Tangible Schizophrenia



Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: PG
Pairing: Rusty/Danny
Feedback: Is marvelously addictive.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Notes: For the rough_magic two perspectives challenge.
Summary: It makes sense to put the bait where the prey will see it.


The last thing any pro wants is for people to notice the hands. Fingers and thumbs can't be helped unless surgery comes into the picture, which is a little extreme for Danny, but cleanliness and cuffs are very much controllable variables. Neat, short nails are a must because dirt will be remembered as well as leave stains, and long ragged edges catch in all the wrong places. Shirt-sleeves change to suit the environment, not stand out against it.

Now, the good make it so the marks are watching the Rolex or the big, fat stack of poker chips instead of the busy hand, but in the circles in which Danny moves, there's always one that stubbornly keeps an eye where they shouldn't. So the really good make it so the hand is seen but not noted. It's less illusion than a remarkably unremarkable style.

So when Danny walks down into the pit one evening and ambles over to one particular set of shoulders, he's understandably startled to see the black swooping across the tan of Rusty's hand. It's chic and elegant and so flashy that those long cuffs of Rusty's cease being covers and turn into frames. It's visible from across the room. It doesn't make sense.

Later, after Rusty's cashed in the evening's play at the casino bank and is figuring out how much of it to allocate to the night's job on a napkin, Danny swipes the pen from that curving tattoo and asks.

Rusty has good eyes. Blue. Innocent. Slick as the paint on a sky-colored Ferrari. "I thought it'd add a little modernism. Cubist works are running pretty high now, I hear."

"Since when were you interested in art?" Of course, both of them have the kind of eye that sizes up value in tortured metal and plastic as well as canvas and stone and artfully-arranged chips of wood, but this is something different. There's fashion and there's camouflage, just as there's pride and then there's vanity.

Besides, Danny's the one that concerns himself with the grand themes and major movements.

"Too risky for you?" The elbow's on the table and the back of the hand's facing Danny, so Rusty has to crane around himself to look at it. "You always were one for the classic look."

"Why not? It never depreciates." But to be honest, that black lattice on light gold does have something going for it, since Danny can't stop looking at it.

That's the first time Rusty ever manages a pull on him. Danny has to dive into the carefully-folded stash he keeps in the inner jacket pocket that didn't come with the suit in order to cover the dinner bill, and then he goes after that smug laughter in the parking lot.


The interesting thing about Danny is that where other people see angles and curves-and a few the degrees and radii that make those up-he sees the gigantic transparent cone out of which all those parabolas and hyperbolas are cut. Sometimes the swoop of the line sends him almost off the plane, but he always finds the bend that takes him back and around to the tip. And usually ahead of the plodders that take the straight A-to-B route.

Rusty's thinking about that when the needle's biting into his one hand, and through the salt-slice taste of the fries he's eating with his other, he's thinking about how Danny's vision tends to underestimate the power of said degrees and radii and arc lengths. If Rusty didn't, then God knows where Danny would be now. Looping around the foci of the universe and charting out the slope of the ocean floor with his bones are equally likely, as are all the possibilities in between.

It's Rusty's own design that goes onto his hand. He sketched it out the last trip they took to an architect's office, calmly translating dates and places into numbers and then points plotted on graph paper while Danny rattled off the grocery list. Notes of any kind are liable to be misplaced, but geometry's as unchangeable and permanent as ink beneath the skin.

Not to mention that even when there's a room full of people and clicking chips, it calls out to Danny right away. The tattoo is the only certain thing in the entire house of odds, and therefore to the right eyes it sticks out like a royal flush in a table of low pairs.

Danny most likely thinks everyone sees. Rusty would tell him that the vast majority of gamblers don't notice anything that doesn't have chance attached to it, that solidity makes the best illusion, but he already knows that the other man won't listen. Just like he knows that normally Danny wouldn't watch him at all because Danny's so confident in Rusty's abilities. Even the best have blind spots, and Danny is no exception.

"You were attacked by a Maori gang and marked in a bizarre ritual of counting coup."

And that is Danny's way of asking Rusty what the hell he was thinking, making himself distinctive in a world that lops off the tall poppies in the fields with ravenous enthusiasm.

"I thought it'd add a little modernism. Cubist works are running pretty high now, I hear." They're currently scoping out a few galleries. Danny's gotten bored with con-games and wants to try the high-end goods division of the black market. Frankly, Rusty thinks there are more portable goods than full-scale canvases, but if that's where the ellipse takes Danny, then that's where Rusty swings.

"Since when were you interested in art?" Normally Danny doesn't irritate Rusty in the least, but there are a few tics that do get under Rusty's skin. One is the man's assumption that Rusty can't appreciate sheer style. Which is true blindness, given that Rusty has spent the vast majority of his life around Danny.

When Rusty holds up his hand, Danny's eyes flicker in a way that they usually do only around the real target of their job, whether that be a wallet, an objet d'art, or a person. "Too risky for you? You always were one for the classic look."

"Why not? It never depreciates." That's partly true; Danny prefers not to tell outright lies. The other part is that Danny never gives a second look to the once-tried. With him, it's first or nothing.

Out in the parking lot, Rusty opens up Danny's wallet and slips in half of the seed money he's won this evening. Then he leans against the car and has a long smoke while he waits for the projectile to follow the trajectory.

Danny is still staring at the tattoo when he takes his wallet back, fingers straying ever-so-slightly off the leather and over the inked skin. Rusty takes a deep breath and considers the loss of anonymity an even trade.