Summary: Rusty teaches Linus certain rules of the game. Gen.
Spoilers (if applicable): Through both movies
Warnings (if applicable): none
A/N: This story ended up being based on two of the requests so hopefully that fits the bill. Also hope it's enjoyable. Much love to iamtheenemy for the beta and encouragement.
Rules of the Trade
Rule One: Learn From Your Mistakes and Take Your Hits like a Man (Unless You Can Get Out of It...)
Linus walked down the street toward his parents’ house prepared for anything to happen. Since the incident in Rome six months ago, his father had enjoyed tormenting him with remarks (like Linus knew he would) and fake prospects for jobs Linus could pull with his “mommy.” Linus decided he had only one option left: call for back-up.
Linus quickened his step when he noticed the two men leaning against the hood of an old Mustang; one dressed in a neon green leisure suit and the other in classic Armani. For two guys who were so well trained in the con, they really didn’t understand the idea of subtlety.
“What are you doing?” Linus asked, arms flailing a bit as he reached the Mustang. He motioned to the house and said, “I was supposed to have run into you and invited you for dinner at the last minute. You hanging around outside my parents’ house screams something’s up.” Linus focused on the hot dog and said, “And what’s with the hot dog, Rusty? We’re about to eat dinner.”
“This…” Rusty began, finishing off the hot dog with one swallow, “…was a warm up, kid. I love your mother’s cooking.” Rusty glanced at Danny and added, “And we’ve been over this. The minute Danny and I appear at their door, they’re gonna know that something’s up.”
Linus rolled his eyes. “My father is driving me crazy. You’re here to run interference. Maybe talk about how amazing I am at what I do.”
“Amazing is pushing it a little, don’t you think?” Danny replied with a grin.
“Above mediocre, sure…” Rusty added.
“…but definitely not amazing. At least, not yet,” Danny finished.
“I hate the both of you,” Linus grumbled. Danny and Rusty exchanged amused grins and Linus said, “Let’s get this over with.”
“Your dad is proud of you. This is his way of showing it,” Danny stated as he walked toward the house.
Linus ignored the comment as he unlocked the door and let them into the house. He called out to his parents to let them know they were there. Ever since he had moved out on his own, he liked to make his presence in the house known. There were some things he never wanted to see.
His parents immediately appeared in the foyer with practiced expressions on their faces. Yeah, they knew what was going on. They had probably already invited Danny and Rusty in for a few beers to catch up on the old days, only pushing them out the door when they spotted little Linus walking up the block.
“Well, look who it is, honey,” Linus’ father said with a grin (Linus really needed to talk to his dad about that give away smile of his). He grabbed Danny’s hand and pulled him into a hug. “How are you doing, Danny?”
“Hey Bobby. I hope you don’t mind our unexpected appearance for dinner,” Danny said.
Rusty smiled and shook Bobby’s hand, “We bumped into Linus and he thought it might be fun to catch up.”
Bobby nodded. “That’s Linus. Always thinking.” For effect, his father grabbed Linus by the shoulders and shook him hard.
“That’s me alright,” Linus muttered. He cleared his throat and asked, “Dinner ready yet?”
“Almost done. Why don’t you get your friends some drinks?” his mother replied.
Linus sighed. He wasn’t sure what made him think that Danny and Rusty would act as a buffer for the humiliation. These guys had a relationship with his parents that went beyond two heists…if anything, this would likely be his demise. But for some reason (Insanity? Lack of options?), he had picked up the phone and invited Rusty and Danny, convinced that things would be different if they were around, convinced that his father would recognize all that Linus had accomplished on his own.
Linus opened the refrigerator and reached for a few cans of beer. He knew that Danny was more of a whiskey sort of guy, but at the Caldwells’ house beer was the missing food group. He nearly jumped out of his skin, when he closed the refrigerator door to find Rusty sitting on the counter.
Rusty grinned and swiped a roll from a small basket. He took a bite and said, “I really do love your mother’s cooking.”
“So what time did you actually get here?”
“Your father had us over for a few beers,” Rusty replied. Off the look on Linus’ face, he explained, “I couldn’t come to town without looking up your father. That would be rude.”
“You knew you were going to see him…man, this figures. Now, he’s going to tease me mercilessly for bringing you guys to protect me.”
“Don’t you think you’re overreacting?”
“You’ve met my dad, right? He keeps telling anyone who will listen how my mother had to come rescue us in Rome and...do you have any idea what it’s like to have him and my mother for parents? Make one little mistake…”
“I wouldn’t call it little. It did land you in prison.”
