Title: trading in your own name
Summary: And the most important thing to remember is, don’t ever—
Author's note: Jess
wrote this story first, and hers is better, but mine's new, so it's got that going for it. First fic in this fandom, as if that's not already terribly obvious.
trading in your own name
SUMMARY: And the most important thing to remember is, don’t ever—
Linus was born on a Wednesday, or so the story always starts.
His mother’s version never changes: fourteen hours of labor, and epidural and a C-section later, and there was Linus, her oldest child and only son. His dad showed up just in time to see him being wheeled into the nursery. His dad’s version always changes – sometimes he was at work, sometimes he was talking his way out of being charged with something – but the part that never changes is how he first saw Linus.
“He was looking around,” Bobby likes to tell people, beaming just as bright as if *he’d* been the one to have the baby. “Scouting the exits already. And that when I knew. He was born for this, same as me.”
It took Linus a little while longer to figure it out.
Leaving Vegas was what almost got them caught.
It didn’t help that the Malloys were booked on the first flight out the next morning, or that they insisted going first class. Amateur shit, but Linus could sort of see the appeal; the faster they were out of there, the better. It was his first thought, too, except his gut told him otherwise. And his gut sounded a lot like his dad, so he listened.
He listened, and he bought a fourth-hand car instead. POS right out of the classifieds, $800 or best offer. There was always the risk of going the other route – playing it so cool you got caught – but it was a lot less likely, and the cops certainly weren’t about to stop every crappy car going through Vegas. They’d be at it all day.
He got a cheap hotel room and waited a few days, went through the paper every morning and caught the evening news every night at six. There was a story the next day about a SWAT team showing up at the Bellagio, and a brief news blurb about the minute-long blackout during the title fight, but that was it. No other mention in any news source, which meant Benedict was keeping his word about keeping the whole thing quiet. God knew what he was telling his investors, but that wasn’t Linus’ problem.
He left Vegas four days later, middle of the afternoon, the number of a Swiss bank account in his wallet alongside a thousand dollars. Walking around money, Reuben had told them, and given them the speech about laying low, not attracting any more attention than necessary. After-the-fact mistakes accounted for most of the best cons getting screwed up, and this is one of the best. This is the sort of thing that gets around and makes people’s eyes widen. It’s almost an urban legend, except better because it’s *real*.
Linus has always had quick hands, even when he was a kid. The one time he got caught for shoplifting, he was eight years old, and that was just because his dad saw him do it. He made Linus take the stuff back, then took him home and told his mom, then took him into the living room and spanked him within an inch of his life.
Then, after dinner, he’d gone to Linus’s room and explained that he’d done it for a reason. “So you always remember what that felt like,” he’d said, looking stern but not upset, and the sense of doing something wrong that Linus had been carrying around all day had…not vanished, but lessened. “Jail’s nowhere near that fun, kid, and they don’t let you off with just a spanking. Just so you remember.”
Then he’d stayed up with Linus until his mom came in to tell him it was time for bed, showing him the best way to palm stuff and little sleight-of-hand tricks. Nothing that pros wouldn’t see coming from a mile off, but then, most people weren’t pros.
“You’ve got your grandpa’s hands,” his dad had told him, which was cool and a little weird, since his grandpa had died before Linus had even been born. “They’re good. They’re gonna get better, you keep at it.”
He’d never been upset about the shoplifting, Linus realized later. He’d been proud.
Rusty showed up two weeks later.
“Nice place,” he said, glancing around. Barely more than a glance, and he really didn’t do anything other than move his eyes around, but Rusty’s like that. He doesn’t waste a lot of energy on movement. He doesn’t have to. “A little sparse.”
”Thanks,” Linus said, watching him from the doorway. It’s very strange, having Rusty in his apartment. He’s pretty sure Rusty’s suit cost more than three months’ rent on the place. He keeps having to shove down the urge to hum “one of these things is not like the other”. “That’s what I was – um. not to be rude, but what are you doing here?”
”I was in town,” Rusty said. “Thought I’d look up a friend in the area.”
”We’re not friends,” Linus said, and it sounds a little rude but it’s the truth. Guys like them don’t have friends; they have pals and acquaintances, but not friends. Rusty and Danny are the exception, because they were friends first and came up together, but for the most part cons are a solitary gig.
”No,” Rusty agreed, nodding. “You want to go get a drink?”
Linus thought about it for a second. “Okay.”
Linus only gets arrested once, but it’s enough.
He’s sixteen and tries lifting the wallet off an off-duty cop. It’s nothing he hasn’t done before, except for the off-duty cop part. He’s not bad, but he could be better. A couple of times, when he’s not working on something for himself, his dad’s come with him to watch and tell him what he’s doing wrong. His lead-in’s a little long, and he tends to stick to the linger-and-apologize-for-bumping route, but not in a suspicious way. He’s okay. He’s not great, but he’s not bad for sixteen, either.
