The prompts come from the 64 Damn Prompts on LiveJournal (by rashaka). I will, most likely, be working through all 64. I will also include the song that helped me write it.
Prompt 41: Tragedy
Music: Sehnsucht, by Schiller mit Xavier Naidoo
Growing up, Tony got used to being alone. It's not something tragic, or something a therapist could point to as the root of his criminal activities. He just…was. People looked up to him, asked him for advice, but they never got close. They never looked at him and thought "friend" or "confident." Maybe it's his looks, punk-like enough to scare away the unknowing. Maybe it's his personality, calm and quiet and completely at odds with his rough appearance. Maybe it's neither of those, and Tony just isn't meant to be around people.
The only one to ever really try was Charles Moore, a blind thief who volunteered at a group home where Tony had landed. No one there had known he was a thief, not really, but Tony had seen something in each of his gestures, something hidden away that he had wanted to drag out into the light, to uncover and understand.
Somehow, even with his blind eyes, Moore had seen it, had noticed, and he had taken Tony away just a few days later.
Tony might have been inspired to thievery by watching Ken Margeson on his infamous armored car heist, but Moore was the one who taught him the intricacies of the art, the perfection of the con over the brute-force approach of a simple robbery. Taking something was a thousand times more satisfying when the owner gave it up willingly.
But being a lone conman is hard. Tony has no partner, no fallback. Moore is too old to pull the types of jobs Tony's after now, for all that he's still a force to be reckoned with. It's no longer so much about what Tony is accustomed to as what he needs. He needs a partner if he's going to use his skills to their fullest extent—and he has to, on every job, because anything less is a sheer waste of time. Tony's not one to waste anything, let alone a thing as valuable as time, so he puts out a few careful feelers, testing the waters in his search. He gets a few bites, small-time swindlers looking to make it big, looking to make names for themselves to rival the infamous Pair. Tony doesn't fool himself—no one's as good as the Pair, Eddie Martin and Nathan Wells, who it's said once stole the Crown Jewels of England just to prove they could—and then put them back.
Tony's fairly certain that Wells, their idea man, is the bastard son of Butch Cassidy, George Parker, and Yoda, but that's just his opinion.
(He hasn't found anyone who contradicts his theory yet, though, which says something significant.)
He knows no one can beat the Pair when he sets out looking. Hell, he's not even trying to rival them. That would be like an amateur soccer player trying to rival Cristiano Ronaldo. So he doesn't have high goals in mind, and he gets on fine with the majority of the partners who turn up. They can't even really be called that, since most of them don't stick around for more than a single job, but Tony makes do, just as he always has.
And then Eddie Martin, plan man of the Pair, gets married.
To the sister of an Interpol agent.
It's not just a scandal. It's a sin, a travesty, and a goddamned tragedy, all rolled into one incredibly stupid move.
It also leaves Wells, the idea man, adrift with nowhere to go. Only an honest man or a fool wouldn't take immediate advantage.
Luckily, Tony is neither an honest man nor a fool. He gives Wells a month to mourn and then calls him with a job proposal. It's a complex con, a mix of the Spanish Prisoner and the Wire Game, and just enough to get Wells's attention. The mark is rich and flaunts it, and nothing tempts a conman like a pocket that's deep and already open.
They do a quick and thorough recon, bait the hook, and let it dangle.
The mark never knows what's happening until it's far too late.
Tony and Wells saunter out of the five-star hotel they've been staying at in broad daylight, shoulder to shoulder with no worry of being caught. They're off, scot-free, money in an untraceable account and egos well inflated, and as they step out into the sunshine, Wells turns to Tony and offers him his hand.
"You're good," he says, and coming from him, it's like a divine ordination. "Got any more marks rattling around in that head of yours?"
Tony takes the hand and grins at Wells—at Nathan. "I might," he says, trying not to smirk too widely, because this is it. This is what he's been waiting for: the perfect partner, someone who knows the game and knows his job and is absolutely brilliant at it. Even if the partnership doesn't last, Tony knows it will be worth it. Not just for the money, but for this, the feel of Nathan's hand, warm and solid, in his own. For someone else who's just as devoted to the game as he is, who couldn't care less for the fame or the money, but runs a con simply for its own sake. That feeling—this feeling, what he has now—is all he's ever wanted in this brilliantly crooked business.
"Good," Nathan says, and he's a world away from the pale, grim man who landed in the airport a month ago. His grin lights up the air, wickedly wonderful and wonderfully wicked, and Tony can see the devil in that smile.
He doesn't mind a bit.
Of course, nothing lasts forever. Martin gets his head out of his ass eventually, ditches the policeman's sister, and comes to take back what was always his.
Tony doesn't protest. He knew it would happen eventually, and he's just glad for the three years they did have as partners. Even if it means that going back to being alone, to putting out new requests for help with every job, to feeling as though he's the only one in the whole world who could ever possibly feel this lonely.
The three years were good. That's all that matters.
"Such a tragedy," Turner sighs, glancing at Tony from beneath the brim of his ridiculous fedora. "And here I thought Mr. Wells was planning to stay in our neck of the woods for a while."
Tony's not impressed with the idea man's quiet ribbing. He simply stares at him for a few moments, getting his point across, before he says dryly, "You said you had another partner for me?"
