Disclaimer: Not mine
Summary: There are the old routines, and then there are Danny's versions.
Recipient: amatia, request was for Danny/Rusty/Tess that's not NC-17.
Three nights after Isabel left, Danny was stretched out on Rusty's couch. His eyes were closed, but Rusty knew that Danny had heard the door open and since he'd stopped at the store on the way home, he walked past the couch and into the kitchen.
Word of mouth between their mutual friends was speedy enough that once Isabel was safely on her way, someone would pass the news on and there was no question about who was going to check up on him to see how he was taking it.
Rusty didn't feel like playing catch up; there was no need to take sides unless there was an expectant audience they were performing for, and he knew that Danny wasn't expecting an exhaustive recap of events. All he wanted were the high points and most of the time he'd already guessed what they were.
"Should I ask what took you three days?" he called out, and heard the couch protest as Danny sat up.
"I was getting some stuff for the house."
"Tess sent you to buy some authentic Persian rugs from the artisan?"
Sticking his head out around the doorway, Rusty evaluated Danny's posture and knew he had some revelation of his own, but wasn't going to share until Rusty had his turn. Such consideration usually meant that Danny was having difficulty adjusting, and thought Rusty was the one who had the shakiest grip on current affairs, which was ridiculous considering that he was doing his part to be a gracious host and had gotten refreshments and everything.
"You want water or something else?"
"Water's fine, Rus' "
"It's flavored," Rusty cautioned, moving to Danny's side and handing him a bottle.
"I'll manage." Danny unscrewed the cap and took a swig, pointedly sliding his gaze from the primary colors splashed haphazardly over the label and then up at Rusty.
Rusty shrugged and swung over the back of the couch and shifted Danny's legs out of the way. They ended up with Danny's legs on his lap as Rusty let his glass drip condensation on Danny's socks admonishingly.
"I took off my shoes."
"Not before putting scuff marks on the sofa."
Danny regarded the abused piece of furniture and tried to make out the damage he'd inflicted. "They add character."
"What they do is lower its resale value."
"It has no resale value, you got it off a diamond smuggler and forgot to refinish it after we took it apart."
Rusty jiggled his legs scoldingly. "You unloaded it on me."
Danny put the bottle against the side of his neck and held it there. When he pulled it away, there was a damp spot just below his ear on his open collar. He wasn't wearing his jacket; it had been flung over the back of the couch. Rusty wouldn't tell him, but it was nice to see him in only part of the suit, and not just the full getup.
"Saul called you, didn't he?"
Danny's face was amused, but only if Rusty let him get away with holding up one of his masks. "He was concerned."
"You mean, he thought I was going to come unglued."
"She put the television through your window."
"It was a small TV."
"Your place is two stories up, Rusty, that's a long drop."
"That's why I didn't leave that way."
"Then she called in a favor with the Federal Marshals and had them hold you."
"It was just one of her old girlfriends, and she didn't have anything to charge me with."
He watched Danny work at a tight muscle with his free hand and gave him an opening. "Tess isn't going to worry about you being gone?"
"I was already getting on a plane, I called, and she doesn't expect me back yet."
Rusty accepted the peace offering; if Tess didn't know that Danny had skipped out on his mission as a husband, then neither of them needed to tell her. For the moment, Rusty was Danny's first priority, and that feeling's return was an unexpected pleasure. Rusty wouldn't claim to understand Tess, but few spouses would be delighted to find out that their significant other was off with an old friend who got them into what could only generously be termed questionable activity. It had been agreed on awhile ago that due to irreconcilable differences of opinion, he and Danny didn't discuss his marriage except in those instances where it impacted a job.
"So." Danny did a visual inventory of Rusty's suite and counted the empty spaces. "I see she split things equally."
"She took a few of my shirts."
That got a shake of Danny's head. "It seems your taste rubbed off on her."
"Lucky for me, not enough for her to empty out my closets."
