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The Great Train Robbery. Written for [livejournal.com profile] minttown1, who won me in the [livejournal.com profile] help_haiti fandom auction.

Part One: The Plan

There is a train in China. Not a big thing, or a bullet train like in Japan. It is a little collector's model, a 1/32 replica of an old engine, two coaches, a freight car, and a caboose. It is also made of gold, with wheels of platinum, silver etching and emerald detailing. There are only half a dozen like it in the world, a rich collector's midlife hobby, and there are enough potential buyers to sell it twenty times over.

When Linus makes the plans, he writes, in very small letters, The Great Train Robbery at the beginning. Then erases it before Danny sees. Danny must still be able to see the pressure marks left by the pencil, though, because he smiles at Linus and says, "this will be a great train robbery."

This is Linus's job-- or at least, it was supposed to be Linus's job. A man in Brazil, with a suspiciously German-sounding accent, had contacted him nearly half a year ago, and Linus spent the next four months tracking down collectors, enthusiasts, and men who deal in pawns of an entirely different scale. Then he spent the next four days drinking too much coffee and trying the teach himself Mandarin and Italian, because three of the trains were housed in museums in Europe, one was locked in a Swiss bank, one was unaccounted for, and one was sitting pretty in China, in an Italian expat's master bedroom.

"How will you get in?" his father had asked over dinner, in the same tone of voice he'd used when Linus had tried out for the school play in eighth grade. How will you remember your lines? What is the first thing you say to a cop? How are you going to explain the bullet holes to your mother? 

Linus scowled down at the meatloaf, tapped his fork against the plate. "I," he started to say, but his father was still talking.

"Do you have a grease-man? Because if you don't, then you're going to need some way to get in-- then an alibi. Your mother and I can't run around the world every time you get in over your head."

"Over my--" Linus stabbed the meatloaf furiously. "You don't have to-- I don't always need your help!"

His father, though, apparently thought differently, because then he was saying, in that same tone of voice, "If your mother had been there, that time with the nose..."

Then his mother was butting in, and Linus would have think she was trying to rescue him, but everything she said only made things worse.

"I wouldn't have been that shocked," she said soothingly, holding out the bowl of corn. His father took it as she smiled at Linus. "But your father’s right, you should use a grease man-- You know you’re not flexible enough, but I know someone--”

“Will you-- I don’t need a grease man!” Linus snapped, then flinched as his father reached out to cuff his head.

“Don’t yell at your mother,” he said, and Linus muttered something close to an apology as he pushed a soggy piece of meatloaf through the ketchup on his plate.

“But if he doesn’t have a grease man,” his mother said to his father, reaching out to pat Linus’s hand in acceptance, “maybe someone else? What about Rusty?”

In the end, Linus ends up splitting the job with Danny, because his father says Danny is less flashy and because, Linus knows, his father hates the way his mother always watches Rusty with ‘hungry eyes.’ So Linus flies up to North Carolina, where he meets Danny in an airport to drink overpriced coffee in an uncomfortably shiny cafe. 

“A train enthusiast?” Danny asks again, and Linus says, feeling put upon, “in Brazil, yes.”

Danny looks at the plans again, flipping through the little notebook, then says, with a smile, “this will be a great train robbery. How much Mandarin do you speak?”

Linus shrugs, says, “enough to get by, I think?”

“If it’s what Yen taught you, don’t say any of it. He taught Livingston some Mandarin. Livingston thought he was asking where the bathroom was, ended up getting a bruised jaw.” Danny flips through a few pages, asks, “how’s your Italian?”

“Um,” Linus says, “better. I dated an Italian in college.”

“Yeah?” Danny doesn’t sound too interesting, but when Linus looks up, Danny’s eyes look sharp. “Was she anything like Isabelle?”

“A little,” Linus tries to hedge, and Danny says, “good enough. Do you have the tickets yet?”

They fly out the next day, an afternoon flight that takes off in a drizzle. Danny has his seat reclined as soon as the plane levels out, and Linus shifts uncomfortably next to him, trying to figure out how to get to his bag without knocking elbows with Danny or the alarmingly large man on Linus’s other side.