He doesn’t tell the cop any of that, of course. He pleads off to it being a bet, and the guy almost looks bad but hauls him in anyway. He calls home with his one phone call, and forty-five minutes later, like some bad dream, his mom shows up.
She tells him, during the interminable ride home, that he’s not being charged. It’s the first offence on a spotless record, and the cop has a kid his age, and he’s so lucky he’s not sitting in the clink right now, young man. His mother’s lips are pressed together in a little white line as she drives, and she doesn’t look at him. Linus feels four years old.
Ten minutes away from home, stopped at a light, still not looking at him, she asks, “So do you know what you did wrong?”
Linus just gapes at her for a minute. She knows what his dad does for a living – she’s not stupid, his mom – but this is the first indication she’s given that she knows he’s doing it, too. “I think so,” he finally says. He’s got to ask his dad to give him a once-over about spotting cops when he gets back from Tucson.
”Okay,” she says, and doesn’t say anything for a few seconds as the light turns green. “This better not screw up you getting into college, Linus, or I swear to God I will have your butt in a sling before you can think twice about it.” She shakes her head. “A *cop*. Honestly. Your father’s never going to let you hear the end of it, you know that?”
Linus decides his mom’s pretty cool.
Rusty stole one of Linus’ fries. Linus let him.
”So classes start, what, next week?”
Linus blinked. “Um. Two weeks,” he said, surprised. It’s not like Danny and Rusty wouldn’t have done their research before coming after him, but it’s been a month since and he’d only decided to add another couple of semesters a week ago.
“Mmn.” Rusty stole another fry. It’s got to be a compulsive thing, because it’s not like he doesn’t have food of his own. “I have to go out to Phoenix for a couple of days. You want to come?”
“I’m not Danny,” Linus blurted out, and resists the urge to smack his head against the table. He’d meant to just think that part.
”You know, I’m getting that,” Rusty said, lifting his eyebrows. He’s almost smiling. It looks good on him. “And that’s not why I asked if you wanted to come.”
”Why did you?”
”Because I hate running in to the convenience store after I get gas,” Rusty said, shrugging. “Wastes time.”
”So does driving from Chicago to Phoenix,” Linus pointed out.
”So does getting a B.A. in psychology when you know you’re never going to use it,” Rusty said. “While we’re casting stones.” He took another fry.
Linus tilted his head. “Okay,” he said, taking the fry back.
Rusty glanced at his hand, then back at Linus. Blinked once. On anyone else, it would have been a double-take.
Technically, Linus meets Rusty his junior year of high school.
He doesn’t really remember, and neither does Rusty. He’s too busy with Denise Ridgely at the time, and midterms, and all the talented fingers in the world, no matter how talented, were not enough to get that girl to take her top off. Besides, his dad has friends over all the time.
If he tries, he can remember a couple of guys a few years older than him, wearing suits and looking relaxed in the living room. One of them was blond with a tattoo on his hand, which means it’s Rusty, because there’s no two guys in the world with that tattoo, and the other one had dark hair which means it was Danny.
If he *really* tries, he remembers how close they sat next to each other on the couch, how little space there’d been between them, but that might have just been him remembering wrong.
And then he thinks back to the argument in Reuben’s house, the one where Rusty pronounced “you’re out” like he’d been serious and not running a scam inside a scam, and thinks maybe he’s not wrong.
Linus kissed him in the middle of a Red Roof parking lot, nine at night and just as Rusty was turning to get out of the car.
Rusty looked at him for a long minute, so long Linus started thinking of apologies, and kissed him back.
There’s sex, and then there’s theft.
Sex is fine. Linus has no problem with sex. It’s good – it’s great, even, if you do it right – and it doesn’t have to be all emotional, though when it is it’s sometimes better. Having a guy hum his way down your stomach feels just as good as when a woman does it. The slow build-up, the feeling in the pit of your stomach, the movements, the words, the sounds, the actual act – there’s no bad there.
But there’s no sex in the world that feels as good as getting away with it, no drug or drunken stupor or orgasm. That rush, that sense of anticipation – the build-up, the approach, that first moment your fingers close on something and pull and no one notices? Nothing in the world like it. The only thing better is hearing your footsteps echo and recede and knowing that no one’s chasing after you, no one’s tapping your shoulder to ask you to come with them, please.
More and more often, Linus looks at his parents and wonders how in the hell his dad married someone who doesn’t do it. Who doesn’t understand how it feels.
Ideally, Chicago to Phoenix should have taken two days, three at the latest. It took them six.