"Maybe it's just like two magnets with opposing charges, you can only get so close and then you're repelled."
"You've been leafing through Scientific America, haven't you?"
"That was all there was on the plane."
"You should be more selective about your material."
"I was working with what was available."
"You haven't asked why." As if Danny ever needed to do something like that when he could count on somebody else to speak first.
Tapping his fingers against the water bottle, Danny mused on that fact for twenty seconds, two seconds longer than Rusty had guessed he would. "Either she developed an irrepressible need to redecorate, and the window was in the way, or you didn't say something."
"What didn't I say?"
"Whatever she wanted to hear." Because he had invented the manual on how to tell your lover that everything work out and have them believe you, even while the cops were pulling out the handcuffs.
"I wasn't going to lie to her again."
Now Danny's stare was incredulous. "You weren't married, there were no promises of fidelity, you told me this fling was all about a trial period to see if you could work it out."
"I said this thing, there was no flinging of any kind, not until she threw furniture."
"And did she knew that you weren't serious?"
"We never discussed it."
"Boundaries are there for a reason, Rusty. They keep you from doing something out of line and screwing up in one fell swoop."
Very pointedly, Rusty didn't remind Danny about his own marriage and the lines that had been crossed and then redrawn over the years.
Conceding the point, Danny tilted the bottle up again. "Are you thinking about moving?"
"Well, there's a couple dozen more rooms in this place, can't you find another one while the window is being replaced?"
"I like the cross breezes."
"Now that's just sad, you want better airflow? Get a ceiling fan."
"That would disrupt the ambiance I have going here."
"Bachelor gone downhill?"
Had they been teenagers, Rusty would have thrown a pillow at Danny. They weren't that young anymore, and he liked to think that, of the two of them, he had managed to make a fool of himself in matters of love, the fewest number of times. He had some room to wallow in the loss of what had been a comfortable, if not exactly, well-defined, relationship.
"I'm a respectable businessman now, Mr. Ocean, and I run a very popular hotel."
"Oh my god, you've gone and settled down."
Rusty fidgeted with his cufflinks. "No I haven't, this is just a diversion." When Danny raised an eyebrow, Rusty reflected that he really hated silent contradictions; there was just a touch more smugness inherent in the fact that Danny didn't feel he needed words to express himself. "One that has finally turned profitable, after a long, and somewhat arduous trek."
"I couldn't think of anything else that didn't sound like it involved hiking." He reached out to bat at Danny's ankles; the man was wearing plaid socks, obviously Tess had been packing his overnight bags again. "So we've been over my now ex-girlfriend, your wife, and what you think of my hotel, what's next?"
"You're going to order something from that gourmet chef downstairs, and we're going to eat it."
"Thanks." Danny reached behind the couch to grab the telephone and tossed the receiver to Rusty. He caught it in one hand and petted Danny's ankle with the other as he challenged the kitchen staff to come up with something interesting.
"Surprise me," he invited, and Danny grinned as he hung up the phone.
"They need shaking up, otherwise they get used to being empowered."
One of the senior chefs had been both classically and conventionally trained, and he apparently had a sense of humor, because he sent up both a quiche and a plate of precariously tiered crackers and meats.
Poking one of the cracker towers, Danny frowned as he tried to figure out the secret to its construction. When he found the thin pretzel stick that speared it together, he held the entire thing up so that Rusty could evaluate it.
"Haven't yet set him at a culinary puzzle and not been given a fair approximation," Rusty declared, taking a bite of quiche. "He takes pride in his work and doesn't like to admit when he's been beaten." Had he been trying to make a comparison between his chef and a certain thief who thought he could make it in two worlds without having to commit to either, he would have put more emphasis on his statement, but as he hadn't, Danny only glanced over at him between mouthfuls. Then again, if Danny happened to take a hint from what he was saying, that wouldn't hurt a bit.
