Title: We'll Roll Down Interstate 94
Summary: Look, planning a road trip for 13 people is just complicated, all right?
Spoilers: For O11 and O12
Warnings: There's a mention of creamed spinach.
Notes: Luz, I'm so sorry, but this turned out to use only part of one of your prompts: "Gen, 11 people on a roadtrip ends in either fun or the emergency room. Rusty suspects this trip probably means the latter. It doesn't help that Danny won't tell them why they're going." For whatever reason, my brain insisted on Linus's POV, and on the planning of the trip instead of the trip itself. But I incorporated another of your prompts as a bonus, and there's hero-worship of Rusty, so I hope it's okay. Title is from "Dream Vacation" as performed by Gear Daddies, music and lyrics by Martin Zellar. This icon is by mousapelli, who posted icons for every O11 character for last year's takethehouse challenge. I think musesfool betaed almost every story in the challenge this year, including this one. Thanks for kicking my ass so quickly, babe.
The key, Linus decided, was to keep the Malloys separated. He, more than anyone, knew that being in an enclosed space with Turk and Virgil would make the Dalai Lama go on a shooting spree inside ten minutes. Apart, they were pretty good guys, even though Turk never gave up trying to convince you Provo was a cooler town than you’d expect.
The easiest thing would be to have them each drive one of the cars, of course. They were good drivers, even if Linus suspected their squeaky-clean driving records (a bragging point Turk and Virgil brought up with annoying regularity) had less to do with the Malloys abiding with the law and more to do with most of the Provo police being distant relatives.
Thirteen people, a four-hour road trip. It shouldn’t have been that difficult to set up, but Linus needed everything to work, because even though Danny hadn’t said it, Linus knew this was a test. He was being given another opportunity to prove himself after being ballsy enough to try the lookie-loo in Italy. Rusty would plan the details of the job itself – once they all knew what the job was – but getting everyone in place was Linus’s responsibility.
He had to pull it off; it was the only possible way to get Mom to stop teasing him about having to “help my baby get out of a foreign jail.”
Thursday, 3:00 PM
They were in Chicago, because the client was in Michigan, in a big estate on the lake, near a very small town. Chicago was easy to get to from everywhere, which they needed. Saul was in Miami, the Malloys still insisted on living in Utah, and Basher was coming from Montreal, of all places. Reuben had abandoned Vegas for Palm Springs because he hated Terry Benedict, and also because he swore he’d seen the Night Fox walking down the street one night, and if that guy was going to take down Benedict, Reuben wanted to admire it from a distance. Rusty and Isabel had been in New York until yesterday; Rusty still had the hotel, but he left the day-to-day operations to a manager. Rusty was avoiding L.A. for two reasons: one, the whole car-bomb-in-the-parking-ramp thing still made the LAPD look at Rusty in a manner best described as “askance,” and two, Topher. Having abandoned Kabbalah, Topher dismissed Scientology as “such a fucking Hollywood cliché” and took up Eckankar instead. The religion didn’t focus on trying to convert others, but Rusty thought it best to steer clear of Topher altogether for the time being.
Danny had them in several suites at the Hilton Chicago, which meant either he was flush from a recent job or had a lot of seed money from the client. Linus decided it was the latter when Danny gave him a bag of bundled hundreds and told him to obtain two vehicles capable of carrying everyone to the client’s estate and that also could be used for the job. He gave the money to Frank, who went off with Turk and Virgil and returned ninety minutes later with two black SUVs, receipts for the valet parking of said black SUVs, and twelve thousand dollars in change. Linus tried his best “I’m rather suspicious of you” look, which obviously wasn’t as good as Rusty’s yet, because Frank just said, “I’m a good negotiator,” and walked out the door with Isabel. The two of them had bonded over manicures and were off to try the hotel salon. Linus made a mental note to avoid asking either of them about the quality of the experience, because they could talk about lotions and buffers for a frightening length of time.