Linus doesn’t really like airplanes. His flights always seem to get longer the closer he is to his destination, and he always seems to piss off the flight attendants enough to be blacklisted on the drinks rotary. Sure enough, the flight attendant who’s passing out the headphones in his section scowls at Linus as she hands over the headphones, and when Linus asks, as mildly as he can, if he can have a water, she snaps, “we’re serving dinner and refreshments in an hour."
Danny opens his eyes long enough to give Linus a look far too reminiscent of Linus's father's looks during all of those "family trips" that had more to do with stealing diamonds than riding Splash Mountain, and Linus bumps his elbow with Danny's as he leans down, fishing through his carry-on.
"I hate flying," he mutters, low enough that Danny can ignore it if he wants. Danny doesn't say anything, just shifts a bit in his seat, so Linus sits back, flipping through his sudoku book. He's finished three puzzles and is stuck on a fourth when the attendants bring food through the cabin,  fish or pasta, small strawberry cheesecakes that look like they were made with cardboard. Linus swallows it all with the careful exhaustion of the traveling, and when an attendant takes away his tray he goes back to his sudoku, starting a new puzzle.
When the attendants turn off the cabin's lights, Linus reclines his seat, slip in the earbuds of his iPhone. He's too tense, too jittery, to sleep, so he stares up at the ceiling of the cabin, at the lines of the oxygen mask compartment. The plane hits turbulence, jumping up and down in the air like a boat in the middle of a windy lake, and Linus watches the lines of the oxygen mask compartment quiver with the cabin. There is, somewhere behind him, a baby crying.
The cabin night passes slowly, one quarter of an hour after another. Linus only realizes he has fallen asleep when he wakes up, and the naps are short, fragile. His elbow keeps bumping Danny's on the right, the stranger's on the left.
The blankets handed out by the attendants are too thin to shake off the chill of the cabin and Linus's own dull sleep.
"Want a drink?" Danny asks after Linus wakes up a third time. Linus looks at his watch, closes his eyes when he realizes they've only been in the air for seven hours. The thought of another twelve hours is hell, and he swallows dryly.
"Sure," he says, and he watches as Danny catches a passing attendant, wins a smile and two gin and tonics from her.
"A bit classy for our section, isn't it?" Linus asks as Danny passes one of the drinks to him, the ice chinking softly. Danny smiles, raises his tiny cup a little past his mouth, then drinking it down.
"It's all how you talk to them," Danny says, and if it was anyone else, Linus is pretty sure he'd be pissed, because Danny is talking to him like Linus is (still) a rookie. But it's Danny, and somehow, Danny has always been able to everything right (even when Linus has seemed to do everything wrong).
"Is it that bad?" Danny asks when Linus has emptied the cup and has started crunching on the ice. Linus pauses, then swallows the chunk of ice still in his mouth, wincing when it sticks for a freezing moment in his throat before sliding down.
"What?" he asks, and Danny is taking Linus's cup, setting it inside his before holding it out for a passing flight attendant.
"The flight." Danny is looking ahead of him at the movie playing on the TV screen at the front of the cabin. He's slowly unwinding the cord of his headphones, working out the cord's kinks with his fingers.
"N-no," Linus says slowly. He thinks about saying something else, like how he's bored out of his fucking skull, or how he's tired and tense and just wants to go for a run, or even that he'd really like another drink, maybe something stronger, but Danny's nodding, saying, "Good. You should try to get some sleep then."
And then, just like that, Danny has his headphones on and is watching the movie playing, something Italian about a circus woman who finds a little kid abandoned in a park. Linus is pretty sure that's about as much as Danny's going to say, so he jams his earbuds back in, tries to find something mindless and droning to fall asleep to.
When the plane lands, it's midnight local time. The air is humid and thick with pollution. Linus swallows, a pain in his throat, and Danny says, "welcome to China."

The taxi moves slowly through the airport's midnight traffic, the driver murmuring to himself in rapid Chinese as he swerves around the other cars. Linus watches the lit buildings through his window. His eyes feel dry, scratchy, but he's too tired to rub them, or do much other than lean heavily against the door of the taxi, watching the city slowly slide by.

"Linus," Danny says after a moment, and Linus only realizes he'd fallen asleep when he sees that their taxi is stopped in front of a hotel. "Linus, we're here."


Their mark's name is Beniamino Rompato. He's thirty-eight years old, and has been living in China for the past twelve years. He'd come to China as a student in the nineties and, apparently finding something he'd been looking for, had returned a few years later, never to return to Italy. As far as expats go, he's not very extreme. According to a few carefully placed bills, Beniamino doesn’t work for any international company, speaks Italian more than Mandarin, and receives a care-package from his mother the second week of every month.

"Maybe he misses Italy?" Linus tries, but Danny waves him off.

"There's a reason he's here," Danny says. "Either way, unless that gets us in, it doesn't matter. Except--" and here Danny gets a look on his face, and Linus has to look away, "that your girlfriend's Italian might be helpful."

"Ex," Linus amends, as though the difference matters. Apparently, to Danny it doesn't. Danny shrugs, says, 

"So, now we have to tail him and find a way in."

On the third day of tailing Beniamino, Linus makes a discovery that’s good enough to make Danny laugh. It would make Linus laugh, too, if it didn’t make him feel so on edge.

Linus is fixing his baseball cap, curving the brim so that the edges were a little more even, when he sees Beniamino beckon to a man on the street. Any person is a potential in, so Linus watches Beniamino slap the man on the back, then offer up half of his bench. Linus is feeding the ducks in the river when the two men get up to leave, and he would’ve missed them if he hadn’t run out of bread crumbs. He gives them a block of distance before he slides in with the rest of the tourists, following the current of Americans and British and Australians. When Beniamino turns off with his friend a block and a half ahead, Linus consults his map like a tourist, then cuts down an alleyway that runs parallel to the one Beniamino took. He jogs down the alleyway, then catches the next road to run up perpendicular, then turns around to find Beniamino.

And, like a punch in the gut, watches Beniamino kiss the man up against the wall like one of them is getting paid for it.

Oh, a little part of Linus’s head says, that makes sense, and suddenly, a lot of things do make sense. Like the complete lack of the dizzy red-headed girlfriend all of Linus’s other hits seem to have. And the fact that, for all of Linus’s digging, Linus hasn’t been able to find shit-all on Beniamino in Europe.

“He’s gay,” Linus says when he walks into the hotel room twenty-three minutes later. “That’s why he’s here. I mean, assuming his family doesn’t speak Mandarin, who’s going to tell anyone at home that he’s, uh--”

“Batting for the other team?” Danny offers, and he’s looking too amused for all of this. Linus frowns, starts to open his mouth, and Danny keeps talking. “That doesn’t change anything-- just that our in is going to be one degree closer.”

“I-- What?” Linus is pretty sure he looks gobsmacked, because Danny leans forward and mutes the news, leaving the anchors opening and closing their mouths silently, like the fish in hotel’s garden pool. 

“Your job with Abigail wasn’t a fluke, was it? And it wasn’t just the nose.” Danny frowns at the Chinese characters scrolling across the screen, and Linus frowns at them, too. “Rusty’s better at these things, he’s the detail man. But I’m sure I can get you into a spot where you can,” Danny mimes swinging a baseball bat, “use all your charms.”
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