Danny offered him a sip of water, and Rusty shrugged. He'd bought a case of the stuff because Isabel liked the labels and thought that the idea of drinking water that tasted like something else was rather charming. She'd only taken one of the bottles with her when she left, but he figured that she knew how to navigate a market by herself and would find it if she really needed to.
"What are you going to do now?" Danny didn't need to ask, he knew that Rusty always reeled for a while after a relationship disintegrated. They'd watched enough early morning television and shared excellent vintages while Rusty rehashed his mistakes for there to be a routine, and Danny knew that he was supposed to steady Rusty until he got his head back together. Him asking what Rusty was planning on doing before there was any plan was a departure from the pattern and Rusty shot him a look that didn't ask what he was doing so much as convey his confusion.
"What's going on, Danny?"
Rusty sighed, not interested in spinning around while Danny wound him up. "You."
"Daniel, you're fidgeting."
"Your couch has lumps in it."
Rusty wasn't buying it, and Danny could tell that he was about to get kicked in the shins, so he did the smart thing, let out a gusty sigh and delivered his latest self-help advice. "Sometimes things go sour, so you just go with whatever works."
"Spit it out before you choke."
"I've got a place for you to stay while your under worked staff takes care of your hotel."
"I can't leave." He had things to take care of, manager-type work and lots of looking over people's shoulders while they did their jobs.
"Sure you can, you just don't like not knowing what's going on."
Rusty didn't like being lectured. He wasn't much into delivering them either, but at least when he did, it was to Danny, and the man would finish his sentences, jump ahead of his thoughts and then smirk at him when he tried to give advice.
"Older and wiser doesn't work if one of them doesn't stick."
Maybe Danny thought that he was being subtle, but Rusty could see where he was going and it didn't hold much in common with reality.
"We're not built for suburbia, Danny."
"How can you be sure? I can fit in."
"As if you know the first thing about what it takes to be a kept man."
"You think Tess is going to want me to stay home?" Danny's look was frankly disbelieving.
"Well, I don't see her as lounging around with curlers in her hair." He eyed Danny speculatively, trying to keep the conversation light. He could tell that Danny was rising up to defend what he thought was a great move. "On the other hand, you do have that fetching blue robe, and I'm sure that she'd let you wander around the house in that."
"With or without slippers?"
"I think that's the sort of decision that you two should discuss privately."
"You're serious." Danny wasn't playing along; he'd been watching the way Rusty was eating, and Saul had always said that he needed to be careful about little habits like that. Danny could read the crinkling of a plastic bag like another man would a billboard.
Don't be stupid, Rusty said with a flick of his fork.
"I'm not, and you're breathing between bites, which means you're worrying." Danny sat back, shoulders sagging like he had cheap jewelry in his pockets. "You think that this is a bad idea."
"I didn't say that." He didn't need to, he recognized the strategy in play. When he met Danny, Rusty found someone who could not only think fast without any tools to pull out as a distractions, but one who was able to work with a mark, playing them against their own experience so they were comfortable. Danny never had to work at being charming; he had such an intuitive grasp of what people wanted that he was able to gain a person's trust simply by letting them tell him what they were looking for. From one job to another, he could construct another persona to fit the needs of the moment, never giving any indication that it was anything but easy. Having watched amateurs trying to make the con work for them, Rusty had to say that keeping the effort under the radar made it run more smoothly. Even now, Danny was keeping the mask up while he worked, and Rusty didn't like not being able to tell what was going through Danny's head as he tried to be convincing.
"I just think it's going to get messed up." He stared down at his hands and then at Danny's ring finger in a deliberately obvious move.
"By who?" Now that they were on the same page, the variables could be acknowledged.
"Take your pick, one of us will say the wrong thing."
"Not necessarily," Danny tried, and then corrected himself. "At least we know that going in, we can make this work."
"She gave the go ahead, then." Because Danny wasn't going to suggest something like this unless he was absolutely sure that Tess wouldn't walk out on him for it.