He ran down the list of their group in his head; everyone was accounted for, except Danny and Rusty, who had announced their need to track down a restaurant called Ronny’s Steak Palace, and if that name didn’t sum up Rusty’s outlook on cuisine, Linus didn’t know what did. Yen was in the gym, undoubtedly freaking the hell out of the other users with his scary-looking stretches. Livingston was on the couch across from Linus, engrossed in something on his laptop that could have been an offshore banking scheme or possibly World of Warcraft.
“I can’t ride in the backseat, by the way. I get horribly carsick.” Livingston glanced up from the screen. “I’m not exaggerating or anything. It’s really bad.”
“I thought you did a bunch of surveillance work for the FBI. Didn’t you have to ride in the back of the vans?”
“After I threw up all over the box of headphones the first time, they let me ride in front. Danny knows about it, but I wasn’t sure he told you.”
“Nope, he hadn’t passed that along. I’ll keep it in mind.” It was so typical of Danny to keep that little tidbit to himself. Sometimes the line between “practical joker” and “jackass” got a little blurry around Daniel Ocean.
Linus consulted a small notebook for the seating arrangements. Six in one car, seven in the other. Linus hoped Yen didn't complain too much about sitting between a couple of people. (Then again, Rusty would be the only one who could understand Yen if he did bitch about it.) Rusty would have been able to do this part without resorting to written diagrams, but things got complicated with thirteen people, and Linus didn’t have Rusty’s type of brain yet, if he ever would. Rusty saw angles and details nobody else did, and Linus wasn’t sure if that talent was innate or learned. He hoped it was learned, because that meant that if he watched enough, he could do Rusty’s job eventually. Not in this crew, obviously, because Danny and Rusty were like scotch and ice, but for another group… Linus didn’t have Danny’s confidence, but he could provide that feeling for someone else, the way Rusty gave Danny his surety.
Frank had to be in front of an air-conditioning vent or he would complain loudly about being too hot. Whoever rode with Basher had to be okay with him reading billboards in that wacko Cockney language. Reuben was fixated on 1970s easy-listening music and would drive Saul crazy with the radio, so they had to be in separate cars. Finally, as established a few minutes ago, Livingston had to ride shotgun because he got carsick if he rode in the backseat. Linus started making a couple of lists, one for each SUV.
And Danny and Rusty couldn't ride together. First of all, their talking-without-speaking thing was cool for about a half-hour, but then got kind of weird (a person started feeling like he was talking to himself). Second, Tess and Isabel were mostly friendly, but just a tad frosty. It took Linus awhile to figure out why, until he decided that Isabel had already accepted the truth about Danny and Rusty, while Tess continued to deny it to herself. She'd been a little looser ever since the Night Fox Incident, but pretty much, she was still an art-museum curator who wanted to paint. (At the moment, in fact, she was across the street at the Art Institute, having been shanghaied by Virgil and his request to go see the pieces featured in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He’d also expressed interest in climbing onto the back of one of the entrance-guarding lions and having someone take his picture. Luckily, Tess had been able to talk him out of it. If Turk had been around there either would have been a loud argument about how dumb Virgil was being, or a loud clamor for both of them to climb on the lions and take a picture for posterity.)
Not that Tess and Isabel were catty or anything. They didn’t even fight in that secret way, with smiles and barely-disguised insults. They just… didn’t connect. Tess liked paintings, Isabel liked sculpture. Tess was squeamish about weapons, while Isabel was such a crack shot your balls snuggled up close if she so much as said the word SIG-Sauer. If Danny and Rusty went off someplace, Isabel continued doing whatever she’d been planning, while Tess got all quiet and drifty, like she was at loose ends. Today had been like that, when Danny and Rusty announced their trip to Ronny’s Steak Palace. Isabel leaned over Rusty’s shoulder and said, “It’s a good thing you have an iron stomach. Frank and I are getting manicures, anyway.” Tess had looked up from her book and given a little wave, trying to be casual, but Linus saw that it cost her. He wasn’t sure which way was better, Tess’s or Isabel’s, but Isabel seemed happier than Tess did, and maybe that was the important thing.