Turner's hooked him up with partners before, and they're usually among the better ones he gets, reliable and steady. Tony needs reliable and steady, especially after the damned train wreck of his last job. The girl he had been working with was a good grifter, especially when up against straight men—Tony had wondered (because how could one not?) if her boobs were actually natural, but he'd refrained from asking—but he'd never met such a complete ditz in his entire life. Space cadet was way too damned mild for her case of scatterbrain, and Tony had hurriedly crossed her off the list of future callbacks. Never again.
"Of course I do." But there's something different in Turner's tone, not the usual singsong lilt that makes people think he's a fool. He sounds almost…serious, and the way he's surveying Tony from beneath the brim of his hat is nearly unnerving in its intensity. With the flick of a finger, he knocks the hat back and tilts his head a little to one side, watching carefully. "But Maietta, do you really want another partner?"
Tony opens his mouth to call Turner a fool—why wouldn't he want a partner? Why wouldn't he want to stay in the high-stakes arena he's carved out for himself?—and then, almost unwillingly, shuts it again.
Oh, he wants to stay in the game. There's no question about that. It's hooked so deeply in his blood that not even the world's best surgeon could rip it out, and there's no way he'll ever give it up.
But at the same time, he's tired. He's tired of the constant stream of partners, people he should be able to depend on, passing him by. Nathan was a real partner, someone to hold him up and to be held up in turn, but Tony was only ever taking care of him, keeping him safe for someone else. He was never Tony's. Not really.
More than anything, Tony wants someone to call his own.
Turner's pale grey eyes see far more than they should—just like Moore's, and it's still just as unnerving. But Turner simply smiles and steps to one side, pushing to door open wide with a grand gesture.
"In you go," he says cheerfully, and there's something unbearably kind about it. "Callie was making dinner, last I checked. You're welcome to stay."
The words shouldn't sound so open, like an unending and limitless invitation, but they ring that way in Tony's ears. He can't help but smile back at Turner, even just slightly, as he takes the offer.
The idea man follows him in, looking incredibly pleased with himself.
It should make Tony nervous—this is Cadogan Turner, after all—but all it really makes him feel is a little less lonely.
After so long, it's a wonderful feeling.
Working with Cadogan fulltime is a little like going bungee diving with an old rope, just for the thrill of it—bordering the insane, but so unashamedly incredible that Tony can't really bring himself to mind. Cadogan is mad, without a doubt, but it's the kind of madness that's so close to brilliance there's almost no difference. Even Nathan was a little saner, with his terrifying plots and dreams.
Or maybe, Tony thinks, Nathan was just containing himself, because he wasn't with his real partner, and recognized that not everyone could ground him as well as Eddie Martin. Cadogan, either because of his personality or because he's using Tony as his grounding rod, doesn't bother with silly little things like human limits. Tony has to pull him back, drag him down to a manageable level and translate from genius-speak to something more universally understandable. It's exhausting, and nerve-wracking, and terrifying, and more fun than anything Tony can remember since he pulled his first Three-Card Monty under Moore's watchful eye.
It's hardly easy between them—Cadogan is ridiculous and over the top, and Tony's always had a level head, and they hardly have anything in common—but nevertheless, they can make it work, and work well.
The first time they kiss, it's just like that. Easy, but not; one of them overly exuberant and the other exasperated; so very much a Tony-and-Cadogan that it's almost as ridiculous as Cadogan's fashion sense. But the kiss itself is so very, very sweet that Tony never even thinks of everything else that's between them.
And for the very first time, Tony can understand what Nathan meant when he talked about the feeling of being NathanandEddie, or EddieandNathan. Only this time, it's TonyandCadogan, or CadoganandTony, and Tony knows what he was feeling, because now he's feeling it for himself.
"The mine is salted and the money is ours," Tony murmurs, flashing a quick grin at his partner—really his partner, now, after a year and a half of working solely with each other.
Cadogan grins back at him, fluttering that aggravating fan in front of his face as he surveys their bank account balance taking a sharp rise. Transfer complete flashes across the screen, and he leans back in his chair, the very movement radiating satisfaction. "Everything's ready for us to disappear?"
Tony shoots him a who-do-you-think-I-am look of derision and tosses over a passport. "So far as the tickets go, we're a pair of wealthy newlyweds celebrating the fact that we can finally get married with a trip to somewhere sunny."
With a chuckle, Cadogan catches it and studies the picture inside, then tucks it away. His hand, just briefly, comes to rest on the back of Tony's neck, and he squeezes gently before letting go. "Lucky," he murmurs.
After eighteen months, Tony knows his partner's tones as well as he does his own, but that's one he hasn't heard before. He glances up with a frown. "Sorry?"
Cadogan is watching him with that soft intensity that sends shivers down his spine, a small smile tipping up his lips in a quiet echo of his usual sleazy-cheesy grin. "I'm lucky," he repeats, skimming his fingers over the three scars on Tony's cheek. "That we're partners, I mean."
Usually, the idea man would never let a serious moment linger so long, and that tells Tony just how serious Cadogan is in this. He smiles back, just a little, and catches Cadogan's fingers to drop a light kiss on their backs.
It's always been serious between them, even when it wasn't.
Tony's not alone any more, and right now, he can't think of a reason he ever will again.
"So am I," he says quietly, offering Cadogan a small smile in return. "Very lucky."
Before, he could only see a tragedy of loneliness in his future. Now, he sees something that is far, far different, and not for anything would he wish himself back.