"We discussed it." Danny leaned forward and took the fork out of Rusty's fingers.
"This came up in conversation?"
"Well, you did."
"You talk about me a lot?"
"For what?" He was feeling out of his depth again and he hated that, particularly with Danny.
Danny smiled, and it was reassuring, but at the same time he was laughing a little at Rusty's panic.
Rusty had heard some of the discussion between Tess and Danny about him. A lot of them had included things like risk and boys who didn't want to grow up. Danny had few stock responses, but mostly he placated Tess up to the point where it became for her to keep her composure and she abandoned it dramatically. Then he took off with Rusty and they did a job that cleared his head and let him go back to her. Rusty had watched the same thing play itself out for years, and the only outcome he saw resulting from introducing him into the dynamic again was more fighting and him suffocating before he escaped.
"Yes, we talked about it, and Tess said that you should come stay with us for awhile."
"Insisted, actually," Danny grinned as if the word had a very pleasing double meaning.
"I'm not going to hang out on your sofa and have your wife hovering over me to make sure I don't have a breakdown." Or silently disapprove when Danny offered to do something criminal to cheer Rusty up.
"No, you aren't and she won't." Danny swung his legs off Rusty and got up. "Now come on, I've got a couple seats saved on a return flight and we're barely going to make it."
Rusty stared up at him, remembering all the other times Danny had promised that everything would be alright and the contortions he went through to be certain he kept his word. "Fine, but the first sign of domestic strife and I'm out the door."
"That's fair," Danny agreed and tugged Rusty to his feet.
Rusty didn't bother to pick out anything from the wreckage of his suite, it could all be replaced.
The flight passed quickly, too fast for Rusty come up with more than three excuses he could use to make his exit before there was any of the trouble he anticipated. Danny was undoubtedly romanticizing this arrangement so he wouldn't accept anything without protesting, but Rusty was prepared.
The lights weren't blazing in every window, but the Ocean homestead gave off the impression of being ready to receive visitors. Danny led the way up to the door and guided Rusty forward as he pushed the door open. A single lamp cast its muted glow over the room and Rusty saw Tess curled up in a chair, hands lax across the book she'd been reading, asleep.
Whatever he'd thought Danny had in mind, waking her up to announce their presence hadn't been the first option. It gave his arrival a level of legitimacy that was unusual, and he stood back as Danny moved to Tess' side, kissed her forehead and whispered something as she stirred.
"We're back," he said and Tess arched up to twine her arms around his neck and give him a more enthusiastic welcome. She only glanced at Rusty around her husband's shoulder, but the hand wave was plainly a suggestion to go put his bags down and get settled.
He saw Danny's hand in this scheme, but there were other touches, a bed made up, some of his favorite cereal in the pantry, and an empty knob on the coat tree. It wasn't so much an invitation as tentative acceptance of what he'd been given already.
Tess had never made any pretenses about her opinion that it had been partly Rusty's influence on Danny that had gotten him in trouble. Rusty could have made the truth inescapable, but he hadn't ever wanted to fight her and she didn't think she should have to. This couldn't have just come up in casual conversation and been worked out in a couple days, it had been a long time coming and all the preparations had been in place when Danny came to get him.
Tess approached him while he was doing inventory of his favorite foods and attempting to calculate how long he was going to be staying based on what was stocked.
"That's not everything," she said firmly.
"There can be." Given a need, she was saying, as if it was her expectation that Rusty make a move. He looked at her, taking in the ruffled chic she never had difficulty achieving and couldn't ask yet. Tess stepped closer and in defiance of all the ways she kept herself removed from Danny's profession, reached out and touched Rusty's hand right where his tattoo disappeared under his sleeve.
"Come find us when you're done," she suggested, and headed back to Danny.
Rusty surveyed the pantry for a moment longer, then he picked out a couple items and returned to the living room where for the present, he had a spot on the couch.