“You were there first.”
“True, but that’s not the point.”
“There’s a point?”
“Danny and I came because we like you, Linus. You remind us of how we used to be,” Rusty replied. He hopped down off the counter, ate the rest of the roll, and brushed the crumbs off his jacket. He placed his hand on Linus’ shoulder and continued, “No one is perfect when they start out. And your father...he doesn’t want you to end up on the wrong side of a con. I mean, look at Danny. He got caught with a truck full of Incan matrimonial masks because he thought he was better than he was.”
“So my father is doing me a favor by tormenting me?”
“Sort of. You don’t want to get too much of an ego in this business. It leads to sloppy mistakes.”
“And it’s funny that you called your mother to get us out of jail,” Rusty replied with a chuckle.
“Tonight’s going to suck.”
Rusty nodded. “Probably. But that’s the thing about mistakes in our business…they’re never forgotten. So take it like a man.”
“Yeah,” Linus replied because there wasn’t much else he could say. He wasn’t sure he completely understood Rusty’s point, but the guy had never led him wrong yet. Linus gathered up the cans of beer in his hands and started toward the dining room where he could hear his father and Danny laughing. He grimaced, but told himself to suck it up.
“And kid?” Linus stopped and Rusty added, “You’ve already proven how good you are. Your parents know it.”
Rusty grabbed a can of beer and laughed when the remaining cans fell to the ground. Rusty patted Linus on the back and said, “You better clean that mess up.”
Rule Two: Sometimes a Little Diversity Helps...
Linus couldn’t believe he was in Provo, Utah, seeking out the Mormon twins on purpose. He could barely stand to be in the same room with the two of them when they were pulling the Benedict job. Not that they probably noticed, too busy fighting about the most ridiculous things.
“So look who made it up to Utah,” Turk called out, making his way across the race track toward Linus.
Virgil slapped his brother on the head and said, “It’s down to Utah, moron.”
“No, it’s not.”
“He’s coming from Chicago. Illinois is above us.”
“Since when did you take such an interest in geography?”
“Hey guys,” Linus spoke up. He motioned to the track and said, “So is this where we’ll be practicing?”
“You can’t just practice what we do. You need to live it,” Virgil replied.
“What does that even mean?” Turk asked.
“It means that we need to pull a job and let him learn from experience.”
“But he’ll need practice to pull off a job,” Turk countered.
“No kidding,” Virgil replied.
“So we will be practicing here,” Turk said.
Linus forced a smile. He was not going to kill himself. He was not going to kill himself. Maybe he was going to kill Rusty. Definitely going to kill Virgil and Turk soon. This was probably Linus’ worst idea to date, to think that he could learn something from these two. Sure, they were good at their jobs, but in order for them to teach him anything, they would have to stop bickering for a minute.
Remember, you’re here to learn. You’re here to become better at your job so you don’t get passed over for gigs, Linus reminded himself as the twins began wrestling each other to the ground.
Next thing he knew, his legs were pulled out from underneath him and he was in the middle of a Malloy sandwich. He grunted and hollered to be freed, only to find Turk pinning him to the ground and saying, “Welcome to the family, bitch.”
No maybes about it. Linus was going to kill Rusty for this. If only he had given Linus the stupid job, none of this would’ve been happening.
“So you’re telling me that I’m not qualified?” Linus said, glaring at Rusty across the table. He tried to keep his voice from rising, but he didn’t appreciate being told he was too inept for a job.
“This job isn’t just a snatch-and-grab con. It takes some skills you haven’t acquired yet.”
“I’m so sick of this you’re-too-green crap. How am I supposed to learn without hands-on experience?”
Rusty raised his hand to settle him down and said, “Do I look like I’m running a training camp here? This isn’t the big brother program. I’ve trusted you before, but this is a different sort of heist. It requires finesse and diversity.”
“I can do it.”
“Fine. Can you handle wheels for a getaway? Hopefully, things will go smoothly, but there would have to be a plan in place if things don’t go as we hoped.”
“I got us out of jail in Rome, didn’t I?”
“Your mother did.”
“But I’m the one who thought to contact her.”
“And as I recall, you’ve bitched and moaned about it ever since.”
“You’re not ready for this job. It’s nothing personal. It’s business. Maybe next time, if you get some experience in other areas.”
Rusty nodded and slid a piece of paper across the table. He said, “Give the Mormon Twins a call.”
