go." This was the terrible thing about Danny--in a con he never broke character, ever. But sometimes when it was about something real, there was a second when he cracked, and for that one brief moment there was so much Danny in your eyes and nose and mouth that it was difficult to see and breathe.

"Danny, I--I'm not--"

Danny hunched over and put his hands in his pockets. "You're not queer. Yeah, I know that. I knew that."

Mickey couldn't talk about things. People never understood that. They thought that because he was the best inside-man in the business, he must be good at talking. But talking to a mark was completely different than this weight, this pressure, like his tongue was a stuck champagne cork in a shaken bottle. It was completely different than someone Mickey cared about looking like the wrong word would smash him like an egg. "No, I am queer. But I'm not--I'm not--This is the best crew I've ever had."

Danny looked at him out of the corner of his eye. "Y'know, just because we do what we do, doesn't mean we have to be lonely."

"Did Ash tell you that?"

"Naw, June." Danny winced, like he'd said something he shouldn't.

"June? When did you talk to June?"

Danny shrugged. "I go to see her once or twice a week. She's teaching me stuff."

"You mean you're helping take care of her."

"Well, yeah. I mean, no sponge baths or anything, that's all Ash, but I clean up round the place, bring in the post, that sort of thing. I figure it's a fair swap. She knows a lot about grifting."

"And you do this when?" Mickey knew exactly how Danny spent all his time--he'd thought so, anyway. He knew everything about everyone on his crew.

Danny broke into a grin. "You didn't really think I was going to the gym twice a week, did you? C'mon, I'd look like the Thing by now!"

Mickey stared at him. "I followed you. I saw you swimming laps."

Danny grinned wider. "Well I did go the first few weeks. Now I just nip out the back. Wanted to see if I could outsmart you." He let And I did float between them for the moment, although Mickey was sure more vocal gloating would come later.

"And how do the two of you get on?"

"Like a house on fire, when she isn't screaming at me to get out. So about what I'm used to with women, really."

Mickey wanted to help June, but he couldn't. Not with anything but money. He couldn't visit her. He couldn't look at her, because if Ash ended up like that--if Ash did the flop one too many times and--Mickey couldn't stand it. But Danny was standing it for him. Maybe Ash had been right, and he didn't have to be lonely. Maybe they really were family. "I can't fuck up the crew."

"What, you think it's too many balls for you to juggle at once?"

"This isn't a game, Danny."

"Yeah," Danny said, like he didn't think it was a game either. He sighed. "You're the boss. You want to say it never happened, then it never happened."

Danny had never let anything go that easily. Not one damn time. Mickey could feel the moment hanging in the air, frozen. He could see its shape, and if he just gave it a little nudge--

He lived for this, for seeing exactly how it could all go pear-shaped but still knowing, deep in his gut, that if he leaned in and pressed his lips to Danny's it would work, everything would fall into place and it would be the sweetest rush he'd ever felt.

Like that.

"Ha!" Danny pulled back, shoving a fist in the air. "I knew you'd go for a proper show of submission! Worked like a bleeding charm. I am a better grifter than you, and everyone will--"

"Shut up, Danny," Mickey said, and reeled him in.