He’d never felt like this before. He knew in the back of his head that it was stupid, it’s making him slow and a little unfocused, but he couldn’t help it. He hadn’t felt this relaxed in years, not without work behind it. Like nothing in the world could possibly go wrong, absolutely nothing. He could catch on fire tomorrow night and it’d be okay, because it would just skim off him, no problem whatsoever.
He and Rusty didn’t talk a lot, not because they didn’t have anything to say but because they’re not really talkers. They got drunk in a no-name bar in Dallas one night and Rusty told him stories for hours about the old days, BT – Before Tess. He looked wistful for most of them, happy for all of them, and he kept leaning in to kiss Linus as he was talking.
And apparently it got Rusty in a mood, because an hour later he was going down on Linus in the parking lot – Rusty has a thing for parking lots, sort of – messy and sloppy and not the best sex ever, but the last time Linus felt that good he was sitting in the vault at the Bellagio, his heart in his throat. This was better.
The next night he lifted five, six wallets in quick succession, just to see Rusty’s eyes narrow appreciatively as he paged through credit cards. Rusty did a couple, too, just to show that he could. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t great, and Linus told him so.
”You’re looking too casual,” he told him, “like you’re *not* thinking about it, when you should be looking like you’re thinking about something else entirely. But you’re on the right – mmmph.”
It was like that to Phoenix and back and all the way in-between, when Rusty dropped him off at four in the morning and tried to sleep on the couch, which was really stupid, all things considered, and Linus didn’t have any problem telling him that.
Rusty came and went after that, in town for two days here and three weeks there, and it wasn’t a big deal. He just showed up at Linus’s and ordered Chinese food, and sometimes they went out and sometimes they didn’t.
His dad only talks about it once.
Linus has been back in Chicago for a week now, back in his skin and familiar places. He’s starting to think, idly, about leaving for a while – not because he has to, but because he can. He can do this outside the city limits; if nothing else, Vegas taught him that. It’s reassuring.
His mom calls one afternoon and invites him over for dinner, the way she does sometimes. They all talk politics over brisket, and about the Henleys down the road, and had he heard about Sarah getting married to Alan Durling next month? Usual stuff, family stuff. That’s reassuring, too.
After the dishes are done – he hadn’t cooked, and he hadn’t been raised in a barn, either – Linus goes out for a cigarette to find his dad already outside. He shakes one out, and his dad lights it for him, and he murmurs a thank you.
It’s quiet for a minute.
”I heard,” his dad finally says. “About Vegas.”
Linus doesn’t say anything.
His dad is quiet for a minute. “That’s nice work,” he says, and looks at Linus. Linus looks back at him.
And it’s weird, that stealing 160 million dollars could make someone get that proud glint in their eye, but there it is, the same way it had been when he was six.
I can do this, Linus realizes suddenly, and it makes him straighten his back. Some day, he’s not gonna just be Bobby Caldwell’s kid. It’s weird, but it feels pretty good.
He wonders how it makes his dad feel, if he’s anything but proud, and decides not to ask.
”I’m borrowing your car,” Rusty announced one morning, leaning over him. Linus opened one eye but didn’t make another move.
”And points north,” Rusty said. “I’ve got to get a couple of Danny’s things before I go get him. It’ll be a while.”
”If the car lasts that long,” Linus warned. It really was a piece of shit, but pieces of shit didn’t get stolen with the same frequency other cars did, so it was a tradeoff. Lots of things were. “Benedict’s guys-“
”I’ll pick them up as soon as I get into Nevada,” Rusty said. “Not like I can’t lose them on my way out.” He paused. “I’ll call when we get settled.”
Both eyes open, now. “I meant what I said,” Linus said. “You don’t—“
”I know,” Rusty said. He looked like he did the first time Linus saw him, out by Reuben’s pool, mostly-buttoned shirt and tailored dress pants. Rumpled business casual. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Linus was pretty sure he wouldn’t look like that, even if he lived to be a hundred, but that’s okay. Overly earnest young kid worked pretty well for him.
Rusty leans over the bed, still looking at him, and there are suddenly a lot of things Linus wants to ask – about Tess, and Danny, and Tess and Danny, and exactly where Rusty fits into that equation. But being the quiet one hadn’t hurt him in the twenty-something years leading up to this point, so he figured it wouldn’t hurt now, either.
Linus leaned up and kissed him, sliding a hand over his hip and down the back of his waist, over his ass. He already missed Rusty’s weight next to him, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to say it. That was just inviting trouble.
Rusty pulled back after a minute and slid a hand down to his pocket, automatically checking. Apparently, sleeping with a pickpocket *had* taught him something.
“You’re gonna need these,” Linus said, and tossed the keys back to him.
Rusty looked at the keys, then back at him. This time he smiled.
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