“Dear God…I thought you liked me.”
Rusty laughed. “They’re good at what they do and they can help you.”
“If I survive their constant fighting. They drive me crazy.”
“Yeah, they can do that. Doesn’t make them any less skilled.”
“There has to be another way.”
“You have the potential to be great, kid, but the greats can do it all if they have to. You need some more training before I can let you in on a job that involves quick getaways.”
Linus once again reminded himself that Rusty had said Linus had potential to be great. He repeated it over and over again as he battled to get free of Turk and Virgil’s grips on him. It seemed that somewhere in the midst of their fighting, they had stopped beating on each other and turned on Linus.
Linus yelled to get free and finally kicked his way out of the small heap. He rubbed his cheek where Virgil’s bony elbow had hit him and yelled, “What the hell was that?”
“We needed to know if you could hang with the big boys,” Turk stated. Virgil nodded as though that made sense.
“If you can’t handle a little rough housing with us, you’re not going to be a good wheelman.”
“So are a lot of our jobs,” Virgil replied. He motioned to two trucks parked in the distance. He said, “Now we can get started.”
If he had any doubts before, Linus was now sure that those two were certifiable. What did it say about him that he was starting to understand their bizarre logic?
“The first thing to being a great wheelman is being able to anticipate anything,” Turk said.
“Like a wrestling match with two idiot brothers?” Linus commented.
Linus really hoped Rusty appreciated how far he was willing to go to be great.
Rule Three: There is No Shame in Running (Also Known as “Brave Idiots End Up in Jail”)
Linus met Rusty’s gaze and said, “So you left the loot behind?”
Rusty nodded. He grabbed a French fry from the basket and swallowed it with a mouthful of beer. He picked up another fry and pointed it at Linus as he replied, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em.”
“Isn’t that a song?”
“Yes, but that doesn’t make the lesson any less important.”
“But that was…a lot of cash.”
“It’s not about the cash in this business. Anyone who is in it solely for the loot is going to fail.”
“And why’s that?”
“Hasn’t your father taught you anything?” Rusty questioned.
“He wants me to succeed or fail on my own. He said that his father didn’t show him how to be a proper criminal and it wouldn’t do me any favors if he helped me out.”
“No offense, but sometimes Bobby’s full of shit.”
“Tell me about it,” Linus muttered. He swiped one of Rusty’s fries, earning him a hard look, and said, “So like everyone else, I come to you for the answers, Rusty. Why can’t you be in it solely for the loot? Wasn’t that the point of the whole Benedict job?”
“The Benedict job was about the heist, about pulling off a job that no one in the world thought was possible, about being the best.”
“Yeah, but the money didn’t hurt.”
“No, the money is a nice result, but that can’t be the main motivation for taking a job. Cellblocks are littered with guys who don’t know when to walk away. They can’t see beyond the dollar signs.”
“Is that how Danny got caught?”
“No, Danny can’t see beyond his own ego and forgets little things like the how-to’s of a job. That’s what got him in trouble,” Rusty replied.
“That still doesn’t explain why you left the money behind.”
“We would’ve gotten caught and I, for one, do not think that orange jumpsuits are flattering.”
“Rule number one is not to end up in jail.”
“Guys like you and I, we do this because we love it, because we want to see how far we can push the envelope before we get caught…but if a plan sucks, you have to be able to admit it and move on. Don’t let yourself get caught.”
“And leave the loot behind?”
“Even though it’s a lot of money and we spent weeks planning the gig.”
“Never get distracted by things like that. Stay focused on the plan. If it heads south, jump ship.”
Linus groaned and rubbed his temples. Sometimes Rusty’s mixed metaphors caused migraines. Linus took a deep breath and said, “But you always talk about the importance of being able to improvise…”
“No, I don’t. That’s Danny. I like plans that work, plans that are seen through from beginning to end. Less headaches.”
“It was a bad plan, Linus. I had my doubts about it from the beginning. We’ll think of another gig, something less likely to lead us to a jail cell.”
“I didn’t think you were capable of bad plans.”
“It happens to us all once in a while.”
“You need to recognize that it’s gone south. That’s what separates us from the common criminal.”
“Another rule to remember?” Linus quipped.
Rusty nodded. He took a sip of his beer and continued, “Feel privileged, kid. I don’t take everyone under my wing like this. I’ve been saving my rules for a book.”
“Rusty Ryan’s Rules of the Trade?”
Rusty smile. “It has a nice sound.”