He looked at the notebook again. His list now looked like this:
Middle bench: Reuben, Frank
Back bench: Basher, Rusty
Middle bench: Danny, Tess
Back bench: Me, Yen, Saul
*Have extra Dramamine on hand; concierge = patch?
- Leave 10:00 a.m., approx. 4 hrs.
- I-94 East, north on 196, west on 63, north on Blue Star Hwy
- Program cell w/new #s
- Gas money to Turk & Virgil
- Registrations in glove boxes
Thursday, 9:00 PM
Even in a noisy restaurant, they were noticeably loud. It was strange; Linus knew all of them could be quiet as death when work demanded it, but off the job they were a bunch of carnival barkers. Of course, it might have been influenced by each of them having consumed at least one martini the size of Yen’s head. (Basher had held one of the glasses at the level of Yen’s left ear to confirm it.)
The table was crammed with steak platters and plates for baked potatoes, and Saul had insisted on ordering creamed spinach, which Turk had found so gross to smell he had to switch places with Livingston else he be “violently ill,” a phrase he’d picked up who-knew-where but which no one wanted to see demonstrated.
Rusty had to tell Saul why he was distancing himself from Topher, and Saul said, “If he wants to avoid cliché, he should convert to a religion that’s more than fifty years old,” to which Reuben replied, “Right, Saul, like there’s so few Jews in Hollywood.”
“I’m just saying, a little tradition isn’t a bad thing.”
“But Saul,” Rusty said, holding his martini below his mouth. “Getting sucked into quasi-cults is a tradition in L.A. Why contribute to charity through the collection plate when you can pay the church a few thousand dollars to make it to the next level of enlightenment?”
It felt good, all of them together. It was a huge crew, probably too big to be practical, but they had that connection, the Benedict job. Linus remembered how it had felt looking at the Bellagio fountains that night, like the show was just for them, because they’d done the impossible. The new job was bound to be complicated, but not like that one had been. Linus knew it would work because every person at the table was really at the table. They weren’t like the crews Mom or Dad got on sometimes, where it was just a job and no one trusted anyone else until the money had been divvied out, and sometimes not even then. Even Isabel was all-in, and she knew them all only through Rusty.
“You okay? You’re pretty quiet,” Saul said next to Linus.
“No, I’m fine. It’s just, you know, the night before a job.”
“It’ll be fine, Linus. Look at him,” and Saul pointed to Danny, smiling and burnished in the soft light of the restaurant.
“What, he has the touch or something?” Linus hoped he didn’t sound too derisive.
Saul shrugged. “As much as I’ve seen anyone have it. Of course, it works best when Rusty’s working with him, but it helps.”
“It’s a good thing to have,” Linus agreed, and ate a bite of steak.
Thursday, 10:00 PM
They walked back to the hotel in groups of two or three, strung out over half a block. Grant Park seemed to go on forever, the black line of the far edge blending into the water, where there was nothing but blue-black openness for miles. In the impossibly ornate lobby, Danny stopped near the grand piano and looked at all of them. “We leave at ten o’clock sharp. I’ll take care of checkout. Meet here.” It was casual, but also a command, and for the millionth time Linus wanted very badly to be able to do that.
He rode the elevator with Danny and Rusty and the girls; no one said anything until Linus got off at his floor, when just before the door closed, Linus heard Danny say, “Next time, you’ll be able to do it without the notebook.”
Danny was probably right, Linus thought as he walked down the hall to his room. For now, the notebook was a comforting presence in his back pocket, small and thin. Easily picked, but anything could be described that way given the company he was keeping. But even if someone did take it, they would give it back -- probably in a very public way, accompanied with humiliating jokes, but still. It would be returned.